shaking snow out of his hair, jensen walked into his apartment, shutting the door behind him and ducking under one of the hanging lines of photos. he set his camera on the table, pulling off his fingerless gloves and scarf soon after. he’d been out all afternoon shooting pictures during the snowfall, and he’d stopped feeling his fingertips over an hour ago.

sniffing as his nose warmed back up, jensen walked into his room and shrugged out of his coat. when he tossed his coat onto his armchair in the corner, he noticed his phone, blinking madly on his night stand. groaning, he realized he’d left it there all day and snatched it up. he brought up the screen as he walked back into his open kitchen, furrowing his eyebrows at the seven missed calls from his mother. that was odd. sure, his mother called him fairly regularly, but never during the day, never seven times, and never without leaving a voicemail.

pressing her name, he waited for her to pick up. she answered on the first ring.

"jen?"

he felt his heart start pounding at the sound of her voice. she sounded like she’d been crying. "ma? what’s wrong? he stopped in his tracks, his eyes losing focus as they landed at a spot on his floor.

"it’s your father.. he.."

"what did he do? ma, what happened? i swear, if he did something…" jensen let that hang in the air, waiting for his mother to answer. "i need you to come home, jensen elias."

"what is it?" jensen’s eyebrows came closer together as he started pacing back and forth. nothing about this conversation felt right to him, from the sound of his mother’s voice to the fact that she wasn’t coming right out to tell him what happened to the seven missed calls.

"your father… he’s gone."

"what do you mean, ‘he’s gone’?" jensen asked, accusation growing in his tone.

"he’s… he had a heart attack. he’s… he’s gone, honey."

jensen, he couldn’t… he couldn’t think. that couldn’t be right. his father couldn’t be dead. his father was too stubborn to just die. he blinked rapidly, pinching the bridge of his nose. "w-w-what?" he stuttered, picking up his pace. "he can’t j-j-just be dead. are you— are you s-sure?"

"i’m so sorry i had to tell you this way, baby. just, you need to come home. tomorrow."

"i…" jensen open and shut his mouth, walking into his room and turning to sit on his bed. "okay, ma. i’ll-i’ll see you tomorrow. i’ll let you know when i leave."

after his mom hung up, jensen tapped off his phone and tossed it lightly up to his pillow. he couldn’t believe what his mother had told him. his father was gone. dead. sure, he’d never had the best relationship with his father… but now he never had a chance to have one in the future. all that time, wasted. he could have tried to get along with his father more than he had, they might have gotten along better, but now he didn’t even have that opportunity.

jensen opened his mouth, his nose suddenly not doing a good enough job at getting air into his lungs. he looked over to his phone where it sat on his pillow, considering it for a few moments. finally, he reached over and grabbed it, bringing back up the screen and his list of contacts. before he’d even thought of one of his friends to call (what would he call them about, anyway? ‘hey guys, that guy i always described as an ass is dead and i’m actually upset about it. watch my apartment for me?’) his finger rested over top a familiar name. for a minute, he considered tapping it, but that didn’t seem like a good idea either. instead, he scrolled down one name to louis, tapped the screen and then put the phone up to his ear.

he couldn’t talk to her. not tonight. even though, years earlier, she would have been the only one he wanted to talk to.

"what am i supposed to do tomorrow when you leave?"

ford gave her a look before shaking his head, sprinkling water all around him as he shook his hair out. "same thing you always do on a friday," he said evenly, steadying his head as she handed him a towel.

"i’m serious, ford."

he flipped the towel behind his neck and held it there, each hand pulling it down lightly as he answered her. "i am, too. you’ll be fine. i don’t know why you’re makin’ such a big deal out of this."

because you’re gonna be hours away at a school, surrounded by girls, and i’m gonna be here, all by my lonesome.”

she gave him a look as she rung out her hair, soaking as well from the pop-up shower they’d gotten themselves caught in. "thanks for the credit, bess," he answered, returning her look. it was something he’d heard multiple times in the last few weeks, but it seemed she had to try and squeeze it in one more time.

"you know what i mean."

he looked at her, his eyebrows raised skeptically as she walked toward him. she roped her arms around his waist, making their clothes stick together on contact. "i’m not sure i do," he smirked, wrapping his own arms around her waist.

"what i mean, ford, is that i’m gonna miss you. a lot."

"oh, so that’s it." his smirk reached all the way to his eyes as he squeezed his hold on her tighter.

"yes, that’s it. two months is a long time, ford."

she pouted up at him, shifting her weight from foot to foot. "we’re gonna need to make the best of it now, then, won’t we?" he asked, grinning as he slid the tips of his fingers under the waistband of her shorts.

"oh, hi, ma,"ford said, holding the phone up to his ear as he set the magazine back on the rack. he bit the inside of his cheek as he weaved back to the to the front door of the store, barely noticing the ringing of the doorbell as he walked out.

"so, honey bunch, when are you coming home for christmas?"

ford’s eyebrows nearly shot up to his hairline. that was his mother, right to the point when he wanted her to do her usual ‘beat-around-the-bush’ the most. he sighed, not having wanted to tell her this now, but not having much of an option. "i don’t know if i can make it home, ma." he winced, squeezing one eye shut and waiting for whatever was about to come.

"what? why not?"

well, it was relatively low key for what he’d braced himself for. "well, i really don’t want to be away from work for too long. and," ford rubbed the back of his head as he walked down the street. "ryan invited me over for christmas." he squinted, walking around the front of his car.

"and… this is the ryan who works in your office?"

he let out a laugh. "yeah, ma. ryan works for me. the collins’ do this.. thing for chrismas, and they invited me over…" he unlocked his door, popping the handle and swinging the door open.

"and you’ve been seein’ this… this ryan for a while, right?"

he climbed up into his truck, settling into the seat and pulling his door shut. he switched his phone to his other ear, putting his keys in the ignition and leaving them there. "yeah, ma. a while."

"now, ford, i… uh.. is there something you want to tell me about ryan?"

he looked from side to side in his cab, like that would have given him an answer to give her. "i don’t know, ma. she’s really great, i—"

"oh sweet heavens."

ford pulled his phone away, looking at the screen and then pressing it back to his ear. "what, ma? are you okay?"

"honey bunch, we all thought ryan was a man."

ford let out a loud laugh, letting his head fall back against the headrest. "no, ma. ryan’s a woman, but she gets that a lot. i probably should have cleared that up a while ago," he grinned, rubbing his forehead lightly.

"yes, dear, probably."

"ford, this is stupid. mama would skin me alive if she knew i was helpin’ you, you bein’ one armed or not. you’re breakin’ her heart, doin’ this, you know."

ford sighed rubbing his face roughly with his hands, wincing in the process as he pulled at scabs and pressed against bruises. "i know, i know," he said, examining a napkin holder (when did he get that?). "you want this?" he asked, lifting it above his head and twisting it in the air for her to see all sides. he felt a tug on it and let go.

"maybe. was this something karen bought?"

"since i don’t remember buyin’ it, i’d say yes. waste of money. you keepin’ it or is it goin’ in the trashed pile?" he looked to one corner of his tiny living room, where plenty of other things he hadn’t bought, didn’t want, or couldn’t take with him sat. it was growing pretty rapidly.

"she did have good taste, you gotta give her that."

"whatever," ford mumbled, awkwardly wrapping plates in bubble wrap with one hand. he heard the plastic clunk into a box somewhere vaguely behind it. so jena lynn was keeping that one.

"and stop tryin’ to change the subject. i’m your little sister, i’m onto your ways."

“‘i’m onto your ways,’” he mimicked, still waging war with the bubble wrap and the plate. he let out a frustrated huff, as he set it down, staring at it, trying to come up with a suitable plan of attack. he picked back up the plate, scratching at his hairline. damned stitches itched like hell. jena lynn came from behind him and squatted next to him, taking the plate from his hand and wrapping it easily in the bubble wrap. she held it out for him to take.

"really, ford. i know why you’re leavin’, everyone does. you’re not foolin’ anyone."

he reached for the plate, but jena lynn lifted it swiftly out of his reach. "then stop tryin’ to stop me." he made a grab at the plate, wincing as he jerked his useless arm along with it.

"you’re as big as a vikin’, sawyer jackson ford, but i know you’re a big softie inside. who else would put up with an annoyin’ little sister like me? who else’d go to dance classes with me when my partners flaked? or take me to my first middle school dance? or threaten to beat up the guy who made me cry while wipin’ my tears at the same time? i know there’s more goin’ on in there than you let on, big man."

she pressed her finger into his chest, holding out the plate to him, and this time, letting him take it. gently, he lowered the plate into the box, not looking at his sister as he did so. he couldn’t look at her, not when everything she was saying was spot on.

"ford, please, don’t go. i’ve already lost one brother, i don’t wanna lose another."

he looked to her then, a deep furrow having popped up between his brows. "you aren’t gonna lose me, jena lynn. i’ll just be a phone call away. you can come see me whenever you want. i’m just… i’m just not stayin’ here." he picked up another plate and held it out to her.

"i’m not ever gonna be able to change your mind, am i?"

she took the plate from him as he shook his head resolutely. "nope."

"you’re as stubborn as a damn mule, you know that?"

a small smile pulled at the corner of his lips as he looked down, nodding and holding out another sheet of bubble wrap for her. "yep."

forgot to tell you, sorry.

"sugar, what’s goin’ on?"

ford was not someone who was accustomed to being nervous. he didn’t get nervous often, and when he did, he absolutely hated it. and that was why he was almost relieved to think that the past few hellish hours were over. then again, he was facing the mother of all nerve wrackers at that moment, and it made it seem like everything leading up to it child’s play. "i guess i can fess up that we didn’t really have a dinner to go to tonight." that had gone well. he hadn’t thrown up.

—-

the alarm shattered the silence that had occupied ford and ryan’s room only moments earlier (silence being relative to the fact that ford tended to breathe loudly). ford shot awake, sitting up like he’d been shocked before he swung his hand to the bed side table and fumbled awkwardly with his phone. once he’d gotten the thing to shut off, he pawed at his eyes with the back of his hands, stopping suddenly when it hit him what today was.

"why’d you set that thing so early?"

it took him a moment to collect himself before he answered her with a simple, "busy day, go back to sleep," a kiss on the forehead, and a squeeze on her exposed shoulder. he slid off the bed and made his way (which was not the most quiet way possible, since this was ford, after all) to their bathroom.

he turned on the water and looked at himself in the mirror. what in the hell was he doing? there was no way any of this… this plan he’d put together was going to work. there was no way. but, he’d planned it and of all people, tommy and landon knew the truth about it, so he couldn’t exactly back out now. groaning, ford stepped into the shower.

—-

ry - had to go into work early. forgot to tell you. sorry. going to different sites today. see you around.
love - s

ryan drummed her fingers on the counter, staring at the note. her cup of coffee was in her other hand, warm and half empty already. she didn’t know what the point of being his secretary was when he made changes to his plans willy-nilly like it was his job.

"well, sugar, if you’re so set on doin’ my job, i’m givin’ myself a three day weekend."

smiling to herself at the thought of an extra day leading into the weekend, ryan turned on her heel. there had to be something she could do.

—-

"she what?" ford asked, running his hand raggedly through his hair. "she just… didn’t show up?" he shut his eyes, hitting his head repeatedly against the headrest in his truck. "alright. i’ll just… let me call her. do you have any more openings?" without thinking, he crossed his middle finger over his index, holding it up in the air. he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when he heard the answer. "alright, thanks. i’ll… figure something out. yeah… ‘bye." he ended the call and immediately dialed ryan’s cell.

"hey, babe."

"you didn’t go into work today," he stated, not bothering to waste any time getting to the point. besides, he was a little stressed by the fact that ryan was inadvertently putting his plan in jeopardy. if she would have gone in, she would have seen his other note and would have made her original appointment he’d set up for her.

there was a slight pause on the other end.

"i didn’t exactly see the point, sugar, when you seemed awful eager t’do my job for me."

ford clenched his jaw and hit the the roof silently with the side of his fist. "sorry. i left-" but he stopped himself, figuring there was a better way he could go about this. "landon called, he’s got this girl that he’s takin’ out again."

"we on babysittin’ duty again?"

ford wasn’t good at making things up on the spot. which is why he had had a plan. "not this time. he wants us to go with him, or somethin’. i didn’t ask much. i’ve been a little busy, since my secretary called off. he took a deep breath. "anyway, it’s at some fancy restaurant. i can text you the details later. but i booked you a pedicure and manicure appointment."

"oh?"

it was the only thing he was absolutely sure she wouldn’t turn down, and wouldn’t be in a hurry to get home. and he needed her out of the house. "yeah, anyway. i’ve gotta go. text me if you’ve got any questions. love you, babe." and he hadn’t wasted any time in hanging up the phone.

so things seemed to be back on track, now.

—-

"are you nervous? you seem nervous. i bet you’re nervous. i didn’t think you could get ner—"

ford turned and looked at him, his eyebrows raised. "really? really? you think you’re helpin’?" ford stopped, setting the salad bowl back down on the counter. "just… go set up the tables in the back yard, alright?"

as soon as his little helper disappeared, ford leaned against the counter and pulled the ring out his pocket. "damn straight, i’m nervous," he mumbled to himself.

"what was that? what did you say?"

ford looked at him, his eyes narrowed. apparently he’d come running back and peeked his head around the corner. "i said put the damn tables out before i kick you in the balls."

"will do."

—-

"i guess i can fess up that we didn’t really have a dinner to go to tonight." he was doing his best to ignore the fact that their close friends were all around them, watching them. and that he was the only one dressed in a suit, in the middle of august. but it was something his mother would have insisted on, that he be dressed for the occasion, even if no one else was.

"i think i got that part on my own."

taking a deep and admittedly shaky breath, ford lowered himself to one knee. "ryan lee, when you hired yourself that first day i met you, even then i had no idea what just walked into my life." he paused, looking up at her (though it wasn’t that far because even though he was on one knee, she was short and he was a viking). "i knew you were somethin’ else with your sass, but i didn’t know i’d just met the most carin’, kind, beautiful girl i’d ever want to meet. you make me the happiest man in the world, ry, and i love you and i want to spend the rest of my life with you." he took another shaky breath. "ryan lee collins, would you do the honor of marryin’ me?" he reached into his pocket and held out the ring for her.

waiting for her to move, breathe, answer, or do anything felt like an eternity to him, and honestly, he wasn’t sure if it was seconds or minutes that he waited.

"well, when you put it that way, sugar, yes. i will."

you can mind read, too.

ford let out a satisfied sigh as he popped the cap off the dark colored bottle, pulling open the cabinet under the sink and tossing the cap into the recycle bin as he lifted his drink to his lips. if there was one thing that he enjoyed, it was a cold one in his hand after a long day at work.

he’d just crossed the hall on his way to the living room when ryan caught his eye. he stopped and walked backwards a few steps in time to catch her as she finished walking the rest of the way. for some reason, she was not wearing her normal ‘lounge around the house’ clothes. "where’re you goin’?" he asked before tipping his drink back to his lips.

"same place you are, sugar."

she finished zipping up her jacket and walked around him, pressing her hands into his back and steering him down the hallway from where she came. he furrowed his eyebrows and took another drink. "and where’s that, babe?" at his question, she stopped pushing him down the hallway and he turned around to look at her.

"i signed us up for a dancin’ class. i didn’t tell you?"

from the look on her face and the tone of her voice, they both knew that she’d never told him anything about it. she pressed her hands against his chest and spun him, steering him to the steps. "and why are we goin’ dancin’?" he asked, unintentionally stomping up the staircase. she waited to call up an answer to him until he got to the top and turned to look at her.

"y’need to be lighter on your feet. ‘cause even though it’s your thing to fix and build, sugar, i’d like t’have the floors hold out a couple more years."

he gave her a look. "bullshit."

"bulltrue.

ford gave her another look as he walked to the the length of the upstairs hall, eyeing her over the balcony. "bullshit." he said again, taking another drink and turning into their room.

—-

somehow, ford ended up being the teacher’s guinea pig when she decided to give the class the quick instructions on the different samba steps they needed to try. he wasn’t sure how he ended up that way, but his hand was now set on this forty something’s waist while she explained to the other couples in the class how he was going to move his hips.

oh wait. he did remember. ryan had volunteered him.

and ford being ford, he played along, pasting a good natured smile on his face, nodding appropriately, tossing in some self-deprecation for good measure. all while knowing that ryan was absolutely eating it up.

little did she know.

"alright. now, i know that i threw a lot at you, but do you think you could handle it?"

the dark haired woman looked at him, waiting for an answer. "i guess we’ll find out soon enough," he said, throwing in a grin before glancing quickly at ryan. the woman smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder, waving to the teenage boy in the corner to play the music.

next thing ford knew, the music was playing and he was moving his hips in ways he’d never imagined doing in public. the woman had them go through the moves a couple more times for demonstrative purposes, and when she seemed to feel they had demonstrated enough, ford looked over to ryan. the look on her face made him grin, and he could help but love surprising her in a way that she almost seemed to appreciate. catching her eyes, he shot her a wink.

—-

eventually, when the couples all spread out and had enough room that they wouldn’t bump into each other, ryan asked ford the question he knew was coming.

"where did you learn how t’do that, sugar?”

ford laughed softly and set his hands on her waist. "you aren’t the first one to drag me to a dance class, babe. jena lynn had a good eye for pickin’ partners that had a hard time makin’ it to class." the music started in the background, and ford and ryan started repeating the moves that she’d just watched him do.

"and why did y’never tell me?"

she was slightly breathless which only made ford laugh more. "you never asked, ry." he grinned as he pulled her waist (and by extension, her hips) closer to his. "i take it you’re gonna want me to show y’some more of my moves when we get home?”

"not only can y’dance, but you can mind read, too."

a cousin or something?

ford sat in the middle of their new living room, picking through boxes of ryan’s things. usually, ford was able to keep his focus if that had been the case, the boxes would have all been moved and carried into their respective rooms to be unpacked. but the temptation of picking through ryan’s old pictures and the potential shit he could give her had been too much, much to her chagrin.

he shut the lid of one shoebox and pulled out another, opening it and fanning out the pictures in front of him. "babe, who is this? a cousin or something?" he furrowed his eyes, not recognizing the man in the picture. ryan looked like she was in high school, and the guy… didn’t, to put it frankly. he flipped through some more and his light blue eyes grew wide. maybe ryan’s family did things differently, but he definitely wouldn’t have been hanging on his cousin like that. "i really hope this isn’t your cousin," he called, warily flipping through more. he stopped on one, though, when ryan and the guy were… ‘passionately embracing’ as his mother might have said. "is there something you need to tell me about you and your cousin?" an edge of panic slipped into his voice.

ryan picked her way through the boxes and looked over ford’s shoulder as he sat on the floor. a grin flicked across her face.

"babe, that’s not my cousin."

"then who the hell is it?" he asked, flipping the picture over, looking for a name. owen inside a …heart?

"that’s my ex."

again, a grin pulled at the corners of her lips.

"how do you have an ex-cousin?" he shifted through more of the pictures.

"sugar, this may be the south, but trust me, that’s not what we’re dealin’ with here."

glanced over his shoulder at her, his eyebrows apparently stuck in their furrowed position. "ex-cousin? is that like a step-cousin whose parents got divorced?" he squinted and looked up and to the left, trying to figure out how she could have an ex-cousin, family wise. that was easier than accepting the fact that she was so obviously telling him, stupidly.

"sawyer ford."

"what?" he asked, turning to look at her while she stood behind him. she had her hands planted firmly on her hips. ford knew that look, and it generally wasn’t one of his favorites of hers.

"he is not my cousin, my ex-cousin, or my step-cousin twice-removed. i dated him when i was in high school."

"dated? as in, dated?”

"as in dated.

she fixed him a stare, and he couldn’t figure out if she was amused or pissed at him for being what she’d consider dense. maybe both? he looked back to the picture, scrutinizing the guy in it. "how old is he now, forty?"

"thirty-five or so."

she said it evenly, and for a split second, ford’s eyebrows shot up. that made him what, eight or nine years older than ryan? which made him what? mid-twenties when he dated ryan? but ford looked back to the picture, his eyebrows still up and the sides of his mouth turned down, sizing up ryan’s ex-whatever. "i could kick his ass," he said finally.

"you could, sugar, but y’don’t need to."

ford glanced from the picture to ryan, back to the picture, and then back to ryan, a ‘you’re kidding, right?’ look on his face. "trust me, babe. i know how a man thinks. and if he sees you again, now…? i’m going to have to kick his ass.”

"y’don’t need to worry, babe. ‘cause i’m just gonna’ be seein’ you."

ford dropped the pictures and grinned, twisting around to wrap his arms around her thighs. he slung her over his shoulder and grinned, patting her ass soundly as he stood up and grinning more widely as he felt her hand land on his own. "o’ course, babe."

it wasn’t the first time jensen had been out with his friends, but it was definitely the first time his new friends had taken him to a place like this.

"wardo, where are we?” jensen shouted over the music.

"relax, jefferson. you’ll have fun."

wardo set his hand on jensen’s shoulder, patting it lightly. he fancied himself a history buff, and when he met jensen, couldn’t resist the opportunity to rename his new southern friend after the secessionist president with the same last name.

"i am relaxed," jensen retorted, somewhat stiffly. he was used to low key, he liked low key, and this… this thing they were about to enter was definitely not low key. "and quit calling me that."

"the girls here are cray-zee."

jensen’s eyes darted to marc who was leaning casually against the wall while they waited to get inside. seeing that he was absolutely serious, jensen shoved his hands in his pockets and nodded stiffly. "of course. fantastic."

an hour later, jensen managed to find himself standing alone, drink (that he knew he couldn’t be caught holding, but figured it wouldn’t be an issue in a place like this) in one hand, looking for wardo and marc among the sea of people. he’d just taken another drink when he felt a hand slip into his own as it hung at his side.

nearly choking on his drink, jensen stumbled after the dark hair as it pulled him toward the back of the place. he didn’t have any idea what was going, especially when she pushed open the door to the ladies’ room, pulled him in, and then pushed him up against a stall wall, seeming to lock the door behind her simultaneously. he was still in shock when she started speaking.

"you haven’t done one thing since you got here, you know that?"

jensen’s eyebrows furrowed as he looked at her, surprised by what she’d said, but not sure why because he hadn’t been sure what he thought she was going to say anyway. "i.. i don’t real— wait what?"

a smirk pulled at the corner of her mouth.

"so you do speak. and you’re definitely not from around here."

and then she was pressing her lips against his, shocking him even further. she moved from his lips and traveled along his jaw line, making him jump as he felt her hands at his waistline. "i-i don’t know if… what are you-?" she placed her index finger against his lips, silencing him as her other hand went to his belt. he grimaced slightly as he tried to scoot away from her, but failed when he only managed to bump into the stall wall.

"honey, i’m doing you a favor. if you stop talking you’ll thank me for it later."

he continued grimaced again as he felt her slide the end of his belt out of a belt loop. she’d moved her kisses down onto the exposed skin of his chest, and his eyes shot open as he felt her other hand grab the front of his pants. finally coming to the realization that talking wasn’t going to get him out of it, jensen brought his hands to hers, taking them firmly in his own. "look, i-i can’t… i’m sure you’re a nice girl and-"

"are you gay or something?"

jensen’s eyebrows nearly crashed together. "what? no!"

"you can pretend i’m a guy if that’s your thing, i don’t really care."

jensen pushed her hands away from him, finally sidestepping her. "i’m not gay, i just-" he didn’t know why he was trying to explain himself to her, so he stopped. "look, i’m sure you’re a really nice girl and all," he said, holding one of his hands palm out in front of her, like it would keep her away as he unlocked the stall door. "and i’m sure you’re great at" -he waved his hand vagely- "just… sorry."

as soon as the door swung open, jensen bolted out of that club faster than he’d ever thought possible. at this point, he didn’t really care whether or not marc and wardo were still inside; they’d find their way back home somehow. he wasn’t sure whatever happened to his drink, but he hardly cared as he reached back to his wallet, flipping it open and pulling out his worn black and white picture of lorna. he looked at it and sighed, turning down another street and heading for home.

wind blew past jensen’s face, blowing his hair in a million different directions.

"put a smile on your goddamn face. you’re getting what you wanted."

jensen inhaled deeply, shutting his eyes as he exhaled frustratedly. he knew what was coming, he’d been hearing it the past couple of days and some of it his whole life. so he just kept his eyes closed, waiting for it.

"this is what you wanted, right? to leave your family behind and go to the big apple because your home isn’t good enough for you, right?"

his eyes still shut, jensen just nodded his head. right, right, everything his father was saying was completely true. he’d always thought he was better than holly point, he always wanted to leave his family behind. yeah, he thought sarcastically. exactly what i always dreamed about.

jensen’s silence seemed to only add fuel to his father’s fire. but this wasn’t anything new to jensen. his father hadn’t always been pleased with his son, and was even less so when he found out that he’d made up his mind that he was going to the city.

"where’s your girlfriend, anyway? guess she didn’t love you as much as you thought she did."

slowly, jensen opened his eyes and spotted his father looking at him in the rear-view mirror. that wasn’t even close to being the case what-so-ever.

he understood why lorna wasn’t coming to new york, and he couldn’t hold it against her. jensen knew that she would be as miserable in that city as he would be if he stayed in holly point. to lorna, her family was everything to her, just like photography was everything to him. it didn’t say anything to how much he loved her or she loved him. saying that lorna didn’t love him enough to leave her family behind would have been like saying jensen didn’t love lorna enough to let his photography dream continue to be a dream. he understood that she would have been as unhappy in new york as he would be if he stayed in holly point.

and once he’d realized that, he’d stopped trying to convince her and made his plans to go to new york without her. it didn’t mean that he loved her any less. if anything, to jensen it showed that he loved her enough to value her happiness over his dream of the two of them in new york together. she was letting him go the exact same way that he was letting her stay.

he met his father’s eye for an instant before jensen looked back out the window. but just because he’d accepted that lorna wasn’t coming with him didn’t mean he didn’t feel like he was ripping himself in two and leaving one half behind.

©DH