cloudy_fic: (fly away by counterglow)
[personal profile] cloudy_fic
Title: Paused on the Way Home 1/2
Author: CloudyJenn
Fandom: SPN/RPS
Pairings: Jensen/Misha
Rating: R
Word Count: 12,900+
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am making no profit from this fanfiction.
Warnings: RPS
Summary: When Jensen finds a homeless man passed out in a pile of snow, he decides to bring him home out of the cold. But it doesn't take long before Jensen realizes that the man is more than just odd. He might be crazy and Jensen's not sure what to do with him.
Author's Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] hils on the [livejournal.com profile] deancas_xmas exchange. She asked for "AU wherein Dean finds a guy wearing a trenchcoat half-frozen in the snow and decides to take him home with him. Christmas is the time for goodwill toward men after all" and I turned that into a Jensen/Misha "Winter, but not Christmas" story. Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] antiquitydreams for her encouragement, help and general birgo-ness.




Jensen's life wasn't boring. It was, however, quite regimented. Not out of necessity, but rather habit. Ever since Jensen moved into his house four years ago, each day adhered to the following schedule. Wake up at 7 AM. First, a shower and breakfast, then three or four hours spent writing and researching. A break for lunch would find Jensen down the street at Spade's Deli for a turkey sandwich. Back home for another three hours of work. Then a short nap before dinner with Dean squished beside him on the couch. Dinner was either out at whatever restaurant Jared chose or experimenting with new recipes Jensen had discovered on foodtv.com.

Nothing ever changed and unlike the men and women in Jensen's biographies, he was quite comfortable with the situation.

Sometimes, when it was very late and the branches of the giant oak tree in his yard tapped at the glass of his bedroom window, Jensen thought it might be nice to have a convenient neck to hide his face in. But then the wind would shift. The branches would stop begging entrance and Jensen's irrational fears would ebb.

In his experience, relationships complicated life. His longest running relationship was with a man called Jared, who'd been assigned as his college roommate and never moved out of Jensen's life. Not even when Jensen picked up and transferred across the country from Texas to Seattle.
Jared just followed along, started a business and got the girl. All within that first year.

Which was all well and good for Jared, but Jensen preferred his quiet simple life. He depended on the solitude of working at home.

Not that he never left the building. In fact, on the evening when it started, Jensen had left his slender shotgun house to take Dean on a walk through the local park. An hour of bounding through a slushy clearing after the ball Jensen threw him thoroughly exhausted Dean.

"Are you ready to go home?" Jensen asked, hoping Dean wouldn't put up a fight. His nose and cheeks were pink and chapped from the frigid wind and a light snow had begun to fall.

Dean barked and tried to nose his way down Jensen's pea coat, so Jensen assumed Dean was cold too.

"C'mon then. We'll have a beer when we get home." Dean barked again and hopped around Jensen's feet. "Well, I'll have a beer. You can have a biscuit." The clarification didn't lessen Dean's joy and so they started their journey, their pace hampered by slick sidewalks and icy winds. Jensen silently thanked God for his small home with its excellent heater.

"I'd hate to be out in this all night," he confided to Dean.

But Dean didn't answer. He didn't bark and jump up on Jensen's legs like he usually did when his master spoke to him. Instead, he sprinted away from Jensen, jerking his leash right out of Jensen's hands and galloping away down a very dark alley.

"Dean! Come back!"

Jensen hesitated at the alley's entrance. Dusk had just to creep over the horizon, but had already settled firmly into this small crevice between a bar and a furniture store. Jensen was by no means a helpless man, but he did not want to test his fighting skills should some shiftless drifter wish to claim his wallet.

"Dean!"

A bark echoed down towards him. Through the dim lighting, Jensen could only just make out Dean's wiggling form. He was nosing at something and barking incessantly, a kind of anxious growling howl Jensen had never heard before.

"Please don't be a dead body," Jensen murmured to himself as he picked his way past garbage cans and stacks of old yellowed newspapers. "Please don't be a dead body."

It wasn't a dead body.

But Jensen didn't know that at first.

"Holy shit," he breathed, grabbing Dean's leash and tugging him back away from the figure sprawled across a discarded wooden crate. "Oh my god!" He fumbled in his pocket for his cell phone, thoughts of calling 911 and giving babbled statements to policemen flying through his mind, but the actions ground to a halt when the figure moved.

Moved and groaned and fell off the crate onto the ground with a resounding thump.

"Oh my god," Jensen echoed himself, leaping to the person's side. By the time he got there, Jensen had learned that the figure was male, approximately Jensen's age and clad in a long tan trench coat and pinstriped pants. And that was it.

Jensen stared at the man's naked chest for a split second, confused and embarrassed by the impropriety of finding this poor homeless man's body attractive. But his smooth toned chest and slender shoulders called heat into Jensen's belly.

But then the man moved again and Jensen's mind refocused on the task at hand. He dropped to his knees, uncaring that half-melted snow soaked into his khaki pants.

"Hey, are you okay?" His hands fluttered an inch over the man's body. Touching him seemed a bad idea, but leaving him there in those harsh frigid conditions even less appealing. "Can you hear me?"

The man moaned softly. Jensen placed a gentle hand on the man's stubbled chin and carefully turned his head towards Jensen's voice.

"Are you hurt?" he whispered. The man's eyes moved quickly under delicate pale eyelids and just as Jensen leaned closer to him, the eyes opened. They were a strange solid blue, untouched by any hint of another color.

"Oh," Jensen said softly. The man smiled.

"Are you here to save me?" he asked.

And for the life of him, Jensen would never understand why his answer sprang off his tongue so quickly.

"Yes."

Behind him, Dean barked happily.

*******************************

"No. No police. No doctors. No fireman. No librarians," the man said as Jensen helped him sit up. "I don't care for their care of me."

Jensen frowned. "Librarians?"

The man's body was fit, but light. Jensen thought he could probably pick him up, but didn't want to startle him.

"Librarians’ lives are books and vagrants," the man said, leaning heavily on Jensen's arm to lift himself from the ground. The imprint of his body left in the snow caught Jensen's eye.

"You made a snow angel," Jensen said before he could think better of it.

The man looked down behind him. "Huh. Once an angel."

Jensen didn't know what he meant and decided not to ask. He was beginning to wonder if this man had escaped from some kind of mental ward.

"Are you feeling alright? Nothing hurt?"

The man patted hands down his own body, over his naked chest and across his thighs.

"I seem to be intact."

"Why were you out here? Do you have somewhere to go?"

For the first time since he woke up, something other than bland cheerfulness filtered into the man's gaze. Jensen couldn't tell the exact emotion. Only that it made him want to shut the man's coat against the chill and hug him.

"I'm not allowed to go home anymore," the man said sadly.

Jensen's heart flipped over in his chest.

"What do you mean?"

"I've been, ah...excommunicated," the man said. He looked down at his clothes, a frown appearing on his forehead. "I lost my shirt. I can't remember where."

"Have you been to a shelter?" Jensen asked. He knew those places could fill up, but surely they could at least give him a new shirt to wear. Anything as protection against this weather. The news had warned of falling temperatures. Below zero at midnight and only a thin coat between his skin and glacial air.

"They don't like me there," the man said. The forlorn note in his tone squeezed Jensen's heart further.

"That shouldn't matter," he said, anger gathering into a hard knot in his middle. "They aren't here to judge. They're here to help."

Dean barked as if in support and the man's attention snapped down to the dog.

"What?" he asked.

"I said-"

Another bark followed by a series of short woofs interrupted Jensen. The man squatted down on his haunches and reached out to stroke long elegant fingers through Dean's dark brown fur. Jensen noticed the man's hands seemed smooth. Untouched by a hard life. Odd.

"Is that so?" the man whispered, shooting a sly peek at Jensen's face. "Alright then."

"Um...are you talking to my dog?"

"Dean's a good dog," the man said.

"Well, yes-"

"Is it alright if you lend me a shirt?" the man blurted out, straightening and pushing into Jensen's personal space. "I'm very cold. I'd like to be warm. Warm like home."

The man was too close. He didn't smell like a dirty back alley. He smelled like cinnamon.

"Uh, I...I guess."

It wouldn't hurt to help the man. If he didn't, Jensen knew he'd just worry about him all night long and after all, Jensen had plenty of shirts while this man had none. Dean ran towards the end of the alley and turned his head back, barking at the humans to hurry along. Jensen gave the man a slight smile.

"I'm not far from here."

"It's okay," the man said sagely. "Dean will lead the way."

They were halfway home when Jensen remembered that he never said Dean's name while the man was conscious.

*******************************

"Here we are," Jensen said. Dean pushed past him into the living room and hopped up on his favorite couch, the ragged blue monstrosity Jared bought them in college and bequeathed to Jensen upon finding his own place. He barked a welcome to the man who stood at the threshold and looked down at his feet, the toe of his boots just over the edge.

"This is home," he said to himself.

"Well, it's a home," Jensen clarified. He didn't want the guy getting any ideas. "Would you like to come in?"

In his head, Jensen heard his father's voice. Are you crazy, son? Letting a stranger into your home? And a damned funny one at that. It's dangerous, boy. But he also heard Jared's voice, the earnest weepy tone he used while talking about abandoned dogs and hungry children. You have to help him, Jensen. He's harmless, but the streets aren't. You can't leave him out in the cold.

As usual, Jensen listened to Jared.

"I can get you something hot to drink," he added. Whatever hesitation the man had about walking into Jensen's house disappeared and he surged forward.

"Do you have hot chocolate?"

Jensen stepped back again away from the man's addictive scent. He'd always loved cinnamon. "I can make some."

"You will make some," the man said, but it didn't sound like a threat. More like an announcement of sacred prophecy. "Chocolate is worth coming down here."

"Here where?"

The man gestured around him. "Here."

Jensen didn't have the heart to make him explain. All his answers held a note of vague confusion, as if the man weren't quite sure where he was or what he was doing. Asking too many questions might upset him.

Although, one was unavoidable. Jensen couldn't keep calling him 'the man’.

"What's your name?"

"I had a name," the man said as he sat beside Dean and petted his head, fondness growing clear and bright in his eyes. "But I don't remember it anymore. I make people call me 'Misha' now."

Jensen figured his real name must have been something dull like George or Bill and he'd picked out an unusual name to suit his unusual personality.

"My name is Jensen."

When Misha looked up at him, his gaze sharpened to a clarity Jensen had not yet seen there. It sliced through him and his impulse was to look away, but he couldn't. Misha had thoroughly captured him.

"I like that name," Misha said solemnly. And then a hazy smile stole his lucidity. "I'd like warmth in my belly now, please."

Jensen left Misha whispering in Dean's ear and went to make the cocoa.

*******************************

"I have green or blue."

Jensen held up two shirts for Misha's inspection.

"Life is always decisions, isn’t it?" Misha pondered, stroking his chin, the half-empty cocoa mug held tight in his other hand. "No, I'm wrong. Life is no choices. But I have one now."

He peered at the shirts. The blue was a button-down Jared's wife, Genevieve, bought Jensen for Christmas. The green a pullover his mom gave him on a random shopping spree. He'd worn them both occasionally, but mainly because he cared about the women who bought them. Otherwise, they were still fairly new. Both would hold up out on the streets for awhile.

Misha leaned over and smelled them both carefully.

"There's love on both these shirts," Misha said. "But more so on the green."

"Love?" Jensen asked with a frown. Misha was probably right, given that his mother had purchased the green and Jensen had loved her longer than he’d known Gen. But love wasn't something you could smell. Jensen couldn't decide if Misha was crazy or just a little odd.

"Yes. Love is warm, so I should choose green," Misha said, setting his mug down on the coffee table. "But blue would go better with my eyes."

He had a good point, although Jensen didn't think he'd give up warmth for fashion if the choice were his.

"Sure, yeah. But you know, you can have both if you want."

Misha's aforementioned eyes lit up with pleasure. "You're clever."

Then he promptly tore off his trench coat, revealing shoulders broader than Jensen realized. He flicked his eyes away as that uncomfortable heat tugged at him once more. A prolonged shuffling noise roused Jensen's curiosity, however, and so he found himself peeking over his shoulder. Misha was carefully folding the coat, taking care to gather the sleeves into the small square he was forming with the fabric. But all that passed by Jensen's attention in favor of the two massive tattoos covering Misha's back.

"Misha," Jensen said on a soft exhale. His fingers uncurled and reached for Misha's back.

Propriety didn't enter Jensen's mind. Nor did sanity. All he wanted was to touch the pair of beautifully detailed wings painted over the curve of Misha's shoulders and down his back, the tips disappearing into the edge of his pants.

Misha whipped around before Jensen's fingers touched him. That dark sad look had climbed back into his eyes. "Please don't. It's gone now. It's all gone. I can't remember. Please, don't," he whispered.

Jensen held up his hands and stepped back. Safe and non-threatening.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to. I don't know what came over me."

"Forget them," Misha said, almost angrily. He tugged the green shirt over his head, wrecking his already messy hair further. "They're useless now anyway."

From any other stranger, the anger would worry Jensen, maybe even frighten him. But nothing about Misha spoke of violence. His tone and voice, his smile, the way he touched Dean. It was all so very gentle and kind. Jensen sensed the anger was not directed at him, but rather at an unknown past.

"I'm sorry," he said again as he handed Misha the blue shirt.

"No, I'm sorry," Misha said. Another rare moment of clarity. He buttoned the shirt up, leaving only a peek of green at his neck. "I know I'm not exactly myself. It's just so hard to remember," he said, looking away. His jaw clenched and relaxed twice. Frustration. Jensen took a chance and reached up to flip Misha's new collar down.

"You don't have to remember right now."

*******************************

Night fell quickly.

Misha flicked back Jensen's heavy cream-colored curtains and frowned at the snow. "I should leave now. Before all the warm places are taken."

"What?" Jensen's nerves shot tension to his muscles and he felt his hands tremble at his sides.
"You can't go out there. You'll freeze to death."

To his surprise, Misha chuckled. "I won't die. I can't die. It's not one of the prescribed ways."

Jensen gaped at him.

"Prescribed ways of what?"

Misha's gaze slid from the swirling flakes to Jensen's wide eyes. "Getting home, of course."

A shiver crawled up Jensen's spine because Misha's expression was perfectly serious. The frightening gravity of absolute conviction, undeterred by the insanity of the notion. He wondered if Misha had tried to find 'home' this way.

"I don't understand," he said.

"I don't either," Misha assured him, turning back to the curtains. "I don't want to leave. You should ask me to stay the night."

And, though fear still pooled in Jensen's belly, he did.

*******************************

Jensen set up a bed for Misha on the blue nightmare in the living room. Despite looking a mess, the thing was obscenely comfortable. It had to be or Jensen would have trashed it ages ago. Misha watched curiously from the living room door as Jensen dressed the sofa in a white sheet and an old quilt his grandmother had sewn. A pillow completed the look and Misha gleefully dove atop the entire thing.

"This quilt is happy," he said, sighing in apparent pleasure.

If Misha really could smell love, then he'd have trouble sleeping with the reek of that quilt. Sometimes, when Jensen's family couldn't decide if his sexuality was more or less important than their love for him, Jensen's grandmother was the only person who made Jensen feel completely accepted. The sweet mentor of his youth, his father's mother. Her affection threaded into the red and blue squares that formed thick vibrant rows of color. Misha rubbed his cheek along one of the squares.

"Very warm," he muttered.

Jensen left him whispering odd nothings to the blanket and retreated to the safety of his own bedroom. It took him five mental repetitions of the night's events before the clutter in his mind cleared enough to allow sleep. And even then, he drifted for several moments in that space where shapes and thoughts are larger and more important than they ever seem in the light of day.

He didn't remember falling asleep, but when he woke, Jensen wasn't alone in his room. On the floor beside his bed, Misha slept rolled up in a cocoon made of his grandmother's quilt.

"Hey."

Dean leapt down off the bed to snuffle at Misha's wild hair.

"What are you doing in here?"

"I'm sleeping," Misha said into his pillow. His voice sounded coherent. Soft and sleepy, like any man Jensen might have spent the night with. Except he was lying in the floor.

"You do realize this is a massive violation," Jensen said.

He couldn't find it in himself to be angry at Misha. Not while staring down at his flushed pillow-creased face and warm blue eyes, a hint of his winged tattoos showing where Jensen's shirt had slipped down his shoulder in the night. Despite the intimacy of the scene, Misha didn't seem vulnerable now. Not like he had the previous night. Jensen could almost imagine he was a perfectly normal man, who just happened to like sleeping on the floor. Perhaps to avoid the flailing limbs of a sleeping lover.

"I was lonely," Misha confessed. "I'm sorry. I have a tendency to take whatever I want without asking."

Jensen's day-old fear crept back into his belly.

"Yeah? You going to steal from me?"

Or worse?

"Theft is wrong," Misha recited, obviously an oft-repeated proverb. But he sounded sincere and Jensen felt himself relax.

"Well, good. I don't want to have to throw you out. You know, before you get something to eat," Jensen fumbled to add. Hadn't he meant only to offer refuge for the night? Misha's family might have kicked him out of the house, but surely someone was looking for him. If he was trying to find his way home, someone must be waiting for Misha to make amends.

"You have eggs," Misha said. He sat up and hugged Dean around the neck, unconcerned by the amount of drool Dean laved onto his face. "I peeked last night."

Jensen had to hide a smile. Snooping in the fridge. Not a particularly vile crime.

"You want eggs?"

"You will make me an omelet," Misha decided.

"Fine."

*******************************

After breakfast, Jensen didn't know what to do with Misha.

"I have to work and...do you have anywhere to go?"

All through breakfast, the clarity in Misha's eyes had slowly faded into his original amused vacant expression. Jensen missed the new look, but even in his confusion, Misha was both kind and demanding. Two qualities Jensen seemed to enjoy, if his lukewarm reaction to Misha's refusal to stop feeding Dean under the table was anything indication.

"I have everywhere," Misha confided in a secretive tone. "But also nowhere."

Vacant Misha was, unfortunately, also cryptic Misha.

"You can't call your family?"

"I called them, but it only hurts when they answer," Misha said and the sudden palpable anguish swallowing up his features turned Jensen's questions away from the idea of leaving.

"Do you want to watch TV while I work?"

His pain lifted and blew away as if on a strong breeze. A breeze that also blew relief into Jensen's chest. Misha's confusion made his pain so much more terrible. Jensen already couldn't stand seeing it.

"Yes, please."

Dean elected to stay in the living room with Misha to watch Dr. Phil while Jensen went into his study to continue his writing.

He couldn't blame Dean.

*******************************

Three hours later, Jensen stood and stretched his stiff muscles. The words blurred in front of his eyes and his bladder begged for a break. When he returned from the bathroom, Misha was sitting on his desk beside Jensen's computer, legs folded together and his hands clasped in his lap.

"What's up?"

"Dean was tired of television," Misha explained. "What are you doing?"

"Working. Well, taking a break from work."

Misha frowned. Jensen's eyes tracked the way Misha's mouth moved, the way the corners turned down and trembled, as if Misha wasn't used to frowning. It struck him that he was beginning to memorize Misha. He did nothing to pause the study.

"Work is away. This is home," he said slowly, puzzling it out.

"Yeah, but I work at home," Jensen said, flopping into his puffy leather chair. "I'm a writer."

"Oh yes, the writer of words. You have a special purpose, Jensen Ackles," Misha said decisively and then he grinned. "I found your name on an envelope. Don't you know names are power? You must not leave your power lying around the house. Anyone could find it."

"I don't usually let just anyone in here," Jensen countered. "You're an exception."

"I have been called this and worse," Misha admitted.

He reached down to run his fingers lightly over Jensen's computer keys.

"What words do you write?"

"Biographies," Jensen said, eyes glued to Misha's hands. The careful glide of soft fingers. Touching the letters W A R, the last word Jensen had typed. He glanced up. Misha wasn't looking at the screen.

"Of whose life to do you write?"

"I've published several books. Right now, I'm working on one about Abraham Lincoln. I mostly stick to American history...what are you doing?"

Misha had thrown a leg over the edge of the desk and leaned down to smell the computer. He was worse than Dean with the sniffing. Although, at least he didn't actually wipe his nose on it. Just pressed the sharp tip to the side of the monitor and inhaled gently.

"Smell any love?"

His face scrunched up with disgust.

"Technology is the ruination of worlds."

"Yeah, I hate computers too," Jensen agreed. “I prefer writing longhand when I can.”

He tossed Misha his leather-bound notepad and chuckled when it hit Misha in the chest without the benefit of Misha's hands stopping it. The consternation on his face amused Jensen so much, he clapped Misha on the knee.

"You are the strangest guy I've ever met."

But Misha wasn't paying attention. He'd picked up the notebook and was staring at it with what Jensen could only term 'awe'. The strength of the emotion lightened his even blue eyes to a sparkling light blue they’d not shown before. Where Misha had only been handsome previously, this expression turned him truly beautiful.

Having that thought worm its way into his mind couldn't be a good thing.

"Oh," Misha breathed. "There is passion here," he said, pressing the book against his cheek and closing his eyes. "You are here. This is your stability."

"I don't know what you mean," Jensen whispered, afraid of spooking Misha in this odd calm stupor.

"Who is Abraham Lincoln?"

The question, though unbelievable, was spoken with that relaxed tone Jensen had come to associate with one of Misha's normal phases. Jensen's pleasure at this transfer back to some measure of reality eased him into the ridiculous non-sequitor.

"You're joking, right?" he asked. It must be a tease.

But Misha's curious expression only deepened into bewilderment. "I’m funny, but I'm not making a joke right now. I have never heard of Abraham Lincoln." His eyes fell to the computer screen. "You must know a great deal about him. You've written a lot here."

The other shoe never dropped. The pause stretched out as Jensen waited for it regardless. Not being a history buff was one thing. But having never heard of Lincoln? Even a totally sheltered child must have heard of him while growing up. Seen him on pennies. Something. But Misha's frown held and Jensen didn't think it was a joke.

"He was president," Jensen said helplessly. The perfect audience for his material and Jensen floundered. "Of the US, um...during the Civil War."

"Oh, I see. I think that was before I came down here," Misha commented lightly.

"Down...where?"

"Here," Misha said, opening his hands palm-up to indicate their surroundings. "Earth."

Jensen's stomach dropped. So, Misha was crazy. Until this moment of confirmation, Jensen hadn't realized how much he'd been hoping that Misha was just quirky. Just playing up the image of a confused homeless guy to tug at Jensen's sympathy hard enough to get a free shirt and a couple of meals out of him. He'd rather be used for warmth and food than face the earnest honesty shining out of Misha's apparently clear eyes.

"You're not from Earth?"

"Oh no," Misha said, taking the notebook back in his hands and reverently touching its cover.
‘I'm an Angel. Didn't I tell you?"

*******************************

"Are you sure you don't mean angle?" Jensen asked during lunch. "Your face is pretty angular."

Not to mention his body, but Jensen had declared those thoughts off-limits.

"Angle?"

Since leaving Jensen's office, Misha's lucidity had fled once more. Case in point, he appeared to be giving Jensen's joke a great deal of serious thought. It didn't change the color of his eyes though. Emotion always flickered there, but only true understanding sparked brilliance in those fickle blue eyes. They were lovely, regardless, but Jensen much preferred seeing reality traced along his irises.

"I don't think so. At least, not only an angle," Misha said finally. "But I remember now. It burst through. Light and wind and I was flying. Can't fly now."

Desolation glowed cold and bleak in Misha's expression and Jensen imagined how it must feel to believe you'd had the ability to fly stripped away. How trapped Misha must feel, tied down to the ground without hope of escape. Jensen knew flying wasn't possible, no matter how many wings one had painted on their body. But Misha so obviously believed. That was all that mattered.

"I'm sorry."

"No." Misha leaned over to place his palm over Jensen's heart. "I did this to myself."

"What did you do?" Jensen asked, covering Misha's hand with his own.

Misha shook his head.

"It's all gone."

*******************************

Jensen found Misha asleep on his bedroom floor the following morning, once again wrapped tight in his grandmother's quilt. Letting Misha stay the second night was even stupider than the first night. But Misha had fallen asleep on the couch beside Dean and Jensen didn't know how to throw him out. Misha needed mental help, to be sure, but he also need safety and a warm place to stay. Jensen decided to give himself a few days to work out a plan.

"Don't you think you'd be more comfortable on the couch?" Jensen asked when he saw Misha start to stretch into wakefulness.

"I'm perfectly comfortable here," Misha retorted and when his eyes opened, Jensen saw a world of brilliant intelligence. Sly humor and shrewd calculation and if Misha were like this all the time, Jensen could so easily fall in love with him. "You're the one that's not comfortable with an angle on your floor."

"You're a creeper," Jensen accused.

Misha laughed. A joyful thing that drew a massive grin across his face and settled happiness at the corner of his eyes. The breath disappeared from Jensen's lungs. In another world, a place where Misha only had this one personality, Jensen would have climbed off the bed and right onto his lap.

Instead, he just smiled along and offered Misha the first shower.

*******************************

Jensen was halfway down the cereal aisle when his cell phone rang. The photo that popped up was a giant eyeball leering at him.

Jared must have stolen his phone again.

"Hello?"

"Hey," Jared answered and his tone of false casualness immediately put Jensen on alert. "So I was wondering. Why is there a strange man in your house that won't stop sniffing me?"
Oh. Right. Jared's extra key to his house.

"Man, you must reek of love," Jensen said absently.

"That's what he said! What the fuck!"

Jensen sighed. "I'm coming home. Don't spook him."

*******************************

Jared, Misha and Dean were all sitting together on the couch when Jensen arrived back with only one bag of groceries. Rushing home to save Jared and Misha from each other appeared to be premature. There was no mistaking the full wide grin on Jared's face or the twinkle of sanity in Misha's now midnight blue eyes. Even Dean looked happy, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he turned his head from Jared to Misha and back again.

"Dude," Jared said, reaching over to slap Misha on the shoulder. "Why were you hiding this guy? He's hilarious!"

Jensen paused and clutched his sack of bread and bananas to his chest.

"He is?"

Not that Jensen didn't find Misha amusing, but his worry for the man overcame most other emotions. But then, if Jared had only seen non-crazy Misha, it stood to reason he would just think him a normal funny guy.

"Oh, yeah," Jared enthused, his impossibly large hand stroking over Dean's brown furry head. "He was telling me about travelling around the country. He's seen some epically messed up shit."

Seen it and probably lived it. Jensen smiled pleasantly and finally shut the door. "Hey, Jared, could you help me with something in the kitchen?"

The intensity of Jared's confusion was matched by the perceptive humor in Misha's gaze. As if he knew Jensen were going to drag Jared away to warn him about Misha's mental deficiencies and found the whole situation rather entertaining. The yo-yo-ing between this clever Misha and the lost Misha began to wear on Jensen's nerves.

"Please," he urged Jared.

"What's wrong?” Jared asked the moment they reached the privacy of the kitchen. “Look, if you're not ready to share him with us, that's cool, but Jensen, he's really awesome," Jared said in such a pouty tone that Jensen rolled his eyes. "Most of the guys you date are...well, invisible. Or boring as hell. At least, Misha-"

"He's an Angel," Jensen interrupted.

"What?"

"He thinks he's an Angel," Jensen clarified as he put away the groceries. "I found him passed out in an alley and he's got wing tattoos and he's never heard of Lincoln and he thinks he's an Angel."

There was a long pause.

"He's never heard of Lincoln and you let him stay here?"

"Jared-"

"Are you out of your mind!" Jared suddenly exploded. Then fearfully cast his eyes towards the living room. "No, really, this is a joke, right? You let some crazy homeless guy stay in your house? What if he goes ballistic and kills you in your bed?"

Jensen glared at him. "A minute ago, he was awesome."

Discomfort climbed in Jared's features.

"Aren't they always?"

"They?"

"C'mon, you've heard about people like this. One minute, they're lucid and charming. More than charming. Mesmerizing and you get sucked in. The next moment, they're drooling and babbling. Or worse."

It wasn't that bad, but Jensen had to admit, at least to himself, that Jared was partly right. "I can't just kick him out. I thought you'd want me to help someone like this."

The hard anxious gleam in Jared's eyes eased a touch at Jensen's implicit admission of emulating Jared. Between the two of them, Jared was the helper. The one who cared about everyone around them. Coming out of his own thoughts and obsessions long enough to see the world around him was more difficult for Jensen. But Misha brought that side to the forefront.
Jared sighed.

"I do. I mean, I don't want you to get hurt though, but...are you sure he's not dangerous?"

"Absolutely," Jensen said without hesitation. "He'd never hurt me."

"Uh huh. And you know this after two days," Jared said skeptically.

"I knew it in five minutes with you," Jensen shot back.

His arrow hit its target and Jared sagged. Their friendship had sprung up instantly. More like two friends who found each other again rather than for the first time. Jared would never doubt Jensen if he thought it was happening again.

"Okay, but I'm coming over every single day now."

"And that's different from normal how?"

"Shut up. Make us sandwiches," Jared commanded.

Jensen sighed. Between Jared and Misha, he'd spend a lot of time fulfilling food requests.

*******************************

"Did you know that Dean is in love?" Misha asked over their banana and peanut butter sandwiches.

It was the first truly strange thing Jared had heard him say. Jensen saw his surprise flicker briefly before being brutally snuffed.

"Um, no," Jensen said, exchanging a glance with Jared. "Did he tell you that?"

"Well, yes," Misha admitted. "But it's obvious without him having to say it."

And here Jensen thought Misha was stuck in a clear phase. Nothing had changed in his speech or visage, but...Dean in love?

"Did he say with who?"

Dean laid his head on Jensen's leg and stared up at him with mournful green eyes, as if to say, 'please, Daddy, listen to Misha. Listen to my pain.' Jensen shook himself. Maybe insanity was catching.

"That lab that lives next door," Misha said, tongue darting out to lick peanut butter off a piece of banana. The sight of it so distracted Jensen that it took him several moments to piece together what Misha was saying.

"You mean Cas? Anna's dog?"

"Yes, Cas. That was the name. He says it a lot."

Dean barked and Misha smiled.

"See? Cas."

"But Cas is male," Jensen said stupidly. His brain felt sluggish. He didn't know why he was even indulging this conversation. Dogs loved people, sure. Probably even loved each other, but not in love. Not like humans.

Except Dean did look sort of sad.

"You like males," Misha said thoughtfully. "Would you judge your pet for doing the same?"

Jensen stared. He never told Misha he was gay. Never gave a hint or looked too long.

"Dude, is your dog coming out to you?" Jared said, breaking into Jensen's shock quite neatly.

Jensen palmed the back of Dean's head. They didn't go out very often. When Jensen bought Dean, he was new to the city. The excitement of the move coupled with Jensen's secret terror of loneliness and he'd impulsively purchased a hyper and stubborn German shepherd puppy he'd named Dean. But like always, Jensen had soon settled into a pattern. Work all day, stay in all night. He took Dean out to the park and for walks, but Dean rarely saw other dogs. In fact, Cas was probably the only dog Dean ever saw and come to think of it, Dean did tend to flip out around Cas. Jensen had assumed it was because of inexperience with other dogs.

No, of course it was. Misha wasn't quite all there. Dean liked other dogs, but he wasn't in love with Cas.

"It's okay," Misha said. His smile turned sad. "If you don't believe me, it's okay.”

He paused for a moment, eyes fixed on his sandwich and tension growing thick around him, like a visible cloud of distress.

“Misha?” Jensen asked cautiously.

“You starve Dean,” Misha growled. “You starve him, Jensen and he'll die like any other creature without love. We die without love," he said, his voice growing louder. More upset. Jared tensed beside him.

"Hey," Jensen said, suddenly terrified and uncertain why. "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. I won't...I'll take Dean over to see Cas, I swear."

Misha abruptly stood from the table and went to stare out the window that faced Anna's house. The fear welling up inside Jensen increased a notch and that was when he understood that he'd still been hoping that Misha really was normal under the surface. He resolutely ignored Jared trying to catch his eye.

"Misha?"

"I'm sorry," Misha said, a touch of embarrassment in his tone. "I remembered something."

"Yeah? What was it?" Jensen asked, perhaps too eagerly.

"We all die without love," Misha said softly, pressing his forehead to the glass of the window. "Or maybe that's just what it feels like."

*******************************

The following day was when the first thing went missing. It was also the first day Jensen saw the strange man.

Jensen would have never noticed the missing knight if Dean hadn't whipped past the chessboard on his way to door when Jensen called him for a walk and scattered the pieces across the living room.

"Look what you did!" Jensen said, even though he knew it was useless. Dean barely noticed the black and white pieces his paws crunched over as he danced excitedly in front of the door. Jensen should have never mentioned going to see Cas.

Dean's punishment was to wait in a quivering pile while Jensen carefully retrieved each piece and set them back on the board. It might not matter so much, but his father gave him this chessboard. They used to play each other before Jensen came out and his father wasn't quite as comfortable around him anymore.

He had nearly every piece in its place when he finally noticed that one of the black knights was missing. No matter where he looked, Jensen couldn't find the thing. Not under any of the furniture or in any corners. He wasted twenty minutes searching high and low for that damned knight and all he got was more annoyed as time went by.

"Bad dog," he said half-heartedly.

A soft woof was his answer. Probably a hopeful 'Cas?'

They walked out onto the porch, leaving Misha sacked out on Jensen's bedroom floor and hung a sharp left towards Anna's house, Dean nearly pulling the leash out of Jensen's hand in his haste. That was when Jensen spotted him for the first time. A man clad in a dapper pinstripe suit and carrying a bowler hat. Given that Jensen lived in the city limits, it wasn't as if an oddly dressed man was necessarily out of the ordinary. But the striped pants reminded him of something and it niggled at his mind.

That and he was staring straight at Jensen.

When Jensen met his eyes, the man didn't flinch. In fact, he raised an eyebrow as if to say, 'yeah, what of it?' That, more than anything, calmed Jensen's nerves. Probably just a random loon. If someone were deliberately spying on him, Jensen imagined they would try to be more nonchalant.

And anyway, he didn't have time to think about it because Dean was starting to whine incessantly and the next step was foaming at the mouth, so Jensen put the man out of his mind and took Dean to Cas.

It wasn't until he was dragging an inconsolable Dean away from his play date that Jensen remembered what was bothering him.

The man's pants were the exact same style and color as the ones Misha had been wearing when they met.

Part Two
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