Fandom: J2 |
Rating: R for this part -- Wordcount: 6,465
Warnings: Psychic!AU (er... mutant!AU?? anybody got a vote on this point?), UST, angst, damaged!snarky!Jensen, empath!Jared
Notes: I've had this plot bunny for a while, but it was hunters_retreat 's wonderful Home Is Where the Heart Is that inspired me to make it J2. I also have to point out that I shamelessly stole the idea for Misha's power from audrarose 's Butterflies and Hurricanes; hope I didn't step on any toes. If you haven't read those fics, I highly recommend you run read them (they're totally better than this). If this keeps going the way I think it will, this may be my longest fic yet. Sigh. Muse, you've done it to me again.
Summary - Except for the fact that they were both born with remarkable superhuman abilities, and a seething mutual dislike, Jared and Jensen have nothing in common. Turns out, though, that they may also be the only ones who can save each other from themselves.
Special Thanks - to gedry for reading through this for me to make sure I haven't lost my mind, and her wonderful support of the insanity I have planned.
Jensen's head throbs in time with his heartbeat when he wakes. Every surge of blood, loud in his ears, feels like his brain is pressing, spongy and overheated against the inside of his skull. It hurts like a sonofabitch, gets worse when he tries to shake off the grogginess keeping his eyelids weighted. It takes a hell of a lot longer than it should to actually get enough control over his body to get a look at the place they’ve taken him, not that there's much to see.
He's in a stainless steel room, maybe 10x10, empty except for himself, the chair he's cuffed to at the wrists, elbows and ankles - which is in turn bolted to the floor; these fuckers know what they're doing - and another empty seat directly across from him. The glare of the fluorescents recessed into the ceiling above bounce off of the empty metal chair accusingly.
Ok, options. He remembers cops, or maybe the SWAT team or something; definitely 'law enforcement officials'. Five or six of them, all done up in black from their riot helmets to their thick-soled boots - every inch of it gleaming dully like rubber. Weird fucking cops, then. He'd braced for the bite of bullets shunking into his skin when they'd fired off their rounds and instead ended up with the prick of syringe darts and hot, liquid sleep slinking through his veins. Sneaky fuckers. Sneaky fuckers who knew how much tranq it would take to bring Jensen down. Now there's a scary idea.
The shuff of the electronic door sliding open jerks Jensen out of his thoughts, focusing squarely on the men entering the room. It's just the two of them, the oldest - middle aged, but tough looking with dark, sharp eyes and one of those pinstriped suits that inevitably means trouble - takes the chair across from Jensen, relaxing back into it like they're all a bunch of old pals getting together to grab a beer. The younger one - ok, much younger; he'd been thrown off by the guy's height, but Jensen's probably a couple of years older than Sasquatch there - stands behind the first man and slightly to the side, leaning against the wall.
Between that and the hard, wary look on his face, Jensen gets the impression the young guy doesn't want to be here - welcome to the fucking party. Then again, the guy's wearing that same black, rubberized - and *ahem* seriously body conscious; hello abdominals! - get up that the team who'd taken Jensen down had been sporting, so maybe he's just a bodyguard or something and he gets paid to look all stony.
"Hello, Jensen," the older one starts, bringing one foot up so his ankle's sitting across the opposite knee. "My name is Jeff. I apologize for the unorthodox nature of our meeting, but it was really the only way of doing things without ending up on the police radar. How are you feeling? Would you like some water? A soda?" He smiles like every social worker Jensen's ever known; he hates 'Jeff' immediately.
"I'm good, thanks," replies, putting in every ounce of snark he can physically manage. Fuck this guy.
Jeff's smarmy face falls a little bit, but the expression seems more real now. The young dude's eyebrows hitch lower, not quite a scowl aimed at not quite Jensen's face.
"Fine, then we'll get right down to business," Jeff troops on, some of the sugary sweetness extracted from the tone. He fixes Jensen with piercing eyes and Jensen has to actively fight not to squirm. "You think you're special, don't you Jensen?" Jensen’s mouth opens on a snide comeback but Jeff's raised hand forestalls him, "You're right. You are special. Hell, they pumped enough elephant tranquilizer in you not an hour ago to kill a small herd of, well, elephants, and here you are up and at 'em again. You barely even look sleepy. Pissed off, but not sleepy." Jeff quirks a smile at him and Jensen wonders how fast his enamel will grow back if he grinds his teeth to powder during this conversation. "So yes, you're very special, the best self-healer I've ever seen, but you're not unique."
Jensen gets stuck somewhere around 'self-healer'. It's a good term for what he does, he guesses, but why the hell does this guy even know what he can do? Jensen's always been careful; his parents are the only ones who'd ever seen him injured enough to be able to put it together, but they were too tweaked out last Jensen heard for anybody to believe anything they said.
Jeff makes a small 'mmm' that might be a laugh and nods. "You thought you were the only one with gifts, Jensen? Not at all. You may be exceptional, but there are plenty of other people with their own abilities, some even more powerful than you. Jared here, for example," he lifts a hand to indicate the young guy leaning against the wall. Hazel eyes flicker up over Jensen's - never quite locking - in a semblance of a surly greeting, then slip back down to the spot just beyond Jensen's shoulder. "Jared is precognitive. That means he can see the future, so if you were planning on some daring escape, don't." It's only half a joke and Jensen feels his spirits sink. So much for that brilliant, not yet formed idea. "Everyone on our team has special attributes."
"Your team?" he asks coldly. So that explains who the rubber-fetishist are. For the moment he's just going to ignore the mindfuck that is the idea of other people running around with... ok, in his head, he's always called his healing thing a superpower, but aside from that rockin' body, Jared doesn't exactly look like he's going to be starring in any comic books any time soon, so maybe he needs a new term for it. Fuck, this is way too much.
"Yes,” Jeff nods, undeterred, "my team, Jared's team, and with any luck, your team."
Jensen feels the sneer curving his lips, doesn't do anything to disguise it. "I don't play well with others."
Jeff actually laughs at that, low but throaty and genuine. "Yes, I'm well aware of that. I'm well aware of absolutely everything there is to know about you, actually." Jensen's mind screeches to a halt. Shit, Jeff said everyone on the team has powers, that means he must have powers too. Oh shit shit shit, what if he can read minds or something crazy like that? What if he knows what Jensen's thinking right now? What if he knows how Jensen's been paying for that fucking hotel room they busted him in? What if he just heard Jensen refer to himself as having a 'superpower'? Christ this sucks.
Jared huffs a breath that sounds really close to a stifled laugh, but by the time Jensen looks up, his face is stoic again.
"And in the spirit of fairness, I think that there are some things you should be aware of too," Jeff continues as if totally unaware of Jensen's little mental freak out. Maybe he is; maybe Jensen got the mind reading thing wrong? Compulsively, he crosses his fingers behind the chair in hope. "You're in a lot of trouble Jensen. Big time legal trouble. The police know that you were involved in that warehouse fire and with the amount of cocaine residue they found, they aren't just going to let things slide - they've had your hotel staked out for over a week, just waiting on the lab work to come through."
"Hey, it wasn't my-"
"Doesn't matter," Jeff cuts in before he can even work up to some good righteous indignation. "You have a history of getting mixed up with dangerous crowds, and between the deadly weapons charge in juvenile hall and the gambling ring and the solicitation arrest last year, there's no way they're not going to lay this on you. You've made yourself the perfect fall guy."
Through some miracle of physics, Jensen's guts have spontaneously frozen solid. Maybe that's Jeff's power.
Sure, the juvie record is sealed, but lawyers have pulled off trickier things than getting his underage records let into evidence. He was never technically charged when the underground fighting ring got busted, but everybody who ever went knows he was dishing it out on a weekly basis back then and there's probably more than one pussy-ass fucker who'd like to stick him with an assault charge just for handing them their balls in the ring. There's no way around the prostitution conviction - they'd had him dead to rights with the cash in one hand and the john's cock in the other. So a trafficking charge might not technically be his third strike, but with the right evidence, Jeff's right, any judge on the bench would throw the book at Jensen. And prison is pretty low on Jensen's list of things to do before he dies.
Alright then, brass tacks. "So is this just rain on my parade day or are you offering a solution?" Normally he'd cross his arms over his chest, but for now he's got to settle for sliding a fraction deeper into the chair and trying to look apathetic instead of like his heart is slowly mountaineering up his esophagus.
"I'm offering to press the reset button on your life," Jeff replies succinctly, "Jensen Ross Ackles will cease to exist in every legal sense - every record of your existence, birth certificates and immunizations all the way up to that unfortunate mug shot of yours will spontaneously combust and you will disappear into the ether. All of your problems," he snaps his fingers, "solved."
"In exchange for what?" Jensen asks, although pretty much anything short of lifetime water-torture seems like a bargain at this point. He'd happily hand over his immortal soul for an offer like this, for a hell of a lot more reasons than skipping out on prison.
Jeff smiles again, soft like he already knows he's got Jensen hook, line and sinker. Fuck, he probably does - probably knew it before he walked in the room. No wonder the bastard's so chipper.
"In exchange for you becoming part of the team."
Jared shifts, fingers toying idly with the catch of one of the pouches on his honest to god, utility belt. Maybe Jensen had been wrong about the comic book thing.
Jensen gives the guy - kid - a long cursory look, letting his eyes linger on the curves and dips of toned, lickable muscle and long, lean legs.
"Basketball?" he guesses sarcastically, grinning at the scowl/fist-clench combo it earns from the tall boy.
Jeff chuckles freely, reaching out to place a comforting pat on Jared's thigh. Well, that's interesting - Jensen hadn't pegged Jeff for the type. So, Jared has precognition and daddy issues; that must be an interesting blend. Jared's scowl deepens.
"What we do is largely law enforcement based, but on a very specialized level," Jeff explains, hand back in his own lap now, "Think of it as a very unique branch of the CIA, but without all of the media attention and public awareness."
"So... you're, like, spies?"
That laugh again. Ok, that's getting annoying. "More like black ops. U.N. funded, but very hush-hush. For the most part we deal with high-level security risks as well as individuals who have gifts like you and Jared but who misuse them and become a danger to themselves and others."
A superhero team. Jensen doesn't want to think it, feels twelve years old for thinking it, but its right there anyway and, hey, it's kinda true. He's kinda being recruited by a kinda superhero team to fight kinda supervillians and those were either the best tranqs ever or this is a really awesome dream.
Either way, it's not like there's a better offer on the table.
"Well," Jeff says, at least managing not to laugh this time, though he looks like he'd like to, "There are a few more things you should probably know."
"I get to beat up dudes and carry a gun and not go to jail?"
"You gonna brainwash me or use me for medical experiments or something?"
"No, of course not."
"Then I can handle it. I'm in."
Jensen nods firmly, the rhythm section in his skull completely subsided by now. He doesn't know how the fuck normal people deal with pain like that in the long term; he'd rather stick his hand in a blender.
Jeff looks at him with amusement while Jared seems primed to argue, but miraculously doesn't. Whatever hold this Jeff guy has over the kid, Jensen wouldn't mind learning the secret; having his own personal bitch boy would be fun, especially with an ass like Jared's.
Finally the older man nods shortly and stands. Jared looks perplexed and no little bit put out, but he follows as Jeff walks out of the room, giving some kind of hand signal to the guards standing outside the door. Jared glances over his shoulder at Jensen one last time looking deadly, but he’s pretty sure there’s something underneath the threat in those hazel eyes that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
Just as quickly, both the men are gone and the guards enter the room, one keeping a tranq gun aimed firmly at Jensen while the other unlatches that catches on his cuffs.
Jensen just smiles.
"Thoughts? Opinions? Random outbursts?" Jeff breezes as Jared follows him down the bland, utilitarian hallway.
Jared huffs but answers smoothly, "He seems pretty easy to read so far, but then we've had him up against the ropes from the start. Still, he's basically wide open, no walls. Like Chad, only terrifying."
Jeff quirks a smile at him, unlocking a door on the right side of the hall and ushering Jared inside to hiss spacious office. "He scare you Padalecki?"
"I didn't say I was terrified of him, I said he's terrifying. There's..." Jared scrubs his hand through his hair in frustration; it's unusual for him not to be able to articulate a feeling.
Jared flops down in one of Jeff's overstuffed chairs as he searches for the right sentiment to tack onto the emotions their latest recruit had been battering him with back there. Despite the severity of the rest of the facility, Jeff's private quarters are more relaxed; steel walls covered in pastel blues and greens, almost completely hidden by photographs of the older man's travels and art he's collected over the years. The furniture is all at least as old as Jared, some of it held together more by duct tape and hope than actual fabric, even though Jared knows at least a ballpark figure on their budget and there would be more than enough for Jeff to buy his own furniture factory if he wanted just with the team's pocket change.
Sometimes he wonders if Jeff keeps it that way because that how he wants it, or if it's one of those little backhanded things he does to make Jared comfortable without giving him a choice in the matter. Regardless, he can't deny that the place calms him down; a feeling of home there, moreso even than his own room.
Finally he sighs, burying his face in his palms."I don't know. I don't know if he's a psychopath or if it’s just all the shitty things that have happened to him or what, but there's this... darkness in him. It’s there in everything he feels, like an oil slick or something, laying right on top." Jared opens his mouth to say more then pauses, closing it again. He should know better than to think he can fake out Jeff after all this time.
"And?" his mentor prompts.
Jared has this urge to punch something - reeled in tight, as usual, but it's still there and it's obnoxious not to know whether it's some residual emotion from Jensen or his own frustration that he's fighting not to project. "It... God, Jeff, it hurts; he hurts. I mean, I feel physically ill just being in the same room with him."
Jeff 'mmm's which means nothing, or maybe everything; Jared's never really sure. He doesn't know if it's that Jeff's just really perfected the Zen master thing after all of these years or if he's actually developed some way of keeping Jared out - he insists he hasn't but Jared's not stupid enough to think that he knows everything that's going on around the facility - but he almost never feels Jeff on accident anymore. Sure, he could break in if he wanted to, force Jeff to show him what he's feeling, but the thought turns his stomach; nothing he'd ever do short of dire circumstances.
"You can't seriously expect me to lead him," Jared whines - yes whines, he's entitled on occasion, and this warrants it; he'd really thought he was going to blow chunks all over the interrogation room a couple of times back there.
Jeff flops down in the chair opposite Jared, ignoring the ergonomic, massage-capable, high-style monstrosity perched behind his broad desk - apparently the chair was a gift from the NSA'a director and now Jeff's stuck with it; Jared's pretty sure the older man is scared of it.
"That's true," he says, and Jared knows he's hedging even if he can't quite feel it - too many years of reading Jeff's voice, "I don't expect you to lead him." Jeff takes a slightly deeper breath than strictly necessary like he's bracing for something and Jared's stomach goes and gets cozy with his appendix even before he hears the words. "I want you to partner with him."
"What!" Ok, shouting is also warranted here, because honestly, Jeff had to have just heard what Jared said. There' no way he legitimately expects Jared to hang around with Jensen all of the time. "No, no way. Absolutely not." It's a whole other level of difficult to get to the calm place inside of his head while the rest of him is still seething with the ridiculousness of the whole scenario, but Jared has lots of practice and this definitely won't go easier if he starts accidentally forcing his annoyance on Jeff. "Send him to the New York team, I hear it's a hell of a town. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down."
Jeff just quirks an eyebrow at him. "Alright, I think maybe you and Sandy need to take a break from Movie Musical Mondays." Fine, Jared's subconscious maybe rambles a little bit when he's walling off his emotion-center, but in his defense, it's really distracting to meditate with one part of your brain and have a conversation with the other.
"And, no," Jeff runs right over whatever half-formed retort Jared might have made, "we cannot send him to the New York team; they've got their hands full already. Besides, given his history with adults, I think he's much more likely to function as an effective team member with people his own age, people he can trust. We are the best team for him."
"So, what, I'm just supposed to pretend that everything's fine and dandy?" Jared snarls, flinging himself into the steady, relaxing rhythm of pacing, "I mean even assuming that everybody won't immediately figure out something's up since I've never had a partner before and they're not idiots, but whatever - even assuming you can sneak that one by them, you really think they're just never going to pick up on the fact that I can't get within two feet of my own flippin' partner? We're not just talking about my comfort here. We agreed how... potentially volatile it could be if everybody figured out what I can do. You really want to risk years of this precog cover just so I can stick close to your new pet basket case?"
"He's not mentally unstable," Jeff calmly steeples his fingers, "he's damaged, and if there's anyone here who can help him cope with that, it's you, Jay."
"I'm not the team shrink," Jared rails back, feeling his walls slip and the anger shiver out of him like a little tendril of heat. He snaps it off immediately, slamming his eyes shut and forcing himself to take a deep, not-at-all-calming breath. "I don't want to be any closer to the inside of his head than I just got."
Jeff smiles softly, giving him the 'daddy-eyes' that mean he's not going to like whatever he's about to hear, but he's not going to be able to argue with it either. Sometimes he'd swear that Jeff has a power too.
"I don't blame you there," his mentor agrees, "But, Jay... somebody who comes from what Jensen does doesn't just get by on luck, not even with a gift - power - like his. He's a survivor, a planner, and he's a hell of a lot smarter than anybody has ever bothered to give him credit for. I can't predict what he's capable of doing," Jared doubts that, they don't call Jeff ‘Chessmaster’ for nothing, "what he might pull or if he might snap, but you can feel it. If he gets to be a danger, you'll know, Jay, and we need that, for his safety and our own."
Rubber-synthetic squeals against leather as Jared slings his long legs over one arm of the chair, taking a seat again when standing suddenly seems like too much effort.
Jeff being Jeff, doesn't relent. "If he doesn't stay here, then it's prison, and what do you think will happen to that darkness of his there? You've seen the file, Jay; do you really want to be one more person who made him worse?"
Damnit. There's nothing in the whole wide world he hates more than guilt; the way it echoes around inside of him, coating everything in a cold, sticky film that never seems to wear away. And Jeff, the jerk, knows it too.
Still doesn't mean it's not the truth.
Jared knows he's going to regret it even as he forces his tongue to form the word, "Ok." He also knows there was never really another choice to begin with.
Jensen's definitely not digging on the basic grey t-shirt and sweats they delivered to his room - his room, so empty it echoes, with nothing but the bed, a couch and a dresser to occupy the large space; but still, his - but they'll do for now. They had promised that his things would be brought to him as soon as they had properly cleared security, not that there was much to bring in the first place; Jensen's always been a travel light kind of guy - never carry something you wouldn't mind losing.
They'd asked him very politely to remain in his room last night and he didn't need the guard posted at his door to know a 'stay the fuck where we put you' when he hears one. Usually that alone would be enough to have him finding a way to sneak out, but he figures he dodged a freight train-sized bullet with this whole thing, so it's probably worth playing the good boy for a little while, just to make sure none of that paperwork gets lost in the shuffle or anything. Besides, once he discovered that all he had to do was press his thumbprint to the little pad on his couch arm - yes, his couch arm, Jensen has his very own couch arm - for a big fucking panel in the wall to slide back and reveal what's gotta be at least a 60" TV... well, he wasn't exactly complaining about the accommodations.
Getting woken up at 8 in the fucking morning sucks some pretty big ones though, so this shit better be good to make up for being drug halfway across the damn Earth to get here, without so much as a cup of coffee to get him going. Place is a goddamn labyrinth.
The smell of precious caffeine wafts from somewhere up ahead, and thankfully Mr. Silent And Painfully Uninteresting Security Guard takes him right to the source. Maybe in a minute, Jensen will care about all of the strangers who look up as the pressure-lock door shuffs closed behind him, but at the moment he's trying to decide if there's a way for him to mainline the life-sustaining nectar in that coffee pot on the counter.
Somebody clears their throat and Jensen is forced to look away from the holy chalice of wakefulness to glance back over at the group haphazardly gathered around the oblong wooden table in the center of the room. It seems it was Jeff who cleared his throat - oh, look, it's Jeff. Fuck you, Jeff, you early-rising prick! - since he's the one who stands up and takes charge.
At least he has the decency to let Jensen finish pouring himself up a cup of coffee before he gets into the parts Jensen has to think for.
The man smirks at him as Jensen takes a seat and says, "I would have figured with your body chemistry you'd be quite the morning person."
Jensen just shrugs, lacking the base-level energy required for snark. True, he has an incredible recovery time on the physical stuff, but apparently nobody ever told his brain that and it never really feels like kicking into gear again without some heavy-duty stimulant incentive. On the plus side? Crazy-fast metabolism = instant caffeine rush as soon as the java hits his stomach.
"We'll try to keep that in mind for future meetings then." Jeff nods firmly like he's making a mental note and then turns to the rest of the group, opening his mouth to say something that gets cut off by the short blond guy on the other side of the table.
"Wait, we're gonna rearrange the meetings for the new guy? I asked for afternoon meetings like a year ago, man!" The blond squints at Jensen and looks downright indignant.
The girl next to him - even shorter, with long, espresso-colored hair and a pretty fantastic rack, if you go for that kind of thing - jumps in with, "Aw, it's cute how you think we listen to the things you say."
The guy flips her the bird, to which the girl sticks out her tongue. Jensen needs so much more coffee for this.
"Seriously, though," the big-mouthed blond runs right over whatever anyone else might have to say on the matter, leveling a finger at Jeff, "you have to promise the next recruit will be a chick, we need some more skirts around here, dude."
Further along on the table a darker haired guy folding origami shapes out of notebook paper says, "I always thought the Padapuppy had the legs for a mini," without ever taking his eyes off of the precise movements of his fingers. Jesus, what the ever loving fuck is going on?
The blond grimaces, "Ugh! Misha, man, keep your creepy Jared fantasies to yourself."
The guy down the table - Misha, apparently - idly flicks the spiky little ball of perfectly folded paper at the blond jackass who...
Who disappears into thin fucking air just as the paper ball bursts with a tiny, firecracker-snap. The blond reappears just as fast standing behind the chair he just vacated and brushes away the curls of ash on the tabletop that used to be origami.
Jensen stares at his coffee cup accusingly. What the fuck are they putting in this shit?
"Ahem," Jeff says pointedly without any of the actual throat clearing this time. Both of the guys look vaguely chastised, but it only lasts a second. The older man knuckles the bridge of his nose for a moment before glancing apologetically at Jensen - he wonders if Jeff's apologizing for lacing the coffee with high-dose hallucinogens.
"Everyone, I'm sure you all remember Jensen," he leads and for the first time it occurs to Jensen that this is the crack team he's signed on for - and conversely, the crack team who whipped his ass. He suddenly feels really bad about himself. "For those of you who missed the memo," here he glares at the blond guy again, "Jensen is a self-healer, among what I'm sure are many other talents. He's going to be a permanent member of the team from now on, so try not to irreparable scar him too quickly."
There's a low murmur of a laugh around the table and the black-haired guy between the blond and Misha elbows them both surreptitiously. They each rub at the affected spots with near-identical glares.
"Jensen," Jeff continues, now turning to face Jensen, "this is the team. Sandy McCoy," he nods to the girl, who smiles in turn and gives Jensen a little wave, "cyberkinetic and our resident technological genius. Chad Murray," the blond grunts and crosses his arms across his chest like Jensen couldn't crush him to a smeared, weeping pulp if he wanted to, "whom, as you may have noticed, is a teleporter. He's under very strict rules about entering other people's rooms without permission, though, so if you have any problems, just let me know." Now Chad's pouting again.
"Tom Welling. His particular gift," at the other end of the table Jared makes an indecipherable sound, "power, excuse me, we think may be related to your own, although with different effect. Tom's got advanced musculature, much stronger than an ordinary person." The black-haired guy grins a little sheepishly and welcome to the top of Jensen's 'let's tap that ass' list.
"Misha Collins," Jeff carries on as if Jensen's not still busy having obscene thoughts about Tom, "We’re having trouble agreeing on a name for his ability, but essentially he has the power to rearrange the atomic structure of an object to create an internal combustion reaction." The guy looks up from the paper frog he's making and winks at Jensen.
"I make stuff go boom," he explains eloquently before turning his attention back to his folding.
"And you've met Jared Padalecki, our precog," Jeff finishes blithely, retaking his seat.
Oh... Padapuppy. He gets it now. And while he may not exactly see the puppy thing, yeah, total agreement with Misha on that skirt point; that boy would look damn good in a miniskirt. Mmmm, fine mental images.
Jared squirms slightly in his seat, looking more uncomfortable suddenly in his oversized jeans and sweatshirt - and biker gloves? - than he had in that S&M number he'd been wearing last night. Weird dude.
Jeff shuffles some papers in Jensen's direction and everyone subtly sits up a little straighter. Down to business, then. Alright, Jensen can roll with that. For now.
Jared's always had a problem with touch - not that he despises human contact, it's just that, for whatever reason, skin-to-skin has this way of amplifying his ability that can be utterly overwhelming. When he was a baby, doctors diagnosed him with a nerve disorder because of the way he wailed whenever someone, even his parents, touched his skin. They were wrong, of course, about the reason for his sensitivity, but he probably owes them his sanity since his mother made sure to keep him well covered and practically untouchable after that.
He's gotten better as he's aged and learned to control his power to a degree, and he can handle normal levels of contact. Still, he likes a certain degree of coverage and for years now he's made a pair of fingerless gloves part of his everyday gear. He's got at least a dozen pairs - stretch ones, leather, the same rubber-synth as his field uniform. Most are black, but he's got a pair with electric green piping for special occasions and some red ones that were a Christmas gift from Sandy. He wears the gloves kind of obsessively; enough so that when he takes them off to shower or sleep, there's a visibly paler outline of them on his hands even though he doesn't spend much time in the sun.
Jared's not wearing them today. Instead, his favorite black, leather pair - worn-in just loose enough around the knuckles - are tucked safely in his front pocket, replaced with a full-finger pair that stops two inches above the wrist. They overlap the long-sleeved, black bodysuit he's wearing underneath his clothes, ensurinng that the only bits of skin he's got exposed are a small sliver of neck and his face. It's helping a lot less than he'd hoped it would, but at least he hasn't hurled yet.
Jensen's fist jolts through the air, aiming for Jared's solar plexus, but easy enough to dance out of the way of with minimal effort. The older boy grunts with the waves of annoyance Jared can feel pouring off of him and sets his jaw.
They'd both protested fervently when Jeff had insisted that Jared run Jensen through melee training - Jensen because he'd been a pretty successful cage fighter once and could take care of himself, Jared because he'd been on an aspirin regimen ever since Jensen moved in just to dull the throb of constant pain lapping at the back of his mind and actually touching Jensen seemed like the least appealing idea in history. Grudgingly, though, Jared has to admit Jeff was right. Jensen has some skill, no denying that; there's power behind his hits and purpose in his swing. There's no technique there though, all predator looking for the kill, zero strategy. He wastes his energy, even if he does have more of it to run on, and his responses are so predictable that Jared could probably take him out with his eyes closed by now.
Jared dodges a kick that probably would have gone wide anyway - Jensen really has no idea what to do with his lower body in a fight - and effortlessly knocks Jensen's knees out from under him. The spike of shock that hangs before Jensen actually hits the ground melts fast into hate-laced rage. Not that Jared doesn't sympathize, but having Jensen's dislike pumping through him isn't doing anything to help him cope with his own.
There's something else hovering just under the distaste though; below the injured pride and the darkness that is purely Jensen. Something complicated. It's possible that the slightly ominous feeling swimming around in Jared's gut is just because of how complex that sentiment is - they've only really known one another a week, but it's been more than enough time for Jared to discover that, while Jensen may wear his emotions like a neon sign, they are also multilayered and difficult to pinpoint. It's disconcerting, really, when he's so used to having to block people out because he reads them too well. To have the tables turned on him like that, never quite sure what Jensen's thinking, it's... alright, it's a little galling, and it's certainly not improving his attitude toward the older boy.
Add that to the constant low-grade nausea and Jensen's apparent inability to go half an hour without some moderately pornographic mental interlude - how the man manages not to walk around hard all day every day with the way he feels most of the time is beyond Jared - and Jensen has very rapidly become Jared least favorite person in the whole facility - including the crazy night janitor in the east wing who pelts cleaning supplies at passersby.
Actually, except for the way that sick churning inside of Jared spikes every time they make contact, he's really kind of enjoying the excuse to knock Jensen on his ass repeatedly. Cathartic.
"I miss the joke, Padapuppy?" Jensen asks, hoisting himself up off the ground for the fourth time in the last fifteen minutes. Jared's really going to have to have a talk with the boys about the nickname thing. It's one thing for them to walk around calling Jared stupid crap, it's another for them to tell Jensen all about it; that man doesn't need ammunition.
Jared keeps his smile from faltering more than an increment and replies, "Not at all," easily. Kill them with kindness and all that. Besides, he's the leader, there's still an example to be set regardless of his personal feelings for the oversexed sociopathic freak.
“Guess it helps in a fight if you can see the future, huh?” Jensen digs, not giving in of course. He feints to the left and hits right, a move that might have been quick enough to actually touch Jared this time, if he hadn’t seen Jensen repeat it a dozen times by now.
“Also helps if you’re a better fighter than your opponent,” Jared jabs back, literally and figuratively, his punch landing dead center on Jensen’s chest.
That’s the worst part, right there, of pretending to have precognition – he never gets to take credit. Jared’s a damn good fighter – he’s spent nearly twelve years training, so he’d better be – and quite a strategist, but every time he manages to anticipate a move at just the right time, or make the right call even though it wasn’t the obvious one, it’s his pretend power that gets the kudos for it. True, most people aren’t dicks enough to actually say that out loud – thanks again, Jeff; awesome new recruit - but Jared knows that they think it, can feel it in them, and it never fails to burn him up.
Jensen charges him unexpectedly, not thinking, just going in for the quick kill, riding high on the rage coursing through him like fire. Jared steps out of the way with just centimeters to spare, snapping his arm out to lock around Jensen’s wrist. The sensations that flood him at the touch, even muted through two layers of cloth, are like a shotgun recoil shooting up his arm. Jared ignores it to twist Jensen’s arm up behind his back, keeps on pulling until he can feel his own muscles strain in sympathy.
Jensen stops, but it’ll only be for a second – just long enough for his conscious mind to remind his lizard brain that it’s ok if Jared knocks the joint out of place as they struggle, it will just heal right back. But that small falter is enough – enough to get Jensen killed in combat; assuming of course that Jensen can be killed, he reminds himself to ask Jeff about that – and he releases the grip just as fast, hoping that his sigh of relief at losing the contact isn’t too audible.
Still, with Jensen sprawling face-first onto the ground, unable to get his balance in time, the sickness roiling in Jared’s gut like a living thing is so completely and utterly worth it.
On to Part 2a