A torch on the wall, pinned there by a stone with a hole in it, was casting an orange light over this corner of the cave's chamber. The table where they'd spend a lot of time was on Jensen's left and he was making small glances towards it from time to time, wishing to be back there, eating sweet blueberry jam on thin slices of bread and having his tongue and lips go all blue.
But he had to do this, if this was his only chance to get to Noleih and rip the spine out of that spineless creature. He bit his lip; he shouldn't think like that, it wasn't funny.
Jared was looking at him from underneath his bangs and if Jensen had a pair of scissors he'd make good use of them.
"Why do you have bangs?"
"The bangs, the ya know, the long hair?"
"Umm, 'cause … I can hide … my crystals, see?" Jared pushed the sweaty hair to the side and showed Jensen his forehead, and Jensen couldn't really say that he saw what Jared mean.
"I don't know what you mean."
"My forehead, my brows, see the bones?"
Jensen leaned forward a bit; they were sitting in front of each other, cross-legged, their knees touching, and then he saw it. Jared's bones by his brows were sticking out a bit and: "Those are your," he ran his thumb over one brow, he couldn't stop himself, but it didn't feel anything other than skin over bone, "crystals?"
"Yeah, well one cluster of crystals."
"Uh," Jared smiled, "we're made of crystals. What you see, all this, me Odie and others, it's just skin over crystals."
"So what my bones are, that's what your crystals are?"
"Kind of, yeah. Our skeleton is crystals, we just ... we just kinda grew skin over it."
"But … how come you look the way you do?"
"I don't know, I guess this is how I look like when I'm in my true form. And then put muscles over the crystals and add skin and this is how I look like."
"So," he looked down at his fingers, "can you tell which finger is … I mean, where I'm made of crystals?"
"I can't tell, I can't see beyond the skin and the muscles, we'd have to … have to cut into your fingers, see where we'd hit real bone and where we'd hit a crystal."
Jensen nodded and placed his hands on his thighs, it figured that it wouldn't be that easy to see.
"I don't feel any different. I mean I don't feel like there are crystals in me."
"They aren't there to hurt you, it's not like they'd rub your skin all the time, they're just there. Just like bones."
"Are we ready? You ready, ready, you're ready, right Jensen? Jared's ready, you ready? Can I, can we, can we?"
Jensen flinched and turned around, wrapping his hand around Odie's neck and squeezing his fingers, making Odie's eyes bulge out.
"Shit, shit, I'm sorry, Odie, 'm so sorry, you just sneaked up on me, just I'm so sorry." He let go of Odie's throat as if his hand got burned and in a way it had, because Jesus fuck.
"Odie, I'm so sorry, are you okay? Odie, 'm sorry, I didn't mean to."
"Jensen, Jensen, Jensen it's okay. My mistake, all mine, not your fault. I shouldn't've just sneaked up like that, my mistake, mine. It's all right."
"'m so sorry."
"All okay, all alright, all okay. I promise. Can't kill me by choking me, can't do that eeehheehe, ehehehe."
"Uh, I know. I know, still … I just, 'm sorry."
"All okay. I promise, Jensen, kiddo, now turn around, turn, just turn around."
Jensen stared at Odie. He didn't want to turn around, he didn't want to have the man at his back, he … he didn't trust the Icy enough to have him at his back, where the man would have a good opportunity to break his neck, or stab him or …
"Jensen, hey, come on, turn around, look at me. We won't hurt you. I promise you."
"Jensen, turn around, come on, come on, I won't hurt you. Jared won't hurt you. We won't hurt you. Turn around."
"Jensen, come on, look at me."
He turned his head towards his uncle and wanted to run away; he never liked to have anyone or anything at his back but walls and trees and exits.
"Jensen, look at me, come on, I know, okay. I know exactly what you're thinking, but it's okay. Look at me, Odie won't hurt you. You're family. Family, understand?"
"You're scared, Jensen? Of me? No, no, no, no, don't be scared of me, not of me, I'd never hurt you, never, ever, never. Never. You're family, like Jared says, family. I'd never hurt you. Never, don't think … Jensen, please, I'd never…"
"Odie, Odie stop. I, uh, I know you wouldn't, it's just … I don't like having people at my back. It feels … strange."
"But, but, but it's just me. Just me. It's me."
"I know it's just you, I know, but it still feels … odd."
"But, but, but I changed your diapers, I changed your nappies and, and, and you peed on me once. You did and Alineja laughed until she cried, she cried and I was wet and I'd never hurt you. I'd never … ever, never. I'd die."
"Uh, wow, well," he rubbed the back of his neck, because awkward, "… okay, that's … uh, umm…"
Jared started laughing and he glared at his uncle, not really finding any of this funny.
"I remember that, oh man, Jensen you scared Odie so hard that day. He thought that he broke you, he kept saying that you were leaking and how does he stop you from leaking."
"No, no, you were a baby. Babies do that, 's what we told Odie."
"Thought I broke you, you kept on leaking like a, a, a uh geyser and, and, and made me all wet, my whole shirt, just wet. It wasn't funny, wasn't. Not at all."
"Awww Odie, it was a little funny."
"Was not, not, not. Wasn't. At all. And you, you, you Jared were no help at all, none, just none. Kept on laughing at me too, Jared, bad you. I broke the boy and you and Alineja kept on laughing at me. Not okay, it was not okay. And Jensen kept on looking at me and smiling too. You were crazy, crazy, a crazy bunch. Not okay."
Jensen smiled; he had no memories of Odie, or of something that happened so early in his childhood, but Odie and Jared, they both seemed full of memories and stories. Full of memories of him.
They had been a family.
Jensen cleared his throat: "'m sorry I went all geyser on you Odie."
Odie shrugged: "It's okay, it's okay. Wasn't the worst you ever did, wasn't, no, no."
"I probably don't wanna know what the worst thing was, huh?"
"No, no, Jensen, kiddo, no, you don't. You really, really don't. You don't. No."
"Okay, then, well, if sharing and caring is over … let's … let's do this now, before I … just …"
He turned around and glared at Jared who was still laughing silently, obviously stuck in the memory: "Stop laughing, 's not that funny."
"Oh it is. Trust me, it is."
Jared stopped laughing and snorted: "Between me and Odie, we have so much embarrassing stories about you."
Jensen rolled his eyes: "You're a dead Icy."
"Ha, you wish."
Jensen said nothing. Somewhere along the way, him wishing Jared to die had stopped. He didn't want him to die. Ever.
"Okay, so … so now what?"
Jensen was looking at Jared, feeling Odie sit down behind him. He shuddered, because no matter what had been said and done, he still felt uncomfortable having someone at his back. Someone that he didn't know, not really, someone who really could break him like a twig.
"Give me your hands."
He leaned his elbows on his muddy knees and placed his hands into Jared's, which was easy to do. Nothing bad about that, especially when Jared's palms and fingers were warm where they wrapped around his wrist.
The temperature in the cave felt the same to him all the time, constant; not cold nor hot, just right. Just perfect, especially when he knew that it was really cold outside because of the rain and that tomorrow it'll be hot again, as if the rain had never happened.
"All right. Now, you comfortable?"
Jensen shifted a bit, getting rid of a small pebble that was digging itself into his left ass cheek even through the bear fur: "Yeah, 'm comfy. Wait, are you … are you gonna use your mojo on me?"
"No, I'm not. Odie will."
"Yes, yes, yes I will, I will. Don't be scared, that's nothing to be scared of. Nothing, I promise. It won't hurt. It won't, I won't let it. I promise."
Odie's voice came from behind him and he flinched, squeezing Jared's wrist a bit tighter and looked away when Jared gave him that look, that 'Odie won't hurt you' look. It wasn't a good look.
"I know Odie, I … I know."
"Okay, okay, Jensen focus on me now. Can you feel my heartbeat?"
Jensen nodded; he could feel something flutter under his fingertips, something slow and steady, as if something was tapping lightly on the pads of his fingers.
"Feel it be slow?"
"Feel your own be really fast?"
He frowned; he couldn't feel it, not really.
"You can feel it, 'm pressing down, you should feel it. Just concentrate."
He was concentrating on the point where Jared's fingers were pressing into his wrist, making his skin dent in.
"Yeah, I … feel it."
"Feel it be fast?"
Jensen nodded; it was fast, faster than Jared's, but maybe that was just because he was kinda freakin' out here.
"We need to get you to get your heartbeat down to as slow as mine is."
"Okay, I just have to … get used to this, because I have to be honest, this is really weird. I'm not … I don't feel comfortable."
Jared shook his head, hair in sweaty clusters flying over the area where Jensen now knew crystal hid underneath: "'s not that. It's you being human. Our heartbeat is slower because it's not really a heart that's beating. It's a crystal. A pulsing crystal. The … our spine. The one that …"
"You die if it's … if it's damaged."
"Yeah, everything dies if you take it's heart away."
The image of Noleih holding a wiggly crystal he'd pulled out of Alineja and how it turned solid really fast flashed before his eyes. Flashed so fast his eyes started to sting, the telltale of approaching tears, but Odie's soft, rushed voice made them retreat.
"It's pulsing, pulsing, pulsing, all the time, Jensen. I feel it in me, feel it be so alive, kicking and kicking in me, at me, all the time Jensen. Pulsing, pulsing, fluttering," he didn't flinch this time when Odie's arm sneaked under his left armpit and the old Icy's small palm rested over his fast beating heart, "all the time pulsing, can you feel it, Jensen, kiddo, can you feel it? Beat, beat, beat, all the time, day and night, all the time."
He ripped his eyes away from Jared's and looked down, first at Odie's hand lying across his heart and then to where Jared was holding his hands. He could feel and hear his heartbeat and how it didn't match Jared's. His was fast, three beats to Jared's one and he didn't know how to …
"But that's not my heart. I can't make it go that slow. My heart's not a crystal."
"You're half us, you can do it, you just need to calm yourself down."
"Yeah, easier said than done, you know?"
"I know but I also know that you can do it. I've seen you do it. I've … felt you do it before."
"What? What the … when?"
This wasn't helping at all, it was just making him more uncomfortable and agitated and he could see that Jared knew that too.
"When we were at the house, when I went to get some clothes. You … your heart was beating like my crystal was pulsing. The same speed."
"I was asleep."
"You sure about that?"
"I think I'd know when I'm asleep and when 'm awake."
"Think back, Jensen. Were you really asleep?"
None of this was making any sense at all, of course he'd been asleep for fuck's sake, he'd been sleeping and he'd been… dreaming.
"Of course I was, I was even dreaming."
He shrugged: "Stuff."
"Stars. Was dreaming about stars. After … after I dreamed of Alineja, I dreamed of stars," he whispered, looking down at his thighs, trying to tug his hands out of his uncle's hold. But the Icy was strong, breaking bones strong and he just squeezed tighter, grinding delicate bones together. Or maybe even crystals, Jensen couldn't be sure if they ran from his fingers up to his arm too. But he wanted to find out, somehow someday, he wanted to find out.
"The stars, Jensen. We're all from the stars."
"Stars, stars, shiny, bright, planets and universes, darkness and gasses, crystals and nothingness, kiddo, Jensen. Stars way up there, up and up and light, bright and cold. We're all from up there when there was nothing at all there. Nothing and everything, Jensen, kiddo."
Odie's voice sounded as if it was coming from miles and miles away and now from behind his back. Miles upon miles, as if the Icy went up to the stars and was speaking to him from a long way up.
He looked at the ceiling; at all the stalactites up there like falling stars. He could hear water drip somewhere close by, drip drip drip, steady and hypnotic and he tried to ignore it, but it was too loud, too close for his ears not to pick up the noise drip drip drip …
… he could hear thunder from the outside, could feel it shake the ground beneath his ass, drip drip drip. A shiver ran up his bare hands, the t-shirt he wore doing nothing to shelter him from the constant cool of the cave.
He wanted to look around, see where the hell the water was making such a racket, but the stalactites above his head had him under their spell.
A sharp tug on his wrist broke the spell and made him look away, locking his eyes with his uncle's. The drip drip drip drip drip of the water was still in his ears, but it was getting fainter with each hit of Odie's palm on his chest. There was a rhythm to those slaps … the crystals, the pulsing. He could feel that; one tap to his three heartbeats. One pulse, one flutter to three of his beats.
"Humans call it space, we called it home before it was anything at all."
Jensen's skin felt tight, too big to stretch comfortably over his bones. He thought he could feel it break at some points, break apart and reveal tissue and bones, crystals maybe. Reveal who he really was, but when he looked at himself, there were no spots of blood anywhere. Just mud on his jeans and his hands clasped tightly in Jared's. Nothing else, but he still felt as if he was breaking apart.
"You dream of the stars Jensen, like they're your home too, don't you?"
Jared's voice was a soft whisper that spilled all over his body like cool water on a hot day.
He licked his lips: "Y-eah."
Thunder reverberated through him again, shaking the walls of the cave.
Odie's palm was still tapping over his heart; one tap to his two heartbeats. Two? Hadn't it been three before?
"I know you do. Everyone dreams of home, Jensen. Home takes all the bad away, home … home is safety."
He nodded, didn't trust his vocal cords to do their job. He couldn't even believe that he answered with a 'yes', because his home wasn't the stars. It was Earth. It was North America. A state called Oklahoma. Or Texas. Or maybe right at the border, no one told him for sure. But it definitely wasn't space.
"But … 'm not … I wasn't born there."
"Your daddy, Jensen, your daddy gave you a sense of memories, he gave you his love of his home, gave you, gave you his home, gave you feeling of, of, of home and and love. Hid a part of himself in you, in your fingers, in your … in you, kiddo. Daddy gave you the sense of his home. 's why you go to the stars, you go to them, you squeeze and you squeeze your eyes shut just so that you can see bursts of light, light and stars and home, Jensen, kiddo. Home takes all the bad away."
Tap, beat beat, tap, beat beat, tap.
His chest was starting to get sore where Odie was tapping him, but it was a good feeling.
"Jensen, hey …"
He looked back at Jared and bit his tongue from shouting, because the bright blue-bright green-specks of violet-bright yellow-one speck of orange of his uncle's eyes caught him by surprise. He was used to Jared's eye color changing, the crystals beneath the eyes changing color depending on the angle light hit Jared's eyes, but he had always been prepared to see that.
But this, here, now …
"You've got to let some things go. Your anger, your fear, your pain, resentment, mourning. You have to let all of that go. Then you'll see."
"I c-c-an't do that. 's not that easy."
"It's as easy as you make it."
"It's as easy as one, two, three. As easy as ABC, you remember when we taught you ABC? You remember? A then B then C then D all the way to Z. All the way to the last letter, it's as easy as that. Letters, numbers, as easy, Jensen, kiddo, it is, it is and you have to, you have to, you must. Otherwise Noleih will use it, use it all and turn you, twist you, make you go bad. You're not bad, never was bad, never bad. Scared, angry, but never bad. The humans and my brothers and sisters Noleih has under him, they were twisted and wrong and and and distorted, their emotions, feelings, memories just spun around into bad, mangled. "
"Noleih has power, has influence, has those slimy words he uses to squeeze things inside someone into something distorted."
"There's so much inside of you, kiddo so much that Noleih could use. So much … bring you to him, bring you to follow him, kill for him. Everything you feel, all of it, what you have in your mind … he'll bent into wrong. Make you kill for him, make you kill Jared, kill me."
"N-n-no." he breathed out, his voice shaking with how much he wanted Noah dead. Dead. And how much he wanted to not feel like that, because he knew that if Noah would come near him, the Icy could easily turn that desire into a desire to kill Jared. Or Odie. And he couldn't have that, he'd rather push the knife into his own heart.
He didn't tear his eyes away from Jared's when he whispered: "I don't know how."
"We'll help, we will, 's why we're here, Jensen, kiddo, we'll help. We'll make you, help you, we will, Jared and I we will. You're doing good, so well. One tap, two beats, one tap, two beats. Doing good."
Odie's palm thumped his chest once, two times and then went away for a second until Jensen could feel warm, heavy fingers on his sweaty temples.
Even with the temperature in the cavern, he was sweating like crazy. His neck was wet, he could feel it, his arms were suspiciously glistering too and his palms were drenched.
"Jensen, it's okay. You just close your eyes. We gotcha. Trust us."
He didn't want to close his eyes, didn't want to give himself to the dark, but he closed them anyway. What was the worst that could happen?
Death; that was the worst that could happen. Two Icies ripping and tearing him apart, could happen.
He took a deep, shuddering breath, feeling Jared twist their hands so that his palms pointed upwards to the cave's ceiling. He wanted to open his eyes, to see what Jared was doing, but couldn't because Odie's fingers were rubbing small circles over his temples and it made him sway into a feeling of content.
He shouldn't feel that way, it was wrong, he shouldn't … but Odie's fingers massaging his temples and Jared's fingers slip-sliding on the sensitive skin of his wrist … made him feel exactly that.
He shouldn't, but he did and it made him breathe out a long breath. He tried to lean his head back, but Odie was strong, holding his head steady just by those fingers pressing down on his temples.
He could feel Jared's index fingers stretch up his forearms, while the other fingers were pressing his hands down half on his own knees and half on Jared's.
"We gotcha, Jensen."
He tried to nod, but Odie was holding his head steady and he couldn't twitch a muscle. He was going to start purring soon, like cats he'd sometimes came across when he had been a little younger. Purr and moan; it was getting really hard to keep all the sounds of pleasure inside so he bit his lip, trying for pain to stop him.
He was swaying back and forth, short and abrupt movements; falling back to Odie's fingers and forth to Jared holding his hands, rubbing the index fingers over the soft skin of the inside of his forearm.
He felt as if he was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Sitting and flying, pinned down and floating. His breaths were drawn out, long and steady coming out of his slightly parted lips and he wasn't even thinking about how the air smelled of cold and dampness, dirt and water. It just felt so good to fill up his lungs with air that took a long time coming in and took a long time going out.
Then something changed. Something crackled through the air, something that wasn't thunder and wasn't water dripping … something that made warm liquid ooze down the sides of his face. Something that made Odie's fingers feel smoother than before, thinner than before, stronger, much stronger.
Those weren't fingertips pressing into his temples anymore. Fingers could never be that sleek and polished. Felt like silk on his skin; Alineja had found a silk dress in one of the houses and wore it throughout the hot fall. That silken dress had glided through his finger whenever he'd touched it and Odie's fingers felt just like that. As if they'd just glide right through his grip if he'd touch them.
"You gotta let some things go, Jensen, let things go away," Odie was making circles on his temples with a steady pressure, "let this thing go," a circle, "and this one and this one," a circle, a circle, "and this one, you don't need them. Don't need them at all. Let this one go, let it all go."
With every small circle Odie did, Jensen fell further and further into a state of being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He was drifting yet feeling stuck to the ground, he was sliding through the air, but he could feel the solidness of earth underneath him. He was being carried away by the feel of Jared's palm pressing down on his pulse point; steady fingers, warm and soft pads of them; like feathers caressing the inside of his forearm.
"Let it go Jensen, so many things, so many memories, tearing you apart, tearing your mind, your soul, your heart, so many, so many, so many, let them go. This one," a circle, "and this one," a circle, "and this one. Let it all go. You don't need them, you never needed them, never had to form them."
He was starting to gasp for breath; that insistent circular motion was making him dizzy and nauseas, but at the same time he felt as if he was falling forward, gravity pushing heavily on his back. Descending, dropping deeper into an abyss, a big, pitch black hole he could see forming right before his eyes.
It didn't feel evil, didn't look evil, didn't make him wanna scream and run and kick and fight and kill and steal and rage and hurt.
It felt like comfort and warm sun. Felt like Alineja's arms around him when she'd hugged him. Felt like his uncle's watery eyes when he'd babbled his first word - 'Sam'. Felt like Odie's beaming smile when he'd asked for more snake soup, felt like his uncle giving him a high five after he'd dumped a fistful of wriggling worms on Alineja's head, felt like Odie's hand holding his tiny one walking down the tunnels of the cave, exploring and naming things. Felt like his uncle throwing him up in the air and catching him, never letting him fall and Alineja crying out to be safe, careful. Felt like laughter and happiness and nights spend tucked under his uncle's arms; warm, safe and sheltered. Felt as if his heart was shattering like Noah had shattered Jared and left him to die.
Jared's own brother had left Jared to die, alone and in pain, shattered into pieces of crystals, pieces of him … everywhere. His uncle … crushed to pieces and left to death.
"Shhh, shh, shhh…"
He couldn't tell whose voice that was; his heartbeat was so loud, booming in his ears as if it was situated there and not in his rib cage, safely hidden under bones where nothing could damage it. Nothing, but anger and fear and memories of uncle Sammy leaving him, of Alineja being killed, of people's wide open eyes as he slit their throats or pulled his arrows out of their still hearts.
He could hear Jared's breathing though, puffs of warm air on his face, felt the Icy's heartbeat be as slow as honey running down his fingers, so slow, undamaged and unburdened by bad memories, loss and sadness, mourning.
He knew, deep down he felt that the loss of sisters and brothers, a brother gone rogue, killing their own family, destroying Earth, destroying their home, everyone's home out of fear, out of a desire to keep what was theirs first pure and only theirs was making Jared angry and hurt and sad. But the thought of home, the memories of home had taken all that and turned it into something that didn't make Jared bitter, didn't make him crumble, didn't make him succumb to it all and go crazy like his brother had. Or join his brother.
"You understand now, Jensen, how home takes all the bad away. How home strengthens you."
He couldn't nod to Jared's soft question, but he understood. He did, so help him, but he did. Home was where all the bad went and came back better, stronger, forgiven and full of forgiveness. He understood that now; understood why, when he had been with Alineja and his uncle, he'd felt ten thousand pounds lighter than he did now. They took away everything, but left him with joy and happiness and safety and love.
"Shhh, shhh, sh, shh …"
He gasped when the hole he had been falling into enveloped him completely, sucking him into its darkness. He could feel Odie's breaths scrape his nape, could feel Jared's fingers gripping him tight and he knew his uncle wouldn't let anything happen to him, just as he never had.
The hole started to lose its darkness, becoming murky then dim, forming shadows; tall and slender, with their round heads nodding to a question no one asked. Their fingers were long and skeletal, narrowing into an even thinner tip. They reminded him of pine needles; sharp and slim. Reminded him of what was touching his temples.
He was surrounded by them, shadows everywhere; left, right, up and down, their fingers touching him, but he couldn't feel them. They were there, but they weren't there. And most of all, they didn't feel bad. Didn't feel threatening, didn't feel as if they were there to hurt him. They were just there, forming out of nothing, coming out of nowhere, out of the gloom around him.
Everything was mixing and then matching, shadowy fingers caressing his cheeks, running through his hair, trying to hold his hands, intertwining his fingers with theirs but couldn't because there was nothing there. Just dark shadows and one couldn't touch a shadow. Not even in this brand new world.
The dim place was vibrating with his heartbeat – so slow now, so slow, but definitely his – the susurrus surrounding him was comforting, like not many things were. It felt as if he could do anything and all and nothing would hurt him. Nothing could hurt him. Not here, among all these shadows. Among all this serenity.
"Jensen, what do you see?"
It took a while for him to process that he had been asked a question, what the question was, what the reply was and how to voice it. Took minutes and minutes of thin fingers trying to tickle his feet and minutes and minutes of a sense of someone laughing.
"Ssssh'dws," he took a breath, "ssshhhadows."
If anything was said to that he didn't hear, he was too busy trying to pull at a shadow's finger. But the shadow was too fast, snapping its finger away in the last second. It was a game and the laughter – a giggle - filled his ears again and he could feel his lips twitch, wanting to form a smile of his own.
Among all the shadows and them trying to touch every inch of him, exploring with no touch, he missed how the murky darkness formed stars – everywhere. All around him. Stars. He was swimming among them, suspended in air with the shadows dancing and laughing around him.
He licked his lips, dry tongue dragging across dry skin and healing cuts and stuttered: "S-s-ssstars."
"How many stars?"
"F-f-few, the rest … 's all d-d-darknesssss."
"You scared of the dark, Jensen?"
No, Jensen wasn't scared of this darkness, he had stars here, sparkling and so, so bright almost chasing away the shadows. It was all so beautiful, he wanted to reach out and touch them, hide them into his palm and keep them with him forever. Always there whenever he wanted.
But he couldn't do that; the stars belonged to the shadows, he could feel it. Deep down somewhere in his mind, he knew that the stars belonged to the shadows.
Jared looked at Odie and nodded, waiting for his brother to grip Jensen's head tighter and hold still. With Odie's fingers in their natural form Odie was stronger, steadier, the crystals glowing dark, dark blue with a hint of white sparkles.
He didn't want Jensen to hurt himself in any way, because that would just tear him apart. Hurting his nephew was something that tore at his soul and his crystals and he'd rather pull out his own spine than let anything happen to Jensen. Even just watching Odie's blood and flesh run down the side of his nephew's face was making his stomach roll, but that wasn't Jensen's blood, wasn't Jensen's tissue and skin. Jensen was doing just fine.
He breathed out and focused on his index fingers that were resting on Jensen's inner forearms. He watched his skin starting to fall apart, how the veins and tissue fell off in chunks down between his legs, how his fingers became the crystals that they were supposed to be. That they would be, if they hadn't have to be hidden under all the fake skin and fake tissue. The air seemed to grip them and pull, elongating them, making them grow all the way to Jensen's elbows. It felt liberating to finally stretch them, to uncramp them from the blunt, short, fat fingers humans had. He felt confined, imprisoned under all this skin, but it was necessary and he was used to it, but that didn't mean that he didn't shed his skin and allow the air to stretch his crystals whenever he had a moment of privacy.
They were bright blue-green, thin and long – nine, perhaps ten inches long - with a sharp point, sharper than a thorn's tip. Sharper than anything he'd ever seen and he didn't know why that was. Not even his Father had known why they were as they were.
He meant it as a warning, but he was sure that his nephew was occupied enough by the shadows and the stars to really feel and hear what was happening in the here and now. Or at least he hoped Jensen was as he pushed the tip of the crystals through Jensen's freckled skin and kept on pushing, right along the veins that were going from Jensen's wrists to the bends of his elbows.
He didn't know which hand was hiding Jensen's crystal, so he had to do it on both hands. He had to find it, had to touch it with his own, had to connect with his nephew that way. Had to make Jensen see and speak and understand.
The long, sharp crystals were pushing their way beneath the thin skin, bulging out until they stopped an inch away from the bends of the elbows. It felt so warm beneath Jensen's skin, warm and wet and alive. He looked down and saw how the skin was raised up and he knew there was some damage done to Jensen's arms, but nothing he or Odie couldn't fix. It would be okay. It would be all right, but when Jensen cried out and tears started to appear between the eyelashes of his tightly shut eyes and run down his cheeks, Jared barely made himself go on. They needed to do this, there wouldn't be a second chance. Noleih was getting stronger and stronger with each passing day, recruiting more and more humans and Icies alike and he needed to be stopped.
"Jensen, hey, hey, it's okay, you're doing really good, just easy, okay. Easy …"
He pushed both of his crystals down, deeper into the flesh and when he hit Jensen's crystal, a pulse of power hit him, making him stumble over his breaths. It was like a burst of light, a punch to his chest and he gasped before he was able to reign in all the energy from the contact. He knew Jensen would be powerful, Lemmy had been as well, but this … he didn't expect it to be this much force.
Jensen was his father's son, no matter if his mother had been a human. Or maybe because his mother had been a human, Jensen was this powerful, this strong, this smart, with this much capacity to do things. Anything.
There was no more doubt in his mind that Jensen could withstand anything Noleih would throw at him.
The Icy's side and the human side inside of Jensen would make sure to keep the kid safe. To keep him strong.
"J-j-jarrred, f-," Jensen bit his lip, holding the curse in, because the stars didn't deserve to be tainted by bad things, "huuuurtssss …" he gritted through clenched teeth, not really knowing why it hurt, how it hurt, where it hurt, he just knew something hurt. Something in him hurt, hurt bad, stinging, tearing, scraping at things that weren't allowed to be touched.
But the stars and the shadows where still there, still comforting, now more than ever, because the hurt was sending waves upon waves of pain up to his brain. He wanted to scream but a shadow put its finger on his lips, silencing him. They were whispering to him in strange whistling sounds that he couldn't understand, but still knew were to be meant to soothe.
"Sssstop … s-s-s-sstop…"
Jensen wanted to move, wanted to run away, wanted so bad to touch the stars, because they were … fading, they were disappearing, they were running away and he wanted to run with them, to them, he wanted them back. But he couldn't move. He was held tight, pinned down, his hands held tight, pressed down, shackled with fire.
"Hurts, please …" he gasped and groaned, trying to hunch forward and hide his heart that was beating so slow, he thought it'd stop completely. But he couldn't, his head was held still and his arms were held tight and he couldn't move. He wanted his knife, he wanted his bow and arrows, he wanted it all, wanted his fingers gripping the wooden handle of his knife, wanted his fingers to pull on the bow string, make it tight and dangerous and then release it, listening to that whoosh sound of the arrow flying through the air.
He wanted this pain to stop and the shadows were running their darkness all around him, trying to hold him close and give him something to concentrate on and forget that he hurt.
"I know, I know, it's okay. Just ... tell me what you see."
"Darkness … the stars're gone, just ssshadows..."
"Are you afraid?"
"I know it hurts, 'm sorry, 's so sorry. But I needed you to see where we came from. From the darkness. Home."
The shadows twirled around him, twisting and doing somersaults, making him forget that his body was alight with burning pain.
"You can leave things here, Jensen. Leave them with the shadows, they'll take them. They're your family too. They're your home too. 's okay."
"Don't. Just … let it go, your fears, your anger, what you miss, what you mourn, what makes you scream, what makes you have nightmares, what keeps your from sleep, what makes you sad, all the ones you killed … all of that, you can leave that there. It's okay, it's dark, no one will know. Odie and I, we won't know. No one will know. It's just home, Jensen, the shadows won't tell."
"I can't …"
"Yes you can, just let it all go. It's just you and them, no one will see what you'll leave there. No one. I promise. The shadows will take it and they'll keep it safe. They can't speak anymore. They're gone, memories of the past. They won't tell."
"H-how do I …"
"I've … connected the crystals, can you feel it?"
"Yeah it," he whimpered, "… hurts."
"'m sorry, but there was just no other way … just … Jensen … just tell them. Talk to them, they'll listen, I promise. You can talk to them now. We're all one in the end, Jensen, okay? Just talk to them."
He didn't know how to talk to them, how to even be heard over all the murmurs but then a shadow peeled itself away from all the others and stopped inches from him, tapping his forehead with a sharp point.
He knew this one, it was an old joke: "Who's there?"
"All your secrets are here, with us, safe. Locked. No worries anymore, Jensen, my baby."
Then they were gone as if they had never even been there, as if he hadn't been bathing in dark shadows for hours on end, as if none of this had ever happened. Everything was just gone and he was alone. Alone and shaking and gasping for breath.
He felt as if he was dying, but dying probably never felt as if he could live forever.
Jared started to pull his fingers out of his nephew's forearms, grimacing at Jensen's scream of pain, but there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Humans felt pain, it was how they were, he couldn't stop that no matter how much he wanted or tried. Jensen would survive, he was a tough kid, he was a strong kid and after this, he would be unburdened by all of the things Noleih could use against Jensen. Or him.
He shushed Jensen when he pulled out the tip and the kid all but howled with pain, eyes scrunched shut and cheeks wet with tears.
His fingers were bloody; red, hot liquid running down the glossy crystals and he remembered the exact same thing happen to his Father when he'd placed the tracking device in that creature.
He licked the blood off, looking at Odie over Jensen's head. He could see Odie's eyes flash blue-green-purpe-orange in want, but the man had to remember his place. Jensen was Jared's, and so was Jensen's blood. His. No one else's.
Jensen's blood tasted of rust and warmth and it slid down his throat like the most delicious water. He licked his lips and concentrated on putting tissue and skin over the fingers, covering everything up nicely. He didn't want to scare Jensen.
Before he knew it the pads of his fingers were rubbing Jensen's pulse points while the kid was passed out, lying on his left side.
"You think this worked?"
"Time will tell, my king, time will tell. When he will wake up, we will see, we will see, you'll see, Jared. You'll see."
Jared smacked his lips, licked his gums, still tasting Jensen's blood and smiled.