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"Uh... Luce? We got one for you." Framed in the doorway of the filthy kennel, Jo twists her hands together. Lucifer's outside the door in the swirling red-blue lights, taking a breather from the stink of piss, feces, and fear. With a sigh he follows her back inside. From the far end of the kennel comes a faint orange glow. "I'll go get a crate ready," Jo says. "It's just the one."

The Hellhound's face is split open ear to jowl, one eye dangling out its socket. Lucifer keeps his flashlight low, tries to find the solid form beneath the protective layers of smoke. Long black fur lies patchy and mangy, scattered across too-sharp ribs. Lucifer didn't even know Hellhounds could get mange. A pathetic growl sounds from the limp body, and Lucifer can see the glint of teeth.

It's been hard on everyone since the gates of Hell were closed.

Lucifer just sits down in front of the cage and waits. There's a piece of jerky in his pocket, and he slips it out and lays it on the floor between them. It takes about ten minutes for the dog to crawl forward and snatch it. Almost immediately he's cringing back against the wall of the cage. Lucifer turns his head, avoiding eye contact. "Good boy," he whispers.

A hollow thumping sound replies.

"Really, you're gonna wag your tail? What are you, a real dog?"

Out of the corner of his eye he sees sparks fly from the skinny, scabbed-over tail. In the front yard the owner is being led away in cuffs, but if Lucifer had his way he'd be slaughtered. He'd chop the guy in pieces, maybe, tie each limb to posts around town with photos of his crimes against animals pinned to the flesh. That could fly in Hell, maybe, but if Lucifer went to prison for the rest of his immortal life it'd take him away from the dogs.

Punishing evil isn't his job anymore. This is where he needs to be. It was never about his parole officer or his Human Service requirements. It's all for the dogs. Lucifer will find his own way merging in with human society, adjusting to life on the Earthly plane, but the Hellhounds are the only thing that truly need him anymore.

There's no place for Hellhounds among human dogs, but they're big on the gambling circuit. Everyone knows Hellhounds are violent, after spending millennia dragging souls down to Hell. They're only good for fighting, for caged fights where blood and magic fly like circuit arcs and money is passed around. Hellhounds are better than pitbulls because they don't die. Stick them in a cage for a while, wait for them to heal, and then throw them back into the fray again. Shit, you don't even need to wait for them to heal. Throw in two wounded dogs, watch them stagger around, kick and prod them until they fight.

Lucifer has seen enough of the dogfighting community to know that his Father should've let him destroy all human life.

On the other hand, there's the staff of the pitbull rescue. All of the people who buy t-shirt and window decals and bumper stickers to support them. The volunteers who walk the dogs on the weekends, the vet techs who volunteer their time. The quiet acceptance of Hellhounds as just another dog that deserves a good life, even if the humans don't know anything about them. Even if they're frankly a little terrified.

It's the same lesson being crammed down his throat for the past ten years. Ever since the Apocalypse failed to happen yet again. There's no side to choose, only the middle ground.

Something nudges at Lucifer's thigh. The Hellhound is ducking it's head, cowering, but it's looking up at Lucifer expectantly.

"Are you a good dog?" Lucifer asks.

The Hellhound whimpers, and Lucifer cautiously holds out a hand for it to sniff. When the dog - Hellhound - dog allows him to scratch under its chin, his eyes start to sting. Speaking softly, he coaxes the dog into a  flame-retardant collar printed with various sealing sigils. It’s cringing, but it follows him outside the kennel.

All around the staff of the rescue is leashing, muzzling, leading frightened animals into crates. Jo brings the crate, freshly painted with devil's traps. She's still a little wary of the Hellhounds, but she coos comforting inanity at the Hellhound all the same before securing it in the crate. Lucifer rides in the first van with her, the Hellhound, and six other dogs too terrified to even whimper. It reeks of piss and ash and burned feces, but Jo, bless her, doesn't even wrinkle her nose.

"You know him?" Jo asks. "Or her? Or whatever Hellhounds are, I don't even know."

"Possibly." Twisting in the seat, Lucifer waves a hand at the Hellhound. Two red glowing eyes blink from the rear of the van. "It seems pretty old. Well trained, too. Growley?"

The Hellhound raises its head. Got it in one.

Jo raises her eyes to the rearview. "Aw. He likes you."

"He recognizes the presence of his former King."

"Weird. So, um -" Jo says, and for the first time she looks uncomfortable - "we're gonna be pretty busy getting all these guys in, but -"

"I got it."

"Sam's here tonight."

As if that means anything to Lucifer. He can do without Jo's knowing look, the little sigh when she turns her attention back to the road.

The "special" hospital for the Hellhounds is a temporary trailer still jacked up on wheels. Much better than the old Quonset that burned down the first time Sam tried to give a Hellhound a miticidal bath. Before he hauls up the crate, Lucifer takes a moment to fix one of the sigils painted on the sides. All he has is the Sharpie in the pocket but it'll do to cover the scratches in the Enochian.

Inside, Sam is already setting up his table. Sam's got a way with the Hellhounds too, but Lucifer would rather not think about that. There might have been a world somewhere where Sam sat on the Throne, Hellhounds and demons alike lapping at his heels, but this sure isn't it.

"I swear, the longer Hellhounds spend on Earth the more like regular dogs they get," Sam laughs. His hands are massive in their fireproof gloves, spanning Growley's bony hips. "Can you hold his head for me?"

Growley looks too terrified to be any danger, but Lucifer knows better than to think a dog in his situation will do anything predictable, especially when getting a cold thermometer in the anus. Growley trembles under his hands, hips sinking and the tail still wagging so frantically Sam can't insert the thermometer. "Little help here, Luce?" Sam asks, meeting Lucifer's eyes, and Lucifer doesn't even think twice before getting up in Sam's space, wrapping the dog in his arms.

The staff here is kind, but they still have trouble looking Lucifer in the eyes. He gets it. Former king of Hell and all that. All of the rehab and the clean driving record aside, he’s still what he is, But Sam has the calmest aura Lucifer has ever seen. It's hard not to relax around him.

Growley's temperature is normal. Lucifer stays hovered over him, watching Sam feel his ribcage. A few sparks scorch his gloves a bit, but Sam keeps a damp cloth and a fire extinguisher handy at all times.

"Ah, fuck," Sam says. Somehow a wound's opened, lava spilling onto the worktable. The tattoos on Lucifer's arms prevent him from doing any magic, but he's taught Sam a few spells. Enochian rolls off the human's tongue easily, sealing the Hellhound's essence. The wound still gapes, flesh overlaid the embers. Sam keeps speaking, and the sigils on the collar briefly light when they activate.

It never fails to stun Lucifer how quickly the humans adapted to magic. Sam stitches the wound with heat-resistant silicone thread, and finishes the examination deftly.

"Should I be able to see this many embers?" Sam asks. "I mean, his flesh is pretty thick. I'd say he's been corporeal for the past five, six years?"

"His hair is falling out," Lucifer observes.

"Look at these scabs." Sam pulls a tuft of black hair, and it falls away in a scab. "I wish we could get it tested, but I say we just dip him. Except I don't know how."

"Don't we have some Kennel Dip?"

"Yeah, but..." Careful not to use his gloved hand, Sam swipes at his forehead with his wrist. A piece of hair is falling from his ponytail. "I'm worried about chemical reactions. The permethrin will just shock him. Lime sulfur sounds like a safe bet, but could that be, like, too much sulfur? I mean, that shit used to be used as some kind of early napalm. We could burn this whole place down, not to mention Growley."

"He's got enough dog in there to keep the mites alive, right? Let's just get some quicklime. Or bleach."

"Bleach? Dude."

"There's some in the cleaning closet, isn't there?"

"That shit doesn’t work that well. I'll pick up some quicklime and neem oil from the hardware store tomorrow. We'll keep him isolated for now, it'll be fine. Now in the meantime, we gotta drain that abscess." Sam swallows, looking at the pulsing, glowing mass on the Hellhound's rear leg.

The fire extinguisher seems a bit too extreme to spray on a dog, but Lucifer gives the trigger a quick pull when Sam pierces the skin with a red-hot needle. The fire is quick and massive, and even once it subsides pus-streaked lava overflows, all over the examination table, the pan, the floor, molting Sam's glove. At one point Sam has to run from the trailer, coughing. Growley stands patient and shivering throughout the ordeal until the flames are down for good, only a thin black columns of smoke still steaming.

"Good boy," Lucifer tells the shivering dog. "See? That was easy." He fans the trailer door a couple of times. Next thing they need in here is a few good fans.

"Scratch what I said," Sam says, strained. "Hellhounds are nothing like working with real dogs."

The thing about Hellhounds is that - technically and legally - they aren't real animals. Most veterinary practices won't operate on them. A few will volunteer, or donate supplies, but the truth is they're kind of working outside science here. Research on Hellhounds has been sporadic. In the wake of angels and demons, no one really cared much about their pets.

Times are starting to change. Times will change. Lucifer has witnessed six billion years of change, and there's no reason for him to be agitated or worry about the future. It was five years after the failed Apocalypse before studies on the components of both angelic grace and demonic fire began. Humans have so much to learn, and so few resources. Even Lucifer isn't quite sure how to explain Hellhounds. At first they were creatures of smoke and fire, but.

He runs a hand through the fur at the Hellhound's nape, notes a few gray hairs. Growley was one of Crowley's favorites, once.

Lucifer killed Crowley ten years ago, back when the Apocalypse was still a thing.

Not for very long. First Heaven and Hell were emptied and destroyed, then Lucifer’s Grace was taken, then his very essence soldered to his vessel, and then God had just smiled and touched his new head.

"You're gonna do just fine here, kid," he'd said. "This is your second chance."

Then he'd fucked off to another galaxy.

Just like that.

The humans had adjusted. They passed sweeping legislation. Built shelters and prisons inlaid with demon traps and Enochian warding. Made porngraphy featuring feathery fake wings and little red glittering pitchforks. It's been ten years since the end of Heaven and Hell, and there was that whole hurricane and an Ebola crisis and viral memes on the internet and television series about 'ghostbusting' and the cronut and North Korea's leaders kicking up a fuss again, claiming they had Real Demons on lockdown and ready to destroy the world, and everyone laughed because they all knew that demons and angels and even the Devil himself were nothing to fear anymore.

Sometimes he wonders if he should've gone through that protection program of offered from the federal government. A reward for good behavior, successful completion of rehab, community service. New name, new identity, legal papers and a Social Security number.  

It could've been nice. It was also completely pointless. His vessel's face had already been blasted on every television screen. Lucifer could've been some Charles Manson-type celebrity, some fascinating freak for the talk shows, if he'd chosen a more arduous route. Leaving rehab and taking whatever scraps the government gave him wasn't exactly hiding. But it was quiet. He still gets his monthly check, his housing vouchers. The humans feel a lot safer with a sedate and stable King of Hell than a homeless, desperate one. It's sort of a cage, but at least no one's telling him what to do.

Ten years later, he rides public transportation and no one blinks. Sometimes he'll get a look, a glance, a chewed lip from across the room. Puriel works at a nearby grocery store. Like most angels, she looks away and Lucifer avoids her line. Adramalech has a dachshund that he takes to the same dog park Lucifer frequents. Not that he's ever said anything to the demon, even when Rosie sniffs his ankles.

The world moves on, as it does.

Sam was seventeen when the Apocalypse failed to happen. He saw the view from the helicopters over the smoking cemetery when Lucifer raised Death. Ten years later, Sam hands Lucifer a bottle of antibiotics.

"- the other dogs, you know how they get around the Hounds. All of the kennels are full, so..." Sam's been speaking this whole time.

Lucifer sighs, looks down at Growley. "I've got it."

"Rosie will be ok?"

"Rosie's used to it."

 

 

Rosie gives him watery, heartbroken eyes when he brings the crate inside. He leaves Growley in the laundry room with a yellow blanket, a bowl of water, and a quarter-can of soft food should the dog care to eat. Probably a long shot considering Lucifer doesn't have any essence of soul or infant's blood or angelic Grace or anything. He turns on a fan to provide soothing white noise, shuts off the lights, closes the door, and then gives Rosie her dinner.

As far as community service options, the pitbull rescue seemed better than working with humans. That was all there was to it. But somehow a three-legged pitbull had ended up in his house. Started sleeping on the bed he rarely uses anyways. Five years later he can't imagine living in this house without the backbeat of claws ticking across wood floors. Rosie is only six years old; she wasn't around during the Apocalypse, but she's been through Hell in her own way. He had never seen a dog more scared than her - too fearful around the other dogs, so it was only natural that Lucifer would foster her. And then it was only natural, since they got along so well, that he would give up on trying to find an adopter and just let her stay. She paws at Lucifer's shoe, ducking her head to give it a sniff, then cocks her ears at her bowl.

"It's okay, Rosie. Eat your dinner."

She sits back, whines. Lucifer sighs and crouches to scratch her behind the ears. Of course she can smell the new Hellhound. But a proper introduction will have to wait until Growley is up to it. For now he takes her to the bathroom, lets her sniff underneath the door but not bark. She must be able to smell his fear and terror, because she backs off and quietly goes to her bowl. It's not the first dog Lucifer has fostered since taking in Rosie, and certainly not the first Hellhound, but normally they get a bit of a meeting in the yard. As Rosie snuffs at her bowl, he considers that maybe he shouldn't have given Growley antibiotics before feeding him. He doesn't even know if the dog will even eat. Yet the bottle instructed him to give the pills with food.

Musing over his phone, he finally sends a text to Sam. It's just a small flip-phone, but Lucifer's fingers still are clumsy on the keys.

Sam's phone always looks too small in his hands. Lucifer can see him in his mind's eye - still at the rescue, checking on the kennels, making sure all is well before he turns out the lights.

i can come over in the morning if you like , Sam sends.

You must be tired, Lucifer sends back. just tell me what to do. I dont know if he should've had those pills.

they won't hurt him. better safe than sorry. did he puke?

not yet

i'll come by during my lunch break tomorrow. how bout that?

not necessary

yeah, it is. i'd like to check on the guy myself, see hows he settling. take some notes.

Whenever any formal research gets done on Hellhounds, Sam should be at the head of the team. Ever since the first Hellhound turned up at the rescue he's been keeping journals. Not that Sam wants to be a scientist - he just wants to help the hounds, wants to know. Lucifer has peeked at his books before. The attention to detail struck him as a naive at first. Typical human behavior, thinking the spiritual could be reduced to the physical. Now Lucifer reads over his journals whenever he can, even if Sam's loose scrawls are difficult to read.

Sam has known the code to the padlock on Lucifer's gate for a few months now. The smell of fresh bread emanates from his satchel. At Lucifer's questioning look, he pulls out a brown paper sack. "Breakfast?" he offers. "Dean made corn muffins."

"I don't eat."

"Don't you ever wanna try?"

Lucifer frowns at the paper bag. Sam pulls out a golden muffin, warm and enticing from the human perspective. On an empirical level Lucifer knows he has a digestive system now. But he sold the fridge in his house years ago, his landlord be damned. "No. Thank you."

"Suit yourself," Sam shrugs. "Got some donations from the practice. Antibiotics, couple anthelmintics, and some Rimadyl. It's nothing you guys haven't had before, but I printed off some more info sheets for you guys. Just in case." There's a stack of manila folders tucked in the satchel as well as a plastic bag of syringes, each individually wrapped and sterile.

The smell of corn muffins tingles Lucifer's stomach. Not that he's hungry. His hands tremble when he pours a glass of water.

Water is good. He drinks it sometimes. Not that he gets thirsty.

Lucifer frowns at the cup in his hands. Leaning against the counter, Samn bites his lip.

It's just water.

After two sips, he pours the rest in Rosie's bowl.

"So?" Sam is speaking. Sam has been speaking. Twitching, Lucifer blinks up at him. Right.

“This way. Keep quiet, don’t make sudden movements - you know the drill.”

Lucifer leads him back to the laundry room, knocks to give the Hellhound some warning before opening the door. Growley is exactly where he left him, curled in the blanket. The food is untouched but the water in the bowl is perhaps an inch lower. Growley's tail thumps underneath the blanket. Almost like a real dog but for the overwhelming stench of sulfur and burned flesh. Sam falls down before Growley, knees hitting the ground.

"Hey, buddy,” Sam croons. "You a good boy? You being a good boy for Luci here?"

Lucifer is never quite sure what to make of Sam's nickname for him. But he doesn't care enough to protest.

Growley still cowers, but he wags his tail. Lets Sam open his jaws, feel his abdomen, scratch the back of his ears. Sam can't stay too long - there's a veterinary reception desk waiting - but he takes the time to scribble in his journal, try to get Growley to eat a smudge of wet food from his fingers.

"I'd like to see what you've got," Lucifer says, suddenly shy when they're back at the front door.

"Tell you what. Let's do lunch. Tomorrow?"

"I’m not doing any lunch."

"Whatever, just watch me eat and whine about it."

"I won’t be whining; I’ll be reading your notes."

"Yeah, yeah." Sam waves, and bounds out the door. "I'll call you!" he shouts, just before getting in his car.

Lucifer watches him leave, already hating himself for letting Sam suck him in again. The human's too good at this. First there was the fossil museum, where the sight of the ancient sloths that used to roam this land made Lucifer sit on a bench for two hours just to breathe. Then there was some specialty pet store Sam wanted to show him, where the human ended up spending sixty dollars on toys and chews for Rose. The dog park - they've been to the dog park way too many times.

Somehow, Lucifer manages to forget himself when he's out and about with Sam. Walking down the streets not worrying about who might recognize him. Having conversations about the weather. Drinking iced tea because according to Sam it's basically just water and he's going to get Lucifer something from Starbucks whether he thinks Lucifer wants it or not. Sometimes Lucifer even makes direct eye contact with Sam. Sometimes, he smiles..

That's not okay.

In all of those distant pasts that didn't actually happen, Sam kept telling him no. But Lucifer was always waiting for a yes.

It’ll never make sense.

This Sam isn't even his Sam. This Sam has never held a gun in his hands. There's no teeth-edged cavity of a soul here for Lucifer to posses.

Nothing about Lucifer's existence has ever made much sense.

After Sam leaves, Lucifer heads to Orchard Supply to pick up some lime. It takes about an hour to get Growley in the bathtub. Rosie runs away from the thick clouds of yellow that fill the bathroom, but somehow Lucifer gets the mange dip done. Before he can even snap a cone around Growley the dog is running back to the laundry room, cowering.

Growley is terrified of him.

Flopping back to the couch, Lucifer ignores the stench of rotting eggs. Maybe the next time Sam comes over, he won't want to linger.

 

 

Outside is bright, but Sam chooses the patio table. He orders a salad with grilled chicken on top and dressing on the side, and lemons for the water. Lucifer touches the flowers on the table and is pleased to see that they're real. Tulips, baby's breath, and daffodils - the colors of spring. While Sam pokes at his salad, Lucifer puts on his reading glasses.

"Those are new," Sam says around a mouthful of lettuce.

Lucifer touches the outer rims. "Ten dollars. Wal-Mart."

“Since when do you need glasses?”

“Since always.”

Nick never stood a chance. In any timeline, in any incarnation, the man was doomed for suicide. Every time Lucifer takes him it's the same body - forty-five years old, lungs stained with tar, a significant lack of dopamine. and eyes that squint to read. This time, Lucifer finally decided to do something about the eyes.

Most of the journal he's already read. Lucifer thumbs through until he hits a chart. Lengths of time on one half, symptons on the other. The first Hellhound the rescue picked up was a very young one, still a screeching creature of flame. These days, she resembles a large Labrador and lets the children in her forever home ride on her back. Sam has the timeline down, each instance of increasing doggyness. Every Hound has a chart, because every Hellhound different. Sam's theory is that the more time they spend among humans and other dogs the more they twist. It isn't Earth itself that's doing them, it's the connections they form.

Well, Lucifer calls it taint. Sam calls it connections .

From Growley's twisted form, it's evident that the time he spent among dogs hasn't been... healthy. But Sam thinks there was something before. Someone who loved him. The paws, the tail wagging - it doesn't add up with the other Hounds.

"It could've been whoever trained him to fight," Lucifer muses.

"Hmm?" Sam looks up with a piece of chicken halfway to his mouth. "Oh, that. I mean, that's what dogs do. They love their abusers. But, I dunno. It's like he knows that things can be good. Look at how readily he accepted you."

"Of course they accept me. I was the King of Hell. Maybe it was Crowley. He was always close to the Hellhounds."

"How would that have changed Growley, though? That was all in Hell."

"Crowley loved his hounds. In his own way."

Sam raises his eyebrows, shoves the chicken in his mouth. Lucifer lowers his glasses, the better to watch him chew and swallow. "So you're saying it wasn't love of humanity that affects him, but... just love? The power of love?"

Lucifer gnaws his lip. "Love is not power. It's biochemicals and affectations of emotion."

"That's not what humans believe."

"Many of them do."

Sam laughs. "Maybe, but there's a reason why we make all those movies. But I guess you've never seen one."

"I've seen movies. In rehab. We watched films that were supposed to teach us about the human world and healthy coping mechanisms, and then we had to sit on the chairs and talk about how they made us feel." Lucifer slips the glasses back up his nose, frowning down at Sam's loose sketches of Growley. Sam is capable of many things, but not art. "I hate movies."

"Dude, you watched training videos. Maybe one of these days you'll watch a real film," Sam says, and Lucifer shakes his head because he can already see the trap Sam is preparing.

"I am not going to a movie theater with you."

"That's why we have Netflix," Sam grins.

Lucifer still has a loose grasp of calendars, but apparently it's Sunday so Sam doesn't have a reason not to come back to Lucifer's house. Sam just chuckles at the stink of sulfur and suggests Lucifer do it outside next time.

"Do you know how many times I've had to dip an animal? Man, I've gone for weeks reeking of the stuff." Sam is too easy on the couch, long legs stretched across the floor.

“It stinks,” Lucifer says, and goes to the laundry room.

Growley is still sleeping, but the food has been licked at. It must be bad by now, though, so he takes the bowl to the kitchen to clean and refill it.

A soft clicking sound follows him.

"Don't turn around too quickly," Sam whispers, awed.

“What - oh.” Lucifer drops to a softer tone. “Hey, kid.”

The red coals of Growley's eyes have dimmed to a dull orange. A column of smoke issues from his nostrils, thin and wispy. Beneath the layers of smoke Lucifer can see the hard edges of bone. Growley cowers, wagging his tail furiously, but as soon as they make eye contact he cringes. Lucifer looks deliberately away, lowering himself to the ground. From her perch on the couch with Sam Rosie is watching, curious.

"Good girl, Rosie. Stay," Still ignoring Growley, Lucifer sets the bowl of food down between them. Growley chokes it down in seconds and promptly vomits. Yellow bile spills, dampening Lucifer's jeans.

Lucifer has seen starving dogs puke up their first bit of real food plenty of times. Too long without eating and their stomachs simply can't handle the food. This puke looks like it could've come from any other dog.

The floor isn't even scorched.

Risking another glance at Growley, Lucifer sees the shame in his eyes. He raises himself slowly, head still ducked, and puts a much smaller portion of food in the bowl. "You should drink some water first," he tells Growley. "That's a good boy. Good dog."

Growley bolts, claws slipping on the floor. Back to the laundry room. Lucifer gives him a moment before following. Setting down the food and fresh water just inside the doorway, he closes the door not quite all the way. In the kitchen Sam is already cleaning up the vomit and trying to keep Rosie from eating it.

"That was amazing," Sam says. "Uh, you should change your pants. I got this mess. Rosie, no. Rosie, no- give him space, Rosie."

"Rosie, leave Growley alone. Go to your bed. Go on, it's okay. Go to your bed."

Whimpering, Rosie goes to her dog bed. Rubbing his eyes, Lucifer goes to fetch a clean pair of sweatpants. As he throws his jeans in the hamper he realizes that setting Growley up in the laundry room might have been a mistake. He won't be able to do laundry for a long time. Not that Lucifer has ever particularly cared for clothes and cleanliness, but it's a whole thing with humans. After a moment's deliberation, he forgoes the sweatpants and settles down on the couch in just his boxers. Sam blinks at his legs, then shakes his head and smiles.

"So... did you find an appropriate film?"

"I don't know. I was looking at... I mean, romantic movies are generally full of shit, and I don't think you would like. Well. A lot of stuff. But you might enjoy this one." Sam presses play on the screen.

"It's a cartoon," Lucifer observes.

"Shh. Just watch."

There are other creatures on distant planets, but they certainly don't speak English. But it's a cartoon, so Lucifer keeps his mouth shut as the little blue alien crashes his ship on a Hawaiian island. He can't help but point out that pet adoption fees are a lot more than two dollars.

The alien - Stitch - was built to destroy. But he sucks in his antennae and plays human games with the human child and... falls in love?

How stupid.

When the credits roll, Lucifer stays frozen on the couch.

"Sooo..." Sam starts.

"I understand why you showed me this movie. Let me guess. I'm supposed to be Stitch. Real subtle, Winchester."

"What? No, man, Growley is Stitch."

"My bad levels are much higher."

"Whatever you say, man." Sam is shaking his head, as if Lucifer's the one being dumb.

"I thought Stitch adjusted to the human world too quickly. And it didn't make sense that he spoke English. Or was a carbon-based life form. This perception of outer space stinks of human arrogance."

"Dude. It's just a movie."

"I don't like movies."

"Worth a shot, though, right?"

Lucifer thinks of the alien watching the sisters hugging. The word family, ohana. His own family would leave him behind. His own family would leave him rotting in a cage for the rest of his life, waiting for him to destroy the world when he finally broke. But the alien got to stay with his family. The alien gets a second chance. There's a reason Sam thought to show him this, but the obvious is a little too much to acknowledge right now. Kind of a tacky move, really. "Worth a shot," he concedes.

"So, what would you have done different?" Taking his phone back from the table, Sam crosses his legs on the couch. "If you were making that movie, how would you have gone about it?"

"Stitch shouldn't have had to hide his extra legs and antennae. That's part of who he is. Why would he hide it in the first place? How could he possibly know Earth standards of beauty? And also, I would've cut out the aliens trying to catch him. They should've just let him go. Screw the mosquitos. And Nani shouldn't have had to leave her job just because of her sister causing problems. And the other kids should be nicer to Lilo. She's a little weird and she's sad, but that's just because her parents are dead. Those other brats should try to be more understanding."

"But all those conflicts make up the whole plot."

"I don't care about the plot. It wasn't about aliens or bullying or being hunted. It was about a monster who finds a family. That's all. All of the other stuff didn't matter."

Sam throws his head back on the couch and laughs. "Alright. Remind me not to show you any more movies. So.... what do you wanna do now?"

"What?" They've been hanging out almost all day. "I don't know. I was thinking I should go to the shelter and clean out the kennels."

"You go there every day."

"Dogs poop every day."

"Can't argue with that wisdom."

Jo is the only one at the shelter at the moment. They let themselves in with their own keys, haul around sacks of dog food with her. Lucifer knows that Jo attends the Winchester's barbecues. He's never been to one, despite repeated invites. So he gives them distance to laugh and joke around together, content to be the third wheel. Yet when Jo drops a joke about Sam's ridiculous schedule - something stupid about what's really in his ever-present coffee cups - she drops Lucifer a wink.

Lucifer freezes up. "He's gotta be mainlining amphetamines," he blurts out, blithely. "You know this guy goes for runs every morning? It’s ridiculous."

"Dude, you shut up. You're the one who doesn't sleep!" Sam's chuckling, shaking his head at them.

Jo widens her eyes. "You don't sleep? What do you do all night?"

"Ruminate."

That's not right. They were making fun of Sam, not Lucifer. His eyes dart nervously between the two, trying to gauge the situation. But Jo just shrugs and finishes locking the kennel door as if nothing awkward even happened. Humans really don't pick up on a lot of these social cues, for all their arrogance.

It's dusk by the time Sam drops Lucifer back at his house. He's still smiling over something Sam said. As they pull up to the darkened yard, Lucifer feels the familiar twist in his gut. Every time he sees his house, he feels it.

Not that he hates his house. He's grateful to have a place to live. He's grateful for the unemployment checks that allow him to buy food for Rosie and keep the lights on.

But Sam is leaving him here now, and he knows how empty and quiet that house can be. Even with the dogs.

These are not feelings Lucifer is allowed to have. None of today was anything Lucifer was supposed to have.

Fucking Sam Winchester.

Sam hands are resting on the steering wheel. There's an odd, almost tender look in his eyes.

"I wonder," Lucifer says, "if you'll ever be able to find a movie I like."

"Is that a challenge?"

"It's a discouragement."

"Protip? Don't ever tell a Winchester they can't do something."

Even in this world, the indomitable fighting spirit stays. Lucifer remembers that spirit. The shock when Sam showed he was just as powerful as Lucifer. When he cast him back into the Cage, time and time again. Lucifer shakes his head, and gets out of the car without looking back at him. The car idles for a moment, but Lucifer doesn't look back until he's safely inside and Sam has already pulled away.



 

Growley is still terrified of everything, but he's taken to clinging to Lucifer's side. Every time he turns around the Hellhound is there, glowing eyes hooded beneath smoke. A pair of jeans gets scorched when Lucifer trips over him, but he just feels guilty for scaring Growley.

Progress crawls along, as it does.

Rosie and him get along well, progressing from careful butt-sniffing to eating their meals together to hardly minding when Rosie shoves her bowl right up next to Growley's. When Lucifer finds them curled up together on the couch one day, something big and warm threatens to engulf him. With a few whispers and pats he gets himself squeezed in between them, arms full of dog. Growley scorches the couch cushions some, but his fur has grown in by now. It's thick and wiry, and while a Hellhound's fur has never been studied, Sam has a hundred ideas about its fireproof properties. Sam thinks a lot of lives could be saved by Hellhounds.

That's ridiculous.

Growley should be a creature of smoke and fire. Growley shouldn't be running into glass doors or eating kibble or chasing sticks. The only thing between his teeth should be a screaming human soul as he pulls it down to the pit.

Lucifer gets up off the couch, brushing dog hair off his stomach. Rosie whimpers but he ignores them both. He knows going for a walk without taking them along is borderline torture, but he just - needs a minute.

Working at the rescue is one thing, but when he clocks off he doesn't have to deal with it anymore. Buying food for a Hellhound, scooping up his poop, putting him on a leash - it's too much.

In the past few weeks, Lucifer has broken every single one of his water glasses.

Come three in the morning, he's slurping from his cupped hands at the kitchen sink. Lapping like a dog. Drinking like a human.

When he tells Sam he's ready to put Growley up for adoption, Sam takes it as some kind of personal offense. Once again Sam drops by during his lunch break. As if it's an emergency. "Are you serious? Growley - he seems to be doing great here. Do you think he's ready? You know how hard it is to get Hellhounds adopted."

"I can't keep a pet," Lucifer says. But Sam knows how to read between the lines. Sam takes a bite of his sandwich and the hot bacon smells so, so good.

"Don't be ridiculous," Sam laughs. "What's Rosie?"

"She's just a dog."

"No, but I mean, what is she to you? Where does she fit in here? I mean -" a hand swipes circles in the air - "what is she doing here with you, if she isn't your pet?"

"Just... hanging out," Lucifer shrugs. A smile twitches the corner of Sam's mouth. Frowning, Lucifer mulls over his answer. "She just lives here. This isn't my home."

"Alright. But why'd you take her in in the first place if this isn't your home?"

"Where else was she going to go? No one else wanted her."

"So if this place is good enough for Rosie, why isn't it good enough for Growley?"

Sam has a knack for asking the right questions. Lucifer pulls at his lip with his teeth. That's a nervous gesture humans do. He just happened to pick it up. Sprawled on the floor, the Hellhound looks too much like a dog.

"Look at him. He's a Hellhound to the core. I don't want him."

"You were the King of Hell."

"Were. Past tense, Sam. Hell isn't something I'm trying to do anymore, you know?" Crossing his arms, Lucifer taps his foot against the floor.

Sam's teeth dig into the sandwich audibly. A piece of lettuce slips out too far and Sam does some thing with his tongue to catch at it. It's disgusting.  "If you don't want a bite, then stop staring," Sam mumbles around the food.

Lucifer raises an eyebrow.

Sam swallows. He sets the sandwich on the counter and starts digging in Lucifer's cupboards for a plate. "Fine. I get it. I'll go check with the rescue tomorrow, get a crate ready."

Sam leaves the last half of his sandwich in the fridge. Long after Sam's gone. Lucifer unwraps it, takes just one bite.

Overwhelming.

Crusty, soft bread. The salty tang of the bacon, a smooth glide of mayonnaise and tomatoes. The lettuce is limp by now, cells dehydrated by the pull of salt. Before Lucifer knows it he's eaten the whole thing. Then he slides back on the kitchen floor till his back is resting against the cabinets, and Rosie comes over to lay her head on his lap.

Quietly, Growley comes up as well.  

None of this is okay, but as the sandwich settles in his stomach, Lucifer realizes he's still hungry.

The jerky is for the dogs, but he doesn't mind the taste. He shares pieces with the dogs. They leap and cock their heads at him, and once he's sated and back on the couch they throw themselves on him and almost immediately fall asleep. Lucifer tilts his head back against the couch and counts their snores.



 

Sam wedges the crate through the door first, stomping in after.

"Go on. Get him out of here,” Lucifer says. He might have fallen asleep on the couch last night, but he isn't quite sure. It was pretty boring.

"You're not going to come with me? Say goodbye?"

"Why? I'll just see him tomorrow when I go to the rescue anyways."

"Whatever. Come on, Growley. Here, boy." But Growley doesn't want to get off the couch. Lucifer stays silent as Sam coaxes, pats his thigh. "I know," Sam says, and goes to the fridge. Opens the fridge. Stops.

Sam doesn't even say a word about the missing sandwich, just grabs one of the jerky sticks. It gets both dogs off the couch, so he has to break off a little piece for Rosie before tossing the rest in the crate. As soon as Growley's in the crate Sam latches it shut and the Hellhound actually whimpers. Sam is stone-faced, but he's doing that thing. The huff, the hand brushing back his hair.

"You're upset,” Lucifer notes.

"Of course I - No. It's fine. It just wasn't working out. I just thought - you guys seemed like a good match."

"Look, Sam." Lucifer steps closer to Sam, peering at his face. Sam raises his chin. Always with that defiance. "This isn't any of your business."

"I know that," Sam snaps, then he's gone, shoving the crate in front of him.

Tires screech as he pulls away. Rosie looks abashed by the door, so Lucifer gives her another jerky stick. But she just gives him glum eyes and a sigh before flopping down on her side.

Sam will get over it. Maybe he won't. Maybe this will finally help Sam realize that he doesn't want anything to do with Lucifer ever again. It'd be a relief. For once Sam isn't bound to Lucifer, but the kid keeps chasing him anyways. This ought to do it.

At night, he cleans out the laundry room before flopping on the floor to watch Rosie sleep until the sun starts to rise.

Lucifer has been living amongst the humans, wearing their body, breathing their air. Perhaps he could catch an infection from one of them. So he can call in sick for today, maybe tomorrow. Jo is understanding enough over the phone.

He finds a television set, a VHS player, and twelve tapes at Goodwill. The tapes are only a quarter each - apparently this format is long outdated.

Before long, he has the entire dialogue of Lilo and Stitch memorized. Then he sits through half of a Star War thing, some tripe about a mermaid, some dry thing about office workers, and then he finds out he can play the tapes in reverse. The mermaid goes back to sea where she belongs. Lucifer unspools an entire tape across the couch while watching Stitch return to the space jail.  

By ten in the evening Rosie is destitute by the front door and Lucifer's knees are stiff from sitting on the couch all day. The gates of the dog park are long locked, so they stroll around the neighborhood. Under bare streetlights she plods after him, nose close to the ground. He rarely walks her with the leash; Rosie doesn't bark at other dogs, or chase squirrels and errant cats. All Rosie's after is a chance to stretch her legs and sniff. Lucifer walks at her pace, stands for five minutes while she checks out an interesting rosebush. He's always liked how dogs paint their own pictures from smells. There's entire stories Rosie knows that the humans don't.

Lucifer knows about the dried slug trails on the sidewalk. He knows about the moles burrowing beneath lawns. But he doesn't know who left the empty Arizona ice tea can in the gutter. Rosie must know, because she sniffs it for thirty entire seconds. When cars pass she cringes. Lucifer doesn't know if it was a car that destroyed her leg or what, but Rosie knows.

Rosie knows that Lucifer gives her food. That he rubs her belly at night. That he doesn't sleep, so she doesn't need to wait for him. To Rosie, Lucifer is a friend-shaped being speaking gibberish. Nothing more. That's all she needs.

Rosie knows the important things. What she doesn't know will never hurt her. Lucifer makes sure of that.

Nights are the only time when Lucifer can walk freely. Once Rosie's asleep, he'll probably go for another one.

There used to be hobbies. There were books to read, technology to explore, things to build, sketches to burn. In rehab he learned how to weave baskets underwater and made misshapen clay figurines. They wouldn't let him make torture devices, so he settled for dinosaurs, but he couldn't get them to look right.

That was before, in the chaos of those first few years adjusting to his new life. These days he mostly walks. Or sits on the couch. Or lies under one of the tall pines in his backyard. He's got ten and half billion years to ruminate on, after all, but mostly he just tries to breathe. Rehab offered a meditation workshop as well, but he never participated. Now he regrets it. When his mind cuts loose and sails into the air, it's almost better than being an angel.

This walk is a little too early. Cars drag slowly past the traffic circles. A bottle hurls from a window and shatters on the sidewalk to the sound of cheers. A mother takes out the trash. Lights flicker on and off, tendrils of smoke drift from front yards. Rosie pauses to lick a chain-link fence. Lucifer wonders what might have spilled there.

The neighborhood falls into silence. The moon is very high. Lucifer looks around and realizes that in his looping and wandering, he's maybe four miles from the house. Rosie looks up at him, wobbling on her three legs and panting.

She's not too heavy to carry. Thirty-five pounds at her last check-up.  



 

Growley isn’t in any of the kennels. He isn’t in the trailer or anywhere on the grounds.

Brief panic takes hold of Lucifer, but he slows down and forces himself to stay calm before entering the main office.

At the front desk, Jo is surrounded by stacks of adoption applications.

"Growley? Uh, I suspect he's at home."

"What do you mean, at home?"

"You didn't know?" Jo says. "Oh. You didn't know. Huh. I would've thought - I figured you were off helping Sam settle him in."

"Sam took him home?"

"Sam adopted him."

"Why?"

"Why?" Jo snorts, leaning into her computer screen. Her finger is busy at the mouse. "Ask Sam."

Turning on his heel, Lucifer's about to leave when Jo asks him if he's finished cleaning the kennels yet.

Right.

Sam's house could be burning down right now. Well, the kid brought it down upon himself.

Hidden in his old text messages is Sam's address. Another barbecue invitation he ignored. While the shelter is close enough to walk, Lucifer has to borrow change from Jo to ride the bus.

Sam and Dean are conjoined in every timeline. Their house is a squat two-story with half a picket fence, tucked on a side-street behind a grocery store. The front yard is big enough for these legendary barbecues, but a garden is taking up half the space.

An angel is in the garden.

Many angels chose to walk the Earth after the Apocalypse didn't happen.

This one, though. This one isn't even an angel anymore.

Castiel wipes grubby hands on dirt-stained khaki capris. He's pulling dandelions from the garden bed and transplanting them in pots, humming to himself.

It's been rough for Castiel since the aborted Apocalypse. In the rehabilitation programs, Lucifer learned about oil pastels while Castiel talked to himself and drew endless pictures of bees.

Gardening seems good for him. There's a quiet intent in his hands, and the garden itself is blooming and florid. Tomatoes larger than Lucifer's fist peek from vibrant green vines. Flowerbushes vibrate with the wings of bees and hummingbirds. Whatever Castiel has been doing for the past ten years or so, it's working. Hesitating at the front gate, Lucifer listens to Castiel's off-key humming.

Finally Castiel tilts back his broad-brimmed hat, fixing Lucifer with a clear eye and a tilt of the lips.

"Are you coming in?"

"I'm not here to see you," Lucifer says.

"I didn't think so."

The house is very obviously not on fire. There's time for Lucifer to lean on the gate, frown at Castiel. Whatever happened to Castiel during Michael's possession, he seems to have recovered. Somewhat. It still doesn't explain why he's in the Winchester's garden. "What are you doing?"

Castiel just rolls his eyes, digs his hands in the dirt. "I could ask you the same, brother."

"You don't call me that. Only Michael did."

"I have before." Rising to his feet, Castiel comes up to the fence. "You remember, too. Our Father cursed you same as me. We always remember."

Every failed timeline. Every time the world shattered. Every different scenario.

Once upon a time, Lucifer lived in Castiel's head.

Once upon a time, they destroyed Heaven together.

Here, Castiel made a choice. Lucifer shouldn't even be calling him Castiel. In this universe, Cas was born of some human woman, somewhere, in his own body and his own soul. Ripe for the possession. Destined to the be the Michael vessel. Just as Nick, another random with nothing to lose, was destined for Lucifer.

Castiel's hands leave streaks of dirt on the whitewashed wood.

"Everything?"

"Yes." Castiel glances back at the house, a small smile at his lips. "It seems the world is finally stable now. Never thought I would witness the Winchester's own happily ever after with my own eyes. Much less be a part of it."

"Why are you even here?"

"What bothers you about it?"

"Answer the question."

It's always the shape of Jimmy Novak. In many universes, Jimmy Novak doesn't exist. Castiel made that body his own. It’s all Castiel in the thousand-yard stare. "If there's one thing I've learned after hundreds of iterations of the same scenarios, I always choose this. Or else - I regret not choosing, and I try to crawl back and destroy anything I can to make up for it. Either way, this is where I belong."

"With Dean."

"Yes, with Dean."

"After everything you've put him through."

"And now you're here. After everything you've put Sam through."

"I'm just here for the Hellhound."

Castiel actually chuckles. "Growley's doing well here. As for Dean, he'll come around. At least he doesn't remember them. From before. He just has a thing about dogs."

A voice bellows from inside the house. Dean is leaning out the kitchen window, shouting something about the food being ready. "Who you talking to?"

"Just a friend."  

"Well, invite him in then."

"He was just leaving." Brushing off his hands again, Castiel jerks his head towards the waiting house. "Anyways, Sam's out with Growley. See you later. Or not," he grins, before jogging towards the house.

The door slams shut.

Voices rise and fall through the open window. Castiel's laughter is low beneath Dean's brash joy. Someone puts on music. Heavy bass, wailing guitars, and a voice singing about misty mountains and California. There's still a mess of half-finished work in the garden, as if the tableau wasn't unsettling enough already.

 

 

At the bus stop, Lucifer sits down on the bench with his head in his hands. The bus is twenty minutes late. Enough time for an infuriating exchange of text messages.

The good news is that the clinic Sam works at is curious about Hellhound biology.

The bad news is that Sam thinks he can take a Hellhound to a dog park.

If Lucifer's going on a rescue mission to the dog park, he might as well bring Rosie. By the time they make it to the dog park it's nearly sunset. Dangling tongues and weary paws are all heading home for the day, but there's one dog still at the park. Silhouetted against the red bloodlines across the sky, something sparks and leaps.

Sam gives him and Rosie a cursory wave. Before Lucifer can say a word Rosie's running off to sniff Growley's butt. Wiping his hands on his jeans, Sam at least has the courtesy to look ashamed of himself.

"You brought a Hellhound to a dog park," Lucifer snaps. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Jesus Christ, dude."

"You. Brought a Hellhound. To a dog park. Tell me how that makes sense."

"What? No one even minds that much. I mean, I kept him on the leash at first, but he seems to be doing well." Sam picks up the drool-soaked tennis ball and hurls it. "He's still kind of spooked by all the dogs and people, so we just go at night. But he sniffed a few butts today, and look. He and Rosie are getting along fine."

"How long have you been doing this?"

"Well, I adopted him three days ago, so. Do the math."

"Three days. Just wait," Lucifer sneers. "You can't handle him."

"I'll take my chances. I like him."

"Wow. Sam Winchester. Bleeding heart extraordinaire, friend to all the monsters. Fucking priceless."  Shaking his head, Lucifer turns his back deliberately. He knows he's being an ass, but Sam's kind of an idiot. Sam is ignoring him, though, just sweet-talking Rosie and throwing the ball for Growley. "Rosie, come here. No - Rosie, come on,” Lucifer tries, but she just looks puzzled.

"Leaving already?"

"I can't watch this. You treating him like he's an ordinary dog."

"He kind of is.”

Before Lucifer fires back, he remembers an empty plate in his fridge. Bacon crunching beneath his teeth. The soft give of bread.

Growley is cowering, but his drooped tail still wags. "Don't look at me like that," Lucifer tells him, but the dog never drops his eyes.

"I don't get why you have to be such an ass about this."

"I'm being practical."

"No, you're being an ass. You're making this all about you. I get it, okay? I had a crappy dad too. And I know, you had shit forced on you and now you have to deal with the consequences and maybe it sucks - but don't take it out on the dog. Look at him. He likes you."

The worst part is that Lucifer knows Sam gets it.

Sam may not have the memories, but he still has his soul.

It starts raining a bit on the walk home. Just a light drizzle, nothing to worry about. But Sam’s car pulls up beside Lucifer, and he knows the way he walks home is the same way Sam would drive home from this park. Maybe he should’ve walked a different way.

He definitely shouldn’t take Sam up on his offer of a ride home.

At least Sam is quiet. But once they get to the house, Sam just turns off the car and forgets to unlock the doors.

"Look,” Sams sighs. “I'm not gonna sugarcoat this, man. I like you."

"No. That's not allowed."

"Excuse me? Lemme finish. I like you, Luce. I know that's something you think you aren't allowed to have, but there it is. It's not like I didn't see you try to jumpstart the Apocalypse. I was a kid, but I followed the news religiously. And honestly? God just seemed like a massive dick."

You're what, six and a half billion years old? How many species have you seen die out? How many entire civilizations of humanity have you seen disappear? How could anyone expect you - you, who walked the Earth back when mushrooms were six feet tall and watched the dinosaurs go extinct - to sympathize with human concerns?"

Somehow, you did."

"Apocalypses get boring after a while."

"What, there's been one before?"

Lucifer frowns, wondering how much he can get away with telling Sam. "The dinosaurs. The Ice Age. Ring any bells?"

"You're gonna have to tell me more about that someday."

"I had to raise the horsemen," Lucifer mutters. "They had to be released. My Father -"

"Was a dick."

"He's God. He's supposed to be. But the things I did-"

"Did you really have a choice? Look, I've been there. And yeah, okay. You did some bad stuff, but did anything really happen? So you burnt a bunch of fields and evacuated the city of Detroit. Maybe you blew up a few volcanoes, but at least you gave us some little tremors as a warning.”

"That's not an excuse."

"No. It isn't. But it helps me understand. And now? I still see you. I see how much love you give the dogs. But you're so - you're scared. You're terrified that all we see is Satan, but trust me. No one's looking at you funny.   And I - I dunno. I'm sorry. I just - I think you need more chances. More understanding. And I want to be that person. Because I fucking like you. I don't know what it is or how it happened, but I like you."

"Sam. No."

"Okay," Sam says. "Okay. I'm not asking anything from you. But you wanted to know and so I told you. Can you live with that? Should I just make sure I work different shifts than you? 'Cause it's fine. It's fine if that's too much for you."

Lucifer just stares at this human he’s supposed to understand and he just.

He doesn’t get it.

"You like me."

"Yeah."

"You like me."

"Yes!"

"That's not allowed."

"Says who? You always say that. Things aren't allowed. Who is setting these rules for you? God gave you another chance and all he told you was to be happy. That's a whole lotta leeway, dude."

"Well, it’s what I say," Lucifer says, and gets out of the car.

Sam follows him inside like a fucking idiot. Turning his back, Lucifer goes to the sink just to avoid looking at him.

“What’s going on with you, man? Look - if you want to take Growley-”

"There are things you don't know about me." The glass rattles on the counter when he sets it down.

"Dude. I was there for the Apocalypse."

"That... that wasn't the first time I tried to start the Apocalypse, Sam."

"What do you mean?"

Lucifer shakes his head, stalks to the sink. "It's none of your business."

Behind he hears the sound of creasing pleather when Sam settles on the couch. "Luce. Why can't you just tell me what's going on? You really think - I mean, if I was judging you, do you think I'd be coming over here? Asking you these questions? Trying to have this conversation? Please, man. Just... give me something to go on. Give me a reason."

It's so hard to turn his head and look back at Sam. Pleading eyes, long legs folded up. "This is a lot, Sam."

"I can take it."

At least he's already sitting down. Leaving the cup in the sink, Lucifer settles on the other end of the couch. "Sam.... time and space are funny things. Every choice we make affects the future. Humans are bound to the laws, but for us angels? Time and space are like. Like ingredients. Flour and corn and eggs. You can make a muffin, or you can make a pancake, or you can make polenta. Humans make, but angels can unbake."

"...what?"

"I was thinking about those muffins. I don't know. Bad metaphor. What I'm trying to say is that this isn't the only - there were other ways for the Apocalypse to go down."

"You're talking about alternate universes."

"Timelines. For an outrageously long time you and your brother were the catalysts of the Apocalypse. Dean was Michael's vessel. You were mine. Sometimes you said yes to me, and together we destroyed the world. Or we were destroyed. Or thrown into the Cage, and spent eons destroying each other from the inside out. Or our souls grew too close together and we destroyed our brains from the inside out and a nurse had to change our diapers.

“Sometimes you said no.

“Sometimes you died.

“Sometimes Dean died. Sometimes everyone died, and this planet was charred to cinders.

“Only one thing was consistent. No matter what happened, you and Dean always found a way to break the universe."

Sam shakes his head. "You should see us on movie night. I'm pretty sure we've started an Apocalypse or two there," Sam says.

"Can you take this seriously?"

"I am! As much as I can, anyways."

Lucifer frowns. "Anyways. Time reset itself. Over and over again. The universe insists on its own suicide, and only via maximum entropy - not two ass-brained codependent humans. Yet no matter what happened, whether it was you and me or you and Dean, or all three of us and Michael and even Castiel... we broke the world, more or less.

“You know, Castiel used to be an angel. He traded his grace. He became a vessel, and he did it all for you. Well, I'm pretty sure he used Dean's name, but you get the picture."

"Cas was a freaking angel?"

"Pretty shitty one," Lucifer muses. "But the point is, your soul is the same, and my soul is the same. We were made for each other. In every universe, we always found each other. And that's why we can't be together."

"Alright." Sam raises his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I can buy different timelines. But why did the Apocalypse have to happen?"

"Because it was written, so it shall be. I don't know. Ask God."

"Okay, so. Let me get this straight." Pulling back his hair, Sam unwinds a band around one of his wrists, putting it up into a loose tie. "So me and Dean and Cas and you are all such powerful agents of destruction that the universe decided fuck it, break them apart. But here we all are. Cas has been living here for years. I mean, are we about to do something crazy again, or is it just... overlap?"

The Moebius strip of the universe, the wheels of time. The duality and the singularity. Nothing new under the sun, and the snake chews on the tip of it's own tail. Here's a choice, there's a choice. Once upon a time, Dean Smith and Sam Wesson fell in love and crushed reality between their fists.

"I told you. Our souls are the same."

Two souls, made for each other.

Cas was always the loose screw. He'll never make much sense of Castiel. Perhaps there was enough between him and Dean, that fated sort of thing, that it made sense for him to be Michael's vessel.

Maybe none of it has to make fucking sense.

If there's a lesson here, Lucifer doesn't care to learn. Instead he looks at Sam's hair, the messy strands pulled back in a bun. Sam does that a lot in this universe. "You didn't do that before," he says without thinking.

"What?"

"Your hair. I did it once. I was possessing you. But you didn't really care for it, so it didn't last."

"That is some weird crap to hear," Sam says, but he's actually laughing. "What was that like?"

"Like being whole."

Sobering, Sam cocks his head. "That easy?"

"No. Sometimes it was horrible. In the Cage - in the Cage -" Lucifer starts, and stops. "It wasn't easy. But the possession itself, the symbiosis... it wasn't always terrible, you know. In some worlds, you did help me save the world. We did it together. Sometimes you were the one in charge, and I just lived in your head. Sometimes we shared the burden. Sometimes you defeated me. A few times you even escaped me, but we still had parts of each other stuck in our souls."

"So, let me get this straight. We can't be together because we were made for each other?"

"Well," Lucifer says. "When you put it like that."



 

Rosie seizes a rib bone from Castiel's fingers. Head held high, she trots off to gnaw on her trophy in the lilac bushes. Growley, however, prefers hot coals snapped straight from Sam's tongs.

"Gonna burn the damn yard down," Dean declares, snatching the spatula from Sam. "Move over. You're not the Burgermaster here."

"What? You weren't even paying attention to the grill!"

Sparks fly from between Growley's teeth. He swallows the coal with an audible burp, and dares to look up with hope in his eyes.  Sam throws him a wink.

It's good to see Growley around so many people. Mostly just people from the rescue, some of Dean's work friends. The infamous Winchester barbecues aren’t as stressful as Lucifer thought. It’s interesting - some people he vaguely remembers from other timelines, others are strangers to him.

None of the Winchester's friends are dead, oddly enough. They’re doing just fine.

Jo slips into the seat beside him, three beers deep and laughing at something Cas is saying. She isn’t bothered by Lucifer, even leans back against him for a moment when she throws back her head.

Sam watches him with a smile on his face. He brings Lucifer a beer and pops the cap for him. Dean snorts, but throws Growley another coal.

It's okay.

Sam sits on Lucifer’s other side, and Rosie abandons her bone to rest her head in his lap.

It’s all okay.

Lucifer sips his beer, and smiles back at Sam.