Tangible Schizophrenia


Moebius Time IV: Cutting the Loop

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Violence. Incest.
Pairing: Sam/Luther, Dean/Luther and Sam/Dean.
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB, not me.
Notes: AU after ‘Shadows.’ Sequel to The Road Less Traveled. The history of the Kansas-Nebraska territory given here is a mix of fact and fiction.
Summary: Everything’s in a downward spiral, and it won’t be easy to snap out of it.


Fire. At first Sam couldn’t believe it. They were trying that? After everything—but then, all of that hadn’t happened yet here.

Dean slammed back against Sam, then twisted around and grabbed him. “Sam! We have to get out!”

“I know,” Sam hissed. He was fine, but Dean was freaking out, pushing at him and coughing so hard that he nearly toppled down the narrow steps several times.

The smoke wouldn’t hurt Dean, but the fire would, and might even kill him if what Sam had done to the other vampire was any indication. He grabbed Dean’s arm and yanked them further down the steps, but only managed to get down one before Dean pulled back, shouting something. They didn’t have the time for it—the steps were already cracking beneath their feet—and so Sam just threw his arm around Dean’s waist and jerked. Hard.

It was a short staircase, so they didn’t have too far to go. The building was made of stone, but the floor was wood, and there were wood benches along the walls that had caught fire from the flaming cinders flying out of the stairwell. Sparks spat out of the stairs over Dean’s arm and he hissed, stumbling so he hit the basement floor on his knees. He batted furiously at his sleeve and seemed to manage to put it out.

Another shower of sparks came down on Sam, but he wasn’t all that surprised when he didn’t catch fire. He just got angrier.

“Hey!” Shapes moved on the other side of the room, flashing back and forth so Sam couldn’t get a fix on them.

Aside from that, the vampires weren’t all that bright. The first one made a straight charge at Sam and completely missed Dean, who lunged up from the floor to tackle him sideways. The second one was a little more cautious and hung back, but Sam caught him with a fake feint and spun aside to let the vamp’s momentum carry him straight into the fiery stairs.

Dean was still busy with his on the floor, but he seemed to have that in hand so Sam pushed on through the smoke, which was thick enough now to make even him cough. He couldn’t see very well, but a door was furiously rattling somewhere on the left wall, so he aimed for that. When he ran into it, he made it crack wide open.

Something fell out at him so he jerked back, but then he reached out and steadied Luther. He still didn’t know where Brown was, but the bastard hadn’t left the floor.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Luther hissed. His wrists were manacled in front of him and blood bubbled from the corner of his mouth. “You—”

“Which way’s out?” Brown had to have a backdoor. “Can you show Dean?”

Luther swayed against Sam, looking like he didn’t know whether he wanted to pass out or hit Sam more. Then his eyes snapped to something behind Sam.

Sam felt the air scream away from him as he lashed out at the space behind him. Then he jerked as his push ran up against an opposing force. He turned around, hauling Luther with him, and as soon as he figured out where Dean was, he shoved Luther that way. “Get him out.”

Then he turned back. The smoke was clearing, and the figure of a man was slowly coming into view. The eyes were what Sam saw first: large, dark, unearthly. Then the white, mocking smile.

“Well, it’s nice to finally see what all this fuss is about,” Brown said, his voice lilting in a jeer. A familiar jeer—Meg’s jeer. “What’s your name?”

“Sam,” Sam replied, feeling his mouth stretch into a humorless curve. The rage stacked up on itself inside of him so each layer compressed the ones below it till he was shaking, it took so much effort to keep it down. He held it for a little bit longer, just until Brown’s mask started to slip—and then he let it go.

The world exploded, but this time it was when he wanted it to. It was his heat, his flames licking around his feet, and so he was comfortable because he knew it wasn’t going to touch what he didn’t want it to. And it’d completely incinerate whatever he did want it to.

* * *

Beheading a vampire with nothing more than brute strength and a door wasn’t exactly easy. Doing it while the whole goddamn place went up in flames and Sam was fucking around thinking he was some magical demon-destroyer was right up there with the hardest things Dean had ever done.

And the moment he’d finished, Luther fell on top of him. Dean nearly ripped out the bastard’s throat before he realized who it was, and then he came pretty close to doing that anyway. Instead he snatched out at random, got hold of Luther’s arm—painful wince at that—and jerked him up against the wall. “Sam?”

“There’s a tunnel. They were using this place as a lair—it was just built so they could do that.” Luther looked like crap. The smoke seemed to be getting to him some, but since he didn’t really need air the same way people did, he shouldn’t have been too worried. Actually, he should’ve been fucking ecstatic that somebody had come back for him, but instead he looked like he’d just seen the end of the world cresting the horizon. “He wants you out of here.”

“Not without him,” Dean snarled. “Sam? Sam!”

The clouded air suddenly billowed out in one direction, turning from gray-white to an oily black, and the clean ash-smell of charred wood drowned in a surging wave of the stink of sweetish, sickening burnt flesh. It turned Dean’s stomach almost inside out so he started to drop to the floor; he’d crawl back to his brother if he had to—

Get out.”

No. No, not without Sam, and Dean fought for that. He opened his mouth and tried to squeeze the words through the iron bands that were constricting his throat, he dug his nails into the floor and refused to go backwards. Even if he couldn’t go forwards, he couldn’t leave. The order had sunk into his muscles and bones so he was shaking with the effort of staying in place. His nails were starting to peel up one of the floorboards, but he wasn’t—he wasn’t—


Dean’s fingers jerked themselves from the floor. The strain he’d been under meant the moment they did, he had toppled backwards, and once he was moving, he couldn’t stop. He could feel water sizzling down his cheeks, leaving burns in its wake, and he was wildly shaking his head, but he didn’t stop till he’d blundered into a cool draft, till he’d found the tunnel from which it was coming and run through it and emerged from the ground into some building. The edge of the trapdoor or whatever the hell it was tripped him up so he fell to one knee.

He kept on going, bending till his forehead was pressed to the floor. Goddamn it, goddamn it, they’d been so…he’d sworn it was never going to get that far with Sam. Maybe Sam wasn’t going to let Dean get taken, but didn’t he have the right to want the same thing for Sam? What the hell made Sam’s wants more important? What the hell was wrong with Dean, that he couldn’t stand and hold his goddamn ground for the most important moment of his life? That he couldn’t—fight--Sam--

At first, he didn’t hear anything but the fire roaring back at the other end of the shaft—that and the harsh, racking sobs that were the only way he could breathe. Then other noises started to filter through: panicked shouting, splashing water. Cracking wood. The slithery scratching of rough fabric over wood.

Dean turned his head and blinked till the tears cleared out enough for him to see. Luther was slumped about five feet away, curled in on himself. He actually looked really sorry. Sorry and completely miserable. “He told me the same way,” he said. “Look…Dean…if he was that far along, then this works out. Now you don’t have to kill—”

“You coldblooded son of a bitch!”

Breaking Luther’s neck wouldn’t kill him, but it’d make Dean feel a lot better. In fact, he was already cheering up just from gouging his fingers around Luther’s throat, and once he found something with an edge in this place, they were really going to start partying. His fingers fit really nicely into the grooves between the bumps of Luther’s spine, and he could already feel the bones beginning to creak, and the bastard wasn’t going to talk about Sam like that now, was he? He wasn’t going to sit on his high horse and—and—and he wasn’t even fighting back. He wasn’t…the prick. Well, Dean wasn’t going to do his dirty work for him. If Dean couldn’t—nobody was going to get off easy.

He sank back, feeling like lead was being piped into his limbs, and slowly let his hands slide off Luther’s throat. Luther stayed on his back, staring straight up at the ceiling. His neck was still all together, but the only sign of life from him was the occasional blink.

If there’d been room, that would’ve been what Dean would’ve been doing, but wherever they were now was too cramped: there were dusty stacks of chairs in the way and great, some kind of furniture store. Fucking great. Everything was just…

…somebody was walking in the tunnel. Dean frowned and crawled over to the trapdoor, sure he had to be hearing wrong, but no, those were footsteps.

The only other thing that could’ve gotten out of that fire was…but Dean just crouched on the edge and didn’t make any move towards getting a weapon or defending himself or anything. And it wasn’t that it didn’t matter any more, that it was kind of pointless anyway, but…he inhaled sharply and deeply, but he couldn’t smell anything besides cinders. If what he was wildly hoping was in there, he wasn’t able to tell. He just had to sit and wait and listen as the thing in the tunnel came closer, closer, and finally stepped to where Dean could see.

A ferocious kind of pain seized up in Dean’s chest, crushing around his heart, and then suddenly relaxed. But it wasn’t replaced with relief—no, he sagged back with something more like terror. Then he quickly scrambled backwards on his hands and knees till he ran up against something that groaned: Luther. He couldn’t go any farther then.

Fingers appeared over the edge of the hole, clean and pale. They bent, knuckling over with strain. Then Sam hauled himself up with a grunt and swung over his legs to land heavily on the floor. His face was grey with exhaustion, but he didn’t have a single burn anywhere on him…he didn’t even have soot marks on his clothes.

He glanced around, then saw Dean. His shoulders slumped and he tiredly, brilliantly smiled with relief. “Oh, thank God. Are you okay?”

Dean opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again.

“Oh…I burned her up. Him.” A tiny wrinkle briefly appeared between Sam’s eyebrows. “It was Meg. I mean, the same demon that’d been in Meg’s body. I think—I didn’t get her, but I took care of Brown’s body and if she is still alive, then it’ll be a really long time before she can find another one that good.”

He sounded…kind of jacked up, as if they were coming off a job done neatly and without much bloodshed. He looked the same, he moved the same, he talked the same, but it was still all wrong.

“Listen, I’m sorry about earlier, but—” The shouts from the street were getting closer; Sam glanced at the window, then grimaced and put his hand to his head. He had to be too tired to use his powers now. “—yeah, we need to go. Come on. Can you get Luther?”

Luther, as a matter of fact, now had a death-grip on Dean’s elbow. The moment Sam turned away to check on what was going outside, he yanked himself up to Dean’s ear. “We need to talk about him,” he hissed.

Then he dropped back, and when Dean twisted around to look, it seemed like Luther was pretty much out of it for a while.

“Dean?” Sam said. He was a little curt, and the reverberations in his voice made Dean duck his head. “What’s the problem?”

“Hang on a second,” Dean replied after a moment. He slowly got up and started about getting Luther over his shoulder. Yeah, they’d talk. He’d listen to…to Sam for now, and then he’d get Luther to actually tell him what the hell had happened, and then he was going to stop whatever was happening to Sam before he completely lost his brother. No matter what it took.

* * *

With all the lynchings and near-lynchings and fires going on, there was no way they could’ve sneaked out of town without being noticed. This didn’t seem to trouble Sam very much; he picked out a house only a stone’s throw from the capitol building, which was still pouring sluggish puffs of smoke from its windows. The house was fully furnished and it looked as if the people who lived in it had just stepped out for a second: the embers in the fireplace were warm and someone had left a half-mended bridle on the kitchen table.

The whole place smelled like vampires, which was the only reason why Dean didn’t balk at using it. Not that he felt comfortable about it. On the contrary, his molars were locked together so he wouldn’t grind his teeth, and he had to keep telling himself that ripping up the furniture and the walls and the ceiling was a totally irrational reaction.

He didn’t have the energy to not walk around as if he might get jumped at every corner. Sam, on the other hand, had settled in like it was his second home. He’d taken over one of the backrooms and was doing something with a bowl and some blood from a caged chicken that’d been in the kitchen. Which reminded Dean a lot of Meg, since she was suddenly coming up everywhere he turned now. Bitch was more persistent than her fucking daddy-demon, or however the hell they were related.

Once he was sure Sam wouldn’t notice—God, he was hiding from his own brother—he went back up onto the second floor. They’d left Luther on the floor of what looked like a bedroom with a bucket of water and a bunch of rags. Then Sam had gone back down, and Dean had followed, anxious to know if he hadn’t been hallucinating all the changes, if he still had a brother. It hadn’t been too fair to Luther, but then, he hadn’t raised any objections. He’d probably been relieved to get away from Sam.

To be honest, so was Dean. He hated it and it made him want to puke, but when he was upstairs, he didn’t feel so much like he needed to…like crawling around beneath Sam’s feet was the normal thing to do. Like it was something he wanted to do.

He wasn’t hallucinating. Sam had changed, and like that. It was all real, and God, it was worse than Dad shooting himself.

Luther was slightly less bloody, but still on the floor. It didn’t look like he’d touched the rags at all, and he didn’t open his eyes to look at Dean till Dean was standing right next to him. Then the first thing he did was try to peer behind Dean.

“He’s downstairs. I think he’s casting for Meg, trying to see where she went,” Dean muttered, getting down on his knees. He glanced in the bucket: the water there had the faintest tinge of pink to it. “My God…he wasn’t even burned.”

“That’s why the demon wanted him so badly. Perfect vessel.” It was hard to make out what Luther was saying, both because his voice was weak and because he was talking to the floor. He hissed when Dean touched his shoulder, and all Dean had been doing was trying to peel off his coat to get to wherever the blood was coming from. “Why the hell didn’t you keep him out of town? Goddamn it, there was a chance then. But now—”

The coat and the shirt under it were too gummed-up, so Dean took out his knife and started cutting. He ignored the noises Luther made, and tried to ignore all the delicious-smelling blood on him. “Look, I tried. Believe me, I tried. But he—just—he did—I couldn’t say no.”

“Shit.” Luther closed his eyes. For all the sucked-in breaths and harsh moans he was making, he wasn’t moving around very much. Even when Dean started squeezing the clots out of his wounds. “Don’t let him get near my blood.”

“What? Why the hell would he, anyway?” Dean snapped. A loud thud from downstairs made him freeze, but Sam didn’t come up so he went back to working on Luther. He did lower his voice. “What’d he need that for?”

“What do you think? Living longer so he can chase down the demon, Meg, whichever one it is. But—he can’t—you can’t let him. That’s exactly what they want him to do.” Beneath all the dirt and blood, Luther was going really pale, his skin turning papery to touch. “That’s why they left you alone and went through that whole lynching act with me. Goddamn it, the one goddamn time you should’ve left me to die—”

Dean had gotten Luther more or less stripped to the waist by that point, and rinsed down enough so that he could see the injuries. Legs were okay, face was fine aside from a bruised-up jaw. Most of the blood seemed to be coming from several deep, parallel slashes on Luther’s back, which were definitely going to need stitches. Some of them went down to the bone. “Would you shut the fuck up? Like right now’s a good time to argue—could you just tell me what the hell you’re thinking, for once in your fucking life? This need-to-know dribbling is complete bullshit.”

The cuts on Luther’s arm probably would need sewing-up as well. And the line of his ribcage was crinkled in places, so a couple broken ribs. After some thought, Dean figured there was as good as any a place to start. He angled his hands around the first one, then pressed down till he felt a turgid shift in the muscle and heard a click.

Luther banged his face into the ground and kept it shoved down till Dean had finished. Okay, maybe he was hurt, but he really needed to fill Dean in soon or else Sam would come up and…and Dean didn’t know what would happen. He couldn’t predict Sam anymore.

Dean knotted up linen strips around Luther’s ribs when he’d finished resetting them, which wouldn’t completely prevent the bones from shifting, but then it’d been a rough job anyway, so somebody still would’ve had to adjust them. Just as he was finishing that up, Luther finally started to talk. “My friend, the one going after the demon…he had a theory. Demons don’t have bodies, so they have to possess people. But they can’t keep people from aging and if the bodies get hurt, they can’t heal them—they just have to keep them going till the body falls apart. Something about people being imperf—no, impure.”

“Impure?” Some rummaging around in a nearby dresser turned up needle and thread, which meant Dean didn’t have to go back downstairs for it. He nudged at Luther to roll over, then bit down on a sigh and helped when it became obvious Luther couldn’t do it himself.

“Demons are higher beings than us. They don’t naturally have flesh because they’re so refined,” Luther muttered. A muffled grating sound said he was ripping at the floor with his nails to keep still. “Platonic ideal of evil.”

When Dean pushed the needle through the lip of the first cut, the thread pulled right out. He grimaced and pulled the thread through pinched fingers to squeeze off the blood, then checked the cut. He’d picked a spot far enough away from the slash, but…Luther had lost too much blood and his flesh was turning too delicate. “Platonic what?”

“Hell if I know. I’m just repeating what Ivan said. He was the educated one—he’d been to theology school.” Luther had closed his eyes. There were bloodless white rings around them, and around his mouth, too.

Goddamn it. But…no, short of asking Sam to get some converted blood made up, there wasn’t any other way. And Dean wasn’t about to ask Sam to do any more magic right now, let alone something that involved hurting anything. For all…for all he knew, Sam might be okay now with pulling somebody off the street and draining them for Luther. If it could be twisted around so that it was ‘to help them kill the demon.’ “And you never bothered to look it up with all the time you had?”

“Plato’s some damn philosopher. I looked up what I could use,” Luther snapped.

After a moment, Dean let a slightly hysterical chuckle escape him. He could understand that. “Okay, point.”

Luther frowned, then cracked open an eye to look up. He opened the other one, and widened both when Dean shoved his wrist in the son of a bitch’s face.

“Hurry up,” Dean hissed. “Longer you take, more I have to think about what I’m doing.”

After a long, considering look, Luther craned his head forward. His mouth closed around Dean’s wrist, and a moment later, his teeth pricked into it. He didn’t bite that hard, so if Dean stared at the far wall and tried to make out what people were saying on the street outside, he could almost ignore it.

“Maybe ‘distilled’ would make more sense,” Luther mumbled, briefly drawing back. He leaned forward again, but just to lap instead of suck. “Because the idea…there are people in the world who can take a demon better than normal people, but they’re still human. If you could get rid of that, make them pure…then you’d have somebody who wouldn’t just be possessed. The demon would be able to make them heal, to stop their aging—to really have the body, not just use it.”

“All the shit with fire,” Dean muttered after a moment. That’d always been the demon’s trademark. “But…how would that work?”

Luther took a last lick, then let his head drop back just about when Dean had been thinking of telling him enough. He looked up at Dean through slitted eyes. “Ivan had this grand explanation for it all, but I don’t remember it that well. He told a story, though—a Greek myth about Achilles. Man was born half-god, and his mother wanted to make him immortal so every night she put him in the middle of a fire so a little more of his humanity burned away.”

“Roll over. I’m not done.” Dean yanked a tight bandage around his wrist, then picked up the needle and thread again. This time when he tried the stitch, the flesh held the thread. “So what happened to Achilles? I know—I know he died later.”

“His father—he caught the mother at it one night and didn’t understand what was going on, so he yanked Achilles out…Achilles stayed human. I think that’s how it—” Luther cut himself up and half-rose so Dean nearly sank the needle straight into his back. He hissed, but not like he was really paying attention to that.

Since he’d been listening to Luther, Dean hadn’t heard the footsteps. He did smell Sam coming, because Sam’s scent had changed ever-so-slightly: it’d taken on a scorched tinge, like burnt sugar. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but Dean didn’t know whether that was just because Sam wanted him around, while the demon had thought of them as enemies.

The door creaked behind Dean as it opened, but he continued to sew up Luther’s wounds like he hadn’t noticed. The best thing for now was probably to act as if Sam was normal and hope for a chance to catch him off-guard. And then…and then Dean had an idea of what ‘and then’ would be, but he couldn’t think of it without feeling even more ill.

“Meg’s not dead. She got away,” Sam said, voice boiling over. The room heated up several degrees, then abruptly cooled. “Not that far, though. How’s he doing?”

“He’s awake.” That came out curt. Hopefully Sam took it as just Dean’s usual hostility towards Luther.

Sam walked towards them, then detoured at the last moment to hunker down beside Dean. Like he’d done a zillion times before, he casually put his hand on Dean’s shoulder. It felt like a red-hot clamp had come down. “The manacles are still on.”

“Some bones in my wrists are broken,” Luther said. He couldn’t entirely keep his wariness and fear out of his voice. When Sam lifted a hand towards him, he flinched.

After a moment, Sam put his hand down on the floor for balance as he leaned over to take in Luther’s back. The fingers he had on Dean’s shoulder pressed down a fraction more as he did. It felt like he was branding Dean, conveying a warning and a reminder about where they all stood in relation to each other.

“I’m too tired right now,” Sam finally muttered, mostly talking to himself. “And I’m so pissed off, I—I’d probably rip off your hands if I tried to make the cuffs break themselves open.”

“I can try to pick them. Just let me finish these first. Go to bed, man. You really need it.” Getting Sam to sleep first would be a good idea. Especially since Dean could feel dawn coming on fast, and once the day started, he wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing because he’d be goddamn sleeping. He couldn’t afford that anymore.

Sam h’mmed an assent. He watched Dean for a while, then turned back and stretched out his hand to feather two fingers over the bruises on Luther’s jaw. Luther held himself back from reacting for about a minute, but the effort had him trembling worse and worse, and finally, he just couldn’t keep his head from turning into the touch. And then Sam slid his fingers down, curling them into the soft flesh beneath Luther’s chin so Luther’s eyes were forced up to him.

“You hit me,” Sam said, tone deliberate and soft and furious. “You ever do that again and—”

“I didn’t think you could take him yet. They’re a lot stronger here than they were in your time,” Luther quickly interrupted. He lowered his gaze and spoke hesitantly and didn’t resist at all. Of course, he was in a hell of a lot of pain, but that still was some damn good lying.

But Dean wasn’t sure if it’d be convincing enough. And anyway, he just found…well, for once it wasn’t so much Luther that disgusted him as the circumstances, and how they were forcing all of them into the most incredible contortions. Two-faced and irritating as Luther could be, he’d never shown much inclination to be a doormat before, but right now that was the only way to survive. “That’s really self-sacrificing of you.”

“Dean, don’t start.” Sam shot Dean a genuinely annoyed look, then got up. He stifled a yawn as he did. “Look, I’m going to nap in the next room for an hour or so, and then I’ll see about getting some blood for you two. Don’t kill each other. We’re starting after Meg as soon as possible.”

When Sam left, he didn’t quite close the door. Dean looked at it for a while, keeping one ear cocked for Sam’s movements, and then crawled over and nudged it the rest of the way shut when he thought it was safe. Then he went back over to Luther.

“Nice thinking,” Luther mumbled.

“Yeah, but now what? I can’t kill him.” And that wasn’t a matter of ridding the world of evil, or of what Dean wanted, or of doing what was best for Sam or himself. Dean just couldn’t.

He remembered Sam’s white, horrified face in that crappy motel bathroom when Sam had refused to kill him for being a vampire, remembered the sheer force of his brother’s refusal as a near-palpable third presence with them. He’d been a little unfair about that whole episode.

Something else occurred to Dean then. “Why your blood? Why wouldn’t they worry about me? I could make him—” He stopped as he remembered another conversation he and Sam had had.

“Could you? You just—you never did feel right to me,” Luther said. “Strong, and maybe you’re a different kind, but…”

Dean gingerly picked up Luther’s left wrist and turned it so he could check out the hinge and the lock. He didn’t know if he could get the lock picked in the time he had left before sundown, but he probably could at least loosen the cuffs so he could slide them up high enough to set and bandage the wrists. “No, maybe not. I wasn’t exactly…made a vampire the way you’re supposed to be, and then Sam got me halfway turned back to normal before things…interrupted. I’m…” Dean’s mouth wryly twisted “…probably sterile for that.”

Luther snorted a laugh, then cut it off to half-suppress a moan as Dean started to work on the manacles. He laid his head back on the floor and closed his eyes. “Well…Sam probably wouldn’t drink from you anyway. Not that the demon or its helpers know that yet, but…you’re still his brother. He’ll still bend for you.”

But not for much longer; he was making Dean bend now, and it didn’t seem like he was going to stop. It seemed like he liked doing it, like he was going to resort to that more and more often. “Why are you helping with this? You just couldn’t stand being told what to do all the time, or what? Because—” Dean started, voice harsh.

“You like your brother like he is right now?” Luther opened his eyes long enough to shoot Dean a derisive look, then went back to semi-conscious. “Neither do I. I hate demons. I’d hate him if he ended up one. And I liked him enough before to want to do whatever I could to make sure he didn’t turn into one.”

“Liked him.” Dean had to raise his eyebrow at that. And his hackles, even if right now, he preferred Luther’s company to Sam’s.

Shrugging obviously made too many things in Luther hurt for him to try that a second time. When he’d unclamped his teeth from his lip, he said, “Yeah.”

The left cuff finally loosened up, letting Dean shove it back about an inch. He couldn’t feel any bones that were obviously out of place, so the break had to be deep in the wrist. All they could do was leave it be and hope it healed right, so he wrapped up that wrist, splinting it with the handle from a hairbrush he’d found in a drawer, and moved on to the next one.

Luther stirred again. “Dean. It’s not…him anymore. There still might be moments where he’s the same, but those are moments, not the main thing. You—”

“I can’t kill him. I can’t.” It sounded a little like an apology. Maybe it was.

Maybe…maybe there still was a little sliver of a chance left. All the stuff Luther had said made sense…but it was still guesswork. Sam hadn’t actually asked to drink Luther’s blood yet. If he didn’t…

Dean clung to that. It was all he had left.

“I guess I’m sharing with you today,” Dean finally muttered, glancing at the bed against the wall.

Luther didn’t reply. He just laughed beneath his breath; the sound was equal parts hysterical and cynically ironic.

* * *

When Sam woke up, he felt oddly bereft and spent several minutes lying in bed trying to figure out why before he realized he was missing something. Dean wasn’t in the room.

And when he went looking, he found Dean in the last place he ever thought he’d find him: stiffly asleep in the same bed as Luther. Both of them seemed out for the count, so Sam went down to the kitchen to work through his shock by turning a couple chickens clucking around in the lot behind the house into converted blood.

He came back up with the blood and set it on a table beside the bed. Then he got a chair from the next room and put that down by the side of the bed, letting the legs thump a bit as they landed. Luther’s eyelids twitched.

“I know you’re awake,” Sam said, sitting down. “And you’ve got to be hungry.”

After another moment, Luther opened his eyes. He was closest to the wall, and judging from the difficulty he had in sitting up, he wasn’t going to be able to reach across Dean. Something clinked as he moved, and then the manacle chain dropped out of the blankets.

Sam picked it up, not missing the way Luther initially moved backward, or the wince Luther made when the cuffs pulled on him. “Dean couldn’t get them off?”

“Dean fell asleep. We were up all night.” Luther normally would’ve done everything he could to avoid touching Dean, but when he needed to put his arms down for support, he laid them right across Dean’s chest. His face had drained of what little blood it had the moment he’d started to move, and now it was varying shades of gray, depending on how much effort he was exerting at a given moment.

Converted chicken blood wasn’t going to do it. As calm as Sam probably seemed right now, inside he was itching to go after Meg. Once they caught up with her, he could tie her down and then find out where the demon was in this time. And then everything would be better. “Yeah. Weird thing is, I feel okay now.”

“You don’t look okay,” Luther muttered. He wanted to say something else, but was holding it back for some reason.

Sam took out a knife and cut a shallow slice across the back of his index finger. He heard Luther suck in a small breath, and he knew that Luther’s eyes had immediately fixed on the blood welling up. Whatever Luther’s problem was, it’d be easy enough to deal with. He was easy enough, when it came down to it.

After shaking a couple more drops of blood into the bowl, Sam started to bind up his finger, but then thought the better of it and offered the finger to Luther. Who instantly pressed his mouth shut and clamped himself in place, because otherwise he obviously would’ve dived for it. He usually did.

“What?” Sam asked, getting exasperated. Then he noticed that the bed was creaking, and glanced down to see Luther kneading Dean’s shoulder and arm. He looked back up in time to see Luther slide backwards, as if there was anywhere for him to go. There wasn’t even a window on that side. “Get off of Dean.”

Sam lunged forward; Luther made the mistake of trying to say something and Sam took the opportunity to shove his finger right into Luther’s mouth. He used his thumb and other fingers to pinch into the blue-black spots on Luther’s jaw so the bastard would hold still. The whole blood-thirst thing would take care of the rest.

And it did, with Luther unable to keep from rubbing his tongue along Sam’s finger for more than a second. The moment he did, his eyes half-closed and he slumped, his tongue carefully probing the cut so it bled more.

“Jesus, you make everything such a big deal. Just when I think I’ve got you figured out, you go and flip everything on me.” After about forty seconds, Sam pulled out his finger and reached back for the bowl. He shoved it at Luther till the irritating prick ducked his head and took a drink. “I don’t know what your deal is, but you’re not going to keep me from going after the demon. I’ve got a chance to make everything--everything--right and I’m going to take it.”

“Look, no matter…” Luther paused to awkwardly wipe at his mouth “…no matter how strong you are, the demon is stronger here.”

“And it’s got more like Meg walking around. Yeah, I know—I did a lot of looking around last night,” Sam said. He frowned when this made Luther’s eyes widen, but no further reaction seemed to be coming, so he let it be. “There’s already two or three more heading this way. But I’ve been thinking about that, and I think I’ve got a way around that.”

Luther had been in the process of bending for another drink, but now he lifted his head enough so that it was clear he wasn’t going to take any more. Not of his own accord, and Sam didn’t feel like fighting over that now. Two-thirds of the bowl was gone; Dean could have the rest.

“I…I don’t know how to get back.” The words came a lot easier than the thought had when Sam had finally admitted it to himself. “But if I have the time…but I can still get hurt. They could try hanging me like Brown, couldn’t they? And then there’d be no one to take care of Dean. So I have to make sure I can stick around till it’s all done.”

“Yeah, you’d be hunted. As soon as people figured out what you are,” Luther slowly replied. From watching his face, Sam knew the moment he’d figured out the double meaning of Luther’s words and lost his temper over it.

He sat still for a moment and wondered why the hell everyone was suddenly determined to get in his way now. Then he threw himself at Luther.

Oddly enough, instead of trying to get away, Luther went forward…forward and down, which made sense when he started shaking Dean again. Sam pried him off and forced him back against the bed before Dean woke up. The chair clattered over from a stray blow from Sam’s foot, and he ended up having to get onto the bed, one knee planted on the edge of it while he carefully straddled Dean. He had Luther by the throat, but the manacle chain was still flailing against Sam’s chest, so he switched one hand to hook that.

He let go of Luther’s neck long enough to drag Luther’s arms over his head, then seized his throat again. That finally ended all the struggling.

“So how does this work with your kind of vampire? Do I just need to drink the blood?” he asked. One last chance for Luther to come to his senses.

Wasted effort. Luther stared wildly up at him, the red smears still around his mouth standing vividly out against his bone-white skin. “This can’t be the way,” he hissed.

“Why else would they go after you and not Dean? They wanted to make sure I’d get killed before I could finish. Well, that’s not going to goddamn happen. I’m not going to be stopped again.” Sam started to bend down, then stopped. He’d have to practically gnaw Luther’s throat open, and then that’d be that much more that Luther would have to heal from before they could move. “Stop talking.”

Of course, he could just leave Luther behind because the blood was all Sam really needed, but he found himself reluctant to do so. He’d gotten used him, and he’d already had so many changes in his life…besides, then the demon might get Luther, and Sam wasn’t into giving up anything to it.

After a moment, Sam decided it probably was okay to let go of Luther’s throat. He kept hold of the manacle chain while he reached for his knife…which he’d actually left on the bedside table. With a sigh, Sam made himself concentrate. He was still a little tired and he overshot a little, nearly sending the knife into the wall, but he managed to grab it out of the air just in time. Then he leaned back down.

Luther jerked his head from side-to-side, keeping Sam from doing it. Finally Sam slapped the flat of the blade against the side of Luther’s jaw; that made him stop moving. He waited a moment, then carefully twisted the knife so the edge was pressed into Luther’s skin.

Then he cursed as something bumped into his knee; his hand slipped down to the mattress just before the knife would’ve sank in.

“Sam?” Dean drowsily mumbled. He turned over and peered at them. Then his eyes flew wide open and he yanked himself up the headboard, half-sitting before Sam could stop him. “What the hell--”

“I’m just discussing what to do next.” Sam started to push himself off the bed, then thought better of it and instead dragged himself further on so most of his weight was on Dean’s legs. He kept the knife in the sheets. “Sorry we woke you.”

Dean didn’t look like he believed that at all. He stayed where he was and glanced at Luther. “Yeah, and?”

“And there are more like Meg coming here. They’ll be here before we can leave, and it’s going to take a while to deal with all of them,” Sam said.

He had had to let go of the chain, so Luther had pulled his hands back down and now had them cradled to his chest. Luther kept himself pressed against the wall, and when Dean looked at him again, he opened his mouth, then bent over in a sudden coughing fit.

“Any ideas, Luther?” Dean pointedly asked after a second. He shot a distrustful look at Sam—at Sam.

“Yeah, but he’s not cooperating.” The more Sam watched the two of them, the more the set-up rang wrong to him. It almost seemed like Dean was siding with Luther, of all people, and then there’d been the fact that Dean hadn’t chosen to share a room with Sam. “Look—”

“I just wanna hear Luther talk about what he thinks is so bad about it for once. You know, since he’s always shooting our ideas down for bullshit reasons.” Yeah, it sounded sarcastic and jeering, but Dean’s heart obviously wasn’t in it. He couldn’t look steadily at Sam and he was slowly edging himself so he was between Sam and Luther. “What is the idea, anyway?”

Sam paused. “I go vampiric long enough to get the demon, then turn myself back. And you.”

Dean paled. He swallowed, hard and slow, and his gaze fixed itself on Sam’s face. Then he gave a minute shake of his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“It’ll make sure that I stay alive till it’s all done, and—and look, if I do it right, then maybe I won’t have to change myself back. Maybe I won’t have to change you back, because if we stop the demon here, then you never meet that vampire. Dad’s alive. Jessica’s alive--Mom’s alive,” Sam said. He put his free hand on Dean’s shoulder, willing Dean to just listen to him. “Come on. Think about it, about what it’d be like.”

“I am. Believe me, I am, but how do you know it’d change anything? Because—look, this all already has happened, Sam. It’s happened and somehow it didn’t work because the demon was around in our time. And you know what? I’m not risking it. I’m not letting you turn into a monster, and—”

Sam’s patience gave out and he snapped. His hand flashed from Dean’s shoulder up to Dean’s neck. The headboard rattled, then began to groan as he pressed Dean against it.

Something moved to the side and Sam briefly let go of Dean’s neck to jerk around and press the knife back to Luther’s throat, stopping him where he was. Then Sam turned back to Dean, who was hopelessly straining against the force holding him back. He managed to get his elbows up and braced against the headboard, but when he tried to lever himself away using them—Sam had to adjust fast to keep Dean from breaking any bones.

“Dean, I’m not a monster—hell, I’m trying to stop one here. I just don’t understand why you can’t see that,” Sam said. He tried to calm down, but the way Dean was glaring at him wasn’t making it that easy.

“Because this isn’t how we do it! Goddamn it, Dad’s not your fault! The last hundred and—and whatever years weren’t your fault. We stopped the demon when we could. We don’t know if we can do anything now to make things better, and I’m not going to lose you over some half-baked chance that we—”

Sam had heard enough. Dean wasn’t going to change his mind till he had proof, and he wasn’t going to get proof unless they did this.

Something in the headboard snapped when Sam upped the pressure on Dean. He winced at doing it, but he couldn’t take care of things while Dean was yelling at him.

Luther still was holding in place, so at least he wasn’t giving Sam any trouble now. He stared a silent plea at Sam, but he had obvious reasons for not liking this, so Sam could ignore him pretty easily. When the blade cut into his skin, his eyes snapped shut.

“Sam…wait, Sammy. I’m—I’m sorry, okay? I just…God, it’s him,” Dean suddenly said, choking out the words. But it sounded like that was more because of how Sam was forcing him away than because of reluctance or disgust or anything. Actually, Dean sounded desperately eager. “It’s always about him.”

“What?” That startled Sam enough for him to turn away from Luther and let up on Dean.

The moment he did, Dean dropped forward so his head was pressed against Sam’s shoulder. His hands came up a moment later to clutch at Sam’s arms, squeezing and loosening, and then he tipped so he could rub his cheek against Sam’s neck. “If you drink his blood, then it’s just like…he’s that much closer to you. But you’re my brother.”

“Oh…oh, Jesus, Dean. God, it’s not going to change that at all, okay? This is just something I have to do. It doesn’t mean anything like that.” Sam glanced at Luther, but he wasn’t moving; he was just lying there with blood trickling down his neck and staring. So Sam figured he could take a moment to wrap an arm around Dean and hug him. “It’s not going to give him an edge over you. I swear.”

“How the hell would you know?” A little bit too much sharpness to Dean’s tone there, but he suddenly lifted his head so Sam was distracted. His eyes anxiously searched Sam’s face. He shifted his hands down so they settled just above Sam’s elbows, and he leaned in a little more so they were barely a hairsbreadth apart. “Sam?”

“Look, I know.” Sam pulled his arm up Dean’s back till he could cup the side of Dean’s jaw. He watched Dean nod, eyes closing, and nestle his head further into the touch. But something was still making Dean tense, unsure…Sam stroked Dean’s cheek with the ball of his thumb and Dean relaxed a little more, but not quite enough.

Well…fine, Sam could do a little more. He tilted his head, then took a deep breath and pressed his lips to Dean’s. After a moment, Dean slumped into it and opened his mouth, moaning and sliding his tongue against Sam’s. And then—fingers seizing his hair—Dean’s grip suddenly turning to iron, a sob squeezing out of Dean to get trapped up against Sam’s mouth—a brutal yank and—


* * *

Dean sat up with a gasp, staring around himself. The night was black and cool. Weathered, broken walls ringed him, and no roof was over him when he looked up. His hands were pressed into dirt, and…and he was dressed like somebody living in the twenty-first century.


“Sam?” Dean shakily whispered. The world started to tremble, and after a moment, he realized that that was actually him. He jerked his head around almost convulsively.

Sam…Sam was lying on the ground, dressed like he should be dressed, in the middle of the circle they’d drawn in the ruins of Brown’s store. He was so white there couldn’t have been a drop of blood in his face, and he had his hands clutched protectively around his throat, and he was staring—staring at Dean like—

“God, don’t—we had to! We had to, Sam! It wasn’t you, and I wasn’t—I wasn’t going to let you get taken over like—don’t do anything to me, Sam. We had to,” Dean stammered, scrambling back. He hit a wall and had to stop.

At first Sam seemed confused, but then he got it and his face…he covered it with his hands and rolled onto his back, but not before Dean had gotten a glimpse of some hellish guilt in Sam’s eyes. “Oh, my God. Oh, God. I did that. I did—”

He went still, then yanked his hands down and sat up, twisting around to look in the other corner. Where Luther was, with no blood on him and sprawled in a way he couldn’t possibly have with broken ribs. He looked like he badly needed to throw up.

“…did I?” Sam asked him, voice small and shivering.

Luther flinched. He dropped his gaze. “A year afterward, I was in Lawrence and this vampire I’d never seen before attacked me, saying I’d killed his whole nest in Pawnee. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he was so angry he called me out in public and a passing hunter picked up on what we were. Gave me a hell of a month.”

“Oh, Christ.” Sam put his head back in his hands. “Oh, God.”

“But…but we’re okay now. You’re still alive. You’re—you know what can happen now, so you won’t do it, right? It just was some kind of long flashback from our end, like a dream—Sam? Sam?” Dean said. His voice kept cracking on him. He kept cracking up on himself, and in the end he had to wrap his arms around himself so he wouldn’t fall apart. “Sam?”

* * *

God knew how they’d gotten back to the motel. Luther kept falling over, saying something about phantom pains, and Dean had just…just turned into this shattered little kid, constantly asking Sam if it’d be okay. If he was mad at them. And Sam…Sam didn’t know how he was doing. He didn’t even know who the hell he was anymore, or what he was or what he would be.

He did know what he might be now, and it was terrifying and revolting and Jesus Christ, they’d had to kill him. And he could totally understand why. He would’ve done the same thing if…it never should have gotten that far.

He really was the problem. He was the problem—he’d always known that, but they’d all been looking at things from the wrong angle.


He didn’t turn around, though he did jerk up in surprise. Dawn had been over for about an hour. “Aren’t you getting a burn?”

“It’ll heal,” Luther said. He probably meant to be that biting; he’d alternated between shying away and cornered-animal savage since they’d gotten back. Kind of a tame reaction, all considering. “Dean’s asleep.”

Dean had been crumbling, but he wouldn’t let Sam get nearer than a foot to him. It looked like he wanted Sam to put a hand on his shoulder, or give him a hug, or something, but every time Sam tried, Dean would flinch. It didn’t seem like something Dean could help. Also a pretty lowkey reaction; Dean really should’ve been trying to kill Sam.

“Are you going to keep sitting out here?”

“No,” Sam said. No, he’d made up his mind. He looked down at the silver charm lying in his palm, then closed his fingers around it and tucked it back in his front pants-pocket.

Luther kicked at something: a rock, maybe. “Look, when the flashback ended, we went back to how we were. But…there are more demons besides the one that went after your family.”

“You offering to break my neck again?” Sam glanced over his shoulder. Much to his surprise, Luther didn’t have a gun trained on him or anything like that.

Actually, Luther looked like the one who’d been shot. He really hadn’t enjoyed doing that. He really…Sam mattered to him on some level, for whatever reason. “No…I’m saying that I probably can’t do that again. It was bad enough—so you’re going to have to find some other way. This one isn’t working.”

“Yeah, I kind of noticed,” Sam muttered, turning back around. He stared at the rosy sky. “I’ll be inside in another minute.”

Two minutes passed before Luther finally did spin around and start walking back to the motel room. And that was when Sam reached out and lifted Luther in the air and slammed him against the concrete, just hard enough to keep him down for a while. The parking lot was empty aside from them, so there was no one to see him float Luther back into the motel room.

He stayed outside to get what he needed from the car trunk. He’d been carrying around all that damn stuff for long enough; it was about time he used it.

* * *

“…because I knew how to be a goddamn vampire! I was good at it! I was happy that way!”

“Which completely does nothing to make me sympathize. You had to kill people to survive—now you don’t. Isn’t any part of you a little relieved about that? Or did you like killing people, too?”

“Well, I didn’t mind because I was a vampire. Now I’m human again and how do you think I feel thinking about all of that?”

Dean squeezed his eyes more tightly shut and pressed his head into the pillow, trying to block out the yelling. He had the worst headache…and God, he felt so sick. His stomach was cramping and heaving, and he really needed—really—but he felt so awful. But he needed to puke, and he didn’t want to do it on the bed.

Pride barely won out over nasty bodily functions. He shoved himself up and scrambled for the edge of the mattress, hoping to God that the trashcan would be right there and it was. And thank God. And Jesus Christ, the stuff he was throwing up tasted terrible and looked even worse. It looked like…

Hands went around him, steadying him. “Dean? Oh, man…Dean, are you okay?”

The first time Dean tried to speak, his mouth was too clogged up with…chunks, which were so disgusting and he spat like crazy till they were all out.

“He’s just throwing up the last meal he had,” somebody else said. Luther. Luther, sounding amazingly pissed off and…and God, why did the world smell and sound and look so much duller? Fuzzier…more muffled. “Results of playing God, Sam.”

“Well, I can’t do that anymore,” Sam snapped. He rubbed his hand over Dean’s back. When he spoke again, he did so in a much softer voice. “Not ever again.”

“Oh, now you stop. You hypocritical son of a bitch—if this isn’t twisting people around to fit your plans, then I don’t know what is. I don’t know how to be a goddamn person.” Stomping. Door slamming.

Dean started to wipe his mouth, then stopped. A beat later, Sam had handed him a wad of tissues to use. “What…what happened…?”

“You’re human, Dean. I turned you and Luther back, so I can’t make myself into a vampire. And—and I made that charm into a drink and I drank it and now I can’t do anything. I don’t have any powers,” Sam said. Then he took a deep breath. His hand stopped rubbing Dean’s back and tightened so it crumpled up Dean’s shirt. “Dean…I’m so sorry. About everything. I…it all was wrong. What we got wasn’t worth what we had to lose for it.”

Oh. Oh…and for a moment, Dean felt some sense of loss. But it was overshadowed by a growing hope.

He twisted around to look up at Sam. “So…it’s okay now? I can’t get at you anymore? I won’t have to?”

Sam flinched, then pulled Dean up. Dean gratefully wrapped his arms around Sam and reciprocated, pushing his head deep into Sam’s neck. He nodded, slowly running his hand down Dean’s back, and Dean sighed and arched before he really knew what he was doing. Then he stopped…but Sam didn’t back off or anything. He did go stiff, and his hand stopped where it was and didn’t move an inch from the spot, but he didn’t let go.

“Well, it’ll be okay. We can work on it now,” Sam finally said. “Best we can do.”

* * *

Two Months Later

The house had seen better days, but it’d been repaired about as well as it could be. The lawn was neat and the line of red brick dust ringing the house looked like part of the landscaping. All the windows were dark, so Sam went around to the back.

Luther was sitting cross-legged on the porch there, making braids out of corn leaves. This was the Midwest, so those could’ve been for dolls against any number of nighttime monsters. He glanced up when Sam came around the corner, then went back to work. The muscle in his jaw regularly twitched.

“You’ve got a tan,” Sam said.

“You’re here because you want me to fuck your brother, or to fuck you, and that way, you two don’t have to fuck each other. Because old habits die hard, right?” Well…Luther still was mad at Sam, apparently.

Sam ducked back around the corner; out front, Dean was poking at one of the windowsills, probably at the protective sigils carved into it. He looked up and gestured for Sam to come back already, and he wasn’t entirely kidding about it. He wasn’t too fond of this whole idea, but he’d been the one to track Luther down in the first place, so he got why they had to.

“You’re not doing too badly at being human.” Or at hunting, which wasn’t too surprising. “Look, you know why I did it. I couldn’t leave the possibility open.”

“Just because I know doesn’t mean I have to like it. Why didn’t you kill me instead? That would’ve worked, too,” Luther muttered. “Oh, no, maybe you’re here because you need somebody to play the dad—after all, you two only really lost it after that.”

For a moment, Sam missed being able to toss people through the air. Then he ruthlessly crushed that feeling and just tried to relax enough to unlock his jaw. He’d forgotten what a bastard Luther could be when he wanted to. “I’m here because things ended, but that doesn’t mean they never happened. Or that their consequences went away. You know so much, you have to know that—I mean, you’re in goddamn Lawrence. How stupid is that?”

“Really stupid,” Luther sighed. His fingers slowed, then stopped and he finally let the half-done braid slip to the ground. He lifted his head, but to stare out past Sam.

He’d drank Sam’s blood, and Dean’s blood. Dean had fed off of him. And then there’d been everything else. They were all tangled up in each other now, connected in ways that were twisted and backwards and forever raw, and some magic wasn’t going to make that go away. Moving on wasn’t impossible—hard, but not impossible, but getting away from each other was.

“I read up on flashbacks and time warps. Sounds like what we had was a flashback where we weren’t fully there—we doubled up, or something.” Luther started to get up just as Sam put his foot on the stairs. He was standing by the time Sam got to the top. “You know, this isn’t much healthier than before.”

“But this’ll work,” Sam said. He leaned in, and it seemed like Luther’s reaction to that was lingering on; the other man went very still, then gradually reciprocated.

And then when it was warming up, Luther abruptly broke it off to get the back door. “How’s Dean?”

“A mess,” Sam honestly answered. The public side of his brother was mostly back to normal, but in private it was a garden of boobytraps. Not that Sam was much better, really. “Look, that was just…kind of…it wasn’t to convince you or anything. I just wanted to see what it was like…you know, when I wasn’t doing it to make you do something. So I’d know the difference. We’ll leave if you ask us to.”

Luther paused, then finished opening the door. “But you’ll come back.” He pushed his hand through some stray locks hanging in his face, then tucked them behind his ear. “Sam? Get out of here.”

Sam stared at the other man for a moment. He’d thought he’d get at least a little…never mind, he’d said—he’d said he’d go. And he needed to actually start giving in, and stop thinking about how he could push harder to get his way.

He backed down a step, then turned around.

“Get back here. And tell Dean to stop poking at my damn windows,” Luther snorted. He left the door open when he walked inside. “Messed up? Well, that’ll fit right in with the rest of the house…”