Recovering young humans - that’s what he decides to call them for he cannot bear to think of them as ill or sick. The group of recovering young humans has dispersed now that Sara and Barley have left. Most are intent upon their various pursuits and are not paying him any attention.
The smallest, however, is peering at him with eyes made large by the dark smudges ringing them. Thumb in his mouth, he sits on a blue mat, surrounded by picture books in which a grown human seems to be trying in vain to interest him. Dark blond hair frames a pale face.
This is not a moment for exuberance, and sensing that, he flutters on quiet wings until he is hovering close enough to whisper and still be heard. “Hello, my name is Jensen.”
The child sucks gravely upon his thumb, but says nothing in a way that is less suggestive of one who is shy and more of one who has lived through the darkest of times.
There’s a muffled thump of a book being closed, and the man sitting on the floor nearby says, “His name is Dean.” The disparity of sadness and love in that voice makes Jensen glance up into a haggard, unshaven face. Even unfamiliar with the human concept of a parent/child bond as he is, it’s impossible not to recognize it here.
“I like the name Dean. It is a strong name. A warrior’s name.” Jensen flicks his wings a couple times, sending a swirl of fairy dust up into the air.
Dean’s shuttered gaze travels from Jensen’s face to his wings. He shifts forward to look at them closer, and a light that wasn’t there before brightens his grey-blue eyes.
Jensen lands next to the child’s knee and extends his wings, curling them forward so they drape across his shoulders. “You may touch them if you like.”
With all possible seriousness, Dean reaches out his free hand, stopping just short of touching.
“Go ahead. I trust you not to damage them.”
Hesitantly and with much more caution than Jensen has come to expect from humans as young as he, Dean’s fingers run along his wings from edge to edge and down the middle, taking in the full measure of them.
Once Dean withdraws his hand, Jensen tucks in his wings and asks, “May I sit here with you for a while?” From what he has seen of this child so far, he does not expect an answer, so when all he gets is a single head bob, he takes it as permission and makes himself comfortable on the mat, legs folded underneath himself.
Dean does something unexpected then, he lies down and curls his body around Jensen as though building a protective wall around him, even going so far as to wrap one arm around him as an added barrier. The other thumb remains lodged firmly in his mouth.
A strangled, cut-off noise comes from above them, making Jensen wonder what would cause this type of protective behavior in such a young human. It is an inappropriate time to ask, though. Instead, he says, “Would you like to hear a story?”
One finger lazily trails along his calf and ankle, proof that Dean is listening, if not yet ready to communicate in any other way.
“Very well, the story starts like this - Once upon a time there was a fairy who lived in the kingdom of Meadowcrest with his beloved friends. The fairy loved his home very much, but he longed to travel to far off lands.” He goes on to tell the story of his Odyssey with Jared.
From time to time, Dean’s fingers move against his foot, signaling that the child is still listening. Otherwise, he remains stock-still in his almost fetal, shield-like position.
By the time Jensen gets to the part about the Ferris Wheel, he is so involved in the retelling that he forgets to whom he is talking, forgets not to expect a response. “Jared’s bronze wings were stupendous, quite magnificent. You should have seen them. But what about you? What color wings would you have asked for?”
Dean says nothing, and that’s enough of a reminder to have Jensen softening his voice for his next question. “Do you have a favorite color, Dean?”
Silence reigns for a few heartbeats, before Dean lifts his head to gaze at Jensen with wounded sincerity. Taking his thumb from his mouth, he says, “Green.” The word comes out as a croak, followed by a wet, rattling cough.
Empathy for this small human washes over him. Jensen stands and walks the short distance to where Dean’s saliva-slick thumb now lies on the mat near his chin. Wings unfurled, he sprinkles dust upon the boy’s hand, for if ever there was one in need of cheer it is he. “I am partial to that color myself,” he confides.
A sniffle alerts him to the presence of others. He looks up and finds that he and Dean are the subject of much scrutiny. From all around the room, curious eyes meet his. Jared is standing with his arms outstretched, several young humans blockaded behind them as if he is physically restraining them from pressing forward.
The man sitting beside Dean reaches out and pulls the child into his lap, cradling his head in a large, calloused hand while rubbing circles on his small back with the other. Tear tracks run down his stubbled cheeks. “Thank you,” he whispers in his gravel-rough voice. “It’s been...he hasn’t said anything since...since the fire. I was beginning to think I’d lost him, too.”
Family is important to humans. Jensen is just beginning to understand how much. To fairies, their quadral mates and guardians are the closest they have to a family. Losing a member of the quadral is a devastating event. It has never happened to him, personally, but he can imagine it clearly, how he would feel if something happened to Misha or Alona or Felicia. Well he knows how difficult his absence will be for them.
Dean relaxes against the man’s chest, eyes still riveted on Jensen. He sticks out his hand, and Jensen flies forward, landing delicately on his palm. Holding eye contact with the boy, he says, “Dean is far from lost, he is right here. He needs you just as much as you need him. Let him be your path forward and you will both be all right.”
He man nods once and rests his cheek on top of the boy’s head.
Jensen turns, getting ready to fly back to Jared, when the man says, “Will you come back and see us tomorrow?”
“I will certainly try.” He will have to check with Jared, of course. They have loose plans to go to a horse farm tomorrow, but a quick trip to the hospital should be easily attainable.
A lethargy comes over him, wings heavy with fatigue. Touch starvation can come on suddenly, and even though Dean supplied on-again off-again contact during their time together, the child’s barely there touches provided little in the way of sustenance. If it were possible, he might think he had been lending energy to Dean instead of the other way around.
His vision tunnels. He needs to get to Jared, quickly. Flapping his wings takes more effort than he is accustomed to, and his course is more erratic than he would prefer, but he makes it to his destination without incident. Jared catches him before he can make what would most likely have been a clumsy crash landing against his chest. A grateful sigh escapes him as he curls up in the comfort of Jared’s cupped hands.
Jared bends down and murmurs to the recovering young humans still congregated hopefully nearby, “Not right now, kids. Don’t worry, Jensen will come back another time. You’ll all get a chance to talk to him.”
Instantly more alert, Jensen scrambles into a sitting position. It is the best he can do, given that his legs feel like blades of grass, too willowy to support him. “No. Jared, no. I can do it. Just...just give me a moment.”
“You’re exhausted. Give yourself time to recover and we’ll come back later.”
He hates to disappoint anyone, but Jared is right. He needs rest. Bitterly discouraged by his own limitations, he frowns. “What kind of therapy fairy will I be if I collapse after speaking to only one recovering human?”
“You don’t see it, do you?” The corners of Jared’s lips tilt upwards in an expression that seems disbelieving. “You don’t see how amazing you are. Comet, half the pediatric staff have tried and failed to get through to Dean Winchester. Poor kid was brought in suffering from severe smoke inhalation - a fire in his bedroom, I think. No one seems to know exactly how it started, and his father’s been very tight lipped about the whole thing. The guy comes and goes like a ghost, one minute here, the next gone. And any other family is non-existent. Anyway, an infection took hold before the damage to his airways could heal properly. He hasn’t said a word, not one, since his dad carried him in here, covered in soot, last week. But you connected with him. He talked to you. Maybe only one word, but still, do you know how big that is?”
Jensen slumps back down, letting his head fall against Jared’s thumb. “I am glad for that, truly. I hope my presence soothed him. But I cannot help noticing that Barley seemed happy and full of energy after her therapy visit.”
A huff that might be amusement or exasperation precedes Jared’s finger tracing a light path from his shoulder to wrist and back again, over and over. “Yes, you have to remember though that Barley doesn’t connect with the patients emotionally the way you do. And besides, you spent a lot more time with Dean than she spent with all those children combined. You were remarkable with him. So yeah, it took a lot out of you. That’s understandable.”
Jared’s touches send bolts of sensation through him. The drained, empty feeling begins to recede, and in its place a sense of purpose forms. It is weighty in a different way from his earlier fatigue. It fills him up and energizes him. All along his side where he is pressed against Jared’s palm, his skin tingles pleasantly.
He rolls onto his back, wings folded neatly behind him, and luxuriates in the tactile sensations of being cared for and loved that are so very much a part of life as a fairy. Those same sensations have come to mean even more when he is with Jared.
He blinks his eyes back open at the laughter he hears in Jared’s voice, only then realizing that he’d started to hum happily while nuzzling Jared’s thumb. “Yes, much better,” he replies. “I am ready to meet some more recovering humans, please.”
Jared strokes his stomach, making the muscles quiver. “That would be much more believable if you were a little less lethargic.”
The point is a valid one, Jensen realizes as he surveys his sprawl across Jared’s palm. He struggles upright only to have his hands start shaking. Not a good sign, and certainly no way to prove that he is fit for another therapy visit. Although the short rest and Jared’s touches have done him good, he is not up to full strength yet, much to his chagrin. Fanning his wings slowly open and closed as a distraction from his weakness, he says, “Truly, I am fine. No harm will befall me while you are here. I will make it quick, I promise.”
“I’ll tell you what.” Jared’s expression turns serious. “Why don’t we conduct this therapy visit the way Sara and Barley did? The children can gather in a circle on the mats and we’ll sit in the middle, both of us. That way, I’ll be there to provide nourishment so you don’t get any more worn out than you already are, and the kids will all get a chance to meet you at the same time.”
The compromise is a good one. Jensen has come to appreciate the intimacy of his one-on-one conversations, he prefers them actually, but Jared’s plan will make sure no one is disappointed by him becoming depleted and having to leave prematurely. Above all else, he does not wish anyone to be disappointed in him.
Hands clasped together to hide their shaking, he grins up at Jared. “I accept your proposal.”
Jared settles on the floor in the middle of the mats and calls the recovering young humans over. Some jostling for the prime seats right in front ensues, but for the most part everyone is orderly, despite their obvious excitement. The smiles he sees on the faces all around him makes any discomfort he feels worthwhile.
It is with some sadness that Jensen realizes he is not up to his usual energetic greeting and introduction. Luckily, his reclining position inside the shelter of Jared’s hands affords him the perfect vantage point while also allowing him to steadily regain strength.
He starts off by explaining where he comes from and tells some anecdotes about life in his meadow. Then, he goes around the circle, giving each one gathered there a chance to talk about themselves or ask him a question, trying to make sure everyone feels special and receives some individual attention.
By the time he gets to the last young recovering human, his energy level has made a marked improvement, the tremors in his hands have abated, and his wings are capable of flight once more. He celebrates these facts by catapulting into the air, delighting in the awed gasps and the oohs and aah’s from those below. Dust swirls through the air with his movements. He makes sure that it gets dispersed in equal measure, dipping low over each head.
At last, he returns to Jared.
“That was quite a display. Now, I believe you’re feeling better,” Jared states as Jensen comes in for a very graceful - even if he does say so himself - landing on his shoulder.
Jensen grins in a way he knows makes him look rather impish. “Yes, you were right. Thank you for helping me recuperate during my therapy visit. I could not have done it without you.”
“So, are you ready to call it a day? Go home and relax?” Jared stands and takes a step toward the door.
“But we have yet to finish our tour of your healing establishment. Where did Sara say she and Barley were going next? Could we not finish the tour? Perhaps we will find them along the way and can ask how they are faring.” There is still so much to see and do. The day is only halfway over, and Jensen cannot fathom leaving when they have only been to one small part of this fascinating building. He isn’t ready to give up on his hopes to meet a wider range of humans, both those who are in need of care and those providing that care.
“Um, I think she said something about the senior services center and oncology, but are you sure you’re up for all that?” Jared’s jaw clenches the way it does when he is overly concerned, something that happens way too often in Jensen’s opinion.
“I have never been better!” The untruth rolls off his tongue in his most chipper voice and without the slightest hesitation, because Jared should not have to worry so much, and if it is within Jensen’s power to forestall that worry then that is what he will do, fib or no fib. It is only a tiny lie anyway and can do no harm for, although he has definitely been better, the fatigue in his muscles where his wings attach to his back is minor, and his weariness can be overcome with willpower and the proper attitude. He is sure of it.
Jared puts a hand up near his shoulder, a clear request for Jensen to make a change in perch. He does so, stepping nimbly aboard Jared’s upturned palm. Jared brings his hand in front of him, eyes narrowed as he takes stock for himself. Jensen’s condition must prove satisfactory because he nods and says, “Okay, we’ll continue with the tour and see how it goes. Let’s head to oncology next. The patients there deserve a special treat.”
Jensen does not know what oncology means, but he supposes he will find out when they get there. As a show of gratitude, he presses his cheek to Jared’s, then flies a celebratory loop de loop that he hopes will alleviate any lingering doubts on Jared’s part.
The door to the recreation room swings open, admitting a human he has not yet met. The most striking thing about her is the clothing she wears. A pale pink in color, the shirt matches the pants and both are loose fitting. He is still trying to understand the appeal of clothing in general. He knows that humans believe clothing is essential, he just cannot figure out why. At least, the clothing this human is wearing looks more comfortable than most.
“Doctor Padalecki, I was hoping to find you here,” she says, striding over to Jared as though on a mission. “I know you’re technically on leave, but I was hoping you could spare a minute or two. I have a question about a technique you used last month.”
Her words are clipped, hurried, and any ambition Jensen may have harbored about introducing himself to her is dashed as she takes Jared’s arm and tries leading him to a quiet corner.
Jared shakes his arm free. “I’m happy to answer your question if I can, Genevieve, but we need to make this quick. I’m in the middle of giving our new volunteer a tour of the hospital.” He indicates Jensen with a nod and a sparkle in his eye that makes Jensen’s wings quiver in happiness.
Genevieve spares him a brief glance, one that tells him she cannot be bothered with introductions, before turning all her attention back to Jared. “Of course. I won’t keep you long.”
“Great,” Jared says. “Give me a couple minutes, Comet. Then, we can go.”
“I’ll be right here,” he says as he watches them walk a short distance away together.
“Hello, Mr. Fairy,” says a timid voice.
He looks down upon the upturned face of one of the recovering young humans he met earlier from the group therapy circle. Josie. “Hello, Josie,” he answers, dropping to her eye level. Josie, he remembers, is here because she had her tonsils removed yesterday. The explanation for what that means had made him shudder. Having any part of his body cut out with a sharp instrument sounds horrendous. Thank the sun, he is fae and will never need his tonsils or any other body part removed.
It seems so many things can go wrong with humans. He never would have suspected.
Josie’s hair cascades down her back in untamed curls. In all seriousness, and in a tone that suggests her bravery may give out at any moment, sending her scampering away like a frightened kitten, she asks, “Are you a super hero?”
He has the vaguest notion of what a super hero might be, only enough to know that being one himself is an idea that makes him unaccountably and uncharacteristically bashful. He looks into her maple-brown eyes. “A super hero? What makes you ask that, dear one?”
Josie blinks at the question, then answers, “You can fly.”
Jensen knows better than to laugh at this innocent statement, replying instead in like-kind. “Well, yes, but all fairies can fly. Flying in and of itself does not make one a super hero. From what I understand, it is the doing of good deeds that makes one a hero. I am unsure what makes one super. Do you know?”
The door behind him opens again, this time only by inches. It is enough to startle Josie though, and she backs away, mouth snapping shut without offering her thoughts on the matter.
A head peeks through the opening, eyes shifting left and right before landing on him. They widen, and the door opens more fully. In steps a man, hesitant as though he fears he might be unwelcome inside the room. He stands halfway in and halfway out, his body wedged through the entryway, holding the door open. “You are here,” he whispers. “She said there was a fairy here, but I didn’t believe, didn’t want to get my hopes up until I knew for sure.” His speech has a lilting, foreign quality to it, although Jensen can understand the words well enough.
Jensen flies forward and bows. “Hello, my name is Jensen. I am very pleased to meet you.” He smiles in greeting, wishing to put the man more at ease.
“Oh, ah, Adam. My name is Adam Fergus,” he says in a furtive manner. He shuffles forward without allowing the door to shut, and takes a look around the room. When he spots Jared and the woman in the far corner, he shuffles backwards again.
“Were you looking for me? Who told you I was here?” Curiosity makes Jensen fly closer.
“The girl, you know, the one with the dog. She came by my wife’s room and she told us there was a fairy here. She said you might be coming around later, but you see, my wife, she’s very sick, and...could you come now? Please?” A smile twists Adam’s lips upwards. It is not a happy smile.
A rush of empathy for this human washes over him. Jensen can almost feel his suffering, his pain. It is written in every line on his face. There is little he can do to help his wife, but if his presence will give her some comfort, he is glad to offer it. “I will come. First, I must tell Jared where I am going. He will want to come as well.” Looking over his shoulder, he sees that Jared’s back is to him, and that he and the woman are still absorbed in their conversation.
Because he is looking the other way, he does not see the hand making a sudden grab for him.
He feels it on impact, though.
His wings are crushed and crumpled against his back, folded in ways they were never meant to bend, ripping and tearing in a harsh grasp. The pain is so intense, it knocks the wind out of him. Before he can get it back, the hand tightens around him, squeezing his body in a vise-like grip. There is no room to expand his lungs. He cannot breathe. The sensitive membranes that make up his wings are in agony, the nerve endings crying out in distress.
Another hand comes up and covers his face, his mouth, his eyes.
“Shhh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I have to. It’s the only way. She’s dying.”
Then, they are moving. Jensen knows not where they are going. There is insufficient air in his lungs to call out for help, and even if there was, the hand covering his face would muffle the sound.
He wants to ask why. He wants to tell Adam that none of this is necessary, that he will come along willingly, happily even. Whatever he can do to help, he will do it without persuasion.
He does not get the chance to say any of these things, however, before his consciousness is ripped away.