Part 1: When Sam Met Sam (and Dean)
Sometimes Sam thought his life was cursed.
Oh, that's right. His parents had sold his soul to the Devil before his birth, and he *was* cursed to a life of servitude as the Devil's bounty hunter.
Still, you'd think that the Devil's bounty hunter would be a bad-ass mofo for whom everything would go right. But noooo… Not for Sam Oliver. Here he was, lugging around the latest 'vessel' for retrieving souls who had escaped from Hell, a 24 x 36 gilt-edge picture frame, such a gaudy monstrosity that even Ted wouldn't stock it in the Work Bench, all prepared to throw it at the Matisse-wannabe who'd been killing people and arranging their corpses into depictions of famous paintings, and happily anticipating that *for once,* everything would go *right,* the frame would shrink and pull the evil guy in, or whatever the frame was supposed to do, and this latest soul would be dispatched and perhaps Sam would have a few days of peace to enjoy his boring mundane life before the Devil dropped in with his newest mission.
He was pulling the frame back, preparing to throw, and Sock and Ben were yelling, "Now, now!" like they thought he couldn't figure that out, and then two whack jobs with shotguns darted through the door and started shooting, fortunately only at the Matisse-wannabe, but still, the noise of guns firing made Sock and Ben scream like little girls, though of course, they'd deny that later, which Sam still found really distracting every time it happened. The Matisse-wannabe roared and gave a giant leap up and smashed out of a window in the warehouse, glass shattering everywhere. Sam couldn't stop his swing, so the frame went sailing through the air and landed on the cold concrete, breaking into three big pieces.
"You broke the vessel!" Sock accused at the same time the shorter shotgun guy yelled, "What do you think you're doing!"
"Dean, we gotta go after him!" the taller shotgun guy yelled, and thankfully the two strangers went running out as Sock, Ben, and Sam stared at the broken vessel, knowing there wasn't any point in chasing after the Matisse-wannabe until it was repaired.
"You broke the vessel," Sock said, more mock-sad this time. "Didn't the Devil tell you not to break your vessels?"
"Who were those guys?" Ben asked.
"Amateurs," Sock snorted. "Like shotguns could take down an escaped soul from hell."
Sam sighed. "Help me get the pieces," he asked, because a couple of the gilt edges had broken off, and Sam wasn't sure if the loss of decoration would impair the vessel's functioning. Better to be safe than sorry with the Devil's tools.
"Oh my god, who was that guy?" a woman moaned, which brought them all back to awareness of the intended victim, who'd crouched down, hidden by boxes. "He was insane! He was going to kill me!"
Sock went over to her and helped her stand, murmuring reassurances of how big and bad they were and how the danger was all over, and how she didn't need to worry because they were there to protect her, and Sam was happy to let his best friend play savior. Sam wasn't all that comfortable around girls other than Andi anyway. He and Ben picked up the pieces, putting the smaller ones on his Buy More apron and tying it closed with the straps.
"He got away," shorter shotgun guy announced and maybe this time Sam yelled a bit in surprise, though he did not scream like a little girl. For two fairly solid looking guys with shotguns, they moved quietly when they reentered the warehouse. "What did you bozos think you were doing? Throwing a picture frame at him?"
"Look, you wouldn't understand. You just need to stay away from him," Sam suggested.
"We? *We* need to stay away from him?" shorter shotgun guy poked at Sam's chest. "*You* need to stay away from him. *We* will take care of him." The taller guy was hanging back, observing them all with a more analytical eye, and Sam wondered what he was making of them, him with his arms full of bundled gilt pieces, Sock with his hair spiked almost to a point and his bushy sideburns, Ben with his afro-ish hair restrained in its normal ponytail, all of them wearing their work (and general life) attire of jeans and casual shirts.
"Look, *you* can't." Sam didn't often try to explain the whole 'I'm the Devil's bounty hunter' shtick to people, but most people didn't express their intention to 'take care' of a soul escaped from hell. "Only I can."
"With that?" Shorter shotgun guy pointed to the pieces of the frame. "What are you going to do, paint him to death?"
Keeping one arm around the blonde, Sock reached out to pat Sam's chest. "My friend here, he's a bounty hunter. No, he's not just a bounty hunter. He's *the* bounty hunter."
"You three are hunters," shorter shotgun guy said, his disbelief plain.
"Didn't I just say that?" Sock looked at Sam. "I said that, right?"
"You three are *not* hunters. You would have been toast, that's what you would have been."
"No," Sam felt obliged to note. "We wouldn't have fit in the picture. He only kills people that he can use in the picture." Now that the blonde wasn't hiding behind the boxes, Sam could see that she resembled Marilyn Monroe. Maybe the Matisse-wannabe was going into a Warhol period? Though there were probably lots of famous paintings with blondes that Sam didn't know. His high school classes had never included art history.
"So what, you think he would have killed her and left you guys alone?"
"Um, yeah. That's what he does." The last scene had been pretty gruesome, the man and woman carefully laid out in that pose that had later generated a lot of discussion between the three of them on whether it was a husband and wife, or man and daughter, but the Matisse-wannabe had completely ignored them as he finished arranging the guy's pitchfork, until Sam had tried to put the frame on him, and he'd backhanded them across the room. Why did escaped souls from hell always have to be as strong as Steve Austin? Couldn't one of them be a little wimpy guy? Anyway, American Gothic, Andi had said that painting was called when they'd consulted her. Not that they'd told her why they were suddenly arguing about paintings in the Work Bench break room. She never needed to know about the bounty hunter shtick, though Sam often thought it would be more convenient if she did. It was kind of a bitch to love a woman who couldn't even know what you did for a living.
"I can't talk to you. Sam, you talk to these bozos. Make them realize they're gonna die if they don't let this go." Shorter shotgun guy stalked out.
"My brother's right. You guys don't know what you're dealing with."
"No, really, *you* don't know what you're dealing with," Sam tried to explain, but the blonde picked that moment to start crying in buckets, like the shock of being saved had finally hit her. With her Marilyn Monroe mascara running, she looked more like a chipmunk than a famous actress, and they got distracted from the argument as Sock tried to soothe her.
"We should take her home," Sock said, stroking her hair. Sock was getting quite good at comforting women. He'd had a lot of practice over the last months.
"Please," she said, and Sam really couldn't blame her for being upset. It must be pretty stressful to be captured by a big nasty looking guy and then find yourself watching a shotgun-blasting and frame-throwing fight.
"Yeah, let's go." Ben checked his watch. "We're late anyway. Ted's going to have a fit."
Sock started walking out of the warehouse with the blonde, keeping her cuddled in his arms. He totally took advantage of being the rescuer any chance he could get, though Sam didn't begrudge him. Being a bounty hunter was bad enough. He didn't know what he'd do without the support of his friends. Ben followed him, and Sam gave a last look at the tall guy. "Look, you really – " they both started saying, and stopped and laughed nervously.
"I’m not going to convince you to stop doing this, am I?" tall guy said, smiling ruefully.
"No, you're not. And I'm – "
"No, you're not. Hey, I'm Sam too. Sam Winchester." He offered his hand, and Sam shook it.
"See you around, Sam Oliver," he said, and walked away.
Sam gave the floor a last check for gilt pieces and followed them. Time to drop the girl off, get back to the Work Bench, clock in for the rest of his shift, and ignore customers while repairing the vessel in the store's workshop. Hopefully the Devil wouldn't show up with a clue to the soul's new location until tomorrow. His bounty hunter was ready for a quiet night off.
He really hoped he didn't see those two guys again. Being cursed was stressful enough without well-meaning but irritable amateurs getting in his way.
Part 2: When Sam Met Sam (and Dean) Again
The second time they met was the reverse of the first. The two shotgun guys were there first, blasting away and squeezing a liquid that looked like water out of a sports drink bottle at the Matisse-wannabe, who was clearly finding their attempts to kill him and get him wet rather irritating. Sam ran straight in, raised the frame up and brought it down over the soul's head, vaguely hearing Sock yell, "Don't shoot Sam! We're the good guys!" at the shotgun guys.
Sock had a tendency for saying the obvious.
Sam stepped away from the soul as the frame dropped down his body, which warped and stretched out, resembling a body drawn by one of those weird modern artists, before it literally split apart and was sucked into the gilt edges. The frame landed on the floor, the soul completely vanished.
"Dude," Sock said, with satisfaction.
"Well, that was new," the other Sam noted.
"I'm afraid we were too late to save the victim," Ben offered. "What do you suppose he was doing?"
The five of them looked around the floor of the condemned building, where liquids of different colors were splashed around, and Sam really didn't want to think what body parts had been mashed up to make the frenzied display.
"It looks like a Pollock," the shorter shotgun suggested, and Sam thought he'd remembered the other Sam calling him Dean.
"I don't think it's an appropriate time to make ethnic remarks, Dean," the other Sam said, confirming Sam's remembrance.
"A Jackson Pollock," Dean responded, with an implied 'you idiot,' like Sam frequently got from his own brother. Brothers were all the same, he supposed.
Other Sam seemed surprised. "You know Jackson Pollock?"
"Dude," Sock inserted. "Ed Harris."
Other Sam moved from surprised to confused, which wasn't all that surprising when you were around Sock. He took some adjustment. Fortunately he and Sock had grown up together. "Ed Harris?"
"Yeah, Ed Harris," Dean agreed, and it was the first time Sam had seem him look at any of them with anything other than disbelief or irritation. And it was at *Sock.* "He was in the movie. He's cool."
"Man, and what a great gig. Stand outside, smoke like a chimney, dribble paint, and be *famous.* I want a job like that."
Now Sam supposed it was his turn to look confused, because Sock wanting to be a modern artist? But Ben interceded before the discussion would degenerate further. "Gentlemen, we've got the soul. I think it's time to leave the crime scene." Ben was always the most practical of them.
Somehow they ended up sitting around a table at a restaurant with good, thick burgers, Sock and Dean bonding over Ed Harris in specific and action movies in general, the other Sam and Ben suddenly in an intense discussion of Ted's reign as boss at The Work Bench and the protections offered by employment law. The other Sam talked like an attorney, which was kinda odd for someone who seemed to spend his life running around with a shotgun. Sam slipped off to the bathroom, where the Devil was leaning against the wall in the handicapped stall.
"Jeez," Sam said, and backed out.
"Don't you know you're supposed to leave the bigger stall for handicapped people?" the Devil asked, smiling. He smiled a lot, and had one of the best smiles Sam had ever seen, big flashing white teeth and perfectly tanned skin that would look great on the big screen. He was dressed in his typical white shirt and black suit, looking just like a successful businessman.
"The other one's always too small."
"What are you doing here, anyway? We've got the soul. The vessel's in Sock's trunk."
"You're hanging with dangerous people, Sammy."
"Dangerous people? The Devil is warning me about dangerous people?"
"People can be very scary, Sammy. Bad, evil, distrustful… there's a reason souls come to hell." The Devil opened the bathroom door a notch, peering out, so Sam peered out too. His friends and the Winchesters were sitting at a table close to the bathroom, still talking, though now it looked like the split conversations had joined into one. "Dean out there is coming to see me soon."
"He is? He looks pretty healthy. Well, except he keeps shooting at people. I suppose that would make it more likely that he'll get killed."
"Oh, he's not going to get killed. He sold his soul. He made a deal. He'll just drop dead one day." The Devil relaxed against the wall, grinning madly, and snapped his fingers.
Sam let the door swing shut. "So why are you telling me this? What do those guys matter to me?" The Devil would have a reason. He always did. The trick was listening to the reason he gave and figuring out how that pointed to the real reason, because the Devil never just told the plain and simple truth. He was the Prince of Lies, even to his employees. Ted was a jerk, but at least he wasn't a deliberate liar. Since Sam had to have two bosses, he really wished one of them was a decent, honest person. Was that too much to ask?
"You may see them again. You should get to know them. Dean there, he'll try to escape from Hell. And even if he never succeeds…" the Devil slapped Sam on the back. "You'll have lots of time together in the future."
If Sam didn't succeed in finding a way out of the contract, because he was certainly going to try. Working as the Devil's bounty hunter was bad enough, but burning in everlasting hellfire? Yeah, he was really trying not to go there. "Thanks. It'll be nice to know that there's a friendly face waiting."
"You're welcome, Sammy." The Devil grinned again. It was his favorite expression. "I always like to raise your expectations."
So he could crush them. "Well, I'll, ah…" Sam started to open the door.
"Didn't you need to - ?" The Devil pointed to the stall.
"Oh, yeah." Sam turned back to the stall, then looked toward the Devil, knowing he ought to ask more about Sam and Dean. Only the Devil was gone.
Dinner was oddly relaxing and fascinating and horrifying. The Winchesters were hunters in the broadest sense of the word. Changelings, vampires, werewolves, all sorts of frightening creatures that Sam hadn't known existed and fervently hoped he was never sent to hunt.
Sam made a mental note to ask his Dad if he had found a scope of conditions in the contract. A nice limited one.
At least the Winchesters were hunters by choice and got to pick their own weapons. Real weapons. Dangerous weapons. The kind of weapons that his parents would never allow in the house and which would make him nervous to use. Guns, knives, holy water. Well, okay, his parents probably wouldn't mind the holy water. Sam wished he had some weapon other than a bizarre embarrassing vessel loaned for a single use by the Devil.
Eating his last fry, Sam asked, "I don't understand. If you hunt all these things, why did you sell your soul to the Devil?"
"Who said I sold my soul to the Devil?" Dean asked, and man, he was fast at being suspicious.
"Were you confabbing with the Devil in the john again?" Sock inserted, making it sound like a lascivious rendezvous and killing any chance of pretending it was some random comment he'd heard.
"The Devil?" other Sam asked.
"In the bathroom?" other Sam asked again.
Sam nodded again.
"So what, we go into the bathroom and we'd smell sulfur?" Dean asked, and the brothers really had the sincere hunter-disbelieving hunter shtick finely honed.
"Um, no. The Devil just smells like aftershave. Expensive stuff too. Not sulfur."
"Sam, why don't you tell us about what you hunt and how you know the Devil?" other Sam suggested reasonably.
Sam contemplated how to start explaining, but Sock and Ben were already there, tripping over each other's words, beginning with how his mother had been sick and his parents had sold the soul of their unborn child for her cure, because they thought they couldn't have kids. At which point Dean rolled his eyes and muttered, "And they thought a demon would let your Dad keep firing blanks?" which seemed a little unfair because his parents had been young and hadn't known better. And ew, he didn’t like to think of his parents having sex, much less sex with Satanic interference. But Sock and Ben didn't take exception to Dean's snideness, already moving past the circumstances of Sam's birth and on how the souls escaped hell (not that the Devil had ever given them a lot of detail on that part) and what they did on Earth (kill people and create havoc mostly) and the kind of vessels the Devil provided for capturing them (silly stupid objects that Sam hated to drag around).
Other Sam and Dean listened and inserted some questions and Sam tried not to be morose about the fact that *his life* sounded like a cheesy horror-comic.
"Well, that's an interesting story," other Sam said tactfully and a shade too enthusiastically. "It's, uh, a little different than the demons we're used to."
"It's not a story," Sock responded with alcohol-fueled indignity. Not that Sock needed the three beers he'd drunk to be indignant. Sock was as fast at being indignant as he could be lecherous. Or obnoxious. Or sarcastic. "You saw the frame and what it did."
"Yeah," Dean agreed, leaning forward, his intentness on Sam almost scary. "This is *Satan,* you're dealing with? Lucifer? The Prince of Darkness?"
"Yes, Satan. The Devil himself."
"And he said *he* owned my soul?"
Sam thought about the Devil's words. He'd learned to be careful about what the Devil said… and what he didn't. "No. Not really. He said you'd drop dead and go to Hell. He didn't say he owned your soul. But doesn't the Devil own all the souls in Hell?"
Other Sam shook his head. "Any demon can grant wishes in exchange for a person's soul. In fact, one of the demons we met implied that Satan was never seen. He's like God. You have to have faith in him."
Sam tried to imagine selling his soul to Gladys at the DMV but it made his brain run around in screaming circles inside his skull. "I see the Devil a couple of times a week. He's real."
Other Sam and Dean were exchanging significant looks, like they were having a whole silent conversation. "I know what you're thinking, Sam, and it's no," Dean told his brother. "He didn't say *he* had the contract. It's probably just some demon setting us up."
"So what if he isn't the one with the contract? What if it's really the top guy?" other Sam hissed at his brother. "If we could take him – "
"I won't risk it."
"You mean you won't let me risk it."
Sam, Sock and Ben exchanged some significant glances among themselves, but Sam figured it was more like 'what are these guys talking about?' than contemplating and discarding a plan practically telepathically. Sam cleared his throat and asked, "Are you guys thinking of trying to…um…capture the Devil or something?"
"No," Dean said, while other Sam answered, "Yes," and then the waitress asked if they wanted the check, which seemed a good way to end the conversation, as the brothers were obviously working on the start of a serious sibling disagreement, and Sam didn't even like being involved with his own family's arguments.
Dean insisted on paying, to which Sock mourned that he'd have had a few shots if he'd known, though the name on the credit card didn't look like Dean Winchester, which was odd. Maybe people who ran around with shotguns didn't give their real names.
They ended up in the parking lot, saying goodbyes, and Sock and Dean sharing a last bonding over the coolness of the Impala, and the lameness of Sock's mother's car. Other Sam, Ben and Sock all walked around to the other side of their respective cars, leaving Dean and Sam standing between the vehicles.
"I don't want to have to hunt you," Sam blurted out. "I mean, you seem kind of angry sometimes but a pretty cool guy overall."
"Is that what the Devil told you? That I'd escape and you'd have to hunt me down?"
"He implied it," Sam said truthfully.
Dean smiled and clapped Sam on the upper arm. "You do what you have to do."
Yeah, he could be forgiving about it because he didn't figure Sam would succeed, and normally Sam wouldn't bet on himself against this guy either, except Sam worked for the Devil. Even though the Devil liked to torment Sam and make his life hell, Sam was pretty sure the Devil would stack the deck in Sam's favor. The Devil didn't seem to believe in fair play. "As long as you understand it's not personal."
"Sure. I got it." Dean gave him another smile and got in the Impala and drove off. Sock leaned over to crack open the passenger door of his car.
"We leaving sometime soon, Sammy?"
"Yeah." Sam got in the car as Sock started it. He'd liked talking to the Winchesters. It was pretty cool to know others were out there, doing the same kind of work, and their version sounded even more horrible, which was bizarrely reassuring. Like… working at the Work Bench sucked, but it was better than making fast food at Mickey D's. Someone always had it worse.
Damn, he hadn't found out why Dean had sold his soul. He hoped it was for a very good reason. But mostly, he just hoped he didn't see them again, because he was pretty sure the circumstances wouldn't be good.
"Here you go." Sock pulled into the driveway at Sam's parents' house. "I'll pick you up in the morning and we'll see Gladys before work, okay? Get the vessel out of my trunk?"
"Yeah. Sounds good. Tomorrow." Sam nodded goodbye absently to both of them and got out, holding the door open as Ben moved to the front seat. He watched Sock drive off, the taillights disappearing down the street, before heading inside and straight to bed.
He was tired and the Devil's bounty hunter had an early shift at The Work Bench.
~ the end ~