Tangible Schizophrenia


Ghost Line III: Never Push the Red Button

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R
Pairing: Sam/Zack, some Dean/Tifa and Zack/Aeris.
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: These aren’t my characters.
Notes: Advent Children/Supernatural crossover. AU. Insert your generic Japanese cyberpunk dystopia as a background. Free-standing series.
Summary: Sam and Zack have a male-bonding session over paranoia.


It took a lot of fast talking, but eventually Zack agreed to Dean’s plan. He did take Tifa aside for a quick conversation, which Sam wished Dean had noticed instead of getting distracted by a waitress in a transparent outfit who was oozing past them. It looked like Tifa wasn’t necessarily going to help them over her employers, if given a choice.

“We’ll catch up at the café,” Zack said, coming back over. Watching him walk around was interesting in a morbid way, since when he moved, people scattered. They hunched back in the shadows and lowered their voices. “Reeve’ll handle things at the bar till you get back, Tifa. I promise he won’t meddle with your systems so you get a holographic cat scaring the hell out of your customers.”

“So you say.” Even though it was crowded well into the street, she managed to keep her distance from Dean. She popped a set of expensive-looking air filters into her nostrils; Zack went without, Sam noticed. Both Sam and Dean could do the same thanks to some illegal implants they’d scored from an engineer they’d helped out. “Where are you two going?”

An aircar suddenly, silently dropped down from above and hovered about a foot before them. The driver’s door popped open and a young guy with twin spirals of implants curling over his temples jumped out. He handed off something to Zack and proceeded into the restaurant with just a nod, but Sam still got the impression of deep respect. The speed was more due to efficiency than any attempt at being offensive.

“Well, since they want the real-time logs of the anomalies, we’ll have to hit one of the node servers.” Zack whistled as he walked over to the driver’s side. “Rufus actually approved that. You know, you’re going to be the first outsider to get hooked into one of those in a good ten years, easy.”

“I’m flattered. Hey, can we have a second? I need to just go over a few last details with my brother,” Sam said.

Tifa and Zack exchanged a look, and then Zack shrugged. “Fine, but keep it short. This isn’t the kind of appointment you can be late for, no matter how much of an expert you two are.”

“Oh, don’t worry. We’re professionals.” Dean smiled broadly while leading Sam off to the corner, where they had to chase off a couple strays. The dogs snarled and snapped so they got an eyeful of the weird double line of teeth the mutts had, but backed off once Dean had flashed them with UV. “Man, the mutants are getting weirder than the crap we deal with.”

“Lucky that we get to leave those up to someone else, isn’t it? You might want to knock off the smiling, by the way. It’s not working and I think you’re starting to creep Tifa out.” Sam circled one wrist with his other hand, trying to make the gesture seem as casual as possible. He slid his thumb down his inner wrist till it touched something hard and pebbly. A flick of the thumbnail opened up the cover and allowed him to touch the switch implant.

When he pressed down and held it, his vision briefly fritzed out. Someday, when he had some spare time, he really needed to track down the piece of code that did that and properly edit it.

“Nah, I think she’s coming round.” The world came back in time for Sam to see that Dean’s eyes were still fading to their normal green; Dean had been a little slow on the syncing. “Okay, visual check?”

Sam concentrated for a second, and then suddenly his vision flipped one-eighty. His vision also included a data-panel on the right side, which was modeling a sexy female form. A familiar sexy female…he sighed. “I don’t think she’d appreciate being incorporated into your VR fantasies, Dean.”

Dean blinked and that wrenching, nauseating spin whirled Sam around again so he was looking out through his own eyes again. He watched as his brother’s eyes slowly shifted from blue to green again. “Hey, it’s for legitimate purposes. Tifa’s a little low on the implant end, isn’t she? Not that I’m complaining—I like natural—but it’s not exactly normal for the kind of business she’s in.”

“Shinra probably has more efficient tech and software. They pull in enough money to have their own R and D unit, you know,” Sam said. Aural?

True enough. And that would make sense for Zack being low on them, since he’s a street captain, but unless I’m missing something, Tifa’s a glorified hostess. Why would Shinra waste their money on hooking her up? Dean’s voice buzzed in Sam’s head. His mouth was moving as well, but it was going on about shotgun shells and trying to talk Shinra into getting them refills on the nerve-blockers. That took a lot of practice, keeping up two conversations at once, but it paid off if someone was trying to spy on them and by now they both could do it almost instinctively. And bars and clubs? You send a worm after info-stockpiles and utility centers, not social centers.

Sam said fine to the nerve-blockers and told Dean to not try anything with Tifa in the car, because he didn’t want to sit on the filthy seats. If Dean ever happened to get Tifa feeling that sorry for him. Okay, I’ll check on that. But somehow I don’t think they’re just going to open up their archives and say, ‘Here’s the secret files we’ve been hiding in these places that the worm’s been attacking.’

So get creative. You’re the hacker of the family, Sammy. I know you’ll come up with something. Dean glanced over his shoulder to where Zack was impatiently waving for them to hurry up. He snorted and told Sam to worry about Zack getting fresh with him, given Sam’s irresistible puppy-look. Good luck, bro.

“Whatever. Just keep the car clean, okay? We do have to sleep in the backseat sometimes,” Sam said.

“Don’t get your mind sucked into the servers. You need that, Sammy.” With a clap on the shoulder and a wink, Dean was off and escorting a dubious-looking Tifa to the car.

Sam resisted the urge to sigh again and took himself over to Zack’s car…which he supposed was pretty nice, but he was so used to Dean’s car that he couldn’t remember what half the straps and hooks and buttons in the front were for.

“Just don’t touch that panel. You really only need that belt, but you can strap on those two if you don’t trust my driving.” Zack pointed to a row of buttons bisecting the dashboard, which were under…glass, Sam’s reflection analysis said. Surprising; that meant it’d break pretty easily.

“Can’t be any worse than De—” They took off before Sam was ready for it.

* * *

As soon as they landed, Sam stumbled out and bent over to grab his knees, breathing hard. He still had spots in his vision.

“You might want to watch the edge there,” Zack said. He sounded amused. He looked amused, when Sam got around to checking out the other man. His hand was waving towards Sam’s back…which was indeed facing a very, very long drop.

They were a good eighty stories up on a tower that looked a lot like someone had rolled the top half in needles. Unlike the surrounding buildings, this one was made of a dull, light-absorbing material that let the building blend into the background no matter how much sun made it through the clouds. “Old military installation?”

“Your eye isn’t bad. Used to be a missile storage and launching facility, though nowadays we just use it for data storage. Funny how that piles up no matter how small your memory chips get.” No visible entrance panels were around, but Zack somehow managed to make a door at the end of the landing ramp open up.

So Shinra had inherited a hell of a security system to begin with, and probably had spent a lot of time keeping it up. It wouldn’t surprise Sam if entry to this building was keyed to a precise genetic and biochemical profile: people who could get in sober wouldn’t be able to if drunk or in some other mind-altered state.

But still, it was interesting that they were letting Sam in so easily. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to get back in, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he couldn’t do a lot this one time. Unless they had something else up their sleeve.

The room they walked into was barely big enough to qualify as a cubicle. Its walls were gently curved so it had a bubble shape, and seamless so there appeared to be only the one door for going in and out. Zack pressed his hand against one of the walls and a small network station emerged, but nothing else. He picked up the jack and handed it to Sam. “Knock yourself out. You’ll get firewalled if you start poking at an area that isn’t relevant; if you think you really need to get in there, I’ll have to call up so don’t just screw around in there.”

“Noted,” Sam muttered. He resisted the urge to add a ‘sir’ to the end of that. Suddenly Zack was all business, as if the surroundings had awakened his inner drill sergeant. “Is Jenova off-limits?”

It took a moment for Zack to reply. Considering what he did for a living, he was surprisingly bad at covering up his reactions. He looked as if Sam had just thrown a gallon of psychotics at him. “Do you have to know about that?”

“Well, the worm went through the trouble of spelling out the word, so I’d say it wants us to know about it. The really important difference between a regular worm and a daimon worm isn’t so much that one’s just malicious script and the other’s supernatural—it’s more that one is just for wreaking havoc and the other usually has a purpose.” Sam brushed the hair away from his temple jack and plugged in. Everything grayed out for a second.

When the world came back, he was hissing through his teeth and Zack had a hand on his shoulder. The other man switched it to Sam’s chin and pulled it up to stare into Sam’s eyes. “You all right? I forgot—the system can be like a punch to the gut if you aren’t used to it.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Jerking away probably was a bad idea. If Zack liked teasing Dean that much, then he was going to pounce on that reaction.

He obviously was thinking about it, but barely managed to stop himself. Literally: he started to say something drawling, then abruptly cut himself off and walked over to lean against the wall. “You two don’t get out much, do you?”

“We do a lot of traveling, actually,” Sam muttered. Instead of just diving right in, he went through the trouble of pulling up a main menu to his right and manually working his way into the archives. That initial jolt had been more than he’d expected, and he wasn’t interested in passing out in front of Zack. “Is Jenova a person?”

“Animal, vegetable, mineral?” Zack joked. His eyes weren’t in on the gag. “Really, just leave it be. You wouldn’t believe the talking I had to do to get you in here, and if you wanted to see the data on that? I’m not even sure that the current Head’s gotten access to it yet.”

The logs were pretty easy to find, and a lot more detailed than Sam had been expecting. Well, no, that wasn’t a great way to put it; it was more that he’d been expecting the information to be in some hard-to-decipher bureaucratic code, but its organization wasn’t that difficult to figure out. “Guess it must’ve been a big scandal, then.”

How’s it going?

Sam nearly pulled out the jack when he jumped. He slumped against the wall and pressed the heel of his hand to his temple, then looked over at Zack. He pulled out a weak smile, which given how he was feeling, was like breathing. “Sorry. Poked a barrier.”

Give me some more warning, Dean! he snapped back. Honestly, were you trying to give me a heart attack?

“Hey, watch it. If you think I’m bad, you should see the other people that could be tracking you guys around,” Zack said. He had jerked to attention, but had already relaxed and appeared to be reviewing image clips of some building.

Dean messaged Sam with a line of sorry faces that scrolled across the top of Sam’s vision. Cocky bastard. Sorry, was I interrupting something?

Just essential research. You’d better not be pestering me just because Tifa’s giving you the cold shoulder. All right, anomalies…anomalies…Sam moved each one over to a list on the left side as soon as he’d spotted it. He stopped when he had about seven, which he figured would be enough to detect any patterns. “Well, having my life threatened by anybody kind of makes me nervous.”

The corner of Zack’s mouth flipped up and down. He’d seemed blithe enough about acknowledging that fact before, so it was a little odd that he now seemed to dislike it. “How’s it going?”

“They’re like you said, but…huh. I think it left a backtrail. Give me a couple more minutes.” Actually, Sam was already done triangulating that data, and he’d found that the worm periodically cycled back to a certain server on the Shinra system, but he had other searches to do. The security system definitely was formidable, but it looked as if they’d based it on the old military one. And Sam had had some…experience with hacking those.

Tifa’s still busy convincing the café manager to let me set up some wards. I dug into Dad’s notes—it looks like you can trap the worm in a single server. It’s just exorcising it before it gets loose that’s the problem. Thing’s fast.

The firewalls would’ve been easy enough if Sam was just doing a hack-job, but this was more like sneaking in; he didn’t want to leave any trace of his passing if he could help it. He tried to concentrate, but his head was beginning to hurt from doing that while keeping track of two conversations at once. Great.

But I’ve got ideas about that. I just need a server.

Well, I’ve got that for you. Right now I’m trying to find out about whatever Jenova is, Sam replied. He delicately inserted a piece of work-around code and started poking at the various levels of encryption. They gave in surprisingly easily, which gave him pause. Listen, Dean, I’ll call you back. I’m in the middle of something.

Don’t do anything I wouldn’t, was how his brother signed off.

Yeah, sure. It didn’t take all ten fingers to tick off what Dean wouldn’t do, Sam thought to himself. He checked up on Zack, but the other man still hadn’t noticed anything funny.

Sam withdrew a little and took a closer look at the way he’d gone into the system. He had been paying more attention to getting in than to what was around him, but now that he was looking at that, he noticed something funny. It looked like someone had been in here before him, only the hack job was a weird mix of mess and finesse. It wasn’t obvious where people would check, but it was where precision wasn’t necessary, like the hacker had been lazy. Or arrogant. Or hell, both.

There was something else that was off, and it took almost too long for Sam to figure it out. Once he had, he backpeddled like crazy and yanked out the jack as soon as he could without trapping part of his mind in the server. Zack’s head came up and he stared at Sam as if he thought he might have to sedate Sam, but whatever. They needed to get outside, now, and if Zack was chasing him, then that worked fine.

“What happened? What did you see—hey. Hey.” Suddenly Zack was in front of Sam and so was that big sword. The edge of it whispered coolly two inches from Sam’s chin. “Look, I’m trying to make this easy on you, but you’ve got to work with me here. What’s going on?”

“Thanks a lot for that,” Sam snapped. He almost added something about Zack not needing to flirt that much because it wasn’t going to happen, but stopped himself just in time. His head was buzzing and he was getting that itch beneath his skin that said he was going to be in for a serious bout of implant-fritz if he didn’t watch it. “I’ll tell you while we’re leaving, all right? I’m not sure if it picked up on me, but either way, we need to go.”

Zack blinked, but stepped aside and dematerialized his sword at the same time. He let Sam pass and walked sideways to keep up so he had one eye on Sam and the other on the building. “‘It’? You mean the worm?”

“No, it wasn’t…” Sam barely kept himself from leaping into the car as soon as the doors opened. “Whoever signed off on that program. They’re—I think they’re in there. In the system.”

For a moment, Zack actually looked afraid. Then he was in the car and speedily taking them away from the building. His eyes were green again, so presumably he was informing his superiors.

Well, he was free to do that, because Sam needed to have a moment. He slumped in his seat and pressed his hands against his face, wondering if he was going to have to hook up to a drug line for a couple minutes, get his brain biochem readjusted. He’d grazed some of the traces in there and they had been…cold.

“We’ve still got an hour and a half before we have to meet your brother,” Zack suddenly said. He pressed his lips hard together, debating something, then abruptly turned the car. “I don’t know much, but I can tell you a little. But you’d better understand that this is completely offline, all right?”

“I can keep a secret. And believe me, Dean and I have no interest in hanging around you people longer than we have to.” For one, Sam’s stomach apparently couldn’t get used to more than one style of wacky driving. He clung to the door-rod and told himself the less he messed with his biochemical levels, the healthier—no matter how nauseated he was feeling right now. Really.

At least it helped him pretend he wasn’t still shaken up by what he’d seen in the system. Better to get sick from crazy driving than from…from that.

* * *

“You sure you don’t want something? You look a little pale.” The excuse for a booth they had was so small Zack had to crowd into the same side as Sam. He stretched out his legs, then slumped back and put up a privacy screen.

“You’re really one to talk about paleness,” Sam snorted. Though to be truthful, he was having a problem looking directly at Zack’s food. As long as he stared at the opposite wall and pretended the smell wasn’t really there, he was fine, but staring straight at food was a definite no-no right now.

The other man grinned and nodded at the point, but sobered up soon enough. He didn’t eat so much as use the food to keep his fingers busy. “How much, exactly, do you need to know about Jenova?”

Sam gave it a little thought. On the one hand, he had to admit he was getting curious as hell now due to all the secrecy, but on the other hand, he wasn’t the kind of person that had to know everything just for the sake of knowing it. If it was half as dangerous as everyone made it seem, then he didn’t want to know more than he had to about it. The last thing he needed was to get dragged into yet another long-term mess. Dad going AWOL was bad enough.

“How about we just hit the basics: who, what, when, where. Then I’ll see.” Zack’s elbow was still prodding Sam’s side, but when Sam tried to move away, he found himself squirming up against the wall. He jabbed his heel into the floor and pushed back, only to accidentally whack Zack’s arm. “And while we’re at it, what is this?”

“What?” Zack raised an eyebrow.

“Aren’t there any bigger restaurants around here? Or is this some weird attempt to try me, since Dean wasn’t exactly…responsive?” Sam muttered. As soon as he’d spoken, he wished he hadn’t. But he couldn’t rewind time, so he just did his best to ignore the look that came into Zack’s eyes. “So, Jenova.”

The other man stretched out his legs again so his feet thumped on the floor. He took his time turning back to his food. “Right. She was a person. Sort of. This happened a long time ago, and it was so hushed up that now no one’s really sure what went on. She was connected to Shinra’s R and D arm in some capacity.”

“Sort of?” Sam caught his knee jiggling and made it stop. The spot between his shoulders was starting to cramp up, so he made an attempt to relax in what little room he had. He leaned back so his shoulders were against the wall, but for some reason, that position just left him feeling unnaturally strained, so he sat straight again.

“She might’ve been altered. Or maybe she was born with some mutation.” Zack shrugged. His voice had dropped even though he’d spent a good fifteen minutes earlier on setting up security wards and encryptors. “Whatever it was, it made her a brilliant programmer. She wrote a lot of Shinra’s foundational code. Then she had a…dispute, and the upshot was that a Head died.”

After that, Zack stopped talking and just ate. But he only had so much food, so soon it was pretty obvious that he was hoping Sam would change the subject.

“Well, I can see why people don’t want to talk about it. What happened to her?” So far, it sounded like a set-up for a malevolent ghost. Maybe an updated version of a hex, Sam mused.

Zack shrugged again. “She dropped out of sight. We assume that back then, they destroyed her, but no one’s got a real good idea about what happened.” He paused and reconsidered his words, then snorted to himself. “Or if they do, they’re not talking. Stupid of them…”

“Hmm?” Sam sent out a tentative call Dean’s way, but only got a busy signal. He frowned and poked harder, but the firewall didn’t give, which was interesting. If Dean was doing something and needed to concentrate, he still usually left an opening for Sam to reach him in an emergency. He only walled off all the way if…

“Look, I know what Shinra’s reputation on the street is. And I know what Shinra can do—I’ve done some of it for them. But take it away and what do you have? You honestly think the Council could take over and run the city?”

Now Sam really was lost. Yeah, he’d had a couple thoughts along those lines, but as far as he remembered, he hadn’t complained about them out loud. But here Zack was, talking in a low, hard, defensive tone as if Sam had just suggested that one Head had deserved it. The whole Jenova thing apparently had struck roots a lot deeper into the current generation than anyone was willing to admit.

“You’re in a weird profession for an idealist, aren’t you?” Sam said. He gave Dean one last poke, got no answer, and left a slightly irked message summarizing the Jenova information. It probably wouldn’t affect how they went after the worm, since it seemed to have been programmed and then let loose to run on its own, but if Shinra wanted him and Dean to do anything about the source problem, then that knowledge would be vital.

It looked like Sam had managed to catch Zack mid-flow, because the other man stuttered to a stop. He stared at Sam for a second.

Then it was really crowded in the booth because Zack had shoved his arms past Sam to support himself on the bench. Sam would’ve grabbed the table-edge to keep his back from giving out, except there wasn’t enough room for him to reach around Zack’s mouth.

Well, not his mouth, because obviously the man didn’t only consist of that one body part, but it sure as hell seemed like it. And Zack knew what to do with it, too. In less than a second, he’d zeroed in on the one molar Sam had that cradled an implant and he was teasing it with the tip of his tongue, sending little electric shocks across it that percolated down to tingle in Sam’s jaw. Actual electric shocks.

Sam opened his mouth. He had the vague idea that he’d done that to groan about his strained back, but somehow he didn’t think the sound properly communicated that. His hand flailed around, scraped the table but failed to secure itself on that, and finally hooked around Zack’s neck just as his ass decided it was going to ease the strain on his back by sliding forward. Suddenly they were damn near grinding.

“Wait a—whoa, whoa.” An inch before the back of Sam’s head would’ve hit the bench, he managed to pry himself away and get his elbows down. The impact jarred so hard he couldn’t speak for a second, and in that second Zack almost sucked Sam’s tongue out of his mouth. “Hey! What the hell—”

“Well, you’re not like your brother in one regard,” Zack amusedly said. He didn’t glance down, but the casual way he palmed Sam’s crotch was a lot more…it was mostly insulting, Sam decided.

He squirmed around till he could whack Zack’s side with his knee. Of course, that ended up jamming his knee between the other man and the table, plus not really doing much to Zack, but it was the thought that counted. “Thanks a lot, but I am in that I’m not interested. Come on—it can’t be that hard for you to find somebody.”

“Yeah, well, you’d be surprised. Man, three times in…never mind.” Zack grabbed onto a bar set into the wall, then hauled himself up and back onto his heels. It was a tight squeeze, and the rearrangement didn’t make it any easier for Sam to get up himself. Then again, lying back did give him a good look at Zack’s expression, which was a fascinating combination of ruefulness, frustration, and isolation. “Sure, it’s easy. Easy as long as you don’t mind watching out for when they try to use your head as a steppingstone.”

“So…then I’m convenient for the same reasons that I’m disposable? This is really a convincing argument.” Two other people had turned him down? Sam briefly wondered if that counted Dean, then decided it probably didn’t; Zack was being a little too serious and that had been a little too much of a situational joke.

Zack rolled his eyes and leaned one shoulder against the wall. He glanced around, then reached out and fiddled with one of the security bugs he’d pinned up against the wall. “I didn’t see you getting panicky earlier. I think you get it better than that.”

Sam, interesting stuff. Picked up a clue here—tell you later. Try to get to the café a half-hour early. Of all times—Dean’s message startled the hell out of Sam, and he barely managed to make it look as if he was just confused. Then network silence on Dean’s end again so Sam couldn’t even message a virtual head-smack.

“It’s not just the daimon worm.” For a second time, Zack scanned around them, checking on security. “Weird things are starting to happen in this city, but only a couple people are seeing it. And it’s not breaking down along House lines, or anything. It’s people that wouldn’t ever meet under normal circumstances…”

All getting thrown in the same boat, no matter what their feelings on the subject. Yeah, Sam could understand that. Desperation made people turn to unusual places, and develop odd sympathies. “And somehow this leads to sex?”

“I think I’m more realistic than idealistic. When the world’s flipping over, sex usually helps you get over the dizziness,” Zack said, putting his hand up. He cupped one of the security bugs. “You really okay after all that poking you were doing in the system?”

Sam opened his mouth to deny it, but Zack snorted and waved him off.

“I was keeping tabs on you, so don’t make excuses. But it’s fine—I thought it might be good to let you go a little farther. I want to know what’s going on.” Zack’s eyes went distant for a second. “Huh. We’ve got an hour. So, did you want to go, or…”

After a minute, Sam decided the other man really was serious about giving him a choice. None of the usual tension that presaged violence was tightening Zack’s skin over his bones, or making his eyes dark. Actually, he looked resigned.

Zack was better than he seemed, Sam thought with some surprise. And Sam was still feeling aftershocks in his mind, and…well, sometimes he felt like being the fly-by-the-cuff one. Dean twitted him a lot about his allergy to fun, but that was more because Sam didn’t feel like bothering with the meaningless and purposeless. They saw way too much for him to find much enjoyment in that kind of blindness.

But Zack, on the other hand, got it. If only for this one time…

Sam awkwardly swung up his arm so his elbow landed on the table-top. He was able to use that to lever himself up enough to grab at Zack’s arm. Which he missed, but Zack got the message and was with the program fast enough so that it didn’t matter. It was, however, goddamned crowded.

It would’ve made more sense to move somewhere else, but the idea of walking through the restaurant and to that somewhere else, with Zack following like they were—like this was planned, was just too weird. Or maybe it was too normal. Either way, it didn’t fit the special circumstances that were making this work, and those circumstances were pretty delicate.

Contrast to Zack, who was nothing but muscle wherever Sam touched. It was solid stuff that didn’t yield much under pressure, but instead just sort of directed Sam’s hands in a glide all over. It kind of embarrassed Sam when he remembered about himself, and he thought he was in good shape considering he didn’t use implants or gen-mods to get that way. His hands caught a little of that and reflexively grabbed at Zack’s wrist when the other man went reaching, but Zack just batted Sam away.

Never mind appearances; it wasn’t as if Zack could see even if he didn’t have his face shoved into Sam’s neck. Sam squirmed beneath the other man’s enthusiastic tongue, tried to get the knee he had up into a position that would let Zack push his hand farther along Sam’s thigh. It worked in a way: as soon as it was free, Zack’s hand zipped down so fast that he basically burned Sam’s dick into jumping all the way up. Good thing Zack’s fingers were quick and had all the barriers out of the way, but Sam’s leg was stuck almost straight up.

He finally hooked it over the table, but that gouged the table-edge into his thigh and the whole arrangement just made him feel exposed. Which he in fact was, and he bit hard into Zack’s shoulder as a method of distraction before realizing that that belonged to another person and not Sam. Luckily, Zack seemed to be into biting.

Sam groaned, pressed his cock up against Zack’s palm and felt its tip graze the hot side of Zack’s cock. He twisted again and somehow got his other leg up on the bench, then managed to straighten it enough to let Zack get his knee over it. Soon as Zack was straddling Sam’s leg, Sam pulled it up and felt the other man’s deep sigh shiver all over him.

It was all Sam could do to not jerk away. Zack noticed and stopped to give Sam a quizzical look. “Don’t mess with my implants like that,” Sam said through gritted teeth. He took a deep breath, which Zack helped along by rubbing his thumb around the head of Sam’s dick, and tried to get back into it. It was…not exactly easy, but for once the cramped space worked with him: all that trapped warmth softened Sam back into relaxation. “That was like back in the sys—”

“Gotcha. Sorry,” Zack replied, pulling his mouth up along Sam’s throat. “Let me just…make that up to you, yeah?”

* * *

“She’s a good girl, and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. She’s really, genuinely good. Hell knows where it came from, because her father’s like every other powerbroker in this town, but Aeris is all right.” Zack propped up his knee against the car’s wheel and steered for a couple minutes with that while he flipped switches above his head. He’d already healed whatever light bruises he’d picked up from his and Sam’s little moment. “I don’t—it’s like I’d like to be in love with her, because I can see how good she’d be for me, but that’s not me. Still…I don’t want her to get hurt.”

“Good luck with that. You do remember she’s the heiress of the Gainsborough House, and those people really don’t like Shinra very much, don’t you?” Sam pulled down his collar and eyeballed the slightly darkened patch of skin there. He poked at it: it wasn’t quite a bruise, and it wasn’t that noticeable. Probably not.

Dean was going to have a field day with it.

“We’re almost there. Yeah, I know, but like I said, I’m not sure all those differences are going to mean much in a couple weeks. There’s nothing I can put my finger on, but I can feel a swell of something bad coming.” Much to Sam’s relief, Zack traded knee for hands and went back to steering the orthodox way. Then Zack frowned and stared at the dashboard. “What the…”

Sam saw the fluctuation too, and felt it ripple through the network signals. He reached down and pulled up a jack, then plugged one end into a dashboard socket. “Hang on, I think I’ve got a good idea what that—”

“Wait, don’t--” Zack’s voice rose to something very like near-panic, and the last thing Sam saw was the other man lunging for him.

Oh, shit. It’d sneaked into the car computer while they’d been jacked into the system—




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