When Jared woke up the next afternoon, it was with the incontrovertible knowledge that monsters were real. And he had a crush on one.
"Fuck," he said succinctly, and stared at the ceiling for a long time.
When he finally succeeded in dragging himself out of bed and to the diner down the street, Jared felt like he was stepping onto a new planet. Which wasn't far off, he thought. His entire worldview had been turned on its head.
The thing that Jared couldn't fathom was that no one knew.
According to Jensen, the world was full of monsters and had been for as long as anyone could remember. Could they really be so good at blending in? They must, Jared mused. After all, he had proof now that they existed, but he'd never had any clue before.
What if that little girl was actually a werewolf? Or if the guy in the business suit by the window was a, a demon or something? Or if the cute barista was one of those things that sexed people to death? Suck-something?
Jared realized that he was staring accusingly at everyone else in the diner and that people were starting to get freaked out. He hurriedly redirected his attention to his coffee mug, but he couldn't stop the thoughts.
How many people in his life hadn't actually been human?
Shit. Did worrying about this make him a racist? He hoped not. He didn't want to be racist.
Groaning, Jared let his head thunk onto the table, missing his plate by the narrowest of margins.
It didn't help much.
Waiting for Jensen to arrive at Muse FM that night was excruciating.
After an afternoon of his thoughts chasing themselves in circles, Jared was no closer to knowing how he felt about the whole monster situation. He didn't really know what he thought about the whole Jensen is a gorgon thing, either, but the way he couldn't stop smiling like an idiot every time he thought about him suggested that it was a positive thing, whatever it was.
Jared jittered in his seat, wondering if he ought to practice what he was going to say when Jensen arrived. Not that he knew what he was going to say, mind, but maybe if he practiced a few times he'd figure it out.
Twenty minutes later, he'd only made it as far as 'Jensen' and was about ready to give it up as a bad job. Maybe he'd let Jensen start the conversation.
The sudden ring of the security phone nearly gave him a heart attack, his flight or fight response kicking in with a vengeance. He took a deep breath, trying to get his heartbeat back under control before answering.
"Muse FM security desk," he said, hoping that he sounded at least vaguely professional. "How can I-"
"I need you in the lobby," Danneel said, in a voice that brooked no argument. In the background, Jared could hear what sounded like a crowd of distinctly unhappy people.
And Danneel wasn't technically his boss, but Jared didn't hesitate. "You got it."
"Take the stairs," was Danneel's advice, and then she hung up.
He took the stairs two at a time, fairly certain he knew what to expect at the bottom. He didn't know why there would be an angry mob in the lobby, but he definitely knew what one sounded like.
This day just kept getting better and better.
The murmur of voices was louder now and audible even through the heavy door. Jared paused a moment to make sure that all of the bits of his uniform were in place, squared his shoulders and pushed the door open with his chin held high.
He'd been expecting maybe a half dozen people. Instead, the lobby was packed to bursting with a crowd that was much louder and much angrier than it had sounded over the phone. Danneel was stood behind the desk in Clif's normal spot, looking like she would happily have set the whole lot of them on fire and danced on the ashes given half a chance.
All eyes swung his way when he walked in, and Jared was grateful for the years of job experience that kept him from faltering under the attention. Instead, he narrowed his eyes and lifted his voice.
"What is going on here?" he demanded, in his best 'I am an asshole with authority and you will listen to me' voice.
Shock rippled through the room, the voices falling silent so abruptly that the silence rang in Jared's ears. He could see confusion and wariness warring on the faces of those closest to him, peppered with a surprising amount of fear.
We monsters have no interest in making mankind aware of our existence, Jensen's voice murmured in his ear. The punishments for letting a human in on the secret, or killing one, are beyond severe.
Ah. So that was why Danneel wanted his help. Clever.
He'd think about the fact that he was literally the only human in a room full of monsters at a later point.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Jared said. "This is private property. There is no loitering allowed. Unless you have an appointment, you are going to have to leave."
Everyone looked very confused, which had Jared fighting not to grin.
"You can't stay here, folks," he said again, making shooing motions towards the door. "Move along please."
Some of them actually started moving. Nice to know that monsters were just as susceptible to basic instructions and a confident delivery as humans were.
Of course, it couldn't last.
"Wait," someone protested. "I'm not going anywhere until you get that god-forsaken gorg-"
"Quiet," a voice ordered, calm but with an edge of steel. The crowd parted like water around two new arrivals in suits, one big and rangy, his companion slight and Asian.
Cops, Jared's mind said immediately, taking in their confidence and the subtle bulge of side holsters beneath their suit jackets. This must be the SPD.
The short one's eyes glittered as he looked around the room. "No one finish that sentence. Unless you want to be in trouble for a whole lot more than just disturbing the peace, that is."
Someone actually whimpered in terror, every eye in the room transfixed. Some of them didn't even look like they were breathing. The big cop looked much more intimidating to Jared's mind, his every move calculated and confident as he strode along in his partner's wake.
Jared frowned. There was something... weird about the way he was walking. He gave the guy another careful once-over, but couldn't quite put his finger on what was out of place.
While everyone's attention was caught by the floor show, Jared edged over to the desk.
Danneel looked over with a smile. "Thanks for the assist," she said in an undertone.
"No problem," Jared whispered back. He tipped his head towards the two cops. "Why's everyone so nervous about the little guy? He doesn't look that scary to me."
"He's one of the hantu pemburu," Danneel answered. "Not someone you want to tangle with."
"What's a shampoo... whatever you just said?"
"A hantu pemburu," Danneel repeated, as though that was going to help. "Vengeance spirit. Sort of similar to the Wild Hunt."
Danneel leveled an unimpressed eyebrow at him. "Don't you know anything about mythology?"
"I've seen Thor," Jared offered.
"... right. Might I recommend a trip to the library? He's a hunter," she continued, before Jared could say something snarky in response. "And a ruthless one at that. Particularly known for punishing sinners."
"Makes sense for a police officer," Jared said. "And what about his hulking friend?"
Danneel barely looked. "Oh, him? He's a fawn. Much less dangerous."
"Like a deer?" Jared looked again, and nearly did a very embarrassing double-take when he realized that the guy had hooves instead of feet. Which explained the walk, Jared supposed, but-
"How didn't I notice that sooner?"
Danneel shrugged. "Your brain didn't know what it was looking at. It needed some outside assistance to see through the charm he's wearing. It's easy when you know how."
Jared frowned. "Jensen's hood still worked even after I found out about his… hair."
A smile flashed in his peripheral vision. "Jensen can afford much better concealment charms than a police detective can. Now shh, they're about done."
Jared looked up and, sure enough, the crowd was trailing out of the building, many of them looking like it was only the stranglehold they on their pride that was keeping them from flat out running. They flinched away from the officers as they passed; the hunter whatsit didn't look in the least bit bothered by their obvious fear.
Eventually, the room cleared, and Jared watched the fawn - seriously, how could someone that ripped be a 'fawn'? It just sounded weird - shut the door firmly behind them, though he stopped short of throwing the bolt across.
"Behave," Danneel said to him in an undertone, as the two officers turned their way. "The last thing we need right now is for you to get in trouble with the SPD."
Of course, that particular resolution lasted for all of 30 seconds, because the first thing out of the little one's mouth was a drawled out, "What's the human doing here?"
Jared stiffened. "I work here."
That earned him a disbelieving eyebrow. "As what?"
"Security." Jared bit out. "Needed someone to pick up the slack since the authorities wouldn't get involved until Jensen nearly got himself killed."
"Jared!" Danneel snapped. She glanced at the cops. "Osric, I'll thank you to be more respectful of my employees."
Amazingly, the guy, Osric, looked a little abashed at that. "Sorry, Danneel. He's really your employee?"
Danneel nodded. "Meet Jared Padalecki, the night security guard for Muse FM. Jared, this is Detective Osric Chau and Detective Tahmoh Penikett, with the SPD."
"He knows about the SPD?" Tahmoh asked. "You've violated the first law?"
"No, actually," Danneel said, almost cheerfully. "Jared has class five exemption."
Tahmoh's eyes widened. "What?"
"With you?" Osric asked, sounding strangely devastated.
Danneel shook her head. "Jensen."
That was apparently the last thing that they'd expected her to say, judging by the way they stared at Jared incredulously.
Completely at sea, Jared stared back.
"Him?" Osric demanded. "Seriously?"
"Check with the records office if you don't believe me. Everything's in order."
"Danneel," Jared said in an undertone as the two officers discussed. "What's going on?"
"It's under control," she answered.
Jared rolled his eyes. "That's not what I asked."
She smiled at him. "Don't worry about it. They're going to want to question you about yesterday. Answer as honestly as you can. Lying to a hantu pemburu is a bad idea." She bit her lip, thinking. "But don't answer any questions about your relationship with Jensen."
Jared choked on air. "My what?"
She patted him on the arm. "Well done. Finished, gentlemen?" she said to the detectives, who did indeed seem to be done with their hushed conversation. "I don't have all night."
Tahmoh bristled at that, but Osric put a hand on his arm. "Of course," he said calmly. "We're not here to interrupt your work. After you?"
"Just a moment. Can you watch the desk down here?" she asked Jared. "Just in case any more disgruntled listeners come in."
"Sure," Jared said uncertainly. "But… where's Clif?"
Something dangerous flashed in Danneel's eyes. "Clif no longer works here."
"Oookay." Because that wasn't ominous. "I'll, uh, stay here then."
Danneel flashed him a grateful smile. "
To Jared's surprise, it was Tahmoh who followed Danneel into her office while Osric stayed with him.
"Jared, was it?" he asked, clearly more of a formality than an actual question. "I have a few questions for you about the incident yesterday."
And Jared wanted to protest his PC phrasing, but he wasn't doing anyone any favours by being obstreperous so he refrained. "Of course." He glanced at the security desk and its lone chair. "Let me, uh, find you something to sit on first."
A few minutes later, they were seated at the desk, and Osric started in on his questions. As a security guard, Jared was no stranger to giving police reports, so he did his best to ignore the strangeness of the situation and gave his statement with as little bias as possible. For his part, Osric was focused and professional throughout Jared's report, which he appreciated.
Then, as Danneel had warned, the topic shifted.
"So," Osric said. "What is the nature of your relationship with Jensen Ackles?"
"None of your business," Jared answered, keeping it civil with an effort. "It's got nothing to do with this case."
Osric smiled at him, a surprisingly boyish expression. "Somehow I doubt that. Why else would you have gone immediately to help him without calling for backup? Or the police?"
"I acted within my professional capacity as a security guard. I wasn't confident that the police would arrive in time to help defuse the situation."
"I see. It says here that you were specifically chosen for this position," Osric said, tapping the screen of his tablet for emphasis.
Jared nodded. "They wanted a human guard to act as a deterrent-"
"Yes, yes," Osric said, waving a dismissive hand. "I've heard all that already. I mean they requested you, specifically, out of all the security guards that work for your company."
"They what?" Jared asked, nonplussed. "Why?"
"Amazingly, that's what I'm trying to find out." Osric peered at him, eyes keen. "You didn't know."
Jared shook his head, too confused to try and dissemble.
"So that choice had nothing to do with your relationship with Jensen?"
"I - how could it? What does any of this have to do with those guys who attacked Jensen, anyway?"
Osric looked like he was about to respond to that, but the door to Danneel's office chose that moment to open, and he backed down with a liquid shrug. "It seems as though you're off the hook for now." Osric stood as Tahmoh and Danneel walked out, extending one hand for Jared to shake. "Thank you for your cooperation."
"Uh, sure," Jared managed. Somehow, he had the feeling that Osric had got more out of him than Jared had intended, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what he had said that was so interesting.
"We'll be in touch," Osric said to Danneel, shaking her hand as well. "Thanks for your time."
"I appreciate you coming," Danneel answered, actually sounding like she meant it.
The two detectives said their goodbyes and left, leaving Jared and Danneel alone in the lobby.
She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Well, that's another thing done. Where does the time go?"
"Yea- wait, where's Jensen?" Jared glanced at the clock and was shocked to realize how late it was. "He should have been here ages ago."
There was a brief silence.
"Jared," Danneel said, in a too-gentle voice that made alarm bells start ringing in Jared's head. "Jensen's been arrested. That's why the police were here."
"What?!" Jared lurched to his feet, feeling like he was being pulled in seven directions at once.
"Jared! Calm down!" Danneel was at his side in an instant, laying an anchoring hand on his arm. "Jensen's going to be fine!"
"He's been arrested! What part of that is fine?" Jared took a deep breath, fighting for calm. "Why did he get arrested?"
"Jared," she said, still too-soft, like she was talking to a frightened animal. "Jensen killed those people yesterday. And, yes, they attacked him first, but that doesn't change what he did."
Jared felt vaguely like he'd been punched in the chest. "What? Killed? But-"
"He turned them to stone. There's nothing in the world that can reverse the effect of a gorgon's gaze. To all intents and purposes, he killed them."
"Fuck," Jared breathed. Somehow, he hadn't thought about it that way, and it made Jensen's concerns about hurting him seem suddenly a million times more understandable.
"He'll be fine," Danneel promised again. Her hand rubbed soothing circles on Jared's arm, and he was somewhat chagrined to realize that it was actually helping. "We'll get everything sorted out, and he'll be back before you know it."
Jared huffed out a laugh. "Got a crystal ball hidden away somewhere?"
"My clairvoyance only ever reveals bad news, I'm afraid. But I have faith in Jensen."
"Yeah," Jared said, thinking. "Hey, Danneel?"
"What kind of-" he started, and then realized that he had no idea how to finish without sounding like a total douchebag.
Luckily for him, Danneel had apparently been expecting the question. "I'm a banshee."
Jared was getting kind of tired of looking like a slack-jawed idiot all the time. "What?"
Danneel's eyebrow arched. "Oh, so you have heard of some mythical creatures? I was beginning to wonder."
"Y-yeah, sorta," Jared managed. "That 'scream like a banshee' thing? And, y'know, Halloween costumes. But they're not usually so…" His eyes flicked from Danneel's pretty face down the length of her body, then skittered awkwardly away. "Um."
Danneel chuckled. "I'm going to take that as a compliment. The myths don't get everything right. Neither does pop culture."
"Okay, so what does a banshee, well, do? You said you tell the future, kind of?"
"We keen for the dead," Danneel said, her tone falling into some strange gap between clinical and achy. "Sometimes before they've actually died. It's why banshees are considered an ill omen: no one wants to hear about the death of a loved one, and never mind that we don't do anything to cause it. We simply mourn the loss."
"Oh," Jared said lamely.
"Mm. It's how I knew you needed help last night, actually. I'm just glad I got there in time."
"Have I thanked you for that yet?" Jared asked. "Because I think I'm going to owe you for the rest of my life for that."
"I'm just glad you have a life to owe me." Danneel patted his arm and released him. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Jared said, and was glad to find that it was mostly the truth. "And Jensen?"
"It'll all be fine," Danneel promised. She grinned suddenly, wickedly amused. "And I promise not to grill you about your intentions until after this is all dealt with, okay?"
"Oh my god," Jared groaned, burying his head in his hands. "I take it back. You saved me for your own sadistic purposes."
Danneel gave a haughty toss of her head. "It's called multitasking. At least you're alive to suffer. And if you're done being a drama queen, I think you're supposed to be working."
"You're a devil woman," Jared told her gravely.
She smirked. "I'll take that as a compliment too. Off you go. Someone will be up to cover your break."
Jared swallowed. "Not Gabe?"
"No," she said quietly. "Not Gabe."
There wasn't much Jared could say to that, so he nodded and headed for the elevator. Muse FM's security desk seemed even more isolated than usual, for all that Jared was used to being alone while he worked. He only managed to get through a few seconds of Jensen's show - a rerun - before he slammed his laptop closed, breathing hard.
A half hour of sitting in silence passed before Jared realized that he hadn't asked what all those people had been so angry about.
Jared slept poorly again that morning and was considerably displeased to be woken up by his cell phone on Friday afternoon a good two hours before his alarm was scheduled to go off.
He was even more displeased to discover it was Danneel telling him not to come into work.
"Why?" he demanded, the early hour turning the word into a growl.
Danneel was unaffected. "You were here to protect Jensen," she reminded him. "He's not here, so there's not much point in you coming in. Besides, the police are back and I trust them about as far as I can throw them. I don't want to get you involved."
"Do I get a say in this?"
"You might do well to remember who's hiring whom in this situation. You're getting paid to stay home, Jared, try not to sound so unhappy about it."
"But- dammit!" he said, when Danneel hung up on him.
Jared seriously debated going into work anyway before giving it up as a stupid idea. Danneel hadn't steered him wrong before. If she wanted him out of the way today, then he would do so.
And if she was still keeping him out of the loop come Monday, well, then he'd figure out a new plan.
Thus resolved, Jared tried to go back to sleep, but only managed to toss and turn for about half an hour before dragging himself out of bed. Some day off. Maybe he'd make breakfast for once, instead of grabbing it around the corner.
Except for the part where he'd apparently forgotten to go grocery shopping because there was no food in his apartment. Again.
"Shopping it is," he sighed to himself, grabbing his keys and wallet and stuffing his feet into his battered sneakers. Locking the door behind him, he breezed past the elevator and its 'out of order' sign and headed down the stairs. The schools weren't out yet, so the building was wonderfully quiet as he angled across the main floor and out the front door.
There was a man waiting for him on the steps.
"Mr. Padalecki," he said, looking like something out of Men in Black with his tailored suit and mirrored sunglasses. "My employer wishes to speak with you. Please," he gestured at a black town car parked unsubtly against the curb. "If you'll come with me."
"Uh," Jared said, because what the fuck was his life recently? "My mama always told me not to get into cars with strangers."
The man's expression didn't so much as twitch. "I must insist."
And Jared might not normally live in an action movie, but he knew how to tell when a person was carrying, and he had no particular desire to get shot on the steps of his own damn apartment building.
"Yeah," he said, a little faintly. "Okay."
He followed the guy down to the car, muttering a resentful sort of 'thank you' when the guy held open the back door for him.
The sound of the door clicking shut behind him seemed more ominous than it needed to be, but that could just have been Jared. The guy circled round to the driver's seat and climbed in, leather upholstery squeaking with his movements.
"Am I about to get murdered?" Jared asked him, with a bravado he didn't feel.
"I've not been made privy to that information," the guy answered, which was so helpful. "But I doubt it. Mr. Morgan has a reputation for his directness. I hardly think he would send me to fetch you back if he simply wanted you dead."
"Oh, well then," Jared snarked. "Good to know that killing me would be inefficient after all of this."
"Indeed." The car pulled smoothly into traffic, heading God only knew where.
The silence inside was stifling.
"Any chance we could stop at a McDonald's or something?" Jared asked, after a minute. "I haven't eaten yet."
"I do not intend to keep Mr. Morgan waiting."
Jared slumped back against the car seat. "I can tell this ride's going to be a barrel of laughs."
They drove for the better part of half an hour, Jared's shabby little neighbourhood giving way to one of the swankier parts of town and leaving him even more confused. Who the hell wanted to talk to him in suburbia?
The house he was brought to was fucking massive, easily three times the size of Jared's entire apartment complex. Every inch of the lawn was carefully cultivated, the bright green grass and vibrant flowers standing out starkly against the house's white façade. The driveway was long enough for a jumbo jet to park on it, and there was an honest-to-God fountain in front of the house.
Jared's nerves were tingling long before he got out of the car, and it took effort to keep his shoulders from hunching as the driver opened the door for him, exposing him to the eyes of the people inside the house. It didn't take Jared's moderately well-developed security guard skills to realize that the house was very well protected by people and technology both. He could see three cameras from where he was standing, and had no doubt that there were many more.
He didn't resist as the guy led him to the front door, which swung open at the hands of two more black-suited employees. One of them had horns curling around his ears.
He was led through the house to a tastefully furnished office that presumably wasn't used for anything except intimidating people, considering how spotless it was. The desk was the main focus of the room: dark mahogany wood polished until it shone and big enough for a threesome.
The man sitting behind the desk had a salt-and-pepper beard and a careworn face, but his eyes were as sharp as the suit he was wearing.
"Sir," Jared's guide said. "Jared Padalecki, as requested."
The man waved a hand, and the suits vanished between one breath and the next, the door closing quietly behind them and leaving Jared alone with him.
Holy shit, Jared had been kidnapped by the monster mafia.
"Jared," the man said with a smile. "I've heard so much about you."
"Really?" Jared said, fighting the urge to cross his arms defensively over his chest. "That's weird. Because I have no idea who the hell you are."
The smile didn't diminish. "Jeff Morgan's the name. I am acquainted with your employers."
Jared eyed him. "I'm assuming you don't mean Gamble and Kripke."
Jeff inclined his head. "They said you were bright."
"They," Jared repeated. "You know, any time you want to start making sense, I'd really appreciate it. My life has become confusing enough recently without this."
A sly smirk. "But maybe a little too bold in the face of the unknown."
Jared huffed. "Can I go? Or are you going to stop being cryptic and start getting to the point?"
That earned him a little chuckle that made shivers skitter down his back. He'd never known a chuckle to do that before, and Jared belatedly wondered if he ought to regret being such a smart ass.
"I am acquainted with Jensen," Jeff said, with a deliberateness that Jared didn't trust even a little bit. "Been a friend of the family's for a long time."
"Still not seeing what this has to do with me."
"You are, of course, aware of the fact that Jensen is currently in prison, awaiting trial for five counts of murder."
Jared's jaw tightened. "Yes."
"I want your help in doing something about it."
"Really. And why do you want to help?"
"You see, I don't appreciate it when my friends are inconvenienced. And I especially don't appreciate it when they're inconvenienced in order to cause trouble for me."
Jared frowned. "Why would Jensen getting arrested cause trouble for you?"
"Well now." Jeff spread his hands. "That depends rather on the reason why he was arrested."
None of this was making much sense. "He turned those guys to stone. In self defense," he added, putting a heavy emphasis on the words.
Jeff shook his head. "That's not why. Jensen was arrested for falsifying his identification paperwork."
"What?" Jared blinked. "What does that even mean?"
"We're not really all that much different from humans, you know," Jeff said, almost conversationally. He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers over his stomach with an easy smile. "We have jobs and mortgages-"
"And crime syndicates," Jared said, without thinking. It seemed to be a running theme for him in this conversation.
Jeff's thin smile made another appearance. "Yes, those too. The point I was getting to, if you'll permit me, is that we monsters also have a legal system that involves a lot of paper and files. One of the most significant of which is our identification paperwork."
"Like your citizenship?"
"More like our species. There are certain kinds of monsters that are allowed to live in large urban areas, and some, due to the threat they pose to both monster kind and the continued obliviousness of the human population, are not." Jeff raised an eyebrow at him. "Care to guess what species is right at the top of the 'not allowed in urban centres' list?"
Now Jared saw where this was going. He sighed. "Gorgons."
"Got it in one. But where does that leave poor Jensen? He was never meant for living in an obscure hut in the mountains, you know."
"So you falsified Jensen's paperwork."
"I helped," Jeff said modestly. "As I'm sure you can imagine, it's not that easy to go through life without any photo ID. He's officially registered as a siren."
Jared was getting really tired of all these unhelpful explanations. "I assume you don't mean the thing that makes noise on a police car?"
Jeff shook his head sadly. "Why they've stopped teaching a proper classical education in the schools, I'll never know. "Sirens are particularly known for using their beautiful singing voices to lure ships to sharp pointy rocks and then eating the sailors."
"And they let Jensen be a radio host? Jared demanded, stunned. "Isn't that a little… foolhardy?"
That earned him a Gallic shrug. "Sirens are only truly dangerous when they're singing. Also, their voices don't compel quite as well over radio waves. Besides, sirens are distantly related to gorgons, so Jensen's certainly a nice enough voice to sell it."
Jared bit back an enthusiastic agreement to that.
"Of course," Jeff said, with a heavy sigh. "Now that the truth is out, well, it's put Jensen in a bit of a difficult situation."
"Not you?" Jared asked. "You're the one who forged his documents."
Jeff smirked. "You'll learn that it's remarkably difficult to arrest me for anything."
"What's that supposed to-"
A discreet knock came at the door.
"Enter!" Jeff called, and the door opened on a…
"Holy shit," Jared breathed, eyes widening. He'd seen some really weird shit in the last couple of days, but there was no way that he was actually seeing a person who was a horse from the waist down carrying a tray with two steaming mugs on it. She was wearing a suit jacket. Jared wheezed a little.
"Hmm, you really are new to this aren't you?" Jeff asked, and Jared jerked his eyes down to his lap, his ears burning. "Interesting."
"What's so interesting about it?"
"Oh, nothing important. So?" Jeff asked, unbothered by the glare that Jared was throwing his way. The horse lady set the mugs down, then departed as silently as she had arrived. "Are you interested in helping me help Jensen before he gets driven out of town? Please have some coffee, by the way."
Jared huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why should I believe you? You haven't got any-" a newspaper landed on the immaculate surface of Jeff's desk, strangling Jared's voice between one word and the next. "…proof."
"I believe you had a, hmm, situation at the station yesterday," Jeff said, as Jared took in the 'Modern Medusa Kills Five' headline sprawled across the front page. "How much worse do you think it's going to get even if Jensen gets off the murder charge?"
Jared tried to ignore the 'if' in that question. "You say you want my help. With what?"
To his credit, Jeff didn't look triumphant at Jared's capitulation. "I have some… competitors in the city who are trying to take over my business operations."
Jared mentally translated that to 'rival mob trying to muscle in on his territory'. "And?"
"They're the ones responsible for the attack on Jensen." Jeff gestured at the newspaper. "And this rather lurid news report. Initially, I'm sure, they were just looking to injure or kill him-"
"How are you so blasé about that? Shit."
"-but they've changed tacks since their failure." Jeff met his gaze somberly. "It's my business to be unflappable, Mr. Padalecki, regardless of my personal feelings on the matter. Still, I do not take challenges to my authority lying down and, as such, am planning a counterattack."
"I want you to retrieve something for me." Jeff opened the top drawer of his desk and took out a photo, which he slid across the table towards Jared.
Jared looked. It was a fancy-looking vial, like for perfume or something, full of some kind of white powder.
"Is that meth?" Jared had to ask.
"Oh no. Something much more valuable. I want you to steal it for me," Jeff said, as though this actually was an action movie. "You do that, and I'll have the leverage I need to put this whole unfortunate situation behind us. What do you say?"
Jared was silent for a moment, thinking.
"Let me get this straight. You're, apparently, a friend of Jensen's. And also the leader of the monster mafia. And you want me to steal this bottle of whatever to help you get back at the guys who tried to kill Jensen, and you'll help Jensen in return."
Jeff smiled. "In a nutshell."
"I don't buy it."
"Really? Why ever not?"
Jared snorted. "You kidding? You're a mafia lord. For the monster mafia. I'm just some dumb human who happens to work with Jensen. I'm no one special. What could I possibly do that your employees couldn't do? And why trust some important job to me when you don't know if you can trust me? It doesn't make sense."
Jeff's face had only grown more amused the longer Jared talked, and he looked unexpectedly delighted by the end.
"A well-reasoned argument," he congratulated. Jared had to bite back the urge to tell him to stuff his condescension up his ass. "But if I may offer a counterpoint?"
Jared huffed as long-sufferingly as possible. "What."
"It's the fact that you're 'just' a human that makes you perfect for the job."
And, okay, Jared hadn't been expecting that. "Huh?"
"You've only seen a small sampling of the non-human population of the world. Learning how best to defend against all the myriad talents and skills of the different species is a full-time job for people in my field. But there is one subset of society that we have only the barest defenses against, because they don't even see us."
"So a human who knew how to see through all your charms and stuff would make a perfect spy," Jared intuited.
"Well." Jeff smiled a sharkish grin. "Provided this human knew his or her way around a security system and had the skills to stay alive. And I obviously can't just go around telling humans about monster society. What a disaster that would be! But here you are, with a class five exemption to the secrecy laws and," Jeff shrugged. "Why wouldn't I choose you?"
"Why are you telling me all this?" Jared demanded, because seriously, this was such a terrible idea on Jeff's part.
Instead of answering, Jeff slid something small and rectangular across the desk. "Think about it," he suggested, although Jared didn't think 'suggesting' had much of anything to do with it. 'Demanding politely' maybe. "I really could use your help on this, Jared."
Jared settled for nodding, not entirely sure what would come out of his mouth if tried to respond with words. He reached out to pick up the card that Jeff had left in front of him; it was printed on blood-red paper and boasted nothing except a phone number stamped across the front in white type.
"It goes without saying," Jeff added, and Jared looked up from the card to see something warning in Jeff's expression that was decidedly at odds with his casual tone. "That you should keep this number to yourself. I would hate to have it fall into the wrong hands."
Which Jared figured was mafia code for 'don't go to the police or I'll bury you alive'. Not that he had much faith in the monster police, at this point, but he could appreciate the sentiment nonetheless.
"Wonderful." Jeff clapped his hands together and the door opened immediately on another black-suited henchman. This one wasn't obviously non-human, not that that meant anything. "Escort Mr. Padalecki home. Until we meet again," he said to Jared.
"Yeah," Jared forced out, because it was about the safest response he could give.
"Oh, and Mr. Padalecki," Jeff said, as Jared reached the door. He turned back to find the man leaning back in his chair, his fingers steepled in front of him like a Bond villain. How was this Jared's life? "As far as your trustworthiness is concerned, I have complete faith in it."
"Yeah?" Jared asked grudgingly. "And why's that?"
Jeff's eyes glittered with secret amusement. "It's what I do. And do try not to keep me waiting too long for your answer, there's a good man."
Jared resolved that he wasn't going to think about it. Jeff was clearly a few bats short of a belfry if he thought Jared was going to be that easily convinced to do something dangerous and probably illegal for no clear reason.
Honestly, it was a non-issue.
Except for the fact that Jared couldn't stop thinking about it.
He had no reason to trust Jeff. In fact, he had negative reasons not to trust Jeff, considering how cloak and dagger the whole thing had been. And how did he know that the man would help Jensen if Jared did what he wanted. Or even if he could help Jensen.
But if he could help, and Jensen really was in trouble…
"God dammit," Jared sighed, staring at the ceiling above his bed. "My brain says one thing, but my gut says something else."
So Jared did what he always did when he had to choose between logic and his instincts.
He went to visit Chad.
"So lemme get this straight," Chad said, after listening mostly-patiently to a heavily edited version of events. "This dude you've got a boner for is an illegal immigrant who works for the mob-"
"Jensen doesn't work for the mob, I don't think. He just… knows the mob boss?" That didn't sound better.
Chad waved a hand. "What the fuck ever. He's got fucking ties to the mob, for reasons all to do with puppies and rainbows and sunshine and shit, I'm sure, and this mob boss wants to hire you as a hitman to help get your butt buddy out of prison."
"I'm not going to be a-"
"Blah, blah, whatever, shut up. Is that basically what's going on?"
"Yes," Jared said, a little sullenly. He wasn't sure if it all sounded more or less believable without the inclusion of the whole monster thing.
"I dunno, Jay-man. Seems like a whole lot of sticking your neck out just for a piece of tail."
"I'm not thinking about doing it so I get laid," Jared protested.
Chad looked at him like he'd grown another head. "Why the fuck not? You hardly know this guy, so it can't be his sparkling personality that's drawing you in."
"That's-" Jared started, then paused, wondering. Because Chad wasn't far wrong, even if Jared wasn't actually considering this just so for the chance of a booty call.
Well, mostly not because of that.
"So?" Chad leaned back in his chair, taking a long draw from his beer. "What's so amazing about your radio twink that you're actually thinking of breaking the law to help him, even though you're so square you practically have edges?"
Jared rolled his eyes. "Where do you come up with this shit?"
"Bitch, I'm a genius, don't be hating. Answer the question."
"I-" Jared sighed. "I don't even know. I mean, I liked his radio show long before I met him, but I still practically just met him. Why am I even considering this? It's crazy!"
"But you're still considering it," Chad pointed out, and God, Jared hated when Chad was right.
He groaned. "I don't even know what's wrong with me! I can't stop thinking about him."
Chad shrugged. "Sounds like you've got it bad. Since when do you fall so fast?"
It was a good question. Jared had never been much of a crusher; he tended to need to get to know a person a little before he decided he wanted to go out with them. Which wasn't anything like his experience with Jensen, and he had no idea why.
"So?" Jared asked, not trying to hide how much the question was stretching him thin. "What should I do?"
Chad considered the question for a long moment, taking another long draught from his glass while Jared fidgeted impatiently.
Finally, he said, "You should try and help this dude. No matter what."
"Really?" Jared asked, surprised. He'd totally expected Chad to say the opposite. Helping the mob was a profoundly stupid idea after all; no one should have agreed with it. Not even Chad. "Why?"
"Because I've never seen you this twisted up about anyone." Chad smirked. "Besides, some recreational law breaking would probably be good for you."
"What? You're a total pansy. You need to start living a little."
Jared shook his head. "I can't believe you think this is a good idea."
Chad snorted. "Are you high? Of course I fucking don't."
That made Jared frown. "Then why…?"
"I think you're a crazy motherfucker, but we both know that you'll regret it forever if you don't do what your gut's telling you. You gonna let a little thing like common sense get in the way?"
When he put it that way…
"That was surprisingly helpful, Chad. Thank you."
"Besides," Chad added. "You'll never get to fuck this dude if he stays in prison. Least this way, even if you get caught, you can go be gay inmates together."
Really, Jared couldn't understand why talking to Chad actually made him feel better. He probably was a crazy motherfucker, after all. "Thanks."
"Do me a favour and don't get your ass arrested."
Decision sort of made, it still took Jared four tries to actually dial the phone number Jeff had given him.
It rang three times before getting picked up.
"Yes?" Jeff's cultured voice asked, direct and to the point.
"If I do this," Jared said, trying to sound firm even though he was well aware that the man on the other end of the line was totally aware of just how much bullshit that 'if' was. "What exactly would be involved?"
"Just a little bit of breaking and entering," Jeff assured him, as though that was supposed to make him feel better about the whole thing. "I'll have someone brief you. Wear something dark. You can expect my driver within the hour."
"Hey, I haven't-" The dial tone chimed in his ear. "-agreed yet. Dammit."
Jared knew he was going to agree. The decision had already been made. Probably, he'd already known as soon as Jeff had raised the idea, but he hadn't wanted to admit it.
"Do gorgons give out, like, pheromones or something?" Jared asked his empty kitchen. The kitchen, unsurprisingly, didn't answer.
Jared spent the next twenty minutes on Wikipedia, trying to find out if that was possible. His research pointed towards 'no' but there was no guarantee that the information he could find - which was based on the idea that gorgons were imaginary - was actually right.
It would have explained a lot if they did, honestly.
Hopefully he'd get the chance to ask Jensen. And then punch him in the fact if the answer turned out to be 'yes'.
Once again, Jared found himself in Jeff's house. This time, however, he was ushered into blank-walled room with drop clothes all over the floor.
"Not to worry," Jeff said, when Jared stiffened. "You're just going to need some help seeing through their defenses. Chris here will get you set up." He gestured at a guy with shaggy, overlong hair, a grim expression and a strangely amused twinkle in his eyes. Unlike everyone else, Chris was dressed in a flannel shirt, blue jeans and enough kitchy beaded jewelry to open his own kiosk.
"Shirt off," Chris commanded, gesturing with what Jared belatedly realized was a paintbrush. "At least you're giving me a lot of room to work with."
"I'll leave you to it," Jeff said, taking his bodyguards with him when he left.
"Stand there and try not to breathe too much," Chris directed, as Jared shucked his shirt.
Jared sucked in a sharp breath at the first wet press of the brush against his chest, but a flick from Chris' free hand reminded him to keep still. He watched as Chris traced a weird, loopy pattern across his skin, his hand never faltering.
"Is this really going to get me in?" he couldn't help asking. "It's just, well, paint."
"Son," Chris said, with a wolfish grin. "Ain't no security system that can keep me out. By the time I'm done, you'll be able to walk into the Pentagon without batting an eye."
And there wasn't much that Jared could say to that, so he settled in and stood silently while Chris covered his skin with intricate patterns.
"It's big of you," Chris said, while he was working on the small of Jared's back. "To want to help Jensen. Don't fucking move!"
"Sorry!" Jared snapped back to his original posture. "You, uh, you know Jensen?"
"Sure, I know Jensen," Chris said, paintbrush arching smoothly over Jared's hip. "Half-raised the ungrateful fucker, didn't I? Tried to make him a little less serious, but it never really took right."
That sounded familiar. "Oh! You're the Chris he roomed with in college! The, uh, coyote."
"That's me," Chris said, sounding pleased. "Jensen mentioned me?"
"He mentioned some of your adventures. Didn't mention that you worked for the mafia, though."
That made Chris huff. "Man, coyotes don't work for anyone. If Jeff wants my help to cause some mayhem, though, that's another story. So? What did Jensen say about me?"
Jared grinned. "That it would be safer for me if we never met."
"Ha! He's probably not wrong. Okay you're done." Chris stepped around him, shaking out his arm as he set down the brush. "Head on out when you're dressed and someone'll get you floor plans and stuff for the warehouse."
Jared swallowed hard at that. "Right, uh, thanks."
"Try not to die," Chris said in parting, breezing out of the room like the wind.
As promised, Jared was next given a breakdown of the building Jeff wanted him to break into, complete with details about the security detail, the location of the bottle of whatever and how to get there. Then he was bundled back into the car, which drove him halfway across town to the dockside before pulling into a narrow side street.
"The warehouse you want is two blocks that way," the driver told him. "You know what it looks like?"
"Y-yeah," Jared said, already well past second thoughts and onto third thoughts.
"Then good luck," the driver said, and more or less booted him out of the car.
Alone on the street, Jared watched the car drive away with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"This was a terrible idea," he decided. "Good to know."
But all the reasons he'd agreed still applied, so he squared his shoulders and headed in the direction he'd been pointed, trying not to stick out.
Such a terrible idea.