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Jared Padalecki vs. The Forces of Evil

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"Run, little rabbit. I want to enjoy this."

Jared jolts awake with a start, extending his hand out into the darkness around him. It's silent; quiet. His sweat slicked hair sticks to his forehead as his wide and wild eyes scans his bedroom for anything resembling a threat. After a few beats, Jared finally catches his breath, sighing sharply.

It was just another nightmare. And just when he thought they stopped. That asshole was in his dreams again. Damn him.

Jared flops back down on his back, inadvertently jostling his black cat from his own slumber. His companion, Chad, lifts his head in mild curiosity, coming over from his side of the bed to curl protectively up to Jared. The teen shifts to his side, eyes closing as he gently strokes Chad's black fur.

"It was nothing, Chad," Jared mumbles, yawning afterwards. "'M fine..."

Chad hums, nuzzling into his owner's touch. "Alright then. I won't let anything happen to you."

"I know."

The sentiment warms Jared's heart. But he's just a cat.

****

In the morning, Jared wakes up before his alarm clock, finding Chad wrapped securely in his arms. He sighs happily, carefully removing himself from the equation. Jared sits up in the bed, looking over towards his window. The sun's not quite up yet, but it's making its presence quite known toward the world.

Jared rises from the bed, going to take his cellphone off the charger. He deactivates the alarm; he only beat it by a few minutes. Not bad. The young Warlock stretches, joints cracking. Music to his ears. He yawns silently whilst leaving his room, unknowingly waking Chad up once again. The cat looks towards Jared, quickly hoping off the bed to walk beside him in the hall. Jared glances down at him with a sleepy frown.

"Why are you following me to the bathroom?"

"Why not?" Chad answers back.

"It's weird."

"Gotta make sure you're okay."

Ah. The nightmare thing. Jared scratches his head. He stops, and so does Chad.

"You're taking the 'worried best friend' thing a bit far." Jared says. "I'm fine, alright? Just fine. It was a stupid nightmare. Everyone has them."

"But not everyone has seen their own--"

"Don't."

It's said bluntly and with such finality that Jared almost scolds himself over sounding so harsh. Nonetheless, Chad understands. Of course he does. He was there to see it all. So much blood...

The immortal feline makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a sigh. He looks into Jared's eyes, sitting down obediently. "Right. My apologies. I care, that's all. Don't wanna see another Padalecki boy stressed out. Your ancestors had the worst issues with night terrors. Yikes."

Jared laughs, walking ahead of Chad to the bathroom. "So I've been told. I'll be out in a second. Go see if Jeff is up. He'll make you something quick to eat."

"Fine. I'm so hungry I could hunt down a rat. Ugh. I hate rats."

Chad bounds away, and Jared finally makes it to the bathroom. His feline companion is concerned, and he definitely means well...but Jared can fend for himself. Chad's presence has been felt since birth when Jared's father first introduced them to each other. It's been said that when Chad laid eyes on Jared, he knew he wanted to protect him from harm.

It's not so far fetched seeing as how if Jared so much as shows signs of a slight cold now, Chad jumps all over him. If he were mortal again, this would pose a serious issue.

But he's not, and hasn't been for ages; centuries.

Time passes by as Jared readies himself in the bathroom. He steps out of the shower, soaking wet with steam rising from his naked body. Drying himself, he takes a step towards the mirror, brushing his pearly whites.

As Jared gargles on the mouthwash, he hears a familiar voice in his mind. It's deep, and it echoes, but the words are clear as day.

"Why send the "annoyance" to bother me?"

Jared reels, spitting out the liquid. He addresses the voice back, out loud this time. "He's hungry, and because I have to get ready for the big day, Jeff. Remember? I even marked it on your calendar."

"Oh. Yes. I forgot. My apologies."

Of course he did.

"It's fine. Can you drop me off after breakfast?"

"I have to be at work soon...but we'll see."

The voice fades away, and Jared's mind is his own once more. Jeff knows his boundaries with Telepathy; short and sweet, straight to the point. Just like his personality really.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, his guardian and his mentor besides. He's been a the greatest person to ever exist these past few years. Jared wouldn't have made it out of the dark pit he crawled into without Jeff's help and teachings. The man is tall, dark, and handsome, and even though he might look like he's the grumpiest son of a bitch on the planet, he's actually quite friendly and nurturing.

At least towards Jared.

Jared finishes up, going back towards his room to dress himself. Chad is not there when he opens the door, thank god. A 17 year old is entitled to even the slightest bit of privacy, right?

Not even five minutes later, Jared is fully dressed and ready to start the day. Despite this, he yawns once more, pulling his hair back in a messy bun. Before leaving the room again, he grabs his backpack. As he bounds down the staircase, he overhears his guardian and cat speaking to one another. Bickering is more like it. Usually, they would just try their best to avoid each other.

"I don't like eggs."

"I don't care."

"I see why you never married."

"Hmph. Eat it, or you go hungry."

"Why are you so cruel, Morgan?"

"Because I just slaved over a hot stove to cook for an entitled dick."

Jared just shakes his head after hearing the exchange. He finally makes it down the steps, veering to the right past the living room towards the bookcase. The young man scans the various tomes and texts on the shelf, finally plucking one away. It's the one he began reading three days ago. He's at the very last chapter.

"Unlocking The Mind," Jared mutters to himself, stuffing the book in his bag. "What more can you teach me?"

Before he knows it, Chad is next to him again, pawing at his jeans. Jared looks down, eyebrow raised slightly.

"Breakfast." Chad mewls. "Eat."

"I heard."

"Then let's go."

"You can't go with me today, I hope you realize that."

"I could hide in your bag."

"Yeah. No."

Chad grunts in frustration, but says nothing more on the matter. They walk side by side to the kitchen where Jared sees his guardian attempting to flip pancakes in the air. Needless to say, he's not very good at it. The young Warlock takes a seat at the table, putting his bag behind his chair.

Jeff hums a tune unfamiliar to Jared as he barely catches a falling pancake with the frying pan.

"Don't quit your day job, Jeff." Jared smiles.

His mentor glares at him for a moment before quickly dumping the breakfast on a plate. Without using his hands, he sends towards Jared who quickly summons a fork to his hand.

"Breakfast was never my strong suit," the man says, wiping sweat from his brow. "Damn."

"You have to get used to it."

"I don't think I'll ever get used to it." Jeff pours himself some coffee. He spots Chad looking expectantly at him, eyes piercing his soul. His intentions are clear. Sighing heavily, he takes an extra pancake from a pile, and tosses it towards the feline. He then sits across from Jared at the table. "He's very particular."

Jared chuckles, bending down to pet his cat. "He is. I hate it."

"Quiet, you." Chad mumbles, chewing on the flapjack. "Mmm. Wow. This is--oh, man. Best thing I've eaten in three days."

"I'm not here to feed you." Jeff grunts. "Freeloader. Anyway, Jared, are you excited for your big day?"

Jared stops eating for a millisecond prior to answering, oozing teen sass.

"Is anyone ever excited to spend 7 hours in a building full of adolescents?"

"A simple 'no, not really' would've sufficed."

"It would have."

Jeff actually laughs. "Smartass. Please, whatever you do: be nice to the other kids. I know that's a lot to ask from you."

"I'll be nice only if they're nice back to me."

"And if that proves to be a challenge?"

"I have Magic, they don't."

The two Warlocks settle in comfortable silence; Jared finishing his breakfast, Jeff swallowing down a second cup of hot coffee. He's amazing. Jeff, that is. He's a powerful Warlock that can kick your ass with a blindfold over his eyes and not break a sweat, but here he is, tending to Jared like he's his real parent--

No.

Jared shakes out of the dark thoughts that threaten to loom over him.

Not again.

Jeff's done a lot of work with him these last two years. From extensive training and research to life management, Jeff has taught Jared things that most people like them wouldn't achieve in their entire lifetime. He's a good mentor, and an even better confidante. Jared still remembers the day he and Chad arrived at his house; Jared was still angry and hurt over the tragedy that struck his family.

He lashed out whenever he could, but Jeff was always there to soothe the situation. In his own way, of course.

****

Lori wakes up with a start, screaming aloud. There's no one around in her apartment to comfort her; she lives alone. With a soft sob, she breaks down, shouting as she pounds her fists into the mattres. It's the eighth night in a row where she's had the same recurring dream.

No. Not dream. Nightmare.

Stalking, watching from the shadows, always there, never quiet; heavy breathing like years before. He loves her so much, but his love is not the kind she wants. His rough hands curl around her throat: She. Can't. Breathe. Her neck snaps like a twig, and the nightmare repeats itself.

It's horrid! Nothing's working. Lori fights sleep now, but it's becoming unbearable. When she gets up to look in the mirror, she sees that her eyes are bloodshot and that her neck bears the same markings as it did in her dream.

Not dream, she reminds herself.

Nightmare.

****

Jeff's car soon comes to a stop on front of the school building. Jared watches as the students interact with each other, gossiping about what they saw Billy did to Becky at Jessica's house party. It's all so uninteresting and boring and mindless. However, they are all happy and engaged in this drivel, so who is he to judge them? Everyone has fun in different ways.

"So many teens..." Chad says from the backseat, looking out the window. Of course he had to come along. "Hormones raging everywhere."

Both Warlocks roll their eyes and ignore the cat mumbling in the back.

"I might be able to pick you up after school. Depends on what's going on. Are you sure you want to do this?" Jeff asks, clearly concerned. His eyes are softer than usual. "It's fine if you don't want to. I can set up a private tutor for you."

Jared grabs his bag. "I need to have some semblance of normalcy in my life again. I can't stay home studying spells all day. I need to take control. I need to live again."

Jeff smiles warmly. He reaches over, smoothing back Jared's hair with one hand. "You are your father's son."

Jared mirrors the smile, but his eyes go vacant as he remembers that dreaded day. It'll never leave him. Soon, he gathers his things, bidding farewell to Jeff and Chad. The latter attempts to leave the car, pawing at the window that separates them. Jared assures him that everything is okay, and that he'll breeze by the day quickly, a statement that Chad groans at.

Not long after exiting the car, Jeff pulls off with an anxious Chad shouting Jared's name. Unfortunately, his voice was heard by everyone within earshot of the car. The good news is, however, no one actually saw the talking black cat yelling for him, just a gruff looking man in the front seat. With that comforting thought in mind, Jared heads towards the school building, shouldering his backpack.

Some of the kids stare at him, eyeing him cautiously, whispering things amongst themselves. A few girls giggle, smiling at him with literal hearts in their eyes. Jared smiles back, winking at them devilishly. He knows he's handsome, might as well have some fun with it. The girls swoon, quickly walking off to talk about the new kid or whatever. Jared doesn't care.

He finally gets inside of the building, going straight for the main office. The students that were outside before come piling inside, going about their day before the bell rings. It's senior year in the middle of September. Most of them have the ins and outs of the place down to a science. It would hurt to befriend at least one of them now, wouldn't it?

After speaking with a kind woman at the front desk, Jared obtains his class schedule, his locker number and combination, and a sort of map of the school. It's a pretty big building. Once that's over with, Jared walks away, headed towards his designated locker. All around him are students adhering to their own schedule, some talking idly to each other, and some goofing off.

Finally, Jared makes it to his locker. Taking a look at the paper in his hand, he attempts to put in the combination.

2-turn-6-turn-9-pull.

Nothing.

Jared tries again.

Still nothing.

Sighing, he tries once more, but again, it doesn't budge. Jared rests his forehead on the cool metal of the locker door, closing his eyes. He had forgotten how tedious and frustrating combination locks were. Padlocks unlockable by keys are oh-so much better. Just as he begins to contemplate using his Dark Magic to break the stupid fucking lock, a student appears beside him, leaning against the lockers.

"Hey, need some help?"

With his eyes still closed, Jared hums affirmatively. "It would seem so."

"Well, allow me."

This guy's voice is oddly soothing. Curious, Jared lifts his head up off the locker for a chance to see his savior. The moment he opens his eyes is the same moment he's greeted by the most beautiful pair of emerald green eyes. What's more, Jared notices the guy's freckles splattered all over his nose and cheeks. It would be a chore to count them all. His smile is as bright as his teeth, and the last thing Jared spots are the tips of his ears.

They're pointy. Like an Elf's. The guy is clearly a knockout, but the Warlock doesn't let it get to him.

Jared moves out of the way, gesturing for the other student to take over for him. The guy nods, smug smile in place.

"This was my locker last year," he explains. "It was a pain in the ass, believe me."

"I believe you."

Jared watches as the guy struggles with the lock, using the correct combination at least twice.

"You see, the trick is to just--dammit."

Jared snickers. "Mhm."

The student strains, blowing out air from his inflated cheeks. "This was a lot easier before."

There's something about this guy...it just makes Jared smile. It's strange, but maybe it's not so strange at all. Whatever. As much as Jared enjoys watching this guy struggle endlessly with the faulty lock, he can't let it take up too much of his time. Wordlessly, Jared uses his powers to unlock the locker. His fellow classmate yanks on the lock as it clicks, surprising himself.

He looks at Jared with a triumphant grin. It's so goofy, but pleasant. He moves out of the way for Jared so he can deposit his jacket inside.

"There you go. Finally got in! They really need to get a new lock."

Jared holds back a small smile, getting ready to leave. "Yeah, they really do. See you around."

The guy, not wanting to let him slip away, quickly walks in front of him. "Uh, wait! You're new, right?"

"Word travels fast."

"Haha, yeah. It does. I'm Jensen. Jensen Ackles."

He sticks his hand out as if to shake. Jared has other plans. He gasps dramatically, holding his own hand over his heart.

"Holy Shit."

Jensen frowns. "What?"

"Jensen Ackles is talking to me, I cannot believe it."

"Oh," Jensen smirks, hands on his hips. "So you've heard of me?"

"No." Jared deadpans.

Amazingly, instead of being offended, Jensen rears his head back in a mighty laugh. It makes Jared frown because wow, people usually are put off by his odd sense of humor. Jensen seems to be a special case, and frightens the living hell out of Jared. He calms down significantly, showing that he is at least partially sane.

"And you are...?"

"Headed to class."

"You're funny. I like that." Jensen says. "What's your first class?"

The Warlock checks his schedule. Why? Why would he even do this? He barely knows Jensen...so why? For some unknown reason, Jared tells him the truth.

"Chemistry."

Jensen's eyebrows almost reach up to his hairline. "Really? Me too! Wanna be lab partners?"

"I--"

Before Jared can even answer that with a definite no, the school bell rings, signaling for everyone to get to their classes.

Jensen grins wide, making a vague gesture that most likely means "Shall we?" Against his better judgement, Jared walks ahead of Jensen who tags along like a little lost puppy. Of all the people to latch onto, Jensen chooses him.

Ugh. Why?

Doesn't he have popular jock friends and maybe even a pretty little cheerleader girlfriend to get to? Or maybe a boyfriend? Jared doesn't judge. He's never dated anyone, much less shown any romantic interest in either sexes. One could say that...perhaps he likes both? Maybe he's gay, maybe he's straight. Maybe he's both; everyone's a little bit gay nowadays.

Back to the topic at hand, Jared and his new sidekick enter the classroom together. Jensen greets a few of his "friends", nodding at them. They look at Jared, wondering just why he's being seem with the new kid. Jared doesn't care about them. Not really. He's not here to make new friends, just get this school year over with, graduate, and live a comfy, quasi-peaceful life with his magical talking cat.

Sounds completely normal, doesn't it? Good.

While Jensen chats with his friends, Jared heads straight for the empty table, putting his bag down by his feet. Not even five seconds after he does this, Jensen comes sauntering up to the workstation, plopping his happy go lucky self down next to the boy. Jared groans silently, trying and failing to not think dark thoughts about this guy that won't leave him alone.

"Hey, lab partner." Jensen grins.

"Hello, Jensen." Jared replies.

"You don't have to worry about anything. People say I'm really good to work with, and I won't let you do everything by yourself."

"Oh, boy. Can't wait."

Eventually, the bell rings again, forcing those remaining outside of classrooms to scurry inside. The teacher steps through the door five minutes later; an older, dark skinned woman with her natural hair pulled back in a neat bun. She's dressed professionally, unlike most teacher's here, sporting a lovely suit with rimless glasses. To say that she's beautiful would be an understatement. And to say that she's a little scatterbrained wouldn't do her justice.

She carries some books with her, planners and such, as well as a cup of coffee that Jared can smell from his seat. She drops her belongings on the desk before pushing her glasses up to her face. Jared looks at his schedule, seeing that her last name is Harmon. Ms. Harmon by the lack of wedding ring on her finger. It's not long until she begins addressing the class.

"Good morning, everyone. Sorry I was late. So much stuff to do. Alright. Let's see..." Ms. Harmon takes a brief peak at her planner. "I got a message of a new student. Jared...erm...Paladeck--Peda--"

Jared clears his throat. "Padalecki, ma'am."

Ms. Harmon blushes. "Ma'am? So respectful. Sorry about that. Jared Padalecki. Welcome to my class. Stand up, tell us a little bit about yourself."

Suddenly, all eyes are on Jared. It was never his intention to be immediately thrust into the spotlight when he got out the car this morning, but here he is. Hell,  even Jensen is paying extra special attention to him now. While Jared cares little about kids his age, he is undoubtedly polite and respectful to adults. Well...only towards the ones who are respectful to him. Damned Council...

Soon enough, Jared forces a smile, standing up to his full height. He contemplates telling a lie, sounding as genuine as possible. Then he realizes that the truth sounds so much better coming out of his mouth. Besides, no one will believe him anyway.

"Hi. I'm Jared, I'm 17 years old, I live with my guardian, Magic exists, my best friend is my cat, and my parents are dead."

Jared's introduction yields mixed results. Certain students remain quiet, others whisper to their peers, and very few laugh quietly. It's certain that he's left an impression on everyone here, but none quite like Jensen who seems even more enthralled by him. Ms. Harmon, however, remains slackjawed, unable to properly process exactly what was just said.

"Oh," she finally says. "Um...alright. That's--okay. You can take your seat now."

"Thank you."

While the teacher begins talking about the day's lesson, Jensen nudges Jared's shoulder with his. The young man turns his head slightly. "Padalecki, huh? I like it. Pretty cool."

Jared fights the urge to smile yet again, opting to stare straight ahead at the large whiteboard. "Thanks."

Jensen chose to ignore everything that was said, instead focusing on his name...which he so graciously complimented. Jared doesn't know whether this guy is fucking with him, or if he's genuinely a weirdo with nothing better to do.

Either way, it feels...nice to receive some kind of friendly attention.

And if Jared spent the entire period imagining what it'd be like to be possible friends with Jensen, it's no one's business but his own.

****

It's 4th period now, and it's worst one yet, at least in Jared's eyes.

Physical Education. It's just an excuse to work teenagers to death before they can truly live. And it's precisely why Jared is on the bleachers, nosedeep in the tome he gathered from the bookshelf this morning. He's much rather flex his brain than flex his muscles.

"Pass!"

Jared looks up, seeing Jensen and his other classmates playing a solid game of basketball. Yet another class they somehow share together. It's the third one today; he got a break from Jensen in third period English, thank God. He's funny, very smart, but kind of a pain. But in a good way? Perhaps. Jared's not certain on that yet. Time will tell.

He suddenly catches himself staring at the boy dribbling the ball up and down the court, scoring a shot from the three-point line. Jensen gloats, high fiving one of his teammates. He's a jock then? Jared pegged him for one. At the same moment, he chances a look up at the bleachers, catching Jared staring. The Warlock quickly looks back into his book, embarrassed that he was caught.

Even without looking back, Jared can sense Jensen smirking, and all he wants to do is wipe it clean from the face of planet earth! For now, he'll settle for pointedly ignoring him in favor of discovering new ways to use his powers.

"Padalecki!"

Or not.

Jared looks up again, this time seeing the coach calling out to him. Coach Cohen, very athletic, very determined. From what he has observed, Coach Cohen takes his job very seriously. One might think he sees this as his second chance to be in high school. The game has stopped, and all the boys are looking at him. Oh, great. Jared goes back to his book with a sigh.

"Yes, sir?" He responds.

Coach Cohen huffs. "Get down here and join in. This isn't Study Hall, let's go!"

"I'd rather sit this one out, if it's okay with you, Coach."

"It's not. This goes towards your grade! I don't wanna give you an F for today, but I'm thinking I might have to."

Oh, for God's sake--

Jared keeps his eyes on the book. Discreetly, he tugs on his left ear three times, gaining control over Coach Cohen's mind. It's quite strange in there. Juvenile thoughts of popularity among the staff, attempts to stay young, late night drinking. It's almost sad. But even so, Jared speaks through him, making sure to copy down his mannerisms perfectly.

"Actually," he laughs through Coach Cohen. "Nevermind. I'll give you a week's pass, Padalecki. Just because you're new."

"What?" A boy exclaims. One of Jensen's friends. Oliver, Jared has learned. "Oh, come on! That's not fair!"

Jared releases his hold on the adult, making them both just a little dizzy. Despite the odd feeling in his head, Coach Cohen sticks to the words Jared planted within him. "Let's get back to the game. Focus!"

"You heard the man," comes Jensen's voice. "Let's get back to it."

"Whatever. I bet the new kid probably bombs at this anyways."

"Excuse me?" Jared and Jensen say in unison.

The Warlock glances down from his seat towards Jensen; the boy looks up to him with a kind smile. He hardly knows him, and yet he's already defending him? Wow.

Oliver scoffs. "I said he probably sucks at this."

That's all Jared needs to hear. Before a fight can break out between friends, Jared closes his book, setting it off to the side of him after placing in a bookmark. Taking long elegant strides, he comes down to the basketball court, taking the ball from Jensen's hands. Jared glares daggers at Oliver, letting him know just what he unleashed. Today was supposed to go smoothly; nothing too flashy, no showing off, keeping to himself.

But no. Oliver had to take it up a notch. And now Jared's gonna teach him a lesson.

"I've never a played a game in my life, but I'm pretty sure I can beat you." Jared quickly (and harshly) passes the ball to Oliver, pointing at Jensen afterwards. "I'm on his team. Let's do this."

Well, the game went just as you'd expect it to go. Jared slaughtered--figuratively, of course--them all on the court with Jensen's help. It didn't take long for him to gather enough information on how to play by scanning their brains. It wasn't that hard to begin with. Dribble the ball, stay within the lines, pass when necessary, shoot when you can, prevent others from scoring. Now he understands why so many people enjoy this as a sport.

Scoring points from a distance that most would find impossible, Jared shut Oliver right up, along with others who silently doubted his serious ball handling skills. As the game came to an end, Jensen gave him a pat on the back. He was jogging backwards, not paying much attention when he tripped over his own two feet. Jared bit back a giggle as Jensen fell foolishly on his ass.

Maybe this was a precursor to a good school year.

Maybe.

****

It's lunchtime now. Sort of peaceful. Just a little. Jared, however, feels his phone in his pocket buzzing. He doesn't really use it, so who on earth could it be? The young man pulls it out, seeing that it's an oncoming video call from home. Jeff's at work, so that could only mean one thing. Jared checks around him for any prying eyes before accepting the call.

"What, Chad? I'm in public!"

"Hey, hey, relax! I just wanted to say hi!" Chad croons. "How's your day going? Are the kids nice? Did you make any friends? I miss you. I have separation anxiety."

Regardless of the questions, Jared lets out a faint smile. "I miss you too. Everything's fine. The day is going by slowly. The other students are...trying."

"What about friends?"

He thinks about Jensen...and his dumb stupid annoying handsome face.

"I'm working on it."

"Tell me all about it--"

"Hey, Jared!"

Chad is soon cut off by the arrival of none other than Jensen Ackles. He carries with him his own tray of food and his backpack over his shoulders. Jared jumps, slightly startled by the sudden intrusion. Without much warning, he bids his best friend goodbye.

"Talk to you when I get home, bye."

"Ja--"

Jared ends the call, stuffing his phone back into his pocket. Jensen chuckles, flashing rows of shiny white teeth again. "Hey again."

"Hi. Again. Wherever I am, you always seem not too far behind."

"I wanna say that it's probably fate. Mind if I sit with you?"

"Sure," Jared responds. "Why not. It's expected at this point."

"Cool!"

"But wouldn't you rather sit with your friends?" The Warlock queries, nodding over towards the table full of bitter and puzzled jocks.

Jensen follows his gaze, laughing. "Nah, they're cool. They're actually pretty impressed by what you did today, even if they don't look like it. So, spill. You totally lied in PE."

"I beg your pardon?"

"About basketball." Jensen elaborates, cheesing hard. "There's no way that was your first time playing. Just no way. Not with those moves. Where'd you learn how to do all that?"

Jared smiles finally, shrugging his shoulders. He lies. "Guilty. I learned it all at my old school. Just came naturally."

"I knew it! Dude, you should sign up for the team. We could use someone like you."

A teeny tiny tingly sensation wells up in the pit of Jared's stomach, spreading out until his entire body feels fuzzy and warm. It's honestly been a long time since he's felt this; pride. It feels nice. The corner of Jared's mouth twitches, forcing him to bite softly on the inside of his cheek. The whole time, Jensen's gaze burns a hole through his skin, penetrating his soul.

Those eyes...one could definitely get lost in them.

Not Jared, though.

Not if he stays focused.

He sniffs in amusement. "No, that was a one time deal. My basketball days are over. Besides, they don't really need me when they have a guy like you."

The words leave his lips before he can catch them. He just indirectly complimented the guy's amazing basketball skills. While it's not a lie, it's something Jared would have rather not said aloud, yet here we are. A slip of the tongue. His cheeks flush red while Jensen laughs, astonished.

"Oh my God, did you--did you just compliment me? Wow, I can't believe it. Jared Padalecki actually complemented me. I'm honored."

"Don't let it get to your head." Jared retorts quickly. He relaxes, eventually joining Jensen in eating his lunch. "You know...not too long ago, I told myself that it wouldn't be so bad to make at least one new friend."

Jensen, mouthful of french fries, gestures to himself. "Hmm? Well?"

"It doesn't necessarily mean you."

"Aww." Jensen moans with a pathetic pout. His cheeks poke out hilariously. "Rude."

Jared laughs out loud at that.

Just a minor slip.

****

It's agony. Every passing second is agony for her.

Lori types away furiously at her computer. Focusing on her work was, indeed, much better for her psyche. Was. It's getting worse now; it has become difficult for her to keep her eyes open now. Caffeine is hardly working, and the pills aren't doing what they're supposed to be fucking doing!

And then it happens again. In plain sight. Daylight. The man is in front of her desk, hood covering his face. She knows who it is, but he remains hidden from her. Years ago, hands on flesh, whispers of undying love, proclamations of "never again, I'm sorry, I promise", but it did happen again. He hit her, blood dripping down onto the carpet, staining the center. "No more, no more" she cried, but there was always more. Until she got away.

Now he's back, but it's not him. Not really.

Lori shouts, and it stops. She's back in the real world, surrounded by worried co-workers and subordinates. She pushes by them to head into the bathroom. The young woman splashes water on her face, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She looks so much worse than this morning. More pale, more sickly. Dark circles around the eyes, weak. The lights flicker, and the man appears in the mirror this time, behind her.

But when she turns around, he's gone, and the lights return to normal. Lori shakes, sensing something dangerous, something unnatural. Something wicked. It has latched onto her, twisting her thoughts, corrupting her mind.

Feeding.

Something bad is going to happen.

****

School's out finally. It's been an interesting day, to say the least. Jared stepped out of his comfort zone for a time to teach some idiots a lesson. It felt good, but it's not going to become a habit. He has goals that need to be met; there's no time for distractions. Head down, do the work, complete the year. That's all there is to it. The other kids don't interest him.

Much.

Yeah.

The teenager sighs deeply in front of the building, the same spot where Jeff dropped him off. Jared checks his watch; 20 minutes have passed since the initial dismissal. Either he forgot again or he's backed up at work with the Council, that crotchety group of old high Witches and Warlocks.

Whenever Jared thinks of them he gets irritated and a little nauseous. He has no idea why, yet it happens. For all one knows, it could have something to do with how they ran his father ragged day in and day out as a Peacekeeper. Yeah, maybe that's why. Fucking pricks.

Jared eyes his watch once more, noting that another five minutes have passed idly by. And right on time, he receives a phone call, this time from Jeff. He answers, annoyed.

"Way to go, Jeff. I'm standing out here like an idiot."

"Sorry," The man on the other line apologizes, regret in his voice. "But to be completely fair, I told you that I might be able to pick you up. I never said it was certain."

Jared's jaw clenches. "Where are you?"

"Working. Looks like I'll be home late too."

"Alright, so what am I supposed to do?"

"I don't know...walk? Take a bus?"

"You're a shitty guardian who forgets everything."

He doesn't mean it, he's just pissy.

Thankfully, Jeff doesn't take offense. "Sorry, Kid. I really am. Just know that I'm trying here, okay? Doing this parenting thing with you hasn't been easy, you know that. I can't...I'm not trying replace...I just...I really am trying, Jared..."

"I know," sighs Jared. It's a conversation for another time, but not today. "I know...I'll walk. It won't kill me. Have a good day a work. I'll see you at home."

"Yeah. Be safe. Talk soon. Bye."

With the call ended, Jared's arms fall to his sides. He throws his head back, groaning incessantly into the afternoon sky. What a perfect way to end the day, don't ya think? He straightens his neck, looking around him. Everyone's leaving by bus or by car; those who live nearby are walking. Unfortunately, Jared lives some ways across town, forcing him to calculate the journey by foot. Thirty minutes.

Thirty fucking minutes. Ugh. Yeah. That's fine. Just perfect. Without anymore delays, Jared begins his lonh trek back to his home. Having his own car would have helped immensely, but he abhors driving, so the situation is at a standstill.

While he walks, Jared flashes back to the days when his father would meet him halfway home with an ice cream cone in both hands. They'd walk and talk, debating which spells could bring down what and the best strategy for a Vampire attack, should they exist.

Even when he turned 15, the "ice cream walk and talks" didn't die down. It was expected every day. If his father were alive right now, Jared's certain that they would still have these little moments. Gerald Padalecki was a great man, brilliant and resourceful. He loved Jared's mom so much; they were happy. It's a shame that that *monster* stole them away from him so suddenly.

Carver.

Bastard. Rage bubbles up deeply inside of Jared, forcing him to relive the gory scene he walked in on 2 years ago. The images flash in his head; the blood, the terror, the fear in their empty, lifeless eyes. Jared balls up his fists, chest heaving as his anger causes a fire hydrant to explode near him. It snaps the young Warlock out of it, but he's soon drenched head to toe in water.

Fucking great!

"Fucking great!" Jared growls out loud, moving out of the way. He takes off his jacket, dropping his bag to the ground. He shouts to the sky as cars pass him by. "I suddenly hate this day! What next, huh!?"

And then, suddenly, Jared hears the singular honk of a car horn. He looks down, and lo and behold, there's Jensen Freaking Ackles pulling up beside him in a black car. Sleek; looks vintage, well maintained. Very nice. Jensen rolls down the passenger window with a very concerned look on his face.

"Holy shit, are you okay?"

"No!" Jared answers, laughing to cover the anger and embarrassment. "No, as a matter of fact, I am not okay. Everything sucks right now! I'm exhausted, I'm pissed off, and now I'm soaking wet yelling at a stalker boy I barely even know in public! I just wanna go home."

Letting it all out like that actually feels...good. Jared breathes normally, not quite staring at Jensen, but staring in his direction. There's silence between them, only the sound of other cars rushing by. The worried expression is still present on the other boy's face, and it makes Jared feel strange.

But before he can think to walk away, Jensen kills the engine, stepping out of his car. He shuffles quickly to open the trunk; he pulls out a towel. After closing it, he walks towards Jared. Without permission, he places the towel on his head, drying off his hair. Jared, too stunned to think or say anything, allows it to happen. He must be out of his damn mind; he probably meaning the both of them.

Jensen, for doing so.

Jared, for letting it go on.

The entire time Jensen dries his wet hair, he smiles, not saying a word. Jared can only think to look down to avoid his gaze. It's embarrassing to be coddled like this. He's perfectly capable of drying himself, thank you very much, but this...this is kinda nice. Finally, Jensen stops, leaving the towel around Jared's neck.

"There you go. Better?"

"A little..." Jared mumbles. "Still soaked. Thanks..."

"No problem." Jensen looks to his car, then back at him again. "Need a ride?"

"N--No, I'm good. You've done more than enough."

"Think nothing of it. It's no problem at all."

"No, seriously. I'm fine. I don't want to be indebted to you."

Jensen snorts. "Indebted--I'm not looking to gain anything from you, Jared. I just wanted to help, because you need it. Clearly. Trying to be a good person here. Will you let me do that?"

There's another long pause between them. Jared would rather not walk home in wet clothes in broad daylight. That would be a new low. Whether he likes it or not (and he absolutely does not), Jensen is his only salvation. Jared lets out an exaggerated sigh, rolling his eyes.

"Fine," he shrugs, dropping the act for a moment. "I need a ride. I really hated admitting that. Whatever. Would you be so kind as to help me out, kind sir?"

Jensen grins. "Don't mind if I do." He waltzes over to the passenger door, holding it open for the soaked Warlock. "Your chariot awaits."

Instead of getting into the passenger seat, Jared makes a beeline for the backseat, leaving Jensen to laugh quietly.

"It's hardly a chariot."

"Oh! You wound me."

Jensen shuts the passenger door before swiftly rushing around the car to climb back into the driver's seat. The young man turns the key in the ignition, making the beautiful car come to life. Jared gives Jensen the directions to his house, and they're off in no time.

Jared takes a glance around the interior. It's just as good as the outside! Wow, Jensen takes really good care of his car. Jared's impressed. He'll never outright admit that, of course, so it's perfectly fine. It's silent in here save for the pleasant, soothing roar of the car's engine. Jared rubs the damp towel over his body despite knowing it won't do much.

He feels guilty for soaking Jensen's car, but if Jensen had a problem with it he wouldn't have invited him inside in the first place.

"So..." Jensen starts, catching glimpses of him through the rear view mirror. "What's your story?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean did you just move here, or something?"

How could one truthfully tell a mortal that they were studying secrets of the arcane forces on and off for two years in a magical dimension separate from their own?

Simple. One doesn't.

"Or something."

"Where'd you live before?"

"Limbo."

"Eugh. Sounds boring."

Jared shakes his head. "It was."

"I bet. Do you like music, Jay?"

"Who doesn't like music? Oh, and Jared is just fine, thank you."

Jensen fiddles with the radio stations, tuning in and out of various talk shows. He presses the buttons, trying to find a nice song to listen to. Jared doesn't really care, however. Anything is good for him. But soon, Jensen settles on a station with a song that Jared is familiar with, and by the sounds of it, Jensen as well.

"Wow, this is old. Older than both of us combined! Come on, sing with me, Jay!"

Jared nods, but raises both eyebrows as Jensen readies himself to sing the chorus, off key, naturally.

"I love you baby, and if it's quite alright, I need you baby to warm the lonely nights! I love you baby! Trust in me when I saaaay! Oh, pretty baby, don't bring me down I pray! Oh, pretty baby, now that I've found you, stay! And let me love you, baby, let me looooove youuuuu!"

Jared laughs freely this time, finally breaking down the wall he put up specifically for this persistent guy. Jensen dances in his seat, swaying in his seat as the music plays. He looks behind him to Jared, signalling for him to carry on with the words. While he would normally object to such a thing, his spirits have been lifted.

Jared willingly joins in singing horribly to one of the songs his parents both enjoyed.

"You're just to good to be true, can't take my eyes off you. You'd be like HEAVEN TO TOUCH!"

"I wanna hold you soooo much! At long last love has arrived, and I thank God I'm alive."

"You're just too good to be true."

"Can't take my eyes off you."

They sing the song in its entirety. Yet through the ride, neither one was really dedicated on stopping; they listened to song after song, though Jared stopped after the second one. It was a freeing experience, literally the most fun Jared has had in a very long time. But, as with all good things, it had to come to an end.

Eventually, Jensen pulls up to Jared's house, turning off the radio completely. Jared's attention is drawn towards the windows downstairs. The curtains are moving, and out of nowhere, Chad's tiny little head pop up, searching for the noise. Perfect. Jensen also takes notice, cocking his head to the side in astonishment.

"Is that the cat you talked about in class?"

"Yeah, that's Chad."

"Your cat's name is Chad? Weird."

"Short for Chadwick." Jared smiles, grabbing his bag and jacket. He hops out of the car. "Thanks for the ride."

Jensen jumps out as well, resting his arms on the roof. "Hey, uh, wait a second!"

Jared turns. "Yes?"

"I just, um...just wanna make something clear, okay? I'm not a 'stalker boy'. I'm not trying to be creepy on purpose. I mean, was I? I wasn't going for that. I was going for charming. I mean--ugh. Sorry. You're just very...interesting to me."

"I'm interesting to you? Really?"

"Yeah. Go on, call me dumb or whatever..."

That's a first. Jared doesn't have to look into Jensen's mind to know what his intentions are. They're pure. Somewhat. Butterflies flit about in Jared's stomach. It amuses him. A smug smile soon forms upon his lips.

"You're not dumb. You're waaaay too much at times, but I don't think you're dumb."

Jensen's bright smile returns. "Does this mean we're friends?"

Jared chuckles, taking his stuff with him as he walks to his front door. "Ask me again in a few days."

"That means I have a chance!"

"If you say so, Ackles. See you tomorrow."

"See you tomorrow...Jay."

Jared shivers at the nickname. In a kind of pleasant way? Weird. No one's ever called him that before, not even his own parents. It was always Jared. Just Jared. Until this big ray of sunshine barreled into his life. Jensen doesn't leave until Jared makes his way into the house, and when he drives away, he honks twice for goodbye.

Jared is greeted by Chad at the door who attempts to crawl up to him, only to back away when he notices that he's wet.

"Why are you soaked?"

Jared walks up the staircase. Chad is not too far behind him. "I had an accident with a fire hydrant."

"Naturally. Who was that guy?"

Jared plays coy.

"He's...someone."

"You know what, don't play dumb with me, Padalecki!"

"He's just someone you don't need to know about. Just some guy. Don't worry about it." The Warlock makes it to his room, but quickly files in before Chad can follow. He closes it, turning the lock. "I'm going to change, and I need privacy."

Behind the door, he can hear Chad's paws tapping at the wood. "Oh, dammit! Jared! Jared, let me in! Curse these tiny paws. I hate this."

"Shoo! Let me be naked in peace."

"I've already seen all there is to offer!" He ignores him for long moments, hoping the feline will eventually tire. It works. "Okay, fine! I'm going downstairs. Tell me about your day whenever you're not nude."

In time, Chad tires of waiting, and saunters back down the stairs alone. Jared sighs, leaning against his bedroom door. Slowly, he slides down until he's sitting on the carpeted floor. He shifts slightly, pants and underwear still utterly drenched. Despite this, he can't help but to think about that Ackles boy, about how determined he is. A handsome guy with tons of friends it seems like, and he finds Jared interesting enough to bother?

Maybe he will grow tired.

For some reason, Jared dreads the thought. If Jensen has proven anything today, it's that he doesn't go down without a fight. He's stubborn; he likes a challenge.

Jared chuckles, gently biting his lip.

"Fine then."

****

It's night. Lori hates the night now. It means darkness, and darkness is bad.

She exits her building, pulling her jacket tighter around her. With her purse tucked securely under her arm, Lori walks briskly towards her car.

She doesn't make it too far.

The air is cold like ice; she can see her breath. The chill spreads down her spine, letting her know that danger is coming, and it won't stop until it has claimed her. Instead of running to her car as originally planned, Lori rushes back inside of the building when she spots the hooded man moving towards her, slowly at first.

The lights inside flicker as Lori runs, screaming for help in the empty building. No one hears her. She can't stop what's coming. It catches up to Lori, appearing before her in a flash. The man grabs her by the throat with both hands, lifting her up against the wall. She claws, kicks, scrapes, but he is too strong.

No. Not. He.

It.

It is too strong.

Vision fading, blurry, voices in her head, her mother's. "I love you, I wish you would visit more".

Sad thoughts, memories. All fading away. Fears come into the forefront now. Darkness, blood thinning, turning cold, lips blue and cracked, eyes lifeless. She's being drained, or was. Not anymore. It has what it wants from her. Her fear, her nightmares. It takes, consuming, feeding on the deliciousness that only her kind can secrete.

Before her final moments, Lori reaches down to pull back the hood. It has a true face after all. It's indescribable horror, one's worst fears magnified by one hundred percent. A grotesque, monstrous form with piercing red eyes and razor sharp teeth inside of it's hellish maw.

And then it's over. With a snap, Lori's dead, motionless body flopping down onto the ground to be discovered at a later date.

The creature vanishes from sight, seeking another victim to poison.

Chapter Text

"So, Jared, how was your day?"

"Fine. It was fine."

"Any trouble finding a way home?"

"No, I--"

"Some Mortal boy dropped him off."

Jared drops his utensils on his plate in mild anger. He stares down at his best friend who's chowing down on the minced meat in his bowl. Jeff also stops eating his meal to stare questioningly at his young charge.

It's dinnertime right now, and all  Jared really wants to do is eat his supper and go to sleep. But he has a feeling that he's not going to get to slink away so easily, not with Chad spitefully telling his mentor his business. Jared gets that Chad is a bit sore about being left alone all day, but he doesn't have to be an ass about it. It's very unbecoming of him.

"You fucking asshole..." Jared grumbles to the feline.

"Language." Jeff chastises. "And what's this about a Mortal boy?"

The young Warlock resumes his dinner. "...just a boy, that's all."

"And does this boy know anything about our way of life?"

"No, Jeff. I'm not an idiot. He's just a weird guy who happens to find me and my dry and unusual sense of humor interesting. He's not a threat. I think. At least not to me."

That one felt strange to say out loud, yet oddly satisfying. He receives queer glances from both Chad and Jeff in that same instance. Jared knows what he said and how he said it, and he's not the least bit embarrassed by it.

Alright. Maybe a little bit.

But no one needs to know.

If Jensen were actually here, Jared could just picture the stupid smile on his stupid face. He'd be grinning like the cat that got into the cream. Metaphorically speaking...though Chad is prone to getting into things that don't belong to him.

After some time, Jeff just nods. He uses his fork to spear the food on the plate. "Alright. Okay. Just--"

"Take it easy? I know." Jared exhales, eyes softening towards his guardian. He's already the master of manipulation with these puppy dog-like glances. "I know the rules. Everything is fine."

However, this tactic doesn't seem to work on Jeff. It never has. Perhaps that's why Jared found him difficult to live with at times.

"It would be a damn shame to wipe the mind of another innocent Mortal, Jared. I still think about that unfortunate librarian."

Jared shudders at the memory. "That poor woman. But in all fairness, she was kind of a bi--"

"Jared."

"Sorry." The boy rubs the back of his neck, groaning. The silence between mentor and student doesn't last long. "I need you to buy me another phone, by the way."

"What's wrong with the brand new phone I just bought for you?"

"I broke it."

"How in the hell did you break it!?"

"I blew up a fire hydrant, and it drenched everything. Oops."

"It's true," Chad interrupts, licking his chops. "I saw him when he came home."

"Right..." Jeff huffs, finishing his dinner. He stands up, going over to collect Jared's empty plate. "Fine. I'll get you another one tomorrow. Don't make this a recurring thing, okay? I spoil you enough as it is."

Jared grins innocently. "Me? Spoiled? Never."

"Mhm. Go study, or do whatever it is you do before bed."

"Yup." Jared gets up from his seat, tapping his leg to gain his cat's attention. "Come on, Chad, you bastard."

"Yeah, yeah."

Jeff watches Jared leave the dining room. But before the young man can fully ascend the staircase, Jeff calls his name once, stepping forward so they can see each other's faces.

"Yes?" Jared blinks.

"I just, um," the older man wriggles his hands together. "I'm...very proud of you. You deserve to know that, and I think that your father would--"

"I know." Jared mutters. It's almost a whisper. "It's getting late. I'll tend to my studies. Goodnight, Jeff."

"Yeah. Goodnight, kid."

Jared takes Chad and they walk the rest of the way upstairs until they're both out of sight. When Jeff hears Jared's bedroom door open then close, he let's out a deep sigh. He collects Chad's bowl and adds it to the pile of dishes as he leisurely strolls back into the kitchen. After dropping them in the sink, Jeff turns on the water, rolling up his sleeves, getting straight to work.

Never in all 36 years of his existence did he think he'd be doing something like this. Well, honestly, he imagined doing something similar to this with his very own children. Unfortunately, it never happened, and now he's here caring for his dead friend's son. In more ways than one, this experience was very eye opening. It gave Jeff the knowledge that he was severely lacking in life: how to actually care about someone other than himself.

To this day, he has no idea why he so impulsively volunteered to have Jared brought into his home. It could be that he saw how broken the boy had become, and that reminded him of so long ago...or maybe it was just the right thing.

Wherever Gerald is, Jeff's sure he'd approve of how he's handling things. It hasn't always been easy taking care of Jared.

"Jared, get over here right now! You're in big trouble, you little shit!"

"What are gonna do? Ground me? Make me go to my room? Fuck you, old man."

"Old man!? I'm tired of your bullshit, as well as your dirty mouth! I'm going to wash it out with soap!"

"I wanna see you try!"

"Fine!"

He had some nerve calling him old! That boy...

Long story short, Jeff did not end up washing out Jared's mouth with soap. He did, however, restrict him to the house, because there was truly no other option. Jared didn't want to leave, he didn't want to go anywhere after the incident. He tried to close himself off to the world. In Jeff's eyes, he guesses that Jared's mindset was something along the lines of: The world took my family, I'm not letting it have me as well.

He's just happy that Jared doesn't think this way anymore and that he's attempting to return to a (sort of) normal life. Perhaps that "Mortal boy" Chad was talking about is helping him with that. Jeff scoffs dismissively.

"A Mortal."

****

Yawning, Jared flips another page in the large tome on his desk. More advanced spells, ancient writings, deserted secrets that would take years--decades--to unlock. Well, that is if you're not as skilled as Jared is in Zaelich, the ancient language of Magic users. It's comprised of English, Latin, and some Greek. The language fascinates Jared to no end, and his only wish is that he could read it everyday of the week. Unfortunately, reading too much is taxing to one's health.

It's a lost language; not many can read it or speak it anymore, and that's what makes it valuable. The spells here in this book are best left in his care. It originally belonged to Jeff who confiscated it from a corrupt man years ago. That guy was planning to sacrifice people for more power. Thankfully, he's put away in the furthest reaches of Limbo in a maximum security prison for dangerous Witches and Warlocks. Sorcerers and Sorceresses--those who weren't born with Magic, but obtained it by other means--are also detained there.

Like Carver. Fucker.

"Thank you, Peacekeeper Morgan, for the lovely gift." Jared mumbles, eyes feeling quite heavy.

From the bed, Chad uses the remote to change channels on the television. "It's hard to imagine him as a Peacekeeper. He's just too...stoic."

"Which is exactly why he was such a good one. Stoicism and composure are crucial tools in your arsenal when Peacekeeping."

Peacekeepers. Just as the name implies. Men and women who wield powerful offensive magical abilities that rival everyone else's. Jared's father was a Peacekeeper, and Jeff was one as well. Still is. They were co-workers. Jared didn't know Jeff that well years ago. Why would he? His dad's job and personal life didn't clash often. Only passing glances and semi-nods, nothing worthy of complete conversations.

Thankfully, they've gotten to know and respect one another. It took Jared a long while, but he now holds Jeff in high regard. He just wishes that the man wouldn't forget everything.

Jared is soon pulled from his thoughts by the various sounds of channels being skipped. It's very distracting, and annoying besides.

"I'm trying to focus."

Chad stops, paw hovering over the remote. "Sorry. Nothing's on."

"Then just turn it off."

"But I'm bored!"

"Then go to sleep."

"I'm not even that tired!" Chad whines. "But you might be. Just step away from the book. It'll be there tomorrow."

Jared sighs. That damn cat has a point. He's had a long day, and his bed is very welcoming right now. He places his bookmark in between the pages before closing it.

"Alright. Fine. You're sleeping in your own bed tonight."

Shocked, Chad looks up. "What? Why!?"

"You told Jeff about Jensen, got him all worked up for nothing." Jared explains.

"Oh, so that's his name? Jensen, hmm? He sure looked like a Jensen. Easy on the eyes, broad shoulders; I bet he's a real ladykiller. Think he gets around?"

Jared's cheeks redden; he hides it from his cat. "I don't want to think about his personal life."

What was that? Jared getting flushed and flustered over some knucklehead? Impossible. He--no. It's over. He refuses to acknowledge it, because acknowledging it gives it power, and Jared seriously does not want that lingering over his head.

He stands, dragging his feet over towards his bed. Glancing down at Chad, he finds himself with a dilemma. The cat is gazing up at him, flashing the biggest pair of adorable yellow eyes. Jared grunts in anguish, clenched fists unfurling to relax at his sides. He's lost this battle. Chad is centuries years old, and still can do the "puppy dog" look better than he can. Perhaps in all those years he has perfected it.

Damn him for being so amazing at it.

"Why can't I stay angry with you?" Jared whispers playfully, scooping the feline into his arms.

Chad hums in content, shutting his eyes as Jared scratches behind his ear. "Because I'm your best friend, and the only one who truly understands you."

"This is true. Tell me this: if you were made human again, how old would you be? Physically speaking, of course, not your actual chronological age. You never said."

"Well, let's see...I was recruited into the Old King's army at 19, spent 4 years slaughtering foes in his name, then spent another 4 years with a sexy vengeful Sorceress who cursed my sorry ass. To answer your question, physically, I'd say about 27-ish."

Jared nods, lamenting his best friend's "loss".

"If you were able to switch back, would you do it?"

"Oh, shit yeah! In a heartbeat. However, I'm rather fond of you pampering me, so it's sorta 50/50."

And that is where the conversation ends. Jared laughs, slipping under the covers with his cat in his arms. He lets Chad go, and the feline pops out to lay above the sheets next to Jared. Without a word, Jared turns out the lights, not including the dim decorative lights around his headboard. He keeps them on just for when he doesn't want to be shrouded in total darkness.

Sometimes it's fine, but then he gets those nightmares; the darkness doesn't help in the slightest. Being trapped in pitch black...it's horrifying.

Chad soon senses Jared's unease, and comes snuggling up closer to him, just as he always does. It must be because they're kind of...linked, in a way. He's not just an ordinary immortal cat; Chad is now a sort of Familiar. In some way, he accidentally managed to link himself to the entire Padalecki bloodline.

In theory, if the Padalecki bloodline ends, so does Chad's existence. His immortality is a curse and a blessing.

It's a shitty fate, perhaps it's why his predecessors were so eager to procreate. Jared is concerned for his friend, though, and also annoyed that in order for him to survive, he might have to have children. How unfortunate considering Jared is an only child. The duty falls to him.

"You're thinking too loudly." Chad says, pushing his paw on the boy's face. "Whatever it is, it'll pass."

Jared chuckles, closing his eyes as he tries to think happy thoughts. "I'm well aware. Go to bed."

"I am. Night, JP."

"Yeah."

It's not long before Jared drifts off to sleep. Instead of a nightmare, he dreams a lovely dream; bright sunshine, bubbles everywhere, happiness all around. A building. The school. Everything is beautiful, and then there are eyes, gorgeous green orbs that soften immediately, promising unrelenting protection. And a voice echoing in his mind, pleasing, excited.

"Hey, Jay!"

Jared smiles in his sleep.

He likes this dream.

****

"...and breaking news this morning: Lori Sanders, 25, was found dead in her office workplace today. Reports say that her neck was snapped. She was found by a cleaning woman early this morning; there were no witnesses or sign of forced entry. As of right now, there are no suspects in custody. More on this story after the break."

Jared chews his breakfast as his eyes stay glued to the small television screen in the kitchen. The young Warlock believes that something's not right about that lady's death, and judging by the look on Jeff's face, he too thinks the same. The two of them stay silent for a while, both having their own thoughts to worry about.

A woman strangled at her workplace after hours? Perhaps a stalker? If that's the case, how would the perp be able to get inside a locked building? Seems unlikely, but anything's possible.

"What are you thinking?" Jeff asks after guzzling down his coffee.

Jared squints his eyes in thought. "I'm not sure. No signs of forced entry, late at night, no suspects. Crimes like this are often confused for something supernatural by Peacekeepers. It could just be a jilted lover, or some sick stalker."

"But you don't believe that."

"No..." Jared mumbles. "Not at all."

"Neither do I."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to grab a team to investigate this. Something is off."

Jared perks up, rising from the table.

"Can I come with? I won't be a bother."

Jeff gives the boy a warm smile that's reserved only for him. "No, you can't."

"I won't be in the way, Jeff, I promise. I just want to help--"

"I know you do, Jared, but this is a dangerous job. If there is something unnatural out there attacking Mortals, I don't want you in the crossfire. I appreciate your enthusiasm, though. I'm sorry. It's just the way it has to be."

The teen nods solemnly, moving his head to the side so his guardian can't see the disappointment. "I understand. I hope you and the others find out who's responsible. Can you drop me off at school again?"

Jeff sighs. "Alright. Gonna have to get you a car soon. This case will most likely keep me after hours, so do you think you can have your...'Mortal buddy' bring you home again?"

The mere mention of Jensen causes Jared to become flustered, which in turn makes him defensive.

"He's not my buddy, he's just a student that follows me like the plague. He's so annoying."

"Yet your face tells a different tale." Chad notes from the floor.

"Shut up."

Dumb stupid cat. Can't keep his fucking mouth shut for two minutes! Jared is not worked up over some ignorant Mortal who has personal space issues. He looks down at Chad who innocently chows down on the food in his bowl. He has it so goddamn easy, he doesn't even realize. Or maybe he does, but he just loves pushing those buttons.

Even so, Jared won't stop loving him. He's like an annoying, caring older brother. But in a cat's body. Weird.

And as much as Jared complains about almost everything, Chad is always there. Like a damn shadow. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that without Chad, he would have nothing. He was his biggest support after the incident, aside from Jeff.

They just need each other.

****

Everyone's talking about the woman on the news; apparently she was Crystal's cousin, whoever that was. Jared doesn't know her, so his condolences might not mean much. He's strayed away from references about the death--or "murder" as some people say. Even if he too believes it wasn't a simple death, it doesn't mean that the people should gossip about how the poor woman was killed.

Gratefully, Jensen doesn't bring it up when Jared willingly sits next to him in History.

"Morning," Jensen grins, folding his arms over the desk. "How are you today, new friend?"

Jared laughs. He's been doing that a lot lately. Hmm. "I am fine, just a bit meh at the moment--and I thought I told you to give it a few days before the friend stuff?"

"I'm impatient, what can I say? So, I know you're new and stuff--"

"I am? Gosh, I didn't know."

"--but you probably haven't heard that Oliver was planning this sweet party before you got here."

"I haven't."

"Well, I'm telling you now. It's this Friday. Wanna come out, get to know your classmates? I'm sure they're dying to get to know you."

"Oh, really?" Jared asks. He takes a dramatic look around the classroom, seeing that no one is paying him or Jensen any type of attention. "I hope they're not disappointed. I mean, they're basically lining up to meet me."

"Oh, har har."

There's a period of silence between them then. Jared can hear the mild sadness in Jensen's tone. It makes him feel strangely guilty, and he almost never experiences that particular emotion anymore. This damn bastard is turning his world completely upside down! What is he doing to him?

Hoping to keep things light, Jared nudges Jensen, grabbing his attention again.

"I don't do parties, Jensen. I'd rather sit at home watching a movie."

"Oh, okay..." the other boy starts. "Then we can skip it? You can come over to my house for a movie. It'll be awesome."

That feeling. There it it is again, right in the center of Jared's stomach. Anxiety, nervousness...longing?

No! N--Not in a romantic sense, you dummy! Stupid.

Jared shakes his head as he attempts to piece together what he heard. "I'm sorry, did you just invite me over to your house...to watch a movie?"

The bell rings across the entire building, causing teachers and students alike to rush into classrooms to begin their lesson. Meanwhile, Jensen smirks, lowering his voice so their history teacher can't hear them.

"Yeah, I mean, only if you want to."

"And you'd skip out on a friend's party just like that?"

"To be honest, I didn't really even wanna go."

Jared snorts.

"Admit it: you just want me to hang out with you."

"Haha." Jensen can't stop that cute little boyish smile he's got, and it causes Jared to cover his mouth. "Yeah, well...I'm not too proud to deny it."

Jared keeps expecting himself to not be surprised by Jensen's nature, but it seems to be inevitable. How in the hell is this possible? What makes this Mortal so special compared to everyone else? Jared has no clue. Curious, he takes a small look into his mind, hoping to find a reason.

"Jared...my house, what am I thinking, idiot, stupid, he doesn't wanna do that, he'd rather saw off his leg, I suck, I'm pathetic, but I like him, he's amazing, he's awesome, so intriguing, nice hair, beautiful smile, cute...Jared..."

The Warlock ejects from Jensen's thoughts, blushing madly. Goddammit, this boy is something else. His thoughts and feelings are as genuine as sunlight itself, and it bothers Jared to the core. Jensen Ackles wants to know him, he wants to be close to him.

He wants to be his friend. And Jared's not sure how to deal with that. He's had friends before, but...after the incident, he sort of neglected them, and when he moved away, it seemed as though they forgot about him. Jared kept to himself after that. It was better to be alone in some ways. But now he sees the error in self-isolation.

If Jensen truly wants to be his friend then...so be it.

"I wouldn't object to it as long as I got to pick the movie." Jared states, putting on his best poker face for Jensen.

"Really!?" Jensen says louder than intended, voice cracking up. Their teacher briefly stops the lesson to glare at them; the other students in the class snicker, causing Jensen to apologize. The teacher resumes the lesson, and he lowers his voice again. "Really? That's great. Um, which--which movie do you wanna watch? Or movies?"

Jared smirks. "Movies. Plural, hmm?"

"I figured just one would be kinda boring."

"We'll see. We'll talk about it when you drive me home today."

"Wait--huh!? You're letting me drive you home again!?"

Soon after his somewhat dramatic outburst, their history teacher sighs, stopping the lesson once more. "Jensen, is there a reason you're interrupting my class? Is there something you'd like to say?"

"Uh, no, sir. I was just...excited. That's all. Won't happen again."

The man eyes him carefully, but soon goes back to trying to teach his class. Jared snickers silently in his seat, opening up a textbook to join in. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots Jensen doing the same, albeit more clumsily. He glances at Jared "discreetly" while flicking through the pages, and it only makes the young Warlock bite the inside of his cheek to suppress a wide grin.

Jensen has some strange power over him, and it's pretty frightening...and fascinating.

****

And it spots the brand new victim, delicious. Belly full of food, but head filled with magnificent horrors and terrors. Henry, 43, devoted father of 2, wonderful husband, murderer.

Mouth watering trauma. Scrumptious.

She was only a child, Henry, the entity hisses in his ear. You killed her. You were drunk, you ran like a coward, you moved, you changed yourself, changed your being. It worked, but there is guilt! More guilt than you can possibly imagine! She was still breathing when you left her there, crying, calling for mother until the pain became too much! You are the true definition of a monster.

And Henry is terrified, nearly falling to his death on the building he and his co-workers are working on. They catch him in time, partly concerned and yet angry that he'd make such a dumb rookie mistake. They ask him if he's alright, but all he can think about is the child he hit so many years ago, and the deep, monstrous voice he heard in his head.

Not normal.

****

Jared waits patiently by Jensen's car in the school parking lot. He has no idea where the older teen is, but he's guessing that he might be catching up with friends or whatever. They're not anything to Jared, really. He doesn't know them, and he's certain that he doesn't want to get to know them either. But Jensen doesn't seem to mind that at all. Just today at lunch, he once again chose Jared over them.

He might be very serious on this whole "new friends" thing.

Eventually, after a few more minutes of standing around, another car comes strolling along next to him. There's a few people inside, some Jared recognizes from gym glass and Jensen's social circle. The car is packed with teenagers, all looking to be having a good time. The driver is a girl; Danneel. She's been seen talking to Jensen. She stops the car, all smiles with the engine still running.

"Hey! Jared, right?"

Jared nods, crossing his arms. "Yes, that's my name."

"You're definitely the cutie everyone says you are. Looking good. What are you up to?"

"Just...uh, just waiting on someone."

Danneel's smile suddenly shifts to lecherous. "For Jensen?"

Not that it's any of her business, but--

"Yes. I am."

The teens in the car giggle amongst themselves, causing Jared to shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. His hands tighten into fists in his arms.

"I'd be careful around him, Jared. He's got some serious Demons hidden away."

Curious. Still, Jared remains defensive.

"Is that so?"

"Yeah," Danneel confirms, nodding her head. "Huge. It's insane. Anyways, enough of that. You coming to Oliver's party this Friday?"

Jared sighs. He tells her a lie. Might as well. He trusts her as far as he can throw her.

She's not being nice to him. She's feeling him out. He knows her kind.

"Yeah. Sure."

"Good." She hums, pulling off with her friends. "I'll be waiting for you. See you there, Jared."

In a matter of seconds, Danneel and her crew are gone. It's just Jared now, standing alone by Jensen's car. He's not the least bit fazed by her antics, but he'd be lying so hard if he said he wasn't a little annoyed. Jared has seen this all before when he was still in school; mean girls, popular jocks, outcasts, athletes, scholars. Most of that stuff doesn't exist or matter much anymore, but bits and pieces still remain.

Teenagers will always be teenagers.

Not long after Danneel leaves, Jensen comes out of the building, seemingly searching for someone. When he spots Jared standing next to his car, he looks to be relieved, and it makes Jared forget about his encounter for just a moment. The green eyed student jogs across the lot, catching up to Jared with car keys in hand.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Jay."

Jared rolls his eyes. "I wasn't waiting long, and my name is Jared. Jare-Ed."

"Well okay, Jare-Ed, you ready to get this show on the road?"

He doesn't say anything else; Jared only hops into the car when Jensen unlocks it. In the same vein as yesterday, he climbs into the backseat while the other boy expects him to take the passenger. Regardless, Jensen smiles as he starts the car, and they drive away from the school.

"So...did you pick any movies?"

Jared licks his lips. "How many did you plan on us watching?"

"I--I don't know, like, maybe 2? O--or 3?" Jensen stumbles over his words. "Something to hold us over for a while."

"A while? Trying to keep me over, Ackles?"

"N--No! I mean, yes! But it's not like that--I just wanted to--dammit, I'm not trying to make it sound like I--"

"I'm fucking with you."

Jensen regains his composure, beaming ahead at the road. "Ah! I see. I still need to get used to that."

"Yes. You do."

"So, do you have any favorites I need to know about? I can see if I can pick them up or buy them digitally."

"Well, I..." Jared starts, fiddling with a hole in his jeans. "I was very fond of A Nightmare on Elm Street a while back."

"Nice! Freddy Krueger. Classic. I'm more of a Jason Voorhees kinda guy myself."

"We can watch both if it's not a problem."

"It's not a problem at all, Jay."

He detests that nickname. Jared almost corrects Jensen yet again, but he decides against it. He just doesn't have the willpower to scold him. Silly.

As Jensen drives them to their destination, Jared thinks back to Danneel's words from earlier. She said that Jensen has Demons hidden away. Not literal Demons, of course, because Jared has no doubt that Jensen is 100% Mortal. She must mean memories, a dark past that eats away at him.

Out of curiosity, Jared decides to take one more look inside Jensen's head. It's a mistake.

Winter morning, a young boy and his little brother, ice skating, screaming, cries for help, drinking, swallowing down the pain and the horrible hurt, ALL MY FAULT!

Jared severs the mental link from the other boy, panting in mild exhaustion. He felt...something. He felt immense heartbreak and sadness, the likes of which he has only experienced once before in the past. Something terrible happened in Jensen's life, and Jared felt every emotion, though jumbled together. The images were too rushed and flashed by too quickly for him to understand, but the feelings were real.

Jared's bottom lip quivers.

"Never again..." he says to himself about reading Jensen's mind. "I'll never do it again."

In the front seat, Jensen blinks several times. His brows scrunch together in slight confusion. "Jared? You okay back there?"

"I'm...I'm so sorry."

"What's wrong? Are you okay? What are you sorry about?"

Jared can't tell him exactly why he's sorry. After all, Jensen is still a Mortal. He can't ever know about the secret world that hides right in front of him. So, Jared tells him a half-truth.

"I'm sorry for...being such a dick to you when all you've done was be nice to me. You're a nice guy. I've just been going through some stuff."

A warm smile slowly forms on Jensen's face as he looks up at Jared through the rear view mirror. "I accept your apology. I figured you had things on your mind. No sweat. I know of a way you can pay me back, though."

Jared's brow raises up. "Oh?"

"Yeah. Your number. You know--just so I can get a hold of you about the movie situation."

"You're in luck. I got a new phone today thanks to that fire hydrant fiasco."

"Nice! I wonder how that happened yesterday. Must be an old one or something."

"Yeah..." Jared smiles, gazing into Jensen's welcoming eyes. "Or something."

"For what it's worth, I'm glad it blew up. It got you talking to me more."

It's hard not to smile in Jensen's presence anymore. His energy is just through the roof. Jared finds himself intrigued by the other boy as much as Jensen is with him. There's this strange pull that he has with him, but he's still trying to figure out if it's for good or bad.

At the moment, it's leaning towards good. Maybe just a little.

"I'm glad too, Jensen..."

****

Henry's eyes shoot open in the middle of the night. He's not sure why he's awake, and he's not sure why there are goosebumps spreading all over his body. The man doesn't question it. He can't. Lots of strange shit has been happening lately. Beside Henry is his darling wife of 15 years, sleeping peacefully.

At least one of them can.

He carefully dislodges himself from his wife's arms, stepping foot out of the bed. In their room is the family dog, Champion. A loyal golden retriever. He lifts his head up with a whine as Jeremy stands, and quickly leaves the bedroom to head downstairs. That damn dog has been acting funny ever since he came home. Weird.

Still, Henry pays it no mind. He yawns, shuffling out of the room and into the hallway. The entire house is quiet; no television, no video games, no late night phone calls, nothing. Just the ambient sounds of crickets chirping outside and creaky wooden floorboards inside. Stupid old house. Henry walks down the hall to the stairs, hearing a strange whisper coming from the kitchen below.

"Beth?" Henry asks, thinking it might be his teenage daughter fetching a midnight snack.

For whatever reason, Henry begins to descend the staircase, taking each step down at a time. When he gets to the bottom, he hears the faucet in the kitchen running. Very odd. On his way to the other room, he passes by Champion who cowers away from his master. The dog rushes the other way, avoiding Henry.

Undeterred, the man of the house makes it to the kitchen; he turns on the lights and shuts off the faucet not long after. It's then that the lights begin to blink and flicker strangely overhead. Champion comes galloping into the room, barking directly at Henry himself.

"What's the matter with you? Cut it out. You're gonna wake the whole house."

Still, Champion persists.

"It's just the lights, Champ! Jeez..."

But it's not just the lights, a fact that is unknown to Henry, but not his dog. Out of nowhere, there's a whisper in his ear. A child's voice. A girl's.

You can't run from your past, Henry. Murderer!

Henry whips his head to the right as the kitchen lights blow out simultaneously. He gasps softly, and Champion once again runs away with a whimper. In the darkness, a pair of glowing red eyes appear before Henry, paralyzing him with fear. The eyes come closer and closer until suddenly...

They're gone.

Somewhat relieved, Henry catches a moment to breath. Until he feels someone behind him.

I will feed from you until you're begging for death!

Henry is then thrust out of the room with great force, slamming against the shelf in the dining room. The wind is knocked out of him, and gasps for air, clawing at the floor. It's not long until his wife comes running down the stairs, having woken up from the noise. She drops down to him.

He can't answer her questions, for he doesn't even know what just happened. But he has a feeling that the worst is yet to come.

Chapter Text

It's Thursday.

Jensen's up early, working out in the backyard before school. This is his daily routine.

Get up at 5, do 50 pushups and 40 sit ups until 6, then it's shower and breakfast. During his workouts, Jensen is free of thought. It's just a blank space when he's in the zone.

This morning, however, is much different. He's screwing up his normal exercises because he has a lot on his mind.

Well, that was actually a lie. He only has a few things on his mind, and they involve Jared Padalecki and himself alone in Jensen's house. Watching horror movies. Together. It's silly, he knows, to be thinking so much about a boy who can hardly stand you. Jensen's not blind, nor is he stupid: Jared can be annoyed by his presence at times.

Jensen can't help it! He just thinks he's so goddamn interesting and mysterious, and that right there is some sort of trigger. There's a spark that has ignited within Jensen, and it's all because of Jared. Is it so bad to want to know someone? Is it so bad that he sorta kinda wants to...give Jared a hug that lasts longer than 2 seconds?

Well, yeah. Maybe that is kinda bad, and a little weird. Jared would never go for it anyways. He guards himself well. Something serious has happened to him, something that changed him. Jared has that look in his eye. Loss. Jensen knows it well. Perhaps it's why he wants to always be around Jared, to see him smile, even if it's at Jensen's own expense. He can live with himself now, but he's not too sure Jared's gotten any type of closure for what has going through.

His thoughts soon fade away from sadness, and straight back into anxiety. He's got the films purchased and ready for use on the smart TV already; the first two Elm street movies, and the second and third Friday The 13th movies. A mashup of their favorites. Jensen is absolutely positive that Jared would love it. He has to.

He'd love for him to...

It's 6:33 before Jensen knows it. He was so dazed that he went over his schedule. That damn Padalecki boy has distracted him.

Jensen stops his exercises soon enough, trudging slowly back inside the house. He spots his father in the kitchen pouring himself a hot cup of coffee and checking up on current events on his cellphone. The elder Ackles man quietly looks to his son, nodding in quick acknowledgement. Jensen nods his head back, shearing straight for the stairs.

"A few more weeks until the game, son," his father says, stopping Jensen in his tracks. "Don't let me down."

Jensen clenches his jaw. "I'll try not to."

"Do more than try, Jensen."

Jensen says nothing more to his dad. He shuts his mouth before going up the stairs. Without stopping by his room, the 18 year old goes directly for the bathroom. He turns on the shower and hops in after stripping out of his sweat stained clothes. Under the hot stream of water, Jensen closes his eyes, putting his arm against the wall.

He can't wait to leave this place, to leave it all behind after the year is done. These past 4 years have been nothing but true hell and pain and internal misery. If Josh were still here, he'd--

No.

He can't think about that anymore. No more.

It hurts too much. Even mom couldn't handle it. Her new husband knows the story. A psychiatrist. He tells Jensen that it wasn't his fault, even if he knows that Jensen won't listen. Dennis means well...but he's not one of his damn patients. And he'd like to keep it that way.

Eventually, Jensen finishes his shower time. He grabs a towel from the rack and pats himself dry prior to brushing his already perfectly white teeth in the mirror. Once that's done, he secures the towel around his waist, walking out of the bathroom and back into his room to change. Out of curiosity, Jensen checks his phone for any new messages. Some unread from last night.

"Who are you bringing to the party?"

"Dude, you'll never guess what just happened!"

"Did you catch the game last night?"

"Hey, don't skip on practice Friday."

There are plenty of messages, but none from the one person he wanted to actually hear from. And dammit! He totally forgot about practice tomorrow! That's fine, actually. He can drop Jared home, then pick him up after it's over. No big deal. No problem at all.

Oliver might be pissed off about him skipping the party, though. Won't be hard to make up an excuse. If he's lucky. Jensen swiftly clears his inbox, looking over at his and Jared's messages. There's not a lot of them, but just enough to make Jensen smile. He decides to send a quick one, knowing that Jared would be up by now.

"Morning, Jay. Getting ready for school?"

As Jensen waits, he dresses himself in a loose white t-shirt and black jeans; he almost forgets the underwear. Thankfully, his cell phone chimes to get him on track. It's a message from Jared.

"I was trying to at least. May I help you with something, Ackles?"

"Just wanted to be the first to greet you this morning."

He the send button before he can catch himself. Jensen yelps into the air, dropping his phone on the bed as if he were burned by it. This is bad! This could seriously go left! Jared's not usually the type to entertain such a comment. Jensen panics as Jared's quick reply makes his phone chime. Slowly, he pics up the device, reading the text.

"Well, good morning back. Almost done. You coming?"

It takes him aback that he has to read the message twice, three times until he's able to stitch it together in his mind. Jared was being...civil. Friendly even. He must be dreaming. Still, Jensen writes him back as fast as he can, snatching his car keys from the dresser on his way out of his bedroom.

"I'll be there soon!"

"There" meaning Jared's house.

They've come to an agreement yesterday. Since Jared's guardian has an unpredictable schedule, Jensen will take him to and from school. It's something Jensen is excited about. It means more time spent with Jared outside of school. And, yes, Jared still sits in the backseat, but that's okay. It's perfectly fine with Jensen. He won't push or pry.

It's not long until he reaches the kitchen, picking up a piece of warm toast from the table. His father is sneaking whiskey in his morning coffee, but Jensen notices too quickly.

His father clears his throat, hiding away the small bottle of liquor. He smiles at his son; that charming grin he puts on for clients and business associates. It doesn't work on Jensen.

"Heading out so soon? No real breakfast?"

Jensen fixes his face from a mild grimace to a delicate frown. "Not that hungry anyway. I'll catch something at school. Later."

"Jensen--"

"Bye, Alan."

He doesn't wait for the man who helped create him to correct his phrasing. Jensen's out of the house and into his car in less than 30 seconds.

Drinking before the day even starts? Fucking pathetic. Jensen's used to seeing this, but it's still so jarring. The man hardly knows how to cope with anything, so of course this is what he'll do. Jensen rests his head on the steering wheel for a moment, growling out a harsh expletive. Before long, he puts the key in the ignition, and drives away towards Jared's house.

At least there's something good in his life after all.

****

There's something on Jensen's mind. That much is obvious, yet Jared has no idea what it could be. He's not as talkative and energetic today. Could it be that he's already grown tired of him?

No. That's just impossible. Jensen doesn't give up so easily. Maybe he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and hasn't quite shaken out of his early morning fatigue. Now that's possible. Jared watches the older boy playing ball with his friends from the bleachers. Even if it's just a friendly non-serious game, Jensen is treating it like one. Despite this, he's not doing so hot on the court.

He makes another shot, and the basketball ricochets off the hoop. Even from a distance, Jared can hear the disappointed groan deep within Jensen's throat. Without being authorized, Jensen leaves the game, going to sit at the very bottom of the bleachers. Jared's eyes never leave him. He's supposed to be using this free pass he manufactured for himself to study on this spellbook, but he's too worried about his "friendly acquaintance".

It's close to friends. Almost.

With a long sigh, Jared saves his place in the tome with a bookmark. He takes it with him as he carefully descends from the rickety bleachers. Soon, he finds himself sitting next to the other student. Jensen turns his head, seemingly shocked that Jared is choosing to sit with him instead of running away annoyed.

"Well, hello there." Jensen says in surprise, trying to put on a happy face. It's somewhat genuine.

Jared smiles politely. "Hey. What's up? Noticed you quit the game."

"Yep. I'm...I'm just not feeling it right now."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Jensen looks at him again with a sad smile, shaking his head. "Nah. I don't wanna dump all that on you. This is just a problem I have to face on my own. Somehow. Thank you, though."

The young Warlock nods as he folds his hands together in his lap.

It would be so easy to do it.

To just take another quick peek into Jensen's mind, to figure out what's bothering him.

But Jared has swore to never do that again. The pain he felt in Jensen's head was almost equal to the pain he experienced not too long ago with that motherfucker Carver. So, no, Jared won't do anything so goddamn invasive ever again. At least not towards the one guy who's been consistently nice to him this entire week.

In a flash, he gets an idea. It certainly won't cure the horrible in Jensen's life, but it just might distract him from it. If only for a little bit.

"My cat's full name is Chadwick Michael Murray." Jared says suddenly, looking straight ahead at the basketball court. Jensen frowns, turning to him again. "He wasn't always a cat though. He was a man who fell in love--or lust really--with a Sorceresses. She cursed him to forever walk the Earth as a black cat, and eventually, he unknowingly imprinted on the Padalecki bloodline. He can be annoying, but he's the best companion anyone can ask for. My guardian is the same way sometimes. Always nagging me about this and that, not to use Magic in front of Mortals, or tell them about my life. Always on my case."

Jared looks back at Jensen, snorting at his bewildered and confused expression. The older boy says, "Uh...hmm."

"I just thought you needed to hear some crazy shit from me at least once. You nearly believed me, too."

It takes him a moment, but soon Jensen is laughing harder than ever. He throws his head back, holding onto his seat while a few students look their way in curiosity. It's contagious, because not long after Jensen starts, Jared joins him, though he doesn't laugh quite as hard as he does.

What he just did would usually get him in trouble five times over, but Jensen didn't believe a word he said. So, it's good. Jared presented the truth as a joke, and that's how it must remain. Jensen--no one--can ever know what he truly is. It's a burden, however. Jared wishes that he could confess everything to someone! Hell, maybe he can. That's what priests are for. They wouldn't believe him either.

They'd probably call him a spawn of Satan.

If such a being exists.

"Wow," says Jensen as he comes down from his high. "You almost got me. You're a good storyteller."

Jared shrugs. "One of my many talents."

"What other talents do you have?"

"I can set things on fire using spells and incantations."

"Yeah, I bet." The two boys laugh it off together, ignoring the world around them. For a passing second, it's silent save for the basketball game going on before their eyes. Eventually, Jensen speaks again. "I really needed that. Thanks, Jay. I mean it."

"Don't mention it," the Warlock hums, getting up walk back towards his previous spot. "Like ever. Get back in the game, Ackles. Impress me with your skills or whatever."

He doesn't really expect the guy to listen to him, but as Jared turns around to sit down he sees that Jensen is jogging back towards the court, calling for Coach Cohen to allow him to play again. The coach agrees, passing the ball back to Jensen. And just like that, the game continues as if nothing happened.

However, just as Jensen tosses the ball to the basket, Jared uses Telekinesis to gain control over the inanimate object. It goes straight into the hoop with no problem; no one suspects outside interference, magical or otherwise. Jensen's friends briefly applaud his small victory like the idiots they are, but...

It's worth it to see the smile on his face. Satisfied, Jared returns to his book.

"My name's Jared." He grumbles half-heartedly with a blush.

****

Henry yawns, scarfing down his second cup of coffee for the night. He's on the living room couch trying to fight the inevitable.

He hasn't been sleeping right since that weird night. He's been able to take small power naps, but nothing serious. He can't sleep long enough to dream. But even when he rests his eyes for a moment, Henry can still see the girl. The child he left behind on the road.

Has she come back from the grave to punish him for his past sins? No! It sounds ridiculous when said aloud! There's no such thing as ghosts or hauntings or anything of the sort! It's just his guilt coming back up to torment him. But why? Henry has slept soundly in his bed with his wife for long years without a single nightmare. He's moved on, bettered himself, had kids of his own.

So why!? Why does it come back after all these years to fuck with him!?

Henry doesn't understand it, and maybe he doesn't want to at all. If he ignores these "episodes", it'll pass by. Everything will be alright.

You don't truly believe that, do you?

It's her voice again, taunting him. He digs his nails into the cushions of the couch, gritting his teeth. It's not real, he tells himself. Just his subconscious playing dirty tricks on him, making him see and hear impossible things.

Henry turns on the TV to distract himself. It works for a while, until the channels change on their own. It stops on an empty road at night, with...

Oh, dear God.

She's in the TV, she's in the road!

A car is speeding down the pavement, barreling straight for the girl who grins madly at Henry. He attempts to rise from his seat, but he finds himself paralyzed, unable to move. His eyes stay glued to the screen, horrified as the mangled child speaks to him. He can't even shut his eyes.

You will watch! You will gaze upon the scene you starred in so long ago!

The car gains more speed, and it happens in seconds. The sickening thud her body makes upon impact, it makes Henry's stomach churn. The image repeats itself, rewinding each time after the hit, forcing him to relive the devastation over and over and over again until he finally shouts to be left alone.

Before long, everything stops.

The television shuts off, and he regains control over his body once more. Henry gasps, sinking down in the middle of his seat in horror and exhaustion. When his children come downstairs to check on him, he says nothing.

He only stares blankly ahead, fearing for the next "episode".

****

It's Friday afternoon.

Jared's knee bounds up and down as he eats his lunch.

Today is the day.

The day he and Jensen spend quality time together. Outside of school.

Alone.

Together.

Did he mention that they'd be together? That part kinda seems pretty important. It's completely fucking bananas thinking about this shit. It's stupid. Jared's just going to hang out over at a friend's house, it's no big deal. It's not like he's going out on a date with this fool. It's just a friendly gesture. That's literally all there is to it. Nothing more, nothing less.

And yet...Jared's keeps getting flustered whenever he imagines sitting next to Jensen in silence as a movie is displayed before them.

To calm himself, Jared thinks about his family, his parents. How they always took him out to see the next big action movie of the month, how they smiled when Jared stared at the big screen in awe! He remembers it all, and more. Dad would order two huge buckets of popcorn for himself and for mom, always, without fail.

It was truly spectacular.

But then Carver had to ruin it all by barging into their lives.

Thanks to him, Jared's parents are dead and gone, and he has no surviving family members. Jeremy Carver ruined his life, and had the audacity to smile and laugh about it. When Jared showers, his fingertips brush over the deep scars on his chest and stomach. The sound of Carver's invisible blades whipping through the air, slicing Jared's skin, cutting.

He'll always remember.

He'll never forget.

There's anger now, and Jared's powers lash out. Unwillingly, he causes a dent in the nearby brick wall, though thankfully no one seems to notice. Before it can get worse, Jared is approached by none other than the boy who has inserted himself into his life.

"Hey, buddy!" says Jensen, beaming down at him with a grin. However, he swiftly notices the slight distress on Jared's face, forcing him to take a seat. His expression changes in an instant. "Hey, hey, what's wrong? Okay?"

Jared brushes it off. "I'm fine."

"You sure? Wanna talk about it?"

"Why does this feel so familiar?" Jared laughs softly, earning him a smile from Jensen. "Yeah, no, it's fine. Really. I'm okay."

"Alright, just making sure. Don't wanna knock somebody out. I look out for my friends."

"I'm sure you do."

"I'm serious, Jay. I'd protect you from a 10 story high monster!"

That's an exaggeration, and yet--

"I don't doubt that at all--and how many times are we gonna have this conversation? It's Jared, not Jay. You know what, everytime you even think about calling me Jay, I'll call you Jen. How about that?"

Instead of being uncomfortable with the nickname, it seems to have the opposite effect on the guy. Jensen's eyes seemingly light up in apparent joy, almost like a cartoon character.

"Oh my god, I love that! Jay and Jen, 2 buddies sticking together in the harsh environment that is high school. We can be the next big teen drama show on The CW or something."

Well then.

It seems nothing--absolutely nothing at all--will ever deter Jensen Ackles away from him.

Not that Jared wants him to go away. He's just...surprised is all. Jensen's so determined.

Regardless, Jared chuckles.

"I hate teen dramas. They're all the same: teen girl who's 'different' meets a guy who can't help but to like her. There's an instant attraction between them, and no matter what happens, they always seem to win each other in the end despite the odds being highly stacked against them."

"Wow. That's, uh...pretty much it. That's basically all of the first Twilight movie."

"I know..." Jared says with a slight blush as he drinks his canned soda. "It's my favorite out of them all."

"You like The Twilight Saga?"

"No, not all of them. Just the first. It's dreadful, but I can't look away when it's on. Call it a guilty pleasure."

Jensen laughs, causing Jared to have that strange feeling in his stomach again.

"Whatever you say, Jay."

And just like that, the feeling is gone.

But still--deep in Jared's soul--he is smiling.

The two boys sit together and eat their lunch, talking about nothing and everything and things in between. Jared finds that it's easy to talk to Jensen. He doesn't judge him, not does he push too hard when Jared refuses to answer a particular question.

It's almost as if Jensen was made by a higher being to be sent down here to be with Jared.

"Be with" as in...you know.

Nothing romantic, just...

Whatever. It's hard to explain.

Or maybe Jensen could be...The Other Half? No, that's just silly. That's delving deep in make believe. There are many things in life that are real that people would not believe, but evidence of people being each other's Other Half is scarce, if not non existent.

And if there is such a thing as that, Jared hopes that it's not Jensen.

Maybe in another life though. But not this one. No way.

As they chat, Danneel walks by their table, eyeing Jared suspiciously. In a split second, her expression shifts dramatically from menacing to a simple smirk. He's tempted to read her mind, but it's definitely not worth it. Distantly, Jared believes that she likes him. In a way.

He's not conceited or anything, but half the girls in this building have been giving him signals.

Signals he'll choose to ignore for the remainder of the school year. He's not looking for a romance with anyone. Simple as that. So, Jared watches her saunter on by. She flips her hair in a manner that lets him know what she's trying to say without saying it.

See you at the party.

As if.

****

"I'll be back to pick you up after practice, okay?"

Jared steps out of Jensen's car, rubbing his arm nervously. "Okay. What time? I have to tell my guar...my Jeff."

"Well, I can give you plenty of time to get ready. How's 6:30 sound?"

Jared nods.

"It sounds good."

The older boy grins, putting his hands back on the steering wheel. "Alright. I'll be back soon then. Later."

"See ya."

In no time, Jensen is off and away, and Jared begins to walk faster to the front door. Once he's inside, he spots Jeff and Chad sitting on the sofa together, Chad watching TV and Jeff reading the paper. Their attention is drawn to Jared when he steps in and shuts the door; as usual, Chad hops down to greet him, demanding to be picked up.

"Hey! Hey!" Chad pesters. "Jared! JP! Hey! I missed you. Pick me up! Let me love you! It's been forever!"

"It's only been 6 hours."

"Close enough! Nnnnngh, Jareeeeed!"

Jared grumbles, though he obeys. He bends down to scoop up his best friend. "God, you're so annoying. I hate you."

"Lies. You'll always love me."

"Whatever." Jared nods to Jeff. "Hey. What are you doing home early?"

Jeff hums, setting down the paper. "It was a pretty open and shut case."

"So...what was it?" The young Warlock asks, genuinely curious. "Was I right? It wasn't a Mortal, was it? It was a monster."

"There's a possibility."

"I was right! What kind was it? Do you know?"

"It's hard to tell just exactly what it is. There was supernatural residue all over the victim...and inside her body. It's almost like the entity was hiding inside of her for days, maybe even a week."

An entity? Hiding? For days? Was she possessed?

"Could be a Spirit. Or a Demon." Jared supplies. "I can help you with the research to find out just what kind. Perhaps it was a Fear Demon. Ugh, what were they called again? I always forget--"

"Jared Tristan Padalecki," Jeff sighs, standing up to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "You're too eager for your own good. I understand that you want to help, but you can't. You're not permitted, you're just a..." Jared squints his eyes, daring Jeff to finish that thought. The older Warlock instead chuckles. "A young adult. That's it."

"Nice save."

"But seriously, you can't. You're too young, and--"

"If you even think about saying that I'm unqualified, I will set fire to this house." Jared semi-snaps, stroking Chad's fur. "I know more about spell combinations and silent and verbal hexes and incantations than any Witch or Warlock my age and beyond. I might not have the authority you possess, but don't think for a second that I can't do your job just as good as you, Jeff."

It's silent for a few beats. Jared believes that he's gone too far once he sees the non-expression on his guardian's face. He looks scary like this, like he's looking down at one of the criminals he catches daily.

Finally, the man let's out a deep sigh, scrubbing a hand down his face in exhaustion.

"You are clearly one of the best Warlocks I know, Jared," he says. "There's absolutely no denying that. At such a young age, you've retained all this knowledge. You'd be deadly in a battle between minds, but that does not change the law of our people. It's a stupid law, but it is our law. I wish you could help--God, I wish--but you're not allowed. Besides, I can't let you get too close to whatever that thing was. I would never forgive myself if you...if it..."

He gets it.

He really does. And he can't help that he's such an eager bastard. The prospect of actually doing something--like battling creatures he's only read about--is exhilarating! But reluctantly, Jared lets it slide. For now.

"I understand," Jared says softly. "I do. I best leave it to the professionals, huh?"

Jeff pats Jared's head with a smile, ruffling up the boy's hair some. "That would be wise. I'll need to do some research. In the meantime, tell me about your day. Anything interesting going on?"

And here's where it gets a little difficult.

"Well...I was invited to a party tonight by a few people. Forgot to mention that."

Jeff looks surprised. "Really? That's good news."

"That's horrible news!" Chad whines. "You'll be away from me again!"

"But I declined the invitation--"

"Yay!"

"So I can watch movies at a friend's house instead."

"Nooo!"

"A friend?" Jeff asks, eyebrows raising in mild surprise. "You have friends now? That is...amazing. Do they have names?"

"It's just Jensen. The Mortal boy who takes me to and from school..."

"Oh. I see. So when are you going over to this Jensen boy's house?"

It's starting up again. The protective guardian routine. Chad looks between the two Warlocks, sensing something about to go down. Jared, however, calms himself before turning away, walking up towards the staircase with his pet.

"When he's finished with practice."

"I look forward to meeting him." Jeff raises his voice as Jared nears his room.

"I think not."

"Wanna bet, smartass?"

And just like that, it's over. Jared shuts the door behind him, allowing Chad to hop from his arms and onto the bed. Jared groans, resting his forehead against the door. Jeff and Jensen meeting is a recipe for disaster.

Their personalities would definitely clash with one another. Jared can only hope to beat the man in meeting Jensen before he even dares to ring the bell. He walks over to his closet in a rush, looking for things to wear.

"I really wish you'd stay home, JP." Chad mewls. "You can watch movies with me and Jeff!"

Jared snorts, digging around for clothes. "No. Last time I watched a movie with the both of you, Jeff fell asleep midway through and you just kept providing unnecessary commentary. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I wanna give watching movies with someone else a try."

He pulls two shirts out, showing them to Chad.

"Pick one: red or blue."

"Um...are you actually just watching movies or going on a date with this guy, Jared?"

Jared growls softly, closing the closet door. "Nevermind. I'll figure it out."

He ignores Chad, but he can't disregard that question.

Is this...a date?

****

Jensen arrived on time, and not a minute later, a feat Jared complimented him for. He wasn't dressed up, only in a black button up shirt that wasn't too flashy, and matching jeans. Jared threw on a t-shirt that he hasn't worn in months--years, really. Just something to wear. Sure, he might've changed out of it five times before Jensen got there, but no one needs to know that.

And thank God Jared went outside to meet him before he could even begin to step out of the car. He had to race to him, anything to keep Jensen and Jeff from meeting each other. And he couldn't have Chad screwing up and actually talk to him! That darn cat is known to "accidentally" break the rules.

So now, it's just Jared and Jensen alone in the latter's really nice home. His father is a businessman of some sort, and he's away on a trip for his company. The details are not any of Jared's business, he knows that, so he doesn't ask many questions. Something gives Jared pause, however, as Jensen gives him a small tour.

There's a distinct lack of family portraits or even regular pictures around. It's odd, but again, he keeps quiet about what he doesn't understand. There must a reason.

It's not long before Jensen leads them both into the living room; very lovely. There's not much color variation on the walls, but at least the furniture makes up for it. While he's busy looking around, Jared nearly jumps when he feels Jensen's hands on his shoulders.

"Sorry," the older boy laughs. "Just taking your coat for you. Did you mind?"

Jared flushes at his previous action, nodding. "Yeah--no. Sure. Go ahead."

Once Jared's jacket is lifted from his shoulders, he sits down on the dark red sofa in the middle of the room. In front of him is a large flat screen television mounted on the wall. Impressive. Jared never understood the need to have one the size of a modest refrigerator, but whatever floats other people's boats.

After putting their jackets away, Jensen waltzes into the kitchen, presumably to grab some snacks. Jared's soon proven right.

"Hey, do you like popcorn?" Jensen asks. From his seat, the Warlock can hear him scold himself. "Ugh, what am I saying? Everyone likes popcorn! It's too delicious to pass up honestly. The buttery, salty goodness is just amazing. No one can resist its call. It's not theater popcorn, but it's good. I promise. I swear--okay, I'm talking way too much about popcorn. Did you want your own bowl, or...?"

At Jensen's flurry of words, Jared finds himself laughing, if only silently. "We can share, Jensen."

"Great! Want something else while I'm out here? Drinks? Snacks?"

"Surprise me."

"You got it."

Jared settles in his seat, crossing his legs properly with his hands in his lap. He can hear Jensen rushing around in the kitchen, muttering to himself, fluttering around the room; the microwave door opens and closes, and then a series of button presses are heard. In no time, Jensen comes back out with a handful of treats and bottled soda.

Jensen sits next to Jared on the sofa, though not too close. He lays everything on the coffee table in front of them with a grin.

"I didn't know what to get at the store, so I got two of almost everything."

The Warlock scans the items, stopping only when he sees two unopened bags of sour gummy worms. A favorite of his. He hasn't had any in a long time. His eyes widen, and his mouth waters. Jensen catches on, smiling.

"You want them?"

Jared tones down his desire by 45 percent. "I suppose. I mean...if that's alright with you."

"Of course it is! Pick whatever you want. Go to town."

Without needing to be told twice, Jared comically snatches up the sweets, earning him another laugh from his host. As he opens them, Jensen fiddles with the TV using the remote. The opening credits to A Nightmare on Elm Street play on the screen, forcing Jensen to rewind and pause immediately at the start.

The microwave beeps, and it has the older of the two racing back to the kitchen. It's not long until Jensen's back with a huge bowl of popcorn, grinning happily from ear to ear. That smile could melt the coldest heart in existence, Jared is sure of that. It's one of the many things he's sure of in life.

Jensen takes his seat again, farther down the couch. Somehow, it makes Jared a little sad...so...he discreetly scoots closer to him, but only once.

After everything is set up, Jensen finally presses play on the movie. They nod to one another, and immediately settle in for their movie time.

****

"So, like...I never understood the whole Christmas sweater and fedora thing on Freddy. It's just so weird. Sure, he didn't know he was going to be burnt alive, but he could've at least changed into a different shirt or something."

"Sssh!"

"Oh--! My bad. Sorry. Let's watch."

****

"Oh my God..."

"I know! It's pretty sick, right?"

"The movie literally just started, and already the lead girl gets an icepick to the freaking skull!"

"False Protagonist, Jay. False Protagonist."

"Damn...I was really rooting for her after last time."

****

"This movie is very strange."

"For once, I agree with you. Less scary and more, uh..."

"Comical? Bad?"

"Yes. I'm glad I only watched the first Elm Street. This movie is filled to the brim with subliminal messages about the main character."

"How do you mean, Jay?"

"You seriously don't see it, *Jen?*"

"Er...no. I don't."

"Hmm."

****

"Oh, so that's how he gets his mask!"

"Yup!"

"The poor kid he got it from..."

"Jokesters almost never make it in horror movies."

"Do you think I'd make it in one, Jensen?"

"Of course you would! How is that even a question? You're so much smarter than all of those dumbasses. You'd take down the killer before he even killed anyone."

"I...well, okay."

"Okay."

****

The movies have been over for a long while. Now, it's just the two of them eating snacks and chatting idly.

"And I never saw it again." Jensen explains, telling a story about a dog that used to visit him in his backyard. "I wanna believe that he found some cute little stray, got hitched, and had little babies running amok."

Jared takes a sip of his soda with a smile. "Marriage and kids? That's a good ending for most."

"I guess so. He was a handsome dog, like me!"

"Oh, so you're a dog, huh? Chasing after the ladies?"

"Hey--I don't chase after the ladies, first of all!" Jensen feigns being insulted. "They all come flocking to me."

"Oh, I'm sure."

"It's not like I...I want them to or anything. They just do. Sometimes I wish they'd leave me alone."

Jensen's voice is quieter now, and there's something being said without it actually being said. Jared doesn't question him. Even if he did, Jensen would just spill it all out in the open anyways. That's how trusting he is. At least towards Jared. It makes no sense. None at all.

"Can I tell you something, Jared?"

Jared bites the inside of his cheek, nervous. "Sure."

"My life isn't so perfect as it seems. When people at school look at me, they see this cool jock with a nice house, and a nice car who's a hit with everyone. On the inside, I'm nothing like that. People don't know the real me. I want them to. I want them to know me so bad...but I can't. My dad, he's...he just..."

Jensen clears his throat, sitting on the edge of his seat with his hands together, staring ahead.

"He wants everything to be perfect. He strives for perfection. Perfect son, perfect house. He's laid out a detailed plan for me, but I don't want it. I never really wanted to play basketball, that was all him, though I still like it. He wants me to be this proper little robot, to marry and have kids so he can control their lives too. I don't want that. I don't want what he's trying to force me into..."

Jared licks his lips. "Why are you telling me this, Jensen?"

"Because I trust you."

"You don't even know me, so how could you possibly trust me?"

"It's your eyes." The young man mutters, turning his head so that they're looking at each other. "Something about your eyes tells me that I can trust you with anything. 'I will never betray your trust'. That's what they say when I look into them. I wanna know you more though, maybe so that you can learn to trust me as well..."

Jared is puzzled.

How could he ever find the words for that? Is Jensen even aware of what it is he's saying? Jesus, this is insane. The Warlock is unable to form words; he puts his hand over his mouth, clearing his throat in shock. This is moving so fast. He's getting whiplash. Still, he admires Jensen's confession...if that's what it was. A confession of what, Jared does not know.

As a sign of solidarity, Jared reaches over to put his hand over Jensen's, moving closer to him again.

"I'd never betray a friend's trust."

"We're friends now?"

"We'll see how this night ends first, I guess." He teases.

In turn, Jensen chuckles while rolling his beautiful green eyes. There's nothing but laughter between them for a time, but then it dies down. Jared has retracted his hand, and they both look at the other with small smiles.

"Tell me more about Magic, Jay." Jensen pleads, slinking down to floor with his back against the sofa. "I wanna hear more of your stories."

Stories, he says.

Jared snorts, following Jensen to the floor. "Why?"

"Because I like the way you talk about it. I told you before that you're a great storyteller."

"You don't believe it's real?"

"I'm hoping you can't change my stubborn mind." Jensen laughs.

The Warlock shakes his head, staring up at the ceiling with a smirk. This is very much against the rules. He shouldn't be doing this, but since Jensen won't believe him anyway, it might be okay. Yeah. He'll just think he's weird or a little insane.

Ugh.

"Okay," Jared sighs. "Well...Magic didn't just show up one day. At least that's what most think. It was always there, from the very beginning. No one knows how it came to be. God? Gods? Devils? Demons? Can't say. But it was always around. There are many people gifted with the ability to control and manipulate the arcane forces of Magic, but then there are those who don't. Mortals. Some are born from Mortal parents, some can be born from Magic using parents."

Strangely, it's a relief letting all of this out. He finally has someone to talk to, even if Jensen thinks it's all false and make-believe.

Jared draws his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "Magic is more than a tool, it's a feeling, it's an emotion, it's a being in and of itself. One could say that Magic is sentient, like the earth or an insect. It exists to thrive. When everything is gone, Magic will still be here to be used by others who are touched by its vast knowledge."

"Is it possible to shoot lightning or throw fireballs?"

"Maybe..." Jared hums. "Who knows? It's all fiction, right? You can do whatever you want."

Jensen laughs. "You have no idea how much I want to do what I want. Anyways, my point still stands you're good at this; telling stories. I was almost convinced."

"I'm broken up about it, believe me." The Warlock says dryly. He looks at the time. "People were expecting us at Oliver's party tonight."

"They were."

"I'm glad I didn't go." Jared mumbles quietly. "Shitty loud music and annoying drunk teenagers everywhere. I like the quiet. I liked this."

Jensen looks at him again, surprised. After a few seconds of shock, Jensen's expression morphs into a heartwarming grin. "I liked this too...and I like you."

No amount of Magic could have shielded him from that statement. Jared tries to keep the blush on his face down to a minimum, but even he finds that to be extremely difficult. He continues to look away from the older boy, just until his embarrassment dies down some.

"Yeah, you're okay." He rushes out, burying his face in his knees. "You're an okay person. Whatever."

"Glad you think so."

Without looking, Jared can feel and hear Jensen rising up from the floor, walking away to the other side of the room. Jared's head soon whips up when he begins to hear music playing from the stereo system near the television. Jensen has turned on some kind of song from one of today's biggest artists. A guy. His voice is smooth and a little seductive. Jared finds himself actually liking the beat and the song itself.

Meanwhile, Jensen is moving his shoulders and his hips to the music in a hilarious manner. It makes Jared giggle, then snort.

"What on earth are you doing?" Jared questions. His eyebrow is raised and he's smirking.

"Dancing." Jensen answers. "We don't need their party when you and I have our own."

"Um...no."

Jensen makes his way to Jared, still gyrating around. It makes the younger of the two feel strange. "Um, yes."

"I don't dance."

"Neither do I, yet here we are."

"Here you are."

"Hey," Jensen scoffs, reaching out his hand towards Jared. "Just shut up and dance to this song with me."

The nerve of this imbecile.

The balls!

Jared likes it.

Eventually, Jared rolls his eyes, taking Jensen's hand in his. Jensen helps him to his feet, and once he's on his feet, Jensen begins dancing around the living room. Jared watches him in awe, noticing how he's currently living in the moment and loving it, without a single goddamn care in the world. He points to Jared as the song continues on, mouthing the words as they pass by.

Entranced by Jensen's enthusiasm, Jared soon joins in on the "epic dance party" with the older boy, though he doesn't move as fiercely.

At first.

Midway through the song, both boys are practically doing what the song is calling for them to do: dance as if you're at home, enjoying yourself. No need for parties, just a radio, a buddy/partner, and a song to hold you both over.

It's the liveliest that Jared has felt since the tragedy that befell upon him and his parents. It feels great to let loose and pretend that the world has stopped for just a moment. In a blink, he finds himself closer to Jensen, dancing next to him, attempting to mimic his movements. Jensen chuckles, inadvertently placing both hands on Jared's hips as the music plays.

Their cheeks redden simultaneously as Jensen tries to show him the move he was doing.

Butterflies barrel around the lining of Jared's stomach as they continue to dance closely together.

What is this...?

****

It's all over so quickly. They're in Jensen's car now.

He's driving Jared home.

With Jared in the front seat. "Quite the character development," Jensen had said when he expected Jared to take up his usual post in the back. Hell, it surprised Jared too. It was like instinct, though, just climbing in the front with Jensen.

Felt like he belonged right there, by his side, as strange as it may sound.

They're both quiet with only soft late night jams playing on the radio. Every once in a while, Jensen will look over at Jared, playing it off by fiddling with the radio's settings or messing with the rear view mirror.

It's adorable, if not downright cute.

Here's Ackles, a guy with the face of an Angel and the personality of a small eager pup. Underneath all of that is something quite dark, different from the rest. Battle scars, unlike the literal ones Jared bears on his skin everyday.

In time, Jensen pulls up outside of Jared's house. The living room lights are on, signifying that Jeff (and presumably Chad as well) will undoubtedly be sitting where he left them: on the couch. It's well after 11:00, though Jared never told them when he'd come back. Checking his phone, he sees at least 6 missed calls from his guardian. Just perfect. If he hasn't already, Jeff will send out a team of Peacekeepers to seek him out. Regardless, Jared hangs back with Jensen.

"Well," the older boy starts. "Here it is. Your stop."

"My stop." Jared echoes.

"Your guardian must be worried about you. I should've gotten you home sooner. But time flies when you're having too much fun, ya know?"

"I did have fun. A lot of fun. Thank you for this, Jensen. I really enjoyed myself tonight. I suspect we'll have to answer to your friends on Monday."

And Danneel, but Jared doesn't say anything.

Jensen shrugs. "Screw that. We're not obligated to follow cliques anymore, this isn't the 80's. The only people we have to answer for is ourselves. We're good."

"I...agree with you."

"Good." Jensen sighs. He puts his right arm behind Jared's seat. "Would you like me to walk you to the door?"

"That wouldn't be necessary. I'm not a damsel, I'm perfectly capable of walking in the dark."

"Didn't say you weren't, just wanted to enjoy your company for little be longer..."

Oh.

"Oh..."

"Yeah..."

"Well, if that's the case, let's go, Jen."

"You keep saying it like it's an insult, but I love it anyways."

Jared laughs as the exit the vehicle together with the engine still running. Jared waits for Jensen to come to his side with jacket in hand. They trek up the walkway together, bantering further; Jensen bumps into Jared with his shoulder, prompting the boy to retaliate playfully.

Their shenanigans cease as they come to stand in front of the door together. Jared notices the television being muted inside. Those little snoops.

"Here we are," Jensen beams. "Again."

Jared nods. "Again."

"Do you love repeating me for dramatic effect or something? If so, don't stop. It's cute."

"'Cute', he says."

"See!"

Without warning, Jared giggles, but stops himself short. "Yeah, whatever."

Jensen fidgets with the pockets of his own jacket, moving his jaw around nervously. "You know--no. Nevermind. I have a feeling this was just a lucky break."

"What?"

"I was just gonna say that, if you want, we could do this again sometime. Maybe go to a restaurant or mini-golfing."

"Golfing? Seriously?"

"Yeah...I know, it was a dumb idea."

Jared shakes his head, taking a step closer to Jensen. "No, I don't believe it was."

Jensen grins and blushes, making no effort to hide it away.

"You amuse me, Ackles," Jared continues. "In a positive way, I assure you. That doesn't happen often anymore. I really appreciate everything tonight. Thank you."

"The pleasure was mine."

And then he feels himself moving on his own, with no control over his body. He feels Jensen's body heat closing in on his, and he can smell the older boy's natural scent. He smells two times is age, and twice as lovely. It's intoxicating.

Soon, Jared closes his eyes, leaning in as Jensen does the same.

Their breath mingles together, and right before their lips touch...

The porch light turns itself on.

Jeff. Dammit.

Jared and Jensen's eyes shoot open, and they awkwardly step away from each other. Jared clears his throat, while Jensen just rubs the back of his neck in silence. He laughs quietly, stepping backwards off the porch back to the walkway.

"So, I guess I'll see you on Monday then."

Jared bites his lip. "Yes, I guess so."

"I never got an answer, Jay. It's the end of the night. Are we friends?"

"I'd like to think so, yeah. Definitely. You've proven yourself worthy."

Jensen's grin resurfaces once again, and he nearly stumbles down to the ground. Weirdo. Should be looking where he's going.

"A high honor, indeed."

"Goodnight, Jensen."

"Night, Jared."

It doesn't take long for Jensen to hop back into his car. He smiles at Jared one last time, waving as he takes off into the night. Jared waves back before he leaves, and touches his lips gently, thinking of what he was clearly about to do not even five minutes ago!

His cheeks redden almost instantly, and he bolts through the door to find Jeff still on the couch. However, he's caught when he tries to turn the volume up again on the TV. Jared rolls his eyes, turning off the porch light with his powers.

"Hey--Hey, kid!" Jeff smiles. "What's up? Have a nice night?"

"Cut the crap, eavesdropper. I know you were listening, or trying to at least. And before you start, I'm sorry for not telling you what time I might be home. The movies were longer than I thought they were, and I had my phone on silent. That settles everything?"

Jeff grunts, knowing that his cover is blown. He stands up, and Chad hops from the couch to greet Jared as usual. "Not quite. The Mortal. Is this going to be a lasting thing between you two?"

"I don't understand..."

"This 'friendship', or whatever you guys have. I just need you to be extremely careful. Mortals are capable of doing strange and evil things to those who are unsuspecting. Masters of manipulation."

Jared is on the defensive about Jensen.

Again.

He knows exactly what Jeffrey is insinuating.

"He's not that kind of Mortal. They've died out with the rest of their kin in Salem."

"Descendants of the Trials will always be feared, and there will always be Mortals who are against us, working in the shadows waiting to strike."

"Well, Jensen is not one of them. He's my friend..." Jared picks Chad up who doesn't say a single thing, purring in his master's arms. The Warlock heads upstairs after that. "And I'm not talking about it anymore. Goodnight."

"Yeah. Goodnight."

Jared lays on his bed fully clothed, looking up past the ceiling and into the night sky with something akin to x-ray sight. The moon is in a crescent shape tonight; partly cloudy with a few visible stars up above.

Chad soon climbs in top of him, perching himself on Jared's chest.

"Something's on your mind." Jared states. "Say it."

"No."

"Okay."

"Alright, fine! I'll admit it since you're practically begging: I'm sad and jealous that you have a new buddy to hang out with."

Jared sits up partly. "You're jealous of Jensen?"

"Duh, I just said that."

"Yeah, but you honestly have nothing to be worried about. Everything is fine, Chaddy-Patty."

Even though Chad can't make complex expressions with his face as a cat, Jared can tell he'd be looking pissed off as a Mortal. "Chaddy-Patty? Really? That is such a horrible name, and if you ever call me that again I'll hack up a hairball in your face while you sleep."

Jeez. Okay.

Despite the lukewarm threat, Jared rolls his eyes, continuing his stargazing. The immortal cat lays down on his owner's chest, humming.

"So, anyways...tell me about your little outing. Start to finish, leave nothing out. I wanna know everything! What did you eat? What did you watch? How many people died altogether!?"

"Oh my--if I tell you, will you finally just shut up and let me be for once?"

"50/50. Now spill."

Jared exhales deeply and slowly, but reluctantly pets Chad's head as he tells him the story of his night.

From start to finish, of course, skipping some minor details.

Maybe not so minor.

****

It's driving him insane, mad even.

His eyes are red rimmed and bloodshot.

No sleep, no sleep, no sleep!

If he sleeps, he'll see her, but he just doesn't have the energy anymore. Henry takes another long pull on his beer in the kitchen, downing his fourth drink for the night. As usual, everyone's upstairs.

Sleeping soundly. A pleasure he is being denied of as of late.

This girl is haunting him.

It's gone beyond the limits of hallucinations and guilt. This is real. Everything that's happening to him is real, but no one will believe him. He's grown distant to his wife and children; the family dog runs the other way when he's around.

Suddenly, Henry hears his car alarm blaring from the garage towards the side of the house. Startled, he stands straight up, knocking over the few bottles on the table and the chair he was sitting on.

He covers his ears, willing the noise to stop, but it doesn't. It only gets louder and louder, more intense and more vicious until it becomes too much for him. Henry slams his last bottle down on the floor, stepping over the shards without a care.

He storms into the garage, huffing and puffing. Without warning, he uses his elbow to smash the front window of his car, unlocking it. Henry then proceeds to rip out the random wires below the steering wheel until the alarm quiets down.

The family man screams in anger, throwing his hands in his hair, pulling at the strands. As he does this, the garage door shoots open, revealing the empty street, and what lies in wait in the empty street.

That little girl. Still mangled, but not grinning this time.

Frustrated, Henry eventually shuffles out of the garage, and into the street, dropping to his knees in front of the girl. He cries, looking up into her lifeless eyes, pleading.

"Leave me alone." He weeps. "I'm sorry. Just...leave me...alone...please."

And then she grins again. It's sinister, and deadly.

Look both ways before crossing the street.

In a flash, she disappears. Her warning is heard too late, and car soon comes speeding down the street, colliding with Henry.

He dies on impact.

The entity, sated for now, flies above the town in search for another victim. In time, it eventually locks onto another male.

A boy.

18 with bright green eyes and many, many freckles.

He has a past, a delightful, delicious, painful past, and it must feed from him, his fears, his failures.

Jensen, I have come for you...

Chapter Text

It's cold, has shivering, standing in the middle of a frozen wasteland. Miles upon miles of snow in the blistering winds. Jensen sees him then, a little boy in a puffy coat with mittens and ice skates. The boy's skin is pale, and his lips cold and blue.

Jensen is scared, he shakes, curling in on himself as the ice below begins to quiver and quake. The boy appears before him in a flash, face to face. It grins.

"Take a dip, Ross."

In seconds, Jensen falls through the ice, screaming under the water as the hole he fell into seals itself shut.

Jensen awakens abruptly coughing, vomiting off to the side of his bed. He heaves, panting deeply as he gets rid of the last bits of his sick.

"What the fuck was that?" He mumbles to himself, groaning through the aftershocks.

Taking a look down at the floor where he hurled, Jensen finds that the contents that came rushing from his throat was water. Just water. No trace of anything else. The young man sighs, closing his eyes briefly before reluctantly trudging towards the bathroom in his room in search of clean up materials. Just as he steps inside, his stomach churns, and he bolts towards the toilet where he vomits water yet again.

It's strange.

And it's also the worst.

Literally the worst.

Once he's finished, Jensen flushes the toilet. He slumps down, resting his head on the cool tiled floor below. Clawing at a nearby rug, Jensen breathes in and out slowly. He doesn't recall drinking or eating anything that would cause this kind of response from his body. A few snacks and a couple bottles of Mountain Dew never really hurt anyone!

After some time mulling over the state of his belly, Jensen finally stands up to grab a few cleaning materials from under the sink. When he returns to his room, he kneels down to begin spraying and wiping up his mess. There's no smell, but that doesn't make it any less disgusting and filthy.

As he cleans, Jensen thinks back to that insane dream that woke him up.

No. That wasn't a dream. This was more intense. It felt like a...

"Nightmare." Jensen mumbles out loud.

Nightmares are sinister, dark, evil.

Cold.

And he dreamt of him. He hasn't dreamt of him in a long time, but that wasn't him. It was a different version of him. Jensen's mind was twisting the memory of him, making him into something he wasn't. Yet he still said the name. Ross. His middle name, the name he used to call Jensen all the time.

Suddenly, Jensen feels a tear running down his cheek. He wipes it away quickly, pretending that it was never even there. It's best if he just forgets. He should just...forget about it.

He has to.

****

"...and in other news today, local man Henry Brighton was found killed outside of his family home this morning by an apparent hit and run. His body was discovered by his wife who has declined to comment. The vehicle that struck Mr. Brighton was found only a few yards down the road from the scene. Currently, there are no suspects in custody, baffling authorities. It's unknown if this is connected to the murder of Lori Sanders, a woman who was also killed earlier this week. More when we return from the break."

Jared turns off the television, dropping the remote in between him and Jeff on the couch. He can hear the older Warlock sighing sharply, most likely in regret or something very similar. Chad lays in Jared's lap, silent as well. The youngest of the three attempts to process the information; he tries piecing it all together, but it's not making sense. Not yet anyways. But one thing is for sure...

"It's connected," he says, squinting his eyes thoughtfully. "It has to be. Two deaths in such a short span of time. It's not a coincidence."

Jeff nods. "It most definitely is connected. Something out there--some monster--is killing people. Mortals. I just need to figure out what."

"I'm free today. Maybe you need a hand--?"

"Absolutely not."

"You are no fun, Jeff."

"I'm also a firm believer in upholding the law, Mortal and magical alike."

"Which is exactly why you have no wife."

"Jared."

"Or husband--I'm not judging; everyone's a little gay nowadays--"

"Jared!" Jeff snaps. He tones it down when he spots Jared flinching. "For once, could you please not with the smartass attitude? I'm pretty stressed out as it is with the damn Council breathing down my neck."

Jared swallows, quieter. "They want this contained quickly and quietly without anymore casualties. Of course they do. And you still have no idea what's doing this?"

"I'm hoping I can talk to the wife today, get some information, find witnesses, anything. Who knows just how many this thing has killed in this place!?" Jeff stands up, shrugging on his jacket that holds his gun and badge. Like a real Mortal cop. "I gotta stop it."

"Well, if you need anything I'm right here."

"Yeah, there is something I need from you. A promise: don't interfere with this case. It's very sensitive."

"You already told me not to."

"Yes, but should the thought cross your mind, don't. The Council would abhor--"

"Having a highly skilled Warlock beyond his years 1-upping them at their own job? I know. And while I would relish the look on their faces should I go through with it, I'll respect your wishes. I won't interfere."

Jeff raises an eyebrow. "But do you promise?"

Jared flashes him an innocent smile laced with ulterior motives. "Of course. Have a good day."

"Yeah, yeah, you too."

Soon, Jeff leaves the house; the sound of the front door closing echoes around the house. Not long after Jared hears his guardian's car driving off, he carefully sets Chad aside to dig in his pocket for his cellphone. He brings up the web browser, typing in the deceased man's name from the news. Chad looks up at the phone, attempting to sneak a peek.

Jared's fingers tap across the touchscreen, searching for pictures and articles.

"What are you doing?" Chad asks.

"Sleuthing."

"But Jeff told you not to."

"I know."

"You promised."

"I know...but he needs help. He won't crack this thing without me."

The black cat huffs, stopping to bathe himself. "Disobedient rebel. This is why I love you. What are you hoping to find?"

"A clue, maybe?" Jared groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Or a lead--I don't really know. This is strange. I've never tried to solve a murder before, but I am determined."

"You wanna rub it in their faces."

"Naturally."

Jared goes back to work, looking up pictures of Henry and his family. He needs to find something out of the ordinary, or anything that can give him a leg up on the "competition".

He loves and admires Jeff dearly, and appreciates the work he does...but--and there is always a but--Jared is tired of being treated like a child.

In the eyes of the law, he is one, but he's got powers above the law, so...

That settles that.

Jared eventually finds more pictures of Henry with his family, and it makes him a little sad. He was this ordinary working class man providing for his family, and now he's dead, ripped away by some entity with a hard-on for mayhem and gory violence.

Whatever this thing is, Jared will find it. And when he does, it won't be much of a problem anymore, and the town will finally again become the sleepy little hamlet Jared liked when he moved here.

In the blink of an eye, something catches his attention. Jared scrolls back up, zooming in on an image that makes him smirk.

It's a picture of the entire family with the family dog.

"Well, I have my first witness." Jared declares, showing Chad.

"A...dog?"

"Yes. Animals can see what most can't."

"And you're going to talk to him?"

"No, not me..." The Warlock stands up while grabbing Chad to rest in his arms. "Just you. I can't speak to animals, despite that popular myth. You're the only exception."

"You can't mind zap him and listen to his thoughts?"

"It's all just noise. Very loud, strange noises. No words. Now stop complaining. We have somewhere to be."

Chad scoffs, yet Jared knows that he's happy to be wanted and needed right now. "How are we getting there?"

"I'll call in a favor." Jared smiles, going back to his phone to dial a friend.

****

Jensen stares into the mirror of his bathroom, examining his face, his eyes. He seems fine, healthy in every way possible. It's just...that nightmare really fucked him up badly, messed with his head.

It happened years ago, and he still blames himself. If he hadn't...if Jensen just listened, he would still be alive.

As Jensen continues to mull over his horrible dream, he hears his phone ringing in his room. He sighs, taking one last look at his reflection before waltzing back into the bedroom. He takes one look at the screen and his heart flutters in anticipation. It's Jared!

Without a second thought, Jensen answers the call. He clears his throat whilst trying not to sound so eager.

"Hey--Hey! Hi, Jared."

"Hey," comes Jared's sweet voice. So soothing, so welcoming. "How are you?"

"Me? I'm good." He lies. "Never better. What's up?"

"Just wanted to ask for a favor is all...if you're not too busy."

Jensen nearly jumps to the ceiling with joy, but reels it in quickly. He pulls on a pair of sweatpants, looking for his shoes in the cluttered room.

"Nah, I'm not busy. My schedule is clear."

"Okay, great! I just need a ride to the library. I would've asked my guardian, but he had to work at the last minute."

"No, no, I get it. What time did you wanna go? Anytime is good for me."

"Erm...about 45 minutes to a half-hour, give or take. I'll let you know."

"You got it."

"I know I'm springing this on you so suddenly--"

"It's fine. I mean it. Anytime you need help, just call on me. I won't let you down."

It's quiet for several long seconds on Jared's end; he returns shortly, tone even and leveled, almost as if he's holding back on saying something.

"Thank you, Jensen. Very much."

Jensen smiles into the phone. "No problem. See you soon. Bye."

Jared ends the call first, and Jensen sets down his phone on the nightstand. He tucks his tongue in between his teeth, grinning boyishly.

Jared called him.

Jared needs him for something.

It feels...kinda good.

Don't let it get to your head, Ross.

Jensen whips his head to the right, looking for the voice that just spoke to him. He finds nothing, but the voice speaks to him again in his left ear this time.

To think he actually likes you is laughable. You're an idiot. Who could ever love you after what you did!?

"Shut up!" Jensen yells to no one.

His voice bounces off the walls, smacking uncomfortably back into his frustrated face. Puzzled and angry, Jensen begins flinging up the clothes from the floor in an attempt to find his sneakers. The mysterious voice in his head has gone silent, but it still torments Jensen.

It sounds like him.

God--it sounds just like Josh...

****

This house is teeming with supernatural residue. It might as well be a Demon hangout or a fucking portal to the Underworld itself.

The stench is strong here. Definitely a malicious entity.

Jeff grunts when he steps through the threshold. There's nothing here anymore but a grieving family, and a frightened dog. It's best to tread lightly. When he spots Mrs. Brighton, he sees that she's being questioned by two young officers. They seem rather inexperienced. It almost makes Jeff feel bad for them.

Almost.

He walks over to them, interrupting the trio as he pulls out his badge. He wills the item to morph into a Mortal badge resembling one from an agent of the FBI. Though there are Witches and Warlocks in the FBI, Jeff decided not to live a double life. Peacekeeping is just fine with him. Jeff shows them the badge as they begin to stand.

"Agent Morgan with the FBI. That will be all gentlemen."

"What in the hell?" A cop snarls, upper lip curling in anger. "We weren't notified that the FBI was on this case."

Jeff rolls his eyes, putting away his badge. "And I wasn't notified that I'd be here without my coffee, but here we are. As I said, that'll be all gentlemen."

Before that same cop can retort with a less than stellar comeback, his partner nudges for him to stop, and they go on their way out the door. Once they leave, Jeff sits across from the saddened widow, grabbing her hand in his hands. She allows this, cheeks stained from her tears.

"My condolences, Mrs. Brighton," Jeff says. "I know this must be difficult for you and your family."

She sniffles, nodding solemnly. "Thank you."

"I don't want to trouble you, I just need to ask you a few questions."

"Okay...okay."

"Right. How have things been lately with your husband, Mrs. Brighton? Has he been acting strange at all these past few days?"

Mrs. Brighton nods, wiping away her tears with a tissue. "Yes. He has. He's not been himself for a while now."

"Tell me, Mrs. Brighton."

"Well, he...Henry had trouble sleeping. It had never been like this in all our years together. Everything was fine; we slept together peacefully...then it stopped. Henry fought sleep whenever he could, staying up all night drinking coffee and sitting on the sofa, away from me. I asked him if something was troubling him. He always said no. But..."

"But what?" Jeff queries.

"The nightmares..." the widow mutters softly. "He kept having nightmares."

This piques Jeff's interest significantly. This could help.

"Did he tell you what the nightmares were about? Was someone after him?"

Mrs. Brighton shakes her head in the negative. "No. He never said. Who killed my husband, Agent Morgan? Was it the same bastard that killed that young woman days ago? Is this related?"

Jeff sighs in regret. "Perhaps. We're working on it, Mrs. Brighton."

He cannot possibly tell her that this is a paranormal investigation. The being that they're chasing isn't Mortal, and can never be brought to justice, at least by Mortal standards. The only justice that can be brought upon this filth is an Exorcism back into the pits of the Underworld.

Jeff stands to his full height, checking the time. "Mrs. Brighton, do I have your permission to ask your children some questions?"

"Yes. Yes, of course."

"Alright."

He follows the widow through the house and into the kitchen where are children are sitting alone at the table. They rise to hug their mother, surrounding themselves in love and warmth. It causes Jeff to shift on his feet a little. That would be nice to have...but maybe he already has that, just on a smaller scale.

The Peacekeeper nods to them, mentally preparing himself to wipe their minds of this encounter when he's finished.

****

"I gotta admit, I was a little surprised you called me today."

"Yeah? Why's that?"

"Well, I just, uh, I thought--ah, nevermind. So, why are you headed to the library? Something interesting there?"

"I like books."

"Cool, cool...so you're bringing your cat with you?"

"Chad likes books too."

"Meow."

Jared quietly nudges his feline companion after hearing the indignant and sarcastic meow. It was half spoken, yet half growled at the same time. Chad is very aware of the danger he's in; he must not reveal himself to be anything other than a simple black cat.

Despite Jensen's cool demeanor, Jared is positive that even he would flip his shit if Chad started randomly chatting with him.

"That's cool, I guess." says Jensen, taking a moment to grin down at Jared's lap. "He's pretty chill. Does he go on car rides often?"

"No, not often, but he's comfortable in them. He likes a lot of things. One could say he's practically...human."

"Oh. Right. He was a person once, or so you say."

"MEOW!?"

Jared chuckles nervously over Chad's voice. He smiles at Jensen who only frowns at the strange sound. He shrugs it off soon enough though. "Yeah, he sure was. All just make believe though. He's just 100 percent cat."

"...hmm...Mrreeow."

"So talkative today, Chad. If you keep this up I might have to make you sleep in your own bed for a while." Jared threatens, staring down at him. He tops it off with a solid grin that means that he meant every word. "And we both know you wouldn't like that."

At his master's tone, Chad stops being the smartass that he is, and relaxes. Jensen however, snorts, amused. "Cute. He understands. Being exiled from your bed must be a terrible punishment. I'd hate for that to happen to me--I, uh--"

Jared snickers, turning his head towards Jensen with a small small. "What?"

"I, uh, didn't mean it like that, I just--I meant that getting kicked out of your bed is...bad? Like it's a place I'm sure many want to be in--"

"Jensen--"

"That was worse--oh my God!"

The Warlock bites his lip softly, looking out of the window. "I'm going to pretend that this conversation didn't take a turn."

"I'd rather forget too...oh man..."

The rest of the ride to the library is filled with silence; the occasional chuckle from both boys pierce through sporadically, though it doesn't last long. After some time, Jensen pulls up to the building, causing Chad to lift his head at the sudden stop. Jared holds him in his arms again, getting ready to exit the car.

"Thanks again, Jensen."

Jensen smiles. "No problemo. Did you need me to pick you up after you were done? Like I said, I'm not doing much today."

With his hand on the door handle, Jared locks eyes with his new friend. The intensity within his gaze nearly sets his heart on fire. Jesus Christ, Jensen Ackles is so stunning in this light! A slight blush covers his cheeks, and he quickly scrambles out of the vehicle, talking faster than normal.

"NoThankYouThat'sOkay."

"Okay. Well, if you change your mind, I'm a call away. See ya later, Jare-Bear!"

"Jare-Ed!"

"That's what I said! Bye!"

Jensen pulls off before Jared can berate him further on the ridiculous butchering of his name. Once his car is out of sight, Jared sighs, setting Chad down on the ground where the cat stretches himself out. When he's finished, he looks up at Jared with a rather annoyed expression. Jared knows why he's looking at him like that, but he brushes it off, instead walking away from the library to the Brigtons family home.

Chad reluctantly trots beside him, groaning. "I can't believe you."

"Not now." Jared huffs.

"You told him my secret! My secret, not yours!"

"Actually..."

"Jared!"

"He doesn't even believe me!" He retorts, careful that no one's around. "You heard it yourself. He thinks it's all make believe."

"Was there a specific reason that you told him?"

"You think I'd blab without cause? He was...something was obviously on his mind, something bad. I tried to brighten his day by 'making up' a story."

"How much does he know?"

"Don't worry about it."

Chad exhales, muttering low in his throat: "If Jeff finds out about all this, we're screwed."

"Then we make sure he doesn't."

It doesn't take the pair long to get to the block the Brighton family lives on. He and Chad take cover behind a tree, checking to see if the coast is clear.

All police are gone, and there are no reporters outside of the house to pester the people which is good. The crime scene has been analyzed pretty good. Jeff is most likely at HQ coming up with a recreation of the death. Jared has a better idea. He signals Chad to follow him as they quickly make their way across the street to the Brighton residence.

The young Warlock scoops his Familiar back into his arms as he rings the bell. As they wait, Chad sneezes.

"Bless you." Jared mumbles.

"Thanks. What if they're not home?"

"Then we break in."

"Seriously!?"

"Haha, I'm kidding. We're not breaking in." Jared laughs, only to drop his smile a millisecond later. "If no one answers, however..."

But before he can finish that thought, the front door opens and an older woman with light blonde hair and brown eyes answers. She frowns at him, giving both Jared and Chad a once-over.

"Mrs. Brighton?"

"Yes?"

Jared raises his hand, drawing a magical rune in the air. A spell. "Somnius Minima."

The spell is completed once he finishes the Zaelich word. The effects hit Mrs. Brighton instantly, and she stumbles until she lays down onto the floor, unconscious. It's a strong sleeping spell; she's unharmed, and she won't remember a thing. Jared steps inside, shutting the door behind him. He needs into the kitchen, finding the Brighton children in there.

He casts the spell once again, causing the two Mortal teens to fall asleep. Now that he thinks about it, these two actually go to his school. He feels guilty for doing this now, but he can't let that get to him. He's on a mission. After successfully neutralizing the household, Jared turns around to hear a soft growling noise from the archway separating the kitchen from the dining room.

It's the family dog. Thinking quickly, Jared sets Chad down on the floor.

"Hey, it's okay!" Chad says to the dog. "We're not here to hurt you guys, we just came to ask questions. What's your name?"

The dog seemingly understands, tilting its head in wonder. After a few tense seconds, the dog sits, softly whining.

"Champion. Nice name. I'm Chad, this is Jared, my human."

Champion snorts.

"No! It's short for Chadwick, not that that has anything to do with--okay, listen, we wanna know what happened to Henry, your human. He was in trouble; something bad was hurting him. We wanna help. What did you see?"

Champion whines louder this time, lamenting the loss of his owner. Though Jared can't understand him, he feels his pain. This dog loved his owner so much, and to have him gone so quickly...it's unthinkable.

Chad turns to Jared. "He says that he hasn't slept in a long time, and that he...wait...he says that there was something clinging to Henry's back, whispering in his ear and taunting him. It was cold...and very mean."

Jared is intrigued. Clinging. Taunting. Cold. Sounds exactly like Demonic interference.

"What else?" Jared presses.

"Anything else, Champion?" Jared waits patiently as his cat communicates with the family dog. "He says that there was a girl, and it would hurt Henry. Champion didn't go near him because he was afraid. The thing that clung to him had...red eyes?"

That's all Jared needs.

He's convinced now, there's no denying it. They're dealing with a Demon. Just what kind of Demon is not yet known, but Jared will find out. He's made it this far in his personal (and unauthorized) investigation. Jared walks to Champion, bending down to pet the poor thing in a show of comfort. The canine allows it, looking up into his eyes.

"I'm not gonna let it get away with this, Champ. You can count on me. It's not gonna hurt anyone else."

Champion barks quietly, licking Jared's hand in understanding. The Warlock straightens himself, glancing around. He gets an idea.

This could change everything, and even help him to crack the case.

"I'm gonna need something personal of his, something that has his DNA attached to it. Chad?"

"I'm on it. Hey, Champ, know where the master keeps his toothbrush?"

Champion barks affirmatively, beckoning for the two strangers to follow him upstairs to the bathroom. Jared plucks Henry's toothbrush from the rack, and he and Chad bid the dog farewell.

****

It was a little awkward meeting Jeff home less than thirty minutes later.

Jared tucks the toothbrush away in the back pocket of his pants, grinning innocently from ear to ear at his guardian from their walkway. Jeff walks up to the two, phone and keys in hand.

"Where have you two been?"

"Out for a walk." Chad answers quickly ahead of Jared. "The weather was nice today."

"You hate walks." Jeff states. "You hate going outside."

"Er...things change?"

The Peacekeeper looks to Jared who only shrugs his shoulders. Jeff sighs, rolling his eyes. "Okay...weird."

As they step inside, Jared asks questions, though he's sure he already knows the answer to most of them. "Did you figure anything out? Anything on the entity killing people?"

"I have. More supernatural residue. I spoke with the family. They all say that Mr. Brighton was acting strangely before his death. He wasn't sleeping, he wouldn't eat, he was paranoid about something."

It sorta clicks in Jared's head then. These symptoms are familiar. Years of research into Demonic creatures come flooding back to him.

Hell, he was watching a movie about the damn creature with Jensen last night!

"Anything about nightmares?"

"Maybe...why?"

Jared shuffles over to the bookcase, searching for the book that he knows is there. "Nothing, just curious." Finally, Jared grabs a black leather book from the shelf, quickly running up the stairs two at a time; Chad follows, of course. "I hope everything goes well with the investigation!"

Just as Jeff is about to answer, the sound of Jared's door closing silences him. Even so, he rolls his eyes, putting his hands on his hips. "Thanks...I guess. Fuckin' teenagers."

In his room with Chad, Jared sits on the floor, flipping through the pages of the book. A book on Demons. He had forgotten about it a while ago. He's read it top to bottom, but something today has sparked his memory. He knows what's attacking Mortals, but he's not 100 percent sure.

It's more like 99 percent. Somewhere along those lines. Finally, he stops at a familiar page, hands sliding down the words and the image of a being whose limbs are long and whose nails are sharp and gnarled.

"Fæmon...I knew it."

"Um...JP? What's a Fay-Mon?"

Jared shakes his head. "Fæmon, or a Fæmondus. It's a Fear Demon. It latches onto random innocents, feeding from their fears and traumatic pasts. It torments them with nightmares, and wears down their resolve until it finally claims their soul." He bookmarks the page, staring dumbfounded at the wall. "I was right. Goddammit, I was right! Holy shit."

"You're so fucking smart, Jared." Chad hums, paws on Jared's leg. "What are you gonna do now?"

"I...have no idea."

"I take back my smart comment."

"Fuck off. I'm making this up as I go." The Warlock sighs, tapping his foot on the floor. He thinks aloud. "These types of Demons attack at random, they don't plan; they wing it which makes it almost impossible to track. They don't leave trails. We won't know who's going to be targeted next until it begins to feed or after it's ready to kill. My only hope right now is gaining more information on it. I need to see what Henry saw."

"And how are we gonna do that?"

Jared stretches out his hand, calling over the large tome filled with Zaelich texts. "We use big boy Magic."

"Loving how you think."

"It'll take some time getting the ingredients for the spell," Jared grumbles sorrowfully, taking out Henry's toothbrush. "A few days at most, but I'm kind of inpatient. It'll be tricky sneaking it all past Jeff."

Chad jumps up onto the bed, stretching out and curling into a ball. "You'll figure something out. I'm gonna take a nap. Wake me up when dinner is ready."

Whatever.

Jared pays him no mind. Chad deserves his nap. He did good today being his little sidekick. Though Chad would want them to team-up often for this sort of work, Jared would rather not have him doing something potentially dangerous even when he himself is probably way in over his pretty little head.

Oh, well.

At least he's made more progress than the Council has.

He wonders about the aftermath of all of this. If he successfully Exorcises the Demon back to the Underworld, what then? Jeff would essentially be chasing down a ghost.

Jared's not sure what to do as of yet...but he's thinking of a plan, don't you worry! He's always got something up his sleeve, and he's gonna find this Demon or die trying.

He prefers to live, though.

****

Monday

Jensen tosses his guts in the toilet, puking up nothing but crystal clear water yet again. And just like the two nights prior, he's been having the same recurring dream.

Seeing Josh's horrific, warped face, and falling in the water to drown to death. It felt so real; Jensen could feel himself choking in his dream, desperately gasping for air that refused to enter his body.

So cold.

So real.

Minutes later, he finds himself trudging downstairs and into the kitchen, bypassing his father who's blackout drunk on the couch, tie loose and reeking of expensive whiskey. He must've gotten in last night, most likely stumbling inside before falling unconscious.

This is bringing up terrible memories, right after the incident.

Jensen doesn't want to workout today; he doesn't want to do anything. He's feeling--oh, what's the word?

Lethargic, Ross?

The young man grunts, slamming his hands on the table. "Fuck you!"

His loud outburst wakes his father from his stupor, causing Jensen to sigh in a mixture of anger and sorrow. Alan is up in a flash, straightening his wrinkled clothes and running his fingers through his hair in a half-hearted attempt at seeming sober.

He turns his attention to his son; his voice is slightly raspy.

"Hey, bud. What's wrong?"

"Nothing..." Jensen lies. "I just...I don't feel so good."

Alan huffs, hand on his head. "That makes two of us. What time is it?" He checks his watch, sobering up in seconds. "Shit! Hey, do your your exercises and get ready for school. Don't even think about skipping today. You need this."

No, you need this, Jensen thinks, but doesn't say aloud.

When Alan rushes off upstairs, Jensen doesn't even bother moving from his spot. He's not going to school today, not like this.

Which means he can't pick Jared up, or take him home...and that sucks. Dammit.

****

"Sorry, I can't make it to school today. I'm not feeling well. Really REALLY sorry. I'll make it up to you."

Jared reads the text message silently to himself. Though he's somewhat saddened to hear about Jensen's sickness, he doesn't really think there's a need to apologize. He closes the book full of Zaelich texts, standing up to grab his backpack beside his bed. Without typing physically, he texts Jensen back.

"It's okay. I'm sure I can manage a day without you. Feel better, Ackles."

"You look troubled." Chad notes from the bed.

"It's nothing, really. I'll just have to ask Jeff for a ride to school."

"Jeff already left for work."

Jared sighs. "Fuck."

"Well, why don't you just do the thing?"

Ugh. No.

"Because I don't want to do the thing! It's disorienting, and it gives me a headache."

"Would you rather walk?"

The little shit has a point.

Jared would rather be driven to school than walk all the way there. He thinks about it for a while. If he knew he would have to walk, he would have left earlier so as to be on time. If he walked right this second, he'd be considered late.

Unless he did the thing...

Jared sighs again, balling up his fists. "Fine. Whatever."

The Warlock shoulders his bag, walking over to his closet door. He stands in front of it for some time, debating on whether or not this is a good idea. He's only done this twice before. Jared's great at Magic, don't get him wrong, but some things he just won't do unless absolutely necessary.

Sucking up his pride, Jared calls upon the unnatural powers dwelling inside of him, creating another Zaelich rune in midair.

"Transportia"

In a flash, the door shoots open, and a magical whirlpool of colors replaces what normally lies inside of the closet. It's a doorway, a shortcut, allowing him to essentially Teleport wherever he wants to go. It takes a lot of Magic to conjure; even someone leagues older than him can fall ill just from conjuring such a spell. But Jared's mind is strong. A small headache and briefly losing some vision is nothing to losing your mind.

Jared digs in his backpack, procuring a a pair of black rimmed glasses. He always has a plan for this shit. He puts them on before his eyesight suffers, knowing all will be fine in a few hours.

"Looks good on you." Chad muses.

"Thanks."

"Where'd you open up the portal?"

"A stall in the boy's bathroom at school."

"Genius. Have a good day at school, Jared."

"Yup."

Without hesitation, the Warlock steps through the portal, closing it behind him. He reaches the other side in a second, exiting the stall on the farthest side of the restroom. Thankfully, no one's inside with him, so Jared lowers his guard for the moment. He leaves the bathroom slowly, noticing that most of the students haven't even arrived inside yet.

However, upon exiting the bathroom, Jared hears his name being called. He turns to his right, spotting Danneel waltzing up to him, lips pursed. She seems...upset.

"Uh, hi."

Danneel snorts. "Hi? That's all you have?"

Jared frowns. "Is there something else I should say instead?"

"How about 'Sorry, Danneel, for standing you up at Oliver's party on Friday, that was real shitty of me'. That would work better."

Oh. That. He had forgotten all about it. And here comes the headache, though he's unsure if it's from Teleporting or from this particular encounter.

"Shit..." Jared mutters, sighing through his nose. "I'm sorry. I just had other things to do. I should've said something. I didn't mean to stand you up."

It only takes a moment for the soreness of Danneel's expression to melt away. Her cocky smirk returns, and she flips her hair as usual. "I suppose I can forgive that. Just don't do it again, kay?"

Jared nods, stepping aside to go wherever that isn't here. "Yeah. I got it. See ya."

"Jensen wasn't at the party either."

Jared stops in his tracks, and she can see the odd look in his eyes. Danneel smiles, continuing.

"I figured as much: the new kid and the high school jock."

"We're just friends," Jared whispers, walking away. "Nothing more. See you around."

"He'll break your heart, Jared. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Jared doesn't entertain her with a response. The bell rings, and he's left with no other choice but to go to class.

He's smart enough to know what Danneel meant: she thinks they're together together, and it seems to grate her nerves, possibly because--maybe they dated? At least before Jared got here. It's not an issue, not really, but to say that it doesn't bug him would be a lie.

Danneel is a mystery, but Jared doesn't think she's too horrible of a person.

Teenagers are still children after all.

****

Tuesday

Jensen called off on him again, and Jared can't help but to feel a little shocked.

Two days in a row.

When they were talking on the phone together, Jensen said that Jared could rely on him, that he would never let him down. He said that he was still sick, and that he shouldn't worry; he didn't explain his symptoms much, just said that he's been throwing up a lot. Kinda gross.

Still, Jared presses onward with his investigation. He's gotten some of the ingredients already for the big spell.

****

Why are you such a loser, Ross?

"Shut up..."

You let this happen to me. You might as well have murdered me yourself!

"Stop..."

With all that fucking and drinking you did... You weren't punishing yourself; you enjoyed it, Ross. You loved every minute. My death was just an excuse for you to rebel! Worthless little boy!

"I said shut up!" Jensen snaps punching the mirror in his bathroom.

The pain comes moments later as blood drips from his cut knuckles. Jensen pants through it all, closing his eyes and counting down from 10. When he opens them, he gazes back into the mirror, seeing his fractured reflection.

What's wrong with him? Is he going crazy?

****

Wednesday

"So, I was thinking...maybe we could hang out again on Friday? I'm still kinda new to this place. You can show me around, and stuff..."

Jared licks his lips, preparing himself for Jensen's happy puppy voice to grace his ears.

But instead, he hears nothing but dread and a little regret mixed in.

"Um...uh, sorry, Jay. I can't. I'm still not feeling too hot, and I don't think I'll be getting better before then. Raincheck?"

Jared clenches his jaw, feeling slightly embarrassed as well as a little angry. "Yeah. Sure. Bye."

He hangs up quickly, haphazardly tossing his phone onto the bed as he resumes to read more about the spell he's almost close to completing. Danneel's words come back to haunt him in his mind. This is all very suspicious. Why is Jensen acting this way? Is he even sick? Is he just playing some intricate game on him as a prank?

Does he even really...like him?

It's a stupid question Jared doesn't bother answering...yet it lingers for some time.

****

Thursday

Jensen softly growls through the pain in his neck as well as the pain in his stomach.

Everyone has been blowing up his phone, asking if he's alright, demanding that he come to practice even if he's sick as a dog.

It's gotten to a point where he ended up drowning his phone on the sink, watching with lifeless eyes as the screen fizzled and blinked out. His father has been on his case too, yelling and drinking, telling him he's throwing his life away.

Look who's talking.

And as all this is happening, Jensen can't help but to think about Jared. The last time they spoke, it sounded like he was kinda mad. Jensen tried calling and texting back, but he hasn't responded.

Maybe he blew it.

Maybe you have, Ross. You're better off alone.

He doesn't fight "Not-Josh" anymore. He doesn't tell him to shut up. He doesn't scream. He doesn't yell.

He just stays awake at night, fighting sleep.

He can't protect himself when he sleeps.

****

It's all set! Everything needed for the spell is in place!

Jared ran upstairs after dinner, quickly thanking his guardian for the lovely meal he cooked.

And now, with his door locked, the lights off, and his mind focused on the task at hand, Jared readies himself. The spell requires a lot of concentration, and a lot of willpower. The amount of time spent seeing through the eyes of a dead man is dependant on one's own will.

Jared sits down in the middle of the goat blood circle he drew on the floor, wincing at the strong smell. It was one of the last ingredients he had to gain. It was extremely difficult to smuggle a gallon of goat blood into his room undetected, but he managed it, thank goodness. On different ends of the circle are six candles with six symbols in Zaelich.

Sight.

Touch.

Smell.

Taste.

Hear.

Project.

In front of Jared is a small ceramic bowl, and inside the bowl are some of the smaller ingredients; maysense, cardengey, red yernst, and of course, Henry's toothbrush. There's just one more ingredient that he needs before the spell is actually finish. Jared takes the dagger beside him, drawing it across his open palm. He remains expressionless as he squeezes the blood from his hand into the bowl.

His blood mixes in with the contents of the bowl, and the candles around him light up simultaneously. It's time.

Closing his eyes, Jared carefully recites the spell by heart, having read it over and over again for almost a week. With his mind's eye, he projects himself; he's able to merge his memories with Henry's, if only for a short time.

Images flash in Jared's head, scenes from the past. Henry's past. He feels them all as if they were his own.

A little girl run down. Fear.

The presence of an entity. A Demon.

The taunts, the overwhelming sense of guilt and shock and the need to be forgiven.

The end; the car slamming into him, taking his life. The Demon captures his soul, running off into the night to haunt another Mortal.

Jared attempts to hold on for a moment longer, trying to see where the Demon went, but he feels his willpower draining away. He pulls himself back in time, separating from Henry's thoughts and memories. Jared looks around, digging his fingers into the carpet floor. He's safe, he's back where he belongs.

He'll have to steam the shit out of this carpet, but that's not what's important right now.

"What did you see?" asks Chad.

"I saw...I saw disturbing things," Jared responds, wanting to forget. "But nothing about the Demon's whereabouts."

Henry killed a child, and lived with that guilt for many, many years. Jared pities him, but he is also angry with him, a dead man.

Henry showed cowardice by running away from the scene; the child was still alive.

It saddens Jared's heart, and he spends the rest of the night lamenting and cleaning his carpet.

****

Friday: time's up 

Alan has left again, fucking off to see one of his married office whores most likely. Jensen doesn't care. He just doesn't care anymore. Why should he? He realizes that his life is shitty.

He ruined his own childhood, he caused his parents' divorce, he wasted his energy on something he never wanted to do, and now he's ruined a good thing with a boy he might have even had growing feelings for.

Jensen is a wreck, and the angry, spiteful voice in his head is not helping any. If nothing else, it's exacerbating it. Perhaps he has finally gone crazy? Perhaps it's all been leading up to this?

Jensen soon walks down the stairs, bags under his eyes. He's thirsty; in his nightmares where his throat becomes filled with water, you'd think he'd ban water altogether. No, because those are just nightmares.

Shuffling into the kitchen, Jensen turns the knob on the faucet, reaching up into the cabinet for a glass cup. He grabs the first one he sees, shutting the door with the back of his hand. As Jensen puts the cup under the faucet, he starts noticing changes happening around him. The kitchen lights above him flicker in spurts, and the pipes make a strange noise.

Suddenly, the lights go out, and the air around Jensen becomes colder; so cold to the point where he can see his own breath. The water flowing into the cup soon turns to ice, forcing Jensen to shut it off. Horrified that he's dreaming while awake, Jensen shuts his eyes right, whispering that it's only a nightmare, that it's not real, that has safe.

He repeats it until he's comfortable enough to open his eyes again, seeing that the lights are back on, and the ice and cold air is gone. Jensen lets out a shaky breath, setting the cup of water on the counter. Maybe it's time to get out for a bit. He hasn't left the house since this shit started.

With that in mind, Jensen shrugs on his sneakers by the door, and goes outside for a brisk jog. He runs off in the direction of a local park that other runners and joggers frequent. As he jogs, Jensen tries to make sense of these episodes.

Why is this happening all of a sudden? There is still guilt inside of him, yes, but why is it all coming back? It just doesn't seem right.

Jensen gets to the park soon enough. It's dark here with only a few street lamps to light the way. He takes off inside, ignoring the sound of the wind brushing up against the branches. He never goes here at night, but for some reason he thought he'd be safe here.

He was wrong.

"Roooss. Ross!"

Jensen stops in his tracks, looking around the environment. His blood runs cold. That didn't come from his mind this time. That was being said out loud.

Instead of being a smart kid, and running away from the voice of his dead brother, Jensen rushes toward it, determined to put an end to all of this. He follows Josh's voice until he's staring upon an odd and terrifying sight.

The park's pond is completely frozen with snow falling down all around it, and in the middle of it is Josh, dressed in the same clothes that he wore when he died. Jensen's mouth hangs ajar, and he shivers, partly from the cold and from the seemingly supernatural situation he's in. His brother looks miserable; sad, but mostly livid.

"You're a liar, Ross!" Josh whimpers. "You never came back! You lied!"

The hideous truth stares Jensen right in the face. The guilt he's been harboring for a long time.

Not being able to help.

He steps out onto the ice, frightened yet still determined. It cracks under him, but it holds. "I'm so sorry, Joshy. It was all my fault."

"It was!"

"I should've tried to help you myself, but I was so scared. I didn't know what to do."

"You killed me!"

Closer.

"No, Joshy," Jensen sobs, shaking his head. "I didn't kill you. I made a stupid choice that day, but nobody could've guessed what would happen."

Closer.

"I regret it everyday."

Closer.

"Not a moment goes by where I don't think of you."

Almost.

"But I am responsible."

Jensen finally makes his way to his brother, carefully kneeling down to embrace him. "I'm responsible, I know that. I tried to deny it, but it's true. I didn't kill you, but I'm responsible. And I have to let go now...because I know you're not Joshy. He wouldn't say these things. It's in my head, and I gotta let it go. I'm sorry..."

He thinks he's solved it.

He thinks he has the magical key that will fix all this.

Once again, he is wrong.

When Jensen stands, Josh yells, screeching in an inhuman nature. It's too late that Jensen realizes that everything he's been through this past week isn't the result of a guilty conscience, but all because of an entity that's been actively trying to hurt him.

Josh's limbs stretch out to abnormal sizes, and Jensen is soon looking up at a green skinned being that only appears in horror movies and mythology books. It grins down on him with glowing eyes and sharpened teeth, and before Jensen can run, it ceases him by the neck, hoisting him up above a sudden hole in the ice.

"Take a dip, Ross."

****

Jared's still quite shaken up about the whole Henry thing. There's nothing he can do now. At all. The Fæmon is still at large, and possibly on its way to devour the soul of its next victim. All Jared can do is just wait and see what happens. He feels so helpless while this thing reeks havoc among the town, but he can't give up. There's thousands upon thousands of spells in that tome; there must be one that can help him find that abomination.

For now, Jared will settle with taking a well deserved soak in the bathtub. It's been a long time since he's had a nice relaxing bath time. Chad's neediness would always interfere, but he is just fine right now, napping in the bedroom like usual.

Taking a deep breath, Jared sinks down into the warm bath water; large bubbles cover the entirety of him, enveloping Jared's whole body.

He closes his eyes, enjoying this feeling immensely.

However, something feels off.

The air thins, turning colder, and the lights dim out.

Opening his eyes, Jared notices that he's no longer in the bathroom, but in a wooded area covered in snow. The flakes falling from the sky seem real, but he knows better than that. This isn't real, of that Jared is aware. He panics, thinking about a similar occurrence that happened to him two years prior.

It feels different than that, however. Carver is not involved. This feels more like...someone else's experience rather than his own. Curious yet still cautious, Jared steps out of the bathtub completely naked. He walks through the forest, not daring to cover himself or shoe fear as the snow falls before him.

He follows the path forward, coming to a stop soon enough. He gasps at what lies ahead.

A frozen pond...and Jensen being ripped apart limb from limb by the vicious Fæmon.

Jared shouts Jensen's name, and he immediately finds himself thrashing violently in the bathtub. He's back in the bathroom, still soaked. It wasn't exactly a vision of the future, but more of a second sight type of power.

Sixth Sense.

Just then, he pieces it all together. Jensen's absence from school, his slight indifference towards him, the strange ailment he's been suffering from. The Demon has latched onto Jensen, and is currently attempting to take his soul.

That just won't do.

Jared bolts from the bathtub, not caring that he's drenching the floor. He rushes out of the bathroom, leaving behind a trail of water with each step. He bursts into his room, accidentally waking Chad up from his nap. The cat shrieks at Jared's naked and wet figure, covering his face with his paws.

"Is this illegal?"

Jared ignores his quips, throwing on any piece of clothing he can find. "Something's happening; I'll be right back."

Chad tilts his head. "Wait, this is serious? What's going on?"

"I think I know where the Demon is."

"Should I call Jeff?"

"No, I got this," Jared says, quickly slipping into his jeans and sneakers. He bounds down the stairs, dispelling the protective ward around the house before dashing outside. Thank god Jeff is out right now. "I'll be right back!"

"Don't die!" Chad calls after him.

****

Jensen's eyes widen as he looks upon the true face of the creature that's been haunting his very dreams. The literal stuff of nightmares.

"You think to absolve yourself with a confession of guilt?" The creature hisses. "It will not work! I will feed from your terror, I will feed from your fear!"

He thinks that this is it, that this is how he'll die. Of course, no one could have predicted this. Jensen is genuinely frightened of this creature; it has been terrorizing him for a week now, filling his head with all sorts of disconcerting thoughts and images.

But right now...knowing that he's going to die, he feels strangely at peace. In defiance, he smirks at his aggressor, showing the monster that he'd rather die defiant than a coward. It enrages the creature even more, and just as it prepares to drop him in the hole, another voice is heard.

A voice that Jensen instantly recognizes.

"Get your goddamn claws off him."

It's Jared.

Jensen turns his head, looking at the boy with wet hair and a purposeful gaze. Surprised and intrigued by Jared's sudden presence, the Demon growls, flinging Jensen across the pond and onto the grass in the park where he lies motionless.

Jared clenches his jaw, glaring at the Demon. The beast returns his gaze, snarling as it stalks across the ice.

"You look upon me as if you are unafraid," it says. "But you do not fool me."

"I'm not afraid of a leech."

"How dare you!?"

Without warning, the Fæmon charges full speed at Jared, intent on killing him. However, just as its claws are within 5 inches of his face, it stops, hitting an invisible barrier that Jared had conjured up. The Warlock grins at the surprised look on its face, and wordlessly flings the being back onto the frozen pond. The force causes the Demon to fall through the ice, squealing as it goes under.

Jared quickly goes to check on Jensen, seeing that he hit it forehead when thrown. The young man brackets the other boy's face, pleading with Jensen while also berating him on lying about the severity of his illness. Jensen's stable, but drifting in and out of conscious. Right as Jared decides to take him out of there, the Demon bursts through the ice, floating in the air.

"You think to stop me!? Some...Witch Boy!?"

Jared stands up, growling menacingly. "Warlock."

"And what is the difference?"

"My foot up your fucking ass, Demon!"

Again, the Demon rushes towards him, but Jared is quicker. He stops the monster in its tracks once more, but instead of just letting him go, Jared tosses him around the park. From tree too tree, to streetlight to streetlight until he repeatedly slams the Demon's body on the ice, causing it to crack and break apart. During this time, the Demon squeals in pain, begging for Jared to stop.

Surprisingly, Jared obliges, but holds the monstrosity up into the air above the now unfrozen pond.

"I shall grant you your every desire if you release me, oh powerful Witch."

Jared scoffs. "I'm a Warlock, you fucker."

The Demon's face falls as Jared begins to recite an ancient spell. An Exorcism. It wiggles helplessly in the air, but Jared's Telekinetic hold is incredibly strong. Below, in the middle of the pond is a swirling vortex leading back into the trenches of the Underworld. With a condescending wave, Jared drops the Demon into the hole, screeching loudly before its screams are silenced by the closing of the portal.

With the Fæmon gone from this town, the snowflakes stops falling, and any excess ice or snow melts away. Jared returns to check on Jensen once more, discovering that the older boy is now unconscious. A quick scan shows Jared that he hasn't suffered any major trauma.

With no other option, Jared hauls him up, carrying Jensen onto his back in a fireman's carry.

This could've ended badly.

****

It's not long before Jared returns home, opening and closing the door with his foot. Chad looks up at him confused from the couch, possibly wondering exactly why he has Jensen wrapped over his shoulders. Jared shakes his head as he ascends the staircase, non-verbally advising the feline to not say a word...but when has Chad ever listened to him?

"So...this is what we're doing now?"

"Chad, not now."

"No, no, this is fine. I always expected you to bring a girl home, preferably conscious, but this is good. Very good. Kudos to you. This isn't the first time a Padalecki man brought a dude home."

"Chad, please--!"

"Hey, I'm just saying; your ancestors were freaks."

Though Chad's commentary is annoying, it's definitely welcoming, and provides a distraction for what Jared. Eventually, he gets Jensen to his room, laying him down on his bed. Jared takes his time tending to the other boy; healing his wounds with small Healing Crystals, and applying a wet cloth to his forehead.

During this time, Jared struggles on what to say in case Jensen wakes up. Things could not get any more complicated than it already is! Jared is super thankful that Jeff's still working on the case that he just solved. He'll have to tell him eventually, and maybe they'll have to move again. Jensen's memories of him will be erased; it'll be like he never existed to him.

But Jared has learned tonight that he can't not have Jensen in his life on one way or another.

"I can't believe you actually sent a Demon back to the Underworld." Chad says in astonishment. Jared told him everything about the fight. "Wish I could've seen it."

"It wasn't all that epic, to be honest."

"Don't lie."

"Okay, it was a little epic." Jared paces, glancing at Jensen frequently. "What am I gonna do?"

"What do you wanna do?"

"I have no idea."

Chad hums. "Well, neither do I. How much do you think he saw?"

"Almost everything, but he was pretty out of it. I think...I think I might have to tell him."

Chad doesn't dispute Jared on his decision. The Warlock sits on the edge of the bed next to Jensen, removing the cloth to rest their foreheads together briefly. He reaches out, connecting with his body.

"Wake..."

Jared moves away as Jensen begins to stir in his sleep. After a few moments, the older of the two fully awakens, blinking up at Jared with those beautiful green eyes of his. His dusty freckles are prominent in this light. Just looking at them makes Jared want to count every single one. It would be impossible, however, and it has him wondering just where else does he have freckles.

Jensen groans, smiling up at Jared with a sleepy grin. "Jared? That you, buddy?"

"Yeah, it's me." Jared smiles.

"Man, I had the strangest dream. I was in..." Jensen looks around, noticing that he's not in his own room, let alone his own house. "Wait, where am I? Is this your place?"

"What did you dream?"

"What? Oh. I...um, I dreamt that you were tossing around a large lizard with your mind, and it was snowing, and I saw someone I knew a long time ago..."

Jared sighs, folding his hands together. "I think you and I need to talk."

"About what?"

"Many things. Starting with--"

"That wasn't a dream, meathead," Chad says aloud, hoping up on the bed, sitting directly in Jared's lap. "What you saw was real. Magic exists, Jared's a Warlock, and you were semi-possessed by a Demon. Oh, and I can actually speak. Surprise."

There's silence in the room, and Jared has to suppress a small snicker. Meanwhile, Jensen's jaw drops to the floor in shock, eyes flitting between Jared and Chad both.

"How much do you wanna bet that he passes out again?" Chad whispers.

Almost immediately after saying this, Jensen's eyes roll back, and he collapses back onto the pillow below his head.

Jared grimaces, patting Chad's head. "You broke him."

"At least I didn't kill him."

"At least."

Chapter Text

They stare at each other for a long time, neither saying a single word. The puzzling expression on Jensen's face makes Jared a bit uneasy, but it can't be that bad.

"Okay. Let's try this again."

"I just--shit, I just have so many questions to ask, my god."

Of course he does. It's only natural that Jensen would have questions about what he witnessed. No Mortal was ever meant to see that...yet he did. He was an unfortunate victim of a Demon attack, but he was able to live. It just proves to Jared that the boy who he has finally called his friend isn't too easy to kill.

Even so, the trauma that he must have endured under the Demon's haunting...well, Jared would never again pry into his head without permission; perhaps the Fæmon used whatever horror Jared saw against Jensen in some way. He wouldn't put it past the evil son of a bitch at all.

"Well..." Jared mutters, scratching the back of his hand. "Ask the first one that comes to mind."

Jensen sits up with a serious expression. "Are you a Witch?"

Jared snorts. "No, of course not."

"Okay--"

"Witches are female; males are always Warlocks."

Jared can see the boy's eyes widen at the fact. Poor Jensen. This could take some time.

"Wait--so...wait." Jensen struggles. "So...everything you said up to--everything you admitted to me...that was all real?"

"Yeah. I'm very forthcoming. I never lied to you about anything."

"When you said you were in Limbo..."

"True. It's a world between worlds. I studied there for a time."

"The history of Magic?"

"Truth."

"And about Twilight?"

"That...was true."

"Basketball?"

Oh.

Jared chuckles. "Yeah, that one was actually a lie. I never played a game in my life. I just read a few minds to get the basics."

"Oh, that's cool...I guess." Jensen sighs.

There's a pause between them, and he soon crosses his arms over his chest. He licks his lips, preparing for a question.

"So...you read my mind?"

Jared flushes. "I did."

Jensen's heart skips a beat; his blood runs cold for a moment. "Then you know about me?"

"I don't know everything, but I know something horrible happened to you. Something traumatic to make the Fæmon attack you the way it did."

"I'm sorry, the what?"

"The Demon that attacked you. It was a Fæmon, a Fear Demon. It was slowly sucking your life force dry while using your trauma against you in the form of nightmares and hallucinations...and sometimes those hallucinations might have been real."

Jared can already see the cogs meshing together in Jensen's already shocked and confused mind. This wasn't supposed to happen. Jensen wasn't supposed to be the next victim! Why did it have to be him? However, if it hadn't been Jensen, Jared would have never found the Demon, and it would've kept killing until its belly was full, or if it decided to move on towards the next town. In a sick sort of way, Jared's happy it latched itself on to Jensen.

His Sixth Sense kicked in.

Jensen shrugs, seemingly curling in on himself. Jared almost reaches out to touch him, but decides against it. He instead calls over the Demonology tome into his hands. Jensen's eyes light up in excitement soon enough, forgetting about the the moment before.

"I found out what it was because of this," Jared says, flipping towards the relevant pages. "It's a book about many Demons. Our house is full of tomes and grimoires on different subjects and schools of Magic."

"Woah..." is all Jensen can muster. "I mean...woah! All of this is for real, huh? Magic...Demons--you really are a Warlock."

"Yes. One could say I'm the best, though that's me just bragging."

"I'm inclined to believe you."

Well then.

The young Warlock blushes, not even thinking to hide it from his friend this time. Jensen hardly even knows just how powerful he is, and yet he compliments him on his skills. Jared faces him, tucking some hair behind his ears.

"Of course you are."

"Is there like...a college or a school people like you go to?"

"People like me?" Jared grins. "There's none quite like me, darlin', but I get what you mean. Yes, there's school in Limbo where Witches and Warlocks go to learn. It's called Woghorts."

"Wait, seriously?"

"No, that's just a dumb joke."

"Oh," Jensen snickers. "Duh."

"But we do have an institution where Magic users can teach and receive an education. I attended for a bit, but I left."

"Why?"

Jared holds his tongue between his teeth for a while, trying his best to word his next response. Finally, he just comes right out to say it. "I wanted to live like a normal person again."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning that I wanted to live like a normal person again."

"So secretive."

"Blame the lifestyle."

It's a fun exchange. Jared's never been able to talk so freely about any of this. It truly is liberating! Jensen looks around Jared's bedroom, astonished by what he sees. Jared can only feel a twinge of embarrassment though. He's not equipped to have company in his room like this.

"I like your room," Jensen notes. "It's nice. Very...Magic-y."

Chad huffs. "That's not even a word."

"Oh, Jesus--! I forgot you could talk. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this."

"Oh, you haven't seen nothin' yet, buddy." The black cat mewls, jumping down from Jared's lap. "I'm full of all sorts of tricks."

"Like video calling Jared in the middle of lunch?" Jensen laughs when Jared looks at him surprised. "I recognize his voice; the way you quickly hung up the phone just confirms it now."

Very smart.

"He's quick, JP." Chad whispers. "Oh, he definitely could be a keeper. That's if Jeff doesn't...you know--"

"Chad," Jared hisses in a non-threatening fashion. "Shut up and go away."

"Hmph! Fine. I know when I'm not wanted." Chad saunters towards the door, head held high. Such a haughty kitty. "I'll just be going now."

"Get."

Jensen waves, all smiles. "Bye, weird talking cat."

"Farewell for now, oblivious Mortal."

This is the first time Chad's been somewhat cordial to someone else besides Jeff. And what's this!? Jensen has earned Chad's approval? That's definitely a good thing; if Chad doesn't approve of someone, he'll let them know right away. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here.

Jensen taps his knee, beaming at Jared. "He seems nice. At least when he wants to be."

"And you're taking all of this this very well."

"Hmm." The young man leans back against the headboard, hands behind his head. "I am, aren't I? I wanted to keep believing it was just some elaborate dream, but nah. I've decided to face this head on. Trust me, I'll scream all about it into my pillow later."

Jared chuckles, bringing his feet up onto the bed facing Jensen. "That hardly seems practical or helpful."

"Oh, it works. Believe me. So, tell me more about this Fear Demon. Why did it pick me? Are there others like it out there right now? What do they want? Do Angels exist?"

"Ah, slow down a second." Jared giggles. "So...all Demons are Demons for a reason. They exist to spread chaos and disorder. They have many forms depending on the type of Demon that they are. There are Pride Demons just as there are Demons of Knowledge and Lust Demons, all chaotic. And that Fear Demon chose you for no reason at all. It was random, you weren't on it's shit list or something. It might've smelled whatever darkness lies inside of you, however."

Jensen clears his throat. "Oh. I see. Must've saw my past. I suppose you'll wanna know about that, unless you wanna read my mind or something."

"I made a promise to myself that I'd never read your mind again..."

"How many times have you done it?"

Jared sighs again. "I mean--yeah, I'd say only a few times. You were a stranger to me. I had to know your intentions were true and just."

Jensen bats his lashes adorably. "And?"

"I saw that they were...but then I looked into your mind one day and saw something I shouldn't have. I pried too far. It was an invasion of your privacy."

The atmosphere shifts, and Jensen's smile dims once again.

"That Demon showed me things I didn't want to see, and told me shit I didn't want to hear." He shudders, scratching his cheek. "You're new to this place, so I don't expect you to know the story. I killed my little brother."

Jared gasps. "Jensen--"

"Not directly, but I was responsible. He name was Josh, and he was just a kid. I was a freshman in high school at the time trying to fit it, looking for my place. Joshy was my best friend. Our favorite game was to play hide and seek; whoever won the game would get a dollar. I always won somehow. I always found him. Luck or something."

Jensen's voice begins to crack, yet he pushes onward with his tragic tale.

"It was winter night. Our parents were sleeping, but Joshy was wide awake. He came into my room in his PJ's with his ice skates over his shoulder. He begged and begged, and I just couldn't say no. We got dressed and went down to the pond. It was frozen solid, and it was snowing everywhere. Joshy wasn't that good at skating, so he would cling to me until I started showing off for him. Sometime during our fun...we kinda got separated. He was on one end of the pond, and I was on the other. Then the ice started to crack."

Jensen clears his throat.

"He went under almost immediately. I wanted to help--I wanted to, but I...I couldn't move. I was paralyzed. His arms were moving, and I could hear him trying to say words. I was scared...so I ran home, promising to get help. By the time we got back, he...he, uh, he was...Joshy had..."

"Jensen," the Warlock comforts him. "It's okay. You don't have to..."

"No...no, I have to say it. I have to." He composes himself, resuming. "My life sorta fell apart after that. My parents fought all the time until my mom just couldn't take it anymore. She left me and dad, and dad just changed. He started running me ragged, taking over my life. I couldn't handle it. I started acting out; drinking, dabbling in drugs...sex. But then I suddenly stopped. I knew that it was an accident. Joshy wouldn't have wanted me to punish myself like that."

Jared understands now. Danneel made that comment about Jensen having Demons. It wound up being sort of literal in the end. There was a darkness within Jensen when Jared first met him. It was locked away in a vault, unresolved until the Demon found him and tore the doors clean off said vault.

Everyone has personal Demons within them, and everyone handles them differently, helping them become who they currently are. Thankfully, Jensen has clawed his way out of the dark hole so many fall into. He's functional, but damaged. Even so, in Jared's eyes, Jensen is perfect.

And it makes Jared feel vulnerable.

"I know about loss also," says Jared. "All too well, in fact. I witnessed the death of my parents and was almost killed too."

Jensen hops up, coming to sit by Jared's side. "Jesus Christ, Jay..."

"The bastard who did it was a maniac, but he knew what he was doing. He had some kind of vendetta against my dad..."

Jared tries his best to remember, but all he sees is Carver's face, grinning as he slices the Warlock over and over. Jared's screams overlapped with Carver's hysterical laughter. It was awful. But soon, Jared shakes out of the painful memories, propping up against Jensen for some kind of support.

"It doesn't matter anymore. He's locked away; he's never getting out."

Jensen snakes his arm around Jared's shoulder. "I'm so sorry that something so horrible happened to you. I wish I could go back in time a fuck that bastard up."

There he goes again. Saying impossible noble things. Of course, if Jensen traveled back in time to fight Carver, he'd be dead before he could even land a hit. Still, it's a lovely thought.

"I believe that." Jared huffs. He plays with the drawstring of his hoodie, twirling it around his finger. "I've been trying to figure out how to do this right. Being...normal, I mean. There wasn't a time in my life where normal was involved. Magic was always there. I can levitate items and myself, transport them where I want, read minds, and cast many other dangerous spells. I'm far from normal. I'm what some would call a freak, I guess."

Jensen shakes his head, forcing Jared to look at him. "What's wrong with being a freak? There's nothing special about being normal. Take it from a normal person."

He's anything but normal, but Jared lets him go on.

"You shouldn't try to be someone you're not. Don't try to blend in; stand out...unless of course you're trying to take over the world, haha. You'd never try to take over the world, would you, Jared? That would be cool, but, like, don't."

Jared shrugs in a non-committal fashion. "I've thought about global domination a few times, but then I realized it'd be way too exhausting. So much work. In short, you Mortals have secured your victory...for now."

Jensen chuckles, and it sets Jared's heart ablaze in a flurry of emotions. He loves this. The way Jensen tilts his head back when he laughs, the way he shuts his eyes, the way he grabs onto him for purchase. Just the way he is.

Jared loves everything about him, and though they've only known each other for a few weeks, Jared feels as though Jensen will eventually become a valuable part of his life.

In time, Jensen comes down from his laughing fit, and Jared continues to gaze into his eyes. This time, Jensen is stunned. He blushes, looking away from the Warlock, but Jared touches his cheek, leaning in to press their lips together for a brief kiss. Sparks fly suddenly, but it doesn't go on too long.

It only lasts for two seconds before Jared pulls away.

They both sit in silence, neither truly willing to say a single word. Light breathing and the sound of the wind hitting the trees outside are the only things being heard around them. Jared's cheeks burn hotter than ever before once he realizes what he's done.

"I don't know, uh, what came over me," he mumbles as Jensen slowly grins. "I just--um...okay. Sorry about that."

Jensen half-chuckles. "I see you're the speechless one now."

"Yes..."

"It's cute."

"Yeah..."

Jensen kisses him this, causing Jared to jump in surprise. He soon relaxes into the kiss, trying his best not to seem too inexperienced; yeah, it's his first kiss, so what!? He's never had to worry about such stupid things before. School and classwork always came first, not dumb high school crushes.

Not that this is a dumb high school crush or...whatever.

Lips on lips, tongues sweeping over tongues in a battle of teenage intimacy. Just as Jared settles into it, getting in the groove of things, Jensen breaks the kiss, their mouths only centimeters apart from each other. Jared's face is still bright red, and Jensen's eyes are darkened. Lustful. He smiles.

"How was that?"

"Swimming," comes Jared's rushed and nonsensical reply.

"I kiss you like that and all you can think about is swimming?" Jensen teases.

"I...it was like swimming. Is that weird?"

"Yes. But that's good. Wanna swim again?"

Jared doesn't object, yet just as their lips meet again, they're interrupted by a rather annoying cat.

"My God," Chad exclaims. "What in the fresh Hell is this? Jared, you and the Mortal?"

Jared sighs dramatically. "For fuck's sake, Chadwick, get out of my room."

Chad hisses, jumping on the bed to swipe hits on Jensen's body. "Kiss on my Jared, would ya? I'm gonna teach you a lesson, pretty boy!"

These taps, however, do not damage Jensen in any way. In fact, he laughs in amusement, allowing Chad to beat on him.

"Aww what's the matter, little guy? Jealous he's giving me attention?"

"Yes! That's exactly what's happening! And how dare you call me little! If I were still a man, I'd clobber your face! Have at you, scoundrel!"

Having had enough, Jared grabs Chad, pulling him into his arms. "Stop that, weirdo. You're retreating back into the dark ages. You think I'll abandon you for some meatheaded Mortal?" He winks at Jensen who knows that it wasn't a serious statement. "Calm down."

"But--But he was sucking on your face!"

"And I was sucking on his, what is your point?"

If Chad were Mortal again, he'd surely be scrunching his face up in disgust.

"So gross."

"And if you don't mind, Chad," Jared says, smirking at Jensen. "I plan on sucking on his face again."

Jensen reflects the same expression, leaning back in to kiss him once more. "You're making it sound so dirty, Witch."

"I'm learning from the best, Jock."

Jared's body lights up brighter than before as they begin to smooch. Chad cringes, scrambling away from them both. It's easy to tell that Chad's afraid they're gonna strip and plow one another on top of him, though it's definitely not the case. Jared laughs, placing his forehead against Jensen's.

All too soon, their little paradise is interrupted when Jared senses a prescence in the vicinity. Another Warlock close to home. Older. It's Jeff! Jared surges up from his seat. He grabs Jensen by the hand, guiding him over towards the window where they look at Jeff walking up the driveway.

"Shit," Jared sighs. "It's my guardian. You have to leave quickly."

"What, he's not a fan of having uninvited company or something?"

"That...and if he catches you up here, Jeff will know that you 'somehow' found out about our world, and he'll erase all your memories of me and Magic."

Jensen swallows, clearly concerned. "Well...that's not good."

"It's not."

"What are you gonna do, JP?" Chad asks, apparently worried as well. "You could get in trouble for this!"

"I'm trying to think." Jared snaps, biting his nails.

Downstairs, Jeff calls Jared and Chad. "Guys, I'm home!"

Shit.

"I could go through the window." Jensen suggests.

Jared shakes his head. "No, we're pretty high up, and you'll hurt yourself. And you'll just trip off the ward around the house."

It's silent, but then Jared looks at Chad; he can practically see the lightbulb forming above his head. Jared rushes towards the closet with Jensen, pointing at it.

"Get in."

Confused, Jensen raises up his eyebrow. "Um...come again?"

"Oh, dear," Chad exhales. "You've skipped over too much. You know he's a Mortal. Get in the closet. He's going to do the thing!"

"What thing? Am I gonna explode or evaporate or something?"

The young Warlock holds his hand up to the closet, whispering the secret phrase. The door shoots open, and the familiar swirls of color replace the contents of the closet. Beside him, Jensen gasps, eyes widening in wonder. He glances at Jared, chuckling in disbelief and awe.

"Holy crap...what is this?"

"A portal," the boy explains. "Don't worry, it's safe. It'll take you back to your house in the blink of an eye."

"You really are amazing, you know that?"

For the umpteenth time tonight, Jared blushes. "So I've been told."

Jensen grabs him without a word, spinning him around until he's in his arms again. Their mouths find their way back towards the other, all smiles.

Jensen presses another kiss Jared's lips. "I'll never get used to that," He then gestures to the portal. "Or this."

"You should start."

"Working on it."

"Hey, Jared," comes Jeffrey's voice downstairs. "Did something just happen?"

Shit. He'll no doubt investigate the power surge emanating from the bedroom.

Jared breaks away, pointing relucantly at the swirling gateway. "Okay. Into the closet. God, that sounds so bad, but--just get in. Trust me. It won't kill you."

Jensen nods. "I trust you. And, uh, thank you. For saving my life. I'm gonna make it up to you. See you around?"

"You bet. Goodnight, Jen."

"Night, Jay."

Jensen steps through the portal, disappearing from sight. Jared quickly shuts it down as his vision begins to blur. He grabs his glasses and the book of Zaelich spells, jumping onto his bed. Chad hops up with him, curling around his feet as Jeff suddenly enters the room. Pretending to read, Jared looks up at his guardian who scans the room skeptically.

"What's up?" The boy asks.

Jeff scratches his chin. "Nothing, I...I just thought I felt something is all."

"Just studying more Magic."

"I see. Something wrong with your eyes?"

"Huh?"

The older Warlock laughs, pointing at the glasses on Jared's face. "It's just that you're wearing those."

"O--Oh." Jared laughs nervously. "Yeah. They're...yeah."

"Yup!" Chad supplies, though it adds absolutely nothing to the conversation.

"Uh...huh." Jeff frowns. "Okay. I'll just leave you to your studies. Have a good night."

"You too."

Jeff nods to the pair before seeing himself out. Jared lets out a long sigh of relief, closing the book and laying down on his back. Chad travels up his body to lie on his chest. Jared pets him, running his hand through the smooth fur that never once gets on his clothes.

"He's not stupid," Chad teases. "He knows something's up."

"Of course he does, he just doesn't know what."

For a while, it's pretty quiet. That is until Chad decides to give his unwanted opinion.

"So..."

Jared smacks his lips. "So."

"You and the Mortal boy..."

The young man sighs. "What about us?"

"It's an odd pairing, if I may say so myself." Chad snickers, tail twitching. "Like Sabrina and Harvey--oooh, no! Samantha and Darren from Bewitched...only younger."

"We're not married."

"Not yet, at least."

Those words send shivers up Jared's spine. Marriage? It's a little early to be thinking about that, right? He's not saying Jensen's definitely not marriage material (because he is), but it's pretty bold of Chad to assume that they'll even last that long.

And that's another thing.

What are they, and what is it that they're doing?

They're friends, sure, but after tonight...what then? Friends who kiss each other? Romantic interests? Crushes?

...Boyfriends? Oh, dear, it sounds so serious! Jared turns bright red just thinking about it, forcing him to cover his face with the nearest pillow. As expected, Chad mocks him.

"Oh, lighten up! Jensen would make a splendiferous husband, I'm sure. Obviously, I'll be the best man--I won't expect anything less! Ring bearer, my ass! Just because I'm short doesn't mean I have to do the expected. Ah, and think of the champagne and the music! Jeff knows a lot of good hits from his time; he could DJ and walk you down the aisle--!"

"Ugh, enough, please?" comes Jared's muffled voice from the pillow. "I really don't wanna think about this right now."

"Eh, suit yourself. But I've seen this kind of stuff in your bloodline before, JP. Can't run away from destiny."

Jared uncovers his face. "Destiny?"

"Yeah. Fate. You and that boy. Inseparable. Ya know...unless he's being almost killed by a malevolent beast. You always seek each other out, whether you know it or not. Might as well say your names are written in between the lines that make up the universe, but that'd be so cliche."

"You know I don't believe in Soulmates, Chad."

"Soulmates? Now, who said anything about Soulmates, Jared? Hmm..."

Jared doesn't believe in the Other Half.

He doesn't.

And he never will, because such things don't exist. It's make believe. Souls can't be paired...can they?

Whatever the case, Jared chooses to end the conversation. He turns over on his side, spotting the multitude of things on his dresser. Books, clothes, and other bits and bobbles. Something catches his eye, however, causing him to stand up. Jared walks to the dresser, opening up a small box of things he took with him when he left his home years ago.

Inside are a few treasured items from his previous life. Pictures of him and his parents, happy, smiling, and loving. He remembers every snapshot taken and on which days. A couple other things lie inside including old movie tickets and drawings, but there's one other thing that Jared pays attention to.

A small silver pentacle necklace that belonged to his mother. She wore it faithfully, believing it would protect their family from harm. She was wrong. This necklace holds no power.

Not yet.

Gaining an idea, Jared takes the necklace from the box, traipsing back over to his bed to gather the Zaelich book of spells. Desperate, he flips the pages carelessly, nearly tearing one out completely to get to the section he wants to find. At last, Jared locates the right spell. There's nothing much to it at all, just a strong amount of power and immense willpower.

Jared lays the necklace on the book, reciting the words out before him in English and Zaelich.

Safeguard against the known and the unknown. Protect thee; shield thy target from harm. Merciful deities above, hear this spell. Brightest star, surround this object, mark this as a pure talisman of light.

As Jared chants the spell over and over, the necklace lifts into the air, hovering before him. He watches in smug satisfaction as small Zaelich symbols etch and sear themselves around the circumference of the pentacle. Jared recites the spell one last time, completing it altogether. The pentacle drops to the book; the outer rim is covered in markings.

Chad raises his paw, quickly tapping the necklace as only a cat could. "What the hell did you do? Is it safe?"

"It's not going to hurt you, or anyone." Jared informs as he picks it up, turning it over in his hands. "Just the opposite. It protects from harm. From the known and the unknown."

"Who will it protect? You surely don't need it."

Jared bites his lip, summoning a small black box with a red ribbon out of thin air. Chad's right: Jared doesn't need it. He's far too powerful for such a measly trinket.

But it's not for him.

It's for someone who is so brave, but cannot properly defend himself against the darkness.

****

Jensen settles into his bed, hands behind his head.

This whole week was a wild ride from start to finish. Being half-possessed by a Demon. God, what next? Dinner with a Warlock? That's actually something he'd look forward to.

Witches, Warlocks, Demons, and talking cats.

His world has just been flipped upside down. He wonders how many others know about the world of Magic, but don't say anything. Could there be Mortals that can wield Magic? If so, could he use Magic? Jensen's mind races as all these important questions come back down to thoughts of Jared.

Jensen's little firecracker for sure. He puts on a front for everyone, but he's so soft underneath it all. The Mortal wonders about what's to come for them. Kissing Jared felt right, and the boy didn't seem to mind it all too much either. They could be dating, but even that feels like a stretch.

As Jensen muses on the new growth in their relationship, something miraculous happens.

A small rift forms above the bed. It's different from the portal in Jared's closet. This one ripples, and acts quite like water with the way it moves around. Jensen sits up, intrigued by what's going to fall out. He gasps softly as the portal spits out a tiny black box onto his lap. The rift closes shortly after, fading out of existence. Jensen stays stunned on his bed, grasping the box with one hand.

He doesn't hesitate to open it, carefully removing the ribbon tying it together. Taking a look inside, he sees a necklace; a black cord with a silver pendant attached. A star with strange engravings on the circle around the shape. Removing the necklace, Jensen also finds a folded up note within the box. He takes it out to read it, discovering just who sent this to him.

"So listen, you're a Mortal. I'm a Warlock. I can protect myself from danger. So can you, but not from the same danger I can protect myself from. That's why I'm giving this to you. It's a protection charm. As long as you wear it, you'll be shielded from harm. It also acts as a tracking device just in case your bravery and heroism overtakes all common sense and you are held against your will. Please, don't be stupid. It would honestly suck to lose you so quickly.

Jare-Ed, not Jay."

Jensen folds the letter back up into the box with a smile on his face. Wow. Jared really is a softie! There's no more denying it after tonight. Jensen puts the charm ground his neck, feeling it hum and illuminate eerily in response to contact. The glow dies down soon enough, and the humming comes to a halt.

"You're always surprising me, Jay," Jensen whispers in the darkness, falling back into his pillow. "Always surprising me."

He can tell that this is gonna be the greatest time of his life.

****

In another state...

The entire town of Korman Falls is gone. There's nothing left.

Zilch.

Zero.

Nada.

No living person remains here. They're all dead, killed by a pissant seeking to obtain something he was never meant to have.

Everything has been burnt to the ground, all the way down to the last hick truck stop. This is beyond Kendrick's power now. He cannot contain this alone. The only way to stop it is to get help. He knows where the bastard is headed off to next.

The Twitchy Witchy Boy is in that exact direction. Good.

He just has to know what it is about this kid that has half of the Underworld talking.

"Welp..." Kendrick mutters, walking casually out of the destroyed town. "Time to pay Wonder Boy a visit."

Chapter Text

His search has led him to an abandoned gas station.

Well, it's not really abandoned in the way that you might think. Everything is fully functional; the gas pumps are operational, as is the shitty ATM inside. However, it's abandoned because the only people inside are nothing but ash and bone.

Kendrick kneels down to examine their bodies, rubbing the ash on his fingertips. This was recent, not even two hours ago. But now there's no trace of the wicked fucker. He stands up with a sigh, wandering over to the register to collect the spare cash. It's not like anyone in here needs it.

With the trail now cold, Kendrick has no other option than to find Sir Little Witch. If what they're saying in the Underworld is true then he just might be able to put an end to the horrible man who's been roasting these people. Kendrick finally leaves the gas station, determined.

He needs to get to the kid.

"I'm eager to see what you look like, Wonder Boy."

****

It's Monday morning, and Jared walks into the school building with Jensen's arm trapped around his shoulder.

There's such a thing as subtly, but it seems like Jensen didn't get the memo.

Jared doesn't mind though. The students are murmuring about them, whispering things into each other's ears. It's all gossip...but some of the things they're saying isn't too far from the truth.

They technically are together, but not yet in the way people are describing.

There was absolutely no intercourse, Nina! And, no, he didn't do that, Grant! Jensen's not that kind of guy to do anything like that, Jared knows it. They pass by Danneel on their way to class, yet only Jared notices her. She talks with her friends, but looks over at Jared with a strange, unreadable expression.

One look into her mind shows mostly one emotion; jealousy.

Oblivious as ever, Jensen ignores her when she makes a weak attempt to call his name. It's probably why her jealousy just sparked up to complete rage. Jared could whisper in her head to tell her to get over herself, to not be such a bitch when they're seen together, to fuck off forever to Maine or something, but he won't.

It'd be so easy to, wouldn't it? It was with Coach Cohen, but that's because he's a real meathead and Jared didn't really feel like playing sports.

Jared knows that the power within him is way stronger than most his age and beyond, but that doesn't mean he gets to screw with people's heads. Jensen is the prime example of that. So, for now at least, Danneel is safe from his mind.

"So, I've been looking up some stuff online," Jensen says much later in their Algebra class. "And there's a chat room for Witches and Warlocks. They share a lot of infor there."

Jared scoffs, writing down the answers to the questions on his worksheet. "It's all bullshit. No Witch or Warlock would ever publicly trade information online where everyone can see."

"Oh." Jensen pouts. "Bummer. So, disregarding that, let's talk about something else. Can I meet your guardian face to face?"

"What? God, no!"

"Aww, come on. Why not?"

"Did you suddenly forget about the mind erasing thing, or what?"

"Well, maybe just introduce me as the totally oblivious Mortal you're dating." Jensen says with a beautiful smirk.

Ha! Dating.

It's not a lie though. Technically. Jared hasn't given this thing a real name yet. They're simply friends.

Friends...who kiss each other in private. Yeah. It's not the most alluring title, but it sure is a start!

"Hmph. We'll see."

And that's all Jared says in response. They're nearly busted in class for talking, though, like a true gentleman, Jensen takes the full blame. And who said chivalry was dead?

****

"So, you're telling me that actual Witches and Warlocks escaped from the Salem Witch Trials?"

"Yes."

"Cool. And you guys don't willingly summon Demons or consort with Satan, right?"

Here we go.

It's lunch now, and while Jared appreciates Jensen asking questions to better understand him, *this* kind of question makes him just a tad bit agitated.

"That's a common misconception about us Magic users," Jared starts, stabbing his fork into his delicious salad. "You see it all the time on movies and on TV regarding Witches and Warlocks drawing their power from something Demonic."

"So, it's not true at all?"

Damn.

Jared chews his food, trying his best to word this carefully. "Well--I mean...it definitely is complicated. We believe that there's no Satan, just as we believe that there is no definite God. Sure, Demons exist in the Underworld and the coward Angels thrive in Paradise, but that's because they've always existed...and, yes, there are Magic users that willingly submit themselves over to a Demon for power. But it's a not a majority thing. I consider it foolish and dangerous."

Jensen nods. "Uh huh. I see."

It's true. In the past, there have been--and there probably will be more--cases in which Witches and Warlocks consorted with Demons. Jared shudders at the thought. He can't even begin to imagine such a fate; giving up your soul, your very essence of being, to a nefarious creature intent on causing chaos.

It must be a painful process. You can't come out of that intact. No way.

The Council sends Peacekeepers like Jeff to hunt them down. Of course they do. They can't do it themselves. Tired old bastards with only titles as power now. Jared will never truly respect them for their treatment towards his father. Overworked, underpaid. He was the best one in the squad. He deserved so much better.

He holds them just as responsible for ruining his life as he does for Carver. Jared is still quite in the dark about it, but from what the sadistic Sorcerer told him as he sliced his body, Gerald Padalecki was sent by The Council to investigate him.

If only they sent someone else to their death. A morbid way of thinking, but that's Jared.

"There are many stupid choices people make," Jared adds, lowering his voice. "I don't pity them. They know the risks, yet they decided to throw their lives away. Greed consumes, power destroys."

If it's any indication on Jensen's face, Jared would say that he just scared the poor lad shitless. To comfort him, Jared smiles sweetly.

"But enough about that. Let's just get through the day, yeah?"

Jensen mirrors this action before going back to chow down on his pizza.

****

Jared stays behind today to watch Jensen practice with his classmates. Though he hasn't outright said it aloud to his team, Jensen doesn't want to play anymore. There's a game coming up very soon, and while it may hurt the team and ultimately his friendships with them, Jensen needs to be true to himself.

The Mortal mentioned the night before that his dad is getting more and more out of hand, drinking during work hours and having scandalous affairs in his office.

Jared does not know Alan Ackles personally, but from what Jensen says about him, perhaps it's better if he never meets him.

He might "accidentally" break his neck and maim him with a flick of his finger. Jared's not a particularly violent person, but he's willing to make exceptions for the ones he deems as a threat towards those he cares about.

Jensen scores a shot soon, breaking Jared out of his thoughts. He cheers, clapping a few times to get the Mortal's attention. Jensen looks up at the bleachers with a grin, then proceeds to jog off the court towards him, much to everyone's chagrin. Jared is pleasantly surprised when, out of the blue, Jensen slaps a quick kiss to his cheek.

It shocks everyone, including Jared whose face turns beet red.

"Jensen..." Jared finally croaks out when he finds his voice. "What are you doing?"

"Something I should've done a while ago." He replies, letting out a shaky breath.

Before Jared can question him on what he means by that, Jensen stands to his full height. He faces Coach Cohen and his teammates with the biggest, proudest grin on his face.

And suddenly, Jared knows exactly what it is he's about to say.

"I quit!"

As anticipated, all players on the basketball court gasp in shock, looking at each other, then lastly at the very heated Coach Cohen. He seems furious, face contorting in anger. His hands ball up into fists, and his eyes glare daggers up at Jensen.

"What are you on about, Ackles?" He grumbles.

"I'm quitting the team, Coach." Jensen beams. "I gotta go my own way. I'm good at this...but it was never for me. I've been doing this for someone else. Can't do that anymore."

"The first game of the season is coming up!" Coach Cohen growls. "You're the goddamn Captain, Jensen! You can't do this!"

"I don't wanna play anymore, Coach. I'm done. I want my life back."

"Now listen here, you little--okay!"

The coach's abrupt shift in tone and demeanor throws Jensen off his game; he gapes at him. "Er...what?"

Coach Cohen grins. "I said it's okay. It's perfectly fine, Ackles. Oliver can take your place. It won't be the same without you, though. We wish you well in all your future endeavors."

It shuts Jensen right up along with the others, and after a few seconds of awkward staring and standing around, Coach Cohen directs everyone to continue practicing. Bewildered, Jensen looks back over at Jared, noticing something very off.

The Warlock has his thumb and index finger on his ear, tugging it, and he's flashing him a knowing smile.

"Mind control?" Jensen snarks. "Seriously?"

Jared shrugs, placing his hands in his lap. "He's a hothead who's passionate about the sport. Of course he's going to be pissed about his star player quitting the team. Just had to soften the blow a little."

"What other tricks do you have up your sleeve, Witch?"

"Let's hope you never have to find out, Jock."

"Jock no longer."

"That name is sticking, I don't care."

Jensen grabs him, causing Jared to squeal helplessly. He presses kiss after kiss on his face, causing the ones below on the court to whoop and groan playfully. It's seems that they're used to this kind of behavior.

It makes Jared feel a slight twinge of jealousy. Who else has had the privilege of kissing this baffoon, and exchanging cute, friendly banter with him? Distantly, Danneel's face appears in his mind, grinning like a wolf. She's not the only one, he presumes. Jensen's been around many other boys.

Even so, the envy Jared feels for those people grows. To sate his own appetite, he cradles Jensen's jaw, kissing him like his life depended on it. Jensen kisses him back, slowing down just a little.

"What was that for?" Jensen asks.

"I want to be all you think about."

Jared is shocked by his own honesty, flushing brightly as he realizes that he just made a vulnerable jackass of himself. Jensen, on the other hand, laughs, nuzzling unabashedly into Jared's neck. He lowers his volume, voice deeper and huskier than before.

"You have been since I first laid my eyes on you, silly Warlock."

Those words send shivers down his spine, especially since it was said directly into Jared's ear. It causes the young man to feel things in his groin he never thought possible, and before anything else happens, he pushes shyly on Jensen's shoulder, signaling for him to stop.

Erections in public are considered extremely embarrassing.

"You...shouldn't say things like that." Jared whispers.

"Like what?" Jensen smirks. Asshole. "I didn't say anything wrong."

"No, but it's the way you said it, weirdo!" The Warlock squeaks with cheeks burning hot. "Trying to seduce me with your pelvic sorcery!"

"That's a thing? Like, Sex Magic?"

Jared turns away from him. "I've never had the chance to find out... But don't get any ideas."

Yet another embarrassing reveal! Jared's eyes widen in shock as he realizes he basically just told the guy he really, really likes that he's an untouched virgin. Mortal men and even Lust Demons are so hyped up on the notion of taking one's virginity almost to the point of obsession. It's a sort of trigger for them.

They're all the same.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to assume... We don't need to rush into that."

Or maybe not.

Jared takes another glance at Jensen, eyeing him down. He lets out a breathy laugh, shaking his head. "I shouldn't be so surprised when it comes to you, Jensen, yet here we are. Take me home?"

Jensen nods happily. "Sure thing."

The boy watches as Jensen frolicks down the bleachers towards the locker room to change. His ex-teammates stare at him, bewildered, then direct their individual gazes in Jared's direction. They all seem pretty cool about it; upon inspection into Oliver's head, Jared sees that the teen is just way too excited about his new position as Captain.

Oliver holds no ill will towards Jensen about leaving, though that doesn't mean everyone else feels the same. Despite this, Jared has a feeling that everything will be fine in the end.

Unbeknownst to him, though, things are only going to get much, much more difficult.

****

Kendrick's getting close to the area. He can feel it.

The Demon of Fear was running rampant in the area, spewing its sick and infecting Mortals like a goddamn disease. He can smell its filth from here just miles away from the town it was terrorizing. By the tales from the bastards down below, the one who banished Fear wore a smile on his face as he casted him out.

Now that's who he needs! A Human who embraces the power within himself to smite those who are a danger to innocents. Very commendable.

The sun is setting now, and the road forward isn't too long. There's a diner just up ahead. Surely it wouldn't be such a bad idea to ask around. He's not entirely certain if his Wonder Boy frequents this place of not, but there's always a possibility.

In time, Kendrick makes it to the diner, spotting an older gentleman stepping out of his pickup truck. He looks like a stereotypical drunk hick who regularly hits on women way out of his league. And even if there's almost no possibility that this man has seen Wonder Boy, Kendrick must try.

"Good evening, sir," he says, walking up to him.

The man frowns, grumpy. "Hmph. What do you want?"

"I'm looking for someone. A young boy."

"Ha!" the Mortal man laughs, licking his lips. "Me too. Join the club. Sadly, I can't help you out with that. The guy I called for that is in hiding. Had a sweet selection too."

It only takes Kendrick a few seconds to understand exactly what the man was talking about.

And it only takes him a millisecond to pry into his mind to discover just how perverted and disgusting he is.

Kendrick, appalled by the implicit grin on the pervert's face, steps away from him, but not before causing his heart to explode within his chest. The man flops to the pavement quickly, dying without a witness in sight.

What he saw in his head was unspeakable, and unforgivable. All those boys he hurt--they were innocent. Kendrick was not on a quest for Vengeance for them, but if fate willed him to meet up with that vile Mortal, then who is he to argue?

With a slight pep in his step, Kendrick enters the diner to ask more questions.

****

"...I mean, yeah, I rode on a broom before. It's definitely not as exciting as Harry Potter makes it out to be."

Jensen chuckles, digging his spoon into the large carton of chocolate ice cream they're sharing. Here they are, laughing and eating frozen treats in Jensen's huge room. One could fit a small family in here and call it an apartment! Jared understands that Jensen's father is the owner of a pretty big company or something, though he didn't dive too far into the details. It's not his business.

But it is easy to tell that Jensen comes from money, and he shouldn't be afraid to admit that. Jeff's cozy little house is just fine with Jared, though.

"Harry Potter has nothing on you, Jay." Jensen states, eating a spoonful of ice cream. "You'd kick his ass so hard."

Jared rolls his eyes with a smile. "Yeah, I guess. But he's the 'chosen one', or whatever."

"So? Like you said, you know hundreds of life ending spells. He knows one...I think?"

"Okay, let's not delve into the semantics of a fictional character, yeah? Let's just enjoy this peaceful night together eating delicious ice cream and talking about me."

"Haha! Conceited."

Jared flutters his eyelashes. "Why, thank you!"

The two laugh; Jared pushes Jensen on his chest with his socked foot when the Mortal makes odd kissy faces at him. Feeling dejected, Jensen pouts like a sad puppy, prompting Jared to sigh and give him a kiss anyway. The pathetic pout on Jensen's face washes away immediately, and he quickly grabs Jared into his arms.

Things suddenly become more and more serious as their laughter dies down and they stare into each other's eyes. Jared caresses Jensen's jaw, admiring his many freckles again. His eyes are as bright as the stars in space, and greener than the most pleasant pastures.

"I don't think I could get over this, Jensen," whispers the Warlock. "Being this close to you, kissing you, telling you my secrets. What are we?"

Jensen blinks, moving a strand of hair behind Jared's ear. "What do you want us to be?"

"Something..."

"Something?"

"It's better than nothing."

Jensen smiles. "Yes. Something is always better than nothing."

Just as he leans in for yet another kiss, both of them are cut off by the sudden prescence of another individual. They separate from each other swiftly, though anyone with eyes could tell what was about to happen if they hadn't been interrupted. Jared and Jensen take a look at the open doorway. There's a man here with graying hair in a suit that's missing its jacket. His tie is loosened, and the strong smell of whiskey is coming off him.

It's safe to say that this man is none other than Alan Ackles.

"Hey, dad..." Jensen mumbles, not even daring to look him in the eye.

Alan puts on a happy face for Jared, though he can see through that mask. "Hey, buddy. You brought a friend home? Who's this?"

Jared doesn't bother with pleasantries. He doesn't wave, he doesn't even smile. He just glares. "Jared."

"Nice to meet you, Jared. So, uh, Jensen, I got a call from Coach Cohen today. You quit the team. What's that about?"

The air around them changes.

Jensen swallows, looking down at the floor. "It just didn't feel right anymore..."

"What are you talking about? You love basketball!"

"You love basketball," Jared growls cruelly into his direction. "Not him."

If Jared didn't make his point painfully clear before that he does not like Mr. Ackles, he has now. The both of them only continue to becoming angrier and angrier, and that puts Jensen in an uncomfortable position. Alan is swearing profusely in his mind, using horrible, and insensitive slurs towards Jared and towards his own son.

He wasn't always this way, it seems. Josh Ackles' death pushed him to become this. Jensen was incredibly lucky to make it out of the pit of despair his father is currently trapped in. He needs help. Or hit to the head with a baseball bat.

"Jensen," Alan says, squinting his eyes just a bit. "I need to have a word with you."

"Dad...I--"

"I won't tell you twice. Now."

Jensen doesn't say anything as he rises from his spot, eyes still glued to the floor. It takes everything within Jared not to take him by the arm and just run out the door. He watches helplessly as Jensen trudges out of the room with his father, shutting the door behind them.

It's silent for several minutes until Jared hears a sound that makes his stomach sick and his eyes water in anger and sadness. He can hear Alan yelling at Jensen, calling him names; the walls shake within the house as the man slams his son against the wall, brusing his shoulder and head.

"...faggot son! ...disappointment!"

Jared curls up his fists. Rage fills him up to the brim, and all he can see is red when Jensen comes back into the room clutching his shoulder with red rimmed eyes.

"It's getting late," the battered boy rasps. "And I gotta call Coach Cohen. Gotta...get back on the team."

Jared stands, rushing over to embrace the only friend he has in this town. He cries, but he doesn't sob.

"Wait here," he says, slipping out of the room.

The Warlock leaves Jensen behind, slowly descending the staircase with murderous intent. When he gets to the bottom, he sees Alan sitting on the couch with a bottle of brown liquor. Clenching his fist, Jared causes the bottle to explode in his hand, sending glass shards sprawling across the living room.

Drenched in alcohol and shocked, Alan stands up, looking over at Jared. He snarls, belligerent.

"Get out of my house, fairy."

Jared holds up his index finger.

"Igni"

A small flame ignites on his finger tip. Alan takes a step back, eyes widening to hilarious sizes. Jared stalks towards him, smirking.

"That thing you're feeling right now?" Jared taunts. "That's fear. It might not be the same fear you instill into your son, but it's still fear. What do you fear more than losing everything, Alan? Losing everything to fire."

Pointing towards Alan, the small flame on the tip of Jared's finger suddenly shoots out a torrent of fire, engulfing the man whole. He shrieks in pain, crying, yelling hysterically. Jared, amused, looks on as Alan flings himself from the sofa to the floor to put out the flames.

In reality, he's not on fire at all.

In a flash, Alan is on the floor, staring up at Jared who's sporting a rather sadistic grin. The Ackles man looks at his surroundings, seeing absolutely no fire at all. He tries to get up, but Jared forces him back down with the slightest flick of his finger. He stands over the abuser.

"You will never talk about him that way again. You will never lay a hand on him again. You will never disrespect him again. You will be obedient to my words, because if you do any of these things to Jensen again, I'll come back, and I'll fill your head with more fears."

"What...what are you?"

"I'm just someone who cares deeply for your son. His life is his own, not yours to mold. Apologize to your son, talk to him. He's the only one you truly have left in this world. He is your son, not your failure. Josh would not have wanted to see this if he were still here."

Jared abandons him there on the floor to sob about his life. Perhaps he secured a better future for the Ackles, a more stable household. It won't change the things Alan has already done, but after taking a quick peak into his head, Jared sees something he hasn't in a very long time:

Hope.

After some time, he manages to make his way back upstairs to Jensen's room. The Mortal quickly rises from his bed, eyes searching Jared's for some kind of sign. He's worried for the boy, thinking that maybe Jared took his rage out on Alan in a murderous way.

Jared consoles him, telling him the truth of the matter. It pleases Jensen significantly, and he smiles happily in Jared's arms. The Warlock uses his powers, calling a healing crystal to his hand. The lavender colored object glows when it comes into contact with Jensen's bruises, taking only mere moments to heal him completely. It's been said that using a healing crystal feels like riding on a rainbow.

In other words, it gives the healed person a very brief, yet very strong high. Thankfully, Jensen was unconscious the last time. This time's different.

"Whoa..." Jensen gasps. "What is that thing?"

"Healing crystal. I used it on you when you were attacked by the Fear Demon."

"They must come in handy."

"They are," Jared adds. "But you won't need them here."

"Did you look into my--?"

"No, I just guessed you'd say it in case I didn't." Jared places his hands on Jensen's chest, nodding. "He won't do what he did again."

"Aren't you afraid that he'll--?"

"He won't, and no one will believe him if he did. I have a feeling things are gonna get better. For the both of you."

Jensen gives him a small, understanding smile. "You know, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but--wow, my tongue tastes like bubblegum!"

Ah. And there's the "healing high". Jensen's super giggly now, and his pupils are blown wide. It'll pass after a couple of minutes, so there's no real need to worry. Jared just rolls his eyes, hugging Jensen's head to his shoulder. Whatever he was about say is lost in a sea on endless nonsensical thoughts.

"You smell like clouds, Jay," he giggles.

Jared snorts. "Yeah, okay. Clouds. Got it."

"When are we getting married?"

Married!?

The Warlock blushes, attempting to make light of it. "When you can stop calling me Jay."

"Hmmm...never!"

Ugh. What a big doof he is when under the influence. Jared makes a mental note to never leave Jensen alone at any sort of event that they may attend in the foreseeable future.

Marriage? Hmph. Yeah, right.

To this knucklehead?

As if.

****

It didn't take much to enter the building. Mortals are so basic when it comes to security. Kendrick just slid through the school doors without a hitch.

Turns out, a boy and some older man stopped by the diner a while ago, claiming that they were new to the town. Thanks to the owner and a few loyal patrons inside, they pointed him in the correct direction. Only problem is that he doesn't exactly know where the kid lives.

That's why Kendrick is inside the school building, sneaking around the main office. He takes a seat at the nearest desk, starting up the computer. He doesn't get too far, however, when he's suddenly greeted with a screen demanding a username and a password from him.

"Annoying..."

Kendrick easily bypasses the screen, using his otherworldly abilities to hack into the system. Once he's in, he takes a glimpse into the recent records, looking for new students who fit the description of the kid he's looking for.

With only a few keystrokes, Kendrick obtains all the information that he needs.

Padalecki. That's a name he hasn't heard in a while. The denizens of the Underworld know it well, but didn't realize that the deceased Peacekeeper had a child. This honestly changes everything.

He laughs. "Gotcha. Okay, Wonder Boy. I hope you're home."

After getting what he came for, Kendrick exits the school, erasing any and all evidence of his intrusion.

****

Teen rebellion is a part of life, and Jensen knows it well. But it seems Jared has little to no experience in that certain field. He's never snuck out after dark, or defied his parents direct orders--Jensen wonders if that includes sneaking behind Jeff's back to find and cast out the Fear Demon, but he's sure that doesn't count.

That's why they're out here in the outskirts of town, sitting above the pool at the dingy Haven's Way motel. Their pants are rolled up to their knees, and their bare feet wade in the lukewarm water. They know that they aren't supposed to be here, but Jensen has always been adventurous.

Jared stares up into the sky, mesmerized by the twinkling stars above, while Jensen stares at Jared, mesmerized by his ethereal beauty.

There hasn't been another person that has grasped Jensen's attention quite like Jared. He's one of a kind, a miracle, and Jensen desperately wants this to last between them. He desires for this relationship or whatever it is to go farther beyond, to go way up into their adult lives.

He's had a taste of life with Jared, and he doesn't want to go back. It sounds creepy in his head, but it's the truth.

"Truth or dare?" Jared asks out of the blue.

Jensen frowns. "Huh?"

"Truth or dare. The game. Which do you chose?"

Oh. Right.

"Um...truth."

Jared huffs. "Chicken. If I were trapped in another dimension, would you try to find me?"

"Of course I would! What kind of question is that?"

"Even if you don't have any powers of your own?" The Warlock continues, looking down from the sky.

Jensen nods, kicking his feet in the pool. "Even if I don't have any powers of my own. I'd search for you in this world and the next one, and the next one, and the very next one."

"Such a sap." Jared teases, pushing his shoulder against Jensen's.

"Yup. I sure am. Your turn. Truth or dare?"

"Truth."

"And you call me chicken, huh?" Together, they share a laugh until Jared buckles down, and Jensen begins to ask his question. "Okay. How do you really feel about me?"

Jared snickers, biting the corner of his bottom lip. "Ouch. Right for the jugular. Ruthless."

Jensen thinks he has overstepped his boundaries with this; they aren't dating, they aren't boyfriends, they aren't lovers, so what exactly could they be? His mother once told him that its perfectly normal to be afraid of the answers to the questions you ask, but the silence that falls between them sets his teeth on edge.

Jared is never one to hold his tongue, or refrain from speaking his mind, so what he says next shocks him.

"I feel a strong closeness with you, Jensen Ackles, and it scares me to high heaven. I've been having dreams where you're ripped from my arms by dark forces, and I always fight horde after horde to take you back from them. I know where my place is in the world for right now. I'm happy here. With you. That's all that needs to be said."

Wow.

"I...wow." Jensen sputters.

Jared smiles. "Did I break your brain?"

"Yeah--no! Maybe? Yes, but I guess in a good way. Thanks...for answering my question."

"You're welcome. Truth or dare?"

"Already? You didn't even give me a chance to recover from that."

Rolling his eyes, Jared taps on the watch around his wrist, signifying that time is running out for him to answer.

Jensen groans. "Ugh, fine! Dare."

The young Warlock grins menacingly, stroking his chin. "Jump in the pool."

"Done--"

"Naked."

He shivers in excitement, and tries his hardest to keep the blood in his head from rushing down to his loins. Naked? In front of Jared? That brat knows what he's doing--he's even laughing, throwing his head back.

Jensen stands, tossing all caution to the wind. This is game. He's good at those. Slowly, Jensen begins to undress starting with his pants, then his shirt, then his undershirt, then his boxer briefs until he's in nothing but the charm necklace Jared gifted him.

Shocked, Jared turns his head, but not before getting an eyeful of Jensen's goods. He's not embarrassed of his body, yet...

He's naked in front of Jared!

His crush! His love interest!

The realization sets in, and before any lewd thoughts cross his mind, Jensen quickly takes a dive into the pool, accidentally splashing Jared afterwards. He swims up to the surface, chuckling to conceal his feelings. Jared's cheeks are crimson, and he tries to hide the blush, but it fails. So cute.

"Got anything else? Does this mean I win?" Jensen grins.

Jared huffs, crossing his arms. "Nope! I pick Dare!"

Interesting. Shock sets in on Jared's face as he registers what he just said. He can't take it back. It's much too late for that now. Jensen laughs.

"I dare you to join me. No clothes, no protests, no take backs."

"I...I can't swim." Jared mutters.

Jensen opens his arms towards him. "I can. I'll hold you up."

Again, Jensen starts to believe that he has somehow crossed a line between them. He's pleasantly surprised when he sees the boy swiftly discarding his clothes and jumping full speed into the water. He causes quite a splash, making Jensen shield his face against the oncoming waves.

Jared pops up out of the water, hair obscuring his view, and splashing around aimlessly. He panics as he struggles to stay up, flailing about.

"Jen--Jensen!" He sputters, gasping. "Jensen, where'd you go!? I'm drowning!"

The older boy laughs, making it towards Jared in only a couple of seconds. "No one's drowning; you're gonna be okay! I'm here, Jay. I gotcha! See? Put your arms around my neck."

"Jensen--!"

"I'm here. I'm right here. There you go."

Jared clasps his arms securely around the other boy. This time it's Jensen's turn to blush as Jared presses his wet naked body against his. Shame, guilt, and pleasure mix through his mind as he assures Jared of his safety; he's being held afloat by the ex-Captain of the basketball team. Nothing's gonna grab his foot and pull him under!

Not an outlandish thing to think given that the world Jensen thought he knew was sort of an illusion. He was half expecting a Fairy to jump out of his cabinet this morning.

In time, Jared begins to calm, breathing somewhat normally despite the situation. Jensen swipes the hair out of Jared's face, allowing him to finally look into those gorgeous eyes once again.

"What color are your eyes?" Jensen asks, whispering.

"Hazel. Maybe green," he answers. "I'm not sure on most days... They're--"

"They're beautiful."

"I...guess.. "

Jensen tries again.

"You're beautiful."

At that, Jared smiles instead of having that adorable blush touch his cheeks. Without being prompted to, he surges forward to capture Jensen's face with his hands, kissing his lips with the passion of a thousand suns.

Jensen does his best to reciprocate the action, smooching the Warlock back with just as much want and urgency. Jared makes him feel things he's never truly felt before, and he has shown him things no other Mortal is ever allowed see. In Jared's eyes, Jensen is special.

He doesn't need to explicitly say it out loud, but it's felt through his entire being.

Maybe that's why they start to spin in the middle of the pool. Nothing turns them round and round in a circle--nothing normal, that is.

Jared's Magic.

It causes them to twirl, caught up together in a small whirlpool as they make out with one another. Jensen is sure to catch himself lest he scare off the poor boy; his body is bound to have certain reactions to this type of closeness.

Yet as they continue to twirl and kiss, something extraordinary happens to Jensen.

His eyes feel hot, and his body vibrates from the inside out. This isn't a normal reaction. This is paranormal.

And then he sees it all clear as day. Images in his mind, flashes of a time unknown to him.

Two men in matching suits standing next to the other, holding hands at an alter, smiling, listening to the priest, but also sharing a private conversation with each other in their minds; promises of love and comfort as they exchange rings. It's a wedding.

"There's no more normal after this."

"I don't care."

They kiss; the taller man seems so small in his husbands arms, staring up into his multicolored eyes. Those eyes, those beautiful eyes.

Jared's eyes.

The mysterious vision comes to an end just as the two boys break off the kiss. Jensen looks upon Jared's face, checking to see if he also felt that. There's no indication, though Jensen is positive of what he saw!

Well...positive as in he knows he saw something, but he doesn't know precisely what it was. The images came by so fast, and everything was bright and blurry.

"Jensen?" Jared speaks after some time. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I was...you didn't feel that?"

"I felt something."

Yes, of course he did. It just wasn't what Jensen felt only mere seconds ago.

Just before he can elaborate, they're surprised by a voice coming from the other side of the pool.

"What are you kids doing in here!?" The motel owner yells, rushing to the front desk inside. "I'm calling the police!"

"Shit!" Jensen laughs. "Time to go."

Jared agrees. "Yup!"

The Warlock holds tightly to Jensen as he swims towards the ladder, helping Jared up out of the pool. The two boys scurry to pick up their clothes, then run off to Jensen's car giggling like maniacs in the night.

****

Well.

That's nice.

This house is bound; there's a strong ward surrounding the perimeter. Must be the collective work of Jared Padalecki and his guardian inside.

Kendrick sighs, weighing his options. He doesn't want to tangle with that Peacekeeper inside that house. He's not here for him, he's here for the kid. Best thing to do is to wait for the boy until he gets back from wherever he's run off too.

With that in mind, Kendrick transports inside of the house, using the shadows and dark corners to stay hidden. He knows a few tricks and spells from Witches to slip right under wards. He's just surprised that one this strong had a crack in it.

Kendrick slithers through the darkest corners, shrouding himself from view. Not even that cat is aware of his prescence. Soon, though, he makes it up to the boy's room, sliding up under his bedroom door.

It's cozy in here, like a coffee shop only without the coffee. Kendrick inspects the room, spotting pictures of a family lost to tragedy along with tomes and grimoires that not even the most seasoned Magic users can understand. Kendrick picks up a leather bound book, flipping through the fragile pages.

"A tragic prodigy," he smirks, closing it. "Just what I need."

After sifting through most of his belongings, Kendrick hears the sound of a car coming down the room. He walks to the window, taking a peek outside to the driveway.

Black car. Two people inside. Both young. One Mortal, one Warlock.

Wonder Boy.

****

Jensen cuts off the engine, running his fingers through his moist hair. They're both still pretty soaked from that little activity; Jared's hair is so wet that the water drenched his shirt! Jared gets out of the car first, checking the time on his watch. He's a tad bit late, but that's alright.

He's here now.

Jensen exits the vehicle next, quickly coming around to walk next to him up the walkway.

"Tonight was fun," says Jared, wringing out his hair on the pavement. "But I smell like chlorine now. I hate pools."

"Admit it, you loved it."

"I almost drowned!"

"Are Witches always this dramatic with water?" Jensen snickers. He pretends to cry, sinking to his knees. "I'm melting, I'm melting! Oh, what a woooorld!"

Jared chuckles, rolling his kaleidoscope eyes. "You're such a meathead, Jock."

Jensen stands, rushing from the ground to meet up with Jared once more. In time, they make it up to the front door, standing in front of each other like the night of their "first date".

"This is my stop." Jared announces.

Jensen licks his lips. "Yup. I guess it is."

"Jensen, about your dad, I just wanna say--"

"It's fine," the older boy chimes in, putting his hand on Jared's shoulder. "It's fine."

"But it's not fine..."

"It will be. Just like you said."

The corner of Jared's mouth twitches until he forms a half-smile, melting completely under Jensen's touch. "Come e're."

Jensen smirks. "Oh? Tell me what you want first."

"I want a kiss, dummy."

"Just a kiss?"

"Yes--now hurry up before I change my mind!"

Pulling him closer, Jensen smooches Jared for probably the thousandth time since their very first kiss. It's soft, all consuming, and honeyed like a freshly baked cinnamon roll glazed with sticky, sweet frosting.

And all at once, Jensen receives another vision.

A house on fire, the flames shoot up into the sky, swallowing the building whole. It's hot, burning hot, no air, can't breathe, names being called desperately amongst the rising smoke.

"Jared! Hang on!"

A sudden burst of flame ends the vision as Jensen finds himself jumping up in apparent surprise. Jared frown at him, yet just as he opens his mouth to question the abnormal behavior, the front door opens up abruptly. Jared and Jensen step away from each other as if they were just caught doing something wildly inappropriate.

And in the doorway is Jeff, with Chad peering out through the space between his legs.

"Jared," the grizzled Warlock huffs. "You're home late."

"Yeah, sorry."

"And you're soaking wet. What were you doing?"

"It's a long story." Jared lets out a long sigh, looking between the other two. "Jensen, this is my guardian Jeff. Jeff, this is my friend Jensen."

Jeff crosses his arms, expressionless. "Hmph. So this is the infamous Jensen?"

Jensen holds his hand out to shake, gasping in slight pain when the man grasps it with the force of a hundred men. "Nice to meet you, sir! Jared has told me so many things about you--wonderful things."

"Oh? Like what?"

Jared groans, pushing Jeff to the side on the way in. "Like how you wax your chest hair when no one's looking--are you done?"

"Okay, okay, fine. I'll let you say goodnight. Pleasure meeting you, Jensen. Can't wait to get to know you better."

Torture mentally, he really means.

Jensen waves. "Night, sir."

After Jeff disappears further into the house, Jared and Jensen are left alone.

"Meow."

Well...almost alone.

"Chad." Jensen says.

"Jensen." Chad replies. "You look well."

"I try." The Mortal boy glances at Jared again nodding. "Well, it seems like we meet our father figures a little earlier than expected. Anyways, I'll pick you up tomorrow. Sleep tight, Jay."

Jared leans his head against the doorway. "You too, Jen."

With one last kiss, Jensen is gone, quickly hopping into his car and driving away to hopefully have a long, long conversation with his father. Jared shuts the front door, and before he can slink up the stairs to his room, he's confronted by Jeff once more.

"Why are you wet?" He asks again.

"I went swimming." Jared answers truthfully.

"You can't swim."

"Yeah, I know."

Jeff laughs. "Okay, I won't pry too much. I know that's a fight I can't possibly win. So..."

"So...?"

"Are you at least using protection?"

Jared fumes, blushing like the mad virgin he is. He storms off to the stairs with Chad in tow. "Oh--for fuck's sake, Jeff, you nasty old pervert!"

"I'm not a pervert, I'm just looking out for your safety!"

"I'm not having sex with him! Jensen is a gentleman, and he'd never try to force me into something I wouldn't want. Can we drop this so I can go to bed!?"

"Damn, okay!" Jeff laughs, throwing his hands into the air. "Fuckin' kids. Go to bed."

Jared doesn't need to be told twice. He ascends the staircase two at a time, mulling over everything that's happened today in his head.

So much as transpired lately, and he can't see himself going on as if everything is normal. For example, it took a great deal of restraint to keep from confessing everything to Jeff. The Peacekeeper is probably working immensely hard on figuring out how to crack the Fæmon case not knowing that Jared had banished it from the Mortal boy it was infecting.

So, yeah, he can't tell Jeff. At least not yet. The timing isn't right...and Jared can't lose Jensen. He's much too precious to him.

Soon, Jared enters his room, turning on the small lights around his bed for a bit of illumination. As he shuts the door, he instantly knows that something is wrong. Or rather, he notices that the aura in his room is exceeding off.

A sharp glance towards his desk shows that his hunch was correct, for there is another in here.

A powerful being, yet not as powerful as he is. A dark entity not unlike the Fear Demon he put away...yet there is definitely something coming off of it that gives Jared pause.

Benevolence? Or something akin to it?

The shadow by his desk chuckles at being noticed, fiddling with Jared's books.

"You sense me, yes?"

Jared picks Chad up in his arms as the feline hisses in defense. He can't do too much to protect himself, but Jared will gladly give his life to save him. "Who are you? Show yourself."

The shadow hums in thought, briefly contemplating its options. Ultimately, it decides to obey Jared's command, stepping out of the shadows to reveal a tall man with light brown skin, and hazel eyes, somewhat like Jared's, but more solid in color. He sports a mild beard, and a buzzcut. In every sense of the word, this man is beautiful, yet there is more to him that meets the naked eye. He radiates some kind of energy.

It's wrong.

A person wields this much dark power? Impossible. What else to him is there?

The man smiles, bowing his head for a moment. "It's an honor to be in the presence of such a talented Witch."

"Warlock." Jared corrects, poker face settled in place.

"Ah. Yes. I apologize."

"Who are you, and tell me why I shouldn't kill you right where you stand?"

"Being cautious is smart. I can appreciate that," the man says, slowly walking forward until they're face to face. "But I assure you, I'm not a danger to yourself, or those around you. My name is Kendrick. I've come a long way, Jared Padalecki, to seek you out. For your help against something sinister."

Jared stares at Kendrick for a long time, looking inside his mind to see the absolute horrors that he witnessed, and he lets the Warlock. He sees charred corpses, a town reduced to ashes, a person wielding corrupted Magic, innocent people being slain, and a Demonic voice growling angrily.

Someone--something--is coming.

And they won't stop until everything is reduced to ashes. It'll be difficult, but Jared's up for a challenge.

"Tell me everything. Right now."

"With pleasure."

Chapter Text

It started out as an idea.

A horrible, grotesque idea; immoral.

His name is Christian Kane, and he wasn't always a sadistic monster who planned on "purifying" the planet. He was once a kind and pure hearted Warlock who sought to live happily ever after with his fiance, who was also a Warlock, in a remote corner of the world strumming on his guitar.

A simple life.

An obtainable life.

A life he wasn't meant to have.

Christian's fiance was murdered by misguided men who were so hopped up on drugs that they mistook him for someone else. They beat him to death as he called out to his partner. His fiance laid there for hours, almost a full day in the dark and cold alley, rotting. Christian was devastated. So much so that he decided to gain his revenge on the men.

He reduced them to nothing but blood and bone, taken by the euphoric feeling of hurting others. Christian realized, in his delirium, that Mortals were savages, and that they didn't deserve to live amongst them. "Them" being the Magic users, the people he saw as superior.

With hatred in his heart, and disease in his mind, Christian called upon the forces of the Underworld, catching the ear of Chaos. It wasn't long until the two of them made a pact. Christian promised the Demon his soul as payment, and they embarked on a voyage spreading death and destruction along the way.

That's why Kendrick is here now.

That's why he sought Jared out.

That's why they're having this very conversation.

The young Warlock swallows, licking his lips in anxiety. "This man willingly signed over his soul to a Chaos Demon?"

"Yes," Kendrick answers.

"And you have reason to believe that he's on his way right now?"

"It seems I've beaten him here, but yes."

"And you think I'm the only one who can stop him?"

"With my help, of course."

"Well...shit."

Kendrick chuckles. "You've banished a Demon before, surely an Exorcism isn't so hard."

"You can't possibly ask me to yank out one of the most dangerous types of monsters in existence! I won't allow that thing to run free, not even for a second."

"Luckily, the second option is on the table."

Jared's blood runs cold.

He knows what Kendrick means. If the Exorcism fails, then the next course of action would be taken. That, of course, means that this Kane fellow will fight until his very last breath.

Jared has never taken another person's life before. Even thinking about doing that to a murderer like Kane gives him pause.

He shakes out of his thoughts, blinking nervously. "Are those my only two options?"

"Seems that way." Kendrick hums. "I've been tracking Kane's movements for some time now. He started out small, killing little by little, but recently....he's razed an entire town to the ground. It's only a matter of time before your Peacekeepers interfere. They would only aggravate him. I can't let him slip away again."

"Why do you care?" Chad asks abruptly from Jared's lap.

It's a good question. Jared doesn't bother asking as well, opting instead to glance at Kendrick with an eyebrow raised. The man laughs, leaning against Jared's armoire. He looks so casual, dressed in a black trench coat with dark jeans and boots.

"Because the ones who passed deserve to be avenged."

"Who..." Jared starts, but stops himself short. He gazes intently into Kendrick's eyes, and the man's mouth forms a half-smirk.

No.

Not who.

"What are you?"

"Ah, now that is the billion dollar question, isn't it? I am the one they call on when they're too weak to defend themselves. I am the one they sing to when they've been wronged. I am the one they cry out to when the unforgivable and inexcusable happens."

It clicks in Jared's head soon enough, and he immediately stands up, one hand outstretched towards Kendrick, and the other holding onto Chad.

"Demon." Jared hisses.

"I am."

"Leave. Now."

"I already told you that I would not hurt you, or anyone around you. I only came for your help."

"Tough shit. Demons lie. Get out."

"Not this Demon," Kendrick asserts, stepping closer to Jared despite being threatened. "And somewhere in that enormous head of yours, you know that. You know I'm telling the truth. I'm not like the others. Dig deeper. Focus."

He's not Fear. That's been dealt with.

He's not Chaos. That one's apparently on the way.

He's not Pride. He doesn't parade around the room talking about how great he is and how great Jared can become.

That only leaves Jared with two guesses.

"You're Justice, aren't you?"

He so very much wants to be right about that, but alas...

Kendrick shakes his head, walking until he's pressing his chest against Jared's still raised hand. There's a...heartbeat? How? "Some confuse me with my cousin, but I choose to take matters into my own hands. I am Vengeance."

That was Jared's second guess. Vengeance and Justice are often times confused with the other, or considered one in the same, and that just isn't true. While Justice is wholly benevolent in nature, choosing to subdue or detain, Vengeance furiously strikes down all those that prey upon the defenseless.

In its own way, Jared finds it admirable. Kendrick isn't feasting on innocent Mortals. He's helping them in some way. Amazing.

Could there be such a thing as a "good Demon"?

Jared glances up at Kendrick's eyes, finding himself sinking further down into his intense gaze. The Demon of Vengeance smirks towards Jared, leaving nothing to the imagination. He knows what he's thinking, he can hear it loud and clear.

And it's so lewd.

The Warlock swallows, removing his hand from Kendrick's chest. He's not a Lust Demon, but he's definitely giving off those vibes.

"Maybe you are," Jared mutters, clearing his throat. "Maybe not."

"How can you still be skeptical of me when the truth is right in front of you?"

"Because you're still a Demon."

"And the fact that I'm also a handsome man doesn't sway your opinion?"

"No."

And that's another thing. No Demon looks like this. It's impossible. Demons are bestial and feral looking, not handsome and human-like. That can mean one of a few things.

"Did he die, or is he willingly allowing you access to his body?"

Kendrick's smirk dies down, and he huffs. "I'm afraid that's a story for another time. Would you believe me if I said that *this* is my actual body?"

"I'm unsure. This entire situation has me feeling so unsure about everything! I have to tell my guardian. He's a Peacekeeper. I can't keep this all to myself."

"And reveal to him that you told your Mortal boyfriend everything about the secret life of Magic?" Kendrick teases, squinting his and grinning. Some of his teeth look like fangs. "Do it. I double dog dare you."

Damn him. That's a low blow.

How does he know about Jensen? Did he see him? Was he spying on them? Hmph. Doesn't matter.

Jared grits his teeth, unable to say outright that this Kendrick bastard has a point. If he tells Jeff, he'll risk Jensen having his memory wiped, and he cannot allow that under any circumstances. The process is irreversible. Jared will, essentially, cease to exist in Jensen's mind, almost as if he never met him.

He has no other choice but to keep his mouth shut. At least until this all blows over or until he comes up with a good story about how he's involved in all of this.

Sighing, Jared backs away from Kendrick, putting him at a favorable distance.

"Jensen's not my boyfriend," is strangely the only thing Jared can come up with. "But you better stay away from him."

Kendrick smiles. "Fine. That's great, because I was going to ask you out to dinner after we stop Chaos. Would you be up for that, Wonder Boy?"

Wonder Boy?

Wonder Boy!?

The audacity of this asshole. It seems like people love giving him annoying or dumb pet names. He'd rather slice off his ears than hear another unwarranted nickname. Jensen is always the exception, however.

But he can tell "Wonder Boy" is gonna be a thing, and he hates it already.

"Ugh...no." The boy scrunches up his face, though the thought enters his mind. "I don't go out with Demons. I prefer to have my men more on the human spectrum."

"Hmm. Suit yourself, Padalecki. I'll have you know that I am a delight to be around."

"I doubt that severely," Chad snarls. "I've got my eyes on you, Demon. If you so much as think to double cross us, I'll--"

"You'll do...what exactly? Claw me to death?"

"I wish. I've been declawed."

Jared speaks nothing of it. It was a conscious decision on both their parts that Chad would have his claws shaven down. When asked why for the first time, Chad solemnly replied with: "It makes me feel more human."

It broke Jared's heart then, and it breaks his heart now. They never actually sat down and discussed his true thoughts on his transformation. It happened so many years ago that Jared just assumed he didn't care anymore.

But he does.

He wears his mask well.

"Can't say I feel sorry for you, furball," Kendrick responds coolly to the feline. He takes a glimpse at Jared, nodding politely. "I think it's time for me to go. I'll keep in touch with you, Wonder Boy. Be ready when I call. Kane and Chaos won't be too far behind."

Jared looks to the intruder with a nervous expression. "What if I fail?"

"Then you die, and everyone you hold dear will follow. Let that knowledge encourage you to press onward. Until next time, gorgeous."

In the blink of an eye, Kendrick dissolves into the shadows, using the darkness to slip away and out of the house. Jared moves to the window to look outside, though he's only slightly disappointed when he finds nothing interesting outside.

Just how Kendrick got by the ward surrounding the house Jared doesn't know, but he does know that this guy--no, this creature--is definitely not like the rest. The young man cannot discern whether or not Kendrick has ulterior motives, or if he's truly sincere in his quest. He is, after all, a Demon.

"I guess it remains to be seen..." Jared mutters to himself, shutting the curtains.

"Are you talking to yourself again? Don't. You sound crazy." Chad scolds, brazenly jumping up onto the bed.

"Do you think he was telling the truth about everything?"

"You're asking me?"

"Fair point."

"Are you gonna tell your Harvey about what just happened?"

Jared frowns, laughing. "My what?"

"Your Harvey. Jensen. He's the Harvey, you're the Sabrina. Are you going to tell him about the potential danger coming to town?"

Jared hadn't thought of that. And if Jensen is Harvey and Jared is Sabrina, then that means Chad is Salem. The circumstances of their transformation is somewhat similar as well come to think of it.

"He knows everything so far, so why stop now?"

"Aww, I'm so glad you care about your boyfriend, JP. Young love."

The Warlock blushes, fuming. "He's not my boyfriend, Chad! Shut your mouth!"

Just how long do people date before giving themselves such titles? Jared's never truly dated anyone before (and, no, playing house with Sandy in kindergarten does not count) so he ultimately has no idea on how this is supposed to work.

Thankfully, Jensen has dated a few others, so it should be easy.

But then Jared imagines Jensen with all those other people, and his blood boils as a large wave of jealousy washes over him.

Resigned, Jared flops onto his bed face first, dreading the upcoming days.

****

Strange visions, bright and blurry images swaying back and forth in his mind like a ship at sea being rocked harshly by the water.

It's unnerving, and a little frightening.

Sometimes he sees himself, older, stronger, in a suit, good looking.

Other times he sees more disturbing things such as a thunderstorm striking down on a helpless city, or a swarm of grotesque figures shambling through a thick fog; they resemble the walking dead: Zombies.

The funny thing about these visions are that they come and go, and mostly without warning. A single touch, a mild thought, a little feeling, anything can trigger them. Last night, as he and his father concluded their long talk together, Jensen hugged him, and he was instantly overcome with a myriad of emotions, and images including the older version of himself, though only slightly.

Smiling, happy, proud, Alan hugs his son, shaking his hand, telling him he's proud, oh so proud of his boy that's graduating college with his degree. Pictures are taken, and another recent graduate waltzes up to them, squeezing Jensen tight, hugging Alan as well, nodding. Those eyes again. Jared's eyes.

Jensen can't explain their purpose, or what it is he's seeing. A world beyond his own? Hopes? Dreams? Or perhaps a possible future?

"Jensen!"

"Huh?" Jensen snaps out of his reverie, finally aware of his surroundings again.

Ah. That's right. They're in school. Chemistry, to be exact. Class hasn't started yet. He looks next to him at Jared who's wearing a rather concerned expression on his face.

"Where are you right now?"

Jensen furrows his brows. "What?"

"Where is your mind at the moment? I called you four times."

"O--oh. Sorry..." Jensen clears his throat. "I guess I was so deep in thought I didn't hear what you were saying. What's up?"

"I was trying to tell you that I needed to talk to you about something later."

"You...wanted my attention just so you could tell me that you had something else to tell me later on?"

"Yes. What I have to say will take some time to explain. It involves a Demon visiting my room last night."

"Wait, a what!? Are you okay? Did it try anything? Why didn't you call me!? I would've turned around--"

Jared laughs, shaking his head. He smiles. "So heroic. Would you have thrown some salt into the Demon's eyes? Stab him with a silver fork?"

"In a heartbeat." Jensen snarks. "I'd fling that salt like nobody's business."

"Such a reckless Mortal. I'll tell you everything soon, I promise."

And it was a promise he fulfilled much later on in gym class. Having had some time to themselves, Jared divulged every detail of the interesting interaction with Kendrick, and the information he passed onto him.

Needless to say, Jensen was equal parts shocked and concerned.

"So--wait, what does that mean? That this Kane guy is gonna kill us all?" Jensen nervously whispers.

He and Jared broke away from the group earlier in order to talk privately near the bleachers which seems to be a new hangout for them lately.

"He won't," says the Warlock. "I won't let him. Other assholes like him have tried to conquer Earth for themselves, but they never get far."

"Okay, but why can't you call on those Peacekeepers? The Council?"

"Because."

"Because, what?"

"Because, fuck The Council."

Jensen growls softly. "Jared, this is serious! This is bigger than you! You can't stop this maniac and his pet Demon alone."

Jared nods. "I know, that's why Kendrick is helping me."

"I don't trust him, you shouldn't either. He seems shady, and I can't have shady assholes hovering around you."

"I'm not a pretty damsel, Jen," Jared rolls his eyes before lightly tapping Jensen on the face. "I'm a big boy. I can shrug off unwanted advances and annoying nicknames easily. And jealousy is a strange shade on you. Afraid that he'll devour my heart?"

Jensen scoffs and turns away, prompting Jared to capture his face in his hands. Reluctantly, the Mortal boy glances at him, melting almost instantly.

"Okay, bad joke. I get it. I'm sorry. You don't have to trust him, but you should at least trust my judgement. I know what I'm doing."

"Do you even know where Kane and the Chaos Demon is?"

"No."

"Has Kendrick given you any insightful clues?"

"The thing is...no."

"Did you even come up with a plan to stop him?"

"Well...no--but I'm probably gonna have to kick his ass."

"You have no idea what you're doing."

"Exactly--wait, no!" Jared grunts, pushing Jensen gently away as the latter chuckles smugly. "You fucker. You tricked me. I hate you."

Jensen captures Jared's waist, bringing him closer until their lips are only inches apart. "Nah, you love me."

The young Warlock blushes madly. "I don't know how I feel about you yet. Don't assume things."

"We're boyfriends, aren't we?"

Jared sputters, unable to form the words he so desperately wants to use. "Who--what--!? I never said--how could you say that so causally!?"

"You're the one who asked what we were," Jensen says with a smile. "And this could be what we are. Boyfriends."

It's so dumb, the way Jared's acting about this. His heart and his head, for once, are not at war with each other on the subject. Jensen's right: it could be a title they wear with pride later on. Jensen sure likes it already.

But Jared's hesitant, just as he always is. It's a big step in any relationship, at least that's what the movies tell him. Yet for now, Jared settles on being the little shit teenager that he was before, choosing to slither away from the topic. He snorts, tilting his head to the side adorably.

"How about an upgrade from friends who kiss each other to best friends who kiss each other?"

Jensen laughs. "You're a ridiculous little Witch, you know that, right?"

"You're so lucky I like you, or else you'd see just how ridiculous my Magic can be..." Jared says just before planting a satisfying smooch to Jensen. "Better watch out, Jock. I once made a man believe he was a toad for three days for trying to get fresh with me."

"I'd say he deserved it for trying to get with my future boyfriend."

"God, you are such a...Mortal."

"Nice comeback, Sabrina."

Jared lightly slaps Jensen's chest, walking away from the bleachers in faux anger. The boy follows behind him, babbling on and on about the ins and outs of relationships, and how Jared is so lucky to be with someone as smooth as he is.

Jensen's insufferable to the highest degree. He's so happy go lucky, he has to see the bright side in everything, and he's selfless; he's sure to get himself killed one day.

But, even so, until that day comes, Jared will remain by his side, carefully guiding him through the hidden terrors of this world.

****

This town.

It's bigger than the last. It will take some time to purge it completely, but Kane is confident in the job. There's a deep stench of death in this place. A cousin of Chaos was here, spreading his sick upon the Mortals that populate the town.

Fear. He has vanished to the Underworld somehow; Kane doesn't know the circumstances behind Fear's banishment, and Chaos will not disclose them with him either.

For now, Kane is content with starting here in these woods a mile out of town, right inside of this decrepit old church. There's enough space for the sacrifices to place. It will be glorious.

We must hurry with the plan, Chaos whispers into his ear. I do not wish to be in this area for long. We must burn it quickly.

Kane frowns. "What's wrong with you? Suddenly growing cold feet? You're the embodiment of Chaos, you want nothing more, and nothing less."

Do not question my motives lest you wake up outside of your body, Warlock. My reasons are my own...but I sense a being more powerful than you alone that could oppose us. That is why we must purge this town immediately.

Another more powerful than Kane? Unlikely, especially now that he has Chaos on his team. Still, the thought of someone opposing them gives Kane pause. He cannot allow anyone to stop him from his mission. This is what needs to be done.

Everyone must burn. For there to be Order, Chaos must reign first. It's not what Steve would have wanted...but he's not here to advise him against it. Chaos promised that he'd see him after it was all said and done, yet Kane is somewhat skeptical about their deal. Nothing is ever so simple with the forces of good and evil.

Kane glares at the old church, stepping inside with his fists clenched. "Whoever thinks they're bold enough to stop us can try. We will have this town, and everyone in it."

When will we begin?

"Tomorrow night. I must gather the sacrifices."

****

After dinner, Jared does his homework on the couch in the living room. Chad is with him, of course, pawing at the television remote to change channels every 5 seconds because he's an indecisive little shit.

"Solve for X..." Jared muses about the math problem aloud. "Carry the...no. Divide by--wait, that's wrong. Multiply! Nope. Okay. Fuck it. I hate math."

"Oh, the woes of adolescent existence!" Chad howls dramatically. "Figuring out numbers is so difficult."

"You do it if you think it's so easy."

"Pass. I've seen what those sadistic instructors you call teachers try to pass off as homework these days."

"Then keep quiet and continue looking like the prettiest kitty ever."

Jared punctuates this by scratching delicately under Chad's chin, causing the talking feline to purr affectionately.

"Oh, Jared," Chad mewls. "I'm lucky to have you. Out of all your predecessors, you're the only one who can give me the best scratches."

"And I'm sure you said that to all of them, including dad..."

The last two words of that sentence is spoken softly; it's a whisper, but it doesn't fall on deaf ears. Chad hears this, and sensing Jared's inevitable sadness towards the sudden memories that flow from within, he curls up to him, homework forgotten.

Jared's father was everything to him. He was his entire world, and now he's dead.

"Your father was one of my favorites," Chad adds in, speaking in a calm manner. "I can promise you that."

Jared gives him a small smile. "And your ultimate favorite?"

"Do you really have to ask?"

The Warlock and his Familiar share a hearty laugh together, causing the main man of the house to waltz into the room with a cloth over his shoulder. Jeff takes the cloth, wiping his wet hands on it. Must've been washing the dishes.

The older Warlock smiles. "Everything okay in here?"

Jared nods. "Everything's perfect."

Everything is far from perfect.

"Jared..." Chad says quietly, gazing intently at the TV. "Look..."

The atmosphere around them changes drastically from lighthearted to foreboding in a matter of seconds. The color in Jared's face drains away quickly, and Jeff finds himself slowly walking further into the living room.

The news is on.

"...We're live here outside of Korman Falls where the town just suffered a massive loss. Thousands of the town's population dead in a matter of moments thanks to a grave malfunction in the local power plant. As you can see behind me, most of the city is still on fire, and the flames only continue to burn hotter. Officials have declared that there may not be any survivors left as the damage is far too great, but rescue parties will be deployed. More information as the story develops."

They all stay silent even after the broadcast.

Jared hands start to shake.

Those people--everyone in that town is dead, killed by man on a mission and a Demon who's just enjoying the ride. Jared chances a look over to his guardian, dreading his grim expression.

"Something's off about that story," Jeff says. "I know it. I can feel it. This wasn't an accident. I'll be checking this out first thing in the morning. Jesus Christ...poor bastards."

"Jeff?" Jared calls all of a sudden.

"Yeah?"

"I...I have to tell you something."

Jeff, concerned, comes over until he's leaning on the couch with Jared. "What is it, kid? You know you can tell me anything...and if I...if I'm overstepping my boundaries by saying that, I apologize."

He's not. If Jared had the guts to admit it, he'd finally tell Jeff that he thinks of him as a dad, a second chance to have a father figure in his life. But he's just a stupid teenager who can't even confess about his own sins, about the personal investigation, about Jensen, or about Korman Falls, Kendrick, or the Chaos Demon.

He just can't say it. Like a coward.

Jared shakes his head. "It's nothing. I just...uh...just stay safe, okay? I don't want to see your name on the news anytime soon."

Jeff smirks, sauntering back into the kitchen. "And leave you alone to your own devices? Not a chance."

Once he's gone and out of sight, Jared and Chad share a knowing look. Kendrick wasn't bluffing. Kane and Chaos are on the way, if not already here.

He needs to be ready.

****

Early the next morning...

Kane sets down the latest addition to the bunch next to a young girl he snatched in the middle of the night. He puts them together in one of the many rows of unbroken pews in the church. 30 people bound and gagged, all from this town. It's 10 more than the last one, but this town is larger than Korman.

Why must we wait until tonight for the sacrifices? Chaos growls, impatient. Let us destroy the town now!

"Patience, beast!" Kane shouts to the wind, confusing the already frightened people. "The time will come soon! Silence!"

Chaos stays still...at least for now as Kane prepares for the ritual.

****

Jensen wakes up feeling refreshed for the first time in a long time. No more waking up early for exercises, no more, worrying about skipping breakfast to stay in shape, no more bad times.

After getting himself ready for school, Jensen comes down the stairs to see his father rushing around, slightly panicking, but not quite at the same time. He's rather calm, at least for him. It has Jensen worrying about whether his father has been hitting the sauce again, retreating back into that dark place.

But he's not. There's no indication of it. He's simply in a hurry. Whatever Jared did to him really straightened him out, kinda. It allowed Alan to finally have a heartbreaking and heartwarming conversation with his only remaining child.

"You okay, dad?"

Alan looks up, chuckling nervously as he tucks in his shirt and ties his tie. "Yeah...no. My assistant failed to fill me in on a meeting that's taking place right now. Terry won't return any of my calls. He's got some very important papers that I need too! Dammit, if I miss this meeting, he's definitely fired for the last time."

Jensen huffs, keys in hand. "I can swing by his place to see if he's in, help out before school?"

"You'd...do that?"

"Yeah. I'm trying."

Alan doesn't suppress the smile on his face as Jensen comes to do the same. They still have a long ways to go with repairing their relationship, so this can be a good start for them.

The patriarch of the Ackles family writes down his assistant's address, sending his son on his way.

Jensen arrives at Terry's apartment in record time, just 30 minutes before school starts. The building's pretty quiet during this time of day; parents getting ready for work, kids on their way to school, stuff like that.

At first, Jensen doesn't notice anything off. He gets no bad vibes from the place. He spots a few people coming out of their apartments to start their day, some with their coffee and some with protein breakfast bars.

However, once he gets to Terry's apartment, Jensen begins to worry.

His front door is cracked open.

Alarmed, Jensen glances around him to see if anyone's looking. When he finds that it's safe, he quickly heads inside before shutting the door.

"Terry? It's Jensen Ackles, Alan's son."

No one answers.

Terry's place is super neat and tidy. There's not a speck of dirt or even a twinge of dust to be seen.

Jensen doesn't know if that's good or bad yet. He further inspects the place, looking for clues while calling his name again. Nothing seems particularly out of place here...save for the sudden feelings of fear and surprise Jensen experiences. He can't exactly explain it, but something happened to Terry here.

The hairs on the back of Jensen's neck tingles as he wanders into Terry's bedroom. As with the rest of the house, it's tidy, organized. Though almost nothing stands out, something soon catches the Mortal boy's eye.

Terry's clean suit is laying on the bed, untouched. Must have been picked out earlier. He knew he had work today, yet his clothes are sitting right here. It doesn't add up. Jensen approaches the clean garments, digging his nails into his palm.

If he could concentrate...maybe he could...?

Jensen chooses not to hesitate any longer. He imagines Terry in his mind, willing for the images to pop up as he touches his suit.

And then he sees it.

Getting ready, have to work soon, but there's a noise in the kitchen, whimpers of "Hello, is someone there?", but nothing. That is until the stranger grasps him, subduing him with only a flick of his wrist. The strangers eyes glow red, and before Terry knows it he's in an old building. It's falling apart, creaking from age, there's a crucifix on the wall, and an alter. A church. There's more people around him, tied up, screaming, crying, begging to be let go, but the stranger doesn't listen; he screams to himself, scaring everyone. They know they'll all die.

Jensen pulls his hand away from the suit, crumbling down to the floor on his rear, shocked and scared. He yells, eyes wide as he crawls out of the bedroom, sprinting towards the front door and out of the building itself.

What the fuck was that? What's happening to him!?

****

"It was all over the news last night," Jared says to Jensen during lunch.

Jensen takes a small bite out of his burger. "What's the official word?"

"They're claiming that the power plant had a meltdown. It's The Council's work. Definitely. They're trying not to scare the public. Imagine what everyone would think if someone reported on one man and a Demon slaughtering all those people."

"Yeah, that'd be super...dumb."

Jared frowns, noticing Jensen not being his usual enthusiastic self. Though it's probably got something to do with the town being in danger; Jared's not so sure. This is different.

Concerned, he places his hand over Jensen's. "Are you okay? You look a little stressed."

"Yeah," Jensen chuckles. "I'm fine. Just tired, and a little scared. I feel so dumb, though. You're never scared of anything. I wanna be like that..."

It's not true. Jared's scared everyday, but he won't admit that. Instead, he'll tell another truth beside the one on his mind.

"I'm scared of Zombies," he confesses, only continuing on when Jensen raises up his eyebrow. "Swear to God. I'm terrified of Zombies."

"Wait...why?"

"They're the perfect killers, Jen. Mindless, shambling undead that don't feel pain or any emotion in general. They just consume and consume for no reason at all, and once you kill one, twenty always take its place. Scary. Stuff of nightmares..."

"Out of all the monsters," Jensen snickers. "You're scared of the most basic creature."

"Don't make fun of me..." Jared mumbles.

"I'm not. It's pretty cute."

Their peaceful moment unfortunately comes to an end when Danneel switches up to their table. She sports a tiny scowl. Something is clearly on her mind.

"Hello, lovebirds," she says.

Jared plasters on a straight face. "Danneel. What can we do for you today?"

"Nothing much, but I'm hoping for a miracle here. Nina didn't come to school today."

"How is that remotely a problem, Dany?" Jensen deadpans. The nickname is said so casually, and it unsurprisingly makes Jared jealous.

"She had perfect attendance, and her parents said she didn't even come home last night, you dick. We're worried about her. She's not answering her phone either."

"And Ian?"

"Hasn't seen her either."

There's a nagging feeling deep in the back of Jared's mind. It could very well be that she partied too hard last night, but it's unlikely given that today is a school day and there were no real events happening to warrant that.

Jared believes that she's possibly hungover, while Jensen believes something totally different and unrelated.

He thinks she was taken, just like Terry.

"No," says the older boy. "We haven't seen her."

Danneel sighs, hands on her hips. "Fine. Whatever. You know where to find me if you hear from her. You still owe me a dance, Jared."

And with that, Danneel walks away; her heels clack against the floor on her way back to her circle of friends. Jared, amused, snorts, commenting to Jensen about the party they ditched in order to spend time together, their first date.

But Jensen hardly pays attention. He only continues wondering about Nina and Terry. The danger has finally come to town. It's only a matter of time now, though Jensen distantly realizes that time is up for everyone unless they act now.

In a flash, he gets up out of his seat, bolting towards the door.

"Gotta use the bathroom," he throws over his shoulder to Jared as he leaves the cafeteria.

Jensen needs to know, he has to be sure if this, because if his hunch is right, everything's about to go tits up for the innocent people of this town. He's soon in front of Nina's locker, eyes burning a figurative hole into the shiny metal coated blue.

The combination is not known to him, but Jensen doesn't need it. Just something she interacted with. With thoughts of Nina at the forefront of his mind, Jensen touches the locker. Flashing images rush through head at high speed, all telling a story.

Late night, hanging out with Danneel, having fun and texting. Walking home, spotting a man in the distance with a black hoodie. Tall, angry, rude, he grabs her, but Nina's body shuts down involuntarily. He takes her somewhere she's never been before, a wooded area where birds chirp loudly and deer stay away. There are others here, all just as scared, sobbing, wailing. The man who took her shouts to no one in particular. He's insane, mumbling about sacrifices. Nina looks around. It's a church.

"It's a church." Jensen breathes, echoing her thoughts as the vision ends.

He was right! She was taken by him as well. Kane and his Demon. The feeling of triumph spreads throughout Jensen's entire being. He has no idea just what's causing these visions, but he's getting the hang of it. He can control it now.

He can help. Harvey can bite his ass.

****

"Wait--you know where Kane is?" Jared asks Jensen much later in his bedroom.

"Yeah..." Jensen replies, rubbing his neck.

"Well...how?"

"I don't know. Call it a hunch, or a feeling. I saw him taking my dad's assistant, and Nina into the woods somewhere. There's a church. I've never seen it before. There's more people in there, tied up. Kane is kidnapping people."

Jared scrubs his hand down his face, pacing his room in thought. He has so many questions, but for whatever reason right now, he's inclined to believe Jensen. Why wouldn't he? Stranger things have happened, and weird, sudden visions are possible; Jared had one about Jensen being in danger, though that was more of an indirect warning than an actual vision of what happened and/or what will happen.

Nevertheless, this isn't something to completely gloss over. It's a very serious matter. Jared ceases his pacing, coming to stop in front of Jensen. He chews on his thumbnail anxiously.

"But why?" Jared asks. "We need to know why he's suddenly abducting these people."

"For power," comes a familiar voice from the far side of the room. Jensen jumps in surprise at the intrusion, but Jared remains calm. It's Kendrick, smirking and eating an apple. His clothes have changed. "He's snatching up Mortals to prepare for the ritual."

"What ritual?" Jensen questions, gently pulling Jared until he's partially begin him. "Wait--you must be Kendrick, right?"

"You're correct, Mortal." Kendrick My, my, my, Jared, you sure do know how to choose them, though I was expecting him to be a little bit taller and better looking."

"Oh, fuck off, Demon."

"Gladly, as long as Jared gets to join me for a bit."

"He's not going anywhere with you."

"Whether you like it or not, Jared's helping me stop this fucker from killing more innocents. You're happy to try and stop us, but I don't want to make Wonder Boy cry when I fracture your ribs."

Jared groans, standing in between them before shit gets worse. "Alright, enough. Answer Jensen's question, Kendrick. What ritual are you talking about?"

Kendrick finishes his apple before incinerating it into nothing. "The ritual to gain more power, of course. Kane plans on sacrificing people to Chaos so he can have the power necessary to eradicate the entire town. That's how he erased Korman Falls from the map. Power always comes at a price."

Jared shuts his eyes for a moment, only opening them once he's calmed his inner thoughts. "I really, really, really fucking hate Demons. No offence."

Kendrick snorts. "None taken. When you're ready, we'll depart and search for this church."

"Right."

"I'm coming, too." Jensen declares, puffing out his chest.

"Jensen--" Jared tries.

"I can't let you do this alone. I can help. I've seen the church. I'm useful."

"You're also a Mortal that can die under extreme trauma to the body, or did you forget that part?"

Jensen digs into the inside of his shirt, pulling out the necklace and pendant Jared gave him. "This'll protect me, right? You said so yourself. I just wanna help you, Jay."

"I know," the Warlock whispers, curling his arms around Jensen's neck. "I know. You're so goddamn brave. You can't help it. It's encoded in your DNA. It's a turn on really, but even you know that you can't possibly help any more than you already have. We wouldn't have found out what we did if you didn't tell me first. You've helped me already, Jensen. I'll stop them. I know it. And I'll come back to you, but you have to promise me that you won't follow."

"Jared, you--"

"Promise me."

He places his hands on Jensen's cheeks, forcing the Mortal to look him in his eyes. They continue to sparkle like diamonds, prettier than the brightest star. Jared pleads with his own eyes. He's cheating, he knows this; he's perfected this art. And it works.

Jensen exhales deeply, resting his forehead on Jared's. "I promise. Please don't die before we can have another date."

"And miss the chance of seeing you pay for my four course meal?" Jared mentions, smiling. "Not a chance."

"I miss you already. Please stay safe."

"I will. Goodbye, Jock."

"Later, Witch."

Kendrick dry heaves in the corner. "I may throw up."

"Choke on it, Hellspawn."

After saying their goodbyes, Jared escorts Jensen out of the house and to his car where he drives away. Jared and Kendrick are then left alone. The boy looks out onto the horizon, and checks his watch. It's only 8 o'clock.

"What time do these rituals usually take place?" He asks Kendrick.

"The previous one happened at midnight when the moon was round, so it varies. Nonetheless, we should start searching."

Jared nods, speaking nothing about it. He only looks back up into the sky again. The sun's going down, but the moon is in a distinct crescent shape tonight. Magic users call it the "Grinning Wolf". When it's in that shape, it usually means that there is something malevolent on the way.

Too bad it's already here.

Kendrick clasps his hand on Jared's shoulder suddenly, telling him to shut his eyes. The young man complies, closing his eyes tightly. He feels an instant energy tugging at his soul, and hears the sounds of cicadas and other wildlife chirping around him.

Jared opens his eyes eventually, taking note that he and Kendrick are now at the edge of the forest, some distance away from his house, even the town itself. The forest is large, but Jared can feel the dark power emanating from inside. Without a word, he and Kendrick enter the woods, both keenly aware that they're close enough to be holding hands.

About 30 minutes into their search--mostly walking in circles--Jared realizes that Kendrick is indeed a very handsome individual. However, he is conflicted over his thoughts.

By all intents and purposes, Kendrick looks very much Mortal, but the energy radiating from him says another story. A Demon of Vengeance? It doesn't make sense. Why this body? How did he even get here?

"Say what's on your mind before you never have the chance again," Kendrick murmurs out of the blue, startling Jared. "I can't hear your thoughts; the barrier around your mind is strong, but even I can sense when someone is deep in thought. Your brow furrows."

"Oh. Right." Jared sighs. "I just...I'm trying to figure you out."

"What's there to figure out? Do you want to know that I heard Kane's call before Chaos warped his mind?"

"Your origins. You claim to be a Demon of Vengeance, yet you look like this. Did you steal this man's body? What is the story?"

Kendrick cracks his neck sharply. "He was an ordinary man with hope and dreams, just like every human ever born. He came from a good household; lovely parents. His mother was a teacher, and his father loved to bake all sorts of treats. He was loved...yet even when there is so much love surrounding you, there is hate not too far away. He was born to parents who were...not of the same complexion."

"Oh, Jesus..." Jared gasps, having an idea on where the story is going.

"Their area was not so supportive of his parents' union, or his birth. One day, long after they passed, he was coming home from his father's bakery, which was given to him. He decided to walk home instead of using public transport. That is where he bumped into a group of men paler than he was. It didn't take long for him to realize that those men meant harm to him. It happened to fast, two quick stabs to the abdomen, left for dead next to a fucking dumpster."

"Oh my god."

"As he laid there dying, he called out to me, he called out to Vengeance. I answered him, finding him in such a sorry state. I took pity on him. I promised him his Vengeance, and when the work was over, I would deliver him to Paradise to be with his family again. He readily accepted my offer, and gave me access to his body. I healed his wounds, and helped him find the men who harmed him. I made short work of them, devouring their dark souls. As I promised, I delivered him to Paradise where the Angels scowling down on me lifted him up with open arms. His name was Kendrick, and so it is the name I have adopted for myself. In memory of him."

Kendrick and Kane's tales are somewhat similar along with motives, though

Jared licks his lips, stepping over a fallen branch. "And the body? You don't think this feels...wrong? Latching onto a corpse?"

"This body is very much alive. It ages, it feels pain, it heals, it sleeps. It will die, eventually. I make no excuses for why I remain in his form: I like it. And I'm sure he would approve of me taking good care of it. I feel everything he felt, and sometimes his thoughts mix into my own, his morality, his personality. It feels like he's a part of me...or I am a part of him. I go back and forth on the subject. Anyways, that's that. Curiosity piqued? Are we finished?"

"Yes," Jared nods. "We're done."

"Good. Let's find those bastards."

****

If Jared honestly thinks that he'll stay away, he must not know him very well.

As soon as Jensen made it home, he drove directly back to Jared's house, making sure to be as discreet as possible.

He's outside of the house now. Doesn't look like anyone's inside; Jeff's car isn't in the driveway. That's a good sign. Jensen hops out of his vintage car, striding up to the front door. Jared says he'll be fine, but Jensen can't handle him being out there fighting Demons and Warlocks hellbent on killing everyone. He needs to do something about it.

So, Jensen rings the doorbell over and over again, knocking on the door with urgency.

"Chad? Chad!" He calls. "Open the door! It's Jensen."

"Jensen?" Chad's voice is heard in the other side. "What in the world? One sec."

Jensen waits patiently as Chad unlocks the door...somehow. That one has some hidden tricks up his sleeve. Jensen enters the house quickly, rushing up the stairs to Jared's room with Chad right behind him.

"What are you doing back here, boyo? Jared told you to sit tight."

Jensen scoffs, barging into the Warlock's room. "Yeah? When have I ever done what I was told to do?"

"Goodness, you two were made for each other. Forget something?"

"No," says Jensen, grabbing onto Jared's forgotten coat. "Just looking."

He focuses his mind, searching for Jared. He gets a hit, and another swarm of images flash through his head.

Walking through the forest, determined and scared, hiding the fear, must stay strong for everyone, even Jensen. "I have to protect him, he means too much to me." The path ahead is clear. There's the church, everyone is alive. It hasn't started yet.

Jensen forces himself out of the vision, gasping softly. He lets go of the coat only to receive an odd stare from Chad.

"Jensen, what you just did... Could you be a--"

"There's still time!" Jensen says aloud, bolting to the hall and down the stairs. "The ritual hasn't started. I can get to them!"

Chad calls after him, even as he gets into his car. "Jensen! Jared said stay away! You're gonna get yourself killed!"

The Mortal boy doesn't listen to his cries, opting instead to ride away in the direction of the church. The path is indeed clear. He knows where to go now.

He can help.

He can try.

****

We must hurry! Chaos demands. The hour is upon us! We must complete the ritual before the one stronger than you arrives to put a stop to this.

"Let them come, then!" Kane hollers, shaking the entire building. "I will destroy anyone in my path. There will be no witnesses, no survivors! I will wreak havoc, and Chaos will reign!"

The crazed Warlock looks out to the terrified Mortals in front of him, all wriggling in their bonds, fighting against their fate. Their muffled screams are like music to his ears. However, it soon starts to annoy him. Kane slams his hand on the podium, causing everyone to cease their whining.

"Why are you all so saddened? We must rejoice! You are in the presence of greatness; you are part of the divine plan! Can't you feel it in your bones? You're all important, every single one of you. You'll all fulfill a great purpose tonight. With your help, I'll cleanse the Earth. The time of reckoning is nigh! The Grinning Wolf beams down proudly upon us tonight in approval. Shall we begin?"

Kane laughs slowly at first, deep in his throat, unsettling the Mortals tied to their seats. It turns into something else then, maniacal, evil, twisted. Cold. He draws a blade from thin air, using it to slice open both of his palms, making the dagger and the handle messy with his blood. He recites the chant backwards, starting the ritual.

"Ssenkrad hsaw revo em, tfil em pu ni ruoy lufituaeb ecarbme, evig em eht rewop ot yortsed lla ohw esoppo em! Tel soahc elur!"

Everything is set.

All will be revealed.

Yet just before the ritual can be finished, the front doors to the church open on their own, and Jared slowly steps in followed by Kendrick. The would-be sacrifices turn their heads towards the doors as Kane looks up.

"Man, this party looks like it sucks," Jared snarks, hands in his pockets. "Glad I wasn't invited."

Kane sneers. "Who the hell are you?"

"The one who knows all about your supervillain plot to destroy humanity. It's not happening, not today, not ever." Jared holds up his finger, drawing a Zaelich rune in the air. "Somnius Maxim."

In an instant, every Mortal tied down falls asleep, leaving only Jared, Kane, and Kendrick awake. They've already seen too much, but Jared can't let them witness much more of this. It's gonna be harder than he originally thought.

It is him! Chaos growls. Jared and Kendrick can hear him. The one who forced Fear to go crawling back into his hole! The Warlock!

"A child?" Kane questions. "You must be mistaken. He couldn't possibly..."

The young Warlock flexes his fingers. "I did, and he screamed like a bitch when I sent him packing. You're next, Chaos, and when that's through," Jared points at Kane. "I'm gonna fuck you up."

Kane snarls, shouting. "Enough of this! I will not be beaten by a child! The ritual will be complete, and you will die!"

Jared and Kendrick prepare themselves for the fight ahead. The Demon of Vengeance smirks. "Oh, I've been waiting for this!"

The Chaos Demon inside of Kane roars, and the possessed Warlock ends up doing the very same. The building shakes, causing a piece of ceiling debris to fall down towards a pew full of Mortals. Thinking quickly, Jared moves the pew out of the way with his powers, rushing up in a kamikaze attack against Kane.

Anticipating this, Kane pushes him away with invisible force, making Jared fly through the air until his back slams against the nearest wall. Okay, so maybe he did underestimate the actual power of Chaos. So what? Loads of people underestimate their opponents all the time!

Jared coughs, having had the literal wind knocked out of him. He looks up only to see Kendrick trying his hand at taking him out. It goes as well as one would expect: he gets a few good hits in before he meets the same fate as Jared. He flung to the wall furthest from the boy, impaled on a spike in the wall. It would instantly be fatal to Mortals, but Kendrick's thankfully no Mortal.

"You will not stop Chaos!" Kane shrieks. "All will be rendered ash, and nothing will remain!"

All feels lost for some reason. That one blow Kane delivered to him felt like it drained everything he had. And Kendrick doesn't look so much better nailed to the wall like a Demonic Jesus.

Despite that, something unbelievable happens.

Kane begins to recite the dark ritual once more only to be interrupted yet again by an uninvited visitor. The doors of the church are pushed open by someone. When he speaks, his voice is instantly recognized.

"Holy shit," Jensen whispers in awe. "What's going on...?"

Kane becomes even more furious. "Who the fuck are you!?"

"Jensen..." Jared groans, struggling to stand. "Get out. Get away from here!"

He specifically told him not to follow, but he broke his promise, and a small part of Jared is happy that he did...even if he's in more danger than he's ever been in his life.

Jensen presence only causes Kane to become increasingly frustrated. His eyes flash red, the purest color of Chaos, and he rears his head back with a mighty roar. The dark power he unleashes causes every window in the church to blow inwards resulting in glass everywhere. Jensen shields his eyes against the shards, receiving only a few minor cuts on his arm.

"I've had enough interruptions! Die!"

Kane raises his arms, using his power to levitate every single sharp shard of glass. Using a simple gesture, he causes them all to point at Jensen who only stands there in shock. Jared cries out to him, crawling feebly towards the Mortal.

But something else happens. Jensen squeezes his eyes shut, and he falls to his knees, wincing and clutching at his head in pain. Jared almost makes it to him, though he watches helplessly as the shards fly through the air, ready to skewer Jensen.

With a shout, Jensen opens his eyes, howling at Kane. A sudden invisible power shoots out of him, damaging the church floor as it destroys the glass shards and barrels its way to Kane. The dark Warlock screams in pain as has blasted through the wall, tumbling to the ground outside.

Jared stares at Jensen, wide eyed and deeply confused. The Mortal boy eventually recovers, groaning. He stumbles over to help Jared up as Kendrick finally manages to bring himself down to their level.

"Jensen...?" Jared starts, eyes darting all across Jensen's face. "What did you just do?"

Jensen pants. "I...don't know."

"What are you?" Kendrick asks, healing slowly.

"I don't know."

There's not much time to dwell on it. They will have their moment later, but for now they must deal with the problem that's trying to stand up outside. With a knowing nod, Jared rushes towards the gaping hole in the wall, followed by Kendrick and Jensen.

Once outside, they witness a pathetic sight.

Kane mumbling to Chaos, broken and bruised and tired and defeated.

"Give me...strength..." He murmurs to Chaos. "Help me..."

This is where we depart. We have been defeated because of your recklessness. Goodbye.

"No!"

Jared huffs, looking at Kendrick. "Contain him."

Kendrick smirks as a blazing ring of fire surrounds itself around Kane. The dark Warlock hisses, touching the fire only to quickly retract his hand. He and Chaos are trapped in there, screeching and fighting to get out. No spell or word of power will extinguish the flames.

Next, Jared stretches out his hand, saying the ancient words of exorcism. Kane writhes on the mossy ground, convulsing and clawing at the dirt. In a matter of seconds, Chaos is forcibly removed from him and is swiftly cast back down into the darkest pit of the Underworld. The swirling portal below Kane closes up then and there, and the fire dissipates.

Powerless, Jared wastes no time. He runs up to Kane, punching him in the face, kicking him in the side, and breaking his nose. He only stops when Jensen grabs his bicep, making sure that he doesn't accidentally kill the man.

"Would he have wanted all this?" Jared questions Kane, directly referencing his deceased fiance. "How do you think he'd feel about what you're doing?"

Kane chuckles, blood trickling from his nostrils. "Stevie isn't here anymore, so it doesn't matter. Just kill me already."

Kendrick sneers, walking forward. "With pleasure."

"No," Jared warns, extending his hand towards the Demon. "He doesn't get the easy out. He needs to live with this, with what he's done. You said there were only two options. Well, here's a third."

It seems, however, that Kendrick does not share Jared's views on the matter. "After all he's done, you expect me to just let him continue breathing? I think not. He will never harm another innocent person again!"

"And he won't. I promise that." Jared approaches Kendrick, gazing into his eyes, pleading. "I know what you are. You are Vengeance; you don't pretend to be anything else. You are not Justice, and do not claim to be, but in order to truly bring judgement down on him, he must first confront his wrongdoings head on. A lifetime of confinement followed by an eternity of punishment seems fair, doesn't it?"

He carefully watches Kendrick's expression, prepared to fight him just to keep Kane alive for the authorities to nab him. They've bonded somewhat over the course of their search, but make no mistake: Jared will not hesitate to destroy Kendrick should he cross him.

However, Kendrick relaxes his face, clenching his jaw in mild exasperation. "I don't wish to be wrong about you, Jared, but if you cannot contain him--"

"He won't be a problem anymore."

Jared places his hand on Kane's head, whispering a silent incantation that renders him unconscious in seconds. He slumps to the ground; Jensen goes to his body, using Kane's shoelaces as rope to tie his hands together. Smart thinking.

With a sigh, Jared digs into his pocket to pull out his cellphone. He's been dreading this day for a while now. The day he tells Jeff everything he's been keeping from him. After much deliberation, Jared dials Jeff's number. The older Warlock answers after a few seconds.

"Jared? What's up?"

"Hey, Jeff. So...listen, I just stopped something big from happening tonight. Like...'prevented the town from being smoke and ash' big. I fought a Demon."

"What!? Are you safe!? Tell me where you are! I'm on my way back."

Before hanging up, Jared gives his guardian their location with a small apology attached at the end. Peacekeepers will flood the area soon, no doubt about that. Jensen shuffles up to him, wrapping him up in a tight hug. He couldn't keep this a secret for much longer, not with all these people involved.

"I must go before the Peacekeepers arrive," Kendrick states. "Tonight was a learning experience. Thank you, Jared. And Jensen?"

Jensen looks to him, still holding Jared. "Yes?"

"I had no idea you were also special. You're no ordinary Mortal, it seems. Take care."

Before either of them could question Kendrick on his words, he disappears into the shadows, seemingly moving on from this town. Jared and Jensen are left alone in the woods; Jensen drags Kane's body to the front of the church as Jared goes inside to check on everyone.

No casualties, all still sleeping soundly.

This could've ended horribly tonight, but he ended up doing great.

In time, Jeff arrives on the scene with a squadron of Peacekeepers at his disposal, just as Jared had predicted. Jeff hurries out of the thicket, jumping over twigs and dodging branches to get to Jared. He swoops him up in a bear hug, breathing heavily. The boy feels guilty now.

"Are you alright?" Jeff asks, checking him over for any injuries; he sees the scars on his arm from the glass, sucking in his teeth as the other Peacekeepers brush by him to get into the church. "Jesus Christ, Jared, what happened?"

Jared looks down at the still unconscious Kane near the entrance of the church. "I stopped a madman from killing thousands, maybe more."

"I see. Tell me eveverything. Did you--" Jeff cuts himself short as soon as Jensen's prescence becomes apparent to him. Jensen panics, backing away slowly as Jeff glares at him. "And what is he doing here? A Mortal! Jared, what have you done!? You've compromised us! Again!"

"It's different this time!" Jared cries, throwing himself in front of Jensen. "Jensen is not who you think he is. He's different. He's like us, I think. Special."

Jeff frowns. "Special? What do you mean?"

"It's better if we all talk in private about this."

****

Jeff sits there on the couch, downing the last few sips in his bottle of cheap beer. Jared and Jensen are standing in front of him, waiting for something, anything. They told the truth, they told Jeff everything that has happened so far. Some of the stuff Jared knew not about, like Jensen having more visions he would dive into detail about.

"So..." Jeff clears his throat, speaking to Jared. "You deliberately disobeyed my orders to stay away from the Fear Demon investigation."

"Yes."

"And then lied to me about it."

"Yes..."

"And when you found out who it was preying upon next, you didn't call me. You didn't message, you didn't think. You just dealt with the problem on your own, putting both your lives at risk."

Jared sighs. "I mean...yeah."

"And even after you Exorcised it back to the Underworld, you continued to lie to my face, having me running around on a wild goose chase pursing an entity that had long been gone."

Jeff chuckles, popping open another bottle.

"Oh, and you conspired with a Demon of Vengeance and a defenseless Mortal to take down a crazed Warlock working with a Demon of Chaos. Did I leave anything out?"

Jensen shakes his head. "To be fair, Jared almost told you everything." Jeff glares daggers at Jensen. "Nope, that's pretty much it--but Chad was in on all of it, too, so..."

"Hmph," Chad grumbles on the arm of the couch. "Narc."

The older Warlock's brows knit together, clearly upset. "Jared, what you did--do you have any idea of the trouble you've caused for me? I have so much paper work to do, revision statements, mind wipes; the survivors are lucky they missed your little Magic show. The Council will be up my ass about this, and they'll be inquiring about you."

The thought of being monitored by the very people he abhors causes Jared to feel uneasy. Yet he has no one else to blame for his actions. Every choice he's made has lead him here.

"And Jensen?" asks Jared. "What happens to him."

"He stays," Chad chimes in, twitching his tail. "His powers are too valuable to let go to waste. I've never seen a Psychic in the flesh before."

It's Jensen's turn to frown now. "Psychic? That's... They're real too?"

"Of course they are. They harness strong mental abilities such as Telekinesis, Telepathy, and Clairvoyance. They're extremely rare within the world, and cannot wield Magical power, but are very sensitive to it. As such, Psychics are thought lowly upon Magic users. So yeah. Sorry, Jeff, Jensen stays. Psychics are aware of the world of Magic, so the very law that allows you to mind wipe Mortals also protects Jensen."

All brand new information to Jared. Kind of. He vaguely remembers an article or an excerpt in a book about Psychics. He, too, is gazing upon his first Psychic human. A small smile spreads across his face as he realizes--yes!--Jensen will not have to have his memories of him erased. He surges forward, wrapping himself around the older boy. Though shocked at first, Jensen hugs him back, giddy about keeping his memories.

And he's also probably stoked about having powers too, so there's that as well. Jeff stands, pinching the bridge of his nose as he sighs.

"It's much too late at night for this nonsense." He glances at Jensen, extending his hand. "So, I guess, welcome to our world. It's not all fairy tales and rainbows, as you just witnessed tonight. Please, for the love of all that is good, don't reveal our secrets to the rest of the world."

Jensen seizes Jeff's hand, shaking it in earnest. "I won't let you down, sir. Glad to be on board, sir."

"Ease up, kid. You're not joining the goddamn military."

"Sorry, sir--err, Jeff."

"Oh, what a lovely little development we have here," someone says. They all turn to the arch connecting the living room to the dining room to see Kendrick leaning on the wall. Jared and Jensen had thought him to be gone for good. "Cute, actually."

Jeff, on his guard, stands in front of Jared to protect him. Funny how everyone is concerned about his wellbeing when Kendrick appears. "Get away from us."

"Oooh, so hostile. Are you always like this with allies?"

"Allies?"

Jared sighs, finally over it. "Jeff, this is Kendrick. He's the Demon of Vengeance."

Jeff relaxes upon hearing this, though he still glares. "The monster in human skin. You're not at all what I imagined. They told me about you. Your exact nature is a mystery to me, but you helped my kid, so I guess thanks are in order."

His kid?

Jeff's words leave a profound feeling of peace in Jared's heart. He never pretended to be anything more than a man who looked after a fallen friend's child, but as time passed, it seemed he grew to have a familial fondness for Jared. So sentimental.

Kendrick hums. "At this point, I'm pretty sure I'd do anything for Jared. He just has that vibe, you know?"

"Watch it..." Jensen growls. "He's with me."

"Right, right. Boundaries. Anyways, let's get down to business. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this town will attract more bastards, in fact, I'm counting on it. Jared's mere presence invites danger upon you all. He's strong, capable, and can be seen as a threat by many, Magic users and creatures alike."

"What are you selling?" Jeff grunts.

"I'm just merely suggesting that you protect and strengthen yourselves...by creating a Coven."

It's something Jared hasn't heard about in a while. Covens are common within the world of Magic; a group of Magic users bind themselves together to create a Circle, or a Coven. Their Magic is significantly amplified once bound. The act of breaking from a Coven was considered heresy in the dark ages, often resulting in death as punishment.

Thank God that period is over.

"We need five for a Coven," says Jeff in thought.

Jared looks around at the others then at Kendrick, then back to them again. "We technically already have five."

Instantly, Chad refuses. "No."

"Chad, come on, please?"

"No! I'm not being bound to a Demon and Jensen. Being tied to your bloodline is already enough for me. Besides, I'm a cat. What can I do other than play Animal Whisperer and unlock doors with my mind?"

"I'll let you sleep in my bed forever?"

"Okay, deal--God, I'm so easy."

Jared laughs. "What say you, Vengeance? You in? Wanna be part of this Coven? We wouldn't have beat Kane and Chaos without you."

Though Jensen and Jeff don't voice their opinions about Kendrick's possible inclusion aloud, it doesn't take a Telepath to know that they're screaming internally. Despite this, the Demon smiles, nodding in approval to the young Warlock.

It's settled then.

Time passes by as Jared gathers the materials needed for the Binding Ritual. He dims the lights, helping Jeff move the coffee table away so they can sit together in a circle. In the circle in front of them is a lone candle, a few towels, a dagger, a syringe, a large chalice, and a wine bottle. Jared uncorks the bottle, gaining a strange look from Jensen. Jared pours the wine into the chalice, humming.

"Helps make the blood go down easier."

Jensen recoils. "Blood!?"

"Magic flows through everything, Jensen," Jeff laughs. "Including our blood."

It's not long until Jeff kickstarts the ritual, chanting the words of a spell from many, many centuries ago. His voice is deep, reverberating off the walls and into their very souls. Jared's never seen him so focused before. It's scary.

Soon, he finishes the chant, taking the dagger and the chalice. With a quick movement, he draws the blade across his open palm, squeezing a few drops into the cup. He passes it to Kendrick who does the same thing, healing directly afterwards. Chad is next, but since he can't do what they did, Jared takes the syringe to carefully draw his blood, depositing it into the cup.

Jared doesn't even flinch when his turn comes up. He does what needs to be done, quietly waiting for Jensen to do his part. There's hesitation in his eyes, an unspoken fear that he has. Jared quietly reassures him that everything will be fine, that he could break from the Coven any time he wanted. Jensen shakes his head.

"You can't get rid of me just yet, Witch."

Jared smirks as Jensen cuts his hand, dispensing his blood into the chalice. Since he was the last to go, Jeff instructs him to drink from it. Nervous, the newly discovered Psychic takes a sip, cringing as the strange combination slips down his throat. Jeff goes next, downing his share like a pro. Kendrick does the same, and even helps Chad get his tiny bit in. Jared takes the cup last, drinking every last drop until the chalice is empty.

A strong wave of power surrounds them, blowing out the candle.

And with that, a new Coven is born.

"We need a name for our coven." Chad states.

Jared groans. "We don't."

"Sure we do!" Jensen exclaims, excited. "How about The Scooby Gang?"

"Taken. Twice over, in fact."

"Losers Club?"

"Pretty sure that's copyrighted. Even if it's not, that one's taken too."

Jensen grins. "Ooh, I got it! The Snack Pack!"

Jared opens his mouth, closing it only moments later. He dwells on it for a second, lips poked out in thought. "I mean...I don't like it, but I don't exactly hate it either."

"The Snack Pack it is then!"

The Demon in the room sighs, shaking his head.

"Alright, everyone," Jeff sighs, turning on the lights. "Show's over. Pack up. It's time to go home. Jared, you're grounded for a few weeks, kid."

Jared's jaw drops, and he frowns in surprise. "What!? Why?"

"Hey, just because you saved the town and helped start a Coven doesn't mean you're off the hook. As I said, you caused me a whole lot of trouble. So much fucking paperwork..."

"Unbelievable..." The young Warlock mumbles.

"Fine by me," says Kendrick, smiling in content as he rises to his feet. "I've had enough of Magic mumbo jumbo for the night. If you ever have need of me, I'll be right here. Or around. Somewhere. You'll know. Later, Wonder Boy."

Kendrick disappears from sight, presumably gone for longer than a few hours this time. This leaves only four members of the new Coven in the house, soon to be three. Jensen stands with Jared shortly after with the latter walking the former to the door. Jensen turns around, facing Jared.

"I had a lot of fun today. I mean, when things weren't so fucking weird. I guess I'm Psychic now. That's pretty cool. I'm special."

Jared smiles, poking Jensen's chest. "You were special before you were Psychic. So brave. That's probably what made your powers truly awaken. I could train you if that's something you'd like?"

"I'm down for whatever," Jensen replies, moving in to kiss Jared's lips. "As long as it involves you."

"Jared!" Jeff calls from inside. "Let's go!"

The young Warlock huffs in frustration. "Gotta go."

"I know. Night, Jay."

"Goodnight."

They say goodbye, and Jensen leaves soon after. Jared helps Jeff clean up the mess in silence. He understands his guardian's exasperation regarding the whole situation, but it feels damn good to have that load off his chest! It only took him a couple weeks to say anything, but at least he finally did.

Later on, Jared trudges to his room with his lovable Familiar in his arms. He drops Chad down on the bed as he unabashedly strips out of his dirty, smelly clothes. One of his favorite shirts have been torn thanks to Kane. He's being held indefinitely in Limbo at the prison for dangerous Magic users. He needs to reflect on his heinous crimes. Maybe he'll learn.

Unlike Carver.

"Run, Rabbit, run."

Jared swallows, and after he takes his shower, he dresses quickly, combing back his damp hair. Tonight definitely was a crazy fucking ride. So much could've gone wrong with that fight, and it almost did. Jared will never forget the fear of losing Jensen before his powers awakened. He felt something then. A strong emotion. There's a name for that, but even now he's loathe to admit what it was.

He glances at his closet then, smiling.

"Loopholes."

****

It's not as easy as Jared and Kendrick make it out to be. This requires a lot of concentration to achieve. Jensen stares at his phone sitting on the nightstand, furrowing his brow. He strains, gritting his teeth as the power inside him attempts to burst through his body. He can feel the energy fighting for release, he just needs to figure out how to make it work.

"Come on," he pushes. "Do something!"

Then he remembers what was going through his head earlier when he fought against Kane. The terrified and dismayed look on Jared's face when he thought Jensen was going to die. He didn't want to break the Warlock's heart with his death; after all, they still needed their second date.

With that replaying in his head, Jensen starts again, glaring at his phone with newfound confidence. He flexes his mind, and the phone soon moves an inch towards him. Jensen huffs, smiling in triumph. With Jared's help, he'll get the hang of these new powers in no time! Too bad he quit the basketball team. This could've come in handy against those pricks upstate who beat them in the playoffs every year.

All in good time, Jensen finally settles into bed, placing on hand over his bare chest. As he closes his eyes for some well deserved r&r, a light shines in his closet. Though it would startle anyone else, Jensen's a little used to it by now. He sits up, feet planted on the floor as the closet door opens, revealing a damp haired Jared dressed in only a t-shirt and underwear. Even in the dim light, knows he's grinning. He stands, meeting Jared halfway to his bed.

"What are you doing here? I thought you were grounded."

Jared chuckles, pressing his body closer to Jensen's. "There's always a loophole when Magic is involved."

"But why are you here?"

"What, I can't Teleport to my boyfriend's house in the middle of the night?"

It's shocking to hear that out loud, and to make sure he's not dreaming, Jensen pinches himself. Jared laughs when he realizes what he's doing, reassuring him with a deep kiss that this is indeed real. Jared pulls back, grinning again, but Jensen dives back in, seizing Jared's mouth, claiming him.

Before either of them even know it, Jared's on his back in Jensen's bed with the older boy on top of him. Jensen's kiss extends from the boy's lips to his neck as his hand slithers under Jared's shirt. Hearing him moan and pant does ungodly things to Jensen, forcing him to growl hungrily.

This is it.

They're about to do it.

They're going all the way.

And during the act, Jensen gets yet another vision.

Kissing him lazily as he sleeps, older men, one taller than the other, both sporting trimmed stubble. They've been together for a long time, and it feels like they'll be together longer still.

"I love you, Witch", says the shorter man, curling his fingers into his partner's dark brown hair. A black cat slumbers soundly in the corner of the room perched comfortably on a fluffy little bed.

"Love you, too, Jock," the other man whispers sleepily.

Chapter Text

There's a reason that the living and the dead are kept in separate worlds. They would be too concerned with their past lives to continue on to the other side, staying trapped in Purgatory without a purpose, haunting.

It's the early morning of October 31st, still quite dark outside. The wind whistles through the nearly bare branches on the trees, and the owls hoot from the shadows.

The veil that separates us is strong, almost impenetrable. But there is an exception.

In the area around the graveyard, a rift splits open, causing a multitude of transparent spirits to come through. Some with smiles on their faces, others confused about how they're back into the real world; it must be their first Hallow.

It's said that the spirits of the dead come out to visit us on All Hallow's Eve when the veil between the living and the dead is weakened significantly. They can only pass through for one night. Most come to see their loved ones for the last time, some come to cause a bit of mischief. And then there are others who're more malicious in their intent...

As the rift begins to diminish, one last spirit rushes out, destroying the souls of benevolent spirits to force his way out. He is free once again, finally able to feast his eyes upon the world that condemned him and sent him to his grave! The ones who have caused his imprisonment and his subsequent death are long gone by now, but that doesn't mean he can't have a bit of fun on this cursed day.

He is Mark Pellegrino, and his soul burns bright red, the color of his heinous crimes. They called him "The Massachusetts Butcher", collecting an impressive body count of 89 before his capture. He never got to complete his work; he would be retired after 100, settled down in Canada somewhere.

But tonight is his final chance. Tonight he will make it to 100, all he needs is the perfect vessel.

Mark soars away from the graveyard, searching for a vessel to possess. This town is the perfect place to begin his work! Various different hidden spots, a forest; it's brilliant! His search lasts for several minutes, finally coming across the man he's been looking for. Not specifically, per say.

The Mortal's name is Tyler Olsson, just married to a lovely woman. Eva. She looks delicious; pretty curves, long silky hair, beautiful red lips. Oh, it'll feel splendid to carve his initials into her smooth skin!

Without much deliberation on his part, Mark saunters inside of their home, quickly hopping into Tyler's body. Mark, of course, expected resistance, but his superior willpower won in the end, and Tyler became unconcious, trapped in his own mind. Meanwhile, his body remained, being used by Mark in the kitchen. He rolls his shoulders, flexing his muscles at this brand-spanking-new body!

Tyler is built. Physically. Mentally he's a weakling. Mark chuckles darkly in his new form. This is only temporary. Once Halloween is over, he is going to be forced back into the very same hole he crawled out of...and he refuses to leave this place until he ups his kill count to completion. This is a chance to pick up where he left off!

Starting with Eva.

Mark opens a drawer, pulling out the infamous and iconic kitchen knife that only appears in the movies. Fitting for what he's about to do. It doesn't take the long forgotten serial killer long to ascend the staircase, moving slowly to the bedroom Tyler shares with his oh so gorgeous wife.

When he gets there, he sees her laying peacefully in bed, dead to the world. Smirking, Mark enters the room with the confidence of a lion, and descends upon Eva. He grabs her by the hair, dragging the poor woman from the comfortable mattress. She screams, as is customary, flailing about. When she looks up at her attacker, her eyes widen in shock.

"Ty?" She sobs.

"No, baby. Tyler's not here right now. Name's Mark. Wish I could have fun with you, but I'm on the clock."

As predicted, Eva fights back, kicking and screaming, rushing out of the bedroom. She doesn't get far, however, when just as she opens the front door, Mark seizes her again, tossing her back inside. He slams the door closed, stalking his prey as she crawls away from him, injured. Eva cries, making it to the dining room before Mark grabs her again, this time by her neck.

He hauls her up to her feet only to slam her down on the coffee table where he finally kills her with 20 stabs to the chest. Sated, Mark grins.

"90."

****

"Mmm..."

Jensen wakes up scrunching up his face against the sunlight beaming through his window. It's pretty bright today, damn if it also isn't cold out there. Shit. October in this town feels like December, and December feels like the fucking Ice Age.

Blinking away the haziness of sleep, Jensen almost leaves the bed only to quickly remember that he's not alone here. Jared's sound asleep in his arms, cheeks pink and lips slightly parted. Goddamn, he's beautiful. Jensen can't take his eyes off him. Jared says there's no God, but there must be. There has to be if Jared is among them; a true Angel in disguise.

He's been visiting him and spending the night with him every night since their first time. It's safe to say that Jared's closet now functions as a doorway connecting his and Jensen's house together, though it's still possible to gather clothes from there.

Jensen smiles sleepily prior to caressing the Warlock's face with his knuckles. Jared stirs, cuddling up closer to Jensen. If Jensen told anyone about this, Jared would outright deny it. He shouldn't be so embarrassed. Cuddling comes with the territory. Just looking at him causes his heart to swell.

I Love You.

He can't seem to say it out loud yet, which is normal. They both can't, but it's there. Jensen knows it. He loves Jared, and he has recently come to realize that.

"Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty."

"Nngh..." Jared whines. "No."

"It's morning. And it's a school day. And it's Halloween."

Jared's eyes shoot open, but he also winces as the light from the sun shines on him. "Halloween?"

"Yup."

"Ugh," Jared rises, sitting up and wiping his hand down his face. "I hate this day."

"Really? Isn't Halloween like Christmas for you guys?"

"Hahaha...no. Halloween is easily the most dangerous time of the year for us, and probably the most annoying for me. My mom had me dress up as a Fairy Prince up until I turned 10."

Jensen laughs, kissing the boy's neck. "I can't imagine you running around in tights with a crown on your head and wings strapped to your back."

"Good. Don't. If you tell anyone, I'll do something drastic."

"Like what?"

"Like...zap you with lightning, or something."

"Or really?"

"Yeah...so you better watch out."

Jensen shakes his head, allowing Jared to separate from him. The young Warlock hops out of bed stark naked, shrugging on his shirt and pulling up his underwear. Jensen gets an eyefull, biting his lip and suppressing the sudden urge to drag him back into bed.

They've been spending much time together lately. Outside of school, Jared trains Jensen on his new powers. It's different to what Jared had been accustomed to, the Warlock told him. Psychic abilities aren't as complex as Magic, and though Jensen's not quite at the stage where he can read minds, he has almost perfected the art of speaking Telepathically.

His Psychometry power (a byproduct of Clairvoyance) is improving as well. He's starting to see past events as well, yet they're more clear than the future which inconveniently is more blurry.

Jensen gets out of the bed as well, slipping on sweatpants first. He comes to Jared, hugging him from behind. The boy squeals and giggles in his embrace.

"So, guess what?"

"What, you big meathead?"

"The Halloween dance is tonight."

Jared scoffs, smiling. "Oh, is it? Do you expect me to get dressed up so we can dance around people we barely even know? You couldn't even pay me to do it."

"I bought the tickets two weeks ago." Jensen whispers in his ear, chin on his shoulder.

"Sneaky, sneaky. No fair, Ackles. Now I'm obligated to go. Can't let your daddy's money go to waste."

"Oh, come e're, you!"

Jensen picks him up around the middle, carting him back to the bed. Jared kicks his feet, but it's all in vain. Jensen pins him to the bed, smiling and laughing as he gazes down at Jared's angelic face. In seconds, Jensen's resolve breaks, and he quickly decides that they can be a little late for school today.

****

Mark probably sounds like a broken record by now, but he just absolutely *loves* this new body! Tyler is the perfect man for this particular job, and it's refreshing that when people see him they wave and smile. What a lovely alternative to how it was before when he was alive and terrorizing the public.

It's daylight now, almost time for kids to go to school and adults to fuck off wherever. Mark whistles innocently while he waltzes around this nice neighborhood. He spots a house up ahead; white picket fence, red door, one car in the driveway. Mark speeds up, walking briskly to his new destination. It doesn't take him long to get into the house, mentally unlocking the locks.

Being a spirit in a Mortal's body has its perks.

Once inside, Mark heads into the kitchen, not caring if he's making any noise in Tyler's heavy boots. There, he stumbles upon a family having breakfast; one man, one woman, and their two children, both teenagers.

"What the hell are you doing in my house?" The father yells as Mark walks slowly to the knives.

How very annoying.

Mark makes short work of them, leaving the kitchen stained red with their blood. It covers the walls, pooling around their bodies on the tiled linoleum floor. Mark doesn't bother with cleanup; why should he? It'll be Tyler's fingerprints on everything, and Mark will be long gone before he's intercepted by authorities.

"Why are you doing this...?" The daughter asks weakly, apparently still clinging to life.

That question. He's been asked that very same question millions of times before in the past, and everytime he gave the same answer:

"Because I could."

He drives his knife into the girl's back twice, ending her life. Very therapeutic.

"91, 92, 93, 94."

With a prolonged sigh, Mark in Tyler's body heads upstairs, washing off the blood from his hands and face, though it doesn't help much because his clothes are soaked in the crimson substance. With no other option, he strips out of them, foraging around the father's wardrobe for some fetching attire.

It's a bit snug, but that's fine. He'll need to be more careful when doing this again. Bloodstains on clothes usually attract unwanted attention. Looking all spiffy and grand, Mark strides down the stairs. He manages to find a pretty convenient switchblade on his way out of the house. Neat.

Traipsing down the sidewalk, Mark spots the most delicious, succulent, mouthwatering prize yet. A young boy comes out of his house, shouldering his backpack. He can't be any older than 18. Floppy brown hair, gangly thing. Beautiful face. He's the one!

Number 100. The final one. It's been decided.

Mark sidesteps behind a tree as the boy with floppy hair rushes down the driveway to hop into a car with some fucking pretty boy. His very existence makes Mark frown in anger.

If he's lucky, he might make it past 100 tonight. Regardless of that, the boy will be the last to die.

****

"...since It's Halloween, I've decided that there would be no lessons today." Jared's history teacher states, causing a few students to murmur in happiness. "Instead, we'll be watching a video on the history of Halloween, and how the holiday has changed throughout time."

At that, however, Jared sighs, rolling his eyes in annoyance. He's heard all the tales before, all the stories. It's basically his life at this point. Ritual sacrifices, alleged Pagan gods, Goblins, Imps, giving out candy to keep the evil away, wearing the masks of monsters, all of it isn't so new to him!

Taking a look to his right, Jared sees Jensen sitting behind the desk next to him, grinning happily at the notion of hearing a breakdown of the most tedious holiday of all time. He's very eager to learn everything there is to know about their world, even the "dumb" parts. Jared used to love Halloween as a child, but now it just reminds him of a time in which he can't go back to.

In time, the teacher wheels in the television on a cart, and pops in the documentary. The class tunes in enthusiastically, just happy that there's no lesson to sit through on this day. Jared stops watching five minutes in, already bored with the drivel that spills from the incredibly dry narrator's mouth.

Thankful for his window seat, Jared props his head up on his arm, staring outside at the front of the school. Something immediately catches his eye, however, in the form of a man.

Staring at him. Blankly.

Jared frowns, removing his hand from his face as the man tilts his head to the side. It's hard to make out from this distance, but it seems that the man is beginning to smile. Wolfishly. Unnerved by his presence, Jared attempts to read his mind only to find out that there's absolutely nothing there!

It freaks him out significantly, but before he can do anything about it, Jensen touches his shoulder causing him to turn to the young Psychic who is smiling in glee.

"Dude, this is so awesome!"

Jared huffs, though he says nothing. As he turns his head, Jared spots...

Nothing.

The man is gone, no trace of him anywhere.

Jared bites the inside of his mouth, tapping his foot on the floor. Who was that man? Was he just passing by, looking to scare someone? Well he failed. Doesn't matter. He's gone, and Jared's stuck here without an escape.

But what about that man's mind? It's blank? How is that possible? It was almost like he was...dead.

Well...maybe the man managed to get a minor scare out of him after all. It's Halloween. Everyone's entitled to at least one good scare.

Yay him.

****

He looked at him!

Oh, gosh, he looked at him!

That pretty little baby with floppy hair saw him. Mark has no idea why he's feeling so absolutely giddy about this. Perhaps it's the thrill of it all, the thrill of seeing your future victim, and them seeing you right on back.

Mark ducked away from the view when "100" was distracted, moving on to other things, things to keep him occupied until the time is right. He's behind a bookstore now, in the alley watching an older man take out trash. It's such an easy kill, one quick slice to the throat, no sound. Mark is mindful to keep the blood away from him, carefully dumping the body in the dumpster.

An unceremonious kill, but a kill that sates his appetite for a while longer.

"95," Mark sighs, wiping the blade on the inside of his shirt. "Making good time."

****

It's a little bit past 2 in the afternoon now. School's out for the weekend, but a select few of students and staff are staying behind to help with preparations for the Halloween costume dance. It's such nonsense, yet Jared also sees the allure and the appeal. He could be anything he wants to be, excluding a Fairy Prince, of course.

Jensen taps his fingers on the steering wheel of his car, humming along to the song on the radio; it only gets worse when Jensen starts to "sing". Jared tries reading the book in his hands while ignoring the fiendish wails of his boyfriend next to him.

"Can't fight the temptation when you get the vibration," Jensen sings. "Won't do you no good. It won't do you no good!"

"Jensen--"

"You better start running when you hear the man coming! Won't do you no good. It won't do you no good! Now we don't mind if you don't mind. Hell, I never mind!"

Jensen then proceeds to imitate the rocking guitar solo in the song, glancing at Jared as his mouth widens and contracts. It's entertaining to say the least. Kaleo. That's the band's name, and Jensen's obsessed with those guys. Jared is partial to them, that is in front of Jensen. In private, he rocks out just as hard as Jensen. Chad is even taking a liking for their sound.

"You are the worst guitar ever, Jen." Jared snarks, gazing at his boyfriend.

"Jay, you wish you had pipes this good. Don't kid yourself."

"I could outsing you under a table."

"Yeah? Prove it, Witch."

"I will, Jock." Jared retorts, puckering his lips. "Just...not today."

Jensen snorts. "Mhmm."

It doesn't take them long to reach Jared's house, both spotting Jeff's vehicle in the driveway. Once the car comes to a complete stop, Jared gathers his belongings, shoving his books into his bag.

"I'll come by to pick you up at 8, okay? That'll give you enough time to plan your outfit and stuff."

"Yeah," Jared nods, kissing Jensen. "Got it. What are you going as?"

"It's a surprise. Haha, what about you? Fairy Prince?"

"I've retired that persona a loooong time ago, and I'm not going back. It's a surprise as well."

"Oh, very mysterious. Can't wait to see it. See you later tonight, Jay."

"Bye, Jen."

Jared takes his leave from Jensen's car, waving as the Psychic rides away. The poor boy.

Blissfully unaware that a psychotic evil spirit is watching him, plotting on his delightfully gory demise by his deranged hands.

"Jay..." Mark sighs, moaning. "Jay. Delicious. I want you so bad. We'll be together soon."

****

"What's up with things never quite being in my size?" Jared grumbles as he checks the racks for costumes.

He's currently downtown at the little shopping center searching for an appropriate costume to wear. So far, all he's been seeing are robots, hot nurses, red riding hoods, and suits from other major blockbuster movies that came out over the summer all two sizes too big, or two sizes too small. There's not much variety here, and while it's not directly anyone's fault, Jared doesn't want to look like everyone else tonight.

"You're still growing," Chad whispers in his empty backpack. He had to come along for this one. "I'd be surprised if you surpassed Jensen in a few years."

"Yeah, right. Can you imagine? Hey, how about this?" says Jared as he holds up a large black cloak.

"I can't exactly see in here, JP, so can you describe it to me?"

"It's a cloak. Black. My size. I need more with this, though. Can't just wear a cloak and nothing else."

"Well, your medieval ancestors would disagree."

"Ew."

"Dancing naked around a bonfire in the moonlight, some wine, a few ritual sacrifices to appease the False Gods... We were all so dumb back then."

Jared exhales. "I'll say. Times change, but I'm glad my ancestors are dead so they can't spread their stupidity."

Harsh words, yet truthful. The young Warlock shops around some more, deciding to pick up the cloak along with a few extra things. He has an idea on what to wear tonight, something to partly honor both his mother and father in some capacity. It'll be practical on the surface, but elegant. Graceful, but not too flashy.

Jared smiles to himself while he collects his items, paying for them shortly after at the checkout counter. After his purchase, he heads back out to the entrance, but he doesn't look where he's going, bumping into a complete stranger that causes him to drop his bags.

The boy swears quietly, dropping down with the person who stood in his way. "No, it's fine. I got--"

"No, allow me, I just..."

Jared looks up, staring into a pair of icy blue eyes that almost seem to penetrate into his very soul. This man is handsome in a rough, tough, lumberjack kind of way. He seems familiar almost.

The man smiles, helping Jared gather his things. "I, uh...sorry. I should've watched where I was going. Stupid of me."

"No, it's alright," Jared says, standing up with the older man. "I was in too much of a hurry to leave. I should've watched where I was going."

"Did I break anything? I could pay--?"

"You're fine, don't worry about it."

The man retains his smile with a small nod. He extends his hand then. "Sorry about that. I'm Tyler. Nice to meet you...?"

"Ah--Jared. My name's Jared."

"Jared." Tyler hums, smirking. His teeth are abnormally...pointy. "I like that name. It has many meanings; Descent, Flowing Down, though my favorite would have to be He Who Rules. Sounds so sophisticated, don't you agree?"

Jared's eyes flutter, and his cheeks redden immediately as Tyler takes his hand, holding it firmly inbetween his. They're as cold as ice, just like his unsettling yet intriguing stare. It looks to be that they're the only ones in the store now besides the owner. Any more of this and he might faint like in the old black and white movies!

Intuitively, Jared retracts his hand from Tyler's reach. "I...should go."

"So soon?"

"Prior obligations, but it was nice to meet you, Tyler. Happy Halloween."

As Jared walks away, something Tyler says stops him dead in his tracks. "Happy Halloween to you as well, Jay."

The Warlock, puzzled and weirded out, attempts to read Tyler's mind, only to find out that it's empty. Nothing, not even the sound of waves crashing. Was He the same guy from earlier? He frightens Jared with that toothy grin, and his soul piercing eyes, like he knows what the boy is trying and failing to do.

Without giving much away, Jared leaves the shop in a rush, thinking of all the possibilities pertaining to Tyler.

Once the boy is gone, Mark smirks. There's nothing more satisfying than playing around with your meal first, smelling it, getting a feel for it, then devouring it at last, and Jared is definitely the tastiest treat on the planet so far.

What is it about him that draws Mark in? His seraphic features? His posture? The way he speaks? Body language? The energy he gives off? There has to be something, but Mark can't figure it out. He'll have to keep digging further inside himself. Not much time left, though. Midnight will come in the drop of a hat, so he must not lose sight of his mission.

"May I help you, sir?" The store owner blurts put from behind the counter.

Mark turns, picking up a random object off the wall. He smiles. "Yes, I was looking for some more party masks, but it seems that there's only a few left. I'm having a pretty big get together tonight, you see."

The owner nods. "Sure, no problem. Just let me check in the back for some. Anything you'd like in particular?"

"Something scary."

"You got it."

The owner of the store heads into the back area and out of view as Mark's polite smile morphs into a deadly scowl. He's learned how to manipulate people and simulate emotions in his past life, it damn sure isn't so hard the second time around.

He goes towards the entrance, turning the "Open" sign over to "Sorry, We're Closed". Mark looks up above him, grinning wide at the security camera pointing at him. When all is said and done, Tyler won't have a way out of this. Nothing will ever be the same for him. No jury will ever believe him, all evidence will point to the crazy man wielding a knife who didn't even bother to hide his face.

With that in mind, Mark pulls out his blade, walking quickly to the back where the owner is. He corners the man against a stack of boxes, towering over him. The man pleads, begging for his miserable, pathetic life, but Mark ignores him, driving the knife into his stomach repeatedly until his eyes roll back and his breathing stops altogether.

"96. Mmm, I'm really feeling it tonight..."

****

The only thing Jared truly hates about the Fall and Winter? The time in which the sun starts to set. It gets too dark way too early this time of year, and it sucks to the maximum. It's only thirty four minutes past 7, and the moon is already shining eerily above the town. God's Face. That's what it's called when there's a full moon. What a coincidence that it appears on Halloween.

But all in good time, Jared finishes making the alterations on his costume, coming to stand in front of his mirror to look upon his masterpiece.

"So...you're going as a Witch?" Chad snorts from the bed. "Isn't that a little expected?"

Jared growls softly. "I'm not just a Witch," he snaps his fingers, causing a pair of small pitch black wings to appear on his back. A dark pointy crown shows up on his head next, and he grins. "I'm a Dark Fairy Prince Warlock."

"Oh, God, that's so bad."

"Hmph! Don't care. I'm happy with the results," the Warlock hums, slipping into the black boots he bought earlier today. The shirt he wears is silky smooth, made from some good fabrics, and the pants are just black jeans cut a little at the knees. Edgy. "And Jensen will be too."

"What's he going as?"

"I don't know yet. He's being rather mysterious about it."

It would literally be the funniest shit ever if Jensen comes around dressed as a Warlock. Now that would be expected! But alas, Jared has no clue on what his boyfriend's costume is. For all he knows Jensen could decide to dress up as a lawyer or a fireman,  someone in a suit.

The very thought goes straight to Jared's groin, and he suppresses a deep moan. Jensen in a suit? That's a very lovely thought indeed.

Anything involving Jensen lately has Jared feeling...well, something! The emotion that he's been tip-toeing around with the Psychic is starting to rear its somewhat ugly head. Hearts in their eyes when the other is near, constant smiles, a certain feeling of loss or sadness when the other isn't in sight.

Could it be love? Or is it much too early for that? It eats away at Jared, tearing him limb from limb. If only he had someone to talk to about his situation.

He takes a look at Chad who proceeds to lick his genitals.

Yeah, not him. Definitely not him.

Suddenly, Jared's phone rings next to Chad, startling the preening feline. Jared chuckles, saying nothing as he approaches his cellular device. When he picks it up, he notices that there's something off. No name, no number.

Unknown

Curious, Jared answers.

"Hello?"

No one answers, though Jared listens very closely to hear someone on the other line breathing.

"Anyone there?"

Still nothing. Spooked, Jared wanders to the window, checking to see if anyone outside is pulling a prank on him. All he sees are children with their parents going door to door trick or treating, however, he does spot a lone individual quickly sidestepping away into the shadows.

Jared huffs. "Oh, Jensen, your pranks need work. This is your worst one yet!"

"Who the hell is Jensen?"

The voice causes Jared to gasp in mild surprise, making his blood run cold. That wasn't Jensen's voice. It was deeper, darker, more menacing. Quickly, Jared hangs up the phone, staring nervously at his black cat. Chad takes a glance at the young man, clearly concerned.

Almost instantly after ending the call, the doorbell is heard throughout the house. Jared jumps a bit; his heart hammers in his chest, beating double time. The ward on the house isn't detecting anything, and that scares the living piss outta him. Jared licks his lips, walking slowly out of his room and down the stairs. It's quiet in here. No television, no radio, no anything but the floorboards creaking under Jared's weight. Jeff's not here; he's working late tonight since it's Halloween. Many strange things happen this time of year...

"Who's there?" Jared calls, certainly freaked out.

Yet again, everything is silent. This does not bode well. The anxiety he feels as he approaches the front door is unparalleled. Sure, he's a Warlock and can kill anyone who crosses him, but that doesn't mean he can't be scared while doing it. Finally, he reaches the door, and with a steady hand, he unlocks it, turning the knob.

He yanks it open, expecting someone to challenge him. Instead, there's no one there. But before he can relax, a masked man comes out from the side of the house, yelling maniacally at Jared with a raised weapon.

Using his quick reflexes, Jared calls on his Magic to pull the assailant inside of the house, slamming the door shut. He pins the maniac against the wall, lifting him up higher. He looks strange with a hockey mask and ripped dingy clothes on; his weapon falls to the floor.

It's...a plastic machete? Jared frowns, looking up into the mask to see familiar green eyes.

"Surprise?" Jensen says, pinned 3 feet above the ground.

Jared sighs in exasperation. "Jensen? Goddammit, you asshole."

"I see I got you good."

"And yet I remain unimpressed." Jared releases his hold on Jensen, letting him slide down the wall. "What are you even supposed to be?"

Jensen scoffs, arms splayed wide. "Are you serious? I'm Jason! Jason Voorhees? The Crystal Lake Killer? You'd think the hockey mask would be a dead giveaway..."

"I just thought you were a hobo serial killer."

"That's kinda what Jason is, Jay," Jensen laughs, lifting up his mask to get a better look at Jared. "Hot damn. You look...wow! What's this--wait, no, let me guess! Spooky Fairy Princess Witch!"

Jared shrugs, closing the distance to kiss Jensen. "Eh, close enough. You ready?"

"Yeah, but I might need to leave the machete here. I don't know if the school will allow it..."

"Best to leave it just in case," Chad hums. "Wouldn't want the student body to mistake you for a deranged psycho killer, would we?"

"True."

Soon enough, Jared and Jensen are out the door. Chad sees them off, yelling to Jared that he looks amazing and that he hopes he wins the costume contest. In time, Jensen pulls off, driving steadily to the school where the dance awaits them.

In the shadows, Mark watches the car pass him by. That was a close call. He missed this: stalking his prey before the inevitable grand finale. Jared is so lovely to you around with; there is a special spark inside of the boy. Mark just hopes to make it long enough to see just how beautiful his insides truly are.

****

The dance is in full swing by the time Jared and his date make it to the gymnasium. There are chaperones dancing and mingling, some wearing costumes while others just wearing cat ears or cheap masks over their basic clothes. Students are having fun as well, posting pictures on their social media profiles and making out behind the bleachers where the staff can't see.

And then there are those bold enough to smoke pot in the stairwells of the building. Jared can't help but laugh at the scene before him. He was expecting to completely hate this night, but it's all looking to be kinda fun.

"Wow, the glee club really outdid themselves this time." Jensen says in awe, looking around at the decorations.

Jared smiles. "I agree. Really nice. My mother would've flipped about this. She was such a sucker for anything Halloween."

Jensen puts his arm around Jared as they walk further in, squeezing him gently. "And I'm sure she'd love this costume. You really do look amazing."

Jared almost comments his thoughts, but it's not to be for Danneel comes waltzing up to them, arm and arm with her date as well. None other than the new captain of the basketball team, Oliver. She seems sure of herself, more proud than usual. Her costume is so typical of her: a devilress clothed in red and black lace. Oliver's is more simple: a football player. It's supposed to be ironic. Jared can give him points for that.

"Jared, you look fucking cool." Danneel grins, pointing at his robes. "Bold choice. Fabulous."

"Thank you," he replies. "That was a bold choice as well. I'm surprised they let you in at all."

"Believe me, they tried to keep me out. I fought tooth and nail just to get in here. I would've sued the shit out of this backwards school."

This frenemy dynamic Jared and Danneel have actually works for them.

Jensen snorts. "I don't doubt it. Nice costume, Oli."

"Back at you, Ackles." says the other boy.

Danneel rolls her eyes, pushing Oliver slightly out of her way. She steps up closer to Jared, smiling. "I think I'll take that dance now. You do owe me after all."

Jared looks at Jensen, shrugging. "A deal's a deal. I'll save one for you later."

"Okay. I'll be waiting."

"Don't worry, Jenny," Danneel states, walking away with Jared to the dance floor. "I'm not gonna kidnap your boyfriend."

All too soon, Jared and Danneel are thrown into a sea of students and staff, dancing wildly to the hyperactive music coming from the sound system controlled by the hired dj. Jared just goes along with it. The sooner they get this over with, the better.

He finds himself lost in the music, actually enjoying himself when he suddenly sees a familiar face in the crowd. Tyler from before. In the costume shop.

Jared stops dancing, looking to see Tyler staring right at him, smiling. The Warlock gears up to confront him, but he vanishes from sight as the crowd of students close in, dancing tightly together. Could it have been his imagination tricking him? Something's been bothering him all day; a gut feeling, or a hunch.

Perhaps it's just the holiday fucking with his head.

Or maybe there's a more sinister being at work...

****

Jared is going insane. Mark could see it on the kid's face. No, he's not hallucinating, no, he's not imagining his being here, and, yes, something weird is going on. Mark knows Jared can feel it, that little voice in the back of his head telling him that the stranger from earlier isn't so innocent, and that a malevolence lurks just beneath the surface.

Mark has been watching the boy all day, studying him, lurking in the shadows, observing his movements. He's strange, muttering to himself in the store and in his room. If he were still alive, Mark would probably keep him as a pet, locked away without sunlight, chained to wall begging to die. Jared would look so beautiful with a steel collar around his neck.

Unfortunately, he must die tonight, but perhaps his soul will fall into the Underworld with him. One can hope.

Eventually, Mark slips away from the party, stalking the halls of the school, searching for his next victims. It's almost time. He can feel the veil pulling him back, tugging at his soul, commanding him to return. He can't. Not yet. Not until his bloodlust has been fulfilled.

Victim 97 comes to him when he spies a lone custodian mopping up the floors on the west wing of the high school. It was easy to pull  off: one slice to the back, and a few quick stabs. He doesn't bother hiding the body, it'll all be over soon anyways. Mark needs to act swiftly, and that means he needs to get a little messy.

After finding no one interesting to slaughter, Mark soon comes across the auditorium of the school, happening upon two students. A boy and a girl, alone, sitting on the edge of the stage making out. The boy is dressed as a half-witted footballer, but the girl... She has the gall to dress as a Demon. A slutty Demon at that. Mark has seen Demons for himself, and even they are not that overlysexualized.

It only makes Mark's blood boil. Without thought or question, he lashes out at them, starting with the boy first. He surges forward with unholy power, sticking his knife in the boy's eye.

"98. So close."

The little bitch shrieks, but Mark catches her before she can run, clotheslining her brutally. He kneels to her level as she tries to recover, pinning her arms apart with his knees, straddling her. Mark runs the bloody blade down her chest, smearing it across her cleavage. She cries, pleading, begging, just as he likes to hear.

"I can't let you go," he coos. "I have work to do. Now, I don't have too long, but why don't you and I have some fun for a bit, hmm?"

****

Everything has slowed down a little now. Couples have paired off with their significant others on the dance floor, swaying to the slow songs being heard. Even Coach Cohen has joined in, dancing with Ms. Harmon who seems nothing but understandably smitten with him. He's a handsome man, no denying that, but he needs improvement on his behavior. Maybe she can help with that.

"May I finally have this dance, your highness?" Jensen asks, hand behind his back and bowing like nobility.

At first, Jared struggles to understand, but soon pieces it together once he reaches up to feel the crown on his head. He chuckles, nodding. "Of course you can, my loyal executioner."

They laugh together briefly before Jared takes Jensen's hand, being lead out to dance floor with everyone else. His arms wrap around Jensen's neck, and the former basketball player puts his hands around the boys waist. In no time, they find a rhythm, and dance slowly to the beautiful tune that stretches far into the building.

No one bats an eye at them, the odd couple here in an ocean of others. Jared needn't worry about it, because it's all about him and Jensen right now, in this moment. It feels amazing, actually dancing like this with the guy who barreled into his life without a second guess.

As they twirl, Jared reflects on their near deadly, somewhat tumultuous journey together. Jensen has been nothing but supportive and open about all of this so far. He's not like other humans, not at all like other Mortals either. He truly is special, brave, kind, and selfless. Jared could see this working out.

And it scares him.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Jensen speaks quietly, smiling.

Jared blinks twice. "Oh--I was just thinking about you."

"About me?"

"About us."

"And what about us?"

"Just that we've kind of had an eventful month so far. Demons, Magic powers, Psychic abilities. What if...what if Kendrick was right? What if danger keeps coming back towards me? Towards...us?"

"Then we'll get rid of that danger," replies Jensen. "Together. Always together."

The song continues on; Jared glances at Coach Cohen and Ms. Harmon, bodies dangerously close as well as their lips.

"Check it out. Our teachers might need to get a room soon."

Jensen laughs. "I don't blame them. Halloween brings out the romantics as much as the maniacs. I think they've got the right idea."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Jared shakes his head while the current song comes to a close. A brand new piece is introduced, and immediately captivates Jared. The lyrics, the instruments, the vocals, the very Magic it invokes! It's unlike anything Jared's ever heard. It causes a small tear to form in his eyes as the violins build up to a crescendo, gracing his eardrums with an almost blessed melody.

It inspires Jared with that very emotion he's been having much trouble addressing aloud. He clings to Jensen, gazing up into those marvelous green eyes of his. He half-smiles, exhaling. He's been denying it all along, but it's true. It has to be. Jared is positive of it now more than ever.

Soulmates.

"What the fuck is wrong with me?" He mutters, blinking away the stray tear. "I've been so blind to the truth all along. Such an idiot."

"Jared?" Jensen queries.

"We've both been idiots, Jen."

"What are you talking about?"

"I think you know what I'm talking about." The Warlock responds. "You know."

Jensen is silent for a while, then: "I do know."

They're so close now, so very close to each other with the utmost special honeyed words on the tips of their tongues, hearts in their hands, head over heels.

A confession, a real one, is about to take place.

A confession that's been in the making for an extremely long time now.

They've felt a connection since the first time they've encountered each other. Jared was just too stubborn to admit it. But not anymore. Tonight, he's ready.

"Jensen, I...I think I..."

But it's in vain.

Jared doesn't finish, not because he can't, but because he sees something so shocking, so disturbing that it literally wrenches his mouth shut with the force of a million men.

Near the bleachers, Jared looks on in horror as Danneel stares at him, covered head to toe in her blood, clothes torn and slashed to pieces. She grins, and blood pours from her mouth to her chest, running down her body.

Jared hyperventilates, removing himself from Jensen as she vanishes from sight, an act that has happened for the second time tonight. However, that felt real, just like when he saw Jensen getting ripped to pieces by the Fear Demon. Jared looks around the gymnasium, searching for Danneel and Oliver, but they're nowhere to be seen.

They're in danger, and this scenario somehow feels familiar to him, like he's seen it in a horror movie before. Strange. Regardless, he puts his confession on hold.

"I'm sorry," he mutters to Jensen. "Something's wrong. I have to go. Stay here."

Jared attempts to flee, but Jensen grabs him by the hand. "Jared--wait! What's wrong? Tell me."

"I saw Danneel. Something bad is happening to her. She's still in the school. I have to find her before..."

"Before what?"

"Stay here. Please."

"I'm going with you."

"If you have that feeling for me, like I have that feeling for you..." Jared speaks. "You'd listen to me. I have to go."

The Warlock slips from Jensen's reach, and rushes out the doors leading out of the gymnasium. He picks a direction, and using his Warlock's Instinct, he runs. If there's one thing that he's learned so far is that he and his family run towards the danger, never from it.

As he rounds the nearest corner, Jared hears footsteps coming from behind running after him. He doesn't need to take a wild guess to know exactly who this person is. They come up to join him, sprinting besides the young Warlock.

"That's twice in this relationship that you broke your promise." Jared quips.

"I never promised anything," Jensen fires back, jogging along. "Witch."

"Jock."

"What's the plan?"

"What makes you think that I ever have an immediate strategy when shit hits the fan?"

"Good point."

The couple run through the halls side by side, ready to take on whatever threat has suddenly arisen in their town. It's Halloween, so it could be anything. Demons, Witches, Warlocks, serial killers...

For whatever reason, that thought causes Jared to feel a wave of unease.

Going off his instincts, Jared is led to the auditorium. He reaches for the handle, jiggling it. It's locked. He's prepared to break it down with a shoe of brute force, but Jensen stops him with a reassuring hand on his should.

Jensen looks at the door for a moment, then it suddenly opens on its own. He smirks proudly at Jared before they told inside. He's really getting a hang of this. That's good. He can't be slacking when something else happens in this godforsaken town. Of all the shit that they've faced down so far, Jensen needs to be prepared. The charm necklace will only protect him against so much. Who knows if they'll come across a creature immune to the charm's spell!?

Once inside, Jared and Jensen stare up in horror at the stage as a man cleaves and carves Danneel's skin with his knife. Laying on the floor next to her is Oliver, dead and eyes bulging from their sockets. Jared raises his hand to his mouth, looking away from the carnage.

Jensen says nothing, stuck still from the shock of seeing two people he knew being brutalized before him. The man soon notices their presence, and he grins. Looking closely now, Jared recognizes him. He takes a step forward, jaw dropping as Danneel takes her final breath.

"Tyler?"

"99," the man with a crazed look in his eyes says. "Hello, Jared. My 100, my beautiful gem. I was just admiring the lovely lady's costume. I thought she'd look more beautiful like this. I was right."

"What the hell, Tyler..." the boy says quietly at first. "What the hell have you done!?"

Jensen frowns. "You know this man?"

"I met him earlier today, in passing. He gave me the creeps, so I left. Come to think of it...he's been following me around town all day. I didn't say anything earlier because I wasn't sure. But I am now. Why, Tyler? Why did you kill them!?"

"My name is not Tyler!" The killer snaps, friendly demeanor crumbling down. "It never was Tyler! Tyler is not here right now. He's asleep, trapped within his mind, blissfully unaware of the pandemonium and mayhem I've caused today. I'm not Tyler. I am Mark Pellegrino."

"Mark Pellegrino..." Jensen starts, thinking aloud. "I know that name. The Massachusetts Butcher. Killed 89 people over a span of 20 years. But you can't be him. He died a long time ago."

"He did," Jared supplies, snarling. "You're right, Jensen. Mark Pellegrino is dead, but right now, he's in the land of the living, inhabiting the body of a Mortal to finish out his nefarious deeds. On All Hallow's Eve when the veil between the living and the dead is weakened. Isn't that right, Mark?"

Mark smirks deviously. "Hehe! How'd you know that? It only took you so long to figure it out. But yes. Tonight, I was able to come back. I finally clawed my way out to finish what I started, and I'm almost done. 9 souls have perished on this day, and one more die before it's done. You, Jared. My 100, my bright and shining star."

Jared takes a stance, followed by Jensen. "I'm good. Thanks, though."

The young Psychic lifts his head up, flinging the knife out of Mark's hand. As the killer stands there distracted, Jared and Jensen run down the aisles towards the stage, dodging chairs that Mark lifts up and throws their direction. Jared deflects a heavy chair, throwing it back Mark's way where he bolts out of the way thanks to his inhuman nature.

He grins at Jared, laughing while tossing more and more objects at them. "Oh, that is amazing! How have I not seen the signs? A Witch!"

Jared grits his teeth, shouting. "Grrr! I'm a fucking Warlock!"

The two boys take opposite ways get onto the stage, both facing Mark from either side. The evil spirit chuckles, walking backwards slowly. He holds out his hand, beckoning for his knife to return to him. It obeys, and once he grabs it, he shifts into the background, disappearing from sight.

The Psychic frowns as he seeks out Mark. His insidious laughter is heard all around the auditorium, echoing off the walls. Jared prepares himself for a surprise attack, whispering out a spell to reveal Mark's position. Once the chant is over, Jared notices a blob of white smoke slithering near Jensen. He realizes all too late.

"Jensen--!"

Mark appears out of the smoke, grinning wildly as he raises up his knife. Jensen turns around in time, able to brace himself against the attack. He tries to fight him off, but the spirit is too strong, and he's regrettably stabbed in his side. Jared's eyes water, widening as Jensen holds his wound, falling to the ground.

"No!"

In an unrelenting wave of rage, Jared attacks Mark, casting spells that he wouldn't normally cast. He assaults the evil spirit, sending him flying against the wall where he repeatedly slams him on it again and again.

All he sees is red, the color of anger, the color of Jensen's blood. He nearly kills Mark, but remembers that if he kills this body, Mark will not die, though Tyler will; Mark's spirit will continue to wander and possess and kill innocent Mortals until midnight.

And Jared cannot allow that.

He let's Mark go, and he comes tumbling back down towards the floor. He coughs, still holding onto his knife covered in the Psychic's blood. The killer attempts to stand, stabbing his knife into the floor in frustration.

"I...will have...my 100!"

"No," Jared murmurs, extending his hand. "You're just going back where you came from."

Mark shouts as Jared uses his powers to grip his dark soul tight, pulling it free from Tyler's body. The Warlock says the phrases for the Exorcism, finally sending Mark's spirit back to the Underworld where it belongs. It's over. It's fucking over! Suddenly, he remembers Jensen, and rushes back to the stage to find him still very much alive, but wounded.

Jensen's hands are covered in his own blood, yet he smiles. "I get it now. This is why you hate Halloween."

"Yes," Jared reluctantly laughs, putting pressure on his boyfriend's wound. "Exactly. Hang on, okay? I'm gonna call for help. You're gonna be okay. I promise."

Jared kept good on his promise, and called the police as well as Jeff and his Peacekeepers. Everyone was evacuated from the building and questioned. Reporters from cities all over the state have gathered around the front of the school, somehow getting word of the attacks. That's exactly what they need right now, the media making a show of the many tragedies that happened today.

The young Warlock wanders around the parking lot where everyone is, students, faculty, police, paramedics. He watches with the utmost regret as Danneel's corpse is zipped up into a body bag, loaded into the truck with two others. He couldn't save them, and it starts to weigh heavily on his head and on his heart.

Eventually, he comes to see Jensen interacting with a paramedic attending to the wound from their fight with Mark. Jensen's dad is here as well, hugging his son, telling him that he was so scared that he lost him. It warms Jared's heart a little, so he decides not to bother them. But Jensen spots him lurking, and calls him over.

"Are you okay, Jared?" Mr. Ackles asks.

Jared nods. "I'll be okay."

"That's good. I'm glad you two are safe. Jensen, I'll be right back. I need to go to the car for a second."

"Take your time," Jensen says, wincing as the paramedic finishes up with the bandaging. "Thanks. Jeez. Anyways...hi babe."

Jared retains a straight face. "Babe?"

"Yeah, babe."

"I hate it."

"You'll learn to love it in time."

Jared sighs, messing with his hands. "About that. Jensen, maybe it's not such a good idea--"

He's soon interrupted by Jeff's arrival. The older Warlock looks more agitated than usual, and he's accompanied by a man a little shorter than him, a man Jared recognizes, but doesn't know.

"So," Jeff begins, hands on his hips. "The press is eating this up. The official story is that Tyler Olsson suffered from a severe mental break, going on a rampage around the town, murdering 9 people, but ultimately stopped by two heroic high schoolers. Sounds like something out of a damn horror movie."

"Guess that makes me the final girl," Jared huffs. "Or us the final boys."

"Yeah. Right. Jared, I want to introduce you to someone. This is Mark Sheppard. He is one of the chairmen making up of The Council, and he wished to speak with you directly."

Jared's throat closes, and his hands become clammy in this man's presence, but he forces himself to smile, shaking the man's hand. Jeff knows how Jared feels about those on The Council; pretty much everyone Jared interacts with knows.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet the legend himself."

"Legend?"

"Jared Padalecki, son of the late but equally talented Gerald Padalecki, Vanquisher of Demons, Lover to a Psychic, Advanced Spellcaster." Mark grins. "Oh, we've heard a great deal about you. Going against your guardian's orders to right wrongs takes a lot of nerve. I like that."

Jared remains on his guard. "Thank you...?"

"We've been monitoring your progress, Jared, and we're impressed. You are knowledgeable about spells people twice your age couldn't even handle. You stopped two Demons from infecting your town, and I even heard that you befriended and tamed one. Now, I don't know about you, but that's certainly a feat for the ages! You have so much potential, and we could help you expand. In time."

"What are you offering?"

"Nothing. Nothing today at least as you're much too young for the job, but..." Mark takes out a cigarette, lighting it up and exhaling the smoke. "In a few years time, you'll be eligible to try for a spot on the Peacekeeping Force. Many have to go through rigorous tests to even be considered, but not you. You're right at the top of our list. Should you choose to become a Peacekeeper, we will not hesitate with installing you into the force. How about it, son? Would you be up for the task?"

This is certainly not what Jared was expecting when he woke up this morning. Being offered a position as a Peacekeeper like his father? It sounds like a dream come true for his 5 year old self, but now? That job killed his father, so why on earth would he even consider taking up Mr. Sheppard on his offer?

On the other hand, Jared sees the appeal. He can stop magical threats from gathering much like before, but with better resources and a reliable team that doesn't have conflicting schedules; Jared doesn't even know where Kendrick is right now, but he'll appear in time. Of that he is sure.

Despite it all, he shakes his, putting his hand on top of Jensen's. "I'll think about it."

Mark smirks. "I see. Well, you know where we are in case you want to do business. We'll reserve your spot, Mr. Padalecki. Have a good night."

Mr. Sheppard walks off into the crowd, presumably back into the car he and Jeff came in.

"Everytime there's a disaster, you two are involved." Jeff snickers. "I can't catch a break. Just know that I'm proud of the both of you. It's a shame we lost some people today, but at least you stopped it from going too far. Are you going to be okay with Jensen?"

"Yeah," Jared responds. "I'll be fine."

"Good. I'll see you at home."

Jeff soon joins Mark Sheppard, and they disappear into the throng of people in the parking lot. Jared and Jensen are left alone, Jared standing awkwardly and Jensen sitting silent in the back of the ambulance.

"Man, this was a wild night. Can't wait to see what happens next--"

"I think we should break up."

Jensen instantly stands, upsetting his wound. "Ouch--wait, why!?"

Jared gestures to the bandages. "That's why, Jensen. You're hurt. You didn't have your charm necklace on you, and you were nearly killed! Because of me. Kendrick was right: I invite danger wherever I go. I failed to notice the danger, and now 9 people are dead. You were almost 10."

"But--But I'm not dead, Jared!" Jensen laughs, grabbing his shoulders. "I'm alive. Thanks to you! You saved me."

"I also put you in danger in the first place. I can't watch the people I love die anymore!"

Ah.

There it is. The root of it all. It seems the world has stopped with those words. That confession reaches Jensen's ears, and causes Jared's face to burn red hot in embarrassment.

"What did you say?"

Jared sighs. "I can't watch you die, because...I love you, Jensen."

"That's funny," Jensen chuckles, licking his lips and resting their foreheads together. "Because I love you, too. I've loved you before I even knew I loved you. I think you and I were made to be together...is that weird?"

"No. It's called...well, it's...nevermind."

Jensen giggles, lifting Jared up despite his injuries. "I don't think I'll get used to a lifetime of being with you."

Jared blushes. "Who said anything about a lifetime!? What makes you so sure?"

Without a word, Jensen presses their lips together, receiving yet another vision regarding those two strange men from before. The flashes are now clearer and in focus, displaying a perfect image on their faces. It's not so much a surprise when Jensen sees that those men where he and Jared all along.

Jensen shrugs. "Just a hunch."

****

15 Years Later...

"Shit--Jared, have you seen my--?"

"By the door, next to the mail."

"Ah, great. Thanks. Oh, my coffee--"

"Here, next to me where you left it."

"Haha, thanks, honey."

Years ago, not even Jared could've predicted this happening. Living back in his childhood home in the city, working as Captain Padalecki of the 6th Squadron, and being happily married to his high school sweetheart who has been appointed CEO of his father's company. Yeah, definitely unpredictable.

Jensen walks into the kitchen in his neat suit, keys and briefcase in hand as Jared checks his phone for updates. Jensen grabs his coffee, tapping Jared on the shoulder to get his attention.

"Can I get a goodbye smooch?"

Jared rolls his eyes, but obliges, smacking a sugary sweet kiss to his husband's lips. "Have a good day at work. Knock 'em dead with that presentation, honey."

"You know it. Dinner tonight, Witch? My treat."

"I'll be ready by 9, Jock. Now get going! You're late!"

"Blah blah blah, love you!"

"You, too!"

Finally, Jensen is out the door, shutting it closed as Jared sips on his coffee, amused. All too soon, he feels something down by his feet. Looking to the floor, Jared sees another familiar face.

"What is it, Chad?" He says, scooping him up into his arms.

"I'm hungry..." Chad complains.

"Hungry for anything in particular?"

"Mmmm--Pancakes!"

"Pancakes it is then."

Okay. So maybe he lied. Maybe he also had a feeling that life would end up like this. Is it perfect? No. Is it what he's been dreaming of? Absolutely not. Is it still the best life that he'd never trade for anything? Definitely.

He supposes that it's okay for now.

Things could be a lot worse.

Chapter Text

"Squadron 8, this is Captain Padalecki. Respond, over."

Jared presses two fingers to the communicator to his ear, hearing nothing but static on the other end. That's never a good sign. He glances back at two of his men, both a little shaken up over the perilous events that have just taken place.

"Squadron 8, this is Captain Padalecki speaking. Please respond, over!"

For the second time, all that is heard is static. No one responds, and Jared sighs in anger. This mission has seriously gone sideways. He tries imagining what Jeff and his father would do in a situation like this. It usually helps, but not this time. This time is one hundred percent completely different from the rest. The mission was simple: investigate the mansion on Rockfell Island where supposed supernatural events are taking place with a few of The Council's elite Squadrons. However, Squadron 8 has mysteriously disappeared, and Jared's none too happy about that...

"Dammit..."

"Captain," Peacekeeper Thomas Welling says behind him. "Anything?"

Jared clenches his jaw. There's no use lying to his men, and he refuses to do so. "Nothing. No one's responding. Could be the storm surrounding the island."

"Or something else, Captain." Peacekeeper Jason Manns replies, the more vocal of the group. "You know something's not right here."

Peacekeeper Manns is absolutely correct. There is something strange going on here, and while the storm might play a part in it, it's definitely not the entire problem. They've seen no other humans since arriving to this place; it's almost like there's no one even here.

That's always a bad sign.

"Squadron 8, please respond, over." Jared tries one more time, but it's all in vain. He sighs, turning to his men while taking his specialized pistol from his shoulder holster. "We'll need to split up. Switch to Comms 1 for communication. Spread out and search the mansion. If you see something that's not human, you know what to do."

"Yes, Captain!" Welling and Manns say in unison.

"I'll keep looking here. Welling, take the first floor. Manns, check the third. This place is huge, don't get lost."

The other two Peacekeepers nod in acknowledgment, and head off towards the grand staircase. Just as he's left alone, thunder roars overhead, and lightning strikes down on the building, cutting the power altogether. It's so cliche, and so frustrating that Jared almost ends up calling his Squadron to check and see if they're okay.

They're his men, so it's obvious that they are. Rigorous mental and physical training went into this job, yet they've gotten the brunt of it all. They're strong, courageous, capable, perfect for these kinds of missions. Jared would rather be hunting down rogue Magic users right now than investigating a potential haunting, but he can't exactly pick and choose most days.

"Light guide my way." Jared whispers a spell into the darkness, causing a small ball of light to hover over his shoulder. A useful tool in situations such as this.

He tightens his grip on his pistol, flicking the dial from subdue to kill. Bullets such as these are able to destroy most of the internal creatures that prey on humans, but won't do much on ghosts as they're ethereal. It'll just pass on through. Pure Magic is their only bane. It just makes Jared's guard elevate higher.

"Hello?" He calls, aiming his gun down the long corridor ahead. Rows of doors litter the hall. "Anyone out there? I'm here to help."

Only the heavy rain outside responds. Jared checks the first one, jiggling the handle. It's locked. He swears, ignoring it for now. He goes to the next one, finding it in the same state as the last. The Warlock goes through door after door, finding all of them locked or sealed shut somehow.

Finally, he comes across a door not locked or sealed, but cracked just a bit. Jared pushes the wood of the door open. He keeps his breathing steady, finger lightly touching the trigger, ready for anything. There have been times where enemies have gotten the drop on him, though those were the days when he was just starting out, inexperienced with this type of work.

Even so, he's learned from his mistakes. Now, he enters the room, discovering that it's a bedroom suite five times large than the one he shares at home with darling Jensen. Whoever owns this mansion and the island itself must be one wealthy bastard.

Jared enters the room fully, inspecting it. The suite is pretty luxurious. Maybe this place is used as a weekend getaway of some sort. King sized bed, a large bathroom with a marble bathtub, it's all just one big slap in the face.

Suddenly, Jared turns towards the closed closet door after hearing a noise from inside. He shines the light on the door, keeping his cool as he slowly inches towards the closet. Jared didn't know what to expect when throwing open the door, but he sure as was wasn't expecting to see a frightened kid with his knees tucked up to his chest, frightened.

Jared gasps, quickly hostering his pistol. He drops down to the child, light following him. The boy looks to be no older than five or six. He have been hiding here for hours, maybe a little more. Jared attempts to ease whatever fears he has, keeping a favorable distance from him.

"Hey there," he starts, softening his voice. "Hi. What are you doing here?"

The boy whimpers, scooting away from Jared without another word.

"It's gonna be okay. I won't hurt you. I'm here to help. I'll protect you."

"But who will protect you?" The boy whispers, sobbing. Jared swallows nervously. The boy's eyes widen as he looks beyond the Peacekeeper's shoulder, shaking and shivering. "He's behind you."

Slowly, Jared reaches for his gun as he starts to hear inhuman growling coming from the bathroom. His nostrils flare, but he remains calm for the child. "Who's behind me?"

"Daddy..."

The growling grows louder and closer, forcing Jared to think carefully about his next move. He quietly tells the boy to stay quiet before standing up and closing the closet door.

With each passing second, the growling only continues to swell in volume, crawling closer and closer to Jared's destination. He slows his breathing, grasping his gun with the utmost urgency until the person he believes is the boy's father stands behind him, roaring in his ear. It doesn't sound human, and it's enough for Jared to act swiftly.

He elbows the boy's father, spinning around as he tries to recover from the attack, aiming his pistol. What Jared sees horrifies, making his eyes bulge in fear. This child's father is no longer human, but a monster never before seen or unheard of. His veins are as black as night, as are his eyes. His nails have been sharpened longer, and his body has broken out in repugnant looking sores that ooze a black liquid.

The creature snarls like a dog, seething, furious at Jared.

"Stay back, sir." Jared says, attempting to find any semblance of humanity left in him. "I don't want to do this..."

It seems that all that was human within the man is gone, and with great speed charges at Jared.

But the Peacekeeper is quicker than that, and pulls the trigger.

****

"...yes, reschedule the lunch to Friday. No, not this Friday, next Friday. Yes. Because it's more convenient. If you must know, I have prior obligations. With my husband. Yes, that's fine. Bye."

Jensen hangs up the phone with a heavy sigh, flopping back down on the couch to resume the important paperwork he started a half hour ago. It's a little empty in here, a little quiet since Jared's off saving the world or whatever. Troubling. It sounds cool on paper, being Captain of the 6th Squadron, but Jensen knows the truth of it. His husband has to be at the beck and call of The Council, carrying out special orders like his father before him.

Jared has voiced his personal opinion on The Council many, many times, yet that matters not. Someone will have to protect the Mortals and their world, and he sees it as his duty, even if Jensen tries his hardest to help shoulder the burden for him. He looks at his phone, or more specifically the lockscreen. Jensen's tongue hangs out of his mouth as Jared rolls his eyes, over it.

Sure, they've grown, but they're still the same kids they were when all this started. Jensen's just happy he got to marry his most trusted friend.

"You should call him if you're so worried." Chad yawns next to him, licking his paws to clean his ears.

Jensen locks his phone. "Nah, I'm sure he's fine. You...ever hear of this island he went to?"

"Rockfell? Nah. I assume it has some lovely little estate where Jared can relax for a bit. I'm sure it's nothing. Send him a quick text, though. He'd appreciate that."

Chad's right, and when he's right, it annoys Jensen...but after considering it, he gives in. He grabs his phone, shooting Jared a text and hopes that the storm won't interfere much with it. And even if something's wrong on that island, Jensen has no doubt that Jared will figure it out. He's smart.

He's got this.

****

That was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

Killing a child's father right in front of them, nevermind that the father turned into a grotesque monster that you'd only see in movies and video games. His mind was gone, eaten by whatever caused him to become such a creature.

Jared taps knuckles on the closet door. "Hey, kid...it's okay."

The child's sniffles are heard from the other side. "Is it over?"

"Yeah. I stopped him. You can come out now."

"O--okay."

Soon, the closet door opens up again, and the young boy comes running out. He glues himself to Jared, hugging his legs, seeking comfort and safety. Jared freezes for a moment, unable to process this. He has no experience with children, and, frankly, he cares little for them.

But here's this kid, clinging to him likes he's his only hope of making it out alive. And he is. If there are more of those things out there--and Jared believes there are--then it's safe to say that they're all in more danger than ever. Assuming that these people-turned-monsters don't discriminate against their prey, this boy is now Jared's responsibility.

Going by his instinct, Jared smooths back the boy's hair, smiling. "It's gonna be alright. Let's go. Stick close to me."

The boy nods, and the both of them head out into the dark hallway. Lightning strikes again, only this time the child jumps up in surprise. Jared reassures him with a pat on the back, kneeling down to his level once again. He stows away his weapon for a moment, reaching around his neck to remove his Peacekeeper's Amulet.

"Take this," says Jared, fastening the clasps around the child's neck. "It's an amulet. It has special powers that help keep the monsters away. As long as you wear it, they'll never even see you coming."

In truth, the amulet serves no divine purpose. It's just a symbol of Jared's fidelity to his job, and to The Council as well. This kid needs to feel safe in some capacity. It's Jared's responsibility to look after him for now until they can determine what's happened or get off the island. Preferably the last part. Jared doesn't want to stay here longer than he has to.

He stands up as his cellphone chimes in his pocket. How's he even getting service out here? No matter. Jared checks his phone, seeing that he has a text from Jensen.

"Hey, how's it going? Are you still alive?"

Jared snorts, shooting back a quick message.

"Alive. Working. See you soon. Love you."

He puts his phone away, focusing on the very important task at hand. This place is not safe for a child, not right now. Jared's unsure on how the boy even got to the island, but common sense tells him that his parents must have brought him here.

Why? What happened? Where are the other's? There was a distress call from here a few hours ago, something about a party gone wrong. That explains the state of disarray the dining room is in.

"I'm still scared..." The boy mutters, staying close. "What if they see me anyway?"

Jared aims his gun down the hall. "Just stick with me, and everything will be fine. I'm not gonna let anything bad happen to you, okay?"

"Mhm."

"What's your name?"

"Alexander."

Jared smiles, navigating the blacked out section of the mansion with him. "Alexander, huh? That's a nice name. Reminds me of Alexander the Great."

"He was a king!"

"Yup, that's right. Undefeated in battle. Mind if I call you Alex?"

Alex shakes his head, finally opening up. "Everyone calls me that. It's okay."

"Good," Jared hums as they walk through the dark. "How many of you came here? How did you get here?"

"I...I don't know. Mommy and daddy said we were going on a trip to have dinner with daddy's boss. I didn't know anyone here. No other kids either, no one to play with."

"That must have been terrible. Do you know the name of your dad's boss."

"No." Alex says with his head down. "I'm sorry..."

"Don't worry about it. We'll figure this out." Jared says. "I'm gonna contact some people. Hang tight."

The Warlock sighs, tapping his communicator twice. He speaks into it with a stern, authoritative voice that matched even the thunder outside.

"Squadron 6, this is Captain Padalecki. What's your status?"

"It's not looking good, boss." Welling states, hesitation in his tone. "This place is--I had to shoot someone, Captain, but she wasn't human. She attacked me...oh, god..."

"The guests of this house have been mutated into monsters. It's Magic. Definitely. You made the right choice, Welling. Any survivors on your end?"

"No survivors down here, Captain."

"None up here either, sir," comes Manns's voice. "How about you?"

Jared looks down at Alex who glances up at him with a half-smile. He's so innocent, so pure in this hell around him. "One. A child, male. His name's Alex."

Alex tugs on Jared's leg. "Tell them I said hello!"

"Alex says hello, guys." Jared chuckles, bringing some light in a terrifying situation. "Alright, listen up: Regroup in the main hall. We'll talk strategy there. I'm already sick of this fu--"

Jared holds his tongue, not wanting to swear in front of Alex.

"--Fudging place." He says instead. "Padalecki, out."

After ceasing communication with his remaining team members, Jared continues the frightening trek back towards the main staircase of the mansion with Alex. He's understandably afraid of what's happening. Jared wishes he can soothe all of Alex's fears at the moment, but it's really not the time. His main priority is getting him out of this place alive while simultaneously decoding how certain things have transpired.

It sounds easy, right? Wrong. It's anything but.

And as Jared retraced his steps back through the enormous building, he and Alex come across a pair of monsters just like Alex's father. The young boy whimpers behind him, taking a step to the side so he's fully shielded by Jared's form. The mutated humans snarl when the light flashes upon them, directing their gazes towards the Peacekeeper with the gun.

Jared makes short work of them, shooting the infected male in the knee to incapacitate him, followed by a quick spell to set him ablaze. He's reduced to ash in seconds, and right before the infected woman can snap her jaws at him, he uses Telekinesis to bring her to her knees, firing a round into her brain to finish it.

"Wow..." says Alex quietly, stars in his eyes. "Are you a superhero?"

"Something like that." Jared answers. "You okay?"

"I am now! That was awesome!"

It must have been for him to act this way. The boy's smile is a comfort to Jared. He's becoming less scared of his surroundings, and that's all that matters in this moment. They move along the halls at a steady pace, ignoring certain creaks in the floorboards and the loud thunder booming outside.

The pair encounter more monsters on their way to the stairs, but Jared puts them out of their misery. By the way they behave, Jared deduces that those creatures must be a twisted form of Revenants: undead who have lost all sense of self; infected, incurable.

So, essentially Zombies? Great. Just his fucking luck. The one monster he hates more than anything.

All in good time, the pair make it back to the main hall, meeting up with Welling and Manns. Alex looks to be distrustful of them at first, yet Jared assures him that they're okay. Welling, with rifle in hand, smiles down at the curious young man while Manns keeps his cool. Jared takes Alex's hand, walking up to them quickly.

"Are they superheroes, too, Mr. Jared?" He whispers.

The Captain nods affirmatively. "Yup. Just like me. Guys, this here is Alex the Great, and he's such a brave little soldier. Very, very brave."

"Nice to meet you, Alex," Manns says. "I'm Jason, this is Tom. We're here to help. Captain, there's no sign of Squadron 8. It's like they vanished into thin air."

"Nothing's ever that simple." Jared quietly grumbles, finishing with a sigh. "Alright, new plan: Find Squadron 8, then head for extraction. Alex may very well be the last one of his group to have survived here. He and Squadron 8 are our top priorities now, everything else comes secondary. We haven't checked the basement yet, so we'll start there now."

Manns puts his fist to his chest. A sign of fidelity and honor. "Understood!"

"Should we encounter more of those Revenant-like creatures, your orders are shoot to kill."

"And if Squadron 8 became one of those creatures..." Welling starts. "What then?"

Jared responds the question with a grim answer.

"My orders were clear. Anything that attempts to rip your face off is an immediate threat, and must be eliminated. No exceptions. This kid's life is in our hands now. We have to protect him."

"I'm not a kid!" Alex pouts, crossing his arms.

Jared ends up smiling. "No, you're right. You're a young man, and we're gonna get you out of here as soon as we can. We just need to explore a little to find a few more of my friends. Don't be scared, okay?"

"I'm not scared anymore. Not with you here, Mr. Jared!"

Christ. This kid is just too damn cute. Welling and Manns seem to take notice as well with one making more of an effort to conceal his smile. Jared pats Alex in comfort, and armed Peacekeepers with the child search around the mansion further until coming across a large door and a staircase leading down into complete darkness.

Jared takes point. Knowing the power is out, he calls forth the magical ball of light to guide the way down the stairs, illuminating in the pitch black. Alex is amazing, eyes wide in wonder. Jared only continues holding his hand as they descend down the noisy staircase. After a few steps, the others begin to come down as well, drawing their weapons.

They all make it down in no time; Jared glances around basement, noticing that it's more of a den than that of a basement. There are more luxurious couches and tables and mini-bars down here. Perhaps the owner of this place is fond of parties through the whole mansion. Either way, the group comes across more of those Revenants, and thinking quickly, dispatch of the ones that are easily visible.

Alex covers his ears at the gunshots. Smart boy. Jared directs him to get down below a table as they sort things out with the Revenants. The creatures growl at them, lunging from incredible distances just to get at them, but Jared is quicker than they are. He always will be. He takes a few down, splattering blood on the floor. In most cases, Revenants are known to kill indiscriminately with a small chance of infection towards humans.

Though they behave like Zombies, they can't actually infect others. And that particular fact makes Jared uneasy. If Squadron 8 aren't Revenants, then they have possibly met an even worse fate.

Eventually, the swarm of Revenants come to a stop. Jared takes note of their attire. They were dressed for a dinner party, just like Alex said. Women in dresses, men in tuxedos; whoever hosted this thing wasn't fucking around. Soon, however, Alex comes out from under the table, rushing over to Jared's side.

The group look around for more clues in the basement; Welling stays with Manns, and Alex sticks with Jared.

"Anything standing out to you, Alex?" Jared asks.

"I haven't been down here before." The boy says. "The man wouldn't let me explore, especially here."

"The man... Your dad's boss, right?"

"Mhm."

"What did he look like? Did he have any scars or tattoos or anything that would help us identify him?"

"Um...yes! He has one blue eye, and one brown! I thought it was cool. He's like me."

"Like you? Do you have...?"

"Yup!" Alex looks up to Jared, widening his eyes on purpose. "Look. See?"

One pale blue eye, one a lighter gray.

"Heterochromia iridum..." Jared mutters to himself. "Hmm. That is pretty cool."

That's a clue Jared stores away in his mental notes. It's too much of a coincidence that Alex and this mysterious man both have the same discoloration in their eyes. It's even more strange that Alex looks to be the only survivor around. Jared can't fact check that now because for whatever strange reason, the mansion will not allow him to spirit his mind from his body to scan the area.

The storm might also be affecting this power, but why? Is the storm made from artificial magical energy? The winds outside are unstable and dangerous, so there is a strong possibility. The whole situation is starting to seem more and more shady with each passing second. If someone made this storm, then it's safe to say they were attempting to hide something.

But what? It just doesn't make sense. At least not now.

Time passes by as the group searches around the large basement; Alex wanders away from Jared, coming to stand in front of a mirror that spans the entire wall. Jared, also curious, walks over only to stop beside the boy, both gazing at their reflections.

Alex cocks his head to the side. "It's a door."

"What?" Jared questions. "How do you know that? I thought you said you never came down here?"

"I didn't...but I know there is something there."

"But how?"

"Movies," the kid answers. "Video games. I know lots about this stuff. Not hard to understand."

Jared chuckles. "Jensen would love you."

"Who's Jensen?"

"He's, uh...he's my husband."

"You don't have a wife?"

"No, just a husband. Is that alright with Alex the Great?"

Alex smiles, glancing at Jared again. "It's perfectly fine. One of my friends has two mommies, so I think it's okay."

Jared can't help but grin at the child who has already wormed his way inside of his heart. Finally, taking Alex's word for it, he looks about for a hidden mechanism. Jared feels the mirror, tapping on it in several spots until a part of the mirror presses in, and he suddenly hears a distinct click on the other side.

Welling and Manns joins up with them as a section of the mirror comes down, revealing a long and well lit hallway leading to God knows where.

Jared takes a glimpse at Alex. "Good job."

Alex just shrugs with a smug smile as they all proceed down the mysterious hall. Jared leads the charge, naturally, with the other two Peacekeepers protecting his and Alex's flank.

The silence between them is deafening, yet it is also warranted with all that has been going on tonight. Jared has a feeling that Alex's journey will soon come to a close, that whatever lies beyond that steel door at the far end of the hallway will force the child into a situation that would seem insane. But that doesn't matter, because Jared is here with him.

He'll protect him. It's a promise.

In time, they come up to the door, seeing that the only way to access it is through an electronic key card. There's no time for this. Jared smashes his hand over it, obliterating the machine with Magic. His action causes the door to open, sliding upwards.

As it happens, Jared points his pistol into the room, only to freeze up completely when he spots the bodies of Squadron 8 on the floor, mangled and torn open as if by some wild animals. Going by instinct, Jared quickly grabs hold of Alex, shielding his delicate eyes from the carnage before them. Welling and Manns rush over to check the bodies, but even Jared knows that it's pointless.

They're dead. It doesn't take a genius to know that.

As the men check over the corpses, Jared takes a moment to glance at his surrounding. This is definitely a different part of the mansion, not at all like the others. This is an underground laboratory of some sort. There are test tubes and vials full of strange liquids that range from pitch black to blood red.

"Science and Magic," Jared mutters aloud, dropping his hands from Alex's eyes. "This is getting weird..."

"No, my dear boy," comes a raspy, withered voice further in the laboratory, sparking Jared and his men to be in high alert. "This is the way it's always been, the way it will be."

Jared silently points ahead at his squad, inching closer into the area where the voice is coming from. "Who's there? Are you the one behind all this?"

"You are correct, Peacekeeper."

Then he must also be the one who killed the other Squadron. Bastard! Jared is shown to be proven right when he steps towards another area in the laboratory, coming across a man in a blood stained tuxedo with blackened veins. He's hunched over an electronic interface with several vials and test tubes in front of him. There's also a jar that contains what looks to be a...heart?

A black heart, darker than a raven's plumage. It can't be...

The man turns around slowly, revealing the semi-dried blood around his mouth and hands. Dear God, he was eating them! He must be a Revenant! But he looks to still be in control of himself!

His breathing is labored, and his heart is beating slowly, that much Jared can hear if he listens closely. Nonetheless, he aims his gun at the man. One blue eye, one brown. Alex's father's boss.

"Start talking, asshole."

The man laughs. "What would you like to know?"

"Everything!" Jared yells, impatient. "Now!"

"I'm afraid we won't have time for that. As you can see, I'm dying. Tonight was supposed to be a test, a test to see who could withstand the great Plague that could be unleashed upon the world in one way or another. A gathering of random individuals took place tonight here...on my family's secluded estate. They each drank from their cups, partook in the drinks that would reveal their true nature. Plague would spread through the lot of them, but not all."

Plague.

A fucking Plague Demon is responsible for this. That's what's inside that jar next to the bastard: the heart of a goddamn Plague Demon!

"He yet lives?" The man asks, pointing at the newly terrified Alex. "Then it is as foreseen. Those with eyes of many colors are immune to the Plague, but I...I am doomed. I was not immune."

Alex steps back behind Jared cowering away. So, certain people with different colored eyes are somehow immune to this disease that changes humans into Revenants? How very strange.

"You're coming with us," Jared growls, tightening his grip. "You have a lot to answer for."

The man chuckles darkly, limping over towards the glass jar. "On the contrary, I'm not going anywhere...and neither are you. I may have been infected, but my body is rejecting the Plague. It's tearing me apart."

"Stop right there!"

"I will be reborn...and I will spread this Plague far and wide!"

"I said stop!"

The man takes the still beating Demon heart in his hands, and devours it in front of them. As he chows down on the heart, Jared shoots him in the head, ending his disgusting feast. However, as his body falls, it slams against the control panel he was next to, pressing buttons.

An automated voice is heard overhead, and the lights in the lab flash red.

"Self destruct sequence activated. Self destruct in: Ten minutes."

"Shit..." Manns gasps, tapping Jared on the arm. "Boss, we gotta move. This place is gonna blow!"

Jared shakes out of his reverie and nods, proceeding to the only exit and entrance of the laboratory. He speaks into his communicator after setting the frequency. "Control, this is Captain Padalecki. Requesting immediate extraction on my Squadron's Port-links."

"Affirmative," Control says into his ear. "Stand by while Port-links are primed."

Port-links are disc shaped objects, a product of Magic used by Peacekeepers to Teleport towards their mission destinations. They're also used for extraction, though Central Control at Headquarters are the ones who authorize and monitor their usage. Shouldn't take too long for the Port-links to prime. In the mean time, they have to get the fuck out of this place and outside; Port-links only work outdoors.

In spite of this, as the group turn their backs on the man, they all begin to hear strange noises coming from his body. Jared turns around slowly, witnessing horrifying sight. The man's body contorts quickly, bones violently breaking and snapping, reshaping themselves. His muscle mass increases twofold as he rises to his feet, a hulking shell of his former self. 7 feet tall with slimy skin and a rage in his black eyes. His right arm falls off completely, soon being replaced by a new one. A giant claw sprouts from the socket; three thick fingers on the end wiggle about, stretching to the floor. Tendrils.

"Leaving so soon?" The mutated man asks, voice deeper and more bestial.

Without warning, Jared and the others open fire on him, raining down a hail of bullets. As much as he wanted it to work, the bulletstorm does nothing. The Evo-Revenant (as Jared is now calling him) pushes out all the bullets lodged inside of him, sighing as his body repairs itself. This won't be easy. Jared looks behind him at the door. It's still open, they can escape!

But that thing will chase after them, and potentially kill them regardless. Jared sees Alex, still very much scared at the monster that wants them all dead. The Captain thinks quickly, making his decision. Jensen will hate him forever if he doesn't come out of this alive, but his job is to protect others from magical threats first.

"Welling, hold onto Alex." Jared commands.

Welling blinks as the Evo-Revenant stalks towards them. "Sir?"

"Do as I say."

Without being told twice, Welling picks Alex up from the ground, carrying him on his hip. Jared stretches out his hand towards them, sending them all flying out of the room. He then seals himself and the Evo-Revenant inside of the laboratory by causing the door to slide closed. Welling and Manns pound on the door, demanding entry so they can all escape together.

"Save the boy!" Jared yells, aiming at the Evo-Revenant. "Save Alex!"

"Mr. Jared!" Alex cries. "Come back! Come back!"

"I'll be right behind you guys! Just get outside!"

"Dammit..." Manns grumbles. "We won't leave you, Captain. We'll wait for you out there. Don't die on us."

The Peacekeepers run down the hallway with Alex who only continues to scream Jared's name. It hurts his heart to hear that, but the kid will understand one day soon. Or maybe he won't. It all depends on what happens after this battle.

Jared takes a deep breath, exhaling when the large monster stops only a few feet away from him. The monster's face is mangled to all hell, and Jared's now positive that his slimy skin isn't skin at all; his skin has melted off like ice cream on a stick. Disgusting.

"This will not be my tomb, Witch," the Evo-Revenant growls, baring his sharp teeth. "But yours."

Jared frowns. "When will people learn that saying that only infuriates me more?"

At that, Jared charge forward, shooting his gun at the Evo-Revenant as the countdown shortens to seven minutes. The bullets penetrate his skin, but do no real damage. It laughs, snagging Jared with his tendrils only to toss him violently into some lab equipment. Thankfully, the only contents that spill on Jared is salt water.

Gaining an idea, Jared swiftly recovers, using Telekinesis to toss a beaker full of red liquid onto the Evo-Revenant. The monster roars in pain as the unknown substance seeps into his skin, damaging his face even more. It lashes out, causing a small Psychokinetic shockwave to knock Jared back again.

"Self destruct in: Seven minutes."

Not good.

Jared ups his game a bit, realizing that he's out of ammunition for his pistol. He stows it away in his holster, standing up weakly to face the Evo-Revenant. The monster stretches out his tendrils, sending them soaring to impale Jared. However, just as they reach mere inches from his face, the tendrils his a wall of invisible power.

Jared's power.

Without a single word, Jared slices off the Evo-Revenant's tendrils, knocking him away with his own power. The monster flies into a shelf full of other substances, screeching as the liquids pour on his "skin". In retaliation, the Evo-Revenant grows his tendrils back in an instant, and uses them as a decoy to get to Jared more quickly.

The monster seizes Jared by his throat, hoisting him up off his feet and into the air. Jared struggles in his grasp, kicking and grunting as his air supply is slowly cut off. The Evo-Revenant's tendrils hover over Jared's face, closing in on his eyes and mouth.

"I will spread this Plague, and nothing will stop me. Not even a silly Witch."

Jared growls softly, finding the strength to carry on. He reaches for his combat knife seated in its sheath in the back of his waist. Jared grasps it, using the blade to stab the Evo-Revenant in his eye. The monster shrieks, unintentionally releasing Jared. The Captain falls to the ground, gasping for air as the monster thrashes around.

It doesn't take Jared too long to recover who, while still holding onto his knife, recites a spell that only he knows. It's his own personal spell, after all.

"Saber, come to my aid."

In a flash, Jared's combat knife transforms into a beautiful shortsword that's light but also very sharp and deadly. Captains should always have a plan b when on the field, and Jared's plan b was swordfighting, thanks to none other than Jensen. He twirls it around expertly, stopping to point it at the Evo-Revenant.

"Here's the part where you die, filth."

The monster roars, quickly bolting towards Jared who promptly vanishes from sight, zipping from one location to another in the blink of an eye. It's not Teleportation, but more akin to super speed. Maybe Alex is right. Maybe he is a superhero. That thought helps Jared realize what to do next.

He zips past the Evo-Revenant, slicing off his revolting arm. He tries to grow it back, but Jared cuts it off some more. He zooms back and forth, slicing and cutting, slicing and cutting until the Evo-Revenant is nothing but a pile of slimy flesh. Jared acts quickly before the creature can regenerate by calling over more vials of acidic substances. He douses the Evo-Revenant heavily in the stuff before promptly setting him ablaze with his mind.

The beast screeches, like nails on a chalkboard, cursing Jared's name. Above them, the automated voice gives Jared an update.

"Self destruct in: Fifty seconds."

Holy shit!

Jared deactivates the spell on his combat knife, shoving it back into its sheath as he rushes towards the sealed door. He opens it again, only to force it closed behind him. With the clock ticking, Jared is forced to retrace his previous steps. He rushes through the house, still hearing the woman's robotic voice blaring down in the basement.

The mansion begins to quake at the 30 second mark, almost making Jared fall down. He presses on, finally making it out of the mansion. The Captain rushes out of the building, making his way towards the forest that surrounds it. There he finds Welling and Manns with Alex who cries, running into Jared's embrace.

Behind them, the countdown comes to an end, and the mansion explodes like fireworks into the night. The sheer force of the explosion knocks them all down, causing them all to take over behind a few trees. Debris scatters across the island, into the water, into the forest. Once the dust settles and the shaking stops, the men and child hop to their feet.

Alex hugs Jared tight, crying his eyes out. Jared picks up the kid, holding him close, whispering reassurances. As Jared calms Alex, he and the other two Peacekeepers pull out their Port-links, activating them with a simple button press. After a brief start up, all four of them are whisked away in beams of light.

****

Jared leans his head back against the wall, resting his eyes for just a moment. It's been a few hours since the incident on Rockfell Island. Jared's sure it's made headlines on various news outlets already. He doesn't care. All that matters is that he got Alex out alive. The kid is also resting, sound asleep with his head in Jared's lap. He's covered up in the Peacekeeper's tactical jacket, leaving Jared in his t-shirt.

They're in a lounge room at Headquarters; Jared recently filed his report, but now he's awaiting his turn to speak with Council member, Mark Sheppard, the very same man who recruited him years ago. It's not long before he get his chance when Mark steps in dressed in his signature black suit. He's not so clean shaven today. Even so, he walks further in, smiling briefly at Jared only to take a seat on the opposite side of him.

"I take it you've been waiting a while."

"Oh, you know, only an hour. No big deal." Jared huffs. He wipes his face with his hand, groaning as he's suddenly reminded of the horrors that took place tonight. "Jesus, it was a shitshow."

Mark nods. "I've read your report and talked with the two members of your Squadron that were present. Jared, what were you thinking going against an unknown creature like that?"

Jared looks down at Alex who sleeps peacefully. "I was thinking about the lives of my men...and his."

"And what about Jensen? Imagine how he'd feel."

"Jensen... Jensen would've been mad at me. He would've hated me for a while, but...he would've understood in time. He would've known that I gave my life so that others could keep on living. So, what now?"

"Now?" Mark sighs, pulling out a cigar from his suit pocket. He lights it with his powers, taking a few puffs before blowing out smoke. He also lays down a file of his own for Jared who quickly opens it up. "I have a few specialists scouring the ruins of that place. They've collected a few interesting pieces of information along the way."

"Like what?"

"For starters, the man who owned that island and everything in it was Misha Collins, a Warlock."

Jared looks at the photo of the bastard who ate the Plague Demon heart and attacked him. "Yup. That's him. That's the Evo-Revenant."

"Apparently, Mr. Collins had been mighty busy lately with secret renovations to his mansion, even hiring scientists that specialized in biological engineering."

"Science and Magic," Jared grumbles. "He somehow captured a Plague Demon, killed it, and harvested its heart. He was planning on turning everyone into mad Revenants by using the heart. Alex only survived because of the discoloration in his eyes."

"And that makes him special to us."

"Do you think he could be...?"

Mark shakes his head, puffing on his cigar. "No, no, he's very much Mortal. However, given that he is the only survivor who witnessed what happened prior to your arrival, we must...keep him here."

Jared clenches his jaw. "Keep him here? He must have family--"

"He doesn't. Only child, dead grandparents, both parents were only children. Alexander Calvert has no immediate family, Jared. He's an orphan, and for the time being, he is under our protection."

"What will you do to him?"

"Ask questions, try to get a clearer picture of what went down. Well provide care for him, don't worry."

Worrying is all Jared can do at this point. It all sounds and seems so wrong. He'll be leaving Alex with people who weren't there, who didn't have a clue, who will asks him question upon question upon question without end. But it's the only good alternative Jared can think of.

He takes another glance down at Alex, touching his hair, hearing him stir in his sleep.

"What happens after he gives you what you need?"

Mark sighs in understanding. "We'll find him a suitable home, somewhere pleasant. You have my word."

Mark usually comes through on his words, yet Jared remains skeptical about it all. After taking a moment to think on it some more, Jared reluctantly accepts. It's much better this way.

Right?

****

It's 4 in the morning when Jared walks through the front door, exhausted and a bit battered; his muscles are sore from his fight with the Evo-Revenant. As he steps through the door, he notices a few things.

The first: the lights are still on.

The second: Jensen and Chad asleep on the couch together with Jensen's phone dangling from his hand. The TV is on as well, displaying the news channel that's covering the explosion on Rockfell Island.

Jared takes out his cellphone to check it, only to be overcome with a sense of guilt as he spots all of the missed calls from Jensen. He must have been worried sick. Jesus Christ...

He kicks off his shoes at the door, and hangs up his keys on the rack before shuffling over towards the couch. Chad rouses from his slumber to look up at Jared excitedly. Before the feline can even announce his presence, Jared put a finger on his lips, the universal gesture to keep quiet.

Against his better judgement, Chad obeys, stretching and yawning before relaxing yet again. Jared yawns himself, cracking his neck prior to slipping into the couch behind Jensen. He hums in his sleep as Jared places a warm kiss to his head.

It's funny. Jensen has no idea. He doesn't know about how close Jared was to death tonight. Or maybe he does. He is Psychic.

He wraps his arms around Jensen, covering him in his undying, all-consuming love. Even though Jensen's asleep, he knows how much Jared loves him. He has to. This job has taken a lot out of him before, but Jensen has been there for him every time.

He's simply...the best.

Chapter Text

Another day, the same routine.

Get up, eat, shower, go back to the cell for several hours, read for a bit, go to sleep, wake up, repeat.

This place is the definition of insanity, and Kane has seen some crazy shit before in his life. This place isn't the Underworld, but it might as well be with how mundane and monotonous daily life is in here. 15 goddamn years of the same exact shit, over and over and over again!

He's amazed at how he hasn't grown insane yet, stuck in this prison made for dangerous people like him, people who saw Mortals and other humans just as he did, people who had the courage to break the chains of peace. It's hilarious actually.

The Witches and Warlocks who hold them have so much power, but they all squander it by putting up barriers and peace treaties--anything to keep their world hidden away in secrecy. Cowards, all of them.

Kane laments his failure, his separation from Chaos...his defeat by children. But more specifically one, the Warlock who turned him over to the Peacekeepers. After all these years, he hasn't forgotten the name of the little bastard that ruined his plans.

"Jared Padalecki." He growls, punching the solid wall in front of him. "Jared Padalecki. Jared Padalecki! JARED FUCKING PADALECKI!"

"Jared? Well, shit, now that's a name I haven't heard in a long while..."

Suddenly, a voice is heard chuckling. It startles Kane, looking around is miniscule cell for any intruders. It's impossible, though there is an extremely small ventilation shaft up above his bed. Has someone moved into the empty cell next to his? Must have been when he was taking his shower. Kane walks to his bed while clutching his bruised hand, staring up at the vent.

"Who's there?" Kane questions.

"Hello, neighbor. I see the same individual responsible for my imprisonment is also responsible for yours as well. What are the odds?"

Kane snarls up at the vent. "You know Jared... Who are you?"

The voice sighs, almost as if he's bored. "Call me Carver. I'm your future, Christian. Your key to another chance at...Chaos."

"How the Hell do you know my name?"

"I don't see how that matters when you and I have some work to do. You want your revenge on Jared just as I want revenge on him. He stole away your destiny, didn't he? They way I see it, we're partners."

"Partners," Kane spits, sitting on the edge of his bed. "Yeah, right. If you're thinking about escaping this place, good luck to you. I've tried. This place is warded up to high heaven, and the guards are too fucking fast. Not to mention we're almost powerless because of the shit they feed us."

"That won't be much of a problem, Christian." Carver chuckles darkly. "It just so happens that I've been eagerly awaiting for this to happen--so much time planning this. Over a decade of fantasizing about his demise, how I'd peel the flesh from his bones, saw at his limbs while he screams in agony. I--we--will have our revenge."

This seems very off to Kane. Carver's sudden appearance, his obvious murder hard on for Jared. How could they have that in common? Strange.

"What did that kid even do to you, and why are you helping out of here?"

It's silent for a long time, neither of them uttering a single word. Kane starts to believe that he's fully insane, that he's been having a fruitless conversation with himself, but he's proven wrong when Carver answers him, venom dripping from his words.

"The Padalecki's have taken everything from me, so intend on returning the favor. I have a score to settle with that kid, though I hear he's a bit bigger now. As for why I'm helping you escape: You have something I want. You can't give it to me in this state, but you have it. And when the time comes...I'll get it. Now relax, Christian. Rest. We begin our plans in the morning."

That's the last Kane hears from this Carver guy for the rest of the night. Judging by the tone of his voice, he seems very determined and honest about breaking out of here. If he's been waiting all this time, then whatever trick he's got stashed up his sleeve must be powerful.

Thoughts of revenge consume Kane, causing him to smile for the first time in years.

Padalecki will pay.

****

"Achoo!"

The sneeze is loud and also hard enough to shake the entire house. It causes Jared's chest to tighten, and his head to spin round and round to no end. He didn't want to admit it then, but, dammit, he has no other choice. All of the symptoms are there. Runny nose, sneezing fits, fever. He hates it so much.

Fucking colds.

"101 degrees," Jensen sighs, taking the thermometer away from Jared's mouth. "Yup. You're sick. And that's what happens when you walk around on cold, stormy islands at night with no umbrella."

Jared grumbles in the bed, pulling the blankets further to his face. "An umbrella would only hinder my mission and my movement."

"It would've also hindered the rain from soaking your head, you big idiot."

"Hmph...you're the idiot."

Jensen scoffs, smiling. "Okay. Man, I haven't seen you like this since freshman year of college."

"Ugh!" The Warlock groans as he pull his head under the covers. "Don't remind me! That was the worst week of my life!"

"I know, Jay, I know. Looks like I'm taking the day off to take care of your reckless ass."

Jared pokes his head out of the covers, frowning. "What? No, you can't do that. You have an important meeting with those energy people from Norway. I can take care of myself."

"You sure? I could always reschedule."

"You've rescheduled so many meetings this year because of me. I'll be fine. I promise." Jared smiles as Chad suddenly jumps up onto the bed, laying next to him. "I'm just gonna lay here all day watching movies and eating chicken noodle soup with my best bud. We need some 'we' time."

Chad purrs while Jared scratches behind his ear. "My own schedule just cleared up a bit. Don't you worry, Jensen, I'll be here with Patient Zero. You go do your job."

Jensen groans, crossing his arms across his chest. It's obvious that he doesn't want to leave Jared alone like this, but he has no other choice really. Yes, he could call off work (again) and miss one of the most important meetings in his career to care for his ailing husband. It's no big deal. To him, at least.

Jensen's father would no doubt be furious hearing about his son skipping out on this deal. He appointed Jensen CEO after his retirement for a reason. Alan knew Jensen would work his hardest to do what must be done. After Jared and Jensen's escapades 15 years ago, Alan was exposed to their world. He didn't ask questions, nor did he press too hard, but he knew that everything had changed. And for the better, it seemed.

He knew Jensen--his surviving child--was "different", as was Jared. Jeff had a talk with Alan, though the details of the conversation are unknown to Jared and Jensen. Still, Alan pretends that nothing is different, something Jared is happy about. They've come a long way. Their relationship has improved. Jensen has never been happier.

Jensen crosses his arms. "I'm trusting you to look after him, Chad."

"Always."

"Look at him, he's practically dying in that bed."

"It's just a cold--" Jared grumbles.

"So sickly." Chad adds in.

Jensen nods. "A tragedy."

Jared huffs. "I'm right here, guys."

Jensen bends down, pressing his lips firmly against Jared's too warm forehead. "I know. Stay hydrated, get some soup in your system. I love you."

"Ugh, I love you, too. Go away."

"Grumpy little Witch."

"Stupid mother-henning Jock."

Jensen takes his briefcase with him as he walks out of the room, leaving Jared alone with the one who's been with him since the day he was born. As if he were reading Jared's mind, Chad paws at the remote, silently swearing to the Sorceress who inflicted this curse upon him. Jared takes pity on him, reaching out of his snuggly cocoon to assist his cat.

The television starts up, and the two are immediately greeted by an old black and white movie. From what Jared can make out, it's looks to be about a preacher hunting two children. Seems dark, even for him, but he also doesn't feel like changing the channel. So, he relaxes, laying back as Chad curls up to him.

"Best buds for life?" Jared whispers, echoing the same phrase they often said in his youth.

Chad yawns, finishing it with: "Best buds for life."

Yeah.

****

"So, in conclusion, if you choose to partner with us, we can guarantee that not only will we be able to provide free, efficient energy to the public, but we'll also be saving a lot of lives doing so along the way. Hospitals, police stations, fire stations--all covered. Thank you."

The entire conference room applauds the two Nordic men for their presentation while Jensen just sits back, reviewing their plan on the sheets of paper they handed out before. It all seems legit, and with a quick glance into their minds, Jensen learns that they're extremely passionate about this, and that they truly desire to help the public with their ideas.

He smiles as the applause dies down, standing up. He walks towards the men, stopping only to stick his hand out.

"I'm in."

The delightful duo from Norway jump up in excitement, and instead of shaking Jensen's hand, they charge at him with bone crushing hugs. It doesn't help that they are about 7 foot tall and that their muscle mass seems almost times that. Still, Jensen manages to squeeze out a chuckle, feebly patting them on the back.

"We will not let you down!" The platinum blonde says.

His partner agrees. "We will give it our all!"

"I'm sure!" Jensen croaks. "Alright, that's enough love, fellas!" They realize he's on the brink of death, and release him, causing him to laugh along with the other men in the room. "Okay. Whew. Wow. Strong. Very strong. So, yeah, we'll talk more about this soon. Congratulations."

They thank Jensen profusely as the meeting ends, and he walks back to his office, already exhausted. He takes a seat behind his desk, shrugging off his suit jacket. All Jensen wants right now is to be at home. With Jared. Taking care of him.

Jensen grins, taking the picture of them he has on the desk in his hands. It was their wedding day. "You seem so indestructible, but a little cold knocks your ass right out."

He snickers when he thinks of it. And then it scares him. Jared may not be like every other human, but he is human, and can still perish in horrific ways. That's why Peacekeeping still makes Jensen uneasy even if he told Jared that it's fine. "You're helping people, Jay, it's what you love!" But what about Jensen? What would he do if he gets a call that a Demon got to him? Or something worse like a Rogue Magic user?

Jensen shakes out of his destructive thoughts, setting the picture frame gently down onto his desk again. There's no good in thinking like that. Jared's very strong willed and determined. It would take a thousand Demons to bring that big bastard down.

Soon, the phone on his desk begins to ring, forcing him to answer it.

"Yeah?"

"You have a visitor, Mr. Ackles." says Katie, Jensen's assistant.

For a split second, he hopes that it's Jared, excited. But in that split second, he's also prepared to scold him for being out of bed.

"Who is it?" he asks instead.

"Your father-in-law, sir. Jeffrey."

Oh.

"Oh..." Jensen sighs. He quickly covers up his indignation to sound ecstatic. "Oh! Send him in!"

"As if I had a choice."

Father-in-law. Yeah. Right.

He hangs up soon, and it's only a matter of time before the door to his office opens, and in steps Jeffrey Dean Morgan sporting casual clothing. Must be a day off for him. Jensen was under the impression that all Council members wore suits like...all the time. Strange. Jared and Jensen (but mostly Jared) was shocked to learn that Jeff took a seat among those in The Council after one of their members passed away.

Quite a twist.

Even 15 years later, Jeff still looks the same as he did, just with a little more gray in his hair and beard.

"Jeff," Jensen starts, still sitting. "This is a bit of a surprise."

Jeff hums. "Is it really? I just wanted to see how everything was going over here."

"Pretty good, all things considered. Just made a huge deal a while ago."

"I know--or rather, I listened. Everyone's mind here is so loud. Busy. Congrats are in order. I understand this is a big deal for you."

"Thank you."

"How's Jared?" The Warlock questions, wandering around the office. "I heard he called off this morning."

Jensen frowns. "He's sick. He's got a cold from that damn Rockfell Island mission you sent him on."

Jeff chuckles, fiddling with a few ornaments on a shelf. "He hates being ill so much. He'll be okay, he bounces back every time."

"He always does. You should go see him. He'd want you to keep him company."

"He's got that damn Chad, he'll be fine." Jeff stops, turning around with an unreadable expression after a few moments of silence. "But I'll swing by to check on him too."

Jensen clicks his tongue, opening his laptop. "Good." Jeff walks to the door, prepared to leave without so much as a goodbye. However, before he reaches the door, he stops, prompting Jensen to look up at him in question. "Jeff?"

"Kendrick appeared before me last night."

Kendrick. Demon of Vengeance. It's been a long time since Jared and Jensen saw him. Senior year of college, to be exact. Jensen didn't know why, and he even asked Jared, but he provided no answers either. His name comes as a shock to Jensen's ears.

"Kendrick came to you? Is The Snack Pack making a comeback? Whose ass are we kicking this time?"

Jeff rolls his eyes, huffing. "I can't believe Jared married you..."

Jensen squints. "Wait... What did he want? We haven't seen him in forever. What's he doing back so suddenly?"

"He warned me that the forces of the Underworld is stirring. Someone has summoned Fear once again to the Mortal realm." Jeff turns his head. "Kendrick thinks something will happen, and soon."

Jensen swallows. He remembers the last time he confronted Fear, the night Jared saved his life. An unforgettable experience. "Any sign of it?"

"No, but I'll keep a look out. We know what to search for now."

"Is this the real reason you came to check on us?"

There's a ghost of a smile on Jeff's lips as he saunters out of the office. "Partly."

Alone, Jensen thinks back on that fateful night at the park. It was so dark, and so cold. The feeling of helplessness as Fear dangled him over an icy, watery grave... Jensen never wants to feel that way again.

Helpless.

Hopeless.

Defenseless.

Utterly frightened.

Fear wore Joshy's face like a glove, imitating his voice, his features, his gestures, everything. It wanted Jensen's soul, but he was smarter than that. He thought if he had confessed his guilt, it would leave him alone. He was so naive to the truth.

Jensen doesn't know what he'd do if he confronted Fear again.

And maybe it's best if he never does.

****

"I knew it!" Chad gasps, gazing at the TV. "I knew he was the killer!'

Jared chuckles, swallowing spoonfuls of the hot soup on the tray before him. "It was obvious from the start."

"Still, it was a wild reveal. Let's watch it again."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah, it was good!"

Jared nods, humming. "It was good. Fine. Let's do it."

"Yay!" Chad squeaks. "You're much more agreeable and nice when you're sick."

"I'll try not to make it a habit," the Warlock says as he restarts one of the most controversial thrillers in the 80's.

Jared had forgotten how all this felt: relaxing. He hasn't had much time off lately. Peacekeeping is tough, tough work, and should not be taken lightly. It has evolved over the years since Jared's father was one. Before, it was sort of like a police squadron, taking on small and moderate threats surrounding the area or nearby. Now, it's more akin to Special Ops or MI6.

Just like the action movies, just more...deadlier.

As the movie opens and the characters drone on, Jared can't help but to look around the room, at the walls, the floor.

This was his parents' bedroom.

It was incredibly hard coming back here, being in the exact same house that his parents were brutally murdered in. He wouldn't even idle in the living room for long, the very place he found Carver finishing up his monstrous work. It was too hard, yet he had to get this place back. For them.

Seeing it all at that age was traumatizing, but he now has an outlet for all that internalized guilt. Saving people, and hunting down the bad guys. And Jensen--sweet, humble, courageous Jensen--has been with him the entire step of the way. Emotionally, because he can't exactly accompany him on those dangerous missions to places unknown.

"What was with people and having sex outside?" Chad queries. "I mean, it's so--"

He comes to an abrupt stop, staying still with his left ear twitching three times in rapid succession.

"Someone's here."

Jared tilts his head. "Who?"

"Me," a voice says from the open bedroom door. It's Jeff, smug smile set in place. "Hey, kid."

Jared breaks out a smile of his own while Jeff takes a seat on a comfy chair opposite of the bed. "Jeff, it's good to see you."

"Yeah, you too. Hi, Chadwick."

Chad grumbles, determined to rewatch this movie. "Hello, Jeff. Goodbye, Jeff."

Jeff snorts, shaking his head. "He's in a mood, I see."

"He just wants to watch TV interrupted." Jared shrugs. "What's up?"

"Nothing much. I came to see how you're faring. Jensen told me you were feeling a bit under the weather."

"You went to see Jensen? Why?"

The older Warlock chuckles nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. There's something that he's not telling Jared, something that can either be good news or the worst news ever. In time, however, Jeff spills the beans, repeating everything that he said to Jensen not long before.

Hearing Kendrick's name brings back memories. Some pleasant, and another slightly...well, he'd rather not think about it right this second. The last time either members of the coven interacted with him was when that incident at the college took place, the one where that crazy Sorceress bitch used her powers to wreck havoc on the student body. She went full Carrie White on everyone.

Of course, she had to be stopped. Who knew someone so tiny could harness that much raw power? It was truly scary.

And Kendrick...well, he just vanished after it was all over.

Sure, he might have said a goodbye, but Jared thought that would've been the very last time he saw him. There was...something that happened that fueled Kendrick's isolation from the coven all these years...and Jared is loathe to bring it up.

"To think you and I could ever... I was a fool. It's clear that he cares more than I. I must go."

"Kendrick, you don't have to leave--"

"I do. I think I need time away. From the coven...from you. I have to go. I'm sorry, Wonder Boy. I'm so sorry."

Jared shakes out of his thoughts, choosing not to delve too deep into those memories. Instead he focuses on everything else Jeff said. Fear came back, it was summoned by someone. But who? It's hard to trace these summons, and they only know about it because they have a "good" Demon on their side.

And even though this seems like an easy job (find Fear, send him back, move on), Jared feels that this is more that just a simple problem solved by Exorcism.

Why was Fear specifically summoned? The wheels turn in the Peacekeeper's head. Something smells fishy.

"This is exactly what I needed on a sick day," Jared says dryly, sinking back into the bed.

Jeff huffs. "Lazy."

"'M not lazy, I'm ill!"

"Your father once took down an entire syndicate while weakened with the flu," the other man snarks, chuckling at the memory. He clearly means it all as a joke. "Don't make excuses."

The room goes quiet, then:

"I'm not my father..." Jared mumbles quietly, looking away. "He was better than I will ever be. I can't compete with that."

"Who said anything about competition? He'd want you to be your own man. Follow in his footsteps, sure, but don't copy his exact movements. That's where you'll lose yourself, and that's where you'll fail."

Jared laughs weakly, smirking. "You know...for a second, you sounded just like him."

"He was a good man. Taught me a lot about life. You too."

"What could I possibly have taught the all-mighty Jeffrey Dean Morgan?"

"Well, for starters, you taught me how to be better person," Jeff mutters, rubbing his hands together.

Jared takes a look at him again, intrigued by what he has to say. He lets Jeff continue uninterrupted.

"You taught me to never take things at face value; there's always a deeper meaning behind everything, there's always another story. You taught me to be more accepting towards things I don't understand, and...most importantly, Jared Padalecki, you taught me how to be a father."

It's the final nail in the coffin for the bedridden Peacekeeper. Overcome with emotion, he sheds a single tear, only to quickly swipe it away as if it never existed. Jeff can never replace his own father, the man he looked up to with a passion, though he comes close.

Jared may not have any biological relatives alive, but he's got family. Jensen, Chad, and Jeff. It's messy, but still warm and whole. They're in this for the long haul.

"Hallmark moment over?" Chad asks, annoyed at all the talking. "Trying to watch this movie!"

Jared pats Chad on his rear, earning him a slight hiss. "We just finished watching it!"

"And I wanna watch it again!"

"Spoiled pussy!"

"Reckless Warlock!"

"Grrr," Jared grumbles. "Douchebag."

"Whatever."

Jeff gears up to leave amidst Jared and Chad's bickering, sighing miserably. He mutters under his breath: "I leave one hell only to enter another. Ridiculous--okay, Jared, I'm just gonna head out now."

"Okay, see ya!"

In spite of the playful banter and the back and forth, the room immediately falls silent once Jared's phone begins ringing on the nightstand. Jeff stops just at the door, looking at the phone and looking at Jared in question. The Peacekeeper puts his faux argument with Chad on hold to examine the caller ID.

It's work.

He frowns. What the hell do they want? With a deep sigh, Jared answers, belting out a booming cough before speaking.

"Padalecki."

"Damn, you sound awful." comes Jason Manns' voice.

Jared's eyes nearly roll back. "That's what a cold does to you. What do you want? I'm busy."

"I understand that, but we have a bit of a problem here."

"What kind of problem?"

"You know I wouldn't bother you unless it was important...but it's the kid. Alex. From Rockfell."

Jared presses the phone closer to his ear in panic, ready to take on the world. "What's happened!? Is he okay? No one hurt him, did they? I swear to God, if anything--"

"No--no, Captain, nothing like that. He's safe and sound. I can promise you that. Look, it's better if you just get here to HQ now, okay? I'll be waiting near interrogation with Mr. Sheppard. He's expecting you."

Jared soon ends the conversation with a prolonged groan, flopping back onto the bed in defeat. Curious, Chad comes to hop on his chest, sitting down, staring at him quizzically. Jeff looks too, both eager to know about the strange phone call.

"What?"

"What's going on?" Chad asks.

"Yeah," Jeff chimes in. "My ears are sharp, but not as much as they used to be. Who called?"

Jared hauls himself out of bed, sniffling pathetically as he toes on his running shoes. "Work. Something came up, and I have a feeling I don't have a say in the matter."

"Dammit!" Chad whines. "So much for a day off with your best bud. I'm coming with you."

"Chad--"

"Non negotiable. We're spending the rest of the day together. Let's go."

Jared grumbles something incoherent under his breath as he picks Chad up. He stares at Jeff. "I can never catch a break."

The older shakes his head. "Sounds so familiar. I'll drive you there. I need to speak with Sheppard anyway."

Jeff exits soon enough, leaving Jared to quickly grab his jacket and cellphone. He didn't expect to be working today.

What could they possibly want?

****

They're at HQ now, in interrogation. Chad's still in Jared's arms, gazing out through the two-way mirror with him, Jason, and Jeff to monitor the young child playing with action figures.

It feels odd watching Alex like this, like he's some animal on display for everyone. They've turned one of the interrogation rooms into a child's room, complete with a bed, a trunk full of toys, and separate dressers for his new clothes. These people work fast. The young one still has Jared's tactical jacket around his shoulders. It looks absurd on him, but Jared can't help but to show a small smile.

"The survivor from Rockfell." Jeff mumbles. "I read your report, but I didn't imagine him to be so..."

"Small?" Jared finishes, keeping his eyes on the innocent child.

"Yeah..."

"Me either."

"I'm surprised. If he's seen the things you described in the report, how could act as if...nothing's wrong?"

Jared thinks back, remembering how relaxed the kid became around his presence.

"Some kids are just wired that way, I guess." He says with a shrug. "Where the hell is Sheppard? I thought you said he was expecting me, Manns?"

Jason huffs, crossing his arms. "He slipped away before you got here, said he had something important to take care of, whatever that means. Man of mystery."

Jared sighs, yet waits impatiently with his surrogate father and his best friend for his "boss" to arrive.

"This was supposed to be my sick day..." Jared spits unhappily.

"Well, excuse me," Mark says behind them, stepping into the area adjusting his cufflinks. They turn to greet him soon. "But you knew what would be entailed of you when you accepted this job. Ah--hello, Jeffrey. What brings you here today?"

Jeff suppresses a grunt of disdain, something only Jared catches on to. "Just hanging out with him, I guess..."

"Family day. How charming." Mark laughs, spotting Chad. "And who's this little guy? Isn't he just the cutest?"

"Call me cute again, and I'll chew your ears off, mate." Chad growls in irritation.

Mark recoils away from Chad, clearly caught off-guard with his ability to speak. Jared doesn't cover his own snicker at the situation, resulting in Jeff discreetly bumping shoulders with him. Nevertheless, Mark keeps his cool, choosing not to ask questions about the inappropriate talking cat.

"It's not a lie," adds Jared. "He'll do it. His teeth are sharp."

"Jared." Jeff chides.

"Well It's true. Bastard can cut through glass with those, so ears wouldn't be much of an obstacle--"

"Jared, enough." Suddenly, Jeff's voice enters his mind; he speaks with him Telepathically. "Grow the hell up, you're not 17 anymore."

Jared smirks, firing back a message of his own. "What's that old saying? 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. Let me be great, JD."

"Okay, okay," Jared says aloud this time, poker face set. "Let's just get to business. Why am I here, Sheppard?"

Mark walks towards the glass separating them from Alex, hands behind his back. "I need you to talk to the child."

For reasons that seem extremely rational in his mind, Jared is pissed off.

"You called me all the way over here to talk?"

"Yes."

"I'm leaving."

Mark turns around sharply. "He won't speak to anyone else regarding the incident, Jared."

The Council member's words reach Jared's ears, forcing him to stay put and listen.

"We've had doctors, Welling and Manns--hell, even child psychologists to try and get any information out of him. But he won't talk to them."

"And you think--?"

"He specifically asked for you by name," Mark says. "He only wants to speak with Mr. Jared, the superhero. You have a rapport with him."

Jared chuckles, absently stroking Chad's fur as he glances back into the old interrogation room. It sounds legit, and it makes total sense. They bonded somewhat during their time on the island, so it's not a complete stretch to think he'd want to only interact with Jared.

After some time contemplating on it, Jared faces Mark, setting Chad down on the polished floor. "Okay. Fine. I'll do it. What do you want me to ask him?"

"Ask him if he remembers how he got there, what his parents did, anything to help us piece this all together. There are tiny fragments to this story that need to be fixed, and he's the key."

"Yeah...okay."

It feels wrong somehow. Alex doesn't belong here, he shouldn't be subjected to this any further. He needs a home, somewhere nice with a white picket fence and a golden retriever to play with in the back yard. He probably already had that and more when his parents were still alive. Jared never encountered the mother, but he's almost certain she's dead now. That explosion tore everything to pieces.

It looks like Alex is alone in the world, but he's not. No one's ever truly alone.

With a deep breath and hand on the doorknob, Jared enters the room, causing Alex to look up in surprise. Before either of them are even aware of it, the boy ceases his playtime to rise to his feet, quickly running over to Jared with the brightest smile on his face.

"Mr. Jared!"

Going on instinct, Jared drops down to his knees as Alex makes it to him, allowing the child to wrap his arms around his neck for a hug. Jared hugs him back, laughing after seeing that the toys and his jacket have been forgotten.

"Hey, Alex the Great! How are you?"

"I'm fine!" He pulls back, smoothing Jared's cheeks with both hands. He's got a pout on his face. "I thought you were gone forever and ever! Don't do that again!"

Jared smiles, gently prying Alex's hands away. "I'm sorry about that. I won't disappear again."

"Promise?" Alex holds up his pinky finger, determined look in his eyes. "Pinky swear?"

"I pinky swear," Jared finishes, curling their pinkies together. It's an official contract he just signed in Alex's eyes.

Alex grins as Jared stands, grabbing his hand. "Good! Come over here with me! I'm playing with new toys!"

"Woah--! Okay! Sure."

He's led over to the small table in the center of the room where he sits crosslegged next to the boy. Alex picks up a few action figures, handing them to Jared. He instructs him on what to do with them as well as giving Jared their names and titles and abilities.

And even Jared's gotta admit that "Sergeant Crockpot" who can turn his enemies into chickens is pretty freaking sweet.

Time passes by quickly as Jared and Alex go on several adventures with "The Magic Men". From infiltrating an evil pie maker's factory to going into outer space to fight a cosmic energy made out of marshmallows, Jared must say that these men go on far more interesting missions than him.

He chances a look back toward the mirror, sensing the impatience coming from the other side.

"You keep looking over there." Alex says, observant as ever.

Jared looks away, caught. "Ah...sorry. What's going on?"

"There are other people over there, right?"

"Uh...it's..." There's no point in lying to the kid. Jared exhales, nodding. "Yeah. They're watching us."

Alex pouts again, looking down at the table. "That sucks."

"I know, bud."

"Then you didn't really have fun playing."

Those words split Jared in two. He's quick to ease Alex's pain and doubt, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I did. I had an amazing time playing, Alex."

"Honest?"

"Yup. And to prove it, we're going to play another game."

Alex perks up, grinning. "Really!? What kind of game?"

"Well..." Jared chuckles nervously, attempting to come up with something on the spot. "Let's see... a question game. I ask you a question, then you ask me a question. Whoever answers the most gets a prize."

"Okay! I can ask any questions I want?"

"Sure. Go ahead, you first."

Alex looks up at the ceiling in thought. "Um... were you always a superhero?"

That's adorable. Jared decides to tell the truth, in his own way.

"Actually, yes! I was born a superhero. My mom and dad were superheroes too, but my dad was the best one around. He was really powerful."

Alex's eyes light up in wonder as Jared enthusiastically tells the tale of how his father, the best of the best in his Squadron of Peacekeepers, defeated foes that were determined to bring about dark times.

"Your dad must've been really awesome."

Jared nods. "He was. I miss him. Now, it's my turn. How did you and your parents get to the island?"

Alex goes silent for a moment, fiddling with the arms of the toy figures before finally speaking. "It was long. Daddy drove from the house, and then we took a boat before the storm. I didn't know who they were, neither did mommy or daddy. No kids. So boring. It felt like forever! I fell asleep twice!"

The Warlock laughs, smiling in understanding. In his mind, however, he's analyzing, calculating everything, figuring out how to piece it together. Misha Collins invited people at random to his mansion it seems. It was unfortunate that Alex was present for the horrors that took place.

Collins didn't seem to care, however, that the couple he invited had brought their child. It just makes what he did even more disgusting.

"My turn!" Alex suddenly says. "Can you show me some of your powers?"

Retaining his grin, Jared simply nods. He clears his throat, cracking his neck from side to side. The Warlock soon focuses his full attention towards one of the action figures on the table. It takes him a moment to get a feel of the object, but he finally wills it to obey him.

In a matter of seconds, the action figure springs to life, quickly standing to his feet. "Captain Wizard" is what Alex named him, presumably after Jared given the powers the doll supposedly has. Alex is amazed at the figure's movements; he even gasps when Captain Wizard turns towards him, giving him a fond salute.

Jared, wanting to take things a step farther, decides to shake things up. He stretches out his powers, causing the other figures to stand up, all grouped together entering battle stances against Captain Wizard. Jared squints, making the toy charge at them full speed before leaping into the air only to come down hard, forcing the tight knit squad to break apart.

Captain Wizard wastes no time kicking butt as he punches, kicks, and flings his opponents off the table until only one remains. General English, most likely Mark Sheppard. Captain Wizard stretches out his hand, blasting General English apart. His pieces fly all across the room, hitting Jared and Alex both.

The boy jumps up, throwing his arms in the air and cheering. Jared cheers with him while simultaneously using his Magic to repair the poor unfortunate General English. He nods to Captain Wizard before ceasing all control over the figures.

"That was totally awesome!" Alex shrieks. "The way kicked that guy--and he blew him up into little pieces like bwalarghh! So cool!"

Jared does a playful bow as Alex applauds him. "Thank you, thank you. Oh, you're too kind. Now, back to you. I need to know... What happened during dinner, Alex?"

Again, there is silence, silence which causes the very atmosphere around them to shift dramatically. Jared hates seeing the delightful smile on Alex's face fade away, but it's important that they know exactly what happened and how it happened. They got the shortened condensed version before Collins turned into a hulking monstrosity, but Alex was there firsthand, and he's still breathing.

Eventually, the boy speaks, though he's quieter this time.

"I was running around exploring the place. Daddy's boss caught me trying to get to the basement, and then I saw that his eyes were like mine. He noticed mine too, and I could tell he liked them; he was excited for some reason. The man took me back to the place where we were all gonna eat."

"What else?"

"Mommy helped me up to my chair, but we didn't eat right away. The man was talking. He said something about the world being bad, I think. He wanted to change it. I wasn't paying attention. I was just hungry. But then he stopped and told everyone to eat! I couldn't wait any longer, so I did. And that's when everyone started to become different."

Jared swallows. "Different..."

Alex nods. "Yeah. They turned into those monsters. It didn't happen to me though. I got away in time and hid in the closet. Then it went silent, and you found me."

It all syncs up: Misha Collins poisoned the food with the Plague to see who would survive, but judging by the state he was in when they all found him, Jared believes he was half-mutated. He had the Plague in his system, but his immunity wasn't strong enough, forcing him to consume the Squadron to extend his life.

But not even that could save him. Jesus. That man was a sick freak. Thank God Alex survived that. Jared comforts him.

"I bet you miss your mommy and daddy, huh?"

"I do, but I know they're somewhere else now. Somewhere good."

"That's a very grown up thing to say, Alex the Great," Jared commends him, patting his back. "And I believe they are too, home with the Angels..."

"Are Angels nice?"

"Haha, is that your next question?"

"No!" Alex squeals. "I take it back! My question is...um...oh! Does anyone else live with you and Mr. Jensen?"

The Peacekeeper grins. "As a matter of fact, yes, someone else does. My cat. His name is Chad. He's here, actually. Wanna see him?"

"Yeah!"

"Alright." Jared looks to the mirror with a huge smile. "Send him in, guys."

Not long after saying that, the door to the room opens, and Chad soon comes sauntering inside, tail switching from side to side. He moves slowly, somewhat hesitant to engage in Jared's work, though the Warlock casually gestures to him that all is okay. With newfound confirmation, Chad speeds up a little until he's finally in his master's lap, comforted by the smooth pets he gives to him.

Alex looks down at Chad in curiosity, and Chad mirrors his actions, tilting his head to the side.

"Hello, tiny hooman. I'm Chad."

Alex gasps, eyes wide. "He talks!"

"That's not all I'm capable of, my boy."

"Can I hold him?"

"Can you hold me? I don't think--"

"Of course," Jared interjects, shooting him a barbed glare. "Of course Alex can hold you. Who would deprive this brave guy a hug?"

Chad grumbles swears under his breath, but allows Alex to pick him up. He lacks Jared's skill and finesse in that department, but it's not too terrible; not uncomfortable. Soon, Chad finds himself on his back, cradled in the child's arms with his paws im the air.

"He's purring!" Alex says, hugging Chad. "I like him a lot. Hi, Chad! I'm Alex. How old are you?"

"Eh. I lost track a little after one-hundred fifty-five." Chad mutters, laughing when Alex starts playing with his paws. "Hey! I'm ticklish!"

"He's cute!"

"Well...okay. I guess I can let that one slide," the feline says referring to the earlier blunder with Sheppard. He glances over at Jared then, serious expression in place. "What have you gotten yourself into?"

Jared doesn't respond. He doesn't know how to. He's got no idea what he's doing. This will only lead to heartbreak in the end. Alex will be sent away to live with new people, and he'll cry for Mr. Jared to save him, but Jared will not come for him this time. But maybe they'll wipe the child's memories of him and the incident on the island.

That would only make it worse on Jared's psyche; to remember something so important that occurred in his life only to have the child he saved not know anything about what happened is...strangely cruel. It makes Jared realize how fragile memories can really be, and causes him to wonder what could be real and what's actually manufactured.

Nonetheless, he pushes it all down for the time being to play with Alex and Chad. The two of them have gotten on great it seems, with Chad actively chasing Alex around the room in a game of tag. But, eventually, it all comes  to an end. Alex and Chad sit on the bed while Jared stays on the floor.

"...and she cursed me," Chad sighs, recounting his tale to the child. "Just like that. I've been this way ever since. Thankfully, I found Jared's ancestor, and sort of imprinted on his bloodline."

"Im...imprinted?" Alex queries.

"Yeah. It's sort of like being adopted. I became family in a way."

"He's been in the family for long generations," Jared grins. "And I'm hoping he'll be around for many more."

Suddenly, Jared notices an odd look on Alex's face, like he's fighting himself on whether or not to speak his feelings. Soon, however, the boy makes his voice heard.

"Mr. Jared?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I ask another question?"

"Sure thing. Go on ahead."

"Are you going to be my new daddy?"

Silence.

That's all that follows. Nothing more, nothing less.

For a fraction of a second, Jared's heart stops beating, stuttering in his chest. He wasn't prepared for this question.

"I..." he starts, not sure how to finish. "Alex, there's... It's..."

The child stares at him, anxiously awaiting his answer. Jared sighs deeply, coming over to kneel in front of Alex. He speaks softly to him.

"Alex, there's no one on this planet who can replace your father. Not even me. It's very unfortunate that what happened...well, happened. I wish things could've been different. I may not have known him like you did, but I know that he loved you to the very end."

"I want to live with you and Chad and Mr. Jensen..." Alex whispers with a small tear running down his cheek.

"Perhaps I could--" Before Jared can finish his sentence, he hears three taps on the glass outside the room. That means time's up. Chad hops off the bed as Jared rises to his full height, taking him in his arms. "I...I have to go now. Looks like playtime is over."

Alex immediately jumps up, on the verge of tears. "What? No! You can't go! I don't wanna be alone again! Please don't go, Mr. Jared."

"I have to, buddy." He squats down to his level, smiling. "But guess what? You win the game, and you know what the prize is? I'm gonna come back soon, and we'll spend a whole day together. How would you like that?"

"I'd like it a lot!" Alex grins. "Will you bring Mr. Jensen with you, pretty please? I want to meet him."

"You know, I just might do that. He'd love you." He laughs before sneezing loudly, causing it to echo in the room. "Sorry. I'm a little sick today. I really hope I didn't pass it on. I'll get some people to wipe everything down so you don't get sick too."

Again, Mark taps on the glass thrice, harder this time.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Jared yells, half-annoyed and half-playful. "Okay. Time to go. Later, Alex."

Alex hugs Jared again. "Bye, Mr. Jared."

Reluctantly, Jared separates himself from the child, and he walks out of the room with Chad in tow. After shutting the door, he watches Mark and Jeff give him strange expressions, though Jeff softens a bit, turning into a seemingly knowing smile while Mark's resembles more of a scowl.

"What was that?"

"What was what?" Jared questions.

"I wanted you to get information out of the boy," Mark starts, frustrated. "Not play games with him. This is a serious investigation."

Not the greatest choice for Mark as indicated by Jeff's silent "Oh, shit." Angry, yet still holding onto a calm demeanor, Jared sets Chad back down onto the floor, coming to stand chest to chest against Mark who wavers just a bit.

"Come again?" Jared snarls. "I didn't quite catch that. It sounded like you were telling me how to do my job."

"No--"

"Yeah, it kinda did."

"I am your superior, Padalecki, and you will--"

"I will do my job the way I want, and you will either learn to deal with it and accept the fact that Alex is a child and not an adult that needs to be interrogated, or you back the fuck off. Your choice, Mark."

It doesn't take much for the Council member to back down, allowing Jared to leave the building without much trouble. Jared opts to walk home instead of having his former guardian drop him off back at home.

He's not even supposed to be outside right now, but he's always been a rebel, something Jeff and Chad alike can attest to.

****

"Ooooooooh, we're halfway there! Oh-oh! Livin' on a prayer! Take my hand, we'll make it I swear! Oh-oh! Livin' on a prayer!"

Jensen swings his head to and fro, drumming his hands on the steering wheel while driving down the street that leads to his home. He tries not to think about how he scared that old lady a few blocks back while jamming out to his mix. It's Bon Jovi! She should've known that! How could she hate the classics!?

Or maybe she was more frightened by Jensen's "dancing".

Either way, he still rocked out.

In good time, he pulls up to the house, idling in the car for a few moments to continue the song. Reluctantly, he turns the engine off just as he spots Jared walking up to the house with Chad in his arms, face pale at the sight of his husband. Jensen stares at him, squinting his eyes.

Presumably sensing Jensen's concern and mild anger, Jared quickly and hilariously shuffles up the walkway as if he had not just been caught. Jensen grunts, accidentally hitting his head on the roof trying to swiftly grab his things. After grasping his briefcase, Jensen rushes out if the car, catching up to Jared as he makes it to the front door.

"Why are you out of bed, dear?" Jensen asks, standing behind him as he fiddles with the house keys.

"Work called," comes Jared's quick and dry answer. "I couldn't refuse."

"Hmm. At least you didn't have the audacity to lie. This time."

Jared scoffs. "Jensen, get off my back, it was just work."

"And you're sick, Jay!"

"Achoo!" Jared sneezes abruptly, still struggling with the keys. "It's just a cold! I'll be fine--why are these fucking keys not working!?"

Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Jensen takes the keys from Jared's hand, cycling through them all until he finds the correct one. He slides it into the keyhole, unlocking the door easily. The smug smile on his face doesn't deter Jared, however, and he walks inside with a sniffle and a groan.

Before Jared can run off again, Jensen seizes him by the back of his collar. He spins the Warlock around, scooping up Chad only to gently put him down. Jared just stands there, ill and defeated, as Jensen takes off their jackets, hanging them up on the rack.

"I'm calling off next time," Jensen states, looking at Chad. "Because it seems like the person who was supposed to keep you out of trouble is just as impulsive and rebellious as you."

"He said we'd spend the whole day together," Chad says in his defense. "And anywhere he went, I followed."

Jared sniffles again, stifling a sneeze. He sounds congested, much worse than before. "Jensen, I'm fine."

The Psychic points at his significant other, scurrying to the kitchen. "Living room. Sit. I'll get more soup."

"Uuugghh!"

"Shut up, Witch, you'll thank me when I make you better!"

"I hate you!" Jared yells half-heartedly as he shambles to the living room, curling up with the blanket slung over the back of the couch.

"No, you don't!"

And he really doesn't.

****

A few hours have passed them by, both huddled up on the couch with Chad, hot soup and cold medicine consumed long ago. Jared's head lays on Jensen's broad chest as his eyes watch the television, listening to his husband's beautiful heartbeat, familiar and steady. A bowl of popcorn sits on the coffee table, half-eaten but not forgotten.

"Did I tell you that I made a deal with those guys from Norway today?" Jensen says out of the blue, shoveling some popcorn in his mouth. He's doing it to taunt Jared, knowing he can't have any because of his cold.

The Warlock rubs Jensen's chest happily, sighing. "Really? That's good! I'm proud of you. Your father is gonna be pretty excited to hear about that."

"Yeah. I can't wait to tell him. I should've texted him earlier, but I got a little busy. I'll do it tomorrow. But enough about all that. Why were you called in today?"

"Sheppard needed my help with something."

"Okay. What?"

"He wanted me to talk to the kid from the island. Alex."

Jensen looks down at him. "Why you?"

"He has a connection to me," Jared replies. "So I was the only one he'd talk to about what happened that night."

"I can see why he took a liking to you. You're amazing in every way. Gentle, kind--sometimes." That last part earns Jensen a bite from Jared on his collarbone. "Ouch! It's true, though!"

"I am always kind." Jared deadpans.

"First day meeting me?"

"That was different."

"How so?"

"You were annoying."

"I was not annoying!"

"Yeah huh."

"Nuh uh."

"You were big annoying dummy Jock."

"And you were a sour faced pissy Witch."

Jared laughs outwardly at Jensen's adorable insults, and soon the entire living room is filled with laughter, though Chad sleeps soundly on the floor. The married couple come down from their temporary high, gazing up into each other's equally gorgeous eyes. Jared feels one of Jensen's hands caress his cheek, and the other on the small of his back.

"I never thought I'd be here." Jensen confesses. "But I'm glad you thought I was a big annoying dummy. Then I wouldn't have tried to woo you so much to change your mind."

Jared snorts. "I'm also glad you stalked me, Jensen."

Jensen laughs, shaking his head and messing up Jared's already fucked up hair. With the movie abandoned, the two of them mess around, teasing and pecking like the high school sweethearts they were years prior.

All feels right in this moment. Why wouldn't it be? What's the worse that could happen.

Unbeknownst to Jared, however, the answer is everything, for there is a familiar foe working to destroy everything he holds dear.

And he won't stop until Jared is begging for it all to end.

Chapter Text

"Mr. Jared, Mr. Jared!" Alex says, rushing up to him with a bright grin. "You came back!"

Jared bends down, hugging the child. "I told I would. I never break my promises. Well, most times."

Jared said he would come back, and here he is, gracing Alex with his presence once again. However, he also promised the kid that he's bring someone extra along.

Behind Jared is none other than Jensen who he convinced to come with him today. In all actuality, it didn't take much convincing. As soon as Jared explained it, Jensen was right on board with it.

After hugging Jared, Alex looks behind him at a very nervous Jensen. "What if he doesn't like me, though? What if he hates me?" Those were his concerns.

"Uh, hi." Jensen starts. "You must be Alex the Great. I've heard so much about you. I'm--"

"Mr. Jensen!" Alex squeals, running towards him for another hug. "Finally!"

Stunned, Jensen at first does nothing but panic, only calming down once he realizes what's happening. Jared laughs as his husband hugs Alex back as if he were an old friend.

"I'm so happy to meet you, Mr. Jensen!" Alex pulls away, tilting his head in that adorable way of his. "I thought you'd be taller than Mr. Jared."

Jensen chuckles, glancing at Jared for a second. "Really? I'm flattered. But guess what? Once upon a time, I was taller than him. I'm talking huge. I could step on him if I wanted to."

"He's just making fun, Alex," Jared chimes in. "He might have been taller, but he was only two inches higher, and I outgrew him by the time we made it to college. Now I'm the one who can step on him."

"Pay Mr. Bigfoot no mind."

"You're funny, Mr. Jensen," Alex giggles. "Do you wanna see my new toys?"

"Absolutely!"

Alex grabs his hand, pulling Jensen to the table. "Here! You can be Major Meatball!"

"Major Meatball? I dig it. Got any cool moves?"

"He can make people sing when they don't want to. It's used for distractions."

While Jensen and Alex get started on their little playtime, Jared watches from the spot they left him. He smiles, unable to conceal it. He didn't know Jensen was this great with kids. It's almost like he's a kid himself. The thought crosses his mind as he realizes that, yeah, Jensen's still a big kid at heart. And as much as he's loathe to admit it, so is Jared.

The more things change, the more things stay the same...

Time passes by in that interrogation room turned child's room with Jensen and Alex having a grand time. The former gives piggyback rides to the later, making strange noises as if soaring through the air. Jared almost lets them be had it not been for Alex asking him to play along with them.

Jared rushes over to them, joining the pair in their many blissful, make-believe adventures. The three of them smash down foes with their combined strength, leaping into battle with finger guns drawn until it all comes to a stop. Jared collapses to the ground first, already tuckered out from what seemed to be an intense workout. Jensen soon follows, laying his head down in his husband's lap.

"You didn't tell me we would be working out today, honey," Jensen pants, laughing once Alex pounces on him with a grin. "Oooh, you got me!"

"I got you, I got you!"

"You win, you win! Man, you're one strong kid."

Alex frowns, pouting. "I'm not a kid!"

Jared snickers. "Nope. Not a kid. Alex is a young man, Jen."

"Fine. You're one strong young man, Alex."

"Better! Can I ask you a question, Mr. Jensen?"

Jensen pokes Alex's chest playfully. "Anything, sport."

"Are you a superhero, too?"

Jensen furrows his brows, but it's Jared who quickly fills him in before he can connect the dots. "He wants to know if you've got special powers too, dear."

"Well," Jensen starts. "I sure do. I have Psychic powers!"

Alex's eyes light up in wonder. "Wow! It's not Magic superpowers like Mr. Jared?"

"Nope. I can't do most of the stuff he does, but I can do some things he can't, like seeing things before they happen, and looking at past and almost-present things through touch."

Excited, Alex bounces happily while holding his hand out to Jensen. "Oh, oh! Me me me! Show me! Touch my hand, and tell me what you see! Please?"

Jensen chuckles. "Alright, alright. Here."

Jared watches as his Psychic husband reaches out to touch Alex's hand. Immediately upon contact, Jensen's eyes roll back, viewing events that are unknown to the Warlock. Jensen groans in mild pain, or maybe exertion. It's unsure. He's an accomplished Psychic by now, having been trained by none other than Jared himself.

Still, he's curious to know what Jensen is seeing.

A lovely breakfast, smells delicious. Chocolate chip pancakes and orange juice before school, mommy makes the best pancakes. Daddy reads the newspaper. Everything is perfect.

But then the vision changes, and Jensen begins to frown.

What's happening? Why are mommy and daddy doing that? Why are they banging their heads on the table? Why is everyone hurting each other!? Must hide, must escape! They won't find me here, not here in this closet with daddy's phone. Need to call for help. 911. Mommy says it's for emergencies. Someone will come for me. But I need to be quiet. I don't want to die...

Jensen takes his hand away from Alex's in a hurry, looking over at Jared for only a moment. He knows something is up, but he refuses to say anything. Jensen quickly puts on a pleasant face, and instead of focusing on the horrible events that led Alex here, he chooses to only talk about the good.

"Your mommy made the best chocolate chip pancakes, didn't she?" He says, smiling.

"How did you know!?" Alex gasps.

"Psychic powers, remember?"

"You're amazing, Mr. Jensen!"

"I know. It just comes naturally."

It's a very tender moment, and Jared relishes each and every second of it. Alex loves him, this much is true. He took a liking to him the moment he saw him. He's a very special kid, not like any Jared's ever encountered. It will devastating when he's sent away.

The investigation about the incident on the island will soon come to an end, and Alex's limited knowledge on the events of that night will be rendered useless. It's only a matter of time now, and Jared doesn't want any of this to end. Alex will not function in an environment he's not comfortable with; he'll be surrounded by strangers.

His future is unknown to Jared, and that only makes him more and more paranoid.

"If Mr. Jensen is a superhero too," Alex starts to ask much later. "Then does he save the day with you? Like your partner?"

Jensen snorts. "I don't get to go with Jared on his 'top secret' hero missions. It really, really sucks."

"That's not fair."

"I know, right!"

"I refuse to be ganged up on in this conversation." Jared chuckles, taking over. "Jensen is not authorized, because he's a civilian. Like you, but not the same. Not all people with superpowers are superheroes, and not all can join 'Elite' superheroes, such as myself, on certain missions."

"The people he works for are probably jealous of my awesome skills." Jensen whispers to Alex. "I helped banish a Demon with my mind."

Alex's jaw drops with stars in his eyes. "No way!"

"Yeah way!"

Jared nods, smirking. "Can confirm. And he was only 18 at the time."

"And he still can't join you, Mr. Jared? That's dumb!"

"Haha!" The Warlock laughs. "I don't make the rules, kiddo."

He doesn't, but if he did, he still wouldn't allow Jensen to join him on those missions. They're dangerous, and Jensen doesn't possess the correct skill set to undertake such trials. Besides, if Jensen were allowed, Jared would only worry for his safety and be distracted by the mission at hand.

Nonetheless, things between the trio go perfectly swell. They play more games in between Jared questioning Alex and Jensen divulges more into his life, telling Alex about how much he reminds him of his little brother who is no longer in this world, but much happier in the place with Angels.

Every time Jared thinks Jensen can't surprise him further, he somehow finds a way. Astonishing.

Unfortunately, the time soon comes for them to say good bye, having spend the majority of the day with Alex. It's past 9 now, and very dark outside. There's only one window here in this room, and it's closest to Alex's bed. He climbs under the sheets, all dressed up in his pajamas and ready for bed. Jensen leans against the wall, tossling the boy's hair as Jared tucks him in.

It feels strangely domestic.

"Did you have a good day today?" Jared asks.

"Mhm," Alex hums. "You kept your promise, Mr. Jared. I'm satisfied!"

Jensen chuckles. "That's good. Now we have to get going. It's getting late, Alex."

"Won't you tell me a bedtime story?"

Jensen looks to Jared in surprise, but only shrugs with a happy grin. "Sure. I don't see why we can't. Do you have any particular stories you like?"

Alex nods, sinking further into the sheets. "Yeah, but I want a new one! Make one up. I want to hear about superheroes."

Jared snickers. Of course. That's all he'll be thinking about during his time here. Might as well give the boy what he wants. Jensen pulls up a chair, sitting across from the two on the bed.

"Well," Jensen begins, stroking his chin. "Let's see..."

Once upon at time, in a large city in the not so distant future, there was a powerful superhero named "Selkca". Now you see, Selkca was the best of the best in the city. He had super strength, superhuman reflexes, and could fly really, really fast! He was loved by all the citizens in the city, but he didn't let the fame get to his head. Well, I mean, he would occasionally, but it was all good. No one complained. He was amazing. He had a penthouse, a few commercial deals--pretty epic stuff.

Jared clears his throat, forcing Jensen to remain on track. The Psychic laughs nervously, continuing the story.

Right. Yes. Sorry. So one day, after waking up from a darn good sleep, Selkca turns on the news to see a big giant sea monster attacking the city! It was smashing buildings, throwing cars and wreaking havoc among the poor, innocent people. They cried--"Oh, no, help me, save me, Selkca, you're our only hope!"--so he rushed out of his pretty sweet pad without even bothering to put on a shirt. His rocking hair billowed in the wind--

"Okay, yeah," Jared interrupts, rolling his eyes towards his husband. "My turn."

Jensen huffs, muttering: "Buzzkill."

Selkca raced toward the monster that dared to prey upon the very people he swore to protect. He flew straight into it, throwing it off its center, staggering the beast! Selkca hovered above the citizens, addressing them heroically! "Dear citizens, your savior has arrived!" However, as quickly as they clamored for him, they groaned in pain as the sea monster swiped him out of the air, sending him crashing into a nearby building!

"Oh no! Selkca!" Alex gasps.

"Oh no is right," Jensen crosses his arms. "That's not fun at all!"

Jared giggles. "Just wait for it."

In his home, a young man with secret super powers of his own watched the event on the TV. His name was Tristan, and he idolized Selkca. He had all his action figures, his comic books, his cartoon shows, everything! Tristan wanted nothing more than to be a superhero just like Selkca. He watched his favorite hero get battered around by the monster, and took it upon himself to help out despite his own powers just coming in.

"Ah! I see." Jensen grins. "Allow me."

While Tristan ran out of the house to help, Selkca recovered from the gross monster's attack. He shrugged it off like it wasn't even a big deal! That's how strong he was. He cracked his neck to the side, and sped off to hit the monster again, but right in the jaw this time! The monster fell, flattening an empty building. Just when he thought the day was saved, the sea monster hurled it's tentacles towards Selkca while he was distracted.

"What happens next?" asks Alex.

Jared smirks. "Well..."

As Selkca braced for impact, something amazing happened! Tristan threw himself in front of Selkca with his hands in the air, using his mighty powers to stop the tentacles midair! Tristan pushed the beast away, earning him a few stares from both the people on the street, and Jensen--I mean Selkca.

Jensen snickers at the mix up, but let's Jared continue on with the story anyway.

Tristan briefly introduced himself to the great superhero, his true idol, and there was a spark almost immediately. When they looked into each other's eyes, they knew that they couldn't be apart. But then, the monster got back up, screeching in rage! Selkca and Tristan nodded to one another, knowing that the best way to take down the beast was to work together. Tristan distracted it by using his powers to throw large objects at him; cars, big rocks, you name it! That's when Selkca came in, using his super strength to punch the monster in the face. He punched and punched, but the monster kept getting back up.

"That's when Tristan got an idea!" Jensen says suddenly.

The young man knew that something with extreme strength and force could defeat the monster, but only in certain conditions. Tristan called Selkca to his side, quickly whispering the plan in his ear. With the plan ready to go underway, Selkca flew away from the fight, leaving Tristan alone with the monster. However, just as it seemed like Selkca abandoned them, he came flying around the corner at high speed, yelling for Tristan to finally enact the plan.

Alex yawns, though still excited. "What was the plan?"

Jensen hands the reins over to Jared who gets a vague idea on what is about to happen.

While traveling at high speed, Tristan reached out to Selkca with his own superpowers, causing him to speed up faster and faster to the monster until--BOOM! Selkca flew straight into the monster's head, sending gross, disgusting chunks of his brain down onto the street below.

"Cool!"

Jensen shakes his head. "Normally, I'm the one that goes with the gore."

"I can't always let you be the fun one." Jared snickers, continuing the story.

With the sea monster finally defeated, Selkca dropped back down onto the street below with everyone cheering him on! "Selkca, you did it! You're amazing! We love you!"

"But--but Selkca knew better than to take all the credit," says Jensen.

Selkca turned towards Tristan who was beginning to walk away from the scene, but Selkca called out to him. Flying over to Tristan, he thanked him for his contributions, and told everyone of his heroic deeds. They clamored for them both, praising them for saving the day! Feeling proud, Selkca invited Tristan to become his awesome, kick butt sidekick. To which Tristant said, "Sure, why not?!" And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Fervently, Alex claps his hands at the fantastic tale of superheroes. Jensen does a playful bow in gratitude, and Jared joins him.

"Oh, you're too kind," Jared says. "Hold your applause, please."

"It was amazing, Mr. Jared! I really liked it. It was awesome!" Alex looks to Jensen as he settles in the bed. "And I liked hanging out with you, Mr. Jensen. You're so cool and fun!"

Jensen smirks. Smug, lovable bastard. He gets out of his chest, kneeling down to rest his arms and head on the bed. "Well, I think you're a cool and fun guy, Alex, and I'm happy we finally got to meet."

Alex yawns again, head falling back on his pillow. "Me too..."

Jared chuckles, bending down to tuck Alex in again. He gives him a stuffed animal; a giraffe. "What should we name this guy? How about Rafe? I'm thinking he's definitely a Rafe."

"Me, too." Alex yawned for the last time, eyes drooping. "Good night, Mr. Jensen."

"Night, buddy."

"Good night, Mr. Jared."

Jared smiles, kissing Alex's forehead. "Good night, Alex the Great."

And then, in a matter of mere minutes, Alex is fast asleep. He holds tightly to Rafe the giraffe as his eyes flutter, presumably beginning to dream of a world where actual superheroes like the ones told tonight exist. Jared and Jensen stand to their full height, looking down at the child they have both bonded with.

Jared smiles, thinking of the way Alex and Jensen got along so well, and how, even with Chad, Alex was put at ease.

They leave the room eventually, turning out the main overhead lights only to be replaced by a nightlight that sits near the bed.

Jared meets up with Sheppard who watched the entire exchange, arms crossed, face expressionless. Jensen gives his husband a kiss on the lips before announcing that he'll be in the car waiting. Jared acknowledges this, and waits until he leaves until he speaks with Sheppard.

"You're getting attached."

Jared clenches his jaw. He knew he was, but he didn't want anyone pointing it out and throwing it in his face. "He's a kid, and he has no one."

"And you're getting your husband attached as well. You both know how this is going to go down. I suggest you sever the cord right now to spare yourselves heartbreak in the future."

Sheppard is right. He does know how this is going down in the end, but he can't stop himself. He can't, for the life of him, tear himself away from Alex so easily. He cares for his wellbeing immensely. If he's not here to look after him, who will? And the child hardly trusts anyone that's not Jared, or Jensen, for that matter.

It's a frustrating dilemma that Jared ponders over well into the night when he and Jensen are laying together in bed. Jensen's asleep, holding Jared while he rests his head full of hair on his bare chest. Jared listens to Jensen's heart beating, having memorized every little tick, every single thump inside. He places his hand over Jensen's heart, feeling it pulsing in addition to hearing it.

This only reminds Jared that he's just flesh and bone. Even though Jensen is a Psychic with exceptional skill, he's still vulnerable to big threats if left unprotected. Thankfully, he still wears the protection charm around his neck everyday as required of him. Jared twirls it over in his hands, admiring its power. It saved Jensen a long time ago in college, thank God. He's worn it everyday ever since.

As Jared fiddles with the necklace, his eyes glance over to Jensen's right arm that lays slack in the bed. Jared scoots up, carefully removing himself from under Jensen's other arm. He leans over, taking notice of the tattoo that resides on his forearm. Symbols in Zaelich, symbols that can only be activated in times of extreme stress. This was Jared's gift to Jensen on his 25th birthday. Didn't cost him anything, though, Jensen did mention that it hurt like a bitch when getting it done.

It'll hurt even more activating it, but Jared hopes he never has to use it.

Jared's poking around soon wakes Jensen who swiftly takes him back into his arms, causing Jared to yelp in surprise. Jensen sighs sleepily, burying his nose into Jared's brown locks.

"Hmm... What are you doing?"

Jared scoffs. "Nothing."

Jensen shakes his head, eyes closed. "You keep touching me."

"Don't get the wrong idea, pal."

"The wrong idea?" Jensen mumbles, hand sliding down to grope at Jared's rear. "You mean this?"

Jared blushes in the dark, biting his lip as he unwittingly rubs up against Jensen. "Yes, *that*!"

"Oh, my!" Jensen says, opening his eyes and now very much awake. "Someone's feeling frisky. If you wanted to do this, all you had to do was say so."

"Don't project your perverted thoughts on me, meatheaded neanderthal!"

"Ooga, ooga, me want Jay's sexy lips on mine!"

Jared doesn't fight the laugh that falls from his mouth as Jensen fondles him, and then, throwing all inhibitions out of the window, Jared finally kisses him.

Before long, they're rolling around in the sheets, one on top of the other, gasping and moaning and biting and kissing.

It was enough to make Chad yell at them to keep it down.

****

Kendrick watches begrudgingly as Jared and Jensen kiss each other, murmuring the love for one another in the comfort of their marital bed. He had intended on coming to visit them, to deliver news of a recent Demonic possession a few towns over, but it seems like he'll just work on that alone.

It won't be too difficult. Jared has taught him a few tricks to Exorcisms in the past, tricks that he utilizes today.

"You got what you wanted, Wonder Boy." Kendrick whispers from outside.

He turns away, fading into the darkness of the night.

Chapter Text

It's another day, just like the rest.

Kane is unsure if it's night or day anymore, but he's not so sure he cares anymore. Days, weeks, months, years--they all bleed into each other now. He's forever trapped in a place devoid of time, his only constant.

"Are you awake, Christian?" Carver asks from next door.

Well, there is another constant. Someone to bond with over an uncontrollably thirst for revenge. His name is Carver, and that's all he told Kane aside from his intense desire to see Jared Padalecki whimpering on the ground like a broken dog, stripped of everything he ever held dear.

He wants Jared to burn, and so does Kane.

"Yes," Kane responds, staring blankly ahead at the off-white brick wall. "I'm awake."

"Good. I need you to be alert, and ready as well."

Kane perks up for a moment, squinting his eyes. "Why?"

Carver is silent in the seconds that follow, saying nothing. The silence grates his nerves, making him more anxious than he ever intended to be. Finally, Carver speaks to him after a full minute of quietness.

"I was born from a Witch and a Warlock, but I lacked the Magic they had. I was Mortal."

Kane had heard of that, but could never imagine a life where he couldn't cast. Sorcerers. He grimaces, listening to his companion's story.

"My mother and father did not like that, as you could imagine. I was their 'miracle child', and they were angry that the only child they could ever have was going to be deprived of the one thing they all had. Naturally, that didn't deter them. They took to extensive research, putting me through strenuous experiments and rituals until I could finally learn to wield the forces of Magic. But, you see, it wasn't enough."

Carver chuckles, and his voice sounds farther away when he talks again.

"I wasn't performing to their standards--I wasn't excelling at the same rate as those born with Magic naturally. I was shamed every step of the way until, ultimately, it became too much for dear old dad and loving mom. It didn't matter to them that I graduated, got my certificate, earned a spot working for The Council. None of it mattered. They gave up on me, disowned me. I never saw them again after my graduation. I don't even know if they're still alive. I don't care either way. They're dead to me."

"Why are you telling me this, man?" Kane grunts, standing up from where he sits on the bed.

"Because..." Carver hums. The tone of his voice sends chills down Kane's spine. "What's a villain without a tragic backstory?"

Suddenly, Kane hears the sound of a door opening in the hall, followed by the hard echo of footsteps trudging towards their cells. "Someone's coming."

"That'll be for me--I mean us."

Kane frowns, unsure on what he's blathering on about until he hears the footsteps come to a stop. The person outside fiddles with their keys, muttering something unclear under their breath. A man. Kane wonders on his presence here, rushing up to his own cell door to have a better listen as to what is happening.

He presses his ear to the cold metal, determined to hear what'll happen next. The man on the other side speaks directly to Carver, though their conversation is somewhat muted; it's hard to hear through this metal. Soon, however, Kane hears something more, something disturbing. Dry heaving, the sounds of someone vomiting, convulsing.

It's terrifying.

Did the guards find out about an escape plan? Are they just straight up murdering prisoners now?

Kane waits there by they door for what feels like ages, calling Carver's name and pounding on the door. It's messed up, actually. He's being kept here until the end of his days, but it was supposed to be a natural death, not whatever is happening to Carver. Just when he thought he'd get his vengeance on Jared and his petty gang of freaks, too.

Quickly, Kane hears Carver on the other side of the door. He sounds happy, excited even.

"Christian, dear, stand back from the door. Please."

Kane obeys, rushing to the other side of the room away from the door. In an instant, the enchanted, metal door that keeps him separated from everything is blown inwards into the room, smashing against the wall. When Kane looks to where it once stood, he spots who assumes to be Carver dressed in the standard orange jumpsuit that they all wear around here with a pair of glasses on as well.

His grin is twisted and unsettling, but perhaps the most disturbing feature that Carver is displaying is the smeared blood around his lips and mouth. What the fuck is going on!?

Carver steps inside smirking as if he holds the secrets to the universe. And Kane thinks that he might. It only takes him a few seconds to finally realize what he just witnessed, eyes widening in a mixture of terror and bewilderment.

"You used Magic," Kane mutters, pointing at the forgotten door. "How?"

"A new dietary supplement," Carver replies, snarking. "Very effective."

A man walks in behind Carver, and Kane immediately recognizes him as one of the guards that escorts him back and forth to the showers in the morning and at night. A short, chubby fellow with glasses like Carver's. He seems nervous, carrying a clear, open container that has nothing inside but small traces of blood. What's going on here?

He gestures towards the other man, introducing him. The guard's nametag reads: "Dabb".

"This is Andy. He's an ally to us."

Kane nods to Andy, acknowledging him, but not placing all his trust in him. As far as he knows, he might be more of a hindrance than a help. Nevertheless, Kane realizes that he needs help to escape, so why not allow it? If Carver had any reservations about recruiting him, he would've gotten hold of another guard.

He clearly possesses the power.

Carver grins, seemingly sensing his thoughts. It's possible. "Andy is trustworthy. He's done his part, now it's time for us to go. Stay close to me, will you?"

Kane obeys without a second thought, trailing behind Carver as he leads them into the hallway. He whispers something quietly in Andy's ear, something that makes the guard bristle and burn red hot. Kane doesn't know what that's all about, but he still goes with Carver regardless who wills Andy to fall to the floor, lifeless and cold. The container is quickly obliterated as well, causing Kane to question Carver's motives.

"He's not dead, if you're wondering. I only made him seem that way. I'll have more use of him later."

And just like that, Carver is leading them out of the highly guarded solitary unit, passing by several other dangerous criminals who have attempted global domination or other such heinous crimes against humanity using their Magic.

It's not long until they're noticed by other guards who raise their weapons to them, obviously confused about what they're doing out of their cells. Before they can even be disciplined, Carver uses his newly acquired abilities to tear them to shreds, leaving large chunks of them scattered around the halls.

Kane's seen and done things for less, but, goddamn, the brutality of those kills he just witnessed can't go unnoticed. It's not enough for him to be turned off by Carver's plans. He just wasn't expecting to see that much blood after all these years. And it sucks. He's powerless right now, drugged up on that medication that suppress his abilities.

When he's finally out of here, he's going to get as far away as he can so he can recuperate before going after Jared. If Carver thinks he's ready to kill him immediately after stepping foot outside, he's wrong. Kane wants to be at full strength when they kill that little bastard. He'll make him hurt something fierce for what he did to Chaos.

Carver's rampage moves upwards a few levels in the facility, killing anyone and everyone who stands in his way. He murders without prejudice; inmates, doctors, guards, the people who clean the place. He doesn't stop. The ones who Carver spares drop to their knees in terror, clawing at their eyes and screaming at the top of their lungs as if they're seeing their worst fears come to life.

It has Kane thinking, if even for another moment, just what it was that Carver devoured not long ago.

Eventually, in the midst of the wild chaos around them, Carver frees the majority of the powerless inmates. For diversions, presumably. Kane doesn't ask, only obeying Carver's every will as they journey closer to the portals that would take them to Earth. This prison in Limbo is the absolute worst.

The pair soon come across a large blockade full of armed guards who all wear riot gear to protect them from harm. Oh, how Kane feels sorry for them. They command Carver to stop, raising their weapons, very serious in tone and composure. Fucking Peacekeepers. Just a bunch of glorified bitches with Magic guns.

Carver smirks, glancing at Kane. "Behind me. Now."

He doesn't need to be told twice about that.

Obeying Carver once more, Kane swiftly moves behind him, awaiting his next move. In time, Carver walks forward, and that's when they start shooting. Kane thinks that it's over, that they'll die because his dumb partner walked in front of a fucking firing squad, but it's not to be.

The bullets fired from their highly sensitive, highly sophisticated weapons do not hit him nor Carver. Nothing pierces through them, and when Kane looks up, he sees that Carver has made an invisible net capable of catching every and all bullets that have been fired at them.

The guards shoot and shoot until they're out of ammo, but even so, nothing connects. They all stand astonished at the sight, some saying nothing, others asking if their partners are seeing what they're seeing. Carver tilts his head to the side, wearing a sadistic smirk that Kane is happy to not be on the receiving end of.

"My turn, hmm?"

In an impressive feat of power, Carver sends each bullet back to sender, killing all of the guards that stand between them and the way out. The Peacekeepers drop to the ground dead, allowing the two inmates to press onward. They get to the room that allows travel between the two worlds only to find a few more guards there with people who operate on the portal's functions.

Again, Carver wastes no time, slaughtering all those who aren't Kane in a matter of mere seconds. They step over the corpses that litter the room in order to reach the consoles that control the portal. Kane watches carefully as Carver inputs coordinates into the portal's controlled console, a location he has no knowledge of. The portal springs to life in no time, giving off an eerie, greenish glow.

Kane doesn't need to be told twice as he and Carver make haste, stepping through the portal to the other side.

They end up standing outside of a cabin in a forest surrounded by large trees as tall as the sky itself. Kane looks around; no signs of civilization anywhere. It's for the best. Though he's not known in the human world, he's notorious for his crimes amongst other Magic users.

"Where are we?" He asks.

"An old stomping ground of mine," replies Carver, staring at the dilapidated cabin. "Used to do my businesses here before I was busted by Jared's filthy father. So many years wasted."

"Yeah. Okay. I appreciate you breaking me out, but I gotta get out of here. We should split up; I need to regain my strength, then we'll go after Jared together."

Carver glances at Kane then, eyes darkening in the literal sense. His eyes are not his own anymore. Pitch black. He smiles, and it makes every hair on Kane's body stand up in fear. The dried blood around his lips and on his hands don't help the situation one bit. Carver walks towards him slowly.

"Oh, no, no, no. I still need your help, Christian. You're still wanted."

Kane swallows the lump in his throat nervously. "I'm powerless at the moment..."

"I know this."

"Then what do you want from me? Muscle?"

"I don't actually need you...just your soul."

Carver seizes Kane by the neck before he can question him, lifting him up with power he's only felt once before years ago. When he was with Chaos. Kane tries in vain to fight back, kicking and pounding. Carver doesn't budge, just smirking up into Kane's eyes.

Then, horrifically, Carver begins opening his mouth, sucking the essence from Kane directly. He breathes in his soul, causing Kane much pain. He screams, but there's nothing he can do. His very soul is soon devoured by the monstrous Carver, leaving Kane nothing but a sunken in husk.

Carver drops Kane's body to the ground where it lays still, dead. His heart lies silent, vitals gone, eyes white and blank. He's served his purpose well. Carver hums in distaste mingled with immense pleasure. He really needed that, or rather...he really needed that.

"Disgusting, but satisfying," Carver says to the corpse, grinning. "Thank you for helping me. Now I can go after Jared alone, just as I intended. I have some big scores to settle with that one."

And with that, Carver vanishes from the cabin, determined to finish off the boy who ruined his plans.

****

Jared yawns as he fixes up yet another pot of coffee. He places both hands on the kitchen counter as it brews, bowing his head and closing his eyes.

He's been having strange dreams lately. It's odd, come to think of them. Some of the dreams he can't remember, but the ones he can, however, are a different story. They usually involve him at a crossroads, a fork in the road. There are three doors, each with something unknown on the other side. He always picks the left door, and every time he does so, Jared's taken back to the start.

It doesn't make sense, but then again, it's only a stupid dream.

He soon shakes out of his thoughts when he feels something curling around his ankles. With his head still down, Jared opens his eyes, spotting his best friend looking up at him with what he can only assume is a cat's way of smiling.

"Tired?" Chad asks.

Jared nods. "A little."

"You hardly slept last night."

"I know. I look a mess, don't I?"

"Slightly," Chad whispers as Jared bends down to let him. "But I love you anyway."

"That's good to hear."

In the living room, the two hear Jensen yelling, cursing at the television something fierce.

"Oh, goddammit! Goddamn fucking bastard ass Elder Dragon! I will kill you!"

Jared looks to Chad, raising an eyebrow. "He's still at it?"

"He hasn't stopped. He's very devoted to that video game."

"I can tell."

The coffee is eventually ready for consumption, and Jared uses his powers to call over two empty mugs before filling them up. Jensen would no doubt appreciate a nice cup of joe to lift his spirits to help him with his quests or whatever.

It's their day off today, though, and while it's a rare occurrence that they end up having the same one off, Jensen has already started the day by playing that crazy game of his. Something about Dragons and saving the world and swords and sorcery. That kind of stuff. Jared's only watched him play, never played himself. Seems very fun.

That is when Jensen isn't upset about his "party members" dying and ruining his experience.

Regardless, Jared walks to the living room with both mugs of coffee, sitting beside his husband on the couch. With controller in hand, Jensen takes a brief moment to smile at Jared as he sets his mug on the coffee table in front of them. Jensen pauses the game, taking a sip out of his cup.

"Mmm. So good. Just for me?"

Jared smiles behind his mug. "Just for you. What's going on in... What's the land's name in that game again?"

"Ardosia," Jensen responds, resuming his playtime.

"Ar-Doh-Sha?"

"Right, and it would be going great if my stupid party would do as I commanded!"

"Having certain difficulties there, bud?" Chad teases, staring at the screen.

"The Elder Dragon is fucking up my party because the AI in this game is garbage against such a high level enemy." Jensen explains while Jared and Jensen listen. "I'm Level 50, but he's Level 70."

"Can't you just level up to 70?" Jared asks.

"Nope. The level cap in this game is 50."

"Is there a cheat code?" questions Chad.

Jensen sighs, exasperated. "No cheat codes in this game. Just pure skill and a drive to press onward."

Jared drinks more from his mug, examining the game as well as Jensen's character. An Elf. How fitting. "Bow and arrows with daggers. Good choice. Can you change weapons?"

"You can change your class, but I'd rather be a Rogue. I like the bow."

Jared hums, but says nothing else while he and Chad watch silently as Jensen's character does battle with the so called Elder Dragon with his party members. What seems like a moderately successful fight becomes a nightmare as each one of Jensen's partners are struck one by one by either the large Dragon on screen, or the small, mini Dragons it sends to make their lives harder.

It's not long before Jensen is also completely overwhelmed, and he dies alongside his teammates. As expected, he swears loudly at the screen, letting his controller fall from his hands to the floor. In his anger, he goes to drink his coffee, forgetting that it's still hot. He curses again, only this time Jared giggles. Jensen scowls, nursing his burnt tongue and lip.

"Not funny."

Jared snickers. "It's a little funny."

"Bite me."

"Maybe later. If I were in there, I could take that Dragon on all by myself."

"Oh yeah?" Jensen picks up the controller, pushing it towards Jared. "Go at it then. Make the best of it. Slay the Elder Dragon, Jay. I'd love to watch."

"Haha, no thanks. I meant if I were actually in the game. I barely even know how to play for real."

Jensen smirks at Jared, taking the controller for himself again. "I know you would. You're so powerful. Could probably kill 2 Elder Dragons on your own."

"Maybe."

They settle in on the couch again; Jared watches Jensen play, Chad watches while simultaneously cleaning himself. Instead of staying dead, Jensen's character and his teammates revive outside of the colosseum they were just in, opening large doors to get to the other side. They go back inside soon enough to fight once again. The result, however, is the same as before with Jensen's party members dying quickly, leaving him as the last one standing.

Unfortunately, he dies as well, and the cycle repeats itself.

Eventually, the sound of the doorbell alerts them. While Jensen plays, Jared and Chad go investigate. He picks up his feline friend as he opens the door, greeted by a familiar face.

"Morning." Jeff smiles, holding onto some mail. "Just ran into your mailman on my way here, so yeah."

Jared takes it from his hands, allowing his surrogate father to come inside. "Thanks, Jeff. What brings you up today?"

"I had business to tend to in the area, so I thought I'd just stop by and see how you both were doing." Jeff looks to Jensen playing his games, shaking his head. "Jensen."

"Jeff," says Jensen, not even looking away from the tv.

"This is how you're spending your day off?"

"Meh."

Jared rolls his eyes, but taps Jeff, getting his attention. "How's Alex? Is he doing okay?"

Jeff nods. "He's fine, I promise. He's happier, talking to more people. Still wants to see you more than anything, though. He...keeps asking if he'd be able to live here with you and Jensen."

Jared clenches his jaw.

"I know. I can't. Sheppard would never allow it."

"But if you could, would you?"

"In a heartbeat, without hesitation. He needs me."

"Hello, everyone."

All those present in the room turn their heads towards a new voice save for Jared. He hears Chad gasping, wriggling out of his grasp towards the intruder. When Jared looks up, he spots someone he hasn't had the pleasure seeing since college.

There, dressed in a dark grey trench coat wearing a melancholy smile is Kendrick, the Demon of Vengeance. He looks to be a little older, wizened by his travels around the country, perhaps even the world. Jared looks upon his eyes, instantly remembering the night he disappeared. It was so long ago, but seeing him here now brings out a flurry of emotions--mostly joy and shock.

The Snack Pack was finished...or so they thought.

Jensen stands up, pausing his game yet again. "Holy shit! Kendrick? Is that you!? Oh my god!"

Kendrick chuckles without humor in his tone. "Nice to see you, too, Ackles. You're aging like fine wine." He looks at Jared, smiling diminishing a bit, but eyes lighting up in mild excitement. "Hey, you."

"Hey," Jared says when he's able to properly speak. "It's been a long time."

"Too long."

"Yes!" Jensen shouts, cutting the tension he didn't even know was there. He throws his arms into the air happily, singing. "The Snack Pack is baaack! The Snack Pack is baaack! Alright! The Snack Pack 2: Snack Back! Where have you been, Ken?"

Kendrick shudders at the nickname. "Everywhere. From major cities, to nearly undetectable villages. I've been hunting Demons and malicious spirits. Recently, I've learned that Fear has returned, but he's silent. There's no trace of him."

"We heard. Maybe someone sent him packing back where he belongs?" Chad supplies.

"Unlikely. I would've gotten word. I just came in from a supposed Demon attack a few towns over. Turns out it was just a hoax, so...that was a bust."

"Bummer..." Jensen pouts, then grabs his controller, holding it out for Kendrick to take. "Wanna play?"

"Uh...no. Seems like you have more than enough people. Besides, I'm not so sure that game looks like it could include all of us."

"I can make it happen." Jared chimes in, getting everyone's attention. He doesn't want them all to be separated again so quickly. He can feel his Magic getting stronger just by them all being here. "Never tried it on something like this before, but I don't think it'd be too hard to accomplish."

Understandably, Jensen is shocked. "Wait, wait, wait! Hold the phone! Are you telling me that you knew of a spell that could get me in there and personally kill that fucking Elder Dragon all this time?"

"Technically? Yeah."

"I'm pissed, but I'm more excited about that. Alright, let's go into Fantasy Quest! I'm ready."

Jeff chuckles, shaking his head. "I didn't sign up for this."

"Neither did I," adds Kendrick.

Jensen does not bother backing down, grinning. "Guys, come on! We all haven't been in the same room together for years...mostly because of Kendrick's absent ass, but still."

"Hey--!"

"But we're finally together again! We should unwind a bit, kill a few goblins, go on a quest, kill the damned Elder Dragon so I can beat this game once and for all. Please? It'll be so fun! Who's in?"

It doesn't take much for Jared to be on board, so he steps up near the television, holding his head up high. Anything to have the band back together. Jensen smiles at him, and soon enough, Jeff is sighing, standing near Jared. After him is Chad who comes scampering up to Jensen, musing about how he probably won't be much of a help.

Finally, after seeing everyone waiting for him, Kendrick groans, but moves forwards until he's with the rest of them. Jensen grins yet again, using the controller to exit to the main menu of the game.

"Alright, let's do this."

"I have a feeling I'm going to regret coming here today." Kendrick says.

"Quiet, you," Jensen waves him off, looking at Jared. "Okay. Take us to Ardosia. My body is ready."

Jared snorts, cracking his knuckles. "Not so fast. I need the big tome for this. The Zaelich one."

It's not long before Jared comes up with the ancient grimoire, flipping the pages until he comes across the spell necessary to get them inside the game.

"Dimensional Travel," Jared starts. "I haven't quite grasped all the correct pieces to this spell to make it work outside of transferring my consciousness into certain books I read, though, I think I can get us inside Fantasy Quest."

"Traveling between worlds is actually possible?" Jensen gasps.

"I mean...yeah. But it's like Astral Projection."

"I made a mistake giving you that book years ago," mutters Jeff. "There's clearly too many spells that could most likely tear open the fabric of reality."

"Relax. I got this. Stay close to me."

Jared clears his throat, focusing on the Zaelich words in the tome. He concentrates hard, understanding their intentions and meanings while simultaneously fighting off the impending headache. Though Jared has gotten better at studying the book, it's still dangerous to go into it unprepared. Thankfully, he's a skilled Warlock with an iron mind.

Finally, Jared translates the words into English, reciting the incantation while also focusing on the destination. The faster Jared chants, the powerful the spell becomes, shaking the living room altogether.

At the very end of the incantation, the five are swallowed whole by a blinding white light, disappearing from the living room. The tome falls to the floor, closing shut.

Jared's phone rings from where he left it on the coffee table, though he's unable to answer.

It's from Mark Sheppard.

****

Jared's eyes shoot open moments later, gasping.

He finds himself on his back, staring up into the pretty, blue sky above. There's a few clouds up there, some partially eclipsing the sun. He squints, stretching out only to shortly realize that he's laying on grass. Jared frowns, looking around. He finds that he's in a meadow full of tall, beautiful yellow flowers that seemingly sweep the land.

It worked! It actually worked! He's in the game!

Jared stands up, wobbling slightly from the dimensional shift. At least his head and limbs are still intact. Looking around some more, Jared notices that he's pretty much alone, giving him enough reason to panic.

"Guys?" He calls out to them. "Jensen? Chad?"

The panic nearly becomes pure on terror at the thought of them all being scattered across worlds, but Jared is pleasantly surprised when he notices someone rising from the tall flowers a few yards away. It's Jensen, dressed in light, leather armor like his character in the actual game. He moans, also disoriented by the trip.

Once he regains his senses, however, he's all smiles, whooping and cheering about being here. It makes Jared smile despite feeling lightheaded. Once Jensen comes down from his brief high, he rushes up to Jared, hugging him with a grin.

"This is so cool! Best present ever! Can we do this again for our anniversary?"

Jared laughs. "Sure. Whatever you want." He squints, spotting Jensen's ears. He touches them, discovering that he can feel in this game. "You're an Elf."

Jensen touches his ears as well, giggling. "I'm an Elf? Oh, cool! Wait, why am I an Elf and you're not?"

"Have you seen your ears?"

"Oh, ha-ha." Jensen looks about as well, confused. "Well, we're here, but where's everyone else?"

As he says this, another person stands up not too far from them. It's Jeff dressed in a flowy, dark blue wizard's robe. He blinks, gazing up into the sky, then looks at his surroundings. He's taken aback, but once he glances down at his outfit, he growls. Jensen calls him over, and he reluctantly stomps through the flowers and grass to get to them.

"Why am I dressed like I'm going to Hogwarts?" Jeff questions.

"I have a theory on that," Jensen responds before looking at Jared's outfit. "And you as well."

Suddenly, the trio hear a garbled roar that sounds suspiciously like a yawn. They turn around to witness an incredible sight. A large, buff, red monster rises out of the meadow much like the rest of them. He stands almost 7 feet tall with black horns that protrudes from his forehead, curling upwards. The creature wears a black harness with ripped trousers and hooves for feet.

His appearance leaves the three men perplexed, but once he speaks, they instantly recognize him.

"Why are you all looking at me like that?"

"Kendrick?" Jared's eyes widen. "What the hell?"

"What? Do I have something on my head?" Kendrick goes to feel the top of his head, only to notice that his hand is red. He feels up his body, balking. "I'm red--why am I red? And I'm huge!? What is this? Ackles, explain this to me right now!"

"You're a Dæmundus," Jensen tries explaining, circling Kendrick, fascinated. "An eldritch being from the depths of the Underlands."

"What?"

"Basically, you're this game's version of a Demon, just more imposing."

"Oh. Cool, I suppose."

As they all try coping with their new surroundings, they take notice that Chad is the only one left out of the equation. Jared calls to him, walking around the beautiful meadow to find him. They're attracted to a noise that sounds similar to a squeal of utter delight and amazement. Looking to his right, Jared sees a man running free in the field, doing cartwheels and impressive flips that only an agile warrior is capable of.

Upon closer inspection, Jared notices a pair of cat ears poking out from the top of his blonde head as well as a tail to match. The man turns towards them, and Jared is surprised all over again. Despite never seeing him this way, he can't deny who this man really is with his light facial hair and bright, giddy smile.

Jared grins happily as he runs towards him. "Chad! It's Chad!"

"It's me!" Chad exclaims, catching up with the others. "It's really me! Holy hell, this is exactly how I looked before that treacherous wench cursed me. Well, minus the tail and stuff. Other than that, it's all pretty much the same!" Chad takes a moment to look into his pants, nodding once for confirmation. "Yup. Perfect copy."

"How is this possible?" Jeff queries. "How could the game know the real you?"

Jared's brows knit together in thought. "Magic is unpredictable. Perhaps it was Magic that recognized his true self, how he was before, and replicated it somehow. It's amazing."

"That book is looking to be more and more dangerous. Keep it under lock and key when you get back, okay?"

"I'm the only one who touches it anyway."

After the coven reunites, Jared takes a moment to admire the scenery. The game world itself is beautiful. The graphics are stunning on screen, but it doesn't beat being inside the actual game. Why hadn't he thought of this sooner? This is already so much fun! Nothing better than chilling out in a fictional fantasy land with your husband on your day off.

Chad and Jeff are an added bonus.

And then there's Kendrick.

Jared missed his other friend, but after that night...he somehow knew it'd never be the same again. Jared had suspected that, yes, there might have been something Kendrick was hiding from him, but he never thought his flirtatious jokes were actually how he really felt. Of course he didn't; Jared was--and still very much is--deeply in love with Jensen.

But it's good to have him back, if only for a little while.

Soon, Jensen begins looking at something that Jared can't see, moving his arms and hands as if flipping through pages or something.

"This is so cool."

"What is?" Jared stands with him. "What's going on?"

Jensen snaps out of it. "Huh? Oh--the menu screens! Just like it is on the outside, but so much better up close. Almost feels like VR."

Jeff shrugs, looking down at the grass. "I have no idea what's happening or what you're talking about."

Jensen sighs. "Ugh, okay. Right now, you can't see it, but I'm looking at the map of the game world. I'm pretty sure you all can, too. Just pull it up in the menu screen."

Everyone who isn't Jensen look to each other in confusion, further fueling the Psychic's exasperation. He tells them to focus, to look at the bottom right of their field of view until they spot a blinking white icon that looks suspiciously like a map. Jensen instructs them to open it, and they do.

The map of Ardosia is displayed for Jared, mouth agape in wonder. He sees where he and the others are on the map, and they're near a town it looks like, and a forest as well. There is a plethora of spots on the map that Jared inspects, points of interest; bandit camps, secret treasure caves, fishing spots alongside enigmatic "Places of Power" that seem to intrigue him.

Jeff chuckles. "This is unlike anything I've ever seen before. This place is huge!"

"The expansion pack gives you three additions regions," Jensen says with a smug grin. "More quests, more story content, more gear... Which reminds me."

Glancing at his husband again, Jared watches as Jensen flits around through the invisible menu screen, scrolling down until he finds whatever it is he's looking for. With a simple press of a non existent button, he's armed to the teeth with weapons. A gorgeous looking shortbow materializes in his back along with a quiver of arrows. On his belt are two daggers in sheaths, perfect for quick strikes.

"Crap, that looks cool!" Chad squeaks. "How'd you do that?"

Jensen takes his bow in his hands, nocking back the arrow and letting it fly into the air. Jared wonders if it's his character that's good at archery, or if Jensen has learned it somewhere. Perhaps it's both somehow.

"I just equipped it. You all should have a weapon as well. Go to your inventory screen and look for the weapon tab."

Jared tries his best to follow Jensen's instructions, eventually looking into the inventory screen to see that he only has one weapon available to him. It's just a simple sword hilt with the display words underneath saying Spellblade in bold letters. There's also a description.

Forged with the power from rare Magick crystals, Spellblades allow Spellswords to enter the heat of battle alongside other warriors. The Ones Who Dwelled Before were capable of this, and called such warriors "Hyclaen", which means "Hybrid" in Elder Speak.

Jared selects the so called weapon, and it instantly appears on his belt. He takes it in his hand, turning the ordinary looking object over.

"What is this?"

"A Spellblade," Jensen answers.

"It's just a simple sword hilt, not blade to be seen. Is it broken?"

"Have you ever video gamed before, honey?"

Jared grumbles. "Of course I have. Don't tease me. Help."

Jensen smiles, pretending to be annoyed by their attempts to acclimate well into the game. "In the menu screen is a move set list. It shows you how to use it. That goes for all of you."

Disregarding that last part, Jared scrolls through the menus until he finds what Jensen described. He pulls up the move set list for "Spellsword", quickly studying the backstory and lore behind it. Seems like the game is highly detailed in that regard. Nonetheless, Jared finds that each attack and skill has a small video accompanying them to show him, or rather the player, how to to pull it off.

One such skill he spots is Sunburst Flurry in which a Spellsword takes a literal slice of sunlight and uses it as a weapon with the Spellblade in the other hand for a devastating attack on an enemy. Works the same at night, though that's called Moonlight Flurry, with an addition skill when surrounded by darkness called Midnight Flurry.

So, the Spellblade isn't just a simple sword hilt after all. He just needs to "activate" it.

Jared takes it in his hand again, concentrating with intent. A blade of pure energy shoots from the empty space, nearly cutting his face. He presses his hand close to the blade, finding that it burns hotter than anything he's encountered so far. He laughs heartily, lazily swinging it around.

Jensen claps for him, telling him more. "Depending on the Magick crystals imbeded inside the hilt, it has elemental properties. Right now, there's a Solar Gem inside, but if you had a Glacier Gem, you'd practically have an ice sword."

"This is kinda like a lightsaber," Jared snickers, deactivating the blade. "I dig it."

Kendrick equips his weapon that appears on his back. He grabs it, finding that it's a greatsword with jagged edges. Its design is sophisticated, at least in this world, Jared guesses. It looks rather heavy, but he supposes on a creature like a Dæmundus could lift it.

"The description said this was something called a BreakerShield, but it's just a greatsword." Kendrick wonders aloud.

"It has two functions," Jensen informs. "Try it out."

Kendrick holds the sword as he looks through the menu to see what needs to be done. He clicks a button on the top of the hilt, transforming the greatsword into a massive shield that's easy to get behind in times of great stress. The others marvel at this, still flabbergasted over the uniqueness of the game.

Jeff ponders about his weapon, only to immediately find that he has three. A wand, a staff, and a tome. He sighs, resigned to only those three choices. He picks the tome, which the game calls the "Grimoire of Archmagicks".

Chad is the last to equip his weapons, finding that they're rapiers. Agile weapons for an agile fighter. Once the team is all equipped and have gone over their weapons and attacks, Jensen further explains their classes formally.

"Jared, you're a Spellsword, able to manipulate Magick as well as channel Magick into your weapon. Basically a bad ass Warrior Mage. Best of both worlds."

Jared nods. "Hell yeah."

"Kendrick's a Dæmundus, we went over this already. His character race is stronger than all of us, and if we're in battle, he'll have to take the more powerful enemies first."

"Got it." Kendrick hums.

"Jeff, you're a Wizard. You can use Dark Magick to curse our enemies and cause damage over time. You can also heal us in battle if we take damage. It costs Magick Points, but they recharge quickly. You're our support."

Jeff looks through his grimoire in thought. "Yup."

Lastly, Jensen looks to Chad who's more worried about his legs, jogging in place and jumping all around. "Your character belongs to a race called the Fellis, cat-like creatures who are quick on their feet and can zip across the battlefield in seconds. Dual swords and similar weapons are your forte."

"Awesome!" Chad chuckles. "This whole thing is awesome! Best idea ever!"

"As for me," Jensen finishes. "I guess I'm an Elf. Good with Bows and daggers. If I were a High Elf, I'd excel in Magick like a Wizard, but more of a Mage--"

"That's cool and all, but can we get to the asskicking?" Chad starts, twirling his swords around, jabbing at the air. "I'm too excited."

Jared snickers. "I am, too."

Jensen scratches his head as everyone begins to agree with Chad. It's adorable to see Jensen so flustered after all this time. If he had his way, they'd be here for days exploring and taking in quests that would most likely take them to that faraway part of the map covered in snow. As it stands, they'll have time for only a few long-ish quests or so.

"Well..." Jensen starts, opening his menu. "I'm in the quest log. We have plenty to go over."

Jared mirrors his actions, finally getting the hang of navigating through the HUD (Heads Up Display as Jensen had so graciously informed). He looks through the log, scanning through quests. He eventually lands on one that immediately catches his eye.

Defeat the Elder Dragon - Level 50.

Jared squints, selecting that as the primary objective for the group. A small notification appears in his field of view, up at the top right-hand corner. Down on the bottom is a circular map that displays the fastest route to the start of the quest. A mini-map. That one he's aware of. Hey, he's played other games before.

"We're killing that Elder Dragon," says Jared with a smug smile. "Just for you. You couldn't defeat it before because you had a shitty team. Well, now you have us: a not-so-shitty team. Sure, we'll have to take a crash course in combat, but we won't fail you, will we, guys?"

The rest of The Snack Pack agree with Jared. It's a pretty unanimous decision. Jensen smiles, cancelling out of the menus. "Alright. To the Elder Dragon."

"Great. How are we getting there?"

"The way forward would take--in in-game time, that is--at least a day. Luckily, we won't have to walk. I have a few Portstones."

"Portstone?"

"Small, round Magick rocks that transport you around the world in the blink of an eye. There's so much more lore to this than I'm describing."

"I'd rather waaaaalk!" Chad whines. "I can finally do this again, I don't wanna waste this gift."

"You can walk in the dungeon where the Elder Dragon rests. It's just a game, Chad. Come on."

"Ugh...fine!"

With that, Jensen opens his inventory screen again, pulling out a Portstone from thin air. It appears just as he described, but glows otherworldly with strange symbols etched around the rim of the stone that Jared can understand for some reason. With a simple press of his thumb, the Portstone activates, allowing Jensen to select their destination.

After that, Jensen tosses the Portstone up into the air where it bursts open in a blast of purple light, swallowing them up inside. In a heartbeat, they're outside of the Dragon's lair, all together and still in one piece. Jensen nods to them all, leading the charge into the dungeon ahead of them.

"It's getting darker further in." Jeff notes. "I think I have a skill for this."

Jeff opens his grimoire, presumably focusing on the move he viewed earlier in his skill set. He makes a fist, then releases, conjuring a ball of light to hover idly over their heads as they investigate the cave. It illuminates the way for them; Jensen grins, patting Jeff on the back.

"Getting the hang of it, I see."

"Just so."

Jared looks at the walls of the cave as they continue on, spotting etchings of beings with blue eyes and pointy, Elf-like ears trapping and enslaving those who don't look like them. Humans and other races. The drawings are accompanied by a language made up of the same symbols on the Portstone Jared saw moments before. He stops a moment, touching the wall. It feels so real. Everything here does.

"It says 'The Ones Who Dwelled Before chained and killed our kind with Magick unheard of, using us as slaves for their wicked deeds.' I'm guessing they aren't the good guys in this world."

"They weren't," says Jensen with a sad expression. "As the name suggests, they came before all races--brings born of pure, raw Magick when the world was created. They were like gods. They had servants who worshipped them, too. Dragons."

Jared inspects closer, seeing another drawing of the other races breaking free from their bonds, using weapons to fight back against The Ones Who Dwelled Before.

"There's more. 'The day came when the lesser races joined forces, vanquishing our oppressors. Thus, a strong covenant was born, and Ardosia was founded, formed into the four territories.' Four?"

"The Dwarves take the North in the mountains; Fellis in the South, Humans here in the East, and Elves in the West. It's all looked after by the current ruler: King Uldon, a man with Elven and Human blood in his veins, but we don't find that out near the end of the game."

"You must really enjoy playing this game." Kendrick teases, snickering.

Jensen blushes. It's true. "Shut up. I just love the history."

"Mhm."

"Fuckin Demon..."

Jared lets out a pitiful noise before moving away from the cave wall. It's not real, none of this is, but he feels sorry for the races that went through such barbarity all those years ago. It's eerily similar to the incidents that have happened in the past with Witch Hunters during the Dark Ages. There was so much fear--men decapitated in front of their families, children drowned, women burning at the stake.

It was pure madness. Jared was lucky enough to read the worn journal of a survivor by the name of Ethel. The Witch detailed how a man named Hagen Padalecki saved her life alongside a polite black cat. She later married him, inadvertently becoming one of Jared's ancestors.

His family is rich in history, both fascinating and sad. Much like the fictional people who live in Ardosia. Jared has to give props to the game developers for making him feel connected to the world so far. It has him wondering more about other mysteries scattered across the game world.

The party walks through the cave some more, encountering odd, glowing mushrooms on the walls that seem to guide them. Jensen leads them, but he soon signals them all stop. They obey, crouching down. He points to an open area in the cave. Jared looks, seeing a group of small, but ferocious looking creatures with large heads and sharp, archaic weapons that seem rusted.

Above their heads, Jared sees what he assumes to be a health bar and number next to it. 60. Enemy level.

"Goblins," whispers Jensen. "A whole pack of them."

"What's the best strategy?" Jared hears himself asking, fully immersed in the role.

Jensen notices, grinning. "Glad you asked. Goblins are weak to the elements; ice, flame, thunder. Wizards are pretty much godsends in clearing out a small group."

Jeff stands to his full height, flipping open the pages to his grimoire. "I guess it's up to me, then."

"Give 'em a little shock."

Jeff raises his hand towards them, and the pages flip on their own. His eyes glow white, and in no time, a large bolt of lightning shoots from his fingertips, killing at least 3 unsuspecting Goblins. However, his attack wasn't enough to ward them all off. Alerted, the remaining Goblins follow the noise and flash of lightning to its source, discovering the party.

They all stand with Kendrick taking on his role, getting in front of them to defend. Jensen calls for them to attack, and they all spring into action.

Jensen breaks out his bow, shooting Goblins right through their skulls. He uses a skill that allows him to pull back the string farther, strengthening the blow. When he releases, the arrow pierces a Goblin only to fly straight through and into another one unlucky enemy.

As Jensen tends to his side, Jared activates his Spellblade, swinging left and right, slashing through the vicious monsters with ease. Since he had an elemental weapon, each attack he successfully lands does double the damage, allowing him to kill more elegantly. Remembering the skills of his class, Jared combines raw, brutal Magick with precise strikes from his Spellblade.

He looks over, seeing that Jeff is casting a powerful spell, but it's taking too long to complete. Kendrick comes to his aid, sweeping his greatsword out to kill a Goblin that had gotten a little too close for comfort. He swings it to and fro, giving Jeff more than enough time to finish, and once he does, he releases a surge of Magick that weakens the Goblins significantly, causing them to take damage more and more every second.

Previously hanging back, Chad jumps into the scene, picking off any hapless stragglers who might've thought they would get a chance to strike back. He makes short work of them with his rapiers, sticking them through and gracefully gliding from one to another until they all fall dead, defeated. His tail twitches left and right as he sheathes his swords, grinning.

"Piece of cake." Kendrick states. "All I have to do is swing this big sword and protect you all? Not bad, not bad at all."

"It can get tedious, believe me," Jensen says. "Especially if we all go down at the same time. If any one of our health bars reach zero, we're put into an 'unconscious state' where only a conscious teammate can revive you. So, don't go down."

Jared laughs, walking ahead. "We'll try not to." He suddenly sees something glowing on the ground, a small brown pouch. He picks it up, intrigued. "What's this?"

"Loot." Jensen answers. "After a fight like that, I expected we'd get something. First come, first served. Collect it, see what you got."

Jared examines the unassuming, glowing sack, but when he opens it, it disappears. A notification on his HUD alerts him that he's obtained a cloak of some kind. Investigating, he opens up the inventory screen, scrolling down to the armor tab. He finds a new item.

Cloak of the Adventurer. Worn by those destined to the land in search of adventure; many of those who wore this have passed it down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, the last one to wear it was killed by Goblins who stole it from his corpse.

Attack +25
Magick +25
MP Boost +10
Vitality +10

Though the backstory makes Jared frown, the stats in the item really draw his attention. Could definitely be useful in fighting the Elder Dragon. Without hesitation, Jared equips the cloak. It's a dark green shoulder cape. It covers Jared's shoulders, hood already up and over his head. It fits perfectly, though he suspect's that that is the case with most outfits and armor in this game.

Jensen smirks at him. "Looks good on you."

"I agree...but the last person who wore this cloak died."

"I'm sure that won't happen to you."

"Comforting."

The party presses on deeper into the Dragon's cave, encountering more Goblins along the way, some dropping gold and others dropping useful loot like weapons. Chad gets a brand new set of swords that have a higher damage output, so yay him.

Jensen takes point as the unofficial leader since he knows the most about this game, leading them through secret passageways and shortcuts. He warns them of traps, using one of his abilities to spot them. He's a pro at Fantasy Quest, and it certainly shows.

Ultimately, the party comes across a large, spiral staircase that leads further down into the earth. An ominous chill travels down Jared's spine. There's something foreboding about it, especially considering that the torches along the wall instantly light up at their presence.

"The Elder Dragon is below," Jensen tells the group. "This'll be a fight for the ages. Let's go."

As the leader, Jensen directs them down the stone staircase where Jared admires the craftsmanship. He starts to surmise that it must be over a thousand years old, but quickly remembers that he's in a fictional land, and that such history on stonework hasn't been developed by the makers of the game.

With the others in front of them, Jared takes a moment to speak with Kendrick, something he hasn't done since college.

"Enjoying yourself?"

"More than I care to admit, actually." Kendrick chuckles softly. "Same can be said about you, though. You're a natural. One might say you were born for this world."

Jared smiles. "We haven't even scratched the surface of this vast, open space, so I doubt that." The familiar tension between them resurfaces as they walk down the stairs. Jared bites his lip, lowering his voice. "Are we ever going to talk about what happened that night?"

Kendrick clenches his jaw. "Don't. Please."

"You left us without warning, just gone. We were concerned."

"I had to do what was best for me, and for you, apparently. You were so happy with him, still are. I knew when to back down, Wonder Boy."

The nickname is a pleasant reminder of their friendship, but even so, Jared aches. The Coven wasn't the same without him.

"Ken--"

"Besides, you preferred your men on the Human spectrum, remember? Humans don't fall for Demons. That's all I have to say about that."

He leaves it at that, and they continue on in silence. Jared is forced to remember that fateful time in college when that student unleashed hell on the entire student population. It looked like something out of a Stephen King book. She did a number on them all, but Jared and Jensen were the ones to put a stop to her.

And after all was said and done...Jensen got down on one knee and proposed in their apartment.

That night was the last they ever saw of Kendrick. It makes sense now, though Jared kind of got the hint when Kendrick lurched forward and kissed him. So unexpected, so...shocking. He was so stunned that he didn't even tell Jensen.

Pushing those thoughts away for later, the party finally makes their way down the stairs, standing in front of a pair of large doors that leads into the colosseum were the Elder Dragon lies in wait. Jensen moves to open the doors, but stops.

Chad's brows close together. "What's wrong, Jensen?"

"I just...I never killed the Elder Dragon before. What if I fail again?"

"You got us now," Jeff says. "And we follow orders pretty well. Sometimes. I'm gonna pretend I understand a single thing in this game, but from what I've seen so far, you enjoy it. It has a special place in your heart; you love it. That's why we're here. To help you. It's not like we'll actually die here if we get seriously hurt, right Jared?"

Jared swallows, rubbing his wrists. "Er..."

"Right, Jared?"

"Right! No, no--right! We'll be okay. Just, uh, don't go down."

Jared realizes that his half-hearted reassurances are fooling no one, but they all make an unspoken promise to stick together. With Jensen slightly more enthused, he pushes open the doors to the colosseum.

They slowly walk inside, stepping on the bones and ashes of the poor souls who were brave enough to face off against the beast, only to fall in battle. The attention to detail within this game is outstanding! Looking up, Jared sees that the ceiling is practically infinite, giving off some light at the very top. The pair is quite vast, and in the center of it all lies the Elder Dragon, curled up and seemingly taking a little nap.

Even from this distance, they can all see that he's incredibly huge, bigger in person than when Jared viewed him on the screen. It sleeps on a bed of bones, mostly Human, though there seems to be other races mixed in as well. It's more disturbing than fascinating.

As they contemplate their next course of action, Jensen pulls put his bow, readying an arrow. He lifts his head towards Jeff.

"You can provide us with additional Magick shields that last exactly 30 seconds with a cooldown period of 45 seconds. Cast it now."

Jeff opens his grimoire. "Yup."

With a simple gesture, a blue light encompasses the party, vanishing shortly afterwards. On the corner of the HUD, Jared spots the duration of the spell, seeing that it's already begun counting down. Using that to his advantage, Jensen executes the same skill he used once before to draw the bowstring back, unleashing a mighty blow upon the Dragon.

The force of the attack knocks one of the Elder Dragon's horns clean off, causing it to roar awake in pain. Once it sees the party and realizes just what's going on, he growls, preparing to fight head on. The humongous, four-legged, green scaled lizard glares at them. To everyone's amazement save for Jensen, it's speaks with a garbled, sophisticated accent.

"M'harad enowuite ket ha miyaet? Dv'ire mes nas eckta qixt Mortaleti kliy feft!"

Though Jared doesn't understand the language, subtitles appear as the Elder Dragon speaks, allowing  them all to decipher his words.

Who dares to attack me in my slumber? Puny, powerless Mortals with deathwishes. Feel my wrath!

The real battle begins then, and the Elder Dragon rears its head back, smoke and flames building up in its mouth. Per Jensen's command, they briefly split into two groups: Jared with Jensen, Kendrick with Jeff and Chad. They all narrowly avoid being roasted to bits, though Kendrick ends up taking the brunt of the attack.

Luckily for him, his character race is 90% immune to fire damage. Okay, so Jared did a little digging in the in-game glossary to see their strengths and weaknesses. It was extremely helpful! A small chunk of Kendrick's health is chipped away, but he shrugs off the flames as Jared and Jensen prepare for a volley of attacks.

Jensen grabs 3 arrows from his quiver, nocking them back and finally loosing them to the Elder Dragon. The arrows strike at it's right eye, blinding him. In the beast's confusion and aggressive state, Jared takes the time to utilize the skills he's memorized. He deploys a skilled called Mesmerizing Flash, making his Spellblade soar in the air towards the monster where it slashes and cuts in a flurry of blurred movement.

It does a considerable amount of damage to the Dragon, shaving off one of its 7 health bars. Only 6 more to go!

The battle rages on as Jensen does his best not to miss his mark, firing arrow after arrow at the Dragon's face. He's not able to shoot the other eye, but he successfully breaks off the other horn, stripping away yet another health bar.

As anticipated, the Elder Dragon roars in anguish, lashing out with random bursts of flame. Jared dodges out of the way using his Blink ability--short range teleportation. Jensen latches onto a wall, making using of a grappling hook strapped to his wrist while Jeff hurls a plethora of damage dealing spells. Kendrick is there protecting him, of course, reflecting the Dragon's fireballs with that giant greatsword of his.

"He's almost down to 3 health bars," Jensen yells to the party. "Thats when the real trouble starts! He'll call out to his Lesser Dragons for backup."

Jared grunts as he blinks away from yet another blast of firebreath. "Do you have a plan?"

"When the Lesser Dragons come out, you all focus on them. I'll draw the Elder Dragon's attention to me."

It's a plan then. It's a solid strategy full of risks, but Jensen is a Level 50 Rogue. He knows what he's doing.

Soon, the 4th health bar is depleted, leaving the Elder Dragon with only 3 left. Just as Jensen had said before, the hulking beast sends out a gut-wrenching screech that stuns the party, leaving them open for a short period. Not long after, the colosseum around them quakes, and the Lesser Dragons worm their way out of the small cracks in the earth and walls.

Jensen does as he said he'd do, drawing the Elder Dragon's ire towards himself. Jared and the rest of the gang team up for devastating blows against the smaller enemies, yielding amazing results. Jeff enchants Chad's swords with lightning, allowing him to chain quick attacks across the battlefield. He dashes through the arena, slicing them down along with Jared who comes to his aid when he starts getting overwhelmed.

While Jensen enters a thrilling game of cat and mouse with the Elder Dragon, the beast whips its tail back and forth, angered. Luckily, Jared blinks out of the way in time, but it's Chad who takes the hit head on, causing him to be sent flying through the air with his health now at zero.

"Chad!" Jared shouts, rushing towards him with Jeff.

Though his character hasn't died, he *is* dying, at least until he receives help.

"Damn, that actually hurt," he chuckles, helpless. "A little bit of healing here, Magic Man?"

Jeff complies, grimoire in hand. "One moment."

Jeff begins casting a healing spell to get Chad to full health again. The only problem, however, is the casting time itself. Nearly 15 seconds for the highest rated healing spell in the game, apparently. It takes too long, in fact, that the Elder Dragon's attention goes back towards them. It growls, ignoring Jensen's feeble yet accurate dagger throws.

The Elder Dragon goes for another flame attack, fire brimming in its hellish maw. No matter Jeff's attempts, the spell is not yet finished. It seems that it's over then, perhaps. Jared thought they could do this, that he could help out his husband witj his favorite game at the moment, but it appears to have been in vain. And he doesn't even know if they'll die for real!

That's the real kicker.

In time, the Elder Dragon releases its firebreath, spewing it out in their direction. Jared stands in front of Jeff and Chad, determined to protect them despite not having the skills to do so. However, just before the flames reach them, Kendrick steps in front of them all, quickly changing his greatsword into a grand shield. It blocks the fire attack successfully; Jeff finishes the spell, finally able to bring Chad back from the brink of death.

He stands up with newfound vigor, taking cover behind Kendrick with Jared and Jeff until the Elder Dragon stops, evermore angered. Jensen grins down on them from his well perched spot on the colosseum wall. He swings about the environment like the hotter version of a Spider-Man, grappling into solid surfaces as Jared comes up with a plan.

"We're gonna cut that tail off to give Jensen an opening."

Kendrick pants, mildly exhausted. "How do you expect us to do that? Is it even possible in the game?"

"The monster glossary says as much; they become weaker when the tail is cut, and in that state, I think Jeff can Silence it."

"Silence?" Jeff chimes in.

"Keep it from breathing more fire," says Jared. "Now, we all have to work together on this if we wanna win. We're so close. Ready?"

"Ready!" Chad exclaims, brandishing both weapons and charging. "Let's do this!"

Though Chad's enthusiasm is invigorating, it's dangerous to face the monster head on again after nearly dying the first time. So, Jared sprints along with him, leaving Kendrick and Jeff to run towards the opposite side of the Dragon.

It breathes fire down upon them again, though Jared is able to grab Chad, blinking closer and closer to their destination. As the Dragon tries to swipe at them with its claws, Jared blinks them yards into the air where he releases Chad up to the Dragon's face where he jabs his swords into the other eye.

The Elder Dragon shrieks in pain as Jared safely catches Chad, bringing him back to the ground. With the Dragon permanently blinded, it lashes out everywhere, unpredictable in its assault. During the confusion, Jeff and Kendrick slip behind the Elder Dragon where Jeff enhances the damage solely to Kendrick's BreakerShield. He raises it high above his head before slamming it down, shouting like a warrior.

He severs the tail with one clean slash where it falls limp onto the ground. Acting quickly, Jeff casts his dark curse upon the Elder Dragon, making the beast's firebreathing cease.

With that all set, Jensen swings out from his perch, dropping down several stories towards the Dragon. He unsheathes his daggers just as he lands on the Elder Dragon's head, plunging them deep into its huge skull over and over again. Roaring but defenseless, it has no other option but to thrash about madly, giving them all an opening to finish it off with their strongest attacks.

Within moments, the deed is done, and the Elder Dragon falls to the ground below, defeated but not yet dead. Jensen jumps down from its head, regrouping with the others. They stand tall amongst each other, ready for a reprisal in case it was just a fluke. But it's not. It's health bar has been fully depleted, and it's skin begins flaking away, crumbling.

The Elder Dragon lifts its head, speaking to Jensen.

"Nesteste, Elevan et ver maligua. Hyi monstra dereta un dertys mahe gron jiu ghestral Altunsin. Evastres...nestiea..."

The subtitles are clear on this one.

Alas, I've been defeated by an Elf and a party of bastards. Beaten by monster killers who are monsters themselves. Now I can be at peace, become one with the Untainted...as it had been...before.

With those last words, the Elder Dragon falls dead, becoming nothing but ash, leaving behind a hollow skeleton in its wake. There's silence after that, but once the reality of their situation catches up to them, they cheer in glee. Jensen rushes to Jared, hugging him and jumping up and down.

"We did it, we did it, we did it!"

"You did it." Jared smiles, bracketing Jensen's face with his hand. "I'm so proud of you."

"No, it wasn't just me." Jensen smiles back, looking at his Coven. "It was all of us. I couldn't have done it without you guys."

"Happy to help," Jeff says. "Though I gotta admit, I wasn't expecting to have this much fun playing as a much cooler version of myself. Cast times need work though."

Kendrick snorts. "It certainly was an adventure. Kinda glad I stopped in today. Now what?"

Just as Kendrick finishes that sentence, a large set of doors form where the Elder Dragon once sat, towering over them. They open on their own, showing nothing but a bright, white light on the other side. Jared smirks, pointing at the way forward.

"We go home."

Next to him, he hears Chad while, dropping his weapons and pouting like a child. "What? Noooo! I wanna keep fighting!"

"Chad, we gotta go back, you know that. It's just a video game. We've been over this."

"Jared, I can use my legs here! I feel just like I did in the Old King's army; I can still kick some ass in this world. Please, just a little while longer?"

Jared sighs, shaking his head. He puts his hand on Chad's shoulder, still not quite over how amazing he looks. This is his true form. Minus the cat ears and tail, at least.

"We can't stay here, we really need to get back...but we can come back and go on more adventures."

"Really?"

"Maybe."

"That's not a no."

"Definitely not a yes either, smartass. Come on."

The Snack Pack, having finally and triumphantly defeated the Elder Dragon, walks through the doors to get back home.

****

They appear in the living room as if nothing ever happened, zipping back in a bright light. They all look at their bodies and their limbs, seeing that, yes, they're pretty much back to normal. Jared glances down at Chad on the floor who has regrettably reverted back into a cat.

He sighs, licking his paws. "One day soon. One day..."

As they recuperate, the group chuckles amongst themselves, laughing at the absurd, whacky adventure that they had just went on together.

Suddenly, Jared hears his phone chime from the coffee table. He excuses himself from the others, eventually picking it up. Looking at the screen, Jared sees that he's had over 30 missed calls from Mark Sheppard as well as almost 100 texts from him. Looking at the time, Jared sees that he was in the game for at least 3 hours. Didn't feel like it was that long.

Well...time flies when you're having fun. That still doesn't explain why Mark was blowing up his phone on a day off. As if on cue, however, Mark calls Jared's phone again, but this time he's quick to answer.

"Hello?"

"Jesus Christ, Padalecki, what the hell have you been up to?"

"Enjoying my day off like a sane person. Why are you calling me? You've left so many messages, I'm sure what's going on--"

"There's been a jailbreak at the Lichcom Facility in Limbo."

Jared scoffs, frowning. "And I was the go-to? There are other Peacekeepers, Sheppard. Call them--"

"It's Carver. Jeremy Carver. He's escaped."

Jared's heart stops momentarily, and drops his phone to the floor. All noise is drowned out, and he stares blankly ahead as he attempts to process what he just heard...but he can't. There's no way he can.

The man who killed his parents--the man who ruined his life--had escaped the most secure prison for Magic Users.

It makes Jared feel sick, and even as his Coven try to help him, asking him what's wrong, Jared falls to his knees, retching, heaving onto the hardwood floor.

This day just went from stellar to disastrous in seconds.

Chapter Text

There is...a lot to unpack here.

Everywhere Jared steps, there's bodies. Bodies upon bodies, all covered in blood. For some, there's nothing left but blood, exploded into a wet mess. There were some prisoners caught in the crossfire, which makes the multiple crime scenes more complicated.

It didn't take long for Jared to get to Lichcom Facility after receiving word from Sheppard. Eventually, after being broken out of his brief catatonic state, he was comforted by his Coven who demanded to know what had happened. Of course Jared told them, it's be foolish not to. Jeff is with him right now in fact, speaking with survivors and other witnesses while Jared investigates.

His investigation leads him to the lower levels that house the most dangerous individuals. He finds a group of Peacekeepers speaking with a man--a guard. There are two cells that neighbor one another, one for Carver and one for Kane as well. It has to be some kind of horrible coincidence that these men found each other, perhaps somehow bonding over their shared hatred over Jared. It's the worst feeling in the goddamn world.

He wasn't notified that Kane had also escaped when he first talked to Sheppard, but he has since learned that he was killed rather gruesomely. Apparently. Jared hasn't been to see the coroner just yet. He's still looking for clues. One such clue is Kane's cell door. It's been blasted in from the outside, meaning that Carver helped him escape.

If he did, then why kill him? It's a mystery that Jared desperately wants answered, but he doesn't even know where to begin.

Clenching his jaw, he steps inside Carver's cell, finding that it's pretty much a standard cell for isolated criminals here. Blank walls, a toilet and sink--Carver's got the full package here. What's odd, however, are the books stacked neatly on the floor near the bed Carver slept in. Jared frowns, walking over to take a seat. He picks up a book.

The Tempest by Shakespeare. A classic.

It's strange, though. Inmates such as Carver aren't allowed to possess contraband of any kind. On a whim, Jared opens the book, making an startling yet puzzling discovery. Each page of the lengthy book has been defaced; words scribbled out and written over. A phrase is repeated within every page.

Catch it, kill it
Catch it, kill it
Catch it, kill it
CATCH IT, KILL IT
CATCH IT KILL IT!!!

He shuts the book closed, disturbed by Carver's inane scribblings. He's mentally unstable, always was. That's what Jared chooses to believe. No one else would kill and torture a loving family just for the hell of it. The smile on his face when Jared caught him butchering his mother...

It was horrifying. Madness was what it truly was.

Ever more curious, Jared sifts through the other books in Carver's pile, discovering that those, too, have been vandalized with that ominous phrase from before. What does it mean? Catch what? Kill what!? Jared? It's possible, but at the same time, he feels like Carver isn't talking about catching and killing him.

What kind of power does this fucker have? His abilities should've been suppressed! He's nothing but a watered down version of a Warlock; though Jared loathes the slight discrimination of Sorcerers and Sorceresses, he's well aware that their abilities are not in par with a man or woman born with Magic.

And that's why he's trying to figure out how Carver freed Kane and slaughtered all those people.

Jared gets up, taking one of the books with him as he calls over a Peacekeeper. It's Tom. How did he not see him before? Strange.

"What do you have?" Jared asks.

"The breakout occurred at 8:10 this morning," Jason tells him, keeping his voice down. "Origin point right here, obviously. Carver broke out first, then got to Kane before knocking out a guard in the way up."

Jared frowns. "They knocked out a guard?"

"Yeah... Is that surprising?"

"It should be considering that Carver spared absolutely no one who got in their way during the breakout. There's something off about this." Jared looks over Tom's shoulder at the portly guard being asked questions. "That him?"

Tom nods. "Yes. Andrew Dabb, he mainly takes the morning shifts here. What are you thinking?"

"You already know what I'm thinking."

Jared says this as he leaves Tom behind, going straight for Andrew and the other Peacekeepers. He gives them his name and rank, and they leave him to further investigate the heinous crimes spread about the facility. Finally, Jared and Andrew are left alone where Jared takes a seat on a stool in front of him.

It's hard to pin down Andrew's thoughts when he looks into his mind. It's mostly just noise, but also a repeated phrase. He's reciting the...alphabet? What a strange thing to do.

And yet...Jared can't help but to think that it's a technique of some kind to push him out.

"Jared Padalecki, Captain of the 6th Squadron."

"Andrew Dabb," the guard says. "But people call me Andy."

"I'd rather call you Andrew." Jared says curly, tapping his fingers on his knee. He holds up The Tempest, watching Andrew squirm in his seat. "Where'd he get this?"

"Where'd who get what?"

"It's a little too late to be playing these kind of games with so many bodies to clean up, Andrew. Where did Carver get this? You do know that this counts as contraband, right? Magic users housed in Section 4 and below aren't permitted to have this, so my guess is that we've got someone supplying him. But who?"

"You're, uh, guess is as good as mine--"

"What time did you start your shift this morning?"

"Er--7:50."

"Interesting. Only 20 minutes before the breakout. Even more interesting, the cameras around this Section seemed to have been disabled around the time of the breakout, scrambling the footage. Guess we won't know what happened."

Andy sweats, smiling. "I guess that's it then, huh?"

Jared smirks. "Not quite. We won't know what happened right now, but I've got a team of experts working to decode the transmission so we can see everything that happened down here. It's only a matter of time, Andrew. Do you know what happened?"

"No..."

Jared's nostrils flare as he turns the pages of the book, showing Andrew the writings in them. "What does this mean, Andrew? Catch it, Kill it--what does it mean!?"

"I don't know!"

"Did you help them escape this facility!? If I find out that you had anything to do with this--!"

"Padalecki, enough."

Jared turns his head, seeing that Mark Sheppard has finally decided to grace the facility with his presence. Jared stands up, non-verbally screaming at his superior fir interrupting his unofficial yet almost complete interrogation.

Mark looks to Andrew, gesturing towards the stairs. "You're free to go."

Andrew nods profusely, beginning to leave the area. "Thank you."

He shares one last look at Jared before rushing up the stairs and out of sight. Once he's gone, Jared fumes, face burning bright red. He glares at Mark who looks on at him unimpressed. What a fucking douchebag.

"Are you kidding me?" Jared starts, furious. "You're letting him get away! I wasn't finished with him."

"You want to interrogate him? Do so at Headquarters, get an arrest warrant." Mark sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You can't just question him like that without cause. You know how it goes. Protocol--"

"Fuck protocol. I had him right where I wanted him, Mark, and he would've said something had you not intervened! You gotta let me go after him and bring him in. Please!"

"Jared, he's as much a victim as everyone else in this place--this isn't right."

"No, it isn't right!" Jared shouts, catching himself when he notices other watching. "It's not right. This book--see this? He's been giving Carver contraband, a whole fucking stack of books. You know what's inside? A message: Catch it, Kill it. I need to find out what that means, and I think Andrew knows something! I could bring him in on a violation, Mark, come on. You know me, you know I'm good at this! When has even the slightest hunch of mine let you down?"

It takes a long while for Mark to respond, but by the look on his face, Jared knows that he has lost this time. He's aware of the things Mark has put up with since joining the Peacekeeping Corp, skipping right over the academy to be instated into a unit right away. Jared has bypassed much because of his advanced knowledge and heritage...but this time, it won't work.

He's not getting his way this time.

"It's circumstantial," Mark mutters. "My hands are tied. We can't bring him in based on a few books, Jared. We just don't have time for this. When we decipher the codes on the video files, we'll see what really went down."

Jared scoffs, looking down. "Yeah, and he'll be long gone by then..."

"I understand that no one wants to catch Carver more than you, but we've got bigger fish to fry right now. Get back to HQ. The coroner finished doing the autopsy on Chris Kane. You'll need to take a look at it. It's not normal."

Jared swallows, nervous about the implications. But in 10 minutes time, he's staring down at the body of Christian Kane, once the vessel of Chaos.

He was a tortured soul that reached out to the wrong entity who warped his mind beyond repair. Maybe this was for the best. Death was always Kane's final stop, but not like this. Now, he's nothing more than a withered husk with greyed out eyes and even paler skin. His hair is dull and lifeless, body cold to the touch.

All that ever was within Kane is now gone.

Jared stands with the coroner who types up a file on her tablet into the database. He's visited Kim here many times during his career, and she definitely knows her shit. He even learned a thing or two from her. She's good at what she does.

Once she finishes, she further exposes Kane's dead body, bringing the sheet down to his chest that's been cut open by Kim herself.

"Look at everything and tell me what you see."

Jared squints, licking his lips. He stares at the dead body before him, analyzing each little detail. "He was attacked by a...Demon?"

She nods. "Yes. His wounds, though minor, are consistent with a Demonic attack. There's residue all over him. The Demon devoured his soul, filling him up with so much dread. See his heart, how shriveled up it is? He was scared to death, and had his life force drained."

"Scared to death..."

Jared searches his mind for the answers; he knows that there's something there, but it's hard to piece together. But then, suddenly, he understands. The fact that he didn't catch on sooner is something he mentally reprimands himself for.

"Fear Demon," Jared whispers out. "That's what killed him."

Kim covers Kane's torso. "Yup, that was my conclusion as well...until I saw this." She directs Jared's attention to the victim's neck where she illuminates red and purple marks around Kane's throat. "These are human prints. He was held up by someone."

"That can't be right..."

"And yet it's all right here. I ran them through the system to see if there's a match. I'll let you take a guess on who immediately popped up."

"Jeremy Carver." Jared growls under his breath. "He killed Kane?"

Kim points at him in confirmation. "Right again, though I'm thinking one held him down while the other did the deed."

"Working together. Right. So, the only question we have now is how Carver and the Fear Demon found each other. Dammit. Just how many more of my past enemies are gunning after me?"

It's a question that Jared doesn't really want the answer to. With Carver's little prison break successful, he's left the guards and other authorities scrambling to see which inmates are still missing and which ones have been killed in cold blood. There have been plenty of dangerous criminals Jared has put away over the course of his career, but none of them as crazed or unpredictable as Carver and Kane.

Jared thinks harder, however, when he remembers what Kendrick told him a little while ago about Fear: He's gone. His trail has gone cold, no signs of activity coming over the "Demon Radio Station". Did Fear somehow manage to cloak himself from being detected by the others, or is there something more that Jared is missing? It's clear from the evidence on Kane's body and from the lucky survivors in the prison that the Fear Demon was involved, but they don't mention him specifically.

Just what the fuck is going on? All Jared knows is that Carver is wrapped up in something he can't possible hope to control. He'll slip up, and whatever he's trying to do will fail. Hard.

****

Typing away on his desktop, Jensen listens to his client's business proposals on the phone tucked in the crook of his neck and shoulder. He's secretly counting down the hours and minutes and seconds left until he's able to rush out of here. Too bad Williams is feeling especially chatty today, and it isn't even lunch yet.

"No, no, I completely understand, Maxwell." Jensen says, fighting back a yawn. "It's a tough economy, I know. But you know what? It's not even a problem. You know why? Because I'm in the same boat. Things are constantly changing, so let's keep with the change. Two steps ahead always, right? Hey, Max, so I got another meeting in a few minutes, how about I get back to you around 3--sound good? Alright, take care. Bye bye."

Jensen hangs up the phone, putting it down in the receiver with an exhausted sigh. Sometimes he wonders if he took the right approach with this; is this what he really wanted to do? To take over his father's position 6 years after college? It maybe wasn't his first choice, but Jensen would rather have someone in the family continuing their legacy than a stranger with a hidden agenda.

Overall, he's actually happy with the outcome. It definitely is slow at times, but when it's not, it keeps him on his toes. It gets exciting.

As he looks at the picture of him and Jared on his desk, Jensen's cell phone rings. He takes it out, smiling; he answers without a second thought.

"I was just thinking about you."

"Do you have a minute?" Jared says on the other line. "I need to talk to you."

Jensen frowns. "Yeah, I got time. You okay? Something wrong?"

"It's nothing too serious... Actually, that's a lie. It's pretty serious. I just need someone to talk to right now."

Jensen stands up, putting on his jacket. He takes his car keys out of the pockets as he continues to speak with his husband. "That's why we're married, honey. Meet me at our favorite spot. I love you."

"Okay. I love you, too."

Jared hangs up, and Jensen already misses him. He gets anxious as he nearly speeds to their usual spot for dining out for casual dates. Surprisingly, Jensen finds Jared there first, already calmly adding small pinches of sugar into his coffee. Jensen smiles, eventually joining him in their favorite booth.

Before he sits, he kisses Jared on the top of his head warmly, reminding him that despite the current situation--whatever it may be--everything will work out in the end. It just has to. Jensen orders a drink as well, tapping the table's surface randomly.

"Missed you."

Jared snorts, but smiles. "It's only been a few hours."

"I still missed you."

"I missed you, too." Jared licks his lips, exhaling after a long time. "I've been sitting on this for a few days, but...I gotta tell you. I'm not supposed to, but I will anyways, because you're a part of this as well."

Jensen leans in, invested. "Go on. Say what you have to."

"Carver and Kane were working together during the breakout."

"What!?" Jensen's jaw drops. "Seriously?"

"Yeah, but that's not even the worst part. We tracked the coordinates that was put into the transport portal's console, and found Kane dead, soul completely devoured. Oh, and here's the kicker: Fear Demon did it. We have reason to believe that Carver and the Fear Demon are also working together now." Jared makes a motion as if holding a mic, only to drop said mic. "Boom."

This brand new information is hard to process at first, but Jensen can easily believe it. How could it not? With the world of Witches, Demons, and Psychic phenomena revealed to him as a teen, it's not that much of a stretch. Jensen has every reason to believe that what Jared is saying is the truth. After getting that phone call from Sheppard a few days ago and rushing to the prison, Jared's witnessed the aftermath.

But at the same time, Jensen wished Jared could've told him sooner. They don't keep secrets in this marriage, and even though it goes against protocol for Jared to talk about an ongoing case like this, Jensen also has history with Kane and the monster who rode around in his body for a week, feeding on his insecurities and negative emotions until he nearly died. He has to be kept in the loop, too. He's not some helpless sidekick anymore. He's a Psychic with considerable power.

He reaches his hand towards Jared, palm face up. "Show me. I wanna see."

Jared nods, swallowing. He places his hand in Jensen's, opening his mind to allow him to view his memories. Jensen's eyes close, and he begins to see everything that saw in the prison.

Corpses lining the passageways, blood splattered all over the walls; grown men crying, pissing themselves over the "horror" they've seen. "Nothing like it," they said. "Nothing like anything I've seen. My worst fears come to life!" Carver's cell, some books. "Catch it, Kill it!" scrawled over and over again on dark ink. A suspicious guard, Kane's mangled body, an autopsy.

But then, just as Jensen prepares to leave Jared's mind, he sees a small flash of something. Accidentally, he opens that small tear, finding himself back in the apartment he and Jared shared during their stay in college.

Jared pushes Kendrick away, shocked and horrified, but blushing, face burning bright red in embarrassment and shame. Kendrick's eyes display fear, fear of rejection and a hidden lust that only Jensen can see.

He's forced out of the vision of the past in an instant, opening his eyes in a flash. Jensen frowns, watching Jared's face morph into an expression that he can't quite decipher. Jensen knows what he saw back there, or what he didn't see. He recognized Jared's clothes in that vision; the bandage around his hand where the piece of glass struck him through.

It was the night Jensen proposed. The night Kendrick walked away from The Snack Pack.

Jared's mouth opens and closes, trying to find an explanation. He doesn't need to explain. Jensen knows what he saw.

"I--I..." Jared mutters. "I didn't know he was going to do that--He never--"

"Why?" Jensen mumbles, not sure if he's angry more that Jared never said anything, or angry at Kendrick for what he did. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You would've killed him..."

"I...I still might." Jensen says in the calmest voice. "I just might. He knew how important you were to me--how important you are to me...and he just kissed you. As if I were nothing but an obstacle."

"I pushed him away, I never wanted him to--"

"I know, Jared. I..." Jensen takes Jared's hand in his, squeezing firmly, reassuring him. "I know. I saw. It makes sense now, you know. You never did bring him up for long after that night. If you had any doubts about being with me...I know you would've told me. That's just who you are. That's why I'm not flipping out too much about this. Don't get me wrong, I'm fucking angry, but not at you. Never at you."

Jared smiles, though it's a sad one. He leans over, meeting Jensen halfway for a tender kiss on the lips before leaning back into his seat. For 15 years, they had nothing but happy, joyous times together. Never have they ever seriously blown up in each other's faces, nor have they ever thrown things around in frustration. It's just not within them to harbor such anger toward the other.

Outsiders, however, are not immune to their wrath, and that apparently extends to Kendrick also. He was their friend, and he just...

It was the only time it happened, but Jensen knows in his heart that those times Kendrick flirted with Jared as a "joke" he had been at least half-serious.

But no matter what, Jared is *his* husband, and he's been nothing but faithful. That's enough for Jensen.

****

The video feed has almost been decoded, and Jared is pacing the living room. He's waiting with Chad, muttering to himself about what he'll find on those cameras during the breakout. No doubt something extremely horrific...and most likely something that'll implicate Andrew Dabb. He's got something to do with Carver's escape, but he doesn't know how just yet.

"Catch it, Kill it..." Jared mumbles to himself, still pacing. "What does that mean? What could it mean?"

Chad yawns, tail twitching. "Jared, you've been at it for days now. You need to relax. Rest."

"I can't rest. Not until Carver is back where he belongs. I need to know how he got out, what that phrase means, and how he's connected to the Fear Demon. Not to mention that he'll most likely be coming for me now that he's free..."

"I won't let him hurt you."

Jared glances at Chad, sadly flashing back to the day where his parents were slaughtered. Carver had Chad in a painful stasis, paralyzed but very aware of everything that was happening. He howled in agony, but there was nothing Jared could do. He was afraid he'd lose someone else he loved that day.

"I know," Jared says simply. He smiles, sitting in the couch beside his best friend. "You care about me too much."

"That and if you die, I die. But mostly because I care about you too much, as you said."

"Hmph. I love you, buddy."

Chad nuzzles into Jared's touch when he pets him, purring loudly. "I love you, too, JP. You give the best pats."

They sit together for almost an hour in silence, drifting in and out of sleep, waiting. Eventually, Jared's phone rings, and he answers it quickly.

"Padalecki."

"Captain," comes Tom Welling's voice. "The tech team finally cracked the code on the scrambled video feed. We're just waiting for you, sir."

Jared balls up his fist, heart racing in anticipation. "Understood. I'll be right there." He hangs up, putting his phone away before looking at Chad again. "Wanna be with me as I watch the tapes, Chad? It'll be hard seeing him again after all this time..."

"You can count on me. Let's go--oh, so you're just gonna carry me all willy nilly, that's fine. Not complaining."

Jared carts them to his car, driving them across town until they get to HQ. Jared looks up at the tall building he calls his workplace, spotting the four bolded letters sitting next to one another.

F.B.S.P..

Federal Bureau of Supernatural Phenomena.

On some levels, it's actually funded by the government; certain Mortals are aware of it's existence, all high ranking officials within the actual govrernment. Same with other organizations in the world. Coming to this place day after day isn't as exhausting as he thought it'd be when he was a kid. Jared's getting to do the thing he loves: helping people. He's a natural at it.

Entering the building with Chad, Jared recieves a few odd stares from his peers. Yes, he's holding and talking to a cat that really isn't a cat. So what? It's not any if their business. However, despite coming here for urgent work matters, Jared quickly veers off to a different department, briskly shuffling over towards Interrogation where Alex is.

Chad catches in, but doesn't make note of it, allowing Jared to do whatever it is he needs to do. Once they get there, Jared is greeted by the ones who look over Alex. Jared speaks with them, eventually getting permission to see the child. He looks in the room through the one-way mirror, spotting Alex looking forlorn, drawing pictures that Jared can't see from this distance.

Without thinking about it, Jared enters the room with Chad. Alex looks up, stunned by their presence. He immediately drops what he's doing to run towards them; Jared kneels down, allowing Alex to hug him fiercely. This tiny child with a grip like Hercules has captured his heart, and Jared can't see a future where Alex doesn't exist.

Nothing is said as they reunite, holding each other as if the world was ending. Then, Jared hears Alex weep, still clinging to him.

"I missed you, Mr. Jared. You, too, Chad."

Jared holds back his own tears. "I told you I'd come back, didn't I?"

"Took too long!"

Jared chuckles. "My bad, Alex the Great. Work is pulling me left and right. I can't stay too long though."

Alex pouts. "I understand..."

"But--But Chadwick can keep you company while I'm busy. You won't be alone."

Chad looks up at Jared, concerned. "While I wouldn't mind running around with the delightful youngster, are you sure about this?"

"Yeah, don't worry..." Jared says, knowing what Chad is referring to. "I can handle it." He puts on his best smile, ruffling up Alex's hair affectionately. "I'll be back in a bit. You two have fun, okay?"

Alex beams, thus letting Jared know that he just made his entire day brighter. "We will! Bye, Mr. Jared!"

"Bye, champ."

Jared leaves then, looking through the one-way mirror again to see Alex beginning to have a good time. He shows Chad his drawings, grinning so bright despite his predicament. Jared can't take him, but he'll do whatever he can to see that Alex gets a good home. It's what he truly deserves after all this.

Continuing on, Jared finally makes his way to the tech area of the building, meeting Welling and Manns along with Mark who looks to also be coming in as well. He's been late to a lot of things lately. Odd. And he's the one who lectures Jared on his performance. Asshole.

"Sorry I'm late, gentlemen," he sighs. "I had other important matters that needed my immediate attention."

Jared scoffs. "More important than capturing the man who murdered the best Peacekeeper of your time as well as numerous guards and prisoners?"

"Careful, Padalecki. You're skating on thin ice. I let you get away with so much, but you always insist on teetering towards insubordination."

Though desperately wishes he could bite back, Jared refrains, realizing that Mark has a point. He can't be a jerk to the man who cut him slack and pulled strings just so he could be in this position today. It's within his best interest to cool it before he's benched for a while.

Wouldn't be the first time, though.

Once they're all ready, Mark signals for the technicians to start up the video. With a few keystrokes, they're projecting the video feed onto the big screen in the room. Jared watches intently, looking at all the different camera locations to spot a clue or anything useful.

During the 7:50 mark, Andrew Dabb is seen entering the facility through the portal with a few other guards ready to start their shift. Jared squints his eyes, discovering that Andrew is carrying something in a brown, paper shopping bag. It's just a feeling, but Jared's thinking that whatever inside isn't lunch.

He watches as the technicians speed up the video a bit, describing how there's no suspicious activity until just about 3 minutes before the initial breakout. Then, they direct everyone's eyes to the cameras on Carver and Kane's level. Clear as day, they witness Andrew Dabb quickly walking down the stairs, holding a container with god knows what inside of it. The video's quality isn't all that perfect.

On camera, they watch as Andrew fumbles with his keys, opening up Carver's cell. As it happens, Jared glares at Mark, very much pissed off that he let that bastard get away. Mark just glances back at the screen regrettably, but Jared will never let him live this down. If anyone has broken any rules here, it's Mark, but he'll deny culpability swiftly.

Unfortunately, as the video feed goes on, it's not shown exactly what happens in Carver's cell, but moments after Dabb enters, they both exit. Carver walks out slowly, hands and mouth covered in blood that isn't his own. He looks up into the camera for a brief moment, grinning menacingly. Jared recoils, taking a step back. It feels as though he's staring at him right now, promising him a painful death, a chance to finish up where he left off.

It's like he knows Jared's watching.

Next, Carver blasts open Kane's door easily, knocking it inward as it it were just a wad of paper. After they unite, Carver knocks Andrew unconscious before incinerating the container. He the  proceeds to unleash hell onto the guards and prisoners alike. Each effort to thwart them is in vain, and Jared watches with morbid curiosity as anyone they come into contact with is either driven insane or eviscerated on the spot.

It's definitely hard to watch, but he has to. Even though everything within Jared is telling him to stop and look away, he doesn't. He watches everything to its conclusion, seeing Carver and Kane transport to the outskirts of a small town in Colorado.

Jared is finally able to breathe after that, clearing his throat. Welling and Manns are by his side, offering support. Everyone who works here knows Carver's ties with Jared. It's pretty common knowledge. While it's appreciated, Jared doesn't need support right now. He orders the tech team to make copies of the video, then speaks directly to Mark.

"Do I have your permission to bring him in now, sir?"

It's said behind gritted teeth, and with a viciousness that is undeniable. In order to save face, Mark nods, taking out one of his thick, disgusting cigars. "With all possible haste. I'll give you his address. Bring him in by any means necessary."

Jared honestly doesn't need to be told twice. He sets out of the room quickly, rushing back to Interrogation where Alex and Chad are playing. It's painful to say goodbye again, but Jared does, once again promising the small child that he'll return, but with Mr. Jensen next time. Though Alex is understandably sadden, he accepts it, giving Jared the longest, sweetest hug ever.

It felt like his heart was being ripped from his chest, but Jared eventually separated from Alex, taking Chad back home so he could bring Andrew in.

Now, not even 30 minutes later, Jared is kicking down Andrew's front door, holding his advanced issue Peacekeeping pistol tightly. The lights are off, and the windows are covered in black paint, but from the sunlight coming in, Jared can see that a few things are missing. Some furniture, coats, pictures.

He's gone, just as Jared predicted.

"Dammit!" He swears.

Rushing up the stairs, he searches each room carefully. In the bathroom, there's nothing. All kind of hygienic products are gone, even Andrew's toothbrush. The master bedroom is very much the same, stripped bare with hardly anything left. Whole drawers are gone, as well as certain articles of clothing in the closet.

Not wanting to be defeated, Jared ramps up the search. Sure, Andrew's gone, but maybe he left a clue to where he's off to now.

Jared races down the stairs, tearing the entire living room to shreds. He turns over the couch, looking for anything useful. He wanders into the kitchen where he finds nothing suspicious at all...until he sees what he presumes to be the basement door chained up with several enchanted padlocks barring access.

"Now we're getting somewhere..."

It's not exactly easy, but Jared's able to dispel the enchantments, sighing in satisfaction as the locks and chains hit the floor. Cracking open the door, Jared points his gun down into the darkness below. He searches the wall, finding a light switch that he turns on immediately. The path downward is lit well enough for Jared to see, but he remains cautious.

"Andrew Dabb?" Jared says clearly. "Anyone?"

He's met only with silence back at him which is almost never a good sign. Swallowing the terror that's slowly building in his heart, Jared descends the rickety staircase with his gun at his side. Getting to the bottom, Jared covers his nose, grimacing at the foul smell that forces its way into his nasal passages.

Not only that, but he spots where the possible smell is coming from. Hitting another light switch, he finds an alter covered in blood that's been sitting there for a while; a few days maybe? A little more? Jared can't tell right away, but what he does know is that surrounding the altar is rather crude drawing of an inverted pentagram.

Jared stows his pistol away, marvelling in shock at the scene before him. "What in the hell...?"

5 burnt out candles are on top of each point in the star, their usefulness long since past. Seems like Andrew was dabbling into some pretty Dark Magic. In another ring around the pentagram are sigils very familiar to Jared. 5 parts, 5 details, 5 phrases.

A summoning circle. Andrew was calling something here, but what?

Jared touches the alter where he finds not only the blood of whatever was sacrificed here, but ash as well. Jared smears it around on his fingertips, clenching into a fist afterwards. He'll probably have to add murder onto Andrew's arrest.

Yet even now, with more mysteries to unravel, Jared still lacks the knowledge of the suspect's whereabouts. He has no clue where Andrew has gone...

But he knows someone who can help him.

****

It's a little past 8:30 in the evening, but Jensen's feeling great.

The final deal with those energy guys from Norway is all set, and Jensen thinks this is the one. This deal is not only a game changer for him and the company, but probably for the world as well! Jensen's never made a risk this large in all his days of working at the family company, so this is kind of a big deal for him.

He decides to call up his dad while he sits on the couch in the living room to have a beer. Been some time since they've talked.

"Hey, Jenny," Alan chuckles over the phone. "Speak of the devil, I was just talking about you to Frieda."

Jensen smiles, taking a swig from his beer. "That's lovely, tell Frieda I said hello."

"She says hello back. What's up? You aren't usually the one to call first. Something wrong?"

"Actually, no, just the opposite. Remember the clients from Norway I told you about? I sealed the deal. We're taking on their ideas, but I'm giving them full control of everything as well as better equipment and more hands to help them." Jensen taps the glass on the bottle nervously, closing his eyes. "What do you think?"

"What do I think? Jensen...this is amazing! You're killing it, son. I knew you'd pull something off somehow. I'm so proud of you."

Jensen sighs in relief, eyes still closed. "That's great to hear...coming from you."

"I wouldn't have appointed you as CEO if I didn't think you'd make even bigger steps in my absence. You were chosen for a reason."

"Oh man..."

Jensen laughs, almost crying. They've come so far in repairing their relationship. It feels good to have his dad back to the way he was before. Suddenly, the front door opens, and in steps Jared. He looks determined, nervous even. Jensen takes that as his cue.

"Hey, dad, I gotta go. Jared just walked in."

"Alright then. Tell him I said hi."

"Will do. Love you. Bye." Jensen ends the call, standing up to greet his seemingly distraught husband. Chad, who was napping peacefully by Jensen's feet, wakes up, confused. "Hey, honey. What's the matter?"

Jared bites his lip, running his fingers through his hair. "There's a problem, and I don't think I can do this alone. I need help--"

"We need to talk."

Jared and Jensen look towards the archway that leads into the dining room, spotting Kendrick there. Jared stops what he was saying, staring dumbfounded at the Demon. Jensen, on the other hand, wells up with rage. He's still not over what he saw, and he's gonna let Kendrick know just how he feels about him right now.

"You." Jensen growls.

Kendrick blinks. "Jensen, hello. I have to speak with Jared--"

"You don't need to speak with Jared about anything anymore, do you understand me? I want you out of this house."

"Jensen, I don't understand. Why are you acting this way--?"

"I know, Kendrick!" Jensen shouts. "I know what you did the night I proposed to Jared!"

"What are you talking about...?"

"You know exactly what I'm talking about."

Kendrick clamps his mouth closed in realization. He looks at Jared, but Jared looks the other way, saddened. "How did you find out? Did Jared tell you?"

"It doesn't matter. You're no friend of ours if you could treat our relationship like it was nothing. I don't want you anywhere near Jared or this Coven ever again."

"Jensen, let me explain--"

Through with words, Jensen just lets his powers do the talking. He lifts his head up, sending a shockwave of Telekinetic energy to fling Kendrick forward. He collides with the glass cabinet filled with decorative bobbles that they've collected over the years. All destroyed. They can be repaired, but Jensen's not so sure about his friendship with Kendrick.

Jared yells Jensen's name after Kendrick falls to the floor, damaged but not bruised. Even as Kendrick is like this, Jensen can only see red. He doesn't use his physical, volatile abilities much anymore, but this...

This is different.

Kendrick gets up, but Jensen isn't finished just yet. He tosses him across the dining room table until he's tumbling to the floor again. Even then, it's not over. Kendrick is in the defensive, deflecting Jensen's blasts right back at him until he's also flung against the wall, damaging more of the house.

"Stop it," Jared yells. "Jesus Christ, just stop it! Both of you!"

Chad steps in as both men stalk toward each other, standing in between them. "Enough! This is insane, we're a Coven! We shouldn't be fighting each other! We're friends!"

Jensen growls again, furious. "Friends don't kiss their fiances on the lips!"

"I loved him, too, you know!" Kendrick huffs, clutching his side. "Not more than you, obviously. I couldn't stand it. I had to know if Jared felt the same way, and when I found out he didn't, I fled. I learned to accept it over time. That's why you haven't heard from me. I've been trying to let you live out your lives in peace. I'm sorry, Jensen. And I'm so sorry, Jared."

It doesn't change anything, but an apology helps soften the blow, even if it's years too late. Jared, who has been quiet during the heated exchange, finally speaks up. He stands beside Jensen, looking directly at Kendrick.

"I forgive you. We can't afford to be at each other's throats at a time like this. The evil is out there gunning for me! I need you--both of you. Please..." Jared squeezes Jensen's hand. "Please."

Though it pains Jensen at the moment, he doesn't have any other choice, not with Carver clearly on the run and being a threat to them all. For now, Jensen sighs heavily, glaring at Kendrick. His scowl won't shake him, that much Jensen knows, but he can't just let it go so easily. Emotions don't work that way.

"For the sake of The Snack Pack," Jensen starts. "And for my husband, we'll continue this argument some other time. I don't want to kill you...just yet."

Kendrick snorts. "Appreciated. Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet." Jensen suddenly remembers that Jared walked in with something on his mind. He turns back towards him, worried. "You said before that you had a problem with something?"

Jared shakes out of it, snapping his fingers. "Ah! Yes! Right, sorry. I need your help. It's really urgent."

Crap.

When somethings "urgent" with Jared, it's usually life of death, and that's kinda bad. Regardless, Jensen is all in. Before he's even aware of it, he's walking into the house of a suspect in the prison breakout case. Jared walks ahead of him, directing him through the living room.

Jensen sighs, touching on random objects just as Jared suggested. He sees fleeting memories of the suspect packing his bags, taking everything he can carry with him out the door.

"Seems like he was in a hurry..." Jensen hums.

Jared nods. "Yeah, he was. Jensen, I'm not supposed to be doing this since it's against protocol, but I needed your skills. This guy helped Carver escape, and I need to find out where he is."

"That's all? Easy."

"But there's more." Jared warns, leading them to the basement door. "And it's better if I show you."

Jensen lifts his eyebrows, glancing down at the darkness below. If he were with someone else, he'd think he was being led to his imminent death, but as it is, being with Jared only makes things significantly safer. Trusting him, Jensen goes down first, followed by Jared. When they get downstairs to the basement, Jensen's nostrils are assaulted by the foulest of smells. He groans, covering his nose; he gags.

"Jared..." Jensen coughs. "What the fuck?"

Jared shrugs, covering his nose as well. "That's not even the worst of it. Look over there."

Jensen follows his gaze, discovering a bloody altar surrounded by a summoning circle of some kind. As Jensen approaches the gore covered slab, he finally understands why Jared needed him. He swallows, touching the ashes of whatever was torched here.

"You want me to find out what that guy was doing down here."

"Yes," says Jared. "If I can find that out, I'm sure I can find out how Kane is suddenly more powerful than ever. I hope you don't mind."

"You kidding? I'm fucking stoked! When was the last time we did something illegal or against the rules?"

Jared chuckles. "It's been too long. Let's not make this a habit though. Go on, I need you."

"You're lucky I love you so much." Jensen cracks his knuckles, exhaling. "Alright. Let's do this."

Jensen prepares himself mentally and physically for the barbarity he knows he's about to witness before laying his hands on the ashes and the stone alter. The energy is so strong that he gasps, eyes shooting open wide as he sees visions of the past.

Have to do this, have to prepare! Jeremy said it'd be easy, that it wouldn't move once called forth, must be really easy, I can do this. "Catch it, Kill it--Catch it, Kill it", that's what I have to do. Sigils, need more red paint, need to memorize the sigils from the book. It's easy, Jeremy said it's easy. Jeremy knows, Jeremy loves me. He said...

Jensen focuses further, feeling a headache coming along.

It's summoned, I did it, it's here! Fear Demon, I summoned it. It's angry, so angry, but it can't move? What do I do? What did Jeremy say to do? "Catch it, Kill it" that's what he said. Take this dagger, plunge it through the Demon, harvest the heart, take this dagger, plunge it through the Demon, harvest the heart, take this dagger, plunge it through the Demon, harvest...

Jensen whimpers as he watches the Fear Demon howl in pain as it is slaughtered, having it's chest ripped open so the heart could be harvested. It bursts into flames, quickly becoming ash on the alter. The visions keep going, however, as he witnesses something much, much worse.

Caught it, killed it. The heart is safe, today's the day. Gonna give it to him, gonna help him breakout so we can be together! No suspect's a thing, no one knows. He's eating it now--oh, god, he's devouring the heart! It's heart to watch, but he does it. I knew Jeremy could get through it. He's amazing, that's why I love him. He touched me--Oh!

Jensen soon comes back to himself, cut off once the guy is knocked unconscious by the man who was supposedly in love with him. Jensen breathes heavily, feeling blood trickling down from his nose; he's bleeding. A common occurrence if he overuses his ability like this, though, to be fair, whatever power rested here forced him to.

When he's able to breathe normally again, he wipes the blood from his face, looking at Jared with an expression that means that he's seen some out of the way strange shit. He claps his husband's wrist, laughing, though he finds nothing funny.

"You're gonna wanna take a look at this, honey."

Jensen projects what he's seen so far into Jared's mind who only wears the exact same expression as Jensen once it's all over. They stand there, looking at the altar in shock and amazement. Jared shakes his head in disbelief, but what he saw was true. Every last second of it has happened.

"That's what 'Catch it, Kill it' means. Carver ordered Andrew Dabb to summon the Fæmon and harvest the heart so he could breakout."

Jensen frowns. "If that's the case, then why kill Kane?"

Jared thinks on that for a second, coming to a conclusion. "He must not have adapted to the Fear Demon's powers yet; he was weakened, so he needed a soul."

"He sucked out Kane's soul to get more power, to get stronger."

"Exactly." Jared shuts his eyes, groaning. "My enemies are busy killing each other trying to kill me. Help me make it make sense."

"Wish I could, but this is where we're at right now. What's our next move?"

"Your next move is giving me his current whereabouts and going home, while my next move is going after Andrew to bring him in."

"Oh, what!? Jay, that's not fair!"

"I've involved you long enough, and even I know when it's time to stop."

"Come on, please? Let me help you kick his ass in case he tries to run away."

"Not a chance. You need to go home. Do you want me to lose my job?"

"Witch." Jensen grumbles, crossing his arms.

Jared smirks. "Jock. Give me his location."

"Ugh...fine."

Jensen wants to help further, but he needs to respect his husband's wishes regarding the matter. He's had plenty of time to shine tonight with his mental battle with Kendrick and his illegal sleuthing session with Jared. It's easily the most exciting thing to happen in their marriage aside from the awesome, far away journeys they've made.

Eventually, Jensen touches another item belonging to this Andrew fellow, giving Jared the location as it appears in his head. It's gonna suck without him, but Jared assure Jensen that all will be fine.

When has that ever been true in all their years together?

****

They appear outside of the cozy cabin in Minnesota where Jensen says he saw Dabb. Jared's not out here alone; Kendrick elected that he could come along and provide backup in case Carver was present and powered up with the unlucky souls he's no doubt been devouring.

Judging by the lights on inside the cabin, Jared guesses that Andrew's inside. He takes out his gun, rushing up to the front door with Kendrick. Without asking him, Kendrick obliterates the wooden door into a million tiny pieces, allowing them access. Strangely, this cabin--along with Andrew's house--isn't bound by protection enchantments.

The duo step inside, finding nothing out of place. As stated before, the lights are on, but the fireplace is lit as well. It's fall, so it's understandable why it'd be a little chilly. They search the living room, but find nothing. That is, of course, until they hear the sobs of a scared man below them.

Jared begins investigating, searching for a door that leads to the basement. He doesn't find one, but Kendrick spots a small hatch on the floor. Kendrick opens it, and the sobs are heard more clearly. Jared nods at him before jumping down first, seeing that, like the ones up above them, the basement lights are turned on as well.

However, they come to see a shocking sight.

There, standing under a light and sobbing, is Andrew Dabb, holding a rather large, rather sharp knife up to his throat. Jared carefully puts his gun away, raising up his hands. Kendrick does as well.

"Andrew Dabb," he starts, slowly stepping towards him. "Put the knife down, I just want to talk."

Andrew cries. "I know what you want, but it's too late. You can't take me. He won't let you."

"Who won't--?" Jared sucks in air, grumbling. "Carver."

"He told me that I was important, that he loved me!"

"Jeremy Carver is a monster," Kendrick says. "He doesn't care for anyone but himself. Textbook psychopath."

Jared swallows, careful of his steps. "Just out the knife down so we can settle this peacefully."

Andrew shakes his head, drawing the knife closer. "He cursed me to stay like this, because he knew you'd come for me. He knew, and he threw me away like trash! But Jeremy told me to leave you a message."

"Andrew, stop."

"He told me to tell you: 'Run, rabbit.'"

"Andrew, no--!"

As Jared lurches forward to stop him, Andrew draws the blade across his throat, spilling his blood all over the basement floor. Jared screams, looking away as the man inadvertently takes his own life.

Shocked and disoriented by the sudden horrors of today, Jared's knees go weak again, and he's suddenly on his ass with Kendrick coming to his aid, forcing him to look up into his lovely eyes. Jared can't focus on anything right now, only the painful ringing in his ears and the haziness in his vision.

Everything's truly falling apart.

Carver's back, and he's next.

Chapter Text

It's morning now, and Jared is sitting in a lounge room alone at HQ, still very much shaken up over the events of last night. He discovered that not only was the Fear Demon massacred for its heart, but his worst enemy devoured said heart for dark, unimaginable power.

It's the worst thing that can happen right now.

Jared's not wholly surprised, however, as Misha Collins--the man responsible for making Alex an orphan--was able to trap a Plague Demon, and take a chunk out of its heart. If they've done it, Jared can't even begin to imagine who else might've tried and succeeded. It doesn't seem like an incredibly easy task, but they've managed it.

But Jared will find Carver, and he'll stop him. This isn't his first rodeo with men like Carver, but he was definitely his first. Bringing him will prove satisfactory; to be the cause of his *second* downfall somehow causes a light to shine in on Jared's otherwise gloomy, dark mood. His leg shakes, knee bounding up and down like a basketball.

At least he's at peace knowing Jensen and Jeff are safe.

Eventually, after waiting for another hour, Mark finally arrives, tardy as always. It's annoying. He sits across from Jared, tight lipped smile in place.

"I acknowledge that I might have made an...error on my part," Mark starts. "But I stand strong in my decisions. I perceived Andrew Dabb as an innocent victim."

"And look where we are now..." says Jared, fading out of his mild catatonic state. He blinks, staring down at the floor. "I failed to bring Andrew in, and I failed to find Carver."

"I've read your report. You did what you could...but I am curious about something. How did you know where Andrew ran off to?"

Jared's jaw clenches. "Investigating."

"I see. By your own merit and not with the help of a Psychic husband, right?" Mark looks at Jared knowingly, crossing his legs. He sighs. "Jared, you're the best of the best, right up there with your father, but I can see that this case is wearing you down. I have no other choice. It pains me to say this, but I'm dropping you from the case, and you're going on paid leave."

Normally, Jared would tooth and nail against this. He'd shout, he'd scream for Mark to reconsider. He would tell him that his state of mind is fine, that Carver being loose isn't effecting his ability to get shit done.

But Jared knows better.

Carver is affecting him. He's exhausted, mentally. There's no shame in admitting it. Jared nods, putting his hands on his knees. Mark's right about this.

"Yeah...okay."

"You need some time off, relax." Mark mutters. "Take Jensen somewhere nice, go see a movie, anything to get your mind off this."

"He's still out there, waiting for me in the shadows."

"And we'll be there catch him. Trust us. Any sign of trouble, we'll catch the bastard. We want to see him put away again just as much as you do. Go home, get some rest."

Jared stands up, putting his hand on Mark's shoulder as he passes by. "Thank you."

Just as Jared goes to open the door out, someone else does it for him, stepping inside. A man dressed in a grey suit with a blue necktie. Jared's never seen him before, and he finds himself frowning. The man in question smiles, as if he knew he had been walking into a private conversation on accident.

Taking in this man's features, Jared sees that his hair has been shorn close to the scalp; a sort of buzzcut. His beard and mustache are well trimmed, just like Jared's, yet less prominently so. He's incredibly handsome, and Jared finds himself put off by his nature, though, the most defining thing about him are his eyes. Blue.

Something about him feels...familiar, but Jared can't put his finger on it even if he's certain they've never met.

"Sorry," the man says in apology. "I didn't mean to intrude, I was just told that Mark was in this room."

Mark chuckles softly. "It's not a problem. He was just on his way out. Jared, this is Stephen Amell, the newest, youngest member of The Council. He is now in charge of Intelligence, replacing Margaret. Stephen, this is Jared Padalecki, Captain of the 6th Squadron."

The man named Stephen puts his hand forward, giving Jared his best smile. "It's so very nice to meet you, Jared. I've heard nothing but good things about you and your father. I'm actually a big fan of his work, yours as well."

Jared takes his hand, shaking it. "Intellegence. Nice, and, uh, thank you. He'd be very flattered if he were still here, I'm sure. I'm just here doing my job. Or...was. Sorry, but have we met before? I feel like I know you..."

"This is actually my first week on the job, so I don't think so." Stephen chuckles, and it sends chills down Jared's spine for unknown reasons. "Unless, of course, you stopped by Canada for the last 32 years."

"Never been, sorry."

"Ah. Well, I guess I just have one of those faces then."

"Maybe." Jared ends up smiling, pointing to the door. "I should be going. It was really nice meeting you."

"Same to you. Have a great day, Jared."

With that, Jared leaves the room, shutting the door behind him. He walks away, but is hounded by curious stares and murmurs about his business with Mark. It's none of their concern. Everyone always wants to know his business and what he's doing and when he'll fuck up.

He pretends that he doesn't know what they say about him, but it's glaringly obvious. It's been this way since his first day here. Unlike other Warlocks, Jared takes special care of his mind, securing it with "locks" that make it difficult for others to read his mind unless he lets them in. That's how he found out people thought lowly of him.

They don't have the same mental locks as him, so it was easy to discover that some of his coworkers had differing opinions on his position in the F.B.S.P..

"Save a town from a Demon attack, and you automatically get promoted from Rookie to Sergeant? Bullshit."

"You know he's only here because of his daddy, right? Guess the boss thinks it's in the genes."

"We endured endless physical and mental torture at the 'camp', and he gets to skip all of that? They're playing favorites again."

That kind of shit. It bothered him at first, but the longer he did his job--the further he pushed on--he realized that he had nothing to prove to them. With 2 Demons exorcised and a Sorceress taken down as a teenager no less, Jared had accomplished more than any of them had ever done within their entire careers.

So, yeah, what they think of him doesn't matter anymore. He's earned his position here, he's more than qualified.

He wonders if this Amell guy thinks the same way as the others. Again, it's not like he cares, but Jared would rather have his first impression on him not be tainted by outside interference. And he's the head of Intelligence--essentially, the organization's spy branch. Stephen looks about Jared's age. Seems as though they've both made great strides in their respective careers so far.

As he walks through the building, Jared finds himself strolling towards Interrogation with the intent on seeing Alex. He has to make sure he's alright; he's in one of the most secure places imaginable. But if Carver can easily break out of Lichcom, what's stopping him from tearing this entire building to the ground?

Jared just has to make sure that Alex is okay. That's all.

He gets there in record time, not even asking for permission this time. Looking through the one-way mirror, he sees Alex in his bed, sound asleep and snuggled up in Jared's tactical Peacekeeping jacket from the night he rescued him.

Without anymore delay, Jared enters, silently slinking inside. Posted on the walls are Alex's rather impressive drawings. It seems the kid has graduated from Superheroes to the epic Dinosaur phase in youth. Jared inspects the drawings a little, seeing that Alex has stepped it up a notch.

"Dinosaur-Dragon Superheroes." Jared whispers to himself, smiling like the proud father he isn't.

He comes to squat down near Alex's bed, watching him sleep. He looks so peaceful, and it makes Jared feel so elated that he's m protected and safe. Crossing his arms on the bed, Jared puts his head down on them, suddenly overcome with all that he's learned about Carver so far.

Why did this have to happen to him? Why not another family? Why did Jared's father have to bust Carver for his crimes and not some other unlucky Peacekeeper? It's a horrible way of thinking...but it's in his mind nonetheless.

Rage builds up inside of him the longer he dwells on it. Because of Carver, Jared will never see his mother and father again, he'll never have that sweet life he had once before. And now, because if that Misha Collins, Alex won't have his life either. They're one in the same now.

"Mr. Jared...?"

Jared lifts his head up, looking at Alex rousing from his slumber, rubbing his eyes. Jared can't help but to smile, tilting his head. "Hey, buddy."

Alex beams, albeit still sleepily. His head still rests on his pillow. "You're here. And early."

"Yup. I am..."

"You look sad. What's wrong?"

"I'm having a tough time at work," he says with a slight pout. "There's a very bad man out there who's done terrible things to me, but I can't catch him. And to tell you the truth, I'm kinda scared to see him again."

Unexpectedly, Alex smooths Jared's hair back, small fingers carding through the strands. He sits up. "If anyone can stop the bad guys, it's you, Mr. Jared. You're so awesome. You could blast him with a fireball!"

Jared chuckles, nodding. Damn this kid. It's only gonna be harder when Mark finally settles on a good home for Alex. "I could, couldn't I? He'd be literal toast. Bet he would taste awful, though."

"Yeah!" Alex grins, stretching. "When I was sad, my mommy and daddy used to take me to the movies to cheer me up. I think you need to see one, too. With Mr. Jensen."

A movie? Like, going to a theater full of people and eat popcorn thing? Gosh, it's been a while since Jared's been to see a movie. Nowadays, he and Jensen just catch them on TV or buy a DVD or something. The feeling of seeing a brand new film in theaters for the first time can't be replicated, however. It's amazing.

Maybe little Alex has the right idea. While it's probably not the best course of action to be outside at the moment, Jared needs to unwind. He can feel the stress pulling his body apart. Alex's suggestion is a wise one, though there's one thing that needs to be done.

"I wonder which movie we'd all go to..."

At the mere implication of his inclusion, Alex lights up, eyes widening in realization. He keeps forward, putting his arms around Jared's neck. The boy hugs him tightly, not daring to let go for fear that it's just a dream.

"I get to go, too!?" Alex squeals, excited. "Really!?"

Jared hums, grinning. "Mr. Sheppard would need a little convincing, but I think I can get him to say yes."

"You're amazing, Mr. Jared! I can finally go outside!"

It breaks Jared's heart to hear that, but also fills him up with the drive to push forward. He's been stuck in this place for almost a month. It's time to go out for a few hours.

Alex's grin persists, and he sticks his pinky out. He dons a southern accent, sounding very much like a cowboy. "Ya with me, pardner?"

Jared curls his pinky around Alex's, smirking. He makes an accent as well. "Always and forever."

****

There's this...hunger that's extremely hard to sate. He's tried devouring souls in excess, but that does nothing but postpone the inevitable.

Carver needs to feed now, and he's infuriated that he didn't think this through enough! He hadn't thought of the drawbacks of eating a Fear Demon's heart, but apparently he needs the fears and souls of others to continue on, or he becomes weak. It's a fucking shitshow.

Though he has no qualms with murdering people for his own personal gain, Carver feels somewhat guilty for breaking into this young couple's house to feed on them. He can't help it, the hunger.

He has to do more research on the matter, figure out if there have been others who might've done what he's done. He could master the Demon's abilities, find out how fear really works. And then...

"Kill Padalecki."

Carver sits back in the living room chair, panting, suffering from the aftershocks of feeding. The shakes will subside in a few seconds, as will the slight burn in his throat. He just needs to be fit and aware enough to make that boy suffer.

No, Carver reminds himself. Jared's not a boy anymore. He's a man. He grins, yearning to see just how much Jared had grown. More powerful? Full of rage? Still scarred emotionally and physically from the attacks inflicted on him and the family?

It'll be a treat to find out.

Even in death, Gerald Padalecki deserves to have everything he ever held dear wiped from the face of the earth, starting with his most prized possession. After Jared, Carver will move on to the more difficult part of his multi-stage plan.

It'll be hard with his new affliction, but Carver can manage. He's been preparing to do this for years after all. He's hoping that he'll last long enough to make it through another feeding episode. Everyone dies.

Some sooner than others.

****

"How ready are you for this movie, Alex?"

"100 times ready!"

"Oh, wait, what's that? I can't hear you! I said how ready are you for this movie?"

"100 times 100 times 1,000 percent ready!"

"Now that's what I like to hear."

Jared can only laugh and smile in the driver's seat as Jensen gets Alex psyched up for their little outing. They're driving to the theater right now as a matter of fact, and Jared couldn't be any happier about it. Mark allowed him and Jensen to take Alex for the morning and the afternoon, noting that Alex has indeed been cooped up in Headquarters for much too long.

However...Jared isn't an idiot. He knows Alex can't stay in their lives forever. It's honestly only a matter of time before he's sent away, memories of Jared and Magic all wiped away from existence. Even if Jared wants to see him again in the future when he's older, Alex wouldn't remember him. A spell to reverse memory erasure is impossible.

It would be the end. Pushing all of that away from his mind, Jared instead focuses on the present, smiling and looking up at Alex from the rearview mirror.

"So, I'm a little out of the loop on this NightBeast saga. This is the third one, right?"

Alex nods. "Yeah! He's a Werewolf with a Wizard sidekick, like you and Mr. Jensen!"

"I'd hate being a Werewolf," Jensen adds. "Too much fur. Can you imagine getting wet with that much hair? Yick!"

"What's the Wizard's name?"

"Yuri," answers Alex. "He's not very good at what he does at first, but he gets better. I can't wait to see what happens! I saw the first ones 20 times!"

Jensen sighs happily. "Well, I guess that means we need to take him back 20 more times."

In the back, Alex cheers, raising up his arms. "Yes!" He lowers his voice until it sounds gravelly and dark. "They call me NightBeast."

Jensen snickers, turning his head to Alex. "Is NightBeast supposed to be Batman or something?"

"NightBeast is way cooler than Batman!"

"Said no one ever!"

"Not true, not true!"

"Okay, tell me who said that NightBeast was cooler than Batman."

"Me!"

Jared smirks, spotting the movie theater up ahead. "Looks like NightBeast might be cooler than Batman."

Jensen says nothing else, only crossing his arms and grumbling something incoherent. He's not peeved about it, just fooling around like the big kid he is. It's adorable actually; it's part of his charm, and it's partially the reason why Jared's with him today. Jensen just knows how to have fun. He can be serious when the time calls for it, but his goofy nature makes it so much sweeter.

In time, Jared pulls up to the movie theater, parking the car in the lot with the other vehicles. There's a lot here. This NightBeast must be a popular series. Jared's surprised Jensen doesn't know a single thing about it since he's into things like this. Oh, well. It'll be fun regardless. They'll just have to pretend that they understand what's happening in the story and who's who in regards to the characters.

Sure enough, when the 3 of them enter the building, Jared sees that the line to the ticket booth is pretty lengthy. Not only that, but there's many fans of NightBeast of different ages wearing merchandise pertaining to the characters. Movie starts in about 20 minutes, so they have plenty of time. Maybe. Jared would love to not get stuck in a line.

However, after some time, things start to speed up, and they advance through the line quickly. Jared and Jensen smile as they get their tickets, watching Alex jump up and down in excitement. It's sort of a joyous moment for the child, namely because--

Hello, rabbit.

Jared jerks his head to the right, eyes nearly bulging out of their sockets. His palms sweat, adrenaline pumped up to the max.

He heard him. Jared knows what he heard just now. It was Carver's voice--it was his fucking voice calling him that stupid fucking name!

It was a slithering in his ear, like a tiny needle pricking your finger; an abnormal sensation that he had never felt before. A darkness that wants to hurt him.

The longer Jared dwells on it, the more he becomes convinced that, maybe--just maybe--this entire situation is actually messing him up psychologically. Hearing things is usually the first sign that you're going coo coo banana bread boom boom. He wants to be rid of this shit!

Jared just desires to enjoy this day with his amazing husband and the kid that captured both their hearts. Is that too much to ask for? It shouldn't be, but it feels like it is anyways.

The voice doesn't return to him, so Jared brushes it off as nerves. He guides them to the concession stand where Jensen orders every snack under the sun while Jared gets a bucket of popcorn and some sodas for him and the little one. They follow the NightBeast fans to the theater where they quickly shuffle inside, claiming their assigned seats. Alex is wedged between Jared and Jensen protectively who stare up at the screen playing random commercials unrelated to the movie.

Commercials? In a movie theater? When did this start? Though it's strange, Jared ignores it for now. It's mostly advertisements for upcoming shows or companies showing off their products. Nothing about them grasp Jared's attention, not really. He's just here to have a bit of fun today, something to do while starting his hiatus.

He has no other choice, not if he wants to see Carver successfully captured again. Jared needs to be in the right state of mind, something he's not in at the moment. Just a few days, that's all. Just a few days...

After all the previews and teasers for upcoming films, the lights finally dim, and the movie's opening beginning to play. Between Jared and Jensen, Alex squeals, practically hopping up and down in his seat in anticipation. He really seems to be a fan of this NightBeast fellow, huh? Well, maybe after this, Jared can go out and buy the other movies to have the complete set.

And, when this one becomes available, Jared might package them all together to anonymously gift them to Alex on his birthday. That is, of course, after the inescapable memory wipe that will occur. The boy won't lose everything, not if Jared can help it.

During the intro, Jared watches as the guy he presumes to be NightBeast carries an unconscious, beaten down man on his back through the woods. Alex taps his, mentioning that the other man is Yuri, NightBeast's companion who was hurt after the end of NightBeast 2. Damn. He looks bad.

Going into this completely blind, Jared watches with his eyes fully glued to the screen, not missing a thing. He pays special attention to the dialogue, hoping to get a feel for what the actual plot is. Seems like he really did need the other movies because he has no idea about what's taking place.

Something about a deadly curse and the world being threatened by an ancient entity. Isn't that always the case with these kinds of films? If that actually occurs in the near future, Jared would dread it. Not only would Magic be revealed to all, but serious paperwork would need to be filed.

Hmph. It's just like him to think about paperwork in an apocalypse scenario. Pretty fucked up.

"I'm so happy you're okay," NightBeast says, hugging Yuri. He's been cured after being infected with a killing hex. The movie just hit its 45 minute mark, and Jared can't get enough.

The friendship between the two contrasting characters seems to be the center of the films from what he's gathered. Amazing. There's definitely...chemistry there, though it's implied that it's because they've known each other for many years. Maybe Jared's looking too much into it.

Or maybe it's a hint from the screenwriters

Yuri nods to his friend, tearing up. "Yeah... I'm alive."

"I thought you to be dead!" NightBeast sighs.

"You cannot get rid of me that easily."

"You're right. No wailing beast can ever replace your insufferable whining."

Jensen laughs at that, causing Jared to roll his eyes. It's cheesy-stupid-fun, but at least they're enjoying it. The scene rolls on, but something happens to the film projection then. It becomes distorted for a few seconds, causing the sound to warp and delay.

Jared frowns, but it all returns to normal as quickly as it happened.  He shifts in his seat, clearing his throat as the two friends on screen talk to each other again.

"I've been trying so hard to break you out of that coma, Yuri."

"I know. It was harder for me being trapped. Do you know how difficult it was to escape? 17 years."

What? What the hell is Yuri talking about? 17 years? It doesn't make any sense. They weren't even given any insight on Yuri's state of mind while in that coma.

Suddenly, Yuri smiles deviously, almost as if he's a different person entirely. In an unexpected turn of events, he immolates NightBeast, watching him run round and round screaming. Graphically, NightBeast's skin begins melting off, peeling and bleeding everywhere.

Shocked at how much gore is being displayed in front of children like Alex, Jared looks around the theater. He attempts to see if the parents here are as bewildered as he is, but, surprisingly, everyone watches the movie with a straight face, blissfully ignoring the painful screams of the protagonist.

What the fuck is wrong with these people!? However, just as a stunned Jared tries to cover up Alex's eyes, Yuri turns directly to the camera, staring the Peacekeeper right in the face. Jared swallows, sitting back in a mixture of confusion and horror as the character's voice changes pitch, reverting into someone from the horrid past.

"My, my, my, look how much you've grown, rabbit. You're pretty much a giraffe at this point, aren't you?"

Carver.

It's fucking Carver.

He's here! How!?

Jared opens and closes his mouth, failing to get the words to come out. He thought of so many things to say if he were to ever meet Carver again, but he's drawing a blank here. There's nothing to say; the words simply don't come out.

Carver as Yuri chuckles, putting an end to NightBeast's misery with an upsetting lightning strike to the face, exploding his head. The nonchalant looks on the other patrons here unnerve Jared. Is he the only one who can see this!? Is any of this even real!?

"Aww, what's the matter, Padalecki? You look a little pale. Having a bit of a crisis there, hmm?"

Jared watches helplessly as Carver deviates from whatever was scripted, instead going about the place murdering innocent people within the film's narrative. Men, women, and children all suffer under his disgusting display of power. Jared knows what he's doing: Carver's trying to get a reaction out of him, but he won't let him! He had to steel his mind, he has to--!

"Oh, no, no," Carver hums, tossing away the severed head of NightBeast. "You can't shut me out. I'm in there forever, rabbit. I can sense it. Every day--every single waking moment since you put me away--you've been thinking about me. Some way or another, obviously, but I've been on your mind. And you've been on mine, too."

Jared can do little else but stare defenseless at the screen as Carver drones on and on. Silent spells and mumbled phrases aren't banishing him. Nothing's working. He has more power than Jared can imagine right now.

"We have so much catching up to do. But first..."

Carver looks behind him, seeing doppelgangers of Jensen and Alex within the film's world. Jared's eyes widen as they stand there. Expressionless as well as motionless, they neither scream or fight back against Carver as they're gruesomely set upon, blood staining the villain's skin and clothes.

"Cute family you've got. This'll make you squeal, rabbit, if nothing else will."

Finally, with immense inner strength, Jared rises from his seat, shouting at the top of his lungs. "Leave them alone, you sick son of a bitch!"

Not long after his outburst, Jared is met with several jeers from the moviegoers around him. Some berate him on his language, others yell at him for disrupting the film. He looks back up to the screen, finding that everything is proceeding as normal; NightBeast and Yuri are still talking. Nothing has changed.

Though it's painful to do, Jared glances at Jensen and Alex who stare at him with concerned expressions. Jared reluctantly removes himself from the equation, dashing into the empty men's bathroom just outside the door. He turns on the faucet, throwing water onto his face.

Jared sighs deeply, gazing at the men stating back at him. He doesn't recognize this man, he's someone crippled by fear and paranoia. He's not this guy. Jared is so much stronger than this. But what he saw--what Carver made him see...it was sadistic.

Jared's worst fears at this point in his life, is losing two people he cares so much about, and Carver is using that against him. He just needs to find the right thread pluck at before Jared's world is spinning out of control. How long then will it take for Carver to enact his plan?

He has to stop him before it gets worse.

Before he hurts Jensen or Alex for real next time.

****

It burns.

It feels like the insides of his body are trapped within a furnace. Carver vomits, surprised to find that it's just pitch black sickness. He groans, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Perhaps it really wasn't such a good idea to eat that damn heart, but there was no other option for him if he wanted to break out. Now, because of this decision, Carver is fighting against the hunger tearing him apart. The more he uses the Fear Demon's power, the more it eats away at his soul.

Godfuckingdammit! Why can't this be simple? Why must everything involving Magic be difficult? Such is the life of a person born without the power, instead having to seek it out by different means.

Carver sinks the the floor, quivering at the feeling in the pit of his stomach. If he doesn't continue to feed, the dark power will literally melt him from the inside out. He can feel it.

He needs more souls.

Then he comes for Jared again.

More...souls.

****

The car ride to the carnival on the boardwalk is quiet, deafeningly so. Jensen is driving now, something that Jared's thankful for. It's not like he can at the moment, not in his current state of mind.

That vision Carver gave him--the conversation, or whateverthefuck it was... It almost broke him. Nothing terrifies him more than seeing those two in distress, defenseless and scared, dying with no way to protect them. Carver saw into his head, and he's using those fears against him in horrifying ways.

It was so frightening. It'll happen again, certainly, but there nerds to be a tighter block on his mind. Other Magic users can't penetrate it, yet Carver is no ordinary Sorcerer anymore, is he? No. Jared has to find and detain him before something worse happens.

"It was the bad man, wasn't it?" Alex asks, breaking the silence with his tiny voice. "He's making you see things."

Jared looks to Jensen before turning around, smiling sadly at the child. He nods in confirmation. "Yeah. It was the bad man."

"I don't know him...but I don't like him, Mr. Jared."

"I don't like him either. He hurt people I cared about."

"And he wants to hurt Mr. Jensen and me, too?"

"Hey, hey," Jensen starts from the front seat, grinning at Alex from the rearview mirror. "No one's gonna hurt us, okay? We got you covered. If that bad man tries anything on you, I'll send his stupid dumb self right to space!"

Alex smiles, happy as a clam all over again. "M'kay! You're an awesome superhero, Mr. Jensen! Like NightBeast."

"I know, right? Just you wait, we'll be going back to see it again real soon."

"Can't wait!"

"Me either, buddy." Jensen sighs, and without looking, he reaches over until he takes Jared's hand. He squeezes once, letting his husband know that it will be fine. "Me either."

The rest of the drive is a peaceful one, though deep down in the back of Jared's mind, he knows Carver will strike again. It's a waiting game, one that has him on edge. This is what that bastard wants, this is what the Fear Demon did to Jensen and those other people years ago.

He's feeding on Jared's worst fears. But something feels off about it. Call it Warlock's Intuition, but Jared is sure that there's more transpiring behind the scenes.

Sometime later, though, Jared tries once more to put it behind him, focusing instead on this "family" outing with Jensen and Alex.

If only...if only Mark Sheppard could allow them to take him. Sure, he's young, and young people like to talk, but they've bonded with him, and he knows more than anyone not to spill their secrets. After all, he's seen one too many movies regarding hidden powers and organizations to say a word. Jensen loves him, Chad adores him, Jeff feels...a certain attachment to him, though he plays it off by pretending to be so serious.

Alex is a perfect fit in their family. He wouldn't be better anywhere.

But Mark's word is law; The Council hasn't changed much for years, still having the same members as before when Jared's father was still alive. Well, minus one. Stephen Amell is proof that change within The Council can happen. If Jared could appeal to Amell, maybe then they could...

No. He's getting ahead of himself as usual. Stephen may be a new part of The Council, but Mark is the head of it. As long as there is a single "nay" in their airtight circle, nothing will change. Fucking bullshit.

"Holy crap, look at you!" Jared gasps, watching as Alex racks up points in the watergun gallery. He's going up against Jensen who's right at his heels.

Jensen smirks, holding the trigger down. "You may be younger, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna let you win against me! I'm competitive."

Alex, however, is determined. "I'm gonna beat you!"

It's only a matter of seconds until the victor's bell chimes, revealing that, although it was definitely close, Alex wins in their little competition. He scored the most points in his time, so it's clear who the winner is. The boy cheers while Jared claps and Jensen pouts, cracking his head to the side.

"Beginner's luck," he mutters.

Jared shakes his head, holding out his hand. "Come on. Pay up."

Jensen grumbles as he fishes into his jeans for the money he had bet on with Jared. Obviously, he's lost said bet, and he's pretty bummed out about losing 20 dollars to his own husband!

"Gambling, Mr. Peacekeeper? The scandal. What will they say back at HQ?"

"Betting against my husband isn't a gamble," Jared purrs, pocketing his well earned cash. "It's an investment."

"Select your prize!" The game master says to Alex, showing him all the lovely yet cheap items on display.

Alex looks over the items carefully, squinting his eyes. After much deliberation on his part, he selects what seems to be a ring. He asks for it, and the game master complies, taking it down and giving it to Alex.

However, Alex doesn't keep it. He turns around, holding it up to Jared who stares down at him, amused.

"Hmm? What's this?"

"It's for you!" Alex grins. "Something to remember me by when I have to go away from you to a new family."

It breaks Jared's heart to hear, but he accepts the gift nonetheless with gratitude. He inspects the ring, seeing that it's actually something more. A mood ring. He turns the ring over in his hand, discovering that while there's nothing particularly special about the object, the gemstone of the ring quickly begins changing color from blue to yellow, symbolizing fondness, or something like it.

Jared slips the ring on the finger that his wedding ring rests on, smiling contentedly. He can't hold in the tears this time, bending down until he's at Alex's level.

"What makes you so sure I'll forget about you, Alex the Great? You're the bravest young man I've ever met! You'll always be up here," Jared says, tapping at his temple. He then points to his chest, right over his heart. "And right here."

"You'll come visit me, right?"

Jensen crouches with Jared, bringing them all together. "Whenever we can, bud."

Alex flings his arms around both of them, hugging their necks tightly. Jared, with his wider reach, hugs Jensen and Alex to him, never ever wanting to let go. He doesn't wipe away the tears that fall, letting let stream down his face regardless. It'll be so goddamn difficult to give him up to someone else, to complete strangers with no ties to him.

Maybe Mark will tamper with their memories to make it seem like he was theirs all along, but Jared doesn't want that. It's cruel to make Alex forget his memories of his own parents just like that, assuming Mark will tamper with his mind to even make that happen. They were more than just unfortunate casualties on that island. Alex came from them, so to wipe them their existence from the only one they left behind is wrong.

Wrong and unforgivable.

But Jared won't dwell too much. He'll just make the most of this while they still have tome. It's all he really can do.

The rest of their day goes by pretty much the same way: they play games together, go on rides, play bumper cars, eat food, take pictures. Very fun stuff.

Watching Jensen play the strongman, on the other hand, was a hilarious experience. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't get that weight to ring the bell at the top. So, what did that mischievous son of a gun do? He cheated by using his stupid Psychic powers to lift the weight to the top. Of course, after two tries, everyone thought he was just playing around.

Oh, if they only knew.

So, Jensen ended up winning 100 bucks for his "miraculous" feat, and that was that. Though Jared saw through it, Alex praised Jensen on his strength, reveling in the fact that he was hanging out with his very own superheroes. Jensen smirked, and dammit, it was just about the cutest thing.

And now, as the sun begins to set, they all watch a live show together. Fire jugglers and clowns gathered together to do some sort of combined act that Alex can't look away from. Jared, too, is enthralled by the performance, especially when the fire jugglers suddenly start fire breathing. It's amazing, but it has him curious about the men doing that.

Pyrokinesis is a hard skill to master, but those who can usually do something like this for entertainment as only they can safely manipulate the flames. Either that, or they're just very talented Mortals.

"Did you see the way he spat out that fire? Wasn't that epic, Alex?" Jensen asks, eyes glued to the performance.

Jared awaits Alex's answer, but doesn't receive one. It only turns worse when, as Jensen starts to ask again, he shakes Jared's shoulder violently. Jared whips his head to the right where Alex was sitting between them, finding that the boy is no longer here with them.

There's an undeniable sense of dread that fills up in Jared's stomach. Jensen's eyes display it all; he's afraid as well. They stand up together while the performance rages on. Fireworks shoot up into the sky, exploding in a cascade of different colors as Jared and Jensen shout and call for Alex.

There is an unspoken agreement between them; "Split up, look everywhere we've been". They do just that, branching off into different directions, simultaneously searching for the lost child and asking random strangers if they've spotted him anywhere.

"Alex!" Jared yells, brushing past a crowd of people. "Alex, where are you!? It's Jared!"

Though it's not very dark as of yet, it's getting increasingly difficult to see with all that's happening. Perhaps it's anxiety and panic, or maybe it's the blinding brightness of the fireworks up above. Whatever the case may be, Jared is terrified. He begins going through alarming scenarios in his mind that just won't go away.

But it all comes down to one conclusion: Carver.

Jared's on high alert now, rushing through the boardwalk and forcefully pushing past people in his search. He bumps into someone heads on, apologizing before trying to scuttle by them.

But the man seizes his wrist, forcing Jared to stop. He whips his head around, daring to look at the guy who's intervening. However, instead of finding an ordinary fellow he's never seem before, the person turns out to have the exact same face as the man who ruined his life years prior.

"What's the matter, rabbit?" The man with Carver's face asks. "You look like you've seen a ghost. Are you ill?"

Jared tries snatching away from him, but the grip on his wrist is far too strong. He looks around at the people walking by, all turning their heads towards them.

They, too, resemble Carver. Every last one of them. Smirking, sneering, giggling--they all taunt Jared as he tries to escape. It feels like they're closing in on him, surrounding the area, encircling him. He hyperventilates, finding it harder and harder to breathe with all these people around him.

The vice-like grip starts to hurt his wrist, but then the tight squeeze soon becomes a painful burn,  causing Jared to wail loudly. With little choice, he blasts the man away from him, send him on his ass a few yards away. Checking his surroundings again, Jared spots that everyone has returned to normal, all gasping at the seemingly innocent man that was just knocked away by an unseen force.

The civilians walking about stop and glance at Jared who quickly covers his red and raw wrist. Instead of dealing with them right away, he once again takes off, making a beeline for the restrooms on the opposite end of the boardwalk.

He dashes inside, panting and whimpering at the searing pain in his wrist. He walks to the sinks, running it under cold water. Carver was here. Physically here. But Jared couldn't catch him, not with Alex missing. For all he knows, Carver stole him and has hurt him just to hurt Jared. It makes him sick to his stomach.

Jared roars, punching the glass mirror with his free hand until it splinters, cracking. There will be pain soon enough, but he can't focus on it right now. He just can't. There are more important matters--

"Mr. Jared?"

The small voice startles him; Jared jumps, looking in the cracked mirror to see that, behind him, Alex is safe, coming out of a bathroom stall with a few prizes he had won earlier. He wears a tiny frown, but he's otherwise okay. Jared breaks down, sighing in relief, though it's a rather rugged sigh; shaky and broken. He lunges toward Alex, holding him close, shutting his eyes.

"You can't just run off like that on your own," Jared mumbles, willing his rapid heartbeats to slow down just a second. "You could've been hurt."

Alex nods. "I'm sorry, but I really had to go."

"Me and Mr. Jensen were worried, pal."

"I'm okay!" Alex says with his childish grin. "Really. I know you think the bad man will get me, but you'll protect me! I know you will!"

Jared chuckles. "I will. No matter what. Come on, let's wash our hands and get back to Jensen."

Alex complies, and Jared walks them back to the sink where they successfully wash their hands. Jared washes his wrist, but does so quickly so he doesn't cause the kid to worry. When they're finished, Jared carries Alex on his back before calling Jensen's phone, letting him know that Alex was found and that he's a-okay.

They all regroup back at the live show where they finish the rest in peace, though Jared keeps a watchful eye out for Carver or any Carver look-a-likes. He's just gonna keep fucking with him until Jared finally cracks, but that's not happening any time soon. Jared won't give that fucker the satisfaction. His mind may be unprotected from a Fear Demon's power, but at least he recognizes what they can do, as well as Carver's weakness:

He's still adjusting to the power.

****

Jared begins stripping out of his clothes as Jensen begins gathering the laundry for tomorrow. He picks up every little article of clothing Jared lets fall to the floor until he's standing there naked in front of him. His back is towards him, yet Jensen can tell by Jared's body language that he's feeling troubled.

To sooth him, Jensen hugs him from behind, kissing his neck teasingly, maybe even a bit sensually. Their sex life is a very healthy one, and is always enjoyable. Hearing Jared giggle as Jensen caresses his bare torso and thighs makes it all worthwhile. It's simply the the best feeling I  the whole wide world.

"I know when you're thinking too much," Jensen mumbles into Jared's neck. "So how about we not think at all?"

Jared snorts. "Sex doesn't cure everything."

"No..." says Jensen, touching the inside of Jared's thighs, feeling him quake against his still clothed body. "But it's a start."

"While I would relish at the intense feeling sex brings, I'm gonna have to decline...at least for now. I feel like a gross pig."

"A sexy, gross pig."

"Charming." Jared separates from his husband, grabbing a towel on his way into the bathroom. "I'll consider it when I'm done."

"Yeah, yeah..." Jensen mutters after Jared shuts the door. He puts his hands on his hips, sighing through his nose. "Just trying to help, Witch."

He finishes collecting their worn clothes, putting them in the basket a long with the others. Jensen proceeds to exit their bedroom, traipsing down the stairs with Chad not too far behind. He's able to access the laundry room in no time, setting the basket on the floor next to the washer.

But Jensen doesn't leave just yet. He idles for a little while longer, scrubbing a hand over his face, groaning. Chad sits down on the cool tiled floor in front of him, tail twitching from side to side as always when he's gearing up to say something. Jensen stares at him, nodding.

"You're thinking it, too, huh?"

"How could I not?" Chad responds.

"I just...I've never seen him like this before. Paranoid, high strung. Those aren't words I would ever use to describe him. You know, Jared never even told me all that happened back then, and we're married. Carver must've been a big deal."

"He was. He almost killed us both had Jared not found the inner strength to hold him off, and excuse me for saying this, but I don't blame him for not telling you everything." Chad's voice is more subdued than usual, sullen maybe. "I wouldn't have either. The horrors we witnessed and endured that day were more than we could bear. Jared's parents were hardly recognizable by the time he got home. I wish I could go back in time, make some better life choices. Maybe then I could've helped somehow..."

Everything Chad says hits home, right in the center of Jensen's heart. It's hard not to feel empathy or at least sympathy for Jared. He knows how it feels to lose someone so close to you so early. Joshie had his whole life ahead of him, but because of Jensen's stupid fucking mistake, he's dead, and he'll never come back.

But Jensen has learned to forgive himself regarding his little brother's death...and he recognizes that it's not the same as Jared's predicament as there is someone he can blame for his loss. Carver, a man he's never met, but would gladly beat into a pulp.

"I just wanna help him," Jensen sighs. "That's all."

"You are helping him," replies Chad. "By doing what you're doing. Comforting him, standing by his side. The whole shebang. You're his rock, Jensen, so be a rock."

"That was a weird little pep talk, but I appreciate it. Thanks."

"No worries. I'll go check in on him."

"Yup."

Jensen watches as Chad saunters out of the laundry room, racing up the stairs. It really was a nice talk, though. All he has to do is keep being a rock. It's not at all too difficult really. Just be supportive, caring, attentive...everything he's been doing for the past 15 years.

Simple.

He reminisces about their lives together so far, thinking about how different yet similar they truly were. Jared opened his eyes to a world hidden in plain sight, and Jensen showed Jared that there will always be light, even in the darkest days. They make each other while, and it's the best damn feeling in the world.

Then, Jensen's mind wanders to Alex, and how close they were to losing him tonight. He's the coolest kid around, reminding Jensen of Joshie at his age. Maybe it's why he's latched onto him this way, he doesn't really know. What he does know, though, is that Alex is a target now, just as Jensen. Carver will come for them, and it won't be good.

Eventually, the sound of the doorbell ringing brings Jensen out of his brief reverie. He chances a look at his watch, frowning. Who comes by unannounced at 10:15 at night? Weird. Nevertheless, Jensen moves quickly until he arrives at the front door. Without asking who's there, he cracks it open, seeing that there's a stranger on the outside of the second door; the storm door.

He's not a very tall guy, a little short, actually, and he wears glasses. His hands are clasped together in front. Jensen's never seen this man before, but that charming grin he's flashing is a bit unsettling.

"May I help you?" Jensen asks.

"Hi, there," the man starts. "I'm Jerry Karmer."

"Uh...hello, Jerry Karmer."

"I was just strolling around the neighborhood, and thought I'd stop by."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Oh, sorry. Forgive me. I'm Jared's former Chemistry from when he still lived in the area."

Jensen nods, laughing. "Oh! I see. Well, nice to meet you, Mr. Karmer."

"I was hoping I could see Jared for a moment, just to say hi."

"It's, um..." Jensen looks to the staircase, but no one's there to back him up. "It's a little late, and I'm not so sure he's up for visitors right now."

Jerry Karmer, however, insists. "Please? It would just be a second."

All signs are pointing for Jensen to say no, to say absolutely not, to banish this stranger from their house. He should know better than to do this, but Jerry Karmer doesn't seem that much of a threat, and even if he proves to be, Jensen has powers to fuck him up with.

So, Jensen says, "One sec", and reaches forward to unlock the storm door to allow the man inside. Instead of unlocking and staying that way like Jensen wants it to, it snaps locked again, refusing to open. Jensen jiggles with the lock mechanism, grunting at its stubbornness. He's never had this problem with the locks before.

"I'm sorry, but this seems to be stuck. I have no idea how, this is weird."

"I'm sure it happens all the time," Jerry Karmer deadpans. "Just let me in."

His tone puts Jensen off, and in that split second, he realizes that it was a bad idea to even answer the door in the first place. Jensen looks up, glancing at Jerry Karmer who quickly fixes his angered expression into a more pleasant one.

Jensen pulls out one of his calm smiles. "I don't think this door is budging tonight. How about you come back tomorrow?"

"What?" Jerry Karmer frowns, becoming more and more agitated with every word. "I came to see Jared. It's been a very long time, now if you don't mind, sir, let me in."

"You know what...I don't think I will. It'd be best if you left my property. Now."

In an instant, a shimmering light reflects off the storm door when Jerry Karmer goes to touch it, shocking him harshly. He recoils, as does Jensen, even though he wasn't harmed. It is then that Jerry Karmer's true nature is revealed. He chuckles darkly, glancing around the now visible glyphs and sigils that surround the house.

He then looks directly at Jensen, now sporting a pair of eyes that glow eerily in the night. His wicked grin makes Jensen's skin crawl as he slowly walks up to the glass, but is unable to penetrate it. When Jerry Karmer speaks, Jensen realizes exactly who he is.

"Holy shit, Jared's bound the house. Such an amazing cast, too. But does he think he can keep me out for long?"

Jensen falls backwards, staring in horror as dark, slithering tendrils crawl out of Jeremy Carver's body, tapping on the glass. "J--Jay! Jared!"

"Just let me in, Jensen. It'll be quick for the both of you. Maybe. I'm still quite bitter."

Just then, Jared's fast and loud footsteps are heard dashing through the hall upstairs until he's running down to the main floor. There, he stares face to face with the evil that's haunted him for years. Jared stands there petrified as Carver snarls, pointing at him from the other side.

"This can all go away if you surrender yourself to me right now. I won't hurt him, or the kid. I only want you. If you don't come outside...I'll take them. What will your choice be, rabbit--?"

"Banishta maxim."

Jared says one of those powerful Zaelich spells, drawing a rune into thin air. After the cast, Carver screams, and vanishes from sight, presumably banished from their presence. Jared rushes to the door, slamming it closed and locking the son of a bitch for good measure. Jensen is suddenly grateful that they have two sets of security systems on their house.

Soon, Jared turns around as Jensen stands. He avoids eye contact, rubbing the back of his neck. "I didn't--I didn't know it was him, I never knew what he looked like, I'm sorry--"

"It's okay," Jared mumbles with his damp hair, coming to embrace Jensen. "It's fine."

"It's not okay. Nothing about this is okay. He'll come back, and he'll be angrier."

"And I'll be ready for him next time."

****

Carver growls as he devours yet another soul, roaring in rage that the little fucker managed to cast him away so easily, rendering his power weaker than expected. Well, Carver is gonna show that kid who the weak one really is soon enough. This isn't over, not by a long shot.

Tomorrow, he'll strike. And his first target? The pretty boy of a husband.

Chapter Text

It's a dream.

Jared knows it's a dream, but he can't break out of it.

He's walking down a road that he's familiar with. It's here in the city, but it's empty. There's no one anywhere. No cars, no pedestrians on the sidewalk, nothing. Not even the streetlights are operable.

To make matters extremely worse, there's a large fog up ahead. Jared wills his feet to stop moving, but they trek on against his will, forcing him to enter the shrouded streets. Upon entering, Jared finds it to be cold, despite knowing full well that what he's experiencing isn't real.

The city takes on a drastically different atmosphere than usual. It's a safe place, one of the best, but in this version...Jared knows that not to be true. Evil lurks within the fog, scampering about, giving Jared only fleeting little images here and there. Creatures, monsters that he knows will harm him. By now, Jared has wandered so deep into the city that he's lost his way. Landmarks are gone, and he can't afford to idle.

Without a thought, he runs forward through the thick mist, listening to the cackles coming from thin air, taunting him. The voices laugh at his struggle, leading him through a maze of inescapable roads that lead absolutely nowhere.

Finally, and more randomly, Jared finds himself standing in front of the Council who all seem to fade away quickly. They're replaced by 12 perfect, well-dressed versions of Jared, respectively. All of them clean cut, freshly shaven, and with slicked back hair, they cast their eyes down upon Jared, pointing at him.

"13th!" They drone in unison, frightening Jared. "13th! 13th! 13th! 13th! 13th!"

Their voices get louder and louder, sounding more like ear piercing screeching with every passing second. Jared winces, covering his ears and sinking to the floor. He cries there, staying in a fetal position as the screeching intensifies into something fierce. Jared shouts, calling for help, calling for anyone!

He's suddenly saved by an unknown man who makes the high pitched screeching noises cease. Jared opens his eyes as the man comes down to his level and into the light, revealing that he's none other than Gerald Padalecki himself. Jared's soft, multicolored eyes widen, tearing up at the sight of the man who was taken from him at an early age.

His father cradles his face before smoothing out his hair, smiling. "They tried to hurt my strong boy, but I'm always here for you."

"Dad?" Jared starts, letting out a strangled sob.

"It's me, son, I'm right here."

"Dad!"

"Everything's gonna be okay, yeah? It'll all be over soon."

The happy smile on Jared's face melts away as his father's grasp tightens, squeezing him harder. It's then that Jared realizes that, unfortunately, he's still stuck within this nightmare, and that the man who wears his father's face is not him at all.

Jared fights his way out of his father's grasp, both standing up simultaneously. Gerald approaches him, causing Jared to take shaky steps back to keep them from each other. As if that would work.

"Come to daddy, Jared... I've missed you so much. Don't you miss me?"

"Get the fuck away from me!" Jared yells, but the monster in disguise dashes at him, hoisting him up by his throat. "Let go! No! Stop!"

"But the fun's just beginning, son," it grins with its suddenly razor like teeth, turning its head to the side menacingly. "And I'm rather hungry."

"Noooo!"

****

"No--!"

Jared flails in the bed, sitting upright with a loud shout. He pants heavily, gazing around the room until he pieces together what's happened. After discovering that he's safe and not being devoured by a monster, in his bedroom, and not dead, Jared begins to relax a little.

He flops back down onto the bed with a resigned sigh, covering his eyes with his arm.

"Fuck..." He breathes, heart still hammering in his chest. "Even in my dreams I'm not safe from that fucker..."

Not long after, Jared feels Chad hopping onto the bed, laying protectively on his chest. On instinct, Jared pets him, scratching under his chin and behind his ears. He's always here like clockwork, it never fails. Kinda like a real cat comforting you after a nightmare that wasn't really a nightmare, but just another fucking attack.

"This is getting out of hand," Chad whispers. "We have to stop him. Mark and the other Peacekeepers aren't doing a damn thing."

Jared groans, not wanting to be reminded about how, after Carver came to their house last night, he received no backup.

"We'll be there to catch him," Mark told Jared after benching him.

Yeah? Then where were they when he was getting harassed by the mass murderer twice!? Nowhere to be found, that's where. Jared is more than pissed off by Mark's sudden incompetence. His very best could've been killed by the same man that killed his best of all time.

It's infuriating.

Finally glancing over to his left, Jared sees that Jensen is not on bed with him. He reaches over to the emptiness that is Jensen's side, finding that it's pretty cold from his absence. Suddenly, Jared becomes a bit paranoid, thinking of the events of last night all over again.

"Where's Jensen?"

"He said he was going to the store, and he didn't want to wake you." Chad answers. "I'm sure he's fine."

"Carver said he'd come for Jensen and Alex," he reminds Chad. "That's not exactly fine."

"JP, Jensen's a powerful Psychic. You trained him yourself. You know what he's capable of."

"That's true, but I also know what he isn't. capable of."

Jared leaves it at that, carefully moving Chad out of the way so he can rise from the bed. On instinct, Jared checks his phone. 9:42 AM. Sleeping in has never before been more stressful. There's also texts from concerned friends. Jason Manns, Tom Welling, even Jeff, but not a single one from Mark. Asshole.

Though they've often butted heads in the past, Jared has never been utterly disrespectful towards his superior. It's true, he might joke around occasionally with his dry and sometimes dark humor, but that's just how he operates. If you can't laugh at life, what can you laugh at?

But this isn't funny. Not in the slightest. Jared's not laughing this time, but Carver definitely is. He's reveling in the despair he's causing Jared. He must feel pretty damn good considering he's looking a little worse for wear. Jared saw how Carver looked last night. The Fæmon's essence is too much for him, eating him up from the inside.

It was the same for Misha Collins on Rockfell Island. They both consumed a power they barely understood to wreak havoc on the world, though Carver's thinking on a smaller scale. All he wants is Jared to suffer...and die, ultimately. What a pain.

Jared stretches, yawning as he shuffles towards the bathroom to relieve himself. The bathroom break is brief, thank god, and Jared strides to the sink to wash his hands. He gazes into the mirror, staring at himself as the water runs. There's bags under his eyes, and his hair is a travesty. He touches the bags after turning off the faucet.

"Goddammit, I look 50 years old..."

In a flash, his reflection on the mirror fades, glass rippling like water running down a stream. Normally, this would freak someone out, but Jared is a Warlock. Weird shit happens to him on a semi-regular basis. Hell, it'd be weirder if nothing strange happened at all.

Jared focuses on the ripples, squinting his eyes until a face begins to form in the "waters". To his surprise, Stephen Amell appears, greeting him with a polite smile. Jared doesn't return one back to him, instead performing a swift, faux salute. Stephen chuckles in kind, smirking.

"Good morning, Jared. You don't look a day over 25, but you seem exhausted."

"Just a reflection of how I feel." Jared replies. "What are you doing in my bathroom mirror? This could've been more awkward had I been in the shower."

"Perish the thought. But no, I have important matters to discuss with you. It's about the criminal, Jeremy Carver. My informants have spotted him in your area."

Jared sighs, biting the inside of his cheek. "Yeah, he's definitely been here alright. And your informants? That's a bit too fancy of a word for spy, don't you think?"

"Their titles are of no importance to the conversation," Stephen sputters. "Just know that they've found evidence of his presence in the city today."

Jared clenches his jaw, worried. "Today?"

"Yes. Have you been out at all this morning?"

"No, I just..."

"How about your husband?"

"Jensen, he's--"

Jensen!

Jared's heart stops for just a second, stalling as he starts panicking. He licks his dry lips, shaky hands planted firmly on the porcelain sink.

"He's out, I don't know how long. You think he took him?" Jared is able to mumble out, eyes down.

"I'm saying you both could be in danger."

"And Alex? Is he--?"

"I have people stationed with Alex--he's safe, don't worry." Stephen reassures him. "But I'm not so sure about Jensen. You need to call him."

Jared nods, beginning to rush out of the room. "Planned on it."

"And Jared?" Stephen calls after him, delaying Jared further. "I know what this man has done to you, to your family, and to many others. If you come into contact with him, use whatever means necessary to take that cocksucker down. You're not on the job at the moment, but no one would bat an eye if you killed him. I know you'll do the right thing."

"Understood."

Stephen's visage disappears from the mirror, returning back to its original state. Jared soon returns to the bedroom where he slips on a pair of jeans ripped straight from the dresser that rests in front of the bed. He's not sure if they're his or Jensen's, but Jared doesn't have time to check. He skips a shirt, going for his loose, grey hoodie.

After putting it on, he slides into his running shoes, grabbing his phone to see that there have been no calls from Jensen just yet. Jared looks over across the bed to Jensen's side, staring at his nightstand.

His protection charm is just sitting there, forgotten. Jared groans, closing his eyes. He doesn't want to think about what could've happened.

"Jared," Chad starts, concerned. "What's the matter?"

"What time did he leave?" Jared asks. "When did Jensen go to the supermarket?"

"About an hour ago. Why? Did you find something? Where are you going?"

"To exorcise a Demon."

He has no idea if he can do that if there's technically no Demon to exorcise, but it's worth a shot.

Jared snatches his phone, rushing down the stairs and out of the house as Chad calls after him. He pays his best friend no mind, instead starting up his car in a hurry. As he backs out of the driveway, Jared dials Jensen's cell, pressing the device to his ear.

There's no answer. Only voicemail. Anxious, Jared tries again only to be met with the same voicemail. He tries about 10 more times, anxiety spiking through the roof.

It's maddening.

What if this is truly the end of it all? What if Carver made good on his promise to take Jensen away from him? A million and one scenarios play out in Jared's mind about what's going on, and what he'll do within the next 20 minutes or so.

Trying one more time, Jared reaches his husband's voicemail, growling in frustration.

"Dammit, Jensen, where the hell are you? Pick up your fucking phone!"

Jared's worst fears are confirmed when, all of a sudden, he hears a sickening chuckle that sends shivers down his spine. A voice speaks to him then, making light of the situation.

Jensen's not here at the moment. Please leave a message after the beep.

It's not coming from the phone, and it's not Jensen's voice either.

Jared sneers as he grips the steering wheel tight, trying his best not to crash. "Carver."

In the  flesh. Technically. I'm still very fleshy, but I've kinda upgraded myself recently.

"Where is he, asshole!?"

Hahaha, not so fast, rabbit. I'm all about padding the runtime. Why tell you when I could just show you?

And then Jared sees it. Carver transmits images into his mind, images of Jensen suspended in midair, in stasis. He's in agonizing pain, bleeding from his eyes, ears and nose, unable to speak or move. The visions hit Jared hard who releases a single tear in fear for the man he loves more than anything else in the world.

The images are a disturbing callback to Chad being held in the same state 17 years ago, imagery that Jared can't ever get out of his head.

At this particular thought, Carver laughs.

I always knew you to be a clever one.

"Get the fuck outta my head!" Jared shouts in traffic.

Why don't you join me for a spell? It's getting quite lonely in here.

At the drop of a hat, everything changes. Jared's seen some crazy shit in his day, but goddammit, this has to be the most craziest mess he's encountered since hopping into that video game with the rest of his Coven.

In less than a millisecond, the car stops, violently jerking Jared forward, but that's not all. Of course it isn't. The environment around him has changed in a way Jared cannot properly describe. Perhaps, logically, it's the same city he's already in, but worse in some capacity.

What's more, it feels exactly like the dream he recently woke up from. The city covered in a thick fog with dilapidated buildings and an eerie aura that is sure to make his skin crawl. No vehicles, and no people anywhere in sight. It looks like a fucking ghost town. And Jared's right in the middle of it all. For fuck's sake.

It has him wondering if he's hallucinating it all...or if he's still stuck in his dream.

Regardless, Jared attempts to start the car again, but the engine stalls. He turns the key, whispering heated, angry swears at the car he's had for nearly a year. It's still in pristine condition, but here he is, stuck in a nightmare with a stalling fucking engine. He suddenly gets the genius idea to abandon conventional means, opting instead to use his powers to get shit done.

However, the harder Jared focuses on the engine repairing itself, nothing happens. His blood runs cold, trying every possible spell combination he can think of on the fly, but nothing works. Jared strains, concentrating on making something--anything--move.

But nothing does. Everything stays the same, and nothing is effected. He pants, frowning at the realization that, in here, he has no power.

Right again, rabbit. Carver croons. How's it feel to be so powerless in your own mind?

"How's it feel to be a parasite, leeching off my brain?" Jared snarks.

Comfortable, rabbit.

"Not for long, asshole."

Jared slams his hands on the steering wheel after failing to get the engine to start again. He checks his phone, coming to the conclusion that it won't help him much in a place such as this. It has him wondering just how this is all possible considering that Carver is just a lowly Sorcerer with a Fear Demon's power.

I resent that, rabbit. The motherfucker hums amusingly. You see, I've been upgrading my arsenal. I created a small parallel dimension made up of your own fears, insecurities, and failures. I was inspired by something I saw a while back. Isn't that exciting? It is taxing, however. Do you know how many poor souls I had to consume just to be able to speak to you this way?

So, it is real. Dammit.

Jared scoffs, unbuckling his seatbelt before stepping out of the car. He makes an effort to ignore the implication that there's a high possibly of seeing something he doesn't want to see. Deja vu all over again..

"Casual mentions of murder. Nice. I wouldn't expect anything less from a piece of shit like you. Now, I'm only going to ask you this one more time, and I really mean one: Where are you keeping Jensen, bitch?"

Hmm... I don't really like your tone. But, if you must know, he's here in the market. With me. He put up such a good fight, you know. I looked into his mind. You trained him well. You would've been proud.

"If you touch a single brown hair on his handsome fucking head, I will make you wish I killed you 17 years ago."

I already have harmed him though, rabbit.

"I meant further, shitstain."

Such a mouth on you. You used to be so squeaky clean. Is this another undesirable trait you adopted after I cleaved open your mother?

It makes Jared quiver with rage as Carver talks about his mother like that. She was an amazing woman, kind hearted and strong. She doesn't deserve this kind of talk when she's no longer here. Mom was taking her last breaths when Jared walked in on them. She died gazing at him, tears streaming down her face.

He was only 15.

He was oh 15 when this psychopath murdered his family and tried to murder him back. If Jared didn't know any better, he'd say that Carver has a severe case of completion anxiety. It's a common thing for males, even more common amongst serial killers who accidentally let certain victims slip away from their grasp.

Are you diagnosing me, Peacekeeper Padalecki? Carver chuckles. I wasn't aware you had a degree in Criminal Psychology.

Jared sighs, already done with his shit. He can't get him out of his head, but he can definitely snark back at him all he desires. He walks around to the back of the car to the trunk.

"Just keep flapping your gums, Carver. Doesn't matter if no one's listening to shit you say."

Popping open the trunk, Jared rummages through a chest full of emergency items. For just such occasions. Jensen had suggested that, if and when confronted by an unknown force or attacker on the road, Jared should be prepared with a kit. A survival kit, or something of the sort.

Jared soon produces a standard issue Peacekeeping pistol, first edition. Unlike the more modern ones, this gun uses ammunition. Beside the gun is a hip holster with a few magazine pouches attached. Without thought, he gears up, putting on the holster and checking the pistol, turning the safety off.

I should've been more thorough in my search. Carver grumbles disdainfully.

Jared counts this as a win as he pockets a few Healing Crystals and takes a combat knife, smirking. "Obviously. I'm not the same kid you brutally terrorized, Carver. I've learned from our encounter."

Clearly. It shows, but you are scared. You're not outright expressing it yet...but you will. Watch yourself in the fog, rabbit. If you listen closely, you'll find that...you're not alone in this silent hell.

Shutting the trunk, Jared trains his ears to the sounds coming from the thickness of the fog. He can hear them scurrying around out there, walking around him, staying just out of view. Jared keeps his gun close, flashlight in the left hand. He puts his aiming arm over the arm where he points the flashlight, keeping them both steady. It's called the "Harries" technique. Very handy.

Oh, Carver says, sounding as if he forgot something. Before you continue, I have to confess: Jensen is dying. His life is on a timer. Have a listen. Can't you hear it? His heartbeat, it slows, and it only gets more shallow by the second. I would hurry if I were you.

"You fucker!" Jared shouts into the air, letting his emotions get the better of him.

Against his will, however, he listens to Jensen's heartbeat, discovering that it actually is slowing down. Each little thump hammers home that Jensen is just as fragile as any human being, and when Jared saves him from that monster's grasp, he will berate him over forgetting his protection charm again.

With a shaky exhale, Jared steps further away from his car and into the fog, disappearing inside of it completely. It engulfs him, surrounding him and obscuring his vision. To make matters worse than they already are, he can hear hissing groans all around him.

Jared aims his gun around the foggy atmosphere, determined to catch a glimpse of whatever monsters are stalking him through this hell-like pocket dimension. When he hears footsteps to his left, Jared fires a warning shot in that direction, listening to the bullet ricochet off the ground. It only amplifies the intensity.

Straight ahead, right down the road, Jared hears more footsteps, but their slow. And there's more than one individual, as he can see by the shadows they cast in the fog. He points forward, ready to fire when suddenly, out of the mist, a gang of shambling, rotting corpses appear.

Jared freezes, crippled by unbridled fear. Irrational fear it may be, but anyone who knows him is aware that he's deathly afraid of the undead, namely zombies. He can recall the conversation he head years ago with Jensen who believed he was afraid of nothing. Oh, how he was wrong.

The perfect killer in your mind. Carver taunts from wherever he's hidden himself. Brainless, impulsive, lacking emotion, driving only by the need to slaughter and consume. You take one down, a hundred more take its place.

Jared shakes, still holding his gun and flashlight. "Stay out of my head...please."

That was a weak attempt at begging. I'm sure you can do better than that.

"Just leave me alone." He insists, whispering as he backs away from the advancing zombies.

I can't. I won't. You have to die, Jared. I'm sorry.

With that, the zombies attack Jared. With a speed he didn't know they possessed, they lurch towards him with their mouths agape. Jared swiftly moves out of the way, letting them tumble to the pavement pathetically. It doesn't phase them. Even while down, they crawl for him, moaning hungrily, clawing at the pavement until their fingernails crack and break.

They'll do anything to kill him, and that's why they're frightening. They don't feel anything, they just kill without remorse. Much like a certain psycho Jared knows.

And then, sure as day, it hits him. Zombies are terrifying, yes, but in massive groups. Alone or in groups of 3, like these ones, they are powerless. Though they're still strong, 3 against 1 with a gun is hardly a challenge. As a zombie tries standing up, Jared points at its head, firing off a round that kills it instantly. He does the same with the remaining 2, killing them with well placed shots to their brains.

Jared breathes in and out slowly, calming his nerves. He thinks he's won...but he hasn't, and Carver makes sure to gloat over this fact.

In a world where I control your deepest fears, why on earth would you believe that would be the end of it?

Jared prepares to bite back at his aggressor, but before he can, he hears more shambling from the fog behind him. He turns around just in time to spot a zombie coming toward him. Then another. Then a third one. Then a tenth. Then an entire legion of undead.

He hyperventilates, stepping backward, keeping the distance between them. Jared shoots one, but another steps out in its place. He kills another, yet two more join in on the frey. As the body count rises, more and more zombies come out to play. Jared goes to shoot again, but finds that he needs to reload.

The amount of time it'll take him to do so would only result in him being eaten alive. So, like any rational human being, Jared flees, running off down the road that'll lead him to the market. The echoes of the zombies and their groans reverberate all throughout the fog, forcing him to press on.

This is a nightmare, he thinks to himself. It can't be anything else.

But it's not. It's all real. No matter how many times he pinches himself, he doesn't wake. Jared is trapped in this place until he can find Jensen and take down Carver. It's the only solution.

He runs as far as his legs can take him, stopping in the middle of the road for a rest. The sounds of the undead have ceased, but even here, Jared believes it's not safe. He can't idle in this spot, or he'll die.

Immediately, the sound of a fog horn in the distance is heard, causing Jared to stand straight up. He readies his pistol, preparing to fight. Yet again, Carver laughs at him, taking joy in his misery.

"Sending monsters after me isn't going to prevent me from saving Jensen." Jared states.

No, probably not. But this isn't your ordinary monster. Welcome to Hell, rabbit.

The fog horn blares louder this time, making it seem like it has gotten closer. In a flash, the sky above him begins to darken, forcing Jared to look around with his flashlight, but even that starts to fizzle out and die until Jared is wrapped in pitch black darkness. The fog horn fades out, and only the sounds of Jared's own breathing is heard.

A drop of water is felt hitting the top of his head which surprises him. Then more droplets fall until it rains down on him. Jared cant see a thing, but something feels off about this rain. It's heavier than a usual water droplet. It doesn't feel like a downpour, but the water is very thick in texture.

And then the smell of copper reaches his nose as the flashlight beams to life again.

It's not rain.

It's blood.

Jared yelps as the blood pouring from the sky soaks his clothing, staining him red. It's disgusting and horrifying, but it does nothing to prepare him for what's about to happen. While he freaks out over being turned into Carrie White, Jared spots something out of the corner of his eye.

Even though the city is completely shrouded in darkness and an extremely thick fog, he spots something stumbling a few yards away. Pointing the light at it, Jared witnesses a monster materializing straight from nothing, "flaking" together to form a creature that he both recognizes and fears at the same time.

For the second time, he freezes, staring wide eyed at a towering, pale four legged creature with his mother's face that has claws for hands and a naked torso on display that's been slit open. Her hair is wild, and she twitches about in a violent manner, moaning grotesquely as black ooze seeps through her mouth and wound.

"My baby..." it says to him, claws outstretched. "Come to mommy...sweet...heart."

Jared trips, causing his flashlight and gun to scatter. He swears aloud, crying and reaching for his flashlight as the monster rushes at him with inhuman speed. In fear, he points the light directly in the monster's face, causing it to shriek madly and recoil. It gives Jared just enough time to use the light to find his gun. He crawls over to snatch it before getting up and running far away from the twisted version of his mother.

The blood rain pelts down heavily upon him, drenching his hair and face, soaking through his clothes. He ignores the sloshing as he runs, noting that the streets are now filled with blood. All that runs through Jared's mind is the beating of Jensen's heart. He can still hear it if he focuses intently.

It's getting fainter.

After reaching a considerable range away from the monsters that haunt the city, Jared rushes into a building that seems intact for the most part. It's a dentist's office. He bolts through the place, knocking over chairs and bookshelves in his hysteria. In time, he makes it to the bathroom, making a beeline for the sink.

His hands shake as he fiddles with the knobs on the faucet; he drops his flashlight, cursing when it rolls away, still lit. Jared splashes water all over his face, scrubbing away the grime and the gore that paints him. He doesn't forget about his hair, wringing it out into the sink before attempting to get the blood out. It's much harder that it seems, and he tries his best...but he can't stop shaking.

It doesn't take long for Jared to break down on the dirty floor, sobbing in a fetal position. Very much like in the nightmare he had. But this time, no one is here to save him. Not Jensen, not Jeff, not even his parents. It hits him like a tidal wave then, crashing over him.

He saw his mother--he saw her as a monster. She had the same face, and the same voice...but it wasn't her. It was a frightening version of her that his mind has conjured up with the help of Carver. Seeing her like that, writhing around and moaning sexually...it's more than he can bear.

Jared wants to scrub it all away. He wants to leave this place and save Jensen before more monstrosities come up out of the woodwork, but he can't move. Jared doesn't want to.

He's...scared.

Ah, there it is. Carver jeers. That fear--that delicious fear that I've been craving for so long. I love this. Look at you, you're barely keeping it together.

"Just shut up!" Jared cries. "Leave me alone, for fuck's sake, just go away!"

I want you suffer before the end, rabbit. I want you to know what loss is after what your father did to me.

"What did he ever do to you!?" Jared yells, sniffling.

...You'll find out soon enough. If you hurry. Clock's ticking away, and Jensen has little time left.

Carver leaves him with the sound of Jensen's heartbeat again, discovering that the beats are getting slower than before. Jared squeezes out the few tears he's got left, wiping his eyes and face. He lies on his back and stares up at the ceiling as the fog horn from earlier sounds again.

The surrounding area changes; reality shifts as missing tiles reassemble themselves and scratches and blood along the walls disappear. Light returns to the world, shining through the window in the bathroom. From Purgatory to Hell, and back to Purgatory again.

Carver is controlling two sides of the same world. One a quiet, less threatening domain, and one made up of barbed wire and industrial fear. Jared can't win in here. How can he? His fears will tear him apart.

But then he looks at his left hand, seeing his wedding ring coupled with the mood ring Little Alex gifted him the day prior. He can't die here, he decides, because if he does, no one will protect Alex from Carver who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone Jared has gotten close to. The man is a lying, sick sack of shit. He'll kill again. Men like him always do.

Jared's gotta stop him, and bawling his eyes out on the floor will not help anything. He needs to face his fears head on if he has any hope of getting Jensen away from that maniac. So, after taking two long, deep breaths, Jared picks himself up off the floor, taking his gun and flashlight with him. He rolls up his sleeves, gazing into the mirror one last time to see the reflection of a scared, broken but determined man willing to risk his life to save his loved ones. He's covered in blood and dirt, and is aware of the dangers that plague this place, though he has something to fight for.

And he'll keep fighting. He'll always keep fighting.

With newfound resolve, Jared exits the bathroom and ultimately the dentist's office altogether, stepping foot outside. Once again, the town is covered in a thick layer of fog that's hard to see through, but Jared knows where to go. Out of all the markets in the city, there's only one he and Jensen frequent. The way forward isn't long, but he has a feeling that there will be nothing but monsters in his path.

He's ready for it. Anything for Jensen.

Jared continues on his path with optimism. He follows the street signs carefully, remembering each and every turn to take to get to the market. As predicted, he's met with more obstacles along the way in the form of more zombies. They're easier to gun down now, realizing that their slow nature is a great exploit.

However, Carver notices this, and sends out the worst kind of zombie. The "Modern" zombie, the ones that aren't technically zombies, but more along the lines of infected persons whose minds have been taken over by a horrible virus. They also run and have some degree of intelligence, increasing their fear factor.

They're an annoyance that Jared has to wade through in order to push onward. It's more than disturbing, actually, to come across them. Zombies aren't supposed to run! Running zombies are far more terrifying than the standard Romero-esque zombies of yesteryear.

Still, Jared is able to overcome this fear in time, mowing them down through a clenched jaw. He journeys toward the path he usually takes to the market only to find that there's a gaping hole in the middle of the street that separates him from the other side. He growls as Carvel hums contentedly.

You didn't think it'd be that easy, did you?

Jared smirks, keeping his index finger and his thumb centimeters apart. "Just a bit. You think you have me by the balls, Carver. You don't. I won't let myself be underestimated by you again."

Foolish of you to think you have any kind of power here.

"It is my mind after all."

Carver says nothing more after that, stewing in his hate. Jared counts this as yet another win in a series of losses. He walks off, searching for another way across. He grew up in this city; these areas are pretty much memorized at this point. Jared takes shortcuts from his childhood, slipping through alleys and over fences like a seasoned police officer. He's so much better than that.

In a few minutes, Jared makes it to the main road that leads him to the market. Before he can think to press onward, he hears the screams of people inside a building to his left. He gapes at him, frowning. It's his old high school. Of course it is. Jared begrudgingly enters the institution, instantly seeing all the fond memories he had here playing out in front of him.

He had friends here, a normal-ish life. He smiles, but it's erased when he hears more screams coming from further into the school. The visions of the past fade away, and he quickly makes his way to the gymnasium where he finds a woman being attacked by strange, winged, bat-like beasts with mandibles dripping with saliva, and sharp talons.

They screech at her, cutting her up and lifting her off the ground. Jared springs into action, shooting the monsters with expert precision. He may be powerless right now, but he's still a great marksman. The woman falls to the floor, landing on her side. Cautious, Jared runs up to the woman, helping her up until she's able to stand.

He looks at her, amazed that there is another person here. She looks frightened enough, and the look in her eyes tells Jared that, yes, she's 100% real, not a hallucination conjured up by Carver. It has Jared questioning the immense power the man has. It would be eating him apart right about now, wouldn't it? He tries not to think to hard or too loud, knowing Carver is ever present in this dimension.

The woman grasps Jared's shoulders, eyes wild and watering. "Help me! Jesus Christ, what's going on here? What were those things!? Is this real!?"

"Hey, listen, I need you to calm down, alright?" Jared tries, speaking softly. "My name is Jared. I'm a...I'm a police officer. What's your name?"

"Julie... My name is Julie."

"Nice to meet you, Julie, even in such unlucky circumstances. How'd you get here?"

Julie sighs, rubbing her forehead. "I don't know! I was with my husband and we were on our way to his parent's house when suddenly the car stopped and he just vanished! Then this fog came and I started seeing those monsters, and I just..."

She starts breaking down, bursting into tears. Her story is similar to Jared's. Car troubles, sudden foggy atmosphere, monsters attacking. He wasn't the only one pulled into his mind. Carver did this to her, and to her husband as well, presumably. Jared comforts her despite himself, and his objective takes a suddenly turn.

He has a choice here. Save Jensen, or help this woman.

This is Carver's doing, obviously. He threw her in here to distract him from his goal. Well, it won't work. Jared's got a plan. It's not the best plan, but it's better than waiting around for Jensen to die.

"I'm also looking for my husband," Jared starts. "He's in the city, at the supermarket just up the street. If you stay with me, I can protect you and help you find yours. Okay?"

Julie thinks on it for a while as Jared listens to Jensen's heartbeat again. The beats are becoming fewer now, making him more anxious for her answer. The reason he became a Peacekeeper in the first place to help those like her against people like Carver, but if she doesn't give him her answer within 10 seconds, he will not hesitate to leave her.

It doesn't come to that, however, when Julie nods, dusting herself off. "Okay."

Jared sighs, taking point. "Okay. Follow me. Stay close."

She trails behind Jared as they begin exiting the gymnasium. His mind trails off to the decisions he's made to even get to this point. The only thing he keeps returning to is fighting back against Carver. If he hadn't, he would've died and the Padalecki legacy would've ended, taking Chad along with it as well.

It's a hard thing to think about, being the indirect cause of so many people's deaths. The guards at the prison, the prisoners themselves, Andrew Dabb, and the countless others that had to perish just so Carver could hold Jared here long enough to torment him and show him things he never wanted to see.

Only a sick monster could do something like this. A true psychopath through and through.

As Jared and Julie attempt to make it out of the school, they head another scream coming from within. She looks to the noise, eyes widening in realization.

"Greg? Oh, god, it's Greg! He's in trouble! We have to help him!"

Jared pauses, hand on the door handle that leads outside. "Are you sure?"

"I'm positive! Please!"

"Alright, alright!"

Jared delays, wasting more precious time to follow the screams. He navigates the halls with his new companion until, straight down the hall, he spots a man fighting back a large monster that pulls him into a hole in the floor.

Greg, the woman's husband, holds onto a loose bar protruding from the ground, struggling. He cries for help upon seeing Jared with Julie. Jared instructs Julie to stay where she is as Jared goes to save Greg. He puts his pistol away, using both hands to grab hold of Greg. The monster in the dark hole below fights with Jared for its meal, snarling and screeching.

And yet, as Jared tries his hardest to save Greg, he can't help but to hear shrieks coming from behind him. He turns back, seeing Julie being assaulted yet again by those flying monsters. They pull at each of her arms, threatening to tear her apart. Suddenly, Jared's faced with another horrifying dilemma.

Save Greg, or save Julie. Not both. He doesn't have enough time for both. In typical prick fashion, Carver chimes in after long minutes of inactivity.

A classic "hero's choice" moment. Save one, or the other. But not both. Oh, what to do, what to do?

"Shut up!" Jared grunts, still holding onto Greg.

He takes out his pistol, holding Greg with one hand and the gun with the other. He aims down the hall at the monsters attacking Julie, but misses, nearly blowing her head off. Jared refuses to let go, but he can't just let her die either. He screams at the unfairness of it all, finally accepting that only one of them comes out of this alive.

And so, with a heavy heart, Jared chooses Greg as he's the closest. He puts his gun back in the holster, grabbing onto both of his arms. It's a vicious game of tug of war that Jared desperately wants to win.

Behind him, the gut wrenching screams of Julie echo through the building, making Jared feel all the more guilty of what he's doing. He makes the mistake of looking back, seeing the woman he just met get violently pulled apart by the flying monsters.

Jared shouts, turning his attention back towards Greg. If only he can save Greg. He's so close, just gotta keep pulling! Almost there! Almost--!

No.

Nonononono!

No!

Jared's grip is slipping; the monster below them is stronger than he is. Jared encourages Greg to fight back, to kick his feet out, to do anything to disorient the beast. But it's all for nothing. Soon enough, Jared hears the gruesome sound of flesh being ripped open, followed by Greg spitting up blood. Despite this, Jared pulls and pulls, determined to save him.

Ultimately, Jared manages to pull Greg up to his level, but recoils in horror upon learning that he's only gotten half of him back up. Greg's lifeless torso slumps to the ground as Jared wails at the macabre scene before him. Still in shock, Jared collects himself and quickly rushes out of the school, narrowly avoiding the monsters that want to kill him.

As he puts as much distance as he can between him and the school, Carver speaks to him in a melancholy tone.

Sometimes, when you are faced with a difficult decision, you must deal with the consequences of your actions. The results aren't always fair, but it's life. They were both going to die here regardless. I would've seen to that. What you did only delayed the inevitable by a few seconds. Trying to save them simply did not matter in the end.

Just when he believes Carver can't phase him further, the bastard decides to step it up a notch by adding in innocent civilians. There's guilt within Jared's heart now, more so than ever before. Effectively, he killed that couple. Though it wasn't by his own hands, he was indirectly responsible, and that's something he'll have to bear for as long as he lives.

Carver's right. It's not fair. It's life. Doesn't mean that it won't hurt him any less.

Jared runs as far as he's able, finally making it to the parking lot of the supermarket where Jensen is being held. He suppresses the urge to smile, knowing for certain that Carver still had many tricks up his sleeve. Jared travels to the front of the store, finding that a glowing, red sigil with many markings prevents the doors from opening.

He tries forcing his way in, but is pushed back by an invisible force. He growls, curling his hands into fists. If he were able to use his powers, he could have those doors open in no time. But there's a reason this is here. Jared understands that now. He frowns, staring at the sigil, looking over the markings and runes.

"It's a lock," Jared mumbles aloud. "But where's the key?"

Yes. Once again, a clever Warlock, spits Carver. Just like your father. Ugh. It is a lock, correct, but the key is not a key. It is an experience, it is a personal struggle.

"I'm not in the mood for riddles, asshat."

Then step through the door, and traverse down memory lane. It's time to go home.

Instantly, a door appears to the left of Jared. He knows it well. It's the front door to his childhood home that is now the home he resides in with his husband and best friend. A mahogany door with a singular frosted glass window in the center.

Jared steps up to it, but hesitates greatly with his hand on the doorknob. What'll he find inside? Visions of his parents still alive? Maybe. He's not sure if he's ready for that just yet, but with Jensen's heart rate slowing down, he's got no other choice. Swinging open the door, Jared's blinded by a white light, and is transported to his home.

It's just as how it was decorated back then, down to the last detail. Soft couches and armchairs, glass coffee table, bookshelf next to the television. Chad's asleep by the door, waiting for his master. It's just as he remembers it.

Jared glances around, seeing that the clock on the wall is 1:45 PM. His younger self is not yet out of school, but he will be soon, and he'll come to a bloodbath.

"Gerald, I can't believe you! Who even are you!?"

Jared knits his brows together in confusion, hearing his mother yelling at the top of her lungs. That can't be her, can it? It's impossible! She never yelled! But, sure enough, Jared's mother storms down the stairs and into the living room with his father in tow, panicked expression on his face. She seems distraught. Jared calls out to her, but as he expected, she's unable to hear him.

"Hey, let me explain, okay?" Jared's father tries, attempting to calm her. "I was going to tell you, I promise, but I had to make sure everything was set first, alright?"

"What you're doing isn't right! You have to know that! And The Council--oh, fuck, The Council! They'll have your badge for this! This is conspiracy, Gerald! You'll be put away!"

"The Council doesn't know, and we'll keep it that way, do you understand?"

"Are you threatening me?" Jared's mother gasps. "Your own wife? Or should I even call myself that? Am I just your cover? What about our son--!?"

"My son, Sharon! He's my son! You were just a fucking incubator. Watch yourself."

Jared cannot believe what he's hearing. This can't be real. Not with all this yelling. His parents never once said a single negative thing about each other that wasn't in a joking, teasing manner--hell, they've never argued before! So, yes, Jared does find this a little shocking to say the least.

He doesn't understand the nature of the argument, but his father's harsh words against his mother makes his blood boil and his skin crawl. How dare he say that to her!? It doesn't help that, after he says those hurtful things, Jared's mother slaps her husband, only to receive an even greater slap right back.

Jared flinches, mortified that his father could raise his hand to the one he loved. There was no signs of abuse in their marriage...and it only makes it that much worse when Jared witnesses his father striking her again. It doesn't rouse Chad from his sleep, at least not until the doorbell rings. Gerald Padalecki helps his wife to her feet; she rightfully recoils away from him, tears staining her cheeks.

He opens the door, and is immediately accosted by none other than Carver. He forces his way inside, slamming Gerald against the wall with his power. Chad claws at him, attempting to stop the intruder, but he's suspended in midair, helpless.

Jared witnesses everything with tearful eyes as Carver butchers his family, cutting, marking, branding, slicing, slitting...stabbing.

Dad dies first from blood loss, staining the carpet. His eyes glaze over, dull and lifeless. Strangely, Jared feels almost numb watching him slip away. Of course, anyone discovering that their father was an abusive prick would have mixed feelings about them.

Mom dies just after Young Jared steps through the door, glancing up into his eyes and saying his name. It breaks his heart all over again, but it hurts more seeing Young Jared standing there light a deer caught up in the headlights of a car.

Everything else is just a painful rehash. Carver tries to torture Young Jared, but he fights him off, running up stairs.

"Run, little rabbit. I want to enjoy this."

He shivers at Past Carver's words. It was the first time he heard it, and it was just as sick and twisted as it sounds now. Past Carver slowly ascends the staircase, disappearing from Jared's view.

Jared looks away from the carnage, closing his eyes tightly as he hears furniture being knocked over upstairs as well as the frightful screams in terror from Young Jared. He can't do anything in here. It's just a recreation, and he's only a pair of eyes on the wall, so to speak. It's upsetting. He wants nothing more than to march upstairs and kill Past Carver, but he can't. He can only stand here like the scared adult he is.

He was a bastard, Carver says. I was doing you all a favor by getting rid of him. As a matter of fact, you should be thanking me. If it weren't for me, you wouldn't have discovered that dear old daddy was a sick abuser. Has to be pretty disorienting learning that about the man you always looked up to. He didn't give a damn about her. Just what she could provide for him: You.

It's a hard pill to swallow, and it only raises more questions than answers. Dad was saying some pretty heavy stuff, but also said some things and made implications that seem...abnormal. Whatever the case, Jared only snarls, trigger finger itching. He becomes angrier at Carver for bringing him here, for making him see all this.

"You talk a lot of shit. I'm ready for whatever 'test' you have cooking up. Gimme your best shot, jackhole."

With pleasure.

The familiar sound of the fog horn is heard blasting. The bright sky outside of the house fades away, replaced by sudden darkness. Jared switches on the flashlight, finding that the environment around him is changing back into that hell-like state.

Everything that was normal is stripped away, and he's soon standing in an area comprised of rusty metal gates and barbed wire around the circumference. It's an arena. A battle stage. He's gotten familiar with those thanks to Jensen and his video games. Jared keeps his gun close to him, checking the magazine to see how much is left in the clip.

It doesn't take long for a creature to begin taking form, and, once again, Jared is facing off against the monster that wears his mother's face. Though it's still unnerving to see someone he loved in this state, Jared acknowledges that this isn't his mother, and that she has been laid to rest long ago.

This thing right here is a monster, and he's about to put her down.

You're terrified, don't lie to yourself. Carver taunts. I can smell it on you. False bravado doesn't suit you.

Jared nods, stepping forward with his gun pointed at the disgusting monster. "Of course I am. It's what I do when confronted with my fear that decides who I am. Yes, I'm terrified, but I'll fight back with everything I have this time, because I have people counting on me."

You little shit!

Oooh! Sounds like Jared struck a nerve! Third win of the day. However, before Jared can celebrate, the monster before him shrieks, thrashing about as before. He's unfazed, focused only in eradicating her from this world.

"My baby," she sighs. "Come to me, child..."

"I'm gonna put you out of your misery, mom."

"No! You bastard child! You little mongrel! Raagghhh!"

She surges forward with her animalistic nature, raising her claws to him. Jared rolls out of the way just before she can catch him, then shoots a few rounds into her skin. The monster roars as the bullets penetrates through the skin, causing her to bleed black liquid.

With a sudden jerky motion, she's dashing towards Jared with lightning speed. He tries to focus on her, but it's a blur, and with one harsh movement, she's able to grab him with her sharp claws. The monster tears Jared's hoodie, slashing him deep in his side. He wails, claw still stuck in his flesh. Still holding onto his gun, Jared weakly points it up at the monster's head, shooting her in the face.

She releases Jared and pulls back, squaking away, clawing at the bullet lodged in her freakish face. He falls to ground harshly, upsetting his new wound. Jared winces at the pain, but knows that he can't just lay here. There is, after all, a timer. He reaches for his gun, silencing his agonizing grunts for a moment before aiming at the monster still flailing around.

"Mother!" Jared bellows, getting its attention. It turns around, face scratched up and mutilated. "I'm sorry."

The monster roars as it dashes for him again, but Jared pulls the trigger, unloading the entire clip into head until it becomes nothing but a gory mess. The body slumps down, soon dissolving into black mist, disappearing entirely shortly afterwards.

Jared is able to let out a sigh of relief, keeping his gun by his side. It was a hard thing to do, but...it wasn't mom. It just wasn't. He knows that, no matter how hard Carver wants to screw with his brain, nothing can ever taint the image of his mother, not even a monstrous version of her. His father, on the other hand, is a different story, but he'll deal with that later.

In time, Jared sits himself up, hitching up his hoodie to see the damage. It's bad, and he's losing blood fast. He quickly remembers the Healing Crystals in his pocket, fishing one out, but with some pain to the severe cut in his side. There were only three he could grab at the time, and one of them is for Jensen, so he'd better not fuck up again.

Jared places the tip of the Healing Crystal to the wound, moaning at the pleasant feeling it provides. He's going through the "high" right now because the wound is so severe. The deep gash seals itself shut in time, leaving only a freshly healed scar in its wake. The power of the Healing Crystal wanes, and it soon becomes nothing but a hollow rock.

As he lays down, the fog horn wails throughout the area around him, signalling yet another dimensional shift. Jared rides it out, watching as the rust and blood and barbed wire flake away until he's left in nothing but darkness. In a flash, he finds himself laying on the ground in front of the supermarket. Jared gets up quickly, witnessing the sigil vanish from existence.

Carver remains silent as Jared finally enters the store, leading Jared to believe, albeit quietly, that he's weakening. The Fear Demon's power is destroying him, taking chunks of his black soul. It's good. He deserves it.

"Jensen?" Jared calls, inspecting the place. "Jensen, are you in here?"

Nothing about this place screams "threatening", but Jared has come to learn that unassuming and safe locations in this world can be just as dangerous as others. It's a simple supermarket; everything is still in place, just minus all the people shopping. Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire plays overhead on the PA system, making the aura of the area much more devious.

Ba-dump, Ba-dump, Ba-dump. Carver taunts as Jared searches. Jensen's life is almost spent. You've been wasting a lot of time getting here.

"I would've gotten here sooner had you not been playing God in my head."

Don't blame me for your own incompetence.

"Oh, I can blame you for half the things gone wrong in my life, you flaming douchenozzle."

You should blame daddy. He's the one who screwed you all over.

"Refrain from speaking about my father that way."

Even after watching him violently beat your mother? Maybe you two are more alike than I thought. Also, heads up. He's right behind you.

Jared can't even react fast enough. As he turns around, he's met by a hulking beast with muscles bulging disgustingly from every limb. As with the monster he just fought, this one has the likeness of his father, but is not him in any way. The monster grips Jared's gun, tearing it away and crushing it to pieces with its amazing strength.

The beast grabs Jared's arm, flinging him across the market. He spins in the air, colliding with shelves and knocking over cans of food that damage him further. Jared's hardly given any time to recover when the monster comes back for him, dragging him up by the leg and tossing him around the store like a rag doll.

All while this is happening, Carver sings along to the music playing from the store's speakers, delighting in Jared's pain. It's been said before, but Carver really is an asshole.

The monster clobbers Jared, slamming him against the shelves and the cold, hard floor. There will be bruising for sure in the days to come. Jared uses anything to fight back from canned goods to rolling pins. He crawls over to a sack of flour as the monster advances on him, tossing it in the creature's face. The bag explodes in a cloud of white smoke, obscuring the monster's vision.

Jared uses that to his advantage, running away from the disturbing manifestation of his father. He hides among the aisles as the beast recovers, stalking the store in order to find him.

"You're weak, Jared." The monster says, voice distorted. "You got that your mother, I see. I raised you better than that. Come out and face me. Stop cowering in the shadows."

These aren't his words. They're Carver's. And yet, regardless of that, what Jared saw on the day they died makes him question everything he thought he knew about his father. Who was Gerald Padalecki really, and what did he have in store for The Council?

They're questions that Jared will have to store away for later as he maneuvers around the store, concealing himself from the monster's view. He's gotta get past him. Jared looks from his hiding spot, seeing the doors that lead towards the loading dock. For reasons unknown, Jared deduces that that is where Jensen is being held, but the monster is patrolling the area now.

With a sigh, Jared decides that it's time to get going. He pulls out his combat knife as his only line of defense, quickly and quietly slinking towards the loading dock doors. He takes extra special care to avoid the monster's view, ducking behind stacks of discounted DVDs and clothing racks as cover.

It's not a cakewalk, however. Just as Jared finally believes he's been cut a break, the monster catches up to him, grabbing him from behind. It yanks the back of his hoodie, throwing him across a checkout counter.

"You could never be half as great as me," the creature sneers. "You can only dream. You're not a Peacekeeper. You're just man who caught a lucky break. Everything they said about you is true."

"You're not my father," Jared coughs, struggling to stand. "Just a bastardized imitation."

Jared picks himself up, making a suicidal dash towards the loading dock doors only to swiftly intercepted yet again by the towering monster. It grabs him by the neck, hoisting him upwards that's reminiscent of the dream Jared had just this morning. He pounds and stabs at the monster's arm, but his grip doesn't falter one bit.

He squeezes Jared's neck tighter, keeping him from breathing. Jared's vision dulls slightly, fading at an alarming rate. At the same time, Jensen's heart rate stops altogether. There's nothing, no skips, no more heartbeat. It simply cuts off, causing Jared to break. Carver, of course, mocks him for his tardiness, hurling every insult imaginable.

Jared can feel the darkness taking over him as Carver taunts, but something catches his eye. He looks at the monster's chest, seeing a glowing, red heart in the center. A weak spot. And just as he's dying. Of course. Using the last ounce of strength he has left, Jared uses his legs to bring the monster closer, quickly plunging his combat knife into the fucker's heart.

It squeals, dropping Jared. Big mistake. While it tries to recover, Jared rushes at it again, taking the knife and viciously stabbing the monster in the chest over and over. Each strike unleashes something within in, something begging to be set free. Closure? Acceptance? Whatever the truth of it, it feels pretty damn good to stab this ugly motherfucker until it stops moving entirely.

Jared stands up again, holding onto his knife fiercely. He pants, retracing his steps until he's staring at the path he needs to go towards. He's done fucking around. Jensen's heart has stopped, and he's no longer playing Carver's sick, twisted little games. While Jared stalks towards the loading dock doors, Carver speaks to him again, nervous this time.

You think you've beaten me? You think you've conquered your fears?

"No, but I know you're the one that's getting weaker by the second."

I--I still control this domain.

"Say that to me again in 5 minutes."

You--

"Shut up."

With that, Jared throws open the loading dock doors, inspecting the small warehouse sized space. There are no workers here, but, in the very center high above the area, is Jensen, still floating and groaning in pain. He's unconscious, but still very much alive!

Carver. That fucker. He tricked him. The game is still happening.

Jared looks for a way to bring him down, a ladder or a forklift or something, anything to help. But there's nothing here. The place has been stripped bare. Almost as if...

"Very, very good, rabbit." Carver says, finally showing himself. He steps out of the shadows, slow clapping like a douche. "You've managed to make it to the finish line. Congratulations.

They're at a good length away from each other, though it feels like they're breathing in the same air. Jared doesn't know how it feels to be face to face with his tormentor and having a conversation. He felt shocked and sick to his stomach last night, but after spending what felt like hours trapped in here with him, Jared only feels rage.

Jared bares his teeth, raising his knife to Carver. "I. Am. Going. To. End. You. Bitch."

"You really have a foul mouth on you."

"Mass murderers don't get to judge anyone's language."

"Who do you think turned me into what I am today?"

"You don't get to play that card, you monster!"

"And why not!?" Carver shouts back. "Must you always play the victim!? Take responsibility for your own actions! I have, but it seems like your father could not." Carver smirks after seeing Jared's neck twitch at the mention of his father. "Aha. Yes. The real root of the problem, the main issue, the true reason you and I are mortal enemies!"

"I don't wanna hear anymore lies!"

"Oh, but you will. You'll stand there and listen to what I have to say. My original beef wasn't with you, but your father. He did this to us. He made it personal. You think you knew him? What you saw today proves that you know absolutely nothing about him! It started when I, a Sorcerer, managed to fight tooth and nail to earn a temp job working for The Council. I was in the Intelligence branch, you see, gathering intel on certain clandestine operations around the globe. I never bumped heads with your father whilst working there...except one and only time."

Jared reluctantly listens to what Carver has to say, but keeps his knife out just in case of unpleasant surprises.

"I knew Gerald Padalecki to be great Peacekeeper, everyone did. But what they didnt know, however, was that their star Peacekeeper was, for lack of better words, a dirty cop."

"Liar." Jared sneers.

"The man is dead, I have no interest in spreading lies about him. But yes, it's true. Your father was delving into some illicit activities, keeping certain criminals out of jail, experimenting with dangerous artifacts, money laundering, the good stuff. Eventually, I caught wind of it. He thought he had covered his tracks well, but he made a few mistakes. I caught him in the act, coming across his various plots--though one caught my eye. It was his most dangerous secret, and he wanted it kept at all costs."

Jared stays silent, again listening to the...interesting ramblings of a serial killer. Carver, by this time, had closed the distance between them, walking around Jared in circles as if he were prey.

"And so, as I prepared to spill his secrets to The Council, I was framed by him and his cohorts, fired for conspiracy and discredited. I had nothing after that, no home, no job--everything I worked so hard to get was stripped away from me...all because your dear old daddy was a corrupt Peacekeeper with a secret to protect. He ruined my life...so I had to ruin his."

"You killed my parents..." Jared whispers out. "Because you got fired from your job?"

"Have you been listening to a word I've said?"

"Assuming that all you've said is bullshit!"

"I have nothing to hide anymore!" yells Carver. "I am a walking time bomb! The Fear Demon's power that resides inside of me is tearing my body and soul apart, and it's only a matter of time before I waste away into nothing. But before that happens, I'll erase everything Gerald Padalecki loved off the face of the earth. He had it all when he didn't deserve it! The perfect job, perfect house, perfect wife, perfect children!"

Jared swallows. "Children?"

Carver scoffs, smirking. "You really have no clue who your father was, do you? It doesn't surprise me. You are the 'Golden Child' after all. But we've talked enough. I think it's time we've settled some old scores."

In a slight wave of euphoria, Jared feels his brain light on fire for a moment, returning to normal in a flash. He can feel it, every surge of energy blasting open in his mind. His powers have returned to him. Jared smiles, releasing his knife, only to find that it hovers if he concentrates in it. Yes! Finally.

Upon looking at Carver, however, it's unclear if the return of his abilities is mere coincidence, or if Carver couldn't suppress them any longer. His eyes are black and have sunken in, and his skin is pale, but presumably ice cold to the touch. The man truly is dying, there's no denying that.

He's given no warning at all when Carver attacks, fighting him with elemental spells that Jared is able to counter with his own. Being the stronger of the two, Jared lashes out at him, hurling lightning bolts at the man who has haunted his dreams for years.

Though he's slow to shield himself from the blasts, Carver takes significant damage, getting shocked and knocked back by Jared's powerful spells. The brief fight reaches its climax when, as Carver prepares to transition them into the Hell-like dimension, Jared directs his knife into Carver's side, twisting it for maximum efficiency.

He catches his enemy in his arms, driving the knife inwards and taking it out, holding onto him. Carver shudders, clinging to Jared for dear life. In time, Jared lays Carver on the floor, bending down to his side. Carver stares up at him, defeated and shivering.

"You've been waiting to do that for some time now, ha--haven't you?"

Jared refuses to show emotion, but he can't help the tear that falls. "I have."

"Do you feel better now?"

"When it comes to you, I feel nothing...nothing but rage, and anger, and the need to destroy. So, no, I don't feel better."

Carver chuckles, blood trickling from his lips. "I guess I'm going to the Underworld now. So long, Padalecki. I'll tell your father you said hello."

Jared shakes his head. "I'm not letting you go that easily."

Quickly, Jared pull out the remaining Healing Crystals from his pocket, using one to repair Carver's wounds. It's a controversial decision, but it was his decision to make. Jared had to do this. Not because he feels sorry for the man, but because he still needs to pay for his unspeakable crimes.

Directly after the healing is finished, Jared whispers the incantation to expel Demons from the body. Miraculously, he's able to exorcise the Demonic energy Carver consumed, rendering him nothing but a weakened Sorcerer again. He tried it on a whim, and it works. You learn something new every day. It doesn't stop there, though, as Carver tries to stand, Jared quickly knocks him out with a sharp right hook.

"That was for destroying my family, you sack of shit."

Before Jared stands, he takes off Carver's shoes, using his laces to tie him up, much like how he and Jensen did to Kane in this similar situation. Jared whips around, locating Jensen at the center of the room again, but he slowly floats down from above, landing in Jared's waiting arms. He wastes no time with this, swiftly using the last Healing Crystal to patch Jensen up.

It takes a little coaxing to rouse him from his deep dream state, but Jensen finally does, gazing up into Jared's loving eyes. Jensen smiles, touching Jared's face as they stumble to the floor, safe in each other's grasp.

"You came for me." Jensen rasps.

Jared nods, tears falling freely this time. "I did. I had to. I don't wanna be without you yet."

"Is it over?"

"Yeah...it's over."

As Jared says the, the infamous fog horn blares across the entire city, distorted and disjointed, changing frequency periodically. Ultimately, the grey fog of the Purgatory-like dimension withers away, and the three of them materialize back to the real world, sitting down in the real loading dock of the real supermarket.

After some time, Jared digs out his phone, calling Jeff and his superiors to tell to give them a brief summary of what happened. It doesn't take long for them to be on the job, immediately transporting to Jared's location. The other Peacekeepers secure the area, evacuating the store and interviewing any witnesses who might've stumbled into the loading dock.

Jared and Jensen stand when Jeff appears, glancing at Jared with fatherly affection. "Jesus Christ, it's always you two. Didn't expect Jensen to be the damsel yet again, though."

"Let's not go making light of me being abducted by a serial killer, okay?" Jensen sighs, cracking his back. "Whew, I really need to lay down. Can we go home, Jay?"

"Yeah," Jared nods, patting Jeff on the shoulder. "I'll wrap up with you soon."

Jared slings his arm over Jensen's shoulders, allowing him to lead them out of the loading dock and out of the market altogether. He gobbles outside, seeing many people with on their phones and wondering just what the hell happened inside the market. Jared takes the time to look down at his attire and balks.

Bloodstained clothes is never good for anyone.

But at least the case is closed, and the bad guy has been apprehended. It's what dad would've done--

No.

Jared tears that image out of his mind. Carver is many things, but, as he went to expel the Demonic essence from his body, Jared read his mind. Everything he said about Gerald Padalecki is true, all the way down to the illicit activities. Jared has learned a lot of things about himself and his father today, but he knows one thing to be be certain:

He's done trying to live up to his example. Jared is his own man. He'll be better than him. Shit, he already is better. The man may be dead, but Jared will never forgive him.

Yet, as Jensen begins walking them to his Impala resting in the parking lot, Jared exclaims, stomping his foot on the ground.

"Shit!"

Jensen frowns. "What? What's the matter."

Jared pouts, rolling his eyes. "I left my car on the highway..."

****

One Week Later...

Jared roams through the halls of Lichcom Facility with his Peacekeeping badge pinned securely to his belt. He's been put back on the case after dealing with Carver, proving to Mark Sheppard that he can stop mass murdering psychopath even while being "effected" mentally.

Jason and Tom took him and Jensen out for beers, Jared was praised for his amazing work back at the office, it was great. Pretty big deal...but something has been bugging Jared for a while since dealing with Carver, and he's here to get some answers.

It doesn't take him long to get to the room where Carver is being held in, surrounded by Peacekeepers with automatic weapons and chained to the floor like the animal he is. He looks worse for wear, and Jared can't care one bit. He seems pissed as well, probably because Jared denied him death when he most desired it. But he'll be getting that wish very soon.

Jared sits down in front of Carver, crossing his legs and folding his hands. "You look comfortable."

"Are you here to gloat before my execution, Padalecki?" Carver croaks. "Because if you are, you don't have my permission."

"Actually, Jeremy," says Jared, using the man's first name. "I'm here for something else." He looks at the guards stationed around Carver. "Give us 10 minutes. That's all I ask."

Though the Peacekeepers are reluctant to listen, Jared is able to convince them with a little mental help. They nod, lowering their weapons and quickly leaving the room. Jared and Carver are soon left alone in the all white, padded cell.

"Something has been on my mind for a week."

"I know why you're really here, rabbit." Carver teases, laughing. "You want answers.

Jared leans forward. "You said something to me before we fought. Perfect children. What does that mean? Tell me."

"I could tell you no, you know that right? I could tell you to go fuck yourself, and then I'd die, and you'd never get the answers you so desperately seek. But I won't say those things. This will be the last time we ever have a conversation, and I want you to know what I know...because the look on your face when I finally tell you will set my mind at ease for the upcoming end. Are you ready?"

"I'm ready..."

Carver smirks, and the smirk soon transforms into a menacing grin as he prepares to speak.

"Well, your father was quite a busy man, you see..."

Chapter Text

There's nothing playing on the radio. Jared doesn't see the reason in turning anything on. He's driving home in silence, boiling in the metaphorical pot full of rage and confusion.

Carver will enter a procedure tomorrow morning that will shut down all viral organs within his body, effectively killing him. He will suffer for his crimes again, but this knowledge does nothing to placate Jared.

He knows now what Carver knows. It's not much, but it's enough to have Jared questioning his entire existence. He spoke with Jeremy Carver for the last time an hour ago, spending almost all day with him, conversing, listening. The many things he had to say about Jared's father wouldn't even begin to fit in a biography. Words laced with venom, but truthful in their delivery.

Jared has uncovered a family secret that would've remained hidden Carver not come back into his life, or maybe said family secret would've decided to knock on his door one day out curiosity? It amazes Jared that he never knew, but how could he have known? He was given no indication about the truth.

And the truth is out there somewhere, just waiting for him.

It's nighttime now as Jared pulls up to the driveway of his home. Jensen's here; his car is in the driveway as well. Jared cuts the engine, sitting in his car, mulling over everything he's learned so far in the dark.

There's so much unbridled anger within him that causes Jared to violently shake. He grasps the steering wheel hard, wailing and screaming out to save himself from tearing up the house or the car. He sobs, slamming his hands on the dash in his hysteria.

How could he have been so fucking blind!? How did he not know the truth in front of him all that time? Now, after all that's happened, Jared questions every little thing Gerald has ever done. He's not the patron saint Jared thought he once was, that much was evident when he was slapping his wife around as if she--and their entire marriage--meant nothing.

And the things he said in the past...

Well, Jared understands them better now, but he's still very much confused.

After sitting in his car for a little while longer, Jared cleans up his face, wiping away tears. He's been crying a lot lately, but this isn't the first meltdown he's had since escaping that fucked up dimension. The nightmares have slowed down some, though they're still bloody. More often than not, Jared finds himself waking up and thrashing about in Jensen's loving, caring embrace. He truly is the best husband and friend anyone could ask for.

Ultimately, Jared decides to leave the car. He steps out, sniffling and grabbing his jacket from the passenger seat. It's kinda chilly tonight; frickin Autumn. Jared hates the heat, but he also hates the cold. He's very hard to please temperature-wise. When he finally gets to the front door, he stops from turning the knob.

What'll he say? Jared still hasn't told Jensen much of what he went through in the reality bending pocket dimension from Hell. Why would he? No one would want to relieve that experience again by talking about it, but it supposedly helps one "grow" to talk about trauma. Come to think of it...Jared hardly received any psychological help after the passing of his parents. Maybe that's why he's so fucked up.

But now...now that he knows his father was a piece of shit, Jared feels great only having to mourn one person. Yes, he'll mourn the father he thought Gerald was, but that's all. The man is dead to him.

With that, Jared slides his key into the keyhole and turns, accessing the home that doesn't feel much like home anymore. Walking inside, Jared keeps his head down, still trying to wrap his head around the last conversation he'll ever have with Carver. He only looks up when he hears Jensen approaching him, still in his suit minus the jacket and necktie.

Jensen's expression changes from bright to concerned in a jiffy. Chad rubs at Jared's leg in comfort, but Jensen scoops him up, petting him.

"You're home a little late," says Jensen. "Well, I guess I can order us something soon. I was gonna cook but... Are you okay?"

Jared nods slowly, but then suddenly shakes his head in the negative. "No, I don't think I am okay. Jensen, there's something I need to talk to you about." He looks at Chad then. "Both of you."

The look on both their faces shows that they are nervous about what's to come, but not as much as Jared is to tell them.

And so, he does. They migrate to the bedroom where Jared tells Jensen and Chad the truth.

He leaves nothing out in the story, telling them everything from beginning to end without sugarcoating a single detail. That includes the horrible manifestations of his parents as well as the true nature of his father towards his mother. It was tough getting through most of it without breaking, but Jared managed to do it.

As he told them, Jensen and Chad listened to him, staying silent, giving him their undivided attention. It felt like a load being lifted from Jared's chest. He had to let it all out, or he would've surely burst. He saw the look of guilt and sadness on Chad's face as he retold the events of what happened before the murder of his parents, how Gerald viciously attacked his own wife.

Understandably, Chad was devastated to hear such a thing as he had no knowledge of it. Gerald was one of his favorites, or so he said. Jared is sure that that's not the case anymore. It doesn't take Telepathy to know that he's blaming himself for not having done something. If anyone is to blame, it sure as hell isn't Chad.

And yet, with almost everything now out in the open, Jared still feels like he's carrying a large burden. The sins of the father shall carry on to the son, or something to that effect.

"If I knew, I could've defended her," Chad whispers out. "I could've stopped your father somehow, I--I would've...I would've..."

"You couldn't have done anything if you tried," says Jared. It's hard truth.

"Still, I could've tried! That man wasn't the Gerald Padalecki that I knew. That man was..."

"A monster. Plain and simple. I thought I knew him, too, but I was wrong. All of us were. You, me, Jeff, my mother--he deceived us."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Jensen asks quietly from the bed, staring into nothing. Jared looks to him, and Jensen glances up, speaking clearly this time. "What you went through in that place Carver locked you in; why didn't you tell me what happened?"

Jared swallows. "I couldn't. I couldn't do that to you. It was already my fault that you were taken by Carver. What I went through was hell, but I refused to put that on you, too. I felt...guilty."

"Jared, we're married. You can tell me anything, and I'll try to understand. Being trapped in your own nightmare didn't just happen to you, it happened to me, too, you know."

He does. Jared does know, because Jensen told him. Carver dug deep into Jensen's fears, making him relieve them over and over again on a never-ending loop. Mental torture to add to the physical, and he endured it all, knowing that, somehow, Jared would find him, that Jared would free him from the hurt and the pain.

Jensen's been handling his own experiences well, something Jared is envious of. He wishes he had that kind of mental discipline.

"I guess I was just being selfish then." Jared mumbles. "I know better than to keep things from you, but my guilt combined with the anger I felt...it was just too much to handle. I'm sorry."

Jensen nods, licking his lips. "I understand the need to hold back. I'm not pissed off, Jay. I just wish you told me sooner, that's all...and I know you have a lot on your plate as it is. Are you sure about what Carver said to you? About your dad?"

"He didn't lie. Not once did he tell me a half-truth, or give me a false answer. Carver told me what he knew, everything that he knew. And he told me...that I have siblings."

"What?" Jensen and Chad say in unison, both obviously shocked by Jared has just said.

"My father was a busy man," Jared says, echoing Carver's words. "As he continued delving into his illicit activities, he gained a small following comprised of women immediately after I was born, and casted a powerful spell so that they'd all become pregnant with his child. He was like a fucking cult leader. Somewhere in his sick, twisted mind, he got the idea to create a Coven in his own, perfect image. One that consisted of me, the oldest, and 12 others. My brothers and sisters. There are 13 Padalecki children."

It's tough to say all of this out loud. It was even harder to listen and believe it when Carver told him. 12 siblings--12 individuals related to him by blood, but all perfect strangers. Jared glances at his husband, briefly wondering if Jensen is thinking about the possibility of them being...brothers.

But Jared shuts it down in his mind quickly. Jensen is the spitting image of his father, so the chances of them being related is extremely low at best. Even if they were, Jared wouldn't let Jensen go. They've invested so much time and love into their relationship that it'd be insane to end it all just because of blood relation.

"No..." Chad mutters in disbelief. "That's impossible. I--I would've known. Jared, I would've known that! I'm tied to your bloodline, there's no way it could possibly be true. Your father, he..."

"It's true." Jared sighs. "There are more 'Children of Gerald' out there. If I died today, you'd still be alright. As long as they continue to live, you live."

Chad slumps down in defeat, speechless. He looks to ponder of his own existence as Jared watches him regrettably. Chad himself feels a tremendous amount of guilt over not noticing Gerald and his abusive tendencies, and it's clearly showing. He may be stuck as a feline, but he's more expressive than any other animal.

Jensen soon stands, crossing his arms. "But what for?"

Jared frowns. "Huh?"

"What did your father plan to do with a Coven of 13 perfect children? And why didn't he say any of this to you?"

"I don't know. Carver couldn't tell me why. When he found out my father's plans, he didn't get the complete story. I'm just telling you what he knows."

"So..." Jensen drawls out, slowly approaching his husband. "I guess I gotta deal with some evil in-laws, huh?"

Jared snorts, rolling his eyes. He appreciates Jensen's attempt at finding light and humor in this. Still the same jubilant jock as he was in high school. "We don't know if they're 'evil' or not, Jen."

"Eh...70/30-ish."

"I gotta find them, reconnect with them. I know they'll questions for me...and I've got questions for them."

"You positive that's a good idea?" Chad finally asks.

"Yeah. Why not?"

"Refer to Jensen's 'evil siblings' remark." Sighing, Chad jumps off the bed, coming to look directly up at Jared. "You don't know them, and for all we do know, they could be doing something way worse than whatever your father had planned."

Immediately after Chad says this, something unexpected happens. The lights around the house begin flickering on and off at random, giving off a strange hum as they do so. The three of them look about, perplexed by the sudden oddity. Jensen soon frowns, going towards the window after seeing a bright flash. He peers out, eyes widening.

"Uh, Jared?"

"What's wrong?"

"There's a group of men summoning a ring of fire around our house."

Jared balks. "Wait, what!?"

He rushes over to Jensen's side to see what the fuss is about, only to look down at the front lawn. Sure enough, there's a group of 7 men dressed in all black and wearing dark hoods that conceal their faces. They have their hands and arms raised up, chanting something that Jared can't make out from this distance. However, one thing is for sure: they're not here to talk business.

The ring of fire blazes out of control, inching closer and closer to the actual house. Jared growls under his breath when he finally realizes it.

"They tore down the barrier protecting the house." Jared grumbles.

"The hell?" Chad gasps. "Impossible. It's one of the strongest enchantments from your grimoire!"

"Yes, it is...and they broke it down together. Jensen, pack up our stuff. We're leaving. Now."

Jensen doesn't need to be told twice on the matter. He bolts towards their shared closet, pulling out duffle bags to stuff clothes into. Chad hops off the bed, pawing at Jared's leg, asking to see for himself. Jared obliges, picking up Chad to show him what's happening just outside of their home.

The men continue their chanting, commanding the flames to close in around the building. Jared can practically feel the heat from here. It's sort of disheartening. Magic users attempting to burn a Warlock inside of his home with his family? Feels a little like the Dark Ages. Just about.

Witch Hunters.

They were always vicious savages who detested anything that had to do with Magic, even if it meant healing the sick. "The Devil's Power", they cried. Idiots. There's no such thing as the Devil, just as there's no such thing as God. But it doesn't matter now. Those fuckers are long gone.

Randomly, the men outside look up at Jared, staring right at him. He flinches, but stays his ground, curious about their next move. Jensen comes up to him with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, and another one in his hand that he gives to Jared.

"I packed your bag, and put that Zaelich book inside with some Healing Crystals, just in case." He glances out the window again. "What are they doing?"

Jared watches as the fire gets closer and closer, squinting his eyes. "They're trying to flush us out."

"What do we do?"

He can't answer that, he doesn't know how to. Those people out there are giving them very little options right now. Jared can't dispel the fire out there for fear of a reprisal that could set the entire neighborhood ablaze. It looks like these men don't particularly care if anyone else suffers right now.

Soon, the men that seek to do them harm slowly walk through the flames, making sure they'd be untouched. Jared's jaw clenches as he watches them, discovering that they're headed for the house. He balls up his fists after handing Chad to Jensen, striding across the room to the exit.

"Come on." He announces, though it didn't need to be said. The flames have finally reached the house. "We gotta go through them."

Jensen follows. "This is not how I imagined our night going..."

As they travel towards the staircase that leads downstairs, they're attacked by a cloaked man who flies through the window. He separates Jared from Jensen and Chad, engaging in hand to hand combat. Jared fights back, reacting quickly to the assault. The guy is a good fighter, but Jared is so much better.

The brawl is over quickly as Jared brings him to his knees, then brutally snaps his neck with no remorse whatsoever. He's not happy that Jensen got to see that, but it's all apart of the job. Right? Surely this wasn't what his superiors meant when they told him he'd be putting his life at risk daily, correct?

Either way, Jared's in the shit now, and so is his family. It sucks.

He pulls back the guy's hood, revealing his face.

"Do you know him?" Chad asks.

Jared shakes his head. "Never seen him before in my life. Let's go."

Though rightfully confused by why other Warlocks are attacking his home, Jared presses on with Jensen and Chad as the humidity rises and the house starts filling up with smoke. They rush down the stairs and towards the door, but it's obliterated open by a blast of energy, sending all three of them flying backwards.

Jared onto the stairs, and Jensen against the wall where he slams the back of his head against a glass picture frame; Chad is mostly fine, protected by Jensen who seems to have been rendered unconscious. With the literal wind knocked out of him, Jared tries calling for Jensen, commanding him to get up.

Jensen moans, disoriented and quite injured by the blast. While Jared feebly attempts to recover, 4 men walk into the house with a nefarious aura. As evidenced by the dead guy up stairs, they're not looking to wound or seriously injure. These men are here to kill them.

"Chad," Jared croaks. "Run. Hide!"

Though Chad is reluctant to leave Jensen like this and extremely hesitant to run off, he obeys Jared. He makes a mad dash towards the exit. The men attacking try to stop him, but Jared pushes them aside with his Magic, though still weakened from the blast.

Chad is able to escape outside where he presumably is able to hide somewhere safe. In time, Jared is able to stand, limping over towards Jensen to check on him. He's intercepted by the trio of men again, all attacking him at once. They pummel him with Magic spells and fists, sometimes a combination of the two.

But Jared takes all of it like a champ. He fends them off as best as he can, deflecting life ending casts and blocking bone shattering punches. However, upon looking to see if Jensen is alright, Jared briefly loses focus, causing one of the Warlocks to get the better of him. He's punched in the face, staggering back as another flings him onto the coffee table, breaking it.

When he tries to stand, he begins feeling a strange humming in the back of his head. Then, in an instant, the humming becomes nothing but a terrible headache--a pain drilling into his mind. Jared screams, placing his hands on either side of his head. He squeezes his eyes shut, recognizing what's being done to him.

It's an old technique used by Peacekeepers to interrogate suspects and/or dangerous criminals. Torture, essentially. It was considered inhumane, and The Council banned its usage in 1987. Seems as though these men are aiming to bring it back.

In his anguish, Jared can do nothing but cry out, trashing around in pain where the shattered glass from the coffee table tears into his flesh, ripping his clothes as well. It hurts--holy, fuck--it hurts! He's never experienced this much pain before, and that's including getting physically attacked by Carver as a teenager.

These men are probing his mind, not to search for answers, but to destroy it from within.

As Jared squirms, feeling them starting to fry his brain, he hears Jensen struggling, groaning.

"Jared!" He yells. "Hang on!"

Jared squeals, speaking through clenched teeth. "Jensen, do it! Do it now!"

He knows what it is, they both do. It's for emergencies only, and this right here is a big fucking emergency. Cracking open his eyes, he spots Jensen rising from the floor, going unnoticed by the attackers. He yells at them, getting their attention. They stop torturing Jared for just a moment, staring in confusion as Jensen rolls up his sleeve.

Jensen reveals to them the tattoo on his right forearm. Zaelich symbols. Pure, raw, chaotic Magic stored within. Emergencies only indeed. He draws his index finger down on the ink, "activating" the his secret weapon. The tattoo glows bright red, startling all those present. The massive power stored within threatens to burst out, causing Jensen to yowl, sinking to the floor again and holding up his arm.

He pants, and he and Jared watch fearfully as his hand twitches, controlled by the Dark Magic that has been unleashed. With a vengeful grimace, Jensen points his hand at the invaders, firing off a stream of strange, red and yellow energy. It looks like lightning, but it destroys the men immediately after coming into contact with it.

Jensen wipes them from the world, disintegrating the bastards into nothing but dust. Jared is finally able to take a breather, but he narrowly dodges a piece of falling debris coming down from the ceiling. He rolls out of the way, quickly crawling over towards Jensen who nurses his right arm. Jared takes a look as utter chaos envelopes the house. His arm seems to be worse for wear, looking almost as if he dipped it in a fryer for a split second.

Jared swallows hard, hurriedly gathering their bags and helping Jensen. "It's nothing. A few Healing Crystals will fix you right up. Can you walk?"

"I--I think so."

"Okay, Jen, you got this. Come on, baby."

Despite hearing that Jensen can walk just fine, Jared lends his aid regardless. They hobble out of the inferno with blazing speed, just barely avoiding yet another collapse of the ceiling. They stumble out onto the lawn, coughing, bruised, and battered. Jared sure as hell didn't miss this.

Together, Jared and Jensen take a small breather, inhaling the oxygen that hasn't been tainted by the ungodly house fire. Soon, Jared turns around, spotting Chad rushing out of a bush for them and calling their names in relief.

"Jared! Jensen! I'm so--Watch out!"

The couple turn together in time to see the remaining two Warlocks bolting towards them. Jared shields himself and Jensen from their spells, firing back at them with deadly precision. Not wanting to be useless in this battle, Jensen fights alongside Jared with a set of mastered skills, utilizing his powerful Psychic abilities to full effect.

As Jared hurls curses and life ruining hexes, Jensen tosses anything his mind is able to reach; debris, rocks, shards of glass, anything. He's gotten so good at this, Jared doesn't know whether or not he should kiss Jen, or be scared of his progress. Either way, he can definitely hold his own in a fight. Jared made sure of that.

It all comes to an end, however, when Jensen extends his hand, ripping out one of the Warlocks' teeth with his powers. The man shrieks, whimpering as he crumbles to the ground on all fours. He spits out blood, sobbing at his loss when Jensen summons a slab of burning wood in his hands, using it to crack the fucker over the head, killing him.

With the last Warlock still on the ropes, Jared takes him down easily with a rushed attack, beating him down with a few quick jabs to the face. He grasps his cloak, taking off the hood to reveal that, just like the others, Jared doesn't know him...and yet their fighting style seems familiar...

Jared growls, taking him by the neck. "Who sent you!? Who are you!?"

The Warlock whines. "Stop! Please!"

He doesn't sound like he's from around here. France, maybe? Something's off about this.

"I won't ask again!" Jared gives the man little time to answer, instead using his powers to slowly burn a hole into his chest. "Won't be long until I reach your heart and you die, so tell me what I want to know! Answer me!"

"Peace...keepers." The man croaks.

Jared stops for a moment, loosening his grip on the guy's neck. There was a reason their fighting style was so familiar, now he has an answer. Peacekeepers from France want him dead now? What the fuck!? What did he ever do to deserve their wrath? He's never even been to France!

"What the fuck do you want from me? Why are you trying to murder me and my family!?"

The Warlock struggles to breath as Jared's grip gets stronger again. "Paid by...paid by..."

"Paid by who!?"

"The...Council."

Jared's entire world shatters before him as the words leave the man's half-dead mouth.

The Council? The fucking Council wants him dead? Surely there's been a mistake. He didn't hear that correctly, did he? See, there's no way that The Council ordered a fucking hit out on him like they were the goddamn mafia because...

Well, just, because!

Absolutely not! It's actually laughable that this piece of fucking shit is saying such ridiculous things.

Except Jared isn't laughing, and what this man is saying isn't so ridiculous, not really. It only take a second, a quick peek into his mind to realize that he's telling the truth.

Though the identity of the person (or persons) who contracted them is hidden, that person contracted foreign Peacekeepers to assassinate one of their own. And people wonder why Jared looks so angry most of the time. With every nerve in his body goading him on, Jared snarls, throwing the Warlock into the flaming house. He reaches out with his Magic, forcing the roof to cave in on itself, destroying the place he once called his home.

Jared stands there side by side with Jensen and Chad, fists clenched and breathing heavily, nostrils flaring in unbridled rage. All good things must come to an end eventually, but he never once imagined that this would be how things turned up.

His childhood home, once full of light and happiness--nothing but a false dream with sinister happenings behind the scenes.

His job, fulfilling and grand--setting out to kill him for no good goddamn reason.

It's just too much.

Jared unclips his Peacekeeper badge as sirens are heard in the distance. He stares at it long and hard before ultimately tossing it into the fire with the rest of his belongings. He feels Jensen clutching his hand, soothing him just as he always does. Jared turns to him, face expressionless.

"We need to go," Jensen whispers. "We have to get out of here."

Jared nods slowly, still coming to terms on what's truly happening around them. There's not many neighbors around this area, but clearly someone must've noticed the giant pillar of flames from a mile away.

Jared soon hauls himself and the bags over to Jensen's car, putting their belongings in the back. As Jensen slips into the driver's seat, Jared comes in beside him with Chad quickly hopping into Jared's lap. Jensen starts the car, and the Impala's engine comes to life with the most pleasant roar. Jared only rests his head on the glass, stroking Chad's fur as they back out of the driveway and onto the road that leads them away.

"I saw it, too, you know." Jensen says minutes later as they journey down an empty road, concerned. They're out of the city now. "About The Council. I didn't need to touch him to be sure. What are we gonna do, Jared?"

Jared closes his eyes, sighing. "I don't know...I don't know. I thought I had answers to everything, but it turns out I'm just as unprepared for all of this as I thought I was in college. Heh. Joining the F.B.S.P. was the worst mistake of my life..."

"Hmm...and here I was thinking that awful gold tie you wore at our wedding was the worst mistake of your life."

Jared reluctantly chuckles, thinking back on that amazing day. "It wasn't that bad. You secretly loved it."

"I blatantly hated it. All I ever wanted to do was torch the damn thing, and I--" Jensen clamps his mouth shut, biting his lip. He glances at Jared with an apologetic look. "Too soon. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It really was ugly."

"I'm not just talking about the tie, Jay..."

"I know," replies Jared, calm. "I know. Lately, I've been thinking about selling the damn place anyways. Before it was 'torched' with all our things, of course. I just couldn't look at it the same, ya know? Every room I went into, I could only see my father's face as he brought his wrath upon my mother. It had to go some kind of way. I suppose I'm glad that it had to be this one. With it destroyed, it can be remade into something else, something I want no part of."

"Well, given the current state of things, I suppose house hunting is out of the question for now."

"Yes. For now."

Jensen smirks. "And as much as I love having this midnight cruise with you just like the old times, I need to know where we're going, otherwise I'm just burning through fuel."

Though nothing immediately comes to mind, it takes a while for Jared to think of the one man who he'd trust unconditionally with not only his life, but with the lives of his husband and best friend. A strong Warlock with an affinity for protecting those he cares about. Why shouldn't Jared trust him?

After all, the guy practically raised him.

****

They arrived at Jeff's apartment 20 minutes later, showing up outside his door covered in soot and looking like they just waded through the unholy rivers of the Underworld. Without a word, he took them in, and as they described the events that led up to their arrival, he listened, and was just as alarmed as Jared had hoped he'd be.

He didn't need to read his mind to know that his surrogate father had no knowledge or part in the home invasion. As if Jared had any doubt. Jeff could never do something so heinous towards him, but each and every one of the members of The Council could've done it, and Jared has to find out who and for what.

Why him? Who would want to end him so badly? What warranted the desire to eradicate him from the face of the planet? It's truly a mystery. After delivering the news, Jared made sure to ask if Alex was safe, something Jeff confirmed right away.

Anything something extreme happens to Jared, his first response is to make sure no one's gunning for Alex as well. It's strange how fast he's latched on to the kid, but it was inevitable, perhaps.

After getting everything out in the open, Jared pulls Jeff to the side to speak privately away from Jensen and Chad under the guise of helping him look through his luggage. They take the talk to the bedroom where Jared lowers his voice, making sure that no prying ears can listen in. It feels wrong to do this, but it must be done...for his family's sake.

"I need names," Jared mutters. "Every single member. I need to know who sent those assholes after me."

Jeff nods, thinking off the top of his head. "Well, there's me, of course, but obviously I'm not the one you want. Samantha Smith, gorgeous lady, very intelligent. Jim Beaver, stern and outspoken. Rob Benedict, cheery, but I'm skeptical about him. Then there's Mark Sheppard and that new guy in Intelligence--Stephen Amell, I think."

A light shines in Jared's head, and he frowns. "I hardly know Amell...but Mark has reason to do this. We've never really seen eye to eye with another, and he views certain methods of mine as time consuming, not to mention that everything I've done so far was to clean up the mess he made regarding Carver. He must be pissed off I humiliated him in front of everyone."

"Still, that's not usually someone's first response when being embarrassed like that."

"Have you met the guy?"

"Unfortunately."

Jared chuckles quietly. "Yeah. Listen, I trust you, I trust you more than I trust myself. If I thought you had anything to do with this, we wouldn't have turned around. I appreciate you listening to what we had to say."

"But? There's always a but somewhere. Spit it out, kid."

"I can't stay here. There's more to this, I can feel it. Until I can get to the bottom of it, I'm going underground. You're the only one who knows the truth, and as far as anyone is concerned, I died in that fire putting up a fight."

"I see..." Jeff says. He pauses, then: "What about Jensen?"

"No one knows what happened to him. He disappeared after the fire, presumed dead." Jared exhales, rubbing his neck. "Set him and Chad up in one of your hidden safehouses. It's their best bet. I don't want them getting hurt because of me--"

"Ahem."

Startled by the sudden sound of someone clearing their throat, Jared and Jeff quickly turn towards the door to see Jensen standing there, brow furrowed and arms crossed. Jeff sighs, rubbing his hands together. He talks quickly in a desperate bid to sway the conversation in a different direction.

"Jensen, I'm thinking you might wanna call in sick to work for the next week, just as a precaution--"

"Jeff," Jensen starts, tone even. "Mind if you give us a minute?"

"Yup, don't have to tell me twice."

Jeff pats Jared on the shoulder prior to exiting, leaving Jared and Jensen alone together. The silence is awkward, and nothing can change that, not even Jared's half-hearted attempt to make Jensen smile. In all their years of marriage, nothing has ever been this disjointed. Sure, a few disagreements and heated discussions here and there, but nothing quite like...whatever this is.

Jared speaks first, unable to look Jensen in the eye. "I can explain."

"There's no need to since I've heard it all. Stick me and Chad in a safehouse while you go underground and play undercover renegade spy? That's your big plan?"

"I'm not given much of a choice here, Jen."

"You have a choice! You can let me help you! I'm more than capable, you know I am."

Jared scoffs. "That's not something I want on my mind right now. I can't have you in the thick of this! You mean the entire world to me!"

"In case you haven't noticed, Mr. Peacekeeper, I'm already in the thick of it." Jensen says, gesturing at his dirty, torn dress shirt and pants. "Warlocks attacked our house, The Council wants you dead, and I'm thrown right into the middle with you. Don't leave me on the sidelines."

"I have to..."

"No, you don't!" Jensen objects, grabbing Jared's hand, holding it up. He shows off the wedding ring on the finger, angry. "Does this mean anything to you!? For better or worse! We made vows, we agreed on that! And guess what? We're treading into that 'worse' territory, baby."

Jared shakes his head. "This isn't your fight."

"Maybe not, but it's yours, and what's yours is mine. That's Marriage 101 for you."

"Jock."

"Witch."

It's a cute moment, one that, unfortunately, does not last too long. The weak smile on their faces pass as Jared hugs Jensen tight, shutting his eyes and reveling in the closeness they share. Jensen wraps his arms around Jared's neck while Jared's huge arms engulf the smaller man.

Jared is extremely grateful for Jensen's tenacity, but this is honestly a battle he must fight alone.

He pulls back, kissing Jensen right onto the lips before speaking again. "I don't doubt you, you know that, right? You're a fucking master with your skills. You could take on a small army and come out with only a few scrapes. I don't want to put you on the sidelines, because I know how that feels. I want you to come with me, I want you to fight beside me to discover the truth...but I'll never forgive myself if, for some reason, you are seriously injured in the crossfire just as you were tonight. I don't want to lose the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. Let me protect you. Please."

Silence falls between them once again as Jared gazes into Jensen's eyes, searching for an answer. He finally gets one when Jensen reluctantly separates from him, dusting off the ash and grime from Jared's nose. He clears his throat, sniffling as his eyes start to water.

"You don't have much time," Jensen breathes out, holding himself together. "Call me or text me every 2 hours, and not a moment too late, understand?"

"I understand. Jensen--"

"I need to shower. Really bad. I smell like burning wood and death." Jensen looks at Jared again, grabbing his face with both hands before giving him a loving smooch. "Don't even think about dying, you hear? If you die, I'm bringing you back to slap the shit outta you."

Jared smiles. "Wouldn't dream of it."

They stand there for some time, both making silent promises to one another. Then, in the last second before Jensen leaves the room, Jared can swear that he can see his heart breaking just a tiny bit. He can't do anything but watch as the love of his life vanishes into the hall, stepping inside the bathroom.

When the door shuts, Jared lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding in. He places his hands on his hips, fighting back the very urge to call this off, to just go on the run with Jensen and Chad and never look back, to live off the grid from whoever wants them dead.

But then he'll never see Alex again...and that's enough to make Jared push through this.

After changing his clothes, Jared takes his bag and enters the living room where Chad and Jeff wait for him. Chad sits on the couch much to Jeff's chagrin, tail no longer twitching in excitement. It lays limp and unloving, signifying his true feelings of the current matter.

"I wish I could help you," he whispers sadly. "But I'm in no condition to fight. I want you to know that...I'll miss you."

Jared nods. "I'll miss you, too, Chadwick. I love you."

Chad leaps off the couch in an instant, and Jared is there to capture him in his arms for a soft hug. He can feel Chad trembling in his grasp, but says nothing about it. They're all scared, every single one of them. The Snack Pack has been reunited--save for one key member. Kendrick is hard to get a hold of these days.

Reluctantly, Jared places Chad into the floor where he patters away into the kitchen to wail like a grieving mother. Jeff, unable to contain himself, snickers despite the obvious pain Chad is in. He can't help it. It's not funny, but the noise that Chad just made...well, it was priceless, to say the least.

However, before Jeff can even begin to talk to Jared, his phone rings, prompting him to answer quickly.

"Morgan. Yeah, what's up?" Jeff's eyes widen, and his jaw drops at whatever news he's receiving. "What!? Are you--are you sure!? No, I haven't heard! Is he alright? Oh no... Oh, my god, I'll be right down!"

Jared is on high alert, ready for trouble. "What's going on?"

Jeff casually sets his phone down, smirking at Jared. "Mark called to let me know that your house just burned down with you posdibly in it. Sounded very convincing, didn't I?"

"Yeah," Jared sighs in relief. "Very. I'm gonna head out now. Thank you for all you've done for me. I really would've lost my way if you hadn't looked after me."

"Don't mention it. I knew I had to. I'd do it all over again. You're my kid, doesn't matter if it's by blood or not." Jeff grabs his car keys from the table near him, handing them to Jared. "Take my car. I'll keep in touch to give you updates and let you know if I find anything suspicious. Good luck."

"Thanks. Look after them."

"Always."

Jared bids his adoptive father farewell, and sets off for an adventure of his own. He has no idea what's in store for him, or if he'll even come out of this alive, but he needs to discover the truth behind it all. His family, the past, and the sinister conspiracy within The Council. It'll take more than a few spells and a talented mind to overcome this wild mess, yet Jared is confident he'll persevere.

In time, he makes it down to the parking lot where Jeff's car rests. Jared unlocks it quickly, dumping his duffle bag into the backseat before climbing into the front. He sticks the key into the ignition, jumping in fright when another man suddenly appears in the seat next to him.

Though startled, Jared is shocked when he finds out that it's none other than Kendrick, smirking in that devious way of his. Could be that Jared had unintentionally thought him up when reminiscing of The Snack Pack.

"Jesus Christ, Ken!" Jared grunts. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"

Kendrick snorts. "Heart attacks are the least of your worries, it seems. Secret siblings, government plots, and the hero becoming a lone wolf; you guys sure have been busy in my absence."

"You can't keep popping up whenever you feel like it. At least call once in a while, okay?"

"I don't have a cellphone."

"I'll make Jensen get you one once this is all over. What do you what, Kendrick?"

"Help."

Jared raises an eyebrow. "Help? What do you need help for?"

"No, I don't need help," Kendrick sighs. "You do. I'm here to help you."

"Get out of the car, Ken. I don't need your help. This is my fight. I don't need anyone else."

"Not even a Demon who can possess other people to get the information you very much want to know? How about a Demon who's learned special Magic spells from an extremely skilled Warlock? I get it, Jared, you're scared of your loved ones getting hurt...but I'm not Jensen."

Jared's Adam's apple bobs at the mention of Jensen, making his hands curl around the steering wheel of the car.

"I'm just a concerned friend who wants nothing more than to help you fix your hot mess of a life," Kendrick continues with a smile. "It's the least I can do for abandoning you guys when you needed me the most. If you think it's getting too hot, I'll back down--I'll retreat, I swear. But let me help. Let me make it up to you."

Everything within Jared is screaming for him to say no, to kick Kendrick out of the car on his ass. But he doesn't. Whether he wants to admit it or not, Demonic Possession would be a very useful tool in his arsenal.

And, as he said, he's picked up a few tricks from Jared, as well as discovering some of his very own. Traveling the world had given him lots of knowledge into the occult. Not to mention that he can slip in and out of places undetected. Yeah, he's useful.

Against his better judgement, Jared leans his head back against the headrest, closing his eyes for a moment. "Jensen's not gonna like knowing you were immediately signed on after he was benched..."

"Then don't tell him," Kendrick grins, reaching over his shoulder. "Sealtbelt. Don't forget yours."

It'll be impossible to keep this from Jensen, yet Jared puts on his seatbelt. He'll deal with the ramifications at a later date. Right now, he has to look into the current members of The Council to find out who is gunning for him. In this day and age, a friendly letter or even a mild compliant to HR would be acceptable, but to send an entire squadron of French Peacekeepers?

So uncool.

Jared pulls off the lot and down the street, exiting the city limits. He doesn't know where this journey will take him, but he's positive that whatever is in store at the end of the road, he'll get by.

He has to.

For his family.

For Jensen.

Chapter Text

"Yes, I've been eating healthy."

"How many vegetables a day? Are you exercising? Brushing your teeth?"

"Jensen, relax. I'm fine I swear. Everything's fine. I'm great."

"I'm just worried, that's all. How's, uh, the Demon?"

"He's okay, too, just following up on a lead. Oh, and he just got back with something. I'll keep you posted. I gotta go, okay? Love you."

"Love you, too, Witch. Stay safe. Shave."

Jared ends the video call with Jensen, sighing with a big, giant grin on his gorgeous face. He touches his beard; it has gotten to be a little more than scruffy. Yikes.

It's nearly been two weeks since he's practically vanished from the face of the earth, but Jared is managing. He's holed up here with Kendrick in an abandoned factory just outside of the city. It's not terribly dingy, but it's also not a grand prize winner either.

It's just enough for them to conduct business without worrying too much about their surroundings. No one ever comes up this way, so it's convenient. They've got a gas powered generator as well as certain equipment to get by on, not to mention a mini fridge for Kendrick's energy drinking habits.

Speaking of which, when Jared told Jensen that Kendrick arrived with something, what he really meant was that the Demon arrived with an unconscious man draped over his shoulder. Curious yet annoyed, Jared stands up from the chair he was resting at, coming to stand a few feet from his travelling companion.

"I thought I told you that abduction was out the question." Jared grumbles.

Kendrick smirks, allowing the man to fall from his grasp and onto the hard concrete below. "You did, but when you find out what I know, you'll be glad I snatched him."

"Alright. I'll bite. What do you have? Who's the guy?"

"That right there is Jim Beaver, one of those Council members of yours."

Jared stares at the unconscious man with a frown. "I know of him. He's in charge of the SpellTech and Crime Investigation division. He created the Portlinks for the Peacekeepers."

"Yeah, well he was also contacted by our big mystery man. Oh, and get this, you're now being branded as an insane criminal by the dudes you used to work for." Kendrick sighs. "Just so you know."

"Yes..." Jared growls, suddenly angry all over again. "I'm aware. Jeff called to tell me the news before you came. They're accusing me of murdering innocent, foreign Peacekeepers on my property. They're making it seem like I suffered some sort of psychotic break and killed them and Jensen. Fuckers."

"Good news is that they think you're dead, which we can use to our advantage."

It's an unfortunate situation to be in, especially with all the good he's done for The Council and for the Peacekeepers. Where did it all go wrong? How did Jared let it come to this? Things are spiralling dangerously out of control, and he has no other choice than to allow the current to drag him along the way.

Going back isn't an option anymore, not with his would-be murderer out there trying to slander his name all over the Peacekeeping Network. Not only does Jared need to clear his name, but he also has to uncover the conspirator and find out why he was targeted in the first place. Sounds like one of those spy movies Jensen's into, yet that thought gives Jared the drive to press onward.

"Sit him over there," Jared directs, pointing at the chair he was just in.

Kendrick grunts as he picks up the man again with his Demonic strength, obeying Jared's orders. He carts Jim towards the chair, setting him upright with his head drooping to the side. Jared takes a moment to look him over, seeing that Jim is suffering from a split lip and a bruised eye.

He glares at Kendrick, annoyed. "Did you beat him?"

"Surprisingly, no." Kendrick states with a shocked expression. "I actually walked in on him being extorted by a gang of petty thugs. I just took him. Looks like things in The Council aren't so squeaky clean after all."

"Things are getting more interesting by the second. What did you do to the thugs?"

"Demonic things, of course." Kendrick winks. "So, wanna wake him up, or should I?"

"I'll wake him. Make sure he stays in his seat."

Jared soon places his hand over Jim's forehead, channeling his energy into the man's unconscious form. He wills Jim to wake, to once again join the land of the living. In no time, Jim jolts awake, gasping for air with his eyes shooting open, widening.

He glances around the environment before suddenly settling his gaze on Jared and Kendrick. Jim attempts to move in his shocked state, but finds that he simply cannot. He struggles, but his body doesn't budge from where it is positioned on the chair. Jim's fear eventually evolves into solid anger as he growls, making futile attempts to regain control over his limbs.

"Sorry for the discomfort, Jim. I'm not planning on keeping you here long." Jared says.

"Murderer!" Jim barks at him. "Stay the fuck away from me!"

Kendrick tightens the invisible constraints surrounding Jim, making him yelp. "Not a very nice thing to say to your gracious host. Just give me the word, Wonder Boy. I'll make it quick...or I can draw it out."

"We need him alive. For now." Jared pulls up a chair to fit in front of Jim, scowling. "Tell me what I need to know."

Jim chuckles. "I'm not giving you shit."

For Jim's insolence, Kendrick tightens his fist, making the restraints react in an unpleasant manner. Jim groans at the pain.

"I would rather not do this," Jared explains. "I could get the truth out of you the less painful way, but I want to give you the chance to tell me honestly and truthfully without holding back. Tell me: Who ordered the Peacekeepers to assassinate me?"

"I don't know!" Jim shrieks. "I can't even remember the bastard's face. It's all a mess."

"What does this person want from me?"

"I don't know! I just did what he wanted me to do."

"Him?" Jared glances at Kendrick, and they both suddenly eliminate Samantha Smith from their list. It could be possible that she hired a man, however. "What did he want you to do?"

"See for yourself."

Though his tone is slightly unnerving, Jared skips the theatrics, and jumps right in. He takes a moment to compose himself, then dives into Jim's mind. Not even 3 seconds in, Jared comes to see that Jim is not a nice man, nor is he quite as innocent as he tries to make himself seem.

He's as crooked and corrupt as any politician, and those "thugs" that Kendrick saved him from? Loan Sharks, though they're just as equally horrible.

But Jared skims past Jim's indecencies, searching farther for something more concrete. Finally, after intense probing, Jared is able to find what he's been looking for. He sees what Jim saw, standing in a room full of paintings and objects protected by glass shields and invisible enchantments.

Yet there before him is the one who is framing Jared in addition to trying to kill him. The only trick is, however, Jared cannot see his face clearly. It's obscured by unnatural shadows and tangible darkness that makes Jared's skin crawl. What's more, when the man talks, his voice is distorted to all hell, making his speech sound robotic yet threatening.

His message to Jim is clear.

"Spread the word: Jared Padalecki was a wanted criminal on league with a Demonic army of his own. I trust you dish out the report, or I release your secrets."

Jared eventually vacates from Jim's brain, having learned a few unpleasant things about one of his "bosses". However, on the flip side of this, Jared has learned nothing of his enemy...yet he did manage to see something.

A place. A room he's been into before.

"Well?" Kendrick asks. "What did you see?"

Jared scoffs. "I can't see the bastard's face. He's using some kind of spell to stay hidden. Oh, and I'm being slandered in my 'death', but I at least know where to go next."

"Lay it on me."

"In his memories, I saw a room. The Hall of Heroes at Headquarters. As the name implies, it's a place that honors the heroic men and women that have passed. The place is also filled to the brim with cameras."

"And if that's the case, then our guy is probably on those cameras."

"Exactly. We have to go see it for ourselves."

Jim laughs at them, shaking his head. "You know, for a smart man, that sure is a shitty fucking plan you got there, Padalecki. Even though they think you're dead, the building is still crawling with Peacekeepers on very high alert. The first sign of trouble will trigger a lockdown, and you'll be so screwed. Just give it up--"

In a flash, Jared punches Jim in the face, rendering him unconscious yet again. Jared growls, nursing his fist from the slight pain that forms. Kendrick glances at him, smirking while raising an eyebrow.

"Finally, Wonder Boy. If you didn't do it, I know I sure would've."

Jared ends up smiling despite feeling like crap. "You always knew what to say to make me feel better."

"Anytime. So, what's the real plan this time? We need to get you in, undetected of course, but how?"

It's a good question. If Jim's words are anything to go by, Headquarters will be overrun with men and women who believe him to be a dangerous criminal. If they spot him, it's lights out. No retries, no do-overs, no screwing up in the slightest. Everything has to go right or The Council wins, and bad things might happen.

Jared's not exactly crystal clear on what might transpire, but it can't be anything good. He has to stop this man from ruining his life, and he has to prove his innocence, but it all starts with finding video evidence that a member of The Council is framing him.

Easy peasy.

Jared looks around the room, spotting a sleek, brown leather briefcase next to Jim. He gets an idea instantly.

"The suitcase. I can cast an expansion charm on it to increase its actual size. On the outside, it'll appear normal, but on the inside, it could fit maybe a few people."

Kendrick gives it some thought, seemingly on board with this plan. "Okay. I like that. Very stealthy. The problem is getting you into the Headquarters without raising any alarms."

"You're right..." As he ponders on what to do, Jared spots Jim again, laying there motionless. Another lightbulb moment comes to Jared, and his lips shape into a grin. "Demonic Possession. You'll take control of his body, then pose as him while taking me into the security center. It's a foolproof plan."

"Perfect. I will be driving the body of a pervert. What will you do once we get to the security center?"

Jared waltzes over to where he's set up his laptop and other electronics, pulling out a USB drive. "I download the video files from the last few weeks onto this, then we bring it back here before they ever know we were there. As I said: foolproof."

It's not an entirely foolproof plan, but Jared can't see many problems along the way. If Kendrick can successfully get him inside, Jared could incapacitate the guards looking after the security footage. It shouldn't be too hard, though as experience would remind him, nothing is ever too easy.

Even if they get into Headquarters in one piece, who's to say that things won't go south incredibly fast? It's a difficult situation, not only because failure means certain death, but because other people's lives are on the line as well.

Jensen.

Chad.

Jeff.

Alex...

They could all be in mortal danger. For all Jared knows, Alex might not even get his memories wiped, instead The Council could probably do something far worse to prevent the secrets of their world from getting out, and Jared cannot let that happen. He cares about the kid too damn much. He'll fight for his life even if it means putting his own on the line.

Finally, after much deliberation, Kendrick agrees, grabbing another chair to sit next to Jim. "I trust you on this. I wouldn't be paired with anyone else doing something incredibly insane. When is a good time for you?"

"Err...right now, maybe?"

"I would complain, but I'm rather eager to actually get this started. Very excited. Well, here goes nothing."

Kendrick lays back in the chair, clasping his hands together over his stomach and closing his eyes. Jared stands there, not sure what to expect. But then he sees it. A bright blue light shines out of Kendrick's body, hovering in the air. Kendrick's physical form slumps on the furniture, essentially dead. The blue light, however, hovers in the air, humming and whirling strangely.

Kendrick's true self. A Demon of Vengeance now, opposed to what he must've looked like a thousand years ago. Nothing monstrous in his appearance, just a being akin to what his cousin Justice must look like. He's actually radiant; the light pulsates, making a beautiful, soothing noise that sounds like a million birds chirping at once through an inescapable void.

In seconds, the blue light spirals towards Jim, seeping into his chest. His eyes shoot open, now a piercing, electric blue. Jim gasps, sitting upright whilst feeling up his body. When he speaks, it's clear that it's not really Jim.

"This guy's mind is very disgusting, Wonder Boy." Kendrick says, healing the man's wounds. He checks the pockets of the suit, finding a pair of black sunglasses to shield his unnaturally blue eyes.

Jared snickers, picking up the suitcase. "I'm well aware. Come on. We need to get moving."

Kendrick stands in Jim's body, wobbling on his new pair of legs. It's like watching a newborn calf trying to walk for the first time, though it's extremely less elegant. Jared can't laugh at this, though. They're on a very tight schedule starting now, and the faster they get this done and identify the man pulling the strings.

Everything depends on Jared discovering who this man is and why he's out to ruin his life.

After some preparation, Jared opens the suitcase, saying the words of the spell. The Zaelich tome is an incredible grimoire brimming with hidden knowledge of advanced spells and hexes that make life much easier. The expansion charm is from the very same tome, and it's helped Jared with mundane things from laundry to grocery shopping.

Whether he wants to admit it or not, Magic is a part of his life forever, and he'll take full advantage now, something he thought differently as a child. Jared will need to utilize every skill he has in order to best his unseen enemies.

With the charm finally completed, Jared lays the briefcase on the ground before looking to Kendrick.

"Thank you for this," he says. "I have a feeling this would've been much harder without you."

Kendrick smirks. "Yeah, well, I owe you a lot, so...don't mention it. See you on the other side."

"Yeah..."

Soon, Jared takes a step forward, allowing himself to fall into the suitcase. It's not as bad as he thought it'd be in here. Though there's nothing inside, it give him the necessary oxygen to breathe. The walls resemble the actual inside of the case, but taller and wider.

Jared takes a deep breath, sliding down the wall until he's sitting on the floor. He looks up at the opening, seeing Kendrick looking down at him in awe.

"Very nice. You continue to impress me."

Jared rolls his eyes. "Kendrick. Focus."

"Right, right. I'm sorry."

"The address is 1200 Pentgram Lane. There's an alley right across the street from it. Look into your mind's eye and see if you can shift there."

"Alright," Kendrick assures. "You got it. I'll let you know when we get there."

Kendrick sighs before bending down to close the suitcase, shrouding Jared in complete darkness. He can hear the latches above being closed, securing him inside. To counteract the darkness, Jared casts an illumination spell, to light up the area.

While he waits for Kendrick to get them where they need to go, Jared checks his phone. A few messages from Jeff explaining to him that Alex is fine, but that The Council will be having a hearing in a few days time about his future. It shakes Jared to his core.

He must stop this. Somehow. He has to find a way, or he and Jensen will lose the closest thing they have to a child.

Jared locks his phone, putting it back into his pocket for later. He curls in on himself, drawing up his knees to his chest, resting his head. Though the only thing that seems to be lost at the moment is his home and the respect he had for his father, Jared realizes that it's only a matter of time before things get worse.

He'll have to weather the storm until then.

This will end eventually.

****

They arrive in the alley minutes later with Kendrick letting Jared know what's going on.

The outside of the building has men in all black guarding the entrance. Peacekeepers. Security really had been ramped up. They must be on the defensive in case there are other "traitors" within the bureau. Making use of an "x-ray" spell, Jared is able to look through the briefcase, seeing what Kendrick sees.

"They're armed," Jared informs. "But the weapons are concealed. They seem to be very trigger happy as well."

Kendrick clears his throat. "Comforting. Has the building ever suffered from a Demon attack in the past?"

"Not since the Winter of 2001. Why?"

"It's heavily warded. I'm not sure I can slip out under them if things go wrong."

"If things go right, you might not have to. Stick to the plan."

"Yes."

Kendrick gathers himself, steeling his nerves for the task ahead. It's nearly 7 in the evening, and shifts are ending and being rearranged. If Jared's not mistaken, Welling and Manns will most likely be in there, following whatever orders and listening to whatever drivel Mark Sheppard is likely spreading around about him.

Jared still thinks it's him. Why wouldn't it be? It could be that he's been conspiring against him since the very beginning. His behavior and tardiness checks out. Jared's definitely not ruling out the possibility just yet, though he needs to be sure.

Before he knows it, Kendrick is across the street and interacting with the other Peacekeepers. Jared keeps his mouth shut, observing carefully. They ask "Jim" for his identification, something Kendrick is able to produce with ease. The Peacekeepers allow him entry where both Jared and Kendrick sigh a breath of relief.

"Where am I going?" Kendrick mumbles to the briefcase.

"Okay," Jared whispers. "You'll want to be going towards the Tech wing. That's just past Interrogation. But...if I could just make a suggestion--?"

"Of course," Kendrick says softly, understanding what Jared wants. "I'll go there now."

"I appreciate it."

Jared just needs to see him one more time, just to confirm that Alex is indeed safe from harm. They make it towards Interrogation in no time flat where Kendrick discreetly holds up the briefcase so Jared can see Alex.

The boy is coloring, scribbling a drawing just out of view. Probably more dinosaur superheroes or something of the sort. He looks healthy and slightly happy, though Jared's aware that Alex would be even more happy if he were to just show up and spend time with him.

But it can't be so, no matter how much it pains him.

As Jared watches Alex, he finally tunes in to what Kendrick and the people who watch over Alex is talking about.

"Just seeing what the fuss was about." Kendrick says in Jim's voice, presumably about the nature of his abrupt visit. "The family he'll be going to will be lucky to have him."

One of the child analysts frowns. "Family, sir? He's to be...well, you know."

"He's to be what?"

"Purged. You and Mr. Sheppard informed us of this just a few hours ago."

Jared's blood runs ice cold in his veins, and his heart nearly threatens to burst out of his chest. It was the worst case scenario--only a glaring possibility in his mind, but it's now a genuine confirmation.

Mark and the rest of The Council will kill Alex.

Jared doesn't want to know the specifics. He can't stomach them, though he suspects it'll be painless and quick, like taking a very swift nap. It's horrifying to think about...and it paints The Council in a whole new light for Jared.

Child murderers.

Child. Murderers.

All of them, excluding one key member, of course. No way Jeff is going to let that fly, but it's a majority thing with them. If all but Jeff vote on Alex's extermination, they'll still win. It's unfair, and Jared wants nothing more than to snatch the child and run, but he can't risk him being in even more danger.

"Right, right," laughs Kendrick. "Of course. Slipped my mind. When exactly did we agree the date would be?"

"Three days from now, sir. That was the date."

"Ah. I see. Well, have a good day, gentleman."

Kendrick quickly turns the other way, bolting casually out of the area. He hastens his steps, talking lowly so only Jared can hear him. "Jared, we have to prevent this."

"I know," he says through clenched teeth. "I know! Goddammit! This isn't how it's supposed to go. Just get us to the Tech wing. Should be straight ahead."

They say nothing more as Kendrick carts them through the halls and corridors of the building. Jared once believed this was a place of justice, a place where he could make a difference and help people from major threats. Too bad the only major threat he's seeing is the job itself.

After all these years working for the F.B.S.P., they turn on him at a moment's notice? It's fucking bullshit. He's their best and brightest, yet he's being used as some kind of scapegoat? Fuck that. These people around him, people he used to consider colleagues, are nothing more than glorified henchmen now.

Screw this. Once everything is out in the open, then...he doesn't know. A vacation, maybe, somewhere warm. Somewhere away from all this stress.

Eventually, Kendrick walks by some people, standing directly in front of the door that leads into the security center. He sighs, squinting at the dark blue, metallic door.

"How many inside?"

"A dozen? Not really sure," Jared responds. "Just get me in there. I'll take care of it."

Kendrick nods, taking the doorknob in his hand. He opens the door, seeing that the security center is full of men and women working on large monitors, typing away on Magic "keyboards". It's not physical, appearing as a kind of hologram one might see in movies. It's quite fascinating to look at really.

However, upon entering, everyone inside looks towards Kendrick's direction, collectively confused.

He chuckles, closing the door and locking it behind him. He makes no effort to hide it, causing them to look on with concern. Finally, Kendrick sets the briefcase onto the floor, flipping the latches. Once he finally has it open, Jared surges out of it, making the security team all gasp in both fright and astonishment.

Just before they can get the chance to scream or call for help, Jared extends his hands to them, willing them to turn back to their monitors and work as if nothing happened. They obey him; their actions now his to command. For all their smarts, you'd think they'd have the foresight to put mental barriers on their minds. But no. They're easy to manipulate.

Jared sighs, elated that phase one of his plan had been completed. He bends down and closes the briefcase, setting it off to the side. "Wasn't too hard."

"Hey!" Kendrick shushes, tapping Jared on the chest. "Stop that! Anyone ever teach you about the term 'tempting fate', Jared?"

"Oh, whatever." Jared pulls out the USB drive, looking around until he spots the main security monitor. "Just stay close. This'll all be over s--"

The sound of the doorknob rattling is enough to make Jared stop in his tracks. He cuts himself off, listening to someone knocking on the other side, curious. Jared rushes to a desk and hides behind it before signalling Kendrick to open the door.

He keeps his focus on the people working at their monitors, peering out to see what might be happening at the door. He watches Kendrick open it carefully, smiling nervously at the person on the other side. His face comes into view, and Jared recognizes him from the data files he's been looking over for the past few days.

Rob Benedict, one of the more...benevolent members of The Council, or so he seems to be. Head of Spellcraft Research and Education, well versed in the matters of the Mortal world as well. If anyone else might dispute Mark and Jim's decision to kill Alex, it could be Rob.

"Jim, what are you doing here?" Rob asks, grinning. "Mark wants us in the conference room immediately. He says there's a major meeting about to happen. What's up with the sunglasses? Have a rough afternoon?"

Kendrick chuckles, clearly nervous. "Haha, yeah, something like that. I'm not sure why I'm--"

"Come on, quit delaying. You know how Mark gets if anyone is late--god forbid that anyone of us is late in his presence. Let's go."

"I, uh--ugh!" Kendrick growls, glancing at where Jared is hidden.

Jared encourages him to go, tapping at his watch, silently telling him that all he needs is time. Reluctantly, Kendrick is dragged away and out of the security center, closing the door. Once they're gone, Jared is able to come out of hiding, making a beeline for the large console at the head of the huge room.

He expertly interacts with the software, having been using computers like these for the past 9 to 10 years. Though he's not a big tech wiz, Jared excels where it counts, such as knowing how to download large files at a time.

In 10 seconds flat, Jared's able to access the video feed that shows all areas of the building. He cycles through each section until landing on the Hall of Heroes, tracing the archive back to at least a few weeks to when the attack on his house started. Jared plugs the USB into the port of the console, patiently waiting for the large video files to copy onto the drive.

As he waits, he shoots a fast text to Jeff, informing him of their situation as well as Kendrick's unexpected arrival.

****

It doesn't feel great being in this body. It feels like getting trapped inside of a slimey jar full of insects that want to crawl inside you and pull you apart.

Jim Beaver is a horrible man, one of the worst Kendrick had ever encountered, but he has to endure this immense crapfest for Jared and his crusade against this big, evil corporation. Kendrick understands the drive for truth, justice, and all of that, but maybe, just maybe, they've both bitten off more than they can chew this time.

This place was designed to combat and push back beings like him, and he's honestly surprised a freaking alarm on some kind of Demon sensor hasn't gone off yet.

Ah. Best not to think on it, though. Tempting fate, and all that jazz.

He's led by Rob to the main conference room where every member of The Council is waiting. It looks like a panel of judges with a table that curves, each with their own designated seat. Thankfully, Kendrick's is right next to Jeff's. He rushes up there, blue eyes unwittingly lighting up through the sunglasses.

Kendrick takes his seat, exhaling nervously. He leans in warily, careful not to be noticed by the others for his odd behavior. "Jeff, it's me. It's Kendrick."

"I know," Jeff responds, keeping his expression neutral. He keeps his voice low. "Jared texted me. What the fuck do you think you two are doing?"

"We're fighting to prove his innocence, but that's not all. There's going to be a hearing right now, and it concerns Alex. We have to stop it."

This gets Jeff's attention. He turns his head, concerned. "Alex? What's this hearing about?"

"They're going to--"

"Good evening, everyone," Mark Sheppard says, seated in the middle of the panel. "Thank you for joining me here at this time. There is a grave matter that we all must discuss."

Kendrick closes his mouth, balling up his fists underneath table. He wants to wipe that man's smirk right off his face, but brining unnecessary attention to himself isn't the best idea. In a room full of powerful Warlocks and a powerful Witch, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that they all know the exorcism spell to send him packing into the Underworld.

For now, Kendrick must keep quiet.

He prays Jared is nearly finished so they can get the fuck out of here.

****

Just as he had suspected, the files are downloading and copying at a snail's pace.

It's extremely annoying considering that he's on a goddamn time limit. Jared sighs through his nose, seeing that the transfer is only 35% complete. At this rate, he'll be waiting in this room for another 20 minutes. It's an agonizingly long time.

To cope, Jared decides to video chat with his husband. Jensen answers in no time, dressed in casual clothes and sitting on a sofa in Jeff's safehouse. Chad is next to him, also excited to see Jared.

"I miss you both," Jared starts, hiding the water forming in his eyes. "So much."

Jensen smiles softly. "We miss you, too. It'll be over before you know it. You got this."

"I know, but...something terrible is about to happen, and I don't know if I can stop it..."

"Jared, what do you mean? What terrible thing?"

Just before Jared can even get the chance to say it out loud, he hears the security center door opening. He lifts his head up quickly, spotting to familiar faces entering.

"Baby," Jared says quietly. "I'm gonna have to call you back."

Jared hangs up the call, taking a split second to glance at the remaining percent on the screen. 40%. Dammit. He holds his head high, ignoring the shocked look on his former squadron's faces.

"Welling. Manns."

"Captain?" Welling gasps, genuinely surprised. "Is it really...?"

Manns, however, is more aggressive, taking offence to Jared's being here. "You're alive. Everyone said you were dead."

Jared shrugs. "Well, that turned out to be a lie, didn't it? Hmph. Lies. Something The Council is getting good at telling these days..."

"Don't insult the reason you even had a job in the first place."

"They're also the reason my fucking house burned down and why I'm now on the run." Jared notices Manns's hand twitching towards the service weapon on his hip, prompting Jared to take offence. "Don't. Don't do this."

"Don't? Don't make us do this. Turn yourself in quietly and we'll be done with this. I...had a lot of respect for you, so please, don't make this any harder than it has to be."

"This is ridiculous, Jason. You know me! Why would I kill those Peacekeepers!?"

"Maybe you finally snapped after dealing with Jeremy Carver like everyone says." Manns supplies, hand fully on the grip of his holstered pistol. "That's a good possibility."

Jared squares his shoulders, getting into a defensive stance. "I'm going to prove my innocence, even if it means going through the both of you. I'm sorry."

"Me, too, Captain."

Manns pulls out his gun, firing shots at Jared who quickly takes cover behind a desk. To prevent the other innocent people in the room from getting harmed, Jared uses his powers to push them to the side, wheeled chairs rolling quickly across the hard floor. Though Welling is hesitant to shoot back, he joins in with Manns, fighting against Jared.

Jared pops up out of cover, growling as he thinks about how horrible of an idea it was to come here without a weapon. That's just fine. His mind is his true weapon. He blocks whatever projectiles are coming his way, catching them midair and sending them flying back at his attackers.

Though this fight is a serious one, Jared can help but to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Fighting his former squadmates over a mountain of shitty lies? It's not hard to find the humor in all this. He hopes against hope that no one can hear these gunshots, and that Kendrick is almost done so they can leave quickly.

****

With everyone present, the hearing begins.

Kendrick gazes around the panel, seeing a bunch of unfamiliar faces. He doesn't know these people, but Jim knows them all very well. Too well, some might say. He knows things about them, and they know things about him in return. The only ones Kendrick can't get a read on is Jeff and Stephen Amell who remain blank slates in Jim's mind.

He takes a good look at Stephen, going over his features and attire. He seems...proper, younger than the others. By the looks of things, he knows what he wants, and how to get it; no afraid to get his hands dirty. Stephen is the kind of man Kane once was: ambitious...perhaps too ambitious for his own good.

Stephen catches him staring and he smirks, nodding at him as if he knows his secret. Not Jim's secret, but Kendrick's. It's off-putting, and it forces Kendrick to look away from him. There's something about that guy that's just not right, and he can't put his finger on it. All attempts to read his mind are futile. Could it be that his mind is guarded more efficiently than Jared's?

It's a scary thought.

Soon, though, Mark Sheppard speaks, causing everyone to look to him. "Good evening, everyone. I trust that you all are well. We've only just spoken with each other hours ago, but there is something we must all discuss. As you are aware, Jared Padalecki is dead, and we've found evidence of his involvement in killing unarmed, foreign Peacekeepers. We've increased security tenfold, ensuring that no other traitors walk these halls again. However, there is another sensitive matter we must talk about here today."

"Yes?" Jeff questions, curious.

"Alexander Calvert."

"What about him?" Samantha Smith asks.

Mark folds his hands. "As you know, he's grown to have a rapport with Padalecki, confiding in each other. But let us consider something. What if he has forced the child under his spell?"

Kendrick frowns, though it's Rob Benedict who speaks before him. "What exactly are you saying, Mark?"

"All I'm saying is that, in the times we weren't aware or monitoring their conversations, could Jared have manipulated him in some way? Cursed him to obey his dying will? Plotted with him to expose the most intimate secrets of our society? For all we know, Alexander Calvert could be housing Jared's very own consciousness with Dark Magic at this second without us ever realizing it."

Insanity.

This has to be a fucking joke, right? No one is this gullible, right?

"And what are you suggesting we do if everything you said is the case?" Stephen chimes in.

Mark straightens his tie, sighing. "We euthanize the child. Quick and painless, having him slip away in moments. He won't feel a thing. He must not leave this facility as he poses too much of a risk. I'll cast the votes. All those in favor of--"

Understandably, Jeff is appalled. He slams his hand on the table so hard that it cracks slightly under the pressure. Kendrick conceals his smirk, not wanting to tip off anyone about his true nature, but dammit, there's a reason Jeff was the first one he contacted after all these years. He had always respected his initiative and authoritative ways; generally how he carried himself.

This outburst shows Kendrick just how much of a good guy Jeff actually is.

"No! We do not hurt children! Reconsider this at once!"

"I vote to euthanasia." Samantha says, casting her vote.

"Sam? What...?"

"The child will prove to be our undoing if he's left alive, and let's not even get into what lies Padalecki could've fed to him. This is the right thing. For the good of us all."

Alongside Samantha is Stephen who nods solemnly. "I agree with Ms. Smith, though it pains me to admit it. Alexander is a brilliant child, but even brilliant children can be dangerous in the wrong hands."

"Then wipe his memory just as we've been planning to do!" Rob cries, finally speaking out. As with Jeff, he, too, is against the idea of killing Alex. "He's barely begun his life!"

"It's not enough!" yells Mark. "He has been tainted by Jared's corrupt ideologies and stories. Everything that he is must be casted out in order for us to be safe. As long as the child draws breath, our very lives are at stake. All those in favor of euthanasia, say 'aye'."

"Aye," say Samantha, Mark, and Stephen in unison.

Mark looks at Kendrick in surprise, or rather Jim he should say. "And those who oppose?"

Immediately, Kendrick raises his hand alongside Jeff and Rob. The shocked look on Mark's face is a priceless momento that Kendrick will undoubtedly remember to the end of days. Jim is screaming in the inside of his own mind, watching all of this play out helplessly. It makes it all that much more entertaining.

But soon, Mark glares at Kendrick, angered by this sudden decision. "Jim. You've been very quiet. May I ask why you oppose?"

"Killing children is a huge strike in my book," Kendrick says as Jim. "So I have to say a big, fat 'fuck you and fuck no'. Also, I'll have you know that Jared Padalecki was a decent man! Yes, he had his faults, but he had morals, and he was determined. He is easily twice the person you all could ever hope to be, and that's not saying much."

The outflow of pure rage leaves them speechless, though Rob and Jeff still stick by his side. It makes Kendrick realize immediately, though, that his cover is blown, and it's made evident by Mark's threatening gaze.

"I see." Mark growls, zeroing in on him. "Nice sunglasses. Take them off, Jim."

Kendrick freezes. "I don't see why I should."

"It's getting dark out. There's no need for them. Take them off."

"No..."

Though Kendrick tries with all his might to keep the situation calm and cool, it quickly turns upside down. With his powers, Mark snatches the sunglasses off his face, holding them in his hands. Kendrick's abnormal blue eyes are on full display, making The Council gasp in utter surprise save for Jeff and, strangely, Stephen.

Mark, triumphant in his discovery, abruptly stands, pointing at Kendrick. "Demon! Just as I suspected! Seize him! Send him back to the Underworld where it belongs! You foul creature!" Mark speaks to the device in his ear. "Code Crimson, I repeat: we have a Code Crimson. Commence the emergency facility lockdown."

In the blink of an eye, the lights in the room turn off, instantly replaced by a flashing red one. The wailing of a siren is heard, and Kendrick can only swear silently as he arises from his seat. He attempts to move, but all control over Jim's body comes to an end. Kendrick spots Samantha and Mark doing a simultaneous spell on him, preparing to send him back where he came from.

No. Absolutely not. There's no way he'll go back there. Never again.

As they chant the ancient spell, Kendrick makes a difficult choice. He abandons the mission, vacating Jim Beaver's body entirely. Bodiless, Kendrick whirls around the room, passing through the door and out into the main lobby. He narrowly avoids being captured, desperately evading spells and hexes being flung his way.

He's finally able to squeeze under the building's incredible ward, zapping back into the body he's long inhabited. Kendrick gasps, breathing heavily whilst taking in his surroundings once more. He takes a short reprieve before hurling an expletive, remembering that Jared is still trapped in that terrible place with the people who want to kill him.

****

With a flick of his wrist, Jared is able to wrestle the gun from Manns's hands, causing it to scatter across the floor. He stands in front of both men, seeing that the odds are split down the middle. Manns and Welling put up their fists, preparing for a good old fashioned fist fight.

Jared scoffs, complying. He raises up his fists as well, cracking his neck on both sides. "I don't suppose I can talk some sense into you. Might as well beat it into you then."

Welling charges forward first, throwing his fists at Jared's face. Jared bobs to the left and weaves to the right, avoiding Welling's strikes. He slaps his fists away, countering every move with one of his own. In defense, Jared punches Welling in the chest, following up with a few more hits to the stomach and face before grappling him, tossing him over a desk.

Jared nearly celebrates his first victory, but is almost caught off guard when Manns rushes him, more violent than Welling. He pulls out a knife, swinging it at Jared, aiming to do serious harm. He holds it high, coming down swiftly only for Jared to catch his wrist with his hand. Manns curls his free hand around Jared's throat, choking him as he fights to stab him.

It's a struggle for Jared as he attempts to gain control over the situation. He doesn't want to be strangled to death, but he doesn't want to be stabbed in the face either. Growling and flexing his mind with effort, Jared is able to push Manns back, making him drop his second weapon. Just then, a loud siren is heard overhead, and a blinking red light flashes around the room.

Lockdown. Something terrible happened.

Jared doesn't wait for a reprisal, Telekinetically dragging both Welling and Manns until they're down below him, staring up into his eyes. They're trapped there on the floor, trying their hardest to wriggle free, but it's no use. Jared huffs, frustrated.

"I'm not the enemy here! Do you want to know what happened that night? 7 Warlocks attacked me and my family, and burned our home to the ground. They were hired by someone in The Council."

"That can't be true!" Manns growls. "It just can't. They said you killed them all, killed Jensen!"

"Jensen is alive!" Jared shouts. "And I'll prove it." He pulls out his phone again, quickly dialing Jensen's number until he answers. He puts the call on speakerphone. "Are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here." Jensen replies. "What's going on over there? Sounds like a fire drill or something."

"Yup. Or something. I'm with Welling and Manns. They seem to think that I killed you the night of the fire. Care to prove them wrong?"

"You guys, stop being idiots. The people you're working for are playing you both like a fiddle. Jared didn't kill me. He's being framed by someone within The Council. Please, stop whatever it is you're doing and listen to him. Better?"

"Better." Jared smirks, looking down at their shocked faces. "I'll call you later. I love you."

"Love you, too. Stay safe."

Jared hangs up, allowing his former squadron to properly process all that has just transpired. Confident that they'll no longer attack him, Jared releases his hold on them, allowing them both to stand to their feet. Manns dusts himself off, looking down at the floor with a pensive expression.

Welling is the first to speak, rubbing his neck. "We... I'm sorry. I just don't understand."

"It's okay."

"Well, I understand perfectly." Manns grumbles, finally looking up. "The Council is screwing with us, but why? What the hell is going on behind the scenes, Captain?"

"That's what I'm here to find out," Jared mumbles, turning his back to walk towards the large console again.

He checks the transfer percent, seeing that it's finished. Without delay, he ejects the USB drive from the port, slipping it into his pocket. Jared stops in his tracks as Manns picks up his gun, staring at it intently. Jared fears the worst, thinking that, once again, he'll have to fight the men he's considered friends since being employed here.

But Manns puts his gun in the holster, silently reassuring Jared.

"There's a Code Red," he says. "Means there's a Demon in the building. Friends of yours?"

"Kendrick. Long story. Can you help me slip through in the confusion?"

Welling nods. "We'll try. Just stay close."

"Thank you."

Jared walks behind Welling to the door, but Manns grabs him by the shoulder. "Captain...I just... I really am sorry. When this is all over, please help us understand."

"When this is all over, I'm getting us a round of drinks." Jared says with a smirk.

Manns chuckles, and the three of them prepare to leave the room. However, just as they open the door to exit, they come face to face with Mark Sheppard and the rest of The Council in the hall, searching fervently for Kendrick, presumably.

Mark spots Jared, staring directly into his eyes with something akin to fear. Jared stares back, anger written all over his face. And yet, before he can get the chance to attack him, he and his squadron are surrounded by hostile Peacekeepers. Jared accesses the situation, deciding it's better back in the security center than it is outside of it.

He quickly grabs Welling and Manns, dragging them back into the security center. Just as he closes the door, he locks eyes with Stephen Amell who wears a dastardly smile, indicating that he might be as horrible as the people he stands beside. Jared quickly barricades the door with strong Magic, focusing on finding a way out.

Jared sighs. "It used to be that I knew who the bad guys were, but I'm not so sure anymore. Assholes."

"That's not going to hold for long," Manns states, hearing banging on the opposite side. "Is there any way out of here?"

Welling shakes his head. "One way in, one way out."

"Not even an emergency exit?"

"Nothing." Welling mutters. "We're trapped."

Jared takes a moment to join in the search, immediately spotting the suitcase that was used to get him in. "Not necessarily."

He rushes to retrieve it, popping it open with one effortless flick. His hand hovers above the case, and he recites the one worded spell he hasn't used in a long time.

"Transportia."

In a flash, the insides of the suitcase change into a spiraling whirlpool of colors. Jared stands, looking down at the portal he conjured. It's been much too long since using it, but it seems to be very useful now. He looks to his companions, pointing at the swirling portal at their feet.

"Go on. Step inside."

Manns swallows, nervous. "We're not going to be killed on the other side, are we?"

"Get in the damn suitcase."

"Yup."

Without any other options left, Manns jumps into the portal, disappearing. Welling looks in as well, curious about what to expect on the other side of the portal. Nevertheless, he, too, jumps in, following after Manns. The security center is soon broken into, allowing the other Peacekeepers to enter.

Next is Jared's turn who narrowly avoids capture by jumping in at the last second. He shouts, floating through time and space as he's instantly transported back to the abandoned warehouse he and Kendrick were hiding out in. He falls a few feet from the ground, landing on his rear harshly. The suitcase drops from up above, landing in his lap.

Taking another look around, he sees that Welling and Manns are also on the ground, picking themselves up. It's not long until Kendrick is dashing towards him, now back in the body he's made his own. He kneels down, licking his lips and checking him over for any serious injuries.

"Hey, are you okay? You weren't shot or anything, right?"

"No, I'm good." Jared breathes, finally standing. "What happened in there? Was the Code Crimson your doing?"

Chuckling nervously, Kendrick responds. "Uh...yeah. That was my fault. I was somewhat antagonistic towards Mark Sheppard after hearing the barbaric words coming from his mouth."

"Naturally." Jared grunts as he rises to his feet, finding Welling and Manns coming up to him. He clears his throat. "Welling, Manns, this is Kendrick, my Demon friend. Kendrick, these are my squadmates."

Kendrick's eyes flash blue, and he shows off a wicked grin. "Pleasure is all mine, boys. What lovely souls you have."

"Don't scare them."

"N--Nice to meet you," Welling says, sticking out his hand. "I've never encountered a Demon before. Please don't devour my soul."

"As if I could devour one such as yours whole," Kendrick purrs seductively, causing Jared to shudder uncomfortably. "I would savor it, keep you alive just long enough until we both..."

"Disgusting." Manns interrupts before looking at Jared. "Alright, we're here. Don't know how or why, but we're here. I think it might be best if we know everything. From the beginning."

They don't have time for this, just since transferring the data from the USB drive to his laptop might take a while, Jared decides to fill them in with as much information as possible. He leaves nothing out from the story, even going as far back as the day his parents were murdered and the truth behind his father's so called "heroic" deeds.

It's quite painful to tread down that dark path again, but if he doesn't do it, they wouldn't understand what could possibly be at stake. They couldn't understand that The Council, the very people they work for, are working on something sinister, delving into unethical practices that could put not only the lives of Witches and Warlocks at risk, but Mortals as well.

And so, Jared is able to give them the rundown, making sure to spare no detail. Kendrick chimes in with his experience at The Council hearing as well, causing Jared to become even more pissed off than he already is. When all is said and done, Welling speaks up first, seemingly discouraged by his job now.

"All I ever wanted as a kid was to become a Peacekeeper. My aunt was one, and she was my hero. But now, knowing that she worked for them, it makes my stomach churn."

"And you say not all of them are corrupt, right?" Manns asks.

Kendrick nods to him. "That's right. There are at least 2 who don't seem to be, for lack of a better word, evil. Rob Benedict and Jeffrey Dean Morgan."

"What about the new guy? Stephen Amell?"

"I couldn't get a read on him, but he was in favor of Alex's euthanasia."

Jared clenches his jaw in anger, rage bubbling up deep inside. "The look on his face before we escaped... He's just as sick as the rest of them. And here I thought he'd become a valuable ally. After all, he did tip me off about Carver being in the area."

"Looks can be deceiving." Welling chimes in, stretching. "No one knows a single thing about him other than him just showing up out of the blue one day. Very friendly though, or at least he pretended to be."

It's strange to say the least, but stranger things have definitely happened around these parts. Stephen's sudden arrival is hardly something to be up in arms about.

With the files successfully transferred to his laptop, Jared opens them up, sifting through the many hours of video feed. "There's almost 2 week's worth of security footage to go through, so we'll have our guy in no time. Should take me a few hours to skim through it all, but I'm hoping it's all there."

Kendrick clasps his hand on Jared's shoulder, walking towards the exit. "You got this. I'll go see to Jeff and talk to him about what happened after we left. If I'm not back by the time you're finished, just call him."

"Yup. Stay safe out there."

"Always am."

Kendrick is gone soon enough, leaving Jared, Welling, and Manns alone together to rifle through the footage. It's a long, grueling process that definitely lasts hours. Jared plays back and fast forwards through the video stream, looking for minor inconsistencies and key events from the vision he had from Jim's memory.

The trio take turns going into it, taking mild shifts and breaks while they keep their eyes glued to the screen. They almost give up hope until, 4 hours later, Manns and Welling finally come up with something.

"Hey, Captain!" He yells over to Jared who is talking to Kendrick near the power generator. "I found something! I found Jim Beaver!"

Jared perks up, rushing over towards Manns with the speed and grace of a cheetah. He leans over his shoulder, squinting his eyes at the screen. He looks upon the empty section of the Hall of Heroes, seeing that the time is just past 8.

Suddenly, a man enters just out of frame, a man in a suit. Jim Beaver. He waits around for several minutes, watching as Jim glances at his watch every 40 seconds or so. After waiting for nearly 10 minutes, another man instantly appears before him out of thin air. Jared frowns, unable to see who the man is due to the positions of the cameras. The only thing he can make out is the back of his head, though that doesn't help much.

Could be anyone's head, and it makes Jared more anxious. He takes over for Manns, fast forwarding through the conversation that they can't even hear. It goes on for a longer length of time than Jared had expected, forcing him to question all that he's missed from his and Jim's previous run in.

But then, as quick as ever, the conversation ends, and the suited men part ways. Jared rewinds it back, pausing at just the right time to get a small glimpse of the one he's been looking for.

And there on the screen, clearer than daylight, is Stephen Amell, smirking just as he did earlier today.

Jared seethes in inconsolable anger. He had his suspicions, but now that they're confirmed, it hurts all the more. Stephen was a lovely, kind, polite man whenever they spoke. It just feels like a large knife in the back; an endless cycle of betrayal.

After reviewing the footage twice to make sure the man is the correct one, Jared feels his phone ringing in his pocket. Upon inspecting it, he finds that the person calling him is using an unknown number. Looking at his companions to guidance, they encourage him to answer.

"Hello?"

"Secret's out, isn't it?" says the man on the other line. "Should be by now. I gave you enough time to look through everything."

The voice is easily recognizable.

"Amell," Jared growls, looking around the warehouse. "You did this to me. Are you watching us? Recording? Astral Projection?"

"You're not the only one who's been juicing up on power you barely understand." Stephen says menacingly. "So, here's what's going to happen. You'll meet me at 259 Elson Street. Penthouse. Come alone. There's so much we need to discuss."

"As if I would ever--"

The call is dropped before Jared can bite back with an insult, leaving him frustrated and pissed off. He slams his phone against the hard ground where it shatters to pieces, only for him to immediately regret it and quickly repair the device with Magic.

He stands there, staring off at a brick wall, ignoring the questions being asked by his companions. Jared soon retreats into his own mind, closing his eyes, tuning out everything and everyone.

There's no sound, just an empty, black sea of nothing of which there is no escape.

Tonight is the night.

Tonight is the end.

Chapter Text

When Jared comes to his senses again, he's aware of two things.

The first: a loud ringing in his ears that slowly diminishes over time.

The second: Kendrick, Welling, and Manns all up close to him, snapping their fingers and trying to get through to his dazed mind.
P
Jared eventually breaks through the final wall of the self-isolated mental state he put himself in, looking at his friends with a strange, far off look.

"It was him," he mumbles, still in a sort of shock. "It was Stephen Amell."

Jason Manns swallows, anxious. "Of course it was him. The newcomer that no one knew about."

"I should've killed him before blowing my cover back at the Headquarters." Kendrick growls. "Would've been easier."

"If you did that, then Jared would never get the chance to prove his innocence," says Tom Welling. "We have the video evidence, but that won't be enough. He needs Amell. Alive."

"What did he even say?"

Jared sighs. "He wants to meet with me so we can discuss some things. He also told me to come alone, so I'm going."

"What?" Kendrick frowns. "No. Not a chance. This could easily be a trap set up for you. You don't know what this man is capable of."

"He doesn't know what I'm capable of either. I need to face him, otherwise he and the rest of The Council will hurt Alex, and I can't let them do that. Besides, when's the last time I lost a fight?"

There'll come a day, sometime soon perhaps, where this statement will be flipped. He'll meet his match, and get his ass handed to him.

But until that day comes, Jared will face this next challenge head on. Alex is too important to him to lose, as is Jensen and Chad and Kendrick and Jeff, should Stephen discover that his loyalty still lies with Jared. Hell, Stephen might already know, just as it seems he easily knows certain things.

What did he mean when he said he gave Jared enough time? Did he figure out why he was at Headquarters in the first place? If that's the case, why didn't he attack or stop him, or tell anyone before Code Crimson was announced? It seems rather odd that Stephen would just let him go without a fight if they're supposed to be opposed against one another.

Maybe he'll find out soon enough. He's got the address memorized already, all that's left is to show up and "talk", but what about exactly? Stephen didn't make that part clear. Probably setting up for some long winded villain monologing or whatever.

Jared glances at his watch. Clock's ticking fast.

"I don't want to keep my host waiting," he announces, throwing on his jacket. "If all goes right, he'll be locked away in Lichcom by morning."

"And if it all goes left?" Kendrick asks.

"If that happens then...I'll need you to do me a favor."

"Anything."

"You do whatever it takes to get Alex and you run. Never stop. Just run. I want him as far away from that place as you can get him, do you hear me?"

Kendrick, though visibly upset by the notion of Jared not making it back, nods obediently. "I'll do it. I promise."

Jared takes a few steps towards Kendrick, hugging him close. "Thank you, my friend."

"Does this mean I'm officially forgiven for my long absence?"

"Yeah," chuckles Jared. "You're good." He separates from Kendrick who ruffles his hair affectionately, looking towards his squadmates with a soft smile. "I didn't know if you guys would understand, but I'm glad you did. Thank you both for sticking with me."

Welling beams, crossing his arms. "Don't say that as if you're not sure you'll come out of this alive. We'll see you later, and we'll drink until we drop."

"Yeah. I'd like that very much."

"Go on then, Captain," says Manns with a smirk. "Show him who Jared Padalecki really is."

With nothing more needing to be said, Jared nods to his friends, bidding them farewell until the next time. If there is one, at least. He exits the warehouse, climbing into his car shortly afterwards.

Before starting it up, Jared sits there for a moment, hand on the key that would make the engine roar to life. He stares off into space, thinking of everything that's happened up to this moment. Was it all predetermined, or did he and his father just make one too many mistakes in life to allow him to get here? Jared's always been a non-believer towards fate and the like, but it feels like none of this could've been prevented.

Nothing he could say or do would have any impact on the past, which somehow boils down to his father. Jared won't blame the man for everything, but he will blame him for Carver and for tearing their family apart.

It's funny. Knowing what he knows so far, it only would've been a matter of time before it happened either way.

Destiny. Fate.

Whatever.

Jared finally starts the car, backing out onto the dirt road that lead him here in the first place. He makes a u-turn, headed back towards the same city in which this all started. Jared is almost on autopilot the entire drive, eyes staring at the road with his hands and feet working in their own.

He tries to imagine every possible scenario in his head before the inevitable confrontation between him and Stephen. How will it end? In body bags? A large explosion? A Hollywood-style reveal? Jared's unsure, though he knows one thing is absolutely certain:

Someone's getting hurt tonight.

Time seems to fast forward as Jared speeds towards his final destination, and, within the blink of an eye, he's parked right outside of the high rise Stephen told him to meet at. Without leaving the safety of his car, Jared glances up at the imposing structure. It has to be at least 40 or 59 stories high, and at the very top is Stephen's supposed penthouse.

Jared won't say it outright, of course, but he feels intimidated just by looking at the damn thing. He can't put his finger on it really, though it might have something to do with him being so high up with a potentially dangerous Warlock. Stephen sounded calm on the phone, like he actually wanted to talk and not fight to the death.

Yet, as Kendrick supplied earlier, it could all be a ruse. Either way, it's a gamble Jared will have to take.

Looking at the time, Jared sees that it's exactly midnight. He doesn't want to go in there, but he's got no other choice. It would be so much better if he had someone to give him a pep talk before the "final boss"--

And then it clicks. Sure as ever.

Jared whips out his cellphone, calling Jensen despite the time. He places the device to his ear as his husband answers, voice a little rough and yawning.

"Hey, Jay..."

"Uh, hi," Jared starts. "Did I catch you at a bad time? Sounds like I might've woken you up."

Jensen yawns again, this time making a noise one would make while stretching. "Well, you did, but it's fine. I just dozed off with Chad for a while. What's going on?"

"I found out who's been framing me and I'm outside of his house right now."

"What?" says Jensen, fully awake. "Well, go on! Tell me! Who is it?"

"Stephen Amell, head of Intelligence."

"What in the hell? Jay, why would he do that? I thought he was good to you."

"I thought he was, too, but sometimes people show their true colors when you least expect them to. He wanted to meet me at his place, so that's what I'm doing. I just...I just wanted to call and tell you that I love you in case something happens to me--"

"Jared, babe, listen to me, okay? Stop. Don't think that way, or I swear to god, I'll run outside and find a way to get to you, you hear me? You got this. Keep your wits about you and don't let him underestimate you. You're smart; still the crafty Witch I fell in love with 15 years ago. Do what you have to do. Do what you think is right."

The pep talk from his husband brightens Jared up significantly, boosting his resolve. Calling on Jensen for guidance was the best thing to do. No other could give him the kind of reassurance he desperately seeks. It's why they're so perfect for each other. It was why Jared accepted Jensen's marriage proposal. It's why they've lasted so long.

Here's to many more years.

Jared smiles. "I'm glad I called. I love you so much. Have a good night, Jock."

"I love you, too. Please stay alive. I've got faith in you."

Jensen is the first to hang up, leaving Jared to do this all on his lonesome. After procrastinating for a while longer, he's finally able to exit his car, walking up to the building that seems to stretch on for forever. A fall from such a height would not only destroy the body, Jared surmises, but also the very soul of someone. It's just a stupid thought, but it unnerves him nonetheless.

In seconds, Jared steps into the building, acutely aware that no one is inside the lobby. It's not a strange happening as it is rather late out, but there's usually at a few security guards in places like this. It feels ominous and foreboding at best, which would accurately describe Jared's life so far.

Despite this, he continues to journey inward until he spots the elevators. Before he can go any farther, Jared suddenly remembers that he'll need some sort of "insurance" if he can clear his name--no loose ends, no paths left uncrossed. He takes out his phone again, pressing a button to record the upcoming conversation he'll no doubt be having with Stephen.

Jared quickly slips it back into his pocket as the elevator doors open on their own much to his surprise. He glances at the lift skeptically, unsure on what to make of it. It hits him suddenly that it's Stephen, sending it down because he's watching him. Jared takes a look around the lobby, resolving to spot a hidden camera or two, yet finds nothing of the sort.

Warily, he eventually enters the elevator where the doors slide closed the second he's in. Jared turns around, frowning at the panel with all the buttons. The very top is labelled "Penthouse" on the 34th floor, but before he can hope to push it, the button is pressed by an invisible force and an automated voice confirms it as his destination.

Jared swallows hard as he's lifted up. He walls backwards until he comes in contact with the elevator wall. With a soft exhale, Jared leans his head back and shuts his eyes. He doesn't know what awaits him at the top, but Jared is determined to clear his name. Stephen's motivations for doing this are still a definite mystery to Jared, though he's ready to beat the answers out of him if that's what it takes.

Innocent lives are at stake here.

Jared's. Jensen's. Chad's. Jeff's. Even Kendrick's along with Welling's and Manns's.

Not to mention Alex's precious life.

If all goes according to plan, he'll be safe. What that plan is, however, Jared does not know, but he'll improvise. That's what one does when they're backed into a corner. You use whatever means necessary to achieve your goals and he'll fight to the death if it means those he cares about are safe from harm.

Finally, after what felt like a century, the elevator stops at the 34th floor, prompting the automated voice to tell him so. The doors slide open, and Jared is instantly greeted by the faint sounds of smooth jazz on a sound system that can't be too far. He steps into the penthouse, trying his hardest not to marvel at its beauty. Marble flooring, intricate decor, expensive furniture, a great view of the city--it seems like Stephen Amell has it all.

"Not everything it want," Stephen's voice says from further in, startling Jared. "Just the things I find pleasurable at the time. Please, come in. Take a seat."

Jared clenches his jaw, bewildered. Did Stephen read his mind? How? That's impossible! He's got mental blocks to prevent that very thing from happening. And yet, just as before, Stephen seems to know way more than he should. Jared will need to get to the bottom of it, but not this second. He needs to play it cool and not give anything away lest the son of a bitch catches on.

If he hadn't already.

With the utmost reluctance, Jared trudges into the penthouse slowly, examining everything noteworthy.

Kitchen's closer to the living room; if push comes to shove, he could gather some knives for a quick fight. The large windows ahead that make this place seem bigger might be of use, though Jared hasn't figured out how just yet. It's best to keep these thoughts locked away, or forgotten altogether.

Wouldn't want to give his host any ideas.

Before long, Jared is in the living room, taking a seat on a huge cushioned sofa--cream colored. It really fits together with the aesthetic of the place. Jared would never own one though. Too pretentious. To his right, he sees the balcony of the penthouse behind sliding glass doors and to the left, a mini bar. Of course. So cliche.

In due time, Jared looks ahead of him upon hearing footsteps. There, coming down the staircase, is Stephen Amell. He walks with elegance and grace, like a purebred stallion. Such regality. Stephen holds his gaze with Jared, burning a hole into his very soul with his piercing eyes. Jared shifts in his seat as his host reaches the main floor, uncomfortable.

He's angry, confused, and mildly intrigued all rolled up into one big ball of complicated emotions. The only things Jared can seem to focus on is the fact that Stephen set him up and that he voted yes for Alex to be euthanized like a fucking animal. So, yes, he's not too pleased to be in this man's presence.

After looking him over for a while, Stephen smirks, wordlessly shuffling towards the mini bar. With his back turned towards him, Jared searches the area for anything of use. Opening the drawers for the knives in the kitchen would make too much noise, he realizes. Maybe the pen on the coffee table in front of him.

Stephen chuckles, breaking Jared's train of thought. "By the time you even reach for the pen, I would have immobilized you with just a few easy steps." He turns around, holding two glasses of what seems to be whiskey; he smiles at Jared. "Just relax."

"How are you in my head?" Jared growls.

"I told you already--you're not the only one who possesses advanced Magic." Stephen sighs, sitting directly across from Jared on the matching sofa. He places one of the glasses on the coffee table, gesturing towards Jared. "Please. Drink with me."

"I'd rather not."

"If you thought I'd poison you, why even bother to come?"

"Because I want answers, you piece of--!" Jared shuts his eyes before the rage inside of him can fully unleash itself. He groans, calming down. "I apologize."

"Don't. You're angry, I understand that. You've been angry for so long, but it's time to relax. Please, drink. We have a lot to discuss and I'm sure whiskey will help ease the blows by just a little."

Jared can't help but to listen closely to Stephen and his phrasing. Not only that, but his tone is on another level. He's as calm and collected as he's been since their first time meeting each other. It almost frightens Jared how tranquil Stephen's being.

And yet, despite all the warning signs telling him no, Jared reaches forward, calling forth the glass of whiskey into his hands. The ice inside the cup rattle with movement as he brings the rim of the glass to his lips. The liquid slides down his throat; warmth spreads in the pit of his stomach, a familiar feeling. He hasn't drunk whiskey since his honeymoon with Jensen.

Jared drinks it all down in one large swallow, placing the glass back onto the table. He exhales, feeling the slight burn that accompanies the drink. Behind his own glass, Stephen snorts. He takes another swig, humming.

"Wasn't so bad, was it? Nothing like a drink between peers."

"I would've invited you out for a drink before I learned you were the one pulling the strings behind this fucked up conspiracy," Jared muses aloud, leaning back on the couch. "But not now. Why'd you do it, Stephen? Tell me why you sent those Peacekeepers to my house."

Stephen finishes his drink soon enough, but he summons over the bottle only to pour another glass for the both of them.

"Jared, do you believe in fate?"

"Cut the shit. Tell me it was you."

"I believe some things, though not all, are predetermined," he says, ignoring Jared. "Certain events in our lives--key moments that we remember for as long as we live--are already set in stone for us the moment we were born. You and I meeting for the first time, for example. It's a day that'll live on in my memory forever. It's key to who I am--who we are to each other."

"What are you rambling on about? Fate? What does this have to do with framing me--"

"You think I don't know that you're recording me, Jared? I do. By all means, continue to do so if you feel like it, but just know that I know, and don't care. Your name will be cleared after tonight regardless. I'll make sure to it. You don't need proof of our conversation for that to happen."

Jared squints his eyes, blood running cold. He subtly touches the phone resting in his front pocket, silently panicking. What the hell? No...no, seriously!

What the hell is this guy's deal!?

"What are you talking about?" Jared growls, focusing instead on the last part of Stephen's small speech. "First you set me up, now you want to help me prove my innocence!? What the hell is wrong with you, Amell!?"

Stephen takes yet another sip. "I had to be sure about you."

"Make sense right now, or I'll kill you where you sit."

"Do you remember the first time we met?" Stephen starts again, completely disregarding what Jared said.

Jared drinks, pinching the bridge of his nose. Resigned, he plays into Stephen's little game. "Yes, of course I do. Back at Headquarters when I--"

"No." Stephen interrupts with a saddened sigh. He leans forward, resting his arms on his parted knees. "It's just as I thought. You don't remember. I mean...how could you? We were pretty young back then."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm telling you that our introduction at Headquarters wasn't our first interaction together. We've met before, albeit much younger; we were only children. You were 11, I was only 10...as well as the rest."

Something strange tugs at the back of Jared's mind. A voice, a feeling--something calling out to him. It's a power, a sweet melody. The sound of children laughing, the soft creaking of a mildly rusted swing set.

A memory.

A long forgotten sliver of his past that's been buried in his subconscious for years, always hidden away.

Jared frowns, fighting with the fleeting, blurred images that dark across his mind. His heart begins beating rapidly as he tries to process what he's seeing; lost memories of a time he didn't know existed. Stephen looks him in the eye, nodding and smiling.

"It's okay," he says with a soothing voice. "It's okay. Let it wash over you. Remember. Remember us."

Jared unwittingly obeys, allowing the sealed off memory to come to light.

****

The bigger kids are being mean again on the playground. Why? What has Jared done to them this time? They're taller than him and a little older, but Dad said that he'd be bigger and better than they are one day. Why can't it be today!? Ugh!

"You're such a dork," they say. "Your hair is so dumb and girly!"

Jared whimpers, saddened by their harsh words. He's not what they say he is. Dad said that--

Ouch.

Ow.

They pushed him down on the ground; he hurt his elbow on a rock. It's bleeding. They yell at him, taunting him, barking at him to get up and fight. Jared doesn't want to. He doesn't think it would be a fair fight. Dad told him to never use Magic against Mortals unless he was defending himself. Does this count? Maybe it does.

"Get up and fight!" they scream.

Jared looks around the park, searching for his father. He's not on the bench where Jared saw him last. Oh no! Where'd he go!? Not good!

The bigger kids keep yelling, kicking dirt onto him. Jared cries, tears welling up in his eyes. The fear turns to sadness, and the sadness soon evolves into something stronger.

Something much stronger.

Hate.

Jared glares up at the older boys, furrowing his brow and curling his upper lip. Wind rushes through Jared's hair as he stands, and he extends his hand forward unconsciously. He can feel something else--something he's never felt before. He's not so sure how, but it feels like it's always been a part of him. The feeling becomes stronger as Jared notices a group of children approaching out of the corner of his eye.

He lets the anger take control, and before he knows it, a boy comes to stand next to him, holding his hand gently. Then a girl stands by his other side, squeezing his shoulder. More children flock to Jared and they surround the bullies, each flashing scornful looks upon the bigger kids.

And then, with a quick nudge, the boys fly backwards, landing on their backs on the hard ground. Scared, they scamper away from the playground, never to bother Jared again.

When they leave, he looks at the boy holding his hand. The boy smiles, showing off his perfect white teeth. The kids cheer for Jared, hugging him and making him feel...special. Like they're his most trusted friends.

There are 12 of them there, with him being the 13th.

"Did we do that?" Jared asks the boy.

The boy nods, grinning. "Sure did! All of us! That'll teach them to mess with you! I'm Stephen!"

"I'm Jared! Did you wanna play?"

"Yeah! Let's go!"

With that, Jared allows Stephen and the 11 other children to drag him off towards the jungle gym where they play merrily with one another. Lost in his amusement, Jared hasn't realized that his father was there all along, watching from another point within the park, observing. Watching.

Analyzing.

Preparing.

Testing.

****

Jared is thrown out of his memory as a small tear rolls down his cheek. He goes to wipe it up, looking directly at Stephen who only hides a ghost of a smile. Jared's unsure about all that he's seen. Why couldn't he remember it? Why did the memory repress itself? It didn't seem like a traumatizing experience, rather it was quite the opposite.

Most importantly, however, was that Stephen was *there*, along with other children that Jared has no recollection of. They don't seem very recognizable. In fact, their names are lost to him. What a strange predicament to be in.

"You made me think we never met," Jared whispers. "Why? I told you that I thought you were familiar, but you brushed it aside."

"Because the truth wasn't for others to hear at the time." Stephen responds.

Jared's glass is filled again, and he drinks. "And what is the truth?"

"I suspect you already have an inkling. The answers are very, very clear. There were 12 of us, 12 children appearing to you in your time of stress with powers building up as we grew. You knew back then, too, but you didn't fully acknowledge it. You've always known, but you never looked between the lines. Gerald never said anything to you because he was waiting for the right moment--then he was gone, unable to tell you anything. Those 12 kids that approached you on the playground were your little brothers and sisters. And I, Stephen Amell, am one of them. It's finally nice to tell you, Big Brother."

The sudden shock of hearing Stephen's words will never fade. Even as he listens to what's being said, all Jared can do is sit there with a myriad of expressions floating around through his mind. Each one battles with the other, unable to settle on utter surprise or complete betrayal.

Yes, he knew about Gerald having 12 other offspring besides Jared, but he didn't think they were anywhere close to him! Looking upon Stephen carefully, Jared comes to find that the doesn't resemble him or Gerald. Perhaps he looks more like his mother. Whatever the case may be, it's almost surreal sitting across from a surviving blood relative, let alone a younger siblings.

Jared has no reason not to believe Stephen as no one else save for The Snack Pack along with Welling and Manns know about this. It's not exactly common knowledge here. And Jared does remember his face now, remembers the one and only fun time they spent on the playground.

This isn't something one would make up out of spite. And soon, another tear falls down Jared's face. And another.

And another.

"You feel it, don't you?" Stephen whispers, setting his drink down, reaching over to grab Jared's hands. "You know it's true."

Jared nods, sobbing. "It's true. You're my little brother. You're my..."

"Oh, Jared."

Stephen stands, quickly walking around the table until he's in Jared's space. He pulls him up to his feet, enveloping him in a tight hug that just somehow feels right. Jared hugs Stephen back, resting his chin on the man's shoulder, crying his eyes out. He never knew how much he needed this after the nightmare he suffered through lately.

But then, as the two long lost brothers revel in their reunion, something snaps in Jared's mind. He separates from Stephen who seems confused by the sudden change in attitude. Jared licks his lips, eyes still red and watery as he walks away from Stephen.

"You tried to kill me," he says. "You sent those Peacekeepers to my house to murder me, then you voted yes to kill an innocent child. A child, Stephen. This doesn't change a thing."

"Do you remember the day Jeremy Carver captured you and Jensen?"

"How could I ever forget that..."

"I contacted you--I told you that no one would care if you killed him. I told you to do the right thing." Stephen sighs in regret, rubbing his hands together. "But when I found out that you didn't punish him for killing our father, I...broke. I might have overreacted a bit by sending those Peacekeepers to kill you."

Jared balks.

"You--you overreacted!? You son of a bitch, they took away my home! They nearly murdered my family! All of this because I was finally in control of my emotions for once!? Unbelievable!"

"But I knew you'd succeed. I always knew. From the moment I sent the order, I knew you'd fight them and win. I saw it."

"And you framing me? What the fuck was that about!?"

Stephen smiles. "Incentive. I had to know you'd fight even harder to prove who you really are inside, and you did. Without question, without failure. I had to know that you'd see something through to the end, no matter how difficult or treacherous the road might've been along the way. It's the path our father wanted us all to walk, to strengthen us. We've all gone through an incredible test, though ours were earlier than yours. Had he not been murdered, your difficult path could've been drastically different."

It's hard to stomach this and it's made more complicated by the fact that, up to this point, Stephen has never lied to him about anything. Maybe danced around the truth for a second, but he's been nothing but truthful and somewhat forthcoming this entire time.

Somewhat.

"But as I said," Stephen continues. "Your name will be cleared. And Alex will be safe. I don't really wish to kill him, Big Brother. It was for appearances only. I'm against Sheppard and his games."

Confusion washes over Jared, and he frowns. "What? What are you saying? Are you...are you against The Council?"

Stephen nods. "I am. I always have been. Allow me to explain something to you. The 13 of us all have a special power, one that sets us above the rest--perfect Witches and Warlocks. Our sister could communicate with animals of all kind, aquatic and otherwise. Our brother? He could control the very weather. I, myself, have Nigh Omniscience. I know how to do most things without ever having to do them, yet I also know what will happen, when, and how. It's how I planned for my seat on The Council, and it's how I planned for us to meet. I saw us, glimpses of what we would look like, how we would react when fate nudged us on the same course. It took me a while to master this power; I don't know everything, but I know enough, and I know that with your help, I can take down The Council."

Secret powers? Planning against The Council? It sounds like fever dream, but that's what Jared is hearing from Stephen's mouth.

But...that thing with Stephen's power...

It all makes sense now. Him seeing and knowing things that he would have no way of knowing or seeing. It's a dangerous power to have. Just thinking about it makes Jared shrivel up, paranoid. Stephen can't see everything, just certain events that has happened, is happening, or will happen. It's honestly frightening.

"Why do you want to take down The Council?" Jared asks skeptically. "Seems kind of odd to me."

Stephen chuckles, glancing down at Jared's pocket where his phone rests. It chimes in an instant. "Check your phone."

Jared huffs, taking out his phone. He discreetly shuts off the recording function on his cell before checking on his notifications. It's an email that was just sent by Stephen who was nowhere near an electronic device. Jared grunts softly, opening the email itself to see that there are several files attached.

Instinctively, Jared downloads the series of files to his phone, reading them as they finish. His eyes widen at the contents inside, skimming through keywords such as Extortion and Embezzlement and Sexual Misconduct, though the worst words are some that Jared can't even say out loud, let alone in his own mind.

But what's most interesting is who these files are on.

"The members of The Council," Jared gasps. "You've gathered information on them."

Stephen smirks. "There's a reason I'm the head of Intelligence. If you only knew what those hypocrites got up to. This isn't even the half of it. You see Mark Sheppard's file? Pretty big, isn't it? He's the ring leader, the one who controls them all...all except one. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. There's almost nothing in his file. There is one thing, however, I can't use it against him. It's rather insignificant to me."

Jared clicks on Jeff's file, finding that, just as Stephen said, it's pretty much blank in terms of illegal activities. However, there's a side-note regarding his personal life and Jared's jaw drops at the implications found inside. He closes it down, instead rifling through the files of the other members.

Samantha Smith's file is littered with crimes ranging from drugs and prostitution rings while Jim Beaver's file shows that he's into money laundering and straight up murder. Rob Benedict's file is not as squeaky clean as Jeff's, though having sex at brothels with multiple partners could be a rather hideous secret to let loose on the world when you're as high ranking as he is. And as Stephen mentioned before, Mark Sheppard's file is way too huge and disgusting to comment on.

"Do you want to know why I've done this?" Stephen asks.

"Yes... Yes, please. Tell me."

"It all started with our father, you see. I know you have this perception of him now that he's gone, but he's made tremendous strides in his career not only as a Peacekeeper, but as a father as well. He saw how corrupt and cruel the world could be among Magic users and Mortals alike. Our father knew there had to be a change one day...and so he formed an idea. He would make a Coven of his very own, perfect children in his image. It wasn't easy; he needed to gain followers, women who would volunteer to be vessels for the new generation. A spell was cast after you were born and a year later, the rest of us were birthed. You were the first, the one to lead us all. I was the last to be born."

"I was to lead you all to do what...?" Jared questions, already having an idea where the conversation is headed.

"Father knew that The Council needed to be...usurped, for lack of a better word. He wanted us to take control, to expand our powers to new heights, to branch out with the rest of world. To reveal who we are."

There's a brief period of silence between them as Jared tries with all his might to understand. In truth, he's having a pretty rough time. Between learning that his siblings were closer than he thought and finding out his father wanted him to lead a Coven against The Council to reveal Magic to the world, Jared is definitely caught up in a sticky situation.

Their father was too ambitious for this world and while it may seem that Stephen idolizes him, Jared is still very much angry with him. He cannot and will not forgive Gerald for mercilessly beating on his mother. Nothing will ever justify that. And what's more, there's something looming in the air, some unsaid thing that almost has a tangible presence of its own. It's thick and suffocating.

Then Jared realizes it.

"If you're here, then where's the rest of our family? You say I'm supposed to lead you all against The Council, but I only see...you."

Stephen clenches his jaw, looking down at his feet. His posture shows off his uncertainty. "Unfortunately, Jared, we're the only ones left. Our siblings have long passed."

"How?"

"In life, we're given certain choices...choices that truly define who we are. The day at the playground was our first time meeting each other. Not just for you and I, but for everyone. I was slightly aware of our existence at a young age, and our dad took interest in that. So, he devised a test to see how we'd all fare together before our 'Ascension' to The Council. It was a success, for the most part. Like the genius he was, he realized that he had made a great decision and set his plans into motion."

Stephen turns to the sliding doors that lead to the balcony, crossing his arms together. He gazes out towards the city, seemingly admiring the view, lost in thought.

"After he died, I..." Stephen wavers, heartbroken. "I was lost. I didn't get to see him as much as you did obviously, but I loved him and I know he loved me. All of us. But his death didn't mean his plans had to die with him. As the years went by, I found each and every one of us, all scattered across the world. I wanted them to see dad's plan through to the end...but, of course, they were afraid and insisted that what I wanted--what dad had wanted--was too much for them."

Jared's heart skips a beat in sudden realization.

"Stephen...what did you do to them?"

"I asked them to join me. After all, we were the Children of Gerald Padalecki. I tried asking calmly at first, but they just kept refusing me. It got me so...angry. I--I lashed out. I couldn't accept 'no' from them, Jared. It felt like betrayal. Have you ever been betrayed by family? It tears your soul apart, leaving you cold and--and restless..."

"You killed them..."

"They gave me no other choice."

"You murdered them!" Jared yells in grief. He might not have known his siblings, but goddammit, he's crushed beyond reason. "You bastard! You killed our family!"

Stephen turns back around, raising his voice as well. "They were weak! They wouldn't see our father's vision as clearly as I could and that shook them to their core. Don't you get it yet!? They didn't have the drive that I have--that we both have! I know you, Jared--"

"You don't know shit about me."

"I know how determined you are to protect the ones you love from all manner of evil. Think about Jensen. Think about Alex! When we expose and overthrow The Council, he'll be free. Isn't that what you want?"

"Don't you dare drag him into this!"

"It's time for the modern Council to end, Big Brother, and for a new organization to take its place. Together, we shall rule everything and everyone--!"

Aha.

There it is.

Stephen's true intentions.

It didn't take long for them to come into light. By the looks of it, Stephen's realizing that he just let it slip. He clamps his mouth closed as Jared takes a few steps back, shaking his head with a deep scowl.

"So, let me guess, Little Brother," Jared starts with a growl. "The Council is only the first stop on your quest for power. You don't want to peacefully coexist with Mortals. You want to rule over them. Stop me if I'm wrong."

Unfortunately, Stephen doesn't stop him, only staring into his eyes defiantly.

Jared huffs, rolling his eyes. "Global domination. Just as I thought. Everywhere I go, I'm up against some sort of evil, though I didn't know it'd be in my own family this time around. You know, for a tiny second, you almost had me. Just a little. Too bad you're just like our father. Two manipulative, conniving, murderous sacks of shit. Thank god I didn't inherit those traits."

"Don't talk about him like that!" Stephen shouts, clearly perturbed by Jared's choice of words. "Our father was a great man with an equally great vision!"

"No, that's where you're wrong. Gerald wasn't a good man. He was a cold, selfish psychopath that desired to breed Magic Super Soldiers. I'm done idolizing him and I'm done having this conversation with you."

Jared takes a battle stance, ready for the fight of a lifetime. Stephen only stands there with a sorrowful expression on his handsome face, hands at his sides. There's hesitation judging from his body language, yet the danger is crystal clear.

"Please..." begs Stephen. "Don't do this. You're all I have left."

"Call everything off."

"I can't."

"Can't...or won't?"

"I won't." Stephen says bluntly. "Father's vision must be realized with or without your help."

"What about me being your leader?"

"There's been a slight change in plans. This is your last chance, Jared. Help me. Please."

"I could never stoop so low."

"Then die like the rest of them."

Stephen attacks him without warning, sending Telekinetic shockwaves towards him. Jared is able to fend them off, but is eventually knocked onto the floor by the final one before getting slammed into a wall at the last second.

"You may have been the first, Big Brother," Stephen taunts. "But I consider myself the more refined son of Gerald. You don't even realize it, but you've got the strongest gift of us all and you never even utilized it correctly. Mind Control. You've left it to shrivel up and dry out. What a waste."

Mind Control?

Jared flashes back to his teen years when he briefly hijacked Coach Cohen's mind in order to get out of sports and show off his powers to Jensen. He never considered it to be an unobtainable ability, just something that anyone could do if they tried hard enough. The knowledge that his Mind Control power is a direct result of his father's immediate interest to make perfect children makes Jared feel queasy.

He truly is one of them. Blessed, or rather cursed, with a power no one else is capable of wielding.

A goddamn Magic Super Soldier.

Jared hasn't had the opportunity or the desire to evoke it since then, and it's a possibility that he's forgotten it. When he stretches out his hand to test it, it becomes apparent that the former is correct.

There's mild static crackling in his head, but it quickly fizzles out,  causing Stephen to scoff.

"It's too late. You've allowed your gift to fester. It's useless to you now."

Jared gets back on both feet, cracking his back slightly. "I still have other tricks up my sleeve."

He flicks his wrist, causing all the knives from the kitchen to soar towards Stephen. The man is able to stop them from impaling him, but as he's distracted, Jared rushes toward him, tackling him to the ground. Instead of using his Magic, Jared goes up against him with brute force, pummeling him onto the floor, wrapping his hands around Stephen's throat, squeezing the life out of him.

Stephen raises his hands for defense, silently summoning a paring knife to drive itself in Jared's shoulder. He shrieks and is swiftly sent flying away from him. Stephen coughs, wheezing while he rises from the floor. Jared struggles to stand up again with the pain in his shoulder growing stronger.

He minor effort, he's able to snatch the blade that's lodged in his flesh, groaning whilst tossing it away.

Jared and Stephen stand some ways from each other, each panting and recovering from the other's attacks. In Jared's heart, he knows that this battle is leaning towards Stephen's favor, but he won't openly admit to it. Instead, he'll fight him off with all he's got...even if it's not enough.

They stare at each other for a moment longer before Stephen starts to fight back again with his powers. Jared flexes his own mind, meeting Stephen halfway there. Amazingly, their powers clash amongst each other's, causing two invisible forces to clash violently.

The result of such a clash makes the floor shake beneath them and before long, the entire penthouse is trembling from the massive amount of Magic being expelled. Pictures and portraits on the wall fall and break; the marble flooring begins to crack as well as the walls. It's subtle at first, but the longer Jared and Stephen push their minds against one another's, the more damage is caused.

It soon comes to a head when they both shout, and the entire penthouse is blown to pieces, forcing them back on their backs. Walls are obliterated, glass is shattered, and the roof becomes nothing more than a messed up skylight. Jared is too dazed and covered in dirt and ash to worry about the fallout; no doubt, there will be civilians below witnessing the unanticipated explosion with some debris possibly falling onto the streets.

Stephen recovers quickly, standing up tall yet again. Even after all of that he manages to angle himself upright. He's made of strong stuff it seems. Jared watches in disbelief as Stephen shrugs off his tattered suit jacket, tossing it down. He chuckles darkly, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt while looking down at Jared.

"It's about time we give the Mortals a big show. I think it's finally time to come out to the world, don't you?"

Jared grunts, trying and failing to stand. "Stephen..."

"Keep up with me, Big Brother. I wouldn't want you to miss out on this."

Unexpectedly and completely out of the blue, Stephen begins lifting off the ground, hovering slowing into the air. Jared's mouth is agape as it happens, reluctantly witnessing his half-brother flying out of the large hole in the wall that still supports little of what's left in the penthouse.

Once outside, Stephen summons lightning in his hands, laughing in delight. He glances down at the Mortals below who can hardly make out what's happening above their heads. Without warning, Stephen lashes out at them, firing down torrents of lightning along with strong fire attacks, too. All while this is happening, Jared watches helplessly, shouting--begging for him to cease this madness and go after him instead!

But Stephen does not listen. He only continues his shameful assault on the Mortals that gather in the street. Jared is finally able to stand, hobbling over towards the gaping hole. Stephen spots him, sending a blast of flames in Jared's direction. He's able to shield himself from the fire, but he falls to his knees, holding onto the wall for support.

"Stephen, stop!"

Jared yells this, but it's no use. Stephen demolishes small buildings, putting gigantic dents into the much larger ones.

"This is between you and me! They've got nothing to do with this!"

Again, Stephen ignores him in favor of wreaking havoc among the populace. Jared can hear the gut wrenching, confused screams coming from the civilians who might believe that the end times are now upon them. He only hopes that no one spots Stephen, though it's highly likely.

"Goddamit, Stephen!"

Jared gasps as he feels it.

The static inside of his head starts fading away, turning into something akin to a hum. In no time, it becomes more of a vibrating sensation that spreads throughout his entire body. Knowing what he has to do, Jared uses the crumbled wall to prop himself up, now more determined than before.

He raises his hand towards his enemy, letting the power guide his actions.

And then he speaks.

"Stephen, enough!"

The command reaches Stephen's ears as well as his mind and, like a zombie, he ceases his attack on the helpless Mortals. Stephen still floats in the air, eyes vacant and expressionless. Jared's done it! He's regained the power of Mind Control. It wasn't as difficult as he thought it would be, yet he's grateful it's come back to him.

Locking eyes with him, Jared silently calls forth a large kitchen knife that was scattered away in the explosion, catching it in his hand. He backs up, breathing heavily at the deed he's about to do. After gaining enough distance, Jared runs forward at full speed despite the pain he's feeling everywhere.

Jumping out of the penthouse and into the air, Jared lunges forward with knife raised high, reading to put an end to Stephen's brief reign of terror. It feels like it's happening in slow motion as Jared comes closer and closer, shouting at the top of his lungs.

When he finally connects with Stephen and plunges the knife into his chest, Jared feels something breaking within him. He ignores the feeling as he and Stephen fall through the air, clinging to one another for some sort of reassurance. Their fall is broken when they land on a nearby rooftop, tumbling down together until they're separated.

Face down, Jared moans, covered in bruises and scrapes that will heal naturally within a few days. His head is pounding like crazy and he believes that his shoulder might be dislocated just a bit. He's proven to be correct when, as he attempts to sit up, he wails in agony. Jared grits his teeth, angling himself correctly to pop his shoulder back in its place. He's able to do it with a sickening pop, sighing in relief.

"J--Jared..."

Jared is snapped out of it when he hears his name being called. It's faint, but it's there. He searches the rooftop for the voice only to find Stephen on his back with the kitchen knife protruding from his chest. Jared rushes to his side even though he was angry with him not too long ago. Blood trickles out of Stephen's mouth as he takes ragged breathes, glancing up at Jared.

"It's not too late," Jared says, though it's an obvious lie. He puts Stephen's head in his lap, sniffling. "We can fix this. I can get help--I can find some Healing Crystals."

Stephen is able to shake his head, albeit weakly. "No. I'm dying. You can't fix it."

"You forced my hand..."

"I gave you no other choice. I have to give it to you though...I never saw that coming. That truly was a surprise. Well done. I just wanted to make dad proud. You and I...together. I wanted to make him proud."

Jared cries, remorseful. "I know."

Stephen smirks up at him. "Admit it: knowing you had a little brother was fun...even if only for a short period of time."

"Yeah," Jared says with a melancholic smile. "It was pretty cool. I'm so sorry it had to be this way, Little Brother."

"As am I. But it's not over yet. I can still see through the doors," Stephen rasps, eyes fluttering with his hand reaching towards the sky. "And what's behind all the doors is him. I've made a grave mistake. You must take them down, Jared. Take them all...down."

In moments, Stephen takes his last few breaths. He hand falls down to his side and he exhales, dead. A piece of Jared dies with him, though he's unsure if it was for the best or not. They might have disagreed on the current state of everything, but they were family. Had things been different--had he tried harder to convince Stephen--maybe Jared could've converted him.

He could've stopped this.

But what's done is done and there's no turning back.

Jared leans down, wiping all the tears away. He closes Stephen's eyes, getting one last look at him before standing up. Police sirens are heard coming in the distance, fire trucks, too. He has to leave. Jared finds a quick exit in the form of a fire escape off to the side of the building. It leads him down to an alley closest to the carnage.

Careful not to stick out, Jared puts his hood up, stepping out of the darkness to see what chaos Stephen had wrought. Jared had no idea, however, that it was this bad down here. Cars destroyed, bodies nearly reduced to ash, buildings crumbling down, and fires spreading through the streets. It's madness.

Jared slips into a crowd that takes pictures and videos of the mess that has been made, commenting on the strange events that came before. The sun soon starts to rise as news outlets show up to get the scoop on the situation. Not only that, but Jared spots a few undercover Peacekeepers arriving on the scene to investigate the high rise and his very own car across the street.

Deciding not to draw any attention to himself, Jared walks off with his head down, not stopping for anything until he's a safe enough distance away. When he's out of range, he stops walking, grabbing his phone to look at its contents once more. He sees the files pertaining to certain Council members and remembers Stephen's last words again.

"I will, Baby Brother," Jared grumbles to himself as he resumes his trek through the city. "I will."

****

"Thank you all for joining me here today in the wake of such dire news."

Jeff sits in his seat anxiously, knee bouncing up and down without control. He's read the report not too long ago and while he desperately wants to say something against Mark Sheppard, he can't blow his cover. Not yet. Instead, he sits with his fellow members, listening to their self-proclaimed leader.

"As you all are aware, Jared Padalecki is very much alive," Mark says. "And he has killed one of our own early this morning. Stephen Amell was a young man with ambitions just like the rest of us. We will honor him in our memories, but Jared must be dealt with first."

"He's evaded all of our Peacekeepers on the field," Samantha states with a grimace. "He's quite elusive. Could he have fled underground already?"

Jim scoffs. "Coward. I've been to his 'lair', though I couldn't exactly tell you where the bastard and his pet Demon are hiding. It's a hovel."

"I see." Mark looks to Jeff then, addressing him directly. "Jeffrey, has the rogue tried contacting you at any point in time? I understand that you two were close."

Jeff shakes his head, lying. "No."

"Something must be done about him. I won't sit here and allow that bastard to pick us off one by one!"

"Then fucking stand if it bothers you."

The Council all turn their attention to the entrance where a new voice is heard. They gasp as Jared steps inside of their large conference room. Jeff does a poor job of hiding the smile that full of relief when he sees his surrogate son. Jared looks up to him, nodding in kind with a mischievous little smile.

He walks up to the curved table, standing in front of Mark himself. Tucked under his arm is a manilla folder with unknown contents inside, but whatever they are, Mark doesn't seem to happy about Jared's abrupt reappearance.

"You..." Mark growls. "You have a lot of nerve coming back here after all you've done. How did you get past the front entrance?"

"You shouldn't be concerned with that," Jared hums. Smirking, he places the folder down onto the table before opening it up. "As you should be more concerned with yourself."

With a subtle turn of his head, Jared spreads out all the documents and secret files relating to The Council, not including Rob's or Jeff's. Mark, Jim, and Samatha all balk at the photos and written accounts of their dirty deeds while Jared only sneers in utter delight.

"Lies..." Mark whispers, quivering in anger. "Lies! These are all lies! Fabrications! Security! Peacekeepers! Guards!"

In the blink of an eye, a small group of Peacekeepers lead by Welling and Manns enter the conference room. Though this would intimidate anyone, Jared only laughs, knowing more than Mark does.

"Arrest this man! He's a murderer!" When they don't comply, Mark shouts at them. "What are you waiting for!? Lock him up!"

"Mark Sheppard," Welling starts, approaching the table. "Samantha Smith, Jim Beaver--you are all under arrest for a combined charge of murder, conspiracy to murder, racketeering, egregious use of Magic, and blackmail as well as other heinous crimes committed against this institution."

"What!?" Mark squeals as the Peacekeepers come to take him and the other two away. "No! Get your hands off me! I'll have your badge for this! This isn't over, Padalecki! Do you hear me!? Who'll lead The Council now!?"

"I'll think of something," Jared responds sardonically. "Get them out of here."

Though they struggle and protest fruitlessly, Mark, Samantha, and Jim are all arrested and escorted out of the room and detained elsewhere. They'll no longer be able to plague the world with their horrid acts and despicable deeds. Once they've been casted away, the doors close behind them, leaving Jared, Jeff, and Rib alone in the conference room together.

"I had suspected..." Rob starts quietly. "But I never had the courage to speak about their transgressions. Does this mean you also are aware of mine?"

Jared sighs, not wanting to lie. "Yes. I have no intentions of releasing your secrets as they aren't particularly harmful to the public. But if I were you, truthfully, I would quietly resign and tend to my personal life."

It doesn't need to be said, at least not right away. Rob takes the hint, bowing out rather gracefully. He nods to Jared, quietly thanking him before exiting the room to an uncertain future.

Now, with only Jeff present with him, Jared inadvertently cracks, breaking down in his arms. Jeff is there to catch him, whispering reassurances that nearly comfort Jared.

For now, everything is fine.

Things are looking up.

****

The Next Day...

It's around noon at the moment with Jared is safe and sound with his best friend and his husband at Jeff's safehouse. It's pretty luxurious for a safehouse, but they're not complaining. It'll be a while until they can find a more permanent home to settle in. With all of their belongings