The bus is late. Well, not so much late as non-existent. Which naturally means, when the next bus eventually does turn up it's jam-packed. If Jensen were in a better mood he might be happy that the driver lets him and his fellow damp and mutinous would-be commuters on board at all considering how over-crowded it is. But his mood isn't remotely good so instead he just feels miserable and overwhelmed as he stands squashed in-between a businessman who's belly is protruding obscenely out over the top of his cheap polyester pants, and a lanky teenager who keeps elbowing Jensen in the ribs as he plays with his cellphone.
If his own phone hadn't died around lunchtime - because his charger had inexplicably decided to stop charging at some point the previous night - Jensen would plug in his headphones, close his eyes and block out the entire bus, city, possibly even the whole planet. As it is, he counts down the streets and stops in his head, impatient to escape the smell of stale sweat, damp clothes and the vague but unmistakable pong of a dirty diaper lurking somewhere.
At least it's Friday evening, Jensen consoles himself - shuffling a little to get out of the reach of sharp elbows just to be jabbed in the back by the pointed tip of a carelessly held umbrella - the end of another horrendous day, and yet another hellish week. He has two whole days before he has to face his boss again. Jensen shudders; the thought of her enough to darken his mood even further. His promotion should have been a good thing; more responsibility, more input and a few dollars more in his pay check. In the past three months since he moved onwards and upwards however, he's found himself dreading each day a little more, until this past week when it's been a struggle to even drag himself out of bed. It's not that the work is too much, or his new colleagues are particularly unfriendly. Pure and simply it's his boss who seems intent on making his life miserable.
She's jealous. Objectively, Jensen knows this. But that doesn't make the situation any easier to deal with. She thinks he‘s sleeping his way up the ladder; which, if she stopped to consider it, is preposterous. If he was sleeping his way to the top, he'd have aimed significantly higher than a junior marketing position. It's true he's sleeping with the CEO. But then he did move in with Jeff nine months ago, and they’ve been together for almost six years in total, ever since Jensen was a sophomore in college. But Jensen has never, not once, allowed Jeff to influence his career. Jensen got his job, base level coffee making and filing, because of his implacable references and first-class degree. Every small step up through the company has been down to hard work and long hours.
He and Jeff are fastidiously careful in keeping their working lives separate from their relationship. It's not always easy, but it had meant that - up until now - Jensen hasn't had to deal with petty jealousies and colleagues trying to schmooze the boss through him. They haven't exactly hidden their relationship, but they don't fool around at work, ever, and Jensen's rise up through the company has been more steady and less meteoric. It's clear to anyone with a shred of sense that Jensen has gained no advantage in his relationship with Jeff Morgan, in fact if anything it's held him back; his managers falling over themselves to prove they aren’t showing favoritism and his colleagues wary of spilling secrets to the boss's boyfriend.
But Huffman, well that bitch seems to think that Jensen is a pimple on the perfectly smooth facade of her department. One that she delights in squeezing. Every day she finds a reason to yell at him, in front of the whole office. He hasn't handed in a report yet that she's been happy with. Three rewrites is his best effort so far, ten his worst; that particular day, gouged forever like a ragged scar in Jensen's mind; he'd ended up locking himself in a stall in the men's room, stress and frustration twisting his belly into cramping knots and tears of humiliation dripping down his cheeks. His face heats in embarrassment just thinking about it.
Huffman complains about his attitude, his dress sense, and his stupidity. She picks at him like a vulture picking the flesh from a carcass, until he's left flailing and panicked, unsure of himself and doubting his capability. The longer it's gone on for, the less certain Jensen is that Huffman doesn't have a point. Black edged whispers in his head grow louder by the day - if he was any good at his job wouldn't she have backed off by now? Maybe he did get this job, has won his promotions, because of Jeff. Maybe he's naive to think otherwise. Jensen peers out of the bus window trying to figure out where they are, but all can see is the world around him growing dark.
Thanks to Friday rush hour traffic the twenty minute journey home takes nearer an hour. By the time the bus pulls up to his stop, Jensen is wondering if he should just let Jeff help pay for his car repairs, pride and principles be damned. The traffic wouldn't be any better but at least he wouldn't be feeling like a trapped rabbit by the time he got home.
It's a relief to step off the bus and breathe in cool air. Even the slow drizzle of rain slinking down the collar of his jacket and seeping into his skin is preferable to the claustrophobic sway of the bus. It's a ten minute walk home. Far enough for the cold to burrow inside his clothes and tingle in his fingertips, but not quite far enough for Jensen to walk off his black mood.
The hallway is dark, the house quiet when Jensen finally fumbles his key in the lock, his fingers almost chilled numb. Jeff should be home, but then, hell...Jensen should have been home almost two hours ago so he's no room to complain. Jensen toes off his shoes, and sets down his briefcase before padding quietly through to the living room, slipping off his damp suit jacket as he goes. It's not until he sees Jeff standing in front of the fireplace, feet spread wide, hands tucked in the pockets of his slacks and his mouth set in a firm line that Jensen remembers his promise.
This weekend was theirs. His and Jeff's. After weeks of being too tired to play, of bringing work home or staying late at the office, after nights of nothing more than perfunctory hand-jobs and exhausted kisses, Jensen had promised, sworn blind, that he'd be home on time for once and spend the whole weekend with Jeff. That he'd hand over control completely. He’d been looking forward to it for god’s sake; the whole weekend with nothing more to worry about than being good for Jeff – that’s what had kept him going all week. Jensen feels like shit. How could he have forgotten? He's as useless a boyfriend as he is an employee obviously. Maybe though, maybe this is something he can fix.
Jensen doesn't give Jeff a chance to say more than his name; the disappointment is already painfully clear in those two short syllables. Dropping to his knees with an ungainly thud, he bows his head. "I'm sorry, Sir," He says, his voice strangely distant, as though filtered through dense layers of foam.
"Jensen, stand up, please. We need to talk." Jeff says.
Jensen flinches more at the tired disapproval than the actual words. "No, please," he begs. And he hates begging, hates how exposed and shameful it makes him feel. The only reason Jensen begs is to see the heat it injects in Jeff's eyes. Today though,he can't bear to even look Jeff in the face. "I'm sorry I was late. I was....work was....I was late getting away, and the bus was.."
"Jensen it doesn't matter."
"No, you're right." Jensen is quick to agree; it doesn't matter, there is no excuse for his stupid mistakes. "But I swear I'll be good now. I'll do everything you ask. I'll-"
"No!" Jeff almost shouts. "No, Jensen. This isn't how it works. You know that. Christ, boy, I don't know what's gotten in to you lately. Get up off the damn floor. You're soaking wet and freezing cold. And I'm not doing this with you now."
"Please, Jeff. Please, let me. I want this. I want you."
"Shit," Jeff curses. Jensen chances a look up at him through his eyelashes. Jeff's still dressed in his work suit minus his jacket, his tie tugged loose at his collar and white shirt sleeved rolled half way up his forearms. Jeff's hair is never neat, but it’s worse than usual, mussed up like he's been running his fingers through it for hours. He’s scraping his hand back and forward across his beard, a habit that manifests whenever he's stressed. Or angry.
"I promised to spend the weekend with you. I promised to be home on time." Jensen keeps his voice soft and even, careful to hide the panic he's feeling, the swirling pit of misery in his belly. He wants to make Jeff happy, smooth the tight lines from around his mouth and wipe the doubt from his eyes. He needs to please Jeff, can't stand the thought of disappointing him again. "I've....I've let you down and I'm sorry. I want you to discipline me, please. I need it."
"Jensen," Jeff says shaking his head. "I don't think-"
"Please," Jensen interrupts him, something he never does when they scene. "I'm begging you, Jeff. I need to..," prove I'm not useless, show you how good I can be, "I need...I just need-,” punishment, pain, release, forgiveness. To not be in my head. There's a list of reasons, but Jensen can't verbalize a single one of them. All he manages to do is stutter like an idiot. "I need...please Jeff, please..."
"Okay," Jeff says. "Okay, Jensen, calm down, boy." The doubt slides from Jeff's voice leaving steady resolve. "Strip off. I want you naked and kneeling in front of the fireplace by the time I get back."
Jensen exhales, a relieved rush of breath. Orders – orders are good. He can follow orders. His hands shake as he strips off. It takes forever to unbutton his shirt, his fingers unwieldy and clumsy. He tries to fold his clothes neatly, the way Jeff likes, but can't manage to do much more than scrumple them up in a messy ball. He adds his socks to the pile, but he's only just stepping out of his boxers when Jeff returns. Shit, Jensen can't do anything right. He can't even fucking undress himself properly. He's pathetic.
"It's fine," Jeff is saying, but his voice sounds weird, strained. "Just take your time, Jensen."
But that's not right; Jeff gave Jensen an order and Jensen failed to carry it out. Jeff should be mad, should be yelling. He should be screaming how useless Jensen is, how goddamn dumb he is that he can't even follow a simple instruction. But no, that's not right either; Jeff doesn't yell at him. Jeff never raises his voice. Jensen shakes his head. Tries to concentrate. He doesn't remember dropping his boxers on the floor or falling to his knees. That should probably worry him. He doesn't even realize how chilled and damp he is until Jeff wraps a towel around his shoulders and uses another one to roughly dry his hair. It takes all of Jensen's strength to kneel there and let Jeff take care of him. He doesn't deserve kindness. He doesn't want it.
"Okay, boy." Jeff says, giving Jensen's hair a final pat before throwing the wet towel on top of Jensen's discarded clothes. "I can tell that you're impatient, but we're not doing this until you stop shivering." Jensen tries to hold himself very still as Jeff rubs the other towel over his shoulders and back. It should feel good, this kind of attention, relaxing, but it just feels wrong. There's a thrum of discomfort under Jensen's skin, a malevolent itch that's growing more intense with every second that passes. Finally Jeff relents, drops the towel and stands back. "Okay, sweetheart, let's get this over and done with. Stand up and bend over, hands on your ankles."
Oh, of course, Jensen thinks belatedly. It's a punishment spanking. He doesn't get to lie over Jeff's lap. Jeff's lap is warm and comforting, one of Jensen's favorite places in the world. He can come with nothing more than his dick pressing against Jeff's thigh and Jeff's hand heating up his ass. Most nights even the thought of climbing into Jeff's lap is enough to make Jensen hard. He swallows down the disappointment quickly, berating himself as he unfolds and stiffly rises to his feet. He doesn't deserve comfort or reward. Not when he can't even follow the simplest instruction without fucking it up. Not when he spends every day letting people down. Letting Jeff down.
"I'm going to give you ten strokes. No more. And that's it over." Jeff says as Jensen positions himself, head tucked down, fingers curled around his ankles. Jeff brushes his fingers feather-light over the small of Jensen's back, trails his hand down across the cheeks of Jensen's ass. "Relax your knees, sweetheart, that's it. Now, you don't have to count and you don't have to stay quiet. I want you to let it out, okay? Just let it all out."
"Yes, Sir," Jensen says, almost out loud. The first blow is a shock. Not because it's harsh, but because it's the paddle. And how stupid is Jensen that he forgot punishment spankings were carried out with the corrective paddle. It's one of the rules. How could he forget something so basic? He's not a goddamn newb; Jeff and he have done this for years and the rules have never changed. Not without weeks of talk beforehand. Jensen was the one that bought the leather paddle for this very purpose. What the hell was he thinking. The second blow isn't hard either. But Jensen knows the rest will be; the first two always more of a warm up than the real thing. The third blow stings. It catches Jensen across the middle of his ass. The long paddle hitting both cheeks at once. Jensen bites his lip and welcomes the pain in.
The fourth blow lands in the same spot. The fifth too, and Jensen cries out at the burn spreading across his ass. By the sixth stroke Jensen has stopped counting, concentrating only on holding himself upright, holding himself together when he feels like he's flying apart. The buzz in his head intensifying, pounding in his ears and crawling up his throat. His skin pulses, snakes of fear and confusion writhe in his chest, sticking to his ribs, choking his lungs. Sweat trickles down his face, catches in his eyelashes, drips down his cheeks.
A blow across the back of his thighs almost sends him to the floor. Lights spark behind his clenched eyes and the room dips and sways under his feet. He stumbles under the next blow, his legs, heavy as lead, refusing to co-operate, as useless as the rest of him. Jensen fights to regain his position. Angry with himself for failing again. Stiff leather smacks against hot flesh. It's too much, and not nearly enough. Apologies break loose from Jensen's mouth, a rush of words, unbidden and unstoppable. There's a darkness at the edge of his vision that he wants to sink into and a rush of blood in his ears that drowns out the confessions tumbling from his lips.
One more blow breaks something, everything, loose in Jensen. The last threads of his self-control, his discipline, and dignity snapping. His fragile walls crumble, his last paper-thin defenses worn away. He shatters like a dropped glass; his edges treacherous, his splintered remains unstable. The room heaves and spins and the ground falls away beneath him. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Worthless and st....stupid and f...fucking waste of space. Don't d..d...deserve Jeff. Don't d...deserve...anything. So...f...fucking d...dumb, can't even write up a...a....simple report. Shit....s...sorry. I'll....I'll...I'll do better, be b...better....I can-."
"Shhh, Jensen. Come on, sweetheart. It's okay. You're okay. Come back to me. Please come back to me."
Jensen's mouth is dry, his throat gravel rough. He's disoriented and confused. And babbling.
"Jensen, it's okay baby, just focus on my voice. Just focus on me."
He's lying on his side, his sweat-slicked skin sticking uncomfortably to the hard-wood floor, his head in Jeff's lap. "Jeff? Jeff, wha- happened?"
"Jensen! Jesus, thank God. It's okay, sweetheart. It's okay. You're good, just relax, breathe in nice and easy."
Jensen tries to, but his nose is blocked up, and it's hard to draw in a steady breath. His face feels hot and swollen and disgusting. He scrubs his hands across his eyes and his fingers come away wet.
"It's okay, Jensen. Everything's going to be okay. Just breathe, in and out, breathe with me, Jensen."
Jensen successfully inhales, all be it shakily, but to his utter mortification when he breathes out, nice and slow in time with Jeff, a sob rips free from his throat. And before he knows it, his chest is heaving and fat tears are streaming down his face.
"That's it, Jensen, just let it all out." Jeff's hold on Jensen doesn't slacken, and his tone remains calm and soothing, as though his boyfriend lying naked on the floor and blubbering like a child is perfectly acceptable. He cards his fingers through Jensen's hair, rubs circles across his shoulder blades, and keeps up a constant stream of praise that Jensen barely hears. Jeff doesn't move once, doesn't even twitch, despite how uncomfortable he must feel sitting on the hard floor. He holds on to Jensen until his tears subside and his breathing evens out.
"Fuck," Jensen sniffs when he finally has a grip on his emotions. "I'm sorry. That was...I don't even know what that was," He admits wiping the back of his arm across his face.
"You don't have to apologize," Jeff says, his deep voice resonating through Jensen's bones."You didn't do anything wrong."
"I mean it," Jeff says. "You did nothing wrong, Jensen. You're perfect. Absolutely perfect."
Jensen would argue if he had the energy but he feels completely wiped out. And strangely empty. "We're going to get up off the floor, okay sweetheart? I want to take you through to the bedroom, get you warm and comfortable." Jensen nods in agreement. He doesn't particularly want to move, but Jeff is probably getting sick of sitting on the floor and holding him like a baby. "Do you think you can walk?"
"Course," Jensen says roughly, stumbling to his feet. His ass throbs when he moves, but there's not a fierce flare of pain like he expected. Jeff reaches out to help him, but his own knees crack painfully when he straightens up. Jensen cringes, guilt hitting him hard, and he tries to lurch away. Jeff is having none of that though. He loops his arm around Jensen's waist and leads him quietly through the house and up to their bedroom. When Jensen insists that he needs to use the bathroom first, Jeff stands outside the open door and waits for him. Jensen pisses, washes his face and brushes his teeth until the bitter taste in his mouth fades, then - red-faced and trembling - allows Jeff to inspect his backside and massage a little arnica cream into his skin before he ushers him to bed.
Jeff hands him a t-shirt and a pair of washed-soft pajama bottoms, telling him to get dressed and into bed. Jensen blindly does as he's told; scarcely noticing that Jeff leaves the room and comes back just as Jensen is climbing under the covers.
"Are you okay? Warm enough?" Jeff asks.
Jensen hums his agreement, scowling when Jeff stops him from slumping down the bed and curling up under the blankets. "Just a minute, sweetheart; I want you to have a little drink first okay? I bet you're mouth's dry, huh?" Yeah, Jensen runs his tongue over his teeth. Now Jeff mentions it, he could use some water.
Jeff sits on the edge of the bed and hands him a bottle of juice, nudging Jensen to sip it until he's drunk at least half of it. He encourages Jensen to eat some fruit, just a handful of grapes, but lets it go without a fuss when Jensen insists he just wants to sleep. He does however succeed in cajoling Jensen into swallowing down a couple of Tylenol. Then, slipping off his clothes down to his boxers, Jeff slides under the blankets and tugs Jensen into his arms, his head resting on Jeff's chest.
"I love you so much, Jensen," Jeff says softly, almost whispering as Jensen's eyes drift shut. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I don't know what's been going on, I mean I think I can guess, but I’m damn well going to find out for sure and then I promise you I'm going to fix it."
Jensen murmurs sleepily trying to tell Jeff that he doesn't need to fix anything, but Jeff strokes his thumb across the bow of Jensen's lips, gently shushing him. "Go to sleep, Jensen, go to sleep. We'll talk later, babe. Sort this out. You're such a good boy, Jensen. So strong. So smart. Don't think you know how much I love you. How proud I am of you."
Jensen winds himself around Jeff, his cold feet finding a warm nook between Jeff's calves and his fingers clutching at familiar skin. Jeff's words, velvet soft and smooth, filter through his ears, sink into his blood, and the steady rhythm of Jeff’s heartbeat lulls him to sleep.
Jensen rouses slowly, awareness a slow climb rather than a sudden arrival. Jeff's still a warm welcome presence at his side, although apparently his attention is elsewhere. His voice growing gradually louder as he barks at someone on the phone.
"I don't give a flying fuck, Jim. That woman has gone too far this time. She's already been warned about her attitude. . . .No, no I don't know exactly what's been going on, that's what I want you to find out. You're in charge of HR for god’s sake, do your fucking job. . . .Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm sorry, but you didn't see him. I know. . . .I will. Yeah, look I'm going to have go, I think he's waking up. . . .Yeah, call me if you find out anything, thanks Jim."
Jensen blinks sluggishly up at Jeff. "Hey there, babe. Did I wake you up? I'm sorry."
"No, it's fine," Jensen mumbles; sleep still thick in his voice. "Was I asleep long?"
"Just a couple of hours. How you feeling now?" Jensen takes a moment to consider it. Tired is his first thought. His muscles ache, his ass promises to burn if he thinks about moving and the backs of his eyelids throb with the beginnings of a headache. "M'fine," is all he says though.
"Fine," Jeff repeats skeptically, "Sure you are. You want some tea? Anything to eat?"
"Tea?" Jensen wrinkles his nose up. "No, no tea. How about a beer."
"How about no," Jeff says, too seriously for Jensen's liking. "Not until you're awake, upright, and have eaten a decent meal."
"I can have a beer if I want. You're not the boss of me," Jensen pouts without any real protest in his tone, snuggling his face against the soft hairs on Jeff's chest.
Jeff sighs. "No, no, I'm not sweetheart, but I do care about you and I'm not going to let you hurt yourself. Or let me hurt you."
Jensen thinks they might not be talking about beer now. "I'm sorry about before, Jeff. That was messed up."
"You don't have to apologize, Jensen. I should never have laid a hand on you when you were in such a bad headspace. I should have known better. I do know better."
"So do I, Jeff. I'm not a kid any more. I know what I'm doing."
"You didn't know what you were doing earlier." Jeff doesn't sound angry, not even disappointed. He sounds wrecked.
"I did though," Jensen twists around so he can see Jeff's face, so Jeff can see the truth in his. "I did, I swear. I was upset and anxious and just about vibrating out of my skin. I was falling apart and I needed you to ground me, and you did."
"No, Jensen." Jeff swallows hard, his eyes dark with regret. "I ripped you apart."
"I wanted you to," Jensen insists.
"Why?" Jeff asks simply.
And Jensen hesitates. They don't talk about work. His problems with Alaina Huffman aren't something he wants to bother Jeff with. He should be able to handle his shit on his own. Even if he has just proved in spectacularly embarrassing fashion that he can't. "It was just a bad day, that's all," he fudges.
"Try again." Jeff says, but he brushes his lips across Jensen's forehead to take off the sharp edge of his words.
"A bad week then," Jensen huffs.
"And again." Jeff lightly pinches the soft sliver of flesh under Jensen's belly button.
"Hey," Jensen complains, biting down against Jeff's pec in retaliation. "Fine, a bad month. But I can handle it. I'm a grown man. I should be able to handle it."
"Or you could, y'know, talk to me about it."
"We don't talk about work." Jensen says.
"We do talk about us though," Jeff presses. "And about our problems. Don't you think I want to know if something's wrong?"
"I can't go running to you every time someone's mean or yells at me, Jeff. You're not my dad and I'm not getting bullied in the school yard."
Jeff stiffens at his side, all his muscles tensing just for a second. "No-one should be yelling at you. That's not the kind of work environment I condone."
Jensen sighs and shifts at Jeff's side, uncomfortable with the conversation. "I don't want to talk about this, Jeff. It feels too much like telling tales."
Jeff growls, a rumble of discontentment deep in his chest, but he says, grudgingly, "Fine, I'll it let it go for now. But," he adds stubbornly, "We're not finished talking about this. If Huffman is bullying you, you need to act. Put a stop to it. You can't ignore it because you think it's alright for her to be a bitch because you're the boss's partner. If she was bullying someone else you wouldn't stand by and do nothing. You'd be the first to-"
"Jeff," Jensen whines, sounding very much like the kid he's trying to convince Jeff he's not.
"Okay, fine, I'll drop it, but I want you to talk to Jim about all this, understand?"
"Yeah, yeah." Jensen agrees half-heartedly; he guesses talking to Beaver isn't a bad idea. It's probably what he should have done in the first place.
"Now, about this weekend," Jeff starts. "I don't think-"
Jensen jumps quickly in, cutting him off. "I still want to play. I know I fucked up. I'm sorry," He apologizes again, his heart-rate picking up speed and his arms tightening around Jeff, clinging to him desperately. He really hopes he hasn't messed everything up because he fell apart.
"I think we both fucked up, sweetheart." Jeff soothes him, pulling Jensen over and folding him into his arms so he's lying more on Jeff than the bed. "And I don't want to hear one more apology. You're perfect, okay? Always perfect for me. I'm going to spoil you rotten this weekend. Going to keep you all to myself. Make you forget all about work. Show you how much I love you. Even if I have to chain you to the bed to do it."
"Mmm, promises promises." Jensen says. "I hope you plan on following through."
A hiss of pain escapes through his teeth when Jeff cups his ass just a shade too firmly. "But, maybe y'know tomorrow. My ass is kind of sore," he admits sheepishly.
"Go figure," says Jeff, moving his hand a little further north. "So you want to get up and grab some food? Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie?"
"Sure," Jensen agrees, his eyes flickering shut again as he nuzzles into the crook of Jeff's neck. "Sounds good. In a minute though."
"Okay," Jeff smiles, his breath puffing warm and content across Jensen's ear. "In a minute."