Word Count: 12240.
Summary: Jared is a hunter, but he is about to find out that evil isn’t just the preserve of demons.
Pairing: J2, eventually.
Warnings: Non-Con and excessive abuse of Jensen.
Disclaimer: As far as I know Jared isn’t engaged in hunting monsters and last time I checked Jensen wasn’t chained up naked in the basement of a church and wasn’t in a relationship with Jared, so please don’t sue.
Notes: Here I offer thanks and unending praise to garvaldmains, who has helped, improved and encouraged me with endless patience when I gibbered at her, and she also provided the awesome banner! *Big, Big Hugs*. Beta'd by the awesome bigj52, a woman with the patience of a saint. Just in case you thought this story would never return, here is the latest part of the Fic O Doom! I hope you still remember this and enjoy. To those who are reading this....still *G* thank you for your patience, and all feedback is cuddled and fed cookies *G*
Jared watched Jensen flinch as if he’d hit him. He shrank in on himself, the pain on his face nearly drove Jared to his knees. He wavered for a few seconds, wanting to stop the wilful destruction he was wreaking on a fragile soul. But he could not stand by and let Jensen willingly walk into the nightmare of hunting. Jared took a breath and carried on in the same sympathetic tone. “What happens if you space out during a hunt? Who’s going to watch my back then? How would you feel if I got hurt, all because you were reliving your imprisonment with Eddie and Morgan?”
Jensen’s head was spinning as Jared used Morgan against him again. He drew as deep a breath as he could manage. “I would never put you at risk like that. I’m not talking about hunting tomorrow, or even next week. I know I can do it. I’d never let you down. Besides, you know it’s better to hunt with a partner.”
Jensen stopped, a sudden clarity came over him, and he lifted his eyes to Jared. “Or is it more likely you don’t trust yourself to protect someone else you care about? That’s why you’re so damn reckless with yourself. You’re just praying for the chance to join Chad.”
Jared almost staggered back as the softly spoken words struck home. Is that what he’d been doing all this time? Too damn scared to end his own life, he’d been hoping some monster would do it for him? Jensen’s perceptive words made him even more determined to push him away. Jensen had seen something not even Jim and Chris had ever glimpsed. Something he wasn’t sure he wanted to face about himself.
Jared took a step forward and with a look of contempt spat out, “Poor Jensen, clinging to my ankles because nobody else loves him. Are you so fucking desperate for a boyfriend that you’d want to play house with someone like me?” He shook his head mockingly. “Oh, I get it, I’m a step up from Tommy. What? Am I prettier, or more manly because I kill monsters?” He sneered, lashing out ruthlessly, crushing any hope Jensen had of them sharing a life together.
Jared bent forward until his face was only inches from Jensen’s. “What is it, Jensen, some kind of hero kink? You want to bed the man who saved you from the bad man Morgan?” Jared straightened up then looked Jensen up and down.”I gotta admit it’s not too unpleasant a thought, but you’re not looking your best. But I might swing by your place in a couple of months when the bruising’s gone and you’re not so scrawny.”
Jared ran his fingers through his hair in a dismissive gesture, offering a final insult as he twisted the knife in Jensen’s heart. “Although I suppose by then you’ll be back in the swing of things at the hospital. You’ll soon forget all about me when you’re surrounded by all those hot doctors and grateful patients. I hear scrubs can be a real turn-on for some guys, medical play and all that shit.” Jared’s heart thundered in his ears as he turned away, unable to take the devastation in Jensen’s eyes. The room began to spin, and put his hands on the back of the chair to steady himself. He was hoping his knees wouldn’t buckle, and spoil his carefully worded deception.
Jensen shrank in on himself. It had all been a lie? The connection he’d felt to Jared had just been a figment of his overactive imagination? Now, because he’d gotten too clinging and wanted a future hunting with him, Jared had shown his true feelings. All he cared about was his quest for vengeance. Jensen wanted to cry, to beg Jared to listen to him. Wouldn’t that just prove everything Jared had said, that he was weak and desperate for someone to love him?
Jensen stared at Jared’s broad back, ready to beg for another chance. His instincts about people had always been pretty good, until now. What had gone wrong? He thought there was a connection between them, the start of something not the end. Then he noticed the white-knuckled grip Jared had on the chair. He narrowed his eyes and looked carefully at the man in front of him. Then his anger began to build as he realized what Jared had been doing. Jared had been treating him like an idiot, a child that needed to be protected from himself.
Jensen was frustrated with Jared and the way he’d been trying to browbeat him into submission. He made a decision - he grabbed his jeans, shirt and Jared’s hoodie off the floor and pulled them on. A surge of adrenaline pushed him to his feet, anger burning away fatigue and pain.
Jensen limped forward and grabbed Jared by the shoulder; he hauled him round to face him. He was strengthened by his anger, no longer prepared to beg, he was pissed. Jensen stepped into Jared’s personal space and glared at him. “You conceited jackass! You think this is all about you, that I don’t have a mind of my own.”Jensen tightened his grip on Jared’s shoulder. “You think you’re the only one in the world who has the right to hunt. Is that it? The Jared Padalecki pity party, bring your own angst. Well, screw you, man. You don’t know me at all.” Jensen let go of Jared and stepped back, his hands balled into fists. As he tried to get himself back under control, he looked around the room. Jensen spotted his bag where it had left it earlier, and then he limped towards it determinedly.
Jared was stunned by the sudden angry outburst. “What the hell, Jensen? Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”
Jared had taken a step towards Jensen but stopped when he whirled round. He’d never seen Jensen look like this, his eyes were a stormy green and his lips downturned. The hurt and anger burned bright, along with a look of betrayal. Jared went to take another step but Jensen raised his hand to halt him.
In a calm almost emotionless tone Jensen answered him. “Where am I going? You got exactly what you wanted, Jay. I’m getting the fuck out of here. I’ll tell Earl we need another room, and then when you’re ready you can drive me back to LA. After all, I don’t want to distract you from your vengeance any longer. I’m just getting my wallet.” Jensen turned away from him.
Jared felt sick, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Yes, he’d been trying to break Jensen of his stupid notion about hunting, and the two of them having a future. But the last thing he wanted was to drive him out of the room they shared. How was he supposed to protect Jensen then? He tried to calm the situation. “Why do you need your wallet?”
Jensen had reached his bag and found his wallet. He straightened and pulled out several bills, made it back to Jared and dropped the money onto the table. Jared stared at the money in surprise. Jensen brushed past him, and sat on the bed. He started to pull Jared’s boots on. As he tied them he spoke. “That’s for the boots. I’ll pay for the gas and board next time we pass an ATM. I’ll be out of your hair in a few minutes.”
Jensen was glad he wasn’t looking at Jared; he knew he wouldn’t be able to go through with this if those hazel eyes looked at him pleadingly. Jared wasn’t the only one who wanted to save someone from themselves. Jensen hauled himself slowly to his feet, finally finding the courage to meet Jared‘s eyes. He saw astonishment in them.
Jensen stood right in front of the hunter and smirked. Jared wasn’t the only one who could play dirty. “By the way, you’ve been watching way too much Grey’s Anatomy. In most ERs we’re usually too busy to slope off to supply cupboards with our version of Dr McSlutty. In case you think I’ve slept my way through the department, I was always too busy studying. As for all those grateful patients.”Jensen grabbed Jared once more, and pulled him close. ”How about I show you how grateful some of the patients I’ve dealt with have been?”
Jensen took Jared’s left hand and slid it beneath his shirt, and down the gaping waistband of his jeans. He pressed the large hand firmly against a scar on his right hip. He was saddened that Jared’s touch no longer brought him comfort. Now it was just a means to show Jared that hunters weren’t the only people who dealt with ungrateful victims.
“I’m surprised you didn’t notice my little nursing trophies earlier. After all, you’ve had plenty of opportunity to take a good long look at my scrawny battered ass. Don’t get me wrong, my scars aren’t as impressive as yours. No werewolves, just assholes. ” A bitter smile flashed across his lips when he said that.
“Now I got this one on my hip when I had the pleasure of treating a drunken college quarterback. He thought it would be funny to tackle me after I stitched him up. He slammed me into a crash trolley, and my hip was torn open on its corner. Then the hospital was nearly sued by the college because the jackass damaged his knee when we hit the floor. I don’t know what hurt worse, the cracked ribs, seven stitches, or seeing the sneering goon being fussed over by the Chief of Staff while he apologized for his clumsy nursing staff.”
Jared curled his hand protectively over the scar, its raised shiny line burning his fingertips with guilt. He wanted to soothe both his own anger towards the man responsible for hurting Jensen, and the phantom ache from Jensen’s scar. Before he could offer an apology for some of his harsh words, Jensen took hold of his other hand, and pulled it upwards.
Jared let Jensen manoeuvre him without resisting, his hand now rested at the base of Jensen’s skull. There his fingers found a jagged scar beneath the hair. Jared tensed at their position; it was grotesque parody of a romantic embrace, as his other hand still lingered on Jensen’s hip.
Jensen leant closer and whispered in Jared’s ear, “This is from when I tried to stop a gang member killing a rival in the middle of the ER. There’d been a drive-by shooting, and both gangs turned up at the hospital and started a war. One of the kids was getting the crap beat out of him. I had to step in, and pull him out.” Jensen rested his hand on Jared’s shoulder, and squeezed it gently. “The guy beating on the kid picked up a chair, and smashed me across the back of the head, just so he could get at the kid again, and finish the job.”
Jared flinched. He had no idea that nursing could be so dangerous. He’d always thought those kinds of things only happened on TV shows. It showed what little he knew about Jensen’s life before they met. Jensen spoke again, and Jared focused.
“It was nothing too serious though, only a few stitches and a hairline fracture. I almost forgot the kid on the floor grabbed me while we were down. Dragged me to my feet, pulled a knife and used me as a human shield.”
Jared moved his hand down from Jensen’s head, intending to step away, unable to cope with being this close to Jensen after everything he’d done to him. But Jensen caught his hand and pushed it under his shirt. Jared found another ragged line of scar tissue, running along the curve of his ribs.
“As he was dragging me out of the ER, I didn’t move quickly enough for him. He ‘encouraged’ me to move a little faster with his knife. But I was lucky the cops had been called. I never did thank the one who pulled him off me.” Jensen smiled. “Perhaps I should look him up, see if he wants my gratitude.” The matter of fact way Jensen told the story sent shivers down Jared’s spine.
Jared tried to pull away, unable to endure Jensen’s softly spoken words anymore. But Jensen wrapped his arms tighter round his waist, pulling him close once more. “What’s wrong, Jared? Did you think I worked in a Beverly Hill’s cosmetic hospital?” Jensen shrugged and then he smiled fondly. “Actually where I work isn’t that bad. But the ER is a tough gig. We see people at their worst, and at their best.” Jensen looked into Jared’s eyes, and continued softly. “Some people lash out when they’re scared and in pain. It’s just human nature. You have to remember that and cut through the bullshit. It’s what you do if you want to help people.”
“I’m sorry, Jensen. I had no idea what you had to deal with as a nurse.” Jared frowned, wanting to try and apologize for what he’d said, but Jensen wasn’t letting him off the hook that easily.
“Don’t look at me as if I’m some sort of saint, Jared, sometimes shit happens. I’ve worked with other doctors and nurses who’ve been hurt much worse.” Jensen laughed. “On the way home I’ll have to tell you about when I got shot. It wasn’t that bad, it didn’t leave too much of a scar.” He grinned suggestively, and winked at the taller man in his arms. “Then again, some guys are turned on by scars, right? Maybe I’ll find me someone like that, and we can have some fun when I’m pretty again.” His lips twisted into an overly bright smile.
Jensen looked at Jared and the smile faded. “Listen to me bleating on about my bumps and scrapes. It comes with the job on a rough Friday night. But enough about me. What about all the pain and hardship you’ve suffered? You’re a hunter and hero, not a nobody like me.”
Jared winced at the implication of Jensen’s words; he’d made him feel worthless and weak. Now it was his turn to beg to be heard. “Jen, please stop. You don’t understand what I was trying to say to you....” Jared had got what he wanted; he’d wanted to break the bond between them. But now he’d give anything to have it back.
“What? That I’m an idiot for wanting to do what you do? Face down monsters and kill them?” Jensen pulled away slightly, and stared into Jared’s eyes. “You’re right, I have no idea what it takes to be a hunter. I’ve never faced a werewolf on a full moon, or tried to kill a starving vamp. But trust me, I’ve seen plenty of other kinds of monsters.” He let go of Jared, and stepped back.
Jensen continued. “Your monsters follow rules, they’re driven by instinct and hunger. Most of them don’t go in for malice. With the exception of demons of course, and they’ve got it down to an art form. But I’ve encountered humans who could give the black-eyed bastards a run for their money.”
Jensen turned towards his bag, stooping down to zip it up, too frightened to bend over in case he collapsed on top of it. He had to get out of the room; he couldn’t cope with seeing the distant look in Jared’s once compassionate eyes. He’d crossed the line when he told Jared about his wish to hunt. Not only that, but he wanted to hunt with Jared. Now there was no going back. If he truly wanted to be a hunter, then he would have to stand on his own battered feet.
Jared watched helplessly as Jensen finished packing his bag. What had he done? All he’d wanted was to stop Jensen from throwing his life away, pursuing shadows and demons. Not belittle him and make him feel worthless. Not after he’d managed to survive the worst kind of monster, a human one. He had to put right what he’d done to Jensen. “You don’t understand, Jensen. I don’t want to see you hurt....” His voice broke and he confessed his biggest fear. “Fuck, I don’t want to see you become me.”
Jensen surged to his feet and spun round to face Jared, ignoring the way the room continued to spin. “You don’t want to see me hurt?” He gave a brittle laugh. “Shame you weren’t in Richardson when dad took me to see Morgan. But become you? Man, I could never become you. I want to hunt to save people. Not go on some grand quest for revenge. I’ve encountered way too many of those hunters.”
“What kind of hunters do you mean, Jensen?” Jared asked, afraid of the answer he’d get. He wondered how the hell Jensen knew about that kind of hunter. Hell, any kind of hunter for that matter.
“Oh, you know. I’ll get my revenge or die in the fucking attempt. And every one of them was a burnt-out wreck. But the worst part was hearing how many innocent people got caught in the crossfire. All so they could hunt their great white whale.” Jensen wiped his hand wearily down his face. “If all you really care about is revenge, then perhaps I’m better off outta here. There are plenty of other hunters I can talk to.”
Jared felt his world tilt; he no longer knew the man in front of him. The question he should’ve asked from the beginning rang out loud and clear in his mind. How did Jensen know so much about hunters? Who the hell was Jensen Ackles? Nurse? Doctor? Researcher.....fuck it, Hunter? Jared was no longer sure who he was dealing with. He licked his lips trying to think of what to say to him, and then he noticed Jensen was trembling, beads of sweat on his forehead. “Jen, please, sit down before you fall down. You can tell me all about the hunters you’ve met when you’ve had a chance to rest.”
Jensen shook his head, and edged towards the door. “You still don’t get it, do you, Jay? You could be so much more than just another revenge-driven asshole. You really could make a difference if you’d let yourself.” He bent down and ignored the black spots that danced in front of his eyes. The room tilted, spun, and he tried not to collapse in a heap over his bag.
He took a breath, straightened up and refused to show any weakness to Jared. He’d started this, and now he was going to see it through. Jensen shrugged as he hefted his bag onto his shoulder, ignoring how his battered body protested. He squared his shoulders and looked up at Jared.
Jared was so close; it would be so easy to reach out to him. But Jensen accepted the gulf between them was too wide to cross now. Jared had made his feelings about him very clear. Jared would never accept his choice to hunt, or how he felt about him. It was time to let go.
“Please, Jen, don’t go. We can talk all this over.” Jared took a half-step forward, raising his hand to take the heavy bag from Jensen.
“No, Jay, it’s gone too far. I get why you don’t want me to follow in your footsteps. But you have to understand. This is something I want and I have for a long time.” Jensen said sadly.
“What do you mean you’ve wanted this for a long time? We really need to talk this through. You can’t just walk out now. Please, Jensen.” Jared begged, hoping to make the injured man stay.
Jensen smiled. “Too little, too late, Jay. Who knows? Maybe I’ll feel like talking about this when we’re back on the road. I think a little breathing space will do us both some good. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me. I’m sorry if I disappointed you.”
Jared wanted to stop Jensen, tell him he wasn’t disappointed with him. If anything he was in awe of him. But everything was spinning out of his control. Yes, he’d intended to break the connection between them but he had never wanted to break Jensen. Not after everything he’d been through.
Jensen took a deep breath. “Before I go I’ve got one question for you.” Jensen prepared to leave, but before he went he had one more thing to say to Jared. It was something he didn’t want to bring up, but he felt it was time for Jared to face the truth about his quest for revenge before he got himsef killed.
“Anything, Jensen. You only have to ask.” Jared clung onto this chance to keep Jensen in the room with him, where he could protect him, take care of him, hell, apologize to him.
“What does the demon look like?”
Jared froze. Out of everything Jensen could’ve asked, he hadn’t expected that. He stammered out, “What? What do you mean?”
“Well, does it have blond or brown hair? Is it taller than me, or shorter than Chris? Is he black or white, or is he a he at all? Come on Jared, you’re the expert. Why can’t you tell me?” Jensen pressed the other man.
Jared blinked, his eyes swam with tears, and every word tore into his carefully constructed defences. He felt the tears fall but he ignored them as he tried to concentrate on Jensen.
“How about eye colour? Were they brown, blue, or green like mine? You see, that’s the trouble with demons. They all have black eyes and smart mouths, and every single one of them lies. Jared, for all you know, you’ve already sent the bastard back to hell. Just think about that. There’ll always be another demon, no matter how many you beat. I’m not asking you to give up looking. I’m asking you think about what it’s costing you.” Jensen sighed and his shoulders slumped. “And consider this. Would Chad recognize who you are now? Don’t let the demon kill that man as well. I’ll see you, Jay.” Jensen turned and walked out of the room, the door closing behind him.
It closed with a soft click but to Jensen it was as loud as a clap of thunder. There was finality to it, and he sagged back against the door. He turned back and rested his forehead against the cold wood, fighting the urge to hammer on it and beg Jared to let him in.
Jensen bit his lip hard, trying not to scream for Jared; this was what he’d wanted most of his life. To be a hunter, and now it was within his grasp. But he’d lost something much more precious to him. But then again after what Jared had just said to him, he knew he was nothing to the hunter. He’d fooled himself. Why the hell would Jared want him? He was dirty, tainted by Morgan, damaged goods. He’d needed Jared’s help to keep the darkness at bay, now he’d walked away from him. For what? Hunting?
Jensen pushed himself away from the door, he knew in his heart it was the right decision. With everything that had happened to him, going back to his old life was no longer an option for him. He knew he had to get away from here, from Jared. There was no way he could stand being in the truck with him now. He’d have to make his own way back to LA, it would be better for both of them. Better a clean break, rather than a long drawn-out goodbye.
Jensen pushed himself forward, ignoring how his body ached and his feet burnt. What was harder to ignore was the soul-deep pain, he was worn down and raw. He’d been pushed almost to breaking point, and there was no one else for him to turn to now. This was his choice. Jensen managed to straighten, and fixed his eyes on the road ahead of him.
“Damnit, Earl, how much longer ya gonna be?” Mabel put her hands on her hips, and tapped her foot.
Earl emerged from the office. “Hold ya horses, Mabel. I said I’d take ya back to the diner. I just had to get something down for Annie.” He opened the truck door and climbed in. “Well, come on then, I thought you were in a rush.”
Mabel pulled the door open and got in. “Stop ya cheek. You’re still my little brother and I can still tan your hide.”
Earl laughed and started the engine. “If you hadn’t been moonin’ over those two boys, you wouldn’t be in such a hurry, now would you?” They drove off the parking lot, Earl watching the way ahead.
Mabel blushed. “Who me?” She gave a throaty laugh. “Alright, guilty as charged, now step on it before Bert sends out a search party.”
Mabel spotted something ahead. “Oh my God!”
Earl swerved. “Damnit, Mabel! You tryin’ to give me heart failure.”
“No. Look! What the hell is he doing?” Mabel pointed up ahead, and Earl looked to where she’d gestured.
“I’ll be damned....” Earl soon had the truck level with the hunched figure limping slowly along the sidewalk. He rolled his window down. “Goin’ somewhere, son?”
Jensen was concentrating so hard on putting one foot in front of the other, he never heard the truck pull up alongside him. He staggered back in shock when Earl spoke. Licking his lips he tried to smile. “Hi Earl, I’m just looking for the bus station. Or can you tell where the nearest cab c is?” He leant on the door, trying hard not to shake.
Mabel leant forward and frowned. “Now why do you want a bus or a cab, sweetheart? I thought you were staying with Jared.”
“I’m heading back home. I didn’t want to put Jared to anymore trouble, after everything he’s done for me.” Jensen managed a bright smile, hoping to throw Mabel off the scent, praying he was hiding how much this hurt.
Mabel looked closely at the young man. He was shaking and sweating and looked like his heart was breaking. She undid her seat belt and got out of the truck. Walking around she stood in front of Jensen. “I might be getting on but I ain’t blind, sugar. You’re in no fit state to be wandering round on your own. A good stiff breeze and you’d be over, and as for that crap ‘bout Jared. Did you two have a fight? Was it about Eddie? Come on. We need to get you back to Jared, so we can sort all this out.”
Jensen shook his head, his vision blurring as tears welled in his eyes. “No, I can’t. I let him down. Please just tell me where the bus station is, and I’ll be on my way.” Jensen pushed away from the truck, took an unsteady step forward, and his knees buckled. Mabel grabbed his arm.
“Earl, help me, for God’s sake.” Mabel shouted in alarm, grabbing Jensen’s arm as she tried to stop him falling to the floor.
Earl got out of the truck and reached for Jensen’s arm, helping to keep him upright. “Come on, son. You don’t have to go back to Jared’s room if you don’t want to. But there’s no way we can let you get on a bus. You need to rest. You’re not well enough to be hobbling round like this. It’s all my fault. I should never have taken you to Jared this morning.”
Jensen shook his head tiredly. “No, I’m fine. It’s not your fault, Earl. I was going to find Jared whether you helped me or not. Please just let me go. I swear I’ll rest on the bus,” he pleaded softly.
Mabel shot a pained look at her brother as the two of them supported Jensen between them. She took a breath, ready to berate the young man for being foolish.
“I get it, son, I really do and if we could get you on a bus out of here, I promise we would.” Earl ignored the glare his sister shot him. “But if ya need to get to Dallas or Austin, to start makin’ your way home, then that bus has already been an’ gone. Hits town around nine, and there won’t be another one till tomorrow. So how about we get you back to the motel, and I’ll drive you to the station in the morning? Deal?”
Jensen was torn between getting as far away from Jared as possible, or taking the offer of a room and much-needed rest. Mabel gently squeezed his arm. “Listen sugar. If you don’t want Jared to know where you are, we won’t say a thing. You need to get a good night’s rest. Alright?”
Jensen sighed and looked down. He knew there was no way he could wander round the town until he found the bus station, or a cab. He was sure Earl was probably lying about the bus, but right now he was too tired to fight. Jensen nodded, and allowed Mabel and Earl to help him into the truck.
Earl closed the door and leant closer to his sister. “Now what do we do?”
“We get him back and put to bed, and then I’m gonna have a few words with handsome.”
Earl flinched at the look in his sister’s eyes, happy he wouldn’t be in Jared’s shoes when Mabel caught up with him.
The door swung open, and Earl helped Jensen stumble through it. Jensen looked at the king-sized bed and gave a relieved sigh. He sat down heavily and let his bag fall from his shoulder. It hit the floor with a thud. “Thanks, Earl, I’ll pay you in the morning.”
Earl patted him gently on shoulder. “Don’t you worry none. We can settle up when you’re ready. By the way I hope you’re up to being mother henned because Mabel’s on the war path. And I ain’t gonna be able stop her. You’re on your own now. Good luck.” Earl winked as Mabel hurried in.
She stood there, her hands on her hips and a determined look in her eye. Jensen gave her his most winning smile. “Hi, Mabel. Thanks for the lift and I’m sorry about straining Earl’s back. But if it’s alright with you, I’m just going to get some sleep.” He lay back and winced as he bounced on the firm mattress.
Mabel smiled grimly; no way was Jensen getting away that lightly. She intended to find out exactly what had happened after she left the room. She walked to the side of the bed, bent over and looked into Jensen’s eyes. “Don’t you worry none, sugar. I’m just gonna make sure you’re settled.”
Jensen struggled to sit up. “No, it’s alright. I’m fine. You’ve done enough for me. I’m sorry for being such a pain in the ass.”
“Right. Of course you’re just fine and dandy. I know the minute I’m gone, you’ll probably just curl up in a ball where you are. Come on, sweetheart. Let me help you get comfortable, please?” Mabel reached out and gently stroked Jensen’s cheek, her touch maternal and caring. Jensen turned into the touch, his eyelashes fluttering as he blinked rapidly.
Jensen was fighting hard against the tears that threatened to escape; he couldn’t afford to be weak now. He’d set himself on this path, and he must live with the consequence of his actions. But Mabel’s gentle tone and comforting touch was proving too much for his already battered defences. He felt the tear escape, and it burned like acid as it trickled down his cheek.
Mabel was stunned when she saw a tear slide down Jensen’s face; he lifted his hand and scrubbed furiously at his cheek as he tried to hide the heartbreak she saw in his eyes.
Mabel sat down beside him. “Oh, sweetheart. What happened between you and Jared? Come on. It’s tearing you apart. Any damn fool can see how you feel about that boy. What changed?” Mabel continued to caress Jensen’s face as she spoke, not wanting to push the fragile man too far.
Jensen angrily dashed the tears out of his eyes. What the hell was wrong with him? He could usually keep a better hold on his emotions. A tiny voice whispered to him, yeah that was before some psycho kidnapped you, beat the shit out of you, and wanted you for a sex slave. Now his world was crumbling round him, and foolishly he’d clung to Jared, using him as his foundation to try and haul himself back to his feet. None of this was Jared’s fault. How the hell was the hunter supposed to deal with someone as broken as he was?
The whole hunter thing? Jared had been right; he could barely take care of himself. Morgan had proven how weak he was. What made him think he was good enough to take out monsters, and save people? Kim must’ve seen the same thing as Jared had, and that’s why he pushed him towards nursing. As he lay there Jensen didn’t notice the tears flowing faster, or that he’d curled into a foetal position on the bed.
Mabel watched in consternation as Jensen disintegrated before her. Gone was the sassy bright-eyed man. Now he was laying there, a hollow shell, lost and terrified, if his soft heart-breaking whimpers were anything to go by. Mabel bit her lip; her hands hovered uncertainly above Jensen’s shivering form. She got off the bed and looked towards the door. For a moment she contemplated fetching Jared.
Mabel couldn’t comprehend how things had changed so drastically. She replayed her last conversation with Jensen, recalling the determined look in his mossy green eyes. How he seemed to have come to a decision about his future. He’d been looking forward, ready to move on from Eddie.
And then slowly she began to wonder about Jensen’s injuries. She knew there were more than the bruises she’d glimpsed. And what about the way Jensen limped as he walked? So much didn’t make sense.
Mabel bit her lip and considered her next move. After a few moments she made her decision; she had to see what other injuries Jensen had. With a pang of guilt she moved closer to Jensen, gently running her fingers through the weeping man’s hair, and whispered softly. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you ready for bed. You’re exhausted and hurtin’. How about I promise to tell Jared you’re safe?” She held her breath, wondering if invoking Jared would do the trick.
Slowly Jensen’s sobs diminished. He tiredly wiped at his face with the overlong sleeve of Jared’s hoodie. He was too tired to battle on anymore, and the promise of bed was enough to make him compliant. But what sealed the deal was Mabel’s promise to tell Jared not to worry about him.
Jensen pushed himself into a sitting position, and pulled weakly at the hoodie. Mabel heaved a sigh of relief and sat beside him. She helped him ease the soft material up over his head, and Jensen sat, swaying exhaustedly. She carefully pulled the hoodie over his arms, and quickly folded it bedside her. The next thing to go was his button-down. She made quick work of it, leaving Jensen sat there in his T-shirt.
When Mabel helped Jensen pull his shirt off, the T-shirt had lifted and she caught a glimpse of yet more bruises. She was sickened by how much pain Eddie had inflicted, on the man he was supposed to love.
The first thing she noticed was the bandages had gone from around Jensen’s wrists, and she saw the deep abrasions on them. She tried not to flinch at the bruised, torn flesh. Her eyes travelled upwards, taking in the bruises on Jensen’s arms. There were finger marks stark against too pale skin, and what looked like rope burns on his biceps. She wanted Jensen comfortably tucked up in bed before she started to ask him questions.
She smiled gently at Jensen as his head nodded forward; he seemed to be falling asleep as he sat there. Mabel walked round the bed, carefully undoing the laces on Jensen’s boots. As Mabel eased the boot off, Jensen nearly shot off the bed. His fingers gripped the comforter with white-knuckled intensity and curled forward, panting. Mabel froze at Jensen’s reaction to her removing his boot; she quickly grabbed the thick socks and peeled them off his foot. Her hand flew to her mouth, a horrified gasp escaping. “Oh sweet lord! What did he do to you?” She moved back round the bed and sat beside Jensen, pulling the trembling man into her arms. As she held him she realized how prominent his ribs were beneath her fingers.
Anger bubbled up, leaving a bitter taste in Mabel’s mouth; she had to see the extent of what Jensen had been through. As Jensen clung to her she gently eased the T-shirt upwards. The sight that met her eyes took her breath away. She saw the strap mark around his waist, and pulling the material higher she saw the one round Jensen’s chest.
Mabel let go of the T- shirt and gently stroked Jensen’s face. Taking a deep breath, she whispered softly to him. “Please, Jensen, will you tell me what happened to you? I ain’t no expert, but this seems a might more than an abusive boyfriend.”
Jensen shivered in Mabel’s arms she would probably be disgusted by what had happened to him. She would see him as dirty and weak, so he shook his head, refusing to look at her.
“Now, none of that, you hear me? Listen, sweetheart, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You stood up to that bully. You left him. Hell, son, you even went after Jared when you thought Eddie was going to come for him. You’re a brave, brave young man.” She ran her fingers through Jensen’s hair again, offering him the comfort he desperately needed.
“You don’t have to talk to me, sugar, but just maybe it will help. I’ve been told when I stop my own mouth flapping, I’m a pretty good listener.” She felt Jensen tense in her arms, and Mabel changed tack. She gently eased Jensen away from her and smiled, her tone turning business like. “Now, while you make up your mind, we’re gonna get you in bed.”
Jensen managed a weak smile. “I thought you had the hots for Jared, now you’re trying to get me into bed. Don’t tell me you’re cheating on him with me.”
“Oh, sugar, what did I say about the lack of hot men in this town? You think I’m gonna pass up this chance to take your clothes off?” Mabel winked at him, “Come on there, I want those jeans off you.” There was a wicked gleam in her eyes as she reached behind Jensen. She loosened the bedclothes, ready to pull them down. Mabel allowed Jensen his attempt at humour; she knew a defence mechanism when she saw one.
Jensen sighed and reached for his belt with a shaking hand. As he undid it he said, “Is this what our relationship has come to? You’re just gonna objectify me? The shame of it, and you haven’t even brought me coffee.”
“Sugar, you behave and get in this bed and talk to me, and I’ll get Earl to bring you a fresh cup along with the slice of the finest apple pie you’ll ever taste. Shame Annie won’t give me her secret recipe.”
Mabel turned away and busied herself as Jensen lay down and took his jeans off, appearing to give him a little privacy but as he undressed Mabel watched through the mirror on the wall. She felt guilty but she knew Jensen would never tell her the extent of his injuries. She managed to stop herself from reacting when she saw what his clothes had been concealing. Mabel steadied herself by picking up Jensen’s discarded clothes and folding them carefully. When Jensen slid up the bed, pulling the bed clothes over him, she turned around and smiled. “Now, how about you tell me all about Eddie?”
Mabel sat on the edge of the bed, and took Jensen’s hand. Jensen looked down and felt the work-worn hand gently squeeze his. He bit his lip and his mind raced. What could he tell Mabel? Should he carry on with the abusive boyfriend lie? He knew that’s what he should do, but his heart was no longer in the deception. Both Mabel and Earl had been so good to him, it felt wrong to carry on lying to her. Jensen steeled himself as he prepared to tell the whole truth, and he began to talk softly.
When the motel door closed Jared remained frozen in place. His first instinct was to run after Jensen, to bring him back but his legs refused to cooperate. His mind still whirled with everything Jensen had said to him. Jared finally acknowledged the tired, defeated tone of Jensen’s voice; he’d never heard him sound so broken. Even when he’d been tormented by Morgan, there had been fire in his words. But the way Jensen had just spoken to him the fire was gone, and now all he had left was pain.
Jared went over the angry, hurtful words he’d thrown at Jensen. All he’d wanted to do was stop the other man throwing his life away. But he had gone too far and driven Jensen away, leaving the vulnerable man on his own. Jared shook himself. He couldn’t afford to stand here feeling sorry for himself while Jensen was out there alone. He grabbed the room key from the table, and strode towards the door, determined to bring Jensen back.
When he emerged he glanced round the parking lot - there was no sign of life. He walked towards the office, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jensen as he let himself into his new room.
He walked into the office and was greeted by Earl’s wife, Annie, a delightful woman who any other time, Jared would’ve been more than happy to spend time talking to, but not today. Today he was in a hurry. He’d managed to grit his teeth and smile while she’d stood telling him all about how Mabel was taken with the two handsome young men in Room Seventeen. She could see why Mabel’s head had been turned. Not only was Jared handsome but he had such lovely manners, and finally she checked the register.
As Annie looked she continued to chat away happily, telling him there were only three rooms taken, and it was always slow this time of year. And sorry, Jensen hadn’t signed the register. But if he’d run into Earl there was every chance he would’ve used his master key to let Jensen into a room. Annie laughed fondly, saying it would be typical of Earl to do that - let guests into rooms, before they did the paperwork.
Jared let Annie’s words wash over him, barely paying attention as she continued to chatter. He only focused when she said Earl was running Mabel back to the diner, but he’d be back soon. Jared asked if she would call Earl, so he could find out which room Jensen was in. But his frustration had grown when he discovered Earl hated mobiles, and didn’t have one.
Jared forced himself to be patient, knowing Earl would soon be back, and he’d be able to go to Jensen. The he’d try to straighten out the mess he’d gotten them into. He’d stayed calm until Annie mentioned that she’d seen a man wearing a hoodie, carrying a bag, walk past the office. She was worried the man had been trying to break into one of the rooms. He’d seemed unsteady on his feet, and he was probably some homeless junkie. She’d even been considering calling the police, until she’d seen him head on up the road.
Jared felt sick as he suddenly realized Jensen had been so hurt by what he’d said, injured and vulnerable, he was trying to make it back to LA alone. The news spurred the hunter into action; he managed to stammer a quick thank you as he ran out of the office. He sprinted to his truck, his hand going to the hiding spot for his spare keys. He tore open the door, leapt inside, then sped out of the lot, hoping he would find Jensen before he got too far.
Jared drove round the small town, and Jensen was nowhere to be seen. He quickly found the bus station, parked and went inside. Jared soon discovered the bus for Dallas had just left. There was every chance Jensen was on board it. He made up his mind he was going to catch up with it; it was the only thing that made sense to him now. Jared drove back to the motel, turned off the engine and sat holding the steering wheel, his heart heavy.
Jared finally undid his seat belt and went back to his room; he opened the door and stepped inside. The room was quiet; in fact it had become just another faceless, soulless motel room. The warmth and life Jensen had brought to the space was gone. Usually silence never bothered him. In fact he had come to cherish his own company; it gave him time to plot his grand revenge. But in the short time Jensen had been with him, Jared discovered the presence of another human being had made his life much more bearable.
Jared started to move. Every second counted now he had a bus to catch. He laughed softly to himself. He sounded like some damn Rom Com. The kind of film he and Sophie used to watch as a guilty pleasure. He could just imagine himself hammering on the doors at a stop sign, boarding the bus, then running down the aisle before sweeping Jensen into his arms.
That thought stopped him. Had the other man really gotten that close without him realizing? Was that why he’d reacted so badly to the thought of him being a hunter? That there may have been the chance he could lead something approaching a normal life with Jensen? Jared shook his head. No, it was simply he had let Jensen down, and he needed to make sure the other man would be alright.
Jared returned to his haphazard packing of his duffle bag, throwing things into it without folding them meticulously. The door knocked and Jared felt a rush of hope. Maybe Jensen hadn’t gotten on the bus after all.
He went to the door and pulled it open. “Jensen?” he said hopefully.
His hopes were dashed as Mabel stood there instead. He was about to send her away when she folded her arms, fixed him with a steely look and said,
“Goin’ somewhere, handsome?”