Rating/Content: T/PG for consensual, fluffy, somewhat underage sibcest, and the occasional bad word or two. Jalex.
Summary: With 'Charmed and Dangerous' set to become a movie, Alex is shocked to discover the books based on her life are wildly popular. Even more shocking is what some of its fans are reading between the lines. And most disturbing of all? Justin might be one of 'em! Somewhat meta Jalex.
Author's Note: Yeah, so I know 'Justin and/or Alex go online and discover Jalex' is hardly original, but I've never seen it played straight before, and the plot bunny absolutely refuses to let me be. I'm also going to try something different this time: I'm far enough along, and have a good enough idea of where I'm going with it, that I'm going to try releasing chapters as I go, rather than waiting until it's done and posting it all at once. We'll see how that works out.
A word of warning for fans of Doc Day Afternoon and/or Just A Little Harmless Smut who have come hoping for more of the same: this one is gonna stay pretty PG, I think. Sorry. Next one, I promise. ;)
Two months after that awful night in Transylvania, Alex walks into the living room, and Justin doesn't quite shove the book he's been reading between the couch cushions quick enough for her not to notice. Lounging back against the arm, he makes a show of staring vacantly at the TV as she crosses behind the sofa towards the kitchenette. She doesn't look at him directly, just out of the corner of her eye, and she can still tell how hard he's trying to appear nonchalant.
"TV's not on, egghead," Alex points out as she pulls open the fridge.
"I know that," he retorts evenly, after a beat. "I'm just...sitting here...trying to decide between the History Channel and the Nature Channel."
"Wow, even when you lie, you make yourself sound like a loser." Alex pulls a bottle of water out of the fridge and slams the door closed with the heel of her boot. "Are you seriously reading Charmed and Dangerous again?"
"Nooooooo," Justin protests. Alex raises her eyebrows at him over the water bottle as she takes a swig, and Justin's shoulders slump as he relents. "Well, OK, yeah."
"Geez," Alex says, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth. "What's that, your third time through the series since we found out about it? I haven't seen you this obsessed with a book since Curious George went to the hospital."
"Hey, shut up! That book really helped me when I had my adenoids taken out, OK?" Justin snaps, digging Charmed and Dangerous: The Story of the Lost Wand out of the couch.
"I really don't get what you see in those books," Alex says, shaking her head. "I mean, I guess they're OK..."
"Uh, they're only all about us?" Justin scoffs, and he flushes a little in the cheeks, and behind his ears. "I mean...the later ones contain a lot of valuable information about what's going to happen to us in the future!"
"What's going to happen to me, you mean," Alex says, taking another swig from the bottle. "Because Julia is so clearly the main character."
"Max, Harper and I are all in the books too, Alex," Justin says pointedly. "Sam, Hayley and Alan, remember?"
"As supporting characters, sure," Alex nods, then shrugs. "I dunno, they were fun to read once, ...it was kinda neat to get Harper's take on everything that's happened to us, I guess...but I hated how cheesy she made everything seem."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Justin sighs, with a reluctant nod. "But what do you expect? Harper wrote them—er, will write them—and Future Harper is still Harper, after all. Anyway, they're still useful in preparing for what's to come."
"Oh please," Alex scoffs, waving one hand dismissively. "It's not like the future's written in stone, or anything. Heck, just by reading them and finding out what's supposed to happen...doesn't that, like, change the outcome, or whatever?"
At this, Justin actually plucks his nose out of the book and stares at her in something approaching amazement. What? Like she can't have deep thoughts every now and again?
"I've seen Back to the Future," she says defensively, and it sounds a lot lamer out loud than it did in her head. Justin's amazed expression becomes tempered with skepticism.
"Forewarned is forearmed," he says, returning his attention to the book. "Better safe than sorry."
"A penny saved is a penny earned," Alex nods sagely.
Justin frowns and blinks at her. "Wait, what?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Alex says. "I thought we were playing the boring platitude game. Do you realize just how much of an old woman you sound like sometimes, Grandma?"
Glaring at her, Justin takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, then goes back to the book once more.
"It might not hurt for you to read them again a little more carefully," he says patiently. "You might learn something. That's all I'm saying."
"Shyeah, so not risking that," Alex snorts, rolling her eyes. "Once was enough. I'll just wait for the movie, thanks."
Six months later, a film adaptation of the first book in the Charmed and Dangerous series is announced to be in pre-production at Walt Disney Studios. Sitting in the chaise lounge on the terrace, flipping through a gossip magazine, Alex is dismayed to learn the role of Julia has been claimed by an upcoming young actress by the name of Selena Gomez.
"At least people know who she is," Justin points out, squinting as he leans over from his own chair to scan the article. "David Henrie, who the hell is that guy?"
"But she's a total Disney-bot!" Alex pouts. "She guest-starred on Sonny With A Chance! She dated one of the Jonas Brothers! She did that stupid Princess Secret Service movie, or whatever! Ugh! It says here she was one of the Barney kids, for Christ's sake!"
"She's hot, though," Justin argues, admiring the accompanying photo of Selena posing on a red carpet at some awards thing. "I mean, really hot. So there's that."
Alex actually does a double-take at this, nearly derailed mid-rant, and cocks an eyebrow at him. Only because it's so uncharacteristic of him to openly be such a...well, such a boy. Not because she felt a momentary flare of something kinda sorta similar to jealousy at all, nuh-uh.
"She is not hot, she's lame!" Alex snaps. "Julia is not a Barney kid! She's the kid who used to make fun of the other kids who admitted to watching Barney!"
"Don't remind me," Justin growls. A good portion of third grade was hell for him after his classmates overheard his little sister mocking him as he walked her to school.
"Julia is supposed to be edgy! Dangerous! Chic but slightly bohemian in her fashion sense! Have you heard that album this Gomez chick put out? Gag! It's auto-tune crap for tweens!"
"Well, who would you have cast to play you?" Justin asks. "I mean, Julia."
Alex strokes her chin thoughtfully.
"Angelina Jolie," she says finally, snapping her fingers. "Or Lady Gaga. I'd be fine with either."
Justin snorts. "Um, don't you think they're a little bit old to be playing yo—uh, Julia?"
Alex shrugs. "Megan Fox, then. She's, like, Angelina the Next Generation, right? Or...ooh, ooh!...who was that chick who played Joan Jett in Heartbreakers? She was pretty badass in that."
"Isn't that the same girl from Twilight, though?"
"Oh, really? Bella Swan? Ugh, no," Alex says, visibly disappointed. "Well, what about the older sister from Zombieland, then? She kicked all kinds of ass!"
"I dunno," Justin says, glancing from the magazine to his sister's face, and back again. "I actually don't think Selena Gomez as a bad choice, really. I mean, if nothing else, she looks a lot like you. The resemblance is kind of uncanny, really."
"Pfft, she wishes," Alex says, even as she flushes a little. Only because the sun's come out, and it's gotten warm on the terrace. Not at all because Justin thinks she looks like someone he just used the words 'really hot' to describe, or whatever.
"And I actually kind of like her music," Justin says, indignant.
"Pfft, now there's a strike against it if I ever heard one," Alex snickers.
He scowls at her. "It's not just me, either, y'know. The fandom's actually really psyched that Selena was cast. It's been a trending topic on Twitter for two days. And in this poll we put up for the comm that I mod? They're voting four to one in favor of it."
Alex blinks at him, as though he's speaking in tongues, or at least the made-up dialect from his Alien Loser League. But before she can ask him what the hell he's talking about, Justin goes deathly pale, his eyes go wide as though he's said too much, and he tears them away from hers towards the sixth volume of Charmed and Dangerous, held open in his lap. His posture rather strongly suggests that he expects her to start mocking him incessantly any minute...which she absolutely would if, y'know, she had any idea what the hell it was he'd just said.
Instead, she leans back in the chaise lounge and sips on her lemonade as she flips the page, content to bide her time. Alex has always had a wicked nose for blackmail material, or at least material she can use to torture Justin. And though she's never been one to expend an undue amount of effort on, like, anything...or even a due amount of effort, really...the way he's squirming in his chair as he waits for the other shoe to drop makes her think it might be worth it, just this once.
Twitter. That's a computer thing, right? Like WizFace, but for nerds? (Well, bigger nerds, anyway?)
Yeah, OK. She can work with that.
Later that evening, after Justin has taken Max out for his first Flying Carpet lesson (and, holy crap, does she not envy either of them right now), Alex tiptoes into the lair and sits cross-legged on the recliner, settling the laptop she liberated from Justin's room between her knees. Booting the computer up, she's at first dismayed to find it's password-protected, and she curses her brother's anal-rententive paranoia that someone might actually care what he does on this thing. (Shyeah, as if.) But after a few anxious moments, she hits the jackpot on her fourth try with the name of the Channel 9 weather girl. She rolls her eyes at the little hourglass as it twists merrily in the middle of the screen.
Boys. So predictable.
Justin's desktop loads in a flash, and Alex is amused to discover that his wallpaper is the same red carpet photo of Selena Gomez that they'd seen in her magazine earlier. Huh. A new crush, maybe? It sure looks like it. She mentally files away that little tidbit of information to torture him with later.
(And, as she clicks on the icon to open his web browser, she tries not to think too hard about the fact that this is the "actress"—and oh yes, the air quotes are totally necessary—who he'd said looked uncannily like her. And who is, for all intents and purposes, going to be playing his sister in the movie based on the books that were based on their lives. Because, dude, weird.
Also...oddly flattering, kinda? But mostly weird.)
She starts on Google, typing in the few words she can remember him saying, like 'fandom', 'comm' and 'mod', which leads her to Urban Dictionary, and Wikipedia, and TV Tropes, then to LiveJournal and Tumblr, and gradually she begins to understand that there's some kind of online fan community for the Charmed and Dangerous books—several, actually—which Justin is apparently part of, and maybe even helps run.
Oh, wow. No wonder he was so embarrassed. This is way geeky, even for him.
Alex turns her attention to his bookmarks, to see if she can figure out which one is his. True to form, they're are all neatly organized into folders and sub-folders by subject. She clicks on the third folder down, marked C&D, and starts exploring its contents.
She dives in with both feet, the same way she does everything. And it's a little overwhelming, the same way that the Hudson River is slightly damp.
There's just so much! Forums, blogs, wikis, social networking communities, fan sites...it's almost like there's this whole, huge section of the internet devoted solely to this, with (from what she can gather) thousands of people participating, from all around the world. From what Harper's told her about it, Alex has always been semi-aware that Charmed and Dangerous was wildly popular in some way—which has never made sense to her because, hello, they're books—but she's totally unprepared for just how wildly popular it appears to be.
It's not just the sheer amount of it all, either, but how dedicated—how passionate—the fans are that blows her away. They analyze the books down to the smallest detail, work together to fill in the blanks between the lines, share theories about where they think the story is going next . They post stories and drawings and comics and poems, even a few songs here and there. One guy even posts detailed cutaway floorplans of the loft, the Sub Station, Wiz Tech and Tribeca Prep that he's pieced together from their descriptions in the books. (And the results are so freakily accurate that it actually creeps Alex out a little to look at them.) Granted, not all of it is particularly good—in fact, a lot of it's not—but it's clear that a lot of hard work has gone into it, and if there's one thing Alex appreciates, it's hard work. (She wouldn't go so far out of her way to avoid doing it herself if she didn't.)
And then there's all the arguing. Over, like, everything. What character x really meant when they said thing y to person z. What really motivated person 1 to do thing 2, when any idiot with half a brain could see she should have chosen to do 3. Why a and b belong together forever, and everyone who believes b and c are destined for twue wuv instead are either completely illiterate, or certifiably insane.
(And for some reason, there seems to be an awful lot of that last one. A lot. Most of which seems to center on a character named 'Jalan', or something. Which is weird because, come to think of it, she doesn't remember there being a 'Jalan' in the books at all. But then, she was mostly just skimming ahead to the parts about Julia, so it's entirely possible she overlooked something, or whatever.)
The strangest thing about it all, though? Is that it's all about her. That this is essentially her life they're deconstructing, debating and generally squeeing over. (Well OK, their lives, really—Justin, Max and Harper are all pretty central to the books, too—but mostly hers. She's the main character, after all.) A million strangers on the outside looking in, judging her, praising her, damning her, and collectively sitting on the edge of their seats, eager to see what she's going to do next. It's humbling and terrifying all at the same time.
And also? It sort of rocks. Suddenly, Alex begins to get what Justin must see in all this. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world revolves around you is one thing, but having millions of readers willing to back you up on that? Awesome.
Without meaning to, she completely loses the rest of the evening to it. Not participating herself, of course (because, hi, nerdfest much?), just lurking and learning and generally getting the lay of the land. Eventually—after exactly how long, she's not sure—there's a muffled crash and some yelling from upstairs, and Alex realizes with a start that Justin and Max must be back. She hurriedly closes down the browser and slams the laptop closed with a curse, having intended to be done and have the laptop stashed safely back in Justin's room already, long before they were home. Now not only is she going to have to find a way to put it back without him noticing—although, given the hysterical fit it sounds like Justin is having upstairs, that isn't going to be overly difficult—but worse, she still doesn't have any clue who Justin is online, or even which community he's part of.
Alex grunts in frustration as she gets up out of the recliner and stretches out the kinks in her spine, then tucks the laptop under her arm and starts to creep her way out of the lair. Clearly, she's going to have to put a in little more effort—and ugh, there's that word again—before she can really put the screws to Justin.
Whatever it is he's doing, it better damn well be blackmail-worthy, that's all she's gonna say.