Jared cringed as he listened to the harsh sounds of Jensen’s coughing coming from the living room and silently willed the electric kettle to heat the water faster.
Jensen’s flu had gotten progressively worse during the past week, going from a slight rasping in his voice to a full blown chest cold, regardless of the amount of home remedies and over the counter medications Jared insisted on him taking. Of course, it didn’t help that his friend refused to take time off work, his body couldn’t recuperate properly when they spent sixteen hours shooting in the wet Vancouver fall weather but he just kept brushing off everyone’s suggestions that he take a couple days. Opting, instead, to pop Halls cough drops like they were candy and drown himself in hot coffee because he claimed it eased some of the tightness in his chest.
Come on for Christ’s sake! Jared glared at the kettle, feeling ridiculous for it, but unable to stop as another round of hacking shattered the quiet.
Jared knew that once Jensen had a cup of coffee that his chest would loosen enough that his friend would be able to doze for at least an hour. And that’s all he wanted, an hour where Jensen’s body wasn’t shaking while he tried to suppress yet another round of coughing and trying to convince himself and Jared that he still didn’t need to see a doctor. Where maybe he could sleep, at least a little, where he wasn’t waking himself up every other minute coughing and where Jared could pretend that he wasn’t worrying himself sick because Jensen wasn’t getting better.
The worrying noise of his friend’s coughing suddenly choked off with a sound crossed somewhere between a sharp gasp and a pained cry.
He spun on his heel and crossed the kitchen while calling out “Jen?”
A whimper was his only reply.
He tried to keep his panic from swallowing him, “Jensen?”
Jared couldn’t help it, he had an overactive imagination and even in the less than ten seconds it took him to move from the kitchen to the couch in the living room, vivid images of blood and bits of Jensen’s lungs dribbling from his friend’s lips flashed through his mind. He tried to force the images back but they crashed around inside his head, only becoming clearer as he spotted his friend curled over himself on the couch, one hand on Sadie’s head to keep her from sticking her nose in his face.
“Move Girl” He gave her a gentle nudge with his leg, ignoring the baleful glare as he dropped to his knees in front of him. Tentatively, he wrapped his hands around Jensen’s shoulders, “Jen?” He murmured softly.
His body was shaking with the effort of trying not to cough and Jared had to fight down the urge to pull him up against his chest in an attempt to lend him any strength he could.
“Fuck.” Jensen hissed softly.
“Come on man.” Jared pleaded softly to the top of his bent head, “Please. You’re freaking me out here.”
Jensen dragged a short, sharp breath in before lifting his head from his knees. Jared felt shock curl tight in his stomach at the sight of damp lashes and moisture glistening in his eyes.
“I think I broke a rib.” He admitted quietly.
Jared blinked, frozen as emotions swirled through him, disbelief, not sure it was even possible to break a rib by coughing, something akin to anger, for Jensen scaring him so badly and fear, if it was possible to break a rib coughing, was it then possible for it to move enough to pierce his lung as well?
He forced his gaze away from the startling green of Jensen’s eyes, highlighted by the excess moisture, down to his lips, checking for blood because there were always bloody lips when a pierced lung was involved. At least, he hoped that the few medical dramas and documentaries he had seen over the years had been correct and that it was an indicator because there wasn’t any blood and it had to be a reassuring sight.
He was stuck frozen to the spot, his hands still clutching his friend’s shoulders, his knees protesting the too quick drop from moments earlier but easily ignored as his eyes darted from Jensen’s lips, to his pain filled gaze, to his pallor skin before jumping back to the beginning of the circuit. He had to do something, knew there shouldn’t even be a hesitation as to what that something should be but his mind had gone blank.
“No.” Jensen whispered brokenly as he let his head drop back to his knees and his body began to quake violently.
Shit not again. He ignored the warning screaming in the back of his mind that what he was doing was diving so far past the line of friendship and curled over his shaking body. He let his arms slide down Jensen’s back, careful not to put any real pressure into the caress and let his hands rest at his friend’s hips.
“Shh.” He tried softly. “Come on Jen just breathe through it.”
He knew it was a ridiculous thing to say, Jensen was fighting off coughing and breathing through it was impossible but it was the only thing he could come up with.
“J...Jay,” He managed before he ended up succumbing to the coughing fit he had tried desperately to fight off.
Jared shut his eyes as they began to burn as broken hurt sounds fought their way through the hacking coughing Jensen was wracked with. He didn’t dare lean any harder into him, scared that whatever was wrong with his ribs would only get worse with Jared’s added weight on them but he tried to convey his desire to lend strength through his touch all the same.
He rode out Jensen’s fit, trying to absorb the shaking of his friend’s body into his own, not shifting of his own accord until only the soft moans were left.
“Jen I’m going to call the doctor.” He sat back on his heels and grabbed his friend’s elbows, giving them a reassuring squeeze.
There wasn’t a response, Jensen just continued to breathe shallowly and that by itself lent an air of urgency to Jared as he pushed himself up and sprinted towards his bedroom and his cell. His friend didn’t like doctors and hated hospitals, there should have been an argument and there should have been an eye roll just like the one he had received only a short hour earlier when he had brought up the idea of a doctor’s appointment. But there wasn’t and that alone would be enough to send a chill down his spine but add that to the unshed tears in Jensen’s eyes and Jared could silently admit that he was starting to panic. They did almost all their own stunts and accidents happened, no matter how many safety measures were in place, Jared’s broken wrist a good example, Jensen’s less known bruised ribs when he fell wrong against a support for a prop wall back in season two another. But no matter how badly he had been hurt this was the first time Jared had seen tears or, even worse, Jensen curled in on himself and almost mute with his pain.
Something was wrong, something was very, very wrong and he chewed his bottom lip as he grabbed his cell from his nightstand. His fingers shook as he scrolled through his contact list until he came across the name of one of the two doctors the CW had on call in shifts for it’s actors and crews in Vancouver, not caring if he was calling the one actually on call or not. The thought never, even occurred to him, that he might be contacting the one off shift, too wrapped up in the hysteria of Jensen whimpering in the living room. Jensen never whimpered, barely made any sound of discomfort when he was hurt. There was the occasional curse word and grunt when a stunt went bad but to actually curl up and whimper? Not in the four years that Jared had been working with him.
Jared forced himself to think past the building worry, “Doctor Benton?”
The relief he felt was barely worth noticing, “It’s Jared Padalecki of Supernatural.”
He spun on his heel and made his way back towards the front of the house and Jensen. He had been gone too long, he should have just grabbed his cell and returned directly to his friend in case he needed him.
“It’s Jensen, there’s something wrong.”
Jared could hear the panic lacing his voice, he knew the doctor could hear it too but he couldn’t hide it. Knew he had sailed long past the concern a friend, even a best friend, but what he felt for Jensen had long since slid past the line of friendship. Most of the time he was able to rein it in, keep his touches short, the innuendos half-hearted, the feelings mostly buried but right now, with Jensen in obvious pain, it was beyond his ability to hide the truth and keep his mounting fear at bay. It was one or the other and Jensen needed him to keep his head, or at least be appearing to be keeping it together so for now, all he could do was hope that the doctor would ignore what Jared was sure was screaming through his voice.
“What’s wrong with him?”
He could hear rustling in the background, at least the doctors the network employed took their jobs to heart, not bothering with complaints about after hours calls or downtime.
“It’s a chest cold,” he moved down the hall and back into the living room, intent only on getting back to Jensen. “Or it was, but he’s been coughing a lot, a lot, and then tonight something happened.”
Jensen was exactly as he had left him, body still curled in on itself, forehead pressed to his knees. He knelt before him and squeezed his friend’s shoulder with his free hand, trying to ignore the surge of panic. Why hadn’t Jensen moved yet? What could be so wrong that he wasn’t able to shake it off like he seemed to do with every injury he had ever sustained on set?
“He made this noise,” he continued as stared down at his friend’s bowed head. “It was kind of like a gasp of pain and then he said that he thinks he broke a rib.”
Dr. Benton blew out a breath, “Can Jensen breathe?”
He watched the shallow rise and fall of his friend’s back, “Yes.”
“Has he been coughing up blood or has there been any blood since he thinks he broke a rib?”
Jared gnawed on his bottom lip, unsure, it wasn’t like he was constantly at Jensen’s side. Maybe Jensen had coughed up blood when he hadn’t been around and hadn’t told him. “Not that I know of” he said.
“Okay, well I’m pretty sure I know what the problem is and probably what caused it.”
Jared heard more rustling in the background and something that sounded like keys being picked up. “I’ve got a list of addresses from the network that was updated at the beginning of the filming season, it says here that you boys live together. Is that correct?”
He nodded and then rolled his eyes at his own stupidity. “Yes.”
“Are you at the house?”
The sound of a door opening echoed down the line, “I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”
He released a breath he hadn’t even realized he had been holding, “So you don’t think I should take him to a hospital? It’s not too bad?”
“No Jared.” The doctor was quick to assure him, “By the time Jensen got done waiting to even see a doctor in the emergency I could have been there and back at least five times. If his breathing’s not distressed and he’s not bringing up blood he’s fine at home.”
His eyes flickered back to his friend’s back from the top of his bowed head and he watched it move with his shallow breaths. Could that be considered distressed breathing? But that had started a couple days before, Jensen had said if he took short breaths it helped him not cough as often. So that couldn’t be distressed, right?
He jumped at the sharp tone from the doctor, “Sorry.”
Doctor Benton sighed, “Just keep an eye on him and I’ll be there shortly, alright?”
He squeezed Jensen’s shoulder again, “And thanks for doing this.”
The doctor chuckled, “Bye Jared.”