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: 3,700 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. :)
The Rossum Corporation and the Dollhouse.
Memory wipes and personality imprints.
Dolls and Actives.
Kripke and a show called Supernatural.
And the most difficult, Dean and...Jensen.
Starting at the beginning, Jared tells Dean everything.
He doesn't want to do it. He'd rather cut out his own tongue and swallow a mouthful of rock salt than shatter Dean's world into thousands of false memories. Telling someone that they don't really exist? Jared can't think of a single thing more abhorrent, more demoralizing, than that.
He does it anyway, even though his stomach is churning with acid and his heart is beating so hard he can barely hear himself over the pounding in his ears.
He does it because Dean deserves to know the truth, even if he only remembers it for the short time until Aldis arrives. At least that's how Jared rationalizes it.
For his part, Dean is a good listener, a practiced listener. He maintains eye contact. He knows when to be silent and just let Jared speak. He knows when to ask questions, questions that get to the heart of the issue. The only signs of his distress are his tightening grip on Jared's hand and the mask his face becomes, hard and emotionless, as though Dean is constructing a wall, brick by stoic brick.
When he's done, the room falls utterly silent, the tension so thick he feels like he needs thigh-high boots to wade through it.
Dean releases his hand, stands up, and turns his back on Jared.
The rejection is like a punch to the gut, sharp, painful, and breath-stealing.
"Dean..." I'm sorry, he wants to say. I didn't mean it, he wants to shout. It was all a lie, he wants to cry. More than anything, he wants to take it all back, snatch the words out of the air and stuff them back down his throat. This hasn't accomplished anything other than to create a chasm between him and Dean where it was all open fields and meadows before. It was stupid of him to unload his problems on the one person who would be affected by them the most, stupid and selfish.
"Show me," Dean says, his voice as hard and emotionless as the expression on his face. "I wanna see it for myself."
Jared is so preoccupied with thoughts of creating a time machine and going back twenty minutes to stop himself from opening his big, fat mouth that Dean's demand doesn't register at first. "Show you what?" he asks around the boulder-sized lump in his throat.
"Show me this place...the Dollhouse."
The temperature in the room seems to drop a frosty fifteen degrees. A shiver goes down Jared's spine because this is a monumentally bad idea, but he knows he's going to do it anyway. Anything Dean asks of him at this point, he's going to do. He glances at his watch. It's the middle of the night. No one will be around to see them except for the security cameras.
"Okay," he nods. "But listen, you'll have to act like one of them, one of the dolls. Just...walk slowly, kind of like you're not truly awake. Keep your expression vacant and if anyone comes up to us, stay calm and don't say anything."
Dean's back stiffens, shoulders hunched almost up to his ears. "Yeah, I get the picture."
The urge to go to Dean and console him in some way is overpowering. Jared tries to imagine what Dean must be feeling right now and he can't do it, can't wrap his mind around what a total mind fuck it must be to hear that nothing he believes in is true. His whole life is a myth. None of it real. Like Neo in the Matrix. The whole situation is impossible and he doesn't know how Dean is still standing, much less processing everything so rationally. He figures if it were him, he'd be a gibbering puddle on the floor right about now. Either that or he wouldn't believe a fucking word of it.
Jared hates himself in that moment, hates what he's done, and even if Dean punches him in the face - which he totally deserves - he won't let that stop him from offering what little comfort he can. He puts his hand on the tense line of Dean's back. When Dean doesn't immediately shrug him off, he begins kneading the bunched muscles between his shoulder blades. "Hey, are you okay? I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you all that. I don't know what I was thinking."
Dean barks out a short, harsh laugh that sounds a lot like a sob.
Jared's heart breaks a little more. What has he done? He needs to fix this. Fix Dean. The solution is an obvious one. He can't do it without Dean's permission though. Not now that Dean knows what's at stake. "Dean, you don't have to do this. There's no reason you need to see the Dollhouse. I can't imagine what you must be going through right now. What I'm putting you through. Enough is enough. If I say the wipe phrase right now, it'll all be over. You won't remember any of it."
Dean rounds on him, eyes blazing like embers, hands fisted as though ready to strike. "Don't you dare, Jared! Don't you dare even think about it." Both his fists come up, grabbing Jared's shirt at the shoulders and shoving him backwards forcefully. "It won't be over. Not for you and certainly not for me. If you wipe me, what happens to me then, huh?"
Jared stumbles to a halt several feet away. He accepts Dean's anger, knows he deserves this and so much more. With an ache that feels like an anvil crushing the air from his lungs, he stands still, presenting as easy a target as possible. Whatever Dean wants to dish out, he'll take. But instead of coming at him again like Jared expects, Dean doubles over, fisting the short hair at his temples, clutching at his head as though it'll explode if he lets go. Pain is etched into every line of his body.
Jared is at his side in an instant, pulling him upright and wrapping strong arms around him. "Dean? What is it? What's wrong?"
Worry makes him rougher than he intends to be and he accidentally knocks against the swollen lump on Dean's head. Dean groans and tries to pull away.
"Shit! Sorry, hold still and let me see." Keeping him close with one arm curled around his shoulders, Jared carefully parts the hair around the welt so he can get a better look.
The contusion is a raw, blood-red color, the skin inflamed, scraped off in places. It's gotta hurt like a sonovabitch, but Dean hasn't once mentioned it.
Jared hisses in sympathy. "Is it bothering you? We can get you something for the pain."
A shrug and a shuddering exhale are all the answer he gets.
Something is up with Dean, something crucial, and Jared can't let it go, even though he knows how much Dean hates admitting weakness. He presses his lips to Dean's forehead. "Talk to me. Please."
Wounded eyes look at him, full of wretched acceptance. "I don't know why you decided to tell me, Jared, but I know you're telling the truth. All of it. The moment you told me about him, it all fell into place. It explains so much - the strange thoughts that seem to come from out of nowhere, the flashes of memory that don't belong to me, the, the..." He winces and shudders through a series of harsh coughs. "The feelings that I'm out of place, out of synch, that I'm doing things I don't mean to do, saying things I don't want to say. Because I'm not me, I'm him. Jensen. I can feel him in here." Dean presses a hand over his heart. "And in here." He points to his head.
The moment seems suspended on a knife's edge, like one reckless word from Jared and Dean's fragile grip on reality will shatter. Breath coming in shallow, rapid bursts, Dean is visibly fighting for some type of control. Jared matches his breathing to Dean's and then slowly moderates it, willing Dean to do the same. It works and, after a couple of minutes, Dean takes a deep breath, scrubbing a hand over his face. When he pulls away, Jared pretends it doesn't sting as much as it does.
"I can't think about that right now." Dean says, his voice a throaty rumble. "I can't think about him or...I'll lose it. The only thing I know to do is to treat this like any other case. So that's what I'm gonna do." He scrubs a hand over his face and takes a deep breath. When he continues, it's with a determined set to his jaw. "You said there were a lot of people being kept here, used, probably against their will. We need to save them, get them their lives and memories back. You wouldn't have confessed unless you felt the same way. So, are you with me?"
'Confessed' makes it sound as if he's played a part in stealing these people's memories and forcing them into slavery. Jared supposes that, from Dean's perspective, it probably looks that way. The first thing he needs to do is set the record straight on that account.
"I'm with you. I've always been with you, I mean..." Jared trails off and tries again. "I only accepted the job here so I could find a way to save you...and them," he adds, almost as an afterthought.
Dean cocks an eyebrow. "And what have you come up with so far? How is your plan progressing?"
What plan? Jared thinks. "Aldis is the key," he says. "Aldis is the guy who designed the technology that runs this place. From what I can tell, he's the only one who knows how the imprinting equipment works. I've been trying to reason with him. If we can get his cooperation, we have a shot at giving the Actives their memories and lives back."
Tongue poking into his cheek, Dean nods thoughtfully. "Okay, how many Actives are we talking about? Ten? Twenty? And what's the layout of this place? Can you draw me a map? What's the security situation?"
His questions are purposeful, insightful. This is Dean focused on a hunt, Jared realizes. Dean the strategist, all business, his leadership skills coming out front and center, everything else compartmentalized into neat little boxes, stored away to be dealt with later, or not at all. Jared had hoped for an ally and now he's got one, probably the most capable ally he could have wished for.
Scrambling to change gears and catch up with Dean who seems to be miles ahead of him already, Jared says, "I'm not sure how many. I haven't been here long." He winces at how inept he must appear. "Do you still want to see the Dollhouse? Get a feel for the layout? There probably won't be anyone awake at this hour except Aldis and maybe Traci. There are security cameras in every room except this one. I've never seen any guards, but I think the handlers kind of double as security when needed."
"It's night? It's hard to tell without any windows." Dean gestures at the windowless walls. He bobs his head once as though in agreement. "That's good. Fewer people around is gonna make this a lot easier. We probably don't need a map. You can just show me where to find that Aldis guy. I'd like to have a little chat with him, explain the situation, make sure he understands what's at stake." Dean's posture is relaxed and his tone playful, but there's a dangerous glint in his eyes.
They're both heading for the door before Jared clues in that Dean means for this rescue mission to go down now. He's done planning and has moved on to the action part.
Jared stops. "Wait, remember what I told you about acting like you've been wiped? That you're a doll?"
A grimace settles on Dean's face and he drawls a displeased sounding, "Yeah."
"Well... I just think it'll buy us a little time if anyone is watching the security cameras."
Dean's jaw clenches. "Fine." Then his facial muscles go slack and his eyes go blank. It's a remarkable impersonation, so realistic that the bottom falls out of Jared's stomach.
The door opening catches him completely off guard, but Dean doesn't break character, just stands compliantly at Jared's side as if waiting for instruction.
Aldis steps in first, followed by Christian whose dark hair has been pulled back behind his head in a utilitarian ponytail. A red bandana is tied around his forehead. If anything, the new look gives him an even edgier appearance.
One glance at Dean's vacant expression and Aldis says, "You had to wipe him? Sorry 'bout that, dude. I got caught up in an emergency wipe situation. Gil was supposed to be out on an all-nighter with Ms. Smith, if you know what I mean, but her husband came home from his business trip early." He flashes his white teeth in a grin. "I finished up with him and got back here as quickly as I could. Did Dean cause you any trouble? The hallucinogen wore off quite a while ago, his vitals are all back within acceptable ranges, and Dean can be a handful when he's firing on all cylinders." Aldis chuckles at his own joke.
Dean's eyes narrow and Jared can see what's coming, can see Dean snap, yet there's nothing he can do to stop the inevitable fall-out. In less than a second, Dean has Aldis in a headlock, strong bicep snug against the dark-skinned man's throat.
"You," Dean says, voice a menacing growl. "You're the one. The tech guy. You did this to me. It's your fault I remember a father who never existed. It's because of you I love my brother so damn much that I'd die for him, go to hell for him, and all he sees when he looks at me is some programmed, animatronic robot. Fuck! He's not even my brother." The last word cracks in the middle like metal under too much stress. "You play with people and you think it's funny? You're one sick son of a bitch!"
Aldis claws at the arm cutting off his oxygen, his eyes rolling in their sockets. His sneakers scuff the linoleum as he tries to find some leverage. They make a dull thunking noise.
Despite the satisfaction he gets from watching Aldis reap some of his just deserts, Jared knows the satisfaction isn't worth losing all hope of gaining the tech guy's cooperation. He's about to step in when Christian says, "Dean! Calm down, this isn't helping."
Dean does a double take, forehead creased. "Do I know you? I feel like I should know you."
"Yeah, you know him. Well, Jensen knows him." Jared explains. "And he's right, attacking Aldis won't help."
Upper lip curled in disgust, Dean shoves Aldis so hard he backpedals until his feet get tangled up and he hits the floor. Then Dean spins around, striding angrily to the opposite side of the room where he begins purposefully rooting around in the cabinets and drawers near the sink as though he expects to find something useful. Jared just thinks he needs something to take his mind off where all this is heading.
"You told him the truth about who he is," Christian says softly as he watches Dean search beneath the sink. "I can't believe you did that. Jesus Christ, this is fucked."
Jared sighs. "Yeah, I know."
From his ungainly sprawl on the floor, Aldis glares up at them, rubbing his neck. "Nice manners your boy has."
"He's your boy as much as he's anyone's." Christian points out, offering Aldis a hand up. "You created his personality. Although that doesn't make his feelings any less real. His emotions are as genuine as yours or mine. He has every right to be angry, don't you think?"
A full-blown pout appears on Aldis's face. "I guess. Doesn't mean he has to go all caveman with the brute force and the choking and the pushing and what not."
Christian rolls his eyes and blows out a heavy breath. Pointedly ignoring Aldis, he says, "So Jared, are we doing this thing now or what? 'Cause I've got Clif standing by with the van running in the garage just in case. Are we only getting Jensen out? Or everybody?"
The confirmation of Christian's help is a huge relief. And Jared had never even dreamed that Clif would factor into the plan. He grins and claps Christian on the back. "Yes, we're doing this now. We're getting them all out, or at least giving them their original personalities long enough for them to make an educated choice about whether they want to be here or not. Maybe the payout at the end of the contract is worth it for some of them." He shrugs. "I was hoping I could count on you, but I wasn't sure. You're a hard man to get a good read on, Kane."
Scoffing, Christian says, "Yeah well, too bad we can't say the same for you, Padalecki. You're like an open book. I could read your intentions loud and clear, the way you've been fawning all over him."
Jared's mouth falls open. "Fawning? I haven't been fawning."
"You keep right on telling yourself that, son."
Aldis puts his hands on his hips, frowning. "Wait, what? What are you two talking about?"
Christian fixes Aldis with a steely gaze. "We're talking about making a choice. I've been telling myself I'm only doing what I have to do, that I don't have a choice. But everyday it gets harder and harder for me to look at myself in the mirror. And I can't do it anymore." He pauses, shoves his hands in his pockets and hunches his shoulders. "I was wrong when I told myself I didn't have a choice. We all have choices to make - about how we're gonna live our lives and what we're willing to do. I've made my choice. It's time you made yours."
Mouth opening and closing like a fish flopping around on the shore, Aldis stares at Christian. "And this choice of yours entails what? Going up against Rossum? Freeing the Actives? Like a massive prison break?" He gapes. "But...but...you'd need the originally stored personality tape for every Active. They would each need to be re-programmed, their memories restored. And not only that but, if they want any real hope of escaping the Dollhouse, the monitoring implants will need to be de-activated."
The look Christian gives him is that of a proud parent watching his kindergardener tie his shoes for the first time. "Now you're getting the picture."
"Yeah but, how are we going to do all that without Alaina finding out?" Aldis asks.
"We." Christian slaps Aldis on the back. "You just said we. Does that mean you're in?"
Aldis hangs his head. "Shit, dude. If you can't look at yourself in the mirror, how can I? Your friend is right." He juts his chin in Jared's direction. "This is mostly on me. I designed the tech. I have to take responsibility for how it's used. It sucks though. I'm gonna miss the hell outta this place. Where else can someone like me go and have access to all this?" He spreads his arms wide.
Christian grins, "Attaboy! I'm sure you'll find somewhere to get your geek on."
"So, we're giving everyone their original personalities back." Aldis nods sagely. "Even him?"
Christian's smile fades as his gaze travels the length of the room and lands on Dean.
Back turned, oblivious to the attention of the other three, Dean continues his search. Casters rumble as drawers are opened and closed. Hinges squeak as cabinets are rifled. Jared wonders if Dean is taking comfort from the routine nature of whatever task he's set for himself.
"You think he's gonna be okay with this?" Christian turns to Jared, keeping his voice low so as not to be overheard.
Okay is a relative term and not one that can be used to describe this situation in any way, shape, or form. With as volatile as Dean has been, it's doubtful he's going to be okay. Depending on how things go down, Jared may not be okay either.
"I wish I knew." Jared shakes his head wistfully. "He told me he can sense Jensen inside him. Could be the bashing his head took when he was under the influence of the hallucinogen. Or not. I can't be sure. He says he wants to save the people here, get them their memories back, but I don't think he's allowed himself to take that to its logical conclusion. In any case, he's handling this a lot better than I would if I were in his position."
Christian's lips thin. He looks down for a moment and, when he meets Jared's eyes again, he's wearing an uncertain expression. "Listen Jared, there's something I think you ought to know about Dean...and Jensen. Not sure its my place to tell you, but..."
A drawer bangs closed and Dean bounds over, grinning ear-to-ear, a roll of duct tape held aloft like a trophy, effectively halting their conversation. "Look what I found!"
"What's that for?" Christian asks.
Dean's expression turns wolfish. "Duct tape has one hundred and one uses, my friend. For one thing, I figure we can use it to tie up anyone who stands in our way." Pointing the roll at Jared, he says, "You, I trust." Next at Christian. "You, I trust." He cocks one eyebrow at Aldis. "You, not so much."
"Hey!" Aldis says indignantly. "It's not me you need to worry about. It's Alaina. She can be damned tricky."
"It's okay. Aldis has agreed to help us," Jared explains.
"Good to hear."
In spite of Dean's nod and seemingly easy acceptance, Jared notices the roll of duct tape get secreted inside his jacket pocket. Dean doesn't trust easily.
On to Chapter 7
Start at Chapter 1