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fic: knowing somehow we survived the fall [part i]

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Oct. 23rd, 2012 | 10:19 am



***



If a reporter were to ask Jensen Ackles about his love life, they’d probably receive some appropriately evasive answer. He doesn’t mean to produce an air of enigma around it, he really just thinks it’s nobody’s business. Of course, he’ll bring dates to the red carpet and he’d never stoop to chasing down a paparazzi, but over the years Jensen has developed a tight enough strategy for secrecy that very little effort is needed to keep his deepest secrets kept. His strategy is this: tell no one.

Which is why, when several people close to him found out about his involvement with one very male co-star, they were at once very surprised, and very much not. Surprised, because they were impressed with how Jensen managed to keep it a secret. Unsurprised, because it is understandable the lengths one will go to when one is in love.

Although who knew, Jensen Ackles would end up falling in love with Misha Collins, and eight years before anyone knew they had met.

It was a story that went like this:




Part I: 2000, or The Past Is Prologue: A Very Long Prologue




The first time they met it was decidedly un-Hollywood. Not that things like coffee shops didn’t exist in L.A., obviously, as Jensen was currently in one, but that their first meeting was rather more suited to a big-budget studio set than for the real-life setting of the film actors who would star in them. They were no Meg Ryan movie.

Although it was fitting, all considered, as Jensen had yet to land himself as a star in a major blockbuster film. Which was, in all honesty, fine by him. He liked working smaller scale, and he liked television. It's not like Days of Our Lives had been top-tier entertainment, sure, but he liked that it was consistent—it had a viewership, and he had a story, and time to flesh it out. If he could work up to starring on his own show, well—that would be the blockbuster equivalent for him. If all went well, and if the audition he'd gotten earlier in the day went as well as he felt it did, he might be there sooner than he thought.

But first: victory coffee. If the employees at this coffee shop would make it already.

“Audition go well, then?”

Jensen turns around from where he stands at the shop's pick-up counter to find the owner of the voice looking straight at him.

Friendly enough, with light-brown hair and standing at a couple inches shorter than Jensen himself, in many ways the boy is completely unremarkable. He's not stunning, he's actually rather awkward looking despite his handsome countenance. His grin, as he smiles at Jensen, is just this side of lopsided to be considered mischievous. But his eyes—his eyes are piercing and playful all at once, a blue deep enough for a poet's muse. And that's when Jensen knows he's low on caffeine, if he's thinking about the poetic worth of a guy's eyes. He wishes his latte would hurry up.

Jensen puts on his best smile, might as well be polite.

“Hopefully, you know how it is,” he says with a slight laugh. He assumes the guy is an actor too, if he recognised him, or recognised his restless tension that tends to infect young actors on the audition circuit.

“Somewhat,” the guy admits, and sticks out a hand for Jensen to shake. “Misha,” he offers.

“Jensen,” he replies, and Misha laughs. “What?”

Misha's gaze does a pan of his body, and Jensen almost wants to squirm under his scrutiny. A small, traitorous part of him, desperately hopes this guy likes what he sees. “You're very all-American for possessing such a strange name,” he clarifies.

Jensen almost wants to take offence, but something about the other man's countenance tells Jensen to take whatever he says fifty percent less seriously than he otherwise would. And hey, as if the guy was one to talk. “And 'Misha' is very normal?”

“Oh no,” he teases. “But then again, I never claimed to be normal either,” he says, licking his lips, which were pink. Full and pink and just this side of dry that Jensen wonders what it would be like to wet them himself—and where did that thought come from?

"You're very..." Jensen trails off, and flicks his eyes over to the barista with their back still turned behind the counter. Where was that drink?

"Attractive? Infuriating? Infuriatingly attractive?" Misha offers, face a mask of innocence, but eyes twinkling.

Jensen raises an eyebrow. "I was going to say ridiculous."

Misha only grins at that, victorious. "I can work with that."

"And hideous," Jensen adds, smirk twitching at the corner of his lips.

"At least I have my charm.”

This guy is resilient. But Jensen can give as good as he gets. "Are you sure you even have that?"

"Oh yes."

"That's a bit arrogant."

"Well, call it what you want, but somehow I think you crave a bit of ridiculous," Misha concludes, and Jensen would protest further if this strange man weren't completely right. It's not that Jensen's life is boring, exactly--far from it--but sometimes he feels boring, too reserved and cautious for the character of L.A. But in the gaze of the wild eyes of this Misha guy, for the first time, in a long time, he feels free. As he picks up his coffee finally set on the counter before him, he thinks it's a pity he'll probably never see him again.

And that was Jensen Ackles' first introduction to the phenomenon of “famous last words”.



***



It is awhile before Jensen sees the mysterious Misha again—three weeks to be exact.

Three weeks of more auditions and call backs, and waiting for call backs, until he sees him again. It might have been a little less by chance, this time.

It might have been a conscious decision to come back to this shop more than once per week just to see if—just to see if he'd spend ten minutes waiting for coffee again, and ten minutes being thrown off kilter by a strange guy with dirty-blond hair and absurdly blue eyes. Ten minutes that maybe Jensen had thought about a little too much for a guy like him, resolved to be strictly career focused for the foreseeable future, and, moreover, totally, completely straight.

It was just a casual interest in the guy's eccentricity, right? It meant nothing. But it also meant Jensen needed to see him again just to be sure, and three weeks later he got his wish.

It is almost exactly like the first time, and yet completely different all at once. The same, because Jensen is once again entirely flustered by the barrage of Misha's personality--different, because this time Jensen can actually tell the guy feels the same about him.

“So we meet again, old friend,” Misha says by way of greeting, sitting down at the table Jensen had claimed for himself by the window. Jensen smiles behind his cup positioned at his lips.

“I missed that part where we were friends, I think.”

“Oh, did you? I'm Misha,” he says, obviously feigning ignorance and re-introducing himself as if he never had before, sticking his hand out exactly like he did the first time. Jensen doesn't take it.

“I remember you,” Jensen says instead, which supposedly was exactly the right thing to say, because Misha's eyes light up. Damn those eyes.

“You do, do you? How fortunate for me.” Jensen tenses at the teasing dripping from his tone. He's not so reserved that he doesn't know benign teasing when he sees it, he's just not sure whether his heart is beating faster because it makes him uncomfortable or because he likes it.

“Just because I remember you doesn't mean I want you sitting at my table,” he points out, except, of course, he doesn't really want him to go, not until he knows what this is, this attraction, or whatever, and what it means. Misha might surmise as much.

“Somehow I don't that's quite true, Jensen,” he says, voice strangely rough for such a young face, and Jensen's own face heats up. He doesn't know if Misha's flirting with him yet but he can feel that parts of his body desperately want him to be.

“What do you want from me?” he finally asks, because he needs to know. And what do I want from you, he doesn't say.

“You seemed like you're looking for a distraction, in all honesty,” he replies, and Jensen can't say why he instinctively knows it, but he can tell he's giving him the truth. He gets a feeling that doesn't happen often with strange encounters of the Misha-kind. “And, as it just so happens, I am as well.”

And that is flirting, Jensen knows, and he doesn’t even try to hide his blush. “So you make a habit of ambushing random strangers in coffee shops, then?”

“It's a favourite hobby, actually,” he says, and Jensen almost snorts unflatteringly. Yeah, he bets it is.

“I bet it is. And is it working?”

“Is what working?”

“Am I distracting you to your satisfaction?”

Misha smiles that damned smile, that smile that caught his breath in his chest that day three weeks ago and sent Jensen into a spiral of questions he hasn't let himself think about since he was 16, and only says: “Almost.” And then he gets up and leaves.

It's only after Jensen shakes himself out of his silent shock five minutes later that he realises Misha had left a napkin with what Jensen assumes is his number on it.

Jensen knows it's a bad idea, he knows he'll only be disappointing himself and Misha and everyoneelse if he stumbles into something he's not ready for with this dude that he doesn't even know, if he keeps this number. He takes it anyway.

The napkin burns in his pocket all the way home.



***



Despite looking at the taunting piece of paper almost every morning, Jensen doesn't call him for another week.

Something about Misha makes Jensen feel like the wait won't matter, which is equal parts worrying and satisfying, as Jensen doesn't quite know what to do with the knowledge that in some way, Misha wants him.

The thing is, Jensen is not unused to this kind of desire. He'd had his moments in the past. He'd had his wet dreams about male classmates and male costars, and though he'd never acted on those desires, he knows better by now that there was no hope in burying them. Usually, he could just wait them out until the next girl caught his eye, but something about Misha was different. Something about Misha was terrifying. And tantalising, and therein lay the problem. Because Jensen knows about his own desires, knows enough about them to see them for what they were, but he'd never before been so aware of being the direct recipient of someone else's.

It was disorienting. It was altogether new and strange and also the best thing to ever happen to him. Which, of course, meant he was fucked.

He dials the number.

“Hello? Misha? It's Jensen. From the coffee shop.”

There's a brief silence on the other end. “I didn't think you'd actually call,” Misha says finally, voice surprised and honest. Jensen knows it should probably unnerve him how this guy can read him so easily, but somehow it's like a weight has been lifted that he didn't even know was there.

“I didn't either,” he admits. “And I don't—”

Misha stops him there. “Jensen,” he says as Jensen fidgets. “I didn't give you my number to trick you into anything you're not ready for; you just looked like you could use a friend.”

“Is that all?”

If that's all you want.”

“Well, right now I kind of want to get dinner. Are you game?”



***



They end up having dinner.

They end up having dinner and Jensen finds out Misha is an actor, too. He'd assumed, obviously--it was Hollywood--but he also finds out Misha is an actor-via-software-salesman-via-white-house-intern-via-what-else, and that he grew up in Boston but went to school in Chicago and despite being newer to acting than Jensen is, he has a life probably twice as interesting. But Jensen doesn't hold back his own story in the face of it.

He shares stories his youth in Texas and his flirtations with modelling. He tells him how relieved he was to leave the soap opera world behind but how much he misses the job security. He tells him stuff he hasn't told anyone, not even his agent, about how much he loves acting but sometimes hates the stifling atmosphere L.A. demands, about how much he wishes he could get away from it but still do what he loves.

He tells him because he can see Misha gets it. Hell, Misha probably hates it more that he does, the fabrication of celebrity, the veneer of glamour of the industry that only masks how intensely shitty so many people in it can be.

They end up having dinner and it's the best time Jensen's had in awhile. So they end up having five more dinners over the course of the next several weeks, and, by the end of the fifth one, something in Jensen’s head clicks that he's been effectively dating Misha for about a month.

They're walking back to his apartment to part ways on the fifth night when he blurts out, “You're not seeing anyone are you?” because it occurs to him that he should probably find out definitively. What if Misha just does this with every guy he meets?

For once Misha looks like he is the one confused. “Um... yes?”

Although he'd thought about the possibility and told himself he'd be fine with it--it's not like Misha was his, and they haven't even kissed (in reality—he's had plenty of less than tame dreams)--that was definitely not the answer he'd hoped for.

Jensen's stomach churns and his heart sinks. He looks anywhere but straight across from him. “Oh, okay--”

Misha interrupts his crisis. “I'm seeing you, you idiot."

“Oh.” Oh.

Well.

“So we're... dating?” Jensen asks, testing out the word in his mouth. Misha smiles, eyes kind.

“That's usually what people call this type of mating ritual.”

As Jensen realises what this has been all along, what's weird about it is how very unweird it is. It’s as if the constant feeling of being off-kilter around Misha is really just the final lurch before pieces start falling into place.

“Mating ritual,” Jensen repeats, “That sounds very sexual.”

“It does,” Misha agrees.

“And that's... something you want, right?”

Misha nods. “If you do.”

Which, it's one thing to know it, but another thing to hear it spelled out so blatantly before him, and Jensen feels somewhat lost again. He stops walking, and after a few moments, he starts, “Misha, listen, I’m-I’m not...”

“Gay?” Misha finishes. “I’m not either,” he supplies, causing Jensen to raise his brow. “Oh, I like boys well enough--you especially--” he winks, “but there is more than just ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ in this wide world of sexuality, Jensen.”

“So you’re... bisexual?” Jensen asks.

Misha shrugs. “Sure, if that’s easier for you, but I’m more... indiscriminate, shall we say. You should try it,” he finishes, eyes flicking down to Jensen’s lips, which only prompts Jensen to unconsciously lick them, and Misha's eyes go darker.

Suddenly it feels tremendously absurd that Misha's not kissing him, and that he's not kissing Misha. It's dark, there's no one else on the street and they're nearly at his building. Suddenly every reservation Jensen's ever had about kissing guys (and kissing this one guy in particular) melts away in favour of the view before him. In favour of Misha's lips and the thought of what they'd feel like pressed to his own. Jensen knows this is dangerous, that Misha is like fire, but, as he comes to a decision, he realises it's a burn he desperately wants to feel. He leans in. Misha meets him halfway.

Their first kiss is light but determined; Misha kisses with purpose, even when without much pressure. Jensen is shocked still for a second at the sensation, but quickly recovers and makes a sound of pleasure before leaning in ever further to start kissing back. It’s not the most amazing kiss in the world, it's not record making or fever inducing, but it’s a nice beginning.

In fact, it's just right.

It gets even better when Jensen raises a hand to cup Misha's jaw and the other man's breath hitches in such a way that shoots straight to Jensen's groin. Misha's body plies under him as if this was everything he'd been waiting for from him. If the rising feeling in Jensen's own chest is anything similar to what Misha's experiencing as his tongue licks at the curve of Jensen's lips, it probably was.

Misha breaks away from Jensen's attentions after a minute with a satisfied sigh. “You keep surprising me, Jensen Ackles,” he says, gorgeously breathless, cheeks visibly as flushed as the red of his lips, even in this dim light, and Jensen feels a renewed rush of satisfaction.

“Someone once told me they liked distractions,” he teases, hands still curled around the base of Misha’s neck.

And Misha laughs, a clear, deep sound that delights. “That was one hell of a distraction. You got any more of where that came from?”

There is plenty more where that came from. There is the texture of Misha’s mouth, soft and giving pressed up against his. There is the smoothness of his cheek, the softness of his hair as Jensen tangles his fingers in it. There is the noise emerging from the back of Misha's throat as Jensen’s tongue brushes his, and the insatiable growl Jensen finds himself emitting as Misha bites down on his bottom lip. There is more than breathlessness, because to kiss Misha is not to lose something, it’s to find something new altogether.

“We should—do you want to come up?” Jensen asks. “For drinks, or something,” he adds hastily after a moment, not wanting to sound too expectant and hopeful. As always, Misha can see right through him.

Misha’s fingers press into the skin of Jensen’s arm where they retain their hold. “Are you sure? We don't have to do anything more than this,” he says, raising his hand to Jensen's cheek.

Jensen huffs a laugh. “Misha, I don't know if you noticed but I'm pretty much never sure of anything when I'm around you.”

Something like a smile tugs at the corner of Misha's lips. Lips he'd just kissed. “I don't know if that's good or bad.”

Jensen smiles too, fully and freely and already missing the feeling of Misha's mouth on his. “Me neither.”

Misha's hands move down to curl around Jensen’s waist, and it's almost appallingly clichéd except for how the comfort of Misha's warmth is too entirely appealing to the extent that Jensen doesn’t even care.

“For what it's worth, you do the same thing to me,” Misha admits.

“I have a hard time believing anything phases you.”

Misha crowds closer—as if that's possible—and murmurs, “You don't know me well enough yet, then.”

“That could be remedied,” Jensen supplies, already thinking about how many seconds it would take to ascend the stairs to his door.

Misha grins even wider. “It could.”



***



It is.

They don’t talk - except that they do. But, instead of with words and quick quips, it’s with hands and the wordless speech of sighs in the dark. If Jensen thought Misha was open before, it’s nothing to how open he is beneath Jensen’s mouth and fingers as they move together. They grind and burn with something more than the frisson of excitement of the first time, something that has Jensen leaning over the other man in his bed and giving him more than he’s ever given anyone. All the sweat and tension and friction between himself and between them - he gives into it.

It could have meant nothing. It could have been just a distraction like they’d said. It could have been just sex, and they could have been just friends, supposing neither were changed by it. But, by the way Jensen’s skin still vibrates after, remembering every point where Misha touched it, he knows that could never be true.

After, they lie together.

“I didn't go to college,” Jensen says quietly, facing the ceiling.

Misha raises an eyebrow at abrupt turn of conversation. “It's not for everyone,” he offers. “Although you might have liked it,” he says after a beat. “Chicks, guys, drink, drama. It's basically a Hollywood microcosm multiplied throughout the country.”

Jensen can hear the acerbic lilt to Misha’s voice. “You liked college though.” It’s not a question.

“I liked parts of it,” Misha admits, shifting in the sheets until he’s lying on his side facing Jensen.

Jensen turns at the movement as well, and shifts accordingly, swinging an arm around Misha’s waist and pulling him closer. “What did you study?”

“Social theory—ways the world works, how people work, how politics helps, and how it fucks it up. Basically everything from Communism to neo-republicanism, we read it. Some aspects were frustrating—you would not believe how pretentious some students can be—but I thought politics was what I wanted to go into, so it seemed the perfect direction to take. Turns out it wasn’t, because social theory is just as frustrating in political practice.”

Of course Misha would be the one to leave D.C. for Hollywood over gripes of authenticity. Somehow that is nothing but endearing to him. “So you became an actor instead.”

“More or less,” he says with a self-effacing laugh.

“And you're happy?” Jensen ask, genuinely curious.

Something firm settles into Misha’s face and shoulders. “It was the right decision to make.”

Jensen’s palm finds the crest of those shoulders as their bare skin peeks above the sheets around them, fingertips exploring flesh. “You didn't answer my question,” he says kindly.

“Only time will tell in that case,” Misha says with a small sigh, but quickly reclaims himself. “As it is, I am glad for it right now,” he concludes, and then cocks his head slightly, as much as the pillow will let him. “Why all the college questions?”

Jensen is quiet, trying to find the rights words to answer. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m terrible for you.”

Misha knots his brow in surprised confusion. “Because you didn’t incur massive amounts of student debt?”

“Because I don’t have any of those... formative experimental experiences.”

Misha chuckles. “Because you didn’t sleep around with undergrads? Jensen, that’s definitely not a character flaw. Besides," he begins, thumb grazing Jensen's still flush bottom lip. "I’m sure you had plenty of opportunity to sleep around here.”

“Not... really,” Jensen admits, because he hadn’t, really. He’d partied and done things he’d regretted, but he had never indulged in some of the wildly promiscuous activities of some of his friends. He’d dated, obviously, and slept with more than one of his girlfriends, but never felt entirely comfortable committing to something more long term, and never in his life would he consider cheating outside of it. “It was always too risky," he adds automatically.

Misha picks up on what exactly that means. "Because you only ever wanted to sleep with men?"

Jensen stiffens. "I don't like mixing business with pleasure," he responds reflexively, evasive.

“Hey,” Misha says gently cupping Jensen’s jaw, “I’m not trying to provoke you or make you uncomfortable.”

Jensen closes his eyes as he breathes a poorly masked shuddering breath in. “I--I know. I’m just not used to people knowing certain things about me.” I’m not used to not needing a mask, he thinks.

Misha shrugs. “I’m an asshole a lot of the time, but that can be just as much of a mask as anything. I think we all hide parts of ourselves one way or another that we’re afraid others will break.”

But Jensen thinks Misha could break him with this, whatever this is, with whatever he’s given to him and they’ve given to each other. He wonders whether if even the fear of breaking is still worth the fall.

He wonders if he could break Misha, too.

"So what if we were in something together? What about business and pleasure then?" Misha teases.

As dangerous as Jensen recognises that situation would be, he knows the answer. "I'd be liable for some intense reverse character bleed."



***



It was not the only time Misha stayed over. There was the second time, and the third time, and then the first time Jensen stayed over at his.

And for awhile there, it was fun and easy, and the more Misha smiled that full, wide, unabashed grin, Jensen did too, and he youthfully wished it would never end.



***



And then in ended, in an equal parts stupid and spectacular fashion.

They ended the same way they stared, with the result of an audition.

In all honesty, they should have both seen it coming, although afterwards, Jensen will wonder if Misha always did. Because as much as Jensen liked Misha, liked him more than enough to maybe admit he loved him, he existed in Jensen’s mind as something entirely separate from the life he’d constructed for himself. They were both actors, yes, but Misha was not part of his acting life, was not part of his work or his social circle. He’d invite Misha out with him, sure, but it was always understood that it was as friends; it was always understood that their relationship was something Jensen wanted to keep for himself. He liked that what he had with Misha was all his, and he liked that he didn’t have to worry about people questioning his sexuality. As far as the public was concerned, he had a crush on Jennifer Love Hewitt and may or may not be dating one of his female friends.

That was all they ever had to know.

And Misha understood, he did. He understood what it was to need to protect something over what you’re afraid people will reject, and he understood that sometimes Jensen’s more reserved nature around other people derived from this anxiety. Jensen knows that, because Misha understood, he could be himself around him.

Except sometimes this felt like not enough. Sometimes, Jensen felt himself wishing something would force him to change, to take a leap and take Misha out to the next premiere he was invited to and kiss him in front of a dozen cameras. When he’s with Misha, he feels brave. It’s when he’s not with Misha that’s the problem. It’s when he’s not with Misha that every reason to runaway from every visceral thing the man makes him feel comes rearing back.

And it’s a problem that exposes itself when news comes in that Jensen might have occasion to be away from Misha for quite a long time.

He gets a role.

He gets a role and it’s a great one. It’s on a major network and has some huge names already attached. Even if it didn’t, the character alone would have been enough to tempt him. It’s a show called Dark Angel, and, though its ratings were shaky in comparison to Fox’s other shows, Jensen was drawn to it enough that even the threat of eventual cancellation didn’t matter. This was exactly the type of job he had been wanting for months. Except...

It shoots in Vancouver.

Which is at once a blessing, and a curse.

It’s great because getting away from L.A. is exactly what he’s been wanting for awhile. Jensen has no doubt L.A.: The Canadian Edition has its downfalls and vacuity too, but at least it was new. Jensen could leave something behind here and feel more free because of it.

Except leaving Los Angeles meant leaving Misha, too.

They could always try something long distance, but Jensen had never been in the position to know how well he could make that work. He didn’t know how to be with Misha and not be with him. He didn’t know how to love him and not be immediately able to touch. Misha was altogether too touchable for Jensen’s own good.

But he also didn’t always know how to be with him here, either. Misha made him feel off-kilter and just right all at once. So hell, maybe a change of scenery for them both could do them both some good.

When he brings up the possibility of the move to Misha, it doesn’t go terribly well.

As it happens, their first real fight is also their last.



***



They’re sitting in Misha’s apartment, eating yet another delicious concoction of his (Jensen swears to god if he didn’t also have a million other reasons to like Misha, he would totally hook up with the guy just for his cooking) when Jensen tells him.

Ironically, it starts with a conversation about Jensen’s sexuality, something he’s never talked with anyone about, but, well, Misha tends to do that with him.

“People thought I was gay in high school. They never said it to my face because I was... popular, I guess, and I had girlfriends. But I knew there were rumours, and I used to think—I used to wonder if they were right about me.”

“Were they?”

“I don't know, I was never... I've been attracted to guys before, I guess. I used to have thoughts about some of my guy friends, but that didn't mean to me that I was gay.”

Misha laughs, but it's not mocking. “What on earth did you think it meant?”

“I don't know! That I was horny, or frustrated, or mistaken, but gay people were—gay people went to dance clubs and wore flashy clothes and were gay in the old fashioned sense of the word. They were... what do you call it?”

“Exuberant? Flamboyant?” Misha supplies.

Jensen ducks his head and smiles a little. “Yeah. But that wasn't me. I didn't want attention that way, I didn't want people to think of me like that. Like I was a certain type of person because of who I slept with--I still don’t want them to think of me like that.”

“So you didn't want people to make the same assumptions about you that you were making about other people.”

“I--” Jensen starts to clarify, but Misha’s entirely right. “Yeah.”

“You do know not all gay people are a dance club stereotype, right? I actually think I know more straight people that fit the house music and ecstasy trope.”

Jensen looks up from his plate, green eyes wide. “Well sure, you would say that, but everyone else?” Because this has been the motto he’s been living with for years, that no one would understand.

Misha’s blue eyes soften when he sees the anxiety in Jensen’s own. “You really have to stop putting so much stock in what others think of you.”

Jensen shifts in his seat, feeling restless. “I'm an actor, my livelihood depends on what others think of me.”

“But what if it didn’t? What if you had never become an actor or done modelling? What if you’d never even flirted with Hollywood and stayed Jensen Ackles: Texas native, forever?”

Jensen pauses, brow knitting together. “I think I would have changed even less than I have,” he says finally, honest and almost disbelieving of his own truth.

Misha’s face softens. “So then, what are you afraid of?”

“I don’t know--peoples’ perceptions of me changing, my perception of myself changing. I’m comfortable with where I am now.”

“But you aren't happy.

“You make me happy,” he says quickly, almost too quickly, but it’s true.

“And is that enough?” Misha asks, face slightly resigned and Jensen has a panicked moment in his head over why on earth it’s like that. Of course you are, he wants to say. Instead, he says:

“It’s enough for now.”

“For now,” Misha repeats, and that’s when Jensen tells him about Vancouver. For an actor, he has been known to have some appalling timing.

Misha frowns. “Vancouver?”

Misha casts his gaze down to the wooden table between them. Once, Misha had told him he’d made it himself. Jensen had replied he wasn’t surprised Misha was good with his hands, and Misha countered cheekily that he knew quite well that Jensen was too. It had been a good night, suffice to say.

“Yeah,” Jensen replies cautiously, trying to break it easily. “Filming for the season would only be a couple months, but, if the show stays strong, I might get a place up there.”

“That makes sense,” Misha says a bit flatly, still frowning. A heavy feeling begins to coil in Jensen’s stomach. This is not how this is supposed to go, a voice inside him decries, but another interjects that it was always going to go this way.

“Come with me,” Jensen says suddenly, and until he says it he hadn’t even thought about it as a real solution.

Misha’s eyes widen in surprise, his whole body pulling back from the table edge. “I--what?” he stutters, but it only makes Jensen more sure to ask.

“Come with me to Vancouver. It’ll be just a couple months shooting before the winter hiatus, and you can go kayaking and hiking or whatever, or maybe get a job on some other show, so much stuff shoots up there now, and--” he begins quickly, not even thinking of the logistics of this plan except for the sweet possibility that Misha could come with him.

“Jensen--” Misha starts, but Jensen cuts him off.

“Come with me, Misha. We don’t--we don’t have to figure all this out now, do we?” he pleads. Please say yes, he wishes silently.

Misha goes still. “What would happen if I did?”

Okay, so Jensen had not exactly thought about that. “Well, you could get your own place, there isn’t as much paparazzi up there--I could stay over, even, in my time off,” he supposes. They could make it work just as well up there as down here in the States, couldn’t they?

“But you wouldn’t tell anyone.” Misha asks, except it’s not a question.

It completely takes Jensen aback. “Well, no... wait--what? Is that what this is about?” he asks, and, evidently, Misha hears the slight accusation in his voice, because his eyes close up.

“Well I would like to know how many people I’d be allowed to talk to in a place where I don’t know anyone,” he responds somewhat stiffly, and Jensen knows instinctively what he’s getting at. This was not how this was supposed to go.

“So what, you want me to come out? What the fuck happened to not forcing me into anything I wasn’t ready for?'” Misha cannot be asking this of him, not now, not when he understood.

Misha sighs heavily, getting up and busying himself with clearing the table. “I don’t want you to come out, Jensen, hell--you don’t owe anyone a damn thing in that regard, not even me. But I do want you to be honest with yourself.

Jensen glares, indignant. “And you know me better than I do, is that it? You know exactly what’s absolutely best for everyone, right?”

The other man raises his hands in defense. “I have no idea what’s best for you, because I have no idea what it is you want. But I don’t think you do either. I have no idea if you even want me. Do you even know?” Misha asks, honestly.

But Jensen can’t answer, that’s not what this was about, right? He wants Misha of course, but, “Misha, I’m not--”

“Gay, right? But you’re obviously gay enough to have a gay affair,” Misha spits bitterly, and walks away to bring their plates into the kitchen.

Jensen stays seated at the table as he hears the tap turn on a room away, completely at a loss of what to do. He feels betrayed, naked, and he hates that Misha does this to him. He wants to yell at him, punch him, make him feel as bare and vulnerable as he does in this moment, but he distantly suspects Misha already does. The minutes pass, and the whole apartment stays quiet except for the oppressive sound of rushing water.

Jensen finally gets up and goes to the kitchen. Standing in the threshold, he perceives the taught stiffness of Misha’s back, turned away from him as he leans over the sink. A part of him yearns to go and ease those shoulders, to line up behind him and wrap his arms around them, and go back to something easy. But they can’t go back, not anymore.

Misha must have sensed his presence, as he says, “You know you’re a bit of an asshole, Jensen,” putting the last of the dishes away.

“Well, you’re a bit of one too, we make a good pair,” Jensen throws back, pale face colouring indignantly again.

Misha laughs mirthlessly and turns around to face him. “Yes, clearly this is a partnership working out for the both of us,” he says with a grimace as he throws his dirty washcloth down onto the counter. “I’m sorry, you’re right. How foolish of me to think I deserved anything other than your respect when you think so little of me, of this,” he motions between them with his right hand, left now gripping the counter top beside him tightly.

Jensen scoffs, licking his lips in an effort to keep his frustration contained. “How exactly do I think so little of you? I’m here aren’t I? I could be anywhere right now, but I’m here.”

Misha frowns at that. “Yeah, and for how long? You knew our days were numbered, Jensen, as soon as you got that part--but before that, too. It was only a matter of time before you realised you couldn’t handle any further development of your little gay affair.” The memory of Misha’s last accusation still hangs heavily between them.

Jensen starts, defensive shields coming down over his eyes as he pleads, “I’m asking you to come with me, how is that not development?”

“You’re asking me to come with you and what, be some guy you keep behind your trailer because you don’t want anyone to know about me? Keep your good little wholesome image while getting some on the side? I have a career too, you know. I can’t just up and leave everything here for the weak promise of being your fuck buddy in Canada!” Misha’s yelling now, voice raw and almost raspy, barely kept from breaking. “Good god, for a fully grown adult you can be so fucking childish, Jensen,” he says with a sigh, hands bunching at his sides. “It’s a level of selfishness surpassing even your normal standards.”

Misha stares at Jensen standing rigid in the doorway of the room, soft blond-brown air alit timidly by the orange-tinged kitchen light. If Misha weren't so angry, as in their more tender moments, he might tell Jensen that he looks beautiful in this moment, eyes aflame and shoulders squared. Jensen might say the same of Misha, if he weren’t simmering with contempt. “So that’s it? Your answer? ‘No, and fuck you’?”

“Yeah pretty much, congratulations for sussing that out--excellent work,” Misha bites out sarcastically, his normal defence. A stark silence ensues, as both men stand awkwardly at a distance from each other, the chasm ever lengthening along the off-white tiles of the kitchen floor.

“So that’s it, then,” Jensen says after a moment, resigned and visibly tired for the first time since this argument started.

Misha softens a bit at his tone. “I guess so,” he says simply, throat stuck in shock at everything that’s crumbled around them. Jensen only turns quietly and leaves the room. He can’t look at him.

There had been a moment, weeks ago, when Jensen had been wrapped around Misha as he slept, and he’d been sure he would throw it all away for this man. This impossible man with too much deflection in his jokes and too much cleverness for conception, who despite all reason loved him, and whom he loved. In a moment in the middle of the night Jensen felt weightless and thought he could leave everything he had known behind for the startling unknown Misha Collins continually represented.

He never expected, though, for Misha to throw him away first.

As Jensen goes to leave, Misha follows him, blue eyes glazed and heavy. If they are on the same page about anything, in this moment, it’s how much the shrapnel of their fight still pierces their wounds. For the first time in all this, he looks sad. Sarcasm and acerbic wit replaced with a genuine air of regretful defeat. If Jensen had turned to look at him, he would have known how much he felt thrown, too.

"I’m sorry, Jensen. I love you, but I--I can’t," Misha’s voice cracks. "And you can’t, not really. It’s easier this way.”

Jensen stands still, hand already coiled around the doorknob. He won't look at him, it'd be too much. “I know," he says, and Misha adds, almost hopeful: "You know where to find me when you get back."

"I know," Jensen says again, quieter still, as he opens the door.

Those are the last words said between them for quite a long time.


     Part II     


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