Ruby’s knife is really kind of unfortunate to have around. It’s useful, sure – always has been, probably always will be – but it’s also an extremely tangible reminder of the fact that Sam doesn’t always make the best choices.
“Boy, you guys sure know how to pick ‘em,” comes that soft voice. “Couldn’t’ve squatted in a mansion, for once?”
Sam’s been slowly re-learning how to ignore him because ever since that whole Jeffrey-the-serial-killer fiasco, pressing the scar on his palm hasn’t worked. Lucifer is around a lot more often, throwing around snide remarks left and right, and Dean’s noticed a shift in how tense he is but Sam will never, ever admit to what actually happened. He doesn’t even like admitting to himself how easy it had been to just listen instead of ignore, take the (honestly pretty helpful) advice the Devil had whispered in his ear; he doesn’t like thinking about how natural it’d felt to scour through Nora’s exorcisms with him, like they’d been hunting together for years, as if they’d fallen into step beside each other like Dean and Cas had.
So he sighs and scratches a bit of dirt off of the knife’s hilt and doesn’t bother responding. Dean’s probably going to be gone for a couple of hours – there’s a bar a couple blocks away – and earlier he’d firmly planted Sam down on the uncomfortable motel couch, shoved the remote in his hand, and told him to take a night and relax.
“Sammy, it’s rude to ignore someone when they’re talking to you.”
Relax. Right. Commendable effort, it’s-the-thought-that-counts, et cetera.
What’s worst is that it was a lot easier to ignore when the hallucinations consisted of just flashbacks; Lucifer in the flesh (well, hallucinatory flesh) wasn’t that easy to tune out but now it’s much, much harder – because he’s acting so human or because he let him in, Sam’s got no clue, but it’s irritating. He glares at not-Nick-anymore’s lazy tangle of lounging limbs, briefly, just to acknowledge his not-presence.
Yeah, he’s going crazy.
Two more painfully boring hours pass; there’s nothing on cable that’s even vaguely entertaining and Sam left most of his books in the Impala by accident, so it’s either the battered copy of Hamlet or Crime and Punishment.
Lucifer is still in the room, leaning the chair back on two legs, and Sam’s tempted to snap at him and tell him to Stop That Or You’ll Fall And I’ll Laugh At You the way he always does when Dean does it. He resists (because, honestly, getting smart with the Devil might not be the best idea) and lets his mind wander. It’s a little odd that he feels relaxed now – when Lucifer appears out of nowhere he can practically feel his blood pressure skyrocketing and the panic wraps around his chest like metal bars but after the initial shock passes it’s that same weird easiness he felt when he was scrambling to put the pieces together to find Dean, that weird sensation of finding a common rhythm they both respond to.
Sam checks the time. Dean’s still out and at this point he’s probably not going to be back until the early morning, so it couldn’t possibly hurt, not when he’s already buried this deep in shit–
“Hey Luce,” he says, and the nickname slips out before he can stop it.
The Devil manages to flinch and freeze at the same time and Sam can’t blame him – it’s been a while since he’s talked back and he’s never actually addressed him, much less using a nickname.
“What’s your beef with humanity?”
And if he’s being honest with himself, it’s not just a time-killing question. There’s still a part of him that’s a law student and that wants both sides to every story. Lucifer still has a look of complete shock on his face, something Sam never saw in those 47 years of Hell.
“I’m touched by your curiosity,” he replies, and a smile curls at his mouth as he recovers. “You know, a few millennia in the Cage gives you a lot of time for introspection.”
Sam raises his eyebrows and makes that “and?” gesture with his hands.
“You know the Bible version of the story, right? God creates angels, angels love God, God creates humanity and commands the angels to love humans, Luci protests by loving God more than humans, God sends Luci to the Pit. Yeah?”
“Yeah,” agrees Sam slowly, not quite sure where this is going.
“So put yourself in my shoes,” argues Lucifer, chair back on four legs, voice soft. “You and Dean loved your father more than anything, and you love each other more than anything. One day, your father tells you to love something else – some alien species, not even similar to you – and to put that something above him and Dean and to love it unconditionally, even as it’s flawed and destined to rip itself apart. It’d drive you crazy, wouldn’t it?”
Sam looks down at his hands; the implication doesn’t even need to be said. He’s heard it thousands of times.
You’re just like me, Sam.
Our lives are parallel.
You and I, we’re one.
“Hundreds of thousands of years in Hell with nothing but your own thoughts and some seriously fucked-up human souls wasn’t my idea of fun, but, you know, gives you time to think.”
Lucifer runs a hand through his hair, absently scratches at his scalp in a frighteningly human gesture, and tips the chair back again. “I was jealous of you puny little creatures. I needed you to manifest on earth, and I hated that. You stupid, primitive apes are capable of feeling so much more than angels – you think for yourselves and it tears you apart, but that’s the thing.”
Sam can’t help but notice that there’s an honestly freaky kind of sadness to his smile now. Since when does the Devil get sad? Legitimately sad, not I’m-just-fucking-with-you sad?
“Free will, huh? That’s what I got locked up for, and that’s what you got locked up for. We’re a lot more similar than you’d think.”
Sam’s taken aback by the truth in what the Devil is saying. Lucifer doesn’t lie – oh, how painfully he knows that – so the gravity of this small speech hits him a lot harder than he’d expected. He opens his mouth, closes it, and shakes his head. There’s really no way to respond to that.
“Good enough answer for you?” The smile’s back to being a full-on smirk.
“Yeah,” says Sam again, rolling his eyes and turning off the TV.
He crawls into the lumpy bed and turns his back on the Devil, but for once, it feels like he’s being watched over instead of observed. The thought burrows itself uncomfortably into his stomach.
He’s shouting your name and asking for more, purrs the Impala’s radio, and Sam does his best to just tune it out. Dean’s got that look in his face and he’s tapping his fingers and yeah, he’s totally jamming to this song.
There’s a devil waiting outside your door.
Normally he’d have no problem with Metallica (or Nick Cave) but this song is hitting uncomfortably close to his hallucinatory tagger-along who – speak of the Devil, ha ha, so funny – is reclining in the back seat of the car, hands behind his head, eyes closed and a lazy smile on his face. The only way this situation could possibly be weirder is if it were real and not all in his head.
R is for rape me, M is for murder me–
Nope, that’s it. He lunges for the stereo and ejects the tape, grabs the first one from the box he can get his hands on, and shoves it in instead. Dean looks at him strangely then his face falls when he puts the pieces together. Lucifer shoots him an irritated glare in the rearview mirror. The stereo mulls the tape over and it takes a few seconds for the song to start playing, in medias res–
–long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on, and it makes me wonder.
Dean’s knuckles go bone-white on the steering wheel and Sam can see his throat working, trying to swallow.
“Dean?” He takes a short, shaky breath and turns the radio completely off. Sam wonders for a full two minutes what it was that had set off his brother like that (as a rule he never, ever turns off Zep) when it finally clicks that Cas had always put on Stairway to Heaven on those few occasions he’d roadtripped with them. His heart clenches.
“Man, you two should really go see a shrink,” murmurs Lucifer from the back, and his blue eyes are staring at Sam in the rearview mirror. It takes all of his self-control not to snap back that wow, great, that’s not helping at all.
The rest of the drive is dead silent save for the low growl of the Impala’s engine; Sam falls asleep leaning on the window and jerks awake when the flames in his head start feeling a little too real. Lucifer is gone from the back seat and it’s a little weird; over the past seven or so hours he’d gotten used to catching a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror or out of the corner of his eye, and now it’s completely empty back there and the fact that it feels weird is weird.
He and Dean book a motel room and Dean still isn’t saying a single word – he falls straight into bed and Sam swears he sees the corner of a suspiciously familiar tan sleeve tucked tightly against Dean’s stomach. His heart clenches again because it’s not fair; the months-old rant runs full-speed in his head, over and over: he deserved a friend and he got a friend and everything good always gets ripped away from us but not this not Cas not Dean’s best friend not fair not fair not fair Dean always deserved someone like Cas and now he’s gone and it hurts–
He takes his time brushing his teeth and changing into sweats and by the time he walks over to the unoccupied bed, Dean is snoring softly. He’s halfway under the covers when Lucifer’s voice comes quietly from the corner.
“I forgot you humans do that empathy thing,” he murmurs, as low and smooth as always. “Just another thing on the list of design flaws.”
Sam closes his eyes, breathes in, and breathes out.
“Have you ever considered,” he whispers through gritted teeth, “that if you tried ‘that empathy thing’ you might understand more?”
Lucifer’s face is half in shadow, but Sam can still see the surprise flash across it. He turns his back on the Devil, pulls the musty covers up over his ears, and lets Dean’s snoring lull him to sleep.
“Sam, you’re sure you’re okay to hunt?”
If there wasn’t so much pure worry in his voice, Sam would probably have been offended at the condescension.
“I told you, I’m fine,” he repeats for what feels like the thousandth time. Dean raises his eyebrows. “Dean, I swear. He’s not– he isn’t doing anything like that, and he’s easy to ignore. I’m perfectly fine.”
Dean exhales and throws weapons into the duffel with a lot more force than necessary.
“If Cas hadn’t–” He slams the trunk of the car down, practically making the ground shake. “This would never have happened.”
It’s the final straw for Sam.
“Don’t take out your anger on Cas!” he yells, slamming his palm down on the trunk. Dean glares at him.
“Look, I know you’re mad about everything that happened and I know you’re not okay–” Dean opens his mouth furiously and Sam cuts him off. “Don’t lie to me, Dean, but that’s not the point here! You’re using Cas as an easy out for all of your hurt and your blame and you shouldn’t.”
“What happened is in the past now. I’ve learned to deal with it and you should, too.” Dean’s face is still drawn and pained. Sam knows he can get at least one more comment in. “I’ve forgiven him, you know.”
If he didn’t know Dean better, he’d have said he flinched. Dean turns his back.
“Shut up. Those vampires aren’t going to sit around and wait for us to be done arguing.” He grabs the duffel and starts to head in the direction of where they think the nest is.
“Dean–” He’s pushing now, and he knows it.
“Sam,” says Dean forcefully. He turns. “Look, I–”
He stops, looks away, swallows.
“It’s good that you can still hunt.”
Sam exhales; it’s as much of an apology as he’s going to get.
“Okay,” he says, “so let’s go.”
It all happened too fast.
One second they’d been perfectly fine – Dean to his left, slightly ahead of him, quietly creeping towards the vampire nest, and then a phantom voice from behind him had yelled his name and he’d turned around in a panic, machete ready in his hand, but the vamp had been faster and all he could hear was the Devil saying you stupid son of a bitch, why’d you let them do that? right before everything had gone black.
He’d killed his way out of the nest. Evidently neither coven had had any ulterior motives in separating them – the ones that had taken Sam had just wanted a snack, and those that had taken Dean were long headed back to their own nest.
The fact that it had been two covens in the town was what had completely thrown off their hunt, and Sam had been remorseless in killing every one of his captors.
He was in Utah now instead of Texas and if the sinking feeling in his stomach was anything to go by, Dean was probably halfway across the country and trying to figure out the same thing – how to find his brother. Sam had tried calling, of course, but no calls would go through and none of Dean’s numbers picked up. His own phone was long gone, too, and he couldn’t reach any of the handful of hunters he knew.
He’d hotwired a car and booked the cheapest room at the first motel he’d come across, trying to keep calm, not panic because he wasn’t going to let this become another fiasco like the Mystery Spot had been.