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 (39/48)
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.



Jeremy wakes up to the dulcet sounds of Denis cursing at him.

“Hngh?” Jeremy says, or something like it, as his brain struggles through deep sleep.

It must seem like proof of consciousness, or close enough for Denis, because Denis throws the cordless house phone at him. Misha, snuggled up behind him, stirs and growls quietly.

“Answer your fucking cell next time, asshole,” Denis snarls, and stomps out of the bedroom. Jeremy gets a truly regrettable view of Denis’s naked ass before the door slams behind him.

Muzzily, Jeremy glances at the clock. Quarter after 5 am, still dark o’clock. He mutters some vague greeting. All the people who would call him this early (Meadow, Marisa or Gina, maybe Z) will be too freaked to mind.

But instead of Meadow asking Jeremy to bail her out of jail (again), or Gina calling about Marisa wrecking their apartment, or Z calling to say Wendy or Ryzer are sick…it’s Jeff. Jeff, sounding heartsick and scared: “Jer, I need you. I really need you. Can you come?”

“Of course,” Jeremy says instinctively, because that’s really the only answer. The part of Jeremy’s heart that’s still leashed to Jeff and always will be gives a lurch. It’s like a car trying to pull out of the mud, Jeremy’s brain still half-asleep but his heart already pounding. “You want me to come there?”

Is someone dead, is what he means. Is someone in the ER? Are the cops at the door? These are the only reasons Jeff would call Jeremy for help.

“Fuck,” Jeff says, a particular desperate snag in his voice. “Just forget it. Give me a call later, when you wake up, okay?”

Okay. So nothing is actually on fire. Jeff is calling Jeremy for help when he doesn’t have to. Jeff is calling Jeremy. Jeff needs him. Holy fuck, Jeremy thought Jeff would never need him again.

Jeremy sits up, scrubbing a hand over his face. "No. No, I'm up. Just… fuck, give me a minute. I'll get some caffeine in me, I'll be there. I'm already on my way."

Alarmingly, Jeff doesn’t even fight him on it. Shit must be serious. "All right, man. Um. Thanks."

“Yeah, yeah,” Jeremy gripes, like his heart isn’t turning over in his chest like an old rusty engine. He hangs up before Jeff can change his mind.

Misha is already awake, upright as a meerkat. His hair is flattened on one side from sleeping on it. Jeremy turns on the light just in time to see Misha sign, worried, Jensen okay?

Yeah, maybe it is something about Jensen. Though why would Jeff be calling Jeremy about Jensen?

Some hateful hungry part of him whispers, maybe they broke up. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Jeremy shakes his head, physically trying to dispel that thought. God, he’s a fucking asshole. “I don’t know. Jeff would’ve said if Jensen was hurt.” Probably. “You don’t have to come. Jeff is my…”

Jeremy stops, out of words.

Misha looks at him, his expression interested. Your what?

"Problem," Jeremy says. It’s a lame answer, but how is he supposed to distill down twenty years into a word? Jeff is everything to him. Technically, Jeff is nothing to him.

Your problems are my problems, Misha says.

“Jeff’ll be thrilled to hear you adopted him like a stray cat,” Jeremy says.

It worked with you.

“I’m reminding you of this whole ‘mis problemas es sus problemas’ thing the next time Traci tells you to have surgery.”

We’ll see, Misha says. And I’m going.

They’re stalling. If Jeremy keeps looking at Misha all rumpled in Jeremy’s old clothes, he might tip Misha back into bed and never leave. He’s been spoiled by all this time on their own, comfortable and intimate as a blanket fort. He doesn’t want to let anyone else in.

He climbs out of bed, starts searching the floor for his shirt. “Okay, bossypants. Get dressed, then. We’ll get some coffee on the way.”

****

Jeff is waiting for them at the door, illuminated in the halo of the porch light. He’s smoking in great puffs; Jeremy wonders if it’s tobacco or weed. As Jeff sees them pull in, he flicks his cigarette aside and straightens.

“Hey,” is all Jeremy manages before Jeff’s arms are around him. Automatically Jeremy hugs him back. “Hey, man, it’s okay.”

Jeff chuffs out a laugh, his forehead pressed against Jeremy’s shoulder. “It’s all fucked up.”

“So situation normal, then,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy always forgets how narrow Jeff is, compared to the space he takes up inside Jeremy’s head; he forgets the way Jeff’s skin smells, an intimate kick to the hindbrain. He forgets that touching Jeff is like a bad habit he can backslide into. Before his latest manic break, Jeremy had rationed himself down to back-thumping dude hugs. Then Jeff had to go and make it weird.

More weird.

Jeremy pulls back. Jeff lets him go, though not without keeping one hand fisted in Jeremy’s jacket. Sighing, Jeff gives Misha a pale smile. “Hey, Mish. Sorry to wake you up. You could’ve stayed home.”

Misha shrugs, hands open. Then he points at the front door and raises his eyebrows, asking without words if they can do this inside. Misha is probably killer at charades. At this point, Jeremy is sorely tempted to buy ASL for Dummies so he can hit people over the head with it. Maybe they’ll learn by osmosis.

It’s not exactly fair. Jeremy didn’t learn to sign until he had to for the Matlin account. But it’s also not fair to shove Misha to the outside of their weird little group just because almost nobody speaks his language.

At least Misha has Jensen.

“Shit, sorry, Misha,” Jeff says. His hair is standing up in places like he was running his hands through it, and Jeremy’s fingers itch to smooth it down. “We can go in. I just didn’t want you to knock. I don’t know if Jensen’ll be up for company, though. He’s pretty…”

Jeff trails off. Ominous. Jeremy scoffs and says, “Everybody knows Jensen’s pretty, dude. Let’s go in.”

***

At first, Jeremy can’t tell why Jeff is showing him the quilt on the couch. Then Jeremy sees the little kid-shaped lump under the quilt, the mop of curly brown hair. Robin’s kid, his tear-streaked face peeking out from a nest of covers.

Jeremy has a sinking suspicion. Turning to ask Jeff what the fuck, he sees the stricken look on Jeff’s face. He puts two and two together (Robin showing up with kid in tow looking for Jeff, Jeff calling Jeremy in a panic) and gets four. Faintly, Jeremy says, “Oh shit. He’s yours?”

Crooking a bitter smile, Jeff nods. “He’s mine. Nice of Robin to tell me, right?”

“I didn’t know,” Jeremy says. “I would’ve warned you--”

“I didn’t know either.”

Jeremy shakes his head, sour anger in his gut. “Where the fuck is she?”

Jeff shrugs. Jams his fingers into his pockets. “She took off. Left him here. Didn’t even tell the kid goodbye.”

“What a bitch,” Jeremy says, with feeling. He’s half grateful that she’s gone; he doesn’t want to grab a sick woman by the shoulders and shake her until her brain rattles. He doesn’t know that he could smother his temper. “Poor fucking kid.”

“Four years. He doesn’t even know me.” Turning red-rimmed eyes on Jeremy, Jeff asks a little desperately: “Jer, am I that awful?”

“Fuck no.” Jeremy slings an arm around Jeff and squeezes, leaning their heads together. “No. This isn’t on you.”

“After what I did to you--”

“You didn’t do anything to me,” Jeremy says too sharply. Feeling Jeff tense, he squeezes him again and forces his voice gentler. “You pulled me off a roof. I went crazy, that’s all, and...”

And you never came to the hospital. And I didn’t see you until I got back from Meadow’s. And you didn’t want me anymore.

“And if you knocked me up, I’d have called you. You’d be the first,” he says instead. “I’d have made you take me to Lamaze classes. And tell your mom.”

“Good thing you didn’t get pregnant, then. You know your sister would’ve made it a shotgun wedding. And you couldn’t wear white.”

“That’s fine. White washes me out anyway.”

“Shut up, you look great in white.”

Despite himself, Jeremy feels a little zing of happiness at the compliment. He tosses his hair. “Well, I am a winter. Meadow did a test and everything.”

Jeff laughs his charmingly dorky laugh, trying to stifle it for the kid’s sake. “You’re a good brother.”

“I’m the best, it’s true.”

As the last of the laughter fades out of him, Jeff sighs and changes the subject. “At least Bodhi likes Jensen.”

“Shit.” Jeremy whips his head around to look at Jeff. Their faces are too close together, close enough to kiss. Awkwardly, Jeremy moves away. “How’s Jensen with this?”

“Amazing,” Jeff says. The fondness in his voice makes Jeremy’s traitor heart squeeze tight. “Incredible. He stepped right up while I was still flailing around.”

“Good,” Jeremy says. “I’m really glad.”

They fall into quiet, both of them looking at the kid. At Bodhi. Jeremy doesn’t know what he’s feeling, exactly, but it hurts.

Jeff won’t have time for him anymore. Jeff won’t want Jeremy around anymore. Too crazy, too unpredictable, too confusing for the kid. Since Jensen showed up, Jeremy’s been losing Jeff by inches. He didn’t even see it coming. But now, with a kid… it’s worse to know that Jeff is going, going, gone.

Jeremy pushes everything back into the lockbox inside his brain to deal with later. (Or never. Never is good.) He’s being a selfish jerk. Jeff needs him right now.

“He looks little for four,” Jeff says. “I need to get him to a doctor. I don’t even know if he’s had shots. Robin didn’t leave anything but some clothes and toys. I need to buy the kid a bed. I need to figure out school. I need everything.”

“Well,” Jeremy says. “Money’s not a problem, at least. Fuck, does your mom know? She’s gonna have kittens.”

“She knows. She’s happy. She wants to change his name, though.”

“Of course she does. I guess she’s not a fan of Point Break. She does know he’s not like a cat, right? I mean, it’s not like he’ll answer to whatever you call him.”

“He doesn’t like being called kiddo.” Jeff’s breath hitches in his throat, an almost-sob. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

Oh hell. Jeremy wraps Jeff back into a hug, rests his hand on the nape of Jeff’s nape. Pretends he can’t feel the leak of tears through his shirt. “It’s gonna be okay, honey. Everything’s gonna be okay. You’ve got this.”

Jeff chokes out a laugh. “No, I really don’t.”

“All right, so you’ve got a lot of people who can help.”

“I’m gonna need it.” Jeff lifts his head, pulling back from Jeremy a little to stare into a face. “You’re gonna be here.”

It’s not really a question. Jeremy wonders where Jeff got the idea he was reliable, but it’s a good feeling. It’s shiny and new. “If you want me here.”

“I need you,” Jeff says simply.

And so everything Jeremy’s wanted for years is handed to him like something easy. Jeff has said he needs Jeremy three times today. It’s both giddy-high and bittersweet, because Jeff doesn’t mean it like that. Jeff never will again. Still Jeremy tucks the words inside somewhere safe, to turn them over in his brain in the depressive hours when he feels grimy and useless and lost. Jeff needs him.

“Then I’m here,” Jeremy says. There’s nothing else he could ever say. “And Misha is here. Turns out he’s good with kids, and Bodhi knows sign, so…”

He falters to a stop, because Jeff is studying his face like he can see Jeremy’s feelings for Misha written there. All the long night conversations, the dangerous shotgun kisses, the way Jeremy wants to run his hands down Misha’s long body. Jeff’s mouth has a funny little quirk. Exposed, Jeremy squirms to get away.

“Nope,” Jeff says, and leans up to kiss Jeremy’s forehead with an obnoxiously loud smack. “Okay, now you can go.”

“Asshole,” Jeremy grumbles, wiping off the whiskery memory of Jeff’s mouth. Jeff makes it goddamn difficult to forget.

“You know it.” Jeff lets him go, finally, and stands there with his hands in his pockets. “I want to find Robin.”

“Why the hell would you do that?” Jeremy says, but he’s already calculating the price in his head. Private detectives, potential travel costs, maybe bribes to get Robin back here… manageable. Barely. But the costs of Robin moving here are another matter. “What are you going to do when she’s back? Is she living here? Are you paying for her treatment?”

“She’s already paying for her medical costs.” Jeff looks down, scuffing his boots across the carpet. “She’s in debt. I want to pay it off.”

Stomach tightening, Jeremy asks, “How much debt?”

Jeff tells him. Jeremy stares into space for a minute, doing the math in his head, and dread sinks in as he can’t make it work. “Jeff,” he starts to say.

Jeff looks up at him, jaw set. “I’m not letting his mother go to Escrow.”

Jeremy almost asks what the fuck he’s supposed to do, print more money? But he knows that Jeff means everything he’s saying, even before he reads the stubborn desperation on Jeff’s face. If Jeff was the kind of person who’d let Robin go into slavery, he wouldn’t be Jeff. If Robin gets sold, it’ll break something in him.

Jeff’s already got a guilt complex a mile wide, and it has Jeremy’s name on it. It has Kane’s too, Jeremy knows, but Jeremy broke him first. It’s on him.

Jeff has to save Robin, just like he had to save Jensen. And Jeremy has to save Jeff.

“Jer?” Jeff says, half-pleading.

“I’ll talk to Kane,” Jeremy says. “We’ll figure it out.”

Naked relief crosses Jeff’s face. “That’s what Kane said. Thank you, man.”

They’ll find the money. Even if Jeremy has to slip some of his own into Jeff’s accounts, they will, and Jeremy will lie about sudden windfalls straight to Jeff’s face. It’s not like Jeremy doesn’t have too much anyway.

Glancing away from Jeff, Jeremy nods at the kid. “He’s cute. Lucky he looks more like Robin than you.”

“He really is,” Jeff says. He already looks at the kid like Zach looked at newborn Ryzer, a poleaxed expression of terror and joy. And love. The kid has Jeff wrapped around his finger. That’s good, considering that Bodhi’s been torn from his mom and thrown into a whole new life. The poor kid must be scared as hell. No wonder he cried himself to sleep.

Unexpectedly, Jeff laughs. “I keep remembering he’s mine and it’s like being kicked in the head. I’m terrified and I’m still thinking if I should get him a racecar bed. Or if he likes dogs.”

“He’s your kid. He’s gonna like dogs.”

“I hope so.” Jeff gives Jeremy a watery, radiant grin. “I’m a dad, Jer.”

Jeremy has to squeeze him again and tell him what he told Zach, once upon a time: “Congratulations, dude.”
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nilchance: Picture of a pomegranate with spilled seeds, text "I think you're confused, I'm not Persephone" (Default)
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