The very moment she left Sam's Danneel was on her phone sending out an S.O.S. to everyone, well almost everyone, on her contact list. There was a very good reason that she didn't send a message to Jared and JD. She might not be too happy with Jensen, and she would love a chance to punch him again as it was extremely therapeutic, but she didn't want him dead and that is what would happen if JD got his hands on him. As for Jared, well, it was obvious there was no way they could let Jared meet Jensen without warning and there was no way that she was letting them meet until she was sure that Jared was strong enough to face Jensen.
Danneel was not at all surprised when the first person to respond to her text was Chris. "Oh yeah this will be fun," Danneel muttered under her breath as she swiped her cell screen and took the call, making sure to keep the phone far away from her ear.
"What the hell do you mean that bastard is back? Has Jared see him?!" Christian Kane’s voice roared over the phone. At that moment Danneel was glad that she had enough sense to hold the phone out.
"Well hello to you too, sunshine. Thank you for nearly making me deaf. I wouldn't send out that kind of S.O.S. as a joke. I saw him at Ferris’ even managed to land a punch on him. It felt good," Danneel admitted.
"I hope you broke his jaw," Chris’ mutter came over the line. “If you didn’t I would be more than willing to finish the job.”
Danneel was starting to question if she should have left Chris off the S.O.S. list as well. It was no secret that out of everyone in town Chris was Jared’s own personal white knight, or in this case she guessed he would better be described as a white cowboy.
“No, Chris, I didn’t break his jaw. Look, I know you’re angry. Hell, I’m just as angry and I wouldn’t mind another go at Jensen, but right now what we need to worry about is Jared. We both know that there is only one reason Jensen might come back.”
There was silence over the line and then Chris let out a rather explosive and impressive curse, one that Danneel reminded herself to remember for future use.
“To get Jared to sign those damn divorce papers so he can marry that jackass of his. This is going to kill him, Danni,” Chris said, voicing Danneel’s greatest fears.
A choke sob made its way out of Danneel’s mouth before she could stop it. She knew that Chris was right. Jared was so fragile right now. He was getting better but this could destroy any progress that he had made.
“We can’t lose Jared again. We’re just starting to get him back, this could destroy him.” Danneel didn’t want to bury someone else she loved, not so soon.
“We’ll run interference as best we can, keep Jared from any unexpected run-ins with Jensen until we are sure that Jared is strong enough to see him again.”
Danneel knew she was grasping at straws, there was no real way that she could keep Jared and Jensen apart or keep Jensen’s arrival in town a secret for very long. It was bound to get to Jared sooner than they would like.
“Danni...” Chris drawled out slowly.
A laugh escaped Danneel as she shook her head, reaching up to wipe the tears she didn’t realise she was crying until she tasted the salty tear on her bottom lip.
“I know, I know, Chris, I’m fooling myself in thinking we could keep Jared safe from this. He’s just been through so much these last few years that I’m not sure how much more he can take before it comes too much. I can’t see Jared in another hospital room, not like that again.” Danneel was grateful that she hadn’t attempted to leave the parking lot of Ferris because there is no way that she was in any shape to drive anywhere.
“None of us want that to happen and we won’t let it. Chad booked it over to Jared’s. They had plans tonight and Chad is going to do his best to convince Jared that it’s better for them to stay indoors tonight,” Chris informed her.
Danneel couldn’t stop herself from wincing. She liked Chad in a weird sort of way. He was Jared’s best friend and the two were like a pair of puppies, if one was an adorable, sweet, if hyper puppy, while the other was the one who would rip up your flower garden and chew up all your good shoes. If you were friends with Jared, Chad was a part of the deal, no matter how much you tried to fight it, but he did have his uses. He was extremely protective over Jared and Danneel honestly thought that Chad was the one Jensen should look out for. He had to be tied down until they were sure that he wouldn’t go off and try and kill Jensen when he left Jared.
“I’ll get Steve and we’ll head over to Jared’s, give Chad some back up. He is really no good at lying or keeping things from Jared.” Danneel figured that the more backup Chad had the less likely it was for Chad or one of them to spill the beans of Jensen back in town.
“Good idea. I’ll head over there now, try and keep Chad from accidently saying something and preparing Jared for the impromptu get together he is suddenly throwing,” Chris muttered, his voice sounding a little distant. Danneel figured that he was looking for his keys.
“Chris? Jared will get through this okay, won’t he?” Danneel asked, finally voicing her fear.
“We’re going to do our best to ensure that he is. We’ll support him every step of the way, we won’t let him break,” Chris vowed and Danneel wished that she had the faith that Chris had.
“I always thought that Jared and Jensen were one of those couples just destined to be together, whatever life threw at them. I really believed that nothing could truly drive them apart. I guess I was wrong,” Danneel said.
She couldn’t remember ever seeing two people more in love than Jared and Jensen, even if Jensen did spout off about how he didn’t believe in soul mates and true love. It was clear to everyone who looked at Jensen that he really did love Jared. ‘So what changed? When did Jared, when did we, become not enough for you, Jensen?’
Danneel hoped that Jensen would stick around long enough so she could finally get the answers that he owed them. There was no denying that someone was going to be hurt in the coming days and she feared it was going to be Jared.
Slowly slipping at his whiskey Justin Hartley stared out the window of his penthouse suite, enjoying the view he was offered. He was a man who always got what he wanted and Jensen Ackles had been no different. The aspiring writer had been so easy to seduce, to lure into his bed with sweet promises of making him someone.
There was no doubt that Jensen was the perfect person to be at his side. He just didn’t like the idea of Jensen being out of his reach. Jensen would be angry once he learned of Justin’s deception. ‘I will have a lot of damage control to do once Jensen gets back from that little town of his.’
Justin utterly loathed the idea of sending Jensen back to that small town he came from. He had spent a lot of time molding Jensen into the perfect partner for himself. He would hate for one visit to undo all his hard work.
‘Jensen is mine. I have worked too long and too hard cutting all ties with his past and I will be damned if I let that estranged husband of his sink his claws back into Jensen.’ Jensen could spout all he wanted about not believing in true love but Justin wasn’t a fool. Anyone with eyes could see that Jensen was still in love with his estranged husband. Justin couldn’t deny that Jared was handsome and if he could swing it he wouldn’t mind having the man in his bed for a tumble, but he would be damned if he let some human puppy take what he decided was his.
It seemed like a lifetime to Jensen since the last time he stood on his parents doorstep. The last time he was here was the day he announced he was leaving town. He had never forgotten the look of pain in his mother’s eyes as he told them that they weren’t enough for him, that he needed more in his life. He walked out on his family and Jared that day and never looked back.
Jensen wasn’t sure how long he stood there trying to work up the courage to knock. ‘Will they even be happy to see me? So far it hasn’t been going in my favor; I seem to be the town leper if Danneel is an indication. Of course, in their eyes I am the villain. After all I’m the one who abandoned poor Jared and his family, because it’s so wrong for me to want to make myself somebody? Again, it’s not like I’m the first person to leave their partner.’ Jensen hadn’t lied to himself thinking that he would be welcomed back with open arms but this was getting ridiculous!
As Jensen was beginning to fume he didn’t notice the car pull up behind his or the figure that got out of the car and stalked towards him with purpose in every step he took.
Josh Ackles loves his brother, he really does, but in the end that love didn’t stop him from letting his fist fly and connecting with Jensen’s cheek once he was close enough.
“Damn it! What the hell is with everyone hitting me today?” Jensen demanded as he rubbed his cheek. He was just grateful that Josh had hit him on the same cheek as Danneel had. He didn’t need two swollen cheeks this close to his wedding.
“So who got first shot, Danneel or Chad? I know it wasn’t JD or Chris because then we would be having this conversation at your hospital bed.” There was no doubt in Josh’s mind that Chris and JD would have laid Jensen out flat and a black eye or swollen cheek would be the least of Jensen’s worries.
There was no way that Jensen was going to tell his brother that it was Danneel who laid him out. He would never live it down.
“Did I miss the memo when people greeted others with a punch instead of a hello?” Jensen demanded, while glaring at his brother. If this was the way others were going to greet him it was no wonder that he didn’t come back for a while.
Josh stared at his brother for a moment. He wasn’t sure how this man standing before him was the little brother that he had watched grow up.
“No, only the ones who leave and never bother to keep in contact with their family,” Josh said, remembering the utter devastation that Jensen’s leaving had caused their parents not to mention Jared.
“What are you doing here, Jensen? I thought we weren’t good enough for you, now that you had your perfect new life,” Josh sneered at his brother, all the hurt and pain he was feeling at Jensen’s abandonment came rushing to the surface.
Jensen was surprised at the bitterness and pain in his brother’s voice and to hear that his brother really felt that way. “I’m sorry, Josh. You, mom, dad, and Mac were more than enough. It was me who wanted more.”
Josh’s eyes narrowed as he crossed his arms over his chest. He took in the blue polo shirt, tan khaki pants and tan loafers. If Josh wasn’t so pissed off at his brother he might have laughed at the fact that his jeans-wearing little brother had turned into the perfect poster of snob city.
“And what about Jared? Wasn’t he enough for you? That boy loves you and for you to dismiss him like he was nothing, I don’t think I hit you hard enough,” Josh growled under his breath.
Jensen knew he had made an error in not mentioning Jared’s name even before his brother’s rant.
“No! I never said that Jared wasn’t enough for me! Did you ever stop to think that maybe I wasn’t good enough for him?!” Jensen shouted.
Josh could only stare at his brother. Of all the things he had been prepared to hear from Jensen, that was not one of them. ‘Maybe my little brother is still in there underneath this new Jensen. But I’m not sure if he’s willing or even sees all the damage he caused when he left.’
“Well you might be right about that. Jared always was a little out of your league.”
“Listen, I didn’t come here to cause trouble, I just need to wrap up a few things before my wedding. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it, after all. All the major news events are going to be covering it,” Jensen couldn’t help but brag, just a little.
Josh couldn’t look more unimpressed if he tried. “Yeah, I might have heard something about that. It would have been nice to get a invite to my brother’s second wedding. Even if I think he’s making a mistake it would have still been nice to know that I, that we, matter enough to you.”
For a moment Jensen could only open and close his mouth, how was he suppose to explain to his brother that the reason he wasn’t invited, that none of their family or any of Jensen’s old friends weren’t invited because they weren’t the right type. A Hartley wedding is a major event in America and only the who’s who were invited.
“I never meant to hurt anyone. It’s just been clear to me that you don’t approve of Justin. That you’re all comparing him to Jared and that’s not fair to him. I’m sorry Jared got hurt but I don’t arrange my life or needs around what Jared wants. Jared’s life is no longer any of my concern and I can be just as selfish as he is. After all, he was the one who refused to sign the divorce papers. I’m not sure why. He has more than enough proof that I have moved on from him.”
This time Jensen was on the ground before he even realised that Josh had thrown another punch. Josh towered above Jensen using the little extra height he had to loom over his brother.
“You’re right. You have no idea what has been happening in Jared’s life so that’s why I didn’t break your jaw. You have no idea what hell Jared has been through these last few months and if he wants to be selfish, well he has earned it. Until you know the full story I suggest you keep comments like those to yourself, otherwise you are going to piss a lot of people off. Jared has the town’s support and love behind him, something you don’t. Many people see you as the villain in this story and bragging about your flashy and fancy new life is only going to make things worse for you.”
Josh might be angry. Oh, and was he angry with his brother, but he didn’t want Jensen to make things worse for himself than they already were.
“People keep telling me that. What horrible thing could have possibly happened to Jared that made the whole town into his protector?” Jensen was getting really tired of riddles and he wanted some answers.
Josh shook his head and genuinely looked sorry as he told Jensen, “I’m sorry, bro, but I can’t give you those answers. They’re not mine to give. You’re going to have to man up and get them from Jared because it is his story and his story only to tell.”
Jensen’s eyes narrowed. It would seem that his soon-to-be ex would be getting a visit sooner than Jensen had planned.
“Oh trust me. After I’ve talked to mom, dad, and Mac, Jared is the next place I plan on visiting.”
Remembering Danneel’s S.O.S. text, Josh raised an eyebrow.
“I would suggest holding off your visit until tomorrow unless you want to see how your face would survive a run in with Chris, Steve, and Chad, not to mention Danneel a second time. They’re all hanging out at Jared’s place tonight and that’s a crowd that is not Jensen Ackles friendly right now,” Josh warned his brother.
“Look I get it. It’s Jared story but you’re not even going to give me some clue as to what I could have possibly done that turned the whole town against me? I think I have a right to know,” Jensen pointed out. He was getting really sick and tired of these games people seemed to be playing with him.
“Let’s make Jensen the bad guy but not tell him why he’s the bad guy. Sure. Seems fair to me.”
Josh’s eyes went distant as he spoke in a low voice that cracked as if he was holding back his tears.
“It was bad Jensen, real bad. It nearly did what your leaving couldn’t. It destroyed Jared.”
That worried Jensen. He knew that Jared would take his leaving hard but he had no idea that it would be this bad. He had no clue as to what could have been so much worse that it nearly destroyed him. Jared was one of the strongest people Jensen had ever known. If it was anyone else Jensen might think that they were being overly dramatic but since this was Jared they were talking about he just couldn’t see it. Jared didn’t have it in him to act like that and neither did Josh.
“Was it really that bad?” Jensen almost didn’t want to know the answer.
Josh didn’t hesitate as he looked his brother in the eye and stated the absolute truth, “Yes it was that bad. But if you want to know any more you need to ask Jared, not me.”
Josh couldn’t break the confidence that Jared had placed in him, in their family. It had taken a lot of time to regain the bond they thought was lost to them.
From the moment that they laid eyes on the bright, hazel-eyed young boy at the age of three Alan and Donna Ackles had all but adopted Jared. The cheerful boy who had captured their son’s heart along with theirs.
When Jensen left them all behind the remaining Ackles had been so sure that Jared would not want anything to do with them as well. To Donna and Alan it felt like they were losing two sons instead of one. Of course it never crossed their minds that Jared was thinking that they blamed him for chasing Jensen away and that they never wanted to see the man who drove their son away ever again.
Thankfully they had some caring friends who refused to watch both sides suffer through misplaced guilt. Josh was forever thankful that Sam, Jim, Danneel, and Steve refused to sit back and let his parents and Jared suffer for something that wasn’t their fault. Jared had truly needed the support of the Ackles family for what lay ahead of him.
“I think that before you meet with Jared you should talk to mom and dad. Let one of them tell him that you are back in town. Give the poor guy some warning, it’s the least you can do,” Josh commented.
He really did think that learning Jensen was back would be better coming from Donna. If there was one person in town scarier than JD it was Donna Ackles, something that would come in handy if Chris or JD decided that they were out for Jensen’s blood.
Given what he was hearing Jensen had to agree with his brother. Letting their mom tell Jared he was back in town was probably the best way to go.
“How angry are they with me? Do they hate me?” Jensen wasn’t sure if he could handle having his mom and dad hating him.
“They don’t hate you Jensen. I don’t hate you. I think mom and dad are more disappointed than anything else. I’m not going to lie, I’m very angry with you for how you treated us and Jared before you left. I don’t know why you’re here but I have a feeling it has to do with those divorce papers you sent to Jared, the papers that he never got around to signing. You’re here to divorce Jared, aren’t you?” Josh asked. He remembered the look of devastation in Jared’s eyes when he had told them that Jensen had sent divorce papers.
Jensen steeled himself as he lifted his head to meet his brother’s gaze head on; he wasn’t going to let anyone make him feel guilt for divorcing Jared.
“I am. I can’t get married to Justin while I’m still married to Jared. So yes I am here mainly to get Jared to sign the papers.”
“That’s not going to make you real popular around these parts. Jared always had that real protective vibe around him and it’s only gotten worse this past year. I hope that skin of yours is thick enough to deal with the backlash you’ll receive if people realize that you only returned to town to break the heart of our puppy even more.”
Josh wasn’t sure how he felt about this news. He loves Jensen, he does, but he doesn’t like the person his brother is turning into.
“I really don’t care what people here think. Unlike you, I don’t need the townsfolk approval. So if I’m going to divorce Jared I can damn well divorce Jared!” Jensen hadn’t realized that he was shouting or that the door to the house behind him had opened.
“You big jerk, Jensen! How can you treat Jared like this?” Mackenzie Ackles demanded as she stalked down the front steps.
Mackenzie had been in her room studying when she heard raised voices. One she recognized as her older brother, Josh, and the other voice…it had taken a while to place, mainly because it was a voice she had been so sure that she would never hear again. Growing up she had always been in awe of Jensen and Jared’s seemingly fairy-tale romance. Then suddenly one day they weren’t enough and that hurt. It stung so deeply to know that the brother she looked up to didn’t want to be around them. For so long Mackenzie had blamed herself, wondering what she could have done to be a better little sister.
It had taken Jared pulling her aside explaining in a soft tone that she had done nothing wrong; Jensen had big dreams, ones that couldn’t be achieved in their home town. She was the best little sister anyone could hope to have and just because Jensen had to leave it didn’t mean that he loved Mackenzie any less.
Mackenzie had never given up hope that Jensen would come back, would return to save Jared from the depression that he had fallen into. She wanted Jensen to once again be Jared’s white knight and save him from himself. But hearing Jensen so coldly announce that the only reason he was back was to divorce Jared shattered her heart. She didn’t care who this Justin was. He had no right taking the role that belonged to Jared and Jared alone.
Looking at his little sister it hit Jensen hard how much he had missed in the last three years that he had been away. “Hello Mac...” Jensen started only to be cut off.
“Don’t you dare call me Mac! Only my family can call me that! You lost that right when you ran away like a coward. I should have known that you would only come back to hurt Jared again Haven’t you done enough to him? I thought you actually cared about him yet you treat him like he is beneath you! If that’s how you show someone you care I’m better off without it!” Mackenzie snarled at her brother, the tears she had been holding back starting to fall down her cheeks.
Jensen couldn’t find the words to stop his sister from rushing back into the house. The slamming of the front door made Jensen wonder if that was a symbol of the end of his relationship with his sister. He didn’t want to show it but her words really stunned him.
“She really loves Jared, doesn’t she?”
“You know that Jared has always been another big brother to Mac. When you left it was Jared who got through to Mac that just because you left it didn’t mean that you loved her any less. They got even closer a while back and Mac has taken up the role of Jared’s protector. You should have heard the shovel speech she gave to Chris when he started hanging around Jared more. It was rather terrifying, actually, she’s been taking lessons from Danneel.” Josh couldn’t blame his sister for her response. She and Jared had gotten even closer after Jensen left.
Jensen froze as once again someone brought up Chris and Jared getting close to one another. He wasn’t sure why the idea bothered him so badly. He should be glad that Jared was getting closer to someone else. It would be much easier to get him to sign the divorce papers if Jared had a new man in his life, but still he felt a small emotion churning in his stomach, one he flat out refused to say was jealousy.
“You aren’t the first person to tell me that Chris has been getting cozy with my soon-to-be ex. It’s funny they never seemed that close to me before, what changed?”
Nobody could miss the jealousy and possessive growl in Jensen’s voice as he asked about Jared’s relationship with Chris and Josh couldn’t help himself but dig a little more.
“Well, nothing has happened between Jared and Chris yet, but many believe that it is only a matter of time before they cross that line from friends into something more. I mean I’m not saying that they couldn’t be more but neither have taken that step.” Josh’s gaze went distant as a flash of pain and grief appeared so fast in his eyes that Jensen almost thought he imaged it.
“Jared was far too fragile to even think about romance. He still is but I’m just glad he had Chris’ support through all of this.”
‘Support during what? What was so bad that has everyone acting like Jared is some delicate flower?’
Jensen wasn’t completely heartless. He still cared about Jared and wanted to offer what support he could. Considering he was here to get the guy to sign divorce papers, there wasn’t much support he could offer to him. ‘But still it’s the thought that counts right? I want Jared and I to at least be able to salvage some part of the friendship we had before we let a silly thing like love ruin it.’
Yes, Jensen was sure that while they would never able to be the best friends they once were, in time Jared would accept his offer of friendship. But Jared would have to wait. First, Jensen had to sooth the ruffled feathers of his family and explain to them just why he had agreed with Justin’s declaration that they not come to the wedding. Jensen forced a bright smile on his face as he asked, “So what time will mom and dad be home?”
Josh wasn’t sure what game Jensen was playing but he knew that once Jensen learned the truth about what happened his perfect world with Justin might not seem as shiny.
“Shouldn’t be long. I’m sure that by now both mom and dad have heard you’re back.” ‘And are probably trying to figure out if they should talk to you first or go warn Jared you are back?’
Only someone living completely cut off from the outside world would not have heard about the wedding between Jensen Ackles and Justin Hartley. So when Sam phoned Donna Ackles to warn her that her son was back in town, she knew why. It was to get Jared to sign the divorce papers he had sent months ago, only adding pain to Jared’s already suffering soul.
She loved her son, but right now she wanted to smack him. Three years ago he had dropped out of their lives. There were nights that Donna feared him dead when the phone calls stopped coming. She was terrified that her son was dead in a ditch or laying unclaimed in a morgue somewhere.
Then Jensen started showing up in magazines pictured alongside Justin Hartley of all people. Donna was thrilled her son was still alive but oh, so, angry with him that he couldn’t even pick up a phone and call his poor mother to let her know that he was alive.
There was no doubt in Donna’s mind that she would be giving Jensen a great big hug after she let him have the lecture she had been saving up for the moment she saw her son again. Her eyes landed on a picture that sat at the corner of her desk and her heart broke for the man in it.
“Oh my poor sweet Jared,” she murmured, as she carefully lifted up the silver frame and let her fingers trace across the smiling face of Jared first and then the little girl with a smile to match her dad’s. Donna Ackles didn’t envy her son-in-law in the slightest. How does one tell someone that they had a little girl they never knew about who was cruelly stolen by death?
Her heart ached for both men, for her son Jensen who never even got the chance to meet his daughter and for her other son who would have to reopen those wounds while licking the new ones that Jensen’s demand for a divorce would cause. Lifting her eyes up towards the roof Donna whispered a small prayer, “I know this might be asking a lot, but if you could figure out away to give both my boys a happy ending I would forever be grateful.”
She knew it was probably a long shot. Someone was bound to get hurt.