Tangible Schizophrenia


12-Step Program

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Dean/car, in a way. Mostly gen.
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the WB, etc.
Notes: ‘Bell, book and candle’ is one simple exorcism ritual. Vague spoilers up to 1.14 (Nightmare); written before 1.16 (Shadows).
Summary: Dean’s got a problem. Or so Sam suspects. Humorfic.



Dean had always been close to the Impala, so close that Sam had a hard time remembering what his brother was like without it. This even though Dean didn’t get it till he was an old-looking fourteen (state trooper IDs weren’t the first fakes they ever made), and all through their childhood, Dad had always driven an ancient, unremarkable-looking Cadillac rustbucket. He liked flying under the radar—that way, they got more done before they got run out of town. Of course, that lesson had been pretty much wasted on Dean. When it came to cars, anyway.

He spent more money on the Impala’s upkeep than anything else. With his own eyes, Sam had seen Dean fork over nearly three hundred without a twitch for engine maintenance, but balk at bribing a morgue guy with twenty to let them in. It was kind of understandable: every man had to have his little obsessions. At least it was the car, and not something more dangerous—well, more dangerous than what they did for a living.

On the other hand, it was also annoying as hell. Sam always thought that that was a bigger excuse for Dean not settling down than chasing monsters. Having a serious girlfriend would mean less car time, and maybe even locking it in a garage.

Was Sam bitter? Honestly—yeah, but not over that. The car thing was really minor, considering everything else. It actually was almost normal. He was okay with it.

* * *


They didn’t head into garages for fixes unless it was really bad. Dean knew how to break down an engine about as well as he knew how to break down double-barrelled 12-gauges, so he could handle just about anything. The real limiting factor was the tools, and sometimes the parts, since there was only so much improvisation you could do with duct tape and spare muzzle barrels. Well, that and the Impala’s trunk space. When it came down to carrying a bullet-molding kit or an extra transmission, even Dean went with the bullet-molding kit. Barely.

“Doesn’t look too bad,” Sam said, staring down at the engine. He actually couldn’t see anything because the smoke hadn’t yet blown away, but he figured the point was more to calm Dean down. Ever since they’d gotten stuck in that carwash two towns back and had almost gotten waxed to death before the attendant had noticed, Dean had been twitchy.

Dean still was twitchy. He alternated between bouncing on his heels and waving vigorously at the smoke. Once or twice he tried to stick his hand through the clouds, only to jerk it back; the air itself was still too hot. “You know what, Sammy? Why don’t you go lie down and catch up on your beauty sleep, and leave the car to somebody that knows what they’re doing?”

“Sheesh. I’m just—are you sure you don’t need any help? It looks pretty major—” A little of the smoke had cleared up and Sam could see part of the exhaust hose flapping loose. He pulled his sleeve over his hand and reached out to grab it.

“Hey! Leave her alone, genius!” Dean snapped, slapping away Sam’s hand. “It was your bright idea to go through that damn carwash. Probably flooded the underside…stupid…poor thing…”

For a second, Sam just stared. Okay, Dean loved his car, but that had been a bit harsh. Anyway, it hadn’t been like they could’ve just driven through town with an inch of mud crusted on the car and not get connected with the recent explosion in the swamp nearby. “I was just—”

Dean was already buried in the hood, cooing and clanking. With a shrug, Sam left him to it. There just wasn’t any reasoning with Dean sometimes.

* * *


Sam rolled over, cracked open an eye, and then glanced at the clock. Three forty-five in the morning, and Dean’s bed was empty for the third night running. And this time it couldn’t possibly be because he “had an idea and was following it up” because they’d put this town’s ghost firmly to rest five hours ago. Anyway, the second time this had happened, Sam hadn’t mentioned it to Dean, but he’d gotten up and looked around.

He flopped back onto the bed, debating whether it was really necessary for him, as Dean’s brother, to get up at this hour. Dean was four years older, and a slightly better shot with a rifle, after all.

When Sam lifted his head, one of his legs had already slid off the bed and was poking around for his shoes. He grumpily got up, shoed himself and staggered towards the door. He didn’t grab his coat because he had a feeling he wasn’t going to need it.

Yep, there was Dean out at the car again, checking over it for the umpteenth time. Jesus Christ, as if they hadn’t ever gotten it scratched before. Or, say, plowed it into a haunted house, and then Dean had been worried but he’d gotten over it once he’d realized that the Impala was nowhere near wrecked.


Sam went back to bed.

* * *


“So I ran into Mrs. McCallister while she was out jogging and—” Sam stopped, frowning. He propped up his arm against the bathroom door’s frame and peered more closely at Dean.

After a second, Dean noticed. He irritably lowered his razor and turned to glare at Sam. “What? I miss a spot and it disturb your sense of perfect order or something?”

His eyes were so red Sam could barely see any white, and they were slightly runny as if Dean had been feverish for a while. The rest of him was damn near gray beneath the tan, and the dark circles under his eyes made him look raccoonish. “More like your whole face disturbs me,” Sam blurted.

Dean snorted and went back to shaving. “Well, not everyone can be the poster child for morning glory.”

“No, seriously, you look worse than those ghouls in Kentucky.” Those words were just sliding right off Dean, but Sam persisted. “Look, the car’s fine. It runs fine, we didn’t have to plow into anything this time, so you don’t have to go out and check it every—”

Whoa, reaction: Dean whipped around like somebody had jabbed him with a hot poker. “What? What the hell are you talking about? You been hitting my medicine stash?”

“No!” Sam snapped. He backed up a couple steps, then shook his head. “Medicine stash?”

“Sometimes Jack, Johnny and Jim are just the right kind of company.” The water faucet went on, and Dean bent over to wash off his face. He paused with his hands under the water, then poked his finger at Sam. “But not yours. You stay away from them, you hear?”

Sam rolled his eyes and went to get them coffee. “Yeah, mom. I am legal, you know.”

“But you’ve already got your visions!” Dean yelled. “No point in making you even crazier!”

Yeah, sure. Though he wasn’t having any visions now, Sam was beginning to get some crazy notions anyway. He really needed that cup of coffee.

He passed the car on the way over to the diner and gave it a long look as he did. Then he stopped and straight-out stared. He could’ve sworn…

…maybe the sunlight had just hit the headlights funny. And maybe their mother had set herself on fire with a cigarette.

* * *


They pulled up across the street from their next interviewee. Dean rubbed at the puffy, dark skin beneath his eyes, then yawned. He started to pull out his keys. “So how do you want to do…what?”

Sam pulled a blankly innocent face and pointed out the window. “There’s a free space right over there, in front of the church. Why’d you park all the way over here?”

For a second, Dean’s eyes were completely confused, as if he actually didn’t know. Then he gave himself a shake and gave Sam a crooked half-smile. “Been too long sitting on your ass in libraries, man. What, you afraid of a little exercise?”

“No, just wondering what’s the deal,” Sam muttered. He got out of the car and stood around while Dean eased himself out, moving like a man with a five-alarm hang-over…or a very sick one. Disturbing shades of their spell in Nebraska with the reaper came back and danced mockingly in front of Sam.

He irritably brushed them away and walked around the back of the car. His eyes fell on the trunk and a thought occurred to him. He tapped his hand on the trunk top.

Dean whipped around like he’d been shot. He was wide-eyed and crouched as if in preparation for attacking, but then he saw it was Sam and relaxed into annoyance. “What?”

“Open up for a second? I think I dropped my phone in there last night.” Given all the holy stuff they had in the trunk, nothing evil could possibly come near it, let alone hang around. Hopefully, Sam thought.

It looked like Dean was going to blow Sam off, but at the last second he changed his mind and stomped over. But he lifted the lid with something nearly like reverence. “Man, you can’t keep track of anything, can you? You’d lose your mind if I weren’t around.”

Sam was too busy staring to respond right away. “So…we’re…uh, redecorating?” he said, waving towards the trunk.

Which looked a little emptier than usual, and come to think of it, Dean had been carrying in packed bags to their rooms, even when they didn’t think they’d need all their gear. What was left had all been wrapped in scraps of…Sam ran his hand over one bundle. Yeah, it was silk, and silk of course was used to wrap things so their power wouldn’t leach away. Or wouldn’t get out for other reasons.

“I just thought if we get stopped by highway cops again, they’d be more likely to let us off if they didn’t see a small arsenal when they popped the trunk,” Dean said. His eyes rapidly flicked from side-to-side; he was nervous about Sam’s reaction.

He damned well had better be. Worrying about cops? Hello, was this Dean?

Sam opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. “Good thinking.”

But definitely not his brother’s style. Great. Research it was.

* * *


As soon as he got a chance, Sam swiped Dad’s notebook and locked himself in the bathroom with it. He frantically paged through it while trying to catalog all the weirdness that had been going on in the past few days. “Appears exhausted without any reasonable explanation for why…doesn’t seem to recall nocturnal activities…obsession with object or place, borderline on worship…change in personality…change in moods…”

Things clicked just as the right pages fell open in Sam’s hands. But this was seriously so out there that he just didn’t want to believe it at first. He stared at the cramped writing that squiggled around the various clippings and rough sketches.


Well, great. Didn’t that just explain Dean from childhood on…Sam sat back and switched to staring at the wall. He ran through other possibilities, but they didn’t even come close to providing an explanation for all the symptoms. That had to be it, then. But—But it was Dean. Dean never got possessed—he got beat up, locked up, and nearly killed, but he did not get possessed. That’d been a trait Sam had always envied about him.

“Okay.” Sam opened up the notebook again. “So testing this hypothesis…”

* * *


Dean suddenly threw on the brakes so Sam came within an inch of going through the windshield. As it was, his hand ripped a big hole in the map. He barely slammed out his arm to catch himself on the dash, then pushed himself back. “What the hell—”

“This isn’t the right way,” Dean said. He swept his hand out towards the dark countryside outside. “Do you even know where we are? Because this definitely is not heading towards a small strip mall with a poltergeist in the laundromat. This is…hell, those are gravestones up there.”

“Don’t tell me you’re scared of driving through an old churchyard,” Sam muttered. He covered up his surprise and disappointment by trying to straighten out the map. Damn. So much for that. “Here, if you doubt my guidance skills so much, why don’t I drive and you—”

“Nuh-uh. Nope, no way. You got us here, you’re getting us out. Fair’s fair.” As roughly as he’d stopped, Dean put the car in reverse and got them away from the old graveyard. But once they were a decent distance away, he slowed down and—and patted the wheel.

Sam pretended to be deeply buried in the map, but risked another glance a couple seconds later (the rip helped with that). He saw Dean stroking the wheel and soundlessly moving his lips, a deeply concerned look on his face.

Then again…

* * *


“Then we should—oh, man,” Sam said, suddenly jerking up. He had been filling Dean’s squirt bottle with holy water, and when he moved, he felt water slosh heavily over his hand and splatter on something. That should’ve been the car hood.

And Dean should’ve been checking out the girl in the miniskirt-that-was-really-a-kerchief, but instead he was scowling at Sam and rubbing frantically at the spot where the water had hit the hood. “Hey! Watch it!” he scolded. “It’s not like we can just fill up every time we pass a church.”

“Sorry.” Sam sounded insincere. Well, he was a little bit distracted by a droplet that Dean had missed, which was merrily sizzling and smoking away on the hood. It was cloudy and the temperature, that girl’s wardrobe notwithstanding, was in the high fifties.

As he watched, the drop was suddenly wiped away by a brown blur. Still pissy, Dean grabbed Sam’s arm and jostled him well back from the car. “Let’s just get this done. Her gears weren’t shifting right and I want plenty of time to work on them tonight.”

“Uh…yeah. Sure. Hey, why don’t you do it in the morning? I’m serious, man—you look like hell,” Sam said. His brother had wiped off the drop with the sleeve of his leather jacket. His leather jacket. He was—had been—almost as paranoid about that as he was about the Impala.

“You’ll look like hell if you don’t get a move on,” Dean snapped. “Jesus Christ, what’s with all the fussing lately? You channeling a grandma or something, psychic wonder?”

It was all Sam could do to not say anything. This far on, he didn’t want to raise any suspicions before he was ready…to…to do what had to be done. Yeah.

Somehow he didn’t think dusting the Impala with salt and burning it was going to work.

* * *


Sam made elaborate preparations in order to be able to give a plausible excuse for being out most of the night. He even practiced in front of the bathroom mirror, but for all that work, he might as well have told Dean he was spending the night with a nice werewolf girl he’d picked up at a Sabbat. Dean just grunted, said ‘okay’ and headed towards the Impala with his tools.

Near where they were staying, there was a university library that was conveniently open well into the early hours of the morning. But eventually, they did have to kick Sam out—though he talked the desk lady into giving him another fifteen minutes for his printing to finish—and he stumbled back to their motel. He started to cross the parking lot before he remembered part of the plan was to pretend he wasn’t noticing Dean’s nighttime trips.

By then, he’d already gotten within sight of the car, and it wouldn’t been too hard to backtrack without Dean noticing so Sam squeezed himself as best as he could into the shadows. He inched his way along the side of the motel for about ten yards before he realized he couldn’t even see Dean. The Impala was out there, with tools scattered around it, and its hood was propped open, but no…wait. Something had moved against one of the back windows.

Sam was tired, and plus he’d been reading up on demons till his eyes swam, so at first he wasn’t sure if he was seeing right. He glanced around, but the lot was empty. And deathly silent, so when Sam tiptoed closer, every step sounded like he was crunching on salt. He ducked down as far as he could and squinted at the car.

Right about then, he started to hear things, too. Moaning. Creaking leather. Heavy breathing. A girlish giggle in an octave Dean couldn’t have reached if someone had kicked him in the balls. Dark shapes moved sensuously behind the steamed-up glass, occasionally broken by the solid thump of an elbow or a foot—Sam couldn’t tell—against the window.

Oh….kay. Right. That…explained why Dean was so tired all the time, Sam lamely thought. He backed up and scooted into their room before she could notice, because Dean definitely wasn’t in a position to.

* * *


“Dad, I really could use your help. Dean’s in trouble,” Sam started.

He had a whole prepared speech that was supposed to follow that so he’d get the message across and not lose his temper, but he kind of did anyway. Chalk it up to researching, spotting Dean with some kind of succubus and then being so damn weirded out by trying not to picture how that’d work to get any sleep.

“See, this is what happens when you just up and leave without any info. Yeah, you’re chasing Mom’s killer, but could you take a second to check in once in a while? I mean, what if Dean had died up in Nebraska? Then we’re not exactly safe, are we? Even if it’s not the demon? And—and now, for God’s sake, Dean’s gotten possessed by his car!”

Sam’s scalp hurt. He realized it was because he was yanking at his hair. “No, I mean, something’s possessed the car and it’s kind of possessing him. Mostly at night. It’s probably a succubus. You see, he goes out and I think they…anyway, it’s draining his energy. Which is a bad thing. Goddamn it, you should know what I mean. Anyway, it’s really working him hard—” this was all coming out wrong on so many levels “—and I need to stop it, but I don’t think the usual ways will work because normal-him will kill me anyway if he comes back and the Impala’s messed up. Of course it’s messed up right now, but—”


The voicemail was full. Goddamn it. They were on their—scratch that, Sam was on his own again, since Dean was busy getting sexed up by his own car.

Sam flopped back on the bed and pushed at his face. The front door opened. “Man, you look terrible,” Dean rasped. “Bad night?”

“Makes two of us.” Or so said the gaunt-looking, pale man Sam saw when he cracked open his fingers. “You?”

“No, actually I had good dreams.” A ghost of the old Dean showed in his hinting smile. “Good dreams. You know—”

“Don’t. Tell me,” Sam muttered. Yeah, because he already knew, thank you, and Dean was going to owe him big time for this one.

* * *


When Sam tapped Dean on the shoulder, Dean snarled as he turned around. “What? I’m—”

Out cold. And Sam’s fist really hurt—Dean had a head like a rock. Nevetheless, he hastily caught Dean as the other man fell and quickly dragged him over to the bed. Sam got out the handcuffs, then reconsidered and dragged Dean into the bathroom. This motel was either old-fashioned or cheap, but whichever it was, its plumbing was out in the open. You were supposed to hang onto that during a tornado, so Sam figured if he had to chain his brother down, the plumbing was the best bet.

Dean’s head tipped forward as Sam backed away, showing off the big bruise blooming over his temple. Sam winced, then headed out front. “Sorry, bro, but it’s for your own good.”

The moment he stepped outside, the car turned itself on and came at him: shades of Constance. Luckily, Sam already had the holy water out; he liberally squirted it on, then tossed the jar of blessed oil so it shattered over the hood. He was just supposed to dab that stuff on, but he wasn’t exactly suicidal. He’d just clean it up later.

“Sam!” Dean shouted. His voice was heavily muffled, but not so much that Sam couldn’t hear the furious tone of it.

He ignored Dean and started chanting while periodically flipping more holy water at the car. It revved up and screeched around, drawing back and then trying to come at him from different angles. Sam’s mouth dried out and his stomach lurched, but he doggedly kept chanting. If he moved away from the door, God knew what the car would do.

“Sam, you goddamn little motherfucking—”

The car abruptly whirled off and made a big circle around the lot as fast as it could go; it left thick black burn marks on the pavement. Then it reversed and plowed straight at Sam, who almost stammered the next phrase. He squirted even though the car wasn’t in range of the spray. Though it was a second later, and Sam had to flick the papers up in his face so he couldn’t see it and could keep chanting.

The bumper tapped his knees. Tapped. He almost collapsed right there, but Dean howling obscenities in the background provided enough distraction for Sam to keep going. Or maybe it was supposed to be incentive. Whatever. He said the Latin as fast as he could, gasping now. He could smell something beginning to burn.

Oh, crap, that wasn’t good. Sam dug frantically in his pockets and got out the bell and cigarette lighter. He fumbled those into the hand holding the print-outs, then grabbed Dad’s notebook from his coat-pocket while chanting.

A huge wind blew up, first smacking the papers into his face and then bending them down so he could stare straight into the windshield. There was a woman sitting there, semi-transparent so he could make out green eyes, but see the lines of the driver’s seat through her. She was clutching onto the wheel with all her might as some invisible force strove to drag her up by her hair, and she looked enraged. Her mouth was open and she appeared to be screaming things at Sam, but thankfully, Sam could only hear Dean.

He shouted the last word and threw the bell so it rang hard against the hood, then flicked on the cigarette lighter. He hadn’t had time to get out the candle, but he figured the spirit of the ritual was what counted. After a moment of standing eerily still in the stormy wind, the candle-flame went out by itself just as Sam was going to blow it out. He immediately slammed Dad’s book—open—down on the car hood and flipped it shut, leaning on the cover with all his might.

With a last soundless yell, the woman vanished. The wind died down. Sam sat down hard on his ass and stared at the car bumper.

“Sam?” Dean croaked. “Sam, what the hell--what happened to my car?”

Sam whipped around and doused Dean with the last of the holy water. Then he scrambled back, only to be stopped by the car bumper. His printouts, which had fallen from his hand, skittered lazily around the two of them in the light breeze.

Dean just stood…or rather, leaned there in the doorway, front completely soaked. He blinked a couple times as the water dripped off his face. “What the hell?” he repeated.

“You’re not sizzling. That’s good. Good,” Sam said, vastly relieved. He sagged against the car, then frowned at Dean’s wrists. “Hey, don’t those hurt?”

“Er…well, now they do,” Dean muttered, gingerly lifting one wrist to stare at it. The cuff, with broken chain, was still dangling from it, and blood and bruises were welling up beneath the metal. “Sam, why do I have handcuffs on me?”

It was Sam’s turn to blink a lot. “It’s kind of a long story. We should probably get your wrists taken care of first.”

Dean ignored him and turned to stare disbelievingly at the parking lot. “And what the hell were you doing with my car? Are those tracks from my tires?”

“Long. Story. Inside, wrists, then road, then story. Okay? Okay. Great. Thanks for agreeing with me, Dean, because I have to say, I’ve had a really, really bad week,” Sam rattled off. He jumped up and hustled Dean back indoors before Dean could spot any other details.

* * *


Dean slouched in the front seat and stared at the wheel. “Some thing invaded my car and I didn’t even notice?”

It was a nice, bright sunny day. The car was clean, and their next destination was that carwash: to fully exorcise the damn thing and make sure this never happened again. Thing was, that carwash was three hundred miles away and Sam didn’t really want to get in the car again. “Well, you did notice, sort of. But you were out of it.”

“So you’ve said. Jesus.” Shaking his head, Dean started to close the door. Then he stopped, opened it and leaned out. “What’s the hold up? You got rid of it, didn’t you?”

“Her. Yeah, I did. I just…” Sam shuffled his feet. He knew it was stupid, but was it so hard to understand that he might have a little residual wariness left? After this morning? “Give me a second.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “She won’t bite.”

“‘She’?” Sam yelped, jumping back.

“I was kidding. Kidding. Look—” Dean reached out, then frowned as Sam scooted back another foot. He exhaled disbelievingly. “I’m not possessed. Get in the goddamn car, Sam.”

“I’m going to. Really!” Sam edged around to his side and gingerly opened the door. He rocked back and forth on his feet, then took out a bag of rock salt and sprinkled some on the seat. Then he got in.

Dean had watched the whole proceedings with an expression that was the bastard child of incredulity and disgust. “Man, you are so sweeping that up when we stop for the night. I don’t want salt crusts on the leather.”

“Can’t be any worse than the crusts you had to be leaving every night,” Sam muttered.


“Nothing, nothing. Let’s go. Let’s go,” Sam hastily said. He gave Dean his best nonchalant face.

Which Dean didn’t buy at all, but he pulled out into the street anyway. Some things, neither of them wanted to talk about. Anyway, it was over so they didn’t really have to.

“And don’t be squirting holy water in here, either. I swear, if I have to get this whole car reupholstered because of this…”

It was over. Maybe.