Genevieve is a doctor at a pediatric office within the Lexington General medical complex. When her patients require emergency services or surgery, she refers them here. She and Jared have worked closely together on several cases.
Her one question turns into a follow up question, and from there a discussion takes place about esophageal replacement versus redo laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery to correct severe GERD in children. He is passionate about his work, and as much as he would usually relish this debate with a colleague, he’s anxious to get back to Jensen. Furthermore, the way Genevieve keeps touching his bicep, his shoulder, and at one point, his chest, is making him uncomfortable. She’s always been a little touchy-feely when it comes to him. Usually he doesn’t mind, being an outgoing, friendly person himself. But this time, it’s almost like she’s feeling him up.
Annoyance finally overcomes the professional demeanor he’s trying to maintain. Batting her hand away, he takes a step back. “It seems as though you have a firm grasp on the procedure, so if you don’t mind, I need to get back to Jensen.
“But what about...”
Ignoring her attempt to re-engage him in the conversation, he turns around, an apologetic smile waiting to reward the tender-hearted fairy for his patience, a virtue he doesn’t have in abundance.
Jensen isn’t in the spot where Jared had left him, but that isn’t a matter for immediate concern. After all, there’s the aforementioned lack of patience to consider. Expecting him to stay put with numerous distractions near at hand is far from fair. He could be talking to another patient, investigating the toys and puzzles, or admiring the colorful paintings on the wall, and still be in the room, technically still ‘right here’ as he’d promised.
A quick scan of the room, however, revels that Jensen isn’t doing any of those things.
There’s a small child standing nearby. He remembers her from earlier. Maybe, she knows where Jensen is.
His height can be intimidating to children, this is something he realized early on during his residency, so he crouches down next to her. “Hi there, did you see where the fairy went?”
Large, brown eyes turn up to his. “The bad man grabbed him and took him away.” Her whispered words, spoken in the pronounced lisp common in young children, causes icy tendrils to skitter nastily down his spine and settle in his stomach.
To hear those words, to know the catastrophic has happened, the worst case scenario he has dreaded from the moment he agreed to share Jensen’s rare light with the rest of humanity, fills him with nearly incapacitating despair. He should have warned the naive fairy to be more cautious around humans. He meant to talk to him about the darker side of mankind, but he never did. And why was that? His only excuse is that he wanted to preserve Jensen’s enthusiasm for humankind.
It would be easy to panic, falling into that mind numbing space inside his head where he could lose himself inside a void of nothingness.
He doesn’t have that luxury though. Jensen’s only hope is for him to remain calm and cool-headed.
He has to find Jensen before it’s too late. If it isn’t already.
“Where did the bad man take the fairy? Did you hear him say where he was going?” he asks the child.
She points out the door, which is less than helpful since it’s the only way out of the room and it leads to the rest of the hospital. They could be anywhere in the building by now. Or worse, outside where Jared will have no chance of finding them. He doesn’t think enough time has elapsed for that to have happened, though. They’re probably still in the building.
There are protocols in place for this situation. Well, not exactly this situation, but there are hospital procedures for protecting the most vulnerable among them.
Jared quickly stands and turns back to Genevieve. “Call security. Tell them there’s an AMBER Alert. Have them lock the hospital down. No one leaves this building.”
She stares at him, slack-jawed.
“Do it. Now!”
He waits just long enough to make sure she’s moving toward the security phone before he races out the door.
The immediate corridor is empty. Doors to patient rooms line each side of the hallway on his left, until it dead ends. To his right, the corridor intersects with another offshoot which leads to the elevators. Voices come from around the corner where the nurses’ station and a waiting room are located.
Jared sprints to the nurses’ station. “Did you see someone come by here recently? A man?”
Startled out of their conversation, Lindsey and Tessa both shake their heads.
“No, I just got here a minute ago,” Lindsey says.
“What’s wrong?” asks Tessa.
The hospital is huge. It will take him forever to search it all himself. But maybe he won’t have to.
“Do something for me,” Jared dismisses her question. “Have Sara paged. When she calls back, tell her I need Barley and her up here immediately. Tell her it’s an emergency.”
He needs to be smart about this.
Someone came and abducted Jensen. It’s doubtful that someone just happened to see him in the pediatric rec room and decided on the spur of the moment to nab themselves a fairy. Much more likely that someone found out there was a fairy here, and came looking for him with the intention of taking him.
Other than the pediatric patients, no one knows Jensen is at the hospital except Dr. Morgan and Sara. He needs to find out who else they told.
Sara is hopefully on her way here. That leaves Jeff.
Jared pulls out his cell phone and brings up his contact list.
Jeff answers on the third ring.
Skipping any pleasantries, Jared jumps right to the point. “Hey Jeff, have you told anyone about Jensen?”
“No, I haven’t had time.” Jeff sounds frazzled. “There’s an AMBER Alert. I’ve been trying to find out more information, but no one seems to know anything-”
“It’s Jensen,” Jared cuts him off. “Jeff, Jensen’s been abducted. Someone came and took him from peds when I wasn’t looking.”
Known for his unshakable demeanor and take charge personality, Jeffery Dean Morgan is a good man to have around in times of crisis. He proves that now. “Okay, the locks on all external doors have already been engaged. Security isn’t letting anyone leave the building. I’ll organize the staff and have them begin a sweep. Where are you?”
“I’m at the peds nurses’ station. I’ve had Sara paged. She met Jensen earlier. I need to find out if she told anyone about him.”
“Good thinking. I’ll let you know if we find anything.”
Jared disconnects the call. His heart hasn’t let up it’s frantic pounding, but he feels better at the prospect of help from Jeff and the rest of the Lexington General staff. At least, he’s not facing this disaster all alone.
The clicking of nails on linoleum alerts him to Sara and Barley’s arrival.
“Jared. They said you needed to see me. What’s up?” Sara asks.
“Jensen’s been abducted. A man came and took him. Did you tell anyone he was here?”
Sara gasps. “Abducted? But who would do something like that?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out. Did you mention him to anyone during your rounds? Did anyone seem particularly interested?”
“Well yeah, like, of course, I told people. I didn’t think it was a secret and I was so excited. Jeez Jared, I told everyone. Everyone I saw. And they were all interested. Like, who wouldn’t be?” She seems legitimately distraught.
“It wasn’t a secret. I don’t blame you for telling people, but I think one of them got it in their head to abduct him. No telling why. It doesn’t matter why anyway. We just need to find him. Can you take me everyplace you went after you left peds? Show me who you talked to?”
“Yes, yeah, this way.” She wraps Barley’s leach loosely around her hand and turns back toward the elevator. “I went to the senior services wing first.”
Barley trots along at her side. It may only be Jared’s perception, but the golden retriever seems to be moving with a sense of purpose she hasn’t displayed before in his presence.
They’re in the elevator, headed to the first floor where the senior services area is located, when Jared’s phone buzzes.
Jared hits accept and blurts, “Do you have any news?”
“He was wearing little Hawaiian shorts, right? Red with white palm trees?”
Jared’s fist tightens around the phone. “Yes,” he manages to say around the lump that has suddenly formed in his throat.
“They were found lying on the ground near the staff lounge on the third floor. I’m headed there now.”
Without answering, Jared reaches over and hits the button for the third floor, the phone forgotten in his hand. Dimly through the sound of his blood whooshing in his ears he hears Sara’s voice.
“What? Jared, what’s going on?”
“They found his shorts. He’s on the third floor.”
“Oncology,” Sara says on a breathy exhale.
“Oncology,” Jared confirms.
Four staff members are standing outside the lounge when they get there. Jeff isn’t there yet, and Jared only recognizes one of the four. It’s a big hospital, so that’s understandable. He’s just grateful for the large number of people who dropped whatever they were doing to help look. There are more good people in the world than bad. He hopes he can remember that once they find Jensen, no matter what condition the small fairy is in when they do so.
Jared runs up to the group. Without prompting, one of the four holds up a tiny pair of red and white board shorts. Jared takes them, fingering the material between thumb and forefinger.
Jensen is here, somewhere on this level. He has to be.
Barley cranes her neck up and sniffs deeply, nostrils flaring. She’s a large enough dog that her nose easily bumps against the scrap of fabric while her front feet stay on the ground. She immediately spins around and takes off down the hallway into the midst of the oncology wing, snapping the leash from Sara’s loose grip, her tail a long, sleek plume behind her.
Startled by her pet’s atypical behavior, Sarah yells, “Barley!”
But Barley doesn’t stop or even slow down. She gallops past a surprised orderly and barrels through the swinging doors that lead to the critical care oncology patients.
Shock holds him motionless for a second, then Jared sprints after the dog, Sara hot on his heels. They make it through the swinging doors, when a nearly hysterical cry rings out from further down the hall.
The sight of Barley trotting around a corner back toward them, her tail held aloft like a triumphant banner, brings him up short. Sara slams into his back, but it doesn’t really register with Jared because there’s something in Barley’s mouth. Something small and limp.
Jared falls to his knees, mind gone blank.
Sara steps around him. She holds out her hand. “Barley, give,” she says in a voice, hushed and reverent.
The golden retriever obediently opens her mouth, and Jensen’s bedraggled body falls onto Sara’s palm.
A voice Jared would swear belongs to Jensen murmurs, “Good girl.” Must have been wishful thinking, though, because when he leans in to get a closer look, Jensen’s eyes are closed, his features lax. His wings are a crumpled mess. Dog saliva sticks his hair to his forehead.
It doesn’t look like he’s breathing.
A sob wells up inside his chest. He holds out hands that have begun to shake, cupping them as though he’s begging for a scrap of mercy.
Sara gently deposits Jensen’s unmoving body into them.
“Jensen,” he whispers. “Please.” With the tip of one finger, he caresses the small fairy’s chest, holding as still as he possibly can while waiting for any movement, for the slightest sign that his friend and lover is still alive.
And then, he feels it, the most minute rise and fall imaginable underneath his fingertip.
His world boils down to that scarcely-there, yet steady, rise and fall, rise and fall, as Jensen’s lungs give evidence of life.
“Stay back everyone. Give them room.” Jared doesn’t remember all the people gathering around them, but suddenly Jeffrey is there, taking charge and directing the crowd away from them. “Don’t worry, Jared. We’ll take him to imaging first, find out if there’s any internal damage. The wings can be set. We can fix them. He’s going to be okay.”
“No,” Jared says, his wits coming back online with the knowledge that all is not lost. Jensen is alive. At least, for now. And the responsibility for his well-being rests firmly on Jared’s shoulders. No one else’s.
Jeff frowns, obviously ready to ague, thinking that Jared is in shock or not thinking clearly.
Jared stands, Jensen cupped protectively in front of him. “Look, Jeff, I’m grateful for your help, I am. But how much do you know about providing medical assistance to fairies? How much do you know about their anatomy? Their biology? For all you know, setting his wings, could be the worst possible thing you could do for him.” He shakes his head. “No, I’m taking him home. I’ll contact the fae. They’ll know what to do.”
Recognizing the truth to Jared’s statements, Jeff quickly gets on board with that plan. He drives Jared home, a ride Jared doesn’t remember because his entire focus is on holding Jensen as gently as possible during the car’s stops, starts, and bumps over the uneven roads. Once home, he doesn’t want to relinquish his hold, so he has Jeff write and tape a note on the back door for Christian that says - JENSEN IS BADLY INJURED AND NEEDS YOUR HELP. COME INSIDE.
Jared doesn’t know how often Christian has been coming by to read their notes on where they are going each day, but he figures the satyr’s protective streak likely has him coming every day, which means that, at most, he will need to keep Jensen alive for twenty-four hours until help arrives. If Christian doesn’t show up by tomorrow afternoon, he’ll make the trek out to the meadow, even though he doesn’t want to subject Jensen to that ordeal unless absolutely necessary.
For now, the fairy seems to be holding his own. His condition is the same, his breathing regular, his facial features relaxed, unmarred by stress lines or outward proof of pain. If not for the tattered state of his wings, it would almost look like he was simply asleep. Very deeply asleep.
Jeff gets Jared settled in his recliner, brings him a plate of food and a can of soda. He wants to stay and wait out the vigil, is hesitant to leave, but Jared is in no mood to talk, and the silence becomes awkward. Finally, Jared tells him he should go. The look of sympathy Jeff sends his way is wholly unwanted. It hints at an outcome that Jared cannot stomach.
Finally, making sure Jared has his phone in his pocket, and with a strict admonishment to call if he needs anything, anything at all, Jeff leaves.
Déjà vu steals over him as he unbuttons his shirt and places Jensen face down against his chest, careful to arrange his wings in a way that is least likely to cause more damage. The skin-on-skin contact may not be necessary. Touch starvation isn’t a big factor in why the unconscious fairy hasn’t woken yet. Still, it can’t hurt and may even help by providing extra nutrients to promote healing.
As the light outside his window fades to dusk, Jared lightly strokes Jensen from head to foot. His mind wanders to his first encounter with the fairy, the circumstances much too similar for his liking. Occasionally, he murmurs encouragement, praise, entreaties, anything that comes to mind, anything that might elicit a response. “Open your eyes, Comet. Come on, you can do it.”
When that doesn’t work, he begins asking questions, thinking the polite, talkative little fairy won’t be able to resist answering. “I didn’t stick around at the hospital long enough to find out who did this to you. Or why. I bet you know though, don’t you? Why don’t you wake up and fill me in, huh?”
He has no doubt that Jeff will get to the bottom of it, but then what? The legal ramifications concerning fairy abduction and assault can’t be very clear. As far as Jared knows, fairies have no legal rights in a human court of law. There haven’t been enough fairy interactions with humans for the issue to have ever come up before. That realization gives him pause. Jensen has no legal rights. None.
Running gentle fingers over Jensen’s face, tracing his high cheek bones, his jawline, the cleft in his chin, Jared says, “Hey Comet, tell me what I need to be doing here. Tell me how to help you.” He thinks he remembers saying something similar last time they were in this position. He knows little more now than he did then.
To his astonishment, Jensen stirs against him, one hand curling into a loose fist. “Hurrrts,” he moans.
The admission brings tears to Jared’s eyes. “I know. I know it does. I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?” He swipes hair, damp with doggy drool, off Jensen’s forehead.
The tiny hand goes limp again, and no answer materializes.
Jared takes the hand in careful fingers, places it in his palm and massages the wee knuckles.
There’s one big difference between this time and the last time they were in this position. Last time he didn’t know anything about the fairy other than that he was sick and completely dependent upon Jared to save his life. He didn’t know about his larger-than-life personality, or his infectious good humor, or his adorable, courtly manners, or his deep-rooted ambition to help others.
Now, he does.
Last time, he would have been devastated to lose the life entrusted to him. This time...this time he doesn’t know what it will do to him if the unthinkable happens. It would be his fault, and he doesn’t know if he could live with himself. It’s as simple as that.
It’s a long, sleepless night for Jared. The food Jeff left for him goes uneaten on the coffee table. Neither he nor Jensen move much, and dawn finds him stiff and sore from many hours slumped in the same position, Jensen a light, quiescent weight against his chest. One-handed, he dry scrubs grit from his eyes and yawns, stretching his back in increments that won’t jar Jensen’s wings. He’s been hesitant to touch them for fear of causing more pain.
In the morning light shining through the east-facing window, the creases and jagged edges are obscenely apparent. A large rip starts at the outer edge of his left wing and ends about mid-way toward his hip. The right wing looks like a crumpled up piece of notebook paper ready for the trash. The skin near where his wings sprout from his back has begun to take on a sickly, blue-grey color. Other bruises are forming on his thighs, probably on his stomach, too.
Air hisses from between Jared’s teeth, and it’s only then he realizes how tightly his jaw is clenched. His teeth ache from the strain. It takes a concerted effort to relax his jaw muscles and breathe normally. If he could take those injuries as his own, somehow slice up his own appendages to magically cure the harm done to Jensen’s beautiful wings, he’d do it in a heartbeat.
Jensen becomes fretful as the morning wears on, tossing his head and moaning when his movements stretch mangled tissue and ligaments. Every time he moves, Jared’s hopes go up, only to be dashed at the injured fairy’s failure to regain consciousness.
At eleven thirty, he just about throws in the towel, says to hell with it, and begins the four mile hike out to the meadow. Jensen’s pain level is rising, and Jared can’t stand listening to him whimper and moan for one more second.
That’s when the back door bursts open to a clatter of hooves on hard-wood flooring that leaves no doubt as to whom has just arrived.
“What happened? How bad is it?” Christian’s gruff voice is loud and angry, hostile in a way Jared has never heard it before.
Misha, Alona, and Felicia dip and circle like agitated fireflies over Christian’s head. The atmosphere in the house transforms from the somber hush found in most hospitals to chaotic activity with their entrance.
Jared welcomes Christian’s anger. He deserves it. He’ll take Christian’s anger all day long if he’s able to save Jensen. “Someone grabbed him while my back was turned. It’s his wings mostly. I think. He hasn’t woken up since we found him.”
All the anger drains from Christian as the satyr sinks to his hairy knees beside the recliner, eyes riveted on Jensen’s pain-wracked body. A hand reaches out, hovers over the right wing for a moment, before softly smoothing out the nearest crease. Once that part has been flattened, he moves on to the next section, methodically working out each kink, gaining surety as he goes.
Jared watches, awe-struck. “I was afraid to move or touch his wings. He was in so much pain.”
Jensen lets out a petulant whine.
“It’s alright, little one. You’re going to be okay,” Christian soothes. Jensen quiets, and the satyr continues his ministrations. To Jared, he says, “Fairy wings are delicate. But they’re also very resilient. They’ll heal, the rips will grow back together, the edges will mend, as long as we keep touching him.”
It always comes back to touch.
The other fairies descend, alighting on Jared’s chest and stomach. They pay him no mind, instead surrounding their injured quadral mate, small hands petting and caressing wherever they can reach.
Misha sits at Jensen’s head. The way he turns his back on Jared can only be seen in one light. It’s deliberate. Felicia has Jensen’s feet in her lap. She slowly strokes his ankle. Every so often, she throws a glare Jared’s way. Alona is no better. Her bottom lip is caught between her straight, white teeth which she bares like a feral dog protecting her pup whenever Jared tries to touch Jensen.
The fairies are pissed. And subtly is not a trait they have in abundance.
They don’t even know what happened, and they obviously don’t care. The pertinent facts are that when Jensen left with Jared, he was perfectly happy and healthy. Four days later, they find him like this...broken and in agony.
“He doesn’t belong here,” Christian mutters aloud what they all must be thinking. “I should have known something like this would happen.
As much as it pains him, as much as he wants to rail against the assessment, Jared agrees.
Christian stands, crosses his arms over his chest. “There’s a salve we can put on his wings that will help with the healing. I have some back at the meadow, or I might be able to make some here. How well stocked is your kitchen?”
Thankful for something on which to put his mind that isn’t self-pity, Jared replies, “What do you need?”
“Are there any of the strawberries left? The ones Jensen gave you?”
“Yes, a few.” He’s been munching on them with every meal. There were a lot, though, so about a dozen remain.
“They’ll work as the base. What about maple syrup?”
“In the fridge.”
“Herbs? Dried ones will do.”
“Do you mean like spices? Thyme? Rosemary? Stuff like that?”
Cristian paces toward the kitchen and back again, movements swift and keen-edged, like he’s preparing for a battle. Although his eyes track the wood-grained flooring under his hooves, Jared doubts he sees anything in the house other than Jensen. “Poppy seeds to be exact. They’ll help with the pain. Turmeric, ginger, if you have them, they could be beneficial. At the very least, they won’t do any more harm.” His gaze lands on Jared.
Yeah, message received, loud and clear.
“I’ll show you where everything is.” Jared braces himself with one hand on the recliner, one hand cupped around Jensen, ready to push himself up. His intention is to leave Jensen in the fairies’ care while he helps Christian in the kitchen. It’s clear they’ll be happier if he’s not anywhere in their vicinity.
“No, stay there,” Christian surprises him by saying. “Don’t jostle him.”
Right, that makes sense.
Cupboard doors slam, jars clunk loudly against the counter, and Jared swears he hears spice bottles being thrown against the walls as Christian searches none too gently for the ingredients he needs, taking out his aggression on the kitchen. When he comes back, there’s a bowl in his hand. The contents are a reddish- brown color and smell like something meant for pancakes rather than a medical remedy. The strawberries have been smushed into a paste. There are flecks of herbs Jared would be hard pressed to recognize, as well as the maple syrup he’d gotten during a seminar in Quebec last year.
Dipping his front two fingers into the sticky mixture, the satyr liberally smears a dollop onto Jensen’s wings. The fairies don’t wait for instructions. They must have done this type of thing before because they all fly to that spot and begin spreading the concoction in an even layer.
They work their way along each tear, crease, and jagged edge, smoothing and flattening as they go, piecing the ripped fragments together. Christian continues dropping more of the salve wherever needed.
At first, Jensen groans and kicks out as though trying to dislodge a swarm of wasps. It’s hard to bear, knowing how much pain he’s in, and that he probably isn’t aware enough to understand what’s happening, much less that they’re trying to help him. Eventually though, once the worst of the kinks have been worked out and the membranes are lying flat against his back and spread out over Jared’s chest, he begins to settle.
“Can I help?” The words are spoken in such a meek tone that Jared barely recognizes them as coming from himself.
Christian eyes him sidewise, but stays silent, waiting to see what the fairies will do.
A light breeze comes from out of nowhere to ruffle Alona’s honey-blond hair. She pauses in her work. All signs point to an adamant refusal: the angry glint in her eye, the fist she clenches in her lap, the rapid beating of her wings. “We trusted you.” A tear rolls down her cheek.
Jared doesn’t know what to say. Nothing is adequate to express how horrible he feels. “I know. Alona, I know and I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. He’s precious to you, and he got hurt on my watch. That’s on me. I’ll never forgive myself for that. He’s precious to me, too.”
Misha snorts, but there’s a relaxing in his shoulders.
Jensen’s wings are mostly coated in salve by this point. Only a dime-sized patch next to Felicia remains untreated. She flies up until she is nose to nose with Jared.
The kick to the face he’s expecting doesn’t come.
“Jensen wanted this week with you, Jared. He wanted it more than anything,” she says. “Seeing him like this...it is very difficult and it makes me angry, but I know you did not mean for it to happen. Jensen has faith in you, and so shall I.” She flutters over to his hand, takes his finger, and guides it toward the last small rip in Jensen’s wing.
One of the many things he’s learned from Jensen is that fairies are hard-pressed to remain angry for long. It simply isn’t in their nature. He couldn’t be more grateful for that fact than he is now. Their forgiveness is a kindness he doesn’t deserve, yet he needs it like breathing all the same.
As he gingerly spreads salve over the split wing, effectively glueing the parts back together, the emotions he’s been holding at bay steamroll over him. A sob catches in his throat.
Christian puts the now-empty bowl on the coffee table next to yesterday’s uneaten dinner. “You’ve been up with him all night, haven’t you?”
“You should get some sleep. He’s resting peacefully now. We’ve got it from here.” The satyr pats his shoulder.
“No, I want to be here when he wakes up.”
Minutes turn into hours, and Jared’s eyelids get heavier and heavier. Despite his best intentions, he’s asleep when Jensen finally begins to stir again.