nilchance: Picture of a pomegranate with spilled seeds, text "I think you're confused, I'm not Persephone" (Default)
[personal profile] nilchance
Title: That Middle Road (31/48)
Author: nilchance
Pairing: Misha Collins/Jeremy Sisto
Rating: Adult
Disclaimer: This isn't real.
A/N: Set in poisontaster's A Kept Boy 'verse. This story deals with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, and with slavery as used in the AKB 'verse. There's also mention of rape, suicide, institutionalization and self-harm. And polyamory. And kink. And a partridge in a pear tree.



What Jeremy doesn’t tell Misha is this: he wishes he felt like after Marisa dumped him.

When Marisa left, it wrecked him. He still hurts over Jeff breaking it off, although he can see why and that whole situation was a clusterfuck anyway. So the fact that Wendy blew him off should break his heart.

Wendy and Z have been there for him for years. He’s crashed on their couch when he was drunk or depressed or drunk and depressed, which isn’t a good look on anybody. He’s had nightmares in their bed. He loves them, and they love him.

He just isn’t their first choice. He’s not anybody’s husband. He’s not sure he approaches boyfriend territory.

He knew that was the deal. He knows he’s a goddamn mess who shouldn’t be around kids, at least when they talk and don’t look like little footballs. The fact that he compares babies to footballs is probably a good clue. He curses and he disappears and he destroys offices. Deep down he’s kind of a bad person.

Maybe they can fix this. Wendy probably didn’t mean it. Zach hasn’t even weighed in. (Zach will follow Wendy.) Nothing’s broken. He can get back into their bed and forget, if he tries, that Wendy doesn’t need another man.

None of that would’ve stopped him from pining and being a douchebag before. He doesn’t want to call and fight about it, or say something he can’t ever take back. He doesn’t want to disappear on everybody. He doesn’t even want to stop taking his fucking meds.

Jeremy scrubs his hands over his face. When he looks up, Denis is scowling in the doorway.

“Are you done being a broody fuck yet?” Denis asks. “Hockey’s on.”

“In five minutes. You can get some prime brooding done in five minutes.”

Denis rolls his eyes, then calls over his shoulder into kitchen. “He says he’s not done yet. Fucking drama queens, Jesus Christ. If I wanted this I’d move in with Kane.”

Outraged, Jeremy says, “Oh, come on, it’s been like three hours. We don’t even have to replace a desk!”

“When I have feelings I jerk off, eat a brownie and get over it. Because I’m a red blooded heterosexual man.”

“Except for your bromance with Kane.” Jeremy drops his head back onto the couch arm. “And I don’t want to hear what you do to brownies.”

Five minutes later he yields the couch, partly because he promised but mostly because Denis threatens to sit on him. He also got therapy, and he’s pretty sure he actually needs it. He tries to put the Wendy situation in a box in his mind so he can lock it.

Because hockey is terrible, Jeremy goes into the kitchen.

Misha glances up from texting and smiles wanly. He looks like hell, but dressed to the nines as usual. One of his hands is at his throat, worrying at his old collar. The one that Vincent gave him, and the one he wore last night. The one he wears when he’s stressed out.

Misha drops his hand from the collar, guiltily, like Jeremy walked in on him jerking off.

Jeremy sits across from him at the kitchen table, snitching Denis’s abandoned coffee mug. “You feeling okay? You look beat.”

Misha’s signs take up less space than usual, like moving hurts. Just tired. How are you?

Sometimes Jeremy forgets that Vincent left scars on Misha, because the damage is so different from Denis’s and Marisa’s. From Jensen’s. Hell, from Jeremy himself.

Misha is mostly okay, but he could be bleeding to death and still try to say he’s all right. It’s probably why he refuses to admit his knee is killing him, why he resists going back to Traci. Jeremy gets that; he tries like hell to dodge Cate. But sometimes he thinks Misha wasn’t allowed to be anything but fine for so long that it stuck.

Misha’s provenance listed no injuries in the years Vincent owned him, going back to when he was 16 until the car accident. At first Jeremy figured that Misha was just a healthy dude. He’s up on his vaccinations, flu shots administered by Vincent’s doctors. But Jeremy wonders now if under the nice suits and ridiculous pajamas Misha has scars of injuries that should’ve been treated.

No abuse, maybe, but neglect? Jeremy wonders, but he’s not sure how to ask. Hey, did the dead guy you’re still grieving ever take you to the dentist?

Add that to the fact that Misha acts like seeking comfort is something shameful. That Misha’s never really asked for anything for himself while he’s been in Jeremy’s household. Misha’s still wearing the suits he came with, although they’re not exactly comfortable enough for bad pain days. He didn’t ask for the cell phone he uses to text (a little understandable since he’s mute). He didn’t ask for a toothbrush, or underwear, or to go to Traci the first time to see how his knee’s busted.

He asked Jeremy to touch him, right after Jeremy switched pills. He asked for to know about the Trust. He asked for a hug last night. But those can’t be the only things he wants. That isn’t enough.

Jeremy’s mouth kicks in before his brain. “Mish, did you want a new collar?”

Misha leans back in his chair, his eyes watchful.

“I mean, you don’t have to!” Fuck, Jeremy realizes, he’s still talking. Backpedaling now. “I’m not gonna make you. I know it’s Vincent’s… I know you’re grieving and it’s really soon and you don’t talk about it. But you could have both, if you wanted. I’m--”

‘Sorry’ is still on his lips when Misha signs, you would do that?

There’s hope in Misha’s eyes, blue as a pilot light.

Jeremy feels like he got kicked in the chest. “Yeah. Of course. I didn’t think you wanted…” he trails off. “Do you want to pick? I don’t really know where to get one. Fuck it, I’ll figure that out.”

The corner of Misha’s mouth quirks. I don’t have a preference. I don’t suppose there’s one laying around.

Probably. Denis brought one from Walken’s service. Marisa asked to change hers out several times, because they all seemed too much like what she wore at the labs. Hell, Jeremy has a leather one fitted to him because he’s a kinky bastard. But his hindbrain throws the brakes on. Misha wants a collar, and so Jeremy wants to get him one. He wants to give him something shiny and new. He takes a deep breath and says, “Let me do this for you.”

Misha tilts his head and studies Jeremy, like he might see Jeremy’s thoughts written across his face. Then, slowly, he nods.

“Okay,” Jeremy says, and smiles. “Thanks.”

****

Jeremy calls Jeff from the car.

Jeff picks up on the second ring. He sounds wary. “Hey. Everything all right?”

Jeremy tells him, “Help me, Obi Wan, you’re my only hope.”

There’s a beat of silence, then Jeff says to someone on his end of the line, “I’ve got to take this. Be right back.”

Rustling noises. A door closing. Jeremy rests his head on the steering wheel and waits.

When Jeff comes back on, he says, “All right, Leia, is anything on fire?”

“No, sorry. It’s not an emergency. I wanted to ask you a question.”

“Dude, you gave me an excuse to escape from my mother,” Jeff says. “Don’t be sorry. Plus you opened with a Star Wars quote. I figured nobody was in the hospital.”

“I mocked you about Jensen. I mocked you so hard, you don’t even know. Because that shit was hilarious.”

“I’m aware,” Jeff drawls.

“I’m just telling you so you feel free to laugh at this: karma is kicking my ass. I have Misha problems.”

Jeff snorts. “That’s hard to miss.”

“Thanks. Fuck you. Did you get Jensen a collar?”

After all these years, Jeff follows Jeremy’s graceless conversational segues. “Yeah. He only wears it when he’s traveling. I bought one for him… well, early, but not the day he came home. Why?”

That makes Jeremy feel a little less like a failure. He didn’t violate some etiquette that everybody else understands. When he’s rude, he tries to do it on purpose. “Misha wants one. From me. I mean, he’s been wearing Vincent’s, and I didn’t ask if he wanted one until this morning--”

“Jer--”

“--and he looked at me like I’d offered him a kidney. He doesn’t ask for anything. I think he thinks I don’t value him, and I really do, and I fucked up. How do you deal with this?”

Jer.” It’s been years, but that tone in Jeff’s voice still makes Jeremy listen. Honestly, it still makes the bottom of his stomach drop out and his dick hard, but he’s taking that secret to the grave. “Take a deep breath. It’s okay. I didn’t go to Jensen’s Closing, remember? I’m pretty sure I fucked up a million times. But he’s okay, and we’re okay, and everything’s okay. You can still pull out.”

Despite everything, Jeremy smiles. “But is it okay? I’m not getting that part of it.”

“I’m surprised you passed up a ‘that’s what she said’ joke. Anyway. Misha’s pretty tough, from what I’ve heard.”

Not as tough as he seems. Jeremy’s smile turns rueful. “Where’d you get Jensen’s? I got my last collars out of Escrow’s vending machines.”

“I e-mailed you the link already.”

“You are awesome. You are a goddamn lifesaver in a sea of bullshit. I--” love you is a stupid thing to say to Jeff, even if he’d say it to his other friends. Lamely, Jeremy finishes, “I’m really grateful. Now go or your mom is probably going to kick the office door in.”

“I’ll give her your regards,” Jeff says. “Good luck.”

After they hang up, Jeremy meets his own eyes in the rearview mirror. He tells himself, “Smooth, Sisto. Real fucking smooth.”

****

Jeremy goes to therapy. He doesn’t try to drive to Vegas instead. He isn’t even late.

“Let me see if I understand you,” Cate says, after less than twenty minutes.

“You ever notice that when you say that, I’m generally screwed?” he asks.

“You’re more upset about what’s happening with Wendy than you think you should be, but less upset than you think you should be. Is that the shape of things?”

“Nnnooo,” Jeremy says, dragging the word out because she has him there. “Maybe?”

He likes the way she treats him, like it’s a chess game or a logic puzzle. Like it’s her job to make him see where he’s tripping himself. It’s why she stuck as his therapist, why seeing her doesn’t set off the same alarms in his head as most shrinks. It also helps that she’s his friend, as much as that’s an ethical clusterfuck. He can’t exactly look for an abolitionist therapist in the phonebook.

Cate asks, “Is there an amount of emotion you’d allow yourself?”

“I kind of miss the days you’d write a script over dinner and skip the therapy.”

“I was afraid that you’d stop taking the pills at all.” Cate smiles, just one corner of her mouth. “I was afraid for you a lot, actually. I’m glad you decided to come back.”

Jeremy looks away. Then, because Misha has trained him into it, he returns his attention to her face. “I try not to feel things. In general.” After Jeff.

“Sorry, love. I don’t think you can opt out.”

“Well, that sucks.”

“Agreed. Then again, I’d be out of a job.”

Cate really doesn’t need a job, but he doesn’t bring that up. Mock-horrified, he says, “But who’d pay for all your mountains of tea?”

“True.” Tapping her upper lip, she muses, “I suppose I’d have to break into coffee shops at night.”

“Turned to a life of beverage crime. That’s harsh. Hey, Gina left her stash behind, so it’s in my trunk if you want it.”

“I would, thank you. Maybe save half for Jensen. Hm.” Cate considers him. “Your amount of heartbreak isn’t a reflection on how much you love someone, Jeremy. You’ve had a number of very intense relationships, but it doesn’t mean that’s the only kind of relationship you’ll ever have.”

Jeremy shrugs uncomfortably.

Cate says, “What about Misha?”

Jeremy tenses, realizes he’s tensing, and tries to pull his shoulders down from around his ears. “What about him?”

“Are your feelings about Misha complicated?”

Jeremy opens his hands, a nonverbal I don’t know. “He’s a complicated guy.”

“You seem to have let him past your guard very quickly.”

“I don’t have a guard,” he says, guardedly. He bites his lip. “Is this about last night? Because he’s not going to narc.”

“No. You trusted him enough to bring him to a meeting.” Unlike Marisa, she doesn’t say. “You’re very careful with other people’s lives. It bothers you that people are wary of him.”

“There’s a lot to lose. Kane’s paranoid. Vincent was probably in on skeezy business. But… y’know, I worry about Misha. Not everybody knows sign. He was alone with Vincent for a long time, and now he’s only got Denis to hang out with. A house full of books. ”

“And you,” Cate says.

“Yeah, and me. And he’s texting Jensen a lot.” Jeremy grins. “He sends Jensen cat macros. You know, can haz cheezeburgers? I’m looking forward to the day he figures out rickrolls.”

“That sounds like he has a much wider social circle than he’s used to. You can’t break a lifetime of habits in a month.”

“I get that.” Jeremy slouches back in the chair. “I just want him to be happy.”

Cate laughs, a sudden bell of sound. “You sound like Jeff when Jensen arrived. Jeff thought he knew what would make Jensen happy.”

“I’m much less pathetic about it, though. And when Jensen showed up, he was half-starved but all,” Jeremy adds fingerquotes, “‘happy to serve you, Sir.’ People screwed Jensen up. Then they told him for years he was happy about it. He didn’t know what would make him happy.”

“Serving Jeff does make Jensen happy,” Cate says.

“Yeah, and it made Jeff fucking miserable to let him!” Jeremy hears the edge in his voice. Sighs. “Sorry.”

Gently, Cate says, “Jeff tortured himself. He wanted Jensen, but he felt guilty about it, and he couldn’t get out of his own way. Both of them deserve to get what they need. They had to talk about it. Ultimately it turns out that both of them can be happy.”

Jeremy thinks, and it hurts to watch. Out loud, he says, “I get what you’re trying to say. It’s a different situation. Misha’s not Jensen. I’m not--”

But he’s not going to lie right to Cate’s face. He’s actually trying to be less crazy this time around. She deserves the truth.

“Misha is attractive,” he hedges. “Obviously. He’s got nice hands. He’s got nice everything. And that’s in the suit. When he rolls his sleeves up, it’s like Amish porn. Dude’s got formal pajamas, which is really unfair.”

Cate’s eyebrows lift with every adjective.

“The point is, I’m not blind,” Jeremy finishes too late. “I’m kind of a manwhore. But I don’t know if he’s into sex at all. He doesn’t even jerk off, unless he’s really ninja about it. He kissed Jensen once, but honestly Jensen could debauch a nun. Misha doesn’t need to know that I think he’s hot.”

“From attractive to hot in less than a minute? Interesting.”

“Let me get out of the last relationship disaster before we talk about Misha.” After a second, he adds, “Actually, how about we never talk about Misha?”

“Socially, that might be awkward. In session? I’ll agree to that for now.” Cate puts her teacup down, which means that it’s therapist closing time. “With one last suggestion.”

“Always with the one last suggestion,” Jeremy says. “Okay, hit me, Columbo.”

“Don’t recreate Jeff’s mistakes. Try asking Misha what would make him happy.”

****

Jeremy manages to get home before sunset, but it’s a near thing. The last month of relative domesticity has spoiled him. After an afternoon of therapy and haggling with the jeweler Jeff recommended, he’s tired and he wants nothing more complicated than takeout on the couch.

The inside of the house is dark. Denis is probably out, then. Winston greets him at the door, or maybe just greets dinner. Jeremy sets the food down in the kitchen. From there, he can see the underwater flicker of TV in the living room.

On the couch, Misha is burrowed under a knit blanket with only his face and the spikes of his hair showing. Nominally, Misha is watching another disc of the Attenborough ocean documentary. Actually, he’s sleeping. His shoes are still on.

Jeremy stops in the doorway, taken aback by sudden tenderness. If Misha’s napping, he’s not in pain for a while. Let him sleep.

Before Jeremy can back out of the room, Misha opens his eyes and sits up. The blanket slides down. His tie is slackened, the fine lines of his suit all rumpled and his hair in hedgehog spikes. He isn’t wearing Vincent’s collar. Misha yawns hugely and signs, you’re late.

“Sorry. I brought dinner. You can go back to sleep.”

Misha frowns at the blanket. I wasn’t wearing this.

“Abducted by couch aliens,” Jeremy says. “Happens to me all the time.”

Sofa encounters of the third kind. The dreaded nap. Misha shifts his legs to the floor, wincing, and pats the seat next to him. How was therapy?

Jeremy never knows what to say to that. It happened? He wasn’t committed? He joins Misha on the couch. “Still crazy. How was Attenborough?”

Still British. Strangely hypnotic. Misha notices that Jeremy has a box in his hands. His eyes flick to Jeremy’s face.

Thank fuck for the blue cast of the screen, because Jeremy’s face feels hot. “I, um. Got the collar.”

You didn’t have to do it today, Misha signs. It’s hard to read his expression.

Jeremy tells him the awkward truth. “Yeah, I know. I wanted to.”

Misha smiles, suddenly brilliant. There’s nothing shy about his pleasure. I appreciate it.

Jeremy blinks, poleaxed, and offers the box in self-defense. “Don’t appreciate yet. It could still be hideous.”

Misha rolls his eyes. He lets Jeremy keep holding the box, and instead runs his fingers across the top. It’s slightly pornographic. His smile shows his teeth. Maybe I should carry the box around unopened for a few hours. It’s a very nice box.

“Are you going to sniff it next?” Jeremy asks. “Chew on the leather? You’re killing me here.”

Misha scoffs, but he opens the catch. He takes in a breath, slow, and touches the collar. His mouth is soft. Up close, he smells like Tiger Balm and sleep. He looks incandescent.

Jeremy manages to keep his mouth shut for what feels like forever but is probably one or two seconds. “If you don’t like it--”

Protective, Misha pulls the box to his chest. His eyes are feral bright. Mine.

“Okay.” Jeremy relaxes. “It’s yours.”

I love it, Misha signs emphatically, and pulls off his tie. It’s beautiful.

“That’s great,” Jeremy tells him, faintly. “Why are you taking your clothes off?”

Misha gives him a look like that’s a strange question, then puts the collar on. He doesn’t wear it like it’s shackles from a broken system, even though Misha’s stuck in it. He puts it on like it’s jewelry, or an accessory, or a crown. Like it’s a gift because it’s something Jeremy gave him.

Misha doesn’t have his hands free to sign. He tilts his head in silent expectation. The collar lays flat against the hollow of his throat.

“It looks great,” Jeremy says. “Silver is your color.”

Misha preens a little. Jeremy chokes on a laugh.

Later, as they’re splitting peanut chicken, Misha asks Jeremy, you keep staring at me. What are you thinking about?

Jeremy almost asks him, then. How do I make you happy? How can I get you to look like this forever? How did I get this far in over my head?

Instead, he says, “I’m thinking about karma.”
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