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
A/N: I'm posting a day early because I'm traveling for Thanksgiving and, although I will have my ipad with me and will have access to a computer, I'm not 100% sure of my ability to post elsewhere. So, if you celebrate Thanksgiving I hope you have a good one. I hope you enjoy the chapter whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. And I hope you'll leave me some feedback!!! <3
Jared wakes up the next morning with a sense of purpose that's been missing from his life for a while now. There are several magazine articles on his PC for him to edit for work and he needs to go buy another bookshelf for his home office, but those chores have nothing to do with the way he bounces out of bed as soon as the first rays of sunlight come through his bedroom window.
Jensen needs balloons.
He thinks about what Jensen's face might look like, lit up in amazement as Jared walks through the door to his hospital room holding the strings of a dozen helium-filled balloons. Bringing that kind of joy into the life of someone who has been taught never to expect anything good is its own form of magic and Jared is almost giddy at the thought that he has the power to give that to someone, that he can make a difference with something as simple as balloons.
At least he hopes it can be that simple. Deep in his heart he knows it can't. That knowledge only adds to his nervous energy.
The party store opens at nine o'clock and Jared is ill-prepared to wait. Patience is not one of his strong suits so he putters around his house, glancing at his watch every few minutes and groaning when he sees how little time has passed. He feels like he did as a child, waiting to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, every minute an hour.
At eight thirty, Jared jogs out to his car.
The string of bells on the front door of the party story give off a merry jingling sound as he pushes it open and steps inside. His eyes are immediately drawn to the display of silver Mylar balloons with slogans ranging from Happy Birthday to It's a Girl. There are SpongeBobs and Supermen and martini glasses and giant lips.
"Can I help you?" asks the salesgirl behind the balloon counter.
"I need a dozen helium balloons, all different colors," he says. "The brighter the better."
She nods and begins pulling rubber balloons from a bin, inflating them from the canister of helium, tying them off and attaching strings. "Any preferences?" she asks when she's about halfway done.
Jared eyes the collection of bright blue, green, purple, yellow, and red balloons bobbing on the ends of their strings before answering, "Nope, you're doing great!"
Purchase made and balloon strings in hand, Jared crosses the parking lot to his car. It's a struggle to fit all twelve into his backseat and by the time he's muscled them all in, Jared is beginning to have second thoughts. This might not be the best idea he's ever had after all.
What if Jensen doesn't like them? Or worse, what if he's afraid of them?
A batch of butterflies takes up residence in his stomach and Jared comes really close to pulling the balloons out of his car and letting them float up into the crisp autumn sky. But then he thinks about Megan's last birthday party, the way her eyes had lit up at the sight of all the balloons he'd decorated their parent's house with. The memory brings a smile to his face and banishes the butterflies along with all the self-doubt that always seems to plague him.
Getting balloons might turn things around for Jensen, or it might not. He'll never know if he doesn't try. He has to at least try to do something special for the young man. And if Jensen doesn't like them, they can always give them to the kids in the pediatric wing. Surely someone will get a kick out of his gift.
That settled, Jared drives to the hospital, all the while hoping that nothing important is happening behind his car since he can't see a thing through his rear view mirror except brightly-colored blobs.
As he walks down the hospital corridors, he gets plenty of stares, hospital staff, patients and visitors alike craning their necks to watch him manhandle a dozen wayward balloons through doorways and onto the elevator. He doesn't mind. It's kind of fun actually, making people smile.
Even though he hasn't cleared this visit with Christian – too excited to remember to call his friend and let him know when he was coming by – he's not worried about having to stick to a schedule. Visiting hours for Jensen have been extended to allow Christian and Misha full access at any time of the day or night because he does so much better when one of them is here. Whichever of the two men is on duty now will clear it with the nurses and let him in.
He's only just turned onto Jensen's hallway when he hears multiple people shouting and before he even knows which room the voices are coming from, Jared is running.
A shrill cry rends the air – Jensen's cry. It's the same high-pitched wail of distress Jared had heard yesterday and he feels as though his heart is being pierced with shards of ice.
His grip on the balloon strings loosens and all twelve of them float up to the ceiling behind him, completely forgotten.
Jared slides to a halt in front of Jensen's room.
The door is wide open and there are two people in scrubs, holding Jensen prone on the bed, pinning his wrists to the mattress and buckling him into padded restraining devices. A third man is busy preparing a syringe and yelling, "Careful, don't let him move around so much!" while Jensen bucks and twists with a futile desperation that's terrible to see. His eyes are wide and glazed, his mouth is open on a wail, and his legs are tangled in the white sheet.
Misha and Christian are nowhere to be seen.
Jared's not sure how long he stands there, paralyzed by shock, disbelieving. One second, maybe two. Long enough to see the third person advance on Jensen, syringe held in front of him like a fencing foil. He doesn't remember moving, doesn't know how many strides it takes to get him from the doorway to Jensen's bedside. His brain shuts down and he's on auto-pilot.
Instinct takes over and he elbows past one of the people - it's possible there's some shoving involved - and once his hands touch the restraints, he rips the straps out of the buckles, releasing first one wrist and then the other in rapid succession.
The next thing he knows, he has a petrified teenager shivering in his arms, nothing more than fragile bones stark under his hands.
"Back off," Jared snarls at the man with the syringe, voice deep and raspy. "Are you trying to scare him to death?"
Meanwhile, Jensen is trying his level best to get out of the bed and climb Jared as though he were an oak tree. Violent tremors shake his body as he clutches at handfuls of Jared's shirt, burrowing into his side. He's making a continuous, pained noise that sounds like a cross between a whimper and a moan.
Jared sits on the bed, bringing the boy with him, cuddled against his chest as much as possible. In other circumstances it might be amusing how Jensen is able to wrap his long, thin arms and legs so tightly around Jared's neck and waist.
"It's okay. Hush now, it's gonna be alright," Jared croons, holding the boy securely to make him feel safe and to generate some warmth.
Jensen's skin has that clammy feeling of being too hot and too cold at the same time. Goosebumps pebble his arms, no doubt a combination of fever chills from the low grade fever he's still running and reaction to the adrenaline in his bloodstream. His limbs don't have enough fat or muscle on them to insulate him from the effects of the frigid temperature all hospitals seem to have in common.
There's a blanket at the foot of the bed, but it's too far away for Jared to reach without letting go of the teenager who is clinging to him the way a baby koala bear clings to its mother. Instead, Jared shrugs out of his jacket and puts it over Jensen's shoulders. This seems to help because the boy stops moaning and snuggles closer. The knobby ridge of his spine is prominent even under the padded layer of the jacket and Jared can feel the frantic thudding of the young man's heart where their chests press together.
A quick look around tells Jared that at some point during the last couple minutes, two of the staff have left, leaving only the man with the syringe. He has on light blue scrubs over a button down shirt and khaki pants. Mostly bald, what little hair he has left is greying at the temples. He doesn't wear a name tag and the ID badge on a lanyard around his neck is turned the wrong way.
In a voice dripping with condescension, the man - probably a doctor - asks, "Who are you and what are you doing with my patient? By whose authority are you in here?"
Jared is livid, just barely holding it together for Jensen's sake. Rage arcs through him like a bolt of lightning until he can taste it as bitter as battery acid on his tongue and hear it crackling in his ears. It's hard to tell who's shaking harder, him or Jensen.
Only the flutter of damp eyelashes on his neck stops Jared from letting his temper loose on the pompous doctor.
That one small point of contact grounds him, diffusing his anger.
Jensen is relying on him to keep the bad things from happening. He can't do that if he's not here.
Getting himself kicked out of the hospital won't help.
He lowers his gaze to the boy who is straddling his lap and strokes his hair the same way he'd seen Christian almost pet him. The rigid muscles in Jensen's back relax as he melts into the gentle touch, going pliant and lax, his head a slack weight in the hollow of Jared's throat. His trembling eases.
Unwilling to jeopardize his welcome at the hospital, Jared curbs the rest of his anger. "I'm Jared. I'm...Jensen's friend." He takes a deep breath, lets it out through his mouth. "If I can get him to calm down for you, will you let me stay?"
He's pretty proud of the humble tone he manages to infuse within his voice. Humble is not one of the emotions he currently feels.
The doctor presses his lips into a thin line, looks at Jensen and then away at a spot on the wall as he seems to mull the matter over. Slowly, he lowers the syringe. "It is my job to treat Mr. Ackles' injuries and I will use whatever means necessary to do my job."
Fucking asshole, Jared thinks, a current of anger spiking.
"However, I do not want to restrain him any more than you want to see him restrained," the doctor continues. "You can stay, provided you keep him still so I can remove the drain from his abdomen. This will help." He holds up the syringe again, stepping forward. "Just prevent him from disconnecting his IV before I have administered this anxiolytic.
Jared's relief at being granted permission to stay is a temporary thing because Jensen can hear just fine, despite what the doctor seems to think, and he begins to panic again at the brusque man's approach, releasing his grip on Jared and trying to squirm away.
The rapport he's established with the boy is new and as delicate as the first buds of spring. He wants to nurture it and watch it grow, not stand by and watch Dr. Asshole rip it out by the roots.
To gain some time, not to mention perspective, he says, "Wait a minute, I thought you weren't giving Jensen any drugs other than painkillers."
The doctor stops, thank God, and flicks an index finger against the syringe, a smile on his fleshy face. "His pain is under control so over the last few days we have reduced his dependence on the stronger analgesics. He is more alert now and with his added cognizance has come additional anxiety. This medication will merely help manage his anxiety."
"Manage his anxiety? Or manage him?" Jared can't help but ask.
Jensen is still struggling so Jared turns away from the doctor's frown to sooth the agitated boy. "Jensen. Hey, Jensen." He calls softly, massaging the nape of Jensen's neck until the boy gives up on his attempts to escape and makes eye contact. The fear is back full force and Jared's heart sinks at the emotions he sees layered on top of it - suspicion and betrayal.
"Jensen please. I promise I'm not gonna let anyone hurt you." The words tumble out before he can think about what he's saying, before he can stop them. And now he has to make them into truth, even though he doesn't know how to or if it's even possible.
Some of the fear fades from Jensen's green eyes and he cocks his head as if signaling that he's willing to give Jared another chance. Jared takes a shaky breath and swallows reflexively, surprised at how affected he is by this boy.
"Okay, so you and I had a really good time together yesterday with Christian, right? We told lots of stories and you listened." Jared waits for the tiny nod of acknowledgment before he goes on. "I know that you don't talk, but you understand me when I talk to you."
Jensen isn't stupid. Jared has never believed that he was.
After another hesitant incline of Jensen's head, Jared gets to his point. "That means you understand me when I tell you this doctor doesn't want to hurt you, he only wants to help you get better by removing the drain."
With a fear-filled glance at the doctor, Jensen shakes his head.
"Yes." Jared says in a firm, but gentle voice, not giving the boy any choice in the matter even though he hates having to take away what little control Jensen probably feels like he has in this situation. "We'll do this together, you and me, and then the doctor won't have to give you any more medicine or use the restraints. I promise I'll be here the whole time."
As far as incentives go, he thinks his presence is a pretty lame one. To sweeten the deal, he says, "If you're good, I'll even sing you a song and then you'll have blackmail material on me for the rest of my life."
The doctor gives an impatient huff and Jensen tenses.
"Everything's fine," Jared says while he angles the young man so he's lying on the bed, propped up against Jared's chest, his belly exposed.
Jensen nestles in and, once he's settled, he lifts a hand to Jared's throat, trailing his slender fingers to Jared's mouth.
Laughing, Jared says, "You're gonna hold me to the singing thing, huh?"
He can't see the boy's face from this angle, but he feels the nod as soft, fine hair brushes along his cheekbone.
"You asked for it," he warns.
He tilts his head toward Jensen, mouth right against his ear, and begins to sing, low and quiet, as though he's singing a lullaby.
Ooh you make me live
Whatever this world can give to me
It's you, you're all I see
Ooh you make me live now honey
While Jared is crooning, the doctor takes a pair of small, stainless steel scissors from a metal tray on the counter.
Jensen makes a petulant, whimpering sound and tries to scoot away, but when Jared scratches blunt fingernails lightly through his unevenly cut hair, the boy stills.
Ooh you make me live
You're the best friend
that I ever had...
In less than a minute, the doctor has snipped a stitch on either side of the tube protruding from the healing gash and pulled the embedded length out through the hole. It's over so quickly that Jared almost misses it, his focus reserved solely for Jensen and on keeping his voice from wobbling off key.
Jared wraps up the song while the doctor wipes the weeping scar with a disinfectant swab and replaces the bandages.
"I have finished," The balding doctor announces.
Jared wonders if he's supposed to stand and applaud. He doesn't.
He's spared from any reply at all by Christian who cracks the door open and peers in. The cop's face registers surprise at seeing Jared and Jensen cuddled up together on the bed and then, when he sees the doctor, his expression changes into mild disgust, as though someone has just placed a plate full of lima beans under his nose.
"Doctor Fuller," he says in a voice that sounds unnaturally neutral, eyes going flinty. "I didn't know you were going to be here."
"I was just removing the drain, Officer Kane. Everything looks good. He'll be discharged soon. Another day or two probably. I've checked with Oak Grove and Jensen is in luck, they have an opening." Doctor Fuller smiles, but it's more of a self-satisfied smirk than anything.
Jensen sticks his thumb in his mouth and twists around to put his back towards the doctor, his face mashed into the crook of Jared's neck.
Making a show of opening the door wide, Christian steps to the side, leaving a huge space for the doctor to get by. "Well, I'm sure you must be very busy. Lots of other patients to see I'll bet." He's being so obvious that Jared has a hard time not cracking up. His friend has always had a flare for the dramatic.
"Yes, I do."
As Doctor Fuller sweeps out the door, Jared realizes that he never once addressed Jensen directly.
The door swings shut and Christian comes over to stand next to the bed. "How are you doing, Jensen?"
Jensen uncurls from his position wrapped around Jared, takes his thumb out of his mouth and reaches for the cop.
Christian ruffles his hair, laughing. "I don't know if there's room for all three of us on that bed, kiddo. But hey, I wanted to ask you if you've seen any clowns around here. Besides Doctor Fuller, I mean."
There's a little frown of puzzlement on Jensen's face when he shakes his head.
"Huh, that's surprising because it looks like there was some kind of clown collision out in the hallway and no one has bothered to clean up the mess yet. I swear, there must be at least ten balloons floating on the ceiling out there." Christian tosses a thumb over his shoulder.
"Twelve," Jared mumbles into the back of Jensen's head, not meeting his friend's eyes.
"What?" Christian asks.
Resigned to the inevitable teasing, Jared confesses, "I said twelve. There are twelve balloons out in the hallway. They're for Jensen."
Christian blinks. "Oh," His gaze slides from Jared to Jensen and back. "Well, what are you waiting for? Bring them in here. Give our boy his balloons."
The balloons are as Christian had described them, clustered on the ceiling in haphazard formations. With the strings hanging down, they're within easy reach and Jared is grateful for honest people and for the balloons still being where he'd left them in his frantic dash down the corridor. He plucks the strings from the air, one by one, taking his time before heading back to the room where Jensen is waiting. Since the balloons can no longer be a surprise, anticipation will have to be the next best thing. And maybe it's better this way. Jensen doesn't do well with surprises.
Because he's holding the strings in front of himself and he has to squeeze them through the door first, his view is obstructed and he misses Jensen's initial reaction. All he hears above the squeak and rustle of the balloons as they bounce against each other is a gasp and then nothing.
Finally, he's through the door and he can see Jensen.
Jensen is smiling.
It's the first time Jared has seen the young man smile and the utter joy transforms his face, giving him crinkles at the corners of his expressive eyes and bringing color to his pale cheeks. Suddenly, Jared sees what he's only sensed up until now. Something precious and rare. Jensen's innocence. It shines from deep inside him like a beacon in the dreary hospital room.
It's...God, it's beautiful.
Jared, feeling kind of dazed, has to clear his throat.
If this is what a smile does to him, he wonders what it's going to be like the first time he hears Jensen laugh.
He can hardly wait.
On to Chapter 5
A/N: The song Jared sings to Jensen is You're My Best Friend by the incomparable Queen. If you'd like to listen to the song just because it's great you can find a youtube video of the band and the song here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2JSUXaY-tw