Vaguely, Jared’s brain recognizes that it’s a weekday but school is out for the week. He wouldn’t be there even if classes were being held; he’s stuck in a world where things are going on around him but he’s not able to move through it. Nothing makes sense.
He wants to know where he is and what happened to the life he’d been floating through not so long ago. Right now, everything doesn’t connect. He feels like shit, throws up two times before the sun even rises and he’s not sure if it’s because of stress or the fact that there is an actual fetus growing in his womb. All he wants to do is stay in bed, pull the covers over his head and hope the mattress will swallow him whole. His body won’t let him do that and Jared’s muscles shiver and shake, giving him a spasm strong enough to jolt him out of the bed. Thankfully, he catches himself enough on the nightstand, but his muscle spasms were strong enough to force him to abandon the plan of fading into pillowy mattress denial.
“Shit,” He murmurs while catching his breath. He wonders how long he’s actually be neglecting the world because that means he’s also been neglecting his medication. It’s a chain reaction and part of the system is starting to fall apart. Sighing, he finds the strength to swing himself into his chair and make his way towards the hall bathroom. On autopilot, he goes about popping doses of the pills he should have been taking for the last two days. Once they’re swallowed and swirling around inside of him, a cold fear shivers through him, almost making him vomit for a third time. He remembers what the doctors has said about his medications and how he’d have to stop taking them. “Shit,” he spits out for the second time. Licking his lips, he closes the cabinet slowly and figures that he’ll just have to wait for clarification about that when he sees Dr. Evelyn Atlas – if he ever sees her. If he stops living in denial and actually picks up the phone to find out if she’ll take him as a patient.
He looks at the clock.
It’s late, way past morning and ebbing into late afternoon. Jared forces himself to start acting like he’s still part of the human race and he wheels around the kitchen fixing something he can put in his stomach. He doesn’t have the energy for much in the way of cooking but he gets a peanut butter sandwich made and down his throat before he even tastes it. His eyes land on an empty bottle he’s been using to stick some of his drying paintbrushes in after washing them. It’s just a plan brown glass beer bottle but the fact that he gets stuck on is that it’s one of the type’s Jensen uses for his home brewing.
That’s when the anger sets in.
He’s angry at himself for getting caught up in Jensen and being well and truly ruined by him. At the same time, he’s furious at Jensen for giving Jared a reason to feel betrayed. The two reasons swirl together and suddenly Jared’s an active volcano. Self-hate and anger towards Jensen push and pull at his inner thoughts and he wonders how on earth things ended up the way they did.
He knows Jensen – or at least he thought he did – and he’s seen Jensen deal with everything in his life with composure and grace. It’s an endearing quality that made Jared feel safe around the other man. But the look on Jensen’s face when Jared told him that he was pregnant is only slightly less hurtful than the look on Jensen’s face when he realized that Jared wasn’t planning to abort the baby; he wanted to try to carry it to term.
That look on Jensen’s face, and the fact that he bolted like a deer, have Jared fuming. The man had said he wouldn’t bolt at the first blip that came across their radar but that’s exactly what he did. Maybe he wasn’t expecting their first blip to be a fetus shaped one, either way, the man went back on his words. He made Jared feel like maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay and Jensen was the one person on Jared’s side when the whole world seemed to be turned against him. He’d grabbed that hope and then Jensen tore it all away in nasty scraps when he abandoned Jared.
He abandoned their kid.
“Fuck him,” Jared snorts. He licks his lips and wheels his way into his studio. Along the way, he passes the paining of Jensen he’d done weeks ago and it’s like his body took control away from his brain because he doesn’t remember wanting to throw the painting, but it ends up sailing across the room anyway.
Jared needs to do something with his hands. He doesn’t want to make something or mold something into nothing. He doesn’t want to create because that whole concept started this whole mess in the first place.
What he needs to do is destroy. Unfortunately, the painting of Jensen lodges itself when Jared’s wheels make it difficult to retrieve. He’s not in the mood to deal with that right now. Instead, he grabs a half finished work from one of his easels and brings it with him to the center of the room. The painting is something he did when he was feeling good, after a day of working with students and feeling like he made a difference. The kids were learning about shading and texturizing, so he started the painting at Arkin and brought it home when time to work on it ran out. It’s a bird’s nest comprised of twiggy elements with two eggs nestled in the middle. One egg is finished; Jared had time to paint the Robin’s blue surface and add some bumps and texture to the curve of the shell in an attempt at realism. The other egg isn’t finished being painted yet but Jared did have a chance to add fissures to the surface, a part where the egg is cracked outward by a baby beak trying to break the shell away. Weeks ago, Jared would have said the painting was coming out pretty well. It’s not his usual subject but he isn’t afraid to try new things.
Today, Jared thinks it’s garbage. Whatever he was trying to get across with the painting doesn’t matter. In a flurry of wheeling around, Jared manages to get most of his paint in arms reach and that’s when he starts breaking down.
The anger is shifting, morphing into something new and more explosive. It streaks his cheeks in tears that burn and he bites his lip to keep himself from crying out. Grabbing the red paint, he gets a heavy dollop on his fingers and launches it at the painting. It hits with a loud splat onto the image of the cracked egg, then drifts downwards in thick drips. Taking a shuddering breath, Jared repeats the process. He keeps grabbing at anything he can get his hands on, any color. His hands are stained with a muddled rainbow and the painting is looking less serene and more traumatic by the second. Jared only stops when a sound hits his ears that startles him and he throws whatever is in his hands to the ground so he can spin his chair towards the disturbance. Jared is surprised to see Ryan and startles, skidding backwards in his wheelchair.
“Well…that looks angry,” Ryan says as he studies the mess of paint that Jared was slapping onto the canvas. He hits the locks on his chair and crosses his arms over his chest to survey the destruction.
“Fuck, Ryan!” Jared shouts and rolls his eyes. “You scared the shit out of me, you asshole! How did you get here?”
The insults bounce off Ryan and he snorts. “I let myself in. You gave me an emergency key, remember? And from the look of the number you’re doing on your studio, this is an emergency.”
“Remind me to take the damn key back,” Jared fumes.
They’re staring at each other across a scarred battlefield of paint and tumbled canvases. The smug look on Ryan’s face denotes that he’s not going to back down, regardless of how murderous Jared looks at the moment. Eventually Ryan braves the warlike tension in the studio and makes his way closer to Jared. “Yep, this is an emergency.” His demeanor changes completely as he soaks in what is radiating off of his friend. “What’s going on Jay? I think after you’ve ignored my calls and texts for the last 36 hours, I deserve an answer. And don’t bullshit me by skirting the issue. I’ve known your stubborn ass long enough to know that you’re good at ignoring things plowing through issues. What’s got you sabotaging anything within splatter distance?”
With a flare of his nostrils, Jared glowers. The hurt and anger are still running their courses through his system and he knows the tears are evident on his cheeks. There is no hiding that he’s already fallen apart at the seams. He’s surprised Ryan can’t see inside of him and figure things out for himself. Licking his lips, he chokes on a sob. His voice sounds weak and broken when he squeaks out. “I’m pregnant.”
The bombshell explodes with disbelief over Ryan’s face. “Woah,” he gasps, eyes wide. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Yeah, me either.” Jared rubs his hands into his eyes to stop more tears, realizing too late that they’re covered in paint. “Shit,” he curses under his breath, his whole body sagging.
“Shit, Jay…you look like a raccoon on an acid trip,” Ryan quips.
The comment is so bizarre that Jared has to laugh. The noise edges on sounding insane as it escapes his lips but he can’t stop it. His emotions are fried. He doesn’t know if he’s laughing or crying anymore but he can picture himself, vivid blues, reds and greens around his eyes. He’s sure he looks ridiculous. Ryan’s giving him a forced smile and Jared can tell his friend is trying to be strong for his sake. There is no judgement on Ryan’s face, he’s taking the news like it’s unexpected but not like he’s going to head for the hills because he’s not ready to give that type of support to Jared. “I’m pregnant,” Jared repeats again, this time his voice is more steady.
“When did you find out?”
“Two days ago. I…I was feeling shitty and I got checked out. Seems like the fact that I’m not supposed to be able to carry children is negotiable now.” Frustration makes Jared spit the last part out a little louder.
The silence is tense between them but Ryan remains resolved in his concern for his friend. “What are you and Jensen going to do?” As soon as the words are out of his mouth, he realizes his misstep. When Ryan says the name Jensen, Jared flinches like a bullet nicks him right in the middle. Forgetting his frist question, Ryan roars, “What did that fucker do?”
“Nothing. That’s the damn problem. Jensen did nothing.” Jared shakes his head.
Narrowing his eyes, Ryan leans closer. “What do you mean by ‘nothing’?”
“Exactly that. I told him and…he…” Jared’s voice cracks because it feels like the memory is real all over again. He closes his eyes and his mind gets stuck on the image of Jensen’s back as he abandoned Jared with the news of their pregnancy. “He left. I told him and he said ‘I can’t’ and then he just…left. Poof. Gone.” When Jared opens his eyes again to look at his friend, they’re filled with tears and Ryan’s image comes in blurry.
Ryan’s reaction comes slowly, each word punctuated by more anger. “I’m going to fucking kill him.” He grits his teeth, upper lip quivering to expose his gums. “I swear…he’s a fucking dead man.”
“Ry – ” Jared tries but gets cut off by his friend.
“No. He’s dead.”
The logistics of the threat whirl in Jared’s head. He’s like to see Ryan maul Jensen about now and can’t help himself from asking, “How exactly are you going to do that? Kick him with two useless legs? Try to punch him before he escapes up a stairwell?”
Ryan screws his face in actual thought and confidently says, “Taser. I can Taser the fucker and then roll him to death with my wheelchair. Leave him a bloody stain on the sidewalk.”
The fact that Ryan is dead serious at the moment makes Jared laugh. The sound escapes and it’s real and loud. His whole body gets in on the action, shaking from the force of the laughter because his brain needs a break; it needs to laugh. But the moment is over quickly when laughing starts to feel wrong and soon the sounds of his laugh take on the shuddering qualities of a sob. Jared hates that he can’t commit to one emotion right now as he breaks down, resting his tear streaked painted mess of a face in his hands. “Shit, Ry. I’m pregnant.”
Ryan rolls as close to Jared as possible, licks his lips, tries to get a word out then pulls back at a loss. The lack of a reaction is enough to clue Jared in on the fact that Ryan doesn’t understand the weight the revelation comes with.
“There is a reason the doctors thought I would never be able to get pregnant. There is a list of complications a mile long and all of them end with something dying. Me. The kid. I dunno…All of it points towards the declaration that having this kid is a very, very stupid thing to do.” Jared braces a glance at Ryan. His friend is staring at him, soaking the words in but not letting anything show on his face. “I’m not aborting it. That’s what the doctors want me to do, by the way.” He sags lower. “I can’t do that. I can’t just kill it without trying. You know? Without having hope. Maybe it’s a side effect of the way I went through my injury and rehabilitation but…there were so many people who should have given up hope in me but didn’t. And it paid off. So…if you’re going to think I’m an idiot for wanting to at least try…then leave. Give me your key and leave.” By the time he’s done speaking, Jared returns to sitting upright, eyes on the defense.
“Woah, hey,” Ryan says raising both palms in surrender. “You’re a fucking idiot, but not because you don’t wanna kill your kid. Fuck, Jared…I’d like to think that you know me better than that. I’m kind of reigning king in the court of dangerous choices. Or…more accurately…choices not everyone is on board with. Hell, my family moved across the country and no one agreed with my decision to say.” He punches Jared in the shoulder playfully. “I couldn’t leave your sorry ass now, could I?”
The memory has Jared laughing. He can picture it perfectly; Jared has been just as terrified at the prospect of Ryan moving as Ryan had been. In a world where they were surrounded by people who walked through life instead of rolled, they had been each other’s life lines. Maybe that’s why they tried dating and it’s probably why that attempt failed. They were a lifeline, too dependent on each other for a functional relationship to develop. Jared thumps Ryan on the back of the head and scoffs. “Yeah, thanks for that. You saddled my family with another wheelchair bound dependent.”
“You love me,” Ryan says confidently.
“And I question that decision every day.” The pang of feeling abandoned by Jensen is still sitting in the middle of Jared’s chest but this feels good. Being himself and being a friend reminds him of a level of normalcy that he thought might have dissipated when he’d found out he is pregnant.
“Yeah, I don’t know why you put up with me either. But you’re kind of stuck with my annoying ass being your friend until the end.” Ryan lets himself laugh for a moment before getting serious. “And that’s why I’m going to kill Jensen.”
“Ry – ”
“No. We’ll call Jeff, get his help. Then we kill him.”
“No!” Jared yells louder than he intends. The sound of his voice not only startles Ryan, but himself. He takes a moment to settle himself. “No. Don’t tell Jeff. Please, Ryan. Please. I don’t want my parents to know, not yet. They…I can’t. I can’t destroy them like I always do. I…I just want to figure out what I’m going to do…or what it is going to take for me to stay pregnant. Then I’ll tell them. I just want to know what I’m in for before I tell them what they’re in for. So, please, don’t tell Jeff. He’ll tell my parents in a heartbeat.”
Ryan sits in silence considering this. It takes him a long time to speak but when he does, he nods. “If that’s what you want. But you gotta tell ‘em Jay. They’re going to be pissed at you but you’re their son. They love you. I am sure your mom will be on board with killing Jensen. She seems scrappy.”
Letting Ryan make light of the situation feels like a good idea for the moment. He can’t keep going the way he’s been carrying on for two reasons. The most important is that he’s going to burn out. The other issue is that he’ll probably destroy his whole study by taking out his feelings on innocent artwork and materials he usually finds solace in. He doesn’t want to taint arts abilities to help power through. “Thanks,” Jared says with a sigh. “For not telling Jeff.” His brother’s name tips the scales and Jared chokes on it. “Fuck. Jeff’s gonna kill someone.”
Wheeling backwards, Ryan takes in the wave that’s just hit Jared. “Hey, come on, let’s get you out of this studio. It’s depressing as hell in here right now and some sun will probably do you good.” He starts to wheel out of the room and looks over his shoulder. “Come on.”
“No, I – ” But Jared doesn’t know how to end the excuse so he lets it stand there.
“Come on. It’s a gorgeous day for basketball. Maybe I will even let you win a round or two.”
“I don’t think that’s a great Idea, Ryan. You know, maybe I shouldn’t.”
“‘Cause you’re pregnant?” Ryan snorts. “If a major traffic accident didn’t kill you, I’m pretty sure a fetus the size of a grape isn’t going to do much damage.” With a smirk, he wheels out of the room, not bothering to look back when he says. “Come on. But let’s wash that rainbow off your face first.”
Since it looks like he isn’t given much of an option, Jared wheels after his best friend. He washes his face and then he kicks Ryan’s ass on the court, which isn’t because Ryan is going easy on him. Quite the opposite. Ryan is brutal but Jared’s on fire and he scores point after point. Ryan’s not treating him like he’s glass and that fact is enough to make Jared remember that maybe he’s something stronger.
Jensen feels like he’s going to fuck things up spectacularly or lose control of his lungs. He’s betting on the latter since he’s already done a bang up job of fucking up.
He’d slept at Josh’s and spent the morning hashing things over with his brother, trying to figure out how he could grovel or if he even deserves to have Jared talk to him again. Selfishly, he wants Jared to forgive him so that he can have Jared back in his life. Jared. The person who has become someone he wants in his life more than anyone he’s ever dated. Someone he loves in ways he never knew he could. What he did to Jared is unforgiveable. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Yet he finds himself planning on explaining himself and begging.
The plan was to leave Josh’s and go straight to Jared’s but he can’t.
He knows why.
He’s afraid of the pregnancy and all the weight it comes with. But he’s more afraid that Jared will never forgive him. He’s frightened all the more that Jared will forgive him because he doesn’t deserve that. And maybe Jared’s forgiveness will come at the cost of the spark that made their relationship so electric. Jensen’s too much of a coward to find out. So instead of going straight to Jared’s house, Jensen drives past it towards his apartment. He validates his choice when he thinks he sees Ryan’s car out front.
Sitting in his empty apartment, he has a panic attack all over again. He sits with his head between his knees and tries to breathe again.
Maybe he hates himself for getting Jared pregnant and saddling Jared with a whole new world of health risks but sitting with only his thoughts makes Jensen hate himself for killing the smile Jared always has in his eyes when they are together.
He’s good at navigating stressful situations so he’s not sure why he bolted.
Then it hits him. Hard. Right in the chest and there is actually pain when his heart tries to keep beating.
He bolted because it’s the first time he doesn’t think he’s strong enough to handle any part of his world since Jared told him he’s pregnant. His first reaction was to fall back on being selfish and keep himself untouchable but it was all because he doesn’t think he can handle being touched.
It takes hours of being alone for Jensen’s brain to come to terms with his new truth. He still doesn’t know if he can handle the situation he’s in but it’s not being touched by it that he can’t handle. It’s the idea that he can’t live with himself if he doesn’t allow himself to be touched by it and give a good try at handling it.
A sleepless night passes and Jensen wakes to work through the next day with a belly that can’t keep food down and a heart that’s struggling under the strain. He’s a zombie as he pulls clothing on his body and finds his car keys. They weight a thousand pounds in his palm but he finds the strength to get in the car and drive to Jared’s house.
This time, he doesn’t keep driving. He parks and steps out. Walking to Jared’s front door feels surreal because he knows he’s going to have to see Jared and find ways to make his voice work. All of that is expected but he didn’t anticipate Jared’s front door to be open. The storm door is closed, and Jensen supposes that makes sense since it’s a gorgeous day. Fresh air is fluttering through the screen on the door. From inside the house, there are the sounds of the television; if they are this loud when Jensen’s standing outside, he can only image what is going on inside. Jensen knocks, the sound immediately swallowed up by the television. He rings the bell, and still nothing happens.
Four days ago, Jensen wouldn’t have been hesitant to walk into Jared’s place unannounced. He’d probably relish it, looking forward to the pleasantly surprised look on Jared’s face. Now he feels like he has no right to cross the threshold. It’s just one more thing he’ll have to ask forgiveness for and he pulls the storm door open and steps inside calling, “Jay?” Following the sounds of the television, he gets to the living room.
Jared is sitting on the couch with his legs strewn across the cushions. He’s in a faded t-shirt, the neck of which hangs a little more to one side, and a pair of grey sweatpants cover his paralyzed legs. There is a pint of ice cream wrapped in his hands and he’s got a spoon hanging in his mouth when he notices that Jensen’s entered the room. Looking frozen, he blinks and swallows the mouthful of ice cream with some difficulty. Before Jared can say anything, Jensen gets in, “Jay – ”
“Get out!” Jared yells.
The anger in Jared’s voice is new to Jensen. It throws him for a loop and he physically stumbles backwards. Knowing he’s supposed to start groveling, Jensen regains his ground but Jared’s anger knocked all the words out of his brain. He focuses on something on the surface. “Are you eating ice cream?”
Jared takes in a sharp breath and knits his eyebrows together. “Yeah. It’s called being an adult.” The phrase is lost in the confliction of Jared’s snotty tone that makes him come off as less than an adult and more of a rebellious teen. He takes another defiant spoonful of ice cream. “I can eat ice cream for breakfast if I want to. You’re not my fucking dad.”
The phrase jolts Jensen back to the situation at hand. “No…I’m not. But you told me that I’m someone’s father and looks like I’m shaping up to be a pretty terrible one at that.” The words come on their own, like Jensen’s heart knew them all along.
Jared, apparently, didn’t know what to make of them. His lips work to form words but they don’t come. Licking his lips, he’s shaking when he finally get out, “you have no right.” Jared’s chest heaves, moving quicker by the second. “You…you have no right to come in here and say that.”
“I know.” Jensen puts his hands up in both defense and surrender. “You’re right. I’m an asshole. A huge one. Trust me. I know that. And you deserve more than a person who acts like I did. But…I need to say what I have to say. I – ”
“No! You don’t get to do that. I’m having this baby with or without you. I was given another shot at life and there is no way that I’m going to take away my child’s chance at life. I can’t. So whatever you think you need to say…you don’t. Because it doesn’t matter.” Jared’s voice shakes.
Jensen gets the sense that if Jared had been in his chair, he’s be herding Jensen out the door. The anger in Jared blacks out the part of him that seemed childish and he’s all fire now. It breaks Jensen and he presses his lips together, face tense while trying to stay composed. Jared is killing him right now, and while he believes he deserves it, hearing that he’s the bad guy here cuts him deep. “I fucked up!” He shouts in anger at himself and the situation, not at Jared. “I hate myself for doing that. If I could take it back, I would. I would do it all differently. I’d still be terrified. I’d still be torn. But I would have went about it differently. I would have explained. Because…you can do anything Jared. I know it. But right now I don’t think that applies to me. And…I fucked up. So don’t forgive me. Because you shouldn’t. I mean it.” Jensen rubs his palms into his eyes and sighs at the ceiling. “I’m sorry. So sorry. But don’t you dare forgive me. I’m a coward and I ran away but I’m man enough to take responsibility and support the people – person – I love. And I love you. Whatever you want, I’m going to support it. Whatever you need…you’ve got it.” He’s screaming over the television and the ramble comes out of Jensen’s mouth on a plea. He’s not sure if any of that made sense to Jared.
The torn expression on Jared’s face creates a fissure and Jensen can see that there is something, maybe a glimpse of something there. He grabs the remote so that he can mute the television. His glare doesn’t waver from Jensen’s. “I can’t do this right now. I…” Jared takes a deep breath. “What you did…when I was already down and helpless…it fucked me up, Jensen. And the worst part about all of this is that I love you too. I love you and I hate you and I can’t talk to you right now.” For the first time, he looks away from Jensen, something glistening in his eyes. “You’re damn right. I’m not forgiving you. Not today, at least. It looks like it pains him to say the next part. “Right now, I need you to leave.”
Jensen wants to stay. He wants to stay and hash this out but he realizes he’d be forcing his words on Jared when Jared isn’t steady enough to process them.
Emotions are flying, wild and ricocheting off the walls. They’ve got to spend some time apart before there are fatalities instead of wounds.
“Okay, Jay. Whatever you want. Whatever you need.”
“I needed you.” Jared admits, full of pain like it hurts getting out but it hurts even more when the words bury themselves in Jensen’s brain.
It feels like Jensen’s actually been shot when he struggles out the door.