Ground Zero

a Sam Winchester-centric Supernatural fanfic

Written by Wings90 (also on AO3)

Cover by Foolscapper ( foolscapper . tumblr . com ) ( foolscapper . livejournal . com )

For the Sam Winchester Mini/Big Bang 2015. ( samwinchesterbigbang . tumblr . com ) ( sammybigbang . livejournal . com )

Summary: Sam does not get put on that plane. Sam is right there at ground zero when Lucifer rises. An angsty post-season 4 AU with a Sam who has not been depowered but feels just as guilty as in canon, and a Dean who has to figure out if his brother is human enough in his eyes to let live. (This is a Gen fic.)

Warnings: Angst, attempted suicide and suicide by proxy, show-level violence. Also, be aware that this is the first part of a series that will potentially cover all of season 5; there is a happy end planned, but it's definitely not here yet.

Author's notes: What I'm posting right now - this first chapter - is my full entry as a mini bang. I do not have any more written yet, but I'm leaving the fic as incomplete because it will be easier to post further chapters when I eventually continue. Also, please check out the art in full size! Perhaps the easiest way is to find me and this fic on AO3, or the Bang's Tumblr.
(Those who had me on author alert because of Stargate SG-1: I'm sorry. I'd have to rewatch that series to write more for it, which is possible, but not anytime soon.)

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Sam could feel them all: Lilith and her entourage in the deserted convent before him were like roiling stormclouds to his senses, alive with power and hate, fear and anticipation. What he sensed strengthened his resolve - he hated what he'd just done, but the power he gained from that nurse's blood would allow him to kill all these demons easily. They would never hurt anyone again, never possess someone who'd have to watch from inside their mind as their body was used for things they had never agreed to.

Ruby followed him, her presence somehow more muted than those of the others of their kind, bearing the dubious comfort of familiarity. He barely noticed her, now; his skin felt tight and hot, barely able to contain the power coursing through him. He had changed, he knew it, and he was still changing; but it was too late anyway. He still knew right from wrong, he could still choose; and that was what mattered, he supposed, even if Dean didn't agree, even if no hunter would.

He hated it, but... Dean and Bobby, they would have stabbed the possessed nurse, and she and the demon would be just as dead as they were after what Sam had just done; but they would not be any closer to killing Lilith. Whatever they thought of him, whether they were right that him drinking demon blood was inherently wrong - even when he was not hurting anyone with it, since Ruby offered it freely - he didn't understand their attitude about her. Everyone agreed that Lilith had to die, since she was breaking seals and trying to bring about the goddamn Apocalypse, but it felt like him and Ruby were the only ones actually trying to achieve the objective. Bobby had concluded some time ago that he didn't know how to kill Lilith, and Dean just said he would because the angels said so. Never mind that they never said anything about when or how. Sam couldn't trust them after how they had treated Dean; they made empty promises and took no action. Sam didn't know why they were delaying, why they weren't doing more, just as he had no idea why they hadn't prevented Dean from going to Hell in the first place, when that would have been much less of a hassle for them. There were too many unanswered questions, and in spite of all his skepticism and his lack of belief, Dean still seemed to be listening to them over anyone else.

As far as Sam was concerned, they could have saved Dean earlier, they could have prevented the breaking of the first seal, and they hadn't. They were so much more powerful than demons, Sam had trouble believing they could not find Lilith at all, or that they could not prevent seals being broken any more effectively; but it was like they were sitting on their wings doing nothing, letting Lilith have free reign. Sam had no idea of their actual capabilities, but the way common demons feared them suggested they could not harm angels at all; Alastair could, so Lilith probably could, but high-level demons like them were exceedingly rare, and there had to be higher level angels around who could deal with them, even if common soldiers couldn't.

But they weren't here. They were not coming to stop Lilith when she was here to break the final frigging seal; they had not sent their supposed champion here to stop her, nor given him the means to do so. Dean was probably hunting Sam at the moment, judging from how he came after him, called him a monster, thrown Dad's words after him when he knew, he knew what that had done to Sam the last time, and then sent that awful, awful voicemail...

Sam couldn't bear thinking about it, but he also couldn't stop. Because on some level, Dean was right. Sam had not wanted this, to be something other than human, had in fact asked Dean to promise to kill him if it ever happened; but on the other hand, he knew that whatever he was now, his thoughts and goals were still his own. He was not really human anymore, he could feel that - a human would not have been able to drink a full body's worth of demon blood plus as much as Ruby could spare and feel okay afterward. Sam wasn't even sure if it was physically possible to drink that much, even of water - but his body just seemed to absorb it and convert it to hot, searing power immediately, so he didn't even feel full. He just felt tense and keyed up, like he'd drunk too much coffee and combined it with the adrenaline high of preparing for a fight; but it wasn't anything more than that. Whatever Dean and Bobby believed, it didn't affect his thinking any more than that. It was only when he was deep in withdrawal that he lost himself. But what Dean took to be the effects of the blood were just natural reactions to events, Sam felt - he was more jaded, perhaps, more mistrustful, less willing to listen to Dean, but that was because of what happened, not because of the blood. He had had to deal with losing Dean, with knowing what he would think of his developing powers and then experiencing his reaction first hand; he had to deal with the knowledge he was losing his humanity voluntarily. And no matter how he believed he was making the best possible choice, the one that allowed him to save more people, it still hurt to know that hunters, especially Dean, would see him as something to be hunted because of it. But he would not be deterred; for one, he'd already gone too far, and for another, he would not just sit idly by and wait for the angels' say-so while Lilith broke the last seal. No matter what it did to him - and at this point he expected, almost hoped, that he would not survive either - he would not be able to live with himself if he did not use the power he had to stop her. Lucifer seemed like an abstract idea, a faraway thing he could not imagine except that it would be bad; but if something was not done, he would be here, soon.

So he'd do something.

Walking towards the convent his entire being was focused on the demons awaiting him. Ruby was an afterthought trailing behind him; she'd be here but she wouldn't have much to do. Lilith's entourage of a dozen demons guarded the hallways leading to her; releasing the power to extinguish them was easier than holding it back. The first four at the entrance were thrown back by his blast of power, dead in an instant - most of Sam's concentration was taken up by focusing it forward only, so Ruby would not be harmed behind him. The act opened something within him; his senses cleared further, laser focused, so he barely noticed how his heart beat faster in his chest. Finding the room where Lilith waited at the altar was easy; she was like a beacon, the eight remaining demons lined up before the door. He snuffed them out before he even saw them, and knew the bodies collapsed soundlessly to the floor, like marionettes with their strings cut.

It was not so long ago that he struggled to even exorcize a single demon - and what he'd just done was easy.

Lilith would not be so easy. She felt different, to him - she always had, but now that he was prepared fully, focused on her, he could tell what was different about her. She was old. Older than anything he'd ever felt before, though he supposed angels were older, but he could not feel them as he could feel demons. She had been a human so, so long ago, cracked open until the power of her soul leaked out in corrupted wisps, turned inside out and blackened by hellfire. She felt bigger, for a lack of a better word, than any other demon he'd ever encountered; bigger, and a lot more complicated. And there was something else... around her edges, and in her deepest wounds, there was a touch of something... something cold, and alien, and... familiar? Sam knew he'd never felt anything like it but it did not surprise him. Those parts of her seemed to resonate with the room around her, straining down and somewhere else, calling down to Hell itself. Had she already started the ritual?

But it didn't seem so: She was just standing before the altar as she closed the door with a gesture, as if that mattered a bit. She was wearing the woman she'd abandoned when they'd confronted her with Chuck and the archangel on his shoulder; they had left the body cause she'd been already dead, and Lilith had apparently gone back for it. It didn't matter much; Sam would not stop now no matter who she was possessing, knowing what was at stake, but it was still a mild relief that the body held only her. None of the dead demons' hosts stirred on the corridor.

She would pay. She would pay for bringing them all here, for leading demons in hurting people, for Dean's deal, for all the demon schemes going back decades that shattered Sam's family, for trying to end the world. Sam had found her, finally, and he had the power to end her, to end it right here and right now. There was no thought of 'after'... the immediate goal, being so close, eclipsed everything else in his mind.

The door was no obstacle; he didn't even look around before raising his hand and blasting Lilith back against the altar. Supreme confidence had his lips tighten a bit in a hard smile - she could not stop him from pinning her to the altar behind her. She was not too strong for his powers anymore, and he was still immune to hers, now more than ever.

It felt right. Evil like her should not have so much power, should not be allowed to live; and it felt right that he should be the one to kill her, using the power that her kind had cursed him with. Their plans for him had backfired; he was not what they wanted him to be, and they couldn't control him. They had screwed up by giving him power and not ensuring he wouldn't use it against them, and that felt satisfying. They were fallible, they did not control his destiny, he still had his freedom and this was what he chose to do with it - save the world.

He did not even register Ruby turning back and closing the door with a wave, smirking at Dean who'd just arrived at the end of the corridor.

He let the power build in him, ready to fling it at her, to squeeze this ancient demon until she burst and dissolved into nothing.

"I've been waiting for this for a very long time."

"Then give me your best shot." Lilith sneered back at him with false bravado; she could not move from her position at all.

Yes; he would give her his best shot. He called up what he had in him, and as it built, as he raised his hand towards her to grasp her and squeeze, it came to him easier than ever; he felt like his own power swelled to match and surpass hers, so her ancient vastness was not intimidating anymore, not to him and the fire in his blood and the resolve in his mind. He reached out, testing what he could do, and she lit up from the inside; Sam was paying attention to the demon within, barely seeing the meatsuit anymore, but the still perceived as her skeleton started flashing from the power burning out in her.

He was testing how much effort he needed to damage her, still holding back a bit, when he heard, faintly, someone calling his name...

"Sam!"

...Was that Dean? When had the door closed? How could he be here? And why? Dean was here, but...

"Dean?"

He couldn't focus, he didn't understand. Why would Dean be here? If his mind had not been full of his own heartbeat, he would have wondered if Dean had come here for Lilith or for him; if he had come to help him or to kill him. But Lilith had become the center of his world, it seemed; he could barely drag his attention away. But he should see why Dean was here, shouldn't he?

He blinked, as the outside world seemed unreal next to the sensation of molten fire in his veins fueling him, and Ruby came into view. He'd forgotten about her, she wasn't important. Lilith was right there, Dean was beyond the door, and Ruby was screaming something like "do it" but he could barely hear it over the pounding in his ears, the storm of power waiting inside him itching to be released... But Dean was pounding on the door, shouting his name, and that felt important. Should he open it?

Laughter.

The world snapped back into focus, or Lilith did, at least, and everything else disappeared once again. She was laughing. Why? He had her, he was going to kill her, and she was laughing...

"You've turned yourself into a freak." Why did that word still have the power to make him flinch? "A monster." That's what Dean had said. He'd called him that several times now, said he was beyond help, said there was no going back... of course he wasn't here to help. He would probably fulfill his promise to their father... but only when Sam was done here. "And now you're not gonna bite? I'm sorry, but that is honestly adorable."

Sam's blood boiled at her tone and her condescension. He had kept her pinned even while distracted, she couldn't do anything except taunt him. She was one to talk about being a monster... If he was a monster, so be it. If he was foolish to hope for a second that Dean was here to help him, so be it. She'll see his bite.

And she'll die. Right now.

He trembled a little as he started to raise his hand again, but as he let his fury fuel the fire in him higher, he steadied; he forgot everything but the first demon right there before him and the intent to kill.

Something ripped open in him, but he couldn't feel it; his eyes turned black, but he couldn't tell. It didn't matter that his heartbeat and his temperature skyrocketed beyond human parameters. There was just Lilith and the fact that while damaging her was easy, killing her was not; that she lit up and started to dissolve, but then gasped for breath, again and again, so he squeezed harder, his fingers curling into a fist slowly, as pieces of her flaked off and splintered and dissipated in the room, tainting the whole area, until, with a final, great effort, the last of her was extinguished, and the body she died in slumped sideways and rolled down to the floor right at his feet, lifeless.

He lowered his hand and looked down at his enemy, his breath heaving from the effort as his heart slowed back down somewhat.

For a moment or two, he felt nothing but satisfaction.

Lilith was dead, as she should be. He'd done it, like he'd said he would. A great evil was gone from the world, and that could only be a good thing. There would be no Apocalypse now, which was definitely a good thing - and since Sam was still here and glad about the fact that Lilith would not hurt anyone ever again, he had not even destroyed himself, apparently. He'd risked giving in fully to the power inside him to kill Lilith, and it worked, and he still did not feel evil, even if he didn't feel the same exactly, so it was worth it. What happened next didn't matter much, not at the moment.

The next few seconds proved him wrong.

Sam stared at the blood leaking from the mouth of Lilith's last host body uncomprehendingly.

Ruby stepped closer to him, also watching. He threw her a glance. Right; she was here. He almost forgot.

He looked back at the blood, which seemed to be flowing sluggishly, but definitely in a curved line.

"What the hell?"

"I can't believe it."

Sam looked up. "Ruby, what's going on?"

"You did it." Her tone was odd. She sounded breathless and awed. "I mean, it was a little touch and go there for a while, but... you did it."

Sam felt breathless, too, but not with awe. It took him a few moments to realize it was fear.

"What? What - what did I do?" His eyes were fixed on Ruby and the expression on her face he was afraid to identify; he felt like he couldn't move. He would have leaned closer, but she was too far away.

"You opened the door. And now he's free at last." She smiled, awed, triumphant. "He's free at last!"

"No, no no no, he - Lilith -" He looked down at her body, pointing, trying to explain, to deny, but...

The blood was starting to form a circle... with Sam at the center.

The words died in his mouth. He didn't even know what he'd wanted to say, but it didn't matter, not when he was surrounded by a circle of blood and he couldn't move away. He turned around on the spot, looking at the little rivulets of blood that slowly split off from the circle and started flowing towards the center - towards him, God help him - in a spiral, but that was his full range of movement.

Dean burst through the door in that moment, and Sam flinched back from the murderous look on his face and the demon-killing knife he drew, but he was headed for Ruby, who smiled smugly.

"You're too late."

"I don't care." Dean raised the knife to strike, but she waved a hand and Dean hit the side wall. The knife went flying out of his grasp.

Dean straightened halfway and leaned on the wall, looking at Sam in the middle of the circle of blood. Sam could not read what was in his gaze, but he had to say something.

"I, I killed her, I stopped her from doing anything... I don't know what's going on."

"It is written that the first demon shall be the last seal," Ruby interjected. She sounded supremely smug. "And you bust her open. Now guess who's coming to dinner."

Sam looked at Dean, not wanting to believe, but knowing already.

"The frigging angels knew," Dean, said, disgusted and angry. Sam could not take it in. "They want the apocalypse. Cas eventually fessed up and helped me get here, away from that dick Zachariah, but apparently, too fucking late to stop you from listening to this bitch!"

Ruby smirked at him. She looked like she was alight with elation.

"You don't even know how hard this was! All the demons out for my head. No one knew. I was the best of those sons of bitches! The most loyal! Not even Alastair knew! Only Lilith! Yeah, I'm sure you're a little angry right now, but, I mean, come on, Sam! Even you have to admit - I'm - I'm awesome!"

Sam listened to her with growing horror, which slowly turned to anger as he finally realized how thoroughly he'd been played. He'd believed her when she told him she wanted to kill Lilith; and it was true, it was, but God, the reason for it...

She looked this happy cause Lucifer was coming.

"You bitch... you lying...!" He raised his hands to blast her to pieces, but something jerked inside his head and blinded him with pain. Only the power of the circle kept him upright. Now that he'd tugged at it, tried to use it, he could feel that all the power in his mind was being drawn downwards, tied up in the symbol of blood surrounding him and reaching deeper down into the ground and elsewhere in that abstract direction that was down but not in the Earth - the direction that meant Hell. He could not reach Ruby; she was beyond the circle.

"Don't hurt yourself, Sammy, it's useless. She was the seal, and you're the one who broke her; you're the one who opened her and you're opening the door with her."

"The blood..." The blood that she'd fed him, the demon blood that was now creeping towards him, slowly. "No... let me out!" He didn't want to know what would happen when it touched him, but he feared it, and he didn't want it...

Dean made a movement towards him, presumably, hopefully, to try to drag him out of the circle... but Ruby shoved him back again.

"You, stay and be quiet." Apparently, she backed up her words with power, cause Dean couldn't seem to open his mouth. Ruby turned back towards Sam. "Don't fight it, Sam, this is a good thing, a beautiful thing. This is what you really want."

"No, I don't! I didn't mean to... you tricked me!"

"No, it wasn't me, and it wasn't the blood. It was you... and your choices. I just gave you the options and you chose the right path, every time! You didn't need the feather to fly, you had it in you the whole time, Dumbo. I know it's hard to see it right now, but this is a miracle so long coming." Her tone was loving, and comforting, and infinitely disturbing in its fanaticism. "Everything Azazel did and Lilith did just to get you here... and you're the only one who could do it."

"Why? Why me?" He didn't want to hear, he didn't want to know this or to accept it, but he had to know as much as possible before the blood touched him because he was afraid of that moment.

"Because... because it had to be you, Sammy. It always had to be you. You'll get it when you see him, you'll understand. You saved us. You set him free, and you'll get your reward soon. Can't you feel him already? He's coming for you, and he's gonna be grateful."

Sam could, actually. It was like the world was thinning under his feet, the fabric of the dimensions getting weaker, being pried open by Lilith's blood and his own mind and body, and he couldn't stop it - there was something infinitely frightening on the other side, something that felt familiar. After a few second of focusing on it, he recognized it as the coldness he'd felt from Lilith's ragged edges, but on a massive scale he could scarcely comprehend. It was going to burst free in mere minutes.

"And that's my cue to leave," Ruby said, as a tremor shook the room. "The power's getting a bit too thick in this room for my health. See you when you're king, Sam! And Dean... have a nice disintegration." She grabbed the demon-killing knife as Dean glared daggers at her, then hurried towards the door.

"You will regret this." Sam's voice shook but his gaze was steady. "One way or another... I will make sure you regret this." It was a trite thing to say, but Sam had nothing else. Sam didn't know what would happen, but somehow, he was certain of this, suddenly, and if he could scrape back even a bit of composure saying it, he would. He strained to break free, to attack, but his power was tied down into the seal forming and opening under his feet, and he could not tug it free no matter how hard he tried.

Ruby just smirked and disappeared around the corner.

Dean gasped and stumbled away from the wall, catching himself before he fell to his knees.

"Yeah... you won't get away with this!" He yelled ineffectively after Ruby, but she was already gone.

There was a beat of silence as both brothers stared down the corridor then turned to look at each other. Dean's face was blank and unreadable as he looked at Sam, who felt utterly overwhelmed with horror and fear and... just everything.

"I'm sorry." The word slipped out before he realized how utterly worthless it was, but he had to say it, cause it was true, and he didn't think he would ever get another chance.

Dean's lips tightened before he stepped closer.

"Gotta get you out of there." He crouched down and tried to wipe away the blood, but... "Ow!" The outer perimeter of the circle sparked when his hand reached it, preventing him from disturbing the blood in any way. "Dammit!"

"Dean... I don't think I can get out. It's anchoring me here." There were no words to describe the sensation; it was kind of similar to when Meg had worn him and had got trapped in Bobby's Key of Solomon, but not exactly - it was more than that.

"You shut up and try." Dean said tersely, grabbing the tall candle holder he had used to break down the door and trying with that, but it was repelled just the same.

Then the blood touched Sam's shoes and started creeping up his legs.

"Dean, you need to go. I can't stop it..." He could feel his heartbeat quicken again as the blood touched his skin. He'd used up most of the demon-nurse's blood while killing Lilith, and his power reserves felt empty, like there were huge channels inside him for conducting an enormous amount of energy; he became aware of them now, when their emptiness was contrasted by the power in the oldest demon's blood so close to him, seeping in through his pores and starting to coat the channels.

"Like hell I'm going," Dean said, still terse, not looking at Sam at all, focusing on the problem in front of him while denying its enormity entirely.

"You have to! L-Lucifer's coming and I'm apparently not going anywhere. Do you think you can handle being at ground zero when he arrives?" Sam pleaded, even as he started gasping for air. He felt dizzy, he was being swept away by the energies surrounding him. He sensed the enormity of what was happening, the amount of mystical energy the demons had gathered to crack open the 66 seals being poured through him, right into the walls of Lucifer's Cage, which was drawing his attention to itself - an unimaginably massive and powerful construct with the power to hold in the Devil, its locks being unsealed by the magic.

"Sam, what's happening? Talk to me!"

He opened his eyes - apparently, he'd closed them while paying attention to his other senses. Dean drew back in shock, then his face hardened.

"Get out of him, you bastard."

"There's nothing else in me, Dean," Sam said through gritted teeth - but suddenly he knew that his eyes were demonic, that's what made Dean say that. "But the Cage is going to open through me, and Lucifer will be here, and you'll be nothing but ashes if you stay, so RUN!" Lilith's blood was up to his chest now, creeping up on his skin and seeping into him, heating him up, filling him up with hellfire, and as he yelled at his brother his desperation allowed him a blast of power outward - inevitable during the process, but controlled enough by his will that Dean was blasted straight back down the corridor without serious harm.

It was just the first of the outward blasts though, and the room started to shake and break to pieces around him as the dimensions broke down and the released energy as the Cage was opened pummeled this reality. Dean staggered to his feet and made an aborted move toward Sam, but it was impossible - he finally turned and fled down the corridor, ducking to shield himself as the convent fell apart around them.

Sam hoped his brother could get far enough, but he was not very confident - how could anything be far enough away when Lucifer walked the Earth? But then he could do nothing but try to hold on as the blood finished creeping up his neck and touched his face - he was gasping and shaking, his heart trying to break out of his chest as his whole body became a live wire through which Lucifer would be conducted into the world. He tilted his head back but it was useless, and as his face finally disappeared under the red mass, he felt like he was going to burst into flames.

And then... one last metaphysical click under him in the fabric of the universe, and...

White.

Freezing.

Powerful.

The contrast with the demon-blood fueled hellfire within him was staggering, the subzero whiteness ripping through him and blasting up, up into the world.

Thought disappeared under the onslaught, as his body was used as the filter through which the fallen archangel Lucifer poured into the world.

It felt like an eternity lived in a few seconds.

...

The first thing Sam was aware of was thinking, "Oh. He has my face. How strange."

It was not sight and hearing; it was not communication in the traditional sense. Information was exchanged on a level he'd never experienced before: this was Lucifer, then. Former archangel, became the Devil. Archangels need vessels like regular angels do, except theirs are rare and specifically tailored for them; but they, too, need consent. Lucifer used to be an archangel, and he still was, mostly, but not entirely; Hell had seeped into him until he also had demonic qualities. Archangels needed human vessels; the Devil, mostly archangel but partly demonic, needed a mostly human but partly demonic vessel.

How lucky, then, that Sam was right there.

No, not luck. Destiny. Meant for each other; made for each other. Sam would have been Lucifer's vessel from the beginning of time, it was obvious from their resemblance - no, there's no resemblance! - yes there is, so much, you will see, and the physical is impossible to deny anyway. Sam had to be transmuted into something mostly human but partially demonic in order to hold all of Lucifer; and the process had gone perfectly. As an angel, Lucifer needs consent - he'll never, ever get it! - of course he will. It's destiny - but the demonic part needs no consent. Sam was Lucifer's now, irrevocably - but he's not, he does not want this, still. He feels the power and the connection and he sees Lucifer looking back at him from a form that is almost incomprehensible to his eyes except for the features they share, but his eyes are not burning in their sockets. He can withstand it, and isn't that further proof?

But he still does not want it. - that's not entirely true, Sam can feel a connection on a level he'd never experienced before, but it scares him, which far outweighs the mindless, instinctual desire. - He would give anything to take it back, he never meant for this to happen, and he'll do anything to hinder Lucifer in harming people. Anything. And he will never, ever let Lucifer use his body.

But Sam misunderstands Lucifer; it's all the angels' fault, Michael is the one who wants this. Sam and Lucifer belong together, they should become one, that's why Sam's here. No matter; Sam will reconsider eventually. He'll see where his place really is, he just needs time to process. Lucifer will let him.

...

Sam lay in the middle of an enormous crater that used to be St Mary's Convent, staring up at the sky. He could not move a muscle; he felt like he was vibrating, and his eyes were blinded by the white that had poured through him and left at his request, headed who knows where. It was too much to even start to wonder about; Sam just waited for his mind to restart after the shock and for his normal senses to start functioning again. He could feel tendrils of power still echoing between him, Hell, and the creature that had just escaped his prison, like roots anchoring him to a foundation where he ultimately belonged - he had no doubt about that now - and a tether the former archangel had left to lead him back to Sam whenever he wanted.

For a while all that Sam's senses could perceive were these echoes of that piercing white / cold / edged with hellfire / dripping demon blood. Even after it had left, his senses were numb to anything else, he did not know for how long. The tether between him and it - don't think 'Lucifer', don't think 'the Devil', don't think 'Satan' - stretched but retained its strength. The roots reaching down from him into Hell were there, ever-present and ready for him to call on its infernal power reserves. The demonic aspect of himself that he'd struggled against (even as he'd fed it with Ruby's blood and used it to exorcise demons) felt solidified, now; there was nothing to fight against anymore, because it was him. All of him. Hell was below him, and he was connected to it, and it should have been horrifying, but instead it felt like a solid foundation.

With no way to wake up and interact with the world around him for the moment, Sam turned his attention inward.

What had he become? ...Did it even matter? Lucifer was free. All else paled next to that.

Oh. That actually was good news - that he still felt horrified by Lucifer's rise. That could mean he was still partly human, at least, still himself just enough to be able to share humanity's overall opinion on the Apocalypse - he still didn't want it. So maybe he was not completely screwed up by what he'd just done, at least not in the sense of becoming evil, even though Hell felt... comforting was not the right word, but something like reassuring.

He was pretty sure no creature he'd ever met had ever shared that feeling. Except maybe Alastair - he'd complained about Earth being too cold, hadn't he? But he was positive he was nothing like Alastair. Examining his own feelings on the matter, he knew he still didn't like torture and hoped to avoid it as much as possible. Though he had been glad that he could hurt demons so efficiently that it took less than a minute of mental effort to break them - that had been useful. But that didn't mean he liked it, did it?

...But if Sam hadn't been able to break that demon possessing the nurse (Cindy McClellan, remember her name, you murdered her to get enough power for what ended up being the start of the freaking Apocalypse), maybe he wouldn't have gotten to Lilith in this for this to happen... but then again, Ruby and Lilith would have always made sure he got there one way or the other. They had apparently put an enormous amount of work into making this happen.

And he'd fallen for it like an idiot.

Or like they were right and this was his destiny, truly inevitable.

But that couldn't be. He must not believe that, he must not give up, because the destiny they all wanted for him wasn't over yet. Lucifer was still out there, patient for now, but he said Sam would say 'yes' one way or another. Even though Sam felt like he would rather kill himself than letting Lucifer in or help him in any way ever.

But he'd have said that just before walking into that convent, too, and look what he'd done.

I set Lucifer free.

The thought was both incomprehensible and undeniable. That this was what his destiny turned out to be: let the Devil free and then become one with him willingly...

Dad had been right, more right than he ever knew (though who knew what Dad had known about all this). Sam should have been killed long ago. Dean should never have resurrected him after Cold Oak, it had so, so not been worth it. At least he would have died as good as he ever was.

Or he should have died in Bobby's panic room from detox. He never should have been let out of there. Or Bobby should have shot him when he'd asked. At that moment, he'd felt that if Bobby could do it, he'd accept it as what he really deserved, but the old hunter had hesitated, and Sam just had not been able to take it anymore...

Who had even let him out in the first place? Ruby really couldn't have, that place was too demon-proof... Dean had said the angels were in on the whole thing. Was it them?

Was Dean even alive? He had no sense of the world around him, but he'd felt Lucifer in all his fallen, unholy glory - there was no way the place was left standing, let alone a person in close proximity.

If Dean had died because he came to stop Sam and was just a minute too late... That thought, on top of everything else, made Sam feel like curling into a ball and sobbing, but he still had no sense of his own body, like his nerve endings were too fried to make sense of anything.

He hoped Dean had gotten far enough away. Part of Sam's justification for what he'd done was that at least Dean would be safe, even if he ended up hating him... But being right there when Lucifer rose was the furthest from safe Sam could imagine right now. He had been wrong to think he was helping in any way, good intentions be damned; he'd been so wrong, like he himself was wrong, had always been wrong.

This was the result when he had good intentions (and he did, and Pamela, what had she known, why couldn't she have said more if she knew something? - but no, Sam couldn't blame her, only himself)... no wonder he got called freak and monster and Antichrist. He couldn't even do something good when he was honestly trying to. Apparently his nature was this - Lucifer and the Apocalypse and Hell feeling fucking reassuring spread out under him. Everyone who had even called him those things had turned out to be right. Dean was right for having given up on him; his only mistake was that he'd hadn't done it earlier.

And Sam's mistake was that he'd thought he had a choice. That he could avoid being used for evil. It had been selfish to even risk it; he should have killed himself after he'd became the last one standing of all of Azazel's psychic kids, just to make sure nothing ever became of his plans. One life would have been worth that certainty, even if he hadn't thought they could do anything to make him side with demons. But there had been Dean's deal, and...

Gordon had been right about him, whatever else he was. He should have killed himself then, but at the time, he'd thought he could help more alive than dead.

Well, he'd just learned that lesson. Lucifer needed him to be complete, to be able to go ahead with his plans full-scale? Sam had no intention of letting that happen, but since apparently he could not trust his own intentions to produce good results, he would not even risk it by remaining alive any longer.

He should have done it earlier; he'd do it as soon as he could move.

He just hoped it would work. Ruby had taken the demon-killing knife, and with the amount of demonic energy he could feel in himself, he was not entirely sure anything less would kill him. But it was worth a try, at least. Lucifer needed him mostly human, he said, so he was probably still mortal, and if he died and went to Hell - well, it wouldn't be good, but at least he wouldn't be human anymore, rendering him useless as a vessel. That was the most important thing right now.

He'd been trying very hard not to pay attention to Hell pulsing below him, constantly shifting, but it kept trying to draw him in. He reached out carefully to see what he could do about it, because it was distracting - and he had a feeling it was part of the reason he was still not waking up to the real world. Power seemed to flow through the connection easily, feeding him, the feeling similar to drinking demon blood, except this was constant and probably inexhaustible. The parts of him that had been scraped raw by being Lucifer's conduit onto Earth and left empty by his departure had been soaking up the power while he thought.

It felt comfortable. It was Hell, and it was evil, and it felt comfortable.

Sam really was a whole new level of freak. How could he even trust himself when Hell was welcoming him like a beloved King, offering him power? And with himself just accepting it instinctively? How would he even know if something he wanted to do didn't play right into their hands? How could he do anything - including trying to remove the possibility of him saying yes - when he could not be sure he wasn't being manipulated? He could not even be sure that he was even capable of thinking clearly with Hell and Lucifer both partially in him already.

He could not do anything. At all. Ever again. He can't trust himself to.

The hysterical realization was accompanied by a thought - please, God, let me just cease to exist.

...

Sam had no idea how much time had passed when something finally cut through the fog of panicked despair that had descended on him: his connection to Hell seemed to be dimming, and after a few seconds, sensation also began to return to his body. His nerves were tingling; he tried to shift, and though it did not work, he became aware that he was in a sitting position. He still felt Hell under him, but it was somehow more distant like this; and there was a sensation like some kind of curtain separating it from him.

Opening his eyes, all he could see was a light gray fog... except for the glowing red devil's trap surrounding him.

He blinked in shock and tried to draw himself closer to the waking world.

Shifting, he managed to feel that he was bound to a chair - of course he was, what else would you do with someone apparently unconscious who you put in a devil's trap? As he raised his head while his senses were rebooting, he noticed another devil's trap right above him - it was faint and incomplete but a lot more elaborate than the other one. As he watched, he could see the lines being drawn and the world coming into sharper focus, the fog slowly lifting: and as the final line connected, Sam saw his brother lower his arm, his hand holding a can of red spray-paint.

Dean was standing on top of a chair in a low-ceilinged room - it looked like a cellar cement floors, windowless, mostly empty apart from some shelving and a few boxes.

They were alone. Dean's face was hard as he stepped off the chair and backed out with it from under the twin devil's traps' influence.

He was tense, his eyes boring into Sam's.

"You actually awake now? That's a relief, cause let me tell you, the staring into nothing part was pretty creepy. Especially with those eyes of yours."

Sam had been expecting the holy water in the face, even if he didn't know how it would feel. It didn't hurt - he thought he felt something, maybe, but there was no visible reaction.

He blinked it out of his eyes.

"Huh. Still nothing. I should have known better, I guess. Yellow Eyes was too powerful for it to affect him, too, and seeing that you obviously have something in common with him..."

"...My eyes are yellow?" Sam felt repulsed, remembering Azazel at Cold Oak, remembering his 14-year-old self that he'd hallucinated.

"You have to ask?" Dean scoffed.

"I haven't had a chance to look in the mirror yet."

"I'd think a demon would know their own eye color."

"Come on, Dean. You know I'm not a demon."

"Yeah, right."

"Well, either I'm too powerful for holy water to hurt me, or I'm human enough to be unaffected. Maybe both; I honestly have no idea."

"...Sam?"

"Yeah."

"You are not possessed?"

"No. I'm sorry to tell you, but this was all me. Killing Lilith, letting Lucifer free, whatever I look like - it's all Sam Winchester and nothing else."

"That just makes it worse."

"I know."

They stared at each other in silence. Dean was clutching his gun.

"Sam wouldn't have done this."

"Do you even believe that? Do you think the Sam you're talking about even exists anymore? I didn't want to do this, but destiny had other ideas. So I did it. Now it's too late."

Dean didn't move. Why wasn't he doing anything? Why didn't he shoot? He'd given up on Sam, and since then, Sam had started the Apocalypse. It should not have made Dean less willing to be done with him once and for all.

"Sam... you... didn't want this. You were trying to stop Lilith."

"Yes, I was. That's what I just said. Do you think that matters anymore? Lucifer's free."

If Dean needed to be pushed a little, so be it. Sam couldn't get free to kill himself, but Dean would, if he knew the truth. It would probably hurt him, though. But it needed to be done as soon as possible - who knew when Lucifer would be back for Sam? So it would be better to let Dean believe there was nothing left of his brother to save anymore; let him think the last time he'd truly seen his brother was when he apologized moments before Lucifer rose. That his brother was gone in the moment the Cage burst open, and he was only killing his monstrous shell. That was the best Sam could do under the circumstances.

"Ruby was right, you know - when she said I'd understand. I do get it now that I'd seen him. You think I could get Lucifer's essence blasted through my every cell and remain unchanged? Please. Not even your denial is deep enough for that." The words were designed to hurt, to push Dean over the edge, and they were having an effect. "I freed him, and he's incredible. Like I've been waiting for him all my life, he's familiar on a level I've never imagined. I belong to him, now. You have no idea what's coming for humanity. He's gonna reshape the world, and I am going to help him. I am. Nothing to be done about that."

Dean remained silent but his face was distorting in anger. A little more, then.

"I can feel Hell below me, you know. It's nice to finally find where I belong. The power of it is amazing, I can draw on it now - it's even better than demon blood, concentrated like this. Though you messed it up a bit with your devil's traps, brought me down... but do you really think that will last long? Really? What do you think you can do about the Devil and his Antichrist?" Dean flinched at the word. Sam made sure to sneer at that. "Do you think you should kill me? Do you think you even can?"

Dean grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut. As he opened them and aimed the gun, his eyes shined but no tears fell. Sam had an instant of fear and relief to acknowledge his success...

Dean pulled the trigger.

wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

P.S.: ...I'm sorry! The plan is to fix this, I assure you. In the meantime, I would absolutely love some reviews, because I really struggle with writing (as evidenced by the fact that this is not the point I originally meant to stop, but I ran out of time).

Also, if anyone wants to be a long-term beta for this, I'd welcome it.