[only]

It's… it's bad. It really is, and Sam does know that, even if he doesn't really find himself wanting to acknowledge it. Sam hasn't suddenly lost his moral code, or begun to approve of torture or the buying and selling of souls, or take pleasure from outsmarting someone just for the purpose of humiliating them (unless they're Ted, of course). He's still all 'Go God' deep down, even if he never believed in Him (or was it Her? He knew the Devil had once loved God, but then again, he also had mistresses all over, and frequented gay bars, so that wasn't much of an indicator; the Devil appeared to be an equal-opportunity sinner, when it came to lust at least), not until his twenty-first birthday. He actually believed in the Devil before he did God, and that's probably a bad thing, too, but it's not the point right now.

The point is… well, the point's quite hard to identify, really. Sam knows he's not normal anymore, and honestly, no matter what he says about wanting to be free, he doesn't know what he would do with his life anymore. The Devil, evil as he undeniably is, has given Sam a purpose in life, and as Sock's pointed out more than once, Sam pretty much sucks at everything else. But Reaping. Reaping, he's good at for once, and suddenly, he's no longer the guy who left college after a couple weeks because it made him sleepy (it really did, though; Sam would get ten hours a night, and then find himself barely able to keep his eyes open in class, whether or not he liked the particular class). He's not the employee at the Work Bench, the guy who's a part of the notorious trio, the 'Three Musketeers' (and Andi), who has fun and is good for a laugh but who no one else socializes with outside of work because let's face it, they're all three a little weird. Now, weird doesn't matter anymore. Because now Sam is still a part of the notorious trio (and Andi), but this time they're actually notorious. He's still weird (because honestly, Sam doubts that most of the Devil's Reapers drag their friends along, argue with the boss, and receive bottles of bubbles as their Vessels) but it doesn't matter, because he's good enough to make up for it. Sam is a Reaper, he's the Devil's bounty hunter, and he's so good at it that he earned a genuine honest-to-Satan 'Employee of the Month' award. From the Devil.

And so the Devil was right. It is 'kind of cool, huh?' and Sam can't dispute that. Can't argue that the adrenaline doesn't make him feel alive, that he doesn't look forward to bantering at Gladys every couple of days, or that he doesn't look forward to opening those creepy devil-boxes and seeing what the hell the Devil's crazy humor brought him this time. Can't even deny that hunting the souls, while horrible and exhausting and dangerous and morally confusing at times ('Though shalt not covet' ring a bell?) is actually really fun.

And that's probably bad, too.

But not as bad as what Andi says; what has, in a way, turned out true: 'You're getting used to this, Sam. You like it.'

You don't agonize over it, Sam. You can look at the hideously maimed bodies of the latest victims, and your grimace is all for show, Sam. You plot now, Sam, you manipulate people and you use them to get what you want. You know you're going to hell, know that some day, probably not too far off, you're going to die and go to Hell and be there for all eternity, in a misery of either giving or receiving torment, and you just accept that.

Sam. You've changed. And while, on the Devil's scale, Sam's still really just an overly moral puppy, to his friends he's become noticeably colder. More evil, more indulgent, just more in all the wrong ways, and he knows it and he should care a lot more than he does.

He consoles himself, though, with the knowledge that there's only one person to blame, one route this could have gone, anyway.

---

[1]

It was all just a ploy, Sam knows that, and clearly, the Devil knew it too, all along. And yet – some of what he had told Sam truly did seem genuine (an admission to once getting it on with God, after all, wasn't something just to be shared lightly). Sam was trying to overthrow the Devil in a bid for his freedom. The Devil was using Sam as always, his well-oiled predictable tool, manipulating his pet Reaper to destroy the rebelling demons. And, of course, passing on an important message at the same time, clapping a hand to Sam's shoulder and teleporting them out of danger, making his point: I didn't have to do this. I could have let you die. I could kill you whenever I want to, and just because I knew all along what you were up to and I forgave it, used it this time – that doesn't mean you shouldn't remember this and think of Hell.

That's true.

But there's another side to it, a side that seems to go along with Sam's almost constant shock at being startled in his bathroom or workplace or car; or bending over or turning a corner and falling into a new location. Something that sparkles in the banter between them, the stuff Sam always took for granted (he just shows up and laughs and talks with that wide grin and it had always been that way, Sam thought that was just the way things were). Something that lies in the shock on Steve's face: 'You see the Devil?'

And it's probably just a product of the working environment, the fact that not only is Sam a Reaper, but also an owned soul, or maybe just born from the Devil wanting to get full use out of his soul. As much as Sam hates to admit it, if it weren't for the Devil guiding him through them (albeit in the jerkiest way possible), he would have fallen prey to one of the souls on his very first few missions.

That's what Sam's brain says, the part of him that's smart. 600 on SATs aren't actually that terrible, and he can be a pretty smart guy, sometimes.

But in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he can't help but look deeper.

The Devil didn't need to stay in contact with him, after those first few souls. He certainly didn't need to insert himself into Sam's life, to spy on him and taunt him about Andi. He never had to banter in the first place, frankly, and that started everything. Honestly, when Sam thinks about what the Devil could have done to him, even his most douche-y behaviour is suddenly just a little more forgivable.

After all, the Devil had always said he liked Sam. Sam never used to believe him, but at some point, that changed, and changed for good. Sometimes, the Devil seemed kind of… sad. And then Sam found himself almost wanting to reach out, to answer the Devil's never-ending smiles with one of his own, to accept an offer to go eat dinner, get a beer, have some ice cream, cheer him up.

Halloween, for instance. And yeah, when he was pretending to be the Devil's friend, when they really did go out for ice cream.

It might not be good, exactly, that Sam had actually, underneath the wary fear that was always present around the Devil, enjoyed that. In fact, it probably (almost definitely) wasn't. The Devil's fun didn't usually end well for the people who indulged in it. But – and this was that little voice, the voice that had somehow been, unbelievably, growing stronger lately – but then, the friendship the Devil had with those other people was never genuine. Sure, neither was their brief 'friendship', just two guys tricking the other, the Devil the more successful one, of course, but he was the Devil. Not 'Jerry', or some other fake name. The Devil was there, as himself, hanging out with Sam, and they both (Sam thinks) actually enjoyed themselves.

This doesn't mean that Sam ever approved of the Devil – never. Hell was going to be, well, Hell, and that was written in stone. But, then again, he rarely if ever approves of Sock, and yet the guy's his best friend.

So, yes, that's Sam's long-winded way of trying to explain. He hates the Devil, of course, for owning his soul, for constantly putting him in danger, for being an asshole all the time, for nearly breaking his wrist that once and knocking down all those shelves that other time, yes. That, just like Hell and torture and pretty much anything involving contracts and souls, is VERY BAD.

Sure, that's all true.

But – but…

'No matter what argument you make, what word you say, you won't change my mind.'

'Please.'

'Oh… C'mon, turn off those puppy-dogs now, Sammy.'

'Please. Do this for me.'

'C'mon, stop, enough! You're embarrassing yourself, man. …Alright. Fine. She's out.'

It's all there, laid out in that exchange. Sam knew – should have known – that the Devil was speaking the truth at first, for once. Shouldn't have even attempted that word. But he had. It wasn't even that he felt so incredibly strongly about Gladys – although, by now he possessed an odd but very strong affection for the demon. It was just that, staring the Devil in the face, Sam had remembered what he'd been told. Remembered that the name on their apartment lease was Satan. Sure, all part of the plan. But that niggling in the back of his head took over, and out came the word, his gaze intense and heavy.

And the Devil reacted. It was clear he didn't want to, didn't like it, but it was like he knew that this word was different, was calling on something that deserved respect and bending his will. And so he did. The Prince of Darkness gave in to Sam's puppy-dog eyes and treaty, went back on his word and released a demon from the pits of hell.

That, Sam couldn't rationalize away. That wasn't anything to do with him being Reaper, or the Devil owning his soul, and it couldn't be explained away by his previous guesses that the Devil merely found him amusing.

That short exchange changed everything, and now it's changing Sam, and Sam knows that it's bad, knows that no friendship with the Devil can possibly end well.

But it's too late to stop it now, might have always been, and Sam has faced facts: he is a bounty hunter for the Devil, who owns his soul and makes his life as close to hell on earth as possible, perhaps to prepare him for joining the real Hell for all eternity after he dies. He hates Satan and the underworld and demon rebellions and getting pens as Vessels when fighting seven-foot-tall monster-people.

And he's the Devil's only friend.

---

[2]

So. Apparently, Sam shouldn't care that his father died. Because it wasn't his real father. He's getting buried in the ground because he's evil now, always has been apparently, was just cunningly hiding it.

Huh. He never noticed.

But seriously, Sam admits freely that he and Tony have had their rough spots – when he first found out that Tony was a demon, for instance, or when Tony had blamed him for the Devil taking down the first rebellion – but they'd gotten over it. He had thought things were fine. Certainly hadn't expected to be shoved into Tony's Devil-trapping pit and begun being bulldozed over (which, by the way, was a little hypocritical of Tony. Going all Rambo on Sam because he was the Devil's son wasn't any better than when he himself was prejudiced against Tony and Steve for being demons. It was kind of racist).

But hey, everything was better now. Sam had spent a couple weeks on the road – okay, more like six, but still, he'd come back. The Devil had, miraculously, given him a vacation. Andi got over being mad at him quickly enough when he was back, and his job, likewise, was swiftly returned (poor Ted, so easy to blackmail), so the only serious issue on Sam's mind was that he was apparently the spawn of Satan.

Thank god Cady hadn't been the Devil's daughter. Because Sam could not handle the thought of having made out with his sister, on top of everything else. Like, for instance, the fact that he was supposedly going to end the world. Or, you know, the Devil being his father.

The Devil. Satan. The Prince of Darkness, the Father of Lies, Beelzebub, Belial, Lucifer, the Evil One.

Dad.

Actually, once he got over that fact (which, admittedly took a while, and still stews in the back of his head incredulously), Sam found himself – has been finding himself – more and more acquainted with the idea.

Oh, and the Devil's other son helped speed up the belief process too. Though Sam and the Devil never actually talked about it (and thus it hasn't been officially 'confirmed' as true), lately the Devil has been treating him differently. Treating him with something more like a fatherly touch. He's been nicer, and he's freely used the word 'son'.

He's also used the words 'right-hand man', 'rule the Underworld', and 'perfect for the job'.

So, a little scary, yes. And quite a lot terrible and evil and something Sam is totally fighting against all the way, also yes. It's not like he's Morgan; he's not running around calling Satan 'Dad'.

Yeah, he's totally different from Morgan. For one thing, he's not evil. He's just… owned by the Devil, which, come on, everyone deserves a little slack for that one, right? It's kind of tough to be a priest when your boss admonishes you for saying the word 'God'. Difficult to be a saint when every couple days the Lord of the Underworld himself drops by and tries to convince you to commit some sin, or simply orders you to.

Another way Sam is not like Morgan, is his approach to the whole 'my father's the Devil' thing. For one, he hates the Devil, and doesn't encourage any of the 'fatherly' stuff the guy pulls. He ignores the friendly words, the praise and the advice, and a lot of the insults and admonishments, too.

But it's insidious.

The Devil is, as everyone knows, a master of temptation and manipulation. And it appears that he's been working on Sam since birth. Buying his son's soul, always a good move, because then said son wouldn't be able to ignore him years later. Building up a 'relationship' of sorts with the son before revealing the Daddy news, making him his bounty hunter and apparently (even if Sam never realized it) giving him a lot of perks. Still being the Devil, but the Devil with a… soft spot.

The Devil's just so dynamic, so powerful – and Sam is a slacker, lazy as hell. Sure, sloth's been at the top of his list since forever. But it might not have been, had his mother and father – the one he calls 'Dad', the one that can't die, the one that he hates and pities and loves all at once – just been a little tougher on him. Sam's totally the baby of the family for all that he's the oldest, has always gotten away with everything. Everyone should be grateful that he's got such a natural good soul, because he was never checked. Never. The only time his parents stopped him from doing something was when they caught him trying to drive their car, age ten. And even then, the rebuke was half-hearted at best.

Sam can't really blame them for that. Not really; he knows that they expected him to die at or around his twenty-first birthday, and they just wanted him to enjoy his life to the fullest. Why bother trying to motivate their son, they must have supposed, when he wasn't going to even finish college, let alone start a real career?

The Devil doesn't think like that. Ever since that first day – 'I don't accept failures, Sam. Never.' – he's been hard and unmovable on some points. He's been evil and a total douche and always there, if not for Sam then at least not really against Sam.

He's a crafty one, that Devil. Sam kind of craves that restraint, the holding back. He's always been a bit of his own judge and jury, and while he's done a pretty good job of it, there's something liberating about having the acquaintance of a man (if he could be called that) who won't take his crap, who has and will exercise the power to punish him thoroughly when he does something wrong. The Devil has complete control over Sam's life, thanks to that stupid contract, and that's kind of a loophole right there. A breach in Sam's defenses, if an unwilling one; Sam doesn't enjoy being put in his place, especially if it's just for doing the right thing as opposed to the wrong. But he almost needs it.

And that's why little comments, like the Devil's 'fighting like brothers' one, scare him so much. Because it's true. Sam doesn't want this, never has, and hopefully never will. But, on the other hand… 'If you can't have the one you love, love the one you're with.' Sam's got the Devil and a half-brother that would be very pleased to kill him.

And the Devil likes him. The Devil likes him and actually says he's not a dud. He's using insecurities built up over years of slacking and insults from people like Sprong and even Keith, and twisting that into a weapon, a way to get in Sam's heart and head. And it sucks.

Because it works. Sam, despite all his 'not caring', is genuinely upset when Morgan gets that bag of coins, and genuinely pleased and proud that the Devil thought so highly of him, when he explained his reasons. He doesn't want to be the Devil's right-hand man. But the Devil chose him, this all-powerful being with plenty of other people (like Morgan, for instance) who are eager to take the job, who like the Devil more, who are more genuinely evil than Sam.

The Devil doesn't care. He likes Sam, and he thinks Sam has potential, and even if it's evil potential, it's there. In fact, when Sam thinks over their acquaintance, there's one moment that always stands out.

'No matter what argument you make, what word you say, you won't change my mind.'

'Please.'

'Oh… C'mon, turn off those puppy-dogs now, Sammy.'

'Please. Do this for me.'

'C'mon, stop, enough! You're embarrassing yourself, man. …Alright. Fine. She's out.'

There. Right there, all the evidence Sam needs to find his heart weakening, to find himself actually considering the Devil his… well, sort of as an actual father. He's an evil overlord, yes, one who prides himself on being deadly and cruel and completely unmovable.

And yet he was bowled over by Sam's 'puppy-dogs', as he calls them. He chuckled nervously, called his son 'Sammy', offered him jerky. And granted his request. He really did care about Sam – maybe even love him, insomuch as the Devil could.

And Sam… Well, he'd accepted the jerky, hadn't he, even if he hadn't known its meaning then?

Sammy is the spawn of Satan. And he is surprisingly okay with that.

---

[3]

Monkey-dance.

The guy made him monkey-dance. In public. For no reason, just to remind Sam that he owned him, just to humiliate him.

And he does own him, and that kills Sam. After all, how can it even be possible? To own someone's soul, to have that kind of sheer power, it's just wrong somehow, though Sam supposes that really, that's kind of the point. This is the Devil, after all.

And yet, it wasn't until that moment, until the monkey-dance, that it filled him properly. The sheer rage, that need to take the guy down. He doesn't care if this makes him kind of evil himself, if he kills himself on some pitiful vengeance mission, if Andi becomes a little scared of him, if the Devil's hook-ups tell him that he's at least 70% murderous.

Well, he cares, but he's not going to let it stop him.

Because Sam may never have been especially great – working in the Work Bench at his age should attest to that – but he was never bad, either, and damnit, it's his life. His parents shouldn't have the right to sign him away, the Devil shouldn't be allowed to steal away his life before it even began. It's just – no, it's wrong. And Sam kind of hates God, too, because hey, where was the big guy through all this? The Devil's incredibly busy and he still finds time to bother Sam most days, surely God could take some time to come down and defend an innocent soul. But no, of course not. It's only late that angels show up, and, hey, would you look at that – they seem to hate Sam too, if breaking his wrist is any indication.

At this point, all Sam wants is just a regular life back – no deities of any kind, no monsters, no being summoned about all over the place, made to do stupid dances and capture evil souls – just the Work Bench, and Sock and Ben and Andi, and that should be it, that was what his life was meant to be. Not some big prophecy about how he'll destroy the world, or become the Devil's right-hand man, or any of that shit – and Sam doesn't like to think about that whole 'father' thing at all. Either it's another trick of the Devil's, or it's true, but either way he doesn't care. It's irrelevant.

All that matters is that this has built up far too long and he's going to be the one to end it. He doesn't know how, or when, but he knows that he will take the Devil down. He can do it. Sam knows he's capable, knows it because no matter how clever the Devil is, how manipulative or evil, he does have a weak spot. Everyone does.

And for the Devil, it seems to be… Sam himself.

'No matter what argument you make, what word you say, you won't change my mind.'

'Please.'

'Oh… C'mon, turn off those puppy-dogs now, Sammy.'

'Please. Do this for me.'

'C'mon, stop, enough! You're embarrassing yourself, man. …Alright. Fine. She's out.'

The evidence is there: Sam has, somehow, the ability to get under the Devil's skin, to wrangle things out from him, make him do things. It's very limited of course, but if he just figures out how to manage that, then his victory will be inevitable. And so if that means that he can never tell anyone this, that's okay. If Sam has to spend years figuring it out, increasing his influence, patiently waiting, that's just fine.

Because it's all in that moment, and thanks to that, he knows the truth, knows the future.

Sam is going to destroy the Devil.

And that will be that.

---

[end]

So there it is, all laid out: and although it's clear to everyone that Sam is different now, it should also be clear that it's all due to the Devil. Maybe he really is turning evil – maybe he always has been and he just can't help it. He doesn't know. It doesn't really seem relevant anymore.

Sam wonders more what he looks like through those glasses the Devil gave him. They show someone's true nature, or true self, or something like that, and he has wanted to look at the Devil through them ever since the guy said he really didn't want to. But he had a sneaking suspicion that he really didn't, that it would terrify any mortal soul out of its wits.

And Sam wonders if that's true of him as well. Oh, doesn't think he's actually anywhere near as bad as the Devil or anything, but… He is frightened of himself now, and that is really not a pleasant feeling but Sam's worryingly certain that it's not something he's ever going to be able to get rid of. No, in time it will probably only get worse, like a smear spot that keeps spreading and spreading, or quicksand pulling him under, bit by bit.

What can Sam do but accept that? So he does.

He accepts it, just like everything else in his life. Just like the Devil.

At least, when it all gets unbearable, he'll have someone on which to pin the blame. Something tells him the Devil won't mind. Not if he asks really nicely with some puppy-dogs working their magic.

There was only one way this could ever have gone.