It was a Friday evening and Rob Benedict was grooving out in his labs to the latest hip-hop mash-up. He as alone, not having gone out on a Friday night since his mother insisted on an ill-fated play date when he was four.
Soda dribbled down his beard and his sneakers squeaked across the floor as he belted the refrain.
He almost didn’t see the red light blip on his controls from across the room.
All the music stopped and Rob wiped his mouth as he collapsed into his rolling chair. He touched the main screen and his system automatically came back on. Rob sniffed and frowned.
Incoming object. Two minutes until entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Rob’s skin tingled and he tried to tell himself that it was nothing; at most, the Russian’s were getting back at them for the last prank Rob helped pull off. He accessed the satellite video feed, knowing full well that he probably wouldn’t see anything. For a moment, he didn’t. And then something flashed, and Rob’s fingers automatically activated the recording mechanism on his computer.
What he saw in those passing moments defied any scientific explanation.
There was a tall man in a bright jacket with goggles on, his legs almost too long for his bike—a Vespa. The man’s head was thrown back in what seemed like laughter as he gunned his scooter and flew into the Earth’s atmosphere, his scarf trailing behind him like a comet’s tail.
The video that would later prove to be indicative of a monumental event in the history of the human race lasted four and a half seconds.
Red aluminum bounced across the floor, Coca-Cola spilling out. Rob knocked over his chair, leaving his newly recorded video to play over and over on a loop as his shaking fingers punched numbers into a red phone attached to the wall.
“This is Doctor Rob Benedict, there’s an object, a humanoid being entering the Earth’s atmosphere. It appears to be riding a… a Vespa.”
He swallowed, his throat drier than a mummified corpse, and sucked in a breath to continue when he was cut off.
“—sorry, but we are unable to take your call at hits time. If you would like to leave a message, press—”
Rob dropped the receiver and dragged his hand down his face. He was already calculating in his head where the thing would land. His eyes shot open and he ran into his bedroom and began to pack a bag.
It was the last slow Friday night Misha’s Pizza would have for the next three and a half months. Jensen flipped the “Open” sign around and began wiping down tables as Misha yawned and stretched, adjusting his photos that hung on the wall. He leaned against the wall and took his camera that hung around his neck and snapped a few pictures of Jensen.
“I’ll take care of closing up tonight.”
Jensen raised his eyebrows and swiped the back of his wrist against his forehead.
“Come on, Misha, this place is going to be packed tomorrow.” He grimaced and continued wiping the table. “The tourists are going to eat us alive.”
Misha slid over the counter, his frilly pink apron flying out as he began to clean the table next to Jensen.
“You know, you say that every year, and it never happens.” Misha twisted his towel and hit Jensen’s ass with it. “You’re so glass half empty, dude. I’ll bet we get a thousand customers and our summer staff will be fresh and eager.” Misha balled his right hand into a fist and punched the air. “This is the year I will earn my first Michelin Star!”
The thing about Misha was that it was hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm, whether it was for his amazing cooking or amateur photography. As Misha did his “Michelin Star Rain” dance, Jensen finished up clearing the table and restocked the napkin dispensers. Jensen flicked off the lights and migrated back to the kitchen. Misha quadruple checked all his cooking gear and smoothed out the wrinkles on his lucky apron before hanging it up.
Jensen zipped up his red hoodie and stepped out into the chilly summer night air. He unlocked his bike and walked it to the kitchen door.
“Do you need me to bring anything back home?”
Misha popped his head out, a toothpick bobbing between his lips.
“Nah, I got it.” Misha stuck the toothpick between his fingers and blew out a long exhale. He’d been doing that ever since he’d quit smoking. “I could drive you home, you know. It’s no big deal.”
Jensen flipped up his hood and tied the strings together before straddling his bike, his fingers tapping the basket between the handlebars.
“I like the ride. It’s scenic.”
Misha popped his toothpick back into his mouth.
“Whatever you say, man. See you later. It’s ramen night, so get your chopstick skills ready.” Jensen smiled and Misha cleared his throat. “Be good, Eliot.”
“E.T.” Jensen blinked and Misha slumped against the doorway. “The Extraterrestrial? It’s a classic, man.”
Jensen shrugged and gave Misha a salute before pedaling off into the dark.
The full moon lit up the thin, twisting roads that darted between the upstate Adirondack lakes and mountains. Tomorrow morning, the tourists would come pouring in, but that night things were still quiet. Peaceful. Jensen shifted gears and turned off the road, onto a dirt trail that cut through the forest. Dust and pebbles flew up in his wake.
Swerving between trees and boulders, Jensen soared down a hill that would leave amateur cyclists with broken bones and gashes. He sailed over the stones and moss, the moonlight falling through the leafy canopy above him. The brakes screeched and Jensen’s teeth clacked together as his bike ground to a halt.
Misty puffs of breath drifted into the night air. Jensen got off his bike and looked out on the lake. It was a tourist hotspot, and tomorrow night, flickering lights from the cabins would illuminate along the outer limits of the water For the time being, though, tranquility remained. Jensen only stayed for a few minutes before he turned back toward the beaten trail that led to his and Misha’s humble cabin.
A sharp glint caught Jensen’s eye.
Whatever it was moved fast across the sky, but not fast enough to be a shooting star. Jensen tilted his head and squinted; there was no way it could be a plane, because it was getting bigger. The thin cloud cover blew apart like glass falling away from a bullet.
Jensen’s legs tangled in his bike as he threw himself away from a raging fireball in the nick of time. His head knocked hard against the rocky shore right before something that definitely was not a star smashed into the dirt and trees.
Fiery splinters rained down onto Jensen’s face when he rolled onto his back. His lungs had stopped working and he tried not to panic; the wind had just been knocked out of him. He’d be able to breathe in a minute.
Pebbles crunched under something heavy. Jensen’s arms flailed out and as he sat up, his lungs still not working properly. He squeezed his eyes shut, his chest on fire.
The crunch repeated in an even pattern. Footsteps. Jensen opened his eyes on a pair of neon turquoise combat boots, the color bright even in the dark. Jensen let his head drop back and saw his own face reflected back at him.
A motorcyclist stared down at Jensen from behind reflective ski goggles.
“Oh my god.”
The man tore off his mask and goggles, leaving the clunky eye accessories to hang around his neck. Jensen wheezed pathetically, his eyes watering. The man snapped his fingers and Jensen noticed that he was smoking—not as in “ridiculously attractive,” which he was, but that his bright blue and yellow jacket had actual wisps of smoke curling upwards.
But the stranger’s landing and dramatic appearance wasn’t what shook Jensen down to his core.
His brain scrambled to figure out why Jensen recognized the stranger. The strong jawline, the hazel-green eyes, the way his hands looked—Jensen’s mind was telling him that he knew how those hands felt. The identity of the man kept escaping Jensen, dancing right out of his reach.
Every time, Jensen kept coming up with nothing.
“Bingo! I know what you need!” Jensen’s fingers dug into the dirt as he tried to draw in air. “CPR!”
Before Jensen had a chance to shake his head, hot purple gloves gripped Jensen’s cheeks and pulled him forward. The stranger’s lips settled on Jensen’s in a kiss that was the furthest thing from CPR. When the man’s tongue slid past Jensen’s teeth Jensen squirmed because it had been hard enough to breathe before, now he had to do it around a tongue. The stranger’s thumb caressed Jensen’s cheek and it snapped Jensen back to the strange reality he found himself in.
“Whoa!” Jensen shoved the man back, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. He tried to ignore the heat the spread through his body at the kiss, the bizarre familiarity of it. “What the hell, man?”
“What?” The man’s wet lips curled as his head tilted to the side. “You needed CPR.” He winked at Jensen. “Don’t worry, I liked it too.”
Jensen felt his face turn bright red in the blink of an eye.
The man shrugged. Now that Jensen was standing and not struggling for breath, he realized how tall the man was. Jensen was a tall guy but this new guy… He was built like ancient Rome’s wet dream. The tall, handsome stranger swung his helmet from his fingertips and walked over to the still-smoking crater. Jensen watched with a dry throat and hammering heart as the man pulled up a scooter. It was a yellow Vespa, and despite smudges of dirt from its crash landing, it was still in one piece.
The man must have noticed Jensen’s open-mouthed gaze because he grinned.
“Isn’t she a beaut? It may be an old model but she can still zoom across solar systems just as fast as any sleek new cruiser on the market.”
His adrenalin rush fading, Jensen shivered with a wary chill.
“Sorry… Where are you from, exactly?”
The man snapped his goggles over his eyes and clicked on his helmet in retort. He mounted the Vespa and blew Jensen a kiss.
“Out of this star system, stranger. Catch you later!”
The man twisted the bike’s handles and a plume of dust and pebbles flew up in the air. By the time Jensen got the dirt out of his eyes and stopped coughing, the mystery man was gone. Jensen squinted, trying to spot brake lights, but he saw nothing. He brushed himself off and shook his head, shaking off the déjà vu that throbbed against his skull.
There were plenty of lunatics in the world. The handsome stranger wasn’t from space; if anything, it was probably some sort of viral marketing stunt. Jensen grabbed his bike’s handlebars and froze.
What if it was some reality show? Jensen groaned. That would ruin his whole summer. He jumped on his bike and pedaled furiously along the bath toward his house. He had to warn Misha.
By the time Jensen made it back home, his cheeks were pink and he was breathing a little harder than he would have liked to admit. His bike’s wheels squealed and skidded against the gravel as he rolled down Misha’s driveway, opening the front door and quickly toeing off his shoes. In hindsight, he should have taken the time to notice that there was an extra pair of shoes in the foyer.
“Misha, I think we might be in trouble,” Jensen called out, shrugging off his red hoodie and draping it over the banister. “I ran into some nut on the way home, I think some Criss Angel wannabe is going to try and do some reality show here.” Jensen slipped into the kitchen and dug through the drawers until he came across the Hello Kitty chopsticks Misha had gotten him for Christmas, then made his way to the dining room. “A bunch of reality posers aren’t going to help you get a Michelin Star—”
Jensen turned into the dining room out of the kitchen and his words died in his throat. Misha waved at him, a few ramen noodles dangling from his mouth.
“Good evening, Jensen.”
The handsome stranger from the woods sat next to Misha clicked his chopsticks in Jensen’s direction.
Jensen’s Hello Kitty chopsticks clattered to the floor. Misha’s hands darted to his camera and he snapped a shot. Jensen glared at him.
“Sorry.” Misha’s shoulders raised, his tongue peeking out from between his teeth. “Your expression and the lighting… it was killer, I wanted to capture it.”
“What the hell is he doing here?”
Misha turned to the stranger as Jensen’s did a fine impersonation of a floundering fish. Misha tilted his head to the side and smiled up at Jensen like everything was as peachy as a Rockwell painting.
“Oh, Jensen, you know Jared?”
The stranger, Jared, nodded and swallowed a tangled knot of ramen.
“Yeah. Jensen and I have a very special relationship.” Misha’s eyebrows barely had time to rise before Jared was on his feet and curling his fingers behind Jensen’s back, pulling him close. “The mouth-to-mouth kind.”
Misha snapped another picture just before Jensen twisted out of Jared’s grip before those lips could press against his again. He stumbled back, his heart pounding in his throat, and Misha whistled.
“Let me finish eating, then you two can have sex on the table.” Misha sucked more noodles into his mouth while Jared winked at Jensen. “In all seriousness, Mr. Pa-Pahh—”
Jared still wouldn’t stop smiling at Jensen. Misha grinned.
“Yes, Padalecki. Mr. Padalecki is new in town and he needs a place to stay. He’s going to be my delivery boy.”
Jensen sat down to keep from falling while Jared bounced on the balls of his feet.
“My Vespa puts the speed of light to shame.”
When Jensen’s stomach growled, he grabbed his bowl of ramen and began to eat; his stomach took priority over his crazy housemate’s employment decisions. Jared, thankfully, cleaned up his dishes and said goodnight. Misha waved and then sucked up the last of his broth before clicking his chopsticks in Jared’s direction.
“Your room is the second door on the left. See you bright and early.”
Jared saluted and walked away as Jensen’s eyes widened, noodles slipping from his gaping mouth.
“He’s living with us too?”
Misha pulled out his twinkling blue puppy dog eyes.
“Jensen, he didn’t have anywhere to go. He’s a good person. I wouldn’t let a crazy-cakes psycho into our house.” Misha sighed and went into the kitchen to wash out his dish. “I can’t help it, Jen. I see someone in need, someone who doesn’t have anything, and I think of what my life used to be.” Misha caught Jensen’s eye and he was reminded that while Misha was upbeat and whimsical most of the time, he could cut right through the bullshit with an icy accuracy that took Jensen’s breath away. “And, he reminded me of you… a wanderer who had nowhere to go.”
With that comment any argument Jensen had vanished. Misha came back and cleaned off the rest of the table, putting the leftovers in the refrigerator.
Jensen went down the hallway and stopped in front of Jared’s door. It was right across from Jensen’s room. He knocked.
Jensen twisted the knob and pulled the door open just in time to see Jared undo his belt and kick off his dark jeans. Jensen wished he was a stronger man as his eyes immediately darted down to the man’s fantastic legs and hint of an impressive beneath his boxer-briefs. Jared cleared his throat, his eyebrows raised and a smug grin pulling at his lips. Jensen immediately locked his eyes with Jared’s and closed the door behind him.
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“Oh?” Jared sat on his bed, his legs parted a bit too wide to be considered casual. “That’s all?”
Jensen crossed his arms and leaned against the door, still disturbed at the unprecedented familiarity that Jared made him feel.
“Look, Misha’s got a soft heart for humanity as a whole, but I don’t. Misha didn’t see your crash landing in the woods, but I did.” Jared’s coy smile vanished. “Who are you really? And don’t even try to convince me that you’re a wayward delivery boy.”
Silence settled between them. Finally, just as Jensen was about to leave, Jared spoke up.
“I’m an alien.” Jared’s smile wasn’t smug anymore, but his confidence remained. “Well, international fugitive is what I prefer, but to you, technically I’m an alien.”
Jensen’s temples began to pound. He was too tired to deal with a lunatic.
“Okay, asshole, whatever. I’m watching you, okay? Don’t try anything stupid, or I swear—”
“I’m looking for someone.” Jensen’s tirade stopped not because of what Jared said, but because of how he said it. He sounded lost, and finally, Jared wasn’t trying to be cool. “That’s all. I’m looking for a… friend, and I just need some money to get around.”
Jensen’s shoulders slumped and he leaned his head against the door.
“You’ll stay for the summer. Having a delivery man would be good for business.” Jared nodded, his face alarmingly earnest, and Jensen sighed. “Why did you have to come here?”
He wasn’t sure what he meant, if he was actually buying into Jared’s space story or he was just frustrated. Even if that part was a lie, Jared definitely was looking for someone. Jensen was so lost in his own inner debate that it took him a few moments to realize that Jared was still staring at him.
“You’re the one I saw first, Jensen.”
Jensen’s cheeks flushed as his heart did a loud ka-thud in his chest. He opened the door.
“See you tomorrow.”
Jensen slipped out into the hall and took a deep breath before going into his room. He locked the door behind him and slipped out of his clothes before falling into bed.
That night, he dreamed of a freezing country road with icy wind chipping away at his bare skin.
Fruit Loops were left out on the table the next morning. Jensen grumbled; the sun hadn’t risen over the mountains yet. He wolfed down the cereal and then remembered that they were currently housing an intergalactic fugitive lunatic delivery boy. He sighed and stomped back to Jared’s door, not bothering to knock. Jared was still asleep, clutching a lumpy satchel to his chest.
“Get up!” Jared jerked awake as Jensen’s voice bounced off the walls. “It’s the first day of tourist season and you’ve got a lot to learn. Up!”
Jared rubbed his eyes, his hair a wild mess.
“I’m up, I’m up.”
Jared swung his long legs over the side of the bed and pushed the covers away. Jensen averted his eyes, because even if Jared was an alien, he apparently got very human morning wood. Jared pulled on his jeans and Jensen stopped him from pulling on the shirt he had worn the day before.
“I’ll let the jeans go, but you’re not wearing that shirt again.” Jensen went into his room and grabbed one of his t-shirts, throwing it at Jared. “Use this one.”
Jared caught it and as soon as he slipped it on, Jensen knew he’d made a huge mistake. The shirt clung to Jared like a second skin. Jensen grimaced. Jared pulled on his sneakers and stood up, still rubbing his eyes.
“You’re worse than the Warden.”
“Very funny.” Jensen opened the front door for Jared before locking up. “It’s an easy ride to get to the restaurant. As soon as you’re out of the driveway, you turn left on the main road. It’s two miles and on the left. Simple.” Jared snapped on his helmet and straddled his yellow Vespa. “Are you listening?”
Jared flashed Jensen a luminous grin.
“On the left, got it!”
Jared flexed his wrists and dust and dirt flew up in his wake. By the time it cleared, Jared and his demonic Vespa were gone. Jensen grumbled to himself, but took his own bike and got pedaling anyway.
Minivans had already begun to roll in, packed to their roofs with clothes and food. Jensen coasted down the hill on the main road and watched as families unpacked. He passed a car’s opening backdoor as an enthusiastic dog jumped out. It was the first day of a long three and a half months of screaming kids, speed boats, the smell of sunscreen, and obnoxiously-colored flip flops.
Jensen’s brakes squeaked as he rode across the gravel to Misha’s restaurant. Misha had backed his truck up to the open back door, and Jared was helping load all of Vicki Vantoch’s crates in the truck bed. Misha tossed Jensen some worn gloves and a thick envelope full of cash.
“I’ll prep while you and Jared get the produce.”
Jared had Misha’s key ring spinning around his index finger. Jensen snatched the keys, too groggy to argue. That, and he knew it was best if Misha stayed behind to get ready for the onslaught of customers they were going to have. Returning families returned because they knew the pedigree of Misha’s pizza; new tourists ordered pizza because they were simply too tired to cook, and then they’d become customers for life. Jensen slapped Jared’s hand away when the strange man tried to grab the keys back.
“I’ve seen you behind the wheel, spaceman. I’m driving.” Jensen gave Misha a gruff imitation of a smile. Misha understood and Jensen slid into the driver’s seat. “See you soon, Misha!”
As they drove off, Jared stuck his head out of the window and waved to Misha, the wind blowing his long hair in every direction. When he pulled his head back inside, his cheeks and nose were pink.
“You know, I didn’t think I was going to like this planet because it was so far out in the boons.” Jensen rolled his eyes as Jared continued. “But I have to admit that it’s nice here.”
“On behalf of the Earth’s population, I thank you for such a gracious compliment.”
Jared didn’t bat an eye at the sarcasm. He just smiled in a way that made Jensen feel like an asshole. It wasn’t an uncommon feeling for Jensen, but it still threw him for a loop that Jared of all people could make him wish that he was nicer.
“You’re welcome.” He let his arm hang outside of the window and closed his eyes against the wind. “Where are we going, anyway?”
The truck groaned as Jensen took it around a corner.
“Genesis Farm.” Jared cracked an eye open and they exchanged smiles. It felt nice in a way that Jensen didn’t want to analyze. “You’re going to meet the love of Misha’s life today.”
Jared raised his eyebrows and Jensen found himself laughing despite the early hour.
Victoria Vantoch wasn’t born from a human mother. Before Jensen first met her, Misha insisted that Mother Earth herself had molded her. Jensen thought it was Misha’s usual hyperbole until he met her.
The truck rocked and Jensen twisted the keys out of the ignition and Jared got out of the truck. Sunlight streaked across the hillside and Jared whistled.
Jensen turned to look up at Jared’s marveled face.
“What? They don’t have farms in outer space?”
Jared shook his head with no hesitation.
“No…. Everything is so green here.” Jared crouched and ran his fingers through the wet grass, his gaze tracing the rolling hills that led to the pastures. “I want to… I want to…”
Victoria waved as she came out of her house into the driveway, pulling a big wagon behind her. Jensen opened his mouth to tell Jared that it was time for them to load up the truck, but Jared had laid down in the grass and rolled down the hill like an over-sugared five-year-old. Jared became a blur as he actually ya-hooed his way down the hill.
“What the hell are you doing, Jared?” Jensen shouted, but Jared didn’t answer because he was still rolling faster than a tire. Jensen rubbed his temples. “Jesus Christ.”
Vicki wiped her forehead as she pulled the wagon to the back of the truck. Jensen scrambled to start loading the crates of milk, cheese, fruits, and vegetables into the back.
“Yeah. He’s kinda staying at our place.” Jared had come to a stop by the time Jensen lifted up the second crate of tomatoes. Jensen grimaced. “He says he’s an alien from outer space.”
Vicki hummed as though spacemen were as common as newspaper subscriptions.
“Ask him if they have postcards in space. I always thought space was beautiful.”
Jared shrieked gleefully, apparently making friends with Vicki’s oldest cow, Easter.
“Jensen, it licked me!”
Vicki giggled as Jensen tilted his head back in frustration.
“Jared, come on, we need to load up and do our job!” With a final friendly pat to Easter’s head, Jared proceeded to sprint all the way up the hill. Jensen and Vicki watched with dropped jaws as Jared stopped in front of them, panting. Even Easter mooed in disbelief. Jensen swallowed the lump in his throat when the sweat slid down Jared’s neck. “Come on, space cadet, let’s load up.”
Jared nodded and bowed his head in Vicki’s direction.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Collins.”
“Um, the last name’s Vantoch, sweetheart.”
Jared frowned as he lifted another box into the truck.
“Aren’t you Misha’s wife?”
Vicki’s cheeks were a bit pink as she giggled. Jensen pinched Jared’s side.
“No, she’s not.”
Jared opened his mouth, his brow knit in confusion.
“But I thought—”
Jensen put his hand over Jared’s mouth and shook his head. Jared thankfully shut up as Vicki cleared her throat.
“Sounds suspicious.” Jensen’s face felt hot as Vicki winked at him. Jared loaded up the boxes and Jensen walked down part of the way to Vicki’s house. He handed her the envelope of cash and she smiled. “He always gives me too much.”
“Nah, he gives you just the right amount.”
Vicki smiled and tucked the envelope in her back pocket. She peeked out behind Jensen. He followed her gaze to find Jared’s shirt riding up high, exposing his stomach.
“Your new guy is quite the piece of eye candy.”
Jensen scowled reproachfully as he directed his eyes back to Vicki.
“He is, but he’s also crazy. He says he’s an intergalactic fugitive.” Jensen rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “He’ll mess up in his act and when he does I’ll be there to laugh in Misha’s overly-empathetic face.” As soon as the last word left his mouth. Jensen winced at the harshness of it. “That came out wrong.”
Vicki put her hands on her hips, her eyes gently scolding Jensen.
“Don’t be so harsh on him.” She could have been talking about Jared or Misha at that moment, and Jensen couldn’t have felt more miniscule. “Stranger things have happened. And who knows, maybe he’s telling the truth.”
Jensen snorted. He turned to see Jared sniff a tomato cautiously before biting into it. Jared sputtered, chunks of tomato flesh flying out of his mouth. Jensen squeezed Vicki’s shoulder.
“Christ, I feel like a fucking babysitter. I’ll see you in two weeks, Vicki.” Vicki waved as Jensen jogged back up to clap his hand down on Jared’s back, helping him spit up a few more seeds. “I leave you alone for thirty seconds…”
“It looked good.”
Jensen loaded the last crate and stretched.
“You’re not the smartest guy in the universe, are you? Just jumping in without thinking.” Jensen turned to see Jared staring at Jensen as though he said something in a different language. Jensen shifted uncomfortably. “What?”
“Nothing.” Jared smiled and shook himself. “Nothing.” Jared spit into the grass. “Does everything on this planet taste like that?”
Jensen rolled his eyes and laughed. He told himself that he wasn’t charmed by Jared’s act, not even when Misha made Jared try a root beer float. The sound Jared made was unreal, like he’d never tasted something so delicious in his life. Misha made sure to get it on camera. Jared wrapped Misha and Jensen up in his arms.
“This planet is beautiful!”
Jensen only pushed Jared off when the loon tried to kiss his cheek. Because Jensen had boundaries even if in the back of his mind he wouldn’t mind Jared invading them…and they had to get back to work.
“Code red, Jensen, we have a fucking code red!”
Later in the night, Jensen had just gotten back from the bathroom. Jared was still on his third delivery run and nothing was on fire, so Jensen didn’t bother freaking out because Misha was the virtuoso of exaggeration.
“If the world isn’t ending then we’re okay.” Jensen frowned. “Or is there a full house?”
Misha’s hands shook as he kneaded dough. The door opened and Katie Cassidy, their number one apathetic teen waitress, popped her gum in Jensen’s direction.
Jensen’s face dropped.
“What?” Misha whimpered as Jensen peered through the crack of the door. Sure enough, Vicki was seated at a table, doodling on the back of her cheap paper placemat. Jensen yanked his head back. “But she never comes during the summer.”
Of course, just then, the wind made the kitchen windows rattle and Jared burst through the backdoor.
“The roads are so fun here, there are so many curves—”
Jensen held his hand up.
“Shh!” He turned to the unblinking Katie. “What did Vicki order?”
A sharp pop of gum accented Katie’s eye roll.
“She said she wanted Misha to surprise her.”
Misha choked in the corner while Jensen exhaled, counting each second as his breath left his lungs. He moved to the float station and began the process of making one of Misha’s famous root beer floats.
“Katie, go back out and ask the customers how they’re enjoying their meals.” Katie turned on her heel and left. Jensen finished up the float. “Jared, bring this out to Vicki and tell her it’s on the house. Drop it and you’re dead.”
Jared saluted and took the towering glass out of Jensen’s hand.
“Aye, aye, captain!”
The door swung shut behind Jared and Jensen sighed. Misha was staring at him, his knuckles white as sweat gathered at his temples. Jensen flashed Misha a smile.
“Don’t look at me like that, your part is easy. Which recipe uses the most fresh ingredients that we got today?”
Misha blinked, then grinned and went to work, smearing oil over the dough. Jared came back in.
“Delivered safe and sound, Jensen.”
Jensen slapped Jared’s bicep.
“Good job. I’ll schmooze with Vicki.”
Mish was already giving directions to Jared. Jensen went into the restaurant. Vicki was sucking on the red straw between her lips; Jensen sat next to her and she swallowed.
“What’s in this? It’s so good I’m not sure it should be legal.”
“Sorry. Trade secret, and all the credit goes to Misha’s recipe.”
Vicki snapped her fingers, though Jensen knew she was expecting that answer.
“Rats. Well, tell Misha that I’m grateful for this amazing float.”
Jensen stretched his legs.
“You usually don’t stop by until the last tourist leaves. Why the sudden change?”
Vicki took another long sip of float before looking back at the doors that led to the kitchen.
“I wanted to show my support. I think… I have the feeling that this is the year that Misha gets his first Michelin star.”
Even though Jensen hated tourist season…and generally hated humanity as a whole, in that moment he knew why Misha had fallen in love with Victoria Vantoch.
Misha came out later with the three slices of white pizza with fresh cheese, tomato, and basil, the smell of it making the other patrons turn, mouths watering. Jensen slid out of his seat as Misha presented Vicki with her meal and went back to the kitchen. Jared moaned around a slice of pizza and Jensen tore off a slice for himself.
“So…what’s the deal with Misha and Vicki?” Jared and Jensen sat outside as Misha and Vicki closed down the restaurant. Jared leaned against his Vespa. “Are they dating?”
“No, but they should be. Misha’s usually carefree and whimsical, but Vicki makes him freeze up and overthink.” Jensen shrugged. “Love makes you stupid.”
Jared stood up and reached for the belt that held up his jeans; Jensen had no idea how he hadn’t noticed the holster before. Jared pulled out a silver slingshot and twirled it in his hand like it was a pistol and he was the new sheriff in town.
“Is that Vicki’s car?”
Jared motioned to an old Gremlin. Jensen nodded and Jared drew back the sling with his finger. Jensen tensed.
“Wait, what are you doing?”
The sling creaked and Jensen saw a small metal ball nestled against the fabric. Jared winked.
“I’m making the first move.”
He left he sling go and a loud bang made Jensen’s heart stammer in his chest as Vicki’s Gremlin rocked and slumped to one side. Jensen’s ears were still ringing as Misha and Vicki ran outside, Misha’s apron billowing around him.
Jensen sucked in a breath, but Jared put a big hand on his shoulder.
“I think the front tire popped.”
Vicki’s face fell as she inspected the damage.
“Fuck.” Vicki ran her fingers through her long dark hair. “This is exactly what I don’t need right now.”
Her eyes took on that gloss of emerging tears and Misha’s hand was on her back in a millisecond.
“I-I could drive you home.” Misha thumped his chest with his fist like a gorilla, making Vicki chuckle softly. “My truck is good. My truck is dependable.” Misha waggled his eyebrows. “Plus, Jared drives too fast and you’d have to ride on Jensen’s handlebars.”
Vicki already looked less despondent.
Jensen watched Misha open the passenger door for Vicki, grinning like he’d won every lottery in the world. Vicki and Misha waved before driving off into the night. Jensen sighed and leaned against Jared.
“Okay… I have to admit, that was pretty good. But we’ll take the new tire and towing fee out of your pay. In increments.”
When Jared slung his arms around Jensen’s shoulders, Jensen didn’t push him away. They walked their respective vehicles home. Well, Jensen walked while Jared did tricks on his Vespa until he fell rather spectacularly. Jensen laughed and when Jared blamed it on “this stupid planet’s gravity,” Jensen laughed even harder. Even as Jared rubbed his scraped knees, he smiled at Jensen’s mirth.
Two hours later, Jensen and Jared were sprawled out on the couch watching the original Star Wars trilogy because Jared insisted he had no clue as to what Star Wars was. Jensen watched Jared’s face for any hint of recognition at the film, but either Jared was a good actor or he’d been living under a rock from birth. That, or he really was an alien.
Jensen’s phone buzzed as Jared laughed at C3PO’s antics. A new text from Misha read, “Not coming home 2nite. C u tmrw.”
“Congratulations, Jared.” Jensen held out his fist. “You’re an official matchmaker.”
Jared stared at Jensen’s fist before folding his fingers over it and shaking it.
“Awesome!” The movie went on and Jared was practically vibrating out of his seat when it ended. “That was amazing!”
Jensen smiled, unable to help himself.
“There’s more of them.” Jared’s eyes widened and Jensen felt his heart trip up a little before falling back into its regular rhythm. “Two more; technically five more, but I think those can be overlooked—”
“I need to see them!”
Jensen swallowed a yawn.
“I need sleep—”
His dumb heart caught in his chest again. Jensen got up and took the box set out of the cabinet and put the second disc in.
“Fine. But I’m not staying with you to watch all of them. And you still need to be on your game for deliveries tomorrow.”
Jared was already fixated on the screen. Jensen rolled his eyes and settled into the couch for what he told himself would be another fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes later he was fast asleep, his legs in Jared’s lap.
Neither of them noticed a light soar across the sky that most would mistake for a shooting star.
Next // Masterpost