His first thought was that he was supposed to be dead. The last thing he remembered, after all, was Lucifer exploding out of him and the sensation of his eyeballs boiling out of his skull, and he was pretty sure after that it just got worse. A lot worse.
His second thought was that this was Hell and it didn’t matter anyway; ‘worse’ was pretty much the whole point.
Then he realized that he was spread-eagled on his stomach, stretched out on something that felt slightly squishy and damp, and he stopped wanting to know.
He didn’t have much of a chance for denial, though. A hand was dragging his head up by the hair, and oh yeah, maybe it did matter, a little. “You disappointed me, Sam,” said Lucifer, his voice deep and resonant and painful to hear, and it wasn’t even his true voice. “I expected more of you.”
Sam forced a laugh. “Never been…very good at meeting expectations.”
Lucifer tsked, pulling his head back farther. Sam’s spine creaked and his neck tried to spasm in a cramp. He kept his eyes closed, not wanting to know what he would see if he opened them. “Oh, Sam,” Lucifer said, his voice soft and painfully gentle. “You still don’t recognize the lies they told you? You met all the expectations that mattered…except for this one.”
It was hard to sneer when someone was trying to fold you in half backwards, but Sam did his best. “Where’s big brother?” He asked, still squeezing his eyes shut. “Bet he’s not too happy about being shut up in time out with you.”
Lucifer’s laughter bored into his brain and started a headache like a thudding drumbeat throbbing between his ears, bouncing back and forth inside his skull until his teeth hurt. “Charming,” he said, almost affectionately, and Sam felt something like claws slip around to brush against his throat. “Michael is…figuring out the territory. Don’t worry. I’ll have plenty of time for both of you.” The claws changed to fingers, cupping his neck almost gently. “This is my kingdom, much as I hate it. Everything here is mine. You, Samuel, are mine.”
Sam gritted his teeth and forced out, “I’ve got nothing to lose.”
“You,” he murmured, breath like ice and dread in the curve of his ear, “Underestimate me. You have no idea of forever. But you will. You will.”
It was a promise, and Lucifer sounded eager, even if he was imprisoned again. Perhaps, Sam thought numbly, it was because this time he had company.
For a moment, he wished that he’d never made Dean promise to leave him in the Pit.
For a moment, he hoped that Dean would break his promise and get him away from here.
He only let it last for a moment.
The first thing the Devil did was cut off his eyelids with careful precision, turning him to his back and holding Sam down as he struggled with no more than a hand on his chest. He peeled them away and Sam looked at the cage because there was nothing else he could do. Looked at the curved white red bars like ribs and the walls like slabs of raw meat that pulsed uneasily. Looked at the red filtered light and the twisted shapes brushing against the bars, and Sam felt their eyes like a touch, eager and lustful. Looked at Lucifer himself and let awe and despair choke him.
And this, Sam thought, this light that’s burning up everything, this is nothing, only a shadow of his true form.
Then it faded, and Lucifer was Nick again, but now with light blazing through his eyes. He didn’t seem angry. He seemed cheerful.
Sam tried to brace himself.
“I saw you watching the Furies,” he said, mildly. “They think you should be theirs. They feel vengeance in you and that is what they hunger for. Vengeance and blood. The same as you. But as I said, you are mine and mine alone. Perhaps later.” Satan smiled, and again there was that tone of affection to his voice. “They are not fond of men, but they might treat you well and kill you quickly.”
Sam could feel his eyes drying out and tried to struggle away again, but it was like trying to move a mountain, and Lucifer seemed to tire of his scrabbling hands and like that, they were pinned to what felt like an altar made of flesh. His head flopped helplessly sideways and Sam heard, distantly, the sounds of screaming from underneath his cheek.
A prison of flesh and blood…the flesh and blood of the damned. Bile surged in his throat and Sam swallowed it, though he could hear himself panting.
Lucifer rolled up his sleeves and examined what was left of Sam’s clothes. He snapped his wrist with something like irritation and they vanished, and if he had been naked and vulnerable before in Lucifer’s light, now he was helpless.
Sam strained against the invisible bonds, trying to ignore the squishing sounds the movements made, gritting his teeth as Lucifer stepped back and his eyes raked down over Sam’s body in a way that made his skin crawl.
Then he rolled up his sleeves and stepped forward again, and Lucifer said, “Listen, Sam. I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need you to do anything for me. No punishment, no reward. Just you and me.”
Sam wanted to close his eyes. He couldn’t, couldn’t look away, couldn’t think about anything except the fact that Lucifer didn’t even bother to use a knife as he hollowed Sam out piece by piece by piece and oh god but God didn’t matter, this wasn’t God’s domain.
He was screaming before the first minute and howling within two, and it was only when Lucifer paused, cradling what Sam thought distantly was his liver that he realized there was no way, given the amount of blood rushing out of his body and the neat little pile by Sam’s feet that he could possibly still be alive.
At least, he thought exhaustedly, as his voice broke and he had to pant for air (he’d been left his lungs) he could only be dismantled like this once.
Then he remembered that Lucifer was probably just going to put him back together again for exactly that reason.
Lucifer looked down at the shredded body Sam could not (could not) think of as his, and sighed. “Not enough space for me,” he said, sorrowfully, and Sam couldn’t hold his breath anymore and let it out in an explosive noise too much like a sob.
Rolled his drying eyes up, thinking of Dean, and said, “Go to hell. Oh wait.”
Lucifer shook his head, seeming sad, and the restraints on Sam’s wrists released. The Devil drew him up into something like an embrace, though the movement made Sam scream all over again, short and sharp and brutal until it stuck in his throat. “Now,” Lucifer said. “Shhh.”
Sam was vaguely aware of his neck snapping and was consumed with brief, complete relief.
He opened his eyes. Eyelids, he had eyelids. Sam blinked a few times, just to make sure. Still naked, but now lying on grass, not – flesh.
“I kept my promise,” said a voice from above him. “I never lied to you.”
Of course it was too much to hope that he had a respite. He looked up, and on the branch above him was an eagle with the head of a snake, its great tawny wings fanned out across what seemed like half the forest.
Sam coughed a laugh. “It wouldn’t matter if you had.”
The snake’s head cocked, the forked tongue flickering out. Its eyes were still full of light. “All the others, they lied to you. Don’t you want the truth?”
Sam could feel his knees begin to shake. “Not your truth. What is this?”
The eagle hopped to the ground in a concussive woosh that knocked Sam on his ass, and the talons formed a cage over him. Lucifer’s burning eyes seemed thoughtful. “Your mind. I was curious. I only managed to visit you a few times. I wanted to see more of the landscape.”
Sam squeezed his eyes closed. “Get out.”
The snake’s tongue flicked out, brushing along Sam’s cheek. “Are you sure you want me to?”
“Yes,” he said, as fiercely as he could manage.
The eagle lifted its talons and slashed down, tearing his chest to ribbons. Sam screamed, expecting to wake up, but he just lay there on the cold dirt as the eagle-snake pumped its way skyward in huge beats of its wings as Sam bled out into the thirsty ground.
He could smell leather and gun oil and sweat and his eyes flew open.
Dean’s face looked sallow in the red light.
“No,” Sam said. Dean smiled.
“You can’t-” Sam choked. Of course he could. This was the Devil’s playground and he could do absolutely anything.
Lucifer hefted a knife, this time, and examined it with distaste. “Heavy,” he said, “Crude. But it adds to the illusion, I think. If he comes down here…I’ll see if I can let him visit you. Consider this practice.”
“Dean would never come here,” Sam snarled, and Lucifer just smiled gently at him.
“That’s what they said about my brother too, you know. And now look.” Lucifer gestured, expansively. “Little brothers, though, you can always count on them.”
Sam thought of all the times that he had let Dean down, all the times that he’d screwed up and failed. “You’ve got that wrong way round,” he said, and Lucifer looked slightly annoyed and thrust the knife down through his leg just above the knee. Sam’s body heaved and he screamed as black edged into the corners of his vision.
“You know I love you, Sam,” he said, almost crooned. “More than anyone else. If John the Disciple was Christ’s beloved, then you are mine.”
Sam panted until he had the air to speak, and then said, “Not – yours. Dean’s.”
Lucifer didn’t like that.
Lucifer didn’t like that at all.
Every time he screamed, he tried to focus, tried to keep his thoughts from stopping think of Dean, think of Dean, think of Dean.
Lucifer’s claws pricked Sam’s brain, caressing the surface slowly, deliberately. Sam twitched, feeling Lucifer’s presence behind him, and the Devil’s fingers inside his head kneaded once, squeezing like he was testing an orange for ripeness. Sam gagged emptily at the image. “Sam,” Lucifer said. “Sam, Sam. What’s the matter? You were made to hold me. To carry me inside your body. This close is how we were meant to be.”
The claws dug in deeper and Sam felt his muscles go involuntarily slack as Lucifer’s hand settled between his shoulder blades, a mockery of a soothing touch from a lifetime ago. A moan escaped Sam against his will, faintly. “Just relax,” Lucifer murmured.
He could feel the sensation like ice burning start at the skin, then working deeper. A thin whine made it from between Sam’s gritted teeth. They were at muscle now, but it wasn’t as bad as when he’d been peeled apart layer by layer by layer, Lucifer keeping him all the while chained to his dwindling body, mind unable to explode into oblivion-
No, it was better than that. Blood sunk into the altar of flesh where he’d bitten through his lip and Sam watched it dully. Lucifer paused, and Sam could feel the burning of the Devil’s hand somewhere in his center. “Hm,” said Lucifer. “I can see your heart beating.”
Then Lucifer seized his spine and ripped it up and out of his body and Sam forgot about comparison and control and screamed because every nerve was still exploding in convulsive pain and it was never going to end, never going to end, Lucifer could keep him alive forever just like this, in pieces.
And with claws in his brain and caressing his vertebrae, Lucifer leaned down and murmured, “You accepted me, Sam. You invited me in.” He paused. Sam could feel himself starting to die, more slowly than was possible. He heard Lucifer smile as screaming became gasping, body quivering, and he felt a too long tongue lick a line up his neck. “Invite me in again.”
Mercifully, Lucifer let Sam die before he crushed Sam’s brain in his hand.
His father was sitting across from him, Dean to his right. To his left…Jess. She smiled at him and looked expectant.
“Eat your dinner, Sammy,” said John, already holding his fork. Sam looked down, though he really didn’t want to.
“Sausages?” He said, suspiciously. Dean nodded.
“They’re yours, Sammy,” he said, sounding proud.
Sam glanced down at himself, at his bloodstained shirt and the hole in his body through which things seemed to be spilling out, though he felt nothing this time. Except mildly disturbed. “Oh,” he said.
Jess extended her hand. “I’ll have it if you won’t,” she said, and Sam shoved his plate her way and tried not to watch or listen to his family eating him quite literally alive.
The eagle with a snake’s head perched on his shoulder and Sam could feel its feathers against his cheek and its talons piercing through his shoulder and into the muscle. “You’re coming apart,” said Lucifer, and he sounded sympathetic. “And they’re not helping. I am all there is.” The snake tore at the side of Sam’s neck, and lapped at the blood that Sam could feel welling there.
Sam bared his throat. “Just end it,” he said, hoarsely, and it was the first time.
To his surprise, Lucifer obeyed, the talons slashing his throat wide open. His blood spilled out on the table and Jess and Dad and Dean stopped eating for a moment to watch it. Dean proceeded to fingerpaint a smiley face on his white plate, and Sam choked on his own blood trying to laugh.
Focus on Dean. Focus on Dean.
“Have I ever lied to you?” Lucifer asked while his fist bruised Sam’s beating heart. Sam gasped for air and said, “Tell me, then, tell me if this is all my fault.”
And Lucifer said, with infinite compassion, even if Sam could feel his heart like a frantic bird against the confines of his palm, “No, Sam.”
But Sam knew that was wrong, knew he was wrong, always wrong.
He couldn’t remember the chords to Enter Sandman.
Focus on – focus on –
“Sam,” Lucifer said, forcing him a little back into himself, and his voice was rich in timbre and full of compassion and sympathy. “Let me in. Let me crack your ribs open and curl up close to your heart. Let me in.”
Sam laughed, because he was exhausted and didn’t remember anything of life or death or what-had-been before these bone and flesh walls and this red light and this endless pain that blurred together into everything and nothing, but he still knew the answer to that.
“No,” he said, and then something was ripping him away, separating him from the others, and Lucifer was gone and the light was gone and a little after that, he was gone as well.
Came back with someone holding him by the shoulders, staring into his face, mouth shaping words he couldn’t understand for what seemed like minutes until the sound finally faded back in-
“Sam, Jesus, Sam, answer me, what the hell, what are you – say something, moron, just-”
There was no knife, and his eyes were dark, so dark. Sam blinked a few more times, trying to find the name, wondering if he’d left it behind.
But it was there, buried deep.
“Dean?” He said, and then he was being manhandled into a hug, or at least he was pretty sure that was what it was, and it was all going to go bad soon, somehow or other, but right now…right now…
He let his head fall down on his big brother’s shoulder and went limp.
Just for a while. Just for a little while.