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: 3,547 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: Finally, we are getting close to the end. It's very bittersweet for me. These characters have been a part of my life for the past eight years. Even when I wasn't actively writing this story, I thought about them all the time. I'm very grateful to everyone who has ever left me a comment on any story, but especially this one. It's not mainstream and only appeals to a select few. But it is near and dear to my heart, so I thank you mightily for the support you have shown me. Without those who comment, this story would not exist. (((Hugs)))
Jared knows the instant it all falls apart - all their careful planning and preparations, the music and the humidifier, the questions cloaked in soothing voices, the stuffed animals and blankets. Everything had been going smoothly, better than they had any right to imagine it would, and Jared had hoped, God, he had really and truly believed they might get through this unscathed.
And then he feels the shivering begin.
“No, oh baby, no.”
Jensen can’t hear him, that much is obvious right away, but even more disturbing than that are the hands Jensen wraps around his own throat, fingers digging mercilessly into tender flesh, white bandages stark against rapidly reddening skin.
“Don’t do that, kiddo,” Christian finally abandons his sentry position to drop to his knees in front of the rocking chair. Tenderly, as he only ever is with Jensen, he tries to pry the trembling boy’s fingers away from his throat. Unsuccessfully.
Air whistles and wheezes through the constricted airway, and still Jensen won’t let go. Jared begins to panic as Jensen’s face turns red and his lips go a dusky purple.
Is Jensen trying to choke himself out? Or is he reliving something his parents used to do to him?
“Please stop, sweetheart. You have to stop or you’ll hurt yourself.” Jared attempts to worm his fingers in underneath Jensen’s. It’s no use. The stranglehold he has around his neck is ruthlessly tight. He’s going to crush his windpipe if he squeezes any tighter. “Jesus, Christian! Can’t you get him to stop?”
“I’m trying, man,” Christian mutters while tugging ineffectively at the young man’s hands. “I don’t want to pull too hard or I might make it worse.”
With the way they’re sitting - Jensen in his lap facing away from him - Jared is at the wrong angle to be able to help pull his hands away. So, he grabs hold of Jensen’s forearms and begins to push, only slight pressure at first, then harder as the choking continues and Jensen begins to make strangled, whimpering noises like a puppy being cruelly held under water until it drowns. The muscles in Jensen’s arms are as rigid as steel bars, and no matter how hard Jared pushes, he isn’t able to loosen them.
Over the out of control, bass drum thumping of his own heart, Jared hears himself chanting, “Please let go, Jensen. I love you, baby. Please let go.”
“Let me try,” Misha says, scooting over and shouldering Christian out of the way. “Jensen? Hey Jensen, look at me.” He puts both hands on the boy’s face as one would put blinders on a skittish horse. “You can stop now. We understand what they did to you. How they made you feel. We get it. You don’t have to do this. Let go. It’s okay, let go.” His voice is a low murmur, his face so close to Jensen’s that he’s gone cross-eyed from the intensity of his focus.
Jared thinks Misha isn’t quite telling the truth. They’ll probably never really understand everything Jensen went through.
The words seem to get through to him, nonetheless. Either that or the lack of oxygen finally takes its toll. Slowly, the grip Jensen has on his throat slackens until his hands fall limply into his lap. His head lolls sideways, coming to rest against Jared’s collarbone.
Jensen’s tortured sounding gasp is echoed by everyone in the room, and Jared nearly begins sobbing. Relief sluices through him, making him light-headed and dizzy. He wraps his arms around the now lax boy in his lap, gathering him in as close as he can and matching his breaths with the harsh, shredded inhales and exhales sawing in and out of him, each one as sweet as a guitar’s mellow chord to Jared.
“How bad is it?” he asks Misha, unable to look. “His throat.”
Misha cups the side of Jensen’s head, tilting it so he can run careful fingers over the abused flesh on his neck. “There’s some swelling, and some spectacular bruises will develop over the next couple days, but I don’t think there’s any permanent damage. Can you go get a chemical ice pack from the first aid kit, Chris?”
Without a word, Christian makes a beeline for the bathroom where he knows Jared keeps the medical supplies.
“I’m sorry,” Matt says in a small voice. “I knew this was going to be difficult for him, but I didn’t...” He gives a shaky sigh. “I hoped we wouldn’t upset him this badly.”
“It was to be expected.” Misha gives Matt the briefest of glances over his shoulder as he delivers his pronouncement, words clipped, before immediately turning his attention back to Jensen.
Jared has been on the receiving end of such behavior from Misha enough times to have learned not to take it personally. The paramedic simply has little tolerance for trivialities when he’s working. And that’s never more true than when his patient is Jensen.
Christian returns with not only the ice pack, but what looks like a bag full of first aid products he must have gathered from the kitchen and bathroom. He dumps his load on the floor, and Misha quickly plucks an ice pack from the pile, snaps it to activate the chemical coolant, and settles it against the worst of the swelling.
Throughout the examination, Jensen is quiet and pliant, the way he frequently gets when his past rears its ugly head and he seems to zone out, escape inside his head. So, it’s with considerable surprise that Jared notices the hand reaching out for him.
“Hey, baby,” he says, enfolding the groping fingers in a strong, yet gentle grasp. “You with us?”
Green eyes, made all the more striking by the red-rimmed whites around them, gaze up at him. Jensen nods. It’s a bit tremulous, but he appears more alert than Jared would have thought.
“That’s good.” Jared smiles down, says, “You were so brave. I’m proud of you. So very proud. You were amazing.”
Jensen sucks in a shuddering breath and burrows closer.
Jared’s protective instincts, already high, skyrocket. His insides quiver with the need to keep any more harm from coming to this boy. He sets the rocking chair in motion, and Jensen’s thumb finds its way into his mouth. “That’s right, it’s over now. Just relax.” He soothes a hand through Jensen’s soft hair.
The room is quiet as though frozen in time. Jared closes his eyes, all his attention focused on the boy in his arms. He doesn’t know what the other are doing, but the only sounds are the rocking chair’s gentle creaking and Jensen’s rough breaths. They rock until Jensen’s breathing becomes less labored.
When Jared opens his eyes, he notices that, in all the excitement, Mr. Bun has fallen onto the floor. He nods his head at the toy and asks Rachel, who is closest to it, “Can you get that for us?”
“Of course.” As she places the rabbit in the crook of Jensen’s elbow, she says, “We don’t want to cause any more stress, so we’re going to head out now. But before we go, Sparkle wants to give your bunny something.” She holds out the stuffed unicorn, front hooves outstretched, wrapping them around Mr. Bun’s plush tummy. “That hug is for you too,” she says to Jensen. “Your bunny can save it for you, for later. You know, hugs can be magical things, especially a hug from a unicorn. They have healing properties and can often chase away the scariest nightmares. Remember that, and the next time you need a hug, remember your bunny has one saved up for you.”
Jensen regards her solemnly, then he moves Mr. Bun’s fluffy arms to encircle Sparkle’s long, graceful neck, returning the hug. It’s as if he’s telling Rachel that bunny hugs can be pretty darn magical too and offering to share his brand of healing with her.
Jared has to swallow hard to get past the lump in his throat.
Rachel and Matt stand up and start moving toward the door.
Misha clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he pulls Jensen’s bandaged hand closer to have a look. “These burns are going to need to be cleaned and rewrapped. I think some of the blisters may have ruptured.”
“Why don’t Misha and I stay here with Jensen while you go see your guests out,” Christian offers, sitting cross-legged on the floor and opening his arms. “What do you say, kiddo?”
Jared is torn. He really doesn’t want to leave Jensen right now. In fact, every fiber of his being screams out against it. But Jensen surprises him again by shifting his weight as though he’s thinking about making a move. “You okay with that, Jensen? Do you want to stay here with Misha and Christian for a little while?”
Usually after a rough episode or a bad nightmare, Jensen won’t go to anyone other than Jared, doesn’t want to be held by anyone other than his daddy. He seems calm now though, and not in the lethargic way he sometimes gets after a bad fright when he goes into a nearly comatose state. More like he’s preoccupied with deep thoughts that leave little head-space for anything that may be happening around him. And if he’s steady enough, secure enough, to let Jared leave for a little while...well, shouldn’t Jared give him the opportunity to prove to himself how strong he truly is?
Jared represses his urge to stay rooted to the rocking chair with Jensen clutched possessively in his embrace, and when Jensen leans toward Christian, Jared lets him go.
“I’ll be right back,” Jared husks as he gets his boy situated on the floor, his head in Christian’s lap.
He proceeds the attorneys down the hallway to the front door even though it feels like he’s being ripped in half.
“I can see why he’s gathered such staunch supporters.” Matt gestures back toward the nursery where, from the sounds of it, Misha has started directing Christian on how to unwrap the bandages around Jensen’s burnt hand. “He’s...”
Jared cycles through a dozen ways to help Matt finish that sentence. Jensen is a lot of things - unique, special, troubled, yes, but also amazingly hopeful, highly empathic, resilient after everything he’s gone through, and beautiful, both inside and out. He settles on, “Yeah, he’s pretty damn awesome.”
“He is that.” Rachel agrees, extending her hand with a business card in it. “It was a pleasure meeting him, and you. If we can do anything for you, don’t hesitate to call. Please.”
Jared takes the card, glancing at it briefly. “Actually,” he says. “I do have a couple questions.”
Rachel raises an eyebrow.
“Now that you’ve met him, you can see why he can’t be in that courtroom, right? I mean, there’s no way he’s going to have to testify against them, is there? It would be a disaster, I’m telling you. Just letting you in here to question him...I almost didn’t allow it. We took a huge risk, bringing up his past like that. Usually, well...this whole thing could have gone so much worse than it did.” Jared takes a shuddering breath. “So much worse, you can’t even imagine. We can’t make him face his parents again. It’s unthinkable. There’s a chance he’d retreat so far inside himself, we’d never get him back out again. We could lose him for good.”
Both Rachel and Matt are shaking their heads before Jared even finishes his rant.
“No, he won’t have to testify. I can guarantee it. You don’t have to worry.” Matt quirks a lopsided smile. “I know it may not seem like it, but he gave us a lot to work with. You’d be surprised how flustered most defendants get when you know more than they think you do. His parents are currently under the assumption that Jensen is too scared to tell us anything. They think they can lie through their teeth, and no one will be able to dispute them. They deny everything, of course. His mother says she simply slipped while holding the knife. Claims she didn’t mean to stab him. It was just an accident.”
Anger builds inside him, burning like a white-hot ember in Jared’s gut. Keeping his voice low in deference to Jensen’s sharp ears, he sneers, “An accident? You’ve got to be kidding me. Christian saw her do it. It wasn’t an accident. You don’t accidentally slice someone open the way she did to him.”
Matt puts both hands up in a placating gesture. “We know, and we’ll be there to prove them wrong. The evidence is on our side. I have every confidence in a conviction.”
Jared hopes Matt is right. It won’t reverse anything they did. Jensen won’t magically be cured once his parents are put behind bars where they belong. The scars seared onto his body and etched into his psyche won’t dissolve away just because the people who put them there have been convicted of their crimes. But, it’s the only justice Jensen is likely to receive. He deserves that much at least.
Rachel’s business card clenched in his fist, Jared says, “I told you we took a risk letting you come. The reason we took that risk is because we couldn’t stand the thought of Jensen’s father getting off. We figure Christian has his mother dead to rights - he saw her stab Jensen. Once the jury sees the pictures of Jensen taken at the hospital, there’s no way they’ll believe that was an accident.” For his own peace of mind, Jared has to believe in that much, at least. “His father though, will you be able to convict him too? With the evidence you have?”
Rachel’s eyes get a world-weary shine to them as she answers. “I’ve worked child abuse cases before, and I can tell you, with the degree and pervasiveness of the abuse Jensen suffered, it’s obvious both parents were involved. The sheer level of neglect is evidence enough. I’ve seen the pictures taken of him in the hospital. No one could have seen him and not known he was being abused, much less lived in the same house with him. If nothing else, we can easily convict his father of being an accomplice.”
“It’s more than that, though. He didn’t just know about it and do nothing to stop it. He participated. He must have. He’s just as guilty as she is.” Most days, Jared tries not to think too hard about the specifics of how Jensen got his scars. His imagination can conjure some horrific possibilities, even without his permission. The images come to him unbidden now and he clenches his jaw against the bile that rises in his throat.
“I know.” Her smile looks scraped together at best. “And we’ll get him. We’ll get them both. With the information we have now, there’s a good chance we can get them to turn on each other before the trial even begins. Introduce a kernel of doubt, and fear will often do the rest. We’ll have them giving evidence against each other in no time.”
“So, you’ve spoken to them - his parents?” The very idea is abhorrent to Jared. Like speaking to evil incarnate.
The smile dies on her face. “I have.”
“Did you get any sense from them of why they did what they did?” Jared’s throat constricts, and he has to force the words through a windpipe that feels as though it’s in danger of closing altogether.
Thankfully, Rachel doesn’t need him to elaborate any further. “Cases of child abuse are always difficult to explain. How anyone could purposefully hurt someone as small and innocent as Jensen was when the abuse began is beyond me, especially when it’s their own child. But it happens more frequently than I like to think about.” She pauses, eyes gone distant. “To be honest, Jensen’s case...well, I’ve never even heard of a case this extreme. Why his parents did the things they did, I can’t say.” Her lips twist in a grimace before softening out again. She places a hand on his forearm. “I’m sorry. I know you’d like answers. Unfortunately, I don’t have any to give you. Maybe we’ll learn more about their motives during the trial. Will you be there?”
“No.” Jared isn’t sure he could control himself if he ever saw them in person. What he’d like to do isn’t exactly legal. For his sanity as well as the avoidance of serious jail time, he figures it’s best that he stays far away from that courtroom. “But Christian will be there. And Misha. And Jim. They’ll tell me about anything that comes out during the proceedings.”
“Okay well, as Rachel said, please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any other questions.” Matt extends his hand.
Shaking hands with first Matt, then Rachel, Jared sees them out, anxious to get back to his boy.
The entire morning had been spent getting ready for the meeting with Matt and Rachel, and then actually meeting with them. It’s past noon now, time for lunch. After that will be nap time, and maybe they can do something fun once Jensen wakes up, something to take all their minds off Jensen’s past. He’d been hesitant to make firm plans for after the meeting because he hadn’t known what shape Jensen would be in, or any of them for that matter. But Jensen had seemed good. Well, not good exactly, but...okay. Sort of.
Aside from trying to strangle himself.
Jared hurries his steps down the hall.
The sight that greets him in the nursery is soothing in its familiarity. Misha has Jensen lying on the floor on his back, his head still in Christian’s lap, guiding him through the leg exercises taught to them by his physical therapist friend. He likes to help Jensen with the easy workout every time they’re together. Jared has also made it part of their daily morning routine. In fact, Jensen has done the exercises so many times that he can do them on autopilot, which is probably why Misha is having him do them now. The habitual motions are perfect for easing stress. One day, they all hope Jensen will be ready to use those leg muscles he’s developing to walk.
“That’s it - up, out, back, and down,” Misha intones, one hand supporting the leg Jensen is dutifully lifting.
As Jared enters the room, Jensen looks up at him with dull eyes. The bandages on his hand are fresh. The swelling on his neck has receded, although the red welts are proof there will definitely be finger-shaped bruises ringing his throat by tomorrow.
Christian stands, easing out from under Jensen’s head, and begins gathering the medical supplies strewn all over the floor.
“Hey sweetheart, how are you doing?” Jared asks as he takes Christian’s vacated place next to Jensen on the floor.
Jensen continues to watch him, but his face betrays no emotion. On second look, Jensen’s eyes aren’t dull. They’re focused inward, like he’s shoring up his defenses, locking up the fragile pieces of himself that are too raw, even after a year of healing, to remain exposed.
“He’s processing,” Misha says as he guides the leg Jensen was exercising back to the ground.
Processing. Processing is good. Healthy. Jared nods, flicks his index finger against the little rectangle of card stock he holds in his other hand - the business card Rachel had given him. She’d been more than compassionate. She’d been insightful and resourceful, using Jensen’s obvious affinity for stuffed animals to connect with him, much the way Misha has done in the past. And the way Misha had looked at her...Jared has never seen that look on Misha’s face before. He’s obviously smitten. With a soft smile, Jared holds the card out to his friend. “Rachel’s contact information,” he explains off Misha’s quizzical expression.
“What would I need with Rachel’s contact information?” A blush colors his cheeks. Despite his protest, he snatches the card from Jared’s fingers, glances at it, and quickly stuffs it into his back pocket. “Well, Jensen will need a way to arrange play dates between Mr. Bun and Sparkle,” he mumbles.
Christian does a poor job of covering his smirk by pretending to cough into his hand.
“That’s true.” Jared places a hand on Jensen’s cheek. “Would you like that, Jensen? Would you like to see Rachel and Sparkle again?”
Jensen tightens his arms around Mr. Bun. Not an outward answer, but proof that Jensen heard the question. He’s just not ready to fully engage with them yet, and that’s okay.
Jared takes a deep breath, let’s it out in a controlled exhale. Little steps, he reminds himself. Today has been, maybe not a step forward, but not the backslide he’d feared. They’ll give Jensen the time to process he needs, then lunch, then nap, then something fun. The tire swing probably. They’ll get through this day and on to better times.
That’s the plan, anyway.
One step at a time, that’s the way they’ll make it through the rest of the day, and the day after that, and the day after that.
Continue to Chapter 9
Start at Chapter 1