Wednesday: March 21, 2029
1:07 AM; LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, MEN’S RESTROOM
Bo leaned back against the counter, hands shoved uncomfortably in his pockets as he watched Mekhi reload his gun. “You don’t need your gun loaded here,” he said quietly. “I’m not in any danger. It’s an airport.”
“Bombs, knives, and loaded guns walk right into airports all the damn time, Mister Austen,” Mekhi said. His voice was hard and stern, his usual playful tone gone. “Just because you wanna die doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you.”
“Right,” Bo murmured. “My apologies.”
Mekhi let out a heavy sigh, shoving the gun into the holster at his waist. “Sorry, Mister Austen. I don’t mean to be a dick.”
“We’re just all a little on edge, is all. Still waiting for Robinson to call the phone and leave a voicemail,” Mekhi said, reaching out to turn on the water in the sink.
“I know,” Bo repeated, bowing his head as Mekhi splashed cold water on his face. “Jensen’s picking me up, so you can just grab your car here.”
“You told me that already.”
“Oh. My apologies.”
Mekhi sighed, shutting of the water. “Stop apologizing, Mister Austen. You’re making me feel like shit.” Bo opened his mouth to apologize, but he decided making Mekhi let out another annoyed sigh was crossing at least one line. The taller man reached out and grabbed several paper towels, straightening himself out as he patted his face dry. “Sorry, Austen.”
“Just trying to do my job. You make it a little hard sometimes.”
“I know. I’m rather notorious for that.”
“You don’t say,” Mekhi muttered. He tossed the paper towels into the garbage can and adjusted his shirt, tucking it under his holster. “Come on.” Bo pushed away from the counter and followed Mekhi into the lobby. Bo caught sight of Jensen’s back. The man stood in the middle of the lobby, hands tucked away in the pockets of his jeans.
Although Bo was ashamed to admit it aloud, he’d recognize Jensen’s ass in those jeans any day of the week.
Bo crossed the lobby quickly, smacking a hand against Jensen’s rear. Jensen’s head snapped in his direction before a smile spread across his face. “Hi,” Bo greeted.
“Hey,” Jensen whispered, his hands moving to Bo’s face. He tilted the blonde’s head back and leaned down to kiss him, long and hard. He pulled back, tugging down on Bo’s beanie. “Are you okay? Jake says you handed the Hacker shit over to Sullivan.”
Bo nodded. “They arrested her last night, just a couple hours ago, I think.”
“Good job, baby.”
“Thanks.” Bo wrapped his arms around Jensen, laying his head on his chest. Jensen wrapped him a comforting hug, squeezing him tightly. Bo closed his eyes, fisting the material of Jensen’s shirt. “Are we going home? Or Jamal’s?”
“Home. The kids are asleep there now, and Jamal’s got two of his guys camping at the house to make sure everyone’s okay.”
Bo nodded. He figured he’d show Jensen his wrist once they got home. It could wait until then, and his flannel would hide the bandage until he was ready. “We should go, then. You sound tired, anyway.”
Jensen chuckled. “Yeah,” he mumbled. He took a step back and held out a hand. “Come on.” Bo hesitated only a moment before he grabbed Jensen’s hand. “I’m glad you’ve got Hacker off your hands, Eli.”
“Me, too. Sullivan said he’d keep me updated on her and what they’re doing in Connecticut.”
“Good. That’s good.” Jensen squeezed Bo’s hand. “We’re gonna work on finding this Robinson dude next. Jamal says that, if you’re right, he should be calling real soon. Then the threat’s eliminated just like that,” he said, snapping the fingers of his other hand.
“Well… let’s hope I was right, then.”
“Had my fingers crossed since the moment you explained it to Jamal,” Jensen said. As if to prove a point, he held up his left hand, middle finger crossed over his index. “See?”
Bo smiled. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Eli.”
2:00 AM; LOS ANGELES, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
After checking on the kids, locking the doors, checking the windows, and turning off the lights in the house, Bo sat down on his side of the bed. “Jens?” he questioned after a moment.
“Yeah?” Jensen asked as he walked out of the bathroom, tugging a shirt over his head.
“Sit?” Bo patted the mattress. Jensen frowned before dropping down beside Bo. “I hurt myself when I was in Clinstone.”
“Eli,” Jensen breathed.
“I know.” Bo scrubbed both hands down his face, dropping his hands back to his lap. “I tried to fight it, the urge to… to let it all out again. I called Alice and Cecilia and David and Jacob. I called them. I tried, Jens, but no one answered. And I… Jupiter, the razor was staring right at me. I couldn’t stop myself.”
Jensen leaned forward, elbows digging into his thigh, hands covering his mouth and nose. “Where’d you do it?” he asked, his voice sounding muffled and echoey all at once.
“My wrist. I wasn’t thinking,” Bo said. “Or… or I was thinking, just not, you know, intelligent thoughts. I was in a dark place for a good hour or so, there.”
“Can I see it?” Silently, Bo rolled up the sleeve of his flannel. He had taken the bandage off a few minutes beforehand, more than prepared for Jensen’s inevitable question. Closing his eyes, he held his hand out to Jensen.
Jensen held his hand beneath Bo’s, curling his fingers around Bo’s palm. Bo squeezed his fingers tightly, and Jensen let his thumb brush over Bo’s knuckles. His eyes focused in on the scabbing X over the bird that was meant to stand for Bo. “Do you wanna die, Eli?” Jensen asked in a whisper, lifting his eyes to the blonde’s face.
Bo only shook his head.
“So…” Jensen let his head hang at his chest, squeezing his eyes shut. “Eli, I don’t know what the fuck to do about you.”
“Can’t leave you alone, can’t be with you every second of the day.” Jensen let go of Bo’s hand. “I just can’t.”
“I’m not your responsibility, Jens,” Bo said. “What I do isn’t something… something you have to prevent or anything like that. This isn’t your fault.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Jensen asked, opening his eyes as he lifted his head. “I know damn well you did what you did by your own hand. That’s not on me, not this time.”
Bo stared at him, unable to offer any real response. He hadn’t expected the cold, harshness of Jensen’s voice. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you are.” Jensen dropped his head to his hands. “Wish you wouldn’t have told me.”
“I considered keeping my mouth shut. My apologies.” Jensen grunted. “I’m sorry, Jens.”
“I know.” Jensen let out a long sigh. “I’ve got problems, too, you know. All kinds of them. Kathy, my dead mom, my scars from being beaten and broken, that time I got shot… I’ve been through shit, too.”
“And look at Jamal, Bo. Man’s been to hell a bajillion times. Don’t see him carving himself up, do you?”
Bo swallowed, eyes falling to the floor. “Jamal’s a lot stronger than I am, as are you.”
Bo pushed himself to his feet. “After this Robinson man is dead and the threat on our family is gone, I’ll be checking myself into a psychiatric hospital. I’ll be on suicide watch, and then you don’t have to put up with me anymore.”
“Eli,” Jensen whispered, lifting his head. “Jesus Christ, that’s not what I meant. Just, you know, talking out loud.”
“Talking out loud can hurt, Jensen.” Bo chuckled humorously. “A lot, actually.”
“I know that, but… but I don’t mean it to. I just stopped thinking before I started talking.” Jensen reached out and grabbed Bo’s hand. “I don’t want you to go anywhere, baby. I love you. I can take care of you.”
“I’m about to turn forty, Jensen. You shouldn’t have to take care of me,” Bo said, gently pulling his hand from Jensen’s grip.
“I don’t mind taking care of you. That’s why I married you.”
“Your unfiltered thoughts say otherwise.”
“We’ve all got doubts, baby. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you, that I won’t take care of you. I just… God, I’m tired. Don’t listen to me when I’m tired. Tired makes me stupid. You know that.” Jensen grabbed Bo’s hand again. “You don’t like hospitals, baby. We can get through this without locking yourself away in one. The kids can’t lose you to a hospital for a couple months. They can’t. They need you. I need you.”
Bo let out a heavy sigh, sitting down on the floor rather than the bed, Jensen’s hand still wrapped around his own. “I don’t know what to do, Jens.”
“You could always start the meds.”
“I don’t want them. I won’t be stuck on something I don’t want for the rest of my life. I already have addiction issues. I’m already broken. It took me a long time to figure out to handle life the way I am now. I don’t want to figure out how to handle it when I’m on meds, too.”
“I’ve done my research, Eli. They don’t, like, alter you. Your personality’s still there. Your humor and thoughts and all that shit stays. It just, you know… helps make things easier,” Jensen said.
“At the risk of symptoms that I don’t want to deal with,” Bo said.
“I’ve lived with you long enough to know anger isn’t going to be a problem.”
“We could handle that.”
“Eat even healthier and make sure you keep up at the gym.”
“We’ll handle it.”
“They make shit to deal with that.”
“We’d try a new antidepressant,” Jensen said.
“Baby, you’re already anxious. That’s nothing new,” Jensen reminded.
“What about it?”
“It could go away.”
“Eli, baby, if the meds made you happy, I wouldn’t care if we never had sex ever again.”
Bo laughed like it was the funniest thing he’d heard in years. He shook his head. “Yeah, Jensen, you would. You’d care… you’d care a lot.”
“How damn shallow do you think I am?”
“It has nothing to do with that. You’re not shallow. You’re a man with a healthy sex drive. I won’t rip that out from under you.”
“I care!” Bo whisper-shouted. “I don’t want the damn meds. End of discussion.”
“It was clearly never actually a discussion,” Jensen said. He dropped Bo’s hand and scooted back on the bed. “If you wanted to get better as badly as I want you to, you’d be willing to try anything.”
“I assure you Timothy doesn’t want to die, but he’s certainly not willing to let doctors cut him open a thousand times just to attempt survival,” Bo said. “It’s a shitty argument, Jensen.”
“You just say that because it’s a different opinion than yours.”
“No, I’m not built that way. I take every opinion into account without dismissal. Everyone’s entitled to feel how they feel or believe what they believe. It’s a bad argument because it just is. It has nothing to do with differences,” Bo said. “It’s…”
Jensen stared at him for a moment before throwing out a hand. “What?”
Bo’s brow furrowed, his eyes on the floor. Finally, he lifted his shoulders. “I don’t know. Lost my train of thought.” He pushed a hand into his hair, tugging at the blonde locks. “I think I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Baby, please. Stay here,” Jensen said, his voice much softer than before.
Bo dropped his head to his hands. “You’re giving me emotional whiplash here, Jens. You have to stick to one tone for at least a couple minutes,” he murmured. “Give me time to catch up. My mind can only follow so many emotions at once.”
“Sorry,” Jensen whispered. “I just want you to get better, Eli.”
“Me, too.” Silence hung between the couple for a long time before Bo lifted his head. “You should just… take the kids. You guys deserve so much better than this,” Bo whispered, tears burning in his eyes.
“I’m not going anywhere, Eli.”
“You don’t have to. I’d be the one leaving. Not that that’s a surprise. I’m great at running from my problems,” Bo said. “I’d sign over my parental rights. You wouldn’t have to worry about me trying to take them from you.” He waved a hand in Jensen’s direction. “You’re better for them, Jensen. I’m just… Jupiter, I’m a terrible role model. I don’t want our kids looking up to me.”
Jensen moved to the floor in front of Bo, reaching out to wipe away a tear as it rolled down the blonde’s cheek. “I love you.”
“You deserve better.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“It’s going to get so much worse before it gets better, Jensen. I’m terrible. This is terrible. This is who I really am. Everything else is just a show. I’ve been broken for so long.”
Jensen lifted one shoulder. “I love you.”
“I could have my things packed and be out of here before tomorrow morning. You’d never have to see me again. You and the kids could be happier that way.”
“I love you.”
“No one would have to worry about me if I weren’t here. Mekhi would keep me safe somewhere else. You and the kids could move on, Jensen. You could find someone else.”
“I love you.”
“I’ll sign divorce papers. I’ll sign over my rights. Whatever you need. I’ll be out before anyone has a chance to know what’s happening, and then you guys can be happy. I’m not good enough.”
“I love you.”
“I’m not good enough,” Bo repeated.
“I love you.”
Bo shook his head quickly. “I don’t deserve this, Jensen.”
“I love you.”
“Please,” Bo whispered.
“I love you.”
Jensen lifted his shoulders. “Can’t help it. I love you.”
Bo shoved Jensen’s hands away from him when the younger man reached for him. “Nuh-uh. You deserve to be happy.”
“No, no. Happy, happy. With someone who’s happy. With someone who isn’t constantly trying to drag you down.”
“I love you.”
“No,” Bo said, his voice shaking as he scooted away from Jensen. “No. I’m not good enough for you or for this family, Jensen. Not good enough. Never was. Never will be.”
“I love you,” Jensen repeated. “You’re perfect, and I love you.”
“Yes,” Jensen whispered. “I love you.”
“You shouldn’t,” Bo reminded.
“But I do. I can’t help it, Eli. I love you with everything I’ve got,” Jensen said. On his hands and knees, he slowly moved toward Bo as the blonde scooted away from him. “I love you. That’s not changing. Good, bad, tough, whatever. I’m here for all of it.” Bo’s back hit the bedroom door. He pulled his knees to his chest, shaking his head. Jensen stopped in front of him, hands resting mere inches away from Bo’s hips on the carpet. “I love you,” he whispered.
“You can’t,” Bo echoed.
He looked like hell, like he’d been sick for months. He was pale, and Jensen was certain he’d lost weight. His eyes were lifeless and watery, his lips chapped. He looked as bad, if not worse, than he had when he’d been lying in the hospital after alcohol poisoning.
But Jensen leaned forward and kissed him anyway.
Bo whimpered, tipping his knees to the side as he moved his hands to Jensen’s face. Slowly, he sat up on his knees, back arched just enough that he could kiss Jensen without straining the younger man’s neck.
Jensen broke the kiss, touching his lips to Bo’s throat as he sat up on his knees. He sat back on his heels and kissed the blonde again. Bo wrapped his hands around the backs of Jensen’s thighs, pulling his legs out from under him.
Jensen’s fell to his back with a loud grunt. Before he could come up with any kind of smart ass response, Bo leaned down and kissed him. Jensen drew his legs up, knees resting near either side of Bo’s hips. He held Bo’s face between his hands, gently forcing the blonde back a few inches. “I love you,” he whispered.
Bo sniffled, offering a shaky smile. “I love you, too,” he whispered back. He combed his fingers through Jensen’s hair, cocking his head to the side. “Are you…? Would you be against me requesting that you take your pants off?”
“Are you requesting for your benefit? Or mine?”
Bo glanced up at the ceiling. “Both.”
“Are you sure?”
Bo nodded. “Positive.” He offered another smile, this one stronger than before. “I love you, Jens. Help me make up for all the incredibly stupid things I’ve said so far this morning.”
“You don’t gotta make up for anything,” Jensen said, although Jensen Junior would testify quite the opposite. “You don’t have to make up for having thoughts and feelings, baby.”
Bo looked down before his eyes lifted back to Jensen’s face. “Junior would have to disagree, it appears.”
“Yeah, well, I’m only in control of one of my brains, and it’s the one in my damn skull.” Jensen cleared his throat. “The other one is just very happy you’re near it.”
“Clearly.” Jensen’s stomach tensed as Bo slipped his hands beneath his shirt. “So… one last time before I start taking the meds you so desperately want me on?”
“You don’t gotta do that. That’s up to you. I just wanted you to hear both sides, that’s all,” Jensen said. “You get to make that call, Eli.”
Bo lifted his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t do something just ‘cause I talked about it. You’re your own person, baby.”
“I know.” Bo tilted his head to the side. “So…?”
“Your emotions are all over the board this morning, baby. I want to—God, I want to—but you gotta promise to tell me if you need me to stop.”
Jensen moved his hands to Bo’s cheeks, leaning up to kiss him, nothing but a soft peck. “I love you, Eli. None of that was bullshitting. I can get pissy when I’m scared, but I love you so damn much.”
Bo smiled. “I know, Jens. I love you, too.” He kissed the younger man and sat up on his knees. He grabbed Jensen’s hands, tugging him up to a sitting position. “I talk a big game, but I’m not going anywhere, either. I have a lot going on, and I have a lot of dark things running through my mind most every day, but I’m never going anywhere. I couldn’t live without you guys, even if I truly did believe it was better for you.” One corner of his mouth lifted. “You’re stuck with me forever.”
“Good,” Jensen whispered. “Been through way too much together to lose you, Eli.”
Jensen reached back and grabbed at the back of his shirt, tugging it over his head. He turned his head, tossing the shirt into the laundry basket by the bathroom door. He rose to his feet and grabbed Bo’s outstretched hands, quickly pulling him up. “It’s gonna take a while, Eli, and that’s okay, but everything’s gonna be fine.”
“That’s the hope,” Bo said softly. He leaned up, wrapping his arms around Jensen’s neck. Jensen leaned his forehead against Bo’s, closing his eyes. “As long as… as long as I always have you at my side, I’ll be okay. You… are my king,” he reminded.
“And you’re mine.”
Bo offered a slight nod. “I will never be able to show you how important you are to me in one big gesture,” he whispered. “Instead, I vow to spend the rest of our lives showing you in the smallest of ways.”
Jensen smiled. “Your vows.”
“Mmhmm.” Bo cleared his throat, pushing the fingers of one hand through Jensen’s hair. “It may not seem like it right now, but it’s still true, Jens. I’ll come out of this, one way or another, and I’ll go back to making sure you know how much you matter to me.”
Jensen pulled back, pressing a lingering kiss to Bo’s forehead. “I vow… to catch you if you fall, to steady you if you stumble. I vow to always stand beside you because even though you’re short, you are the biggest, most important piece of my life, and I will always make sure you know that, for as your husband, I will never let you go unloved.”
“I love you,” Bo whispered.
“I love you, Eli.” Jensen’s hands moved to the buttons of Bo’s flannel. “You’ll get better, and I’ll be here for you every single second until you are. Meds, no meds, therapy, or no therapy. I’ll be here every step of the way.”
“Thanks,” Bo breathed, shrugging off his shirt. “It means the damn world, Jens.”
“I know, baby. My pleasure, really. You’d do the same if it were me,” Jensen said. Bo nodded. Jensen slipped two fingers into the waistband of Bo’s jeans and offered a single tug at the denim. “Off with his pants,” he said in a terrible British accent.
Bo snorted, shoving him back playfully. “You’re a dumbass.”
“You like it.”
“Tragically.” Bo’s fingers fell to the button of his jeans. “Off with your pants, as well, Taylor.”
“Ah, of course, Your Majesty. On it.” Bo rolled his eyes, stepping out of his jeans and tossing them into the hamper. Jensen kicked off his pajama pants and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Come here.” Bo climbed onto Jensen’s lap, knees sinking into the mattress. “You’ll tell me if you need me to stop. Panic attack or something sad or bad or just not feeling it anymore. You tell me.”
“I love you,” Jensen repeated, just in case.
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted. “I love you, too.”
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