6:40 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Jensen carefully slid out of bed, gently stretching Bo’s arm across the pillows. Still, the blonde’s eyes shot open as he reached out and wrapped his fingers around Jensen’s wrist. “Hey, it’s okay,” Jensen whispered. He squatted down in front of the bed, folding an arm over the mattress. “I’m coming right back, Eli.”
“Where are you going?” Bo asked, his voice rough with sleep.
“Jamal’s in the kitchen. I’m gonna go talk to him, wake up the kids, and get them ready for school.” Jensen reached out, tucking a stray tendril of hair behind Bo’s ear. “Frank and Jamal are gonna take them all to school. I just have to get them ready.”
Bo nodded. “And you’ll come back?”
“Always will, Eli. Promise,” Jensen said softly. “Okay?”
Jensen leaned over the bed and pressed a kiss to Bo’s temple. “I’ll be back in a bit.” Bo nodded, releasing his hold on Jensen’s wrist. Jensen snagged a black shirt from the second drawer of his dresser before walking out of the bedroom. Hati trotted past him and jumped up onto the bed with Bo. He pulled the shirt on over his head and walked to the kitchen.
Jamal leaned back against the counter, arms crossed over his chest, gaze focused on the floor. “How is he?” he asked without looking up.
“I don’t know yet. He’s not himself, but that’s the only thing I can say without lying to you,” Jensen said.
Jamal nodded. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that, Jensen. He wasn’t supposed to shoot him. It wasn’t the plan.”
“I know, sir.”
Jamal lifted his head. “Don’t fear me. Not today.”
“Sorry,” Jensen said quietly.
Jamal nodded imperceptibly, bowing his head again. “How’d you know?”
“He told me. He said he manipulated you to let him do it,” Jensen said. Again, Jamal nodded. “How’d he manage that?”
“I gave him my weakness, and he used it against me,” Jamal murmured.
“What’s your weakness?”
Jensen shoved his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants. “He threatened to leave you, didn’t he? Said he’d never come back?”
“Yes. He played me. I let him know I was miserable after Katherine left, and he used it against me to get what he thought he wanted,” Jamal said. “I should’ve pushed him. I shouldn’t have given up. I’d rather have him gone than…” The older man lifted his shoulders. “I don’t want him to be like me, Jensen.”
“He regrets it. He feels terrible about it. He thinks he’s a monster, Jamal,” Jensen said.
“Yeah?” Jamal questioned without looking up. “So did I. At first, I mean. I wasn’t always ruthless. My hand used to shake when I held a gun at somebody. I used to hesitate before pulling the trigger, before stabbing another human being. But eventually, you get over it, because it’s either kill or die. There’s no other choice. If you do anything enough times, you become numb to it,” he said, his voice quieter than Jensen had ever heard it. “I ruin everyone that cares about me, that I care about. I chased away and imprisoned Katherine, I didn’t protect Andrea, I didn’t protect Regina, I raised a serial killer, I broke Bo, and everyone else is de—” Jamal cut himself off, closing his eyes.
“You didn’t break Bo,” Jensen said quietly. “He just… he needs time to process everything. He discovered a lot about himself this morning. He just needs time to soak it all in, that’s all,” he promised.
“Right,” Jamal murmured.
“You… raised a serial killer?” Jensen asked.
“I did. He doesn’t do it any more, but… God, I wanted to kill him when I found out,” Jamal whispered. He looked up at Jensen. “But it doesn’t matter what your family does—the family that you have chosen to call family, the ones that mean the most—it’s your job to protect them.” He tilted his head to the side. “Catching what I’m throwing?”
“Caught,” Jensen said simply, holding up a hand. “I’ll protect him with my life, Mister Pitman.”
Jamal nodded, the familiar phrase bringing him sense of comfort. “Good. He’s going to be in a very hard spot for a while. Don’t push him or rush him. Let him take his time.”
“Is he awake?”
“He was when I walked out of the room,” Jensen said, offering a shrug.
Jamal let out a breath. “I’m gonna go back there, see if he… wants to talk. You get your kids ready for school,” he said. Jensen nodded, disappearing from the kitchen. With a sigh, Jamal pushed away from the counter and headed back to the master bedroom. He shut the door most of the way and crossed the room. He sat down on the edge of the bed before lying down so that he was facing the blonde.
“Hi,” Bo whispered.
“Hey, kiddo.” Jamal’s brow furrowed in concern. “How you doing?”
Bo lifted one shoulder, reaching back to pat Hati on the side. “Okay, I think. I feel pretty numb.” He smiled faintly. “I’m all cried out, I suppose.”
“Yeah, that happens,” Jamal agreed.
“I’m sorry I manipulated you.”
“You thought you knew what you wanted. Nothing wrong with standing up for what you want,” Jamal said.
Bo nodded. “Did I disappoint you?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, Bo. Not about something like this,” Jamal said. “I could not be disappointed in you. It’s as simple as that.”
“So you still love me?” Bo asked.
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted, even though the action appeared to pain him. “Okay,” he whispered.
“How’s your hand?” Jamal questioned.
“Jensen cleaned the cuts and bandaged it up,” Bo said. “I’m on… pain meds of some kind. You’d have to ask Jens.”
Jamal nodded. “Good. I don’t want you to be in pain. But, uh… are you numb emotionally, too?”
“Right now,” Bo said quietly. “I don’t know how long that will last.”
“It’s pretty damn hard for a while,” Jamal said honestly. “But you’re strong. You’ll be okay. And if you ever feel like you aren’t okay, you have Jensen, the Delacroix girl, Jacob, your parents.”
“And you,” Bo said, his brow furrowed. “And you,” he repeated.
“Of course. I just… Hell, Bo, I assumed you wouldn’t want to talk to me about anything personal any more,” Jamal said.
“It’s not your fault I shot him. I don’t have anything to blame on you,” Bo said. “As long as you don’t hate me, you’re still someone I’m going to come to if there’s an issue or if I need to talk.”
Jamal smiled softly. “Good,” he whispered. “Whenever you’re ready, I’ll watch over the kids, and you and Jensen can go somewhere and just… be totally away from the rest of society. No other people, no bad guys, no children to keep you apart. Just you two,” he said.
“You’re welcome, kiddo.” Jamal’s expression softened considerably as he reached out and combed his fingers through Bo’s hair. “What you did this morning? That takes serious balls, kid. And the fact that you’re still standing? That you’re still talking rather than sitting in the corner bawling? You’re strong. You’ll be just fine, Bo. Promise.”
8:05 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Jensen climbed into bed, wrapping an arm around Bo’s chest. “Jake called. He and Alice are back home. He appreciates us cleaning the house for him,” he said.
Jensen nodded, pressing a kiss to Bo’s shoulder. “I call into work. We both… we’re both taking the day off. So we can stay right here for as long as you want to,” he said. Bo slid his hand up by his pillow, threading his fingers through Jensen’s. “I love you, Eli. No matter what?”
“I love you, Jens.” Bo squeezed Jensen’s hand tightly. “Jens?”
“Do you still want to have kids with me?”
“Even if they have a fifty-percent chance of becoming crazed stalker killers?” Bo asked.
“Yes,” Jensen repeated.
Bo smiled softly. “Okay,” he whispered.
“Go to sleep, Eli.”
“And you’ll be here?”
“Yep. My happy ass is staying right here,” Jensen promised.
“Okay.” Bo kissed the back of Jensen’s hand. “Thank you, Jens. For… for not running at the sight of me this morning. I looked like hell, and I…”
“You’re welcome, Eli. It’s what you do for the person you love. Help them now, ask the questions later,” Jensen said.
“Well… still. Thank you. Again,” Bo said. “Honestly, Jensen, you’re so damn amazing, and you don’t even realize it.”
Jensen smiled, leaning over just enough to kiss Bo’s cheek. “No matter how you feel about yourself right now, you’re pretty damn amazing, too.”
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