Life For Rent
Chapter 32 : For Me, It's You
Hi, everyone. I'm so sorry this has taken so long to put out. There were some things I had to think through and one of them was where I'm headed with this story. I'm saddened to say that this will be the last chapter of Life for Rent. I've lost interest in the show, and beyond that, after the new year I'll be taking a short break from writing and I didn't want to leave everyone hanging throughout the break.
Everyone here has been really awesome, and the response to this story, that started because I couldn't not write it, has been amazing. If you follow my LJ you know that this has been coming for a while, but if you don't this is probably coming as a bit of a shock. Again, I'm sorry that this is the end of our road together. I've had such a blast chatting with new people and writing in a new fandom. You all have been truly wonderful.
Author's Notes :
- For Me, It's You is courtesy of Train.
Rule number nine: don't leave anything with anyone that you might want to keep.
"Jared!" Callen called out.
"Yeah?" He heard his partner answer from the other room.
"Have you seen my blue sweater? I think I left it here a couple of days ago!" Callen said loudly, as he picked his way through Jared's bedroom.
"The one with the dark blue stripe at the bottom?"
"I sent it out with my jacket to be dry cleaned!" Jared answered. "I'm going to go pick it up today during lunch."
Callen paused and looked around. He had socks in Jared's drawer, along with some boxers. There were some shoes of his lined up next to Jared's larger ones. Two of his jackets hung in the closet. In the living room there were movies that Jared wouldn't have watched if Callen weren't there, and books that Jared wasn't going to read.
"Apple or orange juice, G!" Jared yelled from the kitchen.
Callen swallowed. "Apple!"
He had a house, but this was his home. He was here as often as he was there. Suddenly Jared appeared in the doorway. "Everything alright, G?"
"Huh?" Callen's head snapped up. "Yes, fine," he smiled. "Better than fine. I kept forgetting to drop that sweater off for Hetty to take in."
Jared grinned. "I've got you covered, babe. Breakfast?"
"What'd you make?" Callen asked, following Jared from the room.
"Crepes, with a white chocolate sauce."
"If I get fat, I'm blaming you," Callen said.
Jared turned and smirked. "I'll help you work it off."
Rule number eight: never allow yourself to become distracted.
Callen hated paperwork. It was the worst part of his job. And when it got to the point that everything he was doing could be done somewhere other than the NCIS Los Angeles office, he shoved it all into a backpack, waved goodbye to Hetty and took off for the night.
Callen slipped his key into the lock and opened the door. He could smell whatever Jared was cooking, and it smelt delicious. Callen locked the door behind him and chucked off his shoes, carrying his backpack into the dining room. He set it on the table and then went to greet Jared.
Jared smiled when he saw Callen and leaned down for a short kiss. Callen tasted wine when they parted and Jared gestured to the empty wine glass on the counter next to one with some merlot in it. He gave Jared another kiss before pouring his own glass.
"I have some work left," Callen said. He set his wine glass down and started pulling out his laptop and files.
"Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes," Jared offered.
"I'll get started on this now and hopefully won't have too much left when we finish."
Jared winked. "Best get to it, G."
Callen sipped his wine as he emerged himself back into his paperwork. By the time Jared set a plate of steaming food down next to him, he'd finished about half of it. Callen looked up, "This looks great, Jared. Thanks."
Jared sat down next to him with a plate of his own and Callen pushed the paperwork aside. "You're welcome."
They ate in silence, although Callen couldn't tell you what he ate. Not when Jared's foot was gently rubbing against his shin, in more of a mindless way than anything sexual. But the contact was so casual that it was all Callen could feel.
When they finished, Jared cleared their plates as Callen dove back into his work. Jared sat back down with him, his foot gently touching Callen's, Callen tried to ignore it and focus on his paperwork, instead he just wanted to drag Jared back to his bedroom and gently touch the rest of him all over.
After five straight minutes of picturing Jared in bed with him, tracing his scars in the careful way that Jared did, Callen pushed his unfinished paperwork away, stood up, grabbed Jared by the hand - startling, and pulled him towards the bedroom.
Callen pulled off his shirt and a look from him caused Jared to do the same.
"Not that I'm complaining," Jared said, unbuckling his jeans. "But don't you have work to do?"
Callen shrugged. "It'll still be there in the morning."
Jared smiled. "So will I."
And that's when Callen knew he'd made the right choice.
Rule number seven: never use as much as you need, you might never get any again; don't get used to it.
Callen sat up, panting hard while his heart raced. He took large gulps of air as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the images that haunted his dreams.
He jumped when a warm hand landed on his back, rubbing circles into his bare skin. "Shh, G," Jared cooed. "I've got you." And then he was enveloped into warm arms, hugged tight to Jared's body.
Jared rocked him softly back and forth, and Callen wanted to say that he wasn't a child, that he didn't mean to wake Jared up, that Jared should go back to sleep. But he didn't say any of that. He turned and buried his face into Jared's neck and just let himself be comforted. It was something he was learning to do, with mixed results. But tonight it was easy just to give himself over to Jared.
He pressed a dry kiss to Jared's neck and Jared seemed to get the hint as he leaned forward, with Callen still in his arms. Jared landed on top of him and covered Callen's body with his own. Callen's brain came up with the phrase surrounded by love, and as Jared slowly cherished Callen's body, treating him like the most important person in the world, Callen never knew that this is what he had needed all along.
Jared gave everything, and Callen took it all, offering everything he had back to the younger man. He didn't think it was much of anything compared to what Jared was offering.
When he was sweaty and panting, for a different reason this time, waiting for his heartbeat to slow, Jared, whose head was pillowed on Callen's chest, asked, "Need anything else, G? Water? Another blanket?"
"I'm good," Callen answered, and realized that he meant it. He had everything he needed. Jared was his, and while Callen should have told him to go back to bed, he didn't. He knew that Jared wouldn't, not while Callen was in distress. He'd somehow gotten used to Jared being there and never listening to him, arguing about what Callen really needed.
And if Callen were honest, that was the best feeling in the world.
Rule number six: never make plans
Callen looked away from the TV and over at Jared. Jared's back was against the arm of the couch and his legs were resting atop Callen's lap. "Yeah?"
"Got a wedding invitation in the mail today," Jared said hesitantly. "One of my friends from culinary school is getting married. The wedding's about five months from now… " He drifted off.
Callen knew what he was asking and smiled. "I'd love to go. E-mail me the date so I can ask for it off."
"Really, G?" Jared asked in surprise. "I didn't think… thank you," he finished simply. "I'll e-mail you in the morning."
"No problem. But if we need tuxes, you're paying for the rental," Callen teased.
"Deal," Jared grinned.
Rule number five: never need anyone other than yourself.
"You sure you're okay there, Callen?" Kensi asked.
Callen nodded despite how dizzy he felt. The world was swimming in front of him and he couldn't focus his eyes on anything.
"Callen?" Kensi asked and he could hear concern in her voice. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Blobs of color moved back and forth in front of his face. Callen licked his lips. "Four?"
"Alright," Kensi said, hauling him up out of his seat. "I'm taking you to see Reeds."
Reeds was the on-site doctor at headquarters.
Callen shook his head as he leaned on her. "I'm fine, Kensi."
"I was holding up one finger," she said. "You hit your head pretty hard earlier - you are not okay."
Five minutes later Reeds was there and Callen was getting a lecture about not coming in sooner, and words like mild concussion and blurred vision were being thrown around. Callen must have spaced out because the next thing he knew, he was being gently shaken. "Agent Callen? Can you hear me?"
"I'm fine," Callen said blankly.
"Do you have someone you can call? You can't be alone tonight."
"I-" Callen blinked. "Someone I can call?"
"Give me your phone," Kensi ordered, and Callen clumsily handed it over. "Hello? Jared? This is Kensi… Hold on a second, you're talking way too fast. Callen's fine, for the most part. He has a minor concussion and can't drive - yeah, that would be good. Now is fine. Yes, thank you. I'll see you in a few minutes, then."
"Jared?" Callen asked confused. "Did he call you?"
"I called him," Kensi said patiently.
"I'm fine," Callen said again.
"He's going to come pick you up, okay?" She asked.
Callen blinked. Jared sounded like a good idea right about now. "In that case - I'm not fine."
Kensi sighed. "Men."
Rule number four: always sleep with your shoes on if you want shoes to wear tomorrow.
Callen had tried to wait up for Jared, like he had so many times in the past, but today had been exhausting and he found himself falling asleep on the large couch that Jared owned instead.
When he woke up again it was to the feeling of his shoes being removed. Callen moved his feet a little, trying to pull them away. "Mine."
There was a soft chuckle. "I know they're yours, G. I just thought you'd be more comfortable without them."
"Mine," Callen repeatedly sleepily.
"I'm just putting them with mine," the voice said, and suddenly his feet were cold. "They'll be here in the morning, G. Promise."
Callen believed him for some reason and just pushed his feet into the couch to warm them up, instead.
A moment later someone was pushing at him. "Move over, G."
So Callen moved and a heavy body joined him on the couch. Callen turned and curled around Jared's long frame as a blanket was pulled down on top of them. Callen's arms settled on Jared's waist and he kissed the back of Jared's neck. "Mine."
"Yours," he heard softly, before drifting off to sleep again.
Rule number three: never admit to anything.
"So, G," Sam said over lunch. "How long have you and Jared been together now?"
"Year and a half," Callen said, chewing his hamburger. "Why?"
"Don't you think it's time to move to the next step?" Sam asked, reaching for a fry.
"Da-da-da-dum," Sam hummed in the tune of the Wedding March.
Callen choked on his food. "Marriage?"
Sam shrugged. "You seem pretty set with him. I mean, you love him, right?"
"Jesus, Sam," Callen said, still coughing. "What is this? The Spanish Inquisition?"
"You just seem happy, is all, G. And I know you. You might pretend like you're happy being some homeless bum who doesn't have anything permanent to weight him down, but I think that's a load of shit. You want this," Sam said, looking him in the eye. "And there's no way Jared would say no."
"It's only been a year and a half," Callen repeated.
Sam shrugged again. "What is time, G? He's the one and you know it. It's been long enough to know that you're not gonna find another Jared. He makes you smile, G. He makes you happy. Admit it, he's the best thing to ever happen to your sorry ass."
Callen looked away and thought of this morning, Jared kissing him awake and then making pancakes. And last night, how they just lounged together in bed, both reading. He thought of the way Jared would smile at him all the time, the way Jared made him feel like everything in the world was right and that Callen was enough just as he was.
"He's definitely the best thing," Callen murmured in agreement.
"I know," Sam said. "Boy wonder is perfect. Now what are you going to do about it?"
Rule number two: ask permission to eat any and all food if you didn't buy it.
"Hey, G, how was your…" Jared trailed off as Callen hurried past him into Jared's kitchen.
Callen stuck his head in the fridge and grabbed a banana, tearing open the peel and biting off part. He grabbed some cheese and one of the food containers in there. He plopped it on the counter and pulled off the lid.
"Hungry, G?" Jared asked seriously. "I can make you something."
Callen shook his head and swallowed the last of the banana. "I am so hungry. I never got around to eating the breakfast you made, and then I skipped lunch…" He took the fork that Jared offered him and dug into whatever the leftovers were. "This is really good."
Jared laughed softly and in the time Callen had worked his way through half of the food in front of him, Jared returned with a glass of apple cider, which Callen took gratefully. Callen swallowed half the glass before setting it down.
"Sorry to barge in and eat like this," Callen said sheepishly.
Jared rolled his eyes. "My food is your food, G. And mi casa es su casa."
"Still," Callen insisted. "I should have asked."
"You're so silly, G. You don't have to ask to eat your own food."
"But you bought it."
"For us," Jared said. "I bought it for us."
"Oh," Callen said stupidly.
Jared kissed him on the forehead. "I have some bruschetta, too. Let me get it for you."
Rule number one: don't get attached to people.
Callen faced down guns everyday. He'd been shot, beaten, and tortured to within an inch of his life. Sometimes within a millimeter of his life. But he can't ever remember being as scared as he was right now. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
"Hey, G," Jared greeted warmly from the kitchen. Some days Callen really wondered how he could spend so much time in there. He had to get tired of cooking, eventually. "How was your day?"
Callen smiled back nervously and kicked off his shoes. "Good. Yours?"
Jared sighed dramatically. "Fine. Did I tell you that someone asked for a hot dog last night?" He made a face. "A hot dog! At my restaurant. Might as well go to a mall to eat."
Callen laughed softly as he walked over to his partner. There were ingredients everywhere and at this stage in the cooking, Callen couldn't even begin to guess what Jared was about to make. He pressed a kiss to Jared's shoulder through his t-shirt. "Hot dogs are totally legit foods."
Jared laughed loudly. "You said legit!"
Callen wrinkled his nose. "You're rubbing off on me, in all the wrong ways."
Jared turned and pecked him on the lips. "Tonight, I'll rub off on you in the right way."
"And hot dogs are not fit to be called food," Jared said, going back to their conversation. "If you want a hot dog, stand on a street corner. I'm sure some dingy man with a cart full will eventually pass you."
"You're such a food snob," Callen said with a laugh. He opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water.
"Would you go to a restaurant and order a hot dog?" Jared demanded. "I mean, ah! The nerve of some people. I've never been tempted to spit in someone's food before now."
Jared seemed to think on the question. "There was that time someone kept sending their food back saying it was too salty… there was no salt in it! They making things up. That was a serious test of control, also."
"I love you," Callen blurted.
Jared's head whipped to the side to look at him, a look of complete surprise on his face. "What?"
"I love you," Callen repeated firmly. "I love you, Jared." He reached into his pocket and fumbled for the small gold ring in there. "I know I haven't said it before, but I love you. I love hearing you talk about stupid customers and new recipes and how bad the surf was. I love how you line up your toothbrush so its perpendicular to the counter. I love all the little things about you, and the big ones, too." He looked at Jared a little worriedly, because the other man had stopped breathing a few seconds back.
Callen kneeled, right there in the kitchen, and held the ring up. "I know my job is dangerous, and I have no right to ask you this… Jared Christophe Dassagne, will you marry me?"
"Oh my god," Jared said, eyes wide and blinking at Callen. "You're… I… You… Yes!" He pulled Callen off of the ground and to his feet. "Yes, of course, yes!"
Callen carefully slid the ring onto Jared's finger and really nothing had ever felt better. Jared curled a hand around the back of Callen's neck and their lips met in a sweet, soft kiss. Then Callen pulled Jared into a hug and let out a sob of relief.
"Wait, G!" Jared said, pulling back, and Callen felt his chest tighten in dread. Jared's eyes locked onto his. "I love you, too, G. Callen."
Callen blinked and a smile broke out across his face and he finally felt like he belonged. This was who he was: future husband to Jared C. Dassagne.
Life was his to rent, while he could, and Callen was buying.
"You're mine, G," Jared said pulling him into a hug. "Mine forever."
"Mine," Callen repeated, gripping Jared tightly.
"Yours," Jared promised. "Truly yours."
"I love you." And it didn't matter who said it, because Callen finally knew it was true either way.