Coming Home
By: Arian

Disclaimer: I don't know any of the people mentioned in this story. I can't vouch for their activities in real life, but it's a damn safe bet that none of this has ever happened. In short, don't know, don't own, don't profit, just playing. I made it all up, and I mean no harm by it.

Notes: For the sounds_so_good Steve Carlson fic challenge. My prompt was the song Come Around More Alabama, which you can listen to on Steve's website, and the lyrics to which you can find here. If you like the song, please consider buying it from iTunes or elsewhere!

A massive thank you to cinderella81, vegas_nolan, and slinkling for their beta efforts (and an extra nod to slinkling, who was kind enough to look this over a few times).

This wound up being J2 with a nice helping of Steve sticking his nose in. Also, oh dear god I wrote RPS.

* * *

Seeing Jensen again is like a blow to the gut. It snatches his breath away, leaves him feeling almost dizzy with the lack of oxygen, and fills him with an ache he hasn't felt since the day he realized that Sandy was no longer his future and that maybe his best friend was.

Jared doesn't notice the throb of the crowd around him. He doesn't hear the music coming from the stage, or feel the brush of skin against skin as people move past him. His concentration is focused only on Jensen's solitary figure sitting at a table for two in the back corner of the bar, nursing a beer while watching the stage.

He thinks of the last time they saw each other, almost a year ago now. He'd told Jensen about his decision to break up with Sandy, and when Jensen had asked why, Jared couldn't give him an answer.

Standing alone in a crowded bar, Jared finally understands that his decision to leave LA had been about more than just needing time to determine the next step in his life like he'd told his family. It'd also been about running from feelings he'd been afraid to admit he had.

He isn't sure how long he stands there before a hand claps him on the back, and a familiar voice shouts his name above the beat of the music and chatter of patrons. Jared turns to face Rosenbaum, a wide grin on his face as he pulls Mike into a one-armed hug. Over Mike's shoulder he can see Tom with an arm slung around his wife, and Mike's friend Chris. Tom raises a hand in greeting as Jamie tugs him towards a just-vacated booth.

"What are you guys doing here?" Jared leans in to speak directly into Mike's ear.

"What do you think? Jensen never stops talking about Steve and his music, so when he told us he was playing in town, we came out to see if the man was all talk or not. You here with Ackles?"

"No, I was walking by and saw the Steve Carlson sign. Figured I had to come in."

"Come on man, come sit with us. We can bet on long it takes Welling to tell us to shut up so he can actually hear the music." Mike's hand is back on his shoulder again, already starting to guide him over to the booth. Jared glances back to where Jensen is sitting, hunched forward the way he does when he's intent on something, eyes still fixed on Steve's performance. He nods, telling himself he can say hello later. That it's not chickening out if he goes with Mike now.

The others don't notice Jensen. There are booths and people in between them and him, blocking their view. Tom asks if anyone's seen him around, and Jared stays silent for reasons he isn't quite ready to acknowledge. Mike calls his cell phone and shrugs when he gets no answer.

Steve takes a break twenty minutes after they sit down, and Jared watches as he disappears in the direction of Jensen's table. He considers going over now, but decides to wait until Steve returns to the stage, not wanting to interrupt.

Mike orders another round of shots just as Steve starts up again, and Jared sits long enough to toss it back. Liquid courage, he thinks, and wonders where that phrase came from.

Mike's laughter makes him realize he's said this out loud. Jared flashes a sheepish smile and shrugs, knocking back the rest of his beer as Mike and Chris start in on a debate about something Jared is too distracted to follow, while Jamie offers her input every now and then. This goes on for three songs before Tom leans in and speaks quietly into his ear.

"How are you doing these days?" Jared knows he's asking about his life post-Sandy and his subsequent disappearance to Texas.

"I'm good. Life's short, I'm just trying to enjoy it while I can."

"And how are things with you and Jensen?"

"What do you mean?"

"You two haven't seen each other since just before things ended with Sandy, right?"

Jared isn't in the mood for an analysis of his relationship with Jensen so he shrugs and downplays it. "Just needed time to myself, man. Figure things out. I guess I kinda dropped off the radar for a while there."

"We were all worried. Jensen went nuts when you stopped answering your phone. He flew down to Texas to see you, you know, but your sister told him you weren't up for company."

Jared stares at Tom, mouth gaping. "What?"

Tom quirks an eyebrow. "Yeah, about two weeks after you headed home. He found out where you'd gone and took off after you. He stayed for a month. You didn't know that?"


"The man's missed you."

Jared nods, digesting this information. Jensen had come after him. He stays quiet while fitting this new dynamic into the way he feels about his friend. He stands abruptly. "I'm gonna hit the head," he announces before making a beeline for Jensen's table.

Which is empty.

Jared's heart sinks. He turns to actually use the washroom and catches sight of a familiar figure on stage with Steve. Jensen is seated slightly behind and to his friends left, guitar in hand, a microphone in front of him, and scrubbing a hand across his mouth; he's nervous, Jared thinks.

Steve leans forward and speaks to the crowd. "Folks, my friend Jensen here is a little shy, so help make him feel welcome tonight. Otherwise I might never convince him to get back on stage with me again." He grins, and Jensen blushes before ducking his head under the guise of tuning his guitar.

Jared moves toward Jensen's vacated table and sits down to watch as Steve launches into 'Come Around More Alabama' with Jensen singing background vocals and playing along. He watches the way Jensen closes his eyes when he sings and opens them only during the chorus to focus on the back wall just above everyone's heads. When the song is over, Jared is on his feet and cheering loudly with the crowd. He can hear Mike and Tom shouting over the sound of the rest of the audience.

Jensen blushes again when he catches sight of them and he lifts a hand to wave hello before slipping off stage and packing his guitar away. He makes his way back to his own table, head bowed slightly in embarrassment, and smiling at people who clap him on the back and offer praise as he walks by.

Jared knows the moment Jensen catches sight of him. It's just a small hitch in his step, hardly noticeable to most, but it's like a flashing neon sign to Jared. The smile sent his way is hesitant, but only for a moment, only until Jared grins big and opens his arms wide to pull Jensen in close to his chest and crush him in a hug until Jensen gasps against his neck.

"Dude, can't breathe!"

Jared laughs and lets him go. "Hey," he says, still smiling.

"Hey! I didn't know you were here tonight."

"Total fluke. I saw the sign and came in." Jensen laughs at this, and Jared feels something slide into place at the sound. He suddenly feels more complete than he has in months.

They sit down and the conversation falls right back into their old groove. Jensen doesn't ask about Sandy or why Jared left. Instead he makes fun of the pink t-shirt Jared is wearing and asks him how the dogs are all in the same breath.

Jared feels like no time has passed as they catch up on the last few months and what they're doing now, stopping only when Mike and Tom come over to tease Jensen for blushing.

Steve pulls a chair over to sit with them for a while once he's finished his set for the night. They drink and talk about Steve's new album and the next Kane tour, and eventually Steve stands to say goodnight. Shortly after he leaves, Jensen's mood changes and he frowns slightly.

"I should get going," he says, pushing to his feet, swaying slightly as the full effects of the alcohol seem to hit him. Jared reaches up and steadies him with a hand on his arm.

"Leaving so soon, man?" Jared schools his expression, hiding disappointment behind curiosity.

Jensen smiles almost sadly at him. "Yeah, got an early call tomorrow. I almost miss the days of working until 3 a.m., because at least then there was a chance I'd get to sleep in once in a while."

Jared laughs at this. "You used to sleep in anyway."

"A guy misses a few calls and he never gets to live it down, does he?"

"A few calls, a few flights-" he's cut off as Jensen smacks him on the arm good naturedly.

"You missed one or two flights yourself, Jared."

"When filming ran long." Jensen's got an eyebrow cocked at him and looks ready to call bullshit. "You can get home alright, yeah?"

Jensen laughs lightly at the subject change then nods. Jared watches as his eyes dim and he's suddenly looking solemn again. "Hey, Jare?"


"You should come around more. We're both back in LA now, right? Come by this weekend. We can catch the game on TV or something, just the two of us. Like old times."

Jared has no idea what game he's referring to, but the idea of seeing Jensen again makes his heart swell, and he's too inebriated to look deeply at the emotions assaulting him. All he knows is that with one smile, Jensen's started to fill up the empty places inside of him.

"I'll be there."

Jensen nods once more as Jared stands to pull him into another crushing embrace. He turns to go, and Jared fights the urge to reach out and grab him, make him stay just a few minutes more.

Jared moves back to the booth, arriving just in time to hear the words "karaoke bar" come out of Mike's mouth. Tom looks afraid, and Chris is laughing. Jared begs off, saying he should head home before the dogs start to go squirrelly.

Back in the quiet warmth of his bed, Jared pets Sadie's head absently as he thinks about seeing Jensen again. He falls asleep with a smile on his lips and Harley using his stomach as a pillow.

* * *

When Jared arrives at Jensen's home the following Saturday, it's Steve who answers the door. "Hey, I didn't know you were going to be here." Jared stretches a hand out to grasp Steve's in greeting.

"Come on in. Everyone's out back. You want a beer?"

"Nah, I'm good."

"Kane is out there." Steve winks slyly at him.

"On second thought, I'll take that beer now, thanks." Jared can already hear Christian's voice coming from the backyard as he tells a story about a woman he picked up on the final stop of their last tour. Jared likes the man just fine, but it's easier to have a drink in hand than it is to have Chris inquire often – and loudly – just why he isn't drinking.

Steve stops him in the kitchen after handing him a bottle. "Hold up a minute, Jared. Can we talk?" Jared flashes a smile and says sure before following Steve into the next room. He drops down onto the couch while Steve takes a seat opposite him in a matching arm chair.

Steve takes a moment to watch him before speaking. "Jensen was pretty upset about you disappearing. Not that he'd ever admit it to any of us, but we could see it." He holds up a hand when Jared opens his mouth to say something. "I know you were dealing with the end of a long-term relationship and that you needed your space. He knows that, too.

"Jensen keeps to himself at the best of times, but he's gotten quieter since you left. He missed you, man." Steve looks at Jared intently, and for a fleeting moment Jared is sure he knows exactly how he feels about Jensen and how that had factored into breaking things off with Sandy.

"What I'm trying to say is don't run from him again, ok? I don't know how well he'd handle it."

Jared nods when Steve stops and gives himself a few seconds to think before responding. "I'm not going anywhere," he says simply.

Jensen appears in the doorway, greeting Jared and asking why they're hiding inside when it's a glorious day out. Jared tries to ignore the flutter in his stomach as the lines around Jensen's eyes crinkle the way they only do when he's truly happy about something.

Jared follows the two men onto Jensen's patio and finds Christian, Mike, Tom, Jason Manns, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan sprawled out in chairs around a table holding an alarming number of empty beer bottles and food.

Jeff is out of his seat and greeting Jared with a handshake-turned-hug before he's barely out the door. The others call out greetings from their seats. Jensen leans in close after Jeff lets go.

"Sorry about the crowd, but Jeff called to say he was in town, and the guys kind of invited themselves when they found out you were coming over."

Jared laughs and drapes an arm over Jensen's shoulder. "You're the one who's going to have to clean up after them, man, so it's all good." Jensen groans as he looks between Jared and the mess of bottles and partially eaten food spread across his table. Jared laughs again and lets him go.

"I'll help," he promises, and Jensen grins at him again before pulling him over to sit between him and Steve.

The afternoon turns to evening and someone fires up the barbeque when the suns starts to dip lower. Jared's not sure any of them are sober enough to be operating a grill, but he's too drunk and too hungry to really care.

Someone slaps a burger down in front of him, and Jensen laughs and says there better be at least two more coming because Jared's a bottomless pit. The night progresses and Jared can't take his eyes off Jensen. In the presence of friends, Jensen relaxes back into his seat with his legs kicked out in front of him and a condensation-heavy bottle hanging from loose fingers. Jared teases him when his Texas drawl starts to really show itself and admits defeat when Jensen points out how his own has slipped back into place.

His cheeks flush when Mike tips his chair back on two legs and tells them to "hurry up and get a room already." Mike is sprawled out on the patio moments later when Christian tips his chair over and suggests he go get everyone some cold beer from the fridge.

When the guitars come out and the singing starts, he moves his chair closer to Jensen and cocks his head as if he can pick out his voice better that way. When he finally glances around at the others, he can just barely see Steve grinning knowingly at him in the faint glow cast by the light filtering out from the kitchen.

By the time someone switches them from a cheesy 80's ballad into the first few strains of one of Steve's songs, Jared feels like he's too drunk to ever move again. He's floating in a happy haze when Jensen's voice singing the words, "I know that it's not me, 'cause you're tangled in my thoughts these days" pulls him back to reality.

He lets his gaze settle on Jensen, and green eyes return the look steadily. The others seem to fade into the background and suddenly it's just him and Jensen locked in a never-ending stare as the words "'cause it might just be the right time for you and me" tumble from the softest-looking lips Jared has ever seen.

Jared can't pinpoint the moment he throws aside caution to lean forward and press his own lips against Jensen's. He's not sure when the music stops and the cat calls begin. The only thing he's aware of is the mouth moving under his, the sharp twang of guitar strings as Jensen sets the instrument aside blindly, followed by the slide of a hand up the back of his neck and into his hair.

Somewhere behind him, the others are laughing and packing up their stuff, filing past the two men and back into the house. By the time Jared and Jensen pull apart and stumble inside, the others are long gone and neither cares.

Their kisses lead to fervent touches, which leads to the bedroom and the stripping of t-shirts and discarding of shoes. They lay on the bed and Jared pulls Jensen as close to him as he can, not willing to relinquish his lips as he runs a hand across Jensen's body, enjoying the contrast of denim and skin. He feels Jensen's hands exploring his body, brushing up his sides and making him shiver.

Their touches slow and lengthen, hands hardly leaving skin. Their kissing calms to a gentle cadence. They fall asleep wrapped around each other almost mid-kiss; the pull of alcohol-induced sleep too much for either to resist any longer.

When the morning comes, Jared knows, there will be time for everything else.


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