Fic: Look Beyond What You See to Find the Truth Behind the Lies - Part 2 chap.1
Please see Master Post for fic details.
Part 2 theme song - Mad World by Gary Jules - Jensen's POV
May 02, 2010
Jensen let himself into his studio apartment, leaned his forehead against the door and sighed.
Even after a year, Justin’s ghost still managed to rise up and bite him in the ass.
It was the reason he had left San Antonio five months earlier. It didn’t seem to matter that he had quit the FBI, sold his and Justin’s home and moved across town, there was always something. Some place they had gone together, someone that had known them or worse, had read the news articles that had been “leaked” to the press.
In San Antonio, Justin Hartley had been murdered and his long time live in lover, Jensen Ackles, had done the deed. No one questioned it, no one defended him, and his name had become blight.
So, in an attempt to move on with his life, to get back the anonymity that most people inherently had, he broke the lease on the small apartment he had rented and ran to Dallas.
It hadn’t been so bad, relocating. He had grown up just outside of Dallas so it didn’t feel so disconcerting when he had first gotten there. And there was always the bonus that no one stopped to stare at him, people didn’t whisper behind his back as he passed. It was like no one in Dallas had ever heard of Jensen Ackles or Justin Hartley, or if they had, it had long since been forgotten. Probably because it wasn’t in their town so it didn’t really affect them, God bless the lack of affinity that affect mankind as a whole.
He had been so close to just giving up and ending everything back in San Antonio, positive that he was never going to be able to move past what had happened, that he was always going to be considered a murderer. But moving to Dallas had been like getting a chance at a clean slate, a second chance to be more than Jensen Ackles, suspected murderer.
He had managed to find his apartment right away and his choice to become self employed seemed like the best one, no one calling for references, no questions as to why he had decided to leave the FBI. And his luck had held for a change, it turned out that companies were more than willing to hire him as a security consultant, especially if he let it slip that he used to be an FBI agent. Apparently, being a freelance consultant meant that he was never asked why he no longer was one, he guessed that they assumed that because he was obviously still young, healthy and fit that he had suffered something so dramatic that he couldn’t do the job anymore. It was the truth but no one knew exactly what had driven him from the FBI and he never felt the need to explain why.
The only drawback, when he was too tired to deal with them, was that his mother and younger sister still lived in Dallas. Generally, he was more than happy to have them close by, especially since they were the only ones to stand by him but his mother just couldn’t seem to let her anger go. In a way he could understand, her only son had been accused of murder, it was blight on him, blight on the name of Ackles and blight on his father’s memory. His father had been an FBI agent who was killed in the line of duty when Jensen had been fifteen and as far as his mother was concerned, the FBI had betrayed a family that had already given too much.
It made it difficult to be around her sometimes, especially since he was trying to move on with his life, but he tried to deal with it the best he could. She was, after all, his mother and he couldn’t fault her feelings. If he had been in her position, he knew he’d feel the exact same way.
But, when it was all said and done, he still felt that moving back to Dallas had been for the best.
At least, until today.
No one had ever accused Jensen of being an optimist, he knew he couldn’t be the only person to move from San Antonio to Dallas but he had never been pessimistic enough to think that he would run into someone from back there. Someone who would recognize him and instantly recall why they knew him but he had.
He never did catch her name, the woman who was working as the executive assistant to the CEO of Elite Industries. But it didn’t matter, the damage was already done and he didn’t need to know her name to know she was the reason.
With a groan, Jensen finally pushed away from the door, absently leaving his laptop and his briefcase, by the entrance and headed into the kitchen area of his apartment.
“I need a drink.” He muttered darkly and grabbed a tumbler from the cupboard, a couple of ice cubes and the bottle of Jack Daniels from beneath the kitchen sink. The way the day had ended, maybe more than one drink.
It had come as an unpleasant shock, coming face to face with someone that knew him, knew what he had been accused of and it had taken all of his willpower not to turn tail and run. It wouldn’t have been like that if he was still in San Antonio, there he had leaned to ignore that first look of shocked recognition that quickly morphed into fear mixed with hatred. But he had let himself believe that he had escaped the stigmatism of being Jensen Ackles, disgraced FBI agent and suspected murderer when he had left San Antonio. He should have known better, he should have been prepared.
Silently, he walked over to the couch, resolutely ignoring the flashing red light of the answering machine letting him know that he had a message waiting. Chances were it was either going to be his mother, his sister or Elite Industries and really, he didn’t want to hear from any of them right now.
He spun the cap off the bottle, ignoring it as it bounced across the coffee table and landed without a sound on the thick area rug on the other side, and regarded the opening. It was probably too early to be drinking straight from the bottle and probably just a little too pathetic, even for him.
Jensen tipped the bottle, watching the amber liquid splash up the sides of the glass before sliding back down to slip around the ice at the bottom. “It’s the story of my fucking life.” He spat low, “I can try to climb up and out all I want but eventually I’ll fall back to the bottom.”
He shook his head, if he was already maudlin enough to compare himself to liquor in a glass, maybe sitting in his empty apartment and getting drunk was not a good idea.
His eyes fell on the answering machine and the blinking red light, blankly reminding him that someone had thought about him, someone wanted to speak to him.
It sounded better than what it was.
If the message was from his mother, then it would be her gentle Friday reminder that church services started at ten on Sunday and would he please reconsider refusing her offer to go with him. He knew her heart was in the right place, that the church had been a great help to her after his father’s death but he didn’t see things the way she did. He hadn’t really seen eye to eye with the church since he had come out and admitted to being gay as a teenager. Not that it had come as a big surprise, fundamentalist Baptists wouldn’t play a simple game of Go Fish because card games, even a kid’s card game, might lead to placing a bet and gambling was a sin, so being gay pretty much alienated him from the church. And as far as he was concerned, God hadn’t really given a shit about him for months before Justin had died and he really didn’t believe that that had changed since, especially with recent developments.
If it had been his sister, chances were that she had found a nice guy that, in her words, would be perfect for him. He got that she was only trying to help, understood that he had left San Antonio to make a fresh start for himself but she couldn’t get it through her head that he didn’t need someone in his life to do that. She didn’t understand that after Justin’s death and Jared’s betrayal that he just wasn’t ready to put himself out there again. That he might never be ready.
The absolute worse though, would be if it was Elite Industries. He knew, knew, that it wouldn’t be anything he wanted to hear. He didn’t want to listen to the apologetic refusal of his services in a tone that was anything but sorry. There would be the fear and disgust there and worst of all, accusation. Above all else, he couldn’t take the fucking accusations anymore.
Jensen groaned and swallowed half the glass of Jack in one go.
He had tried and was still trying to put it all behind him. He had started his business at the bottom, with no connections, no real references, other than his own ability to sell himself and a couple of newspaper clippings that his mother had saved mentioning his name and that he was, at that time, an FBI agent. And he had done it, he had proven himself, proven that he was more than smoke and mirrors. That he really was adept as seeing the flaws, all of the flaws, in a company’s security system and he knew how to fix it.
In five short months, he had gained a name for himself and excellent business references. But with one brief encounter, everything he had built for himself may very well be crumbling at his feet for a second time.
Jensen wasn’t sure he could survive it again.
It was the pain in the small of Jensen’s back that chased him out of his sleep and straight into his hangover. He groaned softly in deference to the pounding in his head and slowly cracked his eyes open.
He was still on the couch, slumped over on his side, which explained why his back muscles were protesting, loudly, a three quarter empty bottle of Jack snug between his thighs and his boots were still on.
“You’ve hit an all new low Ackles.” He grumbled low and swallowed convulsively as he pulled himself up into sitting straight. He was not going to throw-up now, never mind that it would only make his headache that much worse, he wasn’t pathetic enough to get sick all over himself and the floor. His stomach lurched sharply as he pulled the three quarter empty bottle from between his thighs and he slowly leaned forward, to set it on the coffee table, at least, he hoped he wasn’t going to lose the fight to keep the contents of his stomach were they belonged.
Now what? He really didn’t want to move, already knowing that any movement would only make things hurt so much more but, as much as he wanted to, he really couldn’t just sit there staring at the pathetic dregs of amber liquid catching the morning light and the empty glass beside it.
But, on the other hand, it was Saturday and he didn’t have anything more pressing than going out and getting groceries, so who was to say that he couldn’t just sit there all day alone and pathetic.
Swallowing heavily once more, he forced himself to his feet. He did, that was who. His life might be all screwed up for the second time in under a year and a half but that didn’t give him the right to just sit and wallow in self-pity. If what had happened to Justin and the subsequent upheaval of his life hadn’t stopped him, neither would this.
So maybe he had let his fear and doubts get the better of him the night before, everyone was allowed to falter occasionally. It didn’t mean they just stopped fighting, that they stopped trying.
Without bending at the waist, he may not be ready to throw in the towel just yet but he wasn’t going to make the pain in his back or head worse if he could help it, he managed to snag the bottle from the table. First he’d dump the rest of the booze down the kitchen sink and then take a shower and try to wash the feeling of desperation off of him.
The blinking red light caught in his peripheral as he moved past. And after his shower he would deal with that, after he felt a little more human and a little less of a failure.
I’m not a failure. He berated himself silently, as he used the counter for support for his shaking legs and tipped the bottle over in the sink, making sure to keep his head as high as possible to get away from the fumes.
Everything had just happened too quickly, in rapid succession and he hadn’t allowed himself to deal with any of it. The first anniversary of Justin’s death and going back to San Antonio to place flowers on his grave had been so fucking hard. Maybe if he had opted to fly instead of driving it would have been better but he had wanted to see as few people as possible, less chance of someone recognizing him and getting the look. It had worked, other than the motel clerk and some other mourners at the cemetery, who luckily, hadn’t been there to see Justin, he had managed to slip in and out of town virtually unnoticed. But it gave him hours on the road to remember, to think, to get angry all over again. And instead of dealing with it, with the emotions, he had just forced it all back into a corner of his mind, promising himself that he would deal with it later. But, even then, he had known that later wouldn’t come, at least, not soon. After all, he had to take a couple days to drive down and back which pushed a week’s worth of work into three days and if he wanted to prove himself, he had to be reliable so something as trivial as personal emotions needed to be set aside.
Of course that had only worked until he went to his mailbox and found a sympathy card waiting for him from, of all people, Detective Singer and Detective Kripke. It didn’t say anything beyond the usual tripe with their signatures scrawled at the bottom but it didn’t need to, he got the message. They hadn’t forgotten Justin, nor their belief that he was guilty and he shouldn’t forget either.
At first he’d been pissed off and had considered lodging a complaint against them but what would be the point? They would either get a slap on the wrist or, more likely because everyone still believed his was guilty, they wouldn’t.
Still he might not have suffered his mini-blow-out the night before if it hadn’t been the reaction of the fucking woman at Elite Industries. That had been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, or more to the point, the fear that the life he had tried so hard to build for himself in the last year was over before it really had a chance to begin.
He could put up with a lot, Justin’s death, being pegged as a murderer, even Jared losing faith in him had become less of an ache, and more of a painful memory, and taunting cards. But losing everything again, having to relocate again, just seemed like too much to pay. He got it, really, in some masochistic way, that what had happened in San Antonio was his fault, if he had just been a better husband, a better confident, if he had just been there for Justin, maybe what had happened wouldn’t have. But he was also pretty sure he had already lost enough, paid enough, even he should be allowed to have some semblance of a life.
A knocking on his door pulled him away from his thoughts and probably not a moment too soon, thoughts like that would either send him back into his funk or just make him livid and he couldn’t afford to be either, his pounding head couldn’t afford him to be either.
For a minute he considered ignoring whoever was on the other side of his door. It was a very short list, consisting of only two, that knew he lived there and he was really in no condition to deal with either his mother’s disapproval or his sister’s meddling. But, on the other hand he guessed it could be his landlord, since he hadn’t needed to ring anyone in, and there could be a problem in the building. And really, he didn’t want to be just starting to relax in the shower if he was about to lose the hot water or the water all together.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed away from the counter and forced his legs to carry him to the door, ignoring how heavy his feet felt, still encased in his boots, and how just crossing the room caused him to break out in sweats. All he had to do was get rid of whoever was at his door and then he could take that long hot shower and maybe go back to bed until the worse of his hangover passed. That wouldn’t be pathetic, it made sense to sleep until he, at least, had the stamina to cross the room or how else was he going to survive the grocery store?
Forcing a weak smile on his face and Jesus even that hurt, he pulled the deadbolt free and opened the door.
It had to be some sort of cosmic joke; it was the only thing to explain why Jared Padalecki was on the other side of the door. Just what he needed, another one of them reminding him of his failure, and now of all times.
Jensen ignored the urge to follow Jared’s assessing gaze, already knowing he’d be taking in his sleep rumpled clothes and making assumption, the correct assumption he was sure. Plus he knew that he reeked of alcohol, even if he couldn’t smell it.
Great. Just fucking great. He’d rather not show any of them any weakness; anything that could be judged to make him appear guiltier then he already did in their eyes. And being shit faced so soon after the anniversary of Justin’s death would do that. He ought to know, he used to be one of them.
He glanced behind him to the man standing at Jared’s shoulder. He was good looking enough with shoulder length brown hair and blue eyes but his stance screamed Fed even if he was dressed in dark blue jeans, a black button up shirt and jean jacket. Therefore he was one of them, probably Jensen’s replacement, and not to be trusted.
“Your pals at San Antonio P.D. beat you to the punch and sent a touching sympathy card.” He growled and leaned against the doorjamb. “So whatever cutting idea you’ve got will probably be wasted.”
Jared had been shifting from foot to foot and looking like he was expecting Jensen to throw a punch but at his words, his face clouded over and he went eerily still. “Kripke and Singer sent you a sympathy card?” He snarled, “Those fuckers!”
He wasn’t expecting the small shock of surprised happiness that shot through him at Jared’s tone but he was fairly certain that he had managed to tamp it down before it showed on his face. Jared was one of them, he hadn’t forgotten how his word hadn’t been enough for his ex-partner, his ex-lover, and he wasn’t going to play whatever game this was. Not this time.
“Spare me the act.” He bit back, “You being indignant on my behalf might have worked on me a year ago but not now. I haven’t forgotten the last time we talked.”
Jared ran a hand through his hair, “Yeah about that.” His gaze had stopped on Jensen’s face after his brief assessment of him but this was the first time he managed to meet his eyes. “We need to talk.”
“Yeah,” he drawled, “I don’t think so.”
As loathed as he was to press closer to Jared, he did it anyway so that he could ensure that the hall was empty. Still, even though there didn’t appear to be anyone around, he still dropped his voice. “The rule still stands, you want to talk to me, call my lawyer.”
He stepped back into his apartment and reached out to grab the edge of the door, “You look good Jared.”
He hadn’t meant to say that, not that it wasn’t the truth but then how Jared looked got to him all the time, in a suit or in jeans and grey long sleeved t-shirt, like he was now but that didn’t matter, that ship had sailed even before Justin had died, he knew that now. At least he still managed to sneer as he began to close the door. “See you around.”
He wasn’t expecting Jared to wrap his fingers around his wrist. “Jen wait.”
Anger slammed into him, sudden and hot, Jared didn’t get to do that. He didn’t get to try to mind fuck him with the false indignation and the sheepish look. He didn’t get to touch Jensen like he had the right, not anymore.
He tore his wrist out of his grasp and balled his hands into fists. “Do not touch me.” He snarled and took a step forward, ignoring personal boundaries and his hangover.
Jared didn’t back up, like he had been expecting him to, but he did put his hands up in a placating gesture. “Please Jensen, just listen to what we have to say.”
He snorted, “What for? So you can try a new angle to get me to confess to Justin’s murder? Who thought that trying to use you to get to me was going to work Jared? Tom, Mike, Morgan, your buddies in the S.A.P.D.?” He raised an eyebrow, “Or was it you yourself? Hmm? You hoped that something from our past would stop me from kicking you to the curb the minute I saw you? That’s low Jared. Really fucking low.”
“Jensen it’s not what you think.”
He heard him but he was on a roll now and wasn’t willing to listen any longer. The anger, the guilt, the hurt, the feeling of betrayal by both Jared and the FBI were forefront now. A year’s worth of all of it and he was so sick and tired of everything.
“Or was it you, fresh blood?” He demanded as he snapped his hard gaze at Jared’s partner, who had remained silent so far but had managed to keep a steady eye on him instead of just glancing at him. It occurred to him that they had met before, somewhere, sometime but couldn’t place where. Not that it really mattered, Jensen knew that the guy was another Fed and that was all he needed to know.
“Jared let you in on our past? He figured it might work to your advantage? Well sorry, I’m still not feeling the need to confess to Justin’s murder.”
The adrenaline was burning through him too fast, leaving him feeling more weak kneed and shaky then he had been before they had appeared at his door. He really needed to go collapse for a while, probably before his shower because he was pretty sure that by the end of this little party he was only going to have enough strength to make it to his bed.
“Christ Jensen. I don’t remember you being this much of a diva when you were a teenager.”
Jensen’s mouth snapped shut on the rest of his tirade. He knew that voice, he had suffered enumerable amounts of teasing, back when he and Jared had been kids and Jared’s older brother Jeff and their cousin, Steve, caught them making out. And pairing it with the person standing beside Jared, everything snapped into place. Well maybe not everything, but, at least, now he knew where he knew him from.
He swallowed down his surprise and the tingling of disappointment, if the situation had been different he would have invited him in, offered him a cup of coffee but not now, especially not now.
“Fuck you Carlson.” He hissed a Fed was a Fed was a Fed, it didn’t matter if it was Jared or Steve, they were still on the other side of guilty versus innocent to him.
“Jen! For Christ’s sake calm down.” Jared pleaded at the same time as Steve huffed, “Nice. We come all this way to tell you that we believe you and that you might be in danger and this is the reception we get.”
“Calm!” He spluttered at Jared before Steve’s words took root in his brain and he drew up short.
They believed him? Was it possible? And if it was, why? His body went tight, the protesting of his back muscles a dim flicker, he was in danger. What danger?
Steve grinned at him, apparently sensing that Jensen had heard him. “Boy you were never an ugly kid and you might have grown up even prettier but there’s nothing attractive about you standing there with your mouth hanging open.”
He knew he’d just been insulted and that he should have a comeback, he was usually good with snappy comebacks but he was still stuck on the fact that they believed him. That and that he was in danger, he couldn’t forget that.
“Do we really need to continue this conversation standing here?” Jared hedged, “Or do we finally warrant admittance?”
Jensen stumbled back, still caught in the loop of surprise. After a year, someone besides his mother and his sister finally believed him, Jared believed him. The rush of gratitude was simultaneously scary and exhilarating.
“How long?” He managed to get out of his dry throat.
“I managed to get some time off two days ago.” Jared didn’t stop looking at him even as he paused to pull his sneakers off. “Yesterday Steve showed me what he had and he told me what his suspicions were.”
He couldn’t stop looking back at Jared. He really did appreciate that his family believed him that their belief had never wavered but it had always been Jared’s belief that he wanted and needed. He wouldn’t examine too closely why, at least, not yet. He was too jaded not to consider that this might be some sort of ploy and he’d end up worse off than he had been when he had woke up that morning but it didn’t stop the hope, the love, that he had thought had finally burned out after years of hiding it.
“I don’t suppose I could beg for a coffee?” Steve pressed, “I’d say a beer but it’s only,” he glanced at his watch. “A couple minutes shy of ten a.m. and you smell like you’ve already had enough for all three of us.”
The barb managed to pull him away from staring at Jared and he cast a sheepish glance at Steve. He rubbed at the back of his neck nervously, “It’s been a rough week.”
The glint faded from Steve’s eyes as he sobered. “I bet.”
Jensen wanted to bang his head against the wall. He didn’t want pity, just belief. “Yeah, well...” He trailed off, pissed off at his own discomfort, pissed off that he had caused it. He needed a second to pull himself back together, just a minute to gain some sort of hold on his swirling emotions, just a breather for himself.
He clapped his hands together, once sharply, wincing at how it echoed in his head. But he managed to forestall whatever Jared had been about to say so it was worth it, at least, he was pretty sure.
“Jared, the coffee in the cupboard above the sink and the kettle is on the counter.” He spun on his heel and started towards the only other room in his apartment, the bathroom. “I’m just gonna jump in the shower real quick. I’ll be done before the coffee is.”
He could feel both of them watching him as he crossed the room but neither seemed inclined to stop him. Which was a blessing, he really did need time alone along with a shower, a couple of painkillers and lots and lots of coffee.
He had a feeling that he was going to need all of them.
***Part 2 chap.2