Everything's pretty calm on the set when Richard makes it to his first day back. There's the initial rush of people crying welcome back and asking how he's been, aside from working the convention circuit like a tight pair of jeans. Mostly, though, everybody's pretty low-key about it all. Fair enough, they're just here to handle a read-through—but Misha can't shake the anxiety that scratches at his nerves and sets his stomach feeling ill at ease.
He really shouldn't expect anything different, he assures himself. Moreover, he shouldn't feel upset because there's nothing to be upset about. Everyone's glad to see Richard back to the Supernatural set, from Jensen, Jared, and Mark to Ben, Bob Singer, and Jeremy. Even people on the crew get in on the action, and that assistant script supervisor who was just a baby intern when Richard was here last? Well, she takes it upon herself to bring Richard his coffee, exactly the way he likes it, and he gives her a hug for her trouble. Especially since it's not her job to get coffee anymore.
Misha can hardly believe the things he spent all of last night worrying about. The imagined scenarios where his relationship with Richard gets dragged out and paraded around in front of everyone, and all these people he's come to view as part of his family turn on them over it. For all he makes a spectacle of himself on Twitter for fun, Misha has a personal policy about his exhibitionism: anything that's real, anything that really matters, is probably not fodder for public discussion. And there's a reason for that.
Namely, Misha can't help the feelings that kick him in the back of the head during these situations. The gut-twisting, bone-scratching, deepset nausea that lingers in everything as soon as he has reason to believe that details about himself or the people he cares about might get used against them.
But, in this case? All of his worrying is silly. It's silly because, on the one hand, most of these people already know that Richard is one of Misha and Vicki's boyfriends. Most of them have known that Richard is Misha's favorite of their boyfriends since Season Five—and because they really are a family around here, everyone who knows has been supportive. Sure, Misha's had to explain the polyamory thing to a few people—Jensen, for one. And Sera, though she seemed to know the basic idea and be more interested in Misha's actual experiences with it. And, without explanation, she took notes on the conversation—but overall, Misha has no reason to worry about rejection from these people.
On the other, this is a workplace, first and foremost. Neither Misha nor Richard would use Gabriel's return in Purgatory as an excuse to play tonsil-hockey on the set, just like Jared and Genevieve haven't used Ruby's return as a reason to play grab-ass with each other. Just like Lauren hasn't used Bela's return as an excuse to constantly have her tongue probing down Liane's or Rachel's throats. Just like Danneel visits the set sometimes but doesn't kiss Jensen until he's absolutely finished for the day, because she knows the sanctity of the workplace, too, and she knows how intense an actor's work can get as well as anyone on Supernatural.
The bottom line is: they're all professionals. They're here on the set to work, not to fool around with any of their respective significant others—and because they're all adults, they can handle that. There's no reason to fear anything work-related impacting his and Richard's relationship because they can compartmentalize. They can keep work and home separated. They even have an easier time of it than they might in some other line of work because they know that everyone else in the cast is doing the same thing that they are. It's just part of how actors survive—at least, that's always been true in Misha's experience.
So he and Richard show up to set in the same car, but they don't talk about that or hold hands once they're close enough to the trailers. So Misha just has his coffee and compares baby stories with Jared, listens to him gush about how great fatherhood is and it's so much fun, look at these pictures he took, and seriously, why didn't Misha tell him how awesome this is before. So Misha takes deep breaths and tries to ignore the wormy feelings at the back of his neck and in the pit of his stomach, that sense that no, but really, something is going to go wrong eventually.
He's being ridiculous, that much is fairly obvious. And this means that his anxiety is completely invalid, not even worth acknowledging. It should be easy enough to clear it from his mind, too, since it's founded on absolutely nothing.
The problem with this theory is that Misha can't help several things—and one of them is the intensity with which he handles playing his roles. The extent to which he inhabits the characters' spaces and internal lives. And it's even worse when he's working here, what with how long he's been playing Castiel, with how different Cas is from Misha himself.
He needs to become the character or else what is he even doing here, playing at being an actor? He needs to feel what Cas feels, as acutely as possible, because he needs to remember how to handle things as Castiel, instead of as Misha. He needs to see things the way that Cas does, as much as he possibly can—otherwise, he won't feel satisfied with his work, and that's the easiest way he knows of to throw everything in his life out of balance, regardless of how much he tries to compartmentalize.
It's a question of the show, overall, as much as it's a question of Misha's personal take on his craft. Supernatural has never been especially realistic, from where Misha's sitting. It's on the same level as Star Trek, with regard to making up whatever sounds the most vaguely plausible at the time and obfuscating around it with a mix of comedy and deeply emotional performances—and that's why Misha's performance needs to be the best that he can possibly make it.
Any dramatic work might not make any sense if the actors can't sell the emotions in their scenes. Given Supernatural's laissez-faire approach to plotting out the long game, running afoul of that problem is even more of a potential risk for them than it is for others in their line of work. Hence, the level of emotional realism that everyone has to bring to the table. Hence, how much energy Misha puts into becoming Castiel, truly ihabiting the angel's character in the hopes that it might make his performance better. More organic, more visceral.
Organic, and real, and visceral—that's all that Misha means to go for, when he steps into character, adopts Castiel's deeper, gravelly voice and tries to see things as a fallen angel might. If he feels as Castiel, if he does so as much as he can, then it has a better chance of resonating with the viewers, of making them believe what the show's putting out there. And that's the best thing that Misha can hope for. That's the best way he knows to be pleased with his own work.
Maybe it's not the best thing for his anxiety, with how much he ends up worrying over vocal nuances, or the subtleties of simple lines—but it works for Misha in other regards. And here, it works well enough that it's kept him reliably employed since 2008, in a place he gets to share with amazing people—people he's proud to call his friends—and with Richard. Misha can't exactly argue with those results.
This approach has its side-effects, though. Even a read-through can make itself problematic for him, too easy to get wrapped up in—especially when it's not the first one of the day, but the third. Especially when Misha's had to sit opposite Richard for this whole ordeal, looking right at him over the enormous, round table, but too far apart to touch. Too far apart to even sneakily tease at playing footsie.
He should've smelled trouble as soon as he saw Edlund's name on the script. Misha loves working with Ben's stories, but he's not one to skimp on the emotional and physical torment—and he's apparently that it's high time he wreaked some more havoc on Castiel. Today, it's in the form of a scene for Misha, Richard, and Jensen. Apparently, dead angels go to Purgatory, and during their time down there, Castiel and Dean find more than a few of Cas's late siblings. Julie's in talks to reprise Anna, and Misha's heard whispers of Uriel making a return, but today, the lucky angel is—
"What are you doing here, Gabriel?" Misha reads, and has to force himself to look away from the page, to listen attentively as the script supervisor reads the description of Castiel and Gabriel's hug, of them disentangling themselves from each other. He sighs into his next line: "When did you die—I noticed your absence, but you abandoned us once before. Why wouldn't I assume that you'd simply done so again?"
Richard scoffs, and he and Jensen fall into a few rapid-fire lines, bickering with each other—what happened to that DVD, did you lose it… well, no, but it didn't seem like anything he needed to see… he's my brother, you sanctimonious dick… we were kinda busy at the time… if your brother died, you'd want someone to tell you about it, wouldn't you—Misha flinches as they continue, as they raise their voices. The script trembles in Misha's hands, but he tries to keep it at least still enough for him to read. Even without costumes and the full extent of their respective preparations for a scene, they're so believably Dean and Gabriel.
But, then again, maybe that's just Misha trying to justify how he can't steady his hands. How he knows his voice will shake, even before he says: "I would have grieved you, Gabriel—if I'd only known… but I do not believe that we have that luxury…"
There's supposed to be a sound of rustling leaves here, then the sound of snapping twigs, instead of the script supervisor telling them about it. And even though her voice sounds nothing like a forest, Misha could swear that he hears those things. He gasps, and the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. The color drains out of his face at rapid pace—his eyes dart around the room, taking in the only door and all of the windows Misha could escape from—and his hands itch as he turns the pages. He wants to run for the wastebasket sitting by the window, behind Ben's seat, because he's so certain that he's going to be sick—his stomach won't settle down, his muscles tense up, and a tidal wave of nausea smacks into him, rushes down the length of his body—
But thank God for Jared. And thank God for Jared reaching over to squeeze Misha's wrist, to give him a quiet round of sad puppy eyes because he can't ask if Misha's okay, right now. Misha keeps his sigh quiet and just nods, by way of saying that he'll be fine. He isn't right now—not by a long-shot—but at least they'll break after this read-through. At least Misha can get out of Castiel's head soon.
It's some kind of miracle that Misha makes it back to his trailer without imploding. That he manages to stumble out of the room and through the corridors, then flop out on the sofa, and that he pulls all of this off before he has no other option but to collapse in a heap. Not that this helps, at first. Misha's head is still muddled up, his emotions are still stuck in a tangle, and his nerves are still scratching at his muscles, leaving him tense and sick and shaky.
He's not even sure what he'd do in that heap, once he'd collapsed in it. Cry, maybe. But on the other hand, maybe he'd just curl up in a fetal position.
He's not certain how long it is before someone knocks at the door. Not very long, that much is obvious enough. Misha doesn't get up to let whoever it is in; he just groans that the door's unlocked and drags his fingers down his cheeks, starting at his eyes. He digs his thumbs at the bridge of his nose and hopes that it's not Jeremy or Ben—then he hears Richard's Tennessee twang saying, Hey, sweetheart, smells, and feels like a jackass for not even guessing that his boyfriend might put professionalism aside to come make sure he's okay.
Misha sits up for long enough to let Richard get comfortable, then sighs from the pit of his chest and slumps back down into Richard's lap. Rolls onto his side, nuzzles at his thighs, brushes the back of his hand under the hem of Richard's t-shirt, along his stomach. Richard, for his part, tries his best to make this cuddling less clingy and more mutual. He cards his fingers through Misha's hair (and following the rhythm that Richard finds, Misha tilts his head to give Richard a better angle to work with); he rests his other hand on Misha's hip, though it's not long before he's brushing it up and down Misha's side.
"D'you wanna talk about it?" he says, without even needing to ask what's going on in Misha's mind right now—which, in and of itself, makes him different from his character. Which settles Misha's nerves somewhat, gets his mouth to quirk in the vague hint of a smile.
"It's not really that different from usual." Misha shrugs, squirms around a bit in Richard's lap until he's comfortable again. "It's just… Talking about how Gabriel ran out on his family. Knowing that you'd never, but then it's weird, because you're so in-character, and so convincing… It's nothing I can't handle? It'll just take a while to sort through…"
"Can't imagine it's any easier for you on all the other counts, what with the whole, 'this is the first time Cas even heard that Gabriel's dead,' part," Richard supposes, and pauses his stroking of Misha's hair to just outright muss it up. "But good thing I'm not dead or going anywhere any time soon? I mean, you could try to pry me off with a crowbar and you might not get any results. Fucking rubber cement attachment, right here."
Misha manages to laugh at that—not loudly, and not that hard. If anything, it's more of a snicker… but it still counts, as far as he's concerned. Besides, he also manages to smile up at Richard. Earnestly, and for a long moment—and that's some decent progress, in Misha's mind.
And as he nestles back into his comfortable place, as he lets Richard get back to stroking his hair, Misha whispers, "I love you too, you enormous dork."