Jensen receives his best birthday present yet, from the state of Texas ironically enough, the day he turns nineteen.
When Jensen is ten, his parents take him on a long drive and they tell him they’re going on an adventure. He always loves those. They pass farmhouses and quaint shops along the way, his mother pointing out colorful flowers that dot the sides of the highway and Jensen tries his best to name each one. He doesn’t notice any strain in her voice, or the way his father won’t quite look at him, or the police escorts that stay steady at the front and back.
Inside the state hospital, his mother pats his knee and bites her cheek and she tells Jensen he’s just there for a simple check-up, please calm down honey.
When the paperwork is over and the manila folder put away for safe keeping, one of the doctors shows them around. He escorts them here and there, calmly explaining features and functions and daily activities and walks them all around the building; the rec center, the birdbaths, the 14-foot high wrought iron fencing.
Back inside, they take him to a musty little room with a plain metal bed that’s nothing compared to his own back home and they give him new clothes to wear. Those are ugly too. And when it’s finally time to leave, Jensen inexplicably gets left behind.
“We’ll come visit every Wednesday,” his mother promises, words muffled into his shoulder where she clings to him for too-long minutes.
“You’ll be back home before you know it,” his father says, clapping a hand on the other side.
It’ll be years before Jensen realizes that neither of those things were true.
He’s sitting at his favorite table, the round one with pillowed chairs, eating a slice of his birthday cake when a new patient is brought in.
They don’t allow food in the TV room, not usually, but today’s a special occasion and his favorite nurse baked it with a recipe, not from a box. It’s strawberry with cream cheese frosting and lime green sprinkles and it’s exactly the way he likes it – and Jensen’s not paying it any attention right now.
There’s a tall, skinny boy being forcefully escorted into the building, long legs kicking out, bucking and baring his teeth, spit flying. His hair is wild; chunks of it matted to his forehead, half of it fluffed up and swooshing the air as he barrels on by, now being carried along by three separate orderlies.
“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you,” the kid screams, big hands trying to connect with something human and breakable.
On impulse, Jensen reaches out to touch and his fingertips graze along a row of knuckles. Between someone’s elbow and another’s scrubs, Jensen catches his eye, blinks thoughtfully and the kid goes still and quiet for a quick second's reprieve before he’s back to expressing his innermost feelings for Dr. Miriam. Dyke, whore, fucking cunt. Jensen calmly watches the entire exchange go down, licking icing from his spork, making little bets with himself on how long this one will last.
Jensen keeps to himself. He eats his meals without a fuss, works on his beading crafts, helps the staff fold laundry like he’s done for the last seven years and goes about his routine in the same soft manner he always has. The nurses like that about him.
An entire week rolls by before Jensen sees that boy again. He comes into the cafeteria for breakfast and at first, Jensen doesn’t realize who he’s seeing. The hands, the hair, the lanky body swimming in the wrinkly uniform shirt; but quiet now, so quiet.
He’s wearing a nasty looking bruise at the crook of his neck, a little tuft of cotton and a bright pink band-aid tacked on top. It’s been years since Jensen’s needed that sort of correcting. He studies what he can from his seat on the long bench, jostling his chocolate milk carton idly and when the kid turns and scans the room for a place to sit, Jensen goes stock still and remembers not to make eye contact. Some people don't like that.
Instead, he gets up and throws his tray away, vacates his seat at the table and wanders out to see what books he can check out this time. It’s new arrival day at the library, the best day of the month.
Jared Padalecki moves in to the room across the hall from Jensen and outright refuses to comb his hair. He’s vulgar until he’s had his meds and after, he mostly just sits and watches the ceiling fan spin. He doesn’t like peaches or tuna or any sandwiches unless they’re cut down the middle, not diagonally. He also doesn’t like other people much. Or footwear.
Jensen passes the TV room on his way out to put more seed into the birdhouses and sees a barefoot Jared Padalecki counting something out on his fingers silently.
The nurses whisper in their little station and assume they're alone. They say Padalecki should be locked up, should have gotten the chair, and girl you know he would’ve if they’d tried him as an adult. They also say he’s not civilized, hates taking baths and has an ugly, ugly mouth on him.
Jensen pauses thoughtfully, rubs his thumb on the back of the couches as he goes and decides he politely disagrees. Padalecki’s mouth is actually kind of pretty, really, he thinks.
“What the fuck kind of name is Jensen? Jensen Ackles. That sounds like a bird.”
He walks out of his room one morning to find Jared standing off to the side, studying the small chalkboard hung next to his doorframe. Every room has one. Jensen wrote his name himself in careful swirls and he’s a little proud of it.
He shrugs. It’s not the first time someone’s asked.
“Well,” he says. “What the fuck kind of name is Padalecki?”
Jared looks at him, all shocked eyes and parted lips, and then he lets out a loud bark of a laugh, nods at Jensen like he just said something really clever and shuffles down to first call where his color spectrum of pills awaits.
Jared starts coming around more after that, little by little, starts sitting at the table with Jensen during meals. He’s never as talkative as he is in those first few minutes of the day but Jensen still finds the weight of his company pleasing. Not many others come to bother them and if they do, they’re usually only seeking an opponent for checkers or wanting to borrow the socks Jared never wears. Jensen shoos them away and goes back to showing Jared how to make stretchy bracelets.
Jensen makes one for his favorite nurse and then a couple of extra just for something to do until lunch. One of them is gaudy and hideous, pink plastic smiley faces the whole way around and Jensen sticks it in Jared’s hair, wraps it around and around until he makes a foofy, dorky looking ponytail.
Jared makes his using a pattern; two black wooden beads, one sparkly green. Two black wooden, one sparkly green. When he’s done, he holds it out, right up against Jensen’s cheek and a tiny grin slides onto his face.
He slips it down over Jensen’s hand, snaps it once against his wrist and then unfolds himself out of his seat when he hears them calling his name.
There aren’t many things that Jensen’s found that Jared does like and the few that he has, can’t really be given to him out in the open just to make him smile unless they want to get black marks on their daily chart and put on bathroom duty while the others get to go outside.
Jared really likes Jensen though, or at least being around him, because he sticks to his side and shadows him anywhere he chooses to go. It makes Jensen feel powerful and he wanders off into different areas, just to see if Jared will come along. They go down to the big swan fountain and down some tree-lined trails and around the tennis court that no one ever uses, talking the entire time like a tour guide, making up bits of information as he goes. No one ever hung themselves from any of the high lamp posts as far as Jensen knows but it’s fun to pretend.
When they get to the prayer house, Jensen points to the big double doors. “Here’s the church.”
Then further on up top. “Here’s the steeple.”
“Open the doors,” he spreads his arms out wide, like he’s flying, “and kill all the people.”
Jared laughs and laughs and claps his hands and Jensen grins behind a tight fist, pleased with himself.
It doesn’t take him long to find that there’s really nowhere Jared won’t follow him to, not even the showers are off limits when they head back inside to wash up for dinner. Jared crowds into the stall behind Jensen, pressing up against him and snuffling behind his ear, big hands sliding soapy tracks down Jensen’s belly, rubbing up behind him frantically like he’s not even sure what he wants but he’s determined to get it.
That’s the first time Jensen goes to his knees and feels the heavy weight of another person between his lips, clumsy in the beginning and shaky, three weeks after he's turned nineteen.
Jensen's circling through a maze, naked and careless, and the shrubs are dotted with roses, lush and red and sweet bubblepink. The sky overhead is silvered with hanging clouds and as it starts to rain, tiny plastic beads fall all around him. Mother is there, and that’s how he knows it's all a lie. She stopped coming to see him after just a few months.
The little neighbor girl from back home is around, somewhere. With the earthworms where he left her maybe, or trapped inside petals. He can sense her, trying to claw her way back to him, play their game together one more time.
But the new little neighbor boy is there too, tall and perfect and blocking out the sound of her voice without saying a word. So Jensen can’t give her the attention she deserves. Not anymore. Not ever again.
“Wait Jared, wait. Not here. Not here, okay?”
“Yes here,” Jared tells him, rushing forward and bracketing him with his huge, huge body that starts to fill out more and more each day. He licks a line along his cheekbone from the corner of Jensen’s mouth back to his ear and doesn’t care about Jensen’s feeble protests.
“Later. Later. I promise,” Jensen says, desperate, a last ditch attempt at being good but his own hands are already reaching out to cradle the full weight of Jared’s cock, like he just can’t help himself. He knows what it looks like, knows what it can do, knows the feel of it dragging wet and sticky over his lips until Jensen opens up and gives in to what Jared begs for with his noises and faces and fingers that pull at Jensen’s short spiky hair.
In the laundry room where Jensen volunteered to fold towels again, the pile of fluff still warm from the dryer tumbles to the cement floor when Jared hoists him up onto the washing machine with that look in his eye he always gets when he’s planning on being particularly bad.
Jared tugs the front of his own pants down, just enough, and takes himself into his hand, close enough that Jensen can see every single movement of his fingers but far enough that Jensen can’t do anything about it himself. Jared can be an asshole about sex sometimes, especially when his cocktail's started to wear off and he's fully present in what he's doing and the effect he's having. He smiles wicked and mean when Jensen whines and gets frustrated and tries to hop off the machine and get closer, get his mouth or hand or ass around that.
“Okay,” Jensen gives in, like he’s so put upon, large eyes tracking the way Jared’s fist gets shiny and sloppy and he’s so wet, so hungry for Jensen all the time. “Here then.”
He shoves his pants down off one side and leaves it dangling, pulls Jared in with his ankles, wraps both legs right around that thin waist, Jensen's ass hanging off the lip of the cold metal. Jared‘s eyes go fogged and rapt where he’s looking down between Jensen’s spread thighs. They've already missed third meal and soon someone might wonder out loud what happened to Ackles and Padalecki but for now, Jensen drapes an arm over Jared's bent neck, tugs him in to suck and bite at his lips and lets Jared fuck him so good he's got tears running down his face by the time they walk out, towels thrown in for another spin and set to wash again.
They don’t attend the same group session. Jensen’s clustered in with the older kids, some of the more extreme cases while Jared sits at the other side of the room in a circle with his own group, kleptos and conspiracists and the ones who talk to made up friends.
Jensen likes it this way, prefers it to the alternative. Like this, he can sneak looks at Jared for the entire hour and Jared never has to hear about his dreams or his fears or his urges. He doesn’t have to sit and listen to Jensen work through his disease one day at a time. Kept apart, he’ll always just be Jensen, that guy with the funny name and penchant for cheap jewelry making and not the other Jensen that still hasn’t quite evaporated.
Jared looks at him sometimes in this special way, like he’s not just freckles and pale skin and stupid legs that look all wrong. Jared doesn’t run away from him like he’s dangerous. Jared doesn’t know that he used to be.
It’s just past two in the morning when Jensen hears lightly squeaking footsteps right outside his door, a barely there knock and then the quiet snick of the handle easing down.
His eyes are filmy and he's half twisted in his sheets, digital clock blinking neon blue in the dark. Checks aren’t for another couple of hours and it’s this realization that makes his chest tighten in a dread he hasn't felt in years. The last time someone came into his room in the dead of night, they tried to smother him with his own pillow, and even though that guy’s long since expired, it still makes Jensen breathe all wrong when he thinks about it, dry sucking pulls like he can’t get a good grip on the air.
Tonight, it's nothing threatening at all but somehow that just makes it all a little scarier.
“Jared? What are you doing awake right now?”
He’s such a distinct shape, wide shoulders and the flippy ends of hair grown too long silhouetted by the dim glow of the hallway lamps. He’s still backed up by the door, awkward posture while he waits for some sort of sign that he’s not going to be bitched at or tossed away.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he admits, padding closer to where Jensen’s now propping himself up on his elbows. “Can’t ever sleep actually.”
“Oh. Would you like to borrow one of my journals? Sometimes it helps to scribble things out so they're not all trapped between your ears. I have a booklight over on the top shelf over there, haven’t used it in awhile. You can use it if you – Jared?” He doesn’t mean to squeak, he doesn’t.
It’s just that Jared’s somehow crossed the entire room in two inches and has crawled into Jensen’s very narrow bed, arranging himself until he’s cuddled in right against Jensen’s side, a long, lean line of heat from his shoulder to his toes and Jensen hasn't had another person in his bed with him since the days when his mom would read James and the Giant Peach to him in hushed whispers to quiet him down for sleep.
This isn't the same thing as that and it isn't the same thing as what they get up to when they sneak off for their stolen moments and secret kisses in very dirty places that Jensen isn't always sure are meant to be kissed or even looked at by another person.
“Can I try this? Just for a little while. Just to. I don’t know.”
“Oh,” Jensen says again, calming himself down in slow, steady exhales. It’s only a big deal if he makes it out to be one. He can do this. For Jared. Jared’s his friend. His best friend, probably. He likes how it sounds when he tries it out in his head. "Sure, okay."
Jared stays until five o’clock when the orderly on check duty nearly goes into a Code Red meltdown when he realizes the room across the hall is empty and there’s a patient on the loose. Jensen has to untangle himself from Jared’s limbs wrapped all around him and tiptoe out into the hallway, making shushing motions and jabbing his thumb towards his door.
They barrel in anyway, unquiet and fussing about and writing notes on their charts while they check vitals and eye Jensen like maybe he's done something to the new kid, hurt him in some way. Jensen should be offended that after so long here, they clearly don't trust him any more than the guy down the hall who insists he's the reincarnation of Cobain. But he doesn't feel that way, he's too busy being over the moon about his new healing qualities. They cart Jared back to his own room of course, but he's softly snoring and unable to be roused from his slumber long enough to even walk. It’s good. It’s really good and Jensen doesn’t even mind the dried drool on the collar of his t-shirt.
“Fucking son of a bitch, assfucker!” is the first thing Jensen hears when he wakes up in the morning; real morning this time, with sunshine and everything.
“Who did this? Who the fuck did this? I swear to god, someone doesn’t come fix this right now, right now, I’mma rip you out a new hole and fuck the wound raw. You hear me? Does anyone hear me? Where the hell is everyone in this piece of shit fuckin’… Hello.”
Something rattles around for a full minute, clanging and annoyingly loud, followed by more colorful dialogue sure to entertain anyone within a mile's radius of the hospital.
Jensen pokes his head out of his room, doesn’t see anything unusual going on, a few of the day shift crew going about their rounds and getting things ready for the day ahead.
He pushes open the door to Jared’s room and just about pisses himself laughing when he sees what Jared’s moaning about.
Jared’s laying half on his bed and half slid off, face flushed pink, wet below both armpits from his struggles. His blankets and sheets are all kicked off and his one pillow is across the room, sitting innocently atop the waste bin where it’s clearly been thrown. His face is set into a hard scowl and his hair’s a knotted mess and if Jensen could stop hiccupping for longer than a few seconds, he’d go and try to find a forgotten paperclip maybe, try to help his poor shackled friend where he’s uncomfortably and very securely been cuffed to the steel bed rail.
“Fuck you too, bitch. I hate you the most,” Jared growls, kicking out feebly.
That only makes Jensen sag against the wall, laughter quaking his insides.
Less than an hour later, Jared’s back in his subdued state, tranquil and agreeable and sipping his orange juice like nothing at all happened. Like nothing at all ever happens.
Jensen knows they're back to upping Jared's dosage every time he has one of his fits or disrupts the other residents but it doesn't feel right to him, not even to a person like Jensen who's on record as someone that very much enjoys watching life fade from a living creature's body. Jensen frowns and scoots closer when no one’s looking and finds that even though there’s somebody sitting right next to him that looks like his friend and feels like his friend, it isn’t actually. And Jensen starts to really miss that guy.
That night, just as Jensen’s starting to drift, his door handle clicks and Jared’s back in his room like all those hours in between got burnt into ashes and Jensen wonders if he remembers anything from the time he spends doped up to the heavens. If Jared knows he’s gone blank and just can’t seem to tune back in, or if he knows exactly what’s happening and is simply too mellowed out to care, or if he knows the way he's changed everything about the life Jensen was once satisfied with.
Mostly, Jensen wonders if Jared remembers him when he's walking right beside him.
He rolls over automatically and Jared doesn’t make him wait long. They’re in the tiny bed hardly big enough for one of them, not a hair of space between them and Jared holds his fist into the air, smugly whispers that no one can keep him down for long.
He’s scraped up from the wrist to the big knuckle on his thumb, and the other side is in even worse shape; bits of flesh torn off and shredded, hanging on valiantly by the last layer. It’s chunky thick where it’s bleeding and a long line of it drips down to the inner crease of his elbow.
Jensen gasps, jumps up to find a cloth and some water when Jared’s unharmed hand clamps down on his wrist and tugs him back down, tucks in against his breastbone.
“It’s fine,” he says, and Jensen can feel the words warm and damp against the skin of his throat. “Doesn’t even hurt.”
Soon, Jared’s knocked out and contentedly humming in his sleep, a leg flung over Jensen’s thighs and his mangled hand clutching the side of Jensen’s head, fingers stroking at the soft hairs near the back of his neck. Jensen sighs, lets his eyes slip shut and places his hand wide on the small of Jared’s back, falls asleep hugging onto the one person who means anything at all to him. It doesn’t even hurt.
“Shut up, Jared. Shut up. Why do you have to be so loud? Oh. Oh. Don't stop. Shut up.”
“What?” Jared rumbles from around the bruised skin at Jensen’s collarbone, ragged and weak. They're dirty and slick and probably reek something awful and Jared's mouth looks like he's taken a beating, puffied and scraped and trailing a line of wet red down his chin. He's the most beautiful thing Jensen's ever let himself believe.
“I’m not even saying anything,” but his voice says he knows that’s not what Jensen meant.
The bed springs aren’t the quietest things on a good day and right now, Jared’s pounding him right through them, noisy and obvious to anyone that might wander past their thin door. Jensen digs his heels into the meat of Jared’s ass, wiggles his hips up to try and take in more, always more, and flops his head back onto the mattress. He bites at his pillow to hide the long groan when Jared goes in at just the right angle with just the right amount of force and he’s going to black out from this, he thinks, says so out loud.
“Shhh,” Jared says, biting under his jaw and darkening last week’s marks that have only faded slightly. He doesn’t say it in so many words but Jensen thinks Jared gets off on seeing Jensen walking around all used looking, nobody dumb enough to misinterpret what they are and how they got there and just who put them there.
Jared might be a bastard when he’s hungry and an immature clown that makes penis sculptures in pottery class and a psychopath who chopped up his foster parents and tried to send them down the garbage disposal and Jensen pretends he doesn’t absolutely love all those things about him but in truth, Jensen can’t even bear to imagine how drab his life must have been before Jared was around to keep him company.
It’s only now that he knows how this feels that it hits him just how lonely he probably was for those long, long years.
Jared straightens himself out, stood up on his knees as he watches the length of his dick shoving into Jensen over and over, open and wet and sucking him back in and he holds Jensen’s knees apart, fingers fanned wide and strong in his grip. Jensen arches his back, gives Jared a better view and lets him look all he wants. It makes his belly tremble to openly see how grateful Jared is that Jensen lets him fuck his ass, something Jared’s only recently learned has never happened before for Jensen, with anyone.
“God, that’s good,” Jared whispers, reaching down to rub at the tightly stretched skin all around his dick. His fingers come back wet and he sucks them into his mouth, snorts when he sees whatever horrified look Jensen must be wearing.
He squeezes Jensen’s thighs, mumbles stupid sounding sentiments and Jensen watches his expression the whole time, giddy in the way Jared’s throat constricts and his chest tenses up and he goes stiff, eyes closed and teeth clenched around his bottom lip as he rocks himself through the last of it, body weak and face so young.
Jared lets out a juddering gust of air and when he can finally move again without falling over, he grabs Jensen by the hips and flips him onto his hands and knees.
“Can you do something for me, Jensen Ackles?” he asks, dipping down to level his face embarrassingly close to Jensen's ass. Jensen gasps and goes wobbly and hmms a little consent. It's the best he's got.
He can feel Jared’s thumbs pulling at him, keeping him held open just how he wants him and when Jared asks him to push, just push, just a little, it’ll come out, Jensen nearly wakes the neighbors when he comes all over the sheets beneath him, just because Jared asked Jensen to let him see what he left there, let him watch it slip down his pale thighs and gather at the back of his knees.
Jensen does it because Jared asked so nicely and Jensen wouldn't ever deny him.
Come the end of the month, Jensen stops hoarding paperclips from charts left lying around to slip under Jared’s mattress each afternoon and Jared’s own room becomes little more than a glorified storage bin for his junk.
The staff seems to think it does more harm than good keeping them apart and forcing Jared to remain in his assigned bed only to Houdini his way out and find his way back to Jensen’s, often hurting himself somewhere along the way. Dr. Miriam evaluates them both, together and apart, scribbles into her notepad, signs a few forms and another twin bed gets squeezed in alongside Jensen’s, all of Jared’s comic books and other personal belongings making the move with him.
"Check out my new digs!" Jared yells, whooping and hollering like it's something exciting. He bounds into the room, bouncing on the 'extra' mattress.
Jensen smiles and laughs and figures that maybe it is.
By July, things are more settled and Jared’s had fewer outbursts. Partly thanks to the new rooming situation putting him at ease, but most of it has to do with the fact that Jensen’s learned to take him all the way down his throat and doesn’t mind demonstrating multiple times a day.
Jared doesn’t bite people or throw his food through the air and he doesn’t punch a single member of the staff when he’s asked to keep his voice down in the cafeteria. He steals yogurt off of Jensen’s tray and tells dirty jokes that still make Jensen’s ears burn and he wears his pink bracelet tied in his hair everyday. Just to keep it out of his face, he says, not even caring that it's a big fat lie.
He’s more himself lately, for more hours in the day, and Jensen is just glad he hasn’t had to take it upon himself to find out who sends out the orders for Jared to be sucked dry of his enthusiastic personality and take care of the problem on his own time, in his own way. He'll do it if it comes down to that. He knows he’s never getting out of this place anyway.
“I read your file,” Jared tells him one night when they’re laying in the dark, not touching with intent, just touching because they can. “Miriam had to take a call in the other room and it was laying right there on her desk and. I’m sorry.”
Jensen swallows, forces himself to look over and meet Jared’s eye even though he isn’t convinced he even wants to. But it’s Jared and he’s so good to him and Jensen’s whole body has turned to face him, sheets rustling when Jared rearranges himself to tuck a knee between Jensen’s legs.
“That girl, was she—?”
“My friend,” Jensen whispers and it hurts him to say it. “She was my first friend.”
“Was it an accident or did you. Did you mean to..”
“Yes,” Jensen nods, the movement bunching his pillowcase and it’s wet now, just a little, but Jensen’s never said this out loud before. “I meant to do it.”
When Jared stays quiet, waits for Jensen to go on like he knows he’s not finished and understands, Jensen says simply, “I liked it.” And he feels freer than he ever has before, even back when he was still looked upon as a regular boy who liked monster trucks and sno-cones and hadn’t spent hours dissecting the girl from a few houses down.
“I liked it too,” Jared tells him, scooting in close and pressing his lips to Jensen’s nose and Jensen knows what Jared’s not saying this time.