When Dean gets back to the motel room Cas has disappeared somewhere.
Sam's still there, still laid up on his bed, left leg balanced on what looks like all the pillows from the room. It's wrapped up with pretty much every bandage they own, making it look like some sort of breakable Egyptian artefact. There are enough stitches under there that Dean had seriously considered an emergency room last night when he'd been stitching the red mess of it up. But now the only thing still covered in blood are Sam's torn up old jeans which are now in the trash, and two paper-thin motel towels.
"Where's Cas?" Dean asks.
"He went to see if the harpies left anything behind," Sam says without looking up.
Dean makes a noise and throws his coat over the back of the chair. Then he judges the distance very carefully, before flopping himself down on the end of Sam's bed. Sam makes a long hissing noise, grabs his own knee and then throws Dean a bitchface to rival all bitchfaces.
Dean grins at him.
"I'm going to have no sympathy the next time you have one of your extremities clawed off," Sam says through his teeth.
Dean's briefly tempted to pretend he's going to pat Sam on the foot for that little comment. He doesn't have time though, because Sam hits him with a book.
"Make your two working legs useful and go and get me a drink."
"Ow, Jesus, you're a bitch when you're all taped up," Dean tells him. But he reluctantly gets up and goes to find the princess some sort of pussy non-alcoholic beverage. A shitty warm one.
He gets one from the machine outside, and if Sam complains about it not being diet he can get up and get his own drink next time. Or lure Cas into fetching him things. Hell, Cas probably wouldn’t mind, Sam's always so damn polite, but Dean thinks he's secretly afraid of using the angel for menial tasks. Like he thinks maybe there'll be a time out in heaven for it.
When Dean turns around he nearly walks straight into the angel - and seriously they've had a conversation about this. He picks up Sam's coke from where it's rolling around on the floor and judges the chances of it spraying all over him when he opens it as passable to good. Bonus.
"You'd make a kick-ass ninja you know that."
Castiel's giving him that look, that strange calm but expectant look, like he's on the verge of saying something important. But he isn't sure if now is a good time. Dean thinks maybe he's starting to figure out what that means. He catches Castiel's coat, pulls him forward, and he comes more than willingly. Loose and soft and relaxed into Dean's personal space.
He kind of likes that he can do that.
Then Dean drops the coke into his pocket. "Princess Winchester demanded beverages," he explains.
Castiel looks down at where his coat is now lopsided on one side and frowns, then lifts his frown and fixes it on Dean
"If you take it in he'll feel special," Dean drawls at him.
Castiel looks like he's thinking about it. He finally seems to accept this as an appropriate task.
Dean follows the angel back into the room. But Sam's going to miss getting showered with tasty caffeine drinks because he's fallen asleep, books spread open on his chest.
"About time, I thought I was going to have to smother him into unconsciousness with a pillow."
Dean watches as Castiel quietly moves over to the bed, very carefully lifts the books and shuts them, then stacks them neatly on the table. He's totally the responsible parent. Dean laughs at how messed up that is and then reaches out and snags Castiel's lopsided coat and pulls until he gets that expression of curious patience up close. Then he kisses him until it goes away, becomes something softer, something more human. Because he can. Castiel looks sideways at the bed as soon as Dean lets him go. Because he'd kind of figured out the 'no kissing in front of Sam' rule without Dean having to say anything.
"He's dead to the world," Dean points out.
Well, most of it.
Sam's staring at a brightly painted white ceiling.
He's no longer in their motel room, he's somewhere cleaner, somewhere that smells like cherries and expensive carpets. It's weird how familiar this room's starting to get. He carefully pushes himself up to his elbows, then to a sit, wincing when his leg protests, one sharp warning thump of pain. It hurts exactly as much as it did a minute ago. Which surprises him. Who decided he has to bring his battle wounds into his subconscious with him. That seems horribly unfair. Why can't he leave his body broken and banged up and keep his subconscious healthy and awesome. Not that he doesn't appreciate the reminder that he's not actually a hundred percent, because pain makes you sharp and alert and it's probably best to be sharp and alert around Lucifer. But his leg fucking hurts. Dean's competent but not exactly delicate stitching is as real here as it is in the real world. Which is a whole world of unfairness.
"What happened to you?"
Sam jumps and then regrets it instantly when his leg reminds him that it's still attached in a thousand different ways.
Lucifer is sprawled out in the chair on the other side of him. He's looking at the heavy bandages on Sam's leg like they've personally offended him. It's maybe the first time Sam's ever seen him anything close to angry. A slow, quiet weight of fury that seems to fill the room with pressure and coiled tension.
Sam's always known there was something terrifying under there, but this is the first time he's glimpsed it.
"Zachariah decided to send us into a nest of harpies," Sam explains. "Dean had to drag me out of their claws. But not before they ripped up my leg pretty bad, he stitched me up."
"Where was Castiel," Lucifer says quietly, and it's not a curious quiet but a colder, more insistent quiet.
"Castiel punched the one that was holding me in the face," Sam offers, because Castiel does deserve credit for that. "Which is pretty much how I ended up flattening Dean. I'm fairly sure I would have been digested by now if it wasn't for him. Cas is pretty badass."
"If you'd told me where you were," Lucifer chastises.
"You know I can't do that," Sam says quietly. "You know I'm not going to tell you things, that I can't, just in case." He doesn't have to add just in case of what. Because that leads to conversations about world domination and about how most of humanity wasn't very important anyway and the universe wouldn't miss them. Sam's learning where not to steer the conversation where Lucifer's concerned.
Lucifer says nothing but there's a tightness to him, as if he's restraining himself from something. As if he's accepting but unhappy about the necessary evil of not knowing, of never knowing, where Sam is. Sam desperately tries to think of a way to diffuse the tension. But Lucifer is already slithering upright and making his way to the other side of the bed.
"What are you doing?"
"Helping," Lucifer says simply, and very carefully rolls up the leg of Sam's pants.
"Hey, what did we say about touching," Sam insists. But he doesn't have the strength or the coordination to reclaim his appendage. Even if he's fairly sure if Lucifer wanted to do something horrible to him he would have done it by now.
"I'm not molesting you," Lucifer says with an eye roll that Sam has a horrible suspicion he learned off of him. "I'm going to fix you."
The way he says it, like it's nothing. Like Sam's a piece of furniture, or a crooked painting. Sam should probably be offended but there's something else there. Something about the way Lucifer is being careful. Sam leans forward, awkwardly, painfully, and catches hold of Lucifer's other arm. He tugs him to a stop.
"I'll get in trouble for not being broken tomorrow," Sam tells him. "They'll think I gave you something. They'll think I gave you Winchester secrets, or told you I'd do something for you, or let you touch me in some sort of sex way."
Lucifer raises an eyebrow.
Sam is briefly, quietly embarrassed, he's been spending far too much time around Dean and Castiel and the internet. Also, he thinks that maybe there's a danger he's taken to forgetting that he's being dream-stalked by the ruler of hell. It's the sensible work jeans. Sam releases him and sits back with a pained huff.
"Look, that's just how Dean's mind works ok, because he's Dean." Sam refuses to apologise to the devil for the fact that his brother is kind of a sexually fixated slut. Even if it is true.
"I could make it stop hurting at least," Lucifer offers, fingers careful, just at the edge of where Dean had finished bandaging him up. And that's pretty much the most tempting offer Sam's had since Dean told him they didn't have any painkillers left and that he'd have to suck it up and stop whining like a bitch. But Sam did promise Dean he'd never take the devil up on anything he offered.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Sam tells him.
He can feel the warmth of Lucifer's hand curled round the back of his leg, smooth and heavy and not unnatural at all. He doesn't move it, like he can feel the edge of Sam's willpower crumbling and he's compelled to push at the edges.
"Please, it will be a lot easier for me if you just leave it," Sam says.
Lucifer looks at him for a long second and then very carefully, and reluctantly, slides his hand away. Sam regrets it almost instantly when his leg gives an almost petulant throb of agony that makes his sound of relief flicker into something that doesn’t sound like relief at all. Lucifer rolls his eyes and drags one of the pillows off the other side of the bed, sliding it carefully under Sam's ankle. He looks thoroughly disgusted at having to resort to basic medical procedures. As if he's above them. Sam is briefly amused by the thought of Lucifer reluctantly practising all his important mortal skills and not entirely understanding why. But he thinks he's kind of weirdly flattered by the fact that he's doing it anyway.
"You really are irritatingly hard to do things for, you realise that," Lucifer says with a sort of fond exasperation.
"I'm still suspicious of your motives," Sam points out. "It's probably not wise of me to let you do things."
The devil sighs out irritation.
Sam tries to make his pillow more comfortable and ends up tugging his foot sideways and wincing at the spike of pain. Lucifer's hand moves briefly, as if he's compelled to stop it from hurting, only to come to an abortive stop. He curls his hand into a fist and pulls it back into his lap.
"I will deal with Zachariah," Lucifer says quietly, like it's a promise. No, not a promise just something that's going to happen, something inevitable.
Sam leans back again.
"I'm not going to feel sorry for him. We hate Zachariah, we're fairly sure the angels hate Zachariah too, we have yet to find someone that actually likes him. Dean thinks he cheated on the angel exam because he's more of a dick than most of them. Though our opinions don't count because I'm fairly sure all the angels hate us too. Well, except a few of them."
"Some of them have helped you?"
Sam shrugs. "Anna, she's nice she's helped us, or at least she did the last time we saw her -" Sam frowns and then looks at him sideways. "You're not going to make some sort of list are you?"
Lucifer looks far too innocent, it's just not right.
"Not the kind you think," he says carefully.
Sam isn't sure whether he should feel bad about Lucifer's intentions towards people he doesn't like. But then Sam thinks maybe Zachariah should be forced to live in bad fanfic forever. One of those terrifying mpreg tentacle stories where everyone cries for no reason. The ones he's been hiding from Castiel since their first awkward conversation about how different writers on the internet wanted to explore different possible interpretations of Dean than the one given in the original text. Or at least that's how he'd explained it.
"Are you planning to do something horrible to Zachariah? Because, well ok actually even Dean wants you to do horrible things to Zachariah. He's actually said as much - well actually no his exact words were 'tell Luci he has my permission to kick Zachariah's smug self-righteous ass all the way downstairs.'"
It takes Sam a second to realise exactly what he's just said.
"Umm, he doesn't mean anything offensive by that, he just shortens everything."
"Why should I be offended?" Lucifer asks curiously.
"It's a girl's name," Sam points out, in that slightly uncertain way, because he's not quite sure how he's going to react.
Not how Sam expects. Lucifer's laughing, he's laughing at him. Not in an 'I'm planning to rule the world in some devious way some day' way, not that laugh. This is a whole new laugh. This is a 'Sam, you are so ridiculous' laugh. He thinks he should be offended. But it sounds weird and sudden and strangely messy in its realness so Sam puts up with it instead. Because he's never heard an angel properly laugh before. Even a fallen one.
"You do realise that I am in no way either male or female," Lucifer says carefully and he still sounds amused, his face has stopped flitting from one emotion to another, like he's wearing them. He honestly feels like he's living in them now.
"What are you then?" Sam asks curiously.
Lucifer turns to face him completely.
"Glory and fury and light and folded space," he says.
Sam had heard the same sort of description from Castiel, only with one noticeable exception.
Castiel had added love as well.
"That sounds...Dean would say 'epic'."
"No wonder you don't spend much time looking down at us, we're sort of messy and strange and vicious -" Sam stops, because, yeah, he's fairly sure he's getting it wrong again. "No, I'm supposed to be convincing you not to kill us all, we're awesome." He thinks about it for a minute. "I'm not going to tell you about how there's puppies and happy children because you probably don't like puppies and happy children. But we have cars and jet planes, which are awesome, electricity, spaceships, and we're working on teleportation in Switzerland. And I'm sure when we do eventually find a way to clone dinosaurs you'll probably enjoy that too." Sam tries desperately to think of something Lucifer would like. "Ice cream, candy, gambling, the internet, television, and pornography, can't forget the pornography."
Lucifer's watching him like he's the most fascinating thing he's ever seen.
"No human beings, no internet pornography. Angels would have to write their own porn and - no offence - but I think they'd be shit at it."
Sam tries to think about any of the angels he knows writing fanfic and his brain just flatly refuses to go any further. Oh God, Uriel's fanfic would have been terrifying.
"It doesn't help that you have important gaps in your knowledge. I think good fanfic requires a grasp of the ridiculousness of human nature. I was trying to explain to Castiel about Transformers, because someone had written the Impala as a Transformer -"
Lucifer's giving him a completely blank look that's so obviously lost.
"Seriously I thought you guys were supposed to know pretty much everything," he says with a laugh. "The amount of times I get that same stare from Cas."
"I've been locked in hell for a very long time," Lucifer points out gently. Though Sam thinks maybe he'd deserve a little verbal bitchslapping for that. Even if Lucifer clearly isn't going to give him one.
"Sorry," he says awkwardly. "But, ok Transformers are umm, alien robots from space -" Sam stops. "You know what robots and aliens are right?"
Lucifer rolls his eyes and nods.
"Well they're alien robots from space who can transform themselves into cars and trucks and planes and things and them - the Autobots - they fight evil robots called the Decepticons. It was really big in the eighties as a cartoon and action figures and stuff. They made a movie -" It occurs to Sam, belatedly, that he's explaining what Transformers are to Lucifer.
He congratulates himself on finally making real life even weirder than all the internet porn.
"Anyway the car was a Transformer. You weren't an angel in that, you were a proper devil with horns and hooves and huge bat wings. Like something out of a Bosch painting."
Sam looks at the devil, who looks ever so slightly offended.
"Bosch was over-fond of the devouring metaphor," Lucifer says flatly and Sam raises an eyebrow at him. "Also, eyeballs."
"Bat wings would be kind of cool," Sam offers.
"I do not have bat wings," Lucifer says, like he thinks he might be disappointing Sam in some tragic way. But he's irritated or maybe insulted by the idea as well. It's like his emotions come in blends of colour now. It looks good on him. "I did offer to show you -"
"Cas kind of gave the impression that was a thing, for angels, a sort of personal thing." Sam will absolutely not phrase it the way Castiel phrased it. Because he'd made it sound strangely dirty. In some weird and confusing angel way.
Lucifer shrugs, a strangely human gesture which looks weirdly out of place on him.
"Most of hell has already seen mine, there's little mystery left there."
Sam's not entirely sure why that makes him want to wince, but it does.
"I'm sorry, I'm just used to getting all the angel stuff from Cas and sometimes I forget -"
"That I'm still an angel," Lucifer says, quietly, tonelessly. Sam thinks he's convinced himself that if he says it enough times he'll believe it.
"Do you -" Sam stops, because he's not entirely sure it's a good idea.
"Do I what?" Lucifer tilts his head. "You can ask me anything, you know that Sam. I'm always curious to hear your questions."
Sam's quiet for a long minute.
"Castiel, when he's not concentrating he's like stone, sort of dense and heavy and immovable and you're...not." Sam doesn't mean that to come out sounding so suspicious
Lucifer holds out his hand.
Sam raises a dubious eyebrow, only to get one right back. He exhales surprised laughter and reaches out. Lucifer's hand is rock hard, cool and dead like stone, just like Castiel feels like when he's in angel mode. It's weird, Lucifer has never done that before. Not with him.
"Yeah, like that and I wondered why he still does that unless he's thinking about it."
Lucifer's hand softens in his grip, becomes real, there's give to the skin now, it becomes delicate, fragile and alive. Something human. Or a lie that's close enough. Human enough to be weird. Sam very slowly pulls his hand away.
"It's the difference between trying to be an angel wrapped in human flesh, or being flesh with an angel inside," Lucifer provides and spreads his fingers in one slow movement.
"You make them both sound kind of creepy to be honest," Sam admits.
"Having flesh for the first time when you've never needed any before is 'kind of creepy,'" Lucifer tells him. "It would be the same for you if I took your flesh away and made you flail around with nothing but your mind."
"And how about now? How does it feel now?" Sam presses.
"There are certain privileges to flesh," Lucifer say pointedly and Sam's more than familiar with that expression.
"I wondered whether you'd make me like that, dead and wrong to the touch," Sam says quietly, honestly.
Lucifer's expression of amusement falls away completely. "I don't intend to make you anything that you're not already Sam," he insists.
"You keep telling me that but I have a really hard time believing there's any other reason why you'd still be here."
Because that's still the part Sam doesn't understand. There's no reason for all of this. There's no reason for Lucifer to keep showing up if there isn't an end game that involves using him as a vessel. It makes no sense. Sam's not going to pretend being a Winchester doesn't make him unique. God, maybe not special, he's really starting to hate that word. But it makes him - he thinks it makes him a tool to be used, and he can never quite forget that.
Never more so than here, where he's afraid that being a Winchester is all he is.
Lucifer actually touches him then, folds a hand round his arm and pulls slowly, unstoppably, until Sam is turned into him. He can feel the sharpness of Lucifer's fingers the heat of his skin.
"I don't want to use you as a vessel Sam, not any more. I swear it." There's a tired, almost angry sincerity there, under the low gravel burn of his voice.
This, Sam thinks, this is where he chooses whether to give a little bit. Whether he's going to take Lucifer's curiosity as genuine, or never believe him, ever. He can accept Lucifer's help, he can accept that he doesn't want the eventual destruction of everything. That the apocalypse is not what he's pushing for. He can stop the snide remarks about his eventual goal being possession of Sam. He can stop being secretive about every single thing that's happening in his life. He can try to understand a little. To use Lucifer a little right back. This is one of those pivotal moments where it seems he never manages to do that right thing. The best thing for everyone. He thinks this is his chance to change that. To make the right choice. To make the sensible choice.
Or he would. If he could stop thinking for one fucking second that if this was a fanfic this is absolutely without doubt where they'd kiss.
And now he can't think about anything else. Mostly because no one's ever looked at him like that in his whole life, that fierce overwhelming desperation to keep him. Whatever the cost.
But also because it's always easy in the damn fanfic. People don't argue for hours, they don't sleep in freezing motel rooms with tension headaches and Dean snoring and skin ripped up from whatever thing they've been chasing. No one ever needs to go to the toilet or to scrub blood out of their knuckles until they start bleeding on their own, or stare at laundry for so many hours of their life that could have been spent doing anything else. It's never relentless and endless and unfair and it doesn’t go on and on and on, taking everyone you think you might love out from under you. Leaving you exhausted and still moving, still breathing. So close to hating the world for being so hard. Then before you knew it you were getting up the next day and trying to convince Lucifer himself that the world was worth saving.
In the fanfic, wrapping up the apocalypse can be done in one paragraph. With some witty dialogue and a grand speech and a kiss. But the real world doesn't work like that. It's never worked like that. No matter how much Sam sometimes wishes it did.
Sam has fingers full of denim and cloth and it's too easy to push his hands into fists and pull.
Lucifer tastes like ozone and smoke, all heat and electric crackle on his tongue. The kiss is hard and heavy and absolutely real. It's also good, it's the best kiss Sam's had for months, fucking months. There's a lazy, forbidden, rough edge to it that makes it threaten to devolve into something messy and wet. Sam kind of wants it to.
This is definitely bad touching.
He doesn't even have the excuse of being drunk, or stupid on pain medication. He has no excuse at all, none. Fanfic is not an acceptable excuse.
Sam pulls his mouth away and inhales, quick and sharp, staring at Lucifer from far too close; the expression he finds there is something quietly stunned.
"Sam," Lucifer says and Sam thinks maybe there's a question there. A question he doesn't have the answer to. He should shove him away, he should make some sort of disgusted noise and shove him away right the fuck now. Which would be a perfectly sensible thing to do if Sam hadn't been the one who kissed him first.
He's still not sure why exactly he did that.
"You're going to blame that on me tomorrow aren't you?" Lucifer says quietly and there's no emotion under the words that Sam could name.
"Yes," Sam admits, because he's in pain and he's not thinking clearly, so the responsible angel - demon, the responsible demon in the room is clearly the one to blame.
Jesus his leg hurts -
- when he wakes up the motel room is almost pitch black.
Sam's mouth is still wet and ever so slightly numb.
"Crap," he says into the darkness.
There's a faint rustle of sheet to his right
"You ok, Sam?" Dean asks from the other bed.
No, he's really, really not.
He's turned his life into fanfic.
Dean's going to kill him.
"Uh huh, yeah, I'm good, go back to sleep."