The party's boring.
There's a champagne fountain and tons of food, and the waitstaff is scantily clad. Still, the party's boring.
Jared's waiting for the live band to start their gig, that's the only reason he's here. He doesn't know anyone so he stays near the buffet while most of the other guests gather around the open bar. He still can't believe he got invited to the birthday party of a woman he’s never met before.
A tiny hand on his ass is distracting him.
“Well, hello there, sweetheart,” a tiny red-haired woman says. “Aren't you a tall drink of water! I bet you're big, too, where it counts.”
She's purring at him, hooking her arm into his and sliding her other hand over his dress shirt.
“I'm sorry, ma'am,” Jared starts, but she waves her hand.
“Oh hush, stop with the ma'am crap, sweetheart. Call me Ruth. What's your name?”
Jared's neck is starting to hurt from looking down at her intently. He wants her to leave him alone, but doesn't want to be rude.
“That's a good, strong name. So, Jared, you wanna go somewhere quieter? Get to know each other better?”
She smiles at him tipsily. She's a beautiful woman, petite and surely older than Jared, but he doubts he'd be interested in Ruth even if he were into girls.
He sighs. “Look, I feel flattered, but you're not my type. Besides, I'm here with someone.”
“Oh? Who is it?”
Crap. Jared looks around. He benefits from his body height in situations like this one when he's searching the crowd.
“Oh you,” Ruth says, slapping his chest and making him look down at her again. “You can't be even bothered to lie and say it's the blonde girl over there?”
She sounds hurt and oddly enough, Jared feels bad, even though it's not his fault.
“No, it's true, I'm here with someone, but it's certainly not a blonde girl. ”
For a second, Ruth scrutinizes him, her head tilted. Then her eyes go wide.
“Oh!” she says. “Not a girl. ”
She giggles, then sighs. “Oh, it's always the nice, good looking men that are taken or gay.”
Shrugging a shoulder, Jared says, “Yeah, well.”
“All right.” Raising herself on tiptoes, she smacks a kiss on his cheek. “If you get bored with your someone, you know how to find me.”
She leaves, sashaying and wiggling her ass and Jared thinks, Yeah, not gonna happen.
Finally, the band appears on the small stage. Apparently, their gig is a present to the birthday girl, some filthy rich heiress who has been pretending to be twenty-five for at least three years now, and the most interesting thing in a room with almost four hundred guests is the lead singer.
His eyes are dark with kohl, making their green irises pop, his dark hair is draped into a man bun with a couple of feathers woven in it, and his prettily bowed legs are hiding in tight leather pants.
Jared's eager for the concert to end, so he'll be able to get near the singer, maybe have a dance with him, and then get those pants off of him in one of the unused rooms of the mansion.
He's stifling a groan. It's the singer's outfit, making him think those unchaste thoughts. Very unchaste, when it comes to the bowlegs.
“The next song,” the singer says, “is a premiere. It's my special present just for you, Felicia. Happy birthday!”
The addressed woman's lifting her champagne flute, beaming happily and looking quite tipsy.
Hot lips/ I want to kiss
Hot lips/ I want to drink
Hot lips/ I want to see smile for the rest of my days
Felicia will claim the song's about her, and everyone will believe it, but Jared supposes that's not true. Usually, when he happens to be in the studio, he only catches snippets of lyrics that makes him think they're about him .
He shakes his head. Nah, that's just stupid. He never asked, he never would. But, it makes the butterflies in his stomach flutter just to think about the possibility.
It's just two more songs, then the concert's over, and the band leaves the stage. Immediately, they're surrounded by groupies, fame seekers and fans. It's especially the singer and the guitarist they're after, but the drummer will be lucky tonight too, that's for sure.
Jared stands nearby biding his time, sipping his champagne and waiting for the crowd to scatter, his eyes never leaving the strikingly beautiful singer, who's weaving through the throng. He greets people, kisses hello and goodbye on cheeks, laughs cheerfully at stupid jokes and, right down the line, is just...
Jared lacks the word to describe him. Maybe it's just being a star , behaving like a celebrity, being outgoing and nice to everyone approaching him.
And then the hot as hell singer Nick Phoenix is locking eyes with Jared's and transforming into Jared's hot as hell boyfriend, Jensen, for a moment. And no one's noticing.
Jared can see it in Jensen's eyes, a minuscule shift in his posture, the small smile tugging at his perfect lips, and he can't stifle his own smile.
When Jensen saunters over, swaying hips and lascivious posture, he's Nick again, keeping up his public persona. Stopping in front of Jared, he sips at his glass and says with a deep voice, that goes straight to Jared's dick, “You come here often?”
Jared deadpans, “No, first time. Also, I'm all alone and don't know anyone. You want to show me around?”
Jensen replies, “I'll show you all right,” sashaying past Jared. In passing, he whispers in Jared's ear, “Three minutes. The door over there, last door on the right,” and is off to greet another important person.
Jared makes his way to the designated door, hopefully inconspicuously, and feels embarrassed when his eyes meet Ruth's accidentally.
She's raising a champagne flute, the corners of her mouth twisted into a dirty little grin.
Jared hurries to open the door and finds an empty hallway behind it.
The last door on the right leads to a beautiful bedroom, which is tastefully decorated. There's a fire blazing in the fireplace, though there's no need for it, and a champagne cooler with two glasses on a side table.
Behind Jared, the door opens and closes, and a moment later strong arms encompass him, Jensen's raucous voice in his ear making him shiver.
“You must be a very big fan 'cause you're at every concert.”
Tilting his head back, Jared closes his eyes and lets Jensen's body heat seep into his skin.
“Since my boyfriend works at every gig of yours, I'm there too.”
“Your boyfriend?” Jensen murmurs, pushing his hands under Jared's dress shirt and heating the skin even more. “I should be jealous. Good thing I bitched about not seeing my boyfriend until Felicia allowed me to use this room.”
Jared's too distracted by Jensen kissing his neck to notice what he said until a couple of minutes later.
“Wait. What did you say? Boyfriend?”
Jared turns in Jensen's embrace, looking at him. “You said to your friend you had a boyfriend ?”
Jensen frowns. His eyes are brilliant due to the kohl and mascara. “Are you not? My boyfriend?” he asks, starting to open Jared's shirt buttons.
“Yes, I am. I mean, you basically told her you're gay. What about your public image and such?”
“Felicia's cool, she knows when to gossip and when to keep her mouth shut. Besides, she laughed her ass off knowing we'd have gay sex in her father's place.” Jensen shoves Jared's shirt and suit jacket down his shoulders and arms onto the floor, leaving his upper body bare and flushed.
“You know, her father is a bigoted asshole,” Jensen says, trailing kisses dangerously close to Jared's treasure trail. “That's why I'll donate the money he paid for the gay rockstar's gig to Planned Parenthood.”
Jared chuckles, which turns into moaning. “I'll make sure to enjoy the gay sex to the fullest, then.”
“Can we make our next tour more... local?” Jensen asks.
Jeff looks up from the papers he's reading. He's across Jensen sitting in an easy chair, his preferred place in his office.
“What do you mean, local? The US? The Americas?”
“Uhm...” Jensen tilts his head back on the couch he's sitting in, knowing full well how ridiculous his demand is. “More like California? LA?”
Jeff chuckles. “Is it because of that boy of yours?”
“He's not a boy of mine ,” Jensen protests weakly. He's still a bit hungover and knows that Jeff just wants to rile him up. “He's my boy . We have way too little time together as it is, and I don't want to leave him alone for months when I'm touring the world.”
“You think he'll cheat on you?”
Jensen turns his head to glare at his manager.
“He'd never,” he growls. “It's because I don't want to be without him for months. It's the longest relationship I ever had...”
“And three weeks. I know , Jeff. Still, it's the longest one, and I don't want to endanger it. So can you see how pathetic I am?”
“Nick,” Jeff sighs.
Jensen sits up in the couch, planting his feet on the floor, and looks straight at Jeff.
“I've never asked for something like this before. Can't you just work with me on this?”
After a minute, his friend sighs again.
“All right,” Jeff concedes. “It's at least another year until the next tour, but I'll think about how to get Jared on board – if he wants to come.”
Jensen's face bursts into a huge grin, making his cheeks ache. “Thank you, Jeff. Maybe he can create the posters and such.”
“The pos- Nick, he illustrates children's books!”
“Eh, you only know the art he showed you, which happened to be some cute drawings of bears and ducks, but I know the stuff he has hidden in his apartment, it’s amazing.” The pride surging through Jensen makes his heart swell – he can't believe how lucky he is, having such an incredibly talented boyfriend.
“So, he’s good?” Jeff asks doubtingly.
There's a knock at the door, stopping Jensen from elaborating on Jared's grandness. He knows he's completely fallen for the young man, and he doesn't give a damn though, because he's happy .
Clif enters Jeff's office, papers in hand.
“Boss. Jeff,” he greets.
Jensen stifles a grin; even though Jeff hired Clif as head of security and Jensen's bodyguard, Clif loves to rub it in that it's Jensen who's having the final say with security. He just waves a hand in greeting.
“Clif,” Jeff replies, taking his glasses off and putting them on top of his papers on the coffee table. “What's up?”
“Security for the charity concert weekend after next. The place has its own men that we could use.”
“You think they're any good?”
“Yep, I know some of them personally.”
“All right, then I'm okay with it.”
Jensen just gestures affirmatively, deciding on nursing his hangover a bit more. Jeff and Clif can work out the details, he'll just give his blessing, knowing he can trust them.
The deadline is next week, and Jared still has not drawn enough illustrations for Living Without Breathing. It's the first non-children's book he's doing art for, and since the author is an acclaimed Pulitzer prize winner, it's a big thing. He has to compete with five other artists, that are not children books illustrators, and he won't have a snowball's chance in Hell if he can't do better.
In order to have more time, he had to call in sick for the weekend at the club. He met his boyfriend there, right at his weekend workplace, and he sometimes wonders what his life would be now if he'd decided to ignore the urge to dance his pent-up energy away that night.
Not working means a noticeable dent in his wallet since he needs the generous tips to make ends meet, but it's not as big a thing than it was before he met Jensen – whenever he needs food, he can go to Jensen's giant place with his giant fridge and eat giant helpings. Jensen’s housekeeper, Samantha, is always thrilled when he asks for seconds and insists that it's no trouble to feed him in addition to all the other people she has to cater for. There's always a bunch of people at the mansion working with and for Jensen – technicians, musicians, domestic staff, he’s still not sure what all these people do for Jensen.
It's nice to have a rich boyfriend, but he hopes that he'll have his own money if he can land the job and the book sells well. He knows all he has to do is ask Jensen for anything he wants. Jensen would never deny him a thing if he thought it would make him happy. But, that’s not the point. He doesn’t want to be a kept boy. He’s a grown-ass man and he wants to be able to stand on his own two feet. If he can’t provide it for himself, then he doesn’t need it. Maybe it’s his pride, he reasons with himself. No, it’s more than that. He doesn’t want Jensen to resent him. He doesn’t want to be a burden; another hand out seeking Jensen’s goodwill. He could never live with himself if he became that. That’s why he’s never allowed Jensen to pay his bills. So yeah, he has his pride and he can still look at himself in the mirror every morning. He knows, they both know, what they have is based on love, not money.
Still, he feels okay with sometimes slinking back into the kitchen and raiding the leftovers of Sam's delicious casseroles.
Sitting at his small desk in front of the window overlooking his neighbor's cluttered backyard, he's doodling on paper, trying to get his creative juices flowing.
The dragons are supposed to represent the protagonist, Petey's, state of mind, his anxiety, paranoia or ennui. The chapter when Petey's in love is the most difficult thing to illustrate. How the fuck could it be possible to depict love as a dragon?
It doesn't help either that they make a secret of the novel, generating hype and making the public anxious for it. That's why Jared only has excerpts he's not allowed to talk about to base his designs on.
Petey's appearance is similar to Jensen's – green eyes, dark blond hair, lean but muscular build. It almost seems as if the author created the character after Jared's beloved, who is a famous singer in the eyes of the public. Huh, maybe Jensen was the model, so now there'll be a novel published about him.
Jared grins. The doodles he's scribbling on a piece of paper are supposed to be small dragons, character studies or at least something useful for his job. Instead, there are dozens drawings of Jensen's body parts, his face, his hands, just his eyes.
That's what made Jared think their accidental meeting in a club almost a year ago was staged by Fate: the tattoos both of them have.
Jensen's is an angel's wing, a few stylized strokes of black ink down the right side of his body, while Jared's is on his left side, a devil's wing, equally stylized as Jensen's. So when they hug, the tattoos touch, fit together like they're meant to be.
Maybe Jared should use Jensen as a model for the dragons he wants to draw. They'd be beautiful, all green eyes and pale scales and feathered wings...
Jared looks at the dragon his hand created almost out of its own volition. It's smaller than the palm of his hand, but its wings are elegantly curved, the feathers soft-looking, and the eyes intelligent.
Why are the best drawings the kind of sketches I can't use for my work?
But... He can use it. Feathered dragons are exactly what he needs to make those creatures different from others. He can see feathers darkened with envy and hate and down flushed pink with love.
He still has a week to scrap his works so far and re-do them. Piece of cake.
In the following days, Jared occasionally thinks there's no limits to his creativity. He's so buried in his illustrations, he even doesn't notice his fridge keeps being well-stocked as if by magic. Mostly though, he just forgets about eating. Jensen's there in the evening, watching TV on the couch, while Jared's working relentlessly. He enjoys having him here, knowing that Jensen is just waiting for him, not demanding his attention. It’s an easy existence between them, something he could definitely get used to.
When he falls into his small bed, there's another body diminishing the space between the pillows even more and arms engulfing him in a hug, and all he can do is grunt in acknowledgement, asleep pretty much the moment his head hits the pillow. In the mornings, there are messy blowjobs before Jared returns to his sketches and Jensen leaves for his work, whatever it is he does at the moment.
“Only three more days,” Jared says on the phone, trying to console his boyfriend and not to panic himself.
The day before the deadline, his graphic tablet freezes, and it takes a reboot and a tantrum to make it work again. Luckily, he only has to re-do a little of the last illustration. In fact, he even gets three hours of sleep, mainly because of falling asleep at his desk, before submitting the illustrations in the morning.
He's too exhausted to worry about whether his drawings will be accepted or not. He's sitting on the couch, nursing a coffee and ignoring some soap opera with a green-eyed main lead, who looks a lot like Jensen's alter ego, Nick Phoenix, when his phone announces his editors reply.
He has to read it three times since his brain is too tired to make sense of the words.
They love it.
He's calling Jensen immediately.
“They love it,” he says breathlessly.
“Jared?” Jensen asks, sounding a bit confused.
“They love it, Jens. They love my work so much, they don't even want to change much.” Jared can't believe he met the author and editor's demands spot-on.
“Jared, baby, that's awesome!” Jensen sounds genuinely delighted. “That's a reason to celebrate, don't you think?”
Jared's more in favor of sleeping for a whole week. He can't ask about Jensen's plans though, since his boyfriend continues talking.
“I just got a call from Ryan Reynolds. He wants to have a sausage party on Saturday night, just a few guys and some hanging out. You want to come, too?”
“Saturday night? Wait...”
There's a moment of silence when Jared's brain catches up.
“Ryan Reynolds? Ryan Reynolds invited you to his place?”
“Yeah, well... yes.” Jensen sounds a bit unsure. “He said to bring anyone, and I want to bring you. I mean if you want to come, of course.”
“If I... Oh my god.” Jared's knees buckle. Good thing he's already sitting. “You want me to go to Ryan Reynolds’ party.”
“Yes, I want us to go together. But Jared, look.”
I know, I won't tell anyone we're together.
Jensen chuckles, sounding embarrassed. “This is something I didn't want to tell you on the phone.”
Jared's breath hitches. You want to break up.
“I won't deny us,” Jensen continues. “I'll introduce you as a friend, but I won't deny we're together when they ask questions. Just so you can brace yourself.”
There's another moment of silence, a rather long moment.
“Because... I mean I'll... I want to tell them, everyone, how madly in love I am with you, but I need to accustom my fans slowly to the fact that I'm gay.”
Jared doesn't know what to say.
His work got accepted to be published in a Pulitzer prize winning author's next novel. He's going to have beers with Ryan Reynolds’ at his place. He won't be Jensen's dirty little secret any longer.
Jesus. What a day.
“You're a love-sick puppy, Nick,” Jeff says smirking, shaking his head.
“I know,” Jensen sighs, dropping his phone on the table. He's having an emergency meeting with his manager and his bodyguard in his home's game room. He'd really prefer working in his studio than discussing the topic that made them have the meeting.
“You know what'll happen when you come out to your fans, don't you?”
“I think I’d rather come out on my own terms than being caught red-handed and exposed,” Jensen replies. “Besides, you know as well as I do that some fans will go crazy no matter what I do or don't do. Try as I might, I won’t be able to please everyone. I get that. I didn't mind being in the closet when there were only hook-ups and eager groupies, but...”
“But you weren't happy.”
“But now I have Jared. And I wasn't happy until I met him. I won’t give that up,” Jensen says and there’s an edge to his voice. One that Jeff should know all too well. It’s the ‘don’t tempt fate with me, because you won’t win’ tone. Jensen doesn’t use it too often so, Jeff is painfully aware of how close Jensen is to losing his temper on this topic.
Clearing his throat, Clif pipes up. “Sorry to interrupt, but we need to get back to business.”
Sitting up in his chair, Jensen nods. “Of course.”
“What do the police think?” Jeff asks, chewing on his unlit cigar. He's trying to stop smoking, but Jensen thinks he's cheating, even when Jeff doesn't light them.
“They take it very seriously, but they don't have any leads,” Clif explains. “The fucker seems to have some pretty serious stalking skills.”
“I don't know,” Jeff interjects. “We get hate mail on a daily basis, and it's always nothing but hot air. They never pull off the threats.”
In the beginning, Jensen used to read all his mail. He would even try to answer it; sending out a heartfelt note along with an autographed photo. Then, as his career took off, it changed to trying to send out the photo with a quickly scrawled note like ‘thanks for your love, it means the world to me’ and his signature. But, it just got to be too much for him.
The threats started to take a toll on him. It was strange, knowing that someone hated him because of his music. He’d always thought that music was universal; that it could bridge the gap between everything and bring people together. But, reading the hate mail had opened his eyes. He’s stopped asking to see his mail altogether, except for the more sweeter one, he still enjoys reading it. He has Lisa now, who takes care of opening the letters, sorting them into piles; the sweet adoring ones, the sexual requests and the serious hate mail.
The love mail he gets is answered in some way, Lisa's good at that. He seriously thought about writing his own fan letter to himself, so he could get a written reply from her. The sexual requests he hopes get burned. And the hate mail, he knows that it’s saved in a file in case it’s ever needed. He’s not sure why, just that it is for his own safety.
It would be weird if they actually pulled through with the things Jensen's threatened with. He'd be castrated, tarred and feathered, mutilated, and raped with monster cocks or optionally with bottles, baseball bats or cucumbers on a daily basis. Though, if he thinks about it, the last part wouldn't be so different from the love mail he gets where the writers announce what they'd do to him if they ever got the chance. Actually, he likes letters from 13 years old school girls best; those are mostly sweet and innocent and decorated with hearts in vivid colors.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter what he does since for every letter he gets damning him to hell for his clothes, his music, his looks, he gets one praising him to high heaven for those very same things. He knows his music has touched their hearts in some way. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do.
“This is different, Jeff,” Clif objects. “They know about Jared when they shouldn't. And they threaten him , not Jensen.”
Jensen's stomach churns. The letter they're talking about is especially nasty. It immediately raised all the red flags, and all of those vicious threats are directed against his boyfriend. Jared should be safe with him, not put at risk because of him.
Clif turns to him. “Nick, do you have any idea how they know about him?”
Jensen thinks hard, then shakes his head. “I only took him to a couple of public events, but I never noticed anything unusual. I don't wear my wigs when we go out privately, but of course it's possible someone recognized me anyway. Which means there's no way for me to know who it is.”
“What about the Reynolds’ party?”
“I'll wear a beanie. You just heard that I won't deny my relationship.”
Jeff nods, his brow creasing. “You know that later, when you've come out, people will know it's you when they recognize Jared, don't you?”
“They already know Clif is my bodyguard. If I can't go out incognito anymore, so be it. I'm not different from other celebs, am I?”
Jensen breathes out a heavy sigh. “Anyways, I'll need Ryan's support when coming out. I think it's better to give him a warning.”
“You do remember the kind of support he gave you with Tattoogate?” Clif asks.
Jensen nods. “I do. His tweets made my day.”
Tattoogate happened the very night he met Jared in a club and went home with him for some fantastic sex. The buttons of the vest he was wearing at a concert earlier broke, exposing his torso for a couple of seconds to the world. Someone was filming with a phone and then sold the footage to the media, and everybody was excited about the possibility that Nick Phoenix may be tattooed. It took an interview with Jimmy Kimmel to prove there was no ink, which was perfectly covered with make-up at the time. Him taking off his t-shirt on TV was causing enough buzz among his fanbase to divert from his tattoo in the end.
The news coverage also made Jared realize who he was having sex with. Somehow, this made the whole relationship thing easier – there was no need for lying and denying from the beginning, which made them meet at eye level. The realization had him breathing easier. He knew right at the beginning that Jared had been interested in him for him; not because of who his persona was, how much money he had or the circle of friends he kept.
Though, Jared being an artist and not personally involved in the rock music business helped, too. He never was really interested in Phoenix' music, preferring classical pieces, but he quite enjoys Jensen strumming on his guitar and singing parts of his new songs in the evenings, huddled up to one another on the couch.
“All right,” Clif says. “I don't see why you shouldn't go to the party, but I'll escort both of you and wait in the car.”
“Clif,” Jensen sighs. “It's Ryan, of course you can come with us, no need to wait in the car , for fuck's sake!”
A grin's splitting Clif's face in half, and Jensen wonders how a guy of his bodyguard's size, who's built like a brick wall, can look like a little boy on Christmas morning.
“Clif!” Jeff barks, and Clif flinches.
Clearing his throat, the burly man says, “You know, I think Jared should have his own security for the time being.”
Though it's a logical suggestion, it still surprises Jensen. Jeff raises an eyebrow.
“You know it can't be me, boss,” Clif continues. “They'll know Jared's somehow associated with Nick Phoenix if I was his bodyguard.”
“Of course you're right,” Jensen says, nodding his head. “I just... I didn't even make it public that Jared's my boyfriend, but he already needs to have security.”
“I think I know the perfect guy. I never worked with him, but I met him a couple of times, and his reputation's stainless.”
Jensen huffs. He has to trust Clif and until now, he’s never been disappointed. However, he needs to grill him in order to learn if that guy's really good at his job.
“Yes, but can he do the job? Can he keep Jared safe?” Jensen asks, his eyes betraying the feeling of fear that’s overwhelming him. It was fine when there were possible threats to his safety. He signed up for that when he took on the persona of Nick Phoenix. He was okay with it; all that came with being a rock star, being in the constant spotlight. But he wasn’t okay with the target being Jared. He’d tried so hard to protect Jared from this. And, apparently, he’d done a shit job at it, because here they were discussing Jared’s safety and possible bodyguards for his boyfriend.
“I wouldn’t suggest him if I didn’t think he could do the job. He’s a little unorthodox, but he’s efficient. He’s been working at several British embassies all over the world, guarding the top brass and their families. I can always look into a few other security agencies if you’d like. but this guy comes highly recommended.”
Clif looks at Jensen, sees that he's thinking over what he’d just been told. “I would trust the guy with my life, if push came to shove. I wouldn’t suggest him if I didn’t think he could keep Jared safe. But it’s your decision, it’s what makes you comfortable.”
Jensen sits for a minute, pondering what Clif has said. Finally he nods in agreement. “Yeah, okay. If you think this guy’s good . . . then I’ll go with your opinion. I just want Jared safe.”
“All right,” Jeff pipes up. “We don't know how dangerous this stalker is, and I don't want to regret my decision later. Clif, go and get us this bodyguard for Jared. Jensen, you explain the situation to your boyfriend. And now let's have lunch, I'm hungry.”
Sometimes, in the night, Jared can see the stars through the window behind the kitchen sink. It's only a small sliver of sky that's visible, the rest hidden behind buildings as tall as mountains. Now it's a narrow blue ribbon, a late Sunday afternoon sky, dotted with small white clouds.
If he doesn't count the fun he had with Jensen, last night was the most fun he had in weeks. Besides Ryan Reynolds and Nick Phoenix, there were only normal guys – well, non-celebs. Apparently, the party was simply about enjoying the company, not about networking or bootlicking. Sometimes, Jared has to attend those kinds of events; they're necessary for his professional advancement, but he hates them with a vengeance.
Ryan's hilarious, a genuinely nice guy. He greeted Jensen – Nick , Jensen was Nick that night – like an old friend and accepted Jared into their circle with a strong handshake. He scrutinized him for a moment, then nodded and grinned, offering him beer and nachos.
Clif was there, too. When Jensen said his bodyguard wanted to wait in the car, Ryan laughed like it was the best joke, thumping Clif on the back and pushing him towards the den. The poor guy was so awestruck, he just stood in a corner for thirty minutes, gaping at Ryan. The fact that Clif already had met half of Hollywood and the West Coast music business jobwise made it even more priceless how hard he was crushing on the actor.
And then – after a great night, after sleeping in Jared's bed that's too small for two grown men, after a good morning blowjob and having breakfast and making out on the couch – Jensen springs the news on him that a crazy fan's threatening to hurt him.
His boyfriend is used to this kind of threats, but he's so worried about Jared that he hired another bodyguard, hopefully only for a few weeks.
Jared sighs, resting his elbows on the counter and gazing through the kitchen window.
He had hoped he'd be able to keep Jensen for himself a bit longer, not having to share him with the crowd quite yet. Of course he knew he was dating a celebrity, a veritable superstar, but he never imagined the lengths both of them had to go to maintain a low profile in public.
He's Jensen's dirty little secret, which is less bad when he can kiss those plump lips, ruffle the soft hair. Make love to him on any surface in his apartment. Of course they can do that – the kissing part, not the sex part – in front of everybody after the cat was out of the bag.
Jensen's arms wrap around Jared's waist. His brow pressed between his shoulder blades, he's breathing hot air against Jared's t-shirt.
“I'm sorry,” Jensen says.
“Not your fault,” Jared replies. “Maybe it's a good thing I'm experiencing the joys of fame early on, so I can decide if you're worth it.”
Jensen remains silent, but his arms tense around Jared.
Turning in Jensen's embrace, Jared hugs him back. Jensen's head is now resting against his collarbone, his whole body clinging to Jared's with no inch of space between them.
It's nice that Jensen needs to bend only a bit in order to fit under Jared's chin. He's only a couple of inches smaller than he, so there's no need to hunch every time Jared wants to look into those incredible eyes, that are all shades of green, depending on the light. Jared knows they're luminescent with hurt and worry right now, even though he can't see them.
“I'm sorry,” he says. “But I hope you know the reason I date you is because of you , and you're absolutely worth anything.”
After a minute of silence, Jensen makes, “Uhm...”
Jared chuckles. He observed early on that his superstar, despite all the awards and the millions of fans and the critical acclaim, is quite insecure, sometimes shy, when it comes to his person.
“Of course you're worth anything and everything, Jens,” he assures. “If you didn't notice yet, I don't stay with you for your fame. When the book is published, I'll be famous enough on my own. And though it's nice to never have to wait in line or have a party with Ryan Reynolds, that's not important to me.”
Jared is running his fingers through Jensen's short hair, just long enough to hold onto during blowjobs.
“ You're important. You're inspiring me. And that big heart of yours is another reason why you won't get rid of me.”
“And my big dick,” Jensen says, muffled against the cotton of Jared's t-shirt.
Jared laughs. “And your especially big dick.”
Jensen looks up, eyes full of mischief.
First, it's tender, just about reassurance, but it soon gets heated. Breathing each other's air, they fight for dominance, until Jensen wins and lays claim on Jared's body. He's only four years older than Jared, but much more experienced, so Jared bows to his guidance happily.
Sometimes, he still can't believe how someone like Jensen – famous, gorgeous, sophisticated – wants to spend his time on someone like Jared – too lanky, too geeky, too immersed in his work most of the time. Though he grew up in New York City, he sometimes feels like a country boy in Jensen's presence.
When they need to stop kissing due to lack of air, Jensen looks perfectly debauched. Jared can feel Jensen’s erection press against his own, painfully confined in his sweatpants.
“Bed,” Jensen pants. “We need to make it quick.”
Of course; Jensen has to leave for some meeting about the bodyguard in his mansion in the evening. They had had way too little time for each other in the past weeks, both of them working on their projects, and now that Jared's finished, Jensen has to cut short the weekend.
Maybe they should move in together.
In the first couple of months of their relationship, Jared wasn't sure if it was something that was going to last, but now he's sure – he knows they can make it. He wants to smudge Nick's make-up after the concerts and hear him humming when composing a new song. He wants to have Jensen in every way he can, wants to go to bed with him in the evening and wake up next to him in the morning.
No way they can do that in Jared's too little bed in Jared's too little apartment. They'll need to address the matter soon.
After they make use of the little bed in a way that won't break it.
Euterpe's beautiful son almost noticed him. That's what he's living off for the past couple of weeks – the knowledge of this shining green gaze almost brushing his own.
He doesn't know what would have happened if he actually had acknowledged him. Maybe he would have burst into flames, ending his insignificant life at the muses' son's feet. More likely, though, his soul would have risen up to the skies in a blaze of glory.
He just needs to get rid of this slut that's not even worthy to breathe the same air as the Phoenix.
With the new bodyguard, Jared's playing in the same league as the big names, Jensen had said jokingly, but there've been those narrow lines at his eyes that usual indicate worry.
Jared still can't feel threatened. It's a surreal feeling that there's someone out there who's disturbed or sick enough to threaten other people just because of what they do or what they are.
His life is turned upside down because of them, but he'll accept it as long as there's no reason for those lines in Jensen's face ever again.
Right now, he's sitting on the couch, trying not to fidget. Jensen's next to him, holding his hand and stroking his fingers with his thumb.
Misha Collins, seated across in a chair, is undoubtedly good looking, with striking blue eyes and artfully tousled dark hair. He's talking business and arranging terms with Clif, but Jared already decided that this guy is his new bodyguard – because of the tie.
Collins is wearing an impeccable dark suit, but his tie is the slightest bit askew. Jared deems him as a man knowing social conventions, but choosing not to care about some of them – that's something piquing his interest.
The new bodyguard's not expected to stay overnight – there wouldn't be room for him anyway – which seems to rankle Jensen. Having a ten hour a day bodyguard is exaggerated enough, but if it averts Jensen's worry lines, Jared's fine with it.
“It's okay,” Jared says, squeezing his boyfriend's hand reassuringly. “The door’s lock is good. I promise to lock up every night and only open the door after checking.”
“He's right, Mr. Ackles,” Collins says. Clif nods his approval. “Even if someone actually manages to advance into the building, there's no way they can come through that door when it's locked properly. And all I need is a call, and I'll be here in fifteen.”
Jensen still looks incredulous, but then he sighs and forces a small smile.
“All right,” he says, looking at Jared. Jared nods. ”We can set you up on the couch.”
Collins inclines his head. “We should push it a bit so I can keep the door in sight.” Turning to Jared, he adds, “Do you mind me bringing my books, Mr. Padalecki?”
“Of course not. I wouldn't mind you playing Xbox either, but I can't work with noises in my place. Sometimes, I need music, though, so you'll need to endure Rachmaninoff at times.”
There's the slightest twitch of the corner of Collins’ mouth. “I think I'll survive,” he deadpans. “Thanks for the offer, but I'm good with my books. I don't play video games.”
This is how Jared comes by a shadow on his couch, waiting for the few times he has to go out, just so his boyfriend doesn't go crazy. It’s kind of endearing in a twisted sort of way. He smiles to himself, knowing that Jensen cares.
The cage of your hands is my shelter
Save me/ From the Storm
I'm a hummingbird on my way/ Swayed by the winds
But I feel safe now
“This is Osric,” Jeff says.
Jensen lets his head butt against the piano keys, groaning. It's only ten in the morning, but he's been in the music room since five. When your muse strikes, you have to follow.
It's one thing when his housekeeper, Samantha, who provides one mug of coffee after the other, or Jeff sees him in his sleep pants – they're like family after all. It's a completely other thing when it's a stranger that Jeff's bringing in.
Jensen turns on his stool.
There's Jeff in his comfortable jeans and button-down, with a small Asian guy half hidden behind him, wearing a rumpled suit with no tie and waving shyly. Apparently, he's trying to make a good impression, but failing spectacularly. Jensen grins
“Osric, hm?” he asks.
Turning bright pink, the guy croaks, “Pleased to meet you, sir.”
Great, a fan. But he's cute, all fresh-faced and naive, barely legal. If it wasn't for Jared, Jensen would have gone for the kid, aiming for a little romp in the bed by afternoon. But now he has Jared, and anyway, the guy is too small, too young, his fingers too short, his hair not wavy enough.
“He's the son of a cousin's cousin I didn't know I have,” Jeff explains, grinning behind his cigar. “My momma ripped me a new one how you're supposed to support your family so he's basically an intern. He'll take over the social media accounts and the fan mail business from Lisa.”
“Oh? Did she finally decide to go to Europe with this guy?”
“Yep. Wanna bet when she'll be back heart-broken?”
“Nah. I don't want her to be unhappy.” Jensen sighs. Turning his focus to the little guy, he continues, “So you want to work for Jeff? Are you any good with words if you want to take care of my fan mail?”
Osric nods, still sporting a nice pink complexion.
“Yeah,” he squeaks, then clears his throat. “I mean, yes, Mr. Phoenix.”
“Oh, call me Nick,” Jensen says, stifling a smile. ”Everyone does.” Besides Jared, of course.
Nick Phoenix is an alias only in part. Jensen went by Nick since he was five years old and met his grandmother for the first time.
When her third grandchild was born, Bridget Ackles van Roe moved to Texas to live a few houses down the street. The first time Jensen met her, she scrutinized him with pale green eyes and said, “So Jensen? What kind of name is that? Don't you have a nickname?”
And Jensen, shy little boy that he was, was too tongue-tied to utter more than, “Nick?”
That's how he got stuck with the nickname Nick, and when he told Jared he was lucky to not be stuck with Monica, the idiot laughed so hard he fell off the bed. Served him right.
Grandma Bridget certainly was one of a kind. She was an expert in art objects, dealing in old oil paintings, art nouveau jewelry and fin-de-siècle furniture. She taught Jensen how to play piano on an old Steinway instrument and gave him a forty year old acoustic guitar when he turned eight. She paid for music lessons when his talent became obvious and fought with his parents when they didn't want him to take up the futile profession of a musician.
Jensen's wing-shaped tattoo is his tribute to his grandmother who said, Everybody has wings, so make use of yours.
“He can wield a pencil so he's qualified,” Jeff explains with a flourish.
Jensen has to suppress a snort; as far as he knows his manager, Osric has a degree in English literature and maybe already published three novels.
“Well, intern,” Jeff says, clapping Osric on the shoulder. “I'll show you the coffee machine. It will be your most important task to provide our brilliant artist with enough caffeine to keep him going.”
“What? No,” Jensen exclaims. “One, he's your intern, not mine. Two, Sam's coffee is good. And C, what the fuck?”
“One,” Jeff's ticking off the list at his fingers. Osric looks a little green around the gills. “My office is too small for any more people being stuffed in there. Two, that's why I hang around your place so much. Three, Sam's the coffee goddess, all right, but she has other things to do. Four, there's no better thing than bossing an intern around. And five,” he wiggles his fingers, “I have more reasons, so I win.”
Again clapping Osric's shoulder, he ushers him out of the room.
Sighing, Jensen turns back to the piano. He can hear Jeff say, “Look, my boy, the most important thing as a manager slash producer is to make your client happy.”
“Your ass,” Jensen utters under his breath, unable to hide a smile. Stretching his fingers, he tries to find the chord from before.
“Hey, Nick,” Jeff yells from the other room. “Did you notice? Ramon is back. And he quite filled out in the past couple of years.”
I don't care, Jensen thinks. The song's about hummingbirds, not gardeners.
“And he's working topless.”
For a fleeting moment, he noticed him.
He could feel his heart burn when his eyes were hit by this intense gaze. For a heartbeat his soul took the shape it's supposed to have, and now that he knows the taste, he craves more.
Jensen and Jared are sprawling on the giant sofa in Jensen's den, glued together wherever possible and browsing Twitter on their phones and sharing the most ridiculous comments. At times, they dissolve into fits of laughter over what they share. It’s lighthearted, it’s comfortable; something neither wants to give up.
Misha's sitting in an armchair in the next room. Occasionally the rustling of his paper can be heard through the open door. It's a rather vain attempt of giving them privacy, but Jared learned to live with his shadow in the past few days.
“Uhm, Mr. Phoenix? N-Nick?” A shy voice pipes up from the doorway behind them, and Jensen cranes his neck backwards.
“Uhm. There's a war on Twitter between a troll and Ryan Reynolds' fans.”
Jensen chuckles. The noise goes directly to Jared's groin, and he fidgets on the cushions to adjust his pants under the radar. They definitely need some time alone soon, there's just been too much going on in their lives lately to satisfy their libidos.
“I already noticed, Os. We sit on the fence for the time being, Ryan's fans know how to defend themselves. I'll call him later and ask whether he wants me to butt in.”
“You know,” Jared says to Jensen under his breath. “You won't hear the end of it when you use the phrase butt in. ”
Both of them cackle like school girls. Since they can't exchange affection the way they want to, they fall back on innuendoes like dirty old men.
Osric's cute, though. The guy's just so small, barely reaching Jared's shoulder, and Jared feels the need to watch where he goes so he doesn't tread on him accidentally. And after two days, Jared can tell that Osric's still starstruck, sometimes gaping at his boss with wide eyes when Jensen does something that's utterly normal.
Jared never was starstruck. He had Jensen's dick in his hand before he knew how famous said appendage was – there's literally fanfiction about Jensen and his dick. Sometimes, when Jensen and he are stoned enough, they read the most ridiculous ones to each other and double up with laughter about the ludicrousness of it all.
Misha, though trying to be wallpaper, hums and huffs disapprovingly in the next room, making Jared turn his head and look at the doorway. Apparently one of the newspaper articles doesn't correspond with his opinion. Funny how easy to read he is when he thinks he's not watched, and being all Mr. Poker Face the rest of the time.
Misha has the bluest eyes Jared has ever seen on anyone. They're a luminous blue that never changes a shade, unlike Jensen's, whose green eyes always change their color depending on his mood and the light.
Jared thinks about the people Jensen employs. Aside from Osric and Misha, there's his bodyguard Clif and Jeff, the manager, who's also Nick Phoenix' producer – though Jared doesn't know exactly what Jeff does besides chewing on cold cigarettes or cigars and talking on the phone. There's Samantha, the kind-hearted housekeeper, and the studio engineer Richard, who's only on hand when needed.
He can't imagine that the band members are employed by Jensen. Jared doesn't know about the dynamics, but surely it's more like teamwork than an employment relationship. He tries to steer away from them because they like to chaff him about his relationship with the band's singer, but Jensen knows how to handle them and comes to his rescue. Especially the guitar player, Chris, who has a razor sharp wit, which still makes Jared think that the guy likes him. He’s been on the receiving end so many times that at first he thought Chris hated him. It wasn’t until Chris made the same comments to Jensen that he began to think that it was just Chris’ prickly personality trait. He’s come to take them in stride, even giving as good as he gets - something he’s proud of.
Then there's the cleaning staff he’s never met, but a mansion the size of Jensen's surely needs a couple of house cleaners. Samantha slaps the back of Jensen's head when she finds his clothes where they're not supposed to be, however there are too many rooms to keep clean for Sam on her own.
Jared needs to smile thinking that a few times he was the reason for Jensen discarding his clothes all over the place and, once, even in the swimming pool.
Oh yeah, there's a pool boy and a couple of gardeners and the guys organizing his concerts and tours, and probably many more people Jared doesn't know about. He knows jack shit about the music business, even though his mom's a teacher at Juilliard and his father a violinist at the New York Philharmonics'. That's how he learned to love classical music, even though he's pretty much tone deaf. His mom was not excited about him choosing graphic arts over music in school, but all he ever wanted to do was draw and paint.
Jensen has so much money to pay out every month, it's like managing a small business. Jared's head is reeling just imagining it. All he has to take care of is paying his rent and the bills for his car and insurances. Well, he has to work in a nightclub on weekends to make ends meet and constantly sell his art to book and greeting card publishers, but still...
Jensen's arm around his shoulder draws Jared back to the present. His boyfriend pulls his phone out of his fingers, putting it on the cushion next to his. Then he takes Jared's hand and links their fingers.
“Uhm,” Jensen starts, before clearing his throat. “You know. I thought.”
“Oh, just spill it, Jens,” Jared encourages him.
“You. Want to move in with me? I mean, there's enough space for your drawing stuff. We can remodel any room you want into a studio.”
Jensen fidgets on the couch. He looks nervous, as if he just proposed to Jared. And he kind of did.
A smile's spreading slowly on Jared's face, making the dimples in his cheeks grow.
“Yes, I do. I thought about it too, since my place is way too small and you have your music studio here.” He surprises Jensen by turning in his embrace and straddling him on the couch. “You know how much time we'll save if we don't have to drive all the time? And think about how we could spend that time!”
A smile matching Jared's spreads on Jensen's face, lighting not only his features but half of the room, too, that turns a bit dirty when Jensen picks up on the meaning of Jared's words. See, innuendos!
They kiss, and Jared can't help but to grind down on Jensen's groin.
The kiss gets more heated, until there's a voice from the door.
“Not when the parents are home, kids,” Jeff says, mischief in his voice.
“Shut your mouth, Jeff,” a female voice replies. Samantha. “I don't mind a little show.”
Jared hides his face in Jensen's neck in embarrassment. Jensen just chuckles.
“Maybe it's time to move out and get our own place,” he says.
When Jensen's phone rings, he thinks about letting it go to voicemail.
He's had a nice night with the boys from the band, with some weed and beer, and it was so needed after a long day of arranging and rehearsing and butting heads. Hummingbird will be award winning material when they find a way to pare Chad's hissy fits to a minimum. And then, instead of just checking his mail before bed, he browses the net for stuff you can put into an art studio.
He can't believe Jared said yes to moving in with him. It may be the logical next step in their relationship, but he still finds it hard to believe that he will be able to have Jared all the time, right by his side.
When he looked at him, sitting on the couch in the game room, his brilliant hazel eyes shining with love, he saw the man that captured his heart, the one he wrote songs about that expressed feelings he really had. He was about to see if this relationship was really going somewhere on both sides.
He wasn't certain how well this was going to go over, though. He knew Jared was independent. He might've said no. Hell, he might've even been offended. They’ve never really talked about moving in together, only in this abstract 'Maybe we should' kind of way. But, he has been mulling over this idea for a little while, and now with the threat to Jared’s safety hitting home, it made him want this for himself. He could only hope that Jared wanted this, too.
And now he's redecorating his place for his boyfriend.
He'll have to task Osric with refurbishing the southern guest room on the second floor. It's the one his parents use when they visit, but it's the biggest room on that floor with the most natural light, so they'll have to make do with one of the other fifteen thousand rooms in the mansion.
Jeff's right, it's good to have an intern at times.
The phone is still ringing.
With a tired groan, Jensen lifts a heavy arm to grab the offending device and sees with bleary eyes that it's Jared calling.
His boyfriend has a very important meeting with his publisher today, so him calling at this ungodly hour at, uh, nine o'clock? means either he got cold feet or something happened.
“Baby?” he croaks into the phone.
“Jens,” Jared breathes with terror in his voice. Jensen's immediately sobering. “There's a letter. There was a letter under the wipers. Of my car.”
“Easy, baby.” Jensen's sitting up in his bed, rubbing a hand over his face. “What happened?”
There's a short pause when Jared composes himself. “We left my place, Misha and I, because I have the appointment with Sterling, and we came to the car, and there was this slip of paper under the wipers, and it said...” There's something like a sob coming from Jared. “It said... they'll cut off my hands. ”
Jensen closes his eyes. Dear god. Then he's moving, gets out of bed, grabs the first clothes he can reach in his wardrobe.
“Listen, baby.” He's proud of himself that his voice doesn't waver even though he feels rattled to the core. “Where are you now?”
“Home, in the bedroom. Misha's in the living room, watching the door. I think he's talking with the police.”
“Okay, baby, you stay there,” Jensen says, pulling his jeans over his hips without losing the phone tucked against his shoulder. “Don't budge. You call this publisher guy, tell him you need to reschedule, okay?” That will occupy Jared's mind for a short while. “I’ll call this detective I know. We’ll come to your place, you hear me? I'm coming.”
Sterling is very understanding and offers his assistance when Jared calls to reschedule.
Jared says, Thank you, but there's no need and We have it covered and I'm fine.
Then he freaks out, making a mess out of his bedroom in his urge to seize control of his life, of something, again. He's throwing books and pillows all over the place as if it could help with it.
Will it always be like this with Jensen? Will there always be someone who has a beef with him just because Jared's in love with their idol? And he is in love. He loves Jensen, his dorky boyfriend, who leaves the cap off the toothpaste, and he loves Nick, the confident singer, the star, who's sexy and kind-hearted.
But maybe it would be better to end it for the sake of his own safety and sanity? That would mean, though, he lets a nutjob dictate his decisions, his very life.
He's not willing to let this happen. He wants to be with Jensen, always and forever. They will figure out who this bastard is and deal with them.
He has not only Jensen, but Misha too, to keep him safe. He just has to trust both of them.
Jared doesn't know how long it is until Jensen's standing at the apartment door, but the wait is nearly killing him.
Jensen's presence is soothing at once, his embrace giving comfort and fortitude. Clif's there too, talking with Misha, low voices pressed and enraged.
The disturbing letter is on the kitchen table, just an innocuous-looking piece of paper, but Jared still feels the burn against his finger tips. Jensen doesn't even touch it, just looks at it, scrutinizes it from afar, the hurtful words, the bold letters in black ink.
After only a few minutes of calming down, the doorbell rings.
Jared's tensing up, hot panic flaring up in him, but Jensen's arms draw tight around him.
“It's okay, baby,” he murmurs in Jared's ear. “That's the police.”
The detective introduces himself as Richings, says his partner called in sick, so he's alone at the moment to help Jared. He's tall, but all skin and bones, he looks like he's in desperate need of a meal or three.
“You want some coffee?” Jared asks and gets up from his place on the couch, not waiting to hear the negative answer. He's busying himself with the coffee machine, the mugs, cookies from the cupboard, making the crockery rattle and clatter until strong arms surround him from behind and capable hands cover his shaking ones.
Since Jared is a big man he has big hands, long slender fingers. He never thought much about them, they were just there, doing their work the way they're supposed to do.
“It's okay,” Jensen murmurs in his ear. “We'll get the bastard, they won't hurt you.”
Jared's calming down, forcing himself to relax.
They return to the open-plan living room, bringing mugs of hot coffee and stale cookies, and when Jared sits down next to his boyfriend, he grabs his hand like it’s a lifeline.
Richings is holding the paper, tucked inside an evidence bag.
“Mr. Collins has already filled me in about the incident, Mr. Padalecki,” the detective elaborates. Raising the bag, he continues, “I don't think we'll find fingerprints or traces of any kind of DNA, but I assure you, we'll do our best to seize whoever did this.”
Jared nods. He feels exhausted, but he can believe that Richings is honest.
“I already had a look at the underground garage. It's easy to get in there, but it's almost impossible to break into the building through the garage's security door or the building's entrance door, so I assume you're quite safe here. Nevertheless, I'd recommend you to relocate for the time being.”
Jared nods. Relocating. .. He could pack up his stuff and go back to his parents in New York. Could work from home, his old small room. Could call Jensen daily, maybe meet with him somewhere that's not here.
“Of course,” Jensen says. “You can have any room you want, baby, and it's only a couple of weeks until your studio is finished. You just tell me what you need in there.”
Jared nods. Then he hears what Jensen's saying, and a slow smile's creeping on his lips.
“Besides,” Jensen continues, addressing the detective now. “My security system is top-notch.”
“Good,” Richings replies with a satisfied lift of one corner of his mouth and then turns to Jared. “Mr. Padalecki, I assure you there's no need to worry at the moment. It's only in rare cases that threats like this one are carried out. I can show you statistics if it's going to help you?”
“That won't be necessary,” Jared says. Jensen's place may be huge, but there are always people around, the musicians, the household staff. The security system is state-of-the-art, and with Clif and Misha there, he can certainly feel safe.
They don't even unpack the boxes with Jared's stuff before they have sex in Jensen's huge bed, that's easily three times the size of Jared's. It's late afternoon and the mansion's brimming with people, but Jensen doesn't even spare a thought about the walls of his room being soundproof enough.
Later, he watches Jared discuss his painting studio with Osric and feels pride.
His lover is an incredibly talented artist. When the book he's been taking part in has been published, he'll be able to tell everyone that this beautiful boy, this great mind, is all his. He'll be able to tell people that Nick Phoenix has fallen so deep in love there's no way back.
In the night, they make love in the moonlight. Because this is what it is, love, sweet and deep.
Jensen could easily live without everything else, his money, his house, his fame, if the only thing he had was Jared. And his guitar. He needs his guitar, but little else.
Sitting in his bed in the dark, watching the pale moon cast its light on Jared's beautiful sleeping face and strumming softly on his guitar, that's all he need.
And Misha's blinis for breakfast.
Who would have thought that the man could make the tastiest little pancakes?
When Jared stumbles into the kitchen, sporting a serious case of bed-head and scratching his side where Jensen has bitten him during their, uh, nocturnal activities, Jensen's already on his third helping.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees Misha noticing Jared's bruise on the thin stripe of flesh visible for a moment and turning away, blushing. It makes him want to shout Yes, that's my boy!, but instead he grins broadly and says, “Morning, sleepyhead! Did you know that Misha's Polish grandmother was an excellent cook?”
Jared grunts bleary-eyed, making a beeline to the coffee pot, though stopping dead in his tracks when he sees the man at the stove.
Misha wears a suit, a bit rumpled as usual, and an apron, a gift from Jeff, that says I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is. Also, he has some flour smudged over his nose.
Considering that he's a professional and a badass bodyguard, the guy's kind of cute.
With a low chuckle, Jared resumes his way to the coffee, pours himself a mug and then sits down next to Jensen at the breakfast bar.
“Morning, Jens,” he greets.
They share a sweet little goodmorning kiss, and happiness is pooling deep down in Jensen's guts. This is it, this is what he wanted, mornings and nights together, even though there's a third person in the room. He can wait until the stalker situation is over and they're alone in the house. Right now, though, he's happy. It’s the happiest he’s ever been and he’s in awe of it.
Jared stuffs his big mouth, his very big mouth, with delicious blinis. Jensen chuckles when his eyes go wide.
After chewing and swallowing, Jared exclaims, “That's amazing! Misha, you made this delicacy?”
Misha turns, spatula in hand, and replies, “Why, yes. Are they any good?”
“They're amazing! Jens, can we hire him as a cook? Just for breakfasts?”
Misha's blushing the tiniest bit. “I gladly assure you, Mr. Padalecki, I'm well paid and don't mind making breakfast as long as I don't interfere with Ms. Ferris' job.”
“Oh, I don't think Samantha would mind. Would she, Jens?”
Jensen just shakes his head since his mouth is full.
“And please , call me Jared.”
He's close enough to watch. There's a spot inside the perimeter, hidden between rose beds and faded lilac bushes, where he can watch unobtrusively. The bodyguard's room is next to the terrace door, but here, shrouded in the scent of flowers, he feels safe.
He even dares lighting a cigarette, enjoying the sharp burn of the nicotine in his throat. He smokes, watching silently, and pockets the stub when he's finished.
The dawn's fading into dark. There's light in the second floor bedroom and silhouettes move behind the curtains, and when he's lucky, waiting long enough, he can hear a guitar through the open windows, sounding softly into the night.
Misha's now a live-in bodyguard, occupying a guest room on the first floor next to the back entrance.
He makes breakfasts in the mornings, proving his cooking skills, and sits with the lovebirds at the breakfast bar, chatting about everything and anything.
Jared snorts when he thinks about the term Jeff uses referring to Jensen and Jared. The manager surely is a class of his own, always ribbing his client, Jensen, and everybody else, but he's not good at hiding the affection clearly visible behind the smirk and sass. He treats Osric like an errand boy half the time and is patiently explaining the mechanics of management the other half. And when Jensen learns about the, in Jensen's opinion, crap Jeff did, he takes being yelled at without batting an eye; like, not paying Osric properly since he's just an intern.
Jensen was furious and compelled Jeff to give Osric a hefty raise and find him a place to live so he could move out from his friend's couch.
Jeff just sighed and did what he was being told, and Jared had the impression he knew from the start he wouldn't get away with it, but did it anyway, just to see how far he'd get.
Jared saw Misha rolling his eyes at the matter, and both smirked when their eyes met, finding comradeship over Jeff's dressing-down.
Misha's different from Jensen, maybe even exactly the opposite. Where Jensen is quick-tempered, Misha's calm, almost stoic, always keeping his cool.
There's the incident last Saturday night, when Jared already was in their regular haunt, waiting for Jensen who was late after an interview, and some drunk asshole didn't want to take no for an answer.
The jerk was wearing an expensive suit, but Jared could see it was just a big front to pick up somebody. He was leering so saliently, Jared could almost feel the gaze on his skin, making his flesh crawl.
When he came over and tried to chat Jared up, it was the crudest line you could think of. Flashing a Ferrari car key didn't help either, nor his sweaty hands pawing at Jared's arms and chest.
Jared turned fully to the drunk guy and drew himself up to his full height, trying to lourd down on him. He growled, “Get lost,” but the outcome was less than stellar.
“Oh my,” drunk guy said, noticeably slurring his speech. “You're tall. Are you proportionate all over?”
That was when Misha stepped in, handling the matter with a glare and pushing himself between Jared and the jerk. First scowling at Misha, then at Jared, the drunk guy made a strategic withdrawal in the end, mumbling, “Gee, I didn't know you had a boyfriend.”
Misha watched the jerk stagger towards another guy, apparently chancing his luck yet again, and then turned back to Jared.
“You okay?” he asked annoyed, running his own hands down Jared's arms to see if he was unharmed.
“Yeah, I'm good,” Jared replied with a small smile. “Thanks for saving me.”
Misha blushed, and how adorable was that?
Jared was glad he didn't have to be the intimidating one for once. He knows for sure that he can be with his stately size and bulk, but he doesn't like it, most notably not on a Saturday night when he's waiting for his boyfriend.
It's okay that Misha has to work for his money, even if it's only for a minute, but it also calls to mind the very reason he's there. The stalker is still out there, though not sending hate mail any more. Detective Richings keeps Jared updated; however, there's not much to tell.
That was the first time Jared noticed Misha's muscles when they tensed up under the suit's fabric.
Stars in your eyes/ Supernovas bursting bright
Comets riding your smile/ Cosmic baby
You're my cosmic baby
Jensen groans. The lyrics are cheesy. Bad. So, so bad.
He wants to write about Jared's beautiful eyes, but all he can come up with are cheesy lyrics. It's hard to describe their color that's always changing, blue and hazel and green. There are golden flecks in between, and sometimes, Jensen sees constellations.
He wants to write about Jared's smile, bright and disarming, about his dimples. Even his teeth are worth an ode.
Jensen drops the writing pad onto his face. He's on the love seat in the game room, feet hanging over the arm. This room is where the living and the working areas connect, with accesses to both directions. There's a billard table, a liquor cabinet and a huge TV with different gaming consoles, but also the way out to the terrace and the swimming pool.
Jared's outside, doing some laps in the pool. He has another deadline in a couple of days and, after working half the night, needs some exercise, as he said. Jensen would love to exercise with him, but they're not alone, as usual.
It would be great if the stalker would finally reveal themselves so that he and Jared could get back to their lives. They haven’t had time alone, to have the honeymoon phase of moving in together. It’s frustrating to say the least, but all he can do is grin and bear it. When all he wants to do is punch a hole in the wall, or rip the stalker apart. He’d settle for either right now the way his nerves are frayed.
A pleasant breeze comes through the open French doors, slowly moving the curtains.
Jensen groans again.
“What's up?” Chris asks from across the room, click-clacking some billiard balls against the bank.
“This is so bad! ” he exclaims, waving the pad in the billiard table's general direction, then letting it drop onto his stomach.
“Oh, your muse is fickle?” Chris laughs. “Maybe you should consider this song Jeff suggested, by this composer, whatshisname?”
Jensen thinks for a moment. “Oh, that one. Nope, it's worse than the stuff I come up with.”
“You didn't even consider my song,” Chad complains. Apparently, he pots his ball, deducing from Chris' moan. Chris may be a brilliant guitarist, but he can't play billiard for shit.
“Chad,” Jensen replies. “You may be a brilliant drummer, but you can't compose for shit.”
“Hey, Chris,” Chad calls out delightedly. “He said I was a brilliant drummer!”
“No, he didn't,” Chris replies. “He said you're a lousy composer, and he's right.”
“Am not!” Chad huffs. “You stupid fuck.”
“Guys!” Jensen yells. “Why don't you guys go outside and leave me alone?”
“Can't,” Chad says. Another clack of billiard balls, another moan from Chris. “I have to wipe the floor with this stupid fuck first.”
It's Jared's voice. Jensen turns his head and there he is, standing in the doorway, wearing nothing but a towel around his hips and flip-flops. His hair is still damp from his rounds in the pool and his bronze skin is glistening wetly.
He looks so gorgeous, Jensen has to fight from drooling.
“Did someone forget their cigarettes next to the pool?” Jared continues.
Chad's reply must be non-verbal but Jensen can't see, and Chris says, “Nope. Not mine. Must be Jeff's.”
Jensen chimes in, “You better not let him know you caught him cheating.”
“Okay,” Jared says, turning and bending at the waist to throw the cigarette pack back into the garden, presumably where he found it. Then he turns back and walks over to Jensen on the couch.
After a short, closed-mouth kiss to Jensen's lips, Jared murmurs, “Need to dress now. Have an appointment with Sterling.”
Jensen can't resist touching the hard pecs in front of him.
“Where's Misha? He'll drive?”
“Yeah, he won't let me take the wheel claiming he's the better driver in case of a car chase.”
Jared's tone suggests how ridiculous he thinks it is.
Jensen hides a smirk. The probability of being involved in a car chase may be virtually zero, but Jared's not the best driver, on a good day. So, Jensen's more at ease when Jared doesn't have to battle his way through the rush-hour traffic himself.
Jared turns to leave, padding down the room to the doorway. Jensen appreciates the view of his retreating backside, muscles sliding smoothly under the skin.
Chad, being the douche that he is, catcalls.
Jared's reply is a middle finger and the most sensual butt-wiggle Jensen has ever seen. How can someone sashay so casually in flip-flops ?
Chad laughs, and Jensen throws a small pillow in his direction.
“Hey, watch it!” Chris yells indignantly.
Jared's lucky that the publishing house has an office in downtown LA, so it's only an hour in the damn traffic instead of flying in to New York.
The editor, Sterling, is a tall man, just a few inches shorter than Jared, with kind, dark eyes and a constant smile on his face. He's not in charge of Living , but a series of upcoming young adult books and wants Jared to illustrate the covers. It's an intense meeting, with a lot of demands and suggestions and critique of Jared's sketches.
When he leaves the office, he finds Misha waiting in the lobby. “Coffee,” he says and they go to the nearest coffee house.
The drinks are hot and strong, the pastries are good, and Misha turns out to be quite interesting.
“Wait,” Jared says. “Your family's Polish, but you grew up in England and Germany?”
“Yes,” Misha confirms. “My mom and step-dad were members of the embassy, so we had to move quite a lot. My dad was British, but he and my mom divorced when I was little. That's how I got my name.”
“Yeah,” Jared nods smiling. “It's definitely less Polish than mine.”
Misha cuts off a piece of Muffin with his fork and uses the utensil to eat it. Huh, is that a European thing?
Jared continues, “My great-grandfather came to America and worked on construction. He built the Met and somehow, my family got stuck with the opera.”
“But you're not into music.”
Jared huffs a laugh. “No, I'm the black sheep.”
Then he learns that Misha can actually understand Carmina Burana's lyrics.
“I went to a German boarding school, that set great value upon classical education, so I had to learn Latin. Though I don't remember much anymore, it's been a long time.”
He also learns that Misha prefers soccer and cricket to football.
“Seriously, cricket? ”
“Yeah, well. It is more sophisticated than this brute scuffle you call sports.”
Jared laughs. “Yeah, you're probably right.”
Misha smiles. It's quite unlike Jensen's.
Things get different after the coffee house.
Misha proves himself a great friend to hang out with when Jensen's busy in the evenings. After a hard day of sketching and being creative to capacity, they play billiards, and Jared shows Misha how to play Madden on the Playstation since he refuses to play shooter games. Jared thinks that's weird for a bodyguard, but probably Misha has already experienced enough violence on the job to not want it in his downtime.
They join forces against the band members that keep on teasing Jared good-naturedly about his relationship with Jensen.
When Jared's going out, Misha stops wearing suits all the time at his request. He looks more like Jared's friend accompanying him and Jared's fine with it.
It's Wednesday when Misha enters the studio, that's finally completed, asking about the appointment Jared has in the afternoon.
Jared's working on a large canvas. It's nothing special, just a finger exercise for relaxation, mostly shades of green and gold sparkle because he thought of Jensen. When he turns around he sees Misha standing, one hand on the door knob, his head tilted to the side.
“Don't move,” Jared tells him.
“What?” Misha replies startled, standing rigid. He's relaxing visibly when he sees Jared move his stool to sit facing him.
Jared starts a full-figure portrait in his big sketch-pad, using his charcoal.
“Did you ever pose for an artist?” he asks.
“I bet there are some out there that would jump at the chance of painting you. You've interesting features and your eyes are pretty.”
But Jared's already immersed in his work. His hands are creating what his eyes see; a straight nose, a small indentation in Misha's chin, those pretty eyes.
Blue like a cloudless sky.
He'll need to use colors the next time, not only charcoal gray.
“You mind me painting you?” he asks absentmindedly.
“Like, naked? ” There's a hint of panic in Misha's voice.
Jared lowers his pad to chuckle at him. “No, doofus, you can keep your clothes on. Your virtue is safe from this virile artist.”
Yep, definitely colors.
Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi is blasting through the studio.
It's Jared's favorite composition. His dad would tell him about the adaptation and the distinctions between the different interpretations, his mom would tell him about its music-historical importance, but Jared just enjoys the music.
“So you're the black sheep of the family,” Misha says. He's sitting on a bar stool, his hands resting on the seating surface between his thighs. It's a youthful pose that looks good on him.
“Well,” Jared replies, putting his brush aside. “Everyone else is somehow involved in the music business. Even my aunt, who's a seamstress, makes dresses for a musical theater. Sadly, I'm a lost cause, being practically tone-deaf.”
He takes his brush and dips it into the oil paint, applying it in confident strokes onto the canvas.
“My parents insisted on teaching me how to play piano, guitar, and violin, but I just didn't get the hang of it. I always imagined what the music was telling me and tried to draw what I thought was happening in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.”
Jared chuckles. “My mom wasn't pleased when I drew a river landscape on the living room wall. But she never removed it, it's still there hidden behind the sofa.”
“Yeah, well.” Misha clears his throat. “It's good you're able to express yourself that way. I don't have an artistic disposition at all. The only thing I'm good at is reading.”
Before Jared can answer, the door on his right side opens, and Jensen's head appears in the crack.
“Hey,” he says. “What are you guys doing?”
“I'm posing,” Misha replies.
“Don't move!” Jared scolds, and his model stops moving. “Misha's sitting for a painting.”
“Oh,” Jensen says, entering the room and approaching Jared. “That's nice.”
Using the easel and canvas as visual cover, Jensen wraps his arms around Jared's waist and props his chin on Jared's shoulder.
Jared enjoys the body heat but feels restricted; he needs to finish his work.
“Why don't you paint me?” Jensen asks.
Jared just points toward his desk where there are at least a dozen drawings of his boyfriend. most of them made from memory. He likes to draw him in bed still sleeping or lying on the couch.
“I mean nude. ” The whisper in Jared's ear makes his breath hitch. “You know, I saw a documentary on TV about this artist. He rolled naked on the canvas, covered in paint, and sold it for, like, a million bucks.”
“I could Pollock your ass,” Jared deadpans, but can't prevent his dick from taking attention.
“I could dribble paint on it.”
“Oh, I think I'd prefer if you'd use chocolate.”
“Uhm, guys?” Misha pipes up. “I can hear you.”
“Alright,” Jensen replies to Misha and then continues in a low voice, only for Jared to hear.
“Remember, baby, you can paint Misha to your heart's content, but the only one painting this ass,” Jensen's sliding his hand inside the waistband of Jared's pants and between his ass cheeks, “is me.”
While Jensen's leaving the room, swaggering confidently, Jared remains sitting behind the easel, flushing all over his body.
He can’t believe that just happened. He’s not sure what to make of it, but his dick certainly liked it. He has to force himself to focus and not drop everything to run after Jensen and just attack him wherever he happens to find him.
He can't believe how stupid he'd been.
After all the efforts he made to get near the muse's son and his slut Jared and to stay undetected, he lost his pack of cigarettes in the garden. Being exposed through some lost smokes would have been too embarrassing.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
He was lucky nobody found them. Apparently, Fate was on his side once again.
However, since his observations make his mind veer off his goal, he has to wonder what it is that She wants him to do.
Jared's tired. Or, more like exhausted.
He had to finish the book covers Sterling demanded to have two days earlier than previously scheduled, so he had worked through the night and the morning. Then, after sending off his works by email, he hoped to get a little shut-eye in the afternoon, but instead had to deal with a burst water pipe in the kitchen. Misha was crawling under the sink trying to get the water shut off since there was no chance in hell of Jared fitting his giant body in there.
They both wiped up the floor when Samantha showed up with a plumber in tow, and then had to change their soaking wet clothes.
So he's sitting on the couch in sweatpants and t-shirt, nursing his third beer and thinking he fucking earned getting buzzed tonight. Misha's next to him, similarly casually dressed, drinking more slowly.
“You know,” Jared says, taking another swig. “This shack must be worth fucking millions, but doesn't even have some decent pipes.”
“Oh, shit happens,” Misha replies.
Jared looks at him, horrified. “Oh god. If the toilet would've been blocked...”
“Would've been so much worse,” Misha nods, handing him another beer.
The rubber heels of Samantha's shoes squeak softly on the stone floor until she stops in the doorway.
“Guys, I can't thank you enough,” she says. “The kitchen floor would've been ruined by now if you hadn't taken care of the mess.”
“Don't mention it,” Jared says.
“Glad I could help,” Misha says.
“I'll bake you some extra cookies tomorrow,” she promises, then takes a deep breath. “So the break's all fixed, the kitchen's in order, I'm going home now. G'night, guys.”
The rubber soles retreat squeaking until the housekeeper is gone.
Jared slips deeper into the couch cushions and props his feet on the coffee table. He'd never dared to do it with Sam still in the house.
Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Misha grinning.
“Wanna see some Netflix?”
They agree on the first offered movie, and Jared's beer marinated brain ponders for the first fifteen minutes whether Jensen could introduce him to Chris Hemsworth.
Jared's phone signals a call with Midnight Satin, the Nick Phoenix song they met to.
“Hey, Jens,” Jared greets the caller, grinning stupidly.
“Hey, baby, you're okay?” Jensen's voice is all smiles and full of warmth.
“Yeah, everything's dandy. Though... The water broke.”
Snickering at Jensen's confused What? , he explains, “A pipe broke and flooded the kitchen, but Misha and I saved the floor, so we earned some extra cookies from Sam.”
“That's... great. I think I'm gonna ask Sam about it, though.”
“You do that.” Jared nods, taking another generous swig from his bottle. “When will you be back?”
“I'm gonna head back tomorrow night after the awards show as soon as I can get away from the party.”
“That's good, my dick is lonely.”
“Oh, poor little fella. I promise I'll take good care of little Jared when I'm back.”
“That's good,” Jared repeats happily and then remembers Misha's in the room. However, a quick glance is calming him. Misha somehow messed up the TV's settings and now is fighting with the remote to have the film shown correctly.
“You know,” Jensen continues. “It's quite nice to have company on the red carpet for a change. The guys are so excited that this time, it's the whole band that get an award. Chad's so nervous, he already threw up twice.”
“ Chad? ”
“Yeah, I wouldn't have believed it myself if he hadn't missed my shoes by inches.”
“Poor guy,” Jared says, not in the least sympathetically.
“Have to go now,” Jensen says. “See you soon, baby. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” Jared says, ending the call and smiling. He snatches the remote from Misha's hand and presses the return button twice, which makes the initial settings appear. Dropping the remote on the couch, he slips even deeper, yawning.
Misha takes his bottle and puts it on the coffee table. “I think you have had enough,” he says.
Jared tries for a bitchface, but fails spectacularly, he's too tired.
He makes it through another twenty minutes of the movie before his eyes start to droop. His mind's telling him to get up and go to bed, his body though feels too comfortable and tired to move. The next time he pries his eyes open, he's lying on the couch, covered by an afghan, the empty bottles cleared away.
He smiles and with a small sigh, his eyes slip closed.
Jensen's weight is dipping the cushions next to him. Warm, soft lips are brushing against his, an almost not-there pressure, and Jared inhales his lover's scent. New aftershave. Nice.
With another happy sigh, he's following exhaustion into the realm of slumber.
The next day begins too early, somehow.
Jared can't remember what he was dreaming, but waking up, he feels absolutely not well rested and quite out of it. He was on the couch in the game room all night, maybe that's the reason.
The smell of coffee and Misha's blinis lure him into the kitchen, but he has to make a slight detour to the guest bathroom to throw up first.
Misha, wearing that godawful apron, turns around to greet him, but his face falls. “Jesus Christ, are you hungover?”
Jared shakes his head, which makes his brain slosh around in his skull. “No, I don't think so.”
He has half a cup of coffee and a few bites of pancakes since as enticing as the smell has been, the food tastes like cardboard.
Then he goes to his studio, moving with difficulty, and sits at his desk, trying to remember what he came here for. He falls asleep with his head on a sheet of paper.
It's Misha who's waking him an hour later with some pills, and then he's ushered into his bed after Misha pulled off the shoes and pants he's still wearing from yesterday, and Jared just goes back to sleep.
Sam's cool hand on his brow rouses him the next time for exactly thirty seconds. “You stay in bed today, you hear me?” she says, and he's out like a light again.
The next time, it's some low voices waking him.
“Can't you leave me alone?” Jared mutters, trying to open his eyes.
“It's just some soup,” Osric says. “My dad's recipe, the best thing against the flu. And Ramon brought you some flowers.”
Turning his head and squinting his eyes, Jared recognises the figure against the window's glow as Ramon, the gardener, wearing a t-shirt for a change. There's a bunch of flowers and a bowl on the nightstand.
“Hope you get well soon, Mr. Padalecki.”
With a huff Jared burrows his head in the cushions, and is back to sleep in seconds.
He can't believe what he did. Or rather didn't do.
He learned so much about Jared, he can't refer to him as slut anymore. Because he isn't.
Jared's precious in his own right, shining brightly, trying to do right by the muse's son.
He felt the heat of his skin as he took advantage of his sickness, touching his face when they were both alone, roaming his hands over his torso. He still can feel the phantom touch on his fingers.
If he only could do this with the Phoenix...
It's five in the morning when Jensen's finally home. He says goodnight to Clif, who'll stay in one of the guestrooms as he's too tired to drive home.
It's been a great couple of days. Usually, it's only Nick Phoenix who's being awarded, but this time, it was the whole band and it was nice to see the guys' reaction.
Chad was nervous, which made him act diffidently. Chris had a haircut and was wearing a smart suit, breaking girls' hearts in the audience. Mark dialed back his usual sarcasm and was being witty on the red carpet, talking mostly about his little daughter.
Jensen dropped a hint about not being available anymore, knowing full well everyone and their mother would go crazy about Nick Phoenix being in a relationship. At the party, almost everyone was trying to get more information; however, to his surprise, Ed Sheeran just patted his back encouragingly. It made Jensen almost consider his opinion about him – almost.
He thought a lot about Jared, wishing he was there, too, most of the time. He couldn't help compare him to the beautiful people he was expected to mingle with and found that Jared lacked for nothing.
If anything, he wonders at times why Jared still stays with him. He could have had any guy he wanted, but he chose Jensen, and sticks with him. He thanks whatever god that saw fit to send Jared to him; made him decide that he needed to dance and cut loose that night. What if he’d decided to go with Chris and the rest of the band that night instead of to the nightclub? No, Jared was right, it was Fate. They were meant to be together.
Jensen certainly would Misha consider a threat if he wasn't so sure of his boyfriend's loyalty and fidelity. He noticed the furtive glances Misha throws his boyfriend every so often and thinks about preparing him for getting his heart broken.
A few days ago, when he laid claim on Jared, it wasn't about being possessive or putting Misha in his place; it was about flustering Jared and teasing him.
Opening the bedroom door quietly, he strips down to boxers and t-shirt and slips under the covers. He scoots closer to Jared's prone figure, taking him in his arms. The body's heat takes him aback.
“Sick,” Jared mumbles, batting dozily at his hands. “Go 'way.”
“I'm here. I'm not going anywhere.”
“Your own fault when you get sick.”
Wrapping his arms around Jared, Jensen pulls himself closer and burrows his face in his lover's shoulder. He doesn’t care if Jared infects him with whatever illness he has. He just feels the need to hold him, comfort him and be there for him.
“It's been weeks,” Jeff says.
“Not true,” Jensen replies, only listening with half an ear. Damn, writing lyrics is even harder when you have to consider grammar. “I go daily.”
“What? What're you talking about?”
Jensen's attention is caught. He puts the writing pad down, says, “The fitness room. Working out,” and pats his toned stomach. He's pretty proud of how he looks at the moment, especially as his abs drive Jared wild.
“What're you talking about?”
“Duh, the Jared's stalker thing, obviously,” Jeff says, rolling his eyes.
Sighing, Jensen takes his glasses off and pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and finger. This morning he had woken up with a small headache, usually a sign of too little sleep and too much weed, so he skipped the contacts in favor of his black-rimmed glasses.
“I was trying to forget the matter,” he whines. It would've been too good to be true if everyone had forgotten, especially that fucking stalker. Lying on the couch in the office, he can hear Jeff rustle with papers.
Really, he has couches in almost every room just so he can write anywhere he wants.
“Yeah, I don't know.” Jeff's voice sounds gloomy. “The detective said they don't think there will come more from the guy. So maybe we can dismiss Collins, but I don't know.”
Misha. He's chummy with Jared, which is a good thing. Jared needs friends, most of the time he's too withdrawn, even secluded when he's working, to meet new people. And now he gives drawing lessons to his bodyguard.
Jensen chuckles. And speaking of the handsome devil...
Jared enters the room, walks with swaying hips over to Jensen, getting on the couch and straddling him.
Jensen's hands come up automatically, gripping Jared's hips, steadying him.
“I suppose it's a good thing I can't see what you guys are doing,” Jeff says grumpily, but Jensen can hear the tease in his voice.
“There's nothing to see, we're good boys,” Jared says, grinding his groin against Jensen's. “Aren't we?” he adds, addressing Jensen.
“Absolutely,” he agrees, trying to be unimpressed by Jared's body. Funny how he acts when he's with people he trusts and feels safe.
“I wanted to thank you,” Jared murmurs, pressing his hot lips to Jensen's.
When they come up for air, Jensen asks, “What for?”
“You know, the rose. It's beautiful.”
“The rose you put on my desk.”
“Jared,” Jensen says wide-eyed. “I didn't... Who'd give you a flower save me?”
A shiver's running down Jensen's spine, making any arousal wilt. “Jeff, did you hear?” he croaks.
Jared's eyes are wide in his pale face, all the color gone. He's breathing too fast and too shallow.
Jensen grabs his shoulders and rubs his hands over Jared's arms.
“It's okay, everything's going to be okay,” he reassures while Jeff's already on the phone.
But it isn't, nothing's okay.
An hour later, Jared's sleeping on the couch since he was so distraught, Jeff decided to give him a sedative.
Jensen's pacing the room, from the billiard table to the French doors to the couch to the billiard table. His emotions are in a complete turmoil. He feels threatened on behalf of Jared, of course, but also rattled and seriously pissed.
“The bastard's been in my house! ” he yells.
“Nick,” Jeff tries to placate, but Jensen doesn't even listen.
“He's been in Jared's studio and god knows where else in my house! ”
He feels the anger rising, colliding with fear. His home, his sanctuary has been violated. It was the one place he was supposed to be safe. They were supposed to be safe here. The outside world was not supposed to be able to penetrate these walls. It’s not enough, everything they’ve been doing to keep him safe, to keep Jared safe.
Osric's pressed into a corner, looking wide-eyed. He's a nice kid, but if there was proof of him being the perpetrator, Jensen would rip him to shreds in a heartbeat.
It doesn't help that he confessed to lying to everybody. A couple of weeks ago he had found a pair of severed bird's feet in the mail and hadn't told anyone save the detective, who decided to keep this incident under wraps in order to not distress Jared or Jensen any more.
But with this bastard being able to sneak into Jensen's heavily guarded house, it makes for weeks of sleepless nights.
Richings is entering the room, Misha at his heels.
“We couldn't find a thing on the security footage,” the detective says. “We'll have it checked more thoroughly at the station. Mr. Ackles, if there's anything to find, we'll find it.”
That's the only thought keeping Jensen from tearing the building down. The bastard's not a ghost, there has to be something.
He stops pacing, forces himself to stand still. Richings is a decent guy, taking the matter seriously. Jensen has met detectives, who obviously thought being stalked came with being famous and he virtually signed up for it when he decided to become a star. Richings, though, can be trusted to do his work, Jensen thinks.
Clif walks into the room, blades of grass hanging on his pants. “Security's okay, no one's tampered with it,” he announces.
“Thank you, Mr. Kosterman.” Richings nods. “Well, let's see what we do know.”
Taking a small note pad and an even smaller pencil, the detective turns to Osric.
“Mr. Chau.” Osric turns pale. “Where have you been this morning, the night, and yesterday evening?”
“I...I'm... I was...” Osric stammers. It would be cute if Jensen's anger wouldn't zero in on him.
“He wasn't here yesterday,” Jeff pipes up. “He was in my downtown office and came with me this morning, I gave him a ride.”
“All right. So I assume you weren't here either, Mr. Morgan?”
“I was here around noon. Just for an hour, to get some files.”
“And to have some of Sam's tuna casserole,” Jensen says. Suddenly, he feels so tired.
“Yeah. Well, it is good.”
Jensen's sitting down on the couch, lifts Jared's feet and puts them in his lap. He lets the voices wash over him, trusting Richings to do his job. The only thing he cares about is next to him on the cushions, sighing in his drug-induced sleep.
If he had known the consequences, he'd never left the flower for Jared to find. However, he thought there was something, a connection, a bond.
But he was wrong.
Now the beautiful soul's terribly frightened and the Phoenix is roaming the rooms in order to protect his partner, and even though in his wrath he's a glorious sight to behold, it's unbearable to be in his presence.
He got confirmation of one thing, however, that he recognized earlier: there's no way of separating the muses' sons.
Jensen's pacing again.
He does it often, mostly when he's nervous. It's his way of getting rid of pent-up energy and stopping him from punching a hole in the wall.
It's also a way of setting Jared's teeth on edge.
“Will you sit the fuck down,” he growls. It's disconcerting; he never uses this tone of voice, least of all with Jensen.
Both of their nerves are worn thin, so it's hopefully excusable.
“I don’t understand,” Jensen says, stopping in the middle of the room. “We get a message containing threats of bodily harm and another one being very clear about the kind of harm, and now, the bastard sends roses? I don't understand.”
Jared's looking out of the French doors in the game room. They're locked, as are all the doors and windows in the mansion. No one can get in.
But someone did. Someone got in.
He can see the terrace, wooden tiles on the floor, lounge chairs and a barbecue. The pool's on the left side, only a corner visible from Jared's vantage point. Beyond the terrace is lawn, where they made out after a little game of midnight football and Jared tackling Jensen, and flowers and bushes. There are trees surrounding the rear side, keeping watch protectively.
Jared doesn't know most of the plants' names, but he's certain the rose came from out there.
It was a beautiful flower, red and perfect. When Jared found it on his desk, he was... stunned at first, then felt warmth spread in his heart. He never assumed that his boyfriend was a secret romantic, but this nice touch obviously proved him wrong.
It was a sign of their growing relationship, of Jensen's willingness to stand up for their love.
Until it wasn't.
He feels like a fool, not because he mistook the rose as a gesture for Jensen being a romantic, but because he couldn't distinguish a romantic gesture by his boyfriend from one by a fucking stalker.
He feels angry at himself and the nutjob, and tired.
Turning, Jared sees Jensen eyeing a bottle of whiskey. It's the one Misha bought the other day as replacement for the one they drank during their Game of Thrones marathon.
“Doesn't matter,” Jensen decides. “It's alcohol.”
Getting drunk is maybe a good thing. Stop thinking. Stop fretting just for a too short time.
Jared accepts the whiskey tumbler Jensen hands him, sipping slowly at the burning liquid, which is a bit too sweet for his taste. He didn't know whiskeys could taste sweet at all, but what does he know? He gratefully grasps at the possibility of pondering over liquors.
His phone rings.
“Hey, Clif,” he greets.
“Jared,” Clif says, sounding relieved. “Is Jensen with you? He’s not answering his phone.”
Jared's glancing at his boyfriend, who's already pouring himself a second shot. He continues pacing, looking hurt and angry, and Jared just wants to whisk both of them off to... somewhere else.
“He's here. The battery must have died.”
“Is Misha there, too?”
“Good.” Clif takes a deep breath. “Jared, Detective Richings made another background check on Jensen's and Jeff's employees.”
“The only explanation how the perpetrator was able to move in the house without showing on any security feed is that he was already in the house. The stalker is someone on the payroll.”
The air is leaving Jared's lungs. It was one of the guys he was having contact with the whole time?
Emptying his glass, he needs the burn in his stomach to ground himself. He notices Jensen pouring another one and thinks incidentally that now is probably not a good time to get drunk.
Clif's next words bring him back to the conversation.
“It's Misha. There's no Misha Collins, everything he said was a lie.”
“What?” Jared croaks. His head's reeling, he feels hot.
“His real name's Dmitri Krushnic. He's Russian, not Polish, and he's already stalked other celebs... Everything was faked, all his credentials. He faked it all, one hell of a good job. Just don’t let him in if he shows up... Jared?”
He hears Clif’s voice, it’s so far away, like Clif’s talking to him through sand. He shakes his head, trying to clear it, trying to understand. Misha? Dmitri?
The world's closing in on Jared. He sees Jensen stumble, mumbling, “This stuff tastes funny.” And then Jensen's slumping to the ground like a carelessly discarded rag doll.
Jared stares at the empty glass in his hand. He doesn't notice when he drops his phone, instead notices he's on the floor only when his knees hurt. Then his knees are buckling, bringing him down.
No, wait. His knees buckled first, before they started hurting. Somehow he lost his phone. And the glass. And his mind.
He's so tired. He's just going to go to sleep right now. Maybe they should get a new bed, this one's so hard.
Jared can hear someone approaching, a hand caressing his cheek.
He hears, “I'm sorry,” before the world goes dark.
This is the end.
Fate, the world's fickle empress, gave him everything for a second and then took it away.
He's carrying Jared, the artist, the creator of color and form, in his arms. His burden is heavy, but it's sweet knowing Jared's finally his, even if it's only for a short time. He can feel Jared's breath ghosting over his face and the warmth of his body against his own flesh.
His fingers brush over the ink on Jared's side. He remembers the first time he noticed the tattoo, that day in the kitchen when Jared was scratching his side. He saw the black wing on Jared's skin and assumed it was the counterpart to the black wing tattoo on his own back, when in fact it was the counterpart to Nick's tattoo.
Yes, he knows about the angel wing on Nick Phoenix' body, knew it from early on when he worked in a club one night and happened upon Nick adjusting his clothes after hooking up with a guy in a bathroom stall. That's the reason he thought Nick was destined to be his, when in fact, it was Jared who was chosen for the Phoenix.
In his arrogance, he assumed he could have both of them, but now he knows it's not meant to be.
He's carrying Nick, the Phoenix, Euterpe's beautiful son, in his arms, too. He's less heavy, but equally sweet to carry. His lips taste delicious and if this is not only the first, but also the last time he can kiss Nick, he will make the most of it.
It's bile and whiskey forcing its way outside that's making Jared plunge into the waking world again. Clearing his mouth with a shivering hand, he rolls away from the puddle of sick and into a warm body. Immediately, his arm pulls Jensen tighter against his chest.
“Geez, Jens, what did we drink last night?” Jared rasps, keeping his eyes firmly shut against the onslaught of light.
The bed is hard, too hard.
Rolling to his back again and prying his lids open, Jared squints furiously until he finally manages to see where he is.
Huh, I didn't know there's a wine cellar in this place. Oh wait, I did.
It's a middle-sized, dimly lit basement room, mostly empty because Jensen doesn't drink a lot of wine. There are a few cases on the floor and Misha's sitting on one of them.
Knitting his brow in confusion, Jared says, “Misha, what are you...”
Then he sees the gun.
Misha, wearing one of his ugly knitted sweaters, is sitting on a case of wine, his elbows propped on his knees, his hands dangling between them. His fingers are curled loosely around a gun's grip.
If his head wasn't trying to screw itself loose from his neck, Jared could understand what's happening. Sitting up slowly and hunching over, he concentrates on breathing for the time being. When he tries to wake Jensen by shaking him, all he can elicit from him is a soft moan.
God, if Jared looks just half as bad as he feels...
He lifts his eyes to look at Misha.
“What did you do?” His voice is rasping. “Did you drug us? Why?”
For a long minute, there's nothing to hear but Jensen's soft breathing and Jared's strained one.
Misha sighs then, his blue eyes turning from blank to soft.
“I tried to hate you, I really did,” he replies. The statement tilts Jared's world just a bit more. “I thought you leeched off Nick – his reputation, his money, his talent. I tried to get close to him, but you succeeded in what I couldn't. And then he hired me!”
Misha laughs. It resounds mirthless and pained in the room, bouncing off the walls.
“He hired me to protect you. I still can't believe I got to be near him because of you, of all the people. I was living in his house because of you!”
He's brandishing the gun, and all Jared can do is hope it won't go off.
“You know I was there when he met you in that club. I was working in the back, but I recognized him immediately. I wasn't quick enough to approach him because you were there, and he took you home.”
Jared wants to say, No, it was I taking him home, and it was the best night of my life, but he doesn't. Tries instead to get his brains to working properly, which is futile since they just left for a vacation.
Bahamas. I've never been to the Bahamas...
“I thought you were just a one night stand, a fling, but I saw both of you together all the time. When he went to the clubs, masquerading himself as some average Joe, he took you with him and thought losing his wig would be enough to dim the shining light that's his talent.”
There's fire in Misha's eyes, burning and cold, but also danger and – sadness? His eyes flicker to Jensen's still body, and Jared's gaze follows.
Only the slight rise and fall of Jensen's chest indicates he's alive. He must be heavily drugged. Of course he is, he had at least two glasses of that damned whiskey.
Sighing, Misha continues, “I seriously thought you falling into my lap was a gift from the gods, a sign of Fate. Instead, you're a test that I failed. Because I'm weak, a weak human and not the Phoenix' soulmate that I hoped to be.”
It's hard to follow Misha's rant since Jared's head threatens to break open, so he clutches at it to keep the pieces together.
“I'm sorry,” he whispers. “I don't understand.”
It's hard enough to string the words together as it is, so he surely can't be blamed for not being able to follow.
Misha's reply is like a slap to the face.
“I fell for you. I just wanted to be close to Nick and wait patiently until I could get rid of you. I tried to poison you, but I couldn't pull it off because I noticed your soul's shining too, less blinding than the Euterpe's son, but brilliant in its own way. You two are the sides of the same coin – indivisible, a unity.”
Jared is staring at the person across from him, a man he had considered a friend.
He's crazy, disturbed.
And clearly dangerous. Jared doesn't doubt for a moment that Misha has killed people, probably many times.
Misha looks... lost. Sounds lost, too, when he continues talking. He's a lost man, left behind by sanity.
“I can't choose,” he says. “It's like tearing my heart in half. So...”
Abruptly, he gets on his feet.
Misha looks at his gun, considering it.
“I have to let Fate decide.”
His arm's moving, pointing the gun at an unconscious Jensen, taking aim.
“Do you know Russian Roulette?”
Jared's breath hitches. “Misha!” he croaks. “NO!”
He's lunging forward – no, he's trying to, but his mind's too fuzzy, his body too drugged up to react in an appropriate way.
Jared's blanketing Jensen's body, his hands roaming the prostrate form, confirming that there's no bullet hole, no blood, that he's still breathing, sleeping the sleep of the drugged.
A metallic sound makes him freeze. Turning his head, he ends up staring straight into the gun barrel, a black tunnel with no light at the end.
Jared closes his eyes, he doesn't want to see. He doesn't want to die, but at least, he doesn't want to see so he's closing his eyes, and his world goes gunmetal dark.
“Misha, please,” he sobs, but what he means is, Jensen, I'm sorry.
The world still exists when he re-opens his eyes.
Tears are streaming down his cheeks, they're blurring his vision, but not enough to not see the look in Misha's eyes.
It's utterly devastated, sad. So sad.
Slowly, Misha's lifting his arm until the gun barrel pokes the underside of his jaw.
“Misha,” he urges. “There's no need... you don't have to do this.”
“It's Fate,” he replies, calmly. “Be happy.”
There's no click this time.
Jared doesn't seem to understand why Jensen feels guilty.
Yes, he slept through Misha's... Collins' attack because he was drugged up to the gills, so he couldn't have done anything at all, but it was him who hired the guy. He should have known from the start that there was something shady about him.
Now, with the police's investigation, they learned about all the things – or maybe only a part – that he did.
There was no criminal record for Misha Collins nor for the five aliases they could pin down to him. Those, however, were involved with different cases of stalking.
When Richings told them about their findings, the detective looked even more gaunt and so very sorry. He even said so at one point.
“I'm sorry I didn't find this earlier,” and Jensen feels like a telepath for the emotions he can sense behind those words. I'm sorry I didn't do more. I'm sorry I couldn't prevent it. I'm so sorry.
The weird thing is that Jensen knows most of the people Misha stalked. They're in the business – movie or music, and you meet them at parties, events or award ceremonies. And of course you talk, about them or with them, and in a remote part of Jensen's brain, he remembers conversations about those stalkings.
It w asn't such a big thing because everybody in the business is being stalked at some point.
Apparently, Collins stalked talents and then let himself get hired to protect the person he was stalking. It looked like he didn't find what he was looking for, though, because he moved on after a few months. His targets were alive and well, but there were some weird accidents happening in their surroundings when he was around them.
When he latched onto Jensen, and later Jared, something changed. The game got lethal.
Jensen stopped drinking whiskey and smoking weed. He can't lose control – ever – in a similar way again. Sometimes, it's easier, when he can see his glass and other people's glasses poured from the same bottle. At private parties, he prefers unopened bottles of beer.
Needless to say, he gets teased by his friends about his new quirks. Because most of them don't know. They will never know. They’ll never understand what Jensen and Jared went through; how the threat came so close to home; actually hit home. How he almost lost Jared. Almost.
He’s grateful. Grateful that his friends don’t know the depths of the insanity they swam through. That the very threat to their lives lived among them, that the threat was counted as an employee and a friend. But, beyond that, he’s grateful that Jared is safe and still with him. He could have left. Jared could have bailed on him, on them. He fully expected the man to. Who would have blamed him? Not Jensen. Jensen knows he would have understood if Jared packed up his stuff and left. The threat to Jared’s life came because of him. Because he loves Jared. As selfish as that seems, he’s still happy that Jared stayed.
The official statement claimed Collins committed suicide in Jensen's wine cellar.
Of course Richings know, but he and his colleagues helped keep the matter under wraps.
And Clif knows.
The poor guy blames himself for the mess he couldn't have prevented. He quit his job as bodyguard and came back a week later, claiming he couldn't trust anyone to do the job right.
Osric was devastated that the very man, that was hired to protect his idol, actually hurt Jensen, so he decided to protect everyone that needed it.
Clif took Osric under his wing, who's now a very sought-after bodyguard. Most of the time, however, he's working for Jeff.
Jeff overcompensated his feelings of guilt and self-recrimination, by fussing over Jensen and Jared until they sent him on a week-long vacation in France. He still called daily, but he was better upon his return.
Slowly, everyone involved in the matter returned to business as usual, even Jensen tried hard to suppress anything that not so much as brushed the subject.
And then there was Jared.
Jensen's worried about him.
When the novel with his art got published, his career was boosted, but Jared seemed to be very unimpressed. He declined interviews on the grounds that it was all about the book and his art was just a small part of it.
Living without Breathing was an instant success, a new Catcher in the Rye. Now that Jared was able to read it completely, he did it three times in one week. Then he did a series of paintings – dark and sad and heartbreakingly beautiful – as if his life depended on it.
Most probably, it did.
Jensen checked the novel. It was about a teenage boy, battling mental health issues, and his suicide was insinuated on the last page.
That was when Jensen dragged Jared to therapy.
It's a slow process, but they're getting better.
There's still little sex, but at least, they're back to handjobs and cuddling and spooning in the big bed, Jared usually being the little spoon. He needs the feel of Jensen all around him, the reassurance of sensing him and hearing his heartbeat. Jensen needs to be able to think he can protect Jared, that he's the shield between his lover and the outside world, even though he's only shielding him from the cool of the AC.
It doesn’t matter, it’s what they both need and he’s willing to be that shield for Jared. He’s willing to give Jared what he needs. He’d give him the world if he could.
They started working again. Jared's pieces are now less dark than before therapy, and Jensen's songs are darker than before... before. They attend public events and socialize with fans, though they're still wary.
Next year, Nick Phoenix' new album will be released before he'll go on tour. Jared will design posters and ads, and he'll come along.
“I want to go to the Bahamas,” Jared says in the moonlit dark of their bedroom, just before Jensen drifts away.
“Bahamas?” he mumbles. “Why the Bahamas?”
“I don't know.” Jared sighs. “I've been wanting to go there for a long time now.”
“We can charter a yacht,” Jensen says. “We can go on a cruise, if you want.”
“I've never been on a boat,” Jared admits. “If you don't count the Staten Island ferry. Can we charter a really big one so we can take Clif and Osric and Jeff and don't have to see them all the time?”
Jensen chuckles. “We can take anyone you like. We can get the biggest yacht and stay in secluded resorts right beside the sea until Jeff tears me a new one 'cause I'm not working. We can make it the Big Vacation of the Decade. Anything you want.”
Jensen kisses the warm spot behind Jared's ear, where he can feel his pulse and smell his scent.
Jared's still alive, and he's here.
Jared's humming, half asleep. “If it's safe on a boat, maybe we can bring the puppy.”
This arouses Jensen's interest.
“Puppy? What puppy?”
But Jared's already fast asleep.
I thought you were gone
Because you were gone
I thought you were gone/ For good
Now I know where you are
I'll stay where you are
I'll be where you are/ For good