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: 6,100 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! She has created some new artwork for Chapter 3, a darling picture of Jensen with the turtle, so you should go take a look and send her some love.
One week later
"Is Misha coming?" Christian asks.
"No man, I don't think he's forgiven himself for what happened at the lake last week." Jared shakes his head as his gaze rests on Jensen. "He calls every day or so to ask how Jensen's doing, but when I invite him to come see for himself, he starts stammering out excuses. Like yesterday, he told me he couldn't come by because he had to wash his Jeep."
The object of their discussion tucks his feet beneath himself and moves a little closer to Christian where they're sitting side by side on the couch.
Christian puts an arm around the boy, ruffles his hair. "Jensen's doing just fine, aren't you kiddo? No lasting effects."
Jensen leans into the touch and hums softly, a thrumming sound no louder than the purr of a kitten. It never fails to make Jared's chest ache, the way Jensen laps up ever bit of affection he's offered.
"No lasting effects at all," Jared agrees. After crying his heart out there at the lake, Jensen had stayed close to Jared, apparently losing interest in any further forays down to the lake's edge. He'd been subdued, but not fearful. "Maybe you can call Misha and let him know. He seems to believe Jensen will be scared of him next time they see each other. I think having Jensen cower away from him would devastate him, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. He's probably giving Jensen time to forget about what happened. I'll call him, tell him to get over himself and give Jensen a little credit. No one blames him for his little slip up, least of all Jensen."
Christian knows the whole story, how Misha had wanted to keep Jensen from sucking his thumb after touching the turtle and how Jensen had reacted to the perceived threat. Jared had confided in him as soon as they'd gotten home. There's very little that Jared doesn't tell Christian about Jensen and his development. The cop would probably kick his ass if he found out Jared was keeping anything from him. Jensen and Christian are close and Jared understands how protective Christian is of the boy. Almost as protective as Jared is himself. It's understandable since Christian is the one who found him bleeding out on his parent's kitchen floor; found him and rescued him, kept his mother from finishing the job she'd started with the carving knife.
Sleepy, green eyes regard him from underneath long lashes. Nap time was about an hour ago. They'd postponed it on purpose. It's all part of today's plan. Today, Chad is coming over to meet Jensen. Well, he's coming over to meet Jared too, but that's not the part that has Jared fidgeting in his chair, glancing at his watch every five minutes. Jensen's well-being is his top priority and he's nervous about how the abused teenager will react to a stranger in his home, the one place he feels safe and at ease.
With Jim's advice firmly in mind, Jared had decided to have the meeting at a time when Jensen is usually at his most relaxed, right before a nap, when he's all sleepy and cuddly. The plan is to recreate the mood and atmosphere from when Jared first met Jensen at the hospital. That meeting had gone well, possibly because Jensen was on a drug regimen at the time that included anti-anxiety medication as well as pain management medication, both of which made him groggy and complacent. They aren't going to give Jensen drugs just to facilitate meeting someone new, so they're going with their next best option - create a mellow mood by delaying nap time long enough for Jensen to be too tired to care whether there's someone who he doesn't know nearby. All his comfort items are also on hand - his blanket, Mr. Bun, and...Christian. Jared smirks to himself and vows never to tell his friend about his new status as an object of comfort. It's so true though, he thinks as he watches Jensen snuggle a little closer.
Once Chad arrives, they can give Jensen his bottle and, with any luck, he'll fall asleep soon afterwards, having met Chad in the most stress-free way possible. No one said this first meeting had to be a long one.
Right on cue, Jensen yawns, knuckling his eyes.
Now if Chad would just get here before Jensen falls asleep on Christian's shoulder. Jared drums his fingers on his thigh while glancing yet again at his watch. He stands, paces a couple steps, turns around, goes back to the recliner, and sits.
"Dude, chill," Christian frowns. "What are you so hyped up about? You told Jensen what was happening today, right? And he's fine with it."
"Yeah, I told him this morning. Asked him if it was alright." In all honesty, Jensen hadn't really reacted to the news one way or the other, he'd just been a bit more clingy than usual, sucked his thumb more frequently during the day. Signs that he was a little anxious, but nothing alarming. If he had been upset, Jared would have canceled the whole thing without a second thought. In fact, canceling this meeting would have been a relief on some level, even though he knows allowing more people into Jensen's life is a necessary step and huge progress for the young man.
"Okay then, how about a little music while we wait, something to calm your nerves."
Jared hears the slight reprimand in Christian's tone and knows his friend is right. He needs to calm down because the more nervous he is, the more anxious Jensen will become. Jensen soaks up the tension in a room like a paper towel absorbs spilled juice in one of those Bounty commercials.
Christian situates Jensen so that the teenager is still leaning against his side, but in a way that frees up his arms. Then, he grabs his acoustic from the floor beside him and positions it in his lap.
The butterflies in his stomach flutter. They've been doing it all day, at times worse than others. Now, watching his daddy settle back into his chair - again - look at his watch - again - the butterflies swoop in a downward spiral as though they're caught in a whirlwind. He swallows convulsively, the sleepy contentment of a moment ago fading with the increased activity in the pit of his tummy. His fingers twitch, needing something to hold, something to ground him in this place and this time. Reaching out blindly, his hand finds and latches onto Uncle Christian's flannel shirt sleeve.
A new person is coming today. Jensen understands that the new person wants to meet him, that the new person is someone nice, someone who helped him on that day when there was pain unlike anything he'd ever felt before and blood, so much bright red blood, dripping from his hands where they pressed against his belly. Daddy says the person is the one who sent Uncle Christian to save him. Daddy says this new person just wants to say hi and to see for himself that Jensen is okay now, kind of the way Misha always wants to check that he's okay.
It's...strange, having people care about him. Nice, but strange. And scary. Because what if the new person doesn't like him after all? What if he's sorry he helped? What if, once he sees what he saved, he wishes he hadn't bothered?
Jensen bites down on his lower lip to keep the frightening thoughts from dragging him over the edge and into the darkness. Desperate for a distraction, he focuses on Christian's music. The shirt sleeve he's got clasped tightly in his fist is the one strumming the guitar. Each time Christian strums a chord, Jensen's hand gets moved along with it. The song, a familiar one, has a fast tempo. It's one of Christian's favorites, and Jensen's too. Maybe he likes it so much because Uncle Christian always smiles while he plays it, even laughs while he sings. Listening to the man play this song is like being in on a private joke.
We don't tolerate no sittin' around
Everybody's dancin', groovin', and gettin' on down
So before you come in here with some kind of attitude
Boy, before you come walkin' in here with any kind of attitude
Lord, you better read the house rules
Oh, son, you better read the house rules
The guitar is close. And his hand is right there, pulled along with the strumming motion, caught up in the beat. It's nothing at all to move his hand from his uncle's sleeve to the guitar itself. His fingers brush across the taught strings.
A single note, his note, wavers through the otherwise suddenly quiet room.
Christian stills next to him. But before the roiling thoughts of bad and wrong and no, please, I didn't mean it can gather momentum, shoving him closer to that ever-present cliff's edge, his uncle whispers, "You wanna play the guitar, kiddo?"
Jensen, lower lip caught between his teeth, tilts his head to the side so he can see his protector's face. Christian's eyes have crinkles at the corners. A crooked half-smile and arched eyebrows make him look...hopeful. Sort of like there's a special treat within reach and if he does all the right things, the treat will be given to him. Nothing in his expression makes Jensen believe he's in trouble, so he very slowly nods his head. Yes.
"Okay then." Christian's smile grows until it takes over his whole face. "Okay, awesome." He takes Jensen's hand and places it over the strings again. "You keep strumming. Keep doing the same thing you just did. And I'll makes the chords for you. We'll start there and then I'll teach you what to do with your other hand later on, after you've gotten the hang of it."
The next brush of his fingers over the strings brings a new note.
"That's it. Just like that," Christian says, his voice warm.
A little shiver goes down Jensen's spine at the praise. He picks up his pace, strumming at what he thinks is close to the familiar rhythm. As his fingers move over the strings, the recognizable song surrounds him, like it's a part of him, flowing into him and through him. It's not perfect, it's not even all that pretty, but the sound is his, at least partly. He doesn't speak for himself, but the guitar...the guitar can speak for him. It's a revelation. Like discovering a voice he didn't know he had, a new way of communicating.
The guitar and the song are all he can think about, everything else becomes unimportant. Each stroke of his hand creates a new sound, a new note, and he has to concentrate on what actions produce the different nuances, fast or slow, hard or soft, all the strings or only one plucked at a time. The music becomes his whole world and he doesn't hear the doorbell ring or see his daddy get up and answer it.
"Hey! I'm Chad. You must be Jensen. Chris told me all about you, but I gotta say, man, you aren't really the way I pictured you."
The booming voice and the hand shoved in front of his face are totally unexpected, as jarring as a bomb exploding from out of nowhere.
Jensen scrambles out of reach, but doesn't get far before his back connects with something solid. The guitar makes a discordant wailing sound as his flailing foot accidentally sends the instrument crashing to the floor. Wildly searching for a safe haven, Jensen whips his head around. The loud man is blocking any path he might take to get to his daddy. But Uncle Christian is close. He flings himself into his uncle's now vacant lap and buries his face in the hollow where the man's neck and shoulder meet.
Christian's arms immediately go around him, providing an unyielding barrier, and Jensen knows no one can get through the wall of muscle that is his uncle when he's in protective mode. Despite this, Jensen flattens himself against the hard chest, scrunches his eyes closed, and wills himself invisible. Christian brings a hand up to card through his hair, kneading the taught tendons in his neck.
"Damnit Chad. Back off," Christian hisses through clenched teeth.
"What the h-...? What just happened? What'd I do wrong?"
"Give him some room and shut up." Daddy's voice sounds choked, the words clipped short.
Shuffling noises of feet on carpet move further away from him and the talking gets much softer.
"I thought you said you talked to him, Kane. I thought you said you explained it all to him at the bar the other day. You said he understood."
"I did talk to him. I told him all the same things I told you before you went to the hospital the first time." Christian's tone sharpens. "So tell me Murray, what was that all about? Bull in a china shop much? What happened to, Don't worry, I can play it cool. No problemo, dude. You might want to work on that zen-like tranquility you were bragging about. And while you're at it get an upgrade on the sensitivity."
"Whoa, I'm sorry. I kinda thought you were exaggerating or joking or something. I didn't think...and then I walked in and he was sitting there, playing the guitar and he looked...I don't know...normal. How was I supposed to know? I'm sorry. Really. I didn't mean to freak him out. Is he gonna be alright? Can I do anything?"
"He's fine. He'll be fine. You've done enough. Just...give him a minute."
And then Daddy is right there behind the couch. "Easy, baby. Take it easy. That's just Chad. Remember? I told you he was coming today?" he murmurs as he runs a hand through Jensen's hair.
Jensen takes a shuddering breath and chances a look up. Warm hazel eyes are peering at him. The care and concern he sees there remind him of how much his life has changed, how different things are now. And that's it - he wants his daddy. Nothing else will do but to be in his daddy's arms.
With a swallowed whimper, he climbs over Christian - eliciting a muffled curse - onto the back of the couch, and holds his arms out to be picked up. Daddy wastes no time and soon has him in a bear hug. Jensen rests his head on the convenient shoulder and begins sucking his thumb in earnest.
"There now, see? You're alright. Just got startled is all. But there's no need to be scared of Chad. He's harmless. Right Chad?"
"Um, I guess." The loud man isn't so loud anymore. In fact, Jensen can barely hear him, he's so quiet.
From the safety of his daddy's embrace, he glances over, getting his first real look at the new person. Chad's blond hair is short and spiked up in front. He's wearing jeans and a black leather jacket. His arms are crossed and he doesn't seem to know where to look since he's currently looking back down the hallway at the front door. The only reason for him to be looking at the door is if he wants to leave.
Daddy carries Jensen around the couch and sits down on the opposite side from Christian, leaving the reclining chair free for Chad. He motions to the chair as he finds a comfortable position with Jensen on his lap. "Have a seat, Chad."
Chad takes a half-step towards the chair, but then he stops. His gaze slides past Jensen and his daddy as though they're not actually there and lands on Christian. "You sure, man? 'Cause I'm thinking maybe I should go." He gestures at the hallway.
"I thought you wanted to meet Jensen." His uncle frowns.
Chad shuffles his feet, looking at the TV which isn't on. "I do, I do, it's just...we kinda got off on the wrong foot and it seems like maybe he doesn't want me here."
Jensen wonders why Chad won't look at him. Has he turned invisible after all?
Uncle Christian heaves a sigh. "You startled him, okay? That's all. He's fine now, so if you want to meet him, this is your chance. You may not get another one."
The warning in Christian's voice makes Jensen's scar twinge. He sucks his thumb harder and ducks his head.
Chad stuffs his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "Yeah, okay," he mumbles and slowly sinks into the recliner, perching on the edge.
Daddy shifts them around on the couch so that Jensen is tucked close against his side, but facing forward with a better view of the newcomer. "Let's try this again. Jensen, this is Chad."
Their gazes lock briefly before Chad breaks the connection, addressing his question to Christian. "So, he really does suck his thumb, huh?
Christian snorts. "You don't have a filter, do you? Yeah, he sucks his thumb. I told you that already."
"Right, I know you did, but ah, I thought you were pulling my leg. I've never seen anyone older than like three do that and..." The words trail off, leaving an uncomfortable silence in their wake.
Jensen can feel his face get hot. He pulls his thumb from his mouth and tries to hide the offending, wet digit inside the sleeve of his sweatshirt.
The man doesn't like him, can barely stand to look at him. It's not a surprise. Why should this man like him when even- No, he won't think about them, can't think about them.
Needing some reassurance, he looks up at his daddy. Daddy rubs his arm and smiles at him. Daddy likes him and that's enough. At least, Jensen wants it to be enough. It shouldn't matter what this man, Chad, thinks. Chad is no one to him, a stranger. And yet, it does matter. It hurts. His stomach hurts. Jensen curls forward, arm wrapped tightly against his aching belly.
"Shit, I'm botching it again," Chad grimaces. "Can I talk to him? I mean, will he understand me?"
"Of course, he'll understand you. Don't be an idiot." Daddy's arm slips over his shoulders, offering support.
Chad leans forward, pulls his hands from his pockets and rests his elbows on his knees. "Okay, uh...I'm sorry. I can be a jerk sometimes." He's looking right at Jensen now, gaze intent and earnest, although his voice wavers in a way that sounds like he's nervous for some reason, which is strange. "Even my friends call me a douche. And that's one of the nicer things they call me." A thin, hollow-sounding laugh accompanies this statement. It cuts off immediately and Chad glances at the floor before focusing back on Jensen. "I guess I should probably take the hint, huh? Chris is right, I don't have a filter. Pretty much say everything that crosses my mind, like a bad habit, you know?"
Jensen doesn't know. Talking too much isn't one of his problems. Not anymore. He shakes his head.
"That's right, Chris told me you don't talk." Chad ponders this for a moment, seem to regain some of his earlier confidence. "You might have something there with the whole strong, silent thing. Maybe I should give that a try. What do you think?"
Talking makes Jensen a very bad boy, an ungrateful brat and worse. It doesn't make other people bad though. Other people are allowed to talk and they don't get punished. No one burns them or bashes their head against the wall or locks them in a closet for days without food or water. Why that is, Jensen has never really wondered about. It's just the way things are. He shrugs one shoulder.
"If neither of us talks though, that would make for a pretty quiet visit."
That's true. Jensen fiddles with the cuff on his sweatshirt instead of sucking on his thumb which is what he very much wants to do.
"Or we could go the other way; since you don't talk, I could talk even more to make up your share. That sounds more like my style." Chad grins, seems pleased with his suggestion.
Happiness is better than sadness and much better than anger. Jensen likes the people around him to be happy. Happy people rarely hit, so he gives Chad a shy smile back.
"Okay, talk twice as much as I normally do. Challenge accepted." Chad rubs his hands together and waggles his eyebrows.
"Aww, hell no," Christian groans, scrubbing a hand down his face. "This is not a good idea."
"We'll never know unless we try." Chad's tone is gleeful.
He must like talking an awful lot, more than anyone Jensen knows.
"What do you guys do around here for fun?" Chad starts off.
"Ah ah ah," Chad interrupts Daddy's attempt at answering the question. "I'll tell you the things I like doing and Jensen can nod if it's something he likes doing. That way, we'll see what we have in common. Okay?"
Chad is looking at him, expecting him to answer. Jensen cuts his gaze toward his daddy and receives an encouraging squeeze. Daddy is right beside him if he needs him. Daddy won't let anything bad happen. He takes a deep, fortifying breath and nods.
"Cool." A furrow appears between Chad's dark blond eyebrows. He squints his eyes as though deep in thought. "Let's see, where should I start? I guess I'll go with the obvious first choice. Sports. I'm like a sports fanatic - football, basketball, baseball, soccer, bull riding. You name it, I'll watch it. How about you?"
Can't you see I'm watching the game, you filthy brat? Memories assault him and Jensen's heart lurches against his ribcage. Those sounds coming from the TV - crowds cheering, announcers' voices raised in excitement - those sounds form the backdrop for almost every horrific punishment he can remember. He lets his shiver and downward turned lips give his answer.
"Not a sports guy, huh?" Chad cocks his head.
Daddy presses closer. "No, we tried watching football once. It didn't go well."
"That's alright. Not everyone can be into sports. I won't hold it against ya."
Uncle Christian makes a snorting sound. "Wow, so big of you, Chad. I'm blown away by your generosity."
"Yeah well, allowances have to be made. Perfection is for the few, the proud, the Chad." Chad smirks.
"I knew this was a bad idea," Christian mutters, but he doesn't look mad.
Chad ignores him, attention back on Jensen. "What about video games? Every once in a while you just gotta let your inner geek run wild, am I right? I'll admit it, I used to be big into some of the MMRPG games. I know what you're thinking, 'No Chad, not you. You're way too cool for World of Warcraft.' But you'd be wrong." He rubs at the stubble on his chin and shrugs. "What can I say? They lured me in. I had me a sweet blood elf character with this epic sword." Holding both hands together, Chad proudly displays his make believe sword. "But, I let my subscription lapse." His hands fall onto the recliner's arms and he slouches back, making himself comfortable for the first time since sitting down. "Lately, I've been playing this game with battle tanks. Oh, and there's also a drag racing game where you can race for pink slips. There's nothing better than winning a race and taking some poor shmuck's ride." Chad's fist pumps the air in triumph after he takes his hands off an invisible steering wheel.
Chad is doing a great job of holding up both ends of the conversation. Jensen doesn't have to do anything except lean back and listen. Even though he doesn't know what an MMRPG is and he's never seen the games the other man is talking about, it's fun watching him act out each one. His enthusiasm is contagious and Jensen finds himself grinning along.
"So, do you play any video games? You can tell me, I won't judge." Chad finally takes a break and raises his eyebrows in question.
Video games aren't something Jensen has explored yet, although he has watched Daddy and Uncle Christian play. Sometimes they'll all sit on the couch together, Jensen in the middle, and the other two will spend hours mashing down on the controllers and goofing around. He enjoys being with them, watching them laugh. Someday, he might want to give it a try himself. The answer to Chad's question isn't a straightforward yes or no.
Slowly, he shakes his head no, then nods yes, hoping his meaning will be understood.
From the puzzled look he gets back, Chad doesn't get it.
Daddy helps out by saying, "I have an X-Box. Jensen is more of a spectator than a participant. Chris and I play every once in a while."
"Taking your time to scope out the scene before you commit, huh? I can respect that." Chad bobs his head, gives Jensen a thumbs up. "Video games can be addictive. You don't wanna start down that road until you're absolutely sure you've found the right one. Smart man!"
The way Chad talks is different from anything Jensen is used to. Erratic hand gestures accompany every sentence. As the conversation continues, he gets louder again, but not like he's upset. More like he's overly excited. About everything. He's unpredictable and that makes Jensen a little uneasy, but it's not as scary as it was at first.
"Okay then, I know I'm gonna hit the bullseye with this one. Music!" Chad points at the guitar on the floor, then at Jensen. "I saw you playing when I came in and that's awesome because I like music too. So, we have at least one thing in common. I've seen friendships based on a whole lot less than that." He thumps his hand on the recliner. "Oh, I know what we can do! Let's play something together. Jensen, you can play the guitar, Kane can sing, I play a mean thigh drum." Here Chad stops speaking to demonstrate his thigh drum skills by slapping his jean-clad legs, even throwing in a few air symbol crashes. "And you? What can you play?" He tips his head quizzically at Jared.
"Who? Jared? Jared doesn't play an instrument," Uncle Christian snickers. "Jared dances." To prove his point, Christian mimics some of the silly dance moves Daddy does to make Jensen laugh.
"Hardy har, you're a riot," Daddy says in the toneless voice he uses when Uncle Christian is teasing him.
"Hey, whatever floats your boat, man. You wanna dance? Have at it." Chad gestures at some floor space free of furniture. "What was that song you were playing earlier? Let's play that one."
Uncle Christian picks up his guitar. "Fine by me, but I need Jensen over here." He pats the couch cushion on his right. "You up for this, kiddo?"
Jensen isn't sure.
"Go ahead, baby. It's just for fun," Daddy tells him, giving him a soft nudge.
The guitar does look inviting and Jensen is itching to get his hands on it again, even though he's not as comfortable with Chad watching. He eyes the space between him and his uncle uncertainly. It takes an act of bravery to give up his safe spot pressed against his daddy and scoot over to his uncle's side, but he does it.
"You strum and I'll make the chords, just like before," Uncle Christian encourages him.
Music pours from the guitar, rich and vibrant, filling the room. Christian sings. Chad taps the rhythm on his leg. Daddy doesn't get up and dance, but he does hum along and, after a while, he starts bopping his head.
Jensen thinks he might be getting better at this.
"Look at you, you're shreddin' it!" Chad tells him. "Hold on, I've got something for you." He pulls a pair of dark sunglasses from the front breast pocket of his leather jacket. "Here, let's put these on you." The sunglasses get carefully placed over his eyes. "How does the world look through those?"
The world looks...darker, for sure - colors muted, lights dimmed. The glasses give him the feeling of being behind a barrier, one that he can see through, while no one can see him. He likes it.
"Dude, you look all mysterious and shit."
Jensen just smiles.
After they finish the first song, Uncle Christian says, "How about this one?" Then he takes Jensen's strumming hand and helps him move it over the strings in an unfamiliar rhythm while continuing to make the chords with his other hand.
Chad groans. "Are you serious? The Final Countdown? On an acoustic? That's just wrong, man."
"Lead singer picks the song," Uncle Christian smirks, belting out, "It's the final count down!"
Chad shakes his head, but begins tapping out the beat on his thigh anyway. "Fine, if that's what you want to play, try to keep up." The beat gets faster.
Christian laughs. "You're going too fast, son. Slow it down."
"Drummer sets the tempo." Chad grins, flashing white teeth, and drums faster. "This is the way I roll."
Jensen's fingers feel as though they're flying over the strings at a frantic pace as Uncle Christian tries to keep up with Chad. It's exhilarating. Laughter bubbles up inside him and comes cascading out.
Daddy whoops, a loud, happy sound. "Yeah, go, go, go."
They finish the song, breathless with laughter.
Chad wastes no time in making the next song selection. Daddy and Uncle Christian complain and then start playing and singing along, in spite of themselves. There's a lot of name calling along with a lot of laughter. And Jensen is right there with them, part of it. Not sitting in the background watching, not shoved in a closet, not hiding under the table trying not to be noticed, but right there in the middle of it all. Like he belongs. He thinks this could be what Doctor Jim was talking about.
There's just one thing missing. He wishes Misha was here.
They're having fun.
At one point, Jensen even full-on laughs, with his whole body, head thrown back and everything. It's one of the very few times Jared has seen him do that and for the briefest instant, he gets a flash, an image of Jensen as the man he could have been. If only his parents had been decent people. If only they hadn't fucked him up. It's enough to make Jared's chest tighten and his lungs seize. He has to fake a coughing fit just to get them to cooperate again. Breathe Padalecki, he coaches himself.
Why haven't we ever done this before, he wonders silently.
They're having so much fun that Jared misses the obvious signs for far too long. To be fair, the sunglasses probably had something to do with that.
"Someone has hit a wall." Christian says, his voice amused as he removes the dark shades from Jensen's face.
Red-rimmed, glassy eyes stare straight ahead from under hooded lids. Jensen has stopped strumming, his hand resting limply on the guitar. He looks more asleep than awake, despite the fact that he's still sitting upright.
"Yeah, a wall built by the sandman," Jared agrees as he maneuvers himself up off the couch without jostling the tired boy. "I'll go get his bottle and then take him to the nursery for a nap. He's way past due."
"A bottle? You mean, like a baby bottle? No way. You were serious about that part too?"
The utter disbelief in Chad's tone causes Jared to shake his head, lips hinting at a smile. He ignores the question on his way from the room. Christian can deal with his filterless friend.
The guy truly is a douche, but he's a likable douche. In a way, he reminds Jared of an ill-behaved adolescent dog, still more puppy than adult. One that has out-grown the adorable stage and is all gangly legs and gigantic paws too big for its body. Jumping all over the place in his eagerness to be seen and heard. Trying too hard to please and going about it in all the wrong ways.
More important than any of that though, he's kind to Jensen. After the initial awkwardness, Chad had quickly adapted to Jensen's quirks, accepted him, and found ways to connect with him. And he makes Jensen laugh. A lot can be forgiven as long as he keeps that up. Christian knew what he was talking about when he said Chad's heart was in the right place.
In the kitchen, Jared warms up the bottle of milk he'd prepared earlier in the day. Warm milk always does the trick, not that Jensen needs that extra nudge into dreamland today. The teen is already well on his way there.
Jared can hear Christian and Chad's continued conversation, a low murmur of voices, and can only imagine what that discussion must entail. Warm bottle in hand, he heads back to the living room. Jensen has shifted so he's curled up against Christian, his thumb held snugly between his lips, stuffed rabbit and blanket under one arm. His eyes are open, but only to mere slits. The guitar has been relegated to the floor and Christian is idly rubbing the boy's back.
"Hey, next time, you guys should come hang at my place. Have a few beers, play Rock Band on the Wii. It'll be epic. Whatda ya say?" Chad is kicked back in the recliner with his arms hooked behind his head and his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles.
"Yeah, maybe. We'll see." Christian's noncommittal answer comes as he gives Jensen's back a final pat. "Okay kiddo, looks like your daddy is ready for you."
Jared gathers up Jensen, his blanket and Mr. Bun. "Come on baby, nap time."
Jensen's head falls to his shoulder as though it's too heavy for him to hold up.
The nursery is down the hall, on the left. Its east-facing window catches the dawn's early glow, but in the afternoon this side of the house is cast in shadow, making it ideal for a drowsy boy to drop off to sleep. Jared settles in the rocking chair, Jensen snuggled against his chest. He has to nudge Jensen's full, pouty lips with the bottle nipple a few times before he opens up.
As Jensen sucks lazily, Jared thinks about the day so far. The meeting with Chad hadn't gone exactly the way he'd planned. In many ways it had gone better than he could have dared dream. It gives him hope for the meeting with the attorneys that hasn't been scheduled yet. Especially if they'll come here to the house instead of making Jensen go to their offices.
"So what did you think of Chad? He's quite a character, isn't he?" he asks while brushing Jensen's bangs off his forehead.
There's no response because Jensen has already fallen asleep, the mostly-full bottle held in place by suction alone. They waited just a little bit too late to start the nap-time routine and now they'll have to finish the bottle later on. Jensen's milk is fortified with vitamin and protein supplements, specially formulated to help him gain weight; to counteract the physical damage done during his early developmental years. Severe malnutrition is just one piece of evidence testifying to the abuse Jensen suffered at his parent's hands. It's important that he drink a full bottle every day to bolster his immune system and keep him healthy.
Jared gently pulls the bottle from Jensen's mouth. A soft squelching sound accompanies its release. Jensen hiccups in his sleep. It's super cute and Jared can't help but to hug the boy closer. Times like these - when Jensen is at peace, his past a distant memory - are sacred. Jensen's features are relaxed, fear and pain nowhere to be seen. Jared loves holding him and watching him sleep, free from the nightmares that often still plague him.
So yes, soon he'll get Jensen settled in his crib and put the bottle back in the fridge for later. And then, he'll rejoin Christian and Chad in the living room, see what trouble the two men have gotten into. But for now, he's just going to rock his sweet boy while he sleeps, keeping guard against the all-too-real monsters that live inside his head.
Continue to Chapter 5
A/N: The song Christian plays in this chapter is, of course, his own - House Rules. My favorite rule is rule number seven. Fist bump if you agree! I have a youtube video of Kane's House Rules saved as a permanent tab on my iPad. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag-v3qrJHG0
Start at Chapter 1