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He drifted in and out of consciousness, making it hard to define dream from reality. Shapes and shadows all around him. People talking, whispering to each other and to him, maybe. He didn’t know.

“Please. Please, don’t die.”

Were they even there? He didn’t have enough energy to open his eyes and look. He supposed it didn’t really matter. They were all in that space between real and not to him, anyway.

“God, there’s still so much to tell you. So much we haven’t told you.”

Fuck, everything hurt.

Sleeping seemed like a good idea. Anything to stop hurting so damn much. There were other reasons, too—reasons he should just let go. Drift away. Good reasons. Not that he could remember them, but they were there, lurking in the back of his mind.

“Come back already. Don’t fucking give up so damn easily, Chris.”

Kind of like consciousness, really. Oblivion tugged at him, and god, it was inviting as hell.

“Don’t let go.”

C’mon, Kane. David’s voice. Trying for light and teasing, but coming out strained and worried. Don’t be a fucking pussy. Get up already.

Fucker, Chris thought. It motherfucking hurts like a bitch. I’m not being a pussy.

Dave laughed. You are. You’re such a fucking bitch, Christian.

I was run through with a sword. Oh, yeah. That’s what happened. There was a sword and someone in his apartment. No, no, not his. Theirs. In their apartment.

Wait, there was an apartment?

Chris frowned. David?

Now you’re just being stupid, fucker. Chris really needed to imagine up more sympathetic people. David had always been so bad at sympathy. Or, well, he’d always tried to come across as bad at the caring-sharing bullshit, but it was probably exactly that that had—wait.

You’re dead. I watched you die. He could almost see that half-smirk.

Well, hello to you, too. You’re not looking too hot yourself, you know. Should really think about that before insulting other people.

Chris mentally threw up his arms. Or he would have thrown up his arms if he’d had some to throw up.

God, that was confusing.

Saying you’re dead when you are isn’t an insult! You’re dead. Why are you talking to me?

Because you’re being a fucking pansy, David answered. He sighed, long and suffering. Stop being such a whiny bitch and open your eyes, Kane.

I hate you, Chris thought, almost hearing David’s laugh as his eyes fluttered slowly open and—oh, monkey fucker, it was bright, and everything really fucking hurt. David was probably still laughing somewhere, and fuck, if the guy wasn’t already dead, Chris would fucking kill him. It was really not funny.

He closed his eyes for a moment before he opened them again, looking vaguely around the room.

It took a few more seconds for the present to catch up with him—for David’s memory and David’s laugh to fade away, shift to bright green eyes and blue ones, the grim memories to disappear in favour of laughter so light and carefree it had made Chris ache .

Jensen and Steve.

He was in Jensen and Steve’s room. In Jensen and Steve’s bed.

The door was ajar, and he could hear voices outside murmuring to each other, but he couldn’t quite catch the words. He glanced at his arm, at the needle in his skin attached to the morphine drip, and at the almost-empty bag of blood beside it. He frowned, turning a little to push the blankets down enough to see his carefully bandaged side.

Jensen tied to a chair. Steve, his grip knuckle-white on the gun, shaking like a leaf. The fear, the desperation in their eyes.

You think you can protect them? They’re going to keep sending people after you, Chris. They’re never going to let you go.

In the corner of the room, he could see a picture of Jensen and Steve from what he assumed was college or some time during college, anyway. Before he’d come stumbling into their lives. Before they’d had random killers jumping them in their own apartment looking for him.

Chris glanced back at the door before he carefully took the drip out of his arm and climbed unsteadily out of bed.

He’d had worse wounds, or so he’d keep telling himself. He’d always been able to put one foot in front of the other, and just because he’d been comfortable for a little while, it didn’t mean he’d lost that instinct that had enabled him to survive for so many years.

He pulled out a shirt and a pair of pants from their closet, dressing as quickly as he could before he edged towards the door.

Steve and Jensen were in the kitchen. There was no way he could get out without them noticing. He lingered for a moment where he was, watching the way Jensen’s hand rested on the small of Steve’s back, the way Steve leaned against his chest, the way Jensen whispered softly in Steve’s ear, lips against skin and—

The door creaked.

Jensen looked up and right at him.

He grunted a little with pain as he pushed himself back and stumbled across the room towards the window, unlatching it with shaky hands.

“Chris! Shit. Don’t—” Jensen’s hand gripped his arm and pulled him back against a muscled chest, arms in a vice-grip around him as he struggled futilely. “Stop—fuck, you’re gonna hurt yourself again. Stop being a fucking idiot!”

“Chris, please,” Steve said. He was right there behind him, hands resting on Chris’ hips. “Please. Stop being so fucking stubborn.”

Chris stilled but didn’t relax at all. “Let me go,” he said, trying for low and threatening, but it came out a whole lot more pleading than he wanted. “Just. You gotta let go. I could take you both out—you know I could—so let go of me now. You—I have to—fuck, just let go. You gotta fucking stop doing this because you’re grateful, for fuck’s sake, because he was right. He was right, and they’re gonna keep coming, and nothin’ I’ve ever done for you’s worth th—”

Jensen’s mouth stopped the almost desperate flow of words, and Chris froze.

“Shut up,” Jensen said, lips still against his. “Just… shut up, Chris. It’s not about that. Not anymore.”

Chris exhaled shakily, and then Steve’s fingers were there, turning his head so he was facing him. Steve’s lips replaced Jensen’s as Jensen rested his forehead against Chris’ temple. Steve kissed him, soft and reverent, trembling a little himself.

“Chris,” he murmured. “God, fuck, Chris. Don’t go.”

“Don’t fucking leave us,” Jensen added quietly, arms tightening around Chris just a little. Chris finally noticed they’d both been so damn careful to avoid his wound. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“But —”

Steve kissed him again. “No. We—we don’t care. We don’t fucking care how many people walk through that door looking for you.”

“But—” Chris tried again.

“We’ll be ready next time,” Jensen promised. “We’ll figure something out. Better they find you in here with us than out there alone.”

“Where we won’t know what happened. We wouldn’t even know if you were still alive. Chris, I can’t live like that again. And it’d be worse than last time, and I can’t. I won’t.

“Please,” Steve added, lips shifting over to the side a little, kissing the corner of Chris’ mouth. Jensen’s immediately moved into the space Steve left to bite gently at the other corner.

“Don’t leave.”

Chris swallowed hard and leaned into those touches, eyes fluttering closed. “Okay,” he breathed. Fuck, he wasn’t strong enough to say no, and he wasn’t selfless enough to leave and protect them. He didn’t want to be alone again. “All right.”

He felt them relax a little as he let out another slow, calming breath—and blacked out as the pain replaced the adrenaline, completely overwhelming him.

~

Jensen caught him before he could hit the ground, pulling Chris tight against him, taking his weight easily. "Fuck," he breathed.

"It's okay," Steve said shakily, fingers on Chris' pulse. "He's just passed out. Probably from exhaustion and pain. Let's…" He gestured back to the bed.

Jensen nodded, lifting Chris up carefully to settle him again on the mattress, brushing Chris' hair back from his face.

"He shouldn't have even been able to move," Steve said, letting out a soft, humorous laugh. He carefully cleaned Chris' arm before putting the IVs back, running gentle fingers over Chris' skin. "What were you thinking, Chris?"

"Shoulda figured he'd think like that," Jensen whispered. He looked up at Steve, eyes over-bright. "We shoulda told him. We shoulda let him know."

"We have time," Steve said, voice trembling. "We're gonna have time." He looked back up at Jensen before he just pulled him into his arms, holding him tightly and offering comfort as much as taking it. "We're not gonna let him go."

Jensen nodded, kissing Steve softly, Chris' taste still lingering on their lips. He rested his forehead against Steve's, staying close, just breathing. Listening to Chris breathe.

He looked over to the drip before he looked back at Steve. "Can we… is there any way to move that so we can both stay close to him?"

"Lemme…" Steve offered him a weak smirk. "Lay down on his other side. I don't want you to kick so much this falls over."

Jensen let out a soft laugh, punching Steve's arm gently. He moved to settle on Chris' other side, carefully curling as close as possible. It wasn't long before Steve was mirroring him on Chris' other side, hand resting on top of Jensen's on Chris' heart.

"It's gonna be okay," Steve murmured. Jensen knew it was for both their sakes. "He's gonna be okay."

"We're gonna be more than okay," Jensen whispered, kissing Chris' shoulder before he met Steve's eyes again. "We're gonna be so much more than just okay."

They both fell silent, resting against Chris as much as they could without hurting him. Their hands rested on his heart, feeling the almost-steady beat, letting it reassure them until it finally lulled them both into a light sleep.

When Jensen jerked awake hours later, it was already dark, and he wasn’t quite sure exactly what had woken him up. Until he heard it again: a soft, sleepy, but almost scared sound. Chris was stirring beside them, eyelids fluttering wildly. Jensen looked over to find Steve looking right back at him, blue eyes clear in the dim light of the room.

“Shh,” Steve whispered, brushing soft fingers through Chris’ hair. “Chris, it’s okay. Take it easy.”

“It’s just us,” Jensen added, running the back of his fingers over Chris’ cheek. He didn’t even know if it would work—didn’t know if they had enough of a place in Chris’ life to be able to actually help, or if they should just both move away and give Chris space. Jensen swallowed hard; there was still so much about Chris they didn’t know, but god, he wanted to find out. “You’re safe,” he tried again.

To his surprise, Chris actually settled. Steve kept his hand running through Chris’ hair, and Jensen moved to rub at Chris’ chest slowly and reassuringly, how he’d watched Steve get countless people through panic attacks at the clinic before.

When Chris’ eyes slowly opened a few minutes later, there wasn’t a hint of fear in them. They were calm, soft, and drowsy with painkillers. Chris looked so open, so vulnerable right then and there—no hint of the hardened killer they’d seen back in the living room—that Jensen just wanted to be able to wrap him up in their arms and protect him from the whole fucking world.

“Hey,” Jensen said, throat tight.

Chris looked from him to Steve and back again before he flicked his tongue over his lips. “Hey.” Chris looked between them again, confusion clear.

“It’s okay, you know,” Steve said softly. “Me and Jen….” Steve looked up at Jensen, meeting his eyes, silently reaffirming the things they’d already considered, what they’d already said. “We….”

Jensen laughed, shaking his head as Chris’ eyes snapped to him. “To be honest, we don’t have any idea what we’re doing,” he told him. “All we know….” He swallowed, looking back at Steve before looking down at Chris again.

Chris was looking at them more and more like they were crazy. Well, they probably were.

“All we know, Chris, is that we want this,” Steve finished.

“We want you,” he clarified quietly and slowly, making sure that, even if Chris wasn’t listening to him, he could read his lips. “We both want you.”

“You guys are insane,” Chris croaked, looking at them both with wide, almost hopeful eyes. Fuck, Jensen was so screwed. The urge to protect Chris was still tugging at him, even though Chris had proven enough that he didn’t need protecting. If anything, they were the ones that needed it more. But god, when Chris was looking up at them like that, it was almost too easy to forget what Chris could do.

Jensen offered him a teasing smirk. “Yeah, that’s what I said to Steve when we brought you here, so that’s probably true.”

Chris laughed a little, wincing as it jarred his wound, but offered them a smile nonetheless. Steve turned Chris towards him. “It’s not about gratitude anymore, okay?” Hhe said. “Hand to god, Chris, that’s not what it’s all about anymore.”

“Okay,” Chris finally breathed, and Jensen could see the tentative hope starting to take root. He could see Chris wanted to believe them so badly.

The fact that he didn’t quite dare just made Jensen all the more determined to get it right, even though he was pretty sure Chris was only this receptive and expressive because he was high on painkillers. Without the drip attached to his arm, he was going to go back to his sarcastic, bitchy self. Not that Jensen minded; he’d manage to fall in love anyway, hadn’t he?

“D’you want a drink?” Jensen asked Chris with a small smile.

“Is there whiskey?” Chris said, grinning up at him cheekily. Apparently, the morphine was already wearing off. Or Chris was getting immune. Jensen swatted him on the arm. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“Talk to your nurse over there,” Jensen said, gesturing to Steve. He couldn’t resist leaning down to steal a kiss from Chris, then brushing his lips over Steve’s as well before he got up.

“Your mother hen wouldn’t let you drink even if I said yes,” Steve said with a small laugh when Chris transferred his gaze over, eyes wide and pleading. Chris pouted. Honest to god pouted, and Jensen could only laugh as he slipped from the room to get Chris a glass of water.

When he came back, Chris was turned a little more into Steve, and Steve had his hand brushing over Chris’ cheek, lips millimeters from Chris’. Chris froze as he heard the door creak, eyes turning to look at him almost guiltily. Jensen just smiled back.

Steve gave them another moment before he was turning Chris back to face him, kissing him softly.

Fuck, a few months ago, he would probably have laughed at the idea that he could watch Steve kissing someone else without feeling a pang of jealousy. He’d probably have hit the assholes if they’d tried to tell him he’d actually enjoy it.

He made himself move, pushing away from the door to join them on the bed. Steve didn’t let Chris pull away in a hurry, instead, letting his lips linger as he pulled away reluctantly. Jensen slid his arm around Chris’ shoulders, mindful of his injury, and helped him sit up carefully. He batted Chris’ hand away when Chris tried to reach for the glass, ignoring Chris’ glare. Instead, he just brought the glass to Chris’ lips and let him sip at it slowly.

“I’m hurt,” Chris complained—after the careful sips, Jensen might add. “I’m not an invalid.”

“Same thing,” Steve said.

“No, it’s not.”

“You tried to throw yourself out the window,” Steve argued, as if that had any relevance to the conversation at hand.

“What’s that got to do with it?” Chris asked in amazement, looking at Jensen for support. Jensen looked back at Steve before he shrugged at Chris.

“Whatever Steve said.”

“That’s not fair!” Chris said, and yes, that was a whine Jensen was hearing in Chris’ voice. God, that really shouldn’t have been cute at all. Nothing about Chris should have been cute after he’d watched him rip a sword from his side and pierce someone else through, but he was.

Not that Jensen would admit to thinking that under pain of death.

“You can’t gang up on the sick guy!”

“When the sick guy tried to throw himself out the window, yeah, we can,” Steve said calmly. Jensen could see Steve was trying to bite back a grin.

“I wasn’t going to throw myself out,” Chris said with a—yes, there it was again—pout.

“Oh?” Jensen raised an eyebrow. He was totally with Steve on this one. “It looked like you were to us.”

“I was going to climb out gracefully, scale the wall, and leave without using the door.”

Jensen’s raised eyebrows mirrored Steve’s incredulous look.

Chris rolled his eyes. “How d’you think I got in the day Fred was here? Fly?”

Oh. Huh. They hadn’t thought of that one.

Chris smirked. “Now, boys, I know I was impressive back there, but, really, I ain’t a superhero.”

Steve let out a choked laugh before he was leaning against Chris’ temple, eyes closed. His breathing pattern changed, quickened, deepened and starting to get erratic and—

“Easy, Steve,” Jensen whispered , looking over at Chris with a small smile as he reached over with the hand not supporting Chris’ back to rub at Steve’s arm. No one could ever say Chris was slow, even doped up on painkillers. His hand settled on Steve’s thigh as his other hand brushed over Jensen’s hip.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. Fuck, I’m sorry.”

“Just—just don’t do that again, okay?”

Chris blinked, looking at Jensen, the confusion in his eyes clear. “Make a joke about it?”

“No. The—” Steve waved his hand vaguely. He took another deep, shaking breath before he looked at Jensen, silently pleading for help.

“The fighting,” Jensen said. “The trying to sacrifice yourself for us.”

Chris dropped his eyes, fingers clenching a little. When Jensen looked up from Chris’ hand on Steve’s leg, he could see the stubborn set to Chris’ jaw. “Chris…” he started.

Chris cut him off with a definite shake of his head. “No.”

“Please,” Steve said. “Chris, please. Promise.”

“No,” Chris just argued. “I can’t. I won’t. That’s not fair.” They both opened their mouths, and Chris cut them off again. God, who knew the guy could still be so damn stubborn and forceful even with a patched up hole in his side. “I won’t. Don’t ask me again because I won’t cave. I brought this on you.”

“No, you—”

No,” Chris said again, fingers tightening on Jensen’s hip, and, Jensen guessed, on Steve’s thigh, too. “No, no, no, and no.”

Steve looked up at Chris with those big, soulful eyes, and Chris was most definitely a stronger man than Jensen was because Jensen caved every damn time. Chris just shook his head and closed his eyes tight—so maybe he wasn’t immune, either.

“Stop asking me,” Chris said, soft and tired. “I won’t promise. Not ever. Not even if I have to go back to sleep on my mattress in the living room because I won’t. And even if I promised you now, I wouldn’t think twice about breakin’ it, and I’ve never broken a promise to you—and I won’t start whatever this is by making a promise I wouldn’t think twice about breaking.”

“But Chris—”

“There’s no but,” Chris interrupted. “There isn’t. You’ve never killed anyone—and fuck, I don’t want you to ever have to—and you never had any of shit coming at you until I came along. And god, even if you had, even if they weren’t in here looking for me and you’d brought this on yourselves, you still don’t know how to protect yourselves. I’ll be damned if I swear to stop protecting you when I can!”

“Chris….”

“Please,” Chris said. Fuck, Jensen’s heart didn’t know whether it was full enough that it could burst or if it wanted to shrivel up and die. “Stop asking me.”

Steve’s hand brushed over Jensen’s arm before he pulled both of them closer, and they were suddenly cradling Chris carefully between them. “You’ve protected me pretty much all my life, Chris,” Steve said.

Chris relaxed a little, apparently knowing surrender when he heard it. “Yeah, so it ain’t like I’m gonna stop now.”

Jensen took a slow breath. “We just. We don’t want to do it again. We don’t want to lose you.” He swallowed a little. “I don’t know if we could....”

“Well, you’re idiots,” Chris muttered, trying to sound offended, but the slight tremble in his voice betrayed him. “Have a little more faith. It’s not like I’m gonna throw myself at the next chance to die.” His lips curled up a little. “Just means I got more to fight for—more to lose—don’t it?”

Jensen made a face. “Since when are you so logical?”

“Since you guys stopped with the logic thing,” Chris replied without missing a beat. The tension eased as Steve chuckled, turning his face up to nip playfully at Chris’ chin.

“You’re a real piece of work,” Steve said with a small smile.

“And I’m gonna be a real flat piece of work if you keep squishing me like this,” Chris pointed out, but it was funny how his fingers fisted as much as they could in Jensen’s jeans. Jensen could see Steve’s shirt gaining some new wrinkles, too.

Steve chuckled again as he pulled back enough for them to be able to push Chris back on the bed. Steve met his eyes for a moment, and he couldn’t help leaning over to steal a kiss before they both settled against Chris’ sides.

“You’re such girls,” Chris said through a yawn, pulling them both closer to him. Jensen looked over to Steve and shared another knowing grin, and Jensen knew the relief in Steve’s eyes mirrored his own.

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve said with a teasing sigh. “Go to sleep, you manly man, you.”

“Fuck you,” Chris managed to mumble as his eyes closed.

“When you’re better,” Jensen promised with a soft laugh. “Just go to sleep, Chris,” he added when Chris’ eyes fluttered, lips parting to give another (no doubt) sarcastic response.

“Fuckin’ painkillers,” Chris said, letting out another slow breath. “‘Wise ‘d kick your ass.”

Jensen laughed softly as he put his hand back on Chris’ heart, and Steve moved to kiss Chris’ temple. “You can do that when you wake up again.”

There wasn’t a reply to that because Chris’ breathing had evened out. By then, he was already fast asleep.

~

Chris knew it was Jared from the cold, wet nose that nudged his hand. It was followed quickly by a slight dip in the bed and then a tongue bathing his fingers and wrist. The nose proceeded to make its way up his arm, over his shoulder, until it could slobber at his neck and chin.

“Sadie, Harley, no! Don’t get—” Thump. Something big landed on his bed, and then another tongue joined the first. “Guys, c’mon, don’t—”

“It’s all right,” Chris said with a small laugh, opening his eyes and freeing his hands enough to bring them up above the covers, pushing at the eager noses and greeting the two dogs by rubbing at their ears. “I’m awake.”

Jared looked at him sheepishly before he opened his hands, gesture helpless. “Don’t let them get too close to that wound. Steve will kill me, and then Jensen will skin my puppies alive.”

Chris laughed, sitting up carefully. “I’ll think of the dogs, then,” he said, giving Jared another smile. “So you’re on babysitting duty, huh?”

He wasn’t surprised someone had turned up; Steve and Jensen had done their best not to leave him alone since the incident with Fred. They’d hovered and fussed in every way imaginable to man, and, as much as Chris enjoyed it—not that he’d ever admit it to them—there were limits to how much fussing someone not used to it could take.

“I’m not babysitting unless you’re a baby,” Jared fired back. Chris could see he was biting back a smile, and Chris was going to continue to ignore the smugness there in favour of playing with Jared’s dogs, who were making themselves extremely comfortable on Chris’ legs.

Harley poked curiously at the bandages around Chris’ waist and then sneezed, shifting his nose away to prod at something else instead. Apparently, Harley did not like the smell of antiseptic. Chris rubbed at his ear in silent apology; he didn’t like getting a noseful of that bland smell, either.

Jared settled himself in a chair that had appeared in the room some time during the last few days—Chris was still trying to figure that one out—and just looked at him. After a few minutes, it got a little unnerving.

“What?” Chris finally asked, looking up from where he was drawing patterns on Sadie’s head to meet Jared’s eyes.

Jared tipped his head to the side before his lips quirked up into a smile. “You look better.”

Chris blinked. “No shit, genius. I’m not bleeding to death.”

Jared rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant, Chris. I mean, you look…” He gestured vaguely with a flap of his hand. “Better.” Which made completely no sense to Chris at all.

Chris raised his eyebrow. “Want to put that in real words that real people understand?”

“I’d debate calling you a real person,” Jared said, smirking a little, before he just shrugged. “I mean, even before you were….”

“Run through with a sword, yes—go on?” Chris just didn’t understand why everyone had so much trouble saying the words or talking about that whole thing with Fred at all. It wasn’t like gesturing and vaguely implying things helped the hole in his side in any way, and saying it wasn’t going to suddenly drudge up an ocean of pain or something.

“Yeah, that,” Jared continued. He shifted a little uncomfortably before he just looked up at Chris, gesturing again. “Even before that, you didn’t look as good as you do now. Even though you weren’t as hurt then, y’know?”

Chris raised his other eyebrow. “No, I don’t know.”

Jared gave him an exasperated look. “I mean, you look happier, Chris. More comfortable.” He paused, and then said more quietly, “More at home.”

Chris wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say to that. He didn’t even know what to think, really. So instead of replying, he just shrugged and looked back down at Sadie’s head, going back to petting her absently.

Jared stayed quiet for all of a minute, which was probably a miracle in itself. “You don’t feel it?” Hhe asked him tentatively, as if Chris was going to explode if he wasn’t careful enough. Chris could hear the worry in his voice, but whether the concern was for him or for Steve and Jensen, Chris didn’t know.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t say anything,” Jared corrected. He was quiet for a few minutes longer before he just sighed and edged the chair closer to the bed. “Chris?”

Chris closed his eyes for a second, trying to figure out what to say, before he finally looked back up at Jared. “I am. All of the above.” He hadn’t really thought about it—hadn’t let himself. He hadn’t wanted to jinx whatever this was. It was stupid, but he hadn’t wanted to say anything out loud, whether anyone was around to hear it or not, because he didn’t want anything to change.

The truth was that maybe he wasn’t actually still as hurt as all of them, himself included, made him out to be. He didn’t need to keep sleeping in their bed between them so that they could check he was still there, still breathing. He didn’t need to be in bed all the time. He wasn’t weak enough that he needed help getting around the house or someone in the apartment to watch out for him all the time.

He just didn’t want things to change.

He fidgeted with Harley’s collar and shrugged again.

“C’mon, Kane,” Jared tried. “What the fuck’s going on? Why d’you look like someone shot your puppy?”

Sadie and Harley’s heads snapped up, and Chris gave Jared a nasty look. Jared grinned back sheepishly and petted the dogs on the head. “Sorry, guys. I didn’t mean it like that.” He looked back at Chris. “Point still stands, Chris. If you feel it, then what’s up with that face?”

Chris didn’t answer. Jared prodded him, then huffed when Chris didn’t say anything. At the sound from her master, Sadie, the little traitor, looked up with those big brown eyes and stared at him like he’d done something horrible. When Chris finally looked at Jared, Jared was looking back at him exactly the same way.

Chris rolled his eyes. “You’re fucking impossible, Padalecki.” Jared just kept looking back at him, patient like Chris has never seen before. Chris finally let out a soft sigh and looked away. “Because it’s not mine, Jared. Because this can’t last.”

There was a confused pause before Jared let out a breath. “Are you sure about that?”

Chris let out a brittle laugh that had Sadie and Harley lifting their heads from his lap. “What isn’t there to be sure about?” He gestured around the apartment. “This isn’t my apartment. Not my bed—I’m only in it because they can’t possibly expect me to sleep on the floor after being run through with a sword—and this isn’t my room.” On the table beside that very bed sat a picture of Steve and Jensen from before. From happier times. They probably didn’t even know at the time that the picture was being taken—Steve was leaning casually back between Jensen’s legs in some bar, relaxed and carefree.

He—an ex-slave, a wanted man—didn’t have any place in that kind of world.

“Chris,” Jared said slowly, as if he was expecting Chris to explode at any time. “I… well, y’know, I don’t know exactly what goes on in this place when we aren’t here, but Jen’s my best friend. I’ve been here, I’ve watched them with you, and, well… maybe it’s not like that.”

Chris just snorted and shook his head, fingers running over the sheets.

There was another long silence before Jared said, “They love you.” Chris’ head snapped up. “They’re in love with you,” Jared repeated, eyes on Chris’ the whole time. “I don’t know much about what’s going on or how it works, and it confuses me, but that’s a fact that I know. I watched them get together, fall in love; I’ve known Jensen since we were kids. I was there when he kissed his first girl, and I was the one he called when he had his heart broken. There’s nothing I don’t know about him—and I know he loves you.” Jared paused, waited for that to sink in. “Steve loves you.” Another pause. “And I think you already knew that.”

Chris raised an eyebrow. “They don’t give you half enough credit for how perceptive you are, do they?”

Jared beamed at him. “Well, that’s how I get away with it. Wouldn’t if they were always being careful now, would I?”

Chris laughed a little and shook his head. “I suppose not.” He rubbed at that spot behind Sadie’s ear again, making her whine happily and collapse back against him.

Jared’s hand covered his on Sadie’s head for a second, calling Chris’ attention back to him. “Just think about it though, Chris, okay? Think about what you’ve got—and what you could have. Because I think you could if you’d let yourself.”

Chris just snorted a little and nodded. “Fine, fine. Jesus. You’re worse than they are.”

Jared laughed, loud and carefree. Chris really loved that about Jared; he still had some sort of innocence that had died in most people sometime during the war. “I don’t think anyone could be worse than those two, Chris. Not when it comes to you.”

Considering the last few weeks—and the fact that Jared was even here at all, puppies and all—Chris couldn’t disagree with that one.

~

Steve laughed a little as he pushed the door open and tossed his keys onto the table by the door. He shrugged out of his coat.

“I can’t believe that,” he said to Jensen, still grinning. “And what did Kripke say?”

Jensen smirked. “What can you say to that? He really thought it was some kids from college when it turns out it’s Allison and Alona. S’why we were sent packing early.”

“Wait until Chris hears about that,” Steve said as he turned around to a completely empty house. No lights were on. There wasn’t a single sound. They both froze, breaths simultaneously catching.

Jensen reached out and put a hand on his arm, stopping him from going any further. Steve shook his head and edged closer, Jensen right behind him, his heart pounding.

Oh, god, Steve thought. When he looked back, he knew Jensen was thinking exactly the same thing from the look in his eyes. What if something had happened to Chris? What if… god, what would they see when they flicked on the lights? Steve hesitated, fingers on the light switch, images of Chris, lying on the floor, blood everywhere going through his mind. What if someone had come for Chris when they were out? What if Chris had lay there, dying and alone, and they’d been out doing god knows what?

His hand shook. Jensen finally covered his hand with his own, and the lights clicked on.

Nothing. No Chris lying in a puddle of his own blood. Nothing overturned, nothing even out of place.

Jensen almost tripped over him trying to get to their bedroom.

Empty.

There was no sign that Chris had even been there.

Ever.

No keys. No clothes. No medication. Nothing.

“Oh, god,” Steve breathed. He turned and met Jensen’s eyes, shaking his head. “No. He… he can’t have… he wouldn’t. He….” And then Jensen’s arms were around him, holding him tight, Jensen’s face buried in his hair.

Then they were on the floor, clinging onto each other as if the world was about to break.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Steve asked Jensen softly, what might have been hours later. Jensen just shook his head and held him tighter. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Steve? Jensen?” They jumped, and suddenly Chris was there, crouching down in front of them, hands pulling at them, eyes wide and panicked. “What happened? Are you hurt? Are you okay? What happened?”

Jensen’s hand fisted in Chris’ shirt at exactly the same time as Steve’s fingers closed around the material. Chris tumbled against them with a soft sound, and, moments later, Chris’ arms slid around them and he pulled them close.

“What happened?” Chris asked again.

“We thought….” Jensen managed before his voice broke.

“Why’re you up?” Steve said, pulling back a little, his hands going to Chris’ wound. They were still shaking. “Why aren’t you in bed?” Anything to distract him from those moments he’d really believed Chris was gone.

“Because….” Chris hesitated and then lifted his eyes to meet Steve’s. “’Cause we all know I’m not that sick anymore.” He swallowed hard. “I’m… I’m better.”

“What’s that mean?” Jensen asked, voice muffled against Chris’ neck.

“That… that we can’t… we can’t pretend that I’m… I’m sleepin’ here because—”

“Because we want you to,” Jensen interrupted. “Because we love you. Because we want you here with us.”

“It wasn’t about you being sick,” Steve added, tipping Chris’ chin down so he could meet his eyes. “Don’t think that, Chris. We told you. We love you, and we want you.”

Chris let out a shaky breath and nodded, fingers combing through their hair. “So… if that’s what was wrong? Why’re we on the floor?”

Steve let out a small, surprised laugh. “We thought you’d gone.”

“Gone?”

“Left,” Jensen said. He ran a hand over Chris’ cheek. “That you were better, and you’d left so that we wouldn’t be in danger or some stupid shit like that.” He sniffled a little and then hit Chris’ arm. “Fucker, don’t scare us like that. Where did you go?”

“Dinner,” Chris admitted, gesturing behind him to the shopping bags, spilled out over the kitchen floor from where Chris had dropped them as he’d rushed towards the two of them on the floor. “I went out. Needed to… I… Jared said some stuff, and I needed to clear my head, so I thought I’d grab us dinner.”

Steve hit his other arm. “Don’t ever fuckin’ do that to us again.”

“I just went out and got dinner!” Chris said, trying to defend himself as Jensen hit him again.

“Leave a fuckin’ note.” Chris looked back at him like that hadn’t even occurred to him. “Almost gave us a fucking heart attack, Chris. Thought something had happened. We didn’t know where you were, or… or if you’d…”

“Sorry,” Chris said softly. He dropped his head and, a second later, brushed his lips tentatively over Steve’s, then turned to repeat the gesture with Jensen. Jensen’s hand slid into Chris’ hair and pulled him in for a longer kiss. Steve watched for another moment before he stole Chris’ lips from Jensen, licking into Chris’ mouth as Jensen nosed at their cheeks.

“It’s not just about you anymore,” Steve whispered. “We’re in this together now. You can’t leave us without taking our whole fucking lives with you. D’you understand that, Chris?”

“You can’t leave us without breaking us,” Jensen breathed against their skin.

He could feel Chris’ breath catch. It was hard to miss, pressed together like that. “I won’t leave you,” he promised. “I’m not going to leave. S’long as you want me here, I’m not going anywhere.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Steve repeated.

“Nowhere.” Jensen’s lips touched the corners of theirs before Jensen trailed down over Chris’ jaw, moving to mouth at his neck, then Chris’ breath caught and Steve looked down to see Jensen’s teeth on scraping over Chris’ skin. He moaned, and Chris moaned with him.

There was a pause, then something occurred to Steve. “Since we’ve finally admitted that you aren’t so hurt anymore,” he whispered, anticipation making his voice shake. “I think that means we can get on with a whole lot of other things as well. Don’t you?” He was looking at Jensen.

Jensen grinned slowly, pulling back enough to tug Chris to his feet, and continued on backwards towards the bed. Steve was right behind them, hands settling on Chris’ hips as he stepped up, mouthing at the mark Jensen had left on Chris’ neck.

Chris whined in the back of his throat, completely pliant as they moved him onto the bed and settled in close, hands bumping as they started to get his clothes off him. Jensen finally gave in and moved his hand up to get rid of Chris’ shirt, and he was able to make quick work of the pants, tossing them to the side without even thinking about it.

“Fuck, Chris,” he breathed a minute later. There was just skin.

“Forgot to put the wash in,” Chris breathed with a laugh, arching into Steve’s hand. “Didn’t know it’d work to my advanta—” He was cut off by a moan. Steve didn’t want excuses; he wanted to watch Chris fall apart under them.

When he felt Jensen’s fingers curl around his own, he knew Jensen was thinking exactly the same thing. The both pulled back to look over at each other before looking down at Chris, who was flushed and looking back up at them through wide, dark eyes, already breathing hard.

“What d’you want?” Jensen asked quietly.

“Tell us.” Steve leaned over and kissed Jensen, eyes still on Chris, watching as Chris’ eyes fluttered and his breath caught. “What d’you want?”

“This is just… fuck.” Chris was almost whimpering. “Perfect. This is—this is—it’s perfect.”

Steve cupped Chris’ cheek, thumb sliding over the cheekbone before he leaned down to kiss him again.

“Changed my mind,” Chris whispered. “Don’t want to just—want to do something.” That was just fine with Steve. He moved his hand from Chris’ cock to slide it into Jensen’s hair, easing Jensen down. He knew the moment Jensen took Chris into his mouth from the way Chris’ lips parted in a silent moan.

Steve grinned and kissed Chris again, muffling his next sound, then fed his own moan to Chris as Chris’ hand wrapped around his dick. “How’s that feel?” Hhe asked, his own breathing already shot. Fuck, it’d been a long damn time since they’d done anything—hadn’t seemed right, not when Chris hadn’t been well enough to join them.

Nothing was right without Chris anymore.

“Steve… Jen….” Steve grinned and bit on Chris’ lower lip as Chris moaned again. He glanced down to watch Jensen—more to the point, to watch Chris’ cock disappear between Jensen’s lips. “Oh, god, Jensen…” Chris moaned. Then Jensen looked up, and they moaned in harmony. Steve could see the grin in Jensen’s eyes.

When Jensen turned his eyes back down and took Chris in deeper, Steve’s eyes were half closed, attention torn between watching that and watching Chris’ face. He finally turned to watch the expressions chase themselves over Chris’ face until Chris was stuttering out Jensen’s name in warning, back arching under their touches.

Steve leaned down to kiss Chris again, hand trailing down Chris’ side, then settled on his stomach. “C’mon, Chris,” he murmured against Chris’ lips. He leaned back so that Jensen could watch. “Come for us.”

Then he watched bliss wash over Chris’ face. It was one of the most fucking amazing things Steve had ever seen, and he wanted to watch it over and over again. He was never going to get bored of it.

He was still watching Chris lazily opening his eyes to look at them as Jensen moved up beside him, turning his head into a kiss. He moaned deep in his throat when Jensen’s lips parted against his, practically feeding him Chris’ come. And when it was mixed in with the familiar taste of Jensen, it was intoxicating.

“Tastes good, doesn’t he?” Jensen whispered against his mouth.

“Yeah,” Steve muttered. “Fuck, yes.”

“What?” Chris murmured. Steve leaned down and kissed Chris again, sharing their combined tastes. He knew the exact moment Chris realized what had happened by the way Chris’ hand tightened around his cock, and Chris’ entire body trembled.

He pulled back as Jensen nudged him to the side to kiss Chris, so Steve took that moment to curl his fingers around Jensen’s cock, watching the two of them together as he jerked Jensen off. Even though he’d done this a thousand times before, it felt different. Better. It felt more amazing than any other time they’d done this.

His own climax hit him by surprise, and he felt Jensen following close behind him.

When he opened his eyes, Chris was licking his fingers, and fuck if that wasn’t hot overload.

“Wanna taste Jen,” Chris whispered. He was staring at Steve’s hand. Steve grinned and brought it to Chris’ lips, letting Chris lick Jensen’s come off his fingers. He really didn’t know who was making what sound anymore because that was just… god, it was phenomenal.

And they hadn’t even got to the good stuff yet.

“Can’t leave us now, Chris,” Jensen said as he shifted to lie down next to Chris, tucking himself close to Chris’ side. “Because Steve’s just not going to be enough.”

“We’ll never get off without you again,” Steve added, laughing a little as he settled on Chris’ other side.

“You’re such fucking girls,” Chris muttered, but Steve could see that little smile tugging at Chris’ lips. “And your pained cries and desperation and uncontrollable urges have ruined dinner.”

Steve hid his grin in Chris’ neck and closed his eyes, curling his fingers around Jensen’s. They all knew dinner was the furthest thing from any of their minds. Instead, there was them—all three of them, safe and warm and starting to actually understand each other. There were still a hell of a lot of questions to answer, a lot more about them to work out, and Steve wasn’t naïve enough to think that it would be easy, but they were together. And maybe—just maybe—for once, he would believe the stories; just this once, he would believe that it was enough.


~

Additional A/N: Writing this was an incredible ride. It started with such a small idea and it's grown and grown into this - and into something bigger than this. Apart from [livejournal.com profile] waterofthemoon, I also have to thank my Chat girls - [livejournal.com profile] clex_monkie89, [livejournal.com profile] sophie_448, [livejournal.com profile] celtic_cookie, [livejournal.com profile] spikess, [livejournal.com profile] gigglingkat - and also [livejournal.com profile] ashley, [livejournal.com profile] itinerant_vae and [livejournal.com profile] cammissbloom for the cheerleading, for not thinking I'm insane (or supporting me despite thinking I'm insane) and for keeping me sane as I worked through this.

And, finally, thank you for getting this far. ♥
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