Word Count: 5,000
Summary: Sheriff JensenTM has always been his boy’s favorite toy. When Spaceman JaredTM arrives one fateful birthday, Jensen’s world is turned upside down.
A/N:Written for the final round of j2_everafter. Thanks to the ever-amazing tebtosca for the beta and to the mods for running such a great event. Also huge thanks to my darling ldyghst for teaming up with me and making such a fabulous webpage and art; please be sure to give her some love at her journal!
Web page | Art Masterpost | AO3
The day of Jordan Rhodes’ birthday party is clear and bright; a perfect Texas summer day. Birds are chirping in the trees outside the window, and the faint breeze coming in smells of the jasmine shrubs that Jordan’s mother, Kim, planted last year. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the house; an eighth birthday only comes around once, after all. The toys of Jordan’s Room are all breathless with anticipation, thrilled at the chance to meet more playmates. They gather near the toy box at Danneel’s bake shop slash café, whiling away the hours before the party with speculation about what kind of toys might be coming to join their little community.
Jensen hates it all. He knows that, as Favorite Toy--and a Sheriff to boot--he should be setting a good example for the other toys in the community, putting on his happy face and making the rounds, easing any concerns the other toys may have at being replaced. Instead, he’s lying alone in his customary place on Jordan’s pillow, staring up at the ceiling and contemplating his future. He doesn’t like what he sees.
Jensen has been Favorite Toy for over four years now, almost unheard of for a toy in this age of iPads and X-Boxes. But Jordan is a special kid, and he’s always preferred playing with toys he can hold in his hands and use his imagination with. But Jensen knows that can’t last forever. He just hopes he can hold onto his position as Favorite Toy for another year or two, and then hopefully he’ll be retired to the peace and quiet of the Attic, or maybe relocated to another position with another little boy to serve. Yet with every birthday the chances of Jensen being replaced increase, so excuse him if he’s a little depressed about the whole thing.
Suddenly there’s a short whistle from General Jeff, leader of the toy soldiers, who’s standing sentry near the door. Everyone quickly assumes their positions, going limp and lifeless as Jordan bustles in, carrying an armload of unwrapped birthday presents. Jensen is happy to see that most of them are non-toys: clothing, a new ball glove, a backpack, and the like. There’s something he’s still holding in his hands though, and Jensen can’t quite see what it is but it fills him with trepidation. He looks as well as he can with his peripheral vision, practically straining his eyes to get a glimpse, but from his flat position there’s not much he can see.
“He’s so cool!” Jordan says excitedly to himself, and Jensen’s heart sinks.
“Jordan, time for cake!” comes Kim’s voice from downstairs, and there’s a flurry of movement as Jordan sets the object carefully on the bed and rushes out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him in a way that Jensen knows will cause Kim to use her “mom voice”, birthday or no birthday. Jensen sits up slowly, not wanting to disturb the object until he knows if it’s a) sentient and b) friendly. From this angle all he can see is a smooth white plastic cover, accented with a pleasant bright green trim. He sticks out his foot and nudges the object with the pointed toe of his (Real Imitation Leather!) cowboy boot. The object springs into motion and, startled, Jensen falls back onto the bed, landing on his butt with a small bounce.
“Who goes there! What planet is this? Take me to your leader!” comes the slightly panicked-sounding demands from the object. It whirls around, and Jensen can see it’s definitely a toy, an astronaut-themed one slightly shorter than him with floppy real-looking hair and wide hazel eyes peering out from behind a plastic space helmet. Well, that clears up the sentience question, thinks Jensen, Though any sign of intelligence is still yet to be seen..
“I’m the law around these parts,” Jensen drawls calmly in his best Sheriff JensenTM voice. “Identify yourself, stranger.”
“Oh, hi! I’m Jared, Spaceman JaredTM,” replies the toy. He grins, showing off deep dimples and shiny white teeth, and sticks out a large, gloved hand to shake Jensen’s enthusiastically. “Am I ever glad to see an intelligent life form in this quadrant!”
Jensen refuses to be charmed, though he politely returns the greeting and introduces himself. “Howdy, pardner. I’m Jensen, the Sheriff. This is Jordan’s Room. I suppose you’ll be wanting the tour.”
Jared’s face falls a little at the distinct lack of enthusiasm in Jensen’s voice. “Um, yeah, sure. I mean, if it’s not too much trouble.”
Jensen refuses to feel guilty. Jared is the interloper, after all. He keeps his tone brisk and professional as he points out the major landmarks in the room, showing Jared how to slide down the blanket onto the main floor, taking him past the bookshelf to introduce him to Richard the piggy bank and Mark the Shepherd, then over to the café by the toy box. The rest of the toys are gathered there, and Jensen notices with annoyance how quickly they’re all taken in by Jared’s charm. Danneel’s soon hanging on his every word, the little dimple beside her mouth looking as if it’s permanently etched there, and Jensen stubbornly ignores the fact that it is permanently etched there, because her manufacturers designed her that way. Somehow this is still Jared the Spaceman’s fault.
Matt sidles up, his red scarf tied jauntily around his neck. He offers Jared his hand to shake, and Jensen could swear the friendly contact lasts longer than is strictly necessary. He rolls his eyes; Matt will flirt with anything with legs (and occasionally with wheels) but his heart belongs to Danneel. They share a Dream House, after all, though half the time Jensen thinks it’s just so Matt can be near his wardrobe.
Brock and Cindy, the action hero duo, are thrilled to meet a Spaceman, and ask Jared countless questions about his mission. Jensen grits his teeth at the looks of awe on their faces; they never looked that excited when he told them about his adventures as Sheriff. Jared pretends to cower in fear at Chad the dinosaur’s feeble attempt at a roar, and Chad’s puffed-up look of pride tells Jensen that Jared has made a friend for life. Even Misha the Jack-in-the-Box looks amused by Jared, and usually he only laughs at his own jokes.
Finally fed up with everyone hanging all over the new guy, Jensen gruffly interrupts Matt just as he’s asking Jared what kind of hair products he uses.
“I gotta go, guys. Jared, you know your way back, right? Okay, good.” he makes his escape without waiting for an answer, feeling the curious looks of the other toys boring into his back as he goes, but not able to work up the energy to care.
Great, another toy, thinks Jensen. Maybe Jared will finally be the one to take Jensen’s place as Favorite Toy. And then where will Jensen be? Stuck at the bottom of the toy box probably. Maybe even given away. This birthday sucks.
By the end of the next week, it’s like all of Jensen’s worst nightmares have come true. Jared is everywhere.. Down at Danneel’s shop, over at the bookshelf, and up on the bed, which is usually the place of honor reserved only for Jensen. Jordan even took him to school for Show and Tell one day, and Jensen didn’t leave his place on the bed all day, not wanting to see the pitying looks from all the other toys.
Everyone adores Jared. Everyone except Jensen, that is. The spaceman tried to initiate conversation several times but Jensen just looked right through him; no way was is he going to be taken in by those stupid charming dimples and bright white smile the way everyone else already is. Finally Jared gave up, and Jensen tells himself he’s glad.
Friday morning Jordan is at school. Jensen is lying in his spot, not in any hurry to get up talk to anyone. He hears the sound of a throat clearing and looks up to see Jared standing over him. Great, he thinks.
“Hey, Jensen,” Jared says, and he’s visibly nervous. His plastic helmet is fully retracted into the body of his uniform, and he runs a hand through his long, floppy hair. For a moment Jensen almost feels sorry for him, but then he remembers being left behind while Jordan took Jared to school. He looks back at Jared blankly.
“I was wondering…” Jared pauses, and Jensen knows he should take pity on the guy but just can’t bring himself to do it. He waits. Finally Jared takes a breath and blurts out “I was wondering if you wanted to come hang out at the coffee shop with me. Everyone’s going to be there.”
Jensen is surprised to find he’s actually tempted: this self-imposed isolation is really getting old, for one thing, and even though he tries to tune it out he can hear Jared talking sometimes, and finds himself amused and intrigued more often than he’d like. Jared is the competition, he reminds himself firmly.
“No, thanks,” he says coolly. Jared looks at him like he expects Jensen to say more, but Jensen just stares back. Jared’s face slowly falls and Jensen ruthlessly squashes the guilt as the light leaches out of Jared’s eyes, leaving them as lifeless as if he was in full toy mode.
“Well, if you change your mind, you know where we’ll be,” Jared says quietly, and goes off, leaving Jensen alone again.
Jensen lies back, closing his eyes and crossing his arms over his chest in a way that he tells himself is definitely not sulking. In the distance he can hear laughter from the direction of Danneel’s coffee shop. He ignores a pang of loneliness.
“You’re a real jackass, aren’t you?”
Jensen’s eyes fly open. Danneel is standing in front of him, hands on hips, dressed in an eye-catching ruffled ball gown clearly misappropriated from Jensen’s sister’s Barbie doll. Danneel has always considered Barbie to be a skanky bimbo, but she’s not above stealing her clothes when she gets the chance.
“What’d I do?” Jensen asks, wounded.
“The way you’re treating that poor boy is shameful,” she scolds. “He’s new here, and just wants to make friends. He’s a sweetheart and you’re treating him like he shot your horse! Not to mention hiding out here ignoring all your friends.”
“All his friends, you mean,” Jensen retorts. “Everyone was so quick to fall all over him. You all act like he’s the Second Coming of He-Man or something.”
“Don’t be such a dick,” says Danneel, and even her permanent dimple-laden smile doesn’t ease the bite. She’s one of the few people who will talk to him that bluntly, and even fewer that he’ll take it from, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“Jensen, you were new here once, too, remember what that felt like? Remember how James used to torment you?”
Jensen shuddered at the reminder. An adorable-looking brown stuffed bear, James was soft and cuddly as a toy, but once Jordan was out of the room he terrorized the other toys, Jensen in particular. James was Favorite Toy and never let Jensen forget it. It took weeks before Jensen was able to overcome his fear of James enough to make friends with the other toys. They’d all breathed a sigh of relief when James had “accidentally” been left behind while the family had been on a camping trip. If there had been a suspicious gleam in Mark the Shepherd’s eyes on the way home, nobody had voiced any suspicions.
Remembering James, Jensen feels a twinge of shame at how he’s treated Jared. Maybe he hasn’t been as outright mean as the bear had been, but he sure hasn’t been welcoming either.
“Look, at least give the guy a chance,” Danneel continues. “He really likes you, and who knows, maybe when you pull your head out of your ass, you’ll like him, too.” She flounces off gracefully, leaving Jensen alone again.
Maybe Danneel is right. If nothing else, as honorary leader of the toy community Jensen has a responsibility to act professionally, and he does miss his friends. Maybe he’ll try being a little friendlier to the new guy. Can’t hurt, anyway. Besides, he is pretty cute, not that Jensen would admit that to anyone but himself.
The next morning after Jordan is off to soccer practice, Jensen gets up from his spot on the bed. Jared is already gone from his own spot, and Jensen knows that another invite from Jared won’t be forthcoming in the near future.
Wandering down to Danneel’s shop, Jensen returns the greetings from his friends, who thankfully act as though he hasn’t been deliberately staying away all week. Jared looks up from where he’s sitting at a wooden block set up in front of the plastic counter, his face guarded but still friendly. Jared walks up and stands beside him.
“Is this seat taken, Spaceman?” he asks, waving toward the wooden block sitting open beside Jared. Most of the toys are too big to fit into the little plastic booths that came with Danneel’s coffee shop, so they always make do with whatever’s available.
“Um, yeah- I mean, no, sit!” Jared says. He sounds flustered and Jensen feels oddly protective. Jared may be a big-shot space toy with extendable wings and laser sound effects, but he’s still endearingly shy, and it makes Jensen relax a little to know he’s not the only one off balance here.
Jensen takes a seat and they both look around uncomfortably, at a loss for words. Jensen tries to ignore the not-very-subtle gazes of their friends, and glares briefly at Danneel, who is making “go on” motions with her delicate hands.
“So.” He says when he can’t stand the awkward silence anymore. “I know I haven’t exactly been the Welcome Wagon.”
“Yeah, you’ve kinda been a dick.” Jared says bluntly, and Jensen’s eyes fly up to meet his, only to see a teasing light in Jared’s expressive eyes.
“Look, I get it,” Jared says earnestly. “I know you’re Favorite Toy here, and I bet it sucks to have someone new come in. But I’m not here to take your place, honest. I’m not looking at being the boss or anything. I just want a home of my own, you know? I’m the last of my lot to be sold. There were thousands of us, and I was last. I’ve waited and waited and it was never my turn to get taken home and make a kid happy. Now I’m finally here and I just want to make laser noises and yell “Into the Great Beyooooond!!” when my cord is pulled. It’s not so much to ask for, is it?”
“No, it’s not.” Jensen concedes. It’s been years but he can still remember the breathless swelling of hope as the kids in the toy store came to pick his box up, and the crush of rejection when they moved on to Spiderman action figures or video games. At least Kim had picked him up for Jordan’s fourth birthday before he’d been on the shelf too long; he can’t imagine waiting as every last one of his lot was sold before him.
“Look, Jared, I’m sorry, ok? Let’s start over. I’m Sheriff JensenTM. It’s nice to meet ya, pardner.” He sticks out his hand, holding his breath a little as Jared stares at it contemplatively. Finally Jared grabs his hand and shakes it, just as enthusiastic as the first time.
“Hello, Sheriff. I think maybe I’m going to like being stationed in this quadrant.”
Jensen ignores the soft cheers from the toys around them and grins into the cup of “coffee” Danneel places in front of him.
Over the next few weeks Jensen learns it’s not such a bad thing, having a dimpled spaceman around. Jared has a way of drawing the other toys in with his friendly and boisterous personality. Jensen is no exception, and his last defenses fall away when Jordan continues to treat Jensen as he always has, as Favorite Toy, but with plenty of attention lavished on Jared as well.
The two of them are the stars of the many games Jordan’s imagination can come up with; Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Aliens, even, notably, a time when Jordan married them to each other. Jensen figures that must be influenced by Jordan’s friend Brendan, who has two dads. Jared and Jensen were a little awkward around each other for the rest of that day, for reasons Jensen can’t really explain to himself. But overall it’s way more fun having a partner to share in his adventures, and Jensen is glad that partner is Jared.
At night Jordan takes both Jared and Jensen and places them in the coveted spot on his pillow. Jensen lies next to Jared all night long, and lately he’s been getting the strangest urge to reach out and grab Jared’s hand. He’d do it: Jordan would never know - the kid sleeps like the dead - but he’s not completely sure Jared would welcome it. So he does nothing.
A couple months after Jared’s arrival, Jordan’s next door neighbor Cailey stays for the weekend while her parents go out of town to a wedding. The toys quickly learn that the little girl does not share Jordan’s respect for his toys. To put it bluntly, Cailey is a terror. General Jeff loses two of his men when she bites off their plastic bases and Kim has to throw them out. Mark the Shepherd gets dressed up in Barbie clothes, and only his threats of physical harm keep the teasing from the other toys to a minimum. Chad gets his tail ripped off, and even though Kim is able to put him back together Jensen knows they’ll all be hearing him tell his tale of woe for years to come. Jensen is just glad that as Jordan’s Favorite Toys, he and Jared are kept out of Cailey’s clutches. Unfortunately for Danneel, the same can’t be said for her, and Cailey hardly lets the doll out of her sight the entire time. Danneel wears a constant “shoot me now” look whenever Cailey isn’t looking.
It’s a relief when Cailey finally goes back home, and all the toys wander over to Danneel’s café to relax and share their horror stories.
Jensen has been sitting there with Jared at their usual table for some time before he starts to get an uneasy feeling. Usually they’ve barely taken their seats before Danneel brings them their cups with a smile and a wink. Today there’s no sign of her.
“Matt,” Jensen says, beckoning the doll over. “Where’s Danneel today? Did Cailey wear her out?”
Matt doesn’t smile. Matt ALWAYS smiles, unless he can’t find his favorite gold lamé pants or something equally tragic. “I haven’t seen her, Jensen. I’ve looked everywhere. I was just about to come find you.”
“What, Danni’s missing?” Cindy shrieks, and from there it descends into chaos. All the toys are talking over each other, asking questions nobody has the answers to. Jensen tries several times to get everyone’s attention, and when that fails he climbs up on the counter and sends a speaking look over to General Jeff.
“Everybody shut the fuck up!” General Jeff bellows. The shocked silence would make Jensen grin if he wasn’t so worried about Danneel. General Jeff winks at Jensen and motions for him to go ahead and speak.
“Okay, people. We’ve got a lost toy. You all know the drill. When is the last time you saw Danneel?”
The toys rush to speak, and Jensen hastily throws up his hands to hush them. “One at a time! Richard?” The piggy bank is trying vainly to wave one ceramic foot in the air to get Jensen’s attention.
“Last time I saw her, Cailey was playing with her while Kim packed up her stuff.”
Cailey. Of course the girl took Danneel; she barely set her down all weekend.
Jensen ignores the frantic chatter from the other toys as he considers the problem. Finally he raises a hand and the room falls silent, all the other toys, including Jared, looking at him as if confident he’ll fix this. He swallows, hiding his nerves.
“General Jeff, do you have a sentry near the window?”
Jeff speaks quietly into his walkie-talkie for a moment. When the response comes back he answers, “That’s affirmative, Jensen.”
“Okay, I need you to keep them stationed there to watch Cailey’s house and report back if there’s any sign of Danneel. Got it?”
“You got it, Jensen,” Jeff said, and Jensen was reassured by the steady determination in Jeff’s voice. Jeff has always been someone the toys can count on in a pinch.
“What do we do in the meantime?” Cindy asked.
The waiting seems to go on forever as the morning bleed into afternoon. The toys gather at the café, talking with subdued voices as they try not to give up hope of getting Danneel back safe and sound. Jensen moves from group to group, murmuring reassuring words that he hopes to hell prove true. Several hours later General Jeff calls Jensen over, and the room falls into a hush of anticipation.
“What is it, General Jeff?” Jensen demands.
“One of my boys was watching Cailey’s window, and just reported back that he had eyes on Miss Danneel. The girl has her locked inside a hamster cage.”
Jensen shakes his head. Kids. But oh, Danneel must be fuming. Knowing her, she’d have gotten herself home by now if she hadn’t been locked up. But as it was…
“We’re going to need to mount a rescue mission.”
The instant look of trepidation on the other toys’ faces would be amusing if the situation weren’t so dire.
“I’m going over to get her,” Jensen says firmly. “Anyone else want to volunteer?”
Cindy and Brock both step forward immediately, which doesn’t surprise Jensen. Jared steps forward as well, which does.
Jensen pulls him aside. “Jared, are you sure? You haven’t been here that long; you don’t have to get involved.”
Jared looks almost offended. “This is my home now, Jensen, and these are my friends, too. Of course I want to help.”
Jensen smiles at Jared, free and open. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do…”
The easy part is getting out of the Rhodes’ house. Misha is surprisingly flexible, and his spring stretches a lot farther than Jensen had ever suspected (“I’m a grower, not a shower,” Misha says proudly, to the assorted groans of the other toys). All he has to do is lower the four rescuers out the window one at a time and they’re on their way.
It feels weird to be outside without Jordan around. Jensen keeps looking around nervously, sure they’re going to be caught or scooped up by a hungry owl or something. But they creep silently through the small hole in the hedge separating the Rhodes’ house from Cailey’s family’s house and make it up on the back porch without incident. Climbing through the cat door is a bit awkward, because Jensen gets stuck halfway through and Jared has to push him the rest of the way in with his big hands under Jensen’s butt.
The four of them creep slowly up the stairs and into the pink and purple monstrosity that is Cailey’s room. They barely set foot inside before Danneel’s harsh whisper breaks the silence.
“It’s about damn time you showed up here! Can you believe that kid tried to hook me up with GI Joe? Have you SEEN what that macho oaf wears?” Jensen feels a burst of relief; if Danneel is complaining about her outraged fashion sense then she can’t be too traumatized.
“Um, why are you in a hamster cage?” Jared asks hesitantly.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Danneel says darkly, waving her hands dismissively. “Just get me the hell out of here before she comes back.”
Jared climbs up on top of Cailey’s desk where the hamster cage sits in front of the partly open window. He pulls hard and the cage pops open. Danneel climbs out gracefully, going up on tiptoe to kiss Jared on the cheek.
“Thanks, sweetie,” she says, and Jared looks flustered. Jensen pushes down an unreasonable flare of jealousy. He pushes it aside as Jared lowers Danneel by her hands far enough that she can drop into Jensen’s arms. She gives him a similar kiss on the cheek and Jensen wonders distantly if Jared feels any jealousy of his own.
Jared starts his climb down the desk but before he can get too far they hear the sound of a child’s laughter.
Cailey. The toys all look at each other in horror. Jared will never make it down before Cailey gets to her room.
“You guys go, get Danneel out of here,” Jensen whispers urgently to Brock and Cindy.
“But, Jensen—“ Danneel starts, and Jensen cuts her off.
“I’m not leaving Jared.” The light of understanding appears in Danneel’s eyes, and when Cindy goes to protest she shakes her head to silence her. “We’ll try to find a way to send help if we can. Be careful.” With that Danneel, Cindy and Brock move quickly out of the room, leaving Jared and Jensen alone.
“Jensen, come up here,” Jared says urgently.
“Are you crazy?” Jensen says. “We don’t have time, Jared, get down here!”
“Just trust me, okay?”
Jensen looks up at Jared for a moment. Jared is looking down at him, his eyes pleading. Jensen can’t resist those eyes, even if it means a lifetime of Cailey in his future. He climbs quickly up the leg of the desk to stand in front of the window with Jared, looking at the all-too-distant ground below them.
“What now?” Jensen asks.
“This.” Jared says, and he pulls Jensen into his arms, lowers his head and presses a kiss on Jensen’s lips. Jensen can distantly hear the approach of Cailey, almost at the door now, and he knows that they’ll fall limp in the way of toys in the presence of humans as soon as she comes in, but can’t bring himself to care, not with Jared’s lips on him.
He feels his stomach drop almost as if he’s falling and then realizes that he is falling – falling out the open window with Jared’s arms wrapped firmly around him, and he really doesn’t approve of this plan, if indeed this was a plan and not some horrible accident.
Well crap. He thinks, but instead of hitting the ground with a crunch they’re gliding smoothly to the ground in the Rhodes’ yard and Jensen has no clue what just happened but he’s never been so glad to have solid ground under his feet in his life.
When he thinks the risk of passing out is sufficiently small he finally opens his eyes and loosens his death grip on Jared’s shoulders. Jared is standing there, grinning proudly, and on his back two plastic wings are fully extended. Jensen has seen them hundreds of times as Jordan played with the spaceman doll, but he never imagined they’d actually be useful.
“That was some great flying there, Spaceman,” Jensen says softly. His arms haven’t left Jared’s shoulders, but Jared doesn’t seem to mind.
“That wasn’t flying, Jensen. That was falling with style.” He leans down to press another kiss to Jensen’s lips, and even though their feet are firmly on the ground Jensen feels his stomach dip.
Falling with style. Sounds about right.
Four years later...
“Wow, mom, a laptop!”
The excitement in Jordan’s voice carries upstairs easily, making Jensen smile softly even as he feels a pang of sadness in his chest. Jordan is growing up, finally starting to leave his toys behind and move towards teenage pursuits like video games, girls and sports. Jensen wouldn’t have it any other way; Jordan has been the best little boy a toy could imagine, and Jensen knows how very lucky he is that he’s had eight whole years by Jordan’s side.
Jensen feels a comforting weight come down on his shoulders and without even looking he knows that it’s Jared. Jared who has been by his side for the last four years of adventures with Jordan, watching as new toys came and went, and as their friends slowly moved on - some off to serve new boys and girls, some to the peace and quiet of the Attic. Danneel and Matt are there; they were moved up almost two years ago and while Jensen misses seeing his friends every day he knows from the occasional message relayed through General Jeff’s soldiers that they are happy, and that they’re waiting for the day when Jensen and Jared will join them. So are Richard and Misha, and even Chad the dinosaur. Danneel will already have a little place prepared for him and Jared, Jensen knows. She always did know just what Jensen needed.
“He’s getting so grown up,” Jared muses, his arm tightening around Jensen. “Won’t be much longer now.”
“Yeah,” Jensen agrees. “I heard Kim talking about redecorating Jordan’s bedroom next week, maybe putting away the toys he doesn’t play with anymore. Pretty sure we’ll be going this time.”
“Are you going to be okay with that?” Jared asks, and the earnest look of concern on that face that Jensen knows as well as his own warms Jensen right to the tips of his pointed boots. He’s going to miss Jordan, of course. He loves Jordan like no toy has loved his kid before, but he’s got a whole life ahead of him with Jared in the Attic, and he can’t wait to for it to start.
“Yeah,” Jensen smiles and leans forward to press his lips against Jared’s. “I really am.”