Master Post
Part 1


Roughly an hour and a half after he lets Chad talk him into a decision that would solve his family situation but might just land him in jail for life, Jared starts the four hour drive from Dallas down to San Antonio. With him, handcuffed to the passenger side door, is the surly, glaring man who is supposed to pretend to be his boyfriend. A boyfriend who, apparently, refuses to talk to him.

Jared sighs. “Look,” he tries again, “I really am sorry about this.”

No reaction.

“It’s just that my boyfriend broke up with me just a few days ago, actually fled the country, though I don’t think it was from me, just--well, he had some weird ideas about taking over the world or something. He might have been insane, now that I think about it, but that’s not the point.” He looks away from the road to spare a glance at his companion.

Yup. Still glaring.

“Anyway, my family has really been looking forward to meeting him. I mean, really. It’s been a long time since I’ve brought anyone home, and I just can’t bear to disappoint them. Not on Christmas anyway.”

Silence.

Jared bites his lip, takes a nervous breath. “You know,” he says tentatively. “This might not be as horrible as you think. I mean,” he adds quickly when he sees the guy shoot him an incredulous look, “obviously you don’t want to hang around me, the guy who--” he lets out a nervous little chuckle, “the guy who kidnapped you, but my family is really great. I mean, really. So, you never know, this Christmas might not be so bad.”

“Right,” the guy finally says, voice scathing. “I’m handcuffed to your car, being driven four hours away from my home against my will, and I’m going to spend my Christmas pretending to be in love with you, a guy so pathetic that he has to kidnap an innocent bystander in order to get a date for Christmas, all the while wearing cheap Wal-Mart clothes that I didn’t even pick out, and you think this whole experience might not be so bad.

“We offered to go pick up your actual clothes, you know.”

“Oh, right. Like I was going to let you two know where I live.” He sneers at Jared, brows pulled down in an angry scowl and Jared can’t look at him, wishes, briefly, that he hadn’t opened his mouth at all.

The silence was better.

And it seems, now that the guy has started talking, he isn’t going to stop any time soon. “What’s more, I’m being forced to let down the people who are depending on me this Christmas. The people at the soup kitchen, and the can food drive.” He makes a frustrated tug against the handcuff on his wrist. “I can’t even let them know I’m not going to be there. They’re just going to be a person short, thinking I just didn’t bother to show up. And that Chad,” he all but spits the name, turning to point violently at Jared. “I don’t trust him with that money. For all I know he could be lying to me and by the time this whole joke of a holiday is over, the money will be gone, spent on drugs or something.”

“Hey, now,” Jared interrupts him. “Chad wouldn‘t do that. He‘s a good guy.”

The guy snorts. “Right. I’m sure the guy who kidnappedcharity donations to blackmail my complacency is an upstanding citizen. A person to be admired. He’s a ’good guy.’ ” He sneers the last words and makes little air quotations with his hands, which Jared thinks looks funny, considering one hand can’t move further than a few inches away from the door handle, but he doesn’t say anything.

He has a feeling that any type of humor he tries will just make things worse.

Jared bites his lip, considering. “Listen,” he starts, “I’m really sorry about using the money against you, and I know you don’t want to hear any more justifications or excuses but I promise, I promise, that nothing is going to happen to it. Chad isn’t going to spend it or lose it, or whatever, alright? I swear.” He hears a disbelieving huff from beside him and Jared wishes that they weren’t driving along an interstate highway, that he could pull over and look the guy straight in the eyes and try to convince him he’s telling the truth. As it is though, he just has to try to make his voice as persuasive as he can. He runs a hand through his hair and huffs out his own sigh. “Hey, if I lend you my cell phone so you can call the soup kitchen and stuff, let them know you’re not coming, will you promise not to say anything about…this?” He waves a hand in the air, as if that one gesture could encompass the whole screwed up mess between them.

The man turns to face him and Jared looks away from the road to meet his surprised expression. “Really? You’d let me call them?” he asks.

Jared shrugs. “Sure. Believe it or not, but I don’t actually want to ruin your life,” he looks again at him, meeting his eyes with a sincere, almost pleading look. “I just need you to help fix mine.”

He keeps eye contact with Jared for a few, silent moments, as if studying him, before looking away, uncomfortable. “Fine,” he says shortly. “Give me your phone.”

Jared digs it out of his pocket, but doesn’t immediately toss it over. “I’m serious, though. No mention of any of this, or…” he lets that sentence trail off, self disgust roiling through him as he thinks about it’s end: or I’ll call Chad. He doesn’t want to be the kind of person who uses a threat like that, no matter what kind of screwed up situation he now is in. But as he glances over, it’s clear from the other man’s face that he doesn’t have to speak the words, he got their meaning anyway. Silently, he hands over the phone.

The guy takes it from him, and Jared goes back to staring intently at the road, trying to give the man the illusion of privacy even if they both know he’ll be listening closely to everything the guy tells the people he calls.

“Danneel?” he says into the phone. “Yeah, this is Jensen.”

Jared’s hands clench and flex on the steering wheel, self disgust once again rising when he suddenly realizes he didn’t even bother to ask the guy his name.

“Hey, I know I’m supposed to work the soup kitchen this Christmas Eve, but something’s come up and well, I can’t.”

Something’s come up. Such a diplomatic way of putting things. That’s like saying the Civil War was merely a small disagreement between the North and the South. But the guy’s--Jensen’s--tone doesn’t give anything away. He sounds perfectly calm, pleasant even. Jared relaxes slightly, the nagging little doubts that the man would be able to pretend to like Jared enough to fool his family quieted.

“What? No, nothing like that,” Jensen is saying. “Nothing wrong. I just…” he trails off, and Jared sees him shoot a quick glance at him before sighing. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s my family. Guess they decided they wanted me there for Christmas after all. Who’d have thought? Maybe not having me there does worse for their image than my presence actually does.”

His tone is flat and just a little bit bitter, and Jared is suddenly curious. He’d wondered why Jensen had been spending his Christmas volunteering to do charity work rather than spend time with his own family, but he hadn’t felt it was his right--considering he was the man who kidnapped him--to ask. Still isn’t, Jared reminds himself. And he suppresses his questions as Jensen wraps up the phone call and quickly makes another, this time to the organizer of the can food drive that was happening later this evening.

Damn. This guy was like a one man charity himself. Didn’t he ever do anything else?

Jensen snaps the phone shut and hands it back to Jared with a gruff, “Here.” He doesn’t say thanks, but Jared didn’t really expect him to. As soon as Jared takes the phone he sees Jensen turn back to the window, attempting to cross his arms but failing, thanks to the handcuff that clasped around his wrist. With a frustrated huff he slumps down into the seat, scowl once again on his face.

The car is silent again.





The rest of the four hour drive passes in a very tense quiet, with the exception of when Jared tells Jensen a few things he needs to know about his family, and then Jared is turning on to his parents’ street. “That’s the house right there.” He points to a house near the end of the street and Jensen nods, lips pressed into a thin, hard line. He’s staring at it like it’s the gallows, not a modest two story with a porch and a few trees in the front yard.

Jeff and Lauren are already there, taking up driveway space with their gigantic, “family sized,” SUV so Jared parks his significantly smaller car on the street. He pulls the keys out of the ignition and takes a deep breath, running a nervous hand through is hair. “Okay. This is it.”

Jensen grunts. Doesn’t look at him.

“It’s just a few days, shouldn’t be too hard right?” he asks, though he isn’t sure if he’s trying to reassure Jensen, the guy he forced into this, or himself.

Jensen still doesn’t look at him. “You gonna uncuff me?”

“Um. Yeah. Hold on.” Jared shifts a little awkwardly, digging into his pocket to get the tiny key Chad had handed to him after hooking Jensen to the car handle four hours ago. He leans across Jensen to get to his wrist, but hesitates as he’s reaching for it. “Uh, there’s one more thing.”

Jensen groans. “What now?” He’s leaning, Jared notices, as far back into the seat as is possible, body tense and rigid, as if he can’t bear the thought of being within a foot of touching distance with him, and inwardly Jared wonders how the hell they are going to pull this off if the man can’t even stand to touch him.

“I’ve sort of already told my family my boyfriend’s--well, ex-boyfriend now-- name, so uh, you’ll have to go by it while you’re here.”

He rolls his eyes. “Great. What is it?”

“Misha.”

Jensen just stares at him, face blank, as if waiting to be told it was a joke. Then he closes his eyes and leans his head back against the seat with a snort. “Perfect. That’s just perfect. Not only do I have to pretend to be your boyfriend,” he emphasizes the word your, stretching it out until Jared feels about two inches tall, “but now I have spend three days going by one of the weirdest fucking names I’ve ever heard.” He snorts again. “Misha. Jesus.”

Face burning with embarrassment, Jared quickly unlocks the cuff around Jensen’s wrist and pulls away. “I’ll get the bags,” he mutters and practically lunges out the driver’s side door. Once outside, he breathes in the cool December air and tries to get himself under control.

Could he really go through with this? Lie to his family and spend the next three days pretending to be in love with a complete stranger? For a moment he thinks about just coming clean, before it’s too late. He could just walk in and tell his parents what happened with Misha, apologize to Jensen and pay for a bus ride back to Dallas or something, pushing this whole ridiculous situation behind him. Then he imagines the pity on his parents’ faces, just overlapping the barely concealed disappointment that’s there whenever they find out just how far different his life turned out from what they wanted for him, sees the sympathetic look on his little sister’s face, the concerned whispers she’d share with her fiancé, could hear the muttered, That’s too bad, Jay from his brother, before he turns back to his beautiful wife and adorable kids and his perfect fucking life as a doctor, and never a disappointment, not him, and--

The passenger side door slams, knocking Jared out of his thoughts. Jensen is standing by the car, absently rubbing at his right wrist and scowling at the house they’re parked in front of. Jared sighs and opens the back door, starts pulling out the bags.

There’s no going back now.

Luggage in hand, Jared leads the way to the front door, Jensen trailing reluctantly behind him. He doesn’t pause to ring the doorbell, knowing his mama would have left the door unlocked, expecting him, and just shuffles both bags to one hand and pushes open the door with the other. “Mama? Dad?”

“Jared? Is that you?” his mama calls from the back of the house.

He rolls his eyes and drops the bags by the door. “Considering I’m the only one who wasn’t here already, who else would it be?” he calls back with a smile. Despite his worries and fears about coming here, it already feels good to be home. The smile fades when he looks over his shoulder and sees Jensen, still lingering outside, just beyond the doorway. “Come on in,” he murmurs. “I promise my family isn’t as crazy as I am.”

Jensen gives him a flat, disbelieving look, but walks inside anyway. He’s closing the door behind him when Jared’s mama appears in the foyer. “Well it’s about time you got here, Jared. What took you so long?”

Jared shrugs, opening his arms when she steps in for a hug. “You know me, always sleeping in.” She barely reaches his chest and she has to lift one hand to the back of his neck so she could pull his head down and place a kiss on his cheek.

“Well, I remember a little boy who couldn’t wait to get out of bed. Always up at the crack of dawn, ready for the cartoons to start and demanding breakfast.” She smiles warmly at him when she pulls away, but her eyes flicker pointedly at Jensen. “And who’s this?”

Jared takes a deep breath and reaches back, placing a hand on Jensen’s shoulder to pull him forward. “Mama, this is Misha.” Jensen tenses under his touch, but pastes a smile on his face as he holds his hand out. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” he says, all polite smile and humble voice and Jared blinks at the change from the frowning, surly man he drove here with.

Jared’s mama bypasses the offered handshake and goes straight for a hug. From over her shoulder, Jared sees Jensen’s smile freeze and his arms slowly, awkwardly return the hug.

“Call me Sherri,” his mama says when she pulls away. “And I’m so happy you could come. The whole family has been looking forward to meeting you.”

Jensen shoots Jared a look and hesitates long enough before his reply to make Jared start to panic before smiling down at her. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, too.” He sounds so sincere that Jared nearly believes him, and he lets out a relieved breath.

“Where’s everyone else, Mama?” He asks, trying to take his mother’s attention away from his supposed boyfriend. Jensen is a scarily good actor, Jared will give him that, but he feels hyper aware of how easily it all could come crumbling down around him.

“Your dad, Jeff and Laura are in the family room. Megan and Ben went with the kids to pick up dinner.”

It was a long standing tradition that the night before Christmas Eve (or Christmas Eve Eve, as Jared and Meggie used to call it) that the family would get take out. His mama would always be busy cooking the food for the next day and as particular as she was about everything ,the family long ago found it was easier to just order food and stay out of her way.

“Sounds like we got here just in time.” He flashes a small smile at Jensen, who had dropped his smile and is instead looking around the foyer, eyes lingering on the chandelier light fixture, and the cherry wood framed mirror surrounded by family portraits framed in the same polished wood, a small frown on his face. Not what you thought your kidnapper’s family home would look like, huh? He turns back to his mom, smile strained. “So what are they getting?”

His mama rolls her eyes, an affectionate smile on her face. “Nobody could decide so they’re getting both pizza and barbecue.”

“Alright!” Jared can’t help it, he fist pumps. The barbecue place his family likes to go to has the best shredded barbecue pork he has ever tasted. In the corner of his eye he sees Jensen roll his eyes, the expression on his face not one of affection. Jared flushes and clears his throat. “Well, mama, we’ll just take our luggage up to my room and then we’ll meet you guys in the family room.” He catches Jensen’s eye and nods subtly to the stairs.

“Oh you don’t need Misha for that. You know better than to make a guest carry his own luggage. You go on ahead and I’ll introduce him to everyone.”

“But Mama--” he tries, but she just waves him off, placing a gentle hand on Jensen’s shoulder to guide him out of the foyer.

“Go on, don’t worry. I’ll take good care of him.”

Over his shoulder Jensen smirks at him, leaving Jared to imagine everything Jensen could tell his family in the three minutes he’d be alone with them. He gulps and rushes up the stairs.





Jensen is led into a moderately sized family room. It’s decorated in light colors--light greens and creams, with wide glass double doors leading out to the backyard. There are two couches and an easy chair set campfire style around a low coffee table. There are people sitting on one couch and the chair--a couple who look just a few years older than him and a thin man with close cropped gray hair and laugh lines around his mouth. They all turn to look as he enters the room.

“And here’s Misha,” Sherri says with a smile, her small hand nudging gently at his shoulder for him to step ahead of her. The couple on the loveseat give a cheerful wave as Sherri introduces them as Jared’s brother Jeff, and his wife Laura, but the man in the chair stands up and holds out his hand.

“I’m Jerry,” he says, smiling as he gives Jensen’s hand a firm shake. “Good to meet you, son.”

“You too, sir.” Jensen’s own smile feels too awkward, too fake on his lips. Especially when met by the wide, sincere smiles everybody else in the room is beaming at him. They’re all practically delighted that he’s here, and Jensen realizes that Jared wasn’t exaggerating when he said they were really looking forward to meeting his boyfriend, and that the break up would actually break all of their hearts. He doesn’t let that fact soften him though. In fact, he feels even more uneasy now that he realizes that they are apparently, nice, warm people--not the kind of people he would have thought would have raised a kidnapper--and that he’s being forced to lie to them.

This feeling is not helped by the way Jared’s dad claps a friendly hand on Jensen’s shoulder and insists that they “forget about that ’sir’ nonsense” as he ushers him onto the couch across from Jeff and Laura.

Jensen’s dad always made him call him ’sir,’ even after he was an adult. He’d hated it.

He tries to tell himself that there’s probably something horribly wrong with all these people, underneath the surface, for their own--kidnapping--son to think it was okay to lie to them like this, and that they deserve what they get, but he doesn’t manage to make himself believe it.

“So…” Sherri, who plopped herself down on the other side of the couch, looks around the room, obviously searching for a subject to talk about. “How’s the furniture business coming along?”

“Uh, the furniture business?”

“Yeah. Jared told us you make your own furniture and are trying to set up a business for it? He said you’re very talented.”

Jensen looks around the room, slightly panicked. “Well, uh.” He coughs. “I don’t know about talented, but uh. Yeah. It’s going…it’s going, um, good. I guess. You know,” he forces a chuckle, “nothing big, just a few uh, chairs and stuff made for friends, but yeah, good.”
“That’s good.” Sherri smiles at him, as if the conversation hadn’t been completely pointless (or a complete lie) and Jensen notices that she has the same dimples on her cheeks as Jared does.

“You know,” Jerry leans forward in his chair, “I’m not bad at carpentry myself. My grandfather built rocking chairs and he showed me a few things. Of course Jared and Jeff,” he waves a hand at his son, who could almost pass as Jared’s twin, and smirks, “are useless at it.”

Jeff rolls his eyes, but he’s grinning. “Gee, thanks, Dad.”

Jerry ignores Jeff, his smirk changing into a grin, shooting it at Jensen like they share a joke. “What do you say we head out to the barn sometime while you’re here. I’ve got the right tools, and some wood, and maybe we can just show these two how it’s done, huh?”

Jensen doesn’t know how to use tools.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Tools to work on cars, sure. Give him a wrench, or a screwdriver or a set of pliers, those he could work with, but carpentry? He knew exactly jack shit about carpentry.

For a moment, Jensen imagines himself out there with them, pushing a plank of wood through a table saw, pretending to be confident and know exactly what he’s doing, all the while trying not to screw up and making a fool of himself or worse--screwing up and losing a finger.

No. Just no.

There was no way Jensen was going to risk any limbs or fingers for one Jared fucking Padalecki. He could keep the charity money.

“Uh, that sounds great…Jerry.” He forces a nervous smile. “But I’m not a carpenter.”

“Really?” Jeff asks, frowning. “I could have sworn Jared said--”

“Wicker.” Jensen interrupts him. “I make furniture out of wicker. But it’s easy to get mixed up, I mean, you know, wood.” The short laugh he lets out sounds far too strangled to him.
“I thought wicker was a form of plant,” Jeff’s wife, Laura pipes up.

Jesus, what’s with this people? Are they some kind of furniture know-it-alls? Do they live their lives around the Antique Road Show or something?

“Well, yeah,” Jensen replies through gritted teeth. “But, you know, it looks like wood. Once it’s, uh, dry.”

At least he thinks wicker is wet when they weave it. He knows jack shit about wicker, too.
Laura looks like she’s about to say something else, but luckily, Jared chooses that exact minute to enter the room.

He’d never thought he’d actually be glad to see him.

“Hey, guys.” Jared calls as he walks in, smile big on his face. It dims a little when he looks at Jensen, expression taken over by something nervous and a little pained. His eyes flicker to the rest of the people in the room, as if gauging their reactions.

No, I didn’t say anything to them, Jensen thinks. Though, he sort of wishes he had. How quickly would this be put to an end if Jensen just comes out and tells them what’s going on? If Sherri Padalecki was anything like his mama, then very quickly, he’d wager. Then again, all Jared had to do was text Chad and that charity money would be gone. He doesn’t know Jared well enough to figure out if he’d do it afterwards, just for spite. He can’t take that chance.
Still, that doesn’t mean Jensen has to give him any type of reassurance. So he stays quiet as he watches Jared greet his family. First he gives a long hug to his dad, then one to Jeff, just as long, then another hug to Laura, with an added kiss on the cheek.

Apparently the Padaleckis are a hugging family.

When he’s finished, Jared plops on the couch beside Jensen, so close he’s practically in his lap, and throws an arm along the back, right above Jensen’s shoulders. Jensen barely resists the urge to flinch or roll his eyes.

Way to over sell it.

“Misha was just telling us about his furniture business,” Sherri supplies helpfully.
“Oh, really.” Jared slants a nervous glance at him.

“Yeah. You’re dad graciously invited me to the garage to give you an apparently much needed carpentry lesson, but I explained to him that I make things out of wicker.” He shoots Jared a significant glance at the last word, figuring that if he had to go through this whole charade, they should at least have the same story.

“Right,” Jared says, nodding. “Wicker. It’s true, Misha wouldn’t be able to use a saw to save his life, he just uh, weaves… things.” He chuckles, a sort of nervous, abrupt noise that sounds more like a giggle than anything.

It’s possible, Jensen realizes, that Jared is a much worse liar than he is. It might prove to be entertaining, actually.

There’s a short, awkward silence before Sherri starts updating Jared on what has been going on with the family and the town. She easily brings the rest of the group into the conversation, even Jensen, who she peppers with questions like, “Has Jared told you about his Aunt Margaret? She was recently in the hospital, nothing too serious, just a little anemia,” or “Do you have any nieces or nephews? Jared mentioned you had a sibling but I don’t recall if he said she was married.” At one point, she asks why Jensen (or rather, why Misha) didn’t go home to his family for Christmas.

“Well, uh…” Jensen stalls, trying to come up with something. There is certainly a reason why he isn’t visiting his parents, but he can’t use that, too personal.

“He can’t afford the drive,” Jared jumps in. “You know, what with starting that new business and all, money is a little tight.”

Jensen nods along. “Yeah. And the drive to Ohio is so long,” he adds, so it doesn’t look like Jared is covering for him, “it doesn’t seem worth it for just a few days.” Ohio? Where did he get Ohio?

“Ohio? I thought you’re from North Dakota.”

Inwardly, Jensen winces. Apparently he should have just kept his mouth shut. “Yeah. But my, uh, grandparents are in Ohio, and the family drives out there for Christmas.”

“Oh,” says Sherri, nodding. “I see. It‘s nice that they drive all the way there to see them every year.”

Jensen swallows. “Yeah.”

Then Sherri goes right back into news of the family. Jensen allows himself to be swept in it, barely comprehending the long list of cousins, step cousins, aunts and neighbors and their ailments and/or successes. Jared, he notices when he sneaks a glance at him, doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed at all. And Laura, who, Jensen knows from the brief overview of his family Jared gave in the car ride there, has only been married to Josh for five years is nodding along, adding a few comments here, asking a few questions there, like she has known all the people mentioned--every single one--all her life.

The conversation is thankfully brought to a stop when the front door is opened, and a young, female voice calls out, “We’re back! And we brought food!” Shortly after, what looks to be a walking stack of cardboard and Styrofoam boxes comes into the room. Sherri and Laura immediately get up to help out and Jensen takes the moment to turn a wide eyed stare at Jared.
“Jesus, you have a lot of family,” he hisses underneath his breath.

Jared smiles and little a shrugs. “Yeah, I know. You’ll meet some of them tomorrow for Christmas Eve.”

Jensen can’t help the look of horror on his face, imagining the room cram packed with Padaleckis, all enthusiastic and curious, giving him question after question he couldn’t possibly answer. Already feeling claustrophobic, Jensen barely gets out the strangled, “All of them?” that forces its way out of his throat.

Jared shakes his head. “Nah, most of Dad’s family is in Illinois. Tomorrow it’s just going to be my grandmother on my mom’s side and a few cousins. Maybe an uncle or two.”

Jensen nods. Right. An uncle or two. And cousins. Grandparents. He can handle that, sure he can handle that.

Not for the first time, Jensen curses both Chad and Jared Padalecki.

Just then two little kids run into the room, one boy with dark hair who couldn’t have been more than four years old, and a little blonde girl who seemed to be just a little younger than him.

“Uncle Jay!”

Jared face breaks out into a grin that Jensen hasn’t seen on him before, wide, white teeth and crinkling eyes and dimples. Jensen blinks, surprised at the change from the nervous, slightly uneasy man Jensen had spent the last six hours with.

“Hey!” Jared says, voice sickeningly sweet and kid friendly. “There’s my two favorite people in the whole world!” He jumps up from the couch and lunges at the kids, scooping them both up, one under each arm, and starts to spin them around.

The little girl lets out a squeal. “Uncle Jay put me down!”

“Never!” Jared shouts, still spinning them, and Jensen has to dodge one tiny clad foot as it races towards his face.

“Misha, right?” Comes a voice from his right. Jensen forces a smile and turns to face the owner. Yeah, that’s going to get old fast. The young woman who brought the food in is standing by Jensen’s end of the couch, and with the light brown hair, hazel eyes and dimples, Jensen can only assume it’s Jared’s sister, an assumption that is confirmed when she holds out one hand with a bright, “Hey, I’m Megan.”

Jensen, raised to be gentleman, stands up to take it. “Misha,” he forces out, “but you already know that. Jared’s talked a lot about you.” It’s true. During the briefing Jared gave about his family, he spent the most time on his sister, mostly to warn Jensen away from her.

“She’s the one I talk to the most,” he’d said, “and I gave her and Ben hell when they got together, so she’s going to want a little payback. Be careful around her.”

Now, shaking her hand as this young girl--who couldn’t be more than twenty-three--smiles up at him, Jensen can’t help but think Jared had been exaggerating. That is, until: “Yeah, Jared talked a lot about you too. But you know, from the way he described you, I thought you’d look different.”

Jensen’s hand twitches a little in the handshake she hasn’t let go of yet. “Oh really?” he asks, eyes flickering past her to where Jared is now busy chatting with the man who came in with Megan--Ben, he thought--across the room, still holding on to the kids. His smile feels frozen on his face.

“Yeah. I could have sworn he said your eyes were blue.”

Jensen forces a chuckle. “Well, you know, it’s an easy thing to mistake. People forget little details like that all the time.”

She hums slightly, a small frown appearing between her brows. She’s still holding on to Jensen’s hand, and staring intently at his eyes, which is starting to get a little uncomfortable. “Jared usually doesn’t.” She finally says, giving Jensen a slight smile and finally dropping his hand.

Jensen watches her cross the room to Jared, who finally puts the kids down so he could wrap his long arms around her. “Meggie!” he yells out, that huge grins still on his face. Over his shoulder Megan is smiling just as wide, dimples deep and innocent looking.

Be careful around her indeed.

“Oh, don’t mind Megan, Misha.” Sherri smiles kindly at him from the coffee table, where she’s opening pizza and barbecue boxes. “She’s just giving you a hard time because of Jared. He’s made it a point to torture all of her boyfriends since the eighth grade. She’s just paying him back for that.”

“That’s what he told me.” Sherri chuckles and starts to pour drinks for everyone. “Here, let me help you with that.” He grabs the package of plastic cups and rips it open. After pouring the cups of Mountain Dew and Coke, he glances at Jared, who’s still in an in depth conversation with Ben and his siblings. Charming smile firmly in place, Jensen turns to Sherri. “Could you tell me where the restroom is?”

“Oh, of course. There’s one right down the hall,” she points a hand in the opposite direction of the front door. “It’s on the left, opposite the kitchen. And there’s another one up the stairs, second door to your right.”

He thanks her, casts one last glance at Jared, and leaves the room.

Jensen goes back to the foyer, then up the stairs, keeping his feet quiet and muffled on the carpet of the steps. He listens hard as he goes up, waiting for Jared to notice he’s missing and come marching through the house to keep tabs on him. He doesn’t though, and Jensen lets out a sigh of relief when he gets to the top of the staircase, eyes immediately zeroing in on the phone sitting on a small secretary stand in the hallway, between two bedroom doors. In a few short strides he’s across the hall, picking up the handset. The dial tone rings like a promise in his ear and he wastes no time dialing the one person he knows will always pick up.

“Yeah?” comes the drawl of his best friend over the line.

Jensen lets out a breath he didn’t even realize he was holding. “Chris, man, I need your help.”
“Hey, Jensen. What’s up? And who’s number are you using?”

“I’m in trouble, Chris.” Jensen mutters quietly, glancing over his shoulder at the stairs.
“What?” Chris’s voice went from lazy and bored to sharp and alert in a second. “What kind of trouble?”

“Big trouble. I--” There’s a short bang from downstairs, like something falling over and someone laughs. Jensen glances nervously over his shoulder again. He can hear the voices of Jared’s family, the words mumbled and indistinct, but not far. “Look, I can’t go into it right now. I just need you to do me a favor. Alright?”

“Jensen.” Chris all but growls. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I don’t have time, Chris!” he snaps. “Now listen, it’s important. I need you to get a hold of Jeff for me. I’d do it myself but I don’t have my cell with his number. Get a hold of Jeff and tell him he needs to find a guy named Chad. A Chad, uh, Michael Murray.” Or at least that’s what he thinks Jared had called him, when he was yelling at the guy in his kitchen back in Dallas, snapping his name out with enough ease and irritation you’d think he was the guy’s mother. Jensen had thought at the time about how sloppy his kidnappers were, letting out their real names like that. Now he’s just grateful. “Chad Michael Murray,” he repeats. “He should be in Dallas somewhere. You got that?”

“Yeah, I got it,” Chris grumbles. “But who is he? And why do you need him?”

“I don’t have time to tell you.” He says again. “Just tell Jeff to find him and hold him. Don’t let him out of his sight. I’ll be there in three days, and I’ll need the cops waiting.”

Chris sucks in a breath. “Jesus, Jen. What have you got yourself into?”

Jensen lets out a slightly hysterical chuckle. “You have no idea.” Jensen takes a deep breath and doesn’t say anything for a long moment, bringing one hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. The stress of the whole situation is catching up to him, and he needs a moment to just breathe.

“Jensen,” Chris says softly. “Tell me where you are. Wherever it is, I’ll come get you.”
For a second, Jensen considers letting him do just that. Chris has always been Jensen’s rock. The person who, when Jensen would screw up or break down or just need someone to talk to, would drop everything and make sure he was all right. He’d been the sole reason that Jensen had gotten through the whole ordeal with his family in the last couples years, and the urge to just say fuck it to this whole thing--to Jared, to Chad, to the Padalecki family and the farce he’s starring in, and hell, even to the money--and let Chris come here and take over like he used to is strong.

But he promised himself he wouldn’t let Chris do that anymore. Besides, Jensen knows that Chris’s family had come down from Oklahoma to visit him for Christmas, and Jensen doesn’t want to screw that up.

Someone should get to be with their family for this damn holiday.

“No,” Jensen finally sighs. “Just pass that message along to Jeff. Make sure he knows it’s important.”

“Jen, no. If you’re in trouble, I’ll come get you. Just tell me where you are.

The last sentence is hissed out, Chris barely concealing the underlying fear in his voice, and for a moment Jensen reconsiders. “I…” he hesitates.

“Where are you going, Jay?”

Jensen startles, throwing a panicked glance down the stairs from where Jeff’s voice is coming from, close enough for the words to be distinct.

“Just checking on Misha. He’s been in the bathroom for a while.”

Jensen sucks in a breath as he hears footsteps heading for the direction of the stairs.

“Chris,” he whispers hurriedly, “I gotta go. Tell Jeff, and don’t try to call me. I’ll call again if I can.”

“Jensen, no, wait--” Chris starts, but Jensen cuts him off.

“I’m sorry. I have to go.” He hangs up the phone just as he hears footsteps on the stairs, and it’s with no small amount of panic that he starts looking around the hall, trying to figure out which door leads to the bathroom. An open door to the right shows the dark outline of a sink and Jensen barely gives himself time to let out a sigh of relief before he dashes across the hallway and through it, turning on the light and closing the door just as the footsteps reach the top of the stairs.

“Jensen?” he hears through the door, quiet, like Jared thinks his family might hear him use Jensen’s real name even though they’re a floor apart.

He turns the water on, full blast, so that the sound of it hitting the sink could be clearly heard and stares at his reflection in the mirror. Wide eyes and pale skin, dark green button up--the only shirt he’ll be wearing that’s his during this little family get together. He bites his lip, and wills his heart beat to slow, to forget about the close call.

Thirty seconds longer on the phone and Chris could’ve been on his way here.

“Jensen?” Jared calls again, and Jensen lets the irritation and anger take over him, approves of the scowl that transforms his expression, eyes narrowing back into a glare, lips tightening in frustration, skin flushing. He shuts off the water with a jerk and grabs the door handle, roughly jerking the door open.

“What?” he snaps.

Jared looks at him closely, lingering on his--too dry--hands then past him and into the bathroom. “You’ve been in there a long time,” he says, expression a weird conglomeration of suspicion, nervousness and guilt.

It doesn’t look good on him, Jensen thinks meanly.

“Yeah, well, we didn’t exactly stop at a rest stop on the way here,” Jensen says caustically.
Jared bites his lip and looks away, the guilt taking over his expression. “Yeah. Sorry about that,” he mutters.

Jensen shrugs and smiles, baring his teeth. “Hey, no problem, man. I mean what were you going to do, cuff me to the urinal?” He takes vicious satisfaction in the way the muscles in Jared’s jaw twitches at that.

“Right.” Jared grinds out behind clenched teeth. “Well, we should probably get back downstairs.”

“Oh, by all means,” Jensen says with cheerful sarcasm, the sharp, angry smile feeling good on his face. “I wouldn’t want to keep my boyfriend’s family waiting would I?” He doesn’t wait for Jared to respond, just shoulders past him in the small hallway and stomps towards the stairs.

He’s done. Done with this whole ridiculous situation. Jared’s footsteps are close behind him on the steps, and Jensen clenches his fists at his sides, filled with a sense of grim determination.

Like hell is he staying here for even one full day, let alone three.

Part 3


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