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 (3,800 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
When Jared re-enters the room moments later, Christian has coaxed Jensen onto the bed and is wiping his bloody arm with a tissue, the puncture from the IV needle only bleeding sluggishly at this point.
Jensen is motionless and silent – his eyes open but vacant – seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, monitor alarm included.
Chris sits on the bed and pulls the unresponsive boy up against his side, careful to avoid the thick bandage around his middle. "It's okay, kiddo. You're safe. It's okay."
Jensen blinks and awareness begins to filter back into his green eyes. He glances fearfully around the room and his gaze lands on Jared. When he doesn't startle or cower away, Jared tries for a reassuring smile, just the smallest curve of lips, mouth closed.
"Hey Jensen, look at me. Did you hurt your stomach? Do I need to get a doctor in here to take a look?" Christian asks.
The tip of Jensen's tongue swipes across his bottom lip and, without taking his eyes from Jared, he shakes his head.
"That's not very convincing." Cupping the young man's face in one hand to gain his full attention, Christian tries again. "Look at me, kiddo. That's right. Now, are you telling me the truth or is this just wishful thinking. I need you to be honest. Don't just tell me what you think I want to hear."
The boy shakes his head a second time, pauses, then nods uncertainly. There's a film of sweat on his face, beads of it across his upper lip and at his hair line. A single tear rolls slowly down his cheek and Jared's heart is torn into itty-bitty pieces. Jensen looks so lost, like he can't figure out how he came to be in this place, like he's certain he doesn't belong here but has nowhere else to go.
Jared has never been able to watch someone else suffering and not take action. It just about kills him to stand still and do nothing even though he knows that's all Jensen is ready for him to do.
Moving his hand to the back of the boy's head, Chris tugs him into a loose embrace. "I know. That was scary. No one's supposed to come in here unless we're ready for them. Everyone who works this floor knows the rule. Apparently, that orderly was new and didn't get the memo."
The words are for Jared, an explanation of sorts.
The tone of voice, low and soothing, is all for Jensen. He responds to the comfort by humming under his breath.
"We're gonna have more company soon. Your nurse will be back any minute to reattach all your wires and-."
Before Christian can continue, Jensen yanks out of his hold and begins to shake his head so hard the metal bed frame rattles. It's a wonder he doesn't make himself dizzy.
He doesn't stop until Christian says, in a quiet but firm voice, "Jensen, you know the drill. It's not like this is the first time and besides it's Kim on shift, you like Kim."
Again there's a knock at the door, only this time whoever is on the other side waits while Christian puts a steadying hand on Jensen's chest, looks him in the eye to make sure he's ready, and calls out, "Come on in."
The nurse who walks through the door is dressed in orange scrubs with a bicycle print. A hospital ID tag displays her name, Kim, and her profession, R.N. Her shoulder-length, brunette hair swings with each step she takes, emphasizing the cheerful expression on her face. One dainty eyebrow arches as she takes in the utter chaos of Jensen's room.
"Just what have you boys been up to?" she asks, a teasing glint in her eyes. "No, never mind, don't tell me. I don't want to know. So, how's my favorite patient doing?"
She gives Jensen plenty of space, standing several feet away from the bed, and she has one of those open, genuine smiles that instantly puts everyone around her at ease.
Jensen turns his face away, but not before Jared sees the upward twitch of his lips and the flush on his cheeks.
"Ah, always so shy." Kim tuts playfully. "One of these days I'm going to get a smile out of you."
When she approaches the bed, she does so at a measured pace that she manages to make look perfectly natural, not at all stilted or hesitant. She smoothly sets the IV stand upright, turns off the beeping monitor, and wets a cloth at the sink to wipe down the wall. Each of these tasks is completed efficiently, without any fuss.
The difference between Jensen's reaction to Kim's calming presence and the orderly's jarring entrance is like the difference between classical music and the screaming lyrics of deathcore. Although Jensen keeps his head down and his body stiff as she moves around the room, he doesn't try to get away from her when she gives his leg a friendly pat in passing. It's a small gesture and done with such ease, such nonchalance, that Jensen doesn't seem to notice it until she's already moved on. Then his gaze flicks from her to Christian as though trying to figure out how he should react to the touch by using his protector's response as a gauge.
Christian just chuckles, amused by the exchange, and Jensen's body posture visibly relaxes, the tension in his shoulders loosening and fists unclenching.
The longer Jared watches the nurse with Jensen the more he likes her.
Only once she's done putting the room to rights does she turn her full attention back to the three men. "Well, do I get an introduction to your new visitor or not?"
The sideways look she gives Jared is full of mischief.
He grins and says, "Hey, I'm Jared. I'm a friend of Christian's, here to meet Jensen."
"Oh my, look at those dimples, would ya?" She winks at Jensen before introducing herself. "I'm one of Jensen's nurses, Kim. It's good to see him get a new visitor. I mean, Christian and Misha are okay, I guess, but I get tired of seeing the same old faces, don't you agree Jensen?"
The corners of Jensen's eyes crinkle and he gives a tiny, bashful nod.
"Hey! Traitor!" Chris says with a wide smile of his own.
Jared really, really likes Kim. She's awesome.
"Okay honey, this part sucks, but we have to get you hooked back up. Do I need to be worried about your incision?" the nurse asks.
It's not a surprise to anyone in the room when Christian answered the question as though it had been addressed directly to him. "He says he doesn't need a doctor to look at it, so it's probably alright, although maybe…just to be on the safe side."
"Okay, just let me fix the IV and then I'll see if any damage has been done. I'm not too worried about the stitches at this point, but there's a chance the drain has been pulled lose."
The nurse removes a fresh needle from its packaging and attaches it to the IV tube.
Jensen makes a distressed mewling sound and Christian takes up his post next to the young man on the bed, one arm looped around his upper body. "Don't look, kiddo. It's better if you don't watch this part."
Armed with a moist cotton ball, Kim reaches for Jensen's arm and his head whips up so fast he almost butts Christian in the face as he strives to scramble backwards against the metal railing of the bed. If the cop's reflexes hadn't been as sharp as a finely honed knife, he would have been on the receiving end of one hell of a bloody nose.
As he holds a weakly struggling Jensen, Christian looks at Jared, eyes pleading for some kind of help. Jared looks back, wishing he could think of something to do and feeling utterly incompetent, as inadequate as a penny when the candy bar costs a dollar.
"Um Kim, do you mind if I try something?" he asks, giving the nurse an apologetic smile before scrolling through his cell phone until he finds his folder of pictures.
"Yeah, good. If you could just...that's great." She steps back just far enough to let Jared move closer and Jensen stops struggling, although he continues to watch her warily, not willing to let her sneak back up on him.
There are several pictures on his phone of Chris playing his guitar at a party they were both at a couple months ago and a bunch from his cousin's farm that he figures might capture Jensen's attention because...yeah, baby goats are cute no matter who you are.
Jared holds the phone out to the young man, saying, "Did Christian tell you he plays the guitar? He's pretty good at it too. See, here's a picture of him playing for some friends."
It takes Jensen a moment to make up his mind, but then he takes the phone and stares at the picture intently. Jared shows him which buttons to push to flip through all the pictures – the goats are a big hit – and once they're done, the boy seems much calmer.
Jared takes his phone back and bends down to catch the young man's gaze, holding it steadily. "I'm going to be honest with you, okay? The needle is going to pinch but Kim is going to be as careful as she can and Christian is here with you so you don't have to be scared." Jared takes a deep breath. "Do you want to hold my hand, Jensen? That way you can squeeze it as hard as you like if that makes you feel better."
He holds out his hand in the same way he'd held out his phone, leaving the decision of whether to accept the offer completely up to Jensen. Rejection is a very real possibility here Jared knows. Jensen still doesn't trust him, hasn't accepted him into his small, private world, so he steels himself and waits.
Jensen bites his lip and slowly extends his hand, fingers trembling. Halfway there, he stops. Jared's pretty sure he's going to snatch his hand back, but instead it shoots forward the rest of the way and grabs Jared's in a desperate grip. On the inside, Jared rejoices. It's a huge step and it feels like he's won a victory. On the outside, he tilts his head toward Kim to let her know they're ready and gives Jensen's hand a gentle squeeze.
The boy's hand is cold, his fingers long and thin. The index finger is somewhat crooked, obviously broken and left untreated, any potential for elegance striped away by a cruel act and negligence.
With Jensen leaning against Christian and clasping Jared's hand, Kim is able to swab the translucent skin at the crook of his other elbow. Running a gloved fingertip over the area she's just cleaned, she clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth and says, "There aren't any good veins here. That happens sometimes in cases like this. Let's try your wrist."
She must find what she's looking for because she swabs a section of skin on the side of his wrist near the knob of bone and deftly inserts the needle. At the prick, Jensen's breath hitches and his fingers clamp down on Jared's hand. The skin looks tender and the needle obscenely large where it sticks out of his narrow wrist.
Once she's satisfied that the line is open and flowing, Kim places several pieces of tape over the needle to hold it in place. "There, now that's done let's check your belly."
Thinking that Jensen may want some privacy while the nurse peels off the bandages to look at his stomach wound, Jared starts to untangle his hand so he can step away. He sure as hell wouldn't want some stranger standing over him and gawking when he was exposed and on display.
Jensen seems to feel differently though because he doesn't let go of Jared's hand. In fact, his grip becomes as tight as a tourniquet and he pulls Jared closer.
It's a testament to the nurse's professionalism – and probably to her high degree of compassion as well – that she says nothing about the arrangement, simply working around both men as necessary to get at her patient.
Jensen's hair falls into his face as he chokes on a moan and buries his head in the crook of Christian's neck.
"This'll only take a couple minutes, honey." Kim says, voice full of apology.
A blanket is placed over the boy's legs and hips before Kim folds his hospital gown up on his chest and removes the bulky bandages to reveal a healing gash on his concave stomach. The six inch long knife wound begins just under his ribcage on his right side and slashes diagonally to end below his navel. The puckered, pink edges of the rough incision, held together with neat stitches and surgical tape, are inflamed and puffy.
His mother had not only stabbed him, she'd sliced him open as though she'd been gutting a fish.
A plastic tube sticks out of the gash from between a set of stitches. On the other end on the tube is a bulb half full of a viscous liquid which Jared is positive he wants to know nothing about.
Although he'd known what to expect, he's still appalled at the sight. He feels his throat close up, making it difficult to swallow and when he looks at Christian, his friend's jaw is clenched so tight there's the distinct possibility he's going to chip a tooth.
Apparently, seeing the physical damage done by the boy's parents doesn't get any easier with time because Christian had been there when the wound was fresh, spilling blood and gore all over the kitchen tiles. That's something that Jared can't think about right now.
The wound looks grisly to Jared, but Kim doesn't seem fazed by it. "The drain is still in place," she points at the plastic tube and bulb, "and the swelling is beginning to go down. Everything looks normal for this stage in your recovery." With that, she replaces the bandages and unrolls the boy's hospital gown to cover his abdomen and thighs, tucking it in under the blanket.
Unmistakable relief shows in the slump of Jensen's posture when Kim says, "It's time for your next round of pain meds and then I'll check your vitals and get out of your hair."
She fills a syringe from a small, glass vial and injects it into the IV port, takes his temperature, his blood pressure, his pulse, and makes some notes on his chart. "You're still running a slight fever and your blood pressure is on the low side, but that's to be expected. The IV antibiotics you've been getting should knock out the rest of that infection within the next couple of days."
Crossing the floor, she turns when she gets to the door. "You should be feeling the effects of the pain medication right about now, but you need to eat everything on your lunch tray before you fall asleep and I'll bring your vitamin supplements in a little while, okay? Can't have you losing any more weight, honey."
Her pointed glance at Christian evokes a serious nod from the cop and he says, "I'll see to it he eats."
Jared notices that Jensen's eyes have gone a little glassy and he's staring at the nurse's orange scrubs with a bemused look on his face.
Kim tracks his line of vision and laughs. "I know, they're hideous, right? My husband bought them as a joke. I got the last laugh though; for his birthday I bought him some striped pajamas that make him look like the Joker from the first Batman movie. Remember the one with Jack Nicholson? Yeah, he looks totally ridiculous when he wears them."
Pressing a finger to her lips to signify the need to keep a secret, Kim pulls the door closed on her way out of the room.
"You heard her, kiddo; you need to eat." Christian stretches an arm over the bed to grab the rolling side table and pull it closer so the covered tray is within easy reach. "Let's see what's for lunch."
Even though the bed is already in an upright position and the tray is right in front of him, Jensen makes no move to take the cover off and begin eating. It's not that he looks like he doesn't want to eat. Quite the opposite, he's eyeing the tray with what can only be anticipation, but his hands stay motionless at his sides as though he's waiting for something.
Christian removes the lid and Jensen sits up a little straighter, moistens his lips with his tongue. On the tray is a bowl of soup, chunks of vegetables and beef floating around in it, a glass of juice, some applesauce and, for dessert, red Jell-O.
Then his friend does something Jared never would have expected, even after having seen the way he acts with Jensen, how he protects the boy, comforts him, cares for him. Chris I-have-a-gun-and-I-will-use-it-if-I-have-t
This is a sight Jared would have gladly paid money to see.
Like a baby bird, Jensen opens up wide and takes the bite, chewing and swallowing. A pleased, thrumming sound comes from the boy and Jared realizes that's how he expresses his happiness.
Quirking an eyebrow at Christian, Jared waits silently for an explanation.
"It's the only way he'll eat," Christian says without ever looking up from his task, completely wasting the effect of Jared's raised eyebrow.
When Misha comes in a little later, no explanation for where he's been, they've finished the soup and applesauce and are quickly demolishing the wiggly dessert.
The paramedic moves to stand behind Chris where he begins making goofy faces at Jensen, crossing his eyes, sticking out his tongue and giving the cop bunny ears with two fingers. A hint of a smile plays around the young man's lips at Misha's antics which only seems to inspire the paramedic to attempt even sillier faces.
The last bite of Jell-O disappears and Jensen sags back into the bedding, eyes falling closed in apparent contentment.
Misha watches the boy with a fond look on his face. "He's taken to you really quickly. He's not usually so relaxed around new people."
Jared can't quite interpret Misha's tone of voice and he might think that the other man is upset or sad except that he glances over at Jared and smiles. It's not a sad smile. It's a smile of renewed hope and optimism.
"We had a bit of a scare earlier. I'll tell you about it later." Christian says to Misha as he gingerly gets off the bed.
Misha nods. "I'll stay with him now if you need to go. Looks like he might fall asleep pretty soon."
All in all, Jared and Christian have been at the hospital for three hours, about two hours longer than Jared had originally planned.
On the way out to their cars, Jared says, "He's in good hands here."
His remark gets a grimace out of Christian. "Yeah, but what happens when I have to go back to work? When Misha has to? What happens when he's ready to be discharged? His doctor is pushing for him to be admitted to a long-term care facility even though his psychologist doesn't think that's in his best interests. Social services will be getting involved soon and it's going to be a fucking mess."
"Yeah, Misha said something about that."
"About Oak Grove?" Christian asks.
"Yeah, and he had a few choice words to say about Dr. Fuller too."
"I'll bet." There's amusement in Christian's voice.
Jared stands by his car and thinks about what his next step should be. It's not a difficult decision. "I want to come by to see him again tomorrow."
Christian smirks, as though he's masterminded some ingenious plan and is gratified to see it all coming together. "It's kind of hard to stay away once you've met him, huh?"
"Yeah, more like impossible, asshole. What have you gotten me into?"
The friendly punch in the arm is the only response Jared gets.
That night, as he lies in bed, Jared can't get thoughts of Jensen out of his head. The relationship that Christian has with the boy is exactly what he's been searching for. He wants to feel needed like that. He wants someone to take care of, someone to dote on and, most importantly, someone to protect.
A second chance.
After having watched Christian with Jensen, he realizes age isn't important. It makes no difference whether that someone is eight or eighteen.
Megan would have turned eighteen last month if…
On the date she'd gone missing five years ago, he goes to sit at her gravesite every year even though there's no body buried there. Somehow it feels as though he's closer to her there than anywhere else.
Fate seems like such an arbitrary and ridiculous explanation, but a part of him wonders about the chain of events that have led him to this place in his life at just the right time to meet Jensen. Maybe there's a reason he's never been able to adopt a child. Maybe he's always been meant to be there when one particular damaged young man needed him the most.
Into the dark of his bedroom, Jared whispers, "I want to help you. Will you let me?" One day he hopes he gets to say those words to Jensen's face.
On to Chapter 4