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 (4,300 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
"Fuck! That sneaky bastard! I should have known he'd pull something like this. I should have known he'd jump the gun and have Jensen moved here before we were ready." Christian is pacing the Oak Grove lobby with long, furious strides, his compact, powerful shoulders hunched and his hands fisted as though he's ready to take on the entire facility's staff in hand-to-hand combat.
"I don't care about Dr. Fuller, when can we see Jensen?" Just as worried and pissed as his friend, Jared would probably be pacing too except the cop is already using all the available pacing space. Instead, he stands near the locked door that leads to the patients' rooms, leaning against the wall. It's as close as he's allowed to get to Jensen.
He watches Misha over at the admittance desk where he's talking - if you can call it that - to a woman whose black hair is pulled back into a severe ponytail which highlights her high cheekbones and straight, thin nose. Misha's arms are flying in emphatic, sweeping gestures as he speaks. She shakes her head, a frown on her face.
The paramedic abruptly turns and stalks over to Jared, narrowly avoiding a collision with Christian by dodging out of the cop's path. "Not until three o'clock. They won't let us in to see him until three."
"But we've been waiting here for hours."
"Yeah well, they don't seem to care about that."
An hour and a half later, the woman at the desk says, "You can see him now."
Jensen lies listlessly on the bed. His unfocused eyes are open to mere slits and wander the room, never landing on anything or anyone. His lips are shiny with saliva, a trail of drool wetting his chin. A band of cloth stretches across his stomach from one side of the bed to the other, preventing him from sitting up.
Not that he's trying to. Not that he's really trying to move at all.
"Hey kiddo, how're you doing?" Christian asks, voice soft and tentative. A far cry from the fierce, angry growl of the lobby. He takes a slow step forward. And then another. "We came as soon as they let us."
Jared waits for the moment of recognition, the moment when Jensen will notice them, reach for them, urgent fingers quivering, like the last time he'd seen them. Before this place.
The moment doesn't come.
Jared's throat begins to close up, constricting like he's at the end of a hangman's noose.
"Jensen?" The cop takes one more step and then he's next to the bed. His hand moves to Jensen's face as though drawn there by a pulley in fits and starts. He wipes the boy's chin with the pad of his thumb, removing the drool.
There's no response.
Christian's eyes become a wasteland, devoid of any emotion. If Jared thought his friend's anger could be scary, this...emptiness is a million times worse. "They've had him for six hours and they've already given him enough drugs to send him into outer space. How is that helping him? Someone's going to answer for this," Then Christian turns and disappears out the door, the heels of his cowboy boots making a harsh thudding sound against the linoleum flooring. The noise lingers after he's gone and Jared marks his progress down the hall by the fading echo.
Everything else in this place is artificially quiet. It's a place of muted noises, muted pain, and muted lives.
The florescent light bulbs overhead give off a staticky hum as they illuminate the room. Besides the bed Jensen is on, there are two others, both empty. At three in the afternoon that doesn't mean he gets a room to himself. All it means is that his roommates aren't here right now.
The air has a stale, chemical smell to it, similar to a hospital, only somehow more cloying. Jared feels a pressure building in his sinuses like the chlorine headaches he used to get when he was eight and his parents took him for swim lessons at the YMCA's indoor pool.
His eyesight begins to tunnel and he loses his peripheral vision, loses sight of Misha's haunted face and the sterile walls and the empty beds until all he sees is Jensen. He feels a sudden and intense need to explain to the boy how this has happened, how they have all failed him so horribly. To beg his forgiveness.
Sitting on the side on the bed, he takes one of Jensen's hands in both of his. Frail and cold, the boy's hand doesn't so much as twitch to acknowledge his existence. "His hands are freezing."
"I'll get him a blanket." Although Jared's statement hadn't been addressed to anyone in particular, Misha responds so quickly it makes Jared think the paramedic is just relieved to have found some way to be of help in this God awful situation. He's out the door on his quest for a blanket before Jared can even look over to thank him.
That leaves just him and Jensen, alone in a place that feels so depressingly somber it's more like a funeral home than a place where people live.
"This isn't how it was supposed to go, you know that, don't you?" he whispers, a tear gliding down his cheek. "You were supposed to come home with me, just like I told you. We've been working so hard the last two days to make that happen, me and Christian and Doc Beaver. We are so close, sweetie, so close. You won't have to be here long."
Jensen shows no signs of hearing him. Another string of drool leaves a trail on his chin. His beautiful inner light has been snuffed out by whatever drugs have been pumped into him and Jared feels bereft without it.
He brings the young man's hand up to his mouth, blows some warm air over the raised knuckles, and presses his lips against the delicate skin. Maybe it's a strange thing to do, but it feels right so Jared doesn't try to analyze it. Jensen's skin is soft, although there are several scars on the meaty part of one palm near his thumb.
"Don't worry. We're going to get you out of here soon. I promise."
That's the important thing, the thing he most needs Jensen to know. They won't let him stay in this place.
Jared wants to tell Jensen about all the people he's been talking to, all the meetings he's attended, all the forms he's filled out, to get to the point where Jensen can come live with him in his little house out in the country. But the words, sounding like just so many excuses in his mind, get tangled on his tongue and die.
Instead, he sits in silence and plays with Jensen's fingers, measuring their length compared to his own and tracing the veins on the back of the boy's hand until eventually Jensen's bleary, green eyes close the rest of the way and he seems to fall into a deep drug-induced sleep.
Misha returns with a blanket, it's edges fraying in places, and drapes it over Jensen's still form.
"He's going to hate me now." The paramedic laments, not for the first time.
Jared sighs and tucks Jensen's hand under the blanket. "He's not going to hate you. You didn't want this to happen any more than the rest of us did. You gotta stop beating yourself up over it, man."
"Yeah, but I'm the one who was there when they came to get him. There wasn't anything I could do to stop it and...Jesus." Misha's voice wavers. "If you'd seen the way he looked at me when they-"
"The only reason you were there and I wasn't is because I was talking to the case worker from social services at the time," Jared interrupts. "It could just as easily have been me there and I wouldn't have been able to stop them either. Dr. Fuller made sure of that."
"I asked him why he did it. As soon as Jensen was gone, I went to see him in his office to ask why he didn't give us just one more day to get you cleared with social services to take care of Jensen. You know what he said?" Misha pauses and looks at Jared, eyes red-rimmed yet smoldering with indignation.
"What?" Unable to look at Misha when he asks the question, Jared pulls on a strand of blanket and watches it unravel a little more.
"He started spouting off some crap about 'consistency of care.' Can you believe that? He said that Jensen will get consistent care here and he wanted us to see how well he does at Oak Grove before we make arrangements for him to stay with you. Like we're going to change our minds based on this!" Misha's tone is scathing as he throws a hand into the air and waves it around.
Jensen makes a small, fretful sound in his sleep which pulls at something deep inside Jared. Every protective instinct he has wells up like a river overflowing its banks. Rubbing the boy's chest just in case he can take some comfort from the touch, Jared wonders how anyone can think consistent care is better than quality care.
He's happy to see Christian come back into the room and even more so to see Doc Beaver behind him.
Jensen's psychiatrist has never believed that Oak Grove is a good solution for his patient and has been a staunch supporter of Jared's from the first time he'd come by and seen him with Jensen in the hospital. Of course, the enthusiastic recommendations from both Christian and Misha had helped sway his opinion as had Jared's vows to do everything possible to provide Jensen with a secure home where he will feel safe enough to begin healing. Over the last two days, Doc Beaver has even gone as far as to spend his own time advocating with social services, hospital administration and anyone else who would listen, for Jensen to be released into Jared's care.
That's not to say the psychiatrist doesn't have his reservations. He has also been very vocal about wanting to stay involved in Jensen's care no matter what the outcome, which is why he's been appointed to Jensen's case and given certain privileges in regards to Jensen's care at Oak Grove.
"I found this hothead in the Superintendent's office, trying to incite a riot." Doc Beaver indicates Christian with an annoyed nod. "That's not going to win you any favors in a place like this."
Christian's scowl deepens. He walks over to Jensen's bed and brushes the boy's hair away from his forehead. His voice sounds hollow when he asks, "Did you see what they've done to him?"
"I was here when they brought him in. He was inconsolable. There was little else they could do."
Jared can only imagine how terrified Jensen must have been at being snatched away from the only place he's ever felt safe and thrust into an entirely foreign environment where he didn't know anyone. Much as he hates to admit it, sedating him in this instance had probably been a kindness.
But Christian doesn't see it that way. The cop makes slashing gestures through the air as he growls, "They could have let us stay with him. They could have waited one more day."
"Oak Grove has a strict policy of not allowing any visitors until the patient is settled. Usually it's a good policy. Just...not in this case." Doc Beaver shakes his head. "I do have some good news though, Jared; I just received notification that your application as care provider for Jensen has been approved."
For the span of several seconds all Jared can do is stare at the older man, not sure if his ears could be trusted. "I've been approved?"
There's a flash of amusement in the psychiatrist's eyes which he covers up quickly with a raised eyebrow. "Isn't that what we've been waiting to find out? Yes, you've been approved."
Jared's emotions are so jumbled that he can't quite get a handle on them. He's happy, of course he's happy, but he's also stunned. He shouldn't be. Doc Beaver is right, they've been waiting for this, expecting it. But now that it's actually happening it's a little...overwhelming.
Christian comes around the bed and thumps him on the back, a huge grin splitting his face. "You did it, man!"
Misha whoops and then puts both hands over his mouth, looking around sheepishly as though he's in a library and the librarian is about to kick him out.
Jared wants to pull Jensen into a hug, share this news with him, tell him what it means and see the corners of his eyes crinkle. But Jensen is lost to him right now, only the shallow rise and fall of his chest with each breath he takes giving evidence that he's more than just a fragile shell.
"Can we get him out of here today?" Jared asks, voice raspy.
"No," Doc Beaver presses his lips together and shakes his head. "He should sleep for the rest of the day and all of tonight. Come back first thing tomorrow. I'll put a stop order on all sedatives and get his release papers from Oak Grove processed in the meantime."
"Yeah, like we're leaving him here alone," Christian snorts. "I'm staying."
In total agreement, Jared crosses his arms over his chest and Misha gets a mulish look on his face.
Doc Beaver shrugs on his way out the door. "You can give it a try."
They make it another thirty-five minutes before an attendant, leading another resident, comes into the room. She helps her charge into one of the two empty beds even as she tells them, "Visiting hours were over at four o'clock. The three of you will have to leave now."
The old man she is assisting has rheumy eyes the color of wheat. His back is bowed and, despite being on the thin side, he has a very round, very noticeable beer belly that causes the hem of his shirt to ride up.
"But we were only allowed in to see Jensen at three o'clock," Jared explains in his most charming voice. "Please, if he wakes up he'll be frightened unless at least one of us is here."
Giving him a rather exasperated glare, she says, "The rules are in place for a reason. There are other people living here who deserve their privacy and your respect."
In the battle of wills that follows, there's just no contest. For every one of Jared's heart-felt pleas, she recites the same iron-clad policy that absolutely forbids overnight guests.
And then she threatens to call the police, to which Christian heatedly replies that he is the police.
The old man with the pot belly tries to get out of his bed and Jensen whimpers, still asleep, yet somehow subconsciously aware of the rising tension.
Afraid that causing a major scene, or more of a scene than they've already caused, will result in his approval as Jensen's care provider being revoked, Jared decides it's time to leave. He hustles Misha and Christian out of the building, taking comfort from the fact that he'll be back first thing in the morning to take Jensen home and they'll never have to set foot in Oak Grove ever again.
The thought of putting anything in his mouth the next morning, even coffee, makes Jared's stomach churn.
His whole life is about to change. This is it. Today he takes responsibility for another human life. Jensen will be dependent on him to meet even his most basic needs.
Jared fights against the familiar sense of inadequacy, the feeling that he's not enough, that he's not ready.
That he's going to fail someone again.
He takes a deep breath as he walks out of his house.
He can't fail Jensen. He won't.
Severe Ponytail Lady is at the front desk when he walks in, but this time instead of directing Jared to have a seat, she immediately picks up her headset and pages Doc Beaver. Her change in attitude doesn't strike Jared as a good sign and his heart begins to pound.
Christian gets there next and together they wait for the psychiatrist while Christian tells him that Misha has been called back to work and, as much as he wants to, he won't be able to help with Jensen until his shift is over.
Jared nods absently, his mind already racing ahead to the arrival of Doc Beaver, wondering why he's been paged and what he's going to tell them. His overactive imagination creates the very real possibility that, upon second examination, his application has been denied and that Jensen will have to stay at Oak Grove. This outcome becomes such a certainty to him that by the time Doc Beaver comes through the locked door from the residents' wing of the facility, Jared is nearly hyperventilating.
"I'm glad you're here. He's awake. Come with me." Holding the door open, the psychiatrist hurries them along and Jared's dread intensifies at the lack of an explanation.
Jensen's room seems much further away from the lobby than it had yesterday. On the way, they pass a common room and what looks like a dining hall, both full of people, as well as many closed doors on either side of the corridor.
Doc Beaver stops with his hand on the knob to Jensen's room. "He hasn't eaten anything since he got here. Someone on staff was trying to get him to eat breakfast."
That's all he needs to say for Jared to know exactly what he's going to see once the door opens.
Sure enough, Jensen is in a defensive crouch on the floor, chest heaving. He has a thumb in his mouth and an arm protectively over his head. His eyes are huge, whites showing around the green of his irises as they dart wildly around the room.
Desperate to end the boy's terror, Jared steps forward, Jensen's name on the tip on his tongue.
"Oh kiddo," Christian murmurs, also moving closer.
There's a span of seconds when Jensen freezes, watching them like a cornered rabbit might watch a pair of foxes.
Then he's on his hands and knees and dashing toward them.
Jared figures the boy will latch onto Christian and, if the way the cop kneels down is any indication, Christian thinks so too. But with a heart-wrenching sob, Jensen launches himself at Jared, wraps his arms around Jared's calves and looks up at him, begging to be saved.
It's not a conscious decision, it's automatic. Jared leans over and picks the boy up. Jensen's manic grip shifts easily from Jared's legs to his neck, legs clamping around his waist.
The bulge of padding is gone from the boy's midsection, but not from his hips, leading Jared to the conclusion that the bandages have been removed from his healing knife wound and that he's still wearing a diaper.
"Shh sweetheart, it's okay. I'm not gonna let anything bad happen to you," he soothes.
For as tall as he is, nearly six feet, the boy is surprisingly light and Jared has no trouble holding him. Swaying a little from side to side, he keeps up a steady litany of comforting sounds until Jensen's breath stops hitching.
"You're a natural," Christian says, voice throaty and smile crooked.
Jensen drops his head to Jared's shoulder and...Jesus...it's too early for this. Jared knows it's too soon. He hasn't even taken Jensen home yet and he's already done for, finished.
There's nothing he wouldn't do to keep this boy safe. Nothing.
He's so screwed.
He turns his head and presses a kiss to Jensen's temple.
Doc Beaver clears his throat. "Jared, can I talk to you in private? Just for a couple minutes," he adds quickly.
"Christian?" Jared asks as he moves over to the bed and begins extricating himself from the tangle of Jensen's long arms and legs, shushing him and getting him settled on top of the frayed blanket with whispered promises to be right back.
The cop nods, "Yeah, I've got him," and takes Jared's place next to Jensen, a hand on the teenager's back.
Outside the room, Doc Beaver scratches at the greying whiskers on his chin and fixes Jared in a steely gaze. "I just need to make sure you understand something," he says, tone as brittle as parchment. "That...in there...that isn't love or even friendship. Jensen doesn't know what those things are so he can't feel them. Not for you. Not for anybody. Not yet."
"I-I don't...I didn't..." Jared stammers.
"He's using you," the psychiatrist states flatly. "I know it sounds harsh. I don't mean it to be. But you need to know. He's using you because he's smart and he's figured out that you'll protect him. That's all it is, survival instinct."
"Why is that a bad thing?" Jared hopes the hurt isn't noticeable in his tone.
Doc Beaver cocks an eyebrow. "It's not, kid, as long as you accept it for what it is and don't read too much into it. It's the beginning of trust and he's going to need that. You have to teach him to trust you. His regression is the key to earning his trust."
"How? What do I need to do?"
"You need to find a way to create a real bond between the two of you. I have some ideas for you to try and the first one is something we've already talked about. We can give it a try right here before you go home. If it works, we'll be addressing two of his major issues at the same time - his trust issues and his need to increase caloric intake. Are you sure you're ready for this?"
There's nothing for Jared to consider. "Yes, I'm ready."
"Okay then, you go in to him. I'll go get it from the kitchen. Be back in a minute."
When the psychiatrist comes back, he's got a baby bottle in his hand.
"We're really going to go through with this?" Christian asks, a skeptical frown pulling down the corners of his mouth. "What's in there anyway?"
"It's a supplement, whole milk fortified with extra vitamins and minerals plus electrolytes and easily digested proteins," the psychiatrist explains. "It won't take the place of regular meals; he should still get most of his daily nutritional value by eating a wide variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains...all the same foods you would choose to eat yourself." He holds the bottle out to Jared. "Think of this as an opportunity to spend a little time everyday just relaxing and being close to Jensen. It's good for bonding, sort of like a trust building exercise."
Jared takes the bottle and holds it gingerly. It's warm and brings back memories of helping his mom feed Megan when she was a baby.
A lifetime ago.
"Are you sure about this? I mean, I know we've talked about it, but...shouldn't I be encouraging him to feed himself?"
"Not yet," Doc Beaver replies. "Jensen's regression is his way of coping with everything that's happened to him. Forcing him to adapt at this point, to conform his behavior to our idea of normal, is the worst thing we could do. You'll need to work within the framework he's built for himself. It's the only way to reach him. First you need to gain his trust. The rest will follow."
"Yeah, okay." Jared sits on the bed next to Jensen. He tips the bottle up, placing the nipple against the boy's lips, not pressing down, just nudging gently.
Jensen takes to the bottle right away and soon he's happily sucking away. After a couple minutes, he nestles in close against Jared's side. Their eyes meet and lock.
Jared can't look away. He's mesmerized by the soulful, green eyes gazing back at him. An eternal sadness radiates from their depths.
"What do you say, Jensen, are you ready to come home with me?"
Jensen wriggles around and Jared's not sure what he's doing. He has to reposition the bottle to keep it from slipping out of Jensen's mouth while the teenager squirms and twists until he's cuddled up in Jared's lap, one hand firmly twisted in the material of Jared's jacket.
Then he looks up at Jared and nods.
On to Chapter 6