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28 June 2011 @ 01:10 am
The Jungle Book 1 of 5  

Morgan watched as the sunrise lit the Nicaduran jungle in layers, spreading light and a new day from the edge of what had once been a luxury resort. The original owners had fallen afoul of the bane of new money, and now, it was the Frewer compound. Dawn's fingers caressed the tall crowns of the massed and feathered palm trees, waking the brightly plumed birds and eventually seeping into the under-layer of glossy dark leaves at the edges of the jungle, where the stark white concrete of the outer fence held the native land at bay and introduced a bit of Los Angeles.

The breeze raced the sunlight, lifting the edges of the closed umbrellas in corners, dancing with the ties of the cushions on the pool chairs that various wannabe starlets might decorate later, preening for the men, hoping to catch the eye of Senor Frewer, and some might for a weekend, never more. He glanced up at the house itself, turning away from the foreign beauty of the jungle. White marble and gilt, it was a Disney mansion until the security cameras moved, until a cable shifted, until Roche and Speight stepped around the corner, matching guns and matching jeans and a single brain between them. Morgan didn't want anyone really intelligent in his host of thugs to threaten his position, but sometimes, he despaired.

He raised a hand to Collins at the front gate and waited until he got a response to repeat the process with Stanz and Cohen in their towers, then strode onto the patio to join his employer.

“Ah, my attack dog, good morning," Frewer said, with a beaming smile. "Have you marked my territory?"

Morgan smiled perfunctorily at the worn thin joke before pulling a cup and the carafe of coffee toward himself.

Frewer continued breezily, “We have an adventure today, yes, my friend? Though you won’t let me play with your toys.”

He poured slowly but didn’t answer. Talking Frewer out of flying the plane remotely himself had been the work of two days, and he’d no interest in restarting the fight.

“No matter, no matter. You have convinced me.”

Morgan glanced back to his coffee. He’d sabotaged the controls on three remote control planes before realizing he hadn’t needed to. Frewer had crashed those, then gone through the fresh ones and crashed them too. Equipment was there to be used, and he knew he wouldn't have to deal with survivors, but to have Frewer destroy the data now would be maddening. He'd worked too hard to make this come together; it was all going to be his, as long as he bided his time.

“So my cautious friend, is everything ready?”

Morgan nodded. “The new and improved navigation system is installed. So long as the crew is..." dead , he thought. "Incapacitated as planned, we will take control twenty minutes after takeoff.”

“And you have redundancies and back-ups and this is why I like you. My dog. Grrrr.” Frewer laughed as he shook out his napkin.

Morgan nodded into his coffee again. “Yes, sir.” This is why you like me.

Jensen feigned interest in the conversation of the Colombradoran management team. They'd been on their best professional behavior all day, trying to impress him, but as the evening wore on and the liquor flowed, they forgot the presence of their gringo CEO and started telling family stories and jokes for which he had no context.

The restaurant, with its white linens and heavy silver, was no different than the ones he'd been in every night for the last three weeks. Jensen might have yearned for local color, but the management team wanted upscale dining. The waiter's accent here in Bogotá was different than the one in Rio the night before, but the men were as interchangeable as his companions or the menu. Katherine Cassidy, the too-bright star at his left, was blonde, smart, and charming. She was also too forward, too personal. She wanted to advance her career, be seen in the company of the CEO, and let him pick up the tab for the evening. It was what he did, most nights, most trips. Jensen felt no desire to discover if her carpet matched her drapes.

He was concerned about the ethics of the Colombradoran team. Getting product in and out of the country had become more of a problem recently, and he agreed with the investigators that at least part of the soborno they were paying was going into management pockets. He didn't like the system; the bribes that greased the wheels were the way business was done here, but for his people to skim from company coffers was beyond brazen. Finding out what was really going on was why he was here, after all, at the tail end of a three week trip.

His Scotch was smooth and smoky sweet--apparently he was buying top shelf. What he craved was a bottle of beer cold enough to have ice frost the label, but that wasn't what they expected from him. He tilted his head and looked down at the petite form of the company's manufacturing manager. She was an interesting woman, he thought, her wry comments jolting him from the sameness, the false sincerity that the management team had been projecting since his arrival.

As if she was reading his mind, Cortese looked up. The rest of the table laughed politely at a comment from the managing director as he began to take his leave, and she spoke softly. "Before you have to go, I would like a moment of your time."

Jensen considered, then nodded. He stood and made his farewells as the team gathered their belongings, weaving tipsily out the doors to the taxi stand. He spared a moment to send a text while he signed the check; it was only prudent to let his bodyguard know where he was going. He smiled broadly and offered his arm, self-consciously old-fashioned, to Ms. Cortese, who took it with amused dignity. From behind him, the blonde muttered, "Tortillera." He felt Genevieve's flinch, but was unfamiliar with the word.

"Let's step outside, or is there," he scowled at the restaurant that could be anywhere in the world for its lack of character, "somewhere else we could go?"

She eyed him thoughtfully. "I am meeting a friend elsewhere, on my way home. You would be welcome to join us." She grinned. "I don't know if you'll like the place, though. Very local, very..." she pointed her chin at the wood and ferns, "different from this." Jensen nodded agreement; he needed a break from the Hilton/Hyatt mentality in the worst way.

Outside, the air was humid, and Jensen's hand went automatically to his tie. He was still on duty, he thought, and left it knotted in place. Genevieve grimaced and stripped off her blazer, the sleeveless sheath she wore under it showing off her considerable curves. "You will be much happier without the tie," she said with a smile. "The club where I am meeting my friend is not far and not at all formal. Shall we walk?" They started down the brightly lit street, Jensen eventually shedding his jacket as well. Music wafted from other clubs, the patrons more casually dressed the further they walked.

"Have I..." he began and grimaced. "What was it she said?"

Her eyes darkened. "You did nothing. I am... I have a girlfriend... lesbiana. Katerina, Katie, she is sometimes unpleasant about it."

"Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?" he asked, wondering why she didn't take the issue to HR.

Making a dismissive gesture with one hand, she laughed. "I am as God made me, Mr. Ackles. No, I wanted to speak with you about some irregularities in the reports you were given today. The manufacturing numbers do not match what I submitted."

His eyes narrowed, and she continued. "Your company hired me to do a job, Mr. Ackles. I would not be doing that, and frankly, would be disappointed in myself, if I let you believe the data was accurate. I sent the proper figures to your email; you should have the most correct information I can compile for you. Look for the hotmail account. Mr. Ackles--"

"Call me Jensen, please. We're off the clock, and I'm grateful for your help."​

"And I am Genevieve, please." She nodded at the brightly lit facade. "This is the place."

The club was just as she said, very different from the place they'd left. Jensen sent Peter a text with the name and address, a habit of long practice, as they entered, then slid his phone into his pocket and looked around. A crowd of smiling faces and loose limbs gyrated on the dance floor, the swirling lights flicking at their features, revealing only briefly that most of them danced with partners of the same sex. Jensen smiled and found them seats at the bar. Genevieve tapped the back of his hand and leaned in. "This may not be your usual destination, but I wanted to speak out of turn."

Jensen smiled at her idiom, and remembered a place in Bangkok where men danced with men. He shook off his smile before it could become bitter. "The discrepancies. How long?"

"Since Fuller, not before." She tapped impatiently on the wood. "That is why I came to you. When I was at headquarters for training, there was talk of ethics, of the kind of behavior you expect from your employees. I want a future with Ackles Navigation."

"You are correct, and again, I thank you, personally. It's my name on the letterhead, and I take that seriously. What have you sent me?"

"Scans of revised budgets, shipping invoices. I am afraid I have made work for you. He has many layers of paper."

"And we have lawyers who are very good at finding what we'll need in those papers." ​

As they finished their discussion, another brunette joined them and greeted Genevieve with an enthusiastic kiss. She introduced her partner, Traci. Jensen was taken aback. "Traci Dinwiddie? Dinwiddie Air?"

"One and the same, and if I'm not mistaken, you were in my valuation modeling class at SMU, lo, those many years ago. Jensen Ackles?"

"Nice to see you again."

"You too. You'll be seeing our new design on your desk soon, I think. We've partnered with your R&D group to integrate the new X-Band radar in that model."

"I look forward to it. Have you been in Colombrador long?"

Traci looked at Genevieve with a brilliant smile. "Couple of years. For as long as she'll have me."

Genevieve answered with a smile of her own, and locked fingers with Traci. Their affection was plain to see, and he felt a twinge of envy. "We need to be on our way home," Genevieve said. "I have an early day, but Traci has her car. Can we give you a lift?

Jensen needed to think, so he begged off and nodded a farewell, mulling over who best to call in. If, as seemed likely, there was embezzlement, then there was also bribery and OFAC voluntary disclosures were a pain in the ass, but his in-house counsel could... he rubbed his eyes. The legal team he wanted was done for the day and would handle it in the morning. He had a half a beer in his hand and a dance floor of pretty people to watch, and those opportunities didn't come along often. He shifted to face away from the bar, leaning against it to push at the knot of tension in the middle of his back, and let himself be, for a moment, just another guy with a semi-hard on, watching bodies on display.

It was a hell of a display, too. For all the gyration and bared skin, one man caught his eye. He was tall and attractive, muscular, with dark hair flopping in his eyes. He was dancing in a group of people; the way he moved his hips made Jensen straighten up and take notice. He didn't spot evidence of a partner anywhere, and he was looking. The guy appeared to be American, his neat but faded paisley shirt tucked into jeans washed pale, shuffling in well-worn brown boots. If Jensen had a dream man, and he assured himself that he did not, this would be what he looked like, provided, of course, that he had extraordinary eyes. Some shade of blue, he thought. The music changed to an up-tempo number, and a conga line formed spontaneously.

As it passed the bar, the man broke out of the line, laughing, breathless, and came to the bar, leaning on the polished wood next to him. He ordered a Postobon, and turned his head to flash a brilliant smile at Jensen.


"Hi." Jensen returned, registering the maelstrom of his eyes. Damn.


Jensen laughed. "American."

"Yeah, I meant you speak English. Spanish is beautiful, but it's nice to hear the sound of home." He tilted his head. "I'm Jared."

Jensen crooked a finger at the bartender and tapped his Imperial, then pointed at Jared. Jared raised his Postobon and at Jensen's quirked eyebrow he shrugged and said, "I'm flying in the morning."

"Huh." Jensen almost lost his train of thought thinking about those legs folded up in a coach seat. "Nice to meet you. I can hear Texas in there, you visiting?"

"Working. You?" He took a long swallow of his soft drink.

Jensen watched his throat work, as he tipped the bottle and gulped greedily. He took a slower sip of his beer, aware of his lips around the neck of the bottle, of the suggestion in the act. "Business." He licked his bottom lip and was gratified to see Jared's eyes flicker.

"Tie was sort of a giveaway." Jared's long fingers reached toward the Windsor knot, but he drew back. "I'll let you do that. It's a beautiful tie."

Jensen pulled off the offending tie, and wrapped it around the fingers of his other hand. He slid the fall of silk into the pocket of the jacket hung on the back of his stool, never dropping his gaze from Jared's, and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt. He watched Jared's eyes go dark with something Jensen hoped was want. This was unexplored territory for him; when he wanted sex, not that it was often, he bought it. This was new, and not even slightly familiar. He drew a long shuddering breath, and turned his attention back to his drink.

Jared traced a line softly onto his hand with his long graceful fingers, and Jensen trembled at the contact, desire burning in every nerve. He felt more solid, more real than he'd ever felt in an intimate moment. He looked up at Jared, nostrils flaring, heart pounding a mile a minute. The conga ended, and laughing dancers crowded the bar to slake their thirst. The music became softer and slower. Jared looked shaken too, and took his hand, turning the palm up to rest open in his own. "I... do you want to dance? Because I need to touch more of you."

Jensen was breathless at the thought, and nodded, without dropping his gaze. Touching sounded like a very good idea, even if he'd never danced with a man before. "I... I've never..."

"You gonna let me lead?" asked Jared.

Jensen thought at that moment he'd follow Jared anywhere.

On the dance floor, Jared tugged Jensen flush to his long torso, and Jensen could feel Jared was definitely interested. The swirling lights heightened the other-worldliness of the moment, and Jensen let himself drift, melt into Jared's space. He didn't feel soft, or frail; he didn't feel self-conscious or wrong. His hands sat lightly on Jared's hips, and Jared's breath was soft at his ear. It was as if they were the only people in the world.

The song changed, and Jensen straightened, but the music stayed slow and languorous. Jared reached a hand up to Jensen's cheek. It felt unexpectedly intimate in the crowded club. Something about this felt so right, and Jared's honest laugh brought an answering smile.

Jared's head tilted down, lips soft at the corner of Jensen's mouth, as if he were asking permission, and Jensen opened to him, breathless, when a hand came down on Jensen's shoulder to get his attention. Jared bristled, and Jensen turned, registering the presence of his bodyguard and translator.

There's no way Peter could be explained away as anything else, earpiece in plain sight, and the cut of his suit was not quite good enough to conceal his obvious handgun. Jared's eyes went wide as he noticed it, and he started to turn Jensen so he stood in front of him. Jensen raised his hand to clasp Jared's at his jaw, and whispered, "It's business." He blinked to come back to himself and walked to the side of the dance floor. Jensen folded his arms and glared wordlessly at Peter.

"I'm sorry, Jensen," said Peter, "I'm all for you having a good time, but I can't do my job if I don't have you safe."

"I texted you with the address."

"You left the management team--and oooh, they are going to have hangovers in the morning--to come somewhere that hasn't been vetted. You don't know this place, or the Incredible Hulk, out there."

"I may have to kill you for interrupting this." Jensen blinked again. It was the closest he'd ever come to honesty with Peter, and he wasn't sure what brought him to blurt that out.

"Jensen, keeping you safe is the biggest part of my job. This place is pretty shady. There are at least three heavies from the Otto Cartel in here; I recognized them from the dossier. Come on, let's get you back to the hotel where I can keep you safe. Like you pay me to do. For your job? You can bring your friend back with you."

"He's none of your business."

"My point exactly. It is totally my business."

​"Stop. Right there. Stop." Jensen was angry and distracted, and startled by Jared popping up behind Peter with a questioning look and a hardness about him. Peter had implied he might be dangerous. Jensen could see the potential for it in him.

Peter shifted sideways like he'd known Jared was there all along, and he probably had, in spite of the driving music behind them. What had been a lustful heartbeat was now all noise, and Jensen felt the ice water splash of unexpectedly waking from a good dream. He shook his head at Jared's wordless inquiry. "I'm sorry. I... can't, and I can't explain. I'm sorrier than you know, Jared, but I just can't." He turned away from the bewildered expression on Jared's face and nodded at Peter. "Let's go."

Jensen stopped at the bar to close his tab and pick up his jacket. He wished Jared had taken off his tie, so he'd at least have that memory of touch. He didn't know anymore about the man than his first name. Maybe it was best that way, so he wouldn't be tempted--Jensen cut off his own thought. Done was done.

Peter preceded him out the door and waved him into the waiting car. He was silent until they got to the hotel, then after sweeping Jensen's room, turned to him and said, "There's another reason I was looking for you. Plane's down. Lucy's grounding it until she can verify the work, but we're on a charter in the morning instead. Wheels up at eight."

"We can wait here until she's... oh, no, we can't. The Northrup Grumman meeting at three. Right, charter it is--it's got wireless?"

"Yes, boss."

Jared watched the two men walk away, his shoulders slumped in disappointment. There had been something about Jensen, the spark of attraction, sure, but something more, something so visceral it almost hurt to see him go. He wondered if they would ever meet again; the world was so damned big, and he didn't even know Jensen's last name.

Looking around the bar, he decided there was no reason to stay any longer. He walked the short distance to his apartment in the steamy night. The blocks passed quickly, and he let himself into the quiet coolness of the dark hallway. Closing the apartment door behind him, he looked around it with displeasure and a sigh. By design, there was nothing to reveal anything about him except maybe the king sized bed, which was sadly not filled with Jensen. Dammit, he wanted someone to come home to. Maybe he could leave soon; he hadn't been able to find the information he needed. It was probably another dead end.

He checked his pack to be sure he had everything he needed for his days off in Playa Blanca, turned off the lights and went to his empty bed. Green eyes flecked with brown haunted him, and instead of sleeping, his mind replayed the conversation, the dance with Jensen, and he craved the feel of that solid warmth next to him. It made him toss and turn until his right hand finally took pity on him.

The alarm rang early. Jared groaned, and swung his legs out of bed. He sat there for a moment, head in hands, and reviewed his day. Milk run to Cartagena, two days hiking at Playa Blanca, it would be just what he needed to clear his head. He really needed to forget about Jensen, no matter what his libido said. Best to keep him in a safe and secret fantasy; it was too dangerous to be distracted, and he had to fly today.

It wasn't until he arrived at the hangar that Roger Brown, the dispatcher, filled him in on the schedule changes. The Richings' Gulfstream sat on the tarmac, waiting for her passengers to board. It was a plane he usually flew, but the Richings' nephew had gotten his pilot's license, and didn't like Jared, five years his junior, captaining the flight. Brown said, "Change in the roster. Richings is taking the family to the bloodstock auctions." He dropped the paperwork in his hand onto the desk. "I hear there was a threat against him. Don't blame him for getting out for awhile." With a wry grin, he added, "You should quit pissing off the clients, kid.”

Jared snorted. "Right. I would be the one to piss off your best clients.”

Brown looked down at his paperwork, then back at Jared. “Listen, I had to put you in the Lear. Second is Titus." He flashed Jared a look. "Best pilot I've got, kid. Can you just do this for me, please?"

Sighing once, for form, Jared nodded. No hiking near the Playa, but a charter, to Dallas, overnight and deadhead back. He went to the locker room, where he kept a uniform for when he had to fly people instead of produce. Just as routine, simply a different outfit. He crammed the cargo shorts he'd been wearing into his backpack anyway. It was sure to be warm in Dallas.

He shook off his mood as he approached the Learjet. She was a beautiful thing, sleek and black with the upturned wingtips that were Jared's secret joke. He waggled his right hand and whispered, "Hook 'em, Horns" before starting the exterior check. ​

Jensen stepped into the hangar, towing his roll-along, laptop slung over his shoulder, and thumb-texting his assistant, Susan, on his Blackberry. He hadn't slept, uncomfortable in his own skin. He wasn't happy with how he'd acted at the club, wasn't happy with Peter, wasn't happy with how he'd left the guy at the bar, wasn't happy with the management team, and most of all he wasn't happy with what he'd seen in the mirror that morning. He was just plain cranky, and Susan had flagged 60 emails for his personal attention. He couldn't wait to get on the plane and get to work. At least no one would distract him in the air, and when he got home and resolved Colombrador, he would think about how he'd let easy and safe become his life away from the office.

"Jensen," asked Peter, quietly. "Isn't that the guy from the club?"

Jensen looked up from his PDA to see that Jared looked just as good from the back as he did from the front. He made a hand gesture and Jensen blinked when he realized Jared must've gone to UT. When he turned around and Jensen saw the pilot's bars at his shoulders, Jensen remembered his comment about flying the next day. His silence was as good as an admission to Peter as he clenched his teeth.

Jared turned around with his best professional smile. His eyes widened, and his smile grew more personal as he saw it was Jensen and his bodyguard. He'd worried about never seeing him again throughout his fitful sleep, and here he was. Jared didn't intend to let him slip away a second time. When their eyes met, Jensen's went wide with what Jared thought was fear, and he hesitated, letting the professional smile drop back into place. Relying on the good manners he'd been taught from an early age, Jared ushered his passengers on board, stowing their luggage in the aft bay, hiding a smirk as he nestled Jensen's bag next to his own backpack. He wasn't positive that bodyguard didn't also mean jealous lover, and he had no intention of causing any trouble.

There was an opened flat of Gatorade on the counter in the makeshift galley, with one bottle missing. Jared frowned. Titus should have iced them, but they were at least still cold. He had opened up the cooler to stow them, when the bodyguard put a hand on his shoulder.

"Can I have one of those, please? I'm off caffeine."

"Certainly. One for--" Jared tipped his head in Jensen's direction.

"Nah, he's got coffee."

"There's more here, in the carafe," offered Jared.

"Thanks," said the bodyguard. "I'm sorry about yesterday."

Jared looked at him, questioningly.

"He doesn't do that, not as long as I've worked for him."

Jared nodded and wondered what "that" was, and if "I've never" meant something more than a dance.​ He spared a regretful thought over those lips, because really, he did want that guy. At least he could get Jensen's information off the manifest. With a shrug, he made his way forward to the cockpit.

"Hey, Titus." ​

The co-pilot nodded hello and finished stowing his boots behind his seat. It was his quirk, everyone knew it, and Jared shook his head. Titus sighed and wiggled his toes, then looked over at Jared. "There room for those legs in here, Sky King?"

"I always seem to make them fit."

Titus grinned. Good, Jared thought. Flights got long when your co-pilot didn't joke. At least Titus had a sense of humor. "Nice hat."

Titus tipped the battered fishing hat, making the flash drives linked around the crown shift and clank. "So much better than lures. You know it. Symbols of my independence."

Jared dropped his chin and raised an eyebrow. Titus continued, "I was an IT drone once, wearing a clip on tie and crawling around the feet of fat paper pushers for a tiny little paycheck. Now, I’m a pilot. Freedom. One of these for every place I was ever broke.”

"Well, aren't you a regular success story," teased Jared.

"Heh. You got it, Sky. Now, I got lots of ways of making money." Titus grinned, tapped the hat, chugged from the Gatorade bottle, and pulled out the hanging binder for the pre-flight check.

Jared put on his headphones, verified the navigation plan in the flight management system, and then radioed the tower.

"Bogota Tower, this is King Lear, Hotel Juliet 7 X-ray 22 waiting clearance for takeoff."

"King Lear, this is Flight, you're third in line to go."

"Thank you, Flight. We'll await your word."

Jared switched channels to the cabin intercom.

"Gentlemen, we're third to go, so please stow your personal items for takeoff. We expect a smooth flight, but the possibility for some weather exists as we enter Nicaduran airspace. Please turn off your electronics for takeoff."

He could hear Jensen muttering under his breath, and his own mind filled in, "Blah blah blah."

Jared taxied the plane to the runway, continuing his smooth patter about the flight.

Jensen keyed his intercom. "Tell me when my electronics are safe to turn on. I have work to do."

Jared was taken aback by the abrupt response. “Yes, sir. Flight safety requires passengers to shut down anything with transmission capability.” Asshole he silently added, wondering what he'd seen in the guy at the club last night. It couldn't have been just the lips and freckles.

"King Lear, this is flight. Hotel Juliet 7 X-ray 22 is go. Blue skies."

"Thank you, flight."

Jared felt the engines in every bone of his body, the power collecting until he released it into a burst of speed down the runway. Titus read out the numbers, and Jared lifted the plane to its cruising altitude.

He keyed the cabin intercom. “You can access electronics, however use of any device in the 7 to 12 GHz range is still prohibited. It’s a beautiful morning. You can see the Andes approaching on your right, and the coast of –“

“It’s eleven tonight in South Korea which is where this note is going. The one to a man waiting for an answer before he can go home. Just drive the plane. Let me know when we are an hour out of Dallas.”

“You got it.” Jared shook his head and bit his tongue. The sun bathed the mountains in light and shimmering birds lifted in clouds from the edges of the jungle. The ragged edges of clouds were back-lit, haloed by the sun. He was going to enjoy the flight. Pity about those freckles and lips.

"Titus, you feeling okay?" His co-pilot had seemed personable enough at the field, chatty but competent, but he'd strapped in, downed a bottle of Gatorade fast enough to indicate a hangover, and now was sagging in the seat, his eyes glassy and his hands shaking.

"I'm, uh... uh... not feeling good."

"Yeah, I got it, no worries."

"I'm okay to fly, man, really."

No, you really aren't, thought Jared. "I got it. You wanna go back, hit the head?"

"With Prissy-Britches back there?" Titus rubbed his throat, then his stomach. "Did you piss in his Cheerios or something?" At Jared's startled look, he raised both hands in surrender. "I don't want to know. DADT the good way, dude. I don't need to know. Nah, I'm going to shut my eyes for a second. Radar says we've got something up ahead, just poke me when you need me, okay?"

"You got it."

"Flight, this is Hotel Juliet 7 X-ray 22, we're about to exit your airspace, thanks for your assistance today."

"King Lear this is flight, we're ready to transfer you to Nicaduran control. Blue skies would be good, but you have some weather coming in."

Jared looked at the horizon and checked the instruments again. The edge of the storm was within sensor range, and beginning to close. Jared keyed the mike. Normally he’d lean to the side and just over-enunciate, but Jensen appeared to want distance, and distance was something Jared could do under the circumstances.

“If you’ve got anything loose back there, strap it in. We have some touchy weather ahead.”

“Can’t you fly around it? Or over it?” crackled Jensen's voice in his headset.

“Could if you hired a fighter plane or you don’t mind needing a bail out from the US Department of State. Remembering, of course, that Nicaduras is currently not on Hilary’s Christmas card list.”

“We’re in a plane.”

“We’re using crappy substandard radar out of Panama because the asinine federal policy on Cuba doesn’t let us keep viable radar there and the US thinks the Guantanamo facility is nothing but concrete floors and bad guys, forgetting that it’s got equipment, too."

Jared heard a soft smack and the other intercom blinked. The bodyguard's voice came over it. "We're secure. Thank you, pilot."

Titus lolled in the seat next to him, one hand sliding off his lap to dangle in the doorway in full view of the seats behind him. Jared winced. "Thank you," said Jared. "My co-pilot's not feeling very well, so it's just me up here."

Titus grunted as Jared eased into a banked turn to slide over part of the shifting clouds before him. Jared glanced over to Titus to see him clutch weakly at his throat, then foam at the mouth and go completely limp.

From the control panel, an alarm flashed, then beeping sounded, and Jared had to fight controls that were trying to fly the plane on their own. This was absolutely not supposed to be happening, he thought, suppressing the urge to panic. Fuel pressure plummeted, and a cloud of vapor trailed behind the plane. "Flight? Come in, flight?" Jared heard nothing but static.

"What’s that noise?" asked Jensen.

"Nothing good. Trying to fly, here."

"What happened to it’s a beautiful day?"

Jared was thinking the same when Jensen's intercom cut out. Jared could hear him a moment later, live, right behind him. He was shouting, "Peter! My God, Peter!"

Pellegrino and Roche scanned the horizon, hands shading their eyes, and Morgan barely kept himself from rolling his own. He stood at the front wheel well of the H3 and tapped command lines into the laptop sitting on the hood. The cursor blinked lazily at him and he bit back sharp responses to the casual blowharding of the men milling about. They were petty henchmen and minions and none was pettier than their employer. Frewer wanted the control system for a toy, to fight his little turf battles and steal his competitors' cargo. Morgan wanted what was on that plane. It would give him the Otto cartel, and he could take Frewer's organization from him at will; all the pieces were in place already. Money and power. Toys and turf wars were for gangsters, not businessmen.

Morgan frowned as the laptop beeped twice, then once, then flashed the stripped down GUI he'd had Wisdom build as the override kicked in. He guided the plane into its new course with careful keystrokes, wishing for a moment that Frewer hadn't been the one to suggest the video game controller. He'd rejected the idea out of hand because of the source, but it would've been simple enough for his IT guy to modify and easier than the too small laptop keyboard and touchpad.

He dumped the fuel and set the new flight path before he straightened to look east as the plane came out of the storm and flew towards them, or, more exactly, towards the airstrip behind them. Morgan suppressed a smile. Just like it was supposed to be.

"Flight, this is King Lear, please respond. Flight, this is Hotel Juliet 7 X-ray 22, we have a situation, come in? Come on, flight, my co-pilot is incapacitated--"

Jensen staggered the few steps to the cockpit. The plane was bucking under his feet. He grabbed the doorway, clutching it hard enough to press the metal edge into his palm. "My translator is--what seems to be the trouble?" Jared - no, the pilot - he reminded himself, was ripping free part of the dash. "Is it the nav? Maybe I can help." There wasn't enough room to reach over and he brushed against the co-pilot's arm. He glanced down, an apology on his lips, then looked again. The man's eyes were partially open, and the foam around his mouth looked like Peter's. Jensen felt for the pulse on his neck, then drew back, shaking his head.

Jared had one hand on the yoke, but was leaning forward, tugging free components from the panel. "I no longer have flight, the controls aren't responding, something's flushed most of the fuel out of the tanks, I'm trying to sort out... well, hello..." Jared pulled a small box out of the dash, and Jensen looked out the window to see a runway ahead in the pouring rain. He pointed at it and saw Jared twitch. "You have any desire to land on that strip?"

Jensen pulled the box from Jared's hand, and together they looked out the window and saw a jeep surrounded by armed men. One was pointing an antenna at the plane. "That's a remote, isn't it?" he asked, absentmindedly unscrewing the base plate with his thumbnail.

"Yup, and it wants us to land there. What's in your hands is a..."

"UAV flight control, yeah," Jensen answered. "Get ready. You're about to lose your autopilot." He flicked free the wiring from the solder points as Jared braced himself to pull against the yoke.

​The little plane shuddered and Morgan's computer spat out nonsensical code before flickering back to the start screen. He swore and bent back to the keyboard in haste, pounding on the fender when there was no reconnect. "Fuck. Lost it."

Pellegrino let out a roar of frustration, dropped the antenna and swung the Keltec Bullpup 308 off his back and into the air, emptying the magazine at the plane.

Hot brass sprayed across the H3, the laptop and Morgan, who jumped and cursed while he tried frantically to regain control. "You stupid motherfucker," he swore. It was the only weapon among them that could actually damage the aircraft. Pellegrino laughed and shook the gun over his head as the plane sheared off sharply to the north, one engine smoking. Morgan's laptop went bluescreen, and he needed someone to blame. He drew the Colt from the back band at his waist and shot Pellegrino in the head without another word.

Everyone flinched at the noise save Morgan himself and Collins, who never flinched. "Do not shoot at the plane," he spat. "We want the plane and we... I... need what's on-board intact. Are all the rest of my little angels clear on that?" He raised the Colt and waited for the body to stop twitching before he looked around.

Collins knelt next to the body, stripping Pellegrino of his weapons, while he prayed over him and wound a rosary between the dead man's fingers. Speight and Cohen looked at each other; Pellegrino's blood and brains, still wet, were splattered all over them. They turned to Morgan and nodded in unison. Collins pointed into the sky. "Your bird's flying away."

Morgan cursed again and holstered his gun. If the plane was flying, someone onboard was still alive. He admired the hell out of any pilot who could successfully keep that thing aloft. It wouldn't be in the air long, but maybe the pilot was good enough to land it where it wouldn't be too hard to find. Pity that pilot had to die.

The plume of smoke grew larger, streaming from the starboard engine, as the plane started a rapid descent. The port engine flamed out. Morgan kicked Pellegrino's body, looked at his remaining men, and said, "Get rid of that. Take his fucking guns. We have a plane to find. Let's move."

They stood staring at him and he sighed. "First one to spot the aircraft gets to keep the RFB." Collins immediately climbed into the H3, leaving Speight and Cohen in the open Jeep.

Jared steadied the yoke and ignored the slither of wire over his thighs as Jensen tugged the wiring free from the dash, then let it drop to dangle freely. The plane twitched under his hands like a restive horse as he regained control. He had her moved back to the north in an easy veer when something hit the windshield and the nose of the plane, too small for birds, too big for any of the rain drops hitting the windshield like pellets. The tempered glass cracked and he couldn't keep from gaping in surprise, even as the lightning flashed. The panel in front of him sparked, and an engine flamed out.

"Brace yourself, this is going to get ugly."

"We passed the runway back there, maybe--no, away from the guns is good."

"We couldn't set down there now, anyway, I can't turn--crap. Just lost the second engine."

"We're not going to make it to the border?"

"We're not going to stay in the air. Hang on!"

He rolled the controls, trying to let the shape of the Lear 60 carry them just a bit farther from that unmarked airstrip and whoever controlled the UAV override that was whipping by its remaining cords from the panel. He thought it was a good thing they were in the Lear. The Gulfstream would have fallen like a rock, but the Lear would at least glide a little.

The engine sputtered its last and the plane went down. The deafening scream of shearing metal as the plane slid through the treetops drowned out Jared's muttering, and the plane took its first bounce against the trunk of a large tree.

Jensen slammed into the control panel, instinctively thrusting out his arm to break his fall, and let out a cry. He clutched at his wrist with his other hand, obviously in pain. Jared gathered him up, wrist cradled between them, tucking Jensen's head under his chin, to keep him from flying back into the cabin--or out the window--as the plane tipped sideways, losing a wing and sliding through the trees until it came to its final rest. With a last shriek, the weight of the remaining wing pulled the cabin back upright.

Jared was breathing like he'd run a marathon, and Jensen was in no better shape. When he lifted his head to look, Jared could only see a sliver of color around his blown pupils. He couldn't help himself. His mouth dropped onto Jensen's in a kiss to celebrate that they were alive in spite of everything. To his surprise, Jensen kissed him back, and that jolt of absolute right was still there. It ran all the way from Jared's mouth to his toes. He broke the kiss still panting, and buried his head in the crook of Jensen's neck. When the pounding of their hearts slowed, he drew back to look at Jensen again.

Jared smiled ruefully, "Looks like we're not going to make Dallas on time."

"What happened there?" asked Jensen softly, studying Jared's face.

"Best guess? Someone tried to take radio control of the plane. That’s a transponder. They cut our communications, emptied the tanks, shot at us, and we crashed. If we hadn't found and disabled that unit," he nodded at the little box, still swinging from some wires, "they could have flown this thing like a UAV anywhere they wanted."

"Only if we were dead first."

Jared glanced at the foamy-mouthed co-pilot, “I think they had a plan for that." He jerked his head at Titus. "Co-pilot's--"

"Dead," said Jensen, flatly. "Peter's dead, too. That's what I started forward to tell you."

"My guess is cyanide."


"The symptoms are right. Someone wants this plane--or something that's on it--for something." He shuddered and held Jensen tighter. "I almost lost the chance at you a second time."

Jensen traced Jared's lower lip with his index finger and watched Jared's eyes go dark. "There is no chance at me," he said, sadly. Jared let him go in confusion and Jensen scrambled out of the pilot's seat and stood, wincing as he tried to use his right hand to balance. Jared wondered what the hell that meant, because his libido had already decided that a lapful of Jensen was worth putting up with his Prissy-Britches attitude.

He shrugged out of his harness and picked up the box that had been wired into the dash. He glanced at his co-pilot's body, wondering if was there something he could have done to prevent his death, something he should have noticed sooner. No, he stopped the thought. He had to focus in the here and now, to get to safety. He followed Jensen aft, kicking bottles from the broken cooler out of their way.

Jared pulled open a compartment and started to strip.

"What are you doing?" asked Jensen.

"Changing clothes." Jared thought it was the most natural thing in the world, and wondered if Jensen had sustained a head injury, since he knew the man wasn't stupid. "Damned if I'm walking through the jungle in a polyester pilot's uniform."

Jensen rocked in place and held his wrist up high, against his shoulder.

"How bad is it?" asked Jared.

Jensen looked at him as if he hadn't understood the words, and Jared stopped, pulled on his cargo pants, and realized Jensen might be in shock. He slowed and softened his tone. "You're hurt. Let me look at that."

Jensen narrowed his eyes. "What, are you a doctor, now?"

"No, but I have made use of everything I learned in first aid class. Except birthing babies. You're not pregnant, are you?" Jensen didn't answer, but he obediently held out his wrist, staring past Jared at Peter's body. Jared took it gently, probing and listening for the sharp intake of breath that told him what hurt. "I don't think it's broken, but you fucked it up good. Pretty sure it's a sprain; let's get it wrapped for support, at least. It'll be a while before you can expect professional medical care."

He followed the track of Jensen's eyes, and then cursed his own insensitivity. He walked to the compartment that held the blankets and first aid kit, brought the kit to the seat opposite Jensen's, and covered the dead man with the blanket.

"Thank you," said Jensen, finally looking down at his wrist.

"I'm sorry about your friend."

"Not my friend, my bodyguard." He put his off hand over his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Don't have friends."

"Oh. I thought maybe..." he trailed off.

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe he was your lover."

Jensen barked a rueful laugh. "Peter was my translator and bodyguard. No love lost between us."

"Oh. The way you left last--never mind." Jared changed the subject. "You should change, too. Got jeans or something else that will breathe?"

"Not really. Business trip. What do you mean 'walking through the jungle'?"

"Sweats, maybe? You didn't get that body without spending some time in the gym." He grinned at Jensen's shocked look, and continued, ignoring the question. "Look, that bespoke suit ain't gonna do you much good out here.​ Please tell me you don't sleep in that."

Jensen shed the jacket angrily. "Business trip," he said through gritted teeth. "My bag's--did you put it in the luggage bay, can we get at that?"

"I doubt it, there's no bay on this plane." He looked up through floppy bangs. "I was kind of focused on pre-flight when you walked into the hangar, so I stowed it with mine, here." He pulled Jensen's rollaway out of the compartment and dropped it on the seat near him. "You must be used to planes with a different configuration."

Jensen stared at the blanket covered form with new horror. "Oh no, I think he and Lucy--"


"My regular pilot. She's with my plane that's in repair back in Bogotá. You don't think--she could be in trouble!"

Jared looked thoughtful. "When did you schedule this flight?"

"Last night. I have an appointment with--" He snorted. "Wow. Schedule wiped clean. My next appointment is with the embassy, isn't it? Or first aid, if I'm lucky."

"Jensen, I don't think you're a target. The transponder has to have been in place for at least two days, and the plane's been in service constantly since then. It would take a couple of hours in secret to install it. I got pulled onto the flight this morning; I thought I was doing the milk run to Cartagena." His eyes narrowed as he looked at Jensen, thinking. "Private plane? Who are you, anyway?"

"Apparently, I'm the victim of a plane crash."


"I'm the CEO of Ackles Navigation. With a bodyguard due to serious and verified threats of abduction and other violence. Now," he looked at Jared, "I'm at your mercy."

"I'll get us out, keep us safe." Jared's look hardened. "Keep you safe."

On to Part Two
Minebellatilli: ulvminebellatilli on July 6th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
Wonderful first chapter, now on to read the rest.
Vanilla  ... Spiked with Slivovitz: Good day by cb_graphicsjenna_thorn on July 6th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
Hope you enjoy it!
nong_pradunong_pradu on October 17th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Just discovered this now, and what a great beginning!!!
(no subject) - beadslut on October 18th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
jolieblonjolieblon on May 26th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
Awesome start!! And what wonderful artwork!