Something was wrong with this picture.
Jessica was curled up with her head on his chest in an enormous white bed, her breathing soft and warm on his skin. The clock said 5:40; he didn't have to be up for work for another hour. And something was wrong.
"See," said an unfamiliar voice, "That's your problem."
Sam's head jerked around and he found himself staring at a man who looked vaguely and disconcertingly familiar, and simultaneously very ordinary. The man was watching him with something like pity in his eyes, which seemed to be glowing.
"Someone hands you all the good things you could want on a plate, and you look for the flip side. Hey, you think. Maybe Jess is dying of cancer. Maybe I'm the only Winchester left in the world. Maybe… it never occurs to you to think, hey, this is okay. What's that about?"
Sam looked down at Jess. There was something nagging at the back of his brain, but he couldn't pin it down, yet. "Is it because you don't think you deserve anything good?" The man asked. "Or is it just a matter of paranoia?"
"Who are you?" Sam asked, and the man smiled, just a little.
"That's not actually an answer."
"I'm asking the questions, Sam." The man leaned back, half-closing those softly glowing eyes. "I'm just curious, really. Why you have this pathological need…someone tells you they love you, they want what's best for you, they'll take care of you. And what's your response, Sam?"
There was something he was supposed to remember. Sam realized, abruptly, that Jessica was very still and he couldn't feel her breathing. The man stood up and paced left and then right. "You refuse. You deny. You reject the one person who cares most for you in the world, and in the end, the final betrayal-"
Jessica wasn't breathing. Her lips were turning blue and Sam tried to push her off, to sit up and start CPR because Jess but no, she wasn't alive, she hadn't been alive for years-
"You throw us down together, into a place more terrible than you can imagine, rather than let me give you everything!"
-she'd died burning up on the ceiling years ago in California-
"Why did you do that, Sam," the man said, turning, sharply, and softly glowing eyes were suddenly blazing, "Why did you have to do that?"
The room was on fire. Jess was on fire.
His skin was on fire, and Sam was screaming.
"Hush," said Lucifer, hands cool on his skin as the devil drew him from the flames. "Hush. It's all right. I'm sorry. It's all right."
"I just don't think you understand," Lucifer said, pausing for a moment in teasing the nerves out of Sam's skin, "How much I love you. You were made for me, Sam. You were the one thing in that broken world I cared for, and I would have given you anything. Everything."
He paused, and met Sam's eyes. "This is delicate work," he said. "You should appreciate it." Sam was finding it difficult to focus on words with the constant alarm signals of pain clanging in his head. Lucifer brushed a finger across one exposed nerve like taut string and for a moment Sam's world exploded into white.
"Did you ever wonder," Lucifer said, when Sam's vision swam back and he was trying not to choke on bile rising in his throat, "Why I didn't kill your brother? I could have, a thousand times. Michael would have brought him back, sure, but it would have hurt nonetheless. You know that." He leaned down, slightly. "I felt you die. All those years ago, when one of my siblings tried to change things. Like a dash of cold water. I was so angry, Sam. So angry."
Sam shuddered, remembering, and Lucifer brushed a hand across the still intact skin of his upper arm. "I will be honest," Lucifer said. "Dean annoys me. But I know how you care for him. How I once cared for my brother. I am not heartless, Sam. You've had your brother taken from you enough."
"You were going to destroy the world," Sam forced out.
"And remake it," Lucifer corrected gently. "I could have kept Dean safe for the duration, if he hadn't made it so difficult to keep him out of the way. I would have done that." Lucifer lifted his right hand and slid the blade he was holding under the skin, sliced delicately a little further up, exposing a little more nerve. Sam heaved and he could taste vomit forcing its way up his throat, could feel himself about to throw up. Lucifer placed a hand over his mouth.
"Swallow," he said, sternly. "Sam."
He swallowed, stomach twisting and knotting. Lucifer smiled fondly, tapped his fingers against Sam's cheek, and pulled them away.
"I would have done that," Lucifer repeated. "For you."
"You," Sam tried to protest, but Lucifer was shaking his head.
"And there you go again," he said, sadly. "Looking for the catch. The trap. I didn't want to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you."
"You're hurting me now," Sam said. Lucifer tilted his head.
"Would you rather Michael?" Lucifer asked. "He doesn't love you like I do. Do you want me to leave, Sam? Is that what you want? I can be kind. My brother doesn't understand the concept of mercy."
Sam closed his eyes. "I just want to be alone. If you…can you leave me alone?"
Lucifer looked unbearably sad, but he took a step back and the pain faded, dwindled, vanished. His arm returned to whole. "Yes," Lucifer said. "I can do that. And I will keep you safe, Sam. I promise."
He was alone.
Sam was alone and alone and alone, going on forever into nothing and he'd heard the word oblivion before but never really grasped…
In the years after he knew what was happening and before he could start hunting, sometimes he'd been left alone for a day or two, in a motel room, and Sam remembered sitting quietly by the window and listening for the sound of the engine, because the room was too quiet and too empty and he didn't know what to do with himself, and at the time Sam had thought no one could possibly be lonelier but here-
Sam hadn't realized what he'd asked for. This, forever, he thought, this and nothing else, no voices, no faces, nothing but me and emptiness on and on and on and this, he knew suddenly, this was Hell, not the pain, not Lucifer, not – because of course, like always, he'd made his own-
And this was his punishment, for rejecting the one being who – no, that wasn't right, he couldn't – Lucifer didn't care. Lucifer was the embodiment of evil and wrong and monstrous and corruption, Lucifer was not…
Lucifer could be kind. Lucifer claimed to love him. (Hadn't Dean hurt him before, and Dean had always…)
He didn't know how long it'd been. Or even if time was passing. He was waiting by the window and there was silence outside, not even the sounds of the neighbors, or other cars, or birds; not even a window.
Just him and nothing, and Sam could feel himself fading.
"Don't leave me," Sam said, and was surprised by the sound of his own voice. "Don't leave me. Please."
Lucifer's hand was cool on the back of his neck, and sudden. "I won't," he promised. "You'll never be alone, Sam. Not as long as I'm around. I don't want to punish you. I just want to give you what you want."
Sam nodded, vaguely. The world was filling in around them; Sam could feel it returning. "C'mere," Lucifer said, and it was Dean's voice, suddenly, so familiar that it hurt and Sam's breath caught in his chest. "Let me do this for you, Sam. Let me make this good for you."
Sam was working on breathing.
"Mostly I think humans are pale imitators of pain," Lucifer said, "But I rather like this one." He touched the bolt through Sam's wrist with cool fingers, drew a line of blood up to the inside of Sam's elbow. "It suits you."
He had screamed when Lucifer had first laid him out and nailed him down, but it had been a while since then, and screaming didn't help like it should have. Nothing helped. Sometimes it seemed like he'd forgotten what it was like not to hurt, and Sam thought that was a sort of kindness too.
Lucifer hmmed. "You look beautiful," he said, quietly. "Wrecked, like this. You understand, don't you, Sam? There's something undeniably beautiful about destruction. About ruins, or abandoned cities, or deserts reclaiming ghost towns. Everyone's a little bit drawn to decay." Lucifer rocked back, looked Sam up and down, slowly. "I think I love you even more like this."
Something was wrong with that, and Sam scrambled to work out what it was. "You're hurting me," he said, stupidly. "If you…"
"If I loved you I wouldn't hurt you?" Lucifer smiled almost pityingly. "Didn't Dean hurt you, Sam, so many times? Didn't your father? And didn't they both love you?"
"Dean," Sam said, almost plaintively. Lucifer moved in again and ran a hand through his hair.
"They did," he confirmed. "Just not as much as I do. Love is pain, Sam. And I want to give you all of mine." Lucifer spread his arms wide, mirroring Sam's where they held him suspended from the crossbar. "I will not forsake you, my only begotten son."
"You're not god," Sam mumbled. His vision spotted in and out.
Lucifer laughed fondly. "No," he agreed amiably. "But aren't I yours?"
They were dancing. An enormous ballroom, so vast Sam couldn't see the walls, or the musicians, only the black and white and red floor and the people whirling around one-two-three step. He tried to turn in a circle, to see around them.
"Remember, Sam," Lucifer said sternly, hand under his shoulder blade tightening just slightly. "I lead."
Sam craned his neck to get a good look at the other pairs on the dance floor and discovered that they were all faceless, blank smooth skin from forehead to chin. "Don't look at them," Lucifer said, turning them gracefully away. "They don't matter. Look at me. It's just you and me, Sam. Just you and me."
Sam couldn't remember ever learning to waltz. He must have, though, because he didn't stumble, or maybe that was because Lucifer wouldn't let him, just propelled him across the floor, turning in slow rotations, gaze fond but intense.
The corners of his mouth flickered up. "We could try a tango."
"I don't know how to tango."
"You'd know if I wanted you to know." Lucifer moved a little closer, their hips almost rubbing together as the devil guided him back. "That's the secret, Sam. I can make you do anything I want you to. Because you're mine. In the truest sense of the phrase, you are mine."
Sam felt his muscles tense up and then relax, because he still couldn't decide what that meant, if it was a good thing or a bad thing, because something about the possessive edge on it was like something he hadn't known he wanted, was like filling a hole, was like belonging.
"I told you I'd take care of you," Lucifer said, not pausing their motion. "I promised." Lucifer leaned in and licked a line up Sam's neck. "I won't touch you," he said, "Unless you want me to. This isn't rape, Sam. It never was. This is seduction." He moved back. Smiled.
"Do it for me," Lucifer said. Sam squirmed and turned his head from side to side, trying to avoid that penetrating, hopeful stare. "It's not really asking so much, is it?"
"N-no." The words were dragged out of him, an inch at a time. Lucifer pulled his clenched right fist open and slid the handle into his palm.
"It would make me so happy. Don't you want to please me?" Lucifer's expression turned pleading, sad. "Or have you forgotten everything I've done for you?"
"I do want to please – I do-" Sam said urgently. "I just-"
"You're afraid it'll hurt."
"Yes." Sam felt a burst of intense shame, for admitting it. Admitting his fear. Hadn't Lucifer promised to take care of him? And proven it, time and again?
"It will." Lucifer smiled softly. Kindly. "But it's okay for things to hurt sometimes, Sam. Pain doesn't always make something bad." He released Sam's hand, leaving only Sam's fingers wrapped around the handle, and touched his hair. "Now go on. You can do this."
Sam took a deep breath and licked his lips. He lifted the knife and set the blade just under his sternum, drew a slow, shaky, red line downwards. "Easy," said Lucifer, as a sob caught in Sam's throat. "Easy. Slow. Just the skin, Sam. Keep your hand steady."
He managed to keep the line straight and even even as blood bloomed red and bright and spread out across his stomach. Sam stopped cutting just above his navel and took a couple panting breaths, trying not to cry out.
"Again," Lucifer said, implacable, and Sam moved up the knife and let it slide a little deeper, through the thicker layer of muscle, and this was harder, it hurt more and took more effort. He paused, whimpered. Lucifer petted his hair, gently.
"It's okay, Sam. Keep going. You're so close." Lucifer's voice was so soft. So gentle. He would be disappointed if Sam couldn't do this.
Sam didn't want to disappoint him. "I can't," he said, thickly. "I can't, I-"
Lucifer frowned, and Sam closed his eyes and forced himself to keep going through the pain, the shock of air, the nausea making his stomach churn. (What are you doing, some corner of his brain tried to protest, what are you doing, what do you think you're doing-)
"Yes," said Lucifer, softly, and removed the knife from his hand, sliding two fingers into the cut and probing lightly at the thin membrane holding Sam's insides together. "Yes, like that. Very good, Sam. Very good." His voice reverberated with a kind of gentle pride. Tears rolling down his cheeks, Sam smiled. Because he'd finally done something right. Finally. Finally managed something good.
Sometimes, when Sam was well behaved, when Lucifer was pleased, just for a little while Lucifer would pretend to be Dean. Would lie down next to him on their fiction of a bed, shoulders rubbing together, and Sam could lean his head against Dean's and rest to the sound of his voice humming Metallica. Because for all the years, for all the pain, he couldn't forget Dean.
"Aren't you jealous?" Sam asked, once, when Lucifer was Lucifer and not Dean, when he was lying back with his angel's arm wrist deep in his chest and cradling his stilled.
"Why would I be jealous?" He asked, voice low, barely a murmur. "You're not with him, are you? You're with me. Where you want to be." He paused. "Right?"
"Yes," Sam murmured. "Yes."
"Besides," Lucifer said. "He's your brother. I can share. I know who you love best."
They both did. After all, Lucifer's was a kind of kindness. His was a complete acceptance no one else had ever shown. Lucifer understood how he needed pain and was willing to give it to him in measures and spoonfuls of perfect, exquisite agony. Nothing of brutality in it, nothing of hatred.
Just you and me, Sam. Just you and me.
"I don't forgive you yet," Lucifer said, once. "Not yet. Maybe someday. But I don't hate you, Sam. I could never hate you."
"Thank you," Sam said, going limp with relief. "Thank you," because if Lucifer left him he would have nothing. Nothing at all. And this was what he needed. What he wanted.
And long after Dean was a fading memory (of pain, of harsh words and promises made and partings not sweet at all), Lucifer remained. "I will never leave you," he said, flaying skin from muscle with meticulous care. "Everyone else comes and goes and will leave you, Sam, but I never will. I keep my promises, and I promised you you would never be alone. You are mine."
"I am yours," Sam echoed. Lucifer smiled, and leaned down, pressed a light kiss to his forehead, chaste enough to make Sam shiver.
"Yes," Lucifer said. "That's right."