Title: Crossing the Finish Line
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: He was going to enjoy what he'd been given, and what he'd snatched back from fate, as long as he could hold on to it. 2200 words; slash.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Fandom: Death Race (2008)
Notes: I have absolutely no excuse for this one. It just came to me, and I've had enough problems with my muse in the last year that I wasn't going to kill off any writeable idea.
"Yeah?" Jensen muttered back, not bothering to open his eyes; they'd had a long day on the road, and it would be another long day tomorrow, no matter who was driving.
"How come you never asked?" Joe said, bluntly.
Now that did merit a response. Jensen turned his head and blinked open his eyes, squinting at the dark face of Joe a foot away from him. It was pitch dark out under the stars, but there was enough light shining into the pickup bed from the rest stop lights to read Joe's expression. He looked honestly curious, and a little tense; and if he was asking what Jensen thought he was asking, he had reason to be.
"Never asked what?" he replied, looking for clarification.
Joe snorted. "If the rumors were true. About me and my navigators."
Jensen had heard plenty while working on the Monster. Lists had said Machine Gun Joe had male navigators because he went through them so quickly-- it made the audiences squeamish to see so many women die-- but Gunner had claimed it was for another reason altogether. "Does it matter?" he asked.
"Just seemed a little strange, is all," Joe said, slowly. "Traveling as close together as we are."
The man was either chatting him up, or genuinely curious; could go either way. Joe had been very quick to tie his fate to Jensen's after Jensen had enlightened him to the real score with Frankenstein and Hennessy, despite the fact that he could easily have gone off on his own after their escape. "Didn't seem important," he replied, truthfully. There had been too many other things to worry about.
"What if it's important to me?" Joe pressed, intent gaze sweeping down Jensen's blanket-covered form.
Definitely chatting him up. Jensen rolled his eyes. "Thought I was the ugliest motherfucker in that prison."
"Thought you was a wife kind of guy, man. We all knew what you were sent there for. And you are the ugliest motherfucker in this truck." The amused glitter in his eyes said what he hadn't, aloud; Jensen was the only other person around, and would be for quite some time. Until they had money and a base of operations, recreation was way down on their list of priorities.
"I'm pretty much equal opportunity," Jensen decided to admit. The package had never mattered to him as much as what it contained, and before Suzy, he'd run with a much rougher crowd. If they made contact with any of his old circle-- and they might have to, if they hoped to get over the border anytime soon-- it would be easy enough for Joe to find that out. "But I'm a one-at-a-time kind of guy, and I invited Case to join us."
"If she shows up," Joe said, amused, "won't be no skin off my nose."
"Well, then," Jensen said. Good to know where he stood.
"Well, then," Joe hinted, reaching out from under his blankets.
It was the least sentimental attempt at seduction Jensen had ever fielded; but it had been six months since he'd had any kind of willing sexual contact, and he was man enough to admit that he still wasn't ready for sentimental, not when he still dreamed nightly of his wife's death. Might be good for him to get all that out of his system on someone a little less breakable-- and more straightforward to deal with-- than Case. He thought about it a moment more, reminding himself of the pleasures another warm male body could bring, then smirked back by way of consent.
"What the hell."
Eventually, they made it to small-town Mexico. It took a while to get there on the limited resources they'd been able to salvage from Terminal Island; saving their money for petrol rather than hotel rooms had helped some, but hadn't covered everything. Joe had suggested a little property crime to make up the deficit, but visions of being clapped in irons yet again had driven Jensen to the few old contacts in the States likely to believe him. Besides, he owed it to Suzy and Piper to make an honest man out of himself; and if Joe was determined to follow him around, then that applied to the other man, too. He was being difficult about it, but Jensen was sure he'd come around. He had some fairly effective means of persuasion at his disposal.
One of those, surprisingly enough, had turned out to be Piper. They'd picked up Jensen's baby daughter on their way across country, and in no time she'd wrapped the large, fierce driver around her tiny little fingers. Jensen hadn't even bothered to try to negotiate with Piper's foster parents; he knew how they were likely to react to a convicted killer showing up on their doorstep, no matter how innocent he might actually be. He'd simply crept in through the window of Piper's nursery, snagged enough supplies to fill a diaper bag, and left. After that, he'd let Joe carry her on his turns to drive since they didn't have any kind of a car seat yet, and the pair had inexplicably bonded. The day she giggled in Joe's face and called him "Do," the smile that lit up his face had ruined his ruthless-killer image forever.
They made a ramshackle sort of household, he, Joe, and Piper; Jensen had made sure they found a place with three bedrooms when they settled, theoretically one for each of them, but only two of the rooms were ever used. Jensen had figured that when Case finally showed, he'd give her the free room to be polite, and Joe could sleep on the sofa until the question of how she fit into the picture was settled.
Except that Case never showed, and never showed; they'd been out of Terminal Island for six months by the time she finally rolled into the parking lot of their auto shop, looking as gorgeous and willful as the day he'd first seen her. She had some kind of excuse about her release papers not being immediately approved, but Jensen had to wonder. Surely cleaning up the mess Hennessy's death had made of the prison's administration wouldn't have taken that long.
She took to Piper even quicker than Joe had; the first time she took his baby daughter in her arms a fresh surge of grief nearly dropped him to his knees, but he took a deep breath and the moment was gone as quickly as it had come. No, Case wasn't Suzy; but she was more ruthless than Suzy had ever been, while still capable of compassion, and might make a decent female role model in their crazy world.
He might have felt less cheerful about that, in the world that had existed before Hennessy sent her pet driver to kill his wife and ensure Jensen became her next Frankenstein; might have apologized to his altruistic wife for calculating the value of the people around him according to how they fit his long-term goals. But she wasn't here, and he wasn't going to let Piper grow up to become the same kind of screw-up he had. She was going to be beautiful, and brilliant, and strong, and forge her own future for herself: he would see to it.
At first, Case seemed to slip right into their lives without a hitch; she watched over Piper when both men were busy working at the shop, and took her own turns contributing to their income. Joe was the best cook of the three of them, but there were some dishes she knew that he didn't, and she was better at folding laundry than either of them had been. There was only one thing lacking; though she still strutted around in those tight clothes that made a man look-- and walked in a way that ensured she knew he was looking-- she never made good on any of the implied promises; never cornered Jensen in the shop, never touched him if she could help it, never slipped into his bedroom after dark. It made him wonder again, thinking on it; he hadn't taken her for a tease. Willing to do whatever she had to to survive, but not a tease.
On the sixth night, he heard a noise from the extra bedroom when he got up to take a leak, and decided it was time to find out exactly what was up. He knocked gently on the door, then cracked it open without waiting for permission, and was not surprised to see her backed into a corner, curled around her knees as she sat on the floor. Her eyes were fierce and dry as she looked up at him, but it was hard to miss the mild tremors shaking her frame; Jensen stopped several feet away to preserve her space, then knelt down to her level to reduce his threat profile.
"I thought I could do this," she said, matter-of-factly; he could hear the weariness and the faint self-disgust in her voice, and wondered how he hadn't seen it before.
His most recent stint in jail hadn't been the first time he'd done time, and he wasn't naive. The private prison system was better than the old public system in only one way: it made more money. Greed of one kind often promoted other kinds of greed, as well.
"Was it the guards?" he asked quietly. He knew she'd been married once, to a cop; knew she'd killed him for being a 'lousy husband', and what that likely meant; knew the guards would have used that against her.
Case nodded hesitantly, her expression both apologetic and defiant.
"Don't feel guilty," he assured her, making a quick decision. "I'm not going to press you; that's not the reason I invited you here."
She uncurled a little at that, confusion drawing her brows together. "But I thought--"
He shrugged, and tried for a reassuring smile. "Piper sure could use a mother figure. And I admit, you're-- something else." Despite his best intentions, he couldn't keep his eyes from dropping to her bare, shapely legs and pert, lace-covered breasts, but he jerked them back up immediately. "But you'll be safe here, as long as you want to stay. Neither of us will touch you if you don't want us to."
Confusion melted into wary disbelief with a dash of gratitude; still not quite reassured. "You mean that?" she asked.
Jensen shrugged, then decided to give her a reason she could believe. Now would be the time to reassess his arrangement with Joe, if he was ever going to; but he'd got used to this life and saw no reason to change it. He was more content than he'd ever expected to be again.
He hoped that wherever she was, Suzy could see him now, and approve. All he wanted now was be the best dad he possibly could for Piper; and his little girl already had both Joe and Case in her tiny little hands. They'd do all right, the four of them, as long as Case wanted to stay; and he hoped she did.
"Sure," Jensen shrugged, then stood slowly, and gestured with his chin in the direction of the living room. "Joe'll be glad to have his side of the bed back, I reckon."
He could see her blink as she processed what that meant; then she took a deep breath and relaxed a little, climbing slowly to her feet. She still looked ready to bolt-- the way her toes gripped at the carpet, and the nervous way she pushed her hair out of her eyes confirmed it-- and it made him feel uncomfortable, as though he'd unexpectedly seen her naked. He was used to the brash, competent Case of the daylight hours, and hoped this would all blow over come morning.
"That's-- not what I would have expected," she finally said, "but I've seen you work together, and I know how much he likes Piper. If he makes you happy--" She paused, then smiled, awkwardly. "Thank you."
Jensen smiled back, then bid her good night and trudged out toward the sofa.
Ah well. Maybe years from now she'd find some skinny little geek that he and Joe could boss around, and give them little brothers and sisters for Piper; or maybe not. Or maybe none of what they'd built here would hold up at all; maybe Joe would leave, or the law would find them, and this would all be taken away from them-- again. But whichever way things went, he was going to dwell in the moment; he was going to enjoy the fuck out of what he'd been given, and what he'd snatched back from fate, as long as he could hold on to it.
"So how much of that did you hear?" he murmured, propping his elbows on the sofa back and leaning over to gaze down into Joe's open, thoughtful eyes.
"Enough," Joe said, frowning up at him.
"Then come the fuck back to bed." Jensen stifled a yawn, then turned to trudge back to his bedroom.
Heavy footsteps, as measured as his heartbeat, followed right behind him.