Jensen can’t focus at work. It’s not a new situation, not by a long shot. All he does is stare at Excel spreadsheets while cursing numbers that make his eyes cross. But it’s a job, and it’s one he’s pretty good at. Crunching data, crafting formulas so that business make sense to everyone above him on the corporate ladder. At the same time, it manages to keep him out of the public eye of the sales and delivery teams.
It’s dull yet easy for his brain to work it out, then pass onto the next layer of management so they can use it. He doesn’t even hate the staring at screens all day long, because at least they’re a certain fact to him.
All the other stuff swirling around in his mind when he’s not totally focused on a computer screen is another matter.
Like being pulled into a meeting Friday afternoon, bored to death watching the sales team do their best to transfer his numbers into PowerPoint slides for a big presentation the next Monday. He shouldn’t have to be here. He doesn’t do presentations and graphics. He does numbers. Besides, he hates being in this corner conference room with the floor to ceiling windows that are far too much a distraction for him.
Today’s additional distraction comes in the form of the landscaping crew outside. A worker is climbing a tree, about three stories off the ground with picks on his feet to help him up easily. Jensen watches with an annoyed interest … he knows something will happen, some uncertain danger that he’ll see just moments before it occurs. Or maybe it’ll be the lady with the hedge trimmers, going to work on the large bushes dotting the massive front lawn he drives by every morning and night on his way in and out of work.
He winces with the woman’s every careless move of the trimmers, and waits for the vision of her swinging wide and hitting the guy just behind her who’s trimming the grass along the sidewalk's edge. Or maybe she’ll drop the equipment on her foot. Or worse, chop off her own arm.
Then it comes … that hazy feeling in his brain. Lightheaded, warm waves flowing over the top of his scalp. The man in the tree cuts a relatively short yet thick branch from above, and when it separates from the trunk, it spins wildly. The straps that circle the tree and the worker to keep him in place became a perfect net to catch the branch, which unsteadies him, causing him to the ground with a high-pitched scream.
“Jensen?” Misha calls out.
“You with us?” Alaina asks next, and Jensen finds the team of five professionals staring at him.
He blinks at them then quickly turns towards the windows to find the grounds crew all intact in their assigned places. That damned branch is in place, but the crew member is yanking his chainsaw out of the rut he’s made then goes back in, arms and shoulders shaking as he fights against the bark.
“What about the spring numbers?” Misha asks.
Jensen continues to watch the scene while answering on automatic. “You said you only needed fall and winter.”
Alaina clears her throat. “We should really show year to date if possible.”
“Those are the big numbers,” he replies, wincing when the chainsaw gets stuck again. The worker takes a short break, wipes his arm over his face before grabbing the handle of his equipment again. “Um, I think I have to …”
Misha comes closer and looks out the window for whatever has Jensen’s attention. “You have to what?”
The vision replays itself, this time the break of the branch is a loud, threatening crack just before it trips into the straps. Jensen has learned over time that the visions grant him a few warnings before they’re a reality. Typically, he is allowed a handful of visions, but he’s not about test it any time soon.
“What’s going on out there?” Alaina complains as she comes over, joined with the rest of the team.
Now they’re all distracted enough that Jensen can hurry out of the room. He takes the west hallway to the stairs and jumps down to the next landing before spinning to the next set of steps. He punches through the fire door hard enough that it smacks the side of the pristine white building, then he runs to the offensive tree.
“Hey! Stop! Don’t do that!” Jensen shouts up at the worker, whose chainsaw is far too loud to be heard over. “I said stop doing that! You’re gonna get hurt!”
The guy finally looks down and shakes his head, motioning to the headset protecting his own hearing, then gets right back to cutting that stupid branch.
Jensen’s lived through at least two dozen moments just like this … trying his damnedest to stop injuries and accidents, but never really getting through to anyone. And just like most of those incidents, he has to find an alternate solution for preventing broken bones or deep cuts too close to internal organs.
The universe grants Jensen a full two seconds to decide what to do. When he hears that heartbreaking crack, he looks up, swears to himself, and takes a deep breath. It’s not slow motion like in the movies, but a sped up version of events when the guy slips out of the straps after being knocked around by the branch and falls. His arms pinwheel around and Jensen’s thankful the crew member is relatively small, maybe half a foot shorter than his own height and incredibly lean. He thinks maybe it won’t hurt too much to try to catch him. But of course that’s not what happens. Instead, the guy elbows Jensen when they touch, then pins Jensen to the ground as they land helplessly.
He groans in pain before the scene breaks into chaos with the rest of the landscaping crew running to them.
“What was it this time? A little old lady locked out of her house?”
“No,” he answers brusquely, cradling his left arm with his right hand. It’s sore as hell and the skin is all scraped up, but her judgmental look is possibly more painful.
“A kitten in a tree?”
Jensen rolls his eyes, trying to ignore that she’s not too far off with the tree.
“Mr. Ackles!” the petite doctor declares as she joins them. She takes a few seconds to look at Danneel then clears her throat. “Hi,” she redirects to Danneel. “I’m Dr. Cortese, and I’m happy to say your husband is a really lucky guy.”
“She’s not – ” Jensen says just as Danneel flutters her pretty little lashes at the doctor.
“We’re not married. We’re gay.”
The room falls silent and Jensen glares at Danneel for being so bold to declare it loudly in the ER.
Dr. Cortese takes a moment to stare at his chart, seeming to collect herself before granting Danneel a soft smile. “Okay then. Well, Mr. Ackles, you’re still very lucky. Not a single broken bone.”
This is also routine: doctors truly excited to report he’s still in one complete piece, declaring him lucky, and warning him to watch out next time or else it could’ve been worse. He doesn’t question it, not anymore. Just waits for the prescription of pain pills to soothe the aches of playing hero and plans on a night of soft, dreamy euphoria thanks to hydrocodone or darvocet.
“I’ve never seen anything like it?” Dr. Cortese exclaims with a bright cheer. “But I guess that’s your payment for being such a good Samaritan.”
Danneel fakes gagging at the doctor’s peachy disposition and Jensen does his best not to laugh. Especially when Dr. Cortese looks over her shoulder to find Danneel suddenly beaming right back at her. “He is such a good Samaritan, yes,” Danneel insists with her own fake joy.
Dr. Cortese’s cheeks go pink as she turns back to Jensen with her head down to read the chart. Danneel now flips her hair over her shoulder as she checks the doctor out from head to toe with a quick flit of her eyebrows, and Jensen clears his throat to get this over with as soon as possible.
“So, I’m good to go?” he suggests.
“I don’t have any reason to keep you here much longer.” She smiles carefully and tucks the chart against her chest as she tips her head to consider him. “But I do notice you have a bit of a lengthy rap sheet here. A lot of accidents?”
Danneel snorts and Jensen lifts his head up against the scrutiny of both women. “I guess I’m kinda clumsy.”
“Kinda?” she asks slowly as Danneel repeats it with an eye roll.
The women share a look and Jensen wants to throw up from the flirty glances being tossed around. Or maybe it’s the deep throb in his elbow, radiating up to his shoulder. His bones don’t break, never have in the history of these premonitions, but it doesn’t mean they don’t hurt like hell.
Jensen clears his throat for what seems like the twentieth time since Danneel showed up. “So, Doc? Am I released then?”
“Yeah, I suppose you are. Still having pain? One to ten?”
“About a seven.”
She makes a thoughtful noise. “Okay, well, I don’t feel super comfortable giving you anything too strong. But I’ll get you a prescription for some Tylenol with codeine to ease the pain.”
The doctor excuses herself to wrap up his paperwork and Danneel rushes to his side. “Check out the hot doc!” she fake whispers, punching his shoulder. The bad one.
She’s ashamed immediately then frowns. “Sorry! How would I know?”
He huffs while trying to motion his to his arm. “I’m fucking holding it.”
“Okay, yeah, sorry. I’m just … dude, that girl is fly.”
“Don’t say fly.”
“But she is! Mmm, what I’d do with that lil body.”
“Mr. Ackles,” Dr. Cortese says as she re-enters, glancing quickly at Danneel, likely having heard their conversation. “Here is your prescription and your release papers. I’d suggest lots of ice, staying up in bed to keep pressure off your arm, and to be very responsible with your pills.”
He’s had this very lecture before, often worse. It’s the very reason he now insists ambulances bring him across town to a different hospital.
“Yes, ma’am.” He salutes with the prescription then is left staring at the doctor’s back when she turns to Danneel.
“And here is my number. For staying up in bed as well.”
Jensen sighs, dropping his head back to stare at the ceiling. He doesn’t move until he can tell the doctor has left and Danneel has returned to the pain in the ass roommate she’s always been.
“Alright, let’s go Sammy.”
“What?” he complains as she helps him off the bench and guides him out of the curtained area.
“Sammy … Samaritan. You’re just so good.”
“So what happened this time?”
He grumbles to himself, then to her. “I’m not telling you.”
Her voice nearly shrieks when she stops them in place. “Why not?”
“Because you hit on my doctor while I was injured.”
“Well, you weren’t gonna hit on her.”
Jensen picks back up the pace to head out of the hospital and into the parking lot. “Not the point. You were totally distracting her.”
“I can’t help it that I’m a lady magnet,” Danneel preens as she helps him into the passenger side of her SUV.
Before she starts the car, she eyes him carefully. “So, really, what happened this time?”
Jensen stares out the front windshield as he remembers the heavy load that crushed him to the ground and how his body creaked through the pain, despite keeping its relative shape. He lowers his voice to tell her. He also prepares for her laughter, just like always, and accepts her loving harassment in trade for her staying in with him and playing nurse tonight.
“Oh, hon,” she chuckles, even while giving him such a loving look. “You are cursed. Or blessed. I can’t tell anymore.”
Which also means that once the visions became a regular part of his life, he refused to believe they really meant anything. In the beginning, he ignored them and then witnessed a number of accidents he’d rather not relive, like baseball players sliding poorly into second base and twisting their knee so badly the joint nearly spun itself 180 degrees.
He does thank … something, someone … that the visions are never deadly. Just hapless accidents that he’s able to curb from being more severe than his mind makes him witness.
So, when he’s up in the middle of the night a few days after his recent trip to the hospital and finds himself on the floor of his hallway with nothing but bright lights blinding his vision, he knows there’s something wrong.
There’s no warning to the sight … no fuzziness or ringing in his ears. There’s just a shocking glare of a spotlight whiting out the end of his hallway where the bathroom should be. The very room he was heading for, but is now gone thanks to the bright lights burning before him. A sharp pain flares at the side of his skull and he becomes dizzy, finally falling to the ground. He cries out with the pain of his still-bum shoulder taking most of his weight as he brings his other arm up to shield against the light that draws closer and closer despite his inability to move.
He faintly hears his name being called and he tries to answer. The pain in his skull throbs and pinches in his ears. He thinks the voice calling for him is familiar, but it’s not Danneel. It’s a man’s voice repeating his name just before a loud bang sounds and the light dissipates.
Jensen huddles down to the floor, trying to turn away from the hallway and shuffle back to his room. He cries out with the pain in his head, more in his shoulder as he moves, and even further down in his legs. His name is heard again with more urgency than just a few seconds ago, and now there are arms coming beneath his shoulders to pull him up.
“Jen! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
This voice is Danneel, surely, as are her thin fingers touching his face, neck, chest. He tries to tell her what all he’s just seen, but just mumbles random parts … Lights. Pain. Head. Gun.
The last word gets her more frantic and then she’s calling out for him again. Her voice is demanding, joined by another woman’s voice filled with worry.
“What happened? Oh god, okay, get him down on his back. Hold his arms down.”
There’s another light in his eyes, but now he can tell it’s small and focused. Then another face hovering over him and ice cold fingers holding his eye lids open before checking his pulse. The hall lights come on and now he can see it’s Dr. Cortese with a pen light in her mouth as she checks his vitals.
She talks to him, but the penlight muffles all her words and he blinks up at her. Danneel snaps it out of her mouth, causing the doctor to flinch then offer a soft, “Thank you,” with an equally soft smile.
Jensen keeps on blinking at the scene now coming together. Danneel and Dr. Cortese. Danneel had a date tonight and she’s only coming back in the middle of the night with the doctor in tow. For some unearthly reason, Jensen feels embarrassed for breaking up what was likely to be a very good evening by whatever the fuck his issue is.
“Can you see? How many fingers am I holding up?”
The hall light is creating a halo around the doctor’s head and his breathing stalls as he wonders if she has something to do with whatever is happening. Maybe she’s some kind of angel brought into his life to manage his visions.
“Have you taken anything tonight?” She turns to Danneel to ask, “What drugs is he taking?”
“Drugs? No!” Danneel insists. “Just the Tylenol you gave him.”
“He’s on something!”
“Lights,” Jensen says, but it’s all gargled by his current state of being disoriented and overcome by this insane headache.
Danneel shuts off the hall light and they’re back to pitch black, except for the fact that Jensen still sees rings of lights behind his eyelids. She reaches for his face, holding carefully as she runs her thumbs over his cheeks and ears. “Are you okay?”
His head is heavy and he lets Danneel take the weight of it in her hands. He can barely think straight let alone see straight when he attempts to open his eyes, so he keeps them shut. “There were lights.”
“A vision?” Dr. Cortese asks. Jensen can just barely manage to keep an eye open enough to see her wary look and Danneel’s nervous lip bite.
“It’s a long story,” Danneel offers in lieu of a real answer.
“Does this long story have anything to do with Jensen showing up in my ER with nary a broken bone and a hampering for pain meds?”
“I’ll make some coffee.”
Just the word soothes Jensen enough to slightly smile. “Coffee,” he murmurs.
Danneel lightly pats his cheek. “Yes, of course. Coffee for you.” She looks at Dr. Cortese. “Coffee beans are his only real addiction. I promise.”
“Mmm, yes,” he hums, “coffee beans.”
“Okay, mister, we’re getting you to the couch.”
He mentally wishes them luck with that given that he feels like his body is a mess of tissue that won’t move, no matter how much he yells at his muscles to do something.
They drag him into the living room and struggle to get him onto the couch without nearly dropping him on his head, which still intensely throbs. And flashes white hot lights when he attempts to keep his eyes open for more than a few seconds.
Just like the night they first met Dr. Cortese, Danneel babies him. This time it’s with a soft pillow behind his head and a cool washcloth across his forehead. He can hear the women exchange words, but only lasts long enough to hear Danneel say, “he’s not crazy, but … he sees accidents before they happen.”
“Like a psychic?”
Jensen wants to argue wholeheartedly that he’s not that. Just like he did the first time he told Danneel what was happening. Instead, he decides to accept more pain meds from Danneel and drift off into sleep while she explains the whole thing to her date.
Okay, so maybe Excel isn’t distracting him all that well, because he’s thinking about what all he’s been seeing as the visions become more vivid each time.
A tall man, very tall, fit, broad shoulders, long legs. Jensen thinks maybe the man is quite attractive and confident in the way he stands with his hips canted and one hand resting comfortably on his side. The other holds something up as he boldly speaks to excitable cheers. Jensen can never make out the words, and can’t see any faces. Not yet. All he perceives are outlines and a few shadows on the man’s face to make out the long, slim nose, waving hair, and enigmatic smile that flashes for the people behind the other voices screaming and hollering with barely contained eagerness.
As he thinks more about the images, they come into view joined by the stressful pressure of a headache building along his temples and radiating over the top of his head. He rests an elbow on the right side of his L-shaped desk and cradles his face in his hands. His other hand grips tightly around the arm rest of his chair. Even with his eyes closed, he can see the light growing around him.
“Goddamit,” he curses between clenched teeth. His body rattles with the pain as well as the anxiety of another oncoming incident. “No, no, no, no, stop,” he rambles on before biting on his lower lip, hard enough to send another jolt of pain across his face.
The image builds in his mind yet the face is still shrouded by the fogginess of the entire scene. It’s a large theater; a high stage at the apex of the room, and colored lights dance across the walls and ceiling as the man speaks to the eager audience. The man’s voice booms through speakers and lights swirl around and people chant, yet Jensen can’t focus on any one thing to make out what’s happening. What it all means. What he has to do.
He hears his name, over and over again, in all sorts of tones – concern, confusion, even awe. Then an explosive pop shocks him out of the vision and he’s blinking away the bright rings of light to Alaina and Misha standing before him. Alaina’s wringing her hands with worry creasing her smooth face, while Misha tips his head as if mentally investigating the whole thing.
“You okay? Jensen?”
That one is Alaina, he knows as much, but he can’t keep his head up to look at her. He can’t even open his mouth to answer. He leans forward with his head between his legs to ease the dizziness overtaking him, but it’s no use. He hears is Misha calling for help, and next he feels is the floor.
The curtain whips open and closed, and he’s facing Dr. Cortese, looking far less as engaging as the last two times they faced each other.
Jensen tries to talk, but his throat is thick and dry. He clears his throat and attempts to joke, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Not that fancy,” she replies with one eyebrow raised high. The rest of her body language says she’s not happy to see him. At all. “Once I saw your name, I stole your chart.”
“Stole? Danni know she’s dating such a rebel?” Jensen chuckles roughly and tries to sit up. He fails so spectacularly at both and frowns at his pathetic state. “Well, shit.”
““Mr. Ackles, look—”
“You can call me Jensen.”
“I’d rather not at this time.”
His worry rises … between what these visions are all about, what they’re doing to his body to be sent to the ER again, and just what she’ll do to handle him. Ever since he met her, she’s been questioning if he’s on drugs. And no matter how much it seems she rather enjoys seeing Danneel, he’s heard that the doctor’s having a hard time believing his visions aren’t some PCP after-effect.
Instead of tackling the real worry, however, Jensen resorts to deflecting. “I don’t mind. I mean, you’ve been in my apartment and –”
“I’m really concerned about –”
“—you saw me in my boxers—”
“—what is happening with your health –”
“—Sleeping with my roommate after all.”
“Excuse me!” Now Dr. Cortese’s voice rises with a little bit of hysteria and shame before resorting to a tiny whisper when she comes up to his side. “Could you not talk about my … personal life while I’m working?”
He immediately shrinks back into the mattress. “Okay, yeah, I’m sorry. Defense mechanism and all.”
“Mr. Ack—Jensen, look. I’m really concerned about what is happening. This is the third time I’ve seen you in a week. Are you sure you don’t have anything going on to explain what is happening?”
Despite the annoyance that she’s likely still believing he’s on some spectacular mix of hallucinogens, he meets her stare and holds his voice steady. “I honestly have no clue what is happening to me. But I am not on any sort of drug. Aside from cetirizine, which I have been taking for –”
“What?” Dr. Cortese asks with the oddest tone, like she thinks he’s even more messed up than she already did.
“It’s an antihistamine and—”
“Yes, I know what it is. What the hell is up with Zyrtec?”
“I have allergies,” he admits pathetically.
She sighs. “Yeah, I got that. But you think that could cause all of this?
“No, I don’t!” he insists hotly. “But you’re so set on thinking I’m a junkie …” With a deep breath, Jensen calms himself as best he can considering the current state of his life. “And I’m not. I’m just … I don’t know. Special.”
“You’re special all right.” Dr. Cortese sighs then allows a small smile, even while looking a bit pained. “I’m just worried about what all this is.”
“You and me both, doc.”
“Genevieve. Or Gen if you like.”
His eyebrows rise on his forehead and he swallows. “Excuse me?”
“Well, I mean, I’m sleeping with your roommate after all.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jensen glances away and coughs. “I’ve heard.”
“Oh. Um, okay, well.” Dr. Cortese chuckles and scratches her ear before composing herself. “Either way, I’d like you to see a neurologist.”
“I’ve seen five,” he answers, matter of fact. Because it’s true. Ever since this whole thing started soon after college, he’s been poked and prodded by scores of doctors trying to sort him out. The only relief he’s found was in a psychiatrist in his mid-twenties who at least pretended to believe him and helped him deal with the guilt he felt from all the visions leading to actual accidents.
It was Dr. Morgan who suggested he try helping these people to at least assuage the guilt of inaction. Except now Jensen has grown irritable with the expectations that he save everyone.
Worse yet, he’s dealing with more intense images that wrack his body with muscle and joint pain to the point that he’s down for the count for hours after they occur.
Dr. Cortese is still talking, trying to offer a number of specialists he see, suggesting this test and that test, all while Jensen again attempts to sit up. It’s not any easier, but he’s more insistent on making it happen; that he fights through the pain and gets his legs over the side of the bed to get up.
The doctor is sorely unimpressed with his attempt, trying to get him back into bed until she can get a hold of Danneel to pick him up. Jensen finally lets himself relax, or his body just gives out on him again, because as he’s staring at the TV in the corner with the J-Pad logo bouncing into view while advertising the industry’s newest tablet. He thinks of those white lights all over again and loud successive pops proceed the guy on stage falling.
He thinks about guns and passes out.
He can now piece things together enough to know he’s seen that logo at the big event that is crafted in his mind. The blue, green, and white of the brand flashes over and over as he remembers those prancing strobe lights, and when he brings up a page on its wunderkind creator, Jensen swears he sees the man.
The very man who stands atop that stage is now fully drawn on Jensen’s very own J-pad. Six and a half feet tall, chestnut hair falling in breaks to his neck, a long silhouette that highlights wide, strong shoulders, a narrow waist, and those same long legs Jensen has imagined for the last three days.
Just beneath the humming of his brain piecing this all together, Jensen can hear Danneel fussing in the kitchen, offering up any number of excuses for what’s made his condition turn for the worst.
“Maybe you’ve hit the height of your coffee addiction? I’ve always said it was dangerous.”
Jensen keeps his eyes on his tablet while reaching for the cup on the coffee table. He’s been on the couch ever since he got home, In view for Danneel in case she needs to step in – her idea. He’s not fond of all the mother henning, but he’s grateful to be out of the ER and in his own pajamas, rather than those rough blue cotton drapes they had him in. “Does that mean you’re not making more?” Jensen asks just before taking the last few sips of his nearly cold coffee. “I’m out.”
Danneel leans against the couch to look close at his screen. “Yes, honey, you’ve been out since college. What’re you looking for?”
He swallows hard against where his mind is going then points at the portrait of Jared Padalecki. “Him.”
“He’s hot,” she offers with a smile. “You’ve always had good taste.”
“No, he’s the one,” he insists gently while turning to watch her take it in, “the one in my visions.”
Danneel watches him carefully. “The one who’s shot?” He slowly nods and she does as well, though not as sure as he is. “You’re seeing Jared Padalecki … the ultra-billionaire and creator of all things computers … being shot?”
“Yeah, that guy,” he murmurs.
“Well, fuck, Jensen.”
“What’re you supposed to do with that?”
Jensen drops the tablet to his chest and sinks further into the couch. “No clue. But Genevieve says I should see a homeopathic.”
Danneel scrunches her face. “Because you’re gay?”
He sighs. “Yes, Danni. Your gay girlfriend is sending me to another gay doctor.” He rolls his eyes and shucks his head back into the pillow. “She says a more natural approach could be helpful. Especially for the headaches.”
“Natural approach. Huh.”
“What? You think she’s right?”
“No,” she starts slowly, “I’m just not excited to hear my super-hot doctor girlfriend is all into woo-woo natural sciences.”
Jensen rises from the couch, fighting a new wave of nausea and dizziness. He’s still sore and groggy to move, and now he’s annoyed by his roommate. “Yes, because that’s what’s important now.”
“Okay, okay, sorry,” she insists as she comes up next to him, guiding him to his room. Once he’s in bed, she takes the tablet and sits on the mattress beside him. Scrolls through a few of the stories he’s most recently tabbed to read. “So what’re you thinking then? Tweet at him? Write him a letter? How are you getting to him?”
He leans over to tap a few parts of the screen and bring up the Tri-Labs web page and its newest press release. “They’re releasing a new J-watch.”
After a few seconds of scanning the page, Danneel sighs. “Really? I just bought one.”
He glares at her and she finally looks at him when a few moments of silence have passed.
“Sorry. I know. Not the point.”
“I think the big announcement is in Austin because it’s where the headquarters is. It’ll be like one of those grand ballroom events is what I’m seeing.”
“And he gets shot there?”
Jensen shrugs, hating that he’s already re-envisioning the whole thing, complete with a new headache. Though he’s grateful it’s a bit more manageable so he can wrap his head around the whole thing. “I think that’s what all the lights are, and all the people.”
“But why would someone go after him? Is there some kind of company conspiracy going on?”
“Not really my problem. Never has been.” He settles deeper into the pillows and stretches beneath the soft cottony weight of his comforter. It’s the most comfortable he’s felt in a few days, and he supposes finally getting a clue on what he’s been seeing helps.
Danneel sighs and frowns at him. “This is kind of a big deal.”
Jensen sighs as well. “You’re telling me.”
“I mean, it’s a big public event. Probably lots of security. And a gun? You’ve never had anything that dangerous before.”
He thinks that her worry isn’t helping much, only ramping him back up. Instead of answer, he keeps quiet on it. He’s got it rough with all that he lives through, but he knows Danneel worries over him just as much.
“I don’t think you should do it,” she pushes.
Jensen blinks, considers the thought, like so many times in the past when he wanted to ignore his visions. Realistically, he could. Yet he learned long ago that the guilt was far worse than the bumps and scratches he’s accumulated over the years. “I can’t not do it, Danni.”
“Jen, it’s so dangerous and you could –”
“I’m not gonna get hurt.” He wryly smiles. “I never have before.”
Her eyes are big and wide with worry now, and he sulks a bit. “What if you seriously hurt yourself this time?”
“Is that any better than letting an innocent man die?”
“What if he’s not so innocent?” she offers.
Jensen chuckles and shakes his head. “Like he deserves to be shot?”
“No, I’m not saying that, but …” Danneel drifts off in thought before taking a deep breath. “Okay, you’re gonna do whatever you want to do with this. But just think about it, alright? I’m worried about you.”
After truly considering her words, he agrees with her. He’s worried about himself, too.
Still, he knows he has to do this.
Upon arriving at Austin’s main theater downtown, he suddenly regrets every decision that has brought him to this place. The crowd is deep and loud, a mass of lines weaving this way and that as technology gurus impatiently wait to get into the event.
The upside, he figures, is he’ll go relatively unnoticed among the throngs of people. And yet, the downside is getting in when he notices a sea of folks excitedly waving vouchers as they get towards to entrance.
“This is crazy, really fucking crazy,” he mumbles to himself. Then he hears Danneel’s voice repeating the same thing to him last night when he insisted he was going to follow through with this escapade.
Jensen strolls around the front of the building as he wagers how he’ll get in. He turns around the corner to catch his breath and steady his building anxiety far away from the crowd. Suddenly, a fire door opens from the side of the building as a staffer in a pristine white polo shirt exits for a smoke. Jensen surges forward, nudging past the guy and ignoring the angry reaction and demands to know what the hell, dude?
What the hell, indeed. Because just two weeks ago, Jensen was living his carefully prescribed life of a desk job shuttered by dull grey cubicle walls and only accented by the black computer accessories he sat in front of everyday from nine to five. Nothing like this ever happens to him. Sure, he helped out Mrs. Whitley when a paper bag of groceries busted open on Smith Road and she narrowly missed breaking her hip thanks to the bumper of a seventeen year old texting … he’s done those things. A dozen times. But it was just about keeping life orderly. Not saving a life.
He rushes through another door and ends up in the front lobby where another massive throng of excitable folks are sludging through the doors to the main theater. Tri-Labs personnel are handing out promotional packets to his right while folks hurry off to the left for the best seats, so he shuffles into a line and finds himself inside the large, excessively decorated room.
Strobe lights spin around the space in the Tri-Labs’ colors and signs everywhere declare the brand, bright green and blues off-set with white, whimsical swirls accenting every corner. Jensen briefly thinks that it’s all too familiar, but not in a realistic manner. Something tingles at the base of his skull every time he stops to read a sign and he knows this is exactly what he’s been seeing this week.
Attendees are excitedly roaming the theater for seats, shuffling down rows to sit, and all around whipping up a bigger frenzy than anything Jensen had expected. He continues down the side row towards the stage to get a better view of the place. He glances all around and tries to pinpoint around where someone would be camping out with a gun … then his mind runs through a number of possibilities for what kind of weapon it would be. If it’s a handgun, the shooter would be closer. Something at long range would be more dangerous and account for a more serious kind of villain gunning after Padalecki. And that would put the shooter anywhere in the theater.
Jensen realizes he’s completely in over his head. He has no idea who it could be or where they are now or where they’ll be when it all happens. There’s no way he can stop the shooter, but he suddenly thinks that he can stop Padalecki. But how? He considers telling security yet the type of story he’d be able to voice would likely just get him kicked out. Maybe if he got backstage, he could talk to Padalecki, tell him he’s under serious danger and needs to leave immediately. Highly unlikely to get before the man who constructed the technological revolution, and Jensen curses himself for not coming more prepared.
Then he spots his only real chance to get up on stage, to be any closer to halting this shooting, in the form of steps at the side of the stage. He attempts to appear as nonthreatening as possible while skulking over to the steps, and waits until the nearby security guards are looking elsewhere before running up the stairs and around the curtain.
He’s immediately thrust into a group of folks in suits and skirts, all shouting at him running them over and pushing them aside as he attempts to get his bearings back and search the backstage area. Jensen chuckles awkwardly, fixes the edges of his jacket as if it was just a minor little incident, tossing apologies over his shoulder as he quickly walks deeper backstage. He seeks out the room where Padalecki would be, some sort of waiting space or green room. Instead he finds a large maintenance closet, bathroom, and office. As he closes the last door down the hallway, another small office with a cluttered desk, the music grows louder and a deep male voice ramps up the crowd.
“Goodbye 2016! Hello future!”
Jensen rolls his eyes at the cheesiness, muttering, “Are you kidding me?” He makes his way back to stage left to check the theater. The house lights are down and the strobes are tracing patterns all across the crowd, up the walls, and over the ceiling before cycling back around again. Faceless people are spread throughout the room and Jensen’s heart is racing so hard, pounding in his chest and temples, he can’t concentrate enough to look at any one person longer than a split second before he’s searching the next section. The crowd is up on its feet, clapping in time with the hammering bass of the rock music Jensen’s witnessed of a number of reveal events just like this. He did his research there, at least, to know he has very little time left until Padalecki appears on stage to give his performance.
The voice booms out into the room again with more painfully stupid taglines. “There is only one thing you can count on in the future … the new Tri-Labs J-Watch!”
“Seriously?” Jensen sighs. Then he sees movement across the way and at stage right is Padalecki in his trademark tattered jeans and Tri-Labs black hoodie. The wunderkind still dresses like he’s stuck in college, always has Jensen learned, and now he’s stepping out onto stage with a handful of white strobe lights gathering to welcome him.
It’s electric when the crowd responds to just the appearance of the man walking to center stage with a bright smile. Their cheers are almost as loud as the music still pumping through the room, and Padalecki waves to the crowd with a microphone in his hand, tosses out kisses, before encouraging everyone to settle down.
Tri-Labs personnel gather around Jensen to watch closely to the presentation, a few stepping in front of him with a side look, like they know he doesn’t belong here. Luckily, no one makes him leave, they just force their way around him so they have a better view of the proceedings.
Jensen can’t keep up with all that’s being said on stage in between searching the audience for anything or anyone that catches his eye. It’s all so perfectly aligned with his visions while alternatively seeming to be completely out of place because he has no clue what to do next. He considers jumping out on stage to interrupt, hopefully throw the whole thing off so the shooter is confused and puts off their plan. He sidles around the people in front of him in hopes to see more out in the crowd and that’s when it hits him … the angle of a spotlight out in the theater is sharp and catches Jensen from the corner of his eye. When he looks out into it, it’s glaring, boring its light right at Jensen. He belatedly realizes that Padalecki is also nearing stage left as he continues talking.
Jensen is too focused on the bright light that he can’t make out anything being said, or how the crowd continues to hoot and whistle at parts of Padalecki’s speech. Bringing his hand up, Jensen tries to shield the light, but feels it burning his sight, heating up his face with the intensity. Then the headache flares at his temples and he knows this is it. This is what he’s seen and felt every time.
Jensen pushes past the handlers and staff, tossing elbows until he appears within the strobe lights. There’s a sudden gasp of the crowd, but he keeps moving. Runs at full force and only barely registers the way Jared Padalecki jumps before Jensen tackles him and keeps rolling towards stage right. Just like in his visions, gunshots have popped off and the crowd screams, messy noises of people rushing in manic fear. He hears all the scattered footsteps heading for the exits, continued shouting and shrieking, and then Jared grumbling as he tries to get out from underneath Jensen.
“What the fuck is going on?” Jared shouts while shuffling back on his ass. His long legs keep him distanced from Jensen just as Jensen rolls his eyes.
“I was saving your life.” A moment later, he huffs. “And you’re welcome.”
“Jensen,” Jared whispers.
He snaps his head up, eyes wide and heart beating even wilder than in the moments leading up to this moment.
“Jensen,” Jared repeats. This time it’s a bit louder, tinged with something … reverent. Excited.
“Wait, what? How do you know—”
“You don’t remember.” It’s said flat and with disappointment. Yet there’s a thin layer of understanding. “This is incredible. What are you doing here?”
Jensen can’t breathe, can’t think, or move. He’s frozen in place, only blinking in return when something foggy comes over him. His hearing is fuzzy and he can’t hear the next shot, only he feels it burn through his lower leg. Can’t hear his own shout, can read the pain on Jared’s face as Jared pulls them further off stage and Jensen figures this is it. The end comes soon enough because the searing pain travels up his leg and straight to his heart, which stops seconds later and he blacks out.