Jared Padalecki is a loser.
It’s a fact. Jared Padalecki is an uncool, no good, college dropout, dateless loser.
And he’s starting to think that’s never going to change.
“So he just broke it off? And left the country? Just like that?”
Jared takes a swig from the tequila bottle. It’s late enough--and he’s drunk enough--to not care about the lack of shot glasses or cups, or the lack of salt or lemons and really, by now he’s so numb he doesn’t even feel the burn as he gulps the alcohol down.
And it’s still not numb enough.
“Yeah,” he says, and takes another drink before passing the bottle to Chad. Except he’s sprawled out on the entire couch which means that Chad is in the ragged arm chair four feet away, and he can’t quite get the bottle to him. It slips from his fingers and Chad dives for it, saving the tequila from falling to the floor and dumping all over Jared’s ugly, brownish green carpet. The move looks impossibly fast to Jared and he entertains the thought that for the first time ever, he might actually be drunker than Chad.
Drunker. More drunk? The drunkest.
That’s right. He is the drunkest. The drunkest drunk who ever drunked.
He would think that was something to be proud of, since it’s never happened before, but being more trashed than Chad, a man who considered getting wasted every other night and waking up, still drunk in a stranger’s house to take a piss in a corner before passing out again, as a positive use of his time, is not exactly something Jared has ever aspired to.
Just more proof that his current loser status is not likely to change.
“That sucks, man.” Chad takes his own gulp of tequila and Jared decides this is good. He doesn’t like being drunker than Chad.
More drunk. Whatever.
“Yeah,” he says again. He’s not sure exactly what they’re talking about anymore.
“So did he tell you why he was suddenly fleeing the country?”
Oh right. Misha. Misha who he dated for two months. Misha who was funny and sweet if a little weird and out there and who might have had an unhealthy obsession with the Queen of England, but who didn’t have any family in Texas and had agreed to go with Jared down to San Antonio for Christmas. Misha, who was supposed to be the proof that Jared wasn’t wasting away his life in Loserdom, that even if he had no college degree, a job he hated, an apartment that came with moldy walls, a fridge that liked to stop working every now and then and a carpet so old and stained that he wasn’t sure what color it originally used to be, he was at least successful in one aspect of his life.
Misha, who called Jared less than eight hours ago to break up with him, give his apologies for missing out on Christmas dinner, and explain that he was leaving the country for an uncertain amount of time.
Jared sighs and makes gimme motions toward the bottle, remembering why he’d set out to be so drunk to begin with. “I don’t know, Chad, he said something about gathering the minions and completing the final plans for his mass world take over or something. I’m not sure.”
Chad pauses in the act of handing over the tequila, contemplating this. “Misha’s fucking nuts, dude.”
Jared pouts at the bottle--just out of reach--and sighs again. “Yeah.”
“Guess there’s only one thing for you to do,” Chad says, voice somber and full of wisdom.
Jared blinks blearily at him. “What’s that?”
Chad slaps the tequila bottle in Jared’s still out reached hand. “Drink more.”
Jared’s cool with that.
Jared regrets being so cool with that when he wakes up the next morning, half on, half off the couch, upper body hanging so far off the cushions that his face is pressed against the floor. His neck hurts, his head is pounding, his mouth is dry and tastes sour and he really hopes that the stain he sees when he opens his eyes used to be a form of food and not some kind of bodily fluid.
He blinks at the stain for several long seconds, trying to will away his headache. It takes a few of those seconds to notice that his headache is pulsing with an insistent, annoying rhythm and it’s several more seconds after that when he figures out that the high-pitched noise accompanying the rhythm is not actually in his head.
“Dude,” Chad groans from somewhere to his left. “Answer your phone.”
With a great effort, Jared pushes himself off the floor and sits up on the couch. He takes a moment to stare at Chad. He’s folded and twisted into the chair, his head tipped back at what looks to be an extremely uncomfortable angle, mouth open and drooling. Jared wipes self consciously at his own mouth and shakily gets up from the sofa, one hand going to his head when the movement makes his headache worse.
He’s never drinking again.
Or at least, he’s never out-drinking Chad again.
The phone is still ringing, (and by what has to be the twentieth ring Jared is once again wishing he’d bought an answering machine) and it’s his house phone so that means it can only be one person:
He takes a deep, steadying breath and picks up the phone, praying that he won’t sound as hung over as he feels. “H’lo?” Yeah, that didn’t work. He clears his throat and tries again. “Hello?”
There’s a slight hesitation on the line then, “Jared?”
“Yeah, Mama. It’s me.”
“You sound horrible. You’re not getting sick are you?”
“Nah, just woke up is all.”
“Oh.” Jared’s stomach twists as the concern in her voice changes to a tone of slight disappointment. “Jared, you realize it’s past one in the afternoon?”
Jared clears his throat again, shifting guiltily even though his mother can’t see him. “Uh, no. I hadn’t realized that.”
“Were you out partying with Chad again?”
“Not…exactly partying. It was just Chad and me here at the apartment.”
She sighs and Jared’s stomach drops even further. He hates disappointing his mama. “I see.” She says nothing for a moment, leaving Jared to wallow in guilt. She’d long since stopped giving him lectures on his choices in life, leaving her disapproval to be expressed instead with only long, weary sighs and sad looks, all of which somehow made Jared feel worse than any lecture ever could. “Well,” she finally says after the silence had stretched too long, “did you get the time off from the factory so you could come down here this Christmas?”
“Yeah,” Jared breathes out, relieved that he had something positive to say. “All four days.”
“Good. And what about that boy you’ve been seeing? Misha? Was that his name?”
Jared hesitates, not sure what to say. Should he tell her that they broke up?
“Yeah, Mama. His name‘s Misha.” He pauses, still unable to bring up the fact that they were no longer together.
“Very weird name,“ she mumbles, not for the first time. “Well, is he coming with you? We’re all excited to meet him. It’s been a long time since you’ve dated anyone long enough for us to meet them. Megan is especially thrilled,” she teased, and he could imagine the smirk on her face. “She’s been dying to get you back for how you treated Ben when they got engaged. I think he had to stop her from actually writing out a list of questions for her to interrogate Misha with.”
His mama gives a short laugh and Jared feels his stomach clench, the idea that he’s getting ready to let them all down again making him feel physically ill. “Jared?” she asks again when he stays silent. “He is still coming isn’t he?”
Jared takes a shaky breath, preparing to tell her that no, he’s actually out of the country and for all he knew he would remain so, but what comes out is, “Of course, Mama. We’ll both be there on the 23rd.” Afterwards, he wants to smack himself, but he can’t deny the way he automatically relaxed at his mother’s happy “Good.”
“What time are you driving down, honey?”
“Um, uh,” Jared stutters, too busy panicking and thinking what the hell did I just do to really focus on the question. “I don’t know. Sometime in the morning, I think,” he mutters distractedly.
Shit. Shit, shit and fuck.
He is a moron.
“So, really sometime in the evening then?” she asks, and if Jared wasn’t freaking out he’d roll his eyes at the familiar comment.
“I’m not always that late,” is the expected protest.
“Uh huh, sure. Just give me a call when you finally leave. I’ll see you in two days. Love you.”
“Yeah, love you too, Mama,” he replies automatically, barely noticing the click and dial tone as his mother hangs up. Feeling numb, he slowly puts down the phone before collapsing back on the couch with a groan. He brings one arm up to cover his eyes, as if to block out the whole situation.
He is expected back at his parent’s house in two days. With his boyfriend.
“You’re fucked, man.” Chad pipes up from this spot on the easy chair.
Jared can’t help but agree.
Jensen rings the bell in his hand, smiling brightly at the mom and two kids walking up the mall entrance. “Happy Holidays!” he says as they pass him by. The mother gives him a tight smile in return but ignores the red donation bucket, herding her children quickly through the doors.
Jensen doesn’t sigh.
Instead he turns his smile on the man walking ten or so feet behind her. “Good morning!” The man grunts and sticks his hand out as he passes, dropping some change into the bucket. Jensen beams at him. “Thank you! And have a merry Christmas!” he calls to the man’s back. Then he leans over slightly to look through the slit in the bucket. There were a few more pennies added to the meager pile of change and now a crumpled gum wrapper sitting on top of the coins. Jensen scowls and turns back around, wanting to snap out that this was not a trash can, but the man was already in the mall.
With a concentrated effort, he wipes away the grimace and returns to facing the parking lot. There are two more people walking up the sidewalk: two bickering men, one short blond with squinty eyes, and a tall, shaggy haired dude who looks like he could use a good night’s sleep. Jensen smiles at them and rings the bell again, causing the taller man to cringe and reach for his head as if in pain.
Oops. Not just a lack of sleep then. More likey a hangover.
Still, he doesn’t let that deter him from speaking up as they got closer. “Merry Christmas, guys. Would you like to donate some change to charity? The money is going to purchase food for those who can’t afford a Christmas dinner.” He puts on his best “pleasant, but earnest” face as he talks.
The blond pauses his tirade long enough to throw out a careless, “Sorry dude, no change,” before picking up right where he left off. The tall guy is too busy looking and being miserable to even glance at Jensen.
“Seriously man, this will work,” the blond is saying. “Just go in there, pick someone out and trudge out a pathetic sob story. Use those puppy eyes of yours. You know those things are enough to convince any woman you are trustworthy enough for them to go back to your parents with you.”
Tall Guy huffs a little. “Chad, you do realize that I’ve been dating a man for the past two months and that my family actually expects me to bring home one?”
The other guy just waves a hand in the air. “Whatever dude. I still don’t get that. I mean--dick. That’s just gross.” He pauses, looking thoughtful. “Unless it’s mine.” As if realizing what he just said he shoots a panicked look at his companion. “But that is not an invitation.”
His friend just sighs and shakes his head. “Trust me, Chad,” he says. “I’m really, really not interested.”
A little bewildered by this bit of conversation he heard, Jensen watches the two make their way into the mall. His eyes narrow as they pause by the Coke machine just inside the entrance and the blond guy reaches into his pocket, pulling out a handful of change and depositing a few quarters. Jensen grinds his teeth together and turns his back on them. His scowl this time is a little harder to smooth away as the next few people pass him by, his mind still stuck on the odd pair.
Jared’s head hits the table with a loud thunk. Groaning, he slumps further onto the wood and wraps his arms around his head, trying to hide from the rest of the world.
It’s been a horrible two days.
“Seriously, dude. Don’t give up. You’ve got like, three hours until you have to start driving to your parents. That’s plenty of time.”
Jared can hear Chad pace back and forth on the other side of the table, shoes squeaking against the kitchen tiles. He imagines Chad’s arms waving around in the broad, careless gestures he’s prone to making when he gets worked up about something. Usually, Jared would be watching him, amused, just waiting for him to smack himself in the face or something as his motions got more and more erratic, but right now he can’t work up the energy to even lift his head.
He keeps his head buried in his arms, despairing.
“Have you called Milo? Maybe you can talk him into skipping out on Alexis’s family and going to yours instead. He owes you a favor, considering it was you who introduced them to begin with and then dumped her, leaving them free to run off together, and god knows that bitch is so crazy, her family probably is too.”
“Called him,” Jared mutters into the wood. His voice is muffled and his breath makes his face and the spot of table it’s pressed against damp with humidity. “He reminded me that both he and Alexis hate me now and then he hung up.”
“Shit.” Chad keeps pacing. “Well, what about your other exes?”
“Riley also hung up on me. Jason laughed for two minutes before hanging up.”
Chad’s shoes stop squeaking. “Man, Jay. Are there any exes of yours that don’t hate you?”
Jared thinks about this for a moment. It’s true, almost every relationship he’s been in, no matter how short or long (mostly short), ended up with the other party hating him, usually because of how he’d abruptly end things, right around the time things started to get serious. The only exception to that would be Sandy, who tried to be his friend after a short period of not talking. But that situation was different from the rest. Sandy had been--
He cuts that thought short, sitting up with a sigh. “No,” he mutters to Chad, rubbing a hand wearily against his face. “I think we should just give up. I’m tired. These have been the worst fucking two days of my life.”
Chad rolls his eyes. “They haven’t been that bad.”
Jared gapes at him. “Chad, I got kicked out of the mall for sexual harassment,” he says incredulously. “They threatened to call the cops on me! And that was after two separate guys tried to kick my ass.” When Chad has no reaction to this Jared goes on. “At the park I got threatened to be reported to the police three separate times, and the last guy I talked to was a paranoid schizophrenic, who freaked out because he thought the whole thing was some plot made up by the military who wanted to kidnap him and stick a microchip into his brain. How is that not ‘that bad?’”
Chad just shrugs. “I’ve had worse days.”
Jared stares at him in disbelief for a moment before figuring that, yeah, Chad probably has. It’s a comfort to know, Jared thinks, that no matter how screwed up and pathetic his life gets, Chad’s will probably always be more so.
“So you see,” Chad says seriously, gesturing dramatically with his hands, “things can always get worse. And you’ve still got three hours. We need ideas.”
Jared slumps in his seat. “I’ve got nothing.” His stomach churns as he thinks about showing up at his parents’ house without a boyfriend, imagining the expressions of disappointment and pity on their faces as he explains that he failed at yet another relationship, just to add one more thing to the constantly growing list of things he’s failed at.
“Come on, Jay,” Chad wheedles. “You can’t just give up like this” His argument is cut off by the doorbell ringing. He raises an eyebrow at Jared. “Expecting someone this early in the morning?” Jared shakes his head, no idea who would be at the door. “Maybe it’s one of your exes. Decided they were gonna go with you after all,” Chad suggests, but his tone is filled with doubt.
Jared snorts and shakes his head as he gets up and walks out of the kitchen. “Somehow, I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.” When he swings open his front door and sees the person on the other side, the thought that immediately runs through his mind is that he wishes this guy was one of his exes.
Though looking at him, he’d be hard pressed to try to find a reason to break it off.
“Good morning.” The guys smiles at Jared, skin crinkling around bright green eyes. “I’m collecting charity donations to build a new community center for downtown. Would you care to take a few moments and…” he trails off as Chad steps up behind Jared, standing on his tiptoes to peer over his shoulder. The guy’s eyes widen. “Hey!” he gasps, abruptly losing the pleasant manner and polite smile. “You guys are the assholes from the mall the other day!”
Jared slides a nervous glance at Chad. Is this one of the guys he talked to? He couldn’t remember all of them. He smiles uncertainly and rubs a hand over his neck. “Uh…” He really hopes this guy isn‘t about to threaten to kick his ass. He’s had enough of that already. “I don’t know what you are talking about?”
The man narrows his eyes. “Yeah. You are the guys who walked right by the donation bucket, saying you didn’t have any change on you and then stopped. To buy. A Coke.” He punctuates his sentence with sharp jabs at the air in front of him with the big, yellow envelope in his hands, face screwed up in an angry, dangerous expression.
Chad scoffs behind Jared. “Please. Everyone walks by those buckets. The only people who don’t are the ones with some trash they want to get rid of.”
If possible, the guy’s expression darkens further and Jared is suddenly feeling like the lowest of the low, right down there with puppy kickers and people who skin cats for fun. “Right,” the guy bites out. “And I doubt you would be interested in donating some money for a community center either.” When Chad just scoffs again, he gives an irritated roll of his eyes and turns around, ready to dismiss them and walk back to the street
He barely reaches the bottom step of the stoop before Chad lunges forward and snatches his wrist. “Wait!” The guy jerks back around, staring at Chad in shock.
“Dude,” Jared shoots Chad an incredulous glance. “What are you doing?”
Chad gives him an intense look, not letting go of the guy’s arm. “Think, Jared, it’s perfect.”
“Perfect for what?” He has no idea what he’s talking about.
“Yeah, I would like to know that too,” the guy snaps, tugging at his arm in an attempt to dislocate Chad. He fails, which isn’t surprising. Jared knows from experience that Chad has a grip like a particularly clingy octopus--you just can’t get him off you.
“Your parents. Christmas,” Chad answers. “It’s perfect.”
Oh. Oh no. No no no.
Jared shakes his head. “We can’t do that,” he denies, trying hard not to cower at the truly fantastic glower the donation guy is giving them both. The only thing worse that would be than Jared showing up at his parents without a boyfriend would be Jared showing up with a boyfriend who hates him.
But Chad shakes his head back at him. “I’m telling you, man. This’ll work. Hey!” he turns to the guy, jerking him a little closer. “What are you doing for Christmas?”
The guy scowls. “Not that it’s any of your business,” he snaps, “but I’m volunteering at the local soup kitchen.”
“See!” He turns to grin triumphantly at Jared. “It’s perfect. He’s perfect.”
Jared takes a long look at the man. The man certainly looks perfect, tall and fit, which is obvious even under the light jacket and scarf he’s wearing, with light brown hair, strong jaw line and bright green eyes--eyes that are hard and glaring from beneath furrowed brows, even as they flick back and forth between him and Chad in confusion.
Jared sighs. As much as it would fix all his problems to introduce this guy to his parents as his date for Christmas, he already knew there was no way he could talk him into it. “Forget it, Chad. This was a stupid idea anyway. I’m just gonna have to call my family and explain everything.” He considers using the break up with Misha to beg out of Christmas dinner this year. His stomach drops at the idea of skipping Christmas, but the thought of facing his family as he is--a failure--is even worse.
Chad shakes his head. “I’m sorry man, but as your best friend, I can’t let you do that.”
“What are you guys taking about? And what do I have to do with it?” The guy snaps, trying futilely to tug his wrist from Chad’s grasp.
Chad reaches behind him. “Really, Jay,” he says, “this is for the best. I’m just looking out for you, man.” With that he pulls a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket.
“Chad, what’re you--”
“Hey! What do you think--”
There’s a flash of silver and a snap and both Jared and the man fall silent, staring in shock at the shining metal cuff clasped around the guy’s wrist.
“Chad, what the hell are you thinking?” Thump. Thump thump thump.
“Come on, Jay. It’s the perfect solution!”
“Kidnapping is your perfect solution? Are you out of your mind?” Thump thump. Crash.
Jensen jerks at what sounds like a dish being broken in the kitchen, where the two crazies who’d kidnapped him were arguing. God, he should have known that seeing them at the mall yesterday was some kind of bad omen. As soon as he recognized them at the door he should have hightailed it out of there.
But really, who expects to ring a doorbell, simply asking for a helpful donation, and then have a pair of handcuffs slapped on them by a couple of complete nutcases? He’d been too shocked to react at first, and by the time he did the short blond one--Chad--had pulled him into the apartment. As soon as he’d realized what was happening he’d struggled, shouting and trying his hardest to get away from the man, but the guy was quicker than Jensen had expected, and he immediately hooked the other end of the handcuffs around the armrest of the only solid piece of furniture in the whole run-down apartment--an ancient, oak rocking chair. He then pushed Jensen down onto the chair, grabbed a washcloth and some duct tape from the kitchen and gagged him, stopping all hope that some neighbors would hear his shouts and come to help.
After, the taller one--Jared, according to the blond--had dragged his friend into the kitchen, leaving Jensen alone with nothing to do but listen to them argue and pray that Jared manages to talk some sense into his friend and they let him go.
He tugs fruitlessly against the handcuffs in question. It’s pointless, they’re not the flimsy, cheap kind of handcuffs you can get at any sex store or magic shop, but actual handcuffs, the kind that cops use, and Jensen knows there’s no way of getting out of them. He’d tried standing up and moving the rocking chair as soon as the guys left the room, but the chair was heavy, and with the way Jensen was cuffed he couldn’t stand properly without breaking a wrist.
So. He’s stuck here. With two completely insane people, one of which, Jensen figures from the conversation he’s heard, is supposed to take him home and introduce him as his boyfriend.
Great. Just fucking great.
“What’s the problem, Jay?” he hears Chad ask through the flimsy apartment walls. “It’s not like the guy is going to have a great Christmas anyway. You heard him--he’s volunteering at the soup kitchen, what a great time that’s going to be.”
He hears Jared’s exasperated sigh, even over the steady thump thump as he--presumably--paces the kitchen floor. “That’s not the point. What if he has family or something expecting him later, huh? You ever think of that? Jesus, Chad, you’re going to get us sent to jail!”
“Well, let’s ask him.” There’s the sound of a chair being pushed back and then Chad comes marching into the living room, a determined expression on his face, Jared trailing unhappily behind him. Jensen tries to back away as Chad reaches for the tape over his mouth, but it’s not like he can go anywhere, handcuffed as he is, so all he manages to do is wiggle a little bit and make a sound of protest that sounds more like a cry of pain as Chad rips the tape off his face.
He spits out the washcloth and curses. “Shit! That hurt.”
Jensen sees Chad’s smirking face and knows that he isn’t. Sadist. “Let me go,” he demands.
“Sorry, can’t do that.” He shrugs carelessly and Jensen decides that he hates him. Scratch that. Despises him. Loathes him, even.
“So tell me, you got any family waiting for you to come around this Christmas? Friends?”
He glares at him. Yeah. There was definite loathing here. “I don’t have to answer any of your questions.”
“Ha!” Chad punches the air. “See, Jared! I told you no one’s expecting him. That‘s the kind of thing you say when you don‘t want to admit the truth.” He turns to his friend with a smug grin, the kind someone wears when they’ve just won a bet with their buddies, and Jensen wonders if there is a deeper form of hatred than loathing, because that’s definitely what he’s feeling at the moment.
Jared rubs a weary hand across his face. “Chad, come on. We don’t even know if the guy is gay.”
“Why is that a problem? He could just pretend to like you like that. It can’t be that hard. I mean, I couldn’t do it, but I know you better. He doesn’t.” Jared just gives him a flat, frustrated look and Chad huffs and turns back to Jensen. “Are you gay?”
Jensen grits his teeth. He is, but he isn’t going to tell them that. “Like I said, I don’t have to answer any of your questions.”
“Ha!” Chad says again, turning to Jared triumphantly. “See? If he was straight he totally would have said so to get out of this.”
Jared stares at Jensen, an uncertain, thoughtful look on his face. Jensen stares back, wordlessly pleading. Jared sighs. “I’m sorry.”
Jensen’s stomach drops. “Oh, no. No. I am not doing this. No way.” He tugs futilely at the handcuffs once more as he starts to panic, flicking his gaze from Chad’s smug face to Jared’s apologetic one.
“I really am sorry, man, but I’m desperate here.”
“Fuck your desperation!” Jensen shouts. “I’m not doing this. You all are crazy, and I don’t care what you say, the second I get a chance I’m calling the cops on your asses.”
Chad walks forward and braces his arms against Jensen’s chair, leaning down and glaring in what he probably thought was a threatening manner. “Then I guess we just won’t give you the chance.”
Jensen scoffs. “Yeah, right. Because it’s absolutely normal for a guy’s boyfriend to show up at a family dinner in handcuffs.”
Chad stares at him silently for a moment, contemplating. Jensen doesn’t look away, chin jutted out in challenge. Finally, Chad smiles, slow and surprisingly a bit intimidating. “Well, we’ll just have to think of a way you won’t call the cops then.” He steps back and very slowly, very purposefully turns to face the coffee table at the center of the room, where Jensen’s keys, wallet and cell phone are sitting on the yellow envelope he had been carrying around all day. Jensen sucks in a nervous breath as Chad plucks that yellow envelope from beneath them.
“So, what’s in here?” Jensen tries not to react to the rising panic he felt as Chad waves the envelope in the air. “Let me guess,” Chad slants a smirking glance at him. “Charity donations, right?” Jensen doesn’t say anything and Chad taps one corner against his mouth, and fake thoughtful look on his face. “Hmm… I wonder how much you managed to collect.”
He untwists the tab holding the flap closed and looks inside, ignoring Jared’s uncertain “Chad…” from behind him. He pulls out the slip of paper holding the total of all the checks and cash donations and his eyes widen in sincere surprise. “Holy shit, Jared. There’s over four thousand dollars in here.”
“What?” Jared stalks forward and snatches the paper from Chad’s hand. His jaw practically drops as he reads what’s on it. He raises wide eyes to Jensen. “You managed to raise four thousand dollars just this morning?” Beside him Chad pulls out a stack of checks from the envelope and Jensen nearly twitches as he watches him shuffle through them.
“Four thousand and thirty-two, actually,” he snaps. “And yes, I did. Not everyone are cheap, kidnapping scumbags like you.”
Jared flushes and ducks his head, biting his lip, and Jensen almost feels guilty. Then the pressure around his wrists reminds him, oh yeah, this guy kidnapped him, and the feeling vanishes.
Jared avoids Jensen’s eye and mutters a low, “Enough,” to Chad, who is still thumbing through the checks, and plucks them out of his hand, stuffing both them, and the paper with the total into the envelope, which he tosses back onto the coffee table before collapsing onto the sofa, burying his head in his hands with a tired sigh. Chad however, takes a seat in the armchair, pulling it closer to Jensen so he can grin smugly at him.
“So here’s what I’m thinking,” he says to Jensen, that self satisfied little smirk back on his face. “I think that to raise that much money in so little time, you must really care about all this charity crap. In fact,” Chad raises his voice over Jensen’s when he tries to tell just how much it’s not crap, “I know you do.” He starts ticking off his fingers. “The community center. The soup kitchen. The donation bucket at the mall. That’s a lot of volunteer work for someone who only feels guilty once a year about the poor starving kids at Christmas. So I think you care a lot.”
Jensen grits his teeth. Says nothing.
Chad smirks again and leans forward on his chair so he’s only a foot away from Jensen’s face. “So here is how it’s going to go. I’m going to take that,” he gestures to the envelope on the table, “into safekeeping. And you are going to go with my buddy here and keep him company for Christmas. Eat some turkey and ham, make his parents feel proud of him and when you come back I’ll place the envelope right in your hands, no harm. If you try to escape or call the police, all Jared does is have to text me and poof--the money disappears. Alright?”
“Jesus,” Jared breathes from the couch. He stares at Chad incredulously. “I’ve been your best friend for years. How did I not know you were this scary?”
Chad smirks at him. “Never had a reason to show this side of me to you.”
“The side of you that doubles as a criminal mastermind?”
Chad shrugs. “Yes, exactly. Now,” he turns back to Jensen, leaning in close to stare into his eyes. “Do we have a deal?”
Jensen can feel the muscle in his jaw twitch as he tries to control the amount of anger and sheer frustration that runs through him. He would like nothing more at the moment than to punch this slimy fucker right in his smirking, squinty eyed face. But the cuffs are hard against his wrist as he flexes it and it doesn’t look like he is going to be free any time soon.
He doesn’t have many options.
“Fine,” he hisses. “I’ll do it.”
Chad does another fist pump in the air and Jared looks a weird a combination of horrified and relieved and Jensen thinks again, that he really, really hates them both.
This Christmas is going to suck.