Through Worlds, Worlds
j2 au(s); pg13 for language
her prompt was (awesome): Even if I now saw you / Only once, / I would long for you / Through worlds, / Worlds.
probably not the greatest execution of this concept, but omg was it FUN. got carried away on the last one o_O
“Sam, meet your Dean. Dean, meet your Sam.”
It happens fast; so fast that Jared barely registers it.
He’s a minute late for the meeting, rushes through the corporate offices, barely registering name plates. An intern in a pencil skirt directs him up two flights. The elevator’s out, so he jogs the stairs. He meets a Jonathan in the hallway, who brings him to Eric, and a guy named Kim.
Eric and Kim bustle him through the open office, through the posh waiting room, trading excited talk about start dates, and script revisions, and asking how Jared’s family is, whether they like LA, and how does he feel about Vancouver? Jared nods, tries to keep up, notes the receptionist in the corner, raising an amused eyebrow at him as he’s corralled into a conference room.
There’s about enough time for him to adjust his hat and recap on the last question they asked him before he looks around the room and sees about seven new faces taking in his breathless arrival. Jared has no idea who to look at first. His only thought is, I am so under-dressed.
Eric and Kim take their seats at the head of the table, gesturing for which seat Jared can take, and Jared would move to it but Eric is still talking a mile a minute, introducing him to Jensen Ackles, his new cast mate, and Jensen is standing up so Jared steps forward.
“Jared, Jensen, Jensen, Jared. Sam, meet your Dean. Dean, meet your Sam.”
Things slow down as Jared holds out a hand and Jensen takes it, shaking firmly. Jensen’s dressed in jeans and a button down, and looks rumpled, like he might have just rolled out of an economy class on Southwest.
He’s got a smile, and looks Jared in the eye, and Jared starts to feel calm. In a suite full of business casual, and fast talkers, and plans, he is finally not alone.
“Nice to meet you,” Jared says, studying Jensen’s eyes and hair and mouth and the lobes of his ears and the open collar of his shirt.
“You too,” Jensen says, returning the gaze. “I’m pretty pumped for this, right? It’s gonna be awesome.”
Jared smiles slowly. “It definitely is.”
Survival Rule #1: Cardio.
Jared’s been running for over an hour. He thinks he must be getting close to downtown by now. He can hear them behind him, clumsy, fumbling, but somehow always keeping up.
He lengthens his stride, remembers to breathe, refuses to slow down. Cardio. It’s gotten important these days.
There’s gotta be an out, somewhere. Just because he could do this all day doesn’t mean he wants to.
Bingo; turnstiles. A quick one-handed vault over them, into the mouth of the subway tunnels, and that ends that pursuit. Zombies might be vicious, bloodthirsty, and persistent as all hell, but they’re also fucking retarded.
Jared catches his breath, hunkered down in a customer service stand. He raids the snack shelves, snags some Neosporin and some crossword puzzles. There are newspapers from two years ago still littering the ground below his feet. New York Times on July 7, 2012: “ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.” Unbelievable.
Beneath the rustle of the cellophane Hostess wrapping that Jared’s trying to open, his ears perk. There’s an echo down the tunnel. Light, rhythmic, unhurried. Footsteps. Not a zombie. A person. An actual person.
Jared’s heart soars; it’s been months. He ducks down below the counter, stays in hiding. Thing about people is, they’ve gotten real trigger-happy. Eyes peek over the service desk, peering through dirty plexiglass, waiting. It’s been months.
A figure comes into view, gaze panning the subway idly, picking over the yellow line in a faux balancing act. It’s a guy, and he’s shoving a yellow Hostess cake in his mouth while tapping a 9mm against his upper thigh.
Jared is so hopeful he can barely breathe. He hopes this guy isn’t a dick. He’s met a lot of dicks over the last couple of years. He sits on it for about forty-five more seconds, watching the guy get further away, before deciding to take his chances.
He can’t let someone walk by him. He just can’t.
Jared rises to his feet, opening the door to the service stand. Hits his stomach, arms over his head as the guy snaps to attention and hauls off a few rounds into the open door above him. Shit.
“Sorry,” the guy calls immediately after. “Shit, sorry. You okay?”
“Thought you were one of ‘em. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone else. Didn’t mean to almost kill you; shit, you’re fast. Good thing. My aim is sick.”
Jared gets to his feet, pushing his hair back. He turns to inspect the door; good shot. Would’ve nailed him right between the eyes. Jared looks over to the guy, who’s come close to check out his handiwork.
“Damn,” he says under his breath. “That was close. I’m sorry. Name’s – Dallas. Well, you know.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jared says. “San Antone.”
“No shit. That where you’re headed?”
“Nah. Was there last year sometime, nothing left.”
Dallas knows what that means; he looks at Jared carefully. “I’m real sorry to hear that. So what’re you doing now? Besides jumping out of nowhere, scaring the shit out of good honest men.”
“Don’t know. I’ve just been wandering around, mostly. Looking for someone else. Looking for a fucking Twinkie. Doesn’t take much anymore.”
“I know that feeling,” Dallas grins. “Well, listen. We got one out of two. I’d say that’s a decent day. How ‘bout we check the next station down?”
Jared laughs, nodding, and lets Dallas lead the way down the tunnel.
“You’re not in Kansas, anymore. You’re on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen.”
Jared’s eyes open to blue light and a ceiling six inches from his face. His hindbrain flips on, panics. Forebrain flips on, and he remembers where he is. He takes a deep, slow breath.
It’s seconds before the airlock releases and the ceiling – a pod cover – opens. He hears a voice echoing through the cargo bay.
“—been in cryo for five years and three months. You will be weak. You will be hungry.”
He sits up slowly, fights the immediate rush of vertigo and the bucket of nausea that dumps out into his stomach. His vision is dark, with stars leaving prints behind his eyelids. Shit; marine for ten years, Jared would’ve hoped he’d be able to handle a little cryo.
“Fuck this noise,” he mumbles to himself, pushing up and out of the pod.
Antigravity catches him; sets him rolling ass over his head and ready to spill his guts. Not a good at-mo to be puking in. His head hits the plank of the pod base above him, rattling his mind and triggering a steady throb. This, is. Not going well.
“Hey,” someone says, and Jared feels his ankle getting caught in a warm grip, slowing his trajectory. “Easy there, marine. One step at a time.”
Jared grunts an answer, lets himself be pulled back down to a seated position in his pod. The open-hatch light casts everything in blue, and Jared squints against it, trying to focus on the guy in front of him. Jared looks briefly out over his shoulder, to the rest of the bay, where dozens of pods are lining the walls and burning blue.
The guy hits a switch and the blue light dies off, replaced with a low-watt glow. It eases the pain behind Jared’s eyes some, and the tension starts to dissipate, looking over the man in front of him. Cropped messy hair, glasses, casual, comfortable. White tee-shirt and track pants. Jared’s at ease, tries harder to push through the gauzy exterior of his attention and focus.
“Hey, look, hey. Can you see this? Can you see my finger? How ‘bout this one? Yeah, thought so. Tell me your name and rank.”
“Jared Padalecki, Marine Sergeant, sir.”
The guy laughs. “Please. I’m a second year research intern. Look at my left ear, no, your other left, bright eyes. Right here, okay, good. Pupils look good, open your mouth, good. I’ll give you a minute to adjust and then I’ll show you around some.”
“That a date?”
“Hilarious,” the guy says, and Jared watches as his gaze drops self-consciously.
“What’s your name?”
“Jensen. I’ll be up in the labs for the duration of the Pandora expedition. Sent me down here to orient you. I’ll be showing you your avatar tomorrow, detailing the mission, and briefing you on who to report to. For now, it’s balance exercises, light weight training, at-mo stabilization and food.”
Jared feels an inexplicable flush creep over him, underneath the noise and confusion of his body. “So you’re it,” he says. “You’re my guide.”
“I’m your guide.”
“Well that’s good,” Jared says softly. “That’s gonna be good.”
Love is our resistance
They’ll keep us apart and they won’t stop breaking us down
This is it. They’ve done it. The last perfect randomization of nature, conquered.
Jared waits in a line of silent people, a hundred or so from the front. The door is closed. The clock above it reads 11:57am. Three minutes.
The hallway is drafty; metallic walls and fluorescent lighting make for a sanitized wind tunnel void of anything unique whatsoever. Uniformed men walk up and down the line, eyes alert. They don’t have weapons. The armed forces haven’t had to be armed in years.
We just obey, Jared thinks. The thought sickens him.
Jared’s here by pure unlucky happenstance. There have been whispers about a “clinical draft” for months; be chosen! Change your life today! There had been a one in 68 million chance that they’d find Jared. And here he is.
Someone coughs, further up the line. Slight at first, and then deeper and louder, echoing off the steel-plated walls. It grates down Jared’s spine. A man in uniform walks up to the person and leads them away. No one looks up. A disturbance removed. It’s 11:58.
Jared thinks, two minutes. He thinks, I wonder if it’ll hurt. I wonder if I’ll remember who I am after. He starts to panic, but locks it deep down in his silent core.
This is bullshit; some fluke in that crackpot swine flu vaccine, and ten years later there are service centers to replace peoples’ personalities. Jared starts to vibrate; fingers twitching, the muscles in his face straining to keep it all in. We’re passive enough as it is, he thinks. What more do you want? Maybe after this, we’ll all just lay down and die.
He notices a moment too late that there is a guard standing next to him. Something gave him away; he’s not sure what, but he steels his nerves and stills his fingers and re-aligns his mind. He’s okay. He’s fine.
Once composed, Jared allows himself to look at the guard. His face is shadowed beneath the bill of his uniform hat, expression impassive. He doesn’t speak; Jared can’t tell if he’s waiting for an explanation. His eyes fix on Jared’s, completely still.
“I’m fine,” Jared says automatically. Rote.
The guard doesn’t move.
It’s noon. The doors at the other end of the hall open. The line immediately begins to move. Jared can’t quell the surge of panic that rises up in him. It shows in the rigidness of his back and knees, in the tightness of his face, and in the shoulders that pull up to his ears with anticipation.
Jared’s caught. He steps forward. He is drenched in the poison of epinephrine; everything in his body is telling him to run. But his mind keeps a firm grip on reality; we do not run. We aren’t going anywhere. He can’t shake it; it’s deep, and holds him fast in place.
The guard stands beside him; takes a step when he takes a step. Jared’s anxiety is through the roof. They know. They know he wants to run. He’s trapped. They step forward again.
He can’t contain the overwhelming panic any longer. He takes his chances. It can’t be worse than what’s waiting for him at the mouth of that door.
“Please,” he says quietly, eyes ahead, back straight. “Please, don’t do this. You have to know this isn’t right. Someone out there has to fucking know.”
No response; they continue to move forward. Jared suddenly has the distinct feeling of getting closer. He keeps talking.
“What’ll happen? What’ll we be like? What does it mean, change your personality? Will we all be the same? What if we can’t feel anymore? What if there’s no art? What if there’s no love, fuck, what if you fucking assholes do this to the entire country and after that no one loves anybody anymore? How do you know? How do you know what you’re really doing?”
“There have been tests.”
Jared’s heart leaps, petrified. The guard; the guard replied to him. His throat closes around a lump in his throat. His pulse starts to pound frantically, and he’s never felt such urgency in all his life.
They never respond. They never communicate.
Jared keeps his eyes forward, keeps following the person in front of him. No heads turn; no one is listening. No one cares. He’s nearly halfway there.
“How do you know they’re real?” Jared continues. “How do you know they haven’t lied to us, again? They lied about swine flu; they lied about the UN. They lied about the fucking towers. Remember the towers? They did that. Goddamn, if I could’ve been a conspiracy theorist when it mattered. The tests are bullshit, the results are bullshit. They want a population that isn’t going to respond to anything. What kind of personality do you think we’re gonna get.”
“You’re doing a public service. It’s your duty as a citizen.”
“To what? Fucking bow? Obey? Submit? I haven’t made a decision in two years; how much more watered down do they want me? I wear their clothes; use their public transport system; eat their food – and don’t even get me started on what’s in that. They’ve got me, and now they want to replace me with a different me, and I don’t even know if I’m going to exist after this, all right, and what happens if I run?”
“I taser, detain, and neutralize the disturbance.”
“And what does that mean?”
No response. Jared doesn’t look over, doesn’t want to see an impassive face that doesn’t even consider what it means to “neutralize” Jared Padalecki. He’s got about thirty people to go before he’s next in line. He doesn’t know what will happen.
“I don’t want to be anyone else,” Jared says desperately. “This is a mistake, they picked me out of nowhere. Millions of other people get to be themselves, and I get to start off this bullshit brainwashing epidemic by doing my duty as a goddamn fucking citizen. Shit, get me the fuck out of here. I want to think, I want to fight, I want to fucking love. Don’t you want that? Do you want anything anymore? What did they do to you? What did they do? Do you feel anything anymore?”
There are five people in front of him; Jared’s so close he can hear the computerized blips of the retinal scanning. His heart is pounding so hard he’s going to throw up.
Halfway into his next step, halfway to being four people away, the guard takes him by the elbow and shoves him out of line. Jared lets out a panicked cry before he locks down again. He stumbles as he tries to follow without having a breakdown; he’s done it now. Worse than a personality implant – neutralization. And that. Who the fuck knows.
Still, as much as Jared wants to fight, he doesn’t. It’s buried so deep that he can’t pull it out again. There is a heavy, oppressive fear of what might happen. He stays silent; feels it acutely when the tears start to track down his cheeks. It’s the one thing in this moment that he can’t control.
The guard leads him to the far end of the hallway, where Jared first entered. Down a corridor of executive offices, and up to a security-locked door.
“Oh, shit, oh god please, don’t,” Jared says weakly. He puts on the breaks, digs his heels it against the guard’s forward momentum. “I swear I’ll go back, I’ll do it, please don’t do this, fuck.”
The guard re-doubles his efforts, gets Jared in a tight hold, bumps his hip against the security pad and manhandles Jared onto the locked unit. There are unmarked rooms down either side, and Jared continues to beg for his life as the guard stops at one, unlocks it, and shoves Jared inside.
The door swings closed behind them and the guard lets Jared go; Jared scrambles to the far end of the room, terror and sheer will to live backing him into a corner that he might be able to fight back out of.
The guard follows him, pulls off his hat, and moves to stand in front of Jared. Jared’s heart won’t stop racing and he braces himself.
“Listen,” The guard says. “Hey, listen. I’m not – I am not gonna do, that. Hey. Look at me.”
Jared looks, and the guard lets him. Jared sees bright, wide eyes and hands spread out in front of him, placating. Jared sees expression there. He sees confusion, apprehension. He sees worry. The fear uncoils in Jared as he tries to figure out what he’s looking at.
“You’re not,” Jared says. “You’re different. What are you doing?”
“I don’t know. My name is Jensen Ackles. This is the only place where there are no cameras. I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know what I’m doing. But something just changed, something just happened. I can’t, I couldn’t. You. I don’t know.”
Jared feels the inner collapse of relief; impulsively, he reaches out, grabs at Jensen, and Jensen tries to twist away but Jared still pulls him into a hug. He squeezes as hard as he can, the gratitude flooding him as he presses his face into this stranger’s hair. He can feel himself trembling and can’t get himself to stop.
It’s several seconds before he feels that it’s returned, and then Jared pulls back with a quiet apology and a nervous laugh, eyes fixed on their shoes. Jensen’s in shiny black patent leather and Jared’s in government issued Nikes that provide optimal arch support.
When he looks up again, Jensen is staring at his face, eyes taking everything in. Jared is self-conscious for a moment, ducking his head, before Jensen blinks and looks away.
“You, uh. Your face. You.”
“Oh!” Jared says, and quickly wipes away the tears.
Jensen’s eyes move back to his, watching as he uses the sleeve of his shirt. Jared wants to ask the same question over and over until he understands: Who are you, and what are you doing?
Instead, he asks, “So, how do we get out of here?”
And Jensen grins.
“Sam, meet your Dean.”
Jared blinks at the sound of papers shuffling, and looks around to see everyone looking down at their phones, punching in dates, or organizing their planners, or putting away their presentation notes. He sits forward, embarrassed, looks around himself, already struggling to remember the date of their first read-through.
“Well, that was four kinds of crazy,” Jensen says beside him, leaning down to shove a script into his bag. “How’re we supposed to keep up with all that? Guess we’ve got a busy week.”
“Yeah, they kinda lost me toward the end,” Jared says. “It’s a lot to take in, all at once.”
“Listen, do you – are you staying around here?”
“I think so. I got a bit lost on my way over, but yeah. I’m not far.”
“Well, I don’t know if you, want to go get lunch or something? Seeing as this is kind of a shit first introduction. Not that I minded sitting next to you for two hours. I mean,” Jensen laughs. “I just mean, do you want to get lunch?”
Jared bites the inside of his lip, heart pounding; he looks at Jensen, but Jensen is looking everywhere else but him. He’s fidgeting with his bag, which is already closed and on his shoulder.
Jared is quiet enough that he finally looks up, and his mouth is tense like he made a mistake, and Jared feels something swoop down and inside and fill him right up to the brim. It pushes his mouth into a smile and brings him to his feet to stand too close to Jensen. He nods, looking down into relieved green eyes.
“That would be great,” Jared smiles.
NOTE: if anyone was lost, world #1 was 2009 film zombieland; #2 was 2009 film avatar; #3 was based on Muse's 2009 album the resistance.