Rating: T (for situations)
Characters: Jared, Jensen, Christian, Misha, 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 age regression and a form of infantilism which is emotional and not sexual in nature, mentions of past child abuse. Younger!abused!Jensen.
Word Count: 3,800 this part
Summary: Timestamp in the Innocents 'verse which can be found here: Innocents 'Verse Masterpost. This story takes place in between For Love of Innocents and Nightmares of Innocents. I highly recommend reading the other stories in this 'verse first. Jensen's parents are finally being brought to justice and Jared is determined to shield the traumatized young man from any possible fallout from the trial. Meanwhile, Misha makes an understandable mistake and Christian makes a new friend who really wants to meet Jensen.
A/N: Thank you for all the great artwork and for being such a fantastic cheerleader!
The grass is spongy under his hands and knees, somehow soft and prickly at the same time. It tickles his palms as he crawls down a slight slope toward the water's edge. The afternoon sun glints off the calm, smooth surface like the lake is made of glass. He stops his slow progress to turn around, seeking his daddy's permission and approval.
"Jensen, wait there, sweetheart. Misha is just pulling up now. Let's wait for him."
Sure enough, Misha's bright yellow Jeep comes into sight around a curve in the dirt road that leads to the remote lake. Tires crunching on gravel temporarily drown out the soft sounds of chirping birds, rustling autumn leaves, and the occasional soft splash down at the lake.
Jensen longs to reach the lake's edge and show Mr. Bun all the fantastic wonders there: the tiny fish that can be seen darting around in the shallows, the insects skimming the surface, and most importantly, the turtles. But Daddy said wait, so he sits and he waits, settling Mr. Bun in his lap.
Misha hops from his Jeep as soon as it comes to a stop. A blanket is draped over his arm and a wicker basket swings from one hand.
"You came prepared," Daddy says as he pulls their friend into a one-armed hug and gives him a thump on the back.
"Obviously," Misha returns. "I'm like a Boy Scout, only not quite so outdoorsy. And without all the badges and patches. And not so much with the thrifty or the reverence." He tilts his head to the side and pulls a thoughtful face, brows creased and lips pursed. "Come to think of it, I'm not really like a Boy Scout at all."
Daddy throws his head back and laughs out loud. He looks carefree, young. Jensen's insides flutter as though someone is blowing bubbles, weightless and buoyant, inside his tummy where they float around until they pop against his ribcage. There's nothing better than seeing his daddy happy.
"No, I can't picture you as a Boy Scout, Collins. The picnic basket, though, where did you get it? It makes me feel like we're in some corny romance novel. If we had a girl in a long, flowing skirt with us, we'd be all set."
"I can change into a skirt, if it will make you feel better." Misha throws a wink at Jensen. "I'm not really into gender stereotypes, you know what I mean?"
Jensen ducks his head, lowering his gaze to the grass near his feet, unsure what to do with the sudden attention. The banter is over his head, but that's not what matters. What matters is that the people who mean the most to him are having fun. And he gets to be here, he gets to be a part of it. A small smile plays around his lips, even as his cheeks heat up.
"Always so bashful at first." Misha puts down the basket and lets the blanket fall to the ground beside it. Closing the distance between them, he kneels, puts two fingers under Jensen's chin and tips his head up until their eyes meet. His voice gentles. "Is Daddy Jared treating you alright?"
The, by now, customary question quells his shyness. This is their normal exchange, the way Misha never fails to great him, and Jensen knows how to respond, knows his answer by heart. The familiarity makes him feel brave. He considers the question seriously because Misha doesn't ask it lightly. Although Misha can be silly and downright goofy at times, about this one thing, he is deadly serious. Instilling his answer with every ounce of certainty he can muster, Jensen gives his head a solemn nod. Yes, yes, yes. Then, important routine completed, he makes an I'm happy to see you sound, a gurgling coo too quiet for anyone to hear, not even Misha, and launches himself into his friend's open arms.
Misha lets out an "umph" at the contact and topples sideways onto the cool, dry grass, pulling Jensen along with him. Mr. Bun gets squished between them. Sharp, plastic whiskers poke through the light jacket Jensen is wearing and prick his arm. He's pretty sure one of his elbows is digging into Misha's side, but Misha doesn't let go. With a breathless chuckle, he says, "I do believe you've gained a pound or two since I last saw you. Good for you, Jensen. I'm so proud of you."
Warmth blossoms in his chest at the praise. Even though he isn't sure what he did to deserve it, he basks in it. Something he did was good, and that's enough for him.
When Misha releases him, it's to look up at Daddy, eyes bright, and say, "I'm amazed, Jared. Truly. I mean, look at him. He's out here," Misha gestures with one arm, wide and all-encompassing, "and he looks...more solid, whole, like he's putting himself back together again. He's come a long way."
"He has." Daddy's voice sounds a little snuffly, like he needs to sneeze. But then he clears his throat, strides forward, and lifts Jensen off the ground. "Come on, let's get closer to the lake. Bring your blanket and basket, Little Red Riding Hood. You can set up your picnic down there."
Jensen wraps his legs around his daddy's waist and twines his arms around his neck, clutching Mr. Bun around his fuzzy belly. Misha huffs something that makes Daddy laugh again as his long legs take them down the slope to the lake and Misha is left behind to gather his things and follow after them. After watching to make sure Misha is coming with them, Jensen cranes his neck around, eagerly scanning the rocks near the lake for his first turtle sighting of the day.
At first, he doesn't see anything. The rocks look bare, the lake too calm. Where have all the turtles gone? Are they hiding? Or have they all left? Disappointment steals his breath.
But then a splash grabs his attention and he turns his head in time to see an oval-shaped head bob up from the water as ripples form a ring around it. That small motion seem to break a spell and when next he looks at the rocks, he sees them - brown-green shells the same color and texture as their habitat. They blend right in and don't move much. No wonder he hadn't seen them.
The turtles are all different sizes, from baby ones smaller than his hand to a great-grandpa one as big as...well, as big as his tire swing, which is very big. Jensen points at the closest one - a smallish fellow with a blunt, little snout and glossy, coal-black eyes - just in case Mr. Bun and Daddy haven't seen him yet.
"He is quite the cutie, isn't he?" Daddy says, and he reaches up to ruffle Jensen's hair, without really looking at the turtle at all. Strange.
The turtle has its long neck pushed way out of its shell, staring back at them in clear interest, not like its afraid, but more like it wonders what they think they're doing, barging into its home uninvited. It has long claws on it's webbed feet and two red spots on its head where its ears might be, if turtles have ears. Jensen's not too sure about that. A tiny tail sticks out from under its flat shell.
It's time to get a better look and since Daddy has stopped and is just standing here, Jensen twists in his arms, lets go of his neck, and leans over, letting him know he wants down. His squirming causes Daddy's hold on him to slip.
"Woah there, tiger. Wait a minute." Daddy adjusts his grip, somehow preventing an unfortunate head-plant. "We need to put your shoes on before you get any closer to the lake. The ground might be a little wet and damp socks are no fun. Your pants are probably gonna get wet enough as it is."
Jensen looks down at his feet, encased in their warm, wool socks - his outside socks - and wiggles his toes. He doesn't want to put shoes on. Shoes make him awkward and uncoordinated, they make crawling even more cumbersome than it already is. Plus, they pinch his ankles. In the year that he's been with his daddy, he's only had to wear them a few times and on those occasions, he had worried at them, plucking at the laces and tugging on them, until he was able to get them off. He'd thought Daddy knew better than to put shoes on him.
Tucking his feet up close to his thighs, he grimaces. A pout takes over his face, lower lip protruding. He can feel his chin quiver involuntarily. He really, really doesn't want shoes, wet feet or not.
Daddy groans and buries his face against Jensen's shoulder.
There's a snicker from behind them. Misha. Jensen looks over at his friend, hopeful for some backup. Surely, the other man knows that shoes are an unnecessary evil.
"Give it up, Padalecki. You're doomed," Misha chortles.
The words are nonsense to Jensen, but they seem to do the trick. Daddy sighs and lowers him to the ground without the dreaded shoes. "Alright Sweetie, no shoes. Just...be careful and don't go too close to the edge."
As soon as his knees touch spongy grass, Jensen is on the move towards his target, a clear area in the middle of at least six or seven visible turtles. From there, he'll have a great view of the lake, the turtles, and he'll also be able to keep an eye on his daddy and Misha, just in case they forget about him and leave.
His chosen spot is sparsely covered by tougher grass growing over sandy soil. A little further down, the grass gives way completely to the pebbles and rocks that make up the lake shore.
Many pairs of eyes watch his approach. The turtles seem wary, but they don't actively retreat, either into their shells or under the water. It's almost as though they're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Until he proves himself untrustworthy, they'll stand their ground and even share their lakeside home with him.
Jensen sits perfectly still, Mr. Bun held tightly in his lap, eager to show the turtles that he posses no threat. After a while, they stop watching him. Their attention drifts back to other matters and they go about doing whatever they were doing before he arrived.
Turtle life is slow paced, everything they do well thought out in advance, or so it seems to Jensen. It occurs to him that turtles can afford their calm, carefree attitudes. They don't have many worries. Nothing much can hurt them. They carry plated armor everywhere they go. He wonders what it must feel like, that ability to withdraw into safety at a moment's notice and know that nothing can get through, no one can hurt you. Life as a turtle would be awesome.
He's completely absorbed in his fantasy world, a world where he suns himself on the rocks for hours at a time, methodically chews on water plants, swims through murky lake water, and peacefully watches the seasons change around him. He's so captivated by this inner vision that he doesn't see the tiny turtle until it's crawling right past his knee.
No bigger than a plum, the baby turtle shows no fear whatsoever. It pays Jensen no attention, possibly thinking him just an oddly shaped rock. Slowly, Jensen reaches out and plucks the turtle off the ground. Four miniature, webbed feet paddle the air as if the turtle believes it has suddenly achieved the ability to fly and can somehow propel itself forward this way. The cuteness is more than Jensen can stand without sharing. First he holds the itty-bitty turtle in front of Mr. Bun's nose so he can get a proper look at it, and then he turns and holds it out toward his daddy and Misha.
Daddy already has his phone out, held in front of him, pointed towards Jensen and his new friend. Having his picture taken is something Jensen has gotten used to lately. Daddy always seems to have his phone out, pointed in his direction these days. Daddy's smile is the same one he had when Jensen ate a cupcake for the first time. The frosting had gotten on his nose and Daddy had smiled at him with just a hint of dimples showing while telling him that he was doing a fine job. He'd had his phone out then too. It's Daddy's I'm-proud-of-you smile.
The weightless, airy feeling that happiness always brings wells up inside him.
Misha's blanket is spread out neatly on the ground and Misha is sitting crosslegged in the middle with his chin cupped in his hands. He's watching the turtle too, his grin so wide it probably his cheeks. Jensen agrees; his little turtle is awesome.
Holding his palm out flat, he puts the turtle in the center. It's legs never stop moving and it has what Jensen interprets as a determined expression on its tiny face, like it's scaling a particularly difficult mountain. When it reaches his wrist, it wobbles on the edge. Jensen only just barely catches it before it takes a mighty tumble back to earth. He deposits the little fellow back in the middle of his palm and watches as it makes its way, undaunted, to his wrist again. Little Fellow - that's a great name. By the looks of things, Little Fellow has somewhere he really wants to go and Jensen is beginning to feel bad about keeping him from it. So he places the turtle back in the pale green grass, watching as it treks away toward some unknown destination.
Giving the turtle up makes him...not sad exactly because he knows it's the right thing to do, but still, it's like saying goodbye to a friend forever. New friends don't come around every day. Jensen hugs Mr. Bun tightly and slips his thumb into his mouth as Little Fellow disappears from sight.
Jared is still watching Jensen's adorable interaction with the turtle through the screen on his phone when he catches movement on his left. Curious, he turns and is surprised to see Misha jump up so quickly that he doesn't properly get his feet underneath him before he's moving, sprinting really, toward Jensen. There's a second when Jared is sure Misha's legs will tangle and send him sprawling, but they don't and his momentum never falters.
"Jensen, NO!" Misha shouts as he launches himself at the young man sitting in the grass. His warning, sharp and authoritative, splits the quiet like the retort from a gun. The tone of voice is one that can easily be mistaken for anger if you don't know any better.
Jared's heart immediately begins hammering in his chest, adrenaline spiking in reaction to some unknown threat, something Misha sees that Jared doesn't.
In the next instant, Misha skids to a stop on his knees in front of Jensen and grabs his hand, the one with his thumb in his mouth. Then, Misha gives a violent jerk, wrenching Jensen's whole hand away from his face. In all reality, it's probably more of a uncoordinated, hasty tug than anything violent. That's not the way it looks though. Jensen's eyes widen in shock, as though he's just been slapped, hard.
It all happens so fast, Jared has no time to react. He can only watch, too startled by his friend's unexpected outburst to do anything other than stare in amazement. Amazement that quickly turns into dismay. What the hell is Misha doing? What on earth could he be thinking?
Jared is up and running before his next thought fully forms. He has to get to Jensen. Now! Legs moving on auto-pilot and with a laser-like focus on the most important person in the world to him, Jared hones in on Jensen's expression, his body language, anything to tell him how Jensen will react to this. No one has physically threatened the boy in the past year, no one has even raised their voice in his presence. Despite that, Jensen is prone to severe panic attacks. Even on his best days, the teenager can be thrown into a catatonic state by something as simple as a plate falling in the kitchen.
All the blood drains from Jensen's face. His freckles lose their color, leaving him a pasty white.
Misha drops Jensen's hand as though he's been scorched by a white-hot poker, and backs away, a look of horror on his face. "Oh god, Jensen. I'm sorry. It was just...the turtle...and...and... diseases...turtles carry diseases." This last bit he says to Jared, his voice shaky and imploring.
Afraid of doing more harm than good by rushing the boy, Jared slows his frantic pace, forces himself to speak calmly. "Jensen? Jensen baby, it's okay. Misha didn't mean it. He wasn't trying to hurt you."
Jensen's eyes dart back and forth between him and Misha, like he's gone into hyper alert mode. This isn't what Jared had been expecting. Jensen isn't cowering, or trying to hide, or shutting down, or zoning out, like he normally does during a panic attack.
Jared stops and kneels, close enough for Jensen to get to him easily, but far enough away to give him a little space if he needs it. Opening his arms, ready to comfort his sweet boy, he whispers, "Jensen, come here, baby. It's okay." Then, he waits, his heart in his throat.
Green eyes regard him solemnly, but Jensen doesn't make a move, doesn't cry, doesn't seek comfort or protection. Every muscle in his body has tensed as if prepared to withstand a mighty storm should it come his way. Mr. Bun lies forgotten, flopped over on his side in Jensen's lap. It makes Jared feel ill to think they may be getting a glimpse of the Jensen who lived in his parent's house. That Jensen wouldn't cry. What good would it do him? He wouldn't run or hide. The house was too small and they would always find him. Who knows how much worse the abuse might have been if he tried to resist them. There would be no point in seeking comfort from anyone in that house for none would be given.
Wariness and a heartbreaking acceptance of his fate war with each other in Jensen's eyes and Jared can't stand the distrust he sees there for another second. He closes the distance between them and pulls Jensen into his arms. Jensen's body is ridged against him. Hugging a life-sized wooden doll, that's what it feels like. Jared never thought he would welcome the sounds of Jensen crying, now though, he longs to hear them, anything that tells him he hasn't lost his boy for good.
Misha is sitting back on his haunches, clearly unsure about whether he should stay or go. "Jared, I'm so sorry," he husks. His hands twist together in his lap, the movements jerky and desperate, betraying the paramedic's current need to punish himself. "That was a stupid thing to do, unforgivable. I don't know what got into me. I saw his hand go to his mouth and the only thing I could think of was salmonella poisoning, how sick it can make someone, how deadly it can be for someone with a compromised immune system. Jensen doesn't need that crap on top of everything else he's suffered. My mind flashed on an image of him sick in the hospital again and I...I just couldn't let that happen." A pleading quality laces Misha's voice.
"No need to be sorry," Jared says. Misha isn't responsible for Jensen's condition after all. "Everything's fine," he says as he runs his fingers through the soft, short hair at Jensen's nape, lightly scritching at his neck in the way that usually makes the teenager purr in contentment. His words are just as much for the way-too-stiff boy in his arms as they are for their distraught friend. As much as they are for himself. He has to believe everything will be alright.
Jensen has yet to show any sign that he knows where he is or who he's with and Jared can only imagine what horrible memories must be going through his head right now. "He just needs a little time to process, to realize he's not hurt and no one is ever going to hurt him again. I won't let them. I promise." Jared continues crooning into Jensen's ear. After a while, he notices he's rocking them forwards and backwards as though they're in their rocking chair back in Jensen's nursery. The motion is soothing. It evokes a very different kind of memory for Jared, lazy mornings with a sleepy Jensen cuddled in his lap, warm bottles full of milk at nap time, cozy blankets wrapped around his favorite person, keeping Jensen safe. The love he feels for the boy in his arms expands inside him, overwhelming him, nearly choking him.
"I love you," he whispers, unshed tears blurring his vision. It's not the first time the thought has occurred to him. It is the first time he's ever given voice to it, however. The words sound right; they have a ring of truth to them, and Jared only waits a moment before he clears his throat and says again, louder this time, "I love you, Jensen."
Jensen stops breathing, becoming impossibly more tense. Then, he shudders once and his breathing starts up again with a series of painful sounding hitches. Delayed reaction.
Jared strokes Jensen's face. His skin is more chilled than Jared likes. "Bring the blanket, please Misha."
Misha jumps up immediately, grabbing the blanket and fervently wrapping it around both Jared and Jensen as though hopeful that by this one act he can erase his mistake.
The hitches get louder and closer together until Jared is sure hyperventilation is imminent. Jensen's first wail comes out thin and reedy from lack of oxygen, more like a prolonged whimper than anything.
"That's it, sweetheart. Let it out. You're safe."
With the next cry, Jensen seems to melt against him. And then he's bawling in earnest, clinging to Jared's shirt with both hands. Great wracking sobs threaten to shake him apart. It's like the heavens have opened up in a downpour to soak the earth after a terrible, long drought.
Jared pulls Jensen closer, cradling his trembling body, and thanks the powers that be. His boy, his Jensen, is back. They've won a tiny victory over Jensen's past, at least that's how Jared feels. As long as Jensen trusts him to make things better, turns to him for comfort when things go wrong, they can get through anything.
Continued in Chapter 4
A/N: Okay my lovelies, don't break my heart. Please leave me some comments. :)
Start at Chapter 1