strangeallure: (dead like you)
[personal profile] strangeallure
Dead Like You, Part 1

The takeaway from Jared's death is pretty simple: miniature golf can help save lives.

You can think what you want, but there are sphinxes, wishing-wells and windmills on the course, and, more importantly, no fancy-pants golf carts. It's also a lot more fun.

Needless to say, when Jared tries to branch out after fifteen years of mini-putt, it's not going so well.

An hour into his first real golf lesson, he's already bored out of his mind. Enough so that he starts screwing around with the golf cart and ends up careening downhill at full speed. And yeah, sure, that’s kind of fun – until he manages to drive straight into an artificial lake. He tries to jump off the damn cart, but gets his shorts stuck and twisted on a lever. Suddenly, he's trapped. And drowning. In a body of water he could comfortably stand in if only he were upright.

That would never have happened on a miniature golf course. Maybe.

If Jared were given a do-over, he'd definitely choose Rockhopper's Family Fun Park over the local country club the second time around.

He doesn't get a do-over, though. On the upside, he finally gets to see Los Angeles.

It's like this: One minute, he's struggling under water, trying to get out of his shorts, or rip them free, or just tear out the whole damn lever. He's thrashing and splashing and struggling not to breathe in the water that's weighing him down, that gets inside his nose and mouth, making his head burn, threatening to flood his lungs. He's fighting for his life, trying to hold on, even as his strength and senses are fading, his body getting heavy and his mind getting light.

The next minute, there are birds singing and Jared's sitting on a park bench.

He falls forward, hands on his knees, mouth open as far as it will go, vigorously pulling air into his lungs, gulping it down. He's panting and wheezing, and it takes him a moment to realize that the effort’s completely unnecessary because there is no water surrounding him anymore. It takes him another moment to notice the light, soothing touch at the small of his back. His back, which feels completely dry, just like the rest of him.

"You calm down now, boy," a female voice says in a familiar drawl. "People are starting to think you're having a panic attack."

The voice is nice and gentle. Jared takes deep breaths – one, two, three – trying to get himself back under control.

Once he feels a little calmer, less panicky and frantic, he looks over to find out who the voice – and, presumably, the hand, – belongs to. Next to him sits a middle-aged woman in casual clothes, her afro held back from her face by a red headband, her mouth painted in the same bold color.

She gives him a wide smile and a last soothing stroke down his back before pulling her hand away. "That’s better, Jared." She nods encouragingly. "Much better."

Huh, so she knows his name. That's weird. It doesn't feel weird, though. It feels … inevitable, like she ought to know. For a while, they just sit there, not talking, not touching, not making eye contact. She's giving him time to relax, to adjust a little, Jared guesses. He's just not sure what he's supposed to be adjusting to.

He has no idea where they are or why they are here. He doesn't know who she is or why he's not soaking wet, not even a little damp, or covered in duckweed. He doesn't care as much as he should.

"So you probably figured out that you're dead by now," she says after a few more minutes.

Jared's head snaps up at that, and his eyes go wide as he looks at her.

She chuckles. "Or maybe not." Her palm pats his thigh, and he feels himself calm down instantly. "Either way, that's what you are now, Jared: dead."

He just nods dumbly. Extending her hand, she gives him another brilliant smile. "I'm Loretta, by the way. I'm your new boss."

--

A few minutes later, Jared and Loretta enter a restaurant called the Bavarian Waffle House. There's faint accordion music coming from the speakers, and Jared stops and takes in the wall decorations. There are several cuckoo clocks, vintage-looking cowbells and an array of gray and green felt hats on hooks all around the large room. In between, the walls are littered with wooden picture frames, photos and paintings of tranquil pastures with kettle and chalets and wholesome women in dirndls, all with the picturesque backdrop of what Jared assumes are the Alps.

He realizes that he's been staring with his mouth open, unable to tear his eyes away from the décor. He pulls himself together. As long as they have food, he decides, everything's going to work out.

Loretta stirs him to a booth in the back where a bunch of people seem to be waiting for them.

There's a bored-looking guy with a leather wristband and a gray, washed-out David Bowie t-shirt in the one corner. In the opposite corner, another guy with seriously mussed hair and a brown corduroy jacket looks like he passed out a while ago. At least the dark-haired girl next to him gives Jared a welcoming smile as she adjusts the strap of her olive-colored tank top and discreetly elbows passed-out guy, trying to wake him up.

"Good morning, everyone," says Loretta and slides into the booth, gesturing for Jared to take the chair on the front end of the table. "Y'all sure look excited today." Her pointed look travels from formerly passed-out guy, who's now yawning violently, to bored-looking guy, who seems to take it as a cue to throw up his hands in mock enthusiasm and exclaim, "Oh hey, look: It's Loretta Lawless and the new Captain Generico! How exciting!"

The look on Loretta's face goes from pointed to piercing. "Don’t call him that, Jensen."

"What?" The guy, Jensen, manages to combine innocently mystified and completely blasé into one expression. "When I called the last one John Doe, you didn't like it. Thought I'd try something new."

"How about you just stick with Chad this time." It's not a question.

Jared's about to correct her – why would she call him Chad all of a sudden? – but before he can, Jensen's talking again.

"Yeah, sorry, I forgot." He raises his eyebrows meaningfully at Jared. "Because we have code names here. Because this is a covert operation." He puts a large piece of waffle into his mouth and mumbles around it, "Fuck this shit."

Loretta slaps his arm. "Language, Jensen."

The contrition on his face seems almost real. "Sorry, Loretta."

"So anyway." Loretta's eyes quickly travel around the table. "This is Jared, our new colleague. Say hello."

The girl gives him another smile and a small wave. "Hey, I'm Genevieve. Good to meet you, Jared."

"Hey Jared, what's up?" No-longer-passed-out guy says and yawns. "I'm Misha."

Jensen just gives him a curt nod. "Hey."

"Jensen, can't you at least make the effort?" Loretta's voice sounds more resigned than angry this time.

"What?" Jensen asks irritably. "You already called me by my name. I didn't think he was slow, you know." What a dick.

Just as Jared shoots him an annoyed look, a waiter comes to stand at their table and hands Loretta and Jared a menu each.

The man is around forty, maybe, tall and broad-shouldered with dark skin and a shaved head. He looks like he should be wearing a suit, something formal, but instead, he's decked in an embroidered white linen shirt with lederhosen and leather suspenders. Seems like they really take this authenticity thing seriously here at the Bavarian Waffle House.

"Good morning, Loretta," the waiter says in a deep voice, sadly without a fake German accent. He’s smiling in a way that transforms his face, making him look friendly and open. "I see your godson's back in town." He throws a quick smile at Jared. "Chad, is it?"

Chad, again? Before Jared can set the guy straight, Loretta cuts in, "That's right, Robert. Chad's here for a week or so. I didn't think you'd remember him."

"I'm good with names," Robert says and shrugs. "I'll get you two some coffee, give you a moment to decide."

When he's out of earshot, Jared asks, "What is it with this Chad thing? You don't really use code names, do you?" Unlike Robert, Jared's not really good with remembering names. And if it turns out that he really has to use an alias, he'd at least want something cool. Not Chad. Definitely not Chad.

Jensen snorts, but Misha is nice enough to answer, "No we don't. The double name thing is only for you, and it's only temporary anyway – until Loretta fleshes you."

Jensen rolls his eyes. "Yeah, Misha. That's real helpful for the newbie. Look at his face – I don't think he has a clue what you're talking about." And wow, that guy really has a talent for being a complete ass.

"You both shut it," Loretta says, her expression stern.

Once they've gotten coffee and ordered their food – the 'usual' for Loretta and the extra-large Bavarian Forest Breakfast Platter for Jared – Loretta gives him another of those wide smiles.

"So, Jared," she says. "I bet you're wondering what you're doing here." To be honest, Jared has been trying not to think about what he's doing here, but he figures he is going to find out anyway, so he nods.

"You're officially a grim reaper in training now."

"Actually," Misha pipes up, "I prefer reaper. Grim reaper sounds so depressing, like dark, scary forests and fairytales. The original, frightening ones by the brothers Grimm – Grimm, see? – not the Disney version."

"I loved Beauty and the Beast," Genevieve says, grinning. "That singing candleholder was hilarious."

Jensen just rolls his eyes in Misha's direction and mutters, "The fairytale dudes are spelled with two M's, you moron."

Loretta continues like she didn't even hear them. "And you're lucky enough to learn the craft from these highly-skilled professionals." Jared thinks he hears a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but he can't be sure.

"Craft?" Jensen asks slowly with his one eyebrow raised higher than should be humanly possible.

Jared can neither appreciate Loretta's sarcasm nor Jensen's snark. He's confused, a little shaken even. "But," he stutters, feeling helpless and out of his depth, "this can't be. I mean, I'm not … whatever religion it is that believes in people becoming grim reapers after their deaths."

"Tough luck," Jensen says, shrugging. "I used to be an atheist. Guess how much this thing messed up my belief system."

Loretta shoots Jensen another glare and puts her hand over Jared's. He relaxes a little, enough to hear what Misha's saying next, a wistful voice and faraway expression on his face. "I always thought that after I'd die, I'd be reborn as a wild Mustang on a wide and grassy plain."

Next to him, Genevieve's eyes grow wide. "Seriously, Misha? A Mustang?" She cocks her head like she's contemplating something. "I always pictured you more as a donkey, maybe a circus pony." Her grin is so innocently sweet that it takes Jared a moment to realize she's joking.

Misha doesn't seem to mind; he just sighs thoughtfully. "A pony? That could work, too."

"I vote for mule," Jensen says. He dips a strip of bacon into his egg yolk and then adds, "From what I know, they're all sterile."

Jared involuntarily snorts a laugh. When his breakfast arrives right that moment, he's grateful; he doesn't want to worry if him laughing upset Misha or not. Though, admittedly, the guy seems a little too spaced-out to care.

--

Three waffles, four pancakes, a large helping of scrambled eggs and some bacon later, Jared's learned a lot of stuff about his current situation, but he's still trying to wrap his head around everything.

So he gets that he's a reaper (in training) now, okay, but there's a lot more strange things to deal with, especially the whole fleshing/body issue. He doesn't even try starting with that, but decides to go through this step by step.

"So let me recap this. Before I can reap on my own, I'll have to 'shadow' every one of you for a couple of days?" It feels so weird to say things like this out loud, but Jared powers through. "How's that going to work exactly?"

"It's like training-on-the-job, basically." Genevieve smiles. "You come along for our appointments, get to see the techniques and different styles we use to get the job done. Then you can decide what might work for you."

"Work for me when I do what?" Because Jared honestly has no clue. Will he have to wear a black gown with a hood and carry a scythe with him when he's working? Will he have to wear a mask like the one in Scream or paint his face white? His new colleagues don't seem like they do, but maybe they all have company cars (hearses?) with their stuff in the parking lot – or spin into work gear in a telephone booth before their next job, like Superman. Only not from Krypton. And dead.

"I'll give you a name, an address and an ETD – estimated time of death – for your client of the day," Loretta says, surprisingly matter-of-fact. "You go to the address, find the person and touch her. This will sever the connection between her soul and her body, so when the accident happens, her soul won't be tied to the body's pain and will be able to leave it."

Okay, that makes sense – kind of, unless … "And what if it's not an accident?"

Jensen gives him this 'why are you even here' look. "We're the Accidental Deaths Division, so guess what? It's always an accident."

Loretta, yet again, frowns at Jensen before she turns to Jared. "Yeah, I forgot to tell you about that. We're accidents-only."

"Believe it or not – you're lucky," Genevieve says. "I think suicides, homicides or dying by illness are much worse. For our clients, it's mostly quick."

"Yeah," Misha agrees, "when it comes to reaping, this is probably the sweetest gig you can get, apart from natural causes."

Jared finds himself nodding. He can't believe the things he's been agreeing to today, the things he's been agreeing to since he died. The fact that he died today isn’t something he wants to think about now, so Jared's glad when his mind comes up with another question. "But if we always touch them right before they die, doesn't that make us, you know, suspicious? Like, won't the police try and question us or something?"

The expression on Jensen's face changes a little at that, and Jared almost wants to believe that he thinks it's a good question.

"Good thinking, Jared." Loretta sure seems pleased. "But that won't be a problem. We don't make an impression on the living like other people do. They acknowledge us when we speak to them or do something out-of-the-ordinary, but they don't really see us, not like regular people. It takes a lot of exposure before they'll even really remember your face."

"Good in terms of stealth, but makes it harder to get laid." Misha sighs.

Genevieve cuts him a quick look and then pretends like he didn't say anything. "And once you unlock a body, you become unnoticeable. It's like … people won't walk into you, but they won't really sense your presence either."

"That's true," Misha confirms, "you can untie their shoelaces or steal the ties off their necks, and they won't even notice."

"Which you absolutely shouldn't do," Loretta says sternly. "This is not something to be fooled around with or a new way to prank people. It's to protect you, to enable you to do your job."

"Plus, you won't look like a crazy person when you're talking to the souls outside of their bodies. So that's good," Jensen adds.

"But what about me? I mean, if I'm doing this training thing, won't it be strange if I ask you a question and people don't notice you, only me?" It still feels bizarre to be talking like this, to be taking this whole situation seriously, to ask questions about specifics and details. It still feels unreal to think that he is dead. Dead. For good – and about to reap people who are alive right now, but who won't be after he touches them. He tries to push the thought aside, to concentrate on Loretta's answer instead.

"No, darling. No one will care. Your state will be tied to that of the reaper you're shadowing," she explains. "So if he or she is unnoticeable, you will be, too. You don't have to worry about that at all." She gives him a smile and a reassuring pat to his hand.

Jared eats another strip of bacon and gulps down some of his lukewarm coffee. "Okay, good." He swallows. "And after the training is done, you'll give me sort of a pass or fail. And if I pass, I'll get my own body back, right?"

The way Jensen looks at him, kind of annoyed and exasperated at the same time, makes Jared itchy, irritable. A feeling that transforms into a low-boiling anger when Jensen basically sneers at him, "No, you won't. Your body's dead, remember? You'll be rotting in the ground real soon – or maybe sit in an urn on your mother's fireplace mantle, depending on your family's preferences."

The look in Loretta's eyes makes Jared understand what the phrase 'staring daggers at someone' means, but her voice is level when she says, "Stop being helpful, Jensen. Really. It doesn't suit you." For the first time, Jared is absolutely sure that she's not at least a little amused by Jensen's snark.

She turns back to Jared, the familiar warmth of her palm on his wrist again. "Honey, you're not far off. As soon as we're sure you'll stay here with us, I'll give you back your body." She raises an eyebrow in Jensen's direction. "Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It'll look and feel just like you're used to."

"And why do I have to look like this until then?" he asks, catching a glimpse of the unfamiliar face in the mirror above the booth. He can't believe that he didn't notice when he first came to on that park bench, but he's stuck in the body of another guy. At least it's not a bad-looking guy. His hair’s lighter and shorter than Jared's, eyes a little more squinty, nose a little broader and mouth a little less wide.

Maybe Jared didn't realize it right away because their build is similar, except that this body must be a couple of inches shorter than Jared's used to. Of course, the not-noticing part could also have had something to do with Jared being too busy with other things, like readjusting his notions about fucking life after death.

When Loretta doesn't answer right away, Genevieve explains it for him. "It's an energy thing. It's draining for Loretta to make you your new body." She glances around the table. "Remember the last time? Sophia? You ordered seconds of everything for a week after you had fleshed her, right?" Her eyes move to Loretta for confirmation.

"God, yes, don't remind me. I was hungry all the time. I even had to take a boxed lunch with me while I was reaping."

"Too bad Sophia got a transfer. I kind of liked her." Misha looks sad. "So much better than Travis."

"Don't even get me started on that guy. What a complete loser. Tried to jump into other people's white lights." Jensen raises a meaningful eyebrow at Jared like that statement is supposed to make sense to him. "All the time." Jared looks away.

"Didn't he almost make it once?" Misha asks.

"Yeah, on my watch, too. That really wasn’t fun at all," Genevieve says. "He almost managed to snap the connect. It felt like my spine was being pulled out through my stomach, like in that chestburster scene in Alien. I wanted to throw up my guts for an hour after." Jared's not sure he's following.

"He got a transfer, though." Misha's face turns thoughtful, and he continues like he's talking to himself, "I wonder where he is right now."

"Taking the souls of kittens, maybe? Or making clouds, painting the sky, shooting Cupid's arrow at people? Whatever other shit jobs are out there for us," Jensen’s still looking at Jared from the corner of his eye.

Misha stabs his finger in Jensen's direction, somewhat unexpectedly. "Or maybe they did give him his own white lights. Maybe, we're still here because we're the only ones dumb and complacent enough to actually do what we're told. Maybe we should stage a mutiny."

"Ignore him." Jensen catches Jared’s gaze. "He gets like that sometimes. It's the drugs." Jared suppresses a smile at the offhand way Jensen says it, but doesn't look away this time. He still has to work with the guy, so he probably shouldn't be ignoring him completely.

"He also likes the word 'mutiny' a lot," Genevieve says and Misha nods his head in confirmation.

"I really do."

Jensen raises his coffee cup. "I'll drink to that."

"Now if we're done with Misha's little speech of the day," Loretta cuts in, "and to completely answer your question, Jared." She gestures towards him. "This body is like a stand-by, a generic body I use for male, white souls."

It's so strange that this is actually making sense to him, but it is.

There's only one more question left, one thing he hasn't yet dared to say, but which he has to ask. He just has to. Even though he already knows the answer. He knows it not just from the situation, but knows it in his gut. And isn't that the kicker: right this moment, he doesn't even have a gut of his own, right this moment, his intuition resides in a 'stand-by' called Chad. Jared doesn't want to live – to exist this way. He steels himself and swallows.

"Is there a way? Any other way that I could get back home? I mean, maybe I'm just in a coma or something. Maybe I could still wake up."

Loretta shakes her head slowly, lightly. "I'm sorry, Jared." She strokes his arm. "But you're dead. That's non-negotiable. There's nothing you can do. You'll just have to accept it."

Everyone gives him a small smile, even Jensen. Their looks are clearly trying for reassuring and friendly, like they're saying 'we know how you feel', like they're saying 'we know you'll get over it', and it hits Jared: they went through this themselves, all of them. They do know how he feels because, at some point, they felt the same way.

He can't stand it. He never liked pity, never liked those little participation trophies in elementary school that only served to remind you that you had lost.

There's pressure building behind his eyes – and hey, they're not even his eyes, they're Chad's eyes, Captain Generico's eyes. God, this is so fucked up.

The silence around the table stretches for too long, and he wonders why no one's saying anything. He half wishes he hadn't asked, had just kept his mouth shut. He wants to say something to make it better, lighten the mood, and finally settles on a grin and a taunting "So what? I'm dead – or undead – for good, and I don't even get to eat people's brains or have superpowers?"

Jared thinks Jensen wants to smile at the joke, but then seems to catch himself and makes his voice sound a little bored instead. "Yeah, well. I suppose you could eat people's brains if that's what you're into."

Genevieve grins. "And what do you mean no superpowers? You can unlock a person's soul from their body, and you become unnoticeable once you do – that's as good as invisible, if you ask me." She pops one of her cold waffle bits into her mouth. "Electra has less than that, and she's one kick-ass superhero."

"Yeah well," Jared says, "When I hear superpowers, I think of something cooler, like heat vision or super strength or, I don’t know, at least an indestructible shield or something."

Of course Jensen has a smart-ass remark for that. "Since when is a shield a superpower?"

"He probably just likes Captain America," Genevieve says. She might not be wrong.

"Must be it," Misha agrees. "And who says that the undead should even have superpowers?"

"Spawn does," Jared says defiantly. He's read a lot of comic books as a kid. Okay, and maybe he never stopped reading them either.

"Yeah, well, but he made a pact with the devil." Jensen looks at him like he's imparting some great wisdom, and Jared's rarely been happier to out-geek someone.

"With one of the Lords of Hell, you mean?" he corrects Jensen with a smug look. If there's one thing Jared knows, it's his comic books.

Before Jensen can answer, Loretta raises her voice: "There are no pacts with anybody going on around here, kids. Is that understood?" Everyone mutters in agreement, and Jared feels like he's back in kindergarten. Apparently, Loretta's with Jared on this one because she grumbles, "It's like working with little children."

"So, Jared," she continues, "I'll be there to explain things to you later, but right now, we have to get the assignments out for today."

When she hands everyone a yellow Post-it note with the information about their job – or 'client', to use Loretta's word – for the day, Jared does a double take. "Post-its? Really?"

"What did you expect?" Jensen replies, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "That we'll sync up our schedules on our BlackBerries? Or maybe get our assignments on rolls of parchment, written in blood?" Jared would never admit it out loud, but the second alternative, especially, would probably have surprised him less than the small yellow pieces of paper everyone's holding on to.

"Jensen, be nice," Loretta says. "As luck would have it, I won't be able to take you today, Jared, so you'll have to shadow Jensen."

Great, that's just great. Both Jared and Jensen groan at the news, and it's almost funny that it's in unison. If it wasn't about having to spend the day with that jerk.

"Give me your left hands. I'll make the connect," Loretta orders.

"The what?" Jared asks, both his hands staying in his lap. He's gone with a lot of wacky stuff today, but he at least wants to understand what's being done to him.

"I told you I had to tie your state to that of your mentor," Loretta replies. "That's the connect."

Genevieve jumps in to clarify again, "Yeah, it's like this connection between you and another reaper, and you'll be in whatever state the other one's in. You can't be far away from him or her, either. If you try, both of you will feel like throwing up."

"That sounds almost like a leash … with side effects," Jared says. It's the first time he sees Jensen smile, even though the guy tries to conceal it right away.

"It is," Jensen agrees.

"Or like an umbilical cord," Misha says in a thoughtful tone.

"Ew. You're disgusting." Jensen's lips curl and his nose scrunches up.

Jared feels exactly the same way, but tries to ignore Misha. "And I'm the dog?" he asks instead.

"You're the dog, dawg." Jensen smirks.

Jared just shakes his head, but gives Loretta his hand. She closes her eyes briefly, squeezes both their hands and then it's done, apparently. It's a very anticlimactic experience.

Jensen shrugs and gets up. "You'd better start calling me master, rookie."

Jared makes a face at him. "You better have treats for me, master, or I'll bite your leg and pee in your shoes."

"Let's go, Fido."

So yeah, Jensen's a bit of an asshole, but at least he has a sense of humor. Jared can work with that.

--

After a couple of hours spent with Jensen, Jared can't help thinking the guy is lucky he's already dead – because otherwise, Jared would be tempted to hit him over the head or shove him into oncoming traffic.

Jensen's client isn't due until late in the afternoon, so they pass the time roaming the city together. Jared tries to make conversation, to ask questions, to make some kind of connection – besides the damn connect, that is – but Jensen doesn't seem interested.

At one point, Jensen stops at a record store without telling Jared, so Jared continues walking down the road. On the next corner, he has to double over in pain, feeling nauseous and seasick, like he ate some really bad fish. Damn connect. Jensen doesn't even apologize, just calls Jared an idiot and tells him to fucking pay attention next time as if it were Jared's fault.

Earlier, at the Waffle House, Jared had thought that they were getting somewhere, that they had at least some common ground to help them get along. Jensen doesn't seem to agree. He doesn't even pretend to try and be less than hostile. Instead, he's snarky and monosyllabic and cold and mean.

Which is a shame because the guy seems to be into comic books and good music (judging from the record store's display), and Jared can appreciate snark, he can, as long as something nicer comes along with it, too, not just one derisive remark after another.

It also doesn't help that Jensen is good-looking. Really, really good-looking. Long and lithe and ridiculously pale in the hot L.A. sun with expressive eyes and good bone structure that makes Jared want to hold his head in his hands, trace Jensen's cheekbones with his thumbs. And then crush his skull into dust because he's such a jerk.

Still, they have to kill the time somehow, and since Jensen just seems to be walking around aimlessly, Jared swallows his pride and suggests that they could maybe go see the tar pits. He remembers them from this disaster movie with Tommy Lee Jones, and they seemed pretty cool.

Jensen just gives him another one of those pinched, douchey smiles. "Oh, Volcano?" he asks. "Only highbrow entertainment for you, I see." Giving Jared a condescending look, he adds, "Hate to disappoint you, buddy, but I ain't your guide around here. If you want to go sight-seeing, buy a tour ticket and leave me alone."

There's a white-hot surge of anger welling up in Jared, irritation that's been rising over the past hours finally boiling over. He's been tense ever since they left the Waffle House, trying not to let Jensen's attitude problem get to him, trying to stay calm and make nice, ignoring most of the guy's jabs and barbs. Now, all that tension seems to take over his body, making his muscles twitch and his jaw tick. He can't even remember the last time he was so pissed off. He feels his blood pump a little faster, his breathing coming a little shallower. He feels his hands clench into fists and barely manages to keep them hanging by his sides.

"You," he says, consciously keeping his voice down and letting the words come out slow, "are one major asshole."

Jensen just smirks lazily, like he can't even be bothered, like it's a compliment.

Jared takes a deep breath. "And I'm sure you're real proud of it, too. All anti-authority, anti-social, anti-everything – not conforming to the rules and shit."

Jensen's still standing there, saying nothing, and Jared edges closer, feels his muscles tense further and his shoulders curl forward.

"But tell you what – it's easy to be an asshole. It's easy to always be against everything, to only see the bad side and treat people like shit." Jared knows he's getting too worked up, is getting too close, but he doesn't care. He keeps closing in on Jensen.

"I'm sure you didn't choose this. I know you'd rather be somewhere else. Guess what? Me, too. I'd rather be back home in San Antonio with my family and my friends or even that boring guy, Tom, who tried to teach me how to play fucking golf when I died." He snorts a laugh. "Because that's what I did today. I got up early, took a shower, went to the golf course and then I fucking drowned. And maybe that’s no big deal to you, but it is to me." His voice is getting louder, stronger, and he's vaguely aware that it's different from what he's used to, that the sounds feel wrong in his skull.

"But you don't cut people any slack, do you? You just don't care. Because all you are is one giant prick." His chest is almost touching Jensen's, and he can feel the puffs of air from Jensen's nose on his face. Jensen's eyes are open wide, and it's like he's looking at Jared, really looking for the first time. The moment is surreal, over-charged, and somehow, Jared's body wants to move forward, move in ... and then he snaps out of it, takes a few steps back to give Jensen some space.

For a minute, Jared looks around on the ground, rolling his shoulders to get rid of the tension and trying to get his breathing back under control. Jensen only stands there, completely still, not moving a muscle.

After a while, Jensen's feet leave Jared's field of vision, and Jared doesn't know what to do, so he stays put. When he doesn't follow, Jensen turns and says over his shoulder, "You coming or what? If we want to see the tar pits before the job, we gotta get moving."

--

"Okay," Jensen explains a few hours later, "it's ten minutes until the ETD, so it could be that she's not here yet, but we should definitely keep our eyes and ears open."

They're at a street corner right across the Farmers Market, waiting for Allison Esposito to bite the bullet. It's weird to know someone's going to die, but not know anything about that person. She could be a child or an old woman; she could be the lady going through the trash or the one getting out of a limo. Jared has no idea what to look out for, but Jensen seems calm, certain, like nothing could go wrong.

It's weird, but ever since Jared's blow-up, he's been a lot … nicer. And even after only knowing the guy for half a day, the word 'nice' seems completely out of place in describing Jensen. So okay, he's still snarky and sarcastic as all hell, but he mostly cuts out the downright insults in Jared's direction. The living, though, still seem fair game, and with the number of obvious health freaks and plastic surgery victims around, he's clearly been having a field day.

Right now, Jensen surprises Jared again by going into teacher mode. "You've got to listen when people talk to each other, and you've got to look for visual clues, too."

When Jared's face crumples up in a question, Jensen looks only mildly annoyed. "Like monograms on briefcases, name tags, custom license plates, people signing a check or a petition or something." Jensen points towards a stall a couple of feet away from them, the marquee announcing 'Ally's Fresh Organic Produce'. "Or shop signs with the owners' names on them."

They walk over, and Jensen quickly checks the license to make sure the last name matches up, too. When it does, both of them pretend to study what's on offer. It's a pretty big stall with an impressive selection. Jared's grandma would love it – she makes the best stew in all of Texas. Jared has to smile, but it turns melancholy in a moment. Who would have thought that his grandma was going to outlive him?

He's glad when a girl with dark eyes, blond hair and a slightly soiled green apron approaches them, taking his mind off his family. "Can I help you with anything?"

To Jared's surprise, Jensen says, "Yeah, I'd like to make a big stir-fry. You know, just lots of colors, different flavors. Could you just pack up a variety of stuff for me? Bell peppers, zucchini, snow peas ... whatever you have, Ally."

"I can do that," she replies with a friendly smile, "but Ally's my mom. I'm Kathy."

"Okay, Kathy." Jensen returns her smile, and it's the widest and most genuine Jared's seen on him yet. "That would be great. I'm Jensen, by the way." He nods towards Jared. "And this is Chad." Jared wants to be pissed, but Jensen's smiling and honest-to-goodness winking at him, so Jared just whispers a mostly good-natured "asshole" under his breath.

Kathy's busy choosing and packing up vegetables for Jensen's stir-fry, weighing them on an old-fashioned scale, chatting away while she does, explaining where they get their produce from and giving them tips for different recipes. She seems like a really nice girl.

Jensen checks his watch and lets Jared see it, too. There are only three minutes left until the ETD, and Jared's worried if everything is going to work out. Or, more accurately, he's not sure he wants things to work out. Maybe the mother's not even here, maybe it's just a mistake (for god's sake, they got the info on a Post-it note – how reliable can that be?), maybe Allison Esposito doesn't have to die today.

"Mom," Kathy shouts over her shoulder, "how much is the leek again?"

"One-fifty or two for two-fifty," a woman's voice comes from behind one of the racks.

Jensen walks around it casually and Jared follows. A woman is kneeling on the ground. She has the same dark eyes as Kathy, but dark hair with gray strands, held up in an untidy bun. She's wearing the same green apron and holds a pair of pliers in her hand. Next to her sits an open tool box.

"Can I help you with anything, ma'am?" Jensen asks, suddenly all southern charm, and lightly touches her shoulder. Jared thinks he can see something, like a spark or a change in the way the air moves, but Allison doesn't seem to notice.

"No, thanks," she says. "I'm fine. Just trying to fix the gas tank here. My daughter" she nods over to Kathy, "thinks it's nothing, but I'm almost sure I smelled gas."

Jensen walks back over to Kathy, who's just tying a bundle of carrots together. She looks up, but, to Jared's surprise, she seems to look right through him and doesn't start chatting about produce or recipes again.

The estimated time of death is almost here, and Jared can't keep from staring in Allison's direction. He positions himself so he has a clear view of her, his one hand holding on to the wooden crate with arugula before him.

Jared doesn't know why, but a man in the background catches his attention. The guy's just getting out of the building behind the stall, wearing a harried expression, gray suit and blue tie. He comes to a halt a few feet from Allison's stall, takes a deep breath and shakes out his shoulders before pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He tries his lighter, but it doesn't seem to work. He tries again and again, but eventually gives up with a sour expression and starts rummaging around in his pockets. When he fishes out a matchbook, he smiles, wide and triumphant. His mouth greedily sucks the filter as he finally lights his cigarette. Inhaling deeply, his eyes close and his whole posture relaxes. He flicks his wrist, the match flying to the ground. Only inches from where Allison is sitting.

The explosion is not like in the movies. It's not huge, and not as loud as Jared would have expected. More like a short, sharp puff, like the engine of an old car misfiring right next to your ear. There's smoke, sure, and some debris, the shredded produce and pieces of the thin wood that the crates are made of, flies through the air, but it's not a spectacle. It's just sad.

At the sound of the explosion, Kathy's head snaps around and she lets go of the string beans in her hand. A few moments later, she's already holding her mother's body in her arms, alternatively blowing air into her mouth and calling for people to get an ambulance.

Instinctively, Jared goes over and puts a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. She doesn't even seem to notice, just screams for someone to get a fucking doctor.

He looks up and sees Jensen standing right there next to the body with what must be Allison's soul. She looks just like she did before the explosion, and it's strange to see her standing next to her own body. She goes to kneel beside her daughter, but when she tries to touch Kathy, her hand goes right through.

"Get our produce, Jared," Jensen says. "And then let's go."

How Jensen can even think about produce now is beyond Jared. That poor woman just lost her life. That poor girl just lost her mother. He gets the big paper bag anyway, tucking it into the crook of his arm. Maybe Jensen just wants to give him something to do.

When he turns around, Jensen is talking softly to Allison and helps her to get up. "It's alright," he soothes. "I know it's hard, but Kathy's a strong girl. She'll be alright. You just have to let go now."

"But I can't," Allison insists. "I can't just leave her alone here. She's just turned nineteen. She's too young."

"You can," Jensen says, leading her away by the arm, "and you have to. The longer you stay, the longer she won't be able to let you go. You have to leave if you want her to go on."

His voice is so sure and for a moment, Jared just accepts what he is saying, but then he begins to question Jensen's words. How does he know? How is this supposed to work? Is it even true? Jared doesn't voice any of his concerns, though. Right now, it's not about him.

"But she needs me; she needs her mother." Allison's voice is pleading, but Jensen just runs his hand along her back, leading her further and further away.

"You can't go back, Allison," he says. "You know that. You shouldn't hold her back. You should move on."

"But–" She looks at him and her eyes are bright.

Jensen nods. "I know."

She swallows, but then, slowly, starts nodding along with him, like she begins to understand something Jared still doesn't.

The next moment, a strange thing happens. There's a manhole a couple of feet from them, and suddenly, the cover that was dark and dull only a second ago seems to dissolve into white, sparkling light.

Allison turns to look at it and her facial expression changes, like she understands that, too, like this makes sense to her. There's a small, brave smile forming on her lips. She looks at Jensen with knowing eyes. "Down the rabbit hole, right?"

He smiles back and lets his hand drop from her back. "That's right."

"Thank you," she says, and walks up to the hole. Lifting her arms over her head, she just jumps right in, and as soon as the last of her fingertips are swallowed up by the light, it disappears, leaving only the street like it was behind.

"Wow," Jared says, exhaling sharply. After a while, he adds, "Is it always like this?"

Jensen takes a few moments to answer. "The white lights, you mean?"

"Yeah."

"No." Jensen shakes his head slowly, thoughtfully. "They're different for everyone. When the souls accept it, accept that they have to go, the lights just open up. The clients always know."

"And what about Kathy?" Jared says, looking towards the stall where the girl is curled over the dead body of her mother just as the ambulance arrives.

"We're not here for the living, Jared. We're here for the dead." Jensen's voice doesn't sound as cold as the words would suggest. "The living have people to take care of them. They have a support system. The dead only have us."

Jared takes a deep breath. He supposes that's true. Kathy's such a nice girl, he's sure she has good friends. She probably has other relatives: her father, brothers and sisters, maybe. It reminds him of his own family. Jared knows they love him, knows they must be incredibly sad, but he also knows that they'll be there for each other. He still remembers his grandpa's funeral a few years ago, how everyone got together, how they hugged and cried and ate casserole. How they exchanged stories about grandpa until their tears weren't just from crying anymore, but from laughing so hard – because grandpa Padalecki was a funny bastard.

So yeah, Jared's sure they'll get over it, they'll be alright. Almost sure.

"Let's go, Jared," Jensen says. "I still need some beef for the stir-fry."

--

Jensen's apartment is cramped and dark and in the same building as a low-key tapas bar. It's also a complete mess.

In the living room, there's a corduroy couch that's clearly seen better days and a coffee table with a small stack of beer coasters beneath one of its legs to keep it from wobbling. Across from the couch, an old CRT TV set is sitting on an apple crate, but there are no shelves or other furniture. Instead, books, magazines and DVD cases are littering the floor in precarious piles with clothes thrown over them and shoes lying around.

Jensen doesn't seem to care and leads Jared right on through into the kitchen. It's small, but it has a stove, an oven, some work space and even a few cabinets; and apart from a sink full of unwashed dishes, it's surprisingly clean and tidy. Especially in contrast to the living room.

"How about you make yourself useful?" Jensen says and throws a towel at Jared. "You do the dishes while I start with the beef."

As it turns out, Jensen is pretty good at this cooking thing – and fast, too. By the time Jared has the sink full of dishwater and starts washing, Jensen's already done cutting the beef into thin slices and is making a marinade. He uses soy sauce, oil, juice and a host of spices he pulls from one of the cabinets. Of course Jared doesn't know what it will taste like yet, but he's already impressed, especially since his own cooking skills begin and end with reading a take-out menu.

While Jared is drying up, Jensen starts peeling carrots, an old issue of the L.A. Times holding a fast-growing heap of skins.

As soon as Jared's done, Jensen gives him part of the produce – "Wash this and cut out bad spots." – and then immediately goes back to peeling, chopping and slicing, gradually filling two large bowls with vegetables.

They work in silence, and for once, Jared's content to keep his mouth shut. He's had such a strange day, so much to accept and take in, and it's nice to just work with his hands, to let his mind come to rest a little.

He's pouring himself a glass of water from the tab when Jensen swears behind him, "Oh fucking come on." Jared turns around and sees that Jensen's not talking to him. Instead, he's standing on tip-toes in front of one of the cabinets, trying to get the big frying pan that's sitting on top of it.

Jared smiles lazily and walks over. He's been getting things from high places for people ever since his last growth spurt at seventeen. "Let me help you with that." When he extends his arm, though, he realizes that he can't reach the pan either.

Jensen snorts. "Dude, I could have told you that."

Jared tries to stand on tip-toes, too, and stretches his arm as far as it will go, but it doesn't help. With a sheepish look, he turns around and shrugs. "Uh, sorry. I forgot that I'm so much shorter now." Any other day, the fact that he keeps forgetting that he's in another guy's body would probably freak Jared out – hell, the fact that he's in another guy's body to begin with would freak him the fuck out – but today, it's just one more weird thing on a long list.

"So much shorter?" Jensen knits his eyebrows together. "You're, like, about my height." There's a small smirk forming on his lips. "Oh god, you were some kind of giant, weren't you? Freak show material. Just tell me you're going to grab Genevieve and climb the Empire State building once Loretta fleshes you. I'll make sure to bring a camera and put it up on YouTube."

"Right movie, wrong city." Jared grins. "But yeah, I'm 6'4" and change. That's why it's weird to be in this body now, I think. I mean, what am I? Six foot max."

"Hey." Jensen points a finger at him. "You have no reason to complain. Before I got fleshed, I was in this tiny, chubby red-haired dude, and everyone called me Teach."

"Teach? Seriously?"

"Yep," Jensen says and pulls an old lawn chair from behind one of the cabinets, unfolding and positioning it so he can use it to get to the frying pan.

Somehow, Jared feels the need to add, "Don't hate on redheads, though. Damian Lewis is pretty hot."

--

The stir-fry turns out to be good, very good. And after they're more or less done – Jared keeps stealing forkfuls from the pan sitting on the table – they even manage to have a conversation. Okay, sure, Jensen still doesn't say all that much, but when he does say something, the mean streak is mostly missing from his snark. And yeah, so Jared still finds himself at the butt of the joke a couple of times, but without the edge of resentment, he can actually appreciate Jensen's humor.

"Damn, it's almost seven. I've got to get going," Jensen says suddenly as he checks his watch. "I'll get you some sheets, a tee for the night and a towel. I think I even have a spare toothbrush lying around here somewhere."

Jensen quickly gets everything together and throws it all on the couch. "You can sleep on the couch and watch TV or one of the DVDs over there." He points at the corner and then gives Jared a look. "Other than that: Don't touch my stuff."

And with that, he's out the door.

If he's honest, Jared's a little disappointed to see him go. He has a ton more questions about the reaper business, and he's not sure he's cool with being alone on his first night as a dead man. But then he remembers that he saw Independence Day on top of the DVD pile earlier, and he figures a little mindless entertainment might do him some good.

By the time the captured alien at Area 51 forms a telepathic connection with the president, Jared's thoughts drift to the connect between him and Jensen. Judging from earlier, the fact that he doesn't feel like throwing up means that Jensen can't be far away. Huh.

For a moment, Jared wants to rush out of the apartment and find Jensen, find out why the guy left him here alone when it's obvious that he can't have gone far, but then Jared decides that it's just another strange thing on an overall strange day and turns his attention back to Bill Pullman. So yeah, Jared loves the 'freedom from annihilation' speech, but somehow, he still likes Pullman best as Lone Starr.

--

The next day, Loretta tells Jared that he's not going to be working with Jensen again. Before he knows it, she's already cut yesterday's connect and made a new one between him and Genevieve.

The switch catches Jared by surprise. He thought he was supposed to shadow each reaper for a couple of days, not just one. He even wonders briefly if Jensen had something to do with it, if he said he didn't want to train Jared anymore, but then he decides that can't be it. After their rough start, they got along okay yesterday, and even though Jensen's clearly not a morning person, he even grunted a "thanks" when he saw that Jared had done the dishes.

Jared's mom would probably have taken his temperature if she'd seen him help around the house without excessive nagging, but he had just wanted to say thanks for the food and the place to sleep, somehow.

Whatever. Jensen's off to see his new client, and Jared's with Genevieve now.

"So…" He walks next to her, chewing on a waffle he took along from breakfast. "How do we get paid, anyway?"

"We don't," she says, and leads him from the broad, sunny street they're on into a dark alleyway. "Don't worry, it's a shortcut. We don't have a lot of time to get to this one."

Jared follows her, still chewing. "What do you mean, we don't get paid? I mean, how are we supposed to pay our rent or buy food?"

"It depends." She takes another turn into an even darker, narrower alley. "You can always take the money from the dead. I mean, it's not like they need it. Some also pawn their client's watches and jewelry. There's this one shop in West Hollywood that takes the newer model smart phones, iPods and stuff without asking questions. All that combined should usually cover your expenses."

"Yeah well." Jared's not convinced. "And what if I don't want to steal from dead people?"

Genevieve turns back to look at him. "I don't think it's stealing when it doesn't really belong to anyone anymore because the owner is, you know, dead." She wrinkles her nose, but Jared wants to think that it's because of the smell coming from the trash cans they're standing next to and not because of him. "Also, we provide a very valuable service for that person. It's only fair that they compensate us in one way or other." She grins brightly and continues walking. "I used to be a lawyer's assistant before I died. Sometimes I miss writing briefs."

They turn another corner and are, surprisingly enough, back on a perfectly respectable street. "Told you it was a shortcut."

"Hmmm," Jared hums. "So I understand why you think it's not stealing, but what if I don't want to do it anyway? Not because it's wrong. Just because …" Jensen didn't go through Allison's pockets yesterday, after all. Okay, so he sort of stole the produce – or, technically, made Jared steal the produce – but it doesn't seem like the same thing. It's not like Kathy would have sold the stuff to anyone else after what happened.

"You can always get a job if you want."

"Huh?" Jared thought he already had a job here.

"A job, you know, a paying one. Nothing high-profile, preferably with flexible hours. Misha works at Universal Studios, helping with the tours and so on, and Jensen's a bus boy, I think, but he doesn't really talk to anyone outside work stuff, so he might not do that anymore."

They reach the Smoothie King outlet where their next client is supposed to be only five minutes before the ETD. "See," Genevieve says, "good thing we took a short cut."

Her eyes scan the area briefly, but the only person on the sidewalk besides them is a bored-looking teenage girl leaning against the store front. Genevieve goes inside, Jared trailing behind. She calls, "Hey Paul," and Jared notices that she pitches her voice just right: loud enough that all people around will hear her, but not loud enough for everyone to look what the fuss is all about.

None of the customers – or personnel – reacts. Genevieve checks her watch again. "Only two minutes left. Shit," she says. "Maybe he'll die just as he gets here." She heads back outside, and calls for Paul again. No reaction, apart from the girl snorting in their general direction before she lets her half-full smoothie cup fall onto the pavement.

Just then, a car parks across the street and a guy hops out. He's in his thirties, white polo shirt, jeans and flip-flops with blond hair and a deep tan. He jogs across the street, and Genevieve looks at him intensely for a moment and then back to the entrance of the smoothie place. She takes a couple of steps forward and brushes by him, making it look like an accidental touch. Jared sees her palm briefly stroke over his arm, and he notices the same change in the way the air moves as he saw with Allison yesterday. The guy must be in a serious hurry, though, because he doesn't spare Genevieve so much as a look – and she's really hot.

Jared can't even complete that thought before the guy steps right onto the smoothie cup the girl dropped a moment ago and slips. He flails and tries to hold his balance, but his flip-flops slide out from under him until it looks like he's doing the splits, and he finally falls forward, head crashing against the glass front door of the shop, smashing it into pieces.

It's disgusting and gruesome, and there's a disturbing amount of blood coming from where the guy's neck is speared onto the jagged glass. Jared wants to throw up a little, but he just swallows hard and looks away.

He hears a gargling sound, and then the guy's soul – Paul's soul – leaves his body and comes to stand next to the mess of shattered, blood-stained glass on the floor.

"What happened?" he says, and he seems disoriented, eyes fixed on his own body, on the white of his shirt that's now splattered with red.

"Look at me, Paul," Genevieve says, and takes both his hands, pulling him so they stand face to face. "You know what happened."

"I ... I died?" he asks, uncertain, his eyes darting between Genevieve's face and his own dead body.

"That's right, Paul, very good." She nods, her voice and expression making her look like a school teacher, her thumbs rubbing circles on the back of Paul's hands. "And what happens after you die?"

"I ... go to heaven?"

She nods again.

"But I haven't been very good all the time," Paul says, and he sounds like a child, like he's talking to Santa Claus. "Can I still go?"

"What do you think?" Genevieve simply looks at him, her school teacher face still in place.

Paul seems to think about it. "Can you take me to a church?" he asks.

"I can do that." Genevieve lets go of his one hand and leads the way. It's not far.

Once inside, Paul kneels down in one of the pews close to the altar, hands clasped together, head held low, praying. Genevieve's palm rests on his shoulder all through it. Jared just hangs back, watching.

After a long while, Paul gets up, and he has a smile on his face. He looks ... content.

There's a small confessional tucked in against the stone walls of the church. As Paul begins to walk towards it, the curtain seems to dissolve into the same sparkling lights as the manhole did. Paul parts the fabric and steps inside. When the curtain falls closed behind him, the lights are gone.

--

"So how did you know it was him?" Jared asks a few minutes later. "How could you be sure?"

Genevieve grins. "I made an educated guess. The ETD and the address are pretty much never wrong. I saw the path he was coming, I saw the flip-flops he was wearing and that he would walk right into that mess on the pavement."

"But what if you had been wrong?" Jared can't let go of the idea. Can they sever a connection that's not meant to be broken yet? If they can, what happens then? Does the soul simply stay inside the body or does it leave? Can they create zombies? Can they create an army of undead?

Jared's mind should probably not rely on comic books and movies for his worst case scenarios so much.

"Jared," she says a little impatiently. "Didn't you see? We always get specific assignments, and we're not allowed to switch clients. The clients you get, they ... belong to you, in a way. Their needs match up with what you can do, what you can give them. I just knew he would be one of mine."

Genevieve seems so sure. She also doesn't seem like she wants to take this discussion any further.

Jared, on the other hand, wants to ask so much more. Why did she talk to Paul the way she did? Do many souls want to go and pray after they die? Does the constant physical contact do anything? (Or whatever he should call it when a reaper touches a person's soul.) The longer he thinks about it, the more questions he has, but at the same time, he also doesn't want to think about it at all, doesn't want to think about what souls need and want or about Paul's grisly death.

So when Genevieve offers to take him to the greatest hotdog stand in L.A. – "My treat." – he accepts right away.

--

They spend a nice day together. Genevieve shows him around Venice a little and takes him to the beach, buys him ice cream and tells stories about her old life.

With the sun already low in the sky, they sit down on a small bench close to the waterfront.

"So you grew up in San Francisco, but you never made it to Los Angeles?" Jared asks.

"Outside of San Francisco," she corrects, pointing her empty cone at him for emphasis. "But you're right, it is kind of funny. Especially for an actress."

"Really?" Jared rubs his still-sticky finger together as he looks at her, surprised. "I thought you did something with legal briefs?"

"Legal assistant by day, actress by night," Genevieve says, grinning broadly and stuffing the whole cornet into her mouth.

Jared used to do behind-the-scenes work for his high school's theater group – mainly because of his crush on Aldis Hodge, to be honest – and they share stories about all the things that can go wrong during the production of a play. Looking back, it almost surprises Jared that he didn't die years earlier, like when he tried to operate the lighting console without instructions or that time he lugged around one huge backdrop all by himself.

"Oh wow," Genevieve wheezes after Jared's story about how he accidentally mounted a water feature the wrong way, drenching the first couple of rows in the auditorium. "You sound like a real hazard to everyone in close range. Thank god we're already dead." She says it so casually, like it's no big deal, which it probably isn't for her, but it is for Jared. Before the thought can drag him down, Genevieve's already steered the conversation to a memorable production of Witness for the Prosecution she was part of.

"In the end, though, I really can't complain because all these things – the falling scenery breaking Andrea's arm, the salmonella infection putting out her understudy, even the director's husband leaving her – it all lead up to the fact that I got recast to play Marlene Dietrich's role."

"So many things going wrong, and every single one works in your favor." Jared pauses for effect, but can't entirely hide his amusement. "It almost sounds like you had something to do with all these 'accidents'." He's not above using air quotes.

"Maybe I did," Genevieve replies in a mock-mysterious voice.

Just when Jared's faking an 'I'm scared of you now' face, Genevieve's phone starts ringing.

Jared can't figure out what the conversation is about, but it sounds like the person on the other end wants something and Genevieve's reluctant, but ultimately caves.

When she's done, she snaps her phone shut and turns around with an apologetic expression. "Jared, I'm sorry, but I don't think I can put you up tonight."

| Masterpost | Part 2 |
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