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MYSTERIOUS MASKED MAN APPEARS—CRIME RATES DOWN IN METRO CITY

 

DANGEROUS VIGILANTE WREAKS HAVOC IN METRO CITY

 

WHO IS THE MASKED MYSTERIO? EXCLUSIVE INSIDE

 

The major papers call him Batman Lite, like it’s an inside joke. No one’s exactly sure where he came from, what he’s doing, what his endgame is. No one really knows anything, though the papers sure love to speculate. Whether he’s dangerous. Whether he’s really helping. Whether he really gives a damn about anyone in Metro City.

Doesn’t really matter either way. Jared’s been gone over the city’s superhero since day fucking one.

 

***

The first time Jared meets the Masked Mysterio, he’s right in the middle of being mugged. He’d been careless. Rookie mistake for someone who’s been living in the city for five years: taking shortcuts through alleyways on the way home.

The thugs get in a few good kicks, enough that Jared—despite his larger than average size—isn’t able to fight back, too busy being doubled over, blood pouring from what feels like a close-to-broken nose.

One minute he’s curled up in the alleyway, wallet being pried from his rain slick fingers, another kick aimed for his stomach. One minute he’s on the ground, the next he’s still on the ground. But then so are the other guys. And he isn’t being kicked at anymore.

Thwack.

He raises his head, blinking rain out of his eyes because what the fuck. Had one of the criminals gone rogue against the others? Does he want Jared’s wallet all to himself? What the fuck is happening? Everything is shadow and water, the movement in the dimness of the alleyway too quick to track.

And then, like a knife slicing through that darkness, a hand. Two hands. Grabbing Jared by the shoulders and hauling him onto his feet, still blinking and gasping, blood streaming from his nose.

“Are you alright?”

Jesus. The other papers weren’t kidding. The guy really is masked. And ripped. And wearing spandex. That comes to Jared as a…pleasant surprise.

It’s a lot to take in for a first introduction. Jared’s mind sort of glitches at the spandex part.

“Y—you. You saved me?”

The Masked Mysterio’s mouth twitches. “Is that a question?”

He has a nice mouth. He is still touching Jared’s shoulders.

Jared must have gotten a kick to the head as well. Fuck.

“Are you okay?” Jared tries again. “You just took out like three guys.”

The guy’s mouth twitches again. Amusement. “I’m fine. Sort of used to it by now.”

He leans down to snatch something off the pavement and hands Jared his wallet. Jared tries very hard not to stare. And then the guy’s turning heel, cutting again through the curtain of rain.

“W-wait!” Jared calls out, teeth chattering. “Where are you going?”

“Believe it or not. You ain’t the only damsel in distress tonight.” The Masked Mysterio says.

“I am not a damsel.”

“Hm. Maybe I spoke too soon. You’re too cute to be a damsel, that’s for sure.”

He disappears in a blink. Jared goes home to write an article about money laundering and doesn’t get a single word of it down.

***

He puts the article on Chad’s desk the next morning. Not the money laundering one. A new take that had hit Jared sometime around four am and didn’t stop hitting him until he wrote the whole damn piece in one fell swoop.

Chad’s office is practically foggy with cigarette smoke, as it always is on days when copy is due. He skims the first paragraph, eyebrow raised. Jared doesn’t need a verbal response to recognize the skepticism. Chad may be his boss, but they’ve been best friends since college, and Jared knows every micro-expression by now.

“So he’s a hero?”

“He’s something, alright.” Says Jared. “Something more than what everyone else thinks he is.”

He says it tonelessly enough that Chad doesn’t appear suspicious of it, just flicks the page over, squints at the type. “You want to keep writing the coverage on him.”

“Think of it as just another Spotlight piece. Just…not my usual subject matter.”

They run the piece. The very day the article comes out, the Daily Metro breaks the sales record for the year. And just like that, Jared gets his permanent byline.

 ***

The second time they meet, the Masked Mysterio is bleeding. Badly. All over Jared’s sofa, in fact.

“This looks bad.” The Masked Mysterio says with a slightly strained tone. “I promise it’s not actually as bad as it looks.”

“Could’ve fooled me.” Jared retorts.

He’d just been in the middle of finishing off his most recent article. A sort of psychological profile put together on the Masked Mysterio, based off of the testimonies of people who’d interacted with him, citizens and criminals alike.

Jared had been hunched over his laptop in bed when a tremendous crash sounded in the living room. He didn’t even think to grab something to defend himself with. Because who else could get to an apartment on the twentieth floor of a skyscraper other than someone who could fly?

“Are you alright?”

“I think,” says the guy slowly, swaying on the spot, “That the answer to that is fairly obvious.”

Jared catches him just before he keels over onto the floor.

***

Hours later, Jared’s got a first aid kit and some bandages, and is dazedly wondering what kind of weird ass luck one has to have to end up here.

Metro City’s Superhero is stripped shirtless and bleeding, watching warily as Jared stitches him up. Doesn’t say much but to hiss every time Jared pours alcohol on the wound, or grumble whenever Jared shushes him.

At the very least, Jared’s grateful to have something to focus on so that his eyes don’t wander.

Because bottom line: the world is cruel and Jared may or may not want to put his mouth kind of all over this guy. In the most terrible and impossible way.

It's not the most stellar situation to begin with. Jared's doing what he can.

There’s no ignoring the fact that this guy is kind of hopelessly beautiful. That had always been evident. Jared has a whole secret shame folder of shots of the Masked Mysterio’s ass as he darted around corners. Any man confident enough to wear fucking spandex in public very obviously has a form to boast of, that much is true.

He has kohl smudged beneath his eyes, covering what the mask can’t and it…it does nothing, absolutely fucking nothing, to hide from the fact that his eyes are very, very green. Not to mention the dirty blonde hair that glints in the living room light to top it all off.

Jared’s hands tremble as he loops another stitch. Focus, Padalecki.

“So why the surprise visit, huh?” He forces his voice steady.

“Were you lying when you offered to help me in your last column?”

“Ah. So you do read the papers. I wondered." 

“Only the good ones.” The guy smiles, straight teeth and laugh lines that crinkle beneath the kohl. Jared is so fucked.

Jared shakes his head. “I just didn’t think you would actually need help. You seem to do just fine on your own.”

“It’s been known to happen, needing help. Got clipped by a stray bullet.”

“What, and you couldn’t think to go back to your bat cave and have Alfred patch you up?”

“I don’t have an Alfred.”

“A Lois Lane, then?”

“I don’t have an anyone.” Their eyes meet, and Jared can see the beginning purpling of a bruise around the edge of his jaw. Instead of reaching out like he wants to, he grabs the cold compress instead. Grits his teeth at the low throaty sound made when compress meets bruise. Focus.

“You’ll have to give me something in return for all my help you know.” Jared says after a pause. “I’m happy to play Night Nurse…but as you can probably tell, I don’t do freelance work.”

“I’m not doing an exclusive interview with you. So just toss me off the balcony if you’re gonna ask for that.”

Jared huffs. “How about a name? Just a first name. I swear I won’t do any investigating deeper than that. It just. It feels weird to call you Mr. Masked Mysterio when I’ve had your blood on my hands.”

Silence as the Mysterio assesses him. Jared forced himself not to look away.

“Jensen." 

Jared’s lips quirk. “Well there you are, Jensen.” He says, picking up the needle again and tying off the final stitch. “That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”

***

It becomes their thing after that. Masked Mysterio—Jensen—gets hurt every now and then, or maybe gets chased by one too many cop cars, and crashes at Jared’s pad to recuperate or wait out the hubbub.

As far as arrangements go, it works for them.

As far as Jared’s heart goes, he’s hopeless and stupid with how much he just likes Jensen.

For someone with a quietly brooding bedside manner Jensen is…funny. In the kind of shit-kicking sort of way. He’s got the kind of sense of humor that is crass and dry and the only way he gets away with it because he’s so damn cute. If he were any less cute, Jared would sort him into the asshole category on principle. Even with the cuteness factor, he’s still kind of an asshole. Except for how Jared likes it. Likes him.

Jensen never announces himself to Jared, just appears out the shadows of Jared’s balcony like a magician had gone and pulled him out of thin air. He has a knack for appearing when Jared least expects him to, usually when Jared is just getting out of the shower, or is on an assignment that’s got him mainlining the espresso.

There’s no getting Jensen to talk about himself. Rather Jared gleans bits of Intel in increments. The way he takes his coffee (black and dark, no cream no sugar, and god forbid if the roast is watered down). The way he sleeps (curled on his left side, arms tucked around himself to keep warm regardless of temperature). The TV he prefers (Jensen hates news only because the news seems to hate him just as much. But one evening Jared catches his eyes watering at a Telenovela, and won’t let him forget it for another hour). The kind of food he likes (Jared’s delighted to find that he prefers pizza and beer to fine dining any day).

(Despite small miracles, he kind of wishes he knew what Jensen looks like in the morning. After sleep rather than during. But Jensen’s always gone by the time the sun comes up, and Jared is left with an odd sort of ache in his chest every time, wondering if he’d imagined it all.)

In the meantime, Jared writes about twenty more articles and becomes the unofficial expert on the Masked Mysterio. He appears on talk radio, other news stations. Word has it he’s in the running for a few journalism awards towards the end of the year.

He never really mentions it to Jensen. But sometimes he’ll realize his Sunday paper has gone missing, or that certain segments of the nightly news have been TiVoed, and has to bite down a smile wherever he’s standing.

***

“Do you have any weaknesses?” asks Jared.

“Doesn’t every superhero?”

“I wasn’t aware we were living out a comic book.”

Jensen thinks it over. He’s nursing another cup of coffee despite the fact that it’s 2am and he really should be trying to sleep rather than loading himself up with caffeine. “I’m human. I bleed. I can have my bones broken. I’m just a bit tougher than most. Plus the whole ‘gravity cannot hold me down thing’. If I have weaknesses,” he pauses, giving Jared an indecipherable look, “They’ve yet to be discovered.”

“So you’re invincible then.”

Jensen grins, cocky in a way that makes Jared want to lean in and kiss it off of him.

“Yeah. Something like that.”

***

“Goodnight Lois.” Jensen says, whenever Jared turns out the light and trudges to his own bed.

“Heya Lois.” Jensen says, as he walks right into Jared’s apartment with Chinese takeout in one hand and an unconscious robber in another.

Lois this. Lois that. It’s as if they’re still strangers. Like Jared hasn’t saved Jensen’s life half a dozen times by now.

“I have a name, you know.” Jared always makes sure to point this fact out every time, just for emphasis. “While I appreciate the whole spunky journalist parallel, I’d like to think I’m a lot better looking than Lois Lane.” 

“You are,” Jensen concedes. Then, with a wink, “Doesn’t mean I’m going to change my mind any time soon. See you around, Lois.”

He soars off into the night, pale with blood loss from another close call with a bullet, taking Jared’s heart with him.

 

*** 

"I think I might be in love with him."

Chad says nothing, just rolls his eyes to the ceiling and back and puffs all the more steadily at his cigarette as he scans the most recent copy, leaving Jared to rock back and forth on his heels like a shy fifth grader.

He reads through the article, crossing out sentences and cutting out Jared’s more descriptive language, and hands it back with a laborious sigh. “You’re a pain in my ass Jay, you know that?”

“Well aware, thanks.”

“In love with a masked vigilante, jesus christ.” Chad shakes his head. “And I thought you’d peaked for stupid ideas in college.”

“You and me both.” Jared winces.

Chad stubs out his cigarette, and immediately lights another. Stares out at the cityscape.

“Just don't go and do anything fucking stupid, okay?"

 ***

Suffice to say, Jared goes and does something fucking stupid.

***

Just keep them monologue-ing. That’s always the key to being kidnapped by a super villain, Jared finds.

Of course, this is the first time he’s ever been able to put that theory to action. And also the first time he’s possibly being drained of his life force by some scientific gadget or another as he’s doing it.

Whatever. Semantics. Jared’s just grateful Jensen doesn’t see him being the damsel that he is. Jensen would never miss a chance to tease Jared for getting himself into trouble. He’d honestly rather die then let Jensen get to gloat about being right again.

He’s keeping the super villain monologuing, but he’s fading fast and there’s only so much bad mouthing a guy can do before he really runs out of fresh material.

In the end, The Masked Mysterio comes. He stands over Jared with a panicked expression. Jared smiles around a mouthful of blood. Huh. That’s weird. He can’t remember when he started bleeding. Maybe he bit his tongue in pain.

“You came.” He croaks, as the entire building begins to inwardly combust and crumble.

“ALAS!” Villain-of-the-hour shrieks, “I HAVE YOU AT LAST MYSTERIO. AND NOW! YOU DIE!”

The Masked Mysterio just smiles, and Jared thinks it’s the smile that does him in at the end.

Either way, he blacks out before the fight even gets good.

***

And comes to in his own apartment. A band-aid on the tiny cut on his forehead. Blankets tucked around this chin.

A note on the table.

And you thought I didn’t have weaknesses. Maybe in the next life we could go to that sushi place you talked about. Stay out of trouble, Lois.

When he flicks on the TV, the news headlines capture all the highlights. Big Trouble in Metro City. The Masked Mysterio appeared. The City Was Saved.

Jared slumps back down on the couch and presses his palms to his closed eyes, wondering just how many of these pining bylines he’s got in him before he just can’t anymore. 

***

 

WHERE IS HE NOW? MASKED MYSTERIO DISAPPEARS

 

POLICE OFFERING REWARD MONEY FOR CONTACT INFORMATION OF MASKED MYSTERIO

 

GONE GUY: THE MASKED MYSTERIO OR THE FAKE SUPERHERO?

 

***

Jared meets Jensen Ackles for the first time sitting outside a café in the freezing snowy cold on an early Sunday morning, reading the Sunday paper. There’s a cup of black coffee cooling on the table. There’s snow melting in his dirty blonde hair. When he scratches his nose, when he flips the page of the paper, when he moves and breathes and lives, no one around him seems to take notice.

But Jared’s sort of spent the last month or so pining for just a glimpse of those eyes, of that freckled nose, that chiseled jaw. So yeah, he may be looking for it more than the average person.

Also, Jared’s kind of in love with him, so he’d have to be blind not to see Jensen in broad daylight.

He orders his coffee. Writes his number down on a napkin. Slams it down on a table and when Jensen jumps, Jared smiles, so giddy with it he probably looks like an idiot.

“Seven on the dot for sushi. Corner of 9th and River. You can fly, so, there’s really no excuse for you to be late, is there?”

“I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.” Jensen smiles, eyes twinkling, extends a hand. “Bit forward and overconfident for a date, aren’t you?”

“What can I say,” Jared takes Jensen’s hand, feels the warmth of his palm, the unshakeable grip of his callused fingers, “I’m not really one to let a good thing get away.”

 ***

Jensen, incidentally, is late for the date. This whole ‘retired superhero’ thing means he’s gotta lay low in most ways, which means no flying, which means public transportation, which means he’s fifteen minutes late to sushi and comes in with apologies and a bouquet of snow soaked flowers.

They don’t even make it past the first round of sake before Jared’s calling a cab, and they’re running out to collide and make out like teenagers in the snow, tripping off the pavement and laughing, slipping on the ice, grounded by each other. Jensen’s still apologizing and Jared’s freezing his ass off and it’s a bit stupid to feel so in love but Jared’s lack of self control really doesn’t matter either way.

Because, as Jensen explains several hours later, he’s been gone over the city’s top journalist since day fucking one.