Author's Note: Because apparently I have issued myself a challenge to write about Lucifer and Sam in as many different ways as possible! Also awesome horror memes.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.
Dean stares at him, full of accusation. How could you, his eyes say. How could you. And then they close. John Winchester is lying dead on the floor with a bullet hole in his forehead and Sam is still standing, chest heaving, everything, for a moment, still.
He drives to the hospital like a madman (like Dean) and drags his brother out of the car, bellowing for help. Dean is limp in his arms and there's blood dribbling over his lips and blood on his shirt and blood on Sam's hands.
The doctors take one look at them and he can see their sympathy, sympathy he doesn't want or need because Dean is going to be just fine, really, he is.
DOA, he hears one say. Dead on arrival.
And Dean's dead and the demon's dead and Dad's dead and there's nothing left anywhere, nothing Sam can do. He's alone and he can't even turn to revenge. Sam stands alone in the parking lot and the world is suddenly too big, too wide, and empty of possibilities.
(No, he thinks. No. This didn't happen. He takes a deep breath.
A softer voice, friendly, almost gentle, murmurs, Are you sure?)
Ruby's eyes glow with triumph, exhilaration. "We did it," she says, "Sam, we did it! Look, look-" Her palms are warm on his face, turning his horrified eyes toward the swirling pattern on the floor. "He's coming. Finally. Lucifer's coming."
The door opens with a bang and Sam turns, eyes and mouth wide. Terrified. WhathaveIdoneohgodwhat-
Dean's eyes blaze like Ruby's but with hatred, and Sam quails because the knife in his hand is sharp and deadly and can kill any demon (even him). They look at each other and there is no forgiveness, no understanding, just an angel's weapon filled to the brim with righteous fury.
He kills Ruby first, twists the knife in her gut and she flashes from the inside, seeming almost surprised that she is dying.
"I'm sorry," Sam starts to say, but can't finish it because the knife in his throat severs his vocal cords right along with the rest.
Choking and gurgling on blood, hitting the floor feels like nothing, and he looks up at the ceiling as light begins to pulse in the inside of the church. Dean has already turned away. He won't even watch Sam die.
(It didn't happen that way, Sam protests, as blood flows down his throat and into his lungs. It wasn't like that.
And the voice, he can almost feel a hand stroking his brow, says, Are you sure?)
Sam's pretty sure Dean's arm is broken. He's not screaming anymore but he bit through his lower lip and the angle is weird and wrong. They need to get to a hospital but getting to a hospital means opening the door means going through the kitchen and Dad is in the kitchen.
"He didn't mean to, Sammy," Dean says, pants, really. "It was an accident."
Sam is scared. Dean isn't scared, but Sam is and he doesn't know what to do. He feels sick and uneasy and Dean is pale and breathing in these quick little pants and he knows it's not good. They need to get out.
He looks around the small room for a weapon and goes for Dean's bag. Fishes through it and finds a switchblade, which he wraps his fist around. "Come on," he says, tugging Dean's unbroken arm, trying to be brave. "Come on, we need to go."
He reaches for the door and unlocks it as quietly as he can, then opens it a crack to peer through. He can't see anything. Sam holds onto the switchblade more tightly and opens the door the rest of the way.
Their father comes out of nowhere. "Where are you going," he says, and his voice is rough like gravel, his breath stinks like alcohol. Sam tries to stand up straight, but he's small, still.
"Dean's hurt," he says. "He needs a hospital."
He sees Dad's fists ball up and steps back, like he can shelter Dean, but Dean has other ideas. He steps forward, nudging Sam out of the way. "Dad," he says, "It's fine, okay? It's-"
John punches Dean in the face. Not hard, but hard enough. Sam sees red and lunges, and realizes too late that the switchblade was open and Dad is bleeding. He stares at Sam, incredulous, and then says, "You little shit."
Sam grabs Dean and pulls as hard as he can, and Dean is shoving him too now, saying, "Run, shit, run, Sam, what did you do-"
Their dad stumbles after them, but he's bleeding, bleeding a lot actually, and they're out in the open air and then on the street. Dean is gasping in pain and they are so fucked, so fucked.
(No. That never happened. That never – nothing even close happened. Dad wouldn't-
Are you sure?)
Sam blinks and turns his head. The car is humming underneath him and Dean is looking at him with something past worry and not quite fear. "Huh?"
"Dude, where were you? I've been trying to get your attention for a couple minutes."
Where was I? Good question. "Somewhere," he says. "What is it?" Dean's lips press together for a second, and his frown deepens.
"You're not scratching," he says, more command than question. Sam shakes his head minutely.
"No. I'm not stupid, Dean." I don't want a head full of hell. I don't want to be a puddle of insanity on the floor. No, I won't scratch. Even if it itches. "I guess I just – spaced for a second. It's not a big deal."
Dean doesn't look convinced, but he turns his eyes back to the front, toward the road. "Whatever. I was just asking what you think the deal is with this hunt."
"Not sure," Sam says, because he isn't. Isn't even sure he remembers what they're hunting. He won't say that, though; it'll only freak Dean out. And everyone has memory lapses, right? It's just that he can't quite remember how he got here.
Like a dream. You end up right in the middle of it and no idea how you got there.
Sam glances down at his hand because it's starting to ache, and realizes that its clenched white knuckled on the door handle. He doesn't remember putting it there. Dean makes a peculiar huffing noise. "You're not sure. No theories or anything?"
Sam rubs his forehead. "No, nothing," he says, and apparently something in his tone bothers Dean because his big brother turns and looks at him, further toward the fear end of the spectrum now.
"Are you sure you're okay? You sound a little…"
Are you sure? Sam hears in his head, and jerks a little, blinks. The world for a second seems to blur, become indistinct. He swallows hard. "Off?" he manages to finish, hoping his voice doesn't sound odd. "I'm fine. Really."
"If you say so." Dean pauses, then says, a little more carefully, "Is it déja vu or something? Cause I told you-"
"No," Sam says, because it isn't. "That's not it. It's nothing. Really." Dean gives him a measuring look, and Sam says, "Really," like if he says it with more vehemence it'll be true.
It doesn't quite work out that way. Sam detaches his hand from the door and puts it in his lap, but a couple seconds later its back, like he feels the need to hold onto something solid. Like maybe this isn't real. What are we hunting? Why can't I remember?
"I'm just saying…"
"I know," Sam says, and turns his head quickly to stare out the window. The landscape is indistinct, hazy. "I promise, okay? I'll tell you if something's wrong."
Nothing's wrong, after all. He just feels a little funny. Uncertain. Nothing's wrong.
For a moment, Sam's thoughts go still, like he's expecting an answer.
He's standing in the middle of a vast wasteland. There is exhaustion settled deep in his bones and pain settled deeper. Looking out at the gray plain of ashes, he wonders if it's fitting that after this started in fire it ended in fire. Or is going to end in fire. If it ever ends.
Dean's been dead for twenty years. He's not sure why he's still holding on.
Oh, yes. That's why.
"No," Sam says, before he can be asked. Sometimes he forgets that there are any other words that he can still say. He hasn't talked to anyone. Not in a long time.
"What's the point?" Lucifer asks. "Look at this. Is this what you're trying to save? What's the point, Sam? What could be worse than this?"
The thing is, Sam doesn't know. But then, he isn't sure this is real, either. Isn't sure this is the world as it actually is or just the world as Lucifer wants him to see it. Whenever he was sure before, his whole life, he turned out to be wrong.
Better to remain unsure. "There are still people," Sam says, "Somewhere."
Lucifer sighs. "You are stubborn. Is that why? I could always fix that. What are they to you, anyway?"
Sam doesn't know about that, either. He hasn't talked to anyone in a very long time. He's not sure he could carry on a normal conversation if he tried, now. "Do you think they're happy to live like this?" Lucifer asks him gently. "Are you happy?"
Lucifer knows the answer to that one, so Sam doesn't say anything. There's nothing to say.
"Dean's dead," the devil says softly. "Why keep saying no for him? The other angels are gone, they've given up. Everyone's given up but you. No one's going to hold it against you, not anymore. You can finish it. Isn't that what you want? An end?"
It's a nice idea. A nice thought. He's been alive too long. And there is no one left to let down.
He doesn't remember why he keeps saying no. For the other people in this miserable world? Do they care? Nobody cares. Nobody cares.
"Okay," he says, finally, forty years and a thousand lifetimes later. "Okay."
(I didn't – not like that, I didn't-
Are you sure? The voice is even gentler, this time; it's okay, you couldn't stop it, it's not your fault. Are you sure?)
"You need to let go of me now."
Sam opens his eyes one at a time and makes a small objecting noise, nuzzling closer to the warm body snugged against his. Jess laughs and rolls over to shove at him. "Sam! I've got classes. And so do you."
"No work," Sam murmurs. "Just bed. All day." He mouths her shoulder and slings one arm over her waist, tugging her back against him. Jess groans.
"Cut it out, you. Someone's got to be responsible."
"Mmmhm," Sam agrees vaguely, and closes his eyes again.
They've been married for a year and a half, right after they graduated. With honors, Jess always says, and leans up to kiss him. It's nice to have someone be proud of his accomplishments that aren't his aim with a shotgun or how fast he can dismantle a handgun. Not that he's thought about that in a while.
Sometimes he thinks he should call, see what Dean and his dad are up to – but then, they haven't called him. They didn't even come to graduation, and he did call to tell them, to ask them to come.
Somewhere, he hoped that maybe he could mend fences, have his family and this life he always wanted. Apparently not. He shouldn't have been hurt.
And he has Jess. Jess who squirms a little and tries to pry his arm up. "If you let me out I'll make you blueberry pancakes," she says, wheedling. Sam opens his eyes again and considers her.
"Blueberry pancakes. Okay, I guess." He lifts his arm and she rolls out of bed with a smile.
"Bribery," she says, "It always works."
He watches her go out to the kitchen, smiling a little without thinking about it. She's gorgeous in the morning. Rumpled and messy and adorable. He'll have to remember to tell her that. Again. (He's pretty sure he has before.)
Next to him on the bedside table, his cell buzzes. He frowns at it, but it buzzes again, and with a sigh he rolls over and picks it up. "Hello, this is Sam," he says groggily. There's a moment's pause.
"I'm sorry," says an unfamiliar female voice. "Do you know a – Mr. Bonham?"
Sam sits up a little, blinking. That sounds like – but why would – "Yeah," he says, "Yeah, he's my – cousin. Who is this?"
She clears her throat and Sam can already feel his stomach sinking. "Who is it?" Jess calls from the kitchen. He can smell the eggs she's cooking for her own omelette. Sam doesn't answer, just waiting, holding his breath.
"You're the emergency contact of one Mr. Bonham," she says. "I was calling to inform you – he was brought into the ER last night with severe – severe injuries. I'm sorry to – he passed at 4:00 this morning."
"Sam?" Jess says, from the doorway. Sam's throat seems to have closed.
He should have known should have should have- "Was there – was there anyone with him?" Sam asks, though he already knows the answer.
"Sam," Jess says again, and this time she sounds scared, and he realizes that his eyes are wet and there are damp streaks racing down his face, but that's not enough, because Dean died alone.
(Jess died, Sam thinks furiously, trying to outrun the crash he knows is coming. We never, I never – Dean's alive.
He doesn't even need someone else to ask the question this time, because he isn't sure. Jess is touching his face, trying to meet his eyes, and he isn't sure.)
He gets rejected from Stanford and spends the next two years hunting before he puts a gun in his mouth because it's too much and he can feel the life draining out of him with every hunt.
He's in Peoria and gets shot through the heart and lies in a bunch of broken window-glass. He never even sees the shooter.
Dean dies on his first hunt and Dad goes off the rails. Sam gets picked up by CPS and ends up bouncing from home to home to home until he's fourteen and goes berserk, kills his whole family. The doctor who comes to take care of him has yellow eyes and makes so many promises.
He kills Jake in Cold Oak. He doesn't kill Jake and Jake stabs Dean. Dean kills Sam, kills John, kills himself. Sam kills Dean, kills John, kills himself. Sam dies in a house in Lawrence, under a shifter with his brother's face, in an explosion, in a wendigo hunt, in a drive by shooting.
Sam never gets out of Broward County and watches Dean die forever and ever and ever.
Dean never gets out of Hell. Dean comes out of Hell a demon. Sam marries Jess and she doesn't die, Sam marries Jess and she dies anyway. Sam kills Dean while possessed, and then Bobby, and doesn't care once the demon's gone.
Sam lets Lucifer in and laughs as the devil crushes Dean's throat. Dean lets Michael in and laughs as Sam chokes on his own blood.
This never happened. This never happened. Show me anything you want-
I could do this forever.
There is a hand running through his hair. Or there was. But when he opens his eyes, Dean is asleep in the other bed and Sam is not sure he was asleep at all. He knows that voice. He knows those hands. (Better than Dean's, now.)
He knows the answer to this by now. "It's not real," he whispers.
"Sam? You're awake?" Dean rolls over, apparently not asleep at all. "You ready to talk now?"
"Talk about what?" Sam says. His voice feels heavy. Maybe he should stop pretending. Maybe he should just draw a knife across his throat now and end this one before it starts. I could do this forever.
Dean's face flickers. "What we were…discussing…earlier."
Sam puts his hands over his face. "I don't remember what we were discussing earlier," he says, "I don't remember what we're doing here. What we're hunting."
Dean's face floods with alarm. "What?"
"It's like a dream," Sam says, blearily. "Hazy around the edges. Start in the middle. I've done this before."
Dean rolls over and is suddenly right there. "Sam," he says, and there's a new edge on his voice. "Sam, you have to tell me what the fuck is going on. Do you mean you just – forget?"
"There's always more," Sam says. His hand wraps in the blanket, but it doesn't matter how solid it feels. It always feels solid. The blood is always warm. The pain always hurts. It's real, for as long as it lasts, and then it isn't anymore. "After this. Always-"
"Sam," Dean says again, more solidly, like he can will Sam to make sense. "Look at me. What is it? Is it – Hell?" His voice hitches on the word. Sam wants to laugh. (But on the other hand he doesn't, at all.)
"Yes," he says, "Yes, it is." He curls his head down toward his knees. "It's not real."
"Fuck," Dean says, "Sam, Sam, look at me, I need you to hold on-"
"To what?" Sam asks, helplessly. "It's not real. This never happened. None of it ever – happened."
Dean's mouth is moving, but Sam can't hear him anymore, can only hear the almost affectionate voice inside his head:
Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?