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A Multi-Panel Love Story

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"Whaddya think, Squirt? Should the monster at the end of the book have a blue tongue, or a green one?"

Jensen looked over from the storyboard, a slight smile quirking his lips. His son was bouncing on the tips of his toes, his little hands clenched in the fabric of Jared's jeans as he wrestled with this most awesome of responsibilities. Jared tapped his foot against the rung of his stool in the Jeopardy theme song, humming along off-key, his hand poised over the paper attached to his drawing board.

"Blue!" It came out on the exhale, and Harrison heaved a great big sigh, as if he'd just achieved peace in the Middle East with that one decision. Jared nodded his approval, and began inking in his drawing with a lurid shade of blue.

"Stellar job, kiddo," Jensen congratulated him. "Now I think it's about time we left for school. I want to meet your new teacher before class begins."

Harrison joined him cheerfully enough, after a hair ruffle from Jared, of course, and Jensen thanked his lucky stars that Harrison was taking to school, despite the unfortunate incident with Ms. Katie. Three weeks into kindergarten, and Harrison's teacher had slipped on, no joke, a banana peel and was now in the hospital with a broken tailbone and several other broken bones. Jensen was a little hazy on the details, as Jared had picked Harrison up from school that day and he was laughing too hard to form coherent sentences.

"Looking forward to meeting Ms. Misha, Harrison?" Jensen asked as he helped his son into his windbreaker and took his hand.

"Uh-huh. I didn't like Mr. Tom, he smelled funny, and Mr. Michael didn't use special voices during story time…"

Jensen found himself nodding his head to his son's litany of the faults of Ms. Katie's substitutes as they walked down the sidewalk, and had to catch himself. "Look, buddy, no one's going to be the same as Ms. Katie, but it's your job to give the new sub a chance. Be respectful. Nice," he clarified when Harrison's brow crinkled at the big word. "This one's going to be with you until January."

"Do I have to be nice even if they're like Mr. Chad and bring us cookies that taste like ass?"

"Harrison! We don't use that word," Jensen said firmly. Dammit, Jared, you asshole.

"Even if they bring us Fig Newtons that taste like ass?"

Jensen growled, and Harrison dissolved into giggles. He was still laughing at his own daring genius when they made it to the crosswalk in front of the school, just two short blocks from the bungalow where Jensen and Harrison lived, and Jensen and Jared created their graphic novels. It was like "Two and a Half Men" without the drug-addicted 80's playboy. (Actually, that was Jared's term for it. Jensen had never seen "Two and a Half Men" and called the house "the house." He saved his brilliant turns-of-phrase for their graphic novels and the four English Lit grad students who sent them densely worded fan letters on the mythical themes demonstrated by the fart-joke-cracking monsters contained therein.)

Jensen helped his son hang up his jacket in his cubby hole ("No, I can do it, Dad!"), hung the jacket when it fell a third time, knocked it off again when Harrison's lower lip trembled so the boy could hang it himself, and looked around for the new teacher. They were one of the first ones there, just a couple other parents and a handful of five-year-olds – no one that could pass as Ms. Misha. Though Alona was smiling up at a strange man with his back to Jensen.

Way to go, Alona! He flashed her a wink and a thumb's up, and got a pair of narrowed eyes in return. She may have still been harboring a slight resentment towards him for setting her up on a date with Jared. 'Abysmal Failure' was the kindest thing that could be said for that experience. Jensen frowned right back. She obviously wasn't having trouble finding someone of true boyfriend material if she'd dragged a date with her to her daughter's school.

She smiled up at the guy again, they must still have been in the honeymoon phase, and nodded in Jensen's direction. Crap, he'd have to meet Alona's Man. Jensen preferred keeping his social interactions with strangers to a bare minimum, and he'd already allotted his daily time for small talk to Harrison's new teacher. Now he'd have to fake it with this guy, too.

"Jensen," she called out, squashing any hope he could disappear into the hall and wait for the sub there, "come here, I want to introduce you to the new teacher."

A loud shriek sounded from the storytime corner, and all three adults instinctively turned and took a step in that direction. False alarm as the shriek turned into giggles, which were quickly lowered to Indoor Voice level as Alona caught her daughter's eye.

"You mean our kids haven't scared her off?" Jensen mumbled, turning back to Alona and her boyfriend.

"It would take a bit more than a Macauley Culkin impersonation to get me running," the boyfriend said, brow furrowed in concentration. "I think it would have to be something more along the lines of an alien invasion." He gave a sudden wide grin and held out his hand. "Misha Collins. Your kids will be calling me Mr. Misha, not Ms. Misha, by the way. Less confusing for them."

"Uh," Jensen stammered, in the wittiest rejoinder known to man. At least he managed to shake hands well. Mr. Misha had nice hands, soft skin over wiry muscles and a strong grip.

"Don't worry, lots of people get thrown by the name," Misha confided. "I thought it'd get better when I started using the nickname, but…" He shrugged his shoulders, and Jensen realized rather belatedly that he was still holding the man's hand. Okay, mistook him for a woman and fouled up the handshake. Can't get any worse. He dropped Misha's hand and surreptitiously wiped his nervous sweat off on his jeans. Misha noticed.

"It's not catching," he said, a little line appearing between his eyebrows. "Unless you're going to legally change your name to Elizabeth."

"Your name is Elizabeth?" Alona asked, eyes wide with incredulity and a smirk playing across her lips. "I don't believe you for a second."

Misha held up his hands in mock surrender. "Take it up with my parents. I'm just lucky not to have been named LunarFlower."

Alona touched Misha on the bicep when she laughed, her head thrown back and the very picture of golden beauty. Jensen stifled a sigh. Flirting was really not a fun spectator sport. His eyes wandered to Harrison and Alona's girl, Veronica, wholly engrossed in a game of pretend. Probably 'zoo,' Harrison'd been obsessed with practicing lion roars and pouncing on 'prey' lately.

"He has brilliant technique," Misha remarked. Jensen looked up, pleased at the compliment for Harrison who was, of course, the most brilliant child to ever grace the Earth, and also that the sub knew when to stop flirting and pay attention to the kids. "Would you introduce us?" he continued, touching Jensen lightly on the arm.

"Sure." Jensen brightened considerably. Now things were working themselves out more like he'd expected. Except that Misha's hand…lingered…a bit on his arm. He gave a squeeze and drew it away a moment later. It probably meant nothing. He did have nice hands, though. "Harrison, come here and say hello to Mr. Misha."

Harrison ran right over and threw his arms around Misha's knees. "My dad thought you were a girl teacher."

Betrayed by my own flesh and blood! "He doesn't know what he's saying; they just teach them to mimic syllables in the ape house at the zoo."

Thank God Misha laughed at that. He crouched down until he was eye level with Harrison. "I was watching you earlier. You have quite an imagination."

"That's my biggest word! I know what it is." Harrison gestured Misha closer, and Jensen exchanged a look with Alona before leaning in, too. "People without imaginations are boring sadsacks," he whispered loudly in the vicinity of Misha's ear. Jensen cringed.

"Did your dad tell you that?" Misha asked with a grin.

"Hell, no!" Jensen exclaimed. Misha raised a brow at him, and Harrison gave him a particularly mulish expression. "Well, the boring bit, that was probably me," he amended. "The rest of it sounds like Jared."

Misha directed his smile at Jensen now, and Jensen's heart did a strange little backflip. "Who's Jared?"

"My partner." Misha's smile didn't slip, but Jensen hurried to clarify regardless. "My business partner, I mean, not my life partner; it's not like that. Jared's not goy. Um, gay."

Oh my God, shut up, you moron!

Alona was giving him a much too knowing look, and Misha was still smiling. Jensen just wanted the floor to open up and swallow him whole. This was why he always took business meetings with Jared, and the few times he'd gone to various comic book and graphic novel conventions, he'd sat frozen on the stage with Jared and deferred as many questions as possible to the other man. He just clammed up around strangers, and when he tried to fix it, he got disastrous results.

Harrison pulled Misha's ear close again. "My dad's gay," he stated matter-of-factly. "That means that he wants a boyfriend."

Oh dear God.

Alona rescued him, because she was a saint and this meeting was even worse than whatever had happened on that date with Jared, clearly.

"The other kids are starting to arrive," (they weren't) "and Jensen and I really have to get to work." (Jensen worked for himself, and he knew for a fact that Alona's show was on hiatus for another couple of weeks.) "You guys have a great day, okay? Be good."

Veronica ran over and hugged her mother, and Harrison demanded three high-fives before abandoning his father once more in favor of the storytime corner. Misha rose from his crouch and shook first Alona's hand, then Jensen's. He stood close, and Jensen got a whiff of his cologne, a slightly spicy scent. And wow, his eyes were this blue that went beyond blue. They were…very…blue. Sweet Jesus, I've forgotten how to string words together.

Jensen gave him a weak smile and dropped his hand like a hot potato. "I'll see you for lunch, Harrison," he called over his shoulder, already beating a hasty retreat.

Alona caught up to him outside the classroom. Jensen entertained the vain hope that she wouldn't say anything. It lasted for all of ten seconds.

"It wasn't that bad, sweetie," she said with a sympathetic smile.

"Oh, really? You can think of a way that could've gone worse? Let's see, I insulted him, tripped over my tongue, managed to mispronounce the word gay, which takes true skill, I might add, and to top it off, my son basically propositioned him on my behalf. So. Do tell me how that could have gone worse."

"Well, when you put it that way…"

"Thanks, you're a big help," Jensen muttered, holding the front door of the school open for her. He might have shown a total lack of social skills that morning, but he was not a complete Neanderthal.

"Look at it this way, Jen," she said, stopping at her car. "I know when a man is in to me. And that man? Was perfectly charming and gorgeous, and so not in to me. Damn, he grinned like a loon whenever he laid eyes on you."

Jensen stopped dead in his tracks. "Are you just humoring me?"

Alona rolled her eyes. "Do you think I would let a nice guy who's good with kids go if I thought I had a chance with him?"

"Point taken." His spirits lifted slightly, from the Pit of Despair to the Bog of Eternal Stench. It was an improvement.

"Bring Jared with you next time to contain your verbal diarrhea." She laughed at the face he made. "Now shoo, I have to get to work."

"I thought you were on hiatus?"

"I am. But the voice of Princess Flutterby needs a new, gas-efficient car. I'm singing the jingle for a toilet bowl cleaner commercial."

"Glamorous."

"Don't I know it." She got into her SUV which, Jensen agreed, was a total waste. "And don't worry about Mr. Misha!"

He tried not to. Luckily Jared was engrossed in finishing a couple of panels when he got back and greeted him with a grunt. Jensen didn't think he could hide all evidence of his morning from his face, and was thankful for the level of detail Jared was lavishing on their latest monster.

The Ninth Circle was born during Jensen's senior year at Austin when he met Jared, a freshman struggling with an English Lit course. Jared had showed up at the Writing Center for help with a paper and walked out with a best friend. And a draft of "The Short Story Form: Not Just Good Because It's Short" covered in red ink. Both boys had an affinity for video games, comic books, and genre TV, and both had needed to hide their geek status from various friends growing up. Jared was majoring in Undecided and minoring in Art; Jensen had almost completed his BA in Business, with a minor in English Lit.

The very first issue of The Ninth Circle was written on the back of two pizza boxes after a marathon session of Legend of Zelda. A mutual friend had photographed the boxes and run them in the school paper. It was the first time either boy had realized that they could be popular doing something they actually genuinely liked, and it was infectious. After graduation, Jensen got a boring desk job at a company he exorcised from his memory the minute Jared graduated, and they poured the money Jensen had made into launching The Ninth Circle. And after a couple of lean years, they caught the eye of an older graphic novelist and their names began to crop up in certain audiences.

They were lucky, Jensen freely admitted. It helped that Jared was such a people person, and that Jensen had a head for business. Lots of people wrote and illustrated graphic novels that never saw the light of day. But you could find The Ninth Circle in several different chain bookstores across the country, plus quite a few mom-and-pop places and specialty shops.

And being a successful graphic novelist gave one a certain allure. Well, to some people. It was how Jensen met Harrison's mother and had his one and only sexual encounter with a woman. ("What about those cheerleaders that time…?" Jared asked. "That wasn't, you know. Penetrative," Jensen replied. "Ew, dude! I'm eating here!") Jensen kept the personal info about her in a strongbox at the bank, but she hadn't looked back since the day she had plopped the baby in his arms and left with: "It's a boy, try not to raise an asshole." (They were still rather poor then, and sharing an apartment. Jared had wanted Jensen to sell his sperm because it was clearly magical, baby-on-the-first-try sperm. Jensen had told him to empty the Diaper Genie.)

But after Harrison was born, Jensen's love life took a nosedive. His sex life was still pretty healthy, but lately even that was drying up. He just didn't want a quick blow job and an insincere "see you later." Harrison was right – he wanted a boyfriend.

"DUDE!" The eraser hit him squarely between the eyes. Jensen blinked and reached for something with which to retaliate. "Don't even think about it! I've been yelling for you for three minutes! What the hell's with you?"

Jared looked more amused than put out.

"Nothing!" Jensen stared intently at his computer screen and the scene he was supposed to be working on.

"Uh huh. You are the worst liar I have ever met."

Jensen hitched his shoulders back.

"Ah-ha! That! That's your tell!" Jared cried, pointing in triumph. "What the fuck's wrong with you? Let me see, it didn't happen yesterday, it didn't happen this morning, the only time I wasn't with you was…oh my God. Harrison's new teacher. IS IT HIS MOTHER?"

Jensen almost fell off his chair. "WHAT? Are you insane? His mother's not the teacher, doofus, he's not even a woman."

"You almost gave me a heart attack, man." Jared clutched at his chest and took a dramatic breath of air. "Wait a second," he continued, his hands falling to his sides. "Dude. The new teacher's a dude?"

Jensen held his shoulders still through a supreme act of willpower. "Correct."

"'Correct'? 'Correct'? Oh, Jen, you've already fallen for the teacher, haven't you?"

"How the fuck do you do that?" Jensen burst out.

Jared waved his question away. "Dude, I know you better than you know yourself. So. Tell me about this teacher. Is his name really Misha, or was that a typo?"

"It's his name. And he's…" Jensen sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "It doesn't matter what he's like. I acted like a complete idiot in front of him this morning."

"I'm sure you weren't –"

"Trust me, I was. We'll be lucky if Harrison doesn't get flunked on principle."

Jared rolled his eyes. "No, trust me. One dose of Padalecki Damage Control, and Mr. Misha will be begging for your number."

"He already has all the parents' numbers."

"One dose of Padalecki Damage Control, and Mr. Misha will be begging for your c –"

Jensen hit him right between the eyes with a stress ball. The ensuing fight led them from the studio into the living room, winding up in the kitchen with Jared's head in the sink and the soggy remains of Harrison's Fruit Loops in his hair.

"Uncle! Uncle!" he sputtered, a hand flailing behind him for Jensen and dinging the countertop instead. "Fuck, that hurt!"

"Serves you right, asswipe!" Jensen let him go and leaned back against the opposite counter, trying to catch his breath. Wrestling with Jared was always quite the workout.

Jared struggled to his feet and gave a shake of his hair. Milk droplets flew through the air, and a red Fruit Loop stuck itself to Jensen's cheek before falling to the floor with a soft plop.

"Looks like you have some cleaning to do, Papa Bear. I can't believe you mussed my hair. I'm almost mad enough to badmouth you to your massive crush, but because I'm such a great guy…"

"I'd prefer it if you didn't say anything at all," Jensen muttered. Dammit, there was milk all over the floor. He'd have to use the Wet Swiffer.

"Nonsense! I'm just going to go pretty myself up, then go pick up the cub and chat up this dude for you."

"Jared…" Jensen protested. Weakly. He really couldn't make it worse.

"Enough. As Disney's Robin Hood did say, 'Faint heart never won fair lady.' Or dude." He gave a broad wink and a bow, and marched from the kitchen, calling back over his shoulder, "I just need to fix my hair first!"

***

Jensen puttered around the house, cleaning, waiting for Jared and Harrison to get back. Jared was an utter slob, one of the reasons he didn't just live with Jensen and Harrison any more, since he was over all the time anyway. Cleaning was usually a soothing activity for Jensen, putting everything into its place and sweeping up the messes. Luckily for him, Harrison had inherited the trait, although his idea of 'everything in its place' included his toys as prominent features of each room in the house.

Cleaning only took so long, and when Jared had been gone half an hour, Jensen began to imagine the worst. Jared was telling Misha about the misunderstanding with the kittens from their very first comic book convention presentation. Or he was filling Misha in on Jensen's checkered past love life. Or Jared and Harrison were acting out the morning Jensen had discovered his first gray hair. He got antsier and antsier, and then a key turned in the lock.

Jared burst out laughing at the expression on his face. "Dude! Quit your worrying!"

"Daddy! Daddy!" Harrison exclaimed, running towards him with arms outstretched. "Mr. Misha is the coolest! We're going to make masks for Halloween! And Mr. Misha taught us to play a whole song on the kazoo! And Mr. Misha has been to Australia! They talk funny there! Mr. Misha is the coolest!"

"You said that already," Jensen said, giving his son a big hug. "I guess he must be doubly cool, huh?"

"Yup-yup-yup! Can I have grilled cheese for lunch?"

"May you have…"

"May I have grilled cheese for lunch?"

"Sure, squirt. Go get the stuff out, I just need to talk to Jared for a second."

Harrison went running off for the kitchen. Jensen fixed Jared with a firm look. Jared laughed.

"We talked about The Ninth Circle, dude. I swear that's all. Cross my heart. He was very impressed, by the way."

Jensen raised an eyebrow, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Hey, I'm as innocent as can be, Ms. Malloy." Jared shot him a grin. "But he's totally going to call you, very soon."

"Is that so?"

"Yup-yup-yup! Now come on, I'm starving. And I love grilled cheese."

***

Jensen didn't have long to wait, as it turned out. The very next evening his phone rang as he was loading the dishwasher after dinner. He didn't recognize the number and almost didn't answer it, but it was his own area code and the habit had been ingrained in him since he was a kid, so he reached for it and tapped the screen.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Jensen!" a cheerful voice greeted him. He didn't recognize it, but it sure sounded like the voice knew him.

"Um, yeah," he said, hoping he wouldn't have to admit that he hadn't a clue who he was talking to.

"Your name is on my list for the Halloween Party!"

Oh, shit. I'm going to kill Jared.

"Look, buddy, that was a one-time thing, and I was drunk, and I only went because my idiot of a best friend broke his foot and he gave me these puppy dog eyes, and what are you going to say to that?"

There was a silence on the other end, during which Jensen started to get the horrible sensation that he was not talking to who he thought he was talking to.

"That story sounds fascinating, truly, but I was calling about the kindergarten Halloween Party for next week. You're on the list Ms. Katie left me as a parent chaperone."

Holy fucking shit. He was never, ever going to be able to have a conversation with this man that he could look back on and…no. He was never, ever going to be able to have a conversation with this man, full stop.

"I'm so sorry," he managed finally. "Of course I'm being a parent chaperone. What…what do you need?"

He should volunteer to make cookies. He'd never made cookies before. Pictures, he could photograph the costume parade. Or was that considered creepy? What was it about Misha that made him act like he'd been raised in a barn and hadn't learned a lick of social skills since? Lick. Great, now he was thinking about Misha's neck, and wouldn't it be great to run his tongue –

"Actually, I wanted your advice. Ms. Katie's note says that the adults all dress to a theme, and this year it was comic book superheroes."

"Oh, yeah." He had a costume. It was a little embarrassing.

"And your partner mentioned that the two of you make graphic novels, so I figured, you'd probably know more about kinds of superheroes –"

"Constantine," he blurted out, interrupting Misha. "You'd make an awesome Constantine." He blushed, thankful that Misha couldn't actually see him.

"Constantine? Who's that? And how's the costume?"

"He's kind of an anti-hero. It's an angels and demons kind of comic book. Really cool imagery. Constantine's a white dude with dark hair, about your height and build, plus the costume's a snap. He wears a tan trench coat." Wow he made it through that whole thing without tripping over his tongue! New world record.

"Hmmm, sounds like a flasher."

"Oh, he wears pants! A plain dark suit and white shirt beneath the trench coat," he added.

"That's good. They don't allow flashers in the kindergarten, you know. I'd have to chase myself off with a pitchfork."

Jensen laughed much harder than the joke called for. Harrison wandered in from the living room, where he'd been watching his single half-hour of allowed cartoons for the day, curious to see what was so funny.

"What's so funny, Daddy?" he asked in his piercing whisper.

"Um, clothes. Is your show done?" he asked, covering the phone with his hand.

"Yup. I want a story before bed!"

"Go choose one and I'll be there in a minute." He uncovered the phone again. "Misha? Sorry about that. His Royal Highness has requested a story."

"We read Skippyjon Jones in class today."

"That's one of Harrison's favorites!"

"I gathered from the way he acted it out," Misha said drily.

"Sorry if that was distracting," he apologized again. "He's very…enthusiastic."

"I think he's brilliant. It's refreshing to be around a child who engages the world around him on such a level."

Oh my God, I want to fuck this man so bad.

He cleared his throat. "Thanks," he said, rather more gruff-sounding than usual.

"No, thank you," Misha said, laughing. "Anyhow, I'll let you go for story time. And someday we're going to have to have our own story time, and you can tell me about that other Halloween Party."

"It's really a boring story." Jensen wondered if his ear-to-ear grin sounded like something over the phone. "Hey, you need any Halloween Party help before next week, give me a call. I'm willing."

And willing to do so much more to you, too.

"Will do. See you soon, Jensen."

"Yeah. Bye, Misha."

He ended the call with a smile. Okay, one minor setback, but then Misha had totally implied that he wanted to spend some one-on-one time with Jensen. It was going to happen.

"DADDDDDDDDDDDDYYYYYYYYYY! STORRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYY!"

***

Misha contacted him several times over the next week. He sent a picture of himself in a trench coat, with the caption "Constantine or Mad Whacker?" Jensen assured him that it worked perfectly. Privately, he thought the other man looked fucking hot, with his messy dark hair and laughing blue eyes. Then Jensen started the exchange of messages for the day, using the party as the excuse, of course. Jared rolled his eyes and told him to go jump Misha's bones, but he also previewed his opening text and declared it innocuous enough ("Though much too bland, come on, dude, you're not selling him carpet, you want to get carpet burns with him! If you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge."):

"DO WE NEED MORE TREATS FOR THE PARTY?"

Jensen had to agree with Jared, but it was too early to go for something more overt. Still, he inwardly winced at his text. You could never tell he made a good living as a writer from that text. But it did get him a response:

"NOTHING W/ PEANUTS! TOO MANY DAMN ALLERGIES."

Well, that took out most of Jensen's favorites. But now he needed to ask another question and prolong the conversation:

"COOKIES? OR BAGGED CANDY?"

The response was almost immediate:

"YOU BAKE?"

And sometimes one had to lie between one's teeth, for love. Or sex:

"I CAN MAKE SNICKERDOODLES."

Technically, he had never made snickerdoodles. But he did believe he was physically capable of making them, hence he could make them. And he was most definitely going to, based on Misha's reply:

"I LOVE THOSE LITTLE FUCKERS."

He'd taken to bringing Harrison to school and also picking him up, instead of Jared, and he was sure Misha's hand lingered in his that day when they shook hands at the end of school.

Jared came with him the day before the party to take Harrison home, leaving Jensen to help with the decorating.

"I have lights!" Misha announced after the kids had all filed out, Harrison (and Jared) with shit-eating grins and double thumbs up.

"Okay. Is, um, anyone else staying to help decorate?" Jensen looked around the empty classroom. Was he going to be blessed with Misha all to himself? It was just like the last three masturbatory fantasies he'd had.

"No, is that okay? Alona was going to help decorate, but when she heard you were going to be here, too, she suddenly wanted to be elsewhere." Misha raised his eyebrow.

"Oh. She can be, uh, flighty." Which was stretching the truth to the snapping point, and he'd have to make it up to her and sufficiently thank her for this opportunity. Maybe with a mansion. Misha was watching him with his intense blue eyes, and Jensen fumbled for something to say. "What did you want to do with this orange and black stuff?"

"Crepe. We're going to make streamers. I think. Though streamers sound a little boring to me, what do you think? Do you color outside the lines, Jensen?"

God, he was so close now. He smelled like chalk and play-doh and the granola and soy milk they'd had for snack time. Jensen couldn't look away from his mouth, the lower lip glistening in the ugly fluorescent lighting; couldn't stop imaging the white soy milk dribbling down his throat, leaving a milky ring around his lips. The moment stretched, until Misha sighed, the breath ghosting out across Jensen's lips. It was pure instinct that caused him to lean forward and capture Misha's lips with his own.

The kiss was gentle at first, neither of them touching except for their mouths, until Misha chuckled.

"What?" Jensen breathed against his lips.

"I was hoping you'd go for this," Misha said. His grin was blinding, it really was, and Jensen just had to kiss him again, in the corners of his lips, nibbling the plump lower lip and sucking it into his mouth, slipping his tongue inside Misha's grin and licking. Finally pulling him closer by the back of his neck and his waist, anything to get him closer and drink in that grin.

It was a miracle the room got decorated at all. Misha decided to eschew the streamers all together, and went for the minimalist approach, using the lights to highlight the masks the kids had been making over the past week. (Harrison's was green and warty, and had a lurid blue tongue.) Jensen took every opportunity he could to touch the other man, brushing his knuckles against his waistband, running his fingers through his hair, tracing his jawline with his thumb. Misha reacted like a cat, soaking up the attention and purring. They had to pause several times to make out with loud, sloppy kisses and hands hovering over buttons and waistbands. They broke apart with a start when the school bell rang, signaling the end of the day for the older students.

Jensen caught his breath as dozens of little feet pounded by the door and down the hall. Misha looked out of breath, too, he noted smugly, and his eyes were even wider than usual.

"I forgot for a moment that we weren't alone," Misha whispered conspiratorially.

Jensen laughed, a full-bodied laugh with his head thrown back and noticed Misha staring at him as his laughter died down.

"What?" he asked. He showed all his teeth when he laughed. Maybe Misha thought that was a turn-off?

"I really want you to laugh more." Misha laid his hand against Jensen's neck. "Please."

"Okay." Jensen grinned. "I can work on that."

Misha leaned forward and kissed him, a quick brush of lips. "I need to head to my other job now. But I look forward to seeing you tomorrow."

"Wait, what? You have another job?"

"Yup." Misha gave him an enigmatic little Mona Lisa smile. Dammit.

"You're not going to tell me what it is, are you?" he asked.

"All in good time. Good things come to those who wait. Judge not, lest ye be judged. To the baker of the snickerdoodles goes the answer."

Jensen threw his hands up in the air. "Have it your way. I'll see you tomorrow, Misha. With cookies." He turned to leave.

"Jensen! Wait, you forgot something!"

Jensen patted his pockets. "No, I didn't." He turned around to find Misha right on his heels.

"I can't believe you fell for that," he murmured, pressing their lips together for one final kiss. "Now you can go."

Jared and Harrison wanted a (highly edited) report the moment he stepped through the front door. His wide grin and swollen lips were fairly indicative to Jared that he'd had a good afternoon, but he'd always been very careful to keep his love life separate from his family life, and Harrison had only met one boyfriend, and had been too young to remember how icky he thought it was the one time he'd seen them kiss. He told Harrison that he and Mr. Misha were 'good friends' now and had had a 'good time' decorating for the party. Jared rolled his eyes and made obscene gestures over Harrison's head.

They set to work making snickerdoodles. Jensen had skimmed through the available recipes on the internet after his texts with Misha. Snickerdoodles had one weird ingredient, and all three of them very carefully tasted the cream of tartar (which was most definitely not a cream) before adding it to the bowl. Jared was a messy stirrer, so Jensen took the job from him and gave it to Harrison, who stirred so enthusiastically, flour puffed up and settled in a fine dust all over the counter. Jensen took control of the stirring after that, and gave the other two the task of mixing sugar and cinnamon together into the perfect combination. They wound up with about three cups of sugar/cinnamon mixture, as Jared kept thinking it too light and added too much cinnamon to counterbalance the sugar, and then needed to add more sugar to make up for way too much cinnamon.

Finally, the first tray was in the oven. Harrison bounced on the balls of his feet, boogey-ing around the kitchen and singing a song he made up on the spot called "Magic Boyfriend Cookies Are Yummy," much to Jared's amusement.

Only, they were burned to a crisp. The second batch they took out much too early. The third batch Jared burned his fingers on and rescued the tray with gritted teeth, only for Harrison to accidentally drop it on the floor and burst into tears. Jensen pulled him onto his lap and settled in the rocking chair in the living room, a dumpster-dive find Jared had resuscitated back when Harrison was a baby and they all lived together.

Jensen woke up an hour later with the most delicious smell tickling his nose. Harrison was doing his fish impression against his neck, drool pooling in Jensen's clavicle, dried tracks of tears staining his cheeks. Jared appeared at his elbow.

"Hey," he whispered, proffering a napkin with a fresh cookie on it. He didn't have to say anything else. Jensen hoisted Harrison onto his shoulder and followed Jared into the kitchen. Four dozen un-burnt snickerdoodles cooled on paper towels on the counter. Jared had made an entirely new batch of the cookies.

"Thanks, man."

***

It was no surprise to Jensen that he dreamed of Misha that night. They'd ordered from the Greek takeout place after the fiasco with the cookies, as Harrison would subsist on feta cheese and olives alone, if he was in charge of the Ackles House menu. Jensen bought Jared an extra-large gyro with all the fixings. They always tended to show their gratitude for each other with food.

Jensen usually dreamed after Greek food. Perhaps it was the cheese, or maybe the spinach, but he started his dream in the middle of getting fucked and it only got better from there. Misha's skin glowed golden (like a Greek god, he thought hazily) and sweat dripped off his nose and curled his hair. They were in a kitchen, and it was hot, open fires burning in huge stoves on either side of the room, Jensen splayed out on a wooden table in the middle of the kitchen, with Misha working himself into him, slowly and thoroughly until Jensen thought he would burst. Misha's fingers gripped his hips and then he was up on the table with Jensen, and Jensen found a hitherto unknown gymnastic ability and accepted him easily, his ankles going up to Misha's shoulders. Misha pounded into him, so easy, and then he bent down and took Jensen's cock into his mouth.

Best. Dream. Ever. He woke up a sticky mess, gasping for breath. He couldn't recall the last time he'd come from a dream. He'd probably been twelve.

He helped Harrison into his gray squirrel costume the next morning, adjusting the flight goggles and little brown leather helmet.

"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat." Jared let himself in without knocking. His antlers added another six inches to his already massive height. Harrison squealed at the sight of him.

"Bullwinkle!" he shouted, holding his arms out. Jared picked him up and threw him into the air, catching him easily.

"Try not to drop the squirrel. The helmet's just for show." Jensen watched them with a slightly doofy smile on his face before Jared eyed his pajamas (the second ones he'd worn last night) and asked if he was going as Sir-Sleeps-A-Lot.

Jensen shook himself. "Don't break anything. I'll be ready in ten minutes."

He hurried to his room and shut the door. He was not wearing tights, at least there was that. It was a rather tight outfit, though. He took a deep breath and began to change into Captain America. Ten minutes later, he wanted to castrate whoever invented the unitard, but he was dressed and impressive-looking. He hefted his Captain America shield and surveyed himself in the mirror. He should probably wear his skullcap thing to complete the look, but he had limited visibility in that thing. And he hated it besides.

"Okay, you guys," he said, walking into the living room. Jared paused, Harrison dangling upside-down from his hands. Jensen barked a laugh. "Why am I not surprised to find you two like this?"

"Wow, Dad, you look beautiful!" Harrison exclaimed.

"He means tough," Jared explained at Jensen's startled expression, carefully setting Harrison down on his bum. "I mean, if I weren't immune to your charms, I'd want to take you out back and –"

"Great, I think we're ready," Jensen interrupted, whacking Jared upside the head, knocking his antlers askew. "Come, Rocky. Bullwinkle can tag along behind."

Jared was still chortling under his breath as they gathered the cookies and left the house. Harrison skipped along in front, giddy with excitement for what was clearly going to be the best day of school ever.

"You nervous?" Jared asked softly.

"What? No," Jensen scoffed.

"Uh huh. You realize you're wearing a costume that makes you look like sex on a stick. To a children's party."

Jensen glared at him. "The theme is 'Comic Book Superheroes,' Einstein. All of the chaperones will look like this."

Jared snorted. "Jen, none of the chaperones will look like that. You're fucking hot, just as hot as me."

Jensen looked him up and down. He didn't know anyone as secure in their sexuality as Jared, all 6-foot, 5-inch of him covered in a ridiculous moose costume.

"I think we can safely assume that no one will look quite like you, either," he said finally.

"Damn straight," Jared muttered. "I was born to be Bullwinkle."

Alona and Veronica met them in the parking lot. Jensen had to admit that Alona could pull off the spandex look nicely, too. Veronica gave them a gapped-tooth smile from the depths of her panda costume.

"Lift me up!" she demanded of Jared. No sooner had he bent to oblige her than Harrison decided that he simply must be picked up, too, and clearly Jared had to do it, since he was Bullwinkle.

"Good idea, putting Jared to work," Alona said to Jensen, nodding in approval as the moose carried the panda under one arm and the squirrel under the other into the school. "Did you have a good time decorating yesterday?" she asked with a sly smile.

"I owe you," he admitted. "What could Captain America do for Sue Storm?"

"Get laid," she laughed. "You're funny when you're falling all over Mr. Misha."

Jensen regretted leaving his face-piece off when his cheeks flamed.

The classroom was utter chaos when they made it inside, so much so that Jensen couldn't see the trench coat Misha was supposed to be wearing through the sea of kids, parents and superhero chaperones. Harrison and Veronica immediately dragged Jared over to their masks, which Jensen had hung next to each other. He kept one ear on their prattle as he scanned the crowd. Alona plucked the cookies from his hands and gave him a little nudge towards the cubby holes. Sure enough, Misha-as-Constantine rose from a crouch and his eyes met Jensen's. Jensen felt a little flush of pride at the way the other man's eyes widened when he took in Jensen's costume.

"Jensen!" he exclaimed, navigating around several desks, a Power Ranger, a Transformer and Tinker Bell to get to his side. "I have no idea who that superhero is, but I am suddenly filled with the burning desire to learn all I can about him."

"I'm Captain America," Jensen said, laughing. "There's this face thing I should be wearing, but I can't see well out of it, so I left it off."

"I wouldn't want your face covered, either," Misha murmured. He gave himself a small shake. "And do I look like your Constantine?" he asked, holding his arms out and spinning.

"Yeah. You look completely bada – tough," he corrected himself.

Misha's eyes sparkled at him. "Good. We should get this show on the road, shouldn't we?" He didn't wait for an answer, but clapped his hands together loudly. "Fairies and princesses, heroes and heroines, villains and minions – everyone form up, we're heading to the gym for the costume parade. Parents, please take your seats in the gymnasium. Chaperones, inject a little order into this kid soup."

Thus followed four hours of barely controlled chaos. The entire kindergarten paraded past their parents (Jensen dealt with three skinned knees, two accidental shovings, two deliberate shovings, one torn costume and one wig theft), then attended a skit put on by the third-graders on Dia de los Muertos (Jensen learned that glow-in-the-dark dancing skeletons were one of the top four scary objects to five-year-olds), and finally divided back into their separate classrooms for Halloween brunch (Jensen discovered that orange and green scrambled eggs on top of a variety of Twix, Twizzlers and Almond Joys made an unholy alliance when they came back up a five-year-old's throat).

Finally the bell for the half-day rang, and Jensen let out a sigh of relief. Parents and kids and candy began to file out of the room, leaving Misha and his fellow comic book superheroes to clean up the mess. Jensen gave Harrison a big hug and thanked him for being such a good Rocky all day, and promised him a special treat for that evening. Bullwinkle carried a triumphant Rocky out on his shoulders. Alona finished packing up the leftover food and left soon after with Veronica. That just left Jensen, Misha and the other three superhero chaperones. Iron Man flat-out refused to touch the vomit. Jensen rolled his eyes and set to work. Vomit came part and parcel with being a parent. Iron Man needed to develop an iron stomach.

Eventually Jean Grey took down the last of the lights, said her goodbyes and Jensen and Misha were left alone. Misha heaved a great sigh.

"Tell me the truth," he said, pointing his finger, "best party ever, or what?"

"Well, Jared always says it's not a party until someone's horked on the carpet, so, yeah, I'd have to call this a resounding success."

Misha made a face. "Thanks for dealing with that. I think there's some industrial-strength hand soap in the supply closet. Let me see here…"

"Whoa," Jensen breathed, following him into the large walk-in closet and looking around at the neatly labeled and color-coded shelves. "This thing is huge. And so organized."

Misha paused in the back corner. "Oh my God. You're turned on by this, aren't you?"

Jensen shot him a sheepish grin. He couldn't help it. There was just something sexy about the scissors and glue next to each other, and up high, out of the reach of little, grabby hands. Bottom rows? Tubs of blocks and play-doh. Cleaning supplies? In the locked cabinet Misha was fumbling to open. It was a thing of beauty.

"Did you arrange this?" Jensen asked casually, waving his hand at the shelves.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but not a chance." Misha grinned up at him and gave a final tug to the padlock, and the cleaning cabinet swung open. "This is the supply cabinet for all of kindergarten. Principal Kripke showed it to me himself. I mess it up on pain of death." He laughed softly at Jensen's fallen expression. "Don't worry, I'm not a total slob! My house is highly organized chaos."

"Highly organized?" Jensen asked, cocking a brow. He reached around Misha for the soap, by necessity moving a couple of steps closer. His heart was pounding and he knew his shaky breath was brushing Misha's lips.

"Mmm. You should come there and see." His smile was fucking blinding, totally letting Jensen in on the joke of the super cheesy come-on. "Ask me to find anything there, and I can." Misha's hand trailed lightly up the Captain America suit before yanking Jensen's neck close for an aggressive kiss. His fingers tangled in the short hairs at the nape of Jensen's neck and then they were off and running. There was none of the delicate making out of the day before. Jensen barely got the closet door closed before Misha was slamming him up against it and shoving his knee between Jensen's legs. Jensen's eyes stuttered closed in pleasure as he thrust his tongue repeatedly into Misha's mouth, sucking on the other man's tongue with a distinct lack of finesse. Misha didn't seem to mind, judging from his throaty groans and the way he ground his hips against Jensen's cock through the uniform.

Both of them seemed to realize at the same time that it was going to be a bear getting out of the Captain America suit. Misha swore brazenly as his fingers fumbled for the zipper at the back of Jensen's neck, and Jensen had to laugh, his mind whirling. They were going to do this, right there in the supply closet, and Jensen would see Misha again every weekday for the next couple of months at least. It was too late to stop and assess the situation, too late to ask what Misha wanted. The thought chilled him until Misha got a good grip on the zipper and tugged it down, then Misha's mouth was on his neck, trailing down his chest, delicately taking a nipple inside and sucking, and Jensen stopped worrying. He fumbled with Misha's belt buckle and zipper, reaching inside Misha's pants and pulling out his cock. He gave it a small squeeze, and Misha gasped, his teeth grazing Jensen's nipple. The Captain America uniform was pushed unceremoniously down to mid-thigh, and then Misha's hand was on Jensen's cock while he mouthed at Jensen's other nipple. Jensen's head banged against the door, a rhythm of WANT! and MORE! and NOW! Jensen's lips brushed over any skin he could reach, tasting clean sweat and cotton, his nostrils filled with the smell of Misha's spicy cologne. He swiped his thumb over the head of Misha's cock and groaned a loud "Mishaaaaaaa!" Misha came with a moan over Jensen's hand, and gripped Jensen tight around the neck to stay upright while Jensen fucked into his other hand, banging his head against the door one last time and coming hard when Misha swiped his tongue up Jensen's neck.

They caught their breaths, panting, until Misha gave a low chuckle. "Good thing we have all these cleaning supplies."

Jensen huffed a laugh and slid down the door, pulling Misha with him. They kissed lazily, fingers slowly mapping the planes of each other's bodies. Jensen couldn't tell where they were going to go from there, but for once, he thought he'd let the chips fall where they may.

***

They went on three dates the next week, a lesson in coloring outside the lines for Jensen. He was not a fast mover, though when pressed, he could say that the most important relationship in his life (outside of family) had been an immediate connection. But who could resist Jared? Misha was the same way, fitting into the nooks and crannies Jensen hadn't even realized were so empty.

They went to a movie and made out in the back row like teenagers. Jensen couldn't remember the last time he had gone to see a movie and not formulated a detailed review for it before he even left the theater. He didn't even remember the name of this movie, just the taste of Misha's neck beneath his lips and the choked-off sound of Misha's gasps when he brought him off with his hand.

Misha joined them for dinner at their house after Misha let slip that some of the other parents were inviting him for dinner, in a kind of 'welcome to the school, long-term sub' way. Jensen stuck with burgers and a decadent apple pie from his favorite bakery, remembering the snickerdoodle disaster. Harrison was giddy with excitement, taking Misha by the hand and dragging him through the house, pointing out all his toys. Jensen took him by the hand after Harrison had gone to bed and led him into his bedroom. They fucked as quietly as possible, sweat sticking Jensen's back to Misha's chest, Jensen craning his neck to lick at Misha's chin or jaw or earlobe, whatever he could reach, each time Misha's cock brushed his prostate and he wanted to shout, each time Misha's hand gripped his cock and gave it a tug.

Jensen took Misha to a photography exhibit and held his hand. Their fingers laced together nicely and Jensen couldn't help the wide smile that stretched across his face. Misha made him grin for absolutely no reason. It was a new sensation. He hadn't even made a pro / con list about taking Misha to one of his favorite places. He'd just done it. There was supposed to be someone like that for everyone, but Jensen had always thought it a rom-com cliché before now. But as they ducked into the janitor's closet and Misha sank to his knees with a wicked grin, Jensen had to consider that maybe it could happen to him, too.

They continued seeing each other frequently as the November days got shorter and shorter and the nights got longer and longer. Misha never stayed the entire night, in an unspoken agreement to keep the extent of their relationship from Harrison for the time being. But he would always stay for a little while, lounging in the sweaty sheets and telling Jensen stories from his past.

Misha was weird, there was no doubt about that. Jensen told him so, and he just laughed.

"I prefer the label 'Renaissance Man,' if you insist on labeling me at all," he said with a twinkle in his eyes, and pushed Jensen onto his back to start Round Two for the night.

Misha had run the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney World one summer in college; he'd apprenticed himself to a master carpenter and learned how to make furniture; he'd rescued two boxes of mice from a cosmetics company; he'd covered himself in pink paint and streaked during the live telecast of a beauty pageant whose judge had made widely-publicized disparaging remarks about gays; he'd run marathons in Greece, Hawaii, Spain and Delaware; he'd planted an outhouse on the moon. ("That one's a bit of an exaggeration," he confessed to Jensen.) Misha talked about politics, books he'd read, his love of poetry, art he'd seen that had moved him, men and women he'd dated (Jensen fought back a surge of jealousy whenever these past loves were mentioned, and Misha soon stopped bringing them up), places he'd traveled to that were filled with natural wonders (and places that were just butt-ugly). He told Jensen about his second job, just a hobby, really – making candles. He enjoyed playing with the colors and scents, and brought Jensen little nubs of experiments.

Jensen took in all the stories, lapping up each word, but whenever Misha asked a question about his life, he answered with an anecdote about Harrison or Jared. He ignored the small spark of disappointment that would flare in Misha's eyes whenever he deflected a question, and did his best to erase it with sex. He did a lot of erasing.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, Jensen picked Harrison up as usual from school and exchanged lingering glances with Misha. They had plans for Saturday night, the first time Misha would stay the whole night, as Harrison had been invited to spend the night at Veronica's. Both children were giddy with excitement over plans that included pitching a tent in Alona's living room and making s'mores in the microwave. And apparently an epic game of 'zoo,' as Jensen discovered later that afternoon when Harrison freaked out about leaving his super-special lion mask in his cubby at school.

Jared rolled his eyes when Jensen readily volunteered to go back to the school and get it, but took Harrison by the hand and led him into the studio regardless. Jensen left them both hunched over pieces of drawing paper.

The older students had been let out of classes about fifteen minutes before Jensen returned to the school and the hallways were strangely silent. His pulse quickened in anticipation of seeing Misha again, of having him to himself. The grin was already spreading across his face when he pushed open the door of Misha's classroom.

His heart took a nosedive to his feet and his stomach threatened to come up. Misha was not alone. A willowy blonde woman held him in a tight clench. Jensen's lips moved, but no sound came out. He backed slowly out of the room and shut the door.

Jensen walked, unseeing, down the hallway. He most certainly did not run. And he was most certainly not retreating with his tail between his legs. His mind whirled as he tried to make sense of what he'd seen; to label it and dissect it and come up with a plan of action. Though it was true that he and Misha had made no spoken promises of exclusivity, Jensen hadn't thought they were necessary. They had a connection! And while that didn't make it a 'be free for sex and eternal devotion when I swing by your place later' type of connection, it was in Jensen's mind. Jealousy tried to choke him, and he beat it viciously down.

He stopped at the end of the corridor. The heavy double doors stood there, silent and cold and definitely mocking him.

The squeak of a sole against the waxed linoleum alerted him to a presence behind him. His shoulders stiffened. He'd be damned if he was going to turn and smile and act like nothing was wrong. He reached for the bar across the doors.

"Jensen!"

His hand lingered on the bar as he waffled between giving Misha the cold shoulder or ripping him a new one. Misha took the decision from him, and he resented that, too; resented the touch of Misha's hand on his arm, the insistent way Misha tugged him into an empty classroom.

"What do you want, Misha? You looked pretty busy," he snarled. Okay, so he wasn't going to be particularly mature about this. Good to know.

Misha sighed and ran a hand through his hair – hair which was already on-end because the blonde had been gripping it. Jensen clenched his fists at his sides to keep himself from putting them through a desk.

"That wasn't what it looked like," Misha started, and Jensen rolled his eyes.

"Was she kissing you?" he barked.

"Yes, but –"

"Well, that's what it looked like! So in what way could it not be that, if that's what was happening?!" His voice was rising. He was losing his cool, which he really, really hated and rarely ever did.

"She's an ex-girlfriend, and she was just dropping stuff off for me! That was a goodbye kiss!" Misha snapped back.

"An ex?" Jensen asked, eyes narrowing. "She had her arms around you, man."

"Oh my God!" Misha threw his arms up in the air. "Either you trust me or you don't. What's it going to be, Jensen?"

Jensen hesitated. Misha looked away, shaking his head.

"I guess I should expect that of you," he said bitterly. "You don't ever put yourself out there, do you, Jen? You want me to be your boyfriend, but you don't want to be mine."

"Misha –"

"Please just leave." There was a finality to his statement that froze Jensen to his core, but he was still too angry to let Misha see that.

"I came here to get something out of Harrison's cubby." He kept his voice even through sheer force of will.

"Of course you did." Misha barked a mirthless laugh. "Get it and go."

***

The good thing about going into business with your best friend was that you were in business with your best friend. When Jensen turned up at the house clutching the lion mask and looking like he'd been run over by a train, Jared closed his sketch book for the day, told Harrison he was getting a special treat and could watch cartoons in the afternoon, and sat Jensen down at the kitchen table with a bottle of beer.

"Spill," he said.

Jensen peeled the label off his bottle of beer and tore it into four neat pieces while Jared waited patiently. When Jensen reached for Jared's beer to do the same thing, Jared dropped the patient façade.

"Enough, man! What the fuck happened?"

"He broke up with me. I fucked it up, and he broke up with me. But he's just so –" His fingers clenched around his beer bottle, and he shoved back from the table. "And I can't do a heart-to-heart about this right now."

He got into the shower and turned the water up as hot as he could stand it, and let it pound against his shoulders and chest and disguise the tears he was too ashamed to let even Jared see. He had totally fucked it up. But damn Misha for having an ex! He ignored the irrationality of the thought, and instead pictured Misha running back into his classroom, distraught and weeping, only to have Blondie sweep him up and carry him away. Never mind that Misha would never run anywhere distraught and weeping, and never mind that he discovered (too late) that he did rather trust Misha. And Misha was right in his assessment of Jensen, too, and damn him for being right! Jensen soaked up each detail of Misha's life that he divulged, painting a picture in his mind of who Misha was, getting comfortable with his unpredictability. He knew who Misha was, but he didn't show Misha the same courtesy and allow him a full portrait of Jensen.

His fingers were prune-y by the time he got out of the shower.

The weekend was interminable. Harrison went off, excited, to his slumber party and instead of having a slumber party of his own, Jensen got drunk and watched black-and-white screwball comedies and typed an entire chapter of The Ninth Circle that they would have to throw away because it was clearly written by an insane freak who'd been recently dumped by his boyfriend.

When Monday morning rolled around, it was Jared who walked Harrison to school, and Jared who picked him up at noon. Jensen hid out in the studio, trying to rework the ramblings he'd made on Saturday night until Harrison got home from school.

"Daddy! Daddy! Guess what?" Harrison practically flew down the hallway, catching himself on Jensen's knees.

"Um," Jensen wracked his brain. Surely Misha hadn't let anything slip? "You're being promoted to Kid Advisor to the President and your first order of business will be mandatory Batman cartoon-watching in schools?"

"No, silly! We got our roles for the holiday pageant today!" Harrison shrieked.

"Wow!" Jensen enthused, relieved.

"Misha's probably cast him as sheep dung," Jared muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Jensen to hear.

"Not everyone's as petty as you," Jensen muttered back. "What's your role?" he asked, raising his voice.

"Kentucky! I'm going to be Kentucky!"

"Wow, that's…the entire state?" Jensen asked.

"You sure you got that right?" Jarred asked, reaching down and ruffling Harrison's hair.

"Not my hair!" Harrison howled. Jensen rolled his eyes. He knew where his son got that from. "Everyone is a state. We're being 'Home for the Holidays' and there are fifty kindergarteners so we're going to be America!" Harrison brandished a signed letter, flapping it in front of Jensen's face. His stomach flipped at the familiar signature at the bottom. Get a fucking grip.

Dear Kindergarten Parent,

Happy Holidays! After the resounding success of last year's school-wide five-hour pageant, the rest of the elementary school grades requested that kindergarten get its own day to shine. Our pageant will be Monday, December 20, and the four kindergarten teachers are taking it as our special mission to keep the show to under an hour. Our theme for the pageant is 'Home for the Holidays.' To that effect, your child has been assigned a state. Each child is to look up a holiday story from their state and present it as part of the pageant. State-appropriate or holiday garb is encouraged for a costume. A variety of holiday-themed songs will also be performed by the kids. Please let Mr. Misha or Ms. Diane know if you would like to help with costumes. A reception with punch and cookies will follow. The festivities will commence at 6:00 PM.

Please call Mr. Misha at KL5-6969 if you have any questions. We'll be in touch!

Happy Holidays,
Misha Collins, Diane Widas, Julie Siege, Kurt Fuller

"A special holiday story?" Jared wondered out loud, reading over Jensen's shoulder. "What do they have in Kentucky? Bourbon, fried chicken and horses? Sounds like my kind of holiday story."

"I'm sure Kentucky is chock full of holiday tales," Jensen murmured.

"We can ask Mrs. Internet!" Harrison cried.

"Yeah, she knows everything," Jared agreed, grinning.

Jensen pulled Harrison up onto his lap and maximized his open browser tab. Harrison's tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth as he painstakingly typed K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y into Google. Jensen added "holiday story" and squinted at the results.

"The dude who wrote 'I Wonder as I Wander' was from Kentucky," he said, glancing up at Jared. "Are we allowed to do religious stuff? This is a public school."

"It has lots of 'w's," Harrison said, placing his fingers on the screen.

Jensen and Jared exchanged a glance. Jared was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

"Okay," Jensen said. "We don't have to decide right away. Why don't you help me get ready for Card Night, huh, little man?" he asked, kissing the top of Harrison's head.

They hadn't had Card Night in a month, as the other three players were all in a band, and the band was touring. They were back home now, though, and Jensen would be hosting Kane, Jason and Steve (and Jared) that night for poker, hearts and a lot of chewing the fat. Harrison loved Card Night, because it meant potato chips and three of his daddy's friends to bring him presents. Jared loved Card Night because it meant potato chips and imported beer. Jensen loved Card Night because it meant potato chips and seeing his posse. He was especially looking forward to it this time, needing a distraction from his moping over Misha.

However, that was a bit of a vain hope, as Jason led off the evening with asking how things were going with the Mysterious M, his attempt at subtlety, considering Harrison was sitting at their feet, pushing around his new toy cars. Jensen glared at Jared and the other man winced.

"Uh, couple of things have changed since we talked about that, dude," Jared hedged.

"He dumped me," Jensen said flatly. "Who's dealing first?"

Steve wordlessly picked up the deck of cards and started to shuffle.

"I could set you up with someone," Jason offered tentatively.

Jensen sighed. "No offense, Jason, but you know that whole the-only-two-gay-characters-the-straight-dude-knows-get-together-in-the-end thing only works in the movies, right?"

"I know more than two gay dudes," Jason muttered. "What about Jeff?"

"Uh, Jeff who's married to a woman?" Jared asked with raised brows.

Jason frowned and looked down at his cards. "I forgot that happened, actually."

Steve snorted. "Pass to the right," he said, giving himself the final card.

Jensen surveyed his hand. He had crap cards. Awesome. He chose out his absolute worst cards and passed them over to Jason and retrieved his offering from Jared. Jared must have still felt guilty over the Mysterious M debacle, and gave him low hearts.

"We toured with this band, and I think you'd hit it off with one of them. Rob. He's gay, right?" Jason continued, like a dog with a bone.

"Dude. You suck at this." Kane threw his cards down on the table in disgust and pointed his finger across at Jason. "Rob? Also married to a fucking woman. Fucking pay attention, man. Can we fucking play cards now?"

"Daddy, Uncle Christian said the F-word three times!" Harrison exclaimed, his cars temporarily abandoned in light of the verbal pyrotechnics at the card table.

"That I did, little man. It shows a gross lack of imagination on my part. Please forgive my impertinent behavior." Kane held out his hand to Harrison, who came over and shook it solemnly.

"It's okay, Uncle Christian. Uncle Jared said the D-word four times yesterday."

Jared snorted his beer, Steve laughed at him, and the rest of the night passed with no further attempts to set Jensen up with straight, married men. Jensen carried Harrison to bed a little past his bedtime before returning to the kitchen to deal with the remains of the bags of potato chips. By eating them.

He thought of Misha in his shower before bed. He was resigned to the fact that memories of Misha would keep creeping up. He just wished they would stop being so horribly devastating soon. Each time he crawled into bed alone, he was reminded of the fact that it was due to his own stubbornness and inability to let people in that he wasn't joined by a man with laughing blue eyes and messy dark hair. Only in his dreams.

He fell into a fitful sleep, and dreamed of chips instead of Misha, much to his disgruntlement.

"Dad-dyyyyyyy." A little hand patted his cheek. Jensen groggily raised his head and peered around his dark bedroom. Harrison's eyes blinked back at him, peering over the mattress.

"What's up, little man?" Jensen asked, voice hoarse with sleep.

"I don't feel gooooooood," his son whined. Jensen stretched out a hand and laid it against Harrison's forehead. It was on fire. Jensen was out of bed in point-two seconds, snatching up his son and bringing him into the bathroom.

"Okay, fever. What else hurts, love? Are you ache-y? How's your throat? Your tummy?" He sat Harrison down on the closed toilet lid and opened up the medicine cabinet. He had everything arranged by symptom, from head to toes.

"Everything hurts!" Harrison wailed, and started to cry.

"It's okay, it's okay," Jensen murmured, grabbing the Children's Tylenol and picking his son back up. He carried a sobbing Harrison into the kitchen, pulled out a juice box and brought him into the living room and their rocking chair.

"Here, baby, take this pill and drink this juice. I'm going to get a cold cloth for your forehead, okay? I'll be right back. Can you do that?"

Harrison nodded bravely, tears dripping down his chin, and Jensen waited until the pill was safely swallowed before rushing back to the bathroom for a washcloth that he soaked beneath frigid water.

He rocked his son off-and-on throughout the night, exchanging the washcloth twice. Harrison slept fitfully, and the next morning they were both groggy and dull and Harrison still had a fever, though less than before. Jensen tucked his son into his own bed before retreating to the living room to make a call. He picked up his phone and took a deep breath. He hadn't talked to Misha since their blow-up. He scowled at the number. Are you a grown-ass man, or a twelve-year-old with broken hearts on your Trapper Keeper? He hit the screen.

The phone rang four times before an unknown female voice answered.

"Misha's phone," she slurred, voice thick with sleep. Jensen's stomach lurched and his throat closed up. Is this your idea of an ex, Misha? "Hello? Who's calling?"

"Uh." He cleared his throat. "This is the parent of a student in Mr. Collins' class. Please let him know that Harrison Ackles will be out sick today. Thank you."

"Okay, Harry Ackles –"

"Harri-son," he snapped. "Sorry. He doesn't go by Harry," he continued, trying to smooth his voice. He needed to get off the phone now. "Thank you for your help, ma'am. Goodbye."

He barely resisted cutting off her own 'goodbye' and threw the phone into the couch cushions. He might be a closed-off, reticent bastard, but he had at least tried to let Misha into his life, and he never let strangers in, it was a stupid, stupid thing to do. Everything that had happened was his own damn fault. He pounded the cushions with his fists. His own damn fault! Pound!

"Dude! Couch abuse!"

Jensen turned with a snarl. For such a huge man, Jared could be a fucking stealth ninja when he chose.

"What?" he demanded.

"Whoa." Jared held up his hands and backed away. "I was just going to do you a favor and walk Harrison to school. But if you want to go like that, by all means, don't let me stop you."

Jensen looked down at his sweaty, snotty t-shirt and flannel pants. "Harrison's sick. He's not going in today."

Jared's whole demeanor changed. "The little man's down for the count? Dude, I'm sorry."

"He's got a fever that's close to breaking," Jensen mumbled, scrubbing a hand across his face. "I already called to say he wouldn't be at school today. It's the last day before the Thanksgiving break; I doubt he'll miss anything important."

"Yeah, today will be a total goof-off day," Jared said, nodding. "Wait. Are you still flying to Texas tomorrow?"

Jensen sighed. "I should talk to the doctor."

"Okay." Jared hesitated, and Jensen could practically see the gears turning in his head. "So, um, when you called, who did you talk –"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Yeah, sure, man." Jared was giving him that look he'd learned from the one episode of Oprah he'd watched with an ex-girlfriend. Jensen had to nip that in the bud right away.

"I'm fine, Jared. Just tired. Up all night with a sick kid, remember?"

"Right."

Harrison's fever hadn't broke by the time Jensen got out of the shower, so he bundled up his son and brought him to the doctor. Two hours and a trip to the pharmacy later, Jensen had a monstrous headache and his throat was starting to hurt. Harrison's fever broke late that evening, and Jensen's fever started. By the time the next morning rolled around, he knew there was no way he and his son would be able to catch their noon plane to Texas. No Mama and Papa Ackles, no hanging out with his brother and sister and new brother-in-law, no awesome turkey. No Texas.

He and Harrison were cuddled up together on the couch watching Christmas cartoons when Jared and his little sister came in, carrying grocery bags.

"Oooh! 'Let up a little on the wonder why, and give your heart a try,'" Jared warbled along with Father Mouse on the TV.

"Gag him, Megan," Jensen croaked. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We're going to have Thanksgiving here tomorrow," Megan declared. "Instead of going out to eat. Since y'all are stranded in California." She walked over to the couch and kissed Harrison on the forehead. "And I've been trying to get him to shut up since I was born," she told Jensen in a low voice. "Hasn't worked yet."

"Did you bring me a present?" Harrison asked.

"Your present is the joy of Megan's company," Jared told him. "And some throat lozenges. Cherry flavor. Now shove over, squirt, I'm sending your daddy to bed. I'm going to rot my brain with you while Megan gets to work in the kitchen."

"You got that mixed up, big brother." Megan pushed him towards the kitchen while Harrison erupted in giggles. Jensen left them mock-arguing over who would have to peel the sweet potatoes. He felt incredibly warm, and not just from the fever. Jared and his little sister always went somewhere fancy for Thanksgiving whenever they couldn't make it home for the holiday. He was lucky to have friends that would eat their own cooking, just so his son wouldn't have a shitty holiday.

Their plane would have been touching down in Texas right about now. His parents would have been waiting at the gate. His mother had sounded so disappointed on the phone, though they were planning to come to California at Christmas. Just last week, Jensen had entertained a fantasy of waking up Christmas morning with Misha beside him, cooking Christmas breakfast while his father and Misha had a friendly debate over politics and his mother and Harrison added batteries to new toys. Misha would probably be spending the holiday with his non-ex-girlfriend, instead.

He fell into a feverish doze and woke up when the bed dipped with Jared's weight.

"I hate peeling sweet potatoes," Jared grumbled. "Only for you, man."

"I 'preciate it," Jensen mumbled.

"We're spending the night here, by the way. If you feel half as shitty as you look, Harrison's going to have his hands full nursing you."

Jensen felt tears prick at the corners of his eyes. "I love you," he sniffed.

"Whoa, man, are you high?"

"No, you moron, I'm thankful that you care. Dumbass."

"Good. I love you, too, loser." The mattress shifted again, and then Jared was stretched out beside him, hands behind his head. He let out a loud sigh. "Are you ever going to tell me what exactly happened with Misha?"

"I walked in on him and his ex-girlfriend," Jensen said in a rush. "He said she was just dropping shit off and it was a goodbye kiss. I was jealous. He asked if I trusted him. I hesitated. And he accused me of wanting a boyfriend, but not wanting to be one in return."

Jared was silent for a moment.

"Misha's bi?" he asked finally.

"Yes. Didn't I tell you that before?"

"Dude, I would've remembered. Anyhow," Jared continued, "that last bit. Do you still not want to be a boyfriend?"

"I never didn't want to be his boyfriend. I just suck at it." He nudged Jared with his elbow. "I don't even tell you this kind of shit unless I'm feverish and on drugs."

Jared shifted on the bed so he was leaning on an elbow, looking down at Jensen. "Maybe you should reconsider that modus operandi, dude. What would you tell him, if you got a second chance?"

Jensen sighed. "I'd tell him that I want him back. I'm pissed as hell to think he might already be with someone else when he should be with me. Fuck. And that I was sorry for being an emotional freezer, and I'd try to be, you know, better, in the future."

"Well, that's a start." He leaned forward and kissed Jensen's forehead. "Now go to sleep, you look like shit."

***

Jensen woke up several times that night, sweaty and disoriented and needing to pee. His fever finally broke around 6:00 the next morning, and he fell into an exhausted sleep. The smell of roasting turkey woke him at noon, and he laid in bed, breathing in the scent and listening to Harrison's chirruping voice from the kitchen, answered by Jared's rumbling bass and Megan's light, amused tone. He was just considering getting into the shower when his doorbell rang. He frowned. He was home, Harrison was, too, and Jared. Who could possibly be coming over on Thanksgiving? They weren't even supposed to be there themselves.

"Mr. Misha!" he heard Harrison shriek in greeting. "Mr. Misha, Mr. Misha, Mr. – who's that?"

Oh my God. He brought her here. He struggled out of his blankets and threw on a robe.

They were all in the entryway; Jared and Megan in stained aprons, Misha kneeling down to hug Harrison, and…a female version of Misha hanging back by the door. Jensen did a double-take.

"What…?" he croaked out. God, his voice sounded like ass.

Misha ignored him. "Harrison, this is my little sister. Jared said it was a Little Sister Thanksgiving, so I had to rustle one up." He finally looked up at Jensen. "Jensen, you look terrible."

Jensen stared down at him. It'd been almost a week since they'd seen each other, and seeing him now was like a punch to the gut. He stumbled back into his room and shut the door. He could hear murmurings through the door, but he fell across his bed and ignored them.

There was a knock at the door a moment later, and Misha slipped inside his room, shutting the door behind him and leaning against it. The silence stretched between them. Finally Jensen cleared his throat.

"You're not with your ex?"

"Definition of ex, Jen. As in no more." Misha's voice was surprisingly neutral. Jensen blinked. Damn sickness was making his eyes water.

"I'm," he started, stopped, then tried again. "I'm sorry."

"Tell me a story," Misha said. "Tell me something true about yourself that isn't really about Harrison or Jared."

Jensen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Harrison wants to get a dog. This isn't a story about Harrison!" he added hurriedly. "But it's why I don't want to get us a dog." He cracked open an eyelid. Misha was still there. Good. He shut his eyes again. "When I was a kid, I had this dog, Pepper Jack. He was the best dog ever, a Jack Russell Terrier-German Shepherd-lots of other stuff mix. He used to greet me at the door each day when I got home from school, and he'd sleep in my room at night. We had a fenced-in backyard, and Pepper Jack loved playing in it. One day I left to go to a friend's house to play, and I forgot to shut the gate." His voice was scratchy and hoarse, and getting gruffer by the minute. "Pepper Jack ran away. We searched everywhere for him, put up signs, called the pound and two days later, we got a call back. Pepper Jack had been hit by a car and was dead." He cleared his throat roughly. "I went with my dad to get the body. He looked so damn small. He left me, and it was my fault, and he died."

The bed dipped beside him, and when Misha spoke, his breath tickled Jensen's ear. "I can't believe your dead dog from when you were a kid sums up your views of adult relationships."

Jensen's eyes flew open. "What?! No it doesn't. That's why I don't want to get a dog."

"Which would be a commitment, which you don't want to make because you're just so sure it will end badly. Dammit, Jensen, now I'm sounding like that guy on TV who gives relationship advice, and I do not want to sound like him. He's an ass."

"I can't believe you got that from my story," Jensen said, shaking his head.

"Hey. Look at me." Misha waited until Jensen had rolled onto his side and faced him. Jensen's eyes roamed the other man's face, looking for some hint of what was going to happen next, some evidence of what their separation had cost him. Misha looked tired, bags under his eyes and stubble on his chin, and more solemn than usual. It looked good on him. "I don't like to be tied down," he said bluntly. "And neither do you. But I think I'm right in saying that you want this thing between us to work. Am I right?"

Jensen reached out his hand and cupped Misha's chin, ran his thumb over the stubble. "You're right."

Misha gave him a small smile and pressed a kiss into the palm of his hand. "Good. I like being right." His grin grew wider as Jensen began to smile himself. "And I missed you," he confessed. "My poor sister thought her brother had been replaced with a troll." He leaned closer, moving in to kiss Jensen on the lips.

"Whoa, you don't want to catch what I just had." Jensen pulled away hurriedly, sitting up.

"I forgot that's why you greeted us in such a fetching outfit." He stood up and stretched. "Go shower, while I go rescue dinner from the fumblings of the Padalecki clan."

"Good luck with that," Jensen muttered. "Jared's screwed up boiling water before."

"Lovely." Misha laid a hand on his shoulder as Jensen moved past him to the bathroom. "We'll talk more tonight?"

"Yes." He thought he detected a hint of relief in Misha's answering smile.

And they did talk again, later that night. After the meal had been consumed (the turkey not too dry, the potatoes not too lumpy) and the dishes had been done and Harrison had been treated to several stories (read to him by the Little Sisters, as they were new and exciting to him), and after Jared and Megan had left, leaving the Collins family to keep an eye on the recovering Ackles family. In halting speech, Jensen told Misha about what he and Harrison would have been doing for Thanksgiving, who they would have seen, the games they would have played. And Misha listened, and drank in his words.

And when Misha pushed him back into the pillows and wrapped his body around him, Jensen had to admit this whole sharing thing definitely had its perks.

***

It couldn't solve everything, of course. Misha had mercurial mood shifts and an appreciation for what Jensen termed "extreme spontaneity," which, though he benefited from it a great many times, could still leave him shaking his head in consternation. And Jensen himself was not going to suddenly just stop his tendency to withdraw into himself. But he was trying, and it counted for a great deal.

As the days ticked down towards Christmas and Harrison eagerly opened the windows on his Advent calendar to liberate the chocolates inside, Jensen found something new to worry about: Christmas itself. It was a big fucking deal, and though he may have entertained a daydream or two of sharing the holiday with both his family and Misha, the fact remained that his parents hadn't met a single one of his boyfriends since college. Not to mention that he still wasn't sure if he and Misha were on solid enough ground to warrant a major holiday spent with parents, or even if Misha wanted to stay in town for it.

Things came to a head in bed. Misha was in a teasing mood, inspired by sugarplum lube, which Jensen thought was the most ridiculous shit ever, but he wasn't complaining when Misha used it on two fingers and repeatedly stroked his prostate.

"So tell me, Jensen: are there visions of sugarplums dancing in your head right now?" Misha asked, eyes bright and dancing across Jensen's writhing body.

"Nnnnnn gaaaaaarrrrrr," Jensen managed.

"That's what I thought." Misha grinned widely, nose crinkling, a look that sent an immediate jolt of desire up Jensen's already hard cock.

"Unfffffff," he mumbled, heels digging for purchase in the sweaty sheets, trying not to thrust up into the empty air, but dammit, Misha needed to do something about his cock, and fast.

"Did I tell you I also bought festive chapstick?" Misha asked, glancing at Jensen's leaking cock and pressing especially hard on his prostate. "I wonder…"

Jensen gasped as cool peppermint lips closed over his heated skin. It fucking tingled, and it didn't help that Misha was laughing at him, a look of such fondness in his eyes that Jensen forgot to breathe for a moment. Then Misha pulled almost entirely off his cock, sucking hard on the head, his fingers still milking his prostate, and this was going to be the fastest blow job ever because there was no way he was going to survive this.

He reached blindly for a pillow, held it to his face, and screamed into it as he came.

Misha carefully pulled out his fingers, wiping them on the sheet, and pressed a gentle kiss to the tender skin between Jensen's hipbone and the start of his thigh.

"Ah, God, I fucking love you," Jensen said, unthinking, voice muffled by the pillow. And froze, eyes opening wider and wider. Misha crawled up his body and snatched the pillow away.

"I heard that! No take-backs, that would be rude, and Texas boys are never rude. You just said, you just said –"

Jensen cut off his babbling by kissing him. The weird thing was, he did actually mean it. He rolled them over and broke the kiss, looking down into Misha's flushed face, his wide blue eyes wanting to believe, but ready to be hooded, ready to laugh it off, just in case.

"Yeah, I meant it," Jensen said. He settled himself between Misha's legs and began to nuzzle at Misha's neck, kissing and sucking as he snaked a hand between them and gripped Misha's cock. Misha whimpered, his hands coming up to tangle his fingers in Jensen's hair. Jensen felt a laugh building inside of him. He had reduced Misha to low moans and panting breaths – finally, he had hit on what could leave Misha Collins speechless. He ran his hand up and down the other man's cock, tugging, squeezing and caressing while he proceeded to give him the biggest hickey ever attempted.

Finally he pulled off Misha's neck and just watched his face, storing up in his memories Misha's face in blissed-out pleasure, the trembling of his lips, the sweaty curls of hair on his forehead, the crinkle in his nose and the noise he made when Jensen ran his thumb over the slit in his cock and gave it one more tug, whispering, "Come on, Misha."

And Misha did, gasping and shuddering. He looked beautiful, and Jensen had to wonder at himself for not realizing earlier that he was in love with and loved Misha. God, he was such a sap for Misha. His hand was sticky with come and he was waxing poetic on the beauty of Misha's face. And neck, and chest, and…

Misha pulled him down across his slightly damp chest and kissed him thoroughly. "I love you, too," he murmured, voice gruff and a little choked-up. Jensen smiled. Good to know he wasn't the only sap.

Tired saps, as they both fell asleep in between slow kisses.

***
"Saturday morning cartoons!! Get up, Dad, get up!"

Jensen jerked awake as Harrison came screeching into his room, stopping in shock and falling onto his Spider-Man-clad bum.

"Mr. Misha?!"

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

"Uh, Harrison –" he started, just as Misha led with, "Good morning, Harrison" in a sleep-fugged voice.

Jensen and Misha exchanged a look.

"Little man, give us a minute, why don't you choose the cereal you want for today, and Mr. Misha and I will talk to you in the kitchen, okay?" Jensen gave his son an encouraging nod, hoping he was in an obeying mood.

"Are you guys boyfriends now?" Harrison asked excitedly. "Is Mr. Misha going to live with us? Is he going to spend Christmas with us? What should I get him for Christmas? Do you –"

"Harrison!" Jensen interrupted, groaning. "Please. Go into the kitchen. We'll be right there and will answer your questions, I promise."

Harrison's eyes darted between his dad and his teacher. "Okay," he decided. "And I'm having Lucky Charms!" he added defiantly. He marched on his little feet out of the room.

Misha was quiet as Jensen threw off the covers and stumbled into the bathroom. He needed to pee like a race horse.

"You don't have to promise Harrison anything," Misha said softly.

Jensen had not been planning to have this conversation with the sound of his piss in the background, but when life handed you lemons, and so on and so forth…

"I was already wondering what you were doing for Christmas. We hadn't mentioned it." He shook off the last few drops of piss and washed his hands. "My parents are going to be here. Is that…too much?" He stepped back out into the bedroom. Misha already had his jeans on, and he sat on the edge of the bed, one of Jensen's old t-shirts in his hands.

Jensen was acutely aware that he was butt-naked as Misha pursed his lips and frowned up at him. "Is this your way of asking me over for Christmas?"

Jensen padded over to his bureau and fished out a clean pair of boxer-briefs. "Yeah," he grunted. "If you want. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the works. With added parents."

"ARE YOU ALMOST READY?!" sounded from down the hall.

"God, Harrison," Jensen muttered. "HOLD YOUR HORSES!" he bellowed back, scooping out a t-shirt. Dammit, Misha hadn't said a thing. He'd come on too strong, he'd screwed it up already.

Misha caught his hand and gave it a light squeeze as he made to slip out the door, his other hand cupping Jensen's cheek and turning his head to face him. "Jensen. Thank you." He kissed him lightly on the lips, then slapped his ass. "Now move."

Jensen knew he had a silly grin on his face when he walked into the kitchen, and not even the spilled Lucky Charms could detract from his good mood. Harrison watched intently as they joined him at the kitchen table.

"Harrison," Jensen began, "first off, we both love you very much." Yes, he had researched online the best way to tell your kids you were seeing someone seriously. He liked being prepared.

Misha, however, liked cutting to the point. "Do you want me to come for Christmas, Harrison?" he asked, leaning forward. Harrison leaned forward so their foreheads were touching. Jensen watched, bemused.

"Yes. And I want a new lion mask for Christmas. Someone stepped on my old one."

"Thanks for telling me. I want socks."

"Okay. Do you love my Daddy?"

Jensen made a soft noise in the back of his throat.

"Yes," Misha said.

"Does he love you?"

"Yes."

"Are you going to leave?"

"I'm not planning on it. Do I get to ask a question?"

Harrison scrunched his face in concentration. "Okay."

"What cartoons are you watching this morning?"

"Christmas ones!" Harrison exclaimed, leaping from his chair, almost knocking it over. "Come on, Mr. Misha!" He grabbed Misha's hand and began to pull him towards the living room.

Misha shot a grin over his shoulder as he allowed himself to run with the excitement of the five-year-old. Jensen looked around at his cereal-strewn kitchen, listening to the prattle from the living room. He had a sudden suspicion it was going to be like that a lot from now on. He righted the box of Lucky Charms and closed it up.

"Daddy! Come sit with us!" Harrison called from the couch.

The three of them were still cuddled up on the couch, singing along with Mr. Heat Meiser, when Jared walked in.

"Little Dude! You're still in your jammies! Hop to it, Harrison!" His eyes narrowed as he took in the others' various states of undress. Jensen could practically see him adding two and two in his head, but Harrison opened his mouth before he could say anything.

"Uncle Jared! Guess what! Daddy and Mr. Misha love each other!"

Jensen didn't think Jared was ever going to stop laughing. Only Harrison pouting and finally running from the room put an end to the guffaws. Jensen threw a pillow at him.

"Bang up job, meathead. Now you've scarred the squirt for life."

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Jared hiccupped, wiping at his eyes. "I would never mock your love! It's pure and beautiful!" He got a hold of himself with some difficulty. "And seriously, guys, I'm, uh, happy for you."

"Thank you, Jared," Misha told him. "I promise to keep Jensen in bonbons and silks forever, and I will never leave him barefoot and pregnant. Especially not without calling National Geographic first."

"Golly, that's real sweet of you." Jensen rolled his eyes, but couldn't help smiling. Gah, he'd been infected with a case of dumbass grins ever since Misha told him he loved him; it was disgusting. "What are you doing here this early on a Saturday, anyhow?"

"Christmas shopping. Harrison has to pick out a present for you. And speaking of which," Jared glanced down the hall. "I better go do some damage control." He left with a strange hand-wave thing that Jensen could only assume was his attempt at offering a blessing. Dorkface.

"I should probably get going, too," Misha said, standing up and stretching. "I need to work on my costume for the Holiday Pageant, as it will now need to include a turtleneck."

Jensen's eyes went to the large red and purple hickey on his neck. He felt a wave of fondness for it. It was a good hickey. And it said very clearly: keep your fucking hands off this one, he belongs to Jensen Ackles. Good times.

They were still kissing goodbye when Jared and Harrison came back down the hall. Jared immediately clamped a hand over Harrison's eyes.

"Ow! Uncle Jared, what's going on?"

"We lost power! It's the Apocalypse! Quick, Harrison, we need to save the canned beans!"

Jensen gave him a dirty look and kissed Misha once more, just because he could. Jared steered Harrison to the door, and Jensen could hear his son's little piping voice as they tripped down the walkway, "But I don't like canned beans!"

***

The next day was the dress rehearsal for the Holiday Pageant. Harrison adored his costume. He'd chosen "Jack Hunts Christmas" as his holiday tale, because there was a big white bear in it, and bears were almost as cool as lions. Jensen liked it because a bear costume was relatively easy to make. He bought a pair of plain white long underwear and a couple feet of fuzzy white material from the fabric store. Alona had given him some double sided tape she used sometimes when shooting commercials. Anything that didn't involve needles and sewing was good in Jensen's book, and he went to town covering the long underwear with fuzzy fake fur. He'd found bear paw mittens, and bear paw slippers, and even a hood with bear ears. Jared had found a snout in a joke shop, Jensen made a stubby tail out of a leftover scrap of the fake fur, and then they were set.

Almost. The piece de resistance of Harrison's costume was his star. Jensen had fashioned it out of a wire hanger, covered with a midnight blue old t-shirt, which Harrison and Jared had then painted in streaks of shiny glitter paint. It was just the right amount of gaudy for a children's holiday pageant.

They were one of the first families to the school. Harrison skipped inside, followed by Jared with a large box of art supplies, as Misha had convinced him that he really wanted to work on scenery, and Jensen drove off to pick up eight pizzas for the kids and their various adult helpers.

Rehearsal was in full chaos when he returned, and immediately devolved further with the arrival of the pizzas. Jensen managed to snag three slices and saw to it that Harrison wasn't stealing anyone else's pizza, before wandering to join Jared at the back of the stage.

"You seen Misha?" he asked, thrusting a greasy piece of pepperoni pizza at Jared.

"He's around. Can't miss his bullhorn." He ate half his slice in one bite. "Mmrrf yoooth, di ook ike meeer ka?"

Jensen surveyed the backdrop. "Yeah, I think it's good. Texas is a little overlarge, but it's the best state, so who cares?"

"Good. Check out Kentucky." Jared gestured to his massive map of the United States of America, the backdrop for the kindergartners' performance. Jensen stepped closer. Hidden in the mountains was a little creature from The Ninth Circle.

"Nice one. You should sign this thing."

"I did, see?" Jared pointed to the Florida Keys, bumping up against a stylish 'J. Pad.'

"'J. Pad'?" Jensen snorted. "You sound like a feminine hygiene product, or a cheap knock-off IPad." He spotted Misha over the heads of a sea of kids and smiled. "But it looks awesome. You need any help? Else I'm going to take this pizza to Misha…"

"Huh?" Jared was bent over, frowning at the Florida Keys, as if they'd been formed specifically to cramp his style. "Nah, go ahead. Oh, I was supposed to tell you!" he exclaimed, straightening from his crouch as Misha fought his way over to them. "Misha wants to talk to you, he has to tell you something really important."

Jensen rolled his eyes. "Thanks, man."

"Does that pizza have my name on it?" Misha asked, a tad breathless as he finally reached them. Jensen handed it over wordlessly, smiling at Misha's costume.

Misha was an angel. A robed in white, halo, wings and little plastic golden harp taped to a bullhorn angel. With a white turtleneck beneath his robes. Jensen smirked. "Love the outfit."

Misha shrugged his shoulders and a scattering of gold glitter fell from his wings to the floor. "Apparently the teachers are always an angel, a Santa, a Hanukkah Armadillo and an abstract beam of light. I drew the angel."

"It suits your sweet nature," Jensen told him, laughing at Misha's attempt to look innocent and sweet. "And the Hanukkah Armadillo? What the hell? That's not a real thing."

"Well, if it was on an episode of Friends, that makes it real." Misha licked tomato sauce off his fingers. Jensen watched with hooded eyes, swallowing hard. "Listen," Misha said, taking his arm and pulling him close. "I need to talk to you after rehearsal. I just got some news…I'd like to discuss with you."

"Yeah, sure," Jensen assured him, trying not to sound panicked. Misha smiled briefly, then raised his bullhorn.

"Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California – front and center!" he called.

Harrison went up with Kansas, Louisiana, Maine and Maryland. Jensen beamed during the entirety of his recitation. His son was clearly the brightest child ever to draw breath on this planet. Misha and Mr. Kurt (the Hanukkah Armadillo) led the combined classes in a rousing rendition of 'Home for the Holidays' and then it was time to leave, and time for Jensen to hear Misha's news, whatever it might be.

His stomach roiled as he dropped Jared off and drove Harrison and himself home. His brain automatically went to the worst possible scenario, and it teased him now, as he helped Harrison bathe and brush his teeth, as he read a chapter out loud from their illustrated copy of 'Miracle on 34th Street.' Worry caused his forehead to crease, and he smoothed it out to give Harrison his good night hug and kiss.

His phone buzzed with an incoming text as he stepped into the hall, drawing Harrison's door closed behind him:

IN THE DRIVEWAY.

Jensen quickly wrenched open the front door to see Misha sitting in his car. He ran down the walk and knocked on the window.

"Harrison's in bed – can you come inside?"

His stomach was doing backflips now. Misha never looked quite this solemn. Jensen sat on the couch when they got inside, but Misha paced.

"Okay," he started. "I got a phone call right before rehearsal. Two phone calls, actually." He stopped and frowned at Jensen. "You look really freaked out. I'm not going to reveal a secret spy identity or anything. It's nothing like that."

Jensen blinked. He hadn't even thought of that! "Dude, just spit it out, okay?"

"That's what I'm planning to do. Though I still have sugarplum lube in my pocket, I could tease you a bit first…"

"Misha!"

"Okay, okay! First call was from Ms. Katie. She doesn't want to come back. She's got a better offer, and she thinks she'll be happier there, so she's leaving our school." He paused, and Jensen's heart leapt. If Ms. Katie wasn't coming back, did that mean…?

"The other call was from Principal Kripke. He offered me the position."

"YESSSSSS!" Jensen whooped. "That's great!" He sprung from the couch and wrapped his arms around Misha. And such a relief from all of the terrible things he had thought. Stupid mind.

He insisted that Misha stay the night with him, and it wasn't until he came with a groan, staring up at Misha's flushed face as Misha rode him into the mattress, that he realized Misha hadn't said whether or not he'd said yes.

He didn't get a chance to ask Misha the next morning, as he'd slipped out early to prepare for the long day and Holiday Pageant. Harrison was giddy with excitement all throughout breakfast, mumbling snippets of his presentation: magic beans, basket that kept filling with food, the big white bear and the star. Misha looked equally distracted when Jensen dropped his son off, and he held his tongue.

"Jared," Jensen asked later that morning, glancing across the studio at his partner, "do you think Misha would want to stay at the school if Ms. Katie didn't come back?"

"Huh? Why wouldn't Ms. Katie come back?" Jared had a smudge of purple ink across his left cheekbone. It made him look incredibly young.

"Say she won the lottery or something; I don't know. Do you think Misha would want to stay?"

"Well, why not? He'd get to hang with Harrison all day, and screw you silly each night – which, no, I don't want any details. But you guys look happy together. Why would he want to leave?"

Jensen nodded slowly.

"What's this about? Do you know something you're not telling me?" Now there were orange drips in his hair.

"I sure as hell hope I do," Jensen replied, and Jared retaliated by starting an eraser war.

But as he fixed lunch later, Jensen got to thinking. Jared's answers were exactly what he or Jared would do. Misha didn't think the same way. Misha appreciated doing new things, not being tied to the same classroom all the time. And if he stayed, ethically, he'd have to divulge his relationship with the parent of one of his students, especially if he eventually moved in with them. Then Harrison would be taken out of his class and placed into another. No, Jensen didn't think Misha had told Kripke yes.

The Holiday Pageant started at 6:00 PM exactly. Misha led the first five states out onto the stage. Arkansas tripped and almost faceplanted, but caught himself just in time. When it came Harrison's turn, Jensen and Jared got a very enthusiastic paw wave before Harrison launched into the story of Jack and his loser brothers, Will and Tom, and how Jack was nice so he got the magic beans, the basket that kept filling with food, and became friends with the big white bear who gave him a star. His son grinned wide enough to split his face in two when Jensen and Jared gave him several wolf whistles apiece.

By the end of the pageant, New Hampshire had forgotten his lines, Utah had accidentally cursed (much to the chagrin of Utah's parents), and Wisconsin had to be led offstage in tears, completely overcome by a bout of stage fright. She joined the other kids to sing 'Home for the Holidays,' her wailing a nice counterpart to "if you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze."

Jensen finally spotted his opportunity to talk to Misha during a lull in the reception.

"Misha," he murmured in the other man's ear. "Meet me in the supply closet in two minutes." He walked away before Misha could protest, touched Jared on the arm and asked for ten more minutes, and ducked into the hall. The school was in its holiday finest, nothing too overt, but boughs of gold tinsel decorated classroom doors decorated like wrapping paper. Misha's door featured polar bears.

"Do you really think we have the time?" Misha asked, slipping into the closet behind him and shutting the door with a snick.

"I just wanted to talk to you alone for a few minutes," Jensen said, turning to look at him. Misha's halo was a little askew, his wings had lost more glitter and his cheeks were flushed from the heat of the gym. For the first time, the older man looked younger, and worried. Jensen had a feeling he knew why, and he had to wipe that worried frown off his face. "Misha," he said, placing his hands on Misha's shoulders, "I understand if you don't want to take this job. It's okay."

Misha let out a shaky sigh. "It is?"

"I know you've really liked it. But I think…I think what you like so much about subbing is the change of scenery and the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things."

Misha was staring at him now. "And you don't think it's terribly irresponsible of me, not to grab the steady job?"

"Well, would you be miserable using these same lesson plans four years down the line?" Jensen already knew the answer to that. A devout "yes!" escaped Misha's lips, and Jensen smiled. "You like teaching. You don't like teaching the same thing over and over again."

Jensen had to admit to himself, he was a little proud of the look of shock on Misha's face, especially when it was replaced by a glorious smile and Misha throwing him up against the door.

"I told Jared I'd be ready to go in ten minutes," he managed to get out between frantic kisses.

"Plenty of time," Misha muttered, sinking to his knees. Jensen grabbed for his hair and came up with the halo, holding on tight as a thoroughly debauched angel with glitter on his cheeks took him into his mouth.

***

Three days later, Jensen left Harrison at home with his newly-arrived parents so he could pick Misha and all of his stuff up from the school after the afternoon bell. It was Misha's final day as Harrison's teacher, and unlike most of the kids, Harrison had not cried. He would be spending Christmas with Mr. Misha, after all, and, if Jensen had his way, that would just be their first Christmas together.

Misha was sitting behind his desk. Jensen had never actually seen him use it, as it wasn't all that practical for teaching five-year-olds. He was bent over some paperwork and must have just recently run his fingers through his hair in frustration, as it stuck up in clumps. His cuffs had been unbuttoned and his sleeves rolled up, too, and Jensen could just see the hint of tongue poking its way out of the corner of Misha's mouth. In short, he looked utterly delicious.

"Hey, Teach," Jensen called softly from the doorway, and Misha looked up, a weary smile on his face.

"Jensen," he said warmly.

"You look like you could use a distraction." Jensen sauntered into the room in his best Casa Erotica gait. "I've come to fix…whatever equipment our public school system has deemed appropriate for your classroom."

Misha pushed back from the desk, his smile wide now. "I'm afraid I'm sitting on the only equipment Uncle Sam has sprung for."

"Hmmm." He was right in front of Misha now and reached out to push the hair off his forehead and run his knuckle gently down Misha's jawline. "Are you packed?"

Misha laughed. "So much for my distraction! And yes." He gripped Jensen around the waist and pulled him onto the chair. It squeaked alarmingly.

"Pretty soon I will have to fix your fancy equipment," Jensen muttered, adjusting his position. "So what are you working on, or can we leave?"

Misha glanced down at the desk. "Resumes for Ms. Katie's replacement. I went through them and made comments."

"And who's your top pick?" Jensen shifted again and then, oh, hello! That was a good position. He leaned forward slightly and Misha's eyelids fluttered.

"Uh…" he gestured at the desk. "Genevieve Cortese. Sounds like she had a good sense of humor, but won't be pushed around by the kids. You should send Jared by to meet her."

Jensen grinned. "You sure she's a woman?"

"I called her. Woman."

"Okay. Now, no talking about Jared or anyone else for the next ten minutes," Jensen breathed against Misha's neck. He ground his hips slowly down, Misha gasped and sighed, and then they were sprawled on the floor, the chair in pieces.

Misha burst out laughing. "Well. My legacy." He offered Jensen an arm. "Let's continue this someplace else?"

"My parents are at my house already," Jensen sighed, picking up Misha's boxes. The chair? Well, if he knew himself, and he did, better now than before, he'd be sneaking in sometime over the holiday break to fix the damn thing.

Misha threw on his coat, gathered up the pieces of chair, took one last look around the room, and turned off the lights.

"You're keeping that chair?" Jensen asked, waiting as Misha locked the door one final time.

"Nope. But I don't want you to have to break in over break to fix it. This way Jared can fix it, and present it to the new teacher as a 'welcome to our school, my kid doesn't go here but I attend all the events, sometimes dressed as a moose' gift. I think it will go over well."

Jensen had to laugh. "I love you."

"Yes, I know." Misha grinned at him. "Now let's go home so I can meet your parents, and traumatize them by loudly making sweet, sweet love to you tonight."

Jensen grinned back. It was already the best Christmas ever.