Jensen had never liked hospitals.
He slumped lower in his hospital bed, trying unsuccessfully to resign himself to the slow roll of narcotics through his blood long enough to fall sleep. The bustle of St. Brigid's stella ward was all but inaudible through the heavy door to his room and the psychic dampeners built into the building's very foundations neatly ensured that no trace of foreign emotion leaked in.
The room was the same bland, window-less white of every hospital room Jensen had ever been subjected to, without so much as a piece of unfortunately abstract art to break up the monochrome. Everything about the place was carefully designed with one goal in mind: to cut a suffering stella off from the rest of the world so they could put themselves back together without worrying about any outside interference, good or bad.
It was hateful.
The whole setup wouldn't have bothered him so much if not for the psychic shields. They muddied Jensen's powers and made him feel like his brain had been packed in cotton. After years in the Normal world, Jensen was accustomed to the absent brush of people's emotions against his mental shields. True, he might not have had any actual interaction with any of them, but at least he knew they were there. Now, however, he couldn't even feel that much: he was trying to see the world from behind a brick wall instead of a window and it was driving him mad. Jensen might has well have been on the moon for all the difference it made.
Granted, Jensen's room at Home hadn't been much better, but at least that had had the significance of being his room. And back then, he hadn't known any different.
He'd never resented the forced deprivation quite as much as he did today. Because, for the first time in his life, Jensen actually had something - someone - to be deprived of.
Jared was like a missing heartbeat: so vital and unwavering that Jensen hardly knew how he was surviving without him. Jensen had been hard-lined into Jared's mind for months and the sudden loss of that connection left Jensen feeling cold and alone in a way he'd never before realized was wrong. And he knew, he knew, that Jared was coming back - against all logic because no one should be willing to tie themselves to someone who was as wrong as Jensen - but as long as Jensen was shut up in the hospital he couldn't be absolutely certain until he had Jared in front of him again.
Yearning wasn't a feeling he enjoyed. Generally, Jensen liked his feelings - they were the only ones he had and it wasn't like anyone else was going to appreciate them - but Jared had apparently taken all the colour in the world with him when he'd gone, leaving Jensen with nothing but empty walls and empty people for company.
Jensen briefly entertained the idea of hitting the call button, if only to have some confirmation that there was, in fact, someone in this hospital other than him. He knew how that would end, though. One of the nurses would come running to check that he wasn't actively dying, sedate him to keep him from hurting himself - or anybody else - with his powers, then leave him alone again until dinnertime rolled around. It would be an entirely unsatisfying waste of effort.
He wasn't going to be able to sleep. Jensen huffed and squirmed on the bed, wondering why they insisted on making hospital mattresses out of rocks. The IV tugged as he shifted and Jensen felt a stab of irritation at the reminder.
There was an unexpected knock at the door and Jensen looked up to see his nurse - he didn't know her name, Jared would have known her name because Jared cared about things like that, but Jensen never remembered that he was supposed to care long enough to ask - ducking in with a smile.
"Feel up to a visitor?" she asked and Jensen's heart leaped in the moment before reason reasserted itself and reminded him that it couldn't be Jared back already.
Which left only one other person who'd bother to come. Jensen nodded. "Yes, that's fine."
Chris strode into the room almost before Jensen had finished speaking, wearing the expression that Jensen had learned meant that he was trying very hard to stay calm. Jensen caught the tail end of a frown on the nurse's face as she left; presumably she was going to be paying close attention to them for fear that Chris would upset Jensen's oh so fragile psyche. Because clearly Jensen was a level five empath who'd made it to his thirties with his sanity intact by complete dumb luck rather than iron will and agonizing effort.
In the silent chaos of his own head, Jensen growled in frustration.
A whiff of incense followed Chris into the room, a sure sign that he'd been forced to spend time in relaxation before they'd let him into the ward proper. Jensen had to admit it had probably been a good idea. Chris, like most stellae, was good at walling up his mind, but he tended to fray at the edges when he was properly upset. It looked like now was one of those times.
The chair Jared had been sitting in scraped across the floor as Chris pulled it around and plunked himself down. "You okay?" he asked.
Jensen nodded. "But they'll keep me for another day to make sure I'm stable."
"Good," Chris said. "So, you want I should kick the shit out of Jared now or after you tell me what's going on?"
"I'd rather you didn't beat him up at all, actually," Jensen said.
Chris' eyes narrowed. "Why?"
Long study of human interaction had given Jensen the impression that people generally took time to find the 'right words' to explain situations, especially if the hearer was likely to take exception to what they were being told. Jensen, of course, had neither the ability nor the desire to do so, so he went for the simplest option.
Jensen shrugged. "Because I created an empathic link with him," he said. "And damage to him will have a detrimental effect on me."
Jensen felt the sudden spike of Chris' emotions tickle at the sides of his mind and repulsed it easily. He likely wouldn't have noticed at all if not for the drugs still in his system; pharmaceuticals tended to blunt his edges.
"What in the blue blazing fuck were you thinking, Jensen?" Chris asked, at far higher a volume than was strictly necessary.
Chris was probably angry, Jensen decided; he'd made that same face when someone had stolen his guitar.
"The risk was marginal," Jensen told him. "Jared is abnormally even tempered."
"Oh clearly," Chris said. "That's why you're in the hospital suffering from emotional overload."
"There were extenuating circumstances. And I'm hardly suffering."
"Yeah? What sort of extenuating circumstances are we talking about?"
"His friend got arrested," Jensen said. "He was irate."
"He put you in the hospital just because he was pissed at his friend?" Chris' lips peeled back from his teeth and his chair hit the floor with the clatter as he stood. "I'm going to kill him."
"No, you aren't," Jensen said, but Chris wasn't listening.
"I warned that son of a bitch, I even told him you were here and the whole time, the whole fucking time, he knew it was his own-"
"No, you aren't," Jensen said again, a little louder this time. "Because it's not his fault."
"Of course it's his-"
"I didn't tell him," Jensen said and Chris' diatribe cut off abruptly. "He didn't know about the bond. It's my fault, not his. Now sit down before they throw you out."
Chris gave him a long look, then took a deep breath and righted his chair. "Why don't we start over from the beginning?" he asked, sitting.
Jensen nodded. "Let's."
It took Jensen the better part of an hour to tell Chris the story of him-and-Jared, starting with a large coffee and ending with him bribing Jared out of his hospital room with the Jell-O from his breakfast tray and a promise that Jared could come back once he'd cleaned up, eaten something and slept for at least five hours. Chris listened silently, which Jensen hadn't been aware was something that Chris was able to do. This must have been important to him, for some reason.
After Jensen had finished, Chris sat there for a long moment, keeping his eyes locked on Jensen's face even though there wasn't anything to see on it.
"Let me get this straight," Chris said. "You created a psychic bond - a permanent psychic bond - with some guy you knew from work purely on the basis of the fact that he brought you coffee every day and seemed like he wasn't a total douche. And then you decided not to tell him about it, leaving yourself wide open to brain injury should he hulk out without realizing the damage it could do. Which he did."
"I had to do something," Jensen said and it literally had to be his imagination that he sounded defensive. Not only was it impossible for his voice to sound like anything, but he didn't know what 'defensive' sounded like in the first place. "It was a logical decision."
"The bond? Or the not telling Jared?"
"Both," Jensen said. "Jared was… constant. Beforehand. And after. I didn't see a need to tell him when it seemed unlikely that any complications would arise from the bond."
A sudden smile split Chris' face. "Holy shit," he said. "I can't believe I didn't notice. You like him, don't you?"
"This is a large part of the reason why I didn't tell you," Jensen told him.
"Hey, I'm just digging the novelty of the situation. This ever happen before?"
A sliver of hurt lanced down Jensen's spine. "I'm not actually heartless, you know," he said. "I'm capable of liking people."
Chris made a dismissive sound. "Not what I meant. Is Jared the first Normal to make an actual effort to get your attention?"
"That depends on your definition of 'effort'. People tend to lose interest."
"But not Jared," Chris said and Jensen shook his head.
"I don't know."
Chris rolled his eyes. "Bullshit. You're inside his head. What makes this guy so special?"
"Jared's…" Jensen paused, struggling to find some way to use words to describe something nameless. "Warm. He cares about everyone. It's never mattered to him that I'm so… me. He still cares." Jensen paused, thinking about all the feelings he'd had sifting into his mind since he'd made the bond. "He thinks he loves me."
"Is he right?"
"How should I know?" Jensen asked, bitterness rising like bile in the back of his throat. "I don't know the first thing about what love looks like."
Chris sighed. "I want to state for the record that I never want to talk about feelings ever again after today. Now," he looked Jensen in the eye, "Do you think you're in love with Jared?"
Jensen closed his eyes, trying for the thousandth time to unravel the ball of 'Jared' snarled up inside him. The thought of him made Jensen feel soft and content right down to his bones. His emotions felt out of control, even though his control had never been better than when he had Jared to ground him. It was strange and terrifying and still, somehow, wonderful. "Yes," Jensen decided. "I think I do."
"Thought so. And how does that jive with how Jared feels about you? Anywhere close?"
Jensen could see what Chris was getting at. And emotions didn't work like that, not really, but he recalled the soft, fond brush of Jared's feelings against his heart and had to acknowledge that Chris had a point. It was a simple, profoundly heavy truth.
Chris took his silence for the acknowledgement that it was. He grinned. "Guess that makes you a damn lucky bastard, huh?"
"I suppose so. Do you like him?" Jensen asked, more because he was curious than because the answer would change anything. Jared was most important, now.
"I like him better now that I know more about what's going on." Chris' grin shifted, though Jensen couldn't read the difference between the two expressions so it didn't matter much. "S'not gonna stop me from giving him the 'hurt him and I'll drop you off a tall building twice' talk. Again."
"Don't kill my… " Jensen faltered, frustrated again by the limits of language.
"Boyfriend?" Chris suggested. "Lover? Soul mate?"
"Jared," Jensen settled on finally. "My Jared."
Chris chuckled. "He is at that. God help the pair of you." His expression sobered. "Do your parents know?"
"No," Jensen said. He chose to ignore the way the thought of telling them about Jared made his stomach twist.
"You're going to have to tell them sooner or later," Chris said and Jensen nodded.
They sat there a moment in silence, then Chris reached carefully out and patted Jensen's shoulder. His thumb brushed Jensen's skin above the collar of his medical gown and Jensen felt a spark of fondness, there and gone in an instant. There was no doubt in his mind that Chris had done that deliberately.
"Worry about it later," Chris told him. "No need to make yourself miserable before you've even got started."
Jensen felt the slightest stirring of Jared's emotions in the corner of his mind and felt something like relief uncoil inside of him. "Looks like you'll have your chance to threaten him now," he told Chris. "He's in reception." He should have been able to feel Jared from halfway across the city, but it was hard to muster up the appropriate indignation about that when Jared's heart was finally back where it belonged.
Chris shrugged. "Eh, I'll save the threats for after you get your ass out of the hospital."
"How considerate of you." Jensen's attention was on the door before Jared had even raised his fist to knock. "That wasn't five hours," he said.
"Time moves slower when you're in the hospital," Jared answered, breezing into the room and bringing Jensen's colour back with him. "I've actually been gone for three days. Hey, Chris. Decided not to kill me, after all?"
"Apparently it will upset Jensen," Chris said.
"Yeah?" Jared turned to Jensen and grinned that wide, infectious grin that Jensen had fallen for even when he couldn't understand the reason for it. Now, with the full weight of Jared's affection behind it, it was overwhelmingly beautiful. "Awesome."
Chris was right: Jensen was absolutely the luckiest bastard in the entire world. Now he just had to figure out how to let Jared know it.