"You stupid, stupid bastard!"
Jared winced. "Jensen-"
"No!" Jensen yelled, angrier than Jared had ever seen him. "You don't get to do this, Jared! You don't get to go around putting part of your own fucking heart in my chest when I can't tell you no!"
"I know, and I'm sorry," Jared said, careful in the face of Jensen's fury. "God, Jensen, you know I would have asked if I-"
"What if you'd killed us both with your back alley mending?" Jensen demanded. "Huh? What then?"
Jared gritted his teeth on his own temper. "Then you'd have been in the same position and I'd be out of luck. I really am sorry, I truly am, but there wasn't any time. You were dying, Jensen, do you get that?"
Jensen's lip curled into a sneer. "So you decided to cannibalize yourself for parts? That's some martyr complex you've got going on there."
"They're my parts. I can do what I want with them."
Jensen barked out a mirthless laugh. "Of course you can. Fucking selfish jacka-"
"Selfish?!" Jared repeated, helpless to bite back the anger rising hot and fast through his veins. He got right up into Jensen's space, ignoring the frantic pounding of his diminished heart. "I saved your fucking life! With a procedure that, as you've just shouted at me, was very dangerous and probably illegal, and-"
"Probably?" Jensen interrupted. "You did something that you think might be illegal? How can you not be fucking sure about that?"
"Because I don't know if anyone's ever tried sewing two living people's hearts together before and, if they have, they've been pretty damn quiet about it!"
Jensen shook his head. "Unbelievable. Am I going to get arrested now because you felt like experimenting?"
"You think this was an easy decision for me, Jensen?" Jared demanded. "I gave you my heart!"
"Yeah, well no one asked you to!"
Jared scoffed. "What, so I should have just let you die?"
"Yes!" Jensen roared.
Silence fell like a thunderclap, broken only by Jensen's suddenly harsh breathing and the muted buzz of the air conditioning. Jared stared back at him, wide-eyed and speechless.
Jensen's hands clenched and then deliberately relaxed, and Jared watched Jensen rein his anger in with obvious effort.
"Can you reverse it?" Jensen asked finally.
Jared gave him an even look and said nothing.
Jensen huffed. "Will you reverse it?"
That was an easy one. "No," Jared said.
"Jared…" Jensen's tone was warning.
"I said no." Jared took a few deep breaths of his own. "You're actually asking me to kill you, you do realize that? If I undo this, you will die. No second chances or miracle cures."
"Should've already died anyway," Jensen muttered.
"But you didn't. And I'm not going to hurt you."
"I could get someone else to do it," Jensen said, almost a challenge.
Jared didn't snort derisively at him, but it was a near thing. "No, you couldn't. No mender in the world would agree to help a client commit suicide. Besides, you'd probably get the both of us arrested just for asking."
Jared raised his chin defiantly. "I'm not a murderer, Jensen. And I'm not going to let you make me into one. Now," he said, while Jensen was still absorbing that. "We've both had a hell of a night and I, for one, would like to get at least a catnap in before I have to open the clinic. Are you bunking down here or should I call you a cab? And don't you say a goddamn word about walking at…" Jared cast around fruitlessly for a clock and settled for, "whatever godforsaken hour of the morning it is. I don't care if you're going three doors down the street; it's not happening."
Jensen stared at him mulishly, and Jared sighed, abruptly exhausted.
"Look," he said. "There's a couch in the office. Give me two minutes to clear it off and you can sleep there. I want to check your blood pressure too; your emotions seem like they're running a little," Jared paused, looking for a word that wouldn't make Jensen fly off the handle again, "deeper than usual. Because my heart-"
"Oh, wait, let me guess: it's better than mine?" Jensen laughed, harsh and unkind. "Surprise, surprise! All that self-sacrifice must be good for the soul."
"Of course it's healthier than yours!" Jared snapped back. "Hearts need looking after just like any other part of the body. And it seems like you haven't bothered with yours in way too long so, yes, mine's in better condition. You even remember the last time you were able to get properly mad about something? Trust me, you wouldn't be this angry with just your own heart."
They had another tense standoff, and Jared was not-so-idly calculating how much damage the exertion would do to Jensen's heart if he hauled off and hit him when Jensen's shoulders sagged.
"Fine," he said. He struggled back onto the exam chair, his every movement stiff and angry.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour right now, Jared simply nodded and went to get the blood pressure cuff. Jensen's skin was warm to the touch, though not enough to make Jared worry. Jared took his blood pressure quickly and efficiently while Jensen said there in stubborn silence.
"135/80," Jared said as he pulled the Velcro free to release the cuff. "A little high, but not outside the acceptable range for your age. It should level off as your body gets used to the… addition."
Jensen nodded and stood. "Wonderful. The office is straight through on the left?"
"Yeah, just give me a minute to clear off the couch. Oh, and before I forget…" Jared turned towards the counter to grab the small paper bag he'd put there while Jensen had been out. "Here."
"What's this?" Jensen asked, warily accepting it.
"Aftercare instructions," Jared said, feeling suddenly and inexplicably sheepish. "And some topical cream for the incisions. You should be able to take care of most of it yourself, but I'd like to do a check-in in two weeks to make sure that everything's healing up properly."
"Right, fine, great. Anything else?"
Jared nodded. "There's a risk of infection if the scalpel the… attacker used wasn't properly sterilized, so I'm counting on you to come in if you have any problems." He fixed Jensen with a level look. "I can count on you to come in if you have any problems, right?"
"Yes," Jensen said shortly. He arched an expectant eyebrow. "So where's this couch of yours?"
"Right, sorry, yes. Come on. Bring the blanket with you."
Jared let them into the office and left Jensen looking around at all the mess with raised eyebrows while he focused on excavating the couch. It was a taxing undertaking. Jared was feeling tired right down to his bones and had to fight the urge to face plant onto the cushions himself. When he'd cleared enough space for Jensen to sleep, he stood and looked over.
"Best I can do, sorry. The sound muffles pretty well, so you shouldn't need to worry about getting woken up by the noise if you sleep past opening. I think I've got a spare shirt in the break room, so I'll grab that for you. And uh," Jared fidgeted. "I guess that's it. I'll be out front if you. Need anything. Or whatever."
Jensen nodded curtly. "Fine." He paused, and then added, with obvious reluctance, "thanks."
"We'll figure this out, Jensen," Jared said impulsively, because he was both optimistic and an idiot. "I promise."
The expression that crossed Jensen's face at that was one that Jared knew he should have been able to recognize, but the weak thump of his half-heart apparently wasn't up to that kind of strain tonight. Or maybe not ever again, Jared realized, and shut down the thought as soon as he had it. One of them having an emotional meltdown was more than enough.
"Sleep well," Jared told him. He staggered down the hall towards reception, more than ready to collapse into the first chair he saw.
Of course, when he got to the waiting room and clicked on the lights, he realized that there were bloodstains on the front door from where Misha had banged on it to get his attention. Jared cast one longing look at the couch, then sighed and went to find some Windex.
By the time he'd scrubbed off the last smears and flushed the bloody paper towels down the toilet, it was pushing six. Jared dropped onto the couch in what could only generously be considered a controlled fall and snuggled down gratefully, determined to enjoy his few hours of unconsciousness to the utmost.
Jared's last thought as he dropped off - there and gone in an instant - was to wonder why Misha'd had so much blood on his hands before helping Jared carry Jensen back to the clinic.
It was two weeks before Jared saw Jensen again.
After he put a groggy, unhappy Jensen in a cab the next morning, Jared started avoiding The Cinnamon Star Bakery like the plague, as much out of guilt as from the fear that Jensen would throw him out if he walked in. Jared didn't regret what he'd done to save Jensen's life - would have done it all again if he had to - but he did regret the fact that he hadn't given Jensen a choice in the matter.
He wouldn't blame Jensen if he hated him for it, especially since Jensen was freshly equipped with a whole cadre of emotions that he wouldn't have experienced for a long time. Living in sudden Technicolor when he'd grown used to black and white was going to make Jensen overreact to pretty much everything until his body got used to the change. Jared didn't envy Jensen having to deal with that kind of emotional overload.
By contrast, Jared's half-heart didn't affect him as much as he'd expected it to. The worst part was the way he felt tired all the time, and no amount of sleep or coffee could help. He started finding himself staring into space with no real idea why he'd drifted off like that, but it wasn't anything he couldn't learn to function around.
For now, anyway. And Jared would just have to deal with it when things got worse.
Despite the ultimatum he'd given, Jared hadn't entirely expected that Jensen would listen to him about the check-up. He found himself sitting somewhere between relieved and surprised when Jensen strolled into the clinic ten minutes before close exactly two weeks later, as calm and charming as ever. He came with doughnuts, which Jared appreciated immensely; he hadn't got a proper sugar fix in a fortnight and it was making him cranky.
Jared made up some bullshit excuse for Adrianne about Jensen being there because they were going to a game that night. Jensen backed him up without missing a beat, then stood and chatted easily with Adrianne while they closed down the clinic.
"Have a good time, boys!" Adrianne called as she left.
The door swung shut behind her and Jared could actually see the amiability drain out of Jensen's face the moment she was gone. It made his chest pang.
Jensen turned towards him with a sharp, suspicious sort of frown. He didn't speak.
Which meant that it was up to Jared to be professional about this. "Come on," he said, turning towards the exam room and trusting Jensen to follow. "Let's get you looked at."
"How have you been feeling?" he asked as Jensen shed his shirt and perched on the exam chair. "Any trouble breathing? Tightness in your chest?"
Jensen shook his head. "Strained the stitches once at the bakery, I think, but nothing else."
"I'll take a look at them. Arm please."
Jensen let Jared take his blood pressure without protest and Jared was relieved when it wasn't quite so high as it had been before. He ran Jensen through a standard check-up, asking him questions about his health as he went. To his considerable relief, Jensen's post-mending recovery looked to be right on track. Even his stitches were holding well despite the stress.
"Everything looks good physically," he told Jensen, who looked neither relieved nor surprised by this information. Jared refused to let his tongue trip over the words when he continued, "how about your emotions? How have they been?"
Jensen barked out a short laugh. "Intense," he admitted, which is more than Jared had expected. "It's, I keep getting angry, mostly. And for stupid shit, too."
"That will level out over time," Jared told him. "Your body's just not used to having such a depth of emotions to deal with, so it's overcompensating. It's kind of like riding a bike up a hill: you have to work hard to get up the hill, but then when you get to the top, the same amount of effort makes you go so fast your feet can't keep up with the pedals."
"Nice analogy," Jensen said, with a hint of his characteristic dryness. "So it's not a problem?"
"Totally normal," Jared confirmed. He risked a tentative grin. "Just don't watch any sad movies for a while unless you want to cry your eyes out."
Jared coughed awkwardly. "Well, that means you're free to go."
"Great," Jensen said and Jared started picking up his things, just to have something to do with his hands.
"So," Jensen said, focusing on the buttons of his shirt. "What now?"
Jared blinked at him. "What do you mean?"
"You've decided that I'm not about to die unexpectedly, so that means I'm stuck like this for the duration. What sort of stuff do I need to know?"
"It's… pretty much all in the aftercare package I gave you," Jared said, confused. "I can get you some more pamphlets on dealing with-"
"I meant for me specifically," Jensen interrupted. "I mean, fuck, Jared, I've got another person's - your - heart inside me. Are there any," he paused, licked his lips, "side effects I have to worry about?"
Jared frowned in thought. "There shouldn't be. We might not use them now, but menders worked with human and animal matter up until the turn of the last century. As far as I know, there isn't a whole lot different. Why? Are you-?"
"No," Jensen said immediately. "I just wanted to be prepared." He gave Jared a lazy glare. "In case there's anything else you're not telling me."
Guilt reared up inside Jared again and he slapped a weak smile on over it. "No, nothing else. I swear."
Jensen was watching him with his head cocked thoughtfully to one side. After a moment, he nodded, like he'd come to a decision. "Are we done here?"
"Oh! Uh, yeah, you're all set." Jared stepped back far enough to give Jensen a clear line to the door. He focused on keeping his smile solid so he didn't look like a kicked puppy. "Your stitches will probably be ready to come out in another few days - Friday would be good if you've got the time - and I want you to come back right away if anything seems off. But other than that, you're rid of me now."
Jensen nodded again. "Okay."
His sneakers made no sound on the linoleum floor as he walked out and Jared turned his attention to putting away his supplies so that he didn't have to watch him go.
"You don't have to avoid the bakery," Jensen said unexpectedly and Jared whirled to see him wearing an expression that Jared had never seen before. He suspected that that was happening on Jensen's face with increasing regularity these days. "I don't - I wish you hadn't done it, but I get why you did. I'm not forgiving you but that doesn't mean you have to disappear out of my life to avoid upsetting me. Okay?"
Jared stared at him, an absolutely ridiculous ball of happy relief in his chest. "Really?"
Jensen's mouth quirked into a strange little grin. "Really," he said, and it was so far away from the stone-faced anger he'd hurled at Jared before that Jared could have cried.
"That's," Jared started, then coughed and tried again. "That'd be good. Thanks."
"I think that's supposed to be my line," Jensen said. They both knew that he didn't mean it.
So Jared smiled and shook his head. "Only if you want it to be. Come on, I'll walk you to the door."
After Jensen's appointment, they returned to a sort of tender status quo that Jared found awkward by virtue of the very fact that it wasn't as awkward as it should have been. Jensen had apparently decided that the way forward was to pretend that nothing had happened at all and so he was treating Jared just like he always had. Because Jared was a sad bastard, he was just happy to have that much of Jensen's attention without it coming in the form of frothing vitriol.
Not to mention that he was glad that Jensen had said it was okay for him to go to The Cinnamon Star again. He'd missed his baked goods.
The tiredness didn't go away and Jared quickly realized that it was only the first step in a slow, inexorable decline that he could almost have ignored if the results weren't so invasive.
Getting out of bed in the morning turned into a production that even Adrianne, who hated mornings with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, would have found excessive. Jared found himself getting distracted even more easily than usual and reacting much less enthusiastically to the things, positive or negative, happening in his life.
The scariest part was when it started affecting his work. Jared knew the theories behind mending inside, outside, upside-down and backwards, but it took more than mechanics to make a good mender.
Mending was a craft, not a science. It depended on a mender's empathy, his creativity and his ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, what his clients most needed to overcome the hurts they'd gathered. Jared's greatest strength had always been the empathy he had for his clients but, now that his emotions felt like they could use a good dusting, it was like that instinctive awareness of how a heart needed to heal was sleeping somewhere inside him that Jared couldn't find.
Jared started staying late at the clinic to read over his notes and client files, looking for elements and diagnoses that corresponded to the needs of his current clients. It worsened the weariness dogging his every step, but it made it easier for him to do his job, so Jared figured that the sleep deprivation was worth it.
More and more, Jared found himself gravitating to The Cinnamon Star Bakery when he was feeling wrung out and needed a moment of peace to help him come to terms with the way his heart was slowing running down.
Always before, comfort for Jared had been his parents' house, preferably as close to his mama as humanly possible, and, when he'd moved away, the quiet of his own apartment. He wasn't sure why the bakery was suddenly his happy place, whether it was because proximity to the rest of his heart actually made a difference to how he felt or he was pathetic enough that he just wanted to be around Jensen as much as possible. Regardless of the reason, Jared quickly grew used to this new part of his routine and looked forward to the time he spent at The Cinnamon Star more than he would have expected.
And, as the weeks went on and the world grew quietly dimmer around him, Jared could only be grateful that he had somewhere to go to - someone to go to - when it all got to be too much. And if that made Jensen even more important to him than he already had been, well, Jared figured that kind of came with the territory.
"Get out of my shop, Padalecki," Jensen said, not looking up from the flour he was tipping into a measuring cup.
Jared made a noncommittal sound and let the door thump shut behind him. He dragged himself across the room and slumped down in one of the chairs, then tipped his head back and closed his eyes on a shaky sigh.
There was a quiet 'poof' of flour falling into a bowl and then Jensen's voice, a little more attentive. "What's wrong with you?"
Jared thought about saying nothing, but figured that it wasn't really worth the effort. His tired heart was creaky enough without drawing this admission out.
"I had a consultation today for a little girl named Mandy," he said, peripherally aware that Jensen had set the bowl down and was rounding the counter towards him. Jared kept his own eyes fixed on the ceiling, ignoring the dull thump of his heart in his chest. "Eight years old. Child Services brought her in because she was abused by her parents and they thought she needed some heart care. She-" Jared's voice cracked and he swallowed hard. "Her heart's in tatters. A wreck. Rips everywhere, scabbed over and then opened up again. Whole sections riddled with black. I'm going to have to bolster most of the left side with gear work and god knows how much thread it's going to take to patch up the rest. I could use violet, which is good for mending familial damage, but there's so much wrong that I probably need something stronger like orange and that's not good for a little heart."
Jensen's hand settled on Jared's shoulder, sudden and heavy. He didn't speak, just let Jared soak in his presence.
Jared drew a shuddering breath. "Eight years old. And she's going to have to have a metal heart for the rest of her life because her parents are monsters."
"It's better than if she couldn't get mended at all," Jensen pointed out. "You're giving her a chance to get over it, right?"
"Yeah," Jared sighed. "But it hurts to know that she needs it. And even with my help, it's going to be a long road to recovery. That's not the sort of thing you get over in a day, or a month or even a year."
"Kids are resilient," Jensen said. "I'm sure she'll bounce back. What's that about?" he asked then, with a nod towards Jared's hand which had crept, without Jared's notice, up to rub at the skin over his heart.
Jared blinked down at his hand, then offered Jensen a wan smile. "Just a tear. Guess I'm feeling a little wobbly today."
"You can feel it when you get a tear?"
"Comes with being a mender, really. If I wasn't in touch with my own heart, how could I expect to understand other peoples'? Normally this wouldn't be hitting me this hard, but ever since…" he trailed off before he could finish that sentence, cursing internally. He hurriedly shifted the topic. "It's not a big deal. A little green thread and I'll be good to go."
Jensen frowned. "Who mends your heart?" he asked.
"Hmm?" Jared asked absently. "Oh, I do. It's never really needed that much looking after. And it's easy enough to fix small tears with a mirror and some patience."
How about when it's been cut in half? Jensen's expression said, and Jared knew that they were both relieved that he didn't say it aloud. That particular elephant in the room was growing bigger every day, it seemed, but broaching the subject was impossible when Jensen was determined to pretend that part of Jared's heart wasn't beating in his chest.
"Percolate's got those sissy frappés you like on special today," Jensen said then, in a deliberately light tone of voice. "Caffeine therapy works wonders."
"It does, does it? Guess I could give it a go." Jared hauled himself out of the chair and determinedly did not miss the warm press of Jensen's hand on his shoulder. "Can I get you anything?"
"Americano," Jensen said immediately, as though that had been his entire goal behind suggesting Jared get himself a drink. It very well could have been, knowing Jensen, though these days Jared was starting to have cause to wonder. There was definitely more to Jensen than his amiably distant exterior suggested.
"As you wish," Jared said, sketching a little bow with a smile that he didn't need to force.
"Leave," Jensen ordered calmly. He turned back to the counter in clear dismissal. Jared didn't believe him for a second and it was with a light step that he went to fetch their drinks. The sooner he left, the sooner he could come back, after all.
And when Jensen 'accidentally' over-baked a beautiful cherry pie and gave it to Jared to take back to the clinic, Jared smiled and very deliberately didn't comment.
That weekend, Jared decided to get drunk.
"Not that I'm complaining," Chad said, as Jared sat down with two more beers. He was starting to lose track of how many it had been, which was a sign that the evening was progressing right on cue. "But since when do you like getting shitfaced? You haven't done that since college."
"I'm channeling my inner you," Jared said, taking a long drag of his bottle. "No work tomorrow; why not?"
Chad raised an eyebrow at him and Jared knew he wanted to push it further. Instead, he shrugged and accepted his own beer. "Speaking my language, fucker," was all he said.
They'd been there for a good few hours by this point and Jared was steadily working his way to falling down drunk. He was quite looking forward to it, actually. The edges of the world were starting to feel hazy, which made it harder for Jared to notice how blunted his feelings had become. Which was just what he wanted.
"Hey, hey." Chad elbowed him in the ribs hard enough to jostle Jared's beer and Jared swore.
"Was that really nex- necses- … did you have to do that?" he asked peevishly. He shook his hand, wrinkling his nose at the beer all over it.
"Your gay soul mate's here by himself tonight," Chad said and, to Jared's horror, pointed openly to where Jensen was leaning by himself against the bar, flirting idly with the bartender. Just the sight of him in perfectly fitted jeans and a shirt that was definitely a size too small was enough to make Jared's pulse spike, especially with a night's hard drinking eroding his self-control. "Got enough alcohol in you to go ask if you can fuck him?"
"Chad!" Jared grabbed Chad's arm and tried to pull it down before Jensen saw. Chad was less than inclined to go along with him and they ended up grappling for several minutes before Jared gained the upper hand.
Chad made a disgusted sound as he yanked himself free. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" he demanded, rubbing at his wrist. "Do you even have a dick? Because I'm this fucking close to going up to that pretty cocksucker myself and telling him to get on you and that's gonna be really fucking awkward if you don't have one."
"Fuck off," Jared muttered into his beer bottle. "My dick is amazing."
"I'm glad to hear that," Jensen's voice said, from far too close, and Jared choked on a mouthful of beer.
Chad pounded helpfully on his back and Jared coughed as he looked up to find Jensen standing in front of their table with a beer in one hand and an amused expression on his face.
"Jensen!" Jared managed, wiping a frantic hand across his mouth. God, this was embarrassing. "I, um, hi!"
"Hi yourself," Jensen said. He didn't wait for an invitation before sliding into the booth on Jared's right, close enough to make Jared's pulse skip.
Jared stared at him, completely at a loss.
Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, Chad suffered from no such crushing uncertainty.
"Chad," he introduced himself, thrusting out a hand. "This fucker's best friend. And you're Jensen."
"Yes, I am," Jensen agreed, returning the handshake. "Nice to put a name to the face."
Chad squinted at him. "Yeah? Could've done that a hundred fucking times over by now if you'd ever bothered asking."
Jensen made a sound that was meant to sound like a chuckle. "Fair enough. Better late than never, hey?"
Chad continued squinting at him, obviously unconvinced.
"I'll buy the next round," Jensen offered, which would go a long way towards endearing him to Chad. Sometimes it was nice to have uncomplicated friends.
Sure enough, Chad left off squinting in order to nod. "You do that."
Jensen grinned as he stood again, leaving his own bottle on the table. "Guard that with your life, okay?" he asked Jared, not waiting for a response before heading off towards the bar.
"Well fuck me," Chad said. "Never saw that shit coming. You'd better as fuck do something about this, Jay man."
Jared wrapped an absent hand around Jensen's beer and enjoyed watching the graceful lines and planes of Jensen's body as he leaned fluidly up against the bar. "Shut up, Chad."
Chad kept talking, undeterred, and Jared ignored him. Not an unusual occurrence.
It wasn't long before Jensen was winding his way back to their table, a beer in each hand. Jared appreciated that view as well.
"Thanks, man. Here you go," Jensen said, sliding Jared's beer across the table with a speculative look that Jared couldn't quite parse.
"Thanks," Jared said, draining the last of the bottle he was still working on as he accepted the new one.
Jensen smiled. "My pleasure." He lifted his beer in a short toast. "Cheers." His bottle was only half full, which meant that Jensen's neck had to tilt back into one long, smooth column as he swallowed and Jared was far too drunk not to get thoroughly distracted by that.
Then Jensen pulled the bottle away with a satisfied sound and licked a few stray drops off his lips, and Jared considered banging his head on the table until his libido knocked it off already.
"So," Jensen said, and he was back to look pleased, though Jared didn't quite know why. "Any particular reason why you're trying to drink each other under the table? Don't usually see you drinking so much, Jared."
"Been a rough couple of… times," Jared said, which was about as close to evasive as he could get right now. "Felt like taking a load off." He waved a hand. "Chad's always like this."
Jensen raised an eyebrow at Chad, who shrugged.
"If you're gonna drink, do it right. What about you?" Chad asked, with a hint of belligerence. Because it was Chad. "Don't usually see you here on your own."
Jensen shrugged easily. "Everyone cancelled on me. Which isn't so bad really. I was actually hoping to talk to Jared tonight," he said, with an emphasis that had Jared abruptly wishing he was more sober. "Like you wanted me to. If I needed you."
"Oh? Oh! I, uh," Jared looked at the small forest of beer bottles he'd amassed. "I think I've had a few too many to be doing any mend… um-"
"Don't worry," Jensen said. He winked. "Nothing too invasive, I promise." He glanced around the room. "This probably isn't the best place, though."
Jared was torn between listening for what Jensen was actually talking about behind all that innuendo and watching Chad's expression get exponentially smarmier the longer Jensen talked. Boo-tay call Chad mouthed at him, proud as a parent, and Jared rolled his eyes. Only Chad.
"Jared?" Jensen asked, startling him back into focus. "You got somewhere more private we can go?"
The clinic, Jared's brain reminded him, because that was where they needed to be if something was wrong with Jensen's heart. This had nothing to do with Jared's bedroom. He nodded dumbly. "Yeah, we can-"
"Great," Jensen interrupted. He stood with an easy smile. "I'll go get us a taxi. Nice to meet you, Chad."
With that, Jensen walked off with a smooth, confident strut that had several people watching his ass appreciatively. Jared was definitely one of those people.
"Well damn," Chad breathed, breaking Jared out of his Jensen Ackles induced stupor. "Should'a known you wouldn't be able to close the deal yourself. Better go before he finds a better offer." He snagged Jared's half-finished beer. "I'll take care of things here."
"It's not-" Jared started, only to give up when his inner voice reminded him that explaining would be even worse than letting Chad think he was heading off for a booty call.
Chad leered at him. "You can tell me next time how he is in the sack. Bet he whimpers like a fucking girl when he's got a cock in him."
Actually, now that Jared thought about it, telling the truth had a certain appeal as well.
"Thanks, Chad," Jared settled for, climbing only slightly awkwardly to his feet. "I'll… catch you later?"
"Go forth and get laid, douchebag," Chad said, so Jared gave him a cheeky salute and wobbled to the door.
Jensen was waiting for Jared outside and brightened noticeably when he saw him.
"You always keep people waiting?" Jensen asked, nothing but gentle teasing in the words. He gestured to a taxi that was pulled up against the curb. "Come on."
They slid into the back seat and Jared started to give the address for the clinic.
"Wait," Jensen said to the driver, then, to Jared, "Not very subtle. You have stuff at your place, right?"
"Yeah," Jared said, because he did. True, the most of his mending supplies were at the clinic but his home setup was still more than enough to deal with nearly anything that didn't require a hospital or a new aorta. And he thought that Jensen would have been suffering a little more obviously if he'd been in that kind of trouble.
So Jared gave his apartment address, ignoring the smirk the driver threw the both of them, then sat in silence next to Jensen while the city slipped away past the window. Jensen seemed disinclined to talk and Jared didn't want to start asking questions while the cab driver might overhear. Jared felt decidedly more sober now than he had twenty minutes ago, although he still didn't think he was up to any major mending. If there was something really wrong, Jensen would have to wait for Jared to down a gallon or so of water first.
The cab pulled up in front of Jared's building and Jensen paid the man while Jared fumbled for his keys. Jensen hung close behind him as Jared let them in and led the way down the hall to his apartment.
"Nice," Jensen said as Jared pushed open his door and clicked on the lights. Jared's apartment wasn't the Ritz by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a good size for him and he'd made a decent effort towards making it homey. He'd got a ground floor apartment for access to the yard, but then had always been too busy to get a dog.
"Looks kind of like your waiting room," Jensen noted as he walked into the living room and took in the bright red couches. "I like it."
"Same furniture," Jared admitted. He dropped his keys absently on the table and started to turn towards Jensen. "So, what did you-"
Jensen was right behind him, standing so close that their chests were nearly touching. Jared's body made an immediate attempt to jerk away, but one of Jensen's hands hooked around the back of his neck, keeping him close.
"J-Jensen?" Jared stammered.
Jensen's smile was dark and full of promise. "Jared. You know all that stuff I was saying? That you thought was me pretending to flirt so I could tell you there was something wrong with my heart?"
Jensen leaned in to press his lips against the convulsive bob of Jared's Adam's apple. "I wasn't pretending."
Jensen's mouth swallowed the rest of Jared's protest, slanting warm and confident against Jared's lips. The hand around Jared's neck flexed and pulled him down to give Jensen the opportunity to deepen the kiss, his tongue slick and thorough.
Jared managed a garbled half-groan that made Jensen hum with pleasure. His hands clutched spasmodically on nothing as he tried to figure out what to do with them, then Jensen nipped at Jared's lower lip, almost hard enough to hurt, and they flew up to latch onto Jensen's hips for support.
Jensen pulled back just enough to tease the line of Jared's jaw, the combination of teeth and tongue making Jared's toes curl. "C'mon, Jared," Jensen murmured. His other hand shifted around to press against Jared's lower back, holding him close. "Show me what you can do."
Jared gave a shuddering moan and, unable to resist, found himself obeying Jensen's command with a mix of instinct and dizzying arousal. He surrendered his mouth to the insistent press of Jensen's tongue while his hands shifted down to cup Jensen's ass and grind their hips together. Jensen's pleased groan made his cock twitch inside his jeans.
Their kisses turned frantic, hungry, messy, and Jared felt Jensen's hands slide around to the front of his shirt and flatten against his chest.
"So fucking hot, Jared," Jensen mumbled, his breath hot against Jared's cheek. His hands tripped smoothly down the line of Jared's buttons and Jared hissed a little at the cool air against overheated skin as Jensen pulled his shirt open.
"Too busy being pissed to appreciate this last time," Jensen said. His hands roamed boldly across the planes and valleys of Jared's chest and he made a pleased hum. "Tragic."
"Jens-" Jared panted, still half-drunk and so turned on it hurt.
Jensen was back to looking amused. "Yes, Jared?" He dragged a fingernail across one of Jared's nipples and Jared arched into the touch with a strangled yelp.
Jensen chuckled, sounding very pleased with himself. "Too easy, man. Where's the guy who gives as good as he gets every time I see him?"
Jared decided that he could play dirty just as well. He took decisive control of the next kiss, delving in and giving Jensen no choice but to surrender. His hands went from rubbing Jensen's ass through his jeans to snaking down the back of his pants and curving around warm skin while one of his fingers slid insinuatingly into the crease between Jensen's cheeks.
Jensen shuddered hard and Jared felt a sharp sense of triumph when Jensen's hands left off their teasing to wrap tightly around Jared's shoulders, hanging on for dear life.
"You like that?" Jared panted between deep, drugging kisses.
Jensen pulled back to reveal green eyes blown wide and dark with desire. "You have to ask?"
Jensen shifted then, forcing Jared back step by inexorable step. Jared gave ground easily, too distracted by the living skin under his fingers to care much about what Jensen was doing.
Jared's shoulders hit the wall and he suddenly had all of Jensen plastered against his front, Jared's throbbing cock snugged neatly into the pocket of Jensen's pelvis while Jensen's cock seared a line of heat down Jared's thigh.
"Fuck," he muttered, before he could stop himself.
Jensen laughed, a low, throaty sound. "I hope so." He gave Jared a saucy wink. "But first…"
The heady clutch of Jensen's fingers vanished and Jared hardly had a moment to protest before Jensen was sinking gracefully to his knees, looking up at Jared along the length of his body with a quirked eyebrow that made it clear he knew exactly what he looked like when he was on his knees in front of Jared with his lips swollen and wet and his cheeks flushed with arousal.
"Jensen," Jared breathed, incredulity mingling with lust into something profane and perfect.
Jensen didn't respond, just leaned forward to press his face right up against the heavy bulge in Jared's pants and inhale deeply. Jared did his very best not to pass out. The pounding of his heart was fast enough that Jared was dimly surprised that the poor thing hadn't surrendered yet.
"Mmm," Jensen hummed, opening his mouth to place wet, lingering kisses on the fabric. He continued doing that until the crotch of Jared's jeans was thoroughly wet, seemingly content to stay there on his knees and not touch Jared's cock for the rest of the night.
Which Jared was absolutely not okay with. With a growl, Jared reached for his own belt buckle and pulled the leather free as fast as he could while he had Jensen Ackles mouthing at his cock through his pants.
Jensen finally lifted his head long enough to give Jared the space to peel down his zipper, then sat back on his heels to watch as Jared pulled his cock out of his underwear. It jutted eagerly away from his body, precome already glistening at the tip.
"Nice," Jensen said. He licked his lips and leaned in until his breath was ghosting across the swollen head. Jared twitched wildly and Jensen smirked. "Oh yeah. Should've told me you had such a pretty dick, Jared. Would've done this years ago, Jesus."
Something about that caught stubbornly in the back of Jared's head and he struggled to think around the double assault of alcohol and arousal.
At his feet, Jensen wrapped a hand around the base of Jared's cock. It was a firm, practiced grip that pulled a startled hiss out of Jared's throat and jerked him out of his haze just long enough to realize what was weird about this entire situation.
"Jens-" he tried, his efforts impeded by the oh so slow drag of Jensen's hand against sensitive skin. "Wait, what're we…?"
"Just go with it," Jensen soothed, like Jared was some kind of frightened virgin. "I know you want it."
Jensen pumped the length of Jared's cock and Jared's hands finally got with the program: one snaked down to catch Jensen's wrist, stilling his movements, and the other landed on Jensen's shoulder, shoving his head a safer distance away.
"Stop," Jared said, panting. He looked at Jensen's parted lips, still dangerously close to his dick, and hurriedly transferred his attention to Jensen's forehead. "What's going on here, Jensen?"
Jensen arched an eyebrow. "You need me to spell it out for you?" he asked, and Jared's heart sank when he finally, finally recognized the seductive drawl in Jensen's voice. He'd heard him use it a hundred times on a hundred nameless conquests.
Gathering the tattered remains of his self-control around him like a shield, Jared squared his shoulders and tried very hard not to think about the fact that he was turning down a blowjob from Jensen fucking Ackles as he said, "no."
"No? You sure about that?" Jensen free hand came up to touch and Jared let go of his shoulder to grab that one too. Jensen looked up at him from under his eyelashes. "Do you like it better when I struggle? Because I can work with that."
Jared made an inarticulate noise in the back of his throat and shook his head, fighting the urge to close his eyes against temptation. God only knew what Jensen would do if Jared wasn't watching. "I'm serious, Jensen. Why are you doing this?"
Jensen's come hither look turned into an 'are you fucking kidding me' look instead. Jared really couldn't say he blamed him. "Uh, because I want to? What d'you think usually happens when a guy invites himself to your place? A racy cuddle?"
"That's not-" Jared bit the inside of his cheek hard, using the pain to ground himself. "Why are you doing this with me? Instead of some random guy like you always do?"
Jensen shifted back on his heels, his expression growing increasingly irritated. "Well, it was because you're hot and a sure thing, but now I'm beginning to wonder."
Jared blinked at him, hands falling limply to his sides now that he no longer needed them to hold Jensen back. "I'm a what?"
"Oh, come on, Jared," Jensen said. "You really gonna try for denial now? Actually, you know what? No. Fuck this." Jensen came to his feet with a sharp, jerky movement, cheeks flushed with anger now instead of arousal. "I'd have thought a guy who fixed hearts for a living would be more down with his emotions but if you'd rather repress, you go right ahead. I'm leaving."
"Wait-" Jared started forward, belatedly realized that his now considerably less excited dick was still hanging out of his pants, tucked himself in and then started after Jensen. "Jensen, wait what are you talking about? It's not that I don't-" Jared laughed, a little sheepishly, "I mean, obviously, but that doesn't mean I want it like th-"
Jensen's answering snort was loud and derisive. "Yeah right. You're fucking gagging for it. Probably have been for years."
Jared gaped. "How do you…"
"Because I can feel it!" Jensen snarled, his expression turning ugly. "In this stupid fucking heart you gave me!"
Jared froze in the act of reaching for Jensen's arm. "What."
"Oh, yes," Jensen said caustically. All trace of arousal had bled out of him, leaving righteous rage in its wake. "Looks like there are even more side effects to your illegal heart transfer than you thought."
"You, what do you-" Jared blinked. "I'm confused."
Jensen laughed, bitter and black and horrifying.
"Yeah, I'll just bet you are. How do you think I fucking feel? Oh wait, you already know. Because I feel every," Jensen stepped in and jabbed Jared hard in the chest, right over his heart, "fucking," another jab and Jared found himself being herded across the room again, step by step, "thing you do. Every pang of lust, every soppy bit of happiness, every moment of satisfaction, every everything!"
Jared froze, horrorstruck, suddenly enough that Jensen nearly walked into him. "You what?! Jesus Christ, Jensen, why didn't you tell me?"
"And what good would that have done, Jared? Hmm? You changed your mind about taking your heart back? Cause I don't think anything else is gonna do the trick unless you learn how to stop having feelings."
"I'm-" Jared swallowed thickly, feeling sick. "God, Jensen, I'm so sorry I didn't-"
Jensen held up a quelling hand. "Shut it. I don't need any more of your mopey guilt in my chest, thanks very much. At least the lust was fun for both of us."
"Jensen," Jared said. He licked his lips, a nervous gesture, and watched Jensen's eyes track the movement. "The, the lust, I didn't-"
"The fuck you don't!" Jensen exploded. "You're inside my fucking head, Jared - you can't lie to me. We both know you want this."
"Not like this," Jared said, softly.
Jensen crossed his arms over his chest. "Oh? And how is 'this'," he gestured up and down his body, "not up to your standards, pray tell."
"I want more than you're willing to give," Jared said. "And I'd rather have nothing than what you're offering."
"Right, whatever. I'm out of here."
"Jensen, stop it." Jared reached out as Jensen made to leave, not quite touching but obvious enough to make Jensen pause. "How long have we known each other? Don't you think that if all I wanted from you was a night in your bed that I'd have gone for it ages ago?"
"I think you're a fucking coward," Jensen spat. "For not asking then and for backing out now."
"You can feel my emotions, right?" Jared pressed, firmly ignoring the ache in his chest at that thought. "You know I'm telling the truth. I… I like you, Jensen. Don't you see?"
Jensen snorted. "All I feel is a whole lot of angst and sexual frustration. Getting laid would probably help."
Jared stared at him, hardly able to believe that Jensen was telling the truth. Even diluted and half there, Jared's feelings would have to be impossible to mistake for anything other than what they were. For Jensen not to be able to recognize affection and love for what they were…
"What happened to you, Jensen?" The words were out before Jared had the chance to bite them back and he knew they were a mistake even before he saw a vicious thundercloud spread across Jensen's features.
"You looking for some kind of sob story?" Jensen demanded, in a voice that bit and gouged its way into Jared's bones. "Some tragic tale of childhood abuse or youthful betrayal to make you feel better? To turn me into something you can fix?"
"I want the truth," Jared said quietly. "Or as much of it as you're willing to tell me."
"Yeah? Well, what I'm telling you is that it's none of your goddamn business and that I was just fine with the way things were before you decided to help." Jensen smiled nastily, meaning to hurt. "And that I couldn't care less if you 'like' me."
It was no more than Jared already knew, but hearing it aloud hurt a lot more than he'd expected. His heart gave a sickly twinge and Jared pressed one hand to his chest, panting through the pain. That was going to leave a mark, he knew, and all he could do was hope that only his half of his heart was affected by the hurts that he'd suffered since the split. The last thing Jensen needed was collateral damage on top of all the other shit he was dealing with.
"Jared?" Jensen's voice asked, from what felt like very far away, and Jared dragged himself out of his head to see Jensen frowning at him.
Jared forced a wan smile. "It's fine."
"Yeah, well it's my bullshit. So don't worry about it."
Anger and pain mingled and melted together on Jensen's face. Jared would have bet a million dollars that he knew which emotion came from where.
"I really had no idea that something like this was even possible," Jared said, doing his best to let Jensen feel his sincerity.
"Oh yeah, because an apology's really going to do the trick now."
"I'll tone down the… feeling things when you're around," Jared offered.
Jensen raised an eyebrow. "Have you felt your emotions? It's like care and share day in kindergarten all over again. And about as subtle."
"Well, then you're just going to have to try and ignore them." Jared drew himself up with all the dignity he could muster when all he wanted to do was crawl away to his room and hide under the covers for a year or two. "Clearly you've got a lot of experience pretending other people don't have feelings."
Jensen's answering smile was brittle. "It'll be my pleasure." He turned again to the door and this time Jared didn't stop him. "I'll see myself out."
The door closed not quite hard enough to count as a slam, and Jared's whole body sagged with a mess of conflicting emotions that he couldn't even begin to untangle. Jensen must have been having a field day with all that rattling inside him. Especially on top of his own feelings.
Jared went to the window and looked out to where Jensen was on his phone, pacing back and forth in front of Jared's building with sharp, angry strides. Jensen never once turned towards the building so Jared stayed where he was and watched Jensen pace until a taxi pulled up and he climbed in.
Jared watched as the cab pulled away from the curb, knowing that Jensen was on his way to some bar to find someone who would fuck him the way Jared wouldn't.
"Fuck!" Jared swore, and then again, "Fuck, fuck, fuck!"
He turned away from the window and faced the living room, seeing in his mind's eye the way he'd been leaning against the wall with Jensen at his feet, ready to make every one of Jared's dirtiest fantasies come true.
But only for one night.
"Fuck," Jared said again, resigned this time. He scooped his shirt up off the floor and stalked to his bedroom, where he peeled off the rest of his clothes and fell into bed.
He took his cock in hand without even trying to think of anything other than the wet promise of Jensen's mouth, the solid strength of him under Jared's hands, the way he would have looked spread out on Jared's bed and begging to get fucked. Jared's cock, which had never really gone fully soft, responded enthusiastically and it was only a matter of minutes before Jared was spilling into his own palm with Jensen's name caught between his teeth.
Jared slumped, spent in more ways than one. He wiped his hand carelessly with a handful of tissues from the box on the bedside table and fell back against the pillow, staring up at the dark ceiling.
"Fuck," he said one more time, before closing eyes and trying to resign himself to sleep.
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