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Life Is... - Chapter 3
namichan89

<< Chapter 2





Misha's treatment is supposed to last six weeks, with two sessions each week.

So, for the following five weeks, Tuesday and Thursday, Jensen gets exposed to what he likes to call the full Collins charm. Not in the sense of flirting, but in the sense of casual conversations and the running commentary Misha keeps up more or less throughout the entirety of their appointments.

Jensen doesn't mind, not when he gets to relay ridiculous travel stories 'of that one time in Tibet', among other horrendous atrocities that Misha admits to having committed in his life, to Jared two times a week. It has the very appreciated side effect of seeing Jared laugh again on a regular basis – and Jared had always enjoyed his patient stories. Usually, they were anonymous, though.

That they both happen to know exactly who Jensen is talking about doesn't change anything about the entertainment value.

“Say hi to him from me,” Jared tells him, one Wednesday evening, and Jensen does so the following Thursday.

“Thanks,” Misha grins. “Right back at him. How is he?”

“Good,” Jensen answers immediately, his standard response whenever someone asks them how they're doing without Jeff. He catches himself at the thought and flinches. “Well, better. It's just--” Jensen sighs and shrugs it off. “Never mind.”

“No, please, tell me,” Misha sounds genuine, as much as the exercise Jensen assists him with right now allows him to. “Distract me from the pain in my back, please.”

Jensen hides his smile by turning away to focus on the bend of Misha's legs. “Fine, but don't complain about my sob story. I gotta say the hardest part is giving up routines, you know? Like, Jeff used to make breakfast while Jared went for a run, and I got to sleep in until either of them woke me up. Now, I'm in charge of cooking in the morning, and that made getting up for a while really, really discouraging.”

“Because you can't cook?” Misha teases, probably to lift the mood. It doesn't help much, not with the kind of headspace Jensen has talked himself into.

“No, I actually am quite able to cook, believe it or not,” Jensen huffs out a bitter laugh. “I just wanted to stay in bed to pretend that everything was alright and that Jeff would come wake me any second now.”

The up and down motion of Misha's Adam's apple draws Jensen's attention, but he doesn't allow himself to linger on it and finishes the set of exercises.

“I see,” Misha says, while Jensen arranges the next stretching exercise, one that Misha already knows and can handle on his own, with Jensen only correcting his posture every now and then.

So Jensen stays close by, ready to move and support Misha if he needs him, or to lay a hand onto the small of his back, to remind him to sit upright.

“But you stopped holing up in bed, didn't you?” Misha prompts, watching Jensen over his shoulder, then winces with discomfort.

“Yeah, because someone had to cook breakfast in the end. Keep your arm at a ninety degree angle. Careful.”

“And that's the key, you know, and you'll get there. Acceptance is the last step of the five stages of grief, and the hardest to achieve, but it's actually what everybody means by 'it's gonna be alright',” Misha shrugs and smiles to placate Jensen. In his defense, it does work.

“Yeah, well, I read up on that, too,” Jensen admits, quiet. “And I'm still very much not there, even six months later.”

“Give it time and be patient. You'll see.”

“Thank you,” Jensen replies with emphasis, meaning it. “Also, how did we just get there? I thought I was the therapist and you're the patient.”

Misha laughs, this time effectively brightening the atmosphere and sending Jensen into a fit of giggles, too.

***

“You talk about him a lot,” Jared says, three weeks later, when they're sitting on the couch watching Monday Night Football.

Okay, so maybe Jensen had gone a bit overboard with the Misha stories, he can give Jared that. But sue him, he is looking forward to tomorrow. Because tomorrow is Tuesday. And Tuesday means an appointment with Misha. Tuesday means an hour of his job that he'll spend chatting, laughing and having fun while still getting to help people. It's everything he's always wanted out of his job and then some.

“Well,” Jensen shrugs, at a loss for words for a second. Jared not only caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, but also without a plausible excuse.

And that right there, that thought, should be enough to force Jensen to face it. One doesn't need excuses for things one doesn't need to hide.

“Jensen,” Jared sighs, turning around to face him and placing a hand on Jensen's knee, squeezing softly. He looks sincere, a bit nervous, but he also smiles. “It's alright. I'd just really like to know if there's anything I should know, here.”

On impulse, Jensen shakes his head. “There's nothing, honestly. I'd have told you, and you know that.”

Jensen waits for Jared's guilty nod before he continues.

“I like him, that's true. He's the highlight of my Tuesday and Thursday, if I'm being honest. And yeah, he's hot, but that doesn't mean that I'd ever act on that without discussing the situation with you first,” Jensen answers, his voice steady and firm, never breaking eye contact with Jared.

Jared bites his bottom lip, nibbling at it, pulling tiny pieces of skin off with his teeth.

“What's up?” Jensen asks, covering Jared's hand on his knee with his own, curls his fingers around Jared's wrist.

“I'm just wondering,” Jared tilts his head and looks down at their hands together, and Jensen feels his fingertips carefully running over his pulse point. Jensen doesn't push him, gives him all the time he needs to think of how to continue that sentence. Eventually, Jared starts to mumble. “What if we need someone else again? What if just the two of us isn't enough?”

Jensen splutters, interrupting Jared. “Jare, we love each other. We are – and have always been – a dream team together. How should we not be able to handle life as an ordinary gay couple?”

“Because we used to be an 'un-ordinary' gay threesome for too long,” Jared looks up at him, then, to lock eyes with him. “Because we're used to someone in our middle calming the waves.”

“C'mon, we're not that bad,” Jensen grimaces.

“No, it's not that,” Jared clarifies on the spot. “It's so far from that, it's... how do I explain this... It's just a matter of habit. We've been in this for eight years. You just don't wipe that from your memory.”

For a while, Jensen just stares at his genuine, open smile and mulls it over. It's not hard to get Jared's point, however vague it is. “I know,” Jensen admits in the end. “But that doesn't mean that we can't learn how to break that habit and start a new one. We don't need to find ourselves a boyfriend right now, what with our whole situation at all. We're in no shape to be dating or wooing anybody.”

This time, it's Jared who nods. “Yeah, I think so, too. Like I said, I was just wondering.”

“Wondering about my intentions towards Misha,” Jensen states. “Fair enough.”

Jared perks up, a little red in the face as he scratches the back of his neck. “So, what are they, then? Your intentions towards him, I mean. Obviously.”

Jensen stares at him despite the fact that Jared avoids his gaze once again. “I don't have any. He's a nice patient I enjoy working with. At work. The work where I earn my money, you know. Where I'm paid for helping patients.”

“Really?” Jared asks, in that kind of skeptical voice that Jensen knows means Jared caught onto him. Not an accusation of a lie – the accusation that he's not quite telling the truth.

“Like I said, he's hot. That's nothing I need to be concerned about. And we get along great, and okay, yes, I have been thinking about this. Our arrangement and where he could have a place here. But that was very theoretical and also – like I said – we're in no shape to be dating. Thinking about Jeff is still--” Jensen breaks off mid-sentence, turning his eyes towards the ceiling to hide their wet glance. “Still a punch to the gut, you know. No one will ever be able to replace him, and I don't want to do that, ever.”

Jared nods, a hard edge appearing in his otherwise gentle eyes. “No, never.”

“So, we might like each other, but the matter of fact stands – Misha's treatment ends in two weeks. It's been a lucky coincidence – well, unlucky in his case - that I met him again at all. He'll get out of physiotherapy and I'll be a bit disappointed for 1.4 weeks and then everything will be back to normal. Nothing but a passing crush.”

They've had these before. On co-workers, bosses, friends. Casual little adorable affinities towards certain people that ticked very much like them. Usually, between the three of them, the two unaffected ones would notice, talk it out, reassure each other that they had nothing to fear and that it was actually cute as fuck to be flipping out over the new guy working in the IT department – okay, so Jared had been the most common offender of this particular law.

Jeff and Jensen never minded.

This, though, this is different. Jensen feels it, deep in his bones, a strange tension, ready to snap. However, Jensen always could admit to harboring some man-crushes here or there, but he has never, ever been able to picture someone else in their threesome. This relationship, this is still Jeff, Jared and him, and he loves - loved - both of his partners. He doesn't want to erase Jeff's presence or his memory.

“And if it was different?” Jared prompts, almost too quiet to pick up on.

“What do you mean?” Jensen frowns.

“What if you met him again, a third time, sometime later. Do I need to worry then? Would you want to bring him into our relationship?” Jared lifts his chin defiantly.

“No. Not without being sure that you're feeling the same,” Jensen answers, short and poignant. “I'd never ambush you like that.”

“Okay,” Jared answers after a moment of hesitation.

“So, are we good?”

“Yeah,” Jared mumbles, “Yeah. It's way too early to think about all of this, anyway. I'm glad I can spend all this time with you, Jen. I'd like to enjoy that for now.”

Jensen mutters a silent 'I love you' against his mouth as he kisses Jared.

Jared answers by pulling Jensen off the couch and into the bedroom, managing to remind him just how much fun sex between two people can be.

***

Despite his resolution to keep it cool and not act weird towards Misha, Jensen can't help but feel giddy when late afternoon rolls around. By the time the door opens one last time for his last patient of the day, Jensen has a swarm of butterflies in his stomach. It's so strange, it's been so long since this last happened, and besides – he's neither in love nor does his heart belong to anyone but Jared. And there's a Jeff-sized hole in it, too, one that's not possible to fill.

So when Misha steps into his office and grins at him, Jensen clears his throat and tries to sound nonchalant when he says, “Hey, Misha, how are you doing?”

Misha's grin only becomes wider as he comes to a stand in front of Jensen's desk. “Jensen, hi. I'm getting better each day, thanks to you and the exercises.”

“That's good to hear,” Jensen nods and steps around the desk he was working at, only to find himself standing just that tad bit too close to Misha without fully invading his personal space. However, it's enough to smell his aftershave and see him up close, to see the spark in his clear blue eyes. It's enough to make Jensen nervous.

So he takes a step back and turns around. “Please take a seat on the examining couch,” he orders, stiff and a bit awkward, no matter how many times he tells himself that this is the only way to keep it professional between them.

He does his work and keeps up the usual chatter – the usual-for-every-other-patient chatter, but not the Misha-specific chatter, which he notices way too soon.

“Everything alright with you? No offense, but you seem a bit off,” Misha comments some ten minutes into their session.

“Yeah, I'm good,” Jensen reassures him in haste.

“A-huh,” Misha looks over his shoulder, from his position belly-down on the stretcher.

“Really.”

Misha is quiet for a long while, and it's the kind of silence that doesn't need awkward chatter to fill it. So Jensen keeps his mouth shut and keeps on massaging Misha, stretching his hurt joints and muscles.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Misha asks almost at the end of their session. “You can be honest with me, you know. And I'd get it, honestly, since I already know a lot of very personal stuff about you.”

“No, no, really,” Jensen shakes his head. “That's not it.”

He expects Misha to push him to spit it out, but in the end, Misha just nods, says “Okay,” and lets Jensen finish his work, following his instructions.

By the time Misha is back on his crutches and on his way to the door, Jensen thinks he's safe, and feels both relieved and sad to see Misha go. That's when Misha turns around.

“I'm sorry, Jensen,” he says, sincerity in his voice. “I didn't mean to come on to you or hit on you or anything. I just... it felt easy, since we already met before. It was inconsiderate of me to not take into account that you're still in mourning. I should've known better.”

“No, I...” Jensen groans, lets his head drop back and stares at the ceiling to collect his thoughts. “I never thought you did. It's just that I'm still kind of a basket case and so is Jared, and we’re still having a hard time figuring everything out. And it's my own fault for thinking... and, you know...” Jensen covers his face with both hands, embarrassed at what he just blurted out in a rush, feeling heat spread over his cheeks as he hides his blush. “I made it awkward,” he finishes. “Sorry.”

“Jensen, hey,” Misha addresses him softly and rests a hand on Jensen's shoulder, squeezing it. “Look at me, please.”

Jensen does, only to find the trademark playful smirk gone from Misha's face.

“I get it,” Misha admits. “What you're trying to say. I mean, this... us, this hasn't been like your usual relationship with any of your patients. Just like you and Jared were not my typical clients back then, and that's alright. I know what you're thinking, because I'm thinking it, too, honestly.”

“You are?” Jensen inhales a sharp breath.

Misha shrugs, looking slightly embarrassed as he drops his hand from Jensen's shoulder. “We like each other. We are similar guys in the way that we think and do things. We share the same sense of humor. I'm not surprised, even though I know it's not the time or the place. I guess what I'm trying to say is – how about we become friends?”

Jensen stares at him some more, then holds out his hand for Misha to shake it. They lock eyes and Jensen nods. “We can do that. Speaking for Jared here, too.”

“Alright,” Misha breaks into a grin, holding on to Jensen's hand a second too long.

It's far from uncomfortable, though.

“Are you free this weekend?” Jensen asks him, hears his voice shake with a nervousness he hasn't known since the early days of admiring his professor from afar.

“Actually, I am,” Misha beams. “What do you suggest?”

“Just, dinner at our place or something,” Jensen avoids his gaze, although he can't help but feel pleased. “Something nice and private.”

“Sounds great,” Misha smiles even wider.

“I'll, uh, I have your number from your file, so I'll just text you the date and maybe some obscure questions about food allergies?”

“You do that. Also, no food allergies,” Misha winks, then turns to leave after a long look at Jensen.

“Have a good evening!”

Misha smiles over shoulder. “You too.”

***

“Okay, hold on, there's one part that I don't get,” Jared sits down on the couch beside him. “You talked about it without talking about it, decided to become friends and then you went ahead and agreed on a date?”

Jensen shrugs. “Yeah?”

Jared huffs, rubs his hand over his mouth. “Honestly, I don't know how to feel about this. At all.”

Feeling a sharp pang of guilt, Jensen averts his eyes and finds the picture of them and Jeff in Berlin, hanging on the wall beside the TV. It only adds to the guilt, and Jensen's stomach churns. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so brazen.”

“It doesn't matter now, does it?” Jared stares at him from the side, but Jensen still won't meet his eyes.

“We could still cancel the whole thing,” Jensen offers with a tentative tilt of his head.

“Not like you want to,” Jared retorts.

Jensen nods. “Fair enough.”

“We can just treat him like a friend. Establish that as the status quo, you know? It's not like we don't know perfectly well how isolated we've been these past months,” Jared mumbles after a long minute of silence.

“Yeah,” Jensen agrees. The past months have been lonely, that's true, because when they were still three, there wasn't much more human interaction Jensen – their introvert per quota – even needed. Jared had enough friends at work, as had Jeff, and whenever Jensen needed someone to talk to, at least one of them was there.

Good friends, as in best friends – like Chris had been for Jensen in high school – aren't in the picture. Last time he'd seen Chris, it was on Chris' wedding day, three years ago. He just lived too far away for a short weekend trip, and losing contact afterwards happened faster than they both realized.

Jensen had never felt the need to nourish and pursue friendships, not when he'd had his two best friends at home. Which had come to bite him in the ass after Jeff's death.

“I'm just worried,” Jared continues. “Can we be friends with him? After he admitted to thinking about... you know?”

“We are three mature and reasonable human beings,” Jensen states with a raised eyebrow. “I think we can handle it. And like you said, establish the status quo, and it'll be fine. It's not like we fuck every one of our friends at work. Compartmentalize, that's the key. Right?”

“Right.” Jared nibbles on his bottom lip. “This is weird though.”

“Understatement,” Jensen huffs, reaching for his coffee mug on the couch table and taking a sip. “I mean, it was just a vague idea and I never thought it'd affect me this much. Plus, I feel guilty.”

“Because of Jeff?” Jared asks.

“Yes. I mean, we haven't even cleaned up the master bedroom and it's been over half a year.”

“True. We should probably get on that, you know. A new beginning and all that, no matter what this thing with Misha turns out to be.”

“Next weekend, then?”

Jensen cringes. “After dinner with Misha is probably better. We've got a lot to fix up around here, just look at the living room.”

There's a lot of clutter, ever since they’d been left without Jeff around anymore to kick their asses into cleaning up. Sure, they do what they need to, and every once in a while, Jensen gets the urge to tidy the living room or the kitchen, and Jared spends an evening every two weeks or so scrubbing the bathrooms clean. However, it's all too irregular, too uncoordinated. It all worked better with an extra set of hands, this whole housekeeping thing.

With a sigh, Jared looks around. “You're probably right. You wanna cook something special?”

“You got anything in mind?” Jensen smiles at him tentatively.

Jared taps his fingers against his chin, pondering. “We haven't had steak in a while. And potato salad, that would be awesome.”

“You got it,” Jensen nods, then reaches out to kiss him.

Jared isn't slow on the uptake, either, so he plucks the coffee mug out of Jensen's hands, sets it down on the table, then grabs Jensen with both hands around his waist and manhandles him into his lap, so Jensen ends up straddling his hips. Their kiss remains ongoing, with Jared kissing him deep and thorough, licking into his mouth, teasing the tip of his tongue.

With his hands still holding Jensen's hips in place, Jared rolls his pelvis upwards, rubs his crotch against Jensen's. Jensen lets out a surprised yelp that only seems to amuse Jared, who's grinning against his lips.

“Yeah, okay,” Jensen gasps after breaking their kiss. “I'm down with that.”

Jared sticks his hand down the front of Jensen's pants, and that's enough for now.

***

It's awkward as hell.

All three of them are way too tense, from the moment Misha arrives and enters their house. Jensen serves the steak and they open a bottle of red while they're at it, but the alcohol doesn't particularly help. To be honest, at least with himself, Jensen admits that it was a bad idea, and he doesn't even know why they're doing it.

Misha chats with Jared over everything and nothing, and the conversation is a bit stilted and interspersed with beats of silence, all three of them trying desperately to come up with a topic to talk about.

At dessert – mousse au chocolate, as per Jared's request – Jensen doesn't even try to make conversation any more.

He has accepted that this whole thing is a big failure.

Sure, the idea was nice, but it's not easy to get used to someone else in their living space.

That is, until Misha sets his spoon aside and folds his hands in his lap, his dish not even half eaten. “Can I ask you something very personal?”

Jensen pauses, and Jared stuffs another spoonful of gooey chocolate cream into his mouth before he nods.

“Sure,” Jensen says, expecting a question about how they are.

“What would Jeffrey say if he saw you like this, right now? Having dinner with someone else while being distracted by some ulterior motives that aren't there and not pursued by anyone,” Misha states it calmly, a challenge to answer him, but he also hits right home.

They're silent for a long time after that question, Jared spooning up the last of his desert with a lost-in-thought frown on his face.

“Disappointed,” Jared says eventually. “That we can't even be good hosts to our guest.”

“Embarrassed,” Jensen supplies without further explanation.

He can almost see Jeff sitting there on his usual, now empty, chair, with his arms crossed in front of his chest and his lips pinched.

“So?” Misha prompts them.

“I don't know.” Jared shrugs.

Misha turns towards him with a tiny smile. “Okay, then let me try it like this... when my partner left us, my girlfriend and I had my mom over, about... I guess right around the half year mark, actually. And she had known about both my girlfriend and my boyfriend at the time, so she understood what was happening, or had happened. She had known us long enough to see that something was wrong, still wrong, after all this time despite the fact that we thought we had managed to get back to being the two of us, together, functioning despite everything.”

Jensen swallows heavily.

“And she said to us, back then, 'Don't try to fix everything in one go. Start fixing yourself, then your partner, then your life.' Basically, do what your heart feels is right. I know it's not universal knowledge that's applicable to everything in life, but it's a start.”

Jared puts down his spoon and stares into space.

“You're probably right,” Jensen sighs.

The night starts to become a lot more normal after that.

***

The image of Misha standing in their bedroom the following Saturday is a strange, but reassuring one.

The room is stuffy, seeing way too little use these days. Dust particles are shimmering in the air, visible in the sunlight filtering through the opened blinds.

Misha claps his hands, cheerful and ready to go. “Alright. Where do we start?”

“I guess his clothes are the easiest choice,” Jared suggests while pointing at the closet to Misha's left. “Although there might still be some laundry in there--”

Jensen snorts. “I'm pretty sure we didn't take out the laundry basket, you know. Afterwards.”

“You two don't use this wardrobe?” Misha throws in.

“No, we've got our own in our rooms,” Jensen states matter-of-factly, then claps his hands, too, and grabs one of the moving boxes they've prepared. “Let's do this.”

The first handful of old, worn t-shirts is heavy in Jensen's hands. It looks lost in the too-big box, but Jensen averts his eyes and puts another couple of shirts on top of it. The fuller the box becomes, and the more Jared empties the shelf beside him, the less heavy the clothes feel, and in the end, they've got four boxes of clothes to give to a homeless shelter for men.

Misha tried to make them pick out clothes they'd like to keep, but Jensen rigorously shook his head no. Jared didn't argue with that, he'd seemed rather relieved to not have to make that decision.

“What about personal possessions? I see a lot of pictures in here, I guess you'd like to keep those?”

Jensen picks one off the wall, a shot of the three of them on a beach, taken during a vacation some three years ago. “Yeah, but I... I don't think I'd like to keep them like this.”

Misha picks another cardboard box and brings it to Jensen. “You can store it in here. We'll put that box in the attic.”

Jared sighs and points to the corner of the room. “Wait, we already have a box for that. We just didn't dare to put most of the meaningful stuff way.”

Jensen follows his line of sight to the framed picture of Sydney.

“I'd suggest you keep one to put it somewhere in the living room. Away from your bedroom, in any case,” Misha smiles at them, quietly supporting them, guiding them through the process. “It's not like you’re erasing all evidence that you loved Jeff. It's making your environment suitable for mourning him without being too much reminded of what once was.”

And what never will be again, rings in Jensen's ears, and as much as it hurts, it's also true.

They can both get behind that, so they put all of Jeff's stuff – not only the pictures, but also his shaver, his brush, personal items that are still useful but carry too many memories – into the box and Jared takes it up to the attic.

“You up for a trip?” Misha tips his head towards the front door. “I'd say we load up the truck, bring these boxes to the homeless shelter and then go shopping.”

“Shopping?” Jensen quirks an eyebrow at him.

With a guarded smile, Misha turns around. “You'll see.”

***

After meeting an overjoyed and very grateful man who runs the homeless shelter - “These are great, such nice clothes, they're gonna be able to wear them for job interviews, do you have any idea how hard it is to get clothes like these? Thank you so much!” - Misha drives them to IKEA.

Jensen still has no idea what they're about to get before Misha is leading them into the department for household textiles.

“What are we doing here?” Jared frowns at the curtains in the corner.

“Picking new curtains and sheets for your bed,” Misha states. “How about this one? A warm, red tone would fit perfectly with the dark wooden floorboards.”

“I didn't know you were a funeral director with a degree in interior design,” Jensen deadpans.

That makes both Jared and Misha laugh out loud, and Jensen smiles to himself. It's good to see them so happy.

And so, they end up buying some stuff they haven't bought in years, and when they return home, they change the bed sheets and the drapes on the windows.

The whole room appears to have changed. What used to be a cozy nest of dark blues and greens is now a welcoming room with earthy colors like orange and beige.

“I almost don't recognize the room, it's so different,” Jensen huffs in amusement when they're done, all three of them soaked in sweat – because they had to go ahead and buy new bedside tables and a dresser, too, which they had to assemble themselves.

“It's yours again, that's what makes it different,” Misha explains with his lips curled into a smile. “You took back your living space, you made it yours again, which it rightfully is, and don't let any feelings guilt-trip you into thinking otherwise.”

“God, I can't wait to sleep on the good mattress again,” Jared groans and drops face-first into the bed. “My back has been killing me lately.”

“I guess that's your cue, Jensen, to offer him a back rub, and my cue to get a move on,” Misha grins at him, then turns towards the door.

Jensen can't look away. Misha looks strange, his shoulders slump a bit, and the usual spring to his step is missing. Like he's hiding something, but Jensen refuses to believe that it is what he thinks it is.

“Please stay for dinner,” Jared offers from the bed, voice muffled by his pillow before he turns his head to speak over his shoulder. “You helped us all day today, in so many ways. At least let us feed you as a way of thanking you. I can collect that back rub later.”

“Yeah,” Jensen agrees, feeling the tingling in his nerves, in his shaking hands, even though he has no idea what to do about it. Must be exhaustion. So he stuffs his hands into his pockets. “Stay. You can use the shower while I cook. If, um, if you want.”

Misha's smile turns soft and pliant, although it's still as genuine as ever. “Trust me, if you really want to have dinner with me, I don't want you to have to smell me all the time. I reek. So, yes, I'll gladly accept.”

Jared grins over his shoulder, wide and obviously happy.

“What's for dinner, then, chef?” Misha smiles at Jensen.

“No idea, dude. I think our fridge is actually empty, we need to go grocery shopping, so, uh. Pizza?”

“I'm down with pizza.”

They end up on the couch, pizza boxes in their laps, watching the news and the following movie on TV, emptying two six packs of beer. To celebrate the fact that they've finally managed to clean out the room, Jensen breaks out Jeff's favorite bottle of whiskey, and they drink to him and the memories he left them.

Misha ends up sleeping on the couch, because he refused to use Jared's or Jensen's bed, while Jared and Jensen drop into their huge, king-sized bed and fall into the dreamless sleep of the slightly inebriated.

***

Waking up without a stiff neck, but with Jared at his side is the best way to start a Sunday morning, Jensen decides.

It's even better when Jared makes scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage for three people, because Misha sits at the kitchen table, yawning into his cup of green tea with the most epic case of bedhead that Jensen has ever seen. Well, besides Jared’s.

Jensen sips his coffee – it should do a good job of fixing the little headache he has – and looks at Jared handing Misha a plate with a casual smile, then turning around to fix some scrambled eggs for Jensen while humming some stupid tune that currently seeps into the room from the radio.

The sun has been up for a while, piercing through the clouds covering the sky every so often.

Jensen watches Jared cook and Misha stuff his face with scrambled eggs and can't help but think, This is what it's supposed to be like.

***

It becomes a routine way too soon. Not that Jensen is uncomfortable with it, far from it, actually.

Misha's therapy is extended for another three weeks, as per the order of his doctor, and they chat over various exercises until sooner or later, the topic of the weekend comes up. One of them ends up suggesting dinner or a movie night, or nothing in particular, but they still meet up. Misha doesn't need his crutches any more, but he's still not completely recovered, so they don't go out and rather prefer staying at home.

Jared makes them a group chat on WhatsApp, which leads to Jensen having to silence his phone at work and deactivate the vibrate option so his patients don't think he's got a vibrator humming in his desk drawer. The two talk about god knows what all day – Jensen doesn't bother catching up after the third day, but Jared always summarizes the day's conversation and notable events over dinner anyway. Point is, they're getting along, even if it means bickering over Words with Friends – and who still plays that? Jensen wonders, but he bites his cheek when he witnesses the two duking it out with their cell phones clutched in their hands, sitting beside him on the couch on a Friday night.

It's nice, having Misha around. Jensen could get used to it, and it only scares him a little.

***

One Thursday evening in early July, they find themselves on their back porch with a cold beer in each of their hands, and Misha says, “You've got a great yard. Did you ever plan on doing anything with it?”

Jared chuckles. “Oh yes,” he intones.

“We just never got around to doing it,” Jensen explains with a fond smile. “We thought about making the back porch a huge-ass deck, but all of us lack any carpenter skills. Jeff liked to describe this dystopian picture of Jared waltzing down half the garden without a clue what to do after. We also wanted to rip out all those old bushes along the street and replace the fence, but... you know how it is. We've both got jobs and little to no free time.”

Misha grins and shrugs. “Sounds great, if you ask me. And hey, I'm quite handy with tools, so if you need help...”

“Mish, you don't need to,” Jensen replies with a gentle smile that's supposed to gloss over the fact that he just called Misha by a nickname. Totally on accident. He feels his face heating up.

“I want to,” Misha locks eyes with Jensen. “I'm serious. If you could see my apartment... I haven't had a garden in years, I don't even have a balcony now and I love working outside and building stuff with my own hands.”

“You're still injured,” Jensen argues. “Your hip--”

“I can tell you what to do, if you want me to,” Misha answers without missing a beat. “Until I'm healthy enough to help.”

No matter how much Jensen reasons after that, Misha doesn't give in.

“We can start on our own, we're two grown guys!” Jensen protests some time later.

“Next Saturday?” Jared suggests.

Jensen looks at him, raises an eyebrow.

“Next Saturday, we'll rip out the hedge and the bushes and order the new fence.”

“Alright, let's do it,” Jensen confirms with a fistbump to Jared.

***

Of course, they only managed to uproot one hazelnut bush by 11 am on that very Saturday.

“I'm hungry, this is so exhausting,” Jared groans. “Why are we doing this again?”

“To make the garden ours, to 'carve out some living space for ourselves.' Quote, unquote, Misha,” Jensen grunts, pulling on the stem to get it into the wheelbarrow.

“Speak of the devil,” Jared suddenly says, with a grin directed towards the house. “Hey Misha!”

With a big box of Tupperware in his hands, Misha makes his way down the steps of the back porch and heads over. “Hey guys! Thought I'd bring you some lunch for today. Just leftovers from yesterday, but...”

Jensen is staring at him for an almost too long moment. Misha's everything, really. Considerate, caring, smart, funny. Perfect.

That sort of thought is kind of frightening, so Jensen shoves it to the back of his mind quickly.

“Anything I can help you with?” Misha offers when they're done demolishing cold turkey roast sandwiches and some fresh cut fruit, which were definitely not leftovers.

“Don't hurt yourself, so you recover properly,” Jensen answers, quick as a shot.

“But I've only got one more week with you,” Misha almost pouts. “Honestly, I feel fine, and I'm itching to do something. I can't stay locked up in that tiny apartment all day, especially not when it's summer and the weather is so perfect. So isn't there something easy to do that I can help with? Because I'd really like to help you.”

After some arguing back and forth, Jared is the one who gives in and lets Misha do some little jobs to help them.

At the end of the day, they're back on the porch, sitting on the two steps that lead down to the lawn. They're exhausted, dirty – covered in mud and earth and grass stains up to their shoulders – their clothes are soaked with sweat and Jensen hasn't felt this good in months. Jared steps inside to fetch three beers, and while they're still staring at the garden that looks more like a building site than a recreational space, they're taking slow sips from it, savoring it, savoring the feeling of having made exceptional progress today.

“Jeff would love it,” Jared suddenly throws in, a huge grin on his lips.

Jensen takes in the garden, the pile of tools they’d gathered in a corner, the dirt all over the porch and the fence partly torn down. He thinks back to the time when he and Jeff bought the house and moved in, the following months spent doing all kinds of renovations – it was an old house, so they changed the windows and redid the roof. It was a lot of work, very stressful work, and while it brought them to the edge of their productive capability, what with working their regular jobs on the side, it was very satisfying in the end. Jeff and Jensen had gotten tangled up in one argument after another during that time, stupid little misunderstandings and differences in opinions they usually would have accepted and moved on from. But when they were as stressed out as during that time, the renovations quickly led to a shouting match that ended as abruptly as it started.

Jeff, though. Jeff had loved that stress. He'd loved researching all kinds of stuff they could work at, loved reading into the subject and learning how to do it. He'd loved calling craftsmen from all over the city and making appointments and gathering offers. Without him, Jensen would've crumbled under the immense pressure.

Jeff had loved turning things upside down and making them newer, better.

So Jensen nodds. “Yeah, he'd be in love with this chaos right now,” he huffs.

Jared chuckles, and Jensen notices a streak of dark brown soil across his cheek. It looks too adorable to tell him, so Jensen stays quiet, as does Misha, and smiles into the mouth of his beer bottle. Misha's eyes skip from Jensen to Jared and back, until he ducks his head to try and fail to hide his grin.

The silence isn't broken until five minutes later.

“So, when do we start with the big-ass deck?” Misha asks, and Jensen can't help but laugh.

***

They take on the challenge that is the deck some four weeks later, in the worst of the July heat. Or rather, they try working around it by starting early in the morning, napping on the couch during the midday heat, and start again in the late afternoon.

Jared is good when it comes to ripping stuff up with his hands, plus he's got a hand for the heavy machinery, so Jensen lets him rip out the lawn and tamp the area with the land grader they rented. In the meantime, he sets up the concrete to fill up the rectangular hole in their lawn.

By lunchtime, they've set the foundation and the mounting for the wooden boards.

“Take a break?” A voice startles them, right when Jensen is looking up at the sun sitting high in the sky and wondering about just that.

“Misha,” Jared grins, walks up to him in all his soil-covered, sweaty glory and hugs him.

Misha shoves him off with a bright laugh. “Get off me, you sweaty dirt monster!”

“Hey,” Jensen greets him, and it comes out a bit soft. “What are you doing here?”

“Helping, what else?” Misha points at his heavy boots and grass-streaked shorts. The t-shirt he wears has been one too many times through the washer – not that it's too tight, it's rather a bit sloppy around his frame, but somehow manages to emphasize that fact at the same time – no, it's threadbare and the collar is ripped in one place and--

Jensen has to remind himself that his boyfriend is standing right beside him while he's hugging Misha, so that's not making things better at all.

A wide grin splits Misha's lips, and only now does Jensen notice that he apparently hasn't shaved this morning, since his cheeks are covered in dark, way too attractive stubble.

Jensen has the very sudden, very overwhelming urge to trail his lips over Misha's growing beard, but it's not like he'd act on it.

“You can handle the electric saw?” Jensen asks him instead.

“Sure thing. Floorboards?”

“Yes,” Jensen confirms. “But after lunch. Also, I need to put on some sunscreen. I'm getting more freckles by the second.”

“Aw, but your freckles are cute,” Jared teases him, returning to his side. “Right, Misha?”

“Right,” Misha throws in, and he looks less uncomfortable than Jensen thought he would.

“Really, guys? Teaming up on me to make fun of me? Not cool,” Jensen tsks with a playful smirk.

Jared wraps an arm around Misha's shoulders and leads him inside over the porch, tiptoeing around the edge of the deck's still-wet concrete foundation with the elegance of a three-legged gazelle.

Jensen almost falls into the concrete from laughing.

That laugh, however, is gone by the time Misha stands in their garden that evening, his shirt soaked with sweat and dirty from sawdust, clinging to his body, as they cut board after board to attach to the deck. He's smiling and grinning and shit-talking with Jared, who's running around shirtless by now, and Jensen can't help but soak up the atmosphere.

When they call it a night, the deck is half-way done.

Jensen is too, but it's more from his nerves from seeing Jared and Misha fool around all day, a permanent smile engraved on all three of their faces.

***

That evening, they end up on the couch together after taking turns showering, watching some plotless action flick on TV. Their bellies are full with pizza and salad, each of them has a bottle of cold beer in their hand, and Jensen thinks that life is good.

He falls asleep three minutes later, and when he wakes up, it's with his head resting against Misha's shoulder.

Misha's big blue eyes look down at him with an amused spark in them as he sits up. “You with us again, sleeping beauty?”

“Fuck off,” Jensen mumbles without venom, then drops back against Misha, thunks his head heavily against his shoulder just to spite him. “You're comfortable.”

Jared's smile is soft and gentle when he meets Jensen's eyes from Misha's other side. He's guarded, but it's like Jensen can read his mind. I know what you're doing, is what his eyes are saying. I don't know if I should mind, but if it makes you happy, I won't object.

Then Jared grins and shifts so he can rest his head against Misha's other shoulder.

“Guys,” Misha clears his throat after a second's hesitation. “If you... I mean. I don't want to--”

“Mish,” Jensen interrupts him, looks up to take in Misha's reddened cheeks and his uncomfortable and slightly insecure posture. “Don't overthink it.”

Misha takes a deep lungful of air, sighs and shrugs, jostling both of them off his shoulders. “Okay,” he grins innocently.

Jensen nudges his side and sits back up, their balance back in order. He seeks and finds Jared's eyes again, and they're shining with mirth.

Another hour and some mindless late-night TV later, Jared yawns like he's about to bite someone's head off. “Hey, Misha, you wanna stay over?”

Misha hesitates for a second, but then he sighs. “Can't. My apartment is I mess and I meant to do some clean-up and laundry and stuff today, but then you guys had to go ahead and build a deck.”

With a nod at the clock mounted on the wall, Jensen raises an eyebrow. “And you're gonna do laundry at midnight and then come help us with the deck again tomorrow, because let's face it, you wouldn't let us do it without you?”

Jensen bites the inside of his cheek as he watches Misha's face go from torn, to frowning, to obviously realizing the truth. A groan parts his lips, a sound so lewd that Jensen doesn't want to memorize it for later but kind of can't help but do exactly that.

“Fine. Let's finish the deck early tomorrow so I at least get back to my apartment tomorrow afternoon, okay?”

***

Later, in bed, Jared pulls Jensen into his body with an arm curled around his shoulder.

“You alright?” he asks quietly.

Jensen nods and kisses his neck.

Jared tips his chin up, smiles at him and fits his lips over Jensen's, kissing him with slow, deliberate moves. He's in complete control of the situation, even as he starts dipping his tongue in-between Jensen's lips, even when his lips drop open to start a series of open-mouthed, passionate kisses that spike a fire within Jensen. Like he had done so many times before, Jensen rolls on top of him, his left knee resting between Jared's legs, his thigh pressing against Jared's hard cock.

“Jen,” he gasps, sounding winded and a little bit less in control, and Jensen can't help but grin into the following kiss.

With a slow roll of his hips that brings his thigh hard against Jared's throbbing dick, he bites and nibbles at Jared's bottom lip before he asks, “Yes? Anything you want me to do?”

“Blow me,” Jared whispers, his voice breaking. “Please.”

“Sure thing,” Jensen promises, still grinning when he kisses his way down Jared's jaw, down his neck and chest, over his belly button and down the line of crude dark hair. He loves the way Jared smells and tastes, the soap he uses lingering on his skin, the faint taste of fresh sweat, salty and sweet. He loves how his muscles bulge under his tanned skin, how he can run his hands and lips over the patch of hair on his chest, tease his nipples, and move lower, to the softer skin of his stomach.

There's not a single doubt in Jensen's mind that he loves Jared in every way imaginable and possible. He loves him with all his quirks, and he has many, and loves his gentleness and the way he cares about his loved ones, always has, always will. Jensen tells him as much, but with his lips and hands instead of words. He always believed that one could say a lot without using words.

Jensen leans down, shifts to lie down between Jared's legs, and runs his tongue up the underside of Jared's cock. When he reaches the tip, he circles it, mouths at it, teases Jared until he whines and begs by thrusting his hips upwards, towards Jensen's mouth. In the end, Jensen presses a kiss to the slit, licks up the drop of pre-come that has gathered there, before he takes Jared into his mouth and slides all the way down. Jared isn't small by any means, but Jensen has had time to train, and he knows that Jared likes it even more when there's a hand caressing his balls, so he does just that.

When he looks upwards, he finds Jared panting, his chest rising and falling in quick succession. “You trying to impress me, Jen?” Jared chuckles while trying to catch his breath.

Jensen grins around the dick in his mouth and lets the sensitive head slide along his gums a few times – a difficult angle, one where he really needs to watch his teeth in order to not hurt Jared, but favorable because of the reaction that it always gets out of Jared.

He arches his back, moans, curses, grabs at Jensen's shoulders. “Fuck,” he groans again. “Show-off,” he adds as an afterthought.

Jensen hums.

That's when the sound of the downstairs toilet flushing interrupts them.

Jensen pauses for the second it takes him to realize that they're not alone in the house tonight. It hasn't been the first time, of course, but he's also suddenly reminded just who is sleeping in the living room tonight.

He shakes the thought off and goes back to work. After all, he's focusing on Jared now, and Jared should get his undivided attention.

So Jensen pulls off, strokes Jared's cock a few times, running his palm over the head with every stroke. When he looks up to see how Jared is doing, he's surprised yet again to see how calm Jared seems, especially considering their situation.

Jensen shoots him a questioning look, not sure how to ask what's wrong.

Jared waves him off, then reaches down to guide his mouth back to his dick. His hand is still wrapped around Jensen's neck, his thumb occasionally running over Jensen's cheek.

They've done this a hundred times and more over the past eight years, and Jensen still gets achingly hard blowing Jared, but today it's different. He closes his eyes and tries to make it good for Jared, no, make it better than ever, to prove to him that he truly has Jensen's undivided attention, which, huh.

“You're thinking about him,” Jared states from above, his voice barely above a breathy moan.

He doesn't sound half as disapproving as Jensen thinks he should. It's not like he can protest or agree, though, so Jensen checks with a short glance that yes, Jared is indeed smiling down at him, before he continues.

“You're thinking about proving to me that I'm everything on your mind when you and I both know who's downstairs, and what we sometimes think about him,” Jared continues, his voice a soft, monotonous wave washing over Jensen, turning him on even more. “This is just between us, now, so let's just... you'd like to do this to him, wouldn't you? Show him everything you've got, how pretty you look with a dick between your lips.”

Jensen groans in agreement. As always, Jared is scary when he's reading Jensen's thoughts.

“You're thinking about how you'd like to get him off, with your hand or your mouth, and what he'd feel like, taste like,” Jared runs his thumb over Jensen's cheek again, feels the movement of his cock inside, dips the tip of his finger into the corner of Jensen's mouth. “How he'd sound, moaning when he comes inside you. How he'd feel and move underneath you. God, can't say I haven't been thinking about it, either. Those pretty blue eyes looking at me like you do now--”

Jensen knows that breathing pattern, has recognized it immediately, and strokes Jared two, three times after pulling off his cock, and that's enough. Jared hits his climax hard, coming over his stomach and Jensen's hand with a choked-off groan. With practiced motion, Jensen reaches for the tissues on the bedside table, hands one to Jared and uses one to wipe off his own hand.

“Thank you,” Jared says after cleaning his belly.

“Anytime,” Jensen answers, snuggling into his side.

“What about you?” Jared asks and kisses his temple.

“I'm good.”

“No, you're not,” Jared chuckles, solely from the fact that he knows how much Jensen loves giving head. “So spill. What can I do?”

“I--” Jensen breaks off, then takes a deep breath. “I'm not sure I could let you do anything right now without thinking about... you know.”

“Fucking him, instead of me,” Jared completes his sentence, although he is mistaken this time – or he just likes Jensen to correct him.

“Fuck him, with you,” Jensen scolds him. “But it's too confusing, right now. As long as I haven't sorted out... whatever is going on here...”

“Until then we can't have sex?” Jared looks so scandalized in the soft orange glow of the lamp on the bedside table that Jensen has to laugh.

“No, of course we can. Just, maybe, not today. Not after what you said.”

“I'm sorry, I didn't--”

Shaking his head, Jensen interrupts him and explains in an amused tone. “No, it's fine. It's actually quite a relief to know how you feel. But it's a bit too prominent right now.”

“Oh. Alright,” Jared sounds sheepish and cute, so Jensen kisses him. Chaste, on the lips. Nothing fancy.

“Let's sleep and not overthink things, alright?” Jensen suggests. “Good night, Jay.”

“Yeah,” Jared answers without hesitation. “Good night, Jensen.”

<< Chapter 2 | Masterpost | Chapter 4 >>

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