audrarose: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] audrarose at 09:59am on 21/01/2009 under , , ,
aaaaaaand, let's try this again. *koff*

Title: Numbered Days
Fandom/pairing: cwrps, j2
Rating: PG (This is a first kiss story.)
Word count: 4600
Summary: "You're pretty, he's pretty... you both like dogs. It's fate!"

Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] deathbymutation in the [livejournal.com profile] spn_j2_xmas fic exchange. I used your prompt that asked for Jensen saving Harley, and a misunderstanding about why she needed saving in the first place. Only somehow the boys ended up in college while that happened. (And *ahem* Harley is a girl dog. I'd appreciate it if you'd give me that one.) :D I really hope you like this, hon, and I'm sorry it's so late. :D




Jensen jogged across Seventh on his way to the animal shelter, narrowly avoiding a bottle-green Oldsmobile that was older than he was. Just two days before he could have crossed the street without looking, but with classes starting the day after tomorrow, the town was starting to fill up again.

It was a relief.

Jensen hadn't minded the empty dorms over winter break, because that meant his floor of freshman and their crises were their parents' responsibility instead of his for awhile. He'd kind of liked how empty the Caribou was every morning, too, because at least he could always get a table by the electrical outlet.

The deserted streets, though. That freaked him out, a little. He didn't like being reminded that after almost three years of calling this place home, he was still just passing through. He couldn't be the only one at school who had nowhere else to go home to, but the empty streets made him feel like it.

At least the Humane Society shelter over break was the exact opposite of empty.

"He's back." Sam smiled at Jensen over the counter. "This isn't your usual day, Ackles; what are you doing here?"

"Do you have to ask? He's in love," Mike said, as he came out of the back carrying what looked like a Pekinese mix. Jensen didn't look hard enough to make sure, because Mike wasn't smiling. He didn't meet Jensen's eyes either, and Jensen felt his heart stop a little before it sank into his shoes.

"No one's called about her yet?" Jensen asked Sam.

Her eyes crinkled sympathetically. "I'm sorry. Nothing."

Jensen took a breath. "Look, I still haven't heard from Littleton yet, but it looks good, and I've got a line on another no-kill shelter in Rockford --"

"Jensen," Sam said gently. "We've extended her a week already. Honey, you know I'd do it for you if I could, but we're at capacity and we've had zilch from Mastiff Rescue. No one's interested in adopting her -- she's just too big."

"She's someone's baby, I know it," Jensen said, leaning forward over the counter. "If you'd just give me a few more days --"

Sam reached across and put her hand on his. "I love your compassion, I really do, but Jensen. I've seen this with other volunteers. If you don't work on your objectivity, you're going to burn out before you even get to vet-med. This is just the way things are."

"The way things are sucks," Jensen said. Then he took a breath, because he could be as objective as anyone, couldn't he? He turned to Mike. "What do you need me to do today?"

For a second, Mike looked like he wanted to say something else, but then he handed Jensen the Pekinese. "She just came in; she needs to be processed."

**

Two in-takes later, including a German short-hair who was not happy about it and left the teeth marks on his arm to prove it, Jensen wandered back into the kennel. She was waiting for him.

He felt like she was waiting for him, anyway -- all 200 pounds of her, loopy and happy and trying to jump, even though she could just stand upright in the kennel. It was the biggest one they had, still far too small for her. As far as Jensen could tell, she was more than half mastiff, probably not even two years old. She'd obviously been well-fed and well-trained, and was far too trusting for there to have been abuse of any kind. She was also less than 24 hours from a needle. Jensen felt ill.

"Hey, baby girl, how you doing?" he said as he opened the kennel door, and almost choked on the words when she put her paws on his shoulders and tried to lick his face. Jensen scratched behind her ears and looked into her eyes and thought about how life completely fucking sucked sometimes.

"You really can't take her?" Mike asked, from behind him.

Jensen shook his head. He didn't turn around because the big dopey dog was leaning on him and not because his eyes were burning. "I'm an RA, dude -- I still live in the dorms. No pets. Fish are pushing it."

"I'm sorry, that really sucks."

Jensen looked over at him as he disengaged the huge paws from his shoulders and rubbed the dog's head. "Can't you take her?" he asked, a little desperately, though he already knew the answer.

"Dude, I told you. I've got three dogs and six cats, and I'm not going to even start on the small mammal situation. My girlfriend will kick me to the curb if I show up with a hamster, let alone a horse like her. I'm really sorry." Mike paused awkwardly. "So... are you going to assist Dr. Morgan tomorrow like usual? Because maybe you should get someone else to help out so you don't have to be here when he does it --"

"I'm going to take her to the dog park for awhile." Jensen said abruptly. He swallowed against the sudden rush of nausea and got to his feet. "Would you sign her out for me?"

Mike's expression was suddenly wary, but he nodded. "Yeah. Of course. Sure."

**


Chad had to die.

Jared hadn't thought his way past blind, murderous rage yet to work out the details, but when he got Harley back, there was going to be blood spilled. Chad and his lazy ass approach to taking care of people's dogs, especially when that person was his roommate, was going to pay.

And if he didn't get Harley back... well, Jared wasn't going to think about that because he wasn't going to consider that possibility. Like he wasn't going to think about the fact that she'd been gone for over two weeks, staying God knows where with God knows who taking care of her while Jared had been home for winter break, and he hadn't even known.

The woman behind the counter looked up calmly when he rushed into the shelter office, like she was used to people tearing in wild-eyed and desperate. "Can I help you?"

"Oh, God, I hope so. I'm looking for my dog. Her name's Harley --"

The woman turned to her computer. "Does she have an ID chip implant?"

Jared felt a stab of guilt. "No. But -- you'd know if she's here. She's huge; brown, part mastiff..."

"Mastiff?" The woman looked up at him and smiled.

Jared felt relief so sudden his temples pounded. "You have her?"

"Unless there are two part-mastiffs roaming town, I think we might. One of our volunteers took her to the dog park on 5th Street, but he should be back in a few minutes, if you want to wait."

Jared was already half-way out the door. "On Fifth? I know that one. Thanks!"

"You know you have to come back and sign the paperwork before you take her, right?" Sam called after him, but the door was already closed.

**

"Run," Jensen said to the dog.

She panted at him.

"Really. You have to run, okay? I'm going to turn my back, and --" The dog made a standing, horizontal leap to land in front of him again and pant some more. She liked this game.

Jensen was starting to feel desperate. "Look, you obviously ran away once; just do it again. Go," he urged, pointing toward the stand of trees at the edge of the park. The dog crouched down and barked, staring expectantly at the ball he carried. Jensen sighed and tossed it.

It was probably pointless anyway. She was too big to go unnoticed, and too friendly to avoid capture. She'd run right up to anyone, and would probably just get picked up again, only this time he'd be fired and wouldn't be there to get her a stay of execution. The whole thing sucked.

Maybe he could move out of the dorms. And live with her in a refrigerator box or something. He sighed.

"Harley!"

Jensen didn't notice the tall guy loping through the park yelling at the top of his lungs until the dog did, suddenly loping off maniacally toward him like the whole thing should have been in slow-motion and soft filter lens. Jensen only considered running the other way for a second before taking off after her.

The dog took the guy down with two massive paws on his chest, but he didn't seem to mind; just laughed as he wrestled with her and let himself get practically licked to death.

Jensen watched them in shock. "I guess she's yours, huh?" he said stiffly. He should be feeling relieved, he knew that, but somehow it felt more like getting punched in the stomach. And what kind of a name was Harley, anyway?

The guy looked up at him with an expression of surprise, like he'd just noticed that Jensen was standing there. His face broke into a grin. Sprawled out on the ground like he was, it was obvious that he and Harley were evenly matched in size, but he hopped up to his feet immediately and held out a hand.

"I'm Jared. And yeah, she's mine." The dog jumped up on him gleefully and Jared laughed as she licked him. "This is Harley. I'm so glad you guys had her!"

"You talked to Sam?" Jensen asked. Jared seemed pretty freaking relaxed about Harley's situation.

"The woman at the shelter? Yeah, she said there was a mastiff over here but I didn't want to get my hopes up."

Jensen looked at the gorgeous guy, with his sunny smile and his casual manner and kind of hated him. It was great that the dog -- that Harley, whatever -- wasn't in danger anymore, but Jensen had started to think of her as his. Which was ridiculous.

But.

"You know, she's been at the shelter for over two weeks." Jensen emphasized the last two words and crossed his arms.

Jared's smile dimmed a little. "My roommate's a dick," he said.

Jensen looked at him blankly. "And...?" He leaned down to slip the cotton leash over Harley's head.

"He was supposed to take care of her over break," Jared continued, talking quickly as they started walking back toward the shelter. "I went home after finals, but then I don't know... he decided to road-trip with the guys in the upstairs apartment. Only he didn't tell me. He just asked our landlord to look after her, and I guess she got out... the guy didn't even report it. I had no idea she was gone."

"Uh-huh." Jensen was still thinking about how he probably would have had to assist Dr. Morgan in putting Harley down the next day, and how maybe Jared should have checked up on her.

"I should have checked up on her," Jared said, apparently reading Jensen's mind, or at least, his expression. "I know that. I'm kicking myself. Hey, can I --?"

It took Jensen a minute to realize that Jared was asking for the leash.

Jensen handed it over reluctantly. "She's too big for the kennels. Even the largest one. It's not good for her hips to be cooped up like that."

Jared leaned down to rub her head. "I know. It's really cool you guys take the dogs to the park."

"We don't, usually," Jensen said, as they reached the shelter. He pulled the door open before Jared could answer.

Jensen screwed around in back while Jared filled out the paperwork and wrote a check for the boarding fee, but then he broke down and had to come out one more time to say good-bye. Jared was just pulling out Harley's collar and leash.

"Why wasn't she wearing it?" Jensen asked. "The collar. You could have avoided this whole thing."

"The tags jingle too much. It drives us crazy," Jared said. To his credit, he looked chagrined. "I'm going to make sure we keep it on her. But... it's not like this is ever going to happen again."

"She should always have it on," Jensen said, and he hated how pissily it came out, but Harley was leaving, which -- well, thank God, but it still left him feeling hollow. He crouched down to rub her head and scratch behind her ears the way she loved it. She put a paw on Jensen's shoulder and he almost fell over. His eyes felt alarmingly wet so he put his head on hers to hide it. "Bye, baby girl," he said softly.

"You can visit her," Jared blurted.

Jensen looked up at him in surprise.

Jared froze, like he was reviewing what he'd just said. "I mean, you could come over right now, if you wanted," he added. "I'm just over on Adams. You'll see; she's a princess."

Jensen stood, feeling just as surprised by the words that came out of his mouth. "Yeah, okay. Sure."


**



"Hey, awesome! You found her!" Chad said, as soon as Jared unlocked the front door. Harley obviously didn't know she was supposed to hate him now, and bounded over to say hi.

Jared glared. "Yeah, I found her, and you are luckiest, fucking son-of-a-bitch that ever walked the earth that I did."

"I told you she was going to be fine," Chad said, but he didn't look at Jared and now that he'd stopped smiling, he had the same faintly nauseated look on his face that he'd had ever since he'd told Jared that Harley was gone.

Jared let out a breath.

Chad always took Harley to the quad even though she totally screwed up hackey-sack for him. He'd pretty much stopped giving her sips of his beer after Jared told him it was bad for her, and he'd been absolutely sick about losing her.

And Jared hadn't even checked.

"Well, just so you know, the boarding fee was my share of the utilities for like, the whole semester," Jared said, grudgingly. "It's on you, now. Kristin's not gonna cover me."

"Kristen wouldn't even notice," Chad said, but he didn't disagree, so Jared went most of the way toward forgiving him.

"I'm Chad," Chad said to Jensen, who had been watching the two of them carefully. "The irresponsible roommate who let the dog out. I'm sure you've heard about me."

"This is Jensen," Jared said, having finally asked the guy his name on the walk back to the house. "He works at the shelter. That rescued Harley," he added pointedly.

Once Jared had gotten past the initial rush where all he could see was his big, floppy, wonderful dog, he'd taken a good look at Jensen and decided that all future rescuers in his life should be sort of stupidly beautiful. If maybe a little less ice-cold and judgemental.

"I just volunteer at the shelter, actually," Jensen said. "I go here, too. Pre-vet-med."

"Oh, God, another one," Chad said, and looked accusingly at Jared. "Why can't you ever bring home journalism majors?"

Jared started to say something to Jensen, probably about how much he totally hated Chad, but the door opened before he could speak.

"Did you find her? Oh, sweetheart!" Kristen said, and held out her arms for Harley to bound at her. Harley had at least twice Kristen's body mass so it was basically disastrous, but she managed to steady herself against the door frame. "Oh, thank God -- I've been all over campus. Where was she?"

"Seventh street shelter," Jared said, then looked at Jensen. "Kristen. She lives here, too."

Kristen looked up and her expression changed. "Oh," she said. "Hey. Ackles, right?

"Yeah," Jensen said, matching her tone. "And you're Kreuk. From Rogan's class, right?" He paused awkwardly. "What did you think of the practical?'

"Oh, cake," Kristen said, in the tone she always used when she was totally bullshitting someone. "Chocolate frosted. You?"

"Uh, yeah. It was...cake. All cake," Jensen said.

"You two know each other, huh?" Jared said, feeling stupid.

Kristen shot him a look. "Pre-vet's a pretty small pool."

"I guess I should have figured that," Jared said. The silence stretched out awkwardly as they all kind of looked at each other, so he added a little desperately, "I like animals, too. Well, dogs. I like dogs. A lot."

Jensen nodded slowly. "Can I use your bathroom?"

"Second door down the hall," Chad said, and the bastard was actually laughing.

As soon as Jensen left the room, Jared sank down on the couch and put his head in his hands. "Oh, God. I just told him I like dogs."

"Yeah, that was smooth." Kristen flung herself down on an armchair crossways, her head on the armrest and her hair a waterfall over the side. "I can't believe you brought home my nemesis."

"You have a nemesis?" Chad asked. Then he looked over at Jared. "And why do you care what he thinks anyway?"

"I care, okay? He thinks I'm an irresponsible dog owner," Jared said pathetically. "And he's insanely hot, and he rescued Harley and... and I think I kind of like him."

More than kind of. Jared hadn't felt this tongue-tied in front of anyone since grade school. It had started the very second he'd seen how gentle Jensen was with Harley. And he looked like he'd kind of wanted to punch Jared in the face at the same time. It was sort of irresistible.

"Well, I don't like him," Kristen said. She looked up when they stared at her. "I don't! He set the curve on the bio-chem mid-term." It was said with grudging respect and bitter resentment.

Chad glanced at Jared. "You might want to get an opinion from somewhere other than the pre-vet shark tank."

"Just forget it," Kristen waved a languid hand. "He doesn't have time to go out with you, anyway. He needs to keep his GPA up for vet school applications... although."

"Oh, no," Chad said.

She tilted her head back to look at Jared. "Wait, this could really help my class rank. Definitely date him. I know how distracting you are. You wouldn't even need to sleep with him."

"Oh, gee. Thanks."

She laughed. "It's perfect. You're pretty, he's pretty... you both like dogs. It's fate."

Jared tossed a pillow in her face. "I'm not talking to you anymore. When he gets back, just make me look good, okay?"


**


"Jared's awesome," Kristen said, as soon as Jensen walked back into the room. "He's the most dedicated dog owner ever. Selfless, really. Who's your TA for Micro-bio discussion?"

"Harris," Jensen said, taken aback. He looked over at Jared, who was rubbing his eyes like he needed aspirin.

"Oh, God, I have Harris, too," Kristen said. "I've heard he's insane. Some kind of Luddite -- posts exam results on paper outside the Earth Science building at midnight instead of on-line. Oh, and he doesn't even use the software in class. What the fuck."

Jensen relaxed fractionally. "I read that on Rate My Professors. I was hoping it was a rumor."

"We should form a study-group," Kristen said. "We're going to need the help." She looked over at Jared, who seemed slightly peeved about something. She sighed. "Or Jared could help you. He's an awesome study-buddy. Probably because he's so good with dogs."

"Study buddy?" Jensen said, not quite sure how to answer that one. Jared just smiled at him weakly. "I guess I should get going," Jensen started.

"Wait! We're ordering pizza," Jared said, pulling out his phone and practically waving it in the air. "Why don't you stick around?"

Jensen looked over at Harley, who was sacked out on a cushion in the corner that was obviously hers; lazy, happy and content. He thought about another meal by himself in the Union cafeteria.

"Sure," he said.

**

Pizza turned out to be one large with salami and ground beef because Chad was revolting, and one medium with soy cheese and veggie because Kristen was vegan ("I haven't eaten animal products since 2003. I'm going to put that in my application essay for Auburn.") Jared ate either indiscriminately, though he picked off some ground beef for Harley.

Jensen found out during dinner that he and Kristen were going to have three classes together that semester and that Chad had road-tripped to Toronto ("We wanted to say we left the country. Canada totally counts."). Jared told Chad he should have stayed there, then talked about going home to San Antonio in between flashing an incredibly distracting smile at Jensen. Before Jensen knew it, the sun was going down.

Jensen figured he couldn't delay it any longer.

"I've got to head back. I've got a hundred freshman showing up tomorrow."

"Which dorm are you in?" Jared asked.

"Taylor -- on Tenth, near the Union."

"Me and Harley could walk you home," Jared suggested, looking at Jensen sideways, suddenly shy and completely adorable.

Jensen rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah... okay. Cool." He could have ignored Chad's guffaw if Jared hadn't hit him in the back of the head as he went to get his coat, and Jensen felt his cheeks heating up.

"See you in class," he said to Kristen, who smiled back at him like she didn't wish him dead anymore, and then it was just him and Jared on the darkened sidewalk, with Harley on her leash ahead of them. They walked in companionable silence for awhile before Jared spoke.

"We were talking our heads off in there. You couldn't get a word in."

Jensen shrugged. "That's okay." It really was. Chad had turned out to be cool, and Jensen had formed some sort of a weird, boot-camp friendship with Kristen. And then there was Jared, whose presence Jensen had been able to feel, even from across the room.

"I know I talk too much," Jared said. "I'd tell my entire life story to a stranger on a bus. Not that you're a stranger..." Jared looked so alarmed at what he'd said that Jensen laughed.

"You met me this afternoon. I think I qualify as a stranger."

"Well... maybe we can fix that?" Jared said, as they entered the quad. "What did you do over break? Other than rescue my dog."

Jensen took a breath. "Worked at the shelter, mostly. Spent Christmas with a friend who's here on an exchange from Vienna. Not too exciting."

"You didn't go home?"

Jensen shrugged. "You're looking at it."

"Wow, seriously? I mean... I'm sorry?" Jared looked stricken.

Jensen looked away. It was weird how compassion was harder to handle than indifference. "You want some coffee?" Jensen asked, as they passed the coffee shop near the quad, more for something to say than out of a need for caffeine.

"Sure," Jared said.

Jensen ran in while Jared waited on the sidewalk with Harley, and when he came back out they talked about nothing while they crossed the quad. When they neared the outdoor theater near the Music building, Jared said, "Hey, do you mind if we stop for a minute? I always throw a ball for Harley here -- she'll be insane if we don't."

"She's totally spoiled, isn't she?" Jensen said, laughing.

"Dude, I told you she was a princess."

The outdoor theater was deserted even though the night was mild for January. After Harley chased the ball for them a few times, she flopped down at their feet and panted at them as they sat on the first half-circle of stone risers and drank their coffee.

Jared scratched her head. "I know I said it before, but... thanks. For what you did for Harley. I would have lost my mind if anything happened to her." His voice was subdued.

Jensen leaned his elbows on his knees and looked down at the big dope of a dog, then out at the quad. "I could tell she belonged to someone. The minute she ran up to me."

"You have such a crush. I'm surprised you didn't want to keep her," Jared said, looking at him with a grin lurking.

Jensen almost choked on his coffee at the word 'crush'. Jared had no idea. "Hey, I'd have taken her in a second. But, you know... the dorms. They suck ass, but I couldn't afford to live here if I didn't RA."

"So I guess you're not going to run off with her in the night, huh?"

"Uh, no." Jensen smiled. He reached out to pet her again. "I was hoping someone would, though. If I'd wanted to get Sam to extend her stay another week I was gonna have to offer her sexual favors."

"Another week?" Jared looked down at Harley. "How long do you guys keep them?"

"The minimum's 5 operating days, by law, but we can stretch it, if we're not busy. This time of year we're always full, though."

"Well, thank God," Jared said, leaning back. "If they'd sent her somewhere else where I had to drive to get her, I would have been screwed. I hate borrowing Chad's car."

Jensen looked over at him awkwardly, not quite sure how to put it. "They don't... Jared, it's a city shelter. They don't... send the dogs somewhere else. Jared?" he added in alarm.

"Oh, God."

"Hey, breathe," Jensen told him, and wondered if he should make Jared breathe into a paper bag or something, because Jared had gone pale to the lips, even in the dim light from the quad. He looked like any second he was going to get sick.

"When?" Jared choked out. "When were they going to...?"

"Tomorrow," Jensen admitted, and immediately reached out to grab Jared's shoulder to steady him. "Hey, but I wasn't going to let that happen. Even if you hadn't shown up," he added urgently, and squeezed Jared's shoulder hard.

Jared reached down to Harley, his hands shaking. "What were you going to do?" he asked, his voice rough, almost angry. "I mean, you said yourself you couldn't take her --"

Jensen shook his head. "I don't know. Something. Move, I guess."

"Move," Jared repeated, still looking at Harley. When he finally glanced up at Jared his eyes were wet, but he was smiling incredulously. "You were going to move."

Jensen shrugged, suddenly self-conscious. "I don't know. Something."

Jared scrubbed a hand roughly over his eyes and looked away. "I got her from a shelter. I just fell in love, the first time I saw her," he said roughly. "She was so little -- well, not little, I guess, but littler, with these ridiculously huge paws, practically the size of her head. She could barely walk without falling over, but I just took one look at her... and I knew she was mine. That we were supposed to be together. I think sometimes, you just know." He turned a shaky, lopsided grin on Jensen that still managed to be brighter than the sun. "You know?"

Jensen swallowed, because his heart was beating somewhere in throat. "I -- no. I don't know. It usually takes me awhile to --"

Except he couldn't finish the sentence because Jared kissed him, pulled him roughly into his arms so that Jensen was surrounded by the warm fleece of Jared's jacket and the vaguely sweet scent of Jared's shampoo and the soft, soft feel of Jared's beautiful mouth.

"Okay... yes," Jensen said, when he could finally take a breath. "Sometimes you just know."


END

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