On December, 22nd

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Part 2

On December, 22nd

Part Two


“G’night Mr. Ackles!”

“Night Joe! Have a nice holiday!” Jensen waved to one of the truck’s drivers who helped him with the rechecking that night.

“You too, sir!”

Jensen climbed into his car and drove away from the dock as soon as the last container secured and the vessel pulled anchor. The whole friggin’ process took almost two hours and he had been wasting that time cleaning up the mess of his father’s inept staff instead of enjoying shopping night with his family. He needed to have a chat with his father after the holiday.

Jensen looked at his watch and noticed that Jared had been at the mall for two hours already and maybe was pulling his hair out waiting for him right now. Jensen knew that their children were more than a handful if allowed loose in a crowded place like that. He stepped on the gas harder hoping to salvage this night and somehow made up for the lost time. Halfway to his destination, he whipped out his phone to let Jared know that he was coming but his call could not get through. He tried a couple more times and was answered with the same electronic voice telling him that Jared’s number was out of coverage. He frowned confusedly. He did not think that the mall’s signal reception was that bad.

Five minutes later, his phone rang. He immediately pushed the answering button thinking Jared probably got his miscall anyway and now calling him back.

“Baby, I’m on my way now. You still at the mall?”

“Jensen?” said a heavily gruff voice that sounds more like bastardised English on the end of the line.

Jensen looked at his phone’s display in surprise, saw Fred Lehne’s number on the display and raised his eyebrows, “Fred?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Oh, sorry, man. I thought Jared called,” said Jensen sheepishly.

“Well, I am calling to ask you about Jared. He said he was going to my office to pick up the special bean I promised him three months ago-”

“Oh, you got it? Great!”

“Yeah, but Jensen he was supposed to meet me thirty minutes ago. Was planning to close my office and go home when I called him. Said he was in town at the mall with the kids and going to my office in fifteen minutes. So, I decided to wait but he hasn’t show up until now.”

“What?” Jensen frowned. “Hold on a minute…”

Jensen checked his phone closely. There was a message in his inbox from Jared. He must have had missed it when he made a call earlier.

“Yeah, Fred? Jared sent me a text about thirty minutes ago but he didn’t answer my call just now.”

“Same here,” said Fred on the other line. “Know what? I’ll close my office and give a sweep around the block. I’m sure it’s fine but it’s not like Jared to go AWOL like this.”

“Alright, thanks Fred. I am halfway there.”

Jensen stepped on the gas pedal going as fast as he could with anxiety eating away at his heart. His mind went a mile a minute picturing horrible things that could have happened to Jared and their children. All of them left him gasping for breath due to the sudden constriction on his chest and the hollowed out feeling in his stomach.

***

Excruciating pain bloomed in Jared’s stomach. He pushed his palms to press on the spreading red spot on his shirt. Blood gushed out of his wound in sync with his heartbeat. He felt his limb go numb and his head dizzy. He turned his head to his right and saw a small figure in white dress stood silent and unmoving. Janet, he remembered.

“Ja … Janet baby,” Jared gasped.

The little girl did not acknowledge him. She just stood there with vacant eyes and rapid breath. Jared was panting heavily on the floor looking sorrowfully at his little angel. He heard a sob to his left and turned his head to see his son bent over a bloodied lump on the floor.

“Oh God, Andy!”

In spite of his own injury, Jared dragged his limp body across the floor making a wet trail along the three feet he managed to move.

“Z…Zeke, … Andy,” Jared slumped beside his son and reached out to him. He was not sure which one of them who got hurt. The last minutes happened in a blur and the swimming in his head that threatened to swallow him in a fog of painful haze made it hard to concentrate.

The sobbing boy crawled the short distance to his father. Jared’s vision blinked in and out of consciousness. With what felt like lifting a ton of bricks, he grabbed his son’s shirt collar staining the light blue jersey and green jacket with appalling red.

“Call … for help,” Jared gurgled pathetically. Blood drooled out of the corner of his mouth but he gritted his teeth and willed his body to cooperate and be strong for his son.

“Daddy….” the boy whimpered in a small voice. Tears drenched his face.

“Go!” he weakly pushed at his son’s chest. “Da…daddy’ll wait… h…here.”

Another whimper and a terrified shake of head shrunk Jared’s heart. He knew how scared his son must be, but they could not lay there and wait for someone to stumble upon them. One of his sons was bleeding his life out on the dirty floor and his daughter was trapped in a shock. If they did not get help anytime soon, Jared was sure his heart would not be able to take it if he lost them. Jensen would be devastated. Oh God, Jensen! What would he say to Jensen? He had failed to protect their children.

“P..Please! baby…” Jared pleaded for the last time hoping that his son would do what he asked of him.

“Daddy…daddy…” his son sobbed pitifully.

“Go! Call … help … anyone …,” Jared said between his pants for breath.

Jared’s fingers crept to his son’s neck, he squinted his glazed eyes in an effort to bring the sight of his son’s face into focus. The pain was not relenting. It got worse the more the seconds went by. His insides felt like ferocious lava burning his organs Jared had had his fair share of treating bullet wound patients but only now, he got first hand experience of it. He knew that blood loss was fatal and the more time wasted might result in death. Therefore, it was imperative to get his son to go and get them help as soon as possible before one or both of them went into hypovolemic shock.

The boy stood slowly, trembling all over from the tip of his nose to the sole of his feet. He nodded once and cried harder. He walked backwards with eyes glued to his bleeding father on the floor. Jared tried hard to maintain eye contact to give strength to his son even as his own was fading away rapidly. He managed it until his son turned the corner bawling his eyes out to get them help. Darkness descended swiftly around his consciousness and the last fleeting thought that passed his mind was of Jensen. How he wanted his husband to be at his side. How he wanted that feeling of love and safety that he felt whenever Jensen was around to envelop him instead of the cold and dirty street floor.

“Please …h… hurry…,” Jared whispered in strangled voice before his mind succumbed to darkness.

***

What would you do when you saw a little boy crying on the sidewalk with a face smeared in blood? Would you stand aside and look at him with disgust? Would you come near him and ask what kind of horrible incident befell this poor boy?

Such thing happened that night on December 22nd. The six year old boy was crying. His small feet inched slowly along the street among the throng of people running around minding their own business. Tears and snots dirtied his freckled face, mixed with the blood smeared on his cheek. He was confused and way past frightened but his daddy had told him to go to ask for help…… but … everything looked scary. These people walked pass him and heeded him no mind and he was afraid to call for them. What if they were bad people and hurt him? Hurt him like they hurt his daddy and his twin brother. Yet, his daddy had told him to go get them help; he just did not know whom to ask. He was so scared and wanted his papa but he did not know where papa was. He wanted to go back to his daddy but his daddy was hurt and he did not know how to help him. He could only cry harder.

“Oh my God! Look at that boy!” a motherly voice exclaimed among the daunting sounds of the crowd.

Few seconds later, a warm hand with pudgy fingers touched the boy’s shoulder and a stranger with blue eyes and wispy blond hair forced its way through his blurry vision.

“Sweetie, what happened to you?” the stranger asked with what seemed like a worried frown on her face but the boy was wary still. He took a startled step backwards and eyed the strange woman suspiciously through his tears.

“It’s alright honey. Don’t be scared,” said the stranger with a smile on her face.

The stranger reached out again and touched the boy’s smeared red cheek. “Oh God! Is it … is it blood?” She brought up her smeared fingers and examined them closely under her eyes.

The boy was scared. He wanted to run but this stranger woman seemed nice. Perhaps she could help his daddy and twin brother. She did not look like she was going to hurt him. Then, she turned around to call someone and shortly after, a balding man in towering height came near. This man looked scary and the boy really wanted to run now.

The woman told the man something in a rush and showed him her fingers. The boy did not pay attention to her because his attention was locked on the big and scary man beside the woman. He willed his legs to run but once again, they were frozen. He was always like that; he always froze in fear whenever there was something that scared him. His twin brother always scolded him for that but it was not like he could control it. It just happened.

Then, the big and scary man crouched down on his level and asked, “son, where are your parents?”

The boy looked at the man’s eyes, which had the same color as his daddy’s and that made him remember, “da … daddy … my daddyyyyyyy…” His crying renewed in choking gasps as tears flooded his vision.

“Oh, you poor dear!” The woman reached out her hand to embrace the boy’s shoulder then spoke urgently to the man, “something terrible must have happened to his parents. Paul, we have to help them!”

“But Annie…”

“His parents could be dying somewhere! They could have been in an accident or something!”

The man hesitated a moment but then he turned to the still crying boy and asked, “son, are your parents in trouble?” His question was answered with a shaky nod. “Can you show us where your parents are?” Again, it was answered with a nod.

“It’s alright, darling. You can tell us where they are, perhaps we can help.”

Hearing the word ‘help’ seemed to stir the boy to trust this couple. He then shuffled back leading the couple to where his family lied helplessly and hurt.

The trek to where Jared and his son were shot took only a minute with the adults’ more certain steps. The boy pointed his finger to the corner of the street. The three of them turned away from the busy street to a more subdued one. It was dark and damp and only illuminated by the sparsely street lamp. The alley was frequented during office hour only. The couple looked around the quiet street nervously but then they caught two figures bleeding on the floor.

“Oh dear Lord!”

The man ran ahead and crouched beside them. The boy pried away from the woman’s grasp to run and kneeled beside the badly bleeding man on the floor. There was another body near him; A small boy with blood in a puddle around his head. There was also a little girl in an angel outfit stood silently at the side.

“Paul, call 911! Hurry!”

“I’m on it. I’m on it.”

The man whipped out his phone and dialed 911 while his wife prayed to God in frantic whispers. The boy was shaking his daddy’s chest desperately and calling his name over and over.

***

Jensen slammed his phone down on the seat beside him. A worried frown marred his forehead and anxiety clouded his handsome face. He had called Jared’s phone several times and each time he was greeted with the same monotonous voice. It drove him mad. Jensen told himself repeatedly to calm down that nothing happened to Jared and their children but God help him he could not. There was this churning in his stomach as if he had drunk acid for lunch and now it was corroding his insides. He wanted to call Fred again to ask him if he had news on Jared but he had just ended the man’s call not five minutes ago. He could not have gotten far from his office. Jensen wished he could do something, anything other than waiting the traffic light in front of him to turn green. There were two other cars before him and one of them was an open overtop convertible filled with crazy teenagers playing too loud rock music. The vibration of it rattled Jensen’s car also his nerve making his teeth ground harder and his nail marked his steering wheel deeper. If those aggravating lights did not change in ten seconds, Jensen would snap.

***

Fred Lehne was a man of challenge. His interest of rare goods was mostly derived from the difficulty of acquiring them. He joined the trading business since he was young as a crew in a trading vessel. He had sailed to almost every port around the world before he settled down and started his business. He made his first partner in the owner of the Ackles Co. Jonathan Ackles. His company grew and strived along with the success of Jonathan Ackles and his company. Yet, he was not too fond of the older Ackles. Fred considered the man was too fussy and arrogant for his taste. The son however seemed to be made of a different material altogether. Fred had known Jensen since he was a tyke. He had spent many times in the Ackles residence for various occasions. He preferred Jensen’s approach in dealing with business. That was why when Jensen was of age and given his own office within the company, Fred happily struck a business deal with him. Their relationship was mostly of symbiosis mutualism but they had become good friends throughout the years.

Fred was the first one who wholeheartedly supported Jensen’s decision in marrying Jared. Fred always told Jensen that Jared was special, that there was not many men like him, and that Jensen ought to treat him well or he had Fred to answer to. It was endearing to hear and with Jared’s parents away in San Antonio, Fred had become his surrogate father.

The block where Fred’s office located was unusually quiet at this hour. Only two establishments opened tonight, the Chinese restaurant at the far corner and a pharmacy that opened 24 hours near it. The rest of the buildings were dark and gloom. Fred nodded to an old man sitting in front of the restaurant and exchanged few words with him before crossing the street to his car. The street in front of his office was also quiet with occasional one or two cars passed by every fifteen minutes. There was no sign of Jared there and that old man too did not see a tall guy with three children passed him. Well, the mall was on the next block, Jared could be taking the south alley, and not passing the restaurant to get to his office, but if that happened, he should have seen him already. Fred decided to drive around his block first before going to the next block just in case he missed Jared on the way.

On his way through the south alley there was a police car parked on the side of the street with few people milling about. Fred got a stab of bad feeling in his gut and stopped his car with intention to get information from the officer on duty. One of the officers was busy talking on his radio while his partner managing the crowd.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Fred asked a young woman who stood near a black van.

“Oh, it’s awful! There’re two people been shot and apparently, one of them was just a kid. It was horrible!” said the woman with a sad face.

The bad feeling in Fred’s gut intensifies. He approached the lone officer on the side street, intent to gain more information.

“Excuse me, Sir. Were there two people got shot here?”

“Yes, Sir. But don’t worry both of them are being delivered to the nearest hospital as we speak. If you please return to your-”

“D’you know who they are?”

The officer looked at Fred carefully, “may I know who you are sir? And what’s your interest?”

“My name is Fred Lehne and I have an office just the next block,” said Fred gesturing to the next block where his office was located. The officer followed his hand gesture then nodded telling Fred to continue. “My friend called me forty minutes ago said he would bring his children to visit me in my office but he never showed up. I am afraid that something happened to them. He was shopping in the mall when he called me.”

“A young man, Caucasian, and three children? Two twin boys and a little girl?”

Dread filled Fred’s inside like a slap of ice block slammed his stomach. The officer took one look at Fred’s face then called his fellow officer who stood near the police car. He sent him a kind of code to get ready to go and report to the station before gesturing to Fred to follow him.

“We couldn’t get their identity since the man’s wallet was apparently stolen and the uninjured kids were too shocked to speak. Who’s your friend, sir?”

“Uh, Jared Ackles and his children Zeke, Andy and Janet,” answered Fred in a flat tone. He was too shaken up with the news and silently praying to God that those victims were not Jared and his son.

“Wait a minute,” the officer stopped short halfway to his car and turned to Fred, “Ackles? From the Ackles Company?”

Fred nodded, “Jensen Ackles’ husband and kids.”

The police’s features turned hard then he strode hurriedly to his car. He spoke for a few seconds with his partner before telling Fred to follow them behind their car.

After getting information on which hospital the victims were sent, Fred drove his car behind the police car to the hospital. He contemplated calling Jensen but stopped himself from doing it since it was of no use to scare the poor guy with false, news anyway. The news that Fred desperately hoped to be false no matter what his gut told him. He would decide on what to do when he got to the hospital and learned the identity of the victims.

***

“When did they say the shooting victims will arrive, Kathy?” asked a pretty brunette in white scrubs to the young girl who sat behind the receptionist desk.

“In a minute doctor. They called ten minutes ago,” answered the dark brown haired receptionist from behind her work desk.

A siren wailed near the front door of the hospital. Two paramedics jumped off the back before another two got off the front seat to help their fellows with dragging down two gurneys from inside the van. The doctor ran over to assist while the paramedics spewed stats and conditions of victims.

“Oh my God! It’s Jared!” the doctor exclaimed in surprise. “Kathy, call Doctor Reese! Ask if he can cancel his flight.”

“Right away doctor!”

The gurney strolled past the receptionist desk when Kathy picked up the phone. She stole a quick glance towards the victim’s face and instantly gasped in shock. The phone handle dangled forgotten in her hand.

“Oh my God! Jared!”

Kathy stood stunned with her hand lifted up covering her mouth, eyes widened in horror following the retreating backs of the doctor and paramedics pushing two gurneys to the trauma centre.

“And Kathy!” the doctor shouted halfway down of the corridor, “call Jensen!”

Kathy snapped out of her shock and immediately resumed dialing. She and Jared were best friends and she resolved to stay in the hospital until she got news that Jared was getting better. Kathy was preparing herself for a long and awful night ahead of her. There was no one to come home to anyway.

Right when Kathy put down the phone, a pair of kids strolled from the front door followed by a couple, middle-aged man and woman. Kathy scrambled off her desk to meet them. She hugged the children with tears in her eyes and a comforting smile on her lips. It was definitely going to be a long and awful night.

***

Jensen’s car turned left with high speed around the corner of the street leaving smoky tire marks on the black asphalt. Horns blared in its wake from disgruntled drivers around it as if they were hellhounds yapping at Jensen’s heels. The imagery might be too bleak but the reality was actually not far from it. Panic had Jensen’s heart in a death grip. Any minute now, it would rip out his heart and leave nothing but a black charred hollowed flesh. Jensen’s eyes did not see the road in front of him, or other cars around him. Layers of still pictures played in slides every time Jensen blinked his eyes and all pictures depicted Jared and his children in horrible states. The more Jensen blinked, the more it got worse, as if they were painted by an asylum inmate; or was it just Jensen’s mind finally in touch with his creative sense? Yet, his car zipped along the road in narrow misses and lots of curses. His body operated in automatic mode. Even Jensen was not sure if he could reach the hospital alive; not that he cared at the moment.

***

Kathy could not look away from the pitiful sight of a boy and a little girl who sat forlornly on the hard plastic hospital chairs. She had guided them to the hospital washroom and cleaned them as best as she could in regards to the circumstances. She got the boy’s face cleaned up from blood and snot revealing those adorable freckles. That was how she knew this was Andy and that meant the one in the trauma centre was Zeke. Then, she sat them on those long chairs and gave them two cupcakes from the kitchen pantry.

Now, five minutes later they still sat there about fifteen feet from her receptionist desk and still had not eaten the cupcake. Andy held the two cupcakes in his hands that laid dejectedly on his lap while his sister Janet sat quietly at his side with one hand clutched tightly on her brother’s sleeve. She had been doing that since they arrived through the front door of the hospital, clutching his brother’s sleeve and refusing to be touched by anyone. Even when Kathy cleaned Andy’s face in the washroom, little Janet never left his side. Whenever Kathy reached for her, she immediately hid behind his brother and when she pushed for her, the little girl got hysterical. Both Janet and Andy had not said any words so far.

“Excuse me, dear. Have you call those poor children’s other family?” asked the nice lady who arrived with Andy and Janet after Jared and Zeke got admitted in Emergency Room. “You seem to know them already. I just think that they should be with family at times like this.”

“Yes, not to worry mam,” answered Kathy with a polite smile, “I’ve already called their papa. I am sure he’ll be here in a moment.”

The nice lady frowned for a moment as she exchanged a look with a man beside her, presumably her husband.

“Um…don’t you mean their mother? Since, I believe their father is the one who got injured.”

“Oh no, mam. Jared is actually a nurse here and my very own best friend. He married a husband not a wife. I’ve called Jensen, Jared’s husband, five minutes ago just before you arrived here. They both are very great people and good friends of mine. It’s awful that this is happening to them. I just can’t imagine what Jensen feels right now. He must be tearing off the road to get here. Oh, I hope he’ll be okay and get here safely,” rambled Kathy. “Oh! Please forgive my ramblings. I tend to do that whenever I got excited or really nervous,” she shyly added.

“I see.”

The lady’s feature got cloudy after listening to Kathy’s rambling. She shared a look with her husband and the man steered his wife away from Kathy with nary a nod to the receptionist.

“Come on, Annie. Let’s just go home, we’ve done enough for them. The sooner we wash our hands from this the better our souls be,” said the husband.

“I just feel very sorry for the children.”

“It’s not their fault to be born such a way. God has spoken. I hope their parents learned His lesson.”

Kathy could not help but be insulted when she unintentionally heard the couple’s conversation. It was too bad that the people who had saved Jared’s and Zeke’s life were a bigoted pair. She just could not fathom the way some people’s mind worked. Jared was the nicest man she ever knew. He was compassionate and generous. It was not fair that people judged him for something that he had no power over. Kathy quickly lost her train of thought when a man in his late forties came barreling through the door demanding to see his friend.

***

Jensen ran down the hall to the emergency room with Kathy close behind him. He barely paid attention to his surroundings. His sole purpose right now was to get to his family, to the two children sat huddled together on the hard plastic chairs beside a middle-aged man. He crouched down in front of them and the two children immediately latched onto him like iron to magnets. Cupcakes flew in two different directions.

“Papa!”

“Hey, baby,” whispered Jensen to his daughter’s hair, “it’s okay, papa’s here.”

“Papa, … daddy… he’s hurt,” cried Andy into Jensen’s shoulder.

“I know. I’m here now. Everything’s gonna be okay,” whispered Jensen to the boy’s ear before planting a kiss to his temple and another kiss to Janet’s hair.

The little girl buried her face on his chest without a word. The only sign of her distress was the way she clutched Jensen’s front shirt so tight. Jensen believed she would have torn it off if he pried her away. He stayed there kneeling on the cold hard floor regardless of his own discomfort for the sake of his children’s solace.

Jensen looked up to find Fred looming over him with sad expression painted his usually stern face.

“Fred, thank you for looking after my children.”

“Hey, none of that, ya hear me?” answered the older man in his gruff voice. Emotion bled through his vocal cords. “You’re family. You, Jared and your kids.”

Jensen nodded with a grateful smile. He was glad that at least he was not alone. He knew that he could always count on Fred in regards of Jared. More than what he could say about his own father. Fred knew how much Jared meant to him.

“Did anyone say anything about Jared’s condition?” asked Jensen.

“No, I don’t think,…” Fred looked up to Kathy who stood few feet behind them. A silent witness to the tearful reunion.

The young receptionist snapped out of her thought. “N-no… not yet, probably not for another half hour.”

Right on cue, the door to the emergency room opened and a blond nurse stepped out. She immediately spotted Kathy in the hallway and approached her.

“Kathy, did you call Dr. Reese?”

“I can’t reach him. The house cleaner said he left for airport an hour ago. His plane has probably taken off by now.”

“Damn it!” the nurse’s face was pinched with worry. “Call the MMC. We’re probably gonna need their Gyn and tell them to send their supply of O Negative.”

Kathy ran back to the front hall to carry out her task. Jensen planted his foot on the floor to get up but Fred placed a firm hand on Jensen’s shoulder telling him to stay with his children for now and to let Fred handle it for him. He stopped the nurse from going in to the ER.

“Excuse me. Could you tell us what Jared and Zeke’s conditions are?”

“I am sorry, Sir. I can’t speak about it right now. The doctor will be with you soon.”

“But, we’re just…”

The nurse closed the door after she fled inside with Fred stood alone in front of it. He turned to Jensen with a resigned look.

“Guess, we’ll just have to wait.” He stepped closer to Jensen and pried Andy off his father. “Come on champ, let your papa sit on the chair.”

Andy looked up at Jensen’s face and when his Papa offered him a smile, he let go of him for few seconds, just enough for Jensen to stand up with Janet clung to him like monkey. The second he sat down on the plastic chair beside Fred, the boy quickly scrambled up to sit on his lap. The two children seemed unwilling to part from their father forever, which is understandable, considering that they were witnesses to a horrible incident involving their family.

Jensen was just relieved. Holding his two children safely in his arms provided a small solace to his frantic state of mind. Even though the condition of his other two beloved was still unknown, Jensen resolved there was nothing he could do other than pray for them.

------------------------------

Two and a half hour laters found Andy pillowing on his father’s left thigh and Janet sitting on the right. Both fast asleep. Fred was walking back and forth in front of the ER door. His wife came about an hour ago and was now sitting beside Jensen in a silent support. Nurses went in and out of the ER without news on either Jared or Zeke. Jensen was getting frustrated.

Kathy came down the hall with a pile of blankets in her hands.

“Hi, I brought these for the kids,” said the receptionist, sitting near Andy’s leg.

“Thanks Kathy.” Jensen offered her a small smile.

“It’s the least I can do,” said the usually bubbly girl in a solemn voice. “Have you called Jared’s parents? I can do it if you haven’t.”

“Yes, I called them about an hour ago. They’re probably on the way here now.”

Jensen arranged the blanket over Andy’s sleeping form and wrapped another one over Janet. He caressed each of the child’s hair lovingly before settling his palm on their backs. Kathy reached for Jensen’s hand on Andy’s back.

“Jared’s tough. And Zeke’s just as stubborn,” said Kathy with a smirk that made Jensen snorted. “They’ll get through it.”

“Yeah, I really hope so.”

“My shift is over. So, I’ll stay here with you guys if you don’t mind.”

“No, of course not. And thanks, Kathy,” said Jensen, squeezing Kathy’s hand in gratitude.

A woman in white scrubs came out of the ER half an hour later. She made a beeline to where Jensen sat asking to have a few words with him. Jensen lifted up Andy’s head carefully and put a ball of blanket under it before standing up.

“I’ll take this sweetheart for a moment,” said Diane Lehne, reaching out to take Janet out of Jensen’s arm, but the little girl was roused awake when she was moved and instantly screamed in hysterics. She thrashed about wildly in Diane’s arm.

“It’s alright, dear. I’m aunty Diane. You’re safe. It’s okay.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo… papaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…”

Her scream woke her brother up and now they had two fussy children to deal with.

“It’s alright, Andy. Janet’s just scared,” said Kathy in a soothing voice. Her hand was rubbing the boy’s back to calm him.

“Why she scared?” asked Andy sleepily. “Where’s papa?”

Jensen rushed back to take Janet from Diane and her screams died down exactly when he held her. She clung to him so tight, trembling limbs wound around Jensen’s body.

“Shhh… baby it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Papa?” called Andy, struggling to get up from under the blanket. His eyes looked into Jensen’s anxiously.

“It’s okay, Andy,” said Jensen crouching down to his son’s eye level. “You see that doctor?”

Jensen pointed at the doctor who stood few paces behind them. When he saw Andy’s nod he asked him again. “You know her?”

“Doctor Med,” said Andy in recognition. He knew her because Jared loved to introduce his family to his close friends at the hospital whenever Jensen brought their children to visit him there.

“Right! Now, papa’s going over there with Doctor Med,” said Jensen pointing to a corner near the stairs. “She needs to talk to me about your daddy and your brother but you have to stay here, okay? I won’t be long. You’ll still be able to see me.”

Andy nodded obediently.

“Good boy!” praised Jensen while rubbing Andy’s hair.

Jensen followed the doctor with Janet stuck to his chest. The frightened girl pressed her face on the crook of his neck.

“Poor girl, she must be traumatized,” the doctor sighed sadly.

“Yeah, I just don’t know what to do. Please tell me you have news.” Jensen looked at the Doctor’s eyes imploringly.

“Well, I have good news and bad news,” began the doctor. “The good news is Zeke survived. The bullet grazed his head pretty bad and he lost lots of blood but he’s stable right now. A few millimeters to the left, we’d have to have dug it out, then we wouldn’t have been sure about his survival.”

“That’s good! So, when can we see him?” asked Jensen hopefully.

“He’s being transferred to another room as we speak. You’ll be able to see him once we get him settled but what I’d like to talk to you about is Jared.”

Jensen’s breath was stuck in his chest. He was almost afraid to ask but he figured that she was going to say it anyway so he just braced himself for the worse. Wrapping his arms tighter around his daughter, he waited.

“Jared caught a bullet in his abdomen. A few centimeters from his uterus, but the hemorrhaging was bad, resulting in abdominal trauma. It almost destroyed the surrounding tissue. We got the bullet out and he’s stable for now but we still need to monitor it. Besides that, he also suffered a mild concussion probably due to the time he hits the floor, so we need to stabilize that too before performing further action, because when the gynecologist from MMC arrives, we’re going to perform a second operation, hopefully the last, if no complication happens.”

“Wh… why bringin’ in the gyn?” asked Jensen with dread filled his heart.

The doctor hesitated for a moment before she brought her hand to Jensen’s arm and looked at his eyes with sadness.

“Jensen, Jared’s pregnant.”

A mouthful of breath expelled from Jensen’s lungs. He looked at the doctor with disbelief for few seconds before it switched to fear.

“Just a couple of weeks, we guesstimate, four tops,” continued the Doctor as if oblivious to Jensen’s turmoil. “Jared might not have known. We wouldn’t either, if we’d found the bullet away from his uterus. Then we would be in a more complicated situation because in a situation like this, the embryo wouldn’t be able to survive and we’d found out about it too late. We would just assume that the hemorrhaging is only due to the bullet wounds, neglecting Jared’s delicate condition. There are many worse scenarios from that situation.”

“God … I …”

Jensen was lost for words. This was very cruel. Heartless and cold and Jensen could not take it anymore. He gazed at the doctor, who was Jared’s close friend, willed her to take back her words, to spare Jensen’s heart from breaking apart, to end this nightmare that swallowed his world.

“I’m so sorry, Jensen. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we need to let it loose. We only hope no lasting damage happens to Jared’s womb. I am not an Ob/Gyn, let alone for male pregnancy so I can’t give you more detailed explanation. As you already know, maternity male’s body operates a bit different to female.”

“Just … just give me your professional opinion,” asked Jensen in a broken voice.

“Well, Jared’s strong. If it’s up to him, I have no doubt that the odds will be in his favor.”

Jensen took a deep breath and hardened his jaw. Tears threatened to spill out of the corner of his eyes but he held them at bay with the will of his stubborn mind. He knew this was not the time for melancholy bullshit. His children needed him right now and when Zeke and Jared woke up, they would need him to be strong for them too. Jensen wrapped his arms tighter around his little girl, strengthening his resolve. He stared down the shorter woman and spoke to her in his most firm voice that he could muster.

“Med,” Jensen started, using the doctor’s nickname, trespassing professional boundary, “I give you permission to do whatever you think is best to safe Jared’s life. However, I want you to keep it to yourself. No one should know about the baby.”

“I respect my patient’s wishes, Jensen. You know that. But the nurses in the operating room are bound to know.”

“I know. But just them and you. You can talk to Fred and Jared’s parents about his health condition, except that. I don’t want anyone to blurt out to Jared when he’s not ready for it. Leave it to me. Please.”

They stared each other down for a few seconds with the doctor gauging Jensen’s will. Dr. Medowitch had known Jared since the first time the energetic and lovable young man worked in that hospital. She even admitted Jensen within her trauma room seven years ago when the boy foolishly decided to give his car an overhaul, with him inside. She knew Jensen would do anything to ensure Jared’s wellbeing and happiness. Yet, the couple never went through this kind of tragedy in their life.

“I know you’ll do the best for Jared. I’ll go talk to the nurses,” said the doctor relented.

“Thank you.”

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