Rating: T (for situations)
Characters: Jared, Jensen, Christian, Misha, Kurt Fuller, Kim Rhodes, Jim Beaver, 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: Mental illness resulting in mental age regression and a form of infantilism which is emotional and not sexual in nature, mentions of past child abuse, mentions of a child who goes missing and is never found, and poor portrayal of a long-term care facility. Younger!abused!Jensen.
Word Count: over 30,000 in total (3,700 this part)
Summary: Prequel to Nightmares of Innocents Masterpost. Nothing could have prepared Jared for what he sees when he walks into that hospital room at his friend, Christian's, request. Sure, he knows the boy has been abused horribly by his parents, he knows the boy is scared of everyone except Christian, he knows the boy is malnourished. But there are some things that can't be explained, they can only be seen. This is the story of how they get from here to there, together.
A/N: This story is a difficult one to tell and you may need an open mind to read it. There are some aspects, I'm sure, that won't seem completely realistic so I claim creative license right here at the very beginning. My love and appreciation go to etoile_etiolee for creating the wonderful banner for this fic.. She has helped in so many ways I can't even name them all, from guidance on all matters having to do with medical and hospital procedures to keeping up my spirits when I wasn't sure I was on the right track in writing this story. My thanks also go to kamikaze_redux who did a wonderful job as beta even though she has a very busy schedule of her own and to alezig who I will always credit for the encouragement she gave me to not only finish writing the original story in record time, but to turn that kink meme ficlet into the Innocents 'verse.
Back to the beginning - ( Prologue and Chapter 1 )
Hope of Innocents
Christian agrees to come to his apartment later that night, after Misha has returned to relieve him from his post at Jensen's side. His friend's dedication is something that Jared has always admired about Christian. It's one of the things that makes him such a good cop not to mention such a terrific friend.
Jared's three bedroom ranch-style house is a mess, magazines and books litter every available surface. Since he's about to have company Jared spends some time picking up after himself, replacing the books on shelves and stacking the magazines into a pile on the coffee table.
It's a bigger house than he needs, but Jared has always known he'd find someone to share it with eventually. And the location is perfect - sitting on a large lot on the edge of town, close enough to be within easy driving distance of anything he might need and isolated enough to let him indulge in his love of nature and the peace he can only achieve when there are no sounds to be heard other than the humming of insects and the rustling of leaves.
The smallest of the three bedrooms has been turned into a home office, complete with desk, filing cabinets and computer. The other two bedrooms, the one he sleeps in and the guest bedroom, are separated by a bathroom.
One of the articles he's been editing is open on his computer - a story about homeless teenagers, ironically. Written by a reporter out of the Houston branch office, the article follows one particular boy as he tries to remain in high school while relying on the generosity of his friends' families to give him a place to crash at night. Somehow the story feels more real now, it hits closer to home, and Jared reads the draft again as he waits for Christian to show up.
The doorbell startles him from thoughts of what it must be like to be a homeless teenager, to never have a sense of belonging, to scrape and scrounge just to survive.
Jensen isn't in a position where he's going to be thrown out on the streets, but there are certainly similarities.
Jared lets his friend in after shutting down his PC.
"You want a beer or something stronger?" He asks as soon as Christian steps inside. By the look Christian gives him, he knows he's not fooling his friend with his attempt at light-heartedness. That's not really anything new though. Jared has always been an open book to his friends, never one to hide how he's feeling, and right now he feels like there's a current of electricity sizzling just under his skin.
"Naw, beer's good, son." Christian's voice is deep and slow, like sun-warmed honey. It's the voice he uses when he sings a sad, country ballad or when he's just downright exhausted. "If I have anything stronger than beer I'm gonna fall asleep before we even get started on this conversation."
"Yeah, you better sit down. You look like you're about to fall asleep standing up." And in truth, his friend looks more tired than Jared's ever seen him, and Jared's seen him after pulling all nighters for several days straight while working a tough case. "You all right?"
"I'm good, just...Jensen's having a tough time. After you left..." Christian sighs as he accepts the beer Jared hands him and sinks into one of the recliners. "He has these panic attacks and sometimes it's hard to get him to calm down."
Leaning back in the matching recliner, Jared stretches his legs out in front of himself and crosses his arms over his chest. "You've been there with him a lot. What about work?"
"I'm using vacation time. I've got a bunch of it saved up. The Chief isn't real happy about the extended leave of absence, but so far he's playing along. Misha's doing the same thing only his boss is taking it out of his paycheck." Christian rubs his eyes, takes a deep pull off his longneck. "So, what do you want to know about Jensen?"
"As much as you can tell me. What about these panic attacks? What causes them?"
"Anything can trigger them - a loud noise, someone he doesn't know getting too close, anything unexpected really. It's almost like an extreme case of PTSD, like he's constantly expecting to be beaten or attacked. Sometimes he acts like he's reliving the abuse over and over again. Like he's stuck in this repetitive loop. Like he can't get away from it. And he can have one of two different reactions to the panic - either he completely shuts down, becomes catatonic, or he tries to get away, to hide, at the exclusion of everything else." Christian yawns and kicks his feet up on the coffee table. "He never strikes out. He's much more a danger to himself than to anyone else."
Extreme PTSD is a logical outcome for someone who has experienced a lifetime of abuse, even Jared knows that. But it doesn't explain everything. There's got to be more to it.
"He seems so...ingenuous, you know, like a child. Why does he suck his thumb?" Jared asks.
"I talked to his psychiatrist about that. Dr. Beaver, he's a little out there, unconventional. But he seems to know what he's talking about." Slouching further into the recliner, Christian continues around another yawn. "Anyway, he says it's a rare form of regression. He thinks Jensen has regressed to a point in his life when he felt safe. There aren't many recorded cases like it but, according to the doc, he'll only come out of it when he's good and ready. It's got to be on his time schedule, no one else's. It could take years if it even happens at all. It depends on Jensen."
Confused, Jared wonders, "So, what? One day he just snaps out of it?"
"Nuh-uh, this isn't some Lifetime special feature, man. Doc says it'll be gradual. Given the right environment, he'll make progress. Little improvements over time. As long as he feels safe."
The now empty beer bottle dangles from its neck at the tips of Christian's fingers where his arm hangs over the side of the recliner. Its bottom brushes the floor and he lets it come to a full rest, laying his hand flat on his stomach once it's free.
His friend looks beat, beyond tired, as though he's been fighting an endless battle. Any further discussion will have to wait.
"Do you have to go back to the hospital tonight?" Jared asks.
Christian shakes his head. "Misha's got him tonight. I'm going back in the morning. You mind if I stay here 'til then? Don't think I should drive right now."
"Yeah, you should sleep. Why don't you head back to the spare room; bed's all made up and ready."
"I'm so tired I could sleep in the bathtub if I had to." Scrubbing a hand over his face, his friend groans softly as he shuffles down the hallway, calling over his shoulder, "Can you wake me up when you get up? I don't want Misha to have to wait too long for me to get there. He said something about having errands to run and he's gonna hafta sleep sometime too."
"Yeah, no problem. I'll get you up in time for coffee and then we can go back to the hospital together."
On his way to his bedroom, Jared turns off all the lights and chuckles at the loud snores coming from the guest room.
Misha is standing in the hallway just outside Jensen's room when they get there the next morning. His hair is sticking up in scruffy tufts that make him look like a marmoset having a bad hair day and it's clear from the stubble on his chin that he hasn't gotten around to shaving yet.
"Hey, I'm glad you're here," he says, walking forward to meet them.
Christian goes on high alert instantly. "What's up? Is Jensen okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, he's fine. He had a good night. I think he's starting to feel better actually." There's a hesitancy in the cadence of Misha's voice, an uncertain lilt. The effect is only amplified as he runs a hand over the wrinkles in his long-sleeve tee as though the motion will magically iron them out.
"But..." Christian prompts.
"But," Misha starts and then looks behind him towards the nurses' station. "Doctor Fuller has already been by this morning. I think he wanted to catch Jensen without you there."
A frown tugs at Christian's lips and he curses through a clenched jaw.
Looking back and forth swiftly between the two other men and trying to figure out what he's just missed, Jared asks, "Wait a minute. What's wrong with Dr. Fuller coming to see Jensen?"
Misha tilts his head, considering Jared for a moment before he answers the question. "Dr. Fuller wants Jensen released to Oak Grove. He's been talking to social services about it for the last couple of days."
The sensation of being out of synch, just a beat too slow, grows inside him. None of this makes a whole lot of sense. He's missing something.
With a dramatic flourish, Misha turns back to Christian. "And then, first thing this morning, he comes into the room with a bunch of pamphlets, shoves them in Jensen's face, wants him to see pictures of the grounds. Like the flower garden is some huge selling point." The righteous indignation fades as suddenly as it had appeared and Misha seems to shrink a little, shoulders hunching as he shares a significant look with the cop. "Jensen held it together really well, but he's been watching for you ever since Fuller left."
Eyes moist, Christian nods, sidestepping Misha to shoulder open the door to Jensen's room, and all Jared can do is to follow along in his wake.
Over Christian's shoulder, he can see Jensen sitting up in the bed, bottom lip held firmly between his teeth, chin wobbling.
As soon as he hears the soft swish of the door opening, the boy's head jerks up and his eyes widen.
"Hey kiddo, it's just me and Jared." Voice little more than a whisper, Christian puts a hand on Jared's shoulder. "You remember this guy, don't you?"
Jensen only has eyes for Christian as the first tears start to fall and he releases his lower lip only for it to begin quivering.
Jared's never seen such abject misery in all his life. An answering sorrow wells up inside him and even though he doesn't know what's causing the boy's pain, he gets this overpowering urge to do whatever needs to be done to make it stop.
Jensen holds out both hands, reaching for Christian urgently, like he's standing on the edge of a cliff and Christian is the only one who can keep him from falling. His hands are shaking.
The cop is next to the bed in an instant and he lets the boy plaster himself against his chest, IV tube and monitoring wires swinging precariously with his jerky movements. "Hey, hey, none of that." Christian murmurs. "You don't have to go to Oak Grove if you don't want to. And even if you do decide to go there, I'll still come visit you. You won't be all alone."
The way the teenager looks up at his friend then, guileless and trusting, makes something inside Jared twist painfully as if a corkscrew has been embedded in his ribcage.
He has more questions now than before and since Christian has the situation with Jensen well under control, Jared decides to go looking for some answers. He ducks out of the room quietly and goes in search of Misha, finding him not too far away in a small waiting room off the main corridor. The paramedic is sitting hunched over in a chair, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, fingers tangled in unruly tufts of hair.
"I don't get it," Jared says as he sits next to the paramedic.
Lowering his hands, Misha turns to look at him, stare at him really, blue eyes boring into him. For the second time since meeting the man, Jared feels as though he's being measured. It feels like Misha can see right through him, into the heart of who he is, into his soul.
After long enough that he begins to think maybe the other man didn't hear him, Misha says, "Me either."
And that's no help at all so he tries again. "What's the deal with this Dr. Fuller? Who is he and what does he want? What's Oak Grove?"
"Dr. Kurt Fuller." Misha makes a face that looks like he's constipated, puffing his cheeks out, squinting his eyes and furrowing his brow. "Fuller is the doctor who operated on Jensen when I brought him into the ER. Christian told you I was the one who brought him in, yeah?" He cocks his head.
"Yeah, ah yes." Jared nods.
"Well, by the time I got him here, he'd lost a lot of blood, he was in bad shape. I had to resuscitate him in the ambulance on the ride over. Almost lost him." The paramedic stares at a section of wall over Jared's shoulder, clearly lost in his memories. Then he shakes his head. "There was a lot of damage, Fuller repaired a perforation in his intestines, sewed him back together, but...then they couldn't wake him up. He was so malnourished, there was nothing to him, still isn't, and the anesthesiologist had a hell of a time getting him back."
"Jesus." Jared huffs, crossing his arms against a sudden chill.
A nurse walks by, pushing a cart loaded with linens. The distraction is welcome and both men stop to watch her pass. In the silence that settles over them a bell is audible, ringing over at the nurses' station. Jared wonders briefly what the bell means, if one of the patients is using their call button or if there's trouble of some kind in one of the rooms.
Taking a deep breath, he asks, "But Jensen's alright now?"
"He's better. A lot better. There's still the vitamin deficiencies to work out, he's still pretty vulnerable to certain complications, infections." The paramedic purses his lips. "And then there's, you know, the psychological issues. Fuller wants Jensen admitted to Oak Grove. It's a State-run institutional home for the indigent, which Jensen technically is now."
"You don't think he's right." Jared guesses.
"No," Misha shakes his head. "In order to get better Jensen needs to live somewhere he feels completely secure and cared for. Now, think about what it might be like to live in a group home run by the State and then think about Jensen. Do you honestly believe he could get better in a place like that? I think it's much more likely that they'd dose him up with a cocktail of drugs to make him compliant and easy to deal with." Misha flexes his hands on his knees and sighs. "Look, I gotta go. If you want to know more, you'll need to talk to Christian." With that, he stands and trudges heavily away, trailing one hand along the wall.
Feet dragging and shoulders hitched up around his ears, Jared makes his way back to Jensen's room. He knocks and waits until he hears Christian's voice say it's okay to go in.
His friend is sitting next to Jensen in the bed, positions nearly identical to yesterday when he'd first seen the sick young man. It seems as though it's been a lot longer than just one day.
Taking his same seat across the room, Jared plasters a smile on his face and shrugs at the question in Christian's eyes. He's not sure of exactly what's going on, but he wants to help. He can't walk away from his friend and, now that he's starting to learn about him, he can't abandon this boy.
"I was just getting ready to tell Jensen about that white water rafting trip we went on last year." Christian says. "You're better at telling stories though. You wanna tell him?"
If there's one thing Jared can do, it's talk. It doesn't take much to get him going. Ask him about his shirt and he can go on for fifteen minutes about where he bought it and where he likes to wear it. He can talk about anything, as long as there's someone willing to listen.
Jensen is willing. In fact, as soon as Jared starts talking, the boy's eyes lock on his face. He seems to be eating it up, intent on every word with a laser-sharp focus.
After he tells Jensen about the vacation he and Christian had taken to West Virginia to go rafting, the cop grinning and jumping in whenever he feels like he has something to add, the conversation wanders to the wildlife they'd seen on that trip. From there Jared tells them about his cousin's farm and then about how he's always wanted to rescue a couple of dog's from the pound someday.
The small noises Jensen makes, the way he never stops looking at Jared, show how much he's enjoying the conversation, although he never laughs or even smiles. Having someone talk to him and not at him is probably not something that happens all that often, Jared thinks.
The peaceful mood is disturbed by the door swinging open as an orderly barges over to Jensen's bed to drop a tray of food on the rolling side table.
"Here's your lunch," he says as the plastic tray thunks onto the table.
That's when all hell breaks loose and Jared finds out firsthand how Jensen reacts to having his space invaded unexpectedly.
The boy cries out, jerks upright and scrabbles wildly for the edge of the bed. Dazed and mindless with fear, he doesn't seem to care about anything except getting away as quickly as possible. The fastest route away is over Christian so that's where Jensen goes, plunging headlong onto the floor despite the cop's attempts to stop him.
The IV stand topples over with an almighty crash which only causes Jensen's panic to escalate. Blood drips down his arm from where the IV needle and tape have been ripped from his skin. It spatters the wall as he collides into a cabinet and crumples to the ground, nearly fetal.
Flimsy hospital gown rucked up under his armpits, exposing his lanky legs and his bony hips, Jensen screws his eyes closed while he moans, both arms wrapped around his stomach.
Instead of underwear, he's wearing a diaper.
In nearly perfect counter-point to his keening, one of the many machines in the room begins to wail an alarm at being disconnected, a shrill sound that makes Jared's teeth ache.
Christian leaps to his feet, his face a vibrant shade of magenta as his head swivels from Jensen to the orderly. It's clear he's torn between taking the orderly out to the hallway to beat him black and blue and going to take care of Jensen.
Jared makes the decision for him. Striding rapidly across the room, he gives Chris an emphatic shove towards Jensen then he grabs the stunned orderly by the elbow, escorting him out the door.
As soon as they make it past the threshold, Jared wheels around to confront the man. "You're not to come back to this room. Do you understand? Not ever! Someone else delivers his meals from now on, preferably someone who can read." Glaring, he points to the sign on the door, the sign he'd thought excessive when he'd first seen it and now knows to be a necessary precaution, the one requesting all visitors to wait for permission before they enter the skittish young man's room.
Still wearing a startled expression, the orderly nods and leaves.
Jared is so furious he's having a hard time catching his breath.
It doesn't matter that the orderly was only doing his job or that he didn't know any better.
The urge the protect Jensen is sudden and all-consuming
Putting his hands on his knees, he lowers his head and takes a moment to regulate the intake of air into his lungs. Having met the boy only yesterday, Jared can already feel a tug on his heart like a string has been tied around it and the other end is held tightly by the terrified boy on the other side of the hospital room door.
A harried looking nurse gives him an appraising glance as she bustles up to Jensen's door and raps lightly a couple times. "Everything okay in there?" she calls.
There's a pause before Christian answers, "I think he's going to be alright, but can you come back in a few minutes?"
"Yes, I've just got to…" She waves at another door down the hallway with the vial she's holding even though Chris can't see her through the closed door. "I'll be right back." A quick nod at Jared and the nurse is gone, flat white shoes squeaking on the linoleum.
On to Chapter 3