It wasn’t that he was ever even hugely aware of the little keepsake box when it was there. It sat on a shelf in the main room, and while he made sure it stayed dust-free and shiny and that the area around it was never cluttered, he very rarely spent much time actually looking at it.
When it suddenly went missing, however, he felt the loss like a sudden physical ache.
The box was an heirloom, something he’d been given by his grandmother just before she’d passed away. Jeff had her patchwork quilt, Megan had her journal, and he was given the box. He knew little about it, except that it had been in the family for years, and that it had been given to her by her grandfather. All he really knew is that, ever since he was a child, he’d always loved it…the way it changed to different shades of green depending on the light, the way it took a teeny tiny little key to open it, and the way when it opened, it played a tinkling melody that he’d loved so much, his grandmother had started humming it to him whenever he visited her.
He still remembered that melody, still thought of it whenever he thought of her.
And now the box was gone.
The empty space on the shelf seemed to mock him as he just stood in the doorway and stared. When Jensen came in through the kitchen, Jared’s eyes slid over to him, his expression caught between a question and an accusation. The welcoming smile on Jensen’s face withered and died, slowly and painfully.
“Hey, Jared,” the older man said, one hand reaching up and rubbing the back of his neck. “Listen, uh…”
Jared took a step forward, his gaze once again seeking out the box that still wasn’t there. He desperately looked back at Jensen, hoping there would be some sort of easy explanation, but the guilty expression wasn’t leaving his face, and Jared’s heart dropped. “What happened?” he asked numbly.
Jensen’s eyes closed, his mouth twisting unhappily. When he looked back at Jared, there was apology written all over his face. “I was cleaning, ‘cause my parents are coming this weekend. Thought I’d at least get some dusting done while you were out. Harley…kinda knocked into me, and I wasn’t being careful enough. Jare, I’m so sorry, the box just…fell. Shattered. I couldn’t…there were too many pieces to fix it.”
“I… oh,” Jared said, lamely. He couldn’t wrap his head around it, couldn’t think about the only real connection he had left to his grandmother being just…gone.
Jensen looked like he wanted to come closer, but in the end he stayed where he was, shifting his weight nervously. “Look, I know ‘I’m sorry’ really isn’t going to cut it. If there’s anything…”
“I’m gonna go take a shower,” Jared cut in, unable or just unwilling to listen to any more. “And then maybe do some reading. Just knock on my door when dinner’s ready?”
“Yeah…sure,” Jensen replied quietly, eyes downcast.
Jared escaped the room quickly, going upstairs and stripping out of his clothes. He set the shower’s temperature to scalding and stepped in, the air leaving his lungs in a whoosh as he tried to let the water beating down on his face relax him.
He knew he shouldn’t let it bother him so much, knew that accidents happened and it really wasn’t Jensen’s fault. It wasn’t like he purposely smashed one of the few things kept in the house that really meant something to Jared. But even still… he could have maybe been more careful, or kept the dogs out of the room while he was cleaning, or… just, anything. It wasn’t his fault, but Jared had still lost a piece of his past, a piece of his family, because of it.
And maybe that was exaggerating, but damn it, it felt like it was true. It felt like he’d just been sucker-punched in the gut when he’d come home and seen the box gone, and now nothing was going to magically bring it back.
He scrubbed himself almost viciously, and finally got out and got dressed feeling cleaner, but no more relaxed than when he’d first got in. With a sigh, he flopped onto his bed, pillowing his head on his arms and staring up at the ceiling. He was restless and edgy, but at the same time too downhearted to really move.
He suddenly missed Nana Padalecki more desperately than he had at any point in the three years since her funeral. If she were there, she would probably come in here, smooth his hair back, and tell him to stop being such an idiot over just a silly trinket, one that was no big deal at that. She would gently smack his forehead for being angry with Jensen for his mistake, and then she’d probably bake sugar cookies and make them both sit at the kitchen table and eat them until they talked it out.
He was smiling a little as he thought that, thought about her, and wasn’t really prepared for the knock that came at his door moments later. He glanced over just as it was opening and saw Jensen peeking in through the crack. The smile slid off his face, but the resentment he’d felt earlier didn’t return, and he tilted his head, a silent invitation.
Jensen came in hesitantly and Jared scooted over on the bed to make room for him. When Jensen gingerly sat on the very edge, he rolled his eyes. “C’mon Jen, lie down,” he said softly.
Jensen did, but he was still tense, his spine rigid as he settled himself down and released a slow breath. Jared turned onto his side and curled around him, sliding one hand up to Jensen’s chest and laying his head on his shoulder. Ever so slowly, he felt Jensen relax, and one hand came up and began carding through his hair. He closed his eyes on a sigh.
“Shh, I know Jen,” Jared said before Jensen could voice his full apology. “Wasn’t your fault, and I’m not mad.” He was being completely honest, but could tell Jensen didn’t entirely believe him, so he nuzzled in a little closer. “My grandma would be pissed if she caught me tryin’ to hold a grudge. And I don’t need a box to remember that, so I bet I don’t need a box to remember her either.”
“I know. Still, I just…”
“Stop worrying,” Jared murmured, turning to place a kiss to Jensen’s neck. “We’re okay. I’m okay. Okay?”
Jensen finally nodded, kissing the top of Jared’s head. “Jay, if you want… Tell me about her?”
Jared’s heart swelled with so much love for the man beside him, the man who understood him even when he didn’t always understand himself, who always knew what he needed and always thought of just the right thing to say at the right moment.
He thought that if she’d met him, Nana Padalecki would have loved Jensen as much as he did.
He started by telling Jensen just that.