Awareness comes slowly to Jensen.
Rhythmic beeps, fading in and out, muffled. A heart monitor. Soft puffs of air, the smell of plastic. A cannula. Scratchy linens and a hard pillow. A hospital bed.
He’s a patient in a hospital bed, and he can’t even bring himself to open his eyes before blackness descends again.
When he wakes up again, he’s surprised at the effort it takes to raise his eyelids. His throat is dry and scratchy, skin itchy with leftover hospital disinfectant. His fingers twitch, pulling at the heart monitor clipped to his middle finger and the IV piercing his skin.
There are all these things he knows because he’s a doctor, and then there is the pain – something excruciating that he’s never been on the receiving end of before. He’s always made it go away, and now it feels like it’s out for revenge.
Jensen turns his head as much as he can, blinking groggily against the sudden light assaulting his eyes. Jared is sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chair next to his bed, elbows resting on the bed and fingers steepled under his chin. His eyes are closed, and he doesn’t seem to have noticed Jensen wake up. His hair is greasy and his chin is covered with stubble, nails bitten raw.
Jensen slowly slides his hand across the bed, fingers cupping Jared’s elbow as he lets out a dry croak that sounds nothing like Jared’s name. Jared’s eyes snap open and he sits up straight.
“You’re awake,” he says, and it hits Jensen that something isn’t right. Jensen pulls his hand away, blinking and swallowing. He looks at Jared’s eyes again, takes in the set of his jaw and the line of his shoulders, drawing on tools that have long gone rusty.
His scream dies in his throat, turning into a cough that burns like fire where he is stitched together.
This can’t be happening – not now. Not ever again.
“No, no, no,” Jensen mumbles, his voice nothing more than a weak, croaked whisper that hurts his throat. “No, Sam. Why are you here? No, no. You’re supposed to be gone.”
He tries to pull away from Sam because he can’t help but remember the last time they were in a room together. Naked and flushed, and Sam had pinned him down and hurt him so easily then, when he was healthy and strong.
Now he’s weak, vulnerable, and terrified.
“Jensen,” Sam says, standing up and leaning over him. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut and thrashes his head back and forth even as the damage to his torso screams in protest. Sam puts his hands on him, one on his shoulder and the other on his wrist. “Jensen, calm down! I’m not going to hurt you, I swear. Please stop.”
“Go away!” Jensen yells, managing to get some volume behind it. Sam looks stricken and he cries for help in a deep, strong voice that overpowers Jensen’s pathetic rasp. “Don’t touch me, Sam. Please don’t touch me.”
“What’s going on?” It’s Cara’s voice, and Jensen opens her eyes to see her and Jack rushing towards him. “Jensen, calm down.”
“Go away!” He yells again, eyes locked on Sam. He feels tears spring to his eyes and he’s so tired. He gives Sam a pleading look, and in his current state he’s not above begging. “Give him back. Please, I need him. I need Jared.”
“Sweetie, that is Jared,” Cara says, and Jack pins him down by the shoulders so he’s forced to stop moving. “He hasn’t left the hospital in almost a week.”
“It’s not him,” Jensen says, tears streaming down his face. He sniffs and gets a fresh burst of oxygen, courtesy of the tube in his nose. “I need Jared. Please.”
Sam gives him a sad shake of the head and Jensen lets out a sob that turns into a cry of pain. Cara and Jack share a baffled look and Jack bites his lip as he pulls out a syringe. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut and it’s only moments before he’s forced back into unconsciousness.
When he opens his eyes again, he’s in pain.
He automatically tenses, and then groans when it just makes him burn. He tries to remember the extent of his injuries, tries to think of what he would have done as a doctor, but all he can remember is how his blood looked as it spread from the wound.
He remembers thinking that Jared couldn’t handle this.
He was right.
He turns his head wearily, expecting to see Sam again. Instead he sees his parents. His mom is clutching a handkerchief, eyes red and swollen and his father looks tightlipped and withdrawn. He tries to open his mouth to tell them that he’ll be okay, but he’s so groggy. Whatever drugs they gave him to knock him out after his freak out are still pumping sluggishly through his veins. Whatever they gave him, it does nothing to stop the pain that’s burning in the center of his torso, spreading outward until even his fingertips ache.
He lets out a dry croak instead, and it tapers off into a groan of pain.
“Jensen!” His mother cries out, and her shrill cry hurts his ears. He winces and slides his hand around on the bed until his fingers find the call button looped around the safety rail. He presses down on it and that seems to exhaust all his energy. “Oh baby, we were so worried. Please talk to us, sweetie.”
He tries to answer her but he can’t. His throat is so dry and his tongue feels like sandpaper. Swallowing is out of the question. He wants to talk but he just can’t manage it, not without –
“He needs water,” comes the calm voice from the doorway. Jensen’s eyes flick over to see Sam walking into the room with Misha following close behind. Jensen forces himself to stay calm, but his fingers curl in the sheets. Sam pours a glass of water and sticks a straw in it, coming over to Jensen’s bed and holding the straw to his lips. Jensen stares up at him and Sam just stares right back. There’s no malice in his eyes, no anger. Jensen takes a sip of cool water and it soothes his aching throat.
“Thanks,” Jensen croaks slowly, and Sam just nods and hovers behind Jensen’s parents. Donna turns to pat him on the arm and Misha sits down on the window seat a few feet away. The relief in his eyes is palpable and Jensen is glad that he’s here.
“Jared has been so wonderful, baby,” Donna says, and Jensen wants to cry. He never told his parents about Jared’s condition. He figured there was no point, because Jensen was so confident that Jared had been cured.
Cara and Jack come in the room then, weary glances slipping away when they see that Jensen is calm. He wonders how Sam explained away his outburst.
“There’s our Sleeping Beauty,” Jack says as he goes over to fiddle with Jensen’s IV. He doesn’t turn his head to look. He doesn’t need to look to know what Jack is doing. It’s only a few seconds before he feels the cold morphine enter his bloodstream. “How do you feel?”
“Ow,” Jensen croaks, closing his eyes as the morphine travels through him. He breathes evenly, waiting for the medication to get where it needs to go – the gaping hole in his chest.
“Well, that’s a given,” Jack says, and his father even lets out a shaky chuckle. “But the good news is you’re gonna live. Bad news is I know you’re gonna try to get all med geek on me, and I’m not doing that right now. All you need to know is that you were broken and we fixed you. I’ll fill in the blanks later.”
“You just need to rest, okay?” Cara adds, and Jensen lets out a shaky sigh, managing to give them a weak thumbs up. His hands feel clumsy and heavy and he lets them fall back to the bed. “Now, I hate to say it, but there are probably too many people in here right now.”
“We can – um, go get a cup of coffee or something,” Sam says in a small voice, and Donna turns to face him.
“No, Jared, you and Misha stay with him,” she says, and Jensen suppresses a groan. She turns back to Jensen and reaches out to touch the back of his hand. “Now that you’re awake and we know you’re okay, we’re going to head over to the hotel to clean up and get something to eat. Your brother and sister are flying in tonight.”
Jensen nods and manages to squeeze her hand before she lets go.
“We love you,” she says, and Jensen’s eyes tear up slightly as his father repeats the words. He can’t believe how close he came to dying and losing everyone.
He ignores the tiny voice in the back of his head that tells him he may have already lost the most important person in his life.
His parents get up and Sam and Misha take over their chairs. Sam scoots his closer to Jensen’s bed and that’s when Jensen realizes they’re all looking at them expectantly. Sam reaches across the bed to take Jensen’s hand and everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief. Jensen tenses.
“Let us know if you need anything,” Jack says, and Cara leans over to kiss his forehead. They leave the room together and Jensen lets out a breath when Sam pulls his hand away.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Sam says, and Jensen ignores him.
“Bring Jared back,” he says, pleading with his eyes. “Give him back to me.”
“I can’t,” Sam replies stiffly, looking pained. “He’s not here.”
“Damn it, Sam!” Jensen cries, hissing when the action tugs at his wound. “This isn’t funny.”
“I’m well aware,” Sam tells him as he pushes his hair out of his face. “And I swear, Jensen, I’ve been trying.”
“Bullshit,” Jensen snaps, and Sam’s gaze hardens.
“Jensen, he has,” Misha cuts in. “He’s been zoning in and out ever since I got here. He – he can’t find Jared.”
“What do you mean you can’t find him?” Jensen demands. The heart monitor beeps a little faster and Misha looks up at it and then over at Jensen, blue eyes wide and nervous.
“He’s buried himself so deep that I can’t even talk to him,” Sam tells him, and Jensen swallows hard. He refuses to believe that Jared just – what, up and abandoned his body and left him here with Sam.
“Then give me Sandy,” he snaps as tears spill over his eyes and roll down his cheeks. He’s feeling desperate, the ache in his chest rivaling the tear in his stomach. Sam’s nostrils flare and he closes his eyes for a second. They snap back open and he looks almost sympathetic.
“I would if I could, but I’m the only one here,” Sam says evenly. “You’re stuck with me. For now.”
“No,” Jensen says adamantly, shaking his head and squirming as tears spill down his cheeks. “No, that can’t be. Jared will come back. He has to.”
“Calm down!” Misha tells him, and Sam leans over him to grab the call button, thumb hovering over it. His face is inches from Jensen’s and he freezes immediately.
“Relax, or I swear to god I will get Jack in here to knock you out again,” Sam breathes. “You’re being ridiculous. If you set yourself back in the healing process because you want to have a fucking hissy fit, I will kick your ass. You’re an adult and you need to fucking act like it.”
“Christ, Sam,” Misha chides, tugging on Sam’s arm until he falls back into the chair. Jensen stares at him with wide eyes. “I know idle threats are your main form of communication, but you should probably find a better way to get your point across.”
“He’s going to hurt himself!” Sam replies, and Jensen blinks groggily. The morphine is starting to kick in. Misha looks over at Jensen and his eyes are so serious.
“Look Jensen,” he starts. “I don’t know what happened between you and Sam, but whatever it was, it’s in the past. He’s right. You need to concentrate on healing. Sam will concentrate on getting Jared back, okay?”
Jensen lets out a disbelieving snort.
“Believe it or not, Jensen, but Sam cares about you,” Misha says, and Jensen looks over at Sam. Sam looks at the wall, jaw clenched like he’s upset. Jensen sighs and relaxes against the bed. “He hasn’t left the hospital in a week, and he’s been doing everything he can to not blow Jared’s cover. He’s trying, Jen.”
“Fine,” Jensen says as he reaches up tiredly to wipe at his eyes. The action wipes him out and he sighs. “I just want Jared back.”
“We know,” Misha replies gently, leaning forward to rest his hand on Jensen’s thigh. “Sam will get him. You just hang in there and concentrate on healing.”
Misha jumps a little then and then rolls his eyes at himself as he reaches in his pocket to extract his vibrating phone. He looks at the display and then between Jensen and Sam, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s Vicki,” he tells them. “She’s been worried sick. Will you two not kill each other in the two minutes it takes me to talk to her?”
Jensen just nods and Sam waves his hand. Misha lets out a sigh and leaves the room. It gets eerily quiet with nothing to break up the silence other than their breathing and the soft noises of Jensen’s machines. Jensen’s eyes slip shut as the morphine makes him emotional and groggy. His fingers twitch against the bed of their own accord, like they’re seeking out Jared’s fingers to tangle with.
“Jensen,” Sam says in a low voice so full of emotion that Jensen opens his eyes, turns his head on the pillow and meet’s Sam’s gaze. His eyes are wet and he’s biting his bottom lip. “I know that what I did to you was… horrible, to say the least. I know that you hate me, and you’re entitled to. I know you hate the fact that I’m here instead of Jared, and believe me, so do I. But Jensen, I am here. You – you’re important. And I want you to be okay. I want you to get better and I want you – I need you to be happy again. With him. I will do whatever I can to make that happen. That’s a promise.”
Jensen blinks the tears out of his eyes, and it’s then that he notices Sam’s hands. He’s playing idly with something on his ring finger. Jensen’s breath catches in his throat when he sees the two rings shining against his tan skin. Jensen lifts his hand, and when he finds it bare his hand goes to his neck. His chain is gone.
“My ring,” Jensen breathes shakily, tears running unabashedly down his cheeks. He doesn’t like the way morphine makes him feel – foggy and disconnected. Emotional and cut wide open. “You have my ring.”
“Hm? Oh,” Sam replies, splaying his fingers down and looking at the rings on his finger. “Yeah. When I woke up it was on a chain around my neck. Misha said it was yours and I didn’t want to lose it.”
“He was wearing my ring,” Jensen says, and his chest aches, heart splintering until he can barely stand it. This pain morphine can’t touch. Sam touches the rings and looks down at them with a wistful expression.
“You got married,” he says, and Jensen gives him a shaky nod. Sam smiles wanly, hair falling in his eyes. “That’s good. Jared deserves that – a normal life. A family. He deserves you.”
“Sam,” Jensen chokes out, but Sam speaks over him. Jensen doesn’t think Sam is ignoring him. His pathetic little voice just wasn’t loud enough to hear.
“I – I don’t really know what all that’s happened since we’ve been gone,” Sam continues, curling his hand into a fist. He sounds choked up and it nearly breaks Jensen. “But I’ve seen flashes, bits and pieces of what we’ve missed. Jensen, you take better care of him than we ever did. I can never thank you enough for that.”
“I need my ring,” Jensen says, barely able to get the words out as he struggles not to cry outright. “Sam, please give it to me.”
Sam doesn’t even wait a second before pulling Jensen’s ring off. He sits forward and reaches out like he’s going to take Jensen’s hand but Jensen pulls it back at the last minute, flipping it over palm up. Sam places the ring into it and Jensen curls his fingers around it, nearly sobbing at the feel of the warm metal in his palm.
His hands are shaking so badly that he can barely get a grip on it, and he brings it up to his face to look at the inscription.
It’s just you and me. – Love, J
Jensen does let out a tiny sob then, wincing when it pulls at the stitches in his abdomen. Later he’ll look at the wound himself, but now isn’t the time. He knows this inscription by heart, remembers how much he wanted to cry when he first read it. He thinks about the inscription on the inside of the ring on Sam’s finger. I love every part of you. – J
He looks over at Sam and sniffs before turning his attention back to the ring, spreading his fingers and sliding the ring back where it belongs.
“You can have his, too,” Sam tells him uneasily. “I mean, if you want it.”
“No,” Jensen replies roughly. He looks over at Sam and glances at the ring on his finger. “That’s where it belongs. Jared is in there somewhere, and he never takes it off.”
“Okay,” Sam replies with a slight nod. Jensen’s eyes droop and he can’t fight it anymore. He’s tired and loopy and sad. He doesn’t want to be awake anymore. He doesn’t want to hurt like this. “Just go to sleep, Jensen. Rest up. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
“I know,” Jensen mumbles as he slowly drifts off.
That’s the problem.
Jensen loves a smiling face as much as the next well-adjusted individual, but this is getting ridiculous.
Ever since he woke up there has been a cavalcade of visitors and well wishers popping in and out of his room. It seems that the entire staff of the hospital has filtered through, and his small private room has been steadily filled with flowers and balloons and stuffed animals.
Through it all, surprisingly, Sam has remained by his side. He’s quiet, half trying not to intrude and half trying not to blow Jared’s cover. Jensen doesn’t know whether to be angry or grateful by his constant presence.
It’s strange, having him so close and seemingly so caring when before he couldn’t stand Jensen – when he hurt him so easily.
He seems apologetic now. He seems to genuinely care about Jensen’s well being. Jensen doesn’t really know what to make of it, but he’s obviously trying. Jensen hasn’t quite reached the point of forgiveness yet, but it’s a near thing.
Jensen is somewhere between awake and asleep, just starting to doze off for a morphine induced nap when Cara comes in. Jensen blinks groggily at her and Misha waves from his spot next to Jensen’s bed. He’s been popping in and out between moving some of his things over to him and Jared’s apartment so he can stay to help out while Jensen recovers. Sam appears to be sleeping on the window seat, legs splayed across the end of it and arms crossed over his chest, but Jensen and Misha can easily tell that he’s not just enjoying a mid afternoon nap. He’s trying to find Jared.
“You’ve got some visitors!” Cara says, and Jensen resists the urge to roll his eyes. When doesn’t he have visitors? “Your brother and sister are here and Josh brought his kids.”
Jensen sits up a little at that. He hasn’t seen his niece and nephew in months. Josh and Mac have been by, but they wanted to wait until Jensen was a little better before bringing the kids to see him.
“Should I wake Jared up?” Cara asks, already moving towards Sam. Misha slides his feet off Jensen’s bed and holds his arms out.
“No!” Misha and Jensen call out in unison, and Cara stops just short of Sam’s prone form. She looks over at them, startled, and Jensen chuckles uneasily.
“I’ll wake him,” Jensen says. “He can be sort of cranky when he’s woken up.”
“Okay,” Cara says with a little shrug. “I’ll send them in.”
Jensen nods and when she leaves the room he shoots Misha a look. Misha nods and spins his chair around, reaching out to place his arm on Sam’s forearm. He shakes gently and Sam’s eyes snap open.
“Fuck!” Sam shouts. His foot slams down onto the tiled floor as he propels himself into a seated position. “Stupid fucking coward.”
“Sam,” Jensen says shakily, eyes blurring with tears at the anger and frustration in his voice. Jared has hidden himself deep and every time Sam comes back he’s more and more frustrated. He’s telling himself not to lose hope, but it’s hard. Sam snaps his gaze over to Jensen’s and it immediately softens.
“Shit, Jensen,” Sam breathes. “I’m sorry. I – “
“No time,” Jensen says, holding up a hand and smiling tightly. “My brother and sister are here and they brought the kids. The little one is – “
“I got a crash course in the Ackles clan from Misha while you were out,” Sam says. He holds up a hand as he runs the other through his hair. “I’m good.”
Misha nods when Jensen looks to him for confirmation and Jensen blinks. The kids come tearing in the room then, tiny baby Ashley barely staying upright in her excitement. Logan comes in after and he’s a little more apprehensive as he hangs on to Josh’s hand. Mac brings up the rear and smiles warmly at Jensen.
“Uncle Jay!” Ashley shouts, squealing and giggling in a way that only three olds can manage. Jensen rolls his eyes and smiles fondly at her. She’s preferred Jared over him since day one. He’s the one that colors with her and joins her tea parties and wears the sparkly tiaras. She runs towards Sam but comes to a stumbling halt a few feet from him, lips pushing out into a pout as she points at him. “You’re not him.”
Jensen’s breath catches in his throat. Sam’s smile fades but he quickly pastes it on again, holding out his arms to her.
“Of course I am, sweetie,” Sam says warmly. Ashley shakes her head, tiny pigtails bouncing. Josh and Mac share a confused glance and Jensen shrugs his shoulders like he has no clue what she’s talking about. Ashley comes over to Jensen’s bed, chubby fingers gripping the sheets as she tries to see over the tall hospital bed.
“Uncle Jen,” she says softly, looking at Sam over her shoulder before fixing bright green eyes on Jensen again. “Where’s Jay?”
Jensen can’t help the tears that form in his eyes, can’t help the way they spill over his cheeks. He gapes like a fish, unable to answer the little girl’s plea. Sam comes up behind Ashley and gently picks her up. She twists in his grasp and looks at him curiously before reaching out to cup his cheek.
Josh seems satisfied with this and he follows Logan when he runs into the tiny bathroom. Mac kisses Jensen on the forehead and starts fiddling with his balloons, untangling the strings as Sam sits down with Ashley on the window seat.
“Hi Ashley,” he says in a friendly whisper. He glances around to make sure Josh and Mac can’t hear him before he continues. He holds out his hand and she looks at it for a moment before she slaps her palm down onto his. “I’m Sammy, and I’m here to keep Jay safe because he’s a little sad right now.”
Jensen nearly gasps at the tender display, and his gaze stays locked on Sam.
“Like a fairy godmother?” Ashley asks, and Sam’s expression turns pinched and sour for just a moment before he smiles at her.
“Like a fairy godmother,” he agrees, and Jensen lets out a tiny laugh. “Jay will be back soon, but for now let’s keep this our little secret, okay?”
“Okay Sammy,” she agrees, squirming in his lap. “Can I see my Uncle Jen now?”
“Sure,” Sam says before standing up and placing Ashley on the bed next to Jensen. “But you gotta be careful because he’s hurt. So no hugs, okay?” She nods sagely and Jensen can’t take his eyes off of their faces. Sam sounds a little choked up when he next speaks. “But can you do me a favor and give him lots of kisses? He needs some kisses.”
“Sure!” Ashley says, leaning forward to kiss Jensen on the cheek. Jensen wraps his arm around his baby niece as she blows raspberries on his face. Jensen meets Sam’s eyes and mouths thank you.
Sam just nods and smiles indulgently for a moment before he goes back to his place on the window seat. Misha looks at him like he just grew a second head, and Jensen’s heart warms a little.
Maybe Sam is human after all.
After nearly two weeks in the hospital Jack gives Jared (technically Sam) and Misha the okay to take Jensen home.
Jensen is glad to be getting out of the hospital, but the thought of going home and Jared not being there is incredibly painful. Jensen lies in his hospital bed as Sam and Misha load all of his get well gifts into the car. It takes them multiple trips each and as grateful as Jensen is, he can’t shake the doom and gloom rainclouds that have hovered over him since he woke up. Life is just… duller without Jared. He thumbs his ring, twisting it in slow circles around his finger.
He feels like he’s in mourning.
Cara helped him into some regular clothes – loose sweats and a white tee that Misha brought from home. When Sam and Misha return with Jack and Cara on their heels, Jensen knows it’s time to go. Sam holds out his arm and Jensen takes it, using it to help pull himself out of bed. He winces at the pull on his muscles and takes a deep breath when he finally stands up.
He’s been to a few physical therapy sessions and he’ll keep going until his strength is back. Jensen takes a step forward and scowls when Cara brings in a wheelchair.
“I can walk, you know,” Jensen says snidely, and immediately gives her an apologetic look. She just smiles at him and brings the wheelchair up behind him. He takes Sam’s arm again and lowers himself into it.
It’s fucking amazing how often you use the muscles in your chest and stomach.
Once Jensen is in the chair Sam takes a step back, hands curled into loose fists at his side. Misha takes over wheelchair duty and Cara goes to stand next to Sam.
“Man, we used to never be able to pry you two apart,” she says, and Jensen swallows hard. “Jared, he won’t break, you know. You can touch him.”
Sam just laughs a little and rolls his lips into his mouth. She gives him a hip check, but she’s so short she sort of just bumps his thigh. She raises an eyebrow and gestures to Jensen as she pushes Sam forward. He stumbles slightly, catching himself on the arms of Jensen’s wheelchair and leaving their faces just inches apart.
Sam blinks and licks his lips as he leans in slightly and there’s one terrifying moment where he thinks Sam is actually going to kiss him. Instead he reaches up to cradle the back of his head and kiss his forehead. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut. It’s a move Jared pulls so often, and Jensen wonders how it could feel so different when it’s the same pair of lips doing it.
Cara coos, obviously not noticing the tension between them. Misha clears his throat awkwardly and Sam pulls away, coming around to stand next to Misha. Jack crosses his arms and gives Jensen a fond smile.
“Don’t be an idiot,” he says, and Jensen rolls his eyes. “Let your husband take care of you.”
Jensen tenses, throat working as he manages to nod. He wants to yell and scream and tell them that that isn’t his husband, that isn’t Jared and how can they not see that? Instead, he just forces a smile.
He just grins and bears it – same as he’s been doing all week.
By the time they get him upstairs into the apartment, he’s exhausted. Sam helps him into the bedroom and gets him into bed. The sheets don’t smell like them anymore – they smell fresh and new like someone washed them.
He sighs. Seems like he’s been doing that a lot lately.
Sam is propped up in the doorway, one arm above his head as he leans into the room. Sometimes Jensen just gets so sick of looking at him.
“Is there anything you need?” Sam asks, and Jensen just stares at him. Sam winces and scratches the back of his head. He hasn’t shaved since he came back and that helps a little, makes him look a tiny bit less like Jared. “Stupid question. Can I get you anything right now?”
Jensen looks around the room, stares at the ceiling for a moment, and looks back at Sam.
“Where’s Jasmine?” He asks. He can at least have part of his family back.
“She’s still at the kennel,” Sam replies. “We didn’t think she should be here jumping around.”
“She’s a therapy dog,” Jensen tells him. He’s pained at the thought of her being at the kennel so long, even if it is like a day spa for dogs. “She won’t hurt me. I want her here.”
“Okay,” Sam says immediately. “Just take a pain pill and a nap and I’ll have Misha go get her. She’ll be here when you wake up. That I can promise.”
Jensen nods and takes the pill and glass of water Sam hands him. He gets under the covers and lets his eyes slip shut as Sam turns off the light.
When he wakes up again Jasmine is nestled against his side, warm nose resting in the crook of his elbow. He breathes her name and she lifts her head, multi-colored eyes regarding him before she carefully burrows under his arm and buries her face in his neck. He turns as best he can and rests his face against her soft fur.
He has no problem appearing weak in front of Jasmine – no reason to keep on a brave face. He finally breaks down, spilling hot tears into her fur. She lets out a soft whine and he can’t help the sob that escapes his lips.
He feels so broken – incomplete and torn apart.
Half of his heart is missing and he just wants it back.
They fall into an awkward routine over the next week.
Jensen sleeps a lot, thanks to equal parts depression and recovery. Jasmine never leaves his side unless Sam or Misha take her out for walks. Misha is in charge of helping Jensen change his bandages, because Jensen can barely stand to make himself look at the angry red wound marring his flesh.
There are two extra bedrooms, and Misha takes the one already set up as a guest room. Sam crashes on the spare couch in the room they’re using for storage. He’s out of it a lot too, shutting himself in the room and looking more anxious and pissed off every time he comes out.
Jensen stops asking him if he’s made any progress.
Things between him and Sam have gotten better. Jensen decides early on to leave the past in the past and deal with what’s in front of them. Sam really seems to want to be there for Jensen and help in any way he can. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t ideal, but they’ve developed some sort of camaraderie of circumstance.
They tolerate each other. But sometimes Sam watches him, stares like Jensen is a piece of machinery and he is trying to figure out how he’s pieced together. His eyes are so curious and Jensen shivers under the intensity of his gaze.
One morning Jensen carefully gets out of bed, determined to at least go sit out on the patio with his dog and soak up some sun. As he’s hobbling down the hallway the bathroom door opens in a burst of steam and Sam comes out with a towel around his waist. He’s freshly shaven and his hair is slicked back and for a moment he looks so much like Jared that Jensen wants to run into his arms and hang on tight.
Sam meets his startled gaze, and Jensen slowly turns around and goes back to bed without ever saying a word.
He sleeps through the day.
The first thing Sam noticed was the lack of anger.
All of his rage is just… gone. Everything that fueled him through those ten miserable years has just vanished, and he isn’t sure how to act without it.
Sam is supposed to be washing the dishes, cleaning away all traces of the dinner Misha made for them because he has no idea how to cook. Apparently Jared is now some sort of culinary wizard. It’s just another way he’s changed without them. It’s another way Sam has failed to live up.
Instead of washing he’s just wasting water, letting it run down the drain and clutching the edge of the countertop as he stares despondently at the wall. He feels uneasy, emotions curling in his belly in an unfamiliar way. Anger he understands. Pain he gets.
But this? This is something new altogether.
He isn’t sure it’s good.
Sam was born to be a fighter, born to sweep up all the pain, all the memories, and keep them for himself. All of that hurt made him so angry, made him hostile and short tempered. But something must have happened while he was away. The pain isn’t so great anymore – the memories not so intense.
He’s… calmer than he’s ever been. He can feel other things.
He still has the innate desire to protect, to save. It’s in his blood. He’s just not so sure who he wants to protect anymore.
There’s a soft shuffling noise behind him and he turns off the water. Misha is out to see his girlfriend so he isn’t surprised when he turns around to see Jensen. He looks so sleep warm and soft, pillow creases on his face and eyes droopy behind his glasses. Sam’s stomach flips and he blinks, swallowing hard.
“Hey,” he says softly as he runs his fingers through his unruly hair. “What’re you doing up?”
“Just wanted some water,” Jensen replies, walking gingerly towards him. He takes a glass from the drying rack on the counter and turns slowly to face the refrigerator. Sam watches him and fidgets slightly.
“I would have brought it to you,” Sam says, chewing on his bottom lip. Jensen just rolls his eyes and gives him a smirk.
“I can do things for myself,” Jensen replies softly as he reaches out for the handle. Sam remembers a second too late that it’s been sticking, and he stumbles forward just as Jensen pulls on it. The door doesn’t budge and Jensen cries out, the glass slipping from his fingers as his hands go to his stomach. Glass shatters against tile as Sam catches Jensen’s sagging body under the armpits to pull him up against his chest. He’s careful not to press against his wound as Jensen’s hands get pinned between them.
“Oh shit,” Sam cries, pulling Jensen away from the glass. “Jensen, are you okay? Fuck, fuck.”
“Goddamn it,” Jensen hisses as he buries his face in Sam’s neck. Sam wraps an arm around Jensen’s waist and lets him sag against him as he cups the back of Jensen’s head. He breathes through the pain, and Sam isn’t sure what to do. He can feel Jensen’s tears, hot and slick against his neck, and his stomach clenches. “I hate this.”
“I know,” Sam says softly, and scrapes his nails across Jensen’s scalp. This is so new to him – this whole comforting thing. He isn’t sure what to do. Jensen clutches at his hips, fingers digging into hard muscle, and he takes in a shuddering breath.
“I just want my life back,” he says softly, sounding so pained. Sam squeezes his eyes shut against the sudden urge to press his lips to Jensen’s temple. He doesn’t know where it came from, and he’s sure the gesture wouldn’t be appreciated. He’s surprised Jensen is even allowing this embrace. It’s only because he’s in pain.
But still – it feels nice.
“You’ll be back at the hospital saving lives in no time,” Sam says gently, rubbing circles low on Jensen’s back. Jensen sniffs, lips brushing Sam’s neck as he speaks, sounding so broken.
“That’s not what I really want,” Jensen says miserably, and Sam’s chest does that strange clenching thing again. It feels a lot like heartache.
But he never thought he’d have a heart to break. He never thought he’d ache like this – feel like this. Jensen means so much to him now. And not just because he’s Jared’s. He’s something amazing all on his own.
“I need you to come back,” Jensen whispers in his ear, but Sam knows it isn’t him that Jensen is speaking to. Sam just closes his eyes against the ache, let’s Jensen talk to someone he isn’t sure is listening. “I need you to need me again.”
Sam stays silent and Jensen lets out a tiny sob, a sound Sam knows he regrets making in front of anyone. Jazz comes into the kitchen and circles their feet. She lets out a low whine and Sam reaches down to pat her head.
“Let’s get you to bed, okay?” Sam says in the gentlest voice he can manage. Jensen pulls away from Sam and he heads down the hall on his own with Sam and Jazz quick on his heels. Sam helps him down into bed and hovers, fidgeting slightly as Jensen gets comfortable.
He goes to get him a pain pill and a glass of water, and when he returns Jensen is fast asleep on the left side of the bed, arm stretched out towards the right. Whenever Sam wakes up in Jared’s body, he’s on the right side.
It’s the saddest thing Sam has ever seen, and he is baffled when he feels tears prickling at the back of his eyes. Sam has never, not once in his entire life, cried.
He takes a deep breath and puts the pill and water on the nightstand before leaving the room.
“Jensen, I don’t understand.”
Jensen flicks his eyes lazily towards Jack before turning his gaze out the window again. He’s slumped down in a hospital issue wheelchair and Sam and Misha are hovering somewhere on the other side of the room.
“What don’t you understand?” Sam finally asks when it’s clear that Jensen isn’t going to prompt him. Jensen can feel his doctor’s worried eyes on him for a moment before he clears his throat.
“Jensen, you’re not healing at the rate you should be,” he says slowly as he glances at his clipboard. “It’s been two weeks since you were discharged. We should be seeing marked improvement by now, especially with someone as young, healthy, and strong as you are.”
Jensen lets out a sardonic snort at that. Two birds land on a branch just outside the window and Jensen looks past them to squint into the sun.
“Frankly, I’m worried about your mental state. You’re not yourself and it’s slowing down the healing process,” Jack tells him earnestly. “Have you considered the possibly of post-traumatic stress disorder? It might be beneficial to talk with someone.”
Jensen swings his gaze lazily back to Jack and then looks at Sam over his shoulder. Jensen saw a therapist twice a month for over two years during and after Jared’s integration. It’s not post-traumatic stress that is making him feel like this. He just blinks before turning his eyes back towards the window.
In his peripheral vision he can see Jack and Sam exchange a worried look. Sam bites his lip guiltily, eyes landing hard on Jensen. He doesn’t like the way Sam is being so nice. He would be easier to deal with if he was the asshole Jensen had come to know.
He’s too much like Jared this way, and the similarity chips away at the core of Jensen’s already broken heart.
“What else can we do?” Sam finally asks. Jensen just continues to stare into the sun until his eyes water. Colors seem faded and voices are dimmed. Nothing tastes the same or sounds the same.
His world is upside down.
“He is healing, only very slowly,” he hears Jack say quietly. He pretends he can’t hear them talk. “Jared, it’s his morale. He isn’t healthy.”
“I know,” Sam replies. Jensen’s ears still prick up sometimes when Sam talks. He sounds like Jared. “I’m doing everything I can.”
Jensen blinks and then closes his eyes when the birds on the branch fly off into the sun.
Sam is sitting on the sofa with his head tipped back when Jazz comes to sit at his feet. She barks once, loud and shrill, and Sam looks at her. She turns and heads back towards Jensen’s room. It baffles Sam how well-trained she is. Jared apparently had a hand in that.
“You rang?” Sam asks when he reaches the doorway to Jensen’s room. He’s lying on the left side of the bed again, staring despondently at the right wall. His gaze flickers to Sam slowly.
“Where’s Misha?” Jensen rasps. He barely talks anymore and his voice is rough and weak.
“At Vicki’s,” Sam replies. He scratches the back of his head and shifts his weight awkwardly. “Is there something I can do?”
“I just – “ Jensen curls his hand into a fist and the light from the bedside lamp glints off of his ring. “I don’t feel like being alone right now.”
Sam bites his lip. Misha sleeps with Jensen sometimes – just so there’s a warm, breathing body on the other side of the bed. It calms Jensen down and helps him sleep better. Sam has never been asked to be that person, not that he’s surprised. He doesn’t expect any different.
“I could call him,” Sam offers. He takes a step into the room and looks down at Jazz to avoid Jensen’s gaze. “Or – I mean, I could stay.”
Jensen is quiet long enough that Sam looks up at him. Jensen is watching him. His gaze is lazy and his eyes are glazed and hooded. It’s obvious that he just took a pain pill or two, which means that he must be in excruciating pain. Misha usually has to beg to get him to take a pill.
Jensen doesn’t like what the pain meds do to him. He says they make him overly emotional and weepy and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want to be weak. Sam often wonders how much of that stems from Jensen always being the one to hold Jared together.
“Yeah,” Jensen finally says as he carefully rolls onto his back. “Stay.”
Sam scratches the back of his head before carefully climbing into bed. He settles himself on his back and stares at the ceiling. His entire body is tense and he is careful not to touch Jensen. But still, that doesn’t help when Jensen carefully rolls onto his side and puts his hand on Sam’s cheek. He swallows hard and closes his eyes.
Guilt rolls through him, new and unfamiliar. He hurt Jensen and he should never let him touch him like this. He remains as still as a corpse, eyes squeezed shut as Jensen strokes his cheek.
“Is he still in there, Sam?” Jensen asks, and his voice is thick. Sam’s eyes snap open and he turns his head to meet Jensen’s gaze. Their faces are so close and Sam swallows hard.
“I don’t exist without him,” Sam replies. “So yeah, he has to be.”
“Why won’t he come back?” Jensen asks desperately, and Sam can’t help but to reach out to sweep away the tear that rolls from his eye. “It’s not my fault I was shot. Why do I have to be punished for it?”
“You’re not being punished,” Sam replies. He wants to do something. Every instinct is telling him to take the pain away, because that’s what he does. He steals all the pain and keeps it for himself so no one else has to feel it, but he can’t do that for Jensen. “I’ll get him back.”
“Do you know how hard it is to look at you and not see him?” Jensen asks as he tucks Sam’s hair behind his ear, fingertips tracing the shell of it. “It’s like living with a ghost.”
Sam stays silent and turns his gaze back towards the ceiling. His heart is pounding and it’s hard to breathe. It’s frustrating how much he’s changed. His blasé, carefree façade has been shattered to shit, at least when it comes to Jensen.
“You look like him,” Jensen whispers as his fingertip traces the curve of his jaw. Then he leans in with a slight wince to press his nose behind Sam’s ear. “You smell like him. You sound like him. I – I miss him.”
Sam searches the deepest recesses of his mind for something comforting to say, but that was never his job. He turns his head to say something, anything, and his mind shuts down completely when Jensen kisses him. It’s soft and hesitant, and it takes everything Sam has to pull away as soon as his mind jump-starts again.
“Jensen,” he says softly. He pushes him back by the shoulders and Jensen stares at him through wet, feverish eyes. “I’m not him. I can’t be him.”
“But he’s not here. You’re here,” Jensen says in a heartbreaking whisper as he clutches the front of Sam’s shirt in his fist. “You protect him, keep him from feeling pain. Do that. Protect me, take my pain.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Sam replies sadly. Jensen lets out a harsh breath and another set of tears leak from his eyes. “Jensen, you’re not yourself right now. You need to get some sleep.”
“You’re right,” Jensen finally says. He rolls onto his back and wipes his eyes with the back of one hand. The look on his face is so broken and Sam’s heart clenches again. Jensen turns to look at him and gives him a tiny smile. “You’re good now, Sam. You’re trying to help, and I – I forgive you. For everything.”
It’s like a weight Sam didn’t even know was pinning him down has just been lifted. He takes a deep breath and reaches out to squeeze Jensen’s shoulder.
“Thank you,” he breathes. “Now get some sleep.”
He lies there and watches Jensen’s face until his breathing evens out, until he’s absolutely sure that the drugs have finally done their job and knocked him out. Then he rolls onto his back and takes a breath. His eyes close and he slips into darkness.