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I am likely to miss the main event
If I stop to cry or complain again
So I will keep a deliberate pace
Let the damned breeze dry my face

- Fiona Apple, "Better Version of Me"

~Jared’s POV~

Too young. Too straight. Too tall. Too Jensen’s best friend.

Too flamboyant. Yeah, that one is totally understandable when it follows right after the whole ‘too straight’ reasoning. Which it did.

Too many excuses to keep any kind of fucking track of.

And not one of them makes a goddamn drop of sense, but there you go, that’s Christian Kane’s version of logic for you. It’s all too fucking screwy for anybody but Chris, and possibly Steve and Jensen, to understand.

But I’m not part of the in crowd; I’m just the guy that spreads his legs for Chris. Do Jensen and Steve do that for Chris when they’re knee deep in in-jokes and whiskey?

Fuck, talk about thought trains I’d like to see pull out of the station without me aboard. Thankfully, just this once, my subconscious lets it go. I guess you can drink every part of your body and soul into submission after all.

My Mama would be so proud, me still learning and shit.

So why couldn’t I learn my lesson with Chris? I’m not a slut, I don’t fuck anything and everything, despite current press, but every time we crawled into bed, hell, even the times on the living room floor, I was hoping against pretty much everything that he’d finally let me inside of him at the same time. And no, I’m not talking about bottoming. That’s nowhere near as hard for Chris to do as people would like to think it is. I’m talking about letting me inside of his head, his soul, his fucking heart.

What a waste of the last twelve months that turned out to be. Can’t get inside of something that doesn’t exist for us mere mortals. Those of us that can’t sing, weren’t middle aged vampires, those of us that aren’t ‘brothers’.

You know, basically, me.

“You probably don’t need that drink, Padalecki.”

Mike. Great. I knew I should have gone home to turn this one on. Only problem with that was, this is L.A. and I don’t have a home here anymore. Maybe the generic, tastefully bland motel room would have been a better choice if I’d known what I thought was an anonymous bar would lead to Mike Rosenbaum.

What else can I do but meet his eyes as I swallow the shot of tequila. No, that wasn’t something Chris taught me, it’s just a talent he kind of polished up and made all shiny like.

“What I don’t need is somebody else telling me what it is I need.”

“Fair enough.”

But just when I think the asshole’s done whatever he was sent here to do and he’s going to leave me be, he pulls out the chair and signals for another glass.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Mike? I don’t need, or want, a baby sitter.”

“Do I look like I wipe shitty asses to you?”

“No, but that just makes the reasoning of why you’re here that much harder to comprehend.”

The waitress brings Rosey’s glass and with a steady hand I don’t deserve, I pour two more shots without spilling a drop.

“Jensen called me.”

The drink I’d just picked up spills over the table, and me.

Great. Jen called. I’m not ‘Too Chris’ whore’ for him to be worried, I guess. That’s a bonus. I wonder though if he knows why he’s worried. All I said was I was busy tonight, and all Chris would have said is ‘Jared who?’

“Well you can just call him back and tell him everything’s just peachy.”

I’m not really lying; I plan on having the alcohol making everything rose coloured before I’m done tonight.

Wiping my wet hand over my shirt, I pour some more liquor into the glass, but I’m not picking it up just yet, because something else just occurred to me.

“Jensen doesn’t know about this place, so how the fuck did you know where to find me?”

Mike downs his shot like he’s going to need it to answer me.

“I called Chris and asked.”

That explains the needing thing.

Because I’m downing my drink so quick I don’t even remember picking it up, let alone tasting it.

“Why the fuck would you call Jensen’s best friend to find out where I am? And now that I think about it, aren’t you part of their little clique? Shouldn’t you be getting drunk with them right now?”

My hand reaches out to grab the bottle that holds oblivion, but Mike gets there before I do and move it out of my reach, placing it on the table behind him.

“When are you and Chris going to stop this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ bullshit?”

If I had to guess? Never.

“There’s nothing to ask about, or tell anymore. Why the fuck do you think I’m here drinking my least favourite alcohol?”

I’m a Jack man, Chris is the Jose lover.

“What the hell has Christian done, Jared?”

“Nothing.”

Strangely, that’s not me blowing Mike off, and he actually gets that.

“Have you actually asked him to pull his cowboy hat out of his ass?”

I really want that bottle back, but I’m not stupid. I know I’m not getting it back until Rosey’s said whatever he wants to say. So all I can do is answer him.

“I’m here with you, and Chris is with Jen and Steve: what do you think?”

“I think Chris is an idiot.”

I’d love to be able to answer that in pure Texas smartass, but I can’t.

More’s the fucking pity.

“It’d be easier if he was. If he was the one dimensional asshole, dick redneck without a gentle bone or a kind word he’s supposed to be, I wouldn’t be trying to pickle my liver in hopes of preserving it for all prosperity.”

“And if you were just a terminally happy, sugar hyped, slobbering puppy you wouldn’t care what people thought of Chris either way.”

Yay stereotypes. Fuck, they have some shit to answer for.

“Damn us both for being well rounded human beings.”

Well, damn me, anyway.

“I wouldn’t go quite that far, Jay. I mean c’mon, we all know you and Chris have this thing. But we don’t *know* and we’ve never seen it.”

My fingers start to roll the empty glass back and forth, then around, because it is kind of impossible for me to remain completely still.

“What’re you expecting, a live sex show?”

I think Mike meant to laugh, but it kind of comes out more like a painful snort.

“No, thank you, fuck no even. But the odd stray touch? Him calling you something other than Man Mountain, yeah, that I kind of would have expected. He hugs Steve and Jen, and he’s not fucking them.”

You sure about that, Mike?

All I can do is shrug, because I’d like to expect something like that myself.

I’d like to be able to have any kind of expectation at all.

“What do you want from me, Mike? Sure, I could agree with you, fuck, man, I do agree with you. But seeing how, as of about two o’clock this afternoon, it’s all done with, what’s the damn use?”

Mike’s watching me, hard, knowing I want nothing more than that bottle back and he’s just as sure I won’t actually take it while he studies me. Can’t show everybody I can be as much of a prick as Christian can, that just doesn’t fit now, does it?

“And you’re gonna what? Let Chris ride off into the sunset?”

Now it’s my turn to snort.

“How long have you known Chris? Nobody lets him do anything. But yes, I tried to argue, tried to fight, tried everything I could to get him to listen to me. But for whatever fucking reason between the phone call two nights ago and today he’s decided I’m four and don’t know when my bedtime is. If he can’t see I’m a grown man who knows exactly what he’s doing and how he wants to do…I can’t make him, Rosey. I can’t make him understand I’m not straight and I don’t want Sandy back, that I’m not too young and being Jensen’s friend doesn’t take anything away from him, or us.”

I’m happy to share Jensen, I’ll have joint custody of Steve if I have to, but it’s a part of Chris I want all to myself.

Turning the glass upside down, I finally let go of it and run both hands through my hair, sending it in all directions.

“If I can’t make him see that all I want to do is be allowed to love him, and show our friends, honestly, how I feel…if I can’t do that Mike, what’s the point?”

For once in the years I’ve known him, Rosey has nothing to say. Any other night I’d be proud of that, tonight it’s just showing me how fucked everything is.

Pushing myself upright, I rub my hands over the dried alcohol stains, then run them through my hair again. It doesn’t help.

“I’ve had too much to drink, Mike, can you drive me back to the motel please?”

“Sure, Jay, let’s go.”

~*~

~Mike’s POV~

I’ve met some idiots in my time. I’ve also worked with them, and slept with them, but up until tonight, I never realised I counted the king of them all amongst my closest friends.

And I really think I should have stayed with Jared. If I could have found a way to do it, without making him think I actually was baby sitting him, I would have. All I could do it is what I did. Hug him hard, tell him to call me if he needs me and leave him at his motel.

Yeah, doesn’t feel like it was anything even vaguely close to enough.

But I guess the even bigger question is what do I do now?

Call Jensen and tell him Jared’s fine? Call Chris and say god only knows what? I could always call Steve and see if he wants be the one to tell Chris he’s a fool. If I don’t butt in, Jared and Chris won’t talk again until Jensen’s wedding, whenever the hell that’ll be, and if I do butt in there’s every chance neither of them will ever talk to me again.

You know what, fuck it. I’ve already been dragged into this, because I have no doubt Chris is the one that told Jen to call me in the first place, so Chris is going to find out my opinion about this entire clusterfuck. I just dropped a broken Padalecki off; I’ve earned that right.

As I pull into my drive way, I grab my phone, dialling Chris, even as fired up as I am to rip into him, I’m still kind of surprised when he actually answers.

“Mike?”

Why the fuck do people that I know have my number do that? Who else would be calling using my phone?

“Of course it’s me.”

Oops, a tad too snarky. Bad me. Though this is…weird works. There’s no bar noise behind Chris’ voice, there’s no sound at all. Not a TV, Playstation, nothing.

“Everything okay?”

“I’m not answering that question until you personalise it, Christian. You want to know who is and isn’t okay, you ask about them. By name.”

Letting you hide too much is a habit we’ve all gotten into Chris.

He’s quiet that long I’m beginning to think he hung up on me and I missed the disconnection.

“Is Jared okay?”

“No, you fucking fool, he’s not.”

“Are you still with him?”

Christ, Chris, do you really think I’d call you in front of the guy you just kicked to the curb?

“No, I’m at my place. I dropped him off, strangely enough he wasn’t exactly up to company.”

“You think it’s wise to leave him alone?”

Holy fucking shit, apparently Chris really is that thick.

“Chris, what part of Jared is an adult who knows what he wants and doesn’t want is passing you by? If he wants to drink himself into a coma, he’s actually old enough to do that. Not that I think he will do that, but if he wants to, that’s up to him. He wanted to go back to his room, pack his bags and get ready to catch the first flight out of here, so that’s what I left him to do. If he changes his plans, that’s up to him. Big, old, adult him.”

I’m just going to wait to see which part of that Chris grabs a hold of first.

“He’s leaving?”

And I wasn’t expecting that one.

“Yeah, he’s going home. Whether he means home as in Texas or Vancouver I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter though, because I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”

If I had to guess, I’d say Vancouver. Jared wants his babies, and he wants them bad. Chris will figure that out, if he wants too.

“Wouldn’t ask anyway.”

“No, you wouldn’t, you stupid fucking prick. For crying out loud, Kane, are you that dead set on pissing away what could be the love of your mule headed life? Why? Can you at least tell me that much? Have you at least been honest with yourself about that?”

Again with the quiet. Where the hell are Jen and Steve? Where is Chris?

“He’s too young.”

“Bullshit. If that’s your excuse, you’re the biggest coward to walk the face of the earth, so try again.”

“For fuck’s sake, Mike, he had Sandy less than twelve months ago, and now he’s all gay for me? Where outside of Joss’ brain would that make sense?”

That’s when the light comes on, the marching band starts to play and the fireworks start.

Now I get it.

Chris just keeps talking though.

“Besides, he’s Jen’s best friend, and I couldn’t do anything to fuck that up.”

Again, I call bullshit.

“I get it, Chris, I understand now. You’re not pushing Jared away because he could be the love of your life. You’re pushing him away because he *is* the love of your life and that fucking scares you shitless. You’re so sure he’ll leave, that this won’t last that you’re just giving the whole process the whole Kane foot in the ass technique. That is without a doubt the fucking stupidest thing you’ve ever done, and believe me, I’ve been around when you’ve done some mighty stupid shit. You are a coward, Chris, you’re a scared fool who’ll live to regret this. You’ll live a very long time to regret this.”

The fact Chris doesn’t hang up on me kind of surprises me.

Then again, he doesn’t dispute anything I say either. He pretty much ignores it all. A tried and true Christian plan of attack.

“He’ll get over m-it. Find somebody, settle down.”

“You’re right, he probably will.”

Low blow, I know, but maybe a good swift kick in the nuts will get his brain working again.

“I can totally see Jared finding somebody else, he or she, and moving on. Having a life, kids, dogs, all of it. But you know what, Chris, it’s not Jared’s ability to move on I’d be concerned about if I was you. I’d be worried about yours.”

That’s when I hang up. And turn off my phone.

I possibly should have softened that, or maybe even hung around to talk to Chris some more, but Chris isn’t listening to anybody except himself, which is proving to be such a stellar idea. Jen, Steve, me, Dave, any of us, all of us, could call Chris and tell him how it is, how it should be, but I don’t think we should be padding his landing right now. He needs to land on his ass, then look up and see Jared’s man enough to offer to help him up again.

Until that happens, I’ll get more sense out of having a conversation with my dog.

~*~

~Christian’s POV~

“Okay, hoss, I’ve let you think, mope, stew or whatever else you wanna call it thinking you’d figure out or get over whatever bug crawled up your ass. But it’s been two months and that pretty face of yours is getting wrinkles. So it’s time for you take it like a man and suck it up while we go for the serious shit. We’re going to actually talk about what’s got you acting like the world’s saddest sack of shit.”

When I look up from the guitar I wasn’t really playing and see Brandon leaning on the door frame, part of me is kind of amazed he lasted this long before getting in my face about everything. The rest of me wishes he could have lasted another month or two at least before wanting this conversation.

“If I promise to start smiling like a cat with a mouth full of canary and actually leave the house on the weekends will that be enough to get you to not want to do this?”

“Do I look like Steve to you?”

That’s the thing with family, they just don’t buy the same bullshit you can freely feed your friends. Of course, at this point, I don’t think Steve would even swallow that serving of shit.

Waving Brandon into my room, I put my guitar down on the foot of the bed, then reach my hand out for one of the two beers he’s holding. Both of us end up sitting side by side with our backs resting against the headboard, our legs out in front of us like identical straight lines. This is how we’ve always done it when it’s ‘talk’ time. We make sure we can feel each other but you don’t have to meet anybody’s eyes if you don’t want too.

“Seriously, Christian, you’ve got to talk about this.”

“You don’t know what this is.”

It might be easier to talk to you if you did, if I didn’t have to explain abso-fucking-lutely everything.

“I thought we’d already talked about this, I got the brains and the beauty in this family, you’re one everybody feels sorry for, living in my shadow.”

If I didn’t think he’d kill me, I’d be singing ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ right about now.

“So you’re right, I don’t know everything. But I do know it involves Steve who you haven’t taken a call from in two months, Jensen who hasn’t even called in two months, and more importantly, Jared, whose name you pointedly haven’t mentioned in the same amount of time.”

“The fuck?”

Which is not what I meant to say, but it works. As does the quick mouthful of beer I take, trying to stop myself from saying anything else. Or more importantly fills my mouth so I can’t stick my foot in it.

“For future reference, Christian, just because you pretend something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t see it anyway. And I saw you loving Jared. I don’t know what you say in private, though I expect it’s more than you’re given credit for, though probably not as much as you should. But even if you don’t actually speak anything even vaguely suggestive in public, you do touch, glance and you are without a doubt one hundred percent aware of where, well, of where Jared was anytime he was around you.”

Brandon always did see too much.

“I don’t love him.”

He’s breaking the unwritten rule and turning to face me, looking like I’m the stupidest life form ever evolved.

“Please don’t tell me you told him that. Please tell me you weren’t that fucking stupid. Tell me the whole mess isn’t because you are idiot.”

“You want me to lie to you?”

With his beer bottle tucked between his legs, Brandon falls back against the wall, both hands covering his face before running through his hair.

“Forget lying to me, why would you lie to Jared like that?”

When it doubt, change tactics. Or more importantly, topics.

“Doesn’t any of this strike you as a little, well, wrong? We’re two Texan born, Oklahoma raised boys and you’re whatever the fuck you’re doing because I haven’t told a *guy* I love him.”

“Can you just shut up for a minute, Christian? I’m serious, don’t speak, don’t make a noise. Because all I want to do right now is beat you about your non-functioning head, then smother you with a pillow for any of about ten reasons.”

I don’t push my luck, I just shut up and drink my beer. Nobody ever wins when Brandon and I fight, but we sure as hell both end up knowing there’s something we both just lost.

It’s a full ten minutes before Brandon speaks again.

“Okay, I’m going to talk, you’re going to say nothing. And just so you know, what I’m currently doing is being disappointed in you. Fuck, man, I don’t know where to start. Why do you do this shit? Drag out the rednecked bullshit when you think, fuck, Christian, I don’t know what you think, not when you do this kind of thing. Where we were born and raised doesn’t make jack worth the difference and you know it, it’s who did the bearing and raising. And man can I see Mama taking a switch to your ass for even daring to call her boys small minded ignorants. Of course, right after she did that, she’d be doing it all over again for you managing to fuck over the gift you had with Jared. How many times have we both been told that love is a gift and if you’re lucky to be on the receiving end of that gift you do everything you can, and then do a little bit more, to be worthy of it? It’s been drummed into both of us, I don’t know, since we were about five when you called the girl down the street that had a crush on you a nasty name. And yet, here you are, fucking it all over anyway. Well, and you can answer this, you didn’t tell Jared you loved him, you obviously told Jared he was mistaken when he was man enough to use the words, so how does it feel, Christian? Are you happy with yourself, proud of everything you’ve accomplished? I’m waiting for an answer, brother, how’s that working out for you?”

Rhetorical questions are called rhetorical because they don’t require an answer. Brandon must have missed that lesson at school because he’s waiting for me to tell him what he already knows anyway.

“Yeah, not so good.”

Never let it be said I don’t understand the concept of the word understatement.

“Gee, you fucking think?”

Brandon doesn’t curse, not like I do, not unless he’s mad. He bypassed mad completely and made a beeline to furious with all of this.

“What do you want from me, Brand? I fucked up, I get that, I’m dealing with it.”

I didn’t see it coming, but I sure felt the hand that slapped my head forward, and hard.

“No, you idiot, you aren’t. You’re hiding and making it worse. Dealing with it would have you on the next plane to Vancouver begging Jared to take your sorry ass back even if it means kissing his feet for the rest of your natural born life.”

“I can’t do that. The reasons haven’t changed Brandon. He’s still too young, still the guy that had a girlfriend less than two years ago-“

“You actually told him that? You honestly called your boyfriend a child that, according to you, still needs a wet nurse? I’m sorry, I take it all back, you are dealing with it. Dealing with the fact Jared’s going to find somebody who doesn’t treat him like he’s two and you’re going to end up bitter, old, alone and while I never thought I’d say this, I think you actually deserve it. I can see it all now, you’re just getting used to how the rest of your life is going to be when you finally work up the guts to cut your balls off, because Christ knows you’re not using them anymore! You’re a sorry excuse for my cousin, you know that? I’m going out now, I don’t know where, or when I’ll be back, I just know you won’t be there and that’s a good thing. Don’t wait up, Christian.”

And just like that he’s gone. The slam of the front door is just another punctuation mark to his exit.

I don’t know if I thought my family would be on my side, or if they’d be happy I wasn’t gay…but then again, not having Jared doesn’t make me straight, it just makes me miserable.

Is it too late to fix it? How the fuck would I ever fix it?

Why would Jared take me back? Seriously, why would he?

I’ve got nothing.

That totally explains why I’m reaching for my phone. At least it does in my head.

~*~

~Steve’s POV~

I had this girlfriend a few months back, well, actually she thought she was my girlfriend, what she was was an easy lay, but she kept fucking calling and texting me, and that’s when I got into the habit of checking the caller id because ‘hello stalker’. Right now the little LCD screen is telling me Kane is calling.

The screen lies, Christian hasn’t spoken to any of us in months.

“Hello?”

“Steve, it’s me.”

I shouldn’t, but you know I’m going to. He fucking owes me.

“I’m sorry, ‘me’? Who’s me?”

“It’s Christian.”

So completely not the smart assed answer I was expecting.

“I had a friend called Christian once, then he stopped taking my phone calls. I’m kind of pissed about that, and going to remain that way unless he can give me a good reason why he suddenly turned into a fuckwit.”

Honestly, I lack the gene required to stay pissed at Chris. I think you had to be born in Texas to get it, because Jensen, Jensen wants Chris crucified.

Literally. Nails, hammers, crown of thorns the whole works.

“I’m sorry, Steve.”

“Think it’s going to be that easy do you?”

“I was hoping with you it might be, I’m not expecting…anything from anybody else.”

Fuck me, Jensen didn’t even get the chance to stick him on the cross before he martyred himself up.

Okay, God, here’s the deal. I’m not about to promise to give up weed, or beer, or sex and I know we’re going to have some major negotiating to do when I do get my ass to Heaven, but I’m about to do something to my best friend here and I’d like a clue if it’s kind of even vaguely the right way to go.

Something in my house just went crash, that’ll do. Even if it probably was just the dog.

“I’m totally easy, Chris, always have been. The only thing you have to do to make things good between us is make it up to Jared. Call me when you’ve done that, okay?”

And without giving myself time to second guess everything I disconnect my phone.

Maybe I should have asked God for a promise it would all be okay when I was asking for that sign.

When Luka pads in covered in flour I know I’m in fucking trouble.

~*~

~Jared’s POV~

There’s somebody at my door.

It’s my first day off in what feels like a lifetime, even the dogs are asleep, and there’s somebody at my door. They’re not pounding, just knocking then stopping then starting again. It’s weirdly hesitant and fuck, now I’m curious, I have to get up.

Neither dog stirs as I drag my ass out of bed, not bothering to pull any clothes on other than the boxers I fell asleep in. I’m half way down the stairs when the knocking stops, I’m not bothering to call out that I’m coming, I just open the door.

Let that be a lesson to you, Jared Tristan, always use the peephole, because if you had you wouldn’t be staring, slack jawed at Christian Kane on your doorstep. If you’d looked, you could have just turned around and gone back to bed.

Yeah, right, totally.

Christian, and his bag, are on my front porch.

Correction. Christian, his bag, and his rapidly swelling right eye are on my front porch.

“You went to see Jen first, I see.”

“I…I thought you might have been there, or maybe I could make sure you were in town.”

“Jensen help you out with any of that?”

“No. He just,” Chris points at his face “and slammed his door. I caught a cab here. I couldn’t hear the dogs, but your SUV is here. I didn’t want to wake you so I just thought I’d knock and see what happened.”

“Glad to know I didn’t keep you waiting.”

“I’ve been knocking for two hours, Jared.”

I guess Jensen just thought he’d turn tail and go back to where he came from, otherwise he’d be on the phone, or in my face right about now.

“C’mon in, Chris, that eye needs some ice.”

Stepping out of the way, I wait for Chris to move but he doesn’t. I don’t think he even blinks, though his eye is pretty much swollen closed so it’s hard to tell.

“Chris?”

“I can get ice when I get a motel room, I didn’t come here for you to doctor me.”

You could come inside so we didn’t have to do this in the doorway, but I guess not.

“So why are you here? I’m still the same age I was in August, and I haven’t been able to go back in time and erase the fact I had a girlfriend for all those years. I’m still Jensen’s best friend, not to mention I still like wearing pink even though I am six foot whatever. I’m still everything I was in your eyes, Chris, nothing’s changed.”

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. As much as I’d rather not, I still love him. I’m sure it’ll get better, it’s just gonna take longer than a month or two.

“I’m scared.”

And just like that, everything’s changed.

I’ve got some weight, and I’m going to start throwing it around, starting now.

Reaching out, I grab Chris’ arm and drag him inside, shutting the door gently enough to not wake the dogs behind him. Then I’m grabbing his bag and throwing it off to one side so nobody will trip over it and break their necks in a few hours.

“Upstairs, now, you know where the bathroom is, take a quick shower, I’ll meet you in the bedroom with some ice when you’re done.”

“Jared-“

If you think I’m going to let you get a word in edgeways I’ve got news for you, Kane.

“Was I stuttering? Fucking get.”

And what do you know, he does.

When I’m ready for the whole falling into bed and fucking him silly thing, after about ten hours more sleep, that submissive thing’s going to be something worth investigating, right now though, I need ice.

And Christian needs to know how it’s going to be.

~*~

~Christian’s POV~

The shower was nowhere near as hot as I would have liked it, because fuck Jensen’s got a good right cross, but it gets the airline grunge gone which I’m guessing was Jared’s main objective. Thing is, I don’t have any clean clothes and I’m loath to even put my old boxers back on, so I’m walking into Jared’s room in nothing more than a towel.

Jared and two sleeping dogs are waiting for me.

“You that sure of yourself, Christian?”

Not even close.

“No. My clothes smell and I didn’t want to put them back on. I can go grab clean ones if you want.”

“No, you’re good. Lose the towel and climb into bed, I’ve got the ice for you.”

I can’t make my feet move.

“Chris, I asked you to get into bed.”

No, you told me too, but that’s just semantics. I don’t understand.

“I don’t understand.”

Jared just looks at me and raises his eyebrow until it disappears beneath all that hair.

“What so hard about get into bed and let me ice your face?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because Jensen packs a good punch and I’d like to make sure we get the swelling under some kind of control.”

He’s doing this on purpose, I know he is, what I don’t know is why.

“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”

“Yeah, I do, but it’s the only answer you’re going to get until you get into bed, Chris.”

What else can I do but get into bed? Whatever he does to me, I deserve.

Sadie’s off to one side, Harley’s sprawled over the foot of the bed, that leaves Jared in the middle, and me as close to him as I can get without actually touching him. Or at least that’s what I was trying for, Jared’s having nothing to do with it. He actually settles me closer, making sure the pillows are supporting my head as he places the frozen packet of peas on my face. You’d think Jared of all people would have a proper ice pack. But all of that is forgotten when his fingers start stroking my hair and he starts to talk.

“You couldn’t just tell me you were scared in the first place, could you? You had to spin some bullshit story that had me getting drunk with Rosenbaum, you doing whatever it was you ended up doing, Jensen being pissed, Steve being all, well Steve. Why do you have to make everything so fucking complicated, Chris?”

I thought I answered that when I told him I was scared.

“I thought I was…I thought it was for the best.”

Jared’s laugh is soft and short.

“You’re fully aware of how wrong that was now, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ve worked that out. What I can’t work out is...”

I don’t know how to phrase this.

“Why I’m not pissed and punching and screaming at you to get out?”

That works I suppose.

“Kind of, yeah.”

“I was pissed, for about the first month, Jensen did my punching for me and why on earth would I be screaming at you to get out when all I’ve wanted is you here with me? You’re the master of cutting off your nose to spite your face, Chris, not me.”

“Feels like it’s too easy.”

And that scares me for a whole new set of reasons.

“Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we don’t have some talking to do, and a whole lot of shit to work out, because we do. But we can do that now, because you’re here with me. You never did work that part out, did you? We can get past everything else, the fact you’re as old as Methuselah, your lack of height and taste in clothing, we can get past all of that, as long as you’re here with me. The only thing I’m going to ask you to promise me right now is that you won’t go do anything else for my own good, not without letting me fuck you past thinking first.”

God, Jared is so warm, the ice is numbing my eye, and Jared’s fingers feel like heaven as they play in my hair.

“I don’t deserve this.”

“Fuck, you just don’t listen do you? It’s not about what we all deserve, it never has been, it’s about finding what you need like oxygen and wanting to cause grievous bodily harm to anything or anybody that wants to take it from you. You don’t deserve me? Guess what, I’ll do anything to deserve you. I’ll do everything twice if I have to, if I get to keep you. Stop trying to think of this all as a scale you have to even out, because you never will. Just think about how shitty the last two months have been without me then tell me what you want.”

And everybody wonders why I get so fucking angry when Jared is reduced to nothing more than a sugar loving, dumb puppy. Some part of him maybe exactly that, but there’s so much more there. I’m just realising it’s more than even I know just yet.

“I want you. I need you.”

Brandon’s voice whispering in my ear, ‘Do it, Christian’.

“I love you.”

My answer is Jared wriggling down in the bed until we’re facing each other, his hand still gently holding the ice in place.

“I knew that. But it’s nice to know you’ve woken up to it as well.”

It’s okay that he doesn’t answer me in kind. Every ‘I love you’ shouldn’t be met with ‘I love you too’. Some should just be a gift given, not received.

My hand creeps up to his hip, tracing the line of muscle that V’s downward as I lean in and kiss him. There’s time for hot and heavy later, right now is about ‘thank you’, ‘I missed you’, and ‘don’t let me make you leave again’.

Jared’s eyes stay closed when I pull back.

“You need to move the peas, Jay, so we don’t wake up with a wet bed.”

“Does it feel okay?”

Hurts like a bitch, and I don’t care at all.

“It’s fine, you can play doctor after some sleep.”

The peas get pitched on the floor somewhere and I get pulled even closer to Jared as he wraps his arms around me. There are lips against my temple as a hand gets knotted in my hair.

I won’t be going anywhere any time soon, not until he lets me. I guess that should bother me, but it doesn’t, not really.

“G’night, swee…”

He doesn’t finish the word, just snores, right in my ear.

I never said I missed everything about him, did I?