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Mea Culpa

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It shouldn’t have happened, not to anyone, but especially not to her friend. Of all the people in the world, for it to happen to Jared, the sweetest, most gentle man she’d ever known.

 

It wasn’t right.

 

Thoughts swirled around Sophia’s head as she sat morosely, never moving a muscle, she was cramped, her limbs aching but still refused to move from her self impossed vigil over Jared’s bedside.

 

Over the past few hours she’d felt she’d gone through every emotion known to mankind and now all that was left was pure exhaustion, and a soul-eating sorrow. Oh, and the anger, we didn’t want to forget that. Oh but this wasn’t just any anger, she’s thought she’d known anger, but this…this feeling was something so far removed from anythign she’d felt before she wasn’t sure what to label it.

 

Whatever it was, whatever label you wanted to give it, she had never experienced sure pure, unadulterated hatred. It had been eating her up and part of her was grateful for that constant gut-knawing anger: it at least meant she could still feel something, that she was alive. That had to mean something. She was surprised she wasn’t numb by now. God knows she’d like to be, but she couldn’t, otherwise she would really want to. It would mean giving up, and she just couldn’t.

 

Sophia Bush did not give up on her friends, no matter what.

 

***

 

Chad’s eyes narrowed as he sat with the consultant. Strictly speaking, he shouldn’t be here as he wasn’t family, but he was the next best thing and with a few well placed words, an oh-so-charming smile and a quick autograph and he was being told the full extent Jared’s condition.

 

No one seemed to complain after that that Chad shouldn’t be here. Despite his reputation to the contary, Chad didn’t actually like using his fame to get what he wanted, but this was different. Jared was different. He was family and that was all that mattered to Chad.

 

Sure, genes or blood didn’t relate him, but he was as close as any family, perhaps closer in some ways. Family you couldn’t choose. ‘Friends were the family you chose’, he remembered But now he couldn’t think about much at the moment.

 

His mind kept repeating part of the conversation with the doctor who’s been assigned to Jared…

 

“He doesn’t have any family…I mean, family that’s here right now. They kind of lost contact with him a while ago. Things have been difficult between them and Jay...Jared. He listed me as his Next of Kin. I’ll be Jared’s spokesperson… someone’s gotta look out for him, just don’t lie to me, tell me exactly how bad it is,”

 

He was bitterly regretting that now. But he’d do it again and again, even knowing what was coming next. Yet that didn’t make the sickness any less. He’d practically had to bribe the staff to tell him what was happening. For God sake, his best friend could die, probably was dying, Chad had had to see someone he loved lying on a floor not breathing and they wouldn’t tell him what was happening. Eventually he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and one of the doctors had taken pity on him, or at least got sick of his demands.

 

Chad didn’t care which it was. All he wanted were answers. Was that really too much to ask? To hell with hospitals and their sodding protocols. Having to listen to the extent of the injuries, many of which he already knew about, and the possible ramifications of the other more serious injuries, he felt rather sick. Chad had never been punched, well, not properly much to some people’s astonishment, but he was getting a good idea of what a solid hit in his gut would feel like.

 

Chad hoped Soph was doing better than him, but Chad only had to hear what had happened. Sophia had to sit and watch their friend fighting for his life, unable to help.

 

If there was one thing Sophia hated it was feeling helpless and what was worse than watching your best friend fight for his life, unable to help, or worse know that Jared might not want to fight any more. He’d been through so much. Maybe his body was too tired. That thought scared the crap out of Chad. He hated admitting to being afraid of anything, but right now…he was scared shitless.

 

His mind drifted back to the sight of Soph clutching Jared’s limp hand, tubes shoved into his skin…That surely had to be worse, right? They’d been waiting for the ambulance which Chad was sure he been the longest period in his life. Couldn’t they have made it come any quicker?

 

His mind was completely numb when Sophia had decided to finally come around. Of all the times that Sophia had been early it had to be this one. It had to be when Chad was clasping their dying friend’s hand. He hadn’t heard the wine bottle shatter. All he remembered was seeing Sophia’s face as the colour drained away. He’d never seen that before, thought it only happened in stories, or lame movies, but then he’d never been in this situation before. It had almost been surreal.

 

Chad had to become harsh with Sophia and to keep her from becoming hysterical; explaining the ambulance was on its way... but the look on Sophia’s face… He silently thanked God that Sophia didn’t have to hear this. He liked to pretend Sophia still had some innocence in her, in the same way Jared had once had before it’d been stripped away. The whole innocence thing was all bull of course. The last six years of their lives had pretty much stripped away the vast majority of the naivety that much- loved innocence. But despite that, Chad always thought Sophia still maintained some small part of his innocence- that small stubborn part that believed in people, that could hope for the best, that was something he though that Sophia would always have, or was, until what he saw today.

 

It was almost as if Chad could see that last vestiges of Life’s innocence slip away from him, as the colour faded, recognition burning in the startling blue eyes. Chad mourned the loss. He never wanted his friend to see that. He never wanted to see that…

 

“I hesitate to bring this up, but I think it’s best you know—” The doctor began cautiously.

 

Hestitate? Now you want to hesitate?? Chad desperately wanted to scream at her. She’d hardly spared him any of the other details so why the hell would she care about this ‘sensitive piece of information.’

 

Even in his anger he knew it wasn’t her fault. She was being a professional, calm and in control, something Chad could never do when it came to those he loved, he could never understand how others managed

 

Out of all the doctors, she’d been the nicest and seemed to care the most. What was her name? He found he couldn’t remember anything. His mind had seemed to collapse upon itself. He wondered if she had dealt with many cases like this. Surely she must have - she was a doctor, but Chad wasn’t. He’d never had to deal with this, not on any personal level. He’d read about it… heard about it. But it never happened to people he knew. Especially not like this. Forcing himself back to the present, he listened to Ms Doctor.

 

“I have put Mr. Padalecki on suicide watch, just as a precaution.”

 

WHAT?! Oh please no. Jared could barely move. Surely they didn’t think…he wouldn’t…not again. This was too much. It has to be a surreal nightmare. Chad couldn’t lose him, not now after everything they’d been through in the past six years and definitely not like this. Oh no, loss was not an option. He’d sworn to look after him and he would, by any means necessary.

 

***

 

He was normally a morning person. Really he was, but even Mr. ‘Bright N Early’ didn’t appreciate a phone call at the crack of dawn. There were some times when Jensen just needed to be alone, alone in his bed, no one wanting anything. It was one of his guilty pleasures. His bed was his private space. No one night stands or quick flings were brought to this bed, there were plenty of other places they could have fun, but this room, this bed was his snactuary from the glitz and glare of Hollywood. The one person he’d broke that rule for was Jared. Why on earth had that thought popped into his head? Jared was very much his past and that was how things should stay.

 

Mentally shrugging, he snuggled down back to sleep but was finding it difficult with the obnoxious ringing despite his valient attempts to ignore it. He really had to remind himself to unplug the phone one of these days. Fortunately the answer machine picked it up.

 

“Hi this is Jensen Ackles. I’m clearly not in, so leave a message after the tone and I’ll get back to you. Probably.”

 

beep…

 

“Ackles, you fucking bastard! Pick up the phone!”

 

Jensen frowned, the sleep still clearing from his brain, he recongised the voice and grimaced.

 

It was Chad.

 

Of all the people on earth, Chad was one he could do quite happily with never acknowleding or seeing again, but despite that, his curiosity was piqued.

 

Why on earth would Chad Michael Murray be ringing at this time of the morning? In fact, why was he ringing period?

 

Everyone knew how much Chad hated mornings. In fact Jensen secretly doubted the douchebag knew what ‘A.M.’ meant. It was strange that he still thought of Chad in those terms, that was Jared’s name for his friend after all. Old habits obviously died hard he guessed as he pretended not to feel the pang in his chest as he thought about Jared.

 

“I mean it Ackles, pick up the fucking phone!”

 

He wanted nothing more than to pull the covers over his head, forget about Chad’s obnoxious voice but Chad’s tone made him uneasy. He sounded furious and, worst of all, scared. The Chad he’d know didn’t get scared.

 

”I don’t’ give a damn if you’re sleeping or currently fucking your flavour of the week, I have to talk to you NOW! It’s a fucking emergency, trust me I wouldn’t bother with you otherwise, I don’t have time for your bullshit. I know you can hear this! Answer me you bastard!”

 

Chad’s voice was quickly growing more intense in volume and anger, it was clear the idiot wouldn’t take the hint and ring off. Not surprising really, the man was about as sutble as a bull with a red flag on its face. He still couldn’t wrap his sleep muddled mind over why Chad was ringing him at 3 am. They hadn’t parted on the friendliest of terms to put it mildly,

 

And as much as it killed him to admit it, he’d for once deserved Chad’s venom. He was the one who’d irrevocably screwed up, Chad had been the one caught in the cross-fire, not that he’d ever admit that to the bastard of course. When he and Jared broke it off, the one thing that had comforted Jensen about the whole episode was not having to deal with Chad again, especially after the last time they saw each other. Jensen still couldn’t quite get over where Chad had learnt to punch like that, but then with four brothers, it wasn’t hard to guess.

 

Sighing, Jensen shoved the covers aside and walked over to the phone, knowing Chad, even after the silence of the past few years, wouldn’t let up until he’d spoken to him. Some things never changed. There was a strange comfort in that.

 

“Listen Ackles, I’ll fucking wrench your head from your body if you don’t pi—”

 

“What’s wrong Chad? You do realize this is the crack of dawn?” He thought it best to try and keep at least some attempt at civility.

 

“Yes I fucking do,” Chad snapped, fury crackling in every inch of his voice. “I need you to get down to St. Mary’s Memorial hospital. Now.”

 

Hospital? Jensen felt his mouth go dry. That couldn’t be right, why would Chad need him to get to a hospital, especially one that was a good two hour drive?

 

“Get your brain in gear Ackles and move, I can do without your theatrics right now,” despite the snarl, there was a quiver of fear in his voice and that fightened Jensen more than anything else. An arrogant, obnoxious Chad he could deal with, it meant things were normal, but for something to scare Chad…

 

“Wait what are you talking about? Hang on, St Mary’s? Chad, that’s two horus away!”

 

“Yeah I know, so get moving!”

 

“Look you’re not making any sense! Just tell me what’s going on,”

 

Chad didn’t respond immediately, and jensen thought he could hear the air crackel with tension

 

“Chad…what’s happened?” Jensen whispered, slowly sitting down, his voice sounding strangely choked.

 

His mind scrambled to decide on what possible reason Chad would choose to ring him after all this time, and to go to a hospital of all places. Last time they’d met Chad had threatened to kill him if he ever saw him again and worse, Jensen knew he’d meant it, so it would have to be something earth shattering for him to call. That could only mean one thing...

 

There was only one person who Chad would ring Jensen about and Jensen prayed to every god and divinity he’d ever heard of that he was wrong, even as a decidedly sick feeling settled on his stomach.

 

He knew, he just knew….

 

“Just…just get down here…” Chad growled.

 

He couldn’t explain why he was so mad, Well Jensen was part of the reason, but there was more and right now he couldn’t explain it and as much as it killed him, he knew if anyone could sort this mess out, reach Jared, it was Jensen.

 

The other end was still silent. God damn it, why was Jensen still talking? Stupid fucking day-dreamer, always pondering things, weighing them up. He should already be driving to St Mary’s not asking stupid questions. He resented having to ring Jensen period, Sophia had flat out refused to ring Jensen, unwilling to leave her friend’s bedside to talk to a former friend who’d hurt one of her best friends so badly.

 

He sometimes forgot that Soph and Jensen had been friends, he’d never understood the friendship and questioned Soph’s taste, but she’d simply shot back about their failed marriage, which had shut him because there was nothing he could say about that.

 

But, she’d said, she trusted Chad’s judgement when it came to caring for Jared, and given him carte blanche to do what was needed but she couldn’t leave Jared, not right then, he’d simply nodded in understanding and Chad had left to do the dirty deed.

 

Normally, he would have taken Sophia’s attitude in good stride, after all it was how they worked, but under these circumstances... everything was a struggle and he couldn’t cope if Soph broke down too, she might be his ex-wife but he still loved her in his own way.

 

Chad was desperate and, while Jensen was one of the last people on earth he wanted to see, he was also the one person that could possibly help in this situation. And as much as Chad hated Jensen, Jared came first. He just prayed they would forgive him for this.

 

“Damn it Chad, what the hell is going on? Who’s hurt?!”

 

“…Jared. H-he tried to kill himself.”

 

TBC

Chapter Text


Author's notes: This story deals with a past abusive realtionship. Warnings will be given with specific chapters when needed.


Jensen Ackles was not a violent man. He’d never hit anyone, never threatened or deliberately harmed anyone, but that was about to change today. Jensen could feel an anger unlike any he’d ever known coursing through his veins and he welcomed it. All because of one man – Jared - his beautiful Jay, who was lying on a hospital bed on fucking suicide watch.

 

Because of Jared, Jensen felt the alien urge to kill someone, and this wasn’t irrational anger; it was cold, hard fury directed at one target: whoever had driven Jared to this desperate act. Someone had done something to Jared and he swore they were going to suffer for it. He wanted to be disgusted with himself, images of violence danced through his head at wreaking a bloody vengeance for Jared. But he couldn’t stop. He felt like a wreck; God knows how Sophia and Chad had coped.

 

To say Chad looked like the living dead was a clichéd but unfortunetly apt description. White chalk face, large, dark circles under blood-shot eyes, at least two days worth of stubble. Under other circumstances and a million years ago he would have laughed at his former… enemy’s (did Chad count as an enemy?) appearance, but his eyes chilled him. Chad looked lost and frightened.

All of the anger from earlier seemed to have seeped out of him, leaving an empty shell. Chad quietly handed him the coffee from the vending machine, no snide comments or snarky looks. That frightened Jensen even more because it showed how serious this was, that it wasn’t all some weird-ass dream or sick joke.

 

Chad was a loud, obnoxous, irratating bastard, not huddled in a hospital chair looking like he hadn’t slept in weeks. Chad had paced the waiting room a few times before he attempted to fill Jensen in on the details that the doctor had told him without breaking down, which was proving a Herculean task in itself. He let his eyes briefly flitter to the young woman hunched over a bedside.

 

Sophia just looked drained, as if all the life had been sucked out of her. She looked as if she’d… shrunk, her normally shiny hair was dull, mussed, half plastered to her head. Jensen couldn’t bare to think of the horror the former couple had been going through for the past 24 hours. He still found it strange how this constantly bickering now-divorced couple still managed to fuction as a unit, although for who’s sake that was for, he couldn’t say. Although there was no love lost between him and Chad, he’d considered Soph a good friend, still did, although he doubted it was returned.

He’d heard Chad had found Jared sprawled on the bathroom floor, numerous bottles surrounding him. To make matters worse, Jared had cut along one of his wrists. Presumably, he lost consciousness before he could do the same to the other one. Just the thought that Jared would have a ‘fail safe’ should his overdose not work made Jensen sick to his stomach. What the hell happened to Jared to drive him to such a desperate, and final step? Jensen shuddered, the idea of a world without Jared, was unbareable. Jensen could go about his life as long as he knew Jared was safe and happy. Was this his punnishment for hurting Jared all those years ago, one last attempt at revenge.

 

No, that wasn’t Jared, Jensen could say hand on heart Jared didn’t had a mean bone in that ridicoulsly tall body of his. Because of this, Jared, once he’d had his stomach pumped and his cuts sewn up, was put on suicide watch, like some criminal. The doctors called it ‘standard procedure’, Jensen thought it was disgusting and the last thing a suicide victim needed. He’d yet to regain consciousness again and that had been several hours ago, having slipped into a coma since he arrived. That scared Jensen. Jared was ‘lucky’, at least according to one of the doctors, anyway. He could’ve been brain damaged or...dead.

 

Some miracle.

 

Jensen didn’t find that line of thoughts reassuring. He never should’ve been here in the first place. What had Jared thought when he…he…the words were too horrible to even think let alone say. Was he ashamed? Angry? Betrayed? Jensen didn’t know. In all the years he’d known Jared he was sure he’d known him inside and out. He was full of sunshine and laughter, a man who loved people unconditionally and fully embraced life and stood up for his beliefs. This man lying here wasn’t Jared - not the man who was simply too stubborn to give up, not like this broken creature lying on the bed.

 

He’d been almost awestruck by Jared when he first met him. The guy had been like a hyperactive puppy, barely able to keep still with a grin so big Jensen felt sure it couldn’t be natural. He’d been the perfect partner in crime for him and occasionally Jeff to pull pranks on the crew. They’d effortlessly slipped into the role of brothers, best friends and confidants, and then just as easily they’d fallen helplessly in love. He could still remember meeting Jensen had been less than certain that he could pull off the role of Sam, after all his major credit prior to this had been Gilmore Girls, but when he saw the giggling sunbeam change to the haunted conflicted demon hunter with barely a blink he felt suitably impressed and chargrined.

 

It stunned Jensen, who’d spent hours getting inside Dean’s head, exploring his motivations, getting his mannerisms just right, and here was this impossibly sweet-natured Texas boy who could slip between a prank playing man-child and the angst-ridden demon hunter Sam Winchester in the blink of an eye. If he hadn’t adored Jared from the moment they met, he might’ve been jealous. But no one was jealous of Jared. Everyone loved him and rightly so because Jared, more than anyone, was worthy of being so loved. He took nothing for granted, his affection and enthuasim knowing no bounds. He thought of the last time that he’d seen Jared at the CW party. Had there been any signs then?

 

It felt as if his very heart had been ripped out; he wanted to scream and cry whether at himself or Jared he couldn’t be sure. But more than anything he wanted to ask why.

 

Why had Jared tried to kill himself? Why did he feel his life had become so unbearable? Why didn’t he get Chad or Sophia to help him, or any of their mutual friends, or his family? If he could have come to Jensen, surely he knew that? Did Jared think so little of him, that he’d turn away his former best friend and lover if he was in desperate need? Why did he want to hurt his friends so much by doing this?

 

Why?

 

Of course he would never ask Jared those questions, even if he ever woke up…the thought clutched painfully at his chest. Jared had to wake up. He had to, he refused to believe Jared would leave them all. He couldn’t imagine the pain Jared must’ve been going through.

 

Could it have been that easy to miss, or had Jared been holding up a flashing neon sign for help the entire time, and no one had noticed?

 

Jensen knocked gently before entering the room. He hesitated at the door, desperate to find some excuse for not going in. Jared was in there, hurt and he couldn’t work up the nerve to go in, after all he was partly responsible for Jared’s condition. He’d started everything...

 

***flashback ***

 

Jared grinned at Jensen as he splashed his friend with water, as they sat by the pool on one of their rare days off. “You’re nuts you know that, right?” Jensen grinned.

 

“And you love me for it,” smirked Jared, sticking out his tongue.

 

Still garbed in Sam’s ‘costume’ of baggy, dark clothes somehow it seemed whenever Jared wore the clothes, he carried the weight of Sam’s sadness around with him. He loved Jared’s normal wardrobe, clashing colours of every colour of the wardrobe, as warm and open as Jared himself was.

 

“Yeah I do,” Jensen whispered, as he found himself gazing at his Sam... his Jared. When did Jared become his? Jared was undeniably gorgeous, even if he didn’t seem to notice it. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d gone to sleep with Jared’s name on his lips or dancing through his head.

 

Of course Jared loved him, but Jared loved everyone. His easy affectionate manner had immediately attracted Jensen to him. Beside his physical attributes Jared’s love and joy was a breath of fresh air to him. To see Jared so full of joy and laughter was truly an amazing thing.

 

He’d love to say Jared was his, know all the stupid, insignificant things about Jared couples knew about each other. But Jared didn’t belong to him and never would. Not in the way Jensen wanted him to. Jared looked up to him, admired and respected him both as an actor and person, Jensen was Jared’s hero, in the same way Dean was Sam’s, and because of this at times the urge to protect Jared from everything, to presereve that innocence, was almost overwhelming. But it didn’t change his feelings.

 

Ignoring the loud voice of reason and responsibility in his head, Jensen leaned forward and kissed Jared.

 

The moment his lips touched Jared’s, he cursed himself, was he trying to ruin their friendship? To his surprise, Jared didn’t struggle or back away. He didn’t tell him he was a pervert or laugh at Jensen. Jared did the one thing Jensen never would have expected, he wrapped his arms around Jensen, pulling him closer as the kiss deepened.

 

Oh, people would have a field day if they saw this, the Winchester brothers making out in public but Jensen didn’t care, if someone had seen them, they’d at least make a few fangirls very happy. He’d wanted to do this for so long and the fact that Jared was willing nearly made his brain shut down. No more thoughts.

 

He let himself melt into the sensations, the taste of Jared’s mouth, the texture of his tongue ... it was too much. Almost. When they eventually broke apart for air, Jensen opened his mouth to apologize, but before he could say a word Jared smiled blindingly at him and ran his figures through Jensen’s hair. They were still close, still touching.

 

"Jared...I..."

 

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for that” Jared whispered, a gentle smile on his face, gazing into Jensen’s eyes, tracing his check gently, before moving in to kiss him again, wrapping his fingers through Jensen’s as he deepened the kiss. Jensen was fairly certain he’d died and gone to heaven…

 

*** end flashback ***

 

He and Jared had become lovers. It hadn’t been hard; in fact it had been terrifyingly easy to fall in love with Jared.Jensen had had a few flings with men but nothing serious, at least they weren't enough to make Jensen annouce his sexual leanings to the world. Jared had somewhat less experience with men.

 

Zero to be exact.

 

He was amazed at how well they’d fit together, as if they just were moulded specifically for one and other, everything that should've mattered suddenly didn't and all of a sudden Jensen had been overwhelmed by just how much Jared, their relationship meant to him. He’d wanted to keep their relationship private, at least while they adjusted to it, and partly out of fear for how their friends and network executives would react, unfortunately fate had other plans.

 

Sophia had discovered them locked in a passionate kiss when she’s paid a surprise visit to Jared on set and had burst into tears. After a panicked Jared tried to calm her down, she’d given an watery smile to the boys and told them how happy she was and was probably PMSing. Jensen tried not to grimace at that little tidbit she’d given.

 

Unfortuntely, she had to rushed tell Chad, obviously the douchebag having 'best friend privledges' to Jared’s private life. Chad, after threatened Jensen with grevous bodily harm if he ever hurt Jay, had sort-of accepted Jensen. Then, Chad being Chad had to inform Chris and Steve that their best friend had fallen for Jared. They’d given Jen hell for not telling them earlier, but had welcomed Jared into their fold.

 

Ever the devoted friend, Chris promptly informed Jeff, Tommy and Mike with great glee (too much in Jensen’s opinion). Mike unfortunately had done one better and in true Rosenbaum fashion, took this as red to tell every one of their friends and acquaintces.

 

Within three days, all their friends and crew were privy to their relationship, much to Jensen’s mortification. Jared shrugged and took it in his stride.

 

Eric and Kim had offered an embarrassed Jared a pair of bright pink hot pants in celebration but they’d both be very supportive to the pair and for the most part, well behaved, which Jen was greatful for. Although he had a sneaking suspicion that Sam Ferris had something to do with that. He’d seen her talking to the pair earlier and Jensen never wanted to get on the wrong side of her.

 

Amidst the gentle ribbing, a spectuarly leacheous-faced Jeff had informed Jared, should he need any advice, that he shouldn’t hesitate in seeking him out. Although he knew Jeff was joking, it still hadn’t stopped Jensen glaring at their friend and pulling his sasquatch closer to him.

 

For some reason, Jensen never fully understood why all the women on set flocked to Jared, intent on mothering him to death. It had been quite a sight to see so many grown women clucking about Jared. Jensen had quickly learned not to argue with them, as Jeff had pointed out, they could be an intimidating bunch when you crossed them.

 

All cast had given their blessing and approval, everything was perfect. But of course Jensen couldn’t leave well enough alone. He’d had to go and irreparably fuck things up. He’d kept questioning their relationship, trying to find holes and chinks. Eventually convincing himself the outside world would never accept them, he broke up with Jared, breaking both of them in the process…

 

*** flashback ***

 

Jared gently kissed Jensen, grinning. He was perfectly content, but why wouldn’t he be? Jared loved and was loved unreservedly. He didn’t hold back or question things, which Jensen envied to an extent.

 

“Jared, we have to talk.” Oh, those dreaded four words; the four words that always signaled the Beginning of the End. “What’s wrong Jen?” he whispered, pressing another kiss behind Jensen’s ear. Managing to somehow stifle a gasp, he pulled Jared back. He wasn’t sure he could do this…

 

“Stop it! I’m serious. It’s about the future, our future.” That got Jared’s attention.

 

“Look Jen, I know we talked about this, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. The show’s finishing in a couple of weeks, no more networks to worry over, so why would anyone care? I want to be able to tell people I love you, that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you. What’s so bad about that?”

 

Jensen found himself envying the easy smile Jared displayed, wishing he could love that guilessley, to believe that love could overcome all prejudices and problems.

 

“Jared, be serious for five minutes! Of course people care. The show might be over but people's interest isn't. You're beautiful - no don't argue with me, they won't look beyond the face to the talent underneath it unless it's thrust in their faces or underlined with an Oscar or some crap. They’ll want to see pictures of you in your daily life. You're younger than me-“

 

“By four years Jen! It’s hardly a summer-winter relationship here!” Jared butted in.

 

“You don’t get it!” Jensen growled, shaking his head. “I’ve been in the business longer than you Jared, I know how it works, trust me on this. They'll wonder why you're not out with goregous young women. People will talk, you have no idea how vile some of these collumnists can be, let alone the Religious Right, do you have any idea how much sway they hold? Look at what happened with Brokeback, and the actors weren’t even gay themselves! I won't let that happen to you"

 

“So... what, because the show's over we can’t be seen in public together, because of what some bigots and the press think?!” Jared demanded, immediately pulling away from Jensen. Oh God, he’d upset Jared. That really wasn’t his intension. He’d wanted to make this quick and painless. Of course that was foolish - there was no way this would be easy, or gentle.

 

“No! It’s just ...God ...Jared think about it for a second. You’re hot, Offers are already pouring in for you and you deserve that, people can see you’re talented and I don’t want that to go to waste. Do you really want all that to go down the drain because people aren’t as tolerant as you think? Hollywood discriminates, no matter how liberal they pretend to be. Why can’t you see that?”

 

“Other actors have been OK,” Jared whispered.

 

“The ones that come out are either old with a long career behind them, or they settle for lesser roles of queer best friend, they’ll never get a sniff at first or even third billing. You’re about to break into Hollywood. They’ll be touting you the next big leading man. Your being with me is the last thing you need.”

 

“What?! Our relationship ...you think we’re a mistake?” Jared whispered, his voice cracking. Jensen sighed, frustrated as he ran his hand through his hair. How could Jared be so blind over this?

 

“Look, I don’t think you understand the full implications of coming out. You’re coming out to the nation, not just our family and friends, and even they might not be OK with it.”

 

“It’s not my fault you don’t want to tell your family! God Jensen, they should’ve been told from the beginning! They’ll love you no matter what, and if they don’t… they aren’t worth your trouble, but you’re not even trusting them, do you have that little faith in people? My mom would’ve killed me if I’d kept this…us…a secrect”

 

“OK so your family was alright about, but not everyone’s like that Jared but it’s not just our families. Everyone will know, and people you love could be targeted by homophobes or religous extremists. Society is vicious Jared, why don’t you see that? People can pretend being ‘out’ is great. It’s not. Why do you think I haven't come out? It’s not just you who will be hounded; it’s everyone you care about. They could all be targeted because they’re friends with a gay person. This affects everyone not just us.”

 

“It’s not against the law to be gay Jensen! I haven’t committed a crime, despite what you seem to think. I’m sorry if I don’t understand the ‘gay code of conduct’ if there was a manual I’d fucking read it!” Jared spat, fury welling up within him, while his heart was screaming and shattering. What was happening here, to them? They’ve never once fought like this, even when they were just friends.

 

“You know, this is kind of new to me. I’d never fancied a guy until I met you. I didn’t plan on who I’d fall in love with. Perhaps I would’ve chosen a woman if I could, it would’ve been a hell of a lot easier! Do you really think I’m so selfish that I’d put people’s lives in danger?! Our friends don’t care, they us their blessings for God sake! My family doesn’t, yours wouldn’t either if you'd tell them! They’re not babies Jensen, they can take care of themeslves and if anyone did tried to hurt them, I’d be ready to beat the crap out of them, and you know that,”

 

Taking a breath, attempted to reign in his anger Jared, give Jensen some time to respond, but no defenses came forth from his lover’s lips. A feeling of dread welled up in Jared, as he struggled to determine how they had suddenly got to this point, why Jensen had never talked about him before now, instead trying to pick a fight with him now?

 

“It’s my job to entertain people Jensen and I love doing it, but it doesn’t give them, or you, for that matter, the right to dictate how I live my life,” Jared ranted, tears beginning to form in his eyes.

 

“I love you, and I want you to be a part of my life Jensen. Why can’t you just accept that? Isn’t my love enough? Am I not enough?” the insecure note in Jared’s voice made Jensen want nothing more than to take Jared in his arms, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t back down now.

 

“I’m sorry Jared, I just can’t. I won’t expose you that. You’ve got too much innocence to lose, even if it means we can’t be together--”

 

“What?! Y-you’re breaking up with me? When did this happen?” Jared gasped. “Oh God…you’ve been planning this haven’t you?” Jared gasped, yanking himself away from Jensen as if he’d been burned.

 

Jensen’s refusal to look at him and his shamed expression were answer enough. Jared felt sick. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Where was all this coming from? Yes Jensen had been distant lately and getting annoyed easily but he couldn’t be serious about this, could he? Tears began to streak down Jared’s face and Jensen had to turn away.

 

“My career? You think I give a damn about that if I have to loose you? Yes, I want to act, God it’s what I’ve always wanted to do but not at this price. Do you think I’m that shallow? That fame hungry?”

 

“I never said that…” He couldn’t meet Jared’s eyes, couldn’t see the hurt that he had inflicted. “I know how much this means to you. You can’t give that up because of me. I won’t let you.”

 

“You don’t have to do this Jensen, there are ways we could work around it…long distance or…I could do theatre instead…or …we’ll work something out Jensen. I don’t want to do this. I can’t do it! I love you!”

 

“I’m sorry, we...I can’t do this anymore Jared. I can’t. You need to move on Jared, we can't keep going like this. We’ve been spoiled in this show, by the crew and Eric...no one’s going to be that accommodating to us, we’ve got to let it go and move on. Please don’t fight me on this Jared…I don’t want to do this, but Hollywood is cruel-”

 

“Hollywood is cruel? What about you? You’re breaking up with me because of what people think ... people you don’t even know! When did you change, become such a coward?” He snapped, tears running down his face.

 

Then his lips quivered slightly as another thought overtook him “Was it something I did? I can change it, Jen, whatever it is, I promise! I don’t want to loose you, just tell me. Please!” Jensen couldn’t answer that.

 

The accusations hurt even more because they were true. Things had changed between them. Jensen had changed and that couldn’t be denied. Each passing day grew he more worried. He saw the gossip magazines, the rumours…people already thought something was going on between them.

 

He also wasn’t blind to the current events sweeping the world. Intolerance was gaining a footing again, had been for a while. The current government's own morally bigoted agenda was thrust onto the unwilling, and at times, unwitting populace, and he didn’t want to be a part of that. To watch Jared be attacked, even verbally for simply being who he was, for holding a man’s hand rather than a woman’s.

 

He refused to see Jared be bullied, taunted and hated for holding his hand by right wing extremists, but how could he tell Jared that, make him see that no matter how much love was there, sometimes that wasn’t enough. Love did not solve everything.

 

Unable to say anything in his defense, Jared shook his head, tears running down his face and he continued his tirade.

 

“You’ve ripped out my heart and then you want me to just move on – ‘wham, bam, thanks man’ Is that it? Was I just a set fling? Someone who you could use for a quick fuck, or was I convient way to get rid of your nasty perversions on?" Jared demanded, but Jensen still remained silent, despite Jared's desperate pleas for Jensen to defend himself, say anything that would stop this scene being played out.

 

"I gave you everything Jensen, and I wanted to give you more, and you’ve thrown it back in my face. You know what the worst part is? Chad warned me! He fucking warned me you'd do this, but I trusted you! I love you, and it's not good enough because I'm a guy! And I know the world can be cruel, but you’re a spineless, callous bastard Ackles, you broke me more than any shitty homophobe could, and I;l'l never forgive for this. Never.” Jared whispered. Grabbing his coat, Jared ran out of his flat and out of Jensen’s life.

 

Jensen felt his shoulders sag and tears began to form in his eyes. He’d harshly brushed them away, he wasn’t allowed to cry, wasn’t allowed to run after Jared, and beg his forgiveness. It was for the best and he’d done what he had to, eventually Jared would see that.

 

But after seeing Jared’s horror stricken face he’d never felt like such a complete bastard in his life.

 

*** end flashback ***

 

Jensen tried to tell himself it was right. Jared’s career had quickly taken off with films and TV offers, although Jared had been careful what roles he accepted, refusing all horror and teen flicks thrown at him, and despite an intial backlash from some critics, they were suitably silenced when Jared won an Emmy for his blistering performace of Gabriel in his new TV show Hourglass. He’s won admist some feierce competiton. The show had taken America, Britain and Canada by storm, and was hailed as breakthrough in TV by fans and critics alike. As the central star and it’s most compelling character, Jared truly shone. Jensen was happy for him, proud of him. It had last six seasons and Jared had gained two emmies for it. Although Jared’s films had become increasingly fewwer in the last few years, it was clear Jared was still highly sought after.

 

Jensen tried to convince himself everything would be alright. Then elven months later, everything came crashing down. Jared started dating again. With another guy. He came out quietly, holding the guy’s hand at a premiere. There was no yelling from the roof tops and no interviews about his new love/sexuality, when asked, Jared simply said he loved the man and left it at that. In fact his determinition not to make it an issue, seemed to work because after a few months the papers had moved onto the next juicy scandel.

 

The boyfriend, Benjamin Laurence, Jensen had never been able to forget the name. Ben was tall, dark haired: classically handsome, easy smile and well turned out. Exactly the type of man you’d want on your arm, or to bring home to your parents. He remembered the guy as a journalist from one of the more respected magazines, probably Vogue or Vanity Fair.

 

They looked good together-the new ideal ‘gay Hollywood couple’ men that could be together and still look like ‘men’, it was apprantly a revelation for the gossip magazines and they and were soon promoted as the “It Couple” papers were excitedly claiming, fawning over the couple in their efforts to look liberal and cool to their readers.

 

Jensen felt sick. He hated Ben. Hated a man he didn’t know because he had what Jensen didn’t, had given up. That he could hold his hand at a premiere with Jared that they could kiss. Because he’d given Jared to him. They were a popular couple, despite the denoucers, and Jared seemed happy and Jensen’s wishes for Jared had come true, yet had it been anything but a hollow victory? Watching them he’d heard the song Broken Halleujah play over the radio words had never seemed so accurate at that moment and had to bite back the tears he wasn’t allowed to cry. For the first few months, their friends had been completely stunned by their break-up. They’d been convinced that Jensen and Jared were soul mates although never said it in so many words. They were the couple who’d make it, no matter what. They tried to support both, at least until they heard the truth of the break-up.

 

After hearing the details, Chad and Soph had immediately gone on the offensive and specifically Chad promptly proclaimed Jensen as the Spawn of Satan, which he felt like. They’d immediately formed a protective circle around Jared, shielding him for anyone else who would seek to harm their friend, Jensen was glad Jared had such dedicated friends.

 

The others had tried to be more objective, even after Jensen had unhappily confessed that he’d ended the relationship. Jeff hadn’t been judgemental, but he’d definitely not been happy, the slap on the upside of his head being proof of that, he'd felt split trying to help both men he viewed as his surrogate sons. Chris had out right condemned Jensen as a ‘fucking idiot’ but hadn’t been angry. The excuse of protecting their friends from hompphobes had held no weight with any of them, and Steve sharply told Jensen that if he thought they couldn't cope with a few bigoted homophobes, then he really didn't know his friends. That had stung.

 

It was at a CW party a few years later, he’d run into Jared again, despite his every effort not to. He was pleased to note that Jared was still close to his old friends. He’d heard that the months after their break-up had been extremely hard on Jay. But he hadn’t asked for details. The reunion was buzzing with the news at the time that not only Jared had recently been nominated for an Emmy for his role in ‘Hourglass’ (which he would later win) and was tipped as a hot favourite but that Jensen himself was again in line for an Oscar nomination from his latest film Blood Moon.

 

Jared had come out a few months prior to the party when he started dating Ben. And after the evitable anti gay backlash things eventually settled and seemed to make little difference to his career, although whether that was because Jared seemed content to focus on TV rather than film, Jensen couldn’t say.

 

Of course there had been homophobic comments, religious rants and anti-gay sentiments spewing from every corner, making Jensen fume with anger. He’d wanted to ring Jared up and offer his support but had held back. He had no experience of what Jared was going through, so how could he help, besides he didn't think Jared would take too kindly to it. No doubt it had been extremely tough on Jared but to his credit he refused to insult or throw names at those who had insulted him and Jensen had to admire his courage and found himself ashamed of his own fear of coming out. Eventually a new scandel in celebland destracted people away. He was still a clear favourite with the ladies, frequently topping their ‘who’s hottest’ polls; in fact, being gay, or rather bisexual, seemed to only have enhanced his sex appeal and bankability, not to mention his pulling power.

 

Very little had seemed to change about Jared’s life and career. The only difference now was that Jared had a healthy legion of men openly lusting and drooling after him, much to Jensen’s secret annoyance. He didn’t voice his opinions because he’d lost his right to. When Jared came out publically, all his friends and family had staunchly stood by him and presented formidable adversaries for anyone who would dare insult him, even Sandy publicly stated her affection and admiration for him. He’d heard they’d remained close friends, even after their split years ago.

 

None of Jared’s friends, famous or not, were fazed by having an openly gay friend and were willing to defend him when need be. When Chad had been snapped visiting Jared for a social call, an interviewer commented on him ‘hugging a gay man’. Chad had snottily replied that Jared was, in fact, bisexual and asked if he had a problem with that, the underlying warning visible. Wisely, the interviewer had moved on with his questioning. But his friends defenses were most evident a few months later when an obnoxious and notoriously bigoted journalist was visiting on the Hourglass set and tried to get his co-stars to give their ‘true’ feelings on Jared. He’d kept pestering them so much, Jared had gotten sick of the man and had quietly walked away, clearly pissed off, but hadn’t said anything. Danielle, a fellow co-star thoroughly disgusted stalked off after Jared to comfort him, but not before using a few expletives that made even the seasoned stunt-crew blush.

 

Milo, his old friend and current co-star in Hourglass, had become so angry that he’d almost hit the reporter. Fortunately security turned up and ‘escorted’ the offending journalist away, it had taken very little encouragement from Milo for the producer to ban the journalist from the set after hearing the events that had unfolded. When interviewed about his now ‘infamous defense' of Jared, Milo had merely shrugged, replying he didn’t appreciate his friends being hassled. On the plus side, critics were hailing Jared, and Hourglass, some claiming it was obvious that Jared proved you could be out and be successful without being cast as the ‘token camp man’ or the ‘gay but asexual best friend’.

 

It was at the same CW party that he’d heard how hurt Jay had been after their break-up: he’d not eaten properly, worked like crazy and barely slept. According to Sophia, whom he overheard, it was thanks to Chad that he’d been properly looked after.

 

Despite some people being perplexed by the friendship, Chad was a good friend and would always look out for those he loved. Between Soph and Chad, they’d helped Jared get back on his feet even after their own marriage ended. The three went everywhere together: turned up at each other’s films, dining out, goofing around, with Jared hugging his friends in a way that made Jensen jealous and uncomfortable. He could remember what that felt like; The Padalecki Hug.

 

Then Ben came along, Jensen knew little about the man, except that Jared met while on Hourglass. He’d come to Sophia’s reunion party and seemed to get on with everyone, but Jensen had hated him on sight. He seemed all wrong for Jared, of course the ‘wrongness’ simply boiled down to Ben not being him. It should’ve been Jensen holding Jared’s hand and kissing him at those premieres and in public, not caring about the tabloids, he should’ve been there to support Jared wining those awards, but he wasn’t and now Ben was the man in Jared’s life, the one he turned to.

 

Jensen wanted to wrench them apart that evening, to reject Jared’s new choice of partner, but that was Jared’s choice, his call. Jared had been polite to Jensen, excessively so, but he’d clearly held his distance and never once touched him, not even giving Jensen a hug that Jay was famous for. That had hurt Jensen but he didn’t say anything. He lost that right because he was the one who had dumped Jay.

 

Speaking of devoted boyfriends, Jared’s was suspicously absent. Where was he? He should be here for Jared. There was no reason, no excuse for his absence to Jensen’s mind. Jensen was knew they were still together, they’d were engaged for Christ sake, so why the hell wasn’t he here? What he couldn’t understand was why hadn’t Chad rang Ben instead of him? Surely that would have made more sense.

 

What the hell was Jensen supposed to do that Ben couldn’t…unless, of course, Ben had something to do with why Jared was here. But that was impossible. Jared couldn’t have…he’d never let that happen to him, he had too much respect for himself to ever be hurt in that way.

 

People loved Jared, they were drawn to him. Why would anyone want to hurt him? Besides, it was impossible to keep things like that hidden-not from the ever prying media and even nosier friends. No it couldn’t be…that. It would never happened to Jared.

 

Jensen stood at the door holding his breath. Beyond the door lay Jared, one of the most important people in his life and he couldn’t even work up the courage to walk in. Before he could make a decision Sophia opened the door, standing face to face with Jensen.

 

“Are you going to come in, or run away again? Don’t worry. I doubt Jared would notice, being unconscious and all,” Sophia added, a bitter tinge to her voice.

 

Jensen found he couldn’t look at Jared’s damaged body knowing he played some role in Jared being where he was now.

 

“H-how is he?” Jensen whispered as he gazed, almost hypnotized, at Jared’s still form.

 

Sophia glared at the wall but kept silent, clearly biting back a sarcastic comment: ‘Gee Jensen, he’s great. Really. Jared’s lying in a hospital bed in a coma after trying to kill himself. But don’t worry, he’ll soon wake up and bounce right back. Everything will be fine, it always is, because he’s Jared.’

 

“Do they know when he’ll wake up?” Jensen asked quietly.

 

“I don’t know; you’ll have to ask Chad. The doctors talked to him. They guessed a few days, but we don’t really know. It could be years. His head took most of the impact, when he fell,” Sophia replied.

 

“Not that it matters anyway,” she muttered, looking away.

 

She didn’t want to break down in front of Jensen Ackles. Jensen sharply turned his head.

 

“Of course it matters! Jared matters. He always has,” Jensen growled.

 

”Why are you here?” Sophia asked bluntly. “You haven’t seen Jay in what, five…six years? For all you know, it could have been just a broken arm or flu. Why come rushing in? Why now?” There was a tone of bitter mocking that he couldn’t fail to miss. Jensen immediately stiffened at the accusation.

 

“Chad told me Jared was in the hospital, that he’d tried to kill himself and to get over here. What was I supposed to do, ignore him? I’d always come no matter what happened. I still…care about Jared. He was…is my friend, first and foremost, and nothing will ever change that.”

 

Sophia didn’t look impressed. Strange way you’ve got of showing it! Sophia thought, mentally snorting. Six years of nothing and now you show up and want to fix things? How considerate of you.

 

“Not even if Jared tried to kill himself?” Sophia asked caustically, not sparing Jensen.

 

To her way of thinking Jensen was partly responsible for Jared’s hospitalization and she wasn’t going to let Jensen forget that.

 

“If he got so sick and tired of his life; if his pain got so bad, so unbearable that he turned his back on it, and just gave up? Face it Jensen ... you don’t know Jared anymore. The Jared you knew, your Jay, never would have tried to kill himself. He was in love – with you and with life. He was happy. He’s different now. He gave up.” Sophia wanted to be angry, wanted to rage and scream, but she didn’t. She moved closer to Jared.

 

”Look at him Jensen. Really look. This is the real Jared.”

 

Unconsciously, Sophia brushed a loose strand of hair from Jared’s forehead, while she took his limp hand, her eyes briefly closing at how cold and wrong it felt.

 

For the first time Jensen did exactly that; he looked at Jared. He saw the bruises, the cuts and scars.

 

The swollen black eye, the white, drawn skin, the powerless body lying so unnaturally still.

 

He took in the breathing respirators and the heart monitors, the tubes running in and out of Jared.

 

He felt himself shatter. Sinking down in the hospital chair, he took a deep, shuddering breath.

 

“It hurts, doesn’t it,” Sophia said. It wasn’t a question. There was no malice attached to it; it was just a statement. “To see Jared like this, to feel so helpless. He never stopped loving you after you left Jensen, he tried so hard to get over you.”

 

“What happened?” he whispered, never taking his eyes off Jared.

 

“For eleven months we tried to get him to go on a date but he was still too wrapped up in you, hoping you’d come back. Any dates he went on didn’t turn out right. He was convinced he was never going to find anyone, then he met Benny. You had no idea what it was like to see Jay smile again, to hear him laugh. It was me and Chad who pushed him to go out with th guy to start a relationship, so it’s all our fault, so that’s why I’m still here now, so’s Chad. We’re as responsible for this mess as that bastard is,” Sophia sighed, tears filling her eyes.

 

“But…you can’t blame yourself-“ Jensen began

 

“You don’t get it!” she sobbed, her grief finally catching up with her.

 

“That bastard used every bit of love Jared had for you and twisted it, jusified it for beating him shitless, for not loving him enough, kept saying Jared would leave him for you, and he had to take steps to stop that, it was for his own good that he was making Jared a better person.” The disgust was clear in her voice as she spoke, each word was a stab in the gut to Jensen but he listened anyway. This was his punnishment. “Even their fucking engagement was a test of Jared’s ‘loyality’, Jared was so scared of what Ben’d do that he said yes. I’m just thankful he never got round to actually married this monster.” She wipped the tears, but more kept flowing.

 

“You need to go home Soph, just get some sleep, you can’t keep on like this,” he pleaded, hating seeing his former friend in so much pain. Sophia didn’t respond, simply turning her head to Jared, eyes softening briefly as she took in her friend’s battered body.

 

“You know so many of Jay’s friends have gone. They couldn’t cope, seeing new bruises forming, his eyes growing duller. They all knew, and Jared always refused to admit it, made excuses, because, you know, he was so clumsy. Always his fault. His family tried to help at first, they talked to him, tried to get him to leave but Jared refused, said Ben needed his help. I think he was too scared to leave but he never said that. So they left him, said they couldn’t cope anymore, they abandoned him Jen! To that…fucking…monster! God this is all my fault! I pushed Jay into this relationship, I nagged him to give him a chance, because anything was better than him pining over you! Oh Ben stopped Jay pining alright, it’s hard to pine when you barely have the strength to walk because you’ve been so badly beaten! He said it was all Jay’s fault because he wasn’t faithful, because he kept thinking about you,” Jensen almost winced at the self-loathing in her voice.

 

“That’s why I can’t leave, because we all had a role to play in this. Ben beat him, you left him, and me and Chad couldn’t save him. It’s my punnishment to see him like this, and I’m not leaving until he opens his eyes, or…dies. You understand that Jen, don’t you?” Sophia finished with a whisper, biting back the tears that had threatened for so long.

 

The horrific full meaning of Sophia’s words began to sink in as the words filtered through his brain. Jared’s abuse was his fault. Ben was jealous of Jensen and had taken it out on Jared.

 

For the first time since their break-up, Jensen let himself cry.

 

TBC - please give me feedback!!

Chapter Text


Author's notes: This deals specifically with a suicide attempt. If this makes anyone uncomfortable, please don't read!!


CHAPTER 3

 

A sudden calm settled over Jared as he felt his head thud against the floor. It was finally over. He would have smiled if he could. Contrary to popular belief, his life didn’t flash before his eyes; there was no tunnel of light and pearly white gates with long lost relatives waiting with open arms. It was ... nothingness, calm, still, quiet.

 

It was perfect.

 

He was so lost in this perfection he wouldn’t have heard the front door open, or Chad call out to him. He felt like he was swimming. An overwhelming sense of relief flooded him. The still functioning part of his brain was rapidly declining but he idly wondered if Chad and Sophia would hate him.

 

His parents along with Jeff and Megan all flashed in his mind, their grief stricken faces; he didn’t want them to feel sad, he wasn’t. No, death held no fears for Jared. It never had, not since ... not since ... no, Jared wasn’t going to let him haunt his last few moments of life. But that’s why this was happening, wasn’t it? The pain had become so constant, so unbearable, that this was his only way out. His death was his last gift to Soph, Chad, to his family. To Jensen.

 

Yes, even now it all came down to the man who’d touched his soul and shattered his heart. His love for Jensen had killed him, literally. But ironically, his death brought Jensen life. And he would never know. Never know what Jared had done or why. Perhaps there was a twisted element of cruelty in it. Would Jensen suffer after his death, blame himself and he would never know why. That would haunt him. Yes, cruelty played a part in it, but love was the bigger reason. His love for Jensen. He drove him when all else failed, yet his love for the man had been his death warrant. By holding his heart so completely, Jared had been unable to fully give himself to another. He’d tried; God knows he had. He’d tried with Kate, he tried with Ben, but it was never enough. He always found himself wondering, wishing - what if Jensen had stayed, or he’d fought harder. What if he’d never run out of Jensen’s flat...all the ’what ifs’ and ‘could’ve been’s’ had circled his mind, torturing him.

 

He’d called Jensen a coward, but was he any better? He was taking a coward’s way out, after all, if he was stronger he could’ve fought harder, could have stood up for himself, but it was all too late now, and it was all his fault. He’d loved Ben, really he had, but it was different type of love than he’d had with Jensen, because Jared was different.

 

Strangly he found himself drifted back to Sandy and almost smiled, rememebering his ex-girlfriend, his first love. Both of them had been so young, and full of hope, believing in their love in the way only the young could. Sandy had been sweet and warm, and they’d easily fallen in love, neither asking for more than the other could give but Ben had wanted everything and more… he’d expected Jared’s love and soul, had wanted to claim them and when Jared hadn’t been able to give enough of them, had failed in his duty to love Ben as much as he should have, he’d become angry.

 

Jared felt his limbs spasm. It had to be getting closer now. He wasn’t sure what he’d taken or how much, he hadn’t stopped to look at labels, just grabbing bottle after bottle, desperate to dull the pain. It was irrelevant at this point, whatever it was, it had ‘done the job’. He knew that if the drugs didn’t work, he’d use the knife. Two quick slashes would seal his fate.

 

He’d slashed one wrist, just as a precaution. Even in his drugged state, Jared had winced in pain as the blood seeped out the wound, running down his wrist, Jared had still been staring at his wrist when his legs had buckled, head crashing on the floor, he’d hit something on the way down he was sure. It didn’t matter though; he was too tired to fight, to stop the flow of blood, the concoction of drugs slowly weaving through his jangled system. Unconsciously he cradled his wrist.

 

It hurt, but pain was of little consequence any more. His battered body had accepted it, not trying to fight anymore. It was as if it understood. He was tired. Tired of fighting, of surviving, of hiding. His body understood this. It stopped fighting, quietly accepting defeat. Even as his strength was dwindling, he knew he should fight. Jared had never accepted defeat before, not even when he broke his back. But that was just his bones. Broken bones could be mended; even a broken heart could heal given time. What was that the saying? ‘Time heals all wounds’ right? Perhaps. But what about a shattered soul? A fractured psyche – how did you fix them?

 

The truth was there was no cure for Jared now. He was broken beyond repair; no one could help him now, least of all himself, and he wouldn’t even if he could. There was nothing left to save ... Ben had seen to that. What did he have left, what could he return to, who would want him now? Ben wanted Jared; he always wanted him. Ben was always there, he’d never leave, and Jared knew that now. It didn’t matter if Jared tried to run away or changed the locks, Ben would find him and punish him. It was only when Ben’s threats extended to his friends that he knew something had to be done. This was his last stand against Ben, his final act of love to his friends. His death would guarantee their safety. Ben would never threaten them again, and Jared would be free. He wouldn’t be broken and torn.

 

Even now, after all that had happened, there was still some small part of Jared that fought, a stubborn mulish streak that refused to accept defeat. That kept Jared’s mind whirling, but it was too late. The pills and the loss of blood could not be fought. He felt a small smile twitch his lips, as he saw Jensen, could feel himself in his arms, safe and loved. No one would hurt him ... he was home. As Jared’s life-consciousness drifted away, he didn’t hear Chad come in, or him call out. The footsteps on the stairs went unnoticed as Chad continued to call out his name. He didn’t see Chad’s face he gazed down on his fallen friend.

 

Chad cursed silently as he fumbled with the front door. He’d lost track of the number of times he’d told Jared to fix that damn thing. You’d think any self-respecting Oscar winning actor would be living in a nice Beverley Hills mansion fully equipped with every creature comfort. But oh no, Jared had to be awkward and live in a bloody ancient flat. Stupid down-to-earth flower loving git. Would it kill him to play the ‘spoiled celeb’ card once in a while?

 

The door jarred slightly and as Chad stumbled in, he was immediately hit by how quiet the place was. Normally Jay had some sort of music in the background or some kidn of noise, usually dogs yelping - something to symbolise life, but now there was nothing. That worried Chad slightly. He sometimes felt like an over-protective mother hen, at one time if anyone had suggested that he would have laughed it off, but now… ‘mother hen’ might not have been how he’d describe it, but he worried constantly, and just recently that worry had turned into downright fear. Jared was slowly slipping away from them and Chad couldn’t stop him. The idea of loosing his friend gnawed at Chad day and night.

 

Sophia was no better, hovering around Jared, trying everything he could think of to bring their friend back, to remind him of something to go on living for, to fight for but it wasn’t working. Chad knew that despite appearances, Jared was fading. Oh, he smiled for the cameras, showed the side everyone wanted to see, believed in: the happy talented star with the devoted boyfriend and the media lapped it up. Chad wanted to scream, yell at them they were mistaken, force them to see the truth about Jared’s life but he knew that would break what remained of Jared’s fractured spirit, he would loose Jared’s friendship if nothing else if he told anyone. Jared wanted the world to believe he was in love, and was loved by Ben, who knows; maybe Jared had convinced himself along the line somewhere, because when Sophia tried to get Jared to face up to things, their formally solid friendship had almost been cast aside. It broke Chad’s heart to see Jared clinging so desperately to such a twisted relationship. Why couldn’t he admit the truth about Ben when it was so obvious to those around him, why was Jared so blind as to believe Ben loved him?

 

Jared had whispered once that he’d loved Ben, that he couldn’t abandon him, not like Jensen had abandoned him. Silently Chad had cursed Jensen while wanting to yell that what Jared had had with Jensen, that was love, not this farce with Ben, but he’s bit his check so hard he’d tasted blood. Jared wouldn’t have listened, simply nodded, a ghastly fake smile plastered on his face.

 

To the common observer, Jared loved Ben, and he’d loved Kate, (who was imminently more worthy of Jared’s affection in Chad’s opinion, even Sophia had to concede that). Jared was everything a loving and affectionate boyfriend should be; tender, loving, affectionate. He held Ben’s hand, supported his boyfriend’s choices, soothed his temper and ‘rolled with the punches’ and it made Chad sick to his stomach that the world could be fooled by Jared’s acting abilities, he was sickened that people could be so blind. He wasn’t fooled, nor had been Sophia and Jared’s other friends and family. As the relationship with Ben progressed, and Jared withdrew, each had voiced their concerns, questioning Ben’s nature, gently suggesting Ben might not be right for him all of which had been swiftly dismissed with a strained smile and a wave of the hand. It hadn’t fooled them. No matter how good an actor Jay was he couldn’t hide his heart; it was in the eyes as the cliché went, those dark, amazing eyes that had captivated so many people, that told you so much.

 

It pained Chad no end to see the permanent linger of sadness in them, and now pain and despair had become a permanent feature. His eyes had dulled. They glinted when Jared smiled, although those days were practically over now, but that special glow was forever gone. There was no doubt in his mind that they were headed for disaster, that that Jared, as usual, would bare the brunt of it.

 

Sophia could barely restrain herself around Ben, Chad could almost see his former wife’s fingers itch to repay the damaged done to Jared, but Chad knew that Sophia would never a chance, there was a reason both of them could still see Jared, after how everyone else had been forced out, and if they wanted to help Jared, they had to play by Ben’s rules. He still couldn’t understand how they’d ended up here, it was enough to make him wish Jared was still with stick-up-his-ass Ackles, not that’d he’d forgive the bastard for breaking Jared’s hearrt.

 

Chad could remember how Sophia had attempted to soothe the sobbing, almost hysterical Jared, while tears ran down her cheeks, a look of furious betrayal bruning in her eyes. Jensen had betrayed and hurt Jared, her Jay who she loved like a brother for no reason other than fear and she’d hated him for it. Chad who’d never liked Ackles, had no problem hating Jensen for that and shotting Tom and Mike – and even Jeff venomous looks whenever one had suggested trying to heal the rift between them and Jensen.

 

To Sophia and her insanely romantic mind, Jared and Jensen had symbolised a perfect match, ‘the gay Romeo and Juliet’ as she’d once drunkenly christened them, only without the tragic death/feuding family’s saga, as Soph had giggling slurred. Whatever they’d been called, they just ... fit together.

 

For months after the break-up Jared had tried to hide from the world, seemingly content to live in his bed with his dogs, and survive on ice-cream, the food of the broken hearted, although the pain he’d felt wouldn’t be numbed by any amount of ice-cream.

 

Eventually after non-stop nagging, bullying and cajoling, Soph had not only managed to get Jared to join the land of the living, but after blackmailed, or rather persuaded Jared to go on four blind dates, if only to prove there were plenty of decent, available guys out there, that Jensen wasn’t the be all and end all of Jared’s love life.

 

The first date, Greg, was a massive fan of Supernatural, and worshipped Dean Winchester, to the extent that it made Jared nervous. He also decided Jared would love nothing better than to re-hash scenes blow for blow, while Greg pointed out any technical gaffs, then to crown the evening, Greg had asked if Jared could give him Jensen’s number. Jared had left the date early.

 

Patrick, the second date was a marked improvement. He was witty and handsome, the date going OK until he had to leave Jared in the middle of their date. He was a truama surgeon and Jared was left feeling rather like Lois Lane having been bailed on by Clark.

 

Third was Nicholas. Tall, handsome and sweet. The date had been fun, at least until another man, Sebastian, stormed in and demanded to know what his husband was doing on a date, it was only then that Jared noticed the tanned strip where Nicholas’s ring should be and groaned. Jared had watched open mouthed as the scene between the men unfolded like a scene on Jerry Springer, before quietly slipping out.

 

Then forth, Daniel, had been fantastic. Smart, charismatic, gorgeous and kind. The date itself had gone off without a hitch, and Sophia had high hopes for a second date. Unfortuntely, before this could happen, Daniel was arrested on from breaking his bail. He’d been charged with GBH and arson, which had pretty much curtailed any future romance with the guy.

 

After these string of disasters Chad and Sophia were forced to admit defeat and promised to let Jared run his own love life, and Jared immeidately decided there would be no love life to organise. He’d devoted himself solely to his work, and visiting family, it broke Sophia’s heart to think that Jared was alrady reconciling himself to a life alone. Chad however had been a typical guy and dared to suggest Jared would find someone in his own time.

 

Ten months had passed since the split, when Soph was moaning to her cousin, Felicity about Jared’s loveless life, when she suggested a guy, Ben, who was a good friend of her half brother Anthony. Immediately the two women had begun to plan, and she persuaded to get Jared to meet Ben, but not as a date. The two men had immediately hit it off, and Sophia’s smugness had been almost unbareable when Jared tentatively agreed to go on a date with Ben, three weeks after meeting him. Chad had waited up that night, fully prepared to console and comfort his friend after another dead end. But five hours later when Jared came home, the dizzy and gooey smile told Chad all he needed: Jared had fallen hook, line and sinker.

 

Shaking his head of the memories, Chad forced himself to focus at the task at hand.

 

"Jay? You up dude?” yelled Chad. "Come on you lazy ass, Sophia’s going to be freaking out if we don’t get to his place soon. We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t send a Missing Persons Squad after us. Jay, can you hear me? Jay??" Surprised that he got no reply, he poked his head into Jared’s bedroom - no sign of him there. The bed was still made, rather neatly as well, and Jared wasn’t in the adjoining room either.

 

He knew the kitchen was empty, as he would have seen Jay as soon as he walked in. Getting rather annoyed, he began a ‘search for Jayred’. Coming to the bathroom, Chad paused. As much as he loved Jay, he didn’t really fancy interrupting his friend on the bog or in the shower. Some things were better left unseen. Despite this, there was something nagging at the back of his mind, an unaccountable worry. He couldn’t hear any water running. Taking a breath, he pushed the door open – and felt his heart stop. Jared, his best friend, was lying sprawled on the bathroom floor, not moving. Not thinking, he ran to Jared and shook his friend, getting no response. He then noticed the bottle in Jared’s hand, and another resting beside it; both were empty. As if that wasn’t enough, a kitchen knife lay splattered in blood, and Jared’s right wrist was drenched in the crimson liquid.

 

"Oh fuck, Jared wake up, please!!! Oh God what have you done?!” Chad cried as panic gripped him. He should’ve seen this coming, it was a miracle it hadn’t happened sooner really. How could he have been so stupid? Why didn’t he act sooner and get Jared away from the bastard before it got to this stage. Why? Was Jared dead? No, he wouldn’t allow that. His best firend was not going to die.

 

He grabbed his friend and placed his trembling figures on his neck, desperately trying to find a pulse. Chad’s knowledge of first aid was basic and he struggled to remember. It’d seemed so pointless back then, and now confronted with his dying, or dead, friend, Chad was lost. Pushing Jared’s dark hair back, he felt how cold Jared’s face was; his lips were turning blue. There was no chest movement. In desperation, Chad ran into Jay’s bedroom and grabbed the phone, silently thanking God for mobiles as he punched in 911, running his hair through his hands, desperately trying to stop them shaking.

 

Please don’t die Jay. Please don’t die please. Please pleasepleaseplease. Pick up the phone you fucking retards. Jay’s dying, don’t die Jay…please… pick up Goddamnit! Pi-

 

"911 emergency response."

 

"I-I need an ambulance, m-my friend’s not breathing," Chad whispered, feeling as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs.

 

"OK, have you checked his airways, cleared any blockages?”

 

No, I’ve been too numb with fear, Chad thought to himself.

 

"N-no, I can’t see anything. H-he’s not moving ... I can’t get a pulse…I can’t find one... There’s empty bottles everywhere ... Oh God…he’s taken an overdose of something, a-and there’s a knife, he ... he cut himself on one of his wrists, it’s…it’s covered in blood ... he’s not moving" Chad choked out, tears streaming down his face as his fingers danced over Jared’s still face.

 

Chad bit back a wrenching sob as he felt the coldness of Jared’s features. This couldn’t be happening. Jay was a fighter, he wouldn’t give up…he wouldn’t…

 

"I know you’re scared but you have to stay clam. First, you need to check your friend’s windpipe, in case he’s swallowed his tongue, or if there’s anything else blocking it."

 

"I-I can’t feel anything, his tongue’s still in his mouth."

 

"That’s good. Make sure you keep putting pressure on his wrist wound; try to stop any additional blood loss. Does it look as if he’s broken anything? Any bones?"

 

"I…I don’t think so."

 

"OK, now, I need you to try and put him in the recovery position. Do you know how to do that?” His mind was blank. Chad managed to form some vague negative response. The calm soothing voice on the end of the phone guided him, coaxing him through the steps.

 

"The ambulance will be there shortly. Try and find out what your friend has taken. It’ll help the Paramedics when they arrive. Stay by your friend; even if he can’t hear you, keep talking and comforting him.” Chad nodded as he gazed at Jared, tears streaming down his face. Chad reached out, stroking Jared’s hair, words sticking in his throat. Gazing at Jared, Chad found he couldn’t remember when Jared had last looked this peaceful, it almost looked as if he was sleeping…

 

“You’re gonna make it Jay, things will be OK, I promise. I’ll keep you safe, just please get through this, just stay with me…please”

 

“Hi! Anyone in?” Oh no, Sophia! What the hell was he doing here? Why couldn’t the little witch wait at home damn it?

 

“S-Sophia, I need you to go home, g-go home for a while OK?” Chad yelled his voice trembling. He couldn’t let Sophia see Jared like this, to see him like this, after everything else they’d been through, it would destroy her, it was destroying him.

 

"Chad where the hell are you? Get Jared down here, we need to get going. God I swear if you aren’t ready-” she called, beginning to climb the stairs.

 

“Sophia. GO home,” but it did no use. Sophia wasn’t easily swayed and was quickly bounding up the stairs, taking two at a time. She paused when she heard a sniff ... was Jared crying? Sophia immediately felt her chest tighten while a surge of hatred towards The Bastard flowed through her but was almost immediately replaced with an all consuming fear. Jared didn’t cry, at least not any more. What had happened to him?

 

Something was wrong, very wrong she could just feel it. It was coming from the bathroom - mumbled words she couldn’t hear properly.

 

She pushed the bathroom door opened and simultaneously dropped the glass she was holding, water spilling everywhere amoung the shattered glass. No one noticed. It wasn’t the shattering Chad heard; it was Sophia’s hoarse cry. Within a heartbeat, Sophia was by Jared’s side, hysterically shaking her friend.

 

“What the hell happened?!? Jared?? Jared wake up, please ... oh shit ... Jay ...” More shaking. “This isn’t funny Jared, wake up!! Come on, stop being an ass. Chad ... w-why won’t he wake up? Why are his lips blue? You can’t die Jared; you’re my best friend, you can’t die on me ... why ... why did you hurt yourself ... oh shit please…” Sophia begged as she slumped down, grabbing Jared’s cold hand. She shuddered at the coldness. Her eyes suddenly became hard as she looked at Jared’s bloodied wrist.

 

"The ambulance is on it’s way, just ... stay here.” Sophia stared at Jared for a moment, seemingly not believing. She shook his head. “Oh God Jared, what did you do? How could you? We we’re trying to help you…why couldn’t you have fought harder? We could’ve helped you! We fucking tried to…why did you keep pushing us away? WHY?!” she cried as she grabbed Jared’s still hand. It was too cold, too still.

 

That was all wrong; Jared was never cold, never still. This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be. Jared was too much of a fighter to quit now. They had all fought, they was nothing else to do. If Jay had just held on a little bit longer, they could’ve done something, got him away. They could have…could have…but would probably never get the chance. Jared was dying. And Sophia couldn’t stop it. She hated herself.

 

Turning to Chad, her eyes pleaded for answers that Chad couldn’t give. "He ... he ... an overdose," Chad whispered, indicating to the bottles around him. Trembling, Sophia picked up one of the bottles, trying to decipher exactly what Jared had taken. Several of the bottles had worn labels peeled off. How long had Jared kept these? Only one label appeared to be intact: ‘OxyContin’ she felt her stomach twist at the drug name. While Sophia didn’t pretend to be a connoisseur on drugs therapies, she knew that OxyContin was bad.

 

It was what Jared used when his muscels badly seized up after a tough day’s shoot. It tended to leave him semi-coherent whenever he took it. She wasn’t surprised Jared had it. Between his muscel problems and Ben, it was a wonder he didn’t end up living off the stuff. Perhaps he had been. Sophia shuddered, it was a sickening thought. She gazed at the label and almost snorted at the information displayed in large bold letters:

 

‘Warning: do not exceed recommended dose. Can cause severe side effects. Overdose can result in death.’

 

Well bravo, what do you know, they’d got something right. As her hand clasped around the bottle, she felt his anger rise. She wanted to shatter the bottle, destroy the object that was trying to claim her friend’s life. "You fucking planned this didn’t you?” yelled Sophia, looking at her fallen friend.

 

“You knew if the pills didn’t work you’d use the knife. How can you be so selfish? Why didn’t you come to us? Why didn’t you tell us?? Why did you hurt yourself ... don’t you care about your friends? Why, fucking WHY?!?” She was pushing Jared in a desperate attempt to deny the obvious. Part of Sophia’s shattered mind would not accept the scene before her.

 

“Sophia! Shut the fuck up,” growled Chad, one arm grabbing Sophia’s fists, while the other attempted to soothe an unconscious Jared. Sophia looked startled by Chad’s harsh language to her. Chad swallowed and gently realised Sophia’s hands which immediately went to gently cup the face of Jared. He hated to be so harsh with Sophia, but she was clearly bordering on hysteria. Large fat tears rolled down Sophia’s cheeks, the anger dissipating as quickly as it had come.

 

“S-sorry. I’m scared."

 

“So am I.”

 

***

Chad had slipped outside for another cigarette, and Sophia was getting a drink, leaving Jensen on his own with Jared. What could be better, or worse? When Jared had apparently woke up, he’d been in so much pain the doctors had given him a large amount of morphine. The numerous sedatives were keeping his ex lover unconscious, keeping the pain at bay. He wasn’t quite sure when Sophia had slipped out. He was too busy crying over his own stupidity, his own selfishness. He’d given up the best thing in his life and let him be broken, by his own boyfriend of all people – the very person who should love him unconditionally. But Jared had been betrayed. Twice. Both Jensen and Ben had betrayed him, both had hurt him, bruised him, just because Jensen had never raised his hand to Jared, didn’t mean he was any the less guilty of inflicting wounds on Jared as Ben.

 

Sophia’s words still made him cringe…Ben was responsible for why Jared was here, and so was he. To know he was the ultidude source of Ben’s abuse... was such a horrifying concept he couldn’t bare to think about it, because of Jared’s love for him…him that had got Jared hurt. To abuse someone whom you claimed to love was unthinkable, but to know he’d been the catalyst - that was unbearable. Unconsciously he took Jared’s hand, gently squeezing it. It was unbelievable that Jared still did…or had loved Jensen, after everything he had done to Jared, loved him enough to drive a wedge between him and Ben, enough for Ben to be jealous of an ex-boyfriend. Jealous? Ha, oh the irony. He cursed Ben’s existence on a daily basis, because Ben had the only thing…only person in the world Jensen wanted…needed, and he couldn’t handle it. To think that he was jealous of a lonley actor who spent his time unable to be with anyone beyond one nights stands, because he’d foolishly given up everything he believed in, in one fell swoop. How did things get so irrevocably fucked up?

 

He’d long since become accustomed to the quiet beeps and whirls of the machines, although it still agitated him that Jared’s life was dependant on machines. He was still largely unaware of the extent of Jared’s injuries and couldn’t work out if he was relived or angry about that. It was obvious there was more than Jared’s attempted suicide to contend with. Something had happened shortly before. The bruised eye alone would testify to that, as would the bruises along his neck and shoulders. What else had this monster done to Jay? How far had he gone?

 

Jensen knew little about abusive relationships, and only then it was for female abuse victims. While abuse was horrible, no matter what sex a person was, but help was there for the female victims. People could understand, sympathise, empathise with females, but men? What help was there for male abuse victims? It seemed a foreign concept, a man being abused, to be beaten and hurt. Men being hurt was funny. Especially gay men, they were just pansies weren’t they? After all, real Men were strong and they could protect themselves. That what society said, what they were taught to believe. No one could understand that a man could be frightened, that they could be hurt, abused. Men were the abusers, they hit, hurt people, didn’t feel anything, wouldn’t talk about emotions or feelings, because they didn’t have them, didn’t understand them. Who made all this bullshit up?

 

There was nothing funny about violence, people laughed when a man gets hit over the head by a rolling pin with his wife…but what happens when the wife really hurts him, when she burns him in a fit of rage, bites him hard enough to draw blood or stabs him and almost kills him, do people stop laughing then?

 

What happens when a gay man’s boyfriend punches him, kicks him, pushes him down stairs and breaks his ribs. People ignored it, the police had no idea how to handle it, they made jokes. Jensen had learnt, if there’s something people can’t deal with, they make jokes, that’s how they cope, how people survive. But he knew life should be more than just survival. No one deserved to ‘survive’ through life, certainly not Jared, he should be cherished throughout his entire life. He squeezed Jared’s hand. It didn’t matter anymore. Because when Jared recovered, not if, but when he recovered, he was going to take care of Jared, make up for all the years of abuse and neglect Jared had suffered, to make amends for every tear Jared had shed, whether because of himself or Ben. He’d make sure people knew about male abuse, stop it being a joke, he owed Jared that much. He’d also make sure Ben was never allowed anywhere near Jared again, because God as his witness, Jensen would kill him.

 

He wondered, would people still laugh seeing Jared like this? Somehow things didn’t look as funny when someone you loved was hooked up to a respirator. He refused to let anyone suffer as Jared had, Jay didn’t deserve this, but then who did? No one deserved abuse, no matter what choices they made. But for this to happen to Jared…his beautiful Jay, who was so loving, so open…it was wrong, evil to do what Ben had done. Lord knows how long Jared had been suffering in silence, it must be silence surely? How long could Chad and Sophia have known? Had they done anything, had they stood by and let Jared be hurt, pretend it wasn’t happening? No they would never do that, they loved Jared too much. But how had it happened then? They practically lived with Jared, it was impossible they hadn’t noticed, Sophia knew, and Chad wasn’t blind.

 

Why didn’t they do anything, done something - anything? Had Ben threatened them too? All of Jared’s friends and family had none of them noticed, weren’t there always signs in this sort of thing? Why hadn’t they got Jared away, Chad and Soph knew and they just let the abuse go on. Has Jeff known, Tom and Mike - they all loved Jared, visited him long after their relationship ended, they were his friends and had always looked out for him so why the fuck hadn’t they helped?!

 

Not once had anyone mentioned anything to him, not once! All the times he’d seen Jeff or Tom, they’d kept quiet, was it some strange taboo about abuse, or mentioning Jared’s name in his presence? If he had known, if someone had just told him, he would have…would have come immediately, surely they knew that…he would have…would have what? Beaten Ben to a bloody pulp, then handed him over to Jeff and Tom to play with and then finally Chad and Soph to crusify, Jared’s family would no doubt have joined in too. Had they any idea what had happened to Jared? Did they even know he was in hospital? Was that why no one had said anything, or was it simply Jared a better actor than anyone had ever given him credit for and fooled everyone?

 

Ben and Jared had been together six years, they were engaged for God sake, it had been all across the gossip magazines, why the hell would he plan to marry a man who beat him? He didn’t know when the abuse had started and wasn’t sure whether to ask Chad and Soph or not. What could they say that would make Jensen feel remotely better? Jensen couldn’t stand the thought that Jared had been abused - that his own boyfriend had hit him, hurt him. He didn’t want to think about the pain his love had had to endure because Jensen had left him. It was Ben’s jealousy of Jensen that had caused him to lash out at his lover. Pausing for a moment, he looked at Jared and gently ghosted his hand over Jared’s still face, lingering silently on the bruised areas. Not wanting to frighten Jared, even in his unconscious state, he quickly pulled back.

 

“You scared me so much Jay. I thought you were dead. I know that both Chad and Sophia were terrified. Chad found you ... he saved you, and Sophia ... they both sat with you. When I heard you’d tried to kill yourself, I couldn’t breathe, I wanted to die myself. I just wanted to know why. I think I do. Chad told me about Ben.” Here Jensen paused. It felt strange saying the abuser’s name. It was such a normal name. He knew two Ben’s and both were friends. There was nothing ‘evil’ about the name; it didn’t come with connotations like Jezebel or Lucifer. It was just an ordinary name.

 

Ben had appeared to be an ordinary guy to everyone. He didn’t sparkle like Jared, but then, no one could ever quite match Jared Padalecki. He was in a class of his own, and always would be. Ben had been well received by their mutaual friends. He was witty, charming, charismatic, kind…and he loved Jared. That was the impression he’d given people, it hadn’t made Jensen feel any better hearing Ben desribed in such glowing terms. A horrible feeling of guilt swamped him, he’d wanted Ben to be horrible, for people to hate him. A small, selfish part of him, that Jensen refused to acknowledge, didn’t want Jared to be happy in this new relationship, to be happy with someone that wasn’t him. He didn’t want people to tell him how good Ben was for Jared…but God he never wanted it to be this way…had never wanted Jared to be hurt. Had he wished this on Jared? Was it possible?

 

"I’m so sorry, please believe me. I never wanted this to happen, I swear. I ... I just wanted you to be happy, really I did. I thought…I guess, that if I left you’d have more of a chance, be with someone nearer your own age ... someone like Sandy. There was no censure when you were with Sandy. She was right for you, everyone loved you together, I don’t think you know how much the fans adored you two together. I didn’t want you to suffer any homophobia; I didn’t want to and I didn’t want you to go through that. More than anything I was sacred, scared of you, scared of my feelings. I couldn’t understand why things were so ... perfect. It was like I couldn’t accept it. When I was with Danneel, we fought so much. I cared for her, but she really annoyed me, but with you ... everything just fit perfectly. I was so scared I’d lose you, or that you’d grow bored ... or that the press... o-or the anti gay stuff would get to be too much. So I bailed. God, I’ve never forgiven myself for that. I know you probably don’t believe me, but I never stopped loving you. I hated Ben for being with you. I never imagined he’d hurt you ... please believe that. I swear if I ever see him I’ll tear him limb from limb. I know it won’t make things right - nothing can erase what he’s done - but I want to help you. I want to make you feel loved again.”

 

How much, or little, Sophia and Chad knew about Jared’s abuse was unknown, and he didn’t want to insult or upset his friends, plus he wasn’t sure if it was his place. He was just Jared’s ex after al. Ex lover, and ex friend, the one who broke Jared’s heart, he wasn’t anything really. He wasn’t sure how friendly Chad and Sophia were feeling towards him right now, which he guessed was more along the ‘despising’ route. Hell, he didn’t even know why Chad had phoned him in the first place, surely there were other friends he could’ve have rung first, that he could tolerate looking at for longer than five seconds, so why bother him? It wasn’t as if he could change anything now, they should have just left him to try and get on with his pathetic semblance of a life…stopping his trail of though Jensen mentally shook himself. God when did he become so selfish? Jensen was mortified with himself. One of the most important people in – or rather, out, of his life was potentially dying and all he could do was bitch that Chad had taken it upon himself to call Jensen. But the fact that Chad had phoned him had to say something, right? That he trusted Jensen enough around Jared, trusted him to offer help and comfort to his broken friend, was he the only one Chad had phoned? Did Chad trust him that much…or ... or perhaps Chad wanted it to truly sink in how much Jensen had damaged Jared, what the ultidude result of his cowardice was.

 

He wasn’t sure he wanted to know which one Chad thought but it still chilled him. He gazed at Jared; despite his injuries, or perhaps because of them, he was still beautiful, nothing could ever convince Jensen otherwise, these bruises, the scars, though mostly hidden by clothes and tubes, were a testament to the love Jared bore his friends, the lengths he would go to protect them, they reminded Jensen just how remarkable this man was, how worthy of love he was. His gazed raked over Jared

 

Most of the scars and bruises would fade, and the cuts would heal given time. There would be very little that would mar Jared’s physical perfection, or stand out as a visual testimony of the abuse and horrors Jared had suffered, at least to the common observer. But Jensen would know, as would Chad and Sophia. Jensen would never forget where these scars were, each precise location would be burned into his memory. A part of him longed to inflict the same injuries to Ben, in exactly the same places.

 

He pushed down the rising fury that threatened to engulf him. Now was not the time for foolish thoughts of retribution. Jared needed him now, needed to be reminded he wasn’t alone. Jensen desperately wanted to ring each of their friends, demanding…begging to know what they knew. Jeff must know something, he made a point of keeping in contact with both boys long after Supernatural ended, viewing both as surrogate sons, Chad and Sophia talked to him too, or even if they hadn’t he would’ve guessed. Jeff wouldn’t have judged Jared, he had to know something…or Tom, Jared had becoem good friends with him, or Mike, he was never far from Tom, he knew Jared spoke to him on the phone…or Milo knew…Chris, Steve…God help him, Sandy would do! Anyone who could tell him when this started… why…. he just wanted to know why…he wanted answers, felt he deserved them for seeing Jared like this.

 

If he had the nerve, he would ring them all at that moment, bring them to see Jared, to show his Jay he wasn’t alone…no… not his Jay. Not anymore, he’d made sure of that, Jared was Ben’s now, as good as branded property. Where did that thought come from? Jensen didn’t want to ponder too deeply, whenever his thought it always lead to disaster, thinking was what made him break up with Jared. Jensen had learnt that pondering was extremely dangerous. No, it wasn’t his place, but he desperately wanted Jared to know his friends were there for him. If they knew, no doubt their friends not to mention the Padalecki clan, would spare no time or expense to be by Jared’s side, to show their love and support, and their bond to their beloved Jared only strengthening their determination. Jensen, of all people, knew how easy it was to want to protect Jared, to shield him from harm. What a complete fuck-up he’d made of that.

 

Undoubtedly, Jared needed his friends - his…Fellowship and his family to aid his recovery, but Jensen didn’t know how to go about it. Was it even his place to do so? What rights did he have as an estranged ex-boyfriend? No doubt Jared, when he was awake, would despise Jensen if he told anyone about the abuse, he would probably hate him for knowing about it at all. It would be hard enough on Jared knowing that his ex-lover knew about it, let alone his other friends, who had, no doubt, last seen Jared as a vibrantly, lively perfect being, not the pain ridden, broken young man who was laying before him now.

 

He’d barely seen Chad since his arrival, the man being kept behind by doctors updating Jared’s condition. Sophia had only told him bits and pieces. Not enough to form a whole picture of what had happened. Jensen had no idea how long the abuse had been going on for, or indeed how much anyone knew about it. No one seemed very inclined to give Jensen at information at the moment, simply stating Jared’s condition was ‘critical but stable’ how that was possible, he wasn’t sure. He’d lost track of the hours he’d been here, gazing at his former lover. Time was easy to forget when looking at him. It didn’t stop his acute unease though, he’d given up looking at the clock, realising it wouldn’t do any good.

 

How long would Jared be like this? Would Jared drift into a comatosed vegetable state? No…the idea of that was too horrific…Jared wouldn’t give up, not without a fight. He was the strongest person Jensen knew and if Jared couldn’t fight this time, Jensen would fight for him, along with Chad and Sophia, they would fight until Jared was strong enough to fight for himself. Despite himself he glanced at the clock, the ticking seemed louder than the various machines. When was he going to wake up? When? He had to know Jared would wake up, that he was be alright, that Jensen could start making his amends.

 

Reaching out he tentatively ran a hand through Jared’s hair, some of the ends had dried blood on that the doctors had missed, Jensen winced. He was almost surprised when Jared didn’t stir.

 

Pushing away the tears forming in his eyes, he gently pushed Jared’s hair from his eyes, ran his thumb over the bruised eye, the recently stitched cut along his jaw line. How long would he be like this for? How serious were his injuries? Jensen knew the basics extent of his injuries, but what about the hidden ones? How hard had he hit his head on the floor? What would happen when he woke, would he suffer brain damage, loss his memory…how would Jared be when he woke? Would Jared blame himself, using the ‘twisted logic of the abused’ as Jensen had heard of it; believing he’d somehow deserved it, and had left Ben with no option? He caressed Jared’s hand, who seemed to whimper slightly. Although Jensen was sure it was the drug effects, he caressed Jared’s hand gently but firmly, and Jared seemed to relax again.

 

"Shhh, you’re OK Jared; you’re safe here, baby. No one’s going to hurt you sweetheart… no one, I swear. Ben’s gone and he’s never coming back, I promise. I want you to get better. I’ll help you ... whatever you need, I’ll make sure you get it, that’s a promise Jay. I’ll stay here, however long you want. I swear. Just…stay with us Jay, fight to live. Chad and Soph need you…I need you, I love you, please don’t go…please?"

 

The last few words came out in a chocked gasp and Jensen desperately tried to push down the sobs threatening to burst forth. As far as Jensen was concerned, the first time Ben hit Jared; he’d signed his death warrant. Now he’d dug his grave and Jensen was going to enjoy making sure he stayed there, because there was no way that he was ever, ever going to let Ben come anywhere near Jared again. No, he’d never let anyone hurt Jared again, not while there was a single breath in his body...never again. Acting, promtions, singing – those were all secondary jobs.

 

From now on, his only aim, his primary goal, was to look after Jared, and God help anyone who tried to stop him.

 

TBC - please review!!

Chapter Text


Author's notes: sorry for the long delays!


CHAPTER 4

 

Jensen looked up, a bit startled, as Chad, and a female doctor came in, it was almost a surprise to see Chad walk in. He didn’t really want to be reminded Chad and Sophia were here, he was too ashamed to face his former friend, to see the looks of judgement and anger on the once friendly faces, well from Sophia at least.

 

He mentally scolded himself. He wasn't the only person who was worried about Jared. His friends, the people who were always there for him, when he should have been, were also worried...no, terrified was more accurate.

 

Despite the death-glare Chad was directing at Jensen, it couldn't compare to the depths of self-loathing Jensen was feeling right now. It was almost hard to believe they’d been so close once long ago, he’d viewed her as a sister, family. The memories seemed so distant now, as if they were a long forgotten dream, or perhaps a wish. Sophia was half asleep in the chair which appeared to be moulded to his back. Every now and then she’d shake herself and give Jensen one of her special brand ‘evil glares’. She had a blanket round her that seemed to melt away the years as she curled up into it, all the while clutching Jared’s hand.

 

Glancing down to avoid her glare he caught sight of the tattoo. It was small – barely noticable, tucked away on the inside of her arm. It had been a stupid prank – a result of a drunken truth and dare.

He’d dared Sophia to get matching tattoos – of the Marshmellow man of all things - when they were all drunk and it had seemed a brilliant idea. He’d tried to persuade Jared to do the same, but Jared still had his brain attached and refused. The next morning two very hung over and irratable partners had glared at Chad and Jared when they only got knowing smirks when they’d moaned about their tattoos. While he and Jared had often joked about getting matching tattoos, Jensen had always balked at the idea of a needle near his skin, so God knows how plastered he must’ve been that evening…

It felt strange that Sophia had kept hers. Jensen had discreetly got his removed after he and Jared broke up, as if he was trying to wipe the whole section of his life from his memory. Looking back it seemed an almost callous action, and one to this day, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t have just left the tattoo. Why had he been so determined to banish any memory or connection to Jared?

That stupid, small tattoo had somehow bonded them in love and in spirit – although the idea of being ‘bonded’ with Chad gave Jensen the heebeejeebees – which he was sure was recripocated. How had he let things decay so much. How?

 

"Mr. Ackles?" The doctor moved towards him. Why was the doctor talking to him? Chad had handled all the medical info hadn’t he, why was there any need to tell him? Then taking a sideways glance at Chad, he saw the young man grasp Jared's hand and immediately berated himself for being selfish.

 

The poor man looked beyond exhausted, a look of mild terror had become a permanent fixture on the younger man’s face. Chad had already dealt with more than anyone should have to, and how much more was he supposed to take before he snapped?

 

"Uhh what? Huh? Um… oh, yes, I'm him, that's me. I mean, I'm Jensen ...uh Ackles, I mean... how can I help you, uh, doctor?"

Oh, very smooth, Ackles, very suave, very non pathetic. Really, not bad for an actor with years of practice.

Running his hand through his hair he wanted to hit himself but the doctor simply smiled kindly. Maybe she thought he was an escaped mental patient and was pitying him. She had a very kind face. Like the kind that used to be on medical dramas, when the stories weren’t just about which doctor was sleeping with which nurse behind their boss/wife/co-worker’s back.

 

He thought she looked rather similar that that FBI character, from the X-Files. Strange, Jared had always loved that show. Yeah a kind looking FBI doctor, that summed her up nicely, she even had the red hair. It was nice seeing a friendly face, she had a lovely smile...

 

"It's fine, I thought you’d like to know about Jared’s progress. I'm Dr. Alexandra Harris and yes, before you ask, that is my real name, and yes I’ve seen Buffy. It's been the bane of my life. Thank you very much Joss Whedon, damn evil genuis," she said with a smile. Jensen felt himself relax slightly.

Obviously she wasn't going to hold his little outburst against him.

"I've been speaking to Jared's friend, Mr. Murray, he and Ms Bush are listed as Jared's next of kin."

 

"Call me Chad, Mr Murray makes me old," Chad said, his voice almost wistful and far-away sounding. He hadn't moved from the chair or even looked up as he spoke the words, it was as if Chad was somewhere else. Considering his mental state at that moment, Jensen guessed it’s wouldn’t be an inaccurate assumption. "I don't think I can cope with any formalities at the moment."

 

"OK, uh, Chad. I don't know how much Mr. ... Chad has told you about Jared's condition. I've been put in charge of Jared's case, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to come to me."

 

"Thank you. I really appreciate this, I know you don’t have to tell me anything, and I…uh…just, thanks."

 

Dr. Harris waved off his thanks as she glanced at the clipboard, to Jared, and back again. She sighed. That was not a good sign, Jensen thought to himself. He’d seen that way too many times of medical dramas, and that was usually the point the realtive broke down in tears. God did his life have to be like a cliched soap opera?

Then she indicated for him to follow her. Chad didn’t even seem to notice them go, his focus solely on his unconscious friend. As they stepped outside she turned to Jensen, all humour gone from it, a look of over-whelming compassion and sadness. Jensen wasn’t sure if he could take this, could deal with anyone telling him exactly what Ben had done, how he had hurt Jared so badly that Jared was reduced to trying to kill himself to escape.

 

"I think it would be better if we spoke away from Chad and Sophia. They’re both very strong but I think they’re past breaking point. They’ve heard all they can take about Jared’s condition. Right now I think the only beneficial thing would be to leave them with Jared, and maybe they can get some sleep,” She shook her head as if she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“There are a few things I need to discuss with you, and I'm afraid they are very… personal. I think we'd be best in here, I’ve told the staff not to interupt us," she said, indicating a small room off of the main hallway.

 

"Please take a seat," she said, indicating a choice between a set of overstuffed chairs and uncomfortable, plastic ones. Jensen chose the overstuffed chairs, as he had a feeling this would take a while and didn't want to get butt cramp.

 

"As I'm sure you're probably aware now, we're having to deal with two separate issues with Jared. First, and the most immediate concern, is his attempted suicide. Although his condition is now more stable, his condition isn’t currently life-threatening, I cannot predict that he will fully recover from this, physically and more pointedly, emotionally. I can treat physical wounds, but I cannot heal a wounded mind. I can tell Jared has a lot of people who care very deeply for him. His two friends have been beside themselves since Jared was brought in, and I doubt you have been much better. Now, I don't know your relationship with Jared-"

 

"We were once...involved," he whispered, almost as if feeling ashamed, though why he didn't know. He was never ashamed of Jared being his lover; no, he was proud of that. Jared was worth being proud of. Perhaps it was shame that he had let Jared go, and thereby delivering him into Ben's hands.

 

"I see. I doubted you were Jared's current partner, especially in relation to his other injuries. I’m going to be blunt with you Mr. Ackles. It's obvious you still care very deeply about him, and from your friend's comments, it's obvious that the feeling was more than mutual. And although it’s not my business, this obviously goes some way in explaining a possible motive, as much as one is ever needed for these types of cases."

 

Jensen looked down and began to fidget with his hands. He couldn't look up and see Dr. Harris's face. He couldn't face the pity or anger he might see there. It would make things too real, bringing it back to the here and now, exactly what had happened.

 

"As I mentioned, there were two things. The other is his obvious abuse, , and I can categorically state this is abuse not consenual rough play. There is no way that Jared's wounds are self inflicted, apart from his wrist injury,"

 

"But people hurt themselves all the time. Jared was…is… constantly tripping over himself, I mean he’s got the longest legs I’ve ever seen, and sometimes, he just falls, you know? Is ... is it possible some of the injuries were, maybe, accidental, like, Jared banging into something?"

 

"If you're talking about `walking into a door', I'm sorry. I know this is difficult to hear, to know that someone you love had been hurt like this, but I assure you that the injuries were not accidental. Some of the injuries are recent and some are not. The timeframe alone would indicate abuse, as well as the general pattern and structure of the injuries. There is also something else I discovered, I haven't actually told Mr. Mur ... Chad, or Ms Bush this. I'm not sure they could have taken it. When Jared was brought in, we suspected abuse from his other injuries, so I ran some other…tests yesterday, and they came back positive.”

Here she took a breath and Jensen was practically clawing chucks out of the chair with worry. What tests?

“Jared was raped at some period before he attempted to commit suicide, and it does not appear to be an isolated incident. I’m sorry, but I thought you should know,"

 

Jensen slumped down in his chair and began shaking. This was too much. Was that why Jared tried to kill himself? Oh God, he couldn't even begin to imagine the torture Jared must have gone through. To be not only abused by someone who was supposed to love you unconditionally, but to be raped; to imagine Jared screaming in pain, his features twisted in agony while he was violated in one of the worst ways imaginable.

 

He felt the now familar rage well up in his gut, only this time he welcomed it. Someone was going to pay very dearly for hurting Jared, not only Ben, but this ... rapist, whoever he was, he would find them both, make them pay...both were going to suffer. He'd see every bruise, ever cut, every tear Jared had shed because of them repaid in spades. Whether he had help or he had to do it alone, something would be done. Jared would have retribution.

To be abused by someone you loved and then raped by someone else, it was too much. He felt he was beign torn apart just listening to it.

 

There would be no police involved in this, no prison. As far as Jensen was concerned, it was the end. At that moment, he forgot every pacifist sensibility he’d ever held; he craved violence, to see the bloodied faces of the men – no, monsters - that had caused Jared so much pain.

 

He wanted them to suffer the same pain, the agonies Jared had been put through, to know what Jared had gone through. But even through his haze of anger, he knew it was a fool's errand. It was unlikely he'd ever find the rapist ... rapists, was there more than one? The very word made him feel sick to his stomach.

Did Ben know about Jared’s rape, did he think Jared had been unfaithful? Is that why he started abusing Jared…and it wasn’t a one-off. Oh God. How many times had this happened? Why the fuck had he left? WHY??

 

"D-do you think his boyfriend…knew? I mean would that be a reason why he…he…” the words wouldn’t come out. What the hell was wrong with him.

 

“Was it a random attack, can you tell how long ago it was, could…we…can you catch them?” the questions were fired at the doctor without pause, the tone desperate and agitated, yet full of a desperate childlike hope, a pleading to right the wrongs of the world.

 

Dr Harris felt her heart break again. How do you break news like this, to tell someone they loved so dearly had been hurt in such a manner. Both Jared’s friends reactions had been stilted, they’d seemingly quietly accepted the details of the injuries. It was obvious they knew of the abuse, probably firsthand. Their faces were all too familiar, they were the faces of two young people who had been dragged through hell and beyond for their friend.

 

Mr Ackles had been an entirely different kettle of fish. He, apparently had not had contact with the three in several years and to have this sprung on him, without warning…her heart went out to the poor man. Regardless of what mistakes he’s made in his relationship with Jared, he did not deserve this. She’d seen the tears trickle down his face as he’d kept a nightly vigil over her unconscious patient.

 

"With all due respect Mr. Ackles, it's much more likely the rapist was his boyfriend.”

That floored him.

Ben did this?

How was that even possible? No, not even Ben would stoop to…to…

“Most people still assume a rapist is hiding in a bush or in a dark alley. The truth is, I’m afraid, they are more often someone we know, perhaps love. Boyfriends, husbands, cousins, friends...even ex partners, the list is endless. The most unlikely people, the very ones who should protect us. That's why they get away with it so often; no one would suspect or want to admit that someone they love could do such a terrible thing, people don’t want to admit that they’ve been raped, they see it as their fault, illogical to us but no one has ever accused our emotions as rational."

 

"But what makes you sure it's ... him? I mean, it could have been anyone. Surely ... is there any, um, evidence, I mean besides the, uh, obvious?" he asked, feeling sick as the words came out. Evidence…what would that consist of? He shuddered.

 

"That’s presenting more difficult, fluids – mostly blood and semen have been washed off, so we can’t use them, I'm not sure of the time frame exactly, but we have scar tissue samples from his rectum. I’m sorry, I know this is difficult for you,” she paused seeing Jensen’s face twist in horror. He was clearly having a hard time digesting it all.

“No Doc, sorry, Doctor Harris, I just…God. I need to hear what happened. All of it. If I’m gonna be there for Jared, I need to know what Jared went through,”

She nodded briefly “Alright then, and calling me Doc is fine, just for the record,” Jensen gave a flicker of a smile at that.

“The scar tissue from the last attack maybe happened a month or so ago, possibly less. Some go back longer than that, which is another reason I'd suspect the boyfriend. This wasn't a one-time deal, I'm afraid. The scar tissue is really just ... well ... healing over itself. We've sent some samples away for analysis. Obviously we can't do more just yet. As for identifying the rapist, considering this boyfriend's MO – from conversations I've had with Chad and Sophia, and the state of the injuries - I would strongly suggest he was the most likely suspect, and it is quite possible the attack was a springboard for Jared's attempted suicide."

 

"But ... why would Ben rape Jared? I don't understand. They were in a relationship, wouldn’t…sex be a natural part of it, so why would he force Jared? I don't understand. What would be the point?"

 

He couldn't wrap his mind around this. The idea that anyone would force themselves onto someone was a repulsive thought, but to do this to someone you supposidly loved, to someone like Jared, who loved so freely? Why would someone seek to destroy that, to demand…to force Jared when he gave it so easily to those he loved, especially if it was Ben? He'd had Jared's love, his body, his heart, what more did he want, why did he do it...how could he?

 

Why would he feel the sick need to force himself ... he couldn't even form the words in his brain. He’d raped Jared. He’d forced himself on Jared, made him partake in an act that should show him nothing but love and pleasure, and he had degraded it, he’d violated Jared’s body, his trust.

 

This had to be some sick dream his subconscious was making up. No one would do that to Jared, everyone loved him, it wasn’t possible to hurt him…it couldn’t be…his mind wouldn’t accept it.

 

"I'm not a psychologist, but from what I've seen, a major issue is control. If this Ben did rape Jared, and I'm 99.9% positive he did, it would be another way of controlling Jared. He can control Jared's body, his pleasure and pain. When we engage in sexual acts, we are, physically, at our most vulnerable. We are completely exposed, mentally and physically and when it involves those we love, we open ourselves emotionally. My guess is it would be an act of dominance, control – similar to the animal kingdom, staking a claim on a possession, forbidding others access. Again this is mere speculation. You would need to talk to a psychologist for that, and I would strongly advise you to, including Chad and Sophia. They've had to live through the abuse as well and it will have affected them too, abuse is just as trumatic for the witnesses as for the victim. I also suggest that if you can find him, try to get Ben to face up to what he's been doing. I'm aware he's the last person you want to see, but you have to think of Jared. You can remove Ben, but you can't remove the damage he's done, physically and emotionally, to Jared."

 

Here Dr. Harris paused, as if giving Jensen time to process this new information. Her gaze was sympathetic but unwavering. Jensen didn't meet her eyes. Find Ben? He didn't think he could do that, not without beating the man into a bloody pulp, and that wasn't taking into account what Chad and Sophia would do if they ever got their hands on him. While neither looked particularly intimidating - he'd quickly discovered appearances were deceiving. Sophia, in particular, could get vicious when upset, and a swift kick in the balls was enough to silence any guy. She also had a rather powerful punch, not that Jensen had first hand experience of it, thankfully.

 

He briefly recalled one night where they'd gone, against Jensen's better judgement and Mike's insistence, to a rather dingy club - a cross between a would-be BDSM and had-been Goth club, called 'Dereliqued' or some other ridicolus name. Jensen how Jared's eyes widened like an owl's, even Chad had been a tad apprehensive. Then Jensen had laughed when some slutty guy clad completely in PVC, had strutted over and blatantly come on to Jeff, rubbing himself against his friend and commenting on how he’d ‘loooved John Winchester’ and was did he fancy polishing his gun? Not the most subtle approach, he could almost feel the collective groan ripple round his friends.

 

Unsurprisingly, Jeff wasn't impressed, but had taken the man’s advances in his stride. If nothing else, little could ruffle Jeff.

Wincing as he he watched the man, Jensen privately thought their should be an age, and weight limit on PVC, lycra and such. Seeing a 30 + year old man who was on the decidedly heavy side with every bit of flesh sharply outlined, was not something which Jensen had ever felt the need to see, and judging from the other winces that people were giving, it was obvious Jensen wasn't along in his thoughts.

While Jeff’s face had been forced into that familiar painful ‘oh God someone help me’ smile on his face, as PVC guy continued to hound him, it seemed the fates were in a merciful mood, to Jeff at least, when the PVC suddenly noticed a younger blond man waiting at the bar, and all thoughts of “John Winchester” were immediately banished and the man tottered over to his next poor victim.

Unfortuntely it appeared, the attensions were not going to cease, with a smooth looking business-smary type, who at 6' 5'' and well muscelled, seemed to somehow tower even Jared, saddled up to him, who was waiting at the bar for drinks. The man, having balantently eyed him up and down, leaned in close to whisper something to his lover.

 

Suddenly, Jensen didn't find things as funny. Couldn’t anyone keep their hand off his boyfriend, did he need to slap a ‘hands off’ sticker on Jared’s forehead? Bloody pervert, he was well over twice Jared’s age, he should be ashamed of himself for lusting after someone so young as Jared. For some reason, Mike seemed to find Jensen’s muttered ranting rather amusing, quirking an eyebrow at Jensen’s disgust at the man’s age. Jared had politely brushed the smooth exercutive off and went to distribute the drinks and rescue Jeff, if need be, from another similar PVC pervert.

Amazingly Mr Armani who'd asked Jared to call him Rafe, kept coming up to Jared all evening and Jensen's patience was wearing thin, Rafe didn't seem to care that he was with Jensen, and destinctly overheard the bastard telling Jay to 'ditch the pretty boy and try it with a real man’. He couldn't blame Jared over all the attension but he internally cursed Mike for bringing them to this place.

 

No matter where they went people were always drawn to Jared, but in a place like this, it was really a no-brainer. Things had come to a head when Jared had been dancing, and very drunk Armani Rafe, suddenly slid in front of Jensen, grabbed Jared and kissed him quite forcefully, not giving Jared a chance to back away and gave him a good grope before releasing him. That had done it...Jensen saw red. Unfortunately, before he could do anything, Armani was sporting a bloody nose and look of disbelief, while an angry Sophia warning him to “stay the fuck away”.

 

Sophia had taken a rather shaken Jared back to the table although Jensen couldn’t work if it was a result of Armani or Sophia’s punch that shocked him, ignoring the stares from Mike and Jensen, and had carried on her conversation to Tom as if nothing had happened. Chad on the other hand, patting Sophia’s arm with a shit-eating smirk as if to say ‘that’s my girl!’ After that, Jensen had made a mental note to never piss Sophia Bush off, or grope Jared if he didn't want it, which was unlikely to happen, he hoped.

His mind was sharply brought back to the present and he mentally shook himself. Now was not the time for his mind to wander down memory lane.

 

"It will take a lot of time for Jared to recover, physically, mentally, emotionally. It isn't something that he'll recover from in a few weeks, or even months. It could take years, and even then it's likely he'll have flashbacks. During his recovery-"

 

"Wait a second ... you said recovery. You mean he's going to survive?" Jensen interrupted, not caring if he was being rude. He'd found himself wondering if Jared would recover, or even wake up from his unconscious state.

 

Dr. Harris sighed slightly. Such an innocent and harmless question, yet so agonisingly heartbreaking. Survive ... that's what abuse victims did; they survived. But did they ever truly recover? She couldn't say, but knew that it was better to be truthful. No matter how well intentioned, false hope never helped.

 

"He'll recover. A few more minutes and he wouldn't have been as lucky. He could have suffered severe brain trauma due to lack of oxygen, or worse… if Chad hadn’t come in when he did, Jared would be dead. While it was a cry for help, I think Jared was determined to kill himself, at least in that moment of time, his determination was clear. The very fact that he had a back up plan points to that conclusion. I'm not sure how to say this. I've already mentioned it to Chad and Sophia. Don't be surprised if Jared is angry, for being saved. He no doubt saw death as an escape, something to be embraced, and you, all of you took that away, so be prepared for anger...a lot of it. He might hate Chad for saving him, or you for coming so be prepared for that. He'll no doubt suffer severe nightmares, flashbacks, these could come at any time, the simplest things could trigger them, touches or just a specific word,”

She paused for a moment

“He may also have panic attacks, sleep walk, irrational outbursts of anger or frustration, suffer extreme melancholy, insomnia. He may become suicidal again or try to inflict self-harm or even go through hyperactivity. He may go through some or all of these; I can't specify which as everyone reacts differently. His body will be going into shock, rather like withdrawing from drugs. Don't be surprised when he flinches if you touch him. It is simply a survival method. Most likely he'll want to hide from everyone, especially his friends and family. The closer you are, the more he'll hide. Don't take it personally."

 

"Thanks for being so honest with me," he said, finally looking at her. Dr. Harris smiled slightly. She got up and turned to Jensen.

 

"I’m sorry you had to hear that. You can stay here if you want. I imagine you need some time to ... digest what I've told you. I know it's a lot to take in and a bit mind-boggling. Feel free to stay here a while. I'll see you're not disturbed. I am truly sorry this happened to Jared. He seems to be a very special man."

 

"He really is," Jensen whispered, gazing at the wall.

TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 5

 

 

The party had been winding down for some time now. Despite Jensen’s initial reservations, he was glad Jared had persuaded him to invite everyone round. Most had already left, while they still had some ability to safely drive home. Everyone seemed to have had a good time. Sophia was leaning against Chad, a rather drunken smile playing about her lips, while Chad stroked her hair.

 

It always facinated Jensen when Chad started to act like he actually cared for people. Jared thought it was cute when Chad and Soph did ‘couply things’ as he called it, but for Jensen the mental image of Chad doing anything couply – or cute - was enough to make Jensen want to scrub his brain with bleech. Tom and Mike had just taken off, as Tom was all but falling asleep on Mike’s shoulder. As usual there were stranglers, and Sophia, Chad Chris, Steve, and Jeff still lingered.

 

Jared was resting against Jensen's chest, clearly dozing off, while Jeff was quietly chatting with Jensen. Steve was leaning against Chris under the pretext of ‘manly companionship'. Jeff seemed to find this highly amusing and even more so when Chris gave him the`evil eye'. Jensen unconsciously ran his hands through Jared's hair, careful not to wake him. "You really love him," smiled Jeff. It wasn't a question.

 

"More than I thought possible," whispered Jensen as he placed a gentle kiss on Jared's forehead.

 

“Well, it’s about fucking time boys! God, you’re dumber than Chris at times!” Steve smirked

 

“Why, thank you, Mr Carlson. Glad to know we have your blessing, but shut the hell up. The Jay-bear’s tired," Jensen whispered. Jared smiled sleeply as Jensen bent down to press a tender kiss to his lips, stroking his cheek.

 

“Oh God, kill me now!” Chad moaned making gagging noises at the pair, which swiftly earned him a slap upside the head, curosty of Sophia, and despite her ‘happily drunk’ demeanor she still had a good aim.

 

Jeff grinned Steve; he did have a point. They did make a stunning couple, polar opposites that were perfectly aligned. Jeff wasn’t sure when he’d quite become such a sap but shrugged it off to the effect of the lovebirds. Where they went Disney birds swirled after them….Jeff shuddered at that thought. There was no doubt of Jared's love for Jensen; that had been rather obvious since the latter had arrived. True, it had begun as admiration, a touch of hero-worship, maybe even awe, but it quickly changed as Jared got to know Jensen, the man behind the actor, seeing him as flesh and blood rather than some mythical god-like figure. As soon as he’d seen Jensen as human, there had been no hope for Jared.

 

Bets had been placed among several members of the cast as to who would make the first move, Jeff still felt rather smug about winning that one... Jared was infatuated, hanging off Jensen’s every word and body part, while desperately trying to act like he wasn’t in love with his best friend, Jensen on the other hand had desperately tried to reign in any emotion to the point where Jeff thought he might burst. It had been an interesting first few months on set to say the least.

 

Indeed, Eric and Kim both had claimed it was the best romantic comedy they had ever seen. Luckily, Jensen didn't hear them.

 

Unfortuntely Sam Ferris *did* and had frightened the two grown men into behaving around the boys.

 

It amused him to no end now protective Sam could be with the boys, but then he was really no better. Jeff had quietly watched as Jensen had quickly become infatuated with Jared and his struggle to make his feelings go unnoticed, any attempts Jensen made to try to keep the realationship strictly platonic, had been futile. Jared's naturally affectionate nature had left only one outome for the love-struck couple. Jeff wasn't quite sure when they'd admitted their feelings, they'd tried to act normal at first, but Jeff was nothing if not observant. He remembered how nervous Jensen had looked when the two had hesitantly confessed their relationship to the cast, which to Jeff’s mind was pointless, because everyone on set adored those two boys, and rightly so. To Jeff’s way of thinking, if there were more people like Jared and Jensen, they’d have a hell of a lot less problems in the world.

 

He remembered how at first Jensen and Jared had attempted to disguise their new-found love, which proved a futile task. Anyone who’d been in love knew the looks. He remembered watching the little touches, smiles and jokes both on and off set before they came 'out' to the Fellowship and now that love was fully in the open, it was building up into a very beautiful love story and Jeff couldn't be happier for his friends. Jeff told Jensen that they reminded him of Romeo and Juliet.

 

"Gee thanks Jeff. All we need now is to be sworn enemies and kill ourselves, not to mention taking down half dozen others down with us in the process. How terribly romantic," Jensen dead-paned. Jeff chuckled slightly.

 

"Let me finish first kid,” Jeff replied, grinning at Jensen’s frown about being refered to as a kid. It always got a reaction out of the younger man. Sometimes Jensen could be too stoic for his own good, that was why Jared was so good for him.

 

“Aren’t you forgetting storyline before the deaths? That sort of love and passsion, it doesn’t come along often. What is that if not true love? To die for love is no small feat. I've seen you guys together; and I’ve never seen another couple as dedictaed to each other as you are, even when you were just friends. I have know you’d give up your lives for each other, or certainly go to extreme lengths to protect each other. That's a rare thing, very similar to a pair of star crossed lovers, if you get my drift. Don’t sneer at love stories, Jen, they all have something to teach us, sometimes it’s all we have."

 

"They didn't exactly have a happy ending Jeff," Jensen sighed slightly.

 

For some reason, he occasionally became terrified that he would lose Jared, in some way, maybe it was the sceptic in him, or that nagging worry about what would happen after Supernatural, but things were too good, too perfect. Surely happiness, or love like this, wasn't meant to last.

 

"Not every love story ends in tragedy, Jensen. Most of the great ones end in tragedy caused by forces outside their control. It was never their love that was the problem; it was other's interpretations of that love. Surely, you as an actor, can appreciate that?" He smiled gently. He knew their love story would have a happy ending. Jensen would make sure of that.

 

 

The long forgotten memory temporarily jarred Jensen An eternal love. Beautiful thought but sorry Jeff, that only exists in Hollywood movies. There would be no turning back the clock or possibly even second chances with this, if Jared couldn’t, or wouldn’t hang on.

 

Shaking his head, trying to rid himself of the clawing thoughts while taking a deep breath, Jensen walked into Jared's hospital room. Chad was still there, his eyelids drooping. He wasn't sure where Sophia was, probably having another cigarette. The way the kid was going, he'd end up with lung cancer by the age of thirty, which considering it was only two years away chilled him to the bone. He frowned at the morbid thought, suddenly craving a cigarette himself, just one, or several, to help him and take his mind of the grim reality. Jared had helped him give up cigarettes years ago after he himself had given up, but he'd always slip up in moments of weakness. He seemed to have a lot of those recently.

 

Besides, who was he to criticize Sophia? There was no way he could be dismissed as `a kid' any longer - not after what he'd gone through, what he'd seen and had to deal with. Maybe he'd gone home to get some badly needed sleep. He hoped so but had to admit it was unlikely. Sophia would undoubtedly stay until Jared woke up, or at least something changed ... either way. Jensen couldn't help but be amazed and awed by the friend's dedication. He wondered what the rest of the Fellowship would do when they heard the news. Jensen hadn't phoned anyone yet, and he knew he would put it off for as long as possible. How do you tell someone that his or her friend has been abused for several years now and subsequently tried to kill himself as a means of escape?

 

That wasn't even taking into account the whole Padalecki clan. They probably had no idea what was going on and that made Jensen feel really low. He knew he'd never forgive someone if they didn't tell him something was wrong with his family. God knows what Sherri and Gerry would say to him once they discovered their son had tried to kill himself. Although he got the impression relations had been strained between Jared and his family, he loved them all dearly and the love his parents and siblings had for Jared was painfully obvious, that love would be much needed in the coming months as they helped Jared overcome his demons.

 

They, more than anyone, had a right to know what had happened. But they'd also be the hardest to tell. Jensen didn't really know Jared’s family all that well. He’d met them several times at various events, but never for very long. He was knew Jared had told his family that they were ‘together’ but the few times he’d spoken to the various family members it never came it. Jensen still hadn’t been sure whether it was because it simply wasn’t an issue for them, or they found it awkward to talk about. He knew them as ‘Jared’s family’ rather than indivudals. He’d never really acted like Jared’s boyfriend in their presence. In fact he had no idea what they’d really thought of him at all. The first half of their relationship Jensen had been immersed in the newness and perfectness of their love, the second half, was spent with him fretting about the outside world and breaking up. He wondered how they’d feel about seeing the man who’d so ruthlessly broken Jared’s heart so badly.

 

How would it look for Jared's ex, who hadn’t been in contact with Jared for years, to suddenly ring up and inform them Jared had been trapped in an abusive relationship for four years and just tried to kill himself and because of said ex, his heart had been irreparably shattered? What a wonderful introduction. No, he didn't think he could face that. Not right now. Probably not ever, in truth. Yep, Jensen `the spineless coward’ Ackles, at your service. Walking over to Chad, Jensen nudged him gently, tying to rouse the younger man. He and Chad hadn't really had a proper conversation since he arrived, which was probably a good thing. He and Chad had never talked – not properly - in the entire time they’d known each other, which was sort of strange if he thought about it. Jensen swallowed his nerves. He was a grown man, for God sake, with a severely hurt ex-lover/ex best-friend and he had to clear the air with Chad ... and Sophia too. There couldn't be any unlying animosity between them, for everyone's sake. Chad and Sophia could still be angry with him - that he could deal with – but first he had to open up the lines of communication.

 

He shook Chad gently, not wanting to scare him. Chad moaned slightly, clearly not happy about being woken up, but after reluctantly cracking an eye open and seeing Jensen, Chad quickly found himself waking up fully. Neither said anything while Chad stretched, trying to work out all the kinks that had accumulated in his body from napping in a hospital chair.

 

"Where's Sophia?" Jensen asked at last, breaking the silence. Easy question to start off with.

 

"Hmm? Oh, fag time," Chad mumbled, and then found himself embarrassed by the connotations of the sentence. "Cigarette, I mean," he added hastily. For the first time in what seemed an age, Jensen felt a smile hover on his lips, but it soon faded. There wasn't really much to smile about. The reason was lying unconscious between them.

 

"I sent her out for some fresh air and to clear her head. What did the doc tell you?" Chad asked as he lifted himself out of the chair that seemed to have moulded to his shape. Jensen paused for a second, wondering if he should he mention what Dr. Harris had said. Could Chad handle it, but more to the point, could he? To tell Chad would be to admit those acts had taken place. While it was stored in his head, it somehow seemed less real, less frightening. The doc said she wasn't sure how much Chad could take and he had little doubt she was right.

 

The lack of sleep and sheer worry was evidently taking its toll on Chad, and Sophia. This would destroy them, of that he was certain. While Jensen internally debated the issue, Chad looked carefully at the older man. He was hiding something. Something had definitely happened in the doctor's room. Just how far had the doc gone with details? How much detail did they need?

 

Jensen felt like he’d aged considerably since he came out of that room, and now Chad was feeling bad. He felt sick from lack of food and sleep, sick from the worry and terror he'd been through, sick for himself, his friend and Jared. Maybe he shouldn't have been so harsh with Jensen.

 

Yes, it was Jensen who broke Jared's heart, but he couldn't control Ben's actions. He didn't know that Jared still loved him, and in all honesty, Jensen couldn't control that either. Jensen had been foolish, cowardly and to a degree, selfish, but he'd also had Jared's welfare genuinely in mind. He'd never hurt Jared when they were together. He never controlled Jared.

 

It was Ben who'd done all of that; Jensen was just a viable target for Chad to channel his anger. Ben wasn't here so Jensen had to take the brunt of Chad's rage, and he knew that was wrong. His anger was directed at the wrong person for the wrong reasons.

 

"Chad," Jensen began, and then paused, not quite sure how to continue.

 

It had been so long since they’d spoken. Chad was tired. He wanted to have

Jared back, awake and well, to use their stupid nicknames, have fun and forget that Ben ever existed. He still held anger towards Jensen, futile though it was, yet the anger had diminished over the years due to Ben, but now resurfaced upon seeing him again.

 

He so badly wanted to blame Jensen for Jared’s abuse. If Jared hadn’t still loved Jensen, this never would have happened. Of course, such thoughts were ludicrous and didn’t lead anywhere, but he needed someone to blame, and Ben wasn’t here. He had to have a target to vent his anger, or he felt he would explode. Slowly, Chad looked up at him. The older man looked lost as his gaze moved to Jared for a moment as if his reason for living had been destroyed, which in some ways, Chad reasoned, it had been.

 

"I ... I need to ask you something, and you have to be honest."

 

That immediately annoyed Chad. What right did Jense had to talk about honesty? The man had dedicated the last few years of his life living various lies.

 

"Oh, you want to talk about honesty? That’s rich coming from you! I'm not the one who lied to Jared, pretending the break up was for his own good, pretending I didn't want to see Jared, pretending that Jared couldn't cope with the outside world and some dumb homophobes! Well guess what Jensen, he coped! He came out and survived. Jared isn't a child Jensen. He hasn't been for a long time. He was still young when you guys were together, yes, but even then he wasn't a child. He was an adult. He knew his mind-"

 

"Look, I didn't come here to fight, I came because I was asked. By you. I was wrong, stupid, cruel ... call me whatever you want, I’ll agree with it. I deserve that. But I know I can’t change it, no matter how much I want to, and I wish to God I could. No amount of wishing will change that."

 

Chad growled sarcastically. He didn’t want to hear Jensen trying to justify leaving Jared. He’d heard the reasons before, and they were old. As far as he was concerned, there was no way Jensen could ever justify that, for ripping Jared's heart out. But he also knew that Jensen was trying. He wasn’t running away, Chad had to give him credit for that at least.

 

"I was scared, ok? Scared shitless. Jared was young and going to be a star. Everyone wanted him ... he was getting so many offers. I keeping thinking he might meet someone better, who wasn’t afraid to be seen with him, or I don't know ...I couldn’t bare to lose Jared like that. I didn't want to go through that, nor did I want the whole `gay bashing' thing if we came out, I didn’t want to deal with it, I didn’t want to face the petty mindedness some people can carry. It would have affected Jay and Henry, no matter what they said. It would have hurt them, Jared always looked for the good in people, I didn’t want him to loose that. I didn't want to be responsible for stopping his career before it took off. So yeah, I lied; I was cowardly because I couldn't see any other way to stop myself or Jay from being hurt," Jensen admitted quietly.

 

Chad didn't say anything, but nodded in acceptance. He knew that must have been hard for Jensen to say and he appreciated it.

 

"Look, I've been giving you a hard time, I'm aware of that. I'm angry with everyone, including myself. I know I shouldn’t blame you for Jared's abuse. You can't control how Ben thinks, or how Jared feels, and I accept that. I hate that you walked away from him; that you didn’t fight for what you had, I hate that you caused Jared so much hurt and made him feel unloved, I hate that you felt forced into doing that. I hate that I didn't stop things sooner ... that I didn't get Jared away.

 

“I'm his best friend; I promised I'd always look out for him, just like he’d look out for one of us. I'm angry with Jared for giving up, for not doing ... something ... to stop Ben. I want to rip Ben's heart out with my bare hands. I ... don't think I've ever truly hated anyone before, Jensen. But I hate Ben; not like I hate you, I really truly hate him. I know I could kill him right now, and never regret it for the rest of my life," Chad whispered, looking up at Jensen for a moment.

 

It was close to how Jensen was feeling. Undoubtedly, Chad and Sophia carried their own guilt, however unreasonable it was, for `failing' to protect their friend. His heart ached for the younger man before him. God how Jensen could relate to Chad’s feelings, the guilt and anger were swimming inside him. Chad was right, at that moment he too could murder and feel no remorse, but he choked the feelings down.

 

No matter how much he abhorred the man, how much he wished for his suffering, he could let these thoughts consume him. He couldn’t afford to loose focus here, Jared was the only thing that mattered right now and he had to keep reminding himself of it. "Chad ... what happened, with Ben. I have to know everything, please," Jensen whispered, looking imploringly at him. He had to know how much they knew, silently praying they already knew, that he wouldn’t have to tell them.

 

"Sophia noticed first, she tried talking to me about it, said she though Ben was being too rough with Jared, cause he had lots of hickies but I figured she was being over protective, told her guys are rough with each other, especially when it comes to sex, it was no big deal, she didn’t take that very well. I don't know when it started exactly, things just crept up. But I noticed things changed after the reunion party. It was slow, really slow, but Jay was withdrawn and tired a lot. I thought he was working too hard, just the usual stuff. No one, apart from Soph, seemed to think anything was wrong at that point. Ben wanted him to stop acting so much. I thought he was worried about Jared’s health, but then he started getting annoyed around Jay’s co-stars; he got jealous when Jay made friends with them. It was weird…he could handle the girls, Soph was OK even Sandy didn’t bother him too much. He didn’t like Jared around them but he tolerated it. I actually think he almost liked Soph at first at least, but it was really the guys, any guys. It used to drive Ben crazy whenever Jared even hugged someone. Jared was affectionate, yes, but he wasn’t a player or anything. Despite his age and free, loving personality, Jared had surprisingly strong views on monogamy.

 

He got really pissed off around Milo-the way they hugged each other and stuff. Along with Jeff and Eric, those were the three that really pissed Ben off because they’d all worked with Jay more than once…I think, or maybe he thought they fancied Jay or something, God knows what went through his head. At first it was just those three, but he started just hating all of Jay’s co-stars. First there was us guys, then Jeff, Tom, Mike, Milo... the list was just fucking endless… they all came under his firing line too - never mind that they’re all straight…well OK not all of them, but the point was they didn’t fancy Jared, but that didn’t matter to the bastard he really saw them as a threat," Chad snorted, shaking his head.

 

"When did Jared tell you? About the abuse?"

 

"...He didn't. I just ... knew something was wrong, I can't even remember when I realized it, I just remember seeing Jay in the bedroom one day. He had a massive black eye and was trying to cover it up. Then I noticed all the long sleeves, the sunglasses, the no-going-out.... It didn't take a genius to work it out once it slapped me in the face, so to speak. I couldn't believe it, that he'd kept it from us. God, I felt betrayed in some way, hurt that he wouldn't, or couldn't tell us – I was really hurt.”

 

Jensen opened his mouth to speak but Chad shook his head, silencing him.

 

“God, I was almost angry at Soph for seeing what I couldn’t. When I asked him, Jay wouldn't talk about it, pretended everything was fine ... a stunt accident or something like that. I believed him at first, he seemed OK. Then more bruises came, sometimes cuts, and these weren't just small bruises and scrapes, they were nasty fuckers. But he kept saying they were on-set accidents, tripping over things - his clumsiness, always his fault. Same excuses every time; it began to piss me off but I couldn't do anything. He wouldn't let me. When Sophia's filming wrapped, she called Jared and immediately knew something was wrong. It took her all of ten minutes to know what was going on, without Jared admitting anything," Chad paused, his gaze drifting back to Jared.

 

"I've never seen Soph so mad, not during the divorce, nothing. It scared me. I was really scared of her, and for her, scared of what she'd do. Christ, Soph wanted to kill Ben, I mean really kill him and she looked like she'd do it ... and not care. And that's what scared me. God the number of times I wanted to do that myself. I’d kill him now if I could, I swear I would and I wouldn’t feel bad...I tried to reason with her but Soph was just so angry...she didn't listen, said I wasn't Jared's friend if I stopped her. But Jared stopped her. He pleaded with her to stay, to not do anything. Jared ... he didn't want Ben hurt!" Chad bit out, his eyes clouding over. His mouth took on a bitter smirk and he looked up at Jared and then to Jensen.

 

He shouldn't be surprised. That was Jared; he never wanted anyone hurt, even the bastard that had hurt him so badly. Was that why he didn't fight back? "He ... he just wouldn't talk about it, clammed up or changed the subject. I just remember him looking so ... haunted, so lost. He was being destroyed and I couldn't stand that."

 

"It wasn't your fault, Chad. You couldn't make Jared leave, short of kidnapping him," Jensen said, his voice gentle and soothing. Chad shook his head vigorously.

 

"He did leave once," Chad sighed, as he looked at Jensen for a moment. "I practically forced him to. I was so scared that he'd end up dead," he admitted, as his mind drifted back to that day.

 

*** Begin flashback ***

 

Chad stood with his arms folded, a scowl marring his usually cheerful face. He hadn't smiled much recently. Jared didn't look at him, as he busied himself tidying the room. "You've got to leave. I can’t keep doing this I don’t want to pick up the pieces when this is all over. I can’t take it any more Jared" he said, a harsh note in his voice. Jared didn't look up or give any sign he'd heard, but Chad knew he had, he knew Jared listened, Ben had made sure Jared knew how important listening was.

 

He knew the bruises were there, no matter if Jared hid his face or not, he knew there were probably worse injuries hidden by the jumpers. Even the well-placed blots of concealer couldn’t hide the injuries because Chad always knew where to look, Jared couldn’t hide from him no matter how hard he tried. That's all Jared did nowadays ... hide. It was frustrating to say the least; all Chad wanted to do was help, but for every wall Chad managed to partially knock down, there was another barrier immediately springing up; another fake smile masking the all too obvious sadness and the pain. Nothing changed.

 

Sighing he tried again. "He did it again, didn't he." It wasn't a question and both knew the answer.

 

"Where was it? The jaw, a rib, your back? Did he kick you this time instead? Got to have variety haven’t we? I’d hate to think things got boring for Ben, but then it doesn't really matter does it? As long as he hits you, he's happy and you just fucking take it! You can’t even admit to me or Soph what’s happening. We know Jared, OK? WE KNOW – we’ve seen the bruises, cuts, whelts, the broken ribs, the fucking boot imprints...so stop acting like it’s nothing! Why do you keep hiding, keep pretending?? Why can't you accept what's happening? Fuck, Jared, he's abusing you, he has been for years! Why the fuck won't you leave?!"

 

"He doesn't mean to," Jared sighed, not looking up. "He gets so angry he just can't control himself. You don’t understand…" the voice was quiet, almost accepting of his treatment.

 

While part of Chad’s heart cried for his friend’s pain, he felt another swell of anger rise up. For a moment, Chad didn’t recognise the person in front of him. He was a stranger. This wasn’t his friend, not the Jared he knew. Jared had never given up, not when he broke his back or when Jensen left him, or even when he came out. He kept fighting. Why wouldn’t he fight now? What had changed?

 

"Oh, how sad, poor Ben. Forgive me if my heart's made of stone. He never means to, does he Jay? He never means to punch you in the gut, or slam your head against a wall. I'm sure it's an accident when he kicks you – oops, his foot slipped. He's a grown man; he should control himself," Chad said, his voice harsh and unforgiving. He had no sympathy for Ben. No one deserved to be hit, no matter what.

 

"I've seen what he does to you; don't you dare tell me it was a mistake, or that he loves you. If he loved you, he’d get counselling or stay away. Look at everything he does to you! He controls everything in your life, tells you who to talk to, how to dress, accuses you of sleeping with every man on God’s green earth, and then when he's bored, he kicks the crap out of you because something pisses him off. Well, I'm pissed off now, maybe I should take out my frustration on Ben, think he'd like that?"

 

"He doesn't...it's not like that" Jared could meet Chad's eyes when he spoke, but his shouldered shuddered as if he was about to cry. Chad fought every instinct to cradle his friend

 

"It's exactly like that. You're my friend and I’m not going to let this carry on. I want to keep you safe but I can't do anything if you don't admit what's going on, you have to let me help you. That’s all I want, just let me in" Chad pleaded his voice softening, looking at Jared, desperation clear in his eyes, he didn’t know how many more chances he’d get at this, he could feel Jared slipping away each time and he was terrified if he didn’t help Jared now, there wouldn’t be a next time... He was tidying the bedside table; no doubt that was something else Ben could punch him for. Not that he even needed an excuse these days.

 

Chad ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. This wasn't working; he needed a response, or some sign of recognition from Jared. He needed to see he was getting through. "How much longer is this gonna go on, huh? How often am I going to have this same conversation with you, why the hell won’t you TALK to me?? What will it take? Maybe a shattered skull, or a coma - would that change you’re mind? Oh I know, how about your funeral?" he growled, fury welling up inside him.

 

"Have any preferences on funeral arrangements – flowers, music? Because that's how this whole thing's going to end, Jared. You dead in a box. and Ben ... well, one day Ben could be lying gutted in a ditch somewhere, and I doubt anyone will mourn him. That’ll be it, you’ll be dead and we’ll all be there hating ourselves because you wouldn’t listen, and it’ll be too late, because one day he’ll step over the line Jared, and we won’t be here to stop him because you pushed us all away. I hate Ben, I hate him for what he’s done to you – what he’s still doing, but for the love of God Jared, stop pretending everything’s OK! It’s going to kill you. People love you Jay, we all care about you; just let us help you please ... please."

 

Jared stiffened for a moment and Chad was hopeful, maybe he'd managed to reach Jared, but after a pause he continued his tidying, albeit slower than before. This was impossible; nothing he said would make a difference. He'd become a zombie and that scared Chad more than anything.

 

Had Jared truly given up? Did he think he was that worthless, that he didn't deserve saving? If only he could get a spark of anger ... something, anything ... from Jared. Couldn't he see this was killing him, that Ben was killing him slowly? Jared would shake his head, try to smile, convince the world there was nothing wrong, but the press had picked up on something.

 

Gossip columns had talked of Jared, their own ‘golden boy’ being `over worked' which caused his `tired, drawn appearance'. One had even suggested Jared was bulimic, Chad had thrown the papers away in disgust.

 

"Jared ... I ... I'm worried. I don't want to lose you, I’m scared shitless…I…I can’t keep doing this Jared, it’s getting too much " Chad whispered, a note of desperation in his voice, seemingly not noticing the tears that were gathering in his eyes. How far were things going to go before they all cracked?

 

To his relief, Jared stopped his mechanical tidying. He slowly turned to Chad, tears in his eyes. God, he hated to see his friend so upset, but tears were good, even better than that smile. He didn't even try to smile at Chad as he slowly sat down on the bed. "I can't leave," he whispered.

 

"He needs me Chad. He’s sick, I’ve got to stay."

 

Yeah, no shit ... sick in the head, Chad thought to himself. Tears began to roll down Jared's cheeks and the bruised jaw was more prominent than ever. The cut above his eye would need some a good few stitches as well. Drawing his knees up to his chest, Jared finally allowed the tears to fall. He hated hurting his friends so much - that's why he didn't look up anymore, why he tried not to answer them. He didn't want to see the anger and sorrow in their faces, didn't want to know he was causing their worry.

 

He was so selfish; Ben was his boyfriend, his problem.

 

He should deal with it, not drag his friends into the sorry mess his life had become. They didn't need the worry or hassle. He hated himself for being so weak, so vulnerable. He tried not to cry anymore. It never did him any good. It wouldn't stop the pain he felt, or Ben's anger, in fact, it'd make matters worse. Ben hated it when he cried, it made him mad.

 

Chad immediately went onto the bed and gathered Jared in his arms as he began to gently rock him. Neither spoke for a while as Jared cried quietly, all the fear pouring out of him as Chad stroked Jared's head gently. He couldn't be angry with Jared, not really. How could he when Jared was suffering so much? Frustration was the word.

 

He didn't understand why Jared stayed; it couldn't be love, surely? There was no way this was love, not on Ben's part ... not proper love.

 

So why was Ben so terribly possessive? Even as he asked the question, he knew. It always came back to the same reason. Jensen. Ever since that reunion party, things had been tense between Ben and Jared.

 

Of course Jensen had been there, he was part of the cast, but Jared had kept his distance. Even Chad had noticed that. He didn't blame Jared; he didn't want to imagine how hard it must've been for Jared to be confronted with Jensen again. Ben had been like thunder after that and had taken Jared home early. Was that when he started hitting Jared? Chad felt sick. Someone had made a joke that Jared was definitely going to get lucky tonight; he hadn't seen Jensen's face, but Chad had been worried. By now Jared's sobs had stopped and he was simply curled up to Chad, barely moving.

 

"Jay? You've got to leave," Chad whispered, threading his figures through Jared's messy strands. It wasn't a romantic gesture, it was solely comfort. Despite their easy, affectionate manner, there was no romance in their relationship. Similar to Sophia and Jared, their relationship was a bond like a cross between friends, brothers and confidents. It would never be romantic or sexual love and people seemed to find that hard to believe. So did Ben, it seemed. He'd accused Jared of cheating on him with both Sophia and Chad. By this time though, Ben had already accused him of sleeping with several friends and co-stars including Tom, Jeff and especially Milo, who Ben had developed an intense dislike for. Apprantly having been on two separate shows with Milo suggested a sexual relationship. His constant staring at Milo and Jared’s interaction when he visited Jared on set hadn’t gone unnoticed by Jared.

 

He didn't like Milo's compliments of Jared, or them laughing together. He certainly didn't like them hugging. He also seemed to overlook the fact that Milo was happily engaged with a daughter. Fortunately, Milo had shrugged off Ben's behaviour, at least in public. Privately it quickly became clear to Jared that Milo loathed Ben. Neither Ben or Milo said anything but it had been obvious that the feeling was mutual from the way Milo had glared and hovered rather protectively over Jared each time Ben visited the set. He'd warned Chad and Sophia to keep an eye on him. Milo, it seemed, had met people like Ben before. But by then Jared had ceased to correct Ben over his supposed 'affairs', saying Ben wouldn't believe him anyway. It pained Chad to see Jared so beaten, in both senses of the word. He waited for a response, a sign that Jared had heard him.

 

"I know," he whispered, pulling back from Chad slightly.

 

That was unexpected, to say the least. Jared had never admitted his abuse, he never talked about it. Chad's heart soared. Would Jared let himself be helped? Jared looked up at Chad for a moment and beneath the tear stained, tired face he saw his friend, and Chad wanted to cry himself. It'd been so long since he'd seen any glimpse of his friend. He was beginning to think Jared would be forever lost.

 

"I ... I ... I'm scared, Chad. I want Ben to get better, he needs to. I just keep thinking, if he can get help then things will get better ...he ... he'll stop and realise what's going on." Jared paused for a moment.

 

"But it's not going to happen, I've tried so hard. I love him but ... he won't listen. He thinks I'm cheating on him again. I'm sick of pretending, of hiding, of fighting to keep things afloat. I just want it to stop. Everything hurts so much." Tears began to fill his eyes again, but he brushed them away.

 

"Just ... let me get you out of here Jared, please. We can figure everything else out later. But right now, we need to leave," Chad begged, getting off the bed. He wasn't sure when Ben would be back and he wanted Jared long gone before that happened. Jared nodded, not speaking. Without speaking, Jared took a bag from the wardrobe and quickly threw some clothes in it, not really paying much attention to what he was taking. It didn't matter anyway, who would care? Reaching up on the top of the wardrobe, suddenly he stopped. "What's wrong?" Chad asked. He really didn't want to hang around, and he was beginning to feel anxious and wouldn't relax until he had Jay far away from this place.

 

"Jensen" he whispered.

 

Chad stopped dead. Oh God. Not now, please. Not when he was so close. They had to get out of here. Chad had no idea when Ben would be back and the desire to get out was over-powering. Jared passed him a worn photo of himself and Jensen cuddled together, their faces beaming, love and happiness radiating from every pore. Chad felt his throat catch. Where had that come from? It must've been taken years ago, several creases making it look rather worn, the colour faded. Of course this is what had started the whole thing off ... Jensen.

 

Even now, Chad was amazed at how Jensen had gotten into Jared's heart and stayed there. There was a time when Chad would’ve understood that; the devotion a man like Jensen could inspire had been astonishing on the Rings set. Chad had loved Jensen then. He was someone to look up to. His love for Jared had been so obvious to him, it was a wonder he hadn’t jumped Jared on their first day together, and when it had finally happened, they had worked so well together. So why had the stupid man ruined it? He couldn’t fathom how Jensen could be so in love with Jared to only let him go, to force him away. He just couldn’t understand it.

 

Jay never talked about Jensen anymore because it `upset' Ben. Of course Ben never considered it was painful for Jared to talk about, no of course not, because Ben felt things mere mortals weren’t capable of. He had to be the most self-obsessed person Chad had ever met. It was strange, to many Ben appeared confident, out-going...he got on well with people, so where did the paranoia, the innate anger come from? It was sickening to think that Chad had actually once liked Ben, considered him ‘good’ for Jared, that he proved a nice contrast to Jensen.

 

He’d never seemed to hold the artistic insecurities that Jensen had, never gone to lengths to conceal their relationship. If anything Ben had sought to display Jared to the world. Chad had thought that was good at first. Everyone saw how Ben had made Jared open up again.

 

It was difficult to pinpoint when things had noticeably changed. Jared’s withdrawal had been so gradual, so carefully crafted by Ben they never noticed. People lost contact, conflicting schedules, photoshoots and globe trotting were all too easy. No wonder Ben had gained such control over Jared. Everyone knew Jared suffered from over-work. He’d push himself to the limits before he relaxed, so not seeing him for months at a time had not been unusual for the Fellowship. It was Sophia who noticed first, how Jared’s eyes began to dim, a slow silence creeping over him, how the clothes slowly changed, bright colours locked away, hiding himself in swathes of dark shapeless fabrics. Sophia had noticed all of this.

 

He knew how much it hurt Jared. He hadn't meant to cut them out of his life and even though he still kept in contact with them, it wasn't the same, and frankly it wasn't worth the grief Ben would give Jared afterwards. They'd all been concerned over Jared's appearance. He thought Jeff definitely suspected something; he was sharp and knew what to look for, but hadn't said anything except to tell Chad to take care of him. Jeff had asked Chad outright what was wrong, but he'd just shrugged; what could he say? Jared would only deny it. Of course, it didn't convince Jeff, but there wasn't much he could do. He briefly wondered if Jeff had told Jensen about Jared. He wasn't sure whose idea it had been or who started it, but Jensen and Jared didn't communicate anymore. Not since that party.

 

He was somewhat amazed that Ben had allowed Jared `access' to the outside world. This really pissed Chad off more than anything - the manic controlling. It was as if he viewed Jared as his possession, his toy to mould into whatever he saw fit, and he would be punished if Jared did not conform. He hated Jared’s acting, his clothes, and his co-stars. He hated his friends, and he absolutely loathed anyone remotely connected with Jensen, or more specifically, anyone who liked Jensen.

 

When he'd read an interview where Jensen mentioned Jared, he'd flown into such a rage that it had taken Jared two hours to calm him down and convince him that he wasn't have a secret affair or plotting to get back with Jensen. He marvelled that Ben could be so blind, Jensen didn’t want Jared. He’d made that painfully obvious and any sort of reunion between the two was out of the question, although that would be a million times more preferable than staying with Ben. ANYTHING would be preferable to this

 

His mind briefly turned to the media. How they were going to keep this secret was a worry; the last thing Jared needed was the sodding Paparazzi hounding him. Usually Jared managed to keep away when he had bruises, but on the rare occasions that the vultures did catch him out and about, he had pretended it had been a stunt gone wrong. It had worked at first, but some of the tabloids were already making speculations, some of which Chad didn't want to know about. No, scratch that. He didn't want to know about any of them.

 

As an actor, he was still as popular as ever, but Jared had grown to cherish his privacy. He didn't court publicity, despite what Ben thought. To have proof of his abuse splashed across the tabloids, or even worse, in England where his mum and sister could read it, would tear Jared apart. He'd figure something out with Sophia; do some recon or plan a diversion of some kind.

 

"That's what love's supposed to be, right?" Jared asked as he carried on packing, searching for various items.

 

"All smiles and hearts. What a lie," he muttered not looking up.

 

"Why does love hurt so much? I don't get it. Do I have a ‘hurt me’ sticker on my forehead?" he whispered, pausing slightly. Chad didn't respond. What could he say? Both Jensen and Ben had severely hurt Jared, although in very different ways. And Chad didn't understand either.

 

"I want you to stay with me or Soph for a bit. No arguments. I don't care which, OK? I just want you to be safe," Chad said, his voice strangely authoritative. Jared nodded as he grabbed his bag and took a last look in the mirror, cracking a wry smile.

 

"You think people will notice this?" he asked, motioning to his black eye before he looked back at Chad.

 

"Yep. Which is why we're out of here," Chad said, as he navigated Jared out the door to his car ... and to safety. Only then did Chad allow himself to breathe easily. "He'll know I've gone," Jared whispered, looking back at the house.

 

"Maybe he could beat himself up instead, would make a nice change," muttered Chad. After all, who else would Ben have to target his anger at if Jay wasn't available? Chad didn't know and frankly didn't care. For all he cared, Ben could destroy the whole bloody place, hopefully killing himself in the process. Jared was away from there and that was all that mattered. Right now their main focus was keeping Jared safe and as far away from Ben as possible.

 

"Look, none of this was your fault," Chad said forcefully, as they stopped at a traffic light. Jared didn't respond at first, he appeared lost in a world of his own. He hoped it was nicer than his current world, but then again, the black hole of Calcutta would have been a more pleasant environment. The room, the entire house, had taken on a sickening appearance to Chad.

 

Chad remembered that fanatasy movie, with all the elves, he remembered a blond duder had described the air of Mordor as poison, he finally understood what was meant by that. He felt a knot in his stomach whenever he entered the house. Feelings of disgust, sympathy and anger welling up uncontrollably when he thought about Jared’s imprisonment here. There was something about the way Ben branded things, Jared, the entire house seemed to permeate Ben’s possessiveness. It was a sickening thought. It almost reeked of it.

 

Things had come to a head when Sophia had tried to persuade Jared to visit Jeff, who was up for the week in between shooting. Being able to read between the lines, Jeff had known something was wrong, and his worry for his friend was palpable. It was only towards the end of the week that Jared had caved into Sophia’s begging and had agreed to meet up with him and Jeff. Obviously Ben had not approved as Jared had suddenly declined, pleading a stomach bug, a note of near fear in his voice.

 

Sophia had been more than a little pissed off at that, and against Jeff’s entreats had dragged him to see Jared and ‘shake some sense’ into him, although she’d winced at the choice of words.

 

Upon arriving, they discovered Jared, for once, alone, tear tracks visible down his face, several bruises on his too-thin wrists and one hell of a black eye that no amount of concealor would hide. His face was almost white, lip bleeding slightly from where Jared had bitten too hard. To see their once vibrant friend sitting on the floor, shaking and trying desperately to wipe his tears away had terrified the two men.

 

Jeff had been horrified at the state of his friend-all his worst fears confirmed and wrapping his desolate friend in his arms, pleaded with Jared to come back with them, which Jared had naturally declined, a look of over-whelming fear and misery on his face.

 

Sophia had finally lost patience and grabbed the phone to ring the police and forcibly remove Jared if necessary. Then things had taken an ugly turn. Jared had gotten mad, demanding Sophia to put down the phone, to the astonishment of both men, and warned Sophia if he wanted their friendship to remain, to stay the hell out of his relationships. Jeff, knowing better than to force Jared’s hand, had said his goodbyes to Jared and dragged the fuming Sophia away.

 

Before leaving, Jeff had warned, his face deadly serious, that unless something was done now, they would loose Jared, one way or another. That chilled Chad, and he decided drastic action had to be taken. Jeff offered to do whatever he could, hinting he was willing to forcbly remove Jared from his house and Ben but Chad knew unless Jared himself chose to leave he’d end up right back in Ben’s abusive arms, and he wouldn’t allow that. This time he wouldn’t take no for an answer, Jared was coming with him, willingly or not.

 

"Maybe it was ... maybe I didn't love him enough," Jared whispered, tears forming in his eyes again. Ben hated it when he cried. Ben hated him period; he told him often enough, but then Ben didn't leave him, he never abandoned him. He told Jared he was weak, and maybe he was.

 

He'd never be strong, not really, regardless what others thought. He thought he could be happy with Ben. Sure he had a temper, but no one was perfect, right? Maybe Ben did love him, after all. `You always hurt the one you love'. Yes, Ben hurt him, but perhaps with that hurt came love. Could it be possible?

 

"Bullshit!" Chad snarled.

 

"He's a sick bastard who gets off on controlling you! All you did was love him beyond the call of duty. He doesn't deserve you, especially not your fucking sympathy. For fuck's sake Jared, you did everything you could. Please tell me how you failed him, because I sure as hell can't!" he yelled.

 

Normally he didn't swear that much, but God damn it! How could Jay even think of blaming himself for this? And for sympathy, forget it! Chad would never forgive Ben for what he’d done, and he sure as hell wouldn’t forget either. If only he could get Jay to ring the police that would be something.

 

The bastard deserved to rot in the seven circles of hell for his crimes, but failing that a nice cold jail cell would satisfy Chad for now. Hell, maybe Ben would even be on the receiving end of his own treatment. After all, prisons didn’t exactly maintain a…sterling reputation, did they? Ben would make a great bitch for someone. He knew he should be ashamed of his thoughts, he had never wished a person harm, but right then, he didn’t care. If Ben had been in front of him, he could have shot the man with no remorse and that terrified him. He was glad Ben wasn’t here.

 

"Sorry Jay, I'm not mad at you, no one is. We'll sort this out, I promise. Soph is waiting for us. Think you can manage some pizza with two bickering ex’s?" he grinned. For the first time, Jared smiled. It might have been small and slightly uncertain, but it was there. As far as Chad was concerned, that right there was worthy of a celebration.

 

"Thanks Chad," he said as he bent down to tune the radio, a lingering sadness still hovering about him. So much went unsaid in those two words, both knew it was more than a simple thank you. Chad felt more encouraged.

 

They had a long way to go yet. It would take a long time for Jay to recover, but now they had a chance, a real one, to help Jay mend, and he'd be there for his friend every step of the way. Both he and Soph would.

 

"No worries Jay. That's what friends are for," Chad smiled. Jared laughed and Chad felt himself chuckle as well.

 

 

"So why ..." began Jensen, gazing at Jared's battered form. Chad shook his head. Jensen really didn't understand.

 

"Ben forced him back," Chad sighed. "He knew Jared wouldn't go back willingly. He still had enough self-respect not to do that. Besides, he knew me or Soph would kill him if came anywhere near our house. So he used a little ... leverage, to persuade Jared to stay. Us." At that, Jensen's brow knitted in confusion.

 

"Hang on. Ben abuses Jared, so he leaves-"

 

"Not quite. He wouldn't leave at first, he wanted to get Ben help," Chad snorted, disgust clear in his voice. How Jared thought that someone like Ben could ever be helped was beyond him.

 

"You have no idea how long it took me and Soph to get Jared to just agree to leave. Every time I saw Jay, he had more bruises or cuts always trying to hide them, and every time he refused to leave. I took him to Sophia's and told Soph not to leave Jay on his own, no matter what. I wanted to call the police but Jared refused. He was too embarrassed, said no one would believe him, and since there was no restraining order, there was nothing to stop Ben from coming round here, which he did." Jensen said nothing but he felt his blood boiling, remembering Dr. Harris's words before. He definitely did not like the way this was going.

 

"He knew that Jay would be round at one of our places. He ... he thought Jared was sleeping with us," Chad laughed caustically. It was a hollow laugh, with no humour, no warmth. It chilled Jensen.

 

"I was so stupid. I should've taken Jared somewhere else, anywhere else. You'd think I'd realise it would be the first place he'd come, but at the time I just wanted to get Jared away. I didn't think." Chad sounded angry with himself. Something that Jensen found he could identify with over the last few hours.

 

"Look, you were just trying to help, don't beat yourself up over it," Jensen sighed, and then cringed at his choice of words. Considering he was a man, there were times that he could be so dumb when it came to using them.

 

"I mean, you did what you thought was best at the time. End of story. You got Jared away from Ben, which sounds like a Herculean task in itself. You were there for Jared, don't forget that. You can't take into account everyone's actions and thoughts. There's always going to be unforeseen circumstances-"

 

"But I should've seen that one coming! It was so obvious."

 

"Most things are, in hindsight," Jensen said gently. "God, the amount of stuff I'd change if I had the chance. At least you had Jared's well-being at heart; you took the only viable option. I doubt Jared had anywhere else to go at that time."

 

"He said he was going to go back to England. He really meant it, I think. I really thought things would get better. Ben couldn't follow him to England, but he didn't need to. He used his best weapon against Jared, his love. He threatened Sophia, me, anyone he could think of. His idea was that Jared would do anything to keep us safe-"

 

"Even go back to him," Jensen finished.

 

Shaking his head, he clenched his fist, resisting the urge to punch the wall. "And guess what? It worked. Jared went back to Ben and the beatings started again. He refused to leave again - didn't want us getting hurt." There was silence between the two men. Jensen's mind began to reel. How long had Ben kept this enforced relationship with Jared? Chad went to sit down by Jared.

 

"Fuck! He stayed with Ben because of me! Me and Sophia, we were supposed to protect him ... he's our friend. I should've known something like this would happen. He was dead already. I suppose he thought killing his body wouldn't make a difference, since he'd already died inside. Perhaps it was an act of rebellion against Ben?" he asked looking up at Jensen, his eyes pleading.

 

"Maybe it was Jared's way of fighting Ben," Jensen offered as he moved over to Chad, pausing for a moment. He wanted to offer Chad comfort but he wasn't sure how, or even if it would be welcome. He settled for putting a hand on Chad's shoulder. It wasn't shrugged off. For a long while the only sounds in the room were the quiet beeps and whirls of the breathing equipment.

 

"I called you because I know Jared needs you. He still loves you Jensen, and you love him. He needs you to recover." The admission was greeted with silence at first, as Jensen processed the words and the truth that surrounded them.

 

"I'll stay here, as long as Jared needs me. I ... I'm here if either of you need me," he added, slightly more quiet. He doubted Chad would be willing to accept his offer. He felt he had used up all his credit in Chad's eyes and was only putting up with him for Jared's sake.

 

"Thank you," Chad said quietly, which surprised Jensen, but he said nothing at the moment. There was much either of them could say.

 

"Thank you for coming, for just being here. I know how much it hurts you. I've been really harsh with you and I'm sorry. You don't deserve that, you didn't put Jared here. I'm just so scared. Scared that even if Jared wakes up we'll still have lost him," Chad admitted. "What if he's never the same again?"

 

"He can't be the same, Chad. Not after this, nor can we. Everything's changed. We just have to be there for Jared, let him know we still love him, no matter what." There was a pause for a moment.

 

"I can do that," Chad declared.

 

"Things will get better, Chad. I'm not leaving, not now. I've run away too many times."

 

"Time to seize your destiny, Mr Winchester?" Chad grinned. Jensen smiled at that.

 

"Something like that," he answered honestly. He'd ask Chad about the injuries later.

 

"I…I'm glad you're here Jensen. We both are," Chad sighed quietly. He knew how much the events had taken their toll on Sophia and Chad was physically and emotionally drained. He needed someone else to help, someone he could confine his fears in. He needed reassurance that Jared was going to be alright, even if it was a lie. For the first time since Jensen had arrived, he was truly glad of his company.

 

"Hey, Jens?" Chad asked, realizing it'd been the first time since his arrival that he'd used Jensen's Jared-inspired nickname. It felt good. Jensen smiled slightly. Jared had always called him that, knowing how much it irritated him but a flash of that charming smile had melted that... Jared had been able to get away with a lot with that smile...Chad grinned back, for a brief second everything was right.

 

"Think you can get Jeff and Chris to help us dismember Ben, maybe drag him behind Chris’s truck?" Us? Was Chad including Jensen in that? The grim smile on Chad's face confirmed it.

 

"That, you can count on," Jensen said, and he meant every word. And from the look on Chad's face, so did he.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 6

 

 

Jared looked around. He should be happy; he was surrounded by his fantastic friends and his wonderful boyfriend, he should be having a great time. He wasn't. The party was amazing, there was no denying that and it was great to meet all his old friends again, so what was wrong? A six letter word was what was wrong.

 

J-e-n-s-e-n.

 

He hadn’t see Him, but Jared knew he’d turn up. Jared couldn't ask them to turn Jensen away; that was unfair to everyone. Jensen wanted to see his friends, there was no reason for them to even see each other, right? Right, he could do this, Ben was here beside him, everything would be fine. He was an actor for God sake, if something happened; act normal. Be cool, calm, collected, like Jensen.

 

NO! Not Jensen! He couldn't…wouldn’t go there. He'd pushed Jensen to the back of his mind for so long now, why did it have to pop up like that? He had Ben now. Ben loved him and he loved Ben, so why couldn’t he forget? He prayed Jensen would stay away. As long as he maintained a distance, things should be alright.

 

He glanced at Ben who seemed slightly on edge. He'd met various friends obviously, but this was a CW party, anyone and everyone involved in their shows would be there, many whom Jared knew, Ben on the other hand knew no one really, unless it was through Jared. In a way it surprised Jared that he didn’t know anyone here, but then working for Vanity Fair, he supposed, CW actors weren’t usually in their radius. Also, parties were not Ben’s strong suit. He was simple a more private person, it was the one thing he had in common with Jensen.

 

Despite his ease and confidence professionally, crowds like this, they jarred him, even low-key ones like this. It was somewhat of a mystery to Jared how Ben could be comfortable in a crowded pub or club, but a party among a close-knit group made him uneasy. Pushing unasked questions to the back of his mind, Jared smiled at him as he moved closer to Ben, threading his fingers with Ben’s. He eyed the place as he wrapped an arm securly round Jared. Not bad, well, as far as these acting bashes went. Wasn't into them himself, never had been. Too many egos. He’d met so many of them on various films sets while interviewing them that he’d begun to feel that they were an entirely different breed, until he met Jared, anyway. Jared had been so different, even as the centeral star of a runaway hit show. He remembered the first time he’d met Jared. He’d been set to profile Jared, part of a publicity package for all the attension Hourglass was getting. Ben had been early and secrectly watched Jared on set, wanting to see how Jared really was, if he Sophiaed up to his gushing co-stars hype.

 

Beneath the easy and friendly exterior, Ben sensed he’d been almost shy about his fame, genuinely surprised and humbled by all the praise that was being heaped on him. He’d watched going out of his way to help the crew whenever he could, joking around with them in a way that was refreshing. Ben had found it endearing, not to mention rather unusual. In the film business, the ‘crew’ didn’t figure much in movie stars brains. In Ben’s experience they couldn’t think beyond their next pay-check or eye lift. Ben hated them. He didn't have time, or inclination to sugar-coat things for spoilt celebrities with their heads so far up their arses clinical extraction was needed. So far, he'd been pleasantly surprised. They all knew each other, laughing and messing around like a extended family. Definitely not typical Hollywood behaviour, it made a nice change. He glanced round the room, trying to spot any familiar faces.

 

He already knew Chad the Midget-man, as he’d taken to nicknaming him, not that he shared that nickname, and Sophia, obviously. He didn’t mind Sophia as much, but what he was doing married to that revolting blond ferret was beyond him. Although it did worry him just how much time Jared spent with the married couple. Didn’t they want to spend time togetehr, without Jared? It sometimes made him wonder just how….real that marriage was. He knew he shouldn’t think that way, but he just couldn’t stop wondering if they'd been more than friends with Jared in the past. Not just Sophia and Chad, but also the others…Jeff, Welling, the bald dude…they were all so damn touchy-feely, what kind of friends constantly groped each other? He still wasn’t exactly sure what Welling and Baldy’s relationship was, the way they hung off each other and were seemingly glued at the hip, but it still didn’t stop them smothering Jared whenever they saw him. He’d tentatively asked Jared once if any of them had been invovled with Jared, who'd laughed and insisted nothing had gone on and so he'd left it alone, but he still wondered.

 

Then there was Jared and Chad’s former co-star Milo, who he'd met a couple of times he seemed to share a disconcerting telepathic link with Chad and Jared, a rather warped sense of humour, which usually involved him slapping Jared on the shoulders, back or lower. Once it landed on Jared’s ass which made Chad snigger like a hyena. Ben hadn’t been impressed but not said anything, after all these were Jared’s old friends. He could trust them around Jared. He had to. Ass-slapping withstanding Milo seemed pretty down to earth, Sophia he had no problem with and quite liked her but Chad…they just rubbed each other the wrong way.

 

Of all the 'CW gang' as he’s come to dub them, Jeff was the one who bothered Ben least, guy-wise anyway, seemingly happily settled with his finacee, and at his advanged age, he doubted Jared would look twice at the man. He tended to refrain from groping Jared, keeping mainly to backslaps and shoulder squeezing, besides he got the overall impression, that Jeff viewed the young man as a son rather than anything sexual which releaved him. The man knew to keep his hands away from other people's partners, while the others seemed incapable of understanding that.

 

Sophia was a puzzle to him. She was beautiful, inteligent with a fantastic sense of humour and genuinely kind. Ben found himself idly wondering what being with a woman would be like. She looked so soft and inviting…had Jared ever been with her? Probably. After all, he'd been with that Sandy girl before Ackles, so he definitely liked girls. Ben had never been bothered with girls but she was different. Her voice so light and soft, her laugh infectious. In some ways she reminded him of Jared. They could have almost been siblings, not just from their similar appearances but the way they interacted, the little in-jokes and gestures it was like some form of ESP, Chad shared this and it unnerved Ben, since when did telepathy evolve between friends? They seemed alright as people, but he didn't like the way they touched Jared; it was as if they wanted Jared for themselves. That wasn't good, Jared was his boyfriend. His. He was the only one allowed to touch and kiss Jared like that.

 

A glow of pride ran through Ben, as he thought of Jared. He could never understand Ackles’s reluctance to openly display his relationship with Jared. Ben was proud to have Jared by his side, to show their love for the world, to hell with what anyone else thought. Who wouldn’t be proud? Jared was impossibly gorgeous, some could argue sin made flesh, but he was also off the market. People should learn to keep their distance. He didn't want Jared getting any ideas; he wouldn't tolerate infidelity. It all started out innocently enough, kisses, hugs and before you know it, you were in bed together and everything spiraled out of control. No, that wasn't going to happen this time. People beautiful as Jared were rarely faithful. They were used to being indulged, their every whim catered for and when the excitement wore off, would be looking for the next ‘fix’ of adoration, leaving a trail of broken hearts in their wake, when temptation was practically thrown in their path at every opportunity, who wouldn’t grab it?

 

He prayed Jared wouldn't do that. He didn't want to lose Jared. Not only was he beyond amazing in bed, but he was truly the best person Ben had ever known. That kindness, the excitement and passion for love was all real. Jared’s love knew no bounds, his compassion extending to everyone. There was something innocent about him, and the truly strange thing was that he was unaware of it, of his own magnificence, and that in itself was as appealing as Jared himself. If he was a poet, which he most definitely wasn’t, he might compare Jared to a beacon of light, but this was rather maudlin and Ben wasn't one for fancy words, he’d always believed actions spoke louder than words. Jared simply wasn't like anyone he'd ever met, and now that he had Jared, he didn't ever want to let him go. He sometimes found himself wondering exactly what had goen down on the Supernatural set. Obviously Jared had got together with Ackles, but was that it? The crew had been amazingly tight-knit for a show, and all those pranks between them. He’s even heard the story of the pink hot pants, and he remembered a prank Jeff had told Ben involving a neon dildo. He didn't even want to begin to think about all the kinky things that must've gone on during that show. It was the Mege with his current show, Hourglass, how Jared immediately attracted attension and admiration from all sides, and many of Jared’s co stars were highly attractive. He’s been with Milo in two shows, been with Chad in a show and movie…it seemed eveeryone constanty wanted to work with Jared

 

He was sure that there was more than ‘really good friends’ to Jared’s friendship with Milo, which Jared had freverantly denied, telling Ben how happily engaged Milo was. Ben didn’t point out the number of men he knew who happily shagged other men while being “happily married/engaged/dating” themselves. Jared was so naïve in many ways. Clearly the perfect Mr Ackles hadn’t taught him everything, and while that was a relief, it was something Ben needed to rectify. No, Jared would have to keep his distance from now on. Not tempt anyone, but then Jay (God he hated that nickname) Jared, rather, could seduce a monk, nun and a saint all in one evening. Without trying. The guy was walking sex; just looking at him gave Ben chills, strictly the good kind. Jared would have to be very careful that he didn't encourage anyone. Ben didn't want to set ground rules, but he could see something would have to be done. Jared was his and as long as he remembered that, things would be fine.

 

"Jay!! Ben! Over here!" yelled Milo as he waved frantically trying to catch his attention. Jared grinned at his friend. Taking Ben's hand, he helped navigate through the sea of bodies until he finally reached everyone. Without pausing Chad threw himself forward and hugged Jared enthusiastically before handing him a drink. Everyone in the group greeted Jared and Ben, in turn; Jeff soundly thumping Jared on the back, after giving him a bear hug and Mike pressing a kiss to Jay’s check, squeezing his shoulder. Tom gave an enthusiastic hug.

 

All the guys were soon laughing, Ben easily sliding into the group, but Sophia held back slighly. While she was polite and friendly, smiling at all the right places, Chad knew her, and he knew she was wary of Ben. Ironic really considered she’d introduced the pair. He mentally shook his head. He loved his wife, but Sophia could be the most stuborn person on earth. When she got an idea in her head, she just wouldn’t let it go. At first she’d really liked Ben, considered him good for Jared but things had changed a couple of weeks ago when she’s found Jared sporting some massive hickies that Jared had gone to some length to hide. Soph had worried about Ben being too rough. Chad had snorted and pointed out Jared was a guy and sometimes guys actually enjoyed rough sex. That hadn’t gone down too well. He’d been on the sofa for several nights after that comment. Sophia had let it go, but still got a wary look in her eyes around Ben whenever he came over with Jared. While Chad couldn't deny that at times Ben appeared intimidating, he wasn't going to bite Soph's head off, an odd hickey here and there didn’t mean anything. Besides, Jared had been with Ben for over a year, if Ben had been a bad guy they would’ve known about it by now and Jay would’ve tossed the guy out on his ass. His mind drifted back to the conversation as they all happily nattered with Ben about their latest projects. Jared seemed decidedly quiet as Chad babbled on about nothing to him, his thoughts obviously somewhere else.

 

"Is this a private club or can anyone join?" came a smooth voice from behind them. Chad stopped rabbiting for a moment, Jared had long lost the thread of the conversation, and turned to find Jeff grinning at them. Milo and Jeff stopped talking as they greeted him warmly. Jeff gave Jared a brotherly squeeze before turning to Ben, his eyes clouding in slight confusion. Of course, Jeff had never met Ben. Introductions…Jared hated doing them. There was a part of him that always worried people would hate Ben, or would disagree with Jared for moving on. As far as he was aware, Jensen hadn’t been with anyone since the break-up, no one serious anyway, but that was hardly his problem was it? Mentally shaking himself he pushed away his thoughts, and stepped forward to make the necessary introductions.

 

"Jeff, this is Ben Lawernce, my boyfriend. Ben, Jeff Morgan. Jeff played our fabulous Papa Winchester, who was so loved, he couldn’t leave the show even when he was killed!" he grinned, slinging an arm around Jeff. Jeff's warm smile immediately eased Jared's worries, he should’ve known Jeff wouldn’t judge him; it wasn’t in the man’s nature. He knew Jeff was still in contact with Jensen.

 

"So this is the illustrious Ben. Nice to meet you. Jared’s have been going on about you forever. Shame we couldn't meet sooner, but you know the fame game - never gives you a minute’s peace." Jeff sighed slightly. Ben merely smiled.

 

"I can imagine, Jared never stops working, I don't know how you all do it. Personally I don't get the whole globetrotting thing, seems like a pain in the arse, I prefer too keep my feet on the ground," Ben shrugged

 

"He’s a complete liar Jeff. He's a big fan of the mile high club," Jared grinned wolfishly at Ben, before planting a kiss on his cheek. Chad and Mike both let out a snort of laughter, while Milo and Tom struggled to conceal their sniggers, Jeff himself merely raised an eyebrow, while Soph shook her head. Ben said nothing, but smiled and pulled Jared closer to him, letting his lips brush Jared's. Looking at the two, Jeff felt a smile spread across his face, it was such a relief to see Jay smile again, a real one. He'd forgotten how devastating that smile was, Jeff was sure it had been responsible for a few heart-failures.

 

He wasn’t really into guys, but as with most things, Jared was an exception to the rule. God he’d missed that smile, it was as if someone lit a beacon in Jared and light radiated from it, horribly corny but it didn’t make it any less true. It was too long since Jay had smiled or laughed, and Jeff was more than a little releaved that his favourite psychic boy was clearly on the mend.

 

Sure, Ben wasn't Jensen, but that was good. There was no tortured actor about him, no Deep Angsty Thoughts. Of course, Jensen couldn't change who he was, nor would Jeff want him to. Jensen was his friend as much as Jay was, and Jeff wasn’t a man to take sides, despite his behaviour towards Jared, Jensen was a good man, but he couldn’t for the life of him understand why Jen had broken things off with Jared, things had seemed fine between them, then, bam – it was over. Their break-up had shocked him, hell the whole set had been stunned, and caused more than a little unease among them; if Jensen and Jared couldn't make it, who could? Pushing his gloomy thoughts away he decided that if Ben could make Jared smile and laugh, he would be his life-long fan.

 

"So come Jay. Is it true?" he cajoled with a grin. Jared blinked owlishly at him for a moment, not sure what he was referring to, the ‘smacked by a tree’ look as Sophia kindly referred to it, Jeff pushed the evil thought away as he felt a smirk rising.

 

"Depends what you're talking about. There's a lot of unsavoury rumours about our dear Jared, one can’t be too careful what you read nowadays, nothing but smut and scandal surrounding our once pure Gilmore Boy," Milo grinned.

 

“Yep, that I heard, it was something about Jared, a rubber duck, a feather boa and a mango in a strange place, I’m not going to go into details, suffice to say, it scarred grandmothers across the country for life, poor dears,” Chad added, his face a mask of stern disapproval. Utterly bonkers. Jeff burst out laughing; he forgot how much he missed all of this. Jared smirked at him.

 

"I would like to point out, those rumours were completely unfounded, and I can categorically state I did not have any relations of any nature with said duck or mango, so get your filthy minds out the gutter,” he said haughtily

 

“What about the feather boa?”

 

“We have a special understanding,” Jared replied, wigging his eyebrows. Jeff rolled his eyes, enjoying the insanity of it all.

 

"Please forgive them Ben. I hope they're not always like this."

 

"Jeffrey Dean Morgan! I'll have you know we're completely sane around Ben," Tom gasped, sounding mortally offended.

 

"Well, for us anyway," Mike added, a smirk dancing around his lips, his arm slung loosly around Tom’s. Jeff mentally sighed even while he was chuckling, he'd obviously get no sense on this matter, but then he should've guessed as much. Nice to know some things never changed, no matter how irritating.

 

"So back to our original topic, what does it feel like being nominated for an Emmy?" Mike asked, his eyes dancing with mischief as he pretended to hold up a mike. Jared tipped his head to one side and pretended to ponder this question carefully.

 

"It's unreal. I’m just so greatful for this oppertunity, but I’d like to give special thanks to Harley and Sadie, Ben my soul-mate, God, Jesus, Buddha, Superman, my family, PR-team, fan base, fan girls, posse, peeps, feng shi coach and ten vegan pastry chefs - without them, I am nothing," Jared simpered.

 

"In all honesty I don't think it's fully sunk in yet. I mean the first season was exhausting but amazing. It doesn't feel right to be awarded for that," he shrugged, his voice suddenly turning serious. "Anyway, I doubt I'll win. Have you actually seen who I'm competing against? We’re talking some serious heavyweight in Hollywood," the old insecurities beginning to seep through.

 

"No one that you can't beat Jay," Chad said seriously. Honestly, Jared didn't give himself enough credit.

 

He remember hearing from Jensen and Jeff how Jared had always pushed himself to the limit, worrying he wasn’t working hard or fast enough, he’d practically driven himself into the ground he’d been working so hard. Jensen certainly hadn’t been happy about this, and Jeff, along with probably half the set, had heard Jensen yelling at Jared in their trailer, which led to Eric giving him and Jared a few days off, upon their return Jared had been his usual bouncing self. Whatever ‘method’ of convincing Jensen had done, it’d worked wonders, and hadn’t seemed to bother Jared since, so where did all this suddenly come from? You’d think after two hit series under his belt Jared would be more confident in his abilities. He should give himself a break.

 

"C'mon Jay, that role was a hard one to pull off, give yourself some credit; the Academy thinks you do, and who are we to question their all knowing authority?" Jeff grinned.

 

"He's right Jay. I swear I would've never recognised you without your contacts out. Man they were fucking freaky!" Chad chimed in.

 

"Yeah, they freaked a few people out especially with all the weight loss and gain, I had at various times. I had to go back to physio a few times, as my back mussels started causing a bit of a problem, but that was pretty much it. But it was great fun; we had such a laugh, although I don't think I'd like to go through something like that for a while again.”

 

The conversation gradually progressed to the various projects the gang were undertaking and after Sophia ordered them to have fun circulating, Jared and Ben obediently moved away, leaving the gang to generate mindless chatter with Jeff.

 

Halfway across the room he was greeted by a streak of light brown hair as Alexis wrapped Jared in a tight hug.

 

"God Jay! I've missed you so much. I'm so glad you could both come!" she squealed as she moved back slightly and hugged Ben as well, although not quite as enthusiastically as Jared. She didn't fancy accidentally cutting off Ben's air supply.

 

"This is amazing Lexi! I can't believe you and Soph managed to organise all this. My hat's off to you both," he grinned, mock-bowing. Alexis dropped into a deep curtsey.

 

"My thanks good sir. I can't believe we actually managed to get everything done. Soph can be such a demanding little witch at times. I believe she had a ‘vision’,” here Alexis rolled her eyes and Jared chortled, typical Sophia, she always went over the top.

 

“Vision my ass, she just wanted to get the credit for everything,” Alexis groused good-naturedly.

 

"As if that wasn't bad enough, time was non existent because Soph had to do a million re-shoots, and my agent kept ringing about some weird-ass film thing. I was amazed we actually managed to get ten minutes together to organise this. Thank God for e-mail and phone!" She and Jared laughed together.

 

"Anyway, I'm so glad you guys could make it. I know this must seem weird for you," she offered to Ben, who simply shrugged, smiling slightly. He'd been noticed. Hooray.

 

"I don't mind. They're Jared's friends and it was a big movie," he said diplomatically. Sophia smiled at him.

 

"Well thanks for coming anyway. You both look great, by the way. Great outfit Jay. You'll be certified trailer trash in no time," she grinned impishly as she deliberately looked him up and down. He looked fantastic, as usual; casual yet slightly quirky, a style that always looked good on him, but then, only Jay could carry off. No matter what he wore, from those bright pink shirts to the smart tuxes he was obliged to wear on occasion, yet even in those, he always managed to stand out from the crowd. It wasn’t something she could define, he didn’t go out of his way to look different, but it was just something about Jared, the way he held himself. Jared looked at her in mock outrage.

 

"Are you suggesting, Ms. Bledel, that I, who always has impeccable taste, am actually lacking in the taste department?" he demanded, a demented grin on his face. This was what he needed, to let go and enjoy himself.

 

“Wouldn’t dare,” she smirked. "Congrats on the Emmy nom, very much deserved. God that first season was amazing, but it totally freaked me out!" she grinned doing a theatrical shudder.

 

"I know what you mean. When Meg brought her kids up to visit, I just came out of makeup and I think I scared Meg to death, I haven’t seen her so scared since Jeff told her a troll would eat her brains when she was five. It took her about ten minutes to calm down. Of course Emily and Zooey thought it was ‘cool’ and wanted to borrow some set props to take to school, I think they’re trading in on the fact their uncle’s on TV. Daniel decided to see if he could pull out any of the hair, the wig department nearly had a heart attack. That kid's got a tough grip, he obviously takes after his mum," he chuckled.

 

Alexis grinned at that image. She'd met Jared's nieces and nephew a few times and Daniel in particular was so like Jared, both physically and in personality it was uncanny, it was like having a mini-Jared around. She’d seen how gentle and patiently Jared had been with the children was heartbreaking, it was no secret Jared despertely wanted children of his own, she was amazed that he and Ben hadn’t adopted or had IVF yet.

 

"How's Rick?" Jared grinned. He'd definitely missed his Rory. He'd missed Alexis a lot, it had been forever since he’d seen her. Although he’d loved Supernatural, he’d made some amazing friends on Gilmore too, and was proud of the friendships he’d made there and tried hard to keep in contact although this sometimes proved difficult. He didn’t do well with separations; he needed people around, needed people around. His friends kept him grounded and sane – when they weren’t driving him up the wall that was. At the mention of her beloved husband, Sophia rolled her eyes, clearly unimpressed.

 

"Urgh! He’s got a cold. Well, he says flu. Absolutely typical, so he's moping at home feeling sorry for himself, claiming he's going to die, writing his will etc. Typical man, always over-reacting," she sighed. Jay merely raised an eyebrow but Alexis waved it off. "I'm not counting you in that Jay, obviously."

 

"Good to know," Jared grinned. "So how is life treating you, besides having a flu induced hubby?"

 

"I’ve got the movie `Between Worlds'. I’m going to start shooting in three weeks. And…well, I'm going to have a baby," she grinned sheepishly. Jared's face lit up as he hugged her tightly.

 

"That's fantastic Lexi! You'll be an amazing mum! I'm so happy for you. Pass my congrats onto Rick too. You'll be great parents! When are you due?" he grinned. He'd meant every word. He knew Alexis had wanted kids for a couple of years now, but something had always got in the way.

 

"I'm three months along, but I wanted you to be one of the first to know, we’re trying to keep it quiet at the moment. I don't know what the studio execs will say when they find out. God forbid I put on some weight! Maybe they could airbrush all the pounds off? Oh well, screw them if they're not happy, I’m gonna have a baby," she grinned, a silly smile plastered on her face.

 

“Any thoughts on names yet?”

 

“Well Richard claims when wants his grandparents names, but since they’re Alfonso and Gretchen I’m vetoing that, I don’t care what he says, it’ll scar the kid for life. I think I’m be daring and give it a nromal name. So far I’ve got Isabelle for a girl and Orlando or William for a boy…”

 

Ben hung back slightly, watching the scene between the two friends. It always amazed him how openly affectionate Jared was with his friends, even if he hadn't seen them for months, as if they'd never been parted. Any second now he expected them all to join hands around a camp fire with guitar and start singing ‘Cum By Yah’. It was the megawatt smiles, everyone had their own little in-jokes, God wasn’t there a single normal person here? He watched as Alexis and Jared talked easily, occasionally touching each other, laughing and just generally catching up.

 

For the most part, he ignored the conversation and glanced around the room. There were so many people here and he only recognised a handful at most, but Jared seemed to know everyone cast or crew. He smiled and hugged and laughed, held nothing back.

 

Ben cringed when he saw Jared crushing Alexis into a bear hug, and he could have sworn he heard the word `baby' in their conversation and resisted rolling his eyes. Hmm, so she was pregnant? Big deal. It wasn't as if it was earth shattering news, was it? Women got pregnant all the time. They got fat, weepy and a screaming baby popped out. End of story. What was so damn fascinating about it?

 

Sophia turned back to Jared, and Ben. That releaved Jared, the last thing he wanted for Ben was for him feel ignored and isolated. "What about you, sweetie? Any thoughts on a family?" There was a brief pause as she looked between Jared and Ben. Smart move Bledel, obviously not an awkward topic…shesh I should learn to keep my mouth shut

 

"I'd…ur… like to, I guess…sometime…" Jared admitted quietly, fumbling over his words slightly. Ben wasn't happy. He hadn't talked about it with Jared, and didn't intend to. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing to discuss. Children were not an option. Jared wanting children was certainly news to him.

 

Why would a guy want children? With woman wasn’t it like, pre-programmed that they cooed over babies and stuff, besides Jared didn’t need kids, he had Ben. "We haven't talked about it Alexis. It's a big decision and we don’t want to rush into anything before we’re sure, and Jared needs to focus his attention on his carrier, right Jared?" Ben's tone made it clear to both that the discussion was at an end. Alexis frowned. She knew Jared desperately wanted a family, had wanted one for quite a while, had even been thinking of starting one with Jensen when they were together, although he tried to keep it silent, but it was obvious to anyone, his adoration of both his sister’ and brothers various children...didn’t Ben notice that? Surely Ben could understand that desire in Jared. Didn't he want kids?

 

She knew Jared would make an amazing father, whether he adopted or had a surrogate mother. But then again, he and Ben hadn't been together for very long, only a year or so, so perhaps they needed more time together. After all, even having one child was a major decision and Ben would need to be fully behind the decision as well. As for Jared's career, what did Ben mean by `focus'? He'd just been nominated for an Emmy for God's sake. How much more focus did he need? He'd nearly driven himself into the ground, working non stop, especially after the break-up, it had been all Jay had thought about. She’d never seen that focused intensity in Jared before and for a while she’d been worried, but kept her fears to herself, knowing Jared probably wouldn’t want her clucking around him, especially when he’d had the CW gang to nag him constantly, like Jensen used to.

 

She believed Jensen had secretly revelled in babying Jared. Speaking of the ranger, where was he? She knew Jensen was here somewhere, no doubt trying to stay out of Jared’s friends way. It appeared Sophia and Chad still weren’t on the best terms with Jensen. She couldn’t understand why her friends were being so pig-headed about this, yes Jensen screwed up big time, but he'd lost Jared due to his own stupidity and Alexis could see that was the worst punishment for Jensen. He might be a damn good actor, but with Jared his emotions were all too visible. Why couldn’t Chad and Soph forgive and forget? It appeared Jared didn't harbour any resentment towards his ex, so what right did they have? Privately she believed it was Chad behind the continued animosity to Jensen, Soph had always liked Jensen. Hopefully Jensen and Jared would keep their distance, and nothing would happen. Both were grown men and if they ran into each other (which she silently prayed to every god and deity that was known to man, and woman, that that wouldn't happen), hopefully they would be civil. Wishful thinking, ex's meetings were never pretty.

 

At that moment, she felt someone peck her cheek. Turning around, she grinned. "Jensen!! It’s great to see you!" she squeaked, sounding suspiciously like Mickey mouse on helium. Acting on instinct she flung her arms round him, before she suddenly felt herself stiffen as she remembered Jared and Ben standing there and a horrible sensation washed over her. Shit. This was not going to be pretty. Double shit. Of all the times Jensen could have come up to her, why was it when Jared was with her.

 

Hadn’t he see Jay before getting to her? She felt his hug immediately loosen. Oh crap, he'd seen Jared and judging from Jared's suddenly tense posture, he'd definitely seen Jensen. It was bound to happen some time, she tried to reason. They couldn't avoid each other forever.

 

Besides, it was about time they got some closure, clear the end, it’d been good therapy. Carthic. It could turn out all right. Perhaps. Maybe.

 

God they were screwed.

 

"Right! This is great but I think I'll uh…go get some punch and have a talk to… Soph. I could use some girly gossip. I'm sure you have tons to talk about. Great to see you Jay and you Jen, but uh…got to circulate and stuff. Bye!" she garbled as she practically sprinted off in any direction that was far from the potentially explosive scene before her.

 

She knew as hard as it was for them, this was something Jensen and Jared had to do. They had a lot of issues left over, but hopefully would be able to work them out. Times like this she wished she still smoked.

 

***

 

Jensen couldn't believe his eyes.

 

Jared.

 

His Jared was standing right there facing him. How could he have not noticed before when he saw Alexis? He tried desperately to stop his eyes from raking over Jared, who looked like he was made of stone…no marble. A perfect, flawless sculpture. If Michelangelo could have seen Jared…David had nothing on him. It'd been two years since he'd seen Jared, not much some would argue but to him it'd been an eternity. An eternity of hell.

 

Everywhere he looked, there seemed to be Jared, especially now with the Emmy’s coming up, Jared seemed to be on every magazine, TV promos... the endless interviews… But that was only in the outside world. For Jensen, he could still feel him in his house, under his skin; it didn't matter where he went, Jared was there, reminding him what he’d lost.

 

He only had to look around the house for memories to flood back, and for that reason alone, he didn't spend much time there now. His eyes drifted away from Jared briefly to the guy next to him. No doubt this was Ben. Jared's boyfriend, who how had Jared. Jensen wanted nothing more than to punch the man, besides shrivel up and die. Jeff had warned him ahead of time that they would be at the party, despite the concern in Jeff’s voice, Jensen had understood the unspoken message: be prepared for the inevitable meeting and please don't make a scene when the time came.

 

So this was Ben. Jared’s Ben. Jensen hated him. He was attractive, not even Jensen could deny that. Thick dark hair, even darker than Jared's, long enough to be edgily fashionable, for Jared to run his fingers through… he was practically Jared’s height, seemingly able to wrap Jared around him. He didn’t like Ben’s hair, the style seemed too forced, the colour slightly too dark. He loved Jared’s hair the beautiful rich mahogany colour had always glinted in the sun, carelessly falling across his face, no structure or style to it. Jensen could have spent all of eternity stroking the silken strands. He'd spent hours caressing it when they used to lie in bed together. Jared was tactile, he loved textures, fabrics. He was always hugging people, kissing, touching things. He used to love touching Jensen, kissing him, wrapping his arms round his chest, nuzzling his scalp.

 

He tried to glance at Ben again without being conspicuous: full lips, deep blue eyes, good check bones, his clothes were tailored to fit, covering an obviously well trained body, good confident posture. Yes, Ben was attractive, definitely, but not like Jared. Ben's was a more traditional attraction; it was easy to see...more masculine. Jared wasn't so easy to define, he never had been, maybe that’s what had attracted him to Jared in the first place. Ben was perhaps in his mid thirties, certainly no older, for some reason that made Jensen feel so old. He complimented Jared well. They looked good together. Jensen felt sick.

 

Jared felt his heart pound. Not now, please not now… he begged. His prayers went unanswered, of course. They always did where Jensen was concerned. He didn't look at Jensen, keeping his eyes firmly on his shoes. Trying desperately to get his breathing under control without anyone noticing, he slowly lifted his head. Jensen looked gob-smacked, for want of a better word. He obviously didn't realise Jared had been there. For some reason, Jared found that idea comforting, that Jensen hadn't planned this. He felt Ben move closer to his side, a reminder of his presence. He didn't know whether to be releaved or frightened. It was taking all his willpower not to turn and run. The silence was becoming excruciatingly painful.

 

"Are we going to have any introductions?" came Ben's voice. Hmm, he sounded more Candian than American. Jared probably had enough of crap American boyfrinds. Well spoken too, like Jared. The trance was broken and the ex-lovers managed to mentally shake themselves.

 

"Uh…Ben, this is Jensen, Jensen…Ben," Jared said, trying not to stutter. The introduction confirmed what Jensen had assumed.

 

"So…you're Jared's boyfriend?" Jensen managed. Right, be grown up and professional. He could do this, damn it! Did he really expect Jared to stay single, pinning after him? A part of him wished exactly that. He didn't want anyone else to share Jared's love, to know him as intimately as he had; he had been Jared’s first male lover, his boyfriend… and wanted to keep it that way. Jensen should have been disgusted with his selfish and rather primitive thoughts, but he couldn't help it.

 

"Yep, lucky me," Ben replied simply, unable to stop a small, triumphant smirk gracing his face. And you're nothing but his infamous ex, he mentally snorted. He was finally meeting the brilliant, multi-talented overly perfect Jensen Ackles. This was Jensen? What a fucking let down!

 

What the hell had Jared been thinking? The guy was at least twice his age and looked rather rough around the edges. While perhaps he might have been considered good looking in a rather average, rugged trap-like kind of way, he couldn't see anything remotely attractive or desirable in the man. He looked like a woman trapped in a man’s body. Ben knew little details of Jared and Jensen’s relationship, that they’d dated on Supernatural and Jensen had been Jared's first boyfriend, first everything, from what he had heard. He didn't know much, if anything, about Jared's relationship and Jensen and was content to keep it that way. He had no interest in Jensen, even less now that he'd seen the man. "I wouldn't miss this, it's great to see everyone, y'know… catch up and stuff," Jensen admitted, feeling beyond awkward, but wasn't that how it was supposed to be between ex's?

 

"So…how are you?" Jensen asked. Ugh, this was horrible, stuffing his hands in his pockets, he felt like a disgruntled schoolboy.

 

"I…uh…I'm OK. Working a lot, the usual," Jared answered a small self- depreciating smile twitching his lips. "I met Ben through friends, but we…ah… got together on the Hourglass set," Jared added, not knowing quite where to look.

 

"Oh. Good, good. I mean you can meet, um, special people on set. What is the series called again? Sorry, I just don’t watch much TV now, either that or I guess I'm losing my memory."

 

"You're not old Jen-sen, " Jared scolded gently. Oh God, he almost used Jensen's nickname. He hoped that Ben didn't catch that little slip up since he finished his name properly. He had to get away from here. Things were becoming too friendly, too familiar.

 

"It’s called Hourglass,” Ben filled in, his gaze carefully measured at Jensen, his look unreadable.

 

“We met through Soph actually. Her cousin Felicity knows me, told me Jared was single and looking to date again, had some bad experience with his previous…dates. Soph and Chad wanted to make sure I’d looked after him, which I have," he grinned, pulling Jared even closer to him.

 

There was an underlying taunt in that. Jensen wasn't stupid; he knew a sign of territorial claiming when he saw one. It didn't help that Jared leaned into Ben, who gave a satisfied smirk. He really hated Ben.`Look after Jared'? More like taken care of him when Jensen so callously dumped him. Saint Ben rescued Jared from a broken heart. White Knight Ben. What a load of bull. It’d been Soph and Chad who'd helped Jared, not Ben, who'd no doubt seen Jared as a hot piece of ass. Damn, he hated people treating Jared like a sex object, as if he had no depth or personality. He should stop giving Ben death glares; Jared was bound to notice in a moment. Ben stared back at him, his lips twitching in a knowing smirk. Arrogant bastard…he knew!!

 

"How are you anyway? Any films lined up?" Jared's voice shook him out of his daydream.

 

"Uh, no, I'm taking a break for a while, living the simple life I guess. I've got a few scripts but I'm not in the mood for movies right now. Congratulations on the Emmy nomination by the way. Truly well deserved," he added, turning to Jared, looking at him properly for the first time. Did Jared blush? God, he was still shy about his work? Unbelievable. Jared had given an earth shattering performance that no one could stop talking about, even Jared's biggest critics being put in their place, much to Jensen's secret glee. No doubt Jared was still unable to accept the long overdue praise and credit that was being handed out.

 

Jared hadn't moved an inch since he saw Jensen. While there wasn't a big physical gap between them, he felt so distant, yet so close to him. This was unbearable, to be so formal and distant with Jared, knowing what they had once shared, the intimacy, the love.

 

"Oh, thank you Jensen." Again polite, restrained.

 

"I saw your last movie, it was fantastic. You put your heart and soul into it and it shows, Jensen," Jared said, the earnest expression making Jensen's heart ache. Jensen was surprised.

 

It was difficult for him to be enthusiastic or inspired by much anymore it seemed. He hadn’t found a script that interested him, and perhaps a small part of him, didn’t want to risk meeting Jared again. To say he’d made a terrible mistake was the understatement of the millennium, but he’d made it and now had to deal with it, which amounted to avoiding anywhere that could be linked to him.The truth was, without Jared around Jensen found it more difficult to concentrate just about everything.

 

The smallest thing would bring back memories of him and Jared together. It also didn’t help that he constantly seemed to find an old photo of Jared that he’d forgotten he’d taken, usually a candid one, showing off the natural beauty that was Jared. For some reason Jared had always been shy of Jensen photographing him, as if he was unable to see his own beauty. Usually after making love, Jensen had felt an overwhelming desire to capture Jared on camera. To shout to the world this angel was his. HIS. His angel who was now with Ben. Fuck. He couldn't do this, didn't want to. It was too civil, too sterile. This was beyond painful.

 

Any minute now he was going to fling himself on Jared and beg his forgiveness. Beg him to take him back, admit his terrible mistake, not caring if he humiliated himself, his entire being screamed at him to get Jared back at any price...but he couldn't do that, couldn't do that to Jared. He’d been given his chance and had ruined it; Jared didn't need, or deserve to have his ex boyfriend harassing him. He had to walk away, while he still had some semblance of dignity, which was by now hanging by a thread.

 

"I better get going. There's still a load of people I'd like to see." Jensen cringed at his words. Don't sound too desperate to get away, he admonished himself. Jared looked crushed.

 

"Right, yeah, you're right. I mean, there are so many people here and stuff. It's great seeing them again."

 

"So…how is everyone?" he asked suddenly, a desperate little voice told Jensen not to let Jared walk away just yet. There was a note of sadness in his voice that Jared couldn’t fail to miss. It seemed some of their friends had held true to their promise of ignoring Jensen and that saddened him. He’d never wanted to cause a rift between their friends. Jensen didn’t deserve that; after all he’d moved on so why couldn’t others forgive Jensen? For what – ripping my heart out came a snide voice from the depths of his mind. That unsettled Jared, he thought he was over it, he should be by now, Jensen was certainly over it.

 

"They’re all good. Milo starting to produce a script he’s been working on. It's going to start filming this autumn. So that's good, he want me and Soph to do cameos, God knows what they'll involve though. Soph's still on Haven, but she’s thinking of doing some theatre work during the summer. Chad is well…Chad, where he goes, mayhem follows. He’s currently aiming for a role of a sadistic vet…” Both men couldn’t help smiling at that.

 

"I'm glad they're all doing OK. I'm sure they keep you in line, as much as they can anyway."

 

"Yeah they've been keeping an eye on me, and probably a surveillance camera too. I think Chad and Soph have sort of taken up part time residence at my flat. It's cool though. Chad’s developed this `mother-hen' attitude. So if Mum, Dad, Jeff or Meg nagging me about sweaters and my nutrition intake isn't enough, I get Chad as well, he’s becoming horribly domestic, but I think that’s down to Soph," he sighed good-naturedly and before he knew it, he smiled at Jensen. A real, full blown smile.

 

Jensen was momentarily dazzled by Jared’s expression. God he'd missed Jared so much, not just as a lover but as a friend and partner. He was one of the most wonderful, and unique people he'd ever meet.

 

"I better start mingling more…I…it was really good to see you Jay," Jensen said suddenly, gazing at Jared for a moment. Jared nodded and felt something stick in his throat. “I hope you win, you deserve to be appreicated,” he added in a rush. Jared looked away for a moment as the double meaning sank in.

 

Jensen hesitated for a moment, before he gently caressed Jared's shoulder, it was meant to be a friendly shoulder squeeze but Jensen’s hand unconsciously lingered, seemingly mesmerized by Jared’s shoulder, the soft feeling beneath his skin and suddenly Jensen wanted to cry.

 

Closing his eyes, Jared tried to push the feelings swelled inside him, it had been so long since he’d felt Jensen touch him for a moment he forget everything, it was just him and Jensen…then all at once, the hand was gone and without another word Jensen walked off.

 

"Jared, I think we should go. It's getting late," Ben grated, a strange sound tingeing to his voice. It sounded edgy, hard even. He’d never heard such a harsh edge to his lover’s voice before. Jared still felt a bit dazed, he hadn’t seen Ben’s jaw set or his hand clench as Jensen touched him, he hadn’t been aware of anything at that moment.

 

Had Jensen touched him, or had it all been an imagination of his fevered brain? Ben took his arm in a none too-gentle grip, which quickly brought Jared crashing down to earth. Jensen was gone, again and wouldn’t be returning, biting his lip Jared choked down a sob threatening to emerge.

 

“Let’s go Jared, I’ll get your stuff” the voice was still hard and grated on Jared’s nerves.

 

“Oh come on Ben!” Jared wheelded, pouting for affect. “I haven’t seen Alexis or Milo for months, and I want to catch up with Jeff and the guys, I won’t see them for ages again! Ben I’ve got to see them, they’re my friends,” he argued, more than a little pissed off by Ben’s sudden sullenness. He’d endured Ben’s less than desirable friends so surely Ben could let him have a couple more hours here, honestly it was one of his few free nights and he had to go and ruin it.

 

"For God sake Jared! Stop being such a whiny brat about this, you can see them anytime, c’mon,” he bit out more harshly than he intended. He’d had more than enough of this place. What the fuck did Ackles think he was doing touching his boyfriend. Jared’s face hardened at that.

 

What right did Ben have to say that, these were his friends, surely Ben understood that? He needed his friends around him, same as everyone else did. Jensen had always understood that. He had his own close friendship with Chris and Steve, so he had no problems about Jared’s close-knit friendships either. What the hell did Ben know about friends anyway, the only thing Ben’s ‘friends’ seemed to be held together with was their love of bear and crass put-downs. Ben either didn’t seem to notice or care about Jared’s change in demeanour.

 

“Look Jared. Can I be honest? I hated these type of parties, and I don’t like standing around while you all make stupid little in-jokes about your stupid shows. It's boring, I’d never do this to you, I’ve tried OK but now I want to go home, right? I've done my ‘duty’ and I'm tired so if you think we could get going, I'd greatly appreciate it, your highness." Jared wasn't sure he liked the mocking tone in Ben's voice. Damn it. He didn't want to go yet as they'd only been here a couple of hours.

 

Did Ben understand he wanted to see his friends, some of whom he might not see for a while. He was such a killjoy. It wasn't as if Jared wanted to drag Ben out clubbing till all hours anymore. Most nights he was happy to stay in, so why did Ben demand they leave? "Look, I can’t go yet, it’s rude. I haven't even said hi to everyone yet."

 

"I think they’ll forgive you babe, you have that affect on people, just bat your pretty lashes.” Jared shifted uncomfortably at that, was he a flirt? Milo had told him the same thing once, but it had sounded very different; Jared couldn’t fail to ignore the underlying sneer accompanying it. “Anyway, you can send them an e-mail or use a fucking phone then, even you can use them!”

 

“Keep your voice down, you’re making a scene, stop acting like a spoilt child!” Jared hissed, fury swelling up in him. What the hell gave Ben the right to act like this?

 

“Whatever, I'm going home, now, Jay. Call a cab or something, I'm taking the car," Ben growled. Jared noticed a few people nearby were glancing at them, shifting nervously and he had to stop himself from cringing.

 

There was no way Ben could get behind the wheel, he wasn’t the safest driver at the best of times, add to that, that Ben was seriously pissed off and had had several glasses of wine by this stage. He might not be impressed with Ben’s behaviour but he sure as hell didn’t want anything to happen to Ben, he’d never forgive himself if Ben had an accident while driving because of his foul mood.

 

"Fine! You win, stop making a scene for God sake! I'll tell the guys I'm off, stay here." Quickly darting over to the group he grinned. No use letting them see how annoyed he was. "Hey guys, I'm taking off. Ben's had a few too many and I'm going to drive him back."

 

"Awww Jay, you just got here," moaned Chad, pouting rather beautifully.

 

"It is kind of early Jay," Jeff pointed out. On the phone yesterday, Jared had been so excited about the party and catching up, and now he was desperate to leave. Very strange. He hadn’t thought Ben was that drunk when he'd talked to him, rather quiet actually and in Jeff’s experience people were often louder when drunk. Jared grinned, although it seemed to waver. "Sorry Jeff, I'm a bit knackered myself. I've got to be back on set in a couple of days anyway, so I could do with a bit of rest before I go off again."

 

"Ahh, these big TV star types, so busy with their lives of luxury they forget the little people," Mike joked. That worried Jared slightly, though he tried not to show it.

 

"We'll let you off this time, Jaredzilla, but only cause we're feeling uncharitably kind. I'll try to get some of the more sober cast round tomorrow for us to meet up since I'm feeling so magnanimous," Chad grinned.

 

"Thanks guys, you're the best."

 

"That goes without saying," smirked Sophia, giving a dismissive wave.

 

"Just make sure he gets back safely, take your time OK? Better safe than sorry," smiled Jeff, patting Jared on the back, and pressing a kiss to his cheek. Glancing at Ben, who looked more than a little impatient, he quickly hugged everyone. By this time, Ben was practically shoving Jared out the door.

 

"At least we know someone's going to get some tonight!" someone crowed over the crowd and most people burst into laughter. Sophia didn't know who'd said it, but she didn't smile, the rest of the group didn’t seem to find it amusing either.

 

Jensen frowned at the comment, he didn’t appreciate ‘jokes’ like that, especially not involving Jared. He was disliking Ben more by the second, Ben had almost shoved Jared out the door, not even giving him a chance to say a proper goodbye to everyone. Jensen frowned at that, knew how important that type of thing was to Jay, he’d never leave like that. He'd seen how tightly Ben had gripped Jared's arm on the way out, too tight in his opinion, he’d have never held his…no, not his, Jared like that and Ben had no right to be so rough with Jared. The same as Jensen had no right to air those thoughts. Paws off Jensen, he's not yours.

 

Sophia was worried. He hadn't liked the look in Ben's eyes. He'd been practically crawling up the walls to get away. By the end of it, he'd looked positively fuming.

 

"Ehh…Ben looked a bit miffed, didn't he?" asked Milo, not expecting an answer. None of the group looked very happy. Jeff sighed.

 

"Maybe he's tired? These things can be exhausting if you're not used to them." He sounded as if he was willing it to be the explanation but found it sounding false, even to his own ears.

 

"More like mega pissed off," Sophia muttered.

 

They’d both seen how Ben had practically dragged Jared outside. She didn't care what Chad said, something wasn't right with Ben, call it feminine intutition. For once Chad didn't argue with her. Sophia was right. Something didn't seem right between them, Chad could feel it. He just hoped he was wrong.

 

 

TBC – please send feedback, it feeds the muses!

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 7

 

 

Jensen clenched and unclenched his hands, he had lost track of how many hours he’d sat here gazing at Jared’s still form. Hearing the blips and whirs of the machines offered him no comfort, only served to remind him, once again what a mess he’d made of things.

 

“I…I’m not sure how to start, Dr Harris said I should talk to you, keep you in touch with the world. I don’t know if it does any good, can you hear me Jay? I hope not. I don’t want you to hear what I’m saying, that I know what you went through. All of it, even what Ben…did when you were alone...I know about the abuse and that he…he…Dr Harris told me, she wanted to help, I swear. I’m supposed to tell them about it, do they know, did they find out or guess...”

 

His voice trailed off, surprised to find tears trickling down his face, he attempted to brush them away but it seemed to make no difference.

 

Jensen was stunned by how his monotonous his voice sounded, he could’ve been reading a weather report rather than talking to his comatose abused ex-lover. Why did other people never seem to have to deal with this type of shit?

 

He knew he had to tell them. But telling Sophia and Chad that Ben had repeatedly raped Jared, that scared him. Of course, there was the possibility they already knew. They knew Jared was being abused, that much was obvious, but did they know about the rapes? If they didn't, they had a right to know. They were Jared’s friends, his family. He looked at Jared's still form for a moment, seeking some kind of answer, but all he heard were the blips of the machine.

 

"God. I can't fucking do this Jared! I’m not strong enough…it’s killing them, seeing you like this. It’s killing me! They're so frightened, Chad thinks you’re going to die…I can’t…you can’t die Jay, they need you too much…I need you. God, why didn’t you tell me what was going on, you stupid idiot! I would’ve helped Jared, you know I would. I would've come to you I swear, after I’d killed Ben…why couldn’t you hold on for a bit longer…why didn’t you let anyone help you?!”

 

Unable to look at the array of machines for a moment he hung his head, letting out a frustrated sigh.

 

“You know the worst thing? I'm fucking terrified of you waking up, because I know you'll hate me; hate me for leaving, for telling Sophia and Chad about…see, I can't even say it to you! It wasn't your fault. No one blames you, I promise. I want to kill Ben for what he's been doing to you. If I ever find him, I will. I know I said I hate violence. I do, but what he did to you... I'll never forgive him for that, I'll never let him get near you again, even if you don't want me near you, I'll protect you in any way I can."

 

He paused, reaching down to stroke Jared's hair, his forehead. No response. Despite his fear of Jared waking, Jensen was beginning to think that time would never come to pass, with each passing day, with each hour, his hope was slowly slipping away and he felt numb, the idea of loosing Jared, even this shell that his Jay had become, terrified him to such a degree he didn’t dare consider it. After a brief pause, he continued.

 

"I kept wondering if you were happier with Ben. I hoped you weren't; God that sounds awful, but I swear, I never wanted you to be hurt by him. Please believe that, I just couldn't stand someone loving you more than I did, to accept that it was really over, that you'd moved on. I'm so sorry Jay. Please forgive me angel," he whispered, his throat catching. He remembered Jared laughed at that nickname, claiming he was ‘no angel’, Jensen had refuted this, saying Jared’s love for him, his faith in them, was nothing short of an angel’s love. After that declaration, Jared had gazed into his eyes and swore he'd never love anyone the way he loved Jensen, at the time Jensen had simply smiled, pulling Jared into a deep kiss.

 

He knew how that he’d always underestimated the depth of Jared’s love; it wasn’t that he didn’t believe him, but Jared had been so young that it seemed impossible to conceive that Jared had found his ‘soul mate’ at the age of twenty-two. Whatever it was, it was a love deep enough to still affect Jared, to cause such pain. Did Jared still mean that, still believe it?

 

Did he ever think about Jensen, or miss him the way Jensen did. The constant ache had never faded over time, not like it was supposed to. Oh he'd got on with his life as was expected; made movies, visited family, sung, did photography, spent time his friends - who had eventually reconciled themselves to the fact that Jensen and Jared were really over but a part of him felt...hollow. He’d tried the dating scene again, both men and women, even hooked up with Danneel for a couple of months, but that had failed, just like everything else in his life. Eventually he’d just given up, giving a polite smile and the usual pat reply of ‘too busy to date’ at journalists and family. In a sense it was true; he was too busy to date, he was too busy to be with anyone who wasn’t Jared.

 

Was it like that for Jared? How much did Jared love Ben, had Ben ever loved Jared or simply been entranced by a beautiful face, wanting to corrupt an innocent? Did Ben know anything about Jared, th important little things that made Jared whooly Jared?

 

Did he notice Jared constantly fiddled when he was nervous, or how he had a heaped, but not overflowing spoon of sugar in his coffee, or that he mewled in his sleep? That he loved cherries, but hated raisins or the hollow of his neck was Jared’s weak spot. Did Jared snuggle up to Ben at night, trying to bury himself in the crook of his arm, while slinging a leg over like he'd done with Jensen. He hoped not, he didn't want Ben to know Jared the way he did.

 

He'd given Jared to Ben and he hated himself for it. It had taken all of his self-control to not punch Ben just for being with Jared, and now he wished he’d doen just that. He realised at that moment, at the party, exactly what he'd lost, what he'd probably never regain and something broke inside him.

 

He let his hand linger for a moment. A small part of Jensen didn't want Jared to wake up for two reasons. Jared was bound to be in pain, and he didn't want to see him like that, and the other reason was that once he was awake, Jensen couldn't touch him anymore. Jared would want him out of his life for good. He couldn't blame him; it was the least he deserved. As long as Jared slept, he was safe. They were both safe, Jensen from rejection and Jared from reality.

 

"He looks so peaceful," came Sophia's wistful voice from the door. Chad was hovering by the side, looking suspiciously like a ghost. Jensen jumped and quickly pulled away his hand, mentally cursing himself.

 

"How long have you guys been here?"

 

"Long enough. What do you know?" Sophia stated, looking directly at Jensen. This was it. There was no way he could duck out of this.

 

"We need to go somewhere private," he insisted. Sophia looked puzzled as a frown spread across her face.

 

"I don't want to leave Jared, he needs someone with him," Chad argued.

 

"Please, this is important Chad! The nurses are keeping an eye on him. If something happens they'll let us know," Jensen reasoned, trying to keep his voice level, but also interject the right amount of urgency. Reluctantly Chad nodded and both men followed Jensen to the office where his world had collapsed just a few hours earlier. Eyeing their choices of seating, both Sophia and Chad elected to stand.

 

How had Dr. Harris been able to do it? Unconsciously Jensen began pacing the room. Just tell them, and then deal with the fallout.

 

"How much…detail do you know about Jared's abuse?"

 

"More than we should. The physical speaks for itself," sighed Sophia, rubbing her neck. "We always saw Jared with bruises and cuts, but it varied; sometimes it was an eye or his jaw, sometimes he was kicked. It depended on Ben's mood. Trust me Jared tried to hide it, baggy sweaters, foundation, sunglasses – the works but we still saw them,"

 

"Can you get to the point or are you going to tell us how terrible it all is and how desperately sorry you are?" snipped Chad, as he automatically pulled out a cigarette. Jared had always told him off, said that they would kill him. Now Jared was possibly dying. What would it matter if he coughed his lungs up?

 

That was enough. Jensen stalked over, looking every inch Dean ‘do not fuck with me' Winchester that Chad almost gulped. Jensen yanked the cigarette out of Chad's mouth, eyes blazing with suppressed ire.

 

"It's a non-smoking area Chad, or can't you read among your many other talents?" Jensen bit back, fury glistening in eyes. As the condescending words came out, Chad's eyes narrowed to slits.

 

"What gives you the fucking right-" Chad began, his voice icy.

 

"Jared gives me the right. I'm here for him, because you rang me!" snarled Jensen.

 

"Fat lot of good it’s done so far! And you don’t have any rights because you haven’t been there for him! When YOU see Jared barely able to move because Ben’s beat him so badly, or have to watch Jared have his head stitched up. When you hold his head when he throws up even though there’s nothing in his stomach. When you spend a night cradling Jared trying to stop him shaking because of another nightmare, when you do all of those things, then you have the right, until you go through what we have with him, nothing gives you the right, so back the fuck off!” Chad snarled desperately trying to control the fury welling up in him.

 

"Look, I'm trying, OK? I want to make things right, but I can't do this if you won't even give me a chance. Shit…I…I don't know how to even begin…Dr. Harris told me- something about the abuse. She… didn't know how much more you could take after hearing all the other… details."

 

“I doubt there’s anything that we haven’t heard, we lived through the whole thing, there’s nothing she could’ve told us that we didn’t already know” Sophia sighed, suddenly looking thirty years older. It broke Jensen’s heart; no one should have their innocence stripped away like this.

 

"We know what happened to Jared. Anyway, she hardly diluted the details, so what's so different about this?" Chad asked. Nothing could be worse than seeing your best friend; your virtual brother having the crap beat out of him.

 

"Do you know exactly what Ben did to Jared…how he abused him?" Jensen asked he could almost feel the bile rise up in his throat.

 

Please don’t tell me. A voice whispered, he didn’t want to see the injuries nor hear of them there was a part that still wanted to pretend this had never happened, that it was all some evil dream and that Jared was really safe and happy, preferably in his arms. But it wasn’t, he’d seen the still body, the bruises marring his face, gazed at the slowly healing wrist, but there were more he knew, ones that were covered with blankets or by time. That didn’t mean they were gone though, the damage had still been done.

 

What drove him to know the extent of Jared’s injuries? Why did he want to torture himself with such information, it would only serve to increase his already burning hatred of Ben, what if this tipped him over the edge, would he try to kill Ben if he heard this, or was there some other, more morbid reason he needed to hear this? Jensen didn’t dare examine the question.

 

"Boots, fists, stairs, glass, knives, threats, the bastard was always thorough, he’d use whatever was handy at the time, and it wasn’t just punches and kicks either. He liked to burn Jared too, places people couldn’t see, same with the bruises. Ben couldn’t have people seeing Jay’s injuries," Sophia bit out, her face grim.

 

Jensen swore and resisted the urge to hit something.

 

"Through I get it, but…how far did the abuse go?" Jensen looked at both in turn, keeping his voice steady, calm, reassuring; everything he wasn't feeling.

 

"Other than having the living shit kicked out of him on a daily basis?" Chad stated blandly.

 

"Besides that. Did Ben do anything - else?" he pressed, a note of impatience creeping into his voice.

 

"He's a vicious sadist, what more do you need to know? As far as I'm concerned nothing can make this worse," Chad butted in.

 

"Things can always get worse," Jensen whispered.

 

"Just how could it get worse, short of him dying? He’s lying in a coma, with possible brain damage and God knows what else, the doctors have no idea when or if he’ll wake up, for all we know, those machines are the only things keeping him alive. Tell me what is worse than that,” Sophia’s vocie ended in a whisper, feeling tears sting her eyes as she finally allowed herself to voice the seriousness of Jared’s condition, of her terror of loosing her best friend weighing heavily on her.

 

“She’s right. C'mon Jensen, Dr Harris obviously saw fit to grace you with some extra information and I want to know what," Chad demanded.

 

Trust me, you don’t. I wish to God I could forget it. Jensen thought bitterly, his heart beginning to pump faster with fear of telling Jared’s friends.

 

Why wouldn't Jensen just tell them? After everything Jared had been through, shouldn't things get better, light at the tunnel or some crap like that?

 

"Ben raped Jared," his voice barely above a whisper, not able to meet their eyes, fearing what he would find there.

 

Jensen was granted their full attention as a look of disbelief and revulsion spread across Chad's white face.

 

"W-what?" Chad whispered, unable to speak.

 

"Dr. Harris said he did it...regulary," Jensen resisted the urge to throw up as he forced out the words.

 

He inwardly cringed at the clinical language, no matter how phrased, it hurt both to hear and to say. Jensen let his words hang in the air for a moment, not sure how to proceed when it was broken with an almost thunderous voice.

 

“That fucking piece of shit!! I’ll fucking FLAY him alive!!” spat Chad, not caring that Jensen winced when he turned to him.

 

"Fuck this, you're probably lying…there’s no way even Ben would…he couldn’t…not to Jared…he just couldn’t" he mentally shuddered.

 

"It's the truth Chad. I wish to God it wasn't. Dr. Harris recognised the abuse, she deals with this a lot, she could…she just…knew. I'm so sorry Chad." Jensen lowered his as shame ran through him.

 

Shame that he’d been forced to tell Sophia and Chad something they should never have had to hear, shame that he hadn’t been able to protect Jared, hadn’t been there for him, shame that he was the ultimate catalyst for this whole situation.

 

‘Evidence’ the very word made him shudder, he didn’t want to see to even think about that let alone talk about it, but it didn’t stop the horrendous images swarming his mind.

 

"SORRY?! You think a `sorry' will make things better? You can't do anything; in fact, you've done more than enough! This isn't some fairytale; you're not Dean fucking Winchester or some prince, you can't make anything better. Soph-"

 

Sophia wasn't listening. She sat on the chair almost curling in on herself, tears flowing down her face, but she was compeltely silent, which Jensen was surprised at. It was probably shock. It had to be.

 

"Sophia…can I-" began Jensen, moving forward to try and comfort her, but Sophia shook her head vehementily. Jensen's attempts at comforting Sophia were brought to an abrupt halt by Chad's shouting.

 

"HOW COULD HE DO THAT TO ANYONE - TO JAY?!! FUCKING SICKO…WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON HIM, HE'LL FUCKING WISH HE'D DIED AT BIRTH!!" he thundered.

 

Without warning, he balled his fist and punched a hole in the nearest wall. Sophia flinched but didn't say anything. Chad was breathing hard, a bloodied hand hanging limply by his side, seemingly oblivious to the pain, gazing intently at the partially destroyed wall as if it could somehow stop the pain that was welling inside of him.

 

Jensen went over to Chad, putting a hand on his shoulder, trying to gently tug him back. Jensen was almost knocked off balance when he was roughly shoved back by the shorter man. Chad spun round, his eyes flashing with ferocity.

 

“I trusted you! You promised you loved Jay, that you'd protect him, that you wouldn’t leave him! How the fuck did you protect him from this? He's been abused and fucking raped, by his BOYFRIEND, more than once because you were scared of some SHITTY HOMOPHOBES!! You're a fucking coward Ackles. Jay gave you everything, like he gave Ben, but it was NEVER ENOUGH!! He's my friend, my brother. he’d lost almost all his friends and family because Ben’s abused him, Ben's probably enjoying himself, not giving a shit about Jared, and Jared is probably DYING right now and I can't help him!!"

 

"Chad," began Jensen, trying to placate Chad.

 

"Don't you fucking get it, Ackles? It's gonna change everything. Jared will NEVER be the same again; he'll probably never let anyone ever touch him. Once the press finds out – and believe me they will - they're gonna have a field day. Can you see it: ‘Gay star abused by boyfriend! All the juicy details inside!'? It's the stuff journalists live for," he sneered, disgust dripping from every word.

 

Chad was furious with himself. God, he should have known; there'd been enough signs. Was rape really a far step for abuse? Honestly, it should've been obvious, how Jared acted, pulling back from affectionate embraces, a balking at any romantic film or TV scenes or wear anything remotely sexy or tailored to his body shape. He had been ashamed of himself. The pieces all seemed to come together in a macabre jigsaw.

 

He'd slowly seen Jay get nervous when people chatted him up, or how he'd begun to unconsciously flinch whenever anyone touched him. How he’s retreated into dark, baggy clothes with no shape, that he’s turned down potential roles with any romance, no matter how good the script. It was so damn obvious. He wanted to scream in frustration and horror, but no sound would come out.

 

"He's going to have his life publicly dissected by those parasitic vultures, and Jay's family gets to read all about it, that's how they're gonna find out, not that they didn’t have their suspinous but it’s a hell of a way to have them confirmed! Everyone who loves Jay is gonna suffer, and you think you can play the hero?!" Chad turned away in disgust and turned to Sophia.

 

As far as Chad was concerned, apart from Jay, Sophia was the only other innocent person in all this shitty business. Slumping down next to Sophia, Chad desperately tried to reign in his anger. As he instinctively reached out to Sophia she automatically shrugged him off.

 

She didn't notice Chad's hurt expression as Jensen came up but Chad ignored him, trying to comfort Sophia again, only to be rejected once more, a little more forcefully this time. Sophia didn't speak; she simply shook her head, and moved away, tears trickling down her face.

 

Chad looked at her in absolute disbelief. Sophia had never rejected him before, even during their divorce. Why was Sophia pushing him away now, when she so obviously needed him? When he needed Sophia so much? Did some part of Sophia blame herself, or even Chad? He just stared at Sophia, crying and shaking, rocking himself against the wall. In the years he'd known Sophia, he'd never seen Soph lose control like this. Jensen stood in the middle of the room, looking between the two, feeling lost. He despertely wanted to comfort Chad and Sophia, but neither would let him near them. What could he do? Lie, tell them it wasn't real? That bad things like that didn't happen, not to good people like Jared?

 

"Please don't turn me away Soph," Chad urged as he sat down next to Sophia, any anger or bravado stripped from his voice as he gazed at his ex wife. It amazed Jensen to see Chad, who not minutes ago had been swelled with rage, become tender and concerned towards his ex-wife.

 

So often Chad came off as an uncaring, arrogant asshole, to Jensen at least, but occasionally he got glimpses into what made Jared friends with the blond man, and why his former wife was still so close to him. He secrectly doubted that Soph and Chad were ‘over’ each other, they were as over, at least emotionally, as he and Jared were.

 

Chad still got no response, Sophia just turned her head away, not looking up as she tightened her grip around her legs, head buried in her lap, her whole body seeming to shudder. The sobs were silent now, but the shaking could be seen in a silent testimony to Sophia's agony. Chad looked at Sophia, confused as to how to proceed. Jensen wasn’t sure either. He’s expected rage, which Chad had delivered, sorrow, disblief but this…grief striken outpouring, he didn’t have a clue how to comfort Sophie about it.

 

“This is all my fault,” she mumbled. Her voice was barely audible, but Jensen heard it.

 

“No Soph, none of this is, you can’t blame yourself for this, you, Chad and Jared you’re completely blameless,” he soothed.

 

Sophia whipped the tears away rather savagely, a look of self-loathing on her face that took both men aback.

 

“You don’t understand! I…I knew about it, about it, Ben raping Jared! Jared t-told me,” she blurted, burying her head back in her hands, too ashamed to look at either man.

 

“What?” Chad whispered, not believing her. “You can’t be serious, you would’ve told me, gone to the police or something…”

 

His face immediately grew harder as the revelation sunk in. “You deliberately kept this from me, didn’t you? You fucking knew and you just let him carry on raping Jay, fuck what the hell happened to you?” he demanded a look of fury and disgust on his face.

 

Sophia seemed to shrink under his vemous look. She’s never seen Chad look so furious and was almost afraid of him. Despite his own shock, Jensen felt his heart clench for Soph, he couldn’t believe she would have willingly stood by and let Jared be raped by his boyfriend, there had to be more to the story than this, but right now Chad was in no mood to listen.

 

"Easy Chad, just give her some space," Jensen suggested.

 

"In case you've forgotten, I've dealt with this for six fucking years. Just leave the Zen attitude, OK? You've got NO idea what I've…we've been going through. I've gone through just as much as Sophia in this shit, and if she wants to close herself off to deal, fine, but she fucking lied to me about Jay! I'm going for a smoke. With any luck I might actually die before I get too old to care about friend's well-being!" Jensen moved forward

 

"Look, I want to help. I'm here if-" Chad's eyes held a mixture of fury and disbelief. "Chad, I know you're angry, you have every right to be-" Chad's eyes hardened at Jensen's words.

 

"You think I'm angry? Anger doesn't even begin to cover what I feel so don't even try to understand, or try to baby me; I'm not a child, I know how the world works."

 

"I want to help. I didn't tell you to hurt you, but I felt you had a right to know." Chad couldn't take any more as he strode over to the door.

 

"Please Chad, just wait," Jensen jumped up and without thinking grabbing Chad's arm, to stop him from wrenching the door handle off.

 

"Get. The. Fuck. Off. Me!" hissed Chad with such venom it was almost palpable.

 

"Chad-" began Jensen, his tone lowering in warning. Chad let out a humourless laugh.

 

"Oh threats, that'll work. Jared quickly caught on: behave or bruise. Simple really-"

 

"Chad, I know this is hurting you-“

 

“Oh you want to psych me, is that is, well go ahead Dr fucking Ackles, try and get inside my head and feel my pain, empathise with me, you’re good at that,”

 

“Chad, just…just shut up, for once in your life, just…look this isn’t my fault. I didn’t abuse or rape Jay-”

 

“No you just let Ben do it. If you hadn’t left Ben wouldn’t be an issue, you destroyed him when you abandoned him, he felt he was only good enough for scum like Ben – you’ve done this to him!”

 

“How can you say that?! I loved him…I still love him! I never wanted him to be anything but happy-“

 

“You’re fucking crazy! Jared would’ve done anything for you, you bastard! You have no idea what Ben put him through whenever anyone mentioned your name – remember that interview you gave, you casully mentioned Jay? Ben beat the shit out of him, he said Jay was going to leave him for you. Every time you mentioned him Ben kicked him, he wore fucking boots Jensen, kicked him in the stomach, the chest"

 

”Stop it…just stop. I don’t want to hear this."

 

“Tough. Every injury is there because of you, because Ben knew Jared still loved you, he tried so hard to love Ben, but he though he deserved Ben’s abuse, that is was OK because he didn’t give his whole heart to Ben. That’s your fault,”

 

”I swear to God if you don’t shut up I’ll fucking-”

 

"You’ll what? Hit me cause I hurt you? Isn't that what people do, what you do to people you care about, you hurt them? C'mon then Jenny, you're a big, strong man, got an inch or so on me, certainly more mussel - I'm an easy target aren't I? Just like Jared. Jared’s got those puppy eyes that beg you to hurt him, remember?"

 

For one horrible moment Jensen wanted to hit him hard, grab and shake some sense into him, yell and snarl with every ounce of fury he was carrying but would he have reacted any differently? In truth, he deserved at least some of Chad's venomous anger.

 

"It calmed Jared down. It's amazing what a few punches will do. What are you waiting for Jensen? Oh that's right, you don't hit, you're too noble to hit anyone."

 

"Stop it!" growled Sophia, her face a mixture of anger, hurt and disbelief, seeing her expression Chad wanted to cry; Sophia looked empty… lost.

 

"This is about Jay, not who's to blame. Save your hatred for Ben, Chad, he’s the one who deserves it, not Jen," she whispered, a note of pleading in her voice. Chad looked chagrined; he'd been so wrapped up in his anger, convinced only his hurt mattered.

 

“I’m sorry Soph, I don’t hate you, I just, how did you know about it, and why didn’t you tell me? I thought we agreed to keep everything open,”

 

“I promised Jared I wouldn’t tell anyone, at that includes you. I’m sorry, I couldn’t betray Jay’s trust, you had no idea how scared and ashamed he was, if he thought anyone else knew, I think it would’ve broken him, and we definitely would have lost him,”

 

“What happened?” Jensen urged gently.

 

Sophia sighed, rubbing her now red eyes.

 

“Jared didn’t tell me, not like you think. I didn’t know at the time, he only told me afterwards. God I’ve tried so hard to blot it out. It’s was a a week or so after the party, I got a call from Jared, it was 1 am. Jared could barely speak, he just said he needed help. When I got there, I let myself in, and Jared was curled on the bed, Ben was nowhere in sight, Jared said he’d gone out, wouldn’t be back for hours. I knew something bad had happened, but Jared wouldn’t talk about it. Jared crying, he was so quiet and there was blood o-on the bed, and some on his thigh. Jared’s face was bruised, it didn’t take a genuis to work out.”

 

Of course she’d immediately know the signs of rape. Both men knew Sophia hd more experience with devistating affects of rape than most, Felicity, who’d introduced her to Ben, had almost been raped when they were sixteen and on a double date. Sophia had saved Felicity and help through the truma, but the experianced weighed heavily on both girls, both carrying scars, Sophia mentally and Felicity physically. Since then Sophia had made it her business to campaign about rape, attempted or actual.

 

She sucked in a breath, her voice trembled, her eyes pleading for neither man to interupt. She didn’t think she could tell them again now if she stopped.

 

“I knew Jared needed to go to the hospital but he freaked out at that, so I ended up calling an old friend, Lizzie. She runs a rape crisis centre and had dealt with male rape victims before and I knew she wouldn’t say anything. I took Jared there. He could barely walk but somehow we got him to my car. He needed several stitches, on his head and…” she stopped, her face contorting in pain. “Ben torn him pretty badly. They ran a rape kit, just to confirm it. It was defintely Ben and it was definitely rape. Liz tried to persued Jared to go the police but he refused, he was too ashamed, said no one would believe him, that his boyfriend couldn’t have raped him, said they’d dismiss it as ‘rough play’, and if they did believe him, Ben would find out, and it’d only make things worse. He couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t make him go, he was so scared. I just ended up holding him.”

 

“He made me promise never to talk about it, said Ben hadn’t meant to do that, that he was drunk and didn’t know what he was doing. He…he said Ben got upset when Jared didn’t want sex the previous night. Ben got pissed, said Jared didn’t really love him, that he was still in love with Jen, and that he was going to make sure that Jared never left him,” by this stage Sophia’s voice sounded raw.

 

Chad looked horrorified, but Jensen looked positively sick and for a moment Chad thought he was going to throw up.

 

“He never talked about it again, wanted to pretend it had never happened. He was so embarrsed he’d had to call me that night, he couldn’t face admitting what had happened. He made me promise not to tell anyone – you, his parents, Jeff, his siblings. No one. You didn’t see him then Chad, he was so broken, I couldn’t breka my word,”

 

“But…why didn’t he want me to know?” Chad sighed. “I know about the abuse, even if he doesn’t talk about it, he knows we know. Why you Ben raping him make any difference?”

 

“He didn’t see it that way. You’re fine with him being gay, but male rape…you don’t talk about it, or acknowledge it. It’s only women who get raped, men should be able to fight anyone off. He was scared you’d hate him, think he was even more weak. I…I think he called me because he couldn’t deal with being round any more men right then. It wasn’t personal Chad. He just couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know if Ben raped him again, I asked him once or twice but Jared just compeltely shut down, he wouldn’t even acknowledge the question, I just…hoped Ben had never done it again. I guess it was just wishful thinking, nothing’s too low for that bastard,” she spat spitefully. “Believe me Jen, if you want to castrate the bastard without anthestic, I’ll be first in line to hold him down,”

 

Chad slumped in his chair at Sophia’s revelation. He knew he was being unfair to Jensen, he wasn’t to blame for any of this, but Jensen had promised to never harm Jared, yet he had, more than he would ever truly know, but he didn’t deserve to hear that from Chad and looking at Jensen’s stricken face he already deeply regretted his harsh words. To hear from Jensen that Ben had violated Jay, he just saw red and then Soph to confirm it…he felt like he was breaking.

 

"God, I'm sorry Soph, and you too Jensen, I shouldn’t have said that, it was out of line. This whole mess isn’t your fault, you didn’t know what would happen...I just…when you said…I wanted…I was…fuck! I’m sorry Jensen, I can be such a bastard at times, I know that,"

 

"Don’t worry about it, I expected it…It'll be OK, " Jensen whispered, looking up at Chad, his face offering no blame to the younger man and tentatively offered a sad smile which was returned by Chad. Walking over to the two hobbits, seeking to offer comfort, Jensen cautiously laying a hand on Sophia's shoulder. To Jared’s relief she didn’t shrug it off, instead she leaned into Jensen, allowing him to wrap his arm around her as tears began to flow down her cheeks.

 

"How? Jay could still die. I can't let him die Jensen," Chad's voice lowered considerably for what seemed the first time in hours, his anger seemed to have exhausted itself. Jensen felt his heart constrict. It's a wonder he could still feel at all.

 

"He won't die, Jared’s strong, he won’t give up. We'll help him and each other get through this," he vowed, his voice low.

 

"You can't promise that Jensen," came the quiet reply. At last Jensen allowed his own tears to fall as he was forced to face the truth of Chad's words.

 

"I'm so sorry, Jay. I never wanted to hurt you," he whispered, gazing off into the distance as the tears slid down his face. Chad stood for a moment, not knowing what to do as he stared at Sophia and Jensen lying on the floor, almost as if the wall was supporting them. Seeing the look of utter devastation and sorrow on Jensen's face made his gut twist. How had Ben managed to wreck so many lives? Without pausing, Chad reached out to touch Sophia, being prepared for a rebuff. It didn't come, and Chad felt himself sag in relief. He feared that he'd lost Sophia to the sorrow that had seemed to eat him up.

 

"I love you Soph. I…I didn't mean to push you away, I just…feel so lost," he whispered as tears streaked down his face, a look of utter misery visible.

 

"There's nothing to forgive," she soothed; he couldn't be angry with Sophia. Jensen stared into space as the words tumbled from his lips. At times like this it was hard to understand why Chad and Soph had divorced, but it probably had something to do with the same reasons why Jared and Jared were still in love. God how did they all mess up their love lives so badly?

 

"When Chad told me about Jared's attempted suicide, I wanted to die. I couldn't understand why he would do that, then I heard about the abuse and then the rapes and I wanted to crawl away, to hide and I hated myself even more for that. You've always been there for Jared, when I should've been. Don't ever think you've let Jared down in any way, either of you. If it weren't for you both, Jared would be dead. I want to make amends with Jared. I want him back in my life, however much he'll allow."

 

There was a long silence after Jensen's speech. He'd bared his soul to them and he hoped this would help them begin to trust him again. He didn't want to fight. He felt as lost and hurt as they did. He wasn't sure how much longer he could do this; he was crumbling, slowly. Chad pulled Sophia close to him, trying to offer what little comfort he could.

 

"Remember that morning, after the CW party? when Ben first met everyone. Remember the day after, he was really skittish?” Sophia whispered. Chad nodded a a decidedly sick look on his face, as if he knew what was coming.

 

“Jared never admited it but that must be when it started. He was so quiet; he had bruises then. I don't know what set Ben off, maybe he just flipped," Chad offered. There was a horrible pause as Jensen felt his heart clench at Chad's words. Didn't they know?

 

"I ran into Jared at the party," he blurted. The two men looked up and stared at him as if he'd just announced he was pregnant.

 

"Wait, you and Jared met, at the party, with Ben. Fuck! We should've taken Jay home with us. We all saw how angry Ben was… that's when it all started," whispered Chad, his eyes brimming with tears.

 

This was so much worse, knowing that they could probably pinpoint the exact time the abuse really began.

 

*** begin flashback ***

 

Jared was curled listlessly on the bed, not moving. His entire body ached in a way he never thought possible, it wasn’t the ache of tired limbs, this ache seeped deep from his skin into his bones, his very heart. A well of tears rose again, biting his lip hard Jared couldn’t stop them as they rolled down his checks. Flashes of the previous night came back to him and he felt the taste of bile rise up in his mouth. Rushing to the bathroom, he emptied the contents of his stomach, and probably half his stomach lining as well. He glanced at his reflection in the small mirror and shuddered. Bruises were beginning to form around his neck and shoulders, a vivid testimony to what had happened last night, yet his heart and soul rejected it, screamed at him that Ben loved him, but the evidence was there.

 

A silent, stubborn sign of what he couldn't even admit to himself; to admit it would make it real, and Jared couldn't stand that, not ever. He felt so dirty and tired, a terrible self-loathing hanging over him. No matter how much he'd showered, nothing would shift it, like a lingering stench, choking him. Ben had sworn it was for Jared's own good, he'd been left with no option, he hadn’t wanted to hurt Jared, hadn’t want to harm him. He promised Jared it was cleansing him, making him Ben's again.

 

Was that true? Did he deserve the pain Ben had put him through? At first, Ben had shouted at Jared belittled him in more ways than Jared thought possible, saying it was all Jared’s fault, because of the party and that Jared couldn’t control himself. Jared had tried to listen and then got angry, trying to leave, then it had all gone horribly wrong.

 

Then Ben had decided words hadn’t been enough to get his feelings across. Harsh words had turned to actions and then the real pain had begun…and no amount of apologising and sobbing would make it stop. Jared could have sworn Ben spat out `Jensen' in between his tirades at Jared, blaming him. But by the end he'd cried, begged Jared to forgive him. He'd hurt so much, every part of him ached and burned, and not in a good way this was not the aftermath of a lover’s caress or a night of passion, there was nothing good or comforting about the pain he was in, it was unlike anything he’d ever felt before.

 

He'd tried to absolve Ben when he’d cried afterwards, he’s tried so hard, but no words had come out; for the first time Jared hadn't been able to speak, the pain had been too much. He'd turned on his side, allowing the tears to fall, praying Ben wouldn't notice. He'd tried not to cringe when Ben had pulled him close, whispering meaningless endearments in his ear. The tears wouldn’t stop falling and the pain didn’t ebb away. Jared wasn't an expert in gay relationships but he knew enough to know this wasn't right. He shouldn't hurt like this, not so badly or for so long. He'd never hurt with Jensen. Jensen had always been careful, even during any rough play, worshipping him like an idol, whispering Jared was his god, his perfection.

 

Jared had never understood that. Jared wasn't an idol. He was human. Jensen had always put him on a pedestal, too high, too unstable and now he'd fallen, hard. It seemed so long ago, like he was another person; a young man so full of laughter and innocence, curls glistening and his eyes dancing with untold mischief and love. Now those same eyes were dead. Idol, what a joke, he snorted disdainfully at himself. If Jensen could see him now, his godhood was stripped to reveal what? A mortal.

 

He couldn't stop Ben last night, and he couldn't face his friends now, what did that make him? Was he turning into a coward? He’d never really considered himself as such, always tried to tackle his problems head on, but it was different this time, it was something he seemed unable to fight, because he couldn’t even seem to wrap his head around what happened. All he knew was he hurt, a lot, that Ben had hurt him and he didn’t know why.

 

In his mind he was so terrified of rejection he'd let Ben do what he wanted. Jensen’s dissertation had shattered him in ways even Chad and Sophia didn’t know about. He knew Ben loved him, and was liable to get a bit…rough at times, but that could be forgiven, it was simply part of his nature, maybe he’d gone slightly too far last night. Ben said he loved him. Maybe he showed it in a different way.

 

That had to be it; he loved Jared, he'd said it, held him and promised to never let him go. That had convinced Jared. He didn't want to be left alone, to be unloved…unlovable. Jensen didn't love him anymore, that was certain; he'd practically ran away from him last night, but not before giving him a look of pity. That was all that Jensen considered worthy of him now. Pity. To have someone who claimed to have loved you so deeply look at you like a hurt puppy…it had crushed him. He'd been so convinced he was over Jensen.

 

He would never be over Jensen, and he hated it. It wasn't fair to Ben, who loved him, who stayed with him. He didn't deserve someone with a broken heart. He was shaken out of his self-recrimination by the doorbell ringing rather incessantly. Jared cringed. He couldn't face the outside world in any form at the moment. Heading back to the bed, a source of comfort and infinite pain all at once, he hoped they'd give up and leave. He tried not to make a sound as he felt tears prick his eyes and harshly brushed them away.

 

The bell stopped and Jared breathed a sigh of relief, until he heard the lock wrangle and someone let themselves in. He felt his heart pound and tried desperately to fight the urge to hide under the covers. Making an effort to control his quivering mussels, he sat rigidly silent on the bed and waited.

 

"Yo, Jay dude!” came a voice in an exagerated surfer’s tone. Chad. He cursed the day he'd given his friends the spare key.

 

No reply.

 

"Jared?" came another voice. That was Sophia. He should’ve guessed they would turn up sometime. It seemed it was impossible to go through a day without some form of contact or communication. Normally he loved that, but right now he just felt an overwhelming urge to hide, or run.

 

Maybe he had time to jump out the window and run off, would anyone notice? He silently congratulated himself for getting dressed earlier that morning, how he’d managed that, since he was shaking at the time, he was still unsure.

 

"Can you hear us?" bellowed Chad’s voice, Jared winced. Chad came in first, practically striding, with Soph following behind. Trust them to choose the bedroom as the first place to look; they really knew him too well.

 

"Are you OK Jared?" Sophia asked, a look of concern painted on her face, as she looked at Jared on the bed, barely moving, his posture unnaturally rigid. Very unlike Jared, he seemed…smaller somehow. Sophia couldn’t quite explain it but it left an unsettled feeling in her stomach.

 

"I'm fine, just tired. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I've got a lot on my mind. What are you guys doing here?" Jared asked, not looking up, anything he could do to deflect attention away from him was good.

 

Unfortunately, Chad was nothing if not an observant little bugger, and would immediately pick up on something out of place. Sophia was almost as bad; he had this way of looking at someone, sussing out the truth. Of all the people that could have called on him today, why did it have to be sodding Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson wannabe’s? Fantastic.

 

"Just you had to leave really quickly last night. We said we’d organise something today, remember?" Sophia said, beginning to feel rather uneasy. Jared was hiding something from them, but what?

 

"How's Ben?" Chad butted in. Sophia wanted to throttle Chad. Normally it would be considered a civilised question, but Chad's tone made it anything but civilised. At Ben's name, Jared unconsciously fidgeted, and Sophia noticed how pained he looked. What the hell was going on? Had they fought last night? Sophia wasn’t blind, he’d seen them argue over something last night, what had happened?

 

"He's fine, he had to leave really early for work. Why?" Jared tried to keep his voice level. Chad eyed him carefully, taking in Jared's reactions; the fiddling hands…were they shaking? The lack of colour in his face, the ridged unnatural posture was so unlike Jay. Chad was worried, this wasn’t his Jay. Where had his friend full of laughter and energy gone?

 

He had a nasty feeling that Ben had done something to extinguish that last night. If he had hurt Jared in any way he would suffer, and Chad would take great pleasure in carrying that out. After Jared had taken off so suddenly last night, he and Soph had talked about Ben, Soph was clearly worried thought Ben was too controlling, and now Chad was finally beginning to agree with her. Chad had liked Ben, more than Jensen at least, but last night he’d come off as a distant, arrogant prick and if he thought about it, it wasn’t the first time Ben had been snotty in company.

 

"No reason. He just looked a bit annoyed last night. I got the impression he wanted to get going," Chad said, widening his eyes in fake innocence. Under other circumstances, Jared would have laughed but he felt himself squirm instead, a horrible chill was creeping up his spine. Sophia nudged Chad hard in the ribs, causing a scowl from her ex. "We were just worried that's all."

 

"I'm fine, everything's fine, why wouldn't it be? We had a fight, that's it. Couples row, we made up, end of story!" Jared exclaimed, his words coming harsher than he'd intended. Both Chad and Sophia looked a little shocked. Chad noticed Jared was clamming up, which was not good. Friends didn't keep secrets, did they?

 

"Look, Jared, if there's something you're hiding-"

 

"Stop it Chad! You're my friend, not my bloody keeper! Just stay out of it, will you?!" he demanded, becoming more than a little flustered and pissed off with Chad's constant questioning. "Look, I couldn't sleep last night. I'm exhausted, plus I've got a hangover, no great mystery Sherlock, happy?"

 

"You didn't drink, remember? You stuck to water," Chad challenged, a triumphant sound in his voice. Jared looked like he'd choked on a lemon and wanted nothing more than to bolt.

 

"Chad, just leave it OK? Jay clearly doesn't want us around at the moment," sighed Sophia, and for some reason that made Jared feel even worse. It wasn't their fault Ben was mad. They were just trying to help.

 

"I'm sorry, both of you. I just feel really tired; it's nothing personal, I swear, I’m probably coming down with a bug. I'm not good company today and I've been busy feeling sorry for myself."

 

They didn't need to know how terrible he felt, that he wanted to crawl under a rock and die, really and truly die; he could barely look at his friends. His control was hanging by a thread. If they didn't leave he was going to start crying, telling them he was scared, but he couldn't do that to his friends. Sophia would be pushing him out the door if she knew what had happened, and he had to stay, sort things out. Jensen had quit over their relationship, and Jared wasn't going to do that with Ben. If he hadn't met Jensen last night nothing would have happened. Even far away Jensen managed to screw up his life. Chad looked most unhappy about the whole situation.

 

"Just come out for a drink or something Jay," he cajoled. Why was Jared acting like this? He just couldn't understand it. Jared shook his head firmly.

 

"I'm too tired Chad, sorry."

 

Sophia looked around the room, resisting the urge to crinkle her face. She watched Jared fiddle with the blanket, noticing how her friend's fingers trembled; the sweater seemed ridiculously big for even Jared's tall frame, she was positive he’d lost weight in the last few weeks. As Jared fiddled, the sleeves rolled up slightly and Sophia caught a glance of Jay's wrist; there was definitely bruising on it, and they were not hickies. She frowned at that, just how much of a ‘row' had they had last night?

 

Chad moved easily towards the bed and plonked himself down as if he owned it. He'd helped Jared pick it out when he’s first moved in. For a moment Chad said nothing, kicking his legs against the bed, humming deliberately off key, a far too innocent expression on his face. What was the little git playing at?

 

"Have you eaten today?" Chad asked. Startled by the question, Jared shook his head dumbly. He didn't think he could hold any food right now.

 

"Right, me and Soph are taking you out for a real meal. No buts. My treat, you're all skin and bones and believe me on that gigantor frame of yours, it ain’t attractive. There is nothing to eat here, ‘cept that rabbit crap you call ‘food'. C'mon, get up," he urged, pulling on Jared's arm, which was presently shrinking away.

 

"I'm not hungry-" began Jay, but Chad shook his head firmly.

 

"I know you’re not but I don’t care, you’re going to eat! Best friends look out for each other. Look, you'll feel better if you eat something. You can't live on rabbit food all your life. I want some company, besides Soph," he wheedled, yanking harder on Jared's sweater.

 

As Jared pulled away, his sweater rolled up, exposing his arm to his friends. A dead silence fell over the room, and Jared looked away, ashamed. Chad had a grim smile on his face. He'd seen! Sophia didn't know whether to yell or hug him.

 

"What's going on Jared? Did Ben hurt you-"

 

His face flamed with embarrassment as he hastily pulled it down, not daring to look at either of his friends.

 

"Ben has nothing to do with it. He doesn't know; I didn't want to worry him," Jared whispered, not looking up. Chad reached up and hugged Jared, noticing, rather unhappily, that Jared froze.

 

"OK so you say Ben's innocent, fine – for now, but something's up Jared. Don't try and pull a load of bull with us, please." Chad pleaded.

 

"He's right Jay. If you don't want to talk right now, that's OK. We're here for you no matter what. We love you. Get changed, it’ll do you good to get out, we'll wait for you," Sophia said, her voice soothing and comforting. Sophia had that affect on people. Slowly he nodded. He couldn't stay here, not right now; he was scared to be alone. He could go somewhere else; pretend home felt safe from a distance.

 

No one spoke while Jared changed into a random sweater. Turning back he looked at his friends and smiled slightly as he ran a hand through his hair, trying to make it behave. Taking his keys, he debated about leaving a note for Ben. Ben wouldn't be happy if he didn't know where Jay was, but even less happy if he did.

 

Suddenly, looking at his friend's concerned expressions, Jared found he didn't care. They said they'd always be there for him, and he knew that was true, they would be there even if Ben left, he wouldn’t be alone. If Ben was angry about him going out, he would face the consequences later. He didn't leave a note as he walked out the door with Sophia and Chad either side, protecting him.

 

He wondered if he could call his home ‘safe’ again.

 

*** end flashback ***

 

Jensen, Sophia and Chad had been sitting silently in the doctor's room for over half an hour, struggling to come to terms with this new information. "My meeting Jay at the…I never liked the fucking bastard when I met him, something about him set me on edge" Jensen sighed, a bitter grin on his face.

 

"Of course I dismissed it as petty ex’s jealousy. I should have looked more closely, or trusted my gut instinct."

 

"And have Jeff lecture you about `ex's decorum'?" teased Sophia. It seemed too easy to fall back into the old pattern of their friendship.

 

"If it's any consolation, he creeped me out from early on," Soph offered, no shame in her voice.

 

"Don't let Soph kid you. She was still sore you and Jay weren't together," Sophia smirked. "I thought she was just being her usual charming stubborn self, more so than usual. She didn’t like any of Jared’s disaster dates if that makes you feel better. Chad offered

 

"I had justifiable cause, they were all losers! One was married for God sake!" Sophia said haughtily. Jensen smiled slightly.

 

“Yeah and one asked for your number, apprantly he was you’re number one fan, and loved re-hashing Supernatural scenes. It was a fun date,” Chad grinned at Jensen, who’s eyes blugged.

 

“He wanted my number? On a date with Jared? Ouch,” he winced, which made Sophia smile.

 

Hearing them banter like this, it was almost as if nothing had changed. Lord knows she was more than willing to turn his back on reality.

 

"You really liked me and Jay together?" Jensen suddenly spoke up, curiosity tingeing his voice. Sophia nodded seriously.

 

"You guys were always so happy together. I can’t remember the last time I saw Jay as happy as when he was with you, you just…fitted together somehow.”

 

“She’s right,” Chad butted in, his expression serious. “You loved Jared, there’s no denying that – and believe me it pains me to admit this, but you guys were good together, Jared was happy. It was the break-up you seriously fucked up, not the relationship."

 

"Thanks. I think," Jensen whispered, looking off into the distance.

 

"Anytime, Jenny," Chad smirked, this time no anger or maliciousness was attached to it.

 

"Don't call me that, Chadina," Jensen warned, a grin plastering his face.

 

"Sure thing Ghostfacer."

 

"Boyband wannabe"

 

"Would-be Superman."

 

"Paris Hilton fancier."

 

’brother screwer' almost tumbled from Chad's lips, but he caught himself just in time. Now wasn't the time to go there.

 

As the name-calling went back and forth, Sophia found herself rolling her eyes and smiling, truly smiling, since she saw Jared on the bathroom floor. What made her smile the most, though, were Jensen and Chad, because they were smiling toom at each other which had to be a world record in itself.

 

"When are we going to tell Jared’s family? They kind of know about the abuse, it’s why they don’t see Jared any more, but they never spoke about it, mainly cause Jared wouldn’t let them, but I doubt they know the details, especially this latest… addition," Chad sighed, his tone turning serious again.

 

Before Jensen could think of a reply, there was a gentle knock on the door. How long had they been in here anyway? Probably too long. He kept forgetting the hospital was public.

 

A soft cough interrupted them. As they looked up, they found Dr. Harris standing there, a small smile on her face. She felt a rush of relief when the three men before her smiled, real smiles that lit up their eyes. Seeing the devotion to Jared was heart-warming and heartbreaking all at once.

 

"I'm sorry to interrupt you, but Jared's waking up. He started coming around about ten minutes ago."

 

At this, three heads shot up in disbelief.

 

"H-he's awake?! Can we see him?" asked Chad, jumping up with an unbridled enthusiasm, his eyes sparkling with relief and gratitude.

 

"Yes, but not for long. He's still very groggy and dis-orintated, so don't expect summersaults from him." She smiled. "But before we go, I just want you to be prepared …he doesn't look good. Don't push him for details or reasons, just…be there for him," she offered, as she stood aside.

 

"I'll be along in a moment."

 

Chad and Sophia practically fell out the door in their haste to see their friend. Jensen walked slower, an all-consuming dread welling up within him. This was it, time to face reality.

 

"Aren't you going to visit Jared?" she queried. He'd had spent hours by Jared’s bedside, clutching the younger man’s hand. Why wasn't he with his friends?

 

"I don't want to crowd Jared," he offered with a shaky smile.

 

"You want to avoid a surprise party?" she offered with a wry smile. "I'm assuming you've talked about Ben raping Jared?" she asked carefully, and received a nod of affirmation, her eyes glittered with understanding and compassion for the younger man.

 

"He's going to get through this, he's a fighter," Jensen smiled wistfully.

 

"It's not my business, but I really think you should be there too. If not for Jared then for your own peace of mind." Jensen nodded slowly; seeing Jared one last time, awake and alive before he was dismissed forever from Jared’s life, as he deserved to be.

 

"Thank you," he offered simply, a tentative smile gracing his lips, as he walked down the hall, trying not to run, either to or away from Jared.

 

Dr. Harris sighed as she saw him walk away. Maybe this tale would have a happy ending. She could hope; it's what people did best, after all.

 

TBC please, please send feedback!

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 8

 

*beep*

 

"Dr. Harris! Doctor! He's coming round!"

 

*beep, beep*

 

"About time. All right, everyone stand back. Don't crowd him, let’s give him some air."

 

*beep, beep, beep*

 

"Give him some space, keep checking his vitals."

 

*beepbeep, beep beep*

 

"Come on Jared, don't quit on me now, just open your eyes for me,"

 

*beepbeepbeep, beep*

 

"Jared?"

 

*beepbeepbeepbeepbeep*

 

"…Jared? Jared can you hear me? Can you squeeze my hand?"

 

Whose voice was that? He didn't recognise the owner…where was he? Everything was too bright, too noisy, it hurt his eyes…no not just his eyes, everything hurt.

 

"It's going to be OK Jared, just try and rest, we're going to take care of you." The voice was soothing, quiet. He felt himself relax momentarily at the gentle hand on his brow; the touch was unfamiliar yet comforting.

 

Slowly his eyes seemed to focus as he took in a woman standing over him. Was she an angel? Strange looking angel in a white coat and nametag, but then they’d had an angel in a beige mac on the show so anything was possible. Did they have nametags in heaven…was he in heaven…or hell...oh God was he in Hell? No, no he couldn't be. If it was Hell, was this his punishment…it couldn't be heaven, surely, they didn't have pain in heaven did they?

 

His mind struggled to piece together the disjointed memories. The last thing he remembered was that he'd been on the bathroom floor, then everything had gone black; there was nothing after, just…peace, stillness. There was no anger, no words. He had felt truly free, at peace for the first time in years. Now that peace was gone, and he couldn't understand why. He wanted to ask a thousand questions but his mouth wouldn't work, and he felt his eyes itch.

 

He longed to be part of the peaceful oblivion again and desperately tried to reclaim it, his eyes flicking shut, before a hand gently caught his arm

 

"Oh no you don't, mister. You're staying with us this time. Open your eyes Jared, it’s OK, you're home, you’re safe."

 

Reluctantly, slowly, his eyes parted again.

 

"That's better. You've proved a very stubborn patient Jared. Don't worry about your eyes; they aren't quite used to light again yet. It will take them a bit of time to adjust; I'll get one of the nurses to give you something to help. They should sort themselves out within the next few hours."

 

"W-wh-where am I? What's happening?"

 

"St. Mary's Memorial Hospital. I'm Dr. Alexandra Harris, I've been overseeing your progress for the past few days."

 

"Days? Progress? What's happened, why am I here-" he felt a sense of panic rise within him. This didn't make any sense.

 

"Slow down Jared, I assure you I'll try to answer all your questions, but you must relax, your body is exhausted after the ordeal it's been through. You've been here three days Jared, well almost four, if you count today and you've been unconscious the entire time, which explains why you don't know what's going on. We were beginning to wonder if you were going to actually wake up at all, so this is definitely good news," she smiled kindly. He felt marginally soothed by this.

 

"I don't, I mean, where…who…?" As Jared desperately tried to work through the layers of haze and muddle in his brain, his eyes tried to adjust to the hospital lights. His throat was dry.

 

"It's alright Jared, I realise this must be confusing for you. Just try not to move too much, your body's still in shock."

 

Confusing? This was beyond confusing, beyond painful. He desperately tried to sift through the myriad of images assaulting his brain. There were so many images, flashes of things as they all formed together in a rather disjointed fragmented memory. He remembered the bathroom; he spent a long time in there.

 

Ben…Ben had been and gone, he remembered the bruises, the snarls and cold laughter, had he laughed like that? There was something else though. Had something different about this one? Something must've happened. He saw himself on the bathroom floor…was he crying?

 

He remembered pain, different from the kind he was feeling now, such a lot of pain, he'd wanted to stop it, reached blindly for a bottle; he couldn't remember what it was. He'd probably taken one too many. They hadn't worked; the pain still remained, still clung to him. The painkillers hadn't stopped it. He'd taken more, a desperate act to soothe the pain.

 

He remembered the knife, how smooth and cold it was, how it had glinted invitingly. He hadn't wanted to, but if he could just turn his pain outwards, give it a physical manifestation. Anything was better than the current pain he was in. The relief of feeling the blade against his skin…then the tablets, it'd been too much. Perhaps he'd planned it after all; maybe in his subconscious he knew it was the only way out, the only true way.

 

Memories of that night, unwanted and unbidden, came flooding back, almost choking him. The feelings of exhaustion and despair, loss and terror whirled in his brain. He'd tried to kill himself, wanted to. He remembered being on the floor, and then…peace, nothing. What had happened? He wasn't dead, everything hurt too much, too bright, too vivid to be an afterlife.

 

Dr. Harris let a smile touch her lips, albeit a sad one. "What do you remember?"

 

"I…I…was on the floor, in my bathroom and then I just felt, peaceful. Everything had hurt so much, I didn't want to…I just wanted it to stop!" burst from Jared, who immediately began dry coughing, his throat irritated from being unused. There was no point in lying to her, she probably knew what he'd tried to do, seen it.

 

"It's alright Jared. No one's blaming or judging you. I just want you to get well, so do your friends."

 

"Friends?!" He felt his heart soar and then crash. They couldn't possibly be here, not now, not after everything he'd put them through.

 

"Yes, we’ve had a Sophia Chad Murray and Chad Bush to keep the nurses company. Mr. Murray found you unconscious and rang the ambulance; Ms. Bush came with you both. If they'd found you just a few minutes later, you wouldn't have made it," she answered gravely. "They've been here since you were brought in, three days ago."

 

Oh God, they must hate him! He would never be able to make things right between his friends. All he'd wanted to do was protect them, keep them safe from Ben, and stop the hurt. Sophia and Chad would never forgive him, nor would any of his other friends if they found out. It wasn't supposed to happen like this; he wasn't meant to survive, he didn't deserve to live. He considered begging the doctor to send Chad and Sophia away, but the more alert side of his brain reasoned that he might as well let them reject him now and get it over with.

 

For a moment he wanted to go back to Texas, to go home, but then the realisation filled him with horror if anyone found out he…he…. He couldn't stand anyone discovering what had happened, how he'd fallen but he wanted to be with his family. Wanted so badly to be held by his mum and dad, to hug Jeff and Megan, to be reassured that they still loved him, that he was worth loving. He missed his dog, longed to be able to make a fuss of Harley and Sadie like he used to, who were both now staying with his parents out of fear that Ben would one day turn his rages on his innocent dogs. He wanted to talk to Jeff, have his big brother’s wisdom and quirky humour wrapped up in a genuine insight, he longed to feel Megan’s endless love for him. He could almost feel Meggie stroking his hair…

 

"They've been beside themselves with worry. I assume you'd like to see them. Don't worry, I've told them they shouldn't stay for too long. I don't want you to overexert yourself, you're not out of the woods yet Jared," she offered with a somewhat comforting smile, but with an obvious warning in them.

 

Jared nodded listlessly. Dr. Harris stepped outside the room for a few moments, and Jared felt his heart begin to pound. If only he could freeze time, then Sophia and Chad couldn't come through the door. How was he ever supposed to face his friends again, or anyone else for that matter, after what had happened, what they had seen? You weren't supposed to quit because things got too tough; you fought and kept going and he couldn't do that. How utterly pathetic.

 

"Jay?" came a quiet voice. Chad. So out of place and seemingly stripped of emotion. Sophia was standing next to him, a silent tower of support.

 

The scene was so familiar, with Chad and Sophia supporting each other. He should've been by their side, not lying in the bed sick and defiled. Finding he couldn't meet their eyes, not wanting to see the damage he must've done to his friends, Jared kept his eyes firmly on the blanket, his entire body lying prone on the bed. He just wanted them to leave. Why were they here, could they not see how weak he was?

 

He guessed they'd be trying to offer each other support, as they always did. No other words had been spoken since Chad's soft exploration of his name…he'd noticed the use of his nickname. It was so long since he'd heard it and it sounded strange.

 

Ben never called him Jay. Jay, Jay-Bear, Jare, Sasquatch, Jay-Red …. none of the stupid nicknames that had been given him. He'd always been Jared, and a long time ago that would have bothered him, but that's who he was now. He couldn't be Jay or Sasquatch anymore, all that innocence had long been stripped away. Jared was solely Ben's creation; he should really be proud of himself.

 

How would he have reacted if Sophia or Chad tried to kill themselves? He didn't want to imagine that, there were so many options he could've taken, but no, he had to take the most dramatic, the most attention grabbing one … `look at me, I'm suffering'. He should've just left, not told anyone. That would've kept Sophia and Chad safe. No…that wouldn't have worked; Ben would not have accepted Sophia and Soph not knowing where Jared was.

 

God there were no easy answers. Run away and Sophia and Chad were still in danger, stay and he was in danger…die and everyone's safe. It still sounded pathetic in his ears. Oh poor Jay, everyone hates him, Ben doesn't love him, Jensen doesn't, oh boo-hoo, play the tragic martyr, die and everyone will remember, claim how brave you were, how selfless. What a lie. Death had been an escape, end of story. He should've got a grip, should’ve dealt with the situation better. It was pathetic at his age that he'd become a quivering wreck just because of one…well, maybe two men. No wonder Ben hated him.

 

He could give a speech to thousands of people, or act on some of the biggest movies ever, and yet he couldn't control his boyfriend, couldn't face his friends. Surely he hadn't always been this weak, this clingy? What ever happened to the independent fun loving Jay? He'd never have let this happen. He was too full of confidence, he'd cared about himself, believed in himself. Where had that gone, and more to the point, when?

 

Chad and Sophia stood at the far end of the room. It seemed so clean and sterile, so - white. Like a mental ward. Except Jared wasn't mad, there was no need for a straightjacket or padded walls, well not yet anyway. Was this the 'suicide watch' unit? Sophia felt Chad shudder against him. No wonder people had to be watched closely in this place. He couldn't remember a worse place. Not even the public toilets back in Texas were this bad.

 

Finally their vision was directed towards Jared. He was awake, but his head lay listlessly against the pillow, his whole body turned away from them. Perhaps this was a bad idea; maybe Jared needed some space, Sophia considered. He couldn't even begin to imagine what thoughts were circling in Jared's head at the moment. Dr. Harris suddenly appeared at the door, and indicted for them to move forward. Hesitantly they obeyed. Jared didn't move. Surely he knew they were there?

 

"Thank God you're awake!" blurted Chad, sounding unnaturally shaky.

 

There was no reply to his outburst. Sophia didn't know what to say and Jared wasn't talking, wasn't even looking at them. He looked so small in the bed, the sheets an unnatural shade of white that made his eyes itch. There was a terrible silence between the three men. Sophia and Chad hovered, neither quite sure where to sit, or stand.

 

"We're going to make sure you get better Jay, the doctors say you can go in a few days, they're gonna move you to another ward then we can get you…can get you out of here. We'll take you with us; have some fun…go somewhere different, we can go to Texas if you like, anywhere you want. It's up to you what we do; just say the word… You know we still love you, right? Jay?" the speech was rambled, shaky with a slight hesitation at the end, as if he feared what Jared's response would be. Chad hadn't paused for breath, but it was better than silence.

 

"We meant what we said Jared. We will be there for you. None of this was your fault. We don't hate you or blame you, we never did and never will," Sophia whispered, beginning to reach out to touch Jared and then pulling back at the last moment. Touch wasn't really what Jared needed right now.

 

As Dr. Harris stood in the corner, she saw the friends trying to reach Jared, if only metaphorically. It wasn't working. She'd seen such reactions before, not as common as anger, which was truthfully what she'd been expecting. Jared was closing himself off, no doubt convincing himself he had no need for help and support, or possibly was undeserving. From what she understood, it seemed Jared had been with his partner, Ben, for about six years. Not the longest period she'd dealt with but still far too long. One day in an abusive relationship was too long.

 

Sometimes she loathed her profession, to see such heartbreak on a day-to-day basis. But to be reminded of the evil that could awaken in people, the cruelty they were capable of, it saddened and sickened her. When a child was diagnosed with cancer, it was heartbreaking, but no one's fault, there was no target of blame. But when she was faced with someone who had been abused for years, by someone who claimed to love them…she struggled to remember that there was good in the world.

 

She'd dealt with child rape cases, murders, homophobic attacks, hate crime, killing sprees – domestic abuse was just one angle of how society could fall to such malevolent depths, and yet to see the anger people could posses, the hatred emanating from people, it always shocked her. She wanted to remain shock, to expect to, was to accept it, and that was something she had sworn never to do. To see Jared brought in, face the glaring obvious fact he's tried to kill himself then to slowly piece together the events leading up to it, she had to wonder if there was any point to her job. She saved people, saved and mended their bodies but was that possible when they were so content to rip out each other's hearts and souls?

 

Even as the thoughts formed in her brain she knew why she carried on. It was for people like Jared, for the victims. It was people like Chad and Sophia who restored her faith, to see their tender and unwavering devotion to their friend, to see Mr. Ackles's heart breaking as he sat, pouring his heart out to the unconscious man. To see a family, if not a blood one, band together in the face of adversity, gave her some glimmer of hope. True, humans could be the most vicious depraved creatures on earth, but just occasionally you'd get a glimpse of exactly what an `angel without wings' was like.

 

She noticed Jared take a deep shuddering breath; he still hadn't faced his friends.

 

"Jay? This is gonna be alright, we're going to take care of you… get your through this, no matter how long it takes. Jay? Aren't you going to look at us?" Chad pleaded. Jared seemed to shudder a little and further buried his head into the pillow, but again made no sounds.

 

Jensen he could handle, Sophia he could handle, Christ he could even handle Ben right now, he had no reservations in what actions he would direct towards Ben.

 

But now with Jared…how do you react to your best friend trying to kill himself? Chad had no idea what to say to Jared, everything seemed false or inappropriate. Mentioning Jensen was out of the question, Jared's family wasn't a good idea either, the abuse couldn't be touched on. What the hell was he supposed to say, how could he say anything that wasn't going to make this worse? He'd been told more than once (usually by Sophia) that he was suffering from a chronic case of foot-in-mouth syndrome and he couldn't hurt Jared, he wouldn't.

 

What could he say, what were you supposed to say? He’d had so many things he’d wanted to say to Jared, wanted to ask but every thought he’d ever possessed had suddenly dried up, and his brain became a blank canvas.

 

What the hell could they talk about, what did you say at a time like this? Chad didn't believe in talking about the weather, as safe a topic as it was, he really couldn't give a fuck if there was a hurricane outside. He wasn't angry, not with Jared, at least not anymore he was just too relived that Jared was awake, but he wasn't sure how much more of the silent treatment he could take.

 

If Jared cried or yelled he could deal with that, knew how to react, he was prepared for that, but this silence was unnerving. Jared just wasn't a silent person. That didn't mean he was a chatterbox, Chad herself held that privilege, but he just communicated with you, whether by words his body language, his gestures, even his eyes spoke volumes. You knew where you stood, but now he couldn't read Jared and that hurt him.

 

If nothing else, you always knew where you stood with Jared. There was no hiding, no concealing – or rather there hadn't been before Ben, before the…

 

A small part of her wanted to yell at Jared, shake him for putting herself and Sophia through that. The image of Jared lying on the floor would go with her to her grave, the memory branded onto her mind. She wanted Jared to look at them, him to cry, admit and accept what had happened but she knew she couldn’t force him. Why wouldn't he look at them? Was it that hard to face people who loved you? He so badly wanted to understand, he really did and to an extent he did. He'd lived through it, seen the injuries, seen Jared slowly become introverted, scared.

 

It was like one of those God-awful detective movies, where you knew what had happened, all the clues were there and you just couldn't quite piece them together. Seeing the last six years like a film reel in her mind. Should she really be surprised Jared had gone to such desperate lengths to stop the abuse? God she hated hindsight, what use was it when it tortured you?

 

"Jared, can you just look at us? Please? Just for a moment, we're worried about you," Sophia whispered, tears in her eyes. Chad sighed silently; it was no good.

 

At that moment Dr. Harris chose to step forward and Chad took the hint for once. He looked at Sophia for a moment then back at Jared. There didn't seem to be much more he could say.

 

"I'm going to go now Jared, ok? Just for a smoke or something. God you'd kill me if you knew how much I'd smoked…I won't be long, I will come back Jay," he promised as he hesitantly patted Jared's shoulder.

 

As he brushed by Sophia, he was sure he saw tears in Chad's eyes. Through Chad's valiant effort at conversation she remained mostly silent. What was she supposed to say to make this better? How on earth could she reassure Jared?

 

Was there anything Sophia could reassure Soph about, for that matter, and what about Jensen? Sooner or later either he or Chad would have to confess the Dane’s presence to Jared, and he didn’t even want to think how Jared would take that. He didn’t even know where the man was right now, surely he wasn’t going to run away again? Deciding to deal with it when the time came, he pushed thoughts of Jensen out of his head to concentrate on his friend, the friend he had so very nearly lost. Sophia almost trembled at that thought.

 

"Ok, I never thought I'd have to admit this, but Soph’s right, about everything Jared. Well…not about Elvis being better than the Beatles obviously, cause that's just plain wrong but about us being there for you."

 

He took a pause, this wasn't coming out how he intended. This wasn't working, why couldn't he say anything right? He'd never had any problem talking to Jay, the man was like a brother to him, and now he couldn't offer the comfort and reassurance Jared desperately needed without sounding like a total oaf.

 

"Look…I know you don't want to see anyone right now and that's ok, I can understand that, I'm not blaming you, and I don't hate you for that, so don't think that. And we don't hate you either. Yes you scared the hell out of me but I don't hate you, nor does Chad. I'm not mad, we never have been. Why would you think we wouldn't?"

 

Jared shifted slightly as if poised to move, but nothing came of it.

 

"You can't love me…not now. Ben, he…you don’t know everything," Jared whispered, clutching the pillow further to his head, his voice sounding raspy.

 

"Shhh. You don't have to say anything. Chad knows. Dr. Harris told us everything, about the rapes, I didn’t tell them, not until they knew, I promise. Neither of us care, we still love you," Sophia whispered soothingly, tentativly stroking Jared’s hair. Either Jared was too weak to pull away or too groggy to flinch. Neither though was particuarly comforting.

 

Jared suddenly went rigid, and slowly turned to Sophia, his eyes wide in horror.

 

"…no…no…but, I didn't…I wasn’t…he…" Jared found he couldn't form a sentence and felt the tears prick his eyes at the shame of his secret being revealed, the whole dirty sordid truth of his abuse. He'd hoped to keep at least that bit from his friend, have some last remaining semblance of dignity but clearly the gods weren't in a merciful mood.

 

Chad immediately stepped in, taking over from Sophia, as he gazed at his friend, nothing in his eyes but love and relief.

 

"Jared, I'd never, ever blame you for something like that, no one would, and if they did they're a sick fuck who doesn't deserve to be you friend or even on this planet! It's changed nothing, you're still my best friend, my family, and you always will be. I meant it when I said me and Soph love you. We. Love You. That love's unconditional Jay, it’s not going to change because Ben’s raped you," Chad swore as he looked directly at him.

 

Jared's eyes remained fixated on his blanket, but it was obvious tears were rolling down his cheeks. Sophia slid into the chair against the hospital bed and took Jared's hand in his.

 

"Nothing's changed Jay, nothing that matters. You're still Jared Padalecki, who is amazingly talented, you're still my brother, mine and Soph's, all your friends and family love you, that's never going to change, no matter what Ben’s done to you, he can’t take away that love, that’s yours. The only thing that's going to change is someone getting a much more bloody gruesome death than we'd originally planned. People love you Jared, they really do. I do. Look Jay…I…if you're looking for someone to blame you, I'm not him, I love you." His voice took on a more firm tone but kept his voice soft as he gently squeezed Jared's hand.

 

Dr. Harris's head popped through the door. "Ms. Bush? Sophia… sorry, time's up. Jared needs to get some rest."

 

Nodded he pushed himself up from the chair. "I meant it Jay, every word," he said, his voice low and deadly serious. He gave Jared's hand a last gentle squeeze before he left the room, his feet seeming to drag on the floor.

 

Dr. Harris gave him a sympathetic glance as she moved towards Jared, clipboard in hand.

 

Hearing the door click, signalling Sophia's departure, Jared took a shuddering breath. "Why don't they hate me?" he murmured, not truly expecting an answer.

 

"I think Sophia just gave you the answer. They love you Jared, and that means they forgive you for whatever you think you have done wrong, they’ll understand, I doubt there’s many that wouldn’t."

 

"Love…doesn't that go hand in hand with hate? Ben loved me, he hates me, my family hate me. What makes Sophia and Chad different?" he asked, desperate for answers that no one could provide.

 

Dr. Harris didn't respond immediately as she carefully measured Jared's pulse finding it still too weak for her liking.

 

"I suppose it depends on the person. It seems to me that love, for Ben at least, goes hand in hand with controlling and violence. Maybe he was brought up that way. I'm not really the person to ask I'm afraid, I just deal with the consequences of people's actions," she replied as she carefully inspected Jared who felt rather like an insect on display, and tried hard not to squirm in discomfort.

 

"You seem to be recovering reasonably well so far, but you're not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. I meant what I said - you have to rest. Your body's been working over time to compensate for your injuries, even if you don't feel like it, it’s been fighting like hell for you, return the favour and give your body a break, let it recover."

 

"Please, I can't stay here. Can't I just leave? I'm awake now, doesn't that mean I'm better? I just want to go home," he pleaded, suddenly feeling very vulnerable and childlike. The problem was, where was home? Certainly not with Ben. Ben didn't love him or want him anymore. Sophia and Chad had no doubt had enough of him, they needed to lead their own lives. They'd endured more than he'd ever had a right to expect for his sake, for his pitiful friendship. They said they forgave him, they understood, but just because they forgave him, which was beyond a miracle, didn't mean he'd forgiven himself.

 

"Sorry Jared but I'm the doctor here and I'm pulling rank. This bed will be your home until I say otherwise. Look Jared, I'm going to level with you. We weren't sure if you were going to make it at all. Your vitals aren't nearly as strong as I'd like. You've had a lot of drugs messing up your system. Your internal organs are badly bruised and not just from the drugs, and while not enough to affect them permanently, you're going to be on medication for a while, powerful ones and it won't be pleasant, I'm afraid. Your arm will need to be in a splint for a few weeks. The nerve endings have been damaged and some of the bone shattered by the force of the impact it received. The actual impact wasn't so severe, but rather the result of several smaller impacts. I can fix that and the meds will take care of the bruising. That's not the problem though."

 

Here she paused. She hated doing this; it made her feel like the Wicked Witch of the West.

 

"B-but I can't stay here," he interrupted, surrendering all last vestiges of dignity and a note of begging could be heard in his voice.

 

"I've only been awake a few hours and I'm getting claustrophobic, I can't stay here days, let alone weeks. Am I being punished for trying to kill myself? Someone wants me to feel even more loathsome than I already do," he demanded, or at least it would have been if it hadn't come out in a broken whisper.

 

Dr. Harris looked at him for a moment.

 

"Jared, just try to calm down. Punishment is the last thing I want to do. I want you out of here as much as you do. It'll mean I've done my job properly and I do think you're mostly all right to go home. I need to do some more tests and talk to my colleagues but you're not what we consider a Class A emergency. They don't expect that you'll keep attempting to take your life. It was due to `extreme external factors' meaning they don't believe you'll attempt to take your life again, they don't consider you a risk to yourself. So you'll be able to go home, accompanied I might add, in a couple of days."

 

At hearing Dr. Harris's words he didn't to know whether to cry or laugh, maybe he should do both. A horrible thought hit him, she'd said `home'.

 

Home…we could go home, but where was home exactly? Not the home, the life he's shared with Ben, certainly. Ben would never take him back, not now and he didn't think he could go back even if Ben let him. He would have to start again, rebuild his life; maybe moving away wouldn't be so bad. He missed Texas, or perhaps Ireland would be nice. It didn't matter where really; he was just so tired, so exhausted. Dr. Harris seemed to have left without his realising as he felt himself drift off again.

 

****

 

Jensen tried very hard not to glare at the figure that was currently, rather unnecessarily and repeatedly prodding him in the back.

 

"Stop being such a wiener and go in!" hissed Sophia, proding him in the back. "You've sat with him before. He's asleep now anyway, he’s not going to bite you in his sleep. Why won't you just go in?" he demanded, hands folded across his chest.

 

Jensen struggled to think of a reasonable excuse. "He could wake up, he needs his rest. I can't risk-"

 

"You don't seem to risk anything anymore. Jesus Jensen! What the hell’s happened to you in the last few years? You were never afraid of anything. So you're scared shitless, so am I and Chad, get a grip will you? You’re scared of messing things up, well welcome to our world! It’s not as if anyone gave us a handbook on how to deal with this. Did you ever think that Jay might actually need you?"

 

"Soph, you don't understand! He was unconscious then; I could say what I wanted, I didn’t need to worry about him accidentally hearing me or something. What if he wakes up? How the hell am I supposed to explain why I'm here when I haven’t seen him for six years?"

 

Yes he wanted to protect and care for Jared, it had been a nature response for him, but to walk in and face Jared after so many years, he doubted Jared would welcome him. After all, he was the cause of Jared's suffering. Maybe he could protect Jared from a distance, make sure that Ben never got anywhere near Jared again; keep in contact via Sophia and Chad, maybe that would be better…

 

"How about the truth, you’d be surprised how often it works. Look, I thought Chad was wrong ringing you, I thought you’d mess things up even further, or Ben would somehow find out and all hell would break loose. Neither of those have happened so far, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

 

She paused for a moment, hitching her breath. Jensen remained silent, allowing her the time she needed.

 

“Do you think you can carry on proving me wrong, because, believe me I’d really like to be wrong about this. Forget trying to protect Jared OK? It's too late for that. We've all failed to protect him but that doesn't mean we can't fix things now. He still loves you Jensen, no matter what's happened, that counts for a lot and you still love him. You just need to find a way to reach him. He thinks no one loves him, that he's unworthy of love and forgiveness. Ben completely fucked up his mind, Jay needs you to un-fuck it. Remind him what real love is Jensen, please" Soph's tone was soft, her eyes pleading.

 

"You love him Jensen, use that to help him."

 

Slowly Sophia's words seemed to make a connection in the deep recesses of Jensen's brain and he nodded slowly.

 

Taking a deep breath he slowly opened the door and crept softly to the bed. He felt a small smile creep over his face as he saw Jared sleeping, looking so peaceful. The sleeping face was so familiar, achingly so. He longed to reach out and caress Jared's hair, reach up and pull Jared into his embrace. He was pleased to note several machines were gone. He was breathing by himself, but that now only allowed Jensen to focus on Jared's more external injuries the cuts and bruises, the blacked eye.

 

Gazing around the room, he chose a delightfully cheap looking plastic chair and sunk into it, his gaze never leaving Jared. No words or heart filled confessions spilled from his lips that night, he just watched Jared. The rhythmic breathing becoming almost hypnotic.

 

For a moment Jensen could almost pretend he was back with Jared, that they were in bed together and spending the night gazing at his lover as he'd done countless times before, he could pretend that all was right with the world. He silently prayed Jared's dreams were peaceful, because he wasn't sure that Jared's life would qualify as anything but a nightmare. No matter how much support he was given, Jared still had to face reality, feel the pain and Jensen couldn't stop that, no matter how much he wished otherwise.

 

He'd been so absorbed in his thoughts while gazing at Jared, that he felt his eyes prickled in discomfort as the sun's rays began to peek through the curtains. Had he really watched Jared through the whole night? Strange how time became irrelevant when Jared was around.

 

Rolling his stiff neck, Jensen reluctantly dragged himself up, grateful that Jared had (peacefully? He hoped so) slept through the night. Stealing himself to walk away before Jared woke, he paused for a moment, reaching out to ghost his hand over Jared's hair.

 

"I love you my baby, my Jared," he whispered, stopping himself from kissing his forehead.

 

Forcing himself to turn away, he stole one last glance of his love before he began walking to the door. As his hand touched handle, he heard a whimper.

 

"J-Jensen?" came an all too familiar voice, shaky and tired but still as soft and beautiful as ever.

 

His eyes closed momentarily in pain, in gratitude and fear. There was no way to escape now.

 

Slowly he turned around to meet a pair of very familiar eyes.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 9

 

So this was it.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jared Tristan Padalecki had finally cracked.

 

He really shouldn't be surprised; after all, it'd been a long time in coming. Yes, he was definitely insane - for there could be no other explanation. Either that or he was having the worst nightmare in years, and there were so many to choose from that it took some beating… forgive the pun (and he knew about beatings, Ben had made sure of that_ He could have sworn that was Jensen standing right in front of him, not quite meeting his eyes… but that couldn't be right? Jensen was somewhere else busy with things and quite content living his life without Jared.

 

Was this all some horrible joke? An attempt to make him feel even more worthless by reminding him what he'd lost? Surely fate wasn’t that cruel?

 

This couldn't be happening, Jensen was not here, not standing right in front of him …was he a ghost? Was he going to get Jensen-Ghost give him a ‘It's a Wonderful Life' experience, show him the error of his ways, how the world would be so dire had he not survived? Although this ‘Jensen’ looked pretty solid for a ghost, so real and so horribly near.

 

Unable to take it any longer, Jared squeezed his eyes shut. Perhaps Ghost-Jensen would be gone when he re-opened his eyes, would stop taunting him with his presence.

 

Slowly opening his eyes again, Jensen was still there; looking decidedly not otherworldly in rumpled clothes and unshaven. Although the blood-shot eyes were a nice touch. They were a trademark of a ghost weren't they…oh, God, maybe he was insane? Why was he being tormented? Wasn't Ben bad enough? Did he have to have his every mistake, every failure, rubbed in his face? Was it really necessary for his own mind to remind him of what he could never have, why… WHY would he want to torment himself further?

 

No, this just couldn't be happening, that would mean Jensen was real and was here.

 

…Oh God, and he was coming forward…

 

He had to be dreaming, or hallucinating. He was sick, he was in a hospital after all, it was a dream…a nightmare…that was not Jensen, and this wasn't real…perhaps he wasn't even alive…just a dream, really. That's all it could ever be with Jensen. Dreams and wishful thinking; Regrets and ‘what ifs'.

 

"Jared."

 

His voice was still as soft as ever, almost like a caress. Was there a look of disbelief in Jensen's eyes? That couldn't be right…why would he be nervous…? Jensen was always so confident, so self-assured. Why would dream/ghost-Jensen be nervous?

 

"Why are you here? Are you trying to torment me?" breathed Jared, not quite able to meet Jensen's eyes - his voice shaking.

 

"Torment? What? No, I… Jared I…I'm here for you. I don't want to hurt you."

 

Whatever Jared had been expecting to hear, whatever reason, that definitely wasn't it. Dream-Jensen would have wrapped him up in his arms and protected him. This Jensen was just standing there, with a rather…gormless expression on his face and looking ill at ease. ‘Gormless-Jensen’ didn't really appear in his dreams. In fact, he didn't exist period.

 

Jensen's words still reverberated through his head: ‘I don't want to hurt you’. The horrible irony was not lost on Jared. But you have! Ten times over! Jared wanted to scream. Jensen had hurt him more times than he could count, more than he could remember and he didn’t even realize, would never know how Jensen’s presence, his very existence served to torment Jared in a myriad of ways.

 

Even when he was long gone from his life, the imprint of Jensen still lingered, tainting his life, his new life. Jared wanted to be furious, to be righteously indignant with this ‘Jensen', to let loose the years of venom sealed up within him. The aching loss of his life, his innocence was gone, all because of Him - the ‘man’ standing in front of his bed right now. He wanted to laugh at Jensen's confused expression, to show Jensen the true depths of misery, to show him exactly what hopeless looked like. He had a lot of experience in that; he'd seen it in the mirror for years. He wanted to claw the innocent confusion off Jensen's face, to make him see the pain he'd caused. He felt like laughing at Jensen's words

 

Oh, so now he didn't want to hurt him? Shame he never considered that before, when it really mattered, when he could still feel the pain and anguish that Jensen had so carelessly dumped upon him. Perhaps Jensen knew that Jared couldn't be hurt anymore? That he felt so dead that he was immune to it? Could Jensen see that in his eyes?

 

"You're real, aren't you?" Jared asked, for the first time daring to look up, meeting the green eyes. He needed to know; just the eyes would tell him.

 

A mute nod only confirmed what he knew…somehow Jensen was here and very real. His eyes drifted back down to the blanket, he must have memorized the pattern by heart. This seemed so unreal it had an almost dream-like quality to it.

 

Perhaps he was hallucinating, was this all a dream, some sick twisted fantasy his brain had come up with to torment him further? Surely Jensen would not bother himself with his ex/ No doubt he was with someone else by now, someone he could be happy with, someone he wasn't ashamed of. Over the years it had become increasingly obvious to Jared that his lovers found him hard to deal with. Jensen had broken up with him for ‘appearances sake', or had he? Maybe Jared had read too far into a relationship that never was.

 

Had Jensen just wanted an on-set fling, or ‘fuck toy’ as Ben preferred to term it, and Jared had just assumed it was a relationship? How stupid and idealistically naïve he had been. Certainly he didn't seem to have meant much more to Ben - well, not any more at least. Perhaps Ben had loved him once, he'd told him that often enough, even when he was hitting him, but then Jensen had also pledged his undying love to Jared and that had all been a big lie, hadn't it? Why should Jensen be here, he had no reason, no obligation to be here? It didn't make any sense. He still couldn’t seem to grasp his ex of six years ago was standing right in front of him.

 

Why would Jensen still care about him? Still, even now? Jared couldn't believe that Jensen would come to taunt him, it was simply not in the man's nature, but equally, it was unlike him to just pop in. So why was he here? Jensen never did anything without thinking it through carefully, weighing pros and cons, evaluating each action carefully, considering each possible consequence. Jensen never did things half-cocked. He was a planner, a strategist, something Jared had never been. Jensen worked from the head; Jared his heart.

 

"Chad rang me, when you were brought in." Jensen explained when it became obvious that Jared wasn't going to speak further. "He just said you'd... that I had to come here. I couldn't not come, Jared, I wanted to help if I could. I couldn't not come," he repeated as if he was trying to reassure Jared, or possibly even himself.

 

Did Jared really think that poorly of him, that he'd deliberately and maliciously set out to hurt him, to rub his nose in it? Jensen wanted to be angry and appalled at Jared's rash judgment but he couldn't find it in him. Frankly, Jensen couldn’t think of anything in his life which was worthy of boasting about.

 

Jensen’s ‘love-life’ had been virtually non existent since his break-up with Jared, ‘love’ being the operative word. Apart from a very brief re-flirtation with Danneel, he couldn’t call it even dating he’s had no long, or even short term partner. While he hadn’t lived like a monk since he broke up with Jared, Jensen now slammed the idea of any new potential relationship before it started. Casual dates and no-strings sex he could handle, could switch himself off, but love – relationships with anyone besides Jared, his heart wouldn’t allow.

 

On the outset of the break-up he'd savagely cut off all ties of communication with Jared, setting up impenetrable walls and he told himself he could cope with it better that way, but really it was because he knew if saw Jared just once, saw his broken lover, he’d immediately take Jared back, and one slip and the world would’ve known about them. The whole time on Supernatural Jared had wanted to come out, be open in his love and while Jensen wasn’t above making suggestive comments to fangirls, coming Out when you were from Texas, and were seen as an All American Boy, was something else entirely, something Jensen just couldn’t bring himself to do, not even for Jared.

 

After he broke up with Jared he'd ignored his friends numerous pleas, bribes and threats to just meet with Jared; he had had faced Chris and Steve’s disappointment – that had been the hardest. Although his oldest friends didn’t know Jared too well, they’d liked him, considered Jared good for him. However more importantly they considered Jensen had betrayed his beliefs – chief of which was ‘be yourself’ and Jensen hated disappointing his friends and hated that he'd ‘thrown away Jay like a piece of garbage’ as Jeff had tactfully put it during one of his many lectures post break-up. That made him feel awful to have disappointed not only his oldest friends, but a man he looked up to. Despite all this, he'd refused to meet Jared, refused to answer his messages and had selfishly left his friends to deal with the fallout.

 

It had all but torn apart his friendship with Sophia apart, and severly strained his friendship with Tommy and Mike, who both despite knowing Jensen first, were very fond of Jared. Chad of course hadn’t been a friend in the first place, and got the full brunt of the younger man’s venom.

 

All his carefully crafted excuses and reasons now seemed utterly redundant. Why hadn’t he been able to live with Jared with the fearlessness and utter disregard of moral authority he had previously held?

 

While the older members had tried not to take sides it was difficult. It was obvious to them that the fault lay with Jensen, although they tried not to say that. Every time they'd come back from visiting Jared... he'd ask how Jared was coping, was he alright, and each time there'd been a nasty silence and yet Jensen still hadn't rung him. On the occasions when he'd paid attention to his conscience, he'd picked up the phone, even dialled the number but as soon as Jared answered, he'd slammed the phone down.

 

Soph and especially Chad on the other hand, had been a lot more direct in their approach, all being rather brusque to Jensen when collecting Jared's stuff, even Jeff, who was non judgemental about the whoel thing had been somewhat distant with him. They were the closest to Jared and saw the direct affect Jensen's behaviour was having on their Jay but nothing would change his mind, no Jensen Ackles knew best. God, how pig-headed he'd been; he was thoroughly ashamed of his churlish attitude.

 

Looking back, he was amazed they'd been as tolerant as they were, even though Jeff had threatened, quite seriously at one time, to break Jensen’s nose after visiting Jared. Despite being Jensen's friend Jeff had been there for Jared too; and left Jensen feeling even more wretched.

 

At the outset of the break-up, he’d had a string of one night stands, in a desperate bid to forget the utter feeling of compilation he got from Jared. The stream of men and the few women had blurred into nameless faces. Of the few that had made it to his bed, rather than the sofa or the nearest wall, he couldn't remember their name or whether they'd been good looking or funny or nice but they weren't Jared and that was all that mattered, with Jared it had been perfection. However after a few months, any one-night stands had stopped, almost as if his heart knew he couldn’t carry on the charade any longer and Jensen was left alone to somehow deal with an empty bed and more crucially an empty life.

 

"You’ve…been here the whole time…oh God…" Jared whispered, shaking his head, a look of horror dawning upon him. If Jensen had been here all this time, that meant he would have seen... everything… he'd seen him asleep, defenceless... he'd know. How much had Chad and Sophia told him… or Dr. Harris? It was bad enough having to confront his friends, and they knew about the abuse, if not some of the more… private aspects of his and Ben’s ‘love’ life (if you could ever call it that) but this… Jensen was the one person, besides Ben, that he never wanted to see again.

 

Of everyone that had to see him like this, why did it have to be the one person who could make Jared cry and laugh at the same time, who was his personal hell and heaven rolled into one. Why was Jensen here? To see his ex see the depths he'd plummeted to and just how Jared had fallen, and to gloat about it? Was that his purpose, to prove that yes, their love had forever burned itself inside Jared? He must have lost every ounce of respect or love in Jensen's eyes, for him to be able to witness him in this weak state, broken and destroyed.

 

He wasn't stupid, he knew he wasn’t exactly ‘Mr. Macho’ despite his height, and later the muscel he’s put on. He had no desire to be macho, and the whole candy fixation would have ruined it anyway.

 

He'd shrugged off the teasing comments on various set. He could take that, he really didn't mind it. Hell, he'd laughed along with everyone else, he knew it was all meant in good humour…pretty, prissy Sammy and pretty, pouty Gabriel. That was fine, it wasn't a problem. He wasn't a man's man…well, yes he was, but not in the old sense… but this was different. While he'd never had any problems displaying his emotions – to either gender - allowing someone to see him looking this vulnerable, so hurt and exposed, was bad enough, even among his closest friends. But for his ex to see this…it was just unbearable. To be allowed to see him unconscious, unable to hide or defend himself against prying eyes, that was intolerable and it was unfair. Why should Jensen witness him vulnerable, he'd never seen Jensen unguarded, or weak, but perhaps it just wasn't in Jensen’s nature.

 

He'd seen women weep: Sophia, Megan, Sandy, Alexis, Samantha, his sister-in-law, his granma, his mum, that was all OK. They were women, they were allowed to cry and scream and show emotion. No one censored them for that…and, yes, even Chad had occasionally cried but not like he had, not in rasping torrents for so long that his throat ached, displaying hurt so deep that he wondered if he would ever be able to feel whole again. Men didn't cry, not like that, they shut up and got on with things. Not real men like his dad, or brother Jeff. Not Jeff Dean or Milo, Christ even Chad had more balls than him! And then, especially not Jensen - real men didn't cry and wail and hide. Jensen never hid, was never afraid. He faced problems straight on, except when he was faced with Jared. He’d never understood that. Had Jensen thought he was that…fragile, that he couldn’t handle the harsh truth? At least Ben told him the truth, how unlovable he was, how weak. But Jensen was too soft; he'd pitied Jared, been indulgent with him. He cared for Jared then.

 

He’d often envied Jensen's composure when they’d been together, always so cool and collected; wise all-knowing Jensen. He'd have probably made a much better Jared. At times Jared found it hard to believe he'd been the quietly confident Dean, the physically and morally strong Sam Winchester or the fiery and courageous Gabriel. How had he managed to convince anyone when he couldn't even convince himself to look at people, to face his own self?

 

How did Jensen stand it, witnessing what Jared had become? How low had he sunk in Jensen's eyes! He'd once claimed to admire Jared, why he was never quite sure, but now he was faced with what a true coward Jared was, how was he ever supposed to face Jensen again, face anyone?

 

He couldn't hide anymore. Jensen must know; he could see the bruises, his arm. It was bad enough having Chad and Sophia here. While they knew about the abuse, they didn't know about…the rest; Jared had managed to hide that from them. But to have Jensen here…why… why would he bother coming? Was he happy now? Happy to know that he'd failed every relationship after Jensen, that Ben didn't love him, that Jared had been wrong?

 

Were any of the other guys here – Tommy, Mike, Milo or Jeff, had Soph and Chad got tired of coping by themselves and called them for back-up, was that why Jensen had turned up? He shuddered to think just how long Jensen had been able to observe him, see his injuries, make judgments.

 

"Jared, I don't-"

 

"No! Just stop it, don't... please just… don't…"

 

The voice was barely a whisper but Jensen heard. He heard the pain and despair in Jared's voice. He heard the utter defeat as he spoke the words and for the first time in days Jensen felt something other than self-pity, or failure. True the failure lay with him but he wasn't the only guilty party here.

 

Ben was as responsible as he was and his crimes paled in the sheer magnitude of what Ben had done. He felt a welcome anger and indignation rise within him. How dare Ben make Jared feel this worthless, this unloved?! How dare Ben try to hide Jared away, destroy what Jared was. He would NOT stand by and watch Jared slowly fade into nothingness. He was better than that. He deserved so much better.

 

"Jared... please listen to me. It's NOT your fault, NO-ONE blames you!"

 

"Stop it!! It IS my fault, why can't you see that, why can't Chad and Sophia? It's my fault, Ben…is….was my boyfriend, my responsibility. Ben wouldn't have become like that for no reason, people don't just turn violent for no reason…I made Ben what he is and I have to face up to that! People should hate me, I've ruined so many people's lives; Ben, Soph, Chad, my family, probably you…if Ben hurts someone else it will be my fault, on my conscience."

 

"Jared that's crazy! You can't make someone, you can't mould people into things, it doesn't work that way. You can't dictate people's actions or thoughts, you can't control someone, look what happened when Ben tried to do it-" he trailed off and bit his tongue as he watched Jared's expression pale slightly.

 

He shouldn't have brought that up, it was too early to remind him of such things but strangely Jared didn't censure him for his thoughtlessness. Instead his face had took on deep concentration as if he sought to unravel the mysteries of the universe, deep ridges appearing on his forehead which Jensen had to severely restrain himself from kissing.

 

He loved those ridges, they always looked so adorable on him, and for a brief second he could pretend nothing had changed, that he could walk up and pull Jared, his Jay into a tight hug and brush away the deep thoughts. But reality decided to make its presence know in Jared's next murmured sentence; "You hate me, why shouldn't Ben... I couldn't love him, not the way I should have, I just couldn't give everything to him, I wanted to, but I… there was a small part of me, I just… couldn't... I tried, I really did, so I deserved it, don't tell me I didn't," the voice was quiet, almost aching in its admission. Jensen was stunned; such pain and loathing in a voice should not be possible. Was this his doing, what he had accomplished?

 

He had simply wanted to make Jared find someone more ‘worthy' to love him. So he stopped contact completely, not returning his phone calls… and it had hurt, feeling as if his own heart had been ripped out. But seeing this broken angel before him, it suddenly hit him what exactly he'd done. Even seeing Jared unconscious hadn't been this bad. He hadn't been subjected to Jared's self-loathing, to hear the twisted logic of Jensen's hate…what he had caused and what he had now to fix.

 

"Hate you? God Jared! I've never ever hated you. I couldn't ever… Why…why would you think such a crazy thing... I care about you, truly, more than care…I always have…that'll never stop, never I promise…Oh God, Jared, I never wanted you to think that or to be hurt… I just… I... I don't hate you, I swear. I don't think it's possible to hate you; you're the most wonderful man… Oh, Jared… why... why would you think that, Jared? I... just please tell me why?!" Jensen pleaded; trying desperately to wrap his head round the insane logic, a sort of horror filled him as tears filled his eyes.

 

Did Jared really despise himself that much? What twisted beliefs…Of course he should expect such, what with that monster who'd fed Jared those lies. Cowardly bastard. Yet, would Jared ever believe Jensen again, ever trust him? How the hell had he managed to so thoroughly destroy such a perfect being…one so full of love and trust. Jensen felt as if he'd somehow helped destroy an angel…a sacred being of light and love, and it left a huge weight on his heart. But he also knew he had a shot at redemption, he would help Jared, do whatever it took, however long. He would make Jared feel loved again; remind him of the joys of living. If it took the rest of his life he would show Jared just how amazing and worthy of love he was…

 

"You left me Jensen remember? You wouldn’t even talk to me,”

 

All at once a surge of anger flowed through Jared, a feeling so alien that it almost shocked him. It's been so long since he felt…anything, he almost cried, but for now he simply revelled in the blistering anger towards one target he could lash out against. Jensen almost cringed at the all-too true accusation. He could not defend his actions, nor would he try to. He heard the brief fire in Jared's voice and had almost cried with relief. If Jared hated him and cursed him to the heavens so be it, it would mean Jared would be on the road to recovery. He needed the spark, something to kick start him into life, to reawaken the stagnant emotions within him.

 

"You broke up with me, cut off all contact. I tried everything and you ignored me, what else am I supposed to think – that you adore me so much you're ignoring me? Ben never ignored me. He needed me, you never did. I wanted to be with you, I loved you so much, I don't know how I got through those months after you left… I thought I'd done something wrong, that I'd pissed you off, embarrassed you somehow. I kept pushing you to come out. I thought everyone would be okay with us... the outside world, I mean. I just didn't think you weren't ready... I never think do I, just go in ‘guns a blazin'. I didn't want to hurt you Jensen. Then the party, you... you just looked so uncomfortable around me. You were so desperate to get away. I thought..."

 

Jared's voice lost any edge it once held. He couldn't finish his sentence, the memories and hurt proving too strong. He didn't want to break down in front of Jensen. He wanted to disappear into a black hole. After all, that was the only thing he must be fit for now.

 

"God, I must've humiliated myself so much, clinging like a stupid puppy…" Jared whispered. Jensen must be cringing by now. Why did the ground never swallow him up... a heated pitch forked hell was preferable to this. "Maybe I should've died, saved everyone the trouble of dealing with me." The voice was less than a whisper, but Jensen heard it and his heart stopped.

 

"Jared…please…please don't say that. Sophia and Chad would never forgive themselves if anything happened to you…they love you so much. I would never forgive myself…I want you safe and happy," he added in a whisper.

 

How had six years with one man reduced Jared to this? How could someone so full of love and joy become so despondent, so self-despising?

 

"Jared…if you give up, Ben wins, he'll destroy you. You can't let that happen. You deserve better!" He exclaimed, his voice rising slightly. Jared turned to face him, his face devoid of all emotion; a hollow shell of the man he loved… was still in love with. He longed for Ben to walk through the door, just so he could beat the man to a bloody pulp, and make him witness the utter devastation he'd caused to this amazing man, to truly make Ben suffer like no other living creature.

 

"Why do I deserve better, Jensen? You didn't seem to think so; I was an embarrassment, wasn't I? To your life, your feelings? At least Ben didn't think that, I didn't have to hide…not in the ways you and I did. Is that what I deserve, to be hidden away. Aren't I fit to be seen with?" Jared's voice was quiet, almost dream-like as if he was remembering some long forgotten memories.

 

"Oh God Jared. Anyone with half a brain would be proud to be seen with you! You're amazing, no matter what you think right now Jay. I never forgave myself for leaving you; I so badly wanted to ask you to take me back. I hate myself for everything I put you through…for…giving you to Ben I wish to God I never broke up with you; you were the best thing that ever happened to me! I just got so scared of my feelings, I've never loved anyone like I love you Jay, not even with Danneel - especially not her. I won’t love anyone like I love you Jay, I swear."

 

"Don't call me that please. I'm not Jay, I can't be, not anymore, Ben hated the name…I always had to be Jared around him, that’s all that’s left."

 

"You're wrong.” Jensen spoke with such utter conviction that it startled Jared, even while confusing him.

 

“You are Jay. You're Jay, you're Jared, you're Jared Padalecki, Sasquatch, Jare – call you what you want, they're all the same person no matter what happened, Ben can't take that away from you, you belong to yourself. Don't ever doubt that Jared."

 

"Chad said the same thing. He said I was still the same."

 

"Then why don't you believe us?"

 

"Because I'm not the same. Your Jay never would have been in this situation, never would have let Ben…he wouldn't have given up, hidden and run away. He was a fighter. I'm not a fighter, I'm. Not. Him, Jensen. I can't be ever again."

 

It made Jensen shudder. Had he truly lost Jared, not just Jared's love, but Jared's… essence? This lost, hollow man wasn't Jared Padalecki…it couldn't be. Maybe he hadn't known Jared as well as he'd thought. Had he always been this insecure and sensitive? Part of him didn't want to know. For once Jensen couldn't think of a thing to say. How the hell could Jensen comfort Jared, try to make amends for all the damage he'd caused? Even as the thoughts formed he realised they were purely self-indulgent.

 

This wasn't about him. It never had been. That was how all the problems had started. It had always been about him. His feelings, his worries, his stubbornness. He'd never once picked up the phone to ring Jared, to check if he was alright or asked if Jared wanted to break up. He'd ended it, left him because ‘it was good for Jared', yes it was a lot of bull, but it'd been convincing at the time. After all this time Jensen began to realise that he didn't know the first thing about what was `good' for Jared. The worst had been during the filming of Troy. The publicity was endless. Everywhere were pictures of Jared in his Trojan costume displaying his beautiful physique, looking even more desirable than Jensen ever remembered. It had been a very uncomfortable few months, in more than one way.

 

He'd been sick with envy towards Jared's co-stars who could be so close to Jared, being able to hug and kiss him freely. He'd been enraptured by the premiere photos. It'd been all he could do not to ring up Jeff and ask…no demand him to tell him every last detail of Jared's life, his relationships, but he hadn't. He'd tried to broach the subject very casually to Jeff, who in no uncertain terms told him stealth was not one of his qualities with an underlying message to get over Jared and move on with his life. It appeared that Jeff had run out of sympathy for Jensen when dealing with the whole `Jared Scandal' as it'd been dubbed - much to Jensen's chagrin. It also hadn't helped when some annoying anonymous e-mailer had somehow signed Jensen up to a Jared site which followed his movements in such ridiculous detail it made Jensen feel positively normal about his obsession for ‘all things Jared.' Privately, Jensen blamed Chris as the most likely culprit and wouldn't have been at all surprised if the little bastard hadn’t tried to badger Jeff to become a go-between to try and reunite them. It hadn't worked if he had tried.

 

It was all Jared could do to stop himself from rocking back and forth like a madman, although he doubted it would make much difference to his fractured mental state. He wished nothing more than to demand that Jensen leave, or else fling himself into Jensen's arms and beg to be comforted. But he refused to do either. He refused to let Jensen see how desperately he wanted him, how he had crawled into Jared's skin.

 

He cursed the love he still held for Jensen, which, more than anything, had been the cause of Ben's anger and the subsequent of destroying his life. Why couldn't Jensen just leave, it would be a lot less painful then when Jensen buggered off two months later after giving him some false hope. Hopeless he could deal with right now, but false hope; that might just truly destroy him - especially where Jensen was concerned. Despite Jared never mentioning Jensen's name to Ben, it had always lingered, unspoken, a blasphemous word that had destroyed their relationship. Jensen was the cause of all ill in Ben's world, Jensen was the Devil who'd lead naïve Jared astray and Ben couldn't save him.

 

He knew he should be grateful to Jensen for coming, for showing that he still retained some modicum of feeling, but he also felt a great amount of anger, towards himself and Jensen. Was Jensen at least partly responsible, or was that just another addled part of his mind giving further proof of his impending insanity? Jensen had branded himself on Jared, on his mind, his heart, even his skin. Jared had been forced to realise that not only would he never have Jensen's love again, but all of his future relationships would pale in comparison. He'd tried to make it work with Sandy, tried to ignore all the rumours of him and Jensen in a secret relationship. He still didn't use the Net, but he knew what was said.

 

Chad and Sophia had read the rumours, the gossip. Soph, being the little net fiend she was, had given him a very enlightening explanation of what ‘slash' fiction was; Jared had still been flushed with embarrassment two hours later. Fortunately, Sophia had the good sense to stop talking about it after the break-up. It hadn't been easy to know that people assumed they were together; it had been the last thing he needed. The rumours didn't stop, not with Sandy and not with Ben. Once, Ben had received an e-mail inviting him to join a "J Squared Yahoo Group”. Jared had had to put ice on the bruise for several hours to stop the swelling and ended up barely able to move his jaw. He'd removed Ben's address from the group resisting the urge to kick the computer for his pain.

 

Ben had become increasingly convinced that Jared had been planning to leave him, that any form of communication with his friends was all an elaborate set-up to dump Ben and return to White-Knight Jensen. So he took it upon himself to frequently ‘remind' Jared how much Ben needed him, that he couldn't leave, and should that not prick Jared's conscience, then more drastic measures would have to be taken to ensure Jared's fidelity.

 

Ben seemed to forget they were his friends too and that Jensen rarely, if ever, came into a conversation - almost as if they realised how much pain it would cause Jared.

 

At Ben's cajoling and later insistence, he'd gradually stopped talking to them. It had hurt, he'd missed them all, he hadn't wanted to lose contact with them. It wasn't easy for them, they cared for Jensen too. He hadn't wanted to create such a gulf between his friends… but Ben had developed a habit of reading most of Jared's mail for any passing reference to Him; mail, postcards even the occasional e-mail he received. Ironically it had been Ben who insisted he get an e-mail address, which he still hated using, nothing was safe from Ben's eyes or above his suspicion. Sophia had once commented it was like Nazi Germany. Jared hadn't said anything, just shifted uncomfortably. What could he say in Ben's defence? Ben didn't like to have Jensen's name mentioned, ever, not even when it was others mentioning it. As far as Ben was concerned, Jensen was like Satan, a name you simply did not mention. That was one of the first rules Jared had discovered.

 

He'd quickly learnt that Jensen was off limits in any way, shape or form; his films, music and art were banned as were interviews, and even passing mentions of his name… He'd often felt like he was in a bizarre Nazi-like Harry Potter world starring Jensen as the evil Lord Voldemort – He That Can Not Be Named. Forbidden to mention a mere name seemed as ridiculous as it was to fear Ben, but then the fear had seemed very real. The injuries had certainly felt very real.

 

Indeed Ben, as well as all mail – both e-mail and hand-written - even his bills and junk mail were screened; after all Ben didn't want Jared to get any ideas in his head about leaving for ‘holidays' did he? Soon he had begun to search for any other potential signs of infidelity: his clothes. Anything too ‘suggestive' had to go; his scripts were to have no romantic scenes - even kissing scenes – anything that might relay information to Ackles.

 

Even poor Harley and Sadie came under the firing line; Ben occasionally yelling at the dogs, who tried to defend their master from Ben’s wrath. Although he’d never hurt the dogs, he’d come close several times when he was abusing Jared and such was Jared's worry that he'd sent his precious dogs to his parents for safekeeping under the guise of 'globe-trotting'. They’d been surprised; everyone knew his dogs were his ‘babies’ but agreed none-the-less. The idea of Ben kicking or otherwise hurting the beautiful animals while in a fury was too horrible to even contemplate. Not having Harley and Sadie around had been one of the hardest blows and Jared had almost hated Ben for that. Almost.

 

Everything in his life had been dissected and examined before considered worthy of keeping. It had started slowly, like everything else. It had been occasional, then frequent, then every day. Even the perfunctory loving greetings and sign-offs had come under scrutiny. Ben had demanded to know why Jeff had sent ‘his love' to Jared. Had they gotten together during Supernatural or had he, Jared and Jensen had a threesome? Or maybe with Milo? After all he’d been in two series with the guy and he and Milo had seemed incredibly friendly on set, hugging all the time, add to that he was more than complimentary about his various co-stars.

 

Perhaps he'd even gotten with one of the older guys. After all, Jared had become nothing more than a cheap on-set whore, willing to ‘loan' out his body to anyone he saw fit, whether he had a faithful boyfriend or not. Perhaps it wasn't Jared's fault, after all, he couldn't help the way he looked but his hair, and the clothing he wore…maybe it was intentional? Ben could never be sure either way, he could have almost sworn Jared was truly unaware of the attention he was getting, but then he was an actor... Ben had screened his mail; he had to, Jared had left him no choice in the matter. He hated doing it, but he claimed he was protecting Jared from himself, from the world. He was a danger, he'd end up hurting himself and other people, he was a tease, a flirt, and it was Ben's job to ensure that Jared was never put in temptation's way. He was helping Jared.

 

Chad and Soph had only been safe from Ben's suspicions because firstly they weren't very fond of Jensen - Chad in particular had been horribly vocal about ‘Jensen the Scumbag' - and secondly, at least for a while, the fact that they’d been married at seemed enough to convince Ben Jared was safe with them. That was at least up until his suspicions about how ‘close’ he was to the former couple began to rise after the divorce. In the end though, their devotion to their beloved Jay had still lead them to Ben's wrath. Jared had tried to distance himself from his friends and family in a last ditch attempt to protect them. He'd become dangerous to familiarize with, anyone who wanted Jared's friendship risked incurring Ben's wrath - especially any guys; gay, bi, straight, young or old it didn’t seem to matter to Ben. Everyone was a threat. Fortunately, Ben had never attacked any of his friends, although he had come close once or twice, and for that, at least, Jared was grateful; if there was to be any violence it should be him to take it.

 

What Jared couldn't fathom was Ben hadn't always been cold and unfeeling, certainly not to begin with. He had loved him, Jared was sure of it. He'd been kind and considerate, been gentle and funny, outgoing, completely open with his feelings, the exact opposite of Jensen. Ben, at that time, had never hurt him, or scared him. He'd felt safe around Ben, he had trusted him, for Ben had never given him cause not to, so what changed so drastically?

 

It was somehow easier to imagine Jensen with a dark side, not someone like Ben, who had been so open. Had he driven Ben to become like this…was he responsible? The thought chilled him. Because of him, he'd destroyed a man's life. That he was suffering for it did nothing to ease Jared's conscience. Even at first after Ben had hit him, he had said he was sorry, constantly apologising and begging for forgiveness. He'd said his love was so strong it was almost painful.

 

Each time he begged Jared not to leave him; pleaded and cajoled him. Jared could feel Ben's guilt and sorrow swelling around him. How could he leave, give up on him? But after a time it seemed no amount of reassurance, or even ‘proof' was enough for Ben. He'd truly believed Jared would leave him one day. It had hurt Jared, almost as much as the violence, knowing that Ben believed that. Jared had never wanted to leave him. He had loved Ben. Loved him as a person, as his partner. No, he wasn't Jensen, and Jared had accepted that, been ready to welcome Ben into his life. While Jensen would always have a small part of his heart, as his first true love, he had to move on. He'd never meant to hurt Ben, truly he hadn't. Jensen had broken his heart and he would never wish that pain on anyone. He hadn’t wanted to end up shattering Ben's heart, Ben's sanity, as badly as his had been by Jensen. Did that make him as bad as Ben?

 

It was after the Reunion that everything had started, after he'd run into Jensen again. In that evening he'd managed to lose two men that he loved, repulsing Jensen and making Ben distrustful. All it had taken was a laugh and a shoulder squeeze from an ex-lover, so innocuous many would agree, but not to Ben. What had Ben seen in Jensen's touch? Jared had seen pity, a friendly final farewell to their old life together, to their friendship; had Ben read it differently? Perhaps some small part of Jared had wished it differently, but he had loved Ben then, he'd been happy and he couldn't understand why Ben had doubted that. Was he unconsciously flirty, like Ben told him?

 

He hadn't intended to fall in love with Ben when he first met him. Ben had been a friend, just someone to talk with. Ben, rather ironically, helped bolster his confidence after two failed relationships. Ben made him feel sexy again, told him it was possible to find love again, that people did find him attractive. Ben had been flirty, whispering comments in his ear, making him laugh and blush. Ben didn't need any encouragement to start making moves on Jared, nor did he hide the fact he found Jared attractive and equally Jared would have been lying if he had denied an attraction towards Ben.

 

At first everything had been wonderful, Ben had practically worshiped him and Jared should have read the warning signs. People always made him out to be some god, a divine creature, but he was as fallible as the next and Ben, when he'd discovered Jared's mortality, it had hit him hard. The blazing desire had cooled, the love lingered but then that too eventually died out, taking Jared's soul with it, leaving a burnt and damaged husk. Jared tried to blink back the tears as the unbidden memories flooded back; he hoped he wasn't trembling.

 

"…Jared?"

 

Jensen whispered uncertainly, gazing at Jared's white face, tears clearly shimmering in his eyes. He'd seen Jared almost go into a trance-like state and suddenly feared that Jared was going to lose consciousness again. But his eyes had remained open, taking on a slightly glazed look, signalling Jared's thoughts were far away. It was all too obvious that Jared's mind had not been in a pleasant place and it didn't take a genius to work out that the thoughts were undoubtedly connected to a memory of Ben in some way but Jensen was loath to discover the exact nature of Jay's sudden withdrawal. Formulating images of what that monster had put Jared through, the poisonous lies he'd been fed…

 

Jensen knew if he heard from Jared's own lips, just one instance of Ben's abuse, he wouldn't be able to control himself. The itching need to make Ben suffer, to give Jared retribution, was burning obsessively in his veins. But it wasn't his place and that grieved him. He couldn't kill Ben, exact his revenge, and worse, he couldn't stop Jared's hurt.

 

He couldn't take away the nightmares or the distrust that now weighed heavily in those eyes. He should be Jared's protector, as ridiculous and primitive as that sounded, but it was none-the-less true. He'd been a friend, and later a lover to Jared - protector fell into both categories. Gazing at Jared he saw that he'd quickly retreated within himself again, looking remarkably similar to how Sophia had described him, as if he was trying to make himself disappear.

 

Taking a moment to try and compose himself, Jared tried desperately to blink away the tears that were perilously close to falling. He couldn't – would not - allow them to fall in front of Jensen Ackles. He'd cried too many tears over this man and refused to shed any more. Gathering up all of his remaining courage, he looked at Jensen.

 

The worry was clearly evident in the older man's face, yet there was also a flicker of hope, that danced bright in his eyes. At that moment Jared felt he could drown in Jensen's eyes, longed more than ever to be taken into the elder's embrace and be whispered lies. Lies promising safety and warmth. That Jensen would never let him go again, that he still loved him and always would. They would all be lies, but Jared still longed to hear them, needed to.

 

"I… I'm not really… I don't think I can see people a lot… I mean, yet, Jensen," he whispered, struggling to keep looking at him. It was so much safer to gaze at his blanket but he knew in order for Jensen to agree he'd have to look at the man, something which Jared was finding increasingly difficult. "Do you think, I mean, can I be on my own for a bit?" he asked, hating how faint his voice sounded.

 

Jensen nodded, "Of course, you need to rest Jay. I didn't mean to stay so long…I just…forget the time when I'm around you," he admitted. "Jared… I want to stay here, to be here for you, if you want me to?" He added, not quite daring to hope. What if Jared rejected his offer? Perhaps on this occasion he should listen to Sophia, make Jared see it was necessary.

 

If Chad and Soph truly thought it would help to have him around then he'd stay regardless of Jared's current choice, just perhaps stay out the way more than he'd otherwise do. It wasn't that he believed Jared to be incompetent at making his own choices, far from it. In all honesty it shows the sheer strength of will he possessed to have come through all of this.

 

He'd only given up when stretched beyond all mortal endurance. No Jared Padalecki was no quitter, not ever. If he hated Jensen that was fine, he could deal with that but he would NOT give up on Jared as he had done before. Sophia was right, he was a coward. He'd become far too scared of opinions and was disgusted with himself. Now it was time to do what Jared needed, not ‘what he thought was best for him' or maybe even what Jared currently wanted, but what would help him in the long run, what would make him want to live again?

 

"I want to stay around Jared. I want to… I will help you," ignoring the ever present warning in his head, Jensen bent down and pressed a gentle kiss to Jared's forehead, brushing an unruly lock of hair from his eyes.

 

Jared didn't want to cry, not anymore. He was sick of crying, of falling apart like some weak… creature. He was sick of feeling like his heart was being split in two, he was so tired of everything… feeling so lonely and afraid, always looking over his shoulder waiting for Ben and trembling with fear. He was sick of running away. It didn't work, it never had. His suicide attempt hadn't worked, his hiding hadn't worked. The only other choice now was… direct. It made him numb with fear; he'd hidden and lied for so long now there was a comfort in it.

 

To begin healing he would have to admit to others about what had happened. That he had been abused. Ben had abused him. Hit him and raped him, scared him. It was difficult enough to admit it to himself, it felt as if a whole new wound was being torn open while old ones re-opened, that someone who he loved could do that to him. Is that what healing involved, to have to even admit to yourself such horrors? One thing was for certain, he couldn't carry on like this; not in this limbo, this purgatory. Something had to change. He either had to truly give up; ending it all and making sure no one stopped him, or fight. Fight to survive, to reject Ben's beliefs. Chad and Sophia thought he was worth saving, maybe Jensen did too, and Dr. Harris seemed to think so, were they right?

 

Deep down he knew Ben was sick, but it didn't make Ben's words easy to reject, he'd loved the man for four years, lived with him, shared his life… even when Ben hit him he loved him. Ben's words had lovingly been whispered into his ear at night, both praise and criticism, words of love and possession. Jared had wanted to be loved, to be needed, especially after Jensen's abandonment; it had made it easier for Ben.

 

His words and promises made sense, and gradually became true. He'd learnt to accept Ben's beliefs, that he deserved Ben's punishments, that somehow it cleansed him, but now…he couldn't do that anymore, he couldn't pretend it was good for him, nothing should hurt this much, should it? Some small part of him accepted he could never help Ben, not really, and that grieved him. He loved Ben. It would be so easy to hate him, but right now he despised himself too much.

 

He knew the self-hate wouldn't stop, not right away. Ben's teachings were too intergraded for that, yet to acknowledge it seems such a relief, such a huge leap that he feels that perhaps he does have some hope, that for the first time he felt he might actually be able to overcome this. To be Jared – to be Jay again. That would feel nice. So he let the tears fall, even though the voices shrouded him, whispering malicious words, he carried on, his whole body shaking in as much relief as sorrow. The sobs muffled by the blankets, he drew his knees up to his chest and rocked himself back and forth.

 

Jensen slowly moved closer towards the bed, not wanting to scare Jared, before taking a silent breath and sitting on the bed, slowly inching closer towards him and gently laying a hand on Jared's arm. The comforting gesture caused Jared to look up. He wanted to back away, tell Jensen he didn't want to be touched or comforted, that he couldn't stand it, but he found he couldn't, his tongue wouldn't form the words. Instead, he found himself saying,

 

"Please don't leave me Jensen. I need you." It came tumbling out uncensored before he could stop it. Expelling a breath he didn't realise he was holding Jensen nodded silently, accepting Jared's plea and the unspoken words that went with it.

 

"Never,” came the choked response. Jensen struggled to regain his composure enough to talk. He had to make Jared understand he wasn’t leaving again, that he was done with running.

 

“I won't go anywhere… unless you want me to, it’s up to you Jared, you call all the shots here," he whispered, catching Jared square in the eyes, allowing him to finally see all the emotions which lay there, unchecked. Without another word, Jensen moved closer and gently pulled Jared into his arms, careful not to crush him. He waited for Jared to pull away but he simply felt his shirt grow damp as Jared's muffled sobs continued against his chest and he found himself stroking Jared's hair as tears ran down his own cheeks.

 

Sophia and Chad stood just behind the window watching as Jensen gently pulled Jared to him, rocking their friend gently. To their amazement Jared didn't pull away but inclined his head inwards and continued to sob. They could see the tears streaking down Jensen’s face as well. They couldn't hear what was being said, but in this case words were not needed. The scene was overwhelmingly heart-breaking and Chad was beginning to feel almost like a voyeur intruding on a very personal moment. He frowned as someone tugged on his shirt.

 

"C'mon, this isn't our jurisdiction," Sophia murmured, her eyes equally glued to the scene in front of him.

 

As she began to pull Chad away she asked, "You still think it was a good idea to bring Jensen?" They continued walking until they were finally away from the disturbing yet riveting scene and she turned to face Chad, awaiting the answer. Chad nodded, looking strangely thoughtful.

 

"It'll take time but I stand by my decision," Chad said smiling softly

 

"You sound like a politician," Sophia grinned, rolling her eyes, "ever with the diplomatic answers."

 

"Just as well Ms. Bush. Sometimes discretion is the best course of valour," he joked in his ‘prim Brit' voice he’d perfected on one of his movies.

 

"You could have just said ‘I told so you'. God you are so smug," muttered Sophia, a mock scowl coming across her face.

 

"Isn’t that part of the job description for an ex?” Chad asked teasingly, “Anyway, enough talk, I'm feeling hungry. Do you want a burger?" Chad asked, feeling more relaxed than he had in days…no, years.

 

Sophia cocked her head to the side, seemingly considering. "Hmmm…hospital crap or a huge juicy burger? Tough one." She grinned before it wavered slightly. "He's going to be alright. Right?"

 

"He's got us, and Jensen, we’ll get him through this, together," and that seemed to reassure Sophia enough.

 

Jared was in good hands, they’d make sure of it.

 

TBC - please give feedback!!

Chapter Text

NOT AN UPDATE

I have been suffering from severe writer's block with this fic for a few years now, partly due to the lose of my sister and I am really struggling to write in general.

I really want to finish this fic but I need someone to help with it, every time I try to write more of it, it goes on a path to nowhere. I alsothink the fic badly needs some polish and beta'ring and I have no one to help me with that right now.

If someone is interested in the fic I'd love to work on it with them in some/any capacity, whether it's co-author, beta'ring or taking on the fic themselves, they'd get full credit and I'd do some fanart as a thank you.

If any one is interested in *any* capacity to help with this fic, please, *please* contact me, drop a comment here, go to my tumblr: http://immiebunnyburrow.tumblr.com/ or drop me an email: bageria8@hotmail.com.

Thank you