The people at the farmer’s market were starting to treat Jensen like a prince, he had given them so much business. So when he showed up on Saturday morning with Christian and Steve to help carry the bags, they practically held a festival of customer service as the three of them took away pounds upon pounds of food.
Even though Christian was there, Jensen couldn’t help but be excited about the potluck. Sure, he wasn’t usually a fan of all of Steve’s friends cramming into the apartment until two or three in the morning…but this time it was different; Jared and Megan were coming.
Jensen was making tortellini for Megan and pastrami melts for Jared. As Steve watched him slave away over every spice and addition, he smirked like the smug asshole he could be.
“Right. He’s totally not your boyfriend.”
Jensen ignored Steve and kept working. He hated crowds and could usually only deal with Steve’s potlucks for about an hour and a half before he shut himself up in his room. The funny (not so funny, actually) thing was that Jensen used to be a pretty rockin’ host; there were videos of Steve and Jensen laughing, smiling, and being funny, charming the whole room.
Steve was the only funny and charming one now; he had been for the last few years while Jensen had become a shut-in.
Officially, the potluck started at seven-thirty but it was really an all-day affair. Steve and Jensen cooked and cleaned up the apartment all afternoon. Christian helped, not that Jensen cared. He was more concerned with the perfection of the pastrami.
By a quarter to eight, the apartment was packed. Loud laughter and drinks sloshing in glasses bombarded Jensen, and Jared wasn’t there yet. Jensen kept checking his phone even though he knew Jared hadn’t texted him. Maybe Jared forgot. Maybe he decided not to come. Maybe extremists who only targeted physical therapists were holding him hostage for cheaper medical care. Or maybe Jensen needed to relax and take a breath—
The doorbell rang.
Mike jumped up from the couch, spilling his neon green cocktail on Vicki’s toes, but Misha distracted her with a kiss. Mike whooped.
“Yes! More partiers!”
Steve nudged Jensen. It was completely obvious how anxious Jensen was.
“Holy shit.” Steve’s voice was a little slurred from Mike’s freaky concoctions. “This better be him.”
The drunken Californian shoved Jensen toward the door. Jensen’s heart thudded hard in his chest and he bit his lip as he turned the cold knob and pulled the door open.
Megan threw her arms up.
“Hi, Jensen!” Jensen bent down automatically to accept her hug, and she laid a big kiss on his cheek. He laughed, startled, and Megan bumped Jensen’s toes with her wheels. “Get out of my way, I’ve been fasting to make room for tonight!”
Jensen obliged the young woman and watched her zoom past him, Mike welcoming her into the party. Jensen looked back up at Jared, who seemed a little baffled at his sister’s zest. He had a package of pigs in a blanket.
“Um, are these okay?”
He looked nervous. Jensen nodded quickly.
“Yeah. They’re great. Do you mind if I spice them up?”
The truth was that Steve would tease Jared if they weren’t at least a little dolled up. Jared’s lips twitched.
“Whatever you have to do, man.”
Jensen waved Jared inside.
“Come in. You can come with me in the kitchen or hang out with you—”
Jensen turned, to make sure Jared was still there, that he wasn’t a hallucination. Jared was still behind him, but he’d stopped. He had a strange, almost nauseated expression, and Jensen was reminded of their failed first date. The smoldering anger was back and Jensen began to panic. He quickly followed Jared’s gaze in time to see Christian turn away, coughing around the finger food Steve had made.
Christian looked up at the two of them in the middle of his coughing fit and Jensen was bombarded by the notion that Christian was going to somehow sabotage this entire night and scare Jared away. Jensen grabbed Jared’s wrist.
“Jared? Is something wrong?”
Jared tore his eyes away from Christian.
“No.” His voice was ragged and he smiled, too wide to be real. “Show me the kitchen.”
Jensen was glad he could get Jared away from Christian, and he took him into the kitchen.
Stainless steel pots and pans hung from racks on the wall and spices tied up in bunches swayed down from the ceiling. Jensen took a deep breath, letting the aromas of basil and mint leaves calm him slightly. Jensen opened the package of little hot dog treats and spread them out on a platter. He took Steve’s homemade olive oil down from the counter and drizzled it on top.
Jensen placed the olive oil down on the counter and reached up, not needing to look as he grabbed the dried basil leaves. He crushed them in his fist, sprinkling them over the snacks. With a small laugh, Jensen blew the remaining bits of basil from his palm and watched them swirl out in the air like sand in the wind.
“See?” Jensen was smiling as he began to turn around. “It’s not that hard if you—”
Then Jensen was unable to speak because Jared had snuck up on him and kissed him. Jensen’s eyes were wide, and he couldn’t help thinking about the bits of basil still on his one hand and spots of olive oil on the other.
Then Jared brushed his thumb against Jensen’s cheek and ran his tongue across his lower lip, and Jensen didn’t care what was on his hands anymore as he closed his eyes and leaned up into it.
Jared mumbled something onto Jensen’s mouth and backed him up against the counter, his arms framing Jensen as he kept on kissing him like he just had to get it out there. Jensen had just started to believe that Jared kissing him was actually happening when Jared’s teeth caught Jensen’s lips between them and he sucked.
Jensen didn’t bother trying to smother the whimper that hummed past his lips. His fingers tangled in Jared’s long sleeves to pull him closer so that Jensen could suck on his tongue—
Wolf whistles made everything come rushing into focus as Jared pulled back. Mike was in the doorway with Megan, his fingers drumming on the back of her chair. Megan was giggling and there was glitter in her hair, and judging from the sparkles crammed under Mike’s fingernails, it was his fault.
“You two ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” Mike spoke in an airy southern falsetto, batting his eyelashes and fanning himself. “Children are present!”
Megan snickered and gave Mike a high five as he wheeled her away, back out into a party, but not before she twisted around to wink at Jensen.
“Keep on having fun!”
The kitchen became quiet after that. Jensen’s lips still buzzed and his head was spinning when he opened his mouth.
“Took you long enough.”
Jared made that weird laugh like he’d been tricked into giggling. He shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets.
“You seemed really happy.”
Jensen was surprised to find that Jared was right. He was happy. Jensen smiled, and he lifted himself onto his toes to give Jared a quick kiss before taking the platter of fixed-up pigs in a blanket out to the party.
Loud music and conversation made the walls pulse and people grabbed at Jensen to say hi. He still had a smile on his face; over the crowd, he saw Jared take a piece of the pastrami. Jensen made his way over to Jared and Megan just in time for her to stutter out a flustered hello to a humbled Steve. Steve shook hands with Jared and kissed Megan’s bright red cheek. Christian’s tense smile dissolved and turned real when Mike turned on Daft Punk.
Then the party really got started.
“I hate you so much.” Mike’s forehead rested on the white lab table. “Scratch that, my liver hates you.”
Jensen looked up from his notes from JJ and raised his eyebrows.
“No one told you that you needed to drink four and a half bottles of wine.”
Mike whined, clutching his head.
“But it was there.” Grey-blue eyes peeked out from behind pale fingers. “Did you get lucky? Sure looked like it in the kitchen.”
Jensen snorted and rolled his eyes.
He had woken up on Sunday morning with a text from Jared that it had been a great party. He remembered Mike flinging fistfuls of glitter and Misha and Vicki showing everyone how to do the rumba. He remembered kissing Jared a lot. He also remembered passing out in his room from complete exhaustion at around four in the morning.
Steve had been knocked out on the sofa and Christian had been half on the floor and half on a chair. Jensen had taken the day to recover. Apparently, that hadn’t been long enough for Mike, who had been sleeping in their tub.
“That’s none of your business.”
Mike clicked his tongue in annoyance.
“Prude.” Mike stretched his arms but still didn’t pick his head up from the table. “I’ll bet he’s a monster in bed.” He paused, giving Jensen time to write a few equations in the margins of JJ’s notes. “I’ll bet he could fuck this hangover away.”
Jensen dutifully repelled all thoughts involving Jared fucking Mike. Eventually the end of the day came to them both. Jensen’s routine had mutated and adapted so that he took a different subway on Monday evenings, the one that rode to Jared’s apartment. The door was always unlocked, and Jensen let himself in.
That particular Monday, the television was on, a movie with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler playing on mute. Jensen dropped his laptop bag onto a chair, not paying much attention to the program.
“In the kitchen.” Jensen turned away from the Hawaiian rom-com and, sure enough, Jared was on one of his barstools, doing the crossword with a bowl of grapes keeping him company. He looked up, some spots of pen ink on his fingers. “Hey.”
Jensen smiled a little.
They hadn’t really talked about the potluck. Sure, there had been more than one kiss, but Jensen was too afraid to ask what it meant. Were they in an open relationship or was it exclusive? Hell, did Jared even want a relationship, or had he made out with Jensen out of boredom? Questions buzzed loudly in Jensen’s mind, a hysterical hum that he was barely able to push deep down into himself. Jared was tapping his pen on thirty-two across.
“Is Steve a lightweight?”
“No.” Jensen stole a few grapes, and Jared pushed the bowl to him. “He loves wine so he’s got a strong tolerance. Why?”
Another grape rolled onto Jared’s tongue.
“He was very drunk when he talked to me at the party.” Whatever thirty-two across was, Jared seemed to have figured it out. “A lot of our conversation was about you.”
Warm, itchy dread pooled in the bottom of Jensen’s stomach. He immediately thought of every single embarrassing story that Steve loved to pull out whenever possible. Jensen did his best not to let his worry show as he took in a stabilizing breath.
“What’s the damage?”
Jared filled in eighteen down, chuckling.
“Nothing too bad.” Jensen took another grape. Jared still had a few more clues left, and Adam Sandler was playing a ukulele. Jared put his pen down, a faint smile on his lips. “He said that ever since we started dating, you’ve been getting better from a slump you’ve been in.” Jensen’s throat was too tight to deny it. Jared didn’t look away; he didn’t clam up. “He’s really worried about you.”
“He shouldn’t.” Jensen’s voice was absolutely wrecked. He sniffed and tried to discreetly blink the burn out of his eyes. “I’m not—I’m fine—I’m just fine.”
Jensen knew Steve worried. He saw it every day, in every lunch he made for him and every time he asked if Jensen needed anything at the store when Steve was going. He was—he was the best and greatest friend a person could ask for. And Jensen could see him waiting for Jensen to tell him something, to ask for help. But Jensen never did because for the life of him, he didn’t know what was wrong.
Steve had been waiting for years. He was still waiting.
Jensen reached for more grapes, but the bowl was gone. Instead, his hand bumped into Jared’s outstretched fingers. Before Jensen could snatch his hand back, Jared grabbed it and gently directed him away from the bar stools. Jared’s thumb brushed over Jensen’s fluttering pulse.
The marble countertop was cold against Jensen’s lower back as Jared kissed him, his fingers tugging on Jensen’s shirt. Jared’s tongue pulled soft whimpers from Jensen’s throat and when Jared pulled back Jensen was dizzy.
Jared’s dark eyes held Jensen’s and he smiled.
“Do you want to…?” Jared kissed Jensen again, and it was the calmest, most easy-going kiss yet. It still made Jensen’s breath catch but at the same time it wasn’t pressuring. It made Jensen’s shoulders relax until he was melted against the counter. Jared pulled back a few centimeters. “It’s up to you. I’m fine with just… making out for the rest of the night but we could… uh…”
Jared nodded to the stairs, the ones Jensen had never been up, and blushed bright red. Jensen nodded, his heart stuck in his back of his throat.
“Yes.” Jensen squeezed Jared’s hand. “Please.”
Jensen followed Jared, squeezing his hand tightly as he ascended the stairs. They arrived on a big open second floor; Jared pulled Jensen toward an archway. There wasn’t a door, but the angle of the arch gave the room privacy. Mystery.
Inside, to the left, was the biggest bed Jensen had ever seen. Black sheets were spread over it, and Jensen swallowed the nerves making him shake. The lights were dim and Jensen needed some reassurance that Jared meant what Jensen thought he meant; Jensen turned to try to kiss him, but he missed and kissed the corner of his mouth instead. Jared let out a breathy huff and captured Jensen’s lips properly.
Each hint of teeth, every swipe of Jared’s tongue made everything delightfully blurry. Jensen wasn’t sure how long they had been kissing; he didn’t care. He really liked kissing Jared. Then Jared’s hand slid between them and squeezed Jensen’s erection through his jeans.
Jensen bucked up into the pressure, a startled moan escaping him. Jared’s hand flinched. Jensen panted against his lips.
“Sorry.” Jensen was still tingling. “It’s been…awhile.”
Jared’s hot breath mixed with Jensen’s.
“Really?” Jensen nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. “Me too. It’s been…a few years.”
Jensen couldn’t help but laugh a little.
In the movies, clothes seemed to fall off the actors like petals off a flower. It was elegant and graceful, and everyone always hit his or her mark. Real life, as Jensen knew, was never like the movies. Jensen undressed himself, peeling off his shirt to toss aside. His pants got caught around his ankles and he fumbled, struggling not to trip as he toed off his socks.
When he got up the courage to look over, he saw Jared stepping out of his pants. The first thing he noticed were spider-like scars on Jared’s back and right shoulder. They were pale white, thick at their centers and spreading out across his tanned skin to hair-thin taper points. They were deep, and Jensen didn’t have to be a doctor to know that whatever had happened to Jared had been bad.
Jared turned, looking like a model. Jensen didn’t move his eyes away fast enough, and Jared’s mouth did something weird. Jensen opened his mouth to ask if Jared was okay, to ask if it hurt, but he didn’t have the chance before he was being kissed and pushed down on the silky bed.
These kisses were different. These kisses hurt. Jensen’s lips burned but he gave back as good as he got. Every bite, every push, Jensen was determined not to fall behind.
Fingernails dug into Jensen’s hips and he was pulled up until they were grinding against each other. Jensen had to tear his mouth away, crying out because it felt so good, so savagely good, and Jared’s lips landed on Jensen’s neck. Jensen arched his back, one hand scratching down Jared’s back as the other scrambled to get a grip on the freakishly soft sheets.
A few deep breaths later, Jared pulled back, his arms on either side of Jensen’s shoulders.
“You, uh, want to, um—”
Jensen’s chest heaved as he struggled to vocalize his semi-coherent thoughts.
“How do you usually do it?”
Jared laughed, but then he sat up, his nails scratching Jensen’s skin a little too hard to be playful.
So did Jensen, but he was so hard that he didn’t care. He’d bottomed a few times before.
“Cool.” Jensen sat up too. “That’s fine. Let’s do this.”
Jared was already reaching for the bedside table. He tossed a condom to Jensen and snapped open the lube, slicking up his fingers. Jensen couldn’t tear open the condom; his hands were shaking too much. Jared smiled and took it out of Jensen’s fumbling fingers.
“Relax.” Jared’s hand closed around his erection while the other hand crept up his thigh. “Just…relax.”
Deep breaths and a calm mind were the key to relaxation. At that moment, Jensen couldn’t hope to meet either of those requirements. He only nodded as Jared swiped his thumb over the tip of Jensen’s cock just as he pushed his index finger inside.
It didn’t hurt as much as it had the first time Jensen had tried bottoming, but there was still a level of discomfort present. Jensen’s erection twitched and started to flag, but Jared noticed and didn’t let him, twisting and stroking until Jensen was pink all over, flushed and trembling. One finger became two, and the process repeated.
Jared’s mouth brushed against Jensen’s lower stomach, making him jump and Jared chuckle. The third finger pushed in and Jensen clenched down, his voice thick and sticky in the back of his throat.
“Almost there.” Jared’s smile was part sheepish and part something else. A mixture of sadness and bitter anger. “Don’t want you to get hurt.”
Jensen managed a shaky smile.
“I know.” He swallowed sharply, sweat beading on his forehead. “Thanks.”
As if in retaliation, Jared’s fingers crooked up—and the uncomfortable not-pain was gone, replaced by oh my God what was that do it again please. Jensen’s back arched, his body twisting to get away and at the same time push closer to the electric sensation. Jared’s eyebrows shot up and his lips curled like he couldn’t help but be proud. Bastard.
“What, no one’s ever found your prostate before?”
Jared’s fingers dragged over it again and the noise that came out of Jensen’s mouth was a high, pleading keen that he’d later deny ever having made.
“No.” Jensen sucked in a breath. “No, I guess not.”
Jared pulled his fingers out and Jensen sighed, a little disappointed at how empty he felt. He propped himself up on trembling elbows to see Jared tearing open the condom packet without a problem, rolling it over his cock. Jared slicked himself up and his eyes met Jensen’s, his hands on Jensen’s hips, but he didn’t move. Jensen nodded; of the question, he couldn’t be sure, but it was the right answer.
Jensen had to close his eyes at first; it was such a bigger pressure, much more than three fingers. It made Jensen’s throat tighten and he couldn’t quite catch his breath. Jared kept pushing forward, and even his arms were shaking. When he was completely inside, Jensen let out a wobbly exhale.
Then Jared began to move, slowly at first, then fast, brutal, but so, so good. It burned, and then the pain faded away into a rhythm that was savage but also satisfying. Jared pulled Jensen up so his back was against the cool headboard, the angle sending fiery sparks down Jensen’s spine as his nails scrambled to hold onto Jared’s gorgeous back.
Hot, sticky fingers closed around Jensen and tugged him in time with each thrust—and then it was over. Jensen barely got out Jared’s name before he was coming, warmth splashing up on their stomachs. And still, Jared didn’t stop, even as Jensen floated higher and higher with each thrust, his entire body hyper sensitive.
It was bizarre, like a dream—or so he suspected, if Jensen could remember what dreams were like. He felt wonderfully detached, pulling at Jared’s back to push him deeper inside. Jared’s grunts became heavy and guttural, and in the end they almost sounded like sobs. When Jared came, he went absolutely still before gently pulling out. Jensen couldn’t move, watching as Jared tied up the used condom and tossed it in the trash. Jensen’s brain was still dialing back to the rest of his body; in his head, he was saying, “I really like you. I mean, like-like you,” and “maybe I could even love you.” When he opened his mouth, though, a whispered question came instead.
“Can I stay?”
Jared must have gotten a towel at some point because he dragged it over Jensen’s stomach.
“Yeah.” Jared helped Jensen lie down, moving him out of the wet spot. “Yeah, you can stay.”
Jared turned over, his back to Jensen. All those scars, those spidery scars twisting across his skin burned themselves into Jensen’s retinas. Before he fell asleep, Jensen touched them, his fingers dragging over the skin.
Sometimes Jensen liked to surprise Jared by bringing him lunch. He supposed it was an acceptable thing to do for the person you hung out and had sex with on a regular basis. He didn’t bring flowers, just sandwiches, and it wasn’t long before Jensen’s bags had gotten pretty heavy because the food was never just for Jared.
Misha liked caramelized banana, and the kids had different cookies that were their favorites. If Jensen weren’t spending the night at Jared’s house, he’d stay up all night cooking. It was for his new friends, and besides, it was better than waking up from a nightmare.
He had a lot of bags that day, and the little boy who liked oatmeal raisin cookies, Ryan, shrieked.
Children came out of their hospital rooms on crutches, in slings, and in wheelchairs. Jensen’s arms were just big enough for all the hugs he was giving. He asked them how they were doing, and when he smiled, it didn’t hurt and he actually meant it.
Oatmeal raisin, snicker doodle, white chocolate chip, peanut butter, and pumpkin cookies were all taken out of Jensen’s bags and he handed them out to the smiling children. It felt good, and he didn’t mind that his knees popped and ached when he stood up, immediately greeted by a grinning Misha.
“Hey, Jensen.” He pulled him into a tight hug, making Jensen trip, his feet tangled with all his bags. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Yeah, yeah, I didn’t forget about you.” Jensen fished out a white container. “I got four bananas done up for you.”
Misha’s completely rational response was to plant a big sloppy kiss on Jensen’s cheek. Jensen jumped back, wiping at his face as Misha bounded away, bells accenting every step.
People knew him at the hospital and it felt good. Jensen’s hand was on the doorknob to Jared’s office when he heard a voice that made teeth grind.
“He’s not here today.” Jensen turned around to find Chad, sans crutches, typing away on his phone, a purple scarf draped around his neck. “Already checked.”
Chad didn’t look up at Jensen, his fingers flying over his fancy phone. Jensen wished that his bags didn’t feel so heavy and awkward, now that the sandwiches had nowhere to go.
“Oh.” Jensen shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Is he okay?”
“Yeah.” Chad’s phone chirped and the typing continued. “It’s his special day with Megan. He’ll be back tomorrow.”
Jensen knew that it wasn’t any of his business, that Chad was more focused on his stupid phone than the person he was talking to. Still, the curiosity gnawed away at Jensen like a disease.
Chad exhaled like Jensen was so annoying for not knowing.
“The anniversary of the accident.” Before Jensen could ask, Chad was telling it all. “It was totally fucked up. Megan had a big soccer tournament, so Jared was driving her to school since that shit is far away. And some fucker hits them head on. Bam! Settled out of court, left Megan in a wheelchair.” Chad clicked his tongue as Jensen’s eyes widened. “I hope that piece of shit, whoever it was, got what they deserved.”
For a moment, the entire universe was silent. And then…everything came back. All the nightmares, all the memories that had been erased—it all came back.
August 2nd, 2009
Everyone had gone upstate to Steve’s mom’s house. Jensen had loaded up the car with all the food he made and headed out. It was the second to last episode of Top Chef and Steve had made it that far. Mike, all of the cool chefs in New York City, everyone was huddled around Steve’s mom’s television, holding their breath.
When the host said Steve’s name, everyone cheered and Jensen might have cheered the loudest. Mike passed out neon pink cocktails and Jensen encouraged people to dig into the food. They ate, they drank, and Steve was on the phone from California with his crying mom.
It was a beautiful night full of great food and even greater company. The air tasted sweet and when Jensen slid his keys into his car, his stomach was beyond full and he had a smile on his face. He was so happy for Steve, and he couldn’t wait for the big finale next week.
The radio was on. He had both hands on the wheel at ten and two. He remembered yawning; he blinked. He was almost home—
All it took was three seconds of dozing behind the wheel to turn a great night into a nightmare. Jensen blinked—and then his eyes stayed shut—and then his seatbelt was digging into his shoulder and Jensen was thrown back into the world as his head hit the steering wheel.
The radio clicked in and out, a warbled version of a Frank Sinatra song melting out of the speakers. Jensen blinked slowly as he unbuckled his seatbelt. His eyes stung a little and when he blinked, spots of red grew in his vision. Jensen raised his hand, dragging his fingers so that he flicked the blood away from his eyes. His legs hurt a little and he had to push hard to open his car door. A cheery tune was playing and Jensen realized his phone was ringing; he answered, pressing it to his ear.
His own voice seemed so far away, like he was speaking into a pipe.
“Jensen?” It was Kripke. He seemed more high strung than usual. “Are you okay? Your Onstar says you crashed your car.” Jensen breathed out; sure enough, his car was a wreck. He was about to confirm it with Kripke when he saw what he’d hit. A green car. Two people inside. “Jensen! Jensen!”
One was a girl, and Jensen could barely see her in the blood, all the blood. The driver, a man—he was unconscious, Jensen’s heart was hammering as vomit bubbled up in his throat, and Jensen wretched. Wet half-digested food splattered against the pavement. He heaved and heaved, and he didn’t know what to do and Kripke was screaming through the phone—
No. Kripke wasn’t screaming. It was the man inside the car, he was awake—and he was screaming.
Ambulances came. Jensen hadn’t called them but they came anyway, and they had to cut into the car to get the girl out while the man kept screaming and screaming her name. Jensen kept praying that he’d wake up, but he never did. A hand fell on his shoulder and a very tired man was at his side. He had long dark hair, frizzy and all over the place. His suit was wrinkled. It looked like he had just woken up.
“Dr. Ackles?” Jensen nodded. “I’m Christian Kane. I represent Revolution Pharmaceuticals.” The girl had been taken away, and the man fell silent. The paramedics had him on a gurney, and his head turned to the side and he stared right at Jensen. His hazel eyes pieced through him and no one, no one had ever looked at Jensen with so much loathing and contempt before in his life. “Dr. Ackles? Jensen?”
Hot tears spilled over Jensen’s cheeks and he couldn’t catch his breath. Christian had to help him into a sleek black car. Once he was inside, Christian said not to worry, that Revolution was going to get them to settle out of court. He said that Jensen was valuable. He said that it was okay, that he needed to keep breathing. He said that the best doctors were going to take care of the girl. That the man, he’d be just fine.
“I’m not.” Jensen’s voice was broken. “I can’t—I can’t do it, I can’t—How could I—?”
Jensen covered his mouth to keep from throwing up all over Christian’s car, even though he was sure nothing was left. How could he live with himself, knowing what he’d done to those people?
When Jensen caught Christian’s eyes he saw they were bright, that he wasn’t just a suit. Christian had a heart; he knew what Jensen had done was unforgiveable. Jensen wasn’t hurt badly, just cuts across his head and a bruised ankle, but who knew how those two would end up.
And then it hit him.
“Go to Revolution.”
Jensen knew what he had to do.
“Go to Revolution. If you want me to stay alive, you’ll take me to Revolution!”
So they went. Christian smiled his way past the guard, and Jensen had his photo ID on him at all times; that night was no different. Christian’s shoes were soft against the white tiles as they went into the labs, and Jensen swiped his way inside until he was standing before the vault.
All of his creations were there. His poisons, his dark shadows that helped guide him to cures. Rows upon rows of bottles filled it, and Jensen reached for the newest addition that had just finished testing. He closed the vault, entered Christian’s ID number, and left.
“What’s in there?” Christian kept eyeing the bottle as he drove Jensen back to his apartment. “What does it do?”
They were pale green capsules. Jensen led Christian into his kitchen.
“If I remember what I’ve done…” Jensen wiped his eyes. “I’ll never be able to live with myself, I’ll—I won’t be able to.” Christian kept staring at the bottle. “This is a poison I developed. One of these erases the most recent twenty four hours of memory.”
Christian didn’t shout at him not to do it; he didn’t even get out his phone to call Kripke. Instead, he lifted his eyes to meet Jensen’s.
“Are you sure it’s going to work, Dr. Ackles?”
“Call me Jensen. And yes. It will work. The only thing I’m not sure about is what will happen to me. In theory, I’ll just forget. No side effects.”
The marble counter was cold. Christian poured water into a glass.
“I guess you can call me Chris—but you won’t remember me.” Jensen laughed, hollow and sick. Chris smiled, a five o’clock shadow darkening on his face. “Before you take that, you need to think of how to cover your tracks.”
Jensen liked Chris. He was smart. Jensen sniffed and reached for a pad of paper and Chris gave him a pen.
“The people I—” Jensen broke off, but Chris understood. “They—they shouldn’t ever be without a home or medical care. Education—they should get it all. Whatever they want.” Jensen jotted down Steve’s phone number. “This is Steve’s number. He’s my roommate. Tell him I was working too hard at the labs, I collapsed, and I have a few minor cuts, no big deal. You call him; tell him he doesn’t have to come down, that you worked out all the insurance and stuff with Revolution. Keep in touch with him, he’ll want you to.” Jensen smiled, his eyes hot and his heart heavy. “He’s a good friend.”
Christian nodded, discreetly wiping at his eyes as he put the paper in the pocket.
“Got it.” His shoulders were square, like a bodyguard. “Anything else?”
Jensen was shaking as he opened the bottle, one pill rolling out into his palm. He slid the bottle over to Christian.
“If I see them, I might…remember.” Jensen sniffed, tears streaming out of his eyes. “I signed them out, said you were using them for research. I shouldn’t notice that they’re gone for a while.” Chris was just a blurry figure in Jensen’s vision. He popped the pill into his mouth and swallowed it with water. He found Chris’s hand. “Thank you.”
He never heard Chris’s answer. He was already fading out, exhausted, hating himself, and hoping that when he woke up, he wouldn’t remember any of it.
Jensen clutched the toilet bowl and Chad stood behind him, whining like he didn’t understand why Jensen was still there, still in existence. Jensen saw blood in the toilet bowl, thanks to his thin stomach lining, a subconscious reminder of how terrible he was. Chad saw it too, the flecks of blood on the porcelain and on Jensen’s cracked lips.
“Um…dude, that’s not right. You should see a doctor.”
He’d known. Jared had known when he first walked into Vicki’s and seen him, he—he must have thought he was imagining things, he must have thought that Jensen was some sort of sadistic asshole when he didn’t understand why Jared hated him so much on sight.
Jensen shoved past Chad, running down the hall.
Those scars. Jensen had put them there. Megan—he’d put her in that wheelchair. He’d ruined them; he’d slept with Jared and—
For what? For a chance at love?
How could anyone ever love Jensen after—?
Jensen rubbed his eyes, rubbing at all the tears and the blood in his mouth, and when he took his hands away he was at Revolution. His phone was ringing; it was Jared, and Jensen didn’t answer. What would he say? “Sorry for hitting your car head on”? “Sorry for taking away Megan’s ability to walk”? “Sorry for being selfish enough to induce my own memory loss”?
Sorry for being born.
Mike wasn’t back from lunch. He always took two hours instead of one. Jensen overrode the lock so Mike wouldn’t be able to come back inside. Jensen turned to look at the vault, and his phone kept ringing, ringing, ringing.
Jensen reached for the pills he’d created, the little green pills that had taken it all away. Or had they? Night terrors, insomnia, depression, unexplained self-loathing, vomiting and nausea—they’d plagued Jensen ever since the accident.
Deep down, his subconscious had known. Jensen was almost proud. And his phone kept ringing.
Twenty-four hours wasn’t enough. They would come back, his symptoms; they would remain, they might get worse. Jensen toyed with a green pill. No…his poison wasn’t good enough. He’d have to rework the equation, make it more potent. This time, Jensen didn’t want to remember anything.
Jensen kept spitting up blood, but he let it spot up on his sleeves. He began building something better, something new. This time, Jensen would get it right. His phone stopped ringing. There was a pounding at the door. Mike and Kripke were there, shouting at the glass. Their voices were muffled. Kripke kept trying to unlock the door but it wouldn’t work.
Steve had known something was wrong, and he couldn’t help. Chris—Chris, who’d understood and done everything that Jensen had asked—he’d only wanted to be a friend and Jensen hadn’t allowed him—
With the new concoction, Jensen would poison his brain’s ability to create and store memories. The pounding stopped, and his phone didn’t ring. Instead, it chimed once.
A text. The little electronic ding that had started it all.
Jensen sniffed, wiping his eyes. He opened it.
Jensen immediately looked up and sure enough, Jared was at the door. He looked tired and gorgeous. He looked sad, miserable. Jensen’s mouth fell open, but all that came out was a dry croak. Jared spoke, and even through the glass, his words were clear as a bell.
“Open the door, Jensen.” Jared blinked, and a few tears spilled out of his eyes. “Please.”
Questions of how, what, and why roared in Jensen’s head. His hand shook on his notebook, and he couldn’t—no, why would Jared even want to look at him—
There was a shy knock on the glass. Jared just watched him, and when Jensen didn’t move, Jared knelt down, like he was trying to get something out of a pocket or a bag. Then he rose up, even taller, and he flicked open a lighter.
Revolution Pharmaceuticals valued their employees and safety. They had one of the best fire detection systems; there was one in every room and outside of every door. And Jensen, in all his genius, hadn’t thought of that.
Water burst down from the sprinklers as the lights turned red; a shrill alarm went off, and all the doors opened. Jensen laughed.
“So smart.” Jared, Kripke, and Mike ran in. Jared’s hands were on Jensen’s arms. “You really think on your toes.”
Jared was saying something, and Jensen closed his eyes, blacking out.
When Jensen was seven, his dog Cody was hit by a car.
The driver never stopped and Jensen remembered crying, “How could they do that? Just hit him and drive away?”
How could they just run away when Cody had been all alone?
He remembered hugging Cody’s body to him as his mother ran her fingers through Jensen’s hair. She cried and she kissed Jensen’s temple and she said, “Accidents happen.”
Accidents happen. Don’t cry, Jensen. Accidents happen.
Soft bells woke Jensen up. He cracked his eyes open just in time to see Misha’s back disappear out the door. Jensen sniffed, and when he looked around, he saw that Jared was there. He was slumped over in a chair next to Jensen’s bed, sleeping. Jensen began to sit up; maybe if he was quiet enough, if he could get to the door—
“Don’t even think about it.” Jared sat up, his eyes red around the rims. “You stay put.”
Jensen immediately sank back down into the pillows. Jared didn’t get out of the chair, and Jensen didn’t get out of the bed. His fingers drummed against the sheets.
“Why are you here?”
“Because you threw up blood in the toilet and on Chad’s shoes, and then you locked yourself in a goddamn lab.” Jared massaged his temples. “Scared the crap outta me.”
The coppery taste was still in Jensen’s mouth.
“Yeah, but…” Jensen closed his eyes. “I hit you—I hit you that night and—”
Jensen couldn’t finish. He desperately wanted to leave, to get as far away from Jared as he could.
“I wanted you dead for the longest time.” Jensen opened his eyes and Jared was staring at him. “I never forgot your face, every inch of it. I’d think about you before I went to sleep; I hated you so much.” Jared smiled a little. “And then—I got to know you. You…didn’t sleep, you hated to laugh too loud, but you were so kind.” Jared laughed. “I hated how much I liked you.”
Jensen felt heavy and hollow.
“I’m sorry.” He’d never meant those words more than he did at that moment. “Jared, I’m so sorry—”
“I know.” Jared leaned his head against the bed. “Steve told me what you were like before.”
Funny charismatic, happy. Not a freak.
Misha came in with milk because Jensen’s stomach lining was a mess. Vicki brought flowers and muffins for when Jensen could eat them. Mike brought him the notebook and phone that Jensen had left in the lab. Eric and JJ brought him an order to take a three-month vacation. The kids had a small mountain of “Get Well” cards, many with the addition of “thank you for all the cookies.”
Steve showed up right as Jensen finished the last of the kids’ cards. He was out of breath, a harried Chris behind him, and he shook as he hugged Jensen. It hurt and Jensen hit Steve’s back, but that just made Steve squeeze him harder.
“You scared me, you son of a bitch.” Steve’s voice cracked. “Chris told me everything; you pull anything like this shit again and I’ll—I’ll—”
He never finished. He didn’t have to. Chris didn’t meet Steve’s eyes when he pulled back. Chris just shook Jensen’s hand. He didn’t say anything and neither did Jensen, but Chris smiled a little, tired but relieved, before he left with Steve.
Jared stayed the entire time.
Megan was the last to come in. She wasn’t smiling brightly like she used to, and she rolled right up to the side of Jensen’s bed. She didn’t say she forgave him and she didn’t tell him she hated him. Instead, she grabbed his hand.
“When do you check out?”
A few minutes later, Jensen walked out of the hospital. Megan was on one side of him, Jared on the other. Night had fallen over New York City. Jared bumped Jensen’s hand with his fingers.
“Where are you headed?”
Chris and Steve were probably having makeup sex, and even if they were at Chris’s place, Jensen didn’t want to go home. He sighed as cabs passed them by.
“I don’t know.”
Megan looked up at him.
“Want to come over? We were right in the middle of an intense Scrabble game.”
Jensen was shocked as he nodded dumbly.
“I’d love to.”
Megan led the way and Jared’s fingers slipped into Jensen’s. Their steps fell in time with each other.
Megan’s one wheel was squeaking a little and they were running low on fresh fruit. They had a few episodes of Parks and Rec and Modern Family saved. Jensen’s pajamas were still in the hamper. Jared’s lips brushed against Jensen’s ear, whispering softly.