Butterflies and Hurricanes
There was something about the field of wildflowers that bloomed on the property of a friend’s great-grandmother that had always drawn Jensen Ackles.
Even as a child, running from the fights and abuse in his foster home, it was to this field that he’d almost always run to right from the very first day he’d stumbled upon it.
He’d been seven-years-old the first time he’d found the field filled with brightly colored flowers of all kinds. It never occurred to him to worry that he might be allergic or that he was trespassing. All he knew was that, once again, he’d angered his strictly religious foster parents. He’d taken a beating that took Jensen years to understand he never actually deserved.
Born to drug addicts in a small town in Texas, it had been some relation of his mother’s that had sent the unwanted child to friends in South Carolina who were known to take in ‘strays’, something he’d grown up hearing himself referred to.
The field of wildflowers, the peacefulness of it, and the heavy band of trees toward the end of the field had made the angry, confused, and frightened boy feel safe for the first time since he’d been removed from the home in which he’d been discovered living amongst rats and his overdosed parents’ bodies. It had also been in this field that he’d met the boy who would become so much more than his very best friend.
Jensen easily recalled the day he’d literally tripped over Jared Padalecki. Not once since he’d claimed that field of his own, however childish that might be, Jensen had never seen another soul, person, or animal, in it.
That day he’d run fifteen miles to the field from the rundown old house because his foster parents, Bruce and Shanna Walker, were arguing. Jensen had already taken a backhand to the face for just trying to eat his meager lunch and had gotten in the way of things he was ‘too stupid to understand’.
He’d run to what he knew was his safe place, only to trip over a dark haired boy with gangly legs, long arms, and hair that seemed to fall into his eyes. For at least a month Jensen could never decide on a color, ‘brown hair’ just never did it justice.
At first they’d merely stared at one another. Jensen, tense and wary --even at seven he’d learned the hard way that even other kids could be cruel-- and Jared, just a little curious about this blond haired, green eyed stranger in the field his great-grandmother owned on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina.
“Hi! I’m Jared! And this is my puppy, Rex! Granny says both he and I’ll grow into our feet!” The darker haired boy’s dimpled smile was bright and happy and almost matched what looked to be a smile on the huge chocolate lab puppy’s face. “Who’re you? Where do you live? What’cha doin’ in Granny’s field and… how’d you get hurt?”
It didn’t take long for Jensen to figure out that besides an infectious smile and a never ending stream of questions, Jared seemed to have a never ending amount of energy. That day he’d merely sat in the field to watch Jared and his puppy run for what seemed like hours before both finally fell into a pile near where Jensen sat.
Years later, Jensen would realize that day had literally both changed and saved his life.
It was in this field of wildflowers and butterflies that Jensen not only learned that he could be a boy who played and laughed with his new friend and the clumsy puppy, but also that he could trust and start to heal from a short lifetime of nothing but abuse and lies.
At age ten, it was in this field that Jensen finally revealed to Jared how he’d gotten the various bruises and other injuries over the years. The current ones were received after he failed to sweep the whole house, earning him a vicious beating that kept him out of school for three days so none of the suspicious teachers or other parents would see the injuries Shanna Walker couldn’t hide with powder and concealer.
It was to this field that he’d finally run to when his foster mother’s back was finally turned after three days of pain and being locked in the small room that they called his bedroom. As the sun was setting that evening, a physically battered and emotionally scarred Jensen dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around the unusually subdued Rex, and clung.
The field was where he had thought he’d die the day his drunk and pissed off foster father had followed him and tried to choke the ten-year-old boy. Jensen had lost track of the foul names and other insults that had been hurled that day at him, but he knew he would never forget the sound of Jared shouting and Rex snarling, much less the sound of the loud and deep voice of Jared’s ex-Army father who had come running at the sounds from the field. He hid back in the old trees with Jared in a small fort they’d built together while the senior Padalecki stood with a fiercely protective Rex until the cops arrived to drag the drunk and ranting man off in cuffs.
That was the last time Jensen had seen either of his so-called foster parents. and while his life from ten-years-old to eighteen wasn’t easy, he at least didn’t fear being beaten to within an inch of his life for a simple mistake or starving for days on end.
What Jensen feared was being taken to an even worse foster family. There was nothing but relief when another family in Charleston, the family of a school friend of his and Jared’s, had stepped up with the offer to take him in rather than allow him to remain in a system that had so badly failed the boy.
Despite not having to live like he had, Jensen still found that when he wasn’t in school or studying or learning to do the things he hadn’t been allowed to before, it was still Cordelia Padalecki’s field of flowers and butterflies that he was the most relaxed in.
He and Jared played here with Rex as they both grew up from boys to teenagers and shared both the good and bad times that came.
It was in the field one summer night, with fireworks shooting off overhead as people celebrated Independence Day, that Jensen and Jared shared not only secrets but also a first kiss when they both admitted their feelings for one another.
Jensen’s past made him wary about admitting the feelings he’d had for Jared since he’d been fifteen and Jared fourteen, but the first awkward kiss between them after Jared had cut into his stumbling admission in his usual straightforward way, was nothing short of perfect.
“Best friends forever, Jen,” Jared murmured softly, cheeks blushing since he’d known his first attempt at kissing anyone, much less his best friend, wasn’t the greatest. He relaxed when some of the wary fear he’d seen in Jensen’s eyes earlier had lessened and he kissed him back. “Boyfriends now?”
The word was new and one Jensen never thought he’d ever have reason to say, much less believe in. But finding out they shared an attraction, he realized there never would be anyone else that he would ever love except Jared. With a gentle tug to bring the laughing younger teen back in for another slightly less awkward but still cautious kiss, Jensen had nodded. “Best friends and boyfriends forever, Jay,” he said and meant it.
The field of wildflowers was where Jensen had gone to find Jared after the news had broken that his parents had been killed in an airplane crash over Key West and he’d held his boyfriend as he’d sobbed. It was in there Jensen had sat again with his best friend as they both said goodbye when old age and illness finally called Rex home.
Watching as Rex passed away, coupled with the pain Jared was in, was the first time Jensen could say he truly ever understood or had felt real grief. Despite having felt pain at the loss of Jared’s parents and Jared’s great-grandmother, who passed away shortly after, the pain of Rex’s passing shocked him.
They’d buried the dog at what was Rex’s favorite spot beside the bush that always had the most butterflies.
It was to that spot Jensen walked to today. He ignored the cool breeze of fall that blew his short, wavy, dark blond hair and that it was too chilly that day for an outfit of a hooded sweatshirt and old jeans that looked too big and bulky for his 6’1” leanly built body. But since Jensen honestly was at the point where he didn’t give a crap about anything or anyone, especially himself, he didn’t notice the chill or the breeze.
Standing still for a moment, as if reliving all the times he’d come to here either alone as a child or with Jared over the years, Jensen slowly eased down to his knees on the damp ground to lightly touch a hand to the small grave marker that was merely a smooth black stone. He slowly took a deep breath before letting it out; pain and grief along with anger and guilt were all rolling through Jensen and making it hard to keep up the stoic façade that he had been successful at maintaining the last few weeks.
From the moment he and Jared had met in this field, fell in love, kissed for the first time and then made love for the first time here, it had never once entered Jensen’s mind that they might not be together for the rest of their lives.
Their lives together hadn’t been easy since the death of Jared’s family. Jensen had just graduated high school while Jared had one more year to go, and the sudden loss had caused a lot of stress for both of them. The arrival of Jared’s aunt caused more stress and heartache because the woman had contested all three wills, fighting Jared for what should’ve been rightly his. Still to this day, she tied up every bank account and the estate that Jared should have inherited from his father as well as his share from Cordelia’s will.
Technically, even this field was tied up in the legal system. While it had been willed to Jared, the bitter fight with his Aunt was keeping it in legal limbo; Jensen knew it could be considered trespassing if the woman learned he was here, but he honestly didn’t give a damn. He’d lost so much now... he was fighting to just find a reason to go on another day.
He looked down at the ring on his left hand before raising it and slashing at the burning tears that once again pooled in his eyes. With his free hand he placed the item he’d carried with him next to the marker, fingertips brushing over both lightly.
“He’s with you now, Rex. You guys can play all you want with the butterflies you used to love. Take care of him like I couldn’t.”
It had been nine weeks of brutal, agonizing pain and heartache that no amount of helpful, overly helpful in some cases, hospital therapists, or kind words of sympathy from friends who had no idea what Jensen was feeling could help. Nine weeks of hell from when he’d woken up in Charleston Mercy Hospital with fleeting memories of the event that had not only put him there but also cost him something that he could never replace.
Six weeks had passed since his release, and all Jensen wanted was to be left alone to mourn, to grieve, to hate those he held responsible for what had happened to him, to Jared… to their life together. He’d locked himself in the bedroom of the small apartment they’d shared only to learn there were too many memories there to even allow him to try and forget much less heal.
A friend had offered his place as a temporary solution until other arrangements could be made or a new place rented, since they’d been talking about moving anyways. While Jensen was grateful to Chris for the offer and had taking him up on it --only because it was better than the other solution offered by the damn nosy therapist at the hospital-- he’d also accepted in his heart that unless something changed inside him soon, there would be no new apartment or small house with a yard.
Jensen was unaware of the tears on his face or that he’d slowly started to sob as the emotions he’d buried in order to protect himself from even more pain were finally breaking loose as he sat in the field where he’d once known safety and happiness.
Jensen took a moment to reflect on the dreams he and Jared had shared about their future, the plans he’d actually started to allow himself to make recently. To have it all jerked away in one quick, heartless moment of cruelty and hate… Jensen felt his gut clench and he touched the ring again before starting to slip it off.
“I’m sorry, Jay,” he whispered, pulling the bottle of sleeping pills, as of yet untouched, out of the pocket of his hoodie. He’d been given them to help him at least gain adequate sleep after his release from the hospital and his refusal to allow them to ‘suggest’ some time in another section of the hospital until he’d healed some and learned to cope.
“You’ve been my rock, my strength, my heart and reason to go on since the first day we met. You taught me that I didn’t deserve the pain or abuse and that I could have a normal life if I fought for it.” Jensen’s voice shook as much as his hands did as he played with his ring before finally pulling it off completely.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve cost you. I’m sorry for everything you’ve lost because you loved me and refused to walk away in order to get your inheritance. I’m sorry for…” he stopped with a sob when a flash of big hazel eyes and a dimpled smile took his breath away and the guilt, pain, and loss all hit him much like it had when he’d woken in the hospital to a too clinically cold doctor and a grim faced Chris Kane and Chad Michael Murray.
“I’m sorry for it all. I love you, Jared.” Jensen stared at the field one more time before reaching for the bottle on the ground beside him. “Forgive me.”
The breeze had picked up, blowing a much colder air, but Jensen didn’t feel anything as he took another second to consider what could be his last act. It was his only way to escape what he knew was his fault, regardless of what others had said.
All the doubts of his youth, the words of hate and cruelty that had been burned into his memory, were almost always in his ears now; he’d heard them again right before his world changed. The twenty-six-year-old knew it was cowardly, but he also knew his options were thin to none. He’d survived the horrors of his childhood because of his best friend and that, Jensen knew even as his hand was lifting, was gone now.
Closing his eyes to try to ignore the memories of laughing, playing, loving, and just being happy here, Jensen willed himself to have the courage to take this one stand so the pain wouldn’t get worse. He didn’t need to actually hear the words he knew would be coming.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He knew the items he’d placed next to Rex’s marker would be found by the others later on if anyone thought to look for him. Jensen went to toss back a handful of the pills, gasping when a strong hand suddenly grabbed his wrist and a voice spoke from behind him.
Butterflies and Hurricanes
The soft voice, with just a hint more Southern drawl, surprised Jensen Ackles more than the hand that caught his wrist. The grip was tight and prevented him from taking the handful of pills he’d been preparing to in his attempt to finally stop his downward spiral of grief.
“Wha… what’re you doing here?” he finally managed to ask, trying to pull his wrist free. He frowned when the grip holding it tightened with just enough strength that he had to open his fingers. The pills flipped from his palm, dropping into the damp grass of the field. A second later the bottle was picked up and given a long toss.
“It looks like I’m stopping you from doing something we’d both regret, Sugar,” Jared Padalecki returned in what he hoped was a calm and soothing tone of voice, despite the fact that his heart was still lodged in his throat. He was fairly certain the hand that was not grasping Jensen’s wrist was shaking as much as he could feel his husband of two years was.
“Hey, Jen, wanna talk now?” he asked while slowly sitting down just slightly behind Jensen. He only let go of the wrist he’d caught when he was certain Jensen wouldn’t bolt. “Jensen, please? I know you’re angry with me and that this is my fault, but…”
Jensen was still getting over the surprise that Jared was there since he’d been under the impression when he’d walked out of their friend’s place that morning that he’d either been going back to his job in Galveston or just leaving for good. He knew he’d been shutting his husband out, not letting him help like he would usually, but it was hearing Jared’s next words that had Jensen looking over his shoulder at him, surprise plain in tired, red rimmed, wet green eyes.
“What?” He blinked a few times to be sure he was actually seeing his husband and not dreaming, cocking his head to the side like he would whenever Jared said or did something confusing to him. “I… I’m not angry with you, Jay. I’m angry at myself. I’m angry with that jackass and it’s no one’s fault but my own that-”
The words stopped abruptly, Jensen snapping his mouth shut, as he shifted to turn away again, unable to look into deep hazel eyes that he knew would be flecked with blues and greens rather than gold like they’d be when Jared was happy and things were good for them.
“It’s not your fault, Sugar.” Jared made sure to keep his tone low as well as his touch light when he slowly reached out to let it rest on the shoulder closest to him. “I should’ve been here with you instead of in Galveston working that job, but-”
“But you have to work because your bitch of an aunt won’t give you what’s rightfully yours unless you leave me and pretend to be straight to protect the precious Padalecki reputation.” Jensen knew he sounded bitter but he didn’t care. He’d been angry and bitter since the woman had contested both wills just to spite her nephew when he refused her orders to stop playing, grow up, and marry a woman so the family name could be carried on. “I guess she was right about one thing though,” he glanced back over his shoulder to see Jared watching him, “You’ll never be able have a son or any child with me. Not now, not ever. You’d be better off walking away now and maybe finding someone who can give you a child then-”
“I love you, Jensen! I am not walking away from you over this,” Jared broke in, deciding to take a risk by tightening his grip on Jensen’s shoulder ever so slightly. “I know you’re hurt. I know you’re angry. I can’t tell you not to be since no one can understand how you feel but… I want to try, if you’d just let me. I want to help you.”
Jensen stared at Jared for a long time before slowly looking back down at the items he’d placed on the ground, fingers shaking as he started to absently play with the string on his hoodie. He was unaware even moving, but had managed to lean back enough to allow Jared’s arms to go around him, his elbow up propped on the knee he’d drawn up closer to him.
“Do you ever regret the day we met in this field?” he asked after a long moment of silence.
“No, not once,” Jared replied instantly, meaning it completely. He understood that a piece of Jensen still had the same doubts and fears of the boy he’d been, and now it seemed like those doubts were back in full force.
A beat of silence and then, “Do you?” He asked this with a little more hesitance, almost fearing the answer until he felt the light touch of Jensen’s fingers against his hand.
“For your sake I should, but…” Jensen let his fingers close over Jared’s hand and felt the grasp returned tightly. “I don’t regret meeting or falling in love with you, Jared. I just regret what my own stupidity cost us.”
“You weren’t stupid, Jensen. You had no reason to suspect that they’d paroled that jackass or that Walker had even come back to the city!” Jared hated to hear the pain and self-hatred in Jensen’s usually deep voice. “The cops knew both he and Shana had been released weeks ago and had already lost track of Bruce. They should’ve told you so you would’ve known and I wouldn’t have gone on that Galveston job regardless of if we needed the money or not.”
Flashes of the memories Jensen had been struggling to avoid for weeks were starting to hit him, despite his best attempts to push them back. He forced himself to suppress a shiver.
From the first moment he’d woken up in the hospital and told the news, Jensen shut down. The need to talk, to shout, to rage, had been huge, nearly overwhelming. But he’d learned the hard way to cover his emotions. To protect himself he built a wall around those feelings, even if it meant shutting out the man he loved more than anything.
Now though, sitting in the field where so many things had been discovered and shared between them, Jensen wasn’t sure if it was because he was so tired or if it was because he was starting to realize his biggest fears about Jared hating him or regretting his choices weren’t true. It was becoming more difficult to ignore the painful memories.
“I’ve got you, Jensen.” Jared’s words were soft, soothing as he felt the tension in Jensen’s body increase just slightly. “Talk to me, Sugar. Let me in, or yell at me, or hit me, or something!” he encouraged even though he’d been advised by many to let Jensen cope on his own or get him professional help.
“Our son is dead, Jay.”
Jensen’s voice was low when he spoke those words. Jared went instantly still and silent since that was the first time in nine weeks that Jensen had allowed himself to speak of, much less acknowledge, the outcome of a bitter, hateful man’s act of revenge.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Jared could only nod as he understood that right then what Jensen needed from him wasn’t words. All Jensen needed was to be able to express everything he’d buried, hidden, and refused to face. He needed to be able to do it in a safe place, with someone he trusted to just be there for him and with him like Jared had always been.
The moment he heard himself speak the words he’d been refusing to accept, much less say out loud, it felt like a floodgate opened inside him. All Jensen could do was ride the waves of grief, anger, guilt, confusion and fear out. He felt Jared’s arms tighten just enough to hold him tightly against his chest when he finally gave into the grief that swamped him along with memories, both good and bad.
From the moment they’d learned that Jensen could conceive and give birth to a child, it had been something he’d wanted badly. Despite Jared always saying it didn’t matter to him if they adopted or if they had biological children, so long as Jensen was healthy, Jensen wanted his own, their own.
The doctors had told them that conceiving could be difficult due to some of the abuse Jensen had endured growing up and they made no promises that he could carry the child to term even if he did become pregnant. But despite the risks, Jensen had been determined to give Jared a child.
It had taken over a year of trying and a lot of disappointing home pregnancy tests before Jensen recalled the stunned feeling he’d gotten the day the test at home, and then his own doctor, confirmed that he was indeed pregnant. The need to tell Jared was immediate, so he’d gone across town to where he knew he was working to restore an old historic home.
“Jared! We’re having a baby! Or, I’m having a baby and… oh shit! Jay!” Jensen cringed when it dawned on him that he’d just shouted that news to his very surprised husband at maybe a bad time.
“Son? Maybe you shouldn’t have sprung that on him while he’s on a ladder ten feet off the ground?” the foreman of the construction site remarked with a chuckle after clapping a now nervous Jensen on the shoulder and then shouting for the other men not to let the new ‘Dad-to-be’ fall and break any bones.
Jensen had nervously waited until a pale faced Jared managed to climb down the ladder and make his way over on shaky legs to where he was waiting.
“Guess I should’ve waited until you got home or… texted you or…” He paused to try to settle his sudden nerves down, staring at his hands rather than up at Jared in case his decision to rush to tell his husband the news hadn’t been a good one. “Sorry if I shocked you or umm… Jay? I kinda need you to say something before I really freak out here. Are you happy or..?”
Jared had heard the words. He’d been repeating them in his head ever since he got over his shock at having them shouted up at him while he’d been just about to hammer a nail into an ornate piece of window decoration, nearly falling off the ladder in his haste to get to solid ground.
“Uh, yeah.” Jensen nodded, chewing his bottom lip nervously like he did when unsure and fighting not to show it. He was suddenly very aware of the eyes on them and was kicking himself for not waiting to do this someplace more private.
Jared felt the eyes of his fellow workers watching them as well but ignored them in order to focus on the nervous young man in front of him. “There’s a baby inside here?” He knew that might sound odd, and he knew that there was, but as he dropped to his knees and lightly ran a hand over the t-shirt that covered a still flat stomach, it was stunning to him. “Seriously? We really made a baby?”
“Yeah, we made a baby.” Jensen’s lips curved up in a slow smile, relaxing a bit more once he saw that Jared didn’t seem upset by the sudden news. “Okay?”
He watched as Jared’s fingers lightly traced over where Jensen figured he would start to show in another month or so, letting his own hand rest on Jared’s shoulder. He felt his heart slam into his throat when Jared finally looked up and he saw not only tears of joy shining in gold flecked, hazel eyes but the love that Jensen understood was now for both him and their child.
“More than okay, Sugar.” Jared’s dimples popped as his full smile came out, pressing a quick kiss to where he decided their baby might be before pushing to his feet to tug a laughing Jensen into his arms and kissing him deeply; not caring that they now had an audience of curious construction workers.
“I love you so much, Jensen, and we will give this baby the best home possible,” he promised after breaking the kiss and seeing the happiness marred with worry on Jensen’s face. “We’ll make it, Jen. We will make it, and one day I’ll give you everything I promised that day in Granny’s field when I told you that I loved you and then when I asked you to marry me. Nothing will ever break us up or hurt you or our baby.”
The promise was real and heartfelt. Jensen knew it that day just like he knew it now. Memories faded to present time as he realized he’d started to rock back and forth, and bitter tears were sliding down his cheeks. He could hear Jared’s voice murmuring softly as he held him from behind and just let him vent.
Jared longed to be able to do more than just sit in the field holding the man he loved while Jensen finally began to purge all the things he’d been burying. He wished there was a magic word that he could say to take the pain and loss away, or something that he could do that would give back what was lost. He knew all he could do right then was just be there with Jensen.
He listened to the broken words being sobbed out as Jensen relived six months of joy as they planned their future; discussions of trying to afford a small house or better apartment, either within the city limits or even outside Charleston since it didn’t look like Jared’s plans of having the contested estate of either his parents or great-grandmother settled were paying off.
He tightened his grip on Jensen when he felt him start to curl into himself but then his eyes went to what else Jensen had placed on the ground next to Rex’s marker. Jared felt his throat start to close up from the lump of emotion he could feel as he stared at the last sonogram photo they’d been given just shortly before Jared had left for the construction job in Galveston; a job that he wished he’d never agreed to go on. He wouldn’t have if he had known what would happen in just two weeks.
“We really need to pick a name for him before Chad does, dude,” Jared recalled saying while standing to the side to watch the live sonogram image of their son wiggle a little as if agreeing with Jensen that the damn gel was cold. “His last suggestion was Bucky or Pietro, so I think he’s watching movies again.”
“Chad Michael Murray is not naming our next pet much less our son, Jared, and I gave you a list of my suggestions.” Jensen replied as his eyes were glued to the screen to watch the baby that was growing inside him move, fidget, and kick every time the smooth sensor was moved over his now rounded belly. “I don’t think he likes that thing. Are you sure it can’t hurt him?” he asked, protective of his child considering the doctors were still warning about complications and trouble during delivery. “Jay?”
Jared’s hand moved to Jensen’s shoulder in reassurance even as Jensen’s doctor was smiling to reassure the nervous man as she always did. Dr. Michele Blake knew some of her other associates in her practice had been giving Jensen the doom and gloom speeches about the risks to himself and the very healthy baby, and she took it upon herself to make this positive for the couple.
“I think your son is very attuned to you and since you don’t care for the cold gel or the feel of the sensor, then neither does your baby. But as you can see here,” she paused to move the device again and this time turned up the sound so the strong heartbeat could be heard by both men, “Your baby is very healthy and so long as you follow my orders of eating well, taking those vitamins, staying off your feet, and not working at the diner for the rest of your term? I think both you and your son will come out of the delivery just fine.”
“He’s not working and he won’t be working after the baby comes either,” Jared assured the woman, feeling Jensen tense slightly under his hand since this had been one of their rare fights that had yet to be fully resolved to either young man’s satisfaction.
Jensen had once had dreams of going to college for a degree in either teaching or sociology since he wanted to help people, especially kids like he’d been once, but he’d given those dreams up in order to work at a local diner both cooking, which he really did enjoy, and waiting on tables; anything to help bring money in so it wasn’t just Jared working to support them while he battled the courts and his aunt for his inheritance.
Once it got out that he was pregnant he still worked, but not as many hours, and when he began to show more Jensen tried to watch what he did as far as lifting since there’d been one time shortly after his second month when he’d collapsed while cooking and he’d been rushed to the hospital.
“Your body, due to the lack of proper vitamins and care when you were younger, on top of the abuse and beatings you took, isn’t as strong as it could be or should be to carry a baby,” Dr. Blake had explained to Jensen while Jared sat beside him and wished his husband’s foster parents had paid with more than some jail time for what they’d put him through. “You have to be careful now and you will have to cut back on working later in your pregnancy. Right now I think simply cooking, so long as it doesn’t require lifting or anything too strenuous, will be okay.”
“I have to work,” Jensen had argued that night after letting Jared get all his complaining about him working too much and demanded the diner’s owner needed to make some changes in his schedule or duties. “Jay, between rent, baby stuff, the legal fees, and everything else that needs paid or taken care of, I need to work too! You can’t be the only one bringing in cash. I won’t let you do that. I can’t let you do that. I told you when I got my first job that I’d always help support us too and I…”
Jared knew this was a touchy issue with Jensen since he knew some people in town, some kids they’d gone to school with who’d looked down on Jensen because of his past, had said to both of them that Jensen was just using Jared for his family’s money and influence.
It was for that reason Jared knew his husband gave up his dreams of college because while he’d qualified for a small scholarship due to his grades, the rest of the tuition plus books would have been too much for them to afford. Jensen had refused to bring more debt on them by trying for a student loan.
Now with a baby coming and needing a bigger place, Jared had noticed that Jensen had been trying to do a lot more than was safe for either him or the baby. He’d been trying to pick up a few more jobs so that when the baby came he would be able to take some time off to spend at home with his family.
“I have a lead, or Chris said he had a lead, on a small house just outside of town that’s actually less than this place. We can look at it this weekend before I have to head to Galveston for that new job and then sign the papers when I get home,” Jared told him, stretching out on the bed so that he could place light kisses over Jensen’s belly, knowing that always made his husband smile because they both had noticed that the baby also seemed to respond when he did it.
“I’m getting a bonus for doing this job, Jen. We’re okay. You don’t have to work now,” he added in quietly, lifting his eyes to see the concern Jensen still had. “I promised to take care of you and the baby. I will do that, but you have got to take it easy! So promise me that while I’m gone you’ll rest and do what the doctor told you?”
Jensen’s small frown was still a clear answer that he didn’t like not being able to work, even if it was just a little to make a small contribution to his family, but as he felt their son kick and wiggle more as Jared began making silly baby talk to his belly, he also understood the most important thing was keeping healthy so their baby would be born healthy.
“Alright. No working at the diner in any capacity until after the baby’s born… then we can talk about a compromise on how I can still feel like I’m contributing to this household,” he finally replied, meeting and holding Jared’s eyes when they lifted slowly. Jensen saw the debate in Jared’s eyes as he considered if he wanted to argue that last point right then. “We can’t afford a house and a baby unless we’re both working, Jay. I won’t let people think you’re working like a dog while I do nothing but… huh?”
Jared pushed himself up so he was closer to Jensen, one hand flat on the rounded belly while his other went to the side of Jensen’s face, fingers lightly tracing the faint amount of scruff that Jensen had from not shaving that morning.
“You’re carrying our son, Jensen,” he murmured, voice dropping slightly lower as Jared tried to explain what he wanted to say, what he’d been feeling for months, but hadn’t wanted to look like he was coddling Jensen or trying to shoehorn him into a position that he knew his own late mother would have slapped him for. “You are bringing a new life into the world, so I think that’s working even if it might not bring money in. We’re gonna be fine, Sugar.”
Jensen had to take a moment to settle the rush of raw emotion hearing those words had caused inside him. It never failed to amaze him how lucky he’d been that day when he’d literally tripped over Jared; regardless of their differences, Jensen knew no one would ever look at or love him like Jared did and he’d never love anyone else as much as he did the wonderfully caring and loving man in front of him.
“I love you, Jared,” he said, voice slightly deeper like it got when his emotions were on the surface. It had been an on going battle to fight them since being pregnant made it seem like he was always emotional. “Call us while you’re gone?”
“Every night, Jen,” Jared promised with a soft kiss to Jensen’s lips, ignoring the deep feeling inside that he should stay at home. Rationally he knew if he wanted to give his family what he promised, he needed the bonus that came with this out of state job. “Pick a name so Chad won’t have to?” he asked with a teasing grin, laughing when Jensen merely rolled his eyes while once again vowing their friend was not naming their baby.
Presently, as Jared held a sobbing Jensen in his arms in that very field where they’d met, he wished he’d followed his gut instincts to not go on the Galveston job. If he had stayed, he would’ve been at home when the asshole diner manager had called and basically threatened the very pregnant, very concerned, and easily worried man with not only firing him but withholding his maternity leave and insurance if he didn’t come into the diner for at least an hour.
“It’s not your fault, Jen. Nothing that happened is your fault,” Jared had finally cut into the bitter sobs when he was able to understand some of what his grief stricken husband was saying. Tightening his arms after he shifted Jensen to turn him towards him, he brought him back fully into his arms to hold and soothe as best he could.
“Jensen… Jen, listen to me. You didn’t know what was going to happen. No one did. No one knew the asshole was out of jail or even close to Charleston. You did all you could.”
Lifting his head from where he’d buried it against Jared’s neck, Jensen stared at his husband as if he were crazy. “Our son is dead! How can you say I did all I could when he’s dead?” he demanded, anger now starting to come out since he’d worked through some of the massive grief.
Jensen was unaware that he’d clenched one hand into Jared’s jacket while his other was fisted against his chest. “How can you say that I did all I could when thanks to my goddamn past, thanks to some bitter, hateful jackass who just couldn’t let the past go, not only is our son dead but I’ll never be able to have another baby? How is that doing all I could, Jared? How is not seeing or hearing the car before it hit me, or not being able to fight back afterward, doing all I could? How is any of that even close to doing all I could?”
“You’re still alive.” Jared replied quietly once he was certain Jensen might be able to hear him as he let the man take out his anger and frustration by beating on his chest until, with a bitter scream, Jensen collapsed completely in Jared’s arms.
The memory of that day nine weeks ago were still raw within him. Jensen had been battling back and bottling up all the emotions since waking up in the hospital to be told that not only had he miscarried the baby he’d tried so hard to protect, but that the surgeries required to fix the internal injuries he’d suffered now made it next to impossible for him to ever conceive, much less carry to term, again.
A lot of that day was still a blur for him, but Jensen recalled vividly leaving the diner and being totally exhausted. It had become plain to him that everything their friends and Jared had been trying to say to him nicely without flat out coming out and saying it was true… there was no way in hell he’d be able to work even another day, much less two of the three months he had left before he delivered, like he’d been thinking about.
He thought he’d been silently cussing his boss out while talking to his son as the baby decided to play ‘kick Daddy from inside’ when he stepped off the curb. It took seconds. The sound of tires screeching, people shouting, and someone from the diner screaming his name had Jensen pulling his exhausted mind back to the present. He turned and all he could do was try to shift so when the car hit him it might be a glancing blow instead of full on.
The pain was intense as he felt the car hit, felt himself slam into the hood and roll off to land the street with his head and shoulder striking the curb, stunning him almost as much as the shock of being hit by a car in the first place. Then a voice among the many others shouting registered and suddenly Jensen felt like he had at five when his step father’s angry voice was heard.
“Well, looks like you turned out to be an even bigger freak of nature than Shana and I could have even imagined back when we agreed to take your sorry ass on.” Bruce Walker’s deep, gruff and hateful voice spoke with the same sneer that Jensen remembered hearing the last time he’d heard from his foster father.
Jensen tried to push himself up, needing to be on his feet because long buried memories told him he was too vulnerable like this, but pain shot through his shoulder as he tried. His vision was swimming, making his stomach pitch in a bad way and he felt a hard kick from a baby that he almost could tell was as scared and confused as he was becoming.
His foster parents had been arrested, tried, and sentenced ten to fifteen years in prison for their abuse of him as well as another ten years for taking money from the state and tax fraud since they’d been claiming kids they didn’t have. Jensen knew there was a no contact order in place and that if either one of them had been paroled, the local police were supposed to be notified, and through them he would be notified. He sure as hell hadn’t been told anything.
“What the… what the hell are you… doing here, Bruce?” Jensen demanded, teeth clenched as he once again tried to get at least to his knees; a sudden sharp punch to the side of his head put him back down on the street. “If… if you got paroled somehow, then you just screwed yourself! The no contact order means no contact, jackass! You’ll go back just from being close to me so this stupid attack will… ugh! No! Don’t… ugh!”
“Yeah, Shana and I both got early release for ‘good behavior’ and I decided before we skipped out on the damn so-called parole to head to Mexico that I’d finish some last minute business with your ungrateful ass!” Bruce Walker had been furious the entire time he’d sat in a cell all because some no account loser, bastard kid couldn’t follow the rules and do what he was told to do. “The Padalecki kid and his old man aren’t here this time to stop me from doing what I should’ve a long time ago, kiddo!” he sneered into the pale face of his former foster son.
He gave two brutal kicks to the freak’s extended stomach before reaching down to grab him by the front of his shirt and hauling him up. “Is this thing inside you his?” he demanded, backhanding the young man hard enough that he was knocked back, hitting the hood of his car again. Bruce grabbed him by the throat with intention to do now what he’d been prevented from doing years earlier. “Answer me, boy! Is this Padalecki’s baby?”
Jensen was almost half-tempted to not answer since he didn’t feel it was any of the man’s business who the father of his child was, but when the hand on his throat tightened and he caught a glimpse of what Bruce pulled from under his jacket, he realized he needed to do something to try to stall the man until the police arrived. At the very least, keep the attention on him and off his unborn baby.
“Yes! Yes, the baby’s Jared’s!” he gasped out as it became difficult to breathe with the fingers on his throat now cutting off his air. Jensen managed to force the hand on his uninjured side up to attempt to weakly deflect the hand he could see holding a switchblade. “Bruce! Stop! You… you hate me, you wanna hurt me? Fine! Hurt me but…” he stopped to bite back a cry of pain when the blade slashed down his cheek. “Bruce, hurt me but don’t… don’t hurt my baby! Don’t… argh!”
The sudden searing pain cut Jensen’s words with a scream of shock and anguish as he had a brief second to realize the switchblade had just sliced across his stomach. Then all he was thinking was trying to stop the bleeding and trying to protect the distressed baby inside him.
The now loud sirens, people screaming as someone in the crowd on the street finally got brave enough to try to step in once it was plain what had just happened, his own ragged breathing, all went unnoticed by the bleeding man.
Jensen was blind to the fist that hit his face again and the solid kicks delivered when he was finally able to fold in on himself, letting his body drop to the street in some hope to protect his midsection from more harm. He didn’t care what the hell happened to him; his concern was the baby he thought he could feel struggling inside of him.
The ravings of his former foster father went unheard as consciousness seemed to be waning even though Jensen knew he had to stay awake, stay alert. When he felt pain in his shoulder again, he knew the knife had sliced him there as well, but this time there was no cry of pain. He couldn’t stop focusing on softly whispering reassurances to the baby even as fear was making it hard to focus and Jensen could feel the warmth of his own blood seeping from in between his fingers.
“You should’ve died when you were a squalling brat!” Bruce was still furiously kicking at where Jensen now was curled up as much as he could get on the street while also throwing punches and trying to slash the switchblade at the few pedestrians who’d started to get too close, trying to help. “If that freak’s old man hadn’t stopped me that day, I would’ve gotten rid of your useless ass. You got lucky that time, Jensen, but this time there’s no one to stop me from killing you or that thing he put inside you!” he screamed, starting to pull his steel-toed boot back to give a kick to an unprotected head. Finally, strong arms grabbed him and pulled him back. “Get off! This ain’t none of your damn business! He’s… ugh!”
Jensen stopped being aware of anything else.
He missed the arrival of several squad cars from the Charleston PD who had pulled up only seconds before the arrival of one very pissed off Chris Kane who’d been called by a waitress at the diner when the owner had refused to go out and try to stop the assault.
He thought he’d heard the familiar gravelly voice snarl at the cops to “get that bastard the hell into a cruiser” before he committed another illegal act “right in front of their damn useless asses”, but by then all Jensen knew was he had lost a lot of blood, his heart was pounding in his ears, and he hadn’t felt his baby move in the last few minutes.
The last thing from that nightmare that Jensen remembered clearly was when his friend and the paramedics finally got him to uncurl from the fetal position he’d gone into in hopes of protecting the baby and Jensen had stared up into his friend’s grim face as consciousness began to fade.
“C… call Jay and… and tell them to… save my baby.”
“I told them to save the baby.” Jensen wasn’t aware of how long he’d been beating his fists on Jared’s chest, or even that he’d been screaming in rage and guilt until his voice must have given out. By the time his heart had stopped throbbing in his ears, by the time the memories of that awful day had faded, he’d finally realized he was sobbing against Jared’s chest while he clenched a hand into Jared’s jacket while his other had somehow gotten a hold of the sonogram picture and was clutching it to his heart. “I told Chris to tell them to save the baby, Jared! I… I wanted our baby saved! I didn’t care if I died but I wanted you to have him at least! Why didn’t they save… didn’t they save… our… baby?”
Jared’s heart had already been broken by recent events but now as he sat and held Jensen, letting him work out his grief, guilt, and anger and finally hearing how lost, confused and almost hurt he sounded as he kept repeating that last comment, he knew it had just broke again.
“They tried to save him, Jen, but they couldn’t,” he replied after several moments of silence, tightening his arms to bring Jensen against his chest fully, feeling the hot tears that hit his neck when Jensen turned so he could bury his face there. This was something he hadn’t brought up with Jensen because up until that day, he didn’t know if he was ready to hear it.; he still wasn’t sure but after hearing the pain in Jensen’s voice just then, Jared realized he had to tell him what he’d been told upon arriving at the hospital.
“Chris said you’d lost a lot of blood from the first knife wound, in addition to multiple, more shallow ones that did more to put your body into shock and strain both you and the baby than do lasting damage,” he began slowly, gentle when he moved one hand up to begin to stroke over Jensen’s back, careful to avoid his shoulder that still had some tenderness from his injuries.
“The doctors said that… they said that,” Jared paused to consider how he wanted to say this and how much of the truth he wanted to reveal right then. “They said the trauma had been too severe, Sugar. They tried to save him by doing an emergency C-section but… he was already gone, Jen.”
Jared had to swallow the lump in his throat when he remembered the rush of raw emotion he’d been hit with after being told the news and looked down to see the same pain magnified by so much more as Jensen lifted his head to stare at him with red rimmed, watery eyes. “You did your damned best to protect him, Jen. But between the blood loss and then the couple kicks Walker got in… it was just too much. There wasn’t anything they could do to save the baby and…”
Jensen’s eyes were locked on Jared’s while taking a hand to touch his stomach where both men knew the scar from the C-section and then the surgeries required to save Jensen’s life now was. “I felt him stop moving, Jay,” he murmured softly, grief overwhelming as Jensen recalled that moment. “If I hadn’t gone in to work that day, or if I had just been paying more attention, or…”
“He would’ve come to the apartment, Jensen. When the police searched his car they said they found not only our address and phone number, but a gun and some gas. That they think he might’ve been planning to use to torch the place.” Jared nodded as soon as he saw Jensen register what that meant. “Yeah, Jeff’s supposed to be finding out who in the DA’s office or his own gave the bastard that information. But he’s in jail and they picked up Shana where she was waiting for him at the airport. Right now, they charged them both with breaking the conditions of their parole, and Bruce will have more charges added. Or, they will as soon as you decide if you want to face him in a courtroom. Currently the DA is charging him with what they can, but it’s enough to keep him away from you.”
It had been something that Jared had argued with the local Sheriff and DA over for days; both men had wanted Jensen to immediately make decisions, to face his former foster father when he was still in the hospital and trying to come to grips with not only his grief but also learning that his life-saving surgery made it impossible for him to conceive again.
Now, Jared knew he had to bring it up and let Jensen make the choice. It was up to him to decide if he wanted to go through with the long court process of charging the man with the harshest of charges or taking lesser ones to avoid a court battle or testifying.
Watching as their fingers slowly intertwined where they laid against his stomach, Jensen bit his lip while considering what both of those options would mean, not only for him but also for Jared. He glanced over to where his wedding ring still was laying in the grass, reaching for it slowly. “What do you want me to do?” he asked, twisting the band in his fingers.
“I can’t and won’t tell you what to do, Jensen.”
Jared knew what he wanted his husband to do, as well as what he wished they could do. But he knew the man he’d fallen in love with so long ago was not the type of man who wanted his choices made for him, no matter how hard they were. “Just know that whatever you decide, I will be right beside you… if that’s what you still want,” he added in a softer voice while letting his gaze move to the ring that Jensen was now holding. “Why’d you take your ring off, Jen?”
“I didn’t want to wear it while I took a bottle of pills because I was too much of a coward to face the pain and grief alone. I made myself believe that you were pulling back so much because you blamed me, too. That you were finally thinking that your aunt was right and…” Jensen had to stop to take a shaky breath, trying to explain what had been his reasoning to remove his wedding ring and tensing when Jared took the ring from him. “I haven’t exactly been feeling like the man you gave that ring to and I… Jared?” he stopped as it was slipped back onto his finger.
“You will never stop being that man, Jensen,” Jared reassured him as he took Jensen’s hand in his while placing his other gently on the side of Jensen’s pale face. “Yeah, things are hard right now and yeah, we both have a lot of pain and grief to get over, but I never want you to think or feel that I don’t love you or that I won’t stand with you as we get past this.” He watched as Jensen stared at him, still wary or unsure. “Sugar, I pulled back not because I didn’t want to help you or be with you but because I was afraid I’d get too protective and you’d start to feel suffocated with me hovering like I did in the hospital.
“I love you, Jensen. I loved you back even before we understood what that love meant. I loved you when I finally told you, when we first kissed in this field, when we made love the first time. I love you now, even when we’re both still hurting and…” Jared paused to bring Jensen’s hand up to his lips, kissing it lightly and seeing some of the wariness in his husband’s eyes slowly fade. “I will love you for the rest of our lives together. I love you, Jensen,” he finished softly and then just held his breath and waited.
Jensen had felt his breath catch the second Jared slipped his ring back onto his finger. He felt his throat tighten when he watched him kiss his hand like Jared always did, knowing it was something that would make him smile, but it was hearing him say the words while holding his eyes and looking just as scared as Jensen felt that he finally let himself believe his doubts and fears had been false; that Jared still loved him and would support him, regardless of what might come next for them.
“I love you, too,” he returned, voice deep with emotion as Jensen felt his lips curve in a slow smile. With a soft exhale he took the step he knew Jared was waiting for. “Love you, Jay,” Jensen repeated before leaning forward and letting his lips touch Jared’s in a light, almost shy kiss. A heartbeat passed and he felt an arm slip around him and he went fully back into Jared’s arms, their lips meeting fully.
Jared had been cautious since Jensen’s release from the hospital. He told himself he hadn’t wanted to seem pushy or demanding, he hadn’t wanted Jensen to think he was rushing him to heal either physically or emotionally. Now, as he felt Jensen return not only his embrace but their first real kiss in months and heard the soft sound that was almost like a sob of relief, Jared realized that his desire to not hover or smother his husband during this process had actually hurt him.
“I’m sorry,” Jared murmured against soft lips, feeling Jensen shaking more. He wasn’t sure if it was from emotion or the chill from the fall air. “I am so damn sorry that I made you think I was upset with you, Jen. I was worried that you’d get upset if I was hovering too much. I wanted to do so much but I… I didn’t know what to do and now it looks like I screwed up by not doing anything.”
Jensen let his forehead rest against Jared’s, feeling the chill in the air around them for the first time and shivering once, but smiled when he felt Jared shift just enough to shrug out of his jacket so he could wrap it around him.
“You might have left me alone but I didn’t exactly do anything to show you that I’d accept your help, Jay, so I don’t blame you for that. I just let too many old doubts and fears eat at me lately when it seemed like you were spending more outside of Chris’ place than you were in.” He felt Jared’s arms wrap around him tighter and let himself be held. “I should’ve made myself talk to you. I know this hurt you too. I know in my head that I wasn’t the only one suffering but… it was so damn hard to get past the guilt and then the fear of losing you over this that I… Today I woke up feeling him like I would when you’d be talking to him and he’d be kicking the crap outta my stomach and I just… I needed you, Jay.”
Understanding how strong willed and dependent Jensen was, how he tried to cover his deeper emotions at times even with Jared, hearing this sudden and broken admission told Jared just close he’d come to losing his husband.
“I know, Sugar, I know you did. I know you do and I promise that if you’ll let me now I will be here for and with you,” Jared promised, feeling Jensen’s arms tighten around him as he turned his face against Jared’s neck once more. This time, when the dam of emotional hot tears broke, both men knew these were tears of healing.
Sitting still to hold Jensen against his chest while he let himself work through this last bout of tears, Jared was simply whispering soft words against his ear while offering light kisses to his temple. As he pressed his lips to Jensen’s skin again he caught something out of the corner of his eye that made him blink. “Jen?” he whispered once he thought that Jensen was calming down some. “Jensen, look.”
Suddenly tired from the emotional ringer he’d just gone through, as well as weeks of not sleeping well, Jensen’s body had been relaxing more against the solid weight of Jared’s chest when he heard Jared’s voice drop into a whisper soft voice that seemed almost surprised. Lifting his head from where it had been laying, Jensen looked over toward Rex’s stone to see what appeared to be a very tiny butterfly resting there.
Seeing butterflies in the field wasn’t anything new since Jensen knew certain bushes, including a couple near the stone where they’d chosen to bury Jared’s beloved pet, drew the colorful butterflies; at first he wasn’t sure what made this one different to Jared. Until he blinked his tired eyes a few times and realized that while he’d seen many butterflies here before Jensen could never recall seeing one so small and he felt his breath catch.
Keeping his eyes on the little butterfly, Jensen slowly extended a shaking hand out and while growing up he had gotten a few to land on his hand, this one didn’t seem to hesitate as it fluttered over to settle on his finger as if trusting him.
“Remember the first time I woke you up in the middle of the night because I’d felt him move?” Jensen asked Jared quietly, careful to keep his voice low as to not frighten the little butterfly who seem content to sit on his finger as Jensen drew it up closer to his face to take in the softly colored wings and understood what Jared did about this moment. “Do you remember what I said it felt like?”
Jared adjusted his grip so he had one arm still around Jensen and his other hand found Jensen’s free hand, holding it tightly as they watched the little flutter of wings. “You said he always felt like a butterfly inside you… until recently when he discovered kicking was fun.” He pressed a gentle kiss to Jensen’s cheek, tasting the tears but not mentioning them. “Jensen? I know it’s going to hurt and we’ll never forget him but…”
“But I have to let go.” Jensen knew this but it still felt like if he did this then he’d be letting go of the son he’d never have. He glanced back at Jared and then to the small little fluttering butterfly on his finger that, when he moved it closer to his face, he almost felt the light brush on his cheek.
“Not of the memories you have but the guilt. Sugar, I know the docs said babies don’t have memories or know things, but I don’t think our baby would want you to live the rest of your life hating yourself or hurting like this.” Jared was now going with his heart rather than anything he’d been coolly and clinically told. “You brought the sonogram picture out here and I heard you tell Rex to take care of him and to play with him. I know you were letting go because you planned to take those pills but… can you let go and let me take you home?” he asked, tightening his arm slightly when he felt Jensen shaking. “Can you let him go to be at peace with Mom, Dad, Grams and Rex?”
Staring at the butterfly on his finger while listening to Jared, Jensen thought back to the dream he’d had that morning; the one that had woken him up before he made his decision to come out here.
“I dreamed of us, this field. Only in the dream you’d built a house like you used to talk about doing before your aunt got everything stalled in the courts,” he began after another moment of silence, shifting slightly so he could lean back against Jared and letting go of Jared’s hand to bring it up to his face. “I saw Rex like he was as a puppy, when he would run and trip over his own feet, and I saw… I saw our son running with him while your Mom and Dad watched. Your Dad said to me the same thing he did after they arrested Bruce that day.”
“Let go of the pain, let go of the fear, and look towards your future because you deserve more than pain and grief,” Jared repeated once he got the lump of emotion out of his throat. “They’ll watch out for him, Jen. He’ll still be our baby, but you need to say goodbye. I think he knows it too,” he added softly, watching the little butterfly flutter a wing close to Jensen’s cheek again and this time heard the first watery laugh as Jensen nodded.
Feeling the soft flutter against his cheek, Jensen closed his eyes not only because they were burning with tears but so he could picture the field clear in his mind. He pictured the field on a warm Spring day when the flowers would be at full bloom, the butterflies in the bushes under a clear blue sky. He could feel his throat tightening as the pain once again hit, but even as it did he understood that while it would lessen slowly in some ways he would never fully lose a certain part of it.
“Jay? Did they put the name I said on his death certificate?” he asked it quietly and without looking back or opening his eyes.
“Yeah, I made sure of that and…” Jared paused here as if debating his words. “That’s also the name that will go on his stone next to Mom and Dad when it’s put in.”
Jensen had known Jared had arranged to have their baby buried beside his family. He’d known there’d been a small service but had been too raw to have been able to go to the cemetery; he would soon, but first he could feel the time had come for him to do one other thing.
Opening his eyes, Jensen saw the fluttering wings as if the tiny butterfly was torn between staying or flying away. Forcing a smile he extended his arm slowly. “Your Daddy and I will always love you. We’ll never forget you or the joy you would’ve brought to our family,” he began in a voice that was clearly breaking with tears that he didn’t bother to hide, looking at the butterfly on his hand for another second before nodding, as if giving it permission to fly away. “Go on now so you can be with your Grandma and Grandpa, Great-Great Grammy and Rex. Go on, Michael. You can go now and play with the puppy. I’ll be okay. I love you, little boy.”
Jared was fighting to hold back his own tears as he watched the little butterfly flutter up, hover beside them for another second, before it flew off toward the setting sun. He watched it until it seemed to disappear into a sudden ray of light. If Jensen were to ask him if he also had heard what sounded like a happy bark greeting a new friend, Jared could very honestly say he had.
“He’s safe with Rex now, Sugar,” he murmured and just braced for when Jensen turned into his arms again, holding him until the last of emotions had run their course and Jensen went still in his arms. “Let me take you home?”
Jensen knew their friend’s place wasn’t really home but it was what they had for the moment. He was tired and for the first time in weeks also a little hungry, so he nodded and let Jared help him stand, feeling his legs shake after so long of being on the damp ground.
“I want them to prosecute him for whatever they can,” he spoke suddenly, taking the sonogram picture that Jared held out to look at it a second before slipping it into the pocket of his hoodie. “Even if it means I have to testify or face both of them in a courtroom, I want Bruce to understand that he will never hurt me or anyone again. I want him to know that he will not get away with hurting our son.” He glanced up to see Jared watching him and swallowed. “You said no matter what I chose to do that you’d stand by me. Will-”
“I will stand by you. I will love you, Jensen,” Jared cut him off before the shaky question could be asked, gently framing Jensen’s face between his hands so their eyes could meet. His thumbs brushed the leftover tears away with a smile that was nothing but love and understanding. “We can talk to Jeff and the D.A. tomorrow about it, or I’ll call once I get you home.”
“Tomorrow,” Jensen replied, letting his arms slip around Jared’s waist while stepping the half step closer that took him fully into his husband’s arms to be held while he held on tightly. “Now? Right now, Jay, I just want you to take me home, hold me, and just be there with me like I know you have been but I wouldn’t let you be.”
Jared knew how hard the next few months were going to be for them but as he made sure his jacket was wrapped around Jensen, he tipped his face up to meet his for a slow kiss that he kept light until he felt Jensen lean up more into it.
“Thank you for coming here today, Jared,” Jensen said once the kiss was broken. They started the walk back to where he figured Jared’s truck was parked, hand in hand. “Thank you for still being here with me.”
“I promised forever, Jen. I meant forever. I will always stand with you and I will always have your back,” Jared promised, glancing back towards the field when he felt Jensen pause by the truck door. “I’ll fight to give you that cabin in the field, Sugar. One day I’ll keep all my promises to you.”
Jensen had glanced back to the field once before getting into the old pick-up truck, catching Jared’s hand before he shut the door. “You have kept your promise to me, Jay,” he told him with his first real smile in over three months. “You’re still here.”
“I’ll always be here with you, Jen.” Jared smiled back and as he walked around to get behind the wheel. Slipping behind the wheel to start the truck, he flipped the heater on to take the chill off as Jensen eased over closer to him and he felt him rest his head on his shoulder. “I love you, Jensen,” he said into the quiet of the truck cab.
Jensen was fighting his exhaustion now but decided to give up the battle once he felt as at peace as he could given that he knew the days and weeks ahead wouldn’t be easy yet. Forcing heavy eyelids open once more to glance at Jared’s profile, he reached up to brush the back of his knuckles down over the light scruff he felt on Jared’s jaw and felt the warm kiss that touched his fingers.
“I love you too, Jared,” he said with a yawn as he let the familiar sounds of Jared’s truck and the feel of the man he loved, the man who had saved him yet again, reassure his former worries enough that he actually slept. Decisions of the future could wait for the next day, but Jensen had more faith in those decisions now and would look forward to whatever the future brought.
Butterflies and Hurricanes
22-Months Later, Charleston, South Carolina:
“Padalecki! Get this slobbering monster!”
“Dora’s not a slobbering monster, Kane! She’s a slobbering Saint Bernard puppy who right now thinks your boot is a chew toy!”
“My foot is in my boot, Jared!”
“So lose the boot, Chris!”
Listening to the shouts and playful growls coming from outside of their newly built and just moved into cabin, Jensen Ackles-Padalecki smiled from his spot on the sofa in the warmly furnished living room. He briefly debated going out to stop what he knew would turn into a shouting match between his husband and friend, or at the very least a tug of war between puppy and friend, but decided to let it play out a little longer.
In the nearly two years since that afternoon when Jensen had come to the field of flowers and butterflies with plans to die, so much had changed for his family.
He and Jared had spoken to both the local Sheriff as well as the District Attorney about pressing more serious charges against the Walkers. Although Bruce had been behind the assault, it had been easily deduced that his wife had been in on the planning and therefore, could be charged as an accessory.
Deciding to press those charges meant that a lot of Jensen’s past with his former foster parents was dug back up by the defense attorney who had done his best to smear Jensen’s name with lies and false charges. It had been hard to face, hard to remember the abuse, and had caused him to wake up shouting with nightmares more than once. But the welcoming arms and soothing voice of Jared had always been there to calm him down.
The trial had been hard but it was getting on the witness stand to testify about the assault that day, the loss of his son, that had nearly broken Jensen. He’d nearly backed out more than once, especially after the first time Jared’s truck had been vandalized and his brake lines cut and the anonymous muffled calls that started warning Jensen his “bastard baby might not be the only thing he lost if he didn’t drop all the charges”.
“You are not letting them win by scaring you, Jensen.” Jared had flat out refused once he’d gotten Jensen calmed down from learning about his cut brake line. “The Walkers have bullied you and pushed you around since you were a kid. They’re bullying you through their pals because they think you’ll give in. But you are stronger than that now.” He caught Jensen’s hands in his to tug him down onto the old sofa when he went to push up and pace. “You have me, you have our friends… and Chad’s got a new power tool he really wants to use on someone, so…”
The small teasing comment made Jensen laugh and that allowed him to start to calm himself down. It was easier, now that he was calmer, to understand that what was happening was the same thing that the Walkers had done to him as a child, trying to scare him into not talking about the abuse that took place in their house.
He went forward with the trial. He testified despite the emotional turmoil it put on both men, but when the trial was over and the verdict put both Bruce and Shana Walker behind bars for a lot longer than even their original sentences had been, Jensen had collapsed into Jared’s arms in relief that at least that nightmare would be behind them.
Of course, that trial hadn’t been all the couple had been up against. Jared still had been battling his aunt for control of his rightful parts of his inheritance. Between his construction job and battling that in court, it took a lot of time up in the day, leaving Jensen alone for the majority of it since he’d lost his job at the diner due to not being able to work.
“The ass can’t fire you for that!” Chris Kane had shouted upon learning of Jensen’s termination. “Hell, if that damn lawyer had looked deeper he probably could’ve proved he was in on Walker’s attack that day and that’s why he made you come into work! Fight it, Jensen!”
“Jared’s working like a dog to pay off the hospital bills, the legal fees the mess with his aunt is causing, and keeping this place up in rent and utilities, Chris. I’m not going to make more expense for us by fighting an uphill battle,” Jensen had said one afternoon while Jared had been working across town on a historical reconstruction job. He’d decided it was time to pack up and donate the couple of boxes of baby clothes and toys that they’d bought or been given while he was pregnant and Chris had tried to start the conversation of fighting the diner again.
“I only got the job because he knew he couldn’t refuse to hire a gay man without being sued. He sure as hell couldn’t fire me when I was pregnant, though he threatened to enough. So he finally found a way to do it.” He paused in packing to touch a small blue sleeper that had been the first outfit he’d purchased after learning he was pregnant. “I’ll… I’ll find another job. It just might take some time. Until then…”
“Until then look into working at the clinic downtown or go back to school for your degree.” Chris hated that his friends were both too damn stubborn for their own good but understood. To a point. “You’d qualify for financial aid of some kind, Jensen. Mom and Dad would also loan you enough to start, just like they’d gladly help you guys if you’d stop looking at ‘help’ like it was a sin.”
Jensen fought back the instinctive reply since this was an old argument between them. “I want to support my family, Chris,” he said and then blew out a breath to stop what he knew was coming. “I hate that people in town still look at me like the charity case the Padalecki’s and then your family took on.” He glanced back over his shoulder while packing the sleeper away. “So, sue me. I’d like to think one day I might be able to support myself without having to watch Jay come in every night and drop face first on the bed in exhaustion!”
Chris decided to back off before Jensen’s temper, which was balancing precariously on the surface, snapped and Chris found himself with a pissed off Jared in his face later that day. “Okay... so how about taking small steps to doing that and just look into a class or two or a job at the clinic? You don’t need a medical degree or anything to file paperwork and answer phones or something.”
“I’ll… look into it once I get this stuff taken downtown.”
Jensen had decided early on that sometimes the best way to avoid a long fight or lecture from his friend was just to agree with Chris and let it go. That’s what he did now as he packed the boxes and tiny bassinet into the back of Jared’s truck that he’d borrowed for the day while Jared had rode to work with a friend.
Jensen hadn’t told Jared that he’d decided it was time to donate the baby stuff because he knew his husband would insist on being there with him; he’d chosen to do it alone so he could melt down alone. The worst moment was when he’d touched the bassinet with the little stuffed bear still inside, immediately hit with memories of a dream he used to have about putting their son into it for the first time but as the acceptance that he could no longer have children hit home, Jensen had decided someone else might as well get some use from the items. He’d kept the bear and one tiny pair of booties that a friend had knitted and put them safely at the bottom of a dresser drawer that he knew wasn’t used much.
Jensen answered Chris’ question of if he wanted him to come along but simply shaking his head. He ignored the hollow ache in his chest as he watched the people from the Salvation Army kindly thank him for his generosity, even though he knew that most of them knew why he was donating the items.
Driving away, Jensen managed to get a couple blocks before he had to pull over and let the tears come out in a burning rush of anger and pain that he’d thought he was over. He knew one of the therapists he’d tried to see early on in the healing process had said it would take time and that these moments would happen.
He debated on if he should go back to the now emptier little apartment or swinging by the job site to just sit and watch the old run down Civil War era house come back to life under the construction crew, Jensen had just been reaching to start the truck when he noticed he was close to the local family clinic that Chris had mentioned.
The clinic wasn’t someplace Jensen was unfamiliar with. He’d been brought there enough as a child with broken bones or cuts and bruises that his foster mother had always smoothly lied her way out of explaining. The first and only time the head nurse had pushed for answers, it had been the end of Jensen being taken there for medical care.
Stepping through the front door, he was immediately hit him with the usual smells that any clinic or hospital had, but the cries of children waiting to be seen took him off guard; he hadn’t let himself consider if he was ready to be close to children or babies this soon. Hand on the door, the young man debated if he was strong enough to go up to the window when he heard Jared in his head telling him over and over that he had all the courage and strength he needed if he’d just look deep enough.
Taking a deep breath, he steeled his nerves and stepped to the window where he was met with a frazzled but friendly smile from an older nurse that his memories seemed to recall either from his youth or working the diner.
“Hi. I know this is a long-shot but I was wondering if you were taking applications for just answering phones or any job that doesn’t need a degree title longer than my husband’s last name?”
By the time Jared got home that evening he was both exhausted from a long hard day of work but also worried out of his mind since he’d tried calling Jensen multiple times, both at home and on his cell, only to get no reply. A call to Chris Kane had just increased his concern once the man informed him that Jensen had packed up the baby items and took them to the donation center by himself.
“Jensen!” he shouted even as he was opening the door and stepping inside. He’d seen his truck parked outside so he knew if it was here, he hoped, so was Jensen. A small piece of Jared still was worried that Jensen would encounter something that might trigger him and the not knowing what the result would bring always worried him.
“Jensen? Hey, are you… cooking?” Jared had just been hanging his jacket up, rather than dropping it like he would usually because he’d gotten lectured by Jensen last week about making a mess -- something that he’d actually missed a great deal -- when it hit him. The smell of something cooking. It was a complete surprise since while Jensen was the better cook out of the two of them, it had been a long time since he’d actually had either energy or a desire to be in the kitchen. To smell food cooking, actual food instead of frozen pizza, surprised Jared a little.
Stepping into the small kitchen/dining area had Jared’s eyebrows lifting as he noticed the steaks on the tiny stove-top grill, the bowl of salad on the table, along with a bottle of cheap but still good enough to drink red wine that had been opened to breathe.
“Are we celebrating something or did we disown Chad as a friend and this is your way of telling me?” he asked with a teasing smile, guessing it was the first one since Jared knew lately Jensen was too careful with their budget to spend money for steaks when he’d rather get hot dogs. “Hey, Sugar, miss me today?”
“Always and yeah, we are celebrating.” Jensen turned from the stove after pulling the steaks off to rest and took two steps to wrap his arms around Jared’s neck before kissing him. “I got a job today,” he announced after pulling back from the kiss that had just enough heat to remind both men how long it had been since they’d made love or even fooled around.
“You…” Jared had been trying to realign his brain from the kiss to thinking clearly when those words sank in and his dimples popped in a bright, happy smile. He tightened his arms around Jensen’s waist and lifted him up, delighted to hear the same laugh that he used to get when doing this.
“That’s great!” He’d known Jensen hated to be without work of some kind and that while he’d hated the job at the diner, recently the way he’d been fired was still a sore spot. “Where at and doing what?” he asked while returning the light little kisses. Jared knew that Jensen might not yet be fully over the loss of their child or their current issues but he was, right this moment, happy, which suited Jared perfectly. “Jen? You didn’t let Chad help you get a job, right?”
“Dude, Chad’s side job is a phone sex operator so while he did try and his boss did tell me once I had the perfect voice for it… Jared, breathe… I got hired at the Family Clinic downtown answering phones, filing papers, sweeping up,” Jensen replied, leaning back enough in Jared’s arms to be sure his husband had started to breathe again when he’d heard him choke earlier, lips curving into a slow smile. “It’s not full time yet and the pay isn’t great but… it’s a start.”
Jared had still been getting over the urge to throw his friend in a cement mixer the next day if Jensen wasn’t kidding about Chad talking to his other boss about the whole phone sex operator idea. Finally bringing his thoughts back to the man in his arms to see Jensen watching him, it clicked where he said the job was. While Jared was happy Jensen had gotten a job and was happy about it, he was a little concerned about what that could trigger in him.
“I know what you’re worrying about. I had the same worries when I walked in the door and heard the kids in the waiting room.” Jensen had been watching Jared’s face. He could almost see him planning a painful end to their friend’s life. And then he saw the moment when it hit Jared where he’d be working.
It had taken Jensen some time to decide if he thought he was ready to face small children or babies while working in the clinic. “I explained to Kelly, the owner of the clinic and head nurse, about what happened and how I lost the baby. I told her this was my first attempt at getting a job, and was worried about being in a place where I’d have to hear them or see them and she was really understanding, Jay. That’s why she said we’d start out as part-time, to see what I could do or handle and go from there.
“I can’t hide in this apartment the rest of my life or not go out because I don’t know what will happen if I see or hear a baby, Jared. Yes, it’ll remind me of what I can’t give you but…” Jensen’s words cut off when Jared kissed him deeply, but still with a degree of caution that Jensen appreciated and understood but was now getting frustrated with.
“I didn’t fall in love with or marry you for any reason except I love you, Jensen,” Jared said after breaking the kiss and seeing Jensen’s eyes had started to deepen to a darker green. “If having kids is something we both decide is something we do want later on, if you decide it’s something you think you want, we can look into adopting or fostering or something.” He slowly eased Jensen down until he was standing again, fingers gently moving through thick dark blond hair that Jensen had let grow out some recently. “If you’re happy with this job then you know I’ll support you and be happy for you. Now… can we eat?” he asked and got the laugh he loved to bring out in Jensen.
As it turned out, their celebratory meal ended up with a celebration of another kind in their bedroom that night when Jensen surprised Jared by joining him in the shower; something he hadn’t done since becoming pregnant.
Jared had taken a fast shower before dinner just to wash off all the dirt and sweat from his day at work off. He decided to take another one after dinner to as a way to give himself some time to settle his body down after it had gotten very interested in watching Jensen feed him bites of deliciously cooked steak.
Ever since Jensen had lost the baby and had been going through the grieving and healing processes, Jared had been more careful in what he did as far as their physical relationship was concerned. Their kisses had just started to heat up more and he’d noticed Jensen was becoming more comfortable with touching again, but he was still uneasy with the new scar left over from the C-section and refused to allow Jared to see him without a shirt of some kind on yet.
That night, Jared wasn’t certain if it was the steps Jensen felt he had taken on his journey to heal and recover but he’d noticed the change in him at dinner. Jensen was more relaxed than he seen him in months. He was smiling easier and even laughing a couple times at things Jared said, but what had been the biggest clue that something was different that night was when Jensen had moved from his chair over to straddle Jared’s lap and began to feed him.
“I love you, Jared,” Jensen had whispered with a brush of his lips along Jared’s jaw after the last bite of steak was split between them, fingers trailing down the front of Jared’s t-shirt and over his chest. “Give me some time and I promise to make all of this up to you?”
“You know I said the first time that time was always in your favor, Sugar. I’d never rush or push you into anything,” Jared had replied while praying his body didn’t decide right then to make a liar out of him. “Want me to clean up while you take it easy or…”
“No, I think you still have some cement dust in your hair because it’s tacky and I can stand it on end.” Jensen chuckled as he ran his fingers through Jared’s long dark hair but this time demonstrated his point by pulling it outwards and grinning when some of it stayed in like spikes. “Go take another shower while I clean up and then we can talk…dessert.”
“Shit,” Jared groaned but followed instructions by going to take another shower. As he was scrubbing his hair clean, he was also working on settling his body down. He debated jerking off like he had down a few times when the stress or need got too much, but had just been deciding against that plan when he heard the bathroom door open, close, and then was too busy working on not falling when he turned quickly as Jensen slipped into the steamy shower with him. “Jen?”
“Don’t ask. Don’t doubt. Don’t worry. Just make love to me, Jared?”
Jensen had decided while cooking dinner that tonight would be the night when he’d take the next healing step. He loved Jared more for the patience the man had been showing when it came to sex. Jensen also knew from knowing and loving Jared for so long that unless he made the first move now, Jared would continue to treat him like glass.
Jensen had dealt with body issues since he’d been a kid growing up in the Walker’s house and being told he was too skinny or too gangly. It was one of the reasons he despised the freckles he still hated but had slowly gotten over most of his doubts.
Since the surgery left him with a few scars he’d been battling those demons again but as he’d undressed in the bedroom while running through his plan to surprise Jared in the shower Jensen had made himself look at himself in the mirror, remembering words Jared had said to him over the reminders of his abusive past that were on his back:
“‘The scars don’t make you who you are, Jensen. You make you, the man I fell in love with, my best friend, and I will love you and these scars.’”
Stepping into the shower, Jensen knew he couldn’t let Jared over think this moment because while he loved the man, loved his heart and how willing he was to give him all the time Jensen had asked for, he also could be frustrating by being too patient and over protective as well.
Catching Jared’s surprised face between his palms, Jensen kissed him deeply, letting the heat between them build slowly while stepping closer and feeling Jared’s hands go to this waist before finally folding around him to bring Jensen fully against him and under the spray of water.
“Make love with me, Jay?” Jensen asked again, lips and tongue playing over Jared’s until he groaned into the next kiss that took his breath away a second before he felt himself lifted up, arms and legs wrapping around Jared tightly.
“God, yes!” Jared groaned and then lost himself in the next few kisses as both men took the time to get to know the feel of the other’s body.
Their lovemaking eventually made it from the shower to the bedroom where Jared spent the rest of the night showing Jensen how he loved him by making slow, passionate, gentle love to not only the man but also his body by driving them both insane with desire. He used his hands and mouth to touch, kiss, and ravish every inch of Jensen’s slender, ruggedly built body until he was shaking with need.
The day after was the first time since he started working that Jared had called off from work. He knew his boss understood some of what had been going on. Jared just let the man think what he wanted from his excuse that he needed to be at home that day but would be in extra early the following day.
He’d take lying one day to recover his strength after a night and morning of making love with his happy and sexed out husband who tended to get very clingy when sleeping after sex, another thing that Jared would not have missed for the world.
The following months passed a bit easier for them once Jensen got used to working at the clinic and Jared slowly began to realize he could stop being quite so protective. There were still ups and downs for them, especially around the first anniversary of the baby’s passing; Jensen only had one serious meltdown while working at the clinic on a day when they were short-staffed and he had to do more checking patients in at the window. He’d found himself dealing with infants and babies close to the age his son would’ve been and he calmly had to ask to go home early.
“Darlin’, no one expects you to bottle your memories or the grief they bring up,” Kelly Marks, the clinic’s owner and his boss, said once Jensen had explained his reasons for asking to go home early. “We all know how far you’ve come while working here and how hard this week has to be for you, so you go on home and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jared was home already when Jensen arrived which was both alarming and surprising since Jensen knew Jared was working to finish up a new job so he could have a couple days off to spend together. Seeing his truck automatically worried Jensen. He got more worried when he walked into their apartment to see Jared sitting on the worn out sofa just staring off into space and noticed a bunch of papers scattered on the floor near him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked immediately once he’d closed the door and moved toward the sofa, eyes sharply looking to see if Jared was bleeding from a wound or looked hurt or something to explain why he was home early too. “Jay?”
Jared glanced up once Jensen’s hand touched his face, blinking his eyes as if to clear them and saw Jensen watching him. “I got a visit on site from my aunt’s lawyer.” He motioned to the scattered papers on the floor that Jensen was now picking up and trying to sort out in order to make sense of them. “She’s finally willing to compromise.”
That was a surprise since Jensen knew how petty the bitter woman had been towards her nephew since the deaths of her Grandmother, brother and sister-in-law. “Do I want to ask what type of compromise she’s willing to make this time?” he asked warily. “The last time she came close to that word it was she was willing to give you your share if you left me and declared yourself straight. What is it this time?”
“The lawyer said she’s tired of waiting for me to see reason and wants to go back to traveling in Europe,” Jared sneered a little at this but glanced over to see that Jensen must have found the paper containing the exact details. “If I agree to sell the family house, not including the land the field is on or the apple orchard, just the land the house is on, and split the money it makes then she’ll release everything else into my name including the money I should’ve had from my parents.”
Jensen read over the papers but knew he wasn’t able to fully understand all the legal terms and possible loopholes so decided he’d stop trying. “What did your lawyer say?” he asked, sitting back and letting Jared’s arm wrap around him, understanding that they both needed the comfort since he suspected this had brought back a lot of Jared’s pain at the loss of his family.
“He said we’re not going to get anything better by holding out and advised me to take her offer,” Jared glanced over, smiling slightly. “I’m not doubting taking the deal. I want her out of our lives and would give her the damn house if it would get her the hell away from us. It’s more that if she actually does sign this, really does it, then I might be able to give you that little cabin in the field and you might be able to go to school because we’d have some money to pay tuition and loans or…”
“Little steps, Jay. Let’s take this in little steps and go one day at a time,” Jensen said but did share Jared’s relief that maybe his aunt would finally be out of their lives and things could settle down to what they thought of as normal.
By the time the Padalecki family home and immediate land sold and the final papers were signed, giving Jared ownership to the other pieces of property, including the field and apple orchard, and freed up the money that should’ve been his, life had started to settle back down. Jensen started working full time at the clinic while also talking to Dr. Shane Marks, the head physician at the clinic, about the odds of him even trying to go back to school to get a degree in Sociology and work in maybe office administration or medical record keeping since Jensen had discovered that he actually liked the behind the scenes stuff that went on in the clinic.
He still had a desire to help kids like he’d always had but he understood there might be other ways. With a worried Jared at his side, he agreed to a weekend volunteering at a shelter and found himself staring into young eyes so much like his own had been so many years before.
Jensen worked in the kitchen of the shelter when they were short staffed. He also did lawn work outside for their small Church that ran an after school program, and he even attempted to climb a ladder and patch the leaky roof until a phone call to Jared to ask one simple power tool question soon had half of Jared’s crew pulling up and his husband’s eyes bugging out of his head when he saw Jensen teetering a little too close to the edge while debating between roofing nails and screws.
“Jensen, I love you. I know I’ve never discouraged you from trying to do things on your own but for the love of God and my blood pressure please stay on solid ground from now on and call me or Chad if you want to climb a ladder!” Jared said once he had Jensen off the roof and in his arms, ignoring the mock choking and gagging that could be heard from the crew of men and a couple young boys who liked to mimic the adults.
The decision to build a cabin in the field had finally come as a surprise that Jared had been trying to arrange for Jensen on their anniversary. Working for so long in the construction field gave him the connections to know who to contact, what would need to be done to make the field suitable to have something built on it including the water and electric hookups as well as a blueprint. Jared had worked hard to do as much as he could so he could surprise Jensen with the actual plans and permits when he got home that night for the romantic dinner that he’d been told that morning might include his actual favorite dessert… with another surprise later if they made it through dinner.
Jared was the one who got surprised when he got a frantic call from Jensen just as he was leaving work that he needed him to come by the clinic. Instant fear and worry hit him and Jared figured he’d broken quite a few traffic laws getting across town only to see a cop car outside the clinic and a growling Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the local county Sheriff, stalking the sidewalk.
Seeing the cops freaked Jared out more, but he was waved into the clinic where his next surprise was waiting for him.
“I was closing up since everyone else had gone home already,” Jensen’s voice was pitched low when he spoke as if sensing Jared behind him. “I stepped out the back door to take the trash out to the bin in the alley and heard something inside.” He glanced back over his shoulder with tears of confusion shining so clearly. “Someone had put her in the trash, Jared. Someone threw away their baby! Why would someone do that? Why…”
Jared moved closer to where Jensen was sitting to see the tiny pink bundle cradled to his chest while the baby’s scrunched red cheeks clearly showed that she’d been crying but was now interested in the finger she’d latched onto and was sucking.
“She seems healthy except for of course being scared, hungry and now dirty,” Dr. Marks said as he came over from where his wife was on the phone. “Kelly’s trying to call Social Services but since it’s after hours on a Friday it might take some time to find someone to come and collect the baby…”
Jared’s hand had moved to Jensen’s shoulder as soon as he saw his face change at the wording used and knew his husband’s emotions were too close to the surface right then. “If you can’t find someone from Child or Social Services to come, what’ll happen to the baby over the weekend?” he asked while fighting not to look down, not wanting to see the look he knew he would and knowing one of them needed to remain level headed.
“Normally Kelly and I would probably offer to take her until Monday but we’re going out of town to a conference in Atlanta. Jeff said they’d take her to the ER where their Social Worker might be able to put her someplace… Jensen, did you just snarl at me?” the middle-aged doctor glanced down to see the younger man glaring up at him. “Son, I know this upsets you but…”
Jensen could vividly recall the social workers in the hospital in Charleston when he’d been little. A couple had cared, but others were mainly concerned with rules, regulations, and budget cuts. “Can’t Jared and I take her home until Monday when you or Kelly can find someone who cares about her like she’s a person and not a number to take her in?” he asked quietly even as he was bringing the baby up closer in his arms and feeling Jared’s hand squeeze his shoulder while kneeling down. “Jay? I know it’s our anniversary weekend but if I promise to make it up to you or something… can she stay with us?”
Realistically Jared knew the heartache this could be setting them up for but just looking into Jensen’s eyes and then finding himself being watched by another pair of big green eyes had his decision made before he could open his mouth. “We’ll take her home. Call me on Monday if you find someone to take her or if you find out who dumped her in the trash since they might have family who’d want her,” he told the nodding doctor, holding out a hand to Jensen. “Let’s go home, Sugar.”
The fear of Jensen being hurt by becoming attached to the small baby girl was huge and both men knew it. By Saturday afternoon Jared was no longer certain that he also wouldn’t feel the pain come Monday because waking up to the sounds of Jensen singing softly in the living room to the cooing little girl brought back emotions that Jared honestly thought he’d had control over.
The baby, or Rose as Jensen had taken to calling her because of her rosy chubby cheeks and mess of bright red hair, seemed to instantly take to both young men. Jared ignored Chris Kane’s growling the next day when it got out to him what had happened the night before and he’d cornered Jared at the local store where he’d been stumped over baby formula or diapers small enough to fit the little girl.
“Jensen knows come Monday that she has to go with Social Services, Chris,” he said lowly, ignoring how tight that made his throat and vowing that he could handle this, that he could handle Jensen’s emotions when they had to let the baby go. “We’re just giving her a warm and safe place for the weekend.”
Except Monday came and went and no one called them or came to get the now cooing and gurgling baby who’d taken a liking to one of Jared’s old t-shirts. It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that a Kelly Marks arrived with an older woman, but it wasn’t to take Rose as both men had grimly agreed would happen.
“None of our local agencies have room for such a young infant and while we do have a couple foster families in the system that could take her on a short term basis since they already have several children of their own, we were kind of thinking of finding a couple who might be willing to keep her longer or until an adoption could be arranged,” Phyllis Fisher, a long time worker in the Child Welfare system in South Carolina, explained to the couple while watching with a warm smile as Jensen held and murmured to the big eyed infant in his arms. “Of course, finding the right couple might take some time…”
Jared had been standing beside the sofa listening to the older woman and noticing that Kelly was softly explaining to Jensen how to hold the baby to support her head as well as how to best feed her to help avoid air bubbles and ruined shirts. It took another moment before it started to click what the older woman might be saying and he had to sit on the sofa arm.
“What… what type of qualifications would a couple need to be considered good enough to take Rose on or even adopt her if you don’t happen to locate any family?” he asked slowly, hearing Jensen’s small gasp of surprise. “I know there are rules to go by since my folks and a friend’s folks dealt with a lot of crap to help Jensen get free from his foster parents and keep him from going to another set that could’ve been worse. We don’t want to see Rose end up with someone who just sees her as an income.”
Phyllis had seen Jensen’s records. She’d looked into his case and had told her superiors years earlier that the Walkers were not fit to be foster parents to a rat, much less a small child. She hadn’t been surprised when it turned out that her fears had been correct and she wished she’d been Jensen’s case worker, if only to have removed him from the situation years before he’d been hurt so badly.
“Yes, there are some regulations but I also happen to believe in the saying ‘things happen for a reason.” She leaned forward to place a gentle hand over the one Jensen had protectively moved to Rose’s back after lifting her up to burp her. “Kelly said she’d gone out to that bin not forty-five minutes earlier and this baby hadn’t been there. You found her, Jensen. You offered to bring this innocent baby into your home for a weekend, despite knowing how much it would hurt you to let her go given your own loss.
“If you and Jared are willing to do what it takes to gain temporary custody of Rose, then I will do what it takes to help you keep that custody and make it permanent… if that’s something you both would want.” She glanced up to see Jared’s gaze had gone to Jensen’s face and knew by the open love she saw there that this was the couple for this baby. “You boys can talk it over and let me-”
Jensen had been shocked by Jared’s question and then the older woman’s reply that it took him a couple seconds to realize what was being said. He quickly glanced up at Jared to see his dimples were out with his smile as he nodded in silent agreement. “No, we’ll… we’ll do it,” he told her, voice shaking as he struggled to not show how important this was to him. “If you think the courts will let us do it then… we’ll keep her for as long as you’ll let us.”
After the women had left to go start the paperwork and Jared had walked them out, getting told the actual odds and what kind of issues they might face legally he entered the apartment only to have to quickly brace himself to keep from falling backwards when he suddenly had his arms filled with a laughing Jensen and a babbling baby.
“I love you. I love you. I love you, Jared!” Jensen was saying between laughs and kisses to Jared’s face while holding Rose protectively in his arms as Jared’s arms wrapped around them both. “I know it won’t be easy. I know people might fight to keep two gay men from adopting her but… thank you for giving it a chance! Thank you for giving her a chance at what I didn’t have growing up.”
“I love you too, Jensen, and we will face whatever we have to in order to give this precious little bundle a life in a loving home with two loving parents,” Jared promised, kissing Jensen back and then placing a light kiss to a tiny nose and adoring the little sound that earned him. “I guess I might as well tell that designer to add another room to the cabin then...” He decided to drop that and smiled when Jensen’s eyes flew back to his with another laughing smile. “I’ll give you both that cabin in the field, Jen… with maybe a small dog.”
Now several months later, the cabin had been fully built for about a month thanks to the dedicated help of Jared’s boss and his construction crew and they’d finished moving in last weekend with the help of their friends.
The ‘small dog’ had been a cabin warming present from their friend and Rose’s surrogate uncle, Chad Michael Murray, who said he’d seen it at the shelter and it had ‘spoken’ to him. There was no way he couldn’t pick it up. It had only taken one look for Jensen to tell that ‘small dog’ was actually a puppy that would grow up rather large, but Jared had already fallen for it so they’d added Dora to their family.
Now as he listened to the voices getting louder outside, since it was plain that Dora had somehow gotten Chris’ boot off of him and had taken across the field with it, Jensen finished fastening Rose’s little pink dress and decided against the headband since the baby kept pulling it off with a giggle.
“Let’s go make Daddy and Uncle Chris be grown-ups, baby girl,” he said to the bright eyed baby girl whose red hair was now in soft ringlets around her face. Her little fingers were wrapped around the teddy bear that Jensen had removed from the dresser shortly after learning that she would be staying with them while her other hand was in her mouth. “We have someplace very important to go today and then we’ll come home and have cake.”
Jensen paused by the fireplace to look at the small sonogram photo that he still kept, smiling at the memory it brought. He still had dark thoughts about that time but he was now able to think of his son and not want to cry. There were times since moving into the cabin that he’d stood on the porch in the evening and let himself imagine the sounds of Rex and Michael playing like he and Jared used to.
“You’re in our hearts, Michael,” he whispered, turning at the sound of the wind chimes outside ringing even though there was hardly any breeze that day and Jensen smiled more when he noticed the small butterfly at the window, accepting the silent message.
Stepping outside, he stepped off the bottom step and immediately was encircled by the warm, strong arms of the man that he knew he’d never have survived these years without. “I love you, Jared,” he whispered as Jared held him and Rose while Chris got his boot back from the still growing puppy.
“Let’s go sign those papers and bring our daughter back home, Sugar,” Jared told him with a loving smile and as he waited for Jensen to buckle Rose into her infant seat he glanced up toward the side of the field where Rex’s stone sat, taking a moment to remember being boys in this field and how glad he was that despite all the hardships and pain he and Jensen had gone through that they would now raise their family here where they’d been the happiest growing up and where they could spend the rest of their lives watching the butterflies.
Original Art Prompt:
Artist: Sillie82 of LiveJournal