Tangible Schizophrenia


The Road Less Traveled III: The Thickness of Blood

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13.
Pairing: Sam/Luther, implied 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 Badlands.
Summary: Sam gets to make up the plan. Dean has to take a nap at a crucial moment, and Luther discovers he has reservations.


They had to break off the questioning session around one in the afternoon due to Dean’s increasing sleepiness. Sheer willpower had kept him awake about a half-hour longer than usual, but it clearly wasn’t going to last and even he could see he needed to save his energy for other things. Anyway, it’d also been pretty obvious that Luther had run out of information around eleven, but Dean had kept up the interrogation for longer mostly because it gave him something to do right away. At least, that was Sam’s theory.

He went back into the house to flop down on Bobby’s couch, saying he’d be up again in a couple hours. Sam stayed around: aside from the need to keep watch on Luther, Bobby used the garage as storage for some pretty interesting stuff. In particular, Sam had found a volume on magic circles that all the hardcore online sources he’d been looking at referenced but claimed no longer existed. It had three chapters on circles for trapping demons, and for once, the diagrams felt “right” to him.

“You people really love the chains, don’t you?” came a rasp from the corner. Luther had been getting steadily paler, though they’d dressed his wounds as well as they could, and probably better than he really deserved. Or was worth. “I’m not going anywhere.”

The book was nearly two feet tall and heavy as a sack of bricks. It was making Sam’s knees sore, but none of the available table space was big enough to take it.

“Neither should you. You know that’s why your dad wasn’t killed right away, don’t you?”

There was enough room for Sam to prop his feet up on a bookshelf, so he did and then laid the book over his legs. The pages got flipped around a bit in the process, so he had to spend a couple seconds finding where he’d left off. “Look, you’re two hundred years old and all that, but we’re not leaving our dad. If we don’t go soon, who’s to say the demon won’t kill him anyway?”

“Nothing.” It felt like Luther was staring, but Sam wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of acknowledgment. After a moment, Luther shifted and sighed. “Do you at least know what you’re going to do once you get there?”

“I’m thinking. I’m thinking, all right? But if your father was—why am I talking to you? You left him!” Sam lifted his hands from the book a fraction of a second before he would’ve ripped a page.

He sniffed the air, then slapped one hand over his eyes and quietly, furiously thought to himself that nothing was burning. Nothing was burning.

When he took his hand off his eyes, nothing was burning, though the faint smell of charred wood lingered in the air. It used to be that his powers had the decency, however annoying, to go weeks before appearances, but now it seemed like once one did pop out, it persisted till Sam either screwed up or got control of it.

“Why the hell would I go back for him? I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing anyway and I’m not so stupid as to think that’d make him think any better of me.” Luther started out surprisingly angry, but soon tapered off into an exhausted wheeze. He was staring morosely at the ceiling when Sam looked up; for once, he didn’t seem to be trying to pull on a mask.

Well, he did look terrible. His skin was so papery it was a wonder the bones jutting from beneath weren’t tearing it. Maybe Sam didn’t have Dean’s incredible nose, but by now even he could smell rot, and it was getting stronger by the moment. Bleeding out technically shouldn’t kill Luther, but Sam did have to wonder about that a bit as he watched him. “Why’d you even come back? You could’ve just mailed the bullets to us.”

“Would’ve made more sense,” Luther agreed. He snorted, then laughed shortly, the corners of his mouth twisting in pain. “I haven’t been this stupid in a very, very long time. I forgot how much it hurts.”

Sam glanced back towards the house. He wasn’t really sure why, since he soon realized he hadn’t actually heard any sound from that direction and shouldn’t have been expecting to, anyway: Bobby was out at his day job and Dean still had an hour to go before he woke up. Shrugging to himself, he hefted the book to the side. It didn’t fit the space—why it’d been on his legs in the first place, duh—so he dumped it on the floor, then got down beside it. He had brutal cramps in both legs and did his best to slowly stretch them out. Got the machete down to lie on the floor behind him while he was at it as well.

He was just sitting back when Luther slowly turned to look at him. It made Sam stiffen up, though like when he’d been checking behind him, he wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t exactly like how Dean got when he’d been starving himself too long, but it was along the same lines, he decided. “You said you—I mean, vampires can tell when someone’s possessed, right?”

Luther blinked, needed an obvious second to get his mind back to the conversation. His eyelids stayed half-down, and from moment to moment they connoted exhaustion and enticement. Then, oddly enough, he flinched and tried to twist around so Sam couldn’t see his face—or he couldn’t see Sam’s. He was too weak and ended up falling back. “I did, yeah. We can. Dean can, that is, since I can’t concentrate on anything right n—your dad’s probably going to have one of them in him at this point.”

“And you guessed there’s about two plus the big demon?” Sam asked. They still had four bullets. But they needed to be careful, to save those up till they figured out what the hell had gone wrong back in the house fire. Anyway, if the demon was expecting them to go for Dad, then they’d have to get away with him. For a while, at least.

“Yeah.” When Luther’s eyes were focused, they rested their gaze on Sam’s neck. The first time maybe had been out of politeness, or a last-ditch attempt to keep looking like he wasn’t a monster, but now Luther wasn’t bothering to hide the fixation. “Are you thinking of exorcising your dad?”

Sam put his hands down on the floor. The cement was cold and gritty, so it’d let him know if any vampiric magnetism started pulling him over. Plus the balls of his feet were starting to hurt. “Pretty much. There’s this circle in that book—” he nodded at it “—called a trap for devils. I think it’d hold him long enough. And no matter how big and strong this demon is, it’s still a demon. Still got to play by some rules.”

“Demons are chaos,” Luther said, careful to shape each syllable. He narrowed his eyes. His hands curled, then twisted to flatten against the floor so he could push himself over onto his back. “Are you just running this plan by me like I’m some proofreader?”

After another moment’s thought, Sam decided this was the best he could do. “I don’t know what exorcism to use yet. I want it out of Dad, but I don’t want Dad hurt, and I know when you’re exorcising a demon, it can do a lot right up to the moment it’s out.”

He and Luther eyed each other for a good minute while the time pulled out in a long thrumming whine.

“Hurt more than he already has been,” Sam corrected himself. He shifted up onto one knee and draped his arm over it so his wrist hung where Luther could see it. And Luther’s eyes did go to the bare skin. “He’s going to take a while to heal, from what you said, and I believed that part. So there’s him, and there’s Dean’s…problem, and the demon to worry about on top of that. It’s a lot for anybody to watch out for.”

Luther cocked his head, hard mocking glints showing from beneath his half-lidded eyes. “Do you want me to ask for your blood yet, or is there anything else you’re going to list as part of its price?”

“No. I’m not even sure you can do what I already have talked about, and I’m not going to cut myself up for a waste of time.” Sam caught the slight movement and incredulously laughed beneath his breath. “Don’t tell me you thought you’d get to bite. I’m barely okay with Dean doing that, and he’s my brother.”

“Nice of you to bring Dean up,” Luther muttered. He abruptly lost a lot of his enthusiasm, most of which Sam hadn’t really noticed till it disappeared. His head dropped back and he started looking anywhere but Sam. “He’ll notice, believe me. Even if you’re just breaking open an old scab to do it.”

From the way Dean had been acting, he seemed to think Sam had already sneaked Luther a couple pints, so that wouldn’t be anything new. It wouldn’t be anything helpful when it came to Dean’s temper either, but Sam was concentrating on what would get them out of here and after the demon and Dad. And he needed help and Dean wasn’t going to be enough, he’d reluctantly concluded. For one, he no longer knew if Dean would stand and see the deal through, and maybe Sam’s option on a normal life was getting closer and closer to permanent expiration, but no matter what, he wasn’t going to live his damn life on the run from the demon.

He’d left home, he snapped at the tiny comment his inner-Dean voice made. Left and hadn’t made it that hard for Dad or Dean to find him again—it wasn’t the same.

“Sam?” Luther’s gaze had finally settled on Sam’s other hand, which was still resting on the floor. “Why are you even thinking about this?”

“Because I want another shot at that demon, and I want it to be the last one anyone ever has to take at it. I thought you did, too,” Sam said, frowning. As bad as Luther looked, he should’ve been trying to jump Sam by this point. At least, judging by how Dean got when he’d gone too long between feeds, and Dean had more reason to hold back. “Isn’t that why you came back? You’re too smart not to know you can’t keep running that long.”

A laugh croaked out of Luther’s throat, rattling him. He kept on shaking so Sam reflexively moved back a little; he was having to make an effort at restraining himself and it was finally starting to show. “You know, I think the idea at first was to point you in the right direction, then hope your brother lost his temper and whacked off my head.”

“Well, biting me’s a pretty good way of making sure he does.” Sam checked his watch—thirty minutes till Dean woke up, and Dean probably was going to jump the gun on that. He studied Luther again, but though Luther was clearly struggling, he just as clearly wasn’t going to lose his grip on himself soon enough.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to let me do that.” Every word was licked soft out of Luther’s mouth, but landed like a sharp nail being pounded into the ground. He wasn’t being wistful, though his sarcasm couldn’t completely wipe out the trace of craving in his tone.

“I thought you said you weren’t the suicidal type. What happened to being used to living?” Sam snapped back. He got back on his feet, but stayed crouching while he pulled up his sleeve.

The arm really wasn’t the ideal spot given the kind of fighting they probably had coming up, but Sam sure as hell wasn’t letting Luther near his shoulder or neck—the other two places from which he’d had to get used to giving blood. Besides, he’d made Dean eat just before Dean had gone in, and when Sam tugged off the bandage over his wrist, that scab hadn’t had the time to lose its moist look.

The moment the wrap came off, Luther jerked. Two ways at once, apparently, because overall he didn’t move. His nostrils flared and the tendons of his neck stood out beneath the skin when he swallowed. His eyes kept darting between the cut and Sam’s face, though once Sam had cracked the scab’s edge with his thumbnail, Luther stared only at that. “You’re going to regret this,” he gritted out, scratching at the floor.

“Not if it means no more demon in my life,” Sam replied, equally as hard.

Luther’s eyes flicked up to meet his. Then Sam started to lift his arm and Luther flung himself sideways; the chains swung out to hit some stacked paint-cans and clanged horrendously. Sam instinctively made a grab for him, then cursed and scrambled back so Luther only got hold of one arm. He twisted as chapped lips rasped over his bicep, inches from the cut, and threw out his free hand: there was a harsh scraping sound as the machete came towards him, and then the handle smacked into his palm.

The fingers clamped around Sam’s wrist ground hard around the bones, forcing him forward so Luther’s teeth scraped over his knuckles. Too far—Sam shoved his arm up against Luther’s mouth and swung around the machete in the same instant. He had the blade between them and against Luther’s belly just as one canine ripped the side of the cut open. By the time Sam worked the machete up to be at Luther’s throat, Luther was already drinking, and so ravenously that Sam didn’t feel a single drop of heat: no blood trickled away from Luther’s cold, cold mouth.

It didn’t hurt as much as Sam had come to expect; after opening up the cut, Luther just seemed to be lapping up the blood, something like a cat drinking water, while Dean’s way involved more teeth. Surprising, since from this close, it was clear Luther’s version of vampirism came with a scarier set of dental issues. And there wasn’t…anything else going on, either. At least, not from Luther’s side; with Dean, Sam sometimes got a weird spill-over of the high feeding gave Dean, but he wasn’t getting a thing from Luther except increasing dizziness. And Luther might have a death-grip on Sam’s arm, but he wasn’t…things were more carnivorous than carnal.

Now there was a line Sam’s Intro to English Composition professor would’ve loved. Luther needed to finish soon or Sam’s coping mechanisms were going to run out of inane observations to make.

His lips and hands had gotten warmer, almost like touching a regular person. His skin had lost its waxen quality as well, and he wasn’t drinking as feverishly now. The grip he had on Sam’s elbow and wrist had loosened slightly, and Luther had also started to move his head and shoulders back and forth…bobbing in time with Sam’s pulse, Sam abruptly realized. So that was probably good; Sam pressed hard with the machete and opened his mouth.

Before he could say anything, Luther dropped his arm and swayed back. Eyes gone almost completely black, as if the pupils had bled over the whites, stared dazedly at Sam. They and the blood smeared over Luther’s mouth provided the only color, and it was shockingly vivid. Luther cocked his head in a curiously unselfconscious way, then slowly swung forward again so his violently red mouth nearly blotted out the whole of Sam’s vision.

Sam’s scramble backward choked off his own exclamation. He didn’t quite know what was going on for a moment. And then he did, and he brought up the machete so fast that Luther lost an inch or so of hair to it. Luther froze in place. His eyes were back to normal and both stunned and wary, so apparently he was back with the program, too.

“What was—” This time, Sam consciously stopped himself. Even if he thought he’d get a straight answer, he didn’t have the time or the spare energy to deal with it. He duck-walked backward a few feet, then paused to awkwardly sling the bandage back around his wrist. “Jesus Christ. Jesus goddamn Christ.” He took a breath. “Can you…can you walk now?”

One blink and Luther was shuttered up again. He was so good at that Sam had to admit to envy of it. “If you took off the chains. Dean’s awake, by the way. He just walked out the front door, and he’s headed this way.”

“Great,” Sam muttered, glancing over his shoulder like Dean was already there. He started to put down the machete, thought twice about that, and then thought a third time and dropped it. The chain wouldn’t let Luther get far enough now, and Sam couldn’t bind up his arm properly with only one hand. “Great. All right. Still need to work on the exorcism part. Do you know anything about that?”

Sam sounded shaky as hell, but for once Luther didn’t look like he was taking copious notes on it in his head. Actually, Luther was wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand and looking like he wanted to hit something.

“Get rid of that,” Sam hissed.

Luther twitched, then jerked up his head. He licked his knuckles clean, but he did it while shooting Sam a contemptuous look. “He can probably smell it from outside, Sam. And yeah, I know some. Your friend’s books probably know more, but I can’t see all of them from here.”

“Sam?” came Dean’s call. Right on cue, all suppressed fury and fear. “Sam, are you all right? Did that blood-sucking son of a bitch pull something?”

After a moment, Sam pulled himself together and rose, turning as he did. He caught a glimpse of Luther glancing away at the ground, like he was the one who’d just made a deal with the devil.

“I’m fine. And I’ve got a plan to get Dad back,” Sam replied.

* * *

Dean loved his brother. Would do anything for him—literally anything. But Jesus, sometimes Sam didn’t have the sense God gave chickens. Chickens at least weren’t so stupid they’d run up to a goddamn coyote and then lie down. “Are you out of your goddamn mind?”

“If I was, then according to you we’d really have something to worry about,” Sam snapped.

Well, he always knew how to send the moment into awkward silence. A flash of regret crossed Sam’s face, but in the next moment, his chin was up and his eyes weren’t wavering.

It’d taken less time than usual for him to get to that point, and Dean belatedly realized that Sam’s patience must have been temporarily worn out by his arguing with Dad. That was a problem, since Sam never could get talked round by anything once he’d ended up on the other side of that line, and the very, very last thing Dean needed was another blow-up like what had led to Sam leaving home. And it was a problem because the second Sam moved away from the door, Dean would be inside the garage and introducing Luther’s neck to the nearest sharp blade, and that wasn’t really a matter for discussion, either. Dean was trying really, really hard to at least keep it to acting like a pissed-off human being, but right now he wanted Luther dead so badly he could roll the juices around his mouth.

“Look, we need to do two things: get Dad, and get the demon. We’re probably going to get both at once, and while I’d like to think that’d make a nice two-in-one package, I don’t think it’s going to turn out that way.” Sam half-turned, hands going up to run through his hair, but in the next second, he’d moved back to block the door again. He shot a hard look at Dean. “Are you upset because he could’ve hurt me or just because he got blood from me?”

“‘Just’? ‘Just’? Sam, he’s a vampire! We’re supposed to kill him!” Dean snarled, throwing up his hands.

And Sam actually started to roll his eyes. “Yeah, we’ve really been working hard on that. For Christ’s sake, Dean—” Any trace of flippancy dropped out of Sam as he abruptly glanced at his feet. He coughed, cleared his throat, then stepped forward. When he spoke again, his voice was so low it almost got lost in the breeze. “Dean, at this point I could probably handle him without the chains. Maybe you don’t want to think about that, but I could. Give me another bad headache, but…anyway, Dad’s going to be really hurt, and we’ll have to worry about keeping the demon at bay, too.”

“Yeah, I know.” Even if it did come from Luther’s mouth—and man, did this ever prove Dean wasn’t just paranoid—it would be a trap they’d be walking into, and the demon probably would be in Dad. “But I don’t understand why—”

“It can’t just be me and you because Dad’s going to be bleeding and I have to sleep sometime!” Sam froze, his face still twisted up in angry frustration. Then he exhaled sharply and jerked his head down. It came up a moment too late, looking sorry as hell; Sam reached out and while Dean didn’t exactly flinch, he didn’t give any encouragement either. “Goddamn it. Well, that was a bad way to say it, but it’s true, Dean. You have a hard time around me, and I know what to look for. We never really told Dad about that. And chaining you up’s not going to work, since God knows when the demon might try to pull something.”

Dean swallowed hard, and then swallowed again. He looked down at his hands to see that they’d gone to fists. A sniff told him his nails were drawing blood in places. “That was a pretty shitty way to say it.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sorry.” That came out lame, so it was a good thing Sam flinched at himself. After a long few seconds, he glanced up at Dean. “I’ll let you kick my ass later?”

Him and his goddamn puppy-eyes. In spite of everything, the side of Dean’s mouth curled. “Let me, hell. I can kick your ass without you letting me. This doesn’t mean I’m not still pissed off at you, though. And what makes you think that Luther’s that trustworthy?”

For a moment, Sam looked confused. Then he stared incredulously at Dean. “I didn’t mean he’d—nurse Dad, or anything like that. Dean, Dad would kill Luther first chance he got, and the demon wouldn’t have any reason to keep him from doing it. But Luther has to be there to do some things so we can take care of Dad.”

And watch over each other, was the unspoken end of that sentence. It cut pretty deep, and especially because Sam was standing there with a blood-spotted bandage on his wrist as proof of how well Dean had been doing at that lately. Sour rage started to rise in Dean’s throat again as he thought about that again. “You could’ve woken me up and we could’ve…”

“…gotten a substitute? Like we have the time for it, and I’m not even going to get into how wrong that’d be anyway. Look, I’m okay. I didn’t let him take a whole lot and I’ll be fine as soon as I drink some water. I just gave him enough so he wouldn’t go comatose on us right now, and I definitely don’t plan on giving him any more,” Sam said. He stared hard at Dean, seeing something that made his expression turn startled and irritated. “Well, what other option was there? I mean real options.”

“Sam—it’s not just about getting him on his feet, all right? It’s—fine, it is because that son of a bitch managed to get blood out of you,” Dean started.

His throat tightened up too much for him to speak before Sam cut him off. “Dean. I gave it to him. Is this some weird vampire thing I should know about? You’ve been so cranky about him anyway, and let’s not even get into what happens when you take him out to feed.”

“What happens when—Sam, would you just listen to me? This is not like donating to the Red Cross! This is letting him taste you—your blood, and—and you don’t taste the same as everyone else,” Dean reluctantly finished. He hated thinking about this part, ignored it whenever possible, and the effort of just acknowledging it drained all the energy from him. “No, I haven’t been biting anyone. But I’ve gotten a couple stray splashes, and it’s not anything like the same.”

The disbelief in Sam’s face was turning as appalled as Dean felt inside. “What? Are you saying I’m some kind of vamp catnip?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. It might just be the whole psychic powers thing. You smell like it, too. I thought maybe…it was just that we’re brothers, but with the way that asshole watches you, it’s not.” Dean took a deep breath and stared up at the sky, for once not caring how much the sun made his nerves crawl. There was so much to be afraid of—so much more than he’d ever could have predicted—and so little time. “Goddamn it. Well, you can’t take it back now. Just watch it around him, all right?”

“I was anyway,” Sam muttered in an odd tone. He shrugged it off before Dean could call him on it. “So, you know, what about the plan?”

It took several seconds for Dean to recall exactly what Sam had told him before they’d gotten too deep in their argument. “Oh. Well, I don’t like all the spells, but…hell, exorcism’s the only way to get it out of Dad, isn’t it. I guess if you’re positive you can pull those off. You are positive, right?”

“It’s Dad, Dean,” Sam simply said, face solemn. Not that he really needed to say anymore.

“Then that’ll have to be it, because I don’t think we’ll get a chance for any Plan B.” Dean kicked at the grass, then turned to look down the road. “I’ll start packing up. Go get the books—I’ll leave a note for Bobby and we’ll finish up on the way there.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Think Bobby’ll be okay with that?”

“Think I care?” Dean retorted. “He’s Dad’s friend. It’s not like he wouldn’t be used to it.”

That was worth a couple wry smiles and a little conspiratorial moment. But as much as Dean wanted to pretend, this wasn’t like all the other times they’d pulled off a hat trick finish. This wasn’t even like an opening-night show. This was on a whole different level, and Dean was already getting vertigo.

* * *

Sunrise Apartments took a while to get to, and not just because Sam’s off-the-Net directions hadn’t taken into account a bunch of recently-started construction projects; Luther argued for an indirect approach, and the point of that was so clear Dean had to assent. It ended up for the better, probably. They still got there just as the sun began to set, and by then Dean had had plenty of time to put on a calm act for Sam’s benefit.

Sam made it obvious he didn’t completely buy it, but he got used to concentrating on other things so when they finally parked a few blocks away, he hopped out first without thinking. Which left Dean in the front and Luther in the back.

“You’re going to kill me after this,” Luther said, the same way he’d say they were now under a highway overpass.

Dean shrugged as he got the Colt out from the glove compartment. “Yeah. Always was my top choice, but now there aren’t any other choices, so that makes it easy.”

“I can get that.” Luther sounded so resigned about it that Dean had to turn around. But no, it didn’t look like Luther was mocking him.

“Do you have a death-wish or something? Because I really don’t get you,” Dean said.

A twisted smile flicked over Luther’s face. Then he turned away to reach for the door-handle. “I don’t actually know right now, Dean. How about I get back to you on that one?”

“Sure.” Dean started to get out, then turned back quickly and grabbed Luther’s arm. He jerked him forward enough to hiss into Luther’s ear. “But you’d better believe that if you hurt my family, we can make you regret it, death-wish or no death-wish.”

“Oh, I believe in that more than anything right now,” Luther shot back. He yanked himself free, then swung himself out of the car.

That put him and Sam in one place, and Dean in another, which was never going to happen again if Dean could help it. Dean was out before Luther’s other foot had fully settled on the ground.


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