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Everything I didn’t know I Needed

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Chapter One


"Goddamn it Jared, how many times have I told you not to leave your shoes lying at the door?" yelled Jeff, picking himself up and trying to figure out if the box of eggs had survived their tumble to the floor.

"Sorry Dad," Jared's muffled voice shot back from the direction of the kitchen. Jeff shook his head and, grimacing at the mess of egg whites seeping through the paper bag, picked up the groceries strewn across the hallway. An image of tripping over four-year-old Jared's abandoned toys in exactly the same place suddenly flashed through his head. Jared’s chubby face topped by an unruly mop of brown waves peeking out from behind the kitchen door as Jeff tried to fix the head back on the G.I.Joe he'd crushed after tripping over Jared’s scooter. That memory was so fresh it could have happened just last week. He’d never have thought that twenty years down the line he would still be tripping over his son's discarded belongings. Taking the groceries through to the kitchen, he deposited them on the kitchen table while glaring at the bent shaggy head of his oblivious son.

"You realize that if you kill me, your inheritance will go to the dog shelter?" Jeff asked taking the soggy egg box across to the sink, opening it and extracting the sole surviving egg, looking at it forlornly.

"I’m pretty sure that as long as it looks accidental I'll get away with it, Dad." Jared grinned as he dropped the lid of his laptop shut. "If you're waiting on that egg hatching though, I could have you declared insane and just take your cash now."

"Funny son, you’re a real comedian. You know what is hilarious? You thinking it would be worth it. You honestly think I have any money left after feeding and clothing you through your weed-like teens? Not to mention having to replace all the breakables that had the misfortune of getting in the way of your gangly limbs."

Jared laughed as he helped put the rest of the groceries away, "Come on Dad, you hated that big old ugly crystal bowl. You were just too scared to get rid of it ‘cause Gramma gave it to you."

Jeff placed the solitary egg carefully in the refrigerator before dumping the rest in the trashcan and washing the sticky residue from his hands. "That bowl was an antique, Jared. A family heirloom. It might have been worth a fortune."

Jared snorted and raised an eyebrow in disbelief. Drying his damp hands casually on his son's sweatshirt, Jeff conceded, "Okay, okay it was a damn ugly monstrosity and I silently cheered when your flailing arm sent it flying. I'm pretty sure you even got extra marshmallows on your hot chocolate that night."

"I am awesome and you are lucky to have me as a son," Jared crowed, slapping his Dad's hands away and throwing a dishtowel in his face. Before Jeff could retort, Jared barrelled on. "So, I was just chatting to a friend from college and he's having a bit of a rough time. I invited him up here for a while, to give him a bit of a break. You don't mind do you?"

"You could have asked first Jay. Who is it, do I know him?" Jeff asked thinking back to the college buddies that Jared used to mention. The only ones he had personally met were Chad and Mike and as much as he loved Jared, the thought of either of them in his house for longer than a few hours was enough to have him battening down the hatches.

"Jensen. Jensen Ackles. I don't think you ever met him. He's a good guy, a couple years older than me, but he took a bit of time off before college so we were in the same year."

The name didn’t ring a bell and Jeff was fairly certain a name that unusual would be memorable. "Wouldn't I have met him at your graduation?"

Jared shook his head, "No, he dropped out. He was doing really well too, got excellent grades, better than me a lot of the time then he disappeared just months before we took our finals."

"But you kept in touch?"

Jared patted his closed laptop, "We email sometimes and I get the odd text from him. He was living in San Diego with his boyfriend for a while but I think he's been moving around a bit lately."

"His boyfriend?"

"Yeah, his boyfriend. He's gay, that's not a problem, is it?" Jared said, his shoulders tensing up defensively, not much but noticeable enough to his Dad.

"Of course not Jay,” Jeff quickly reassured him. “Sure, he can stay for a few days. I don't mind you helping a friend out. He can't be any worse than Chad."

Relaxing, Jared laughed, "God no! Chad is thankfully one of a kind."

"So, are you staying for dinner or are you out wooing your girl tonight?"

"Wooing? Seriously? God Dad I know you haven't dated in forever but wooing?! And yeah, I'm taking Gen out tonight so no dinner for me thanks. I'd better go and get ready I guess. Perfection doesn’t happen by itself after all."

"Yeah, you go and make yourself pretty. Don't worry about your old Dad sitting here all by himself again," Jeff joked.

"Yeah, yeah Dad, I might actually feel guilty if you didn't have half the single women in town chasing after you with their tongues hanging out."

"I think it'd be their Seeing Eye dogs with their tongues hanging out," Jeff laughed and was surprised when Jared's face turned sober.

"Don't put yourself down like that Dad. I'm serious, you could be out with a different woman every night of the week if you wanted. I know you didn't have a lot of opportunity to date back when I was a kid but I thought at least when I left to go to college you would get back out there and have some fun."

"Jared, I'm fine the way I am. The bookstore keeps me busy and - "

"Dad," Jared interjected. "I'm not stupid. I know things haven't always been easy for you. Being a single parent at seventeen years old couldn't have been your life's ambition, in fact it must have been a nightmare. You've given up so much for me; I just want you to be happy."

This time it was Jeff's turn to be serious. "I am happy Jay. I don't regret a single damn minute of my life. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I wish for your sake your mother had felt able to keep you, but I will never ever regret that I have had the privilege of being with you every step of the way as you grew up. I have everything I need: you, my own business, a beautiful home, and great friends."

"Don't you want someone to share all that with?"

"I've been on my own for so long now Jay, I don't think I want someone coming in and disrupting my life. I'm content and set in my ways. Anyway, I'm sure if there was someone in this town who was right for me I would have found them by now."


"No Jay. You concentrate on your own love life and let me worry about mine."

"But ... "

"No, no buts. Christ, your Gramma gave up nagging me about my lack of a love life years ago. I don't need you to start up. Maybe I just enjoy being known as the most eligible bachelor in town."

Jared snorted, "Most stubborn bachelor maybe or grouchiest. No, I know; father of the most handsome bachelor."

"Get out of here you idiot, before your girlfriend dumps your ass and you're the sorriest bachelor in town."

Jared wrapped his arms around Jeff and gave him an unexpected hug. "I love you Dad. You're amazing. I know there’s someone perfect out there for you. I just don't want you to give up on finding them."

With a final squeeze, Jared released a slightly shell-shocked Jeff from his clutches, leaving him thoughtfully mulling over his son's words of wisdom.

Jensen shuddered awake and the phantom fist flying towards him disappeared with the last seconds of sleep leaving him disoriented, coated in a clinging film of cold sweat and with the acrid taste of vomit souring the back of his throat. The rude glare of early morning sunlight flaring blindingly low through his windshield brightly announced the arrival of a fresh day, one which just maybe held a flickering spark of hope.

Rolling his neck in an attempt to stretch out the tight clench of muscles across his shoulders and right down through his back, he almost regretted his decision to sleep in the front of his car scrunched up like a pretzel rather than clambering over into the back seat. Only almost regretted though, because despite the aches throbbing through his body he knew he wouldn't have slept any better lying across the relative comfort of the back seat. No, the reason he’d been able to steal a few hours of rest was the certainty of knowing he was still in the driver’s seat. He could escape as quickly as he wanted. He could disappear in seconds if he needed to. That single fact made him feel safer than he had in years.

Reflexively he looked at his wrist to see what time it was, only to find himself looking at a soft white band of skin where his watch used to sit. That's right, no watch, no cell phone either but a full tank of gas and enough cash in his pocket to get where he wanted to go. Now if he could just decide where that was, he'd be all set.

The practical thing to do would be to head home. Crawl back, tail between his legs, admit what a complete failure he was and beg his parents to give him another chance. His father would look at him with that sneer of disgusted disappointment he’d worn ever since Jensen had admitted to liking boys instead of girls. He was already of the unshakable opinion that being gay made Jensen less of a man so he could only imagine his reaction to discovering how completely pathetic he'd turned out. Yeah, that really didn’t appeal.

Option number two was staying with Chris Kane, one of his childhood friends and one of the very few friends he had left. The only person he'd trusted to look after his car (temporarily at least) when Jensen had been forced to get rid of it. The problem was, Chris only lived a couple of hours away from...well from where he was running from and that wasn’t far enough away. Not nearly far enough.

The last option unexpectedly handed to him was the town of Oakapple. Jared Morgan's hometown. A good friend ever since they’d met in college, Jared had been his closest friend for a long time. They'd both majored in English Lit and had spent a few years taking most of the same classes, studying together, partying together, avoiding the worst of Chad's hare-brained schemes, and watching out for one another. After dropping out, he'd tried to keep in touch with Jared even if it was just through the odd email or sneaky text message. Jared was a good guy and hearing from him and knowing how well he was doing always gave Jensen’s spirits a bit of a lift but Jared's offer of a place to stay had still taken him by surprise. The offer had been genuine and tempting with Jared insistent that it was no problem. Even contemplating the idea was ridiculous though. How could he expect someone he hadn't seen for years to put themselves out for him. But Jared lived in a small town, half a country away. Somewhere where Jensen had never been before and where no-one knew him. It was a powerful temptation.

Rolling his shoulder blades one final time before wiping the last grains of sleep from his eyes, Jensen grabbed his glasses and turned the key in the ignition. He enjoyed the deep familiar growl of the engine for a minute, letting the vibrations run through him and finally feeling his muscles relax, he pulled out of the rest stop and started out on the long lonely road stretching in front of him.

Chapter Two


What a long ass day. Jeff was so relieved to walk through his front door that he nearly knelt down and kissed the floor. The only thing stopping him was his knees popping in alarm at the passing thought, horrified by the idea.

He'd opened the store that morning so it'd been an early start for him. Usually he didn't mind early mornings but from the second he’d dived out of bed – stubbing his big toe on the foot of his bed as he rushed, then awkwardly hopped to his bathroom - after discovering he'd forgotten to set his alarm, it had been one of those days that made him wish he'd chosen to do something else with his life. Like become an astronaut or a cowboy or Darth Vader, or just a damned hermit in his own quiet little cave. Anything that didn’t involve plastering a smile on his face and being pleasant all day to customers who seemed hell bent on making his life miserable. That was maybe a tiny bit of an exaggeration but it had been a god-awful day.

Carl, one of his employees, had called in sick yet again, meaning Jeff had to open up on his own. If it was still just a bookstore he was trying to run that would have been fine. These days though, he sold as much coffee and baked goods as he did books and first thing in the morning, people didn't want the latest bestselling paperback, they wanted hot coffee fast. Having only one pair of hands made that damned difficult.

Working on his own had been bad enough but then the espresso machine had made a screeching sound like it was attempting to boil a cat, hissed it's last, and completely died. Breaking the news of the machine's demise had made him public enemy number one. He'd been scowled at, raged at, and stared at blankly. Mr. Sharp the bank manager looked close to tears and old Mrs. Ferguson had turned the air blue with language that would have made a drunken sailor blush before storming out, slamming the door with a melodramatic flourish behind her. The day had slithered downhill from there.

Thankfully, Sophia was shutting up shop today so after the emergency repairman had finally arrived and resuscitated the espresso machine (squeezing the life out of Jeff's wallet in the process) and he'd finished unpacking a shipment of new books, Jeff had called it a day and made it home by four. Jared wasn't due home for a couple of hours so he was planning on having an epic shower with water hot enough to boil a lobster. He’d possibly even treat himself to a small glass of malt before burying his nose in a book until he felt sociable enough to face human contact again.

Naturally, following the course of the rest of the day, just as he was unfastening the top button of his black button-down and walking into his bathroom, the doorbell chimed with a malicious glee that Jeff had not merely imagined. Deciding whether or not to answer it was a tougher decision than it should have been. When it rang accusingly a second time though, he surrendered. With bad grace and a curse (newly learned courtesy of Mrs. Ferguson) Jeff turned about, stomped down the stairs and, with a scowl on his face capable of curdling fresh milk, threw the door open.

The slack-jawed shock on the face of the kid that was standing on his porch might have been funny if it hadn't made him feel like the Big Bad Wolf jumping out and traumatizing an innocent Red Riding Hood (Yeah yeah, he was a single parent okay? He'd read more than his fair share of bedtime stories, and at least that one was gory enough to be cool.) The boy's green eyes widened almost comically beneath the gold metal rims of his glasses as he jumped away from Jeff, tripped over his own feet, and nearly tumbled backwards down the steps. Jeff flung out a hand to steady him and the kid lurched sideways so fast, Jeff ended up clutching at thin air.

"Whoa there. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." Jeff said dialling back slightly on the ogre impersonation.

The kid chewed his lips nervously before stuttering, "No,no, it's fine, I mean, I'm sorry to disturb you. I was looking for a friend... my friend but I think maybe I got the wrong house."

He was inching away as he spoke and Jeff should have been relieved. The lure of a hot relaxing shower was calling seductively to him after all, but his soft heart was poking tenaciously through his Grinch-like exterior.

"Maybe you didn't though. Who are you looking for kid?"

"Jared, Jared Morgan, and I'm not a kid."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you." Jeff said a bit surprised at the flash of attitude, "And you do have the right house. I'm Jeff Morgan, Jared's dad. And you are?" Jeff reached out offering a welcoming handshake.

The kid frowned warily at his outstretched hand like he was waiting for it to transform into a rattlesnake and strike him dead, before tentatively meeting it with his own slightly clammy palm. He gave up his name quietly, hesitantly, as if he was sharing a state secret.

"I'm Jensen, Jensen Ackles."

Jeff mentally slapped himself upside the head. "Of course you are. God, I’m sorry. Jared mentioned you were going to be visiting; he never said it was going to be today though."

Jensen fidgeted nervously in front of him, the weathered wood of the porch creaking in complaint as he shifted his weight uneasily from foot to foot. "Yeah, I'm sorry that's my fault. I had to... I mean, I lost my cell, haven't been able to replace it and I couldn't get to a computer with being on the road and all. Is Jared here?"

"No, he's still at work. He coaches soccer after school a couple of times a week so he won't be home for a while yet. God, sorry, where are my manners? Come on in and let me fetch you a drink or something."

"No Sir, that's okay. I don't want to be a bother. I'll come back later when Jared's here. I can just go wait in my car."

Jeff looked beyond Jensen to where a gorgeous sleek old powerhouse of a car sat proudly in the road. An approving whistle slid through his teeth. "She sure is a thing of beauty, but I don't want Jared to think I've scared you off, so come on inside and let me fix you a drink."

Jeff strode away leaving Jensen floundering on the porch caught between wanting to escape to the safe bubble of his car and not wanting to appear rude. Eventually generations of polite Texas ancestry pushed to the fore and he followed Jeff into the house, shutting the front door carefully behind him.

Jeff had no idea what to make of Jensen Ackles. The kid was good looking for sure. Pretty in a prepubescent boy-band kind of way (he imagined a girl might think) but the boy was a bit of a strange one.

God, he had to stop thinking of him as a boy. He was a couple of years older than Jared so that would make him around twenty-six. The problem was he barely appeared old enough to drink. His clothes looked like he'd borrowed them from a big brother, hanging sloppily off his slight frame. The loose sleeves of his faded green hoodie drooped down past his knuckles under a ragged grey canvas jacket that had obviously been black in a previous life. His jeans were worn threadbare in patches, distressed in a way that wasn't expensively fashionable, and pooling around his battered Converses, nearly hiding where the sole on the right one was peeling away from the scuffed toe. His skin had a pale unhealthy pallor that didn't belong on the face of anyone who'd been living in California. The only hints of his true age were visible in the faint lines of tension and the dark shadows surrounding his eyes.

Jeff's attempts at small talk appeared to make Jensen more uncomfortable by the minute. He squirmed in his seat like he was suffering through an inquisition and when he did manage to find his tongue he was so softly spoken that Jeff had strained to hear him. Eventually taking pity on him, Jeff told him to make himself at home while he took a shower and changed out of his work clothes. Maybe it wasn't polite or sensible to leave a near stranger on his own in the house but Jeff was sure he was doing Jensen a kindness, and somehow he was confident the silver would be safe.

Jeff took a leisurely shower letting the stresses of the day wash away. Afterwards, he pottered around long enough that by the time he was making his way back down the stairs he could hear the unmistakable sound of Jared's not so dulcet tones resounding from the sitting room.

"It's so good to see you again man. I missed you when you skipped town. Don’t know if I've forgiven you for abandoning me yet though. I had to resort to using Chad as my wingman, you cruel bastard. Glad to see you got rid of the long hair and those twinky blonde highlights though Jen. You look like enough of a girl with those pouty lips and long lashes without the blonde tresses."

Yep, that was his boy, all the tact and manners of a rampaging bull elephant.

"Aw Jared, admit it, you were just worried I would steal your conditioner again or maybe your hair irons. How long does it take to wash and blow dry your flowing mane these days?"

That brought Jeff up short. Looked like Jared's own personal brand of welcoming hospitality had lured Jensen out of his shell, or maybe it was just Jeff who’d caused his obvious discomfort.

"Shut it asshole or you'll be sleeping in the garage instead of the guest room."

"Yeah, about that Jared. You know, I... well I never realised that you were living with your Dad."

"Oh, right, sorry I thought you knew. You know it's just short term ‘til I save up enough to get my own place. The way things are I was lucky to get a job, most newly qualified teachers struggle to do that much so I..."

"No! God no Jared, I wasn't criticizing you. It's just, I thought it would be your couch I was borrowing for a few nights not your Dad's guest room. I don't want to impose."

"Don't be ridiculous man, you aren't imposing and Dad's cool with you being here."

"Yeah but he won't want your loser friend..."

"Jensen don't be an idiot. You aren't a loser and you're staying here for as long as you need to, end of discussion."

Jeff had the good grace to feel a bit ashamed when it occurred to him he was standing eavesdropping. God, his manners were as bad as Jared's sometimes.

As he walked into the sitting room Jensen looked like he was on the verge of arguing with Jared's curt conversation killer, and Jared looked relieved to see him.

"Hey boys," Jeff said before Jensen had a chance to get a word out. "I'm not feeling much like cooking tonight. How about we order some take out. What do you like Jensen? Pizza? Chinese?"

Clamping his mouth shut with a painful sounding crunch of teeth that made Jeff cringe, Jensen's face flushed pink. "I'm not that hungry actually; all that driving's wiped me out. Do you think... would it be okay if I just turned in?"

There really wasn’t any arguing with that, Jensen did look utterly exhausted. Jeff insisted that Jared help Jensen grab his bag from the car and settle him into the guest room. He waited until he and Jared, mainly Jared, had polished off an obscene amount of Chinese food before broaching the subject of Jensen.

"So, Jensen?


"Is he alright?"

"What? Why? Yeah, I think so," Jared said nearly choking on yet another piece of shrimp. It amazed Jeff that Jared had stretched upwards rather than outwards. He deserved to be barrel shaped with the amount of food he inhaled.

"He didn't look too well, son. Has he been ill? Is he ill? Is he in trouble?"

Jared looked deeply offended on his friend's behalf. "No! No, he isn't in trouble and I don't think he's ill. He's just a bit down on his luck. I think he and his dickhead of a boyfriend had a messy break-up, and Jensen's just trying to get back on his feet is all. He's a good guy Dad, I promise. He's a good friend and you know, even if he was in trouble, I'd still want to help him out."

"Okay, okay," Jeff reached across the table and laid a reassuring hand on his son's shoulder, "I just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything wrong. He's your friend, I know he's gonna be a good guy."

"Okay then," Jared said, subject obviously covered adequately enough for him as he dove for the last egg roll.

Something about Jensen set Jeff on edge though. Something not quite right. Big amber warning lights were flashing in his head and it was unsettling to say the least. Maybe it was the way Jensen never quite met his eye, or the way he shrunk inside his clothes almost trying to make himself look invisible. Maybe it was the almost palpable air of vulnerability surrounding him. There had to be more to his story than Jared was saying, possibly more than Jared knew.

Jensen flopped back onto the bed, eyes screwed shut, tight enough to see silver sparks of fireworks erupting behind his eyelids.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Jared must have told him that he'd moved home to his Dad's. David was right, he never listened - always too caught up in his own head. Idiot!

He hadn't been expecting Jared's dad, Jeff, to be here. It had surprised and ruffled him and as usual he'd stuttered and blushed and acted like a moron. Why couldn't he be normal, be more of a man, instead of a pathetic worthless... No, not worthless, Jensen slapped his palm hard across his forehead attempting to make his spiralling thoughts stop. He took a deep breath and swallowed down the panic threatening to choke him. Misha would be disappointed in him for thinking like this. He had been getting better. He was getting better.

Breathe. Breathe again.

Filling his lungs with air, he held his breath until his chest burned. The moment he allowed himself to exhale, he forced away the dark thoughts and jagged words exploding in his head. Calm, think calm and clear. He knew Jared. Jared was a good friend. He was loud, exuberant and astonishingly he'd grown even bigger than Jensen remembered but he was still kind and gentle and safe. He didn't know Jeff yet but Jeff had warm brown eyes, unruly waves of hair and big friendly dimples like Jared's when he smiled and possibly, if he was brave enough to get to know Jeff, he would feel safe with him too.

Fuck, he was tired. His thoughts were jumbling together, tangling in his muzzy head. He just needed to sleep for a while. He needed to eat too, was starving actually, but his funds were too low to even daydream about buying a luxury like Chinese take-out so he'd just have to suck it up. Maybe in the morning he'd grab a little cereal or a slice of toast. Jeff wouldn't mind that, right?

Bones aching in weariness, Jensen got up from the bed, gathering the comforter with him and sat down with his back propped against the bedroom door. He nestled the comforter around him and allowed his eyes to close and an uneasy sleep to enfold him.



Chapter Three


The next couple of days passed in a tired blur of early mornings and increasingly earlier nights. Jeff was short staffed and over-worked. He only managed to catch up with Jared at dinner times and barely caught a glimpse of the elusive Jensen. He'd never had such a quiet, neat house guest. It was disconcertingly like sharing his house with a timid ghost; he was vaguely aware that there was someone else around, but actual physical proof was tricky to find. The main evidence that Jensen hadn't been a figment of his imagination was the tarp covered car residing in his driveway.

He wasn't even sure that Jensen ever ate. He never seemed to be around when Jared and Jeff sat down for a meal. Jared assured him that Jensen was fine, just shy and staying out of Jeff's way so as not to bother him. If Jeff hadn't been such a level-headed guy he might have gotten paranoid that the kid thought he was some kind of bogeyman but luckily Jeff was as level-headed as a man could possibly be and not even a tiny bit paranoid so that was okay, he wasn't at all offended. No sir, not at all.

This was Jeff's first day off work all week. The store's running was in the perfectly capable hands of Sophia today, which meant he didn't need to get out of bed until at least lunchtime, so he was kind of pissed that he was wide awake before six o'clock in the morning. He'd tried going back to sleep, burying himself under his bedcovers and obstinately ignoring his brain taunting him by being completely awake and already listing chores for him to fill his day with. Eventually when he started thinking about cleaning out the garage, he gave up and hauled himself out of his warm bed. Throwing a robe over his boxers and tee, he went in search of coffee.

Body not quite as awake as his brain yet, he made his way on autopilot through the silent house, not flicking on a light switch until he stepped into the kitchen. Sudden, blinding light illuminated the room, catching the startled figure of Jensen sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of water in one hand and a slice of dry toast in the other, in its unforgiving spotlight.

"Holy shit!" Jeff couldn't restrain his shocked exclamation, the boy was as quiet as a freaking ninja.

Jensen didn't fare any better, standing up so suddenly in fright that the stool he'd been perched on toppled, taking him to the floor with it in retaliation.

The crash of smashing glass swiftly followed the double thud of bone and wood hitting the tiled floor.

Jeff, having quickly recovered from his near heart attack, darted around the table to help. Jensen was sitting on the floor amidst a spreading puddle of water and fierce shards of broken glass. His hand cradled his elbow protectively against his body and the baggy t-shirt and the too long track pants he wore were spotted with specks of glass that caught the light like dangerous sparks of glitter. Jeff was more worried about his deathly pale complexion and the tremors vibrating through his slight body. His eyes, not shielded by spectacles this time, were clenched shut and he was taking shuddering little half-breaths, undoubtedly due either to pain or shock.

"Jensen, hey are you okay?" Crouching down, Jeff's fingers lightly brushed against Jensen's knee.

Jensen flinched violently backwards and his eyes flew open. The look of unadulterated fear in them unmistakable.

Stuttering, soft sounds broke through Jensen's choked breathing but it took Jeff a minute to register that he was actually forming words.

"I'm s... s... sorry... sorry... please... I'm sorry... please d...don't... please... I'm sorry," the pleading litany looped over and over.

Jeff's knees gave out about the same time as his heart swallow-dived into his stomach and he landed on his ass on the floor in front of Jensen. Oh God, the kid wasn't sick, he was broken. Something, someone had hurt this gorgeous boy enough to reduce him to a terrified wreck over something as simple as a broken glass. (The inappropriate “gorgeous boy” phrase that had popped into his head, he would revisit, dissect and hyperventilate over at a more convenient time.)

Jeff clasped his hands together in front of himself in a herculean effort to stop from reaching out and touching Jensen again. The immediate urge to offer comfort was monumental after years of being a father. His papa-bear instinct was still to fold Jared into his arms every time he was hurt or upset. Hugs had cured everything from skinned knees to broken hearts in this house, but he didn't think Jensen would handle the contact well right now and he didn't want to cause the boy even the smallest shred of further distress.

In soft soothing tones, Jeff reassured him. "Jensen, it's okay. You're safe. It's okay Jensen, it's okay. You're safe here Jensen, I promise. It's okay." He stubbornly persisted, talking over Jensen's mumbled rush of words until they faltered and Jensen's shining glassy eyes blinked and focused causing Jeff's chest to unclench just a bit.

Jensen's tongue darted out and licked over his lips. He opened his mouth and looked on the verge of speaking then his lips clamped shut, his eyes fell and a pink hue burst over his cheeks.

Alrighty then, looked like Jeff would have to be the articulate one here. That could pose a problem.

"Jensen, can you hear me?"

Jeff took the barely visible nod as a signal that he wasn't talking to himself.

"Okay, that's good. You don't have to say anything, just listen to me for a minute. Alright?"

Another nod, a tiny bit more substantial this time, gave Jeff a much needed shot of confidence that he wasn't screwing this up completely.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I swear I would never, never hurt you. I don't want you to be scared of me, I'm as harmless as Jared is and you know he wouldn't hurt a fly. Or a spider, even though he screams like a girl whenever he sees one, the big wuss."

A twitch of a lip and green eyes rose to meet his. They didn't quite make it, seeming to focus somewhere near his right ear but still it was a positive sign.

"I think maybe you came here because you’re scared."

No response.

"Has someone hurt you?"

Jensen's eyes flitted briefly to his then darted away again just as quick as he drew even more into himself.

"You're safe here kid, I promise you. While you're under my roof, can hurt you. And Jensen, you are welcome here as long as you want."

"Why?" A whisper.

"Because you deserve to be safe. Everyone does."

Shaking his head, Jensen said, "I'm not like everyone. I'm stupid and useless, I can't even look after myself, it's pathetic. I’m pathetic."

"I don't think that's true Jensen. I think you are intelligent, strong and perfectly capable of-"

"Ha," Jensen sobbed out a painful bitter laugh. "I've got no home. My family hates me. I think I have three friends in the world. All I have is a car I can't afford to put gas in anymore. I may as well..." He petered off, not finishing his thought.

"May as well what?" Jeff nudged.

Jensen just shook his head in defeat.

Jeff felt incredibly out of his depth here and a horrible, selfish, no-good part of him wanted nothing more than for Jared to walk in right now and take over. Jeff was useless at talking about things, usually relying heavily on his actions to speak for him.

"Jensen, you're in a bad place right now but things are going to get better. You're strong and Jared and I...we're going to help you out. Anyway we can."

Yet another shake of Jensen's head that Jeff stubbornly chose to ignore.

"You're a good kid, going through a rough patch."

A wet sounding snort responded to that, but at least Jensen found his words again, mumbling, "Longest rough patch in history." Followed quickly by a huffy sounding, "And I'm not a kid, I'm twenty six." Jeff couldn’t hold back a smile at that because all it did was make him sound like a petulant eight year old.

"You're still a kid to me Jensen. Right come on, I'm going to help you up then I'm going to get a bag of peas for you to put on that elbow, is that okay?"

Jensen nodded.

"Okay, be careful of all the glass, let me don't put your hand down there. That's it." Jeff helped Jensen to his feet, managing to avoid the scattered slivers of glass and sat him down on another stool at the table. He fetched a bag of frozen peas and made Jensen hold them against his obviously bruised elbow while he cleared up the mess of water and broken glass on the kitchen floor, firmly brushing aside Jensen's objections that he should be the one to clean up.

While making them both mugs of deliciously strong hot coffee he silently planned the best way to help Jensen without scaring him off.

Taking the melted bag of peas from the boy, Jeff threw it in the sink then sat on the righted stool next to him. Handing him a mug of black coffee, (Jensen having declined cream or sweetener) he watched as Jensen’s face relaxed out of the pinched grimace for maybe the first time in Jeff's presence. Jensen's relationship with coffee was apparently a passionate one if his hum of pleasure was any indication.

Jeff watched Jensen savouring his coffee for a few quiet moments still trying to figure out how to approach the awkward but essential conversation. Jensen surprised him, by setting down his coffee and saving him the problem.

"So, this is kinda awkward huh? I just... well... I'm sorry."

Jeff tried to object to the apology but Jensen jutted his chin out and steam-rolled on, the words flowing from his mouth in an unstoppable flood. "No, I am sorry. I’m sorry for freaking out over nothing. I'm sorry for breaking your glass. I shouldn't have been creeping about down here in the dark, stealing your food. I thought you were away to work already and I..."

And that, right there, wasn't okay and Jeff refused to be shushed this time.

"Jesus, Jensen, you're our guest. You were invited to stay here, that means you're welcome to the food in this house and I won't hear any arguments about it. Christ, is that why you haven't been eating with us?"

Jensen looked away, his face turning a by now familiar shade of pink.

Whoever had fucked up Jensen’s head had a done a damn good job of it. "I want you to sit down and eat with us from now on...please. My cooking isn't so bad and it'd be nice to have someone appreciate it instead of watching Jared shovelling it down like he hasn't eaten for a month. It would be great if you stopped avoiding me too. I promise I don't bite and I think if you give me a chance we could be friends, I'd like to try anyway. Would that be okay?"

A silent nod.

"I want you to know that you can talk to me anytime you want, about anything. I mean, you don't have to but you can."

No response was forthcoming from Jensen but Jeff hadn’t seriously expected him to suddenly spill his guts right then.

"Okay, I'm going to make some breakfast for both of us and I think you should go and change out of those clothes, they're a bit damp and there might still be glass clinging to them but you come back here and eat with me, alright?"

Jensen stepped stiffly down from his stool, straightened his elbow hesitantly and headed towards the door. Leaning briefly against the doorjamb he turned back and, deep green eyes flickering with unreadable emotion, shot Jeff a timid thank you.

Letting a sigh escape, Jeff scratched his fingernails through his scruffy stubble and prayed fervently that Jensen allowed himself to be helped and didn't jump in that beautiful car of his and vanish.

Well, fuck. Just fuck his life completely Jensen thought, his face burning in humiliation as he ducked into his room. That was a first class melt down of epic proportions to have, and in front of Jared's dad too. Jared's gorgeous dad who must be thinking that he was sharing his house with some kind of deranged basket-case. Great impression Jensen, really, well done.

Once he'd cleaned up, Jensen amazed himself by resisting the over-riding urge to throw himself in his car and speed off to someplace where he wouldn’t have to face Jeff again. He swallowed what little scrappy molecule of pride he had left, steeled himself, and faced Jeff over breakfast.

Then he did it all again at dinnertime and then he forced himself to act like a normal reasonable human being and join Jeff and Jared for meals every day until he realized that he was looking forward to seeing them both at dinnertime and rather enjoyed sitting listening to them bicker and rib each other good naturedly. He didn't contribute much to the conversation, partly because he still felt uncomfortably like an interloper intruding in their tight little family, and partly because for the first time in years his libido had sniffed the air, sat bolt upright, and unashamedly begged, tongue lolling out and everything.

On the one hand, this was fantastic news. He'd thought that after his past experiences he'd never feel that rush of attraction and want ever again. On the other it was utterly terrifying because after said past experiences it was obvious his taste in men was unreliable at best. It was also incredibly freaking inconvenient to be honest, because the person his pesky libido had set its grubby sights on was Jeff Morgan and now as well as Jeff thinking he was a boy on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he must also think Jensen was some kind of mute simpleton. Even on his good days Jensen was shy and he couldn't remember the last time he'd had one of those, so the chances of being able to untie his tongue and have an actual conversation with the object of his sudden desire was damn near non-existent. Yep, he was back to fuck my life.

Luckily (for Jensen anyway) Jeff spent most of his time at work. Jared had explained that he owned some kind of bookstore/coffee-shop, which frankly sounded like heaven to Jensen. In theory, Jensen filled his own days figuring out what the hell to do with his life. In reality that was far too terrifying a subject to think about for long and in-between compulsively checking that the doors and windows were locked, he usually found himself curled up in the sitting room with one of the many books that lined the bookshelves.

Out of everything that had happened, David forbidding him to read was the one thing that had really pissed Jensen off. The argument they'd had when he thought Jensen was ignoring him because he was too caught up in his book had been brutal, due mainly to Jensen's stubborn refusal to back down for once. Unsurprisingly it hadn’t ended well for Jensen.

Get over it Jensen, he told himself. He couldn't mope about the past forever.

He knew that he couldn't impose on Jared and his Dad for much longer but, God it was nice to not have to worry about where his next meal was coming from or where he was going to sleep. It was like having a vacation from his life; reading and playing video games with Jared like they used to back in college. Even the need to constantly look over his shoulder was gradually, inch by painstaking inch, receding.



Chapter Four


Lady Gaga declaring shrilly in his ear that she was born this way was not a pleasant way to be wrenched from his sleep. Jeff swore if he ever actually managed to catch Jared messing around with his phone, he was going to whoop his son's ass. It may be a bit tricky seeing as how Jared was a good three inches taller than him and Jeff had never laid a hand on him in his life, but honestly Lady Gaga piercing his brain at twenty minutes past six in the morning might just drive him to it.

He fumbled blindly on his bedside table desperately trying to locate his cell phone before the irritating strains of mind numbing pop music wound their way into his head like an infectious little earworm. It wouldn't be the first time that he'd found himself humming some horrendously catchy song that Jared had programmed into his phone just to bug the crap out of him. He'd still not lived down the day he'd started humming the Smurf's theme tune in the middle of the store.

Shutting Miss Gaga up mid “baby” he growled out a hello that would have his mother slapping him across the back of his head for his appalling telephone manners. Thankfully, it at least wasn’t his mother on the receiving end.

"That son-of-a-bitch hasn't shown up again Jeff. He's supposed to be helping me open up and the lazy shit just phoned to say he has a headache. A headache! Hangover more like. I'm going to give that asshole a goddam headache he'll never forget. If you don't fire the good-for-nothing ass soon, I'm gonna..."

No, not his mother, but Sophia was also not a woman that Jeff wanted to get on the wrong side of, ever. Rumors of a cheating ex boyfriend's unfortunate mishap involving his genitals and her cockapoo were fast becoming the stuff of legend and worryingly, Sophia's only comment on the matter was a chillingly self-satisfied cackle whenever his name was mentioned.

"Good morning to you too, Sophia. You want me to come in early and give you a hand?"

"Yes Jeff, I do, thank you. Then I'd like you to pay Carl a visit and tell him to stick his 'Morgan's Books and Beans' apron up his goddamn...”

"I'm coming Sophia, be there in fifteen." Jeff cut her off before he heard the detailed end of that threat. It was a visual he didn't need.

She did have a point though, he thought as he dashed under his shower, gave himself a cursory wash, roughly dried himself, dressed and got ready to go before his brain really had a chance to wake up. Carl was going to have to go. Having a grandmother who played bridge with Jeff's mother could only go so far in saving him from getting the boot and it wasn't fair on the rest of his small band of employees or him, to have someone so unreliable on the team. Creeping through the house, trying to avoid waking the boys up, he wondered if it would be possible to let Sophia handle the firing. She was his deputy manager after all; maybe it was time to pass a bit more responsibility onto her bony shoulders. She'd probably relish the chance to kick Carl's ass to the curb. Jeff wasn't sure if that made him a coward or a good boss delegating responsibilities appropriately. Yep complete coward, no argument there.

Slipping into the kitchen to grab his car keys, Jeff was surprised to find the light on and Jensen standing beside the coffee maker with a steaming cup of dark coffee and a small contented smile. He looked up shyly at Jeff when he walked in, almost managing to hide the anxious straightening of his spine and the automatic look of guilt that flashed across his face.

Since Jeff had last found Jensen standing in his kitchen in the early hours of the morning, the boy had been trying hard to appear more relaxed in his company. It had obviously been a struggle to begin with. The first night Jensen had appeared in the kitchen for dinner he'd been as white as a ghost and so tense that he'd looked as though he might shatter into a thousand pieces if anyone dared touch him. He'd toughed it out though and valiantly persevered, continuing to join Jeff and Jared every evening for dinner. Jeff had been strangely proud of the kid for that. It had been gratifying to witness the subtles change in him since then. He was still a bit withdrawn and hesitant to join in their conversations but the past few nights he had, more or less, lost the haunted look of a stalked fawn. He'd even come out of his shell enough to allow Jared to coax him into a Lord of the Rings marathon which Jeff had fallen asleep about twenty minutes in to and a Call of Duty night that had Jeff tactically retreating to his bedroom after the first accusations of cheating had been hurled.

Last night Jensen had even asked if he could use the phone to call a friend and let him know that he was okay. Jensen asking for anything was a major milestone; seriously, he was prone to blushing when he asked for the ketchup. It had also proved to a mightily relieved Jeff that the kid did at least have someone out there worrying about him. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop on the phone conversation, no really he hadn't, but when he'd heard Jensen having to reassure someone that 'no, he wasn't still sleeping in his car’ and ‘yes, he was eating' he thanked God that Jared had offered the kid a safe place to stay. He'd also resolved to make sure that Jensen didn't leave until he was firmly back on his feet again. The thought of a damaged kid like him out there on his own, sleeping in his car who knew where, was enough to give Jeff nightmares.

"Morning, Jensen." Jeff smiled, somewhat tiredly while scanning the surfaces for his car keys. "You're up early again."

"Yeah, I have trouble sleeping sometimes. I didn't wake you did I?"

Jeff did a little happy dance, inside obviously, at the landmark of Jensen sharing even a little bit of personal information. "No, no. I was sleeping like the dead ‘til Sophia called to rant about Carl not turning up again. Means I have to go in and work this morning, if I can find my damned car keys that is."

"I could come and help if you like."

Jeff didn't know who was more shocked at the suggestion, him or Jensen. He stopped short and looked at Jensen in amazement. Jensen froze and looked back in open-mouthed surprise. Looked like Jensen wasn't in full control of his faculties until he'd had more than one cup of coffee then.

Jensen's face flamed beet red as his tongue tripped over his teeth in his haste to backtrack, "No sorry, I shouldn't have asked. You'll be busy and I'd just get in the way."

And oh, no, Jeff wasn't about to let this opportunity slip through his fingers. "Actually, that's a great idea. We're short staffed, well we're about to be short staffed. You giving us a hand would be perfect. Thanks Jensen you're a lifesaver."

Maybe he laid it on a bit thick but he wasn't above using emotional blackmail to help Jensen. Firmly detaching the cup from the boy's desperately grasping fingers, he gently shoved him towards the door with an encouraging, "Go change real quick while I find my keys. The coffee at the shop's much better anyway, you'll love it."

By the time Jeff had beaten the elusive car keys in their devious game of hide and seek, Jensen was dressed and ready to go. He looked like a nervous kid on their first day of kindergarten, Jeff thought as Jensen came shuffling reluctantly down the stairs with his ratty sneakers in his hand.

The silent taut mess of nerves Jensen had become by the time they arrived at the store worried Jeff. Maybe he had pushed him too hard, too fast into leaving the house. The second Jensen walked through the heavy glass door into the comforting warmth and deliciously caffeine enriched aroma of 'Morgan's Books and Beans' though, his body lost its sharp edges and he emitted a soft exclamation of delight. Jeff had expected him to make a beeline towards the coffee counter but instead he walked straight towards the rows of bookshelves, reverentially stroking his fingers down the uncracked spines of the hardbacks. Jeff watched in silence as Jensen walked amongst the tall shelves unable to keep his hands from petting the books as he went.

"Thank God you're here. The espresso machine is making that weird noise again and the bakery hasn't delivered the muffins, so you'll need to call them."

Oh well, the glorious peace couldn't last forever.

"Sophia, this is Jensen. He's going to help us out today, please play nice." Jeff said, urgently trying to telegraph her the message that he needed her to be on her least intimidating, best behaviour.

Sophia looked confused until she spotted Jensen's back amongst the still unlit shelves of books. "You've replaced Carl already, wow! That's unusually efficient of you, Jeff; I'm impressed."

Sophia marched out from behind the counter, her stiletto heels clipping briskly across the tiled floor until she reached a startled Jensen and introduced herself. She'd ushered him behind the coffee counter, decked him out with a clean apron and begun initiating him in the intricacies of coffee-making before Jeff had worked out whether she had just insulted him or not, or had a chance to explain that Jensen wasn't Carl's replacement.

He was on the verge of rescuing Jensen from her clutches when she barked, "Jeff, we need the muffins before we open up," and nodded in the direction of his office where the phone lived.

"You do know that I'm your boss, Sophia," he said (very quietly, under his breath) while retreating to do as he was told, leaving a shell-shocked Jensen to fend for himself.

By the time the morning rush was finished, Jensen had easily picked up the tricky art of making the perfect cup of coffee. He’d also mastered the cash-register that had more buttons and complicated functions than Jeff though were remotely necessary and he’d just about stopped blushing when anyone spoke to him.

By the time the lunch rush was over, he had the espresso machine purring contentedly under his hands and the giggling high school girls who'd come in for hot chocolate and cupcakes swooning at his oblivious feet.

By the end of the afternoon, Sophia was offering to bear his children if he told her how he’d managed to tame the malevolent espresso machine, and Jensen had laughed three times. Not that Jeff was counting.

By the time Jeff dragged him home at the end of the day Jensen had made friends with every book in the store, Sophia was in love with him, and half the town seemed to have passed through to ogle him. Jensen also looked completely exhausted and happier than Jeff had ever seen him, leaving Jeff feeling smugly pleased with himself. He was clearly a genius.

By the time Jeff drove home, Jensen was sound asleep.

Killing the engine, Jeff twisted round intent on waking Jensen up and found himself instead staring at the boy slumped in the seat next to him. His glasses had slipped down his nose revealing dark eyelashes that fanned out starkly against his pale complexion. A faint dusting of freckles that Jeff had barely noticed before peppered the perfect canvas of his face and his lips were gently parted in sleep, the bottom one swollen and red where he'd been biting it all day while deep in concentration. The sudden desire to press his own mouth against those plump lips struck Jeff like a bolt from the blue.

He'd never felt anything like it; the overwhelming need to touch, to lick, to feel. God, he wasn't... he'd never... not men... not really... not like this. But then he'd never found a woman that made his heartbeat leap and his blood rush straight to his dick like it was right now. But that didn't mean... no... he wasn't.

Jeff turned away closing his eyes, willed away the pressing urge to throw up, and tried to talk himself out of the midlife crisis he was sure he must be having. A minute or two later, he'd convinced himself that he'd just had a very, very brief break from reality, had now come to his senses and was going to open his eyes, wake up his son's friend, and carry on as normal.

Eyes open. Theory proved? Yes?



No, this wasn't right, he wasn't gay, he wasn't attracted to men. Not really. Obviously there was that crush thing he'd had on the captain of the swim-team before he met Jared's mom but everyone had inappropriate crushes when they were teenagers, didn't they? They didn't mean anything and so what if sleeping with women had never been the earth-shattering experience it was cracked up to be? He'd probably just been doing it wrong or not found the right person... woman. God almighty he could not possibly have reached his forties without admitting to himself that he might like men. That wasn't denial that was lunacy.

Jensen murmured incoherently in his sleep drawing Jeff's attention again. God, even exhausted and undernourished, the kid was gorgeous. Jeff wanted to feel the soft strands of his hair against his fingers, wanted to bury his face in the delicate curve of his neck and soak in his scent. He wanted to kiss, to taste, to touch, wanted to pull Jensen into his arms and protect him from the world but he couldn't. He wouldn't.

It was one thing to decide that you were suddenly gay, bisexual, pansexual, whatever. It would be quite another to take advantage of a vulnerable, apparently traumatised, young man living under your roof and possibly even working for you. He'd coped perfectly well being on his own for years. He was happy on his own, goddammit! He was sure he could survive living with Jensen without giving in to the desire to map out every contour of his body with his mouth. Jesus Jeff, focus!

Shaking Jensen awake, more brusquely than he'd intended, Jeff escaped the claustrophobic confines of his car as quickly as he could and shot into the house leaving a drowsy Jensen following in his wake. With a cursory hello to Jared and a brief directive to call for pizza, his treat, Jeff dashed to his bathroom and for the first time in years found the necessity for a cold shower.

Jeff didn't come back down the stairs until after he heard the chimes of the doorbell heralding the arrival of pizza. He walked into the kitchen with a (too bright) smile plastered across his face and received a comedic double take from his puzzled son and a nervous glance from Jensen. He grabbed a slice of pizza with exaggerated enthusiasm, joined them at the table and launched into a manic blow-by-blow account of his and Jensen's day to a bemused Jared.

By the time Jared had polished off four greasy slices of pepperoni pizza, with extra pepperoni, and Jensen had nibbled his way through one - picking half the meat off - Jeff had managed to swallow down two himself and had finished telling Jared the story of how Jensen managed to sell old Mrs. Ferguson a set of Terry Pratchett books when she'd only come in for a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin. He’d also calmed down sufficiently enough that the boys had relaxed and stopped staring at him like he'd grown a second head. Jared's laughter and Jensen's bashful smile had gradually dissipated the uneasy atmosphere his odd behaviour had unintentionally created.

"Are you offering Jensen a job then Dad?" Jared asked in his usual subtle as a sledgehammer fashion, around a disgustingly masticated mouthful of pizza.

Jeff shoved a napkin in Jared's face, "Did I not teach you any manners at all boy?"

With an extravagant swallow and a self-satisfied grin, Jared dabbed the napkin delicately at his mouth and let out a loud belch to the simultaneous revolted groans of Jeff and Jensen.

"Excuse me," Jared smirked. "So Dad, are you begging Jensen to come and work for you? If he's got Sophia eating out the palm of his hand, can work the espresso machine, and charm even Mrs. Ferguson, you'd be crazy not to."

Jeff had hoped to approach the subject a bit less directly. "Well," he hedged. "He certainly would be an asset and we do need the extra help but I don't want to pressure him into feeling he has to." Turning to face Jensen, he said, "You know you did an excellent job today and I'd love for you to come and work for me, but I don't want you to feel you have to. You staying here is not reliant on you working for me."

Standing up from the table, face pink from the attention and praise, Jensen bought himself time before he answered by tipping his half eaten second slice of pizza in the trash and washing his hands. "I enjoyed myself today Jeff so thanks for letting me go with you. Your store is amazing and everyone was real nice to me."

Jeff could just feel Jensen working up to a big 'but' and he didn't know whether he should be relieved or disappointed when the kid turned down his offer.

"I'd love to come and work for you. I don't know how good a job I'll do, but I'm grateful for the chance and I promise I'll work hard and I’ll try not to let you down."

Well, Jeff had called that one wrong but he still wasn’t sure if he was glad that Jensen had accepted his offer or terrified that he'd be spending even more time with the boy that had his head and his dick so thoroughly confused.

"That’s awesome!" Jared declared, jumping up from the table and yanking a clearly surprised Jensen into a celebratory hug.

"Yeah, that's great Jensen," Jeff agreed. "I know you won't let me down. You did an excellent job today, everyone loved you and you're going to make me a fortune from all the teenagers coming in to swoon over you."

"Oh God!" Jensen spluttered hiding his red face in his hands as Jared and Jeff laughed good-naturedly at him.

"We'll talk about it properly tomorrow," Jeff continued when Jensen showed his face again. "I've got the day off and I think you might need a day to recover, you look exhausted. Now, how about we celebrate my astute business acumen and Jensen's wonderful new job with dessert. I bought an apple and blueberry pie today."

That deceptively simple suggestion, much to Jeff's astonishment, lit the fuse that explosively ended their enjoyable evening. It began innocently enough; Jared jumped up from the table, fetching bowls from the cupboard with a schoolboy glee for dessert that he'd never lost. "Ooh pie Jensen, you have to taste it, it's amazing."

"You know, I'm pretty full. I'm gonna pass if you don't mind." Jensen said to a dumbstruck Jared.

"But it's pie. You love pie and you've barely eaten anything. Come on Jensen," Jared wheedled but Jensen had lost the relaxed air that it had been so refreshing to see and was starting to look antsy.

"No thanks, Jared. I really am wiped out, I'm gonna have an early night."

Other than the fact that, as usual, Jensen's appetite was nearly non-existent, Jeff didn't see what the big deal was. Jared however seemed to be taking Jensen's pie refusal as a personal affront. Apparently oblivious to how strained Jensen was looking despite the tight lines forming at his mouth, the rigid set of his shoulders, or the way his arms had wrapped protectively around himself, Jared stubbornly persisted. "Jensen, come on man. You don't have to watch your girlish figure you know. You're practically fading away as it is, sit down and have some pie."

"Jared, leave the boy be." Jeff interrupted, exasperated at Jared's pit-bull attitude to such a trivial thing, receiving a glare from his son in response.

"Seriously Dad, he used to tell me that pie held the meaning to life. He wrote a freaking sonnet about it for the college newspaper. He'd live on the damn stuff given half a chance and now he eats as much as a teenage girl on a crash diet. His cheekbones could cut glass his face is so goddamn gaunt. I just don't understand what the hell the problem is." With his voice growing louder and louder and his arms waving animatedly, frustration radiated from Jared.

Flustered, Jensen moved to leave the kitchen, having to duck under Jared's flapping arms on his way past. Reaching out to stop him, Jared set his hand lightly on Jensen's arm. With a startled yelp, Jensen jerked out of his reach stumbling into Jeff who automatically tried to steady him. Jensen pushed away panicked, blurting out,

"I'm not allowed pie okay! David says it makes me fat and..."

"Christ, Jensen." Jared stepped back stunned and belatedly cottoning on to how upset Jensen was, giving him some room to breathe. He raised his hands as non-threateningly as possible, palms open and spread wide in peaceful surrender. "David is a controlling asshole. I can't believe that bastard said that to you. I'm sorry alright, I'm sorry I upset you, please stay and have some... hell, it doesn't even matter about the stupid pie. Just don't run off because I'm an idiot okay?"

Shaking his head Jensen aimed a wan smile in Jared's direction. "You're not an idiot Jared. It's not your fault I'm screwed up. I know I'm being stupid okay? I know I don't have to care about David and what he thinks anymore but sometimes... sometimes I forget. I'm trying really hard to be normal again and you and your Dad are being so kind but it's hard... it's... " Wiping his hands across his reddened watery eyes, Jensen shrugged his shoulders and took a deep shuddering breath obviously trying to shore himself up.

"Jen." Jared's voice didn't sound too steady either as he tried to reach out and comfort his distraught friend.

Jensen slipped away from both men and only once he was safely near the door did he pause, "I'm sorry Jared, I just need to be on my own for a while. Thank you though and thank you for the pizza Jeff and for today. I’ll... I'll see you in the morning."

He was gone before Jeff and Jared could do or say anything in return.

"Shit!" Jared exclaimed collapsing down into a seat, his face a miserable picture of self-loathing. "I fucked up didn't I?"

Jeff fetched a couple of cold bottles of beer from the refrigerator, twisted them both open, passed one to Jared and joined his son at the table.

"It wasn't your finest moment son," he admitted. "But we both know Jensen's not in a good way right now. Maybe it's time to stop ignoring it and start dealing with it."

Jared took a long swallow from his bottle, downing a good third of it before he stopped for air. "I thought he was getting better just being here, you know. He seemed happier today, more relaxed. I didn't realise how messed up David had left him."

"Do you know exactly what happened between David and Jensen?" Jeff asked, deciding that the time for subtlety and minding his own business had long passed.

Jared screwed his face up like he'd swallowed something particularly vile and took another long swig of his beer before answering. "Not really. They started going out when we were in our junior year. Jensen hadn't really dated before. He was shy, especially around people he didn't know. It made it hard for him to meet anyone. No one else we hung around with was gay and I guess that didn't make it any easier for him to find someone. We dragged him to a gay club a couple of times but he spent most of the time making sure we all behaved which kind of defeated the purpose."

Jeff didn't find that at all hard to believe.

"Anyway," Jared continued, "he met David though a friend of ours and they really hit it off. Jensen was happy you know, like sickeningly love-hearts in his eyes, sparkly rainbows and shit happy. God we teased him about it."

"So, what happened?" Jeff asked, uncomfortable with the image of Jensen being madly in love with anyone that could turn out to be such a creep and wanting to move on rapidly.

Jared sighed, "Nothing dramatic Dad. He just kind of pulled away from us. He always seemed to have plans with David when we wanted to go out. He backed out of our weekly games of soccer and played basketball with David and his friends instead. He moved in with him at the start of our senior year and eventually the only times I saw him were when we had the same classes or in the library."

Rubbing his hand over his rough stubble, Jeff tried to understand the picture that Jared was painting.

"So, did Jensen just fall in love and dump his friends or did David manipulate him into it."

"Well," Jared contemplated, "we all presumed the former but in hindsight I guess it was the latter. I always thought there was something a bit off about David. He could be a bit of an arrogant dick. We all messed around and teased one another you know, but David, he could flay you with his tongue and leave you for dead if he felt like it. He always went that bit too far and he didn't like it if Jensen spent time speaking to anyone else. The looks he used to give me when Jensen and I were talking about classes were downright scary."

"So what happened, when he left?" Jeff asked.

"He just disappeared. One day he was in class, the next day he was gone. I called him and texted and eventually, I got a text back saying that David had accepted a job in California and Jensen had decided to go with him. It was all a bit strange but what could we do? Jensen was a grown man. If he wanted to drop out and follow his boyfriend out of state there wasn’t much we could do about it."

Jeff felt drained. He had no idea what to do next. Should they try to talk to Jensen about David? Find someone else for him to talk to? Did he need to see a doctor or maybe he should contact Jensen's family? Jesus, he wished he was back in the days when Jared's friends’ biggest problems were not being allowed to sleep over.

"Dad, do you think David... do you think David was... I mean, you don't think that David was threatening Jensen do you or... or hurting him?" Jared's voice sounded so small and child-like that Jeff wanted to do nothing more than reassure him but it just wasn't possible.

"I don't know Jared, I'm no expert but it does look like Jensen's been abused in some way by someone. Maybe he'd be better getting help from a professional, or do you know his family at all? Do you think I should give them a call?"

"I'd rather that you didn't if you don't mind." Jensen very calmly stated from the doorway.



Chapter Five


The matching expressions of shock on Jeff and Jared's faces may have been funny under different circumstances, but Jensen was finding it difficult to find anything humorous about the situation.

"I was just coming to find my glasses," he said pointing to the tabletop where the offending articles were lying innocently beside the empty pizza box.

"Jensen, I'm sorry-" Jared started.

"Sorry that you were discussing me? Don’t be. You have every right to be concerned that you have a mental case living in your house."

"It's not like that Jensen," said Jeff, looking at him with those big brown puppy dog eyes that made Jensen's resolve to stay mad crumble and turn to a benign shower of dust.

Nervously clenching his hands into fists, tight enough to leave crescent-moon shaped indents in his palm Jensen attempted to figure out his next move. His feet were itching to run, run far and run fast. His well-honed survival instinct also voted for a hasty retreat as far away from confrontation as possible. However, his recently rediscovered ability to think before acting on his predisposition of flight rather than fight, was begging him to stay and talk to the two men who had been nothing but kind ever since he'd turned up and disturbed their normal happy lives. If nothing else, he owed them an explanation for his bizarre behaviour.

"Jensen," Jeff put his beer bottle down and pushed his stool away from the table to stand up.

"No, no... it's fine. I'm fine. Just sit down please." If Jensen was going to spill his guts he needed to feel in control and that would be easier accomplished if Jared and Jeff stayed sitting exactly where they were.

Jensen wanted to pace the length of the kitchen but he also wanted to stay by the door should the desire to bolt become overwhelming. He ended up doing a strange little bouncing action on the balls of his feet that surely looked as ridiculous as it felt.

"So, I owe you some kind of explanation, I know."

Jeff interrupted him before he could go any further, "Jensen, you don't owe us anything."

"Jeff, please. I need to get this out and I think, if it’s okay, I need you just to let me speak before I chicken out."

To his massive relief, Jeff meekly nodded and settled back down on his seat.

Jensen restarted, looking over Jeff and Jared's heads at his own blurry reflection in the dark glass of the window. "Okay so I guess you want to know about David. David was good looking, loud, confident, and exciting. I couldn't believe he was interested in someone like me but he was. He wanted to be with me all the time and he made me feel special. He was the first man I ever-"

He glanced briefly at Jeff and Jared who were watching him intently and felt himself blush, "Well... the only man I ever... you know... slept with. He was my first love. I thought we would be together forever. I thought it was sweet at first that he wanted to spend so much time with me. It was nice to feel so loved, to have someone care so much about me, and I thought that once we'd been together for a while, things would calm down but after he persuaded me to move in with him, he got more... I don't know... more possessive and overbearing I guess. He wanted me to come straight home after class, didn't want me meeting up with friends, especially you Jared. I think he was jealous because we were so close. The first time he- “

Jensen stopped and swallowed hard, struggling to spill out the words sticking to his dry mouth. “The first time he... he hit me, we’d had a fight because I wanted to go and meet you guys for our soccer game and he refused to let me go. I didn’t think he was serious you know, I tried to push past him and he backhanded me across the face - split my lip. I was just shocked. I couldn't believe he'd actually hit me and he was so apologetic about it. Got me ice, said he was sorry over and over, promised me he would never do it again."

Jensen snorted wryly; wow, he'd been such a sucker. Even as he heard himself telling the story he could hear how clichéd it was, how stupid and naive he'd been to believe the bullshit that David had fed him.

"For a while after that things got better. He persuaded me that if I just dropped soccer he could dial back on the possessiveness and I did it like an idiot, because it was just easier to believe and trust him. Eventually he hit me again. I can't even remember why now but I remember thinking that it was my fault, that if I tried harder to screw up less, not annoy him so much, be a better boyfriend he wouldn't get so frustrated with me and lash out. I was so in love with him. Even when things weren't good between us, I loved him."

Jensen paused, he didn't talk about this. The only other person he'd spoken to about his relationship with David was Misha, and even then he'd glossed over as much as Misha would let him get away with.

Jeff and Jared were looking at him expectantly and he wished he could just pretend that he was fine and bury all the crap back down but that obviously wasn't working anymore.

"My granddad," he eventually continued. "My granddad died. He was nearly eighty but it was still unexpected. I'd always been real close to him, he was a character, so laid back, he didn't give a shit about what anyone thought. When my family found out I was gay and went completely nuts, he was the only one who didn't care. He stood up for me and tried to stop them from sending me to the Christian camp they found to 'cure' me. He let me stay with him when things got unbearable at home, then he bought the Impala. We spent months together fixing her up before my parents finally allowed me to go to college, then he handed me her keys and papers.

Anyway, my brother called to tell me he'd passed and obviously I told him I would go home for the funeral. I was booking a flight when David walked in. He said he didn't want me going, that my family would try and stop me coming back and I was already upset and I just blew up at him. We had a huge fight, the worst one ever and he... I... I ended up in the hospital with broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a severe concussion and missed the funeral. My parents wouldn't even talk to me, wouldn't let me explain. My brother told me not to bother keeping in touch."

"Oh, Jensen."

Jensen glanced at Jared, his face had paled and he appeared to be on the verge of throwing up. Jensen could only imagine how bad his own face looked.

"Afterwards, David was beside himself and I was in a pretty bad way. Depressed, I suppose, and he talked me into leaving. Said a fresh start in a new town would make everything better and like an idiot, I believed him. You can guess how that turned out - David got worse, more controlling, more violent, nastier."

Overcome with a sudden weariness, Jensen slumped back against the kitchen wall; he just wanted to finish his story, just wanted it all to be over. "I tried to leave a few times but I had no money and nowhere to go. I tried to get help from domestic violence shelters but they said they didn't have the facilities to help men. I guess men should be able to take care of themselves right? They put me in a motel a couple of times but David always managed to track me down and it was inevitably worse when he dragged me home again. Eventually, he went too far and after the neighbours called the cops, I ended up in the hospital for a week and the cops arrested David. Misha, a social worker at the hospital, visited me. He was brilliant, a real lifesaver. He kept David away from me in the hospital and helped me get away for good. That was a few months ago. That's... well, that's pretty much it. I know I'm messed up, I'm jumpy and needy, and I stress out about stupid shit. I...I understand if you want me to leave, but can I stay ‘til the morning please because I don't think I can drive anywhere right now."

Jeff and Jared were staring at him. He wished to hell, they would say something because he had no idea what they were thinking and he didn't think his legs were going to be able to hold him up much longer.

"I'm sorry Jensen, I'm so sorry. I should have done something." Jared stood up and gripped the tabletop, looked as though he was about to approach Jensen, then obviously thought better of it and started to pace. Jensen was amazed he'd managed to sit still up until now, his body was usually in constant motion one way or another.

"Jared, I never told you, what could you have done?"

"Why? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Jared!" Jeff spoke up for the first time admonishing his son.

"It's alright Jeff he has a right to ask. What was I supposed to say Jared, it wasn't like I was a delicate flower. I'm a six foot tall guy, I was probably twenty pounds heavier back then too and guys fight all the time right? Look how many times Chad was an ass and we ended up in brawls and laughed about it. I should have stood up for myself, I just didn't."

"That's not the fucking point. I was your friend, I could have done something. I never even guessed." Jared's stalking stopped abruptly and he swivelled round pinning Jensen with a glare. "Those times you turned up with bruises and he joked about how you got them playing basketball, laughed about how clumsy you were Jensen, tell me the truth, was that him?"

"Jared, what does it matter?"

"It matters to me Jensen, just... please, was it him?"

"Yes, okay, it was him. I never even played basketball. I'm fucking shitty at it." Jensen slapped his hands over his mouth, holding in what was either going to be hysterical laughter or a sob.

"I'm going to kill the son of a bitch!" Jared yelled, kicking the stool across the kitchen in a sudden display of rage that was all the more shocking coming from the usually gentle Jared.

Jensen would have fled the kitchen but his legs chose that moment to decide they'd taken enough for one day, thank you very much, and with all the grace of a baby hippo he found himself sinking to the floor, head dropping into his trembling hands.

"Jared that's not helping," he heard Jeff's calming tone say across the room then the only thing he could hear was his heart thundering in his ears. Until he heard a sob. A sob that wasn't coming from him. He looked up and there was Jared with snot and tears bubbling down his face looking like someone had just run over his puppy. The next thing he knew, Jared was on his knees in front of him, his big paws hauling Jensen into a bone-crushing hug.

He let Jared squash him like a beloved teddy bear until the need for oxygen became too great then he wriggled out of his grip.

"Need to breathe dude," he gasped.

Jared's splotchy face looked back earnestly at him, "I'm sorry Jensen."

Shaking his head, Jensen pushed him back so he didn't feel quite so suffocated. "Cut it out Jay, seriously you've nothing to be sorry about, well apart from getting your boogers all over me. God dude, you're gross. Get your snotty face out of the way and help me up."

As he’d hoped, his friend's face cracked into a smile and with an affectionate 'asshole' from Jared they both clambered to their feet and staggered back across to the table, collapsing onto the remaining stools.

They spent at least another hour talking (fuelled by coffee courtesy of Jeff), until Jensen truthfully citing exhaustion headed back to his room.

Finally, feeling strangely light, he collapsed into bed, still without his glasses. He buried himself under the comforter, closed his eyes and without even thinking about curling up into his usual spot barricading the bedroom door, he fell straight into desperately needed sleep.

After the drama of the previous night Jeff felt completely drained. Hearing Jensen's story, or some of it at least because God only knows how much the kid had left out, had been horrific. If he was honest, he'd already guessed that Jensen had been in an abusive relationship so he should have been prepared for it when Jensen finally cracked and let loose some of the details. Watching Jensen reliving those memories though had just been awful, leaving him with his skin crawling and a raging compulsion to find Jensen's scumbag ex boyfriend and show him how it felt to be on the receiving end of a violent temper. And Jensen’s family!! How they could mess up a sweet kid like him so badly, leaving him so vulnerable then just abandon him was totally beyond Jeff. The idea of cutting Jared out of his life like that was unthinkable. Some people didn’t deserve the gift of children.

After Jensen crawled off to bed looking ill with exhaustion, he'd sat with Jared for another hour convincing him that none of it was his fault. Underneath the bulk of his muscled physique was still a soft-hearted little kid who thought the best of everyone and it had ripped him apart to think that his friend had been suffering and he hadn't known anything about it. Jeff only hoped that sharing his troubled past with them had helped Jensen in some small way.

As he busied himself in the kitchen, making pancakes and waiting on the coffee brewing he was grateful that he had the day off. Unfortunately for Jared though, it was still a school day, which was why Jeff was treating him to a stack of pancakes and a mug of coffee ready and waiting for him when he walked into the kitchen. When he appeared, Jared looked like he'd been up half the night with dark shadows surrounding his eyes and a grim look on his face that Jeff was unaccustomed to. Jeff sympathised, he hadn't had the most restful night's sleep either. Neither of them expected Jensen to wander into the kitchen just behind Jared. He didn't look much better as he plonked himself down at the table yawning and rubbing the sleep from his eyes before slipping his glasses on. However, he smiled shyly and said a soft thank you when Jeff handed him coffee and even accepted a plate of pancakes.

Conversation didn't precisely flow over breakfast but it was down to the general air of fatigue rather than any residual awkwardness and once they'd all consumed their first fix of coffee, small talk passed easily enough between them. Jensen surprised Jeff by bringing up the subject of his job asking if the offer still stood.

"Of course it does." Jeff answered, coffee mug frozen mid-air, "Why wouldn't it?"

Jensen shrugged in silent answer but looked pleased none-the-less.

It was Jared who mentioned the touchy subject of Jensen's limited wardrobe. With surprising tact, he offered to loan Jensen some clothes and shoes for wearing to work to save Jensen trashing his own clothes.

Jensen rolled his eyes but smiled fondly at his friend, "Thanks for the offer Jared but unless your Dad saved your clothes from high school I guess they might be a bit on the big side and,” he said pointing to Jared’s size thirteens, “your clown shoes will fall off my feet. I'll need to find something though ‘cause my sneakers are falling apart. Is there a Goodwill in town? I might be able to scrape enough together for a change of clothes and a cheap pair of shoes."

"How about you let me take you shopping, buy you some decent stuff." Jeff suggested, fully expecting Jensen to balk at the offer but needing to make it regardless. "You’re going to need a few changes of clothes for work and maybe we can find you a pair of boots and a warm coat as well. It gets real cold around here this time of year."

Jared and Jeff watched Jensen warily as he appeared to ponder the offer. Eventually he said evenly, "Thanks Jeff, that'd be great. I've always wanted to re-enact the shopping scene in Pretty Woman; do you think I have better legs than Julia Roberts? I could totally pull of that red dress right?"

Having chosen to take a sip of coffee at precisely the wrong moment, Jeff coughed and spluttered as he inhaled hot brew. Jared clapped his hands and guffawed, eventually hammering Jeff on the back when he realized that the coffee was heading towards his lungs. Jensen sat with a little smug grin that made Jeff's heart skip a beat and was totally worth nearly choking to death.

Jared left for work a short while later, looking happier and more relaxed than he had since the previous dinnertime, and Jeff didn't miss the affectionate hug that Jensen gave him on the way out the door.

Jeff and Jensen amiably cleared up the breakfast dishes together, Jeff trying hard to ignore the way the morning light made Jensen's green eyes shine like dew soaked grass or the way his pillow ruffled hair was begging for Jeff to caress it. Setting down the dishtowel in his hand Jensen leant against the table, removed his glasses, and cleaned them with the bottom of his shirt.

"Jeff, can I ask a favour?" he asked hesitantly. "You've done so much for me already so if you can't it's fine," he said slipping his glasses back on, oblivious to the fact that the brief glance of the soft skin of his stomach had left Jeff dry mouthed. "It's just that you know I...well, I guess we can safely say I have issues. I was wondering if there was any chance that... you know well... when I'm working... oh fuck, this is so stupid."

"Jensen, just spit it out kid. I'm sure it's nothing we can't work out."

"Okay...okay." Jensen stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans straining the worn, thin denim tight across the top of his thighs, and seriously Jeff was starting to think he'd body swapped with a horny teenager cause that should not make his dick twitch.

"D'you think maybe I could just work shifts at the store when you're there? I know it's stupid and I promise I'm trying to break up this pity party I've got going on for myself, but I'm still pretty messed up y'know, and sometimes little things can remind me of, well... yeah and the thing is... the thing is I feel safe around you. You're so calm and in control and you make me feel like everything's okay."

"Shit, is that all? Sure, we can work something out. If I can do anything to help I will, Jared too. You really have no idea how strong you are Jensen. You're a survivor. Honestly, you're doing awesome kid."

Which was all completely true and Jeff was thrilled that Jensen felt so comfortable around him. Internally however he was freaking the hell out. Living and working, day in day out, with the kid who'd sparked his dormant libido and who'd caused him to have more inappropriate boners than a teenage boy looking at a Victoria Secret's catalogue - that wasn't liable to end badly at all was it?



Chapter Six


Locking the door behind the last straggling customers of the day, Jeff breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a busy day, Saturdays always were, and with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, the store had been going like a fair all day. Of course, while that was awesome news for Jeff and his bank manager it also meant he was more than ready to go home and put his poor abused feet up.

"Okay boss man, let me out."

Jeff started as his Saturday girl Sandy appeared from behind him, the soft soles of her pumps rendering her as stealthy as a cat. A cat who looked suspiciously like she'd stolen the cream.

"Where are you off to, don't you have something to clean or count?" He said crossing his arms and hopefully doing a decent impression of a stern boss.

Big almond eyes looked up at him through mascara heavy eyelashes, "But it looks like it’s going to snow tonight Jeff, and I have to walk home, and Jensen did offer to finish up. He said he didn't mind. Please, Jeff." Jeff winced, sure that only dogs could hear the final pitch of her whine.

Jensen was far too soft for his own good and Sandy, the little minx, was well aware of it. "Fine, but just this once Sandy. I don't want you taking advantage of him," he said unlocking the door.

"I would never take advantage of Jensen, he's adorable." Sandy huffed, rebuffing the accusation indignantly. "Plus the tips in the jar have nearly doubled since he started here." She scooted past him with a cheeky grin, "Thanks Jeff, see you next week."

Jeff locked the door once more and turned to see Jensen mumbling away to himself while he counted out the notes from the cash register, glasses balanced precariously on the tip of his nose. When he'd counted the last one, he looked up and smiled, "I did say I'd finish up Jeff, it was either that or have Sandy pumping me for advice on dating boys again and trust me when I say it's safer for everyone involved if we avoid that."

Jeff restrained himself (barely) from commenting about Jensen's usual self-deprecating humor because in reality Jensen had flourished so much in the past few weeks it had been stunning to witness.

Pushing his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose, Jensen returned to the pile of bills in his hand to finish cashing up. The pink tip of his tongue peeked through his plump lips in concentration and Jeff struggled to drag his eyes away. His inappropriate infatuation with Jensen had not lessened any over the past few weeks. In fact, the amount of cold showers he'd subjected himself to was downright ridiculous; he was in danger of turning his dick into a Popsicle. A Popsicle that Jensen could get down on his knees in front of, lick all over and...Christ on a Goddamn cracker he was going to burn in hell. The boy did not need a lecherous old man preying on him when he was still recovering from a horrific relationship experience that would be enough to put anyone off dating ever again.

Forcing his eyes away from Jensen's cute, scrunched frown of concentration Jeff grabbed the broom by the door and attacked the floor with all of his frustrated pent-up energy.

It didn't take long for the pair of them to finish cleaning up, Jensen had the espresso machine glistening proudly by the time he was finished with it, and Jeff felt an irrational flare of jealousy. He'd been fighting with that damned thing for years and Jensen had it eating out of the palm of his hand. He'd made the mistake of griping about it once and had received a ten minute lecture from Jensen about the poor thing needing proper maintenance, and attention, and a whole lot of TLC that had left him feeling like a scolded child and the machine looking distinctly smug.

"If you keep staring at him like that, he's going to get a complex."

"Huh?" Jeff snapped out of his grumpy thoughts not entirely eloquently.

"Marcus doesn't like being scowled at. I think if you were a bit friendlier towards him he wouldn't act out so much." Jensen said patting the sparkling top of the espresso machine like it was an obedient puppy.


"Yes Marcus. You don't even know his name Jeff. No wonder he doesn't behave for you," Jensen said, hand slapping to his heart in faux shock.

"I think you've been sniffing the coffee beans for too long you nutcase. Come on let's get you home before the cash register starts tap dancing."

"Don't be ridiculous," Jensen scoffed, "the cash register doesn't dance. Do you Casper? You sing the blues to the left-over muffins."

At Jeff's incredulous expression, Jensen burst out laughing. With his mouth wide open and his head thrown back, he looked utterly young and carefree, a glorious sight that warmed Jeff from the inside out.

He grabbed Jensen's coat and threw it at him, grumbling about the lack of respect he got from his employees but the look of fondness on his face was unmistakable.

From the back room, Jensen grabbed a bag which contained the cinnamon apple pie he'd bought for dessert. Jeff pretended not to know that the purchase had more to do with keeping Jared happy than Jensen's appetite having finally returned because frankly he didn’t care. Jensen was eating more and slowly losing the frighteningly frail appearance he'd had when he first turned up on the doorstep, and that was the main thing.

The weather had turned chilly, even colder than it had been that morning when they'd left home, and Jeff reckoned there was a good likelihood of snow soon. By the time they'd walked the short distance to the car he was incredibly grateful for the padded warmth of his jacket and his thick leather gloves. Even inside his winter coat, Jensen seemed to be shivering and once they clambered inside the car and Jeff had turned the heating all the way up, he realised that Jensen didn't have his gloves on and his hands were trembling.

"Jesus kid, where did you leave your gloves this time?"

"Think maybe on the hall table, and I'm not a kid. I keep telling you I'm twenty six, I stopped being a kid a long time ago," Jensen said, spreading his palms in front of the warm air blowing through the vents trying to regain the feeling in his fingertips.

Without hesitating to think, Jeff grabbed Jensen's frozen hands in his own now gloveless ones and rubbed them gently, blowing warm breath across them, knowing that once the blood started flowing into his fingers again they would be stinging like a bitch.

"Maybe if you didn't constantly forget your gloves and hat, I'd remember that you're not a kid."

He was surprised when Jensen didn't carp back at him, the chance to be a smartass hadn't passed him by often this week much to Jeff's surprised delight. He looked up from Jensen's red hands to his face, just inches in front of his own. His lips, dried and chapped from the cold had fallen open and even through Jensen's glasses he could see how dark the boy's eyes had grown, the black pupils nearly obliterating the luminescent green irises. Barely a breath passed between them, both caught in a perfectly still moment in time like the world had stopped revolving around them. Jensen was first to break the spell, leaning forward as though drawn like a magnet towards Jeff, eyes locked with Jeff's own until they were forced to nearly cross, pressing their lips together. Without his consent, his own mouth responded, relaxing against Jensen's and returning the tantalisingly chaste kiss.

When Jensen moaned softly, vibrations rippled through Jeff's lips sending a rush of want through him like a tidal wave crashing against the crumbling shores of a beach. He opened his mouth slightly, deepening the kiss until his tongue brushed against Jensen's. The sudden taste of Jensen exploding in his mouth blasted his brain back on-line reminding him in Technicolor, stomach-lurching fashion why this was a bad idea.

He jerked backwards away from the startled boy and dropped his hands in one sudden harsh movement. "I can't Jensen, I'm sorry."

Jensen squeezed in a distraught breath, his face flickered through a dozen emotions too rapidly to distinguish them all but Jeff saw the confusion, hurt, and pain, and his heart crumpled in distress. Swivelling round in his seat, Jensen's arms folded defensively across his chest and he stared blankly straight ahead out of the windshield. Barriers were up, shutters were down. Jeff had succeeded in doing exactly what he'd been trying to avoid. He had turned a tricky situation into the mother of all screw-ups.

"Jensen, I'm sorry, just let me explain, please."

"It's fine." Jensen's voice was colorless, emotionless.

"No, it's not. We need to talk about this," Jeff persevered trying to rescue the situation before it descended into something disastrous.

Jensen's head sagged against the doorframe, "Can we not, please? I'm tired. I'd like to go home."

Jeff tried once more to get the stubborn kid just to listen for a minute. "Jensen, listen to me. It wouldn't be right; I can't take advantage of you like that. Jensen?"

With a snort of disbelief, Jensen closed his eyes tight, clamped his mouth shut in a grim line and turned his back decisively on Jeff. Releasing a drawn out sigh, Jeff slumped in his seat and surrendering in defeat for the time being, headed home.     

JeffJensenColor (2)

As soon as Jeff drew the car up beside the house, Jensen unbuckled his seatbelt and bolted. Trampling on the poor forgotten pie in the foot well in his haste. He'd blown in through the front door, kicked his shoes off, acknowledged Jared's friendly greeting with a barely audible mumble, and disappeared up the stairs to his room before Jeff had even gotten fully through the front door.

"Hey," Jared said, sticking his head out of the sitting room door, "what's up with Jensen?"

"Nothing." Jeff hung his jacket up in the hall, tidied Jensen's and his own shoes away before heading past Jared into the sitting room, and pouring himself a generous shot of Johnny Walker. Jeff downed half the glass, aware of Jared's eyes on him as the whiskey burned the back of his throat sending a fire straight down his gullet. It did nothing to alleviate the cold ache in his gut though.

"Nothing huh? And what's wrong with you, bad day?"

"No, not really," Jeff swallowed the rest of his drink and tried to figure out if there was any way he could explain to his son what the problem was.

"Dad, I know I'm not always the most observant person in the world but even I can figure out that something's going on between you and Jensen."

Jeff nearly gave himself whiplash with the speed he spun around to face his son. Jared knew? How the hell? Oh God, Jared knew and...

"I mean...” Jared continued oblivious to the horror on his Dad's face, "he comes stomping in here and marches up to his room like a moody teenager and you hit the bottle as soon as you're in the door. What did you argue about? Did he short change someone? Did you lecture him about forgetting his hat and gloves again?"

Thank god! Jeff found himself sinking down on the arm of the sofa, his racing heart slowing down from a panicked gallop to a more manageable canter.

"No! No... well maybe the glove thing but..."

"Shit Dad, he isn't a kid you know; he's older than me."

"I know Jared, that's not what... look nothing happened." Jeff gave up on explaining, stood up and refilled his glass.

"Sure, whatever. I'm not hanging about to referee 'nothing' all night; I'm going to Gen's. Don’t wait up."

The scowl on Jared's face spoke volumes as he stormed out.

Jared and Jensen both pissed at him, not bad for twenty minutes work he thought, cringing as the front door slammed, pressing the cool glass against his forehead.

When he heard the impressively loud crash of the front door slamming, Jensen was standing in his room about to ram his stinking Converses into his duffel bag along with a couple of pairs of boxers and a half used stick of deodorant. Fuck, he'd been such an idiot. He dropped his sneakers onto the floor then threw his bag off his bed to join them and sat down heavily, eliciting a squeaky groan of complaint from the mattress springs.

Christ, what had possessed him. One minute, the only thing on his mind had been trying to regain the feeling in his numbed fingers, the next his hands were nestled in the warm embrace of Jeff's and Jeff was so close. Close enough that Jensen could feel the heat of his breath, smell the faint scent of his spicy cologne tangled with the aroma of coffee beans. Their heads had been inches apart and when Jeff's eyes caught his, Jensen was sure they'd reflected his own hunger and Jeff's mouth, God, just the brush of those soft lips against his had left Jensen breathless and craving more and he thought Jeff was allowing him more, wanted him.

Fucking moron. Why would Jeff want a stupid needy kid with more issues than the New York Times? He obviously wasn't interested. Jensen was probably lucky that Jeff hadn't punched him out. The poor guy had been trying to help him and Jensen had pounced on him like a rabid fanboy.

He looked down at his half-packed bag. He should go. Jeff wouldn't be comfortable with him around and Jared, hell Jared. Maybe Jeff had told Jared and Jared had been so mad, he'd stormed out. He really should leave, he'd outstayed his welcome, screwed up as usual.

A knock on his bedroom door startled him and had him jumping to his feet as the door slowly opened.

"Hey Jensen. Can I come in?"

Jeff stood at the doorway looking unusually unsure and nervous, shifting eyes scanning the room before focussing on the open bag lying on the floor at Jensen's feet. Jensen flapped his hands in a vague come-in gesture, but walked around the room and stood next to the window placing the bed safely in between them.

Jeff combed his fingers through his hair leaving a rogue curl sticking out that Jensen’s fingers itched to tame.

"So, maybe we should try talking before you skip town."

Jensen was the first to admit he wasn't too good at reading people but Jeff definitely sounded tired or perhaps uncomfortable as opposed to mad. Maybe if Jensen just apologised...

"I'm sorry."

Wait, what? That wasn't how this was supposed to go, it was Jensen that always had to apologise.

"I shouldn't have kissed you. It was wrong, you're young, and vulnerable, and I shouldn't have abused my position when you're not able to...”

"Wait... wait... what are you talking about... vulnerable... what position?" Jensen was seriously confused now, "I kissed you, Jeff. You don't have to apologise for not wanting me."

"Shit Jensen, I can't want you. I'd be taking advantage of you. You're confused, you don't know what you want and you're living with me and working for me and you..."

"And what?" asked Jensen, heading from scared to angry before the end of Jeff's sentence. Being turned down because Jeff was straight or just not interested in a needy twink was one thing but being rejected because Jeff thought he was too pathetic to know his own mind was something else. He'd spent far too long letting other people make his decisions for him.

"You think I want to jump into bed with you just because you've been nice to me?"

Jeff fidgeted uneasily under Jensen's withering glare, "Jensen..."

"Fuck I don't believe you! Do you think I tried to kiss Jared or Misha or Sophia or..."

"No, of course not Jensen," Jeff interrupted when it became apparent Jensen was on a roll. "I just think it's too soon for you to know what you're feeling."

Jensen was perilously close to stepping over the edge of reason. Too long being afraid to stand up for himself and dodging even the tiniest confrontation hadn't left him well equipped for reasoned argument.

"Christ Jeff, give me some fucking credit. I know I'm damaged fucking goods but I know the difference between gratitude and attraction. I like you okay! I like your stupid messy hair and your goofy laugh. I like the way you smell in the morning when you've just showered and the way you smell of coffee and new books at night. I like that you listen to me when I talk and you tell Jared to stop cheating when he beats me at Call of Duty. I like your smile and your dimples and your brown eyes and the way you roll your sleeves up. I like that you watch horror movies and fall asleep after ten minutes. I like how you're kind to everyone including that old bitch Mrs. Ferguson. I like your cooking and your out of tune singing. I like your goddamn fucking ass." Jensen finished his rant on a yell, panting and neon red in the face.

Jeff stared at him open mouthed.

Jensen glowered.

Jeff's lips quirked up in a lop-sided smile.

Jensen glowered.

"I like you too," Jeff said.

Jensen thawed just a bit.

"I like your ass too."

Jensen groaned and hid his face behind his hands.

"That didn't really go like I'd planned," Jeff said, amusement all too evident in his voice.

"Are you laughing at me?" Jensen asked, voice muffled behind his hands.

"Um, no?"

"I lied. I hate you."

"Well, that's a shame ‘cause I really do like you."

Jensen peered out from behind his hands to find Jeff grinning at him.

"How about we sit down and talk now?"

Jensen nodded, shuffled round to Jeff's side of the bed and sat down, Jeff joined him, placing his hand on top of Jensen's on the bed between them. The gentle touch was simultaneously calming and thrilling.

"Jensen, you're the most beautiful person I've ever met, you're sweet, and kind, and so goddamn strong you don't even realize. I've wanted to kiss you for weeks and that scares the crap out of me. I haven't been with anyone in years and I've never been with a man. You're fifteen years younger than me and my son's best friend. If you think I don't want to be with you because you have a bit of baggage you're couldn't be more wrong. I want you and I don't have a goddam clue what to do about it."

The thought that Jeff was just as confused as Jensen actually made him feel better, briefly, then guilty for feeling better.

"Did you tell Jared that I... that we kissed?" Jensen asked.

"No, I didn't."

"Do you think he would be mad?"

Jeff’s hand squeezed his gently, "I don't know. I know he wants us both to be happy and he wouldn't want either of us to get hurt."

Why could nothing ever be simple?

"So, what are we going to do?" Jensen asked, honestly unsure of Jeff's reply. Maybe getting involved with Jensen wouldn't be worth the hassle. Jensen certainly wouldn't argue that.

Swivelling round on the bed, Jeff took both Jensen's hands in his own. "I think we take it slow."

"We take it slow? Does that mean no kissing?"

"I think it means a little kissing."

"Good, okay. I think slow would be good." As Jeff brushed his lips against Jensen's cheek, Jensen hoped that wasn't Jeff's idea of slow kissing.



Chapter Seven


Slow was not easy. Slow might just kill Jeff. Okay, maybe not, but there was a chance it would drive him insane. He'd thought that his infatuation with Jensen would simmer down once they'd acknowledged their feelings for each other. He'd thought he'd need time to get used to the idea of being with a man, with someone who had stubble over a strong jaw line, someone who had firm angles instead of soft flowing curves and didn't smell of flowery perfume. With someone who actually laughed at Jared's fart jokes. He'd thought that Jensen would be hesitant and timid, that he'd be scared of intimacy and gun-shy. Jeff had thought a lot, unfortunately he just hadn't thought right.

It turned out that once tasted, Jensen's lips were sinfully addictive. Having that luxuriously soft mouth pressed against his made Jeff feel like he was touching the sun. It was utterly intoxicating and Jensen didn't restrain himself from pressing against Jeff, kissing him until they were both light-headed and breathless at every half-baked opportunity. They'd stolen elicit kisses hidden behind the bookshelves near the back of the store in-between self-help and erotic fiction. Jensen had nearly clambered over the shift stick into Jeff's lap in his enthusiasm to kiss him in the car after work. Jeff had kissed Jensen in the kitchen, both of them still drowsy and monosyllabic, the taste of fresh mint toothpaste and morning-strong coffee mingling between them. How they hadn't been caught yet Jeff wasn't sure but when his hands were creeping beneath Jensen's undershirt and his lips were exploring undiscovered territory across Jensen's mouth, he also found it incredibly hard to care.

Case in point. Jensen was currently plastered against him as they lay on the sofa not watching... well... some movie that had explosive fireballs and a long-legged blonde in tiny pink denim shorts. Jeff was far more interested in the way Jensen's leg had crept over his, their hot denim-clad thighs now welded together. Jeff's hands had slid gradually down the contours of Jensen's slim back and were resting on the dip of his spine, scrunched into the tails of his shirt in a desperate attempt to stop himself from creeping lower and cupping the sumptuous curve of the boy's ass. Jeff's lips were tender and swollen from the lingering deep kisses they'd been exchanging and delicious whimpers kept escaping from Jensen's mouth, Jeff swallowing them up greedily.

Jeff dredged up his last dregs of self-control to drag his mouth away from Jensen's, struggling not to give in to those hypnotic lips when Jensen whined and chased after his mouth.

"Jensen," Jeff gasped twisting his head to the side, which only resulted in Jensen latching on to the side of his neck, his tongue trailing a distracting path to the sensitive skin behind his ear.

"Jensen... we need to... Jensen... Jared...”

"Jared's not here."

That wasn’t fair, how the hell had Jensen managed to string a sentence together. Wriggling further out of range of the boy's talented mouth, Jeff attempted to be the sensible voice of reason.

"Jensen... Jensen... listen, he might be home soon. We should...”

Sliding gracefully on top of Jeff, Jensen pinned him to the sofa. The pronounced bulge of Jensen's cock lined up against his own and when Jensen rutted against him Jeff's dick jumped in delight at the new sensation. Jeff froze for a moment as his stomach cartwheeled in surprise at the new surge of want that washed over him.

Instantly Jensen's weight lifted and he pulled away, "Jeff are you... is this... is it too weird, do you not want..."

"No! No, Jensen," Jeff grabbed the boys hips, tugging him back down and holding him steady. "I do want, I want you. It's just new, y'know."

"I'm pushing you too fast, I’m sorry. I just...I haven't felt like this in so long and you make me feel... fuck... I don't know... you..."

Jeff pressed his mouth against Jensen's, hushing his worried rambling. Slipping his hands, at last, around that perfect ass, holding Jensen tight against him so he couldn't miss the obvious bulge of his erection.

Dipping his head to whisper in the boy's ear, he ground his hips up, "Do you feel that Jensen, do you have any idea how fucking hot you are? How much I want you, want to feel you naked against me? God sometimes I think you were sent here to drive me insane."

"Ugh, God Jeff, please...” Jensen wrapped his arms around Jeff's neck, pouncing on his mouth with renewed fervor. Their tongues battled enthusiastically while Jeff's hips bucked up against Jensen's squirming body. Jeff's dick was so hard, trapped in his jeans that it was becoming painful but he was also on the verge of coming in his shorts for the first time since he was sixteen. God, Jensen was so hot, he had to be illegal. Jensen's groin pushed down to meet his, blood was pumping in his ears and-

The front door slammed.

Jensen and Jeff stilled.

The distinctive thud thud of Jared's boots being kicked off echoed down the hall.

Jensen reared up elbowing Jeff in the solar plexus. Jeff jack-knifed up, very nearly head butting Jensen but succeeding instead in pitching him sideways onto the floor in an undignified heap.



Jared's heavy footsteps clomped towards them. Jensen struggled to his feet as Jeff sprung up from the sofa. The boy's face was flushed scarlet, his mouth inflamed, his eyes wild and dark. His crumpled clothes were askew and his hair looked like he'd been blown through a hurricane then dragged backwards through a blackberry bush. Jeff suspected he wasn't faring any better. A blind nun would be capable of guessing what they'd been up to.

He brushed his fingers through the tangled knots of his hair while Jensen tried unsuccessfully to smooth the creases from his shirt.

Jared's footsteps disappeared and the kitchen door banged shut. Jensen's eyes sparked, he dashed forward, pressed a kiss against Jeff's open mouth, shot him a quick 'sorry', a cheeky wink and sprinted from the room, his bare feet soundless as he streaked up the stairs.

Jeff had been abandoned, thrown to the wolves. Wolf. Shaggy haired Sasquatch. "Fucker!"

Jeff rescued the cushions from the floor, throwing them on the sofa. The kitchen door banged again. Jeff panicked, dived onto the couch, covered his erection, which hadn't quite realized the urgency of the situation, with a conveniently placed cushion and feigned sleep. Fake snore and all.

"Hey Dad, oh sorry didn't mean to wake you."

Jeff 'woke' with a yawn and a stretch. "What time is it, are you home early?"

"Yeah," Jared plonked down in a chair kicking his feet up on the coffee table. "Gen had to wash her hair."

Scooting upright on the sofa while holding the cushion in place over his hard-on (trickier than it sounded), Jeff took a moment to digest that nugget. "Erm son, you don't think that sounds a bit..."

"Like a big honking brush off? Well ordinarily yeah, but she got a phone call to say half her kindergarteners are infested with head-lice so it seemed best to leave her to it."

"Okay, I think that's the first time the hair washing thing might be a valid excuse. You think it might be time to chop your flowing locks?"

"What? No!" Jared said running his fingers through his thick waves trying hard to disguise the subtle scratch at his scalp. "So, what were you watching before you nodded off there and what happened to Jensen, did your snoring scare him off?"

"Um..." Jeff looked at the television screen for inspiration, "I think it was something about explosions or cars or exploding cars." Oh inspired Jeff, awesome. "And Jensen's... ah... bed maybe?"

Jared looked like he was checking him out for stroke symptoms, "Uh huh, are you feeling alright? You look pretty flushed; you coming down with something?"

"You know, I am feeling a bit feverish." Jeff silently weighed up whether it was safe to lose the cushion, decided it was and stood up. "I think I'll hit the hay early. Night son."

"Okay then. Hey, is that Jensen's glasses on the floor there? That's weird, he's usually real careful with them."

"Looks like. Maybe you should take them up to him, see if he's okay." Hah, see how the sneaky punk liked that. Served him right for leaving Jeff to face Jared on his own. The lucky brat was probably lying relaxed on his bed right now, smug that he'd gotten away before Jared had spotted him and his not so little problem. Yeah maybe he was busy handling his problem now, lying back, knees spread wide, bare toes digging into the comforter on top of the bed, the zipper of his jeans down far enough to release his dick, his hand wrapped around - “You know what Jay, give me his glasses, I'm going upstairs anyway."

It was not unusual for Jensen to be sitting in the kitchen when Jeff traipsed down the stairs still half-asleep at the ass crack of dawn. It was unusual for him to be wide-awake and fully caffeinated.

"Couldn't sleep?" Jeff asked, ruffling Jensen's hair on his way to the coffee-maker.

Smoothing down his hair with a not terribly convincing scowl Jensen said, "Kind of. Bad dreams."

That surprised Jeff. Well, the bad dreams didn't surprise him at all. He'd long suspected that Jensen's erratic sleeping patterns were a sign of him having nightmares. What was surprising was Jensen admitting it.

"You want to talk about it?" He asked.

"Not really."

Jeff sat down at the table beside him, hands warming around the steaming mug of coffee. "You don't think it would help?"

"No. I don't know. Maybe... just not now."

Jeff nodded, aware that pressuring Jensen wasn't the way to go. "Okay, as long as you know you can always talk to me if you want."

Jensen smiled, reached out and covered Jeff's toasty hands with his own. "I do know. Thanks Jeff. I realize I'm all over the place just now but you are helping. I don't know what I'd do without you.”

That smile on that face directed at him made Jeff feel like the luckiest man on the planet. Screw the truckloads of baggage they had between them, if Jensen was smiling everything else melted away like a single snowflake in a summer heat wave.

Jensen stood up leaving Jeff's hands strangely cold despite the hot mug still clasped in his grasp. Refilling his cup for what Jeff was sure wasn't the first time Jensen said, "I think that...last night...was maybe worse... because... because of Jared."

"Jared?" Jeff repeated, shocked that his big teddy bear of a son could influence Jensen's dreams detrimentally.

"Not about him or anything, just...I don't like lying to him or sneaking around behind his back. It's not right."

Jeff knew where the kid was coming from. Lying to Jared didn't come naturally to him either. The only thing worse than lying to his son was upsetting him and there-in lay the problem. He didn't know how Jared was going to react to the idea that his father was suddenly gay and making out with (falling dangerously in love with) a kid only two years older than him. A kid that was clawing his way out of a desperately dark episode of his life.

Still, they had to tell him sooner or later. Jeff had hoped to put it off until later. At least in part because, locked deep inside of him, was an ugly vicious doubt that liked to randomly dig it's talons into his psyche and fill it with the venomous idea that Jensen was going to leave him. Jensen was going to get better, stronger, healthier and happier and one day he'd wake up and find himself in a relationship with a man nearly his father’s age who didn't have a fucking clue what he was doing. Then he'd say thank you very much Jeff and move on to someone fresh who didn't remind him of how awful things had once been for him. Someone as young and gorgeous as himself. Honestly? He didn't want to be the subject of pitying looks when that happened. But.

"You're right."

"I am?" Jensen replied.

Jeff nodded, "We need to tell Jared." A dark rolling cloud of thought suddenly swept into his head; maybe that's not what Jensen was saying. Maybe he'd been trying to let Jeff down easy. "Unless you don't want to do this anymore, if you've changed your mind... I don't want...”

"God no!"

Three strides and Jensen was at Jeff's side, throwing his arms around in him an awkward chair and coffee obstructed hug.

"Jeff, I want to tell Jared because I want to be able to kiss you and hold your hand without breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of anyone seeing. I'm never gonna change my mind about how lucky I am to have you."

Placing his cup on the table and hauling Jensen into his lap, Jeff enveloped him in his arms. His head stretched up seeking Jensen's and their lips met in a sunburst kiss full of desire, wonder, acceptance and love.

"Tonight. We'll tell him tonight," Jeff promised.

The day crawled by so slowly for Jensen that he was nearly convinced a Groundhog Day paradox had trapped him in its clutches. Did you get groundhog hour? Was he making the same non-fat cinnamon latte for the same teenage girl over and over? Probably not. Possibly, he should avoid browsing the sci-fi and fantasy section for a while.

Ironically, as soon as the hands on the clock crawled around to four o'clock, Jensen wished that he could rewind them. Christ, they were really going to tell Jared.

What if Jared thought he was some kind of predator out to lure his father to the gay side?

What if he made Jeff choose between him and Jensen? That wasn't even a contest. Adios, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out Jensen.

Jeff was obviously worried too. After dropping one too many coffee cups, he’d tactically retreated and spent the rest of the day hidden in his office with a stack of paperwork. He'd exchanged private smiles with Jensen and even a few frantic kisses behind the sturdy privacy of his office door but he had a pathetic poker face and Jensen could easily tell how apprehensive he was feeling.

"You ready Jensen?" Jeff asked appearing from the back, cocooned in his quilted jacket, padded gloves, and the ridiculous woolly hat he loved.

Shoving his hands in his pockets to avoid the usual, ‘where the hell are your gloves’ conversation, Jensen nodded and with a forced cheerful goodbye to the girls who were closing up, followed Jeff out the door.

The snow had arrived at last, and had been falling steadily most of the day. It swept around them, the cold wind blowing an icy chill against Jensen's face and he dug his hands deeper into his pockets in defense. He helped Jeff clear the snow off the car before sinking into his seat, grateful for Jeff's efficient car heaters as his hands and face tingled sharply in the sudden warmth.

Kicking the loose snow from his boots, Jeff joined him.

"We don't have to do this if you don't want. Maybe it's too soon, maybe we should wait until-" The words erupted from Jensen in a panic-stricken onslaught.

Jeff, thankfully, interrupted him because frankly he wasn’t sure when he wanted to wait until. Until Jeff got fed up of him or until Jared left home or until hell froze over.

"No, you were right Jensen, we have to tell him. It's not fair on any of us carrying on like this. It'll be fine. I promise." Jeff said, removing his gloves and taking hold of Jensen’s thawing hands, rubbing some warmth back into them.

Jensen had given up praying a while back, right around the time that David threw him down a set of steps and fractured his collar bone, but he prayed now. He prayed that Jeff was right. That he wasn't about to lose everything again.

The journey home was quiet. All of Jeff's attention taken up by driving through the tunnel of snow that lit up the falling darkness. By the time they drew up outside Jeff's house they were both quiet, nerves prickling from them like porcupine quills.

"Come on then," Jeff encouraged, not actually moving himself.

"Yeah, let’s get this over with." Jensen agreed not budging a centimeter.

"Things like this never turn out to be as bad as you think," Jeff said, possibly to himself, Jensen wasn't sure.

"Sure," he agreed not even sounding convincing to his own ears.

They sat in silence for a minute before simultaneously reaching for their door handles.

The heavy snowfall had let up momentarily, now only swirling around them in a gentle flurry. The ground under foot was slippery though and as Jensen navigated his way up the stone path, he slid, legs spreading wide in opposite directions leaving his ass nowhere to go but down. He landed with an indignant yelp, unhurt other than a slowly spreading wet patch across his butt.

He looked up at Jeff’s look of concern only to watch it transform into an astonishingly poorly hidden smirk. Eventually reaching down to offer him a hand up, Jeff couldn’t hold in his full beam grin. God it was worth the loss of dignity and soaked pants to see that amazing smile and those dimples. Despite the cold and wet creeping closer to his balls, Jensen grinned back at him. Grabbing Jeff’s hand, he resisted the temptation to haul Jeff down on top of him and climbed back to his feet.

“Are you alright?” Jeff asked, helping Jensen brush the clumps of snow from his clothes.

“I guess I’ll live, I might need a rub-down though.”

Jeff laughed at him, brown eyes sparkling and dewdrops of snow glistening on his dark lashes.

Jensen didn’t even know how it happened. One minute they were standing face to face, Jeff’s hand still resting on Jensen’s arm and their breath merging in a white cloud between them. The next, they were clashing in a clumsy mash of lips and teeth and tongue. Jeff tugged Jensen into him, gathering him into his arms, warming Jensen better than any heater possibly could. Jensen had no idea how long they stood there tangled up in one another. It felt like hours but it couldn’t have been more than a minute.

Jeff noticed first. Jensen was still panting when he saw Jeff’s look of shock. He turned his head in the direction Jeff was staring transfixed and saw Jared staring back from the open front door, the porch light illuminating his ashen, stunned face.

“Oh God,” Jensen whispered as Jared disappeared into the house leaving the door wide open but not welcoming.

“Shit, shit,shit.” Jeff staggered away from Jensen, eyes wide and shocked. The aroused flush of his face disappeared as quickly as Jared, leaving him deathly pale and Jensen just stood.

Jeff gripped his elbow and ran, dragging Jensen along with him. They skidded and slid, holding each other up. Tripping up the slippery steps to the gaping front door, they chased after Jared. Neither of them sure what they were going to do when they found him.

Jensen followed Jeff in a daze. Jeff appeared to have a well-honed parental instinct and found Jared immediately, pacing back and forth across the sitting room.

“Son, let us explain.” Jensen had no idea how Jeff was able to keep his voice sounding so calm.

“Explain! It’s a bit late for explaining Dad. I’ve got fucking eyes.”

Jensen shrank back, heart hammering and white noise raging through his head. He’d never seen Jared so livid and fuck it was frightening. All that towering height and bulky muscle was terrifying when barely restrained in anger.

“Jared, please.” Jeff tried again but Jared wouldn’t listen, his pacing never faltered.

“Please what, huh? Please don't make a fuss? Please don't be mad that you’re... what... suddenly gay and oh yes... apparently fucking my best friend.”

“Jared, if you calm down I can explain. I know it's a surprise...”

“A surprise! A birthday cake is a surprise. A burst tire is a surprise. A pregnant teenage girlfriend is a fucking surprise. Your straight father sucking face with your gay best friend in the front yard is a goddamn motherfucking earthquake.”

Jeff walked across the room, determinedly ignoring the heaving mass of his enraged son. With a shaky hand, he poured out a nip of brandy and downed it in one fluid move. The silence in the room throbbed around them waiting for someone to rupture it.

“Okay Jared. I know you’re upset, trust me... we all are but you need to calm down and let me explain.” The tension in Jeff's voice was leaking through.

“Dad I’m not-”

“Yes Jared, you are. We owe you an explanation, but you have to give us the chance to explain.”

Jeff walked round the room and perched on the edge of a chair, in between Jared and Jensen but facing his son.

“I know you’re not going to believe me but I promise we were coming home to tell you about us tonight. Jensen and I... well... we’ve been... we’ve been...”

“I love your Dad.” Jensen spoke up at last, the need to help Jeff outweighing his frozen panic.

Both heads whipped around to face him. Jensen cowered back against the solid wall behind him, but he kept his head up and hoped his eyes showed conviction rather than fear.

“You love him? He’s not gay Jensen, fuck he’s not anything. He hasn't bothered dating in years.”

“You think maybe there’s a reason I never found a woman I wanted to date, Jared?” Jeff stepped in. “Do you think it’s possible that I was maybe attracted to men and didn’t want to admit it to myself? That maybe it was easier to be on my own than to admit to you, to my mother, the whole damn town that I just wasn’t particularly interested in women?”

“So what are you saying?” Jared asked advancing on Jeff, arms gesticulating wildly. “Are you saying that you're gay and just too chicken-shit to be honest about it?”

"I'm saying I don't know, Jared. Have I ever wanted to dance on a table top in a gay club - no. Do I enjoy kissing Jensen - yes, more than you want to know about."

"Christ, Dad," Jared spat and looked at Jensen with what appeared to Jensen to be barely disguised disgust.

"Tell me something, Jared," Jeff said looking up at his son, "what are you mad about? Me being gay, me being with Jensen or us not telling you?"

"How about all of the above?" Jared sneered.

Jensen thought Jeff was beginning to lose his cool now too and wondered if he was going to end up refereeing. He hoped not, he didn't think he was capable of corralling two enraged Morgans.

"Jared, stop being such a goddamn self-centred brat for a second and be reasonable."

"Reasonable Dad? Reasonable would have been discussing this like fucking adults, not putting on an obscene floor-show in front of the whole neighborhood."

Jeff jumped to his feet and Jensen saw his hands scrunch into rigid fists at his sides.

"Watch that smart mouth of yours Jared."

"Or what, Dad? You gonna send me to my room? Throw me out? Punch me?"

Jeff looked furious. "I've never laid a hand on you before Jared but then you've never acted like a self-righteous asshole before either."

"Jeff - Jared," Jensen interrupted feeling the thickening pressure in the room pressing against him. "Please, just let’s calm down and talk about this."

"Shut up Jensen. In fact, why don't you just get your sneaky ass out of my house you traitorous pathetic excuse for a friend."

"Leave him alone Jared. It's me you have the problem with not him."

"No? I'm not allowed to have a problem with my supposed friend coming in with his sob story and seducing my Dad."

Jeff squared his shoulders, mirroring his son's confrontational stance. Standing toe to toe with him, he growled, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about Jared. I think you should shut-up before one of us does something we regret."

The room was blurring into a stomach-churning bedlam of color. Jared and Jeff were yelling but it sounded like everything was happening underwater, muffled through the barrage of waves.

This was wrong.

This wasn't supposed to happen.

Jeff and Jared had been a happy family and Jensen had done this. Jensen had screwed up again and he'd dragged everyone else down with him.

David was right. He really was poison. He fucked up everyone he loved.

Jensen ran.



Chapter Eight


What a goddamn mess!

This was exactly what Jeff hadn't wanted.

Jared's reaction was totally understandable, predictable even. As Jared's dad, as his only parent, he knew his son better than anyone in the world. So Jared exploding after finding out about Jeff and Jensen in such a horrible way was not a surprise.

Jared did not lose his temper often. He never had. Not even as a teenager when he was supposedly angst-ridden and moody. Jeff had never figured out if it was down to his endearingly optimistic and easy-going personality or pure laziness. When he did lose his temper however, it was a meteoric experience. Jeff had always found it best to assume the brace position and duck the brief but explosive tempest.

Jeff had never fought fire with fire until now.

Jeff hadn't had Jensen until now.

A split second after he squared up to his son he realized what a massive mistake he was making.

Staring into those familiar multi-colored eyes, all he could see was hurt. A hurt and confused boy hitting out. It didn't matter that Jared was nearly twenty five years old, the maelstrom of emotions in those eyes now were the same as when he'd been a distressed four year old demanding to know why his mommy hadn't loved him.

The self-righteous anger coursing through his system instantaneously drained away and he backed down, metaphorically and physically.

Jared in turn, clamped his jaw shut, tension evident in every pulsating line of his body.

"Jared, I'm sorry. You didn't deserve to find us like that. I know you're angry - you should be. But I swear we never set out to lie to you. The very last thing either of us wanted was to hurt you."

Jared's jaw twitched as if he was refusing to allow words to escape through his gritted teeth.

"I love you son and I'm sorry if I've let you down. Jensen and I - we never meant anything to happen. It's complicated, and new, and believe me - I'm still trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing so I don't even know how to start explaining it to you."

Jared was watching him silently but as the corded muscles in his neck loosened, Jeff thought - hoped that maybe the eye of the storm had passed.

"There's one thing I'm going to ask you to do or rather not to do. Don't be mad at Jensen. He didn't seduce me. He doesn't have magic powers that turned me gay. Whatever issues I have with my sexuality are mine alone. The only thing he’s responsible for is waking me up. He's made me realize I can love someone. That I want to love and be loved, that I'm happier with him than I am without him. He's an amazing young man and after everything he's been through, he doesn’t deserve your anger and he definitely doesn't deserve any form of abuse."

Jared flinched at that, "I'm not... I would never lay a hand on him. Jensen you know that I - Jensen?

Seeing Jared's eyes scan the room behind him, Jeff turned to see a lonely spot where Jensen had been standing.


Jensen was gone. Shit!

As desperate as he was to make sure Jensen was all right, he couldn't tear himself away from his son. He couldn't abandon Jared with the way things were. Harsh words and accusations still burrowed under his skin. A hand gripped his shoulder and Jeff swallowed down his fear and swivelled back to face his son.

"It’s okay Dad, we're okay. I'll help you find him."

Okay... okay was good. For now okay felt better than Jeff deserved.

Jensen ran. Ran through the hallway and out into the cold unfriendly dark, the front door standing open and helpless in preventing his flight.

He slipped and stumbled over the wet sidewalks, conscious of nothing but the need to be far away. He only stopped when his exhausted legs, refusing to move as fast as his feet demanded, sent him tripping over a curb, landing heavily on his hands and knees. The sharp stones and grit tearing into his frozen numbed skin went unnoticed as Jensen scrambled unsteadily up, clutching at a supportive streetlight like a long lost friend.

Snow fluttered down around him, coating the world with a sparkling glaze. Jensen didn't want to move. Didn't want to mar the magical scene around him. He didn't belong in this clean untouched world.

A car pulled up beside him, the full beam of its headlights searing his eyes.

"Where would he go Dad?"

Jeff struggled to think past the fact that Jensen had run. He'd disappeared leaving a rapidly vanishing trail of footprints behind him. He must be freezing. He'd already been cold and wet, now he must be-


Jared shook him out of his worried reverie, literally - his fingertips digging painfully into his biceps.

"We'll find him. He can't be far away."

"I know. You're right, I'm sorry." Jeff nodded. "Maybe he went back to the store. Sophia'll still be there."

"Yeah, yeah, I think you might be right. Come on we'll head over that way. You got the car keys?" Jared was already marching from the house, snatching his jacket from the coat hook on the way past.

"Wait, wait Jared. I think...maybe...we should call Sophia first. Ask her to watch out for him." Jeff was rambling while searching for the house phone, which as usual wasn't on its charger. "Where's the damn phone gone now?" he said, looking around feebly, half-hoping the handset would jump out from behind the desk yelling 'surprise'.

"I don't know Dad, it doesn't matter. I'll use my cell. Come on, let’s go - oh shit."

Jared stopped abruptly, one foot on the porch and picked up the wayward house phone.

"What's wrong? What's that doing out there?"

"Fuck Dad, I forgot."

Jeff couldn't understand why Jared would look so stricken now, "it's just a phone, it's not important, just leave it."

"No, no you don't understand. I had the phone in my hand when I - when you and Jensen - I was talking to..."

"Slow down son. Start at the beginning."

"Fuck, sorry. Okay, before you came home, Misha called."


"Jensen's social worker friend. The one that helped him get away from David. Jensen calls him sometimes to let him know how he's doing."

"Sure, okay." Jeff nodded, trying not to glance at his watch to see how long Jensen had been gone.

Sensing his growing impatience, Jared continued. "Anyway, he called to talk to Jensen. When I said he wasn't home yet he sort of panicked, told me that it was really important. I said I wasn't sure what time you were working ‘til and he told me - he told me that it was urgent. That he'd just found out that David knew where Jensen was - that he'd been told that he was on his way here. He thinks Jensen could be in danger."

"Fuck!" The room seemed to tilt around Jeff and he leant back propping himself up against the steadying support of the nearest wall.

"How did that bastard find out where he was? How does Misha know all this? Jared?"

"I don't know Dad. He was still on the line when I heard your car pull up so I told him to hang on and I opened the door and then I saw you and Jensen and I - I dropped the phone and..."

"It's okay Jay, it's fine. Jensen's gonna be just fine. He's probably sitting at the store right now, warming himself up with an extra tall latte." Even as the assured calming words were tripping from his tongue, Jeff was pulling his car keys from his pocket, locking the front door securely behind him and urging Jared towards the car. “Come on, call Sophia on the way. Don't worry; everything's going to be okay. David is probably the other side of the country right now."

The figure that stepped out of the car was a blurred silhouette against the blinding white glare of headlights. But Jensen knew. With sickening certainty, he knew.

"Hello Jensen. I've been looking everywhere for you."

Jensen couldn't speak. He couldn't find any words that he wanted to share with the devil that plagued his dreams.

"What's wrong baby, aren't you pleased to see me? I've missed you." Those honey smooth tones coiled through Jensen's gut like a serpent.

Jensen wrapped himself tighter around the streetlight, clinging to it like a lifeline. "D... D... David how did you... d... d... did you - "

"Come on Jenny, we don't have all night. Spit it out." David stalked towards him, his ridiculous long black coat flapping behind him ominously like a raven's wings.

"-find me. How d... did you f... f... find me?"

"Oh it wasn't too hard, baby. Your friend Misha wasn't as careful with some of his files as he should have been and it didn't take too many Google searches to find out what your old buddy Jared Morgan was up to these days."

David stared at him with those eyes that Jensen had once upon a time thought to be warm and kind. Now all Jensen could see was ice-cold contempt. The generous mouth that had introduced him to unknown pleasures now formed an ugly, angry furrow that sent terrified shivers ghosting down his spine. Jensen couldn't see a shred of the man he'd fallen in love with in the menacing figure standing in front of him.

"What... what do you want?" Jensen asked, not wanting to know the answer.

David smiled with as much tenderness and compassion as a shark.

"Jenny, you know what I want. I want you to come home. I miss you baby and look at you, you obviously need me."

"No." Jensen choked out desperately. He couldn't go back to David. No matter how much he'd fucked things up here. If he went with David now, he knew - was positive, that he would never be able to escape again. He'd be as good as dead.

"I'm not - I don't n... need you. I'm happy here."

David prowled towards him, not stopping until he was the only thing that Jensen could see. If Jensen hadn't been so thoroughly entwined around the streetlight his body would have been shaking violently enough to send him to his knees.

"Come on baby. Look at you out here on your own. Nobody looking out for you, nobody that cares about you. You know you're useless without me. I forgive you for leaving me this time baby. I promise I'm not mad. I love you Jenny. "

Jensen's incredulous laugh erupted from him as a choked sob.”You don't... don't even know what is you bastard."

The punch that ripped him from the steadying embrace of his streetlight was shocking in its familiarity. His glasses were knocked from his face and the metallic taste of blood flooded his mouth forcing him to spit it out or choke. Even to his less than perfect vision, his spattered blood was startling against the flawless white snow. When he lifted his eyes, the dark shadow of David's face stared impassively down at him.

"Why do you make me do things like that when I'm being so reasonable baby? I said I forgive you. We could have gone home and forgotten all about what you've done but you had to make me angry didn't you. Now get your ass up and get in the car."

Jensen would rather die of hypothermia right where he was than willingly go in that car. David wasn't planning on giving him a choice.

When Jensen didn't show any sign of moving, David grabbed hold of his soaked jacket sleeves and yanked him to his feet like he weighed nothing. He shoved Jensen roughly towards the car.

This time Jensen couldn't run. He was numb with the cold and exhausted and the closer he got to David's car the heavier his legs felt.

Jeff's hands were trembling on the steering wheel, worry and fear coursing through him. Jensen wasn't with Sophia. They hadn't spotted him anywhere in their neighbourhood. He could be lying unconscious somewhere, hypothermia slowly consuming him. He scoured the road as he drove along somewhat erratically, scared to drive too fast in case they missed him in the terrible conditions, terrified to drive too slowly in case they were too late.

"Wait, wait. There's something up there, look," Jared was pointing up ahead where it looked like a car was abandoned at the side of the road with its lights still on.

"It's just a car Jared, I don't think -"

Jared was bouncing in his seat like an over-excited toddler, nervous energy seeking an outlet. "No, there's something happening Dad, I swear. Look that guy's picking something... no, someone up."

Jeff pulled up as fast as he could behind the parked car, fumbling ineffectively at his seatbelt for too many precious seconds before bursting out of the car, hot on Jared's heels. Jared was dead on - there was some creep bundling... bundling Jensen towards his car.

With his long legs at full pelt, Jared charged towards the two men, tackling the guy with his hands on Jensen to the ground.

"Get your hands off him you asshole!" Jared was yelling as Jeff reached them. The guy was on his back on the sidewalk, Jared kneeling above him, flexed arm drawn back blatantly advertising his next move.

Jensen was stumbling backwards away from the car, soaked through and shivering. Even in the shifting shadows, Jeff could see the blue tinge of his lips against the frightening translucence of his skin.

“Jared, wait." Jeff laid a restraining hand on his son's raised arm. This was all happening too fast. They all needed to just stop for a second, just long enough for Jeff’s scrambled brain to catch up with what was going on.

Jared hesitated long enough for the shocked figure underneath him to wriggle away and climb to his feet. He calmly brushed the snow from his long, dark woollen coat.

"Jared, it's been a while. I wish I could say it’s good to see you.”

Jared rose slowly to his feet, hands still clenched into tight fists, “David!”

Jeff had never heard one word filled with so much disgust.

“I should have known that my little slut of a boyfriend would come running to you when he disappeared. You always were his type. You think I don’t know what you two were doing all those times you were supposedly studying?”

“You are fucking deranged,” Jared replied incredulously.

“So are you going to tell me you haven’t been banging his perky ass since he crawled up at your doorstep?”

“You need to shut the hell up before I punch your lights out you psycho. Jensen and I are friends, that’s all. That’s all we’ve ever been and if I’d known what you were doing...”

“Ha,” David appeared to find that amusing. “Has Jensen been telling tales again? You can’t believe a word that he says. It’s sad really, ever since his parents disowned him for... well... for being him, he’s become a bit of an attention seeker. Always making up stories and hurting himself. It’s a good thing I love him so much, I'm sure most people would have had enough of his shit before now.”

Jeff didn’t even see the blur of Jared's arm as he threw the punch that he’d been struggling to restrain. He did see David stumble backwards holding his bleeding nose. He lifted his hands away from his face, looked at the blood smeared across them and to Jeff’s shock, laughed.

“Well done Jared. I knew I could count on you. Tell me, how do you think the school board will react when you’re convicted of assault. Do you think they’ll want you around all those impressionable little kids?”

Jeff had never wanted to hurt someone more in his entire life. “You bastard,” he ground out but before he could do anything, Jensen was tottering unsteadily to David’s side, body shuddering so viciously Jeff was surprised he was still standing.

“David, leave him alone. Please, I’ll come with you, just don't cause any trouble.”

“I knew you’d see reason baby.” Jeff’s skin crawled at the smug smile slithering across David’s face.

Jeff reached out to Jensen, clasping his hand and gasping at the bone deep coldness he found. “Jensen, don’t go please. Don’t let this pathetic sleaze manipulate you. Stay here. Stay with me.”

Out the corner of his eye, he registered surprise on David’s face but he kept his eyes locked on Jensen, praying that he would at least meet his gaze.

“Jeff, I can't I'm sorry. If I don't he'll..."

"Jensen, I promise you, there's nothing he can do."

Jensen's hand was wrenched away from his as David hauled him towards the car. "So what you let the old man fuck you as well, Jenny? You just can't help yourself can you?"

The wind whipped around blasting snow straight into Jeff's face but the burn of icy flakes biting into his skin didn't sting nearly as much as the thought of Jensen driving away with that abusive bastard.

Jared's voice battled through the wind, "Jensen, don't go. He's a coward, he won't go near the cops and I don't even care if he does."

Jeff saw David leaning down and speaking in Jensen's ear but couldn't make out what was being said. By the slump of Jensen's shoulders and his apologetic look at Jared, he would guess that it had been another threat.

Jeff had to try, he couldn't watch Jensen leave, not like this, not without a fight. Not ever. He ran against the wind and the snow, now teeming down with flakes as big as snowballs, the few feet to where David was about to strong arm Jensen into his car. Ignoring David completely he pushed himself in-between the two men, separating them. "Jensen, I love you. Please don't leave me."

Jensen looked up at him with eyes that were impossibly green pools of light against his colorless face. "I...I love you Jeff, but...”

"No buts Jensen," Jeff insisted, determinedly shrugging off David's hand that had just grabbed his shoulder in an attempt to twist him out of the way. "He has no power over you, come home please."

"Yes. Yes, please." Jensen whispered quietly but with eyes latched fiercely onto his, brimming over with desperation.

Jeff and David reacted at exactly the same time; David shoving Jeff away and Jeff trying to be an impenetrable blockade between Jensen and David's temper.

Jeff's feet faltered underneath him on the wet snow as he tried to keep his balance under David's impact, he pushed Jensen away from both him, and David to prevent him from being dragged down if Jeff fell. To his surprise, David dived for the open door of the car rather than Jensen. He spun around unsteadily in time to see David pulling a lethally sharpened Bowie knife out of the car.

"Dad!" Jared's horrified exclamation rang in his ears.

"No!" Jensen screamed from behind him.

With a feral grin David advanced, "Get out the way old man."

"Not a chance," said Jeff sounding a whole lot calmer than he felt.

"Either Jenny comes with me now or this is gonna end real badly."

Jeff held his ground as David yelled over his shoulder towards Jensen. Jeff was desperately hoping that Jensen had backed away as far as possible but he couldn't risk taking his eyes off of the glistening metal blade dancing in the snow scarred night to make sure of it.

"Come on baby. You won't be happy with anyone else. You need me. No one else can look after you like I can."

"I'm not g... going with you David. I'm staying here - with Jeff." Jensen's voice came from behind him and Jeff nearly cried with dismayed frustration at how close he still was.

David roared, "He can't have you!"

A flicker book of horrific images played out in front of Jeff's eyes.

David lunging.

A silver blade inches from his face.

The sidewalk thick with snow colliding with his back, Jared's solid weight pressing down on his chest.

Jensen rushing at David, grabbing at the murderous weapon like it was a harmless toy.

Jensen lying on the ground, hair shrouded in white like a halo.

The knife lying guiltily on the sidewalk.


Jared pinning David on the ground howling at the silent night for help.

His hands turning red trying to stem the spreading flow of blood from Jensen's abdomen.

Watching the boy's bright eyes wide with fear and pain, flutter shut.

Blue lights, shouting, fighting off the clasping hands trying to rip him away.

Jensen's glasses lying forlornly in the blood stained snow.



Chapter Nine


Jensen's hand hurt like a bitch. That was his first conscious thought. He blinked open his eyes, squinting against the unfriendly light above his head and in a move he soon regretted, tried for some unknown reason to sit up. The upside to the flare of pain that slammed into his stomach was he at least forgot about his sore hand for a minute.

Jensen would like to think that he bore the pain in a courageously silent and stoic manner or at least gave a deep and masculine grunt. In reality though, even to his own ears the pathetic whimper of pain he produced sounded more like the not very manly mewl of an abandoned kitten.

Regardless, it was obviously enough to attract attention because before he knew what was happening, he had a close up view of Jeff's face staring down at him. This usually would not have been a bad thing and even now Jensen certainly wasn't complaining but to be honest, Jeff looked like regurgitated cat-puke. Beneath the scruffier than normal beard, his skin looked a worrying shade of grey, offset nicely by the huge black circles surrounding his blood-shot eyes.

"Jensen, thank God. Don't try and move. Are you in pain? Do you need anything?"

"Ughh," replied Jensen, which wasn't what he'd planned on saying. Licking his cracked dried out lips, he tried again.

"Sore," not effusive but it would do.

"Okay, sweetheart. The doctor said you would be sore for a while. If you press this button here, it sends more drugs into your..."

Jensen had found the little button - which might now be his new best friend - at his pain free hand and pressed it before Jeff finished his sentence.

Jeff smiled which helped lessen the living dead impersonation he had going on but not by much.

"You want some water?" The low rumble of Jeff's voice was just as soothing as the slow release of drugs into his body.

An inclination of his head that couldn't reasonably be classified as a nod was all that was needed to have a glass of water pressed against his lips. A sip of tepid water eased the scraped rough texture of his throat and another couple left him slightly more confident of his ability to speak.

"Crap," Jensen rasped out once the glass was removed.

"What sweetheart?" Jeff's face appeared back in front of his with a scrunched frown of worried confusion.

Jensen tried again, "You look crap."

"Thanks very much. You don't look that great yourself, hotshot."

"What happened?" Jensen was having trouble thinking clearly. He vaguely remembered being cold and in pain and Jeff's voice in his ear.

"Oh Jensen. I don't think now's a good time to talk about it. How about you get some sleep then we'll see how you feel."

No,no,no. Jensen was not a child. He did not need protected and he did not need a nap. The scowl he aimed at Jeff was ruined somewhat by his eyes drooping shut. God damn drugs. Good at keeping the pain at bay, not so good for mental alertness.

The next time he woke up the light above his head didn't seem so migraine-inducingly bright, and he didn't feel the urge to gnaw off any of his own body parts to ease his pain, so things were looking up. The only glaring issue he had was that he seemed to be Jeffless.

That hurt in a completely different way.

Jensen was debating (admittedly slightly melodramatically) with himself whether heart-ache was a valid reason for pushing his good friend the pain-med button when he heard the deep grumbling snore of a sleeping bear. Jeff! Easing his head around on his pillow so as not to set off any sneaking aches, he found Jeff crumpled awkwardly into a plastic chair next to the bed. Jensen winced in sympathy at the crick in his neck he was going to have when he woke. He should really wake Jeff up now, tell him to go home and sleep in his own bed, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He knew it was selfish but having Jeff by his side, well it was more comforting than any drug. The world around him grew dim as sleep seduced him again but he drifted off thinking only about Jeff's strong arms protecting him from his demons.

Daylight filled the room the next time he pried his eyes open and although his body still ached his brain felt less fogged by medication.

"Hey there sleepyhead. How are you doing? You want some water?"

Jensen smiled softly and turned towards Jeff. Even looking rumpled and tired he was still the most gorgeous man Jensen had ever seen.

"Please." Jensen croaked.

Jeff had one hand lifting his head and the other cautiously tipping a glass of water to his lips in an instant.

"Better?" Jeff asked, setting down the glass on the bedside table. He hovered by Jensen's side seemingly unsure of where to put himself until Jensen reached out his unbandaged hand and sought out Jeff's.

Cradling Jensen's hand in his, Jeff sat back down in the bright orange plastic chair at the side of the hospital bed. "Do you remember what happened, sweetheart?"

Jensen closed his eyes briefly as the night’s events replayed themselves in his head. He shivered as he remembered seeing the flash of a knife plunging towards Jeff. He'd been so scared. For once though, not scared for himself. Scared of losing Jeff.

"You okay?" he asked Jeff, eyes blinking open and examining him for signs of injury.

"I'm fine. You're the one that decided to tackle a maniac with a Bowie knife by throwing yourself at him."

Jensen frowned then grimaced as he tried to flex his bandaged hand and a bolt of pain shot up through his arm. "I'm okay?" That sounded more like a question than Jensen had intended.

Gently stroking the side of Jensen's face, Jeff said, "You're going to be fine. You grabbed the knife as David lunged forward and cut your hand up real good, but the surgeons don't think there's going to be any permanent damage. Your hand prevented the knife from penetrating too far into your torso." Jeff coughed trying to cover up the crack in his voice. "The surgeons said you were lucky, it could have could have been..." There was no disguising the break in his voice this time and all Jensen could do was squeeze Jeff's hand as tears slid down his face.

"I'm sorry," Jensen said, turning his head against Jeff's hand and pressing a soft kiss against his palm. "I'm sorry I scared you but I couldn't lose you. I couldn't let David..." The mention of the name triggered a blaze of panic to explode in Jensen’s chest. "David! Where's David...oh God."

"Shh, Jeff calmed him. "He was arrested. He's not going to get away with any of this. Carrying that knife let alone trying to kill you with it, was enough to get him in a heap of trouble. He's not going to bother you again. I promise you Jensen, we won't let him near you. Never again."

Jensen believed him he did, but when the door to his room squeaked open his muscles tensed and he couldn't help shrinking away from the approaching footsteps.

"Hey Jen, good to see you with us again."

Jared. Jared was okay. Jared was still talking to him. Tension and anxiety that he didn't even know were trapped inside of him dissolved away at the first sight of Jared's nervous smile.

"I've got a gift for you. Well not really a gift seeing as how they're yours anyway but you know they were broken and I got them fixed up and I thought..."

Jared was rambling. It was cute.

" anyway, is it alright if I just...."

The room around Jensen lost its blurred edges as Jared carefully placed his glasses onto his nose. Jensen hadn't even realised he wasn't wearing them. He'd put his hazy vision down to the good drugs they apparently had him on.

"Thanks Jared," Jensen said returning Jared's impossibly contagious grin, and mostly concealing the resultant wince as he remembered his split lip.

Jeff didn't look any healthier now that Jensen could see him in high definition. Still as sexy as hell but with an air of exhaustion that Jensen could feel from where he lay.

Jared cleared his throat and ran his hands through his dishevelled hair, pushing it away from his face, which was the nearest thing he had to a nervous tick. "Jen, I’m so sorry man. If I hadn't blown up like that at you this would never have happened. Those things I said to you... I never meant any of them I swear. You're my best friend. I feel so fucking awful, Jensen -"

"Jared no! None of this was your fault. None of it." Jensen would not allow Jared to blame himself for anything. Jared and Jeff had saved him, which was probably more than he deserved after running away from the mess he'd caused.

"It's not your fault either Jensen," Jeff said quietly from beside him.

"It is though." Jensen bit back with absolute certainty. "You invited me into your house and all I've done is cause trouble. I should never have come here. I'm sorry." Jensen tried to blink away the tears gathering in the corners of his eyes.

Jeff dropped his hand and stood up from the chair at his side. Jensen's tears spilled unchecked down his cheeks this time. He didn't blame Jeff for leaving but it felt like his whole world was fracturing and for a split second he silently wished that he'd let David stab him in the heart because surely it would have been less painful. He scrunched his eyes tight shut; as much as he couldn't fault Jeff for leaving there was no way he could bear to watch him go.

Tender hands cupped his face and Jensen felt the rough pads of Jeff's thumbs brush away the tears dripping down his cheeks.

"Don't cry Jensen, please don't cry." Jeff's low melodious voice soothed something in the depth of Jensen's soul. "I will never be sorry that you turned up on my doorstep, do you hear me? You're amazing, you've woken a part of me that I never knew was asleep. I can't imagine my life without you in it any more Jensen. I love you. I need you."

Jensen cautiously opened his eyes to find Jeff's face close enough to kiss. Those bottomless eyes of melted chocolate that Jensen had fallen irrevocably in love with were swimming with tears.

With a shuddering breath, Jensen wrapped his arms very carefully around Jeff and pulled him into the most desperately gentle hug ever, whispering declarations of love against the warm skin of his neck.

They only broke apart when Jeff's concern for Jensen's stitches grew overwhelming. "Careful sweetheart, be careful," he said pressing light kisses against Jensen's forehead. "I don't want you hurting yourself any more. I want to be able to take you home as soon as possible."

Sinking back against the starched hospital pillows, Jensen fumbled to find his magic feel-good button without letting Jeff see. Evidently failing as Jeff placed it in his hand leaving the steady weight of his fingers curled around Jensen's wrist.

Before surrendering to the siren call of medication to dull the increasingly insistent ache across his stomach, Jensen needed one thing.

He looked down to the foot of his bed where Jared was standing watching the daytime soap scene play out in front of him with an unusually inscrutable expression on his face.

"Jared," he said, "is this okay with you cause I won't come in-between you and your dad, I’d rather be miserable on my own than split up another family."

He ignored Jeff's arched eyebrow and waited for Jared's verdict.

"Jen, I acted like a tool when I found out and yes, maybe, if I hadn't found out by seeing the pair of you play tonsil hockey in the driveway, it would have made a difference but that's no excuse for making you feel like shit. Even I can see how much the two of you love each other and although I have to admit it's going to take a while to get used to, if you're both happy then so am I."

Jared reiterated his words by patting Jensen's foot in an (incredibly restrained for him) show of affection.

Jensen relaxed at last and he wasn't the only one as Jeff's fingers circled around his wrist loosened their death grip.

"Although, I might need some counselling," Jared continued, a light teasing lilt to his voice now. "I mean it's a big adjustment to go from being the only child in a one parent family to having two daddies. The other kids might tease me you know."

"Oh God," Jensen groaned, burrowing his head back into his pillow, trying to bury his ears.

"So, if you get married am I going to be best man or do I give you away Dad, or I could give Jensen away to you or I could just give you to each other and oh... oh... what do I call you Dad and pops, Dad and papa or daddy, no that's a bit too weird, how about father or - "

"Jared," Jeff growled.

"Papi or just pa. Am I going to get a brother or sister or a... a... a puppy! Yes please can I have a puppy?"

As Jeff dropped his head onto Jensen's bed with a groan, Jensen squeezed his happy button, closed his eyes and waited for the blissful oblivion of sleep to claim him with a smile on his face bright enough to outshine even Jared's.




A stream of amber sunlight flowed through a gap in the bedroom curtains waking Jeff from a hazy dream. He couldn't remember it clearly but it had left him with the delicious impression of being encompassed in the most tender loving embrace. It was a wonderful way to wake up. Then he felt a tickle against his naked chest and remembered that the most wonderful way to wake up was with Jensen by his side.

Jensen's head was pillowed on his chest, his snuffled breathing warm and moist against his bare skin. His arms were wrapped securely around Jeff and their legs were entwined in a tangle of pajama bottoms. Jeff squeezed Jensen tight against him, breathing in the muted scent of his fruity shampoo and tried not to sneeze when a soft unruly tuft licked playfully at his nose.

Jensen had been sharing his bed since a couple of weeks after the hospital had released him. It had been Jeff's idea, one which Jensen had initially been opposed to, but Jeff had cajoled and badgered him, blatantly using his best puppy dog expression, until eventually he'd caved. It wasn't that Jeff wanted to force Jensen into sleeping with him before he was ready but he knew - was damn well positive - that Jensen's nightmares were getting worse and he was sick of being stranded helplessly on the wrong side of the barricaded bedroom door.

Night after night, he held Jensen in his arms whispering soothing nonsense as Jensen whimpered and cried in his sleep. One morning when Jensen had caught sight of the bruises littering Jeff's arms caused by Jensen thrashing his way through violent dreams and warding off imaginary attacks, he'd point-blank refused to sleep in the same bed again. Jeff'd had to resort to flat out begging and a sleeping bag outside Jensen's bedroom door before he grudgingly capitulated.

Even now, Jensen still had more restless nights than either of them would like but the horrifying nightmares that left him screaming in terror and them both twisted in sweat-soaked sheets had thankfully become a rarity rather than a nightly occurrence.

Not wanting to worry Jensen unnecessarily, he hadn't admitted that he suffered from his own terrifying dreams. Graphically realistic ones in which he was frozen in place, helpless to do anything but watch as Jensen lay unmoving in a spreading pool of blood, his breathing fading away until his stunning green eyes stared lifelessly at Jeff in accusation. Waking up with a gently snoring Jensen cuddled into his side, thankfully made these nightmares a lot easier to cope with.

With a final hug and a gentle kiss to the top of the kid's head, Jeff carefully slid himself out from beneath Jensen and out of bed. Jensen grumbled in sleepy protest but had rolled onto his front and star-fished extravagantly across Jeff's side of the bed, burying himself under the covers until the spikes of his hair were barely visible before Jeff had even slipped his robe on.

It was chilly enough in the kitchen to make Jeff regret not taking the time to locate his slippers. There hadn't been snow for a couple of weeks now, but the ground was covered in a layer of hard frost this morning and the only flowers brave enough to show their heads were the hardy snowdrops. Today was the first of March so hopefully spring would soon be on the way. The first of March meant something else too, something much more important - Jensen's birthday.

Jeff had plans for the day that mainly involved spoiling his boy rotten while doing as little as possible. Obviously a day as lazy as that required ample sustenance so he set about preparing a breakfast suitably extravagant, well maybe not that extravagant but at least containing Jensen's favourite food groups. Coffee (yes okay, not strictly a food but really an under caffeinated Jensen was a danger to himself and others), strawberries (well toast smothered in strawberry preserve but in his defense it wasn't exactly strawberry season), and chocolate in the delicious form of chocolate chip muffins that Jeff had made the previous night and squirreled away from curious noses.

Twenty minutes and two ice blocks for feet later, Jeff traipsed back upstairs with a fully loaded breakfast tray. Opening the door with his elbow while carefully balancing the coffee mugs on the tray was a skill worthy of cirque du soleil (probably) and he was feeling fairly happy with himself when he re-entered the bedroom.

Not as happy as Jensen apparently. Jeff very nearly dropped the tray right in the doorway in shock.

Jensen was completely naked, hair shower damp and skin flushed, glasses flung recklessly on the bedside table. Leaning against the wooden slats of the headboard, his legs were spread wide open across the bed invitingly, knees bent and feet planted firmly on the mattress showing Jeff in explicit detail that he had his dick loosely held in one hand while the tip of the middle finger of his other hand rubbed around the puckered skin of his asshole before... oh God... before pushing slowly inside.

"Fuck Jensen," Jeff gasped, kicking the door shut behind him.

"That's what I was hoping for," Jensen replied licking his lips very obviously.

"But you... I mean we've never... and I've never ever with a... and you... it's your birthday." Something vital had short-circuited in Jeff's brain because he couldn't even understand himself and also his dick was hard enough to hold the fucking tray up itself as he watched Jensen press his finger into himself until it couldn't go any further.

"I want you Jeff, please," Jensen interrupted himself with a little gasp as he pulled his finger out only to press it back in, in one sudden movement. "I want this with you."

Jeff practically threw the tray down on the nearest nearly clear surface before shrugging off his robe and kicking away his pajama bottoms. He stalled beside the bed, feeling like he’d been punched in the gut and struggling to breathe as Jensen fisted his cock and fingered himself open. Christ, he thought, it would be possible to come just from watching Jensen doing that.

He clambered onto the bed beside Jensen, desperately claiming his lips with his own, tasting the fresh minty toothpaste tingle in his mouth.

He drew back breathlessly and stared at the face of the man he loved. He wanted this so much but, "Jen, are you sure about this? You know we don't have to, I'm happy with what we're doing now. I don't want to hurt you."

"I know that you idiot," Jensen said, his hands suddenly grabbing Jeff and urging him on top of him until they were pressed together, face to face. "That's why I want this with you. I know you'd never hurt me." Jensen ground his hips up against Jeff, his dick rutting against the soft little bulge of Jeff's belly. "I want to know what it's like to be made love to, not just fucked. That's what I want from you for my birthday, okay?"

Okay? Jeff needed a moment to get control before he embarrassed himself by shooting before he got anywhere near the main event.

"Yes sweetheart, that's more than okay," he said nuzzling against the smooth skin of Jensen's throat.

Jensen fumbled at the side of the bed before pressing the bottle of lube into Jeff's hand. "I started to finger myself open for you, but you'll need more of this."

Dropping the lube on the bed for the moment, Jeff rubbed the soft bristles of his beard gently back and forth across Jensen's chest eliciting a shivery moan from the boy underneath him. He nibbled and lapped a meandering path up his throat before licking his way slowly inside that mesmerizing mouth, pressing their lips together until they were both panting for air.

"Don't worry sweetheart, I'll use plenty of lube but you're not going to rush me. I'm going to make you desperate before my dick goes anywhere near that gorgeous ass."

Jeff meant it. He wanted Jensen to enjoy this as much as possible, and that meant taking his time to ensure that he truly was ready by the time Jeff pushed inside that tight hole for the first time.

Jeff slid down Jensen's body, pushing the boy's legs apart until he was kneeling in between them. Jensen looked down at him, top teeth biting hard into his swollen bottom lip and a pink flush spreading down his face to his chest. Jesus! He was the most beautiful creature Jeff had ever seen.

Jeff leaned up and brushed his fingers over the hard buds of Jensen's sensitive nipples before skimming them down his chest and over the soft alabaster skin of his stomach. Jensen tensed as Jeff traced with a gossamer touch over the healed scar on his abdomen. Bending down Jeff pressed feather light kisses against it until Jensen relaxed back into the mattress.

He trailed his fingers over the lavish formations of delicate freckles decorating Jensen's body. He was sure if he took the time he could map out his own name among the cinnamon sprinkles littered over his stomach. Jeff wondered how Jensen would feel if he produced a permanent marker later to lay his claim. Feeling the hard cock twitching against his chest, he was sure Jensen could be persuaded.

Jeff took his torturously slow time, kissing and nibbling, teasing and caressing all the way from the pink tip of Jensen's ears down to the dip of his groin, studiously avoiding even an accidental brush of the boy's dick until Jensen was whining wantonly beneath him.

"Please, Jeff," a husky whisper fell from his lips.

"Please what, sweetheart?" Jeff teased, mouth hovering at the bottom of Jensen's quivering stomach a cruel inch away from his twitching erection.

"Jeff, don't be a bastard just fucking... aahh... just touch me. Touch my dick you..."

Thinking he'd pushed Jensen and his luck far enough, Jeff sank his mouth straight down Jensen's dick until it hit the back of his throat, shutting Jensen up completely. For a man who had never given a blow job before, after a few tips and some glorious demonstrations from Jensen, Jeff had discovered a hidden talent and great love for sucking cock, or maybe just Jensen's cock.

When his gag reflex started to object, he pulled off Jensen's dick with a lurid pop then went to work in earnest. Fondling and cupping the full heavy weight of his balls, licking stripes up his beautiful smooth shaft, teasing his tongue into the very tip before sucking the whole thing back down. He worked Jensen into a squirming mess before grabbing the lube, squirting out far too much in his enthusiasm and nervously pressing the tip of his finger into Jensen's hole.

Jensen gasped but pushed down forcing Jeff in deeper than he'd dared to go.

"Come on Jeff, I'm ready. I need more than that." Jensen's voice was already crackling with urgency.

Who was Jeff to disagree? He slid another slippery finger alongside the first, pushing them both deep inside the tight heat of the boy’s ass. It felt weird at first, but fuck if Jeff's leaking cock didn't approve. He fucked Jensen's ass carefully with two then three thick fingers, easing open the clenched muscles until Jensen's dick was nearly purple it was so hard and his fingers were clawing desperately into the cotton sheets, his little breathy grunts filling the air.

By the time, he was as sure as he could be that Jensen was ready to take the larger intrusion of his cock, Jeff was as hard as nails and seriously worried about coming before he was fully inside the boy.

"Jensen, can I... is it okay if I..."

"Yeah... fuck yeah, Jeff. Want to feel you inside me."

Jeff shuddered at Jensen's desperate tone, his stomach coiling in need. "Christ you're killing me baby."

Jensen sucked in a sharp breath and stilled, muscles tensing rigidly under Jeff.

Immediately Jeff withdrew his fingers and panicking, crawled up the bed so he could see his face.

"I'm sorry Jensen, I'm sorry. What did I do, did I hurt you? Jensen?"

Jensen curled onto his side into Jeff's waiting arms. Jeff petted him soothingly and gradually, second by second he relaxed until he was loose and pliable again in Jeff's embrace.

"You okay?" Jeff tried again, terrified he'd done something to hurt him.

"God, I'm sorry." Jensen murmured against his chest. "That was so stupid."

Stroking his hands over the sloping expanse of Jensen's back Jeff reassured him. "It's fine just tell me what I did so I don't do it again."

"Nothing," Jensen shook his head, tickling Jeff with his unruly mop of bed hair. "It was nothing... just... can you not call me baby please ‘cause I know it's stupid, but he always called me baby and I don't want to... to think about..."

Jeff wanted to kick himself, what an idiot, how did he not remember that? He hugged Jensen tight against him as if he was trying to squeeze the bad memories out of him. "I'm so sorry sweetheart, so sorry. Do you want to forget about this? We can cuddle and have a snooze and-"

"No!" Jensen's muffled voice squeaked from where he was cocooned in the heat of Jeff's body. Relaxing his vice like grip before he suffocated the boy, Jeff met his indignant glare.

"You can't just... just... tease me and work me up ‘til I'm about to explode then just go to fucking sleep you asswipe."

A low rumbling laugh escaped from Jeff, "You really know how to sweet talk a guy don't you Jensen?"

Jensen huffed and pouted but his eyes sparked with mischief, "If you won't help me out, I'm gonna do it myself. Gonna get on my knees and stuff my fingers up my ass and..."

Jeff's dick lurched between his legs and any doubts he had remaining flew straight out the window. He ducked down and smashed his lips against Jensen's effectively quieting him before pushing him back on the bed and thrusting two fingers deep inside his lube-slicked asshole. He pumped them in and out, crooking them and desperately trying to find the spot that he knew would - yeah that was it. Jensen groaned and his hips bucked up, precome dripped from the tip of his cock as he writhed on Jeff's fingers. Jeff took great delight in worshipping Jensen's gorgeously responsive body and working him back up into a frenzy. Eventually when they were each soaked in a fine layer of sweat and so hard it was almost painful, he knew the time was right for both of them.

Grabbing a pillow, he slid it under Jensen's hips, squeezed more lube out and smothered it over his dick, gripping the base hard to ward off any unfortunate quick-fire accidents.

"Jen, sweetheart, you sure you don't want me to wear a condom?" He asked, pretty certain of the answer already.

"No, just you Jeff. Want to feel all of you." Jensen spread his legs and ran his fingers over his flushed scarlet chest, toying with his own nipples causing Jeff to let out a pitiful moan and pinch the base of his own dick just a touch too tight.

They had both been thoroughly tested and after Jensen admitted that David had told him he always used a condom because Jensen was a cheating whore and he didn't know where he'd been, Jeff was more than happy to forego the unnecessary barrier between them.

Pushing Jensen's thighs wide open, he placed the leaking head of his dick against the boy’s asshole. Even fingered open and loose it seemed impossible that Jeff's thick cock would fit in that tiny furled hole. Holding his breath in silent wonder he held his dick and slowly pressed inside that clenching scorching heat. Jensen's ass welcomed him in, squeezing tight around Jeff's throbbing cock as both men let out guttural moans. Jeff pushed steadily in until his balls were resting against the crack of Jensen's ass. Lightening sparks crackled down Jeff's spine at the astonishing sensation. He looked down in awe to where his body was joined with Jensen's. Jensen's spasming hole squeezing desperately around Jeff, locking them together. Jensen's hands clutched at Jeff's thighs and Jeff looked up to see an identical look of amazement on his boy's face.

"I love you," Jeff exclaimed. He immediately regretted his lack of timing but when Jensen responded by stretching his head up and seeking out Jeff's mouth with a tender kiss, he felt his nerves evaporate.

Pressing their bodies together, he peppered Jensen with adoring kisses while making unhurried reverential love to him. It didn't last long, both of them too near the edge to prolong their first time together but when Jeff felt himself too close to the edge to pull back, he worked his hand between their sweat slick stomachs, wrapped his fist around Jensen's dick and brought him to orgasm at the same time his own rushed through him.

Feeling his come shoot into Jensen's ass as it clamped tight around him was the hottest thing that Jeff had ever experienced and he roared his approval, drowning Jensen's blissed out cry.

When he came back to his senses, he lifted his weight off Jensen's supine body and slipped his softening cock out of his ass. His own creamy strings of come leaking out of Jensen's twitching hole were enough for Jeff's cock to jerk painfully in response and he collapsed with a pained groan beside Jensen.

Jensen nestled into his side and Jeff slid his arm around him, snuggling him in close. His own breathing was still coming in exhausted pants so when he heard Jensen's labored breathing he wasn’t too concerned. Until he tipped Jensen's face up to kiss those devastatingly addictive lips and saw tears streaming from his glittering eyes.

Fear ripped through Jeff, stopping his heart dead in his chest. What had he done? What the hell had he done?

"Jensen, oh sweetheart. I'm sorry. Oh god, I'm sorry. What did I do?" Jeff tried to dry the tears from Jensen's cheeks with the pad of his thumb.

Jensen swiped his own hand across his face too, a weak smile breaking up the distressed expression.

"Jeff, no. I'm okay, I'm great. Fantastic actually," he sniffed, stroking a soothing hand through Jeff's hair. "I just... it's never... I’ve never felt anything like that. You were amazing, wonderful, and I love you. I love you so much."

Relief flooded through Jeff, releasing the pressure in his constricted chest like a dam bursting. "Christ, I thought I'd hurt you, you're so bad for my blood pressure."

"I’m sorry," Jensen looked pitifully up at him with doe-like sorrowful eyes and Jeff laughed. "It doesn't matter sweetheart, it really doesn't cause I love you too and I'm gonna make you feel that good every damn time."

Their lips crashed together just as Jared's bedroom door opened and slammed shut with a wall-shaking bang.

"I'm scarred for life you assholes!" He bellowed. "I'm going to bleach my brain then I'm going to Gen's. To stay. Forever. Happy birthday Jen and Happy...something Dad."

Jared stomped past their door down the hallway muttering obscenities loudly as he went.

Jeff flushed scarlet as Jensen hid his face against the broad expanse of his chest and dissolved into a fit of the giggles.

With a contented grin, Jeff hugged him close. Life was maybe a bit more eventful than he'd planned but God, it was better than he had ever imagined possible.


Thanks for reading!
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