Jensen fastened the case containing his sniper rifle and tucked two handguns into the small off his back, a blade already strapped comfortably along the length of his thigh.
He was armed and deadly – a state as natural to him as breathing. They only called him in for special cases these days; apparently his skills were not to be wasted on throwaway causes. He had a specific sort of reputation to uphold.
Checking his phone he was presented with an update on the mark's movements, untraceable white words scrolling past on a dark-grey screen. It was likely to be the last communique he would receive this side of the mission.
His was a solitary existence with no real backup and no escape route to speak of. But then, he'd never needed either before.
Leaning back against the cracked and peeling wallpaper, Jared let himself drop to the floor, catching his breath. He listened to the swirling wind as it slipped through the gaps of the rotting wood, but it carried no sound but that of itself.
It was safe – for now, but not for long.
He'd known as soon as he squeezed the trigger that it was all over, no take-backs. He'd already received past warnings from Base Camp about staying on task, reigning in his self-appointed solo missions. It had barely been 24-hours since his most recent…transgression. Had they labelled him 'Rogue' already? Had he officially 'gone off the rails'?
There was only one thing Jared knew for certain – that they would be after him like a pack of hyenas after the scent of a rotting corpse.
Inspecting the shrivelled curls of wallpaper on the floor, Jensen tucked his gun away and pulled back his face mask. There was the edge of a swept-away boot print amongst the dust and the faintest odour of sweat in the air.
He was close.
The mark was on the run, but a man on the run with a predator nipping at his heels was a man who panicked and made mistakes.
Catching a glimpse of your shadow when you were running through darkness was a virtually impossible feat, but achieving the impossible was something he'd proven himself capable of many times over. Jared had wondered whether Base had forgotten somehow, against all odds, but then he went and caught that impossible glimpse.
It was funny, he thought, how in this game you could never really be sure of your true worth until the end was nigh.
Who they sent to kill you spoke volumes.
And apparently Jared was worth the crown jewels.
He grinned and slipped back into the darkness.
If Jensen hadn't had a job to do he might have even called their little cat-and-mouse game fun. The chase was on – the mark was aware Jensen was gunning for him, and Jensen knew that he knew. They zig-zagged their way across the city, hot on each other's heels, almost to the point where Jensen was wondering who was actually chasing who. He rarely got much in the way of preparation time when a situation like this arose, but knowing what to look for and thinking on his feet were some of his most developed proficiencies. A couple of partly-redacted case files had been presented to him however, so he knew this mark was as much a rebel as the system allowed and employed 'initiative' to an almost dangerous degree. Back in the day he might have been someone Jensen would have liked in his team, but those days were long gone, and now once he stepped into the field Jensen had only himself on his side.
Arriving to a mostly abandoned sector of the city, Jensen took his time to assess. The way he was reading it, the mark had been leading him through places he was familiar with, looking to get the jump on Jensen and take him out first. It was a smart move – you keep running away and you eventually get tired, but stop and fight while you've still got some energy and you might have half a chance.
He pulled his face mask back up over his nose and wrapped his gloved fingers more firmly around his gun.
A sharp sting pricked his neck and instinctively he grabbed at it, pulling away a small military-grade dart. He cursed himself as the drug took hold. Fucking sloppy, Ackles.
Perhaps he shouldn't have felt so pleased with himself as he strung up his pursuer against the concrete wall, but Jared couldn't help it – he'd caught the proverbial 'big fish'. He couldn’t believe they'd sent the formerly-known-as Agent Ackles after him, now the ghost operative known as The Enforcer. He was a fucking legend amongst their kind and Jared was nothing less than completely and utterly flattered. To be killed by him would be an honour, even despite the circumstances. Except that Jared had no intentions of dying anytime soon.
He checked his watch and then gave Jensen a stinging slap across the face. He came awake with a restrained jolt, and Jared marvelled at the way in which he took in his surroundings while still appearing to focus on Jared. It was impressive, but Jared expected no less.
Jensen raised an eyebrow in question, and suddenly Jared realised how broad his smile was. He shrugged.
"Well done, you."
The ghost's tone was deadpan, but Jared still let that smoky tone send a little shiver up his spine.
"I am pretty pleased with myself, considering I should otherwise be dead by now. Living on borrowed time is feeling alright so far."
Jared stepped in a little closer, enough to get a good look in Jensen's eyes. He'd stripped away the weapons and most of the body armour before he'd strung Jensen up, including the mask and skullcap that had obscured his face. Now he was vulnerable to Jared's scrutiny and he was definitely going to look his fill – he'd known that Agent Ackles had been a looker, but the ghost was fucking gorgeous. He could have laughed.
"How about you, though? You look pretty goddamn good for a dead man, Jensen."
That surely got his attention.
"How the fuck do you know my name?"
"A little birdy by the name of Jeffrey Dean. Although he didn't tell me per se… We got a little friendly one time and his home stash was just one firewall short of a challenge. Saw some cute pictures of you though – you were some pretty ripe jailbait back in training days, on and off the field if you catch my drift."
For all his years' experience even Jensen couldn't wrestle down his reaction to the under-handed taunt.
"Even by the time I was old enough and good enough to register on Jeff's radar, I don't think he'd ever really let you go. Talked about you a lot, you know? In the past tense, of course. Must be weird to have to keep up a pretence like that when he's likely the one that ushered you into the ghost program in the first place."
Jensen's face had settled into stone. Time for some deflection, no doubt.
"What do you want with me, Agent? You've stopped me from carrying out your sanctioned death, do you plan to kill me instead? Run off and spill your intelligence secrets to the highest bidder? You'll be a fugitive for the rest of your life, unless you think you can persuade Russia or China to take you in?"
All legitimate questions, but Jared had some of his own. "Tell me, when someone like you gets a kill order, do they even tell you my name? Do they tell you what I did to deserve my death? Or even why I deserved to be killed by you?"
Jensen bit down on his tongue, wondering how much he dared say, if anything at all. This might have been Jared's first time seeing him in the flesh, but it was not Jensen's first time seeing Jared, not by a long shot. How would he react if Jensen confessed such a thing? Would it be to his advantage? There was no way he was getting free of his chains with Jared standing only a few feet away. He'd need at least 30 seconds of alone time to manage that.
"I know your name, Jared. I know a lot more about you than you might assume."
"Read it all in my file, did you? You must be good at skim-reading, or does someone give you the cliff notes and then suddenly you think you know all the important bits?"
Taking a breath, Jensen let fly.
"You only have a file because I approved you in the first place. When I moved on from advanced solo ops I picked you as my replacement. I watched your whole team from behind false walls and computer screens for hours and hours, discussed my findings to the higher-ups until I was blue in the face. Base Camp thought you were too much of a loose cannon but I convinced them you had everything the program needed and I was right, wasn't I? At least until now."
Jared's eyes had grown wide as Jensen's secrets were revealed, but his expression changed at the final comment, his eyes looking at Jensen strangely.
"You don't actually know what I did, do you? You were going to kill me without having the faintest idea of it."
It wasn't the first time he'd been accused of such a thing, although, admittedly, it wasn't usually the impending victim doing the accusing.
"I have a singular and very specific job, Jared. And I've kept this job as long as I have because I'm really fucking good at it, regardless of surrounding circumstances."
He could see the rage in Jared instantly starting to boil. Then two steps later there was a fist bunching up the front of his shirt, pulling Jensen into his personal space.
"So I have to die even when I did a good thing? I'm not proclaiming my innocence, I would never, but that French motherfucker was about to make off with nuke schematics! Maybe it wasn't part of my mission to know what was in that hard drive but I found out anyway and how could I live with myself knowing those were out there in god-knows-who's hands? So I shot him where he stood and blew up the drive, and don't regret it for a fucking instant."
Jensen grit his teeth. "You done?"
Taking a breath, Jared tried to calm himself. It almost annoyed him more than anything else about his situation that Jensen looked, at best, mildly irritated. He wondered what it would take to break such a façade.
And so, in a moment of foolishness, he kissed him.
It was more a rough mashing of lips than a proper kiss, but it was worth it for the shocked gasp that jumped out of Jensen's throat. He kept at it until Jensen had just barely started to respond, and then pulled away. His lips were dark pink and thick with the beginnings of swelling. For all that Jared wanted to hurt him and hate him in that moment, he had to admit it was a good look on Jensen, and something he might have wanted to explore more in another lifetime. Unfortunately, having a violent death looming over his shoulder was a bit of a boner killer.
He pushed his hands under Jensen's shirt, grasped at his chest, his waist, and stroked over the crotch of his pants. He was built as perfectly as Jared might have imagined, exactly the sort of well-honed and danger-bleeding form that he loved to have in his bed, but wrong place wrong time, as they say. He stepped back with a sigh and checked his watch for the second time that night. If Base Camp were so hell-bent on their rogue operative going down for stepping out of line and threatening an international incident, then there was no way Jensen would be the only one after him, despite The Enforcer's reputation.
Moving to the small array of weapons he'd removed from Jensen's person earlier, he armed himself, switching off the safety on one of the guns. It was disheartening to have to leave his prize behind when he'd caught Jensen fair and square, but a little self-preservation was first on the list of what came next. Besides, if things went to plan, it might not all have to come to an end quite so dramatically.
"I imagine you've been shot before, so you'll know what to expect."
Jensen didn't even flinch at the threat, only blinked and pursed his reddened lips.
"I also imagine you'll be able to get yourself out of here all the same, but I figure I should warn you – we're in an old Base facility that most have forgotten about and I intend to blow this baby up on my way out. Found a little plastic explosive out back and can't bear to waste it, y'know? There's more than one exit down here though, so as long as you're quick enough…"
He didn't dare hesitate as he pulled the trigger, putting a hole in the side of Jensen's torso. It was low enough that he should have missed anything too vital and Jensen would have half a chance of living through it providing he got medical attention. Jared had gunned plenty of men down in the past, but killing Jensen outright would just have been too… final.
Tucking the gun into his belt he went to see about the explosives. It wouldn't be long before it all went up in flames.
He turned back around just the once.
"You get out of here and I'll come find you next time around."
Jensen merely looked back as if he were annoyed by the whole thing.
Hacking Base's system was almost too easy when you knew all the tricks, and Jared couldn't help grinning when he found both his own and the Enforcer's profiles listed as 'MIA'.
Quickly he gathered his things and left the safe house – Base would trace him before long – and besides, he had places to go, people to see.
He licked his lips, hoping second time's a charm.