|"Stop Me If You've Heard This One"
||[Aug. 7th, 2007|08:40 am]
Title: Stop Me If You've Heard This One|
Movie Adapted: True Romance.
Word Count: 8870
Notes: Thanks to rainey_creek for the wonderful beta.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended; fair use only. Not created for profit.
Summary: All comic book store clerk Jensen Ackles wanted for his birthday was an uninterrupted viewing of the three Lord of the Rings movies at his local cinema. He wasn't expecting a tall, dark haired stranger with pockets full of candy and for his life to change so... dramatically.
When you're tired of relationships, try a romance.
The local movie cinema is a dive, but owned by a friend of Jensen’s named Buddy. Jensen’s not even sure if that’s his real name but he’s known the guy for five years and anyone willing to play the three Lord of The Rings movies back to back Jensen knows is a real friend.
He’s practically alone in the cinema. He understands it’s a hell of a lousy way to spend a birthday but it’s tradition.
Movies and being alone.
The only other person in the cinema came in halfway through Two Towers and sat right behind him, large feet hooking over the seat to Jensen’s right. He’s curious what would possess someone in an otherwise empty cinema to sit as close as he has but Jensen supposes loneliness translates itself in all kinds of ways.
Either that or the guy is an axe murderer and the last thing Jensen is going to see in this life is Viggo Mortensen speaking Elvish.
Curiosity nags at him, making the muscles in his neck tense and sore from fighting the urge to turn around and see his only companion. Buddy has come in a couple of times just to check on them and didn’t seem worried so Jensen supposes that’s something. Right when the riders of Rohan are pelting down the hill and to the rescue, Jensen takes the opportunity to feign a stretch and turn in his seat.
He can’t see much in the darkened space behind him but the guy is definitely long, sprawled practically across three seats. He’s got his head tipped back and a fist to his face and Jensen recognises that he’s dropping popcorn into his mouth. Jensen’s attention is captured by the long column of throat that’s his to look at when the guy suddenly jerks forward and a piece of sodden popcorn flies out of his mouth and hits Jensen right in the middle of the forehead.
“Oh shit! I’m so sorry,” the guy gasps in horror. He digs around until he comes up with a napkin that he hands over. Jensen takes it and dabs at his forehead, not really worried. He doesn’t have any allusions about the neighbourhood he lives in and being spit on by strangers is par for the course. “I’m really sorry,” the guy says again.
“S’okay,” Jensen dismisses and is about to turn back around when the guy kind of hunkers forward and uses a leg to drag himself over next to Jensen, falling into the seat with a dull thump. It’s an awkwardly graceful move, something a person shouldn’t be able to do and not look ridiculous, and Jensen can feel himself grinning. The guy has brought his large tub of popcorn over with him and he jams it between them.
“Here, least I can do,” he offers and while Jensen knows he should refuse, his stomach growls. He had enough money on him for a soda as big as his head and the movie ticket itself but that was it. As he watches, the guy pulls various candy bars from pockets all over his body, making a small pile on the broken seat in front which tips back toward them at a drunken lean. “I always buy too much.”
Two Towers is nearly finished but they have Return of the King to go and Jensen hasn’t eaten dinner. He takes a handful of popcorn and steals another surreptitious look at his new companion. There’s shaggy hair and a nice profile but he can’t really make out much more in the darkness. As if he feels Jensen’s gaze, the guy turns and grins.
“I’m Jared,” he introduces. “Just thought you’d like a name so you don’t have to tell people you were assaulted by a stranger.”
“A-salted, that’s funny,” Jensen snorts and Jared blinks for a second and then slaps his forehead.
Jensen’s wondering if maybe he should have told Jared to take a hike because he looks like a talker, but he’s pleasantly surprised when Jared just silently waves at the candy, urging Jensen to take whatever he wants, and then sprawls sideways again.
Every now and then he thinks he can feel Jared’s eyes on him but when he looks, Jared is always facing forward, choosing a candy bar or digging into the popcorn box.
Jensen smiles and scoots further down in his own chair.
Despite the impressive sprawl he’d been doing, Jensen is still a little taken aback when Jared stands at the end of the third movie. Over six foot himself, it’s not often he has to look up at another person.
“Six foot four?” Jensen hazards when Jared leans over to scoop the mess of candy wrappers into the empty popcorn carton.
“Six’ five. My parents were worried I wouldn’t stop till I hit seven foot,” Jared says in the weary way of someone who has been asked the same question a lot. But when he turns he’s smiling. “The movies were cool, with the horses and the short guy.”
“You’ve never seen the Lord Of The Rings?” Jensen asks, feeling dumbfounded when Jared just shakes his head and shrugs.
“Never got around to it,” he says. He angles sideways and crabs along the row of cinema seats, the place being old enough and never refurbished that all the rows are close together, not like the newer cineplexes.
“That’s just crazy, man,” Jensen grunts, following Jared out. He gets his first decent look when they push through the padded doors into the foyer, lit a sickly yellow and smelling of stale butter. Jared’s shaggy mess of hair is brown and his eyes are slanted upward just the tiniest bit and an indistinct colour in the weird light. Jensen figures when asked most people would not be able to decide whether to say he was hazel eyed or green.
He’s got dimples and moles and Jensen’s left wondering what the chances are that a guy his exact type of puppy-cute just happens to turn up on his birthday. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to him and he’s wary, but he’s forgetting about his carefulness when Jared spreads his hands and says, “Pie?”
Jensen’s hands flit to his pockets, empty except for thirty cents and a stick of gum, and as if reading his mind, Jared says, “My treat. For the whole regurgitating on you thing.”
“How can you eat pie?” Jensen wonders as he follows Jared outside into the street. “You just inhaled fifteen pounds of candy.”
“My pie stomach is different from my candy stomach,” Jared says with a grin.
“You got multiple stomachs?”
“Yep, like a cow,” Jared agrees and points, angling toward an open diner three doors down from the cinema. Jensen nods and allows himself to be led, too intrigued by the random stranger with an urge to feed him to call it a night. He figures there’s no harm; he has the day off tomorrow because it’s his birthday and his manager is a cool guy.
Jensen’s sitting with a large slice of apple pie and a steaming mug of coffee before he knows it, watching Jared dig into a chocolate mud with relish. Jared asks him questions about the movies as they eat, looking interested and amused as Jensen explains. He still feels a little weirded out that there is a male in his twenties in the States who hasn’t seen Lord of the Rings but he supposes weirder things have happened.
Whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, Jensen tries to ask Jared something about himself and is fascinated by how masterfully Jared manages to evade answering any questions directly. Jensen’s wariness is back and although Jared seems warm and genuine, Jensen’s lived in the city all his life and appearances are more often than not deceiving.
He asks what Jared does for a living and he’s answered with a this and that. He asks where Jared is from even though the Texan drawl gives him away and is still told all over. The only definite answer he gets is when he asks if Jared wants a bit of his pie and that earns a grin and a yes, please.
“Turn ons?” he tries, hoping that something more general will get Jared to talk and Jared grins.
“Am I a Playboy bunny?” he asks wryly, raising an eyebrow, and Jensen makes a show of looking him over.
“I’d have to see you in the outfit,” Jensen declares and Jared laughs, covering his mouth with a large hand.
“So the night is young and so are we,” Jared says and Jensen rolls his eyes. “Got anywhere cool to go?”
“You can see where I work,” Jensen suggests because he finds that he doesn’t want to call it a night either. Jared smiles and nods.
“Okay, let's get more pie to go,” he says.
“You got a hollow belly or somethin’?” Jensen asks.
“Nah, just haven’t hit bottom yet,” Jared replies airily.
It’s raining lightly by the time Jensen is tugging the chain free on the door to the comic book store. Jared had laughed and clapped his hands like a kid when he’d seen where they were going.
“You ever been in here?” Jensen asks, knowing that Jared can’t have when he was working because he’d have noticed.
“Not inside, just walked by a bunch of times. Always meant to.”
“You get the private tour then,” Jensen says and Jared nods and follows him inside.
“You like working here?” Jared asks as Jensen moves to the back of the store to turn on the lights. He’s thumbing through a stack of Supermans when Jensen gets back, pausing every now and again to pluck one free and page through.
“Yeah. Pay’s lousy but my boss is laid back and the customers aren’t too demanding.”
“What did you want to do?” Jared asks, still paging through comics but his voice is coloured with interest so Jensen knows he isn’t just asking to be polite.
“As little as possible, so this works out,” Jensen says with a grin and Jared laughs again. Jensen wonders how he ever lived without that sound in his life, clear and bright. “I get to live in the small apartment upstairs rent-free.”
“Is this where you ask me to go on up and have a look?” Jared asks and Jensen grimaces, but there is a small grin playing about Jared’s lips, like he was just waiting for the night to end up here and he’s not really objecting. Jensen feels sweat spring up on his palms and upper lip, that feeling sweeping back in to dim the enjoyment of the moment that stuff like this doesn’t just happen to guys like him.
Jared has replaced the Supermans though, carefully and in the right order, Jensen notes, and points toward one of the more shadowy corners of the store. “Stairs that a’way?”
“Yeah… I… yeah,” Jensen says, knowing that he probably looks like an idiot because he’s just staring and nodding. Jared heads over to the stairs but looks back when he’s at the foot of them, pushing his bangs out of his face.
“Coming?” he asks with a quirk of his eyebrow.
Jared takes up most of the bed in an ungainly sprawl so Jensen finds himself fitting around the spaces left when he comes back from getting them both a glass of water. Jared doesn’t move when Jensen climbs back in and chuckles when Jensen lands mostly on top of him. Jensen loves the way the rumble of it vibrates through his own rib cage.
“It’s my birthday,” Jensen says, sleep already laying claim to him. As his eyes slide closed he thinks he hears Jared say, “I know.”
Jensen wakes up alone, cold because the window leading out to the fire escape is open and his blanket is gone. He takes a moment to sit up and rub at his face, taking stock of his room in a detached sort of way. Jared’s shirt and jacket are still thrown over the end of the bed but his jeans are gone. Jensen almost steps into Jared’s boots when he swings his feet free of the bed so he knows he can’t have gotten far.
He pulls Jared’s coat on, taking a moment to snort at how the sleeves cover his hands completely, and steps out onto the fire escape. The rain from earlier had turned into snow at some point in the night and the ugly grey of the metal is almost completely obscured.
He finds Jared up on the roof, wrapped in the blanket from the bed and with bare feet tucked up on the plastic chair that was on the roof when Jensen moved in. He added the banana lounger beside it, which he now drops into, when he found it at a flea market. He’d thought vaguely about needing somewhere to have people when they came over because his apartment is basically the bedroom and a galley kitchen but then he never had people over.
Jared doesn’t look up when he sits down, instead staring intently at his hands that are wrapped around the corners of the blanket, holding it against his chest. “I’ve gotta tell you something,” Jared says in such a hollow tone that Jensen stops shuffling around to get comfortable and sits up, as much as he can in the lounger.
“That sounds ominous,” Jensen says, trying to go for light and failing. He’s watching Jared stare at his hands and he realises that Jared looks completely miserable. “Having second thoughts, huh? I’m really sorry, I thought you wanted-”
“Just… just let me say this. Let me say the whole thing and then you can tell me to fuck off or whatever. Just… would you?” Jared asks, turning eyes on Jensen so full of pleading that he can’t help but say, “Of course. Yeah, sure.”
“Your boss. His name is Christian, right?”
“How did you-?”
“Just please! This’ll only take me a minute to say and then you can ask all the questions you want.”
“Christian called up the place I worked. Said he had a guy he liked a lot who never got out. Wanted him to have a good birthday. Get laid.”
Jensen opens his mouth but then shuts it with a snap. There’s something horrible and inevitable happening here, he’s sure of it. Jared is looking torn, like he hates what he’s saying but can’t help it, and Jensen knows he has to let him get it out, no matter how bad.
“He rang my boss, a real piece of work named Charisma. She runs a stable of boys and girls. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
“Christian tried to book me a whore?”
“He didn’t try,” Jared says. “He did.”
“So here’s the part where I tell you to get the fuck out, right?” Jensen asks although his heart’s not in it. He buries his head in his hands but feels gentle fingers at his nape.
“I was supposed to pretend it was just a pickup, take off when you went to sleep. I got all the way down into the store before I turned right around and came back up.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I hate what I do and I don’t want to do it anymore.” Jared stands and holds open the blanket and Jensen can see vivid bruising that stretches across his ribs and down into the dip of his jeans that was mostly hidden by the shadows of the bedroom. “I’m saying last night I had more fun than I think I ever have.” Jared takes a deep, shaky breath and waits until Jensen is looking at him again before saying, “I’m saying I’d like to stay.”
“I don’t have any mon-“
“Jensen!” Jared says, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “I’m not asking you to hire me. I’m saying I’d like to stay. I like you… a lot. More than I probably should given the time I’ve known you. I’m not trying to pretend this is the ideal circumstance to meet the person you’re meant to be with but I just… I get that feeling.”
“The meant to be with feeling?” Jensen asks slowly, trying not to let the hope he’s feeling bleed into his voice. He’d known it. Some small part of him had known it ever since Jared had done that weird leg-over move to sit by him in the movie cinema. Ever since he’d dumped improbable amounts of candy out of his pockets.
Ever since his mouth had trailed that first blazing line across Jensen’s jaw.
“Listen to me. You’re probably just sitting there waiting for me to stop talking so you can tell me what a moron I am and punch me out. I deserve it. I know I do. I didn’t want to lie to you and I can tell you now I never will again but-”
Jensen jerks forward, slapping his hands down hard on the armrests on either side of Jared. “I’m waiting for you to stop talking so I can tell you that I know exactly what you mean. That it scares me how much I think I’ll miss your presence now I know there was some giant Jared-sized hole in my life. That I want to punch Christian out for buying me a hooker for my birthday, but I want to get down on my knees and kiss his feet because it was you.” Jensen leans forward with this last statement, stopping a mere breath away from Jared’s lips as if waiting for permission.
Jared leans forward, closing the distance between them, forever, Jensen is hoping.
Jensen knows it’s crazy to talk to dead people, but when an important guy like Johnny Cash makes an effort to turn up in your rear vision mirror, you do him the courtesy of answering him when he asks you a question.
“What do you think you’re doing, son?”
Jensen can only see the line of his jaw and a wing of dark hair but he knows, he knows just exactly who he’s addressing.
He’d waited until Jared was curled back safe in his bed before going through his pockets and the battered wallet he’d had on him. Jensen had found an address and the name Charisma and he’d had no way of knowing if this was where Jared had been living but it was good enough to chance it. Now that he was sitting outside in the strange space between the dead of night and dawn, old Colt from under the counter at the store in his lap and he’s ready to admit that he really has no clue.
“What I have to,” Jensen says through gritted teeth, even though he’s frozen in place.
“Don’t get me wrong, I know what I would do, just wondering what you’re plannin’.”
“They hurt him. They need to know he isn’t theirs anymore,” Jensen says.
“This is bad business. You aren’t gonna mean to use the gun but I can tell you now you’ll have to.”
“I know… I’m ready… I’m ready for that,” Jensen says, but he’s not one hundred percent sure and there’s no lying to Cash, even if he is a disembodied representation of Jensen’s own psyche, or at least that’s what every shrink has ever told him.
“Is he worth it?”
“Yes,” Jensen says with no hesitation.
“Good deal then.” Jensen catches the slight movement of Cash nodding. “Get goin’.”
The place he approaches is a falling-down warehouse on the seedier side of the city. There’s a boy who looks barely eighteen sitting in the doorway. He’s wearing slim-fit jeans and a black tank top and sneakers. Jensen digs his hands into his own coat pockets and shivers because the night is cold, had been snowing only recently and he can see pale, goose-pimpled flesh up and down the boy’s arms.
The kid stands as he approaches and leans back against the wall, jutting a hip and Jensen fights off a grimace. “Wanna take me someplace warm?” the boy asks, his eyes dark hollows in his face either from smudged eyeliner, missing too many meals or both. Jensen thinks about Jared’s frame and how lean he is, muscle over bones and nothing else.
“Gotta see the boss,” Jensen grunts and makes to push his way past the boy.
“You got an appointment?” the boy asks and his hand flashes out, grabbing Jensen’s wrist in a grip that’s like a vice.
“Nah, just want to tell her I’ve got something of hers and I’m not giving it back,” Jensen says, trying to twist out of the kid’s grip. When he does, his jacket shifts and the kid’s eyes go right to the gun, tucked into his jeans. The boy drops his wrist like he’s been burned and stumbles back into the wall.
“She’s not here,” he says. “No one is.”
Jensen puts a hand to his side and nods the kid forward, into the warehouse. He finds the boy isn’t lying when they enter. The space is mostly bare, just a pile of mattresses and bags in a corner, a second corner with a beaten-up desk and a lamp casting a sickly yellow shine but not really doing anything to keep the shadows at bay. There’s also an old-style dial phone on the desk and a pile of folders.
“You know Jared?” Jensen asks, not really believing his luck. He’s not naive by any stretch of the imagination and he knows he just dodged a bullet. He can leave a message and get him and Jared out of town without shedding any blood and as a bonus, he can take Jared’s belongings with him.
The boy nods, eyes going round. “Good, go get his stuff for me,” Jensen instructs, pulling out the gun and giving the kid a nudge in the right direction. The boy trots off, making a beeline for the piles of bags. As the boy goes, Jensen digs the envelope he’s brought out of his jacket. It has half his life savings in it, only half because he wants enough to get him and Jared set up somewhere.
He hadn’t been lying when he’d told Jared that his pay was for shit, but he lived in the store and ate nothing but cheap takeout so the rest of his money went into the bank. He’d promised himself to never touch it, but he knew these were desperate times. He opens the envelope and thumbs quickly through the stack of twenties, one thousand eight hundred dollars all told.
He only hopes it’s enough to buy Jared’s freedom.
“Who the hell are you?”
Jensen jerks around at the voice right behind his shoulder and sees a large guy with a square jaw peering at him. When Jensen had turned, he’d automatically tucked the hand with the gun behind him and he was glad for it now. He figures this guy would be able to just reach forward and grab the hand and the gun, possibly breaking both.
Dumb, Jensen thinks, wanting to smack himself. Of course they wouldn’t just leave one kid here by himself.
“You know where that little bitch is?” the bruiser snaps, his eyes narrowing. “He was due back here hours ago.”
“That’s why I’m… I just came to-”
The guy’s meaty hand grabs Jensen’s, the one holding the envelope. He wrenches it out of his grip and whistles low when he sees what’s in it. “Man, you should’ve just said. You that birthday boy? Want another go around?” The guy’s gaze shifts until he picks out the boy in the shadows and he frowns. “Seth! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Seth is standing like a deer in headlights, a backpack held loosely in one hand. He looks down at it and then back up. “The guy wanted Jared’s stuff,” he says, his voice trembling.
The man shifts his attention back to Jensen, but he’s been distracted long enough for Jensen to get the gun up and around. Jensen now takes a step backwards, toward Seth and holds out the hand behind him that had been relieved of the money. “I don’t want any trouble. Take the money, I’m taking Jared.”
“You little punk!” The man makes a grab for the gun and Jensen jerks, firing. The man stumbles backwards and then goes over, hand going to his shoulder and moaning.
“Is that Jared’s?” Jensen calls and Seth again looks lost. Jensen just shakes his head and jogs over, snatching the bag, and then runs back to the main door. “Call an ambulance once I’m gone,” Jensen throws over his shoulder before stepping back outside. The first fingers of dawn found him in his car and headed back to his apartment.
Cash stays silent but ever watchful.
“Coffee and bagels,” Jensen announces as he pushes his way through his door. Jared, stretched out on his stomach, rolls over and grins.
Jared is smiling and pushing the hair out of his face when he spots the bag Jensen has dangling from the crook of his arm. All the colour drains out of Jared’s face and his mouth drops open.
“I just went and got your stuff,” Jensen says quickly with the vague hope that there will be no follow up questions but of course Jared sits up, looking concerned.
“You can’t just-” Jared’s voice just stops dead, and Jensen realises that he still has the damn gun tucked into the back of his jeans and Jared has spotted it when Jensen has turned to set down the coffees on his little kitchen table. Jared rises from the bed and crosses to Jensen, reaching out a tentative hand and touching the spray of blood across Jensen’s shirt that he hadn’t even realised was there. “What did you do?”
“There was a goon… I just winged him. He’s not dead!” Jensen says, stepping back and away from Jared’s questing hand. Jared doesn’t take the hint, crowding back into Jensen’s space and while Jensen thinks that’s much better than the alternative, Jared running screaming from the room, he’s a little confused at what’s going on.
“You… went there for me? You risked yourself like that for me?” Jared asks and his voice is so filled with awe and wonder that Jensen feels a blush heat his cheeks.
“I wanted to hurt them,” Jensen admits. “They hurt you and I… but I didn’t kill anyone. A guy got in my way and I did what was needed to be done.”
“Jensen…” Jared leans forward and sucks Jensen’s bottom lip into his mouth, worrying it lightly with his teeth. Jensen stumbles back and sits down hard on the armchair behind him and Jared follows, dropping long legs over either side of Jensen’s thighs and curling down until they are flush together.
“I love you,” Jared says, leaning back and grinning. His smile falters when Jensen doesn’t answer straight away but he barks out a laugh when Jensen surges forward, capturing Jared’s mouth with his own and nearly tipping them both off the chair.
“Oh god, I love you,” Jensen groans as Jared slides to the floor and tugs Jensen after him.
“I’m not sure I can wear this,” Jared says later. He’s been digging through the bag Jensen liberated, looking for something to wear and Jensen looks up from the cold coffee he’s swallowing.
Jared merely raises his eyebrows and pulls something from the backpack, what looks like a plastic bag secured with tape. It’s filled with something white and Jensen takes a moment to realise what it is.
“Holy crap!” he blurts and Jared burrows deeper into the bag, pulling more of the same out and stacking them next to himself in a highly illegal pyramid. When the bag is empty, he taps the stack with his fingers.
“I thought you got my stuff,” Jared says, looking at the pile with large, round eyes.
“I thought so too. I told a kid to put your clothes in a bag. He must’ve just grabbed whatever bag was closest.” Jensen moves to sit on the other side of the pile and picks up one of the plastic bags. “That’s… a lot of cocaine.”
“Jesus, we have to get rid of this,” Jared breathes, suddenly looking scared. “They might’ve let me go but I’m sure they’re going to come looking for this!”
“They don’t know who I am,” Jensen points out, knowing that the bruiser he shot and the kid, Seth would be able to point him out but they have no idea who he actually is. “We can leave town. Go someplace new.”
“Sure. I got some money saved. I live pretty cheap. I was going to suggest it anyway. This just means our plans have been moved up a little.”
“What do we do with this?” Jared asks, tapping the pile again.
“I don’t… maybe we can sell it? Set ourselves up.”
“Sell it? You’re kidding right?” Jared splutters, looking amazed. “I know I had a bit of a shady career before I met you but I wouldn’t know the first thing about being a drug dealer.”
“Neither do I, but I’m sure if we put our heads together we can come up with something. I know some people in LA. Those types use this stuff by the truckload.”
Jared is still looking unsure when Jensen pushes the pile out of the way and leans forward to cup Jared’s face with his hands. “We sell it quick and cheap to some bigwig and that’s it. We’re set and we can go somewhere warm. Somewhere you don’t have to wear a shirt.”
Jensen’s reassurance has the desired effect. Jared’s grin, full watt with both dimples surfaces and he nods.
“Okay. So, we need to pack and I need to buy some clothes.”
“Hi, David, it’s Jensen!”
“Buddy, long time no hear. How’s it going?”
“Not too bad, found the love of my life and have a way to make us all some quick cash.”
“You… wait, what?”
“I’ll explain when we get to your place. We’re on our way.”
“Who’s we? Jensen?”
“See you soon!”
David opens the door and the first thing he does is step back and look up. “Well, hell!” he exclaims as Jensen appears behind Jared in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear. “You’re way too pretty for our boy Jen here,” he adds as Jared grins.
“Hello to you too, assmunch,” Jensen laughs, urging Jared to move into David’s small apartment by a hand at the small of his back. “Don’t be tellin’ Jared that he can do better or anything. I’ve got him convinced that I’m the only boy in the world.”
“I’m Jared by the way,” Jared introduces as he rolls his eyes and holds out a hand to David. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
“Wow, pretty and witty. Definitely out of Jen’s league,” David whistles as he steps aside. “Well, c’mon in if you’re coming.”
“I got a better idea,” Jensen interrupts. “Where can you get a good hot dog around here? I’m starving.”
Twenty minutes later, all three men are sitting at a fixed table outside a bright pink hot dog stand. Jensen has a hand at Jared’s nape, kneading gently as Jared works his way through an impressive amount of food. “You’re going to just turn into a blimp on me when you hit forty, aren’t you?” Jensen observes and Jared smirks through a full mouth.
“There’s a lot of me to fill up. It always takes a while.”
“I hate to interrupt your flirting, but you said something about making me some money?” David prods from the other side of the table. He raises his brows and the sunglasses he had poised at his temple drop down in front of his eyes.
“I also mentioned the love of my life,” Jensen says and watches David shrug.
“Hell, I’m a starving actor. Pardon my selective hearing.”
“Okay, we happened to come into some contraband of a very valuable nature and were hoping you’d know someone who might want to take it off our hands - for a very generous percentage, of course.”
“Of course,” David repeats, looking wary.
“I’m going to go get some more,” Jared says, rubbing his belly. “Can I get anyone anything?”
“Nope. Just don’t make yourself sick,” Jensen laughs, swatting at Jared’s ass as he makes his way back to the vendor.
“So, how contraband is this contraband?” David asks, watching Jensen who never takes his eyes off Jared. Jensen smiles faintly as Jared laughs at something the vendor says, probably something about having hollow legs.
“He’s beautiful. I’m not really sure how I got so lucky,” Jensen murmurs, distracted. David leans across the table and knocks a fist on the top of Jensen’s head.
“Hello? Anyone in there? I’m getting the feeling we’re about to do something very illegal so I would like at least half of your attention if that’s okay.”
Jensen turns back, colouring and looking sheepish. “Sorry. Okay, here’s what happened,” Jensen says, explaining to David a very simple version of how he and Jared came into possession of a whole bag of cocaine. When he’s done, David sits back and blinks.
“Woah,” he says.
“This… I’m not sure what I was expecting but not this!” David says when Jensen drops the bag in front of him and opens it, contents spilling out across David’s makeshift coffee table. “This shit can’t be real!”
“It is,” Jared says from his sprawl on the floor. The eighth hot dog had done him in and he’s now flat on his back with his hands pressing down on his belly. “If Charisma had it then it’s real.”
“Someone’s gotta be looking for this,” David says, tone wary.
“I’m sure they are, which is why we gotta sell it fast and get the hell outta dodge,” Jensen agrees, leaning over from his perch on David’s couch to rub a hand across Jared’s abdomen. Jared’s hands drop away and he hums in appreciation. “What’d I tell you about making yourself sick, hmm?” Jensen adds.
“Do I honestly look like I would know people who would buy this much coke?” David asks, dropping onto a threadbare armchair and scrubbing hands through his hair. “I mean, maybe if we bag it small and -”
“No, all at once or not at all,” Jensen says. “I’m willing to go bargain basement on this shit but we need to get rid of it. And you’re right, you don’t look like someone who would know someone, but surely you’re someone who knows someone who would know someone.” Jensen waggles his eyebrows and David snorts.
“Okay, maybe. I’ll make some calls,” David allows and stands. He rubs his sweaty hands off his jeans and looks down at Jared and Jensen. “This is… crazy is what it is,” he says and Jensen grins up at him and nods.
“Story of my life,” he says.
James is surprised how easy it is to find the hooker.
He likes a challenge and is almost disappointed when he finds a Jensen Ackles registered at the Holiday Inn in LA that fits the description of the man that stole a fairly well-liked prostitute and a bag full of cocaine. It was easy tracking back the hooker’s last client and convincing the man who’d paid for him to give up just who he’d been bought for.
Broken fingers were always a great motivator.
James sits now in their hotel room, waiting for the boys to return. He knows he could look for the bag of coke himself but he’s a man of principle and he likes to hurt people.
He’s been given fairly specific instructions. Retrieve the drugs and make sure both Jensen Ackles and the hooker don’t live to see another sunrise. No one messes with Charisma, and if he like to hurt, she loves it. He’d offered to drag the kid of hers back by the hair, but she’d said no after only thinking about it for a moment.
“Once they decide they can run, they’ll keep on doing it,” she snaps, looking affronted. Seth, the boy who’d given over the drugs so willingly, has already been dealt with.
James has hit LA two days after Jensen and the boy but he’s assuming he’s dealing with amateurs, nothing up to this point has said otherwise. People like that don’t exactly know where to offload half a million dollars worth of coke quickly.
A key scrapes in the lock to the hotel room and a figure slides in. James guesses that it’s the hooker from the height of him, kid named Jared. He waits until Jared is almost all the way in before he speaks.
“Shut the door behind you,” James says, letting Jared startle and then see the shotgun James has resting across his lap. Jared’s lips thin down and he freezes so James leans forward and almost casually says, “Don’t make me shoot you in that pretty face.” Jared does what he’s told. He pushes shaggy hair out of his eyes when he turns back around to face James.
“Centre of the room,” James instructs. Jared complies, moving jerkily and with his hands fisted at his sides.
“Look, I don’t know what you want, but I think you have -”
James stands and with no preamble kicks Jared in the knee. Jared screams and drops to the floor, both hands going to his knee and trying to cradle it. “Don’t do that,” James says, voice even and without inflection. “Let's not start like that. We were doing so well.”
“The human body is a pretty well put together machine,” James continues, tone conversational. He walks around Jared, who has now curled into a ball, tears leaking out of his squeezed-shut eyes. “Except for the knees. Joints all wrong for the amount of stress they take and it hurts like a son of a bitch if someone taps one just so.”
“What do you want?” Jared grits out.
“I think you know what I want,” James says, leaning down and taking a fistful of Jared’s hair, tipping Jared’s head back so he can see his face. “I want the coke you stole and I want your boyfriend. You’re going to tell me where both are.”
“Fuck you,” Jared manages.
James makes a tutting sound and whips back his foot, bringing a boot into Jared’s stomach. Jared lets go of all his air in a barely heard wail and tries to curl tighter. “Oh, that would’ve hurt,” James says, still sounding calm and level. “See, every time you give me an answer I don’t want or try to be smart I’m going to hurt you. Badly. Now I want you to stand and I’m going to kick you in the kidneys if you don’t get up by the time I count to ten.”
Jared curls over and tries to push himself up but he has trouble. James leans down and puts an arm under Jared’s shoulder, hoisting him like a doll and setting him against the nearest wall. Jared stands with his right leg hovering because his knee is screaming agony and he can’t imagine putting any weight on it at all.
“Let’s try this again. Where’s the coke and where’s your boyfriend?”
“Go…to…hell,” Jared croaks and James grins.
There’s something against the door when Jensen gets back to the hotel. He and David met with an executive producer David had once auditioned for and he's bursting with the good news that they had a buyer. Jensen grunts and puts his shoulder to the door when it resists and when he’s got it open just a crack he can see a hand on the other side.
“Jared!” Jensen exclaims and winces, shoving harder until he can squeeze through the door. Jared is up against it, a trail of blood leading from the bathroom to the door and a bloody handprint just under the knob that looks like Jared was reaching for it and didn’t make it.
“Jay? Jared! Be okay dammit,” Jensen says, voice wavering with panic as he drops to his knees and rolls Jared half onto his lap. Jared’s face is covered with livid bruises and blood and his clothes are coated with more gore. Halfway between the bathroom and the door rests a shotgun Jensen’s never seen before and he feels his heart plummet.
“Oh god,” Jensen says. “What have I done? What happened to you… oh god.” At his voice Jared’s head rolls and the eye that isn’t swollen shut cracks open, revealing a sliver of green.
“Jensen?” he says, voice thick and clogged sounding.
“Hey, I’m here. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay,” Jensen babbles, getting up onto his haunches and dragging Jared with him. Jared tries to help, but he can’t seem to coordinate well enough to get his legs under him, and Jensen only manages to get him onto the bed in the middle of the room before he has to stop and rest for a moment.
Jensen moves into the bathroom carefully when he has Jared laid out and finds another man, heavy set and with thinning hair, slumped in the shower. The porcelain top of the toilet tank is on the floor, cracked in two, and there are bits and pieces of mirror scattered about. The man looks like he’d gone through the glass wall of the shower, but after a hell of a struggle. Jensen leans forward and presses two fingers to the man’s throat but he can’t find a pulse.
“Jesus,” he breathes, backing out of the bathroom.
“Jen?” Jared sounds groggy but a little clearer when Jensen moves back into the main room. He moves over to Jared and puts hands on his face, gently probing the worst of the damage.
“You still with me?”
“I think so,” Jared huffs and tries to sit up. He puts a hand to his temple and groans, so Jensen moves to his back and helps with his weight until Jared is upright but resting against him. “They found us… we have to-”
“I know Jay. We’re going now. We’ve got a buyer and we’ll sell the damn stuff and never look back.”
“Okay,” Jared says and puts an arm across Jensen’s shoulders, letting himself be manhandled out of the room.
“How do I look?”
Jensen looks up and sees Jared balancing on one leg, dressed in a hoodie and ridiculously big sunglasses. He can’t help but smile when Jared waggles his eyebrows but his smile drops away when Jared winces.
“Just as pretty as the day I met you,” Jensen says and Jared waves a dismissive hand.
“I hope not. I’m a lot more mooshed today than I was then.”
“Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“We’re meeting this guy, getting our money and taking the hell off. I’m ready for this,” Jared says, reaching out a hand and snagging Jensen’s sleeve. He tugs and Jensen moves into his space, hands hovering because he’s not sure where to touch without hurting. Jared leans forward and nips and Jensen’s jaw, careful to tuck his swollen lip against his teeth.
“I just gotta decide if I’m ready for this,” Jensen says, sounding a little shaky. He knows that they’re gambling and gambling big but he also wants security for Jared, for him to never again know what it’s like to do without.
Jensen’s a realist. He knows even if they get two hundred thousand for the drugs like they’re hoping that they won’t necessarily be set for life, but it’s a hell of a start and he knows it will at least get them on a plane and headed for somewhere warm and hopefully cheap to live. He envisions opening a little café on a beach somewhere, Jared permanently in shorts and flip-flops, golden brown in the sun.
“What are you thinking about?” Jared asks, interrupting Jensen’s train of thought. He has hands on either side of Jensen’s face, stroking his thumbs along Jensen’s cheekbones.
“About you in a swimsuit,” Jensen says, grinning.
“Last chance to play what-if,” Jensen says. He, Jared and David are standing outside the Beverly Wilshire, looking up.
“What if this is a completely lunatic idea and we should have our heads read, you mean?” David asks, lips tilting in a smirk.
“If this goes south, we all go to jail for a pretty damn long time. Either of you says the word, we walk away now.”
“Jen,” Jared says, hand straying to Jensen’s nape and squeezing.
“Yeah, okay, I just had to check.”
Lee Donowitz, producer, is waiting for them in a suite on the tenth floor. He has a case full of cash and a nervous twitch that Jensen doesn’t like at all. Lee makes small talk with David as Jensen excuses himself to the bathroom, only pausing long enough to put a hand to the small of Jared’s back, almost for luck.
Right before Jensen can leave the bathroom though, he hears voices. One is a smooth-sounding female and the other is a gruffer male, one he thinks he recognises. Jensen opens the bathroom door a crack and can see the back of a broad guy. When the guy turns in profile, Jensen swallows hard.
It’s the man he shot in the warehouse when he got the drugs.
“What you gonna do, son?” A voice asks from behind and Jensen balls his fists before he turns. Johnny Cash is in the full-length mirror, hip cocked and arms crossed over his chest. He has an eyebrow raised and he’s all in black. His hand flits to his back and Jensen mirrors the movement, feeling the gun there that he’d packed on a whim.
“What I have to,” Jensen growls when he hears the sound of Jared’s voice, raised in alarm. Just as Jensen pushes his way out of the bathroom, gun held down and to the side because there are people he cares about in the room as well as the bad guys and he has no idea of anyone’s position, a door to an adjoining room bursts open and men in vests swarm through.
“What the-” Jensen exclaims and something hits him in the face, pitching him backward into the bathroom, head connecting solidly with the tile. There is a roar like thunder from the other room and before Jensen passes out, he thinks he hears Jared screaming his name.
I’m so dead, he thinks fuzzily as the side of his face soaks in something wet and warm. Jared, I’m so sorry.
Jensen comes to moving. Someone is shuffling along with most of his dead weight held against them. He hears the person huffing something, a litany of curses and pleas and realises it’s Jared. Jensen tries to get his legs under him properly and only manages to upset the delicate forward momentum Jared seemed to have been able to get into, made more difficult because of his bad knee, jostling them into a wall.
Jensen can’t tell where he is, his right eye stinging like a son of a bitch and his left fuzzy. “Jared?” he hazards, reaching a hand out and feels his arm being drawn back across a broad shoulder.
“Oh, you can’t just scare me like that!” Jared pants, lifting most of Jensen’s weight again and getting them going. “You can’t ever do that!”
Jensen realises Jared sounds furious but his head is spinning and he still can’t see. He wants to stop but he knows there’s some reason they can’t, must be because Jared is moving fast and still swearing under his breath. Jensen gets a free hand up to his face and realises Jared’s large, ridiculous glasses are on his face.
“Leave ‘em on!” Jared snaps as Jensen bats at the glasses.
Jensen drops his hand because there’s something urgent and scared in Jared’s voice. “Wha’ happened?” he asks, knowing that the further they go, the more weight of his Jared is bearing. He’s pretty sure his feet are just dragging along the ground now and even though he wants to walk he can’t seem to coordinate well enough.
“Later, okay?” Jared huffs. “Can you open the car door?”
Jensen reaches out automatically and his fingers snag on the door handle of what he hopes is his car. He yanks but the door has become suddenly much too heavy for him. He tries again and only on the third try does the door grudgingly give, smacking into them and nearly sending them both to the ground.
Jared manoeuvres Jensen around until he can be dropped into the passenger seat and Jensen curls down into it gratefully, feeling more tired than he ever remembers being before. There’re quick footsteps and then the squeak of the driver’s side door opening. Jensen’s never been gladder of having a bench seat as he tilts sideways and is stopped by Jared’s body.
“Don’t sleep,” Jared says, urgency still in his tone.
“Wasn’t gonna,” Jensen protests although he’d been thinking about it. He feels sluggish and slow. He reaches up again for the glasses and his questing hand is deflected by Jared.
“Leave it for now, okay?”
“You alright?” Jensen asks. He hears the gentle huff of Jared’s laugh as the engine rumbles to life and the car shoots forward.
“Yeah, Jen. I’m okay.”
“You gonna tell me what the hell just happened?” Jensen asks. His thoughts are clearing a little and he’s starting to remember that they’d been in the middle of something important. There’d been yelling, loud cracks and darkness.
“Yes. In a little while,” Jared promises and Jensen rests his head on the jut of Jared’s shoulder, feeling it warm and alive under his cheek.
Jensen gets most of the story as they drive toward the border. He’s curled on the bench seat of the car, head resting against Jared’s thigh, whose right hand cards through his hair whenever he doesn’t need it to change gears and when he doesn’t need it to stop Jensen fingering the gauze over his right eye. He’d been given a patch as well but had refused to wear it after the fiftieth pirate joke.
Charisma had tracked them down and had persuaded Lee Donowitz to still take the meeting so she could grab them both and the drugs at the same time. Little did either she or Lee know but the police had been onto Lee for quite a while, knowing that he was the regular supplier for some of the bigger Hollywood parties. Their sting had coincided with Charisma’s try at eradicating her little problem and all hell had broken loose when the cops and Charisma’s henchmen had opened fire on each other.
David had gotten out in the initial confusion but Jared had seen, much to his horror, Jensen take a bullet in the face right when he stepped out of the bathroom. Jared had commando crawled across the room to reach Jensen, unsure if he was alive or dead, Jared’s only thought to get them both out of the room.
On their way out, he’d tripped over something and had snagged it without thinking, only realising it was the bag of Lee’s money, approximately two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, once he’d gotten passed the police swarming into the hotel and outside.
“Two inches to the left,” Jensen says in wonder when Jared’s done. “I should be dead.”
“Wasn’t meant to be,” Jared says and Jensen cranes back so he can see the slope of Jared’s jaw, can tell he’s smiling. He’s never going to see out of his right eye again, but the left one had only been full of blood and after being washed out, had been perfectly fine.
“What would you have done if-”
“Let’s not play what-if anymore,” Jared says, looking down, his eyes crinkling in the sunlight through the windshield. “We got a life to plan and I think you mentioned something about a swimsuit?”
“You know, I’ve been thinking about that,” Jensen says with a grin. “My fantasy’s pretty flawed if you’re dressed at all.”
“You fine with me runnin’ around butt naked all the time?” Jared asks with a laugh.
Jensen hums, dropping an arm across Jared’s legs, feeling the gentle play of muscle as Jared works the peddles. He falls asleep, knowing that when he wakes up they’ll be in Mexico and Jared is his.
Forever if he has any say in the matter.
Amid the chaos of that day, when all I could hear was the thunder of gunshots, and all I could smell was the violence in the air, I look back and am amazed that my thoughts were so clear and true. Three words went through my mind endlessly. Repeating themselves like a broken record.
I love you, I love you, I love you.