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 (3,900 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
They've only just walked in the door when Jared realizes he's not ready for this.
Jensen is clinging to his neck and each time Jared tries to put him down the boy begins to fuss. The soft, mournful cries gut Jared and have him picking Jensen back up and trying to soothe him.
"What am I doing wrong, Chris?" he asks his friend, feeling woefully incompetent.
Christian comes up behind them and puts a hand on Jared's shoulder. "You're not doing anything wrong. He just needs time to get used to it here, to see that this is a safe place. It's understandable that he's a little anxious. Considering the circumstances, he's doing great and so are you."
Christian's words make a lot of sense and Jared pushes his feelings of inadequacy back into a dark corner of his mind.
"Why don't you show him around?" Christian suggests.
"Right. Why didn't I think of that?" Grateful for the diversion, Jared smiles. "How about a tour of your new home, sweetie?"
They start off in the living room where Jared points out the framed picture of his mom and dad, their arms around each other, all smiles for the expensive photographer at their 20th wedding anniversary party. It's been about a year and a half since Jared's last visit to San Antonio. He isn't very close to his parents anymore - hasn't been for a while now.
In the kitchen, Jared shows Jensen the little table and four chairs where they'll be eating most of their meals and the large bay window that overlooks a stretch of undeveloped land behind the house. Next, he shows the boy his office and then the two bedrooms.
"And this one's yours," he says as he carries Jensen, Christian trailing behind them, into what used to be the guest room. The sheets on the double bed are clean and the comforter is brand new with blue, green and cream colored squares on it. "What do you think?"
Jensen looks around, a bewildered crease between his eyebrows, and Jared really wishes he knew what the boy was thinking.
"I wasn't sure what colors you like so I bought sort of plain bedding, but we can always get a different set if you don't like it. And we can repaint the walls any color you want, they don't have to be beige or, you know, we could put up wallpaper if you want something more interesting." Jared brings his rambling to a stop and looks at Christian for a little help as Jensen continues to stare at the room as though he's not sure what it has to do with him.
Christian pulls out one of the drawers in the dresser and holds up a pair of grey sweatpants. "I see you've already been shopping. These look pretty comfy. What else did you get?" He crosses to the small closet and opens the door.
The effect on Jensen is immediate. He inhales loudly, bites down on his lower lip, and his entire body begins to tremble.
"Jensen? What is it?" Jared asks.
"Shoot, I'm sorry, kiddo. I forgot about the...Let's just go back to the living room for a little while." Christian closes the closet door and ushers them out of the room.
As soon as they cross the threshold Jensen calms down, although it takes a couple minutes before he stops shaking.
Christian rubs Jensen's back and his voice is a deep, soothing drawl as he says, "We aren't ever going to make you stay in a closet. That's never going to happen to you again. I know you don't have any reason to believe us; you don't have any reason to trust us yet, but you'll see you don't have to be scared anymore."
Jared remembers the evidence found in Jensen's house by the police - shallow grooves on the inside of the door apparently made by fingernails as well as a kind of nest constructed out of soiled clothing.
His stomach flips over violently and Jared feels nauseous.
Jensen isn't all that heavy, but the continued strain of carrying him around is beginning to take a toll on Jared's arm and back muscles. He shifts the weight over to his hip as much as possible. What he wants to do is sit down with Jensen, cuddle him, and let him know that everything is going to be all right.
The lack of a couch in the living room now seems like a huge mistake because the recliners are large and comfy, but they're really not designed to hold two people. He's going to need to go buy a couch tomorrow, maybe after Doc Beaver's scheduled home visit.
Giving a resigned sigh, Jared sinks into the nearest recliner, Jensen held in front of him so that the boy is straddling his lap. Unexpectedly, it's very comfortable with Jensen a warm weight resting against his chest. Jared runs a hand through the hair at the nape of the teenager's neck, lightly scratching his scalp the way he's learned Jensen likes, and the boy gives a hitching sigh as he relaxes into the caress.
"I'm so glad you're here," Jared tells him. "So very glad."
It's almost time for lunch and they haven't moved from the recliner. Christian and Jared have been talking about celebrity gossip, keeping the discussion topics light in deference to listening ears. Jensen's eyelids have been getting lower and lower with every blink, his body getting heavier and heavier where he rests against Jared.
"Are you guys getting hungry?" Christian asks. "I could probably make us some sandwiches."
Jared looks at Jensen's drooping body posture. "I don't know, I think maybe Jensen needs a nap and then we can have a late lunch after that."
Christian follows his gaze, smiling that fond smile he seems to reserve only for Jensen. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea. It's been a tiring day already what with...well, what with everything. I could probably use a nap myself." He opens his mouth in an exaggerated yawn and then gives Jensen a cocky wink.
He gets a confused blink from Jensen in return.
"Come on, Jensen. Why don't you try out your new bed?" Jared says as he lifts Jensen up and carries him into his new bedroom.
Jensen goes willingly into the bed, loose-limbed and compliant. It's an easy matter to pull his pants off so that he's left in only a t-shirt and his diaper. With a kiss on the forehead, Jared tucks him under the comforter.
"Sleep tight, sweetheart."
Jared turns off the light, leaves the door ajar, and walks out of the room feeling really good about how the day is going for the first time since waking up that morning.
This is going to work out. He can be what Jensen needs; he can give the boy a sense of security and teach him what it means to be loved unconditionally. Everything is going to be just fine. He can do this.
"That went well," Christian whispers.
"Yeah, he was really sleepy." Jared smiles, a pleased feeling warming him from the inside.
Before he can finish congratulating himself on a job well done, he hears a sound behind him and turns around to see Jensen crawling out the door and down the hallway back to where he and Christian are standing in the living room.
"I guess I spoke too soon." Christian's tone is playful, but his expression is apologetic.
Jared smiles in response. "Yeah, way to jinx me, Kane. Should have known it was too easy, I suppose." Then he goes to kneel in front of Jensen. "Hey Jensen, what are you doing out of bed, sweetie. I thought you were sleepy."
The teenager just sits back on his padded bottom and looks at Jared with wide, puzzled eyes.
"Let's give this another try." Jared takes him back into his room and tucks him under the covers again. "This is your room and this is your bed. It's okay for you to sleep in here when you're tired."
Jensen still looks sleepy. He lifts a hand to his face, rubbing at his red, irritated-looking eyes with the knuckles of a loose fist.
"Christian and I are right in the living room if you need us. We aren't going anywhere so you get some rest and I'll be back in to check on you in a little while. All right?"
Jensen's eyes close obediently and Jared feels a pang of anguish for this sweet, lost boy who is trying so hard to understand where he fits in, what's expected of him. He places his hand on the crown of Jensen's head and just leaves it there, thumb stroking away the worry lines on his forehead. Once he thinks the boy is asleep, he tiptoes out of the room, this time closing the door behind himself.
Christian cocks an eyebrow at him as he creeps stealthily down the hallway. "How'd it go?"
"I think he's really down this time."
"So, what do we do now?"
They end up playing Xbox with the sound muted, but Jared is antsy, wanting to check on Jensen while also knowing that the teenager needs to learn how to do this. As long as everything is quiet in Jensen's room, he needs to relax and give him some independence. Jared loses the game of Madden and even though only half an hour has passed, he can't hold out any longer.
"I'm going to go see how he's doing," he tells Christian.
Christian grins. "I was wondering how much longer you were going to last."
"Yeah, because you're not the least bit curious. You don't want to make sure he's okay. It's just me. I'm the only one here who cares," Jared teases, knowing that Christian wouldn't be here, wouldn't have ditched work for over a week if he didn't care a whole hell of a lot.
"Hey now, I never said that." Christian frowns with a mock pout and Jared smiles at his small victory.
Still smiling, he listens briefly at Jensen's door. When he hears nothing, he turns the knob and tries to crack it open to peek inside. But instead of swinging easily the way he expects it to, the door won't budge. It's stuck. Smile disappearing as a sick dread washes over him, he pushes harder and hears a frightened yelp and then some scuffling.
Free of the blockage, the door shoots forward at Jared's next push and he sees Jensen scrambling away from him.
"Jensen! What were you doing sitting up against the door? Have you been there the whole time?" The words are startled out of him and as soon as they pass his lips Jared wants to kick himself. The answer is immediately obvious. Of course he has.
The boy cringes and lifts an arm as if to ward off a blow.
That's all Jared needs to see before he's on the floor next to him, wrapping long arms around him in a protective embrace.
"Oh sweetie, please don't. It's okay," he croons softly, trying to make up for the perceived harshness of his earlier tone. "You just startled me, that's all. You didn't do anything wrong."
Christian appears in the doorway, a worried expression on his face. He looks at them and runs a hand through his dark brown hair. "I take it the nap was unsuccessful." At Jared's wry nod, he continues, "Well, I guess that means it's time for lunch. Are you hungry yet, kiddo?"
Jensen peers up at Christian from under lowered lashes and nods.
Jared is grateful Christian is here. He's not sure how he'd be doing this without him, but he's going to have to figure it out in a hurry because Christian has used up all his vacation time and the Chief can't spare him any longer. He'll be working the night shift tomorrow.
When he repositions Jensen to lift him up, the darkened blue stripe on his diaper alerts Jared to the need for a change. "Hey Chris, can you go ahead and start lunch while I change Jensen?"
"Sure, no problem."
Once Christian has gone to the kitchen to make grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, Jared retrieves the large padded mat he's purchased for just this purpose and unrolls it on the carpet next to Jensen. "Lie down on your changing pad while I get you a new diaper, sweetie." Giving the cushioned mat an encouraging pat, Jared waits until he's sure Jensen has the right idea and then goes to get one of the fresh diapers off the stack near the dresser.
Following the instructions he'd received at the hospital, Jared unfastens and removes the soiled diaper. Jensen parts his legs without being asked, his demeanor artless, totally free of any sense of shame whatsoever.
Even though he's done this before, Jared's not completely comfortable with it. He'd been closely supervised during his lessons at the hospital, but here at home it feels so...so intimate.
He cleans Jensen off with a moist towelette and rubs in ointment to prevent a rash, keeping his face neutral and his hands gentle.
"Lift up for me, Jensen," Jared says when he has the fresh diaper ready.
Jensen lifts his hips off the ground so Jared can slide the diaper underneath him and fasten it with the tape. The whole process only takes about ten minutes and, since Jensen knows what to do, it's really not a big deal.
"All done. Let's go to the kitchen and make sure Christian doesn't eat all the food." Smiling, Jared straightens and walks out of the room, turning at the door to check on his boy, his Jensen.
Jensen starts crawling along behind him and Jared is suddenly glad the floors are clean. That's one more thing he hasn't really thought about until now, the kitchen floor will need to be mopped regularly, the carpets vacuumed frequently.
The list of lifestyle changes he's going to have to make keeps getting longer and it's not the changes themselves that have Jared's mind swimming, but the fact that he's still having these revelations. Jensen is here, living in his house, and Jared is only just now realizing that the floors need to be spotless at all times.
He's still coming across things he hasn't thought about before.
How long can that go on? What if he misses something? What if he forgets something and Jensen gets hurt because of his carelessness?
The idea of Jensen getting hurt because of him paralyzes Jared for a moment. He stops in the hallway and just stand there, thoughts racing, breath quickening, trying to figure out what else he might be overlooking.
It's the small tug on his pants leg that breaks through his daze. He looks down into uncertain, green eyes. Jensen's lower lip is held firmly between his teeth, head tilted to the side, shaggy hair falling across his forehead.
Taking a deep breath, Jared pastes a smile on his face and runs a hand through the boy's bangs. The strands are soft and the contact between them seems to ground them both.
The smell of melted cheese, cooked ham and hot butter greets them as they come into the kitchen. Three plates sit on the tile-topped table, each holding a sandwich and a sprig of green grapes. One of the sandwiches has already been cut into bite-sized pieces.
"You guys ready to eat?" Christian grins, obviously pleased with himself.
Jared's mouth is watering just from the smell. "Mmmm, looks great. I'm starved. How about you, Jensen?"
From the floor, Jensen holds out his arms to be picked up as though afraid he might be made to eat down there.
Jared quickly scoops him up and places him in a chair, popping a bite of sandwich into Jensen's mouth before even sitting down himself.
A blissful look on his face, Jensen chews, swallows, and hums.
Jared doubts Christian could look any prouder as he says, "Good, huh? It's my specialty."
Jensen licks the butter from his lips and stares at his plate.
"That's your plate and your food, sweetie. You don't have to wait to eat it, you know? Anytime you feel ready for another bite, you can have it." Jared waits a beat and when Jensen continues to sit there, staring at the food, he plucks a grape off the stem and holds it to his mouth.
With a shake of his head, Jensen purses his lips and juts out his jaw.
Christian chortles, eyebrows raised.
The small act of defiance is expected in a way. Jared has had several sessions alone with Doc Beaver prior to this day and, during those meetings, the psychiatrist tried to prepare him for certain behavioral issues he might encounter, this being one of them. A test of limits, of boundaries. Sudden mood swings, from happy to sad, from complacent to defiant.
"You can't only eat the sandwich. You have to eat the grapes too. They're healthy and Doc Beaver says you need to have a balanced diet."
Jared's first attempt at reason is met with a stubborn pout, but this isn't the first time he's dealt with a picky eater and he isn't ready to give up quite yet.
"Okay, what if I tell you that I want you to have a balanced diet? Will you try the grape for me? It's good." Jared softens his expression while wiggling the grape in front of the boy's mouth.
Jensen gives him a sideways glance.
The seconds tick by in silence.
Christian turns away and Jared's not sure if he's too upset to watch or if he's trying to hide his amusement. With Chris, it could be either one.
This test of wills really isn't the way Jared wants to spend his first meal with Jensen in their home. He's about to relent and feed Jensen another bite of sandwich, chalking this one up to a no-win situation, when the boy opens his mouth and lets Jared place the grape on his tongue.
From then on, each bite, whether it's sandwich or fruit, is accompanied by the thrumming sound of Jensen's contentment.
Alternating between eating his own lunch and feeding Jensen, Jared notices when the teenager begins to slow down. As his plate empties, Jensen chews slower and, after a while, his eyes lose focus and his eyelids start to droop. The number of times he chews each bite before he swallows grows, like he's on automatic pilot, not completely awake and yet unwilling to miss out on the rest of his meal.
It's simultaneously the most adorable thing he's ever seen and heartbreakingly sad.
"Are you falling asleep, Jensen? Do you want to take a break from eating and go take that nap now?" he asks gently.
Stubborn streak back in place, Jensen blinks his eyes while shaking his head, hard, and asks for more by opening his mouth.
Because he's still severely underweight, denying Jensen food goes against every protective instinct in Jared's body so there's no way he's going to fight him on this. As long as he's asking to be fed, Jared's going to keep putting food in his mouth.
Every now and then, Jensen's eyes slip all the way closed, he stops chewing and his head lolls forward only for him to immediately catch himself and get back to the business of eating.
Jared scoots his chair closer and gets ready to prevent him from slipping off his seat or hitting his head on the table.
"He's exhausted. No wonder he was giving you such a hard time about that first grape," Christian whispers. "He's too tired to be thinking straight."
"Yeah, you were right about him fighting sleep. I can't believe he's still upright."
Just then, Jensen sways drunkenly and Jared catches him, putting an arm around his shoulders to hold him steady. There's still a mashed up grape in his mouth, but the boy is no longer chewing, his head falling to rest against Jared's shoulder.
"Swallow Jensen," Jared prompts, not wanting him to choke in his sleep.
Eyes still closed, Jensen swallows and Jared laughs.
Picking the boy up, Jared carries him to bed.
Misha comes over at the end of his shift, still in his paramedic uniform - blue slacks with a yellow and blue jacket. Jensen is sleeping soundly when he gets there, so they fill him in on everything that has happened since bringing him home that morning.
"I think the bed is going to be an ongoing problem if we don't figure out a solution," Misha says at the end of the story. Also, you're going to need a bedtime routine, you know, something that you do with him to make him feel secure that will help him fall asleep."
The same thought has already occurred to Jared. They can't wait for Jensen to pass out from sheer exhaustion before they can get him into bed every night. There's got to be an easier way.
"I agree, but there's something I don't understand; he slept in the hospital bed. Why is this different?"
"Um, actually...he didn't sleep real well in the hospital bed either," Christian looks at Misha who wrinkles his nose and nods.
"That's right, he didn't."
"What do you mean? I saw him."
Christian sighs. "You saw him falling asleep with one of us in the room with him, most of the time on the bed. Plus, we usually had to put the railing up on one side while we were on the other side. And even then, once they began to cut back on the pain meds and he stopped being drowsy all the time, it was a tossup whether he would sleep or not."
"I have an idea," Misha says.
The coy look Jared gets from the paramedic makes him wonder what he's about to hear. But really, how strange could it be?
"You need to get Jensen a crib and I know a carpenter who can build you one that will fit him."
"A crib? Misha, that's…really?" Christian splutters.
"Maybe we could just have railings put on his bed. Make it look more like the hospital bed," Jared suggests.
With a shrug, Misha drawls, "Maybe."
Jared decides to ask Doc Beaver about it tomorrow.
On to Chapter 7