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An Inch More Room To Self-Destruct

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Once upon a time in California, Jensen had to watch a room full of people clear out at Misha's say-so. No one put up a fight and no one asked what was going on at all. They just headed for the exits because Misha told them, excuse me, please, all of you, but I need to talk to Jensen in private for just a hot second, okay?

Considering they were all there to give Misha an intervention—a process that, as Jensen understood it, was best carried out with more people there to make sure it went down without any explosions—Jensen thought that someone would have an objection to this idea. Jensen thought that maybe Danneel, drummer in The Wutherings, their three-person band, would want to stick around to make sure that their lead singer-cum-guitarist wasn't just trying to get out of talking about all of his issues. He thought that Matt would've wanted to hang around, as Misha's friend and his former bandmate from back when they were in 96 Tears, the world's biggest boy band.

But everyone cleared out, Danneel closed the door behind them, and they left Jensen sitting in the aching silence, acutely aware how heavy his breaths came out, how labored and how fat they sounded next to Misha's shallower ones. As though they could sound like anything else—Jensen was pushing three-hundred pounds and when Misha scrambled over on the sofa, wriggled around to straddle Jensen's lap, he had to negotiate around Jensen's round, squishy belly. Even with a comfortable position, even with how much weight Misha had lost by this point, he pressed up against Jensen's stomach and sunk into the flab of Jensen's massive thighs, straddling them with his legs splayed so much it had to hurt.

If Jensen had been a filmmaker instead of a pianist, he might've been able to do something with the visual contrast of their bodies so close together—skinny little Misha brushing his bony fingers all over Jensen's soft chest, groping at the rolls of pudge along Jensen's waist and hips. Maybe Jensen could've done something with the shadows under Misha's eyes or with the ones that his hollow cheekbones cast on his face. But instead, he got to drop his hands to Misha's thighs and feel how insubstantial they'd gotten. He got to hear the dry, discordant quality of Misha's voice as he croaked,

"This isn't fair, Jenny. What all are you helping them with this for?" He shook out his head before Jensen could say anything to that, before he could even open his mouth, and heaved a sigh. Went on and said, "If I need help, then you do, too—god dammit, you're supposed to understand that I don't need help, remember?"

Jensen flushed pink, and rolled his eyes, and, for a moment, considered telling Misha to go fuck himself. "I'm not the one who's got an eating disorder," he said, despite the sinking feeling in his chest that screamed, no, really, maybe you do after all. "Just because I get how you feel doesn't mean that I'm gonna let you keep doing this to yourself, Meesh. I can't do that. I won't do that. Nothing you can say's gonna make me change my mind about how you need help. Did you even eat anything yet this week?"

"I don't need help," Misha scoffed as though Jensen just told him to put on different shoes before hitting the red carpet. "And I sure as Hell don't need to go to some, 'feel your feelings and then also eat them' fucking rehab."

Jensen flinched, swallowed thickly—he couldn't help it, when Misha had to go on about eating feelings, the same thing he always said about Jensen when he got eating, eating, eating, and couldn't stop—but even with sweat beading up on the back of his neck, he locked his eyes on Misha. Put a hand down on Misha's thigh and squeezed something that mostly felt like bone with maybe a bit of muscle grafted on. "Look, I know you think I'm in league with the bad guys here," he said, "but it's like Matt said. We're all only doing this because we love you, and because you're killing yourself, and because we just—"

"Because you just want to make sure that I stay alive for yet another miserable day. Because you just care about me so much that you don't want to see me fall over dead because I'm not eating enough. Because you just a lot of things, I don't know." Misha ducked his chin and for a long, quiet moment, he looked so much younger than twenty-eight, so vulnerable and lost—when he looked back up, his eyes went wide and watered. "Why can't any of you even try to understand what this is like for me?"

"I'm trying to understand, Misha, I really am—but y'know what I really understand about everything right now?" Jensen paused, waited for Misha to consider things and shake his head. "What I really understand about everything right now's that you need help—please, just go for the sixty days and let them help you, okay? It's just two months, it'll practically be like going on vacation…"

"Yeah, because the thing I really want while I'm trying to get better from this mythical problem that I don't really have is a bunch of fucking paparazzi swarming my rehab clinic, trying to snap a shot of me while I'm outside or whatever the Hell those vultures think they're doing."

Misha had a point—Jensen couldn't even begin to think about arguing that—but even as his lungs twisted up with guilt, he pulled out some bullshit about how security at the clinic was really good, how they'd keep the paparazzi far away from Misha's recovery. It might not have actually been bullshit, he had no idea at that point, but nothing mattered as much as getting Misha to go. That, and how hungry Jensen felt.

***

Two months later, when Misha came back home from his rehab, they'd both put on thirty pounds, and thanks to Misha's former boy band heartthrob status, it seemed like that's all the papers can talk about. The only difference between them was that Misha looked healthier, hardier, less skeletal and less in danger of falling over in a strong breeze. Jensen just looked fat. Fatter, even.

And while the tabloids raved about how good it was that Misha gained weight and nominally gotten better, all they could do about Jensen is speculate about why he couldn't stop eating. He topped out all of the year's Hot to Not lists, and one walk out on Malibu with Misha landed him in a worst beach bodies collage, as well.

Which really, really didn't help the near constant, lingering sensation of emptiness that ached in Jensen's chest and in his stomach, or the nagging hungry feeling that he always had—still always has. Not to mention the problem of how, anymore, he was always eating something.

Not that Jensen blamed the tabloids for what they said about him—not that he really had any room for objections. It sucked harder than anything else Jensen could think of, sure it did, and it made his heart writhe around in his chest, and it always wound up with him eyes-deep in a pile of sweets or mindlessly reaching into bag after bag of potato chips or making the day's third run to McDonald's or Starbucks. Pints of ice cream found themselves all but inhaled, boxes of chocolate bars met the same fate, and enormous milkshakes never stood a chance. All of it found a home in Jensen's ballooning stomach and the weight kept piling on, filling out Jensen's round face with extra chins and his hips and thighs with extra flab.

And the worst part out of everything was how Jensen couldn't stop. No matter how many times Jensen told himself that he was going to eat like a normal person today, something always got in the way of that, tripped him up like he had two left feet and his shoelaces tied together.

Something always had to happen—their last single would drop two spots on the damn Billboard Hot 100, or Misha would seem fussy about the idea of eating anything at all, or another rotten piece of tabloid trash would come out, speculating about Jensen's weight. Or worse, he'd weigh himself—usually in the name of getting on a good diet, getting back down to the one-eighty range—and put a number on just how fat he was letting himself become.

For the most part, the only thing he got out of weighing himself? Was a one-way ticket into a quart of ice cream, burying himself in chocolatey goodness because the inescapable fact of the matter was that he was too big to play his guitar, and to be allowed.

The underlying truth of everything smacked Jensen upside the head one afternoon in March, about three months after Misha got out of rehab. He was seeming better overall, for the most part, if overly preoccupied with a tabloid and a Sharpie marker while they were supposed to be watching Star Trek together. Or working on new music, except for how they worked at that all day. No dice, but they still worked on it all day—and besides, Jensen could hardly criticize Misha when he wasn't paying that much attention to the episode, either.

While Misha wouldn't look up from his scribbling, Jensen could barely pry himself out of his pint of ice cream. Tonight's fifth pint of Ben and Jerry's. He wasn't even fully aware of eating it—he just kept spooning it down, mouthful after mouthful after mouthful.

He only even paused when he heard Misha pipe up and say, "Jen, you know that I love you like a brother, don't you?"

Jensen blinked down at the back of Misha's head—for a moment, it was all he could do. "Of course I know that," he said, and felt his spoon scrape along the bottom of the container. "Why're you even asking me if I know that? Why wouldn't I know that?"

Misha shrugged and turned around to look up at Jensen. Underneath his shock of dark hair, his whole face paled and his eyes looked flat, half-dead. "Because I'm just thinking about some conversations that I had with people in the clinic. About how there are a lot of different food-related manifestations of different coping mechanisms."

"And?" Jensen snapped more than he meant to—mostly because he didn't mean to snap at all—and shoveled another heaping spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough and sweet cream into his mouth. He swallowed without tasting it much. "What's your point about that?"

Misha furrowed his brow, narrowed his eyes a bit, and huffed. "My point is that I really don't think I'm off about you having an eating disorder. Like recognizes like and all that shit." He turned back to scribbling all over the tabloid. "It's just a thought, Jensen. Maybe one you should think about—either way, I think we need to seriously consider getting the fuck out of Hollywood. Los Angeles might seriously be killing us."

"I think what I need, more than anything else, is to get a new fucking shrink. That's it. Might save my fucking life."

"What might save your fucking life is getting the Hell out of Los Angeles. Moving somewhere quieter, somewhere the paparazzi won't come follow us…" Misha heaved a sigh and set his Sharpie down. "You think I'm joking about this, Jensen, but I'm really, really not. Just like how you're really, really not as okay as you want people to think you are. Do you have any idea how much I worry about coming home and finding you dead at the piano? Or in your bedroom? Or wherever? Suicide or heart attack—those are my top two guesses, most of the time. And I just wish you'd talk about what's really on your mind, instead of killing yourself. And anyway, you're gonna make yourself sick if you eat any more of those."

Jensen didn't have anything to say to that. The only thing he felt at all came up as he went for another spoonful of ice cream and came up with an empty pint—and that feeling? Was just an overwhelming wave of disgust.

God, he was such a fucking pig—he couldn't even remember how much he'd eaten before the five pints of ice cream—and he was worrying Misha on top of that? Making Misha think that he was some heart attack waiting to happen—which, goddamn it all, Jensen probably was. Not that he could really say for sure—he wasn't a doctor or anything like that—but God, Misha was probably right. And there was only one thing for it, at least that Jensen could see.

Without saying a word to Misha, he thundered down the hallway to the bathroom and locked the door behind him. Before Jensen even knew what was going on, he was on his knees, gagging himself with a toothbrush, his only thoughts, get it up, get all of it up, get it all up now.

The vomit and the bile came up almost too easily, chunks of half-digested food and stomach acid—even as he choked everything up, felt his throat burn like he was going to die, Jensen couldn't help thinking that this really should've been harder to do. When he had nothing left to get up, he stayed down there for a while, heaving deep breaths and watching his fingers tremble—had he really just done that? Made himself throw up on purpose? And had it really felt… good?

As he pried his fat ass up off the floor, Jensen couldn't make his hands stop shaking. Even as he rinsed off the toothbrush in the sink, he couldn't get them to calm down, not even a little bit. His breaths were shaky, too, but he brushed his teeth in silence and tried to ignore the nagging thought that maybe, Misha was right. Because no, no, no—Misha couldn't be right. Jensen didn't have a problem; this was just a one-time thing. He'd only done this once.

But maybe, Jensen thought as he blinked at his reflection—maybe Misha was right about one thing. Maybe Los Angeles was really killing them.

***

So they move. They sell the house in LA to some up-and-coming actress they've never met before, they pack everything up, and they move to a little town in middle of nowhere, Illinois called Denton Falls. Danneel gets her own place, shacking up with Vicki, an old friend from her days at Siege And Gamble College, while Jensen and Misha move in together.

They set up a recording studio in the basement, not that they use it all that much—some poking at the keys here for Jensen, a little strumming chords and idle singing from Misha, cobbling together a few songs over the three years that pass, but for the most part, they just relax.

Or, well, Misha seems like he's relaxing anyway—Jensen doesn't have that kind of luxury, not until he loses all the weight that Los Angeles put on him. So he gets a treadmill, sets it up on the second floor, and even uses it pretty regularly. Not quite every day, the way he means to do, but a couple times a week, at least.

Not that it really matters because he still has that problem, the same one with the food, the one where he can't stop eating, sometimes. Even putting his feelings out there more often, the way that Misha wants him to do, sometimes, Jensen just can't help it—he'll be doing fine for days and thinking he's really got the problem beaten this time, until he ends up in the same old place: eating until he has to puke.

Despite this issue, small town life suits Jensen just fine, and so does slipping out of the public eye. He doesn't have to put up with any cameramen stalking him when he goes out to do the grocery shopping anymore. No one camps outside of his and Misha's place or Java Hut, the coffee-shop where Jensen finds the best brews and, much to his chagrin, the best mixed cream drink concoctions.

He gets on his own ass about drinking them, every single time—makes himself use the treadmill twice as long as normal to compensate for all the calories—but sometimes, Jensen can't bring himself to do that. Sometimes, his knees ache or his chest feels heavy with how much he hates his body—hates himself—so instead, he finds himself on the bathroom floor with a toothbrush digging into the back of his throat. It wasn't, he guesses, a one-time thing.

Jensen knows what this is and he knows what it means—the phrase, "eating disorder" comes to mind right off—but it's got to be at least kind of different for him, right? He's not like Misha, where he's losing weight that he doesn't need to lose, all berating himself for eating the smallest things and really, honest to God hurting himself.

Jensen's fat. No two ways about it. He needs to lose the weight, and that means he doesn't have a problem. How can he have a problem when he's just looking after what needs to be done? Simple logic, and better yet, the weight comes off. Some of it does, anyway.

***

Jensen meets Jared Padalecki at Java Hut, about a year after moving to Denton Falls, on a day when his weight's trying to go on an upswing again. After whittling his way down to two-fifty, he weighs in at two-fifty-five that morning and when he shows up to the coffee-shop for his morning brew, he's silently kicking himself over letting himself put any kind of weight back on.

Even just five pounds constitutes a huge slip-up on Jensen's part—even just five pounds means letting himself get too fat to play his guitar again—and as he's staring down at the eagle's eye view of his stomach, trying to figure how much he can suck it in without losing his breath, Jensen totally misses the line moving up ahead of him. He totally misses everything until one of the baristas calls out, "Hey! Do you want to order or not?"

She's a tiny little woman with long blonde hair and an impatient expression smeared on her otherwise pretty face. She looks so much smaller next to the other barista, who's easily a good six-five. He towers over Jensen, at least, and he's got an apron and a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Wonder Woman stretched tight over his broad, muscular torso. Worse than that, though, is his enormous, beaming grin. Or maybe his hazel eyes. Or maybe the way he has his hair tied back in a ponytail. Or maybe his egregious cheekbones—seriously, he could model with a face like that.

Jensen's not sure what's the worst part about this guy, but he sure zones out to looking at the guy's face as he wanders up to the register and puts in an order for a huge black coffee, the biggest size they'll give him.

Once he gets it, Jensen takes a seat at his favorite table, the one in the back that's closest to the bathroom and furthest away from anyone who could interject on his writing. He scribbles down lyrics, or ideas for them, and tries not to pay too much attention to how the cute, tall barista keeps coming over to refill his mug. He tries not to think about asking the cute, tall barista out or talking to him at all—not least because a guy like that, even if he's into guys, is probably never hard-up for a date, ever. He's too good looking to be so hard-up that he'd ever think about dating a guy like Jensen in a million years.

Which is to say, "a guy with a weight problem and a shrink he sees twice a week and a soft, flabby gut that spills out into his lap when he sits down." No, guys like Cute Barista have something called standards.

But after a few hours and a couple different refills, Cute Barista comes back to Jensen's table with a scone. Jensen tries to point out that he didn't order one, but it doesn't take. Cute Barista just smiles and sets the plate down by Jensen, takes a seat in the chair that's nominally saved for Misha, assuming he's ever going to show. Jensen says he's saving it for his friend, but Cute Barista just says that he won't be here that long.

"Okay," Jensen huffs and looks up from his notebook. Maybe he shouldn't engage with this guy, but if he's going to anyway, then at least he should be polite about it. "Can I help you with something? Or have I just overstayed my welcome?"

"Not at all," the guy says, furrowing his brow as though Jensen's a particularly nonsensical piece of modern art. "I just thought, like. You've been here practically since we opened and you haven't eaten anything… You look like you're sort of hard at work on something. I thought maybe you could use some brain fuel."

"So you just up and decided to bring me over a scone I didn't pay for? Won't that kind of thing get you in trouble with your supervisor?" Jensen arches an eyebrow—there's pretty much no way he can think of that would explain this guy's cavalier attitude.

Except for maybe a shrug and the simple statement, "Well, considering I co-own the place, probably not."

Jensen's eyes nearly bug out of his skull. "You? You co-own… so what are you doing working behind the counter, then?"

Another shrug. "I like to be a hands-on owner. Besides, my sister Genevieve handles most of the actual money stuff. And somebody needs to balance out Katie. She comes on a bit strong sometimes." He cocks his head back toward the counter, where the blonde woman's taking someone's order.

"Alright, alright, maybe I'm a little bit hungry," Jensen admits, feeling his stomach, as if on cue, sour and start to gnaw at his insides. "But you should probably get back to work, right?"

"Not just yet," the guy says and holds his hand out. "Hi, I'm Jared—and I'd really like to take you out to dinner sometime."

"You don't even know my name," Jensen points out and gives the hand a skeptical look. For a moment, he gets a rush out of saying that—the idea that no one in this town knows who he is (or who he used to be, or… whoever) makes his heart flutter around his chest—but it all comes crashing down when he looks back up at Jared's face, sees an expression that wouldn't look out of place on an orphaned puppy. "Which isn't me saying no, by the way… I'm just saying."

"Maybe I don't know your name yet," Jared says and nods. "But I'd really like to know it. And I'd really like to take you out to dinner. And maybe a movie? You know, if you want."

Jensen sighs and sets his pen down on his notebook. One date, he decides, is not very likely to kill him—he can stomach one date with this Jared guy. Even if it involves eating dinner.

***

The issue with one date, though, is that Jensen really likes it. Jared takes him to a little Italian place a few blocks from Java Hut, some family owned restaurant where they know Jared by name and make sure to treat the pair of them as though they're family themselves.

Never mind the issues with the food—never mind how many calories and carbs are in the fried calamari and Jensen's chicken parmesan, never mind how long Jensen has to spend in the bathroom once Jared takes him home and how he's certain that he didn't puke everything up quickly enough—the whole thing is just… really, really nice.

The issue with one date is that it quickly becomes two, and then three, and then five. The issue with one date is that more dates keep coming. The issue with one date is that, somehow, Jensen wakes up one morning to the realization that he and Jared have been seeing each other for almost two years. Their two-year anniversary looms, about two weeks away.

Somehow, someday, Jensen knows that Jared's going to wake up and realize that he deserves so much better than some fat-ass songwriter with a maybe eating disorder. And, really, it's almost cruel, the way the universe keeps dangling the threat of an imminent breakup over Jensen's head. Why can't Jared just smell the coffee already? Isn't that supposed to be part of his fucking job?

***

Jensen weighs himself this morning, just like every morning, first thing he does after his jog on the treadmill and his shower. He writes down the facts and figures in his journal as soon as he's dried off and back in his bedroom. Today, he weighs in at two-forty-five, the same as he did yesterday morning and the day before that, and two pounds less than three days ago. Which is a good sign, because it means that he's lost thirty pounds since this latest upswing set him back to two-seventy-five.

Looking in the mirror, though, Jensen still sees a fat man. Not that he isn't still fat anyway—he might've lost a whole bunch of weight, a hundred and twenty-five pounds from his highest point, as of today, but nevertheless, he's pretty fat. It's just that past all the residue on the bathroom mirror, and past the image of his flabby gut and double-chin, Jensen still sees someone who happens to be much bigger. He still sees the guy he was before he got his shit together—inasmuch as he can be said to have his shit together. Which really isn't all that much.

Next should be breakfast, for some value thereof. Egg whites and celery sticks are pretty standard fare, for as much as Jensen hates the celery's stringy texture and the way it catches in his teeth. Momma would probably kill him if she knew that this is all he tends to eat in the morning—she always says that a good breakfast (meaning a big one) was the start to any good day—but there's too much temptation around, everywhere that Jensen goes. Too much potential for him to screw up and eat something bad, like he did last night. But breakfast should be fine, except for—

"Jensen!" …except for Misha's voice, shouting at him, and except for Misha banging on the bathroom door. "Jensen, hurry up in there—Danneel's coming over soon, I still need a shower too, and I've got big news to talk about once she gets here."

***

When Danneel comes over and they get together around the kitchen table to hear Misha's big news, Jensen can't even bring himself to make his egg whites and celery sticks, much less eat them. And maybe that's for the better, anyway, it occurs to him as he wraps his trembling hands around a mug of coffee. He doesn't say as much, because he knows how sick and how not-good it all sounds, but even if he could afford to eat something, his nerves probably wouldn't let him. When Misha says, 'big news,' it could be just about anything. Jensen's stomach won't settle down from the thought of all that possibility.

Waiting for Misha to get out of the shower is such a fucking mood-killer, on top of that, because Jensen would rather deal with Misha being kind of dirty than wait around, not knowing what this big news is or what he's supposed to think about it. And Jensen has to deal with Danneel watching him drink his coffee, with Danneel probably waiting for him to slip up and eat something in her presence—yeah, they're friends, but everybody probably talks about what a self-engorging fat-ass he is when Jensen's not around to hear it, and last he checked, Danneel belongs to the group known as, "everybody."

Danneel arches one of her finely plucked eyebrows at him and asks if he really thinks that coffee constitutes a full breakfast—"Because that's a total Misha at his worst sort of move, sweetheart, and I for one don't think it's really okay or good for you or anything like that"—but what does she know? Jensen made a pig of himself last night and he probably didn't get all of it up when he made himself puke. Six of the empty ice cream tubs stick up out of the trashcan, all but outright waving at Jensen and mocking him with the fact that they exist and he let himself screw up and eat them all, never mind how he choked them down in the space of a few hours.

"Sweetie, I'm serious," Danneel says with a sigh, reaching over to curl a hand around Jensen's wrist. She gives him a gentle squeeze and, unfortunately for the knot in Jensen's stomach, an earnest furrow of her brow. "Skipping meals isn't really going to help you lose any weight—it's just going to make you tired, and cranky, and hungrier later."

"I don't wanna talk about it," Jensen mumbles and nudges her hand off so he can take a deep swig of his coffee. "The diet's fine, and I'm not skipping meals. I swear. I just… I'm not really all that hungry right now, okay?"

She narrows her eyes at him for a moment, then sighs. She shakes out her mass of auburn hair and tells him, "Well, you still need to eat sometime. It's kind of one of those important things in life—"

"Yeah, important for who?" Jensen snaps more than he really means to, and he sighs when she gives him this weird-looking, hurt and confused expression, all wide-eyed and brow-knotted. "I'm sorry, Danny, I didn't mean to get all… upset or whatever at you. I just meant that, like… Maybe eating's more important to somebody who's actually hungry, but since I'm not, it's just okay for me to not eat. To not eat right now, I mean."

"Oh, definitely, and I wasn't trying to feed you against your will or anything? So, sorry if I came off as meddling or whatever." She shrugs and squeezes his wrist another time, lets go and takes her hand back, just like everybody eventually lets go of Jensen. "I'm just… not really worried, I guess? But concerned. Yeah, that's it, I'm concerned about you, hon. 'cause anymore, it seems like I never see you eat or drink anything that isn't coffee."

"I eat things other than coffee." Jensen can't help pouting, or hunching his shoulders as though this will actually protect him from whatever Danneel's playing at, whatever she thinks she's getting at by asking questions like this and couching all the shit coming out of her mouth as her being concerned. "I mean, so maybe I'm not really okay? But I'm as okay as I can be, considering everything—"

"Well, considering what, exactly? Because, 'considering everything' is pretty vague as far as vocalizing your problems goes."

"What are you now, my shrink?" Jensen rolls his eyes right back at Danneel and shakes his head. "I just mean… considering that I'm a huge fat-ass whose boyfriend is way too good for him, and who probably isn't going to have that boyfriend for too much longer because Jared's way too good for me, and sometimes, just looking at him makes me feel sick. Because I don't deserve him, but he's inexplicably with me anyway, and I don't understand any of it."

Finally admitting it out loud… This is the first time Jensen's actually said any of this to someone else. And putting words to how he feels all the time anyway, it's weird. He rubs his thumb along the warm ceramic of his mug and sighs, and tries to think of something—anything—that he can say to maybe make this any better. To soften the blow, even just a little bit. To maybe get him back on Danneel's good side and make her think that he's somewhat less of a head-case.

Not like she didn't know that he's a head-case before he opened up his big, fat mouth, but as Jensen tongues his lips and drops his eyes down to the table, he's certain that she has to think so much less of him now. How couldn't she think less of him, after that? Never mind the sick, guilty twisting in his stomach and the feeling like he's cheating on somebody that he really loves. Why would he even feel like that, for just telling her the truth? It makes about as much sense as the lyrics Danneel writes when she's had a couple drinks.

But nothing comes to mind, and anyway, Danneel wrinkles her nose at him like he's just suggested that coconuts migrate. "Has Jared said anything like that to you?"

She has the upward inflection down pat, but she's not really asking a question. She's asking whether or not Jensen can recognize unhealthy patterns and behaviors when they're staring him in the face. Which would probably be a super-useful line of inquiry, if Jared were really the source of all these anxieties, but regardless of whatever she thinks she's thinking—

"No, God no—Jared would never say anything like that, I mean—come on, Danny, what part of too good means that Jared would actually say shit like that?" Jensen huffs and pointlessly cards his pudgy, sausage fingers back through his hair. "He doesn't have to say shit like that, though. I mean, I already know it, so what'd the point in him telling me be?"

Danneel sighs, and looks like she's about to say something particularly vitriolic, but before she can open her mouth, Misha swans out into the kitchen, singing "Tainted Love" at the top of his lungs. And because he's fresh from a shower, he's only in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, the former hanging off his pointy shoulders and the latter slung low on his bony hips, revealing a slip of nonexistent tummy. Revealing the skin where Misha should, by all rights, have some kind of… something. Anything but what he actually has, which is a whole lot of nothing. Even nominally in recovery, Misha's so infuriatingly skinny, seemingly without any effort on his part. Jensen kind of hates him for that.

Not that he really hates Misha, because Misha's his best friend—the best friend he's ever had, in fact—but he kind of hates Misha. He hates how Misha's skinny. He hates how Misha only goes on one run every day and still stays slim. He hates how Misha's stomach doesn't pooch out on him, not even a little bit, not even when he sits down with his coffee and announces, once again, that he has big news to share.

"Yeah, do you maybe wanna disclose what that big news is, Pretty Boy?" Danneel arches an eyebrow at him, then at Jensen, as if to ask if both of them are sick or something, because it's apparently suspicious that they're both drinking coffee. "Because I don't have all day here and I bet Jensen doesn't either."

"I dunno," Jensen says just to be contrary and scratches at the back of his neck. Just to drive the point home, he curls his lip at Danneel and shrugs like hey, what do I know. "I don't have all day, I guess, but all I was planning to do was work on some music… Maybe scribble down a few lyrics or something—"

"I know you, Jensen. You're planning to sit around Java Hut with your notebook until your boyfriend decides he's done working and comes over to make starry eyes at you—"

"Maybe he is, maybe he's not," Misha says over the rim of his mug, downs a long sip of his coffee. "I don't really care what he wants to do with the rest of the day as long as he doesn't object to the news I've got."

"Which you still haven't told us what it is—"

"We've got a gig." Misha lets those four little words linger in the air for a long, silent moment, just drinking his coffee as though nothing's going on, as though he hasn't just dropped that bomb on him. And when Danneel asks him what the Hell he's talking about, he just quirks his shoulders, then his lips. "I was thinking about it, and you know that performance space that Jared and Gen added to Java Hut? It's got pretty great acoustics and we've got some pretty great new stuff to show off, and it really has been a while since we played for an audience…"

"You think there might be a reason for that, maybe?" Jensen says before he can stop himself. And once he's got Danneel and Misha both looking at him like he's crazy, his cheeks flush pink and he tries his best to sink into his chair. "I just meant… maybe we're not ready for playing for an audience again? Sure, we've got new material to share, and yeah, we can talk about putting out a new EP… but I don't know if we're ready yet."

"You mean you're not sure if you're ready," Misha points out as easily as telling Jensen what the weather's like. "Which is fine and all, Jen—if I were dealing with telling my boyfriend that I have an eating disorder, I'd be pretty damn unsure of whether or not I'm ready for performance, too."

"Excuse me, what?" Danneel's eyes nearly bug out of her head. "What the fuck is this about Jensen having an eating disorder?"

Jensen holds up a hand by way of asking her to please shut up. "I don't have an eating disorder," he snaps. "I've got all kinds of problems with anxiety, and I've got problems with depression, and sometimes, I eat way too fucking much especially for being on a diet—but that's not the same thing as having an eating disorder, fuck-head. You have an eating disorder. I just have issues."

"So why won't you tell Jared about the eating disorder that you don't have?" Misha says like this seals the deal, like everything's in his favor now—and disturbingly like he talks about this all the time. "Why won't you tell him about how you've been late to dates because of it? I'm sure he'd really like to know… It's one of those things that people who care about you like to be in the loop about."

"Jensen, what the Hell is he talking about?"

"I'm talking about how Jensen thinks he just has issues, but how those issues are actually slowly killing him because when you put them all together, they add up to an eating disorder." Probably just to be a little shit, Misha mimes sticking a finger down his throat, and the guilty knot in Jensen's stomach twists around as his cheeks flush hot.

"I don't have an eating disorder," Jensen tells Danneel, shaking his head and rolling his eyes and trembling in his seat because he just can't guarantee that she'll believe him. "And even if I did have an eating disorder, that wouldn't be why I don't think we're ready for a gig yet. Maybe I don't think we're ready for a gig because we're not really ready for a gig yet."

"Well, that's okay, then." Misha shrugs and polishes off his coffee. As he wanders over to the pot for a refill, he grabs up Jensen's mug—it's clearly some gesture of look at me, I care about you, you idiot, that's why I'm pressuring you into situations that might make you really horridly uncomfortable. Manipulative dick. "We've got until the end of the month to get ready—and you know what? I have faith in us. I actually feel really good about this. We're gonna blow everyone out of the fucking water."

Jensen wants to believe that, but at the same time, he wants to drag Misha to a psychiatrist's office and get his fucking head examined. And more than either of those things, he wants to crawl into a pint of Häagen-Dazs and never come out. The only reason that he doesn't dive for the freezer isn't even that Misha and Danneel are here to watch: it's that he can't afford to be this fat when the gig finally rolls around. He's only got a month to lose at least ten pounds, and hopefully fifteen. That's about as much as he can hope to lose, given how his weight tends to go.

Not that it really helps his diet any when Misha has to go and point out, "So, question, though: if you're so open about your issues and so secure in how you have them? How come you really won't tell Jared about them?"

Danneel sighs and tells Jensen that Misha kinda has a point—to which Jensen says, "I don't care if he's got a point or not. It's none of his goddamn business—"

"So now it's none of my goddamn business if my best friend is slowly killing himself?" Misha huffs and folds his bird-arms over his chest. "So now it's none of my business if you might die from this? Doesn't that sound an awful lot like how I was talking before you all shipped my ass to rehab?"

"Maybe I meant that it's none of Jared's business, hotshot," Jensen points out. "But really, it's nobody's business but mine, okay? I've got issues, sure—Lord knows that I've got issues—but I don't have an eating disorder, okay?"

And just to make sure that he gets the last word, Jensen finishes his coffee and goes to get his notebook. So they've got a gig now and he needs to lose this fucking weight. So, things are pretty much the same as they were yesterday, just with an obnoxious new due date hanging over his head and Misha inexplicably being a shit-stick about everything.

***

Asking Jared about the gig gets the last answer Jensen expected: "Yeah, I knew about the gig—I mean, he had to talk to me about renting out the space for it, didn't he?—Misha told me not to tell you. He said he wanted it to be a surprise for you or something."

Jensen doesn't mean to glare at his boyfriend, it just kind of happens as he sulks into the sofa. He doesn't say anything for a whole, half-praying that it'll swallow him whole. That'd be a lot better than sitting here, watching Jared dick around with making someone else's over-complicated order, feeling like the biggest idiot in the world. Not to mention like eating all of the leftover scones that Jared and Gen keep in the back.

Sighing, Jensen turns his eyes down to his notebook, to the couple of half-scribbled out stanzas he's gotten down since he got here three hours ago. He can't stand to watch his stupid, perfect boyfriend work right now. He can't stand to watch Jared's huge hands scooping out the coffee grounds, pouring out the milk, putting everything into the blender with two shots of hazelnut syrup. He can't stand hardly any of it right now.

He can barely stomach spitting out, "Well, some surprise. I couldn't get any breakfast down because of that shit he pulled out on me, it made me so anxious." Even waiting for the blender to shut up doesn't settle Jensen's nerves any.

And come to think, Jensen still hasn't eaten anything—the hunger's gnawing at his insides, and he's afraid that, if he tries to stand up, his head'll spin right off his shoulders—but there's something powerful about how he hasn't eaten. There's something that feels so paradoxically good about feeling like shit warmed up. Of course, Jensen knows better than to trust it—he knows better than to trust that he's not going to somehow or other fuck this up for himself—but for the moment, being in control of himself's like sinking down into a warm bath.

Except it all comes crashing down when he looks up and sees Jared making some kicked puppy expression at him, all big eyes and lower lip jutting out just enough to tug at Jensen's heartstrings and make him feel like an asshole. Even when he hasn't done anything to feel like an asshole for—not that he can think of anyway, which probably just makes him more of a jerk.

"You've eaten something since breakfast, though, right?" Jared says so earnestly that it makes Jensen's chest ache. Makes him hunch his shoulders and try to sink into the sofa that much more. "I'm serious, Jenny: have you eaten anything since breakfast?"

Yes, of course I have, I'm not a meal-skipping moron is what Jensen thinks, but for some fucked up reason, what comes out his mouth is, "Uhm, yeah? Kind of? I didn't—not really a lot of something, but… yeah, I ate something. Of course I ate something." Black coffee totally counts as something, doesn't it?

Apparently, this isn't good enough for Jared. Because before Jensen can so much as start feeling guilty for bending the truth a little, Jared's slicing up a bagel and dropping it in the toaster. Blatantly ignoring Jensen when he tries to say that really, Jay, he's fine, he doesn't need anything right now except maybe some more of his coffee. Smearing cream cheese on the giant roll of carbs, just the way that Jensen likes it, which is probably intentional as fuck, some ploy to make sure that Jensen eats.

When he brings the bagel over, Jared leans down to kiss Jensen's forehead, and Jensen silently supposes that he should be more grateful than he is. At least Jared puts up with him at all. At least Jared doesn't make a big deal out of things when Jensen's late, or when he disappears into the bathroom after choking down the bagel (after eating almost anything). At least Jared hasn't kicked him to the curb for someone better, yet. Someone who has their shit together.

But at the same time? That's going to happen someday, sooner or later and preferably later, and that's all Jensen can think some few hours later, when he darts out of Java Hut without even saying goodbye to Jay. As he walks the few blocks back home, that thought beats out a tattoo in his head: Jared's going to up and leave him someday, so why do they keep up the pretenses of being happy with each other? Nobody could be happy with Jensen, especially not someone who's so good as Jared.

And, seriously, he loves his boyfriend—but part of him kind of hates Jared, too. Mostly for jerking him around like they could ever be happy longterm.

***

Another person Jensen kind of hates is Matt, Misha's boyfriend. Not because of anything he's ever done, but because of what he is. And what he is? Is too goddamn pretty to be allowed. At least Misha has the decency to look kind of weird for all he's still a gorgeous son of a bitch. But Matt is, like, classically good looking and it fucking sucks.

They used to be in the boy band together, Matt and Misha, and now he's waiting outside their place, just standing on the front porch, rocking back and forth on his feet, occasionally checking his watch or glancing at the doorbell. For a moment, Jensen pauses and watches Matt—stupidly tall, blue-eyed, squareish-jawed Matt, with his perfectly coiffed hair and his jacket that, unlike Jensen's, actually fits him. It might even be a bit too big for him, but when he turns away from the door, it isn't hiding much. Jensen can still make out his t-shirt, and underneath that, he can make out Matt's lean muscles.

And he's probably the worst person in the world for it—not to mention all the other reasons why he's the worst person in the world—but when Matt notices him and throws out a megawatt grin, all Jensen really wants to do is punch him. No one should be allowed to look like Matt does without a fucking ass-load of makeup and a thorough helping of Photoshop.

And yet, there's Matt, slapping Jensen on the back once he's thundered up the porch's steps, started unlocking the door. He shouldn't be real, but he still is, and it takes Jensen a good minute to fumble through the lock, much less realize that Matt's been talking to him this whole time. Blushing, he says, huh? Sorry, what was that?—and Matt doesn't look offended or upset about it. He just smiles tightly and apologizes for mumbling (which he probably shouldn't have to do, because more likely than not, he probably wasn't mumbling—Jensen just has a certain defect that prohibits him from interacting properly with ridiculously attractive people like his boyfriend and like Matt).

"So, Misha's home, right?" Matt says too gently for anybody. Anybody who's actually human and wasn't artificially created in a lab to torment normal people with his perfection, anyway. "I've been calling him, but he hasn't been picking up… But he's supposed to be home, and he called me first? He said he wanted to show off something new he's been working on."

"Yeah, well, I don't know anything about that," Jensen says and finally gets the door open. "I've been down at the coffee shop all day—"

"Writing lyrics? Getting ready for the gig?" Jesus Christ—there's nothing wrong with the way that Matt says this, but dude, did Misha tell absolutely everybody before he bothered telling Jensen and Danneel?—Jensen can't help rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he leads Matt into the house. But thankfully, Matt doesn't call him on it or bother asking what's up with that. Because he's perfectly perfect in every way.

Jensen can't focus on Matt's glaring, obnoxious perfection for long, though. And he can't respond to Matt either, holds up a hand when Matt starts to ask if he's nervous about the gig at all. First thing Jensen notices, once they close the door is that there's music playing—Madonna's, "Burning Up," which has always been Misha's favorite workout song. Without another word to Matt, Jensen darts upstairs—inasmuch as he can dart anywhere, really he's more trundling than anything else—and heads for the space where they keep the treadmill, just following the music.

Misha's already gone on a run today, there's no reason for him to be going on another—but there he is, on the treadmill, running like he's got all Hell broken loose behind him. Running harder than Jensen's ever run in his life.

For a long moment, he doesn't even notice Matt and Jensen standing there in the doorway, which is probably a good thing because Jensen has no idea what the Hell he'd even say. All he wants to do is kick himself for not running the way that Misha runs. For not pushing himself as hard as Misha. Jensen looks over at Matt, half-expecting him to have something to say—but all Matt has is a horrified pallor and his mouth hanging open. Which makes Jensen feel like maybe there's something wrong with him, maybe he's fucked up in the head for not thinking about Misha here, for not thinking about Misha and about what this might mean.

It could mean that Misha's relapsing, for one thing—that's probably what Matt's thinking when he interrupts, says, hey, Babe, hope you don't mind that Jensen let me in, but you weren't answering your phone and gets Misha to stop running—but it could mean all kinds of other things, as well. Including the one thing that Jensen never sees coming:

"I just got off the phone with Ben," Misha says, in between his heaving breaths and sipping at his water bottle. "You remember Ben, right? My friend at Pitchfork? Well, he's talking to his boss about coming out to write a piece about our gig?"

So, now there's a journalist coming to this fucking gig. So, he's going to write a piece and put it on the Internet. So, basically, Jensen is completely fucked.

Because he had to trust that his life couldn't possibly get any worse.