Nightmares of Innocents (2/3)
Rating: T (for situations)
Characters: Jared, Jensen, Christian, Misha, and Chad
Genre: RPF, hurt/comfort
Disclaimer: None of these people belong to me; they all belong to themselves. None of this is true in any way, shape or form. I made it all up.
Warnings: This fic contains a form of infantilism although it is emotional and not sexual in nature, mentions of past child abuse as well as current physical and mental abuse.
Word Count: over 15,000 in total (6,100 this part)
Prompt: Written for the following prompt over at spnkink-meme: Jared adopted adultbaby!Jensen years ago, as a single father, and Jensen has been an adult baby so long that his ability to communicate is impaired; mainly he relies on crying for distress. When Jared is forced to go back to work more frequently, he hires a nanny to take care of Jensen and what Jared doesn’t know is that the nanny is abusing Jensen. The nanny pressures Jensen into not telling by saying that Jared loves his job and Jensen is being selfish, etc. PLEASE NO SEXUAL ABUSE! Any other type of abuse is fine.
A/N: I strayed a bit from the prompt by creating a hybrid kind of relationship between Jensen and Jared that resembles intantilism, but is different in many ways. I'm not sure how to classify it so I'm not even going to try. My love and appreciation go to etoile_etiolee for creating not one, but four gorgeous pieces of artwork for this fic. They will appear throughout the story. She has also been an inspiration to me and provided much encouragement, hand-holding, and cheer-leading. She is a fantastic friend. My thanks also go to alezig and kamikaze_redux for their invaluable enthusiasm.
Nightmares of Innocents
Two days later, Mark comes by their house to meet Jensen. Jared goes to open the door while Jensen, still feeling very timid and anxious, hides behind a chair in the living room. From his hiding spot he has a good view of the entryway and the man who might be his new caregiver.
Jensen understands now that his daddy loves him and doesn't want to get rid of him. They'd had a long talk the morning after his panic attack, well, daddy had talked and Jensen had listened. Jensen had been embarrassed that he'd overreacted the way he had. Of course daddy loves him. How could he have thought otherwise after everything daddy does for him?
"Mark, come on in. Thanks for coming all this way to see us." Daddy greets the man and steps back to let him in.
Through the open door saunters a man with blue eyes, chin held high, a spring in his step, confident and self-assured. His blonde hair is short and stylishly spiked, unlike Jensen's which is longer, forming soft curls around his ears. The man's ears stick out from the sides of his head a little and his eyebrows are such a light blond that it almost looks like he has no eyebrows at all, giving him a vaguely rat-like appearance. He's tall, not as tall as daddy, but tall nonetheless.
"Don't mention it." Making a point of looking around, Mark says, "You must enjoy the privacy. It looks like you're the only ones out this far. No neighbors for miles." He smiles, wide and friendly.
"We do like the quiet." Daddy nods. "But come into the living room. I want you to meet Jensen." As he talks, Jared leads the way towards the chair Jensen is crouched behind. "Jensen's shy, but once he gets used to you, he's very affectionate."
Having someone, a stranger, stare at him is one of Jensen's biggest fears and he feels the weight of Mark's gaze as though it's a physical thing. His hands begin to shake so he pulls his knees into his chest, wrapping his arms around them, and ducks his head. He wants to like this new man for daddy's sake, but it's just so hard for him to trust people.
"It's okay sweetie, Mark just wants to meet you." Jared picks him up, holds him close and lets Jensen bury his face against one of his broad shoulders. "Remember what I told you – it's your decision." His daddy whispers into his ear, rubbing his back.
"He's quite the handsome fellow isn't he?" The compliment sounds sincere, not sleazy as it so easily could.
"That he is." There's a note of pride in Jared's voice that makes Jensen's face flush with heat.
"Let me show you around. The nursery is this way; Jensen usually takes a nap in the afternoon for a couple of hours. He gets a bottle right before he goes down for his nap and he's usually out like a light before he can finish it. His diapers are in here next to the crib, you'll be able to tell when he needs changing."
Daddy and Mark are deep in conversation, neither of them paying much attention to Jensen. This could be a good time to sneak a glance at Mark without risking the man looking back at him. Jensen raises his head just enough that he can see out of the corner of his eye.
Mark is nodding along to everything Jared says, politely attentive, without a trace of judgment or uncertainty on his face. He looks nice, but Jensen knows, mean people don't always look mean just like nice people don't always look nice.
Uncle Christian is a case in point. He has the scariest scowl Jensen has ever seen, but if there's one thing he knows, it's that Christian has a soft spot a mile wide.
Sometimes mean people look completely normal and no one suspects that they enjoy kicking their kids until they hear bones snap or that they starve their son and make him drink water out of a crusty dog food bowl. No one knows what the mean people do behind closed doors.
Jensen shudders and daddy sways from side to side, a rocking motion meant to sooth.
As they walk into the kitchen Jared continues his running commentary. "You should feel free to help yourself to whatever we have in the fridge for lunch. For the most part Jensen will eat the same thing that you're eating. I guess that's about all there is to it. Do you have any questions?"
"I don't think so. We already covered a lot of it when we talked over the phone." Mark begins to count off on his fingers, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I've given you my qualifications already. I know approximately what hours you'll be working each day and we already settled on an hourly pay rate. You gave me all your contact information, so unless there's…"
"Oh, there is one other thing. There are a couple of people, friends of ours, who might drop by to see Jensen while I'm at work. I'll give you their names and descriptions so you know who you can let into the house."
"No problem. You tell me who they are and I'll make sure to allow Jensen his visitors."
"Well, it sounds as though we're all set except for the most important part, we still need to make sure you and Jensen are going to get along."
"Yes, yes, of course," Mark says, trying to catch Jensen's eye, knees bent and body canted forward slightly. "I have so many fun things planned if you let me come stay with you while Jared is working. You have such a nice place here and I can see the two of you are wonderful together. I'd like to help you guys out, give Jared the opportunity to try out this new job while knowing everything here at home is being well cared for." He raises one pale eyebrow expectantly.
"What do you say, baby boy?" Daddy asks. "Should we give it a try? It's totally your call."
Jensen doesn't want daddy to have to miss out on an opportunity because of him and he certainly doesn't want daddy to be ashamed of him. Biting his lip nervously, he nods his agreement into his daddy's shoulder. Everything's going to be alright, he tells himself. As long as daddy still loves him, everything will be okay.
Daddy makes all the arrangements and on the following Monday, Mark knocks on the front door at the designated time.
The eggs and toast daddy had made for breakfast still sit on Jensen's plate, untouched. He hasn't been able to eat them because his stomach feels like there are hundreds of bugs squirming around inside it. Ever since being lifted out of his crib this morning, he's been shadowing Jared's every move while he gets ready to leave, glued to his daddy's legs to the point where he's almost been stepped on a couple of times.
Opening the door is a little awkward what with the way Jensen is hugging his daddy's calf, handfuls of suit pant material clenched in his fists. He knows he isn't making this any easier for either of them, but he just can't seem to help himself. He's scared.
"I'm going to need my legs back now, sweetie." The chuckle daddy tries for sounds brittle and when Jensen looks up he sees moisture at the corners of his daddy's expressive eyes, worried furrows on his forehead.
"Separation anxiety," Mark tuts, strolling casually into the house. "It's quite common. Lots of babies react that way when their parents leave the first couple of times. Don't worry Jared, he'll be fine before your car even gets to the end of the driveway."
Reluctantly, Jensen unwinds his arms from around his daddy's leg so he can get his hug and kiss goodbye. Daddy ruffles his hair and then holds both sides of his face in large, gentle palms. "I'll be home before you know it," he whispers. Turning, daddy hurries away as though he's afraid he's going to change his mind if he stays for one second longer.
The car roars to life, backs down the long, dirt driveway.
And then daddy is gone.
It doesn't take Mark long to make himself at home. Within minutes of daddy pulling away, he has his feet up on the coffee table and is watching a morning talk show on TV, totally ignoring Jensen.
The house feels strange without daddy in it. Every sound Mark makes while absorbed in his program, the scoffs and snorts of laughter, are so weird, so different from what he's used to, that Jensen winces at each one.
Not sure what he's supposed to do, Jensen climbs onto the couch next to Mark. The couch is a place for cuddling, it always has been, so Jensen scoots closer, places a tentative hand on Mark's elbow.
The next thing he knows the man's hand arcs back and flies forward in a stinging slap. Jensen's head rocks back violently and tears spring to his eyes. He hasn't been hit in the two years he's lived in Jared's house and the blow shocks him, takes him back to another house, a time in his life he'd thought gone forever.
"Don't you touch me. Ever. Do you understand?" Mark's voice is deceptively calm, chillingly emotionless.
Cowering away from his new nanny, all Jensen can do is nod. It's starting again, the punishments, the hitting. Something inside Jensen twists, like the blade of a knife, and a part of his mind goes off-line where it's safer.
When Mark leaves the room, Jensen doesn't move, and when Mark comes back, throws a couple pieces of ice in his lap and tells him to, "Put those on your cheek. There can't be any noticeable marks when your daddy gets home," Jensen does as he's told.
It's hours before either of them move from their spots on opposite sides of the couch, but eventually Mark stretches and stands up.
On his way to the kitchen, for what purpose Jensen doesn't know, Mark stops and stares at him, something like surprise on his face, as though he had forgotten all about him. "Ah Jensen, you just reminded me; I told you the last time I was here that I had a lot of fun things planned for you, but what I didn't tell you is that those fun things, those games, are secret games. You can't tell anyone about them, not even Jared." Mark tilts his head to the side and his blue eyes get a hard edge to them. "Oh wait, that's right, you don't talk so you can't tell anyone anything. Huh, that makes things so much more convenient…for me."
The way Mark looks at him makes Jensen's breath stutter to a stop.
"We can get started soon, but first I think you need to have your diaper changed. Come on." Mark leads the way to the nursery without looking back to see if Jensen is following, confident that his orders will be obeyed.
The thought of disobeying never even occurs to Jensen. He'd been trained by the best for eighteen years after all and he knows the consequences of defiance.
In the nursery, Jensen lies submissively on his back, exposed and vulnerable.
As Mark removes the dirty diaper, he wrinkles his nose in revulsion. "This is disgusting. I don't know how Jared can stand to put up with this day in and day out. Fuck, this is a mess."
Daddy has never complained about changing Jensen's diaper, never made him feel like it was distasteful or nasty. It's always been a time for gentle touches and warm caring, but Mark's reaction makes Jensen wonder if maybe Jared has always hated doing it and is just too nice to say anything. He turns his head in shame.
"You're filthy." Mark says, his voice dripping contempt. "You're going to need a bath now." Pinching the delicate skin on the inside of Jensen's thigh, he says, "That's for being such a dirty boy."
The hard pinch sends a jolt of wrenching pain along sensitive nerve endings, startling a broken whimper out of him. Even though the punishment seems random, Jensen suspects he deserves it.
Mark stands and goes to the bathroom without another word. Jensen crawls after him and gets in the bathtub because he knows that's what is expected of him.
The water Mark runs is lukewarm at best, causing Jensen to shiver while he waits for his body to get used to the chilly temperature.
Sitting at the edge of the tub, Mark stares down at him from what seems like a great height, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "As long as you're taking a bath, let's play a water game. Let's see how long you can hold your breath."
That's all the warning Jensen gets before his shoulders and head are shoved under the water, his back coming into sharp contact with the bottom of the tub. On an inhale, his face goes under, his nose and mouth instantly flooding with water. His lungs, trying to expel the liquid, begin to spasm, but that only makes his dire need for oxygen more desperate. He struggles and thrashes, panic making his movements jerky and ineffective.
Mark has the advantage of leverage, pressing down on him from above, and Jensen is helpless against him.
With the prolonged lack of oxygen comes a strange acceptance as his muscles lose strength and coordination. Instead of continuing to fight, Jensen let's go, allows his body to go slack. All the tension evaporates, his arms float on the surface of the water and he opens his eyes.
Mark's face is right there, mere inches from his own.
Jensen is so far gone that the release of pressure against his chest doesn't register right away. Mark has to reach down, grab his arm and haul him up. As soon as his head breaches the surface however, he's coughing and spluttering, hacking and gasping.
Gouts of water pour from his mouth and dribble from his nose. His throat burns. The tears that stream down his face aren't the result of sadness or despair because he's far beyond feeling any kind of emotion. No, these tears are simply an involuntary reaction to his body's distress.
"You aren't very good at that. I think you need more practice. We'll have to try again next time you take a bath." Mark smirks. "Now let's get you cleaned up."
None too gently, Mark scrubs him down with a bar of soap and then yanks him out of the tub.
This is all beginning to feel so familiar that it's easy for Jensen to revert to the hopelessness he used to feel. He closes his eyes and it's like he never got out. This is his life and it always will be.
Time flows backwards and he hears Mark's voice as if it's coming from the mouth of another man, one he's tried so very hard to forget. "We need to get you all put back together again so you're daddy can see what a good job I'm doing taking care of you. That way he won't feel like he has to give up his wonderful new promotion and his fancy office where he gets to go and have real conversations with people who actually talk back to him."
The next time he looks down at himself, he's sitting in his booster seat in the kitchen, wearing a fresh diaper, plain white tee and light grey sweat pants. His feet are bare and his hair is still wet so not too much time has passed. Looking around, he sees Mark standing at the stove, a wooden spoon in his hand and a pot of boiling water simmering in front of him. Even thought he doesn't want to attract his nanny's attention, the sight of the man makes Jensen squirm in his chair.
Mark glances at him from over his shoulder and smirks when he catches Jensen's eye. "Oh good, you're back. That's a pretty neat trick you've got there, responding to what I tell you to do without really being aware of what's going on. How do you do that anyway?"
Jensen lowers his eyes and Mark sighs loudly, as though Jensen's silence is a huge inconvenience for him.
"Never mind, it's not important." Mark stirs whatever is in the pot. "Lunch will be ready soon and since I had to dump out your uneaten breakfast I suspect you're hungry."
Jensen's not hungry. He's not hungry at all.
A knock on the front door startles them both, Mark dropping his spoon and Jensen jumping so high he nearly falls out of his seat.
"Stay there." Mark says as he wipes his hands on a paper towel and heads toward the entryway.
The sound of his uncle's voice rings out loud and clear through the small house as soon as the door is opened. "You must be, Mark, the nanny. Hi, I'm Chris Kane. I'm here to see Jensen. Jared probably told you I'd be dropping by. Thought I'd spend my lunch break with my best boy, make sure everything's going all right."
That's all Jensen needs to hear before he's off his chair like a rocket from a launching pad, hurtling straight towards his uncle.
"Whoa, hey there, kiddo." Christian stoops down to gather Jensen into a hug. "What's all this about?" Even with his face buried in Christian's side, Jensen can hear the suspicion and anger in the question aimed at his new nanny.
"He's not exactly happy about Jared being gone. First day jitters." Mark offers by way of explanation. "We're working on it though, aren't we Jensen?"
"Hmmm," Christian says, clearly not convinced. Keeping one hand on the top of Jensen's head, fingers toying with the wet strands and lightly scratching Jensen's scalp, Christian straightens up.
Jensen puts his hands up as high as he can, reaching for his uncle pleadingly, the way he does when he wants to be picked up.
Christian's laugh is a single bark, warm and fond. "Don't think I can pick you up like your daddy does, kiddo, but how about we go into the living room and we can eat lunch together." Christian indicates the cardboard cartons of Chinese take-out he'd hastily set on the side table in the entryway in order to catch Jensen's headlong rush.
The food holds no appeal for Jensen, but the reprieve his uncle is offering him from his nanny's undivided attention is heaven sent.
"It was nice of you to bring us lunch, Officer Kane. Just let me turn off the stove and I'll be right back." Mark's lips form a tight, thin line as he turns toward the kitchen.
The dark blue, police uniform Christian wears when he's on patrol is such a huge part of who he is that it doesn't register as something to comment on until Jensen hears Mark refer to his uncle as 'Officer Kane'.
Christian just waves a hand dismissively, "I'm on break, remember? You can call me Christian."
Something about the tone of the exchange makes Jensen think the two men don't like each other which is strange because they've only just met. What reason could they have to dislike each other already?
Once Mark is out of easy hearing range, Christian leans down, grasps Jensen's shoulder and whispers, "Are you okay?"
And yeah, Jensen is okay…now that Christian is here. He's terrified about what's going to happen when his uncle leaves, but for right now he's fine so he decides to go with that and nods.
Then Mark reappears, picks up a couple containers of take-out, and tilts his head. "Shall we?"
"Definitely," Christian replies as he grabs the remaining two boxes by their wire handles.
Determined to make the most of his uncle's limited break time, Jensen only waits until Christian settles in the large recliner, an open carton of moo shu pork in one hand and a plastic fork in the other, before he crawls into the man's lap.
Christian takes the seating arrangements in stride, simply spreading his arms out to the side while Jensen finds a comfortable spot huddled against his chest. "Aren't you going to eat? I got you some fried rice."
Jensen would much rather stay where he is, soaking in as much affection as he can while it lasts. He makes his wishes known by tangling his fists in Christian's uniform shirt, bunching the material up and holding on as though he's afraid of being ripped away.
He may not talk, but Jensen knows how to make himself understood in most situations.
They stay like that while Christian eats, casually juggling a lapful of clinging Jensen and his Chinese food as though this is perfectly normal behavior.
It's only once he's finished eating, sliding forward to reach around Jensen and put his empty carton on the coffee table, that Christian asks Mark, "Have we ever met before? I feel like I know you from somewhere."
Shrugging, Mark chews and swallows a bite of sweet and sour chicken before answering. "Not that I recall."
"That's weird." Christian narrows his eyes in contemplation. "I never forget a face - comes in real handy for the job, you know - and yours is very familiar." The beeping of his cell phone breaks his concentration and Christian shakes his head. "Damn, that's my alarm. I've got to get going. Oh well, it'll probably come to me later."
"Right," Mark says, standing and moving closer to the front door. "I'm glad you came by. Jensen seems to be very attached to you. I'm worried about him not eating. What do you think?"
If Jensen didn't know better, he might think his nanny was concerned on his behalf.
"Eh, missing one meal is no big deal. Now if he starts to make a habit of it we may need to see if Misha will make a house call." Christian playfully wriggles his fingers into Jensen's belly. "Don't make me get Misha out here to give you a physical. You remember what happened last time."
The last time Misha had given him a physical had actually been pretty funny. There had been balloons and a game of Simon says involved. Suffice to say that Misha had done his very best to make sure Jensen enjoyed the experience. The memory makes Jensen smile in spite of the terrible news that Christian will have to leave soon and Jensen will be left alone with his nanny.
Then Christian puts a gentle hand on his chin, coaxing his head up to ensure eye contact. Voice soft, he says, "Hey, I know first days are hard, kiddo. I know you don't like Jared being gone. But listen, it won't always be this bad. If he decides to accept the promotion permanently he'll still be able to work from home a lot of the time. Long days away like this won't happen very often. Okay?"
Jensen's eyes well up with tears. He can't help it, the sadness just won't stay inside him. His lower lip trembles as the tears begin to fall.
Christian takes a shaky breath and pulls Jensen into a hug. "Yeah, Jared was right, this is lethal. You're killing me here, kiddo."
Swiping a hand over his face, Christian gets out from under Jensen and walks deliberately over to where Mark is standing. "Take good care of him."
It's not a request, it's a warning, the 'or else' silent but unmistakable.
The moment the door closes behind his uncle, Mark is striding back into the living room. "Well, your friend ruined my plans for lunch, but that's okay. I can adapt and we have plenty of time, don't you worry. There are other things we can do. Speaking of…come with me."
Jensen hangs his head and follows along obediently, a pit the size of a baseball sitting heavily in his stomach.
"Your daddy said you get a nap in the afternoon so how about I tell you a little bedtime story after you get into your crib?" Mark stands next to the crib, arms folded over his chest, until Jensen realizes he's not getting any help climbing in even though the crib sits pretty high off the floor and isn't easy to get into with the railing locked in its highest position.
With difficulty, he pulls himself up and kind of falls over the railing and onto the mattress. Getting into the crib that way is humiliating, but it doesn't hurt and once he's inside the enclosed space, he feels safer, as if the thin bars are enough of a barrier to protect him from harm. It's silly, he knows. Still, he hopes Mark will leave him alone if he pretends to fall asleep during the story.
He hugs his stuffed bunny, Mr. Bun, drags the blanket over himself and closes his eyes.
"Comfy?" Mark asks, reaching through the bars to grab a fistful of Jensen's hair and give it a cruel yank.
So much for the illusion of safety. Jensen resolutely keeps his eyes closed and tries to ignore the throbbing pain.
"Okay, here we go. Once upon a time there was a spoiled rotten boy who lived with his daddy in a quaint, little house. It was just the two of them living all alone and the daddy did absolutely everything for the boy, but it was never enough. The boy was demanding and ungrateful, always asking for more. One day the daddy decided he'd had enough. He didn't want to do so much for the boy when he never even got so much as a 'thank you' in return. He wasn't a hard-hearted man though and he couldn't stand the thought of punishing his only child. So he hired someone else to do it for him. The man he hired was called The Nanny and it was his job to teach the boy not to be so selfish. He used lots of different training techniques, but his favorite one involved water because water didn't leave any marks behind and it was really effective. Of course there were others, but we'll get to those later. I think that's a good place to stop for today. I'll finish the story tomorrow."
The snick of the nursery door being pulled shut tells Jensen that Mark is probably gone. He wouldn't put it past the man to only pretend to leave though so he opens his eyes and cautiously looks around.
No Mark and yet Mark's story is still very much present, like a monster crouching in the shadows, ready to pounce.
The pit in Jensen's stomach grows to the size of a basketball.
Mark is wrong. He has to be.
It's stupid to think that daddy hired someone to torture him. Ridiculous. Daddy has spent two years convincing him that he wants and loves him. It was daddy who taught him what it means to be cared for and cherished.
When Jensen had first come to live with Jared, he'd been afraid of being touched, afraid of sudden movements, afraid of loud noises, okay he's still afraid of loud noises, but he's making progress. He makes progress every day; even now two years later, he's still getting better. And that's all because of Jared.
Memories of the days, weeks, months following his release from the hospital assail him. Memories of cowering in mindless terror, of squeezing into the smallest spaces he could find, of shaking and trembling if anyone got too close to him, of Jared's endless patience, of hours spent listening to Jared's voice coaxing him to come out, murmuring reassurances. 'I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you.'
Jared makes that promise on a daily basis.
Jared's promises are sacred.
Bad things are happening. The promise isn't working.
Jensen lies in his crib, clutching Mr. Bun, and thinks.
He thinks for a long time. He never does fall asleep for his nap.
A car pulls into the drive, Jensen hears the motor idle and then cut off, the squeak of hinges as the car door opens and slams shut. After a few seconds, the front door opens and voices come from the living room. He can't make out the entire conversation, but he hears certain words.
Then the front door closes and a car pulls away.
Eager to see his daddy after what feels like ages, Jensen sits in the crib and watches the door to his nursery. It inches open just a crack, the flash of an eye visible on the other side before it swings open all the way.
"You're awake." Daddy's smile is huge, mirroring Jensen's.
Jensen nods happily and puts his arms out to be lifted from his crib. But then he thinks about what he's doing. Smile fading a bit, he lowers his arms and begins to climb over the railing by himself, one leg braced on the mattress while the other straddles the top bar.
"Hold on there. What are you doing? Wait…I'll help you." Daddy is across the room in three long strides, preventing a head-long tumble by enfolding Jensen in his arms and bringing him to his chest in a tight hug. "I missed you so much today, baby boy." The words are muffled in Jensen's hair as daddy nuzzles the top of his head.
Wrapping his legs around his daddy's waist, Jensen holds on with all his might, wishing he never had to let go.
"I came home early 'cause I needed to see you…make sure you were okay. Couldn't concentrate on the article I was reading." Jared shakes his head and gives Jensen a sheepish glance from under his bangs. "I know, I'm just being foolish but…I was worried about you."
Jensen tucks his head into the hollow of his daddy's neck, feeling the slight scritch of stubble against his temple. He doesn't want daddy to worry about him – not on top of everything else he has to do – and as much as he knows he should, Jensen can't seem to make himself give up the comforting embrace.
"Yeah, I think we both need this," Daddy says, walking the few steps to the rocker where he settles in with Jensen cuddled close. "I didn't get to rock you to sleep for your nap today. That kinda bums me out. I didn't realize how much I was going to miss it."
The quiet sounds of the rocking chair rolling back and forth over the plush carpet and the gentle swaying motion are soothing. Jensen's eyelids begin to drift closed.
"My sweet, sleepy boy." Daddy chuckles and shifts him into a more upright position. "Don't fall asleep now or you won't be tired for bedtime tonight. I have to go into work early again tomorrow for another meeting so we can't get your schedule out of whack."
The words have the same effect as a bucket of icy water being dumped over his head and Jensen is instantly wide awake. He shivers involuntarily at the thought of another day spent with Mark.
Oblivious to the real cause of his shivering, daddy chaffs a large hand over Jensen's bare arm to fight the imaginary chill. "I know what. Let me change your diaper and then we'll decide what to fix for dinner."
Uncertain, Jensen sucks his lower lip between his teeth. His diaper does need to be changed, but he can't forget the disgusted look on Mark's face, the way he'd wrinkled his nose and called him 'dirty'. Seeing the same look on Jared's face, hearing that tone in his voice, would crush Jensen and he's not sure what to do. Torn by indecision, he does nothing.
Humiliation causes his cheeks to flame as he lies on the cushioned changing pad, fingers digging into the spongy, plastic-covered surface beneath him.
Daddy pulls off his sweatpants and unfastens the diaper. While normally a bonding experience between them, with Jared's devotion and adoration for his baby boy easily seen in every tender touch and expression, now Jensen can't bear to watch. He looks at the light green paint on the walls, the picture of golden retriever puppies over his dresser, the Beatrix Potter lamp on his nightstand, anywhere but at his daddy's face for fear he might see something he'd missed all those other times. Some sign of displeasure.
If Jared notices anything amiss, he doesn't mention it.
During dinner preparations, daddy tells Jensen all about his day, from a description of the view outside his office window, to a play by play recounting of his meetings with each of the junior editors who will be reporting to him. Jensen nods and hums, listens and smiles, trying to show how grateful he is for his daddy's kindness. All the while, a stifling fear claws at his insides, threatening to drag him down to where his deepest, darkest memories still exist.
Luckily, it doesn't take long to make spaghetti and Jensen is glad for the distraction eating dinner provides.
"You're not eating. Are you feeling alright?" Daddy puts his own fork down and frowns at the plate of spaghetti in front of Jensen. "Mark told me that Christian came by to visit you for lunch. He said you guys all had Chinese. Are you still full of fried rice?"
Jensen takes the easy out and nods. It's a lie and it makes his stomach cramp up to deceive Jared. Better a lie, though, than to cause his daddy more worry. He picks at his food throughout the rest of the meal, just enough to show that he's making an effort.
After dinner they sit on the couch to watch a couple of sit-coms. The closer it gets to bedtime, the more fidgety Jensen becomes.
He doesn't want to be alone in his nursery because Mark's story is still lurking in there, waiting for daddy to turn out the lights and shut the door. So when it's time for bed, Jensen bypasses the nursery and crawls into Jared's bedroom instead. Although not completely unheard of, nights spent together in daddy's bed are rare, usually reserved for a special treat. Jensen hopes tonight qualifies.
Sitting next to the bed, he puts one hand on top of the bedspread and cocks his head at his daddy, eyes big and pleading.
Daddy throws his head back and laughs. "Pulling out all the stops I see. Where in the world did you learn to pout like that?" With a last chuckle he nods. "Yeah, okay, hop in."
Snuggled close to his daddy's reassuring warmth, Jensen drifts off to sleep faster than he would have believed possible.
Continued at Chapter 3