SUMMARY: It seemed like an ordinary exorcism. But when a possessed priest attacks Sam and Dean, it leads to an unexpected confrontation.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the characters created by Eric Kripke & Co. and is written for fun, definitely not profit! Set mid-Season 5, but before the events of the past few episodes. No real spoilers but refers to events up to and including Abandon All Hope.

RATING: T, for mild cursing.

A/N: For Caroline: Thanks for the great prompt – I hope this lives up to it. The prompt itself is at the end of the story, so as not to spoil things.

REASON FOR HOPE

The priest stepped onto the carpet, then froze. His head snapped toward the brothers, his eyes flashing black. "A Devil's Trap? Really?"

Dean and Sam both moved back but, under the demon's control, the balding, heavyset priest was unnaturally fast. He grabbed a fistful of Dean's jacket before he could clear the hidden trap and yanked him inside the circle. The demon smiled coldly as he pulled his hostage to him. "Going somewhere?"

Dean's fingers closed around the priest's wrist, trying to break the hold on his jacket. "Indy 500's coming up; thought about checking that out. Danica Patrick - very hot."

"Dean." Sam hovered worriedly at the edge of the trap.

Dean threw a punch that connected solidly with the priest's jaw. The man's head jerked to the right with the force of the blow, but his black eyes glittered as he turned back to face Dean, his mouth curling into a smile. "That's the best you've got?"

Dean returned the smile. "Not by a long shot. Terrae, cantate deo, psallite dom-"

His words were literally choked off as the demon's free hand jumped to Dean's throat, squeezing tightly.

"…psallite domino." Sam seamlessly picked up the ritual. "Tribuite virtutem deo. Exorcizamus te, omnis immund-"

The demon glared at Sam, then shut him up by tossing Dean across the room right into his brother. The two Winchesters crashed heavily into the glass-doored bookcases that lined one wall of the tiny church office. Books and broken glass rained down on them as they fell to the floor, Dean landing on Sam.

"Son of a bitch…" Dean groaned as he rolled away from his brother.

Sam, who'd taken the full impact of both Dean and the bookcase, was a little slower to move.

Dean glared at the demon, then moved to help Sam. "…omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas…"

The demon's smile returned; Dean's leg had breached the circle. Before Dean could yank his foot back, the priest reached out and grabbed his ankle, dragging him away from Sam and back into the trap.

Dean kicked out, struggling to free himself, but he kept up the exorcism. "Omnis incursio infernalis -"

In one seamless move, the demon seized Dean by the jacket and yanked him to his feet, stepped behind him and wrapped an arm around his throat, cutting off both the incantation and his ability to breathe. "Always the smart mouth, huh, Dean?" the possessed priest hissed in his ear. "Looks like I get to be the one to shut you up for good."

"No." Sam winced as he pushed himself up, his hands sliding through splinters and shards of glass. "…infernalis adversarii -"

"Come on, Sammy," the demon snarled down at the younger Winchester, tightening his hold on Dean. "If you were on top of your game, you'd be sending me back to Hell with a wave of your hand instead of all this amateur night mumbo-jumbo."

"… omnis legio…omnis congregatio…"

As Sam pushed on with the exorcism, Dean drove an elbow into the priest's soft gut. The demon just laughed and stepped back, pulling Dean off his feet. Dean gasped audibly, his hands grabbing his captor's arm, pulling at it to try to release the pressure on his throat as he struggled to breathe.

"…et secta diabolica…"

"Ah…ah…ah..." Eyes locked on Sam, the demon pulled a small silver dagger from the pocket of the priest's robe, used his forearm to force Dean's head back, then pressed the point of the blade beneath his hostage's adam's apple. "I'm not ready to leave this party just yet."

Sam's gaze darted from Dean to the demon. "Let him go."

"Make me." The demon smiled. "I'll even make it easy for you." The knife flashed as he slashed the underside of his own arm, blood trickling down it and inside his sleeve, toward the elbow. "A little Vitamin Demon for what ails you. What do you say?"

As the scent of the demon blood reached Sam, all sound in the room faded behind his own escalating heart beat. The demon was still talking but he sounded like one of his brother's old cassette tapes playing at the wrong speed; Dean was still fighting to free himself but he was moving in slow motion, heels scraping against the floor, the old Persian rug bunching up with each desperate attempt to regain his footing, revealing the Devil's Trap they'd painted on the hardwood planks beneath.

Sam fought against the craving threatening to overpower him and focused on Dean. He had to help Dean. His fingers curled into fists, his right hand closing around a large shard of glass. He squeezed it, tighter and tighter, the glass slicing through his palm and his fingers, the pain grounding him.

He turned to the demon, eyes cold, voice deadly. "… Ergo draco maledicte et section-"

The demon lowered the dagger and slashed Dean's arm as well as his own. "Oops." He smiled. "Come on, Sam. One little hit. Think how much better you'll feel."

Sam gripped the shard of glass even tighter, blood trickling out between his fingers. "Ergo draco maledicte-"

The demon coughed, black smoke leaking from his mouth and nose. His smile twisted into a smirk. "If you wanna do this the hard way…" There was another flash of silver as he threw the dagger; it flew across the room, burying itself hilt-deep in Sam's shoulder. The impact knocked Sam backwards, slamming him again into the broken bookcase.

But the demon's shift in stance and his weakening state also provided the opening Dean needed. Again, he drove an elbow into the priest's gut but, this time, the demon stumbled backwards, releasing his hold. Dean's knees gave out as he gasped for air but instinct took over. As he hit the ground, he rolled toward Sam and out of the trap.

Sam was spitting out Latin through clenched teeth, his hand wrapped around the knife in his shoulder. "…et legio secta diabolica. Ut-"

The demon coughed again, his chest heaving as if now he was struggling to breathe, but the cruel smile returned. "I've done my part. Now, he'll find you…"

Dean pushed himself up on his elbow and picked up the incantation when Sam faltered. "Ut ecclésiam tuam secúra tibi fácias..."

The demon coughed again, this time more violently.

"…servire libertáte …" Sam cleared his throat and the brothers finished the exorcism in unison.

"… te rogámus, audi nos."

The possessed priest threw back his head, smoke now pouring from his mouth, his scream echoing through the room as the demon was expelled. The empty vessel collapsed to the floor as the black smoke swirled over the floorboards before disappearing through the cracks into the darkness beneath.

Dean fell back, coughing violently and rubbing at his throat. Sam slid down the bookcase to the floor, biting back a groan.

Dean's head whipped around at the sound of his brother's distress. Sam lay on his back, his eyes screwed shut, his left hand wrapped around the knife handle, poised to pull it out.

"Sam, no." Dean dragged himself over to his brother, gently batting Sam's hand away from the dagger. "Let me see how bad it is. If-"

"Get it out. Now." Sam reached again for the hilt.

"Damn it. Stop." Dean's hand closed over his brother's. "You're just gonna make it worse."

Sam's eyes snapped open. He grabbed Dean by the shirt, pulling him closer. "There's demon blood on the blade. Get. It. Out."

Dean froze. The demon had slashed his own arm before throwing the dagger at Sam. "Okay…okay. Look at me." Dean locked eye contact with Sam. "I'll take care of it, but I don't want you bleeding out. So, just…give me a second."

Sam gave a terse nod before screwing his eyes shut.

Dean pushed himself up and grabbed the duffel they had stashed under the priest's desk after painting the Devil's Trap. He pulled out a towel, a flask of holy water and the first aid kit, then quickly returned to Sam's side.

He peeled back Sam's outer shirt and studied the angle of the dagger. "If we're lucky, we're just dealing with muscle damage. But if it nicked an artery-"

"Dean." Beads of sweat were forming on Sam's forehead. "Just do it."

Dean nodded. "On three." He pushed himself onto his knees and wrapped his right hand around the dagger's hilt. "One…" On 'two' he yanked the blade out.

Sam's deep yell bounced around the vaulted ceiling of the little office. Dean's face was stony as he ripped open Sam's t-shirt, unscrewed the cap from the flask and poured holy water into the open wound. Sam's back arched, the muscles in his neck corded and his eyes rolled back as the holy water hissed and steamed in the wound, turning to red froth as it mixed with blood.

"God…" Sam slammed his fist into the floor, his heels scraping through debris and his chest heaving.

"One more time...sorry." Dean cringed as he poured more holy water into the wound. More color leeched from Sam's face as another wave of pain washed over him but, this time, the reaction was less violent.

Dean studied the wound; it was bleeding, but not gushing. "I think it missed the artery. That's something." He pressed a clean towel into Sam's injured shoulder, then placed his brother's hand over it. "Hold that while-" Sam grabbed his arm as he turned toward the first-aid kit. "What?"

"You…"

Dean frowned. "Me...what?"

Sam grimaced as he gestured at Dean's arm. "He cut you, too. Flush it out."

Dean glanced down at the gash. "It's just a scratch. And demon blood doesn't affect-"

"Dean."

"Fine." Dean doused the knife wound with holy water. He grunted as it hissed and smoked, but the reaction was far more muted than with Sam. "That…stings a little."

Sam nodded, his eyes sliding shut.

As his brother relaxed and his breathing evened out, Dean replaced the towel with a pressure bandage, taping it in place over the wound. "That should hold until we get back to the motel. I'll stitch you up there." He glanced around the office. "The father was supposed to be alone here this afternoon but, with all the noise, the sooner we're outta here, the better."

Sam winced as Dean helped him sit up. "Father Dave. How is he?"

Dean leaned Sam back against the bookcase, then pushed himself to his feet. He crossed the room, crouched next to the unconscious priest and pressed two fingers against the man's neck. He looked over at Sam, then nodded in approval. "Pulse is steady; he should be fine – at least until he figures out what the hell went down here."

"And you?"

Dean frowned. "Me? I'm peachy."

"Bull."

"Language, Sammy. We're in a church." Dean was back on his feet, gathering up their stuff and throwing it in the duffel. "Hey…" Sam was struggling to stand up. "You keep your ass parked right there on the floor until I've covered our tracks. You look about as steady as a drunk at last call."

Sam huffed in annoyance but stayed sitting down. He frowned when he noticed the discoloration on Dean's neck where the demon had grabbed him. "Your throat's bruised."

"Nah. It's just razor burn."

"The hell it is." Sam glared at his brother. "You-"

"I'm good, Sam. Now come on, we need to get out of here." Dean raised an eyebrow as he wiped blood from the dagger, but quickly wrapped the knife in a bandanna, dropped it in the duffel and zipped the bag shut. He kicked the rug straight so it recovered the Devil's Trap, then pulled out his phone and dialed 911. "Yeah, we're just passing St. Alban's Church. Sounds like some kind of disturbance. You guys should -" He hung up, shoved the phone in his pocket, slung the duffel over his shoulder and moved to Sam's side. "That's our cue, Sasquatch. Let's go."

Dean crouched down, pulled Sam's left arm over his shoulders and wrapped his right arm around Sam's waist to hoist him to his feet. His brother was unsteady, but stayed standing.

"M'okay, Dean." Sam started to pull away.

"Sure you are." Dean tightened his hold. "Come on."

With Dean's help, Sam began moving slowly across the office. "What d'you think the demon meant … when he said he'd done his part?"

"What?"

"The demon. Just before we exorcised him, he said, 'I've done my part. Now, he'll find you…'"

Dean looked up at Sam as they maneuvered themselves through the doorway. "Must've missed that when I was choking."

Sam grunted as his elbow caught the door frame, jarring his injured shoulder. "Thought you were fine."

"I am." Dean guided Sam down the hall toward the courtyard in the back where the Impala was parked. "As for the demonic doubletalk – I dunno. But I'll bet that dagger that was in your shoulder is tied to it somehow."

"How?"

"The blade... it's covered in symbols. I think they're Enochian."

Sam's eyes widened. "I wanna see it."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Course you do. And once you're stitched up and that blade's been sterilized, you can." He tensed at the sound of police sirens in the distance. "But, right now, it's one foot in front of the other, soldier. Move."

xxxXXXxxxx

Sam lay on the bed, studying the dagger as he twisted it first one way and then the other. It was silver, about eight inches long, the blade about half of that. The hilt was heavily decorated and the blade engraved with symbols on both sides. "You're right. These symbols look Enochian but – Ow!"

Dean, sitting beside him on the bed, cast a sideways glance at Sam as he pushed the needle through skin, then looped the thread to pull the wound together. "Hey, I offered you anesthetic." He gestured with his head to the bottle of scotch on the nightstand. "You're the one who turned it down."

Sam screwed his eyes closed waiting for the sharp pain to fade. "I told you, I wanna do some research on this dagger. Find out what – Ow!" He glared at his brother. "You did that on purpose."

Dean knotted the stitch and snipped the thread. "That one, yes I did. Because the only thing you're doing when I'm done here is catching some Z's."

Sam's headache had been building since they'd left the church and that shortened his temper. "Stop treating me like a kid."

"Then stop acting like one." Dean tied off the final stitch in Sam's shoulder. "You got stabbed, Sammy. Lost a lot of blood." He smeared antibiotic ointment across the wound then covered it in gauze. "Research can wait."

"No it can't. What the demon said-"

"…implied his boss was involved, which is why we called Cas and Bobby. They're both looking into it, which means you can sleep." Dean sat back after taping the gauze in place, turned over Sam's hand and studied his palm. The piece of glass he'd grabbed at the church to fight the lure of the demon blood had sliced along the lifeline and across the first knuckle of each finger. "I think we can get away without stitches here as long as I wrap it."

Sam nodded, dropped the dagger on the bed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Dean looked up from cleaning the wound. "What?"

Sam rolled his head across the pillow. "Headache, that's all.

"Not surprising...blood loss, being tossed into a bookcase...take your pick."

"No, it's…"

"What?" Dean stopped unrolling the bandage, his expression darkening. "You craving demon blood?"

Sam looked up, startled. "No. I'm not hungry for it, but something feels…off." He glanced at the knife beside him. "My gut tells me it's tied to that dagger, so I need to-"

"Damn it, Sam. Drop it." Dean reached over his brother and picked up the knife, re-wrapping it in the bandanna. "You can barely keep your eyes open. You sit your ass in front of your computer now, how long do you think you're gonna last, huh? I'll bet you a month's worth of bar tabs you face-plant on your keyboard inside of an hour."

Sam's jaw set stubbornly but he said nothing as Dean resumed wrapping his injured hand.

After pinning the bandage in place, Dean exhaled audibly, the fight suddenly gone from his voice. "Look, I'll do some poking around, okay? See what I can find. If I don't come up with anything, you can pick it up in the morning."

Sam glanced up at Dean, taking in his pasty color and strained voice. "I'm not the only one who needs to crash. You look and sound like crap." He cut off Dean before he could protest. "They could take fingerprints off that razor burn around your neck, and you sound like you've been chewing on gravel."

"Shut up and take these." Dean pressed two painkillers into Sam's good hand, reached for the carton of juice on the nightstand, then helped Sam sit up.

Sam stared down at the pills. Part of him wanted to refuse them, knowing they'd keep him under all night, but, as much as he hated to admit it, Dean was right: his gas tank was empty. He'd made it into the room under his own steam, but just barely, then needed Dean's help to shuck off his clothes. As much as he needed to figure out what the demon's cryptic parting shot meant, it wasn't happening tonight.

He tossed back the pills, bottomed the glass of juice, them slumped back on the pillow. Dean pulled the blankets over him then moved off toward the bathroom.

Sam's eyes slid shut, his body quickly powering down now it had permission. The phone rang, but he was asleep before the second ring.

xxxXXXxxx

Sam jolted awake. The room was dark, illuminated only by the small lamp on the nightstand. The only sound was the muted rumble of nearby interstate traffic.

He sat up with a groan, grimacing at the pain radiating from his shoulder. He pulled back the covers, swung his legs off the bed and glanced over at the clock: it read 1:47.

Dean was asleep on his own bed. He lay on his back, head turned toward the door. He wore sweat pants and a t-shirt, which told Sam he'd showered, but slept on top of the covers, which meant he'd likely fallen asleep out of exhaustion rather than choice. Or he'd had a little help. Sam picked up the bottle of scotch from the nightstand. It was down about a quarter – a light night for Dean these days

"All this fighting is taking a toll, isn't it? On both of you."

Sam's breath caught at the familiar voice. His head snapped around – Lucifer stood leaning against the wall at the back of the room, arms folded across his chest.

Sam stood up shakily. "Get out of my head."

Lucifer just smiled. "Last time we talked, you seemed…in shock. Now you've had some time to digest things, I thought I'd see how you're doing."

He stepped away from the wall, and Sam took a step back, his knees catching the edge of Dean's bed. "Stay away from me."

"I won't hurt you. Thanks to Castiel, I have to get creative even to find you." Lucifer shook his head. "I really should be angry with him, especially after he whisked you away the last time we spoke." His smile returned. "But I have a soft spot for rebellious angels. Kinda hits close to home."

"I won't say yes." Sam fought to steady his voice. "Doesn't matter how many times you ask."

"So you insist." Lucifer sat down on the end of Sam's bed. "But I believe differently."

"No." A shiver ran through Sam that had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.

Lucifer's smile returned. "You're strong, Sam. Together, we-"

"There is no we." Sam spat out the words. "And never will be."

"You tell him, Sammy."

Sam looked over his shoulder. Dean was sitting up on his bed, his eyes locked on Lucifer.

Lucifer stood up. "This was meant to be a private conversation."

"I'll just bet it was." Dean pushed himself off the bed to stand beside Sam.

Sam stared incredulously at his brother. "I'm dreaming, right?"

"Yeah. But thanks to Lucifer's clumsy lapdog," Dean tapped the bandage that now wrapped his right forearm, "I get to crash this party."

"You're a quick study. I'll give you that." Lucifer stroked his fingers along his chin. "Although you and brother both seem slow to accept the inevitable."

Dean's expression was hard. "Just like you and your brother are a little slow when it comes to taking 'No' for an answer."

Sam took a step closer to Dean but his eyes never left Lucifer. "What the hell's going on, Dean?"

"I did a little research after you fell asleep. Looks like that fancy dagger you were so fascinated with works like some kind of demonic tracking device." Dean moved from between the beds to stand in front of Lucifer. "When you got stabbed, it tagged you. And that tag lets Lucifer hone in on you while you're sleeping…when your defenses are down."

Sam swallowed, his gaze jumping to Dean's injured arm. "And you got cut, so-"

"…it tagged me, too, which lets me sit in on this pow-wow." Dean's eyes narrowed. "How am I doing, so far?"

"And they say Sam's the brains of this outfit." Lucifer crossed his arms. "One flaw with your theory: there was no knife the last time he and I had a late-night chat."

"Yeah, when you dressed up as Jessica, you sick freak." Dean moved closer, countering Lucifer's bemused expression with a deadly glare.

Lucifer's eyebrow peaked in amusement. "What? You begrudge your brother a little comfort?"

Dean's fury was barely contained. "Oh that's rich, since it was you bastards who took her from him in the first place."

"The dagger's only part of it; it's the blood, too." Sam paled as he pieced the puzzle together. "That's why the demon cut himself. He had to slash me...mark me...with a bloody knife for it to work."

Lucifer smiled. "Very good. And the last time?"

Sam cradled his injured arm against his chest. "I got War's blood all over me when we took the ring – on my skin, my clothes... I didn't do laundry until…" He pushed past Dean to stand in front of Lucifer. "You tracked that, didn't you?"

Lucifer nodded approvingly. "Glad to see that Ivy League education didn't go to waste. Yes, Horseman blood is ideal. It's rare…easy to track. But, let's face it, the supply is…limited. This time I was forced to use a blue-collar grade. It works, it just needs...a little help."

His gaze slid to the bandage on Sam's shoulder. "And I do apologize for the injury, Sam. A simple slash would have been sufficient." He sighed. "It's so hard to get good help these days."

Sam stumbled backwards, colliding with Dean, as Lucifer reached for his shoulder. "Don't you touch me."

Lucifer held up his hands in surrender. "Fine. I just want to talk. That's all – talk."

"So get a freaking TV show," Dean snapped. "I hear Oprah's timeslot's opening up."

Lucifer kept his focus on Sam. "We are meant to be. You have to know that by now. There can be no other end to this."

"That's a lie." Sam curled his hands into fists to stop them from shaking.

Lucifer moved again toward Sam. "I told you the first time we met, I will never lie to you. I will never trick you. But I can take that weight off your shoulders. Together, we-"

"You are so full of crap." Dean stepped in front of Sam, placing himself between his brother and Lucifer. "This is about one-upping Michael and getting back at Dad. . . plain and simple. Screwing your family for kicking you out of the homestead. And if Sam and me, hell, the whole freaking human race, get trampled in the process, who the hell cares, right? We're just apocalyptic roadkill."

Lucifer turned to Dean. "Cynicism is not an endearing trait."

"Oh, bite me."

"Careful." Lucifer's expression remained neutral. "My patience has its limits."

"What're you gonna do, huh?" Dean's eyes flashed. "Throw me into a tree again?"

"Dean." Now it was Sam who pushed himself between Lucifer and his angry brother.

"He can't hurt us, Sammy."

Lucifer's gaze stayed fixed on Dean. "Not here. Not now."

Sam took a step forward, eyes blazing. "Don't you threaten him."

"Or what, Sam?" Lucifer crossed his arms, his expression bemused. "What exactly will you do if I hurt Dean?"

Sam's voice was tight. "You leave him out of this."

Lucifer shrugged. "That's something you need to take up with my brother. My primary concern is you." He pressed his hands together, gesturing at Sam. "You're wasting all this energy battling the inevitable. I just want to help you fulfill your destiny. When you invite me in, you'll be amazed at what we can do, what I can give you and wonder why you spent all this time fighting me."

His step forward was met with a growled, "Back off" from Dean, but his focus stayed on Sam. "That anger inside you that's eating you up, I promise you it will go away. There will be peace. How good will that feel?"

Sam felt Dean shift beside him, brushing against him and jarring his injured shoulder. But instead of pain there was comfort in the physical contact and he drew strength from it. "No."

Lucifer sighed. "Sam-"

"I said, 'No.'"

"You've got your answer." Again, Dean pushed past Sam to stand nose-to-nose with Lucifer. "Now do the world a favor and crawl back in the hole you slithered out of."

Lucifer smiled. "And waste all the effort you two put into freeing me? I think not." He turned back to Sam. "We'll do this again."

Sam fought to keep his voice steady. "The answer will still be 'No.'"

Lucifer's smile widened, and then he was gone.

xxxXXXxxx

Sam woke with a gasp. He was lying in bed, the room dark except for the gray light of early morning poking through the closed drapes, and the artificial light from the bathroom spilling out through the open door. He turned to Dean's bed – it was empty.

He sat up, biting back a groan. "Dean?" He felt dizzy, grabbing the edge of the bed to steady himself, and swallowed against rising nausea.

"Hey, keep your ass in bed." Dean appeared suddenly from the bathroom, carrying a washcloth and a glass of water, his phone tucked under his chin. "Yeah, he's awake." He was speaking into the receiver now. "How's he look? As goofy as always - and with a wicked case of bedhead." Sam's glare was met with an exaggerated grin. "I told you, that's done. Just send me the incantation, and I'll take care of the rest." He glanced again at Sam. "Always do, Bobby … Thanks."

Dean handed Sam the glass of water, clicked off the phone and tossed it on his bed. "How you feeling?"

"Like crap." Sam glanced down at the stab wound. The dressing was gone and the skin was puffy, red lines of infection snaking out from the lesion itself.

"You've been running a fever all night," Dean offered in response to Sam's unspoken question. "I forced some pills down you and have been flushing out the wound every hour, trying to get the infection under control."

Sam frowned. "I don't remember any of that."

"Yeah, you were pretty out of it." Dean flipped open the first-aid kit and pulled out a pill bottle. "Here, time for another round."

Sam took the pills Dean offered, swallowed them then placed the glass on the nightstand. "What about Lucifer?"

Dean's voice was tight. "You remember that, huh?"

"So it wasn't a nightmare?"

"I wouldn't say that." Dean sank down onto the edge of his bed, scrubbing a hand down his face. "But Lucifer was poking around in your head, trying his damnedest to get you to say yes. And I got a front-row seat." He studied Sam worriedly. "You were out a long time after I woke up. Did he come back?"

Sam shook his head slowly. "Last thing I remember is you standing beside me when he disappeared."

Dean nodded. "Good. Then it worked."

"What did?"

Dean leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "When I couldn't wake you up, I woke up Father Dave. Filled in a few blanks for him and got him to come over here and pick up the dagger. He promised to toss it in the church furnace."

Relief helped ease some of the nausea churning in Sam's gut. He rubbed a hand below the stab wound. "But Lucifer already tagged me - and you. What if-"

"It's taken care of, Sammy. Bobby's found an incantation that will sever the link that the dagger and the blood created. He's gonna text it to me. As soon as it lands, I'll read it and you can get some Luci-free sleep, let those pills do their job." Dean pushed himself up, crossed the room to the weapons duffel and pulled out the flask of holy water. "Lie back. I wanna flush out the wound again."

As Dean sat on the edge of the bed, Sam took in the blossoming bruises on his neck where the demon had grabbed him by the throat. "You alright?"

Dean scowled as he poured the holy water over Sam's injured shoulder, using the washcloth to mop up the excess. "Told you, I'm fine."

"You still sound like Brando."

"As long as it's not fat Brando, I'll take that as a compliment." Dean studied the wound. "It's not smoking and you're not yelling, which likely means your fever has a medical cause, not a demonic one. "

Sam nodded. "Good."

"Not entirely." Dean capped the flask and stood up. "But if we can get your temperature down, we can avoid a trip to the ER and get you back to your pain-in-the-ass self."

"I'm touched, Dean. Really." Sam's expression turned serious as he watched his brother cross the room to return the medical supplies to the duffel. "Do you ever think about it?"

"That's a little vague, Sam."

"About what might make me say yes. About what might make you say yes."

Dean's back was to Sam, but he saw his brother tense at the question. "No. No sense wasting energy on crap that's never gonna happen."

It was an instinctive lie, designed to protect Sam, like countless others Dean had told him growing up, hoping to shield him from some of the fugly truths in life. Sam had taken comfort in them as a kid, been annoyed by them as a young teen and pissed off by them as an adolescent. But, right now, he wanted nothing more than to believe Dean, to will this lie to become truth.

Sam shivered, pulling the bed covers over him, as his brother crossed back to his side, carrying salve and a clean bandage. Dean sat down on the bed and dressed the stab wound with practiced ease.

Sam watched him work. "I've got your back, Dean, just like you've got mine. As long as we do that…Lucifer, Michael…they can't get to us. Right?"

"Damn straight." Dean looked up. Sam could see the same battle between hope and doubt raging inside his brother's head that was ablaze in his own.

But he'd met Lucifer three times, and said no three times. And Dean had told Zachariah and Michael to shove it. They could do this. There was reason for hope, and he'd hang on to that.

Finis

A/N: The prompt asked for some Sam and Dean h/c, with a side-order of Lucifer visiting Sam again, but this time with Dean there to offer back-up. It got me thinking about why Lucifer has visited Sam's dreams only once (in Free To Be You and Me) – at least that we know of – and this story is the result. I tried to stay within canon but, because I so want the boys working as a team again, watching each other's back, sometimes wishful thinking may have crept in. After this week's episode – which was brilliantly devastating – I think maybe we all need a little hope. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you, about this story, your hopes for the rest of the season or both. Until next time, cheers!