Over a month passes, so slow Jensen feels like he’s moving through molasses most of the time.
He doesn’t talk to Jared that often, just random phone calls here and there. Jensen never asks how the treatment is going, and Jared never offers to tell. But Jared always sounds exhausted when they speak – tired and so worn out.
Jensen has read all he can find on the integration process, and he can’t say he blames him.
Jared tells him about the stupidly posh hotel suite his aunt and uncle put him up in. The sheets are damn near silk but it’s too close to the wharf. When the wind blows the wrong way the whole room reeks of fish and makes him want to throw up.
Jensen always ends the conversations the same. He tells Jared that he loves him no matter what, that he misses him, to be careful.
Jensen hangs out with Misha a lot. They get coffee and play video games and try not to mention the giant elephant in the room. But Misha has been Jared’s best friend since high school. He was there the last time Jared attempted this. Sometimes he tells Jensen about the nightmares, the outbursts – the way Sam once took over in the middle of one and wouldn’t leave for almost two weeks.
He tells Jensen that Jared gave up, telling Misha that nothing was worth that much pain. Then he looks long and hard at Jensen – not accusatory, merely curious.
Jensen takes as many shifts as the restaurant will give him and saves all the money, just in case. All the time spent working keeps him from thinking too much, but the smell of fish depresses the shit out of him. It reminds him of Jared, and how he’s alone in a giant city with no one that loves him, struggling to put all the broken pieces of himself back together.
A few days into a hot and muggy July, Chris and Steve tell Jensen they want to take their show on the road and give Jensen the added pressure of trying to find a new place to live and only two weeks to do it. He can’t blame them. They just think Jared is taking a summer abroad. They have no idea how much pain Jensen is in.
Jensen’s phone rings in the middle of a stifling Tuesday night, loud and obnoxious on the nightstand. He fumbles for it, nearly falling off of the bed thanks to his legs being tangled in sweat damp sheets. He dreams of Jared’s climate controlled apartment as he glances groggily at the display.
Speak of the devil.
“Jared?” He answers, voice rough with sleep. He checks the clock on the nightstand. It’s after two, and he’s instantly awake. “Hey.”
“I didn’t want to wake you up,” Jared sniffs. He sounds positively wrecked, and Jensen feels useless. He wants to be there so he can hold Jared in his arms.
“Baby, don’t worry about it,” Jensen says, pitching his voice low and soothing. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m – well, I’m remembering things,” Jared replies thickly. “Dreaming things. And I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“You’ve got me,” Jensen tells him fiercely. “As long as you need me, okay?”
“Thanks.” A beat, and then, “Chad’s gone.”
“Oh,” Jensen says lamely, not knowing what else to say. But at least that has to mean he’s making progress, and Jensen takes solace in the fact that all of this has not been in vein.
“Well, I mean, what he was is still a part of me,” Jared continues. “But the name, the separate personality I gave him – that’s all gone.”
Jared says the words blandly, like he is just repeating what a therapist told him to mask how much pain he’s really feeling. These people were a part of him for ten years. It must be devastating to lose them, even if they were never actually real to begin with.
“Are you going to be okay?” Jensen asks, biting his bottom lip because it’s such a lame question. Of course he’s not okay.
“Yeah. I think I’m gonna try to go back to sleep,” Jared says, sounding tired and groggy. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too,” Jensen replies, and the few hundred miles between them feels more like a million. “I love you.”
He stays on the phone until Jared hangs up, jumping a little when the phone beeps in his ear. He sits up, suddenly wide awake as he slides his fingers through his hair, resting his elbows on his knees.
Jensen prides himself on his snap decisions. It was a snap decision that brought him to Jared in the first place.
There’s no reason one can’t bring him to Jared now.
Jared rides alone on the elevator up to his suite, thumbing his keycard distractedly. The mellow jazz music does little to improve his mood, and he rubs at his swollen eyes.
Everything is so messed up.
The elevator stops, doors opening with a soft ding, and he exits. The walls of this hall are dark red, and today in his therapy session he remembered the way his parents’ blood had smelled when he found them, a sharp acidic tang in his nostrils.
He’s been remembering a lot of things he shouldn’t lately, letting them be dragged to the surface even as Sandy and Sam scream in protest.
They’re only trying to protect him, and now he’s sending them away so he can deal with all this pain on his own. He can only hope it’ll be worth it in the long run. It’s a trade, plain and simple. He gets to be normal, no popping in and out of his body in the middle of conversations, but instead he gets the memories. Memories of a ten year old boy discovering his slaughtered parents on the kitchen floor sort of seem like a steep price to pay for something he should have been given anyway – a shot at a normal life.
His feet drag as he walks. All he’s been doing is sleeping and going to therapy three times a week, and he’s never been more exhausted in his entire life.
He rounds the corner to get to his room and stumbles to a halt. The thought occurs to him that maybe he’s moved on to full blown hallucinations, but then Jensen looks up and smiles.
His boyfriend is slumped in front of his door, looking tired and worn in sweat stained clothes and a ratty old baseball cap. He’s still the most beautiful thing Jared has ever seen.
“Jensen,” Jared breathes, gripping his keycard so tight it nearly slices into his palm. Jensen gets up and brushes off the seat of his pants.
“Surprise,” he says uneasily, like he isn’t sure whether Jared would be excited to see him. Jared blinks and then surges forward, crushing Jensen in a tight hug, burying his face in the curve of Jensen’s neck and breathing in.
Jensen squeezes just as tightly, one hand coming up to rest on the back of his head. Jared wants to cry, he’s so happy. This is what he’s working so hard for.
He wants to be whole, wants to never have to wonder what the alters did during his black spots. He wants to be able to take care of himself, to be able to fully commit to another person.
He wants to have a long, healthy life with Jensen at his side.
“It’s so good to see you,” Jensen breathes, and Jared hugs him even tighter. Jensen’s toes scrape the carpet and he laughs breathlessly. “Let’s get inside before you pop a lung.”
Jared lets him out of the hug but wraps his fingers around one delicate wrist, thumb pressing against the fluttering pulse as he unlocks the door to his room. Jensen whistles lowly as they enter the suite, and Jared resists the urge to roll his eyes.
He just wants to be back home in his modest little apartment, curled up in bed with Jensen.
“What are you doing here?” Jared asks, flopping down onto the four poster bed and pulling Jensen down on top of him. Jensen kisses him, making a soft humming sound against his lips.
“You sounded upset last night,” Jensen says, like this is a perfectly logical reason to drive hundreds of miles at the spur of the moment. “I hope this is okay. I know you said you had to do it on your own, but I just really wanted to see you.”
“I’m glad,” Jared says, pulling off Jensen’s hat and running his fingers through his sweaty hair. “God, I missed you.”
Jensen just smiles as they lay there tangled together, just breathing each other in until Jensen admits that he is sweaty and gross from being cooped up in the hot car for so long. He snorts when Jared tells him that he didn’t notice, but it’s the truth.
They take a shower together, slowly getting each other off with their hands as they make out lazily under the spray. It’s all they really have the energy for, and sex with Jensen stirs up too many emotions inside of him that he doesn’t think he could handle right now.
Dinner is room service shared as they sprawl out on the huge hotel bed, some mindless comedy playing on the television. Jensen grabs Jared’s wrist to lick barbeque sauce from his thumb, laughing against his skin at the movie.
“So how are the guys?” Jared asks. He checks in with Misha every once in awhile, but he’s trying to keep his distance.
“Misha is as weird and neurotic as ever,” Jensen laughs, snatching another chicken wing from the plate resting precariously on the pristine white bed linens. “And Chris and Steve are flying the coop. Gonna try to take their act on the road, I guess.”
“That’s cool for them,” Jared replies. Jensen shrugs, looking a little uneasy. “What?”
“Well, they’re leaving in a week, and I still don’t have a place to stay,” Jensen says despondently. “I can’t afford rent on my own.”
Jared sees an opportunity and strikes, even if he’s in no fit state to be making life altering decisions.
“You have a place to stay,” Jared says, and Jensen looks over at him. “Move in with me.”
“Jared, I – are you sure?” Jensen asks, scooting a little closer to Jared and laying his hand on Jared’s thigh. “That’s sort of huge.”
“You practically live there already,” Jared points out. “And I want you to be around all the time.”
“Do you think Misha would be okay with it?” Jensen asks, obviously considering it as a viable option.
“Misha adores you, and there’s no way he would mind splitting the rent three ways instead of two,” Jared says. He wants to tell Jensen to save his money, that he’ll take care of it, but he doesn’t think Jensen would appreciate the gesture. “Plus, I sort of already asked him if it would be okay.”
“You did?” Jensen asks. “When?”
“Well, I was planning on asking you anyway when I got back,” Jared admits, reaching out to brush a damp strand of hair away from Jensen’s face. “I want you with me.”
“Yeah, I – okay. Yes,” Jensen breathes, a grin breaking out across his face. “I’ll move in.”
Their lips meet in an enthusiastic kiss, and Jared doesn’t even mind that they’re getting barbeque sauce all over the sheets.
He’d hoped that the night would be dreamless, as long as he was pressed up against Jensen.
He was wrong.
He dreams of his last bedtime story, a tale of princes and thieves spun for him by his creative, beautiful mother. He dreams of her scream, and the way he hid in his room instead of going downstairs.
He dreams of blood and blank, lifeless eyes.
He wakes up screaming.
Darkness surrounds him, pins him down, and he can’t breathe. Hands are touching him, shaking him and he squirms, heart pounding against his ribcage.
“Jared!” He hears, and a dim light comes on overhead. Jensen is above him with tears in his eyes, and Jared’s hands fly out to grab his shoulders. Jensen winces from the tight grip, but he doesn’t pull away. “Are you okay?”
“There was so much blood,” he sobs, and Jensen lies down next to him and gathers him into his arms. Jared cries into his skin, shaking from his dream. His memory. “It was everywhere.”
“Shh,” Jensen soothes, rubbing his sweaty back. “Jared, it’s okay. You’re here with me. You’re okay.”
Another sob rips through his him and he can barely breathe. Emotions have been hitting him in waves – intense anger, overwhelming sadness, everything that’s been kept from him for so long. He’s feeling it all. The scars he long thought healed are being ripped open all over again.
“Jared,” Jensen says raggedly once his sobs have subsided. He pulls back and cups Jared’s cheek, thumb swiping under his swollen eye. “You – you don’t have to do this for me.”
“Someone’s full of themselves,” Jared manages, and Jensen smiles wanly. “Jensen, I’m not doing this for anyone else but myself. But – I think I might be doing this because of you. So, thank you.”
“Thank me?” Jensen says, tucking a strand of hair behind Jared’s ear. “You’re miserable.”
“A little – right now,” Jared admits. “But I’m getting put back together. Good or bad, it happened to me, not anyone else. And now I have to deal with it.”
“I just hate seeing you upset,” Jensen says, and the tear tracks on his own cheeks are evidence enough of that. Jared puts his hand over Jensen’s heart, leans in to kiss the tip of his nose.
“You help,” Jared says seriously. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Good thing you’ll never have to find out.” Jared manages a smile and rests his head on Jensen’s chest, letting his heartbeat lull him back to sleep.
Two days later, Jared walks Jensen to his car and says goodbye, kissing him softly and then heading to his next therapy session as Jensen drives away.
The sound of his mother’s pealing laughter stays with him for days, and it overshadows her agonized screams.
Misha couldn’t have been more thrilled with the new living arrangements, and all it takes is one Saturday and the four of them armed with Chris and Steve’s truck to get all his stuff moved over.
Most of it goes into storage – things like his bedroom furniture and the ratty old couch Chris insists he keeps. He takes his time unpacking, trying to make everything he owns fit in with Jared’s. It works.
Jensen and Misha make good roommates. They both are pretty quiet guys who like to keep to themselves. They hardly ever fight over the remote and they always split the cost of dinner.
But it’s obvious that there’s something missing. Jensen falls asleep every night in Jared’s bed – their bed – and misses him even more.
It goes on like that for the rest of the summer. Jensen goes to work and lives his life and pretends he doesn’t spend every day worried sick, waiting for the gaping hole in his chest to be filled.
There is a week before classes start and Jensen runs around in the muggy September air, getting everything ready for his last year of med school. One more year, and he’ll be a doctor.
He goes for a run that afternoon, jogs until his muscles ache and he’s sticky with sweat. The apartment is empty when he gets back, but that’s no surprise. Misha went on a camping trip with some friends to end the summer right. Jensen assumes this means with beer and pot.
He takes a long shower, letting the hot water work out all the kinks in his muscles. He exits the bathroom in sweats and a tank top to hear someone knocking on the door.
“Coming!” He calls out, picking up the pace as he moves down the hall. When he opens the door, he can hardly believe his eyes.
“Surprise,” Jared says softly, grinning warmly at him. He looks good, better than he did last time Jensen saw him, too many weeks ago. He’s a little too skinny, a little too pale, and he looks like he could sleep uninterrupted for a year, but it’s him.
“Jared?” He shouts, blinking like his eyes are playing tricks on him.
“It’s me,” Jared replies, fingers sliding through his hair. “It’s – it’s only me.”
“You’re home,” Jensen breathes, running forward and jumping into Jared’s arms. Jared laughs and stumbles against the wall opposite the door, holding Jensen up in his arms.
Jensen pulls back and presses his mouth to Jared’s, sweet and soft. It’s the happiest he’s been in months. Jared carries him into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind them.
Jensen knows this isn’t over. He knows this was just the first of many obstacles that they’re going to have to face together. It’s not going to be easy for either of them, but Jensen knew that going in.
Jared drops him onto the couch and flops on top of him, letting out a content sigh. He looks into Jared’s eyes and he can still see that light there, the same sparkle he was so intrigued by on that very first day.
He’s glad he can still see it, even after everything.
“I’m glad you’re home,” Jensen breathes, cupping Jared’s cheek, thumb dragging across his bottom lip. “I’m glad you’re you.”
Jared just smiles, grips the back of Jensen’s neck and presses their foreheads together.
“I’m yours,” he says adamantly. And well, the feeling is mutual.
[one year later]
Jensen trudges into the apartment and drops his keys in the little key bowl. The scent of food hits his nostrils and his mouth waters as he heads straight for the kitchen.
Jared is in front of the stove with a plain black apron on, stirring something absently as he licks sauce from his thumb. Jensen comes around the corner and hops up onto the counter, startling Jared and making him drop his spatula.
“Look at my little wife,” Jensen teases. “So cute in her apron.”
Jared flips him off, which is to be expected. He sets a timer and turns around, coming to stand between Jensen’s legs. Jensen loops his arms around Jared’s neck as the younger man tugs at the hem of his scrub top.
“So, Dr. Ackles,” Jared says, grinning lasciviously. “How was your first official day as an intern?”
“Kill me now,” Jensen replies, leaning in close enough for their lips to brush. “Why did I want to be a doctor?”
“That bad, huh?” Jared chuckles, and Jensen slides his hands up Jared’s back.
“I think it’s about to get a little better,” Jensen whispers, closing the last bit of distance between their lips.
A sharp yip breaks them apart, and Jensen looks over to see their puppy locked in the laundry room, tiny paws propped up on the puppy gate, fluffy tail wagging back and forth excitedly.
“Uh oh,” Jensen says loudly, jutting out his bottom lip as he puts on a baby voice. “Did someone get in trouble?”
“Someone peed on the rug five minutes after I took her for a walk,” Jared replies, and Jensen bites down on a laugh when she lets out another excited yip, tongue lolling to the side. Jared just rolls his eyes and gives Jensen a quick peck. “Go take a shower while I finish dinner. I wanna hear about your first day.”
“Yes, sir,” Jensen says, mock saluting as he hops off of the counter. He stops to give Jasmine a scratch behind the ears. She lets out an excited little growl, back paw thumping against linoleum. She’s a mutt, a fluffy mix of something and Australian shepherd, with one blue eye and one green. “I’ll spring you later.”
“Such a sucker for a cute face,” Jared chides, and Jensen turns to stick his tongue out at him.
“That was established the day I met you,” Jensen retorts, and Jared grins at him.
“Shower,” Jared reminds him. “You smell like a hospital.”
“Going!” Jensen heads for their bathroom, rolling his shoulders to relieve some of the tension coiled in them. The hot spray feels fabulous, and he tilts his head back into it and takes a deep breath.
The past year hadn’t been easy, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Jared still had a long road in front of him when he came back home. The personalities had integrated but it was a fragile thing, ready to crack at the slightest trigger.
He had to cut back heavily on his course load at school, taking just enough classes to give him focus without being stressful and leaving time for him to go to therapy twice a week.
There were hostile outbursts and violent mood swings, all par for the course as Jared struggled with emotions and memories that he previously wasn’t able to handle. He had to learn how to control his anger and cope with sadness. All the while Jensen stood by and watched, helpless.
At the therapist’s suggestion, Jensen had started therapy as well. He goes twice a month, once with Jared and once on his own. Jensen hadn’t realized how much of a toll Jared’s healing process had been taking on him as well, on their relationship, and so far the sessions have really helped.
There have been a few close calls, moments when Jared freezes and his eyes go horrifyingly blank. Jensen has always been able to coax him out of it with gentle words and soft touches, always ready to catch Jared if he falls.
One thing none of them expected was to actually miss the alters. But Jensen does, sometimes. He misses Sandy’s soft demeanor and warm smile, misses Chad’s crude humor, even misses Sam’s sharp wit – sometimes.
But if he looks hard enough, he can find all of those things alive and well in Jared. He has a newfound affinity for cooking and a healthy appreciation of video games. His sarcasm level is at an all time high, and he’s no longer afraid to take what he wants in bed. All the little qualities that Jensen used to attribute to separate people were all just fragmented pieces of Jared, and it’s fascinating to watch them all come together.
Jared is a little quieter now, and a lot stronger. Coming to terms with the brutal way he lost his parents changed him. Not a lot, he’s still the same person, but he’s a little more weary of the world around him, not as trusting.
Over the summer they had gone to San Francisco to visit his parents’ graves. The trip was emotionally exhausting. The stress of it nearly triggered Jared over and over again, but with Jensen there he never lost it. Saying goodbye to his parents gave him some closure, helped him heal a little better.
He’s still plagued with nightmares. He’ll still wake up in the middle of the night, seeking comfort in Jensen’s arms. Jensen always talks him through it, reminds him that he’s not that scared little boy anymore and rubs his back until he falls asleep.
So, no, it hasn’t been easy. But the good outweighs the bad.
Jared isn’t afraid to make friends anymore. In fact, he’s great at it. Misha moved in with his girlfriend weeks after graduation, and Jared and Jensen got the apartment to themselves. They’d fucked on every available surface, got wet and sticky in celebration of being a grown up couple with their own home.
Jensen’s parents love him, and have practically adopted him already. Mac adores him and he’s pretty sure his nephew prefers Jared over him. Jared fits in perfectly with his family, and Jensen is glad he has so many people that love him.
Despite the whirlwind roller coaster his life has been since he met Jared, Jensen wouldn’t give it up for the world. Jared is the best thing that has ever happened to him, for better or worse.
Jensen has never been so much in love. He thinks of the platinum bands hidden in his sock drawer, and decides that they might be ready.
The shower door opens, distracting him from his thoughts, and Jensen hisses as the cool air hits his skin. Jared is standing there, glancing up and down Jensen’s body before giving him an amused smirk.
“I thought you drowned,” he says, raising one eyebrow. “Dinner’s gonna be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes?” Jensen asks, and then grins wickedly. He grabs Jared by the front of his shirt and pulls him under the spray. Jared splutters in surprise, clothes soaking through within seconds. “I can work with twenty minutes.”
Jared laughs, bright and happy, and it’s a beautiful sound. But then they kiss, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
love, save the empty