You know the way you always get hit with two tonnes of fic inspiration when you've got deadlines and exams approaching? Yeah. With any luck, now that I've actually written this, I'll be able to get cracking on my work for university.
It was quite fun to write, I have to admit. I hope you enjoy it!
Title: Occupational Hazards
Fandom: Supernatural (reality/fiction crossover)
Rating: R for language
Word Count: 4,000ish
Summary: Okay, so Jared's possessed by Sam. That's a problem.
Warnings: Spoilers for 'No Rest for the Wicked', the third-season finale.
Disclaimer: The events portrayed in this story are entirely fictional. Sam and Dean Winchester do not belong to me.
(EDIT: mercuriazs is wonderful and has recorded a podfic version of this story! You can download it in MP3 format here (21 MB) or as an M4A here (31 MB); it's about twenty-three minutes long. If you enjoy it, be sure to tell her how awesome she is! (And cybel has made a podbook (M4B format, 11 MB)!))
Jensen doesn’t realise it’s a beginning at the time, but it starts after a particularly exhausting day of filming. Jared’s spending most of his time at Jensen’s place at the moment; they’ve got lines to learn, and it’s easier to work on them when they’re together.
“Man, glad that’s over,” Jared says, throwing himself down onto the couch. “Pass the beer, Dean.”
Jensen raises his eyebrows.
“I’m tired,” Jared says, defensively, when he notices Jensen’s look.
“Uh-huh,” Jensen says.
“I’m calling you Dean seventeen hours a day, anyway,” Jared protests. “It is totally understandable.”
Jared’s been calling him ‘Dean’ a lot lately, but Jensen doesn’t realise exactly how big a problem it is until they’re half-way through filming ‘Malleus Maleficarum’. There’s a sound behind him, and he turns to see Jared standing in the doorway to his trailer.
“Dean,” Jared says. “Where are we?”
“It’s Jensen,” Jensen says, with a longsuffering roll of his eyes. “I swear you’re just doing this to annoy me now.”
Jared blinks, and a strange expression flickers across his face. It’s a look Jensen knows he’s seen there before, but it still feels somehow wrong, and it takes him a moment to figure it out: he’s only ever seen it when Jared’s been in character. That hurt expression belongs to Sam. “You’re not Dean?”
“You need to take a day off, man,” Jensen says, half-laughing, and suddenly he’s pinned to the wall and there’s a hand at his throat and he’s not laughing any more.
“Where’s my brother?” Jared demands. “What’ve you done to him?”
“Jesus, Jared,” Jensen croaks, because okay, everyone slips into character sometimes, but this is taking it a little far. “Can’t breathe.”
Jared tilts his head, looking at him with an expression of mingled confusion and narrowed-eye rage, and then his eyes widen and he drops his hand, backing away. “Jensen?”
“What do you think?” Jensen demands, massaging his throat. “Jesus, you don’t need a day off; we need to get you therapy.”
“Shit, did I hurt you?” He reaches out to touch Jensen’s neck, but Jensen flinches away and Jared pulls his hand back immediately.
“What the hell, Jared?” Jensen asks after a moment, calmer now but still bewildered.
“I don’t know,” Jared mutters. He looks genuinely worried, which makes Jensen a little more inclined to be forgiving, even if that’s pretty much the most unhelpful answer he could possibly have given.
“So, what, you just slipped into character and it got out of hand?”
“Something like that,” Jared says, frowning and rubbing the back of his neck. “I think.”
“You’ve probably just been spending too much time as Sam. Want to see if we can get you a couple days off filming?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Jared says. “Not sure that’ll work, though.”
Jensen raises his eyebrows. “Okay, so what do I do if you go crazy again? Should I just say I’m Dean so you don’t go acting like I’m a shapeshifter or something?”
Jared snorts. “Yeah, you really think that’s going to fool Sam for long?”
There is a pause.
“Jared,” Jensen says. “You know Sam’s not real, right?”
Okay, so Jared’s possessed by his character.
That’s what Jared insists, at least. Jensen’s pretty sure it’s got to be something more along the lines of ‘okay, so Jared’s playing a really stupid prank’ or ‘okay, so Jared’s in need of some serious antipsychotics’, but whatever way you look at it they’ve got a problem.
“Seriously,” Jared says, looking and sounding like he doesn’t know whether to be terrified or thrilled, “I thought I was Sam. And I thought you were Dean, and when you said you were Jensen I was like, who the fuck’s that? Where’s my brother?” He grins, apparently having settled on the decision that this is more ‘awesome’ than it is ‘insane and horrifying’. “De—Jensen, do you know what this means? Sam could be real!”
“Jared,” Jensen says, eyeing him cautiously, “I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean Sam’s real. I think it means you’re crazy.”
Delusion or not, Sam doesn’t go away. About once a week, Jared gets it into his head that he’s his character and begins rambling at Jensen about ways of breaking a deal and vampire nests in Connecticut. Jensen tries to give appropriately Deanish responses, because pretending to be Dean seems a hell of a lot easier than trying to explain that he’s really not a shapeshifter, and wonders whether he can get Kripke to cover the cost of a psychiatrist.
After a while, Jensen figures out that the Sam in Jared’s head always seems to be from after the episode most recently aired. In the week after ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’, he’s pacing up and down, wondering where they can find Bela. The week after that, he’s incredibly overprotective, watching Jensen like he’s afraid he’s going to somehow impale himself on his own clothing, and Jensen feels a pang of guilt before reminding himself that Sam isn’t real, this is just Jared being delusional, nobody really had to watch his brother die a hundred times.
Still, Jensen’s glad of the hiatus. It means there’s a little longer to go before the finale. He knows what’s going to happen, and he’s not sure he’s going to be able to face Sam after it.
When you’re having regular conversations with a fictional character, it’s easy to forget that he doesn’t exist.
Jensen screws up dying a million and three times. If he’s honest with himself, yeah, most of it’s deliberate. He knows it’s not going to work, but there’s still an irrational part of his brain hoping that maybe they can delay the episode, maybe they can protect Sam for a tiny bit longer.
What’s not deliberate is when the camera crew is starting to glare, when Jensen’s given up on his stupid attempts to ruin the filming and is determined to get it right this time, and Jared’s sobbing over him and he looks so goddamn heartbroken that something in Jensen cracks and he pulls Jared into his arms, muttering, “It’s okay, Sammy, I’m alive,” which is maybe a little crazy.
“You know, I’m fine with ad-libbing,” Kim says, “but maybe we shouldn’t do anything that completely changes the ending of the season.”
When the filming is over, Jared finds Jensen crying with guilt and exhaustion in a corner. He understands, obviously, but it’s still a little awkward.
The day after the finale of season three airs, Jensen finds Jared on his knees in the bathroom, throwing up what looks like everything he’s ever eaten.
“You okay?” he asks, which, yeah, is maybe a dumb question.
“Sam,” Jared says, hoarsely, and Jensen has a split-second to wonder whether maybe he’s been possessed by Dean this time (and, man, wouldn’t that be weird) before he carries on. “The way he’s feeling, man – you can’t even imagine it.”
Jensen’s kind of relieved he wasn’t there – now would be a really bad time for Sam to see him – but he’s more worried about Jared right now. The guy looks seriously ill.
“Four months, Jensen,” Jared says, looking pathetically up at him. “I can’t, I can’t do it.”
“It’s okay,” Jensen says, crouching down and putting a hand on his back. “We’ll figure something out.”
They’re filming a scene from the fifth episode on location when Sam shows up again. Sam and Dean are shouting at each other on a street corner when Jared suddenly yells in pain and collapses. Jensen rushes to steady him.
“Dean?” Jared asks, desperately, clutching at Jensen’s jacket. “Dean?”
“Yeah,” Jensen says. Fuck it, if he can’t change the storyline just to protect his co-star’s delusion he can at least do this. “Yeah, Sammy, it’s me. I’m here.”
“Dean,” Sam says, and then he’s clinging to him, his eyes closed, breathing into his shoulder. Jensen feels like a fraud.
It’s a couple of minutes before Jared comes back to himself and lets go. He claims sunstroke, which would probably be more convincing were it not so cloudy. The camera crew is giving them weird looks for the rest of the day.
Jensen takes to wearing Dean’s amulet all the time after that. Most interviewers don’t really watch the show, they don’t notice, but one picks up on it and asks him why. He says, “Dean Winchester’s done a lot for me, and I guess it’s a kind of tribute to him,” because it sounds ridiculous but it’s better than ‘I need to trick my co-star’s split personality into thinking I’m his dead brother’.
Sam appears again a week later, distraught and confused. He doesn’t know whether Dean is alive or dead, he says. “Sometimes I wake up and you’re there, and sometimes you’re – ” He gestures vaguely, hesitates. “I think I might be imagining you.”
“You’re not imagining me,” Jensen tells him, gripping his shoulders. “Feel that, Sammy? I’m real.”
The fourth time Sam takes over Jared’s body after the finale airs – they’re sitting in a café on a Saturday morning; Jared went to the bathroom and Sam came back out – he looks at Jensen with an expression of mingled hope and suspicion. He doesn’t say anything about Dean’s death; instead, he begins talking about hunts Jensen recognises from episodes, getting the details wrong – saying black dog where he means Wendigo, the colour of Bela’s wig – and Jensen, who quickly realises he’s being tested, corrects him. Eventually, Sam relaxes and begins speaking more casually, mentions some mysterious disappearances in the south, a possible hunt. He’s still a little tense: hiding something, Jensen thinks, but what doesn’t really matter. Jensen’s just waiting for Jared to come back.
He doesn’t. Sam keeps talking, and after a while Jensen is seriously starting to worry. Sam normally only shows up for a couple of minutes, never more than half an hour. He’s been in Jared’s body for two hours and counting now, and something’s got him excited; he keeps shifting, fidgeting, grinning to himself when he thinks Jensen’s not looking. Jensen doesn’t know how long he’s going to be able to keep up the Dean charade.
“We’re not working a job here, are we?” Sam asks, abruptly.
Well, there’s this acting thing, Jensen thinks, and we’re probably going to be in trouble if Jared’s not back by Monday. “Haven’t noticed anything weird going on.”
Sam fixes him with his most sincere gaze. “We have to go to Wyoming.”
“Wyoming?” Jensen repeats, incredulous. “Why?”
“I can’t tell you, Dean, but you have to trust me. I need to do this for you.”
“What the hell, Sam, no. I’m going to need something better than ‘you’ve got to trust me’.” He pauses. “Is this about the Devil’s Gate?”
Sam groans and rubs his palm across his face, and Jensen catches sight of something burned into Jared’s wrist, like a symbol, like –
It’s a binding link. Sam’s locked himself in.
“Christo,” Jensen says almost automatically, getting to his feet, and okay, he has been pretending to be Dean for way too long.
Sam doesn’t flinch, but he looks up at Jensen, suddenly terrified. “Don’t – Dean, don’t – ” He pulls his sleeve over the brand, although they both know Jensen’s already seen it. “I’m not a demon, okay? I’m not your Sam, but I’m still Sam. You’ve got to help me.”
“Not my Sam?” Jensen repeats, feeling slightly weak.
“I figured it out,” Sam says, quickly. “I kept waking up here, and you were alive, and then I’d wake up and you’d be – you were dead again, and I figured it out. This is another reality. My Dean’s still in Hell, but I’m going to save him.”
This, Jensen thinks, was definitely not in his contract. “What about J— uh, what’s happened to my Sam?”
“He’ll be fine,” Sam says. “I’ll leave as soon as I’ve gotten my brother out of Hell. I promise.”
“Why couldn’t you do this in your own reality?” Jensen demands. He knows Sam can manage it; there’s no stealing-Jared’s-body in Season Four. “Won’t he be in the Hell over there or something?”
“I’ve done my research, Dean. There’s only one Hell.” He hesitates. “I needed the Colt, and the one in our world was stolen. Do you still have it?” There’s an unspoken and I didn’t want to do this without you behind the words, and his expression is pleading.
And so somehow Jensen finds himself driving a prop car to Wyoming, a prop gun in the glove compartment and a fictional character sitting next to him and AC/DC blaring out of the speakers, just because it feels right. They’ve gone two hundred miles before he remembers there’s no such fucking thing as a Devil’s Gate.
He doesn’t have the heart to tell Sam that all they’ll find when they get to Wyoming is a rock formation. He drives another three hundred miles and pulls into the grubbiest-looking motel he sees, because yeah, Sam may have possessed his friend and dragged Jensen out on some insane roadtrip to Hell, but he’s been through a lot and Jensen is going to be Dean for him if that’s what he needs.
Jared’s so paying him back for the room when this is over, though.
He briefly contemplates burning the mark off Sam’s wrist while he’s sleeping, but he’s got a feeling Jared’s not going to thank him for it. Maybe Sam will realise he’s better off in his own universe when he sees there’s no gate to Hell in this one.
Jensen starts to feel that something’s wrong when they drive over the train lines.
He doesn’t realise how wrong until he finds himself getting out of the Impala in an exact replica of the ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ set.
“What the hell?”
Sam frowns. “Have you not been here before?”
Jensen stares at him. “No, but I’m pretty sure there’s not supposed to be an actual Devil’s Gate in Wyoming.”
“If you didn’t come here, how did you get the Colt back?” Sam asks. His eyes widen. “Is Dad – ”
“The Colt isn’t a real gun!” Jensen interrupts. This has gone way too far. “It’s a prop! I’m an actor! The real world doesn’t have demons and vampires and werewolves, and it definitely doesn’t have gates to fucking Hell!”
“Dean,” Sam says, after a moment. “Tell me about your reality.”
Jensen explains, as coherently as he can manage when there’s a fucking door to Hell in front of him (this has to be Kim playing the world’s most convoluted prank, it has to be), that this is a world in which nothing supernatural is killing anyone, and that he and Jared aren’t even related (bizarrely, Sam seems more taken aback by that than by anything else), and that he’s pretty sure Sam is just a figment of Jared’s imagination, although he’s starting to think maybe he’s the one imagining Sam, given that he is now clearly hallucinating a fucking door to Hell.
Sam says nothing for a while when Jensen’s finished. Eventually, he speaks. “You don’t have any demons here?”
“Not that I know of.”
Sam looks pained. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I can’t live without him.” And Jensen’s just about to ask what he’s apologising for when Sam slides the barrel of the Colt into the lock and oh, fuck, Jensen’s just realised what that means.
“Sam,” he says.
Sam won’t look at him; just gets into the Impala, and, before Jensen’s recovered enough from the shock to actually move, the gates to Hell burst open and thick grey smoke whips past him and Sam’s gone by the time he can see again.
Great. So Jared’s in Hell and Sam’s just unleashed a demonic plague upon the world. Jensen is going to kill Kripke for ever coming up with the fucking Winchesters.
And what’s he supposed to do now? He can’t close the Gate; Sam may be a bastard who’s willing to destroy Jensen’s nice safe demonless world to save his brother, but Jensen really doesn’t want to trap Jared in the Pit for ever. On the other hand, if the doors stay open it means that demons are going to keep coming through. Which sucks.
He’s starting to wonder whether this is actually the Apocalypse or just a really big disaster when Sam comes into view again. He walks out of Hell, carrying Dean in his arms, and after everything that’s happened Jensen’s kind of surprised that something as relatively mundane as seeing someone who looks exactly like him still feels weird. So it looks like the Winchesters are real, after all.
“Where’s the car?” Jensen asks, because the alternative is punching Sam in the face, and punching Sam in the face would be really satisfying right now but he knows that not punching Sam in the face will probably be better in the long run.
“She didn’t make it,” Sam says, carefully setting Dean on his feet, and for a moment Jensen is about to punch him in the face because he knows the cost of the car is coming out of his paycheck, he knows the insurance doesn’t cover ‘got driven into Hell’, but then Dean stumbles and Sam catches him, holds him steady, and there’s so much love and concern in his expression and, hell, Jensen knows what he’s been through. He knows why he did it.
“We’ll need to close the Gate,” Sam says, when he’s made sure Dean can stand on his own. He looks at Jensen, contrite. “I’m sorry. I just – I had to.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Jensen says, bracing himself against the left-hand door. “You needed your brother more than my world needed to not be full of demons. I get it. No big deal.”
Sam looks a little embarrassed; it isn’t quite as satisfying as seeing him get punched in the face would be, but it’s something. He starts pushing the right-hand door; after a moment, Dean joins him, although Jensen’s sure he must be incredibly weak from his time in Hell. Jensen sets to work on his own door and quickly discovers that he can’t move it, which is kind of humiliating.
He’s straining against the door, sweat plastering his shirt to his back, when the world blurs and his throat burns and oh, okay, he’s possessed. It’s not like this day’s been bad enough already.
He’s a Winchester, moron, a voice says in his mind. She sounds familiar, and after a moment Jensen realises it’s Katie. Ruby. You can’t tell me you didn’t know he’d destroy your little world to get his precious brother back. Thanks for letting me out, though. Let me help you with that. She’s far stronger than he is, and between them she and the Winchesters manage to get the doors closed. Jensen is left feeling useless and vaguely violated, and his mood doesn’t improve when he falls to his knees and vomits smoke.
“Ruby,” he says, by way of explanation, when he notices the way the Winchesters are looking at him.
“Okay, Sam,” Dean says. His voice is hoarse, and he’s got his hands linked over his bleeding side. “Who the fuck is this?”
“This is you,” Sam explains, sitting down with his back against a tombstone and making a come here gesture. Dean glares at him for a moment, but he’s too weak and exhausted to make any genuine protest against chick-flick moments, so he sits down next to him and lets Sam pull him against his side. “Well, his name’s Jensen, and he’s had a pretty different life to us, but he’s still a you from an alternate universe.”
Dean frowns. “How’d he get here?”
“This is my universe,” Jensen explains. “Your brother’s kind of ruined it, but – ”
And he stops abruptly. A horrible realisation has just occurred to him.
“Sam,” he says. “How are you going to take Dean back with you?”
There is a pause.
Jensen buries his face in his hands.
Eric thinks they’re crazy at first, of course. He concedes that maybe something weird is going on when it turns out that Jensen has an identical twin nobody knew about, but he doesn’t fully believe the story – who would? – until a possessed woman tries to kill everyone on the set and Sam and Dean exorcise her in front of him.
“Okay,” Eric says, staring at the door the demonic smoke has just flown out of. “You’re obviously insane, but apparently so am I, so I’ll try to help.”
Sam’s made it clear that he’s not going anywhere without Dean. Leaving him in Jared’s body for ever obviously isn’t an option, to Eric’s feigned dismay (“Come on, having the real Sam and Dean as actors? It’d be awesome”), so they need to find a way of sending them back together. Sam’s been on the Internet for forty solid hours, Dean grumbling in the chair next to him because his brother won’t allow him out of his sight, and Eric’s asking to hear exactly what happened for the fourth time when Jensen suddenly hits on the answer.
“Hey, Eric,” he says. “The episodes that’ve aired – they really happened in Sam’s universe, didn’t they?”
Eric shrugs. “Looks like it.”
“Well, if we – ”
But Eric’s already figured it out. “Wait. You think we need to rewrite the start of the fourth season?”
“It could work,” Jensen says. “Maybe.”
“You want me to write an episode about Sam possessing his actor and saving Dean from Hell?”
“Well,” Jensen says, “yeah.”
“It’s still ridiculous. I can’t compromise my artistic integrity just because a couple of guys are in the wrong universe.”
“Oh, come on,” Jensen says. “Then you just get the Trickster to send them back or something. In the next episode, you can say it was all a dream.”
Eric stares at him in horror. “You’re saying I have to make the first episode of the season an all-just-a-dream episode?”
“Hey, it’s that or not getting Jared back.”
“Fine,” Eric says. “But I’m giving you the writing credit. And I’m going to tell everyone you filmed it without my consent and sent it out to the broadcasters in secret.” He pauses. “And, you know, if it’s okay...”
Jensen rolls his eyes. “Okay, you can get Sam and Dean to act for you until the next season starts. But I want half their pay, or I’m suing you for the emotional trauma your stupid characters’ve caused.”
The getting-Sam-and-Dean-to-play-themselves scheme doesn’t work; they’re willing to film the episode that should, with any luck, send them back to where they belong, but beyond that Sam just want to hunt. He’s still feeling guilty about bringing demons into a world that didn’t have to suffer them, and he wants to help a little. It’s probably for the best, Eric mutters in an aside to Jensen; now that he thinks about it, he’s got a feeling that letting Sam and Dean know what he’s got in store for their future wouldn’t have ended well.
The episode goes out a couple of weeks early after some negotiations with the CW, and the next morning the Internet is covered with Livejournal entries demanding to know what the hell the writers are thinking. More importantly, though, Dean has vanished and Jared seems to be back to being himself.
“Thank God that’s over,” Jensen groans. “You all right?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Jared says. “Jensen, I think we should become hunters.”
There is a pause.
“What?” Jensen asks.
Jared is inspecting a week-old cut down his arm. Sam told Jensen it was from an exorcism in Oregon when he and Dean stumbled back into Vancouver, covered in blood, and Jensen told him that he really needed to take more care when he was borrowing someone else’s body. “Well, there are demons around now, right? I just thought maybe we should do something about it.”
“Jared,” Jensen says. “We’re actors.”
“We know more about how to get rid of these things than most people do, though,” Jared says. He looks worryingly earnest. “If we don’t do it, who’s going to?”
“You cannot be serious.”
“Saving people,” Jared says. “Hunting things.”
“You cannot be serious.”
He’s serious. And, as Jensen recites Latin and a black-eyed Chad Michael Murray twitches and spasms in front of him, he has to admit to himself that they are better qualified than most people to do this.
He’s definitely going to get Kripke to write a load of scenes in which horrible things happen to Sam for no reason, though.