There's a hand on his elbow and it's turning him around and then Lord Cruise is standing in front of him and smiling, too solid to be a ghost.
Jensen's knees start to buckle and it's anyone's guess if it's nerves or ingrained obedience, but he locks them at the last second, forcing himself upright, to stand tall. He's no longer Lord Cruise's slave, to kneel at his feet and it would not please Jeff for him to do so.
Nothing in the world, it seems, not even Jeff's presumed disapproval, can keep Jensen's head bending on his neck like a wilted flower, though; sudden weight on his nape like the memory of those heavy hands.
"Jensen," Lord Cruise says, speaking as warmly and familiarly as if it's only moments and not years that separate them. Jensen remembers that smile, remembers the rush that would flood his veins every time it was turned toward him. "I thought that looked like you."
The hand on Jensen's elbow steers him around, for Cruise to get a better look at him; his suit jacket is lifted out from his sides for brisk hands to feel the meat of his ribs, the tuck of his waist, the give of his abdomen. The rub of Lord Cruise's thumb across the sensitive skin of Jensen's wrist could be a caress, but it's followed by a businesslike prod of his pectorals—still firm, Jensen thinks with uneasy pride, frozen by obedience and habit.
Like a split-screen, Jensen is aware of Misha standing next to him, coolly judgmental, and, for the first time, he feels a burning pang of shame at letting himself be manhandled and pawed. But what else is there to do? Even if this wasn't Lord Thomas Cruise and Jensen's former owner, he's still an owner and Jensen is still a slave. And all Jeff's light-handedness with him can't change the rules of conduct for the rest of the world and all the training Jensen's ever had tells him to go along with this for as long as it amuses Cruise.
"I could barely believe that it was you, when I saw you from across the room," Lord Cruise marvels quietly, "could I, Katie?"
Though the question is addressed to her, Katie doesn't reply other than a vague hum of agreement, the glitter of her silver sequined dress no harder than the glitter of her eyes, fixed on Jensen.
Jensen doesn't expect any differently; other than Jensen himself, she's the longest-lived of his body-slaves. She wouldn't have lasted this long if she were not well trained, used to Lord Cruise's vagaries. Unlike Jeff, Lord Cruise doesn't permit…deviations.
She's also the oldest of his body-slaves, clocking in only a year younger than Jensen. The gossip media's made a great deal of it—of them—Lord Cruise's Great Reform. Housewives in flyover country seem to find something especially romantic about it, how she's changed him, his largesse in allowing her to keep and raise her daughter.
Jensen doesn't know if anyone outside of the subscribers of People and Star! believes in Lord Cruise's transformation, but it has recouped his lately tarnished reputation and Jensen doubts that anyone outside of his fellow slaves has done the math to figure that Katie had to have been pregnant with Suri when Lord Cruise bought her.
Too, Jensen guesses there's less than a handful of people in all the world that know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the indulgent smiles Cruise bestows on Suri, to be held with such fierce protective possessiveness, to recognize it for what it is.
"And still a body-slave. Remarkable. Of course, you've aged well," Cruise continues, tucking a finger under Jensen's chin and nudging his face upright, angling Jensen's face back and forth in the light. Angling Jensen's face down. Though he feels like he should have known it already, Jensen realizes that he's several inches taller than Lord Cruise. He fights the impulse to hunch.
"Not that I'm surprised. You must be…what? Thirty-one, thirty-two?"
"Thirty," Jensen answers, quiet without mumbling.
"You were always a very pretty boy."
Looking into Lord Cruise's face has always been dazzling, dizzying, a glance at a sun that burns too bright. It's no less so now that he doesn't belong to the man but Jensen feels less drunk on it, less lost in it, than the last time he was privileged to be this close to the man.
It's an anxious feeling, worrisome. He's unsure if it's because he is no longer Cruise's or because of the years passed or even because he's spackled over the crack in his heart from when Cruise sold him
(though it was not his fault it was his right he can do anything he wants you were flawed fucked up no good)
or maybe something else entirely, something he's too dumbstruck to think of when Lord Cruise is touching him, holding Jensen's face in his hand.
(do you touch Suri like this do you love her like you loved me did you love me do you still?)
"But pretty boys so often turn into disappointing men, don't you find?" Unerringly, Lord Cruise's thumb smudges across the hair fine scar on Jensen's chin. It's all but invisible to the naked eye and yet clearly neither one of them has forgotten its least contour.
Hot prickles break out across Jensen's skin, connecting into supernovas of an emotion he can't name and the pink blush he's never been able to hide or control.
"Lord Cruise." Jeff's voice, though polite, is burred with warning, as is the hand he closes over Lord Cruise's wrist. Jeff's other hand brushes gentle across the small of Jensen's back and, like a circuit completed by the three-way contact, Jensen feels jolted, shocked, humming with sudden tension. He hadn't even noticed Jeff's arrival.
For a moment, Lord Cruise's smile—so genial, so bright—turns into a snarl and the only thing that tells Jensen he didn't imagine it is the memory of the other times he's seen it, passing across Cruise's face with the same deniable lightning swiftness. Then Lord Cruise twists his wrist so he and Jeff are shaking hands and the smile is firmly back in place.
"You must be Jeff Morgan," Cruise says. "I'd heard you'd bought our Jensen, here."
Our Jensen. Jensen registers the words even as he watches Jeff's eyebrows tick up slightly, showing he registered them, too, and Jensen's flash of relief at being rescued melts like spun sugar at how much worse this is, to have Jeff, of all people, facing off against his former master.
Stomach twisting into little Gordian knots, it's another several moments before Jensen really hears—understand—the rest of Cruise's words. Is…? Is he saying—implying—that he's kept track of Jensen?
What the fuck? Jensen thinks. It feels like there should be more, other thoughts behind that one—deeply inappropriate—one, but Jensen can't access them, his head filled with the sandy rush of his own blood through his ears and a crackling white noise like wildfire.
Looking away from the two men, there's a weird feeling of being in a bubble, a reality separate from everything—everyone—else at the party. Jensen is brittle as heat-crisped paper, likely to burst into flame at any second, but outside of their little circle—Lord Cruise and the still crookedly smiling Katie, Jeff, Jeremy and Misha—no one's paying them the least attention, the tidal roar of conversation unbroken except by the clink of glasses and plates and the different sounds of laughter. It's all very normal.
This feels anything but normal.
"And, of course, you're Tom Cruise," Jeff says, that same polite-but-dangerous lilt to his voice. "Your reputation precedes you."
Jensen cringes—on the inside, because he's better trained than to make such an obvious tell—even though Jeff's bland tone leaves nothing from which to obviously take offense. It's enough that he knows what Jeff means by it.
Everything about this makes him want to slink away, hide in some dark corner like one of Jeff's dogs, when they get hurt. Not that he thinks he's capable of moving, afraid of how any gesture, however small, could unbalance the already fragile equation, tip them all into uncut chaos.
"I hope you don't mind me coming over and talking to Jensen," Cruise says. "It's been years since I've seen him—"
"—and I've always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for him." Lord Cruise leans closer to Jeff, as if confiding a secret. "He was the best, you know. The best. A born slave. I've never had another quite as good."
It's everything he's ever wanted Lord Cruise to say to him. Everything he ever wanted to believe—about him, about them—handed to him with the same careless disdain that Cruise would hand off his soiled napkin, after a meal.
And yet, Jensen can't bring himself to feel anything about it, stuck in hand-wringing anxiety, unable to breathe. He can't breathe. Or rather, he knows he's breathing, he can feel his lungs in- and de-flate, his diaphragm twist, but there's no feeling of air in his lungs, his entire body alight with starvation, desperation.
He can't help a reflexive glance at Katie, counterpart and replacement. She returns his look, her habitual cockeyed smile crooking deeper and an expression in her eyes that reminds him of Mary-Louise, both spiteful and amused at his expense.
Lord Cruise's gaze shifts to Jensen; even not looking at the man, Jensen feels it, like sunlight through a magnifying glass, and everything in him stills under that predatory attention.
"You do your best to train them, of course, hold them to a standard, but some part of it is always chance, subject to the slave's malleability, their understanding of their place in the schemes of their betters." Cruise sighs, regretful. "Jensen was always pitch-perfect in that regard. Gifted, really. If not for the damage to his face…"
Cruise reaches for him again and Jensen steels himself for the touch, but Jeff guides him out of the way with the grace of a ballroom dancer, interposing himself between Jensen and Lord Cruise. Someone's fingers brush against the small of Jensen's back, unobtrusive, but he doesn't dare twist around to see if it's Jeremy or Misha, both of them likely to give that small reassurance and to mean it in plural: We've got your back. It's a relief and not.
Glancing through his eyelashes, he sees the brief knit of Lord Cruise's brows. Whether it's for Jeff denying him contact or the memory of when he had the right to touch Jensen when and as he wanted is unknowable. Jensen isn't even sure which he wants it to be, chest aching as if the brief poke Cruise gave him broke some delicate and brittle bone.
In any case, rebuffed, Cruise lets his hand fall on Jeff's shoulder with every evidence that was his intention the entire time. "Even given the damage, it was hard to part with him," Cruise confesses. "But perfection is so essential to what a body-slave does and is. What kind of warped reflection would I give, walking around with a flawed slave? At that point, it doesn't matter how pleasant his manners or pleasing he is in bed. Just that people see you with substandard goods."
There's not a muscle in Jensen's body that could knot any tighter than they are already, but they certainly try, a sour twist like a shudder and a shame so hot it feels cold, freezing. It's not that he didn't know what Lord Cruise thought. Thinks.
"Huh." Jeff idly scruffs his beard, his gift for looking—appearing—country bumpkin unvarnished, even when decked out in a suit as fine as the one Jensen picked out for him. And it is a fine suit. "I guess I fall more into the Rodin school of thought on that one."
"I'm sorry?" Lord Cruise blinks, and for the first time, Katie's smirk crazes like badly cooled glass. Jensen wishes he could feel more satisfied about it.
"Auguste Rodin?" Jeff repeats mildly. "Sculptor. Amazing artist."
"Yes, I'm familiar with the name," Cruise says, the tracery of sharpness only audible to someone who knows him as well as Jensen. "I'm just not sure I get the reference."
"It's our flaws that give us texture," Jeff says, still in the same cool, quietly contemptuous voice. It's the first time Jensen can see Madame Morgan in him, a vein of steel and ice that goes through from the core. "Gives us value. Character. Our scars are the fingerprints of those gods and moments that define us," Jeff continues, and turns his face to show and outline his own scar with one finger.
"Without them we're just…untested clay that may break under the first hand that touches us. Pretty useless if you ask me." Jeff shrugs Lord Cruise's hand off his shoulder and grabs it for another brisk shake and a faint smile. "I did promise Craig that I'd let him take a ride on my new motorcycle, though, and it's bad taste to keep one's host waiting." Jeff doesn't give Lord Cruise the chance to say anything, cutting over anything Cruise might have said with the same slick haste he uses when he doesn't want Sam to say he can't have a second helping of dessert. "Good to finally meet you. It's been…illuminating."
He grabs Jensen by the arm and tugs him away, leaving Lord Cruise with the uncomfortable choice of calling after Jeff's back or letting Jeff have the last word. Jeff's hand is light on Jensen's bicep, but the curt speed of his stride tells its own story and Jensen squirms inwardly with the need to apologize, to grovel. They're halfway across the ballroom's lobby before Jensen unscrambles his brain and voice enough to say, "Jeff. Misha."
Jeff checks so sharply that Jensen almost trips over him, but when Jensen glances back to see if Lord Cruise noticed, of course, he's gone. Better things to do than watch a broken slave or an upstart businessman walk away from him.
The ache deepens, ugly and grating, as they wait, Jeff fuming in silence.
Misha's not hurrying—not that Jensen really expects that he would, not for Jeff. But the other slave's jaw is bunched tight and hard, and he's letting Jeremy lend him an arm, so it's not just bad attitude and bad training.
They'd been alone in the first place because Jeff was off showboating his new softail for Master Ferguson, so the only way Jeff could've returned so promptly is if Misha had gone rushing for him—with his bad leg—nearly the moment Cruise laid hands on Jensen. Knowing Jensen would need to be rescued like the protagonist of some smeary pulp romance.
Another thing he'll have to make amends for.
"I'm sorry," Jensen says, and it's only when he hears the quaver of his own voice that he realizes how hard he's shaking. Cruise had barely touched him and yet every part of him hurts. He wants to go to his knees, rest his forehead against the highly polished tip of Jeff's shoe and let all of this flow out of him in waves of recrimination and apology. But it isn't groveling that Jeff requires from him, it's strength, the ability to stand on his feet like a man. "This is all my fault. I…"
"Jensen, don't." It's sharp, but there's nothing left in Jensen to ratchet any higher, any tighter. He doesn't know how they do this, owners, how they function, feeling like this and still standing tall, unable to release. He doesn't even know what this is, churned up and ugly, jumbled into something unrecognizable.
A moment later, Jeff sighs, an edged, frustrated sound. "I'm not angry at you, sweetheart," he says, curling his fingers around Jensen's nape, pressing the links of Jensen's collar—his new collar—into his skin. The metal of Jeff's bracelet chimes softly against Jensen's chain as they clash lightly. "Okay?"
Jensen nods, but this is his fault, the soft music of the bracelet and collar only a reminder of his hubris, of his incredible arrogance. Everything about today had seemed so incredible, so buoyantly joyous; Jensen had been high on it, giddy, and it feels inevitable that this is the outcome of that. And probably appropriate that Lord Cruise is the one to administer the lesson.
Misha lets Jeremy guide/push/bully him over to a bench tucked discreetly in a cluster of columns and half-falls onto it with a hissing breath. So that's Tom Cruise? Misha asks, tucking his cane against his inseam. What a…
Jensen's grasp of sign language doesn't cover too many obscenities; he doesn't know the sign that Misha uses, but given ASL's expressiveness, he can guess. And he shocks himself by laughing, even with an edge of hysteria.
It's funny; it's exactly the response he'd expect from Misha, who shows precious little patience or respect for anyone. At the same time, it feels further unreal that these men surrounding him, that his master and his master's friend and Misha, who's probably the closest thing to a friend that he's ever had, are upset—not with him, but on his behalf. Not because of his stupidity or reckless arrogance or because he behaved badly, making it necessary for Jeff to step away from his pursuits and involve himself to save Jensen from himself.
But just because Jensen is theirs, belonging to them, part of them, and no one is allowed to fuck with that. Not even Lord Thomas Cruise.
Jensen takes a deep, loud breath that is nothing at all like a sob and leans back into one of the pillars, feeling badly in need of its solidity against his own wavering weakness.
There was a time that events like this—parties—and the people who routinely attended them were the background of his life and he'd fit into it. He'd been perfect, the best. Even Cruise had said so.
Even Cruise said so.
Jensen knew his place, then. Knew what was expected of him and was that. Exactly that. Filling the margins of that role to the hilt.
Being owned by Jeff, being his, means he's no longer part of this world. Like Jeff, he can visit, he can counterfeit and camouflage, but he'll never be part of it again, never again be what Lord Cruise trained him to be.
There's a door closing here. Jensen can see it with abrupt and strangely painful clarity; the choices he's making, to be Jeff's hand, to be what Jeff wants, is sealing him off from that world as solidly as a brick wall, one he'll never be able to tear down again. As much as he meant it a different way, way back when Jeff bought him, he will be as he feared: ruined.
But Jensen thinks…he feels as though he can see some small part of what Jeff has been offering him all this time. A different world, and one that Jensen's unqualified to navigate, but not necessarily a bad world. A world he can learn, given the time…and the inclination.
"You okay?" Jeff asks, brushing across Jensen's cheek, the product stiffened bristles of his hair.
Jeff would sell him, if Jensen asked. If Jensen unclasped the bracelet from around Jeff's wrist—Jesus, he wore it in public—and said, Let me go.
On the other hand: a world that has Jeff in it. Wanting him, needing him. Loving Jensen with the same sloppy and boundless enthusiasm of his dogs. Giving Jensen his trust in a way he hasn't with any of his other slaves. Not even Kane.
"Of course," Jensen agrees automatically, because it's what he's trained to say.
Then: "I don't know."
Jeff huffs quietly, looking at Jensen with arms crossed, like he wants to touch Jensen and isn't sure Jensen can take it.
Misha snorts, mostly to get their attention, Jensen suspects, turning his head. Of course he's not all right. That was practically a Closing inspection!
"It wasn't that bad," Jensen says, the need to look at Misha giving him every excuse to avoid Jeff's concerned gaze.
Yes. It was.
"Mish." Jeremy has been uncharacteristically quiet, strangely subdued, even given his obvious concern for Misha's damaged leg.
He nudges Misha's shoulder with a freshly retrieved bottle of water and a fisted hand of pills. Misha glares at Jeremy, clearly suspecting the timing of the interruption as much as Jensen does, but he takes the medicine and the water, cracking the bottle open with hands only slightly more steady than Jensen's. Jensen wonders if it's pain or whether he was that worried about what Cruise would do to Jensen.
It was, Misha signs again, one-handed, defiantly, as he chases the pills with water.
"Do you want to go home?" Jeff asks, with timing as suspicious as Jeremy's, as Jensen draws in breath to deny it again. The question is soft, pitched to exclude Jeremy and Misha, but Jensen can't imagine they don't know what Jeff's asking. It's probably what they're all thinking, handling him with kid gloves, like something friable, something fragile.
Jensen shakes his head. "No." He straightens, wills himself to stop trembling like a windblown leaf. He's not fragile and he's not going to behave like a fainting maiden with the vapors just because he ran into Tom Cruise. "No, I'm okay."
They all look skeptical—and who can blame them?—but Jensen shakes his head again, reassures them a second time: "I mean it. It was a shock, I won't lie, but that's all it was. Just a shock. I'm okay."
"Well, I want something to drink," Jeremy speaks up, still sounding overly quiet and weird, "or something to smoke. Maybe both." Jeremy's gaze flicks away when Jensen looks at him—which isn’t, of itself, all that unusual—but Jensen also doesn't have to stare to know Jeremy's off. Is that his fault, too? Has he wronged Jeremy as solidly as he's done with Jeff and Misha?
Would anyone say so, if it was?
"Here you are!" Between his accent and natural inclination, Craig Ferguson has a way of seeming overjoyed to see you, regardless of the circumstances, but Jensen thinks that in Jeff's case, it's a pleasure unfeigned. "I was starting to wonder if you'd left, except I know you'd never go without your bike and your boy and I had at least one of the two." Ferguson waggles his eyebrows. "Wouldn't mind taking a ride on the other, if I didn't know what a jealous cuss you are."
With most other people, those words, however idly put, would twist Jensen's stomach in knots, the possibility—and memories—of being passed around too vivid, but, for whatever reason, Jensen can't take Ferguson too seriously. The man flirts with everyone and everything as unconsciously as he breathes and without any particular attraction in his eyes or body language when he looks at Jensen. Jeff, on the other hand…
Jensen wonders if Jeff and Master Ferguson have had sex before. Other than those who are also slaves, Jeff seems to have slept his way through most of his friends, a thought that creates no particular jealousy on Jensen's part; like Jeff, Master Ferguson has fought his way up from relative insignificance to increasing success. Jeff will eventually need to marry, however unpalatable he finds it now, and Ferguson would be a good match, a good combination of assets, diversifying MI into several new fields.
In any case, the comment makes Jeff wince, if not Jensen, makes Jeff draw defensively closer to Jensen, fingers curling around Jensen's nape. Jensen leans back into the touch, reassuring himself as much as Jeff.
Ferguson notes Jeff's flinch, hmming under his breath before he asks, "Bad time?"
"Bad time," Jeff agrees.
"Well," Ferguson says, throwing an arm around Jeff's shoulders. "Let's turn that around."
The balcony patio Master Ferguson leads them to is only steps from the party, but the doors have been papered over and blocked off by a cluster of potted palms. Ferguson unlocks the door with a key produced from his waistcoat pocket and hustles them through with the rapid efficiency of a military stealth team, then locks it behind them.
It's clearly a strategic retreat, and one Ferguson planned for, because the patio is already set up for occupancy with a stocked bar, a firepit—both portable—and a number of wrought iron lawn chairs in a semi-circle of gold-lit lanterns.
"All the comforts of home," Master Ferguson announces brightly, going to the bar and fiddling around with the bottles. "What'll you have?"
"Just beer," Jeff says, most of his attention still for/on Jensen, standing close though the only point of contact is Jeff's hand light on Jensen's shoulder, his thumb stroking along the muscle.
Jensen jumps, not expecting to be addressed or asked. But Ferguson is definitely looking at him. Conscious of Jeff's worry—and how much he doesn't want to deal with it—Jensen stammers, "Um. Water—may I have some water, please?"
Ferguson's gaze shifts back to Jeff. "God, don't tell me you've taken up with a teetotaler, have you?" he demands, stricken. "Kane, at least, knew how to appreciate a good scotch."
Jeff shrugs. "I honestly don't know if Jensen's a teetotaler or not," he says, with a speculative glance at Jensen that makes Jensen's pulse jump-kick another couple notches. "But he asked for water," Jeff continues, unaware. "So water it'll be."
As they ring around the merrily blazing firepit, it occurs to Jensen that he doesn't know if he's a teetotaler or not. Before Jeff, every sip of liquid, alcoholic or otherwise, that crossed his lips was chosen for him, every drug he's ever tried dispensed by owners that didn't want to party alone or wanted to amuse themselves.
Would he like to sit down and have a scotch with Jeff like Kane does, after a long, hard day of work? When Master Ferguson, Jeremy and Jeff inevitably spark up and pass the joint or the bowl around in a circle, what'll happen if he reaches for it? If he inhales thick, piney clouds of pot with the intent of sucking it into his own lungs, rather than transferring it to Jeff?
Why are you even thinking about this? Jensen wonders, twisting his unopened bottle of water between his hands, condensation bleeding off onto his palms. What does it matter? Do you think Jeff wants you to smoke and drink with him?
He cracks off the bottle's cap and considers the question. It's his duty, to consider what Jeff wants, but it feels…wrong, thinking about it. Not because he has any strong feelings about what Jeff does or doesn't want in that regard, but because it doesn't feel like the reason he's wondering about it in the first place.
His chest still feels tight and the water isn't doing a thing to ease it, though it's nice and cold. He should be paying attention to the conversation. He should be paying attention to Jeff. And instead, he's what? Jensen doesn't even know. Seething, maybe. Sulking.
He thinks again about what Lord Cruise said: He was the best, you know. I've never had another quite as good.
Did he really say that? Jensen wonders. Why would he say that?
If that was ever true, Jensen's not so sure it is anymore, the shiny worn off of him as surely as his youth.
You must be…what? Thirty-one, thirty-two?
So why had Cruise said it? Mere sentimentality doesn't track; everything Lord Cruise does is calculated, everything. But Jensen is a bug to him, less than a bug, and Jeff isn't much higher on the food chain, comparatively speaking. There's nothing Cruise wants from them, nothing he needs. Why approach Jensen at all?
Hey. Misha leans across the gap between the chaises they share with their respective masters, tugging on Jensen's arm. It's okay, you know.
What's okay? Jensen signs back, with a nervous glance at Jeff and Master Ferguson, though neither one of them is paying the least attention to him, deep in some argument about the merits of American beer. Jeremy looks like he might be sleeping, eyes closed, long legs sticking off the end of the chair and his head in Misha's lap, but his body language isn't relaxed enough for actual sleep, like Pickles, minus twitchy ears.
To feel angry.
"I'm not angry," Jensen denies aloud, before Misha can even finish forming the words. He flinches immediately after, both from the fear of interrupting and being overheard as much as from hearing himself, his own voice, rough and definitive in a way that might as well signal insecurity here!
I'm not angry, he says again, this time quietly and with his hands. Jeff and Craig don't stop talking, but Jeff's hand covers Jensen's knee unobtrusively, thumb circling the knob of bone. Jeremy's not the only cat here.
No? Even in the flickering unreal light of the lamps and fire, the raised-eyebrow skepticism on Misha's face is beacon bright.
Jensen's face heats again, the denial rising to his mouth a second time. He hesitates over it, though, considering, testing the sour vortex in his stomach.
It's not anger, he says again, slowly. I don't know what it is. Jensen knuckles his chest, like he can somehow massage it loose. I wish I did know. He nods toward Jeremy. What's wrong with him?
Misha's touch, the tangle of his long fingers in the lengthening curls of Jeremy's hair is protective. Nothing. He's tired. Misha shakes his head. Don't change the subject.
There's nothing else to say about it. You're making something out of nothing.
You can be angry, Misha says again. You can love him and be angry.
Jensen frowns. I don't love him. Jeff. I belong to Jeff. I love Jeff. The slap of his fingers against each other is getting loud, too emphatic. And I'm not angry.
Misha snorts through his nose. You've been a body-slave this long… Hell, you've been with Jeff this long and you think you can only love one person at a time?
Jensen doesn't think Misha means to tighten his fingers in Jeremy's hair again, but he does so hard enough that Jeremy frowns and hums in displeasure, reaching up to encircle Misha's wrist. Misha pets him in apology, their gestures familiar, comfortable.
Jensen looks down at his mostly empty bottle of water set between his feet, tucking his feet in to make the thin plastic crinkle. He was my master, Jensen says. It's as difficult to sign as any of the admissions or confessions he's made to Cate. He was all and everything I had.
He doesn't know if Misha had that, with Vincent. They had decades together, but the nature of their relationship—and the nature of Misha's duties for Vincent—were so different. Jensen doesn't entirely understand how they worked and Misha doesn't really like to talk about Vincent, any more than Jensen talks about his previous owners. It's easier for both of them to keep it abstract.
Misha's hands flutter and he inhales as though he's going to say something…and then he seems to think better of it, the flickery light making his normally expressive eyes less readable. Not anymore, he says finally.