Chad knew that Jared was wasn’t sure why his best friend decided that he didn’t want to go out but instead invite some of their friends over, but then Jared never knew what Chad was thinking half the time. Today was no different.
“Chad, why are we suddenly having a party when you finally convinced me to go out? Weren’t you the one who told me that I needed to be getting out more and here you are telling me that our plans are off and we are having people over instead?”
Chad Michael Murray might be a douchebag, a giant douchebag in fact, but that didn’t change the fact that he was extremely loyal and protective of those he really did care about. And at the top of that small list was his best friend from childhood Jared. In Chad’s eyes his Jaybird really did need protecting and someone to look out for him. Jared’s heart was so kind and caring that Jared too often got it trampled on as he let people walk all over him. So when Chad learned that the man responsible for some of the biggest heartache in Jared’s life was here... well, there was no way that Chad wasn’t going to have words with one Jensen Ross Ackles.
So while Chad hated lying to Jared this was for a good cause. There was no way that he was going to let Jared go out, not while he was unaware that his jerk of an ex was around.
“Yes, I am the one who told you that and dude I still stand by it, but circumstances have forced a change of plans. Trust me, you’ll thank me later,” Chad promised Jared.
Jared looked doubtful at his friend like he wasn’t sure if he should believe him or not. But if Chad was hiding something from him it wouldn’t be hard to figure out. His best friend was horrible at hiding secrets and it didn’t take much to get him spilling the beans.
“Alright, if you say so but remember, Chad, I will get the truth from you sooner than later.” Jared told his friend.
Chad waited until Jared wandered back into the kitchen all the while muttering about having enough snacks to feed their friends before whispering under his breath, “Trust me Jaybird I know you’ll figure out what we are hiding but just let us protect you a little longer.”
Chad really hoped that the others got here soon; they would be able to help him distract Jared.
As if his prayers had been answered, the doorbell rang. Chad was sure that his rather loud, “I’LL GET IT!” frightened Jared but right now he didn’t care. He needed back-up to help form a plan.
Christian Kane scowled at the closed door, wishing that someone would hurry up and let him in already. He had made it his sole duty to keep Jared functioning, to not let him fall back into the black hole of grief that he had been so close to letting consume him. He didn't coddle Jared like so many of the others did. If Jared needed coddling they would have sent Danneel or Sandy but it had been JD who called him. Now that in itself was a warning sign, everyone knows what Jared means to JD and for him to be the one to call Chris. That had happened only twice and both times Chris had to talk a broken Jared down from the edge.
The door flew open, breaking Chris from his thoughts. Chad had beat him here but he was a little surprised when he was dragged into Jared’s house, a panicked look in Chad’s eyes. “Damn it man! Let me go!” Chris snarled at Chad. “What the hell is your issue?”
Normally Chad would love being so close to Chris but right now he had more important things on his mind as he shook his head. “No time, Jared is starting to ask why we suddenly changed plans. He knows me man. He’s looking for ways of making me talk. I can’t be the one to tell him that he’s back. I just can’t.”
Neither Chris nor Chad had noticed that Jared had left the kitchen to join them until he asked, “Tell me who’s back?”
Jared looked between the two men. Chris looked as calm and collected as ever. Chad, on the other hand, looked like he was about to faint and Jared worried about how pale his best friend was.
“Chad, are you okay?” Jared asked.
Chad waved off his best friend’s concerns. “I’m okay, you just startled me a little. Weneed to get you a freaking bell. For someone not usually so gracefully or quiet you were suddenly very ninja like. Has Katie be giving you lessons again? I swear that girl is a menace,” Chad grumbled under his breath.
“Hey man, don’t worry about Chad. He’s just being Chad. Why don’t you take a seat and we’ll finish getting everything ready?” Chris suggested, giving Jared a pointed look. He had seen Jared starting to limp and he knew once again he had over done it.
A purely sheepish look that was all Jared entered his eyes as he rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t bother trying to lie to Chris, the man always saw through him.
“That would be great. My leg has been giving me a little trouble today. I guess it was a good thing that Chad suddenly decided we stay in. I don’t think I could have handled a crowded place like Katie’s Kit Kat Bar tonight.”
In a way Jared was grateful for the sudden change of plans even if it meant his place had to survive one of Chad’s parties. He had been planning on cancelling. It wasn’t that he didn’t love spending time with his friends, he did, but ever since the accident and his break down he hadn’t ventured out much. Only Danneel and Momma Ackles really got him to socialize anymore and that was simply because he could never say no to either of them.
Chris and Chad watched as Jared made his way over to his couch, neither offering help, knowing that Jared would turn it down. The only people who could mother him were Donna, Mackenzie, and Danneel, and the rest knew that Jared wasn’t being stubborn he just didn’t want to show any weakness to them.
“How are we going to tell him? This is going to rock his world again. I’m not sure how much more of this he can take,” Chad murmured in a low voice.
He had seen Jared at his lowest, when he had just given up the will to live. It had been a fight to get their Jared back and, for the most part, it was clear that he was on the path of healing. But there were those days when Jared would get that far-away look in his eyes and sink into a depressed state that no one, not even those animals he worked with, could get him out of. Chad feared, and with good reason, that learning the man he was still in love with was back in town looking for a divorce might just break Jared, and this time there would be no putting him back together.
“That’s not all. Jared’s going to have to tell Jensen about Jennifer.” Chris had a good idea of how his former friend was going to react to the news and it wasn’t going to be pretty at all.
Chad winced; it was going to be brutal once Jensen learned the truth.
“Is there nothing we can do for him?” Chad asked in a low voice.
Chris shook his head. As much as he would like to be there for Jared and protect him from what was coming, they couldn’t. This was something Jared was going to have to do. “All we can do is be there for him, offering him our support.”
“That sucks. Can I at least punch him if he’s too much of a jerk?” Chad asked with a pout on his lips that would do any three-year old proud.
A small smile twitched at the corners of Chris’ mouth, “Oh yeah, trust me you’ll get a shot.”
Chad gave a nod, “That’s all I ask, he has it coming.”
Chad patted Chris on the shoulder. "Why don't you go keep Jared company while I finish up in here and wait for Danneel and Steve?"
Chris looked at Chad and then back over to Jared's retreating form. "If you're sure you can handle it?"
Chad forced a smile onto his face. It broke his heart each time he forced Chris and Jared together but Chris was good for Jared and he was willing to push aside his own chance at happiness for a chance to make Jared happy. "Yeah, I got this. Go cheer up our sad puppy."
"Thanks man." Chris patted Chad on the shoulder before heading off after Jared.
Once Chris was out of sight Chad let his shoulders drop. "Yeah sure it's no problem." 'What's a broken heart next to your and Jared's happiness?'
Since he’d entered the house Jensen swore the temperature had dropped several degrees with the cold shoulder Mackenzie was giving him. Josh had been no help, just shrugging his shoulders and giving a silent, What did you expect? Jensen knew he wouldn’t be getting a warm welcome but this was downright ridiculous.
Jensen was tired of waiting for the answers that his family didn’t seem inclined to give him.
“Thank goodness we live in the age of technology,” Jensen muttered under his breath as he booted up his laptop and quickly entered Jared’s name into the search engine. If something major had happened to Jared it no doubt would have made the news.
Resting his hand on his chin Jensen scrolled through the articles until his eyes caught sight of one.
“What the hell? Why would Jared’s name be in the birth announcements?” Clicking on the article he began reading.
On April 10t,h 2013, Jared Padalecki welcomed daughter Jennifer Annabelle Padalecki-Ackles into the world. The bouncing little girl weighed 7 pounds and 5 ounces.
This had to be a mistake. There was no way Jared had his daughter and didn’t tell him about her, this had to be wrong. With shaky hands Jensen opened a new tab and this time searched for all articles on Jennifer Padalecki-Ackles. He found only a few others.
“Oh, god, no,” Jensen choked out as he realized one of them was a obituary, dated February 18th 2015, three weeks after he had announced his engagement to Justin.
Having a date to work with, Jensen quickly pulled up the news site for the town and set his search for articles starting from the night of his engagement. He began reading through them, dismissing the unimportant ones. It wasn’t long till he found what he was looking for,
The police are saying that a drunk driver is responsible for the accident late last night. The driver under the influence hit another car that has left a man and young child in critical condition. Stay tuned for more information as it comes available.
Jensen felt sick. He knows no names were listed but in his heart he knew that those involved had been Jared and Jennifer. It took more strength then he thought to click on the connecting link.
Local owner of our town’s most beloved animal shelter and all around good guy Jared Padalecki still remains in stable condition after his car was hit late Sunday night by a drunk driver. His daughter Jennifer is however still listed in critical care. Our thoughts and prayers are with them both.
Jensen felt numb as his hand fell away from the laptop. None of what he read seemed real. He couldn’t wrap his head around it. He had a daughter, a daughter he never knew and fate ripped her away from him.
“Oh god I know nothing about her. I don’t know her first word, her favourite color, if she had a favorite stuff animal. I didn’t get to see her take her first step, did she sleep at night or was she a fussy baby? I know nothing of my daughter.” A choked sob escaped Jensen’s mouth, followed by another and another and he didn’t bother trying to stop the tears he was shedding over the little girl he never got to know.
The moment Danneel walked through the door of Jared’s house, she expected to be jumped on by the human puppy that owned the place, but not by his hyperactive best friend.
“Quick, Jay knows something is up. Danneel tell him you’re pregnant and feeling bloated and that’s why you didn’t want to go out!” Chad hissed to Danneel once she was close enough.
“Are you insane? I’m not telling Jared that! Why don’t you tell him that you’re pregnant?” Danneel shot back, there were times she worried about Chad and this is one of those times.
Standing next to her Steve Carlson managed to choke on air. “If Danneel was pregnant shouldn’t I have been the first to know?” Steve asked once he remembered how to breathe again.
“Plus don’t you think that lie is a little cruel to poor Jared? I mean what would we tell him when I didn’t start showing?” Danneel asked with a raised eyebrow as she stared Chad down.
Chad found himself wincing again; he was doing that a lot tonight. “Okay, so I hadn’t thought that far ahead but we need to tell him something. Jay is a smart guy he’s going to figure out something is up.”
“Here’s a wacky idea we could just tell Jared the truth. He’s going to learn soon than later that he’s back in town and I don’t know about you but I would think that it would be better if Jared was prepared for the chance he could meet him. Better for Jared to hear from us before someone else tells him or they meet up,” Steve pointed out.
Danneel pouted at her boyfriend. “You know I hate it when you’re right.” She took a deep breath this wasn’t going to be easy.
Chris had been tasked with keeping Jared busy, not that he minded or found it a hardship; he liked it when he got a moment alone with Jared.
“You’re keeping something from me.” Jared’s soft words broke through Chris’ thoughts and turning his head he found Jared looking right at him. Jared wasn’t sure why Chris and the others thought they were fooling anyone but this was a rallying cry. They had done that a lot during those first few months when he lost Jennifer.
“You know you can tell me anything Chris, I’m stronger than I look,” Jared pointed out.
Chris swallowed hard. “Yeah, you are strong, Jay, but even you have a breaking point and this might be it.”
‘Please don’t let me be the one to tell you. I’ve been competing against Jensen’s ghost for so long, I don’t want to see the hope in your eyes when I tell you he’s back.’
Chris knew that Jared would always love Jensen no matter what, even if he did learn to let others in. Jensen would always own a piece of Jared’s heart that would remain forever untouchable. He just wasn’t sure if there was room in Jared’s heart for him as well.
Jared shifted so he was looking Chris right in the eye.
“I love that you and the others want to look out for me. I know I haven’t made it easy for you all after I lost Jennifer. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here, I would have given up. But you can’t protect me forever. You’re going to have to let me decide what I can and cannot handle. So please, Chris, tell me what has you so twisted up in knots,” Jared pleaded softly with Chris.
“Jensen’s back in town.” Chris was watching Jared closely so he could see the moment that Jared’s world stopped.
Jared’s mind completely and utterly shut down the moment Chris told him that Jensen was back in town. “Are you sure?” Jared asked in a small voice.
Chris wanted to lie and tell Jared he wasn’t sure, it could be a mistake but he couldn’t; not when those big hazel eyes were looking at him.
“I’m sure, Jared. You can ask Danneel. She punched him before calling me.”
That had Jared’s eyes widen to nearly impossible size. “She punched him? Why would Danni want to punch Jensen?”
“Because of you, Jared, he hurt you and I don’t like it when people hurt my friends,” Danneel informed Jared as she, Chad and Steve joined them in the living room.
Jared looked at all of them in disbelief as if he couldn’t believe that they would do this for him. “But Jensen was your friend. Why would you punch him for me?”
Danneel’s gaze softened as she dropped down into the seat next to Jared and curled herself around him.
“You listen to me, Jared Padalecki. Yes at one time Jensen Ackles was our friend but he left us. He decided that being someone was more important than being with us. I don't know what happened to the boy we used to know. I keep hoping that someday we’ll see him again, but until then I refuse to call that unfeeling man my friend," Danneel promptly informed Jared.
Jared favored Danneel with a watery smile as he returned her embrace.
"Thank you Danneel. I don't know what I would have done without any of you," Jared whispered into her hair.
Danneel's arms tightened around Jared as she tried not to think of just where Jared might have been if they hadn't hung around despite his best attempts at pushing them away. 'There is no way that I am going to let you break him again Jensen Ackles,' Danneel vowed.
"Alright, enough of this. Let's get this party on the road. I have the need to kick your butts at Call of Duty," Chad declared, doing what he did best and lightening up the mood.
Steve snorted. "Please, junior, we all know that I'm going to whoop at your ass at Call of Duty. You have yet to beat me."
Chad's eyes narrowed as he grabbed the control. "Oh those be fighting words! Come on old man. Let's see what you have to say after I whoop your ass."
Danneel could only roll her eyes, as both Chris and Jared quickly fell into the trash talking but it was nice to see Jared smiling. 'Let him have this tonight because as long as Jensen is around he shall have no peace.'
"Move over boys, let me show you how this is done." Danneel would do whatever it took to keep Jared smiling.
Donna Ackles was unsure of what she would be walking into when she returned home. Part of her was full of joy at the return of her son. The other half of her ached for the pain that both Jensen and Jared were sure to go through in the coming days.
Donna hadn't imagined that her first image of Jensen would be with red eyes looking like his world had crashed around him and glaring at her in a mixture of pain and rage. It wasn't until he spoke that her worst fears were confirmed.
“Why didn’t you tell me, mom? Why didn't you tell me that I had a daughter?" Jensen demanded in a wrecked voice.
“Don’t you dare put this on me, Jensen Ross Ackles! I tried, so did your father. Your brother even drove up to talk to you but you didn’t want to hear anything about Jared, you shut us down anytime we tried bring him up. Then Jared asked us to stop because he didn’t want to force you back into a life and marriage you clearly didn’t want anymore. Some people wondered if you would even care. I love you Jensen, you are my son. But how you treated Jared when you left made me so ashamed of you for the first time in my life. Jared reached out to you time and time again only to be turned away. Every day I am thankful for Chris Kane. If it wasn’t for him you might not even have a husband to divorce…" Donna trailed off unable to finish her sentence.
Jensen's head shot up at his mother's words, horror filling him as he asked in a small voice, "Do you mean...?" He trailed off, unable to give voice to the words he was thinking.
There was never a time that Donna wanted to recall how shattered and broken Jared was after Jennifer's death but her son needed to know that he wasn't the only one suffering.
"I do. Jared was ready to die and not one of us could reach him. It was Chris who pulled him back from that edge; it was Chris who gave him something to live for. No one tried to keep her from you. We just couldn't find away to reach you. It was as if you were cut off from us," Donna pleaded with her son to see reason.
Mackenzie had heard enough, her brother needed a swift kick in the behind. "You need to stop and ask yourself if you like the man you are becoming with Justin; if you like the man who is ashamed of where he came from, ashamed of his family and friends.
“Are you proud that you made our mother cry when you didn't send her a wedding invitation? We haven't seen you in three years, Jensen! We were lucky if we got a phone call from you once a year telling us that you're still alive! And then we didn't even get that once you met Justin.” Mackenzie wasn’t holding back any punches as she laid into her brother. She couldn’t understand how he could be so blind to how much he had hurt their family.
“Don’t we matter to you even the slightest? Or is the idea of being someone really all that matters to you?”
“Mac, it wasn’t like that.” Jensen couldn't believe what he was hearing from his sister.
“It is like that! You are so obsessed with being someone that you didn’t realize that you were someone to us! That you were important to us! You were so important to Jared and Jennifer!" Mackenzie cried.
"Jared made sure that your daughter knew all about her papa even if it was clear he wanted nothing to do with them. Do you have any idea how that made Jared feel? To know that he wasn't worth enough to deserve a phone call from you; that you completely ignored any attempts he made to tell you about your daughter? Jared ran himself ragged trying to reach you. He got so bad that the doctor put him on bed rest for the last few months of his pregnancy. We nearly lost Jared and Jennifer too many times to count. But in the end we still lost her." Mackenzie trailed off into tears unable to go on anymore as the grief over losing her niece became too much for her.
“Still, Jared should have told me. She was my daughter too.” Jensen knew his protest was weak but he was full of so much hurt and pain.
“Tell me Jensen. When should Jared have told you? That boy sent you letter after letter all returned un-opened. Every phone call was ignored and when he finally worked up the strength to come see you in person he was turned away by your doorman under your orders. So tell me Jensen, when was Jared supposed to tell you when you cut off every inch of communication between the two of you?” Josh snarled at Jensen, letting out all the anger he felt on Jared’s behalf out on the other man, anger he knew that Jared would never express because his brother-in-law still loved Jensen with all his heart.
Jensen could do nothing as he watched his mother comfort his sister. Nothing made sense to him. He had never received any phone calls or word that his family had visited. 'Justin had me convinced that my family washed their hands of me? How could I have been so wrong.'
"I'm sorry mom, Mac. I never knew any of this."
Donna could see the truth in her son's eyes. He really did have no idea about their attempts at getting in touch with him. 'When I find out who has been messing with my family they will wish they had never been born by the time I am through with them.' Donna was a mom on a mission and no one would be spared her wraith.
Jensen felt his world crumbling beneath his feet, he and Jared had a little girl, a little girl that he lost without every meeting. The walls were caving in on him.
“I need to get out of here. Just for a little bit," Jensen pleaded with his mom to understand. Donna gave her son a small nod.
"Go, clear your head but for your sake and Jared's stay away from him until tomorrow. You're far too raw to talk to Jared tonight," Donna suggested.
Jensen hadn't planned on visiting Jared. Oh, he wanted to be angry at Jared but the Jared he knew, his Jared, would never have kept his daughter from him. He just didn't have it in him. Someone else was behind this.
Donna watched as Jensen grabbed his car keys and took off. 'Please let this end well for all involved.'
From the safety of her mom's arms Mackenzie watched Jensen leave, her heart aching for the big brother she could still see in him. Maybe there was hope yet that her brother was still in there somewhere.
Jensen had no destination in mind until he found himself in front of the cemetery.
"I need to see her." Jensen whispered. "I need to see my baby girl."
It was harder than Jensen thought going to the graveyard. He had no idea where his little girl was buried but he had a feeling that Jared had put her next to his family. He had accompanied Jared many times when he wanted to visit his family and he could find the place with his eyes closed.
There she was next to Jared's sister.
Jennifer Annabelle Padalecki-Ackles
Jensen’s knees gave out beneath him as he collapsed in front of the grave. With trembling hands he reached out and traced the engraving. Jensen wanted to scream and hurt someone. To make anyone feel the kind of pain he was experiencing; the kind of pain that Jared had been feeling for three years, a pain that he had to carry alone.
"Hello, baby girl. I'm your papa, Jensen. I'm so sorry I let you down, that I wasn't here for you. I swear, if I had known I would have been there for you every step of the way. I would have loved to have had sleepless nights with you, spending hours just trying to get you to sleep. I would have loved to have done so much with you but most of all I wish I could have gotten to hold you just once and to see you with my own eyes," Jensen whispered all his regrets to the little girl he never got a chance to know.
Try as he might Jared couldn't lose himself in the game like he usually could, his mind still unable to think of anything but the fact that Jensen was back in town.
Since he was a small boy Jared Padalecki has always dreamed of being a father, while other boys were playing with action figures Jared was happy to play house with his little sister. As he got older that never changed, even though most of his family couldn't understand. Sadly he would never know if they would have accepted him when he figured out he was gay, as life and fate had ripped them away from him when he was a young boy.
When Jared was thirteen he realised that he wasn't looking at girls like his uncle said he might, he was starting to notice guys instead.
When Jared told his Uncle JD, he accepted it and supported his choices. And when Jared admitted that he longed to be a carrier, his uncle made an appointment for him. Jeff was by his side as they tested him. Hearing the words from the doctor that yes, he was a carrier, was one of the greatest moments in Jared's life. The only moments greater were his time with Jensen, even if it had ended in heartbreak for him. Having Jennifer for however short of a time was the bright spot in his life, but the others were right, Jennifer would not want him wasting his life away. It was time he started living again.
Three years of marriage wasn’t much but to Jared it had been a whole lifetime. He knew that he shouldn’t be so broken hearted. Jensen hadn’t been his for almost three years but still, mentioning of the divorce papers ripped out what remained of Jared’s heart. He couldn’t breathe; the walls were closing in on him. He wasn’t aware that he was panicking until he couldn’t catch his breath.
Chris was the first to see the change in Jared and suddenly the game became unimportant at the sound of Jared's labored breathing. He knew that Jared was close to having a panic attack.
“Hey Jared its okay, it’s all going to be okay.”
“He wants a divorce, Chris. He’s marrying a man worthy of him. I’ve lost him. I really have lost him," Jared whispered in a broken tone.
Chris tried never to think ill of Jensen. They had been friends for too long but at the sight of Jared’s tears it took all his willpower not to find Jensen right now and ring his neck for causing Jared this kind of pain.
"Hey, Jensen is a fool if he thinks that this Justin could give him what he needs. He'll see the light when his shiny new toy proves to be faulty." Chris did his best to reassure Jared.
“But why couldn’t he love me the way that I loved him?” Jared asked in a small voice.
Not for the first time Danneel felt a murderous rage fill her and she wished she had ignored Jared's wishes and punched Jensen harder and broke his nose.
“Because that fool only thinks with the wrong head. He lost out on something great when he let you go. I make sure to put a new pin in my voodoo doll of him every night hoping that his beloved dick might finally fall off.” Danneel was pleased when Jared gave a soft laugh; any time that she could make Jared laugh was a plus in her books.
"If it is meant to be then you and Jensen will find your way back to one another," Steve spoke up sending Jared a reassuring smile. He felt bad for Chris. He knew his friend was starting to have more than friendly feelings for Jared. But that made him feel bad for Chad who had been in love with Chris for years. Jared was the wild card in all of this, it was clear that he cared about Chris. If it was the beginning of love or not Steve wasn't sure, but it was clear that Jared was still very much in love with Jensen.