Disclaimer: Never happened, of that I can be downright sure.
Summary: Jared has a shot at starting quarterback on the football team when it all comes crashing down on him. Suddenly the entire world thinks he's gay, and his parents' solution is to send him off to a gay conversion camp. Mad hijinks and one Jensen Ackles ensues.
Rating: R, will graduate to NC-17
Notes: This is based around "But I'm A Cheerleader" and was inspired by certainthings. Thank you for betaing and waiting so long. Also thank you to ericaplease for audiencing and handholding and not hitting me over the head when I got too annoying.
Lockers slammed around him, the smell of sweat and damp and Axe practically a permeable force in the air. Bodies glowed with sweat and the running trails of shower water, healthy muscles glistening, skin smooth and soft with youth.
Another locker slammed next to his head. He jumped.
“So, there’s this party,” Andrew said as he pulled his messenger bag over his shoulder. Jared tore his eyes away from his teammates under the showers and resumed toweling himself off. “Linda Stone, who’s fuckin’ stacked, and like, the entire gymnastics team, are gonna be there...”
“Mmhm,” Jared said absently, noting the slow sensual way that Evan Greene, the running back, ran his towel over his body. Andrew was still going on and on about girls and their boobs and their butts and their hair. Seriously not that interesting. He let out a breath as Evan pulled his shirt on, all that muscle positively perfect for throwing the ball to Jared who—
“But I forgot,” Andrew interrupted his train of thought, “you have a girlfriend.”
“Hmm? Oh yeah.” He gathered his gym bag and backpack up and clapped Andrew solidly on the shoulder. "Gotta run, or I'll miss her."
He completely missed the way his teammate shook his head in despair in his sudden rush to leave. He couldn’t forget the girlfriend, or she’d tear his balls off. The last time he'd been late she'd pouted the entire way and then required, required if such a thing was possible, him to go down on her until his jaw was soar. The whole time he'd really just wanted to go with the guys to the burger joint up the road and watch Evan’s throat as he swallowed down coke and—
“Hey, Jared!” Chad, the captain of the football team, inserted himself into his fantasy and brought it crashing down.
“Oh, hi,” Jared replied, slightly disgruntled.
Chad smiled. “That was a great pass today, you’re gonna make a great starting QB this season.”
Jared ducked his head and blushed, his peevishness abating at the compliment. Chad’s lips tilted and something sort of froze in place, and oh, Chad actually looked attractive like that. Hopefully it would help with the girls. Chad was nice and all, but he had a habit of saying things that…well, to put it nicely, got him in trouble. And he’d slept with the entire freshman dance team, which was probably illegal. Jared was pretty sure at least three of them were only fourteen.
“Thanks, Chad,” he said softly as he left. He took a deep breath, steeling himself to meet Alexis. Chad gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder and grinned before taking off in the other direction.
Alexis was sitting on the hood of his car, surveying her nails and popping gum when he walked up to meet her. He thought briefly about turning tale and running, but then he wouldn't have anyway to get him. It was just...she was wearing this obscene parody of a schoolgirl uniform, and all the other boys walking past seemed to have something drastically wrong with their necks. They were all craned to the side, like they were trying to look up Alexis's skirt. Jared tried not to be embarrassed for them. It seemed totally uncouth to do something like that to her. Even if she did have a surprising thirst for oral sex.
Her blue eyes flashed when she saw him. “Ooooh, snugglebear.” She jumped off the car and into his arms, pressing lipstick kisses all over Jared’s face. He wondered if he good buy Purell for his face as he tolerated it. After a methodically thought out period of time, he pulled away and went to the driver’s side. Had she scratched the paint on the hood with the weight of her body? Or the scratchy decals on her backpack? Jared winced at the thought.
“I haven’t seen you since like lunch,” she told him as she got in and flipped her ponytail. Jared was impervious. “How was your day?”
“Well it was fine. I—”
“That’s good,” she cut him off and he sighed. “Tristy and Mindy and I are making the banner for your next game and they were totally like, spilling paint all over the place and I was like, guys, come on, it’s not that hard to like get paint in like, the right place, you know? And they were like, no freakin' joke, the biggest freakin’ bitches and you know what, I don’t deserve that! I’m nice, I give them makeovers practically everyday and it’s my Sephora money. I mean...”
Jared drifted off, fantasizing about entering her into a speed-talking competition. She'd win and there'd be a cash prize, and she would leave and dump him, and everybody would understand immediately why he wouldn't want another girlfriend. But that was uncharitable. She had big breasty...things and wore unseasonably short skirts even in the coldest of weather. That was perfect girlfriend material. He knew this because Andrew and Evan and Chad had said as much on many, many occasions.
He pulled up in front of her house in record time. She’d already exhausted the topics of lipgloss flavor (watermelon), what roses she wanted at her wedding (peach), whether Sophia’s boobs were real (nope), and who had the nicest hair on Lost (Josh Holloway). Jared hadn’t contributed a word.
“Ooh, snugglebear, home already, I wish you could come inside, but your parents are so protective!” she complained. It was an age-old grievance. Jared had to be home by four on the weekdays, and he was never allowed to be with Alexis unless they were at his house. God only knew what they’d get up to otherwise. That’s what his mom said anyway. Like he didn't have a car.
“Goodbye kiss,” she ordered, leaning in for their perfunctory parting liplock. Jared tried not to wince as she mashed her face into his, slobbering all over and poking at him with her tongue. He opened his eyes and zoned out, stomach churning just slightly. He watched the sidewalk in front of her house, and barely paid attention to the oral stimulation he was receiving. Best way to get through it.
A tall blond jogger was slowing to a walk in front of Alexis’s house, taking a long gratuitous swig of water. Jared’s eyes ran down his leanly muscled form, taking in the way his tight t-shirt hugged his muscles and his shorts clung to his ass. His eyes slid shut and he leaned in, fingers flexing on Alexis’s shoulder. She gave a tiny little moan before pulling back. Jared cleared his throat and wiped his mouth, trying to summon up a smile.
“I wish you could come inside,” she whispered plaintively, her lower lip jutting out in a pout. Before Jared could say anything to ameliorate her mood her hand was diving into his lap to grip him tightly through his jeans. He made a strangled sound.
“Lexi, I have to get home,” he said in a tight voice, muscles locked. He did his best not to squirm away from her hand, but the sick feeling was returning and he couldn’t help but shift away.
“I know, I just want some time to love you, you know?” she said, pulling back sadly. He sighed and wished her goodbye, and her mood changed abruptly. “Sex in the City marathon with Tristy and Mindy in an hour, I’ve got to look my best, see ya.”
She bounded up and out of the ‘68 Mustang he’d painstakingly restored, her skirt flying high and showing the world everything there was to see of her butt cheeks and the thong with rosettes on it. Jared didn’t shudder, there was just a sudden breeze. Surely everybody had that same gut-churning response when girls got too close.
He was getting stuff out of his school locker for English when Chad sidled up next to him. Chad really did have nice hands, not as large as Jared’s but still elegant, there was some rumor he’d fingered Hilary Duff once when she’d come to town for a film shoot.
“No practice today, Jared,” Chad sighed, eyeing the inside of his locker. “Just thought I’d tell you, the field was over-watered last night, it’s a fuckin’ wreck.”
Jared sighed in commiseration.
“So,” Chad said, eyes on the inside of Jared’s locker. “You like Star Wars?”
Jared smiled, mood improving when the subject turned to his favorite movie. “Oh yeah, Hayden Christensen was just great.”
Chad’s brow furrowed but he didn’t look away from the photo of a shirtless Anakin. Chad was admiring Anakin’s muscle tone, too. Jared did that a lot. To be that effortlessly masculine and strong, well, Jared was jealous.
“Yeeeah,” Chad said, drawing the word out, after a long moment of staring at the photo and then back at Jared. “Well, I gotta go.”
He waved goodbye and Jared nodded at him, looking back at Anakin's angst-twisted face. He wished he could be that strong and proud and…well, whatever it was that Anakin was. Next time he should ask Chad about kissing Alexis. Maybe everybody thought it was gross and they just went through the motions. He’d have to wait till practice tomorrow though since the stupid administration had ruined the field again.
The bell rang, startling him. He sent one last loving look at Anakin and dutifully walked off to English. Looked like he’d be home a little earlier than usual. Ah well, just more time to be spent with his parents and his sister.
Jared arrived home to find the entire world in his living room. Okay, not everybody on the planet. If Peyton Manning was in his living room he might have just died and then he wouldn’t be staring at them all awkwardly. However, Alexis, his parents, Chad, half the offensive line, and like eight of his teachers were in the room.
“Um, hi,” he said weakly, and smiled at them. They didn’t smile back. Well, his mother tried, and Evan Greene looked a little sorry for him, but mostly, they all looked pretty severe. He was so confused and none of them looked like they had any plans to do anything but stare at him.
“So,” he said nervously, trying to break the ice. They all traded glances and cleared their throats uncomfortably, clothes rustling and feet scuffing on the carpet. Jared was starting to wonder if they’d all assembled to mourn over the fact that his dog, Cary Grant, had died earlier that week, but somehow he doubted that was it. He held his breath and widened his eyes at them.
His mother drew in her breath and held it before letting it out in a whoosh. Jared always hated it when she did that. That was the sound of being grounded or penmanship lessons. “Sweetie, I think you’re gay.”
Jared blinked uncomprehendingly for two seconds and then burst out laughing. Gay? Right. He played football, he drove a muscle car, he dated a cheerleader. Hell, he’d fucked a cheerleader. Er...once.
“Jared, we’re not really kidding or anything,” Alexis huffed out, arms crossed over her chest. The motion pushed her breasts together. Jared frowned and looked pointedly at her face. She caught it and crowed, “See? You have got to be gay not to appreciate these!”
Jared held back a scoffing noise, but the football team, packed though they were, all spoke amongst themselves, before loudly agreeing with Alexis’s ridiculous pronouncement. Jared’s parents were too busy giving his girlfriend the eye of doom to pay attention to him.
He was going to have to set them straight. “Mom—”
“Jared,” Chad interrupted using a placating tone. He held up a Ziploc bag filled with all clippings from his locker like it was something contagious. Jared inhaled. It had taken forever to put those up. “Look at this, right? You love Star Wars for Anakin. Totally gay.”
“And you use shampoo that smells good!” Somebody piped up. "We all use Axe."
He grew more and more frustrated. None of that proved anything. He was definitively straight and he could still have an enormous amount of respect for Anakin and not like Alexis’s boobs, maybe he was an ass guy for crying out loud.
Everybody in the room coughed and colored. He realized somewhat belatedly he’d spoken the entire diatribe aloud. That horrible sensation in his chest had to be his heart giving its last gasp. Evan Greene wasn’t even looking at him. His eyes prickled dangerously.
His mother stepped towards him, cupping his face in her hands when he wouldn’t look at her. “That’s what we mean, Sweetie. It’s okay, we’ll get you some help.”
He let it all sink in for a minute. The way Alexis was looking at him, the way Chad was not looking at him, the way the football team winced when he glanced at them. He grit his teeth at the sight. Goddamn them all. He couldn’t help it if he was just different. That still didn’t mean he was gay. He shoved his way through the knot of people, knocking over Evan and thrusting Andrew out of his way and practically elbowing this freshie in the eye in his maddash to get to his room. His mother called after him, but he was so angry that the only response he had for her to slam his door. He had never done that before.
He hurled himself on the bed, inhaling sharply and trying to control the impulse to rip his pillows apart. He lay like that for long moments, tense and frustrated and an inch away from screaming into the bedclothes he’d buried his face in. He didn't need help! He needed a better girlfriend who understood personal space. He'd never doubted his parents, ever, how could they doubt him? The injustice weighed upon him heavily. Finally when the sadness and humiliation overtook the anger, he flipped himself over and wiped at his eyes. He blinked fiercely and then paused. Something was different. It took him a moment to figure it out. The walls were bare. His mother, or his father, had painstakingly taken down all of his posters of football stars, and auto mechanics, and Val Kilmer in Batman Forever. His eyes widened in disbelief. What gave them the right—Batman? Totally not gay.
So help, it turned out, didn’t mean long hours of therapy in order to accustom himself to his new realization, but a conversion camp. Only they didn't call it that. They called it a "adjustment" center. He hadn't been looking forward to returning to school over that town meeting in his parents shag carpeted front room, but he hadn't exactly expected to be shipped off to De-gay-ifying boot camp either. He was sure his parents couldn’t afford the place, and it was way more embarrassing than therapy. At least with some psychologist he could just say it was all a mix up, he was just different, not…gay.
And now he was stuck in a room full of raving lunatics. A gargantuan gay get-together. He'd never seen so many of those people in one room before. The girls and boys had been gender segregated. They had pink and blue uniforms to match, just like a maternity ward. Jared only had an open backed hospital gown. His skin simultaneously crawled and felt too tight. It was probably all a ploy to force him into saying something he didn’t mean. Homosexual-naked-torture. They'd hit upon his weakness. Jared hated not having five layers of clothing on. He'd feel just slightly better if he at least had his football helmet, but his mom hadn't let him pack it.
Was that what it was to be gay? Forced to walk around naked until you changed your wicked ways? What about that crazy Vietnam vet in the park, then? Had he just refused to admit it? Jared made a face.
He didn’t want to go shouting about how he didn’t belong here, that wouldn't be very nice to these other folks who so clearly did, but it seemed to be fighting its way out of his mouth anyway. That would offend everybody and that was the last thing in the world Jared wanted to do. He was a nice guy, even when people wanted to call him a fag. He’d even gone and apologized to that damn freshman who got in his way before he left with a plate of Jared's mother's cookies. He was not, however, going to speak to Chad until the asshole gave him his clippings back.
He found himself getting angry at his parents and friends all over again. If it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be sitting half-naked like a bug under a glass.
He was the butchest guy in this room; it was obvious even without the clothes. The bald moron who’d nearly strong armed him into the pink “True Directions” van after the entire family intervention debacle was less butch than he was. Jared didn’t cross his legs, or sit straight up, or fuss with his hair, or inspect his nails, or any of that shit. He prided himself on his manliness.
Why did they think he was gay again? Because he didn’t want to be molested by Alexis? Hardly a justifiable reason. He could feel himself getting surlier by the second and the other students leaned away from him. Jared made an exasperated noise and crossed his arms, slumping down in his chair and looking determinedly out the window.
The True Directions campus was a house out of a demented fairytale painted in all the worst colors. Jared didn’t know shit about color—one thing he’d definitely appreciated Alexis’s help on when they’d gone shopping at Abercrombie—but even he knew that this banana puke yellow was not suitable for the walls.
Mary, the equally insane headmistress (who'd introduced herself with “Jared, you won’t be allowed to wear clothes until you admit to your abnormality”), wore the brightest candy pink power suit known to man, and sounded like she’d been smoking and giving blow jobs for the majority of her life, only taking time off to bleach her hair into a startling blonde helmet. God only knew how she’d produced a hot son, Tom, with dark hair and sparkling eyes and a wicked smile and—Jared wanted to scream at himself. He was not gay. They were totally making him gay by saying he was gay.
Compared to Wentworth, who’d nicely showed him around the place when he’d arrived, he was a freakin’ Van Damme. Not that there was anything wrong with Wentworth. He didn’t gesticulate or simper like some of the other boys. What was that called? A lisp? But he was far too smart for a straight guy. Seriously? Toni Morrison? Jared knew who that was, had read some of her books in English, okay Sparknotes anyway, but could he quote her? Not a chance. Wentworth bounced Toni and Fitzgerald and some guy, Marquez Garcia something—and like five-hundred other names, definitely not people on the senior reading list—around like they were nothing, like he’d actually spoken with them.
It should be painfully obvious, especially to these people with their practical experience, that Jared wasn’t gay. Why couldn’t anyone believe it? It was like beating his fists against a brick wall. They just eye-rolled and acted like they’d heard it thousands of times. Also that Jared was clearly an idiot and so gay he was floating with it. Assholes. Er...No. Jerks! Yes, that was adequate! He could kill them he was so mad -- although he’d probably have to improvise. Everything in the damn house was pink and yellow and fluffy.
He sat in his stupid chair in his stupid uncomfortable hospital gown, waiting for something to happen. He noticed Wentworth eyeing Jared's hands nervously and he had to remind himself to unclench his fists and breathe.
Mary ignored him and nodded at a girl sitting near him. She smiled and got to her feet. “I’m Sandy, I love the Pussycat Colls, I mean love them, and I’m a homosexual.”
Jared blinked. Like, duh? That everybody besides him belonged here, he had no doubt. He smiled as best he could at her anyway.
“I’m Kristen, I’m a soccer player and um…a homosexual.” She fluffed her blonde hair and sat down. Jared was really thankful to meet another athlete. Maybe they could talk about going running in the morning or something. He looked quickly over at the boys, afraid that Mary would think it was entirely queer if he so much as glanced at them. None of them looked like they’d ever done anything more athletic than paint their nails. De-gay-ifying boot camp was clearly a special level of hell.
He’d met one of the other boys earlier, besides Wentworth, J-something, and hadn’t come away from the experience with a smile. As he looked at J-something now he could feel his face cementing into a frown. Goddamn gay people. If they hadn’t existed he wouldn’t have gotten mistaken for one, and then he could be running plays on the field with the rest of the guys. Enjoying nice hot showers with—the sudden pause in introductions shook him out of it.
A boy all tricked out in eyeliner and metal and fake tattoos refused to stand-up. He looked at Jared sullenly, and Jared could feel his eyes slitting at the glare. He didn’t need this, especially not from some gothed-out gay vampire who probably should be going to camp for crazy people rather than gay ones. Or was that redundant? Jared didn't know.
After enough elbowing and throat clearing the kid got to his feet.
“I’m Christian, I like pain, and I’m a homosexual,” he gritted out. Jared wrinkled his nose.
Next was a green-eyed boy whose name started with J that he’d met on the tour. The J-boy had been leaning against the wall outside his dorm with a half-ashed cigarette. His eyes were hard, and he exhaled smoke like he was being filmed. The only people Jared knew who smoked were the loner rejects who’d graduated ten years ago and still hung out in the high school parking lot. This...pretty boy, for lack of a better term, was nothing like them. He’d carelessly flicked ash off the tip of his cigarette when Wentworth introduced them and looked Jared up and down, eyes heated in their appraisal. Jared had swallowed and Jensen’s expression had immediately turned disdainful. Wentworth had patted him on the back and said that it was no biggie, Jensen was just a spoiled rich kid. Jared still couldn’t help feeling like the biggest loser klutz on the planet and he was still smarting a little now.
“I’m Jensen, and I like boys.” He smiled slow and dirty at Jared. “A lot.” He turned and shot a look at Mary, his voice pitched low and mocking. “So I guess that means I’m a homosexual.”
Jared swallowed again, his entire body burning in embarrassment. He nearly choked when Mark( actor, dancer, and singer) offered his hand to kiss with a flirty wink. Mary reached out and slapped the offending arm and Mark dropped it with a long suffering sigh. Two more girls were introduced: Allie, who was sweet, but conveyed such an image of plaid and granola and Birkenstocks in spite of the regulation pink uniform that he'd nearly been rocked back by it, and Meagan who looked more like a housewife than a lesbian.
Mary turned to Jared finally and he forced himself not sneer back. “Don’t be intimidated. Why don’t you tell us about the first time you realized you were gay.”
Jared shifted under his smock and made a face. “I’m not, everyone just thinks I am.”
Wentworth and the girls made sympathetic faces, but Jensen and Christian looked completely unimpressed. Jared didn’t care. He wasn’t gay.
Mary hid a smile, Jared kind of wanted to slap it off her. “That’s a perfectly normal place to start, why don’t we discuss the issues in your intervention?”
Jared drew in a breath. “Well, I like the new Star Wars movies and I have pictures of men around.”
“And you think that’s normal?” Allie asked, expression incredulous.
“Well, there are only two sexes, 50/50 chance I’ll have pictures of one or the other if I have pictures. I mean come on, what is so wrong with having posters of my favorite movies and bands and sports players?”
“I meant the Star Wars prequels, actually,” Allie muttered under her breath.
Jensen snickered and looked over at Jared like he’d suddenly become interesting again. “You just have an explanation for everything, don’t you?”
Jared made a noise in the back of his throat. “I have a girlfriend, I like cars, I play football, I’m not a homosexual. I mean all of us look at boys, all of us get Sports Illustrated, all of us—”
Wentworth cut him off. “But you only assume that they’re thinking what you’re thinking when you look. They’re not.”
“I—what?” Jared inhaled and thought back. Maybe Chad hadn't been examining Anakin for his wonderful attributes at all! What if he'd just seen the future Darth Vader sans awesome James Earl Jones voiceover? His hand flew up to his mouth. Were they all like that? Did none of them appreciate the joys of Evan Greene in a shower stall? “Jesus Christ!”
Mary looked like she wanted to chastise him for his language but was too busy being triumphant over his breakthrough. She nodded at him. He closed his eyes and scrunched his face up before admitting painfully, “I’m a homosexual.”
Oh, that was embarrassing. After he'd fought so valiantly and called everybody not so nice names too.
The next day dawned bright and early on gender reassertion therapy. Jared was tired. He’d spent all night sleeping fitfully and turning his realization over and over in his head. He'd been going crazy with it. A weird buzzing noise had kept coming from Chris’s bed too.
Mike (the weird bald guy who Jared was still butcher than) said the basic skill that every straight man needed to have was to be able to repair a car. Jared already knew how to repair a car. He was becoming a little suspicious of Mary’s methods, but then he could be stuck back in the house making wedding dresses like Mark had been begging to do all through breakfast.
Allie had looked pretty determined to trade, but Mary put an end to that with a sharp sissy boy comment that made Mark shriek. Now they all stood watching in abject fascination as Mike rolled and thrust beneath the car’s undercarriage, the tight blue shorts he wore clinging to everything.
Jared gulped and looked away. He wasn’t interested in Mike even if he did have some intense blue eyes. However he couldn’t get the sight of those hips working out of his head. He was so caught up in it, he didn’t even notice the hand sneaking up his chest and swirling around his nipple until it had already been going on for some time.
“What the hell are you doing?” He whispered furiously to Mark, who pulled back his hand as if burned. Jared might’ve been a fairy boy, but he was still well over six feet with the shoulders to match. It was bad enough when Alexis had touched him. He wasn’t going to let some horny gay boy do it.
“Um, I—well,” Mark stumbled and stuttered.
He was saved from answering by Mike pulling out from under the car. Jared winced as he heard parts rattle. It sounded like he’d loosened the entire engine block. Just as well that it was an old used-up Volvo, or he’d probably go insane watching Mike tinker and tanker about without the slightest clue. “Okay, so now we look under the hood,” Mike said, gesturing at Jensen with a torque wrench.
Jensen rolled his stupidly green eyes, pursed his smirky lips, and accepted the wrench before sauntering over to the car. And then they were back to the same problem as before--Jensen bent over in his tight blue pants and infinitely more attractive than Mike. Certainly not bald.
Wentworth coughed into his hand, and Jared looked down at his feet. It was not going to be easy, he could already tell.
Mike sighed as he watched Jensen putter about ineffectually under the hood, making really sexy noises of frustration.
“Lord, there are days I wish I could go back to interior design,” Mike snapped. “Jared, will you help him out?”
Jared looked back and forth between Mike and Jensen, who seemed to have discovered the fuel line and then gotten caught in it. It was rather mean-spirited but he desperately wanted to laugh. Mike raised his brows, and Jared sighed. Fine, he could do this. Maybe Mike would just let him fiddle with the car and tell the others to go the hell away. He came up behind Jensen and snapped the fuel line back together again before wrapping his own hand around Jensen’s and guiding his arm into the right motion. Jensen tensed in his grasp, back rigid against Jared’s chest.
Jared ignored him. “Righty tighty, lefty loosey, 'kay?”
Jensen made a strangled noise and then turned and shoved Jared away. A feat only accomplished because Jared wasn't expecting it. “I got it, alright.”
Jared held up his hand and rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
Jared couldn’t stop laughing when he saw what was next—Mike whacked him on the back of the head twice to get him to shut up—mowing the lawn on the largest, most dangerous, practically combat-ready John Deere he’d ever seen. Wentworth looked appalled and started asking why they couldn’t use mechanical lawnmowers since they didn’t use gas or electricity or kill the environment.
“You don’t care about the environment anymore!” Mike shouted, exasperated.
Wentworth raised his palms in supplication.
“You are no longer a vegetarian. You eat meat, red meat, dripping with blood.”
Wentworth sighed with resignation, but still winced every single time someone started the motor.
Mike showed them how to turn on the engine and then let them take turns with it. Chris, despite the make-up that Mary still couldn’t get him to discard, was actually pretty good at it. Jared secretly got the impression he'd been raised on a farm. Goth boy in a cowboy hat. Oh the image was too much. But he cheered when all the other guys did. Mike showed them the evil eye, and they sighed and grabbed their crotches and made harrumphing noises like he showed them. Jared hoped this was helping.
When Wentworth got on the tractor he promptly lost control, and suddenly the wicked and evil threshers were churning up everything in sight, and the engine was accelerating like it was possessed. Wentworth jumped off with scream, and they watched, horrified, as it turned back on them, blades whirring. Jared saw that Reese Witherspoon movie where the hero got mowed by his own tractor.
“Run,” Mike shouted, diving behind a fallen log. Wentworth was a shaking, sobbing mess, but he rolled to safety as fast as he could. His adrenaline racing, Jared sprinted off behind another stump, only just noticing Jensen at his side. There was a crunch, Jared thought it might be bad to hope it was Chris. As metal shrieked and tore into the earth, Jensen leaned into him, completely distracting him from his mad fantasies about Chris' impending end.
There was a loud screech and the tractor turned on them.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Jensen muttered under his breath as the tractor lay deep rents in the field. He pushed further behind the stump and into Jared as the machine swung around again. Jared's skin was on fire.
Suddenly, Tom, like Superman, was at the scene—jumping on the tractor like it was a bucking bronco and pulling the keys out of the ignition. Jared felt Jensen's exhale of relief against his neck. It was only then that he noticed their hands were clasped together. Jensen didn't even seem to notice that he was gripping so tight Jared's fingers were turning white.
Was that backsliding? Couldn’t be. He’d never held hands with a guy when he was still a clueless homosexual. The camp was working, it had to be. He had to get back to school before he got kicked off the starting line-up.
They took a break with lemonade and cookies that Mike urged them to wolf down rather than primly nibble. Jared pointed out he'd never "primly nibbled" anything in his life and Mike shot him a withering glare. Afterwards he presented them with a football. Jared was glad, maybe he could get some practice in, run a few drills with the other boys, or at the very least Mike.
It quickly became clear when they could barely throw a spiral that Jared’s hopes weren’t even in the same sphere of reality.
Jensen wasn’t half bad once he actually started running, but catching the ball was something else, and Wentworth claimed that even in the distant future when he was straight he was still not going to run around with balls. Mark was abysmal, shrieking whenever anybody came near him for a tackle, obsessing over his hair treatment.
Jared wanted to scream after they fumbled the ball for the 80th time on a routine pass, and Mike shouted that they were complete sissies.
Instead he just channeled some of his anger out on Chris, who was seriously a bigger bitch than Alexis. He whacked him with the ball as much as possible. However, his plan failed—he’d kind of forgotten that Chris was a completely perverted masochist. Chris only got mildly annoyed. In fact, he looked ready to ask Jensen to start throwing the ball at him instead.
He’d asked Wentworth about the buzzing noise at breakfast and had been told about the shock stick used for aversion therapy and then catapulted into the most clinical description of Sadomasochism ever. It still left him feeling faintly green. He was careful to only barely bodycheck Christian later.
Mark got into the spirit of the game and slapped Wentworth’s butt as he walked past. At Mike’s dirty look, he claimed he was just emulating what he’d seen on the field. Jared cringed and dramatically lowered his expectations of them all. When Wentworth and Mark crashed into each other after Mike sighed in resignation and downgraded them to three flies up, he realized those expectations hadn’t been low enough.
“Come on, you nancy boys!” Mike shouted, distracting Jared from his mounting despair. “I want to see you throw the ball like men!”
Jared could feel a sob in the back of his throat. His kid sister threw better than this. He looked down at the pigskin in his hands and suddenly wondered if she knew where he was—if his asshole parents had made her aware that he’d been shipped off to camp for the criminally gay. Probably not. Jared was now bitterly aware that his parents had kept a whole lot from him.
He sighed and chucked the ball at Wentworth hard enough to sting. He was about to apologize and congratulate him for completing a pass when he was smacked sharply on the bottom.
“What the—!” Jared shouted, jumping nearly a mile into the air.
He turned around to find Mike grinning evilly. “You better run, boy, Ima beat the sissy out of you.”
“Jesus,” Jared shouted, running as fast and as far away from Mike as he could. He passed Jensen and Chris throwing a ball back and forth with minimal fumbling. They looked up when they saw Jared sprinting past. Jensen yelped and threw the football aside. Chris only paused and looked on in interest. Mike had already gotten to Mark and was viciously whacking him on the bottom while the poor actor/dancer/singer wailed and struggled to get away.
“Rough,” Jared said aloud to himself, face sympathetic and open, from his position behind a tree, the same one he and Jensen had tried to hide themselves behind just that morning.
He heard Jensen scoffing behind him and turned around. “Mike? Totally gay. Beat the sissy out of us? You know it’s just an excuse to touch us.”
Jared looked at him. “But Mike completed the program.”
“Oh come on, you don’t actually think this shit works, do you?” Jensen leaned back against a tall beech tree, blue shirt stuck to his chest with sweat and hair falling into his eyes.
Jared shrugged. “I’m not one to judge.”
Jensen made that disdainful noise in the back of his throat again, and Jared’s cheeks pinkened. Jared hated Jensen with a burning passion when he did that, mostly because it was directed at him and not ever at Mark or Chris or Wentworth. Although, Jared bet that if Jensen ever talked down to Wentworth he’d get the verbal laceration of his life.
He could feel his shoulders rising, and the glare he was becoming rather used to wearing crossed his face again. Jensen just snorted.
“Believe me, Princess, I know you aren’t too fond of your brain,” Jensen said, trademark smirk and arched brow in place. Jared let out a breath and then turned on his heel and walked away. When you were as big as Jared was, you learned long ago that no fight was worth picking.
Especially not with Jensen, who’d doubtless pull his hair and scratch his eyes out.
When they broke for lunch Sandy and Kristen were covered in blue ink. Mark clucked over them, offering to fix their hair and do their make-up, but that wouldn't solve anything. They’d just be lipsticked up and covered in blue ink.
They explained that it was from the fake baby they were supposed to be changing in the ‘how to be a mother’ unit. Jared wondered if Mary should be teaching any such thing as he watched Tom do yard work. The boy might be gorgeous, the owner of some seriously bulging muscles, and very handy around the property, but he was not a straight guy. At least Jared didn’t think a straight guy should be running around in denim hot pants, waving a chainsaw around like it was an enormous extension of his dick.
Jared was so confused. All of these things that made people straight—hadn’t he already known them?
Did Mary expect Jared to start sipping his water out of a twisty straw with one pinky up like Tom did? He doubted it. Mike didn’t drink out of his cup like that. Did that mean Mary had messed her son up somehow, in spite of being able to turn people straight? She was certainly atoning for it with this place. Maybe that meant Jared’s parents had messed him up too. He didn’t see how though—his older brother Jeff was completely normal and married and shit.
He got a chance to think about it in more depth later when Mary gathered them all around a fake campfire. Jared scuffed his toe against molded burnt-plastic logs and made a pained face. Mary's attempts to simulate a sleep away camp were tainting his childhood.
“So, we’re trying to figure out what our roots are,” Mary started them off, knees crossed elegantly and pink heels completely smudgeless. Jared had to admire that, they’d walked through the muddy field that Wentworth had nearly destroyed in the morning.
Jared tried not to look too confused about the roots thing. Clearly this was something they all had done in the time he’d missed.
Mary was still talking, “Mark doesn’t know what his root is. I don’t think he’s trying hard enough, but in the mean time, Jared, we’d like to know: what’s your root?”
Jared huffed out a sigh. “I have no idea.”
Mary gave him a sharp look. “What is it, do you think, that made you gay.”
Jared looked around the circle at them all, hating the way he was being put on the spot again. “I don’t know. I didn’t even know I was gay, how do you expect me to know that?”
Jensen leaned forward. “Mary, I think someone else isn’t thinking hard enough.” He smiled at Jared, all teeth and no warmth.
Jared glared. “I don’t know! I’m not like you guys.” He wasn’t. They were all so stereotypical.
Jared rolled his eyes and sneered, mouth pulled tight. “There you go with that ‘you guys’ shit again, we’re just like you, asshole.”
Mary poked Jensen with her foot. “Language, Jensen.”
Jared blew out a breath. “Why don’t you tell us about your root then!”
Jensen shook his head. “We’re talking about your issues here, not mine.”
“Actually, Jensen, it might be good for Jared to hear,” Mary interjected.
Jensen rolled his eyes. “Isn’t it obvious? My parents named me Jensen. It just doomed me to a life of being called Jenny and the attending gender confusion.”
That was totally lame. Jared didn’t think Jensen was very confused about his gender. His shoulders were nearly as broad as Jared’s own and unless Jensen thought using the pec-fly machine was going to give him boobs, he had some pretty sculpted pectorals.
“Very good, Jensen,” Mary said, gifting him with her scary smile. She turned to Wentworth, who looked up from the book he was reading. “And you, Wentworth?”
“Um, my mother gave me Oscar Wilde to read as a child,” Wentworth said and went back to his book. Jared smiled at him. If that was a root, no doubt wherever Oscar Wilde was laughing his ass off at the number of people he’d turned into fags.
Sandy went next. “My dad was a stay-at-home dad.” They all patted her on the shoulder.
Everybody went through their reasons. Too much Ab Fab at a young age, the castle Anthrax with Sir Lancelot, playing with daddy’s power tools—all very informative, although Jared was still no nearer to his own root.
When it was clear that Jared and Mark weren’t going to come up with anything, Mary partnered them off to go through gender flash cards. She told each pair to go and get shock sticks to make the lessons stick. Jared was joy of all joys paired with Jensen. He heaved a sigh and got slowly to his feet. Wentworth waved at him piteously. He stood somewhat wilted next to Mike, whose hands were ready to deliver a smack-bottom at any moment. Wentworth, he decided, had it worse.
Jared had the set of cards first. Jensen failed at the game spectacularly, refusing to answer or coming up with such ridiculous responses that he knew he was being fucked with. Jared wondered with no little consternation at what childhood Jensen'd had. His parents must have been zombies to let him act like that.
"Ooh, ooh, a pokemon!" Jensen said, when Jared showed a picture of a boy in a yellow uniform obviously a basketball player.
Jared sighed and shocked him."Stop it."
A man barbecuing was an executioner in the tower of London and a card of the postman was a serial exhibitionist. Two men playing golf were participating in a bizarre mating ritual and a construction worker was a member of The Village People. He got more and more exasperated at Jensen’s complete lack of cooperation. They’d been at it longer than any other pair. His thumb was getting tired from hitting the zap button. Finally he gave in and switched, knowing that was what Jensen had been waiting for all along.
Jensen had pasted over all his cards with photos from a gay porn magazine. Jared was torn between being appalled and interested. Before he even opened his mouth to comment, Jensen started shocking Jared on every part that he could reach. Elbows, arms, knee caps, thighs, belly, shoulder.
“Arg,” Jared moaned, rubbing delicate fingers over the tender inside of his arm. “What is with you?”
“Well, you were going on about how I couldn’t stop objectifying men. I just thought I would test and see.” Jensen shocked him again, somewhat playfully. “I think you’ve really got a thing for Hayden Christensen.”
Jared rolled his eyes, but then Jensen smiled and maybe, maybe it was kind of an amusing prank. Even if he kind of wanted to kick Jensen in the face. Jensen reached to shock him again and Jared tried to yank the stick out of his hand. Jensen tugged back and then they were wrestling on the ground for it. Jared might’ve been queen of the fairies, but he was obviously working out like a pro, because Jared struggled against arms like banded steel, desperately trying to grasp the stick.
But, ultimately, Jensen hadn’t been around 200 boys who ate half their weight every day and then barreled into people with it the way Jared had. It was only inevitable that Jared would come out on top. Especially when he figured out that Jensen was ticklish with a slip of his hand. Jensen snorted with laughter as they rolled and tussled for the stick, shocking each other by accident with practically every move. Jared got an arm across Jensen’s throat and pressed down and finally he sagged underneath him.
“Okay, okay, I give,” Jensen said, breathlessly chuckling, hands still pushing at Jared's shoulders.
“Very good, boys!” Mary called from the corner, not even trying to separate them. “Everybody, Jared and Jensen have just demonstrated a quintessential straight male behavior.”
They froze, caught. Jared doubted he was supposed to be relishing the feel of Jensen’s thigh wedged between his own, or the press of his chest and the warmth of his skin. Jared remembered how Wentworth said he only thought the straight boys enjoyed rolling around in the same way that he did. Jensen’s sea-green eyes were glassy and almost completely swallowed by his pupils. He breathed hard against Jared. It looked like in this highly specific case, Jared had been right.
They slowly looked over at the rest of the students sheepishly, who all stared back in silence. Wentworth shook his head and rolled his eyes skyway. He totally had their number. Jared could feel his cheeks lighting up again. He wished Jensen weren’t so attractive. Jared rolled off of him and tugged him to his feet, making sure to keep the shock stick well out of the way. He could see that sneaky look in Jensen’s eye. They glanced at each other and cleared their throats, everything suddenly very awkward.
“I—are you gonna…” Jared started weakly.
Jensen didn’t reply, he leaned down and picked up Jared’s cards and then coughed theatrically. They both sat down and pretended nothing happened, but whenever their eyes connected they couldn’t seem to stop blushing.
Family therapy was clearly the worst idea Mary had come up with yet. Almost everybody, except for maybe Wentworth and Jared himself, had completely psycho parents. Allie was divulging her story about her mom’s Victoria’s secret catalogue and her parents looked like they wanted to die. They were so embarrassed that Jared was embarrassed for them.
He was proud of his own parents for remaining neutral, only looking vaguely uncomfortable when the stories got too graphic. Wentworth’s parents looked like they were taking notes for a study. Jared guessed that was where the guy got it from.
He sighed and wished for his turn to be over. He knew he was fidgety and twitchy with nerves. Jensen kept shooting him amused glances while trying to look engaged with whoever was speaking. Jared narrowed his eyes at him, but it only made Jensen smile harder. He couldn’t help it though. There was this terrible cold rock sitting in the pit of his stomach, weighing him down. Maybe after he’d said his thing he could go to the bathroom and just hide out there for the rest of the session.
Something about the entire family therapy idea felt wrong.
Jared wanted to get better, he really did, he wanted the football season and his friends back, but the scrutiny and ridicule didn’t seem worth it. Or particularly effective, especially with Jensen’s dad, Mr. Ackles, glaring at them all like they were disease ridden.
“I sympathize with that,” Sandy spoke up in response to Allie’s story, and Jared straightened up to listen. “Me and Meredith, from Catechism, we used to play doctor.”
Sandy’s parents squirmed in their chairs so much they made Allie’s look proud. Jared smiled at her weakly and she nodded. God he hoped his parents didn’t look like they regretted having him the way hers did.
And then Mr. Ackles spoke up. Jensen turned away before he even got a word out, his expression mutinous and ashamed, like he knew exactly what was coming.
“You dyke,” he said viciously. “I thought this was therapy, not porno story time!”
Jensen colored and his head bent upon his neck. Maybe he understood a little better now why he was so prickly. His dad was a jerk.
“And you,” he turned to Christian’s parents. “Are you proud of your Satan-worshiping Hell-bound fag of a son?” They looked taken aback, like they hadn’t even noticed his piercings or died black hair. Christian just blinked sleepily at him and then leaned back against his chair like he was going to fall asleep.
“Mr. Ackles,” Mary started, affronted, “I don’t find that appropriate!”
Jensen’s dad didn’t share any of his son’s good looks, and his saggy bulbous face reddened. “Well, I don’t find this appropriate!”
Jensen’s step mom tried desperately to calm him, but he ignored her. “When I get back from making that deal in Russia, you had better have this whole gay thing out of your system. Or no college, no car, no trust fund!”
Jensen tried to say something, his face still turned away and his expression dull, but his father interrupted. “Got it?”
He sighed and picked at the cushion he was sitting on. “Got it.”
Mr. Ackles stormed out of the room, his simpering wife begging him to calm down and remember his heart. Jensen looked like pure venom as he got to his feet and walked out to watch his dad go. Jared craned his head and tracked him through the window. Jensen sagged against the porch railing, his grip on it white-knuckled and tight. Perversely, Jared wanted to get up and go to him.
“Jared!” Mary called him back to the room. “It’s your turn.”
Jared’s eyes darted around the room and he cleared his throat. “O-okay!”
His father patted his knee reassuringly.
“Um well,” Jared started. “When I was eight or so, my parents decided they needed to get in shape, and they both started eating better, and working out. Well, Dad did at least.”
His mother’s eyes darted over to him and he took a deep breath.
“But mom, she only got fatter and more unhealthy and lazy, but Dad got into really good shape and people started, like, paying attention to him in the grocery store—”
Jared’s mom turned to the entire group, sheepish. “But that was only for nine months, then I got liposuction.”
Jared tried not to look at her. “So I guess, I got all confused about what was attracti—”
“Ahah! That’s it!” Mary stated, beaming. “You don’t find your mother attractive at all, so you don’t think that women are attractive.”
Mary plowed on. “I can’t believe you didn’t mention this before, it’s completely obvious.”
“I think that maybe that’s going a bit far—” Jared tried to interject, but nobody was paying attention. Oh god, he’d really stuck his foot in it now.
Mary urged everybody to clap. “Congratulations, Jared, you’ve found your root.”
He sagged back against the cushions and tried not to die. Hopefully his mom would still make him cookies after this.
Mary wasn’t done yet. “I think you should choreograph an interpretive dance to this! Express your feelings in a new way.” His eyes bugged out at the suggestion. Choreograph a dance? That was clearly the worst suggestion on the planet. How would that make him not gay? That would totally make him gayer. Everybody knew men who danced were complete homos.
He was outside walking around after everybody’s parents left, trying to gather his thoughts. Should he do this dance himself or just get Mark to make one up for him? Or maybe Jensen. Yeah right, Jensen would laugh at him and tell him to use his own creative genius and then take pictures of Jared’s failed attempts.
Mike came out to yell that free time was almost over and got completely caught up in watching Tom do the yard work in ripped denim and a tank top. Jared had to laugh at the way Mike stared, his breathing getting harsh as Tom dumped water from a martini glass all over himself. Jensen had been right about him.
Allie was sitting talking to Wentworth when a pink paper plane flew out of nowhere and hit her on the head. He watched as, tongue poking out between her teeth, she opened it and then started refolding it into a better airplane, telling Wentworth all along about the secret art of paper planes. Wentworth shrugged and immersed himself in a copy of Brideshead Revisited.
Jared found Jensen sitting alone practically sucking the tobacco out of a cigarette. He huffed at Jared, but didn’t say anything else. Jared stared for a few minutes before going to sit down beside him. Jensen smiled at him in the fake lip-pressy thing that Jared knew meant, ‘I really want you to die but I’m going to pretend really poorly that I don’t.’
It didn’t encourage him to move.
He started drawing football plays out on the dirt with a stick while Jensen studiously ignored him. Okay, so Jared wasn’t really all that great at this "let’s talk" stuff, but he knew that Jensen probably needed someone right now, the only question was how to get him to admit it.
He scratched harder at the little circles representing the offensive line.
“What are you doing?” Jensen asked, eyes narrowed.
Jared shrugged. “I’m going through the plays we run on the field.”
Jensen made that now familiar noise in the back of his throat. “Do you occupy your time with anything other than football?”
Jared smiled back. “Eating.”
“Ugh,” Jensen replied, rolling his eyes, he exhaled smoke in Jared’s face. “Of course.”
“So, your parents—”
“Don’t.” Jensen cut him off, eyes hard and trained on some point in the distance.
“Yeah, don’t!” Jensen replied viciously, green eyes snapping with heat.
Jared tried again, “Well, you’re not like Mark, it should be really easy for you to—”
Jensen laughed darkly and looked back at him, brows lowered in anger. “I can’t believe you, I cannot believe you!”
Jared frowned. He had no idea what was going on, but he was only trying to help.
“You fucking think that this place makes anybody better?” Jensen started, voice escalating. “What exactly is so goddamned wrong with the way we were before?”
Jared leaned away, putting a little space between them. Jensen moved right into it, clearly furious. Jared could think of a few things that were wrong with Jensen, his attitude for one. Every single time Jared reached out to him, Jensen slapped him away. He spent his time needling Jared like he’d done something grievous to him.
“You are who you are!” Jensen whispered viciously, throwing his cigarette down and stamping it down into the dirt with the toe of his blue shoe. “All your life you lied to yourself, Jared, and now you want to tell me how to make my life better?”
Now Jared was angry. If only Jensen would let him speak. “I didn’t—”
“Don’t get caught! That’s what I’ve learned.” Jensen shoved him hard with his newly freed hand.
“Oh yeah, so what are you doing here?” He shot back. “If you’ve figured it, why are you dressed in ridiculous blue onesies and sitting through gender reassertion therapy, huh?”
All of the energy seemed to drain out of Jensen in one little whoosh. He turned his back to Jared and his voice turned soft. “I got caught.”
Jared was silent for a moment taking in the rigid lines of Jensen’s shoulders, the way his fists clenched and unclenched. “Doing what?”
Jensen burst into hysterical laughter. “What do you think, genius? Getting fucked.” he reached forward and grabbed Jared’s dick roughly through his shorts, clearly enjoying his little squeak of fear. “With this, and I enjoyed it!”
Jared stumbled back and away from him. He’d never really thought about it, sure he knew what homosexuals did. He’d just never been confronted with it, especially in reference to himself. Jensen gave him one last look over and stomped off. Jared was shaking and his stomach felt like it had dropped out the bottoms of his feet.