Cold iron a sharp pressure at his back – the barrier between Hell and Sam a bubble-membrane's thickness, but impenetrable without the right key.
(Cage or Gate? Cage or Gate?)
The searing burn at his back, the biting cold before him, and there was Lucifer, looming. An impossible, incomprehensible (but not, because he was Sam and Sam was him) creature. Even wearing the visage of his former vessel, the Fallen Archangel was still more than tall enough to block Sam's sight, standing firmly with his feet bracketing Sam's knees. He had to crane his neck back to look Lucifer in the eyes, see the smirk he already knew was there.
Lucifer liked it when Sam had to look up at him.
Then, Lucifer opened his mouth and sang, soft and pure, like nothing a creature of Hell should sound like. The first word hadn't even fallen before Sam joined him, mindlessly and almost at peace, because this was special and Lucifer never let him forget it.
The singing had been there nearly from the beginning, because Sam often thought of Dean and Lucifer knew everything that Sam thought, so classic rock sung duet by the Fallen Archangel and his True Vessel's bared soul filled the time between the angel's battles. It only changed later, when Michael grew listless and derisive of his brother, and Lucifer turned the full capacity of his attention to the soul he never let go far.
The first time Lucifer truly sang to Sam, it was tainted with a spited, bitter, vengeful sort of glee, and the angel took care to hide it from Michael; the Fallen had drawn Sam deep into his core and crooned verse after verse of sweet Enochian to him for what felt like –and probably had been– decades. He did it until Sam could sing with him; every word, tone and note, confident and pure. And, when Lucifer had finally unfolded from him, softly, exposing him to the brutal heat and darkness of the Cage, the Devil began to sing again, Sam with him, and Michael sang back.
Michael sang back, until the song ended, and the First was still as if entranced.
And then, Heaven's Warrior turned wrathful. He was hot fury and thunderous sound, bearing down on them with the aim to rip Sam from Lucifer and destroy. Even in Hell, there was only so long one could fear before that part simply broke, and so Sam had seen it for what it was – (had known it anyway, because he was a little brother)–, Lucifer doing something, anything, to get a reaction from Michael.
It sparked a battle more fierce than any Sam had ever seen; had it taken place on Earth, he knew with certainty that nothing would've survived. Lucifer kept Sam tucked inside the entire time, because the mirror-image wounds that appeared from Michael's attacks were less devastating than the raw wash of volatile Grace the two put off. Their fight lasted lifetimes. The silence after was deathly, all of Hell held still.
In the end, that was what had ruined Adam, blackened by Michael's fire and shattered by Lucifer's ice. The angels never noticed; Sam wondered that he could still care enough that he had.
Lucifer drew Sam even more deeply into himself, where Michael couldn't hear, and sang once more. All of Heaven's songs, and then others, Enochian twisted into the profane that must've been Lucifer's own; it all came easier after the first, the one that set Michael off.
"It was the Archangel's Hymn," the Devil crooned, holding Sam open and immobile, searing tender sigils into his soft insides. "Michael had a part, and I, and Raphael, Gabriel. It hasn't been sung since before my Fall, long before my name was struck from the Archives of Heaven and I became Lucifer." The burning cold light of his Grace wrapped around Sam's heart –the illusion of his heart; his body was gone and Sam was little more than light and soul–, an inevitable bind like a parasitic vine.
"They don't remember that name, but I do. I'm giving it to you now, Sam. Just for you. Pay attention now; this is your sigil." The Grace around his heart –the core of his self, the center of what he was– turned sharp and so cold it felt hot, and the Fallen carved.
"Heylel," Lucifer purred, dark but so very bright, the sudden end of a star being swallowed by a black hole. "Sam, Sammy, Samuel. Sam-u-el. Another name for you, Sam. Boy King. Heylel. My other half: All these names are nothing less than you deserve. You should have more."
Slowly, slowly, the Devil drew himself out, unwrapped and uncoiled and unfolded multitudes of sharp-bright wings. Sam quivered and shook from the exposure, the raw agony at his very center, but when Lucifer began the first verse, Sam's voice rang out steady and true. Heylel's part of the Archangel's Hymn, sung duet.
Michael sang back, call-and-return, and the cycle began again.
It was a reflex, deeper than any muscle memory. When Lucifer sang, so did Sam. And this time, the First Archangel didn't sing back, and it made Sam angry, because Michael had never foregone his part of the Hymn. Had never looked ready to fight before he even sang.
"Oh, Sam," Lucifer sighed, leaning down, a hand on Sam's cheek turning his head away from…that wasn't Michael? "My poor, broken Sammy. Already forgetting. You got us out of the Cage and rewrote history, all for a brother you can't even remember." Lucifer tipped his head to the side, contemplative, and sank down to Sam's level, straddling his knees. The hand on his cheek moved, cold fingers lightly brushing his throat. "Although, if you had to mistake anyone for my big brother, Dean really is the only one it could be. How much farther do you think we need to push until he turns to wrath?"
With difficulty, Sam choked down the quiet murmur of the Hymn, his throat tingling with numb cold as he clenched his teeth on the last syllable. He shook his head, once, twice, until it felt like his brain was swishing around and the difference between then-and-now, Cage-and-Gate, was a little clearer. He couldn't ignore Lucifer, the unmovable weight of the Archangel planted on his knees and cold like icewater trailing down his neck, but he could see the graveyard for what it was. A dark spring night, Dean and Bobby standing at a distance, fear and betrayal etched into his brother's face. It made him resemble the Dean Sam remembered from just after he had let Lucifer free.
It hurt like being gutted, slow agony and the promise of a long wait for death.
Dean was looking at him like Sam was a monster.
"No, Dean," He couldn't stand that look; Sam would've gladly taken Michael's fire to ever seeing that look again. "Please, no." What did he even do to deserve it?
His brother took one step back, eyes hard, and Sam needed to go to him, to fix it somehow but Lucifer still wouldn't move. Not when Sam pushed or clawed or screamed, and sometime in-between Dean and Bobby disappeared into the gloom of scraggly trees and deep shadows while Lucifer's hand inexorably crawled up to cover his mouth and held until Sam could make himself stop.
"You'll have time for that later," the angel said, pale eyes almost colorless under the moon, cool and amused. "But you need to pay attention right now. What do you hear, Sammy?"
Sam glared hot death at the Archangel, both hands still wrapped around a wrist that felt more like stone than flesh. He listened, though; he couldn't help but listen. It took a minute to get his lungs under control, so he wasn't panting through his nose anymore, but Sam heard it. The silence. Not a single cricket chirped. Not a single, distant cicada. Sam swallowed dryly; Dean and Bobby couldn't –wouldn't– have gone far, and Ellen should've been nearby, too. But everything was so quiet. Lucifer finally allowed Sam to push his hand away; the Archangel looked expectant.
There was…something else, though. It wasn't so much as if he was really hearing anything, but it was the closest sense his body could process. It grumbled like the stomach of a great, hungry beast, low; the sound the earth made, heard from the mouth of a deep cave.
Then, full minutes later, came the sound of snapping twigs and crunching leaves, the shuffle of someone coming closer. The sound-that-wasn't came with it. The Devil's lips curled, and the black-hole gravity of his weight slid off Sam's legs, until they were suddenly pressed shoulder to shoulder instead.
"Know what that sound is?" the angel asked softly, as the previously steady crunch of leaves slowed, quieted. Caution, much too late. The rumbling was still there, louder, but easier to tune out by the second.
"Jake," Sam said, reply, question and demand, all in one. (Lucifer was good at that, too.) Loud enough for the man who had murdered him to hear, clear enough that he would know who was saying his name.
(Dean was still out there somewhere (he had to be), in the dark with a killer who had powers that his brother couldn't hope to protect himself from. The thought of it was almost enough to force Sam's brittle, fragile-feeling body to stand, but.)
"That's right, Sammy, but do you hear? Remember that?" The Devil wore his human form better than Sam, right then. It was…distracting. Distressing.
"It was a busy and exciting time, I know, so I'll forgive you just this once." Lucifer leaned harder into his side, as if he were trying to force them back into the same shape. "It's almost the same sound you heard when we took care of Azazel's little pack, back in Detroit. Jake over there embraced the blood, and is well on his way to being just another smoky bag of puss." The Archangel's lip curled. "Holy water might sting him now," he added callously.
Jake was turning into a demon? But he hadn't even drank any more blood—
"Did I ever sound like that?" his mouth asked without having consulted his brain at all. Lucifer's laugh shook through him, long and low.
"No, Sam," he murmured. "No, my sweet little abomination, you sounded like me. You always have." His tone changed from contemplative to smug. "You sounded more like me than Dean did to Michael; that's what really got the little seraphs so angry. How dare the boy with the demon blood be a better match than the elder brothers!"
Jake stepped out of the darkness, the Colt clutched in one hand, eyes wide and fever-bright. Sam blinked at him slowly, calm. Jake was in the open now, and that meant he was away from Dean. And he needed to get through Sam if he wanted the Gate open.
Lucifer started laughing, loud and carrying in the stillness of the graveyard.
"I killed you," Jake accused, quiet, as if afraid of being heard. His eyes twitched, like he wanted to look around but couldn't drag them away from where Sam sat, and the Colt was very slowly being lifted. Lucifer muttered a withering remark about the effectiveness of pea-shooters. "I killed you!" The not-sound grumbled under his voice, the whites of his eyes streaked through with sooty-black, and Sam felt a light push against his skin that made the Devil narrow his pale eyes dangerously at Azazel's child and stand in one intimidatingly smooth movement.
"You're going to Hell," Sam murmured, eyes slowly tracking the blond angel as he went, the ghost-echo of his True Form leaking out around the edges, wings and tails and claws and horns. Everything that made an angel's first words to a mortal "do not fear"; the very words that Lucifer never had and never would utter. It was almost enough to keep Sam from noticing the sudden appearance of something else, trailing Jake's wake like fog, pale gray with only the vaguest suggestion of anything like a form. It seemed to condense when Jake suddenly jerked the Colt up, sighting Sam down the barrel.
"Yeah," Jake said, the pale mist behind him molding into a human shape. "Yeah, I am, and you're in my way."
And all at once there was a Reaper standing over Jake's shoulder, Lucifer laughing gaily, and Azazel's Child toppled over sideways, dead, a bullet through his head while Dean came from the shadows with his own gun still raised.
"Looks like big brother's still on your side after all, Sammy," the Devil mused, suddenly beside Sam once more, both of them watching the Reaper watch them, even as it collected Jake's thrashing soul. "Maybe that's for the best. It's gonna be a wild ride after this."
Dean's hands were rock steady on his gun, like they always were when he had a monster in his sights, and he kept it trained on the guy who had killed his brother until he was sure the fucker was stone cold dead. Then he let himself look at Sammy, still up against the crypt and serene the entire time…
No, that wasn't true. Not the entire time. Just when he was staring down death again. He hadn't been so serene when Dean'd turned tail like a coward, so absolutely sure that it hadn't been his bother with his back to Hell and singing like an angel.
And maybe it hadn't been Sam singing, but it had been Sam screaming, crying out for Dean to come back, thrashing like he was pinned, hands curled around something only he could see as his voice went muffled and his breathing went ragged. Until he went quiet in that way that Dean was pretty sure meant he was listening to his tagalong. Who Dean was now pretty fucking sure could possess his baby brother on a whim, fuck with him something damn close to physically without ever showing its ugly face to anyone but Sammy.
And, Christ, did it burn to have to stay hidden behind scraggly trees and half-gone gravestones, Bobby's hand gripped tight on the back of his jacket while Sam was thirty feet away, thinking Dean had abandoned him. While Sam stayed down in the dirt, murmuring to the… thing only he could see, apparently unconcerned with what it could and had already done to him. Everything about it was just… wrong.
Dean was peripherally aware of Bobby following him out, Ellen slinking hunter-smooth from the direction of their cars with her gun still half up. He ignored them and went to his knees beside Sam, who was watching him like he wasn't sure if Dean was real or not. And that stung. But Sam didn't pull back when Dean reached out. He leaned into the hands Dean cradled his face with, hazel eyes big and imploring and watching him instead of the parasite that had attached itself to him.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean said, hoarse. "You alright, little brother?" He was close enough this time to hear Sam swallow, see his eyes go shiny-wet when his hands latched onto the front of Dean's shirt. There was a speck of blood on Sam's cheek, and Dean wiped it away with his thumb, the same way he'd done for as long as he could remember. "C'mon, c'mon, stand up for me, let's get you outta here."
Sam came up off the ground easily enough, but he felt cold when he leaned into Dean, like the crypt had leeched all his usual almost feverish heat from him. Without thought, Dean was shrugging out of his coat and tucking the worn soft leather around Sam's shoulders, almost tuning out the quiet conversation going on behind his back until his brother lifted his head and made a small, indistinct noise.
"…should prob'ly burn him, no telling what sort of ghost would come from this boy." Bobby was saying, and Dean felt that same hot rage bubble up inside him again. Forget burning him now; if he could, Dean would bring Jake back just to burn that fucker alive.
"I'm not arguin' with you, Bobby, I just think that maybe we should be a little more worried about how we're gonna get outta here. We're surrounded by a storm of demons, if you hadn't forgot. It's a damned miracle we got past them on the way in, and I haven't had a trace of a signal on my phone since we crossed those tracks." Ellen sounded harsh, but more than that, she sounded worried.
Dean spared a second to look at Ellen and Bobby, just in time to see Bobby slipping his fossil of a cell phone back in his pocket with a shake of his head; Dean didn't even bother reaching to check his own. He startled and caught Sam's wrist when his hand suddenly moved, going for the knife sheathed at Dean's hip.
"Whoa there, Sam, what'd you need that for?" He might've been a little more alarmed about Sammy suddenly going for his knife if his brother had fought the firm grip Dean had on him. He didn't, though. Sam looked at him with more clarity and focus than he'd had since they got to this damned –literally– boneyard.
"I know a ward that can hide us from demons," Sam said, eyes darting away quickly, narrowing, and coming back to rest on Dean. Dean tried to will his heartbeat steady, his voice calm and level. No matter how much he wanted to, now was still not the time to ask about his brother's tagalong – undoubtedly the source of all this useful, hellish shit he should not know.
"Okay. So why do you need my knife?" Sam's cool, bare wrist turned slightly under his fingers, though he still didn't pull away. His brother had apparently forgotten the rules about holding prolonged eye contact again, though.
"The sigils need to be drawn in blood," Sam said slowly. Then his head tilted a little, his voice changing just slightly. Lilting. "You didn't give me my weapons back before we left. I need yours."
"Does the blood need to be human?" Bobby's voice made Dean jump; Sam didn't so much as twitch, just looked the older hunter's way with more of that unnerving focus. Sam didn't look at people like that.
Bobby looked a little cautious, but he must've decided that their situation was too bad to pass up even the slightest chance of getting out of here, even if it meant trusting his unstable little brother and his spectral parasite. Sam narrowed his eyes a little and shook his head, expression still fixed in a way that made Dean's hair stand on end; it looked cold, alien. Bobby nodded, doing a damn good job at keeping his own face clear of whatever the hell he felt about Sam just then. "Good. I got a jar of lamb's blood back in the truck that's still good. Do you need to put 'em on us, or the cars?"
"The cars," Sam answered without hesitation, though a second later his eyes drifted away from Bobby. Sam was clearly tracking…something…moving around between them, his eyebrows coming together, and when he spoke again he sounded faint, distracted. "They can't know you've even left if you want to survive long enough to see Azazel dead. He'll know something isn't going to Plan already."
It took Dean a second to realize why what Sam had said made him feel so on edge. Sam wasn't including himself among them, but how exactly wasn't clear. But Dean wouldn't ask now. Not in front of Bobby and Ellen. Bobby at least might've been family, but he wasn't Dean; no one cared for Sam like Dean did, and if Sam said something that turned the older hunter against him…
"C'mon Sam, let's go get this fingerpainting done so we can get the hell outta here," Sam blinked and looked down at him, hand twitching like he had just realized that Dean was still holding onto his cold –why was he still so cold?– wrist. But his baby brother just tilted his head a little and let himself be pulled along.
"Don't forget the Colt," Sam (Sam?) said, voice just a bit…off. "Not very smart, leaving the key in front of that door where anyone could come along and open it."
Dean shivered. They had to kill Yellow Eyes –Azazel– but the damn second the demon was dead, they were gonna find out just who was leeching off Sam and getting rid of it.