Somewhere in Massachusetts…
Mike let out a long breath and reached across the cramped ship to touch Tom’s knee.
“Okay, we just broke through Earth’s atmosphere.” He bit his tongue and pulled down a lever. “Releasing plan B package.” The ship lurched as they dropped their backup. Tom’s knuckles were white. Mike flashed Tom his best smile. “And we’re on our way to some serious coin.”
Tom closed his eyes when the ship shook.
“Remind me again about the money.”
Mike only turned away from Tom because he had to navigate their decent. That, and if he kept looking at Tom, he’d do something stupid like try to hold his hand and kiss him until he wasn’t scared anymore. Mike honed in on a body of water.
“So much money, Tom. We’ll bathe in it. We—you can live wherever you want.”
Tom opened his eyes and smiled at Mike like he was every super nova bottled up in one person. Then Tom’s eyes went to the front window of the ship and his smile vanished.
Mike’s neck snapped around and he saw the thin structure stretched across the middle of the water deposit. He jerked the controls and the ship spun to the side just in time to miss whatever was on top of the water. They barely fell forward in their seats, the safety straps digging into their shoulders.
Water flew up in their fields of vision, but not one drop entered the ship as it sank. Mike tapped the home screen and his eyes widened as a red dot approached the ship.
“Shit, Tom, kill the lights, we have an approaching life form.” Tom began pulling down levers and shutting off the lights until only the most basic auxiliary power was left on. Mike grabbed their shared bag and brought up the shields. “We’ve got to semi-abandon ship.”
Tom watched Mike open the hatch. The water and confused aquatic life didn’t flood in; the shield held it all at bay and Mike tied the bag’s strap around his shoulders and turned, hating the question on his tongue. Tom was already moving, his eyes flashing their enhanced plasma-blue spark.
“I got it.” Mike hesitated and Tom’s mouth tightened. “I’ll be fine. Go!”
Mike didn’t take the time to answer; he jumped past the shield and flinched as the water hit him. He kicked his legs and felt the water moving behind him, Tom pulling his weight beside him until they both burst out of the water.
When they didn’t see a sky, Mike thrust his hand forward until they hit a low, organic ceiling. Splinters broke off under his fingernails. Tom joined him, one hand getting a solid grip on the edge as loud footsteps thundered above them.
“Who’s there?” a woman’s voice boomed above their creaky canopy. Mike held a his finger to his lips and Tom nodded, his eerily bright eyes closing as his teeth dug into his lower lip. “You kids better not be trespassing, I swear to God I’ll call the police!”
A light swept over the water. The woman above them wasn’t moving, but the light kept jerking across the barely moving ripples. Mike’s eyes moved from the creaking boards to Tom. Beautiful, tortured Tom. His clothes clung to him and water dripped from his neck to his collarbone. Under different circumstances, Mike would be twisting to try and hide his erection. He was half-hard, but only half because Tom’s lip was bleeding to keep himself from screaming. Tom’s eyes were still squeezed shut and Mike didn’t need more light to know that he was crying.
Still, Tom didn’t make a sound.
Mike’s stared up at the life form from between the cracks of the structure. He had a dozen weapons that would vaporize her on the spot, but the key to getting their bounty was the element of surprise.
Tom’s muscles quaked from the struggle of keeping his grip on the ship. Tom kept their ship from sinking to the bottom while all Mike did was keep their bag secure.
The light swung around and the steps started up again, getting father and farther away until a door slammed shut. Tom let out his breath and his arms shook.
“Mike—” Tom’s head stretched back as he choked on Mike’s name. “Rosey, it hurts—it hurts—”
“I know.” The words rotted behind Mike’s teeth. “We have to wait another minute, then swim to shore. We have to keep quiet, Tommy.”
Tom nodded. They waited and they didn’t make a sound. When the woman didn’t come back, Mike and Tom swam to shore, which didn’t take long. Tom lifted their ship onto the bank and laid it delicately on the grass so that they didn’t give away their position.
Mike dug through his bag as Tom fell to the ground. His eyes had stopped glowing, but his body shuddered. His knuckles were white and everything in his body was tight. Mike’s fingers finally curled around the painkiller dispenser that had been tucked away in the very bottom of the back. Tom saw him and his hands fumbled for his belt, but he couldn’t get his pants undone, his hands were shaking too much.
“I got you.” Mike heard the needle load as he popped the buttons off Tom’s pants and shucked them down so they bunched up in the middle of Tom’s thighs. Tom squeezed his fingers into a fist, blood dripping between his nails. “I got you, bud.”
Tom’s breath huffed out and Mike pressed the barrel against his partner’s thigh. He pulled the trigger and the device hissed. Tom’s expression barely relaxed at all and Mike began to fumble for another dosage when Tom’s voice stopped him.
“Don’t.” His teeth ground out the words. Mike paused and Tom cracked a strained smile. “I want to save them.”
Mike was too cowardly to admit that he had extra magazines of painkillers lining his bag, that he hated seeing Tom in pain. Mike shuffled up so that Tom could put his head in Mike’s lap and massage Tom’s temples. Tom hummed and his fists slowly unclenched. Smiling, Mike continued his ministrations, leaning back to look at the stars scattered across the sky.
“This planet sucks. We’re in the middle of nowhere. I can’t wait to see what these hicks call state-of-the-art technology.”
Mike snickered at his own joke. Tom opened his eyes and shrugged.
“I don’t know. I kind of like it. It’s quiet.”
“That woman wasn’t quiet.”
Tom pinched Mike’s thigh and got up, his massive and powerful body relaxed. He offered Mike his hand and Mike took it. They raided the woman’s laundry line and pulled on some local clothes; the shirts fit Mike, but Tom could barely button his up, ultimately choosing just to leave it unbuttoned, which caused Mike to be simultaneously joyous and miserable.
In order to get his mind off of his futile and unrequited love for Tom, he turned to his ship, hoping the computer had finished scanning the planet to tell them what Earth was all about.
He raised his eyebrows as the ship’s data system searched something called the “Internet.” Tom stretched and bent over the back of the ship to get his hands on the two small scouting robots, neat and compact metallic spheres that fit in the palms of Tom’s hands.
“Has the ship settled on a local disguise yet?”
“Nope.” Millions of pictures flashed across the ship’s main screen. “How are my two favorite scouts doing?”
“Local design finalized.”
Mike jumped out of the ship right before it folded in on itself. He took the scouter bots out of Tom’s hands and shook them, the intense motion making the home screen band that wrapped around the balls light up and activate.
“Come on, busters, wake up and smell the bounty.” Their screens lit up blue and they answered Mike with merry chirps. “Do a sweep of the entire planet. Don’t attract attention from the locals, but if it’s necessary, use your methods to evade capture and conflict.” Mike tapped the screens and the picture of their target showed up. “Once you find Jared Padalecki, report back to me through the comm link.”
Mike threw the little bots up into the air and they shot off in opposite directions. Tom looked back at the ship and tilted his head to the side.
“What is that supposed to be?”
He climbed over the sides of their transformed ship to sit in the passenger’s seat while Mike took the time to figure out how to open the door. He leaned forward and squinted at the screen.
“I don’t know… It’s called a ‘sports car.’”
Mike shifted his ship into gear and sped off into the night.
When Misha came back with his hair even messier than usual and hickies dotting his neck, Jensen and Jared high-fived before beginning to prep some basic ingredients for pizza. The week, though hellish because of the massive influx of tourists, was not as catastrophic as Jensen had anticipated it to be. He even found himself humming on Saturday as he cleaned off a table. Katie watched him and popped her bubblegum.
“Hey, Jensen?” Jensen grunted as Katie continued to stare at him and not do her job. “You’re not going to go on sporadic killing sprees, are you?”
Jensen jerked his head up to see Katie’s apathetic eyes boring into his.
“Katie, what the hell are you talking about?”
The teenage waitress rolled her eyes.
“It was just a question. You’re happy, which never happens, and you haven’t told me to get back to work once today.”
Jensen took time to think about it. He noticed out of the corner of his eye a mousey man darting through the door and sitting in a booth. Jensen opened his mouth to tell Katie to do her job, but her downright demonic smirk made his mouth dry up.
“Ah, it’s the new guy. You want in his pants, you want his di—”
Jensen shot forward with a speed that would have made a ninja envious. He put his hand over Katie’s still-smirking mouth.
“Keep your voice down—there are customers here.”
Katie rolled her eyes again and removed Jensen’s hand.
“Relax, he’s out on a delivery.” Katie rocked on her heels before turning around. “Don’t worry, I totally want to tap that, too.”
She went into the back, leaving Jensen to deal with the new customer, who was staring at him like he was a wild animal. Jensen did his best to walk up to his table in a non-threatening manner.
“Good morning. I’m Jensen, how can I help you?”
“U-um, I’m here to eat.” Jensen forced back a smirk at the nervous, scruffy man. The man glanced down at the menu on the placemat, his glasses sliding down his nose. “What do you—uh, recommend?”
Jensen’s eyebrows shot up.
“You’ve never been here before?” The man nodded and Jensen smiled. “Well, you’re in for treat. I’d practically insist on the pizza. What kind of pizza do you normally order?”
The man bit his lip.
“Okay. I’ll put in an order for a pie—medium?” The man nodded. “I’ll be right back.” Misha looked up when Jensen strode through the kitchen’s double doors. “We’ve got a new fish who likes plain pizza.”
Misha’s lips pulled back into a luminous grin.
“Oh, the wonders he will taste today.”
Misha oiled up the dough and began crushing bunches of basil in his fists. The first thing Misha did after meeting Jensen, after giving Jensen clothes, was bring him home and make him pizza. Jensen would have eaten trash he was so hungry, instead he was treated to gourmet pizza.
Katie brought in three orders and Jensen assisted Misha with prep.
The pizza was hot on the metal platter, but Jensen didn’t flinch as he walked it out to the anxious newcomer. The man perked up and Jensen waited as the pizza cooled enough for a first bite. The man’s face said it all, the flutter of his eyelashes and the quiver of his lower lip—he’d just learned the same lesson Misha had taught Jensen years ago.
“Wow—okay, wow.” The man nodded, his face relaxed. “This is the best pizza I’ve ever had.”
The windows rattled, pebbles bouncing off the panes as Jared’s yellow Vespa pulled up to the front. Jared walked in through the front door; his helmet tucked under his arm, and slapped Jensen’s shoulder. Jared tried to pull Jensen into a hug but Jensen ducked away in time.
“How was your run?”
Jared stretched his neck from side to side.
“It was great. I’m still getting used to the smell of the air. Is Earth always so…fresh?”
Jensen pinched his nose.
“Seriously, knock it off with that space stuff. People will actually think you’re crazy.”
Thinking about Jared in a mental ward, being pumped full of medication as the doctors struggled to find out what was wrong with him… It made Jensen’s chest constrict. Jared winked.
“Nah. People love me.”
Jensen shoved his hands into his pockets to keep himself from touching Jared. He shouldn’t have felt so attached… but he did. He frowned at Jared.
“Look, I’m trying to be serious. Stay out of trouble. Your charms can’t win all your battles.”
Jared’s casual smile shifted, like a shadow moving over a mosaic—bringing a whole new depth to the piece. Jared was giving Jared the weird look again, and he opened his mouth only to be interrupted by the pop of strawberry bubblegum.
“Yo, Jared, Misha wants you in the back. We’ve got six more pies ready to go.”
Katie yanked on Jared’s arm until he was through the double doors. Jensen turned back to the nervous customer, an apology on his lips, but his words evaporated at the sight of the man’s face. The color had drained from his cheeks. Even his beard looked greyer. The man’s blue eyes were wide and his hands shook as he stared at the back doors.
“Hey,” Jensen croaked, “are you okay?”
The man was on his feet in a flash. He dug into his pocket with one hand and pulled Jensen’s shirt so that Jensen bent down closer to the man’s head; it all happened so quickly that Jensen didn’t have time to resist. The man pressed a business card into Jensen’s hand.
“Your—your friend, he’s dangerous, he’s—he’s—” The man stopped when he saw that the entire restaurant was staring at him. Even Katie’s mouth hung open, her pretty eyes wide. The man flinched away from Jensen and spat out one last sentence. “Call me and I’ll explain.”
He threw two twenties on the table before sprinting out of the restaurant. Jensen opened his palm to read the crisp business card.
Rob Benedict, Ph.D. NASA.
The phone number had a local area code, and Jensen pocketed it. He snapped his fingers in front of Katie’s face.
“Bring everyone free drinks to calm them down.” Before Katie could move to do as Jensen said, three families walked in. Jensen swore. “Shit, the dinner rush is here.”
Once the dinner rush started, there was no time to think. Jared was flying in and out on delivery, sometimes completing them so fast that Jensen thought maybe Jared was actually flying on that junky Vespa of his. Jensen prepped as fast as Misha cooked, and they didn’t stop until closing time at ten thirty. By then, Jensen had forgotten about the business card crumpled in his pocket.
Jensen washed his hands, his fingers aching and his legs stiff. Misha popped his back, his apron dusted with flour.
“That was a good night.”
“I’m gonna die.”
“You aren’t going to die.” Misha hit Jensen with a dirty dishtowel. “You’re a robust and virile young man.” Dust and small rocks flew against the windows and Misha shook his head. “You know, I drive fast, but I don’t think I’ll ever beat Jared’s time.”
Jared came in from the back entrance, his windowblown hair creating a hectic halo around his head.
“Last one?” Jensen nodded and Jared sighed. “Aw, I like the night air the best.”
“You can do it again tomorrow, Speed Racer.” Misha’s grin was laced with exhaustion. “Let’s clean up, I’m beat.”
They managed to clean up in record time, Jared and Jensen swept off the tables and chairs while Misha packed up his tools in the kitchen. By the time the three of them walked out, only two families remained in the parking lot and Vicki’s truck was idling on the side. Vicki stuck her head out and waved.
“Was it a good night, Misha?’
“Amazing night.” Misha hopped into the truck with her. “Totally drained me.” Jensen saw Vicki lean over the stick shift to kiss him. Jared pinched Jensen’s side and waggled his eyebrows. Jensen went to pinch him back when Misha leaned out of the window. “Catch you later, Padalecki—don’t wreck the house, Ackles!”
Vicki slammed on the gas and the two lovebirds drove off into the night. Jensen smiled and was about to unlock his bike from the rack when a man called out to him.
“Ackles?” Jensen looked up to see a man squinting at him from across the parking lot, a police officer from one of the two families who appeared to be vacationing together. The kids were already in the car, their impatience visible through the windows. Jensen looked up and Jared stilled by Jensen’s side. “Your name is Ackles?”
Dread weighed down Jensen’s stomach as he turned back to his bike.
The officer stopped halfway between the cars and Jensen. He was still squinting, his wife and friends watching him.
“Ackles, Ackles, Ackles, how do I know that name?” Jensen brought his bike out and around and ignored Jared’s curious gaze. The man snapped his fingers and Jensen grimaced. “Sweet Jesus! You were the guy who was wanderin’ down the street naked as a jaybird! That was my first night out with my partner, I’m tellin’ you that was a hell of a story to take home to the wife.” A gale blew in the parking lot, one that chilled Jensen down to the bone. The officer, a man without tact, didn’t seem to notice the furious blush burning on Jensen’s cheeks. “How’ve you been doing? That night was awful cold?” The laughter continued and Jensen felt like he was drowning. “Nothing fell off, I hope.”
The police officer’s eyebrows quirked up suggestively. Jensen’s knuckles were white on his handlebars, the rubber burning against his palms.
The man barked out a whooping cheer, slapping his knees.
“Lucky you. Keep outta trouble, all right?”
Jensen began walking toward the road.
“You got it, sir.”
This time the man felt the icy gale. Jared jogged up next to Jensen, walking his Vespa. They walked in silence for a good three minutes before Jared cleared his throat.
“What’s a jaybird?”
Jensen glared at Jared, his throat tight. Jared’s face didn’t betray any sort of mocking or sarcastic intent. Jensen sighed and cleared his throat.
“A stupid saying.”
They didn’t talk about it for the rest of the walk.
Bitter anxiety bubbled away in the bottom of Jensen’s stomach. He tried to forget that day, the horrible nagging fact that there was something weird about Jensen.
Five years ago, he’d shown up naked out on the road in the middle of January. His teeth were chattering and his eyes were fuzzy with tears. He had been squinting against bright headlights, and he held up his hands to block out the light as the chuckles of two police officers floated up in the air. Their red and blue lights were still spinning, and they were asking him, between bouts of hysterical laughter, if he was all right, if he was drunk, high, or from the damn moon.
The only thing Jensen did know was his name… and that his skin hurt from the cold.
It had been another car with bright headlights that stopped and a man came out, lying and saying that Jensen was his cousin who had blood sugar problems. Hot hands draped a coat around Jensen’s shoulders, and that was how Jensen met Misha—a man who took a chance on him when he had no reason to.
Jensen came from nowhere. One minute he wasn’t there, the next he was.
As they walked, Jensen snuck a glance at Jared, at the way his hair fell around his face and the way his hips moved when he walked. It wasn’t only the strong déjà vu that was so disturbing about Jared.
It was the fact that they were very similar that terrified Jensen.
He kicked off his shoes on the way to the steps leading to the door. He slumped against the door, not opening it. Jared swallowed, sensing danger, then pointed up at the night sky.
“See that cluster of stars, the ones in the shape of… It kind of looks like Misha’s head?” Jensen blinked the blurriness and burn out of his eyes but couldn’t see what Jared was talking about. Jared sucked in a quick breath. “That’s the Xilan system. I thought those planets were the boons, but that was before Earth. But you know, they didn’t have your green stuff on the ground—”
“Grass?” Jensen lifted his eyebrow. “You’re talking about grass.”
“Sure. Your grass is green. Xilan’s changes color depending on the temperature.”
Jensen wanted to ask if the colors on Earth, the colors of the rainbow, were named the same across the galaxy. He wanted to point out the flaws in Jared’s façade. He wanted to shake Jared and tell him that if Jared really was an alien, he’d look different, he’d need a different atmosphere, gravitational pull, and he sure as hell hadn’t crossed the galaxy on a Vespa.
Instead, Jensen sniffed and pointed at a different mass of stars.
“What’s over there?”
He listened to Jared talk with strong conviction and clarity until he got too cold so he opened the door and went inside. Jensen realized that he couldn’t ask about the stars if a roof blocked them. Jared’s fingers brushed against Jensen’s wrist.
Jensen wished he wasn’t loaded down with baggage. He wished he was free to lean forward and kiss Jared to let himself be happy for one moment. Instead he pulled his hand away.
Jared took his hand back awkwardly.
Jensen closed his door and fell onto his bed. His eyes drifted shut and it took him a few hours to fall asleep.
He dreamed about how his hands stung as he’d held them to the heaters in Misha’s car, at how Misha hadn’t said a word as he made Jensen food…and a bright light that burned so bright that nothing human could survive it. Jensen felt regret at the violence of it, but it was overrun by his desperation to live.
Sundays were, as Misha put it, days of relaxation and mediation. The restaurant was closed, and on this particular Sunday, Jensen found himself on a blanket spread out over a patch of grass. He sat up and saw Vicki walking with Misha as he took picture of her and her farm; Jared was a few feet away with scissors, yards of old clothes, and a needle and thread. Jensen got up and walked over to him.
“What are you doing?”
“Making jackets for you guys.”
Jensen glanced judgmentally at the mess of materials Jared was trying to combine into one practical piece. He crouched down, chuckling as he ran his fingers along the sleeve.
“With got denim, flannel, and polyester.” Jared tilted his head quizically, and Jensen elaborated; “You’ve got three completely different materials here, doofus. Not to mention patterns.”
Jared pouted, surveying his work.
“I think it looks nice.” Jared held his tongue between his teeth as he studied his creation. Jensen scratched at his thigh through his shorts; Jared watched the movement and stood up abruptly. “Race you to the river.”
He shot off and Jensen scrambled to catch up. Vicki picked her head up as he passed and silently swore at her for explaining to Jared the purpose of her river swing. Jared grabbed the rope swing and unleashed a gleeful shout. Jensen slowed down, laughing as Jared’s happiness turned to fright as he fell into the water; he smirked when Jared shot to the surface, spitting out water.
“Do you ever think before you act?” Jensen took his phone out of his pocket and began to wade into the surprisingly deep water; when he drew near enough Jared’s yanked him forward making him lose his footing. Jensen’s scrambled to regain purchase on the slippery rocks. “Jared, I can’t—”
“I’ve got you.”
Jared’s massive arms guided Jensen forward to rest on Jared’s knee. Jensen was suddenly hyper aware of the heat of Jared’s hands, the slide of their wet skin; he swallowed, Jared’s eyes following the bob of his Adam’s apple. Jensen had been trying so hard to fight unexplainable draw to Jared, but his resolve began to crumble. Jared’s knee moved up and Jensen let out a short, tense exhale as his cock twitched. Jared’s dragged his fingers up Jensen’s arm, leaving goose bumps in the wake of his touch, and then they were both leaning forward, water clinging to their lips.
“Um—” Jensen jerked back at the sound of Vicki’s voice. Misha and Vicki were grinning down at them. “Should we leave you two alone? Or can I watch?”
“Me too?” Misha sauntered up and Jensen pulled away from Jared. “I was going to ask for help loading up the truck, but by all means, continue.”
Jensen slogged over to the shore, his sandals squishing with every step.
“We’ll take care of it.” Misha opened his mouth but Jensen waved him off, sending water everywhere. “Your cooking’s been better ever since you started having sex.”
Vicki laughed as Misha’s ears flushed pink and he huffed.
“You know, I could take some offense at that.”
Vicki’s hand slid down Misha’s back and he jumped as she pinched him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take it as a compliment.”
The four of them walked back up the hill. They loaded the truck together, but only Jared and Jensen were going to take it back to Misha’s. Jared sat in the passenger’s side and Jensen was about to climb into the driver’s seat when a gentle hand on his arm stopped him.
“Hey, Jensen.” Misha gave Jensen a half smile. “You know that it’s okay for you to actually be happy, right?”
Jensen’s smile ached, and he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. Misha gave his arm a final squeeze before going back to the valley with Vicki.
Jensen hopped in to the cab and closed the door.
A cold, sweet flavor burst onto Mike’s tongue as Tom drove down curvy roads at a speed that made his hair fly around his head. Mike leaned back into the seat and sipped what the planet natives called a “Strawberry Milkshake.” His tablet was in his lap, a translucent screen that lit up with the locations and camera feeds from his scouter bots. The scenery sped by the ship and the video feed on Mike’s lap made him nauseous. He closed his eyes.
“How hard is it to find a superior humanoid? Padalecki should stick out like a sore thumb.”
Tom went around another curve and hummed thoughtfully.
“I dunno. He’s managed to avoid other bounty hunters.” Tom licked his lips and Mike’s stomach twisted for a whole different reason. “He’s the Uncatchable Bounty.”
Mike cracked his knuckles.
“Bullshit. He’s Big Money Bounty. Big money that we’re going to get.” Mike watched the local fauna and flora pass them by. “Besides, those other hunters were jokers. When we get to him Padalecki won’t what’s hit him.”
Tom weaved around other cars, chasing the horizon, and Mike’s tablet chirped. The video feeds were focused, showing an Earth vehicle with a native inside, but also their mark. There was no mistaking it.
“Tom, we’ve got him.” Mike pulled up the map and groaned. “And he’s in the opposite direction—”
“Hold onto something, Rosey!”
Mike pinned the tablet between his legs and grabbed onto the armrests as Tom swung the car around. The tires squealed and humans honked and swore at them; Mike’s body hummed with adrenalin and the thrill of the chase. All the money in the world couldn’t buy that feeling, that high of being hyper-focused on capturing a target.
Judging by the joyous howl Tom let loose, he agreed. Mike laughed into the wind and brought his tablet back into his lap as they flew down the road. His fingers drifted over the directive dialogue box for his scouter bots.
“We’re making good speed… We can wait to pursue him until we’re at his location, or we can see how good these bots are.”
Tom glanced at Mike and then focused his back on the road.
“Test the bots out. You spent a lot on them.”
Mike grinned and switched his scouters from “Surveillance” to “Capture and Detain—Alive.”
As Mike leaned back into his seat, Tom frowned.
“What if we don’t get him?” Mike made a noise of protest, but Tom continued. “I mean, you’re the best, but…but if every other bounty hunter couldn’t get him…what makes you think we’ll be able to?”
Mike looked back down at the video feed in time to see Padalecki smile and put his hand on the Earth native’s knee. Mike knew that smile… He wore it when he smiled at Tom. Mike clucked his tongue.
“I have a feeling Padalecki will be open to surrender.” Mike touched the remote in his jacket pocket. “I’ve got some leverage that’ll hit him where it hurts.” He Padalecki’s smile had an ache to it, one that Mike knew all too well. “Even better than I anticipated.”
Tom bit his lip.
“What is it?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Tom smiled and they zoomed down the road.
Jared’s ragtag jacket creation hung around Jensen’s shoulders over his soaked clothes. He took a deep breath as they came to a red light; there was no traffic, not on the winding back roads, but Jensen didn’t mind waiting.
Jared looked at Jensen as they stopped. He put his hand on Jensen’s knee, his thumb a hot brand against Jensen’s skin. Jensen could barely breathe as his body tensed.
“What are you doing?”
Suddenly the air was still and sticky. Jensen’s tongue darted out to lick his lips nervously, and Jared slid closer.
“Do you want me to stop? If you do, I won’t touch you again. I’ll leave.”
Jared’s voice didn’t crack, but his glassy eyes gave him away. Jensen blinked, his throat tight.
“You don’t know me.” Jared shook his head but Jensen pushed through. “I’m not good for anyone, Jared—”
“Jensen,” Jared’s eyes held Jensen’s gaze. “What do you want?”
There were so many words on the tip of Jensen’s tongue, but before he could voice any of them something pelted the windshield. Jensen finally tore his eyes away from Jared’s; landing on a silver sphere the size of a grapefruit drawing back away from the white spider web cracks spreading in the windshield. He gasped and Jared’s head whipped around, his eyes widened and the color drained form his face.
“Go!” Jared’s shrieked. “Go, go, fucking go!”
Rubber burned as the tires tore across the pavement through the red light. Jensen’s stepped on the gas pedal, the truck shaking under the stress. Jared had his slingshot out in his right hand, but a sharp clatter at the window made Jensen’s hands quake on the wheel. The sphere was right outside. It was a fucking robot. An actual robot that whirred and chirped, with lights and something that looked like it could shoot bullets or lasers—
The robot glowed light blue and Jensen swerved away from it, running the truck up onto the gravel on the side of the road and into another robot. Jared readied back his slingshot, a small silver ball nestled inside the string. His back was pressed hard against Jensen’s side as he aimed at the second robot, hovering outside of the passenger’s side open window, and fired. Jensen shouted as the truck was rattled by a purple explosion. The metal sphere spun and fell out of view and Jensen returned his attention to the robot closest to him. It dropped back from the window, but its glow grew stronger, concentrated on the road ahead. Jared slithered his torso out of the passenger’s window, stretching up until all Jensen could see was his legs and lean stomach.
“Hey!” Jared whistled and the robot turned. “Over here!”
There was a metal clang, another purple explosion, and then the robot fired as it flew backwards. Jensen’s heart jumped up in his mouth as heat and static washed over him, fire grazing the roof of the truck as Jared darted back inside, just in the knick of time. The tips of his hair were singed and a cluster of trees went up in a blue plasma burst in their wake. Jensen’s legs trembled, but he still held down the gas.
“What the fuck were those things?” Jensen heaved frantically. “Seriously, what the fuck?”
Jared smoothed out his hair and tied it back with one of Vicki’s scrunchies, his hands steady.
“No shit they were robots! But what the hell are robots like that doing here? Where did they come from?”
The truck rattled, and the absurd worry that the vegetables would be bruised flashed through his mind. Jared dug into his pocket, finding only five silver balls.
“Crap, most of my artillery is back at the house.” Jared looked up at Jensen’s gaping mouth. “What? They looked like scouter bots. I told you, I’m an intergalactic fugitive.”
Before Jensen could squawk back, the lights in the dashboard flickered out and the car went dark, rolling to a stop. A scream caught in the back of Jensen’s throat.
“What’s happening?” The two robots—scouter bots—returned. Jensen groaned. “I thought you killed them!”
Jared’s expression was grim.
The bots hovered in front of the windshield. Jensen felt dread settle heavy into his stomach. One robot buzzed, then a clear voice spoke out.
“Get out of vehicle, Padalecki. Leave your weapon.” Jared opened the door as the voice went on. “Looks like you’ve finally been caught.”
Jared smiled and winked at Jensen playfully before exiting the truck.
“You haven’t caught me yet.”
As soon as Jared was out of the car, the robots left Jensen alone, hovering in front of Jared as he stood on the side of the road. Jared might have talked big, but it didn’t look like he had a plan. Jensen’s heart pounded and his tongue tasted bitter. He glanced at his dead dashboard and then back to Jared.
Jensen didn’t think of himself as heroic. He always looked both ways before crossing the street and he never drank milk a day past its expiration date. But Jared looked past the robots until their eyes met, and he looked adrift, and Jensen reached behind the driver’s seat until his fingers closed around heavy metal. He crawled over the stick shift and slid his legs out of the open door. Putting Jared’s slingshot in his back pocket, he gripped the crowbar tightly; he saw his shot—
The metal rang out clearer than a church bell, the buzz shaking Jensen’s arms as he watched the one robot sail away. The other’s screen blinked and buzzed, and another voice, one that was deeper, calmer, spoke up.
“Um, Mike, one of the bots was—”
“I know, I’m getting it, what the hell was that?”
Jensen ground his teeth together and aimed for the remaining bot.
“That would be me, asshole.”
The crowbar sang as it connected with the robot, sending it flying. Jensen’s chest heaved. Jared sprang into Jensen’s space, kissing his cheeks, nose, forehead, anywhere his lips would reach. Jensen laughed, semi-hysterical, and twisted away; Jared grabbed his hand and began kissing up his arm.
“You came for me.”
Jensen rolled his eyes.
“Whatever. Look, I need to chill out. You drive, I want to go home.”
Jared grinned and nodded, kissing Jensen’s hand one last time before letting him go. Jensen exhaled and he began to turn around when two bright glints of silver caught his eye. The bots were coming back, and fast. The crowbar clattered to the ground; Jensen moved forward, just as the bots made it to them, brimming with electricity. The air buzzed, Jared shouted, and Jensen threw his hands out in self-defense; he squeezed his eyes shut, and right before everything went black, he swore the tips of his fingers glowed.
Everything was silent. Jensen felt like he was rocking, shaking. He frowned and tried to turn away from the hand grabbing at him, but it pinched his side.
“Ow!” Jensen opened his eyes. “What the hell?”
Above him, Jared sighed, his brow furrowed.
“I…I didn’t think you’d wake up.”
Jensen sat up, grimacing as pebbles rolled off his back. His eyes widened at the clumps of melted metal and patches of burning grass and he shoved Jared.
“Christ, warn me if you’re going to shoot one of those purple bomb things.” Jensen touched his face and hair to make sure they weren’t melted off. “I could have gotten burned.” Jensen tried to get up but his legs were shaking too hard; Jared ducked down and propped him up. Then the facts began to sink in and Jensen began quivering. “Are they dead?” Metal was strewn about in bits and pieces. “Please, tell me they’re dead.”
“The robots are dead. The two jokers controlling them, they’re still alive.”
Jensen closed his eyes and felt cold.
“Let’s go home.”
Jared smiled and guided Jensen back to the truck.
Next // Masterpost