"I don't think that's a real word," Danneel said, sounding amused even despite Jensen's shitty cell reception.
Jensen sniffed. "I just won the most impossible case ever. I'm allowed to make up new words if I want. Also, I may have been drinking."
"Amazingly, I had figured that out. You don't usually call in the middle of the night to tell me how awesome you are."
"I am awesome," Jensen pointed out, weaving around a couple that was busy necking in the middle of the sidewalk. "It deserves saying."
"Not at one in the morning it doesn't. You are so lucky I was still up, or we'd be having a very different conversation right now. I am glad you won your case though," she added, before Jensen could pout at her. "Were you out celebrating with the guys from the firm?"
Jensen nodded, which made the world wobble a little. "Yeah. We invited Judge Morgan to come too, but he thought it would be unprofessional."
Danneel made a sound of agreement. "He's probably right. You as drunk as you sound?"
"Nah," Jensen said honestly. "Just a little buzzed. I'm heading for the subway right now, and I intend to sleep through all of tomorrow. Today. Whenever. The point is, sleep will be had."
Danneel's low chuckle resounded in his ear. "Sounds like you could use some. Do you need me to stay on the line until you get to the station?"
"Danny, I love you, but I am not 12 years old. I can get myself home without your supervision."
"If I read about you in the papers tomorrow, I'm going to be obliged to laugh after I finish mourning your death," she told him.
"Duly noted. Bye, Danny."
"Call me tomorrow!" she ordered, before the line went dead in Jensen's ear.
She'd be intolerable if he didn't do as commanded, so Jensen set about putting a reminder in his phone, just in case he remembered none of this in the morning. It took more concentration than he had expected; maybe he'd been wrong about how drunk he was.
Whatever. He had the day off tomorrow. He'd just sleep through the hangover.
With most of his attention focused on his phone, Jensen paid no attention to the tall figure leaning against a building on his left until a deep voice interrupted his thought process.
"I wouldn't go that way if I was you."
Halting, Jensen glanced over and found himself looking up at a massively tall guy dressed all in red and black, with jet black hair and enough eyeliner on to embarrass a preteen. He was actually pretty hot underneath all the makeup, but Jensen was not so hard up that he was going to start considering random weirdos who yelled at him on the street as potential hookup material.
Still, it wouldn't do to be rude.
"What?" he asked.
"I said I wouldn't go that way if I was you," Goth Guy repeated. "It's not safe."
Jensen glanced at the quiet, well-lit street he had been about to walk down. "Looks fine to me."
Goth Guy shrugged, apparently unbothered by the weirdness of this entire situation. "That's because you don't know how to look right."
Jensen snorted. "Go sleep it off, buddy," he said, before continuing on his way. He kept his phone in hand as he walked, alert for any sign of trouble.
There was nothing. Jensen's footsteps echoed off the close-crowded office buildings, drowning out the more distant sounds of sirens and honking cars that were the perpetual audio backdrop of the city. It was all entirely normal, just like the hundreds of other times Jensen had walked this way, but he found himself unable to relax, his nerves on a hair trigger.
Hands grabbed his arms, and Jensen swore in shocked surprise, stumbling as he was hauled backwards a few steps.
"Get off of me!" He flailed until the hands released him, then whirled around with a snarl on his lips.
There, behind him, was Goth Guy again, looking somewhere between shamefaced and determined. It was a weird look for a goth, Jensen had to say.
"The hell is wrong with you, man?" Jensen demanded. "Leave me alone!"
"I told you it wasn't safe," Goth Guy said nonsensically.
"From you, maybe!" Jensen hefted his briefcase, more than a little tempted to use it to bash the man's head in.
"No, seriously, look." He waved a hand at the ground a few feet ahead of where they were standing.
Despite himself Jensen look down.
There, on the ground, was a drawing of some sort of weird pinwheel shape done in bright green spray paint.
Jensen wasn't sure whether to laugh or explode. "Look, I don't know what kind of weirdo schtick you've got going here, but I am not about t-"
"Quiet," Goth Guy said, holding up a hand.
Jensen sputtered in outrage. "What the- where the hell do you get off telling me t-"
Reflexively, Jensen turned towards the sound of his name.
Although the street had been empty a minute ago, now there was a man standing about 20 feet away from them. He was dressed in ragged jeans, an AC/DC t-shirt and a hoodie that had seen better days. He looked, Jensen couldn't help but think, mostly like a hobo. The man's dark eyes were fixed on Jensen's face with a concerning degree of intensity.
Jensen was starting to wish he'd taken a cab, after all.
"Okay, I've had enough of this shit. You," he said, leveling a finger at the hobo. "Fuck off. And you can do the same after you apologize for harassing me," he added to Goth Guy.
"Yeah, no can do," Goth Guy said, not even looking at him. "I'll apologize later if you still want me to."
Jensen growled, again considering his bludgeoning plan, but the guy wasn't paying attention to him anymore.
"Evening, Cohen," he said to the hobo guy. He gestured at the spray painted symbol that he'd been so worried about before. "You should watch where you put those things. Someone might get hurt."
"You should go," Cohen the hobo said. "This doesn't concern you."
"And you should stop terrorizing the mundanes." Goth Guy was wearing an amused little grin that suggested that this was the highlight of his entire evening. "Guess neither of us is good at doing what we should."
"You're out of your league, Jared."
Improbably, that made Goth Guy - Jared apparently, and Jensen could only find it a profoundly inappropriate name for a goth - chuckle.
"Actually," he said, "I think that's my line."
Then he lifted his hand and threw a bolt of lightning at Cohen.
"Holy shit!" Jensen yelped, throwing up a hand to shield his eyes as blinding light bounced off the walls of the nearby building. He didn't see the moment where the bolt collided with Cohen's body, but he heard the concussive explosion of its impact and felt the ground shudder under his feet.
Somewhere out on the main road, he dimly registered a car alarm going off.
"Rats," Jared said mildly.
At the sound, Jensen jerked up and whirled around to look, just in time to see Cohen, who hardly even looked ruffled, step forward brandishing...
A can of spray paint?
"Better watch out," Jared said to Jensen. "This could get messy."
"Are you-" serious Jensen didn't get to say, because Jared was shoving him out of the way in the next second, bare moments before a baby grand piano crashed to the ground in the space where Jensen had just been standing.
Jensen glanced first up at the empty sky, then over at Cohen. The man was crouched on one knee, staring back at him with a smirk. On the ground in front of him was a fresh graffito of a series of interconnecting diamonds.
Much as his rational mind resisted the idea, Jensen had to acknowledge that the timing was awfully suspicious.
"What the hell is going on?" he demanded.
"Magic," Jared answered, without taking his eyes off Cohen. "Would've thought you'd have figured that out by now, honestly." He sighed theatrically. "Guess it's true what they say about the pretty ones."
"Oh, fuck you very much."
Cohen started drawing again, the hiss of the spray can nozzle suddenly ominous in the relative quiet.
"Damn," Jared said lowly.
"What? What's he doing?"
Cohen was drawing circles this time, Jensen saw, each topped with hook-ended lines that made them look almost like keys.
"Nothing good," was Jared's entirely unhelpful answer. "Stay back."
Cohen stopped, stood and backed away. And then the painted symbols began to move.
As Jensen watched in fascinated horror, the paint peeled itself off the road and stood upright. Spindly lines thickened until they resembled limbs, bulking out and spreading, and Jensen realized that he was looking at a half dozen man-shaped figures made of wet, dripping paint.
"This is insane," he said, mostly because it seemed like someone should.
"Magic," Jared reminded him.
The figures approached, moving with a slack limbed shuffle that was unnatural enough to make the hair raise on the back of Jensen's neck. They covered ground frighteningly quickly, and Jensen took a belated step back.
"Uh, shouldn't we- woah!"
The world spun wildly and Jensen found himself slung over Jared's shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"What are you doing? Put me down!"
"You know, you could hold still," Jared said, almost conversationally. His long legs ate up the ground as he sprinted down the street away from the paint men, Jensen bouncing against his back with every step. "It's not like this is easy with a guy your size."
"Nobody asked you t-" Jensen's breath escaped in a rush as Jared unceremoniously dropped him on the ground behind a dumpster.
"Wait here." He waved his arm and the air between him and Jensen simmered briefly golden. "That should keep you safe from most anything he can throw at you. If anything on the walls start moving, yell."
He was off again before Jensen got a chance to reply, slinging a rope of fire around his head like a lasso. Fire reflected off the bricks around them, making the air glow brightly orange around Jared's dark-clothed figure.
It would have been beautiful if it hadn't been so utterly surreal.
Briefly, Jensen considered running, but he was man enough to admit that he'd almost certainly be signing his own death certificate if he did. No matter how much people in horror flicks needed to learn to run away from dangerous situations, Jensen didn't think it would help him much here. Cautiously, he extended one hand in front of him.
Light flashed, and Jensen hissed out a surprised breath when his fingers connected with something solid that sent a shock of pain ricocheting through his hand. Well, hopefully it was strong enough to keep out any more surprise pianos.
A sudden gust of violent wind sent him stumbling backwards; his head hit the wall behind him, hard enough to drive the breath from his lungs.
"Not wind proof," he said to himself, touching a ginger hand to the back of his head. No blood, which was good news even if his head still hurt like hell. "Good to know."
Looking over at the pitched wizard battle going on in front of him - and seriously, weren't people seeing this? Even for New York, this was beyond weird - Jensen saw that Jared had taken out a couple of the paint men, but Cohen was drawing more symbols as quickly as Jared could destroy them. For someone who'd been so self-confident, Jared looked to be struggling more than a little.
Mostly because he was dealing with the wrong target.
Cohen was doing an absolutely shit job of covering his own back, Jensen couldn't help but notice. If Jared hadn't been so busy fending off those paint men, he could have taken the guy out in a single shot.
And so, for that matter, could Jensen, if he had a weapon.
"What I wouldn't give for something to throw right now," he muttered to himself. Maybe in the dumpster?
A strident meow distracted him from his attempt to determine if he was actually committed enough to this idea to go dumpster diving (he was leaning towards hell no, to be honest).
Jensen looked down to see a tabby cat staring up at him. At its feet was a ragged looking tennis ball.
"Meow," said the cat, and damn if it didn't sound expectant.
"Uh, thanks?" Jensen said. The tennis ball was entirely too lightweight to have any hope of knocking the guy out, but the shape was familiar enough that Jensen figured his aim would be accurate enough for something else. He glanced at the place where Jared's invisible wall stood.
"I guess if you got in, then I can get out," he said to the cat.
As if it had understood, the cat stood and wandered nonchalantly away, tail swinging in a decidedly jaunty fashion.
Shrugging, Jensen followed.
The cat walked a few feet along the wall, then veered sharply to the left and sat down to wash its face. Cats.
A quick glance at the other two revealed that they were too busy focusing on each other to pay much attention to Jensen. He slung carefully closer, trying to stay far enough back to avoid notice without making his shot impossible. He only had one chance, after all.
Once he found a spot to his liking, Jensen stopped. He took careful aim, and threw.
The tennis ball flew easily through the air, light enough to cover the distance easily. It hit Cohen's hand with impressive force, and the spray can made a bright chiming noise as it clattered to the floor.
The look of shock on Cohen's face was almost comical as he stared at his suddenly empty hand. His surprise only lasted a few seconds before he was scrambling to recover his spray can, but it was enough.
Jared snapped his fingers. The cover on a nearby manhole exploded into the air, propelled by a torrent of sewer water that rushed towards them. The paint men were swamped in an instant and melted away beneath the onslaught, while Jared stood tall and dry in the midst of his miniature flood.
The smell was atrocious.
"Did you have to use sewer water?" Jensen yelled at him, back pedaling hurriedly to avoid the encroaching flow.
"Picky, picky!" Jared called back, before snapping again.
The water receded immediately, slithering back down to the sewers where it belonged. In its wake, Jensen could see liberal splashes of red paint and a discarded hoodie. Everything still smelled of sewage.
Someone in City Hall was going to shit a brick when they saw this mess.
"Where did he go?" Jensen asked, as he walked forward to join Jared.
Jared gestured at another symbol, this one in a vague X-shape. "Teleportation sigil. He's halfway across town now." He turned then to look at Jensen and graced him with a surprisingly bright smile. "Not exactly the textbook method of defeating a graffiti artist, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was grateful for the support. Nice arm."
"I play with an amateur baseball league on the weekends," Jensen explained.
"A man of many skills. You still want me to apologize?"
"No," Jensen admitted. "But I would like you to explain to me what in the seven circles of Hell just happened."
Jared arched an eyebrow. "Well now, that's a phrase you don't hear every day."
Jensen refused to blush. "I minored in Medieval Lit in undergrad. It seemed appropriate. Shut up."
That earned him a smirk that was hardly fair. "I can't explain and shut up at the same time."
"Oh, my God," Jensen groaned. "You did not just say that. It's like I'm talking to my baby sister."
Jared chuckled. It was distracting. "Now that's not a very nice thing to say about the guy who just saved your life. I think you should thank me properly."
He ambled closer to Jensen, still wearing that smirk. The light from a nearby streetlamp illuminated his face more clearly, and Jensen saw that his pupils were blown so wide that there was only the thinnest ring of colour around them.
"Holy shit, are you high?" Jensen demanded incredulously. A thought occurred. "Wait a minute, am I high? That would explain so much."
Jared chuckled. "I'm not high in the way you're thinking. It's a side effect of tapping into the city's magic."
"The city's magic," Jensen repeated dubiously. "Didn't know there was such a thing."
"Let's just say that Harry Potter's not the best example of the actual world of magic. I'm Jared, by the way," Jared said, holding out a hand.
"So I heard," Jensen said, returning the handshake. "I'm Jensen. Thanks for getting involved in my business."
"You are quite welcome. It would have been a real shame if you'd been turned into a rat."
Jensen startled. "Seriously?"
"Or maybe a mouse," Jared said thoughtfully. "I'm a little rusty on my transmutation sigils."
There was a meow from the vicinity of Jensen's ankles. He looked down to see that the little striped car had come back.
"Hello again," Jensen said to it. "Where have you been?"
"I see you've met Azrael," Jared said, reaching down with one massive hand to pet the cat.
The name struck a familiar chord in Jensen's memory. It took him a moment to figure out why. "Wait a minute. Isn't that the name of the cat from the Smurfs?"
"I approve of your 80s TV knowledge. It's also the name of the Angel of Death in the Hebrew Bible, but I totally named her after the Smurfs."
"Huh," Jensen said, and the conversation lapsed for a long enough moment for things to start feeling awkward.
He jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the subway station. "So, uh, I should probably-"
"Do you want to go for coffee?"
Jensen paused. "What?"
"There's a place round the corner that's open all night and serves surprisingly palatable coffee." Jared smiled hopefully, which made an entirely unexpected pair of dimples pop out of his cheeks. Seriously, worst goth ever. "Come with me?"
Jared shrugged. "Figure we might have some stuff to talk about. Besides," he added, with a wink that made Jensen suddenly very aware of all that eyeliner. "I'm not going to miss out on a chance to go for coffee with a guy as hot as you."
Which was how Jensen ended up on a coffee date at two o'clock in the morning with a goth wizard.
"So," Jared said as they slid into the cracked Formica booth with their coffees and a basket of French fries. Azrael had wandered off when they'd reached the diner, which Jared assured him was normal. "Any idea what you might have done to attract the attention of the Night Court?"
Jensen stared at him. "Have I fallen into a trashy vampire romance novel while I wasn't looking?"
Jared's grin flashed. "Clearly you have no flair for the dramatic. The Night Court's real all right."
Briefly, Jensen considered feeling awkward about talking about something like this in public, then remembered that he was in an all-night diner in Manhattan. Wizards and Night Courts were probably tame compared to the madness they usually heard from their customers.
"Okay, I'll bite. What's the Night Court?"
"One of the biggest and most influential wizard's guilds in the city. They're involved in a lot of the more shady dealings going on in the magic world."
Jensen was momentarily distracted by the wonder if magic guilds were like joining the Freemasons. Eventually, though, his brain caught up with the rest of what Jared had said.
"Are you saying that I was just attacked by a member of the wizard mafia?"
Jared nodded, a smile flirting with the corner of his mouth like he was trying to be serious but couldn't quite manage it. "'Fraid so. Any chance that you're involved in any major crimes that might involve magic?"
Jensen snorted. "Yeah, that'd be a no."
"Well, Cohen knew your name, so it was definitely you they were looking for. Either this is all a case of mistaken identity on par with The Big Lebowski, or there's something about you that they really don't like. Usually we avoid getting non magical folks involved in our business, so they'd have to have a pretty good reason."
"Don't look at me," Jensen said. "I'm still half convinced this is some kind of stress-induced hallucination."
"Hmm." Jared considered him for a moment. "You do seem impressively non-magical, even for a mundane. What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a lawyer."
"Ah," Jared said, with the air of someone who'd just figured something out. "A truth spinner."
"Hey," Jensen protested. He'd been called far worse, but he still wasn't going to sit here and be insulted.
Jared held up a hand. "No, it's a title. Lawyers are among the few mundanes who have an impact on city magic."
Jensen crossed his arms over his chest. "Okay, you're going to have to explain this to me. Use small words, if necessary."
"I'll do my best. So, the first thing to know is that magic is a naturally occurring thing."
"Could have fooled me," Jensen muttered.
"Hush." Jared paused, obviously choosing his words carefully. "Magic is mostly about channeling the power that gathers in the world. There's naturally occurring magic everywhere: in the trees, the mountains, the oceans and other original places, but also in manmade spaces as well." Jared leaned in closer, long arms splayed across the table, and Jensen found himself mirroring the pose. "What you saw tonight, what I practice, is called city magic. It gains its strength from the rhythm of the city, so the crowds, the traffic, the telephone lines, stuff like that."
"Okay," Jensen said slowly. "So what does that have to do with me?"
"Like everything else in the world, magic is based on rules. For city magic, that means the laws and rules that govern human society. We call lawyers truth spinners because you guys help make laws." Jared's voice was suffused with a barely contained excitement. "You literally create the rules that city magic follows. You have more control over the magic of a city than any other mundane and most wizards."
Jensen didn't get it. "I don't get it."
"Say the court ruled tomorrow that all clubs in the city had to be closed by 10pm. Any wizards that drew their power from the pulse of the clubs would suddenly find their power weakened in all that extra time. Or say you got a wizard put in-" A strange expression crossed Jared's face.
"Ackles," Jared said. "Cohen called you Ackles."
"Yes?" Jensen said, a little warily. "Jensen Ackles. That's me."
"Shit." Jared sat back with a disbelieving little laugh. "That explains why he was trying to kill you. You're the one who put the Tigerman in jail."
That caught Jensen's attention. Getting Gabriel "Gabe" Tigerman life with no parole for a string of murders that made even Jensen's seasoned stomach turn had been his entire life for months. They'd only received the final verdict a few hours ago. It was why he'd been out celebrating in the first place.
What the hell did his case have to do with paint-wielding wizards trying to kill him?
"The Tigerman's a wizard," Jared explained, before he could ask.
Jensen's jaw dropped.
He offered Jensen a half-shrug. "I told you that the Night Court's got its fingers in a lot of pies. The Tigerman was one of the more reactionary members."
"Why do you keep calling him 'the' Tigerman?"
Jared raised an eyebrow. "You can't guess? There are lots of different kinds of wizards."
"Holy shit." Suddenly the trouble the coroners had had trying to determine the murder weapon made a hell of a lot more sense. "Then why didn't he just kill us all instead of going through nearly a year of prison and court proceedings?"
"Because city magic only obeys those who obey the city. There's gray space, obviously, since it's not committing a crime that's the problem, but resisting arrest if you get caught. The law court is the heart of the city's code. If he broke the law by trying to escape, he'd lose his power. He's stuck in prison for the length of his term, unless a new ruling lets him out early."
Jensen buried his head in his hands. "Christ, am I on some kind of wizard assassin hit list? Am I gonna get wizard-shivved?"
"Probably not," Jared said. Jensen felt the man curl a hand around his own and pull it gently away from his face. "Cohen's a hothead, and not very good at follow orders. I'd wager that he's getting one hell of a dressing down from the Lord of the Night Court right now. There are going to be some people who are pissed, I'm not gonna lie about that, but only an idiot would attack a truth spinner. You represent the will of the city; there's not a lot of wizards that are going to risk tampering with that."
"Cohen did." Jensen looked up at Jared's sympathetic expression. "So there could be others."
"Maybe," Jared conceded.
"So what do I do?"
"First of all, stay calm. You're about as well-protected as a mundane could hope to be. And secondly," he said, with an impressively unsubtle leer, "I know a guy who'd happily be your bodyguard."
Jensen took a moment to parse that.
"Just to confirm," he said. "This guy is actually you, right?"
Jared nodded solemnly. "You've seen through my clever ruse."
"And was that a genuine offer to help me not get offed by a ninja wizard assassin or just a euphemism?"
"Can it be both?" Jared asked, with a surprising amount of frankness.
And yes, actually, Jensen rather thought it could. Except for one thing.
"Why did you help me?" he asked. Jared looked startled, so Jensen did what he did best: pushed. "You knew exactly when and where to be to save my ass. Why?"
"I've got some business of my own with the Night Court," Jared admitted, after a lengthy pause.
"Really? Do tell."
Jared shook his head. "It's nothing you need to know."
"This isn't a good start on the trust front, I hope you know."
"I know." Jared sighed. "But it genuinely has nothing to do with you and a great deal to do with things you know nothing about. Would you be happier if I told you that I was out on the streets trying to attract some trouble?"
"Not entirely," Jensen said. "But it's a start." He stared down into his mug with a faint sigh. "This is really not what I was expecting out of my life when I woke up this morning."
It earned him another of those wide, cheeky grins. "Isn't it great?"
"That's one word for it." Draining the last of his coffee, Jensen stood. "It's time I was getting home."
"But-" Jared started, only to go silent and cross-eyed when Jensen shoved a business card in his face. It listed Jensen's official business details, including the name of his firm and the neatly stamped numbers of his office phone number.
And, written in blue pen underneath, he'd added his personal cell number.
"I intend to sleep for at least 10 hours," he told Jared, who was starting to grin. "But after that, I expect to hear from you."
"Sir, yes, sir," Jared said. Then, almost shyly, "Do I get a goodnight kiss?"
What the hell. It wouldn't be the weirdest thing that he'd done in the last hour. And he had a sneaking suspicion that this was only the beginning.
Jensen pressed a quick, smacking kiss to Jared's lips, then offered him a smirk of his own. "Call me," he ordered, then turned and left the diner with a triumphant grin on his face.
He was absolutely the golden god of lawyering.