Dolls For Rent, Heroes for Hire 1/9
Pairing: J2 or Jared/Dean depending on how you look at it
Characters: Jared, Jensen, Christian Kane, Alaina Huffman, Aldis Hodge, Ty Olsson, Traci Dinwiddie, (minor roles: Eric Kripke, Beth Riesgraf, and Chad Michael Murray)
Genre: H/C, RPS, AU(set in the Dollhouse universe)
Disclaimer: None of these people belong to me; they all belong to themselves. None of this is true in any way, shape or form. I made it all up.
Word Count: 4,000 this part (46,000 in total)
Summary: Jared's life is turned upside down the night he meets an intriguing young man who seems to have multiple personality disorder. Is he Dean - dangerous, charming and troubled? Or Jensen - naive and almost child-like? This chance encounter leads to a job offer with a mysterious organization called the Dollhouse.
A/N: Thank you to my best friend, alpha reader, and biggest cheerleader, . She always has my back! All the beautiful artwork for this story was made by her. Thank you sweetie! My beta reader, cerului, did an absolutely fantastic job! This story is made better by her wonderful insights. Their enthusiasm has given me the confidence to post a story again after a one year long dry stretch. This story is completly written and betaed. My plan is to post one chapter per week. Comments are very much appreciated. In fact, they are the whole reason I write and post stories instead of keeping them in my head. :)
Dolls For Rent, Heroes For Hire
The motel door snicks closed and Dean jerks awake.
A bead of sweat trickles through the short hair at his temple. His eyes feel gritty and puffy from too little sleep, and yet he's grateful for the noise that woke him. Better that he exist in a state of constant exhaustion than be treated to the 3D panoramic nightmares his brain insists on inflicting on him every night. The blood and fire, the screams, the acrid smell of human waste, the hooks digging into his flesh.
He drags a trembling hand over his face and sits up just in time to hear a car pull away from outside their room. With one look around, he knows the score. The bed next to his is empty, the bathroom light is out, and the laptop sits idle. The room is eerily quiet.
Adam is gone, probably off playing house with Ruby. That skanky demon bitch.
Dean is alone, but that's okay. He doesn't need anyone to hold his hand and tell him everything is going to be all right. He's not a teenage girl, for God's sake, he doesn't need to be fucking comforted. Never mind that he can't seem to go five minutes without scenes from some fucked-up horror show flashing through his head, that everything he eats tastes like ash, that he hasn't slept properly in months, and that the only person left in the world who he can trust would rather be with a demon than with him.
His brother is a big boy, he can do what he wants, but if he thinks Dean's going to sit around in a motel room, twiddling his thumbs until he gets back from whatever super important, secret business he has with Ruby, he's got another thing coming.
Swinging his legs off the bed and padding, barefoot, over to the laptop where it sits on the small table, Dean jabs at a few keys. Yesterday's research appears on the screen, pictures of gargoyle-like faces, feathered wings, and razor-sharp talons.
All their research points to harpies as the culprit for the strange goings-on in this town and, since harpies are nocturnal, this is the perfect time to hunt them. No point in waiting one more day to follow up on a few more clues like Adam had suggested because, guess what Dean? Turns out Adam's concern about not being adequately prepared is just an excuse to give him more time with his gal pal.
What a joke.
Dean clenches his teeth together and barely restrains himself from punching a hole in the motel room wall.
Fine. No problem. The way he feels right now, a nest full of harpies will be child's play and he's more than ready to gank the sons of bitches. Having someone to watch his back would be nice, but the lack of back up isn't a game stopper.
He pulls on his socks and shoes, shrugs into his jacket, and tucks his favorite knife into the sheath at his ankle. These harpies have made their nest in the middle of a metropolitan area. Gunshots would be too conspicuous, and besides, he's in the mood for a little hand to hand. There's nothing like a good knife fight to get the old blood pumping.
Once he's ready, he heads out to his beloved car. She's right where he left her and it's a good thing too. If Adam had taken her on his little demon love rendezvous, Dean would have really been pissed.
The subconscious part of his brain notices the black van that pulls out of the parking lot behind him, notices it and dismisses it at the same time. The black van always follows him because...it just does. There's nothing unusual about it and no need to investigate.
Jared fidgets and sighs.
Stake-outs are boring.
No matter what Hollywood tries to make people believe, the simple truth of it is that stake-outs rarely result in high-speed chases, explosions with molten balls of flame, or gun fights. Nope. Stake-outs are mostly about sitting under a busted streetlight in an unmarked car, looking as inconspicuous as possible, and watching a stretch of back alley for any movement that doesn’t result from rats or roaches. Also, there are rarely – make that never – any beautiful people, men or women, who need to be rescued. Which is a shame, really, because Jared is a kick-ass rescuer, or at least he would be if anyone needed rescuing.
He’s so fucking bored.
And he can’t even take out his cell to play Clash of Clans because then he won’t be watching the alley and, of course, the moment he looks away, that’s when something important will go down and he’ll miss it.
It’s times like these that Jared wonders why he went into law enforcement.
He heaves a huge, put-upon sigh and glances at the clock in his dashboard – 2:36am.
Many parts of Vancouver are still hopping at this time of night, tourists out enjoying all the night life the city has to offer, locals making their way between their favorite hole-in-the-wall bars. The city is known for its clean, safe environment and in some areas it’s not uncommon to see people happily milling around outside at all times of the day and night.
This isn’t one of those areas, however. Located on the wrong side of the Chinese district, the streets here are completely deserted, a smell of decay heavy in the air despite the cool autumn weather.
One of the muscles in his left thigh gives a warning twinge, as though it’s about to erupt into the searing pain of a Charlie-horse. Jared shifts uncomfortably while trying to find some way to straighten his left leg in the too-tight confines of the front seat without jamming his right knee into the steering wheel. He’s only partially successful.
Jared scowls as he rubs his thigh with one hand and his knee with the other. But he never stops watching the alley.
His vigilance is rewarded when he sees a dark shadow peel away from one brick wall. The figure skulks deeper into the alley, body crouched in a combat-ready position, alert and predatory. There's something in its hand, a knife maybe? This doesn’t look like the drug deal Jared had been expecting, but it’s definitely suspicious enough to warrant his full attention.
The figure pauses and briefly looks back the way he – Jared is almost positive the shadow-clad shape is that of a man – had come. Then he looks up, as though he’s searching for something and has no idea where it might be. As though his quarry is capable of scaling walls just as easily as it might hide behind the dumpster at the far end of the alley.
Apparently satisfied that nothing of interest lurks above him, the man faces forward and continues to slink further into the narrow space between the consignment shop and the laundromat. The alleyways in this part of the city are meant for foot traffic only and have as many branches, turn-offs, and dead-ends as a maze. Jared now has two options: stay in the car and lose sight of the suspicious man, or leave his car behind and go after him.
With stealth uncommon to a man with a six foot, five inch frame, Jared exits his vehicle and follows the dark shape. Putting his years of surveillance work to good use, he carefully maintains an appropriate distance for remaining undetected while never risking the loss of his target.
Not long after he enters the passage, the air takes on a leaden quality, moist and thick, as if a sudden fog has just rolled in, except that his visibility isn’t impaired at all. Every breath he takes feels as though the oxygen is sticking in his throat instead of reaching his lungs. A change in air pressure causes his ears to pop and the only sounds - those of his shoes softly scuffing the pavement and distant traffic - become even more muffled. If he didn’t know better, the stifling, oppressive atmosphere would have Jared looking around for a dementor from those Harry Potter books.
The man he’s following seems completely unfazed by the bizarre change in air consistency as he ducks around a corner about twenty paces ahead.
Jared slows when he gets to the corner, caution winning out over the desire to regain visual contact. With one hand on his holstered gun, he presses his shoulder against the brick wall and flexes his knees, ready to pivot and dodge or fall back, depending on what he finds once he clears the blind spot.
But before he can make his move, a violent downdraft buffets Jared’s hair into his eyes. There's a screech, like metal grating on metal, loud in the oppressive stillness. A loud booming sound rings out. And then nothing.
The air pressure returns to normal and Jared takes a deep breath, surprised by how easy it suddenly is to fully expand his lungs again. His heart is pounding, blood thumping like a muted drum beat in his ears.
Even though he's been in several violent altercations with less than stable individuals, none of his previous experiences have left him feeling quite this spooked. Something strange is happening here. Something unnatural. The fine hairs on the back of his neck begin to prickle, but there’s no way he’s going to retreat and call for back up. Not without first figuring out what’s going on and what part that mysterious man plays in it all.
Jared unholsters his gun, shakes the hair out of his eyes, and rounds the corner.
The man is standing about ten feet away, his back to Jared as he closely examines the wall in front of him with a flashlight. He seems utterly engrossed, oblivious to Jared’s presence. There’s no sign of a weapon, but he may have stashed it somewhere. Also, there isn’t anyone else in the alley. The man is alone.
At any other time, Jared would have been ordering the guy, in his most commanding, you-do-not-want-to-fuck-with-me voice, not to move and to put his hands in the air where he could see them. At any other time, he would have been in total control of the situation. But right now, Jared feels as though he’s been plucked out of his normal life and dropped into an episode of The Twilight Zone. None of this makes any sense. Jared hates when things don’t make sense.
Without turning to look at him, the man says, “Hey dude, can you come over here and tell me what you think about this?”
Jared startles and it’s possible that his mouth drops open, just a little, because he knows he didn’t make any noise, so how in the hell…?
The man turns to face him then, the skin around his eyes crinkling in amusement, a lopsided smile on his face, and Jared is immediately struck by how good-looking he is. He’s not just an average kind of attractive. He’s more like fatally attractive, as in drop-dead gorgeous. By the illumination of the flashlight beam, which the guy considerately keeps directed away from either of their faces, Jared sees a strong jawline, cleft chin, and light-brown, artfully-tousled hair. A worn, leather jacket accentuates his lean build and adds to his ‘bad boy’ demeanor, despite the fact that it appears to be one size too big for him.
“Sorry,” the guy says, still grinning, “I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
Given the lightly teasing tone, Jared doubts the truth of that statement. “What’s going on here? Who are you?” The words come out less authoritative than he had intended, but don't reveal how unsettled he feels. He’ll take what he can get at this point.
Nodding at the gun Jared still holds pointed in his direction, the man says, “Do you mind? I have some ID in my pocket, but you look like you’re about two seconds away from putting a bullet through my head just on principal. I swear, I’m not going to bludgeon you with my flashlight.” He quirks an eyebrow as he holds both hands out to show that, other than the flashlight, they’re empty.
Jared gets the distinct impression the guy is enjoying this whole strange situation. He grimaces and lowers his weapon. Being a beat cop, he’s a pretty good judge of character and this guy, while far from harmless, isn’t giving off any homicidal vibes.
The man acknowledges the lowered gun by reaching toward his jacket pocket. His hand doesn’t make it all the way there, though, before his shoulders slump; his gaze flicks to the side as though he’s having second thoughts about something.
The hesitation lasts long enough that Jared has time to note the minute trembling in the flashlight beam where it shines on the concrete walkway. He wonders if maybe this guy isn’t as carefree as he’s trying to project. Maybe he’s more than the cocky punk he's pretending to be. Curiosity piqued, Jared waits, confident that if things go south, he'll be able to diffuse the situation without much trouble.
“Oh, what the hell,” the guy mutters under his breath. Then he straightens up and extends his hand. “Name’s Dean.”
Jared eyes his new acquaintance for a second, makes a snap judgment call, and steps forward, his own hand extended. “Jared.”
The look Dean levels at him as they shake hands reminds Jared of the look he might expect to get from a man who is coming clean for the first time in a very long time. There’s relief in it, and apprehension, and something like determined recklessness.
“So Dean, care to tell me what you’re doing out here at 2:30 in the morning? This isn’t the best neighborhood for a late night stroll.” A fat, brown rat underscores his point by choosing that moment to amble out of a discarded cardboard box nearby, whiskers twitching.
Dean glances at the rodent, gives an exaggerated shudder, and wrinkles his nose. “Yeah see, that’s the thing. This neighborhood…it’s bad all right, but not for the reasons you think. You probably think a bunch of drug dealers have moved in lately. Bizarre deaths, increased gang activity, skyrocketing drug overdoses, people acting all crazy, like they’re on a bad trip and they can’t come down.”
Jared nods, remembering the call he’d been on earlier that day. A young woman in the middle of the street, frantically tearing at her clothes and hair, screaming about the beetles that were burrowing into her skin. The non-existent beetles. Nothing had calmed her. The paramedics had ended up sedating her just to get her into the ambulance.
“You have an infestation. And you aren’t going to be able to get rid of it by sitting in your cruiser, staking out one entrance to this labyrinth.” Dean gestures to his right where the alley devolves into a warren of passages with shops and outdoor markets scattered here and there. "Oh, and hey, just between you and me, you might think about toning down the whole cop-on-a-stake-out thing you've got going on. I made you from like a mile away. Just a piece of friendly advice."
The slight on Jared’s surveillance skills irritates him, but his scowl only makes the corners of Dean’s lips twitch as though he’s holding in a laugh. It’s an expression Jared recognizes from back when his older brother used to get immense pleasure out of pushing all his buttons. “What kind of infestation? A rat infestation? What are you, some kind of pest control expert?” Jared quips, hoping for an answering flash of annoyance from Dean.
Dean just smirks, shrugs. “Something like that. We're in the family business, my brother and I...” He trails off, one hand coming up and rubbing at his eyes like an overly-tired toddler. When he brings his hand away from his face the playfulness is gone, replaced with an intensity that instantly changes the mood of their encounter. “Look man, I could give you some bullshit story about what I’m doing here, pump you for any information you might have, and then take off to handle this mess on my own. It’s not like it’d be the first time. Shit, I’ve dealt with worse than this by myself plenty of times, but…” He falters, takes a deep breath as the flashlight beam wavers unsteadily. “I don’t want to.”
They stare at each other, neither so much as blinking and, Jesus Christ, the stark anguish Jared sees for a moment in the other man’s features, there one second, gone the next. It nearly steals his breath away. What would someone have to go through, how much pain would they have to endure, to have it etched into their face like that?
Dean breaks eye contact first, looking down and away as though embarrassed by the brief lapse in his tough-guy persona.
“You mentioned an infestation. What kind of infestation?” Jared asks again, quieter this time, less confrontational. The least he can do is hear Dean out.
Dean’s head comes back up and he directs the flashlight toward the wall he’d been studying when Jared arrived. “See that?” he asks.
Embedded in the brick is something long and thin, like a needle, only much longer. Jared takes a step closer to get a better look, hand outstretched.
“Don’t touch it, unless you want a fun trip to the hospital’s detox center,” Dean warns.
Jared pulls his hand back. “What is it?”
“It’s a quill, hollow on the inside, barbed point on the end. It’s how they infect their victims. The toxins inside get injected as soon as the barb latches on to a target.”
"A quill? Like from a porcupine?" Jared can't wrap his head around what Dean is trying to tell him. Somehow he doesn't think the city has been overrun by thousands of poisonous porcupines. Either Jared has turned into a moron, or Dean is being purposefully cryptic.
A crease forms between Dean's eyebrows, as though Jared's question is a particularly difficult one. "Screw it," he finally says. "You're going to think I'm nuts, but...here goes nothing. It's not a porcupine quill. It's a quill from a harpy, you know, half bird, half woman, except that part isn't true, the woman part. The head and body are really more like a gargoyle." Dean stops babbling and juts his chin out defiantly, as though challenging Jared not to believe him.
"Right. It's a quill from a harpy. Okie dokie then." Jared silently begins assessing the most effective way to subdue a man in tight quarters without hurting him too badly. He doesn't want to hurt Dean, but he doesn't seem the type to submit quietly. If the guy is delusional and possibly armed with a knife, he has to be taken down before he can harm himself or others.
Dean chuckles. "Okie dokie," he says, breaking though Jared's thoughts about how glad he is that his handcuffs are within easy reach inside his coat pocket. "Dude, you're a hard-nosed, beat cop and you just said 'okie dokie'. That's priceless." He full out laughs then, head thrown back, eyes dancing, and it isn't a crazy, maniacal laugh. It's the laughter of someone who can find genuine amusement in a simple, corny saying that Jared had learned from his grandmother. "You're adorable."
Dean's laughter is contagious and Jared can't help the slightly embarrassed smile that finds its way onto his own face, even though he's still concerned about the guy's sanity.
"No, hey, I get it." Dean gives a last snort and nods. "It sounds crazy, right? I won't blame you if you decide I'm a nutcase. Fact is though, taking me in for questioning, or whatever you're planning, isn't going to solve your problem. But if you let me do my job, I can promise you, things will get better around here. And if you help me, we can get rid of the entire nest tonight. In the morning, you can pretend the whole thing was just a strange dream."
The sincerity in Dean's voice almost convinces him. For a moment Jared believes. He likes Dean, not only because he's hot, but also because he's funny, charming, and interesting. The kind of guy who is great to hang with. Jared wants to believe him. Wants to team up with him and fight monsters like some kind of dynamic duo. But all too soon, reality comes crashing back, because Dean is talking about harpies. Harpies. He's talking about fictional creatures as though they truly exist. The fact that Dean obviously believes in this craziness only makes what Jared has to do even more clear. There's no way he's waiting until Dean begins clawing at his skin and screaming about beetles like the poor woman from earlier in the day.
Sometimes Jared hates doing his job. This doesn't feel like a victory.
He reaches for his handcuffs, but his plans for subduing Dean are quickly forgotten when the sounds reach them: a car engine rumbling, a door opening and closing, footsteps coming closer.
Dean flips off his flashlight, flattens his back to the wall, careful to avoid the quill, and motions Jared to follow suit. Standing side by side in the dark, so close their shoulders touch, Dean puts one hand on Jared’s chest in a protective gesture that Jared finds reassuring, if a bit confusing, since he considers himself the protector.
The footsteps stop and a gruff voice calls out, “Dean, are you ready for your treatment?”
At hearing the voice, Jared feels the tension leave Dean’s body. He flicks his flashlight back on, gives Jared’s chest a final pat, and pushes away from the wall, all without saying a word. Apparently Dean knows this guy and isn’t afraid of him. The fact that Dean has stopped talking is unnerving though. Jared isn’t sure if he should announce himself, or follow Dean’s lead and stay quiet. He decides to stay quiet for now.
The man who comes around the corner has long, dark hair, a scar running through one eyebrow, and a barely noticeable com unit in his ear. Although he’s shorter than both Jared and Dean, his build is that of a fighter and he carries himself with a self-assurance and grace only someone who has trained his body as a lethal weapon can pull off. If Jared had to guess, he'd say he's had military training, special ops maybe.
Sparing Jared only a cursory glance, the guy walks straight up to Dean, looks him in the eye, and repeats, "Are you ready for your treatment?"
The effect of those six words is instantaneous and profound. Even by the diffuse flashlight beam Jared sees Dean's entire demeanor change. His expressive eyes go blank, the former vitality extinguished like a candle snuffed out by a brisk wind. His mouth hangs slack, facial muscles lax. Even his posture relaxes until he's leaning against the long-haired, special forces dude who gets an arm around him, holding him upright.
"Yes please, Christian." Dean murmurs.
In a lower register, as though he's talking to a young child or a skittish animal, Christian says, "Okay, that's good. You did good, Jensen."
Jared does a double take at the name change. He has no clue what's going on, but he knows he doesn't like it. Taking a step forward, he puts a hand on Dean's arm. "Dean, do you need help?"
Both men turn their attention on him. Christian's brows draw together in a scowl which Jared ignores. Instead, he watches Dean and waits for a response.
Dean's guileless gaze holds no recognition. He fidgets in place for a few beats before handing Jared the flashlight with a shy smile. "Here, you can have it," he says. Then he turns back to Christian. "I'm tired."
The scowl disappears as Christian answers, "I know you are. Come on, let's get you back to the facility and you can rest."
Dean nods and they begin shuffling toward the entrance to the alley, Christian visibly supporting much of Dean's weight.
Stunned, Jared considers whether he should stop them or let them go.
Christian takes the decision out of his hands. "Well, are you coming or aren't you?" he tosses over his shoulder. "Ms. Huffman wants to talk to you."
On to Chapter 2