A/N Alright, guys. It’s my first Cockles Big Bang fic and I have to admit that this is the first time I am writing in this genre. Hopefully you will like it.
I want to thank my amazing friend and beta Zana Zira for her help and a very talented artist Kuwlshadow, who made this awesome drawing! You are wonderful and I am very grateful for your help, my dears!
Enjoy the fic and please let me know what you thought of it :)
For Whom The Bell Tolls
An expensive black Samsung Galaxy S6 flies across the room, smashing into the wall, followed a few seconds later by a glass full of Jack Daniels. That's what happens when some irresponsible douchebag decides to cancel the contract in the last minutes, without any regard for how it might affect the person on the other end of the deal.
As a Sales and Marketing Manager at one of the biggest transportation companies in the world, he's used to dealing with some of the riskiest contracts in the business. This one, had their company gotten it, would have been worth millions, with two million for his take-home commission alone. But when his potential partner turned out to be a twenty-four-year-old fuckboy with more money than sense, things were pretty much doomed to fail from the start.
Ah, well. It's no use crying over spilled milk, as the saying goes. And one good thing has come out of this disaster, at least: he's learned Julian Conti is not to be trusted, and not worth his time or energy for any kind of business interaction in the future.
"I'll make sure every single company knows what an asshole you are! I'm gonna ruin your reputation for good, you son of a bitch!" the man growls, sounding a bit tipsy.
Well, sitting around and sulking isn't going to help anything, so to lighten up his spoiled mood he decides to hit the nearest diner. Barkley's has real delicious food and their cherry pies are famous throughout the whole city. There's nothing else he can do, so yeah, diner it is!
It's always nice to visit this little, cozy place with a pleasant atmosphere and wonderful staff. Sweet Celtic tunes played on violins work like a balm on his frayed nerves, bringing relief and peace at once.
His favorite spot with a view from the window is vacant and as soon as the young man takes a seat, a petite blonde waitress appears at his table. She can't be more than nineteen.
"Good afternoon. What would you like to eat, sir?" her friendly voice inquires.
"You tell me," the young man smiles. "What would you suggest, Loren?"
The girl blushes a little, captivated by the stare of glinting emerald eyes and hurriedly clears her throat.
"We… I can suggest our Steak & Bacon Cheddar Melt, the blueberry pie with chocolate sauce for dessert."
"Sounds perfect," he says after a beat. "I trust your choice. Okay then, bring me those."
"Sure thing. I'll be right back with your order." Loren writes something down in her little notebook.
"You do that. Thanks."
Another good thing about this place is that they have fast service, so it's no surprise when the order is ready in exactly two minutes.
"Whoa, that was fast. Thank you," the green-eyed man laughs heartily.
"It's our pleasure," Loren replies with a polite smile. It turns into an adorable and surprised squeal when she gets a fifty dollar bill as a tip.
He's enjoying the food, munching on it with happy little grunts, when he hears panicked shouts sounding from the outside, followed by a few gunshots.
"The fuck?" he drops the fork, standing up to see whatever the hell is happening on the opposite side of the street, when a man with a black mask on his face and a sawed-off gun in his hand storms into the diner.
His head feels like it weighs a thousand pounds, and the scattered shuffling sounds and desperate, muffled whispering of someone who's clearly in big trouble don't help anything.
"What the hell?" He sits up and tries to look around in half-darkness. Immediately, pain stabs across his body like he's been attacked by a nest of wasps.
There is a red light coming from the ceiling which dyes everything in crimson, making the surroundings look more ominous, and it's cold and dank and damp. But the question is how on earth did he get in here? He doesn't remember this place at all.
One closer look at himself answers the question of why he suddenly feels cold: he's naked. No clothes, no shoes, not even the boxer-briefs or socks.
"Hello? Is anybody here?" He jumps up to his feet, feeling the first cold pulses of panic spreading rapidly through his veins.
There is some shuffling and groaning nearby. Alright, so he wasn't hallucinating when he heard banging and shouting. Well, at least he's not alone and it gives him some kind of a relief.
"Yes. Six of us." A gravelly, gruff voice responds. "What's your name?"
"I-I…" he stutters and pauses, suddenly horrified.
"You don't remember, do you?" the voice asks, softer this time.
When there is no answer the stranger continues speaking. "It's alright. Look at your left wrist. It should be written there. My name is Misha."
"Jensen," he answers after a minute or two. "I suppose it's Jensen."
"Alright, Jensen. Why don't we wake up the others?" Misha says as he steps from the shadows. He's got dark, unruly hair, very handsome features and even in the blood-red light Jensen can see how blue his eyes are.
"What? Like what you see?" Misha smirks when Jensen's look lingers on his full, chapped lips. "You're not too bad either."
Jensen feels his face heat up and he rubs the back of his neck. Sometimes he feels like there's a neon sign on his forehead that screams "Bisexual Dude Over Here - Come and Get Me".
"I… why don't we talk to the rest of them?" his gaze falls down on four sleeping or unconscious bodies lying on the floor.
"Sure. Let's do it."
As they expected the men on the floor panic as soon as they wake, screaming and fighting against Jensen and Misha when they try to help them sit up. It takes them more than half an hour to make these people realize that they are victims too, that it was not them who put them into this strange and eerie cell.
After checking their wrists their names are revealed to be Benny, Clive, Brian, and Eddie.
"Where are our clothes? Why are we naked?" Benny, the guy with a goatee and bald head, asks.
"Because they took our clothes," Brian, a skinny-looking man with a scar on his forehead, responds.
"I should not be here…. I should not be here…." a blond, long-haired teen called Eddie says as he rocks back and forth with his arms around his knees.
"None of us should be here. Quit whining." Clive sounds and looks like he's a huge dick. His thin lips quirk into a loathing smirk and he spits to the side.
"Hey, take it easy, man. He's just a kid," Jensen tries to throw in his two cents to back up Eddie, who looks scared shitless.
"He's right," Benny adds. "We need to stick together and find the way out of here. Besides, you were quite frightened yourself, so no need to blame the kid for feeling scared."
"Well at least I didn't scream like a pussy like the rest of you did!" Clive barks, his hands turning into clenched fists. "I'm not some damn coward!"
"Who are you calling a coward, you piece of shit?" Benny rasps and judging by his build and the strength he's radiating Clive has no chance; if someone doesn't stop them Clive the Douchebag's guts will be smeared all over the place.
"Guys, guys, stop it!" Misha stands between the newfound rivals, not giving a damn that he might get caught in the middle of the fray. "We have bigger issues than seeing who's the biggest man here!"
Surprisingly his relaxed tone disperses the heat in the fighters and they both back off.
"Does anyone remember anything at all?" Brian looks around, searching for the slightest hope. "Right, of course not," he adds when all he sees is shaking heads.
Jensen opens his mouth to ask something when there is a loud click and the red lights vanish, turning instead to white and illuminating the cell. Now they can clearly see each other and the cell where they're being kept.
"What is the point of this?" Benny explodes. "What do you want from us? Let us out of here!" He storms to one of the walls and begins to bang his fists against it.
"It won't work. I already tried," Misha remarks.
"There's no fucking door. How did they put us in here?" Brian squints, contemplating the walls.
"Maybe through the ceiling or the floor. You know like the tiles move and all that crap." Jensen squats and touches the surface they're standing on.
"Why don't you guys check the walls for a hidden door while Misha and I do the same with the floor? I hope you don't mind?" He adds quietly while four men begin to move about the room.
"Not at all," Misha shrugs. "I'll gladly help if it gains us anything."
After checking every single inch of the cell they're still no closer to escaping than they were at the start.
"I suppose it was the ceiling then," Jensen mumbles, sliding his hand through his dirty-blond hair.
"What do you want from us? You can't keep us here forever!" Benny throws his head back, looking up at the ceiling. "If you're watching us I will find you and rip your rotten heart out you motherfucker!"
"There must be a reason why we're here." Eddie throws a stray strand of hair over his shoulder. "I mean, they obviously want us to do something. Why would they keep us in here without a plan? We need to find out what they want. Damn, is it me or it's getting colder?" He starts to rub his forearms, shifting from one foot to the other.
"He's right," Misha nods. "The temperature fell by a few degrees."
"How do you know that, genius?" Clive snarks.
"Because I can feel it. My skin's really sensitive to changes in temperature," Misha glares daggers at him.
"How do you know that?" Benny narrows his eyes. "I thought we all said that we do not remember anything?"
Five pair of eyes turns to Misha, who looks like a trapped animal.
"Woah, easy there tigers," he raises his hands. "I didn't remember. I just found out. I got a rash." He points at his body and like he said, his chest and neck are covered in red marks, like he's fallen into a patch of nettles.
"I think it's on my back too - it sure itches like hell. Can you take a look at it?" Misha asks Jensen and turns around, showing his back and perky round ass to him.
Fuck, it's such a bad timing when his dick gives a slight twitch and Jensen almost punches himself in the jaw. He gathers all of his willpower not to think about the appetizing piece of ass in front of him and what's it doing to him, so he starts to think about mood spoiling things like…
"Don't move," Brian says sharply. "What the hell is that?"
"What? What is it? Do I have something on my back?" Misha's trying to reach his shoulder-blades.
"There is something on your nape," Clive adds.
"Six." Jensen rasps. "There's a number six written."
"What does that mean?" Eddie asks, startled.
"Check each other. If he has number six then maybe we've been numbered as well," Brian suggests.
"You have a number five," Misha mumbles as his fingers touch the damp skin of Jensen's neck, and his breath feels hotter against his ear than the burning sun of a ruthless desert.
"I'm number five," Jensen swallows hard.
"Clive's number one, Benny number two, Eddie number three and I'm number four," Brian huffs out a laugh. "Whatever the hell it all means."
"What if there are no rules and they just put us here to die slowly and painfully?" Eddie begins to pace back and forth. "Or they just want us to turn into cannibals until only one of us is left?"
"Everything is possible," Misha nods, causing a snort from Jensen.
"Way to diffuse a situation," the green-eyed man adds, chuckling.
Before anyone makes any more remarks there is a loud rattling, creaking and alarm going off. The ceiling splits open, letting six boxes fall in the room, followed by a white sheet of paper.
"They have our names on them," Benny says, pointing at the boxes.
"Right," Misha answers absentmindedly. He's holding the paper, almost drilling it with his piercing gaze.
"What is it?" Jensen stands beside him, trying to peek into the sheet the brunet is holding.
"The rules," Misha lifts his gaze to look at the man beside him. There is so much worry in his eyes that Jensen feels cold shivers running down his spine.
"They sent us the rules," Misha's voice sounds broken. "And I don't think you'll be happy after you hear them."
"Just read the fucking thing already," Clive barks. "Stop beating around the bush and get to the point!"
"When we get out of here I'm going to give you a lesson or two about good manners," Misha says and there's probably something in his voice that makes Clive lose the desire to argue back and he shuts up.
"So, the rules," Misha continues. "It says and I quote: "Each of you have your names and numbers written on you. Starting from the number one you are to recall who you are and what you were doing before you got here. In case you fail to recall or there are errors in your memories you will die. In case of success you will see a door with your name on it. You must open and walk trough it in order to earn your freedom. You cannot take anyone else with you. Every thirty minutes the door of the cell you are in opens and you must go into the corridor, walking until you reach another room to enter. When the monitors on the ceiling and walls flash your number it means that the countdown has begun. After the number disappears and alarm goes off it indicates that the time is over and you must have the answer ready. Let the game begin."
After Misha finishes reading the text no one says a word. Looks like they're the victims of a psychopath who has nothing better to do but invent some sick games for their own entertainment.
"Fantastic," Eddie is the first one to speak. "We didn't even remember our names, so how are we supposed to recall all of that? My head is empty and… and I have no fucking clue! I don't want to die in this rat hole!" The boy begins to shake.
"Hey, it's alright," Misha reassures him. "No one's gonna die here. If we work as a team we may find the way out sooner than expected. So yeah, let's just try to relax and start thinking."
"But can we help each other in recalling? Is it allowed?" Brian looks concerned.
Benny scratches his chin. "Well, the rules didn't say anything about it, so I think we're okay."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Jensen says slowly. "But why don't we at least put our clothes back on before we do anything else?" He picks up his box, removing the lid. A black t-shirt, slim-fit jeans, boxer-briefs, cotton socks and brown work boots rest at the bottom.
"Check your pockets and maybe we can find some clues," Misha says. He's already dressed in black slacks, a white shirt and a dark suit jacket. A blue tie hangs loosely around his neck.
"I've got a piece of a stone," Clive frowns, turning his hand with his palm facing upwards to reveal a small chunk of rock.
"Mine's a pen," Misha says. "It says Carver Group."
"Some text on a paper. Maybe lyrics or something?" Eddie shows them a yellow folded paper.
"Pie," Jensen snorts. "I've got a freakin' photo of a blueberry pie."
"A coin with a falcon on it," Benny purses his lips, flipping the thing in his hand.
"Well, as I'm the only one who's left to announce about my item, let me tell you, gentlemen that I am a proud owner of a packet of vanilla powder," Brian says with a confused laugh.
"How are these things supposed to help us? It makes no sense at all!" Eddie throws his hands in the air, exasperated.
"We don't have time for deciding what's right or wrong. We have to help Clive remember before they call for him," Jensen reminds them grimly.
As soon as the last word leaves his mouth the earsplitting alarm goes off once again and the walls slide apart, making a doorway for them.
"Let's go!" Jensen says, grabbing Misha's arm. "Don't forget the paper."
"I've got it," the brunet's lips quirk into a smile.
One by one they walk into a narrow, endless-looking corridor, like a tunnel leading to the darkest pits of Hell.
"Watch out, dead men walking! Dead men walking!" Clive shouts and begins to whistle a funeral march.
"I think I see a door," Eddie says, although he does not sound too convinced. This is a strange place where one cannot be sure about anything.
"I don't see it. Where is it?" Benny throws a doubtful look at the teen.
"Maybe forty or forty five feet away. It's dark green."
"I think the kid's right. I see something too," Brian squints, trying to see better what's ahead of them.
"Come on, let's check."
The group moves faster, leaving Jensen and Misha behind.
"You alright?" Jensen asks quietly.
"Um… yeah… yeah, I'm good." Misha replies, clearly not paying much attention.
"What's the matter?" Jensen stops walking.
Misha lets out a huff of laughter. "I don't know. Probably nothing."
"Obviously it's not nothing. Something's bothering you. Come on, what's wrong?"
Misha hesitates, looking uncertain. "I think I may know Clive."
"What?" Jensen frowns. "How? Did you remember something?"
"I'm not sure. There is a vague picture in my head. Like small pieces of a puzzle that need to be put together. And there's this nagging feeling that I know or have seen him before. Maybe my mind is beginning to play tricks on me," Misha shrugs.
"It's alright. We'll figure it out," Jensen assures him and he sounds so confident that Misha chuckles.
"If we get out of here and it turns out that we're both single I think we should have a beer or two together, you know?"
Jensen laughs amused. "Sounds good to me." He's just gotten a date with a hot guy in the trap they're both in, not knowing if they'll be lucky to make it out alive. But yeah, if they do, Jensen is going to remember this till the end of his days.
"Hey, get your asses over here!" they hear Clive's shout. "We found another room."
"Ugh, this guy is testing my patience," Jensen growls.
"Tell me about it," Misha snorts. "Come on, let's see what they found."
The door leads them into a small white cell with a table and six chairs around it. As soon as they walk in the door closes behind them and won't open no matter how hard they try.
"They're controlling it," Benny remarks dryly. "Bastards!"
"Why don't we take our seats and start thinking?" Brian suggests. "We don't have much time."
"Put your items on the table. Maybe if we put them together it can make some sense?" Clive puts the stone on the wooden surface.
So, a piece of a stone, a pen, a coin with a falcon, a packet of vanilla powder, a sheet of a paper with some lyrics on it and a picture of a blueberry pie are put side by side on the table while six pair of eyes stare down on them.
"This- this is bullshit," Eddie shakes his head. "It doesn't make any sense." He stands up, walking to one of the corners. "I'll try to find a weak spot, or a secret door or something," he explains.
"Maybe we should connect these items somehow?" Benny points at them. "Like if we put blueberry pie and the vanilla packet together, it could mean that Jensen and Brian are somehow connected? Maybe know each other or something?"
"He's got a point," Misha nods. "Okay, move them away from the rest."
Benny removes the two items from the pile, sliding them to the left.
"Ok, now what?" Jensen rubs his forehead. Migraine's on its way, he can feel it.
"Now, let's take Clive's stone and put it with…" Brian's suggestion is cut off with a click and the monitors on the ceiling and the walls begin to flash number one. Which means…
"Will you help me?" Clive sounds frightened, his arrogance and sarcasm gone without a trace.
"Okay, okay, everybody just relax and don't panic," Misha tries to encourage and calm down the group but he's not really succeeding.
"Can you remember anything?" Brian turns to the man next to him. "Like any details at all? Maybe there is something that you recalled during this hour which could help us?"
Clive grabs his head, desperately trying to dig out any details from his subconscious mind. The rest of the group sinks into silence, only the sounds of Eddie's occasional fumbling around fills the cell.
"Accent," Jensen exclaims after a while, pointing his finger at Clive. "Your accent tells me you're from Pennsylvania."
"Could be," Clive nods, feeling hope rising up.
"Alright, not much but we already have something," Benny leans forward.
"I'm trying to figure out why would I have this stone in my pocket but I can't find any explanation," Clive sighs.
"Wait a second," Jensen frowns, reaching his hand to grab the stone. He turns it, sniffs and looks down at his hand. "It leaves a black trace. Check your hand."
"Yeah, it does," Clive agrees, rubbing his fingers together.
"Coal," Brian exclaims suddenly. "There are a lot of coal mines there. You must've worked in one of them!" His suggestion makes a lot of sense.
"Let's not make any hurried decisions. We still have time," Misha reminds them.
Everyone except Eddie begins to talk, participating in the important discussion which plays the vital role for Clive. They're arguing over something when an alarm goes off and the monitors stop flashing the number.
The cell reeks of anxiety and the level of adrenaline is skyrocketing. The only sounds in the room are the short huffs of anxious breathing while the six men gaze at the blood-red letters on the monitor above the door, which ask:
What is your answer?
There are sweat drops on Clive's suddenly deathly white face. His rapidly beating heart is hammering in his chest and against the lilac colored shirt, making the fluttering movements of the fabric visible to everyone in the cell.
"My answer… yes, of course. I… um, my name is Clive." The man swallows loudly, loosening the grip of the shirt around his neck. "I am from Pennsylvania and I'm a coal miner. I suppose I was going home after work before I was kidnapped and brought here."
For a split second it feels like the earth has stopped moving, time has frozen and only the winds of the abyss roam the universe in the deafening silence.
The question on the monitor slowly fades away. There are rhythmical ticking sounds like the machine is calculating and analyzing the received information. It takes it a minute or two before the monitor lights up again with Clive's verdict on it. There are only two words written:
"No!" Clive yells. "No, that can't be right!"
"Mish," Jensen hisses, not paying too much attention to the fact that he's just given a nickname to the blue-eyed man. "Move away from the table."
When there's no reaction, Jensen simply grabs the other man's arm and drags him a few feet away, closer to the corner where Eddie is standing dumbstruck like he's been rooted to the spot.
"But what's the correct answer then?" Benny whispers, looking around the room.
As if the invisible kidnapper has heard him they send the message via the ceiling and wall monitors:
"Clive Norman. Owner of the Paradiso mine in Pittsburg. Was killed on the morning of March 22, 2014 at the doorsteps of his office by an attacker who was never found. His head was smashed with a stone supposedly taken from the mine itself."
"Is this some kind of a joke?" Brian laughs. "What the fuck do you mean he's dead?" he adds angrily afterwards.
"I think they're just playing with us," Jensen states.
"Maybe they're testing our patience and reactions?" Misha suggests weakly.
"Yeah, guess so," Benny shrugs. "Plus, if he's already dead, okay I know it's stupid but still, how are they going to kill a dead man?"
"By destroying his soul," a voice like it sounds from the other world declares, making everyone in the room jump startled. It belongs to Eddie.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Clive glares at the long-haired boy.
Eddie's face is stone-cold, not even a muscle twitches on his face. But his eyes are full of terror, primal fear that makes hair stand on its end.
"Eddie?" Misha makes a step towards the boy. "Are you alright?"
Very slowly the teen shakes his head and raises his hand, his index finger pointing at the wall next to him.
"I found a hidden window pane. Take a look outside."
Clive wants to join the rest of the group and look through it when Benny stops him:
"Don't move from where you're standing!" he snaps. They're better off not risking it in his opinion. After all, no one knows what's going on anymore.
"But…" Clive begins.
"Clive, please do as he's telling you," Brian asks calmly.
"Whatever," the Pennsylvanian man grumbles.
The thick yellow-tinted glass looks old and feels rough under their searching hands. Too bad it's too small for them to fit through and escape from the cell. This place has so many secrets. What if the next one brings them something vicious and malevolent?
"I don't see anything," Jensen remarks, looking through the window. There's only mist outside. A thick, smoke-like mist, curling upwards.
"They're in the mist," Eddie responds. "Actually beyond the mist."
"Guys, do you hear that?" Misha asks worriedly. "It sounds like… like…"
"Like a stormy sea?" Benny helps.
"Yeah, like the waves are hitting the shore," Misha says, puzzled.
The mist begins to clear up and that's when they see them: transparent, ghostly figures roaming about in the sand. Something shapeless and fathomless, dark and deadly stretches like an ocean of doom. Its long and slimy tentacles emerge from the abyss from time to time, catching and dragging unfortunate ones into the depth of terrifying nightmare. Those lost souls or whatever they are vanish into the darkness with a scream of horror, with no chance of coming back. The bubbling surface becomes smooth for a while and stops hissing, like a satisfied beast that has eaten well and feels contented.
"Where the hell are we?" Benny whispers. His voice is strained and the man looks like he's aged by fifteen years, though he's probably only in his early thirties.
"We're in Purgatory," Eddie declares, drawing everyone's attention. "We are all dead and we are in Purgatory."
"Bullshit," Jensen shakes his head. "Hell, Heaven or Purgatory are just myths created by man to scare stubborn kids."
"You think so? Then what the hell did we just see?" Brian asks sharply. "Why are you so sure that we are not dead and our bodies are lying somewhere while we're stuck in this place?"
"Because that sounds too crazy to be true!" Jensen raises his voice too.
"Maybe we're hallucinating?" Misha offers. "Maybe we're under a mass hypnosis or they injected something in our blood and we're seeing some weird shit? It is a possibility isn't it?"
A blood-curdling scream that belongs to Eddie almost gives the arguing men a heart attack.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Benny yells at the kid. "Can't you sh…" Whatever he wants to add dies on his lips when he follows Eddie's dismayed look.
"Holy mother of God!" he whispers as his eyes land on Clive.
Clive, or whatever is left of him, is melting. Green warts and blisters full of yellow pus are sprouting up and bursting all over his skin, leaving the smell of rotten and decaying flesh behind. Half of Clive's face is nothing but the skull and jaws, missing a few teeth here and there.
"Help me," the voice of the melting man is too much to bear with so much fear and desperation in it. Surprisingly there is no trace of pain.
"Stay the fuck away from us!" Jensen grabs one of the chairs in case Clive or whatever he has become decides to attack them. Instinctively he pushes Misha behind his back like he's a baby that needs to be protected.
Clive begins to shake and making gurgling sounds, like he's choking. It takes him a minute or two to explode before the shocked group's eyes.
The green and yellowish slime, together with the man's guts, are all over the place, but thankfully it somehow has not gotten on the remaining group members.
"Let us out of here!" Benny roars, storming to the door and ramming himself against it in hopes of breaking down the god-damned thing.
To their surprise the door opens with a loud click and Benny almost rips it off its hinges. Brian runs out second, following Benny to wherever he's going.
"Be careful," Jensen croaks, looking at Misha. "Don't touch that green shit."
"Yeah, I'll just get the kid." Misha responds. There's no humor amusement in his voice as he bends down and picks up Eddie's unconscious body.
They walk out of the ruined cell together, leaving blood-stained walls behind.
The next room is empty without any furniture in it. There are only grey walls with different words and phrases on them, like they've been cut out of a newspaper and pasted at random all over the drywall.
As soon as they walk in the monitors begin to flash with the number two, reminding Benny that his turn has come.
"Awesome." There's a nervous smile on the man's face. "Hopefully I don't cease existing the horrible way Clive did."
"Did anyone note down the time? How long they give us to recall our past?" Misha touches the wall with the words on it.
"About fifty minutes. I checked on my watch," Brian looks down at his wrist.
"Alright. But what does it mean? These words sound so familiar and strange at the same time." Jensen traces the shapes of letters with his fingertips.
"It's like they're taken from our daily conversations. Hmm…" Misha hums in response.
"Not necessarily," Benny says cryptically. "There are exceptions."
"What do you mean?" Eddie decides to participate in discussion.
"Like this one," Benny points at the lines written in green. "I'm pretty sure it's not something that someone would repeat on a daily basis."
"I am the sacred flame that burns, I am the prevailing son, I am the infinite space, I am the triumphant one." Jensen's crease between his brows deepens as he reads the lines.
"Sounds kind of satanic to me," Brian clicks his tongue. "Are you a devil worshiper?"
Benny shakes his head. "No, I don't think so."
Then he coughs, clearing his throat. "If I'm about to die, I would have one request. Just be quiet and let me think in silence. I appreciate your help and support but please I'd like to spend these last minutes in peace if it's okay."
No one has any objections so Benny sits down on the floor cross-legged, staring at the wall absentmindedly. The rest of the group moves out of his sight, taking their places at the opposite wall. They sit motionless except Eddie, whose fingers tap a nervous rhythm on his knee.
Fifty minutes fly fast in the total silence. The monitors fade and nothing happens for a while, but then there's a distant sound approaching. It's a bell ringing, a deep, thick and thrilling sound of a church-bell, and it sounds like a messenger of doom.
"This is something new," Eddie whispers hoarsely.
The monitor above the door switches on, asking the same ominous question:
What is your answer?
Benny stands up slowly, throwing a brief glance at his companions, nodding briefly to them, as if bidding his goodbye. Then he faces the monitor, jerking his chin up proudly. A loathing smirk tugs at the corner of his lips.
"My name is Benny Olsson. I'm a rugby player and I play for Red Falcons. I was kidnapped right after the game with Kansas Devils from the locker room. Are you happy now?" he grits his teeth.
"Benny…" Misha begins but the clicking sounds are back and he shuts him mouth.
After agonizing seconds that seem to stretch forever the monitor shows the verdict:
"Hell yeah!" Jensen pumps his fist in the air. "I'm happy for you, man!"
One by one they hug and smack him on the back. Benny's case and victory flares up hope in them as well. So, yeah, good things can happen too.
"But how did you recall? What helped you?" Jensen asks intrigued.
Benny points at the lines Jensen read before. "This is our team's war cry before games. We have a small ritual where we yell these lines just to scare the rival team. I knew I'd heard it before. You can never completely erase something that's up here," Benny taps his finger against his head.
They're still feeling euphoric, glad that Benny has won his life back, when the blinding white light fills the cell, forcing everyone to close their eyes. It lasts only a few seconds and disappears just as quickly.
When the five men open their eyes and squint there is a door in the wall that wasn't there before. It has Benny's name on it.
"Go," Jensen nods.
"You know where to find me," Benny smiles as he walks to the door. "Red Falcons. Don't forget."
He pushes the door and makes a step when something unexpected happens. Brian, who had looked a little antsy the entire time they were waiting, rushes forward with a clear intention to follow Benny through the door.
"No!" Misha yells. "You can't do that! Remember the rules?"
"Fuck the rules! I'm out of here!" Brian screams angrily and he almost reaches the door when Misha attacks him from behind, grabbing the man around his middle.
"Let me go, you bastard!" Brian spits as he keeps struggling against the vice-like grip.
"No," Misha pants, trying to drag the stubborn man away from the door. "Jensen, a little help here?"
But before Jensen or Eddie join Misha, Brian manages to loosen the grip and kicks his holder in the groin.
Misha lets out a pained shout, doubling over and falling on his side.
"Mish, hey, look at me," Jensen kneels next to him. "Breathe, just breathe, okay? It's gonna be alright."
"I'm sorry but it's your fault. You shouldn't have tried to stop me," Brian mutters. "Goodbye, everybody."
He steps into the darkness that's pouring from the open door, laughing happily.
"Maybe we should follow them?" Eddie asks uncertainly. The temptation is big and he's torn between staying in the cell and storming out in the unknown.
"No, bad idea," Jensen shakes his head, helping Misha sit up. "How are you feeling?"
"I think my nuts are busted," the brunet laughs hoarsely. "Damn idiot almost neutered me."
"Don't worry, you're still pretty," Jensen jokes.
"Huh, get a room you two," Eddie rolls his eyes. Even he can feel the sexual tension flying between this two.
"Yeah, maybe later, if we're lucky," Misha turns to the teen, winking at him.
Eddie wants to add something witty when they hear Brian's shout. A few seconds later his body is thrown back into the cell.
"I told you it was a bad idea," Misha glares daggers at the culprit.
Brian stands up, brushing dust off his pants, then raises both hands giving Misha two middle fingers.
Jensen's patience bursts like a bubble and he makes a step towards the asshole to beat the shit out of him until he apologizes to Misha when a swooshing sound cuts through the air. An invisible sword simply cleaves Brian into two halves from his head to his toes. His fingers are still raised in dual one-finger salutes when the dissected halves of his body fall to the floor with a loud thud.
Eddie does not scream this time.
He simply doubles over and retches onto the floor.
"Wow, how kind of them. They're so very caring," Eddie laughs sarcastically looking at the things in front of them.
There is a table set with various food and drinks in the next room they enter. It's full of mouthwatering and delicious-looking burgers and sandwiches and fresh, cold bottles of beer in a bucket of ice. At least five pies in different shapes and flavors are still steaming on their plates. The smell of food is hard to resist and their empty stomachs growl in agreement.
"Hopefully we don't die of food poisoning," Misha snorts, grabbing a hotdog.
"I doubt that would be their intention." Jensen's already chewing on a double-size burger. "Damn, this thing is good. I wonder when I last ate?"
"Definitely some time ago." Eddie is digging into his meat pie with a fork.
"It's like we're the three winners on some game show and our "host" is throwing us a party." Misha opens his beer.
"I'm gonna take a five minute nap, if it's okay with you, guys," Jensen says with a strained voice. "I've got a headache and I don't think I can find any painkillers around here."
"You do that," Misha nods. "If anything…" he pauses. "We will let you know."
Jensen stands up, going to the corner. He sits down, leaning against it, and closes his eyes in hopes of a few peaceful minutes of sleep.
Maybe it's stress and anxiety taking a toll on him, and he never realizes how he falls asleep. His dreams are full of disturbing, abstract objects, shapes, and sounds, making his sleep restless. The man's limbs twitch and jerk nervously, overcome with uncontrollable tremors.
After one too many such movements Jensen wakes up with a hoarse shout.
"I was about to wake you." There's a worried look on Misha's face. "Nightmares?"
"How long've I been out?" Jensen wipes the sleep out of his eyes. "Can't believe I fell asleep."
"Maybe twenty minutes?"
"Huh, weird," Jensen huffs. "I thought I only closed my eyes for a minute."
"You kept muttering one specific name in your sleep." Misha turns around on his chair, facing Jensen.
"Yeah? What was it?" the green-eyed man asks curiously.
"Julian Conti. Does it mean anything to you?" It's so funny but Jensen can detect obvious jealousy in Misha's voice.
"Not really," he shakes head.
"Wait, what was it again?" Eddie puts down his beer.
"Julian Conti," Misha repeats.
"I know who he is," Eddie looks puzzled. "Hell yes, I know who that guy is."
"Who?" Jensen and Misha ask simultaneously.
"I-I don't know why I remember this but he's my friend's cousin. And I know that he canceled an important contract with one of the biggest companies because he was too busy getting it on with a prostitute."
"Maybe you know this guy, Jensen?" Misha asks.
"Could be. Anything's possible." Jensen shrugs. "Too bad my mind doesn't want to operate right now."
As if waiting for him to finish talking, the monitors flash Eddie's number. The teen turns pale and looks to the other men for support.
"Don't worry, everything's gonna be fine! Just relax!" Jensen rushes to the table.
"Ok, let's think. Where is your paper? Put it on the table." Misha grabs it as soon as the boy pulls it out of his pocket.
"Lyrics. It's definitely lyrics." Jensen squints at the text. "Wait, there's something scribbled in the left upper corner."
"Let me see." Eddie takes the sheet from Jensen. "It says Eddie McKenzie."
"Well, I think we just figured out your full name, kiddo," Jensen smiles and claps the teen on the back.
"Yeah, uh… thanks, Jensen," Eddie smiles. His eyes are full of gratitude yet fear.
"Hmm, I can say that you're a big fan of Judas Priest. The text kind of reminds me of their old albums," Misha hums, trying to choose a suiting melody for the words written.
"Maybe I'm a metalhead? A headbanger and all that jazz?" Eddie grins. "My hair and the bracelet tell me so." He waves his hand with a leather and spiked band on it.
"You kept tapping a specific rhythm on your knee earlier, like you knew what you were doing," Misha remarks.
"A drummer maybe?" Jensen suggests. "He could be a drummer from a rock band you know."
"Nah, don't think so," Misha shakes his head in disagreement.
"And why is that?" Eddie looks at him questioningly.
"No offense, buddy, but your arms are too thin for a drummer. Must be something else." Misha gives him a warm smile.
"I see," the teen mumbles, a bit disheartened.
"Show me your hands," Jensen asks suddenly.
Eddie stretches his hands in front of him, looking uncertainly at the older man.
"Now what?" he asks.
"Your fingers are long and lean. I'd say you either play a guitar or a piano."
"That makes sense," Misha nods, looking at the teen. "Close your eyes and imagine yourself playing. Trust your instincts."
Eddie does as he's told and falls silent. A few seconds later his hands begin to roam on an imaginary instrument, plucking silent notes on its strings.
"It's a guitar," the boy opens his eyes. "I just played the 'Master of Puppets' solo on it."
Jensen and Misha whistle, surprised.
"When we get out of here you're so gonna play it for us!" Misha demands while laughing.
"No problems. You got it, old man!" Eddie's grin grows wider.
"Hey, who are you calling old?" the brunet exclaims in feigned anger.
"You and your crush. The sexual tension between you two is suffocating me." Eddie cackles and begins to run in laps around the table while Misha chases after him. Jensen simply blushes like a schoolgirl and rubs his neck awkwardly.
"How do you know that we aren't married men?" Misha tackles the teen to the ground playfully.
"I don't see rings or at least a trace from it on your fingers. Plus, you'd have a nagging feeling in your heart if you were about to cheat on your partner. All I see here is you two having an eye-sex most of the time. So I'm more than sure that you're both single. Fuck… hahaha noooo stop it!" Eddie squeals when Misha's fingers begin to tickle him ruthlessly.
Unfortunately the fun times are over when the invisible kidnapper reminds them that it's time to answer the question.
Eddie adjusts his hair with a slightly shaking hand and clears his throat.
"Well, my name is Eddie Mckenzie. I play lead guitar in a rock band. I suppose I was kidnapped right after rehearsal. So yeah, that's my story. And… and thank you for the food," He adds after a pause.
"Come on, come on, tell us he's right," Jensen keeps muttering frantically while the machine analyzes Eddie's answer. "The fuck are you wai…" his mumbling cuts off when the monitor shows the verdict.
"No!" Eddie begins trembling. "No, you're lying!" he takes a step back. "It can't be true!"
"EDDIE MCKENZIE. WORKED AT DOMINO'S PIZZA. WANTED TO FORM A ROCK BAND AND PLAY GUITAR. DISAPPEARED AFTER HIS LAST DELIVERY TO 57 OAK ROAD, PHOENIX, ARIZONA."
"I don't want to die," the boy gives Misha a desperate look.
"You won't die!" the brunet says calmly. There's a burning fire dancing in his eyes and determination beyond the limits. "We've had enough deaths. Get behind me."
"What's on your mind?" Jensen asks puzzled, not understanding Misha's intentions, though he still stands beside him.
"I'm not gonna give this kid to that fucker who thinks it's fine to play with our lives as he pleases."
The distant ringing of a bell gets closer but it sounds more sinister now. There is another, new sound accompanying it. A howling.
"What the hell is this?" Eddie can't stop shaking like a leaf, looking wildly around.
"I-I have no idea." Jensen feels his mouth going dry.
Something huge and heavy rams into the wall, making the three men jump in fear.
"We need to get the hell out of here now!" Jensen tries to open the door but in vain. "Open it" he yells at the monitors.
Meanwhile the opposite wall is cracking as the thing keeps ramming into it. There's a growl, deep, hoarse and ominous sound, like a beast from Hell is creeping up on them.
Misha joins Jensen and they try to break down the door, but it refuses to yield.
"We're screwed," Jensen whispers, throwing a worried glance at the wall. There's already a small hole in it which is getting bigger as the seconds pass.
"We're not giving up so easily," Misha declares as he grabs a chair, smashing it against the wall. "I'm gonna break the skull of whatever the hell is trying to sneak in to this room!"
As soon as the last word sounds from his mouth the wall crumbles down and something invisible leaps into the cell. It reeks of blood, sulfur and eternal hunger. A hot and foul breath hits Jensen's nostrils and he tightens his grip around a broken table's leg that he's holding as a baseball bat.
"Where is it? Where is the thing?" Eddie is trying to shrink in size and hide under Misha's suit.
"I don't know. It's… it's invisible," Jensen croaks nervously. "Eddie, stay behind us," he adds as he and Misha try to shield the teen from the formless threat. But it seems that fortune is not on their side.
The boy screams and his pained shout rings in both men's ears. They whirl around only to see a horrendous and nauseating sight:
Eddie Mckenzie is being eaten alive. His left hand up to his elbow is already missing and blood is pouring out like the floodgate has been opened. The invisible attacker leaps at the boy, tackling him to the ground and aims for his guts. There are gashes, bites and wounds appearing on the teen's body while he keeps screaming.
"Get it off of me! Help me! Oh God, help me!!!"
Jensen and Misha wake up from their stupor and grab their makeshift weapons tightly. They begin to hit and pound the monster with them. And it probably has at least some effect as the thing lets out a deafening bark and hits Jensen with its monstrous paw, throwing the man across the room.
"Jensen!" Misha cries out, seeing him sprawled out motionless on the floor.
"I'm fine! Keep going!" Jensen shouts with a wince as he tries to sit up.
Misha turns around to strike another blow with a broken chair. But it's too late.
The thing has dragged Eddie to the wall and the boy is trying to cling at the edges of the hole with his remaining hand.
"Misha, don't let it take me!" he pleads as the tears are streaming down his face. "Help me! Please…"
"Hang on! Just hang on! I will get you out! Eddie, look at me! You're gonna be fine! You hear me?? Kick the fucker with your legs! Fight it! Don't give up! For the love of god, just don't give up!" Misha drops the piece of furniture and grabs the boy, who's halfway dragged into the hole.
"I've got you, Eddie! I've got you!" he keeps shouting, not caring that he's sliding into the wall together with the mutilated boy.
The beast gets angrier when it finds resistance and becomes more violent. It has no intention of letting go of its prey and doubles its efforts to take the prize to its lair.
More than two third of Misha's body is already on the other side of the wall and he has a great chance of ending his life beside Eddie when a pair of strong hands grab his ankles and tug him back into the cell.
No one knows exactly how, but Jensen's sheer will to save at least Misha's life gives him the strength to rip the brunet from Eddie's weakened grip.
"No! Jensen, no! Let me get back in there! I almost had him! Just a little… Just a little further and I can save him!" Misha is trying to crawl back into the hole where he can still hear Eddie's screams.
"I'm sorry, Mish. But it's too late for him." Jensen wishes he didn't have to say those words but it's the bitter truth. He blocks the way preventing the other man to go in the hole.
"No, you can't do that to me!" Misha cries out. "I can save hi-"
A sickening crunching sound makes him shut his mouth. Eddie's screams are no longer heard.
As the realization dawns on him Misha slides down the wall and begins to weep silently.
Jensen sits down next to him. Slowly, gingerly he puts his arm around the crying man, pulling him into his chest.
While caressing Misha's dark and surprisingly very soft hair he realizes one thing:
They're not going to make it out alive.
"We need to go, Mish," Jensen says softly, like he's afraid to disturb the distressed man. "The beast may come back." The door had opened with a click as soon as the nightmare ended.
"It won't. It was intended for the kid, not for us. And why? Why should we go? What's the point?" Misha asks hoarsely. "We'll die anyway. Does it matter where it happens?"
Jensen has no answer. What can he say when not so long ago he had been thinking the same thing himself? After Eddie's death, which hands down was the most horrible one he'd witnessed, the tiny glimmer of hope sparkling somewhere deep inside his heart had faded out completely.
"We have to try," Jensen insists stubbornly. "We've come this far, might as well go all the way."
"You think we stand a chance?" Misha raises his head, looking at the other man with reddened eyes.
"There's always hope," Jensen lies surprisingly convincingly. "Benny and Eddie wouldn't want us to give up. Let's do this for them." He stands up and reaches his hand to Misha.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Jensen exclaims when they enter the next room.
It looks like a typical expensive hotel room with a king size bed, a wardrobe and a huge mirror. There's another door too which leads to the bathroom.
Misha throws his head back and begins to laugh hysterically.
"It's like getting pampered before being brutally executed."
"Whoa," Jensen whistles when he finds clean clothes in the wardrobe for him and Misha.
"What's going on?" he asks, turning around.
The monitors on the wall and the ceiling flash the answer:
A SMALL SURPRISE FROM THE ORGANIZER. YOU HAVE TWENTY-FOUR FREE HOURS.
SPEND IT AS YOU PLEASE. NO RECALLING. ENJOY YOUR TIME.
"Son of a bitch," Jensen shakes his head in disbelief, closing a drawer of a nightstand.
"What is it?"
When he does not get a respond Misha goes and peeks inside the piece of furniture. There is a pack of condoms and a bottle of lube.
"Huh." It's all he can say.
"Yeah, exactly," Jensen huffs. "Wanna take a shower first?" he asks after an awkward silence.
Misha nods. "Maybe it will help me forget about all the blood and gore I've seen. At least for a while."
"Yeah, I understand. Go for it." Jensen sits down on the bed with a newly found magazine in his hand. "I'll try to read for a bit then."
He gets bored too soon. The magazine is about transportation markets and the top companies that are in constant competition, and their successes and failures.
"Boring shit," he mutters to himself, throwing the magazine aside. His mind wanders to the showering Misha, how he's lathering up and cleaning himself and Jensen is fighting an urge to storm in there, press the man against the wall under the running water and kiss him senseless.
Apparently his dick likes those thoughts as well, as it begins to twitch and harden in his boxers.
"Bad time, buddy," Jensen looks down at his groin, scolding his dick when the bathroom door opens and Misha walks out. A big, navy blue colored towel is the only thing he's wearing around his hips and he looks so alluring and seductive with his wet hair and the water droplets glistening on his chest and shoulders that Jensen forgets how to breathe. He simply gapes at Misha, like he's fallen into some kind of trance.
"I think the time has come to do something about this," Misha says cryptically, staring at him.
"What? What do you mean?" Jensen's voice is an octave lower, huskier and deeper from arousal.
Misha steps closer, killing the distance between them. His hot and minty fresh breath tickles Jensen's nostrils.
"I would never forgive myself if I died without trying this," he says and leans forward.
Feeling their lips barely touching, Jensen cups Misha's face and deepens their kiss.
"If we get out of here alive, the date offer still stands," he murmurs against the brunet's lips.
"Of course." Misha bites down on his bottom lip, drawing a moan from Jensen's mouth.
"So, are you okay with the fact that our kidnapper is about to witness some hot, man on man action?" Jensen's hand curls around Misha's nape, fingers sinking into the wet and velvety hair.
"I don't care. They can go screw themselves," Misha grinds against Jensen's thigh with his hardened cock, showing how interested he is. "Does it bother you?"
"I wish that was the only problem on our hands," Jensen responds, nipping at Misha's earlobe.
Misha's impatient hands begin to rip off the other man's clothes, not listening to Jensen's muttering that maybe they should've waited till he took a shower.
"You smell amazing, so shut up," Misha removes the last remaining piece of clothing from the green-eyed man and pushes him on to the bed.
"How do you want to do it?" Jensen's hands roam about the brunet's body, squeezing and kneading the flesh.
"I want… I need you in me… wanna feel you!" Misha moans as he straddles Jensen's thighs and throws the towel that's still around his hips away.
"Yeah, okay. Okay, Mish… Give me a second."
Misha eagerly and impatiently helps Jensen and it looks so dirty but damn hot! He doesn't resist when Jensen parts his trembling thighs to gain the access to his tight hole, doesn't fight when Jensen's fingers apply generous amount of lube between his cheeks; on the contrary, Misha spreads them with his hands, making the job easier for the other man, moaning quietly and deliciously when calloused hands caress the most intimate parts of his body. Whimpers and whines become insistent and louder when thick fingers enter, slide past the rim, stretch and scissor him open and after a few minutes nudge and press against his prostate.
"Aaah fuuuck," Misha shouts, bucking his hips up, only to thrust down on Jensen's fingers harder. "Yes, Jensen, right there, god damn it! Keep doing that! Ah, ah, shit!!!"
Once again they switch positions: Misha flips them over with ease, pressing Jensen to the mattress and holding his wrists together.
"I'm gonna ride you, so you'd better hold on tight, cowboy!" Misha's words are full of promise. And he keeps his promise, oh, does he keep it!
With one smooth move Misha impales himself on Jensen's rock-hard dick, taking in the whole length at once and stealing all the air from the lungs of the man lying beneath him.
"Holy shit," Jensen gasps for air, feeling a sudden pressure and tightness around his dick that is absolutely amazing. He grabs Misha's thighs, caressing the dips above the brunet's hipbones with his thumbs.
"Show me what you've got, babe!" he drawls, encouraging the other man.
"You asked for it." There is a mischievous, devilish glint in Misha's blue eyes, which have darkened to a shade just lighter than black, almost like a stormy sea.
Misha is incredibly gorgeous like this: lust-blown eyes, spit-slick lips, head thrown back and moaning in ecstasy. He fucks with wild abandon, like there's no tomorrow. And maybe he's right.
He rides Jensen fast and hard, rolling his hips in patterns and shapes only he can decipher. His dick stands strained at attention and leaks pre-cum, leaving white threads on his and Jensen's abdomen when he bends down for a quick kiss.
Seeing Misha moaning above him, so wild and unchained, bouncing and jerking himself off is enough for Jensen to explode.
"Come for me, Mish," he grunts and slaps Misha's left buttock as he shoots his release, filling up the condom.
Misha clenches down on him, moving his hand fast and with a lingering moan trembles in orgasm, seeing the world shatter behind closed eyelids. Thick white stripes of his cum drip down Jensen's body.
"Fucking hell. This was amazing," he moans, boneless and wrecked. He nestles in Jensen's arms when the green-eyed man pulls him down for a kiss.
Before closing his eyes, Jensen can swear that he sees a halo and tremendous, black pair of wings unfurling behind Misha's back.
Feeling each other's warm bodies pressed together, both of their breathing in sync, sends both men into dreamland. Misha's head is tucked under Jensen's chin while the latter's hand is wrapped protectively around the brunet's waist. That's how Morpheus finds them.
Six hours later Misha wakes up with a start. Actually, something wakes him. A feeling, a disturbing and hair-raising feeling that something is wrong.
"Jensen." He shakes his lover slightly, earning a displeased grunt. "Come on, wake up!"
"What is it?" Jensen sits up, looking at him bleary-eyed.
"Something is happening and I'm afraid it's not good." Misha looks confused and worried.
Before he adds anything else the bed begins to shake, then the nightstand and the lamp on it. The mirror on the wall cracks and shatters, walls begin to creak and crumble.
"Get dressed," Jensen shouts and jumps out of the bed when the alarm goes off and the monitors start to flash his and Misha's number simultaneously!
"They gave us twenty-four hours! What the hell is happening?" Misha shouts as the earthquake or whatever is happening doesn't cease, but instead gets worse.
The door of the room flies off its hinges and hits the ground with an unpleasant thud. Jensen barely manages to jump aside when the crystal chandelier from the ceiling crashes down and almost falls on his head.
The howling and the beast it belongs to are back. But somehow it does not break into the room. It's like the monster is lurking around somewhere in the corridor, waiting for its prey.
"We need to get out of here." Jensen is already dressed in the clean clothes that look exactly similar to his old ones. The only difference is that they are cleaner and with a pleasant detergent scent.
"Where? There's no place to hide, unless we find another room." Misha is wearing a new pair of black slacks and a suit. The only addition to his appearance is a beige trench coat. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?" he frowns when Jensen's look lingers on his face.
"You look like a holy tax accountant," Jensen chuckles, for an instant forgetting that they're in a grave danger.
"This is a crazy idea, you know." Misha swallows nervously looking at the doorway, trying to imagine what's beyond it.
"We gotta try. We can't stay here. We have a better chance outside than we do if we stay here. We need to-"Jensen cries out in pain and doubles over.
"Jensen?" Misha rushes to his side. "What's the matter?"
"There's… there's a horrible pain… in my… chest," Jensen wheezes, grabbing Misha's arms for support.
"Let me see," Misha says gently. "You're bleeding…" he says puzzled when blood stains soak through the fabric.
"What?" Jensen lifts his t-shirt and frowns when Misha takes a step back.
"There's blood all over your chest," the brunet points at Jensen's body. "And it looks like you've been shot."
They exchange befuddled glances.
"What the hell is going on?" Misha whispers. "Did they do something to us while we were sleeping? I-I don't understand."
"Neither do I but we need to keep going." Jensen is looking at his hand, which is completely covered in blood.
"Can you walk?" Misha asks worriedly.
"Yeah, I'm good. Just give me a second." Jensen takes a shuddering breath.
"Alright, we'll figure it out later." Misha assures him.
Jensen's gaze falls on the shattered glass and he shakes his head in regret.
"Too bad we can't use that as a weapon."
"We can still make baseball bats from the table's legs," Misha gestures at the broken furniture.
"Yeah, at least we have that."
The corridor seems to be longer and darker than it was before. The monitors won't stop flashing their numbers. But there's no evidence of the beast and it's a small comfort.
"We need to think. We need to recall," Jensen keeps repeating and panting as they run through the corridor towards the unknown. They simply know that they must keep running until they remember something, anything!
"You are Jensen Ackles," Misha says calmly, as he stops running.
Jensen freezes to the spot, looking at his companion with squinted eyes.
"How do you know that?"
"You kept muttering that in your sleep after our glorious sex," Misha smiles warmly at him.
"Did… did I say anything else?"
"Yeah, you kept calling me Angel," Misha laughs, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Huh, okay," Jensen huffs out a small laugh.
"Alright, so let's sum it up. You're Jensen Ackles. Keep repeating the name until it starts making sense to you. Also, try to recall a name Julian Conti. It must be somehow related to you."
"What about you?" Jensen is worried and anxious. His nerves are on the verge of giving up.
"I'll manage something," Misha shrugs with a tired smile.
They reach the part of the corridor where it turns right. Both men grab their bats before moving forward. The path is clear and they breathe in relief.
As soon as they turn Jensen sits down on the floor, grabbing his head and sinks into silence.
"I'm Jensen Ackles…
I'm Jensen Ackles…
I'm Jensen Ackles…
Who the hell is Julian Conti?
Des… Desti something… Something to do with transport… stiel... What the hell is Destiel? MOTHERFUCKER!!!
Destiel Shipping Lines…
I'm a Sales and Marketing Manager at Destiel Shipping Lines!!!"
"I remember everything," Jensen opens his eyes in time with the alarm going off. His number fades, which means Misha still has time.
"My name is Jensen Ackles and I am a Sales and Marketing Manager at Destiel Shipping Lines. I was eating a pie at Barkley's before I ended up here because of you, you son of a bitch!!!" he yells at the monitor asking the question.
The machine begins ticking, processing the received data.
"Yes!!!" Misha shouts, hugging the man beside him. "You did it!"
"What the fuck?" they exclaim at the same time, looking at the monitors.
"I think it's broken," Misha whispers as they look at the display where the words change with alarming speed.
A loud creak distracts them from the monitors and they look to their left. There is a door-shaped crack in the wall. It's vague and bleary at first but as the time goes by it gets clearer. Jensen's name is written in an auburn color and the letters look like they're dripping with blood.
"Go," Misha looks at Jensen. "You don't have much time."
"You're coming with me! I'm not leaving here without you!" Jensen shakes his head.
"Should I remind you what happened to Brian?" Misha chuckles.
"That was before. Now the system is out of order and it could work. You're coming with me." Jensen's tone indicates that Misha is not to argue.
Whatever Misha wants to say is interrupted when an invisible monster attacks them with a deafening bark and growl.
"Go! Jensen go! I've got it! Open the door!" Misha yells at the man, as he keeps pounding the monster blindly, wherever he can reach it. And he probably succeeds as the beast begins to yelp and whine in distress, obviously in pain. Seems like Misha hit it hard in the head. Or wherever.
"You're coming with me!" Jensen shouts as he fights with the door handle. "Get your ass over here! Now! Come on!"
The door finally opens and Jensen turns around to grab Misha and drag him to the door if it's needed.
"Hurry up!" he adds, looking relieved when he sees the brunet running towards him. "Thank god you…"
Misha shouts in pain when he's tackled to the ground, lying flat on his stomach.
"NO!!!" Jensen yells, ready to run to him but he's unable to let go of the door handle. It's like his hand is glued to it. "LET ME GO!!!" the man roars.
There is a split second when they stare into each other's eyes in silent horror that will be forever kept in Jensen's mind.
"Run, you fool!" Misha wheezes out. And it's over.
The beast drags him away down the corridor.
"NO!!!" Jensen screams at the top of his lungs. "MISHA! MISH!!!"
The howling is back and Jensen takes a deep breath. He just hopes that it will be a quick death and not as painful as Eddie's. Or Misha's.
He hopes that he will see Misha soon.
The howling has returned but it takes Jensen a minute or two to realize that it does not belong to the beast. It sounds like a distant and rapidly approaching wind. No, not a wind. A hurricane!
It hits and shakes the whole corridor, hell, probably the entire building he's in. Once again the walls, the ceiling and the floor begin to crack, stones collapsing and disappearing into the dark void beneath. The monitors shatter, raining down on him.
A freezing wind, stale like it's erupted from a crypt, catches Jensen, spinning him in a whirlwind.
The world around him is getting destroyed and Jensen Ackles is in its epicenter.
Rolls of thunder…
Flashes of lightning…
So much pain…
They are so loud and annoying…
Darkness all around…
Where am I?
What if he's still alive?
Take me back…
I need to check…
I need to save him…
Don't leave me…
I need you…
"Mr. Ackles, welcome back!"
Monotonous beeping is what wakes him. He's tangled in all kinds of tubes. A needle that connects an IV to his body is peeking out from under a small bandage on his left arm.
"Where am I?" Jensen croaks. His voice is so hoarse that it sounds unfamiliar even to him. He'd never thought that opening his eyes would require such a big effort.
"Good morning, Mr. Ackles," a woman's voice replies. She's checking the numbers on the monitor he's connected to. "You're doing really well, considering the condition you arrived in. Oh, you had us worried, Mr. Ackles," she laughs softly.
"What's going on? Where am I?" Jensen tries to sit up and winces in pain when it stabs him like a butcher's knife.
"You are at St. James hospital," the nurse, whose name apparently is Ellison, responds.
"What am I doing here?"
Ellison adjusts the blanket on his bed and looks at Jensen sympathetically.
"What is the last thing you remember?"
"I… I was eating at Barkley's when a robber burst in. Then I woke up in a strange place with five other people and we were trying to find our way out. I need to go back there. Maybe my friend is still alive? He was attacked…" Jensen tries to crawl out of bed, struggling with the damn tubes.
"Mr. Ackles, please calm down. You are too weak to move," Ellison cries out worriedly.
"Let me go! I can't stay here!"
"Go where? There are no others, Mr. Ackles. You've been in this hospital for five weeks. You were shot in the chest and head at Barkley's and fell into a coma. It's a miracle that you survived and woke up." Ellison's words are ruthless, and they devastate him.
"No…" Jensen shakes his head in denial. "You're lying!"
"Why would I?" she squints at him.
"Maybe you are on their side in all this mess?" Jensen shouts at her. "Maybe you have some other dirty tricks up your sleeve just like your goddamn partner?"
The pursed lips and angry frown on her face are clear signs that she's had enough. She waves her hand at the two male nurses, standing outside of Jensen's ward.
Jensen keeps swearing, cursing and snarling as two pairs of strong hands holds him down while Ellison injects sedative into his vein.
Soon after, the darkness opens her arms up to meet him like an old friend.
As days pass, Jensen's memories return and his mind clears. His physical state improves too: strength and endurance return, chasing out the bone-deep exhaustion that had weighed down his body. His parents and siblings don't want to leave his side until he assures them that there's nothing to worry about and he'll be out of the hospital very soon. Coworkers pay frequent visits too, telling boring news and old jokes, at which he squeezes out forced smiles.
While his health is improving Jensen's emotional state has crumbled. There is a gaping emptiness, a bloody void in his soul that won't close and stop bleeding.
And its name is Misha.
Jensen is idly poking at a cup of pudding with his spoon and exchanging a word or two with Ellison. After realizing his rudeness and apologizing for it he's on good terms with her. She had just laughed it off, assuring him that she'd heard far worse things, that she had not taken his words seriously.
Some loud fussing and voices from the corridor draws their attention and the woman goes to check what the matter is.
"What is it?" Jensen asks as soon as she's back.
"The guy in room 1809 woke up from a coma. He had a head injury from a baseball bat and was out just like you for more than five weeks." Ellison seems pleased after hearing the good news.
"Woah, lucky guy," Jensen smiles. "Who is he?"
"A tax accountant from the Carver Group. God, what was his name? Give me a second… Ah, yes. Misha. Misha Collins."
The rush of blood through his veins and ringing in his ears is so loud and powerful that Jensen begins to count seconds until all the glasses in the hospital explode from its might.
But nothing like that happens.
The spoon in Jensen's hand just slips out and clatters on the floor.
It takes Jensen three days to make up his mind. Uncertainty and fear of the unknown makes him feverish but in the end when he feels like climbing the walls from frustration he makes the final decision.
His feet are shuffling against the floor, moving slowly and a bit unsteadily. The distance from his ward to 1809 is like a slow march towards the scaffold where the executioner awaits him with an axe. Jensen's legs are turning into cotton and his mind screams at him to turn back and run, never open the door of the ward behind which he does not know what to expect.
Ruthlessly suppressing the inner rioting voice and with a rapidly beating heart Jensen stops in front of the ward No. 1809. He takes a deep breath, feeling a trickle of sweat travelling down his spine. With a trembling hand he knocks on the door.
"Come in," a very familiar, raspy voice responds.
Jensen walks in and freezes to the spot.
Misha, the man he knows from his dream is laying in bed, staring at him with his blue eyes wide opened. He looks exactly the same with disheveled dark hair, pink lips and a few days of stubble. The only difference is that he looks a little paler than the dream version.
"You are not real," Misha whispers hoarsely, balling the blanket in his fists. He shakes his head as if trying to wake up and chase away the unsettling images.
"I could say the same about you," Jensen licks his lips, suddenly feeling very thirsty.
A long and tense silence stretches between them. Neither of them knows what to say as they stare at each other wordlessly.
Finally Jensen gives in.
"I was shot and fell into a coma for five weeks. Came to just a few days ago. The nurse told me that there was another comatose guy who had just woken up and when she told me your name I didn't know what to think…" Jensen leans against the door. "I thought I was losing my mind. I wasn't sure…"
"What was real and what was a dream?" Misha helps.
Jensen nods. "Yeah. I still see those images when I close my eyes and it feels like I'm back at that place but all alone." Jensen's voice is strained. "I was trying to come back and save you but they wouldn't let me. It's… it's so hard to explain…"
"I know, Jensen," Misha smiles. And the way he says the green-eyed man's name spreads something warm and pleasant in Jensen's chest.
"Come here," Misha pats his bed. "Sit with me. I don't bite. Not unless you want me to." He laughs hoarsely.
Jensen approaches his bed, sitting down on it gingerly. His gaze falls on Misha's hands and his lean fingers.
"If you're trying to figure out if I'm single I'll make it easier for you. The answer is yes." His eyes shine with a mischievous glint. "What about you? I hope we didn't get attached to each other if you're already…"
"No, don't worry, we're good." Jensen chuckles, averting his gaze from Misha's piercing gaze.
"Oh, good," Misha mumbles, relieved.
"How… how did you survive?" Jensen turns back to him.
The brunet sighs, a small tremor runs through his body at the memory.
"That damn thing snapped my baseball bat like a twig and decided I was a good choice for dinner. When it grabbed my thigh I remembered that I had a pen in my pocket. I still don't know which gods helped me but I managed to blind the bastard. I didn't care and I didn't stop stabbing until it started yelping and howling and splattered blood all over me. I couldn't see the monster but I sure could see the bloody trail it was leaving behind as it ran off. I needed a few minutes after to realize that I was still alive and there was a pair of mutilated eyes on my shirt. I roamed about the corridor for three days and nights. There were no rooms to enter or flashing monitors. When they finally asked about my answer I'd managed to recall my full name. I remembered that you called me a holy tax accountant and decided I'd stick with it. Plus, my pen had a suspiciously familiar name on it. So, as my final answer I chose that I was Misha Collins, a tax accountant from Carver Group and that I was kidnapped after work from a parking lot. I was so tired of everything that I just wanted it to end once and for all. As you can see they accepted my answer."
"Holy shit," Jensen mutters. This has been such a wild ride on an emotional roller coaster. He feels like an orange that's had all the juice squeezed out of it.
"You know what I've learned from all of this?" Misha asks.
"That there is a very slim line between reality and the dream world or whatever you want to call it."
"What do you mean?" Jensen looks puzzled.
Misha smiles cryptically. Then he grabs the blanket that's covering him and pushes aside.
Jensen's vision blurs and he feels like falling off the bed when he sees an angry red bite mark on Misha's left thigh. It's slightly swollen with dark bruises around it.
"Mish…" Jensen flinches at the way he pronounces the brunet's name.
"I like it when you say my name like that." Misha says softly. His fingers touch Jensen's hand and the touch is scorching hot like a ray of sun passing through the magnifying glass.
Jensen covers the other man's hand with his warm palm.
"I'm so glad that you're back." There's so much affection in his eyes that it makes Misha blush.
"Me too. It would be such pity if I'd missed the chance to drink a few beers with you, wouldn't it?"
At first Jensen does not realize what Misha is talking about but then a wide grin spreads on his face.
"Whatever you want. You choose the place and time."
"Ah, such a perfect gentleman," Misha smirks.
"Oh, shut up," Jensen laughs, feeling warm inside.
Misha falls silent, his face turning serious.
"There are a few things we need to do," he adds.
"Yeah? Like what?" Jensen shifts on the bed, turning his attention to the brunet.
"We need to find Benny and we know where to look for him. And I think it would be a good idea if we visit Eddie's grave and see his parents."
Jensen considers Misha's words, which make a lot of sense. Why not? When they're out of here they could totally do it.
"Yeah. I don't see any problems." Jensen squeezes Misha's hand gently.
Misha hums satisfied. "But I'd like to do something else now before we do all of that. And I will need your help with it."
"Of course. What can I do for you?" Jensen seems ready for whatever Misha wants to ask.
"I would like you to kiss me Mr. Ackles." Misha grins and barks out a laugh when his words catch Jensen off guard.
Before Misha adds something else witty Jensen leans forward and seals their lips together.
"I think your kissing skills are… are a bit rusty…" Misha pants into his mouth.
"Really? Then why are you moaning and clinging to me like that?" Jensen keeps kissing him hungrily, as if afraid that Misha may crash down like a sand castle.
They both laugh, breaking apart. Misha wraps his arms around Jensen's neck, resting his chin on the man's shoulder.
Jensen's hand keeps rubbing small circles on the brunet's back, feeling Misha's steady heartbeat against his chest.
Life goes on.
Dream or reality, they made it.
Everything will be fine.
They will be fine.