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 (4,100 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
The need for some kind of workable daily schedule quickly becomes apparent. Jensen doesn't wake up from his afternoon nap until four hours later which means that when they try to put him down for bed that evening, he's wide awake. It's well after midnight when the teenager falls asleep for the night. Misha and Christian stay the entire time, only leaving for their own homes once they're sure Jensen won't be getting out of bed again.
Jared wakes the next morning feeling groggy. No amount of coffee helps. Irritated and itchy, his eyes feel like grains of salt are embedded in the corneas.
The weather isn't cooperating either. Low, grey clouds obscure the sun. They scuttle across the sky, tossed about by strong gusts of wind. Throughout the morning, Jensen's mood mirrors the ever-changing cloud formations, alternating between clingy and sulky, affectionate and cranky.
Even though on a purely intellectual level he understands that Jensen is confused and dealing with change the only way he knows how, Jared can't help but feel he's responsible for Jensen's moodiness. If only he were doing a better job of caring for him, Jensen wouldn't feel it necessary to cower in the corner one minute and curl up in his lap like a forlorn kitten the next.
With Misha working all day and Christian getting caught up on his sleep so he'll be alert on patrol this evening, Jared is on his own for the morning. Reinforcements will be arriving later in the form of Doc Beaver. The psychiatrist is making his first court-appointed home visit in the afternoon. These visits will occur every couple of days at first and then, as long as everything seems to be going well, they'll be reduced to once a week and, eventually, to once a month.
Jared is anxious for Doc Beaver to get there. He has a ton of questions. But for now all the responsibility for Jensen's care rests with him.
Things go from bad to worse when Jared tries to explain to Jensen that he has some errands to run later in the day and that Christian will be coming over to stay with him for a couple of hours.
Tears well up in the teenager's soulful eyes.
"I won't be gone long. I'm only going to buy a couch so we'll have something big enough to sit on together."
Distraught for reasons Jared can only guess at, Jensen's breathe hitches several times in rapid succession and his chin quivers.
"Oh Jensen, don't cry. I won't go if you don't want me to. I'll stay here. Please sweetheart."
Nothing Jared says makes any difference. The tears roll down Jensen's cheeks and he begins to sob, burying his head in his arms. Brokenhearted, helpless keening fills the house, He's crying so hard that, for several long, agonizing seconds, he doesn't inhale. His breath is caught in his heaving chest. He's not getting any air.
Jared rubs the boy's back, quietly praying for him to take a breath. "Breathe Jensen. Please breathe."
After what seems like an impossibly long time, the inhale comes as a shuddering, wheezing, frantic gasp that sounds painful and raw and only makes him cry harder.
Swallowing the lump in his throat and blinking against the sting in his own eyes, Jared picks Jensen up and takes him to one of the recliners where he cuddles the boy against his chest. Without any thought he begins to sing a song from one of Megan's favorite musicals. It's sweet and sad, but full of hope and love.
Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place
Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace
Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste
It all revolves around you
And there's no mountain too high
No river too wide
Sing out this song,
I'll be there by your side
He finds himself rocking from side to side and Jensen slowly calms with the gentle, swaying motion. His sobs taper off to intermittent hiccuping snuffles.
"Feeling better?" Jared whispers as he wipes away a stray tear.
Jensen nods and snuggles closer.
A rocking chair gets added to the mental list of purchases to be made at the furniture store along with a couch.
If he can ever leave his house again.
Doc Beaver rings the doorbell at two o'clock and Jared answers the door while Jensen hides behind one of the recliners in the living room.
"He's still getting used to being here," Jared feels the need to explain as they walk into the living room and Jensen shyly peeks out from his hiding spot.
"Understandable," the psychiatrist says, his expression impassive. "He's been here for what? One whole day?"
"Something like that." Jared smiles, relieved to get some validation that Jensen's behavior isn't a reflection on his poor care-taking skills. "How do these visits work, Doc?"
"First of all, we're going to be seeing a lot of each other in the coming months so no more of that Doc Beaver crap. Just call me Jim. These visits may be court-appointed, but I'm really just here to help you and to help Jensen. I'll keep track of how Jensen is doing and make sure you're both settling in all right. I'll probably have some questions for you and I want you to feel free to ask me about anything that might be worrying you."
Jared lets out a breath as he thinks about all the questions he has. There are so many. It's a relief to finally have someone here who can answer them.
Jim crouches in front of his patient and gives him a small, kind smile. "How are you doing, Jensen?"
Wary but not openly fearful, Jensen sticks his thumb in his mouth and stares at his doctor.
Jim nods solemnly as though Jensen has answered his question. "That's fine then," he says as he stands and turns to Jared. "So, tell me how things are going."
Jared tells Jim everything. Being honest with Jensen's doctor is the only way to get the answers he needs, so he tells him about the situation with the bed and how Jensen doesn't seem to understand that he's supposed to sleep there. He explains about the hours he'd spent the previous night, coaxing and cajoling the boy into lying down in the bed, how he'd rubbed his back and talked to him until he thought he'd fallen asleep only to have him pop back up as soon as Jared left the room.
Jim listens patiently, tapping a pen on the notebook he has with him.
Finally, he tells Jim about Misha's crib suggestion. Then he stands there and waits to be told he's an idiot.
Jim's response comes as a surprise.
"Couldn't hurt to give it a try."
"The crib? Really? I mean, as Jensen's care-giver I want to make sure he's comfortable, but...a crib just seems too...well, too...unconventional," Jared trails off uncertainly.
"You think of yourself as Jensen's care-giver?" Jim asks.
The topic change startles Jared. He opens his mouth and then closes it again. He's not sure what he's supposed to say.
"I'm just asking because yesterday at Oak Grove it didn't seem that way. It seemed as though you thought of yourself as Jensen's protector, as his advocate, his guardian in the truest sense of the word." Jim gives Jensen a pointed glance and then returns his steady gaze to Jared. "I need to know who I'm dealing with here. Am I dealing with Jensen's care-giver or am I dealing with his guardian?"
Jared swipes his tongue over dry lips, wetting them, before he says, "I'm not sure I understand the difference."
"The difference is this. Do you what to be the person who provides for Jensen's basic needs? Or do you want to be the person he turns to for emotional support? The person he learns to trust in a fundamental way."
"I want to be the person who teaches him what it means to be loved unconditionally," Jared answers, his voice catching.
"Then you need to ask yourself what you would be willing to do for your child. His own parents taught him what it means to be despised, to be in pain, and to be in constant danger. It's up to you to teach him the opposite of those things. Right now it's like he's lost in perpetual darkness, Every cruel act his parents perpetrated on him has pushed him further and further into a deep, black hole. You have to lead him out."
They talk about many things after that, but Jared can't stop thinking about one question - what does he want to be to Jensen?
Christian gets there in time to ask Jim a couple of his own questions.
The stress of another day in a strange place takes its toll on Jensen and the boy falls asleep on top of Christian in one of the recliners soon after Jim leaves, giving Jared the opportunity to run his errands without a major fuss. He picks the largest couch and the most cushiony rocking chair he can find at the first store he walks into. Price isn't a factor and he gladly agrees to the extra charges for rush delivery. He's back home and thanking Christian for watching Jensen before the teenager even wakes up and realizes he's gone.
That night, Jared dreams of an empty crib and the flashing lights of an ambulance that drives past his house over and over again. Instead of a siren, he hears a deep rumbling noise, like the growl of a huge beast, every time the ambulance passes by.
In his dream, something is missing. If he can find it everything will be all right. If he can just remember what he's looking for. If that damn ambulance will go away he'll be able to think. Surely, then he'll know what he's lost.
Lightning flashes nearby followed by a loud crack of thunder and Jared sits bolt upright, the uneasy feeling from his dream chasing him into wakefulness. His heart is beating jack-hammer fast and he doesn't know why.
It's only a thunderstorm, nothing to be upset about.
Nothing to be upset about unless you're afraid of loud noises.
In his haste to get out of bed he gets tangled in the bedding, pulling it along with him like the train of a wedding dress and nearly falling flat on his face when it gets caught up on the bedpost. Cutting through the connecting bathroom, Jared flings open the door to Jensen's room.
Outside Jensen's window the sky erupts in a stunning burst of light and the house shakes with a peal of thunder which rattles the glass in its pane.
Jensen's bed is empty, the comforter crumpled up in a heap at the foot. Contrary to any rational thought process, Jared picks up the comforter and looks underneath, even going as far as to give it a shake, as if the boy could be hiding within the folds. Then he looks under the bed.
Jensen isn't there.
"Jensen!" Jared calls, his voice louder than he intends and filled with a mind-numbing panic he only remembers feeling one other time in his life.
No one answers his frantic call and Jared begins to run from room to room, turning on all the lights as he goes. He looks everywhere he can think of and then goes back and looks again, searching under every piece of furniture, inside cupboards and closets, behind the chest of drawers.
There's no sign of him anywhere. It's like he's disappeared, like he never existed at all. He's just gone. It's happening again and Jared feels as though he's losing his mind.
No, Jensen isn't gone. He has to be somewhere. Since he isn't in the house, he must be outside.
Throwing open the front door, Jared rushes out into the dark. Rain pelts down, quickly soaking through his pajama pants and shirt. The wind tosses his hair wildly. Cold sweat and rain water combine to run down his neck and under his collar.
How long has the storm been going? How long before it woke him? How far can Jensen have gone?
The storm is fierce and if Jensen is out here with only his pajamas on, he's got to be miserable - freezing cold and absolutely petrified.
Jared takes off toward the open field behind his house, long legs eating up the yards, until he realizes he has no idea which way Jensen went. The boy could be anywhere. He could be lying on the ground five feet away and Jared wouldn't be able to see him in the dark.
He needs a flashlight.
He needs help.
His phone is in his jacket pocket which is in the hall closet. He races back inside and the first call he makes is to Christian. His friend will know what to do.
The cop answers his cell on the second ring. "Jared, what's going on?" His voice has the crisp, authoritative tone he uses when he's on duty and Jared realizes Christian is probably out patrolling in his squad car.
"Jensen's gone." The words come out in a breathless rasp.
"He's gone. The storm woke me up and when I went to check on him, he wasn't there. He's...Christian, h-he...he's not in the house. I've looked everywhere." Barely able to get the words out through his constricting throat, Jared stops talking to catch his breath and realizes that he's panting so hard he's in danger of hyperventilating.
"Jared, don't panic. We'll find him. I'm on my way right now. Stay on the phone with me, I'm coming."
Christian is still talking to him, his voice strident. Jared can hear the words, but the meaning is drowned out by the white noise that fills his head - his mother's hysterical crying. It's her voice that he hears - Why did you let her walk home from Cammie's house all by herself? Now she's gone. Gone Jared! And it's all your fault."
It's the same voice and the same words he hears in his head every time he fucks something up.
"Jared! Jared!" Christian's shout breaks through his muddled stupor and he's amazed to find that he's still standing in his foyer, teeth chattering, dripping wet and holding the phone to his ear. A gust of wind drives sluicing rain through the open door behind him.
"Jared! Jesus, I thought I'd lost you there, man. Don't do that to me." His friend sounds profoundly relieved. "I know what you're thinking and this isn't the same thing. We are going to find him! Tell me you believe me."
"I-I don't...we never f-found Meggie and...h-he's not h-here." Jared glances desperately around the entryway and what he can see of the rest of the house from there, hoping that Jensen might miraculously appear.
"We're finding him! I'll be there in like fifteen minutes. Just...talk to me. Tell me everything. Where have you looked?"
"I've searched the whole house. He must have gone outside," Jared says through chattering teeth.
After a brief silence, Christian asks, "Are the doors locked? All the windows closed?"
Jared turns and looks at the open front door, at the porch bathed in the glow of light from inside his house, and at the wind-whipped trees out in the yard. His brain feels like it's been soaked in formaldehyde. He's quickly losing the ability to think straight. "The front door's open, but that's because I opened it," he finally says.
"J-man, stay with me here." Christian coaxes, voice firm. "Was it locked before you opened it?"
Jared can't remember. He'd been in such a panic that he can't remember whether he'd unlocked the door before opening it or whether it had already been unlocked. "I don't know," he whispers into the phone. "I think it was locked."
"Okay, let's go with that. Listen to me, Jared, I doubt Jensen would have locked the door behind himself if he was running scared. So, he's probably still inside the house. I bet he's found a cubbyhole somewhere and crammed himself into it to hide."
"I've already looked everywhere he might fit."
"Then start looking in all the impossible places. If he's desperate enough, he'll find a way. I know that kid, I spent a week in the hospital with him, and he's capable of hiding in some very imaginative places."
Scanning the darkened ground outside one last time, Jared slowly shuts the door and turns to begin searching the house again.
Phone held to his ear, he starts in the living room. There aren't many places to hide in here so it doesn't take long. As he moves around checking the three inch gap underneath the coffee table - like anyone could squeeze under there - and behind the recliners - for the third time - he gives Christian a detailed account of where he's looking. Christian occasionally offers suggestions based on what he knows of Jared's house and of Jensen.
"Have you looked inside the movie cabinet?"
"No, I...how would he even get in there?"
Jared looks. "No, he's not there."
"How about behind the door?"
"Already looked." He looks again. Frustration clear in his voice, he says, "Chris, if he's outside, we're wasting time. He could be getting further away and we don't have a clue where he's going."
"If he's outside we're going to need a lot more help. If you haven't found him by the time I get there, I'll start mobilizing a search party. We can't officially list him as a missing person yet, but I have a lot of favors I can call in. It's going to be okay. We'll find him. You have to believe that."
Jared scrubs a hand down his face as he moves into the kitchen.
Jensen isn't in the cupboards, or the pantry or under the sink.
He's on his way back to search the bedrooms again when he hears it, the faint rattling sound of something vibrating against metal. Following the sound, he comes to where the washer and dryer are inset into an alcove off the hallway. The noise is coming from somewhere around the dryer. Jared hops up to sit on the dryer and looks over the side.
Wedged between the wall and the dryer, like a cork in a bottle, is Jensen.
Relief slams though his body and Jared feels dizzy with it, as though he's just consumed a fifth of vodka on an empty stomach. "Oh God, I found him," he breathes into the phone.
Chris lets go with a torrent of curse words, releasing all the worry he must have been keeping tightly at bay while trying to hold Jared together over the phone. "Is he okay?"
Jensen is curled into a ball and all Jared can see of him is the curve of his back and a tuft of hair at the nape of his neck. "He's...I can't tell."
"I'm pulling into your driveway now," his friend says just before he disconnects the call.
The teenager isn't moving except for the tremors shaking his thin frame and causing him to knock against the dryer - the rattling noise Jared had heard.
"It's just a thunderstorm. Nothing to be scared of, sweetie," Jared tells the terrified boy, carefully easing an arm into the narrow space until he can touch Jensen's shoulder. It's an awkward position to hold, his elbow forced into an unnatural angle while he crouches on top of the dryer.
A violent shudder wracks Jensen's body as he flinches away from the touch, making a sound like a low, guttural whimper. Without much room to spare, he twists his head to the side and looks up at Jared, eyes pleading.
A disturbing thought occurs to Jared. "Are you stuck? Can you get out?"
Before he gets any answer from Jensen, the front door opens and Christian appears in the hallway, looking solid and determined even if slightly damp. "Where is he?"
Jared leaps off the dryer, lands wrong and barely avoids twisting his ankle. Grimacing, he points to the cramped space next to the dryer, "He's back there. But I think he's stuck."
The cop peers into the crevasse and grunts, "Shit." Then he lowers his voice and asks, "Hey kiddo, how'd you get yourself in there?"
Jensen whines and rocks back and forth, his shoulders knocking into the wall and the dryer in a perfect demonstration of exactly how jammed in he is.
"Can you reach him? Put those long arms to good use." Christian cocks an eyebrow at Jared.
"I can reach his feet if I kneel in front of the machine, but there's no way he's going to be able to back out. He must have gotten in by climbing up and over the side. If I try to pull on his legs it's probably going to hurt him and he'll only be stuck worse. I can reach his shoulders from the top, but the angle is tricky and I won't be able to get a good enough grip to pull him up."
Planting his feet wide, Christian puts both hands on top of the offending appliance. "Well, I guess we've got to pull the dryer out then. Can you get back up there and detach it from behind?"
"Yeah, but...fuck Chris..." Jared says under his breath with an apprehensive look over the side at Jensen's hunched and cowering form.
"Jared, it's the only way we're getting him out of there and you know it. The longer we wait the worse it's going to be for him. Think about it, he's probably been stuck in there for at least an hour already. Maybe longer."
His friend is right. Procrastinating isn't going to make this any easier. Raking a hand through his hair in exasperation, Jared nods. "Okay." Then he climbs up, disconnects the hose going to the vent and says, "We're going to get you out now, Jensen. Hold on, this will only take a couple minutes."
Both men get the best grip they can on the smooth, lacquered metal and heave.
The sound of it makes Jared's chest tighten and he has to bite his tongue to distract himself from the boy's fright long enough to help Christian get the dryer out of the alcove.
The dryer clangs to the ground as Jared releases his hold and falls to his knees next to his sweet, traumatized boy. Cautiously, he touches Jensen's shoulder, but instead of flinching away like he had last time, the teenager goes suddenly silent and limp, his body slack. Jared thinks maybe he's passed out from the continued stress and fear. When he gathers the boy into his arms, though, he sees Jensen's eyes are open, staring at nothing.
"It's okay, baby. Daddy's got you," he whispers. "I'll keep you safe. Nothing bad's going to happen to you ever again. I won't let it, I promise."
His promise is a binding oath, one he means with all his heart, one he knows will change him and define him and test him in ways he has only just begun to realize.
On to ( Chapter 8 )
A/N: The song Jared sings to a sobbing Jensen is Come What May from Moulin Rouge. If you feel like listening to it - and why wouldn't you - you can find a version of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48BxXheDesw
I'd love to hear from you. Please leave me some feedback. Only one more chapter to go. I'm going to miss these guys so much once its over.