The iron door creaks on its rusted hinges. Judging by the stream of muttered obscenities Sam is greeted by, it’s definitely not Dean or Bobby. He’s up off the bed and at the threshold before Ruby can pull the door all the way open. The skin on her hands is cracked and smoking and there is panic in her eyes when she sees Sam.
“Oh my god! Ruby, your hands–“
Sam reaches out to grab her hands but she pulls them back, giving him a reproachful look. He realizes he’d been trying to pull her into the room and nods a silent apology.
“Is this why you didn’t come back?” She looks around the room with undisguised disgust.
“Yeah. They’ve kept me locked in here for a week now after I tried to explain about Lucifer.”
Sam makes no attempt to hide the bitterness in his voice. After his arguments with Dean, Sam had been more or less isolated. His repeated attempts to explain had been met with the cold shoulder, and what warmth there had been when they welcomed him home had cooled. Left alone with no company but his own thoughts and Lucifer’s ring, he spent his days wishing himself back to a room with a view of the forest, and cool hands, and grace.
“Explain what?” Ruby demands as she rubs her palms on the thighs of her jeans.
“That’s he’s not so bad,” Sam says, fondness evident in his voice. “That’s he just misunderstood, and that he can be compassionate and…” Sam lets the sentence trail off as he takes in the stricken expression on her face. “What happened?”
“Why did you leave?” She demands.
“Meg lied to me!” Sam spits out. “She told me Dean was dying. I didn’t think, I just-“
There is a creak in the floorboards upstairs. Ruby holds a finger to her lips even as Sam stops speaking, his eyes turned towards the ceiling. Sam just rolls his eyes.
“They’re not due down here for at least another couple hours. Don’t worry.” He gives Ruby a smile, but she doesn’t look any more relaxed.
“Okay,” she whispers, “fun reunion and all, but we gotta go, now. You have to come back with me.” Ruby motions with her hands and Sam steps out into the basement. He pushes the door shut carefully and locks it while Ruby watches the stairs. “Is there another way out of here?”
Sam checks his watch. “Give it a minute.”
As if on cue, the door closes and they both breathe out as the Impala roars to life, then rolls out of the driveway and fades into the distance. “Dean’s going out to buy food. Bobby’s probably got his nose buried in a book. If he didn’t notice you on the way in then he won’t notice us on the way out.”
They climb the stairs quietly. Sam shoots Ruby a look when she draws her knife out of its sheath, but she just gives him a one-shouldered shrug.
They move quickly to the door and run through the lot as soon as they’ve gotten clear of the house. Snow lies in deep drifts that bury cars, but the night sky is perfectly clear. Ruby’s car is half-hidden behind a copse of trees at the side of the road. The only telltale sign is the exhaust.
“You left it running?” Sam slides into the passenger seat, swearing under his breath as his knees bang against the dashboard in the tiny hatchback. He feels a pang of regret for sneaking out without telling anyone, but there would have been no way to convince them. The look on Ruby’s face told him that there was no time for long explanations, and Ruby had put herself in enough danger breaking into the house at all.
Ruby climbs into the driver’s seat and slams her door shut. She immediately throws the car into reverse and backs quickly out onto the road.
“Did you hotwire a car to come rescue me?”
“Are you impressed?” she asks, her mouth curling into a half-smile.
“I didn’t think you knew how to drive. I figured you just, y’know, zapped yourself wherever.”
“I do,” she says, glancing away from the road, “but I can’t take you with me. And besides,” she adds with a smirk, “how hard can it be to drive a car? It’s an automatic.”
Sam laughs to himself, then reaches out to turn on the heater.
“Here.” Ruby reaches into the inside of her jacket and pulls out a s silver flask. “You’re probably over the worst of it, but I thought I’d bring some anyway.”
Sam takes the flask and unscrews the cap, sniffing the contents.
“Demon blood? You brought me blood?”
“You’re going to need it, Sam. You need that, and he needs you. Now drink up.”
Ruby doesn’t look at him while she speaks, but her tone tells him that there will be no arguing, so he brings the flask to his lips and drinks.
The blood is thick and horribly cool, but it does its work quickly nonetheless. Sam feels strength spreading out into his limbs until he feels more powerful and alive than he has all week. His vision seems to stretch, and he feels as if he can will the car forward faster with just his mind.
What he can’t feel anywhere is Lucifer, and that frightens him. He thinks he should be able to tell, to see his angel even at this distance, and when he can’t he doesn’t know which of his shortcomings to blame it on. Something terrible has happened while he was away, and it is all Sam’s fault.
They drive in uncomfortable, weighted silence. Sam’s leg shakes with nervous energy. He watches the scenery fly past into the night and Ruby’s eyes never leave the road. Any exhilaration he might feel at the thought of seeing Lucifer again is tempered by Ruby’s obvious concern and fear, which only brings his own back to the surface. It’s been days since the weather has been anything but calm and clear, and Sam isn’t sure that’s a good sign.
“What happened?” Sam finally asks as Ruby maneuvers the car along the twisting two-lane road towards the house. “Why did Meg lie to me?”
“Lucifer sees us as daughters, or sisters. I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you, Sam, and when Meg saw it, she couldn’t take it.”
Sam pulls the ring out of his pocket and rolls it between his fingers. When Lucifer had given it to him it had been ice cold and there’d been the same trace of power that he’d felt when Lucifer kissed him. Now there’s almost nothing. Sam had hoped that he would feel more when he was out of the safe house, but even now that they’re on the road Sam can’t feel it. He feels the dark, pulsing power that he knows comes from the blood, but the shining light of Lucifer’s grace is significant in its absence.
“How is he?” Sam ventures, his voice loud in the silence inside the car.
Ruby stares straight ahead and doesn’t answer, but a muscle jumps in her jaw. Sam watches her and waits, but she just sucks at her teeth and glances down towards the instrument panel. Her knuckles whiten on the steering wheel and Sam shifts in his seat, suddenly much more concerned.
Her eyes cut to the side and Sam blows a frustrated breath out through his nose.
“What?” she snaps.
“Ruby, is Lucifer dying?” Sam asks. “Ruby!”
“I don’t know, Sam! Okay?” She looks over quickly at him, tears forming at the corner of her eyes. She pulls the car off to the side of the road and keeps talking as she slams the door and rushes towards the woods with Sam close behind her. “I don’t know. What happens to an angel when it doesn’t have a vessel anymore?”
They move quickly through the forest towards the house. Ruby steps surefootedly but pulls a penlight out of her pocket anyway. The tiny beam does little good. The path is better worn and the last few days have been calm so the path is dark but clear, edged by deep piles of snow. Sam can feel himself searching, trying to reach out and feel for Lucifer’s grace, but there is nothing there to meet him. Branches rasp at his clothes and the wet ground squelches under his boots. A sense of foreboding wells up inside him with every step.
The house comes into view and Sam breaks into a run, pushing past Ruby. There are no lights on in any of the windows. The house looks all but deserted, and when he stops running it goes eerily quiet. Even in the darkness he can see that the roses that had flourished when he left are now wilting and dying. He stops in the middle of the garden. He runs a hand over a flower and it crumples under his touch. Sam doesn’t know if he was expecting to feel something when he touched them, but there was nothing, and his fear increases. This is not a good sign. Lucifer had said the roses thrived because of love. If Lucifer’s heart was broken, would the roses reflect that, too?
“Sam, come on!”
He leaves the bushes and runs to the door that Ruby is holding open for him. They hurry up the stairs through the darkened building, their footsteps thumping up the steps before being swallowed when they land on the carpet.
“I still don’t understand. Was Meg jealous?” Sam turns left at the top of the stairs but Ruby waves for him to follow her to the right, up the next set of stairs to Sam’s room.
“She was scared. If Lucifer took you as his vessel, he wouldn’t need us anymore. She was afraid you were going to say yes, so she had to get you out of here and convince Lucifer you weren’t coming back. She told him you hated him, were disgusted by him.”
Sam stops dead on the stairs. Of all the nightmare scenarios he had dreamed up during his time in the panic room, this had not been among them. The idea that Lucifer had believed what Meg told him is awful, but that it led him to giving up completely only serves to add more guilt to his fear.
“I don’t hate him! I wanted to come back. Oh, god,” he sighs, realization dawning on his face.
“What?” she asks.
“That’s why he gave me this,” Sam says, holding up his hand to show her the ring. He’s had it squeezed tight in his fist ever since they left the car, hoping for it to give some sign, for him to feel something. “He didn’t expect me to come back. He wanted me to remember him.”
Sam’s heart is in his throat when they stop at the top of the stairs. The door to Sam’s room stands slightly open, hanging at an awkward angle on its hinges.
“Sam,” Ruby starts. Her voice is shaking. Sam wants to tell her that it will be all right now, but he’s too afraid of being wrong, and he can’t be. Not now. Not about this.
“He wanted you to be happy,” she continues.”He wanted that so badly that he sacrificed his own happiness for you.” She stops Sam when he reaches for the doorknob. The wood is splintered around it from where it’s been broken. “He hasn’t come out since you left.”
“Lucifer, please.” They hear Meg begging as Sam slowly pushes the door open. “You never needed him. Let me help you. I love you, we can do this together. But you need this.”
The room is unchanged, but Sam can feel the difference as soon as he steps in. The palpable energy that Sam has come to associate with Lucifer is missing and the room seems to gape, empty without it. His soul is reaching out, but there is nothing there to meet it, and without the support he’s longed for, it’s now all he can do stay standing.
Meg is kneeling beside the bed, and bile rises in Sam’s throat when he sees her. He wants to unmake her, to erase every effect that she has had on their lives since he was brought to this house.
The snowy landscape outside the windows reflects the moonlight back into the room, giving it an unearthly blue glow. All the glass is frosted over, and their comes out in puffs around their faces. Sam’s not sure whether it’s colder outside or here in his room.
When Sam gets closer he can see that Meg is bleeding heavily from one arm, left lying wrist-up on the bed near Lucifer’s head. “Please,” she whispers hoarsely.
Sam’s hands ball into fists at his sides and his vision darkens. The smell of Meg’s blood is everywhere in the room. Sam’s craving is strong, and it is only his fury with Meg that keeps him from succumbing to it. He will not give in and drink her blood, even as he imagines it dripping from his fingers when he rips her throat out for doing this to Lucifer.
“Meg.” Ruby pushes past Sam, shaking him out of his thoughts. She reaches down and pulls Meg to her feet. Meg leans heavily against her but reaches back towards Lucifer. There is an unfamiliar three-sided silver blade hanging limply in her hand.
“He needs it, Ruby. He’s dying.” Meg struggles weakly as Ruby moves her away from the bed. “No,” she whines when she sees Sam standing by the door, “not him. No.”
Sam staggers forward into the room. All his rage rushes out of him like wind when he sees Lucifer.
“Sam…?” Lucifer’s voice is weak but incredulous, and he struggles to smile when he sees Sam coming towards him. Sam sinks down onto the bed beside him, reminding himself to breathe. Lucifer is on his side, curled in on himself. “I thought-“
He stops speaking when he sees Sam staring. Lucifer tries to bring a hand up to hide his face but Sam pushes it away as he takes in the sight before him. The sores that had marked his face have turned to eyes, some black and shining, others milky white and sightless. There are six bleeding wounds along his back. His breathing is shallow and labored and his lips are smeared with blood. Sam can’t tell if it’s Meg’s or Lucifer’s own.
There was a time when Sam felt horror at the very idea of touching Lucifer, but now he wants nothing more than to take him in his arms and heal him. He would give him whatever he can in order to restore him. Lucifer is dying because Sam left him and he can think of only one way to fix it.
“What?” Sam breathes, reaching out to touch Lucifer. “Your face.”
“My true form,” Lucifer replies, shying away from Sam’s touch.
“I’m so sorry,” Sam says, his eyes still flitting over Lucifer’s body, taking in all the damage. “I’ll explain later, I promise, but first...”
Sam takes a deep breath and nods to himself. It’s a step he never thought he’d take, but now that he’s sure it comes with a certain sense of relief. It’s not that he’s not scared, but he won’t lose Lucifer, and this is the only way left. Not after everything it took to bring them together. “First we gotta get you into a new body.”
There is a roar of fury behind them. Sam turns to look and sees Meg rushing forward, Lucifer’s blade held high in her hand. Ruby runs after her, tackling her around the waist and driving them both to the ground. The blade falls out of Meg’s hand and rolls away as Ruby pins Meg to the floor. Meg turns her head to look at Lucifer, but Sam is still half-covering his body where he’d leaned over to protect him from Meg.
“Don’t listen to him!” Meg shrieks. Her boots scrabble on the floor as she struggles to get out from under Ruby. “He left you!”
“Because you lied to me!” Sam shouts back over his shoulder, his anger boiling over at Meg’s accusations. “I would never have left if I hadn’t thought Dean was dying!” Tears catch on Sam’s lashes as he screams at her, but Lucifer’s eyes never leave Sam’s face.
Ruby buries her knife unceremoniously in Meg’s chest and the light leaves Meg’s eyes.
“Never?” Lucifer whispers, one hand curling around Sam’s wrist. He’s weak and so very cold. His grace barely prickles over Sam’s skin but Sam can feel how his soul responds, and he lets his eyes fall closed, only for a moment. Hot tears roll down his cheeks and he pulls in a shaky breath.
“She can’t save him, Sam. You’re the one, you’ve always been the only one who could save him,” Ruby says, her voice breaking. “Please.”
“I don’t know how to do this, Lucifer,” Sam whispers roughly. “You have to stay with me so you can help me.”
Sam holds one hand above Lucifer’s body, looking for somewhere undamaged that he can touch him. He settles for twining their fingers together.
“You came back. I thought you ran away.” Lucifer pants with exertion. When he coughs blood spatters the sheets under his mouth.
“They wouldn’t let me leave when I got there. All I wanted was to come back, I swear. You gave me my freedom and they took it away again. They wouldn’t listen to me.” Sam babbles faster and faster as he watches Lucifer fade right in front of him. He needs to get Lucifer out of his vessel quickly, but he doesn’t know how, and even as he talks he knows he’s running out of time.
“I would have given you anything,” Lucifer whispers. His voice is thick and wet. He smiles weakly up at Sam and Sam chokes back a sob.
“I know that now. But, me first, I guess.” He squares his shoulders and looks down at Lucifer with a pained expression. “Yes, Lucifer.”
“You can’t stay in this vessel.” Sam reaches back away from the bed blindly. “Ruby, gimme your knife.”
Lucifer looks at his hands blearily and frowns. “No, Sam,” he says dismissively.
“Come on. It’ll be okay.”
“You’re gonna need more blood,” Ruby says. She’s standing next to him, looking back and forth from Lucifer to Sam and back. She sits down next to Sam on the bed and draws the blade of her knife across the inside of her forearm, then extends it out in front of him.
Ruby hands over her knife and Sam sets it on the bed next to him. She watches him with uncertainty as he looks down at her arm.
“Just, uhh, don’t take it all, okay?” She laughs, but it comes out flat and wrong. “You need it to take Lucifer in.”
“No, Sam,” Lucifer whines. He tries to lift his arm to stop him, but he makes it no further than Sam’s thigh.
“I won’t lose you again.” Sam covers Lucifer’s hand with his own and uses the other to hold Ruby’s arm steady.
He doesn’t know how much he drinks. His vision darkens, so he closes his eyes, and when Lucifer begs him to stop, he just squeezes his hand. He’s let Lucifer down time and time again, but now he can finally make it right. He can give Lucifer this one last thing, and then they never have to be apart again.
He drinks until he can feel it moving through his body, pulses of power that roll in time with his heartbeat. He’s jacked up and overstimulated. He thinks he could rip reality in two, but that’s not what he wants. He wants to bring together, not tear apart.
Sam straightens and Ruby’s arm falls down into her lap. There are shadows under her eyes. She sways for a moment, and Sam reaches out to steady her, then eases her down onto the bed near Lucifer’s feet. He can only hope he didn’t take too much.
He unbuttons his shirt and pulls down the collar of his t-shirt to reveal his anti-possession tattoo. Taking the knife in his other hand, he draws the tip over the tattoo, cutting a line straight through it. Blood beads along the cut, spilling down over his chest when he presses the knife to his skin again. He makes another cut in his skin perpendicular to the first one, then lets the knife clatter to the floor.
“Lucifer, is there anything else?”
Lucifer sighs and clears his throat, but doesn’t answer.
“Let me do this for you.” Sam is breathing hard but his voice is steady.
“Why?” Lucifer asks, staring at the ruined tattoo.
Sam lets go of the collar of his shirt and reaches down to set a hand on Lucifer’s jaw. “Because I can, and I want to.”
“Luckily I get to be the one who makes the last call here, and I’m not going,” Lucifer says. Even in his weakness he is still resolute, but this time Sam is stronger.
“Don’t leave me,” Sam begs.
Lucifer’s eyes slip closed and he goes impossibly still.
Sam lifts Lucifer’s hand and presses it to his chest over the tattoo. “Come on. Move. I said yes, dammit.” He leans forward and presses his lips to Lucifer’s. They are cool and damp, but unanswering. “I love you,” he whispers against Lucifer’s mouth.