Fandom: CWRPS AU
Word count: 7730
Warnings: Minor character death, a little bit of gore
A/N: Written for locifan who asked for a fairy tale with a Halloween twist for spn_j2_xmas. I'm, uh, not really sure how well that worked out, but here it is anyway. This story is based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, with a little bit of Tam Lin thrown in for good measure. Thanks for waiting so patiently, locifan! I hope you enjoy!
Also available on AO3.
Summary: A modern fairy tale in which Jensen isn't a princess, but he still likes dancing, Jared is definitely not a knight in shining armour, and the homeless guy across the street is surprisingly knowledgeable about sinister goings-on.
Once upon a time, Jared had foolishly believed that being a private investigator would be an exciting job. He'd imagined foiling criminal plots and going toe-to-toe with the mafia and generally being a crime-solving badass in an awesome coat.
The reality, of course, was that he spent most of his time following cheating husbands and dealing with petty theft problems. Even the coat was a disappointment; apparently it cost a lot more money than he was willing to spend to get a coat long enough to swirl dramatically around his ankles. So yeah. Not exactly the most glamourous of lives, but it paid the bills and it was better than working at Starbucks.
Tonight's job deviated just enough from the norm to be noteworthy, although Jared still doubted that it would be anything other than tedious. He was here at the behest of Dr. and Mrs. Ackles, a pair of upper-middle class high-muck-a-mucks who wanted him to convince their son, Jensen, to give up what they considered to be a degenerate and unhealthy lifestyle.
Personally, Jared thought that this Jensen was kind of old to be having his parents keeping tabs on how often he went clubbing, but it wasn't his job to question his clients' neuroses.
Jared got out of his car and looked across the road at his destination. Silberwald looked like a typical night club, complete with surly-looking bouncers and a line of eager young things waiting to get in. The steady pulse of the music was a rhythmic thrumming through the pavement even at this distance, which made him dread how loud it was going to be once he got inside.
Tonight was mostly reconnaissance, so that Jared could get a better sense of the place and what about it might be so appealing to his clients' kid. Jensen's parents had made it clear that he was here most nights, which didn't meant that Jared would be able to find him, but that it didn't much matter. Slow and steady won the race, as his momma would say.
Jared smoothed down his shirt, resisting the urge to try and tug the hem closer to the low-slung waistband of his dark-washed jeans. This wasn't even close to being his usual scene, but he'd been a PI more than long enough to know that a good disguise could do wonders. Between his too-small clothes and the kohl smudged around his eyes, Jared ought to be as good as invisible in the crowd. As long as he didn't make too many faces at the racket they'd be trying to pass off as music.
Satisfied that he was as ready as he was going to get, Jared started down the street towards the club. There was a homeless person slumped on the ground ahead of him, looking like nothing so much as a discarded pile of clothing masquerading as a human being.
"Spare some change for a crazy homeless guy?" the bundle of rags and disheveled hair said as he passed, with an over-the-top pleading expression that made Jared grin.
"I'm not sure that's the best line for you to use," Jared said, stopping.
The homeless guy shrugged. "I believe in truth in advertising. Also, aliens. And I live in a box, so think the moniker suits me."
The strangest part of this was definitely a homeless person - crazy or otherwise - correctly using the word 'moniker' in a sentence.
Still grinning, Jared dug into his pocket for his wallet. It was a tight squeeze, but he managed it, and extracted a fiver.
"My thanks," the homeless guy said. The bill disappeared into the folds of his clothes. "You going in there?" he asked, with a head nod towards Silberwald.
Jared nodded and earned a thoughtful hum in response. "What?"
"Nothing much," was all the guy said. "It's manifestly not my business how you live your life. But if you want some friendly advice…"
Jared couldn't help but grin. He kind of liked this crazy homeless guy. "I'm always a fan of friendly advice."
"I'd avoid eating or drinking anything while you're inside," the guy said, sounding unexpectedly serious about the bizarre suggestion. "It doesn't go well for people."
"I'll take it under advisement," Jared said gravely. It was his policy never to indulge while he was on the job anyway, but this guy didn't need to know that.
"A sensible course of action. Oh, and you'll want this too," the guy said, handing over something small. "In thanks for your generosity."
"Uh, thanks," Jared said, accepting the offering. He looked down. It was a small metal pin with a cut-out image of Tinkerbell on the front, the kind of thing sold in Chinese knock-off shops the world over. "You really don't need to-"
"You might need it," the guy said, and Jared couldn't think of a single instance where that could possibly be true.
He didn't see the point in antagonizing the crazy but harmless homeless person, though, so he just smiled and slipped it into his pocket. "Well, thanks for thinking of me, then, I guess. See you later."
"Oh, probably," the homeless guy agreed, and Jared shook his head as he continued his journey across the road.
From that point, it was a simple matter of joining the line and trying to look like he wanted to be there when he got to the bouncers, and he was in. The bouncers barely glanced at him as they waved him inside, and Jared could only appreciate their lax attention. He wasn't looking to cause trouble in the first place, but he wasn't exactly here without ulterior motives, and it would have been a real nuisance to get kicked out before he even got started.
As soon as Jared stepped inside the club proper, the music swamped over him, thrumming through his veins and practically making the air reverberate in front of his eyes. He tried to subtly scope the place out, but he kept getting distracted by the throb of the lights and the ceaseless heave of the writhing crowd. Everyone he saw was moving in time with the music: not a single soul was standing aside to watch, like Jared was used to seeing in clubs.
For a moment, as he squinted into the dim, Jared thought the world was shifting around him, the dark walls dissolving into the looming shadows of ancient trees, and the music taking on a haunting, unearthly quality. He blinked and things returned to normal.
"Get it together, Jared," he muttered to himself, and strode determinedly towards the bar. It didn't look overly busy - another oddity - and bartenders were great sources of information, especially when Jared offered them hard cash in return for their help. It was the logical place to start.
Except he never quite got there. One minute, Jared was pushing his way towards the bar, and the next he was in the thick of the dance floor, his arms wrapped possessively around a stunning redhead with heavy-lidded eyes and a barely-there shirt. She smiled up at him, seduction written into every curve, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world for Jared to pull her in tighter with a sharkish smile of his own.
Things got fuzzy. He was vaguely aware of being a part of the ever-seething mass of dancers, even though he usually had two left feet when it came to having anything even remotely resembling rhythm. Time slipped away as the redhead was replaced by dark-haired twins, were replaced by a tall man with skin the colour of caramel, was replaced by a blond twink with a positively sinful smile. Jared smiled back, feeling his cock throb with interest. He couldn't remember why that was a problem.
Bodies pressed in on all sides, brushing against every inch of him, and Jared purred under the caress of covetous hands. He wanted to do this forever.
He was thirsty.
He was absently aware of someone handing him a glass. Dreamily, Jared raised the glass to his lips, heady with the sensation of condensation rolling across his fingers. The bodies pressed closer.
A bright stab of pain in his thigh tore through the fog in his brain, and Jared flinched, jerking back reflexively. The contents of the glass sloshed over his hands and spilled onto his shirt, the cold of it shocking against his overheated skin.
It was enough.
Disoriented and horrified, Jared wrenched himself away from the strangers wrapped around him, fighting his way towards the door. It was like wading through molasses, since the dancing crowd seemed more focused on keeping up with the music than in the fact that he was trying to get by. Most of them offered up coy smiles and tried to drag him back into the throng, but Jared could recognize the dazed looks in their eyes now, and the shock seemed to be keeping his system clear of whatever it was that was affecting them.
Was something being pumped in through the air ducts? Jared wiped a hand across his face, feeling the sweat that God only knew how many hours of dancing had left on his skin. What the hell was going on here?
Feeling dangerously close to panicked, Jared shoved harder at the wall of people blocking him in. He had to get out of here.
"Whoa," a voice said, easily audible despite the relentless music. A hand settled on Jared's arm above the elbow, stopping his advance. "What's the hurry, handsome?"
"Let me-" go Jared meant to say, twisting around to glare at the person holding him back. Only it got lost when he got a good look at the guy.
Jared would candidly admit - to probably anyone except the Ackles' - that his first thought upon seeing Jensen's picture in his job briefing had been 'damn, this guy's pretty'. He was only human, after all, and Jensen's headshot had been male model good-looking.
The man standing in front of him right now made him wonder how he could have possibly thought the photo was doing him justice. More than a little slack-jawed, Jared took in the sweat-darkened spikes of Jensen's hair, the fire-bright sparkle of his eyes in the strobing light, the sinful drag of his shirt over a firm chest and broad shoulders. It was a compelling sight, to say the least.
Jensen was eyeing him with a frank approval that made it clear that he liked what he was seeing, too. His fingers tightened their grip. "Dance with me."
It wasn't a request.
The lassitude was gone from Jared's brain, which meant that he had no excuse for the way he fell in with Jensen like a magnet finding its compass north.
Well, the absolutely filthy shimmy that Jensen did against his front probably had something to do with it.
Jensen smiled brilliantly when Jared started moving with him, and his hands wrapped themselves languidly around Jared's neck to press them together from thighs to chest. Jensen's dick was a hot line against Jared's hip, its hardness more than a match for the state of Jared's own crotch. Helpless against the fire in his veins, Jared couldn't resist resting his own hands proprietarily on Jensen's hips and grinding them together. Jensen didn't seem all that interested in getting off, though because, with another triumphant grin, Jensen took the opportunity to start dancing for real.
The man could damn well dance, though. When Jensen moved, it was like the music was flowing through his veins instead of blood, like the dance was the only thing that mattered in the world. His own sudden ability to cut a rug notwithstanding, Jared found himself concentrating intensely just to try and keep up, and even then he felt woefully inadequate compared to Jensen.
Jensen, who looked to be having the time of his life, didn't seem to care one way or the other.
Jared wasn't sure how long they danced, not because of any lingering muzziness in his head, but because he couldn't find it within himself to drag his attention away from Jensen. The man was glorious, vivacious and alive and clearly loving the dance more than anything.
It couldn't last forever though, and Jared was ashamed at himself when he barely resisted groaning in disappointment as the music cut abruptly off and the lights went on. Last call. He hadn't even noticed.
Jensen's arms unlooped from around his neck, his fingers trailing goose bumps across Jared's skin as they stroked down his chest.
His chest was heaving, Jared realized absently, and his shirt was thoroughly soaked with sweat. He could feel it sticking to sweaty skin.
"I like you," Jensen said, eyes dancing with enough promise to make Jared's throat go dry. "You should stay."
Jensen's fingers lifted, feather light, and then he was gone, vanishing into the mass of the crowd before Jared could figure out how to respond to that. And there was some mad impulse in Jared that wanted to chase after him and do… something with all the restless energy clattering around inside him, but his brain seemed to be coming properly back online now, free of both Jensen and the strangely compelling music, and he couldn't help but puzzle over Jensen's parting words. Something about them seemed off in a way that Jared couldn't articulate to himself. Dangerously permanent.
And, God help him, but Jared almost wanted that. Which was so unlike Jared's normal behaviour as to be truly alarming.
Perhaps this wasn't such an ordinary job, after all.
When Jared peeled himself out of his clothes after getting back to his apartment that night, he found a puncture hole in the pocket of his jeans and a coat of dried blood on the ugly Tinkerbell pin that the homeless guy had given him. And wondered.
The next day, after a much later start than he usually made, Jared decided that maybe it was time to talk to Jensen. According to the information that Dr. and Mrs. Ackles had given him, Jensen owned a record store downtown that was going through a recent slump in sales. This slump, according to his clients, coincided quite suspiciously with Jensen's discovery of Silberwald as his new favourite haunt. It had seemed like pearl-clutching paranoia when Jared had first heard it. Having been there himself now, Jared could ruefully admit that they might have a point.
Caffeinated to the gills, Jared took a deep breath before pushing his way into Spin Me Round. The bell jangled sharply, announcing his arrival, and Jared took the opportunity to glance around. It looked well-kept although a little dusty around the edges, as though it had suffered some recent neglect. There were no customers in sight.
Nor any employees either.
"Hello?" Jared asked, walking further into the store. His footsteps echoed in the quiet as he approached the counter.
"One sec!" a very familiar voice called from somewhere in the back, and Jared gritted his teeth against the little thrill that the sound of it sent down his spine.
A figure appeared behind the counter. Jared sucked in a sharp breath.
It was definitely Jensen, although Jared wasn't sure he'd have recognized him as the man he'd been dancing with the night before if he hadn't known it. Gone was the endless vitality and sparkling eyes. Instead, Jensen looked haggard and drawn, his skin waxy pale and the circles under his eyes carved in a deep and angry purple. He looked like he hadn't slept in a month which, Jared reflected wryly, might not be all that far from the truth if he was going out clubbing most nights. His clothing hung loose in a way that spoke of recent weight loss, which only added to his general air of tattered exhaustion.
Perhaps Jensen's parents were right to be worrying about him, after all.
Jared didn't think he hid his surprise very well, judging by the eyebrow that Jensen raised at him.
"What?" he demanded, in a challenging tone that was considerably more belligerent than flirty.
"Sorry," Jared apologized automatically. "You, uh, look a little different in the daylight."
Jensen's eyes widened. "You're from the club."
Jared couldn't help but feel slighted. Sure, he might be sporting some impressive bags under his eyes, but Jensen had been up close and personal with him last night. He couldn't possibly be that forgettable.
"Sorry," Jensen said, obviously reading some of Jared's affront on his face. "I'm, uh, not used to seeing people from Silberwald around the city."
Jared frowned. "Really?" He gestured around the shop. "I would have thought a lot of them would want to shop in a place like this."
"Yeah, well." Jensen shrugged awkwardly. "Guess it's not on their commutes."
Jared wondered why no one had ever told Jensen that he was a terrible liar. He also wondered what Jensen knew about Silberwald that made him assume that he'd never see any of its regulars outside its walls.
"So," Jensen said, with a transparent attempt to change the subject. "What can I do for you?"
Jared really meant to talk to him about his parents' concerns, honestly he did. But somehow, he found himself asking instead for recommendations about the music that they'd been playing at the club the night before. Jensen lit up at the question, a shadow of the man that Jared had met the night before appearing through his exhaustion.
This time, Jared wasn't sure what to blame for the way he once again forgot all about the time as he listened to Jensen go on about music that Jared usually wouldn't have voluntarily listened to if someone paid him. Somehow, he ended up buying three albums and promising to come back to tell Jensen what he thought of them. Jensen smiled at him in approval, and Jared felt just the faintest bit giddy.
This was getting ridiculous.
"Jensen," he tried, as Jensen bagged his purchases. "This isn't-"
"Come dance again tonight," Jensen said suddenly, cutting straight through Jared's attempt to speak. The smile that curled his lips positively dripped with sin. "I'll make it worth your while."
Jared left the shop in a slight daze, berating himself all the way back to his car. He was a professional; he shouldn't be getting this turned around by a pretty face.
Even if it was an exceptionally pretty face.
He shut the car door with a disgruntled slam, thinking furiously.
There wasn't much point in going back in now; at best Jensen would ignore him and, at worst, he'd not want anything further to do with him once he realized that Jared had misled him. Which was a problem because it meant that Jared couldn't do his job, not because of the place inside him that wanted to panic at the thought of Jensen not talking to him anymore.
The easiest thing would be to tell Jensen's parents that there was nothing to worry about, and to go on his way. He knew that he wasn't the first private investigator that they'd hired to sort out their son, although, now that he thought about it, he didn't know why they'd left the job unfinished. It happened sometimes, even with clients like the Ackles'. He wouldn't lose his deposit, which would keep him in instant ramen for at least a fortnight. Problem solved.
There was definitely something wrong with Jensen. No amount of sleep deprivation could account for the difference in the Jensen he'd met last night and the one in the store behind him. And Jared didn't pretend to understand what had happened to him at Silberwald, but it certainly wasn't normal. Nor safe. Whatever was going on with Jensen, Jared would put money on it having something to do with the club.
Which meant that Silberwald ought to be his next destination.
Squaring his shoulders, Jared pulled into traffic and turned the car towards Silberwald. Time to see what the place looked like in the daylight.
This didn't make sense.
Jared stared hard at the street. The street where, less than ten hours ago, there had definitely been a suspicious night club sandwiched between a British-style pub and an all-night convenience store, was now one building shorter than it had been.
"It was right here," Jared protested, mostly for the sake of hearing it aloud. Because he was definitely in the right place.
"You won't find it."
Jared spun around to see the homeless guy from the previous day lounging against the building behind him. It was obvious from his boneless sprawl and the scattering of change in the cup beside him that he'd been there awhile, which was funny because Jared could have sworn that he was alone.
Clearly, Jared needed some sleep. This job had him totally off his game.
"Sorry," Jared said, when he realized that he'd been staring instead of acting like a rational human being. "I won't find what?"
"Silberwald," the homeless guy said. His blue eyes were startlingly lucid as they took in Jared's surprised expression. "It doesn't come out during the day."
"Um," Jared said, not really sure where to start. "Buildings don't normally get to make that choice."
"This one does." He said it calmly, as if Jared was being the unrealistic one here. "I see my gift came in handy."
"Your, oh," Jared said, the memory of a sudden spark of pain coming suddenly to mind. "It did, yes. Thank you. But how did you know-"
The homeless guy waved a careless hand. "One good turn deserves another and all that whatnot." He cocked his head, birdlike, at Jared. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"Yes and no," Jared found himself answering. "I found who I was looking for, but convincing him to be sensible about this looks like it's going to be harder than I thought."
"Ah," the homeless guy nodded sagely. "You've got your work cut out for you. Jensen isn't going to be convinced easily. I'm Misha, by the way."
This was one of the weirdest conversations that Jared had ever participated in. "Hi, Misha. I'm Jared. How do you know Jensen?"
"Not-biblically. So there's no need for you to worry." Misha sighed. "Poor Jensen. He's just one of many, you do realize."
"I'm sorry," Jared said after a beat. "But I have no idea what you're talking about."
"He certainly is pretty," Misha said, wistfully. "Of course, it's no surprise. They always prefer the pretty ones."
"They?" Jared asked sharply. "Misha, who are you talking about?"
"The owners of Silberwald," Misha said, as though it was obvious. Maybe to him it was. "I wouldn't bother looking for them," he continued. "They're even harder to find than the building."
"I'm totally confused," Jared admitted.
"I know it's strange," Misha said, sounding oddly compassionate. "But I think you can do it."
"Do what?" Jared demanded.
Misha looked at him evenly. "Save them all." He paused, and then added, "and yourself, probably. I might be crazy, but you'd do well to listen."
Jared blew out an explosive breath. "I don't believe any of this," he said, not sure which of them he was trying to convince.
"You're starting to," Misha said. "Which might be enough to protect you." He nodded his chin towards the place where Silberwald should have been. "You need to keep your wits about you, in there."
Despite himself, Jared followed the gesture. The club still wasn't there, which still didn't make any damn sense.
"Look," he said, turning back towards Misha. "Do you think you could tell me-"
Jared cut himself off abruptly, looking up and down the street in confusion when Misha was nowhere in sight. Even his coin cup was gone.
"Definitely losing my touch," he said to himself, before trudging back to his car. If there wasn't any information to be found here, he was going to have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Jared spent the rest of his sunlight getting in touch with his various contacts around the city, trying to get better intel on Silberwald and its mysterious owners. It wasn't a particularly successful venture.
First of all, the city records seemed a little confused about how long the club had been in operation; some paperwork cited it as a heritage site that had been in operation for about 70 years, whereas other forms said that it was only three years old. It wasn't anywhere close to being a hotspot on the club scene, but obviously did good enough business to turn a profit, despite the poor location.
Jared's usual informants were oddly cagey about the place, only willing to confirm that it wasn't a front for either drug running or body traffickers. There was clearly something about it that had them unnerved, which ramped up Jared's own instincts into overdrive. He felt strangely like he was entering uncharted territory with nothing but the ominous warnings of the townsfolk to guide him.
Caution: here be dragons.
He did manage to find out that the three PIs that the Ackles' had hired before him - three! Jared was professionally insulted - hadn't given up on the job so much as they had all disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Which Jared really thought would have been useful information for them to share with him. Bastards.
Once he'd exhausted all the resources that he could avail himself of in one day, Jared returned to his apartment and ate two large pizzas for dinner.
Then he went back to Silberwald.
This time, Jensen found him almost immediately, grinning with wicked delight as he seized Jared by the hand and dragged him towards the dance floor. Jensen was back to looking sparkling and alive again, which cemented Jared's belief that the club was at the heart of whatever was going on. Jared tried to scope the place out as they went, but it proved as hard to get an impression of as it had the night before. There was no sign of the mysterious 'they' who apparently owned the place.
Jared didn't manage to keep his attention on it for long. The mindlessness from his previous trip didn't return, thank God, but he still found it hard to care about much besides Jensen's smile and the feeling of that fit body wrapped up in his arms. He wondered if this was part of the oddness of the place, this fascination he had with Jensen, and then wondered if he really wanted to know.
He had no idea how this was possibly going to end well for him.
The next morning found Jared nursing an obscenely large cup of coffee in the library as he went through their microfiche collection, looking for more information on Silberwald's past. If Jared was right, and those other private investigators had gone missing because they'd been sniffing around the club, then they probably wouldn't have been the first. And maybe someone had made the same connection that he was thinking of, and they'd drawn attention enough attention to it that it made the paper.
Which was a lot of ifs and maybes, but Jared was running a little thin on options, here.
Three hours in, he finally found something. Although not the something he'd been looking for.
Jared was sprawled bodily across his chair, his coffee long-since gone and his attention mostly desultory while he scrolled through page after page of decades-old news. Suddenly, a face he recognized jumped out from amid the small print, and Jared jerked bolt upright in his chair in surprise.
"It can't be…" he muttered to himself, leaning in close to take another look.
Danneel Harris the newspaper said, underneath a photograph of a stunningly pretty redheaded woman in her early twenties. Last seen October 10, 1987.
Which just couldn't be possible, because Jared had danced with her at Silberwald two nights ago.
He sat back heavily in his chair. "Holy shit."
Jared didn't believe in ghosts. But he also didn't believe in ignoring evidence just because he didn't like it. And there was no denying that, unless she had an identical younger sister, Danneel Harris had been at Silberwald the other night, looking exactly the same as she had when she went missing nearly thirty years ago.
With all of this evidence at hand, Jared could think of only one thing to sum up the situation.
"I am not getting paid nearly enough for this job. Fuck."
Half an hour later, Jared found himself outside Spin Me Round without any clear idea of how he'd got there. It was the logical next step, he reasoned to himself.
"Jared!" Jensen greeted the moment he walked in. He looked honestly delighted to see him, which made Jared's stupid heart flip before he managed to get it under control.
He raised one hand in an awkward wave, trying without success to ignore the fact that Jensen looked even worse today than he had yesterday.
According to the article he'd read, Danneel Harris had been acting strangely withdrawn for about three months before she disappeared. He didn't know how long Jensen had left but, looking at the man now, he couldn't imagine that an article in the paper about Jensen's disappearance was all that far off.
"So," Jensen said, leaning across the counter with a winning smile. "What can I do for you today?"
Jensen's easy charm faltered. "Jared?"
"Look, Jensen," Jared said carefully. "I have something to tell you. But first I have to admit that I… I haven't been totally honest with you."
A stillness came over Jensen's face. "What do you mean?"
"I didn't meet you by coincidence at the club. I was looking for you." Jared hesitated briefly before adding, "because your parents hired me."
"You're here because of my parents?" Jensen stared at him with shocked betrayal scrawled all over his face. "Are they paying you to spy on me?"
"No!" Jared retorted immediately.
Jensen eyed him warily. "But?"
"But they want me to convince to stop spending so much time at Silberwald," Jared admitted, and winced when Jensen's entire face shut down. "They're just worried about you!"
"I think you should leave," Jensen said, icily calm.
"No, but listen." Jared leaned in close, allowing his earnestness to show plainly on his face. "I thought they were just being overprotective, but there's something weird going on. There was a girl, at the club the other night, redheaded, about this tall?"
Jensen's mouth tightened. "So?" he snapped.
"So, look." Jared slapped down the copy of the newspaper article that he'd printed. "This is her in 1987. She disappeared."
"I repeat: so?"
"So…? Jensen!" Jared exclaimed. "Don't you understand? This girl vanished decades ago, but she didn't look a day older than this picture when I saw her in Silberwald! There's something not right with that place, and it's affecting you the same as it did her. You're in terrible danger, Jensen."
Jensen sniffed. "I can take care of myself, thanks. Now, if you're not going to buy anything-"
"God, would you stop being angry at me for two seconds and listen!"
"I am listening!" Jensen growled back. "And you're not telling me anything I didn't already know!"
That gave Jared pause. "You… what?"
Jensen huffed heavily. "I'm not some princess in need of rescue, Jared. I know what I'm getting myself into."
"Do you?" Jared pressed. He grabbed Jensen's hand, squeezing tightly enough that he could feel Jensen's bones shift under the skin. "Because I don't think you do. You're risking your entire life for a cheap thrill. Don't you care that you're going to die?"
"It's none of your goddamn business!" Jensen roared back. He yanked his hand back and jabbed a finger towards the door. "Now get the fuck out of my shop."
Jared went. He found himself hoping uncharitably that his crush on Jensen was a symptom of this whole crazy situation so that he wouldn't feel too badly when he got his fool self killed. The door swung shut behind him and Jared let out a shaky sigh. This was such a damnable nuisance.
"That didn't go well," a voice said, from the approximate vicinity of Jared's knees. He looked down.
"Misha?" Jared stared at him. "What are you doing here?"
"Commiserating with you about your unsurprising failure to convince Jensen that his life isn't worth throwing away for the sake of a music high," Misha said. "Also, begging. It'd be nice to eat sometime this week."
"My life used to make sense, you know," Jared felt the need to point out, even as he fished his wallet out of his pocket to get a ten dollar bill for Misha. "Recently, even."
"You weren't really expecting that approach to work with Jensen, were you?" Misha asked. Jared was hard pressed to decide whether he was actually partially deaf or he just liked ignoring people. "You seem like a moderately intelligent human, so I hope not."
Jared huffed out a sound that wasn't really a laugh. "I don't even know anymore."
Despite himself he glanced through the store window to see Jensen very determinedly ignoring him. The distortion of the glass made him look positively skeletal. Jared's stomach lurched.
Christ, he'd never fallen for something this fast in his life.
"What do I do?" he asked, feeling utterly at a loss.
"You've got a decision to make," Misha said. "About how much you're willing to risk for the chance to save Jensen."
"I don’t see how anything I can do would make any damn difference," Jared said bitterly. "He refuses to listen to common sense. And it's not like it'd do much good to drag him out of the club - he'd just go back the next day." He gestured angrily at window. "Look at him! He's wasting away before his own eyes and he doesn't even care! How am I supposed to change that?"
"Maybe he needs to know what he'd be losing?" Misha's expression was intent, hinting, as he looked up at Jared. "Some kind of object lesson, perhaps?"
Misha shrugged. "He's not the only one in a precarious situation right now."
Jared thought about that. "What would have happened if I'd eaten or drunk anything at Silberwald in the last two days?" he asked slowly.
"We certainly wouldn't be having this conversation, for a start. And you'd be a dead guy who really likes to dance."
Jared sucked in a sharp breath. "This is impossible."
"Maybe," Misha agreed. "But that doesn't make it any less true. You can think of it like a permanent roofie, if that makes you feel better."
"It really doesn't," Jared said. "Thanks though."
Misha inclined his head. Jared pondered some more.
"I think I see what you're getting at," he said finally. "I just have one more question."
"Go right ahead, young grasshopper."
"This," Jared groped for a word and came up short, "thing with Jensen. The way I feel so… drawn to him. Is it just part of the whole clusterfuck with the club?"
To his surprise, Misha snorted. "Of course not."
"Well, then what is it?"
Misha blinked at him, utterly guileless. "Haven't you ever heard of love at first sight before?"
Jared had absolutely no response to that.
"Think about it," Misha suggested. "And be glad that the real deal usually runs both ways."
Jared went back to Silberwald again that night, swearing to himself that, one way or the other, it would be the last time.
The now-familiar swirl of sound and energy washed over him as he walked in, and Jared found himself in the strange position of being at once eased and unnerved by the familiarity. He saw the girl, Danneel, dancing with a petite brunette and looking very much not dead. He didn't look to see if any of the faces in the crowd matched the photographs he'd found of the missing PIs.
He shoved his way laboriously through the crowd until he found Jensen near the centre of the dance floor, writhing against a pair of twins that seemed vaguely familiar. Jealousy reared up inside him immediately, and Jared managed to hold it at bay only because, for the first time, Jensen didn't look like he was enjoying the dancing. His brow was creased and there was an unevenness to his movements that betrayed some inner turmoil that Jared could only hope he was the cause of.
A bit more maneuvering got him right up behind Jensen, who jolted with surprise when Jared's hands settled heavily on his shoulders.
"Wha- Jared?" Jensen twisted round to look at him; Jared shifted his grip without letting go. "What are you doing here?"
Jared bent low, his lips brushing Jensen's ear as he answered. "I'm here to dance with you. Just dance," he promised, when Jensen went to protest. He let his hands slide down to grip Jensen's hips. "Please, Jensen."
He felt the shudder that went through Jensen's body as he relaxed into Jared's hold. The twins forgotten, Jensen wrapped his arms around Jared's neck and leaned in close, slotting them together perfectly. Jared dared to drop a kiss onto Jensen's hair before he let the roll of Jensen's hips lead them both into the dance.
They danced for an hour, maybe two, before Jared reluctantly decided that it was time to get on with things. Jensen rumbled a protest when he pulled away from him, so Jared flashed him a reassuring smile.
"Be right back!" he shouted, before wading towards the bar.
The crowd parted easily before him, getting Jared up to the bar in record time. Because that wasn't suspicious.
"A pint of whatever you've got on tap," he requested of the bartender, who nodded.
Jared's nerves jangled unevenly as he watched the man draw a pint of beer. Jensen - who had not had such an easy time getting through the crowd - had caught up to him by this point and was watching the proceedings with narrowed eyes.
In what felt like no time at all, there was a full glass sliding across the bar towards Jared.
"On the house," the bartender said, with a glint in his eyes that would have had Jared immediately on alert even if he hadn't already had a pretty good idea of what he was getting into.
The grin that Jared gave him in return had teeth in it. "Thanks. That's mighty kind of you."
"What are you doing?" Jensen asked sharply, as Jared lifted the glass.
Jared shrugged. "Having a drink. What does it look like?"
"Jared!" Jensen hissed. One of his hands wrapped around Jared's forearm, as though he could keep Jared from moving. "Are you insane?! Don't you know what will happen if you drink that?"
"Of course I do. I'm not an idiot, Jensen."
"Then stop acting like one!" Jensen said, nearly loud enough to count as yelling.
They were starting to attract attention, which Jared wasn't sure if he ought to be worried about or not. He rather doubted that any of the blissed-out dancers would care much either way, but if any of Misha's infamous 'they' realized what he was trying to do, it might cause problems.
Jared glanced at the deceptively innocuous pint in his hand and mentally amended that to more problems. He seemed to have more than enough of his own already.
Jensen was still hanging off his arm, his handsome face creased with anger. "Put it down."
"No," Jared said, gently. "This is my decision."
Jared met Jensen's confused gaze steadily. "Because I want to be with you, Jensen. And this appears to be the only way to do that."
Jensen recoiled as if Jared had struck him. "What are you talking about?"
"You're not willing to give this up." With the hand not holding his glass, Jared gestured at the club around them. "I understand that. But I don't want to give you up, either."
"You don't have to!" Jensen protested. Cracks were appearing in the careless armour he mantled himself with. "You can still see me during the day."
"For how long?" Jared shrugged off Jensen's restraining hand and rounded on him, using his height and bulk to loom in a way he usually tried to avoid. "How many days will we have before I'm reading about your disappearance in the newspaper, huh Jensen? When are you going to make me mourn your death?"
"It's not death," Jensen tried, but Jared steamrollered right over him.
"Yes, it is!" he shouted, no longer caring about their audience. If yelling was what it took to get through Jensen's thick head, then by God, he'd yell. "Dammit, Jensen, you'll have lost everything about you that makes you you. You won't care about anything except dancing. And I don't want to be around to watch that happen, so I'm going to beat you to it."
Jensen stared at him with wide, helpless eyes.
Jared dredged up a fond smile and toasted him with the drink. "It's been nice knowing you, Jensen."
The cool press of the glass against his lip nearly had him losing his nerve after all, but Jared steeled himself against the fear. This was his only option. Love at first sight goes both ways, he reminded himself.
Taking a deep, mental breath, he tilted the glass.
The glass flew out of his hand with the force of Jensen's shove; it shattered against the bar with an explosive sound that made Jared flinch. It felt like the whole world froze in that moment, and it took Jared a shocked heartbeat to realize that was because the music had stopped, and that the entire throng of dancers had shuddered to a grinding halt along with it.
The sudden silence was deafening.
Jared could hear the drip of beer onto the floor, along with the staccato rhythm of Jensen's unsteady breath.
"Jensen?" he asked, heart in his throat.
"I don't want you to be like that," Jensen said, gathering himself with obvious effort.
Jared locked eyes with him. "I don't want you to be like that either. It's your choice."
Jensen shuddered, sighed, deflated. "Fine," he said. "You win. I'll never come back."
"Oh, thank God." Jared grabbed him by the back of the neck and reeled him in for a kiss. Jensen returned it with interest, his fingers twining in Jared's hair like he never intended to let go.
A discordant wail rose up from the crowd, and Jared pried himself away from Jensen in time to see the entire room sort of… flicker. Every single person in the club vanished like they'd never been there at all. Jared only had a moment to wonder what had happened to them before the smell hit him, and he gagged at the overwhelming stench of rotting flesh.
"Fuck," Jensen gasped, dragging his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. It was a tight fit. "What the hell is that stink?"
"I don't… oh God."
Bodies. Dozens of them. Crumpled like grotesque dolls across every available surface. They were in varying stages of decay, Jared managed to notice, and the tattered remnants of their clothes seemed to come from the last several decades of fashion, at least.
Jensen grabbed his wrist. "We need to get out of here."
"But," Jared tried to protest, although he didn't put up much resistance to the insistent tug of Jensen's grip. This whole thing was seriously creeping him out.
He'd never complain about a cheating spouse job again.
The air outside was gloriously fresh, and they both sucked in grateful lungfuls of clean air.
"Okay," Jensen said, once he'd caught his breath. "That was disgusting."
"Aren't you glad you listened to me now?" Jared asked. "That could have been you."
Jensen gave him the finger. In the glow of the streetlamp overhead, Jared could see that he was back to looking emaciated, but his eyes were clear and bright for the first time in Jared's remembrance. It was that, more than anything, that made him hope that things were really over now.
He reached out for Jensen's hand. "Jensen…"
"Nice work," Misha said suddenly, materializing at his side.
Jared jumped and whirled. "Where the hell do you keep coming from?" he demanded.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Misha said, ignoring him entirely. His gaze was on the derelict front of Silberwald. "All it took was one favoured son to reject their offer, and the whole thing was over. So easy, you'd have thought it would happened sooner."
"So it's over?" Jensen asked.
Misha nodded. "Oh, I'm sure they'll be back again some day in one form or another; their kind is notoriously hard to get rid of. But they'll not bother you again in this lifetime."
"I couldn't have done it without you," Jared told him earnestly. "Thank you, Misha."
"Da nada," Misha said. "Besides, I got something out of it too. I was getting sick of being a hobo."
Jared was about to ask him what he meant when Misha winked at him and, without so much as a hint of warning, disappeared.
Jared stared at the empty street for a long moment, then turned to Jensen. "Have I been getting sage advice from a ghost for the past three days?"
Jensen shrugged elegantly. "I wouldn't worry too much. You're still alive, and that's the important thing when dealing with ghosts."
"I'm glad you're not a ghost," Jared told him, which seemed woefully inadequate given the circumstances, but it was the best he could do when he was still sort of residually freaked out by the events of the evening.
Jensen's shy smile seemed to suggest that it was good enough, though. "Thanks. You too."
"So I'm hoping this means you want to go out with me sometime?" Jared asked.
"I could do that. What are we going to do about the building full of corpses, though?"
They looked at each other.
"Anonymous tip to the police?" Jared suggested, and Jensen nodded.
"And then we're going the hell back to my place. I literally don't think I've slept since August and I'm fucking exhausted."
"Okay," Jared agreed. Because falling asleep with Jensen at his side sounded like a pretty happy ending for this crazy adventure.