<< Part Four | Masterpost
Jensen, 11th December 2009.
Jensen drove like a maniac. He figured he was behind the cop cars by about five minutes, not that his presence at the precinct could help Jared much. He was in a rabid state of panic and let out steam through rash driving and gratuitous cursing, hoping he’d have worked it all out while he was still on the way. Once he reached Jared’s side, he needed to be strong for both their sakes.
Jensen could only imagine what was going through that kid’s head.
“They kept me locked up in some kind of a solitary holding cell for three days, without warrant, without reason. Hands cuffed behind my back. Stripped to the skin. Cold. Blind… eyes swollen shut, either that or it was pitch dark all the time.”
Jensen rammed the heel of his palms against the steering wheel over and over again. He hated fucking Manhattan for its one hundred thousand red lights.
No, he was no use to Jared in his current state, or even otherwise. What could and would help though was the arrival of Matt, if he lived up to his promise and brought along with him one of the best rising star defense attorneys in Manhattan: a formidable woman Jensen had had the fortune of meeting a few times back when he was still with Matt.
At the precinct forty-five minutes later, Jensen’s frustration grew and grew as there was still no sign of Matt or Erica, and the cops continued to refuse to let anyone but a lawyer see Jared.
“He’s being processed, you have to wait right here, sir!” Detective Whitfield and another cop in uniform looked like they were preparing to physically restrain Jensen from leaving the visitor area.
“You better not be interrogating him without a lawyer present in there.”
Whitfield rolled his eyes. He probably got that a lot, civilians telling him how to do his job. “If you want, we can get the court to appoint him a –”
“Jared’s lawyer is going to be here any minute.” Jensen rebuked the offer ungratefully.
Whitfield narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. “You don’t seem to get it, do you? That man inside? The one you’ve been sheltering in your home all this time is responsible for putting you in a coma back in 2007.”
I know that!! Every bone in his body ached to scream those words out loud into the detective’s face. But Jensen’s limited knowledge of the law managed to kick in at the nth moment and shut him up.
Cassidy joined her partner then, and the two detectives stared at Jensen like he was from Mars, waiting for what should have an appropriately outraged reaction. But Jensen was a painter, not an actor.
Please don’t put him in a holding cell. Please just give him back to me, please.
“Sorry I’m late!”
A loud, almost chirpy feminine voice cut through the chaos in his head and Jensen spun around. Erica Durance strode right over to the detectives until she was by Jensen’s side. She sent a brief nod and a pointed look towards Jensen (that probably said ‘keep your trap shut or else’ but he could be wrong). And then she held out a hand for the two detectives to shake, who evidently knew her well enough.
“Kate. Charles. Working Friday night again, I see?”
“Ms Durance. Pleasure, as always,” Cassidy offered in response, her voice dripping with equally scathing sarcasm.
Erica ignored the jibe just as easily. “I’m representing Tristan Winslow and I’d like to see him right away.”
Whitfield seemed to share a friendlier equation with the lawyer but he continued to glare suspiciously at Jensen through the corner of his eyes.
“Give us a minute, Ms Durance,” he said and walked away with Cassidy. They were conferring in whispers soon as they were out of earshot.
A fucking holding cell, the four words echoed inside Jensen’s head and were interrupted only when a woman came to stand in his line of sight. That’s when he remembered his manners.
“Erica! Thank you for coming.”
He kissed her cheek and she smiled at him warmly, “It’s been awhile.”
“Yeah, too long,” he agreed, unable to decode the neutral expression on the woman’s face, careful and diplomatic, as always.
The woman was as tall as Jensen in her stilettos and her dark brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail on top of her head. She wore a black dinner jacket three sizes too big over what was clearly a little black dress. Matt must have pulled her out of a social engagement. The jacket was vintage Gucci, which meant there was a very high possibility it belonged to…
“You remember my husband, Tom?”
Jensen turned then and noticed two men standing a few feet behind him. The tall one stood with his hands in his black pants’ pockets, thick black hair slicked back neatly, crystal blue eyes boring right into Jensen’s. Jensen managed a polite nod, the rush of nostalgia both elating and disconcerting because he and Welling hadn’t parted on exactly amicable terms. But it was the shorter, slighter man who caught his gaze and held it for what felt like a small eternity.
Matt had hung back, on purpose, leaning against a far wall with his arms crossed against his chest almost in self-preservation. He wore dark blue jeans that accentuated his skinny legs crossed at the feet, a dark green turtleneck sweater and his favorite grey hoodie. He hadn’t given up his black horn-rimmed glasses either. Yeah, he hadn’t changed one bit.
Matt looked at Jensen, eyes filled with sympathy, lifting one hand to wave a hesitant ‘hi’. Classic Bomer move that, demure yet enrapturing in the best of ways.
Erica cleared her throat, just as Jensen started to head towards Matt. “I should go talk to the detectives. I’ll be right with you.”
Jensen nodded and watched her head toward the cops, then took a deep breath and turned back to Matt. He walked right past Welling, heading straight to Matt and unceremoniously pulled him into his arms, practically lifting him off his feet. Severely short on words as always, this was his way to express his gratitude.
Matt barely returned the hug, remaining still and recalcitrant, but Jensen persisted. He felt the exact moment in which Matt sighed in exasperation and let himself sink right into his ex’s arms. That’s when someone else cleared their throat beside them, making Matt jump and in turn forcing Jensen to let him go.
“Oh, hey, uh… I didn’t know you were coming too.”
Tom shrugged, “I drive faster.”
“Thank you, all of you,” and Jensen meant it from the bottom of his heart. He and Welling finally shook hands, stiffly, but Jensen didn’t dwell on it for too long.
A moment of silent awkwardness followed during which Jensen turned to Matt again, but the other man just dug his hands in his jacket and looked away.
“So,” he began, rocking on his heels a little. “I suppose I’ve earned the right to say ‘I told you so’?”
Jensen grimaced, “Yes, but I’d prefer you didn’t.”
Matt looked up at him directly at that, his voice soft and stable as always. “And what about now, shacking up with him all over again? What if you’re making the same mistake again, Jensen? Trusting an ex-con?”
Jensen rubbed his eyebrow and let him ramble on for awhile. Suddenly he wasn’t so sure telling Matt everything on the phone had been such a great idea.
“I know you think he’s been going hobo for awhile, but Jensen he’s a conman. He could be working another job or it could just be his clever little way of hiding in plain sight. And now he’s back to leeching off of you again and you’re letting him? How can you forget everything that happened, Jensen? After everything he did to you, to us?”
“What happened to us was my fault and it’d been a long time coming, Matt. You cannot blame Jared for that.”
“I thought his name was Tristan.”
Jensen rubbed his forehead again, starting to develop a mild headache. “Yeah, Tristan’s his middle name. Long story.”
“Doesn’t matter, Jensen. How can you forgive him, just like that?”
“Because he’s been punishing himself for all this time even when he’d clearly gotten away with it, don’t you see? Because he’s been trying so hard to make it up to me, and because he deserves a second chance. Fuck, I deserve a second chance, with him!”
A sudden silence fell, as if the whole station decided to shut up the moment Jensen began his emotionally charged outburst. Jensen realized, only too late, what he’d just said. And now there was no turning back.
Matt glowered at him, disapproval painted across his face. “Punishing himself would have been turning himself in, Jensen.”
“Yeah, that’s another long story. Let’s just say I get why he didn’t.”
“But knowing there were other jobs, other victims?”
“Look I’m not going to justify any of his crimes, but…” Jensen exhaled, he was so tired and the night (or nightmare) had only just begun. “What’s important is that he’s not that person anymore. I know it. I can feel it.”
And he did. Every time he looked into Jared’s eyes and saw the perpetual insecurity there, every time he held him in the circle of his arms in bed, waiting patiently for the squirming to stop, every morning when he kissed Jared goodbye and every evening he kissed him hello. He felt it. Deep in his bones.
“I love him, Matt. I… I think I always did.”
Matt looked like he was about to chew him out, again, and even opened his mouth to do so. But then he didn’t. Almost as if he understood. Or maybe he realized he didn’t actually care. He crossed his arms and looked away instead, not sure what to say anymore.
“I am so sorry, Mattie,” for everything Jensen did wrong to him, for all the little things that weren’t considered crimes by law but had probably been just as painful and mentally abusive as Jared’s betrayal to Jensen. It didn’t matter that Jared never meant to hurt Jensen, or that Jensen didn’t set out to hurt Matt. People got hurt anyway. Roads to hell and intentions and shit.
Matt closed his eyes for a long time and didn’t respond.
And again Matt didn’t seem to want to, but Jensen effortlessly pulled the slim frame into his arms one more time. He heard Matt whimpering a meek protest and felt his struggle to keep his glasses on his face that was getting mushed into Jensen’s shoulder. Matt relented eventually, his fingers twisting into the back of Jensen’s shirt, clutching the fabric like a long lost lifeline.
A second later, Welling cleared his throat, again, very loudly and very insistently. Jensen frowned, forced to let Matt go again.
“Alright, what’s up with the throat clearing, man? I know you’re Mattie’s best friend but trust me, I’m not looking to hurt him again. I just want to apologize, and maybe try and be friends again, that’s all.”
Welling came up to stand in front of Matt, practically pushing his friend behind himself. “I don’t know if I believe you, Ackles. So I’m just gonna make sure you understand that Mattie has moved on too, and he’s finally happy. So if for even a second you think that you can amble in here and bat those stupidly feminine eyelashes of yours and make Matt fall for you all over again, you’re sadly mistaken.”
“WHAT the fuck are you on about?” Jensen lost it then, advancing on Welling until they were both right in each other’s faces.
“Oh-kay!” Matt exclaimed in the nick of time, before one of them could punch the lights out of the other, in a police station at that. He came in the middle of the two taller men and planting one hand each in both their chests, he pushed them further apart.
“Tom, please go wait in the car. Tom, please??”
Still glaring at Jensen, Tom reluctantly made his way out. Matt turned to Jensen, adjusting his glasses.
“I’m sorry I didn’t return your messages before. There just seemed to be no point, you know?”
“I know. I‘m just very grateful you returned the one that mattered the most. You’ve no idea how much this means to me and Jared. Thank you.”
Before Matt could say anything else, Erica came back.
“Hey, so I spoke to the prosecutor. Just because you want to drop all your charges against Jared doesn’t automatically exonerate him from the case, and then there’s Ellen Geer.”
They’d had the worst luck tonight. Both Jensen and Jared got made within seconds of each other.
“She lost priceless family heirlooms that got sold into the black market way before the gang was busted, and she’s likely never going to see them again. She’s pissed.”
“So what can we do?”
“Tristan was never physically present at any of the crime scenes when the crimes happened. So we can probably bring the charges down to aiding and abetting.”
“And if he gets convicted?”
“Could be anywhere from three to ten years.”
Erica lowered her voice. “You nearly died, Jensen.” But that was all she offered by way of explanation.
“Wh-what about bail?”
“Yes, your written testimony can help us get bail for now. I’ll have it drawn up right away and sent for your signature. But it’s too late to find a magistrate tonight, so we’ll post bail first thing tomorrow morning.”
Jensen’s heart sank to the pit of his stomach. “Bu-but that means Jared will have to spend the night in jail?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“No, Erica, there has to be another way. You don’t understand, that kid, he is severely traumatized. Cops and prison cells are not a good memory for him and this must be fucking him up already. Please you have to get him out somehow!”
Jensen felt Matt’s eyes boring into the side of his head but he couldn’t stop to acknowledge that yet.
Erica nodded but didn’t look very optimistic. “I can get one of my doctors to come and check on him. If he diagnoses Tris- I mean Jared’s condition to be deteriorating he can be moved to a sanitarium. Let me see what I can do.”
She pulled out her phone and started making calls. Meanwhile, Jensen found himself a secluded corner and dialed his manager’s number.
“Sam? ... Hi, it’s me… Remember that folder you’ve been working on, on our friend, Clark Winslow, down in San Antonio? ... It’s time to put it to use…”
It’d been a long shot, and Erica had told him as much two hours ago. The psychiatrist Erica sent in came out claiming that Jared was perfectly calm, and actually, disturbingly so given the circumstances. He was lucid and rational, and he was under obvious mental pressure but seemed capable of handling it. But Jensen had seen that look on Jared’s face just before the cops showed up at their door. In fact, he was never going to forget it.
“What? No no no, there’s no way. Your doctor is mistaken, Erica.”
“He’s the best clinical psychiatrist in New York.”
“Knowing what I know about Jared, I doubt it.”
Erica huffed, looking exhausted herself. “Look, bottom line: there is nothing apparently wrong with Jared that might warrant an emergency medical response!”
“I’m sorry, Jensen. I just talked to him too, you know, and... maybe he’s stronger than you give him credit for.”
“I need to see him, please,” Jensen said, hoping she was right and he was wrong.
Erica nodded, then turned on her heels to go talk to Detective Whitfield. Fifteen minutes later, whatever she said or did, allowed Jensen ten minutes to meet Jared. He thanked her profusely and went after the sergeant who led him into a visiting room.
Once inside, Jensen waited, fidgeting in his chair until a few minutes later, the door opened.
Jared was dressed in an ugly orange jumpsuit and white sneakers. His arms were bare from the top of his biceps to the hands locked in steel cuffs in front of him.
“Oh God, please take those off,” Jensen begged the officer who’d just accompanied Jared in, but the man pretended like he heard nothing and promptly left. Jared, for his part, wordlessly sank into the chair he’d been led to, without once looking up at his visitor.
Jensen leaned forward, resting his hands on the table and mimicking Jared’s posture. It took a couple minutes of deathly silence for him to give up hope: Jared was not going to look at him.
Jared nodded shortly.
“Good boy,” Jensen whispered, knowing he was lying but appreciating his effort. Stupid questions deserved stupid answers, after all.
He inhaled deeply and tried to center himself. “Look, it’s just a matter of one night, okay? We’re posting bail first thing tomorrow morning.”
Jared looked up at him at that. “How much?”
“The bail money, how much is it?”
Jensen didn’t like the sound of that. “We don’t know yet. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“It matters to me. How much would I owe you? Ballpark figure?”
“Jared, stop it!”
Jared clenched his teeth and went back to staring at the handcuffs around his wrists. Jensen forced himself to calm down. He tried to reach for Jared’s hands but the other man pulled them back to rest them in his lap instead.
“It’s going to be fine, kid. I ain’t going anywhere. And there are no bad cops here. You will be safe, I promise you. Erica spoke to the detectives and they’ll transfer you to your own private holding cell.”
Jared trembled a little and Jensen panicked. “U-Unless that’s not what you want?”
“Jared? You heard me, right?” Realizing he was not going to get an answer, Jensen deliberated internally and reached the conclusion that a private cell in this precinct was definitely the safer option. He tried changing the subject.
“Do you want a smoke? N-No? Anything else I could get you?”
It was a lost cause. Ten minutes were up before he knew it and they took Jared back to his cell. Jensen literally crumbled inside. This hurt more than everything that happened two and a half years ago, more than any physical or emotional pain he’d experienced.
Watching Jared hurting hurt more than Jared’s betrayal itself.
Jensen, 12th December 2009.
Jensen drove home shortly after the clock struck two AM, unable to help Jared in any way that night. He jumped into the shower first, then came out and poured three fingers of single malt down his throat. That didn’t help so he tried a cigarette, which he threw away after only two mouthfuls of smoke. He tried whaling away at his punching bag and worked up a good sweat, but the endorphins only lasted so long and he went and stood under a cold shower again.
Finally, reluctantly, he strode into the studio, flicked the overhead lights on and stood with his hands on his hips before his largest canvas, his greatest masterpiece.
Thoughts whirled around in his head, about everything that had happened tonight, these past two months. Hell, the past three years had been the most trying times of his life and also by far the most eye-opening. Jensen never knew how limited his insight into himself was, until Tristan came into his life.
Back in school, exploring the world of drugs to reach a higher state of consciousness, or whatever kids were calling it these days, did absolutely nothing for his art. Later, exploring his dark embittered side in self-imposed isolation away from home and country where he didn’t even know the language… yeah, that got him nowhere either.
Like all artists, Jensen’s work was driven by emotions but unlike most, he needed his emotions in control to function right. He needed to be calm and stable. He needed to feel content to feel confident, to keep his hands steady and his head in the right place. In a world full of famously neurotic artists, he sure stuck out like a sore thumb. After all, what kind of a lame-ass artist couldn’t channel his bitterness or overmedicatedness into million dollar art decos?
Jensen didn’t want a million dollars. All he wanted was Jared. All he needed was Jared, the kid who’d almost cost Jensen his very young life. And if that wasn’t neurotic enough, then what was?
He spent most of the night tossing and turning, hatching fantastical plots in his head to break Jared out of jail and run away with him to the far ends of the earth where no one cared who they were. Where Jensen could keep Jared safe, away from the Ellen Geers of his past. And maybe Jensen could start again too, in a brand new genre of art, like pop or digital. Maybe sculpting.
The dreams were interrupted by broken visuals of Jared in jail, alone (or maybe not, which was worse) and frightened out of his wits, and they sent Jensen straight up in bed picking up his phone to call the precinct again. Nothing ever came out of those calls, of course, except curt assurances or admonishments for keeping the lines engaged for nothing. His reputation clearly preceded him by the time he returned at six in the morning.
The man at the reception made a “you again” face but let Jensen in without a word. He ignored all the disparaging stares, just sat where he was told and waited.
At nine thirty two, Erica Durance walked in (this time dressed more appropriately as a lawyer should be) with the bail signed by the first magistrate she could find, and Jared was released. As they waited for Jared to be brought out, Jensen thanked her again, to which she just shook his hand and smiled.
“Don’t thank me, thank Matt. I wouldn’t ditch opera night with my husband for anyone except him.”
Jensen nodded. “When should I come to your offices to settle the expenses?”
Her eyes softened. “Jensen, come on. Weren’t we all supposed to be friends?”
“Fine, you can take me out to lunch after this is all over. I’d love to meet you guys in less judicial circumstances some time.”
“Oh, absolutely. I hope I get to see more of you and Tom, and Matt too. If he’d like to, that is.”
Erica gazed right into Jensen’s eyes. “Don’t worry so much about Mattie, Jensen. We’ve got him.”
Jensen frowned just a bit at Erica’s strange choice of words but didn’t get time to contemplate before Erica signaled at something behind him. “Here he comes.”
Jensen turned to find Detective Whitfield leading the way, and his boy trailing behind him (almost as if he were hiding behind Whitfield) obediently. He was wearing his street clothes from the night before and when he looked up, Jensen noticed his eyes were bloodshot – like he’d been crying or he hadn’t slept all night, or both. Jensen swallowed tightly, but didn’t move. Instead he waited until Jared took the thirty thousand baby steps it took to reach him.
“Mr. Ackles,” Whitfield reached him first, unfortunately. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing.”
As a cop, the guy was only doing his job. But seeing the trembling return to Jared’s lips at the sound of those words, Jensen wished the man didn’t care so damn much.
“Ready to go home?” he asked Jared with as much cheer as he could muster, pointedly ignoring the well-intentioned detective’s warning.
Jared probably noticed, but didn’t respond. Instead his eyes flickered to the woman beside Jensen who had so far kept her opinions to herself.
“Thank you,” he murmured, his voice no more than a raspy whisper that made Jensen ache inside.
“Piece of cake!” Erica replied brightly, and she somewhat managed to melt the somber expression on Jared’s face.
“So, what happens next?”
“Well, Jensen isn’t pressing charges, obviously. And they haven’t been able to tie you in with any other incidents yet.”
Jensen didn’t like the way she said yet.
“That leaves Mrs. Geer, and our best bet there is to settle out of court for nothing more than complicity. The three actual perps are behind bars already and will remain there for thirteen more years without parole, so she will just have to be satisfied with that.”
Jared looked down to his toes and nodded. Jensen knew him enough to know he was thinking money again.
It was Erica who broke the awkward silence. “Well, I really should run, sorry, got a big day in court.”
At the door, Jensen gave her a brief hug and when they parted, she put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. She kissed Jared almost tentatively on the left cheek, as if she were afraid he’d reject the physical proximity, but he didn’t. Instead he weakly nodded a goodbye, and then she was gone.
Jensen didn’t wait to be spurned again and reached out to gently take Jared’s arm. He was prepared to be shrugged off, or punched in the face, whichever. When neither happened, he sent up a silent grace and wordlessly walked to his truck, still holding Jared by the elbow, not giving him any room to wiggle away just in case. Just as silently he opened the passenger side door and waited until Jared got in. For a moment, it looked like Jared would refuse.
“Don’t. Just… get in, Jared, please.”
Sighing, the brunet complied and Jensen closed the door behind him. Once he was in his seat, he reached out to click Jared’s seat belt in place. Apparently not doing it himself was Jared’s little rebellion against his abduction, as was the staring out of his window and refusing to look at Jensen. The older man didn’t push. Quietly he pulled out of the precinct’s parking lot and took off for the 24th street.
Back at the Vanguard, Samantha Smith was waiting for them downstairs in the lobby. She wore a crisp black skirt with a mauve shirt tucked in, top three buttons open to tease an enticing cleavage. Her hair was loosely but stylishly gathered up on top of her head, and she didn’t seem too happy with the stilettos she’d forced her feet into this morning.
“Sammy, thanks for coming.”
She marched up avidly to Jensen and gave him a brief hug, before looking up (suspiciously) at his tall companion.
“Jared,” she offered briefly.
Jared nodded back with equal terseness. Jensen tried to hold his hand, but he pulled away instinctively, looking down at his shoes the way he used to back when they were still held together with duct tape.
Jensen winced before he turned towards his manager. “Come on up.”
“Uh,” Sam whispered. “I’d rather we talk here, in private?”
Jensen nodded and turned to Jared. He took his keys and held them out. “Go on, baby. I’ll be right up.”
Jared glared at him first, then the keys, then back at Jensen, wordlessly refusing to comply. What makes you think I’ll take them now? – his tired, black eyes seemed to convey.
“Jared,” Jensen hardened his pitch, pinning Jared with his own eyes and stepping into his personal space. “Go on upstairs. Go to the studio. Get in position, in your clothes as is. And wait for me there.”
It was a command, plain and simple, one that Jared should recognize and obey; at least Jensen hoped he would. He let out a huge sigh of relief when it actually worked, and watched with a painful yearning as his boy dragged his feet into the elevator.
Soon as the elevator doors closed, Sam pulled him towards the lobby’s couch. “Just so you know: I know you’ve always been a little cuckoo in the head, but this, this is beyond crazy.”
“This! Going up against someone like Clark Winslow for a guy that almost got you killed!”
Jensen closed his eyes and collapsed back against the sofa he sat on. He felt drained, and the day hadn’t even begun yet. “Please just tell me you got something for me?”
Sam pulled out a manila folder from her tote bag and handed it over. “This is everything we found on Winslow. Jared’s real medical reports from his two visits to the hospital – one after Winslow assaulted the kid himself, and the second one is from the penitentiary’s doctor on duty the day Jared was let out of solitary.”
Jensen started to open the folder when Sam put a hand over his. “It’ll ruin your appetite, sweetie.”
The veins in Jensen’s neck bulged as he opened the file anyway and waded through the documents, determinedly not looking at the pictures attached.
“There is also an un-pursued lead in here on a retired prison guard who once got drunk at a bar, and rambled on about the time a sixteen-year old was detained in an adult prison, but he pulled a complete one-eighty afterwards, sober.”
“So, this is not enough to get a conviction?”
“Most likely not. Too circumstantial. But it is enough to open an investigation against the bastard.”
“So what are we waiting for?” Jensen slapped the file shut.
Sam raised one eyebrow. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Do you know anyone else with this kind of power to manipulate the system that this man does? Besides, when else will I ever get to use my celebrity status for a better cause? Except charity, of course."
"This could get dangerous you know."
"Not so long as I have you by my side," Jensen tried to smile, even made those puppy dog eyes she couldn't resist.
Sam just shook her head. It was obvious she did not like this one bit but she didn't argue any further, and dialed a San Antonio number with her phone.
“Clark Winslow, please. I’m calling on behalf of Jensen R. Ackles from New York.”
Two minutes later, she handed the phone to Jensen.
“Mr. Winslow, this is Jensen Ack… oh you’re familiar with my work? ... That’s awesome … Oh thanks, so very kind of you… yeah, you’ve actually made this so much easier … see Mr. Winslow, I’m about to hold a press conference this evening … and I happen to be in possession of this file, that’s full of incriminating material … it's about you Mr. Winslow. You and your step-son ... and I’ve a hunch this file and its contents could be very, very damaging to your upcoming career in politics …”
Fifteen minutes later, Sam left directly from the lobby, with instructions to continue building the folder until it became enough to get a conviction. For now, Jensen’s concerns were more immediate and he entered his apartment with great trepidation. He wasn’t sure if he should be happy or horrified when he found Jared in exactly the spot he’d ordered him to – lying on the floor in his studio, face down, still posing for the damn portrait.
“Get up, baby,” he whispered not unkindly, as he offered the younger man a hand, which Jared didn’t take.
His face was still a picture of eerie blankness. He’d clearly regressed to a month ago, back to being the homeless kid who'd forgotten he had a voice box.
“I’m sorry,” Jensen waited for Jared to look at him, once he was standing on his two feet again. “I didn’t mean to boss you around like that. I just…”
He wasn’t allowed to finish because the door buzzed again. Crap.
“Let’s go see who’s at the door, okay? Come on, Jare’…” Jensen didn’t want to let the boy out of his sight. Not yet.
Jared quietly followed him out to the living room, and Jensen went to his security monitor. Matt and Welling stood waiting for them downstairs, and Jensen had no choice but to let them up.
Once inside the apartment, Jensen noticed the casserole in Matt’s hands. “Just a welcome home thing, I guess,” he explained sheepishly making Jensen beam (and Welling roll his eyes).
“Jared, this is Matt. You’ve seen his pictures, I think. And Matt, this is Jared, you’ve, uh, seen his… pictures too.”
Way to go, Jensen kicked himself mentally. That was the worst introduction in the history of introductions and even Welling thought so, as he stood visibly smirking in the background.
Jared nodded a polite ‘Hi’ but refused to take his hands out of his pockets long enough to offer a handshake. Matt pretended the casserole was too heavy to spare a hand himself.
“Wow, this place… doesn’t look that different at all, actually.” Matt offered uselessly for the sake of small talk.
Jensen kept one eye on Jared and noticed how he withdrew into himself, growing more and despondent by the second. He turned towards the visitors. “I’ll be right back. Make yourselves comfortable. Mattie, you remember where the beer is, don't you?”
Matt nodded and headed straight for the bottom freezer in the kitchen. Behind his back, Jensen sent Welling a smirk of his own, who responded with an icy glare before he turned away. Jensen could play the ex-boyfriend card all day just to see this man riled up. But his priorities lay elsewhere at the moment.
“Come on, Jare’. Let’s get you settled in bed.”
Jared glared at him too, before heading towards the bedroom on his own. He seemed just as eager to get away from the strangers in their home (his and Jensen’s home, at least that’s how Jensen saw it), but wasn’t too thrilled about Jensen’s hovering either.
Once inside, he seemed to have expended the sudden burst of energy that powered his stride into the bedroom, and went back to being completely numb and reticent.
“Do you want me to run you a bath?”
Jared shook his head.
“H-How about a shower then?”
“I just wanna sleep, if you don’t mind.”
Jensen was so relieved to hear Jared’s voice, he almost laughed. “Of course. C-Can I help you… with that?”
He took tentative steps until he was right in front of Jared, and raised two hesitating hands to help him undress. He peeled off the jacket just as Jared stepped out of his shoes, and undid the buttons on the blue denim shirt. Jared turned around and let Jensen slip it off his shoulders, revealing a plain white t-shirt beneath. Not bothering to take his jeans off, Jared headed towards the bed. Jensen skipped ahead and pulled the covers away, letting his boy sink in with a sigh.
Jared lay on his stomach, face turned away from the artist, his body language completely closed off like it’d never been in the short time that Jensen had known him. Jensen pulled a comforter over him and ran his fingers through the greasy hair, stopping only when he felt a stiff little flinch. He knew a dismissal when he saw one. He just never expected it to rip his insides to shreds.
Maybe Jared just needed some time, and space. He knew he would, if he’d been in Jared’s place. Rationalizing to console himself, Jensen exhaled and stood up to leave. Before leaving though he decided, the hell with it, and pressed a soft kiss into the exposed nape of Jared’s neck. Quietly he turned and exited the room, leaving the door slightly ajar so he could keep an ear out in case Jared needed something.
He convinced himself the sharp trembling that racked Jared’s body in response to the chaste little kiss was from relief or pleasure, and not fear, or repulsion.
In the living room, Matt and Welling suddenly fell quiet when Jensen showed up. He looked at them and scoffed lightly, then crossed his arms before his chest. “Out with it.”
Matt took a deep breath and leaned forward on the kitchen counter where he sat. He was on Jared’s bar stool, and that didn't sit so well with Jensen but he didn't comment. Welling stood by the balcony door taking long gulps from his bottle of Heineken, happy to let Matt spearhead the conversation.
“Jensen, you know Erica will do everything she can legally. But we think you need to take some preemptive measures of your own before the press gets wind of this.”
Of course. A celebrity artist in bed with a known criminal – it was just too good a scoop to pass over. It would also be only the second time Ackles, who always kept a low profile, would have given something this newsworthy for the press to chew on. The first one, of course, was the time he got mugged and beaten half to death in his own home.
“Sooner or later, they’re going to make the connection, man. Which you know could potentially be very, very good for business, but it could also turn out to be very, very bad for you.”
Jensen shrugged. He probably should have asked “how” but honestly he didn’t much care.
Welling licked his lips and offered an explanation anyway. “Look, if they find out that you knew about Jared’s involvement with the burglaries, they could just as easily charge you for aiding and abetting, or harboring a fugitive.”
“That won’t happen,” Jensen retorted with more confidence than he felt. “Besides, Erica is going to get the old lady to settle and no one else has ever figured it out so there is nothing to connect.”
“Don’t be so sure about that. The old hag is as eccentric and vindictive as they come. Some of the artifacts she lost went all the way back to the 18th century, apparently.”
“So, we just settle big that’s all. I’ll throw in all of my collection too. The prices should come back up again when the economy does.” If it does.
“Are you listening to yourself?” Welling pressed on. “You cannot pay off every single victim and you know there are more out there! And if they find out you’re so hell-bent on playing sugar daddy to that felon, they’re going to suck you dry and take you for all you’re worth. Stop and think about this for a minute. Do you really want to throw away everything you’ve worked so hard for, all your life?”
Jensen gritted his teeth. “Don’t presume you know what I wanna do with my life, Tommy. You don’t know me, not anymore.”
The darkly tanned man threw his hands up but backed off at that. He might have even agreed, actually. They weren’t friends, well, maybe once they were. But Tom’s loyalties had stayed with Matt after the break-up, obviously.
“Please don’t get defensive, Jensen,” Matt pleaded. ”We’re just concerned about you.”
“Oh, you’re concerned now? I’ve been in town three months and you never bothered to return any of my messages. Three months!”
Tom and Matt looked at each other, a little guiltily. Matt’s guilt Jensen kind of understood, Tom’s not so much.
“We-we thought you were doing fine,” Matt stuttered. “And we definitely didn’t know you’d hooked up with an ex-con until yesterday and not just any ex-con. The ex-con who put you in the hospital! If we knew, we would have come over to knock some sense into you long ago. Why the fuck was this not in your messages, huh?”
It was Jensen’s turn to look guilty. Of course he didn’t mention Jared to Matt or anyone, to avoid this very conversation. Because he was so not prepared for their judgment. Not now, not ever, not where Jared was concerned.
For now, he skirted the issue completely and threw his hands up in the air by his sides. “What do you want from me?”
Matt swallowed unhappily. “You have to send him away.”
“No can do.”
“It'd be just for awhile. Until shit blows over.”
“For God’s sake, Jensen, stop being so goddamn unreasonable! Have you really learned nothing?” It wasn’t often Matt lost his cool, or raised his voice. It almost made Jensen smirk, almost.
“This is madness,” Matt whispered, shaking his head. “You’ve lost your mind over that little... scumbag.”
Jensen winked. “He’s much, much bigger than you, Mattie.”
Matt narrowed his eyes, not missing the double entendre at all. “He’s a scumbag.”
Jensen ran out of patience at that. “Alright, stop calling him names, both of you! He’s changed. He’s got a job, he pays half the rent here. Well, not half, less than a quarter actually but he’s trying. And more importantly…”
“They’re right, Jensen.”
The voice came from behind him... broken, dripping despair. And belatedly, Jensen realized he hadn’t closed the bedroom door all the way. Jared must have heard everything. Jensen bit his lip and grimaced hard before turning around.
“Jare’…” he started to explain but was stopped cold in his tracks at the sight before him.
Jared stood on shaky legs, at the bedroom door, leaning against it, one hand gripping the door itself, almost as if for support, the other hanging by his side. It was this hand that held the gun. Jensen’s gun.
And its safety was off.
“Oh my God,” Matt whispered just as Tom started to quietly slide towards him.
Jensen took a deep breath. “Wh-what are you doing?”
Jared’s face was flushed and pale, sweating and miserable. He tried to smile, which came out all wrong with his face scrunched up like he was in indescribable pain.
“You know they’re right. I know you do. You keep this around because of me. Don’t you?”
“Jared, how long have you known about that gun?”
“How long have you been making me sleep in your bed?”
Jensen swallowed, and took a step closer. In response, Jared started violently. “Don’t come any closer. You know you can’t trust me, man. I’ll shoot.”
Jensen scoffed. “You won’t shoot me.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know you, Jare’. I know how much you care about me. And I know you know how much I… how much I love you. Even if I’ve never said these words to you before…”
“Stop it! You don’t know me. You have this idea of me in your head! That idea you paint in your paintings without all my ugly scars. You don’t know me at all!”
Tom reached Matt who whispered breathlessly, “Man, he’s really snapped!”
Tom didn’t reply and just pushed Matt behind himself. The shorter man protested weakly, not willing to use his best friend as a human shield but Tom wouldn’t take no for an answer. Calmly he started to move backwards with Matt in tow, inching slowly towards the exit.
“Keep your phone handy,” he hissed to Matt, cursing the fact that he’d left his own Blackberry in the car.
Jensen, in the meantime, stopped trying to talk Jared into dropping the gun and instead advanced on the miserable young man. “Jared, I bought that gun for protection, not for you.”
“Protection from me! Don’t deny it, man, I’m not fucking stupid!”
When Jensen didn’t bother to refute, Jared’s face crumpled with more anguish than anyone could even fathom.
“I don’t blame you, Jensen. I am a scumbag, a criminal who, no matter what he does, can never escape his past. It always catches up with me. It always ruins everything. Now it’s ruined us.”
“Nothing is ruined! We still have each other. And we’re gonna fix this together, okay? Just give me the gun and…”
Jared suddenly aimed the gun back at his own temple. “Don’t come any closer.”
Jensen cocked his head to one side, his face a mask of utter disbelief. “Jared. Come on. You’re not going to shoot yourself.”
“Wouldn’t I?” A drop of tear trickled down the side of his face.
“You should listen to your friends, to your wonder ex-boyfriend over there,” Jared glanced at Matt for a brief instant, and it wasn’t a pleasant glance at all. It made Jensen want to roll his eyes because seriously, jealousy should be the least of his concerns right now.
“You should’ve listened to him and not let me into your life, Jensen. Not back then, not now, not ever!”
“You should have let me rot out there on the streets or in that… that…”
Jensen ached, knowing exactly the words his boy couldn’t bring himself to speak – prison cell.
“You know I’d never do that.”
“Why not? I deserve it. For everything I did, to you, to that old woman… she baked me a cake for fuck’s sake!” Jared almost laughed, sounding dangerously close to a nervous breakdown. “Pineapple upside down, I think…”
Jensen blinked, like he’d just an epiphany. “You’re hungry. You’re just hungry, aren’t you, baby?”
“Ackles…” Tom ground his teeth.
“Let’s go grab something to eat, how about that?” Jensen could feel Tom glaring daggers into the back of his head, but Jared looked like he didn’t hear a word.
“When I found out you were back in town, I thought, I hoped we could talk just once before you turned me in. That’s all I wanted – for you to hear me out, and maybe not… not hate me so much.”
“I never did, baby. God knows I tried to hate you, but I just couldn’t!”
Jared grimaced, shaking his head to deny Jensen’s words. “I was prepared then, to go to jail, for whatever the consequences might be. I had nothing to lose. But it’s different now. This time we’ve had… damn it, why did you do this to me, Jensen?!?”
“I should pay for my sins, I should. But I’m too much of a fucking wimp to… to… it’d be so much easier if I just…”
Jared’s finger wrapped a little more determinedly around the trigger. Jensen’s eyes narrowed then, and he took a purposeful step closer, his voice taking on a warning tone. “I thought you were smarter than this, Jare’.”
“Jensen, relax, he’s got a gun for Christ’s sake.” Tom must have noticed the change in Jensen’s body language; the artist was visibly reaching the end of his rope. And that couldn’t possibly be good.
Jensen tuned him out because suddenly, this had become about something else altogether. It was about Jared trusting Jensen, not the other way around.
“Jared Tristan Padalecki, you listen to me. You’ve asked me this question one way or another a million times and my answer has never changed before and it still won’t, not even at gunpoint. NO, I’m not going to throw you out. NO, I’m not letting you go no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, no matter how many times your past catches up with you. I am not going anywhere, Jare’. And I swear to God this better be the last time you ask me this question or…”
Jensen suddenly strode over moving so fast no one including Jared saw him coming. Tom had no time to blurt out the warning riding the tip of his tongue, while Matt had just enough time to squeeze his eyes shut. And Jared for his part was startled so bad, his finger slipped, completely by reflex.
The trigger went off.