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What Do You Do with Second Chances?

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Cougar let out a huge gasp, somehow jerking forward. He shouldn’t be able to. He shouldn’t

The last thing he remembered, vaguely, was – was blood. Too much. Pouring out of him, a deadly flow, being light-headed. Being terrified, but also resigned. Clutching—

The bomb!

He jerked his head to the side, looking for the bomb he’d been slumped against while he was dying. He couldn’t see it – couldn’t see it anywhere in the room – why was he in a room? A room with a bed?

A room with a – mini-fridge?

Hotel room, his brain provided helpfully. Then, looking again more carefully, scanning his surroundings, he corrected: motel room. Cheap. Grimy.

Where was he?

What the hell had happened? He had a vague memory of a foolhardy plan, of Pooch deciding (rightly) that it was a fool’s mission… something had happened… he’d been hurt, there had been someone with him…

Who had been with him? What had happened?

He moved to stand up, pushing himself upright and not liking how the surroundings spun around his head, and the light-headedness that fuzzed out the corners of the room. When he actually tried to stand, he had thought he was doing good. Before he even realized it, his knees buckled and he crashed down to the ground.

“What—?” he started to say, but his voice came out as a croak, a weak, hoarse whisper that suddenly highlighted the gnawing hunger, the debilitating thirst that was tearing his throat to pieces.

He couldn’t – he couldn’t push himself up. He couldn’t drag himself up. He was slumped on the floor, almost unable to hold his head off the carpet. Breath shuddering in his lungs, he sucked in the musty, almost rancid smell of the worn and beaten down carpet.

Okay. He just needed to think. He remembered Columbia – he remembered those kids, oh, those little forms caught in ruthless flame – and he remembered their…

Who they?

Roque, he remembered, his heart twisting. Pooch. Steady Pooch – smarter than the rest of them. Didn’t get caught up in their suicide run. Cougar spared a quick thought about where Pooch was now – did Pooch know they were alive?

Were they all alive?

Cougar – Cougar realized he didn’t know. Clay, and Aisha – did he know? He was lost, stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out what had happened.

What had happened?

***

It took him two days, two days of excruciating thirst and frantic wracking of his brain, trying to put the pieces together. He was sure, he was sure, he was missing something – someone? – and there was no amount of thinking that was getting that back to him.

After two days, he finally could stagger into the bathroom. No one had come knocking, not even for housekeeping. He wasn’t quite sure what that said about him, because he was operating with no fucking clue about what was going on, what was happening to him, and when he stood before the slightly streaked mirror, he barely recognized the person in the mirror.

He looked – gaunt, was the word. Was the nicest word he could say, really. His bone structure was sharply pronounced, cheeks hollowed, dark bags underneath his eyes that were puffy and red-rimmed. Crying? Had he been? He hadn’t remembered crying, not at all, but then again, he was very dazed, very out of it. It had been hard to marshal his thoughts into any working order.

He looked away for a brief moment, glancing at the toilet. He hadn’t eaten anything, or drunk anything, since he had woken up, and yet there was no urge to relieve himself from anything previous he had eaten. There was no desire to do anything except drink water, honestly, but he didn’t trust tap water.

He knew he was missing pieces of his life, and he needed to put them together. He didn’t know if he was still wanted or if he was in the clear, didn’t know if his government would even acknowledge his existence. But he knew he needed to get back to the states. He’d find his answers there, if anywhere.

He didn’t have money. Once he regained enough strength to walk the room, he realized he was in Qatar – at least, that’s what the hotel claimed – and there were no clothes, no money, no anything to his name. He needed to do some hard scavenging to find money, food, and clothing, in that order.

Stepping out of the door of his hotel room was almost impossible. He was struck with intense fear and terror at the idea of facing the world. It was as if he was relearning the world, one step at a time, and he didn’t know where to begin.

Well. At the beginning, of course.

The heat hit him first, scorching his skin, and the sun stabbed at his eyes. He physically swayed, trying not to fall back to his knees (who knew if he’d be able to get right back up, or if he’d end up sitting on his ass for another two days), and realized he was on the fourth – no, the fifth – story of some tiny motel. The skyscrapers of the city weren’t near him, but he could see them in the distance. The roads were tiny, typical of small cities, and there was enough of his memory to realize that he should have known a lot more about the city just from a glance. He was missing small details, and he wasn’t sure if he just needed more time to get his head on straight or if he would have to relearn all of that again. As much as he hated his previous experiences – what he could remember of them, and he hoped he was remembering everything important, that he wasn’t forgetting something important – they had made him who he was. Everything dark and twisted still formed him into what he was, and he liked to think that he had made something good come out of all that evil that had soaked his life before.

There were kids running out in the streets, kicking a small ball of… rags? A small ball of something, an imitation of a soccer ball. There was dust in the air, the hot and heavy heat making waves rise up from the pavement.

He’d need to find a way back home. He’d have to go looking for what had happened. There had to be some record…

Or not really. He could remember, just barely, that this was on televisions, that everyone knew, that it was broadcasted, Max’s insanity and desires. So that record should be there. But what had happened? What had actually taken place? Cougar could remember that there was nothing to be found, that there had been days, weeks, of restless, breathless searching for connections. Someone had had to add everything up, put all the pieces together, to even pin Max down as much as they had. It made sense that the rest of it would be as hidden, as difficult to find. And Cougar didn’t exactly have those skills. He had to find someone who did.

…It was driving him crazy, this feeling of constantly having something on the tip of his tongue, something just there out of reach that he just couldn’t grasp. He pressed the heel of his palm against his forehead, digging his fingers into his skull, trying to ease the sudden pang.

He was missing his hat, but here he’d stand out sharply if he was wearing it. As it was, there were already glances being tossed his way. He was dark enough to blend in, but his hair was long. Pretty sure he was still in Qatar, though how he’d got here…

The door behind him was still open to the room, and there was a railing to prevent guests from falling off the small walkway outside, and it was on that railing that Cougar braced his hands, leaning down and looking over the congested streets. There were people shouting, though it sounded muffled, far away, even though he was directly above them.

Someone walked past him, and he flinched, nearly falling against the railing, which creaked ominously.

This didn’t help.

He turned and made his shaking, staggering way back into the motel room. He had nothing except what was within this room. He had to make the best of it if he was going to get home and figure out what the hell had happened to him. How he got here. What the holes in his memory were leaving out.

And why the hell he kept turning to his side, as if expecting someone to be there, only to see nothing and not even sure who he was looking for.

***

It didn’t take him long to wander through the market and finagle new clothing, money, and even the keys to an idling motorbike that he was sure the owner noticed was missing right away, but hopefully he still had enough of his skills that the owner hadn’t gotten a clear look at him.

His hair hung in his face, limp and greasy. It kept the sun from his eyes, but he still felt dizzy and lightheaded. Probably needed food and water as immediately as he could; it was weird that he hadn’t seemed to need sustenance as of yet, but he didn’t want to test it for too long. Gunning the engine, he weaved through the small streets. He was fairly certain he knew where he was going, which wasn’t that strange as he remembered pouring over street maps and analyzing escape routes and the like. Someone had stood with him over those maps, but he honestly couldn’t remember who it was. Not Pooch – Pooch had been with Clay, Cougar could remember.

He just had to hope that his memories would come back in full. He was tired of having all these blanks in his mind. In any case, he managed to lift some more money and then purchase a meal a good distance away from where he had stolen his transportation.

He had to get back to the States, somehow, and figure out how the hell to get his life back on track. If there was even a life to come home to, when it came to that. He still had to figure out what had happened to Pooch and—

And someone?

No, just Pooch. He’d watched Clay die, watched Aisha turn on them, remembered running through the facility looking to get back to the pipe room.

Then, a hailstorm of bullets. Seeing the nuke – having ammo all around him. Then, nothing. Nothing until he woke up a few days ago.

He shook his head, hard, and placed his payment on the table, standing up from his empty plate and cup. From his memories, he knew there were ways to get papers and get back to the States. It’d be tricky, but he should be able to do it.

Maybe back home, he’d find the answers he was missing.

***

It took him a few days, of course, to track down who he needed. Not only who he needed, but enough money to buy what he needed. It wasn’t hard, but it was labor intensive, and even by the time he’d managed to gather all his materials and all what he needed, it didn’t change the fact that his memory was still shoddy.

…Well, that wasn’t really true, now, was it? He had his memories, he could remember everything up until he’d woken up in that motel room. There was nothing to explain why he had this nagging, deep-gut feeling that he was missing something. It was only that persistent, unnerving feeling that had him doubting his memory. There was nothing else to suggest he was forgetting anything except that.

Grumbling under his breath, he hefted his pack higher on his shoulder as he trudged through the airport and to the gate that would connect him back to the States. It worked, at least; his papers were enough to get him on the plane, and the plane would get him into Houston. His family was in California, but the first flight he could afford would place him in Houston. So long as he was in the US, he’d be able to get to California, no problem. He also wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb there, unlike here.

The plane, of course, was a tight fit, everyone crammed knee to shoulder, and Cougar missed the hat that he used to be able to just pull down over his eyes and shut out the world. There were quite a few kids on the plane, and more or less they were well behaved, though there were a few rowdy adults Cougar wished he could just punch in the throat.

It was a sixteen-hour flight, and he’d arrive in the middle of the night. Practically morning, though, considering it would be around 3:45 in the morning. He wouldn’t have American money, but he had some riyal he could transfer to dollars. He probably had enough to get a motel room for at least one night, and he could figure out what to do from there. Hitchhike, probably, or travel. His father had been a migrant worker, and his mother had taught him enough thrifty tricks to help him get by, until he’d gotten into the army. The army had done a hell of a lot more to teach him how to survive in urban settings that were potentially or actually hostile.

In the end, he didn’t get to sleep. That was in part because, for the past three days, his appetite had returned with a vengeance, and he’d been desperately trying to devour and drink as much as he could. His stomach was quietly growling, and his throat felt perpetually dry, to the point that the flight attendant would simply respond to his attempt to grab their attention by bringing a cup of water over without even being asked.

Beyond that, he was still tense and nervous, unable to relax with so many people around him. Every time he would start to doze, someone would shift and he’d jerk awake, assessing the threat.

So he exited the plane in the very early morning cranky, grumpy, and dying of hunger, with nothing but a couple hundred riyal to his name and his pack slung on his back.

As he walked through the international airport, moving towards the door, he bumped into someone.

Alright, more accurately someone had leaned forward into Cougar’s space, and Cougar, not recognizing the person and unsure if Max was truly dead, had attempted to ignore the attempt to grab Cougar’s attention.

“Hey, Cougar, what gives?” the person asked.

All senses on alert, Cougar took a step back and eyed the tall blond man. The man also looked like he had seen better days; his scruffy goatee was not maintained well and definitely not groomed. His hair was unkempt and wild, and his eyes were red-rimmed. He looked, in fact, like a drunkard.

Biting his lip, Cougar moved to push past the man again.

“No, no, wait, Cougar, I know you must be mad that, that I left you, but I swear to you, I tried to find you, I did, I looked everyone in Qatar, I hacked some security cameras, I did everything I could think of. You gotta believe me. Please don’t hold a grudge against me for that.”

Since the man wasn’t moving out of Cougar’s way, Cougar squared his shoulders – he was a bit shorter than this guy, which was mildly worrying – and glowered at the young man. “How do you know my name?” he asked, voice clipped.

The man stared, open-mouthed, at Cougar, and then one of his hands tugged at his ear briefly. It drew Cougar’s attention there, and he could see a weirdly carved and shaped ornate gold earring piercing just that one ear. The rest of the clothes looked worn out and well-used, but Cougar barely moved his eyes from the man’s eyes behind those ludicrous glasses. He didn’t want to miss any facial expressions, any clues that would help Cougar solve the problem of what had happened.

After all, if this person knew him somehow, it only made sense to use him, or ask questions.

The man’s eyes disappeared behind those tinted glasses, and for a moment, Cougar was certain that the man was no longer present or seeing what was around him.

Different scenarios crossed Cougar’s mind in those few seconds. He could push past now with little to no challenge, leave and go back to his house and figure this shit out himself. He could sit here and wait, go with this guy and then force him to explain what was happening, how they knew one another. He could go with this guy and take the guy’s mode of transportation. Hell, he could call for help and give this guy up to the authorities, taking the guy’s wallet and anything else he could lift from the guy.

Any help, however, was better than no help at all. It didn’t help that, for some reason, the man looked really familiar.

So he waited, and when the man refocused his eyes on Cougar, Cougar spread his hands invitingly. “Explain,” he said.

“Right. Well.” The man smiled nervously. “You… don’t know me at all?”

“Should I?”

That seemed to rock the man, and he swallowed hard. “Right. Well. Look, the longer we’re here the more likely it is that someone will come looking for us. We’re not exactly – we don’t want Stegler on our asses. That asshole would, well. He wasn’t exactly cool with Pooch and I walking away from this. He’d love to – well, you know, I don’t know, I just don’t want – but we shouldn’t talk about it here. I think. Right. Right?”

The name Stegler was familiar, enough that Cougar was convinced that this man knew something, enough to at least steer him in the right direction even if it wouldn’t be exactly where he wanted to go.

“Fine. Let’s go.”

The man rocked back on his heels, and at one point he must have been built like a brick house. Now, however, his clothes hung off his frame, and he was as gaunt as Cougar, worn down and there was something hunted and not quite sane in his eyes. “You… want to go? You’re okay with this?”

“You know Stegler. You obviously know something about what happened. I need to know what happened.” Walking towards the exit, Cougar noticed the many eyes on them – the cameras, the security people, even the odd curious citizen. This man, telling him that people could be looking for them, had him on edge and he wasn’t sure he liked that feeling at all.

It took the man a few moments to realize Cougar was leaving with or without him, and then he was taking long strides to catch up to him. “Ah – if you don’t know who I am, should I, you know, introduce myself?”

Cougar lifted a single eyebrow at him.

“Right, that’s something Cougar would do too,” the man muttered under his breath, and then tried for a smile. It didn’t exactly work – it was a bit too strained and close to a grimace for it to be friendly, but Cougar figured it was probably weird for that guy. After all, he knew Cougar well enough to be here waiting for him.

Wait.

How did he know to be here waiting for him? Hell, Cougar was by all rights dead by the end of their escapade on the oil rig. How did this person know he’d survived?

Worst case scenario, this was a trap. This guy, Cougar was certain he could get away from – but if he had friends, or anything up his sleeve, Cougar was nowhere near fighting fit, even with his couple of weeks working hard labor jobs to save up to get back to the States.

The guy, unaware of Cougar’s internal thoughts, shook his head. “Well, I’m Jensen – Jake, Jake Jensen. Does that – do you know that name?”

“No,” Cougar replied shortly, stepping through the doors and being hit in the face with the heavy humidity.

“Oh,” the man – Jensen – said quietly. “Oh, well… the car – my car – it’s, it’s parked. I didn’t know exactly when you – well, I had an idea, but not exactly when your plain would, would land… Pooch is still in, in – well, maybe I shouldn’t say, but then again, if Stegler already found us there—”

Cougar whipped around, one hand flashing out to grab the front of the man’s shirt, twisted his fingers and fist in the loose material. “Pooch?” he repeated.

“You – of course you would, you would remember him. You remember – you remember everyone but me, huh?” The man hung his head, and to Cougar’s… Cougar’s shock, his surprise, his… worry? – to Cougar’s surprise, there were tears in his eyes as he mumbled, “That makes… sense, I guess. It’s better if you’re alive and you’re – and you don’t – it’s better you’re alive.”

Cougar eyed him a long moment before letting out a soft huff. “Car?” he prompted.

***

The man – Jensen – had a beat-up old Camry, something sedately grey and unnoticeable. He had a hotel room, walls lined with… well, Cougar wasn’t sure what to call what was on the walls. Certainly some of it was myths, other pieces were plain craziness. Ideas for monsters and spirits, gods and ghosts, and Cougar glanced around and wondered what insanity this man had.

“This is not – okay, I can see what it looks like, when you’re looking at it with those, those judging eyebrows, but this is, this is what made all of this possible,” Jensen said hurriedly.

Cougar pushed past the taller man and sat down on the bed, making it look like he was doing it purposely instead of the fact that he was weak and unable to actually stand, tired out from his journey and his still-recovering body.

“Right… okay,” Jensen mumbled, glancing at the walls and then back at Cougar. “So, bear with me, this is going to… sound insane.”

At that, Cougar raised his eyebrows slowly and scanned the walls all around them.

“Heh. Okay. Fair point, I mean. Alright. Well.” Jensen rubbed absently at his ear, and for a moment, the brightness of the gold caught and reflected the light. Something about that earring there crawled up Cougar’s spine, and he shuddered a little.

“So, I mean. I had to – I couldn’t just. Okay, so first, this is Pooch’s fault, alright? Pooch – something was attacking his family. Haunting them, almost. The house they bought was cheap because a murder had happened in it five, six years back. And weird shit was going on, all that junk you hear about ghosts, and Pooch was sure his kids just had active imaginations, you know? Horror movies. Not that they knew about the murder – only Pooch and I did – I helped him look for the house and shit – anyway, Pooch’s family and girls didn’t know about that shit. Just him and me. And finally Pooch calls me one night and says something like his girls were right, I needed to find someone to take care of this shit, the whole nine yards. And that’s… that’s what opened my eyes right there. That there was this – this whole other world around us. Most people, they don’t want to see that nasty shit, so they don’t look at it, and we knew a lot about that, didn’t we, Cougs?”

Cougar had started out listening to the story skeptical, but as the man rambled on – voice weak and hoarse and raspy, but familiar, so fucking familiar that it vibrated something deep in his bones – he was drawn into it. He knew, of course, about monsters in the night. His abuelita had been a witch, someone steeped in the arts, and his mother had been a devout Catholic, insisting that all her children learn how to steer clear of their grandmother’s path. He knew such things existed, but they had never affected him in any way.

“So yeah, it just – we just had to find someone. Someone legit, of course, because there’s all this shit out there, all these crazies, and yes I know that’s ironic because this sounds crazy but it fucking works—”

Jensen’s voice suddenly got desperate and soft, almost reverent in a way, and the hairs on the back of Cougar’s neck lifted alarmingly.

“—because you’re here, he brought you here, to me, and yeah, maybe, maybe not the way I want, I don’t know – no, he’s, he doesn’t like obeying me, he doesn’t like making things easy, he always wants me to play his fucking game, but I didn’t, did I? I was patient, I have skills, I didn’t need him to do everything because I’m a fucking badass, and – well, you can’t back me up on that because you don’t, you don’t remember me, but I’m not going to wish for that. I’m not.”

Cougar did his best to keep his face blank, silent and waiting for Jensen to explain further. Most people didn’t like silences, and fought to fill it with their own voices, and Jensen seemed to be one of those kinds of people.

Jensen licked his lips and looked aside, reaching up to fiddle with the earring at his ear. “I don’t know how much is – how much is too much, but it was just, it was only two. Only two. That’s not enough, right? I’m sure it’s not enough.”

Since Cougar was still in the dark, he said nothing, letting Jensen continue.

“He whispers louder, but it’s just whispers. I can ignore whispers.” Jensen lifted his head, throat working desperately and eyes burning with a terrifying light. “You’re here now. Everything will fix itself.”

“Yeah, buddy, I don’t think so.”

Cougar and Jensen whipped around, Cougar going for the gun he could see tucked under the pillow.

There were three men there, one really tall guy, the other two shorter and closer in size than Jensen, but these three were in fighting fit conditions.

The rougher guy, eyes dark and almost broken in a way that Cougar was familiar with seeing in guys who had served too long, whipped out a pistol and trained it on Cougar. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, man,” he said, voice rough and gravelly.

“Ohh,” Jensen breathed, and suddenly the man, the personality, that Cougar had been seeing before was gone. “Ohh, he does not like you.”

“Ghabbar, you were sealed away.”

The shortest man, the most serious of them, had such a deep voice that Cougar’s gaze was involuntarily jerked over in that direction. There, he saw the tallest man settling down in a cross-legged position, hands folded, eyes closed calmly, mouth forming words that didn’t seem to have any basis in any of the languages Cougar knew, though it seemed… almost like Arabic, though not exactly.

“What are you doing?” Cougar rasped out.

The guy with the gun jerked his chin towards Jensen. “He stole something that didn’t belong to him, and if we don’t lock it up, it’ll unleash a force this world can’t handle. We need to bind it and kill the host.”

Immediately, there was a visceral rejection of the idea. He could not lose this person. It was important to him, for some reason, and he couldn’t—

“We will try not to kill the host. Is this man your friend?” the deep-voiced man asked.

“I… do not know. But I do not want him dead.”

The man with a gun huffed. “He stole—”

Some piece of Jensen sparked in the back of those eyes, and he shook his head violently. “I did – I didn’t steal it! I bought it, fair and square, put cash in hands, all of it. I didn’t touch anything I didn’t buy, and he’s really not happy to see any of you.”

The man on the floor raised his voice slightly, and the light that was Jensen disappeared, taken over by a deep, burning gold light. “No,” Jensen’s mouth said, but it wasn’t Jensen speaking anymore, and that feeling of wrongness crawled back up Cougar’s spine. “No, you will not take me back, Castiel! I will not be bound by your kind once more!”

“You are not unbound yet, Ghabbar,” the deep-voiced one (Castiel?) replied seriously. “He has not made his third wish. His body is not yours to control.”

The man on the floor let out a shout and opened up a box. It was… glowing slightly, a soft blue color.

A weird cackle tore out of Jensen’s throat, and he sneered in a way that Jensen would never have done, Jensen was always the kindest one of them—

And suddenly Jensen flooded into Cougar’s brain, memories suddenly snapping into place. He had not been alone in that pipe room; he’d been insisting for Jensen to leave, the last desperate kiss they shared, Aisha’s betrayal and their hectic run, their swim through the pipe, it had been Jensen finding the clues, putting them together—

And, just as suddenly, he realized exactly what was going on.

Well, of course, not exactly what was going on. He knew only that Jensen, wracked with guilt, had had his eyes opened to this world and had latched on to finding a solution to Cougar’s death. He had hoped – he knew Jensen would have lived peacefully enough, but when the door to the supernatural opened…

He dropped the gun, stood up and moved to Jensen’s side. “You have to put the earring in the box, Jensen, mi amado.”

Jensen’s body froze, and it was entirely Jensen’s eyes, his face, his love, staring at Cougar’s face. “You remember me,” he breathed.

“Si,” Cougar murmured. “You do not need the earring any more. You must put it in the box on the ground, and these men will leave you alone.”

Jensen licked his lips, looked torn. “If I take him away – he can help us, Cougar. He can do so many things.”

“But he cannot do for me what I want. I want you. But he wants your body.”

Jensen breathed in a deep, shuddering breath, and then nodded. He reached up to take the earring out and froze, golden light trying to spill from his eyes.

The man with the gun aimed it at Jensen, but the man on the floor barked, “Wait, Dean!”

“If he takes over the body—”

Cougar pressed a hand on Jensen’s chest. “You brought me back. You did it. But this creature has no bearing anymore.”

It felt like an eternity before Jensen took a single step towards the box. Then another. And another. Around him, Cougar could feel the three pairs of eyes, watching their movements, but Cougar kept whispering in broken Spanish, prayers and grateful liturgies with each miniscule step forward. That near to Jensen, there was a deep, biting, draining energy, radiating from that earring and covering Jensen’s body, and it tore at Cougar, tried to force him away, to keep hold of the vessel it had found in Jensen’s body, but Cougar had been given this second chance. He wasn’t going to lose it, not to some demon or creature that demanded recompense in blood.

“You’re almost there, keep going,” the man on the ground whispered, and Cougar realized that Jensen now needed to physically take the earring out. His hand went up to his ear one time, two times, a third, a fourth, and each time his hand froze, shook, began to drop.

Tears leaked out of Jensen’s eyes, and he whispered, voice cracked, “I can’t touch it. I can’t – it will steal my mind. I can’t touch it.”

Cougar pressed a gentle kiss to Jensen’s lips, and then gripped the earring and yanked.

Immediately, a dark, crooning voice swirled in his head, a continuous pressure on his thoughts and perceptions and vision, whispers of all the grand things he could do for Cougar, because all he wanted to do, all this servant wanted to do, was to fulfill Cougar’s darkest wishes. Take away the horrors he had seen, bring those children back to life, bring peace on earth, any wish, the bigger the better, the world would change itself just for him

Shuddering, Cougar forced his hand to open, and the earring fell from his fingers.

Instantly, the man on the floor snapped the lid onto the box, trapping it behind unassuming wood.

The serious man, Castiel, bent down and lifted the box off the ground. “At ease, Dean,” he rumbled. “It is safe now.” Transferring his attention to Cougar, he surveyed him, almost weighing his worth. “Your soul and body are true, and will not disappear. But it is a serious matter what your loved one did. He meddled with forces he should not have touched.”

Cougar huffed out a little. He had been dead. And until Jensen’s attention had actually been turned to the supernatural, he could have probably continued to live, more or less peacefully, without any of this.

“Do we need to worry, Cas?” the man – Dean – asked.

“No more. I do not know who sold this earring, but it should have been safely locked away in Heaven. I do not understand how it could have been brought to this world.” Castiel stood up and looked around the room. “Your friend could have very well found another, darker, less easily contained creature. This ifrit is very old, but also very weakened. Had your friend found a crossroads demon, or any thing of similar nature, you would be having a quite different conversation with us.”

Cougar looked at the other two, and then back at the man before him. “Who are you?” he asked, dryly.

“We’re the guys who have to clean up the mess of morons who think they can use magic and creatures without paying the price,” Dean snarled.

The guy got up off the ground, sighing. “Let’s go, Dean. I’m tired.”

Dean eyed the two of them suspiciously. “We’ll be keeping an eye on him,” he growled. “Once people get a taste for power, they go mad over it.”

Then the two guys stood next to Castiel, who touched them and they – vanished.

Cougar decided he really needed a drink.

***

“I really did buy it, Cougar,” Jensen said quietly in the dark of the hotel room.

Cougar hadn’t been sleeping either, but he hadn’t expected Jensen to say anything.

“I – he said, the guy I bought it from, he said it could grant any wish. He said to keep the wishes small, and it would take three wishes to take over the… the host body. And, well.” Jensen let out a hard exhalation, and then said in a self-deprecating way, “the first wish was pretty big. But the next one, the next one was just – was just asking where you were in the world. And even then, he didn’t tell me – he just told me. Qatar. And then I had to search, search facial recognition patterns, look for any clue. I didn’t know – he could have brought you back in pieces, or – I didn’t think of it. I couldn’t. I just… I couldn’t sit there, with Pooch, knowing you died and I didn’t even try to save you.”

“I told you to go,” Cougar said softly.

Jensen’s shoulders began to shake, and Cougar realized that Jensen was crying silently.

Mi amado, please,” Cougar whispered, reaching over to touch Jensen’s back.

Jensen rolled around, wrapping an arm around Cougar’s middle, burrowing his nose and head against Cougar’s chest. “You were – Cougar, you were gone. I couldn’t – I was getting drunk, getting into fights, Pooch could, could keep me reined in only a little, he wasn’t there to watch Clay burn to a fucking crisp, to see – and you wouldn’t even try, you just gave up, and I just left you there.”

Cougar pressed a kiss to Jensen’s forehead. “I am glad to have this second chance,” he murmured. “But Jensen – no more. No more magic.”

“I have all I need, right here,” Jensen said with a watery laugh.

Cougar understood that sentiment.