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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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There’s a cut on Lucifer’s lower lip.

He keeps sucking it in and then releasing while Sam watches, trying to focus on putting his clothes on and failing miserably, remembering the salty metallic taste of it in his mouth from just barely five minutes ago. The skin is broken all around the wound, red and swollen and Sam stares, waiting for the inevitable moment when the cut splits open again and Lucifer bleeds.

Lucifer reaches over and grabs a cigarette off the table by the bed, holding it pinched between his forefinger and thumb so the tobacco won’t fall out. “These are good quality,” he says, first time he’s spoken all evening and Sam swallows, listening to the rough cadence of his voice.

“Black market,” Sam tells him, and Lucifer narrows his eyes, but it’s mostly for show.

“You’re still working there?”

“Where else could I possibly be working, Lucifer,” Sam says, just suppressing an eye roll as he tugs his jeans over his hips and watches them settle into place, barely hanging on. “Anyway, we’ve been fucking—” both of them wince at the harsh sound of the word but Sam carries on regardless—“for the past what, three months now? It’s not like my job’s the worst thing you know about me.”

Lucifer makes a neutral noise low in his throat, and Sam wants to swallow it down. Wants to lick inside Lucifer’s mouth and taste him, blood and all, but they’re already running short on time and Sam resists the urge to just go to the bed and take. He sits on the floor instead, tugging his boots closer to him.

“Michael’s not on shift tonight,” Lucifer says after a while, voice careless as he stares out the smeared glass of Sam’s window. His chest rises and falls under the threadbare material of his shirt—it’s Sam’s, really, but Lucifer put it on so now Lucifer owns it—and the cigarette stays together between his fingers. Goddamn miracle.

Sam looks up. He’s been sitting on the floor with his boots on now for fuck knows how long, his thumb sliding in and out of the frayed hole at the edge of his sweatshirt. “Just you?” Tentative, eyebrows drawn together over his nose. He can’t allow himself to hope they’ll be able to gamble again tonight, they only hit the casino three evenings ago, it’s too soon, Sam’s luck doesn’t work like that, no one’s does—

But Lucifer’s nodding in affirmation, “Just me,” and Sam can’t help the smile that spreads across his face.

Lucifer watches him stand, eyes tracking Sam’s movements towards the door.

Sam rubs idly at the back of his neck. “Uh,” he starts, watching Lucifer’s mouth mold itself around the cigarette. The cut’s split open again, like Sam predicted it would, and it stains the tip red, color spreading as Lucifer breathes in, exhales; the cloud slate gray over his head.

“Sam,” Lucifer prompts after a while, when Sam hasn’t said anything.

“Just,” Sam says, and then swallows; it’s so hard to remember what boundaries he can and can’t cross around Lucifer. “Don’t forget, you gotta be out of here in twenty.”

Lucifer rolls his eyes. Doesn’t bother hiding it, and Sam bites a small smile against the inside of his cheek. “I know, Sam,” he says, voice slow. “I’ve been doing this for a while, I don’t know if you remembered that.”

“Sarcasm won’t get you to a higher status, Luce.”

Lucifer taps the cigarette against Sam’s mattress, ashes falling to the ground, and sticks up his middle finger, obsolete obscene gesture that could probably have them both killed if Sam actually worried about his room being watched. “Blow me.”

“You wish,” Sam laughs, and ducks out into the stairwell before Lucifer can throw anything at him.

*

At the Market, there’s a pervasive smell of rotting fish in the air, and Sam wrinkles his nose when he approaches his stall and flips his sign back to ‘in service’. “Christ,” he says, crossing himself immediately after, though that’s more out of instinct than belief. “Who left it out?”

His stallmate, Amelia, shrugs. “It’s been like that since oh-one hundred,” she says, and runs her hands over her bolts of cloth. Thin, tattered, useless things—Sam could bind a wound with those, cover his mouth during a storm, but not much else. “Meg said she’ll get around to fixing it when she gets around to it.”

“Of course,” Sam mutters, and shakes his head. He shifts around his knives on the table, sharp shiny razors he’s shoved into wood blocks and rubbed against rock until they were deadly. Watches Amelia out of the corners of his eyes. She’s attractive, long legs and curved neck, and Sam thinks he should want her for a wife. Or at least a mate. Maybe if he was normal he could find that desire buried in himself somewhere, whatever motivation seems to be in every other guy he’s ever known, but it’s not and he can’t and the only person that Sam’s ever slept with to date is Lucifer. Not exactly the most conventional relationship.

Ash approaches the table, grin plastered on his face as he pushes back greasy strands of hair, and he drums his fingers against the column that separates Sam’s stall from Amelia’s. “I’ll take one of these,” he says, pointing at the knives.

“You just had one last week,” Sam reminds him.

Ash shrugs. “Lost it,” he says, which Sam knows means he ran into Michael and probably had to throw the knife in the ditch or over the border to keep from getting caught with it.

Sam breathes out slow, reminds himself that not everyone in Faction 24 is as sharp-minded as he and his brother. “Okay, what do you have?”

Ash reaches into the pocket of his jacket, crummy false leather thing that looks about three seconds from falling apart, and pulls out an orange rind.

“Christ,” Sam mutters, and doesn’t bother crossing himself this time. “You sure that’s it, Harvelle? You not holdin’ out on me, are you?”

Ash makes a ‘you’re kidding, right’ noise, shaking his head. “This is it, man,” he says, and drops the peel on Sam’s table. “Take it or leave it.”

Sam sighs through his teeth. Takes the rind and rubs his thumb against it, scenting his skin orange before dropping it into a bucket by his leg. If nothing else, it’ll provide a few days’ worth of decent air freshener for his hostel room. Lucifer might like it.

“Okay.” Sam lifts a knife up by the razor, hands it to Ash handle end first. “Watch it, that was just sharpened this morning. You cut anyone, I’m not responsible.”

“I’m not stupid, Winchester, I know.” Ash pockets the knife, still grinning. His eyes drift over to Amelia’s stall, and she holds up a strip of cloth, eyebrows raised.

He holds his hands up. “Don’t got nothing else to trade,” he says, and Sam glances at Amelia, subtle unspoken exchange. Neither of them are inclined to believe him, but they can’t exactly call him out for refusing to trade more than an orange peel. It’s not like anyone has much more they’re willing to part with these days, anyway.

Ash is turning to go when Sam reaches out and touches his forearm. “We’re on for tonight,” he says, quiet.

Eyebrows lifted, Ash allows a small smile to twitch the corner of his mouth. “You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Fuck yeah,” Ash says, unthinking, and then glances over at Amelia, who is watching both of them with her mouth slightly open. Cursing, touching someone outside of the immediate family—and someone of the same sex—all taboo, all illegal. The fact that she trades on the Market doesn’t matter, Amelia’s still grown up under the rules of the Center. Sam, and people like him, have to be careful around people like her.

The casinos aren’t for everyone.

“Okay,” Sam says, swallowing and praying to a god he doesn’t believe in that Amelia will keep her mouth shut. “See you at oh-five hundred.”

“See you,” Ash says, and then he’s gone, whistling softly under his breath.

Amelia’s quiet for a while, watching him go. “I’m going to pretend like that never happened,” she says finally, and Sam breathes out, relieved.

*

Most of what Sam has, he has illegally.

His hostel room—illegal. Not that the Center wants them all roaming the streets at night, sleeping under bridges and freezing to death in the almost inevitable nightly snow that falls no matter where you are, but. Sam’s pretty sure if the hostels were legal they’d have to trade something to stay in them, and as it is all Sam’s ever had to do is show up at the door of one and flash his identification card, the one with his DNA etched permanently into the strip of coding on the back. They know him, they know his brother. Everyone knew his father. Sam’s never had trouble gaining access to a hostel room in his life. One of the few benefits of being a Winchester, he supposes.

His rations—illegal. They’re all allowed rations, of course, because who wants to clean dead starved bodies out of the gutters, but anyone who has them legally works on a labor farm, or for one of the powerful families that run the Center, and Dean—Sam’s brother Dean, who he sees so rarely anymore he’s half forgotten what he looks like—vowed once, years ago, that Sam would never work like that. Sam has his stall at the Market, he has what little value he’s inherited following John’s death in the military, and he gets by on more than most do a week.

The fact that Sam’s lethal when it comes to gambling helps, but Sam wouldn’t admit that in public, even under torture.

Almost all of Sam’s possessions are from his job at the Market, which is also illegal—although one of the few things Sam knows of that isn’t punishable by death. He supposes that should be comforting. His clothes, worn in and dirty; his sparse furniture. The glass on his window—Sam’s lucky to have that, he knows the Harvelles have a screen, and some families just have a thin curtain.

When Sam was younger, he asked Dean why they were always cold and hungry and relocating. Why their father was almost never around, and when he was he usually had some kind of garish cut across his forehead. Dean gave him some vague answer, something to do with a war that happened years before their time, something about the government getting smaller and crueler, but Sam’s almost twenty-five now and even if he knows more about his dad’s work, what he did and who he did it with, he still doesn’t have a full answer for his questions.

At least he’s mostly settled now. At least he has that.

His relationship with Lucifer is illegal, too. There’s really nothing in it except sex, Sam getting Lucifer off—and Lucifer getting Sam off, though it wasn’t like that in the very beginning—but it gives Sam a chance to get away with things he wouldn’t otherwise. Like gambling. Sneaking extra rations when he loses at the casinos and has to put in fourteen, fifteen hours of real labor so he can eat for the week. Sending obscure letters to his brother in Faction 17, slipping out of the gates for a few hours just to chase down that uneasy restless feeling he gets sometimes.

He wants so badly, sometimes, to just leave, start a new life somewhere else where it’s better, but he doesn’t know if a place like that exists.

*

By the time Sam’s shift at the Market is done, it’s raining, sheets of cold water pouring out of the overcast sky and Sam drags his hood over his head, feeling nothing less than miserable as he flips the sign and trudges out through the already gathering sludge in the road.

“See you tomorrow, Sam,” Amelia calls, and Sam waves at her over his shoulder without looking back.

Ash and his sister Jo are waiting for him at the entrance, hands shoved in their pockets as they watch him approach. They don’t look much alike, except around the eyes, and they’re not as close as Sam is with Dean. Sam can’t picture Ash risking his life to send Jo a note, if she was living off somewhere else.

“We’re gambling again?” Jo asks, when Sam’s close enough to hear her whisper.

Sam nods.

“This is the second time in under a week, shit,” Jo says, and, “what lucky streak are we coming on to get this?”

Sam shakes his head, meaning he doesn’t know, keeping his mouth closed and tight-lipped around the secret of Lucifer. He’s pretty sure it doesn’t matter how close he is to anyone, the Harvelles or the Walker-Henriksens or, fuck, even Bobby; if it gets out that he’s having casual sex—with another guy, no less—he probably won’t even live to see the inside of the jail cell he’d get thrown in.

Jo shrugs. “Well,” she says, “let’s go, then,” and the three of them head off in the direction opposite the Market.

The casino they gamble in, well-lit and actually insulated, is almost a mile away from the Market. They’re forced to walk past the entrance to the faction on their way, and Lucifer’s leaning against the gate when they pass, eyes half-lidded and mouth loose and relaxed in the dark. The sight sends all sorts of thoughts, dark and overheated, tumbling through Sam’s mind.

“Oh dear,” Jo says, with her eyes on Lucifer.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sam says. “He’s not going to do anything.” He locks his eyes on Lucifer’s, lifting an eyebrow, and Lucifer turns casually away, facing out over the plains and low-rolling hills that surround the faction. The rain is hitting his uniform, dark leather jacket and pants made out of some stiff material Sam isn’t familiar with. Creating damp patches at his collar, curling the ends of his hair against his neck.

There isn’t much light to see by, but Sam still notices, and feels heat unfurl and crawl across his stomach. He clenches his hands in his pockets, gritting his teeth and moving forward.

“Do we all have something good to bet?” Jo asks when they’re far enough away from the entrance to be out of earshot. It’s not safe to talk about gambling around anyone other than their little group, especially not a guard.

Sam’s tactfully decided against mentioning just how much Lucifer knows about the casinos.

“Two strips of jerky,” Ash starts, and then stops, glancing over at Sam, wary eyed.

“You had two strips of jerky,” Sam says flatly. “Back at my stall.”

“I—”

Sam pulls the orange rind out of his pocket, holding it disdainfully between two fingers. “You gave me a goddamn orange peel and you could’ve traded a stick of jerky instead?”

“Oh, like it fucking matters, Sam, like we don’t all know you’re gonna win tonight anyway,” Ash snaps, ignoring the cautious hand Jo’s placed on his arm. “Just trying to keep some rations as long as possible. You know how that is, right?” He pauses, eyes narrowed, then sneers. “Or you would, if you and your brother didn’t hustle everyone with cards in their hands.”

“Ash,” Jo says warningly.

“No, it’s fine,” Sam says, waving a hand at her, glaring at her brother, at his hand clenched tight around the sticks of jerky in his pocket. It’s not Ash’s fault he lied about the food, that’s just the way it is here. Sam can call them friends all he wants, but the ragged truth is that no one—aside from Amelia and possibly Meg, people at the Market that don’t gamble for whatever reason—actually, honestly, likes him. Him or Dean. Sam’s learned how to get used to it, the false smiles and hard eyes. He doesn’t care if no one trusts him. If it means he doesn’t have to go hungry for a while, whatever. He’ll give them their knives and they’ll give him their food; it balances.

They arrive at the casino still glaring at each other. Sam pushes the orange peel back into his pocket and watches Ash’s pocket shifting with the weight of his jerky sticks. He wonders if Ash got his hands on salt, if the jerky actually has flavor this time.

They duck out of the rain, spend a few seconds shivering under an awning and wiping the water off their sleeves, and then Sam pushes the door open, and they go in.

The casino itself is subterranean, down three flights of stairs and a seventy foot-long hallway because whatever its original purpose was had something to do with bombs. Sam doesn’t know anything about bombs, aside from the fact that they “blow shit up” (Dean’s phrasing) and have been illegal for a little over seventy years (according to Bobby’s texts), but the remnants of that time are still etched into the cement walls here. Sam runs a finger across long scratch marks as they walk, tallies of time and phrases like “we were here 02/04/18” and “must not let Them get us”.

That last one has been Sam’s favorite since he started coming down here.

Eventually they reach the end of the hallway, and Sam’s briefly surprised, the way he always is, at how warm it is down here. Sweat trickles down the back of his neck, curling the ends of his hair and dampening his shirt collar. He pulls out his identification card and walks up to the person guarding the entrance.

Turns out it’s Ellen Harvelle. Ash and Jo’s mother, a woman that Sam can never tell as to how she really feels about the Winchesters—though he’d bet a month’s worth of rations that she hates them, same as everyone else, considering the fact that their father is at least partially responsible for her husband’s death.

And she was actually in love with the man before he got killed.

Sam doesn’t think about that now, pressing his card into her hand and flashing his temporary, tense smile, the one that feels about as false as it looks. “Evening, Ellen.”

She slides the card through a slot in the wall, something magnetic and gas-run that crackles when touched. Sam vaguely understands how it works, wires and lightning and fire, but he doesn’t trust anything he can’t see and he hates these few seconds before he’s allowed in. This uncertainty that crawls into his chest and settles next to the restless clawing sensation just under his ribcage.

“Samuel,” she replies finally, taking his card out and handing it back to him, his DNA seared and fried with magnetic discharge on the back. “You try to let someone else win for a change tonight, huh?”

She means her children, of course, but Sam just smiles again, tight-lipped. “We’ll see,” he says, and moves to make room for Jo and Ash.

The door to the casino is unlocked automatically when anyone’s card gets scanned and approved, so Sam pushes it open and moves in. This is where he belongs, he thinks, feeling a little more settled as he walks towards an empty table in the smoke-filled room. This world of gamblers and liars and people who call themselves something else but are really no better than thieves.

Sam slides into his seat, wooden and cracked and short-legged so that it wobbles every time Sam leans to the right. There’s a pack of cards in the center of the table, a half-finished cigarette smoldering in the ashtray, and Sam lifts it to his mouth, draws in a breath. He shuffles the cards and slips himself a king as he passes the rest around the table—hand for Ash, hand for Jo, hand for himself. The king is split halfway down the middle, a crease right where his belly is cut in half, and Sam rubs his thumb across its well-worn surface, smearing it with grease and sweat and nicotine. He takes another drag on his cigarette and exhales, watching the smoke cloud over the flares from the gas lamps overhead.

A few minutes later, Jo and Ash join him, and the game starts.

“What’re we playing tonight,” Ash asks, lifting his hand and looking it over, face neutral.

“Poker.” Sam presses his cigarette into the ashtray, folds his fingers carefully around his cards and slides his thumb along the edge of his cards. If there was such a thing as luck, Sam would believe it lay in the king. He’s snuck one into his deck nearly every gambling session for the past ever, and he’s lost maybe three games in all that time.

Jo allows herself a small smile. “How excellent,” she says, and looks at her own cards.

“I have the jerky,” Ash says, and puts it on the table. He glares at Sam, and Sam stares back, level. Fingers running over the king in his deck again and again, and he sticks the cigarette in the corner of his mouth and holds it there as he rummages in his pockets.

“Orange peel,” he says, tossing it on the table and thinking of Lucifer.

“Cheese cube,” says Jo, and Sam raises his eyebrows at the size of it; dairy’s hard to come by unless you know someone, and Sam can’t imagine Jo fucking a guard or working the Market—or, anyway, he can’t imagine Ellen letting her.

“All right,” Sam says, when they’re all done, voice soft and just this side of a threat because he knows people who try to run off with all the food at the start of games. “Let’s play.”

Ten minutes in, Sam’s king gets him a full house and he throws his additional betting material—two wafers and a strip of fish—into the center of the table, narrowly missing the ashtray.

“Think you’re winning, Winchester?” Ash asks.

Sam shrugs. “You tell me.”

Ash looks at Jo, and adds his second strip of jerky. “I can taste that fish,” he says, glaring at it like it’s done him a personal offense.

Sam holds onto his king, draws another card. Four of a kind, now, and he feels a jolt in his chest, hard and fast, like lightning. Curves his wrist inward and splays his palm flat against his thigh.

Jo pulls out a battered tin—“basil leaves,” she says, and Sam’s got no doubt in his mind now that she’s illegally obtaining—and smacks it down next to her brother’s jerky. Draws a card, arm trembling.

“Okay,” Sam says, eyes flitting from one to the other.

“Straight,” Ash says, grinning, slapping his cards down, and Jo makes an abortive movement towards the food.

“Hold up,” Sam says, and spreads his hand out for them to see. Jo’s face falls, and Ash’s mouth slips into a snarl.

“You fucking cheater,” he says, angry, as Sam picks their food off the table and stuffs it into his pockets. The casino goes kind of quiet, a dark undertone sneaking its way into the atmosphere, but Sam shrugs it off the way he’s shrugged this sort of thing off his whole life and tips Ash and Jo a half-smile.

“See you,” he says, and walks out before either of them can make a move.

It’s stopped raining by the time Sam gets topside, and the night air feels good on his skin. Cold and fresh, in comparison to the stuffy underground scent of the casino. He walks slow, not in any particular rush to get back to the hostel, chewing on his new strip of jerky and looking up at the black streaks of clouds overhead.

He passes the entrance to the faction, and “Hello, Sam,” comes at him out of the dark.

Lucifer’s standing at his post, looking tired but pleased to see Sam, mouth curved into a smile at the corners and Sam approaches him, cautious. “Hey,” he says, not bothering with formalities because there’s no one else to listen.

“Did you win a good hand tonight?” Lucifer asks, unfolding his arms and leaning forward. Acting like he’s really interested in whether or not Sam’s going to survive this week, although Sam doubts his concern goes any deeper than the fact that Sam is Lucifer’s—what, fuckmate, lover, Sam doesn’t know the correct term.

“Yeah.” Sam reaches into his pocket, pulls the orange peel out.

“Looks very plentiful, Sam.” There’s an edge of sarcasm in Lucifer’s voice, mild amusement and something bordering on affection as he looks from the rind to Sam’s face and back.

“Well, this isn’t all I got, Lucifer,” Sam returns, equally sarcastic and biting laughter back into his throat. “Thought you’d maybe wanna—” and then he stops, sudden color flooding his cheeks, because this is stupid. It was stupid of Sam to assume that someone from a family like Lucifer’s, with real food and jobs that don’t break your back when you do them, would want to even look at an orange peel. Sam doesn’t even know what he’s doing here, for fuck’s sake, holding out his stolen goods as if Lucifer’s going to like him any more just because he has more than most people.

Lucifer raises an eyebrow when Sam doesn’t finish his sentence. “What, Sam,” he coaxes.

Sam swallows, rough and unsteady. Pushes a hand through his hair and shoves the peel back into his jacket. His heart is pounding and he doesn’t know why, he feels dizzy and uncertain and he doesn’t like it. “Nothing,” he says, digging his heels back into the ground and looking up. “I think it’s gonna start raining again, I better be heading back.”

Lucifer hesitates before nodding, turning away from Sam and facing out over the vast, barren landscape before them. “Michael will be here tomorrow,” he says, quiet and almost apologetic. “So I may be late, if I’m able to come at all.”

Sam shakes his head, even though Lucifer can’t see him. “It’s fine,” he says. “Goodnight, Lucifer.”

“‘Night, Sam,” Lucifer murmurs, and Sam trudges on down the road, his mouth dry, a continuous dull, aching want slashed through his chest.

*

The thing Sam has to remember about Lucifer is that it wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

As a rule, lessers—crass term for people living in the slums, a word that makes Sam cringe every time he hears it—don’t normally interact with the ones guarding their factions. They’re all living in completely separate circles, and as long as you do what you’re told—church on Sundays, no cursing or drinking or smoking or gambling or sex outside marriage, be in by a certain hour of the night and go to work six days a week—generally the guards will leave you alone. Sam’s known this his entire life, it’s just a fact and it’s not going away.

Sam also hasn’t abided by any rules other than his own and Dean’s since he was somewhere between eleven and thirteen.

They don’t have any system set up in the factions to watch every single person. Something like that doesn’t exist, Sam couldn’t imagine it existing, and he’s been taking advantage of the lack of monitoring since he can remember. The Market, mostly, but also going back to his hostel after gambling, skipping church once a month so he can sleep in on Sunday—and Lucifer.

The first time Sam and Lucifer had any real interaction was six months ago, though Sam had been noticing him long before then. Michael, Lucifer’s brother, was off duty, and Sam was having a rough day—Dean hadn’t written him in well over a month and that restless, tearing sensation in his chest was getting worse. Making him want to do—something. Something reckless and dangerous and borderline suicidal.

He scrawled a note out to Dean in his hostel—dude where the fuck are you, not caring if it got intercepted because his writing was nearly illegible anyway—and shifted and ducked his way to the faction’s entrance, taking side alleys and avoiding people. He thought if he could climb over the wall without being noticed, he could make it to the post office. Technically, lessers aren’t supposed to use the post either, but Sam and Dean know Jody, who runs the main headquarters near the Center, and they’ve been getting away with it for most of their lives.

Sam was almost at the entrance when he saw Lucifer, second eldest of the Morningstar family and potential heir to Charles Morningstar’s government position when he died. Alone and standing stiff in front of the gates, eyes fixed on nothing in the distance, and Sam felt his throat go dry. He didn’t especially like how out of control he felt when he saw Lucifer. The almost tangible heat in his chest, the weight in his stomach. It wasn’t a feeling Sam was familiar with, like falling into empty space with his eyes closed.

“Shit,” Sam breathed, and of course Lucifer heard him.

“Winchester,” Lucifer said, turning and staring at him. His eyes dragged from Sam’s mouth down to his hips and back, and Sam shivered without thinking—cold, he remembers thinking, when he allows himself to think about that day at all. The air had been crackling with frost. “You shouldn’t use language like that.” There was something slow and threatening in his voice, and Sam felt a visceral panic run through him, almost smothering the faint heat coiling in his stomach.

“I apologize,” Sam said, staring at the scuffed ends of Lucifer’s boots on the gravel.

Lucifer made an indistinct sound, and when Sam looked up again he was closer, almost close enough to touch. Sam felt his breath catch hard in his throat, heart racing.

“Samuel,” Lucifer said, because he called him that back then, before—well. Before. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

Sam wet his lips with his tongue and let himself imagine Lucifer tracking the movement with his eyes because he was too tired to care anymore. “Taking a walk—”

“Lying is a sin.” Casual and almost friendly, but the threat ran like an undercurrent in his tone and Sam shivered again. Held out his note, folded and damp with sweat from inside his jacket, and Lucifer took it. Opened it up and read it over, eyes tracing the words before snapping up to Sam’s face.

“This is for your brother,” he said. It wasn’t a question.

“Yes.”

“Dean Winchester?”

“Yes.”

Lucifer’s eyebrows creased over his nose. “Where does he live?”

“Faction seventeen.” Sam didn’t know where the questions were headed, but he knew that if Lucifer wanted, he could have Sam killed in less than five minutes. He kept his mouth shut while Lucifer turned away, facing outward again, drumming his fingers idly against his thigh, the note pressed between his thumb and the fine denim of his pants.

“Were you planning on delivering this yourself, Samuel?” he asked finally, turning back. The expression on his face held a vague warning, and Sam said “yes” without thinking, then winced. Expected something to happen—hellfire raining down, maybe. Michael to appear out of nowhere with handcuffs in one of those strange loud vehicles only people from the Center owned. Lucifer to whip out a pistol and shoot Sam right there in the street. Something.

Instead, Lucifer nodded, slow and almost thoughtful, and tucked the note into his own pocket. The jacket he was wearing was made of real leather, not the cheap imitation Sam had on, and Sam didn’t think, didn’t even consider the consequences before he reached out to touch.

Lucifer jerked back like Sam had burned him and for a few seconds the air was tense between them, hot, and Sam wanted to turn away, run down the road and put some kind of distance between himself and Lucifer. Like it would prevent his death, but still. It was the principle of the thing.

It was a long, painful minute before Sam realized that Lucifer was talking. Words falling from his lips and Sam couldn’t hear through the panicked white noise in his brain, had to shake his head a few times and ask Lucifer to repeat himself.

“I’ll take your letter to the post office,” Lucifer said, patient; something like dry amusement in the back of his voice. “Faction seventeen, yes?”

Sam swallowed, rough and too fast, and choked into his sleeve. “Yeah,” he managed, face flushed, and Lucifer laughed, soft and without malice.

“All right, Samuel,” he said.

That was the first time.

*

It’s mid-afternoon, and this is the seventh time Sam has slept with Lucifer.

They don’t talk, no time because Michael’s on guard today and there’s only so much sneaking around Lucifer can get away with. Lucifer’s on Sam almost before Sam has even shut the door, pushing him against the wall and dragging his hand through his hair. Sam gasps into his mouth at the savagery of the kiss, reaching between them to grab Lucifer’s belt loops and pull him forward. Wanting to feel all of him, all at once.

“What’d you tell Michael, where does he think you are,” Sam asks, letting Lucifer suck kisses into his jaw and against the side of his neck.

“At church,” Lucifer mutters into Sam’s skin, and then smiles against his throat as Sam laughs.

“Blasphemy is a sin,” Sam tells him, grinding up and moaning at the feeling of Lucifer already half-hard through his pants.

Lucifer’s hands are on his jeans now, working his thumb against the button and pushing down. They’re sinking slowly to the floor, and Sam wants what’s coming, he’s hungry for it, aching and stunned by the force and capacity of his desire. “So is this,” Lucifer tells him, pressing him against the floor, rough carpet burning against his now-bare thighs. “Punishable by death, as I recall.”

Sam smirks. “So shut up and condemn me already,” he says, voice a tangled mess at the back of his throat, and Lucifer makes a curious, low sound, pulling on his pants and kicking them off, rutting against Sam with only the cloth of his shorts and the cotton of Lucifer’s between them.

“Jesus,” Sam gasps out, “fucking Christ, Lucifer,” fingers scrabbling for purchase on Lucifer’s back, in his hair, lifting his hips and throwing his head back, exposing the arch of his neck.

Then Lucifer’s hand slips into Sam’s shorts and Sam is gone, absolutely and irrevocably wrecked. He kisses Lucifer to muffle the sounds he’s making, embarrassing keening noises wrenched up from his chest, and Lucifer sucks on his tongue, digging his fingers into Sam’s side as his other hand works on him, disappeared below the wrist into the gray cloth covering Sam’s waistline.

Sam goes tense, making a nonsensical sound that could be Lucifer’s name, and Lucifer pulls back to watch, eyes locked on Sam’s, mouth red and open, cock still a hard line under his own shorts as he presses down against Sam’s thigh. He pulls once, twice more and Sam comes, shaking, into his hand. The burn of the carpet hot against his legs but all Sam can feel is the heat in his body, hard tingling sensation that makes him curl his toes into Lucifer’s skin.

“That okay?” Lucifer asks, breathing the words into Sam’s collarbone.

Sam nods. Lets his eyelids fall and only opens them again when he feels Lucifer lifting himself off Sam’s body. Lucifer slips his hand into his boxers and Sam watches, cock stirring in interest, as Lucifer’s arm flexes with every pull, teeth sunk into his lower lip, a flush rising up the sides of his neck and onto his face. His expression doesn’t change when he comes, but he exhales, slow and rough, and Sam feels the muscles in his legs go tense where they rest on Sam’s hips.

For a while after, they lie side by side, Sam’s chest rising and falling slowly as he watches Lucifer, splayed out and vulnerable on the floor. Lucifer stares up at the ceiling, and Sam stares at the faint red marks littering his collarbones.

“What did you want to show me yesterday?” Lucifer asks.

“Oh.” Sam rolls over, grabs at his jacket. Face heating up as he finds the orange peel still stuck in his pocket, and he hands it to Lucifer, who rubs his thumb across the back, inhaling. “You could make the whole room smell like that, if you tried,” he says, hesitant, fully aware that Lucifer probably has a myriad of orange-flavored things on hand back at the Center. That Lucifer may never say it outright, the way Michael would, but he’s probably looking down on Sam for this.

Lucifer smiles, faint. “There is nothing I want more to do than to make your hostel smell like the inside of an illegally gained fruit peeling, Sam.”

“Oh, shut up,” Sam says, pushing at Lucifer’s shoulder with his own. “Like I would’ve gotten it at all if you weren’t looking the other way all the time.”

Lucifer glances at Sam out of the corner of his eyes. “Are you trying to imply that I’m suddenly approving of your dissolute and rebellious lifestyle?” There are creases at the corners of his eyes, soft laugh lines, and Sam feels something warm and unfamiliar explode behind his ribs.

“Just the parts that smell like citrus,” he says, and Lucifer laughs, mouth going loose and relaxed in the weak light of the afternoon sun.

Sam likes that he can make Lucifer look that way, sort of soft and easy to deal with, not at all like the rough soldier he’s supposed to be outside.

“It’s certainly better than walking in here and finding you dead of starvation on the floor,” Lucifer admits, quiet, after a while, slow flush rising up the side of his neck and spreading across his jaw.

Sam raises an eyebrow in surprise, rolling onto his side to face Lucifer fully. “It would mean one less of us to deal with,” he starts, and then stops, startled by the expression on Lucifer’s face. It’s cold, almost dangerous—a warning, some type of barely suppressed fury that Sam doesn’t understand, not coming from him. From someone of the Center, who shouldn’t actually care about the life of one lesser.

Even if Sam is fucking around with Lucifer on a pretty regular basis, he knows good and damn well that in the end, nothing will ever come of it. The vague, heavy feeling that stirs in his chest when he sees him—that’s just incidental. The end results will be that they will be caught, and Sam will be killed.

“Don’t you dare to presume—” Lucifer starts, voice a soft, angry snarl, eyes cutting into Sam’s, but then he stops. Blinks, and visibly banks back the intensity of his rage, rolling onto his side, mirroring Sam’s position. His hand comes out and curls into Sam’s hair.

Sam allows his eyes to fall shut, exhaling softly. He’s aware of time moving on, that they have maybe ten minutes left before he has to go to the Market and Lucifer has to go placate his brother, but he. He just doesn’t care, right now. There’s an idea coalescing in the back of his mind, half-formed and uncertain, and he reaches up to wrap his hand around the smooth skin of Lucifer’s knuckles. Opens his eyes in time to see Lucifer’s lips part, a pained expression etched into the lines on his face.

“Sam,” Lucifer says quietly.

“Luce,” Sam replies, using the nickname they rarely acknowledge but that always makes Lucifer’s mouth twitch at the corners. “I. I need to ask you something.”

“Anything, Sam.”

He draws in a breath. “Do you—I mean. If you were presented with the opportunity to—to change things here. Would you take it?” He looks at the window immediately after, as if, after all these months, the patrols would choose today to visit Faction 24. As if they’d arrest Sam and Lucifer over speaking out against the government, instead of being sprawled out naked and covered in sweat in the cramped, dusty space of Sam’s room.

Sam isn’t aware of any shift in the mood until he feels Lucifer’s fingers withdraw from his scalp. Looks back and Lucifer is staring at him, curiously neutral, flat glint to his eyes.

“Not just you,” Sam says, voice going hesitant as he watches Lucifer’s face. “I mean, I’d be there, and Dean, and—”

“That’s enough, Sam,” Lucifer interrupts, pushing up into a standing position and reaching down to grab his clothes. The cold, quiet fury is back in his expression, but it’s directed outward now, and Sam feels a shiver run down his spine. The fact that they’re sleeping together, that doesn’t change Sam’s subordinate status in comparison to Lucifer’s. He keeps forgetting when to hold his tongue, how far he’s allowed to go before it becomes too much.

Sam watches him dress, the fancy denim of his pants and the shiny thick leather jacket. He’s lacing his boots when Sam manages to pull the words from his throat:

“Lucifer. I’m sorry for bringing it up.”

Lucifer glances at him, making Sam vaguely aware of how ridiculous he must look, lying on the floor.

“I have to get back to Michael,” he says. “He’ll be wondering what’s happened to me by now,” and then the door is opening and shutting, and Lucifer is gone.

Sam sits up, a frustrated noise escaping his lips, and rubs the sheen of sweat off his skin before getting dressed.

*

“Ah, there he is,” Ash says as Sam spreads his knives out over his stall, fingers faintly purple from the cold air. “World’s favorite cheater.”

“Fuck off, Harvelle, I’m not dealing with you right now,” Sam mutters. He can’t stop thinking about Lucifer, faintly worried that now he’ll be pissed enough at Sam to tell. Even at the cost of revealing his own actions in the matter. The worst thing that could happen to Lucifer would be that he’d get sent to a different faction. But Sam—

Sam probably wouldn’t have time to write his brother a letter before he was hanged.

“Well, maybe I’d like to deal with you,” Ash says, and Sam feels fingers pressed against his throat before he looks up. Ash is leaning halfway across the table that separates Sam from his customers, backed by Gordon Walker and his brother Victor Henriksen, both of whom Sam generally tends to avoid because of the rumors that they’re both insane to a certain degree.

Sam narrows his eyes into slits, exhaling sharply and curving his fingers around the edge of his table. “That’s real fuckin’ courteous of you and all, but I have a job to do right now. Maybe if you could come back later.”

In response, Gordon leans over, grabs one of Sam’s knives from where they’re so carefully spread out in their bin. “He said he wants to deal with you, Winchester,” Gordon snarls, knife directed at Sam’s throat below where Ash’s fingers are pressed. “You’d better rise to the occasion.”

Dean always did say that Sam’s smart mouth was going to come back to bite him in the ass sooner or later.

“You and Victor don’t even gamble with us,” Sam says, wary. Eyes trained on the knife blade where it’s quivering at his pulse.

“We don’t like cheaters any more than anyone else in this faction,” Victor says. He’s always sneering when he’s talking to Sam, like Sam’s beneath him. Like Victor and Gordon have had some kind of opportunities that the Winchesters were never offered.

“All of us are starving, Henriksen.” Sam reaches out, folds his fingers against the handle of a knife and draws it closer to him. “Pretty sure cheating at a little poker game is the least harmful thing someone’s gonna do to get food.”

“So you’re saying you ain’t gonna stop,” Gordon says, his own eyes narrowed, mirroring Sam’s furious, borderline lethal expression. “You’re not gonna give anyone else an equal chance at winning.”

Sam smirks. It’s dangerous, he knows, but honestly he’s beyond the point of caring. He reaches out with his knife and drags the tip of the blade along Gordon’s forearm, not deep enough to crack the skin but enough to leave a faint mark, odd-looking against his dark skin and disappearing almost immediately afterwards. “My DNA isn’t coded like that,” he says, and then Ash’s hand moves from his throat to his wrist, Gordon carves a deep gash into the crook of his elbow, and it’s officially on.

Sam is only vaguely aware of Amelia screaming, running off. The rest of his body is focused on surging forward, almost catapulting over the stall in an effort to get at his attackers. Ash and Victor grab at knives of their own but Sam and Gordon are already slashing at each other, blades bright in the mid-afternoon pale sun and scraping in the air. Sam swipes down, rips the thin fabric of Gordon’s sleeve. From behind him, someone—Victor, probably—kicks out a foot, hooking around Sam’s ankle and catching him off balance. He stumbles and manages to slash an arc at Ash’s legs, sees the bright red spray of blood come up from his right thigh, and then he’s hitting his knees in the gravel of the road.

Behind him, Victor’s got a handful of his hair and is tugging backwards, the knife pushing into Sam’s shoulder, searing pain that Sam has to grit his teeth against because he’s focusing on holding Gordon at arm’s length to prevent him from cutting his throat open. He manages to get out of Victor’s hard grasp and back to his feet again, but immediately afterwards Ash is attacking him, half with the knife and half with his fists, and Sam has to slice at any skin he can reach—arms, legs, chest—to keep Ash off.

“Wild man,” Gordon pants, while Sam struggles to jerk out of the tight grip Victor now has on his shirt collar, swinging punches and still maintaining a tight hold on his knife. “Why don’t you just give up and let it go?”

“I’m not the one who has a sudden problem with fucking over the system,” Sam snarls back, and then lets out a cry of surprised pain as Ash’s knife sinks into his arm, directly below where Victor had been carving into his skin just moments before. “Christ, Harvelle,” he yells, spinning, and manages to kick Victor below the knee, temporarily disengaging his grip long enough for Sam to turn and get the knife in a hard slash across Ash’s left leg.

“Owfuck!” Ash yelps, and falls to his knees.

With one man down, Sam turns to face his two remaining attackers, who are starting to develop that rumored insanity in their eyes, but before any of them can do anything there’s a shout of:

“Put the knives on the ground and get down right now!” and Sam turns to find Michael and Lucifer running towards them, with Amelia directly behind. She shoots Sam an apologetic glance which he shrugs off, allowing his knife to fall to the ground before dropping to his knees beside Ash, Victor, and Gordon.

Michael is holding a pistol—shiny metallic object that Sam hates—and brandishing it at their heads. As if any of them would be stupid enough to try and run now, with two guards from the Center on their asses. Lucifer won’t look directly at Sam; stands off to the side a ways, arms clasped behind his back, trained tight expression on his face.

“Well, well, well,” Michael says. “What do we have here?” He walks over to Ash, who is making tiny hissing noises under his breath from the pain in his legs, and brushes the barrel against the back of his head.

“It’s nothing,” Gordon snarls, speech slurred, and Sam watches in surprise as he spits out a mouthful of blood. He pauses, then turns hate-filled eyes up to Michael’s face and adds, all disdain and contempt, “Sir.”

Michael’s back visibly stiffens. “Your arrogant nature has preceded you, Walker,” he says, taking the gun off Ash’s head and pushing it against Sam’s temple. “I suppose it was either you or Winchester who started this.”

Gordon’s quiet for a second, and Sam feels something close tight like a fist inside his chest. If any of them say what the fight was about, it would mean revealing that they’ve been gambling. Sam’s pretty sure Michael seeing the Market in full operation is enough to get most, if not all, of them sent to prison anyway, but the casino—Sam imagines electrocution, drowning, a public flogging that would drain them all of their blood.

“Winchester has a big mouth,” Victor spits out, and Michael turns to him, face cut and bruised, mouth trickling blood at the corner. “Suppose he just got my brother riled, that’s all.”

“And you all had to get involved in the fighting,” Michael says. Sam doesn’t like the way his voice dips, cool and sure. He thinks Michael knows good and damn well what they’ve been up to, that he’s just stalling for time until one of them cracks and admits something by accident.

“Well,” Ash says, “we’re all friends, we just thought it would be nice if we could—”

“Shut up, Harvelle, I was not speaking to you.” Michael looks at Lucifer, who takes a step forward, hands coming from behind his back. He’s not holding anything, which surprises Sam, but there’s a certain bulk to his pocket which suggests he’s got the same weapon as his brother.

“You’re all lucky I’m in a benevolent mood today following a wonderful Mass this morning,” Michael says, walking around them, dragging the gun against each of their heads. The metal is cold in the afternoon wind, and Sam shivers at the unpleasantness of the touch long after Michael has passed him up. “As it is, I’ll only be bringing the four of you in for questioning—”

Questioning means jail, probably for life, Sam isn’t stupid and he can see by the expressions in both Gordon and Victor’s eyes that they’ve figured it out too. They’re making protesting noises before Michael has finished speaking and in a flash he’s got the gun pressed between Gordon’s eyes, an ugly sneer curling his lips as he looks down. “Shut up, you filthy lesser, or I’ll shoot you where you kneel in this street.”

Gordon goes quiet, but the hate in his eyes as he looks up at Michael is almost tangible, and crushing with its weight. For a second Sam almost regrets not getting along with the guy. He knows how Gordon feels right now, can see it in the murderous flare of his nostrils, the way his jaw keeps clenching. It’s humiliating, the way they’re being forced to kneel like this in the streets, gun to their heads, blood trickling from their open wounds. Ash’s face is contorted in pain, and Sam knows the slashes on his legs must burn like fire.

“Good,” Michael says, when it’s clear none of them are going to speak. “Now. Get up, one at a time, and slowly. If anyone tries to run—” He waves the gun in the air, and Sam barely holds back an eye roll at the ridiculous gesture.

They’re getting to their feet—Ash moving more painfully than the others—when Lucifer steps forward again, holding out his hand. “Wait, brother,” he says, and Michael looks at him, annoyance flashing across his features.

What, Lucifer.”

Lucifer leans in and whispers something, too low for Sam to catch but it makes Michael’s eyebrows shoot up and something spark in his eyes. A dangerous eagerness that Sam instinctively recoils from.

“Samuel Winchester,” Michael says, still training the gun on Gordon, Victor, and Ash, but making a gesture at Sam with his free hand. “You are to stay here.”

Sam looks at Lucifer, barely tipping his head to the side in a question, but Lucifer doesn’t make any sign that he understands what Sam is trying to ask.

“Okay,” Sam says, looking at Michael, “why?”

Michael looks like Sam just asked him if he’d prefer to eat scum or shit for dinner. “I don’t think it’s your place to question my orders, Winchester,” he snarls. “Bleed to death on your own ground instead of mine, that’s all I’m saying.” He reaches out and grabs at Gordon’s wrist, and Gordon jerks away from him, hissing like a python.

“The fu—”

“Language, Walker,” Michael reprimands without even looking at him, and then, “The three of us are still going to the Center.”

“Oh, he won’t make it—” Amelia says, meaning Ash, whose legs are still bleeding profusely from the cuts Sam administered.

Michael glares at Amelia, who shuts her mouth. “Like I really care,” he says to her, sneering again, and then presses the gun into the small of Victor’s back. “Let’s go,” and the four of them head out of the Market, Ash wincing with every step, Gordon still spitting blood, and Victor’s face an angry twisted snarl as he looks over his shoulder at Michael the whole way out.

Once they’re gone, Lucifer looks at Sam. Expression level, as neutral as it was back in the hostel, and Sam struggles to keep his the same, fully aware of how hard his heart is pounding, and how badly his injured arm and shoulder ache.

“I’ve had time to think,” Lucifer says, voice low because everyone’s still kind of staring at them, the guard speaking to someone from a faction, standing close enough to touch him—or nearly. “I changed my mind, Sam.” He pauses, eyebrows lifted, evidently waiting for something. Some type of reaction, but Sam’s not, he doesn’t—

Oh.

Oh.

Sam tries so hard to school his expression, but he can’t keep the smile from flitting from one corner of his mouth to the other, bright unrestrained happiness that he hasn’t felt in months. “Seriously?”

Lucifer nods. Gives Sam’s shoulder a pointed glance, and “Go home,” he says. “Take care of that. We can work on things later.”

Sam nods, even though it hurts his neck. “Okay.” He bites the smile into his cheek, clenches his hand into a fist to try and stem some of the pain. “Okay, thanks.”

Lucifer looks at Sam, something brief and hesitant in his eyes and Sam thinks he’s going to say something else, but he doesn’t, and a second later he’s walking back to his post, boots scuffing along in the gravel road.

“Here,” Amelia says, as Sam’s closing his stall up and shrugging his jacket back over his uninjured shoulder. “Take this.” She holds out a strip of cloth, and Sam wraps it around his arm, along the wound Ash left since the one from Victor is too difficult to reach.

“I don’t have anything to trade,” he starts, but she shakes her head.

“Gordon fucked you over,” she says, and he tries not to be too surprised at her sudden harsh language. “This is a favor, you understand?”

“Thanks,” he says.

“Stay safe,” she tells him, without smiling, before turning to greet another customer.

*

The second time Sam ever met Lucifer, he almost got killed.

He was returning to his hostel—had managed to sneak over the wall guarding their faction, in one of those rare places where the bricks were crumbling and the barbed wire, spiked and rumored to be coated in poison that would kill you if you touched it, was no longer in place. Ran six miles to where Jody had agreed to meet him, and got Dean’s reply to his frantic letter from earlier that month: I’m where I’ve always been, don’t worry about me. It occurred to him for a brief moment that he was out, could have just kept running with Dean’s letter clutched tight in his fist, but he didn’t have any food and Jody probably would’ve dropped all pretense of getting along with him to shoot him where he stood. Loyalties only ran so far when it came to the Center, and those who worked for it.

So instead of chasing down whatever was out there, past the borders of everything he knew, Sam was once again sneaking along the edge of the inner wall of Faction 24. He’d gone over in the same place, no one was there and he counted that as a win. Figured it was dark enough now to cover him, but not so dark that they’d be looking for people out past curfew yet.

“Stop where you are, and drop whatever it is you’re holding.”

Or maybe not.

Sam stopped, if only because he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. He let the note fall to the ground, watching it out of the corner of his eyes as he stood there, and hoped that whoever picked it up wouldn’t decide to run a handwriting check.

There was the sound of boots crunching in gravel, sounding unpleasantly hollow and detached in the quiet of nighttime. Sam could make out two shapes heading for him and figured he had about three seconds left to be alive.

“Samuel,” said one of the shapes, faint surprise curling through the word and oh. It was Lucifer. He came up to Sam in the dim light from the moon, hair glinting silver. There was a fleck of dirt on his cheek and Sam fought back the sudden, reckless impulse to reach out and brush it away.

His companion, dark haired and slim, cruel edge to his mouth and something cold and inhuman in his eyes, walked forward and stopped beside Lucifer, his head tilted to the side. Sam recognized him after a second—Lucifer’s brother, Michael. The more ruthless of the two; although neither of them was well-liked in the faction, Michael had a worse reputation and Sam didn’t feel comfortable around him. His eyes dropped up and down Sam’s frame, and Sam took a step backwards, felt his foot brush against Dean’s note where it lay on the ground.

“Samuel,” Michael repeated, the name sounding dirty and hard on his tongue. “Winchester? As in John’s son?”

“Yes,” Sam said, because it wasn’t like Michael didn’t already know.

A small smirk curled at the corner of Michael’s mouth, and he glanced at Lucifer, who was still staring at Sam like he couldn’t quite figure out how they’d come to meet up again.

“It’s an honor,” Michael said, but Sam knew he was lying. There wasn’t a soul Sam knew of at the Center that didn’t despise John Winchester outright, despite the apparent fact that hatred was a mortal sin.

John had been part of the military when he was alive—which Sam has always figured puts him at about eighteen years of service total. He raised Dean and Sam essentially on his own following his wife’s death, gave them a decent life as army children and Sam has vague, half-formed memories of living near the Center, when he was very young.

Then John was put at an outpost near Faction 17, where Dean lives now and where all three of them spent a brief period of time. Brief, but it was enough for John to meet Bobby Singer, who ran the middle section of the anti-church, anti-government group that John would join. They called themselves Hunters, but there was no official name. Couldn’t be, with all the risk that would entail. The group was so illegal it was almost impossible to talk about even in private, and Sam didn’t know it existed, not for a long time. Mostly they gathered when they could, spoke out against the church and the Center and vowed to overthrow the government someday, when they could rally up enough forces.

But John was still part of the military, and they kept moving him. They lived in seven different factions that Sam can remember, each one exactly the same—cold, mostly barren, and miserable. Each faction, John would speak to people about the group. Get them excited for it, and direct them to Bobby Singer—because with his position in the military came free postal access. Dean was in it to a certain extent as well, and he’d go to meetings, telling Sam he was out working odd jobs to keep stale bread and half-rotted lettuce on the table. Sam knew Dean was lying, and wanted the truth, but no one would talk to him about anything aside from occasional vague hints his brother dropped.

There were a lot of fights between the Winchesters, back then.

When Sam was almost nineteen, they’d moved to Faction 24. John started being gone more and more often, but Sam was past the point of caring. Got his job at the Market, the one he has now, and established himself and Dean as the best gamblers in the faction as early on as possible, so they wouldn’t get screwed over later.

The guards busted in on a Hunters’ meeting five months after they’d started living there. Sam was working when it happened, and Dean was over the wall, out past the borders somewhere. He heard about it through Jess, his stallmate before Amelia, heard that “some shit went down by the casinos”, knew John was most likely involved and all he could think the whole time was Christ now we’re fucked we are so fucked. By the time he got there, they’d cleared the place out, but the guard remaining told Sam that they’d all been taken to the Center.

He waited until the heat of the capture had died down some, then climbed the wall, found his brother, and the two of them walked the twenty-mile stretch to the Center’s outposts, where temporary prison barracks were kept for detaining lawbreakers. John was there, still in his military uniform, and they asked when he’d be released, Dean with a fierce tilt to his eyebrows and Sam with that strange, restless feeling clawing at his chest.

“It’s none of your business,” the guard told them, “now get,” but they hid out instead, staying a safe mile beyond the borders of the Center and carefully dividing rations between them so they wouldn’t run out.

On day two, John was expelled from the military. Came stumbling out of the entrance with his face swollen and bruised, spitting blood and pushing a loose tooth around in his mouth. They walked home together, escorted if only to prevent the adjoining factions’ guards from interrogating and attacking on principle, but Sam could feel the hatred swelling off their chaperons, knew the three of them were one false step away from getting crucified in the streets. John had spoken out against the church to their faces, said he was never leaving the Hunters and if they didn’t like it they could all go fuck themselves, and when they finally got back to their hostel and were no longer under surveillance he told Sam and Dean to pack and be ready to leave the faction in the morning.

On day three, seven guards from the Center invaded the Winchesters’ hostel while they were still sleeping. Knocked Dean and Sam back out when they woke up and tried to fight, and dragged John out into the center of the faction, in front of everyone going to church or work or wherever they were headed in the weak morning light. Beat him with iron clubs until he wasn’t breathing, then shot him in the back of the head just to be sure. By the time Sam and Dean were aware of themselves enough to come out, John was long gone, his body dragged out past the faction’s borders and burned into ash.

Dean left Faction 24 two days later. Said he couldn’t stay there knowing that Bobby was now alone at the head of their group, but Sam knew he was at least partially haunted by the ghost of their father. He packed a stale cheese cube that Sam had won at gambling, three strips of jerky, and a battered canteen of relatively clean water; told Sam he’d be back, and walked off.

That was six years ago, and since then Sam has seen Dean a total of five times, never in Faction 24 and never for more than ten minutes. The rest of the time, it’s just illegal letters and notes, scrawled shakily and delivered in the half-dark. Usually a safe method, but that second time Sam saw Lucifer—

He was standing at the edge of Faction 24 with Dean’s most recent letter crumpled under his boot, hands trembling at his sides, watching Michael’s fingers play along the edge of his jacket. “I’m trying to decide if I should file you as being killed for leaving the faction, or if it should be for relation to our most troubled dissenter.”

“File it as me leaving the faction, then at least you’ll have concrete evidence,” Sam snapped without thinking.

Lucifer’s face did a complicated thing, sucking in his cheek between his teeth and cutting his eyes upwards. Michael looked stunned, mouth open, then he laughed, loud and raucous and cold. “You are a daring one, aren’t you.”

“If I’m about to be killed, why should it matter what I say?”

Michael made a scornful noise. “You Winchesters are all alike,” he said. His fingers stopped dancing along his hemline, made a swift movement upward and into his pocket. There was a pause, and then his gun made an appearance, gleaming cold and silver in the light. Sam felt a rip of panic in his chest, he knew guns, had seen what they could do, and God help him but he didn’t want to die, not like that.

“Not so brave now, are you?” Michael asked, with the gun trained on Sam’s chest.

Sam swallowed, watching Michael. He wanted to look at Lucifer but he didn’t dare, kept his mouth shut and shoved his hands hard against his sides so they wouldn’t see how much he was shaking.

“Get that,” Michael said, gesturing down with his head at Dean’s letter. Lucifer bent down to pick it up, and Sam felt something hot and unexpected flare in his stomach at the sight.

“It’s a note,” Lucifer said, when he’d straightened up again. He was speaking to Michael, but his eyes were on Sam, something close to a warning in them, and Sam looked from the gun to Lucifer and back, his breathing coming out in short, sharp huffs.

“Who’s it from, what’s it say,” Michael demanded, pressing at the paper with one hand and keeping his gun steady with the other.

Lucifer unfolded the paper, eyes scanning over the words. His face went still and strange, neutral expression that Sam would become familiar with later, and he pressed the paper into his pocket before Michael could get a hold of it.

“I don’t know,” Lucifer told him, and Sam felt something like an explosion go off in the center of his chest. Imploding tight and close between his ribs, and if he hadn’t been holding himself so stiff he would’ve collapsed to the ground.

Michael’s eyebrows drew together over the bridge of his nose. “Lucifer,” he started.

I don’t know,” Lucifer repeated, the warning in his eyes now directed vocally at his brother. “I’ll take it to Father, have him look it over. In the meantime, Michael—Samuel can be let off with a warning. This is his first offense.”

Michael darted his eyes between Sam and Lucifer, confused smirk on his face. “You don’t have the book in front of you, how could you know—”

“His first,” Lucifer repeated, firm, and Michael drew in a breath. Shrugged and stepped back, lowering the gun and sliding it back under his jacket.

“You heard my brother,” he said to Sam. “You get this one warning, Winchester. Don’t go against our laws again, the consequences will be more severe next time.”

“I’ll be sure to remember that,” Sam muttered. There was no real way of thanking Lucifer, not in front of Michael, so he just moved around them, letting the cold air sooth over his terror-flushed skin.

Sam waited just around the corner, until the soft crunch of Lucifer and Michael’s boots in the gravel had become too distant to distinguish, and then he went home, letting the night swallow him up.

*

The scar tissue on Sam’s shoulder and arm is a mess, pink raw skin that still aches a little when it comes in direct contact with anything rough or metal. He’s got it pressed hard back against the wood of a church pew, struggling to sit still and breathe through his nose and not think at all about the small strip of skin he can see on the back of Lucifer’s neck, five rows ahead of him.

It’s been a month, or nearly, since he and Lucifer last spoke. There are interims of time where he can see Lucifer when he wants, but this hasn’t been one of them, since the knife fight and all its repercussions. Sam’s had to lay low in his hostel, trading on the Market only in the early morning and spending the rest of his time carefully rationing strips of jerky and basil leaves and, once, an ounce of the watery sludge scraped off the bottoms of bottles in the casinos—the closest thing to alcohol that Sam’s ever had, a hard fast burn into his stomach that leaves him feeling dizzy and vaguely nauseated.

He wrote a letter to Dean not long after his discussion with Lucifer, slipped over the wall and managed to get it to Jody without any trouble. If Dean’s replied to it Sam doesn’t know; he’s waiting until he sees Lucifer again before he tries anymore outside correspondence, but he knows that Dean will be ready and willing to start a rebellion of any sort, even on a small scale.

They’re all at Mass now, required on Sundays for the lessers and three, sometimes four times a week for the guards and other citizens of the Center. It’s an ordeal Sam despises, cramming a little over three hundred people into a small wooden church, going from shivering to sweating in five minutes. Sitting in the uncomfortable pews for up to three hours while someone from the Center—sometimes an ordained priest, sometimes not—delivers a sermon from the pulpit. Sam’s listened to every Bible verse twice in the twenty-four years he’s been alive, shoulders shoved up against someone he hardly knows, collar going damp in the heat.

Sam watches Lucifer shifting where he’s seated, soft curls of hair against the back of his neck going a darker shade of blond and curling on his skin. His head is tilted slightly to the right, watching Father Inias preach about divine retribution and the cost of sin, and all Sam can see in his mind is his hands spread out over Lucifer’s stomach, curled around his cock, mouth sucking bruises into his collarbone.

Heat flares up in his stomach and Sam goes still and quiet, uncomfortably aware of where he is and the people around him—Amelia to his left, smiling serenely; Meg to his right, permanent smirk curling the corner of her mouth. Up on the altar, there’s a crucifix, Jesus staring down eternally at his followers, and Sam feels it like a lightning bolt, the sinful intensity and depth of his want. Like he’s stood up in the center of church and announced to the entire faction what he’s been doing behind closed doors. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and Sam—

Sam no longer cares.

After the sermon, with everyone milling around and relaxed on the one day that no one works, Sam slips out the pew in the opposite direction, goes up to the front of the church. It’s quieter up there, by the altar rail, and Sam leans against the marble, fingers flexing on the cold stone as he waits for Lucifer to look up and notice him. There’s a risk that Lucifer won’t, of course, because he’s preoccupied with Michael and returning to the Center, but it’s been a month and Sam’s willing to take that chance.

Lucifer glances up, his hand wrapped around the railing. Sam watches his fingers flex against the pew and swallows against the sudden dryness in his throat. There’s a few seconds where they just stare at each other, hazel on ice, and then Lucifer leans over and mutters something in Michael’s ear before edging past his brother and into the aisle. He looks at Sam once, shifts his eyes to the left without moving his head, and walks out of the church, people clearing a path for him because of his status.

Sam waits a good two and a half minutes before he can’t anymore, and then he pushes himself off the altar and follows Lucifer out.

He’s waiting in a side alley directly to the right of the church, hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket, looking up at the sky. It’s threatening rain, gray and overcast and somehow managing to enhance Lucifer on the whole. He shines, and Sam clenches his hands in his own pockets so he won’t just reach out and touch like he wants to.

“Sam,” Lucifer says, inclining his head in Sam’s direction.

Sam smiles without really understanding why, keeps his distance and looks up at the sky too, when it becomes clear Lucifer isn’t going to make eye contact. “Lucifer,” he says. “Did you—I mean. Have you thought any more about it? What we talked about?”

Lucifer nods, once, an affirmation that has Sam’s heart speeding up. “Your brother’s letter was received,” he says, and doesn’t elaborate on how he knows. “I believe it would be a good idea to wait until I’m alone on shift before we take any actions, though.”

“Yeah,” Sam says. “Like what. What were you thinking we could do.” He’s reaching out without meaning to, automatic reaction he has around Lucifer, moving forward until he can curl his fingers into Lucifer’s jacket and tug just a little. Lucifer goes compliantly enough, body just hidden by the wall of the alley, though both of them know that the church doors could open at any second. Sam’s pretty sure that Lucifer is doing this more for Sam’s benefit than for his own, but he tries not to think about that too much and just runs his thumb along the edge of the hem of Lucifer’s shirt, staring down at their feet through his hair.

Lucifer looks up, Sam can feel his eyes on him but he’s kind of terrified as to what he might do if they make eye contact right now so he keeps his face down, pretending like scuffed boots on gravel is the most interesting thing he’s ever seen.

“You said you wanted to change things here,” Lucifer says, after a while.

Sam nods.

“I live at the Center, when I’m not guarding this faction. I know how it’s run, how to get in. When Michael isn’t on shift here, he’s in seclusion in our home. It would present us with an opportunity to leave here, go to the Center, and—” Lucifer pauses, makes a soft unidentifiable clicking noise, and draws a finger across his throat.

Sam raises his eyebrows, watching Lucifer and the casual way he speaks of murdering his own family. “If we kill them,” he says, slowly, “if we kill all of them, who’s gonna keep the factions up while we try to reestablish a governmental system?”

“There is a possibility that some of my brothers and sisters would be willing to help us set up a temporary system while we sort everything out.” Lucifer’s eyebrows are furrowed over his nose, but he looks calm. Confident, and Sam wonders where it’s coming from, nervous as he is about all this. Because there’s rebellion, and then there’s Rebellion. Sam’s grown up outside the law, gambling and drinking and fucking, when Lucifer came along—but he’s never actively gone against the government, and all he can remember for a few seconds is John, the sound of his skull cracking against the pavement and the blood that was smeared for days into the concrete after they killed him.

Then Lucifer’s hand is on Sam’s jaw, sudden rough touch that Sam wasn’t expecting, and he lets out a low, pained sigh and leans into it, letting Lucifer push his fingers into Sam’s hair, skating across his scalp. “Sam,” Lucifer says, voice low and gentle and strangely cautious. “If you don’t want to.”

“I want to,” Sam says, before Lucifer can go any further. “I’m just. It’s. You know.” He bites his lower lip, sucking it between his teeth, and hopes Lucifer understands what he’s trying to say.

“I know,” Lucifer says, and Sam sighs, tilting his forehead against Lucifer’s for the same amount of time it takes to blink. “It’s all right, Sam.”

They’re quiet for a while. Lucifer’s fingers twine in Sam’s hair, Sam keeps his hand against Lucifer’s shirt hem, and neither of them moves until they hear the church doors creak open and feet spill out onto the pavement.

“We’ll need to collect rations if we’re going all the way to the Center,” Sam says, eyes on the sky again. “And we’ll need to leave at night. Late.”

Lucifer nods. “Figure something out,” he says, and Sam can’t tell if it’s an imperative or not, but before he can ask Michael’s voice sounds over the general area:

“Lucifer, haul out, let’s go,”

and Lucifer tips his head. Sends Sam a small, apologetic smile, and walks off, fancy leather and denim rustling in the wind and all Sam can think is, how the hell can he even consider giving that up?

*

“You’re starting a what?”

“Rebellion. R-e-b—”

“Don’t be a fucking jerk about it, Sam, Jesus—” and then Madison has to pause, cross herself out of habit, a fact that amuses Sam considering how much she deals in the black market and how often she gambles—“I was just asking.”

“Yeah, well—are you interested?”

“In what.”

“In the rebellion. You know.”

Madison raises an eyebrow at Sam over a dirt-crusted bottle. “Do you honestly think it’s even going to happen, Sam?”

*

“What, you mean like against the government?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit, Sam, I dunno… are you sure they’re not listening to our conversation right now? Tapping into all this and recording it?”

“They don’t do that.”

“But how do you know?”

Sam thinks of Lucifer’s come splashed across his thighs, of loud moans exchanged in the cold air, and he doesn’t answer.

*

“Where are Victor and Gordon?” Sam asks Amelia one afternoon, when there’s a lull in Market trading.

Amelia shrugs, unfolding a bit of cloth and shaking out the dirt and dust and cockroaches that have gathered in the corners. “I haven’t seen them since you got into that fight. Haven’t seen Ash Harvelle, either,” she adds, brow creasing, and Sam feels something cold and unpleasant slide between his ribs.

Jo walks by then, her hands closed tight around some object—definitely illegal and probably stolen—and Sam calls out to her:

“Jo, hey, you got a second?”

She looks over at him, and Sam doesn’t especially like the expression in her eyes, but he smiles anyway, projecting harmless intentions, and she walks over.

“What.”

“Do you know anything about what happened with your brother and Victor and—”

“I don’t give a fuck about the Walker-Henriksen brothers. But I haven’t heard from Ash since you had his ass hauled out to the Center—”

“What the hell do you mean, I had his ass hauled out, he pulled the knife on me—”

“You certainly didn’t do anything when those guards showed up and started dragging him off for defending us—”

“Oh, right, because I’m just some filthy gambler who’s gonna starve all of you out while I’m eating everyone’s rations in the goddamn faction—”

“Sam!” Shocked yelp from Amelia and Sam is grounded suddenly, finds he’s gripping the edge of his stall so hard his knuckles have gone white. There’s a knife in his hand and Jo has her fingers wrapped around the box holding the others, and Sam doesn’t know what he was about to do, but he relaxes his grip on the blade and backs off, deliberately forcing his shoulders down so he appears smaller.

“Sorry,” he apologizes quietly, though it’s not exactly his fault, and Jo shrugs, steps away as well.

“If my brother’s dead, which my mom and I think he is, ‘sorry’ had better be the only fucking thing on your mind,” she snarls, before storming off.

“Christ,” Sam mutters, scraping his hand down his face.

*

Trading gets slower; people are wary around Sam, like they’re just starting to notice his height and the width of his shoulders and the cruel animalistic slant to his eyes. He doesn’t care, he’ll be out soon enough anyway, but it makes him uncomfortable just the same, the way everyone goes out of their way to avoid his stall for fear he might lose his temper and slice up their arms too. It’s having less people on his side when the rebellion finally happens, less people he can count on to back him up and more people who will turn him in, him and Lucifer both, if it means they get to keep their lives and their semblance of freedom.

Not that any of that will matter, in the end, if it’s Lucifer who gives Sam up, but. Sam can’t afford to think like that.

It’s nearly a week after their conversation outside the church before Sam and Lucifer are able to meet up again, after oh-five hundred, when the Market’s closed down and everyone is heading back for their hostels or sneaking down to the casino. Lucifer is waiting for Sam at the entrance to the Market, ignoring the blatant stares he’s getting, arms folded across his chest as he stares out.

“Hey,” Sam calls.

Lucifer looks up and doesn’t quite manage to hide the smile that curls the corner of his mouth. “Hello, Sam.”

Sam walks over to him, until they’re about a foot apart. Folds his arms in a mirroring position and stares at Lucifer in his peripheral vision, the line of his jaw and the set of his shoulders. “Michael’s not here?”

“He’s at the Center. It will have to be tonight, are you ready?” Lucifer raises an eyebrow at Sam, and Sam’s yes gets caught in his throat, so he settles for nodding instead. And then, when he finds he can speak again:

“Did you come up with a plan yet, Lucifer?”

Lucifer tucks his lower lip between his teeth, causing a slight flush to break out over his skin. Even in the half-dark and the cold, and Sam watches, unashamed and too tired to hide it, what he’s doing.

“The casino,” Lucifer says.

“What about it.”

“You said we needed rations, yes?” and suddenly Sam sees where Lucifer’s going with this. He smiles with his eyes, an unexpected swell of pride rising up in his chest.

“You’ll have to gamble, you know,” he says.

“I’ve done worse to go against the law,” Lucifer reminds him, eyes dropping up and down Sam’s body, small smirk on his face and Sam rolls his eyes, but he’s laughing too.

“Yeah,” he says, “okay.”

Lucifer smiles. It’s genuine and that surprises Sam for some reason, like maybe someone from the Center couldn’t be capable of the same emotions as those from the factions.

“Why?” he asks, when Lucifer’s turned away and started out in the direction of the casino.

He pauses, whole back going stiff and Sam thinks maybe somehow he’s said the wrong thing, but then Lucifer’s turning, looking over his shoulder. “Why what?”

Sam takes a step forward. Watches Lucifer watching him, wary-eyed and tense, and thinks, Jesus god not you too. “What’s your motivation here, why do you want to go against your own family.”

Lucifer hesitates. Then:

“I’m doing this for you, Sam. I thought you knew,” and Sam feels something topple and fall in his chest, blooming bright red heat through his whole body when it lands.

*

It’s quieter than usual at the casino tonight, quieter still when they realize who Sam has brought with him. Ellen stares at Lucifer, cross between the automatic reverence and absolute terror, and when Sam slides his card across the podium for her to scan she doesn’t even snark at him about Ash missing.

Lucifer stays a step behind Sam when they go in, which is a strange feeling but not entirely unwelcome. Conversations falter and then go into silence as they walk past, and Sam grits his teeth, looking for an empty table. There isn’t one tonight, but it doesn’t take much persuasion before he’s convinced Ruby and Lilith to move their game of gin rummy to Andy and Ansem Gallagher’s table, and then he’s hooking his ankle around the leg of a chair and swinging it out so he can sit down. He drags one next to him out for Lucifer, but even after they’re both seated people keep staring, hands clenching on their thighs like they want to do something but aren’t quite sure how to go about it.

“So this is it,” Lucifer says, and looks around. The air is cloudy and thick with smoke, burnt cigarettes in the ashtray at the center of the table, and Sam calls for a fresh pack.

“This is it,” Sam says. He grabs the stack of cards off the table, shuffles and shifts through bent jacks and creased fours until he finds two kings—club and spade—and hands one to Lucifer.

He looks it over with a curious expression.

“Keep that in your pocket until I’ve dealt the hands and we’ve started an actual game,” Sam tells him.

“What’s it for?”

“It’s how I uh. It’s how I win all my games.”

Lucifer smirks, sliding the card into his jacket. “It’s how you cheat,” he clarifies, voice all amusement and faint affection, and pushes his knee into Sam’s under the table. Surprised, Sam pushes back, and has to duck his head because he can’t stop smiling for some reason.

“Shut up,” he admonishes, “no one’s gonna play with us if they overhear you confirming what they already know.” He shuffles the deck, passes four sets of seven cards around the table. Quietly explains the rules of poker to Lucifer as he does so, and watches out of the corner of his eyes as the casino relaxes by degrees, slowly returning to their games and their alcohol and their cigarettes.

The bartender returns with a fresh pack of cigarettes for Sam and Lucifer, but it’s another ten minutes before anyone will approach their table to play—Jake Talley and a woman Sam thinks might be his fiancée. Ava-something, with her mouth pursed in disapproval as she glares at Lucifer, sitting across from him and lifting her stack.

“He’s playing?” Jake asks after a while, gesturing at Lucifer. Sam shrugs, open-palmed and wide-eyed, and leans back in his seat, indicating it’s up to them whether they stay or go. Sam doesn’t give a shit.

Jake and Ava look at each other, then Ava reaches into her pocket and pulls out some kind of sour-smelling green fruit, and the game begins.

*

Lucifer’s hands on the cards are almost enough to distract Sam completely from what he’s trying to accomplish. The intense focused expression in his eyes as he stares down, cigarette in his mouth, deliberately not moving the king the way Sam told him, drawing card after card and trading with Sam until he’s got a full house slapped on the table and Ava and Jake are handing over their fruits and meats and a container of stale rice. No one’s looking at Lucifer now, except as a threat to their rations.

He glances at Sam once, eyebrows raised—was that correct?—and Sam nods back, yeah, and then they’re moving to the next table. Sam carefully shuffling the deck and slipping two kings out, one for him and once for Lucifer, while Lucifer deflects the attention to himself, talking about the Center in a way that their companions are forced to listen to out of respect for his status. They all want to ask what he’s doing down here, slumming with the lessers in a casino, is he delusional or is he going to arrest them or what, but they can’t and so they play instead.

Sam and Lucifer clean out five tables like that, kings in their decks and thighs brushing under the table, Lucifer’s clever fingers moving over the cards and Sam taking ration after ration after every four of a kind, every straight flush. Afterwards Sam’s shaking from adrenaline, can’t keep the smile off his face and he and Lucifer walk to the door, pockets heavy and fully aware that everyone in the room wants to kill them.

“See you all later,” Sam calls, watching in amusement as Bela Talbot flips him off from the back corner, and then he and Lucifer duck out, the door swinging shut behind them.

They can’t leave yet, it’s still early and Lucifer doesn’t want to risk arriving at the Center while there are still people awake, so they slip back to Sam’s hostel, familiar safe ground that smells faintly of oranges. Lucifer sheds his jacket and pushes Sam into the mattress, pressing their mouths together so slowly that Sam doesn’t even register it’s happening until he feels Lucifer’s fingers against his jaw, rough and insistent.

“Christ,” Sam whispers, shivering.

“Blasphemy,” Lucifer whispers back, voice low and intimate and laced with faint sarcasm.

“Don’t you start worrying about that now,” Sam says, curling his fingers into Lucifer’s belt loops and pulling him flush. Lucifer grinds down, already half-hard through his jeans, and Sam gasps, tilting his head back, throat bared, pulse racing.

They rut and rock against each other for a while until Lucifer’s entire neck is this lovely red color, and then he decides he’s had enough. Sticks his hand down Sam’s open fly, under the waistline of his shorts, and brings him off like that, mouth stuck to the side of his neck and hips snapping forward against his thigh. Sam clutches at Lucifer’s back, his hair, toes curling against the sheets. He stares at Lucifer the entire time, feeling ripped open and two seconds from falling.

*

“What are we gonna do,” Sam asks later, when they’re slipping boots on and splitting rations between them, “if we get caught?”

Something brief and tight flashes in Lucifer’s expression, an indication that he’s thought about this and really doesn’t want to again. “Let me do the talking,” he says. “I’m taking you in for being out past curfew. I caught you at a casino. Something along those lines. You won’t say anything.”

Sam nods, kind of wishing he hadn’t brought it up because now Lucifer’s tense all over, his movements going sharp and erratic and it occurs to Sam that Lucifer is nervous as hell about this. He puts his hand on Lucifer’s shoulder and Lucifer jerks, getting out from under Sam’s touch like it’s the first time again, tightening his laces and standing up. He shoves his hands in his pockets, stares out the hostel window.

Sam walks up behind him, close enough to touch but he doesn’t. “Luce.”

Lucifer breathes out shakily. “Sam,” he says. Only word out of his mouth, like he’s grounding himself on the name.

“It’s gonna work,” Sam tells him.

Lucifer doesn’t say anything for a while. Then, slowly, he turns. Pulls a strip of jerky from his pocket and holds it up in front of his face.

“The first thing we’re going to take care of is getting rid of this shit you call ‘rations’,” he says, dryly, and Sam laughs, soft and affectionate, this unsteady warmth building in his chest that he can’t wholly trust.

*

Astonishingly, miraculously, no one hears them.

They walk all night, skirting around the two factions that sit between Sam’s home and the Center. It’s twenty miles and colder every five minutes, but they don’t stop, taking shadows when they can and praying for the smeared dirty shine of moonlight when they can’t. Occasionally Sam rips a bit of jerky off with his teeth, or Lucifer chews on the ends of an artichoke leaf. Neither speak much, except maybe twice an hour:

“Luce,” Sam will say, just checking, and Lucifer will say, “Sam,” voice quiet and rough from disuse.

They get to the Center’s entrance just after dawn, pale sunrise breaking over the horizon as they approach the gates. There’s a guard, but he’s asleep, slumped over the desk with his gun wrapped loose in one hand. Sam looks at Lucifer, question in his eyes and Lucifer shrugs, walking over and pressing a few buttons on a keypad attached to the wall.

“They don’t expect people to come here from outside,” he says, as the gates slide open noiselessly. “Pride might be a sin, but it’s everyone’s favorite at the Center.”

Sam checks one more time to make sure the guard is still asleep, and then they’re stepping inside. And then all Sam can do is stare. Because it’s not like anything he’s ever seen before.

The factions are all the same. Miles of dirt and gravel, patches of black ice during the winter and clumps of snow in the summer. People gathered around burning trash cans, rubbing their hands together as the fires leap up into the cold air. Hostels crumbling around the edges, the Market running loud and noisy and dirty from oh-seven hundred to oh-five hundred; and beyond that, the labor farms, the honest people earning honest rations. But the Center—Jesus, Sam’s never—

It’s like something out of a dream, these shining tall buildings and white marble houses. Jet black roads so smooth Sam thinks he could glide over them. Those strange, loud vehicles, not many of them but they’re there, most of them stationary in the streets, gleaming orange in the early-morning sun.

And along every road, beside every house as far as Sam can see, security cameras.

“Jesus,” Sam starts, staring because he can’t take his eyes off it, chilling in a way he can’t define, and Lucifer immediately silences him, waving a hand and walking to another box. This one is bolted against a pole, keypad like the one outside the gate but it’s more complex, more numbers and letters and a larger screen.

“Need to enter the code to disable the security before we can go,” Lucifer mutters, so low Sam has to strain to hear him. “Just stay next to me, okay, don’t—” he gestures out, don’t go walking off, and Sam just stops himself from rolling his eyes. Stands still and quiet, arms tucked in against his sides, running his hand over the rations again and again, and he watches Lucifer’s profile, the concentrated furrow of his brow as he enters in combinations.

He’s a fascinating person—Sam’s never met anyone like him, not in any of the factions he grew up in. There’s a quiet sort of fierceness about him, a barely-concealed rage that simultaneously terrifies Sam and makes him feel protected. Safe. Like Lucifer would do anything for Sam, despite what they are in terms of how the world sees them, in terms of how they see each other. Even that first time they met, when Sam thought he might get murdered on the spot for attempting to leave the faction, even then Sam felt like he and Lucifer were on an equal level. Or at least that they could understand each other with very little difficulty.

Something vague and undefinable occurs to Sam as they stand there, the sunrise slowly growing behind them, and he doesn’t let himself think, doesn’t bother with a verbal filter before he says, hesitant and uncertain, “Luce—”

“Sam.”

“In the future, when we’ve done what we need to and your family’s not part of the government anymore. You said you had people who could help you reestablish a temporary system to get everything right again.”

“My brothers and sisters, yes,” Lucifer says, using the formal honorific of the Center that encompasses all the descendants of those working in the government, not just his biological siblings. “Not Michael, but some—Anna Milton and Castiel Novak, I’m assuming. Perhaps Balthazar, if he would deign to return.”

Sam swallows, feeling frustrated and tense and not understanding why. “What would happen to us, to the people living in factions?”

“You’d get help, you’d get freedom,” Lucifer says. He’s not looking directly at Sam, hunched over the keypad as he pushes in number after number, and Sam’s frustration coalesces at the center of his chest, an overheated red ball that presses and strains until it’s threatened to take over his entire body. He reaches out without thinking, grabs at Lucifer’s arm, and Lucifer startles, turning to Sam first with surprise in his eyes, and then with annoyance.

“Sam, Christ,” he says, doesn’t cross himself but it doesn’t make Sam feel any better.

“We’re doing this so that people can be equals again, Lucifer,” Sam snarls, keeping his voice low even though he’s pretty sure most of the cameras are disabled by now. “No more factions. No more ‘lesser’ versus ‘greater’. No more Center, no more—”

Sam,” Lucifer says again, insistent and a little befuddled, head tilted in a way that endears Sam to him and then makes him even angrier for it. “We cannot have a country run by no one. It would be worse than what we have now. There needs to be some form of—”

“Yeah, I get that, Lucifer. You aren’t listening to me, I’m saying. I want a part in the government. I want Dean and Amelia and Jo and Bobby—fuck, even Ash, if he’s still alive. I want all of us to get to make some decisions. Have some kind of power.”

Lucifer’s expression does an interesting thing, going from inquisitiveness to sadness to frustration in three seconds flat and Sam can’t figure it out, can’t hear anything over his own sudden realization, what he’s trying to ask Lucifer for without saying it outright: don’t leave me behind. Don’t forget I exist. And for a second, he thinks maybe Lucifer sees it. That Lucifer’s eyes are reflecting the same thing right back at Sam, in the thin, tense line of his mouth and the furrow of his brow, but he turns abruptly away, hand back on the keypad. He pushes in a few more numbers, and then there’s a soft beep, and something whirrs and clicks over their heads.

“There,” Lucifer says, without looking at Sam. “It’s done. Security’s down. We need to move before someone wakes up and notices.”

“Lucifer,” Sam says, desperate and terrified, but Lucifer just shakes his head once, quick abortive movement that gets Sam’s breath caught in his throat, and then they’re going, walking down the perfect smooth road towards the perfect shining house in the distance.

Perfect, and all Sam wants to do is blow it up and let the smoldering ruins rain down onto his shoulders.

*

“All this food,” Sam says, maybe the millionth time in half an hour, knocking his knee against the underside of the table in an effort to take the salt from the middle. “What do you do with it when it’s—y’know, when you’ve had enough?”

They’re steadily not talking about the government issue, not inside the Morningstars’ estate. Sam feels it, though; quiet tension radiating off Lucifer’s shoulders and he knows it’s only a matter of time before one or both of them snaps, starts up some kind of violent altercation between them because Sam can’t let go and Lucifer obviously wishes he would.

But it would be a bad idea, they both know, to discuss it in here, where they’re at such high risk for getting caught before they can even carry out any of their plans. Sam was all for starting right away, sneaking straight up to Lucifer’s parents’ room and killing them as they slept, but Lucifer said they should wait, and Sam was too tired and cold to argue.

So now they’re sitting in the pantry, quiet little room off to the side, tiled floor and plaster ceiling—good, thick plaster that Sam hasn’t seen before, not water stained and crumbling like his walls back home, or cracked like in the casino. Lucifer’s thrown away their rations—making Sam’s heart twist in his chest—and brought out real food: steaming hot plates of steak and potatoes and greens that don’t look like they were stepped on several hundred times first.

“Put it in here,” Lucifer says. Points to the ice terminal, some kind of huge machine that keeps things cold when you don’t want them. It runs on the same gas and magnetism as the card scanner in the casino, so Sam’s wary of it by default, but fascinated too. The amount of food they store inside it astounds him. And maybe Lucifer understands to a certain degree what Sam’s feeling, because he’s spent so much time in their faction now, but Sam. Sam can’t wrap his head around it, this production and waste, needless amounts of food for those in the Center who have the ability to store it all for months.

“We need to take some of this to the factions,” Sam says, gesturing at his salt-laden steak and potatoes. “Later. You know.”

“Okay, Sam,” Lucifer acquiesces, voice quiet and curious like the idea hadn’t even occurred to him—which, Sam realizes, it probably hadn’t.

Even so, even with this excess waste of food in front of them, Sam’s still starving, and he—god, he can’t. Can’t let this kind of opportunity slide, and he’s digging in without remorse, no thought of repentance, fingers loose and sloppy on the seasoned meat, juice sliding off the bones as he brings it to his mouth. There’s a fork and knife by his plate, silver utensils Sam vaguely remembers from when he was very young and lived near the Center with John and Dean, but he doesn’t want to bother when he barely knows how to use them and anyway, it’s just Lucifer watching.

He eats until his stomach—stretched thin and small after almost twenty-five years of scraps and watered down liquids—can’t take anymore, until he feels weighted down and slightly nauseous from all he’s consumed. Sam looks up and Lucifer is looking back at him, head tilted, his plate cleaned off except for the bones and a bit of potato skin.

“Are you thirsty?” Lucifer asks him, and Sam nods.

Lucifer stands, hand pressed to his shirt, leaving red marks where the seasoning is spread into the cotton, and walks to the ice terminal. Sam listens to him open it, shift things around for a bit, and then a low, surprised sound escapes from the back of his throat.

“What’d you find, a dead body?” Sam asks, only half-joking because there’s something about this place, the entire Center, that creeps him the fuck out. Probably those security cameras outside, lining all the streets like these people would have anything to hide, God-fearing humans that they are.

“Not exactly,” Lucifer says, and when Sam turns he comes face to face with a beer bottle.

An actual beer bottle.

Sam’s seen beer—real beer, not just that sludge from the casinos—once in his lifetime, when they were still living in Faction 17 with Bobby Singer and his companions. It was a murky gray color then, laying in a half-full bottle and swimming with specks of something no one could identify, and Sam remembers everyone drank some, made horrible faces for a few seconds, and then laughed these full-throated, deep-chested laughs. Like this beer was the best thing they’d ever drank, like they were never going to be so happy again.

This stuff is actually labeled—Corona, in fancy white lettering—and sits a pretty amber color inside the bottle. There’s six bottles total, and Lucifer’s staring down at the other five like he can’t figure out where they’ve come from.

“I thought alcohol was illegal,” Sam says finally.

“So did I,” Lucifer says, confused note in his voice that makes him sound oddly vulnerable.

“You think it’s your dad’s or Michael’s?”

Lucifer laughs once, sharp and too fast, and slams the terminal door shut, coming around the table to sit across from Sam again. “Who the hell knows,” he mutters, working another bottle out of the pack and sliding it into Sam’s waiting palm. “Let’s just. Not think about it.” He runs his thumb along the side of the neck for a while, studying it, then tucks the cap carefully against the side of the table and tugs downwards. It comes off with a pop and a trickle of beer falls against the wood.

Sam does the same, his hands shaking for no apparent reason, and then they start drinking.

*

The problem with drinking Corona beer after a lifetime of virtually nothing alcoholic whatsoever is that it gets Sam and Lucifer drunk in under an hour. At some point Lucifer gets up and moves closer to Sam, and now they’re sitting almost flush against each other, Sam pushing his foot against Lucifer’s and nudging their shoulders together just to get Lucifer to look over. His eyes are like ice, grayed-out blue color that burns brighter the more he drinks, and Sam can’t get enough of just staring, light-headed and lazily smiling and not bothering to hide the want on his face.

“So what do you even do around here, do you just get up and go pray all day or what,” he asks, voice loose and sloppy around the drink.

Lucifer shrugs. “You can,” he says, seems to be tolerating it better than Sam, though a low flush has risen up the sides of his neck and onto his cheeks. “My father visits the seminaries, trains his soldiers.” His hand drops from the table, curls into a fist on Sam’s knee. Doesn’t even seem to be aware that he’s doing it, rubbing small circles against the inside of Sam’s thigh.

“You don’t work though,” Sam says, eyebrows drawn together over his nose, watching Lucifer’s hand on his leg. “I mean. I know you guys don’t have jobs, not like everyone else.”

“I guard your faction,” Lucifer points out.

Sam snorts. “Yeah, like twenty percent of the time when you aren’t fucking me.”

Lucifer’s grip tightens on Sam’s leg, just enough pressure to let Sam know it’s deliberate. “I’ve never heard you complain about that before, Sam, would you like me to stop?” Laugh lines around his eyes, even if his mouth isn’t smiling, voice gentle and teasing and Sam isn’t aware of moving until he’s almost fallen out of his chair, gripping at Lucifer’s shoulder for support, mouth close to his ear.

“You stop,” Sam growls, rough and unsteady threat against Lucifer’s skin, “and I’ll kill you.”

“Promises, promises,” Lucifer murmurs, turning his head a quarter to the right, and then they’re kissing, Lucifer’s hand still on Sam’s thigh as his other moves up to find its place in the thick tangle of Sam’s hair, fingers on his scalp, scalding burns into his skin. The inside of his mouth is sticky and sour from the beer, but Sam doesn’t care, licking into the inside of Lucifer’s cheek and feeling him shiver, catching the low sound that comes into their mouths, punched out and sinful in the bright lights of the pantry.

It’s fierce and desperate and possessive, hot and wet when Lucifer fucks his tongue against Sam’s, his hand shifting from thigh to crotch, slow pull up and Sam must be overly aware, the alcohol fucking around with his skin sensitivity because he gasps, hips jerking into Lucifer’s palm. Moves one hand down to rest between Lucifer’s legs, shifting in his seat until he’s facing Lucifer completely, their knees locked together, fingers working to find the zipper of his jeans.

“Sam. Sam,” Lucifer says over and over, insistent, pushing into Sam’s palm when Sam has his hand wrapped around Lucifer and is stroking him through his boxers, not quite able to get his pants the whole way off, the way they’re sitting.

“Lucifer,” Sam says back, barely recognizing his own voice through the buzz of his ears, sucking on Lucifer’s lower lip and biting down until his mouth is wet and swollen, threatening to bruise. Likes the dark red sound of the name, the way it tastes on Lucifer’s hot skin.

They’re both halfway to coming, smell of sex already sharp in the air and mingling with the scent of beer, when the pantry door bursts open and five figures come running in, all carrying guns and yelling about blasphemy and the righteous punishment of death and “get on your knees, lesser, and start praying you’ll be spared the fires of Hell!”

Sam goes tense so suddenly his muscles ache. He shoves himself away from Lucifer, reaches up and pushes his hair out of his eyes, sweat on his forehead, cheeks flushed. Comes face to face with Michael and his father, Charles Morningstar; an older man Sam doesn’t quite recognize, sneer of disgust and contempt curling his mouth; and—

“Gordon?” is the first thing Sam says, all incredulous disbelief because no, that has to be wrong, Gordon Walker can’t be standing in the middle of the Morningstars’ pantry at oh-eight hundred.

“The one and only, motherfucker,” Gordon spits out, and then winces as Michael pushes something sharp and metal into his back. “Apologies, Michael.”

“Accepted,” Michael mutters, glaring at Lucifer.

“My brother is here too, Sam,” Gordon says, gesturing with his gun, and Sam looks over to see Victor standing to Charles’ right, wearing the off-white uniform that indicates someone is a soldier of the Center. Forever and eternally sworn into the duty of the Church and the government, until death may part you from your post. Gordon’s wearing it too, and Sam feels his mouth go dry.

“Jesus,” he breathes, not thinking.

“You will not take the name of the Lord in vain in my house!” Charles yells. He doesn’t have a gun, but he grabs at one of the empty beer bottles on the table, swings it towards Sam’s head. Sam ducks, and the glass shatters on the wall behind them. “You defiler, you poisoned worm.”

The other man, the sneering one, has been staring at Sam since he walked in, and now a slow clarity comes into his eyes. “He’s a Winchester, Charles,” he says, “he’s Samuel Winchester,” and Charles makes an indistinguishable sound, furious and choked at the back of his throat.

“Seize him!” he snaps, and Gordon and Victor move, faster than Sam would’ve thought possible, grabbing his forearms and shoving him to the floor.

“Told you to go on your knees, Sam,” Gordon hisses into his ear, while Victor pushes his wrists behind his back and snaps handcuffs on. “Would’ve made this all a whole lot easier. Bet you’d go easy enough for him, wouldn’t you.” Gestures with his head at Lucifer, who is still sitting there, stunned expression on his face, and a dull red haze clouds over Sam’s vision.

“Go fuck yourself,” he snarls into Gordon’s ear. Doesn’t take his eyes off Lucifer, not for one second. He can still taste him, mind stuck halfway between terror and fading arousal and he thinks, desperate and aching and unhappy, I should have told him.

“Language, Winchester,” Victor says, sounding smug and triumphant, before pressing something hard and unfamiliar against Sam’s injured shoulder, right at the center of all his scar tissue.

There’s a second where all Sam feels is cold metal, and then something buzzes against his skin, smell of lightning in the air, and Sam starts to scream.

*

He wakes up shaking and cold, hands untied now, raw red marks on his wrists. There’s a bone-deep pain his shoulder, and when he tries moving it sings down his spine, into every part of him, so he stops.

He’s in some kind of prison cell, wet cement floor and mold-covered walls. The ceiling is hidden by dark shadows but if Sam squints he can just make out the shape of a camera tucked into an upper corner. He shudders and closes his eyes again. Tries to swallow and finds that it hurts too much against the dry roughness of his throat. His head is pounding, right at the center of his forehead. Lucifer, he thinks, maybe whispers it, he doesn’t know, thoughts hazy and half-formed and slipping in and out of his control.

“Got you good, huh, Sam,” says a voice behind him, familiar in a way that makes Sam ache, but he can’t place it, not just yet.

“Yeah,” he says, voice scratchy like he hasn’t been speaking for a few days. “Where am I?”

“Prison. The pit of the government’s housing models,” says his companion, and then barks out a sharp laugh, devoid of humor. “Look at how well they treat us when we visit them. Just what Jesus would’ve wanted,” and suddenly Sam recognizes the voice: that low register, the cadence of his words, the cynical undertone to everything he says—

“Dean,” Sam breathes, shakily, and Dean makes a quiet, almost pleased sound.

“Hey, Sammy,” he says. “Good to see you too.”