"I knew a vampire like you once," she says.
Rowena watches as Lucifer bristles at the idea that she's known anything at all like him. She folds her hands in her lap and points her toes until they burn against her shoes, and she remembers that vampire.
He'd been a rockstar, too. Better eyes than Vince Vincente--worse music.
Lucifer hasn't quite settled in his vessel yet, a sad wet thing that can't contain him. The parts of him that aren't God-given don't quite fit inside, which makes him impulsive and febrile and mad. He wavers and vibrates at his edges where his density of atoms deigns to distinguish body from air, Grace pushing until the atoms loll shaken and senseless and Vince Vincente's skin forgets itself.
I have such an expressive face, said her vampire once, though vampires don't wrinkle, their hearts don't pump, their skin is not porous, and their eyes have no light. She'd kissed him, and he'd been cold and still; but if she'd said as much, he'd have ripped her head off--to show her how expressive he was, how much more he was than some one-note rictus. I have such an expressive face, he'd moan, all while puttying hers beneath his hands. I have such an expressive face. Tell me I have a beautiful face.
Of course you do, love, she'd always say back. She'd climbed a staircase of skulls just to find him, after all. Ground down and made into bone-brick, of course. Nothing garish. But any good witch can see beyond mere mutation of form.
She'd lived well with him, her vampire. Well and richly.
She can still see Castiel in him sometimes. Lucifer's Grace breaks over Vince Vincente's boundaries, not so much seeking form as trying to conceptualize it at all. It's an odd kind of vulnerability--to be so powerful you struggle to exist within the laws earth and God have set. But then, that's how a good many witches die, too: Some are burnt at the stake, but more often, they burn at it--magic spilling from their veins in a startled, flammable mess before their captors can even light the pyre. Silly girls.
Castiel's shape drags at Vince Vincente's mouth, clouds his eyes, and cannot, cannot be shaken.
"You remind me of so many things," says Rowena, tracing Lucifer's too-many outlines with her eyes.
(She remembers girls with stones in their pockets, letting shale bite at their palms to keep them remembering their bodies, their earthboundness. Girls so scared of their own magic they hope these rocks will keep them human. Girls headed into lochs, smocks weighted. Then their lungs filling with water--only then, they discover that it is not a peaceful death. It is not a peaceful death, and they should have risked the fire instead.
There is one girl, airy, walking above the smoke. She has hair like sunset.
Everyone knows real witches float.)
"I remember--" she starts, but then Lucifer takes her by the neck, rakes his teeth across her skin.
He promises to leave her with better than she's ever known. Oh, you'll remember me. I will be everything, and you will have so many things to remind you, he whispers, throaty and thirsty and oh, there she is, thinking of that vampire again.
It's pitiable, really--for here's the son of God, Lightbringer, master of Hell and Adversary to all, and he can't stop her memory.
He can't stop being repetition.
When he breathes against her, she catches a whiff of baby's milk and whiskey, and wonders from what lost vessel he'd carried such a souvenir. So she slides a hand over his crotch, Vince Vincente's dick a soft bulge on the left side of his leather pants. She strokes it teasingly.
Baby's milk, she thinks.
Lucifer doesn't react--hasn't yet registered the meaning of his own anatomy, doesn't know his edges. But Rowena knows hers, and if it took a young, silly girl to find her facts in tea leaves and stars (so long, long ago) now all it takes is a touch.
A nursery: a crib filling with blood. A woman, throat slit, heart screaming Nicky, Nicky, Nicky please onto the carpet even though her brain's already gone. Nicky with a beer belly and an empty house, and plenty of room for an angel.
I'll give your wife and baby back, Lucifer promised, but it's not why Nick said yes. Poor Nicky'd already given up at that point.
Nick said Yes, but so did Satan. If Nick became all devil, the Devil became a little bit Nick. By the time Rowena meets him, he still is.
I'll tear your head off, he snarls, but he won't. He's had his chance.
Nick had been obsessed with his failures and so Lucifer is, too.
Lucifer strokes her neck again because he can't stop remembering he'd broken it.
He'd broken it and she had not died.
Now he fixates.
So what of Lucifer is Sam, then?
It's a tantalizing thing to imagine, really. Sam Winchester is probably Lucifer's biggest failure of all, and surely dear Samuel looms large within him. Imagine what she could do if she could find that sloppy bit of Sam in Satan. It'd be shuddering and hers for the taking, unhemmed and carelessly out in the open--far easier to snatch than anything of Sam would be in Sam.
Rowena's fingers tingle. Her wrists twist.
Shackles, Samuel. This is all distastefully medieval, she'd sniffed, her first night in Sam's care.
You're a witch, he'd replied.
Lucifer is lying on a bed full of dogs. They smell of sulfur and crossroads and when the largest one--at his feet--scratches vigorously at its haunch, rusty motes come away from its fur, tang the air with metal.
They vibrate with their master, and it's only when Rowena focuses on the space between them--that gradient of existence that can't quite keep solid from air, vessel from space--that she realizes she can't actually see them. In her mind she knows they are dogs, but to her eyes they're nothing.
Pitiable, she thinks again. Satan in a nest of hellhounds, Grace spilling from between unstructured constellations of atoms. He hopes to stay the bleed with them--put their heady immateriality between his Grace and the material world he struggles yet to enter.
She's seen witches do this with cats. Herself, she's never been one for familiars.
Rowena walks to the foot of the bed and sinks her hands deep into the thick, fatty folds of that hellhound's neck. She scratches.
The dog is barrel-chested, and its head knocks her arm like a ship's boom. The promise of its teeth extends beyond their reality; they're the kind of teeth you can feel at your breast miles before they arrive.
Rowena whispers a sweet nothing in the dog's ear--the kind you can't hear until you've traveled those miles. Until you've climbed bone steps.
"You like dogs, don't you," says Lucifer. He does not rise. "I'm familiar with your spellwork. I wore Castiel; he remembers you well."
"La chasse," Rowena corrects. "It's the hunt I like. I'm indifferent to the dogs themselves."
"That one likes you," says Lucifer, grudgingly. His leg twitches. He's beginning to learn this body.
Rowena pats the hellhound's jowls and pushes its head back down.
Then, slowly, slowly, she climbs onto its back. On all fours, gown billowing over the backs of these fitful, invisible dogs, she climbs toward Lucifer. Rests her hand on his cock again, but keeps climbing. Lucifer's hands fix again around her neck.
Rowena's hands come up to join his, such that they are wrist to wrist.
For a moment, she thinks of that vampire again. The cold slide of his flaccid, bloodless dick against her thigh. She sitting astride him, just like this, until her pulled her down and took a bite. She, drawing sigils in her own blood--sigils to quicken the pulse, enliven the blood--until his cock bulged and he held up his end of their bargain.
Tell me I have a beautiful face, he whimpers.
You have a beautiful face, says Rowena. Now fuck me.
And he does.
"Vince Vincente killed his lover in this bed, you know," says Lucifer.
"No one died here," Rowena replies, unfazed. It's as sure as the hellhounds beneath them. She'd know if there were dead about.
"I didn't say she died here. But this is where he killed her. You know, that's the most beautiful thing about humans, probably," Lucifer muses, Nick-ish. Then, less Nick and more Satan: "If you betray a person deeply enough, usually they'll finish the job for you and just off themselves. All told, that's pretty considerate."
Shackles, Samuel, Rowena whispers to herself, banishing her vampire and feeling Satan and his hounds beneath her and willing herself to concentrate on her wrists, on Sam, on the Sam in Lucifer.
where are you? where are you?
But all she feels is a dog in a bed, and Sam beside it. She feels his fingers curl through dark hair and his mouth suck at a woman's neck. She feels the dog rise, his weight jabbing into Sam's thigh as it jumps from the bed, its eyes luminous and watchful as the woman turns and then Rowena feels her breasts against Sam and her lips tracking his jawline.
Rowena blinks. It's not the nightmare she'd hoped for. It's certainly not the thing of Sam she'd hoped to find in Satan. For an instant she's furious at the idea--that all Sam left behind was a dog and some human woman.
Then Lucifer laughs.
"Rowena, dear," he says, all Vince. "I'm an Archangel. I'm God's First. Don't think I don't know what you're looking for."
"I could destroy him," says Rowena quickly. "If I could find--"
"I can destroy him," says Lucifer, calm. He is not Nick he is not Cas he is not Vince. He might be Sam.
Rowena lets her hands slide down Lucifer's arms, away from his wrists. He still has her neck in his hands. She breathes with the rise and fall of the hellhounds all around him. She is at his mercy, wholly and completely.
"Maybe you say that," she says, regardless. "But when you stop me, all I see is you protecting him."
Lucifer lunges then, at an arcane angle Vince Vincente's body is not capable of. Rowena finds herself airy and flying, until her head cracks against the floor and her spine smacks thick, muscled dog. Then Lucifer follows, driving her skull through thick carpet and drawing bloody crescents from her neck with his fingernails.
The dogs beneath her rock like an ocean, smell like a river of blood.
She loses air and her pupils roll upward and for a moment, all she sees is Dean--first his chest, his blood in her mouth as it's torn to ribbons. Then hot pain, when he has her at the barrel of his gun.
You're damn lucky Dad never let you have a dog, Dean says, no longer bleeding nor bloodletting. He's eating a sandwich, it's summer, and you are happy. Your brother takes a big bite of bread and meat and says, Honestly, Dad probably spared you one.
What, the harrowing responsibility of pet ownership? you retort.
Dean swallows and says, his words like stones in your pocket: Sam, a dog's not a pet.
Not to a hunter.
When Rowena comes to, Lucifer is naked before her and sage is burning.
"It keeps them calm," Lucifer says of the dogs--the hellhounds.
"Make this body permanent," he commands.
"I can't," says Rowena.
"I can't keep hopping vessels."
"You can't," Rowena agrees.
Stay with me forever, begs her vampire. Blood is memory and he hates all the stories he's been made to swallow. He hates how many lives he's taken--not out of guilt, but gluttony. They're all in him, the dead. He's becoming them.
Tell me I have a beautiful face! he screeches.
He's made a point of drinking only from beautiful girls. They are a potent breed.
"Make this a vessel," Lucifer says of his body. His words echo in the gaping mouths of his hellhounds, as though he is shouting in a cave.
"I can't," says Rowena.
Then she says, "But I can make it stronger. If you'll let me."
She imagines Lucifer, weighted in his body, trapped at the bottom of the ocean. Lucifer, his pockets full of stones.
She could send him there.
"Do you know what I did to that vampire?" she asks him.
"Did you drown him?" asks Lucifer. Vince Vincente arches an eyebrow. (Or maybe that's Sam.)
He's read her mind again. He's no fool.
But perhaps he is. He's forgotten--again--what a body is for.
"Vampires don't need to breathe, dear," Rowena reminds him.
Then she takes a step back, feels teeth at her shoulder and hot, infernal breath at her neck. Her hand finds again the broad, muscular chest of this hellhound, who likes her. This hellhound, with Dean's blood still between its teeth.
She kisses its tank-like head and the spell she'd laid--that sweet nothing, so long in coming--sparks (finally) alive.
"Luci," says Rowena, "I fed him to the dogs."
Vince kills her in that bed--one sweet nothing at a time. It just takes her a few more years to finish the job.
When the dogs are done, Vince Vincente in messy pieces and Lucifer's Grace dim and writhing, like legs shorn from a spider, Rowena closes her eyes and listens.
Quiet, buried under the cacophony of hellhounds and far, far away from here, she hears Dean ask his brother:
Do you hear that?