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Title: Divine Madness
Characters: Dean, OCs
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 22K
Warnings/contains: Violence, suicidal thoughts, mental health issues, ableism (explicit and internalised), angst.
Summary: After the events of 10x09, Dean decides he's too dangerous to be allowed to roam free any longer, let alone to hunt. Sam still seems to think he can be saved, and he knows Cas wants to believe it, too, so rather than trust them to keep him on lockdown, Dean gets himself arrested.
Life on a secure psych ward is... well, not awesome, but Dean can deal. At least, until patients start dying in mysterious ways and he realizes that getting away from hunting is going to be harder than it seemed. It quickly becomes evident that the deaths are supernatural in origin -- but will hunting down the monster mean Dean ends up becoming one himself?
Notes: This is my entry for the 2016/17 [ profile] deanwbigbang, and I was lucky enough to score [ profile] amberdreams as my artist! You can check out her stunning illustrations here.
Many thanks to [ profile] frozen_delight for all her beta help! You’re a star. ♥
I read various personal accounts about life on a psych ward while writing this story, and they varied quite a lot. If I have managed to commit any wild inaccuracies, you have my apologies. Almost everybody in this story, including Dean (especially Dean) has a screwed-up attitude to mental illness. That means there’s both explicit ableism/fetishisation from other characters, and internalised ableism in Dean’s thoughts. If this is likely to be triggering or upsetting for you, please don’t read this story. If you’d like some more information to make up your mind, please feel free to drop me a line here or on Tumblr.

It was the noise that really got to Dean.

Every couple seconds there was the slam of the door or the click of a lock, or the echo of a guard’s footsteps or the sound of a scuffle being broken up around the next corner. Dean hadn’t exactly spent a whole lot of time wondering what life on a secure psych ward would be like, but he guessed he’d at least figured it would be quiet. His own little padded cell, locked up tight against the rest of the world. But nope; this place was gonna drive him nuts.

Funny: Dean had always kinda thought that he could sleep through anything. Well, maybe not anything-anything. A monster at the door or a change in Sam’s breathing would have had him on his feet in a second. But background noise? He’d spent enough of his life crashing in motels just off the interstate—cars passing all night long, TVs blaring, couples fighting and then fucking it out on the other side of paper-thin walls—that anything that didn’t mean an emergency didn’t mean anything at all.

Maybe the bunker had turned him soft, with its long empty corridors and its dozens of rooms where there was no noise they didn’t make themselves. No more jagged corners of other people’s lives poking their way in, distracting Sam from his laptop and making Dean tense up ready to hide the weapons every time a set of footsteps got too close to the door. Not that the silence was always a good thing; but he’d gotten used to it.

(Hell had never been quiet. It had been noisy in a different way than budget motels with life going on everywhere around them, because there was a lot going on down there, but it sure wasn’t life. The only silence had been inside Dean’s head, after he’d picked up the razor, gotten the control back in his hands, and it had felt close enough to bliss that there was no point splitting hairs.)

In here, it was hard to even think straight. Dean kept finding himself starting when a yell or a door slam made itself heard over the general din; turning around to glare at somebody—anybody—with his hands clenched into fists; having to concentrate hard to tamp down the angry throb of the Mark on his arm. How the hell were you supposed to have a conversation in this place, or even just sit down and watch the TV?

Maybe he should ask TJ. The kid didn’t seem to be having any trouble carrying on a conversation—he was pretty much holding up both sides all by himself. Dean just had to nod and say ‘Sure’ once in a while.

“You wanna steer clear of Petey,” TJ was saying, jabbing his forefinger in the direction of a skinny guy sitting alone by one of the windows, his forearms wreathed in tattoos of skulls and roses and God-knew-what kind of other Dungeons and Dragons crap. There was a busty Valkyrie winking from somewhere above his left elbow. She looked a lot happier than Petey. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, guy looks harmless enough—but you gotta remember he ain’t in his right mind.”

Dean held back the smartass comment that would normally have come out of his mouth in favor of a noncommittal grunt. TJ was a nice enough kid, even if he was chattier than Garth, and Dean wasn’t the puppy-kicking type.

Mostly. He hoped.

“Yeah, I know,” TJ went on, like Dean had actually said something back. “Crazy warning a crazy about the crazies. Fucking hilarious, right? But seriously, it’s just good to have somebody new to talk to. Being in here can make you—well.” He gave a snort of laughter and ducked his head. Then he blinked and stifled a yawn. Dean caught it, found himself yawning, too. TJ had said something about how it was a side-effect from the meds for whatever he was in here for, and for all Dean knew, they were both on the same shit.

Honestly, aside from the fact that TJ was way too enthusiastic about talking to Dean, the kid didn’t seem like there was much wrong with him. Sure, you couldn’t always tell---but he didn’t seem like he was exactly practiced at slapping on a smile and playing human either, and Dean would know. You got used to doing that. You learned how to avoid the awkward crap, rein yourself in, make sure the civilians didn’t suspect a thing. (The civilians, or the cops, or the CSA, or the other hunters, or your brother.) But what did Dean know, anyway? Not trusting his judgement anymore was kinda the reason he was here.

Other reasons for being here: protecting the people around him, the ones dumb enough not to run for the hills when it looked like the time bomb was about to blow. All two of them. For once, being almost out of living friends was a good thing. Dean sure as hell shouldn’t be making more of them.

“Yeah, that’s funny kid,” he said to TJ. “Look, no offense, but it’s been kind of a while since I graduated high school.” Not that he actually did graduate high school, but. “How about you go find somebody your own age to buddy up with.”

TJ glanced around the dayroom and raised an eyebrow. “Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, my options here are kinda limited.” He paused, face clouding. “Uh, that didn’t come out like—”

Dean sighed and cut him off. “Look, what I’m saying here is—”

“Smith.” The voice came from behind him. It took Dean a second to react, and TJ nudged him with a foot. He wasn’t on a case here, wasn’t busy playing the part of a Fed or a CDC guy or whatever, and reacting to an alias wasn’t a reflex like it was when he was hunting.

Like it had been, when he was a hunter. He forced himself to think it.

“Smith. Doctor Demetriou wants to see you in her office.”

Demetriou was one of the shrinks, Dean was pretty sure. Well, if she was gonna try to analyze this, better hope she had plenty of time on her hands.

Dean got to his feet. “See you around, TJ.”

The kid shrugged. “Sure,” he said, looking at his feet. For somebody who wasn’t Sam, he had a pretty damn effective kicked-puppy face, and for half a second, Dean actually felt bad.

He swallowed down the guilt as hard as he could. If the kid knew a fraction of the things Dean had done, he’d be running like a bat out of hell, not trying to be his best buddy. Dean was doing him a favor by leaving him well alone.

He turned his back and followed the orderly to the doctor’s office. The door clicked shut behind him.




“That’s interesting.” Doctor Demetriou—a smiling, bright-eyed woman in her thirties, with a mane of dark hair tumbling down over the shoulders of her white coat—nodded at Dean’s forearm. Instinctively, he moved to cover the Mark with his hand.

He stopped the movement short, but not before the doctor had noticed. She cocked an eyebrow and waited, and Dean mentally kicked himself for drawing attention to the damn thing. Bad enough that it throbbed with the beat of his heart, whispered blood and guts and breaking bones in his ear when he was trying to sleep. Worse that he sometimes felt like he was protecting it.

Dean hunched forward in his chair. “No, it ain’t,” he said.

Demetriou shrugged. “Looks pretty interesting to me. And I’m afraid I’m a contrary kind of girl, so now I know you don’t wanna talk about it, I’m really interested.”

Dean looked up at her, met her eyes. Tried to summon up some of the old solid-gold bullshit that used to come naturally as breathing to him when he was dealing with nosy teachers, or the CSA, or pain-in-the-ass FBI agents who thought he was a serial killer. Still did come naturally not so long ago, before Illinois, and the bodies on the floor, and that poor kid in the doorway hiding her face in Cas’s coat.

“’S just a tattoo,” he said. “Hey, if you’re one of those chicks who’s into that, that’s cool, but I ain’t got anything more intimate to show you.” He grinned. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“You’re funny, Dean.” She gave him this little smile and put her head on one side, like a bird. (Or an angel, which was a way more uncomfortable thought. Dean pushed away the memory of how Cas had looked at him before he left, like Dean was still something he could puzzle out and fix.) “Do you find it an effective defense mechanism?”

You’re a patronizing bitch, Doctor. Do you find it an effective form of treatment? He gritted his teeth and didn’t say it.

“It’s okay. We’ll get there.” Demetriou crossed her legs and scribbled something in his file. Her handwriting was neat and sharp, but Dean still couldn’t read it upside-down.

Maybe he should’ve just opened his trap. He was here to make sure he stayed on lockdown for life, right? The more of a reputation he got for being an asshole, the less chance they’d ever be dumb enough to let him out. Maybe he should just do whatever the hell came to mind. Get to his feet and rip the file out of her hands; put his fist through the window and toss it outta there. Hell, maybe the doc would get off his case if he gave her a big enough scare. Or worse.

The Mark throbbed on his arm, bee-sting angry. Something whispered inside his skull. He couldn’t hear the words, but he got the gist.

There was a guard outside the door, but Dean would know he was coming. The chair was weighted down, so he’d have to use something else to trip the guy up—the doctor’s PC, maybe? He could sweep it off the desk and take the guard’s legs out from under him—

The doctor closed his file and looked up. She had to see how he was feeling—not like Dean was gonna be winning any Oscars on the hiding-your-feelings front since the Illinois shitshow—but it didn’t seem to rattle her. There was this amused glint in her eye, like she thought he was cute.

Throb. Gouge her fucking eyes out.

The hairs on the back of his neck prickled, and any other time, he would’ve called it instinct. Dad had always told him to listen to his instincts. Only early warning system a hunter had. Something feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

Problem was, something about everything felt kinda wrong these days. It was getting too hard to separate the little voice of instinct from the little voice of the Mark, so Dean shut his ears to them both as best he could.

Demetriou was an annoying smartass. But she was a shrink, so that went without saying. Last time Dean had gotten analyzed by one of them, she’d been a hallucination, his own brain telling him how screwed he was. And the time before that had been in middle school—some smiling bearded hippie dude who’d pulled Dean out of class and called him buddy and talked to him about movies, and then tried to get him and Sam taken away from Dad.

So he didn’t trust shrinks, sue him. It wasn’t like they’d ever given him a reason to.

“Why don’t you tell me when you got that done?” Demetriou asked, still smiling. “Recent?”

Dean hesitated a moment before looking up and meeting her eyes, plastering on the brightest fake smile in his arsenal. “Yeah, actually,” he said. “And you can spare me the mid-life crisis jokes. Heard ‘em all before, trust me.” Mostly from Crowley, and yeah, that was something he never wanted to think about again.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” She tapped her pen against the file. “So, if it wasn’t a mid-life crisis, what was it about?”

Dean looked down, the gesture too quick and instinctive to pre-empt. Almost a year ago now, but thinking about it still felt like picking at a raw nerve sometimes. Kevin’s body crumpled on the bunker floor; Gadreel looking at him blankly out of Sam’s eyes; Sam and Cas standing on the bridge as he drove away, neither of them coming to stop him. The fact that it had actually been kind of a relief when Crowley came knocking. And the fact that it was all his own dumb, desperate fault. He raised his eyes again, suddenly wondering if the doctor would be able to read to whole crappy story on his face, but she just lifted a questioning eyebrow, her gaze level, and waited for him to answer.

“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” he offered, eventually.

“At what time?”

He shrugged. “Some shit had just hit the fan. Family stuff. I took off on my own, nobody around to tell me I was gonna regret it in the morning—” Dean spread his hands. “That’s it.” Which it kind of was, he guessed. At least, there was nothing else to the story that the shrink was actually gonna believe. I wasn’t really on my own, I worked a job with the King of Hell, and he kinda tricked me into taking on a Biblical curse because he wanted me to kill this demon for him. Turned out there were some side-effects he hadn’t mentioned. Hell, maybe he should come out and say it. Help confirm his diagnosis, whatever it was.

Demetriou put her head on one side. “You’re not used to being alone,” she said. Observation, not a question. “But you don’t have any visitors registered. Why is that, Dean?”

“Yeah, well. They’re better off outta here, and if you’re gonna argue with that, Doc, you’re a liar.”

She held up her hands, mirroring his own gesture from a moment ago. “I’m not here to tell you your decisions are wrong. I’m just here to understand them.”

Fill in the blanks. Yeah, good luck with that, sister. “Well, hey, I dunno what else to tell you.”

Demetriou’s smile was seamless. “Perhaps we’ll leave it there for today.”

“Suits me.” Dean plastered on a grin and gave her a little wave as he left—but as the guard led him back down to the dayroom, he couldn’t help feeling like he’d gotten off a little too easy.

Well. If he was honest—and hey, why not start now?—he felt like that every day he managed to get through without painting the walls bloody. It was habit by now, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yeah; that was probably all it was. Habit.




Three days since he’d been called into Demetriou’s office—about the only noticeable thing that had happened to Dean since he got here—and he’d already had to dodge TJ maybe a dozen times.

The thing was, the kid didn’t even annoy him that much. If it had just been the voice of the Mark inside his skull, whispering shut him up, punch him in the mouth, smash his head into the wall—well, it wasn’t like he would’ve known how to stop it, but it would’ve been familiar. Better the devil you know, and all that crap.

Problem was, he kinda liked the kid. The enthusiasm, the verbal diarrhea, the occasional flashes of insight that reminded him TJ would probably have gotten into MIT or something, if it wasn’t for whatever had gotten him in here. It was kinda like having Charlie around, or Ash, if Charlie or Ash had been a nineteen-year-old black kid. And that was the problem. Dean wasn’t here to make friends, and he wasn’t here to think about the ones he couldn’t see anymore, either. That was on him, and wishing things had been different wasn’t gonna change them.

Yeah: Dean knew that devil pretty damn well, too, and it wasn’t any better.

So when he saw TJ heading down the corridor toward the dayroom, Dean ducked out of there.

He was lucky; the nearest guard wasn’t looking, distracted for a second by the daytime talk show playing on the TV, and the one on the other side of the room didn’t look like he was about to get off his ass and follow. (Maybe not so lucky, if he thought about it for a second—after all, Dean had gotten himself thrown in here because it was one place that might stand a chance of holding him next time he snapped—but right now he didn’t wanna be dragged back in to face TJ, so he split and didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth.)

He made it halfway down the corridor, and then there were footsteps coming in the other direction. His hiding instinct kicked in, and he tried the handle of the nearest door.

It didn’t open, and one of the downsides of being in here was they didn’t let you have anything that might come in handy for picking a lock.

Without much hope, Dean tried the next door. They normally kept the cleaning cupboards locked up tight; couldn’t risk the crazies getting their hands on cleaning fluid or broom handles or anything else that might be handy for hurting people. Only, this time, the handle gave easily under Dean’s hand. Too easily, like it was already broken.

Still, needs must. Dean ducked into the cupboard and held the door closed in front of him.

Something touched his shoulder.

Just a brush, at first—and then it slumped forward, deadweight (yeah, Dean knew deadweight when he felt it) and the door gave way and Dean was stumbling out into the corridor with a two-hundred-pound corpse on top of him.

The dumb freaking slippers they made you wear in here found no purchase on the floor, and Dean slid down flat on his ass, letting out an involuntary oof that probably would’ve had Sammy laughing at him like a little kid. The dead guy slumped into his lap.

Dean scooted out from under him as best he could, grimacing, and took a look.

The corpse’s face was ashy-pale, and not just dead-guy pale. The kind of pale that made Dean want to lean forward and tip the corpse’s head back on instinct, checking for fang marks. Except that the cause of death was pretty damn obvious. It whatever had ripped the dude’s chest open and torn his insides to ribbons. The front of his shirt—what was left of it—was soaked in blood, dried to a rusty brown, and the guy’s face was contorted in horror, like he’d been frozen mid-scream. The smell of blood clung in Dean’s nostrils, coppery and stale and sweet—but even this unexpected, it didn’t turn his stomach, didn’t make him want to cover his mouth with his sleeve and mutter, “Gross.” It made the Mark throb on his arm, a soft reminder that you missed the good part, and he tried to ignore it. Looked the guy over instead, cataloguing the injuries, trying to figure out who and why.

White guy, broad shoulders, big ginger beard. His name was Donnell or Connell or something, Dean thought. They hadn’t spoken, but he’d gotten the basics during one of TJ’s Who’s Whos of the dayroom. Dean didn’t know what he was in here for. He’d learned pretty quick that you didn’t ask. Maybe he’d had enemies; Dean didn’t know. You didn’t ask that, either.

The ripped-open chest cavity, though—no human dude had done that alone. Werewolf, maybe, only they usually went straight for the heart. This looked more like the handiwork of that freaky-ass hippie vampire cult they’d run into in Hibbing, the ones who tore into their victims like Edward Scissorhands on a killing spree.

Not that an entire monster cult was gonna be hiding out in here. And those assholes had been weird even by vamp standards.

So, Dean had blood on his pants and still no idea what had killed Donnell. Connell. Whatever his name was. He should’ve been able to run through the list of other possibilities like reciting the alphabet, but his brain was slow from the medication and it felt more like sifting through grains of sand. The best he could do was sit on his ass on the floor and stare.

There were voices above him, then.

“Smith! Driscoll!” So that had been the dead guy’s name. “Get off the floor and—oh, crap.”

A guard skidded to a halt a couple feet away and hesitated a second, taking in the scene and the fact that Driscoll wasn’t gonna be getting off the floor anytime soon.

More footsteps came skidding down the corridor. A rough pair of hands grabbed Dean’s shoulders, and then he was being wrestled onto his face on the floor. Pretty unnecessary, he thought, seeing as he’d just had the freaking dead guy fall on top of him. It wasn’t like Dean had been expecting a surprise corpse any more than the rest of them. But then one of the guards muttered, “Fucking hell, Smith, what did you do?” and it clicked.

Dean had blood on his pants. Probably on the rest of him, too. Dean had slapped a ‘Crazy’ label on his own forehead, and what the fuck else were they gonna think?

Hell, maybe it was for the best. If the docs here thought he’d ripped a guy to shreds with his bare hands, they’d be extra careful to make sure he didn’t get out.

Dean gritted his teeth as one of the guards hauled him none-too-gently up onto his knees. It wasn’t like he could really take offence at them thinking he was a murdering asshole. He was a murdering asshole, dangerous as any other monster, so maybe it didn’t matter too much that this particular dead guy wasn’t on him.

That was the last thought he had before a meaty fist caught him across the side of the face and the floor came rushing up to meet him.




And for all that he knew he didn’t have the right, Dean woke up feeling pretty damn offended. Or maybe that was the little dude he could feel dancing a jig in lead boots behind his right eyeball.

Or maybe it was the Mark.

Blearily, he tried to sit up. He couldn’t.

Dean looked down. And, crap. He was strapped to the freaking bed, unable to move more than a couple inches in any direction. He bit down on the momentary surge of panic that always accompanied being tied down (the memory of icy-hot chains digging into his wrists, of waking up with six feet of dirt on top of him and fear stealing the breath from his lungs) and looked around as best he could. Not that the plain white ceiling and its striplights told him much.

“So, you’re back with us.” It was Demetriou, looking down at him with one eyebrow raised. Some part of Dean’s fuzzy brain noticed that she didn’t look shaken. Civilians didn’t normally seem this calm when dead bodies showed up at their workplaces.

But maybe people who worked on secure psych wards didn’t count as normal civilians. Maybe this kind of crap wasn’t anything out of the ordinary here.

Anyway, Dean didn’t get time to dwell on the question, because Demetriou was still talking.

“Now, I’m not jumping to any conclusions here,” she went on, “but I know you’re not stupid. You must know it doesn’t look good. You were in a storage cupboard with a dead body.” Well yeah, that was an understatement. “You had Driscoll’s blood on your clothes.”

“Hey, there wasn’t exactly an ‘occupied’ sign on the door,” Dean shot back, but he had to admit it came out sounding pretty lame.

And, Maybe you don’t really want to convince her, some leftover sensible part of his brain pointed out. Maybe you should just let ‘em believe you did it. That way they’ll never let you out.

Demetriou patted his shoulder. “If I were you,” she said, “I’d probably try toning down the comedy routine. There’s gonna be an enquiry. You’ll have to answer questions. Try to take them seriously.”

“You sound just like—like somebody I used to know.” Dean paused, then, frowning to himself. Nobody else had spoken since he woke up, and he couldn’t see the door from his position on the hospital bed. Was there even a guard in here? And wasn’t that a little weird, the doc being left alone with him? He swallowed. “So, investigation. Who’s gonna be interrogating me? Where are the cops?”

Demetriou laughed and fiddled with something just outside Dean’s field of vision. “Don’t you worry about that right now,” she said—and, without warning, sank a needle into the crook of his arm.

Her fingers were firm on the skin, just above the edge of the Mark. It hummed as though in response, and Dean felt the hot thrum of its hunger in counterpoint to the cool rush of whatever she’d just injected him with.

“What the hell is that?” he asked.

“Just a little something to keep you calm.” Still smiling, Demetriou pulled out the syringe and taped a square of bandage over the pinprick.

“That ain’t an answer,” Dean said, or tried to say. It came out sounding more like thaaaansrm, and Demetriou ignored him. She set down the syringe and breezed out of the room. The click-clack of her footsteps faded down the corridor, and darkness rose up to swallow Dean again.




The next time he woke, it was to the sound of voices.

“That’s what I said,” one of them announced. “Didn’t find any weapons, and Smith would’ve had way more blood on him if he did it. Coroner’s convinced it was an animal attack. Bear or a cougar or something, like something that size could’ve gotten in here without us noticing. Like we even get wildlife around here.”

“Don’t forget about the raccoons,” a second voice supplied, helpfully. “Got into my trash again on Saturday. You shoulda seen the mess...”

Dean blinked a couple times, tuning the voice out. His head felt stuffed full of cotton candy, the Mark throbbed, and the world lurched alarmingly when he glanced in the direction of the voices. Not that they’d given him anything new to check against his internal database of supernatural fuglies. ‘Animal attack’ was the go-to explanation every time the local PD didn’t know what to make of a dead body, so that was no damn help. Driscoll had been ripped to shreds, so no way was this a wraith—which, thank fuck for that, because Dean had no desire to revisit the last time he’d been locked up in a place like this—or a normal vampire. (And man, was it screwed up that Dean’s internal database even had a ‘normal vampire’ entry.)

Not a werewolf: those went straight for the heart. A ghoul? Probably not: they liked to kill their victims slow, and Driscoll hadn’t been missing that long. Dean had seen him at supper, shoveling down grayish meatloaf along with everybody else.

A hand landed on Dean’s shoulder, then. An orderly’s face loomed into his field of vision, and it looked like Dean wasn’t gonna get time to run down the rest of his mental list of ‘Supernatural Assholes: Likes to Disembowel People for Fun’ edition.

“Rise and shine,” said the orderly, looking way more cheerful than anybody had the right to at the moment. “Looks like you’re in the clear for now. Cops are still gonna want to talk to you about how you found Driscoll, though.”

Dean swallowed dryly, and got out a, “Sure, I won’t leave town.”

The orderly rolled his eyes and got to work unbuckling the straps. Dean’s head swam, and he screwed his eyes shut and opened them again. Didn’t help much, just made dark spots dance before his eyes. Didn’t help him come up with any better ideas, either.

He might’ve been ‘in the clear,’ but he still got a watchful escort back to the dayroom. Not that that was a bad thing. Dean kept finding himself picturing Driscoll’s dead eyes in the storage closet, pulling up images of blood and guts and no freaking glory from the way-too-well-stocked gallery in his head—and each one got a twinge of interest from the Mark, a hot little spark at the base of his skull. Being watched kept him from giving in to it too bad, from dwelling on the images, from reaching across to run his thumb over the raised edge of the Mark as often as he wanted.

Then they were at the door of the dayroom, and TJ came running toward him—or, okay, walking as fast as he could get away with without getting his ass sent back to his room—and Dean had a whole new set of problems for his fuzzy brain to worry about.

He was gonna have to do something about this. There were too many people in here to let some supernatural asshole run around draining the life out of them.

Okay, some of them probably deserved it. Hell, most of them probably deserved it. But then there were guys like TJ. So the kid heard voices. He probably had a tinfoil hat stashed in his room to stop the government scanning his brain or stealing his teeth. Hell, he must’ve done something to get slammed in this place. He’d still been kind to Dean. Carried on trying to be his friend, however many times Dean had told him to screw off. He was still a good kid. Couldn’t be the only one in here.

Maybe Dean should call home. Get Sam to put somebody on it.

Only that seemed like kind of a cop-out. Whatever fire the Mark pumped into his veins, whatever poison it whispered into his dreams, Dean still knew what he was doing most of the time. Hadn’t lost himself yet. Hell, the Mark even gave him a little extra juice when it came to fighting monsters.

Of course, giving it a fight to feed on might make it stronger, might send Dean a little further down the slippery slope toward complete fucking psychosis—but that would just be hurrying up the inevitable. He was already lost; he knew that. Putting anybody else in danger so he could hang onto his stay of execution a couple weeks longer—yeah, that would be the real dick move.

Plus, calling Sam would involve… well, calling Sam. The chances he’d listen to Dean and send somebody else to deal with the problem instead of showing up himself were zilch to none. No: Dean was gonna have to see this one through himself.

“Dude, you’re back!” TJ stopped short of pulling him into a hug (not that that would’ve been allowed anyway), but Dean could see that he wanted to. He could see it in how the kid’s grin dimpled his face up just like Sam’s; in the relief in his eyes. He’d been sitting alone before Dean came back in. “I thought we were never gonna see you again, for sure.”

Dean forced a grin. “Yeah, well,” he said. “Like a bad penny.”

Next chapter.
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