In the end, the Treaty Signing was even more of a clusterfuck than they'd been expecting.
The day started off okay. Jensen got up early, inhaled three cups of yapparq and fumbled his way over to the Embassy. Misha met him with a smile, another cup of yapparq and a terribly unsubtle comment about the fact that he hadn't seen much of Sam in the last week. Jensen gave him the finger with the hand not currently welded to his mug and went to go find out what the hell he was supposed to be doing in his pretend job today.
The Treaty Signing was being conducted in the council chambers on the Embassy's first floor. It was easily accessible from the building's main doors, had two floors worth of balcony seating and Jensen could probably have locked down the whole place with a pistol and three chairs from the front row. Which seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, but since he and Jared were actually hoping for a small scale disaster he didn't figure it was his prerogative to point that out.
Things continued to go generally well into the mid-morning. The T'laxian queen and her entourage arrived without incident, which was a relief, Jensen met Governor Ferris, which was neat, the ceremony started on time, which was surprising, and his job was to sit in an uncomfortable chair at the side of the main dais translating legalese, which was unfortunate. Luckily, the T'laxian dialect of Iyla he was supposed to translate wasn't particularly difficult to understand; it sounded a little like cursive writing with a crayon, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as some of the stuff he'd heard on Neptune's Vevilian colony.
Jensen split his time during the ceremony between acting like a dutiful little translator bot and scanning the crowd for a glimpse of Jared. Officially, the Signing was open only to the T'laxian delegates, the Barrier Station Senate and the members of the Representative Assembly, but that was hardly an issue for people like him and Jared. He was a little surprised that someone Jared's size could be so hard to spot, but apparently Jared hadn't been exaggerating about how good he was at blending in.
The fact that the T'laxians were all nearly eight feet tall probably helped too.
He started biting back yawns somewhere around the hour mark, which earned him a raised eyebrow from Misha but very little active disapproval from anyone else. Jensen figured half of them were probably all dozing in their own chairs anyway; it wasn't exactly a riveting way to spend the day.
Right up until something hit the floor and exploded in a flare of fire and smoke, that is. That made things rather more interesting.
The rear doors burst open and a massive throng of IEM members surged in, yelling protests and waving picket signs and generally surprising the hell out of everybody inside. Another round of miniature explosions went off - flash bombs, Jensen realized - sending a row of chairs tumbling down the stairs and prompting a flurry of people to try fleeing in any direction that wasn't towards the mass of angry people in the doorway. Governor Ferris was calling for calmness and order with absolutely no success, though Jensen appreciated the fact that Misha was still translating for her despite the absolute uproar going on all around them.
Security stepped in to contain the situation - not a particularly difficult task when both flash bombs and vitriol were rather more sparkle than substance even on a good day. They started herding the protestors towards the door and Jensen had the tentative thought that that'd be the worst of it.
Of course, he'd no sooner considered it than the crack of a rifle retorted through the air and one of the soldiers crumpled to the floor with a choked cry.
Jensen was up on the dais before most people had realized what had happened and the belated screams echoed around him as he skidded to a stop between Governor Ferris and the queen.
"My apologies, ladyship," he said, in English and Iyla, then upended the table they'd been seated at and dragged the both of them down to the floor behind it.
"Stay here," he ordered and stood, retreating a prudent handful of steps while their bodyguards rushed over. He'd have to remember to tell Kripke that their response time under pressure was for shit.
Another gunshot went off, this time thudding through the trim on the balcony railing and sending a shower of splinters raining down on the crowd. The addition of an unseen gunman seemed to convince the crowd that the protestors were the lesser of two evils and the soldiers suddenly had a veritable riot on their hands as protestors tried to get in, civilians tried to get out and gunshots peppered the air.
All in all, it was one of the more exciting treaty signings Jensen had ever been to.
But where the fuck was Jared?
Jensen's search for a flash of stupid floppy hair in the crowd was cut short by the whiz of a bullet through the air not a foot from where he was standing. He ducked away immediately and snapped his eyes up, searching for a vantage point that could have put him in the gunman's range but afforded an open line of sight to the door. A glint of metal drew his attention up to the third balcony and his eyes narrowed as he caught the impression of a shadowy figure lurking in the darkness.
He was halfway to the antechamber behind the dais before he hesitated, remembering the way Jared had run off the rails the last time he'd taken off on his own. He paused, uncertain, sweeping the room again for any hint of where Jared might be. In the smoke and the confusion, it was an all but impossible task.
A woman shrieked when the gunman's next shot caught her in the arm and Jensen gritted his teeth.
"To hell with it," he growled and wrenched the door open, leaving the chaos of the council chamber behind him.
A mental image of the Embassy's schematics flashed behind his eyes as Jensen pounded towards the closest set of stairs. He pulled free his gun between one breath and the next and flicked off the safety, absently grateful for the general lack of traffic in this part of the building.
His pulse was racing by the time he reached the third floor. In the dim hallway ahead of him, he could just make out the gunman's outline, as well as that of the sniper rifle he had braced against his shoulder.
Jensen brought his gun up in a rock-steady grip. "Hold it."
The figure whirled, affording Jensen a split-second view of a pale face and narrowed eyes before the man's hand whipped out and a flashbomb exploded on the ground between them.
"Shit," Jensen swore, spots dancing in front of his eyes and white noise ringing in his ears. He heard the rustle and clatter of movement to his right and he raised his gun towards it. "Stop!"
Footsteps took off down the hallway and Jensen fired off a shot that cracked off one of the floor tiles. He powered through the smoke towards the sound, vision clearing enough to let him see the fleeing figure of the gunman running full tilt away from him.
"Oh no you fucking don't," he growled and took off after him.
A stairwell door loomed out of the dimness ahead and Jensen was grimly unsurprised when the man made straight for it. Jensen put on a burst of speed and charged through after him, breath coming fast as he tried to figure out if the echo of footsteps in the narrow space was coming up or down. He heard the bang of a door below him and moved instinctively towards it, feet thumping loudly on the steps. The guy reached the ground floor while Jensen was still half a flight up, and Jensen just barely caught a glimpse of the guy's coat flashing through the door before it slammed shut in his face.
He wasted precious seconds wrenching it open again and then nearly tripped over a delivery woman who was passing through the hall. He muttered a quick apology and darted after the gunman again. A man in a poorly-fitted suit shrieked as Jensen snaked past him, gun at the ready, but Jensen didn't pay him any mind. He had better things to do right now than explain things to freaked-out civilians.
It was immediately clear that the guy knew the Embassy's layout like the back of his hand; he ran without a single pause or false turn, leading Jensen on a merry, weaving chase through the halls that always left him ten steps behind. The claxon shriek of an alarm had Jensen swearing inwardly as the guy banged through a fire door and kept on running, leaving the Embassy behind as he tried to disappear into the city beyond.
But Jensen had never lost a foot chase before and he wasn't about to start now. He flew out the door with the security alarm still blaring in his ears and sprinted across the busy plaza in hot pursuit. Shouts and startled exclamations tracked the man's path and Jensen barreled through the crowd towards them, nearly taking out a group of soberly clad businessmen who didn't get out of the way in time. The shouting was mostly directed at him by the time he cleared the edge of the plaza but Jensen ignored it; there wasn't a one of them who'd be able to remember his face later and right now he a criminal to catch.
Worry started to wisp through his mind when the gunman veered almost immediately away from the well-laid streets of the grid system and went down instead, skidding into a maintenance shaft and plunging them both into the tangle of metal and machinery that was the mechanical block.
Not many people knew how to get around the mechanical block - hell, not many people even knew it was there, even though it should have been glaringly obvious that a giant floating space city needed something powering it - but this guy was navigating it like a champ, leading Jensen deeper and deeper into the literal underbelly of the entire Station. Streets became hallways, artificial stone turned to metal, ceilings closed in. The sound of their feet and the pant of Jensen's breath started echoing in the confined space, tinny and disorienting.
And then, ahead of him, the guy darted around a corner and suddenly the only footsteps Jensen could hear were his own.
Jensen had his back up against the wall immediately and he tightened his grip on his gun, willing his breath to even out. Nothing happened for a long moment, then another, and Jensen's mind raced, trying to analyze the situation.
There were really only two possibilities, he figured: either the guy was trying to throw Jensen off so he could escape or he was trying to throw Jensen off so he could ambush him.
Door number two seemed a hell of a lot more likely, but Jensen didn't really see what other choice he had. It wasn't like he had back-up to wait for and giving up wasn't in the script. Not to mention that turning tail would probably just get him shot in the back instead of the chest.
Going forward it was then.
Jensen shifted silently into motion, inching towards the corner the gunman had vanished around. When he reached the edge, he paused and took a deep, fortifying breath. Then he lunged around the corner, gun levelled and feet braced.
There was no one there.
His breath hissed out between his teeth and he put himself back up against the wall. The hallway dead-ended a half dozen feet ahead of him at a heavy-duty security door. Left without much better to do, he eased carefully closer, angling for a better look.
The door was old but solid and well-maintained despite being tucked away in the back-end of nowhere. Whatever was on the other side was probably either expensive, important or both. A glance at the security lock supported the idea; even Jensen's souped-up clearance wasn't getting him through that door.
A shift in the air had Jensen whirling before his brain had even caught up to the telltale shiver of footsteps on the metal floor. He lashed out with a sharp right cross that was two seconds too late to stop a fist from burying itself in his stomach, knuckles twisting in hard. He staggered, winded, and found himself shoved up against the door with a forearm pressing down on his throat and a solid wall of muscle pinning him in place. Someone grabbed his wrist in an iron grip and bashed his hand against the wall, hard. His gun went skittering across the floor and he vaguely heard the scrape of someone picking it up, but he was too distracted by the very familiar face looming over him to pay it much attention.
His lips curled into a snarl and he growled round the pressure on his throat. "Tom."
Tom's face was dangerously bleak. "Dean."
The muzzle of a gun introduced itself to the side of Jensen's head and he felt the whisper of breath against his cheek as someone else leaned in close.
"Hi Dean," Mike said, completely casual. Jensen could hear the easy smile in his voice. "Oh, or should I call you Jensen? Hardly seems worth going through the motions at this point."
Jensen glared and said nothing.
"Jensen, Jensen, Jensen," Mike said, with a sad shake of his head. "And here I thought we were better friends than that."
Jensen snorted. "I'm not sure that's all on me, Mike. I'm not exactly feeling the love right now."
Mike waved him off. "That's because you don't know the score." He leaned in with an exaggerated whisper. "You should be thanking us, you know."
"Really," said Jensen.
"Mm. Why, if it wasn't for us, you'd still be stuck playing house on Earth." Mike shook his head. "Tragic."
There was a sound of boots and rustling fabric in the hall beyond them and Jensen tilted his head, trying to see past the bulk of Tom's shoulders.
"Some added insurance," Tom told him, shifting slightly to give Jensen a look at the wall of stone-faced armed guards behind him without sacrificing so much as an ounce of leverage. "Unlike you, we're well aware of the benefits of having backup."
"Not that we're not grateful for your shortcomings," Mike put in. "Your James Bond loner tendencies made things so much easier for us."
"Glad to oblige. Does this mean it's time for the devious villain monologue before you kill me?" Jensen considered. "Although I guess it's technically a duologue since there are two of you. Unless one of you wants to explain through interpretive dance or something."
"Cute," Mike said. "But wrong. Actually, we don't want you dead at all." He fished something out of his pocket and Jensen caught the briefest glimpse of an ID badge before Mike swiped it through the security lock on the door Jensen was braced against.
The lock pinged and Mike made a satisfied noise. "Halfway there. Tommy, would you mind?"
The pressure on Jensen's throat shifted for a fraction of a second before he was being turned, pulled and slammed face first against the wall beside the door. Jensen bucked immediately against the hold, but Tom just wrestled his arms over his head and pressed in close, keeping him strung out and off-balance in a way guaranteed to make Jensen's life much more difficult than it needed to be.
His shoulders were going to be fucking sore tomorrow.
"I don't actually put out on the first date, you know," he said and oofed when Tom pushed him harder into the wall in response. "Geez. You sure know how to show a guy a good time, Tommy boy."
Mike, meanwhile, was busy entering a distressingly long string of numbers into the lock. That had to be some heavy duty security. "Thanks," he said absently to Tom. He'd shifted his gun to his off-hand though Jensen could tell from the casually proficient way his fingers were curling round the butt that it didn't make him any less dangerous with it.
"Awfully impressive security clearance for a detective," Jensen noted, twisting his head to watch Mike's fingers dance on the keypad. "Who'd you have to bend over for to get it?"
The lock clicked open and Mike straightened with a smile. "I think you mean 'who'd I have to kill'," he corrected. Another button press slid the door open and Mike gestured with his gun. "After you."
Tom wrestled Jensen away from the wall and shoved him through the door hard enough to send him stumbling. He regained his balance quickly but Tom and Mike had already stepped through behind him, their guns trained on his chest. In the hallway beyond, Jensen could hear the tramp of boots as the home team stationed themselves at what sounded like equal intervals down the hall. Great.
A quick glance around revealed that Jensen was standing in a small room, no more than 20 foot square, with no windows or open vents. The copper tang of long-dried blood was thick in the air and Jensen didn't have to look far to see the large rust-coloured stain seeped into the metal plated floor. It splayed out in a wide arc across the middle of the room, curling like an embrace around a second door set opposite the one he'd been pushed through. This second door was in considerably shabbier repair than the first, though it had a security lock that was every bit as hardcore as the previous one.
The second door also, Jensen noticed, came complete with its very own DNA shield.
Bile rose up in his throat.
"Sorry about the mess," Mike said and the smile he flashed Jensen's way was more than slightly unhinged. "I've never been good at remembering to clean up after myself."
Jensen kept his tone bland with an effort. "Apparently."
Mike and Tom stepped further into the room and Jensen watched as the door snicked shut behind them and the light on the lock started pulsing a flashing yellow. Which meant it hadn't automatically reengaged, probably because it couldn't be unlocked from the inside. Jensen shifted his weight, getting ready to move.
Tom's gun cocked. "I wouldn't," he warned him.
"No?" Jensen asked. "Why not?"
"Because even if you could get past us-"
"Which you won't," Mike chimed in cheerily.
"-there are more than enough men outside to keep you from going far."
Jensen sighed and let the tension bleed out of his muscles. "Well now you're just hurting my feelings. I don't like being underestimated, you know."
Tom sneered. "Don't worry. You aren't."
Mike shrugged in a 'what can you do' kind of way. "So Jenny - can I call you Jenny? - you're probably wondering what you're doing here."
Jensen's answering shrug was engineered to be intentionally maddening. "Given the set-up, I'm kind of figuring a gangbang. Wish you'd told me sooner; I would have brought some lube."
"Always ready with a witty retort, aren't you?" said Tom.
"I bought a book," Jensen told him. He channelled his inner Jared and came out with a cheeky grin. "Witty Retorts for Every Occasion. You want me to lend it to you sometime? Or do you save reading for special occasions?"
"Okay boys," Mike said, before Tom could try to tear Jensen's eyes out and Jensen could eviscerate him for it. "Much as I love to see you both getting along so well, we've got more important things to do right now." His eyes turned on Jensen. "You might want to listen to this part."
Jensen pulled on his 'attentively listening' face. "Shoot."
"We need you-" a flick of Mike's gun in his direction, "-to go in that door-" another flick, "-and turn off the machine inside."
"I'm assuming 'do it yourself' isn't the answer you're looking for?" Jensen asked.
"Not really, no." Mike smiled. "Neither of us are particularly keen on getting vaporized, y'see. Those DNA shields pack quite a punch."
"Yes they do." Jensen carefully didn't look at the bloodstain again. "But you're apparently assuming I can get through without turning into a smear on the floor. Remind me why that is, again?"
"Because it's locked into the Specialized Science division's citizen list," Tom said. He made a face. "Which was a serious challenge to find out."
"See," Mike picked up. "We thought that the big boss would be able to get through all the security, but well." He gestured helplessly at the bloodstains. "Turns out having the same security clearance as God still isn't enough to get you past that DNA shield."
"Jeff Morgan," Jensen realized, feeling suddenly sick. "You sent him through it and it killed him."
Tom nodded. "It was an unfortunate oversight."
Jensen's hands fisted. "An unfor- you murdered him!"
Tom frowned. "Hey. None of that. It wasn't like we meant for it to happen."
"Although it actually worked out pretty okay," Mike said, with disconcerting good cheer. "Because it's thanks to him that we found out about you! Or, well, from his files anyway. He wasn't much of a talker."
Jensen willed his jaw to unclench. He needed to stay calm. "About me, huh?"
"Oh yes." This time it was Tom unnerving him with a smile. "Who would have thought that one of the best agents CE5's ever had was also a field researcher for the science block's secret project division? You were just what the doctor ordered."
"Except for the fact that you'd been groundbounded. But we fixed that." Mike cocked his head at Jensen. "You still haven't said thank you, you know."
"You still haven't told me what for, you know."
"Haven't you figured it out?" Tom asked. "We're the ones who gave CE5 enough breadcrumbs to lead you to the Barrier Station."
Jensen raised an eyebrow at them. "Let me get this straight. You wanted me up here so you stole a bunch of files, tracked me down and tried to kill me, then framed Jeff Morgan for it?"
"We weren't really trying to kill you, you know," Tom said. "We just wanted your attention."
"I feel so special," Jensen muttered. "You planning on pulling my pigtails too?"
"No need," said Mike. "You're already here." His grin sharpened into a campy leer. "Though if you ask real nice, I might pull something else."
"Mike," Tom said, in a tone that meant business, and Mike rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah. I'll play with the pretty later."
"Seems like a lot of effort just to get me here," Jensen said, without even an attempt at subtlety.
Tom shrugged. "It wasn't like we had a whole lot of other options. The machine behind that door is the only thing in the entire Station that needs both of the governors-"
"Or their security codes and a handy proxy," Mike said.
"-to access it."
"How exciting," Jensen deadpanned. "You gonna tell me what it is or do I get to guess?"
Tom hummed thoughtfully. "The actual answer's a bit technical, but you could say it's like a circuit breaker."
That didn't sound good. "A circuit breaker for what?" Jensen asked warily.
"The Barrier," Tom said, as easily as if he was talking about a frigging light bulb.
Jensen didn't quite gape, but it was a near thing. "The entire Barrier?!"
"Yep," said Mike, sounding fucking triumphant about it. "Relay points, generators, back-up generators, the works. This is ground zero, Jenny. Everything routes through here."
Jensen could hardly believe what he was hearing. "You want to shut off the Barrier? What the fuck for?"
Mike shrugged. "To end the human monopoly of this Solar System."
Jensen boggled. He wasn't gonna deny it. "Um. What?"
"Humans had no right to build the Barrier," Tom said, something fervent in his voice that made Jensen suddenly a hundred times more wary. People fighting for causes could be very dangerous. "Why should the Solar System be a human-only space when we're not even using-"
"But it isn't a human-only space," Jensen said. "The Federation-"
"Is completely human controlled," Mike cut in, still with that serene little smile that was driving Jensen nuts. "Why should Earth get the final say on who gets to inhabit those planets? Without the Barrier, alien nations will be able to settle on their own terms and the human race will have to learn that it doesn't get to control everybody else's destinies."
"Riiight." Jensen swallowed hard. "So I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you guys aren't with the IEM?"
Mike's teeth flashed in a grin. "Not as such."
"They were a useful distraction for keeping you off balance," Tom said. "And there's a certain poetic justice in using their bigotry to accomplish the very thing they fear most."
"And my sister?" Jensen demanded. "Was that a distraction too?"
Mike nodded. "Yeah, sorry about that. Our guys got a little carried away. You did a good job putting them in their place though."
Jensen glared at them both in wordless fury.
Mike seemed to take Jensen's retreat into silence as a sign that they'd come to the end of the Q&A portion of the afternoon's entertainment. He flashed Jensen an apologetic grin and gestured with his gun. "Off you go then, Jenny."
Jensen didn't budge. "You really think I won't let you shoot me before I go anywhere near that door?" he asked. "That's pretty stupid."
"Not really," Tom said, sounding completely unperturbed. "You've got a lot more to lose than we do, after all."
Jensen hiked an eyebrow. "Seems to me like your whole fuck over the human race plan won't work so well if I get ventilated."
Mike shrugged. "It'll definitely cause some complications. But we'll get around 'em eventually. But see, you don't really strike me as the type to go for the greater good once things get personal."
"Jared's probably wondering where you are by now," Tom said, and the absolutely deliberate use of Jared's real name made Jensen stiffen. "Maybe I should send someone to go get him."
Jensen stepped forward. "Don't you fucking dare-"
This time it was Mike's gun that cocked. Jensen froze.
"If I was you, I'd stay still," Mike said, businesslike and cool. "If you make us kill you then Jared's next."
"Leave him out of this," Jensen warned hotly. "Or I swear to God, I'll to rip you apart."
Mike raised an eyebrow. "Really? After all the arguing you two have been doing, I'd have thought you'd be glad to get rid of him. Honeymoon period finally over? Or did he just decide that he liked the All American Ken version better than the real deal?"
"Fuck you," Jensen spat. "My love life has nothing to d-"
"Oh, but it does. See, we were concerned that Jared was going to get in the way, what with his being in love with you and decently good at his job and all."
"The funny thing," Tom said. "Was that, in the end, we really didn't need to worry at all. All that time spent looking for a way to get rid of him and all we had to do to get him out of the picture was give you the chance to ditch him. Amazing."
"Is there a point to this or are you just rambling?" Jensen demanded.
Tom fixed Jensen with a dangerously blank look. "The point is that Jared's expendable. And we have no problem expending him if you're going to be difficult."
Jensen scoffed with all the derision he could muster. "Like you could."
Mike hummed. "Maybe, maybe not. But you've got a whole lot of friends back home who'd be a lot easier to take care of. And the dogs too, can't forget them."
"Jared's probably a real soft touch too," Tom put in. "I can't imagine he'd like watching that."
Jensen stared, nausea threatening to choke him.
"Jensen," Mike said, bizarrely gentle. "We really don't want to have to do it this way. You're a good guy. But we need your help. And if you're not going to help willingly, we're going to have to be persuasive." He shrugged. "This is what you get for finding something to care about more than the job."
"It's time for you to make a decision," Tom said then, with a terrifying air of finality. "Are you going to open the door, or not?"
"Well," Jared said, and the main door slid open to reveal him standing in the hallway wearing a cheeky grin. "I guess that's my cue to step in."
Jensen didn't even allow himself the leisure of enjoying the twin looks of shock on Mike and Tom's face before he was moving, taking advantage of that split-second distraction to lunge at Tom and knock the gun out of his hand. Tom recovered quickly and Jensen danced away from the fist he threw, ducking instinctively to avoid the bullet Mike tried to put in his shoulder in the same time.
"About fucking time," Jensen said to Jared, the smell of cordite burning his nose as Mike's gun went off again, scant inches from his ear this time. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Come on, I had to make a dramatic- oof!" Jared's breath left in a rush as Tom's weight crashed into him, sending him skidding back a few inches before he dug his heels in and shoved back. "Entrance," he finished, duck-dodging away from the stranglehold Tom was trying to put on him. "Besides, I had to knock out all the henchmen in the hallway first."
Jensen shook his head, driving in close and catching Mike's wrist in a crushing grip. "That's no excuse."
"Hey," Jared protested, ducking under the sweep of Tom's fist and retaliating with a cross cut of his own. "That shit's hard work when you've got to do it quietly!"
"Bitch, bitch, bitch." Mike's gun clattered to the floor and Jensen kicked it away, hissing when Mike's heel struck a glancing blow to his ankle. "You're the worst partner I've ever had."
"I'm the only partner you've ever had. Oh sh-!"
The sound of tearing fabric filled the air and Jared stumbled into Jensen's peripheral vision, blood on his sleeve and a mild frown creasing his brow.
"Y'alright there, babe?" Jensen called, ducking back when Mike swung at him again. His grip on Mike's wrist loosened enough for Mike to wrench himself free and they circled each other warily, both giving the DNA shield a wide berth.
"Fine." Jared glanced down at the wound and sighed. "Man, I liked this shirt." There were an awful lot of teeth in his grin as he turned it on Tom. "That's gonna cost you, Tommy."
"I don't think so," Tom shot back, a blood-edged knife weaving with deadly grace in his hand.
"Hey," Mike said, and Jensen's world spun crazily when Mike's fist caught him right on the jaw. He staggered, ears ringing, and Mike grinned that manic grin at him. "I think you've got better things to do than worry about your boyfriend right now."
Jensen spat blood on the floor and threw his own grin right back at him. "That I do." He whirled forward, a lifetime of training sliding him through Mike's guard so he could send Mike sprawling to the ground with a open-palmed blow to the chest and a neatly timed sweep of his leg. Mike hit the floor with a heavy thud, breath punched out by the impact.
"Gee Mike," Jensen said, widening his stance and offering Mike a shit-eating grin. "You're not really bringing your A-game today. Weren't you listening when I told you I don't like being underestimated?"
Mike spat a curse at him, struggling to regain his feet.
"Heads!" Jared called suddenly and Jensen had a split-second to dodge away before a bullet flashed through the air and trailed a lick of fire along the width of his ribcage.
"Son of a bitch!"
"Please tell me you're okay!" Jared shouted when Jensen left a smear of blood on the floor as he rolled to his feet right in front of the startled soldier.
"S'fine," Jensen said, ignoring the burn in his side as he slapped the gun out of the mook's hand and drove him back with a kick to the chest. "I thought you said you took care of the rent-a-goons!"
Jared grunted as Tom's knife scored a hit on his shoulder. "So I missed a couple," he called back, whirling as he caught Tom on the side of the head with his heel. "Big deal. I didn't see you doing any of the hard work."
A swift strike to the back of the neck sent Jensen's nameless attacker crumpling to the floor and Jensen had just enough time for a deep breath before Mike crashed into him from behind, wrenching hard on his shoulder. "You kidding?" he panted, gritting his teeth against the pain. "I was stuck in here with the crazies. That's way worse."
There was a pause as Jared considered, or maybe that was because he'd managed to catch Tom in a headlock and was busy wrestling him to the floor. "I guess you're right. But you volunteered to be bait so you don't get to complain."
"Bullshit," Jensen gasped, driving an elbow back into Mike's face and hearing the crack when it broke his nose. "I always get to complain. It's one of the perks to being an asshole."
"If you say so." Jared's fist impacted against Tom's face with a meaty thud.
"I do say so."
Mike staggered back, blood flowing freely down his face and the look in his eyes even more unhinged than usual. He stumbled to the side, obviously aiming for one of the many guns lying on the ground, and his faltering course took far too close to the DNA shield for Jensen's liking.
Jensen surged forward and grabbed Mike by the front of his shirt, yanking him away before he could turn himself into pulp. Mike reacted by trying to gouge his eyes out and Jensen sighed.
"See if I ever save your life again." He shoved Mike in a safer direction and waited while he collected his balance. Then, because he was kind of a jerk, he beckoned him forward with a hand and a bloody smile. "Come on, sunshine."
Mike charged and Jensen vaulted smoothly out of the way, lashing out with a kick that connected with the joint of Mike's knee and made his whole leg buckle.
The sound of Jared punching Tom in the face stopped and Jensen glanced over to see Jared standing up, his knuckles tinged red. Tom didn't so much as twitch.
"Whew," Jared breathed, wiping his sleeve across his forehead and smearing blood all over his face in the process. "He was pretty tough." He looked at Jensen. "You need some help over there, shortass?"
Jensen dodged another shaky swing, grabbed Mike's head in both hands and slammed it down against his knee. Mike collapsed like a house of cards. "No thanks," he said, throwing a smug little smirk Jared's way. "Think I got it."
"So I see." Jared took a look at the bodies strewn across the floor and made a face. "Man," he sighed, pulling a face. "Now we have to clean up."
"You live such a difficult life." Jensen pulled a couple packets of zip ties out of his pocket and tossed one to Jared. "You wanna start on the goons in the hallway while I take care of these three? I'll join you in a minute."
Jared nodded, still pouting. "Fine," he huffed and trailed out of the room like a very large, bloodstained puppy who'd just been told off for peeing on the furniture.
Apparently Jensen was as shit at coming up with similes as Jared was.
A shake of his head got rid of that rather disturbing mental image and Jensen got to work trussing up their captives. They were all out for the count and so, aside from the fact that Tom was nearly Jared-sized and therefore ridiculously heavy, it was an easy enough job. Once he was done, he collected the assorted knives and guns strewn about the room and tucked them into his clothes. After a moment's thought, he plucked the keycard out of Mike's pocket as well. Governor Ferris would probably want it back.
Out in the hall, Jared was still hard at work with his zip ties and Jensen couldn't help a low whistle at the sight of the good two dozen bodies slumped bonelessly up and down the length of the corridor.
"Okay," he admitted. "That's more guys than I was expecting. Maybe you're not such a useless partner, after all."
Jared straightened up long enough to beam at him. "You're not so bad yourself." He pulled out another zip tie and tilted his head. "Are you gonna stand there and admire me all day or are you going to help?"
Jensen shrugged. "If I must."
Between them, it didn't take long to have the entire lot neatly packaged, relieved of their weapons and shoved into the little room where they'd be safe until the station police could deal with them. They were careful to pile them at a good distance away from the DNA shield to prevent accidental exploding.
"Well," said Jensen once they'd lugged in the last body and locked the door behind them. He made a completely pointless attempt to wipe the blood off his face and glanced at Jared. "That was fun. You wanna go back to the hotel and fuck?" He paused. "Or should we have lunch first?"
And that made Jared laugh, bright and delighted, and Jensen suddenly found himself being kissed within an inch of his life, Jared's hands cradling his face and Jared's body hot against his. Jensen kissed back readily, adrenaline rolling hot and heady through his veins. He could taste the salt tang of blood and sweat on his tongue, Jared's shirt was tacky and wet under his fingers, his side hurt like a motherfucker and it was all absolutely perfect.
"God, I fucking love you," Jared breathed between kisses, reverence in his tone. His thumb swept gently over the blood rolling down from the gash over Jensen's eyebrow. "Marry me."
Jensen pulled back in surprise. "Sa-"
"Jared," Jared corrected, drawing Jensen back in and trapping his quiet whisper between them. "This is about me and you. And I'm dead serious. Marry me."
Jensen glanced at the sorry state they were in, then at the room full of crazy fuckers behind them. "You are the most unromantic person in the Solar System."
"Chad," Jared countered immediately.
Jensen made a face. "Sometimes I think you only made friends with him so you'd look like less of a douche by comparison."
"It's true." Jared gave him a hopeful smile. "So what do you say?"
"You know," Jensen said, almost conversationally. "Most people want to be wined and dined first."
"You're not most people." Jared's smile softened, turning into something that made Jensen's breath catch in his throat. "Jensen. We've always been good together but we never really got to know each other the way we should have. This? This is what we do. Who we are. I loved you when you drank coffee in your boxers in our kitchen and made fun of me for not being able to hold down a job, and now I know to love you when you're breaking people's faces and swearing in Frnjish. We've been arguing pretty much since we got here and you're still the best thing that's happened to me and I want to spend the rest of our lives learning how to be your partner in our day job before coming home and having you as my partner in our everything else. So please, Jensen Ackles. Please marry me."
Jensen let out a slow, shaky breath. "Okay, that was kind of romantic."
Jared's smile turned incandescent. "Is that a yes?"
In response, Jensen's hand fisted in Jared's shirt and pulled him back in for a kiss that was as deep, wet and fucking filthy as he could make it.
"You moron," Jensen said, when they came up for air. "Of course it's a yes."
Jared laughed. "Oh good." He closed the distance again and neither of them said anything more for a very long time.
Of course, even with the crisis averted and the bad guys safely in CE5 custody, it was still another four days before they actually left the Barrier Station. Loose ends were such a bitch to wrap up.
They submitted approximately three million reports to Kripke, who commended them on a job well done, told them off for being morons and gave them their jobs back with a new twist.
"You're being put on the rosters for both the Earth and Federation divisions," he told them. "The paperwork for your cover jobs with the cruise line has already been prepared."
Jared nudged Jensen in the side. "Better than being a toothpaste salesman, huh?"
"Anything's better than being a toothpaste salesman," Jensen said.
"Clearly you have never worked in a waste disposal plant."
Jensen wrinkled his nose. "Gross. But I'll agree that cruise line workers is on the top end of stupid cover stories."
Kripke cleared his throat. "If you two are quite done. We've got a situation on the Mars Base that I want you to look into on your way home; I'll be sending you the details. Your friends have already been contacted via email, Facebook and Twitter to inform them that you've extended your vacation due to sudden gainful employment. I suggest you both try to get a tan before you go home."
"I love my job," Jared said, to no one in particular.
Jensen quit his not-job at the Embassy, but not without apologizing to Misha for bailing on him.
"Sam got offered tenure track at the University of British Columbia," he explained, with a sheepish little shrug. "And the research facility on Earth can always use more alien language teachers. It's a better fit for both of us."
"That's a shame," Misha said, sounding more amused than surprised. He glanced at Jared. "What field is your PhD in, Sam?"
And Jared grinned. "Marine Biology."
Misha nodded. "Of course it is."
They visited Jensen's family again, where Jensen got tackle-hugged by everyone, Jared got given 'the talk' by everyone and everything was pretty much awesome.
"We'll be back soon," Jensen promised. "Kripke and Governor Ferris are going to put the paperwork in motion to get Jared added to the science block citizen list." His cheeks pinked, which made Josh laugh. "Since he's gonna be family and all. And maybe to the Specialized Science division's list after that."
"I could already be on both lists," Jared said, with a pout and a pointed nudge of his elbow into Jensen's side. "Except someone wouldn't let me hack into the system."
"That's because I refuse to marry a felon," Jensen shot back. "And how did you think you were going to test it, huh? Not gonna be doing much hacking if you get mulched."
"Waiting for the clearance is fine, boys," Donna said, in a tone of voice that absolutely no one was going to argue with. "And of course this means that you'll be able to have a second wedding ceremony here once the paperwork's sorted."
"Absolutely," Jared agreed, because he wasn't an idiot. He caught Jensen's hand with a happy little smile. "Not everybody's lucky enough to be able to marry the guy of their dreams twice."
Jensen ducked his head to hide a smile. "What he said," he agreed and they all got hugs again.
After that they had to wait for clearance to teleport back to the Mars Base, which took far longer than Jared thought was fair considering they were big damn heroes. Jensen just rolled his eyes and tackled Jared to the bed, providing an active demonstration of just how they could fill that time. Jared wasn't of much of a mind to argue.
They did some more sightseeing and a little shopping, and Jared bought as much yapparq as they could reasonably fit into their duffels to bring home with them. He'd figure out how to smuggle one of the brewers to Earth the next time they came.
Jensen also insisted that they go pick out new rings together.
"This thing is still fucking ugly."
"It's tasteful!" Jared protested.
Jensen rolled his eyes. "No it isn't. Also, I am not that cheap a date. You wanna put a ring on it, you're paying for the damn thing."
Jared bit back a grin. "Yes, dear."
But finally, there came a time when there was no more to be done and they packed their things to head vaguely homeward.
"I hope the kids are okay," Jared said as they headed for the transport station. He was wearing a new shirt since Jensen had taken advantage of one of Jared's post-coital moments to set his Hawaiian one on fire. They both still had shiny patches on their arms where the hair had been burnt off in the resulting tussle, but Jared mostly considered that part of the fun. "It's been a long time since I've left them alone for this long."
Jensen waved a dismissive hand. The collar of his shirt wasn't even close to wide enough to hide the massive hickey under his chin or the purple bruising on his shoulder left over from their last sparring match. "Sandy's taking care of them. If I was you, I'd be more worried about how everyone's going to react."
Jared blinked. "React to what?"
Jensen gave him a look. "Last time you went on 'vacation' you came home with a live-in boyfriend. This time you're coming home with a ring. Your-" He paused and soft look crossed his face. "Our friends are going to stage an intervention."
"Hey," Jared said, affection a warm curl in his chest. "You're the crazy one who keeps saying yes. They'll probably just count their blessings that we've got each other and stay the hell out of it."
The mischievous twinkle in Jensen's eye was a sight to behold. Especially when Jared knew it was all aimed at him. "As if. You know Sandy's going to want to help you pick out your pretty white dress and Chris and Chad are probably going to get into a fistfight over who gets to plan the bachelor party."
Jared laughed, wondering how he'd ever got so lucky. "We'll have two," he decided. He winked. "And I'll wear a dress if you will."
"Both our mommas would kill me if I ever took you up on that."
"Only if you tell them it was my idea."
"Eh, I'm not above sacrificing you to save myself. I'm an officially reinstated CE5 agent, you know; I've totally got the skills to get away with it."
"You are pretty awesome," Jared agreed happily.
Jensen's smile was shy and warm and perfect. "You too." He threaded their fingers together as they walked towards the inter-sector port and Jared could feel the sheath strapped to Jensen's arm every time their arms brushed. "Of course, since the solo act thing is getting old and I'm the first partner you've had who could actually put up with you, I guess we're just going to have to go be awesome together."
"Guess so," Jared agreed.
And they did.
Timestamp: On the Job Training