| Modern Hoodoo I: You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound-Dog
Author: Guede Mazaka
They were filming in that asylum when it happened. One misstep and Jensen completely missed the pad when he took his fall. There was that moment of beautiful weightlessness, which he always figured was the universe’s way of trying to apologize, and then there was reality cracking him on the side of his head. Frankly, temporary unconsciousness was a lot better of an apology, because when he came to, he hurt.
“…Jensen? Hey, man, you in there?”
Somebody shone a flashlight right into Jensen’s face, the brilliant light stabbing through his eyes and deep into the ache in his skull. He threw up his arm and rolled half-over, cursing as he bumped somebody’s feet. “Jesus. Ow.”
“Hey, idiot! Turn that off!”
“I’m sorry! I was just checking for a concussion!”
“…him to the morgue…don’t let the others see…”
A chilly draft tickled the back of Jensen’s neck and he tensed up, trying to figure out where that had come from. And who the hell had said that—it’d been a muffled whisper with an odd distortion on the vowels. “Funny, Jared.”
“Jared’s still downstairs,” a crew-member helpfully told him. “Did you want him or something?”
“No, I just need…a nice big icepack and a couple minutes, I think.” Well, that still didn’t absolve Padalecki. Man was a hopeless prankster, and the fact that they were filming in what was rumored to be an actual haunted insane asylum had only brought out the worst in him. He hadn’t been in his trailer when Jensen had checked late last night, so maybe he’d been setting up booby-traps.
After getting his ice-pack, Jensen retreated to one of the outer hallways, where he could sit by a window and look at something less depressing. He didn’t buy for a second that ghosts were real, but this place definitely wasn’t conducive to nice thoughts. In the background, he could hear people discussing how to re-set the stunt so his head didn’t get smacked again.
“…can’t do this anymore, I can’t do this, I can’t, I’ve got to get out, get out—”
Jensen jerked around, but all he saw was a fading curl of fog, which wasn’t unexpected considering how damp this place was. It did look vaguely human-shaped, kind of like a woman about five-seven, flattish…but maybe that was partially due to the man now walking through it.
“Dude, we heard this huge thump downstairs and then they said you got whacked on the head,” Jared said. He put his hand up to make sure he didn’t bang his head—man, were people shorter at the turn of the century—then swung on through and ambled over. Once he got to Jensen, he leaned over and poked around the edge of the ice-pack. “Looks like you did yourself pretty good.”
“Yeah, and it hurts,” Jensen muttered, batting him off. Half-heartedly, because anything that got Jared into his personal space was…well, good for his dreams. He wasn’t normally a quitter, but he didn’t like to horn in either; Jared and his girlfriend seemed to be going well, so that was that.
He really was too optimistic sometimes, actually. Even if those two had been having trouble, he didn’t know what Jared’s reaction to a guy might be.
“Wimp,” Jared snorted. He gave Jensen’s head the kind of pat an old-fashioned nurse might just before slamming home the shot. Then he dodged back, barely avoiding Jensen’s return smack, and walked on down the hall towards someone calling his name.
Jensen stayed where he is, thinking about something. He wasn’t sure what, because his mind wasn’t exactly giving him a concrete reason, but the feeling he suddenly had was off-base enough to give him pause.
Nurse? Kind of weird for him to be thinking of that.
“Tonight. I’m going to do it tonight.” The words came out clear as a bell, thin and desperate and sobbing.
Jensen looked up. Across from him was a large door, which led into what they’d been told were the nurses’ and doctors’ private quarters. The varnish had been stripped off the door, exposing its raw ugly grain, but otherwise it was pretty intact compared to the rest of the building. It was good thick wood…but right now, it looked like glass—like it wasn’t even there, and he was staring right through it into the next room. A pale, thin woman with deep bags under her eyes was standing in it, wringing her hands. She was middle-aged and dressed oddly, with an apron over her dress and a kind of white cap on her head, and when she turned to look at him—
--he blinked, breath catching in his throat, and suddenly it was a plain scruffy door again.
He damn near fell off the windowsill. His icepack slid through his fingers and he had to play a quick game of hot potato before he finally got it back in hand, but when he answered, he was pretty proud of how steady he sounded. “Yeah? Ready to go again?”
The second they’d found out about this place’s back-story, Jared had hit the computer and spent the next couple days driving everybody crazy talking about it. He’d mentioned some suicidal nurse, and because Jensen had this ridiculous fixation on Jared’s floppy hair and lean body and…yeah, he’d listened too much. And then he’d missed his mark and cracked his head on the floor. Ghosts? Pfft.
Jensen even took another look at that door while he was getting up, and nothing. Hah.
* * *
They managed to successfully complete filming without any other weird things happening, which totally proved Jensen’s point. Not that Jared was listening.
“Look, is it not true that we didn’t know what DNA said till this century?” Jared demanded of the ceiling. He wagged his bottle of beer at it like it had something to be ashamed of.
Maybe it did. For one thing, it gave shelter to a geeky, loudmouthed pain in the neck who looked way, way too good all draped over a beanbag chair. He’d insisted on giving Jensen the couch out of respect for the “injury,” and man, Jensen would so be kicking Jared’s ass if he wasn’t quite so drunk. Or, well, having fun staring at said ass as Jared awkwardly rolled over to pry another beer out of the cardboard carton.
“Yeah, but that’s science. Like, there was lead-up, you know. Maybe we didn’t know what it said, but I’m pretty sure we knew it was there.” The couch was about six inches too short for Jensen to properly stretch out on, but he gave it his best shot, anyway. And then he let the beer give him its best shot, which wasn’t much. “We don’t know that ghosts are real.”
“We don’t have to. They just have to be possible, and science hasn’t proved they don’t exist. So…” Jared started out strong, but drifted off as he settled back in the beanbag. His forehead furrowed and he stared out into the room with the slow-gathering confusion of a mystic who’d been thisclose to figuring out the universe, only to lose his train of thought. ‘cause, of course, beer caps required a lot of concentration to outwit.
Jensen snorted. “Whatever, man. I still think you just stepped in a puddle of hallucinogenic crap back there. You didn’t see anything for real.”
“What, like there’s LSD slime or something?” Jared snickered. Snickered and let his head fall back so he could pour the beer into his mouth and God, his throat was beautiful.
God, Jensen was getting maudlin. Next time they hit a good-sized city, he was going clubbing and getting his dick to shut up about this. He liked Jared. He really did, when the screwball wasn’t putting scarily realistic bloody fingers in his coat pockets, and he didn’t want to mess things up between them just for a quick roll.
It’d be really unprofessional too, he told himself. If they were lucky, and he was thinking he finally would be, Supernatural was going to be running for awhile, and it’d be hellish working with Jared after fucking up that way.
“Hey.” Jared very carefully put his bottle on the floor, then flopped around to face Jensen. He spent a couple moments rearranging his arms and legs as if they were critical to whatever he wasn’t exactly saying.
Jensen eventually got bored and made rolling motions with his hand. “And?”
“And we’re gonna be done after the upfronts in May. What are you doing?” Jared asked, devious lights dancing in his eyes. He grinned engagingly, practically bursting with a proposal.
Well, at the moment Jensen was jumping to conclusions and thus wondering if his bottle was still chilled enough to have any effect if he happened to press it against his crotch. He made himself go through his mental calendar—only Jared would make him do this while they were halfway to smashed—and come up with an answer that didn’t suggest testing the constitutionality of the sodomy laws in Texas. “Eh, I’m seeing the family for a few days before that. Then I don’t know yet. Why?”
“Want to go to Europe?” Jared said. By now his smile was downright creepy with all the teeth showing. He looked and sounded excited, but there was an off-note in it…he was trying too hard. Plus this sounded too good.
“Like, where? French beaches?”
Jared rolled his eyes. “Stop working, man. Let Dean have a rest. No, I was thinking Germany.”
“Germany.” That sounded really familiar, for some reason. Like Jensen had heard about something important going down there, and…oh, right. “Like, where the World Cup’s going to happen? Dude, do you know how crowded it’s going to be?”
“Yeah, well…” A little embarrassment tinged Jared’s face as he tucked his chin down. He shrugged and slouched so he wasn’t looking at Jensen anymore, and his voice bled out to bland. “That was kind of the idea.”
Jensen frowned and took a swig of beer. It made sense after a few moments. “I didn’t know you were into soccer. Y’know, since you were such a girl the couple times you played with—”
He ducked the pillow Jared threw at him, but forgot about the ricochet and got nailed by it anyway when it fell off the wall. It hit his face, which sort of muffled the sound of Jared manically laughing.
“Like you did any better at basketball,” Jared eventually said. He abruptly pushed himself out of the beanbag and crawled his way over to the couch, except ‘crawled’ wasn’t really the word for the kind of loose-jointed, carelessly sexy way he moved. Damn. “Yeah, I do follow soccer. And I’ve got two tickets to the games.”
“Aw, Jared, I’m flattered. You’ve been crushing on me for that long?” Hopefully the sarcasm covered up the slight shakiness in Jensen’s voice. Just in case, he drank some more beer. He kind of wished Jared had picked somewhere else to stop besides right in front of his belly.
A weird hurt flicker went through Jared’s eyes, though it didn’t seem to be directed at Jensen. He hunched his shoulders more in defense than in a shrug, then loosened up again, all open-faced and rueful. “It was originally gonna be me and Sandy, but it turns out she’s not free.”
Jensen flicked the pillow over the side and looked sharply at him. “Something wrong, man?”
Jared shrugged again. “I think it’s just a spell. We were kind of having problems working around our schedules, and we just need a break. You know, get some perspective. I’m flying to see her right after we get back from Germany.”
In that case, they were so going.
Of course, Jensen’s commonsense caught up with him a moment later and smacked him good before he could actually say anything. Like he’d been thinking before, it really was too good to be true. A couple of weeks squeezing through masses of crazy fans and sharing what he’d heard were going to be weird European hotel rooms wasn’t going to make Jared swear undying love to him. Or even just get in the sack with him.
“So I’m your back-up date?” Jensen replied, trying and, he thought, mostly succeeding at sounding mock-offended.
“Aw, c’mon, man…besides, even if you’re not into the game, you can stare at the girls. Believe me, they’ll strip down way more than anybody you ever saw at a baseball game.” Jared punched his arm. “Usually better-looking than football games, too.”
Ha, ha. While Jensen did have a very strong appreciation for the female form, this just seemed like the universe was mocking him. “I guess I’d better go to make sure you stay out of trouble, then.”
“Jackass,” Jared snorted, but he was grinning madly again. He hit Jensen in the shoulder, then squeezed it, his face hanging so close it filled up Jensen’s field of vision.
Then Jared was…slipping onto the floor, one hand flying up in the air, and Jensen was laughing both out of amusement and relief. The disappointment, like always, got quickly shoved down to a low rumble in the background.
But still, that’d been kind of close, and anyway if that clock was right, Jensen needed to go. It’d be okay if he passed out on Jared’s couch, but he still would rather try and make it back to his own trailer.
He grabbed the end of the couch and pulled himself up, then nearly spilled what was left of his beer all over the idiot on the floor when he tried to get his coat, which was puddled right by Jared’s head. Jared sort of mumbled a question about what Jensen was doing, and Jensen mumbled back about getting some decent sleep because he was kind of busy concentrating on figuring out where to put his feet so they didn’t step on Jared. He finally managed to get himself standing—with no help from Jared, still sprawled on the floor—and left his bottle on the nearest horizontal surface.
Thank God the trailer was so small. By the time Jensen made it to the door, he was so grateful for the support of the frame that he hugged it. And fuck Padalecki laughing his head off at that; it wasn’t like Jared was even vertical right now.
Jensen swung open the door.
He blinked once, then jerked back and slammed it shut again. His left heel whacked into something that slid and he flailed briefly, then barely caught himself before he would’ve hit his head again. On second thought, maybe that’d been a bad idea, because then the blow to the skull would’ve been a perfectly adequate explanation for what had just happened.
The trailer was really quiet, except for the sound of Jensen gasping and wheezing like he was an eighty-year-old chain-smoker. And Jared staring really hard from where he was, which wasn’t a sound but might as well have been for the sheer weight of it.
That had not been a transparent figure of a man walking across the lot. No way. This was not the fucking Sixth Sense.
“Uh, Jensen…you okay over there?” Jared finally asked.
“I’m—spectacular.” Jensen was drunk, had suffered a head blow earlier and clearly had his imagination working overtime due to his sad, sad little crush on his co-star. Perfect reasons why he’d suddenly be hallucinating shit.
He reached out and grabbed the door-handle, and right up until the moment his fingers had touched the metal, he’d really been determined to get over himself and get with reality again. But then the weirdest sense of caution went through him and he hesitated.
Jared kind of swayed to his feet, looking really concerned now. “Jensen? You want to come back to the couch? Maybe stay over tonight?”
Oh, fuck this for a Freudian booty-call, Jensen thought. He was leaving. Now. He pulled open the door.
A white man—literally, because he was nothing but shades of white from the bandage wrapped around his head to his grasping hands to his bare feet—stood in the doorway. His lips slowly, grotesquely peeled back to show hellish teeth.
“I’m drunk, and you don’t exist,” Jensen muttered. A chill went through him and the hairs on the back of his neck stiffened so much they felt like little pins sticking in his skin, but he made himself stay where he was. “Either that, or you’re a really good joke by Props. Hey, Jared, did you put them up to this?”
“What? What the hell are you talking about?” Jared took a step forward and came really close to keeling over.
That had made Jensen even look away, and when he looked back, he fully expected the damn thing to be gone. But no, the guy was still there, and now he’d raised his hands to press against the space in the doorway, like it was really a window and he was on the other side of the glass. His leer was gone and in its place was a look of mounting frustration.
“Yeah, you and me both. Listen, you’re not real and I’m really tired and I need to go to my trailer. So fuck off.” Jensen gave the figment of his imagination a second. Then he braced himself and took a step forward.
“Hey—hey, wait! Don’t! Oh, shit--” Somehow Jared got back all his eye-hand-feet coordination and lunged to grab Jensen’s arm just as Jensen’s leg went through the man in the door.
Cold. Worse than being thrown into ice-water. Worse than…anything, really, because this shocked right up Jensen’s leg to his head and suddenly he was dead sober and the thing was still there and now it was fucking grinning. Its hands whipped up and he dodged one, but the other one got hold of his shoulder and Christ, he could get colder. The freeze clutched at his throat, shutting it down and he choked, clawing at the hand.
Except he was clawing at thin air, because the damn thing was a ghost and his fingers kept going through it, but it could touch him fine. Which was really fucking unfair, he thought. “God, get the fuck off, get off get off get off--”
Jared was yelling something, too, but Jensen couldn’t understand it because suddenly he was toppling backward and knocking his elbows into something soft, and that thing was trying to dive at him.
Something snapped it back. It reeled, snarling, and then straightened up again to stare down at them. Behind Jensen, Jared said some more things, and now that Jensen could sort of concentrate on them, he realized the other man hadn’t been speaking in English.
The ghost looked pissed, but it…just faded away.
“Jesus Christ,” Jared wheezed. His arms slipped off Jensen and he just fell backwards as far as he could, his hips and knees sliding forward at the same time so that his pelvis rammed into Jensen’s back.
Well. Perverted thoughts were one way to shock Jensen’s mind back to its regular programming, apparently.
Jensen reached out with his foot and toed the door shut, then turned around. His neck and leg up to the knee were still freezing and clammy, but in the end he figured he’d probably just rub his neck. “Jared?”
Jared’s face was blank for a second. Then he winced, hunched his shoulders and set his jaw, like Jensen was going to attack him or something.
“Dude, I’m not going to punch you. I just—what the hell was that? And how did you get it to go away? And—and what the fuck is going on? Have I gone insane?” Okay, maybe Jensen wasn’t going to beat up Jared. But if he lost his composure a little tiny bit, could anyone really blame him?
* * *
Several minutes later, Jensen had decided Jared’s sofa was probably the best bet, after all. Thankfully, Jared had even more beer in the fridge, because they’d both pretty much lost their buzz.
“You saw a ghost in the asylum, and you didn’t mention it?” Jared said in a disbelieving tone.
“Hey, I didn’t believe in them. And I’d just fallen on my head. It kind of seemed like a better explanation at the time.” Jensen stared at the far wall. He wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to be feeling right now, considering a big part of his worldview had just gotten flipped on its head.
Shock? Yeah, he got that, but shock basically was numbness. Disbelief, maybe, but it was pretty hard to disbelieve when you got half-strangled. That went for denial, too—besides, he already was in denial about plenty without adding that on.
“Um, well.” Jared fiddled with his bottle, sliding his fingers around and around the neck.
It was nice to know Jensen’s dick could survive an encounter with the—Jesus Christ, this was going to be weird—supernatural, but there were other bits of information he really needed more. “So. This runs in your family.”
“Er. Kind of. Not like, your thing, really. It’s more like I got some really interesting old books handed down, and then I had a girlfriend way back that was into Wicca and that stuff, and…” Jared glanced at Jensen, then had the grace to look embarrassed “…sorry. Anyway, for me it’s more like I mess around with stuff and I’m kind of good at it. I’ve never had a ghost show up and try to off me.”
“Hey, for all you know it might’ve been here for you. Your trailer, bro,” Jensen said. He ended up sounding more freaked than joking and quickly followed up with a nice, long pull at his beer. “That was kind of bad. Forget I said that.”
Jared flapped his hand at him. “Done.”
They both just sat and mulled a while. At least, that was what Jensen hoped it looked like he was doing. He actually was still freaking out, but he was trying to get it under control and letting it show definitely didn’t fall into that category.
“So it started just after you hit your head?” Jared asked.
“Yeah. Why, does that mean we can reverse it? Because I am so not down with getting mauled by ghosts every night. I get enough of that at work.” All right. Ghosts were real. Jensen said it a couple of times in his head, then looked around. The world was still there, he still wasn’t getting laid, and so it wasn’t so bad. Anyway, just because one thing was real didn’t mean the rest was. Hopefully. He wasn’t into digging up real dead bodies for a salt ‘n burn, either. “Shit. Guess I’m gonna spend my vacation making the librarians paranoid.”
“You know, there’s this great invention called the Internet. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it lets you look up things from anywhere in the—ow!” Jared yelped like a girl. Then he shoved Jensen back. “Dude, you just said you were coming with me. Don’t back out now. If anything, this is an even better reason to go.”
Jensen raised an eyebrow. “Not following.”
“Well…look. There honestly aren’t a lot of weird things around, otherwise I’d be as paranoid as Sam. It’s probably just that this place does have a lot of bad history…anyway, once we get away from it, you’ll probably be fine. And if we go to Germany--then you can do a lot of research there. I actually was thinking of doing some, because they’ve got great libraries,” Jared said. He stared at Jensen for a moment, then made a face. “What?”
“You were going to do some research,” Jensen slowly repeated.
Jared hemmed and hawed and basically admitted he was being wildly optimistic. In the end, he shrugged and nudged Jensen with his shoulder. “It’s the thought that counts. But anyway, c’mon. Don’t back out. Or if you’re gonna, don’t use an excuse like this.”
Excuse? Here Jensen was, getting over a near-death experience and quietly panicking, and Jared was going to call it an excuse? Why the hell was he even listening again?
The other man grabbed Jensen’s arm and tugged on it a little so Jensen had to face him. Puppies had nothing on Jared’s eyes, all dark and liquid and pleading. “It’ll help you relax while you’re getting used to this. And all the people will keep the ghosts away—they don’t like showing up in crowds.”
Oh, right. Jensen was currently playing a cock-brained idiot. “Okay. But—”
“Awesome!” Jared flashed one hell of a smile.
“—but,” Jensen managed to continue, “You and I are going to work on this ghost-thing of mine. Because I don’t want it. Hell, you should have it—Sam’s the psychic wonder, after all.”
“Oh, sure.” Then Jared paused, thinking of something, and looked more soberly at Jensen. “Uh, I guess you probably don’t want to walk outside now? I can fold out the couch.”
Jensen couldn’t help himself and glanced at the window. It was covered with a curtain, and no cold winds or rattling tree branches or creepy music was around, but his gut still suddenly knotted up. No, he didn’t want to walk outside, and he didn’t want this messing with his head, and basically he just wanted things to go back to how they’d been when he’d woken up this morning.
“Thanks,” he said.