Mephistopheles Is Just Beneath

The interior of the Impala was quiet, a tomb on wheels. The rain pelted the roof, splatted against glass, slid down like it was the tears Sam felt hot in his eyes but could not shed. Rubber on pavement and the intermittent squeak of old windshield wipers scraping had been the only sounds for miles. Sam didn't know why Castiel hadn't angel-transported them and the car the hell away from Carthage. From Lucifer and from Death. Trapped in the car with his silent brother, all he could do was think. His thoughts were filled with nothing good.

"They died for no reason," Sam whispered, more to himself than Dean. He could picture their last moments, Jo already nine parts dead and Ellen busted up inside while a fortress on the outside. He watched the raindrops on the window, seemingly erratic and uncontrolled, but there were tracks, paths the rain followed naturally. "Nothing."

"Sam," Dean said, his voice deep. A warning.

"So fucking pointless. They died for us, and we couldn't do it. We didn't save anyone." Including him. "All those people. Ellen. Jo."

They should have known. They should have figured out the Colt wasn't going to kill Lucifer before they walked into town with no real goddamned plan at all. The devil wasn't a demon. The devil was an angel, and Sam wasn't sure what could kill an angel. Castiel should know that, and it made him wonder why their angel friend hadn't considered it. It made him wonder how it became so clear to him only after it was too late.

"We had to try. They knew that," Dean said, like he was trying to convince himself Ellen and Jo's sacrifice had been worth it. "I guess now we know the Colt doesn't work."

Sam had a bad feeling nothing was going to work. Their one chance hadn't. He had learned during his short but interminable time away from Dean. He understood himself more now, knew there was no normal for him. Going into the hunt for Lilith, following Ruby instead of Dean, he'd known that in taking that path there was no happy ending in store for him. He'd survived it somehow, at least physically. Knowing that something, somewhere saw fit to keep him out of Lucifer's grasp when he was wide open for possession made him want to believe again. It probably made him the biggest idiot on the planet for still hoping somewhere deep down, hope stored next to the evil within him, that he could be saved. That somehow he could defeat Lucifer and change his own fate.

The hope was fading, and it was fading fast. Sam closed his eyes as Lucifer's words from earlier replayed in his head. He couldn't make them stop. He'd heard that voice for weeks, in his dreams when his body betrayed him and let him sleep, and also in every waking hour. Nothing Lucifer had told him was truth. But it wasn't lies, either.

"Oh, I dunno, Sam. I think it will. I think it'll happen soon, within six months. And I think it'll happen … in Detroit."

The most important things Sam had learned when he was alone, pretending to be normal, were these: if he stood a chance in hell of staying human he needed Dean to believe in him; and, Dean didn't believe in him. Not really. Not in the way his big brother had always been there for him, no matter what. The time for no matter what was gone, the definition changed. And Sam didn't blame Dean for losing his faith, but it hurt nonetheless. No one had to tell Sam what his sins were. He carried them every day. Everyone told him anyway, every chance they got. Deep, scarring pain and flashes of hot anger that frightened Sam came with every jibe Dean couldn't keep himself from saying, every frank reminder of Sam's betrayal tossed back into his face by people with whom he fought side by side.

"I was a son. A brother, like you. A younger brother. And I had an older brother who I loved, idolized, in fact. And one day I went to him and begged him to stand with me."

He knew Dean wasn't sticking by him because Sam was his brother for whom he'd do anything; he was sticking by him because it wasn't safe to let Sam alone in the world. Dean was his keeper, nothing more. He'd seen more of the Dean he used to know as his brother crouched next to Jo, saying goodbye, than he had seen directed at him in nearly a year. Lucifer was right. Sam knew Dean still thought he was a monster, no matter how much he tried to show that he wasn't. Dean thought that at any second Sam could go darkside again, and he couldn't be unsupervised.

Maybe it was true. It was probably true. For as much as he hoped it wasn't, Sam knew it was true.

"That's good, Sam. You keep fanning that fire in your belly. All that pent-up rage? I'm gonna need it."

The fate of the world outweighed the fate of Sam Winchester. Sam understood that. He agreed with and accepted that. It just so happened that the fate of the world hinged almost entirely on his fate, good or bad. Judging from how ill Lucifer's current host body looked, Sam's fate would be determined soon. Within six months, he reminded himself. He thought, and not for the first time, that Dean should have left him dead. Sam should be ashes now, not tormented by these feelings of guilt and anger and stark, all-encompassing dread. And the world would be safe.

They turned onto Bobby's driveway. Through the sheets of rain, the house looked abandoned except for the dim lights shining through the first floor windows. It seemed forlorn, roof buckled under the heavy, ceaseless downpour. Sam couldn't tell if it always looked like that, or if he was simply viewing it differently tonight. It probably had. Bobby's house had seen its share of sorrow. The front door opened before Dean switched off the engine, Bobby's seated form casting a wide shadow on the porch. Sam couldn't see his face. He didn't have to.

"Boys," Bobby greeted as they shuffled into the house.

Nothing more was said. Sam flicked his eyes over the clutter, saw the liquor already lined up. Watched Dean head straight for it, as if he'd been itching to get to the bottom of a bottle all night. Sam would be a liar if he said he hadn't thought the same thing, but he couldn't. He didn't have the luxury of falling of any wagons, booze or blood, not even for one night. The drink wouldn't bring back Jo or Ellen or the whole fucking town of Carthage but it would make him tired, and he couldn't sleep, not after his heart-to-heart with Lucifer. He was scared to sleep. He didn't want to dream of Jess or Mom or Dad only to find the devil himself just beneath the surface, telling him truthful lies, stoking a fire he worked hard every day to contain.

While Bobby and Dean downed shot after shot, Sam stared out the window, watching the rain and trying not to think anymore, all on his own. He vaguely heard the low tones of his brother and Bobby talking, the only two people he had left in this world. He couldn't hear what was said. They weren't talking to him. The tears were back suddenly, sharp and hot in his eyes.

"And Michael, Michael turned on me. Called me a freak, a monster. And then he beat me down."

It didn't have to be like that for him and Dean. It didn't. He looked over at Dean, who was with him but not with him just the same. His gut started to ache, with regret and helplessness. Suddenly he could only imagine Dean as Michael and him as Lucifer. He squeezed his eyes shut. No. There had to be some other way to send Lucifer back to Hell. Sam clenched his fists and imagined killing that bastard with his bare hands. Fury coursed through him, and then horror. At everything. At himself.

"Women and children first."

Jo's pale, dying face sprang to mind, Ellen's heartache and strength. They didn't deserve to go like that, and they wouldn't have even if he and Dean had killed Lucifer. The sacrifice was too much. Grief tempered the anger, but it lingered within him always, a slow burn looking for more oxygen. He was beginning to understand his greatest vice wasn't addiction to demon blood, or to power. He kept his eyes on the window, as the rain slowed and finally stopped.

"Don't you sleep anymore, kid?" Bobby said, slurring slightly.

Sam started, surprised by Bobby's nearness and, as he blinked, by the sun starting to rise. He saw Dean, sprawled on the sofa. The bottles of booze were all empty. He rubbed his eyes, casting his old friend a smile he knew wasn't convincing.

"I do when I have to," Sam said.

"A car can only run so far on fumes, Sam."

Tell that to the devil, Sam thought.

Bobby rolled away without saying more, toward the fireplace. Dean sat up as if he hadn't just been snoring, moving to stand next to their old friend. Sam watched them for a moment, feeling distanced by more than a few feet. He listened to the tinny voices of newscasters already reporting on the unthinkable tragedy at Carthage, and the crackle of the fire. He walked across the room to join his brother.

"I know what you must think of me, Sam. But I have to do this. I have to. You of all people should understand."

Sam looked at Dean. Lucifer was wrong.