My name is Jensen Ackles and I’m a wizard. That might not be true for much longer if the White Council has any say in this. They take offense when wizards get mixed up with dark arts, or Faerie Queens, and they especially don’t like it when a wizard upsets the Vampire Courts.
Then there’s Jared. My boyfriend, for lack of a better word. Turns out he’s not human, and I don’t mind.
That might have something to do with his vampire charm and the ability to melt away my inhibitions. I don’t know for sure. Like with almost everything connected with Jared, I have to play it by ear.
I used to think I had a relatively normal life. If you consider crawling through sewers and hunting banshees normal. It is-- it was normal for me. That and being on the retainer with the NYPD Special Investigation Unit, helping with their paranormal cases.
I'm on a first name basis with Chris Kane, their best detective. We might even be friends if you call Chris insulting me on a daily basis friendship. Not to mention having me perform magic tricks so that he can close cases.
It works for us.
I just hope he up to finding and training a new supernatural consultant.
It all started like any other day - with a dead body in Central Park. Then there was a race to recover a powerful amulet based in blood magic, a feud with the Red Court vampires. Not to mention the long stay in a hospital. Twice.
Jensen had no idea if Kane had closed any of the murder cases that had started it all. He was only involved with the supernatural part of them. When you were worried about dying because a Red Court vampire was angry with you for stealing her toy, or because Faerie Queen was disappointed you didn't bow down and did everything she demanded... Let's just say it didn't leave much time to keep track of other things.
That's why he and Kane met frequently during cases - to fill each other in on their progress.
Jensen had accompanied Kane on a case once, at the beginning of their partnership. The hours the detective put in, the amount of research and interviews, just to check out one lead that might as well be pointless -- Jensen was frustrated after one day. He couldn't imagine doing it every day for the rest of his natural life.
Kane had been pretty irritated with Jensen that day as well. Jensen could recall something being said, in the argument that followed, about him being in a way. After that they agreed to work separately and keep each other in the loop.
If he was completely honest, Jensen was surprised they had managed to work together in the first place, since they tried to kill each other when they met and after they both landed in the hospital, things didn't pick up right away.
There might've been talk about arresting Jensen for obstruction of justice, or something. They had managed to find common ground and years later understood each other perfectly. They knew what to expect from each other and were good at predicting each other's behavior.
He might have denied it if asked, but Jensen really considered Chris a friend, and wizards didn't have many. There were moments spent with Chris and his partner, Steve, that were probably the happiest of his life, even as they filled him with longing for the kind of partnership Kane had with Steve.
Of all the things he regretted about his current situation, not being able to tell Chris what was going on hurt him the most, but he couldn’t risk his friend trying to take on the White Council.
The problem with using dark magic was that it always left a taint on you. Of course the real problem with dark magic was that it was dark and twisted and after a while made you want to do stuff like hunt down inexperienced wizards and put their heads on pikes; but it all started, always, with a taint.
You cast a spell and it left a stain on your aura. Do it again and the stain got bigger. After a while there was nothing left of your aura and you stopped being in control of yourself. Dark magic was bad news.
Jensen knew that by experience.
During the Central Park murder investigation, Jensen had stumbled across a powerful magical artifact, and amulet forged in blood magic. Jensen had cast a spell against a Red Court vampire while it was in his possession, in order to save himself and Chris.
That landed him in hospital. Afterwards, Jensen thought he had done the safest thing for everyone, hiding the amulet away. The artifact was so powerful, turning it over to the White Council would probably have gotten him killed before they asked questions, along with anyone else they thought might know of its existence. By then it was already too late.
That single casting had left him tainted and connected to the amulet. Subsequently, every time he reached out to recharge his batteries, he unwittingly pulled that power through the amulet, tainting his aura again and again until there was nothing left of his usual emerald green.
Jensen found himself losing control over his magic, as well as his moods. Simple spells didn’t work at all, or they worked entirely too well. He’d burned down two Red Court vampires without trying, he was certain of that, since he’d been nearly unconscious at the time.
Weeks later, Jensen could still vividly remember the blood lust he’d felt. How he wanted to chase after the one vampire that escaped and skin him alive.
Dark magic was powerful and unpredictable, and blood magic was the darkest of them all. Jensen could understand how someone might choose that road; for him it was too big of a price to pay.
Once he understood what was happening, he’d researched how to destroy the amulet, how to free himself from its influence, but then Adrienne, the Faerie Queen had attacked him in his own apartment and he had no other way of surviving but to draw on its power. He had thrust it into the void with her.
That had landed him in the hospital again. His friends had taken shifts to be at his bedside, and Jensen was grateful for their care, smothering as it was. Now that he’d been released, and they had decided he could be left alone for two seconds, it was time to do something about it.
The artifact might not be in his possession any longer, but the connection he accidentally created was still there. He could feel it pulsing, just underneath his skin, offering access and power. All he had to do was reach out and take it.
Jensen was still too weak to even attempt recharging his batteries in a safer way. Hell, he was too weak to even switch on his Sight to see the auras surrounding him.
Jensen was pretty sure his aura was still blood red. Getting his own magic back and under proper control was critical. It was time to sever his connection to the blood amulet.
"What are you thinking about?" Jared's voice pulled him back into the present.
They were in Jensen's apartment, as usual. Kane still hadn't deemed Jensen fit for field duties and refused to let him consult on cases. Jensen agreed with him, thinking it unwise to perform any kind of magic while the connection to the amulet was still open. Though he refused to agree with Chris out loud.
He watched as Jared put tea in front of him and sat down next to Jensen on the couch. Not close enough to touch, but close enough for Jensen to feel the heat emanating from Jared's body. As always, it made him want to reach out and touch Jared, but he was getting really good at controlling that particular impulse.
"I think it's time for me to clean up my aura," he answered Jared's question and shrugged.
"Are you strong enough?" Jared's voice was full of concern that made Jensen smile. It had been a while since anybody cared for him that way.
"I probably shouldn't try saving the world any time soon, but a simple cleansing ritual shouldn't prove too difficult," he reassured the vampire.
Vampire. It still sounded weird, when he referred to Jared for what he was, rather than by his name, but there was no point in denying Jared's true nature.
Jensen had a thing (he refused to call it anything else) for a White Court vampire, a vampire who fed on people's life force, usually through sex. At first he thought it was a byproduct of Jared's vampire charm, that Jared was trying to influence Jensen with his powers, but a conversation with Steve, Chris' partner, made him believe that wasn't the case. He still tried his best to resist Jared's charms, to keep himself in control.
"You want me to stick around?" Jared asked with a small grin and a hopeful expression. Jensen smiled back, by now it was almost an automatic reaction.
"I don't see why not. But don't blame me if you get bored while I perform the ritual."
"I'm pretty sure I can keep myself occupied," Jared wiggled his eyebrow's suggestively, not even trying for seductive. Jensen laughed.
"I'm afraid that sort of distraction is of the table, Jay. I need to stay concentrated, or it won't work. You want me to leave myself vulnerable like that?"
Jared's face froze and Jensen could swear Jay's body tensed.
"No, I'd rather you stay safe," Jared's voice was light, but Jensen knew that he touched onto something there. He just wasn't sure what it was.
He reached over, wrapped his hand around Jared's wrist and squeezed. He hoped the gesture would feel reassuring.
"Why don't you amuse yourself while I get this done? We can go out later. Or something. If you want," he started well, and then what happened? Jensen wanted to kick himself. He had no idea where the awkwardness came from. Okay, that was a lie. He knew very well where it came from. He had a thing for Jared, but he still thought, from time to time, that maybe Jared didn't have a thing for Jensen. Maybe he just found Jensen fascinating, because Jensen appeared to be able to resist the White Court charm, at least sometimes.
He could vividly recall the night when Jared refused to bring Jensen along to meet some of the White Court vampires. ” This fascinating ability to somehow resist my White Court charm,” were Jared’s exact words that Jensen replayed in his head every time seemed to be going great, Just to keep himself in check.
"I like the something idea," Jared smiled and moved closer to Jensen. Their thighs were touching now. Jensen licked his lips despite himself and watched as Jared's gaze dropped immediately to follow the movement.
"I bet you do," he tried to keep his voice calm, pretend to be unaffected by the close proximity. "Go away now, Jay. I need to concentrate."
Jared leaned forward and for a brief moment Jensen was sure he would kiss him, but Jay just smiled and moved until his lips were mere millimeters from Jensen's ear.
"I'll be sitting at the kitchen counter. Watching you cleanse your aura. Imagining you naked and all mine," he whispered and Jensen found himself unable to breathe. Jared didn't linger and before Jensen knew, Jay was no longer sitting on the couch.
It took him a long moment to calm himself and will his body under control. Last thing he needed was to try performing a ritual with a hard on. It took him a good five minutes of deep breathing, something he could pretend was pre-ritual meditation, to get himself into the right state of mind. Maybe he should've asked Jared to leave after all. He could, still.
He didn't, though. Once he had himself under control again, he stood up and started to clean up the middle of his room, where he usually performed rituals.
He gathered the ingredients he needed; candles, crystal bowl, water, silk scarf and sand. He briefly considered a bath to clear his mind, but decided it wouldn't work well with the rest of the ritual.
Ritual magic was very much about symbols and individual perception, at least as much as it was about the actual power and preferences of the wizard. If Jensen washed away the perceived dirt before the ritual, his mind might've had problems visualizing the cleansing.
He put the candles in a circle, wide enough for him to kneel in the middle and still have enough space to move around. He filled a crystal bowl with water. He put the scarf next to the bowl and a glass bottle filled with sand next to the scarf. He took a moment to map out the location of each item in his head, touching them gently, making sure he could access them without looking.
He stood outside the circle of candles for a moment, surveying it, looking for weak spots, but he couldn't find any. Everything looked good and ready for him to begin.
He took a deep breath, clearing his thoughts and leaving his mind blank. He took off his shirt and socks, keeping his pants on, more to keep Jared from interrupting the ritual than anything else. After another deep breath, he entered the circle and knelt in front of the bowl.
He lit the candle in front of him with his magic, feeling the connection to the amulet pulse with a renewed strength. He concentrated on the flame, feeling the heat rise up and watching as the flame changed colors into a reddish orange. Within his mind, he transferred his link to the amulet into the flame. The flame grew taller and became almost completely red as he completed the transfer.
Not taking his eyes off the candle, he took the bottle of sand and started to pour the sand onto the floor. Firmly, he drew a circle around the crystal bowl, shielding the water from the blood magic in the candle. Next, he soaked the scarf in the water, squeezed the scarf to make sure the water wasn't dripping anywhere on the floor and started to wash his arms with long and gentle strokes. With each stroke, the red flame became smaller and less red.
Jensen continued washing his arms and chest, feeling calmer and cleaner with every moment, watching the flame with undivided attention. With a final stroke on the scarf across his chest, he watched the flame disappear completely.
He put the scarf back into the bowl and closed his eyes. He took several deep breaths, mapping out sources on energy within himself and in his surroundings. He could still feel the dark, almost primal source of energy, pulsing temptingly; but the connection was no longer there. He shut his mind tightly, separating himself from the blood magic of the amulet.
He leaned forward, putting his palm flat on the floor, reaching further into the earth, the safest and most reliable energy source he could think of. He pulled the energy into himself and it filled him with calm and balance. He had almost forgotten what it felt like.
After a few more breaths he pushed some of the energy outside himself, lighting the remaining candles surrounding him. He opened his eyes to see a brilliant green glow, before the flames returned to their more natural orange color.
He smiled. He was once again himself.
"I want to do filthy, amoral things to you, right now," came a muffled voice from the direction of his kitchen. He couldn't help but laugh. It felt good to be free again.
He managed to clean up after the ritual, which was a challenge, since the moment Jared made sure Jensen was done with the magic, he left the kitchen to invade Jensen's space.
"Jared, give me back my shirt," Jensen asked, his voice firm without any hesitation. They could flirt and share sexual tension. Hell, he wouldn't be completely opposed to tempting fate by getting more up close and personal. But this was not a good moment for that.
Jared ignored him completely, of course, and moved closer to Jensen. He raised his hand and ran it up Jensen's arm, making Jen shiver despite himself, his heart beating fast like he was running a marathon.
"In a moment," Jay whispered. "You never let me..." He trailed off, seemingly unable to finish the sentence and tell Jensen exactly what he never allowed Jared to do. He could feel the heat between them, and he found he didn't mind it all that much. He tilted his head a little and parted his lips, ready to kiss Jared any moment now.
The shift in the air was obvious, and Jensen could vividly remember another moment like that when they were so close to actually having sex that his brain hadn't even protest. Jensen knew that if he didn't stop soon, he wouldn't care about the consequences of sleeping with a White Court vampire after the fact.
"Jay..." A plea escaped his mouth, though at that point, Jensen wasn't sure what he was asking for.
"I've got you," Jared whispered before kissing him. Jensen grabbed Jared's shoulders to push him away, but instead found himself pulling the vampire closer. Before he knew it, he was impatiently trying to unbutton Jared's shirt.
There was a vague thought at the back of his mind, one he couldn't realize completely, suggesting that maybe this wasn't the best idea. He ignored it, because Jared's fingers digging into his back felt like the best idea ever.
Then, suddenly, it was as if somebody poured a bucket of cold water over him. He gasped from shock and pushed Jared away forcefully and turned around to face the door. He should've known better than to expect things would go his way for more than two seconds.
Something was coming.
"Get out of sight," he ordered, hoping Jared would, just once, listen without questioning him.
The door trembled in its hinges, like something very strong was trying to get through them.
At first he couldn't identify the force, but when he reached out with his magic, he knew what was trying to get in. The magical signature belonged to the White Council, but Jensen had no idea what they might want or why would they attack his wards without contacting him first.
He gently pulled down the wards that surrounded his apartment, and the moment they were no longer in place the door flew open. Without thinking, he caught the object that torpedoed towards him, the sheer force of it making him lose his balance and tumble onto the floor.
He felt his hand burn and with a surprised curse, he dropped the object. He looked at his hand and saw a bright blue sigil burned into his palm. A tracking rune.
He had a bad feeling about the whole situation. He carefully picked up the object, an envelope, that burned that sigil into his palm and opened it.
Just like that, his world crumbled.
"Jensen. Jen, calm down. Tell me what's wrong?" Jared reached out, no doubt to grab Jensen's arm, but Jensen just moved away and kept pacing and looking at the piece of paper he was holding.
Jensen didn’t even respond. He did open his mouth, but no sound came out of it. He could feel panic raising in his chest.
"Talk to me, Jen…" Jared pleaded gently and moved closer to Jensen. "I'm charming and irresistible, but I'm not a mind reader," he joked.
It didn't help, Jensen was quietly freaking out.
"Jen..." Jared reached out again and managed to touch Jensen's forearm. He lowered him voice and Jensen could feel the hair on his arm stand up from the sensation. "Calm down, Jen. Talk to me. What's wrong?"
The rational part of Jensen's brain knew very well what Jared was doing. He was consciously putting Jensen under his vampire charm, making Jensen want to please him, even if it meant telling him what was wrong.
"Everything," Jensen whispered and despite himself moved even closer to Jared, looking for comfort. "Everything's wrong."
Jared put his arms around Jensen and pulled him into a warm, comforting hug.
"Tell me," he lowered his voice to a whisper.
"I hoped nobody would pay attention," Jensen started. He closed his eyes and listened to Jared's heartbeat, hoping it would slow down his own heart that was still beating at a too fast of a pace. "I blew a powerful Faerie from this realm, of course someone noticed. They felt the magic I used." He was surprised he managed to put his panicked thoughts into coherent sentences.
He felt Jared's fingers running through his hair. The repetitive motion and Jared's close proximity calmed him down. The rational part of him knew that it wasn't real, just the effect Jared had on him. He didn't care. The fear would paralyze him otherwise.
"I've been branded a warlock, Jay. A dark wizard," even though he didn't want to, he moved away from Jared and showed him his palm, where the sigil was still burning bright. "I can't run. I can't hide. When the time comes, they will hunt me down and drag me before the Council."
"Jen..." Jensen didn't have to look at Jared to know the vampire was struggling for words.
"I used blood magic, Jay, dark arts. It's a punishable offense," he took a deep breath, the panic raising in his chest again. “Punishable by death,” he finally admitted.
The silence that followed was almost overwhelming. He knew that Jared was shocked at what he heard, even though it didn’t take long for him to put his feelings under control.
"We'll figure something out. No way that Council of yours will hurt you."
There was certainty in Jared's tone and that was probably what pushed Jensen over the edge. He didn't feel like indulging Jared in his quest for positive thinking. He firmly pulled away and moved to the other side of the room.
"I think you should go, Jared," there was no hesitation in his voice. "There's—There’s stuff I need to do and you'll be a distraction."
It was clear Jared didn't want to go, but Jensen was determined to stand his ground. The point got through to Jared, though, and Jensen watched Jay's shoulders slump. It hurt him to see Jared unhappy, but he didn't move forward to console him.
Instead, he watched the other man leave.
Jensen woke up from a restless sleep the next morning and before he could think about it his hand searched for the second body that was always there, next to him. With a heavy sigh, he forced himself to open his eyes. He looked at his hand, lying on the empty sheets where Jared should've been. His gaze fell on the mark on his palm, no longer bright blue, but a distinctive scar instead.
He closed his eyes again, wishing it all to go away.
It didn't work.
He pushed himself as far from the empty spot as he could and lay on his back, looking up at the ceiling. He noticed three cracks that shouldn't be there. He vaguely remembered his plans to renovate once everything settled down with his magic. Too much damage over the years threatened the structural integrity and his landlady wouldn't like it much if half of the building collapsed because Jensen had been facing off against a Faerie Queen.
Not that it mattered much now.
It had crossed his mind to just pack a bag and run for as long as he could, but he didn't consider it seriously. The moment the thought occurred, his mind immediately supplied images of Chris and Steve and Jared and everything Jensen would be forced to leave behind. The Council would go after his friends, of that he had no doubt; there was no way he'd be able to talk Chris and Steve into running, and Jared...
Jared was a territorial creature by nature. His territory was New York and not only would he have a hard time leaving, he would always be in danger from other vampires who would consider his presence on their territory an act of aggression. At least that's what Jensen suspected, from what he learned by watching Jared and doing his own research.
Jensen had no doubt that Jared would go with him, if Jensen asked. If only to protect him.
It would be pointless to run anyway, with the tracking rune burned into his palm, the Council would be able to pinpoint his location no matter how far he'd run.
Jensen took a deep breath and contemplated his situation for a moment.
He couldn't run, so when the time came, he would stand trial for practicing dark magic. Not knowing how much time he had left was one of the things feeding his fear.
He wanted to think that all he needed to do was to plead his case and defend his actions, in hopes that the White Council would see the situation his way. Based on the stories Jensen had heard, his chances of getting out of it were slim to none.
Maybe he should just accept his fate and just make sure that people he cared for were safe. There was no need for them to suffer because he was an idiot.
Once he made the decision, he found he could breathe a little easier. Even though it wasn't much, it gave him purpose.
He closed his eyes and took another deep breath, counting firmly to ten, getting into the right mindset to get out of bed. He had to face the day and figure out how to stay alive long enough to set everything in motion. The cracked ceiling would have to wait for the next tenant.
He didn't even get the chance to finish his morning toast when his phone started to ring. He let it ring for a while, hoping whoever was calling would give up, but that didn't happen. He sighed heavily and picked up.
"Ackles," he answered shortly, not even trying for a pleasant tone.
" My rookie looks like someone killed his puppy," Kane said instead of hello. " You want to confess? What happened?"
Jensen hesitated, wanting to confide in somebody, but instead he just took a deep breath.
"What do you want?" he asked instead, hoping his tone would discourage their usual banter.
"Play it your way then," Chris muttered not even trying to hide it from Jensen. "I need you at a crime scene. I have a bad feeling about this one, and I need your mojo." He didn’t even pretend to make it a question. Jensen wanted professional and he got an order instead of a suggestion. He deserved it.
"Chris, I don't think--"
"Paddywhack told on you, so I know you're all fresh and clean, don't even try denying it. Get your ass into your wizardy gear and come do your job. Since it’s your first job back now that you’re a real boy again, I’ll take it easy on you.”
"You're so considerate, Chris, what did I do to deserve you?" Jensen did his best to sound flat and as if he was playing along, while he tried not to choke on the words. A simple conversation like that and it hit him how much he would miss Chris. He cherished their friendship so much… He refused to wonder if Chris would miss him after his death.
He pushed those thoughts away and cleared his throat, trying to sound casual. "Where are you?"
Kane gave him the address and told him to hurry. Jensen disconnected the call, finished his toast and drank the last of his coffee. He got dressed and gathered all his tools. Chris always told him to hurry. Jensen was too used to that by now to stress out about it.
The address of the crime scene was practically around the corner from Jensen’s apartment. He ducked under the police tape about fifteen minutes after he left the apartment.
"Jensen! Finally! What took you so long? Couldn't leave the house without make-up?"
Jensen rolled his eyes.
"Was it not twenty minutes ago that you promised not to mock me? Where did that go?"
Kane smiled happily and wrapped his arm around Jensen's shoulders.
"That was before I saw you and realized how much I missed seeing your ugly ass around."
"You have a funny way of showing it," Jensen responded without heat and forced a smile to his face. Chris' attention tugged at something deep inside Jensen. There was a possibility this was the last time he would see his friend.
"I mock because I care. Let me point out that I’m not threatening you with bodily harm," Kane said. "You should appreciate that and tell me what did this."
They got to the door and Kane opened it. With years of experience on crime scenes, Jensen thought he was prepared for anything Kane could show him. He was wrong.
The body was on the floor, lying in a pool of blood and covered in a bloody mess that Jensen assumed was the victim’s clothing. The worst thing was the head. Or rather the lack of one.
Jensen found himself trying very hard not to puke. He took a step back and made a gagging noise.
Chris patted him on the back. "I know Jen. Now close your eyes and tell me what I need to know in order to catch the bastard who did it."
Jensen nodded and took few calming breaths. He closed his eyes and felt Chris moving away. He explained to Kane over the years why he needed his space during spell casting, how it was important not to mix the auras.
He tried to concentrate, but he couldn't get rid of the image of the headless body lying on the floor; only it wasn't the victim's body, but his own. Decapitation was the White Council’s favorite execution technique and he knew he would soon look exactly like Kane's victim. It wouldn't be teeth and claws that severed his head from his body, but a clean blow from a sword.
No. He couldn't think about that right now, he told himself.
Without opening his eyes, he moved even further away from Chris and took another deep breath. He did his best to relax. He cracked his neck, trying to relieve the pressure he felt in his muscles.
It didn't work. He couldn't take his mind off the image of his own lifeless body. With a heavy sigh, knowing it was useless, that he was useless, Jensen opened his eyes.
Much to his surprise, he was able to see the magic lines around him. His own emerald green, oh how he missed seeing that, was a little dimmer than usual. Chris' dark blue was woven tightly as usual with Steve's gold. The rest of the room was filled with shades of green and brown. It looked very much like a military camouflage and Jensen had no idea what it meant.
He rubbed his neck and shook his head, letting the auras disappear.
"It's something earthy. I think," he tried to interpret the colors. "Maybe a creature from old-school folklore? Or a gardener," he shrugged.
Chris looked at him, his face blank. The voice in the back of Jensen's mind noted how similar that expression was to Jared’s, whenever the vampire wanted to hide his thoughts.
They looked at each other for a few moments, with each second’s passing, Jensen felt less and less sure of himself. Then Kane's expression changed and he glared.
"Really? A vague earthy creature or a gardener? That's all you can tell me?"
"I'm surprised I could even get that," Jensen told him honestly. "I'm-- I'm not exactly at the top of my game right now," he admitted reluctantly.
"I thought once you got the bad mojo out of your system all would be back to normal."
"It is," he assured Kane quickly. " That’s all good now. There’s something else – I guess my head’s not in it," he shrugged again.
Chris raised his eyebrow and looked around, making sure they were alone.
"In that case, I suggest you get your head out of your ass and back in the game, Jenny. It's one thing if you're recovering from the big bad fairy godmother. But it's the adult world around here and just because you had a fight your boytoy and don't feel like it, doesn't mean you don't have to do your job. And it is your job, in case you forgotten."
It didn't take a genius to realize that Kane was angry. Jensen grimaced. He knew Chris took his job very seriously and he probably should've phrased it better.
"I know. I'm sorry. It's not what I meant. I just have some stuff that I need to deal with. I'm a bit preoccupied, okay?"
"Preoccupied? What could you possibly be preoccupied with when there's a headless body lying right in front of you?!" Chris raised his voice, letting his anger get the better of him.
"I've been accused of using dark magic, okay?!" Jensen yelled back, before he could stop himself. It felt good. Both, telling Chris and watching the man's anger disappear in a second.
"The fuck you're talking about?"
Jensen shrugged and looked away.
"When I was defending myself from Adrienne. I deliberately used my connection to the blood amulet I... had at the time. The White Council found out, and now I’ve been branded and will probably be executed soon, because the Council doesn’t look too kindly on people like me." He stole a glance at Chris to see his friend's reaction. "Can you see how I might be a little preoccupied?"
Chris nodded. "Sorry," he muttered. Jensen could tell he was thinking about something, trying to figure something out. "Listen, Jen... You do know you can use me as a character witness and all, right? I mean your track record with the PD has been pretty solid. It should count for something."
Jensen couldn't help but smile.
"Thanks Chris, but I don't think it's that easy... It would be impossible for you to give any kind of testimony."
"What do you mean?" Chris sounded genuinely confused. "Magic or not, there should be a trial. They should allow witnesses for both sides. That’s how justice works."
Jensen smiled a little at that. Sometimes Chris was such a cop, deep to the bone, it didn't matter how open minded he was. He had a firm belief in what justice and law was supposed to look like and got angry when it didn't match up. One would think that after years of working on the force, Kane would already be disillusioned when it came to the justice system, but that wasn't the case.
"Oh, there will be a trial," he assured his friend. "It’s just-- due process is different in my world. You won't be allowed to participate in it. You're a mortal with no magic to speak of, not to mention they are sure to have decided what the outcome of the trial will be as soon as they learned what I’d done," he explained quickly before Kane even asked a question. He could tell that his friend didn’t like what he was hearing. “I shouldn’t even be telling you this. The whole Council business is supposed to be a secret.”
"This is bullshit," Chris didn’t hide his annoyance. “And won’t you get in more trouble for telling me about all this?”
A bitter snort escaped Jensen.
"I've been accused of practicing black magic, Chris. They will chop my head off and I'll end up just like your victim over there," he motioned at the body. "I can't really get into more trouble than that."
Chris ignored the chopped head comment. "You’ve spent years not telling me about your magical IA. Why now?”
It was Jensen's turn to shrug. He wasn't all that sure himself. It had slipped. He was so tightly wound that it was a surprise it had taken him that long to snap.
He looked at Chris, feeling a surge of affection. Chris might mock him, curse at him, call him names, but he also had his back. Chris had put himself in danger for Jensen and cared for him when he was hurt. Even if Jensen was the one with the actual power, Chris was the one who was overprotective; who yelled at Jensen whenever he felt the wizard took unnecessary risks.
"You're my best friend," he simply stated. "Maybe I didn't want you to wonder why I disappeared, or if you found my body somewhere. So you'd know what happened. And why."
He didn't look at Chris, feeling uncomfortable with the way this conversation was going.
Chris smacked him in the back of the head. The force of it almost made him stumble.
"You're a fucking idiot, you know that, right?"
"Hey!" Jensen objected rubbing the back of his head. Say what you would about Chris Kane, he could throw a punch. Or, a slap, in this case. "What was that for?"
Kane just scowled.
"For being an idiot. Should I say it in Spanish? Eres un idiota," he enunciated. "You're not going to die, and those fuckers will not cut off your head, because you're not a dark wizard, or whatnot. Let's face it. You're way too pathetic for that. And even though I've had my share of pathetic criminals, and they're quite common; you'd sooner hurt yourself than an innocent person."
Jensen wasn't sure if he should be flattered or insulted, not to mention that he had no idea what to say to that. He spent the following moments just staring at Kane, searching for the right words.
Finally, as if to cover what was quickly becoming an awkward silence, Chris rolled his eyes and moved away.
He walked around the body so it was now between them and crouched, looking closely at it.
"We’re not done with this, but right now I need you to try again. Do you think you can do that? I'm sure the CSU will find something when they sweep the place, but I need an anchor to interpret the evidence. Need something to run with if they come up blank."
Chris looked up at Jensen, his face serious. Jensen knew that expression. He saw it every time Chris was worried, every time he talked to the victim's family, every time he testified. This was the face of a man on a mission. Jensen would hate himself if he didn't help.
Jensen cracked his neck and stretched his arms in front of him, trying to relieve the pressure and relax the deep tissue muscles. He rotated his wrists and cracked his knuckles as well. He looked at Chris, who, without a word, moved away from the body.
He took several deep breaths before closing his eyes. He emptied his mind, as much as possible. He took the thoughts of his impending doom and pushed them to the back of his mind, locking them tightly in the place where he kept all the things he didn't want to acknowledge. Then he just stood there, breathing calmly.
Once he knew the dark thoughts weren't coming back, he channeled his energy, letting it flow through his body. Then he opened his eyes. Emerald green. Dark blue with gold. He made notice of those colors and discarded them as unconnected with the case. He concentrated on all the other traces.
He could see the difference in the scene right away. It was crisper and clearer. What previously looked like a military themed mess was now a meticulously woven thread. The green and brown strands were creating a strangely familiar pattern. Jensen had a feeling that he'd seen it somewhere before.
Hesitantly, he reached out to trace his fingers along the magical pattern; hoping muscle memory would give him some hint of what the source of the aura was.
"I think it's a were of some kind," he said hesitantly. "I think I saw this pattern when I was dealing with an animal-spirit back in ‘05. Victims had been beheaded then too. The pattern is a bit different here, so I can't tell for sure."
He looked at the magical lines for a few more seconds before closing his eyes and shaking his head, letting his concentration drop. When he opened his eyes again, the room was back to normal. If by normal, you meant a headless body on the floor. Disturbingly enough, it was Jensen's normal.
"Okay," Chris' voice sounded much more cheerful now. Jensen wondered how much of it was pretense. "This gives me something to go on. See? It wasn't that difficult."
Jensen smiled and nodded. It didn't feel like he had helped at all. He was used to being so involved in cases that he tracked down all the leads himself, which often landed him in the hospital from all the conflicts he got in. When he thought about it kind of made sense that Chris was so protective of him.
He watched as Chris made some notes in his notebook, probably to be reviewed later on when he briefed his bosses, or something. When he was done, Kane reached into his pocket and withdrew a cell phone. He dialed a number without looking.
"You can let the CSU in now. Tell them it's our crime scene." With no other greeting, he disconnected the call and looked at Jensen. "Thanks Jen. I'll take it from here."
"What do you need me to do?" Jensen asked, because it never ended at just reading the crime scene.
"Get yourself out of the mess with that wizard council of yours."
Chris walked up to him again squeezed his arm in a reassuring gesture.
"And remember. Call me if you need anything. And I mean it Jen, anything. Even if it means hiding your fugitive ass," Chris didn't even try hiding his grin.
"Fuck you, Kane," Jensen replied with a smile. This felt normal. This felt good.
"Steve got there first," came the immediate riposte that made Jensen cover his ears.
"Dude! I don't want to know! Go away!"
When Jensen left the crime scene Jared was nowhere to be seen. Jensen frowned; he was used to seeing the vampire at every single crime scene he worked for the SI. Jared's absence only reminded Jensen how he had thrown Jared out the day before.
He fished his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at it for a moment, with the thought of calling Jared. He needed to apologize and explain he just needed some time to think.
The problem was that he still needed that time, time to think and figure a way out of this whole mess. He had no doubt that Jared would bring some comfort, but what he really needed was a solution.
He put the phone back in his pocket and promised himself to call in the evening, after he hopefully, got some answers.
He walked to his car going through all his options, and quickly realized he didn’t have many of them. In the end he settled on visiting Chad.
There was a chance that the spirit of intellect, who had been around for ages, would have some ideas on how Jensen could defend himself against the death sentence that awaited him right now.
Yeah. Visiting Chad was the best option that he had, and wasn’t that ironic.
Once he made that decision, he knew he had to stop by the adult bookstore before going to Chad's magic shop.
He still didn't get the spirit's fascination with literary porn. You'd think that after all those years Chad had seen and done it all. But the facts remained. If Jensen wanted any kind of help from Chad, he had to arm himself with several volumes of good erotica. The clerks at the bookstore probably thought he was either a pervert or an addict. Or both.
On the plus side, they knew Jensen's tastes by now. Or, rather, what they thought were Jensen's tastes. Jensen never had to spend long in that bookstore anymore. That he counted as a big plus.
Mayhem, the magic shop Chad owned, was open, but empty of customers. It always made Jensen wonder if he was the only person to visit Chad, and if so, how on earth the guy's shop managed to stay afloat. Whenever Jensen came in, there was nobody around but Chad, who was sitting behind the counter, his feet up, reading trashy erotica and eating chips.
Today wasn't any different.
"I see you're busy, as usual," Jensen greeted Chad in a dry tone. The man didn't even look up from his book.
"Carefully Jenny. You shouldn't antagonize people if you want them to help you."
That stopped Jensen in his tracks.
"How do you know I need your help?"
Chad looked up from his book. Jensen knew that look. It was 'you are an idiot, why do I bother?' look.
"You are carrying a bag full of books from my favorite bookstore. Not to mention the fact that you never come around unless you want something." Chad wasn't even trying to hide his smug smile. It would normally irritate Jensen, but he was too busy being embarrassed.
Chad rolled his eyes and put the book away.
"Oh, for... Stop looking like a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar. From the look of your pathetic aura, not only didn’t you steal the cookies, you even repaired the damned jar. Good for you, I'm sure you love being boring again."
The last time Jensen had visited Mayhem, he had needed help severing a link to the blood amulet - the artifact that got him in this whole mess in the first place. Of course, one look at Jensen was all it took for Chad to know everything he'd been up to. The spirit was extremely skilled at reading magical auras.
The last time they saw each other Jensen's aura was blood red from the tainted magic flowing through his veins. Now that it was back to the brilliant emerald green, Chad had come to all the right conclusions.
Knowing he didn't even have to explain all the implications, Jensen raised his hand and showed Chad his palm, and the scars forming the tracking rune.
He watched as Chad's eyes glowed orange and he moved closer to Jensen. He didn't touch Jensen, even though it was obvious he wanted to run his fingers over the scars.
"It's been ages since I saw that!" he exclaimed in a fascinated tone. "But why would the Wanker Council..." Chad trailed off without finishing his question and looked at Jensen's face. Jensen just stood there, under scrutiny, waiting for Chad to figure everything out. There was a certain relief in not having to explain everything. One round of explanation with Chris exhausted him enough.
"Oh," Chad soft voice pulled him back to reality. "Oh no... Jenny... Please tell me you didn't."
Jensen looked away.
"It was me or Adrienne and I was running out of ideas," he shrugged, trying for casual and failing all the way. "Besides, weren't you the one telling me being a warlock could be fun?" he tried to lighten the mood.
"If I could, I would slap you hard," Chad glared at him. "I vividly remember also telling you it's an extremely short career path. Profitable, until they come to chop your head off."
To his credit, he had said so, Jensen had to give him that. Then he frowned.
"Why can't you slap me?" he asked, confused. "Not that it's an invitation, or anything, but you've never had problems hitting me before."
"I'm an unbound spirit of intellect and you're a wanted criminal. If that precious Council of yours as much as sniff a trace of me on you, they will hunt me down and bind me to some disgusting old object, and then poof, no more sex for me. Not many wizards would be willing to supply me with porn for my help."
"Oh," was the only thing that came to his mind.
"Yeah, oh," Chad's tone was dripping in sarcasm. "Brilliant response, as always Jenny."
"Sorry," Jensen allowed himself to sound a little wounded. "You can see I'm a bit preoccupied," he pointedly waved his marked hand.
"Yes, yes. I know. It's all about you, Jenny, as always. Forgive me for looking out for myself while your world is catching up to your stupidity," Chad smiled a fake smile at him. "What can I do for you?"
"If I don’t find the way out of this, you'll feel bad about this being our last conversation," Jensen knew it was a childish thing to say, but it didn't seem like Chad was in a very good mood and Jensen could only blame himself.
Chad rolled his eyes again and walked back behind the counter.
"When you die, I'll take over your consultant position in the PD. That detective of your is connected to somebody who's good side I want to be on," he informed him pleasantly.
"Come on, Chad, I'm sorry. I should've thought about your safety, and I didn't. I'm sorry. But you're the only one who can help me and I'm desperate. There has to be some way I can get out of this!"
Chad picked up his book.
"I hear prayer works. You can try it and get back to me – either way."
If anyone had seen him, they would probably say he left Mayhem and went home to wallow in self pity. That wasn't true. The visit with Chad simply opened Jensen's eyes. He wasn’t going to get any help from Chad. It hurt, but he couldn't blame Chad for getting upset. Jensen had never been trapped for centuries, having other people, evil people, use him as a tool for destruction. He would probably not respond well to anything that threatened his freedom either.
Still. It left him with no answers to his problem. Okay, so maybe there was a little wallowing. But only a little.
Lost in his thoughts, he reached his apartment building. He walked in and without conscious thought, checked the wards, which were intact. He opened his door, walked into his apartment and closed the door behind him. He resealed his wards so that nothing would be able to enter and he leaned against the door.
With closed eyes, he tried to push all the dark thought away.
"You don't look so good."
The sudden voice made him jump before he identified it.
"Jared! What are you doing here?" he yelled, trying to regain his composure.
"You gave me permanent access, remember?" Jay reminded him. "I wanted to check up on you, Chris said you weren't feeling well at the crime scene."
Jensen shrugged. He wondered if Chris and Jared talked about more than the crime scene.
"I'm alright," he dismissed Jared's concerns. "I couldn't concentrate at the scene, what with the death sentence and all..." He walked further into his apartment and dropped onto the couch next to Jared.
Deep down he was glad he had given Jared access through his wards. True, he'd done so in a moment of weakness, when the blood magic was more than dictating his actions, but it turned out for the best.
He closed his eyes and let his head fall back, resting on the back of couch.
"You're still freaked out, aren't you?" Jared's voice was quiet and comforting. Jensen tensed when he felt Jared's fingers gently running up and down his arms, but he quickly relaxed and allowed himself to enjoy the caress. "Jen?" Jay seemed to require an answer to his question. Jensen sighed.
"I went to Ch-- I went to a friend," he quickly corrected himself. He already threatened Chad’s safety that day. They never discussed Chad and Jensen didn't know what was White Court policy on powerful magical spirits possessing a mortal body. "He's had a lot of experience with the White Council and magic in general, but I didn't find what I was looking for," he said quietly, knowing that Jared was close enough he'd hear him.
He felt the couch under him shift as Jared moved, but he made no move of his own. He allowed Jared to gently manhandle him and he soon found himself pressed against Jared's chest. The warmth that radiated from the vampire brought him even more comfort. He felt strong shoulders wrap around him and Jared's lips caressing the skin on his neck.
He knew what the vampire was doing. He was trying to use his White Court charm, to force Jensen's muscles to relax and to push the dark thoughts away until the only thought that remained was that of warmth and lust and a desperate need to please Jared.
At that moment, Jensen didn't care much about the implications and he allowed Jared to do what he wanted. If it meant even five minutes of not worrying about his future, he was all for it.
"It's going to be alright," Jared whispered into his ear. In response, Jensen tilted his head to give Jared better access, hoping the vampire would just go back to kissing his neck. Which he did, and Jensen spent the next several minutes blissfully unaware of the world outside of Jared's lips on his skin.
Then Jared moved his head to once again whisper into Jensen's ear.
"What if I told you I found a way around execution?" he asked.
Jensen didn't care. The death penalty didn't matter, especially not when Jensen could just run his hand up and down Jared's arms and even move one of his hand to rest on Jared's thigh.
Jared wanted an answer though, and Jensen was brought closer to reality when Jared bit his earlobe.
"Jen," he prompted. "What if I found a way out for you?" he asked again.
"How?" Jensen asked a bit more sober.
"I could claim you," came a soft reply. The arms around him tightened and Jared kissed Jensen's neck before gently biting it. "I could extend my protection over you, use my standing within the White Court to make sure nothing ever happens to you. You'd be mine."
For a moment there, it sounded like the best idea Jensen heard in a while. He wanted nothing more than to be Jared's. He was opening his mouth to agree to everything when a voice in the back of his head, one that sounded suspiciously like Kane, started to whisper words of doubt.
Yeah. That's a really good idea. Bind yourself to a vampire. Let yourself be manipulated. Throw yourself at the mercy of the White Court, Jen. Brilliant idea. Eres un idiota. Wake up, you fool!
Those thoughts refused to go away, even though Jensen tried ignoring them in favor of how wonderful Jared made him feel.
They didn't go away though. Instead, they became even more insistent, until he opened his eyes and forced himself to move away.
"Jen?" Jared frowned at him. Jensen caught a glimpse of the silver in Jared's eyes, before they returned to their usual color.
"No, Jay. It's not a good idea," he said carefully, almost tasting the response on his tongue, seeing if he was capable of saying no to Jared.
"But--" Jared tried arguing.
"No," Jensen said, more firmly. "I will not be owned, for the White Court to do as they please with me."
"It wouldn't be like that!"
"Because you'd be throwing your weight around to stop that from happening." Jensen wasn't sure how he knew that, but he was
damn sure it would be exactly as he described.
"Damn it, Jen!" Jared stood up rapidly and threw his arms up in frustration. "Why do you have to be like that?"
"Like what? Like I value my freedom?" Jensen tried reasoning with Jay. The irony of the conversation he was having now, similar to the one he had with Chad, wasn't lost on him.
"It would solve all the problems," Jared insisted. "Otherwise they will kill you. And then, I swear to you, Jen, I will rip all of their hearts out, and consequences be damned," he threatened, not even hiding the cold silver glow of his eyes.
"Jay, calm down," Jensen stood up and reached out, trying to calm the vampire.
"No," Jared moved away. "Just because you don't want my help, doesn't mean I will just let you go. You are mine Jensen. I am not letting them kill you in cold blood and call it justice."
With that, he stormed out of Jensen's apartment.
The sound of the door slamming hadn’t even finished resonating in the room when Jensen heard a smooth, cold voice right behind him.
"That was entertaining."
Jensen spun around, raising his hand that used to carry a protective bracelet. The bracelet he stopped wearing because it was pulling on the power of the blood amulet. Old habits die hard, though, and there he was, with a hand raised, ready to cast a protective spell, facing his enemy.
Adrienne, the Faerie Queen who seemed to be the source of all his trouble, was standing not ten feet away. She bore no marks from their previous fight. Jensen felt a pang of disappointment. Sure he had recovered with time, but he had thrown enormous power at her and hoped he had at least put a dent in her. It appeared he was wrong. Adrienne looked perfect, as always.
"You're alive then," he said before he could think better of it.
"It takes much more to hurt me, darling. You don't have the power, I'm afraid."
She sounded pleased with herself. Jensen would no doubt be irritated with her and badmouth her at the worst possible moment, possibly ending his life before he even faced the official execution, when he noticed her image shimmering on the edges. It was so brief that he would have missed it if he blinked. But it was there. In that moment Jensen was sure, there was a glamour involved somehow.
Maybe it was that Adrienne wasn't really in his apartment, sending her projection instead. Or maybe he actually managed to hurt her, maybe even scar her, and she was hiding that fact under a glamour.
That knowledge, or rather suspicion, made him stand a little more firmly on the ground. Knowing he could actually hurt the powerful Faerie. Maybe he wasn't so bad off after all.
"What do you want, Adrienne?"
"Oh Jensen, always so concerned with getting to the point. No subtlety at all," she smiled but didn't move from her spot. "It's not what I want. It's what you want, my sweet. Get that pesky little tracker rune of your skin? Saving yourself from the Council? I simply want to help you with that inconvenience. You know I only have your well being in mind."
If the warning bells in his head weren't going off already, they would definitely start now.
He raised his eyebrow, but didn't say a word.
"Well?" She asked, apparently expecting a response.
"You haven't told me what you had in mind," Jensen kept his voice calm and quiet, though he had a very bad feeling that he knew what this was about.
"Become my Knight, Jensen. A wizard would do so well on that post."
Maybe if Jensen wasn't still hearing Jared's sweet whispers about becoming his, he would consider that suggestion. But if he didn't want to be a plaything of a White Court he sure didn't want to be a toy in Adrienne's traitorous hands.
"Get out," he said firmly.
"I'll take that as maybe," she said not moving.
Jensen took a deep breath and started to gather his energies, ready to hit her with everything he had.
"You'll be my Knight, Jensen. If not today than tomorrow."
With that, she disappeared and Jensen's legs gave out from under him.
The bed was too warm, too big, too empty and finally too soft. Jensen twisted and turned and couldn't find a comfortable position. Every time he actually managed to drift into sleep, he kept having the same nightmare over and over again.
He was kneeling in a old dungeon, his hands bound behind his back with cold metal shackles. His head was bowed and he couldn't see anything that was happening around him. He knew there were other people in the room, he could hear whispers and rustling of clothes around him, but whoever it was, they were hiding in the shadows, just beyond Jensen's limited vision.
He could feel cold steel on the back of his neck. He didn't have to ask what it was, he already knew. It was the Executioner's Sword, preparing to deal the Council's own kind of justice. Jensen closed his eyes, his breath catching. He was trying to be brave, to keep his composure intact and not lose face in those short final moments.
The voice at the back of his mind, the one that sounded suspiciously like Kane kept whispering "you should've let me testify, Jen. A character witness would make a difference here." Jensen knew it was a ridiculous notion, but it didn't stop the voice from nagging.
Suddenly, he was joined by two other people kneeling next to him, two warm bodies pressed against his sides. He felt warm breaths on his face. The contrast with the cold floor made him close his eyes, but even then he knew who was kneeling next to him.
Gentle hand on his back and teasing lips just millimeters from his skin, making him want to lean into the caress, were unmistakably Jared's. Sharp fingernails digging into his stomach possessively could only be Adrienne's.
"I'll dance on your grave. If there's any," Adrienne whispered, satisfaction clear in her tone.
"Let me help, Jen. I can't bear being without you," pleaded Jared.
The cold steel lifted from his neck, Jensen's heart started beating faster and faster.
"There's still time. Join me," the Faerie Queen started to pull him to her.
"I'll rip all their hearts out, Jen. I don't care about the consequences. I'll paint this place red if they hurt you," Jared's voice was broken, but Jensen knew he'd keep his promise and the Council wouldn't survive.
He was being pulled in all directions. His brain desperately praying for mercy. All he knew was that the execution was inevitable, but he couldn't let Jared turn into a monster.
Then there was Adrienne. One simple 'yes' and everything would be alright. He wouldn't have to worry. All he had to do was say 'yes'. All would be right.
His scream escaped his mouth just as the sword was falling down and the world was going dark.
Then he woke up.
Every time, in an endless loop.
By the time the morning came, he was more exhausted than before he went to bed.
When his alarm went off, Jensen simply opened his eyes. He wasn't sleeping, not by a long shot, he didn't have the strength to get out of bed either. The case he consulted on yesterday could probably use it if he looked into it in more detail, but he was pretty sure that Kane wouldn't let him. His friend would probably bar him from the case in a misguided attempt to help him concentrate on solving his own problem. Chris would have difficulty understanding that Jensen didn't want to think about the situation.
'Then get your ass in a gear and do something to distract yourself,' the voice in the back of his head, the one that sounded suspiciously like Kane himself, hissed.
Jensen sighed and took several deep breaths, steeling himself against whatever the day would bring. He pushed the nightmares and the worries to the back of his mind and locked them tightly with all the other things he couldn't afford to think about.
"You can do this," he whispered to himself and got up.
He went through his morning routine almost on autopilot. Coffee. Toast. He checked the paper for weird news and weird accidents that could be up his alley. He made a mental note to tell Chris that the break-ins in Queens sounded suspiciously supernatural. Debated if, maybe, he should check it out himself and then give Chris more info on the potential case.
Nothing would keep him distracted and occupied better than a new case he could throw himself into. The cases were what got him in all this trouble in the first place, though, so maybe he'd be better off just staying at his apartment.
No, he thought. He'd go crazy in a matter of days. If he even had that long.
There was no way out of this. Chad was a bust, unwilling to help him, not that Jensen could blame him. Much. Jared's idea was impossible, no matter how much Jensen liked it in his moment of weakness, the voice in the back of his head would never let him agree to being owned. In any way.
Adrienne's proposition... He would never even consider it. He knew better than to make deals with Faeries. Though, maybe, for a very brief moment, possibly... There was a chance that he was tempted.
It didn't last though. He was going to die. He didn’t know when exactly, but his execution would happen.
He had other things to do now.
"Concentrate, Jensen," he told himself rubbing his temples. "You can’t just disappear one day and live the city like this. There has to be somebody who could help."
He took the first piece of paper he could find and wrote down the name of every single wizard or supernaturally inclined creature or mortal and debated whether or not they would know what to do or would be willing to share the information with Kane if the need arose.
Then it came to him.
Of course! How on earth hadn’t he thought of this sooner? He kept wondering and worrying, when he should've called his mentor the moment the tracking rune was burned into his palm. The one person who knew him and knew his approach to magic. The person who trained him when he was starting up, who showed him the subtleties of magic.
He should've called Sam Ferris!
Much to his credit, Jensen didn't drop everything the moment the thought of calling Sam occurred to him. He managed to wait five minutes.
He wasted another five minutes he wasted looking for the phone number. Despite being really close to Sam, when she was training him, he didn't really stay in touch. He hoped she still had fond memories of him.
When he finally managed to find the number, stuck in one of his older textbooks on aura readings, he prayed it was still working.
The seconds waiting for somebody on the other end to pick up seemed like eternity. Finally, he heard a voice on the other hand.
"Hello?" he didn't recognize the voice, which confused him.
"Sam?" he asked hesitantly.
"Who's this?" the woman on the other end asked sharply.
"It's Jensen. Ackles. I, uhm, I wanted to speak to Samantha Ferris. If it's possible..." He wasn't very well-versed in phone conversations, as he ever only called three or four people.
"MOOOOOOOOOM!" the sudden yell startled him and made him move the receiver away from his ear. He didn't know Sam had any family, let alone a daughter.
"Hello?" A second voice came on. One he recognized in an instant, despite the years that passed.
"Sam?" the hesitation was still present in his voice.
"Jensen! I didn't expect you to call me."
For a second Jensen didn't know what to say to that. It didn't sound like she was happy to hear from him. Had the news of his crime got to her already? Did she believe he was guilty?
"I ran out of people to consult?" he asked uncertainly, even though he wanted to make it a statement.
"About the trial," she on the other hand had no problems making statements, apparently. The voice in the back of his head was unusually quiet. Even though Jensen almost expected his subconscious to suggest Sam thought he was guilty as well. Why else would she sound so calm?
Jensen's hand tightened around the receiver as what she actually said caught up with him.
"Trial," his voice sounded alien in his ears, like he wasn't in charge of it. He cleared his throat, just so he felt more in control. “As in, not an execution? Sam?”
Did that mean he actually had a chance of getting out of this alive?
"You messed up, kid."
“Is there going to be a trial? Sam, come on, I need to know…”
“There’s been some discussion. I can’t tell you anything else.”
"Okay, I, uhm, I can respect that,” Jensen said even though he felt surreal. “But, Sam, you know it's really not how it looks, right? I mean, I did--"
"Jensen!" she interrupted him just as he was about to explain the entire situation. "Stop right there."
"But--" He wanted to ask her why, what's wrong.
"No, Jensen. Don't say another word. You can't tell me anything. There hasn't been a wizard gone dark in centuries. I know you have your story, one you think explains what happened and why. Just make sure it's a damn good one. The Council is holding a trial only because there were certain parties pushing for it. They're paranoid and scared of what a dark wizard can mean for us. If it was up to them they would send the Wardens after you with the order to execute you on sight."
"Sam," he didn't even try hiding the fear that was becoming bigger and bigger as she spoke. "I--"
"I know you Jensen. I know you,” she reassured him. “But the Council is too scared right now. And they're not very forgiving to start with. I'm sure you had your reasons. But I need you to strongly consider the possibility that the Council will not be very understanding."
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't even pretend to be optimistic. Even Sam thought he was an evil warlock. She dangled the possibility of a trial in front of him juts to yank it away. There was no way for him to be alive at the end of it all.
The panic took over and he couldn’t process what Sam was actually saying. Instead he allowed his mind to supply the most gruesome images of his dead body on a stone floor.
He must have made some noise, because the next thing he heard was Sam telling him to put his affairs in order and that he didn't have much time left.
Suddenly, sparks started to come off of the receiver and the cord started to melt, but the cold claws digging into his heart, making it pump at a staggering pace didn't ease even a little. Instead, he began to hyperventilate, trying to catch breaths deep enough to stay alive, even though it felt like his life was slipping through every surface, running away from him.
He was vaguely aware of the static around him, and books, papers and other small objects flying around and crashing into walls. He didn't care. The feeling of panic that appeared when that tracking rune was burned into his hand was in full force. The only thought he truly paid attention to was the fact that he was going to die.
There was nothing anybody would or could do.
Soon, he'd be dead.
Everything halted and fell on the floor. He wasn't sure if he was the one who yelled or if it was Sam, but it did work in pulling him back to reality.
You need to get your affairs in order, echoed through his head. Sam was right. He wouldn't get another chance.
He quickly apologized for his outburst, even though he wasn’t entirely sure how much Sam was aware of, and hang up.
He didn't calm down right away. To center himself, he started to clean up the mess that the sudden burst of telekinesis caused. He wasn't sure where that outburst came from, since he had never been one with a particular talent in that field, but he'd heard about people who became emotional, causing all sorts of chaos. Thankfully nobody had witnessed his lapse in control. It wouldn't work well for him if it got back to the Council.
The physicality and mindlessness of the chore allowed Jensen to reset his brain, helping with the panic. The fear wasn't completely gone, but it became manageable. He could breathe again, which he supposed was a plus.
Once he felt tired enough, he stopped cleaning and looked around. The apartment looked less like it was run over by a horde of elephants. It would have to be enough.
He felt a wave of nostalgia as he looked at his stuff, the books now back on the shelves, the space that wanted to look like a kitchen, his general working area. It was a good apartment.
He sighed and grabbed his coat. He should go before he got emotional again. A walk should calm him down.
He ended up going to the subway and getting on the first train. He ended up near Central Park and he made a quick decision to get to the diner he frequented.
The bell rang when he opened the door and he flashed back to the day of the very first murder. That had put him on the track that led him where he was. The day he had met Jared.
"Hey Jensen," the waitress, Katie, smiled at him. "Long time, no see. What can I get you?"
"I actually wanted to settle my tab," he explained a little embarrassed. She frowned at that.
"Why are you so surprised?" he felt a little wounded at her surprise. It was as if she didn't expect him to pay those outstanding bills.
It was her turn to be embarrassed.
"I didn't mean for it to sound like that," she assured him. "It's just very out of the blue and all."
He rubbed his neck. He didn’t want to go out with unpaid debts.
"I might be leaving the city for a while and I’m not sure when or if I’ll be back,” He lied, hoping he sounded convincing enough. “The latest paycheck cleared and I wanted to pay you back, but if you don't want to..." He took a step back, astonished that he was capable of delivering jokes.
"No, no!" Katie raised her hand to stop him. "I'm completely okay with you paying your debts!"
She smiled at him and ran around the counter for the notebook where she kept track of all those bills he always meant to pay but never got around to. He had a tendency to run out in the middle of eating, whenever Chris called with a new case, with no consideration for his bill. He was more occupied with catching the murderer or preventing the end of the world and paying for coffee just failed to make his priority list. Thankfully Katie was very understanding.
"$239.83" she read from the notebook.
Jensen blinked. He had no idea he’d stiffed Katie for that much money. Katie noticed his hesitation.
"You don't have to pay it all in one go. We can split it into smaller amounts. We waited so long, we can take few more weeks and all."
Jensen couldn't not smile.
"It's okay, Katie. I was just surprised. You never said I owed so much, or I would've paid you back sooner."
"I don't mind. We had a bet going on when you'd remember about it all."
Jensen grinned and reached for his wallet. "Is a check okay?" he asked, thankful that he had enough money in his account.
On his way out he bumped into a familiar figure.
"Sorry," he muttered, before he realized who was standing in front of him.
"Wizard," Paul Wesley greeted him coldly.
Jensen couldn't help but notice how good the Red Court vampire looked. He guessed that sucking blood out of innocent victims really paid off when it came to regenerating. A little fire probably hadn't had much effect on him.
"Looking good," he tried being polite, feeling a bit awkward, trying not to stare too much at the scars he noticed on his neck. His regeneration wasn't good enough, it appeared. Maybe not enough virgin blood in his diet. Jensen held that comment to himself.
It appeared Wesley heard him anyway, because his only response was to raise his eyebrow and look at Jensen like he was a bug Wesley was forbidden from squashing.
"Right," Jensen looked around, trying for casual and failing miserably. "Tell Nina hi from me," he finally settled for, and he quickly corrected himself. "Or, rather, tell her 'bye' from me, I probably won't be seeing her again. She should be glad, the new wizard might not meddle in her affairs as much."
That made Wesley frown. Maybe he wasn’t used to being a messenger between an annoying wizard, not that Jensen would ever qualify himself as annoying, and the Red Court Queen.
"What are you talking about?" he asked before putting his mask of indifference back on.
Jensen shrugged, what else could he do.
"Nothing important," he shook his head. It wasn’t like he could talk to a Red Court vampire about White Council business. Telling his best friend would be frowned upon, vampires would just get him in more trouble. Then again, how much more trouble could he get into. “Nothing I want to discuss with you,” he amended.
Jensen managed to get home without any more chance meetings. Settling his debts with Katie made him feel better. He couldn’t do anything else that day and he'd feel good about himself. At least he wouldn’t have left someone else responsible for his tab. It probably would have cost Katie, and she worked hard enough without taking on his debts.
The feeling of accomplishment didn't mean he was done, though. He was determined to put all his affairs in order. Just in case.
Next on his mental list was Chad, which is why when Jensen pulled off his coat and closed the door behind him, he reached for the phone and dialed Mayhem, knowing full well that the spirit of intellect would be there.
"What do you want, Jenny?" irritated answer stopped Jensen in his tracks. He didn't expect such a direct greeting.
"How did you know it was me?" he asked carefully, imagining all sorts of powers that Chad had that Jensen wasn't yet aware of.
"Caller ID," Chad didn't even try hiding the insult from his voice. Jensen heard it clearly. 'You're such an idiot'.
"Right. Sorry. Didn't think of that," he admitted.
"It's one of your numerous flaws," Chad stated, not hiding his irritation. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to apologize. I was an asshole yesterday."
"Go on," came back after a moment of silence.
Jensen wasn't sure what else to say.
"If I knew how, I'd set you up with a lifetime subscription to the New Releases in Erotica at that bookstore where I get all your paperbacks. Seriously, Chad. I don't want to face... Whatever, knowing you're pissed at me."
"Oh, for fuck's sake, enough with the drama, Jenny. You're forgiven for being an idiot. And once this whole mess is done, I'll hold you to that subscription, don't think I won't!"
Jensen laughed. He was sure Chad was just saying that to keep him in high spirits, but it didn’t change the fact that, somehow, he felt better after hearing it. He could at least pretend that someone believed he'd get out of this alive.
Jensen felt much better after finishing his conversation with Chad. One down, two to go, he thought.
He was leaving the most difficult and possibly exhausting phone call for last. Not because Jared could wait, as far as Jensen was concerned he'd be the first person Jensen called. But he knew that Jay would insist on coming over and this once, Jensen wouldn't have the heart to tell him no.
The next phone number he dialed belonged to Chris. He tried to rehearse in his head what he'd say once Kane answered the phone, but when the receiver on the other end was finally picked up, all those plans promptly disappeared.
"Hello?" Jensen immediately recognized Steve's warm voice.
"Hey," he greeted the other man. "Is Chris there? I wanted to talk to him," he grimaced a little. Stating the obvious now, Jenny? Mocked the voice at the back of his head.
"He's mulling over crime scene photos. Apparently he's short-staffed this week," the light tone suggested Steve meant it as a joke, but it made Jensen fell guilty for leaving Chris to fend for himself.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I have some things that need to be dealt with," he apologized.
"Is everything okay?" Steve asked, concern clear in his tone.
"Not really, no," Jensen found himself telling the truth, even though right before the words left his mouth he was planning on telling a lie. "But it can't be helped, unfortunately."
He really wanted to tell Steve what was going on, in detail. He had a feeling that Chris' partner would be as supportive as Kane.
"I'm sure it's going to be just fine, Jensen," Steve reassured him. "Whatever it is," he added almost as an afterthought.
Once again, Jensen found himself wondering about Steve. It was that nagging feeling he sometimes got when he was staring something right in the face and still couldn't connect the dots.
"You know what kind of trouble I'm in?" he asked carefully, knowing full well that Steve could blame Chris for telling him everything. And yet, there was a chance that for once, Jensen would get a straight answer.
There was silence on the other end. Maybe Steve was weighing his options?
"Why don't I call Chris over. You wanted to talk to him," Steve reminded him, as if Jensen didn't ask any questions.
"Yeah, thanks for that," he decided to play along. If things really did play out in Jensen's favor, he promised himself to talk to Steve and not let go until he got his answers.
It didn't take long for Chris to come to the phone and Jensen didn't have the time to get ask Steve more questions.
"What's up Jenny? Decide you need that character witness?" Chris asked the moment he got a hold of the receiver.
Jensen had to smile.
"Nah," he responded and much to his surprise, he felt his body relaxing. "I just wanted you to write down some stuff you might need later. For cases, or whatnot."
"Oookay," he could tell by Kane's inflection that the other man wasn't really buying it. That was a curse of being friends with cops, they tended to be pretty perceptive. Especially those with years of experience on the job.
"Just humor me, okay?" he asked lightly.
"Fine," he could hear a rustling of paper on the other end, meaning Chris was actually reaching for something to write with. "Hit me."
"There's a magic shop, called Mayhem. A guy named Chad runs it. He's deep into the supernatural community, so he might be able to answer questions you have. He'll probably proposition you and make inappropriate comments, but try not to kill him. And remember to pay him for the information. He accepts payment in smut paperbacks--"
"In what?!" Chris interrupted him, no doubt confused by what Jensen was telling him.
"Just go with it. Chad's a bit of a perv, but he's the best out there. Plus you get a full magic library for your use. Which brings me to another thing. There's a girl working at the NYU Library, Eliza. If you ever come across something old, she's the one you want to call, she'll hook you up. Write down the contact info for them both, just in case."
He dictated the numbers and the address for Chad's shop.
"Why are you telling me all this?" Chris asked, even though they both knew why.
"Just humor me," he asked again. "I'm not done yet. If you ever need a wizard, there's this guy in New Jersey, Misha. He's pretty new to all this, and he's what you could call eccentric, but he packs some pretty serious mojo. He's unaffiliated which is something you want in a wizard." Especially since apparently being affiliated with the White Council could get you killed if they didn’t like your methods. That, Jensen kept to himself.
"Jensen, I'm not going to need a wizard. I already have one on retainer and he's pretty high maintenance, if you want to know my opinion."
"I might not be around--"
"Shut up, you moron. You're going to be alright, you hear me?" Chris asked forcefully.
"Chris, please," Jensen allowed himself to plead. He heard a heavy sigh on the other side.
"Fine. Anything else?"
"Yeah," he started. "My apartment has some extra special artifacts and if anything happens, I'll need you and only you to dispose of them. I don't want--" The front door to his apartment burst open and Jensen dropped the phone.
What came next was pure chaos.
Several things happened at the same time. When the door burst open, or rather was kicked in with what Jensen considered excessive force, he turned around and dropped the receiver without finishing the sentence. The wards he always put up when he was inside were activated by the assault, and a bright yellow light pulsed where the shields were hit by the intruders.
"Shit, I thought he would come willingly!" The voice on the other side of the wards had a heavy British accent. It sounded vaguely familiar and a voice at the back of Jensen's head whispered that he knew the guy.
Jensen didn't have the time to try and match the voice with a name in the mean time. His eyes were wide with surprise.
"What? No! It's not me! You got it wrong! I'm not the one doing it!" He yelled raising his hands in surrender. It wasn't fair, damn it. If they gave him the time he would lower the shields and none of this would be happening. "Wait! Just let me--"
He raised his hand and pointed it at the door to take the wards down.
"Watch out, he's trying to fight back!" another wizard yelled.
"I'm taking down--" he tried to explain, but they didn't want to listen.
Before he could do anything, the wards gave in from the constant strain the other wizards were putting on them, and he found himself facing three really pissed off wizards. Two of them looked vaguely familiar, and he figured one of them was the owner of the equally familiar British accent.
"Look, it's not how it looks, I swear!" Jensen tried to explain the whole misunderstanding again, but it still didn't work.
In retrospect maybe he shouldn't have had raised his casting hand at them.
Before he could say anything else, he was hit with a spell that threw him across the room. A short scream of pain escaped his lips when his back connected with the bookshelf. Automatically, in a move that was instinctive after all the fights he’s been in, he released his own energy in an attempt to protect himself.
His hand hurt. He vaguely recalled that it was the one with the tracking rune on it. Maybe he landed on it badly, he thought.
He was too busy to check it, because what was in his mind, self-defense, was taken as another sign of aggression by the wizards. He managed to roll to the side and a strong kinetic punch hit his books instead of his body.
He didn't have as much luck the second time and before he could raise stronger shield around himself he felt himself being crushed into the floor. The pressure was unyielding and he couldn't breathe, the force pushing all the air out of his lungs. With the last of the air left in his lungs he whispered a spell, pushing against the invisible force. He felt it lessen slightly, but then another force joined in. He desperately tried to catch a breath, but couldn't and still struggling, he slipped into unconsciousness.
Jensen came back in small, slow waves of awareness.
The first thing he was aware of was pain, pulsing in almost every part of his body. The soreness of strained muscles turned into a nagging pain, mixed with hot sharp pain of wounds that appear after a serious beat down, combined with the unbearable pain of an open wound that had salt poured into it.
He became aware of all those sensations before he became aware of the cold. It surrounded him completely. It was in the hard wall pressed against his back and in the damp mattress he was lying on. The air he breathed was cold and it seemed like it was wrapped tightly around him, keeping any warmth away.
It took him few more seconds to realize that the cold was especially intense around his wrists. He tried moving his arms, but his hands felt like they were weighted down. He forced himself to open his eyes, even though they felt like they were permanently glued shut. A bright light blinded him for a brief moment, before his eyes adjusted. Then he managed to see what was weighting his hands down. The source of the pressing cold was a pair of old fashioned steel manacles, wrapped tightly around his wrists, connected with a heavy chain.
He pushed himself up with a lot of effort, his abused muscles screaming in protest. He let the wall behind him support him as he leaned heavily against it. Without moving his head too much, he looked around to try and identify his surroundings.
The room he was in was small but bright, with tall windows and empty walls. The bunk bed he was on bolted to the wall, and the mattress on it was damp and riddled with holes.
He wasn't sure where he was, but he had a bad feeling about it.
He wasn't sure how long he just sat in that room, but it was long enough for the pain to dull a little. The bright sun dimmed as well, leaving Jensen to assume at least half a day passed, but that was just a guess.
During that time he managed to take a more careful inventory of everything he could see in the room as well as his own state. He carefully tested the manacles on his wrists, with physical strength, not wanting to hurt himself more than necessary.
He closed his eyes and concentrated, trying to unlock them with his magic. He was tired, so he followed each step of the incantation and spell casting to the letter, taking his time relaxing and clearing his mind, gathering the energy and releasing it, accompanied with a proper phrase, as he opened his eyes. Instead of manacles opening, like they were supposed to, they glowed bright blue and he could feel them absorbing the energy he just released.
"Damn," he cursed under his breath. He should've thought about it. They wouldn't hold him without guards in the room, if they hadn't put some other security measures in place. He never heard of bindings that would absorb the magical energy of the wizard as it was released. If he came out of this alive, he'd have to ask Chad about it. He could definitely use something like that in his line of work. Even if it would mean suffering through an infinite amount of sexual jokes about his newfound love for bondage. He could just bet Chris would go there, especially if Jensen showed his annoyance.
He didn’t want to think about either of his friends, it hurt too much.
The door to the room opened and he was rudely pulled out of his thoughts. He could feel an even colder breeze enter the room that made him shiver.
He sat up straight, trying to prepare himself mentally for what, or who, could come in. He schooled his expression, trying for cool and composed, not wanting to give the wizards who captured him any kind of satisfaction.
Much to his surprise, the person who entered the room wasn't one of the wizards that assaulted him in his apartment. Instead, it was his longtime mentor, Samantha Ferris, in official White Council robes. He blinked several times, to make sure he wasn't hallucinating.
"Sam?" He greeted the woman with some hesitation, not knowing where he stood, after their last conversation.
"Jensen," she nodded at him and waited until the door closed behind her. "It's good to see you," she added.
He raised his eyebrows at that, not entirely sure how to take that. "If you say so..."
"I wish it was under better circumstances," she amended. "But I'm glad to see you nonetheless."
"I wouldn't guess from the way our last conversation went," he couldn't help but take that jab at her. He was bound with magical manacles, about to face a trial that would probably end up in his execution. He felt like he could be excused for being petty.
Yes, said the voice in the back of his head, one that sounded suspiciously like Kane, because this is exactly the moment in your life when you can afford to antagonize everybody, including your potential allies in this mess. Good job, keep it up.
Jensen grimaced. "Sorry," he apologized. "I'm a bit on edge right now," he explained and raised his shackled wrists to drive the point home.
"It's okay," Sam assured him with a gentle smile. "If I was in as much trouble as you are, I would probably snap at people too."
"I didn't go dark, Sam," Jensen tried to make his case with his mentor, hoping she'd believe him and be on his side when the trial started. "I had a good reason for doing what I did, you need to believe me."
"Jensen," Sam warned him. "They allowed me in, because I was your mentor, but don't jeopardize yourself or me. I think you'll get your chance to plead your case. I just wanted to make sure you were okay, I heard the wizards sent after you used a lot of force."
Jensen shrugged. "I'm fine," he assured her "How long do I have?"
"We're still waiting for everybody to assemble. We'll start after the sun sets."
Great, he thought. They already treated him like the creature of darkness, it didn't bode well for him.
The sun set faster than Jensen had anticipated and he found himself utterly unprepared when the doors to his prison opened again, this time revealing two of the wizards that attacked him in his apartment. Though they probably thought of him as a criminal, everything was relative. Jensen hoped the jury would understand that.
He made extra effort to stand up and not show any kind of weakness. He had to stand strong in front of the White Council. These wizards might only be enforcers; Jensen had met his share of those working in the city, strength was all they understood. It was a matter of principle. He couldn't give them the satisfaction of knowing their magic had really hurt him.
He stood straight, his palms rolled into fists in front of him. He hoped he looked calm and collected, like a man who had nothing to be afraid of.
The grey-cloaked men walked up to him, their body language clearly showing they were ready to strike the moment he tried anything. All it took was one accusation of dark magic and suddenly people were afraid of you. There weren't even any heads on pikes involved. Jensen had to respect the reputation.
There was a brief struggle when he fought to keep his balance when shoved forward, but the three of them managed to silently work out the rhythm of their steps.
He was lead out of the room, down a much darker hallway, and into a much larger room. It was dark outside now and no light was coming through big glass windows near the ceiling. The room itself was lit by many torches spread out through the room. The wizards may have been living in the 21st century, but they were still conservative people stuck in their ways (at least most of them were). Instead of trusting the electricity, like Jensen, they preferred fire.
Jensen's eyes rested on the heavy table set in the middle of the room, on a platform. Four people sat behind it and Jensen figured they were the jury that would be deciding his fate. Two men and two women, because White Council, like magic itself, was all about balance.
On the far right sat a black man with tattoos running up and down his arms; so much power oozed off of him Jensen felt it even with all the distance between them. He had a bad feeling that if the wizard wanted to destroy Jensen, he'd squash him without breaking a sweat.
On the other end of the table was the other man, almost a complete opposite, pale with brown hair that looked golden in the light of the fire. A mischievous smile was playing on his lips and Jensen wondered if he was a far descendant of Chad's. He wouldn't be surprised by that. The wizard sat comfortably, as if the entire affair was something he had been tricked into attending and of no real consequence.
It was the women that surprised Jensen the most.
One of them sat there with a soft, almost maternal smile on her face, making Jensen want to trust her instantly. She was exchanging hushed words with a man standing behind her. When Jensen got closer, the man moved to the back. Much to his disappointment, the woman's smile disappeared as well.
The final member of the jury hit Jensen the hardest. Seated on the platform and about to decide Jensen's fate was Samantha Ferris. The woman who had visited him in his cell schooled her features into an emotionless mask. This was Jensen's mentor, who had refused to listen to his arguments. At least now, he knew why.
When he saw her, he stopped in his tracks and had to be pushed by the two wizards escorting him.
It was show time.
They placed him in a circle to the left that was immediately activated with magic. The shackles around his wrists unlocked and fell to the floor. He didn't even try to cross the line, knowing full well that for the time being he was trapped behind an invisible shield.
Once he was contained, and two guards took their place at his sides, the room began to fill with other people. He was surprised at the number of people who decided to bear witness to the proceedings, but he quickly realized that it was a first trial of a suspected warlock in ages. Of course the wizards would be curious enough to attend.
He couldn't see every face, but he knew for sure they were all strangers. Maybe he should've been more social during his time as a wizard, Jensen thought, he'd have more allies in the room now.
When the room fell silent again, a wizard stepped forward. It was the third of the group that captured Jensen, the one with the British accent that had seemed familiar.
"Warden Sheppard," Sam greeted the man with a nod, and suddenly Jensen realized who the man was. He was Captain of the Wardens, a group of war trained wizards serving as enforcers of the White Council and its laws. Everything was black or white for Sheppard and he held his Magic Special Ops Team to the same standards.
Okay, so they weren't really called Magic Special Ops, their actual name was the Wardens. Their uniform was a gray cloak and they were authorized to use combat magic against members of even the White Council if a crime was committed. Calling them funny names was Jensen's strategy to cover the fear he started to feel when the man walked into the light. He knew Sheppard’s reputation and the man was terrifying.
Jensen had a silent freak out, while Warden Sheppard gave the Council a small bow of respect and glanced towards Jensen.
"I'm here to present you with this man," he pointed at Jensen, "known as Jensen Ackles, resident wizard in the New York City, accused of performing dark magic on more than one occasion."
That statement made Jensen grimace and a wave of whispers could be heard from the attendees. The members of the jury frowned.
"If he's gone dark, why hasn't he been executed already?" asked the wizard of the far right.
"In accordance with the law he would've been, Wizard Weatherly," Sheppard responded, "but numerous supernatural entities holding power in his territory demanded a trial be held before the White Council and they be allowed to testify in the matter. It’s been decided that the balance between the Courts and the Council was too important to risk," he said, his tone clearly indicating he didn’t agree with that particular decision.
The members of the jury seemed to be surprised by the news as much as Jensen was. In fact, everyone in the room seemed confused. Everyone, except for Sam, who was sitting there with her mask intact.
"Does this mean there are extenuating circumstances?" Sam asked, her voice working its way above the general noise.
"Somebody certainly believes so." Sheppard's voice was cold and Jensen got a very bad feeling about this. He had a nagging thought at the back of his mind that he knew who demanded to speak during his trial.
"The law is clear. Use of dark magic is punishable by death. There are no excuses," said Sheppard.
"We need to honor our relationships with the supernatural community," said the wizard on the far left of the table and the other members of the White Council nodded in agreement.
"I agree with Wizard Moore," said the second woman. "We should hear them out before announcing the verdict."
Jensen was queasy. There couldn't be many in New York who would bother, except Jared, and none with enough power to sway the White Council, and those who held that power had no love for him.
Yeah, whispered the voice at the back of Jensen's head, the one that sounded suspiciously like Kane, they're going to pretend like they're not going to chop Jenny's head off right away.
It took a moment for everyone to settle. When the room was silent again, Sheppard cleared his throat. Jensen shifted his feet, unsure of what was coming.
"I have been asked to allow the testimony of a high ranking vampire within the White Court," something in Sheppard's tone of distaste suggested there was very little of actual asking involved and that he'd rather the vampire wasn't included in the proceedings.
"White Court?" asked the member of the jury Jensen still couldn't identify.
"Yes, Wizard Thiessen. Ackles remains in a close relationship with the vampire."
"I'm sure we'll soon learn everything we need to know," Sam reassured the others and shot a quick warning glare at the Warden. Apparently, Sheppard wasn't actually allowed to present his opinions.
The Warden acknowledged the reprimand with a short nod, but it was obvious he didn't like it.
"He has made a formal oath not to use his vampire powers for the duration of his testimony," Sheppand informed the Council.
"I present to you Jared Padalecki of the White Court," he announced formally and Jensen forgot how to breathe for a moment. In all honesty he didn't want Jared to be surrounded by a bunch of powerful wizards who would not like a vampire standing amongst them. This couldn't end well.
He watched Jared walk into the room and his heart started to beat faster. It wasn't only worry. Jensen had to admit to himself that Jared looked like a wet dream come true. More so than usual.
He was dressed in a black suit, over a black shirt. Top two buttons were unbuttoned, teasing Jensen with skin that looked golden in the light of the torches. Jared's brown messy hair was styled and he looked liked a million dollars.
Jared moved with confidence but without appearing like a predator, which Jensen assumed was deliberate. He obviously didn't want to appear as a threat.
When Jared got to the middle and finally faced the jury, he glanced to the side and sent Jensen a playful wink.
"Ladies," he greeted the women with a playful smile. "Gentlemen," he nodded at the men with equal amount of appreciation.
Only the seriousness of the situation stopped Jensen from rolling his eyes.
"Mr. Padalecki--" Sheppard started.
"Your Highness," Jared interrupted him.
"Your Highness. If you insist on addressing me formally, that's how you should do it. Since, you know, The King of the White Court is my father. It technically makes me a prince, so if you want to address me properly, you should call me Your Highness," he informed Sheppard politely. "But I was hoping we could be a bit more friendly; I mean who cares about titles, right? You can call me Jared," he gave the jury a friendly wave. They smiled.
Plainly Jared didn't need his vampire charm to wrap people around his little finger.
"Can you tell the Council why you're here?"
" I don't care to lose what is mine. No vampire of any court would dare do so without starting a war. Out of respect for the White Council, I have lodged this formal complaint," Jared responded promptly, a polite smile not leaving his lips.
" Are you saying that Mr. Ackles is under your charm?" Jensen didn't miss how the Warden refused to use his title.
"Well, he's not mine, in the technical sense. I haven't actually had sex with him on a stone table while my Court watched. Jen has some weird hang-ups about that," Jared shrugged, as if he didn't really understand Jensen's problem. Jensen felt his face heat when several people looked at him. That was exactly what he needed; Jared discussing their sex life in front of the White Council. Worse, he had made it sound like they had a sex life to begin with.
"The worst thing is," Jared continued, "I can't actually make him do anything, since White Court charms don't work like that. I can't actually make anyone do anything they don't want to in the first place."
"So he didn't use dark magic because he was under your influence but out of his own free will?" Wizard Moore leaned forward, watching Jared carefully.
"I suppose," Jared allowed, clearly unaware that he just cemented Jensen's fate. "But I'm really glad he did. He stopped a Faerie Queen from establishing a stronghold in my city and upsetting the balance we currently have. Plus I would really hate it if he let somebody kill him before I get into his pants," Jared lowered his voice making it look like he was sharing a secret with the members of the jury.
"Did you know it actually takes time and effort to seduce someone?" he asked with a completely honest, confused expression. "I had no idea it could take that much time! But since Jen doesn't like me using my charm at all, I have to go about wooing him the mortal way. I've been at it for months now and we've barely gotten to second base."
Jensen raised his hands and hid his face in them. He wished the earth would open up and swallow him. He shook his head, not believing Jared was sharing that with complete strangers.
"But I can't help it!," Jared kept talking. "There's something about him that makes me care. I don't know what I'd do if he wasn't around," he said and his voice rang in a complete silence.
His tone didn't change at all during his entire monologue, but everyone heard the threat at the end, friendly tone or not.
Jared stood there for a few more seconds, making eye contact with each of the members of the jury, before he clapped his hands and smiled happily.
"Okay! I hope that helped. I'll leave you to your wizarding and wait outside, shall I?"
He waved at Jensen and left without being prompted. When the doors closed behind him, the wizards present started to whisper between themselves.
"Silence!" Sam raised her voice. "We're not done here! Are we, Warden Sheppard?" she looked at the Warden.
"No," he shook his head. "We have one more outside witness to testify."
Jensen frowned. He had no idea who, apart from Jared, would want to testify on his behalf. Well, maybe Chris. But Kane didn't know where the trial was taking place nor was he a member of the supernatural community.
"May I present Her Highness, Nina Dobrev, Vampire Queen of the Red Court."
Jensen blinked several times not believing in what he had just heard. The doors opened and Nina walked into the room accompanied by two vampires, Wesley and a second one Jensen didn't recognize.
She was dressed in a blood red evening gown that hugged her body tightly. Unlike Jared she appeared every inch the predator she was, moving with a deadly grace. Her chin was raised high, and she kept her eyes only on the members of the jury.
"Wizards," she nodded at them, acknowledging them and ignoring the Warden completely. Jensen couldn't help but smile. She was a Queen and she was in control of her surroundings, no matter where she was. Last time he had to face her, that quality made him worry about his life. Here, when it wasn't directed at him, he could appreciate it. It didn't change the fact that he was still worried. Not knowing what she was here to say made him question her motives, never mind the verdict.
He watched as Sam bowed her head slightly in a show of respect. The other members of the jury followed her example.
It made Nina smile. She liked being treated the way she thought she deserved, which probably explained why she didn't like Jensen much. He wasn't exactly bowing in front of her calling her 'Your Highness'. He was just as likely to insult her and her Court as he was to strike a deal with her.
As if she was reading his mind, Nina turned and looked at him. He tried to swallow the sudden lump in his throat, but it still felt like his intestines were being squeezed by a huge cold chain. He watched a cold smile stretch across her face. He had a really bad feeling about this.
"Your Highness," Sheppard said with respect. Jensen doubted it was sincere, but apparently the Warden was capable of learning from his mistakes, and after Jared reaction, he clearly chose to stick to proper titles. No matter what he actually thought about creatures of the night taking part in a White Council affair.
"Warden," she replied dismissively without taking her eyes off of the jury.
"You asked to speak before the Council," Sheppard reminded her. "Share what you wanted to say," he prompted her.
She took a moment to shoot a cold glare at him before looking back at the jury and taking a step forward.
"You will not execute the wizard," she informed them. The whispers in the audience started and stopped when the two vampires who accompanied Nina turned around to take note of the people who dared to speak up. Nina, in the meantime, continued, as if there were no interruptions. "He is annoying and not exactly the brightest. He pays little to no attention to the supernatural politics of his own city. He's disgustingly righteous, but he is the only wizard of that power we will allow in our city."
"Your city?" Wizard Moore asked carefully.
" You were aware that the Red and White courts struck a deal to keep the Faerie out of the city. The man you hold on trial today is the reason the balance in New York City was restored," she looked at Jensen, amusement on her face. "True, he was also the reason for the brief disruption of peace, but you can't blame a mortal for falling for Faerie misdirection. The moment he learned the truth he did everything the Council would expect from a wizard. He made everything right and returned what was stolen from me."
That made Jensen frown, because, well, no he hadn't. Then again he hadn't seen the amulet since his show down with the Faerie Queen, but Jared promised it was some place safe.
Jensen swore under his breath, promising himself that he would have a serious conversation with Jared if he managed to survive this night. The people around him didn't seem to notice how Nina's testimony was affecting him.
"With all due respect," Wizard Weatherly smiled coldly, " the White Council doesn't bend to the will of the Red Court."
Nina returned exactly the same smile as she looked at him.
"I do not expect you to bend to my will, Wizard. I couldn't care less about what you do with your little wizard there," she motioned her head at Jensen. "I'm simply here to inform you that a part of the power balance treaty between the vampire Courts concerns the who and what is allowed within the city limits. And the White Council is not on the list." She sent a predatory smile at the jury. "Wizard Ackles is tolerated because of his association with the White Court and his insistence on always being impartial in supernatural politics."
There was complete silence, everyone in the room processing what the Red Court Queen had said. Including Jensen, who no longer had a bad feeling about this situation. He realized that his trial, his life and death, was being used by the Red Court, not only Nina personally, to play politics with the White Council. They were using him to gain complete control over the city.
He wasn't the only one to arrive at the same conclusion.
"What you're saying is--" Wizard Thiessen started carefully, tension visible not only in her face, but in the postures of other members of the jury.
"What I'm saying, Wizard," Nina interrupted her impatiently, "is that you can either execute this fool to make a point, or you can keep your fingers on the pulse of New York for as long as he lives. After his death, we will only allow the wizard we deem to be suitable."
Jensen could tell, just by looking at her that he, or anyone on the White Council, would not like the person the vampire Courts chose to allow within the city limits.
The Council was still shaken after Nina's not-so-subtle ultimatum when Moore gave Sheppard a nod. The Warden cleared his throat, which seemed to get everybody's attention again.
"We have no more witnesses," he said with a final note. Jensen frowned and looked at the jury, hoping the panic he felt wasn't visible on his face. He hoped he would be able to tell his side of the story, maybe explain why he used dark magic. But apparently that wasn't on the agenda.
If he wasn't looking at Sam and the other members of the jury, he would probably have missed the quick exchange of glances between Sam and Weatherly.
Weatherly straightened in his seat and it was his turn to clear his throat. He succeeded in getting Sheppard's attention.
"I actually wanted to ask Ackles some questions," he said, glancing at Sam again.
"Wizard Weatherly?" the Warden was clearly confused by the turn of events. He wasn't the only one. Hell, Weatherly himself looked a little surprised that he spoke at all, but he covered his emotions quickly.
"Your association with vampires aside," he waved his hand dismissively. "Blood magic? Really? For years and years your record was spotless, if one ignores your disinterest to function in a supernatural community, and suddenly, what? Venturing into black magic seemed like a good idea?" Weatherly sounded perplexed with that logic. It did sound stupid, Jensen had to admit.
He opened his mouth to answer the question, to explain himself just like he wanted from the very beginning, but Sheppard waved his arm and no sound left Jensen's lips.
"The motives are never taken under the consideration when dealing with a warlock, Wizard Weatherly," he said firmly. "It doesn't matter why he cast the spells. It's the actions that matter. It's what always mattered." The Warden turned his body to face the four wizards and he took a step forward. "Ackles was not under the influence of any mind altering charms, including, but not limited to the White Court charm of his vampire lover. He freely associates with creatures who meddle with the Laws of Magic the White Council have established. He made a conscious choice to wield dark magic against a sentient being, and one with considerable power and sway in the supernatural world. With all due respect, Jensen Ackles broke the law and should be punished for his actions."
“So,” Weatherly’s face lost all its casual appearance and was replaced by cold power. “It would be okay with you if I, as a member of the jury here to decide the man’s fate, asked him a question or two?”
Jensen tried very hard not to frown. There was an obvious power play happening, one he wasn’t privy to. However, if it meant that he would be able to tell his side of the story, he would totally side with Weatherly on this one.
He held his breath as he waited for Sheppard to respond.
The Warden stood there for a second before nodding his head and taking a step back. He waved his hand again and even though nothing felt any different, Jensen knew that the spell holding his voice was gone.
Weatherly smiled again and turned his attention to Jensen. “So? Can you explain to us what happened there?”
He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to explain but nothing came out. Not because of any spell, but because suddenly he didn’t know where to start.
He looked at Sam, who nodded her head with encouragement.
He cleared his throat to buy himself more time.
“The Faerie Queen has been trying to get a foothold in the city for a long time now, but the vampire courts weren’t very keen on it. I can only assume that’s why she chose me as her target,” he shrugged. “I’m the only one relatively unaligned, if you ignore my, uhm,” he hesitated looking for the right word, “my loose association with the Council.”
As he was explaining the situation, the puzzle pieces were slowly fitting together.
“Adrienne has attempted to bribe me on more than one occasion to get me on her side. As a way to sneak in without upsetting the balance, I suppose. She had her mortals meddle in Red Court affairs and tried to kill me more than once.”
The night when her assassin failed flashed before Jensen’s eyes. The only reason why he was alive was because Jared saved him then, killing the mortal while Jensen had been lost in the magical auras he was trying to read.
“I was led to believe that the Red Court stole a blood amulet from a third party. I went to retrieve it and got into a fight with one of the vampires. During the fight I made a mistake of casting a defensive spell while I was holding the amulet, which established a link I didn’t discover right away.”
There was no need to tell a council of wizards that he didn’t know it would happen. He would only tolerate his close friends calling him an idiot.
“The link to the amulet was slowly corrupting your aura, but you didn’t notice?” Wizard Thiessen asked, not even hiding she was judging him for it.
Jensen flushed at that, embarrassed.
“At the same time I met Jared and we were growing closer. I was convinced that the changes and the occasional slip in control were the result of his vampire charm.”
Weatherly nodded, as if he knew what Jensen was talking about. Jensen would normally frown at the mystery presented to him, but he was a little distracted, what with trying to stay alive. He filed that detail to think about it later.
“The moment I knew something was wrong, I went to get help. The Faerie Queen attacked me when I was trying to make things right. I couldn’t let her get her hands on the amulet, no matter what happened to me. It would give her even more power and a way to anchor herself in the area.”
“You made a conscious choice to channel the dark magic,” it wasn’t a question. Jensen nodded, resigned.
"Get your hands of me or I swear to God I will lock you up for assaulting a police officer and I don't give a flying fuck about the mojo you might throw my way!"
A commotion at the entrance to the hall drew everybody's attention as Jensen was preparing himself to be manhandled again by the two wizards that brought him before the jury.
He knew that voice. He heard it in the back of his head every time he was about to do something stupid. For a brief moment he thought that he was imagining Kane's voice, that maybe his mind started to play tricks on him, because he had finally cracked under the pressure but he noticed that other people turned their heads in the direction of the entrance as well.
It couldn't have been a mass hallucination, so the only explanation was that Kane really was crashing a White Council trial.
Only Chris Kane had the balls to do that.
While Jensen was having a minor mental breakdown, Kane apparently manhandled the Warden guarding the entrance. And by manhandled, Jensen meant pushed away hard, with no regard to the fact that said Warden could squash him like a fly with only a thought.
If they survived it, Jensen would have to talk to Kane on taking on people his own size. Then again, the shock itself, of being pushed around with actual physical strength seemed to stop the Warden from retaliating immediately. Before the man gathered his thoughts enough to be able to cast a spell, Chris was already pushing his way through the crowd.
Despite the commotion, Jensen had a clear view of the Warden and he knew what was coming. If he didn't do anything, his friend, maybe his best friend, would soon find himself splashed against the far wall, probably unconscious and with several broken bones.
Jensen took a step forward but was stopped by the circle drawn around him. He raised his hand, even though he knew the containment he was in would prevent him from casting any protective spells. It didn't stop him from trying.
He opened his mouth to yell a warning, the least he could do, but then somebody grabbed the Warden's shoulder. There was no apparent force in that hold that Jensen could see, but the Warden stumbled backwards. He shouted in surprise and his eyes filled with fear.
Another person entered the light and a gasp escaped Jensen's lips.
It wasn't because Steve accompanied Chris to a supernatural event, but because for a brief moment, one Jensen would miss if he wasn't watching, when Steve looked at the Warden, his eyes glowed with the brilliant gold color Jensen had seen so many times woven into Kane's aura. It was the same color Jensen always associated with Steve, now manifesting itself openly, in a way that only a supernatural being could achieve.
Steve didn't say anything, but when he let go of the Warden, the man crumbled to the floor, pale and terrified.
While Jensen was busy being stunned at the clear evidence that Steve wasn't exactly what he seemed, Chris had managed to push his way through the audience and to the front.
He was stopped by Sheppard. The Warden, so fast Jensen could see how he got his job in the first place, raised his hand and with a firm "Stop!" immobilized Kane. Jensen could see his friend struggle against the invisible bond.
"What is the meaning of this?!" Moore's voice boomed over the noise. "Who are you?" he asked Kane.
"I came to defend Jenny, he doesn't deserve what you fuckers are going to do to him!" Kane responded angrily and struggled some more. "Tell your flunky to let me go!"
"Do not speak another word!" Sheppard's obvious anger matched Kane's in intensity. "You barged in on a matter that doesn't concern you. I know you, Detective Kane, and don't think I don't know you have absolutely no magical talent. You have no right to speak in front of the Council."
"Let me go!" Kane demanded again. If looks could kill, Sheppard would be lying in a pool of blood in front of everybody.
"It would serve you well, if you released him, wizard," Steve's voice was calm and quiet, yet it carried clearly over all the other noises.
The room fell silent and the remaining wizards who stood between Steve and Chris scurried away, clearly trying to pretend they weren't doing so out of fear. He wasn't sure why everybody was afraid, but he did feel a bit uneasy. He knew Steve, and he knew he could trust him, but for some reason the hair on the back of his neck was standing, making him want to cower. Nothing about Steve seemed different, yet Jensen wanted to crawl into a corner and hide.
Sheppard stood his ground.
"Wardens of the White Council don't answer to you," he hissed and slowly, pointedly closing his extended hand into a fist.
Jensen could tell by the way Chris' muscles strained that the invisible restraint around his friend had tightened. Chris gasped and his knees gave out under him. He fell to the floor. That was when the chaos started.
"Release him!" Steve raised his voice and took a step forward. Jensen could understand the command clearly, even though it was accompanied by an inhuman roar that should've drown the words completely.
Sheppard was thrown back with an incredible force that made everyone in the room sway under the strain of the sheer power. His back hit the table where the jury was sitting and a loud crack could be heard, undeniable proof that bone was crushed. Sheppard fell to the floor like a rag doll, but everybody was too busy panicking over the display of power to run to him.
The members of the jury moved away from the table, in an attempt to avoid the kinetic force, people in the audience scattered, trying to find cover.
In the meantime, Steve, seemingly oblivious to the effect he was having on everyone, took few more steps and crouched next to Chris. He touched his partner's face, the gentle gesture in drastic contrast to his previous actions.
"Christian? Are you okay?"
With one hand hugging his ribs, Kane nodded breathlessly. He used his free hand to push his hair away from his face and he looked around.
Jensen could see some confusion on his face, which for Kane translated into a rather blunt 'what the fuck?'.
Chris looked at Steve with a frown.
"Is there something you want to tell me, Steven?" he asked, voice neutral, in a tone he always used when he was trying to hide his true emotions.
"Later," was all Steve said. "When we're home again."
Chris looked at Steve for a few more seconds before he nodded in agreement.
That seemed to relax Steve and he smiled. He gently helped Chris back to his feet.
"I should probably take this one," Steve suggested.
"Yeah," Kane looked pointedly at the body of still unconscious Sheppard. "Apparently you, they will listen to."
Jensen grimaced, he knew that passive-aggressive tone, it didn't bode well for Steve. He had no doubt that Steve knew that tone as well, even though up until now Jensen doubted he ever heard it directed at him. The man, if he even was a man; everything Jensen had seen made him doubt Steve was mortal, didn't show any sign that he recognized the tone. Instead, he gently pushed Chris towards Jensen. "I know you're angry, Christian," he said quietly. So quietly, Jensen was surprised he heard it. "And I promise I'll explain everything, but I need you to trust me right now. Nothing will happen to you or Jensen." There was certainty in his voice.
Normally, when Steve was saying something, he made it sound like a suggestion. He was always letting people make up their own minds, he never took a firm stand on anything that directly connected to his relationship with Chris.
Kane's face was like a mask when he nodded and moved towards Jensen.
"Couldn't stay away from the party, could you?" he asked Chris when he stopped right next to the circle that contained Jensen.
"And let you have all the fun?" Chris deadpanned without even looking at Jensen. Then his friend glanced to the side and grinned.
For the first time since he received the notification regarding his trial, Jensen felt a certain sense of camaraderie. Chris, who had no power to speak of or enough knowledge to protect himself from any aspect of the supernatural, had barged in on a White Council trial, just to show his support for Jensen. It mattered a lot.
"You're an idiot, you know?" he whispered, just to cover up the sudden flood of emotions.
"Says the guy on trial," came a quick reply. "If you wanted new jewelry like the stuff at your feet, I would've got you some bling. Or, at least, ordered Paddywhack to get you some."
Jensen snorted at that. He wanted to respond but everything around them was calming down and the members of the jury returned to the table.
A couple of younger Wardens, with their eyes trained on Steve, were trying to gently transport Sheppard away from the table.
When Jensen looked around he noticed everybody was watching Steve, who stood calmly facing the jury.
"I apologize for the outburst," he said quietly, but Jensen didn't have any problem hearing him. He suspected that Steve's voice was heard clearly by every single person in the room. "I'm possessive of what's mine."
It was the first time Jensen heard Steve refer to Chris like that, so he looked to the side, but Kane's face was a perfect mask that showed no reaction.
"Who are you? How dare you barge in on an internal matter such as this?" Wizard Thiessen demanded, standing behind the table, her body tense, ready for a fight.
"I'm Steven Carlson. And, as I told you, I am possessive of what's mine." Steve's tone didn't change, his body remained relaxed and unconcerned with what Jensen would definitely see as a threat.
"Don't lie. That is not your true name," Moore accused him.
Only because Jensen was standing right next to him, did he notice Chris' body tense for the briefest moment, before Kane forced himself to relax again. Apparently Steve's true nature wouldn't be the only things those two would have to discuss.
"It's the name I use."
"You cannot hide from us!"
"I have nothing to hide," Steve assured them and then everything about him unfolded.
Jensen couldn't decide if he was finally losing his grip on reality or if he was having hallucinations. Steve, the Steve Jensen knew for years now, was still standing there.
At the same time, it seemed as if his body morphed. He grew bigger and taller. Hands turned into paws, fingers turned into talons. Steve's body hid underneath giant bat-like wings covered in gold scales. Jensen wasn't sure where those wings came from, but when they stretched far and wide, the entire floor was occupied by a--
No, that couldn't be true. Those creatures where the subjects of stories, myths that were passed on from father to son, like a fairytale - creatures built of pure magic that could live for as long as they wishes and could do anything they wanted. All-powerful and all-knowing.
There was only one problem, dragons weren't real.
In spite of the irrefutable proof that Steve was one.
"I'm going to kill him," Chris whispered breathlessly. Jensen could barely hear the words, but what he heard was full of shock and anger. When he looked to the side to see his friend's face he saw nothing but a neutral mask. Apparently Kane was capable of covering his anger after all.
Jensen wasn't sure if it was a good thing or not.
"This can't be! This is an illusion!" a panicked voice Jensen couldn't identify pulled him back to the present moment and the apparent dragon in the room.
"Use your Sight," Steve's voice sounded directly in his head. "You wanted the truth, I gave it to you."
The dragon stood motionlessly for a moment longer, then Jensen blinked and when he opened his eyes, Steve looked human again. But the power that poured off of him in his true form didn't dissipate as quickly. Jensen could no longer look at him and see an unassuming and nonthreatening musician.
"I would like to appeal on behalf of Wizard Ackles," he announced calmly and waited patiently until the members of the jury sat behind the table again. It took a moment. Moore and Sam were both hesitant and Jensen could see suspicion on his former mentor's face. Wizard Thiessen didn't look concerned anymore. In fact, she didn't look surprised at all.
"Please do," Thiessen invited Steve to speak with a respectful nod.
Steve bowed his head, returning the respectful gesture.
"I realize that Wizard Ackles’ actions were in direct violation of your laws and I will not interfere with whatever punishment you deem necessary," Steve started and Jensen felt all blood draining from his face. He hadn't expected Steve to say anything like that. He could feel Chris tense next to him as well. "I would however, ask you to reconsider the severity of such punishment," Steve's voice was gentle and nothing in his tone resembled an order. It was merely a suggestion. It was obvious he would be pleased if his expectations were met, but he in no way was forcing the issue.
"Wizard Ackles during his time on my territory managed to broken peace between Vampire Courts, ensure the relative safety of the mortal population and ward the city from the Faeries. His methods may be questionable, but the results deserve recognition."
Once again, there were whispers coming from the audience. Jensen wasn't sure what in Steve's speech impacted him the most. That he called the entire city 'his' territory, that he suggested Jensen managed to singlehandedly turn New York City into a supernatural sanctuary, that he called Jensen by his title (something everybody else made a point of not doing), or that apparently the wizards present were buying it all.
"He used dark magic," Weatherly pointed out.
"He used magic" Steve corrected him firmly. "An ancient form of it, but simple magic nonetheless. Despite what you think, magic isn't inherently good or evil. It's merely a tool, like a sword. Unlike the hand that wields it, magic doesn't choose sides in the conflict."
"It is dark," Sam spoke up. "It leaves a taint on a wizard's aura." Her words a direct mirror of what she told Jensen all those years ago when she was still training him.
"It leaves a mark, like everything else you do. You light a candle and it will have some influence on your aura," Steve informed her. "If a wizard allows themselves to succumb to their weaknesses and to the power magic gives them, it does not matter where he or she got that power."
"Wizard Ackles used blood magic to keep Faeries at bay. It was the only magic strong enough to achieve what he needed to do to protect his city. Conscious of your laws, he immediately cleansed himself from what he considered harmful. He used magic as it ought to be used. He used it as a tool. He turned away from the power it gave him, in order to honor your laws. You should honor his choice. I give you my word to honor yours."
Jensen wasn't sure what to think. More importantly, he wasn't sure what to expect.
When he woke up before the trial, he was ready to face his execution. Deep down he knew that the White Council didn't tolerate dark magic. That the only possible outcome was death.
He didn't think the supernatural community was saying they couldn't do without him. Okay, so Jared he could understand. Maybe. The vampire did try to help and maybe that thing they had was important enough to Jared that he decided to take on the entire Council...
Jensen wasn't sure what to think about that, still.
He was even less sure what to think about Nina using the power her Court had to make sure the White Council knew Jensen would be the only wizard ever allowed to exist in New York City. He was sure that she had never paid him much attention if any, and he knew her opinion of him wasn't very flattering. He could vividly recall being called an idiot at one time or another.
He wasn't sure if both Vampire Courts residing in New York City championing him would help with the wizards. On one hand, it painted the picture that he was crucial to the balance in the city, something he doubted himself, but it could be helpful. Then again, vampires weren't exactly the most trustworthy in the supernatural community.
He sighed heavily.
Nothing had gone as he expected it to go and it resulted in him having hope. He should've known better. It would only bite him in the ass when the jury inevitably decided to execute him.
He glanced to the side where Steve and Chris were having a hushed discussion. If by discussion you meant Chris giving Steve a piece of his mind while Steve listened with his head lowered. It was still hushed by Chris's standards.
Jensen still couldn't believe that his friend was a powerful magical creature. He's been in Steve's presence on numerous occasions and had never suspected something was not as it seemed. Well, alright, he might've suspected Steve wasn't as clueless about the supernatural world as he pretended, but dragons had never registered on the list of even the most unlikely possibilities.
"Dragon, Steven!" Chris' angry voice repeated Jensen's own thoughts. It also made him pay attention.
He could understand why Steve and Chris were allowed in his cell while the jury deliberated on his fate. There were very few things that wizards would deny a dragon. As far as Jensen knew there weren't any dragons left (except apparently Steve), but they were said to be very powerful magical beings. Steve promised to respect the White Council laws, and they respected him enough to trust he would keep his word.
Chris was allowed in because he was named Steve's property, and the Council was not about to upset the newly revealed dragon.
Judging from the way their body language changed as the conversation progressed, (and Jensen decided to call it a conversation even though Chris was doing most of the talking) Chris might not even be with Steve by the time Jensen's trial ended.
"Christian," Steve's voice was calm, as usual. Which seemed to piss Chris off even more.
"Do not Christian me. We've been together how many years? How many, Steven?" Chris asked forcefully when Steve didn't answer the first time.
Jensen suddenly wanted to be someplace else. This argument was getting far more personal than he liked to be witness to.
"Seven." Was it just Jensen or was Steve's tone a bit hollow, like he was giving up on something.
"That's right. Seven. And we'd known each other three years before that. I don't know about you, but that's pretty fucking long, from where I'm standing. Sure, for you it might as well be a blink of the eye, I wouldn't know. Maybe dragons live thousands of years. Maybe you don't give a fuck and are just amusing yourself until something shinier comes along!"
"Maybe I didn't have to turn down that SWAT transfer, after all, there was never any threat that the idiots there would corner you and hurt you when I wasn't around. You probably had a great fucking laugh all those years I've been trying to keep the SI shit away from you and not lie to you too much! Did it amuse, you Steven, to watch the stupid mortal try to protect you from the supernatural world that fucking cowers before you? Would you even notice if I wasn't around, if I died? I fucking loved you!”
Jensen winced because that was a low blow, possibly deserved, but he bet it hurt nonetheless.
Steve immediately took a step towards Chris and took his face into his hand.
"Never think that you don't matter Christian. I would give everything up for you. I would raze this city to the ground if anything or anyone dared to take you away from me. You're the most precious treasure I've ever had."
Steve leaned forward until he was touching Chris' forehead with his own. Hair on Jensen's arms stood up when magic filled the air.
"That is how important you are to me. If you were just a mortal to me we wouldn't even be here, but you're so much more..." Steve shuddered and took a breath.
"I didn't tell you about my true nature because I couldn't risk losing you. If that wizard hadn't attacked you I would never have told you."
At that, Chris opened his eyes and tried to move away, his face showing some traces of returning anger. Steve didn't release him though.
"Let me go," Chris demanded, but without as much heat as before. Steve let his hand fall after a moment of hesitation.
"Will you forgive me?" For the first time since Jensen met him, Steve sounded uncertain.
"I don't know," said Chris looking away from Steve, "but helping me get Jen out of here might help you."
Jensen froze, painfully aware that he was listening to their conversation despite the fact that it was extremely private. And now their attention was switched back to him. He felt himself flush a little, embarrassed.
"Uhm... I don't think it works like that, Chris," he tried, hesitantly, glancing quickly at Steve. "Everyone, no matter how powerful, needs to abide by a certain set of rules, and Steve promised not to interfere with the verdict. He'll get in major trouble, he might even lose the magic," he said, even though he wasn't sure what rules applied to dragons and if a creature made entirely of magic could even be stripped of it.
"It's worth the risk," Steve said quietly, his eyes not leaving Chris for a moment.
Chris looked back at him and Jensen would have tried to decipher the look on his face, but he was too busy staring at Steve himself. He did not like the sound of what Steve just said. He did not like reckless Steve; powerful creatures should never be reckless. Jensen had shitloads of power when he was tapped into the blood amulet and look where it had gotten him.
Great power and responsibility speech, someone should definitely give it to Steve once they all got out of there.
"Steve," Jensen started, wanting to get that speech over with, since he wasn't sure if he'd get out of here at all. He was interrupted by someone opening the door to the cell.
One of the younger wardens walked in and looked warily at Steve before turning to Jensen.
"The Council has reached a verdict."
For a brief moment, Jensen had to fight with the sudden feeling of panic. But instead of acting on it, he took a deep breath and nodded.
"Lead the way."
Jensen did his best to act casually as he walked into the big hall where the trial was held. His only other option was to shake in panic and fear and he didn't want that. There were fewer people present, as if the verdict wasn't half as interesting as the trial itself. Apparently he was the only one still hoping for a verdict that differed from the usual.
The wizards he could see were mostly wardens, probably pretending they had the power to make sure Steve behaved. Jensen doubted they would be able to do anything at all.
He looked over his should to see if Steve and Chris followed him and was surprised to see that even though they followed him out of the room, Steve was pulling Chris towards the exit, doing his best to stay out of the way of any wizard. Jensen frowned and slowed down a little. He thought his friends would stay next to him, but it seemed that they would be waiting for the verdict near the doors.
It was odd and Jensen wanted to ask what the hell was going on, but he couldn't, not without calling attention to their behavior.
When the warden before him stopped, so did Jensen. He looked ahead to the table and the members of the jury. He was looking for some sort of a hint to what might happen next but their faces might as well be masks, showing no emotion whatsoever.
"Step into the circle," the warden leading him said. Only then did Jensen look down, seeing a circle carved into the ground, shining with power that run through the lines. It wasn't simply a containment, like the last one they put Jensen in. This one had a purpose and Jensen would soon find out what it was.
He didn't like his odds.
He stepped inside the circle when he felt a strong pull. Apparently the young warden was not the patient kind.
He felt power raise from the floor until he was completely surrounded by it. He raised his hands and hesitated, not sure if he should touch the magical barrier. His fingers hovered millimeters from the force.
"Wizard Ackles," Sam's voice made him look up and lower his hands immediately. "We've come to a decision."
There was silence, as if she was waiting for him to say something. He had no idea what did she want to hear so he just nodded. What else did she expect from him?
Apparently his nod was enough. She nodded back.
"You've broken one of the most important laws the White Council ever had. You used dark magic and you kept using it for an extended period of time. This Council recognizes that there were extenuating circumstances to your actions and that you've played an integral role in keeping the balance in the area."
Jensen started to breathe again, not much and not visibly, he didn't dare hoping, but still.
" Despite all the allies who have spoken on your behalf, you will still be punished for this crime." She stopped and looked away. Moore took over when it became obvious she couldn't continue.
"We have agreed that special circumstances should be taken under consideration and we have decided against capital punishment, taking into the account how it would upset the balance in the supernatural community."
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Would they really let him live?
"We can't allow you to ever reach for the power you've used," Moore continued. "Therefore this jury has decided to sever all your connections to the White Council of Wizards in order to ensure you could never damage this Council and its members."
Jensen's heart stopped.
" You are to be stripped of your power, ensuring you never cast so much as another charm."
He felt something wrap around his heart and squeeze. He gasped at the sensation. The sheer power of the hold forced him to his knees, hands resting on the field surrounding him. The moment his hands connected with the power around him it felt as if his heart was being ripped out of his chest and with every beat it was being sucked into the circle.
He was vaguely aware of someone screaming, only to realize it was him.
"You will never be able to claim the title of wizard again," he could still hear Moore's voice above his screams and the incredibly loud beating of his own heart.
Even though the members of the jury were silent, Jensen's ears were filled with unbearable noise, all the sounds surrounding him: his heart beat, his screams that turned to panting, footsteps around him, other people's voices that he could make no sense of. It was all mixed and amplified and it caused Jensen even more pain.
He curled into himself and ignored the wet skin on his face. He just wanted the pain to end. He wasn't sure how long it all lasted but when the pain finally subsided and the power around him faded away, all he could feel was emptiness where his heart used to be.
Sure, it was beating like before, but the sounds were hollow, like there was nothing there.
Because there wasn't. Not an ounce of power ran through his veins.
He moved one of his fingers. He watched it move, but it didn't feel right. It didn't feel as effortless as it used to be.
As he lay on the cold floor he flashed to his dream. He understood why they executed all the wizards who broke their laws. At that moment, Jensen wasn't sure he'd be able to get up, not even mention try living his life like a regular human. Without the magic he'd had since he was born.
"Jen? Jensen?" there was somebody calling his name. The voice was quiet and hesitant and so unlike Chris it took Jensen a while to identify it. "Come on, Jenny, talk to me..."
Somebody-- Chris -- was touching his arm, fingers digging into his skin. Jensen felt detached, like it wasn't his arm that was being touched. He wanted to react, but he wasn't sure if his body still worked the same as it once had.
The decision was made for him, though, and he felt himself being lifted until he was sitting. Chris had his arm around Jensen's shoulders keeping him upright. He looked up from the floor to see Steve crouching in front of him.
Jensen opened his mouth, trying to say something, but no sound left his lips.
Steve heard him though. He reached out and squeezed Jensen's hand. "I know, Jen."
It was somehow reassuring, but only to Jensen.
"Is he going to be okay?" Chris asked, not even trying to hide his worry.
"All his magic was taken away. It will take time for him to get used to it."
Jensen didn’t want to get used to that feeling, but he couldn’t find the strength inside him to voice that.
He allowed his friends to pick him up and lead him to their car. He allowed them to drive him home, and help him into his apartment.
Despite himself, he shivered when they crossed his threshold. Not because it was suddenly cold, but because he should’ve felt the ward surrounding the place and he didn’t.
There was nothing there and it only drew his attention to the harsh reality of being completely powerless, for the first time in his life.
Jensen wasn’t sure how much time had passed since the trial. He spent his time in bed or on the couch. He ate when food was brought to him and didn’t require too much effort on his part.
Steve was wrong about it getting easier with time. The emptiness didn’t disappear, it didn’t fade even a little.
His body didn’t feel like his own and he didn’t really see the point of anything. He asked Chris to tell Jared to stay away. Without his magic acting as a shield, he didn’t know how fast he’d succumb to Jared’s charm, how fast he would lose his free will. There was precious little left and he didn’t want to lose anymore of himself.
Which meant that Jared had to stay away.
He only talked to Chris now, though with every visit, he was rethinking that.
“Come on, Jen. You have to starting living again,” Chris pleaded with him.
"I don't think I can," he muttered more to himself than anyone else.
"Don't even joke like that, Jen," Chris said firmly. "You'll be okay."
"They didn't just take my magic, Chris. They took the only thing I know how to do. How I make a living. They took Jared, because I'm not safe with him now. They took away my ability to see auras at crime scenes. Chris, I'm no good to you, anymore. They took everything. They left nothing behind."
They had taken his magic and with it Jared and Chris and everything that mattered. All that was left was Jensen, and "just Jensen" knew nothing of how to survive in an entirely mortal world.
"No, come on. Do not even go down that road. I swear to God, Jen, if you even think about crawling into a corner and waiting for death to come I will kill you myself. Don't give up on me, you idiot. I know you. I've known you for ages now. You’ll figure something out. Hell, we'll figure something out. Me and Steve, we're in your camp, right?" Chris looked at Steve for confirmation.
"He'll never be a wizard again," Steve said quietly but firmly. "They stripped him of that power, there is no going back."
Chris pushed Steve away without even thinking about it. Jensen didn’t have to be involved in the day-to-day activities to see that his friends were still not over the revelation from the trial. Chris still held a grudge.
"Do not give me that crap, Steven. I saw the way you whacked the fucker who tried to squeeze the life out of me. I've seen the way they looked at you. You've got major mojo going on, so don't even try telling me there's no way to help Jen."
"It's okay, Chris. I know he can't help. He gave his word he wouldn't interfere with the verdict. He can't, unless he wants his own power to turn on him."
Jensen knew that Steve couldn’t help him. It was okay. Even though knowing his friend had the magic Jensen so craved it hurt.
"Then we'll figure something else. Come one, Jenny, you're my best friend, I will not have you waste away because of a bunch of uptight idiots. I'll help you get your mojo back if it's the last thing I do."
Steve grabbed Chris' hand so fast Kane jumped, startled.
"You can't. If the wizards get a wind that you're trying to interfere with their verdict they will hunt you down." Jensen didn't need magic to know that Steve didn't like the idea of Chris becoming the most wanted on the White Council's list.
"What do you suggest we do? Sit around and watch Jenny waste away?"
Something in Chris’ voice made Jensen think he was asking about other things as well, things not even remotely connected to Jensen’s situation.
At that moment, Steve made a choice.
"Jensen can't get his powers back, but that's not the only magic out there, is it?" Steve looked at Jensen, his eyes glowing with a sliver of gold. "Do you trust me?" he asked and looked sideways at Chris. He was asking them both.
Jensen nodded hesitantly, not sure what was going on. It was enough for Steve, though, because the other man, uhm, dragon-- Steve leaned forward and kissed Jensen gently, coaxing his lips to open.
Jensen obeyed and the moment his lips parted he was filled with fire and warmth that traveled down his throat to his heart, filling him up until every single hair on his skin was thrumming with power. It felt different than the magic he was born with. It felt wild and unafraid. It felt wonderful.
And it kept coming.
The power kept filling him and he felt like he was on fire with nowhere to go. Just as he thought he would burn alive in that wonderful fire, Steve pulled away. Jensen caught a glimpse of gold fire in his irises.
He took a deep breath and exhaled; the smoke coming out of his mouth was the most fascinating thing in the world. Only after it disappeared did Jensen's brain catch up with what had just happened.
Dragon's breath. Dragon's magic. The magic that was running through his veins now, powerful and delicious, wasn't wizarding magic, but it was there.
He moved away from both Chris and Steve. He raised his right hand and pulled it into a fist. Fuego he thought and opened his hand again. The flames burst from his palm and even though he felt them against his skin, they didn't hurt him.
"Holy shit!" he wasn't sure if it was him or Chris who said that. Maybe both.
He looked at Steve's smiling face and couldn't hold the laughter back.
My name is Jensen Ackles and I'm not a wizard anymore. My magic was stripped away from me as punishment for what the White Council considered to be a crime. I'm not powerless though. I've been given one of the most precious of gifts, the breath of a dragon. There's new magic pumping through my veins. It's different and it takes more to control it, but it's nothing I can't get used to.
I'm not a dragon, Steve was very clear on that, apparently it takes more than a simple power transfer to become a dragon, but I sure feel like I am. This new magic is like a shield, protecting me from all the evil hiding in the shadows.
There's still evil out there. New York City might've been declared neutral territory, with both Vampire Courts agreeing to a status quo and only residents being allowed in, but it doesn't mean it's all sunshine and daisies. Humans still need protecting; the supernatural community still needs policing. I'm the only magic user up for the job, the only magic user known to be up for the job. Since Nina Dobrev is a woman, uhm, vampire, of her word and no new wizard will ever be allowed to practice in the city, I'm it.
It's a brand new day, but when I think about it, nothing has really changed, although everything has.
I'm still consulting with the Special Investigation Unit and Chris is still trying to keep people safe.
I'm still helping out people who find my ad in the Yellow Pages, though it doesn't say 'wizard' anymore. It's a way to get some extra cash and it's working out.
Most importantly, I still have Jared. He still flirts with me and tries to tempt me into staying in bed when I ought to be meeting with clients. It must be the prolonged exposure, but it's much easier to resist his vampire charm nowadays. I feel more in control, which makes me more at ease when he's around.
I want him around, vampire or not. It hurts to think of him not being there when I wake up, as sappy as it sounds. I'm okay with being called a sap though. That's what you're supposed to be when you're in love, right?
My name is Jared. I'm a White Court vampire living in the neutral territory that is New York City. It's a brand new day and everything has changed.
I brokered a truce between the vampire courts in the area to keep the man I love alive and safe from the Faerie Queen who wanted his head. It raised my status amongst the vampires so much I'm no longer being second guessed. My claim to Jensen will never be challenged, and as long as he stays with me I can call him mine.
That's what he is, even if he doesn't like to acknowledge it.
Even if I can't put my mark on him anymore.
Everything changed after Steve shared his magic with Jensen, but what changed the most is Jensen himself.
His aura is no longer emerald green with silver flecks woven into it. That was ripped from him along with his wizard powers. Now, when I look at Jensen, his aura is a flowing mixture of gold and red and orange, making him look like he's on fire. If I was a werewolf I would probably smell Steve all over him and it would drive me insane.
His aura I can deal with. I just need to stick around long enough, touch him often enough, kiss him at every opportunity, do filthy and amoral things to him as often as he lets me. I just need to remind him he's mine often enough for his aura to absorb some of mine. It's how auras work, dragon magic or not. Sure, I will have to deal with some gold reflexes on mine, but I can take it.
It would be so much easier if I could just feed off of him, but that new magic of his keeps his life force tightly under wraps.
I'm strangely okay with it all taking time though. I've never actually had to woo anyone and Jensen's special and so worth it.
He's in the shower, in hurry for a meeting with a client. I should probably go and show him how worth of my attention he is. Who cares if he's a little late to that meeting.
My name is Christian Kane, and I fucking hate change.
I hated going into the Army when my sports scholarship fell through and I hated it even more when I had to leave that to take care of my Mother. Then again, they were a bunch of homophobic assholes, so maybe it was better to leave before they discharged me dishonorably.
I hated the Police Academy and how disorganized everything was there. I hated being demoted and sent to the promotion Siberia that is Special Investigations and I hated being unable to close cases because the perp turned into dust after I ran a stake through his heart.
Steve was the only change in my life I didn't hate. I just wanted to keep him in my life for as long as possible and I did everything I could think of to keep him safe from the dangers my job brought. Ten years later, he turned out to be a fucking dragon, so that non-hating thing came back to bite me in the ass.
Still, I could only bring myself to hate Steve for a week. Or, hate him for half a day and avoiding talking to him for the rest of the week. I always knew I was pathetic, but that week I think I hit a new low. I was this close to pining after the bastard.
Truth be told, I couldn't stay angry with Steven for long. He gave Jenny his mojo back, or whatever it is he did that made Jensen happy again. He kept calling me his most precious treasure, which from anyone else would make me throw a punch, but coming from Steve just made me want to let him know I've forgiven him.
Pathetic, I told you.
We talked last night, after I finally called him. Not about why he never intended on telling me what he was and not about how Jensen was dealing will all that newfound, apparently awesome power.
We talked about how knowing about Steve's nature changed everything. I fucking hated having that conversation. I still listened though, I would take much more than that to keep Steve with me. I was even willing to wear that stupid ring he gave me two years ago, the one I insisted on wearing on the chain with my dog tags.
It didn't come to that, thankfully. All the jokes the guys at the precinct would make would just earn me another anger management class.
I still might get that, judging from the shiteating grin Jenny's sporting. I think I liked him better when he was miserable and always tired.
"Chris! Fancy meeting you here. You take me to all the best crime scenes." Judging from Jen's mood, I will probably be short a rookie for an hour. Another change I hate, should've never joked about Jenny getting laid. He's insufferable now.
"Got any dragon in ya? Cuz I do," Jensen jokes and I decide that anger management class might be worth decking him.
"You're never allowed to make this joke. Ever. Again. Not if you want to live," I told him and glared for good measure. "now do some actual work or I'll find myself new magic consultant."
I'm sure I could talk Steve into going on our retainer if I played it right.