Marin returns to his hospital room three days later, hesitating in the doorway this time. She looks just the same, except the bracelet on her wrist is long gone.
"Hey," she says. She shifts her weight, clearly uncomfortable.
Sam sits up immediately, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "Hey."
"I just wanted to thank you, for what you did the other day." She stumbles over the words.
Lucifer, from his roost on the table, says, "Aw, what a sweetheart. She wants to thank you! What a hero you are." He rolls his eyes.
Sam blinks a couple of times and ignores Lucifer's comment. "It was nothing, really."
Marin steps in the room then. She goes to sit on the desk, and Lucifer scoots over politely. "How did you know to do that? With the salt and stuff."
Sam hesitates, but he's already in the psych ward – there's not much further he can go. "That's how you get rid of ghosts. Salt and burn."
"Ghosts." She stares at him for a moment, then turns away and laughs. "You know, I've been running it over in my head the past three days, trying to come up with all possible scenarios. But that's all that fits. He was real."
"You're not crazy," Sam says. "You were being haunted, for real."
Marin raises an eyebrow. "Like I can trust you, Mr. I-See-Dead-People."
Sam shrugs, because he really can't deny that. "I may be crazy right now, but I know what I'm doing. I've got a handle on it."
She crosses her legs, and her arms. "So how did you know it, then? How did you know he was… haunting me, or whatever? Everyone else just thought I was crazy."
"Before this-" Sam gestures around them, "-I used to hunt things like that. My brother and I, that's what we do for a living. Ghosts, demons, monsters. The whole nine yards."
"Yeah. This was just a run-of-the-mill job for me."
"So you're like a Ghostbuster?"
She's rolling with it, totally believing him. He supposes that's what a real-life supernatural experience does to a person.
He nods. "Most people think I'm crazy, when I tell them."
Marin laughs at that. "Dude, you are crazy. But you're a different kind of crazy." She comes to sit with him on the bed then.
Lucifer's keeping unusually quiet, like he's waiting to see how this plays out.
"But are all your people, you know, like you?"
"Other hunters? No, they're not crazy. I'm just unlucky." But Sam knows it's not luck. He's being punished. He broke the world, so Lucifer broke his mind.
Or maybe it was Castiel's fault. Sam isn't sure who to blame anymore. He could blame Ruby, for getting him hooked on demon's blood and tricking him into raising Lucifer. He could blame Dean for breaking the first of the 66 seals. He could blame their father, for teaching them to hunt in the first place. Hell, he could blame Azazel for being in the nursery that night. But none of it matters. All that matters is the end result: Sam in a psychiatric ward.
Marin snaps him back into the present. "You said your brother was a… hunter? That's what they're called?" She seems disappointed that he's not a Ghostbuster.
"Yeah, Dean. He's out there right now trying to find a way to, I don't know, help me. Fix my head."
"That's a good brother."
"Yeah, well, I think he blames himself."
"He blames himself… for your insanity? That doesn't even make sense. Are you sure you're the only crazy one?" She laughs at her own joke, lightly, as if trying to make herself feel more comfortable.
Sam shrugs. "It's complicated." She almost pushes him further, so he cuts her off and says, "What about you? Are you still, you know, hearing your brother?"
"No." She shakes her head. "He's long gone. Thank you, again, for that. It was kind."
"It's what I do."
"Yeah, but you're suffering. You should be taking care of yourself, not other people."
"Says the girl who stole chocolate bars for me."
They share a smile, and Sam thinks he might have made a new friend. That feels nice, it really does. Sam hasn't made a connection with a civilian for a long time. And she's pretty, too. Maybe this prolonged hospital stay isn't all bad.
"Why can't you sleep, Sam?"
He scoots away from her, surprised by the question.
"I overheard the orderlies talking about it. They said you haven't slept at all in weeks. You could die, you know."
"I will die," he says. "That's why Dean is so worried about me."
"And you? Are you worried about dying?"
"Not really. Been there, done that." He smiles lightly.
Her eyes widen. "Jesus, you really are crazy."
"Hey, it comes with the life."
She laughs and runs a hand through her hair. "What on earth have you been through?"
"More than you can imagine." He taps his head. "It broke my brain, anyway. At least my head will be quiet when I'm dead." Sam glares at Lucifer in the corner.
"Hey, I thought we were finally getting along!" Lucifer says. "You wouldn't leave me, would you, Sammy?"
"It's Sam," he bites back, before he can stop himself.
Marin gives him a weird look. "Excuse me?"
He blinks twice and turns away from his hallucination. "Sorry. Nothing. Just the, uh, sleep deprivation talking."
She stands up and paces away from him. "Are you trying to get yourself killed, Sam? Is that it? Are you here because you want to be?"
"No! God, no." He jumps up at the accusation. "I don't want to die, Marin. I don't want to abandon Dean in the middle of all this shit, I wouldn't do that if I had a choice."
"What do you want?"
"Honestly?" He sinks back onto the bed. "I want to sleep."
"So why can't you?" she asks, tentatively, as if she doesn't really want an answer.
Lucifer lifts his head and smiles. "C'mon, Sam, tell her about me! She already thinks you're crazy. Why not alienate her further?"
He exhales, preparing for the reaction. "Because he won't let me."
"He?" She looks genuinely scared now, for the first time since walking in.
"He's in my head," Sam says, words slow and methodical. He doesn't want to scare her. She's kind and she trusts him. "Every time I try to sleep, he starts blasting a foghorn or belting Madonna songs or setting the room on fire and I can't sleep because of it."
She backs away. "That's not real, though. You know it's not real, right?"
"I know." He reaches out a hand. "Please, I'm not trying to scare you, I'm really not. You just… you asked why I couldn't sleep, and that's why. Because I'm hallucinating 24/7 and my hallucination keeps me awake."
There's a long silence. She glances towards the door, then looks back at him. He isn't sure what her next move will be.
"You know, he doesn't seem very nice." Marin relaxes a little and comes back to sit next to him.
That's when Sam decides he really likes her. She's accepting his insanity without question.
"He's not, he's really not. He's doing it on purpose because he wants to kill me."
"Can't you just… imagine someone nicer?"
Sam shakes his head, smiles. "It's not like that."
"Then what is it like?"
"Complicated. Very, very complicated. And if I told you, you wouldn't believe me."
"I've been pretty good so far. Ghosts, demons, hallucinations, I can deal with it. We're all crazy here, Sam."
"Not you. You'll be released soon, now that your brother's gone."
"I still set a house on fire because the ghost of my dead brother told me to. That gives me a few brownie points." She shrugs. "Listen, I won't push it. Tell me more when you're ready."
As she gets up to leave, he says, "Why are you so curious? Why are you even talking to me?"
She turns, quirks an eyebrow. "You saved my life and told me I wasn't crazy. You were the first person to tell me that, you know. And you told me everything would be okay." She smiles at him, a real smile. "Maybe they're right, maybe I am crazy. Crazy for trusting you, at least."
She turns the corner and Sam watches her go.
For a fleeting moment, Sam has hope.
But Lucifer won't let that pass. "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer…"
Sam groans and lies back on his bed. Back to the Cage he goes.
Sometime the next morning, Marin returns.
"Hey, Sam. Good morning," she says. She settles onto the desk, where Lucifer was before. Lucifer is mysteriously gone for the time being, and Sam had been hoping to take the opportunity to sleep. So much for that.
"Oh, hey, Marin." He tries to keep the disappointment out of his voice, but he really needs his sleep. Maybe he can politely ask her to leave.
"How did you sleep?" Then her eyes widen. "Ah, sorry, sore subject."
He blinks away his confusion. Marin is usually more tactful than that. "Yeah, uh… About that, I was just about to-"
"Do you like me, Sam?" she asks.
"I asked if you liked me. You know, like me." She leans forward, eyes lit.
He's taken aback, but he already knows his answer. Marin is kind, pretty, and she takes him seriously. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"Really? Because I can't stand you."
"I mean, did you seriously think I was interested in you?" She stands up, putting her hands on her waist. "You? Broken, insane little Sammy." She scoffs.
Why is she being so cruel? He can't believe he's hearing this.
She continues, "You're batshit crazy, you know that? Hallucinating 24/7. What a freak!"
"Why are you saying this?" He can't help it; this hurts. He thought Marin was his friend. She seemed to really like him. What the hell is going on?
"Because you need to hear it. Wake up from your delusion, Sam- oh, wait, you weren't even sleeping! You're going to die of sleep deprivation, and there's nothing you can do about it."
All he can do is sit on the bed and take her criticism. It paralyzes him. He was not expecting this from her. He trusted her.
"Like any girl would love you. And the one that did, poor little Jessica, she burned up on the ceiling for it!" Marin tosses her head back and laughs.
Then, Sam understands. This isn't Marin. Marin wouldn't know that.
There's only one explanation. This is Lucifer. "Oh my God."
"Figured it out, did you?" Marin's face shifts. Now it's Lucifer's familiar vessel looking back at Sam. "Well, I sure had you going for some time, didn't I?"
Sam feels his jaw going slack. He backs up, nearly tripping over the bed, and presses into the corner. "That wasn't her. She wouldn't say that." It makes sense, now, why Marin was so out of character.
"Wouldn't she?" Lucifer smiles slightly, eyes narrowing. "I mean, really, Marin's been me all along. You didn't think a girl would be interested in someone like you, did you?"
Sam can't help the shock and betrayal from showing on his face.
"Oh, you did, didn't you? How adorable. But really, you're a mess, Sam. No girl would want you, especially not one as pretty and friendly as 'Marin.'" He holds air quotes over her name.
Sam sinks to the ground, hands over his ears. "No. You're not real." But is Marin, either? This girl who he's been helping, has she been Lucifer all along? Another of his hallucinations?
She felt so real.
But just now, with the Marin hallucination, before things started going south, she felt real too. He can't tell the difference. He really can't tell.
Sam presses a hand against his scar desperately, but Lucifer doesn't even flicker.
He stays curled up in the corner, rocking back and forth, for hours. He refuses food and water. If he's going to die, he might as well do it soon. Before Lucifer can play any more mind tricks on him.
Sam can't handle this anymore. Lucifer is too good. This last trick was the final straw. He really thought Marin was real.
At around three in the afternoon, Marin again enters the room. Just another hallucination, he tells himself.
"Sam? What's going on?" she asks when she sees him cowering in the corner. God, the emotions on her face look so real.
"Stay back!" he snaps. "Don't you dare come near me!"
"Sam?" Her brow furrows.
"I know you're not real," he says, "so you might as well give up now. I'm not falling for it."
"What do you mean? Of course I'm real."
Sam shakes his head violently. "No, you're not, you're fake, you have to be. You're one of his."
"One of whose?" The confusion on her face is so perfectly timed.
"It's another trick." He tucks his knees into his chest. "Just get out of here!"
She comes to him anyway, kneeling in front of him. "I'm not going anywhere. It's okay, Sam. You're safe."
He puts his hands over his ears. "This isn't real."
"Sam, I'm real. You're real. Nothing's wrong."
"Everything's wrong. You're wrong."
She rocks back on her heels, muttering a curse. "I really can't convince you otherwise, can I? This is some kind of hallucination. I am so in over my head."
"Go away," he says, like that will help anything. Lucifer has free run over Sam's mind. This Marin image may seem considerate, but she's not. She won't go away, not ever.
Her next words contradict that. "Okay. I'll come back later, when you've calmed down." And she gets up to leave.
Hang on… Lucifer wouldn't do that. Lucifer would just torture him further with this hallucination. He'd taunt Sam.
Maybe he's trying to lull Sam into a false sense of security again, convince him that Marin is real, and then tear out his heart again. But Sam wouldn't fall for that a second time.
So why is Lucifer having "Marin" leave?
Unless this really is Marin. Unless she's a real person, and Lucifer was just trying to convince him otherwise. Unless Lucifer was lying.
It has been known to happen.
In which case Sam's not being very polite to his friend.
"Wait, Marin," he says.
She turns. "Are you okay now?"
"I don't know." He presses a thumb against his old scar. "Just give me a second. You were going to leave, weren't you?"
"Uh, yeah. You clearly didn't want me around."
"I…" He hangs his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
"Are you okay?"
"Do I look okay?"
"What's going on?"
Sam wipes a hand across his face. "I can't tell if you're real or not, Marin."
"Yeah, I figured that one out for myself. What can I do to convince you that I am?" She comes back to sit beside him, this time cross-legged at his feet. She looks like a student ready to listen.
"I think you already have."
"Okay… Well, you can take my word for it; I'm real."
"Yeah, that doesn't work, though. He'd say the same thing."
"He?" When Sam doesn't elaborate, she says, "Look, Sam, you've gotta tell me what's going on in your head. I'm involved in this now. I want to know."
"No, you really don't."
"Okay, then, I could always call a nurse and tell her about your psychotic episode just now."
That won't work. She drives a hard bargain. Sam likes her, whether or not she's real. He imagines Dean would too, if he were here.
"Seriously, Sam. What happened?"
Sam doesn't have much of a choice here. She already thinks he's crazy. And if she's really still a hallucination, then there's no harm in talking.
So he says, "My hallucination- he came in here earlier today, looking like you. And he started talking to me. I thought it was you. Hell, I really thought it was you. And then…"
"I was just a hallucination," she finishes.
"Yeah. He told me… he told me that you'd been a hallucination all along. Someone he'd come up with to lull me into a false sense of security, then betray me. God, Marin, it really hurt, what he said. I wanted to kill myself, just to get rid of this. It was cruel."
"And then, when I came in just now…" It finally dawns on her. "You thought I was a hallucination again, one of his tricks. No wonder you were so scared. And angry. I'd be angry, if I were you."
"Believe me, I am." He sighs.
"Okay, well, I know you can't really trust my words anymore, and I don't expect you to. I get it. But I'm real. Or at least, I think I am. Would I know if I was a hallucination?"
"Well, yeah, because you'd be Lucifer in disguise. You'd know."
"Wait, Lucifer?" She stops and gives him a funny look. "That's the name of the guy in your head? The one torturing you? You named him after the devil?"
Sam's laugh is choked. "Not exactly named after him."
She looks confused for a moment, and then her eyes clear. "You've got the devil in your head. Or, well, some representation of him."
Sam shakes his head. "Wrong again. It's not a representation. It's 100% accurate."
"Yeah, right. Lucifer's not real."
He raises an eyebrow. "A week ago, you thought ghosts weren't real."
She almost laughs, but stops. "Wait, you're serious? Lucifer?"
Sam nods. "Yeah."
"Oh my God, that sucks. Talk about the ultimate torture expert."
Sam takes a deep breath. "Yeah, he's good at it. Trust me, I'd know."
She stares at him, jaw hanging slack. "Are you telling me you've been tortured by Lucifer himself? And not just in your head?"
"You say that too often. Start explaining."
Sam glances around, making sure Lucifer's out of sight. So far, so good. Unless, of course, Marin is again Lucifer in disguise.
Either way, it'll be nice to finally tell someone.
"I, um, I kind of accidentally broke Lucifer out of his cage in Hell a few years ago."
She gives him an unbelieving look, but after a moment it just dissolves into shock. "Okay, so you're serious. Hell is real. And Lucifer is real."
"Yeah. All the mythology – angels, demons, everything. So Lucifer rose from Hell, and he started terrorizing earth. The angels were gearing up for this big Apocalypse. My brother and I, and some friends, we stopped it."
Marin's eyes have gone wide as saucers. "You're not just an average Ghostbuster, are you?"
"I guess not."
"You stopped the Apocalypse? On your own? And you made it out alive?"
He looks down at his hands, folded in his lap.
There's a beat of silence while his reaction sinks in. "Wait, that thing you said about having died before… I thought you were crazy. But are you saying…"
He nods, still avoiding her eyes. "That was the price for stopping Lucifer. I got trapped in the Cage, in Hell, with him."
"You went to Hell. With the devil himself."
"I'm sorry; it's a lot to take in."
"You weren't kidding when you said it was complicated. But keep going."
He takes a deep breath, then continues, "I was stuck down there for over a hundred years. And Lucifer, well, he really knows how to torture a guy."
She looks like she's about to tear up. Sam is getting a little shaky too, just thinking about his time in Hell.
"One hundred years?"
"More. A lot more. I lost count."
"How are you still coherent? How are you even alive?"
"That's kind of a long story. And mostly irrelevant. But I got out, with the help of some friends." Well, he wouldn't necessarily call Death a "friend," but it works under the circumstances. "This insanity, it's a scar. From my time down below."
"That torture broke your mind."
"An experience like that does that to a guy."
"I can't even imagine what that's like."
"No, you really can't. I was reluctant to tell you. Nobody understands. I mean, my brother, he spent about forty years in Hell, so he sort of gets it, but… that's different. He doesn't have this madness."
"He doesn't have Lucifer keeping him awake 24/7."
"Hey, it's better than it was in Hell. This way of dying is slow, but at least I'm dying. I didn't have that luxury in Hell."
She takes a deep, ragged breath. "I'm sorry. God, that sounds so useless, it doesn't even begin to cover it. I can't believe… I mean, I guess I have to believe you. You couldn't lie about something like that."
They sit in silence for a moment. He lets her take in the information.
"So now you're hallucinating Lucifer, except now he just tortures you in your mind."
"Yeah, but that doesn't matter when I can't tell what's real. It feels the same."
"This is huge," she says quietly. "You stopped the Apocalypse, and now you're stuck in the psych ward with the devil running amok in your head. 'That sucks' doesn't even begin to cover it."
"I know." He fidgets with his hands. "I hate this."
Then, suddenly, the door bursts open, and in runs Dean. Talk about perfect timing.
Sam jumps to his feet. "Dean?"
"Sammy, we gotta get you out of here," says Dean. "There are demons and- hello, little lady." His tone changes as he spots Marin.
She recovers quickly, something Sam really likes about her. "You must be Dean. The brother?"
Dean turns to his brother. "Sam, you sly dog. Mind broken and still finding time to flirt with pretty girls."
Sam ignores the comment. "What are you doing here"
"Busting you out, obviously. I found someone who can heal you."
Sam blinks, slowly. "Are you real?"
Dean rolls his eyes. "Not this again. Yes, Sam, I'm real. I'm not Lucifer's. Trust me, I'd know. Anyway, we've gotta get out of here. Say goodbye to your woman."
Sam turns to Marin. He'd totally forgotten she was here.
"I get it," she says. "You have to go save the world again."
"Something like that, yeah. I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. You've been through so much."
"Sam," Dean says from the door. "Cut the chick-flick moment short, we really gotta get out of here."
"Right. Thank you, Marin. For everything."
"Thanks for getting rid of my brother's ghost," she says. "Really."
Dean perks up at that. "Sam? What the hell happened in here?"
"I'll explain later," Sam says. "Now let's-" He's cut off when Marin stands on her toes and pulls him down for a kiss.
"Dude, there's a time and a place…" Dean mutters.
The kiss is short, all goodbyes, no promises. She pulls away first and pushes him towards his brother.
"Go kick some monster ass, Dr. Venkman."
"I'll make up some excuse to the doctors. Just go."
Sam smiles apologetically and heads for the door.
As they're leaving, Dean says, "You know, I like that girl."
"Yeah," Sam says quietly, "me too."
That kiss was definitely real.