AN: Been meaning to write this for awhile, and just got around to it tonight. Wrote it all at once, had to rush a bit because the fam and I are leaving for vacation tomorrow morning! Well, it's about 1am, so…later this morning? Either way, ugh. I really hope it didn't turn out as terrible as I feel like it did...

Huge thanks to Marianna Morgan for her speedy help and inspiration. Love ya, jerk!

And also thanks to the folks over at Author's Notes for their (also speedy) suggestions!


Something was wrong.

Something was very wrong, and Dean wasn't sure if even he could fix it.

"No."

Sam's whisper echoed through the small room once again. It was pained, but had a tone of defiance that held steady in the syllable.

"Sam," Dean said. Maybe he'd been imagining it. Maybe Sam hadn't spoken at all. Maybe their lives could just be normal and they could pick up their broken pieces and move on.

"No."

Maybe not.

Sam's head was down, buried in his hands. It looked as if he hadn't even heard Dean speak.

But he had…it was just that…there were some things that even Dean couldn't fix.

"You can't be fixed, Sammy. Because you're not broken. You're just a monster, and you're alone. Except for me."

A man stood mere feet away, clad in a slick white suit, smiling in a way that made Sam's heart constrict and his stomach roll. Lucifer grinned larger and his teeth showed fully. Sam's fingers dug further into his scalp.

He thought of responding to his brother.

"He's not real, Sammy. He never was. You're here, with me, forever. Big brother isn't real, Sammy. But I am. And I'll always be here. Always. Forever."

No…

"Sam." Dean's voice was sharp. At least he thought it was…if it was Dean speaking, if Dean was there. Because Dean was there…He had to be…

Sam contemplated touching his brother for validation, just some kind of contact to know. Would it help?

"Don't bother, it won't get you anywhere. We're alone, Sammy. Just you and me."

"Don't call me that," Sam hissed. His voice was dark and low, but not enough so that Dean wouldn't be able to hear him. If indeed his brother was where he thought he was, with him.

"You think The Elephant Man wanted that name? You're a monster, Sammy. You don't get a say." And suddenly, Lucifer was right in front of him, inches from Sam's face. He still grinned and the shine of his teeth burned Sam's eyes. "You never did."

And Sam found he couldn't really argue.

"Sammy," Dean said lowly. And it was too Dean-like to be anything but.

Sam reached out tentatively to touch his brother's arm. It was lighter than a grip, but stronger than a brush. It was cautious, uncertain, as if afraid that any further movement would cause a catastrophic implosion. As if releasing the small amount of pressure already there would be to let go forever and watch all the pieces shatter apart.

He touched Dean's arm not because he didn't know if he was real. Sam knew that. Between the jumbled memories and scalding pain, he knew that much.

"Do you, Sammy," the slithering voice hissed. "Do you really know that?"

But it was the same compulsion that, when someone stood in front of you and said they were in an accident, prompted you to ask if they were ok, despite the fact that they were clearly standing right there. It was the same thing that made Dean say "Sam?" with that scared-to-be-hopeful voice.

It was the same thing that made them hug and cry and laugh and smile.

It was the same thing that made Dean, when Sam was in the passenger seat, glance over and stare, if only for a few seconds. Just to make sure.

"It's the same thing that sent you to the Cage, with me. And now, no matter what, you can never really leave, can you, Sammy?"

"Sam, what the hell?" But Sam heard the worry bleeding out of the words, and realized he had yet to respond to his brother.

"Sorry," he said quickly, withdrawing his hand from Dean's arm. "Think I'm just tired."

Dean didn't look convinced, but the panicked glint in his eyes faded.

"You want me to get us something to eat?" Do you need some time alone?

Sam nodded.

"Yeah, that'd be great." I want you here, but I need you gone…just for awhile.

Dean tentatively grabbed his jacket from the back of a nearby chair.

"Promise not to burn the place down?" Are you gonna be ok by yourself? 'Cause I'd stay in a heartbeat.

"Promise." I'll be here when you get back.

With that, Dean took the keys from his pocket and slid out the door in a flash.

Within seconds, the absence left a tingling sensation in Sam's chest, and he really just wanted Dean back. He wanted to get in the car and drive around until they found an open field where they could watch the stars, drink beer, and forget about the world. He wanted to forget about everything.

But in the end, he really just wanted his brother.

He'd give up all the rest as long as he could have Dean there with him.

"Well, you get me, Sammy. Close enough, right?"

Sam's lips formed a hard, angry line as he growled, "I told you not to call me that."

"Tough luck, Sammy. Elephant Man, remember?"

"You're wrong."

Lucifer's grin faded, and he started looking angrier than he had, less amused.

"Excuse me?"

"The Elephant Man. He wasn't a monster. He was just a man. Just a regular guy."

"He was a freak, Sammy. A freak, just like you."

"It wasn't his fault." Sam's voice wavered not from lack of conviction, but from the overwhelming sense of it.

Lucifer's lips curled into a grin that made the hair on the back of Sam's neck rise.

"It was, Sammy. It was always his fault."

He leaned over, putting his mouth a breath away from Sam's ear.

"It was always yours, too."

"No," Sam said. "No."

Lucifer began to laugh, a boisterous, mocking sound that rumbled from his throat and slammed into Sam's ears painfully.

The sound built inside Sam's mind until he couldn't bear the overwhelming pressure.

"I said no!" he screamed. Because he didn't care anymore what was real or not, he just wanted the sickening noise to stop.

The laughing died down, but the buzz in his head was still there, alive with the presence of the fallen angel.

"Face it, Sammy," Lucifer said. The amusement was entirely gone from his tone now, and if Sam was telling the truth, it scared him a little. "The Elephant Man was born into his fate. From the moment he took his first breath, his parents knew he was a freak. A mistake. A monster. Just like you."

"He was not a monster," Sam said through clenched teeth. "He was a man."

"But when it all comes down to it, Sammy…" Lucifer paused, waiting until Sam looked up. "…is there much of a difference?"

"Yes."

"You and your insufferable belief in the good of mankind. We're really going to have to work on that."

Sam ignored him and continued. "There are good people who come out of shitty situations. People who are born to their fate. People who defy it."

Lucifer said nothing.

"Some people teach the rest of us how to be human." And all Sam could see was Dean.

"And some of you can never be taught. Some of you are Elephant Men just waiting to be born."

"He wasn't a monster," Sam said. "And neither am I."

"History has proven otherwise, Sammy."

"People make mistakes."

Lucifer sighed exaggeratedly. "Your shortcomings are far too large to be considered mistakes…but I think you realize that, don't you, Elephant Man?"

"My name," Sam growled. "Is Sam."

Lucifer raised his hands in mock surrender."Well, Sam"—the name was spat viciously—" what do you intend to doing about these mistakes you've made?"

"Learn from them."

Lucifer smiled sickly. "That remains to be seen."

The door of the room swung open and Dean walked in, toting a large bag of food. He pulled two long wraps out. "Got you the chicken salad sub, didn't wanna mess up your girly diet." He tossed Sam one of the wrapped subs.

He could feel Lucifer leering at him to his right, and hoped Dean couldn't sense the unbearable tension radiating within him.

"You ok with that?" Dean asked. He looked at Sam warily. You ok?

"Yeah, I'm good. Let's dig in." Sam grabbed the sub and spread the wrapper on his lap, as if neither of them had a care in the world.

But Dean could see the slight tremble in Sam's fingers, and the way his eyes shifted to the right every few seconds. And Sam just wasn't talking.

Something was wrong.

Something was very wrong, and Dean wasn't sure if even he could fix it.

"Hey, Sammy," Dean began.

Sam looked at him, and conflict stirred in the hazel eyes. Because on one hand, Dean was his life raft, and if he could just look at Dean, be near Dean, see and feel and know what's real…he could stay grounded forever. But at the same time, he couldn't just ignore the things that weren't real. The things that kept him up every night and followed him during the day. The things that he feared might always be there.

And to talk to Dean would be to admit the fear that burned painfully in his heart.

That this was something he just couldn't shake, and—worst of all—something that Dean could do nothing about. This was a shadow that Dean could not chase away, and that scared Sam more than anything.

"Yeah?" he said roughly.

Dean studied his brother for a moment.

"There's nothing you can do to escape this, Sammy. There's nothing he can do, either."

Dean swallowed and shook his head lightly.

"Nothin'."

Sam clenched his jaw and tried to figure out if he was relieved or disappointed.

Lucifer stood to his right and smiled.

"You're alone, Sammy. I'm all you have."

"No," Sam whispered. "You're wrong."

"I told you, he's not real. Not in the way you need him to be."

Sam found himself fighting back tears at the hopelessness in his chest. He just wanted this to be over, for things to be back to how they were before. He wanted an ounce of normalcy, a breath of regularity, a moment of silence from the looming noise of memory. He wanted Lucifer and the Cage and the memories and the loneliness to be gone.

"Sammy," Dean said. His voice was cautious and gentle, but strong enough that Sam looked up. "I'm here."

Sam glanced back at Lucifer, who looked annoyed. As Sam watched him, the fallen angel faded slightly from his peripherals.

And Sam, for the first time in awhile, smiled.

"I know," he said. The buzz in his mind dimmed.

Dean's eyes never dropped contact with Sam's, and that alone said so much.

You're not alone.

I'm with you.

We can do this.

Together.

Sam nodded, and when Dean's lips curled into a smile, he realized he was still smiling, too.

He didn't know how long it would last or when Lucifer would be back or what would happen next. But he was starting to think that maybe that was ok, as long as Dean was by his side.

You're not alone.

I'm with you.

We can do this.

Together.

Smile not yet faded from his face, Sam just looked at his brother, not caring about anything else in that moment.

I know.