Tangible Schizophrenia


The Kindest Cut II: Unhealthy Habits

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Violence, bloodletting.
Pairing: Sam/Dean.
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB, not me.
Notes: Folklore cited is mainly drawn from Balkan-region traditions, but just not the ones Hollywood tends to use. Consider this AU, starting after ‘Shadows.’
Summary: So Dean’s a vampire. So he isn’t coping well.


The bathroom was clean, they’d both showered, and Sam still could smell the tang of blood in the air. He grimaced and squinted at his laptop. “I should’ve gone with you. I didn’t need sleep that badly.”

“Yeah, you did.” Dean had wanted to spend the whole night locked in the bathroom, even though he said he wasn’t feeling any cravings, but in the end he’d been persuaded that discussing the situation might go better if they weren’t shouting through a door. He still was sitting as far from Sam as he could get and still be on the bed. “Besides, the vamp was going out every other night, and it was supposed to be an off-night. He broke pattern. Not your fault.”

“Still, I could’ve—” Sam looked up, saw Dean’s face, and decided that that avenue of conversation didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being productive. “We probably should get going as soon as possible in the morning. That…got loud.”

He didn’t see so much as feel Dean wincing, and he regretted the words as soon as he’d said them. But Dean didn’t give him a chance to make up for it. “What you should’ve done was just kill me.”

The laptop nearly slid off Sam’s legs when he put down his hands a little too hard. He stared at the picture of a traditional Dracula and reminded himself that punching out the screen would also be unproductive. “If you’re going to grab a stake the moment I’m not looking—”

“What did you mean by if I die, you might ‘do something’?” Dean abruptly asked.

Sam saved what notes he had and looked up at Dean. The burns and the gashes were healing over—they’d probably be gone by this same time tomorrow—but they still looked pretty bad. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to find out. Dean—”

“And what’s with these powers of yours? Why do they just come up at random times?” Dean continued in a harsh voice. He was circling one wrist with his other hand, rubbing at the extensive bruising there.

As if in sympathy, the pain in Sam’s head suddenly crested. He froze, then looked frantically about, but nothing had exploded or cracked or anything. Thankfully. On the other hand, Dean was still staring at him. “I don’t think…it’s random,” Sam hesitantly said. He had been coming up with a theory, but hadn’t really sat down and thought it through. “Dad said what killed Mom was a demon. Every time I get “something,” it somehow ends up connected to that thing. That poltergeist in our old house, Max and his mom…Jessica…”

“The vamp broke pattern.” Dean glanced to the side frowning. He stretched out his arms in front of himself and twisted his hand up one, shoving back the sleeve. He’d looked almost normal again right after he’d…drunk…but now he was going pale. “Came after me,” he muttered thoughtfully, talking more to himself than to Sam.

Sam clicked on a link. The paragraph there wasn’t helpful, so he backtracked. His skin started to prickle and he raised his head to catch Dean eying him. His stomach went cold and he suddenly wished he had the ability to fade into the woodwork.

As soon as Sam did, Dean jerked his head around. Then he growled and shifted a few inches further away. “Damn it.”

“It’s not—you,” Sam muttered. “Do you…need any more?”

“No. I’m not going to stake myself, either.” Dean stared at the far wall. His hand was still on his arm and his fingers slowly curled so he was digging them deep into his flesh. “You still should probably cuff me to the headboard before you go to sleep.”

“Who said I was going to sleep?” Sam glanced at the bedside clock. “I’d just have to get up in another hour and a half anyway.”

Or maybe they’d just leave insanely early. The web-surfing had long since passed useful and now Sam wasn’t even skimming. The lingering smell in the room was driving him quietly nuts, and he was starting to get a cramp in his leg.

“You’re not driving,” Dean said. He returned Sam’s look with the kind of condescending expression that always made Sam want to shove him into the nearest vertical surface.

After turning off the laptop, Sam put it away and started working through the pile of notes he’d scribbled down on the hotel stationary. He had more and better ones on the computer, but he couldn’t even remember what he’d thought about two seconds ago so he figured he’d best stick with the solid stuff. “You aren’t, either. You’re going to get really drowsy after noon.”

“So we’ll switch then.” The bed shook as Dean kicked at the floor. He squeezed his hand up his arm, then worked it back down. He’d only looked directly at Sam for a second, and now he was back to watching the wall. “If you’re sleeping in the car, you’d still better chain me to the wheel.”

“And what if the police pull us over? It’s another hundred miles to go and you drive even worse when you’re worked up,” Sam snapped. He nearly crumpled the papers in his hands before he got hold of himself. “I’ll stay awake. I’ve got a lot of stuff to work through anyway.”

Dean laughed incredulously. The sound, grating as it was, was still more cheerful than the look in his eyes. He kept gouging his fingers into his arm so the flesh beneath was starting to go from red to purplish. “You can’t stay up forever. Look, Sam, you can’t act like I’m all fine now. I’m not. And if you don’t cuff me, I can’t be held responsible for anything that might happen.”

He already was, that was obvious enough. Sam bit down on his lip without thinking; Dean’s eyes went to Sam’s mouth. Then Dean’s face twisted and he jerked himself completely around so his back was to Sam.

“Damn it,” Sam muttered. It was clear how much everything was getting to Dean, even though most of it was patently out of his control, and Sam didn’t want to feed into that. But he also could see the wisdom of keeping a repeat of the bathroom from happening while they were cruising at eighty on the highway. “Fine. Hey, are you sure we should still go? The job can probably wait—”

“No, we’re going.” Dean restlessly moved about on his corner of the bed. He’d stopped digging his nails into his arm, but now he was staring at the way the skin had bruised up. It was just a little less creepy than how he looked at Sam now, sometimes. “I need to kill something.”

Well, Sam could understand that. It was a damn shame they couldn’t kill that vampire twice over, so they’d better find something else. And maybe it’d help calm down Dean a bit.

* * *

“All right, there,” Sam said, leaning back. He absently tossed the keys in the air while he waited for Dean to get out of the driver’s seat.

Dean slowly pulled his arm out through the wheel and rubbed at his wrists, which were looking pretty bad again. He kept his face angled away. The line of his jaw was stiff with tension. “How about you go out and walk around? I’m not going to drive off and leave your ass.”

“Is the sun that bad? I thought you said it wasn’t bothering you.” Sam wasn’t protesting—not at having to get out of the car, anyway. He was already halfway out when Dean answered.

“It’s not bothering me so much I can’t do things,” Dean called out. He scooted over and was flattened against the passenger’s side before Sam could even round the front of the car, and at no time did he raise his head to look straight at Sam. A muscle was twitching in his cheek, making the remains of the burn there dance. “I’d just rather—not go outside if I don’t have to.”

He could be so weird about asking for favors sometimes. It usually amused Sam more than it annoyed him, but right now Sam’s nerves were a little touchy. He barely kept himself from grinding his teeth as he slid into the driver’s seat. He closed the door, then leaned over with the handcuffs out.

Without looking, Dean reached for them. His fingers were trembling and his reflexes were off…which a couple of hours in handcuffs would be expected to do to a guy. “I’ll do it. Just get driving.”

“Dean—” Sam irritably exhaled.

“Goddamn it, Sam, I’m trying really hard not to fuck up again here, but it doesn’t help when you keep leaning over me,” Dean snapped. He lunged—still not looking—and got hold of the handcuffs, ripping them out of Sam’s fingers.

One blur later, he was chained to the door and Sam was feeling more than a little uncomfortable; that’d been way too fast. Sam turned the key in the ignition and hit the gas, only to have the engine snarl at him: he was still in ‘park.’ He winced and hastily shifted gears.

“Don’t break the damn transmission.” In contrast to a few seconds ago, Dean’s voice barely had any snap to it. He’d leaned his forehead against the window so the light slanted over his face and showed that the dark rings under his eyes weren’t just tricks with shadows. Then he sighed and closed his eyes. “Did you call Dad yet?”

“Yeah. I don’t think he’s coming.” The next road sign that whizzed by told Sam they were only an hour away, as long as they didn’t run into any of the construction that’d bogged them down all morning. They could roll into town, check into a room and then Dean could nap off his increasing sluggishness while Sam did the usual preliminary poking around.

Dean exhaled again, more loudly. “Did you mention that I suck blood now?”

“Not—in—so many words,” Sam stalled. He’d been pretty circumspect with his message, but frankly, he wasn’t all that sure that being blunt and specific would have done any good. Dad hadn’t shown when Dean had been dying, or when they’d had to go back to their old house—which Sam had meant to ask about back in Chicago, but he hadn’t had the time.

And if Dad did come, Sam wasn’t positive that that would be a good thing.

“He should know,” Dean insisted. “For one thing, he’d know what to do.”

“By the time he would’ve found us, we’ll have this thing fixed. Besides, he left and he knew that we were going to keep getting into trouble. Actually, we let him leave. And that was a shitty decision, by the way, but we made it and now it’s stupid to pretend like we’re kids and he’s going to swoop in and save us all the time.” They really shouldn’t have done that. If Dad had still been with them, then he could’ve gone with Dean and then this whole problem wouldn’t exist. And Sam honestly didn’t know whether he blamed himself or his father more for that.

He should’ve argued more. He should have, but the deva had burst in and fear and adrenaline had gotten in the way. For that matter, instinct had gotten in the way, and instinct had said the safest thing for everybody was to split up for a while, then regroup. Of course, afterward he’d realized there’d be no regrouping. Twenty-twenty hindsight was a pain in the ass.

“Shitty decision? Hey, you had your chance to—” Dean suddenly stopped and sat up, grimacing as if he’d just swallowed something unpleasant. He twisted uneasily in the seat and pulled at the handcuffs. “What the…”

Sam was about to ask what was wrong, but right then the sound of the road under the tires changed from the low rasp of concrete to a loud, metallic rattling. He jerked back to looking at the road, then sagged in mixed relief and jittery amusement. They’d just gone across a bridge, over some creek.

He resettled his hands on the wheel before looking at Dean again. Then Sam blinked hard, because Dean had gone from rising anger to limp and grey-faced. “Jesus. What hap—do we need to pull over?”

“No. No, I’m feeling…better.” The color was coming back into Dean’s face, though it was taking its time about it. He glanced over his shoulder, then turned around and swallowed hard, looking faintly nauseated. “That was weird. I just felt like somebody was pulling out my guts for a second.”

It hit Sam like somebody had slapped him across the face. “Running water. You can’t—well, I guess you can cross it, but not that easily. The legend’s half-right.”

“I thought that was werewolves,” Dean slowly said, sounding puzzled.

“They gave that to those later, but the really old legends said that about both werewolves and vampires. And they—” Sam started to lift his hand from the wheel before he caught himself. He gave himself a mental slap for still being so slow on the uptake. “Do you have a pulse now?”

Dean blinked hard and started to say something, then shrugged. He twisted his hands around to get his fingers on his wrist, exposing the wide swath of bruising there. Seeing that gave Sam’s guts a wrench…and nudged at his brain, but he couldn’t quite remember what was being nudged.

After a moment, Dean nodded. “Not much of one, but it’s there. You know, I’m not sure I can hold my breath either. I thought vampires were supposed to be undead.”

“They are. But all that stuff about no pulses and breathing was mostly from the Victorian Age. If you go back to Central European tradition and—hang on a second.” Sam shifted around till he could dig in his pockets. The car started to drift and he jerked the wheel around, then pulled out a silver crucifix, which he held out to Dean. “I want to try something really quick.”

He started to explain, but the wary look on Dean’s face said he’d already gotten the idea. Dean eyed the crucifix for a long moment before he finally leaned forward to let the crucifix brush his cheek. His eyebrow went up when nothing happened—no sizzling, no yelp of pain. “Okay. So this is a pre-Christian version or something?”

“I guess. Which means I haven’t been looking back far enough,” Sam muttered to himself. Great. Half his notes were completely useless, in that case. He’d have to start over.

Something warm bumped Sam’s hand, then pressed up against it. He felt the barest pricking before he yanked away his hand. At the same time, Dean violently recoiled in the opposite direction; the car rocked a bit and Sam had to wrench the wheel around to keep them from plowing into the guardrail. For a couple minutes afterward, all Sam could hear was their jagged, mismatched gasping. Yeah, Dean was definitely breathing, was the only coherent thought Sam had.

“You need to eat again,” Sam finally said.

“I’m fine. Just stop getting near me,” Dean said, talking over Sam. He crouched in the corner, then abruptly banged his head against the window so hard Sam was surprised it didn’t crack. Dean sank back down and closed his eyes again. “How long till I can kill something?

Sam checked the clock and the odometer. “Forty minutes, give or take ten.”


“I’ll wake you…” But when Sam looked over, Dean was out cold. Actually, out dead might have been a better description. He looked exactly as he had yesterday, when he’d really been…Sam turned around and pressed down the accelerator. He wasn’t going to think about that.

* * *

Definitely not a nice house, Sam thought. He could believe that it’d have a ghost that went around hanging girls…except for the fact that he wasn’t picking up one damn stray signal. “Well, they nailed the description, but I’m not really getting anything…Dean?”

“Hang on a second.” The moment they’d gotten something to work on, Dean had turned into super-hunter, all furrowed brow and intense concentration. Right now he was pacing around the room for the fifth time, staring at that one symbol.

He wasn’t going to be listening any time soon, so Sam gave up and went over to one of the boarded-up windows. Everything looked the part, but…something was off, and not just the lack of phenomena. Something was niggling at the back of his head, gnawing at him, and it was driving him crazy.

“Hey. Listen, that…do you think we’d have to go back? Since it’s not your usual Dracula kind of monster,” Dean suddenly said.

It took a few moments for Sam to figure out what Dean was asking about. “Nah. The stake is one of the oldest pieces of all the folklore out there—cropped up before holy water and crucifixes. That one’s dead.”

“Too bad. Wouldn’t have minded another go at it.” Dean abruptly swiveled, then walked out into the front room. When Sam followed, he found Dean staring at yet another symbol.

It was the curly one, and come to think of it, that was what was bugging Sam. He had the feeling he’d seen it before, but he knew he hadn’t—no, it was more like he had the feeling he should know it.

“I know I’ve seen that other one somewhere else, but this one’s just pinging in my head. It’s like the damn thing’s talking to me,” Dean muttered. He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned at it. Then he started to say something else, but abruptly clammed up. His shoulders hitched up and stayed there, so tense Sam could practically see the muscles popping beneath the leather coat. “Listen, Sam. About my personal space…”

“Sorry, didn’t notice I was doing that.” Sam backed off, mentally kicking himself. Who would’ve guessed how hard it was to stay five feet from Dean till now? Had they always been getting up into each other before?

Dean shrugged off Sam’s apology and wandered back into the other room. “All right, basement’s this way, I’m guessing…and hey. Sam. Company.”

The way Dean’s voice tightened up made Sam jump to attention. He slid out his gun and went after; he wasn’t going to leave Dean’s back uncovered again.

* * *

“So you could smell them?” Sam asked, swinging his bag onto the twin bed closer to the door.

The bathroom light clicked on and Sam had the oddest sense of déjà vu, even though he was standing and the other light was on, too. He gave himself a sharp shake and sat down on the bed. He was just getting his laptop set up when Dean came back out.

Dean had looked a little better once Sam had roused him out of his coma of a nap, but that slight improvement had completely disappeared and then some. Though Dean was making a valiant effort to cover that up with a mocking look. “Dude, a noseless guy could’ve smelled them. They must live on nothing but Cheetos and Coke.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Once I was in the same room as them.” The laptop beeped and Sam glanced down, then decided that had to wait a second. He slid the laptop onto the bed, then got up. “You know, if there was a beauty contest between Mordecai and you right now, I think Mordecai would win.”

“I’m fine—Sam, get back. Don’t—get the hell back, damn it!” Dean snapped. He backed up just as far as Sam went forward till he hit the drawer set between the two beds. His elbow caught the lamp and he jerked around to look at it, then turned back with gun out. The gun was shaking so much it could’ve served as a grandfather clock’s pendulum, and above it Dean’s eyes were wide and panicky. “I’m fine.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. It was a good thing they were naturally so snippy with each other, since that meant he could do it on autopilot while the rest of his mind worked on not freaking out. “That’s really not going to help, Dean. One, you aren’t going to kill me.”

“I could kneecap your stupid ass,” Dean unsteadily said.

“Then I’d be bleeding,” Sam pointed out. He kind of wished he hadn’t, because Dean’s pupils flared and his whole body went so tense Sam could practically hear the twanging. “Two, you can’t go out like this, let alone take on some psycho farmer ghost. You’re going to pass out any minute now.”

Dean considered this. Then he sighed and tossed the gun onto the bed. “Okay—”

And then he jumped over the goddamn bed. Sam didn’t know whether to be shocked that Dean would actually do that to get away, impressed and worried that Dean had managed that without apparently trying hard, or to laugh like a hysterical moron because Dean had fucked up the landing and ended up stumbling into the wall. But then Dean couldn’t quite get up; he fell back to one knee and his hand went out to claw uselessly at the wall. So Sam went with getting around the bed fast and grabbing Dean beneath the arms.

He was trying to pull Dean back onto his feet when Dean suddenly twisted--

--and froze, mouth about an inch away from the Band-Aid Sam had slapped on his neck. His hands had landed on Sam’s arms and slowly flexed, curling slightly so his nails scratched through Sam’s shirt. Sam was looking at Dean’s ear and the tiny cloth bag he was cupping in his palm so it was a hair away from touching Dean’s jaw. The ear was trembling, and in front of it a trickle of sweat had started to run.

“Sam, I can’t do this,” Dean whispered. He jerked forward a little bit, stopping just barely far enough away to keep Sam from having to burn him again. His left knee was pinned behind Sam’s legs, but his right was still pretty free and it rubbed up and down the side of Sam’s leg, like he was scratching an itch for Sam. “I can’t—be this—this thing--”

“You’re not. It’s just temporary. I swear to God, we’re going to fix it. But that’s only going to happen if you stay alive till I figure out something.” If Dean died…for good…then Sam didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t go to Dad and look at the man, and he couldn’t go back to whatever semblance of a normal life he’d be able to scrape up under that kind of cloud. “Look, I’ve got the angelica, and we know that works. You’re not going to take too much. I can keep you from doing that if I have to.”

Dean made a strange, rasping, hollow kind of sound. After a moment, Sam realized it was supposed to be laughter. “It’s not just that. You noticed—you noticed what else happened last time. And it’s still got me. I can’t—you’re my brother, damn it. You’re my brother and I can’t make it stop.”

He ended on a half-hiss, half-whine that coiled around Sam’s ear and tickled where it should have cut, and cut where it should have tickled. His right knee slid up, then back so if Sam wanted to keep Dean pinned, he had to shift forward so they were pressing against each other from thighs to shoulders. He felt Dean move his hips and edged the angelica that much closer; Dean flinched away, then plastered himself as far back against the wall as he could without actually melding with it. The space that opened up between them still wasn’t enough to keep Sam from feeling exactly what Dean meant.

“Get off me,” Dean weakly said.

“Not until you have something. A mouthful. You’re having a mouthful, and then I’m going to get off. And I can shower—” Sam’s tongue briefly got stuck around that word “—while you do some more research on that one symbol. The one that was ‘pinging’ at you.”

Dean sucked in his breath and squeezed Sam’s arms so hard that Sam’s hands started to go numb. He bent slightly so he was turning into the hand Sam still had shoved against his side, then shuddered. “Shit. Not on the neck again. People were calling you on it all day, and besides, it’s way too cliché,” he muttered, voice cracking a couple times.

“Okay. Then move your head so I can get my wrist around—”

The headshake Sam got was so violent he almost lost his grip on Dean’s jaw. “Like hell. Anywhere near your hand’s going to weaken your gun-grip and your punch. Which sucks to begin with.”

Sam was sorely tempted to head-butt Dean for a moment, coping mechanism or no coping mechanism. “Femoral artery out too, I guess?”

“I’m not carrying you around, Sammy. Not unless you put on the dress and heels, too,” Dean snorted. He was still forcing it, and badly, too.

“Shoulder,” Sam snapped. He waited for Dean to come up to an objection to that as well.

Instead, Dean sharply drew in his breath again. He leaned forward, hesitated, and then Sam felt his lips; they were cracked and rough. Dean pushed at Sam’s collar, working the fabric till he could get under it. His hips moved slightly sideways, then back, and his hands curled around so they were cradling Sam’s elbows instead of gripping the biceps. He bit down.

He was off almost at once, apparently taking Sam’s comment at face-value. Dean shoved himself back into the wall and pushed Sam the opposite way so Sam had to scramble to stay on his feet.

“Okay. That’s—that’s good,” Dean said. His voice was tight and he’d dropped to the floor so he was turned away from Sam. His hands were digging into the carpet so hard that he was pulling it off the floorboards a little.

It obviously wasn’t good, but Sam decided not to push the issue right now. Frankly, he wasn’t feeling too steady himself: when Dean had bitten down, he’d moved up against Sam and his…

“I’m…just going to the shower now.” Sam eased towards that direction. He waited for a reaction from Dean, didn’t get one, and finally took the last two steps.

He had to turn slightly to open the door, but he only looked away for a second. Nevertheless, when his gaze landed on Dean again, the other man had changed position to sit in a dazed heap. Dean slowly lifted his hand and wiped off his mouth, then stared at his bloody fingers. He grimaced as his hand jerked back up, almost as if it was acting on its own, and shoved his fingers in his mouth. His other hand dropped to his fly, and at that point, Sam damn near jumped into the bathroom.

He’d slammed the door before he’d realized what he was doing. Sam winced and slumped over the sink, then slowly bent down to splash his face a couple times. His shoulder twinged and he absently touched it. Froze. Very slowly brought his hand around to look at it.

There was blood on it, but not much, and Sam had felt a scab already forming over the area. The victims of the other vampire had all been written off as bizarre animal attacks because of their savaged throats, but Dean was managing to avoid that. But the other…Jesus Christ. Some days Sam wondered if the family problem was a real, genuine curse.

It wasn’t Dean’s fault, Sam reminded himself. He couldn’t help it. He…Sam cut off that line of thought. He was starting to hear noises outside and he moved quickly to the shower, twisting on the water. The sound of that covered up the other sounds pretty well. He just wished he had something to do the same for his imagination.


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