Dean had long since lost the ability to scream. The torture never stopped. That’s not necessarily true.
Alistair had a sick habit of making sure that once Dean was in enough pain to stay there for multiple minutes without deviating from the pain level, then he’ll start talking. He’ll tell Dean that one day soon, he’ll have a choice to make. That the pain will stop if he says yes. That all he has to do is say yes.
Dean never knows what the question will be, but he knows that he’ll say no for as long as he possibly can. He doesn’t know when that will be. He doesn’t even know whether at this point he’ll have enough will left to say no the first time at the rate they’re going with this torture. He can’t speak, he can’t scream. All he can do is suffer.
That’s why when the pain stops, Dean sits there gasping expecting the question to come. But Alistair doesn’t walk around him. There’s someone else, someone new. He’s never seen this person, and he’s not sure he wants to know who this person is.
“Dean Winchester, the righteous man.” A pause, but Dean can’t speak, his throat is far too raw to even try to make sounds. “I am Lucifer, the devil and God’s most hated.”
“See we’re going down a path to a future I’ve seen, but I hate that future. Alistair will ask you to torture souls for him in return from a break. You’ll resist for weeks, then you’ll say yes. My brother will come save you from hell, your brother will break the final seal, and hell will be unleashed on earth. But it never ends there. No, we’ll all go around in circles trying to save the people we love and starting apocalypse after apocalypse. There will even be a point where I try to be the good guy. Then I’ll be dead, you’ll be broken, my brother will have suffered more than any angel before him, and your brother will hate everything including himself. I don’t like this future, and I don’t think you like it very much either.”
Dean wants to scream no, and he wants to ask what any of this meant. He doesn’t understand the rules of the devil. He barely understands the rules of demons. But he can’t bring the syllables to pass his lips. Eventually, tears start streaming down his face as he realizes that he won’t be able to speak. He can’t answer. Maybe this is the new form of torture. Offer him reprieve if he can just force his body to speak.
“Oh, you can’t talk.” Footsteps echo as the man calling himself Lucifer walks away.
Dean wants to sob. He wants to beg the man to stay. While he was here, Alistair stayed far away. There was no additional pain when he was here, and that’s all that Dean wants at this point, then he feels a cup edge at his lips.
The man stands above him with a soft gleam in his eyes. “Drink. You could distrust me if you want, I might in your situation. I have no way to prove to you this will help. By now you’ve learned that demons don’t get affected by the poisons they inflict on those they torture, so the choice is yours.”
Dean knows the man is right. This could be a trap, another mental game to make him lose a bit more of his sanity. But at this point, he can’t bring himself to care. All he wants is something to soothe his throat enough that he can ask his questions. Maybe this is too dangerous of a game to be playing, but he’s never been the smartest at risk assessment. He drinks the liquid in small sips, not wanting to give up any of the gain by up-heaving his entire stomach.
The liquid isn’t water, but Dean can’t place the taste. The burning in his throat subsides immediately, which he knows isn’t normal. He wonders whether this was a type of medicine offered before they gave him a choice. “I don’t like the future you described, but is there one that does anything else. I don’t know how visions of the future work. Aren’t they set in stone?”
Lucifer laughs as he stares at Dean. “I forget that this version of you was still so naïve in the ways of the world. I am still an archangel. Regardless of how low God may have thrown me to the ground, he cannot undo what he’s already done. All of us have the ability to see the future. That is the one that exists with the most certainty so it’s the only one I can watch play out in its entirety.”
“And you don’t really want to end up dead.” That is a sentiment Dean can understand. That’s something that Dean can piece together. It might be small, but to him understanding even an aspect of what the devil is telling him is an accomplishment.
Lucifer nods. “And I don’t want to destroy either your or your brother’s soul. That would fix my dilemma, but I’d never get out of hell. And I’d never be able to be the good guy. In the future I saw, I only managed it for a couple days, but I know once in heaven I did it constantly. I’d like to be a better person than what my father sees in me.”
Dean never really believed much about religion, but here he was talking to the devil like they were old friends and maybe they were. He certainly understands wanting to be a better man than your father thought you were. “Don’t most children? What is the main problem with letting me go?”
Lucifer nods emphatically. “That is an extremely smart question. Full credit to you for thinking of it. Michael wants your soul as the other me in the other universe wants Sam’s. If I let you go, he’s still going to force the actions of the other universe. He’s good at forcing things to go his way. He never looks at the future. Otherwise, he’d know that if he goes through with this, he dies in less than a year. You kill him rather than giving him what he wants.”
“How can he have my soul without my consent?”
“He’d need your consent, but because of the bond between your souls, it’s much more likely that you’ll eventually just give in because his arguments sound like your arguments, and he’ll know your every fear, and he’ll give you what you want.”
Dean blinks a couple of times. He wonders that if this is the devil just how far he can push his good will right now. He can barely stand the idea of going back to torture, but he doesn’t understand the things being told to him at this moment, and how is he supposed to make an informed decision. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Why is there a bond between me and Michael?”
Lucifer pauses and looks over at Dean. His head cocks to one side as he regards the man still laying on the rack. He could leave and lets the fates have their way just like his father always planned. The nature of his curse thrums under his skin to do just that, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to be a better man, and he wants to learn from the righteous man, who even here and now, without the knowledge of the lives he takes later in another universe, will sit and listen.
Dean flinches when Lucifer stands up, but he grabs another cup and lifts it to Dean’s lips.
“You may as well gain strength as I explain this to you. I have no idea how good of a teacher I am, so interrupt with your questions, and I’ll try to adapt my story to fit you. Okay?”
Dean nods immediately. If asking questions is the only requirement to get more of the liquid that soothes the ache in his bones, then he’ll pay it gladly. Just as though he knows that even knowing the tortures of hell, he’d make the same bargain to save his brother. Every single time.
“So dear, old dad, you humans call him God, created the universe. Only he wasn’t alone. I had an aunt Amara. A wonderful, batshit crazy woman who tends to want to destroy what dad breaks. They have this attention seeking tendency to gather attention to the other. Anyway, dad got angry when Auntie Amara wanted to blow up his humans. I know you’re shocked. This is before I fell. The humans got my story all messed up. I didn’t particularly want to love them more than my father, but he didn’t require me to.”
“Hold on, you didn’t fall because of crimes against the human race?”
Dean nods once or twice or maybe once his head started bobbing it didn’t stop. He’s not really sure. Hell mucks with his senses something fierce. “All I know of the Christian doctrine is vague, but that’s one of the only facts I thought I knew.”
“Most humans think they know that one. Anyway, dad gathered us, the archangels, and we fought Amara back into the darkness. But dad had to have a way to keep her there. He created the mark of Cain. Someone had to bear the burden of the urge to kill every living thing they ever came across. That’s me, dad’s favorite gets to be the little murder monster.”
“Seems like a dick move,” Dean offers. He can’t quite tell if he’s hallucinating it, but that statement seemed like it was doused in self-pity and resentment. He doesn’t know whether he’s supposed to be on the devil’s side, but at this moment, he’s pretty confident that he is.
Lucifer offers Dean a smile as he contains laughter. Only the righteous man would stand in front of the devil and call God a dick. “Agreed. Anyway, that’s when I went on a rampage against the angels, because surprise wanting to kill everything hurts. Dad panicked, built a cage, also known as hell, and threw me in. The humans called me evil. None of my siblings would talk to me. Dad ignored me, so I was going a bit crazy. Then some human, crazy bastard, decided to kill his brother. Dad put the mark on him, or maybe Cain chose to the mark. I was a bit insane at the moment, having gone a good couple thousand years alone.”
“Wait you helped save the human race, lock up God’s alter ego murderous sister, and they ignored you for a few thousand years?”
“Why does that confuse you?”
Dean pauses to run back through his tone, he didn’t think he was confused. No, he hears the anger in his voice and running through his bones. “It doesn’t confuse me, it pisses me off. See if God were here in front of us, I’d be punching him in the face.”
That pulls another smile to Lucifer’s face. “Perhaps, if you wish to stay among the land of the living, you shouldn’t punch my father.”
Dean looks around confused for a moment. “I was pretty sure, I was dead.”
“Oh, that’s a solid place to be confused by for humans. This is the life after death. Your soul still exists so you are still living.”
Dean takes in that information for a moment before nodding. He’s still alive according to the angel. He might be broken, and his brain might be losing all sanity, but he’s alive. “So the human, who I seem to recall is named Cain killed his brother.”
“Right. So, he gets the mark, and God sends him down here. This is the first contact I’ve had in years, but Cain made me look like a saint with the mark. He didn’t just want to kill, he wanted to burn the world down. He reminded me of Aunt Amara. I convinced him that rather than doing it himself, because the one with the mark is immortal. No living thing can kill them. Not an archangel, not God, not even Aunt Amara. That we should create demons and send them out to do the dirty work because once souls were here, we could hurt them for eternity. He loved this plan.”
“Hell was created so that humans could live?”
Dean laughs then it gets louder and louder. “Do you understand how ironic that is? Humans think this is the place created to make them suffer for having the audacity to live, and it turns out hell is the consequence of being able to live.”
“That is quite ironic. But back to my portion of the story. When demons were created, God made a few choice decisions to influence the fates. Primarily that there would be a war between heaven and hell that would wipe out the human race on Earth. The first step is the righteous man spilling blood in hell. That’s what Alistair is hoping to force you into, and what I’m hoping to avoid. Blah, blah, blah other various steps that you don’t need to know. Then Michael and Lucifer must convince the brothers to take on the angel that supports them. You were to be Michael’s as the righteous man. Sam was to be mine as the rebellious little brother.”
“Fuck your father. Sorry, man, I’m sure you loved him at one point, but creating a fate where your children must fight is terrible parenting.”
“Yes, I wish to avoid that fight as well.”
“But I’m bonded to your brother, and you can’t help but wonder if one day, he’ll figure out how to convince me to say yes. And then you’d have to go after Sam because if only one of you has the vessel, then that angel is guaranteed to win the fight, and your demons and Cain would be too angry to fight for you.”
“Precisely. Now you understand, so you can answer my proposal.”
Dean nods immediately. Whatever solution that Lucifer has come up with, must be one that will avoid the future he’s seen, and Dean doesn’t want to find out the ending to that path. He suspects it will end with him dead, his brother dead, and the world exactly as broken as it was before them. “Lay it on me. What’s the plan?”
“You misunderstand, I meant a proper proposal from what humans use. We get married, because that will make my claim on you and your soul greater than any Michael has.”
“Married?” Dean feels his head get lighter. He knows better than to be with a man. His father was angry enough at the idea that he dared to be a person over a hunter, but he lost it when he thought Dean had been with a man.
“Yes. Of course, I understand that marrying the devil wasn’t a plan of yours, so I’ll try to give you as much power as I can. I would like you to be a monarch of hell and rule with me to try and fix things, but other than that, I have no requests. We will have to consummate the marriage once to ensure that the bond is cemented, but I won’t require that from you either.”
Dean’s breathing starts coming out more and more shallow. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m about to pass out.” Then the darkness overcomes him.
Lucifer tilts his head at the unconscious body. He waves a hand and the ropes fall off Dean’s body. He picks him up to carry him to his chambers. The time he let the others rule hell in his stead were over, and he hopes it’s not too late to change the way the world will happen.