Word Count: 3750ish
Rating: PG. One swearword.
Summary: Days of Dean's Life - episode III. There's a Dark Angel marathon on TV. Sam wants proof it's a shapeshifter.
Disclaimer: Supernatural is not mine.
Sam was looking at Dean. Dean could feel his eyes on the side of his face, shrewd and calculating. He could practically hear his brother’s mind whirring. He kept his own eyes studiously on the bright screen of the unusually new television in the Hollywood-themed motel room. Scooting backwards on his bed until his back was to the wall, he struck a relaxed and casual pose and ignored Sam completely.
“So you’re still going with a shapeshifter, huh?” Sam just would not give up.
“Yes, Sam, I’m still going with a shapeshifter. Because it is a shapeshifter.” Dean shuffled across his bed to dig his liquorice out of his duffle. If he was going to have this conversation again, he needed provisions. “Why are you so sure it’s me, anyway?”
“Are you watching the same thing as me, Dean? You’re pretty much playing yourself. You don’t even have to act.”
Dean smiled widely at his brother through a mouthful of liquorice. “Well, gee, Sammy. I know you worship me, and I hate to disappoint you, so I’ll break it to you gently. I’m not a genetically engineered super-assassin who was made in a lab.”
Sam scrunched his face up and gestured wildly at the TV with a giant hand, almost taking out the glass of water on his night-table. “Not that bit. His personality. He’s got all your mannerisms. Look at that!”
On screen, the genetically engineered super-soldier who looked like Dean was taking back a necklace from the enormous dog-man.
“What are you talking about? He’s nothing like me at all! I don’t do that with my face.”
“You keep telling yourself that, Dean.”
The super-soldier’s face flickered from poorly concealed anger and sorrow to a bright, shiny grin. “I’m always alright,” he assured his friends.
Dean put aside his liquorice and concentrated on searching his bag for the snickers bar he knew was in there somewhere. “Dude, if I’d nailed Jessica Alba, do you really think I’d be hiding it?”
Sam’s attention was distracted from the show for a moment. “Who said anything about nailing Jessica Alba?”
“Exactly.” Dean paused in his search, turning to look at his brother. “I know you, little brother. The second you saw this, you were on the net, researching. Did you find anything suggesting that Jessica Alba and this guy were together?”
Sam’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. “Ah, no, but – “
Dean interrupted him. “There are no rumours that this guy slept with Jessica Alba. Therefore, this guy either did not sleep with Jessica Alba, or hid it really well. Therefore, this guy is not me.”
Sam gaped incredulously at him. “So your proof it’s a shapeshifter is that you didn’t nail Jessica Alba?”
“Yes.” Dean returned to his search for the elusive chocolate bar.
“Your logic astounds me.” Sam returned his gaze to the television.
The giant dog-man was showing a slapdash painting to Jessica Alba, telling her that Alec-the-transgenic-super-soldier was all bright, pretty colours on the outside, but dark and confused on the inside. For a moment, Dean dared to hope that his brother had given up for the time being.
Sam hadn’t. “Okay, for one thing, Jessica Alba is way out of your league. Of course you wouldn’t tell anyone if she shot you down.”
Dean opened his mouth to retort that no-one shot him down (an outright lie, but sometimes the best defence is a blatant untruth), but Sam wasn’t finished. “Secondly,” Sam continued, “This Jensen Ackles came out of nowhere and disappeared immediately before you came to find me at Stanford. Thirdly, it can’t be a shapeshifter because there’s no camera flare in his eyes, and fourthly, this is exactly the kind of show you would be on. And he’s not even pretending not to be you!”
Dean scowled. “He’s not like me! Look at him! He’s brooding in a bar! When have I ever done that?”
Onscreen, Alec was sitting at the bar, sipping whisky, and saying, “Well, I appreciate the offer Max, I really do. But you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Then explain it to me,” Jessica Alba insisted.
The shapeshifter’s face twisted into a wry smirk. “I would, see, but you wouldn’t understand. You can’t understand. You weren’t there.”
Dean continued, speaking over the TV. “Okay, one: Jessica Alba is not out of my league. Two: He appeared from nowhere because he’s a shapeshifter. And lots of actors have a couple of hits and then fall back into obscurity. He probably changed faces because he was getting old or something. Three: he’s wearing special contacts that cover his whole eyes; I saw them when I was investigating him. And four: this show is actually awesome. Why would I not admit I’d been on it?”
“How would I know why you’d deny it? You never talk about your feelings. And Jessica Alba is so far out of your league you’re not even playing the same game.”
Jesus. Sam just would not let this go. Much more of this and Dean would be looking around for something to smash his brother over the head with. What did a guy have to do to get some peace and quiet? “What do you want me to say, Sam? What proof do you want? It’s not like I brought back an ear or something.”
Sam was concentrating deeply on the screen. “He punches just like you.”
“Okay, that’s it.” Dean shoved himself off the too-soft bed and pulled his boots on, grimacing at the squelch of still-wet vamp blood in the left one. He grabbed his coat and gun and headed for the door. “You want proof? I’ll get you proof.”
Sam followed him out, laughter barely contained.
“Do you even have a plan?” Sam enquired as they walked towards the studio entrance.
Dammit. Dean had been hoping Sam would give up before it got to that. There was a look in Sam’s eye. Almost a twinkle. They longer it stayed there, the surer Dean became that his brother was never going to let it go. Sam might be messing with him, but that just made Dean doubly determined to prove him wrong.
“Of course I have a plan,” Dean scoffed, pulling Sam behind a tree so they were out of sight of the security guard, a pudgy middle-aged guy who had probably been hired to replace a more competent but more expensive employee. The studio was looking a little more rundown than it had last time he was here. Soaps were dying, alright.
“Oh, very inconspicuous, Dean. Two guys lurking behind a tree. He probably already thinks we’re here to murder someone. Why are we here?”
“Remember the soap opera,” Dean shuddered at the words, “with the guy who looked like me on it?”
Sam grinned widely. “How could I forget?” He schooled his face into and earnest, beseeching expression. “Dean, if I didn’t have cancer, and I wasn’t married, and I had plenty of money, would you- would you want to run away with me?”
Dean jabbed him hard in the side with a fist, continuing as Sam huffed out and doubled over, “This is where they make it. I came here when I was investigating last time.”
“So you’re trying to prove it wasn’t you by showing me you know your way around the studio? You really don’t do yourself any favours, do you?”
“They must keep employment records or something. We find that, we find out who his agent or manager or whatever is, then we make that guy tell us where to find him. You distract everyone; I’ll break into the office and find the file.”
“Or,” said Sam, holding Dean back with a hand on his arm, “You could just go and ask for your file. I’ll be your manager.”
Dean shook his head. “It ain’t gonna be that easy, Sam. I think he might’ve burned some bridges when he left.”
“And how do you know that?” Dean could practically see Sam planning his next argument.
“I kind of held him at gunpoint until he agreed to leave the show that day and never come back. It must have been a pain in the ass to write him out.”
“So you got fired, then?”
Dean could feel his hands moving on their own in the direction of his brother’s neck. He hastily shoved them in his pockets He would probably get arrested if he strangled Sam in broad daylight in the parking lot of a television studio. Also, Sam was taller than him and he wouldn’t have the right leverage. He’d have to settle for the old tried and true revenge of placing Sam’s hand in a bucket of warm water while Sam slept tonight.
“Mr Ackles?” A female voice said suddenly.
Dean looked up. Oh no. It was the scary woman who had tried to drag him off to make-up last time. She looked even more harassed than last time, and was hiding it behind a false grin so wide it looked a little psychotic. Her hair was frozen in chestnut waves, held in place by about a gallon of hairspray. Dean was willing to bet the dye-job hid a host of grey hairs.
While Dean was staring at her, trying to decide whether or not to back away and hide on the other side of the tree, Sam stepped forward, hand outstretched. “I’m Samuel Cameron, Mr Ackles’ new manager. And you are?” He shook her hand. Dean was half expecting him to accidently rip it off. The chick was skeletal. Her hand looked like it could hardly hold a pen, let alone withstand a gigantor enthusiastically shaking it. But then, she’d been pretty skinny last time Dean saw her, and he could still remember the feeling of her iron claws digging into his arm as she tried to drag him into make-up.
She smiled even wider, baring her brilliantly white teeth at them. “Caroline Sharp. Executive producer. Of course, we welcome Mr Ackles back with open arms.”
Dean finally regained the ability to speak. “Weren’t you some kind of slave person?”
Caroline Sharp’s smile barely faltered. “I was promoted. Now, Mr Ackles, this is excellent timing. We will of course have to draw up a contract, but we’re willing to negotiate on salary and offer a guarantee that your character will have a significant storyline for the next three seasons,” she told him, and then added so quietly he barely heard her, “assuming we’re not cancelled.”
Dean frowned at her in confusion. “But didn’t the old dude with the toupee say he was going to ruin th- my career when I left?”
“He’s not in charge anymore,” Caroline Sharp said briskly. “I am. And the actor playing Eric Brady just had a drug-induced psychotic break and is currently residing in the secure wing of an appropriate facility. Now, I suggest we continue this discussion in my office.”
“Listen, lady,” Dean began, “I’m just here to—“
But Sam was already speaking over him, sternly. “Mr Ackles. You’ve had no offers for almost three years. You hired me to get you work, and this is the best opportunity you’re likely to get.” He looked at the producer. “Ms Sharp, show us to your office.”
Crap. Dean didn’t like where this was headed. And what the hell? They hadn’t killed him off? They’d just had some other guy play the same character as the shapeshifter? Surely people would notice that Eric Brady suddenly looked like a completely different person. Unless – oh God, no – there couldn’t be another one could there? Two shapeshifters taking his face was just beyond unlikely.
Dean nudged Sam in the ribs as they followed the scary woman past the security guard, who barely looked up from his newspaper, and into the building. “Dude! What are you doing?”
Sam looked innocent. “It got us in, didn’t it?” Dean couldn’t shake the suspicion that Sam was deliberately making the situation worse.
It got worse. Dean had never really considered the possibility of having a real job. He’d always thought if he got one, he’d probably get fired immediately anyway, so he might as well get by with fraud and hustling, which was way more fun anyway. He’d certainly never thought it would be this hard to get fired. Especially from a job he didn’t actually have.
Caroline Sharp was seated in a leather swivel chair behind a desk in her office. There was a window behind her that Dean was thinking seriously about throwing himself through. He might survive. It was only the third floor. Caroline Sharp had taken her suit jacket off and hung it on a stand by the door. She was wearing a white dress shirt with the third button undone, and was leaning across the desk to point something out on the script in front of Dean. He could see right down her shirt, and she wasn’t hot. Not even a little bit.
“Ow!” Dean flinched as Sam kicked him in the ankle. He glared at his brother. Sam hadn’t followed the plan at all. He was meant to be distracting her while Dean searched her filing cabinet for the shapeshifter’s employment records, not accepting lines for Dean to learn and talking about drawing up a contract.
“Concentrate, Dean – I mean Jensen,” Sam made a poor job of covering his mistake.
Caroline Sharp paused in whatever crap she was droning about and looked up sharply. “Dean?” Her fixed smile remained steadfastly in place, becoming shark-like as her eyes narrowed.
“I’m not this Jensen Ackles dude,” Dean announced. Maybe not the ideal solution, but she’d been starting to say some terrifying stuff. Stuff like acting on camera. Shooting scenes. Catching up on schedules. She wanted to start that afternoon! He had to leave, now. His next best idea involved pulling out his gun.
Sam gave Caroline Sharp his best ingratiating smile. “My client wishes to stop using his screen name and be known by his real name, Dean Richards.” Bastard still thought it was funny.
“I am not Jensen Ackles!” Dean shouted.
“That’s alright, Mr… Richards,” Caroline Sharp placated him, “We can stipulate that in your contract.”
“I don’t want a contract! I’m not an actor! Why do you want this guy so bad, anyway? He walked out without warning and disappeared!”
Caroline Sharp’s fixed smile dropped away, revealing the stressed expression that had been lurking underneath. She looked at him pleadingly. “Look, you thought you were too good for us. You walked out. This studio wasn’t big enough to hold your ego. And look where you are now. No work for three years. You should be begging us to take you back. But the truth is ratings took a big dive when you left, and they never really picked up. All the heads of production left. The writers keep threatening. The last three years, we’ve been fighting cancellation. So I am begging you: please come back. At least until Joey’s out of the ‘spa’. We can’t lose Eric Brady. We won’t survive.”
Shit. Dean was never good at saying no to begging women. Even when he really, really should. But that didn’t mean he was leaving without his means of getting proof. Okay, change of plans. Dean would distract her while Sam found the file. “Fine,” he said, “But just this afternoon. I’ll do this one scene on this page. But that’s it. Then I’m retiring.”
That got the first real smile he’d ever seen on Caroline Sharp’s face. He ignored the stab of guilt he felt when he thought about it draining away from her face as she watched him attempt to act.
He shoved his paper clip into Sam’s hand when Caroline was turned away, getting her coat. “I’m distracting her. You find the file.” He gestured to the battered, green filing cabinets that ran along one wall of the office. The place was surprisingly low tech. He’d have thought everything would be on computers, but he guessed there was probably stuff in the files that couldn’t be computerised. And the show had been on the air forever. Computers probably hadn’t been invented when some of these people started.
Dean scanned the room for Sam. Yep, there he was, standing in the corner, out of the way, trying to blend into the wall. He gave Dean the thumbs up. That better mean he’d found the name of the shapeshifter’s agent, or Dean was going to cause him serious pain.
He took a deep breath. He was Dean Winchester. Dean Winchester had no shame and didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. He could do this.
They’d put make-up on him. There was crap all over his face, and black stuff around his eyes, and friggin’ mascara on his eyelashes. They’d taken his clothes. Dean had been made to leave his boots in the dressing room. He was wearing stupid slip-on canvas shoes, and his feet felt vulnerable and unprotected. He’d had to leave his jacket in there too. It gave him a weird, nervous feeling to be walking around in just a t-shirt and jeans, without that extra layer of protection. They’d made him leave his gun behind as well, out on the dressing table where anyone could get at it. To their credit, the costume people hadn’t batted an eyelid when they’d seen it. Apparently Joey carried concealed illegal weapons too. Dean could feel his muscles tensing up. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like it at all. He read over the page of script again.
Christ, there were lights everywhere. Bright, powerful ones like the CIA always used for interrogations on TV. Dean squinted against the glare. Heat radiated from them. He could feel himself sweating. He ran his hand across his brow, wiping the sweat off before it dripped into his eyes. The hairdresser chick ran across and repositioned his hair on his forehead. He hated the hair. They’d done it wrong, and he didn’t look like himself anymore. Someone shoved him over to stand on a blue marking on the floor, directly in front of a camera, and snatched the script out of his hand.
The scene was in someone’s living room. There was a shiny, black leather couch behind him that he was fighting the urge to dive under. Hiding under a couch seemed like a great idea right now. There was a trickle of sweat running down his back. His t-shirt was sticking to it. He balled his hands to stop them shaking. He thought suddenly that he might not be breathing. He took a deep breath. God, he should have put on more deodorant. The chick doing the scene with him was going to smell him sweating like a horse.
“Action!” The director shouted, and suddenly everything felt like it was a long way away. Dean looked around the room for Sam again. He couldn’t pick him out. Shit, there were a lot of people.
The chick he was doing the scene with had big, blonde hair and was wearing a purple spandex aerobics outfit. He couldn’t see her, but he could feel her standing somewhere behind his left shoulder. She was saying something.
The blonde chick stopped talking. Dean thought it might be his turn to talk, but he couldn’t remember how. He opened his mouth, but he couldn’t remember what to do after that. There were some words he was meant to say, but he’d forgotten what they were.
“Cut!” yelled the director.
The hairdresser chick ran back over and shoved him back onto the blue mark. He hadn’t been aware he was moving, but he must have been subconsciously edging out of shot. The woman jabbed at his face with some kind of sponge thing covered in powder. She brushed his hair back across his face, and then abandoned him to his fate.
Dean’s hands were shaking even worse. Every muscle in his body was coiled tight, vibrating with tension. It was starting to hurt. There was something wrong with his chest. It wouldn’t move enough to let the air in. Dean searched the crowd for Sam. He couldn’t see him. All the people were just shadows behind the lights. Dark shapes looking at him. Judging. He could feel their eyes on him. He wiped his sweaty palms on his t-shirt and tried to listen to what the aerobics-girl was saying.
The words didn’t make sense. There was a whole string of them, and none of them meant anything. There was a giant camera in his face, recording his idiocy for eternity, red ‘on’ light laughing at him. His heart was jumping around in his chest. “Guh,” he said.
“You’re really not Jensen Ackles, are you?” Caroline Sharp said as she showed them out of the studio.
Dean shook his head, taking a big gulp of the Gatorade someone had fetched for him when he was sitting on the floor with his head between his knees.
“I should really have you both arrested for identity theft,” she told them. Then she looked over at Dean and eased up, sympathy overcoming her harassed features for a moment. “Thanks for trying.”
“You should retire,” he told her gruffly, “There’s way less stressful jobs out there.”
She just raised her eyebrows at him and turned to return to her office, her false smile already determinedly back in place.
“I hope Joey gets better soon,” Sam called after her.
She didn’t acknowledge him.
Dean flopped onto his bed, back at the Hollywood themed motel, and reached for his uneaten Snickers bar. Sometimes, you just needed chocolate. “Did you get the file?”
Sam pulled a thin file out of his jacket. “Agent’s name is Murray Clarkson.”
“We can pay him a visit tomorrow,” Dean said, through a mouthful of well-deserved chocolatey goodness.
“Don’t worry about it, man. I believe you,” said Sam, picking up the remote and flicking on the TV. “I think you proved it pretty comprehensively today.”
Onscreen, Dean’s doppelganger was sitting in a bar with Jessica Alba, saying, “He said I had to take care of you.”
“What is this, some kind of friggin’ marathon?” Dean glared at the TV.
Sam was silent for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his face. He watched the screen closely. At last he spoke. “Jessica Alba is definitely out of your league.”
“Is not,” Dean retorted wittily, and threw his pillow at his brother.