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.
Warnings: Show level violence
Word Count: 5,000 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, , 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. :)
What in the ever-loving-fuck had he been thinking?
Jared paces a tight circle in his apartment's living room, intermittently shoving a hand through his hair in agitation and pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, eyes squeezed shut.
Everything had happened so quickly back at the facility - the Dollhouse - last night, and now, in the clear light of day, he can't believe any of it actually happened, can't believe he let himself get drawn into all that craziness.
He's normally such a down-to-earth kind of guy, normally very practical. The most spontaneous thing he'd ever done, prior to last night, was to buy a pair of skinny jeans based on his friend, Genevieve's, assurance that they would make his ass look amazing. He has regretted that decision ever since. He grimaces as he tugs at the snug denim at his crotch, trying to get a little airflow.
And yet somehow, in the space of only a few short hours, he has given up his job as one of Vancouver's finest to accept a position with an organization that, well, to say it was shady would be vastly understating the truth of the matter. And he still hasn't been given a clear picture of what exactly he's supposed to be doing for them. The more he thinks about it, the more he questions his own sanity.
All that talk about memory wipes and personality imprinting seems surreal; his ideas of taking the organization down from the inside, childish. Rossum isn't going anywhere. The corporation has more lawyers than the ocean has fish, more money than a small nation. Jared is positive that any attempt he might make to expose the Dollhouse will only be a minor inconvenience to them. The most it might do is to cause them to duck and cover, move to a new location, and hadn't Christian said something about the Vancouver operation being only one of many?
As much as he likes fantasizing about swooping in and saving the day, Jared is no knight in shining armor. He can't save all those people. Maybe they don't even want or need saving.
But then an image comes to him - vibrant green eyes, laugh lines crinkling at the corners. Those same eyes, dull and blank and emotionless. Finally, he remembers the way they had looked at him as though he was everyone, and everything, in the entire world, trusting him to make everything all right.
He shakes his head at himself while wondering where he's going to stable his white steed and whether the local Walmart sells high quality plate mail. Yeah, knight in shining armor it is then. He can't abandon Jensen to that place, can't betray his trust.
The ringtone from his phone - I'm Too Sexy because Chad managed to get ahold of it the last time they went out drinking together and Jared is too lazy to change it - brings Jared out of the maelstrom of his thoughts. He grabs it off the counter, knowing who it will be before even looking at the display.
"Hey man, Jensen is awake and he's asking for you." Christian's voice sounds troubled and Jared wonders how often the actives request the presence of their handlers. Not often would be his guess.
Looking at his watch, he sees that it's 10:05am, barely four hours since he left Rossum by cab in the weak light of early morning. "He didn't sleep long," he notes.
"He never does, even with the moderate sedation gas they dose all the actives with in their sleeping pods." Christian says, a frown audible in his tone. "How quickly can you get back here?"
Jared makes a few calculations in his head, the time it will take to shower, a stop at Starbucks for his morning fix on the way, and comes up with an answer. "About an hour. That okay?"
A sigh comes over the line, but all Christian says is, "Yeah, see you when you get here," before he disconnects the call.
Thankful for the modified sleep cycle he's adopted to accommodate night shifts at the precinct and for the sleep he'd gotten prior to going out on that fateful stake-out last night, Jared scrubs a hand down his face as he heads toward the bathroom. It might be a while before he gets another opportunity to rest.
Christian is waiting for him, shoulder against the white wall, legs crossed at the ankle, arms crossed over his chest, when Jared steps off the elevator. There's probably surveillance equipment covering the entire building, including the parking structure. Not surprising.
"So, what's going on?" Jared asks as soon as he sees the other man.
"Bad dream near as I can figure," Christian says by way of an answer. "He woke up, shivering and sweating, then he started calling for you. Huffman is on a tear. Jensen is one of her most popular actives, he's valuable property, and now it looks like he's glitching." Spitting the last words and making a face like he smells something rotten, Christian pushes open the double doors that lead into the Dollhouse's lower level.
Jared frowns at Christian's use of the word property to describe another human being. He wants to ask Christian about whether he's truly okay with what's happening here, but for right now, there are more important questions to ask. "Why all the fuss over a bad dream? Everybody has them every once in a while."
"Not the dolls. They don't have memories of anything that would make them upset or scared." Christian leads him past the raised dais and through a common area with small tables where Actives sit in groups of twos or threes, quietly talking or eating. "The environment at the dollhouse is purposefully kept calm and pleasant. There's nothing in their experience here that would lead them to have bad dreams and they don't remember anything else."
Jared nods. "Makes sense. So that means if Jensen is having bad dreams, he must have memories from his previous life."
With a shrug, Christian arches one eyebrow. "Maybe, but I don't think so."
"I think he remembers his engagements. Not all of them, at least I hope to God he doesn't remember everything." Christian's jaw clenches, the muscles there bunching briefly. "But even if he only retains a small portion, it would be enough to give anyone nightmares, much less a doll."
The term 'doll' bothers Jared. It sounds so demeaning, so belittling. Just another way of treating these people like property, or playthings. "Where did that name come from? Dolls?" he asks.
Three young woman, all attractive with lithe, athletic bodies, walk past and Christian moves out of their way, a small, neutral smile on his face. He waits for them to walk on by before he answers.
"Dolls are fragile and their heads are empty, thus the slang term for Actives in between engagements after their memories have been wiped. In their doll state, they can't process any stress whatsoever, they have no defense mechanisms, no barriers. All the normal mental walls that adults develop to help them cope with life are stripped away during the memory wipes, leaving them vulnerable, easily broken." Christian uses both hands to mime breaking a stick or a pencil. "Have you noticed how none of the staff talk loudly around here? That's why. The dolls wouldn't know how to handle voices raised in anger. It would frighten them and when they're frightened, they act erratically."
They round a corner and come to a glass door, the words Medical Clinic, Doctor Dinwiddie etched on the front. Christian shoulders his way through the door and there's Jensen, sitting on the examination table in a pair of loose fitting track pants and a tee shirt, bare feet dangling off the side.
He looks up and smiles at them, but the smile is so tremulous it looks as though it could dissolve at any moment. "Jared, you came. Christian found you." He slips gracefully off the table, holding his hands out for Jared's inspection. "I have cuts on my knuckles."
The knuckles on both his hands are swollen and bruised, shallow cuts scoring hash marks across them, smeared with blood.
Jared gently takes Jensen's hands in his own, careful not to jostle any possibly broken fingers. "You certainly do. How did this happen? Is anything broken?"
The sound of a throat being cleared makes Jared look to his left where a dark-haired woman in a lab coat and designer glasses stands, a cotton swab in one hand and a bottle of antiseptic in the other. "No, nothing is broken, not even the lid to his sleeping pod. Those things are made to endure a great deal of force." She looks Jared up and down, letting her gaze linger suggestively on his chest and his ass, lips turned up in a playful smirk, before turning back to her patient. "Back up on the table, Jensen."
Jensen complies and the woman, who Jared assumes is Doctor Dinwiddie as there's no one else in the clinic, begins liberally applying antiseptic to Jensen's knuckles.
Jared's blush at being eyed like a hunk of fresh meat subsides, replaced by dawning outrage. "Wait a minute. There's a lid? Are you saying Jensen is caged while he sleeps?"
"All the actives are," Dinwiddie says without looking up from her work. "It's for their own safety. They like the pods."
Christian makes an annoyed huffing sound. "Yeah, that's why Jensen busted up his knuckles trying to get out, because he likes being trapped in there." Even in his anger, Christian keeps his tone lightly sarcastic. "What Traci means is that the actives are restrained while they sleep so they can't wander around at night when there are fewer staff on hand to control them."
Traci gives Christian a pointed look and then glances up at a small camera mounted on the ceiling.
Christian, jaw muscle bouncing, just shrugs and turns his back on her. Jared wonders why the other man hadn't mentioned the part about Jensen injuring himself earlier and supposes that it might be embarrassment. After all, Jensen was under Christian's watch when he got injured. Still, something doesn't add up. There are many things Jared doesn't know about Christian. Chief among them, why he works here when he seems to have just as big a problem with what Rossum is doing as Jared does.
Once Traci is finished with Jensen, she hands him a lollipop. He lowers his head, looks up through a fringe of long lashes, and gives her one of his shy smiles. Then, clutching the lollipop in one hand, he hops off the table, coming to stand directly in front of Jared as though he has something he wants to say.
Jared is stunned motionless by the stark adoration on Jensen's face.
The four inch difference in their heights means that Jensen's head is tilted up slightly when he leans in, pressing his lips to Jared's in a chaste kiss.
Jared's pulse speeds up and his heart skips a beat. Jensen's lips are soft and moist, his breath warm where it fans Jared's face, and Jared feels as though he's falling down the white rabbit's hole. All too soon, Jensen steps back, expression serene, untroubled. Jared misses the contact immediately.
"What was that for?" he whispers.
"I like you," Jensen replies.
Jared looks around to see Christian and Traci, both watching with eyebrows raised and mouths open. It would be comical if Jared didn't think he was wearing the same expression.
Traci recovers first. "The less Huffman knows about that, the better." She shoos them all toward the clinic door. "Jensen has an engagement tonight, right? You should all go get as much sleep as possible before then. It could be a long night."
Jared doesn't doubt that for a minute.
Christian takes them to a circular room with five unused sleeping pods built into the floor, shaped like the spokes of a bicycle wheel radiating out from a central point. The rectangular holes, each only just large enough to comfortably fit one person at a time, each contain a thin mattress and a pillow. They resemble coffins more than anything else, especially once Jared sees the mechanized lid that seals them shut. He categorically refuses to make Jensen sleep in one of those things.
"No." He shakes his head. "No way, Christian. There has to be somewhere else he can sleep."
Jensen stands passively in between his two handlers, studying his swollen knuckles, avoiding eye contact.
Christian watches him for a moment and then says, "Alaina won't like it, but yeah, I get you. I don't want to make him get back in there either." He rolls his shoulders as he thinks, moves his head from side to side like he's loosening up and getting ready for a boxing match. "Okay, we'll go to the staff rest area. There's a bed in there, a regular one, and a couch, a couple of recliners. It's supposed to be staff only, used mostly by the handlers who don't have time to go home and sleep in between their Active's engagements. No one uses it much except me."
The reasons why Christian, out of all the handlers, is the only one too busy to leave the Dollhouse go unspoken.
"One other good thing about this room," Christian says once he's lead them through a service corridor at the back of the Dollhouse and through a door marked 'Authorized Personnel Only', "is that it's the only room on this level without any video cameras." The click of the door closing behind them seems to punctuate his statement.
The staff area looks much like any other staff area Jared has seen. Along with the bed, couch and recliners, there's also a TV and a couple of tables. The room even has a sink. The only thing missing is a refrigerator, but that's probably because the staff eat their meals in the cafeteria same as the Actives.
They get Jensen settled on the bed first thing and Jared resists the urge to tuck him in like a child. Christian commandeers a recliner, shaking his long, dark hair off his face and closing his eyes without further ado. Of the remaining furniture, only the couch appears long enough to accommodate him. Jared stretches out on the wide, leather cushions with little hope that sleep will come. He's too keyed up, has too many things to think about.
Jensen is restless, tossing from side to side in the single bed as though he can't find a comfortable position. Jared watches him, the memory of that kiss, the feel of those plush lips against his, replaying on a loop in his mind. If only circumstances were different. It's to thoughts of much more than sweet, chaste kisses that Jared finally falls asleep.
The sensation of a warm weight pressed against him from shoulder to ankle wakes him. Blinking open scratchy eyes, Jared looks over and finds Jensen snuggled up against him, head tucked under Jared's chin, one arm flung over Jared's waist. The couch is just barely big enough to accommodate them both. There's no room to spare, even with Jensen lying half on top of him.
Jensen's body feels good pressed into his, well-toned and muscular, and Jared feels his cock respond, thickening in his jeans. He quickly tamps down his arousal because Jensen doesn't mean it in that way. He's asleep and has no idea what effect he's having, probably wouldn't understand even if he was awake.
"Cute," Christian says around a yawn.
Cute isn't exactly the word that comes to Jared's mind. He snorts softly while extricating himself from the beautiful man's loose hold. "What time is it?"
"Time to get going. The cafeteria will be serving dinner now. We can eat and then Jensen will need a personality imprint from Aldis before we take him to his engagement. We'll both go this time so I can show you the ropes. After tonight, we'll switch. One night on and one night off. That way we can each get a break."
"What about Jensen? When does he get a break?"
Christian shakes his head. "Now you're getting the picture."
"Hey big guy, you're looking more well rested than I've seen you in...well...years," Aldis says, as he straps Jensen into the personality imprinting and memory wiping chair.
Jared hates that chair. He also hates Aldis for creating the tech that makes the imprinting and memory wipes possible. But if he's going to save Jensen from this nightmarish place, he's going to need to know more about this process and, for that, he may need Aldis' help. So he keeps his mouth closed and carefully watches everything that the geeky genius does.
I'm not sure what your clients are going to think about you being quite this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," Aldis continues, unaware of Jared's scheming. "Seems like the more worn-out you are, the more they like it. I guess they think it gives your character an edgier feel."
"I have clients?" Jensen asks, bewildered.
"You bet. You're one popular dude." The tech guy grins, obviously aware he's only confusing Jensen further.
Scowling at Aldis, Christian puts a calming hand on Jensen's arm where it's already buckled to the chair. "Don't worry about it. Aldis just likes the sound of his own voice. He don't mean nothing."
This is the second time someone has made reference to clients who like Jensen in a state of exhaustion. Jared remembers a similar comment from Alaina last night. He needs to find out more about these people before he turns Jensen over to them.
"Right, so I've been meaning to ask...what will we be doing tonight?" And more to the point. "What will Jensen be doing?"
"Jensen won't be doing anything. Dean on the other hand..." Aldis holds up a finger in a give-me-a-second gesture and Jared watches intently as he turns, carefully selects a tape from the rows of shelves, and inserts it into a slot in the chair behind Jensen's head.
The chair hums to life, vibrating softly. The metal plates around Jensen's head glow that same neon blue. Jared braces himself for the convulsions and wild scrabbling, signs that Jensen is suffering.
Christian must notice Jared's tense posture because he murmurs, "The imprints aren't as rough as the wipes."
Sure enough, Jensen's eyelids flutter closed as though he has just fallen asleep, long sweep of lashes descending like a veil.
Aldis checks a monitor, nods in apparent satisfaction and then looks back at Jared. "As I was saying, when our boy leaves here, he'll be primed and ready to face the world as Dean, supernatural hunter extraordinaire." He shrugs self-deprecatingly. "With a few special modifications based on the client's specifications, made possible by yours truly."
One hand up to halt the jumble of meaningless words, Jared asks, "Primed as a supernatural what?" What does that even mean? What is this client paying for him to DO?"
Aldis' mouth opens, but Christian cuts him off with a sharp, "Shut it, geek. You aren't helping."
Aldis does, a hurt look on his face.
"The client is Warner Brothers, the network," Christian supplies. "They have a show, a TV show called Supernatural."
Jared racks his brain for any information regarding a show by that name and comes up blank. "Never heard of it."
"Not many people have." Christian scrunches his nose. It has a small, but enthusiastic, fan base, almost like a cult following."
"Okay, so what does that have to do with Jensen, or the Dollhouse?"
"I'm getting to that part. The show is experimental. There aren't any other shows like it in production. It's in that, that, what do you call it?" Christian snaps his fingers a few times. "That...found footage format, except the cameras are all hidden instead of hand held. The actors wear miniature cameras on their clothing, that kind of thing."
"It's all very advanced stuff, like way cool." Aldis cuts in, head bouncing up and down like an eager puppy watching a treat. "I even worked on some extracurricular projects for them. High powered air compressors and field generators that can be activated remotely. Great for creating atmospheric conditions."
Jared remembers how his ears had popped in the alley.
"Realism is the name of the game. The show's creators want it all to look and feel completely real and in order to get the full experience, they're willing to pay top dollar for Dean, a real, live supernatural hunter. Not a man who pretends to hunt supernatural creatures, not an actor playing a part, but a man who truly believes he hunts supernatural creatures, with all the blood and gore that goes along with it."
"Oh, it's much more complicated than that," Aldis chimes in. "The personality I developed for this character has twenty-six years worth of memories as Dean Winchester, from the time he was four years old and carried his baby brother, Adam, from a burning house, to three months ago, when an angel rescued him from an eternity of burning in hell."
Horror suffuses him like blood rushing to the surface of a bruise. Jared presses the back of his hand to his mouth as he stares at Aldis. "Hell?" he says, feeling sick. "You gave him memories of being in a literal hell? Like with pain and torture and fire? That kind of hell?"
Aldis nods happily, "Heck yeah. It wasn't easy, but the memories of hell I programmed into Dean's personality - the giant, meat hooks gouging holes in his flesh, the hellhounds devouring his intestines - they'd give anyone nightmares. In fact, when Dean sleeps, he gets some whoppers. They film him moaning and flailing in his sleep all the time. When he wakes up though, he pretends he's fine, has it all under control, 'cause he doesn't want to worry his kid brother. Dean is a total badass, he's all like 'Hell? Sure, I was in hell. What of it?' Nobody represses his shit like my Dean." Aldis' eyes are actually shining with a fanatical pride and Jared wants to punch him in his smug, clueless face.
Throat tight and voice sounding as strangled as though it were coming out of a thin, rusty pipe, Jared says, "Jensen has been having bad dreams."
Aldis' eyes widen. "What? No, that can't be." His gaze slips from Jared, to Christian, then to Jensen, where he's still in the chair, receiving the download of Dean's memories. "No, I wipe him after every engagement. Dolls don't have bad dreams. They don't remember." He takes a step back and his voice begins to quaver. "They don't..."
Jared swallows the bile in his throat, swallows a second time, and a third. This is worse than he'd thought, much worse. He's never seen that television show, but he can imagine what it must be like and these people, they've been forcing Jensen to live it as though it was really happening to him. They've been torturing him for years, purposefully giving him memories of a life full of monsters and horror, traumatizing him to the point of experiencing PTSD, and then convincing themselves that it doesn't count because they wipe his memory every day.
"Maybe most dolls don't, but Jensen does." Christian's eyes are like shards of ice, sharp and cold. "He remembered Jared after you wiped him. You saw it yourself."
Aldis shuffles backwards another step, looks at the shelves full of memory tapes as though he's never seen them before.
It hits Jared then that Aldis isn't necessarily a cruel man, he's not evil. It's just that, as smart as he obviously is, he has never thought this all the way through. He's like those scientists in the movie Jurassic Park who discover they can create dinosaurs, he's so caught up in the cool technology and the fact that he can do this that he hasn't stopped to think if he should.
If Jared can make him see how wrong this is, maybe he can talk him into helping put a stop to it. His knowledge of the wiping and imprinting process is essential to any plan that includes getting the Actives their original memories back because Jared has no idea how any of the equipment in this room works. So, step one - keep Aldis talking in the hopes that he'll realize on his own how much harm he's doing, without Jared having to force it down his throat. Cooperation is key.
"How many times has Jensen been imprinted with this Dean personality?" Jared asks.
Aldis scratches his nose. "The show recently started its fourth season, so that means...roughly five hundred times, excluding weekends and hiatus."
"Have any of the other actives been imprinted with the same personality that many times?"
"Not even close. Some of them have repeat engagements, but it's no more than once a month and they rarely continue longer than a year. There's only one exception to that rule. We have what I like to call a full-time Active. She keeps the same personality 24/7, never gets wiped."
"I see where you're going with this, Jared," Christian cuts in. "The sheer number of times Jensen has been imprinted with Dean's personality may be causing a malfunction with the wipes."
"Right," Jared nods. "Kind of like character bleed, to use an acting analogy."
"Is that possible?" Christian addresses Aldis.
"Possible? Yeah, of course it's possible. Anything's possible." Aldis drums his fingers on top of the nearest monitor, eyes going unfocused and distant. "I've never really thought about it before, never had any reason to, you know. But in the absence of his own personality, Jensen's brain may be latching on to the imprint to fill the void. I'll need more-"
The imprinting chair powers down, blue lights fading as the download completes, and Aldis stops talking mid-sentence. Three pairs of eyes turn toward Jensen.
Aldis unbuckles the restraints at Jensen's wrists and ankles.
At Aldis's tap on his shoulder, Jensen takes a deep breath, blinking rapidly. "Am I ready?"
"Yes, you are ready. Go with Jared and Christian. They'll take you." Aldis delivers his lines with his hands behind his back and a slightly widened stance.
Jared wants to protest, but before he can say anything, the door opens. Alaina stands there, hands on her hips, red hair hanging in loose ringlets down past her shoulders, the picture of indignation.
"What are you still doing here? Jensen is supposed to be on set in twenty-five minutes."
No one moves.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Get going!" she shouts.
Jensen cringes and Christian steps forward, interposing himself between them. "We were just on our way. Keep your voice down unless you want damaged property," he snarls under his breath.
Jared puts a hand on Jensen's shoulder and feels the other man press into him. As much as he hates doing this, it looks like he's going to have to go along with it for a little while longer. "Come on, Jensen," he says, steering his charge past an irate Alaina and through the door.
Christian comes up alongside them as they walk down the hallway leading toward the garage, his expression stormy. "I sure hope you have a plan 'cause I'm over this shit."
Before Jared can respond, another handler and his charge, a beautiful woman dressed in a lacy black teddy and fishnet stockings, come through the door, effectively ending their conversation.
It's not a challenge figuring out what type of engagement the woman had been on. Her vacant expression makes the knowledge all the more disconcerting. Jared stuffs his hands in his pockets and looks away. It's all he can do not to grab her and Jensen and make a run for it. Only the knowledge that they wouldn't get very far stops him.
On to Chapter 4
Start at Chapter 1