Shockingly, the initial stages of Jared's infiltration went without a hitch.
The warehouse had two guards walking the perimeter, along with a security camera over every door. Jared waited until the first guard had passed, then sprinted across the street to the door that Jeff's men had suggested. The space between his shoulders was itching like crazy as he reached for the handle, sure that he was about to get shot any second, but whatever Chris had done must have worked because there wasn't so much as a peep as he slipped inside.
Once inside, Jared paused to let his eyes adjust to the dimness, then crept carefully forward, trying to stay close to the wall. He tried not to look too hard at the number of guards, workers and random mafia people scattered around the room lest it cause him to lose his nerve all together.
Moving slowly and carefully, Jared managed to make his way to the metal staircase leading up to the second floor. He ducked into an alcove between stacked crates as someone walked by, looking up at the stairs with dismay.
How the hell was he going to get up there? Even Chris' 'notice me not' graffiti wasn't going to be able to hide him from an entire warehouse full of people, would it?
A hand seized the back of his collar and yanked; Jared stumbled back with a startled shout that was muffled by another hand that clamped down over his mouth before he could voice it.
Oh God, Jared thought. Oh God, oh God, oh G-
"Stop it!" a familiar voice hissed, when Jared threw an elbow back to free himself. "It's me!"
"Jnshn?" Jared garbled out. He wiggled free and whirled around to see Jensen scowling at him from behind his sunglasses. "Oh my God, Jensen!"
He dragged the guy into a full-body hug without thinking, and immediately felt guilty when Jensen stiffened in his arms.
"Shit, sorry." Jared went to detangle them, and squeaked in shock when Jensen's arms wrapped around him for a quick, firm squeeze before letting him go.
"Good to see you too." Jensen's nose wrinkled. "Ugh, you reekof magic." He shoved at Jared's sleeve, making an unsurprised noise when he saw the marks painted on his bared arm. "The hell have you gotten yourself into, you lunatic?"
"What have I-? I'm trying to help you!" He jabbed a finger at Jensen. "Why are you even here? You're supposed to be in prison!"
It was hard to tell with the sunglasses on, but he suspected that Jensen was rolling his eyes at him. "It's called bail, Jared. Every heard of it?"
Jared was having a surprisingly difficult time adjusting to having this sarcastic Jensen in the middle of his illegal mafia heist.
"And speaking of prison, we need to get you out of here before you end up arrested for breaking and entering. Come on."
"I can't." Jared dug in his heels when Jensen went to tug him away. "Not until I get what I came here for."
"You-" Jensen looked profoundly exasperated. "We haven't got time to argue about this. If someone catches us-"
"Then you'd better leave without me or start helping."
Jensen muttered some curse words under his breath, not all of them English. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but fine. What are we here for?"
"Er," Jared hunched a sheepish shoulder. "I'm not sure whatit is, exactly, but Jeff said-"
"Jeff?" Jensen said, a little louder than was probably appropriate. Jared flailed his arms at him, and Jensen obligingly dropped back into a - decidedly irate - whisper. "Jeff Morgan? Did he con you into something? I'll kick his ass."
"Okay, but later, alright? I need to get to the offices and… stuff on the second floor. The thing Jeff wants is in a safe. Oh, I have a picture." Jared fumbled out the photo and passed it over.
Jensen took it and stared at it for several long moments. "I don't know what deal you've made," he said finally, "But I hope it's worth this."
"It is," Jared said firmly.
"Fine. We're fucked either way, so we might as well get this while we're here so I can shove it up Jeff's ass in return for all this bullshit."
Both of Jared's eyebrows arched. He was aware he was staring, but he didn't care.
Jensen, apparently, did. "What?" he demanded grumpily.
"I've never heard you swear so much."
"Yeah, well, usually I don't have to sneak into a heavily defended mafia base to rescue a suicidally gullible human."
"Hey!" Jared protested. "I didn't ask you to rescue me!"
"Lucky for you, I'm doing it anyway. Come on already. The sooner we're out of here, the better."
"Okay." Jared glanced again at the stairs. "Um, how?"
"Oh, for- see those guys over there?" A gesture at four guys walking in generally their direction, "They’re the only ones with a good enough line of sight to watch the stairs. We're going to take them out and go upstairs before anyone else arrives to take their place. The machinery they've got running should be loud enough to drown out most of the noise."
"Um, you're not going to-" Jared made a gesture that was meant to convey 'turn anybody into stone by glaring at them', though he thought some of the nuance might have been lost in translation.
Jensen glared at him. "Considering that if I did I'd be committing murder, no, Jared, I wasn't planning on it."
"Oh. Good. So, um, how are we going to take out those guys?"
"Jared," Jensen said, through gritted teeth. "Since the moment of my birth, I have been able to kill people just by looking at them. If you don't think my parents made very sure that I would have the skills to prevent people from taking off my sunglasses by force, you are utterly insane."
That made sense.
"So we're going to punch them all until they stop bothering us. Good plan."
He could sense Jensen eying him. "Please tell me that you at least know how to defend yourself. You know, considering that you snuck into a mob-run warehouse without a plan or a weapon."
"I have a weapon! Taser, see? And I'm no secret ninja master, but I can defend myself. We got some basic training with the job, and I was on the boxing team in college."
"Good. Try not to die." Jensen started forward, moving with the stealthy grace of a predator.
And Jared wouldn't admit it, but it was kind of nice to have someone else in charge. Jensen was clearly much better at mafia heists than he was.
Jensen crept forward through the stacks until they were nearly on top of the guards, then exploded into motion, one arm sweeping up to catch a guy right under the chin even as he drove his opposite elbow into someone's gut. Jared tackled a third guy who tried to attack Jensen from behind, relying on his greater body mass and mostly-there memories of the boxing team to help him knock the guy out as quickly as possible.
Once his opponent was out for the count, Jared spun to help Jensen, only to discover the other three already groaning on the floor and Jensen brushing dust off his sweater like a total badass.
"Holy shit," he gaped. "You actually are a secret ninja master."
"Told you," Jensen said, somehow managing to sound smug and awkward about it at the same time. He grabbed the closest body and started dragging. "Help me get these guys out of sight before someone notices."
Someone had handed Jared a bunch of zip ties at Jeff manor, so it was the work of a matter of minutes to get all four guards trussed up and tucked out of sight with their own socks shoved in their mouths to keep them quiet. Then it was a matter of checking that the coast was clear and sneaking back to the stairs. Jared's shoulder blades started itching again, but they managed to make it to the top without trouble.
"Which way?" Jensen whispered, and Jared took the lead, hoping like hell that he was remembering the directions correctly.
They ran into a couple more mafia thugs on the way, all of which were dispatched with a combination of Jared's Taser and Jensen's ninja skills.
"I feel like I'm playing Metal Gear Solid," Jared confided to Jensen after one such encounter.
"That's nice," Jensen said. He wasn't even breathing hard, the bastard. Mostly, Jared was impressed that his hood hadn't fallen off yet. "Are we there yet?"
Eventually, they found the right office. It was, unsurprisingly, locked.
"Is this where you tell me that a misspent youth taught you how to pick locks?" Jensen asked, without much hope. He eyed the door. "I might be able to kick it in, but it's going to make a hell of a lot of noise."
Jared shook his head. "I've got it. I think." He reached out with his left hand, pressing the symbol painted on his palm against the lock, just like Chris had told him to. He didn't hear a click, but the door swung open when he tried it, which was fine with him.
He could feel the weight of Jensen's stare boring into the back of his head. "You got those spells from Chris," he said, not a question. "He made that unlocking talisman himself."
"I did," he agreed. "Do you see a safe anywhere?"
Between the two of them, it wasn't long before they unearthed the safe, wedged in between the desk and a filing cabinet. It was an imposing-looking thing, and likely cost a small fortune.
Not that it stood up against Chris' spell any better than the door had.
"That is a terrifying spell," Jared said, as he pulled the door open. "Chris could get into anything with it."
"Trust me, he already has," Jensen said dryly. "You got the vial yet?"
"I'm looking, okay, gimme a- aha!" Jared lifted the vial aloft with a triumphant grin. "Got it!"
"Amazing. Spectacular. Now let's get out of here."
Unfortunately, their escape was not nearly so successful.
"Can't you run any faster?" Jensen yelled at him, as they pelted headlong down the hallway with a handful of mafia thugs on their heels.
Jared wasn't sure whether they'd tripped some kind of silent alarm or one of the tied-up bodies had been discovered, but the whole building was definitely aware they were here now.
"I'd go faster if you weren't in my way!" Jared shouted back, swearing when a bullet buried itself in the wall just above his head. "Where are those damn stairs?"
"Nearly there!" Jensen careered around a corner, taking out the guy waiting for them with a vicious kick to the balls without even slowing.
If Jared hadn't been in love before, he definitely was now.
Something moved in his peripheral vision. "Duck!" he yelled, and they both hit the deck just in time to avoid getting a two-by-four to the head. Jared lashed out with his Taser, not even able to feel a grim satisfaction at his success thanks to all the panicked adrenaline running through his system.
Jensen grabbed him under the armpit, yanking him to his feet. "Move your ass, Jared!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" And they were off again.
This was definitely the last time Jared did anything for a mafia boss.
Jared could have wept for joy when the top of the staircase appeared in front of them. They pounded down the hall and practically threw themselves down the stairs. Jared could see another group of thugs streaking across the main floor, trying to get to the bottom before they did.
"We're not gonna make it!" he warned, fighting not to misstep on the rickety steps.
"We will if you shut up and run faster!"
Something hit Jared in the back, hard enough to make him stagger. "Ow," he said, almost absently.
Then his legs buckled.
"Jared!" someone shouted, but Jared was a bit too busy falling over to answer.
He hit the stairs with a jarring thud, his side burning like fire as he tumbled into a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. Clumsily, Jared pressed a hand to the pain and was confused when his fingers came back stained red.
Someone was moaning like they were dying.
"Jared!" the voice said again. Jensen, that was Jensen, but Jared didn't know quite where he was.
He tried to reach out, but the world was going fuzzy and he couldn't quite figure out which way was up. Why was he on the floor?
"Shit," Jensen said, and then someone grabbed Jared's hand and pressed it over his eyes. "Don't look, Jared."
And Jared didn't know what was going on, but moving his hand was more work than leaving it, so he obeyed. Distantly, he could hear people screaming and a strange noise that didn't sound like anything he'd ever heard before. The warmth of Jensen's leg moved away from his side, and Jared moaned, cut adrift in the pain and the blackness until, eventually, that vanished as well.
There was someone rifling through his clothes.
"Dammit!" a voice hissed, frantic and afraid. "Where is it? Don't you dare tell me you dropped it!"
Jared whimpered, trying to get away from that rough touch.
"Shh, it's fine, it'll be fine. Oh, thank God."
The hands finally stopped, but Jared moaned in protest when they rolled him flat onto his front instead and the world lit up with pain and fire.
"Sorry for this."
The hands shoved at his shirt, and Jared yelled when it pulled wetly on the ball of agony in his back.
"Apollo, guide my hand," the voice murmured, and Jared hissed when something cold landed on his skin.
Jensen's fingers were there the next moment, spreading the burning cold across his skin. Jared whimpered, trying to curl away from the touch.
"Shh," the voice soothed. "It'll help. Trust me. Can you do that?"
And Jared had no reason to do that, but he couldn't deny that voice anything.
"That's it. How do you feel?"
Like I'm dying, Jared was going to say, except, no, he didn't.
Startled, he jerked up, moaning at the sudden sharp jab of pain through his veins. Jensen's hands were there immediately, pressing him down to the ground and keeping him still.
"Careful," Jensen said, looming over him like an angel in sunglasses and a hoodie. "Give it time to finish."
"Give what time?" Jared's hands, tacky with drying blood, shifted to his back, and he made a choked sound when he realized that the wound was gone. His eyes flew open as he twisted to look; all he saw was bloody clothes and pink, tender skin. There wasn't even a mark to betray the fact that he'd just been shot.
Jensen watched him take this in, his face inscrutable.
"What did you do?" Jared breathed, and blinked when Jensen dangled the vial in front of his face.
It wasn't, Jared couldn't help but notice, nearly as full as it had been before.
"Powdered unicorn horn," Jensen told him. "Has the ability to heal any wound. Lucky for you. Now come on. I'm pretty sure I got everyone in the immediate area, but we need to not be here when the reinforcements show up." After shrugging his hoodie on and flipping up the hood, Jensen climbed to his feet and offered Jared a hand. "Up you go!"
"Nngh!" Jared gasped, when the change in orientation made his nerves sing with pain.
"It'll get better," Jensen promised, looping Jared's arm over his shoulders. "Come on. Watch your step."
"Huh?" Jared looked around them as Jensen started hauling him towards the door, and immediately blanched.
"Jensen," he said, voice strained, and felt Jensen's muscles tense under his arm.
"Plans change," he said tightly, eyes focused on the ground in front of them rather than the horror frozen on the faces of the stone figures ringing them. "Next time, do a better job of not getting yourself killed."
"Understood," Jared managed. He took a deep breath. "Jensen, I'm so sor-"
"Don't," Jensen cut in. He took a deep, shuddery breath. "It's fine. Just don't do it again. I don't feel much like watching you die."
"Right," Jared mumbled, and let Jensen stagger them both towards the exit. The jangling ache in his gut slowly eased, and by the time they emerged out onto the street, Jared didn't really need the support of Jensen's shoulder to keep him moving.
He stayed right where he was though. He wasn't stupid. Jensen's body was warm and solid against his, and Jared was determined to enjoy it for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, Jensen didn't appear to share that impulse.
"Can you stand?" Jensen asked, stepping away when Jared nodded. He reached into his pocket for his phone. "You have Jeff's card, right?"
"What? Oh, yeah. Wait." Jared fumbled through his pockets before he retrieved the slightly battered card. At least his bloody fingerprints didn't show up much.
Jensen accepted the card and dialed. "Jeff," he said a moment later. "Oh, don't bother. We both know you're not surprised. We need a cleanup. Yeah. Yeah. Wasn't planning on it. Whatever. Fine."
He hung up with a violent jab of his thumb that made Jared think that he wished he had a receiver to slam the phone into. "Let's go," he said shortly.
Jared didn't bother asking where, since all of Jensen's requirements seemed to be 'not here' and, well, he couldn't really say he objected. Jensen started hauling him down the street and Jared staggered along next to him, glad for his longer legs as he struggled to keep up with Jensen's rapid pace. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, forcing Jared to squint against the glare.
"Did we just become mafia hitmen?" Jared ventured after a moment. "Because if we did I owe Chad an apology."
Abruptly, Jensen laughed. It wasn't a particularly mirthful sound. "I guess we did," he agreed. "Who the fuck is Chad?"
So Jared explained Chad, which pretty much the entire trip out of the dock zone because Chad was indescribable at the best of times. As they reached the edges of the city proper, a homeless guy who was clearly tweaked out on something stared at them with comically wide eyes.
Which was about the time that Jared realized he was absolutely covered in blood.
"We need to get off the street," Jensen said aloud, so in line with Jared's train of thought that it made his head hurt.
Jared glanced around, getting his bearings. "My apartment's only a few stops away on the red line."
Jensen's mouth pressed into a thin line. "That doesn't sound like a good idea."
"Which part? The subway or my apartment?"
Jensen huffed at him. "Both."
"The subway's full of crazy people at the best of times. And if the SPD go looking for anyone, they're not likely to check myplace, right? I mean, I'm just a human."
Jensen sighed. "Fine. You couldn't have brought your car?"
Jared shrugged. "I got a ride from Jeff's henchpeople."
"Of course you did. I hope you've got enough money for both of us. Funnily enough, I didn't bring my wallet to infiltrate a mafia warehouse."
Jared did, in fact, have enough money for both of them, and spent most of the trip back trying to stifle inappropriate laughter every time someone made a horrified double-take at his blood-splattered appearance.
"You're a terrible human being," Jensen informed him, sotto voce, and Jared nearly lost it entirely.
"That's okay," he said, giving Jensen a friendly nudge. "I hear being human's really passé these days, anyway."
Jensen heaved a big sigh and very deliberately turned his face away from Jared's. Jared went back to fighting the giggles.
It was nearing six by the time they reached Jared's apartment, and he was starting to feel the drain of fighting his way through a mafia warehouse and then nearly bleeding to death.
"Mi casa es su casa," he said to Jensen as he let them in. "Can I get you anything?"
"Coffee," Jensen said immediately, which sounded like an excellent idea.
Jared set the coffee maker, then went to change into something that wasn't covered in blood. He longed to have a shower and wash off all the blood and ink on his skin, but he suspected it was going to take forever and he didn't want to leave Jensen unattended that long. He'd have to live with it for a while longer.
"Thanks," Jensen said, when Jared handed him a mug. He then preceded to stare into it rather than drinking it, which was a concerning sign.
Jared sat beside him on the couch, leaving a full cushion of space between them, just in case. "You okay?"
"I think," Jensen said, with a worrying amount of precision. "That you should tell me what that was all about now."
"Oh, right. Well, uh, Jeff said-"
Jensen sighed. "I was worried it would be something like that. What, exactly, did he say?"
"He, uh, he said that you weren't under arrest for ki- turning those guys to stone, but for lying about being a gorgon on your citizenship papers."
"Lying about-?" Jensen shook his head. "Why would I do that?"
Jared hunched his shoulders. "Because gorgons aren't allowed to live in cities because they're too dangerous?"
Jensen stared at him, thoroughly nonplussed. "A hundred years ago, maybe, but not these days. Do you think we're all living in the stone ages or something?"
"Well I don't know, do I?" Jared snapped, with a touch of asperity. "I've only known that monsters are real for, like, two days. And anyway, you do have a fake ID! I've seen it, remember?"
"For idiot humans!"
"Well, what about the mob?" Jared demanded, which gave Jensen pause.
"The one that descended on the radio station yesterday. Jeff said-"
Jensen groaned. "Please don't start any more sentences with 'Jeff said'. That's never a good reason to do anything."
"Couldn't have told me that earlier." Jared crossed his arms over his chest, feeling petulant and not giving a damn. "I was trying to help."
That earned him a sigh. "I know. He can be very convincing. And at least now we understand what this whole mess was in aid of."
They did? "We do?"
"How do you think I knew where you were, Jared?"
Jared was embarrassed that that question hadn't even occurred to him. "Um, Jeff told you?" he guessed.
"Jensen nodded grimly. "Jeff has been trying for a while to get me involved in his affairs, but I'm not interested. So he deliberately put you in danger so that I'd be forced to help."
"But why? He can't think that this taste of the criminal underworld is going to make you become a mobster, so what difference does it make who dealt with that?"
Jensen was quiet for a moment. "I don't know for sure," he said slowly. "But I don't think he could get involved in this directly without causing all sorts of other problems." Jensen's lips quirked. "Much as he'd like to pretend, Jeff's not untouchable. This was a much bigger deal than just me getting attacked. He had limited options for how to deal with it."
"So he got an uninvolved third party to deal with it."
"Mm," Jensen agreed. "It's also a terror tactic. There were, what, fifty guys in that warehouse? Two people devastated the lot of them andstole something very valuable from a very good safe. Not to mention that Jeff'll make sure that the ones I…" Jensen coughed, his mouth turning down at the corners. "They'll probably never be found. That's the kind of thing that creates an impression."
Jared looked up from contemplating his coffee, trying to interpret Jensen's expression. "It really bothers you, doesn't it? What you can do?"
Jensen's answering laugh was deeply bitter. "How could it not? I'm a murderer, Jared."
"That's not your fault-"
"Do you know the first thing I killed with my gaze?" Jensen demanded.
Jared couldn't answer, and Jensen didn't wait for him to try.
"My puppy. I was six. I didn't mean to, but that didn't make it better. I cried for weeks. That's when I learned that all of my parents' warnings about how dangerous I was were only scratching the surface."
"You told me once that you're more than your condition," Jared offered. "And that's what matters."
Jensen snorted. "It does when it's an accident. I've always told myself that I'm not the same. There are all sorts of deadly monsters out there, but they can choose whether or not to use their claws; for me, it's always an accident. Except this time it wasn't."
"I chose your life over all those men and women," Jensen said. "I murdered them all and I'd fucking do it again and that, that…" His voice cracked on a sob. "That terrifies me."
To hell with keeping his distance. Jared put his arm around Jensen's shoulders and tugged gently. To his surprise, Jensen sighed and melted into the embrace, head lolling to rest on Jared's chest.
"How do I live with that?" Jensen demanded, fingers clutching bruise-tight on Jared's arms.
"I don't know," Jared admitted. "But I think the fact that it's so hard is a good thing. And I'll help you try and figure it out, if you'll let me."
Jensen made a noncommittal sound.
They sat in silence for long enough that Jared thought that the other man had fallen asleep.
"He's got a seer on the books, you know," Jensen said suddenly, not quite casually enough to sound anything other than tense. "That's someone who can tell the future, by the way," he added, before Jared could ask.
Jared thought about it. "You think he knew this would happen?"
Jensen shrugged. "'M just saying. He could have told you to take anything out of that warehouse; it was the act, not the object, that mattered. And he had us steal the one thing that can heal any wound? It's awfully convenient."
"Well, I'm glad he doesn't want me dead," Jared said.
"I wonder," Jensen said, sounding thoughtful.
"Nothing. You should be the one to give him the vial."
"Why? He must know that I never would have got it without you."
"He's going to be impossibly smug about me getting involved and I don't think I can deal with that without punching him in his stupid face." Jensen made a face. "And the last time I did that his henchmen locked me in the cellar for a week. Not something I'm really interested in doing again."
"What kind of relationship do you havewith this guy?" Jared couldn't help but ask.
"That," Jensen said tiredly, "is a very long story. And one I'm not getting into now. The short version is that he's been like a benevolent uncle to me, while also not being overly worried about getting me killed in his various machinations over the years."
"Yikes. Okay, it's official: I am never working for the mafia again."
He felt Jensen smile against his chest. "You do realize that Jeff is the General Manager of Muse FM, right?"
Jared was somewhat relieved to find that he was too tired to be properly shocked about that. "Please tell me you're lying."
"Fraid not. He owns the whole building, actually. So you've been working for the mafia ever since you got here." Jensen shrugged. "Technically."
"Well shit. Now I know it's a conspiracy. I just wish I knew to what end."
Fabric shifted as Jensen shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine."
They fell silent again until Jensen did actually fall asleep, lax and trusting in Jared's arms.
Jared sat there for a long time, absorbing everything that had happened and enjoying the closeness. Jensen's sunglasses were digging uncomfortably into Jared's collar, but he thought he enjoy getting used to it, all the same.
He just wasn't sure he was going to be given the chance to.
Things were unavoidably awkward when they woke up several hours later, necks stiff from sleeping on the couch and the weave of Jared's shirt imprinted on Jensen's cheek.
Jensen wasted no time in beating a hasty retreat, pausing only to throw the vial of unicorn horn at Jared before leaving.
For his part, Jared banged his head against the table a couple of times before sighing and going to take a long-overdue shower.
After a small eternity spend scrubbing the damned ink off his skin - which he was 100% certain was Chris' idea of a joke - Jared decided that he probably ought to give the vial to Jeff sooner rather than later. He didn't particularly want to make the man come after him for it.
Jeff didn't sound at all surprised to hear from him, which Jared had expected. He was starting to think that nothing surprised Jeff.
"A job well done," Jeff said, when Jared was escorted into his office. "I trust you've recovered your strength?"
"Yeah," Jared said, and thrust out his hand. "Here. Your unicorn horn. We used some, sorry."
Jeff looked amused, the bastard. "I'll overlook it this once."
"Lovely. Are we done?"
"I see you've been talking to my godson." Jeff sighed, while Jared's eyes bulged at this new piece of information. "It's always his worst habits that seem to rub off on people."
"Maybe if you didn't make it so easy for people get irritated at you," Jared suggested. "Can I go now?"
Jeff opened the drawer in his desk and drew out a small bag made of red velvet. "Here."
Jared eyed it suspiciously. "What is it?"
"It's a gift," Jeff said. "For you. A reward for a job well done."
"I thought Jensen not being on jail was my reward," Jared said, not moving to take it.
Jeff smiled thinly. "It was. But that doesn't mean I can't sweeten the deal if I so choose."
"I'm fine thanks," Jared tried.
Jeff made an elegant gesture towards the bag with one hand. "Take it, Jared."
His voice never lost its pleasant edge and yet, somehow, Jared didn't dare disobey a second time.
The bag was made of heavy, expensive fabric, and Jared weighed it awkwardly in his hand, curious and nervous in about equal measure. Fumbling open the loose knot holding it closed, Jared squared his shoulders and dumped the contents into his open hand.
It was. Well.
"What do you think?" Jeff asked, sounding bizarrely invested in Jared's response.
"I think it's an oddly shaped piece of metal," Jared said. Because that was what it was. He peered more closely at what looked like part of a stylized border of interlocking squares carved into the metal at one end. "It's... a piece of something bigger?"
"This," Jeff said grandly, "is a piece of Perseus' shield."
"If it could hurt Jensen," Jared started, because Wikipedia had been enough to learn the basics about gorgons. And a piece of the shield that was used to defeat the gorgon Medusa didn't sound like a good thing to him.
"Oh, no, no, it's perfectly harmless."
"Well that sounds like something worth having," Jared said dryly.
"It is profoundly worth having, as a matter of fact." Jeff gestured at the shard. "The shards of Perseus' shield are able to nullify a gorgon's ability to turn people to stone."
Jared stared at him, openly shocked. "They what?!"
"Only for the person holding it, of course."
"But, but, that's impossible!"
"And you know that for a fact, do you?" Jeff asked, sounding amused.
"Well," Jared faltered. "No, but, Jensen said-"
"Jensen can sometimes be… selective about the truths he tells. For example." Jeff eyed him with a thoughtful gleam in his eyes. "I assume he rejected your romantic overtures because it's too dangerous."
Jared scowled. "So?"
"And yet you have a class five exemption to the secrecy laws."
"I repeat: so?"
"Has anyone told you what a class five exemption is? Of course not," he finished for himself. "Jensen would never tell you, and Danneel would consider it not her place."
"Are you actually going to say anything useful, or are you just being obscure to entertain yourself?"
"Class five grants exemption from secrecy laws on account of a permanent, romantic relationship with a monster," Jeff said, which shut Jared up pretty damn fast. "Your application was filed 19 days ago."
Jeff smiled. "It does sound like the sort of thing I would do. But no. That was Jensen. And if he can't tell you the truth about that, how can you possible believe he's telling you the whole truth about a possible solution to your relationship issues?"
That was actually a good point, much as Jared hated to admit it.
He looked at the shard with renewed interest. "Fine, okay. If this shard thing really can protect someone from getting turned to stone - and I'm not saying that I believe you, just for the record - but if it can, then…"
"Why am I giving it to you?" Jeff finished. He appeared to consider the question for a moment, then offered Jared that thin smile of his. "It's what I do."
"Give Jensen presents through third parties because he wants to beat your head in?" Jared guessed, because he was completely at a loss here.
"Jensen will know what I mean." Jeff took a deliberately showy look at his watch. "I won't keep you any longer. I'm sure we'll meet again."
"Joy," Jared deadpanned, and Jeff graced him with a smirk.
"It's somewhat refreshing, conversing with you. I'll be interested to see how much of that snark persists at our next meeting."
Jared crossed his arms over his chest. "If it hasn't been cowed out of me yet, why do you think it's going to change?"
Jeff shrugged. "Only time will tell. You might be surprised though." He clapped his hands and the horse-lady reappeared. "Kim will show you out."
The rest of the weekend felt like it took took a hundred years to pass. Jared had never been so eager to go to work in his entire life.
Jared was in work early on Monday, practically jittering with the need to see Jensen. He really needed to get the guy's phone number. He put the shard in his pocket, fingering the time-smoothed edges as he watched the clock tick ever so slowly closer to the beginning of Jensen's shift.
Of course, because the universe hated him, Danneel came by just after 11 and dragged him out to a nearby café for a talk about his position.
Or, more specifically, his lack of position.
"I'm sorry," Danneel said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "But now that the people sending the threats have been… dealt with, we really don't need you."
"That's fine," Jared managed through the lump of lead in his throat. "I understand. Can I-?"
Danneel seemed to understand what he was asking. "You'll finish out the week with us. Trust me, I'm not letting you go anywhere without talking to Jensen. And speaking of which…" She leaned across the table with an impish grin that Jared immediately distrusted. "I think that now is a perfect time to question you about your intentions, don't you?"
Jared manfully refrained from whimpering.
By the time Danneel was done grilling him and they walked back to Muse FM, Jensen was already on the air, which just figured.
Hopefully, Jared wandered down to the recording studio - which had its door back - but the recording light was on. "Damn," he sighed, and turned to go mope in the break room for the next four hours or so.
A loud bang rang through the air, and Jared whirled, nerves on high alert. He relaxed a little when he realized that it was only Jensen, striding out of the broadcast booth like a man on a mission, his hood down and his snakes flailing wildly.
"Jensen," he greeted. "Hi."
Jensen gave no indication that he'd heard, just grabbed him by the wrist and hauled him bodily towards the recording studio
"Uh, Jensen?" Jared said nervously. He tried discreetly to wriggle out of Jensen's grip, but it was like trying to escape iron shackles. Jensen dragged him inside, only releasing his arm once the door was shut behind them.
And Jared would really have liked to indulge his curiosity and take a look around, but he wasn't sure it was a good idea to take his eyes off Jensen right now. Not when the man had crossed his arms over his chest and had his mouth set into a grim line that contrasted dramatically with the way his hair was writhing around his face in a tangled, frantic mess.
"Um?" Jared asked.
"Where is it?" Jensen demanded.
Jared's hand flew to his pocket. "It's not dangerous, is it? Oh, geez, it's super dangerous, isn't it? I knew I shouldn't have taken it."
"What? No, it's not. It's... Show me."
Obediently, Jared pulled out the shard of Perseus' shield, and Jensen huffed in what Jared recognized as disbelief.
"Jared, where did you get that?"
"Um, Jeff gave it to me? Is that bad? Should I give it back?"
"No!" Jensen took an abortive step forwards, fingers reaching, before he caught himself. He coughed under Jared's shocked eyes. "If you get rid of it, I am never talking to you again."
Jared had to smile. "Because that's a measured and mature response."
Jensen shook his head in his patented 'it's unbelievable how unaware you are' way. "Jared. That is one of the rarest magic relics in the entire world. I'm being a model of restraint here."
"It is?" Jared looked down at the uneven metal with a new appreciation. "Then why'd he give it to me?"
"That's what I want to know." Jensen started pacing, his feet making no noise on the thick carpeting. "What he did say?"
Jared shrugged. "Not much. He said it was a reward for my help with the warehouse thing. He's kind of a jerk sometimes, have you noticed?"
"He's kind of a jerk all the time. I'd be surprised if anyone hadn't noticed. What else? Tell me exactly."
"I…" Jared paused, trying to recall the precise wording of their conversation. "I asked him why he was giving it to me and not you, and he said 'it's what I do'. He said you'd under- Jensen?" he said sharply. "Are you okay? You look like you're about to pass out."
"Fine," Jensen said faintly. "I'm fine."
"I call bullshit. Jensen's what's wrong?"
"That's…" A familiar flashing on the frankly intimidating bank of buttons and switches at the desk caught his eye, and Jensen cut himself off. "Hold that thought."
Jensen took a few stumbling steps and practically fell into his chair. His hands navigated the console with ease, doing Jared had no idea what. Jared watched, not sure if Jensen was about to go back on air and if he should be sneaking out silently. Or standing here and not breathing too loudly, or something.
"Wait," Jensen said, not looking up, which answered that question at least. He made no move towards the microphone nor his oversized headphones, which Jared was relieved about, just kept messing with the computer.
"Okay," Jensen said, about 30 seconds later, swiveling in his chair to face Jared. "I've put a few songs in the queue. Should give us enough time for this conversation."
"What conversation is that exactly?" Jared asked warily.
"Jeff is an Eros," Jensen said.
"Thank you, that explains exactly nothing. What's an Eros?"
Jensen sighed. "You are such a heathen. Like a cupid."
Jared blinked. "Like, he makes people fall in love?"
"Among his other skills, yes."
"Wow. Really? I was not expecting that."
"I'm not entirely sure I want to know what you were expecting."
"Dunno," Jared said, with a shrug. "Vampire maybe?"
"What? You're kidding."
Jensen shook his head. "Nope," he said, popping hard on the 'p'.
"Geez." Jared leaned a hip against the corner of the desk, shaking his head. "This 'monster are real' thing is such a disappointment sometimes. No vampires?"
"Way to ruin all my dreams, Jensen. So Jeff is can make people fall in love, huh? Isn't that a little," He groped for a word. "Friendly for a monster mafia boss?"
"Zeus give me strength." Jensen looked up at him. "Would youpiss off a guy who could make you fall passionately in love with a walrus?"
Jared thought about that. "Oh."
"Yes, 'oh'. Jeff earned quite the reputation when he was working his way through the organization. These days, pretty much no one dares cross him in case it ends with marriage to their sister, or something."
Suddenly, Jared thought he understood Jeff's confidence about how his attitude would improve.
"Wait," he realized. "What does Jeff being an Eros have to do with this thing?" He brandished the shield piece.
Jensen bit his lip. "An Eros can do more than just make people fall in love."
"Like what?" Jared asked, when Jensen didn't say anything more.
Jensen took a deep breath. "They can tell when people are soulmates. And he always was a meddling bastard."
It took Jared an unforgivably long moment to figure out what Jensen was implying. His jaw dropped. "Are you…"
"Yes," Jensen said, still focusing his eyes somewhere in the direction of Jared's abs instead of his face.
"-are soulmates," Jensen agreed. He directed a tight smile at the ground. "Surprise."
"Oh." Jared thought he maybe needed to sit down. "That's… woah."
Through the sunglasses, Jared got the impression that Jensen was watching him closely. "Yeah," he said, the word falling heavily into the air. There was silence for a moment, then he added, "Sorry."
Jared's head jerked up from where he'd been contemplating his shoes. "What? No! I didn't mean… I was surprised, that's all."
Jensen snorted. "Sure."
"Really, I-" Jared ran a nervous hand through his hair, sure that this was about to become embarrassing really, really fast. "God, Jensen, I just went against the monster mafia because I thought it would help you."
"So what you're saying is you're profoundly gullible when you have a crush."
"Well, yes, I guess, a little bit. But what I'm trying to say is-" He took a deep breath. "I've been drawn to you since we met. And I don't know why, but I can't deny that it's the truth. It's only been a few weeks, but I want to spend as much time as I can getting to know you. If that's what it means to be soulmates, well." He offered Jensen a helpless shrug. "It seems to me like it's just a name for a feeling I already know. Do you-?"
"Don't you start fishing for compliments," Jensen said, gruffly. "I'm not sorry that Jeff got you involved," he added abruptly. He sounded like he was spoiling for a fight. "I probably should be, since you nearly got your fool self killed, but you'd probably have walked right back out of my life if he hadn't and I. I wasn't ready for that." And, a little quieter, "I'm not sure I'm ever going to be ready."
"Soooo, does that mean I can keep this thing?" Jared asked, brandishing the shard, because romantic confessions were hella awkward.
Jensen licked his lips. "If you want to, yeah."
Jared smiled. "I want, yeah. So," he said then, turning the shard over in his hands. "How does it work? Is it a mirror like in the story?"
One of Jensen's eyebrows arched over the top of his sunglasses. "Since when do you know about the myth of Perseus?"
"Wikipedia is my friend."
"Fair enough. Perseus' shield isn't a mirror. It never was. Myths…"
"Don't always get the details right, so I've heard. Then how did Perseus defeat Medusa? Or is that part of the story made up too?"
"Oh, he definitely killed Medusa. It just wasn't as easy as that. That," he said gesturing at the shard in Jared's hands. "Is made of a magic so old that no one's ever been able to replicate it. Yes, kind of like the Super Soldier Serum," he added, before Jared could ask exactly that.
Jared beamed at him. "See? We're already getting to know each other!"
"Getting to know your ridiculous inability to let any comment pass without making a pop culture reference, you mean. Anyway, the shield was spelled to nullify Medusa's powers, which gave Perseus plenty of opportunity to cut her head off. It was put on display in the palace in Argos until his death, then it was split into pieces. Most of the pieces were lost thousands of years ago, resurfacing on the black market every now and then, or in a museum collection."
"Thank you for that history lesson. You still haven't my question though. How do I make it work?"
"I don't exactly have any practical experience with it," Jensen shot back. He huffed. "As far as I know, it just needs to be touching your skin. The ones I've seen depicted are usually worn around the neck under the shirt."
"But just holding it like this is enough?" Jared asked, hefting the shard.
Jensen spread his hands. "Your guess is as good as mine. It should."
Jared considered. "Right," he decided. "Let's give it a try."
"What?" Jensen spluttered. "Jared, are you crazy?"
"Considering the kind of shit I've got into in the last week, probably." Jared looked over at him. "Don't you want to know if it works?"
"Not if you might die in the process! You actually are suicidal, aren't you? Oh gods, what am I getting myself into?"
"Nothing yet," Jared said, with a touch of hilarity that was entirely inappropriate for the conversation at hand. "But if you play your cards right…"
Jensen groaned and buried his face in his hands. "I'm embarrassed to know you." He peeked up at Jared through his fingers. "Are you serious about this?"
A frantic little voice in the back of his head was screaming what the hell did he think he was doing, risking getting himself turned to stone for a guy he'd just met, but Jared ignored it.
"I am," he said, with all the firmness he could muster. "You recognized it right away, even though it was in my pocket. It must be legit."
"But what if it isn't?"
Jared looked at him. "Would Jeff lie about us being soulmates?"
"Probably not," Jensen admitted. "He's more likely to withhold information like that rather than make it up. Morally gray as he is, Jeff still has some principles."
"And would he deliberately try to hurt you by making you kill your soulmate?"
"No." This time, Jensen's answer was firm.
"Then we're fine," Jared said, and reached for Jensen's sunglasses.
Jensen grabbed his wrist. "Jared, you need to think about this. If it doesn't work, this will kill you."
"It won't," Jared said, with more conviction than he actually felt. "Besides," he added, with a crooked almost-smile. "You being the last thing I ever see doesn't sound that bad."
Jensen's expression, what he could see of it, was anguished. "That is not romantic. If I'm wrong about Jeff, then I'm going to become your murderer. Don't make me do that."
"Jensen," Jared said, more gently. "It'll be okay."
He tugged lightly at his wrist, and was relieved when Jensen let him go. He reached again for Jensen's sunglasses and, though he could actually see the man trembling, Jensen didn't try to stop him again.
Wrapping his free hand more securely around the shield, Jared offered Jensen a tight smile and carefully tugged Jensen's sunglasses away from his face.
Jensen's breath sucked in sharply, and didn't exhale. He blinked rapidly when the sunglasses came free, and Jared found himself distracted by how long Jensen's eyelashes were for an impossibly long second before he succumbed to the inevitable and his eyes met Jensen's.
The connection sent a shock of awareness rushing through him, turning his bones to water and sending his pulse skyrocketing. He gasped, swaying back, sure that Jensen really was the last thing he was going to see.
Only nothing happened.
"Oh thank God," Jared breathed in a rush.
"You," Jensen said. "Are insane."
"But alive. Did you know your eyes are green?"
More than green, now that he was looking. Jared had the absent thought that Jensen would have had to wear sunglasses even if his stone gaze wasn't a problem, because there was no way that anyone could have looked at his eyes and thought he was a human.
Jensen's pupils were slitted, like a snake's, and his irises were a riotous explosion of green, blue and yellow that left Jared dazzled.
"Beautiful," he said, and had the pleasure of seeing Jensen's nose wrinkle in response.
"You are such a cliché," Jensen said, though it was an absent complaint at best. There was something wondering in his expression, and his eyes were devouring Jared's face like it was his first time seeing Jared, too.
"Is it that different?" Jared asked, curious. "No, don't stop," he said, catching Jensen's chin with his free hand when Jensen would have ducked away. "I want to know."
"It's the implication of it, mostly," Jensen said, which Jared could understand.
"I like being able to see all of you," he admitted.
Jensen smiled, and Jared traced the laugh lines that spidered at the edge of his eyes with a little wonder of his own.
Jensen's breath caught, and his eyes, when they met Jared's, were full of heat.
Between one second and the next they were kissing, one of Jared's hands tangling in Jensen's snakes, while Jensen wound his arms around Jared's neck like he was never going to let go. Jared's other hand came to rest at the small of Jensen's back, the shard's edges digging lines into his fingers.
Later, he was sure, he'd regret not having got a chain to put it on, but right now Jared quite honestly couldn't care less.
"God, Jensen," he gasped, between breathless kisses, just to hear the way it made Jensen groan. He felt his shirt bunch around his shoulders as Jensen's hands fisted in the fabric, pulling him lower so Jensen could change the angle of the kiss. The hesitancy of their first kiss had vanished, and Jared had the thought that it might not have been inexperience so much as wariness, a worry of things going wrong.
Right now, though, Jensen clearly knew exactly what he wanted and wasn't afraid of taking it. Jared had no complaints whatsoever.
Someone rapped on the door, sudden and loud, and they both jumped.
"Wha-?" Jared asked, pulling away from the tempting warmth of Jensen's mouth to look around.
Jensen swore. "That'll be Danny," he said, abandoning Jared in favour of sliding into his chair and jamming on his headphones. "I didn't notice the warning light - the station's playing dead air right now. I'm on it, Danny!" he shouted.
"Whoops," Jared said agreeably. He was grinning from ear to ear, he realized absently. His lips felt puffy and oversensitive.
"I have to finish the program." Jensen paused, his eyes darting Jared's way. He sounded unexpectedly shy when he added, "You can stay. If you want."
It was tempting. The chance to watch Jensen do his radio show, to see him in his element and doing what he loved.
"I've got my own job to do right now," Jared reminded him. He offered Jensen a hopeful smile. "Maybe another time?"
Jensen's smile was a gorgeous thing. "I'd like that."
Jared was still grinning as he left Jensen to his work and returned to the front desk to continue not having anything to do. He should probably call Jim and let him know that he'd need a new placement next week.
Instead, Jared opened his laptop and navigated to Muse FM's live stream and sat back to listen.
"And this next song is dedicated to my guy, because he's the kind of embarrassing sap who'd appreciate it." He could hear Jensen smiling as he added, "You better be listening, you slacker."
As the memorable strains of 'Can't Help Falling in Love' streamed through the speakers, all Jared could do was start counting down the minutes until he'd see Jensen at the end of the night.
He could get to like this soulmate thing.