The circle of Lilith's blood closed, and the Cage opened. Light and sound, unholy and terrifying, flooded the chapel. Dean covered his ears against the sound and clenched his eyes shut. Sam looked right into the light, mesmerized. A tidal wave crashed into him, filling him with eons of memories and more power than he could comprehend. He remembered thinking, 'Keep your eyes closed Dean. It's gonna be okay. I get it now. It was me. It was always me.'
"How'd we get to this motel though?" Dean asked again.
"Some angel probably bailed us out. I don't really remember," Sam lied. Well it wasn't all a lie, technically speaking. An angel had bailed them out. The angel just happened to be Sam, formerly known as Lucifer.
Lucifer had found a loophole, a way to get out of his Cage. He had to be reborn as the thing he hated most: a human. Lucifer gave Azazel a sliver of his grace, which he passed on to Mary Winchester with a promise and a kiss. Inside her, it germinated and grew. Ten years later she gave birth to Sam, her son, the Devil reborn. The rest of Lucifer's grace had stayed behind, trapped in his Cage, waiting to be set free. But thanks to Azazel, Lilith, Ruby, and Sam's own ignorance…he was whole again. "Anyway, we're here. We might as well rest up, shower, and figure out our next move."
Dean gave Sam and odd look. "You know you're awfully calm considering…" He shook his head. "You know what, never mind. You're right. I'm gonna go shower. See if you can scrounge up some breakfast meanwhile will you? I'm starving."
Sam nodded as Dean disappeared into the bathroom. Breakfast. Breakfast sounded like an excellent idea. He wasn't all that hungry, but he was really thirsty.
There was a knock on the door, so Sam swung his legs over the side of the bed and walked to look out the peephole. He didn't see anything, so he opened the door carefully. There was nobody there. He closed the door again, turned back towards the bed, and froze.
Three men were standing around the small hotel table. Three demons. One of them was straightening a tablecloth and setting out plates and silverware, the second was pouring juice into tall glasses and the third was flipping a pancake in a frying pan.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sam asked the demons.
The demon holding the frying pan slid the last of the golden-brown pancakes onto the plate nearest him and said, "Serving you breakfast, my lord."
Sam blinked, wondering if he was just having a particularly bad dream, but the demons were still there — smiling politely, pouring coffee into mugs, scrambling eggs and setting out two different kinds of syrup.
"Get out!" Sam snapped, as he heard the shower turn off.
The demons bowed their heads and vanished.
Dean opened the bathroom door, took one look at the table and grinned. "Nice. They have room service here or something? I thought this place looked a bit more upscale than our usual digs."
As Dean got dressed, Sam sat down at the table and picked at the scrambled eggs. They were pretty good, actually. The demons had set out both orange and tomato juice for them. He reached for the tomato juice and gulped down half the glass before noticing the aftertaste of sulfur. And the sickly sweet, coppery tang. And the lack of tomatoes.
"Pancakes!" Dean grinned and plopped down in the chair across from Sam. "Good call."
Sam watched his brother shove rather impressively sized forkfuls of pancake into his mouth for nearly two minutes before asking, "So, what do you want to do today?"
Dean chewed thoughtfully, put down his fork and smiled stiffly. "That's a good question, Sammy. We might want to consider stopping the Devil, who escaped last night. You remember that?"
"No," Sam said. "That's not what I remember. I remember killing Lilith, and saving the world." He leaned forward just an inch and added, "I think we deserve a break."
After a few seconds, Dean blinked and said, "Yeah you know…you're right. We deserve a break. You know what we should do?"
"What?" Sam smirked.
"We should go to the beach. No wait! We should go to Atlantic City and play blackjack, and THEN go to the beach."
Sam ate another forkful of eggs and said, "Sure. Let's go."
Dean folded up the remaining pancake on his plate and stuffed it into his mouth. "I'b pffak."
"You do that." Sam watched Dean start packing his duffel and smiled to himself. They did deserve a break. He took a sip from his mug of coffee, light and sweet just the way he liked it, and looked out the window when he heard the distant flutter of wings. There was a very familiar figure standing in the middle of the parking lot. Sam stood up and walked to the door saying, "I'm gonna go grab some bottled water from the vending machine."
"Grab me a Coke too," Dean said over his shoulder. "I'll be out in a minute."
Sam stepped outside and closed the motel door behind him. He walked towards the lone, trench-coat wearing figure standing in the parking lot. "Castiel. What are you doing here?"
Castiel took a frustrated breath. "Sam. Stop this charade. Dean deserves to know what happened."
"You're right, he does." Sam nodded. "How about this? We'll go inside and I'll tell him that I'm the Devil. Then you can tell him how you let me out of the panic room to go kill Lilith."
"I was…following orders."
"I'm sure you were." Sam walked past the angel to the vending machine and leaned against it. A bottle of water dropped into the dispenser, followed by another, and a can of Coke.
"You think keeping this from him is better?" Castiel asked incredulously.
"Yes," Sam said. "He's been through enough. We all have."
"This isn't something you can just ignore. You're Lucifer. Do you really think the rest of the Host hasn't noticed that you're back? You think Michael is going to just let this slide?"
Sam's lips curled in a snarl. "Dean's been a better brother to me in the last twenty-six years than Michael has ever been. I understand now. I understand human devotion. It's — "
Castiel vanished a half-second before the motel door opened and Dean walked outside, carrying his duffel bag and Sam's backpack.
Atlantic City was just what Sam had expected. Loud, smelly, and filled with people caught somewhere between apathetic inebriation and desperation. Then again, Dean was the happiest he'd been in a long time. He worked his way from blackjack to poker to the craps table and back and won every single game. He had the Devil's luck, and none of the Casino's employees seemed to care.
The Devil, meanwhile, was bored out of his skull until he caught a glimpse of a second face under the skin of one of the Casino dealers. "I'm gonna hit the can. Back in a bit," Sam told Dean, who was stacking his latest win of poker chips into dangerously high towers.
"Take your time, Sammy. I'm on a roll." Dean smirked.
Sam smiled back at him before turning back towards the two-faced dealer he'd spotted. The dealer gave him a nod and slipped out from his station moments after Sam walked past him.
When they got to the Men's room, the dealer's face shifted back into a familiar smirk. "Lucifer!" said the Trickster, Gabriel. "How you been, bro?"
Sam remembered Broward County. He remembered innumerable Tuesdays, and the most horrible Wednesday of his life. He remembered Dean dying over and over and over.
"No hard feelings right? I mean...when was I ever gonna get another chance to torture you?"
Sam grabbed Gabriel by the throat and squeezed, just a little, until he felt the Trickster's windpipe start to give. "I should kill you. I should snap you in two, rip out your heart and feed it to you after what you did to Dean, what you put us through. Tell me why I shouldn't. Give me one good reason."
Gabriel spoke right into Sam's mind. Because if you kill me, you'll be drawing first blood. Michael and his cronies will be on you like white on rice. They don't have my sense of humor. They'll take my death as a declaration of war, and they'll come for you. They'll come for Dean.
The Morningstar's fury flared out in the shape of three pairs of massive wings made of light and cold fire. Sam was too angry to speak — so angry that the air around them started to freeze. The mirrors splintered, the lights exploded and the water pipes creaked unhappily.
I won't tell a soul, okay? If that's what you want, I'll stay quiet, but you know you can't hide forever. You know that.
Sam let go of Gabriel's throat and stepped away, willing himself to relax, one deep breath at a time.
The Trickster smiled at Sam, sadly, as he rubbed at his throat. "Even if you want to walk off the chessboard, how are you gonna talk Michael into a truce?"
"I don't want to fight him. I just want things to stay the same."
"They can't. You really think you can still be Dean's little brother with eons of knowledge in your noggin and the power cosmic in your veins?"
"I like this life," Sam said quietly.
"Now that I can relate to." Gabriel sighed. "Okay. I'll do what I can. Your secret's safe with me. Keep yourself hidden. Lay low. Capiche?"
Gabriel walked back out onto the Casino's main floor, adding, "Michael did always have a stick up his ass."
When Sam got back to the poker table, Dean held up a black card with gold lettering. "Guess where we're staying tonight?" He grinned. "Presidential Suite!"
Two tables over, Gabriel tapped a finger against his green dealer's visor and smiled. Good luck.
The next day Sam and Dean ate waffles with ice cream for breakfast, went out to the boardwalk for lunch and spent the rest of the day at the beach. The sky was clear, the sun was warm, and the only flutter of wings they heard were those of seagulls.