Warnings: historical violence
A/N: Written for the 2015 round of spn_reversebang. Most of the information about fencing comes from my brief foray as a member of the fencing team at my university, so I apologize if any of it is not as precise as it could be.
A million thanks to 2blueshoes for being amazingly talented and wonderfully tolerant of me when RL decided to go balls up on me. Thank you for working with me, hon! :) I can only hope that this story does a little bit of justice to her beautiful art, which you should all go look at and admire at her Art Post forthwith. Thanks also and always to our lovely mods who always do a masterful job. You make this challenge so much fun to participate in!
Summary: It wasn't like Jensen planned to find a door to the past on his college campus; things like that just sort of happen at college.
No matter how many times he did it, Jensen didn't think he'd ever get used to being alone on campus at night.
The echo of his footsteps followed him down the deserted hallways of the arts quad, inescapably loud in the silence. One of the things that he'd learned about college was that there was no such a thing as a quiet place while classes were running, but it was a very different story now, a good hour after night classes had ended and everyone had abandoned the hallowed halls for either their beds or a party somewhere.
Jensen would happily have joined the rest of the student population on either of those pursuits, but instead he'd spent the evening practicing with the fencing team. He'd been on the team for three years, had owned his own gear for two, and was intimately familiar with schlepping his stuff back and forth between the gym and his apartment, and yet there was still something dorky and badass about walking around with a sword strapped to his back.
Normally, they only did evening practices once a week, but their first tournament was in less than a month and Will, the team captain, had ramped up their practice time in order to make sure that they'd be ready. Not exactly what Jensen wanted to be doing until after 10 on a Wednesday night, but if it meant they medaled in the tournament, it was worth it. This was going to be Jensen's first tournament as first foil, so he wanted to put his best foot forward, as it were.
It didn't mean he wasn't very glad to be heading back to his apartment, though. Jesus fuck, he was exhausted.
Jensen veered left down the hallway that would take him to the Student Centre and was brought up short by a closed door where there shouldn’t have been one. There was a sheet of paper taped to the door, and Jensen stepped closer to read it.
"Closed overnight for the S4 Social!" the sign said, in green marker. The lopsided smiley face drawn under the words didn't make Jensen feel any more sanguine about the situation.
Jensen sighed. Why couldn't life just be nice to him once in a while?
He figured that he had two options. One: he could backtrack out to the gym complex and walk around the buildings instead of through them. It wasn't that cold yet that he'd feel like an icicle by the time he made it back to his apartment, but retracing his steps seemed like such an unnecessary waste of time. Besides, Jensen knew the value of finding new and faster ways to travel from one end of campus to the other while avoiding going outside as much as humanly possible. And what better time to check it out than when he wasn't running late for class?
Mind made up, Jensen turned instead to head towards Chester Hall, the building that was next closest to the edge of campus he was angling towards. He walked in a generally thataway direction through the hallways, keeping track of the turns. Chester Hall was the realm of the History department, so Jensen had very few reasons to go there. He didn't much figure on getting lost, but he wanted to be able to remember the way again later, if it worked.
When he judged that he'd gone far enough, Jensen started looking for a way out. Chester Hall was one of the original campus buildings and the doors were big, heavy oak affairs, with blackened iron fittings and rivets holding them together. The exterior door that he finally settled on was no different; he grunted a little at the weight of the door as he shoved it open just enough to slide through the gap.
Once outside, he took a moment to get a sense of where he'd ended up. He was facing a copse of trees, with the heavy grey of the building looming at his back and the road nowhere in sight. Helpful.
Shrugging his fencing bag more comfortably on his back, Jensen went left. Hopefully, he hadn't gone too far off course.
He hadn't got more than a few paces when a guy dressed in leggings, a long, brass-buttoned coat, and carrying a sword rounded the corner towards him. Which was perhaps something he ought to find more than a little odd, but something else that Jensen had learned about college was that absolutely anything was fair game on campus. His first thought was 'someone's frat really went all out on tonight's pub crawl'.
The guy spotted Jensen and froze, as if surprised to see anyone else on campus this late on a weeknight. The light from the streetlights seeped around the corner of the building behind him, making him look like something out of an overly dramatic period drama.
"Who goes?" the guy asked, with some mangled attempt at a foreign accent that Jensen couldn't even begin to try and place.
"So are you drunk, doing a frat challenge or both?" Jensen asked, not really caring about the answer. "Because I'm really looking forward to going back to my apartment to get some sleep, so if you wouldn't mind waylaying someone else, I'd really appreciate it."
Jensen offered him a nod, the universally acknowledged greeting when walking past strangers on the street, and went to move around him.
Three feet of steel was abruptly blocking his way.
"Stand and proclaim your identity!" the guy declared. His grip on the hilt of the sword was surprisingly capable, and the tip was trained on Jensen's chest. "Or die upon my blade."
Jensen had to chuckle as he reached for the zipper on his fencing bag. "Buddy, you sure picked the wrong guy to try this bluff with."
Something flickered in the man's expression when Jensen drew forth his fencing foil, but it was too dark to make it out clearly. Probably a classic 'oh, shit' moment, he thought, with a grin.
Jensen dropped his bag on the ground and settled easily into an en garde position. "Whenever you're ready," he offered.
To his surprise, the guy immediately threw himself into a textbook perfect advance-lunge.
Their blades clashed with a dull thud as Jensen moved automatically to block, mind tripping over the fact that his opponent actually knew what he was doing. The lunge was immediately followed by another attack, each move precise and deadly. His opponent wielded his sword like he'd been born with one in his hand, for all that it looked considerably more like part of a museum exhibit than a tournament blade.
But Jensen wasn't first foil on the school's fencing team for nothing. He gritted his teeth and parried the next strike, snaking through his opponent's guard to land a glancing hit on his torso with the blunted tip of his foil.
The guy made a startled noise and staggered back, eyes wide.
Jensen smiled innocently at him. "Again?"
"You mock me?" his opponent demanded.
"Maybe a little."
That earned him a growl and another feint that Jensen rapidly parried, and they were off again. They traded attacks in the lengthening light from the streetlamps.
It was at once like and unlike a formal bout, Jensen was bemused to realize. His opponent had skill, that was certain, but his movements were sloppy and non-regulation. It made it easier to get through his guard, but harder to predict what he was going to do next.
He was also a fucking dirty fighter, which neatly evened up the disparity in their skill. Jensen found himself ducking away from strikes aimed at his arms, his legs and even his face, something that would never have been allowed at a regulation tournament. There was also considerably more slashing in his opponent's repertoire than was standard with the foil, which was primarily a stabbing weapon; perhaps he usually fought with the épée.
Jensen found out another difference between this fight and the bouts he was used to when his opponent managed to score a hit on his sword arm. Pain, sharp and shocking, followed in the wake of the blade. His fingers spasmed around his sword hilt as Jensen's brain struggled to adapt to the precise agony of the wound, distracting him for a few, precious seconds.
His opponent took immediate and ruthless advantage.
"Shit!" Jensen swore, as he found himself efficiently disarmed, his foil skittering away with the force of the blow that had knocked it out of his hand. Light glinted off the bloodied edge of his opponent's sword, and Jensen froze with the belated realization that, unlike his foil, that sword was a real weapon, designed to cut. Designed to hurt.
Designed to kill.
"Hold him," his opponent barked, and two pairs of hands wrapped around Jensen's biceps before he'd even realized that they weren't alone.
Jensen was wrestled to his knees at the man's feet. The point of the sword pressed against his throat, forcing Jensen's chin up and his chest out as he tried to avoid it.
He swallowed hard.
"Are you for the king?" the man demanded.
"For the what? Look, aren't you taking this joke too far?"
There was a sharp sting of pain across his face and Jensen felt a drop of blood roll hotly down his cheek.
Coolly, the guy returned his sword to the hollow of Jensen's throat.
"I shall ask you once more. Are you for the king?"
In the normal world, Jensen would know the answer to that because it was a fucking ridiculous question to ask an American citizen.
Now, though, he didn't know what answer this guy was looking for. Knowing Jensen's luck, there was probably a code to end this whole charade, but he wouldn't be able to do so because no one had bothered to clue him in.
"No?" he tried finally, because he was flying blind here.
It was the wrong answer.
The man's mouth thinned and he glanced up at the people keeping Jensen on his knees. "Bring him."
"Hey!" Jensen protested, when he was hauled unceremoniously to his feet.
Hot breath washed over his stinging cheek as the captor on his right leaned in. "Quiet," he ordered, in a voice that sounded like he gargled with rocks on the weekends.
"Alright, geez," Jensen said, resolving to do his best to get through this situation with the rest of his dignity intact. And when they finally let him go, he was going to go freaking ballistic on whatever the hell club or frat had thought this bullshit up.
His opponent calmly cleaned the smears of Jensen's blood off his sword and resheathed it at his waist. Then he turned and strode off in the direction that Jensen had been trying to go in the first place.
"Move," the man at his back said, shoving at him.
"Wait, my bag," Jensen tried, craning his neck towards the spot where he'd dropped it earlier. "Did you see where my foil w-"
A jerk on his arms hard enough to make his shoulders protest. "What part of quiet don't you understand?"
"But-" The rest of the sentence was lost in a startled groan of pain when he earned another harsh yank for his trouble. "Fuck, okay! You assholes are paying for it if any of my gear goes… missing…"
Jensen staggered to a stop, gaping openly at the landscape that he found when they rounded the corner of the building.
This wasn't his campus.
Gone were the walking paths, the clusters of squat buildings, the stairs leading up to the visitor parking lot. Instead, the view that met Jensen's stunned eyes was an entire forest's worth of trees to his left and a wash of gently rolling hills stretching out to a distant horizon on the right. There was a dirt path bifurcating the two, the surface pitted and uneven.
What he'd thought was the glow from the streetlights was actually the honey-soft gleam off the rising sun. It was that, more than anything, that made Jensen realize that this was far more dramatic a problem than he'd realized. Even if someone had mysteriously managed to plant a fake forest in the middle of campus since that afternoon - which wouldn't have been the weirdest thing he'd ever seen at college - he didn't think they could have figured out a way to make the sun come up seven hours early.
Jensen jerked a startled look back at the building whose shadow they were in, and got another unpleasant surprise when he realized that he didn't recognize it. Instead of Chester Hall, the building behind him looked more like a miniature castle or manor house or something, complete with tall, narrow windows, doors big enough to drive a car through and imposing buttresses.
When he tried to put it all together, Jensen found that he could come up with only one logical conclusion.
He was in the past.
"Move," his talkative captor snarled again, shoving him back into motion. Still trying to absorb the enormity of the situation, Jensen let him do it. How had this even happened? Was he hallucinating? Was he drunk? He didn't remember getting drunk, especially not on a Wednesday in the beginning of term, but it certainly made more sense than the idea that he'd walked through a door to the past in the middle of Chester Hall.
Where was he? Fucking Narnia?
His captors led the way through the trees and up to a small contingent of men who looked to be guarding the front door to the mini castle. One of them raised his head as they approached, hand straying to the hilt of the sword at his belt.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Rebel," Jensen's erstwhile opponent said, gesturing for the two men holding Jensen to drag him forwards. "Found him skulking near the service entrance."
They were all wearing the same thing, Jensen realized suddenly, their well-buttoned coats all the same shade of dark blue and their leggings blue. Because it was just his luck to have told a bunch of soldiers that he wasn't 'for' the king. He was in so much shit.
"Did you indeed?" The soldier looked at Jensen appraisingly. "Doesn't look like much."
Jensen raised his chin with all the poise he could muster, trying to ignore the fact that he was still wearing the sweats and ratty old t-shirt that he always wore underneath his fencing lamé.
"He fights like a nobleman," one of the men at Jensen's back offered. There was a sharkish smile in his voice as he added, "Skilled but far too gentlemanly about it."
Laughter broke out in response to that, and Jensen told himself that he wasn't offended. He concentrated instead on trying to figure out where and when he was.
He had no idea what kind of accent the man he'd fought was putting on, while the rest of the soldiers all sounded, well, American, which Jensen knew couldn't be right. He'd stayed awake through enough high school History classes to know that these guys didn't dress like British soldiers, that the Civil War hadn't been fought with rapiers, and that monolithic manor houses had never been a prominent design feature of the American landscape.
"Might as well lock him inside," another of the men at the door said. "Rotation crew's due any day now. A day or two without food should do a good job of softening him up for the guys in the capital."
Jensen stared at them all with eyes that felt like they were wide enough to swallow the rest of his face. Soften him up for what?
"Look, lads," one of them said. "I think we've scared him." He lumbered up to Jensen, more than big enough to loom over him. "Should of thought of that before deciding to try your hand at rebellion, hey?"
"Oh, god," Jensen managed, and was willing to admit to himself that it sounded more like a whimper than anything else.
The soldier laughed. "You'll have plenty of time to pray," he promised. "Not that it'll do you any good. Bring him."
Desperately, Jensen dug in his heels, but it didn't accomplish much. The men at his back simply resorted to dragging him bodily towards the door, Jensen's sneakers leaving furrows in the long grass as they went.
"Wait," Jensen started, not sure what the hell he was going to say to explain this, but not willing to submit to any of this without at least trying to reason with the soldiers. "This isn't, I mean, I'm not-"
There was a sudden wet sound behind him and one of the sets of hands holding him captive abruptly vanished as his captor gave a strangled shriek. Shouts broke out all around, and Jensen yanked himself free of the other man's grasp while he was distracted.
Jensen scuttled away as fast as he could manage, putting his back up against the castle wall, hands pressed flat to the rough stones at his sides.
At first, all he could see was chaos and the too-bright gleam of the sun. After a few startled heartbeats, though, he realized that there was a tall, broad-shouldered man in a green coat attacking the soldiers. Both of the men who'd been holding Jensen were on the ground, one of them grabbing at the blood-darkened fabric of his leggings, and the other frighteningly still.
The rest of the soldiers were quick to recover from their surprise, though, and were starting to converge on the green-coated man. To his credit, the man didn't look like he was about to back down, despite the odds, but Jensen didn't think much of his chances.
The guy's attention flicked briefly towards Jensen, his face set in an expression that Jensen couldn't read. And Jensen wasn't sure if he was supposed to be running as fast as his feet could carry him, but something inside him balked at the thought of leaving his rescuer to face this on his own.
Of their own volition, Jensen's eyes went to the maybe-dead soldier. Or, more specifically, to the sword at his waist. He bit his lip, considering his options. When he looked up, he found himself on the receiving end of an understanding nod from the guy.
With a rallying cry, the guy in the green coat surged forwards, right into the thick of the soldiers. They all retreated from his lunge, moving far enough away that Jensen found the courage to throw himself onto his knees at the soldier's side, scrabbling frantically at the hilt of the man's sword.
His heart in his mouth, Jensen finally managed to pull the damn thing free and staggered to his feet just in time to avoid getting skewered by one of the soldiers.
Too gentlemanly, a voice in his mind whispered, and Jensen firmed his jaw. If they wanted unsportsmanlike behaviour, he'd give it to them.
Jensen used every dirty trick he'd ever seen anyone carded for during a tournament and then some. The weight of the sword was heavier than he was used to, and it was a work of effort to remember that he couldn't be as careless with body shots as he could with a blunted weapon, but Jensen made do. He concentrated on delivering hits that would wound instead of kill, and found himself shoulder-to-shoulder with his mysterious rescuer more than once as they faced the increasingly demoralized soldiers.
He was breathing hard by the time the last one fell, his blood pumping with the same adrenaline he felt in a tournament.
"That was very timely assistance, thank you," the guy in the green coat said.
Jensen turned towards him and, wow, that was a painfully good-looking man standing in front of him. Taller than Jensen by a good few inches, the guy was broad of shoulder and narrow of waist. His dark hair was pulled back into a queue, and his skin looked golden brown against the olive green of his coat. Corded muscles bulged through the tight fabric of his dark red leggings and, dear god, those boots ought to be illegal.
"You're very good with a rapier," the guy continued, while Jensen stared. "Whom did you train with."
The door to the castle burst open, a group of blue-coated soldiers charging out.
"I think now would be a good time to make our exit," the man murmured, and Jensen could only nod in agreement.
A hand tugged at his arm. "This way."
Jensen followed blindly, plunging into the densely packed trees without hesitating. Whatever he might face in there, it couldn't be worse than staying here.
His savior clearly knew where he was going; he wove rapidly through the trees, the heat of his hand warm on Jensen's bare arm. Behind him, Jensen could hear the crashing of the soldiers in pursuit, but far enough away that he didn't feel like they were breathing down his neck.
After an eternity, the trees folded back into a small clearing where a dappled gray horse was waiting.
"Hey, girl," the guy said, letting go of Jensen in favour of running both hands affectionately down the horse's neck. "I hope you don't mind an extra passenger; we've got to get out of here in a hurry."
The horse nickered in what could have been agreement, and the guy smiled a brilliant, dimple-popping smile before swinging himself into the saddle with no apparent effort. Then he looked over at Jensen and, still smiling, extended a hand.
"You ready?" he asked.
"I've, uh, never ridden a horse before," Jensen felt compelled to tell him. He came cautiously closer, eying the horse the entire time.
"Just hold onto me," the guy said. "You'll be fine."
Jensen had officially fallen head first into a Disney film. At least his charming prince was hot.
With probably not as much trepidation as he should have felt, Jensen shoved the sword he was still carrying in his belt and took the offered hand. He huffed in surprise when the guy hauled him up to the saddle behind him like he weighed nothing at all.
"Arms around my waist," the guy instructed, and Jensen wasn't about to protest.
The moment Jensen did as he was told, the guy nudged the horse into motion. Jensen's gentle hold turned into a white-knuckled grab as he fought to keep from falling off, and he felt the rumble of a chuckle through the guy's back.
"I've got you," he promised. "But if you fall off, I'm leaving you here."
"How charming," Jensen shot back. "What kind of rescuer are you?"
He could hear the smile in the man's voice as he answered, "the practical kind. Hang on."
On horseback, they easily outdistanced the soldiers. After the first jolting, panicked hour or so, Jensen started to settle into the rhythm of the horse's canter. It helped that he was pressed bodily against the guy's broad back, which had the double bonus of blocking most of the wind and being a very nice back to be pressed against. Luckily, the stress of the situation kept certain parts of Jensen's anatomy from reacting inappropriately.
The sun was high in the sky by the time the guy drew the horse to a stop outside what looked like an inn of some kind. The sign had no writing on it, just a picture of what was probably a roast duck, which was unhelpful when it came to Jensen figuring out where he was. Europe, obviously, judging by the clothes and the castles, even if the fact that everyone was speaking English with an American accent suggested otherwise. If pressed, Jensen would probably guess France, although that had more to do with the limited knowledge he had of the history of fencing as a sport than any knowledge of what the French countryside looked like.
Not that any amount of speculation would help with figuring out how to get him back to his own place and time, but Jensen was pretending that it made him feel better.
His rescuer swung down first, then reached up to give Jensen a hand down from the horse.
"You're going to be sore for a while," he said, not without sympathy, as Jensen dismounted in what could only generously be termed a controlled fall. "Beats the alternative, though."
"No arguments there," Jensen agreed. He took an experimental step and winced at the ache in his thighs. "Just don't ask me to run anywhere for a while."
That earned him a chuckle. "I'll do my best to avoid it. We'll be safe here. The matron is loyal to the cause."
That brought Jensen back to himself in a rush as he realized that he'd inadvertently thrown his lot in with some rebellion. And this guy was apparently part of it.
A stable boy appeared to take the reins of the horse, and Jensen's rescuer offered him a smile. "Let's go in. No point in having a conversation out here."
Jensen nodded and fell into step, moving a little stiffly. Goddamn horse. Give him a car any day.
Inside, the woman who apparently owned the place greeted Jensen's rescuer like a long-lost son, which he accepted with good grace.
"And who is this?" she asked finally, turning to Jensen.
Jensen's rescuer turned a thoughtful look on him. "I don't rightly know myself, Mistress Mary."
"I'm Jensen," Jensen said, biting back the knee-jerk impulse to offer his hand. When did the handshake become a thing, anyway?
"We'll take the upstairs room," the guy said. "Bring up some food, hot water and bandages-" one of his eyebrows ticked up as he glanced at Jensen, "-and some more suitable clothing for Jensen, if you would."
Right. Jensen had forgotten. "I got robbed?" he tried.
Neither his rescuer nor Mistress Mary looked especially convinced.
Mistress Mary eyed him up and down. "I have some clothes that ought to fit well enough until we can get you to a tailor."
"There's no need to go that kind of trouble," Jensen said, only to have the two of them ignore him entirely.
"I'll have it all sent up to you," Mistress Mary promised, and Jensen's rescuer thanked her before leading Jensen up the stairs to a room that was pretty spacious, all things considered.
"Make yourself comfortable," he was told, so he sat down in a padded chair.
"So, uh, thanks," Jensen said, because he hadn't said it yet, and his mama would be horrified with such terrible manners. "I was in big trouble before you came along."
The man shrugged. "It was my pleasure. Any enemy of the king's is a friend of mine."
"Can I ask what king?" Jensen asked, with what little delicacy he possessed.
That earned him a strange look, but he got the answer nonetheless. "King Xbrecht. He's been on the throne for three years now. Something wrong?"
Jensen's puzzlement must have been showing on his face. "It's nothing," he said automatically. "Just, Xbrecht-" his tongue tripped awkwardly over the initial sound, "seems like an odd name for the King of France."
"France?" the guy repeated, cocking his head. "You're not in France."
Damn, so his guess had been off. Maybe they were in Sweden. They grew them tall there, right?
"Where am I, then?"
"This is the kingdom of Llynwelth," Jared said. "I have never heard of this France of which you speak."
And that was more than enough to make Jensen freeze, his understanding of the situation taking a sudden and violent curve to the left.
He wasn't in the past. He was in an alternate dimension.
"This is insane," Jensen said, with dawning shock. "Are you telling me that the History department owns a door to another dimension? And they never told anyone?"
"I'm afraid that I have no idea what you're talking about."
With a will, Jensen shoved away all thoughts about the kind of bullshit that colleges got away with in order to focus on his present situation. The last thing he wanted to do now was make the only ally he had think he was nuts.
"Don't worry about it. So," he said, in a desperate bid to change the subject. "Any chance you want to tell me your name now?"
The man blinked, startled, then chuckled. "I hadn't even realized. You must think I have no manners at all!"
"I figured you like being mysterious."
"Still, I do apologize. My name is Jared pad Lecki," he said, looking expectant. Clearly the name was supposed to mean something to Jensen. Because of course he'd get rescued by someone who was important enough that he could expect people to know who he was, even in a world without Wikipedia.
"Nice to meet you," Jensen said, figuring that good manners couldn't be a bad way to go. He offered Jared a broad grin. "So, why should I know who you are?"
Jared laughed. "Clueless yet aware; I like it. I'm Jared pad Lecki," he said again, before Jensen could quite decide how to take that comment. "My father was the king before Xbrecht took the throne."
"So you're the rightful heir to the throne."
Jared nodded. "Although the legitimacy of my claim is somewhat in dispute. For obvious reasons."
"Huh," Jensen said.
Silence fell for a moment while Jensen tried to absorb the turn for the crazy that his life had taken, and Jared thought about who the fuck knew what. As he sat there, Jensen was absently startled to realize that he was in real danger of falling asleep where he sat. In all the excitement he'd forgotten just how tired he was after a full day at school, three hours of fencing practice and exciting swashbuckling adventures in God only knew where. Not to mention the fact that he'd been awake all night by his reckoning. It was no wonder he was worn out.
"Jensen?" Jared asked.
"Mmm," Jensen said, not really listening.
Jared said something else that Jensen didn't catch. He made another noise of agreement as he came to the conclusion that this was the most comfortable chair in the world. Or worlds, depending.
The last thing he was aware of before finally succumbing to sleep was the sound of a knock at the door and the steady tread of Jared's footsteps across the floor.
Fucking footsteps again, he thought nonsensically, and then knew nothing more.
When Jensen woke up, he was still in an alternate dimension.
"Feeling better?" a voice asked, and Jensen rolled his head on the pillow to see Jared sitting in the chair that Jensen had been in earlier. "You must have been tired."
"Mmm," Jensen agreed. "How long was I out?" he asked, his voice rusty with sleep.
"It's just past dawn," Jared said, which wasn't exactly an answer, but it was close enough. "I was almost beginning to worry."
Clearly Jared had never seen how hard a student could crash after exams if he thought a mere 14 or so hours was bad. "Sorry about that. Guess the excitement was too much for me. Where did you sleep?" he asked then, because there was only one bed.
Jared smirked. "In the bed. It's big enough to share."
And I missed it? Jensen didn't ask. He was proud of his restraint.
"Mistress Mary brought some clothes for you," Jared said. "And breakfast, if you're hungry."
Jensen's stomach rumbled on cue. He ignored the way his ears went hot at Jared's amused look. "Thanks."
Jensen hauled himself out of bed, then struggled through figuring out how to deal with his daily ablutions in a world without plumbing, which was delightful. Then he pulled on the clothing that Mary had brought.
Everything fit decently well. His leggings were a bit baggier than he suspected that they were supposed to be, but the shirt settled smoothly over his shoulders and the sword belt buckled, so he couldn't really complain. The shirt was white and flared out over his hips, which did little to hide the bulge of his dick in the soft blue leggings. A pair of short black boots had been provided to replace his sneakers; they fit like a dream.
Jensen hoped that whenever this time-travel hallucination was over, he'd get to keep the boots.
"Well?" Jensen asked, once he was pretty sure he had everything in the right place. He spread his arms wide. "What do you think?"
Jared gave him a once over that was startlingly frank. The majority of what Jensen knew about history was the result of having a roommate in freshman year who liked to watch the History Channel when he was drunk - which was often - but he did know that pretty much nobody was down with homosexuality once guys stopped wearing togas for events other than keg stands. He had no idea if this bizzaro world played by the same rules, but he was banking on 'probably'.
He wondered if there was a subtle way to ask Jared about it.
"They suit you," was all Jared said. "Ready for breakfast?"
"Hells yes," Jensen said, following Jared over to the sideboard where a veritable old-timey feast was waiting for them.
They ate in companionable silence, and Jensen had to marvel at how surprisingly not-awkward the whole thing felt.
"So," he said, once they'd scraped the last bits off their plates. "You're the prince."
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"And you're planning to take the throne back by force. That's the rebellion those soldiers were talking about."
"I have no choice. Xbrecht is destroying this Kingdom." The pleading look in Jared's eyes begged Jensen to understand. "The people - my people - are suffering. I can't just abandon them."
And Jensen wasn't one to believe a politician at the best of times, but he was willing to believe Jared. Which was really fucking irritating, actually, because he liked to think of himself as more sensible than that. So much for being jaded.
"So what are you doing about it?" he heard himself ask.
"Several of my father's former generals and advisors are on my side. We've been massing a force to force Xbrecht to surrender."
"Civil war," Jensen said flatly. "You're talking about starting a civil war. Do you even know how many of your precious civilians will get killed in the crossfire?"
Jared ran restless fingers through the pulled-back tail of his hair. "You think I don't know that? Civil war is the last thing I want."
"Aside from your uncle staying on the throne."
"There's another way," Jared said, the words tumbling out in a rush. The expression on his face made it clear that he wished he could shove them back into his mouth.
"Nothing," Jared muttered. He clearly hoped that Jensen was going to drop it.
He also clearly hadn't leaned anything about Jensen in the past day if he thought that was going to happen.
Jensen leveled him with a steady look. "What is it then?"
"Tell me how you think you're going to manage a bloodless coup. It sounds too good to be true, if you ask me."
Jensen settled himself more obviously in his chair. "I can wait all day. S'not like I've got anything better to do."
"Why do I want to tell you this?" Jared said, in a wondering tone of voice. "I don't know the first thing about you."
"Because I'm trying to help," Jensen said. "And you seem like you need someone to talk to."
"Where are you even from, Jensen?" Jared's eyes were a piercing shade of ocean green as they raked over Jensen's face. "You're obviously not a Llynwelthian, but I've never met anyone who talks and dresses the way you do."
"Galen?" Jared guessed. "You're fair-skinned enough for it, at any rate."
"Yes," Jensen said immediately. "Galen, that's right. I'm, uh, a long way from home?"
Christ. Jensen's sixth grade drama teacher would have wrung her hands in despair over such a shitty performance.
Jared didn't look much more convinced, but he didn't press the issue. Instead, he laced his hands on the desk in front of him, and fixed a steady look somewhere just above Jensen's left shoulder.
"There's a relic," he said. "In the estate where I saved you yesterday. If I had it in my possession, it would give me the right to rule."
"Like a crown?"
Jared shook his head. "The relic itself holds much power."
"How can a thing be powerful?" A thought occurred to him. "Is there magic in this world?"
Jared looked confused. "Magic?"
"Like people who can control the weather and make stuff float and throw fireballs and stuff."
"I have never heard of such things," Jared said. Jensen firmly quashed any feeling of disappointment. "But there are certainly relics that grant their bearers unnatural abilities."
"Like this one you're after," Jensen inferred, and Jared nodded.
"Claiming that relic would prove without a doubt that I am the rightful heir to the throne. If I could get it."
Jensen stared at him. "The hell are you doing just standing around, then? Break in and take it! You have an army, don't you?"
Jared sighed. "It's not that simple. The relic can't be touched by just anyone. It is a sign of the right to rule and so will only give itself over to one who is worthy."
"And you're not?"
Jared smiled a little wryly. "I'd like to think I am. But it's a fool's errand to even try."
"Why?" Jensen asked.
"According to the prophecy-"
"The what?" Jensen interrupted.
Now Jared was looking at him oddly again. "Surely there must be prophets in Galen. How else could the gods speak to you?
"Right yeah," Jensen said. He was quite sure he sounded thoroughly unconvincing. "Sorry, I was just surprised. Carry on."
"You are an odd person, Jensen," Jared said.
"You're not so bad yourself," Jensen said, with a wink because why the hell not. It made a faint blush of colour rise to Jared's cheeks, which Jensen counted as a resounding success. "Now tell me about this prophecy."
"The prophecy states that the relic will remain in its place until one of noble blood seeks it in the company of a man born under a different sky. It's been attempted numerous times, of course," he added, while Jensen struggled to keep his expression neutral. "People from as far away as Fronteme have tried, but that clearly isn't what the prophecy means. Not a single hopeful has survived the attempt."
His phrasing caught Jensen's attention. "What happened to the people who tried it?"
"Incinerated, or so the stories go. It's been kept out of sight for generations, but there's always someone willing to be an idiot for the chance of a crown."
Like you? Jensen didn't ask, though he was sorely tempted.
"Why are you willing to put yourself at risk?" he asked instead. "If there's this much chance that you're going to kill yourself in the attempt."
Jared spread his arms. "Why else? I'm desperate. Even with an army at my back, I cannot be sure to regain the throne. And, as you so adroitly pointed out, the cost of life will be too high. But every day that passes puts this kingdom - my kingdom - in greater turmoil. I cannot stand by and watch that happen."
How suspiciously altruistic, Jensen thought. Either the people in this world actually had a niceness gene, or Jared was lying about his motives for obtaining this magic whatchahoozen. Or maybe it was just Jared, although that seemed unlikely.
Either way, Jensen had to admit to being more than a little curious about this prophecy. Not in the least because it sounded like he was the key to it.
"Let's do it," he said.
Jared arched an eyebrow at him. "I beg your pardon?"
"Let's go get this relic of yours," Jensen explained. "Between the two of us, we shouldn't have any problem dealing with the soldiers."
"There's just the fact that then the both of us will be incinerated if the relic decides that I'm not worthy," Jared said, a little tartly.
Jensen gave him his best no-nonsense look. "You were willing to try it yesterday before you interrupted your plans to rescue my sorry ass. And it sounds like you have both royal blood and a worthy cause in your favour. Besides," he added, with a grin. "You've got me in your corner. One man born under another sky coming right up."
"Jensen," Jared said. He sounded startlingly fond considering that they'd only just met. "I hardly think that Galen counts as another sky. I don't want you - or anyone - hurt on my account."
"Hey, it's my life. And it would have ended very badly if you hadn't shown up yesterday." He reached out and pressed a hand to Jared's forearm. "Grant me the respect to do with it as I wish."
Jared stared at him for a long moment and then, abruptly, laughed. "My life has turned on its head since you appeared."
"You don't know the half of it," Jensen said dryly. "Come on, Jared. Will you try?"
Jared's other hand came down to rest on top of Jensen's. "Yes," he said. "May the gods help us both."
"Awesome." Jensen grinned at him. "I've got a good feeling about this."
Jensen would be the first to admit (to anyone except Jared) that he knew next to nothing about how to besiege a castle. What little he did know was the product of Hollywood and was therefore almost certainly bullshit.
That having been said, their assault on the mini castle started surprisingly well.
Armed with his stolen rapier and Jared at his side, Jensen found himself cutting easily through the apparently rather meagre defenses. Again, he focused on maiming the soldiers rather than killing them, but his skill level was such that even that wasn't too much of a handicap. Jared, he found whenever he looked his way, was a pretty dab hand himself.
Maybe, if they survived this, he'd see if Jared wanted to have a practice bout.
It seemed like it took no time at all before the soldiers keeping guard outside the building had been dispatched. Jensen lowered his sword, his heart pounding and faint tremors of residual adrenaline thrumming through his veins.
"We are awesome," he declared. He raised a hand for a high five. "Up top."
Jared looked confused. "What's up top?"
Jensen sighed manfully. "Never mind. Galien tradition. Forgot you wouldn't know it."
Jared stared at him for a long moment, then something in his expression firmed. Jamming his sword back into its sheath, Jared strode towards Jensen.
"Jared?" Jensen asked, fighting the urge to back away from that determined approach. "What are yo-mph!"
Kissing him, was apparently the answer, which Jensen could only approve of. He wrapped the hand not holding his rapier around Jared's neck and groaned into the kiss when Jared's arms came around his waist, holding him fast. Jared's mouth slanted over his, coaxing and demanding all at once as he teased Jensen's lips apart and snaked his tongue into the wet warmth of Jensen's mouth, making himself at home.
Of fucking course Jared was a sinful kisser. Jensen would never ridicule an unbelievable fairy tale again.
It was over much too soon for Jensen's liking, even as a part of him realized that making out on the front step of a castle full of soldiers who wanted them gone was probably not a good idea.
"What," he panted, "was that?"
Jared looked really goddamn smug. "A kiss. Surely you have those in Galen."
"And that's…" He groped fruitlessly for a word. "Okay here? The fact that we're both guys?" he clarified, when Jared looked confused.
"Of course," Jared said, as though rules against the gay were a preposterous thought. Suddenly, Jensen liked bizarro world a lot better. "Now come on."
Jensen wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and nodded. "Lead the way, o captain, my captain."
"You make no sense whatsoever," Jared told him.
"And you like it," Jensen shot back. He smirked when Jared had nothing to say in response. "Let's go kick some ass."
"I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth," Jensen said. "But doesn't this all seem a bit too easy?"
They'd been ranging through the mini castle and taking out the soldiers in ones and twos as they ran across them. No one had raised a general alarm and, as far as Jensen could tell, the place was chronically understaffed. If it had been him, there would have been three times as many soldiers skulking around this place.
"We do make quite a formidable pair," Jared said. He pointed at a staircase. "This way."
"That's true," Jensen admitted, because there were times for false modesty and this was not one of them. "But I would have thought that they'd be putting a little more effort into keeping us out."
"This estate is never defended by anything larger than a single squad. If you'll recall, I was planning on managing this undertaking alone."
A soldier chose that moment to appear at the top of the staircase, nearly skewering Jared in what looked more like an accident than actual skill. Jensen lunged forward into the space left behind when Jared stumbled back; the man collapsed with a scream.
"Which is clearly why you're lucky I happened to be around. Oh, stop carrying on, he snapped at the wounded man. "It's hardly a life-threatening wound. But seriously," he continued, as Jared helpfully bashed the man over the head with the pommel of his sword. "There's a magic thingy in there that can make you king. Shouldn't someone be taking better care of it?"
"Jensen, it's a relic that immolates everyone who's ever touched it. It doesn't really need guarding. The guards are mostly just to keep people from touching things they shouldn't by mistake. There's a reason why this was never going to be a good plan."
"I guess." Jensen followed Jared down another hallway that ended in a door that he could have driven an elephant through.
Jared put his hands on the massive door handle and paused.
Jensen hesitated a step behind. "Everything okay?"
"This is it." Jensen watched Jared's shoulders square. "Come on."
With a mighty heave, Jared pulled the doors open. Light lanced through the open doorway and Jensen winced, bringing a hand up to shield his eyes.
"That's what we're here for." Without so much as a pause, Jared walked right in and vanished into the brightness.
"Jared, wait!" Jensen stumbled after him, blinking rapidly as he tried to get used to the blinding light.
Eventually, his vision cleared, and the room resolved itself into a large, mostly vacant space. There were no windows, no decorations on the wall, no furniture. The only architectural feature in the room was a raised pedestal at the centre. On the centre of the pedestal was-
"A mirror," Jared confirmed. He stopped right in front of the pedestal and stood, staring at the mirror. Jensen couldn't imagine that he could see his reflection in it, since the light was coming from the polished face of the glass.
"What does it do?" Jensen asked. "Blind your enemies?"
Jared didn't answer.
Jensen rolled his eyes. "Or you could not tell me, that's good too."
"I'm probably about to die," Jared said, almost conversationally.
"Well, at least your final moments included an excellent battle and a kiss from a handsome guy." Jensen stepped forward and laid his hand on Jared's shoulder. "You can do it." He pressed a chaste kiss to Jared's cheek. "I have faith in you."
"Don't know how much that counts, considering that I think you might be insane."
"Goodbye, Jensen," Jared said, and then, in one smooth, deliberate motion, reached out and plucked the mirror off the pedestal.
Ha! Take that, prophecy!
The light vanished immediately, and Jensen stumbled when the floor shuddered under them.
"Uh oh. That's probably our cue." Jensen turned to go, realized that Jared hadn't moved and turned back. "Jared?"
Jared was staring down at the mirror in his hand, his face a riot of confusion.
"Oh for…" Jensen reached back and grabbed Jared's wrist. "You can be shocked that you're not dead later. Right now, we need to leave before we manage it, after all."
"Right," Jared said, after a beat. He didn't resist as Jensen dragged him back to the door while the floor pitched and rumbled.
They encountered absolutely no soldiers on their way out, which Jensen could only approve of. He was glad to see that the ones they'd knocked out had either woken up and fucked off when the ground started moving, or else someone had come and dragged them to safety.
They made it out of the building none the worse for wear, just so long as Jensen didn't think about the screaming pain in his legs from being in an en garde stance after riding that horse. The building was still standing, but Jensen didn't put good odds on it staying that way for long.
"Time to go?" he asked Jared.
"Time to go," Jared agreed, and then, "Jensen!"
He sounded strangely frantic.
Jensen blinked at him, trying to find the words to calm Jared's concern, but his tongue felt thick and heavy and refused to cooperate. The world was blurry, he realized, with mounting concern, smearing around him like he was looking through a rain-splattered window.
He opened his mouth to cry out, and Jared's face was the last thing he saw before the world went black.
Jensen woke up flat on his back, blinking into the light. A figure was leaning over him.
He grinned, a little dopily. "Hi Jared," he murmured.
"Are you alright?" a voice that definitely didn't belong to Jared said.
Jensen jerked upright and found himself sprawled across the floor in Chester Hall. Directly in front of him was the damn door that had started all this.
In a panic, he scrambled to his feet and ripped open the door-
-only to find himself faced with the normal bustle of the campus in the morning. He was, he noticed almost absently, exactly where he'd hoped to end up when he took that shortcut in the first place.
"Are you alright?" the professor asked, when all Jensen did was gape, baffled.
Jensen wet his lips. "This might be an odd question," he said slowly. "But does this door usually lead to an alternate dimension?"
There was a momentary silence, and then Jensen felt a hand on his shoulder.
"You should go home and sleep it off," the professor said kindly.
Jensen would probably have been happier to write the whole thing off as a particularly vivid delusion brought on by too much stress and not enough sleep, but no delusion ever left him with a set of clothes that had gone out of style 300 years ago in place of the t-shirt and sweats that he'd been wearing when he left fencing practice. His fencing bag was gone too, which was going to piss him off a great deal when he got over the shock of what had just happened to him - his parents were not going to be pleased to discover that he'd managed to lose $400 worth of fencing equipment between the gym and his apartment.
No matter how many people he asked, no one could tell him anything about a doorway that led to an alternate dimension. Jensen couldn't decide whether they were deliberately trying to keep him in the dark or if they truly had no idea what he was talking about.
Slowly, Jensen got back into his regular routine. It was amazing, he thought, how two damn days in an alternate reality could so completely fuck up his ability to function in real life. The rhythm of going to classes and spending time with friends seemed suddenly monotonous and dull. Fencing was a bit better, but after being in real swordfights, the formalized nature of fencing matches lacked a certain sense of exhilaration.
He absolutely decimated his opponents in the tournament though, which was nice. Perhaps there was something to be said for being less gentlemanly, after all.
The days dragged by in that infuriating way that days had whereupon they seemed to creep by like molasses until the moment that Jensen stopped to think about how many had passed, and then he could scarcely fathom where they'd all gone.
He didn't bother telling anyone what had happened. Who would believe him? Jensen wouldn't even have believed himself.
"You've been awfully quiet lately," Danneel said.
Jensen shrugged. They were on their way back from writing a Kin midterm, and he felt utterly wrung out. "Exam stress."
"It's more than that," Danneel pressed. "You haven't been yourself in months."
"It's fine, Danni." For proof, he offered her a wan smile. "Just some stuff to deal with that I wasn't expecting."
She looked worried. Dammit. "You can talk to me about anything, you know that."
"I do. Thank you."
Jensen took the opportunity to escape not long after that and shut himself in his bedroom, his head full of static.
"This is ridiculous," he told his reflection, which did absolutely dick all. With a heavy sigh, Jensen pulled open his closet and dug right down into the bowels to find a certain white shirt and pair of blue leggings.
The boots he was already wearing.
Not for the first time since he'd returned, Jensen changed into the clothes and looked at his reflection. It was amazing how different they made him look.
"Not crazy," he told himself. "See?"
Just then, the door buzzer went.
"Fucking- one sec!" Jensen hollered, torn between getting changed in a hurry and just saying fuck it and answering the door in period dress.
The buzzer went again, and Jensen yanked open his bedroom door to go give the impatient bastard a piece of his mind.
Only it wasn't his apartment that he stepped into as he went through the door.
"The fuck?" Jensen said aloud, looking around himself at the old-fashioned shack he was standing in.
"Jensen?" a wonderfully familiar voice said, mere seconds before strong arms wrapped him in a bone-crushing hug an anaconda would have been proud of. "Oh, thank the gods, you're alright!"
"I won't be if you squeeze me to death," he wheezed. It was enough to get that grip to loosen, which he counted as a win.
"What happened?" Jared demanded, because it was absolutely Jared squeezing the stuffing out of him. "We've been looking for you for four days and you appear in the middle of our camp just like that."
"I didn't mean t- four days?" Jensen twisted around so that he could look Jared in the face. "I've only been gone for four days?"
Jared was wearing his 'you're kind of crazy' face again. Jensen couldn't believe that he'd missed it.
"Never mind," Jensen interrupted, before Jared could say anything. "I'm sorry for worrying you. I got kind of, um, lost."
Jared rolled his eyes. "Of course you did." He bent down and kissed him, which Jensen was more than happy to get in on. So much so that he had Jared's hands under his half-unbuttoned shirt and Jared's now-loose hair tangled in his fingers when someone cleared their throat very audibly behind him.
"I take it this is Jensen," the short, muscular man standing a few feet away said when Jensen and Jared managed to pry themselves away from each other.
"Hi, Chris," Jared said, a little sheepishly. "Yes, this is Jensen. Jensen, this is Chris, my chief of staff."
"Charmed," Jensen said, for lack of a better response. "I, err, sorry about this."
Chris' answering grin was surprisingly good-natured. "No worries. It's about time he settled down, considering that he's about to become a king."
"You are?" Jensen turned back to Jared, who still bore traces of shock amid the pleasure on his face.
"I'm going to try. So," he said, with a hopeful little smile. "Are you interested in helping me overthrow a corrupt king?"
"Why not?" Jensen said. He had no idea how long he was going to be stuck here this time, but he didn't fancy sending Jared off to do this stuff by himself, army or no. And if it happened again, at least he'd know that it was possible to get back. He got the feeling that he'd always try to get back to Jared. "I've got a good feeling about this too."
Hopefully this time, he'd managed to get laid before he got sent back to his own world.