The Long and Winding Road (amypond45) wrote,
The Long and Winding Road
amypond45

Stars in the Southern Sky - Part Four

When they reach the hospital Jared is rolled off into an examining room in Urgent Care, leaving Jensen to fill out and sign a lot of paperwork. Luckily John and Mary show up almost immediately with another man who turns out to be Jared's lawyer, so they take over the insurance matters, leaving Jensen pacing in the waiting room.

"Adele – " Jensen starts when Mary joins him, patting his arm kindly.

"She's fine," Mary assures him. "Rev. Collins offered to take her and Mrs. Fairfax in, when he found out you'd gone to the hospital with Jared. They'll be over in the morning."

It's several hours before the doctor comes out, explains to them that Jared's been stabilized and is resting comfortably, although they've got him in a medically-induced coma for the time being. Infection is a huge risk with burns and smoke inhalation, so Jared will need to be monitored closely for awhile in Intensive Care.

"Can I see him?" Jensen asks immediately, and apparently the doctor has been informed that Jensen is "next of kin," because she nods, smiling sympathetically.

"Yes," she agrees. "But be aware that he's unconscious, so he won't be able to respond to you. He might be able to hear you, though; with coma patients, anything is possible, and I believe it speeds the healing process to have a loved-one near, to hear their voice."

Jared looks small in the tiny hospital bed. He's got the mask over his face and the i.v. in his arm and bandages around both forearms where he's been burned. His hands are wrapped too, so when Jensen stands over him and slips his hand in Jared's, all he can feel is his fingertips. Jensen stands for several moments looking down at the man who is the love of his life, a man who nearly lost his own life tonight, trying to save the woman he loved.

Finally, Jensen pulls up the little metal chair in the corner, sits down next to the bed and runs his fingertips up and down Jared's arm gently.

"Almost lost you there, buddy," he growls softly. "Don't know what I would've done if you died tonight, Jay."

He stops, fighting back tears, clears his throat, tries again. "I'm not real good at talking, as you know, unless I'm mad, I guess. I can speak my mind when I need to, and that's what counts, right? But the doc says I should talk to you, cuz it'll help you heal faster, so that's what I'm doing."

He clears his throat again, shifts a little on his chair, takes Jared's hand in both of his and looks up at him. "I figure mostly everything's been said between us, so I don't have much to add except to say that I'm here, if you still want me, when you wake up. Not going anywhere. Cuz the truth is, you're pretty much it for me, Jay. Maybe I'm a fool for hoping you'll take me back after I walked out on you like that, but here's me hoping you'll do just that."

Jensen lowers his head, rubs his thumb along the edge of the bandage on Jared's hand. "You and Adele, man. You two are like family. I want to be there while she grows up. I want to be there for her, no matter what happens, if you'll let me. I want to share the responsibility for that, with you. We'll deal with it, whatever happens. We'll deal with it together."

He looks up at Jared's still face, wondering if he's hearing a word Jensen's saying, wondering if he cares. Jensen decides it doesn't matter. Things need to be said, so he's saying them, and that's all there is to it.

"Truth is," Jensen takes a deep breath, clenches his jaw. "Truth is, the way I feel about you, I just don't think I want a life without you in it, any way you'll have me. So you get well, Jared, so you can kick my ass for walking out like that, okay? You just get better soon, so you can tell me what an asshole I am."

Jensen feels the tears welling up again so he stands up, holding Jared's hand carefully, leans down over the bed and sweeps the hair off Jared's brow with his other hand, then presses his lips to Jared's forehead. Jared's skin is unusually dry and cool, and the feel of it against Jensen's lips tears a sob from his chest, causes tears to spill out of his eyes.

"You get better, Jay, y'hear?" Jensen demands fiercely, gazing down into Jared's pale face. "You get well, cuz people need you. I need you. I need you so fucking much – " he breaks down then, has to grab for the tissues on the tray next to the bed. "Ah, Jesus," he gasps as he wipes his eyes, glad at least that Jared can't see what a big baby he is.

He's calmed down by the time Mary comes in an hour later to relieve him. He doesn't want to leave Jared's bedside for a minute, but Mary insists, whispers that John's gone back to the ranch to supervise the clean-up. He'll be back later in the day with Adele and Mrs. Fairfax to give them a chance to visit, not that Jared's really up to visitors right now, but the doctor thinks it will be good for him to have loved ones around.

Mary seems to take for granted that Jensen is back, that he's in the family, like he never left. She pats him on the arm and rubs his shoulders in her warm, motherly way, and Jensen has to struggle not to cry again, not to give into the urge to cling to her and sob like a little boy.

Out in the hall he runs into the doctor, who takes one look at him and pronounces him dead on his feet, prescribes a small room with a bed where the doctors often catch a few winks on their breaks.

"You're no good to your brother dead," she tells him as she practically pushes him onto the bed, and Jensen realizes it's been more than twenty-four hours since he slept.

"A few minutes," he agrees as she closes the door, plunging the room into cool, soothing darkness. Jensen's out before his exhausted brain can form another coherent thought.

When he wakes up it's still pitch-dark, but Jensen has the feeling he's been asleep for hours, not minutes. He staggers to the door groggily, finds the hallway busy and full of people, daylight streaming in from windows in open rooms up and down the hall. He staggers toward the nurses station, more than a little disoriented, is stopped short as a familiar little girl flings herself against him, hugging his waist for all she's worth.

"Adele," Jensen sighs her name as he hugs her back, petting her dark hair gently. "Hey, sweetheart." He looks up at Mrs. Fairfax, her face creased into a disapproving frown. "Did you just get here?" he asks, and she shakes her head.

"We're just leaving," she answers. "I'm taking Adele to the cafeteria for some lunch. We're staying over at the Best Western until Mr. Jared gets better."

Jensen nods, suddenly has to ask, "Mrs. Fairfax, do you know if – did she – is she – " he can't seem to make himself say the name of Jared's wife, but Mrs. Fairfax knows exactly what he's asking. She shakes her head, glancing down at Adele before raising her eyes to Jensen again.

"Nobody could've survived that fire, Mr. Jensen," she says darkly. "Thanks to Mr. Jared, we all got out in time and nobody got hurt. Except Mr. Jared, of course."

Jensen nods, then gently untangles Adele's arms from his waist and kneels down in front of her. "I'm going to check in on Uncle Jared, and I'll see you later, okay?"

Adele nods, slips her hand into Mrs. Fairfax's, like a much younger child, and Jensen watches them walk off down the hall, Adele glancing back at him just before they turn the corner. It makes his heart ache, watching her dealing with yet another tragedy, yet another disastrous and unsettling event in her young life. And it makes him more determined than ever to be here for her, to see her through it. What was he thinking, imagining himself in Haiti with Diana and Revered Collins? This is the only place he ever wants to be, right here with Jared and Adele, with stiff old Mrs. Fairfax, with maternal Mary and reliable John.

But of course Jared has to get well first.

Jensen spends the rest of that day and most of the next in the ICU, mostly sitting helplessly next to Jared's bed, waiting, watching, and talking to him. Mary and John arrive at a certain point, force some food into him, bring him a change of clothes. Mary gives him a Bible and a battered copy of Tom Sawyer, which Rev. Collins insisted she give to him when he learned Jensen's keeping vigil this way.

"You can read out loud to Mr. Jared," she suggests. "It was Rev. Collins' idea."

Apparently, the whole town of Fort Davis and surrounding farms and ranches are aware of what's happened. Of course they are. Rev. Collins led a special prayer service for the Padalecki household on Sunday morning, and his sisters held a food and clothing drive to help replace items lost in the fire.

"Of course, all of that goes straight to charity," Mary explains. "We're not the ones in real need here, but it's good people are thinking generously. That's always a good thing."

Mary and John have moved into the Best Western next door, where Adele and Mrs. Fairfax are staying, although John is spending most of his time at the ranch, supervising the clean-up after the fire and working with Sonny to keep the ranch running while the family is away. Jensen's pretty sure there'll be no word of the body found in the ruins, nobody outside the family will mourn the death of the beautiful, damaged woman who first held Jared's heart.

"You can move in too, Mr. Jensen," Mary suggests. "John can bring your bags from Rev. Collins' house when he comes back today."

Jensen nods distractedly, not really caring since he's sleeping in the chair next to Jared's bed until Jared wakes up, and everyone on the hospital staff seems to understand that Jared's brother is not leaving his side and that's just the way it is.

On the third day after the fire the doctor tells Jensen it's time to let Jared wake up. She slowly doses back on the medication that's keeping Jared asleep, and Jensen is right there when he first opens his eyes, blinks a couple of times as his brain adjusts to what he's seeing.

"Hey, buddy," Jensen reaches up, brushes the hair back from Jared's forehead, leaves his hand there.

Jared lifts his hand awkwardly, trying to pull the oxygen mask away, and Jensen shakes his head.

"No, hey, don't do that," he admonishes. "The doctor says you need the extra oxygen right now. Your lungs are full of smoke. They're giving you antibiotics for the burns and in case of a lung infection, so..."

But Jared manages to pull the mask off long enough to croak out, "You look like shit."

Jensen smiles. "You don't look so hot yourself," he comments dryly. But it's a lie. Jared's more beautiful than he's ever been right now, in all his suffering, injured, heroic glory, and Jensen's never been more in love with him.

Jared puts his hand up to his left cheek and pulls the oxygen mask aside again.

"You hit me," he accuses, touching the purple bruise gingerly.

"You were trying to kill yourself," Jensen answers with a frown. "I stopped you."

Jensen's still got a hand on Jared's forehead, smoothing his hair back, and Jared gazes at him silently for a moment. Then his eyes fill with tears and he pulls the oxygen mask away again,

"I couldn't save her," he whispers hoarsely. "She wouldn't let me." His voice breaks on a sob, and tears slip down his cheeks, into his ears.

"Hey, sh-sh-sh," Jensen soothes, leaning closer and twining the fingers of his other hand, the one not stroking Jared's hair, with Jared's hand, partly to comfort him, partly to hold onto him so he can't pull the mask off again. "You did everything you could, Jay. You took good care of her. Better than most people would've done."

When Jared shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut as more tears slide out, Jensen squeezes Jared's fingers and nods.

"Yes you did, Jared," he insists. "You did good. You took care of her all those years, gave her a home, kept her safe." Jared shakes his head more vigorously, and Jensen shushes him. "Nobody could've stopped this from happening. Nobody. This is not your fault, Jared, you hear me? She was getting worse. She was a ticking time bomb, and you know it. She was bound to go off, no matter what you did. But the main thing is, everybody got out, nobody else got hurt, and she's at peace now, Jared. She's at rest."

Jensen presses a kiss to Jared's temple, sits back just as the nurse comes in to check on the patient. Jensen withdraws so the nurse can do his work, but Jared keeps his eyes on him, watches him steadily except when the nurse is in the way. Jensen nods reassuringly, stands aside until the nurse leaves, then resumes his place by Jared's bed, tangling his fingers with Jared's again and stroking his hair until he falls asleep.

**//**

It's another day before Jared gets to leave the ICU. They move him to a room where he can begin his recovery, and while he's still being monitored carefully for infection, he's mostly out of the woods now. Jensen allows himself to leave Jared's room to go back to the motel to shower and change, and he even sleeps for a few hours during the next couple of days, but most of the time he's right there next to Jared, reading to him, talking to him, holding his hand when he needs it.

On the third day out of the ICU Jared's sitting in a wheelchair by the window when Jensen enters the room. His arms and legs seem abnormally long and emaciated sticking out of the short hospital gown, which is really more of a shirt on Jared's tall frame. The bandages on his arms are stark white against his tan skin, and his face seems thinner, even more sharply angular than usual.

"Hey," Jensen smiles at his friend. "You're up. Looking better."

"Liar," Jared croaks, but the edges of his mouth turn up and Jensen gets a flash of his dimples before sorrow clouds his eyes again.

"But you're feeling better, I'll bet," Jensen insists, not backing down as he pulls up a chair so he can sit opposite. He lays a piece of paper on the table next to Jared. "Adele made you another picture," he says.

Jared glances at it, tries to smile again. "Tell her it's beautiful," he croaks.

"Tell her yourself," Jensen admonishes. "Mrs. Fairfax is bringing her by this afternoon."

Jared nods listlessly, keeping his eyes on the picture another minute, but Jensen knows his mind is already on something else, and when Jared speaks, he knows he's right.

"Jensen, we need to talk," Jared croaks, and Jensen shakes his head.

"Already told you, Jay, when you're better. We can talk all you want when you're all well. Till then, you need to save your voice. And I'm not going anywhere, I told you that, so you don't need to worry that I won't be here when you're ready."

"No," Jared says, shaking his head. "We need to talk now. Before Adele gets here. Before she sees you here, with me."

"Okay," Jensen nods, feeling his palms sweat as his heart drops, his gut twists. He watches Jared's face apprehensively, but Jared won't look at him, making him even more nervous. "Shoot." Actually, please don't, he pleads silently, but he's determined to remain open and responsive, to let Jared say whatever he needs to.

Jared takes a deep breath. "I know what you're doing," he says finally. "And I can't let you do it."

Jensen's so confused he can't answer at first, just shakes his head and frowns at Jared, then finally asks, "What? What am I doing?"

Jared takes another deep breath and lets it out. "The empathy thing," he answers finally. "Like your job in Dallas. The way you are with kids – with people – who have disabilities. Your gift."

Jensen shakes his head again. "My what? My gift? What are you talking about?"

"Jensen, you must know how good you are with people who have challenges, who are disabled or ill or incapacitated. You're a natural caregiver. It's why I hired you. Only – I don't want to be your project, Jensen. I know I have some recovering to do, and you've promised to be here for that, but I can't – I won't let you do that. It's not fair to Adele." Jared sighs, shifts uncomfortably in the wheelchair, still unable to meet Jensen's eyes.

Jensen stares, unable to believe what he's hearing. "You – you think I'm here because I'm helping you get better? Is that it? I mean, I am, but you don't really believe that's the only reason, do you?"

"Jensen, you were pretty clear about why you left, and I understand. I really do. I'm not sure I could trust me if I were you, not after keeping such a big secret from you. In fact I'm pretty sure I couldn't. And Rev. Collins told me you about your plans to work at the orphanage school in Haiti. I admire that. It sounds like the perfect job for you. And now that he's postponing his trip another month, you'll be able to go with him and his sisters when they go..."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute," Jensen puts his hands up. "He told you what? I haven't agreed to that. He and I haven't even spoken since the fire."

Jared frowns. "But I thought..."

"You thought wrong, Jay," Jensen shakes his head. "No way I'm leaving you. No way."

Jared lifts his eyes then, looks at Jensen with an expression so full of pain and heartbreak it makes Jensen want to cry.

"But you can't stay, Jensen," Jared says, his broken voice choked with the effort not to cry. "It's not fair to Adele. She needs stability and predictability more than ever now. And she's so fond of you, I couldn't even tell her you left before. I couldn't bear to. But now...I can't let her keep thinking you're joining the family, Jensen. It'll hurt her too much when you leave."

Jensen clenches his teeth, closes his eyes. This is not how this is supposed to go.

"Okay, here's the thing," Jensen says finally, tipping his chin to his chest so he can look up at Jared with his eyebrows raised, willing him to understand. "I'm not going anywhere. Ever. You got that? I'm staying. With you, with Adele, with the whole dang family. If you'll still have me after...what I did."

Jared stares, disbelieving, confused. "But you said..."

"Fuck what I said," Jensen gestures irritably. "I fucked up, okay? I hurt you, and for that I am truly sorry. I never meant to hurt you."

"But I lied to you," Jared protests. "I deceived you."

"You know what? That sucked," Jensen agrees. "Never, ever do that again. Okay? You got me?"

Jared stares, and Jensen can see the moment his confusion clears and he really hears what Jensen is saying, because his face floods with hope, literally fucking radiates the damn stuff. Then his beautiful slanted eyes fill with tears again. Of course they do, and Jensen leans forward, puts his hands on the armrests of Jared's wheelchair and shakes them a little.

"No lies, no secrets," he repeats. "Not with me, not with Adele. You got me?"

Jared nods, then does a double take as he gets Jensen's meaning. "I can't tell her about her mother," he protests. "That would be wrong. That could destroy her."

"No, you listen to me," Jensen gives the chair another little shake. "When she's old enough, you tell her. She'll deal. We can tell her together."

Jared's shaking his head. "No, Jensen," he mutters, voice choked with tears. "If she finds out Megan isn't her real mother, it'll kill her."

"No, it won't," Jensen argues. "There's nothing you can say to her that will ever make her love Megan any less. Megan was her mother. But Genevieve is her biology, and she deserves to know."

"It's a death sentence!" Jared sobs out, his face contorting in pain. "I need her to be happy for as long as she can, damn it!"

Jensen squats down in front of the chair, slides his hands over Jared's where they're clutching the armrests, squeezes to get his attention. Jared looks up through tear-filled eyes and his anguished expression relaxes a little.

"You listen to me, Jay," Jensen speaks slowly, intently, waiting till Jared is really looking at him, really seeing him. "She's half you. You are her father. Those are good genes, Jay. Strong Padalecki genes. She has you running through her veins. Her chances are better than you think."

Jared's shaking his head, tears sliding down his cheeks, but he's listening. At least he's listening.

"You know what else?" Jensen continues, squeezing Jared's hands again. "You know what to look for. You're an expert at caring for somebody who has it. And it's manageable, in a huge portion of the population. It's more manageable than you think. Genevieve's case is rare, you know that? I looked it up. Very few schizophrenics are homicidal. It's also preventable, from what I've read. We can do things to keep her from getting it. This isn't the end of the world, Jared, that's what I'm trying to say. We can handle it. Together."

"You're not going to leave us?" Jared says hesitantly, like he still can't quite believe it. "You're not gonna pack up and go if things get tough?"

Jensen shrugs. "I'm not gonna lie to you, Jared. I don't have a lot of experience with relationships. But I know a good thing when I see it, and you and Adele? That's it for me. That's what I've been looking for all my life. Not giving that up. Ever."

He looks down at Jared's bare legs, long and lanky and incredibly tan. He leans in, presses his lips to the inside of Jared's knee, and Jared shivers.

"Besides," Jensen growls, lifting his eyes to Jared's, which have suddenly gone dark with lust. "I haven't shown you that blow job I do so well." He winks as Jared's cheeks redden, as his eyes slide closed and his head tips back and he lets out a long, low moan. "You don't want to miss out on that, do you?"

Jared's legs fall open as far as they can on the narrow chair as Jensen presses his mouth to Jared's skin, kissing up the inside of his thigh to the edge of the hospital gown, sliding under to wrap his fingers around Jared's erection.

"Oh my God," Jared gasps, bucking up into Jensen's hand as Jensen pushes the gown up, buries his nose in Jared's musky, unwashed groin.

It's tender and hot and appeals to the voyeur in both of them to imagine some hapless hospital worker walking in on the Padalecki brothers going at it, and by the time Adele arrives they're both feeling pretty relaxed and happy. They're proud of themselves for keeping the drama to a minimum for the little girl, and Mrs. Fairfax seems to understand right away that they're together again.

Rev. Collins isn't pleased, but he's not surprised either; somewhere along the line he obviously figured out what was really happening between Jared and Jensen, and although at first he seems a little disappointed, in the end he wishes Jensen happiness and good fortune before he heads off to Haiti with his sisters in tow.

They decide not to try to move back to Padlock Ranch, although Jared sanctions the rebuilding of the house and the caretaker's cottage, both destroyed in the fire. He pulls some strings and has Genevieve's body buried under the tree in the back yard, and he and Jensen stand side by side as Jared says a few words about her life, his memories of her in better times, and his gratitude for the gift of their child.

Once Jared has recovered and his burns have mostly healed, they take Adele to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, get married in the historic Red Lion Inn before driving to Boston, taking in the Aquarium and historic sites there. They spend the fall in Martha's Vineyard, at the house Jared remembers staying in with his sister as a child. Adele starts talking one day, when they're out on the beach and she's playing in the sand with Buck. It happens so naturally Jensen doesn't notice at first, just hears the sweet little voice going on and on about mermaids and princes, telling Buck a story as she builds her sandcastle. When it hits him he glances at Jared, finds him already watching Adele with a little smile. Jared raises his eyebrows, grins wider, reaches between their beach chairs and tangles his fingers with Jensen's in silent acknowledgment of the little miracle. Neither of them dares to spoil the moment, so they sit and listen quietly until Adele looks up and smiles at them, proud and confident, as if she's just done the most amazing thing, which of course she has.

When the air turns chilly they fly home to Texas, to another of Jared's houses, this one on the lake in Austin. On the one-year anniversary of their meeting, they sit outside on the deck and watch the water and the stars, sipping whisky but nixing the cigars, since Jared can't ever smoke again if he wants to keep his lungs. Jensen watches the water and the stars for awhile, then finds his gaze drawn to Jared's profile, decides it's the best view of all. Jared catches him looking and grins, all dimples and teeth and sparkling eyes, then he reaches over and takes Jensen's hand, tangling their fingers together.

'What?" Jared demands.

Jensen shakes his head a little, smiling at his husband because really, who could resist that gorgeous grin?

"Nothing," he says. "Just you."

"I love you too, Jen," Jared says, his voice low and rumbling.

Jensen blushes to the tips of his ears, looks away at the lake and takes a sip of his whisky, shifts a little in his chair. He may never get completely used to Jared's blatant expressions of affection, the easy way he expresses his feelings, no matter how sentimental.

But he likes it. Jensen really, really likes it.

Not that he'll ever say that out loud to Jared, of course.


FIN


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