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Walk This World with Me

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Jensen squinted up at the ARRIVALS board. Flight 815 from Mumbai to LAX was still listed as ON TIME. Apparently LAX had a different idea of what 'ON TIME' meant.

"Dad." There was an insistent tug on his sleeve and he looked down at Harrison's frowning face. "Can I get a soda?"

"You can have one with dinner. Too much soda will rot your teeth."

Harrison humphed and crossed his arms. He was just getting to that stage when whining was passé and sarcasm was new and unexplored territory. Jensen was just biding his time, any day now Harrison would find a map and start making inroads. Until then, he still had his bright sunny boy – most of the time.

"How come it says 'ON TIME'? It's been almost an hour," Harrison said, redirecting his childish ire at the ARRIVALS board. Jensen could have hugged him.

"Customs takes a while, squirt."

"Do you think he'll be sick of Indian food? Or he's become a vegetarian?" Harrison's eyes opened comically wide at 'vegetarian.' He'd had a brief stint as a vegetarian a year ago after Misha had taken him to an organic farm and they'd seen a cow giving birth. It had lasted two days, and then Jared's In & Out burger had convinced him he could give meat another chance.

"I don't know." Jensen refrained from saying he'd barely talked to Misha in two months. Misha had explained the parameters of his silent retreat before he left, but Harrison was convinced that the silent rule didn't apply to conversations between Jensen and Misha. Jensen wished that had been the case, but he'd only talked to Misha for five minutes once a week for the past two months, same as his son.

"Did he stop someplace else?" Harrison was chewing on his bottom lip, a habit he'd picked up from Jared.

"Of course not. He wants to see us, remember?"

"I guess," Harrison said, shifting from foot to foot.

"No guessing about it," Jensen said firmly. He wished his own belief was as firm as his voice. "And look, there he is!" Jensen sighed with relief, catching sight of a familiar frame making his way out of Customs. Finally. The Ackles men were getting antsy, and they were about to hit another level in the parking fee besides.

Harrison ran forward and threw his arms around Misha. Misha always inspired an enthusiastic greeting. Jensen was starting to just get grunts out of Harrison.

"You were gone a long time," Harrison mumbled into Misha's chest.

"But I return bearing gifts," Misha said lightly, his eyes meeting Jensen's above Harrison's head. He looked tired from the flight, but centered and calm. Also tanner, with highlights in his hair from plentiful sunshine. His last job before going to India had been indoors all day and Misha's hair had gotten darker over the course of the year, even as Misha had grown moodier. India had come along at the perfect time – for Misha, at least. Misha gave Harrison one last squeeze. "Let me say hello to your father."

"Ugh, are you going to kiss in public?" Harrison wrinkled his nose in disgust and ducked his head.

Jensen leaned in and gave Misha a perfunctory peck on the lips. "All done, Harrison, come on. Let's get back to the car."

Misha's eyes were on him, he knew. And they'd have to talk that night after Harrison went to bed. Jensen would put it off if he could, probably for forever, but at the same time he was sick unto death of silence and waiting in limbo. Two months Misha had been gone, two months without a co-parent, two months without sex, two months without a partner-in-crime. And Misha came back looking like a million bucks. Jensen looked like hell, he knew.

Harrison talked nonstop during the drive back to the house, during dinner and the bestowing of gifts. Misha was uncharacteristically silent, still getting used to being able to speak whenever he wanted to, Jensen surmised. Finally Harrison tripped down the hall to bed, his new Superman cloak streaming behind him.

Misha cleared his throat.

"Need to do the dishes," Jensen declared, jumping to his feet. Misha followed him into the kitchen.

"What did you tell Harrison?" Misha asked quietly.

"What do you mean?" Jensen asked, starting the water. He could just load the dishwasher, but doing the dishes by hand would take longer and give him something to look at that wasn't Misha.

"About why I went to India."

"You were there, Misha. You know what we said." There was a spot on one of the forks that just would not come out.

"And you didn't say anything else?"

"It was a family discussion. Why would I need to say anything else?" Misha picked up a dish towel and started drying the silverware.

"I meant if you brought anyone home..."

A soapy plate slipped from Jensen's fingers and fell with a splash into the sink.

"Why would I bring anyone into our home, our bed, huh? I told you before you left us I didn't want that!" He was aching to know, dying to know if Misha had slept with anyone else on their 'break,' but no way in hell was he going to ask.

"I know that's what you said," Misha said, still so calm and composed. Fucking silent retreat. "But two months is a long time to go without-"

"Sex?" Jensen snorted. "It wasn't the sex I missed. Well not entirely. I missed having you around."

Finally a crack appeared in Misha's placid countenance. "I thought you understood-"

"Yeah, I did. I do. That doesn't mean I was happy with you gone."

Misha looked at him quietly for a moment. "I missed you, too, if that makes a difference. You and Harrison, and Jared and Gen."

"Well, good."

Misha was still looking at him. "Do you still want me in your bed?"

"Our bed. It's our bed. As much yours as it is mine."

"Well, good," Misha parroted him. He reached down and laced their fingers together. "Then I would very much like to take you to bed." His voice trembled a bit. "It's been two months for me, too."

Jensen breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't that he was a jealous man. Okay he was. But it wasn't so much the sex. It was the idea that he might not be enough for Misha anymore. That the family unit he had carefully constructed of Harrison, Misha and himself might only be in his head.

He followed Misha down the hall to their bedroom. In the two months Misha'd been gone, Jensen had kept things strictly like how Misha had left them. He still took only half the closet space, his keys and loose change spread across just one dresser. He didn't even sleep in the center of their bed, a king-size monstrosity they'd picked out together two years ago.

Misha stopped in the doorway, taking it all in. He cleared his throat. "I could use a shower after that flight." His voice sounded even gruffer than normal. "Would you care to join me?"

Jensen took his face in his hands and kissed him, really kissed him this time. He still tasted like his Misha, still parted his lips in the same way, still dug his fingers into the short hairs at the nape of Jensen's neck like he always did. It was intensely gratifying.

They pulled at each other's clothing as they shuffled towards the shower, their earlier reticence abandoned as their bodies took control. Jensen was still wearing one sock when the water came on and Misha laughed delightedly as it filled up and turned into a soggy mess. God, Jensen had missed that laugh, missed the way Misha's eyes widened in surprise when he got water up his nose (every time!), missed the press of Misha's fingers around his waist, tickling his ribs, stroking his thighs, missed the heat of Misha's mouth around his cock.

As Misha must miss him, judging from the slow way he sucked, as if it were the first time. Though no first-timer would do the things he was doing with his tongue, no one else knew exactly how Jensen wanted it. Misha hadn't forgotten. Even before he'd left, it'd been awhile since they'd done this. Jensen hoped the shower disguised any other dampness on his face. He tangled his fingers through the wet strands of Misha's hair and thrust shallowly into his mouth until Misha moved his hands around to grip Jensen's ass. Then he was gone, rutting uncontrollably while Misha encouraged him, sucking and slurping until Jensen was coming down his throat.

Jensen's fingers flexed and shook, smoothed and petted as he caught his breath. Misha watched him through his lashes, still sucking gently until Jensen couldn't take it anymore.

"Mish," he exhaled on a shaky breath, and then Misha was standing up, crowding him against the wet tiles to kiss him, licking into his mouth, sucking on his lower lip. Jensen groaned into the kiss, pulled Misha closer and cradled his head. Misha was fumbling for the body wash, still the same kind they always used, and his hands remembered where it was, spreading a little on his fingers before dropping the bottle. Jensen shivered in anticipation, added teeth to the kiss as Misha slid his hand between Jensen's ass and the tiles. Jensen gasped at the first assured press of those fingers inside of him.

The last time Misha had fucked him was the morning before Misha had announced he was quitting his job and going on a self-pilgrimage to India. That wasn't how he'd worded it, but he might as well have announced that he was leaving Jensen and Harrison because they were failures and would never be right for him. It was how Jensen took it. But now, with the taste of his own come in his mouth, with Misha kissing along his jawline to nuzzle at his neck, with Misha spreading him, getting him used to accommodating Misha again? Now it felt like Misha had never left.

Misha turned him gently and Jensen pressed his hands flat to the wet tiles and spread his legs. They both moaned when Misha pushed in. Jensen was so tight, but he desperately wanted Misha back, wanted to let him in. The shower splashed all around them, muffling their grunts and groans and the slapping of flesh on flesh as their bodies moved in tune with one another yet again. Misha gripped his hips and pounded into him, slowly losing control. Jensen loved when he did, because when Misha lost control, he gave it to Jensen.

Misha came with a whimper, plastered against Jensen's back, breathing raggedly in the humid air of the hot shower. Jensen let him stay there for a moment before pushing off from the wall. Misha slid out of him and immediately ducked under his arm when he turned around. He clung to Jensen's neck, eyes at half-mast, while Jensen washed the long day of travel out of his hair and scrubbed his back. Jensen let him hang on like a barnacle as he quickly washed his own hair and turned off the water.

Droplets fell slowly from Misha's eyelashes. Jensen tapped his chin with his knuckle, lifting his head until he could kiss him, long, lazy kisses that went a ways toward making him feel better about the argument – discussion – they'd had in the kitchen. It was definitely a discussion. Jensen reached for a fluffy towel and ruffled Misha's hair, smiling at the way it stuck up in every direction, and quickly dried off his body before using the towel himself. Misha was swaying on his feet, the flight finally catching up to him, and spent from his orgasm.

Jensen took him by the hand and led him back into the bedroom, bundling them both together in the comforter before falling into bed, pulling Misha down on top of him. Misha smiled at him crookedly and let Jensen move his limbs around until his body was Misha's mattress and his chest Misha's pillow. Jensen rested his chin on Misha's wet dark hair and felt like he could breathe easier than he had in two months.

Jensen woke the next morning with Misha still splayed across him, dark hair tickling Jensen's chin. He slid his hand up Misha's back, ghosted over his neck, and buried his fingers in that soft mess. Misha could handle a haircut, but the longer than usual strands felt good sliding through Jensen's fingers.

"'s feels good," Misha mumbled, his lips leaving wet trails against Jensen's neck.

"You're all shaggy."

"Mfgh."

"Like a scruffy-looking Nerf herder." Jensen could feel Misha's lips form a smile, and he watched the upturn at the edges of Misha's mouth out of the corners of his eyes, wanting to see it again.

"Who you calling scruffy-looking?"

"You." Jensen's hand stilled abruptly before cupping the nape of Misha's neck and smoothly flipping their positions. Misha's eyes blinked open in surprise, the sleepy befuddlement tugging at Jensen's heartstrings. He moved his hands up Misha's arms and held his wrists loosely above his head, stroking gently at the fluttering pulse points. Misha's breath caught in his throat and left in a low moan when Jensen ground down against him.

"Jen-" he started, but Jensen silenced him with his tongue.

Grinding against each other made a mess, smears of pre-come getting on hips and thighs and sheets, but it was good, so good to feel the drag of Misha's cock against his own and watch his face. He had no poker face in their bed, each emotion displayed with a complete lack of inhibition. Jensen knew exactly what he was feeling, what he wanted, and gave in to him, releasing his wrists. Misha's hands were immediately on him, nails raking down his back as Misha's hips bucked up. Jensen's head fell forward, and then they were forehead to forehead, kissing messily and getting the corners of lips, the tips of noses, despite their close proximity, unable and uncaring to strive for precision while they writhed together.

It'd been too long since Jensen had started his day with long red scrapes down his back. He swallowed Misha's little panting noises, the sounds escaping him again as grunts. He managed to get one hand between them, and Misha's pants changed into a keening noise. Neither of them lasted long after that.

Misha's hands on his back turned to soothing pats and Jensen allowed himself to collapse on top of him, burying his face in Misha's neck for a long moment.

"I missed you," he said after a moment, still a tad breathless.

"I got that," Misha said, his voice a lazy slur, tiptoeing back towards sleep. "Love you."

Jensen raised his head, but Misha was already mostly asleep again, kiss-swollen lips going lax. He pushed sweaty tendrils of hair from Misha's forehead and leaned up to kiss the bared flesh.

"Love you, too," he murmured against his damp skin. His heart flopped a bit, and the muscles in his cheek twitched, tugging up a smile. It was impossible to resist Misha like this, all loose limbs, sweaty and haphazard after good sex, face smooth of worry lines. Jensen had erased those.

A soft snore escaped Misha's lips, and Jensen snorted. He carefully extricated himself and padded into the bathroom for a washcloth. Misha made a coo like a Dr. Seuss character when Jensen cleaned him up and pulled the blankets up over him. Jensen had once made a list of Misha's post-sex noises (and one of sex noises, and one of food appreciation – there was some minor cross-over), the coo being his favorite despite Misha's insistence that he did no such thing.

Jensen let Misha sleep off some jetlag while he and Harrison ate breakfast and played a couple of games on the Xbox. Harrison was using the Saturday morning to start his full-time summer appreciation, despite a few more weeks of school remaining. After getting soundly trounced by his son at Madden Football, Jensen decided Misha had slept enough and sent Harrison in to roust him from the bed.

Misha still looked a little glassy-eyed on the drive to Jared and Gen's. They lived close enough to walk, but Jensen took pity on Misha's jetlag, and his cumbersome bag of different cloths he brought back from India for Gen, and bundled them all into the car. Misha perked up considerably once they reached the Padaleckis'.

Gen opened the door, her eight-months-pregnant belly filling the doorway until they each did an awkward side-step to get inside. She looked sweaty and uncomfortable. Jensen wondered if that counted as the glowing look pregnant women were supposed to get. She had to lean over pretty far to give Misha a 'welcome back' kiss on the cheek. Misha's eyes widened at the sight of her.

"Wow, you've gotten so—" Misha began. Jensen surreptitiously stepped on his foot. "—beautiful!" Misha finished. "May I?"

Gen gave him a skeptical look, but nodded all the same. Misha dropped his bag of cloth and pressed his head to Gen's belly.

"Weird!" Harrison exclaimed.

"Unorthodox," Gen corrected drily. "You've got five seconds before it becomes weird."

Jensen was surprised to see unshed tears in Misha's eyes when he lifted his head.

"Just had to reacquaint myself with the little tyke," Misha mumbled, dipping his shoulder in an odd shrug, as if attempting to laugh it off. "So, uh, where's your worse half?"

"Out back with the grill. Harrison, maybe you could help me spread out my presents," Gen said, poking her foot at the bag, "while your dads rescue our dinner from becoming charcoal."

Jensen grinned at her and ruffled Harrison's hair before herding Misha down the hall.

"You okay, man?" he asked quietly, the sound of Gen and Harrison chattering away fading behind them. Misha rolled his eyes.

"I had a bit of dust in my eyes," he explained. "And come on, it was right there! You've never listened for the baby?"

"I'm pretty sure that it's a breach of pregnancy etiquette for anyone but the father."

"Curses, we've been found out! I wasn't going to tell you this way…"

"Oh, hardy har har." Jensen pushed the sliding glass door open and stepped onto the deck, Misha chuckling quietly behind him. "Jay, dude," he greeted Jared.

Jared turned away from the grill. "Oh, thank God you guys are here!" he exclaimed, throwing an arm around each of them and pulling them in, Misha just short enough that his nose was unceremoniously squashed into Jared's armpit. "Don't tell Gen, but I think I fucked up the first round of chicken."

"First round?" Jensen asked, freeing himself. Jared just threw his second arm around Misha and squeezed him into a bear hug.

"Yeah," Jared said as Misha gasped for air. "I bought extra in case of emergency."

Jensen flipped the lid of the grill up and winced. "Dude. We're from Texas. This is a disgrace."

"So… don't tell my father either, okay?" Jared finally loosened his hold on Misha and held him out at arm's length. "Would you look at you! You're so tan. And you look so loose."

Probably due to the epic amounts of sex we had last night. Jensen smirked and used the tongs to pick off the burned bits of chicken.

"You happy to be back?" Jared asked Misha, causing Jensen's shoulders to tense. He busied himself with fixing the disaster on the grill as Misha finally got his breath back and started telling Jared about India, without ever actually answering the question. He talked for a good twenty minutes as Jensen transferred various meat products on and off the grill and adjusted the heat. Jared unearthed a small cooler from beneath the deck, muttering that it was the only place in the house that could contain alcohol for the next year or so.

"And you?" Misha finally wound down, raising his eyebrows when Jared glanced anxiously into the house and then tried to be subtle about handing around the bottles of beer. Jensen rolled his eyes, but took his bottle and flipped the veggie kabobs on the grill. "How is impending fatherhood treating you?"

"Oh, my God, man, I've been reading about the birth! It's gonna be so disgusting," Jared said, grinning wide, as if the thought of all that blood and the vague (to Jensen; he hadn't been invited to Harrison's birth, hadn't even known about it, a situation he still resented mightily, though he could do without the messy bits of the birthing process) phenomenon of afterbirth were actually great works of art. Of course, Jared drew decapitated monsters for a living, so maybe they were.

"Uh huh," Misha said, wrinkling his nose. "And what about after that?"

"After? Dude, after's gonna be a cakewalk. Do you know how dirt poor we were when Harrison was born? How clueless? This time we got the money and the experience!" Jared took a swig of his beer, satisfied.

"Yeah, experience," Misha said softly. Jensen gave him a sharp look. That tone was a warning signal for a funk. It was time for deflection.

"So Gen's got you keeping the beer on the deck?" Jensen asked.

"No, man, I came up with this myself. Didn't want to rub her face in it, you know?"

Jensen made a noncommittal sound. He seriously doubted Gen wouldn't be able to handle it if Jared drank a beer inside. She liked beer, but she could take it or leave it.

"Gen's really been amazing," Jared continued, his face softening. "It's like…" His voice trailed off.

"Like what?" Jensen prompted after a moment, stealing a glance at Misha. The trace of melancholy was fast fading, replaced with amusement at Jared's antics.

Jared shrugged and gave them a dopey grin. "I was just thinking of something my dad told me once."

"Please. Wow us with wisdom from the Padalecki paterfamilias," Misha said, gesturing broadly with his bottle of beer.

Jensen snorted and checked on the kabobs. He'd probably just imagined Misha's momentary funk.

"He said the greatest thing about being married to my mother was that he kept falling in love with her all over again every few years."

"Well, that's nice," Jensen said. He eyed Misha surreptitiously. Was that how Misha felt about him? And was he going to fall in love with Misha all over again? They were due for it. They could use it, no doubt about it.

"So, what, they'd go on a second honeymoon or something?" Misha asked, leaning over Jensen's shoulder to sniff appreciatively at the grill.

"Uh, no. I think they'd just, you know, have another kid."

Misha turned to face him, blinking. Jensen knew exactly what he was going to say before he opened his mouth, and he really wished he could block it.

"I am getting disturbing insight into your parents' sex life."

Jared's face fell, like he'd never associated sex with his parents before. It was definite payback for all the times Jared had answered Jensen's phone calls all breathless, with the excuse that he'd been trying to make a baby.

"I can't believe you just said that," Jared said in a small voice.

"Is lunch just about ready?" Gen called from inside, walking over to stand at the sliding glass door, hands on her hips. Harrison mimicked her.

Jared fumbled his bottle of beer, spilling half of it, and gave his wife a shit-eating grin. "Right away, babe!"

Misha openly laughed at him, and Jensen had to admit Jared's deer-in-headlights expression was pretty funny. That, and the beer dripping down his pants. Misha helped him load up the platters and carry them inside, still laughing under his breath.

It was good, better than good, for the five of them to be in the same place, sharing a meal. These were the people Jensen loved most in the world, the family he had chosen for himself. Sitting around the Padalecki table, he could convince himself that he and Misha would get over their rough patch; in fact, it was more like a tiny pebble, and that was easily surmountable.

They fell into something like their old rhythm over the next couple of weeks. Jensen dropped Harrison off at school, Jared came over to work on the latest edition of The Ninth Circle in their studio, and Misha made elaborate dinners in the evenings. After a few days, he came back to the house bubbling with excitement. He'd run into some man while he was out on his run and now Misha had a part-time gig as a dog walker. Harrison thought it was the coolest job imaginable and Jensen kept his opinion to himself.

There were no more conversations like on Misha's first night back. It was as if they were replacing words with sex, something Jensen had been accused of early in their relationship. Only now the roles were reversed. But how could he say no to Misha's ruthless determination to strip him and fuck him in every room of the house? It was impossible to form a coherent thought when Misha spread him wide and ate him out, his tongue teasing and flicking and slurping for nearly half an hour before Jensen came with a sob, cock untouched, and collapsed in a boneless heap.

Misha's mouth was always occupied, and Jensen wasn't interested in having a one-sided conversation. So he submitted to the marathon blow jobs, the ring of hickeys and several times getting fucked so hard he nearly passed out when he came. It was the best sex they'd had in years, and he was ecstatic for that, and appreciative of the tender way they held on to each other after, no matter how rough or athletic the sex had been. Misha had always been somewhat of a cuddler in the afterglow, but now he was a cradler, a caresser, a giver of sloppy kisses all over Jensen's back, shoulders, neck and chest.

He finally broached the subject (very delicately) with Jared one day as they storyboarded an epic battle between five species of monsters.

"So, uh, Jay?"

Jared grunted. "Too many of those orange rhino-type ones?"

Jensen glanced at the board. "Well now that you mention it, yeah, but that's not the question I had."

"You had a question?" Jared asked, ripping down the offending panel. He frowned at what remained, muttering, "Could use more wings," under his breath.

"Yes, I have a question!"

"Then spit it out, dude! And where's the purple marker?"

"Quit that for a second and listen to me!" Jensen spotted the purple marker and seized it, waggling it in front of Jared's face before thrusting it into his own back pocket. "Look. Do you think Misha's been acting weird?"

Jared stepped back, surprise overtaking annoyance on his face. "Misha?" He blinked rapidly. "'Weird's' his middle name, you've always known that."

"I meant…" Jensen sighed heavily. "Has he talked to you at all?"

"Talk?" Jared frowned. "Yeah, sure, he talks all the time."

"Jesus, I don't mean 'did he open his mouth and words come out;' I mean has he said anything of import to you at all since he got back?"

Jared scratched absently at his arm and looked out the window. "Ummmm, now that you say it that way, then no. No Deep Thoughts or whatever."

"I didn't think so," Jensen said. "Shit."

"Not that I'm not thrilled to be all caring-and-sharing with you, but can I have the damn purple marker back now?" Jared didn't wait, just shoved at Jensen until he could reach to pluck the marker out of his back pocket. "Now," he said, uncapping it with a triumphant flourish, "why are you all Chatty Cathy, huh? You're not exactly known for being a fount of emotions."

Jensen eyed him. Jared was his best and oldest friend, but if Jensen told him how he really felt, that would make his fears real. He couldn't unsay those things.

"It's probably nothing," he hedged.

"Bullshit. You wouldn't – you of all people – bring this up unless you were worried about it. So what are you actually worried about?" Jared finished adding the purple flying monsters and gave Jensen his full attention.

"Okay," Jensen said, taking a breath. "I think… I think Misha's unhappy. With me. I think he wants out."

It felt like hell saying those things out loud. It felt like all the monsters they'd been working on all morning were currently residing in Jensen's stomach and fighting to get out.

"No," Jared said after a moment. He placed his huge hands on Jensen's shoulders, heavy and reassuring, and let Jensen take a couple of breaths before he spoke again. "Look, Jen," he said slowly, "Misha loves you. If he wanted out, he wouldn't have come back."

"Maybe he just wanted to say goodbye. Go out with a bang."

"No," Jared said forcefully, and gave Jensen's shoulders a little shake. "That's not how Misha does things, and you know it. You just have to get him to talk to you, man."

"I've been trying!" Jensen shrugged off Jared's hands and began to pace around their studio. "Each time I try talking to him, he distracts me! It's fucking hard to have a meaningful conversation when your brain's being sucked out of your dick!"

"First off, holy shit, did not need details. Second, try harder. And third," Jared turned back to their storyboard, "do you think we could get away with using that as a defense mechanism for these yellow things? They have really big mouths…"

Misha returned from his morning dog walking gig before Jensen could formulate a response, effectively putting a kibosh on the relationship advice segment of their day. He kissed Jensen on the mouth, groping his ass and sucking on his tongue, before nonchalantly asking Jared what he wanted for lunch and launching into a story about the dogs in his care. Jared raised his eyebrows, but Jensen shook his head at him. There would be no talking that day, but maybe he could pin Misha down that night.

He did manage to pin Misha down, fucking into him with slow, shallow thrusts while Misha stared up at him, eyes so wide and jaw slack as he slurred encouragement, begging for Jensen to fuck him to sleep. And Jensen did.

He thought he'd have a good time to bring it up the next morning, but instead he woke with Misha's fingers teasing him, slick and warm. Jensen almost refused him, almost pulled back and insisted on discussing what the hell was going on between them, but the expression on Misha's face stopped him. No matter what Jensen thought, Misha looked like he needed this, needed to fuck and be fucked. Jensen rolled onto his stomach to escape that look.

Jensen didn't want to talk about it, that was the real kicker. If Misha just wanted to have epic amounts of sex all the time, that was great. That benefited Jensen! But he'd have to be an idiot not to realize the level of desperation in each thrust, each stroke, each gasped "Jensen!" And even though his orgasm was building, even though he wanted Misha the way a drowning man wanted dry land, he hated being treated like he couldn't see it. Did Misha think he wouldn't understand whatever it was he was holding back? He could understand, dammit, after so long together, didn't Misha trust him? He came growling curses into his pillow, making a mess of their sheets, and almost immediately wriggled out from beneath Misha. Come leaked down the backs of his legs when he stood up, but he didn't care, and faced Misha on the bed, prepared to give him a piece of his mind.

He stopped short at the lost expression on Misha's face. The fear in his eyes, and what the hell did Misha have to be scared of? The moment stretched out between them, long and awkward and not right for the conversation they needed.

"Come on," Jensen said finally. "Shower."

It was a Saturday, the last Saturday of the school year, and Harrison was giddy with excitement to be going to a sleepover that night. Jensen and Misha were headed to poker night. They were extremely polite to each other all day, both aware that something had finally been silently acknowledged. Jensen just had no idea when the silent acknowledgement would turn into verbal acknowledgement.

When they got to Kane's house that night, Jensen immediately got sent out to the porch to help Jared with the good beer. Jason had been in charge of stocking the fridge and it was indeed well-stocked, just not with anything any of the rest of them were willing to drink.

"So have you guys talked? Everything peachy-keen?" Jared asked, fiddling with the label on his bottle of beer as he glanced through the glass door at Misha.

Jensen shrugged. "You know me."

Jared rolled his eyes. "Yeah. And you were the one that wanted some kind of, what? An ultimatum? So did you ask for it or not?"

He already knew the answer, Jensen could tell. Still, he took a swig of his beer to avoid answering right away. "We've mainly just been fucking like bunnies," he confessed finally, unwilling to bring up the weird moment they'd shared that morning.

"Aw, man, why'd you have to tell me that?" Jared exclaimed, pushing back in his lawn chair. It folded awkwardly beneath him and he went down in a heap of limbs.

"Hey, you asked!" Jensen shot back. "You spilled your beer, by the way."

"Thanks for that," Jared said mournfully. "There's nothing sadder than spilled beer."

Jensen raised an eyebrow but didn't comment, just fished him out another beer and grabbed one for Misha. "Come on, enough sharing and caring."

Jason was still shuffling the cards when Jared slid the sliding glass door shut behind them. "Hey, Kane, you need some new deck furniture," Jared said, pulling out the chair next to Steve and plopping down.

"The fuck?" Kane asked. "And where's my beer?"

"Oh, so the one in front of you's for me? Awesome, double-fisting!" Jared made a swipe at Kane's beer, nearly knocking it down as Steve hooted with laughter.

Jensen tuned out their good-natured ribbing as he sat next to Misha and silently handed over his bottle. Misha took it with a tight little grin. Poker nights with the guys were not always Misha's favorite. No matter how many times Jensen said Kane, Jason and Steve were now their friends, he could tell Misha thought of them as Jensen and Jared's friends who didn't really know quite what to make of Misha. Sometimes, that strange tension brought out manic!Misha and other times he just retreated into a shell. On rare occasions, everything went smoothly and Jensen got a mellow buzz of happiness from being with the friends he loved most in the whole world.

It turned out to be a shell night, for the most part. Jason had one thousand questions about India, and asked tactless questions about why Misha had gone (which caused Misha to look stricken and Jensen to wince, leaving Jared to deflect for both of them). Jason finally shut up after Kane deliberately spilled his beer in Jason's curly hair. Steve hooted with laughter again and launched into a raunchy story about a woman he'd met the last time the band had toured Idaho.

"Idaho?" Jared asked, quirking a brow.

"Yeah, Idaho. I'm telling you, the women there are so damn horny! Time before this, we met these twins with no gag—"

That time, Jensen poured his beer over Steve's head.

"What the fuck, dude?" Steve protested, spluttering. "What did I say?"

"Jared's married to the entire state of Idaho," Kane said absently. "I'm calling it. Read 'em and weep." He laid his cards down and sat back in his seat, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Until Misha turned his own cards over. "Fucking hell, Collins!"

Jensen began to crack up. Kane looked utterly poleaxed; he couldn't have been more surprised if Misha had turned into a mouse and done backflips, instead of simply winning the measly twenty dollar pot. Misha caught his eye and smiled the shy smile that rarely made an appearance. It was Jensen's special smile and he hadn't seen it since a while before India. He suddenly really wanted to get out of there and get Misha alone.

He hustled Misha out the door, citing winner's privilege to leave the cleaning of the spilled beer to the others, and drove a little too fast back to their house. Misha laughed at him softly all the way home. He was still laughing when they tumbled into bed, his nose crinkling and eyes scrunching as Jensen undressed him and ran his hands over his torso and sides, as Jensen slowly kissed his chest and nuzzled his neck and jawline.

He watched Misha from beneath his lashes. Misha's face was open and bare, as bare as the rest of him, his love for Jensen so obvious. That was the most important thing, wasn't it, the love. He wasn't young enough to believe it could be the only thing, but as he stripped and covered Misha's body with his own, as Misha wrapped his legs around Jensen's waist and pulled him inside himself, as Misha threw his head back with an aching gasp, Jensen could convince himself that it was enough to heal this rift between them, all on its own. He rocked into Misha, lost in the sensation of tight heat, and forgot his doubts and worries. Misha'd had it right all along. The press of their bodies, the smell of sex, the sound of whimpers and moans – that was the only language they needed.

Jensen remained convinced for the rest of the weekend and through Monday. He called Jared and said he'd like a day off the graphic novel for a mental health day and spent the entire time Harrison was in school in bed with Misha. He sat gingerly in his chair at dinner that night, his ass a little sore from the attention of Misha's tongue and cock, and tried to strike up a conversation with Harrison about his final week in the fourth grade.

Harrison was moody. It was a strange occurrence, and Jensen eyed him with a frown over the dinner table as Misha chatted about random things he'd seen during his dog-walking job. Normally Harrison loved hearing about the antics of the jack russell terrier or the rottweiler mix, but he just pushed his peas around his plate with his spoon. He didn't even perk up at the sight of biscuits.

"Harrison?" Misha asked at a break in his story. "You still with us, champ?"

Harrison shrugged and reached for his glass of milk. Jensen caught Misha's eye.

"Mr. Jim was out today, wasn't he? You like your sub?" he asked.

"Sub was stupid," Harrison muttered.

"Hey, now," Misha interjected. "It's a tough job. Cut him a little slack."

"Her," Harrison said, and surely he had not learned that biting tone of voice from them. "My sub's a girl sub. And she's stupid!"

"That's enough, Harrison!" Jensen barked. "You show adults a little respect. What'd she do to you? Tell us."

Harrison's eyes filled with tears. "She asked me if my mom had made my lunch."

Jensen's fingers stilled on his silverware. He had made Harrison's lunch, just as he had, all packed and labeled, every day since Harrison started first grade.

"I don't care I don't have a mom!" Harrison declared hotly. Jensen's heart swelled with pride even as it ached inside. "I have a dad and he's the best!"

Jensen took a steadying breath. "You have a Misha, too."

"Misha's not my dad," Harrison said, snorting and grabbing his milk again.

Misha made a low noise in the back of his throat and reached for his water as Jensen scowled at his son.
"Don't say that," he said in his most authoritative voice. Harrison's hand froze on his glass.

"Why?" he whispered. "He left us. Dads don't leave. You didn't leave."

"That was different. We explained it. That was – that was a trip." He couldn't look over at Misha. "You get us both Father's Day cards," he said, grasping at straws.

"Uncle Jared takes me to Hallmark. Misha has never, ever called me his son. Because I'm not!" His chair tipped and fell on its side when he surged dramatically to his feet. "And I hate peas!"

"Harrison!" Jensen bellowed, but his little feet were already pounding down the hall to his room, and a moment later the door slammed. First ever slamming of the door, Jensen thought dully.

"I love peas," Misha said softly.

"Mish—"

"What? It's true, I have never introduced him as my son. I always say Jensen's son. My partner's offspring. The happy result of my boyfriend getting it on with a woman. The seismic event that convinced my lover he preferred cock." Misha drained his water like it was a shot of tequila and banged his glass on the table.

"Misha, he's nine years old. He didn't mean anything by it." Jensen tried to ignore that he was attempting to convince himself of the same thing. Now that they were finally circling what Jensen had been trying to talk about ever since Misha got back, he wanted nothing so much as to drop the subject.

"Didn't he? Out of the mouths of babes and all that?"

"Don't be stupid, you're his father—"

"Whose names are on his emergency contact sheet? Yours and Jared's?"

"Our names! Our names down as 'parents.' I thought that was what you wanted!"

"It is what I want!"

"Then fucking act like it!" Jensen cried. His butter knife cut a savage streak through the air as he gesticulated wildly, something Misha always did that he was picking up on, much to Jared's amusement.

"Like how? Like not going to India?" Misha's voice was deadly soft.

"I never said you couldn't go to India."

"True. You practically packed my bags for me. 'See ya, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.'"

"What?" Jensen gaped at him. How could he even think it? "You were all gung-ho about it! You said you needed to get away; you were being stifled here. How do you think that made me feel? I was miserable without you!"

"I was stifled by my job! You know that. We even talked about it when we weren't in bed. And if you were so damn miserable without me, why didn't you ask to come with me? If you wanted to be with me so badly, why didn't you say, 'Wait, and the three of us will go together?' Why did you send me by myself?" Misha's jaw clenched, his brows lowered, but Jensen could only stare at him. Had he, Jensen, had it wrong this whole time? Misha hadn't left them – he'd been pushed out?

"I thought you wanted to get away – not just from that shithole job. But from us," Jensen said slowly.

"Why would I ever want to get away from you?"

Jensen stared at him, dumbfounded. All he could think of were his faults, all the annoying things he did that Misha would never do.

"We're so different?"

"That's your reasoning? Really? We're so different?"

"Well I don't know! I don't like being away from you even though we're nothing alike."

"Uh huh. But I'm supposed to want to be away from you?"

"No!" Jensen ran a hand through his hair and brought it down over his face. Why was it so fucking hard to put this into words? He wrote for a living! But talking to Misha was a verbal mine field. "When did this get hard for us?" he asked, glancing away from Misha and out the window.

"I thought we were always hard."

"Mish—"

"Sorry." Misha sighed. "Relationships are hard work, right? That's what everyone says. I know I don't want to do it again."

Jensen's heart stopped. He stared out the window into the neighbors' back yard like his life depended on it.

"Jen. I meant – again. As in, some new relationship with someone else. I don't want that." Misha sounded anxious, not angry or sad or hurt like he had earlier in the evening. It calmed Jensen considerably, and he was finally able to look back at Misha.

"I'm sorry I didn't really listen to you about India. I'm such a fucking idiot."

Misha snorted. "No more so than me – I actually went!"

Jensen rose on unsteady feet and walked around the table to Misha's chair and hauled the other man to his feet. "You are Harrison's father. I should have insisted we escape together."

"Escape. I like that word."

"I thought you would." He took a deep breath. "I love you, you know."

Misha raised his hand and placed a sloppy kiss in the middle of Jensen's palm. "I do know that. I even believe it."

"I've been," Jensen paused for a breath, "I've been wanting to talk to you about this since you got back, but you kept shutting me down."

Misha rubbed his thumb over the place he'd just kissed. "Everything was so clear in India. Then I got back and you were – I thought I was doing you a favor by not talking about it. Let me be clear now: I want this. The three of us are a family."

"Good. That's exactly what I want." Jensen managed a shaky smile. "And now that we've talked about it, we can take a breather on all the talking!"

"Yes, my mono-syllabic partner-in-crime." Misha's arm encircled Jensen's waist and tugged, half pulling the other man into his personal space. "Just promise me before we make any life-altering decisions, we talk about them first. Novel concept."

"I think I can manage that." Jensen kissed him, slow and languid before a thought occurred to him. "We still need to go yell at our son for slamming his door."

***

Jensen woke up the next morning happier and better-rested than he'd been in months. Misha made Harrison's lunch that morning, Harrison's last full day of school for the year. He'd been contrite when they'd opened his door last night. Harrison had always loved Misha from the very first day they'd met, always been a bit breathless with joy in his presence. Jensen had stood in the doorway as they carried on a whispered conversation that seemed to include many mentions of characters from The Ninth Circle. Jensen wrote the damn thing and he couldn't tell what they were pulling out of it, but it seemed to work for them, if the hugs and "Good night, Dad! Good night, Pops!" was any indication.

Harrison had one more half-day of school on Wednesday, Thursday was his traditional First Day of Summer Vacation Fishing Trip with Jared, and then they would have the summer. Jensen had some ideas about that, plans that had vaguely started to coalesce after he and Misha had finally talked about India. So on Thursday morning after seeing Harrison off at a ridiculously early hour, Jensen sat down with his computer and pulled up several different websites. Misha puttered around him, pulling out various tubs for some kind of creative project while Jensen made some cost estimates and lists. He was just starting to get a cramp in his finger when his cell rang.

Genevieve liked a certain kind of cheese, sold by one particular cheese monger with a booth at the Farmers Market. Jensen listened patiently to her description of the cheese (and that was another thing about her pregnancy - she tended to ramble and not realize it; Jensen wondered how many conversations they'd had over the years that she'd cut off, and if she'd revert back to that after the baby arrived) and told her yes, of course he'd drive her.

"Mish!" he yelled after hanging up. "The Queen of All desires cheese. Care to come with?"

Misha looked up from where he was kneeling on the dining room table, ignoring the way Jensen's jaw twitched at the sight of bare feet in close proximity to where they ate. Where Jensen ate, more specifically.

"I could use some flowers for my project," he mused, and hopped off the table. Jensen barely caught a glimpse of brown paper, felt scraps and buttons spread across the table before Misha was sweeping it all up and dumping it into a plastic tub.

"Do I want to know?" Jensen wondered out loud.

"You'll love it!"

Misha bounced out of the passenger side seat when Jensen pulled up at Jared and Gen's house. Gen was already hurrying down the walk, cloth bag bouncing on her hip. She rolled a bit when she walked, a nearly imperceptible waddle, not that Jensen would ever be dumb enough to say that.

"You look absolutely ravishing today!" Misha greeted her.

"Yeah, let's just hurry. I'll have to pee again in ten minutes." She struggled with her seatbelt as Misha tucked her skirt safely into the car and shut the door. Jensen met his eyes in the rear view mirror as he quickly buckled his own seat belt. Misha's eyes danced with amusement. Jensen shook his head at him and reached across to gently take the seatbelt from Gen's hands and slide it smoothly into the buckle.

"Thanks," she muttered.

"So, Gen," Misha started, "what's with the craving for cheese? I thought cravings were just in the first trimester."

Jensen was tempted to reach back and pinch him.

"It's just really good cheese," she said with a frown. "And I don't need to be pregnant to crave this cheese. It's very popular."

"My mistake," Misha murmured.

"Besides, a lot of pregnancy cravings aren't for things like cheese, they're for, like, sweets or chips."

Jensen kept his mouth shut.

"Sorry," Gen mumbled after a moment. "I'm just so irritable lately. I don't know why."

"Maybe it's the extra poun-"

"Hey, you know what else they have at the farmers market!" Jensen interrupted, ignoring Misha's silently shaking shoulders in the backseat. "Flowers! Misha's got a thing for flowers."

"Really?" Gen craned her neck around to look at Misha. "What are you doing with flowers?" she asked suspiciously.

"I want to make Jensen a flower crown because he's the king of my heart," Misha answered with a straight face.

"And look at that, we're there!" Jensen had never been happier to pay an exorbitant amount for parking before in his life. Anything to stop the conversation.

Gen knew exactly where she wanted to go and marched them through the outskirts of the market to the cheese stalls in the center. Misha made motions like he was going to leave them to look at flowers, but Jensen was having none of it. No way was he facing this alone.

Ten minutes of haggling later, they were still in the first cheese stall.

"This is fascinating," Misha murmured to him, though Jensen thought he could have just as easily shouted. Gen and the cheese monger were completely focused on each other, the platter of samples between them like a chess board awaiting their next moves, Gruyere to Wensleydale, checkmate.

"If you say so," Jensen whispered back. "My foot's asleep. And aren't these prices already set?"

"Hush, love, you're ruining the mood," Misha chided him. "I'm so glad I waited to get the flowers. Gen's fucking golden!"

"Okay, gentlemen, we're done here," Gen interrupted him, licking her fingers. Jensen glanced at the sample tray. It was rather conspicuously empty. Gen tracked his eyes. "I saved you each one," she said, handing them each a napkin-wrapped morsel. "Now come on, I have to pee like a race horse."

She stepped over the threshold and stopped abruptly. "Oh my God!"

"What?" Jensen asked, mouth full of cheese. It really was quite good. He craned his neck to see over the top of Gen's head – nothing to cause an exclamation.

"Gen, you're standing in a puddle, careful where you step," Misha said, then gagged on his cheese. "Oh my God! Gen!"

"What? What?!" The other two sounded panicked, and Jensen still couldn't tell what the hell was going on. Gen was trembling like a leaf on the wind. If only she would move, Jensen could get around her and fix… whatever the hell was wrong.

"Her water just broke, Jen, stop shoving," Misha answered, abruptly snapping out of it. Jensen froze. This was mixed up, Jared should be here, they should have switched the fishing tradition this one time. Didn't they know the baby was coming today? No, wait, they hadn't. Gen had two more weeks.

"You have two more weeks!" Jensen exclaimed. "This can't be right!"

Misha looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "Jensen. Genevieve's baby is coming now. You're going to get your shit together and drive us to the hospital. Now move your ass!"

Jensen moved. He had a mission, by God. No godchild of his was going to be born in a cheese stall. Which reminded him, he should probably talk to Jared about the whole godchild thing. He cupped his hands around his mouth and did his best Fezzik: "EVERYBODY MOVE!"

The five other people in the market looked at him curiously and went back to inspecting cheese and honey and deli meats. Misha sighed, slipped an arm around Gen's waist, seized her other hand, and hustled them out of the market.

"Misha, he's nuts, but he's right. This wasn't supposed to happen yet," Gen babbled. "I mean, I have laundry in the dryer, I haven't cleared the DVR, and Jared still hasn't been totally convinced that we can't name her Gertrude!"

Jensen winced, Gen's cloth bag full of cheese bouncing on his hip as they hurried to the car.

"Everything's going to be fine," Misha said. "Just, uh, don't get in yet." He reached into the footwell of the backseat and unearthed Harrison's Captain America beach towel and spread it out across the bench seat. "There we go; we'll be nice and cozy back here. Cap can take it."

Jensen's eyebrows rose as he helped Gen in after Misha. Cap certainly could not take it, but it was better than nothing. They peeled out of the parking lot, tires screeching.

"Try not to kill us all," Misha called from the backseat, cradling Gen awkwardly. Gen was panting and mumbling to herself, eyes wide.

"Right. Sorry." Jensen shook his head, trying to clear it of its fog. He had to concentrate. They were about twenty minutes from the hospital. Women in the movies always had their babies about two minutes after their water broke, but surely that was an exaggeration. Gen needed to have… contractions. Yes. Contractions.

"Have you had any contractions?" Jensen barked.

"I – I – I – I had false labor last week, and three days ago, and the doctor said it wasn't – oh my God, I can't believe this is happening, I can't believe Jared is off fucking fishing, it's going to take him two hours to get here, and yes, dammit I'm having a fucking contraction, Misha don't you dare let go of my hand, don't you dare leave me, I will hunt you down, I fucking mean it! Fuuuuuuuuuuck!"

Jensen tore his eyes away from the rearview mirror before they got into an accident. Well, that answered some things.

"Gen, honey, I'm not letting go of your hand, sweetheart, but I'm going to use my other to call your doctor and tell her we're going to be there in five, okay? Jensen's going to call Jared. It will be okay." Misha's voice was calm and firm, the same voice he used when he taught Harrison's class years ago. It didn't have quite the same effect on Gen as it had had on the kids.

"No, it's not going to fucking be okay," she snarled, but Misha had already fished out his phone and had managed to reach the hospital.

Jensen managed to fumble the hands-free on at a red light, hitting the button for Jared before the light changed and he was speeding, as much as he could in Los Angeles.

"Dude, you're disturbing the fish –" Jared's voice began, but Jensen cut him off.

"Baby's on her way!" Jensen yelled into the mic. "Get your ass to the hospital! Don't forget my son! Water broke and everything!"

"WHAT? WHAT?! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! I SMELL LIKE FISH!"

"Jared Padalecki, I don't fucking care what you smell like, just GET HERE!" Gen yelled from the backseat.

The sign for the hospital shone like a beacon of light to the stranded sailor, or at least it seemed that way to Jensen.

"Jay! We're there now, hurry up!" Jensen barked into the phone.

"Pull up to the valet drop-off," Misha said calmly. "They're waiting for us."

Jensen spared him a glance. Misha was taking this great. Definitely better than Jensen was. "Dude, you make such a great dad," he said, his mouth forming the words before his brain caught up to them. He didn't care, though, not when Misha gave him a blinding grin.

"I'm going to be sick," Gen announced.

"Sorry," Jensen huffed, and eased on the brakes in the circular drive. An orderly was waiting with a wheelchair.

"No, I mean, I'm literally going to be sick," Gen said, kicking at the car door. Misha leaned over and pushed it open, and he and the orderly helped Gen into the chair. She was still clutching Misha's hand and dragged him right out behind her. "I'm not ready for this, Misha; you guys have Harrison and he's turned out great. What if I screw this up? What's the trick? How do you raise a kid? How do you fucking do it?"

"Gen." Misha crouched down in front of her, taking her other hand in his and squeezing them both. Jensen watched, his breath caught in his throat, paying no attention as the hospital staff ran over to park their car. He was focused on the tableau in front of him. "Listen to me. You may think you're not ready for this, but the trick is: no one is. That baby's coming, and she's going to turn your world around and make you act insane and fill you with the most joyful highs and scariest lows, and all you can do is take it as it comes. It's going to be amazing. I promise. I promise we'll be with you, every step of the way. Okay, sweetheart? You'll never have to do this alone."

"Okay," she said in a small voice. "You'll both come in with me, right?"

"Yeah," Jensen managed. It was the only sound he could make past the lump in his throat. How had he ever thought Misha didn't want to be part of their family anymore? Nothing could be further from the truth. It would be like trying to function without his heart beating in his chest, completely impossible.

"Uh, I should really wheel her in now," the orderly muttered, looking a bit embarrassed to be caught in the middle of their little scene.

"Just a minute," Gen said, shooting him a glare. She peeled one hand free from Misha and held it out for Jensen to grasp. "Okay. I'm ready now."

Coming in involved a lot more than what Jensen had envisioned. Gen's doctor met them pretty much at the door and began rattling off questions. A nurse joined them immediately and began checking vital signs. Jensen's head was swimming with all the information that was being thrown at them, but Misha nodded calmly, and Gen seemed to take her cue from him – at least until the doctor mentioned they might not be able to administer drugs depending on how late in the birthing process they were. Jensen took the ensuing freak-out as a good time to get an ETA from Jared.

"I'm driving as fast as I can!" Jared yelled when Jensen called, and Jensen could picture Harrison making a face as he held up the phone.

"Please tell me you're wearing seatbelts." Jensen sighed and massaged his temple with the hand that wasn't cradling the phone. Misha was waving him back over. "Listen, we're taking care of her, Misha especially. We're going to try to hold out for you as long as we can. Be safe."

Gen was a little calmer, but it was the calm of a prisoner on death row with no hope of a stay of execution. They were directed to what Jensen could only think of as a holding cell while a room was prepped for them. Gen kept up a low litany of foul language as Jensen and Misha quickly changed into the provided scrubs, booties and caps. Jensen's breath was coming faster. The somewhat stiff blue fabric truly signaled there was no turning back now. In just a few short minutes, he'd be with his best friend's wife as she gave birth. He was going to have to help Gen out of her clothes and into the hospital gown. Her lower half was already wet from the water breaking. Somehow, it hadn't occurred to him until just that second that he was going to have to see Gen naked and in pain, and the thought briefly paralyzed him.

Misha saved him again, talking to Gen in a soothing voice, smoothing her hair back from her face and slipping the hospital gown on before helping her out of her clothes. Jensen swallowed hard. He needed to get a grip. If Misha hadn't come with them that morning, he and Gen would have fallen completely apart. It was not at all how he thought he would react to the birth; of course, he had always imagined that Jared would be in the room and he and Misha and Harrison would be in the waiting room, with pink bubble gum cigars proclaiming 'It's a Girl!'

His reverie was interrupted by Gen shrieking, and he was moving before he knew it, rushing to her side and gripping her hand as she screamed through the contraction. Jensen hit the timer on his watch.

Gen's doctor and a nurse came back in to measure her. Jensen averted his eyes. The shit women went through to give birth, it was a miracle the entire human race wasn't grown in test tubes by now. He tried for a reassuring smile and patted Gen's hand.

"What the fuck happened to your face?" Gen spit out.

"Uh—"

"Never mind, when is my fucking husband getting here?"

Before this day, Jensen had heard Gen say the f-word exactly twice.

"Um, he's still over an hour out," Jensen said hesitantly.

"You have time," the doctor announced. "I think it's going to be a close one, though. You're very lucky; I don't see this labor lasting more than three hours, tops."

Three hours? Three hours?! On a purely intellectual basis, Jensen agreed with the doctor – it seemed like every labor story he'd ever heard had involved around twenty-four hours of grunting and pushing and screaming, all the non-sexy kind. But with Gen right there, squeezing his hand and undergoing a complete personality overhaul, three hours might as well have been thirty.

Gen opened her mouth to rip the doctor a new one, but Misha cut her off. "You'll get to meet your daughter in less than three hours! That's fantastic, Gen!"

Gen's face crumpled. "It's fucking amazing!" she wailed. "Misha! Do you think she can hear me swearing? I don't want her first memories of me to all be – fuck! FUCK!"

Jensen was legitimately starting to be concerned for his hand.

"Breathe, breathe," Misha crooned, as if the vise grip Gen had on him didn't hurt a bit. Jensen shot him a baleful look, which Misha ignored, coaching Gen through another contraction. Jensen glanced down at his watch and angled his wrist so he could hit the time again. That was really soon after the last one. Dammit, why had he never picked up the copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting that Jared had left in their studio?

"Right, we're wheeling you into your room in five minutes. I'll see you in there." The doctor patted Gen on the shoulder and left to scrub in.

"Jensen," Gen panted, "when you tell Jared about this, will you leave out the fucking?"

Misha cracked up first, then Gen and finally Jensen joined in. Gen was wheeled into the OR, clutching their hands as the slightly hysterical sound of their laughter followed them in.

***

An hour later, Jensen had lost all feeling in his hand, Gen was close to hoarse, and sweat was dripping off the tip of Misha's nose, but the baby was getting ready to crown. The door swung open and Jared and Harrison stumbled in, skidding in their booties, wide-eyed and panting for breath. They wore blue hospital gowns over their clothes, evidence of their hurry, and smelled of fish and disinfectant.

"Jared," Gen rasped. "You're here."

"And we're a little crowded now, about to get even more so," the doctor said crisply. "One more good push."

Jensen glanced across at Misha. Misha was about to volunteer to step out. Well, fuck that. If anyone deserved to see that baby arrive, it was Misha.

"Jay, take my place. Harrison and I will wait just outside."

"But Dad, I wanted to see – oh my God." Harrison went white as a sheet, jerking his eyes away from Gen's stirruped lower half, and stumbled back out. Jensen could hear him retching in the antechamber.

"That's my cue," Jensen said, wresting his hand away and leaning down to kiss Gen's sweaty forehead. "You're doing great. We'll see you soon."

Misha gave him a wordless look, full of gratitude and affection.

"Thanks, man," Jared mumbled, lumbering over on shaky feet. "Oh, baby, you look so beautiful," he said to his wife. His hand completely engulfed hers.

Jensen shot them a fond smile and went to deal with his son. Harrison looked at him over the top of the hazardous waste bin in the antechamber.

"I'm sorry, Dad. That was really gross."

"It's only going to get worse," Jensen said. "You're lucky you missed the screaming."

Harrison's eyes grew as wide as saucers at the thought of his beloved Aunt Genevieve shrieking in pain.

"Come here, squirt." Harrison readily let himself get pulled into a hug. The car trip must have been even more stressful than Jensen thought. The sound of a muffled yell seeped through the door. "I missed this with you."

Harrison snorted into his chest. "You probably would have freaked out," he said, pulling his head back to look up at Jensen through his lashes. "Misha's better with this stuff."

"Really? You could tell that?" Jensen marveled down at his son. "Huh. Well, I'll tell you the truth – he handled this time way better than me. I totally freaked out."

They grinned goofily at each other a moment, and then a baby's wail split the silence. Father and son gasped and hurried to the door to peer in through the window. And thus they had an excellent view for the afterbirth a few moments later. Harrison barely made it back to his hazmat bin.

Madeleine Grace was born at 1:30 PM on a Thursday in June, and Jensen had never seen Jared grin broader. Gen gave everyone loopy smiles, finally on some pain meds, and let Misha hold the baby with a tearful, "I love you, man!" She sounded like Jared.

Jensen couldn't look away from Misha as he held the baby for the first time. Misha was captivated, transfixed, transported. The crinkles around his eyes, the smile lines around his mouth, the way his nose scrunched – everything bespoke of joy and wonder. It hit Jensen like a ton of bricks – here, in this room, was the family he had made for himself. Here was his future, cooing over a squalling baby, grinning like a loon and completely at home.

His eyes grew damp as he watched Jared help Misha place the baby in the cradle of Harrison's arms. Harrison held his breath as he stared down at the newborn.

"Mish," Jensen croaked out, and cleared his throat. Misha looked up and came over to him in the corner right away.

"Are you okay?" he asked with a concerned frown.

"Yeah. Yeah, I just…" He looked away for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Jared, Gen and Harrison were competing for goofiest look, uncaring that little Madeleine couldn't tell the difference at this point. "Our son's good with babies. But not with blood," he said the first thing that popped into his head.

Misha gave him a bemused look. "I'm okay if our son doesn't want to be a doctor."

Jensen nodded. Our son. "You know, I thought I'd be more prepared for this. The baby, I mean. But I lost my head. You didn't."

"Comes from having had so many professions," Misha said with a smile.

"Yeah." Jensen nodded. "I want to get married." Misha blinked. "This isn't just – oh, I saw you with a baby and now I want to go all domestic. We're already basically married. We even did the falling back in love every few years thing. It's just… I want us to go everywhere, together. I was just looking at, you know, family vacations and shit this morning. Everything's better with you there. And maybe it's very traditional of me and, I don't know, backwards or whatever, but—"

"Jensen." Misha laid a finger against his lips and Jensen finally stopped babbling. Dimly, he was aware the other three had stopped their baby-talk and were watching them, riveted. "I don't need a wedding, or a paper that says we're married. We're already married. We're already a family. But let's do it anyhow. It will be an adventure."

"I want to have lots of adventures." He couldn't stop smiling. Harrison whooped in excitement, Jared relieving him of Madeleine so he could leap up and give his dads tight hugs. Misha kissed him over the top of Harrison's head, and Jared flashed a thumb's up and huge grin. Jensen was glad he was already in a hospital because he was going to have a heart attack, whether from sugar shock or supreme happiness, he couldn't tell.

"Wow, you guys," Gen slurred. "That was so fucking sweet."

Jensen laughed and squeezed Misha's hand with the one Gen hadn't tried her best to break. It wouldn't always be this fucking sweet, he knew on good authority, but with Misha beside him and Harrison with them, not to mention Jared, Gen and now little Madeleine, it would always be an adventure worth having.