You’re Spaced out on Sensation
Misha calls Chief Morgan and makes some excuse about a family emergency back home. They take the first available flight back to Virginia. It’s about a billion times worse than the one to Lexington had been. The change in air pressure does his headache no favors and his shoulder is swollen and hot to the touch.
It hurts...I feel it...your pain is delicious
He’d been able to talk Misha into canceling the ambulance and had avoided the hospital by promising to have Ty patch him up once he got back to his house. He even called Ty and let Misha talk to him to prove he was serious about getting medical care. Ty is standing by at their house with all the medical paraphernalia he’ll need to pop Jensen’s shoulder back into its socket. This isn’t the first time he’s had to do it. Ever since his first encounter with the Shadow, his shoulder has been prone to dislocation.
Jensen distracts himself from how uncomfortable he is by playing the video on David’s phone. He watches it over and over again. The video starts in a lab with sterile white cinderblock walls and bright fluorescent lights. A large whiteboard takes up most of one wall, mathematical symbols and equations drawn haphazardly over its surface. Sitting on a table off to the side is what appears to be an older model Macintosh computer. A very young AJ stands next to a middle-aged man Jensen doesn’t recognize. Judging from AJ’s youth in the video, it must have been shot about ten to fifteen years ago - right around the time Jensen’s parents were killed.
“We’re making this video to document the achievements of the Men of Letters in the field of interdimensional studies,” the older man says while Young AJ gazes at him, an expression of awestruck hero-worship on his face. “My colleagues and I have done what many thought impossible. Not only have we proven that other dimensions exist, but we have created a doorway into one.”
“The ramifications of our discovery are countless,” Young AJ cuts in excitedly. “We’ve already made contact with a being from the Void Dimension. We named it the Void Dimension because it’s a vast empty expanse. We can’t go there, not yet, but we’re experimenting with bringing one of its denizens here to our dimension. Think of the things we’ll be able to learn from it!”
The older physicist gives Young AJ an obvious cool-your-jets-junior look and continues, “I think what my young counterpart here is trying to say is that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. While our achievement is indeed noteworthy, there is yet much study to be done. We are in talks with both the governmental and private sectors to obtain more funding for our research.” The video continues as the older scientist goes into detail about their discoveries and the process for opening a door into the void dimension.
About halfway through, the video fades to black and when it starts up again, AJ appears on screen with three other men. The older physicist is gone and AJ appears close to his current age. They aren’t looking directly at the camera, but at a sizzling, crackling line of what can only be pure energy, like a lighting bolt captured and held in stasis.
The setting has changed. Gone are the plain cinderblock walls and austere backdrop. The four men stand in a well-appointed, high-tech center. It looks less like a laboratory and more like a corporate boardroom, resplendent with glass walls, chrome fixtures, and dark wood furniture. A large sign mounted on the wall reads ‘Men of Letters’ in flowing script. Apparently, they’d received the funding they were hoping for.
AJ glances over at the camera. “Are you getting this?”
“Yes,” answers David’s voice. “But are you sure you can control it?”
“The words have to be exact. Pellegrino got them wrong, that’s all. This time will be different.” AJ holds up a hand. “Are you ready?
The three other men move to surround the energy bolt, expressions grim. They each hold a canister of salt in one hand and a metallic rod in the other.
“Alastair, I call you forth. By your name I command you to do my bidding.” AJ intones. The words sound strangely ritualistic and not at all scientific. He then flips a switch on a black box the size of a car battery and electricity arcs up, connecting the box to the sparking, vertical line. It pulses and the energy field expands. A black shape forms and the men hastily pour the salt onto the floor so that the Shadow - Alastair - emerges from the interdimensional doorway into a roughly-shaped salt circle.
Alastair. Jensen now has a name to go with his nightmares.
The facility in the video is brightly lit and, even on the grainy cell phone screen, the creature takes on more definition than Jensen has ever seen before. The first time he’d seen it, in his childhood home, the hallway had been dark and everything had happened so fast. Other than the exact shade of its yellow eyes, Jensen hadn’t picked up on many details. The same was true of last night’s encounter, too dark, too much frenzied activity all happening at once.
But now, he can see Alastair in all its hideousness. What he had taken for a roiling smoke-like texture to its skin, he can now see are writhing black boils covering it’s entire body, including its face. They expand and ooze pus, then shrink as new ones swell to take their place, erupting their oily discharge. Every time he gets to this part of the video, his mouth floods with saliva, his heart beats a frantic rhythm, and his blood runs cold.
Misha keeps shooting him worried glances.
Although contained within the circle, Alastair screeches and lunges at one of the three scientists. He panics and scrambles backwards, In his clumsy haste, his foot disrupts the crystal circle. Alastair surges forward. The scientists scatter in all directions.
The video fades to black.
It starts up again; this time David is center screen.
“You see now why I have to stop it - Alastair. Too many have died. AJ says he can control it, that we’ll be famous. I used to believe him. I don’t anymore. I’m going to tell you how to kill it. I’m too scared to do it myself. I’m a coward. A coward and a fool.” David scrubs his face with both hands. When he looks back at the camera, his eyes are bloodshot.
He proceeds to give detailed instructions on how to summon and kill Alastair. It sounds like witchcraft, magic, something supernatural. Not like physics at all. Not the form Jensen always thought an advancement to the next level of applied scientific knowledge would take. Then again, the technology we use routinely today would definitely look like witchcraft to the people of the middle-ages.
A defeated-looking David ends the video by saying, “Alastair feeds off suffering. His own dimension is a wasteland. We created a link between our two dimensions, and he’ll keep using it unless he is stopped.”
Jensen reaches for the play button again, but Misha stops him, grabbing his hand and pressing it back onto the airplane seat armrest.
“That’s enough, Jense. You must have watched it at least twenty times now. You’ve probably got the damned thing memorized. Give it a rest.”
Jensen turns scratchy, dull eyes on his partner. “It distracts me, Mish.”
Misha frowns. “Distracts you from what? The voice?”
“Yes, it’s getting more agitated...more hostile. Ever since I woke up in the park.”
Misha’s frown deepens. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Jensen shrugs. “No point. Anyway, I know how to end it now. As soon as I get home, Alastair is gonna be pining for the fjords.” He tries to smile, but he’s beyond exhausted. All he can muster is a slight twitch of his lips.
“Once I get you home, you are going to let Ty fix your shoulder and treat your concussion like you promised. Then you need to rest before I help you end that shadow thingy.” Misha fixes him with a hard glare. “You are not alone in this. You will let me help you.”
Jensen doesn’t disagree...out loud.
Misha drives him home from the airport because he’s too wrecked to find a way home himself. Driving is out of the question. Even pulling up the Uber app seems like a monumental task. The headache throbbing behind his eyes is making him nauseous and he may have a fever. There is good news, however; his left arm no longer hurts when the damaged bones in his shoulder grate against one another. His entire arm from shoulder to fingers is numb. That counts as good news, right?
The walk from Misha’s car to his front door nearly does him in. He barely remembers swinging his legs out of the car so it’s with some surprise that he finds himself already on the front porch, supported by Misha’s arm around his waist, his good arm slung over Misha’s shoulder, while they wait for someone to let them in.
“I have a key,” he remembers, fumbling weakly in his pockets, Misha’s arm the only thing keeping him upright.
Before he can find his key, the door swings open. Ty stands in the entryway. He takes one look at the way Jensen is drooping from Misha’s arms, dead on his feet, and jumps forward to help. “Hey big guy, how you doing?” he asks, voice pitched low and gruff like a walking, talking teddy bear.
“Living the dream,” Jensen mumbles. He can hear the slur in his own words. Man, is he beat.
Ty gets an arm around his other side and, between the two men, Jensen is basically carried inside.
“Jensen, we need to get you lying down on the couch so I can get a better look at you, see what you’ve done to yourself this time. But I gotta warn you about something first.” Ty pauses to kick the front door shut. “You have company. I tried to get him to come back later, told him it was a bad time, that I’d give you his contact information soon as you got back. Guy wouldn’t leave, said it was important that he see you and, long story short...he’s waiting for you in the living room.” Ty makes a shrugging facial expression, lips downturned at the corners.
The timing couldn’t possibly be worse. He doesn’t have time for anyone right now, couldn’t entertain a guest if his life depended on it, and besides, he doesn’t know anyone who might come by for a visit other than Misha and maybe Kane, although if Kane were to come by for a visit, it wouldn’t be Jensen he was here to see. Jensen’s headache shoots pain to the back of his skull, reminding him that if he stands here much longer, he’s going to puke.
He takes a step toward the promised couch. He figures the mysterious visitor will take one look at how fucked up he is and beat it out of there.
Misha and Ty have to move with him or risk a Jensen puddle on the foyer floor. The three of them stumble gracelessly into the living room like they’re practicing for a miss-matched, four-legged race. At first, all Jensen sees of his so-called visitor is the back of a head; shoulder length chestnut-colored hair. Then, the dude stands. He’s tall with broad shoulders that taper to a slim waist and legs that go on for miles.
Jensen stops, pulling the other two to a halt beside him. There’s something heartbreakingly familiar about the figure standing in his living room. Before the man even turns around, Jensen to knows who it is.
All the air rushes from his lungs. The room begins to spin in dizzying circles.
Through the buzzing in his ears, he hears Ty say, “Jensen? Shit. Get him to the couch. Hurry.”
“What’s wrong with him?” Jared asks. Because it is Jared. Jared is here. His Jared. The one he’s been looking for, hoping he’d get to see again someday, even if only so he can ask ‘why’. His Jared is here.
Jensen gets dragged over to the couch, legs heavy and boneless. He has about a million questions. What happened to you? Where have you been? Why did you leave me in that place all alone? Did you think about me as often as I thought about you? He wants to run to him, jump into his arms, hoot and holler. But it’s taking everything he has just to remain conscious and he doesn’t think he’s doing a very good job at even that much.
Misha looks up briefly from getting Jensen situated in a prone position on the couch, obviously in protective mode. “Listen umm...whoever you are, you must be able to see that this is a bad time. Why don’t you leave. Jensen can contact you when he’s-”
Jared shakes his head emphatically and cuts Misha off. “My name is Jared and I’m not leaving him, not now that I’ve finally found him. Do what you need to do to help him. I’ll stay out of your way.” He matches action to word, sitting back down in the recliner, hunching low as if to make himself as unobtrusive as possible.
Misha’s eyes widen. He lets out a long, low whistle. “You’re Jared? The Jared?” He fixes his penetrating gaze on Jensen. “You alright with him staying?”
Jensen swallows the saliva pooling in his mouth and nods, careful not to rattle his brain in his aching skull any more than necessary.
Ty gets to work, bringing his medical training to bear. “Did you pass out after you hit your head? Throw up?” He pulls a penlight from the medical bag he’d already placed near the couch, shines it in each of Jensen’s eyes.
“He passed out, was unconscious for about fifteen minutes. Stubborn ass wouldn’t go to the hospital though. Made me cancel the ambulance I’d called as soon as he woke up.” Misha frowns, his expressive face making is clear how much Jensen’s refusal to seek out the dubious care of strangers offends him.
“That’s our Jensen,” Ty agrees. “How many times have I set this shoulder for you now?” he asks, but continues without waiting for a reply. “I keep telling him he needs surgery. He won’t hear of it.”
“Shut up, Ty.” Jensen flicks a glance at Jared, doesn’t want Ty’s talk about what a freak he is to scare Jared off again. Jared’s already abandoned him once. Jensen wants to have a chance to talk to him before the takes off a second time. Twelve years is a long time to wait.
Ty sighs as he probes the gash on Jensen’s head. Luckily, it’s at his temple, covered by hair, and Misha had been able to clean it up enough that no one had been unduly alarmed at the airport. “You have a concussion, a severe one at that. And this cut needs stitches. I suppose you’re gonna make me do those too.”
My pretty one...won’t be long now...I’ll have you
Jensen licks his dry lips, pleads, “I can’t go to the hospital. I just can’t, Ty. Please.” The thought of a clinical hospital with exam tables and needles makes his skin prickle as though bugs are crawling all over him. He’s been in too many hospitals, practically lived in one for three years although they didn’t call it a hospital.
Ty’s tone softens. “It’s okay, brother. I’ll do it. Don’t worry about it.”
From his peripheral vision, Jensen sees Jared lean closer and wonders what it means. Is Jared getting ready to leave after all? Has he heard too much? “Don’t go yet, Jared,” he whispers, voice raspy.
“I’m not going anywhere, Jen. I just want to...can I help?” This last part he directs at Ty.
He betrayed you...left you...I never will
Ty is busy examining Jensen’s shoulder. “Yeah, you can as a matter of fact. I have to rotate his arm to get the bones aligned properly and then I have to manipulate the head of the humerus into the glenoid socket. I’ll give him something for the pain, but I don’t have the good stuff here so it’s still gonna hurt like a sonofabitch. I’ll need you and Misha to help me by holding him in position.”
Jared’s face pales. “What the...are you a doctor?”
“Better, I’m an RN.” Ty’s grin is slow and lazy, but Jensen can see the apprehension he’s trying to disguise. After getting Jensen the pain pills and some water, he rubs a hand over his neatly-trimmed sandy-brown beard. “Those’ll take about thirty minutes to kick in. What say Misha and I go to the kitchen, grab some coffee, and give you two some privacy. Looks to me like you have some catching up to do.”
Misha leans over, adjusts the throw pillow under Jensen’s head, and whispers, “You need us, just yell.” Then he inclines his head, glaring daggers at Jared, and follows Ty to the kitchen.
Jensen’s eyes never leave Jared’s face. He’s still in shock, can’t believe Jared is really here. It could all be a dream, some messed up side effect from his concussion. For all he knows, he could have died in the Lexington Botanical Garden and this is what passes as his afterlife. If so, his afterlife involves a lot of pain.
Jared scoots out of the recliner onto the floor, approaching Jensen slowly on his knees as though afraid to move too quickly for fear of breaking a spell. With Jensen lying on the couch and Jared kneeling on the floor, they’re nearly at eye level which Jensen appreciates. Means he doesn’t have to strain his neck by looking up too far.
As many times as he’s rehearsed this moment in his mind, as much as he wants to say, not a single word will come out of his mouth. All he can do is stare.
Sitting cross-legged next to the couch, Jared hesitantly reaches out and takes Jensen’s right hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “I can’t believe I finally found you.”
“I can’t believe you’re actually here,” Jensen chokes, emotions lodging in his throat.
Silence spools between them as they stare unabashedly, each taking full measure of the other. Jensen compares the stranger in front of him now to the boy he used to know so well, gauges the differences. Jared was always tall and lanky. He’s gotten taller, filled out some, put on some muscle mass. His biceps strain at his long-sleeve shirt and Jensen’s lips curl into a wobbly smile, remembering how Jared used to complain that no matter how much he worked out, no matter how many crates he hauled around at the farmer’s market, he maintained the lean, rangy appearance of a teenage boy. Jensen always told him the muscles would come in time, and look at him now.
“Jen, I’m so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”
“For what happened last time I saw you. Please, you have to let me explain.”
Jensen lifts their joined hands, pressing them gently against Jared’s lips to stop the flow of words. He can’t have the most important conversation of his life now, not when he’s completely wrecked. Not when he’s lightheaded from pain and exhaustion. “Can we not do this now? Let’s talk about something a little less...”
“Emotionally charged?” Jared completes his thought and gives him a smile filled with regret. “Yeah, we can do that. What do you want to talk about?”
“I want to hear about Sam and Dean. Did you finish your graphic novel? Did they ever find out what killed their mother? How did the story end?”
Jared shakes his head, eyes fixed on their clasped hands. “I never had the heart to finish it. You were the one who always encouraged me to keep going with it, told me I was a good enough artist, and gave me new ideas for plots and story lines. That book was as much you as it was me. It didn’t feel right to keep working on it after...” Jared moves his free hand up to Jensen’s forehead and frowns. “You’re burning up.”
Jared’s touch on his face and their linked hands fill the emptiness inside him, and Alistair is mercifully quiet. Has been ever since Jared entwined their fingers together. It’s peaceful inside his head in a way it rarely is and Jared’s hand is blessedly cool on his forehead.
He must doze off for a bit because the next thing he knows, Ty and Misha are back.
“Your thirty minutes are up,” Ty says softly. “It’s time.”
Jared starts scooting back out of the way, disentangling their fingers.
“Stay,” Jensen whispers. Don’t let go, he means.
Puppy-dog eyes out to full effect, Jared looks up at Ty. “He’s in really bad shape. I think he has a fever on top of everything else you’ve already mentioned. I still don’t even know how all this happened, but are you sure we shouldn’t take him to a hospital?”
Misha makes an angry, scoffing sound. “I’ll tell you what happened. He was attacked by a monster. The same monster that killed his parents!”
Ty’s eyebrows shoot upward. They’d told him over the phone that Jensen had been attacked by the suspect in the case they were currently working. They hadn’t gone into any details and they certainly hadn’t told him about the link to Jensen’s past. He probably thinks Misha is talking about a human monster, but it’s still a lot for him to take in.
“Mish, don’t. They don’t know,” Jensen murmurs.
“Well, don’t you think it’s time they did? Don’t you think it’s time the boy you trusted to always stand by you finally learns you were telling the truth?” Misha’s blue eyes are blazing like those of an avenging angel. It’s with a significant amount of astonishment that Jensen realizes somewhere along the way, during the many evenings spent drinking and sharing stories, pouring his heart out to his only confidant, Misha must have developed this righteous anger on his behalf. An anger toward Jared that Jensen himself doesn’t feel, never has. He just feels the way he’s always felt...gutted...resigned...heartbroken..
And Jared, well Jared looks hurt, but this isn’t the same quiet, shy Jared that Jensen used to know. This Jared has grown into a man who right now seems ready to take on Misha and Ty and anyone else standing in his way. The hurt lasts long enough for Jared to squeeze Jensen’s hand in silent apology and then his jaw sets, muscles clenching. “I appreciate that you’re Jensen’s friends and I’m glad he has people looking out for him, I really am, but what happened between Jensen and I back then is our business, not yours.”
Ty shakes off any bewilderment he might be feeling and takes charge, bedside manner out in full force. “We can talk about all this later. Right now, we need to set Jensen’s shoulder so he can rest more comfortably. How are you feeling, brother?” He brushes Jared’s hand aside, replacing it with his own on Jensen’s forehead.
Jensen is having a hard time processing what’s happening. The painkiller/concussion/fever combination makes Jared’s being here after twelve years of missing him like a severed limb seem like a distorted dream sequence. The room is still spinning, and he can’t move his left arm at all. It lies heavy and useless over his stomach.
“The fever is probably his body trying to cope with all the trauma,” Ty says when he doesn’t get an answer to his question. “Let’s get him turned over onto his stomach. It’ll be easier that way.”
Jared lets go of his hand and Alastair immediately begins ranting incoherently as though it has been reduced to nonsense words and gibberish by overwhelming frustration.
Lost in the verbal barrage, Jensen closes his eyes as a last-ditch defense. The only thing he can do to help his friends as they work to turn him over is to remain limp and pliant.
Once he’s on his stomach, his left arm gets pulled behind him. The pain is expected, but no less shocking in its intensity, an inferno of heat. He burrows his face in the throw pillow and bites down, effectively gagging himself with rough fabric and pillow stuffing.
“Hold him still. Be firm, but as gentle as you can,” Ty instructs. A little louder, he say, “Jensen, just try to relax, you’re doing great.”
Jensen tries. He knows the drill, knows how much easier the bones will shift back into place if he doesn’t fight against the movement, if he can keep his muscles from instinctively stiffening in anticipation of the agony that’s coming. With a level of concentration that a yoga instructor would be proud of, he imagines himself sinking into the couch cushions, one body part at a time melting into a puddle and being absorbed. All except his jaw muscles which are still clenched tight around his pillow/gag.
Hands fasten around his hips, another set of hands holds his right shoulder and upper back, pressing him down, immobile. He ignores the urge to struggle, submits to their manhandling. Ty’s deep voice rumbles above him, “On the the count of three; one...two...” Ty yanks his left arm backwards and up while pushing down on his shoulder blade. There’s a scraping sound like mortar against pestle followed by a sodden pop. Excruciating pain explodes throughout his entire body as his nerve endings misfire, sending conflicting signals to his brain about which limb is being brutalized. A guttural scream claws its way up his throat, past his teeth, and is only slightly muffled by the pillow. His vision whites out like a supernova has gone off behind his eyelids and then it goes as black as the inside of a cave.
Link to Chapter 12
Link to the Master Post