Again and Again
Warnings: depressing themes
Author: Lily Zen
Notes: Sexyspork posted a prompt on the Halloween comment fic party, and I liked it so much that I really wanted to make it into a full-length story. Basically, Jensen and Cougar are soulmates who've been reincarnated together many times, doomed to love each other despite tragic circumstances. All Hallow's Eve is the one night of the year that they remember bits and pieces of their past lives together.
A note about Egypt. There really was a tradition where men would perform oral sex on their wives in the morning as a way to give tribute to the god Ra. It was outlawed by one of the Popes because he liked to sleep in late and disliked being awoken by the cries of the women in the morning.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Glowing orbs of flame lit up the ground below the house, and a subdued cacophony of voices, male and female, young and old, floated heavenward. The baron stood just before the open doors to the balcony, staring out at the night sky and the angry voices of the people he was supposed to protect, half-hidden by the drapes. Futile rage began to swell up in him once more. His fists curled, mouth thinned to a straight line, eyes narrowed.
Then a hand landed on his shoulder, and the simple touch held it all at bay, letting the sorrow underneath it sweep in instead.
Vlad the Impaler was a monster, a butcher. No one was safe from his wrath, the poor nor the wealthy. Not even his own distant cousin, the baron himself. Tepes was coming on the morrow not just for him, but for his people, on his quest to eradicate everything that ruined his world view of opulence and perfection.
The hand slid down his arm in a caress and then wrapped around his waist. A chin landed on his shoulder as the other person stepped in even closer.
The peasants were rioting, terrified of their impending deaths at the hands of the Impaler, angry that their baron could not save them. They didn't know that he was just as much a target as they were.
Typically, Vlad liked to make his nobles into slaves to teach them some sort of lesson in humility. The baron had escaped his attentions thus far because his titled holdings were rather remote, and possibly because of the tenuous familial connection they shared. Mostly it was because he'd never drawn any attention to himself. However, someone had informed Tepes of his lover and the madman, despite his being quite mad, was too Christian to let something as unnatural as that abide. Really, it was just the excuse he needed.
"Do you think they will burn down our home tonight?" His lover asked quietly, the low voice in his ear uncharacteristically subdued.
"I don't know," the baron replied, and cradled his lover's arm against his stomach, "Possibly. They seem undecided at the moment."
His lover sighed and pressed his lips against the baron's neck, nuzzling inside the collar of his robes to do so. "I don't know whether to be grateful or upset. We've worked so hard to keep them safe from the Impaler. Is it better to die here and now at their hands, or to wait and die at the point of Tepes' sword?"
The baron shrugged, feeling hopelessness wash over him. "What does it matter? Either way we die." He leaned his head back, strands of his dark hair catching and tugging in his lover's beard as he turned his head, blindly seeking his lover's mouth. As they kissed, their lips lingered, clinging and pulling, at least until the baron felt his mouth go slick with tears. Which of them was crying, he couldn't say.
"Come to bed," his lover requested, "Lay with me this one last time."
Something clenched painfully in the baron's chest at the sound of his lover's sorrow-laden voice, and he nodded. His people were kind enough not to kill them that last night together, and when dawn came it saw the baron, his lover, and the meager fighting force of the barony just outside the main village. It was a majestic sight—the men armored and on horseback, even his lover who preferred words to action.
When sunset came on the same spot, it highlighted the blood stains on the ground, and the poles which had been erected in a circle by Tepes' men, the heads of the baron and his lover highest of them all.
"Scrapey, Scrapey, he's not very tall. Scrapey, Scrapey, his best friend's name is Paul…" Jensen was singing.
Well, to be more accurate, Jensen was singing and using a two-dimensional shadow puppet of a dog to dance around. He'd made it out of spare paper and then taped it to a pen. Then he named it Scrapey.
"You see," he'd explained to Cougar, who was trying valiantly to ignore him in favor of disassembling and cleaning his rifle, "He's only got two legs, one in front and one in back, so if he were real, he'd just kinda have to scrape around on the ground to get anywhere. That's why his name's Scrapey. I mean, some bleeding heart would probably find him and give him wheels instead of letting nature take its course if this was real life, but it's not. It's cartoon-land, and so he kinda just scrapes around and nobody gives a shit, but it'd make for a really funny cartoon. Sort of Ren and Stimpy-ish."
It had taken off from there and progressed rapidly to this.
Their enemies should take notes on torture techniques from Jensen, 'cause goddamn this was bordering on inhumane.
"Scrapey, Scrapey, he's only got one ball, he'll scrape to the mall. Scrapey, Scrapey, his favorite season is Fall. Scrapey, Scrapey, he—"
"I swear to fucking god, Jensen," Roque cut in, his voice chock full of simmering rage, "If you don't shut the fuck up right now, I'mma cut your tongue out. You don't need a tongue to hack."
"For real, man," Pooch put in his two cents, "If I have to hear one more thing about Scrapey, I will not be held responsible for Roque's actions."
Cougar smirked, giving his silent support to the campaign. Normally, he was the one to take up arms and defend Jensen. The younger man, granted, was loud and brash, had the oddest habits, and seemed to delight in pushing the envelope; he was also a genius whose skills with a computer and even on the front lines had saved their asses more than once. Besides, it wasn't his fault that he'd been born with ADHD and too high of an IQ. He also was utterly loyal to the unit and a good friend to them all, even Roque, who was about as friendly as a porcupine.
Jensen took a look around the room at the displeased faces of his team mates and finally settled on Cougar. The Mexican man let his eyes do the talking for him, letting his annoyance shine through. The blonde man sighed dramatically, threw Scrapey across the room over by the rest of his stuff, and said, "Fine." Then he crossed his arms over his chest and proceeded to pout. Silently though, which was an improvement.
They were stranded on base in Romania and had been for two weeks, which was the reason for Jensen's cabin fever. To be fair, they were all antsy and short-tempered, not just Jensen. He was just the one who reacted to periods of inactivity the most noticeably. Pooch would spend an increasing amount of time playing with his wedding ring and talking about Jolene, Roque would become even more temperamental than usual and had on one occasion gone along with one of Jensen's schemes simply because it allowed him to physically fight someone, and Clay would drink a lot and get involved with completely loco putas. For his part, Cougar spent the time taking apart his guns and meticulously cleaning them, even when he logically knew they were already clean.
Jensen was still pouting when Clay came back from his walk around the base with a sour look on his face. "Boss?" Cougar asked with a raised eyebrow. Clay shook his head sharply. "Still stuck, boys. Apparently nobody goes anywhere on Halloween."
"Gaaaaayyyy," Jensen said after he'd finished slamming a soda and burped. Well, really it was simultaneously, "Hey, does that mean I can get off-base then? Go celebrate with the natives."
"No," Clay and Roque said at the exact same time in a way that was just so creepy. They were probably both remembering the other time Jensen had celebrated with the natives. He'd shown up after two days wearing nothing but a loin cloth and his combat boots, a fish wedged under the laces, with a fresh tribal tattoo on his back, sodding drunk. His face was painted with red markings and looked ridiculous with his glasses, and he had a fucking spear with a shrunken head dangling from it—no, seriously, a spear with a shrunken head. Cougar could only imagine the shenanigans he would get up to in a country that devoted the majority of their Halloween to Dracula, and he was secretly glad that Clay was putting his foot down.
"C'mon, guys," Jensen was attempting to cajole them, "I'm so bored!"
Cougar's lips twitched up in the barest hint of a snicker.
Egypt, About 1300 B.C.
She stretched as the sun peaked over the horizon and painted the room in light and shadows, a smile on her dark-skinned face. For once, she was happy.
It was a rare thing, that happiness, as fragile as the colored glass she had once seen in the bazaar.
Arranged marriages were often that way.
They served a purpose, be it political or fiscal, and she understood that it had been necessary for her family to thrive. Normally it was customary that a girl be endowed with a dowry, but her family was poor and she was the third daughter. By the time she had been marriageable, all her family's money had been tied up in dowries for her elder sisters and debts. Instead, she had been promised to the temple of Isis.
She did not think she would have minded the life of a priestess, but the merchant had offered her family a good deal of money to buy her out of her promise to the temple. He had seen her once and said he'd fallen in love with the great beauty she possessed.
After a time, he had returned to his pursuits and she had been shoved to the wayside with the rest of his impulsive purchases. His inattentiveness did not bother her, as it simply left her more time for her own pursuits.
Then she had met the Roman.
She had known from the start that it was not wise to court friendship with him, but something about him had snared her from the start, wrapped her up in his charisma and intellect. He spoke with her, not at her; treated her as an equal in his company. They talked of philosophy and art, politics and religion. He was the curious sort, the type that liked to think big thoughts, and she was intrigued by that.
He was so different from everyone she had ever met in her sheltered life.
It seemed that the progress from friendship to more was as natural as breathing, and the compatibility that had made them such good friends had translated to the bed as well. He made her feel things that she had never experienced before, never dreamed of experiencing. Lying with the merchant was like being examined by a chuirgeon, all awkward poking and prodding; the Roman touched her like he could see how the gentlest of his touches made her nerve endings dance.
So even though she knew she shouldn't, she let the Roman stay the night when her husband went out of town to oversee a successful trade. She had taken precautions, dismissing the servants she knew were most loyal to her husband for the night, and taking care to place only those loyal to her in and around her rooms, even going so far as to bribe the girl in the kitchens to sneak the Roman out in the morning.
However, it wasn't quite late enough that she needed to shove her lover out the door just yet. There was still time to enjoy his presence, this treasure of a moment.
Rolling over in bed, the woman traced her lover's muscles, chasing down shivers until he woke like a slumbering lion and gave her a sleepy grin. "Good morning, my love," he yawned and stretched from the tip of his toes to his fingers, and a delicious shiver raced down her spine as she watched his muscles cord and stretch, and she traced them with bold hands. He just grinned and kissed her like she was air and he needed her to live.
When he started kissing all over her neck and breasts and down even further, she laughed. "Are you planning to pay homage to Ra, my love?" the Egyptian woman teased.
The Roman smiled up at her and his tongue left his mouth to give a sensuous kiss to her nether lips. That was answer enough.
All was well and good until her husband came home, then her cries of joy became cries of an entirely different nature.
Cougar's eyes flew open to stare at the ceiling, his body fighting off tremors as the sounds of his dream—the woman shrieking, animal sounds of terror building as she watched her husband murder her lover and then turn his blade on her, the sick, wet tearing as metal bit through skin and bone. It took her so long to die…
His teammates were silent in their own bunks, sleep undisturbed, and so Cougar slid out from under the covers and dropped to the floor silently, pulling on his boots as he left the room. He knew where Roque stashed his booze.
A bleary forty minutes later, Jensen stumbled out of the building in his boxers, a tee shirt with a rude slogan on it, and his boots as well, rubbing the sleep from his eyes before he slipped his round glasses on again. He slumped down next to Cougar and nudged the man's shoulder with his own. "Share," the hacker grumped. So Cougar passed the bottle over.
A strange silence descended.
Strange, because Jensen was never not talking.
However, the hacker looked troubled as he gulped out of the bottle of cheap whiskey, making a face as it burned all the way down.
Finally, Cougar couldn't stand it anymore and he pinned Jensen with a questioning look.
The blonde shrugged, grunted, and when Cougar gave him a look of annoyance—Jensen may understand it when Cougar did that shit, but the reverse was not true—mumbled, "Weird fucking dreams, man."
That Cougar understood all too well. In fact, he vaguely recalled having a similar conversation with Jensen last Halloween—the hacker had only been with the team for about three months at that point, so it was more of Jensen talking at Cougar rather than with him. It had been eerie though. The two of them at Bragg, on a sleepless night like that one. There had been a moment there where Jensen had looked at him, and something in his eyes…
Cougar distinctly remembered thinking 'you should kiss him now,' but of course he didn't because that'd be a monumental mistake and washed away the urge with a swig of tequila.
But something in Jensen's blue eyes made him think of morning sun creeping over lustrous linens, a thousand different kisses, and the taste of tears. It made him think of other things too, things Cougar wasn't even sure he could put words to, but it was there.
In Romania, Jensen leaned his head on Cougar's shoulder and admitted quietly, "I dreamt that I was in Egypt and…and somebody was killing me. Fucking weird shit." He snatched the whiskey for another pull and passed it back to Cougar. "Vivid, y'know?"
Cougar nodded. He did know. He knew all about the scorching heat of Egypt, the sweet pleasure of waking one's lover like a slumberous lion. Christ. A shiver raced down his spine and Jensen slung an arm over him, rubbed his back. "Dude, you should have grabbed your jacket if you were gonna sit outside and drink Roque's secret stash."
Somehow the touch on his back just made it worse, made him lean into Jensen a little more as he took another healthy swallow of booze. He lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug and made Jensen roll his eyes behind the lenses of his glasses. They passed the bottle back and forth in silence, huddled together like children scared of the dark.
Somewhere In Europe, Renaissance Times
He was running and the master was chasing, and he knew that if he was caught it was going to be his head on a platter for dinner tonight. He knew better than to refuse the master. The man was half-mad on a good day, and that day was anything but a good day. Except when the master touched him, it made something sick coil low in his guts, made his throat clench like he was about to throw up his hard-earned supper of crusty rolls and gravy.
Shit. He heard the older man gaining on him, height making up where his age detracted. The boy pushed his legs to reach farther, go faster.
"Over here!" he heard and swerved toward the familiar voice unthinkingly.
The stableboy, who'd been moved out of the house for being too much trouble, was holding open the door. The servant darted in and heard a low whomp as the stableboy slammed it shut and dropped the heavy bar in place to hold it closed.
He heard the master beating on it, cursing them, and then ordering someone unseen to get the goddamned door open. The servant boy shrank against the wall, and the stableboy with the straw-colored hair tugged his arm and pointed up. They scrambled up the ladder into the hayloft and huddled there pressed against each other with the hay scratching at their skin.
"I hate that bastard," the stableboy said, "Did he try to touch ya? Creepy old bat. I told him where to shove it, so he sent me out here. It's not so bad though. Sure, it kinda smells like poop, but the horses are nice, I get three squares, and I don't got to watch to make sure nobody's trying to pet my willy. They're good to me out here. So what'd you do?"
The servant was still listening to the master yelling outside. He whimpered a little under his breath and said, "I stabbed him. I know I shouldn't 've, but…"
"Don't worry about it. I get it," the stableboy nodded and tucked the smaller kid under his arm, "Though you'll be lucky to get off as easy as I did. Tanned my hide good, he did, but then again, I ain't so pretty as you. Maybe he won't wan' to leave any scars."
The servant shuddered and the blonde boy rubbed his hand over his back soothingly.
"Sorry. Scaring you, am I? Well, just don't worry your pretty little head about it. The guys'll keep 'em distracted outside as long as they can, and maybe something'll pull 'im away from here. Til then, we'll just sit tight."
The smaller boy nodded. Little did they know it would take several more years until the master had finally had enough of both boys.
Cougar shuddered, and Jensen eyed him like he knew just what Cougar had been thinking about. This Halloween night was really fucking with his head. He wondered if Jensen had any inkling of what was going on, or if he was just caught up in his own nightmares and feeling sympathetic.
Then Jensen shrugged and stated, "It could have been worse. The master could have killed us both on the spot. Instead we got a couple years together." He offered up a little half-smile like a consolation prize.
A gasp left the silent sniper as what he'd said registered. "You…"
The blonde lifted one broad shoulder ever so slightly. "It's always been me, Cougs. It's always gonna be me. You and I…we're tied together, I think, steeped in blood and love. It's fucked up, but that's us."
"Y manaña? What then?" He drank some more, steady, deep pulls straight off the bottle, until Jensen yanked it away and seemed like he was racing to catch up. When Cougar tired of waiting, he snatched the bottle back once more and nursed it.
"Tomorrow? I don't know, Cougar. I guess…we'll probably go back to how it was before tonight. You might not remember this—the details are pretty fuzzy for me too, and I've got an eidetic memory—but we had a long conversation last Halloween too. I did most of the talking, but yeah, still…a long conversation. The next day, it was like I could only remember bits and pieces, like a radio station that fades in and out." Jensen smiled, but not like he was happy. Not at all.
Cougar felt the same way. Miserable and yet comforted by the inevitability of it all. They were like flies caught in amber, slowly drifting towards some terrible fate when all they'd wanted was a bit of honey.
Blood and love. His whole existence was for blood and love.
Jensen's hands were warm as they touched his and gently disengaged the bottle. He brought it to his lips and Cougar watched blearily, realizing somewhere in the back of his mind that he was pretty fucking drunk, as those full, pouty lips wrapped around the opening and chugged. When he passed it back, Jensen paused to wipe his chin where a drop had escaped his lips with the back of his hand.
Cougar took the offering, but he didn't drink. Instead he watched as Jensen chuckled, a dark sound laden with unsaid thoughts and feelings. "Man, I don't know about you, Cougs, but I'm drunk. I guess I shouldn't have slammed it so fast."
Instead of responding, the sniper made a rare, impulsive decision, and framed Jensen's face in his hands, turning the younger man to face him. "Cougar?" he had enough time to ask, and then lips descended on him. Their mouths tasted like rotgut whiskey, but neither one of them cared. They moved against each other slowly, languidly, and Jensen shivered when Cougar licked the roof of his mouth.
He pulled back just enough to say, "oh, thank god," and catch a breath of air before Cougar pulled him back in with a nip to his lower lip.
Jensen had one of his hands clenched in the fabric of Cougar's tee shirt and the other buried in thick waves of dark hair, clinging as the little sounds he made were eaten up by the other man's mouth.
Then Cougar broke the kiss, leaving Jensen panting like some trashy romance novel heroine as he blazed a path down the pale column before him. He sucked lightly on Jensen's Adam's apple, smirking as he felt the vibration of the hacker's groan.
However, it was Jensen who put a stop to things, who pulled back and looked at him seriously as he said, "I don't want to do anything we might not remember tomorrow. I want this—" he waved a hand back and forth between the two of them, "to happen naturally. Not on Halloween. Okay?" He waited as Cougar thought about it and realized, sadly, that Jensen was talking sense.
The older man nodded his head, and Jensen smiled as he leaned in close and gave him one last soul-stealing kiss. It seemed to go on forever and when Cougar finally opened his eyes as Jensen moved away, he found that he was clinging to the hacker hard enough to bruise.
Jensen gave a little laugh as they disentangled themselves. "I'm going to go back in now," he said and stood up, "Immerse myself in some more freaky dreams. Don't stay out here too long, Cougs."
Then Cougar was alone once more, finishing up the last of the whiskey and officially wishing it was any night except Halloween.
Maybe some day they'd be happy, but it wasn't today or tomorrow or the day after that. But someday. There had to be a reason they kept finding each other, right?