And Nothing Will Ever be the Same
The loud bang of his door flying open heralds Jared’s arrival two hours later. He bounds into the room like a frantic puppy, eyes wide and tragic. “Jensen, I’ve been going out of my mind ever since I found out. They wouldn’t let me come see you ‘til now.”
“Jared,” Jensen croaks past a huge lump in his throat. The protective shell of emotional lethargy he’s been hiding behind cracks a little in the face of his best friend’s concern.
In an instant, Jared is across the room to the bed where Jensen sits, long arms wrapping around his shoulders, careful of his injuries and the sling holding his left arm tight against his chest. “Is this okay?” he asks. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
They’ve always been more tactile with each other than strict friendship generally allows. That being said, hugging isn’t all that common for them. They’re more than just friends now though - the kiss they shared makes them more - and Jensen needs this hug. He isn’t going to deny himself the one good thing he has left in his life. He grabs the fabric of Jared’s collar at the back of his neck and holds on tight, burying his face in the soft t-shirt. “Yeah,” he whispers. “This is okay.”
They stay like that for a long time, not talking, just soaking up each other’s warmth. Jensen feels himself settle. He feels more like himself with Jared here and less like the poor kid in room 506 whose parents are dead. Eventually, Jared pulls away, only far enough that he can put his hands on either side of Jensen’s face, tilting his head up so they’re staring deeply into one another’s eyes. “Jensen, I’m not going to ask you if you’re okay, I know you aren’t. No one could be after going through what you’ve been through. But I’m here. I’m not going to let you deal with this alone. Whatever happens next, we’ll face it together. Alright?”
Jensen nods, grateful for Jared’s strength. It strikes him as ironic that all during their freshman year he was the one looking after Jared, providing encouragement, building up his self-esteem, his self-confidence, bringing him out of his shy little bubble, and now Jared is the strong one, giving him a sturdy foundation to lean on while he regains his footing. It’s almost like he loaned his courage to Jared and now Jared is giving it back. He feels a profound sense of peace, thinking that when one of them falters the other will always be there to pick up the slack.
Dr. Qualls comes in and finds them still wrapped around each other. He seems pleased to see that Jensen has a friend here for him. After checking Jensen’s shoulder again, looking over the notations made in his chart by the night shift nurses, and giving him a prescription for pain meds, he says, “My shift is over now, but I’ll give the order for your discharge papers to be drawn up before I go. That is, assuming you have somewhere to go?” He looks at Jared.
Jared goes all little-boy shy, giving Jensen his best puppy-dog eyes, dewy and hopeful. “You can stay with us. I already talked my mom into it. She’s agreed to take custody of you until your family can get here. We weren’t sure how long that might be because I know you don’t have any family close by.”
It’s strange having these types of decisions made for him. Not bad strange, just...strange. Jensen supposes it’s a good thing since he hasn’t thought about that kind of stuff himself; where he’s going to stay, what he’s going to do past the here and now. He’s been actively avoiding all thoughts about his future.
“We’ve called your Aunt.” Dr. Qualls’ face falls. “She’s...Jensen, I’m so sorry, but she’s dealing with a family tragedy as well. Her daughter died yesterday. She won’t be able to come. Not right away.”
Isabella is dead. Sweet Isabella, same age as Mackenzie. It can’t be possible. Jensen can feel the mind-numbing lassitude creeping back over him. The scrap of vitality Jared’s presence had brought him ebbs away.
His doctor tells him a social worker will be by to speak with him sometime within the next couple days. Since he’s being released into Mr. and Mrs. Padalecki’s custody, the hospital will need their contact information for the discharge papers. He also gives Jensen the name and number for a therapist and recommends that he call to schedule his first appointment as soon as possible.
Jensen sits and listens and some of the information penetrates the murky haze, but most of it floats off into obscurity. He nods and agrees without really knowing what he’s agreeing to. It all takes on a surreal quality.
Once he’s done talking, Dr. Qualls gives Jensen another clumsy, bony hug. Then he hugs Jared. The look on Jared’s face, startled and uncomfortable as hell, would be amusing if Jensen wasn’t having so much trouble remembering why the doctor was even here.
Mine...the bond formed can’t be broken...mine forever
The voice is getting louder, the words more distinct, even though it still sounds like it’s coming from far away, being broadcast over a static-filled radio channel. Jensen lets go and gives in to the voice, letting the soft hiss sooth him as the monster continues to croon at him.
“Jensen? Hey, Jen?” A tentative touch to his face brings him around. Jared is brushing the hair, freshly washed and free of product from his earlier shower, off his forehead and looking at him as if he’s something fragile.
“Yeah?” he responds, looking around to find the doctor gone and Mrs. Padalecki standing in the doorway, a paper bag held awkwardly in her elegantly manicured hand. Jensen doesn’t remember her arrival.
“I was saying that I’ve finished filling out your discharge papers.” She repeats, not unkindly. Crossing the room, she puts the bag on the bed near his feet. “A nurse gave me these, the clothes you were wearing when they brought you in, your wallet, and your keys. We can go as soon as you’re dressed. Those clothes probably won’t be very comfortable, but we can stop by your house and get some more of your things before we go home if you like.”
Jensen can’t see the expression on his own face, but it must look as shattered as he feels because Jared quickly cuts in, “You can borrow some of my clothes.”
“Okay,” Jensen says, relieved and grateful, oh so grateful, not to have to go back inside his house yet.
He changes in the bathroom. The black leather no longer makes him feel liberated and adventurous, exactly the opposite in fact. As a hospital orderly wheels him out to the parking lot in a very unnecessary but apparently required wheelchair, he feels judged and condemned by every single person they pass. He keeps his head down, careful not to make eye contact with anyone.
He climbs into the back seat of Mrs. Padalecki’s white Volvo and Jared gets in next to him, leaving Mrs. Padalecki alone in the front seat like a chauffeur. He rests his head against the window and closes his eyes. His shoulder hurts and he’s so tired he can hardly hold onto a thought for more than a couple seconds before it dissolves. He hopes that if it looks like he’s asleep, no one will ask him any questions. Either his ploy works, or Jared and his mom aren’t in the mood for conversation either. The car ride to Jared’s house is totally silent.
It’s not until he and Jared are alone in Jared’s bedroom that Jensen speaks again, curiosity getting the better of him. “Did the police talk to you?”
Jared goes to his dresser and pulls out a pair of lightweight track pants and a navy-blue t-shirt. “Yes, that cop dude came by the house this morning. Woke everyone up. Said he needed to talk to me and Jeff.” He hands the clothes to Jensen. “Here, you can wear these.”
Jensen takes them in his right hand, making no move to put them on. Getting dressed one-handed at the hospital had been difficult, but possible. The hospital gown came off easily, of course, and the sleeveless leather vest hadn’t proved an issue to get on, even with the shoulder sling in place. The hardest part had been pulling on the leather pants, but that had just been a matter of patience and persistence. With time he’d been able to get the job done.
It’s the t-shirt that’s causing him to hesitate now. How’s he supposed to get his arm through the sleeve?
Jared understands immediately. “I’ll help you,” he says.
The shoulder sling is a two-part contraption. The part that fits over his clothing is a normal sling that his arm rests in to take the weight off his shoulder. The other part wraps around his shoulder itself under his clothes to keep it immobile. Jared gingerly unhooks the straps and removes the outer part. His agile fingers skim gently over Jensen’s skin as they work.
Jensen shrugs his good shoulder out of the vest first, then Jared helps him ease the leather off his sore shoulder while supporting his arm. As careful as he is, the movement still jars the abused tendons holding the bones in place, sending a sharp pang radiating from his shoulder blade all the way down to his wrist, and Jensen can’t hold back the gasp.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jared murmurs. “Mom’s gone to fill your prescription. You can take some pain meds when she gets back.”
“It’s alright. Thanks for helping me with this.” Heat suffuses his face and Jensen ducks his head. “It’s just embarrassing, you know? You having to dress me like I’m an invalid or something.”
“Whatever dude. You’re hurt and you’re my boyfriend, of course I’m gonna help you.” Jared gets an oh-fuck-did-I-really-say-that-out-loud look on his face, eyes bright and round, lips pressed together as if to stop any other ill-advised words from spilling out.
Jensen smiles for the first time since...well, for what seems like ages. “Boyfriend? Did you call me your boyfriend?” In part he’s teasing because he wants to give Jared a way to backtrack without this becoming too awkward between them. Another part wants to hear Jared confirm it, wants it to be true. He’s kind of been referring to Jared as his boyfriend ever since last night. Inside his head anyway.
Jared mumbles a mortified “Shut up.” But a second later, he’s gazing at Jensen through a screen of his long, floppy hair. “I want you to be. Is that okay?”
This, at least, is a slice of normalcy for Jensen. This, reassuring Jared, giving Jared the confidence he needs to show the world how amazing he is. This, Jensen knows how to do. “It’s okay, more than,” he says before closing the small distance between them and pressing their lips together in a chaste, but intense kiss.
Jared’s lips, firm and slick against his own, spark something inside him. Warmth pools in his belly. The voice in his head stops its insistent yammering. Only once his head is clear again does Jensen realize how much he has surrendered to the voice. He can’t let himself surrender to it. It’s the shadow monster’s voice and it’s playing with him. He can’t let it win. Listening to it gives it power over him, he’s not sure how, but he knows it’s true. Kissing Jared makes it go away. Jared silences the voice.
The kiss becomes more desperate. Jensen licks at Jared’s plush lips, begging entrance. He doesn’t have a ton of experience with kissing. A few games of spin the bottle played at friends’ houses when he was thirteen or fourteen, fumbling, mostly innocent brushes of lips in a dark closet, form the basis for the only practice he’s ever gotten. As far as he knows, Jared’s skill level is on the same par. The resulting kiss is maybe a bit sloppy, with perhaps more tongue than can really be called erotic or sexy. Still, Jensen is panting and hella turned on by the time Jared pulls away, an apologetic quirk to his smile.
“We should probably talk about the boyfriend thing before we go much further,” Jared whispers, voice a little breathless.
Jensen lets out a puff of air, disappointed even though he knows Jared is right. Plus, there are other things they need to talk about. Jared hasn’t asked yet and he’s grateful for the space his boyfriend has been giving him, but he’s ready now. He needs to tell Jared what happened to his parents last night, needs to tell someone who truly cares about him in a personal way, not just in the way a doctor cares about a patient or in the way a policeman is supposed to care about a victim. He needs to tell someone who will understand and believe him. There’s no one in the world who understands him the way Jared does, especially now that his parents are...gone.
Together they maneuver his arms into the borrowed t-shirt and get it over his head. It hurts, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. Jared straps his left arm back into the outer sling. The sleepless night is catching up to him big time and exhaustion is taking a toll. Leather pants were not made for sleeping in. That’s the only reason he agrees to let Jared help him change into the comfy track pants.
“Just sit on the bed. It’ll only take me a minute. If you insist on doing it yourself it’ll take fifteen like it did at the hospital,” Jared argues and Jensen has no choice but to agree.
Jared is true to his word, his movements efficient, and he soon has Jensen completely outfitted in borrowed clothing. During the process, Jensen makes another discovery, Jared’s touch, not just his kiss, keeps the voice from invading his head. Each time Jared’s hands skim his legs, the voice fades out. When he pulls his hands away to tug on fabric, the voice starts up again. Jensen compares it to turning the radio on and off.
“You look tired. You wanna lie down? I can go get you something to drink.” Jared turns to leave.
Jensen grabs his hand. “Don’t go. Talk to me. Please.”
Jared nods and sits next to him on the bed, their hips and thighs touching. “Of course. Whatever you need. I’m here for you.”
Jensen closes his eyes for a moment, thinking of where he wants to start. It’s harder than usual to open them. God, he’s tired. “They thought I did it at first, did the cop tell you that? They thought I’d killed my own parents. You’re my alibi, you and Jeff.”
Jared winces. “He didn’t come right out and say it, but we figured it out. He told us they’d set time of death around 10 pm and wanted to know if we could vouch for your whereabouts at that time.”
A shiver runs down his spine. “If that’s true, it means the monster was in my house for hours after it killed them. What was it doing in there? Why did it hang around?” He’s talking to himself, not Jared. Jared doesn’t know that.
“What monster? What are you talking about, Jen?” He snags the blanket from the foot of his bed and drapes it over Jensen’s shoulders. “You cold?”
Jensen locks eyes with Jared, imploring his boyfriend to see the honesty there, to believe him. “When I got home last night, there was a monster in the upstairs hallway, a creature worse than any nightmare I’ve ever had. I don’t know how to describe it. It looked like it was made of smoke, the kind of smoke that billows out of factory smokestacks, only darker, blacker. It didn’t have a face, Jared. It d-didn’t have a f-face.” His voice gets progressively more strident, cracking on the last sentence, and he knows he sounds like he’s coming apart. He pauses to get his breathing back under control.
“Take your time,” Jared says, brows furrowed. “It’s okay, just take your time.”
“I thought I could push it out of the way if I rammed into it hard enough. It was blocking mom and dad’s room. I wanted to get to them, warn them.” Jensen is shivering for real now, his whole body trembling, reacting to his memories and the sheer relief at finally sharing them with Jared, someone who can help carry this unbelievably heavy load. He feels dizzy and lightheaded. “That’s how my shoulder got fucked up. I hurled myself at it as hard as I could. Shoulder took the brunt of it, I guess.”
“That sounds horrifying. You were so brave. I don’t think I would have been that brave.” Jared puts an arm around him, turns sideways, and pulls him against his chest.
Jensen goes with it; not sure he could stay upright without the support even if he wanted to right now; he’s shaking so hard. “I barely budged it, barely had any effect on it at all. It was saying crazy shit to me, stuff about...about how much it w-wanted me, how it couldn’t get me. It made no sense.” Tears begin tracking down his face. He sniffles and hides in the crook of Jared’s neck, heart hammering in his chest as images from the previous night play on the insides of his closed eyelids.
Jared’s hand comes up to cup the back of his head. “Jesus, Jen.”
“It disappeared after that, vanished, as in one second it’s there, the next second it’s gone. And m-my parents...Jared, it k-killed them. Why did it k-kill them?” He’s full-on crying at this point, breath hitching, snot and tears flowing. He’s a fucking mess and he can’t stop, he’s completely out of control. All his heartbreak, his fear, his confusion, he can’t hold them back any longer. His emotions overwhelm him. He feels like they’re crushing him, like he’s being buried alive.
Jared’s embrace is the only thing keeping the weight from annihilating him. He clings to Jared and sobs unselfconsciously. Jared holds him and murmurs a bunch of nonsense that Jensen doesn’t really pay attention to. The words themselves hold little meaning, it’s the sound of Jared’s voice and the way his touch keeps the monster’s voice at bay and the utter exhaustion that eventually lull Jensen into a semi-asleep state.
His breathing deepens, interrupted only occasionally by faint hiccups. He senses himself being lowered into a prone position, a pillow placed under his head, and his feet lifted onto the mattress. “Stay,” he slurs into the pillow when he sees Jared move toward the door through slitted eyes. “Y’keep the voice away, Jare. Don’ go.”
The bed dips as Jared settles in next to him, turning on his side so that they’re face to face. “‘Course I’ll stay if that’s what you want. Sleep. I’ll be here.”
“Gotta be touchin’ to make the voice stop.” Jensen demonstrates by twining their fingers together. “Like this, see?”
“What voice, Jen?”
Jensen’s heavy eyelids close; he can’t for the life of him get them open again. “The smoke monster’s voice. Talks to me all th’time. Won’t shut up,” he mumbles.
“Okay, you sleep. We can talk more later.”
“Do ya’ think Sam’n Dean could kill it?”
“The monster? Yes, Sam and Dean could definitely kill it. Don’t worry, Jen.”
The press of Jared’s lips against his temple is the last thing Jensen feels as he succumbs to a deep sleep.
He wakes to the sound of raised voices coming from elsewhere in the house. He can’t hear what they’re saying through the bedroom door, but one of them is definitely Jared’s and the other sounds like Mrs. Padalecki.
From Jared’s bedroom window, he can see the front yard and the driveway. Mr. Padalecki’s car isn’t parked outside, so he must not be home. Jensen wonders where he’s been all day. It’s Sunday so he’s probably not at work.
Jared shouts something that sounds like, “Mom, wait. Just listen to me.”
Mrs. Padalecki doesn’t answer, at least not that Jensen can hear.
The pain in his shoulder has ratcheted up several notches since he left the hospital. Some pain meds would really be awesome right about now, and while he’s at it he should probably eat something; can’t take pain meds on an empty stomach anyway. The last time he ate was dinner, his mom’s salmon and rice. He’s not hungry, but he should be. He’s missed breakfast and lunch today so far. He decides to go down to the kitchen and see if he can maybe get a piece of toast and his prescription. Didn’t Jared say his mom had gone to get it filled?
He pads downstairs, but stops in the foyer when he hears Mrs. Padalecki in the kitchen say, “Jared, I’m sorry. It’s not possible. He can’t stay here.”
Jared’s voice sounds pissed, although he’s not shouting anymore. “How can you do this to him? He’s my best friend, no he’s more than that he’s my boyfriend, and he needs help!”
“Yes, exactly! He needs help, help that we aren’t equipped to provide. You said it yourself; he thinks a monster killed his parents. He’s hearing voices. He’s not well, Jared.”
“I never would have told you that if I’d known you were going to use it against him. I never should have told you,” Jared seethes. “The only reason I did is that I thought you could give me some advice on how to help him. He’s scared and he’s hurting. He needs to be here with me, where I can help him through this, not in some...some...institution.”
“I don’t know what else to do.” Mrs. Padalecki sounds tired, resigned. “The social worker will be here soon to get him. They’ll make sure he gets the help he needs. It’s for the best, son.”
They’ve betrayed you...don’t want you...I want you...pretty boy
The monster sounds smug and for the first time Jensen wonders if he really is imagining the voice. Is he sick in the head? Then he rejects the idea. It’s real, he knows it is. He knows what he saw. He could never in a million year make up something like that.
On legs that have gone numb, he walks into the kitchen.
Both Jared and Mrs. Padalecki turn to look at him, guilty expressions on their faces.
“Can I have a piece of toast before I go?” he asks quietly. “And my shoulder hurts. Can I have my pain meds?”
“Jensen,” Jared says in a voice that sounds as if he’s being strangled. “Please, I don’t want this. I’ll find a way-“
“I thought if anyone would believe me, it would be you. I love you, Jared.” Jensen isn’t angry. He’s just empty. He turns and goes back to Jared’s room.
A little while later, Mrs. Padalecki comes up with his toast, water, and a bottle of pills. She tells him she’s sorry. She says she wishes things could be different. She talks about how the social worker promised her they would take good care of him, get him all the help he needed.
Jensen doesn’t say anything.
Jared comes and sits with him, holds his hand, kisses him, tears running down both their faces. “I’ll talk to her. She’ll change her mind. You’ll be back here with me soon. I believe you, Jen, I do. I’m sorry I doubted you. Please talk to me. Don’t be mad. I love you.”
“I’m not mad,” Jensen says.
When the social worker comes, Jared pulls him into a tight hug. “I’ll see you soon,” he whispers.
Jensen gets into the social worker’s car and watches the Padalecki house until they turn a corner. Once it’s lost from sight he thinks ‘that’s it, now I’ve lost everything’. Inside his head he hears:
Yes...that’s it, cry for me...yes...yes
Link to Chapter 11
Link to the Master Post