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Hápax legómenon

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0. The Fool

When it comes to spiritual development, the Fool is in the earliest of stages. He's an infant, developmental-wise.

 

Rest, Sam managed for an hour or so; food, he could only take a few bites from the cheese with bread he took up to his temporary room.

The scenery changed this morning to bare trees, sad in their subjugated non-linear forms. A half day of barren land remained until they will reach their destination; the knowledge sings in his bones, surety making his skin itch with that miffing energy he cannot get rid of.

He ran and ran and ran. Not from something, but towards someone. That someone was waiting for him, even though they did not know that. His breath was a short pace behind him, echoing in his ears as if it belonged to another, as if his heart did not fuel those ragged breaths the same way it pumped blood in his body and put into motion his entire being.

A being that was desperate to reach that someone…

Death blocked his view of the prone body before him. A figure, hard planes and even harder features Sam could not make out but inherently knew, was spitting words of fire and brimstone, curses and anger. Death was immovable, impassive, imperious; just as time, but with a will of his own.

A thin veil of fog insinuated itself over the scorched land, thickening by the second. Translucent tears wet the dead body, luminescent fingers touched with such a trembling fragility that Sam thought he was going to break into pieces. The hand slid over the chin, down onto the chest, into which the fingers disappeared. Light glowed feebly, at first, becoming more potent in no time.

A raven cawed on a branch nearby; it attracted Sam’s attention for a second. Looking back, the two men were standing and staring at him. The raven picked at the wood; tok—tok —tok. The crying man’s hand was placed on the now—living man’s shoulder.

Tok — tok — tok.

It was hard to see through all that fog.

Tok — tok — tok.

Were their lips moving?

Thud — thud — thud.

His eyes open wide, a couple of seconds of tabula rasa, an oasis of calm, quiet and just being in the present not as a thinking human being, but as a conscience that just exists, before memory, thoughts and restless energy return like forces occupying an empty space.

“Sir, we have arrived.”

Blink. A sigh.

He pays the man the rest of the money he promised, takes his two suitcases and looks around at what the Empire knows as the birthplace of magick: a village like any other he has seen, with normal people milling around. The only difference rests in the naming; no other name would remain in the minds of people but the Village. Surely an enchanted place, although he feels nothing at all walking around the muddy paths.

The first thing he doesis to make a stop to the village’s library. Unusual commodity for one so small as this, but when magick is involved, nothing is usual.

A lot of titles pass through his hands and under his scrutinizing eyes; some of them come with well-used leather, acrid smell of old and worn out. He reads until his back hurts and his eyes can’t focus on the letters no matter how much he blinks. It’s time to head to the tavern he passed by on his way to the library.

The liveliness of itreaches his ears even before he rounds the corner onto the main street. Men and women alike, vociferous and merry, toast and eat as if it’s a banquet. For all Sam knows, it might be just the case. He takesa seat at one of the few vacant tables near the two small windowsand orders their daily special: pork stew with beans.

His first reaction to the sudden presence of another at his back is to recoil as far into a corner as possible because that’s the normal way one reacts to a predator, but before any of that takes place, he looks over and meets twinkling eyes, mischief gathered in the crinkled corners.

“Hi,” Sam says quietly.

“Hiya, Sam.”

A pause, spoon caught mid-air. It doesn’t bother him that this stranger knows his name more than that slight hiccup in the process of eating his dinner. It should, but it doesn’t and he doesn’t even question it.

“How’s the research going?” It feels as if they know each other for a lifetime; they don’t.

“No luck.”

“Thought so.”

The stranger drinks his ale in one go, a satisfied sigh to wrap up the action as he takes a seat next to Sam instead of opposite him. It’s unsettling how he cannot shrug off this feeling of safety he gets from the man.

“Why are you using magick on me?”

“If I didn’t, you’d be prey to your instincts.” He smiles toothily; the joke’s on Sam, of course. “And we don’t want that.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me an’ you.”

“I did not consent to being subdued by magick.”

“You’re also in a place where magick was born with no barrier-amulet on you whatsoever.” He leans back a bit. “And I see you haven’t checked into the inn, yet. Perfect. You already have a room prepared at the castle, anyway. Shall we?”

“I’m not going with you anywhere.”

Said even as he stands up and takes his two suitcases in his hands; the man drops a few coins on the table. A churlish look crosses Sam’s expression at the uncontrollable way his body reacts to his words.

“If you really wanted to decline my invitation, you would have cast away the spell I willed on you, even if you were a Normal. That’s the difference between a spell-invitation and a command-spell.”

“Then why didn’t you just ask like normal people do, without using magick?”

“I’m not normal.” — the distaste is thick — “And you’d have declined, thus I chose to accelerate the proceedings.”

Sam scoffs. “Obviously. I don’t know you.”

At the edge of the forest, the man turns around on his heels, his white shirt halfway parted on his chest catching in the wind, and with a theatrical flourish he bends from his waist in a farcical show of a respectful bow.

“Gabriel.” He’s smiling, even though Sam cannot see him. “Changeling extraordinaire at your services.”

Sam just stares, so Gabriel returns to guide them through the labyrinthine paths that wind and unwind in the forest.

“I’m a potion maker,” Sam finds himself mumbling. The silence quietly got to him.

Gabriel throws him a grin over his shoulder. “You could be.”

“I am.”

“Not only.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I might not, but I know how sweetly your magick sings and beckons both my souls.”

“Both your souls?”

“And here we are, at my humble residence.”

Another flourish of hands, indicating the macabre majesty of a castle straight out of Gothic books. At least the yard surrounding it is well-kept and the dark, stone walls are not prey to ivy.

“Brother, we’re home!” Gabriel sing-songs.

It doesn’t take long after the door closes itself behind Sam to feel another strong presence engulf the oxygen in the foyer.

“Hello, Gabriel.” His piercing gaze moves swiftly to Sam; the pressure is suffocating, but for some reason he can withstand it quite bravely. “Sam,” he says after a minute pause. “I am Lucifer, Gabriel’s brother.”

But Sam already knew that, no thanks to his psychic abilities. Gabriel’s delighted cackle echoes from wherever he sneaked into. The moment Lucifer’s hand touches Sam’s in a handshake, a veil lifts from his shoulder and he can control his body once more.

“I apologize for my brother’s brazen and inconsiderate manner in which he brought you here.”

Sam looks up at Lucifer with suspicion, but what sits neatly tucked into the buttoned-up vee of the shirt distracts his attention.

“Why do you talk as if you expected me?”

“A letter arrived yesterday telling us of your journey here.” When the clouds don’t clear from Sam’s face, Lucifer adds, “it was from Conjurer Bobby Singer.”

It has the intended effect: Sam’s vision clears in a second.

“You know Bobby?”

A pause. The black Ascot tie loses a bit of its hold on Sam.

“In a way.”

He doesn’t elaborate further, which makes Sam frown.

“But let’s take your luggage to your room and have you over by the fireplace to warm up.”

With a soft movement of his hand, Sam’s luggage disappear from his side supposedly in his room.

“I still don’t understand what is happening here,” Sam says, frustration laden in his voice as he sinks into the armchair nearest to the fireplace; it’s sinfully accommodating. “It’s all happening so fast, as if I’m just a spectator to my own life.”

“I assure you that this is just an occurrence,” Lucifer says, just as he smoothly takes the cup of tea Gabriel caries on a tray.

“Hey!”

He’s dressed like a High Court butler, Gabriel style: extravagant colors and frilly details, but to Lucifer’s tastes, that mustache — it’s not even fake — ruins everything.

Passing a hand, palm open over the steaming cup, Lucifer says, “we wouldn’t want our guest to fall prey to one of your many pranks, now do we, brother?”

“Spoilsports! I get fresh meat once every blue moon and you don’t let me have my fun.”

Lucifer looks at him. “We agreed on something.”

Gabriel deflates swiftly and disappears, a glimpse of a purple waistcoat and matching tie stealing Sam’s attention.

“Will he be okay?” His gaze lingers on the fading afterimage in the doorway.

“He will.”

He passes the cup of tea to Sam, but they almost drop it when their skin touch ever so slightly; a single drop escapes the porcelain rim, tracing a faded brown line on immaculate white.

“Gabriel despises inaction and loneliness. Two things he has in abundance here.”

Lucifer chooses to dismiss the event transpired between them, and Sam follows suit, unable to understand what just happened.

“But he has you, doesn’t he?”

A wan smile curls Lucifer’s lips. “He does, but we’ve been together for so long that we know each other’s ins and outs better than anyone else’s, so sex lost its appeal long ago.”

That bit of information lodges the sip of tea in Sam’s throat. A violent and incontrollable cough succeeds.

“You — sleep with each other?”

“Used to.” He passes Sam a handkerchief, the color of white pearls. “Now it’s just me studying from a vast library of magick books and him prowling the forest all day long. Or annoying the villagers.” He looks down at Sam and sees a lot of mixed emotions on his face. “We are magick Vessels, Sam, we are not bound to the Normals’ laws or rules. Gender and familial ties are not seen as barriers. Magick and love are the same thing, and we both know that love is boundless and limitless.”

A shuddering sigh escapes Sam’s lips and his gaze falls on the cup of tea cradled in his hands. He debates if he should try another sip or if he should call it quits and place it on the small, high table near his armchair.

“You said you have a vast library?”

The smile is genuine on Lucifer’s lips. “Come, I’ll show you.”

They enter a dark foyer, situated at the back of the room they were in and then they descend creaky stairs into a dungeon-looking space. On closer inspection, though, the space is a dungeon, complete with a torture chair, bars and shackles. The only things missing from that scene are the prisoners and the torture instruments.

“Do not be afraid. This room has not been used for more than a century.”

A grimace etches itself on Sam’s face. “Why don’t you reuse this space? Maybe turn it into a cellar or something?”

“I have thought about it, but Gabriel doesn’t want to change anything in this part of the castle. Claimed something along the lines of inspiration — which he hasn’t found yet.”

A quirked eyebrow at the explanation, but he doesn’t ask more. They reach the other side of the dungeons and Lucifer places his hand on the damp stone bricks, whispering something not even Sam’s fine hearing can catch.

The moment Sam enters the oval room, a shudder locks all his joints into place, just as the books shiver and tremble in their places on the shelf; in no time, one by one pull out and float into the air. Some circle Sam, others come before him, open themselves and flutter their pages as if a strong wind came upon them, then return to float around the room with the others.

It takes a bit of time for Sam to relax from the rigid posture he involuntarily took.

“What—”

Lucifer chuckles, delighted and entirely genuine, on the other side of the room. He can’t seem to get a hold of himself, though; the sounds travel rich and smoky over Sam’s skin, pervading his insides like the finest blended scotch there is. He shivers again, but this time the cause is something entirely new and not magick-related.

When Lucifer calms down, he motions with his hand over to a deep red tapestry chair with golden embroidery; the material is satiny and the seat plush and comfortable when Sam sits down.

“They never reacted like that to me or Gabriel, so I apologize for laughing so openly.”

His hip touches the elaborated woodwork that makes up the table on which other three books lie, plus the one that comes down to settle in front of Sam, open at a page that catches Sam’s eye.

“Maybe it’s because I’m new,” he murmurs absentmindedly as he peruses the page.

Characters move and change when he encounters words he does not understand to make the reading easier and faster. He touches them and the book shivers beneath his fingers, the smoothness of the characters in contrast to the porous quality of the page.

“Or maybe it’s because they took a shine to you.”

That makes Sam look up at Lucifer.

“Books don’t have a will of their own.”

“Did this happen when you entered the Village’s library?” He lifts his arms above his head to indicate the cloud of books still milling in the air. “This is the difference between books about magick and books of magick. Aren’t they magnificent?”

Sam looks up and about at all the books and manuscripts gliding aimlessly or hovering above Sam’s head, as if waiting for him to finish with the one already under his hand. Put into this light, they truly are magnificent. And a tiny bit scary.

Lucifer’s warm smile passes unnoticed by Sam. “I’ll leave you to it, but in a few hours I’ll come back to fetch you for dinner.”

A nod and Lucifer is gone, leaving Sam alone with enough knowledge to last him three lifetimes. As soon as he peruses the pages that interest him, the book closes and flies away just to be replaced by another and another and another. Nothing compares to this outer-body experience; it’s as if he does not exist as flesh and bone, but as only the conscious part of his brain. It’s beyond what words can convey.

He passes over names of great Mages, some of them he heard of, some he didn’t. He learns of how the Empire came to be, the two Emperors who built the world they know today from just scraps of frayed, unpolished magick, how one of the two founders just vanished one day without anyone knowing where or why. He reads about Death and his pale horse, about taming the Darkness into something malleable and useful to magick users.

He rediscovers the distinction between ‘magic’ and ‘magick’, the former used for stage performances, while the later representing one’s true will, that which moves and transforms the physical world in which he lives.

There’s so much on the Old Religion that he stops the book from flying away with his hand (the first conscious gesture he does with his body in what feels like forever); a quiver runs through the cloud above his head and Sam smiles wickedly. He’s so attuned to everything in that room that he experiences a prolonged feeling of omnipresence; one that he delights in.

He feels the presence before the words reach him.

“Sam, it’s dinner time.”

Lucifer’s low voice comes from somewhere to his right, but he couldn’t care less if the book he is currently poring over started talking as long as it voiced all the knowledge residing within the leather-bound covers.

“Mh-hm.”

But no muscle as much as twitches.

Some time passes, Sam’s not sure how much, but the next time he’s interrupted, he almost has a heart-attack. From within the pages, a caricature of a wolf springs out with a comic ‘woof’ (for anybody but Sam) and makes Sam jump back in his chair instantaneously. The chuckle catches his attention and his eyes fall on none other than Gabriel, leaning on the door jamb with his arms crossed, a couple of inches below the hideously orange tie and matching waistcoat.

How is it possible that he didn’t feel his presence in the room? There was no disruption, like it happened with Lucifer.

“Gabriel,” Lucifer admonishes softly.

“You do want him to eat your porridge before it gets cold, right?”

“But he was so beautifully engrossed in that book—“

“That what remnants of good intentions you have left didn’t let you disturb the angelic peace. Yeah, it was obvious.”

Lucifer’s only answer is a sound of assent and Sam feels like he’s an intruder, the third wheel to a perfect duo. It’s been some time since he last felt this inadequate around people.

“Sam.” Lucifer’s soft-spoken voice gets his attention. “You’re welcome to come upstairs and eat with us.”

“If His Majesty so wishes,” — Gabriel turns and walks back through the dungeon, his voice echoing off in the cavernous space — “to grace us with His Royal presence.”

Sam looks at Lucifer, frowning.

“Don’t let Gabriel’s sour mood get to you.”

“I won’t, if you tell me what crawled up his ass and died there — or didn’t.”

Okay, maybe he should revise his words better next time. Too much truth tends to put off people, but the warm chuckle that escapes unbidden once again from Lucifer tells Sam something else. He wills away the book with an unconscious flutter of a hand; the book obeys instantly, placing itself back on the shelf. The others follow suit when Sam stands and walks over to Lucifer.

“A lot of things put Gabriel in a bad mood, and this is one of them.” He pats Sam on the shoulder, motioning for him to take precedence. “Fortunately for everybody involved, these moods never last.”

“That doesn’t directly answer the question, but then again, I wouldn’t offer too much information about my own brother to a stranger, either.”

He’s only just passing that hideous torture chair when Lucifer sidles with him, shoulders touching.

“Careful, Sam,” — Lucifer warns with a smile — “if you keep being like this, I might become more than fond of you.”

It stops Sam dead in his tracks even as Lucifer continues walking, chuckling softly; if only it didn’t sound so ominous and dark, echoing off those walls.

“You really need to convince Gabriel to remodel this place.”

Back upstairs, he steps directly into the dining room. He remains on the threshold for a bit, befuddled at the change in scenery.

“Wasn’t there—“

Gabriel scoffs.

“Hello,” he says, elongating the last vowel like the brat he is. “Magick.” He snaps his fingers and each candle on the table lights up one after the other.

“Come,” says Lucifer, hands placed on a chair on the other side of the long table, right in front of the hearth. “Take a seat.”

He takes the seat, left to the head-table and directly in front of Gabriel. On the burgundy cloth, covering the entirety of the table, a varied range of dishes catch Sam’s eye: from what looks like venison in a deep brown sauce with carrots and other vegetables, to the milky-white porridge steaming in front of him.

Lucifer motions for Sam to be the first one to serve himself and he complies with more ease than he feels under Gabriel’s intense gaze; his expression is poised as if to say something.

“So,” — Gabriel begins as he takes the last slice of bread; the basket fills back up swiftly — “apart from being a knowledge-seeker, what else do you do?”

Sam glances at Lucifer, who meticulously does not look back, and then at Gabriel, who paused his hand with the bread waiting for Sam’s answer.

He shrugs. “I’m just a potion maker.”

“Yes, that’s what you told me earlier. But I don’t buy it. So try something else.”

Sam frowns. “That’s what people who have no magick in them, despite being born of warlock parents, are forced to do in a society that thrives on magick,” he says, acidly.

Both brothers exchange a cryptic look.

“There are no recordings of such a thing as a magickless-born baby from wizard parents,” Gabriel says, attention rapt.

“It’s highly possible to have a Normal baby if one of the parents is Normal, but not when both have powers.”

Sam shrugs at Lucifer explanation, eyes specifically trained on his bowl of porridge, which, by the way, is liquid heaven for his taste buds.

“Guess I’m the exception to the rule.” He tries for nonchalant; unfortunately, he misses by a mile. “Anyway, I’ll be staying for another three days, then I’ll be out of your hair.”

That surprises them .

“Why so soon?”

Sam meets Lucifer’s gaze. “Bobby still needs a hand in the shop and I still need to practice if I want to get anywhere with making potion.”

Lucifer and Gabriel share another cryptic look; Sam is starting to have enough of that and he’s not been there for more than half a day.

After that, nobody brings the matter into the discussion anymore. Only once does Lucifer ask Gabriel about his day, but the answer is vague and doesn’t make much sense, so Lucifer doesn’t prod for more.

They have a strange relationship, Sam notes, considering that not long ago Lucifer told Sam that they slept with each other, so he can’t help but pick up on the distant, cold feeling coming from both of them.

Retreating to the room that was prepared for him, Sam changes into more comfortable clothes and revises his notes on the last potion he devised, one that should help the user increase focus and attention-span. The drawback to this potion is that it forces the person into a comatose after twenty-four hours since the beverage has been consumated.

He struggles to find the perfect combination of herbs and medicinal plants to create the desired result, but for now he doesn’t know if rosemary would be better than chicory or if a young oak’s bark would increase the hours before the imminent comatose.

He’ll be forced to either devise an antidote that can neutralize the potion from the bloodstream or plunge into the depths of the darkness, disoriented and afraid, until a bubble image comes to the surface, foggy. He strains his eyes to see better, but the image remains stubbornly unclear.

Then it sucks him in and his knees hit the hard marble surface of the Empress’ throne room and he keeps his head bowed as deeply as possible while she speaks. There’s not a word that sticks in his mind, but he knows that it’s important and that they’re trying to make amends. The wisp of old tales makes him turn around to catch shifting glimpses of shadows right behind the pillar; a gasp; hooves and then honey, the taste of which glides lazily down his own throat.

“I’m willing,” Lucifer says and Sam screams so much and for such a long time that it drowns out the evil female laugh of a shadowy figure behind the dead trees.

He screams and screams and screams until there’s wet warmth on his cheek and he opens his eyes to soft browns, dark fur and a tongue licking his left cheek. The little whines do not help the creature look less concerned than it is.

His own elaborated breath doesn’t make much sense, nor does the presence of the creature in his—

The cold pervades his higher senses and the hardness of the surface he’s currently splayed on make Sam look around at the trees, rocks and half-moon.

“Oh my god, how did I end up here?”

His voice has the quality of the aftermath of a thousand screams.

The shivers assault his body once he regains full control of his motor abilities, but he cannot sit up or breathe properly with this creature pushing down on his chest and stomach. The warmth exuding from the wolf’s body is welcome, but not enough.

“Gabriel, get off,” he says even as Gabriel easily complies and Sam blinks at the words he said. “Gabriel?”

He sits up and takes in the wolf in all his glory. He still stays close to Sam, letting his body heat seep into Sam’s thin clothing. A huff is all Sam gets in answer, and what might be a roll of eyes, but it’s dark enough for doubts to be in high demand.

His feet are numb when they reach the castle, Gabriel a comforting presence and guide back to familiar places. Lucifer opens the doors with a frantic look on his face as he takes in Sam’s shivering body and Gabriel’s wolf form leaning against Sam’s hip, one hand buried deep in his mane. He doesn’t ask anything as he ushers both inside and guides them to the hearth, a thick blanket appearing on Sam’s shoulder even as he sits on the fur in front of the fireplace to warm his feet.

“What happened?” Lucifer finally asks.

“He sleep-walked to the closed passage in the mountain.” Gabriel supplies, shrugging on Lucifer’s robe when he hands it over.

“Sam?”

Another shiver wrecks his body and Sam regains a bit of ability in his toes, moving up and down sluggishly.

“I don’t know. I just woke up there with Gabriel.”

Gabriel shrugs when Lucifer looks at him.

“He stumbled and fell, most probably his feet were so numb he couldn’t control them anymore, and when I willingly infused some of my energy in his body to help him heal the wounds, he started screaming and thrashing and I had to stop him before he hurt himself even more, so I pinned his body down.”

“Sam, has this ever happened to you?”

He shakes his head.

Lucifer looks back at Gabriel. “This could be a curse.”

“You know traveling curses never manifested this way,” Gabriel says, brows furrowed. “Besides, who would want to harm him? He doesn’t have a defined magick print. For all we know, he could really be just a Normal.”

Lucifer shakes his head, features tense, thinking hard about the situation.

“He might not be a magick user, but I’m certain he’s not a Normal, either.”

“Then what is he? A demon?”

Gabriel throws his hands in the air, frustrated. Lucifer looks up at him with a confused and offended expression, but even then he focuses his gaze on Sam’s huddled form and whispers one word. Sam doesn’t move more than his feet in front of the fire.

“At least we’re now certain that he’s not a demon, either.” They both release a relieved sigh, but then Gabriel’s voice takes on a wicked shade. “Too bad, though, I would’ve liked to see how sex with a demon is.”

He gets a short electric shock for his efforts.

“Stop doing that! It’s annoying.”

Gabriel broods when Lucifer doesn’t pay attention to his indignation.

“Self-preservation, Gabriel.”

“Self-preservation, my ass,” — comes the acid response — “I’m not a saint.”

“Neither am I.”

“No, you’re a soulless bastard—”

But even as Gabriel says this, his eyes widen and he doesn’t wait for the look of disappointment to cross Lucifer’s face.

“What if we’re dealing with a dweomer?

“Sam said he doesn’t have any magick, so it’s improbable that he manifested it unconsciously as you said.”

But Lucifer is not entirely convinced by it.

“Or not.” Gabriel pushes. “Think about it, he doesn’t have a magick print, the books react to him like he’s their own and now he sleep-walks? Come on, Luci, these are glaring signs even you can’t ignore.”

“But— they’re things of fairy tales. It’s been centuries since the last one—”

“Not anymore.” Gabriel chuckles. “And he’s ours.”

Lucifer’s eyes lift, cobalt blue grinding against dark brown.

“Did you put a claim on him even before knowing who he was?”

“I did.” Gabriel grins entirely too pleased with himself. “I like his guts. He won’t bend to our wills unless he wants to — including our first encounter,” he says, picking up on Lucifer’s dubious glance. “He was too curious to really want to break free from my magick, which made it easy for me to get him here. But this new information we just pieced together adds so much more spice to the equation. Damn, he’s perfect!”

And for the first time in a very long while, Gabriel sneaks his arms around Lucifer’s middle and nuzzles his cheek. Lucifer melts in the embrace and takes his chances: he touches Gabriel’s lips in a barely-there kiss, expecting Gabriel to retreat.

He does, head leaning back a bit and dark eyes inscrutable. But then he dives in and kisses Lucifer the way he used to, tongue and teeth and a touch desperate, hand locking on his jaw to tilt his head just so and deepen the kiss.

Sam clears his throat. He tightens the hold he has on the blanket around his shoulders, pointedly looking anywhere else but at the brothers.

“I’d like to retreat to my room now. Sorry for worrying you and thank you for taking care of me.”

A lingering smell, faint, but musky, brings a smirk to Gabriel’s lips as he watches Sam’s hasty departure.

 

***

“What happened to you, Sam?”

It’s interesting to note how just a few, inconsequential words from Lucifer, traveling on soft tones of voice, accomplish what three cups of chamomile tea did not. He turns in his seat and looks at the man in question, gaze taking in the line of his tailcoat dipping sinuously along the slight dip of his waistline, tails disappearing behind dark trousers. He’s twirling a white lily between his thumb and forefinger, inhaling the sweet scent as an afterthought, and when Sam meets his dark eyes they look as if they never left his face.

“I beg your pardon?”

The smirk curls around the corners of his mouth and faint laugh lines appear when shadows form where the warm light of the candles has been. The book flutters beneath Sam’s forearm and he lets it take off the table, another taking its place in no time.

He steps inside the library, a ripple stealing through the ambling books above; it stirs the fine hairs on Sam’s body to attention. Lucifer oozes palpable magick — and something else, Sam can’t quite figure out.

“You are capable of enormous power. In fact, you might be able to stand on par with the Empress and Death himself, if you so wish.”

Sam snorts. What is he to do when faced with such preposterous words?

“Something must have happened to you in the past. I feel your magick, but it’sjust out of reach, pushed down and ignored. Why?”

He stands a step away from Sam, flower never leaving his mouth, words pressed against its petals like whispered words into a lover’s skin. It escapes his attention how the books shiver, their pages shuffling nervously and then furiously as his dad’s voice seeps through the little spaces in the shelves.

Dean, take your brother and get out of here!”

Of all the things to have killed their parents it was the fire. It had to be, as if there hadn’t been anything more ironic than this. He tries to push the memory back, to escape the building emotions, to stop the furious shuffle of pages and disparate echo of words he’s read and voices he’s never heard.

“Sam.”

He doesn’t touch Sam in any way if not for the fact that his eyes are more intense than usual.

The soothing veil enveloping him comes as a balm to his fried senses and time freezes inside the library as his mind and body disconnect from each other. He knows his gaze is fixed on a point somewhere at the foot of one of the shelves, but he looks at Lucifer with something not unlike wonder and calm pervading him.

A sense of motion comes from his limbs as he stands up from the tufted chair, magnetized by Lucifer’s steady gaze.

His mind’s eye perceives the moment Lucifer moves to embrace him, sigh and eyelids slipping shut when his arms circle around Sam and it is kind of funny because Sam knows he hasn’t moved a muscle for a while now, but there he is both staring at an indefinite point on the floor and hugging — clinging to — Lucifer with everything in him that desires this closeness.

“Perhaps another time.”

It’s both in his ear, a longing murmur, and somewhere to his left, a rumbling sound. He unlocks himself from the statue he has become and blinks up at Lucifer.

“What?”

The smile is minimal, but warm and open, and he bends at his waist, depositing his white lily on the open book.

“Perhaps you will be more inclined to share your past with us some other time.”

Sam blinks, perplexed.

“You’re asking a lot from someone who knows you for less than three days.”

Lucifer pauses in the act of retreating, fingers still on the stalk of the flower, chest exposed several inches away from Sam’s face. He senses, in the overall image before him, how Lucifer’s smile widens a fraction more, warm eyes crinkling in the corners; but he’s too distracted by the platinum filaments worked into the black Ascot tie to find it in him to meet his gaze.

“In due time, Sam,” he says, amusement catching on the words.

His eyes finally flicker up to meet Lucifer’s.

“We don’t have that kind of time. Even with my stay extended by a couple of days, I’ll still need to return on Monday.”

“Time is relative, Sam.” He straightens up. “Besides, we have the whole weekend ahead of us.”

Sam quirks an eyebrow at Lucifer’s retreating back.

“That’s too little time to get me to spill all of my secrets to you.”

It’s the reasonable thing to say, even though he knows that with magick a lot of things can be bent and twisted to one’s will. Soft chuckling and words glide over the walls of the library, even though Lucifer has already left.

“We can be very persuasive.”

 

***

But come Monday, Sam remains at the castle.

Neither he nor the brothers ever bring the subject into their conversations.

Sam’s life meshes with that of the brothers and no one questions the rightfulness of it.

A single letter is sent to the City, explaining the change of plans and Sam’s stay at the castle for as long as he wishes to.

 

 

XII. The Hanged Man

It’s an indicator of wisdom as yet untapped or undiscovered, and even of prophetic power. The Hanged Man shows a pause in our life, a moment of suspension in time.

 

“You belong to the House of Winchester, known to be prime hunters and loyal to a fault.”

A sneer crosses his features even as his eyes catch on Lucifer’s midnight blue Ascot tie and remain there, as if hypnotized.

“Or lapdogs.”

“What you probably don’t know is that your grandparents helped Death tame the Darkness and your parents were the first to help Duke Crowley subdue the demons in the South.”

That gets Sam’s attention, eyes wide enough to appear comic.

“I— didn’t know that. There was nothing on my family in the books I read in your library— or any memory.”

“They might contain a lot of knowledge, but, ultimately, they were and are written by wizards and High Priestesses. They’re not infallible.”

Sam falls silent.

“The reason why I chose to tell you all of that is because your parents were certainly not sorcerers as the popular opinion goes. They were wizards— and kind. A hard-to-find combination.”

Sam scoffs, unconvinced. “You’re kind.”

“Because I learned to be.”

“Meaning?”

A pause, Lucifer’s eyes perusing the many wood carvings on the walls.

“I don’t have a soul.”

“How is that even possible?”

“You can pretty much be yourself even without a soul.” He moves to sit in the armchair opposite Sam. “That is, if you find a Klaver in which to deposit your soul and that Klaver acquiesces to it. It’s rare and not many want to, even if that will make the wizard immortal.”

“Why?”

“Because you cannot force your soul on a Klaver if they don’t want to. If you do and they reject it, they can and will destroy your soul and, by extension, you. So no wizard, sorcerer or witch will ever put themselves willingly in this delicate and vulnerable position. Unless, that is, the two trust each other implicitly.”

“Huh. So you have a— Klaver?”

“Talking about me behind my back already?”

Sam turns to find Gabriel by the window, posture relaxed but still retaining a subtle air of authority, a platinum tie cleverly tied around his throat. It irks Sam that he never seems to feel Gabriel’s presence in the room.

“What do you mean?”

Gabriel turns, exaggerated grin in place and Sam’s gaze zeroes in on the light blue tie (wasn’t it platinum a moment ago?); it catches in the light of the fireplace, highlighting the silver filaments worked into it. But it’s not the color that has Sam’s attention, but the fashion in which it’s tied — same as Lucifer’s.

“I’m the Zwart Klaver you were talking about, and a Changeling because one ability is never enough.”

“A Sva— what?”

Wolfish grin. “A Black Clover. I’m not good with focusing my magick enough to make it materialize in cute colors like Lucifer can, but I can change at will and be a good conductor and amplifier of magick or a luxury residence for another’s soul.”

“So you have Lucifer’s soul.”

“Bingo, kiddo.”

“And we want you,” Lucifer adds, coming to stand besides Gabriel, an arm finding a place across his brother’s small back.

That pauses Sam’s hand in the middle of bringing the cup of tea to his lips. The world just tipped on its axis and threw him down the rabbit hole.

“Come again?”

Gabriel’s grin splits across his face. “We’ll come as many ti—ugh!”

The elbow forcefully pushed against his ribs cuts the rest of the smarmy response.

“We want to make our intentions clear towards you,” Lucifer smooths over Gabriel’s answer, diplomatically.

“And in doing so, we’d like to convince you to stay here. Permanently.”

A proud nod from Lucifer and Gabriel smiles, even as Sam shakes his head.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think you have the right person.”

A surprised quirk of their eyebrow has Sam rolling his eyes.

“Aren’t you Sam Winchester, self-proclaimed to be a potion maker?”

“I am.”

“Then we have the right person,” Gabriel says, eyes drinking Sam whole.

He shakes his head again, instead. “No. You don’t actually mean it.”

“Why not?” Lucifer says, and both of them come to kneel on each side of Sam’s legs. “You’re perfect for us.”

“You don’t understand.” Sam grits his teeth and Gabriel clenches his hand on his own bent knee. “I don’t have magick, I’m— normal. You don’t want to get your magick tangled with the frayed edges of a could-have-been.”

“Sam,” Lucifer begins, gentle and open; Sam refuses to look at either one. “You aren’t magickless.”

“How many times do I have to say this? I’m just a potion maker! There’s nothing special about me!“

Lucifer smiles indulgently.

“Are you sure?”

“Look, I took the test. I’m not— there’s something wrong with me. My body cannot channel the magick for some reason or another. So don’t tell me that you can fix me. There’s no magick in this world able to fix a— broken Vessel.”

Gabriel nods when Lucifer glances at him.

“Sam, you’re not broken. Your magick is just so powerful and unruly that nobody ever managed to tame it. And when those machines deal with this kind of magick, they don’t show anything because your powers are so strong that they annul the testing.”

Sam springs out of the armchair, unable to withstand the pressure the two men have put him under. He paces back and forth in front of the window.

“That’s not true. Those machines are made of magick. They should withstand anything— ”

“Machines have limits, Sam. You don’t.”

Gabriel grins. “You cannot measure something that’s limitless, can you? Same way you can’t measure one’s intelligence with math tests.”

“You’re not a Vessel for magick, like us. You are made of magick.”

“That is as impossible as breathing underwater.”

The quirked eyebrow is expected.

Lucifer comes towards Sam, circling him once, but as he traces his fingers over his forearm, back and his other arm’s biceps, Sam shivers, the touch rippling through his very core.

“You react to everything that is or contains magick.”

Lucifer’s breath ghosts over Sam’s neck, soft and tantalizing, just as Gabriel strides over to Sam, every bit the wolf that he is.

“And everything magick-related reacts to you.”

He touches Sam’s cheek and both gasp at the sensation. It courses through their bodies, magick gliding impossibly close to magick for a moment, before Lucifer’s hands come to rest on Sam’s hips, body heat licking at him.

“You have the power to destroy and recreate this plane of existence,” Lucifer whispers, lips so close to Sam’s ear that it tickles him. “Past, present and future belong to you.”

“And we have the power to ruin and remake you, worship you like the God that you are. The Olden referred to you as soðsagu, loosely translated as ‘the one who speaks the truth’. And truth has the power to dismantle this world.”

Lucifer mirrors Gabriel’s grin. “Our soothsayer,” he says it like a prayer, like everything starts and ends with that word.

But just as fast as they intruded on his personal space, touching him and getting him drunk on their words, just as swiftly they are gone, leaving behind a cold void to harshly wake Sam up from the sweet frenzy he was in.

“But,” Lucifer says from the low settee, at odds with everything else in the room, “we never take what isn’t rightfully ours.”

“And you’re not completely ours until you choose us to be yours, too,” Gabriel supplies.

“Be careful, Sam. Words have power.”

He knows. Probably better than he cares to admit to himself. Carelessly thrown words are fatal to a wizard; that is why he must think twice before opening his mouth.

 

***

The Wheel of Fortune glides over the bouquet of herbs. It surprises Sam and he looks up from his crouch over the glass containers and array of plants in various states of drying; the smell of mint and lavender are the strongest among them, and yet, he does not see any of the two brothers gracing him with their presence.

He looks at the tarot card some more, waiting for it to either disappear like a product of his imagination or glide back to where it came from. Moments later, Gabriel appears in the doorway perusing the room with intent until his eyes fall on the card. He takes a step in its direction then pauses and meets Sam’s gaze with an expression that tells him how very good he is at becoming one with his environment. Or how very focused Gabriel was in his pursuit.

It’s also weird to have so much silence surround Gabriel; he never realized how much noise the man always made. He looks down at the card and makes a move to take it, but the card shifts to one side, evading Sam’s hand. That is a first.

Gabriel’s expression, when Sam searches his gaze to express his befuddlement, goes sort of hmm and Sam is even more confused.

“Have you ever used the tarot cards?” Comes the unexpected and first question of the day.

“No.”

Why would he?

“Hmm.”

It’s strange to see this contemplative side of Gabriel; it’s like Sam fell down the rabbit hole and ended up in a similar world, but with small differences that get to him. Gabriel snaps his fingers, pushing his other hand forward where a deck of tarot cards rest, expecting the card on the table to return to its deck.

It doesn’t move.

“Huh,” he says. “That never happened before.”

He looks down at it and picks it up, turning it over at chest level and the rich burgundy of his tie steals Sam’s attention.

“Do you know what the Wheel symbolizes?”

He makes the card spin on the tip of his forefinger; a real wheel appears in the midst of it and Sam has to blink a couple of times to shake off the illusion.

“No.”

“It means fate and destiny, but also development and change.” His eyes slide over to meet Sam’s, a measuring look on his face. “Do you still think you’re a potion maker?”

He looks down at the experiment he is working on and wonders. Maybe he’s been lying to himself for a little bit too long, a little bit too convincing, because there’s an answer poised on the tip of his tongue and it’s not the one he’s been using until now.

Gabriel smirks, mischief sparkling in his shadowy eyes. The deck in his other hand explodes in a flurry of cards and while they tumble down like leaves shaken off from a tree, every face Sam can see represents a Wheel.

“For today’s number, I promise that no magick on my part will be involved. Everything you’ll see, will be the deck’s doing alone.”

And to demonstrate that, he clasps his hands behind his back and grins at Sam; finally Gabriel fits in this reality once again.

“What do you mean, no magick?”

He looks downat the cards strewn on the floor.

“Exactly what you heard.”

Sam bends down to pick one, but the moment he touches it, a wave turns all of them over, displaying a big picture of a Wheel. It’s starting to become annoying.

“Okay, I don’t understand. Why does that keep showing up?”

Gabriel’s grin stretches.

“First, you need to know that tarot cards are moody. They can show you the stars and a map to them or they can be very obnoxious and shut you out completely.”

“Like right now.”

“Mm, not really. This is them insisting.”

“On what?”

“Guess.”

“Gabriel, I’m not in the mood to play mind games.”

Gabriel shakes his head, leaning back and forth on his feet.

“Observe, Sam. It’s as simple as that.”

With another huff, he looks down at the picture, and looks, and looks, but nothing changes except—

Except there is a tarot card that still lies upside down. Now that he sees it, the whole picture doesn’t look as neat as before; it actually grates on some sensitive nerve because it ruins the image of the Wheel. When he bends down to right the slight, the cards shiver and get up from the floor, sticking themselves, one by one, on the window and obscuring the gray light of the morning.

Just at that moment, a couple of rays kiss the castle and subsequently the window and the Wheel shines golden and red and green, the intricate details shifting around the outer margins of the wheel, and Sam gives up because if he sees that wheel one more time without a sound explanation to go with he is going to do something unbecoming.

Like lighting the damn deck on fire.

It feels like a profanity even thinking about doing such an outrageous act, and the cards flutter faintly on the window.

Gabriel sidles up to him, a breath away from touching his arm.

“I still don’t understand.”

The frustration seeps into his words even as the rays disappear behind a cloud and the window remains obscured by the tarot cards.

“Change implies a certain degree of acceptance.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, exactly?”

Gabriel chuckles, and with a wave of his hand he recalls all of the cards into his palm, this time listening to him and arranging themselves neatly into a deck.

“I think that’s for you to discover.”

Sam quirks an eyebrow. “Cryptic doesn’t suit you. At all.”

Gabriel shrugs. “Lying to yourself doesn’t suit you, either.”

Okay, so maybe Gabriel is right. Maybe he should stop running from the truth and accept that he is not exactly what he says and thinks he is.

“I don’t know how to stop,” he whispers, uneasy at the honesty of his own words.

Gabriel regards him with the same contemplative look that’s unsuitable for Gabriel’s features, yet, in some way, it feels like another piece of the puzzle shimmering to life in Sam’s mind. Gabriel glances behind Sam at the objects strewn across the table.

“Maybe a change in scenery will do you good,” he says and grabs Sam’s forearm, index finger sliding over Sam’s elbow and remaining there. “Where would you like to go? Don’t,” — he almost touches Sam’s lips with his finger — “use your words. Clear your mind and think of the place you want to go.”

It’s somehow difficult for Sam to do such a simple thing as clearing his mind when there’s one point of contact between himself and Gabriel, and Gabriel’s focused on him. It takes him a couple of minutes to feel the rush, the memory of his senses overcoming the present input. Warmth tingles across the arm that’s currently held by Gabriel and sound is the first to alert him of his surroundings, birds and wind and the distant galloping of hooves.

He opens his eyes and the soft breeze ruffles his hair, Gabriel grinning up at him like a kid on a sugar rush.

“Congratulations, Sammy, you made the first step towards your magick.”

“That wasn’t you?”

“Nope.” The popping of the ‘p’ isn’t even obnoxious.

“How— but— “

Gabriel takes pity on him. “I only anchored your magick and— focused it. The rest was all on you.”

Sam stares at him and then at his own hands. Gabriel doesn’t let him over think it, though, as he clamps a hand on his shoulder, and Sam crowds his personal space without hesitation; a necessity, he tells himself, considering their height difference.

“Now, let’s do that in reverse.”

Despite Sam’s incredulity, he finds comfort in Gabriel’s merry grin, and he does the same thing he did in the room. It works even faster than before, but he brings the mountain’s wind with him and it knocks his glass containers off of the table.

“I don’t think you’ll need those anymore now,” Gabriel chirps behind him.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m gonna throw them,” Sam throws back without looking at Gabriel.

“Suit yourself.”

But even as he cleans the mess of herbs in various degrees of dryness, blessedly alone in the room, he finds his little escapade refreshing, as if his blood was clogging in his veins and he finally got around to clean them and let his blood flow freely through his system. He flexes one of his hands, the one that Gabriel held onto, and finds himself wanting, which is why, that late afternoon, he ends up sitting with Lucifer in front of the eternally lit up fireplace.

He’s watching Sam with a curiosity that it reminds Sam of Gabriel, but he’s not around at this time of day. Gabriel prefers to run in his wolf form when the sun’s halfway into the zenith, when the quality of light starts lacking and impressions are easily formed in places such as the forest.

“How was your first magick lesson?” He sips from his cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Sam throws him a glance from one of the magick books he took out of the library.

“I take it secrets aren’t a thing here.”

Lucifer’s lips curve pleasantly above the midnight blue tie. “Not when it’s about your magick. It’s hard to ignore a print of that potency.”

Sam avoids his piercing gaze. It feels too much like a physical touch, only deeper and heavier.

“I don’t think it’s that powerful. I only managed to teleport me and Gabriel at the bottom of the mountain and back.”

“But you did that on your first try without much of an explanation, which implies an innate talent that allows you to absorb knowledge and put it into practice seamlessly.”

And you hear me just fine for someone who doesn’t have such a great magick print.

Lucifer smiles genially at Sam’s naked shock.

“It took me and Gabriel most of a week to master telepathy. Don’t take your progress too lightly, Sam. If you didn’t have such power, you would have found out that mastering magick takes a lot out of you. It is unruly and it will continue to break your focus if you’re not centered enough.”

Sam thinks over this information, in particular over the last bit of it.

“But Gabriel was there, anchoring me while I did the trick.”

A soft chuckle.

“Sam, Gabriel couldn’t have kept his hands or magick off of you if he tried. Being a tactile person, not entirely due to his animal form, it’s harder for him to not touch the people he’s comfortable around than to shut up. And that is telling.”

Sam smiles awkwardly. “So should I expect sudden appearances in my bedroom from now on?”

“No. We don’t encroach on someone else’s private space unless we are invited to.”

Sam nods as if all of this makes perfect sense to him. It actually stopped from the moment the conversation turned a little bit too personal and intimate. But it’s just like Lucifer to speak honestly, no matter how harsh or crude the truth is. In this respect, he and Gabriel are alike, with Gabriel’s honesty lying in his touch rather than his words, although he surely doesn’t lack them.

It’s no wonder that the next morning finds him and Gabriel in a clearing near a creek, mastering manipulating physical objects. Treacherous thoughts like the fact that Gabriel’s been the only one who guided him through the practical side of magick until now, even though it’s clear as daylight that Lucifer possesses greater knowledge on the subject, keep unraveling his focus at inopportune moments, and Gabriel is nothing if not fast on latching onto them.

He misses carefree Gabriel in a way that’s akin to the vexing he feels towards the sterner version of him guiding Sam through the murky waters of magick.

Sam feels like a fledgling, barely able to walk when the first tendrils of magick seep through the cracks in his lie. There’s so much power that is contained within him, fit to burst, touching and pushing against his own boundaries now that he let some of it trickle into the physical plane, that he stumbles backwards, limbs and joints trembling from the first real taste of his own potential.

Gabriel is there to catch him, warm hands latching onto his forearms and steadying him.

“Can you feel it?” Sam asks, voice wavering over the words as if they’re not enough to translate what he feels and thinks.

“I’ve felt it since the moment you stepped into the Village. There’s no ignoring power of this magnitude, no matter how tightly locked one keeps it.”

“How— why?”

Not even Sam knows what he’s asking for. The thoughts are muddled up in his mind, and the words come out in pieces, jumbled up, just tail ends of thoughts long gone.

“The tricky part was to get you to realize your potential and not lay a claim on your soul.” That gets Sam’s attention. Gabriel smiles almost apologetically. “One of them we managed.”

“Lay a claim,” Sam says slowly, tasting the sequence of words on his tongue.

Now he knows for sure that it’s apologetic, when Gabriel winces.

“Yeah, that part we didn’t quite manage. I mean, it’s hard not to lay a claim on a soul that feels like a part of you and magick that sings into the marrow of your bones and beckons your own like a siren call. I couldn’t resist you, Sam— and neither could Lucifer, although he tried. But we’re big on consensus, Sam, never forget that, and what we did cannot be excused by anything. So rest assured, the connection is young enough that it’ll fade in time if you— if you decide to reject us.”

The words stop making sense somewhere around the second sentence, skittering around like pebbles on ice. He slides in and out of consciousness with only Gabriel’s sturdy body to support his own, growing weary and heavy-limbed by the second. He doesn’t know when he loses the battle with his own conscience, but he knows he just is. He is in a perpetual state of existence, caught in a suspended state, a pocket within time itself where nothing moves, nothing breathes, nothing thinks.

It’s quiet.

And then it isn’t.

It’s because we have magick that Mom and Dad died, isn’t it?

He’s eight and he still squeezes his brother’s hand when they walk too close to a house.

Hey! Hey. No, Sammy. It’s not like that. It’s just that there are some people who didn’t— like how famous they became.

But that’s no excuse—

I know. I know.

He sees Dean’s nape from the angle he hangs his head, big hands — bigger than his, anyway — comfortable weights on his shoulders. Across the slope of his neck and down his spine, a house catches fire behind them.

He doesn’t scream, although he feels it building up in his throat. Instead, his ten year old self says, Maybe it would’ve been better, if we were just Normals.

The rush of time topples over him, invading the pocket and expunging him out of whatever plane of existence he’s hiding in.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, Sam!” Gabriel’s voice wafts into Sam’s ears.

When he opens his eyes, both brothers are beside him and he takes in the sitting room with the fireplace busy eating logs and releasing warmth. The settee on which he’s splayed is not the most comfortable thing in the world, but that’s a detail he soon dismisses.

“Take it easy, Sam. We’re here. We won’t let any harm come to you.”

Lucifer’s warm tone puts to ease any and all worries he might have, although the odd choice of words grates at something in Sam until he sits up and warmth slides down his cheeks. He looks at the drop of tear on the tip of his finger as if he cannot comprehend what he sees.

“You were muttering in your sleep and calling out to some Dean,” Gabriel says helpfully, just as Lucifer covers Sam’s hand with his own.

A blink. “That’s my brother.”

Gabriel releases a dramatic sigh. “Thank Merlin, we thought he was your secret fiancé or lover you forgot to mention,” he quips, but not even he grins at his own joke.

Their attention doesn’t stray from Sam’s face, hawks watching for every twitch in his expression. It doesn’t quite bother him, all that attention, since he is too focused to sort out his internal turmoil and right the pieces that have been wronged when he wasn’t looking.

 

VI. The Lovers

The Lovers show us that we have choices, and that we are beings who struggle between sacred and profane love.

Two days later, Lucifer falls ill and stays comatose for an entire night and half of the second day. Gabriel would have gone bonkers with worry, if Sam hadn’t been there to use his knowledge in medicinal plants and bring Lucifer to a lucid enough state to not give Gabriel stomach ulcer.

“You goddamn idiot,” Gabriel says tremulously, nuzzling Lucifer’s cheek and then neck, arms possessive around his brother. “I’ll kick your ass if you scare me like that again.”

The small, apologetic smile that crests Lucifer’s lips at Gabriel’s threat and the fond way in which he places small, weak kisses against Gabriel’s crown of sandy blond, put a pang in Sam’s chest that he doesn’t seem to be able to ease for a while after he leaves their bedroom.

Gabriel finds him some time later swarmed by magick books, looking ragged and exhausted, but calm.

“Lucifer asked for you.” He’s fighting with himself to keep his eyes open.

Sam doesn’t need another word, relieved that Lucifer is stable enough to want to speak to Sam. At the door, though, Gabriel’s hand grabs weakly at Sam’s, fingers sliding slightly into his palm.

“The offer still stands, Sam,” he says, pulling a fierce gaze through the tiredness. “We still want you.”

His mouth works as if he wants to add more, but in the end he doesn’t, letting his eyes speak for him.

Sam nods rather dumbly. “You need to rest,” is what finds its way out of his mouth.

He doesn’t know why he keeps avoiding the subject, why he keeps postponing, as if he likes leaving two guys hanging when they’ve made their intentions clear about him. That is not like Sam, but maybe he’s been denying himself care and love for so long that he doesn’t know how to stop and let someone in. It feels safe, this way; it also feels miserable, but when he thinks about the other option he finds himself reeling back.

He’d need to open himself up to them, hand over the kind of nakedness that he is not prepared to let them have.

“I will, once you assure me that I won’t wake up next to a comatose Lucifer.”

Fair enough. They head back into the bedroom, where Lucifer managed to prop himself up on the big pillows. A warm smile works its way on his still too pale face.

“Hello, Sam. How are you?”

Sam snorts, unable to stop himself as he sits near Lucifer to check his temperature, his eyes, and then the inside of his forearms for any kind of rash or reaction that could help him determine Lucifer’s condition.

“Better than you, I’m sure,” he says.

Gabriel burrows his way beneath the covers and worms his hand on Lucifer’s stomach, jostling him a little when he squeezes.

Lucifer keeps his warm smile while Sam studies his face, happy with the scrutiny. Usually, Sam avoids lingering too long on him. It’s wonderful to be able to soak up Sam’s concentrated expression, his slight furrow, the high cheekbones, those slim lips that Lucifer’s one hundred percent positive they’ll fit perfectly against his or Gabriel’s.

Call him overconfident, but he’s never met a person that held Lucifer’s attention for so long, never mind stir his protective nature to such a point that he feels an overwhelming desire to claim Sam for himself right then and there.

But— there are still enough issues they need to work through; especially Sam. Sometimes, his patience comes in-handy, contrary to Gabriel’s grumbling.

“How are you feeling?”

“Weak, but I think I’ll live.”

“I’ll make sure of it,” is what escapes Sam’s mouth.

Gabriel peers up at him from where his face is smashed into Lucifer’s side, joining his brother’s steady stare. Sam fumbles with the potions he took from his bag, almost dropping one, until Lucifer’s hand falls softly on his; he doesn’t meet either brother’s gaze.

“Sam,” Lucifer begins, but doesn’t follow through.

Both of them lean forward as if on the edge of something; even Gabriel’s tiredness is forgotten, propped on his elbow as he is, attention rapt.

“I don’t—” — he’d like to wring his hands together, but one is still Lucifer’s prisoner, so he takes a fortifying breath, still not believing himself for what he’s about to topple into. — “know how to do this. I’ve never been— had.” — another inhale — “It’s always been me and my brother. I don’t have any idea how to navigate,” — his free hand flutters between them — “what you’re offering. I’m not good at letting people in.”

“You don’t have to know,” Lucifer says. “We’re three in this relationship, we’ll lean against each other and learn from each other. You only need to give us a chance.”

Gabriel’s tongue darts out to wet his chapped lips. “Allow us to get to know you, so that we can learn when to give and when to push, what to give you and when you need it the most.”

An odd look crosses Sam’s features and Gabriel feels compelled to kiss him, now more than ever, but with a deep breath, he refrains from acting on his impulses and his wolf grumbles irritated by his decision. He appeases himself with promises of later because even though he’d like nothing more than to ravish Sam right then and there, he won’t do anything without Lucifer beside him; it wouldn’t feel right.

“It’s not that simple,” Sam says. “For me. I haven’t let anyone get this close to me before.”

“Then let us be the ones you do.” Lucifer squeezes his hand. “We won’t betray your trust.” At Sam’s dubious look, Lucifer adds, “you mean too much to us for that to happen.”

Gabriel leans forward, taking his other hand and twining them so that they look like a closed fist.

“If it’ll put your mind to ease, we have no problems taking an oath right here and now.”

The fire and determination that burns across Gabriel’s features make Sam want to take a step back and somehow get out of his way, but the firm hold Gabriel has on his hand takes that out of his options. The room warms up by a couple of degrees and smooth electricity glides on his skin as he feels both of their magick reaching out to him in calming and grounding waves.

He presses his lips into a tense line, warring with himself.

It’s difficult to say no to them, not when they look so open and determined to win him over, to honor their promises no matter what. It’s even harder to decide if this is what he wants. Sure, he is attracted to both of them, but is that enough to make him commit himself for life to them? How can he be sure that this is the right path to take?

And then, another treacherous question wheedles its way in his mind. When was the last time he had this kind of dedication and attention directed at himself? When did he ever feel so desired and at home in the presence of others?

The answer to that question stings his pride a little bit.

“Sam.” Another squeeze, this time from Lucifer. “We’d like to hear what you’re thinking.”

Gabriel snorts. “That’s putting it mildly. I’d wage the entirety of my fortune on your thoughts right now, not just a penny. Don’t think that because we’re so determined to win you over, we don’t feel insecure or jittery about this whole situation.”

Sam’s eyes widen at the honesty of those words.

“Don’t take Gabriel’s words the wrong way,” Lucifer adds, body tensing as he hoist himself up a bit more on the pillows. “We know what we want, and how we want you—“

“Preferably spread naked on red satin, completely debauched as you take your pleasure from us,” Gabriel says, closing his eyes in a moue of pleasure, no doubt savoring the image his own words paint.

A sudden inhale has Sam dizzy with the prospect of what Gabriel is offering, breath picking up in pace. When Lucifer continues, his voice is pitched low, rough around the edges, entirely too affected for Sam to use as an anchor to get himself under control.

“But we’re also aware that what we’re asking of you is a lot, and first and foremost you need to be sure it’s what you’d want, too, but that doesn’t mean we’re not feeling restless and doubting when you don’t voice your thoughts.”

When Sam looks up at Lucifer, it’s all he can do to not jump out of his own skin or succumb to Gabriel’s blatant invitation. Lucifer is barely able to keep himself under control as it is. There’s so much Sam picks up from his gaze alone, from the slightly breathless quality of his breathing, from the faint flush adding color to his otherwise pale complexion.

“Didn’t—” — he clears his throat, the hoarseness surprising, but not unexpected. — “you say you could read minds?”

“We’d never do that without your permission,” Gabriel says, fierceness burning in his eyes.

That takes Sam by surprise. They were the ones who said that reading someone else’s mind was as easy as breathing once you got a hold of it, but more than that one did it involuntarily. The implications here are a lot to take in.

“You’re a force to behold,” he says, finally sharing some of his thoughts. “You keep me physically anchored to you, but you use your words to push my thoughts in disarray, so I find it hard to resist you or to make an unbiased decision.”

They look stung by Sam’s affirmation, but still stubborn to let his hands go. A little smile plays at his lips at the situation they’re in. In the end it’s selfishness that makes the decision for him, not pressure from Lucifer or Gabriel or fear of not finding anything better than this. On a subconscious, primal level he wants them to belong to him just as much as they want him to become theirs, possessiveness more accented now that he’s attuned to his own magick and feels the matching power the brothers keep under tight control.

It’s a question of claiming, as savage as it may sound.

And wouldn’t it feel positively delirious to be dominated and claimed by Lucifer and Gabriel, to find out what happens when neither exert such control over their own nature?

The magick in him shudders just beneath his skin, ready to battle theirs and see if they prevail over him, if they’re as strong as Sam thinks them to be— and as gentle as they lead him to believe.

“I—“ Sam begins, determined, but Lucifer’s finger stop his other words from tumbling out.

He looks as if it pains him to do this.

“I’m sorry, Sam. I can’t let you do that right now.”

Shock and confusion are at war on Sam’s face. Didn’t they want him to become their other half? Their soulmate? He pulls back, horrified that he made a huge mistake, but Gabriel is faster and grips his wrist before he can make a run for it.

Lucifer curses under his breath, the pain and frustration endlessly shifting on his features.

It’s Gabriel who helps Lucifer out, since he seems to be struggling with his own thoughts.

“No, don’t misunderstand, Sam. He wants you. We want you more than we can put into plain words, but right now— the situation Lucifer’s in—” He darts a quick glance at his brother, a sympathetic look on his face, before returning to Sam. “He won’t be able to stand by idly, and that will do him more damage than good, taking into consideration his current condition. ”

Okay, that he didn’t expect.

“What do you mean?”

“For this to work, you’ll need both of us to be at the peak of our health and abilities. Have you ever read about Choosings between magick Vessels?”

“Not much. I only know that it needs to be consented by both parties, or three in this case, otherwise it’s not considered complete and they’re not truly soulmates.”

Gabriel nods. Lucifer has closed his eyes, head against the plush back rest, still unwilling to relinquish the hold on Sam’s hand.

“It’s more than that,” Gabriel says. “Once every party consents to the Choosing, it needs to be followed by a more physical one. It needs compatibility in mind, body and soul.”

The fact that Gabriel doesn’t crack a joke on the rather sexual nature of the Choosing is telling on its own, but, Sam stares at Lucifer, comprehension slowly creeping in. So that’s what has been eating him. At least he knows that he’s been right to trust his instincts; they want him as much as he does.

“I see,” he says slowly, eying both of them. “Very well, I’ll wait.” Lucifer peers at him from beneath barely-opened eyelids. Sam smiles, a little bit mischievous. “I’ll check on you two tomorrow morning.”

He moves to stand, but there’s no way Lucifer and Gabriel will let him stray out of their sight or their arms now that they know that Sam wants to be theirs. Not a snowball’s chance in hell. They might not be able to perform any kind of strenuous activities right now, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot engage in some aggressive cuddling before passing out from exhaustion.

So they both grab Sam and pull him between them, Gabriel taking care to change his day clothes into sleepwear. Sam, the cheeky bastard, expected this kind of response and it takes Gabriel’s slow kisses to subdue the laugh into something soft and fond.

“Okay! Okay!” Sam tries to stop laughing, but it’s a dire situation, Gabriel’s lips relentless on his own. “I yield! I yield, otherwise no one will be able to sleep here. And you both need to rest.”

Lucifer nuzzles into Sam’s neck and soft hairs behind his ear. He sounds and feels blissed out and ready to pass out now that his arms are full of Sam. Gabriel watches them lovingly, how Sam turns his head just enough so that he can kiss Lucifer’s forehead and then opening his arms to beckon Gabriel in.

They fall asleep tangled into each other, magick suffusing the room and lapping against each other lazily. Neither is in a hurry to dominate.

 

***

An indeterminate amount of time later, much later than Gabriel is satisfied with (and boy did he drive his lovers up the wall with his downpour of sexual innuendos and subtle as bricks touches in the meantime), Sam finally reaches an unbiased decision. It might have been much later, but, fortunately for every party involved, Lucifer threatened Gabriel to ban him from the castle for the foreseeable future, if he didn’t relent his overbearing presence and let Sam breathe without him around.

“I choose you as my Sawol and Maat, to rein me in or let me loose.”

This is it — the moment they all have been waiting.

“Right now we want you loose, Sam.” Gabriel’s lustful gaze ripples through Sam like a sweltering hot wind.

Magick is inherently primal, ruled by instinct until it is honed towards a more controlled level, one the Vessel can make use of. Sam’s is wilderness personified and Gabriel and Lucifer battle it just as fiercely, when it rushes towards them, biting and attacking without pause or consideration.

Gabriel is the first to make physical contact with Sam, weaker and more unwilling than Lucifer to deny himself this, arms going around his midriff and knocking the breath out of Sam. When they fall, the ground yields and the smell washes Sam’s senses clean because it smells of his mates— of home. Lucifer climbs the bed on his side, muscles pulled taut from the control he exerts over himself. Sam knows, he sees it on his face, that he wants nothing more than to devour Sam and it’s his magick that makes Sam gasp on a choked breath, the shudder wrecking his body equal parts from Gabriel’s ministrations and Lucifer’s determination to tame his magick.

Sam doesn’t yield.

Not even an inch.

His magick thrashes and bites back, pushes and pushes, fueled by madness that is not borne from hatred, but from a primal desire to find out how strong his Chosen are. Lucifer growls, hinged on his knees barely a palm away from Sam, and Gabriel frees his fevered length from his breeches, stroking once, and his focus scatters like broken crystal on marble.

It’s the moment Lucifer has been waiting for, but he doesn’t attack, seizing the opportunity; his magick grows, instead, pushing against the boundaries between the two planes of existence. Sam feels rather than sees how Lucifer becomes larger than life itself and engulfs Sam and Gabriel both.

This time, Sam thrashes against Gabriel’s body, desperate to escape at least one kind of restraint, but Gabriel is fast to adjust, expecting this response and he straddles Sam, pinning his arms above his head. He doesn’t need to use his hands to do that, seeing as the only thing keeping Sam pinned down is Gabriel’s magick while Lucifer’s dampers down Sam’s potency.

Sam snarls, fierce and wild, fighting both of them like a dying man fights for a last gulp of air, trying to dismount Gabriel and push the oppressive force of Lucifer’s magick, but he can’t — he just can’t; there’s more to this battle than Sam’s desperation to escape, he knows, it runs deeper than this, stronger even. His features contort into something otherworldly and Lucifer is mesmerized, while Gabriel resists kissing the man who has them both wrapped around his little finger, but just barely.

“Gabriel,” Lucifer says.

The tone of his voice breaks through Sam’s haze like knife through butter; the firmness in it, the held meaning behind that simple word. He slides his eyes open to catch Lucifer’s lips kissing Gabriel’s fingers, dragging down into his palm and nuzzling. Gabriel pants at the open adoration Lucifer shows him and almost distractedly he pushes his free hand into his own plexus extracting something luminous and immaterial, shapeless but powerful.

Lucifer’s magick presses against Sam’s almost painfully so, and he groans under it, cold and hot shudders wrecking his body as his own magick tries to adjust to the increase in power.

He misses the moment Gabriel passes Lucifer’s soul back in its original Vessel, but he feels the shift in his magick, how another layer is added to it, and how his own magick relents under it, bit by bit, as if it recalls a certain familiarity in this new layer.

“I want you to feel the full extent of my passion,” Lucifer says, filling Sam’s vision with a hungry look, dangerous and all-consuming. “And I cannot do that without being whole once again.”

He descends on his mouth like an eagle descends on its prey, and Sam struggles to remember the reason behind his resistance; it must be something futile and inconsequential because he’d be a fool to deny himself this well of love and passion and desire that Lucifer pours into him through his mouth alone.

Gabriel sucks in a sudden breath. “Merlin and Loki beyond! You make Southern summer feel cold.”

Lucifer grins against Sam’s mouth and Sam finds himself mirroring him. His magick relents inches to Lucifer and Gabriel and the feeling of Sam submitting to them in increments has them both moaning low in their throats.

They soften their attacks, easing up on Sam’s magick, more or less caressing it rather than force their way into it. It’s everything Sam doesn’t want.

“You’re weak,” he growls, burning pools of desire fixing on Lucifer.

Both brothers freeze, surprised by Sam’s words and the renewed force with which he fights back, almost throwing them off-kilter.

“Are we, Sam?”

Lucifer slides next to him, joining Gabriel’s hand on Sam’s hardness, attention rapt on Sam’s face. They answer his attacks with just as much force, if not more. Sam struggles against the invisible restraints on his hands, muscles shifting and dipping under the candle light, back arching when they twist their hands and his orgasm rushes to his dick like acid through rock.

“Yes,” he hisses, drawing out the ‘s’ on a moan as Gabriel’s slick fingers breach him.

Two at once.

Lucifer chuckles, nuzzling into Sam’s cheek and placing random kisses, their hands staving off his orgasm to Sam’s obvious displeasure.

“I hope you know what you’re asking for, Sam,” Lucifer whispers, teeth grazing his earlobe. “Tell me you’re prepared for the onslaught because once we let go it’ll be too difficult for us to rein ourselves in.”

“Not before claiming you completely,” Gabriel says, and his fingers touch a bundle of nerves that light up and Sam spills a string of curses, writhing on the red sheets. “Gods above and beyond!”

Gabriel’s a wreck, fingers going momentarily out of sync and failing to graze Sam’s prostate repeatedly, which has Sam act up again.

“You have no idea what you’re doing to Gabriel,” — Lucifer nuzzles into his cheek, hand twisting painfully on his erection in warning — “to us. Or you do and you like it. Is that it, Sam? Are you trying to drive us crazy with want?”

There’s need and threat laced into his words, and all of that pours into his ear on maddeningly gruff notes, as if Lucifer can barely contain himself at the prospect of relishing the control over himself and giving Sam exactly what he wishes for.

“He’s not trying,” Gabriel adds. “He’s succeeding.”

Sam swallows, panting from the assault of sensations. Never in his entire life did he feel this bone-deep desire to be utterly dominated, to feel himself pushed and kept there, magick subdued by sheer power alone, body at another’s mercy. He moans at the idea, desperate for it to happen.

“Yes, yes, please.” He knows what he’s pleading for, and he’s determined to have that no matter what. “I want all of that!”

And to prove his point he pushes against their combined power with such force that he manages to gain enough ground to make both brothers freeze in their spots. A quick glance has them smiling wolfishly at each other. It’s all they’ve been waiting for; a third who could withstand them and their magick — who could challenge them, rile them up.

Lucifer’s hardness could drill rocks right now and Gabriel shifts on his knees, adjusting his own trousers, and releasing a relieved sigh. He mouths the word perfect and Lucifer grins with too much teeth.

“You’re ours, Sam,” Lucifer says, caressing Sam’s hair. “And we’ll give you everything you need.”

“And more.”

Gabriel doesn’t clear his throat, even though the words came out as a croak. He’s already a wreck, seeing Sam on the brink of submitting, all debauched and wanting, and still fighting them.

He withdraws his fingers and bats Lucifer’s hand away from Sam’s cock. Sam looks down the length of his own body, sweat coating his skin and making it shine in the candlelight, to where Gabriel kneels between his bent legs, arms bracketing his hips, a challenge in his eyes as he meets Sam’s gaze.

The protest dies on Sam’s lips when Gabriel takes him in his mouth, cheeks hollowing at once and pulling out a shocked gasp from him. He goes like that for a while, lips sluiced with pre-come, mouth the third ring of the seventh circle of hell if his mouth were a desert of blazing sands and a constant rain of fire. He works to bring Sam closer and closer to the edge, but never quite pushing him over, softening his sucking when the tremor of his approaching orgasm spasms the muscles in his thighs and on his stomach.

He’s intent on finding out what makes Sam sigh in pleasure, moan in abandon, what pulls out surprised gasps, what pushes expletives from the mouth Lucifer ravished not long ago.

But ultimately it’s Gabriel’s magick slithering along his skin that does the trick, overloading his sensory input and drawing out an orgasm that not so much as crashes into him as it completely leaves him limp, breathless and slightly trembling.

Gabriel laps at his over-sensitive cock like a satisfied cat, swallowing everything.

It’s those moments of blissed out buzzing in his head that allow Gabriel and Lucifer to break through and push his magick under. A forced gasp ushers through his lips and he opens his eyes wide enough to see Lucifer’s dark and hungry ones boring down on him, breathless and a sheen of perspiration coating his brow.

“Shit.”

He knows that he lost to them — he feels it. It’s both inside and on his skin, and it feels as if he’s suddenly too full, too much, like he’s going to overflow with energy and the quintessence that is Gabriel and Lucifer combined. But he doesn’t; they contain him. It’s as if they both hold him close to their chest, protective and possessive of what he allowed them to have, hearts beating as one, minds connected, not necessarily sharing thoughts, and magick co-existing alongside each other, in sync and happy.

Gabriel sidles on Sam’s other side, smirking down at him.

“Gotcha, Sammy.”

It’s triumph and glee that reach Sam’s ears and he doesn’t have it in him to be miffed by the fact that he lost to both of them.

“How are you feeling, Sam?”

Lucifer’s hands thread carefully and soothingly through Sam’s hair and his eyes fall shut on their own accord.

“Like I’m on three different planes of existence at the same time.”

“Is that good or bad?” Gabriel inquires.

Sam wiggles a little to account for his body; arms are still pinned above his head, but otherwise his limbs are loose and relaxed.

“Good, I think.” He tries to retract his arms. “Is there any chance that you’ll release my hands?”

Lucifer smirks, leaning forward to touch his lips with his own. “Not any time soon. We’re nowhere near done with you.”

Sam narrows his eyes at Lucifer when he leans up, lest they go cross-eyed. “Smartass is Gabriel’s specialty.”

Gabriel snorts. “Where do you think I got it from?”

Sam rolls his eyes. “The point I’m trying to raise here—”

“More than one is raised right now,” Gabriel says, waggling his eyebrows obscenely.

Lucifer snorts, unsurprised, and Sam sends him a narrowed look.

“—is that I lost feeling in my arms completely. And I’d also like to touch you.”

They exchange a look. “Fair enough,” Lucifer says.

Gabriel releases his arms and the uncomfortable tingling doesn’t come as Sam expected. He glances at Gabriel, who grins in response, before they haul him off the bed without any warning whatsoever. He fails to make any coherent sound as he fumbles a bit until he can get his legs to work.

“Whoa, where’re you taking me?”

Gabriel’s grin turns wolfish. “To soak up.”

“What?”

But neither offers an explanation as they step into another room, which apparently was hidden behind the mahogany wardrobe in their room.

“Is this a Roman thermal bath?”

He doesn’t wait for their answer as he walks over to the edge of the huge pool, steam raising steadily, a perfume which Sam cannot identify wafting in the air, and pillars surrounding the entire thing as if he toppled over into a Roman fresco without meaning to.

“Yes,” Lucifer says into his ear, hands going on his hips, and feeling a lot of skin at his side; his dick stirs. “Gabriel’s doing.”

“It was one of the few things that I liked from the whole period.” A sideways glance reveals a naked Gabriel, too; he winks at Sam. “Come on, let’s break this bath in.”

They let Sam go in first, watching the line of water as it climbs up on Sam’s body while he descends the steps and wishing they were the ones doing that. But then Sam turns around and his eyelids lower to a perfect pitch, the line of his mouth tipped up in a subtle curve.

“I’m not above ditching you two and enjoying this bath all by myself, but neither got around to fuck me yet and,” — his gaze glides slowly down their bodies, stopping right where the problems look serious — and hard to grasp — “you still seem interested. But if you can satisfy each other then—”

His breath gets punched out of him as strong hands grab his arms and push him into the cushioned pool’s wall at what looks like the other side of the bath. The resulting wave of such a violent action splashes over their torsos and into the semi-circle lounge area where Sam’s forced to sit.

“Don’t push us, Sam,” Lucifer warns, the quality of his voice a dangerous growl.

“Or what?”

The fact that Sam’s not showing even a flicker of submission in his challenging eyes surprises everyone involved; he’s pretty sure that better wizards submitted to this Lucifer before.

“I hope you’re not expecting a meek and subdued mate because you’re definitely not gonna have that, in this lifetime or the next ones.”

Gabriel’s smile is razor-sharp, hunger accepting his issued challenge, as he catches Sam’s jaw in a bruising hold, intent evident in his eyes.

“We’re counting on that not happening.”

The kiss is just as bruising as his hold, Gabriel giving Sam everything that makes him who he is: passion, so much crushing passion to account for that burns across Sam’s skin and liquefies his insides, but also vulnerability. It’s stark and vibrant; behind all the control he has over their kiss and the violence he brought on as if Sam’s a territory Gabriel did not yet conquer, despite Sam having already allowed him in in many ways that count, the vulnerability persists.

It’s laced with promises of love and care, protection and everything that Gabriel’s terrified to lose.

Sam counters him with bites and too much teeth and tongue fighting for dominance, desperate to reassure Gabriel that he’s not going anywhere and that he belongs to him wholeheartedly. His erection brushes against Sam’s ribs and he untwists his arm from Gabriel’s hold, grabbing it; Gabriel gasps in his mouth once, but doesn’t relent the assault, adding his hips thrusting into Sam’s fist and making the water slosh between them.

“I’ll let Lucifer fuck you first,” Gabriel says breathlessly, teeth scraping over Sam’s already red and swollen ones. “And then, when you’re loose and pliant, I’ll lick you clean while you suck me. What d’ya say?”

Fuck.

Even as Gabriel explains the dirty things they were going to do to him, Lucifer positions them so that Sam’s straddling him and Gabriel acts as Lucifer’s backrest, half of his bent legs above the water surface; the kiss doesn’t break. The water helps ease their bodies together, slotting them into place like jigsaw pieces.

Lucifer gets to kiss a bruising path down Sam’s neck, sucking his wet skin into his mouth and leaving marks behind that he licks when Sam’s moans are more intense. His hips are already on autopilot, thrusting against Lucifer’s hardness, seeking friction until Lucifer grabs his hips and position him above his tip.

“Ready when you are, Sam,” he says, strained and heated.

The kiss breaks with a loud intake of breath from Sam and he looks down at his lovers, both wearing the same hungry and possessive expressions that make Sam heady with the power he holds over them. He twirls his hips around Lucifer’s tip just to see him take in a sudden breath and thrusting his hips upwards.

A devilish smile curls Sam’s lips and Lucifer’s fingers dig into his hips in warning, but he doesn’t push him down. They both wait for Sam to make a move, attention rapt. He’d like to taunt them some more, see how much they’ll let him have his way before they’ll take charge and fuck him senseless — maybe another day.

Right now he just sinks on Lucifer’s cock, taking him in slow and steady. Thanks to Gabriel painstakingly loosening him before, his hole is slicked enough to allow Lucifer to slide in with a lot of curses from him and minimal pain from Sam (unless he takes into account the nails digging into his hips).

“Goddammit,” Lucifer hisses, head leaning on Gabriel’s shoulder, features pinched in concentration.

The descent is slow and torturous and it lights up his insides, Lucifer’s cock huge for the unbreached passage, making his inner muscles stretch to accommodate his girth and Sam whimpers and moans intermittently.

Gabriel looks at Sam with something akin to awe, but there’s too much desire and possessiveness in there to really make out the awe. All three of them breathe like they’ve run a marathon, and Lucifer squirms a little which pulls out a gasp from Sam as his dick grazes over that bundle of nerves.

“Later,” he says, hand going into Gabriel’s hair, which he pulls just to hear the low gasp-turned-moan. “I’ll let you fuck me, Gabriel.”

Gabriel moans, eyes closed in anticipation.

“And I’ll fuck Gabriel while he’s at it,” is what gets out of Sam’s mouth and he feels as surprised as they look.

“Lucifer,” Gabriel urges, expression looking like it could incinerate Sam alive.

“On it.” He grins. “Rather, in him.”

He thrusts upward once, powerful, hands keeping Sam where he is, pushing a groan from Sam as his head leans back, hands anchored on Lucifer’s shoulders. He establishes a relentless and bruising pace where every thrust lights up Sam’s nerve endings like White Night’s bonfires and he becomes louder and louder, letting Lucifer completely wreck him as they both chase their pleasure.

His second orgasm comes at a more sedate pace than the first one, but still strong enough to make him black out for a couple of seconds.

Even as he’s floating around somewhere in his mind, his body still send updates on how his sensitive hole is doing under Lucifer’s ministration, and it’s enough to pull him back to the present to feel Lucifer’s pace become sloppy and shallow, no doubt close himself, and then he’s right there, toppling over the age, bruising hold on his hips surely drawing blood.

Lucifer’s shout is partially muffled into Sam’s broad chest and their pants echo off the walls as his come fills Sam to the brim.

Neither realize that Gabriel came himself until strands of come float around Lucifer’s sides and for some reason that makes them laugh, even as Sam keeps Lucifer against his chest, his arms wrapping loosely around Sam’s midriff, happy to soak up Sam’s caresses and his frantic heartbeat.

The hand that’s not making Lucifer rumble into his chest like a satisfied lion is snatched by Gabriel who kisses his knuckles. Sam twines their fingers and when Gabriel looks at Sam his smile borders on besotted while in the depths of his eyes lies a vow which Sam mirrors with a smile of his own and a promise that lays to rest Gabriel’s worries.

“I wanted to ask you about the smell,” Sam says after they disentangle and Lucifer goes for a swim. “What is it? I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

“It’s a mix of essential oils widely used in bathhouses during the Roman Empire: bay laurel, pine, fir and juniper. I couldn’t decide on one, so I added all of them.”

Sam closes his eyes and slides a bit more in the water, letting it lap at his chin and breathing in the melange of smells; he’s sated and swimming in an ocean of endorphins.

“Mm, I like it when you offer me tidbits of information, be it history or something else,” he says, fighting with himself to stay awake and aware of what’s coming out of his mouth. “Sometime in the future, when I’m not trying to recover from two orgasms and not fall asleep, I want you to make me come using only your words, everything you learned. History, sciences, art, doesn’t matter.”

“You want to see if you’re a sapiosexual?” His grin is all too evident in his words.

Sam tries one for himself, but he’s sure that it comes out looking more like a sleepy smile than a grin.

“What’s that? Sounds sexy.”

Gabriel chuckles and pulls him into his arms, the water helping Sam float there with minimal effort from either one. He hums in contentment as his arms come around Gabriel’s torso, head nestling in the crook of his neck just as Lucifer swims back to them.

“It means someone who finds intelligence to be the most attractive characteristic in another person,” Gabriel says, amused.

Sam doesn’t care, seeing as he’s half-asleep, but he does come back to himself a little bit more when he feels another hand on his back, lying on his tail-bone for a second and then follow the bumpy line of his spine to his neck, where it stays. He shivers and smiles without fighting the heaviness that keeps his eyes shut when Lucifer kisses his cheek — in greeting or just because he feels like it, Sam’s not sure.

He searches for Lucifer until his hand bumps into his biceps, then his chest, before being taken into Lucifer’s hands and kissed.

“Post-second-orgasm cuddling session is the best,” he announces with a lilt in his voice and the brothers chuckle; Gabriel’s arms tightens around Sam. “I want to go for round three, but I’m a coordination mess right now — could sleep for a week, also.”

Gabriel kisses his temple, the rumble of his chuckles making Sam smile in response.

“Sleep, love, we’ll take care of you,” Gabriel says softly.

He’s more than happy to comply to that, leaving everything else into their hands, knowing on a deep, primal level that they won’t fail to follow through on Gabriel’s promise. And if they do, well, Sam’s powerful enough to fry their hides once he’s back to the waking world.

The sound of uneven breathing is the first to disturb his sleep before the fingers of his hand twitch. For a couple of seconds he doesn’t understand if this is a dream or if he’s awake, but the bubble of bliss in which he floats is too good to break free from. He repositions his hands as more information comes in, like the fact that he’s definitely not splayed on the bed. Or rather, he is on the bed, but between him and it there’s another body — Lucifer’s — keeping him safe in his arms while his bent legs keep Sam’s wide apart where Sam’s straddling him.

It doesn’t concern Sam as much as it normally would, what with all the trust going on between them, so he continues to lazily take account of the various sensations coming in waves over his body.

It’s mostly pleasure and a tidbit of discomfort and they all come from a particular place in his body. He knows he should feel at least a passing degree of excitement, especially in the nether regions, but his cock stays resolutely flaccid. Lucifer’s, on the other hand, has no such problems, trapped under Sam’s groin and fully hard.

A moue of confusion twitches on his face.

“It’s okay, Sam. Everything’s fine,” Lucifer says, peppering his head and temple with kisses.

It’s somehow funny that the first sensation that his brain cataloged wasn’t, apparently, Gabriel’s tongue laving his ring of muscles and occasionally thrusting it into Sam, lapping at the come that’s still inside Sam.

“Mm, fuck,” he mumbles into Lucifer’s collarbone.

It’s followed shortly after by a sated sigh. He’s so tired and loose-limbed that he doesn’t even feel exposed or vulnerable in the position they put him. Besides, Lucifer’s caresses, gentle kisses and sappy murmurs allow Sam to fall asleep again even before Gabriel finishes cleaning him up.

 

XVI. The Tower

It indicates big (and often abrupt) changes, conflict and catastrophe because of forces that are completely external and out of your control.

 

Sam wakes up to tension in the air and a lot of negative magick pushing against the material world and making everything creak or groan. It’s only when he descends the stairs, following the thick trail that makes his hairs stand on end into the sitting room that he discovers the root of the disturbance.

“She’s a warlock,” Gabriel thunders, words infused with so much disgust that they sound like the most sinister of curses. “An oath-breaker. You want that near Sam? I won’t let that happen.”

“Rowena asked for this meeting,” Lucifer says, tone placating.

“She can shove it up that decrepit hole of hers, for all I care! They won’t even lay eyes on him!”

“Can we calm down for a minute and talk about this like rational people we think ourselves to be?” Lucifer says with more force. “We cannot refuse her.”

Gabriel turns on his heels, eyes screaming murder. “Watch me!” he snarls, contorted features made to appear even more ominous by the play of light and shadows thrown by the fire.

“Why isn’t anybody asking me what I want?” Sam says, irked at the lack of conversation they’re having with him.

“She’s pulling in that favor she kept reminding us of every time our paths crossed.”

“A favor that, might I add, is yours!” Gabriel jabs a finger into Lucifer’s chest. “It’s your problem! Not mine or Sam’s! You need to return the favor, not Sam!”

“And that favor implies a meeting with Ruby.”

“Not even over my fucking dead body!” The fire roars with potency at Gabriel’s words, being easily influenced by all the negative energy crackling in the air, all of it coming from Gabriel. “Have you lost your fucking mind entirely?! That bitch is evil incarnated! She doesn’t just want to see Sam and call it a day. You’re aware of that, right?”

“Of course I’m aware of the possibility of this being a trap, but I have no choice but to comply. You know what will happen if I refuse.”

“Do I look like I care? Let them come here. If they want war, war they’ll have. I’ve been waiting my whole life for a reason to raid down that fucking Coven, anyway!”

But Lucifer’s features darken considerably and his eyes find a bit of solace in the hearth. “It’s not just that,” he says, words forced out between clenched teeth.

Gabriel stares at him. “What do you mean?”

Lucifer doesn’t answer right away, but when he meets Gabriel’s scrutinizing gaze, the truth comes out and Gabriel looks so horrified that Sam takes a step forward before he remembers himself.

“You fucking idiot!” explodes Gabriel. “You goddamn fucking idiot!” He throws his hands in his hair, pulling at it as he doubles over. “An oath, Lucifer? You took an oath to that godforsaken witch?! When were you gonna tell me ‘bout it?”

Lucifer looks as if he just pushed a knife through Gabriel’s heart.

“Never.”

For a moment, Gabriel looks on the verge of committing murder right there and then, but like a switch, everything calms down: the storm in his eyes, the crackling energy, the roaring fire.

“Sam won’t meet with anybody, least of all with that bitch,” Gabriel says, tone brooking no argument, features hard and unforgiving.

“Sam’s my Bonded, too, Gabriel!” Lucifer reminds him, irked.

“It doesn’t look like it, since you’re so ready to throw him into that snake’s hole just to return that fucking favor you shouldn’t have asked for in the first place!”

“Do you think I would’ve willingly subjected myself to that conniving witch, if I didn’t have a choice? It was Rowena’s condition for her to help me.”

“So you shouldn’t have! You’re smart enough to get yourself out of any kind of trouble.”

“Not that time!”

“Bullshit!”

“You wouldn’t be here if not for her!” Lucifer spits out.

That affirmation makes Gabriel take a step back as if slapped.

Lucifer’s lower lip quivers. “You were dead and— and I didn’t know what to do. How to push my soul into your body without your expressed consent. That’s when she comes in and tells me that there’s another way of doing that without your conscious presence.”

“So her— her magick is—“ The repugnant look on his face is a sight Sam would like to forget; Gabriel fists his shirt as if pondering if clawing his skin would cleanse the unwanted magick from his body. “I ha—“

But before he says something that he’ll regret for the rest of his life, Sam takes away Gabriel’s voice momentarily, leaving the man gaping like a fish on dry land and effectively cutting off the tension in the room.

“Have you ever thought about asking me what I want to do, since I’m the most important person in this situation?” Sam says, his calm expression accentuating rather than masking the brewing storm in his eyes.

He doesn’t wait for the two brothers to answer, using his magick to bind them and push them a few centimeters above the floor. Even if they struggle, they won’t be able to break free without Sam wishing for it.

“And another important thing I want to ask you two.” He looks both in the eyes, letting the suspense take some time and space to settle down in their bones. “How come you so easily and, might I add, conveniently forget that I chose you to be my mates, too?”

He lifts an eyebrow, magick crackling in his eyes, manifested into the physical world by the crackling fire and hovering objects around the room; he pushes Lucifer and Gabriel into the two pillars bracketing the hearth, pulling grunts from them.

“How come when it’s convenient to you two, I become a possession you can take from the other like two kids fighting over their favorite toy? Weren’t you the first to be disgusted by the mere idea of this being a part of our relationship? Yet, here we are,” — he lifts his arms to indicate them both — “in the exact same situation you seemed to abhor. So one wonders, ‘wasn’t I lied to?’ —“

“Never!”

Their voices come out strained and breathless. Sam stops walking to and fro in front of them.

“We’d never lie to you, Sam,” Lucifer elaborates on their previous statement.

“But you’d readily make decisions in my name, even though I’m not comatose or crazy.”

“That’s a slight I apologize for,” says Gabriel, breath uneven.

“Can you return us to the floor and have the conversation again?” Lucifer asks.

Sam cocks his head.

“I don’t know. Will you return to fighting with each other and completely forget about my existence, despite me being your Chosen?”

They look at each other.

“We never make the same mistake twice,” replies Gabriel.

“Hm. I don’t think you’re entirely truthful with me.”

He doesn’t let them go, instead he turns around and crosses his arms.

“Sam, please,” Gabriel says, gasping his words and proving how difficult it is to talk under current circumstances. “We cannot breath properly like this.”

“But I quite like how this conversation is proceeding, what with all the apologizing going on.” He throws a wicked smile over his shoulder. Both squirm. “I think we’ll have that conversation like this because it seems that you reason better with as little oxygen to your brains as possible.”

“Sam,” Lucifer says more forcefully.

Sam sighs and dispels the spell with the will of his thought.

“So, ask me,” Sam invites them, after they recompose themselves and take their fill of the oxygen in the room.

“Do you want to meet with —“ Lucifer begins.

“The most damnable, atrocious, repulsive, spiteful and malicious of witches,” Gabriel adds.

“Ruby?”

A glare is sent to Gabriel, without him paying any heed to it.

“She is —“

“Evil, cruel, vindictive, caustic, hostile—“

“Gabriel, will you stop it?” Lucifer has had enough of Gabriel’s antagonistic behavior.

“I’m only telling him the truth.”

“You know that truth is subjective.”

“Not in this case.”

Lucifer sighs, letting the matter drop. “Ruby is not what she seems to be.”

Gabriel snorts. “And the award for the Understatement of the Century goes to none other than Lucifer!”

After hearing what both had to say on this Ruby and after pondering on it for a bit, Sam says, “I’ll meet her.”

Gabriel splutters. “Are you out of your mind?”

“I’m perfectly conscious of what I said and will entirely shoulder the consequences of my decision.”

Sam’s whole body language speaks of determination and they know that nothing will make Sam go back on his words.

“Goddammit!” Gabriel says, frustrated beyond anything. “I want to bite off that stupid head of yours so badly right now!”

Words directed towards Lucifer rather than Sam.

 

***

Even though they had been prepared for the worst, they still lost. Even though Gabriel refused to let Sam leave the house without at least three different wards against any kind of spell Ruby or Rowena could have put on him, they still lost.

Even though they fought back viciously, they still lost.

“I’m gonna raze that Coven to the ground and tear those witches into bloody shreds!”

Lucifer roars, magick shaking the very foundation of the castle so violently that many paintings fall down on the floor. His magick wrestles against Sam’s, pushing furiously back and snapping at it, but Sam is unrelenting, which pisses Lucifer off even more.

“Stop it, Sam!” He whips around and glares at his Mate.

Sam is but a few steps away from Lucifer and he regards his Chosen with a calm that he does not feel. Their magick clashes against each other, neither subsiding or keeping back. It’s vicious and ugly and the structure of the house groans and shudders as if ready to collapse in on itself.

“No,” he says, tone an undisturbed oasis. “I will not back down until you regain control of your rage. I’m not gonna watch another of my mate be taken away.”

And his magick pushes violently against Lucifer’s, gaining territory and growing in density and power. The walls cave out, pressure pushing the material world out of shape. For the first time, Lucifer starts to feel the immense well of fury simmering shy of breaking through Sam’s cool facade and unrelenting assault.

“I will not lose—“ — and it cracks, the splinters tearing at Lucifer’s rage — “another…”

Tears glimmer into existence in Sam’s eyes, mask cracking and shattering right before Lucifer’s eyes and he engulfs his mate in his arms, weak against the fear and pain of his beloved.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers in his hair, lips moving against his temple, kissing and feeling the smooth skin. “I’m sorry.”

Afterwards, in their bed, it comes in broken pieces that work through Sam’s system like poppy. Here a flash of fiery red, smile a knife-edge on a too pale and smooth skin; there a blotch of black, seemingly to flow forever and ever, and a grin holding too many teeth and eyes too little life; here a powerful, oppressive force, as if squeezed out from between some Gargoyle’s ribs; there the surprise widening on his too-often poised to laugh face like a gashing wound tearing at Sam’s insides and ricocheting through their connection.

The sleep is fitful, even though Lucifer is there, heedless of the wound on his chest, arms embracing him protectively and possessively against everything the world might spit out to harm his mate. Sam is too caught up in the remembrance of their melee to feel Lucifer’s warmth and softly spoken reassurances. He feels along their connection in an attempt to soothe his beloved, but instead he is forced to back away by Sam’s memories suffused with so many emotions that Lucifer chokes on a bad draw of breath.

“Lucifer,” Sam whispers through the shudder that wrecks them both. “How did we let them take him away. He was right beside us. I can still feel the phantom warmth of his body seeping into mine, the dull thrum of our link, joyful and lively. Now… it’s cold and unresponsive no matter how much I tug.”

He shivers and Lucifer clutches him tighter to his chest, to his skin. Maybe if he applies enough pressure, Sam will become part of himself, will dissolve into his skin where Lucifer can keep him safe. Not even his dead body will relinquish the hold on his mate.

Through clenched teeth and squeezed eyes, jagged rocks fall from his lips in the form of words.

“It’s my fault.”

Sam lifts his head. Pain and sorrow and anger look back at Lucifer.

“No, it’s not. I was there when they took him. I was just as powerless as you were against their Olden magick.”

But Lucifer shakes his head even before Sam finishes.

“This goes back long before we met. Decades before.”

Sam searches his face. “The oath.” Lucifer nods. “What happened?”

“I was reckless back then. Did not care who my words fell upon— until Death. I angered him with my arrogance and I expected retaliation. Was prepared for it, my power shifting just beneath my skin, but he didn’t strike. Instead, his gaze just—“ — a forced swallow — “he just looked at Gabriel and he fell. I was— I was petrified. When I pissed off people — and believe me, it happened too often to be funny — they always retaliated with either magick or fists. They never—“ and here his voice brakes.

Sam traces his trembling, lower lip with his thumb; he tattooes Lucifer’s lips with his own, a simple press, barely moving. Lucifer takes all the comfort and warmth Sam’s giving him; all the strength that he receives through their connection, and it’s all the more bittersweet because of the other end of it feeling dull and lifeless.

But when Sam opens his eyes, they’re a lighter shade of hazel, as if all the white surrounding them seeped in, and when he speaks, he does so with the voice of another.

Are you willing to give up your life to save your brother’s?”

Shock and horror course through his veins, even as the response settles heavy like rocks against his tongue, ‘I’m willing’. He swallows them back in the depths of his soul where no one ever reached, arms going cold and immobile around the man who is looking through him, mouth open a fraction, breath barely there.

“Sam.”

It’s commanding, but it’s a command borne from horror and too agonizing of a memory. Bitter life returns to his limbs and he catches hold of Sam’s shoulders, startling him from whatever trance he has been in.

Sam returns to him in increments; gone the luscious quality of his eyes, the slack of his jaw, the hatred voice. He returns and his eyes catch on Lucifer’s too open and too real wound; Olden magick worked the wound into his skin and muscle and a little bit of bone. It turns the quality of his breaths into little rasps, as if he has come down with the flu, unable to mask them away from Sam’s intent gaze and even more intent ears.

He springs into action, bringing into their bed little glass containers with powders Lucifer does not recognize and a bowl of water with another square piece of wood on the makeshift little table nearby. He settles more comfortably on the pillows to let his mate work a different kind of magick. He mixes garlic, honey and water on the wood forming a yellowish paste, then he takes it near Lucifer and uses his fingers to work it on his skin.

“This mix will stave off the infection,” — he coats it mostly around the wound because it is clean, the sting of garlic pleasantly suffused by the honey; the smells don’t mix together, he notes with a slow inhale — “And this is yarrow, which helps the blood clot.”

He finishes the last touches, using magick to make bandages secure themselves around Lucifer’s torso and over one shoulder, and deposits the wood on the nearby table. But when he goes to sit up, Lucifer’s warm palm slides over Sam’s shoulder, parting his loose shirt. He meets Lucifer’s eyes, confusion and a little bit of fire dancing in its depths.

A smile quirks his lips. “As much as I’d like a tumble in the sheets, right now I want to tend to your wounds, too.” The protest is on his lips, quick to rise like tidal waves, but Lucifer’s softening expression is as quick to diffuse it. “I know you are wounded. Let me tend to you— please.”

The please undoes Sam’s resolve, the things it hides right beneath Lucifer’s calm expression: he sees it all and he relents. Far be it from him to deny his mate a simple thing as this. With a nod, he turns around, hands already going at the hem of his shirt.

“Let me,” Lucifer simply says and solid warmth comes close to his back.

He lets Lucifer tug the shirt free, helping it slide over his arms, touching warm hands to his warm forearms, mapping it and offering comfort through his skin alone. When Sam’s shirtless, fair skin bathed in the rays of the dying sun, Lucifer leans over, mindful of the lacerations on his back, and kisses Sam’s shoulder, a long press of his lips, and the whisper of skin against skin sounds like his name.

That is all Lucifer allows himself — themselves.

He feels Lucifer’s worry in the trembling of his hands as Sam guides him through the procedure; feels the passion in every response held behind the double row of his teeth, swallowed down from his tongue; he feels his love in the shifting air, soft friction of materials and skin alike.

It’s easier to reduce himself to his senses alone. Lucifer takes care to envelope him in them and shield him from the world — from the memory.

“I miss him,” Sam croaks an indeterminate amount of time later.

He opens his eyes to see candles lit around the room and the coat of darkness heavy over their window. He’s been in a trance-like state for some time, most probably; Lucifer’ hands are still on his skin, but they don’t feel like they have a purpose now beyond that of touching in circling forms and shifting lines.

“We’ll get him back,” Lucifer says, voice as rough as rocks cracking open to let lava gurgle out.

The promise, dark and determined, settles heavily between and around them. Sam turns and Lucifer is there, leaning forward, eyes calm oases of undisturbed surety. Their lips collide like it has been long overdue; a soft exhale. His or Lucifer’s, is hard to tell when they both take comfort and reassurance from the other, both achingly aware of the missing part. It’s not enough and the kiss turns frantic, careless, until Sam breaks apart, harsh breaths rolling over Lucifer’s throat.

It’s not the same without Gabriel and they know it; feel it deep in the marrow of their bones and aching maw left behind by Gabriel’s absence.

“We need a plan,” Sam says.

“We need a powerful being.”

“I don’t think it’s wise to involve the Empress in this.”

Lucifer opens his mouth as if to counter that statement, but then closes it and frowns.

“Why do you think that? It’s surely her problem. This. One of her Covens going on a mad spree, kidnapping our Maat. That’s a perfect way to ensure their death.”

It’s Sam’s turn to frown.

“I know, but I don’t think she’ll be willing to harm Crowley’s mother, no matter how conniving she is. The Empress holds Balthazar in high regards, and since he’s Crowley’s mate, she won’t jeopardize their relationship for Rowena’s slight that could be reasoned with if we play our cards right. We might even avoid magick confrontation.”

Lucifer stares at Sam for a long moment. In fact, it’s so long that Sam starts to squirm uncomfortably under the scrutiny.

“You reminded me why I’m not into politics.”

Sam smirks. “You’d be ruthless in your desire for justice and equality.”

Lucifer inclines his head, acquiescing. “And you’d be there to stop my ruthlessness before it gets out of hand. Merlin knows, some Minsters deserve all of that and more.”

The grin takes over Sam’s face and Lucifer feels compelled to kiss him, but he refrains. Barely.

“I don’t know, I might be inclined to take your side, if you explained your reasons. In detail and with a lot of persuasion to back it up.”

Lucifer narrows his eyes, a smile curling at this lips in response to Sam’s cheekiness. This time, he cannot deny himself the need to touch his mate, so he takes hold of his hip and pulls Sam in, relishing how willingly he comes, swiftly covering Lucifer’s mouth with his own. His hand searches the air for another body that should be plastered against his back right now; a wounded sound crumbles in the back of his throat and Lucifer’s fingers glide over his forearm, twining them with Sam’s in both reassurance and apology.

“You’re the only reason,” — Lucifer confesses breathlessly against his lips — “why I’m here, trying to form a plan instead of being there, tearing the Coven apart brick by brick.” Sam gasps, trying to catch his breath and wits. “You keep me anchored when all I want to do is give in to my rage. This is why I love you.”

The words tumble carefully and laden with the full intensity of his emotions, which only make them sear themselves into Sam’s skin and mind. He knows, he should answer this confession with one of his own, he should tell Lucifer the effect he— they had on him, how their determination and, yes, selfishness, brought Sam to break free of the lie he built around himself. By looking beyond it, they allowed Sam to become a better version of himself.

Lucifer places a peck on Sam’s lips before letting him go.

“But I wasn’t talking about the Empress.”

Sam looks at him, reeling a bit from the sudden cold and catching on the meaning behind those words.

“You know Death won’t meddle,” Sam says, focused.

“He won’t stand idly by and let someone upset a hard-won balance, either.”

Lucifer is sure of his words, fire igniting the ice in his eyes.

“He’ll know what we have in mind even before we open our mouths.”

Lightning-fast, Lucifer’s gaze latches onto Sam’s.

“Not if it’s you who’s talking.”

“What do you mean?”

“Being a soothsayer doesn’t come without perks. One of which is the muddled up thoughts that neither I nor Gabriel were ever able to read — and trust me, reading minds is among the first ability we hone early on in our lives. Your thoughts are a mix of past, present and future and we never know if a particular bit of thought belongs to you or to someone else from your visions.”

Sam stares openly at Lucifer, at the triumphant smile cresting his lips; he looks resplendent even in the dim lights of the candles.

“How do we get to Death, then?”

“We don’t. We summon him.”

Sam has never performed a summoning, being so convinced by his young self’s lie that he had no magick, that he was a Normal. So summons, in his mind, hold the quality of fairy tales, particularly the gory type.

“Do we need —“

He stops, expression puckering as if he just bit into a slice of lemon. Lucifer takes one look at him.

“No, Sam, we don’t need blood. We’re not summoning a demon, but Death.”

As if summoning the most powerful being on this side of existence requires lilting laughs and a prayer. As it turns out, they do need a prayer — a chanting, to be exact. It hurts Sam to see Gabriel’s phantom shimmer to life in the near corner of the tetragram, using what faint presence they can feel through their connection. He looks at Lucifer and finds a twin expression of pain and sadness, Gabriel’s absence suffocating now more than ever.

They get to work afterwards, intoning words that break from their mouths as if breathed in by another. In less time than Sam thought it would take, Death appears before them, imperious and otherworldly, the cane tilted in such a way near his leg as to form the outline of a cone.

His eyes flicker to the fake Gabriel and he understands everything Sam was prepared to say. In the end, Sam doesn’t need to use his words to make Death see. It’s enough the off-kilter feeling they give off. The disgust does not spread on Death’s face; Sam is focused enough on his face to see the twitch of his upper lip, there and gone again.

“Please,” he hears himself say.

He is not above pleading, if he needs to. Lucifer holds himself still, breath tightly controlled and features set in stone. A book appears in front of them, covers a shifting pitch black. It opens at a blank page and Sam steps forward as characters come to life like ink into water, but Lucifer’s hand shots up to stop him and Sam throws him a befuddled look. Death watches them with mild interest.

“It’s the Book of the Dead,” Lucifer says, and Sam’s mouth forms a silent ‘oh’. “And you have a soul.”

For some reason, Sam’s eyes flicker to Death at the same moment as something indecipherable crosses his gaunt features. It might be surprise or maybe a little bit of anger. When Lucifer steps forward and leans a bit over the book, Death gives a short nod as if in appraisal for Lucifer’s decision.

When he finishes reading the two pages, feeding information back to Sam through his mind, he steps back and takes Sam’s hand.

“Make sure you make amends where amends are due,” Death says, words particularly pointed towards Lucifer, before disappearing.

 

IV. The Emperor

The Emperor is a war-maker, a leader, and represents the results of taking action. He is a strong and assertive individual who offers guidance and wisdom when needed, although not always when wanted.

 

“I know I said no magick confrontation,” Sam raises his voice over the howling of the wind. “But their mind games are pissing me off.”

A razor sharp smile crests Lucifer lips, eyes flaring up terrifyingly.

“May I unleash my power now?”

Sam raises his eyebrows. “Why are you asking for my permission? You’re free to—“

But the pointed look Lucifer reserves for him, has Sam backtrack a bit. They did things Sam’s way until that moment, and they backfired rather spectacularly. Now, Lucifer wants to have a go at it his way, but it would be futile without his Maat’s expressed consent and backup. He’s not stupid; he might be powerful enough to withstand Sam’s magick and even dominate it when Gabriel’s around, but he knows he won’t be able to fight an entire Coven without Sam at his side.

“Yes, Lucifer,” Sam says, breathless with the knowledge. “Go wild, I have your back!”

It’s all that he has been waiting for. The release of his power reverberates through their connection and a gasp is pushed out of Sam from the force of it, as if he’s been sucker-punched.

Everything around them responds to Lucifer’s undiluted power, pouring out like a ravaging flood. The vegetation around him wilts away and the nearest witches and sorcerers burn alive, unable to withstand power of such rawness. Dimly, as if ten feet underground, they both feel Gabriel answer to him, tugging at their connection with desperation and relief. They share a look, hope unfurling in their eyes and change their defensive to offensive.

Sam still holds himself back, for no other reason than to be prepared to anchor Lucifer, should he lose himself in his magick. It doesn’t happen often to powerful Wiccans, but he’s not going to take his chances now that they need to rescue their Maat and escape the fray alive.

Lucifer advances like a meteorite through soft-yielding earth, either burning alive witches or pushing whatever pointy object he finds through their life force. He still doesn’t see either Ruby or Rowena, but he can make out Meg’s golden hair and shouting orders near the Coven. Lucifer is pushing a direct path towards her and Sam takes care to watch his back, crunching his fist and crushing hearts whenever his focus finds witches trying to up one on Lucifer.

The quality sound of the crashing waves beyond the cliff a couple of yards to Sam’s side alerts him of several holes into the rock face; holes that might as well be caves winding deep underneath their feet and possibly connect to the Coven. The imperious rock-carved castle that sits atop of a jagged hill, in a green valley of boulders jutting out of the moss-covered earth like reverse-dimples on a scarred face.

He’s more attuned now to the nature around him than he’s ever been, feeling veins pulsing beneath his feet, in the air around him. It’s not unlike a net — an intricate and minute net, carrying energy and memories alike. Waves pulse from Sam, too, coloring the world in black and electric blue for precious moments at a time; he sees life everywhere around him, marveling at the beauty of it.

He also feels the growing thrum in his bones, the compelling desire to take hold of it and twist until something gives and his Maat is returned to his rightful place beside Sam.

Anger is but a molten block of ice, coursing down his spine, filling him to the point of overflowing. The ping of warning that suffuses their connection is too weak for Sam to take heed of, and Lucifer is too busy raiding to the ground a dozen witches in one, powerful strike to pay attention to it and amplify it.

In the end, it’s not Lucifer who needs to be anchored. He actually looks more like himself and more attuned to his magick than he’s ever been.

“Sam!”

The world pauses.

He knows it’s Lucifer’s voice. He can pick apart the terror and panic in his tone; they’re not mixed, not in Sam’s mind. He pries the two emotions away and they stand stark and undiluted before Sam. They try to reach Sam, touch him, shake him out of this detached curiosity that has caught hold of him.

What they don’t know (amusing how two emotions become two beings in Sam’s mind, both of them flickering shadows of two people he knows and loves) is that she has him, a prisoner in her clutches.

Mother Nature can be so cruel a mistress, Sam realizes, divesting him of emotion and reasonable thought, pushing him down, down, beneath a thousand strata, beneath the sea and the liquid core of the Earth, beneath stars and planets and the very fabric of the Universe, pushing him into that pocket of nonexistence he tries to escape from, into that specific memory that burns hot and desperate in his chest.

He screams and it’s distant, as if it comes from another dimension, another time, another person. He feels fragmented, independent pieces of himself caught in inconsequential suspense.

A tremor ripples its way across his skin and he feels like he goes for miles and miles — over hills — flat lands, mountains — deep into the sea — through man-made houses, churches, roads — underneath horses’ hooves, vibration attuned to his own — through each twig of that bird’s nest — inside the worm that slides into the screaming gullets of smaller birds — between each strand of fur of a terrified hare — into the microscopical veins of a single blade of grass — taken away by the Nordic wind — tamed by the approaching spring and back again into the sizzling burst of battling magick — down again into their connection, gliding over their memories and Gabriel’s insistent tug.

That’s what shoots a ping-pong of longingsadnessrighteousanger; still disconnected, still miles away from taking him over, from controlling his actions.

He feels everything at once, but not his flesh and blood and bones.

He has become something other than himself, something he does not know how to stop being.

He fights back, fights against this, pulling to himself the terrified feeling, forcing it back into his core to feel whole again; to feel himself again.

He fights her — her hold and her promises, her gifts of a better non-life, a perpetual existence. He wants to return to his Maats, feel their caresses and warm bodies, drink the sight of their smiles and glinting eyes with mischief, smell their sun-warmed skin and push hands (his own) through sleep-mussed hair and kiss soft lips, feel his magick being dominated and anchored by their Maats’ — feel safe and home.

That’s the home he chooses for himself.

Not the Universe and every living thing.

He refuses that dispassionate way of living.

He needs erupting volcanoes and solid rock, fire and ice freezing and melting him, liquid brown and Arctic blue.

He needs his mates!

And they come to him. Not physically, but through their connection. They anchor his magick, unlatch Nature’s claws from his life force.

But by the time he returns to himself, whole and feeling slightly queasy, Lucifer lies unconscious a couple of feet away from him just as his hands unclench from Meg’s throat, her lifeless body slumping on the ground. Gabriel’s magick and presence is stronger now and his gaze scans the area just to find two-thirds of Gabriel’s body hidden in the rock face of the castle, terror and fury warring on his face as he watches his mates being overwhelmed by Rowena and Ruby’s power.

Sam struggles, but the roots overwhelm him, strong and unyielding.

“Are you willing to give up your life to save your mates’?”

Death’s voice, calm and clear, comes from all over the place at once and when Sam lifts his gaze he finds himself at the top of a hill surrounded by mist. Death is right there next to him, a presence Sam cannot feel no matter how hard he tries.

The smile feels cruel on his face. “I’m willing to break these shackles and save my mates and myself, is what you’ll get out of me, Death. The same trick won’t work twice.”

Death doesn’t smile with his mouth; it’s his eyes that gather all that warmth — or cruelty, as the case may be.

“Your energy is wanning, seeped by Nature herself.”

Sam frowns. “Right. Why is Nature working against me?”

“She is just keeping in check power that has the potential to destroy her.”

“You people keep giving me more credit than I’m due.” Sam is on his way to be more than miffed. “I just want to save Gabriel and Lucifer.”

Death inclines his head. “And in doing so, you have no qualms about unleashing the full extent of your power.”

“I’m sorry, but wouldn’t you do the same if your soulmates were in danger?”

Death regards him in silence, giving away nothing. Sam sighs, frustrated with himself and the world at large.

“Will you help me save them?”

“My only job is to ensure that the balance is not upset.”

“So having my mates die is not considered upsetting the balance?”

It’s vicious and impolite, and it garners Death’s most disapproving stare. He looks away, chastened by his explosive behavior and trying not to bite his tongue— much.

“You don’t need me, Sam,” Death says coolly. “You already have all the help you need in front of you.”

He turns to leave.

“Wait! Wait.” He steps forward, catching himself before he does something foolhardy like touching Death. He stops, but does not turn towards Sam. “How— how is my brother?”

Moments pass undisturbed and then the mist twists and swirls, and a blurry image ripples to life at Sam’s feet. Dean smiles as he brushes Impala’s mane, luscious black, and then he moves on to a pale white horse right next to her, offering her a handful of hay. A sigh of relief ushers out of Sam at the sight of his brother’s relaxed posture and carefree smiles.

He knows it’s not a ruse. Death may be otherworldly, but he takes care of what belongs to him.

That doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t like to step into the image and hug his brother, feel the reassurance and familiarity of Dean’s arms as he hugs back. But he swore an oath when he chose to work for Death, and that implies that he is not allowed to see his own kin or friends unless Death approves it. And looking sideways at him, Sam knows that he’s not inclined to be generous right now; not after what transpired between them.

“I’m glad that he’s happy.”

Death nods once and then disappears, returning Sam to himself, not before leaving behind a thought that repeats itself in his mind like a broken record. Why is it that these witches seem to possess such enormous power? Lucifer and Gabriel hadn’t been concerned by this when they came here the first time.

As he falls to the ground, grass doing nothing to cushion him, a tarot card flutters right in front of his eyes, face down. He doesn’t need to turn it up to know which one it is. What was it that Gabriel told him about it? It brings change and development, but that’s a partial summary to what Sam’s been reading on them. The words sail into his mind eye like paper airplanes; the Wheel of Fortune also reminds of the power one has to change their own lives. People are not always ruled by chance or fate.

Or meddling higher powers.

Death’s words ricochet around in his head until they become a roar marching on his thoughts and bringing about a monstrous headache.

Believe, Sam.

Easier said, than done. He’s never been a believer; never believed that a higher power could save his life or make it better. That same power did nothing when it mattered the most, so he sees no point in having faith in something that has its own agenda.

The restraints burn into nothingness as his magick eats at them, surging forward and breaking the last of Sam’s defenses when he wills it to. If he won’t believe in something that’s beyond him, then he will take his chances with himself and the well of power people keep telling him he possesses.

More than what Nature offered him, the control with which he twists the very atoms of the material world is invigorating, not to talk about how good it feels to have each of his emotions accounted for, anger among them being the strongest.

“Oh, the puppy knows how to bite,” Rowena says, an ugly smile on her otherwise perfect face. “Let’s see if he can withstand this much Olden magick.”

Ruby and Rowena launch a combined attack, sizzling magick eating at the oxygen in the air, but Sam deflects it like he does that every day. It’s easy to feel the many particles that make up the energy directed at him and then manipulate each one to do exactly what he wants it to do. He believes in what his instincts tell him to and the way his magick modulates itself to anticipate future attacks.

“Release Gabriel,” he commands, voice amplified by his magick to cross the field all the way to the two witches.

He untangles Lucifer’s magick in the meantime; the knot into which Ruby worked it harder to deal with than he thought. He’s helping him return to himself when a humanoid-shaped mold of Earth sprouts a mere meter away from Sam.

“Block this, weakling!”

Ruby deals him a sucker punch infused with so much Olden magick that it sends Sam on the other side of the rock plateau, almost toppling over the edge and into the ocean.

He allows himself a second to gasp and cough.

But in the next moment he’s up and charging towards her, a wall of salt water arching over Sam’s running form; he concentrates all of it into Ruby’s direction, mind governed by a single thought, stark and clear and blood-thirsty.

He fires the full force of the ocean with the potency of a furious tornado.

It sends her deep into the rock face, destroying part of the rock castle.

Gabriel remains stubbornly imprisoned.

Rowena is more cunning than that, though; she casts a whammy on Sam, staying at a safe distance from his long-range attacks. She throws his mind into a distorted memory, latching on his darker feelings, the ones that crave revenge and blood and terror upon the ones that wronged him.

He almost gives in to his desire, but then Lucifer sends a shock through his system which brings him back to see Lucifer mid-standing up before he disappears and throws globes of electricity at Rowena, who blocks or neutralizes them alternatively and sends similar ones back.

Sam, allow me access to your power.

Lucifer bends backwards as a blue arrow skirts his torso and chin and explodes a few meters behind him.

How do I do that?

Remember what we read in the Book. Use our connection. Imagine you link two ends of a rope, and bring your magick to connect with mine.

Surprisingly, it’s easier to do that now that he’s had time to get used to his own power and to feel the distinct thrum that courses alongside his own beating heart. The moment his magick connects with the link he has with Lucifer a cold void eats at his chest, acting like a sucking force before being replaced by a soothing warmth, no doubt Lucifer’s doing.

But it’s not a one-way kind of connection, Sam realizes with a gasp and almost stumbles over his own feet as his body tries to adjust to the new magick mingling with his own. Breathing heavily, he looks at Gabriel, or more like in the direction he feels Gabriel is. He’s right there, in their connection, prodding at the new angle Lucifer and Sam added to their magick, testing to see how sturdy it is.

The moment Gabriel’s own magick touches them, Sam goes hot and cold at the same time because it’s like someone grabbed the very essence of his soul and squeezed. Gabriel dutifully retracts his magick, sensing the discomfort it causes Sam.

This is difficult to manage, he knows, but he needs to resist. Lucifer is gaining territory on the witches, and their Olden magick never even touches Lucifer as Sam keeps a permanent one-way protective wall around Lucifer, and that’s enough incentive to keep himself standing and concentrated.

“Get to the weakling and knock him out!”

The words are distant and he can’t make out whose voice it is, but on a deep level he feels two great powers dividing, separating from the united front they presented and he knows that he won’t be able to protect himself at the same time as Lucifer

But he’s not going to leave Lucifer defenseless, not now when the remaining force has increased its attacks.

He needs to think up a strategy and fast because the threat is already launching an attack.

“Shit!”

He won’t be able to block it!

Before nothing more than a half-thought forms in his mind he fastens Gabriel’s magick to his and that—

— that knocks him off his feet because it’s huge. The amount of power coursing through his body is enormous-all-encompassing-suffocating.

Their warnings reach Sam’s mind like after-thoughts. His whole body feels like it’s dismantling itself cell by tiny cell and rearranging itself in marginally the same way, but different. He gasps more than once, fingers digging into the earth, muscles spasming as both his Maats’ magick work their way through him.

This is an unusual kind of mingling compared to the one they performed the first time they had sex. Their magick doesn’t try to dominate his, right now.

It’s creating it’s special niche inside Sam’s, which is a different kind of intimate that goes above and beyond what magick Vessels ever performed. This is invasive; it’s something that anyone with two functioning brain cells would skirt away from because it can’t be undone.

It’s permanent.

For a long second the battle ceases, everyone involved wide-eyed at what Sam did; it feels like a breath that’s being kept in before being released in a rush.

“Are you stupid?” Ruby says, contempt in her voice.

She punches that breath out of the little suspended bubble they created around themselves, but Gabriel appears lightning-fast before Sam already in his wolf form blocking and expelling Ruby’s powerful globe of electricity with his tail.

Sam, are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?

“Gabe,” Sam gasps, still unable to get his breath under control. “Gabe, you’re free. You’re here. Safe. Gabe.”

Warmth suffuses Sam, offering him a few moments of respite.

Yeah, love, I’m free thanks to you. But linking us together like this might be a bit too much.

He’d answer Gabriel the same way, if he didn’t have such a hard time grasping a coherent thought and sending it into Gabriel’s mind.

“I’m starting to get it now, but I can’t stop it. I’m sorry. I just wanted you to be free.”

No, no. Don’t apologize. I didn’t mean that in a bad way. This is everything we hoped to do one day, to be this close-linked together. I’m just worried about you. You look like you’re one breath away from keeling over and passing out, which scares me — us.

The wave of worry punches the wind out of Sam as Lucifer most probably heard their whole conversation and wasn’t happy to be left out. Another attack from Ruby has Gabriel turning his focus on her, growling, his hackles raised, before he pounces on her, trying to bite her and succeeding only in scratching her arms and torso.

“Enough!” Ruby shouts and she sends Gabriel flying over Sam.

It’s enough to distract Lucifer for a moment, the pain of the impact reverberating through their wide-open connection, and Rowena deals him a powerful blow that raises the earth behind his body as he skids to a halt even further than Gabriel.

“Fuck!” Gabriel shouts as he furiously pushes aside rubble and broken branches, bones snapping back together. “Why are they so damn powerful? From where do they take all this magick?”

Lucifer has a harder time standing from the groove he created into the earth, joints uncooperative, ankle twisted at an uncomfortable angle, knees and a few ribs broken, and both shoulders dislocated.

“Goddammit!” He ushers through gritted teeth, his magick trying to rearrange his limbs and bones, mending what’s broken.

Gabriel kneels besides him, hands hovering over his brother, channeling their combined magick into Lucifer to help him speed the healing process.

“Better?”

“Much.”

He uses Gabriel’s shoulder to hoist himself up even before he is put back together completely.

His ankle untwists before his sole touches the earth and then they both appear beside Sam, a defensive wall blocking Rowena, Ruby and now Meg’s combined forces.

“Didn’t you kill Meg?” Gabriel asks, face scrunched up from the effort to keep the barrier up.

“I did,” Sam says, still gasping for air. “They brought her back somehow.”

Lucifer’s eyes widen as he looks at Gabriel.

“That’s impossible!” Lucifer says. “Only Death has that kind of power.”

“And Sam.”

“It’s just speculation, Gabe. We don’t know for sure.”

“Sam?” Gabriel says, worry creeping back in his tone as he glances at his Maat. “Sam, are you okay? You look worse than before.”

“I’m trying,” he grits out. “It’s harder than I thought. I tried channeling some of it back into Nature, but she blocked me out.”

“Well, you did reject her. She’s still sour over that.”

Sam gasps, leaning down even more, feeling ready to pass out, but keeping himself from giving in by a thread of flimsy willpower. This is not how it ends. He won’t be overwhelmed by his own power. Not now, not ever.

The pain and pressure goes on and on for what feels like a couple of centuries — until it clicks, like a piece of puzzle finding its right place. The force oppressing his body from the inside lets up, disappears completely, and he gulps down air with desperation, before he feels a rush of chiseled power.

A violent tremor wrecks the very ground on which they stand, the ocean waves hitting the eroding bluff with vengeance.

“Sam?”

Lucifer throws him a worried glance, both he and Gabriel trying to keep their balance despite the ground shaking under their feet like they’re in the middle of an earthquake.

“It’s okay. I’m in control.”

His voice is both spoken out loud and in their minds, sounding like it’s coming from a thousand different places.

Their combined magick, now more than ever, pulses inside Sam like one, matching his beating heart, and poised to obey the faintest thought.

He annuls their barrier, taking the attack square in his chest. A slow exhale, smoke dissipating thanks to the ocean wind, and a step towards the witches has them engulfed in three pillars of earth, spiraling towards the sky and squeezing their bodies like rag dolls.

The screams don’t satisfy Sam.

His power shifts and pulls at him, and his grip on it slides.

There’s a moment of pure panic, the balance he maintained leaning in his disadvantage, overwhelming him and going for his control, before familiar magick gently covers his hold and makes it stronger, righting the balance.

With a curt wave of his hand the pillars crumble to dust and before the witches are pulled halfway to the ground by gravity he throws their mangled bodies back into their castle, breaking through the two towers flanking the main gate. This time, the crack of bones and dwindling energy into nothingness satisfies Sam.

“I think we’ll have a lot to explain to the Empress,” he says.

Both brothers gaze over the ruins of the castle, expressions indecipherable.

“I don’t think she’ll care about their untimely demise,” Lucifer adds after a lengthy pause.

But Sam’s attention strays from his lovers’, head tipping to one side as if to get a different angle of the upturned earth — or to hear something better.

“Wait, there’s something else hidden.” Sam’s eyes scan the earth beneath his feet as if he sees much more than grass and earth. “It’s deep down… lemme just...”

With a few gliding moves of his arms he cracks open a stripe into the ground, bringing up what had his attention.

“Oh,” Lucifer exhales, eyes wide enough to appear comical. “Well, this explains a lot. I think.”

“She’s definitely not gonna care about their death.”

Gabriel’s skeptical eyes rove over what Sam has just unearthed.

 

***

Lucifer shuts the front door using his body weight as Sam keeps Gabriel on the vertical side of reality. The shift in Lucifer’s magick is unmistakable now that they’re connected in such an intrinsic manner. It becomes — desperately possessive. Over them both.

“I can hear you planning the next month of my life,” Gabriel says, turning a narrowed look on his brother, no doubt feeling how strongly Lucifer projects his possessiveness. “And I’m gonna tell you from the get-go: you won’t catch me dead inhabiting a bed for more than a couple of hours at a time.”

Lucifer mirrors the narrowed gaze.

“Is that a challenge?” The quality of his words sounds ominous even to Sam.

Gabriel glares. “No. It’s a warning, Lucifer. I won’t let you coddle me.”

“Whoever said that?”

“Don’t play games with me. I know how much of a sap you are deep down, and if you believe for even a second—“

The force with which Lucifer bodily pushes both of them has them topple over and landing on their bed, Lucifer’s magick crackling in the silence that follows. Both Gabriel and Sam gasp just as Lucifer cages his brother beneath him.

They glare even fiercer at each other.

Gabriel’s painful wince isn’t lost on Sam, but he chooses to let them get this out of their system before it festers and creates even more misunderstandings.

“I almost lost you, Gabriel.” The tremor coursing through his body reverberates through the mattress and into Sam’s arm. “Don’t think for a second that I’ll let you or Sam out of my sight for the foreseeable future.”

They both feel Lucifer’s distraught and bone-deep fear through their connection; somehow, Sam controls the urge to touch his Maat, anywhere, everywhere, just to give him the comfort he needs. The strangled words do not mask any of what he feels.

“So what?” Gabriel’s stubbornness never chose appropriate moments to rear its head. “Your solution to that is to keep us prisoners here? We’ll end up biting each other’s heads off if you sentence us to that!”

“It won’t come to that. I won’t let it happen.”

What Gabriel’s magick does is the equivalent of a slap; Lucifer physically recoils, stunned by his brother’s response.

“I hate you!”

The gritted out words sit heavily between them and Sam feels compelled to intervene because it seems that getting it out of their systems equals to damaging their already damaged link even further.

But before Sam can take the reins in his hand, Lucifer returns to himself.

“I’d believe you, if we weren’t this connected.” The smirk is cruel and cold.

“And now I hate you even more because of this!”

A sigh Sam cannot control thaws a bit of the chill in the room and he soothes their connection the best he can.

“Stay out of this, Sam,” Lucifer says, still engaged in the death glare match with Gabriel.

“Say that again and I’ll be the one to bite your heads off, wolf or not.”

The acerbic tone seems to disengage the brothers and Lucifer leans back on his knees while Gabriel sits up, still standoffish.

“You’re not keeping me on lock down just because I was kidnapped!”

Lucifer’s clenched fist trembles above his knee. “They forced your transformation. Repeatedly.”

“Yes, they did.”

He glares at his brother, words coming out even more chocked and whispered than the other ones. “They meddled with your magick.”

At this Gabriel averts his gaze, lips a thin, white line. “That’s why I don’t want to see you two more than necessary. I need to be alone for a while.”

That punches the air out of Lucifer, stuns him into silence. Even Sam is taken aback by Gabriel’s admission. He shuffles towards the edge of the bed, not meeting their eyes, but Lucifer darts forward, catching his brother’s wrist.

“Stay,” he says, vulnerable. “Please.”

“I want to be alone right now.”

He doesn’t so much wrench his arm from Lucifer’s hold as Lucifer simply lets him go.

Sam shifts behind Lucifer, arms coming around him in silent support.

“Gabriel,” he says when Gabriel opens the door. “Whatever you need, whenever you need it, we’re here. Always will be.”

“I know, Sam.”

It’s the best he can do right now. They both know that they can’t stop Gabriel if he wants to go, no matter how much Lucifer desires to chain his brother to the bed and have him under his watchful eye 24/7. Gabriel was never a static person.

As it is, Lucifer turns into Sam’s arms hugging him viciously and burring his face into the crook of his neck, breathing Sam in steadily even as his shoulders shake with how much he refuses to break down right then and there. There’s so much frustration, tiredness and simply little energy left in him to be able to maintain a balance between his feelings and his mind; Gabriel’s flat-out refusal to let Lucifer care for him like he wants to proves to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

It hurts Sam to see Lucifer fighting with himself for control, gasping quietly to wrestle his emotions into submission, and he uses everything at his disposal (touch, words, their connection) to sooth his nerves, rocking them gently back and forth.

It doesn’t quite have the intended effect. It actually manages to break through Lucifer’s last defenses and Sam feels the exact moment he simply lets go, shoulders going lax and warmth seeping into Sam’s shirt.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he whispers, placing small kisses on the side of his head, one hand carding through his hair. “I’ve got you, Lucifer. You’re safe. Gabriel’s safe. You’re going to be okay. That’s it, let it go. Allow yourself this moment. I got you. You’re safe.”

Lucifer doesn’t make a sound while he cries, Sam guiding himself after the harsh breathing and the vice-like grip Lucifer has on him. Sometimes, when the wave of emotions is too fierce, he hugs Sam so tightly that he has trouble breathing, but he never once tells Lucifer to stop. In increments, he calms down, arms relaxing around Sam. He pushes back, puffy eyes and clear blue rimmed with red meeting his gaze, a vulnerable smile grazing his lips.

Sam uses his sleeves to wipe the tears and snot.

“Gross,” Lucifer says, voice a pleasant nasal quality; he wrinkles his nose at the wetness on Sam’s sleeves.

Sam chuckles. “I’m not complaining, though.”

“I could magick all of this,” — he points to his face — “away, you know.”

Sam’s eyes crinkle in the corners. “But then you’d be charming again, and I kinda like this snotty, puffy and red-rimmed side of yours. You feel real,” — he looks at their hands, not linked, but resting in their respective laps — “you feel human.”

Lucifer leans against Sam’s forehead and closes his eyes as Sam’s warm hand caresses the side of his jaw and neck.

“Thank you.”

Sam kisses his forehead. “I love you.”

Lucifer smiles. “I know. I love you, too. And I’m sorry for being a jerk.”

Sam chuckles. “At least you’re honest.”

A yawn engulfs Lucifer’s answer and Sam maneuvers them under the covers, making ample use of his magick to clean them up and have them into fresh clothes before their heads hit the pillow. Lucifer burrows himself into Sam like he wants to live inside him, and when they finally find a position that won’t cut off the blood flow in their limbs, Lucifer sighs, going completely boneless into Sam’s arms.

“Thank you, Sam,” he whispers into his collarbone and by the time Sam works up an answer to that, Lucifer’s breathing evens out.

He stays there for a little while more, making sure that Lucifer is deep asleep and won’t wake up anytime soon, before gently extricating himself from his Maat and going in search of Gabriel. He doesn’t hold much hope that he’ll be able to find him, but he didn’t close their connection, which means that Sam might be able to talk to him.

He finds Gabriel in the back garden under a willow tree. When he sits down next to him, Gabriel doesn’t even acknowledge his presence, content to soak up the various sounds around them and the summer night breeze. Sam’s comfortable just sitting there for as long as Gabriel allows him to; he can’t gauge the state he’s in from their connection.

“How is he?”

“Asleep.”

“I can smell the salt on your skin.”

Sam looks at him, but says nothing. Gabriel offers only a sideways glance.

“I would apologize if it helped things.”

“Then why not talk those things out?”

Gabriel cocks an eyebrow at him. “I thought you were in the same room when that happened.”

A wry smile. “No, that was your ego and his over protectiveness growling at each other. You weren’t actually listening to what the other was saying.”

Gabriel looks forward, falling silent once again.

“I understand where he’s coming from. I do, but I don’t like that kind of possessiveness directed at me. I’m not saying that he’s never been this possessive and over-protective of the people he loves, but it’s never been this strong and suffocating. I always fought him over this; we’re both on the same wavelength on that front, which makes it impossible for me to let him take care of me the way he wants to. Same goes for him. So we always limit ourselves around each other.”

Sam picks at a flower. “You still need to talk about this. Make it clear where you stand and what boundaries you have so as not to cross them in the future.”

“Don’t think we tried? We know each other inside out, but that doesn’t mean that we’re always able to control ourselves when the other is in danger or hurt. We do foolish things for the ones we love.”

Sam smiles. “Which is why you need to learn to let him care for you the way he wants to, even for a bit. Both of you need that.”

Gabriel smiles mischievously. “Not really.” Sam turns a confused look on him. “This is where you come into equation.”

Sam falls silent, choosing to focus his attention on the current flower in his hands rather than what Gabriel is implying.

“You balance us, but more than that, you make us strive to be better, to work together. Your kind of protectiveness is pretty tame compared to ours, which makes you perfect for us and our monopolistic desires.”

Sam frowns. “The way you said it, makes me sound like a helpless dame in constant need of protection and care.”

Gabriel chuckles. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant that even if you fight us, you end up submitting so beautifully to us. You always make sure we understand that when we have our way with you is not because we’re stronger than you, but because you let us. And I’m not talking only about sex, which, damn, you have no idea how heady it makes us feel when you allow us to dominate you. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by that kind of power, even more seducing than magick can be. So through this, you make us work together, you give us a shared goal: you. And boy, we’re nothing if not determined to reach that goal!”

A charged sigh escapes Sam’s lips, pinching the bridge of his nose because he doesn’t know how to answer to that kind of confession. He didn’t think about how much he wants to be pushed down and kept there by them, how much he craves that kind of helplessness.

He usually doesn’t let himself go that far with his thoughts.

“I’m glad you’re back,” Sam says in the end.

“Me, too, kiddo.” His warm hand squeezes the back of Sam’s neck; he shivers.

“Come to bed.” He stands up and looks down at Gabriel. “We both need to rest and I don’t feel right letting Lucifer alone for much longer, but I want you there, too.” Gabriel is poised to protest. “I don’t want to feel your absence ever again.”

That feels like a sucker punch to Gabriel. He wordlessly stands up and takes Sam’s hand, letting him guide them back to the castle — back to Lucifer.

 

***

The first time Lucifer blinks his eyes open it’s to a confused mess of limbs until he blinks a couple of times more and the blurry image clears into a shirtless Sam on his back, one hand angled awkwardly above his head on the pillow and the other one loosely placed above his and Gabriel’s. All three piled into a distorted version of a tower in the center of Sam’s chest.

It feels right, so he goes back to sleep.

The second time, Gabriel’s gone and his head sits awkwardly on Sam’s thigh all the while soothing fingers card through his hair.

“Mornin’,” he mumbles, rubbing away the sleep from his eyes with the hand that’s not trapped under his chest.

He changes the angle of his head, popping the bones in his neck back in their place.

“Morning.”

“Where is he?”

“Around, most probably,” Sam says, not lifting his eyes from the book in his other hand. “Also, I hope you two won’t use me as a news boy for much longer.”

Lucifer grunts and hugs Sam’s shapely thighs. Sam puts down his book and retracts his hand from Lucifer’s hair, which promptly results in a sound of protest from him.

“I’m serious, Lucifer. You need to stop avoiding each other and talk.”

“You saw how that turned out last time.”

“That’s because you confuse talking with growling at each other and expecting the other to comply to your requests. That’s not how you’re going to understand each other.”

“Maybe that’s how we communicate.”

Sam knows Lucifer better, and that sounded like a petulant kid wanting to have the last word.

“Maybe it’s time you changed that.”

Lucifer falls into an obstinate silence and Sam picks up his book, seeing as he doesn’t seem likely to let Sam go anywhere what with him splayed half on top of his lap.

 

***

The next day comes awfully bright and joyous and the situation between them isn’t anywhere near solved, and not for lack of trying from Lucifer’s part.

“And here I thought you finally understood what you had to do.”

Why are you ambushing a wolf in the middle of catching his prey?

Sam huffs in response, hands on his hips and looking delightful miffed as he is. Gabriel tackles him to the ground, but Sam’s forearm prevents Gabriel from licking his face.

Come on, Sam!

“No. I knew you were a charmer, but sweet-talking me to get out of a situation that requires you to man up and confront your brother is a new low for you, Gabriel.”

And that — that makes Gabriel physically recoil from Sam, retreating as far as the next tree (which isn’t far enough). Sam sits up and gives Gabriel a pointed look. He isn’t happy to use such harsh words on his Maat, but even Gabriel’s stubbornness needs to have a limit and this is it for Sam.

“Lucifer made lunch,” he says as he stands.

I’m not hungry.

“Try again.”

Usually, it’s Lucifer who has the whole steely determination expression down to a T, but right now Sam is openly challenging Gabriel to defy him on this.

I’ll be there in five.

Sam studies him for good measure, not quite convinced by how begrudgingly he thought that, but then sighs and walks back to the castle.

“I’ll take your word for it.”

When Sam enters the dining room with Lucifer in tow, Gabriel is already in his usual seat at Lucifer’s right side. Neither comment on his sudden presence and they eat lunch in the strangest silence Sam has ever had around them. Usually Gabriel engages in all sorts of conversations raging from the silliest to the more philosophical, most often than not stunning Sam into silence with how much knowledge he possesses.

When Lucifer finishes his broth, he leans back and looks at Gabriel.

“How are you, Gabriel?”

“Better.” At least he doesn’t sound antagonistic. Yet. “I healed myself completely after a few transformations.”

Lucifer prods Gabriel’s magick gently, which attracts Gabriel’s sharp gaze. Not a glare, just an assessing gaze, unsure if he should be on the offensive or defensive or neither at all. Lucifer holds his gaze, calm and patient like the first time Sam met him.

How are you, Gabriel?”

His gentle prodding turns into exploring, slowly penetrating Gabriel’s magick like water between the cracks in a rock formation.

“I’ve had better days.”

Sam’s eyes dart from one brother to the other, both keeping the standoffish attitude like it’s their favorite weapon, but he distinctly feels how Gabriel doesn’t stop Lucifer from his invasion.

If that’s not an olive branch, Sam doesn’t know what else is.

“My parents died in a fire,” Sam’s mouth says, startling everyone, including himself.

“We know, Sam.” Lucifer’s face looks accustomed to showing sympathy.

“Everybody in the Empire got the news when it happened,” Gabriel adds and his hand twitches where it lies on the tablecloth.

Sam stares at it for a bit, taking in Lucifer’s hand in his peripheral vision, angled towards reaching his own, but for now lying in waiting.

“And the Empress searched high and low for years for you and your brother.”

A wry smile. “Yeah, she did. After they died, we laid low for a while, not trusting anyone but each other. Did they tell you the cause of the fire?”

Gabriel shakes his head, seeing as Sam directed his gaze towards him. “No details on the source of the fire. Some rumors about magick gone wrong, but no proof.”

The smile twists cruelly. “Yeah, magick was involved alright. It was staged. That night we were all sentenced to death, but mom was the first to feel the spell. She died trying to contain the fire, while dad told Dean to take me and get out of there. It’s the last thing I remember my father saying.”

“Sam.”

Lucifer’s hand is warm where Sam’s icy cold. He doesn’t look at either brother, but he feels Gabriel’s presence at his side, hands on his thigh offering as much physical comfort as Sam’s sitting position allows. He chances a glance at Gabriel, sitting on his hunches and looking up at Sam without showing anything on his face. It’s just a steady stare that comforts Sam to some extent.

His eyes dip lower still, catching on the deep red tie fluffed up inside his open shirt, the exact same replica around Lucifer’s neck in a deep blue.

“What happened after that? Did the Empress find you?” Lucifer asks, hand twitching over Sam’s to bring his attention back to him.

“Not immediately, no. It was Death who found us — or rather, Dean forced Death to find us by summoning him. In exchange for the lives he wanted Death to take Dean promised him that he’ll work for him for the rest of his life and the afterlife if Death still wanted him.”

Surprise washes over Lucifer’s calm expression.

“I wouldn’t have thought that Death would upset the balance for anyone.”

“Yeah, well, Dean’s a charmer.”

“So what? You’re saying that your brother charmed the pants off Death?”

The words aren’t completely out before Gabriel’s expression sours.

“Bad image, Gabriel,” Lucifer says, wrinkling his nose at his brother. “Very bad— ugh.”

Sam releases a hearty laugh at that because he’s had time to get used to the notion, so it’s refreshing to have other opinions (or expressions) on this strange arrangement between his brother and the most powerful being in the universe.

“Yeah, I didn’t intend it like that, but I’m inclined to go with your option, Gabe.” He caresses Gabriel’s cheek, thumb gliding over his cheek bone, a small smile mirroring the one Gabriel’s wearing. “I missed you. You weren’t gone for long, but it still felt too long. I never want to experience your absence, ever again.”

A shaky sigh leaves Gabriel, hand covering Sam’s and turning his head enough to place small kisses on his palm.

“Me, too, Sam. I missed you.”

Sam’s smile widens, turning his head to meet Lucifer’s gaze.

“Which is why I want you two to really talk and clear all the misunderstandings right now. It’s been too long since you pushed me under.”

Gabriel’s eyebrows climb a notch or two, cocking his head to the side to look at Lucifer with what Sam thinks it’s an accusing look.

“You mean you didn’t push him in my absence?”

Lucifer cocks a pretentious eyebrow. “As if I could and would do that without you around.”

“I’m sorry, but last time it was mostly you doing the whole domination thing.”

“But you were there, taking part in all of it just as much as I did.”

“No, not like that.”

Lucifer exhales, pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look, we’re three in this relationship, with one who is willing to be dominated by us. Sam needs both of us to put him under, otherwise it won’t work. You know as much as I do — you felt it that it’s not a piece of cake to dominate Sam. I can’t do that alone.” A pregnant pause, brothers staring at each other as if they’re both on the cusp of something huge. “I need you.”

Gabriel goes stock still beside Sam, shock and denial fighting for dominance.

“It’s not true,” he finds himself whispering.

Lucifer frowns. “Denial doesn’t look good on you, Gabriel.” And it’s just as much a warning as it is hurt.

Sam forces Gabriel to look at him. “It’s pointless to deny his feelings for you right now. Why are you—”

“It’s not.” He jumps to his feet, taking two steps back just as Lucifer and Sam stand up from their seats. “It’s not something you’d want. Not after… after what they did to my magick.”

“But when I linked our magic together it cleansed yours.”

Gabriel grimaces. “Yeah, but… the memories stayed.” The tension creeps back in and Gabriel’s head snaps back up at Lucifer. “No snooping around in my head for answers I don’t want to give.”

Lucifer huffs frustrated. “Then how am I supposed to know what you’re really thinking if you keep shutting me out? I’m trying to communicate here, Gabriel.”

Sam lifts an eyebrow at how much sarcasm Lucifer infused into that word.

Gabriel looks down, dejected. “It’s hard to do that. With you.”

“Why?”

“It’s—” — he exhales, frustration eating at him — “you’re too intense sometimes. Too overbearing. Too much.”

The words hit Lucifer like arrows.

“I know when you love someone you put yourself out there, heart on your sleeves and all that, but it’s suffocating when you do that with me because I’m the same. I don’t deal well with that much protectiveness directed at me, another reason why I distanced myself from you these past years.”

“I— I didn’t know.”

Gabriel glances up at Lucifer then back down, guilty. “I know. I never told you this much because I thought that on a deep level you understood, you felt that something was missing from this maze we call relationship.”

They both glance at Sam at the same time. He doesn’t say anything, feeling that they finally managed to meet each other halfway; the connection is there. They only need to continue being honest with each other no matter how harsh the truth. Once everything is out in the open, Sam can mend what’s broken.

“Yeah, I guess I did.” His gaze moves around aimlessly. “I’m sorry. For making this,” — his hand flutters between them — “so hard on you.”

A small smile. “Yeah, I believe you weren’t the only one being difficult and pigheaded about it.”

A long pause follows in which everyone is looking at everyone, then all at once they’re in motion.

“What? What are you doing?”

Sam is unceremoniously pushed back in his seat. Gabriel pulls the chair away from the table, round legs screeching on the marble floor until they catch on the carpet and Sam tips. His eyes widen mid-fall as Gabriel smirks at him and the dining room shifts

Sam’s sitting in a cushioned chair, armrests curved outwards, backrest reaching between his shoulder blades in a carved arc. The floating candles light a circle around him, doing a magnificent job to shield the rest of the room from his curiosity.

“Where am I?”

“Our,” — Gabriel snickers — “desires are,” — he’s trying hard to keep himself from laughing — “unconventional.”

Lucifer snorts. “Really, Gabriel? I think we’re a couple of millennia too early for that train-wreck of a book.”

“You’re right.” He smirks as he snaps his fingers and the candles on the stone walls light up the room, eliciting a wonderfully surprised expression from Sam. “Besides, we do actually do romance.”

“Isn’t this the dungeons?”

“It is,” Lucifer says, loosening his midnight blue tie, magicking away his shirt at the same time.

Gabriel follows suit and they kneel beside Sam, shirtless, making fast work of securing his hands to the armrests. Sam does nothing to stop the proceedings, unable to tear his eyes away from the two ties around his naked wrists.

“I always thought about redecorating this space, but I never found anything that sparked any idea to life.” He checks the tie, making sure it’s not too tight and then bends down and kisses Sam’s knuckles, gaze going up to meet his lover’s. “Until you moved in.”

“It doesn’t look much different from before,” Sam comments, cursory glance latching on various objects that both inspire fear and curiosity in him. “I mean, you only got rid of that distasteful chair with the rusty shackles and added more things on the walls, like a variety of whips and — leather bounds, I think, and— are those clamps?”

They both grin at Sam, and it’s dangerous and hungry and everything that delights his dick.

“I borrowed most of them from our neighbors in the next century,” Gabriel says as if it happens every day, which, considering Gabriel as a whole, it’s not such a stretch.

No surprises there, for Sam.

“And the ties are important because?”

“Well, we did notice you had a— thing for them, but we weren’t sure. Had to check.”

“It is also what inspired the redecorating of this chamber,” Gabriel adds. “Thought that maybe we can extend your willingness to submit to us to the physical world rather than the magick plane.”

A curse escapes Sam’s lips as Lucifer unbuttons his shirt while Gabriel gets rid of his boots. The whole situation is even more torturous because they don’t use any magick, which means that touches are inevitable.

Which means that Sam’s dick takes a particular interest in the proceeding.

He tests the sturdiness of the ties when Lucifer unbuttons his trousers and his knuckles brush oh-so-accidentally against his half-hard dick; the smile is full of mischievousness and it makes Lucifer’s lips all the more kissable. The silk caresses his skin in the most tantalizing ways possible and he squirms as he feels his dick filling up even more.

Both brothers smirk.

“Now we know your secret, Sam,” Lucifer says, low and sensual.

“Wasn’t much of a secret to begin with.”

“But useful to know,” Gabriel quips.

“What about,” — a surprised gasp as Gabriel’s warm hands cup his heels, using his magick to warm his legs since he’s barefooted on cold stone — “the other things.”

“Oh, don’t worry about them. You’ll get to experience each and every one in time, but only if this is what you want, of course.”

“Is it?” Lucifer says, head a palm away from his. “Are you okay with this?”

They both stop and look at him as if they forgot to ask him the most important thing. He takes a deep breath, tests the ties once again, wiggles his warm toes, squirms in his seat, and then nods.

“Yeah— yeah, it is.”

“Do you know why we’re doing this?” Gabriel asks.

Sam shakes his head, eyes returning to the ties around his wrists and the brothers, each holding one of his hands. He feels like a King, albeit a tied down King at the moment.

“The main focus of this scene is for Gabriel and I to make sure that we still work as a team and that the whole ordeal through which we went didn’t fry our connection as bad as we think it did.”

“We don’t want a repeat of our return.”

“Then why do I need to be tied down for you to find that out?”

Don’t get Sam wrong, he’s all for spicing up their sex activities, but the one he’s currently in feels like he’ll have to do a big leap of faith with them and as much as he trusts and loves them both, it’s still something too edgy for their not-yet fully established relationship. He’s mostly worried that this won’t work out the way they intend it to, but then he has to return to that leap and his faith in them — and he’s at an impasse.

“Because you’re the key element in this,” Gabriel says.

Sam looks at him, really looks at him, and then does the same to Lucifer.

“Don’t you think that we’re kind of rushing into this without really thinking about what could go wrong?”

Lucifer’s smile is more of a guilty wince than anything light. “We know it’s a matter of tremendous trust from you to let us do this.”

“And that it’s a bit too early in our relationship.”

“But?” Sam encourages when neither are forthcoming with anything else.

“We’d still like to try, if you allow us,” Gabriel says. “We used a lot of magick last time because the Choosing required it and because we’re all for extreme sensations, but in this situation the magick will be used minimally, such as keeping you from going cold and magicking up whatever items we’ll want to use or you’ll need, such as water.”

He does so and offers the golden goblet filled with spring water to Sam’s lips, who drinks from it without questioning and without taking it from Gabriel’s hand.

“We want to experience our connection without magick to enhance it,” Lucifer adds, thumb wiping away the drop of water from the corner of Sam’s mouth.

“So we’re doing sex the Normal way?”

Gabriel snickers at the notion. “Yeah, when you put it that way, we are having boring, Normal sex.”

Sam huffs. “There’s nothing normal in this.” He lifts his hands as much as the ties let him.

“Or boring.” Gabriel grins.

“Okay, since this is new territory for all of us, I want to choose a word that I’ll use when whatever you do to me is too much or too painful or it makes me feel unsafe.”

“And we’ll stop,” Lucifer supplies.

Sam nods. “But the word is for you, too.” That, they didn’t expect, as twin confused expressions stare back at him. “The same rules apply to you, too. If either one of you feels that the situation is out of your control or it’s making you feel insecure or anything that’s not safe and horny you must use the word and the scene will stop. If we don’t agree on this and you don’t promise me that you’ll use it if it’s necessary, then we’re not doing this right now.”

They take a moment to study Sam, completely thrown off-kilter by what Sam said and his resolute expression. Exchanging a glance with each other and doing the whole old married couple non-verbal conversation has them nod.

“Fair enough,” Lucifer says. “We promise you that we’ll use the safeword if we need to stop.”

Sam nods, satisfied. “The safeword is Death.” Both wince at the name, heads backtracking as if to dodge a blow that’s not coming; Sam chuckles. “Glad to see it’s so effective.”

“Good way to kill any mood, Sam,” Gabriel quips.

“Unless one’s into that.”

“Into what?”

Gabriel quirks an eyebrow. “Bedding Death?”

“Oh… uh…” This is kind of embarrassing for Sam, really.

And then the brothers latch onto his hesitation like flies onto honey.

“What was that?” The suspicion in Gabriel’s voice should be hilarious. “Is there anything you want to share with us, Sam?”

Again, the possessiveness coming in thick waves over their connection from both of them should be hilarious. He can’t even laugh it off, though.

“Well, you know, my brother...”

He has no idea how to explain this to them.

“You brother?” Lucifer encourages.

“Yeah, you know he’s pledged his life to Death and is now working for him.”

“Uh-huh,” Gabriel says.

“Well, they have a— a special something— there.”

Even as he tries to explain his wince is mortified. He really shouldn’t have opened this topic because now he has to see how it dawns on them.

“You mean that your brother and Death…” But even Lucifer doesn’t know how to — or can’t — continue.

Gabriel cackles as if he’s been possessed. “Stable boy and Death! Oh gods, I can’t!”

For some reason Sam feels the defensiveness rise in him at Gabriel’s words.

“Dean’s older than me by four years. He’s not a boy anymore.”

Gabriel doesn’t miss a beat. “Stable man and Death!” His cackle doesn’t diminish, but he does lose his balance and falls on his ass. “It sounds like the cheesiest, most clichéd male romance I’ve read through the ages!”

This little discussion should have Sam’s mood killed, but Gabriel’s raucous laughter and Lucifer’s inability to keep himself from smiling, endears them both to him rather than put him off. Gabriel’s laugh dies down and the soft expression compels Sam to do something about the distance between them.

“Kiss me,” he says. No. Orders.

And just like that the mood shifts and Sam has time to blink before Gabriel’s mouth sears itself onto his, the chair tilting back with the force that’s Gabriel, until Lucifer rights it back. He looms over them both, arms going around Gabriel to unbutton his shirt. They get rid of it without breaking the kiss, which turns Sam on even more.

He moans when Gabriel tips his head just so and the kiss turns filthy.

Sam’s melting on that chair and Gabriel doesn’t seem intent on helping him regain his composure; if nothing else, his hands meander on the expanse of naked skin, trailing tantalizing fingers over his pebbled nipples, down his stomach and over the opening in his trousers.

“Gabriel,” Lucifer says.

The ending of the kiss feels like a promise for more of it later, so Sam doesn’t make any sound when they finally separate. Gabriel takes a moment to breathe in tandem with Sam and share prolonged eye contact. In an abstract way, Sam manages to pick up on what Gabriel’s transmitting through his eyes alone, but he wouldn’t be able to put it into words.

Gabriel turns towards Lucifer and gives him a curt nod.

They pull out the armrests from where they join the back of the chair, which startles Sam into sliding his arms beneath them. They connect the end in a semi-arc in front of Sam and then Lucifer gives it a push with two fingers and the arc goes up, up until Sam’s forced to stand, knees still weak from Gabriel’s thorough snog. When his arms are high enough for him to feel the kind of ache one does after sitting in a position for too long and suddenly they stretch their limbs, the bow-shaped wood stops ascending.

His shirt hangs open, bunched around his shoulders, and his trousers ride low on his hips with the pull of gravity and his trim waist. He doesn’t quite feel exposed, but there is a certain degree of helplessness that the position he’s in has which makes anticipation twist a knot in his stomach.

“Close your eyes, Sam,” Lucifer says, and he does without hesitation.

It’s probably the combination of silkiness and harshness in his voice that makes Sam comply so readily. Hands glide over his hips, splaying on his stomach and the wall of heat at his back can’t belong to anyone else but Gabriel. The rough texture of his palms reminds Sam of their first time, of those same palms stroking him and those same fingers opening him up.

“Gabriel will be in charge of keeping you warm and in physical contact at all times during this scene, while I’ll guide you with my words and, occasionally, with my touches. Except for your safeword, you are not allowed to speak unless we tell you to. That means that you’ll obey a command until we tell you otherwise. Is that understood? Answer verbally.”

He’s compelled to whimper and squirm, but he refrains — barely.

“Yes,” he says, a soft sigh, then, ”sir.”

It’s not something they have discussed, but he’s testing boundaries here just as much as they do. He isn’t aware of the constant sound and motion in the room until there’s none, as if it all has been sucked out; even Gabriel stills at his back. It’s when Gabriel exhales and leans his forehead against the base of Sam’s neck (if he were allowed to speak he’d tell them to get him rid of that shirt) that he realizes this.

“Very good,” Lucifer praises.

The knot in Sam’s stomach dissolves into a flutter of butterflies at the sandpaper quality of his voice. He’s just reminded how much weight words carry and this, even if it was a simple one, it carried the shift in Lucifer’s tone of voice.

He has power, even bound and semi-exposed like this, he can affect them just as much as they affect him. And he doesn’t need to use elaborate words or to touch them in a particular way to make that happen. He settles more comfortably in his tied up position and that allows him to feel Gabriel’s hardness brush over his left buttock; Gabriel’s arms tighten around his midriff and both of them exhale softly.

Then Lucifer magicks away his trousers and even if he doesn’t feel the rush of cold thanks to Gabriel, he can’t control the gasp at the rough texture of Gabriel’s pants sliding over his ass and the back of his legs.

“I’m going to put on a leather harness,” Lucifer says and Sam squeezes his eyes to not open them when he hears the clinking of metal. “So that we don’t have to worry about unexpected orgasms before we allow it.”

The gravel in his voice and the warm breath on his chest almost make Sam whimper, but it’s the glide of cold metal and rough leather on his hips, dick and balls that finally push out the sound. He’d like nothing more than to look down at Lucifer, see his half bent form, head tilted just enough for Sam to make the soft protruding of his cheekbone, the straightforward line of his jaw and underneath it the sinuous shape of his neck.

Gabriel resumes his tantalizing touches, getting rid of Sam’s final piece of clothing when it prevents his lips from moving down between his shoulder blades. He moves his hips away when Lucifer’s hands come around to connect the three ends of the leather harness.

It’s as if Lucifer cannot help himself from squeezing his buttocks, kneading them in his rough palms, which in turn adds pressure to the velvety string between them and pulls out a groan and a tremor in his limbs. The squirming is made impossible with two sets of strong arms keeping him in place.

“Easy, Sam,” Gabriel murmurs just behind his ear, uneven breath stirring the little hairs on his nape.

His knees quiver because he already feels like he wants to crawl out of his bounds and suck Lucifer — or beg Gabriel to fuck him senseless. He’s not picky right now.

And then they share a kiss through the gap between Sam’s head and arm and his dick swells, but given the constricting space in which it is forced to stay, it flags a little and Sam whimpers.

“We got you, Sam,” Lucifer promises, rough but steady and he plants a kiss on his cheek before he bents down once again.

It’s hard to control the jerk of his body when Lucifer makes sure the leather encasing of the harness doesn’t harm Sam in any way and is secured over his cock, trapping it completely and preventing him from coming. Lucifer’s nimble fingers are careful to keep his contact minimal; Sam’s already mad with arousal and this feels so much like torture even with Lucifer’s clinical touches.

When the clink of the last buckle falls silent, Sam exhales.

A moment and then he moves his hips, testing the bonds, sucking in a sudden breath because yes, the harness allows him a bit of room for movement, the leather flexible enough for his cock to not feel suffocated (much), but sturdy enough around the base to stave off his orgasms. But what elicits the gasp is the realization that the smooth texture of the material on the inside turns ragged when his hips pull back, grazing his length on the maddening side of rough.

This is gonna be torture of the highest order.

“That’s right, Sam. You’re completely at our mercy,” Gabriel says, low and sensual, and so possessive it delights Sam’s inner submissive. “How does that feel? Permission to speak.”

Sam tries — for the life of him he tries — to form a coherent answer, but what gets out of his mouth are garbled words that not even he understands.

Gabriel’s lips are definitely shaped into a pleased grin on his nape, hands trailing up and down on his stomach and torso. They leave fire in their wake and he’s sure it has nothing to do with magick. He takes both of his nipples between his fingers, forming an X on his chest, and twirls.

Sam cries out, back arching. He’s pretty sure he’s never experienced such strong sensations from such minimal stimulation. Not even when they used their magick.

“You’re doing good, Sam,” Lucifer whispers in the skin of his stomach, a prayer if not a praise; Sam whimpers, for the first time fighting against the ties to get his hands around Lucifer’s head and hug him where he is. “You’re so good for us, so perfect.”

He whines — honest to go whines — when he can’t do what he wants and Gabriel keeps torturing him, shivers coursing through his limbs like racing horses on flatlands.

Then Lucifer parts his legs even more and Sam has a moment of genuine incomprehension before he latches onto a portion of skin close to the juncture between his groin and thigh and Sam shouts, really struggling against every restraint because his orgasm is right there and he can’t — he just can’t.

Please please please.”

The litany of pleas falls unbidden from his lips and his eyelashes clump together, wet and salty. Lucifer’s hands tighten on his hips, hang in there, as he sucks a mark on his skin, teeth imprinting and mouth relentless.

Gabriel gasps in his shoulder, his own teeth scraping the skin there, no doubt wanting to mark Sam in the same way, but still refraining from doing so.

He lets his head fall back, not quite touching Gabriel’s shoulder, and Gabriel licks the wet path from near his ear to the corner of his eye. He kisses his temple, the softness of it in contrast to his relentless fingers and Lucifer’s mouth.

“We got you, Sam,” he repeats into his cheek. “We got you, don’t worry.”

“Please, please, Gabriel!”

They both know what Sam’s asking for, made even more evident when he pushes back slightly (Lucifer’s hands tightening automatically on his hips) and grazing Gabriel’s hardness. His own hips snap forward to meet the inviting valley between his ass cheeks.

“Lucifer.”

“Go ahead,” he says, gravel voice making Sam moan, before he returns to his mark on Sam’s thigh.

In the blink of an eye, Gabriel’s full length presses between his buttocks, a line of velvety fire that shoots his arousal to the stars and he’d like nothing more than to have Gabriel fuck him right then and there. But that’s not what Gabriel has in mind, because one of his hands disappears behind his back and Sam doesn’t understand why until his length returns on his ass, oily.

“I’m gonna use your ass to chase my own pleasure,” Gabriel murmurs directly in his ear. “Show you the way I’d like to fuck you.”

Sam moans, hips half-thrusting back and Gabriel chuckles, before clamping his hands over Lucifer’s to tilt his hips up a bit. Lucifer growls in protest when it dislodges him, but he returns to it a moment later. Already, he’s not feeling that area except the impression of Lucifer’s teeth and his tongue; he’s gonna have the mother of all marks tomorrow.

Gabriel thrusts up, and Sam’s cheeks squeeze the friction between Gabriel’s dick, the oiled string and his ass harrowing in its intensity. If he’d have had his eyes open, right now they’d be somewhere at the back of his head — not that that’s not the case even with them closed and the stars imploding and exploding on the inside of his eyelids.

“Holy fuck!

He can’t help himself; it’s beyond him. Gabriel’s thrusts becomes faster and more desperate in no time, small sounds pushed out from his throat and he hears Lucifer’s responding ones.

The pleasure builds in them, and even though they said they won’t use their magick to amplify the sensations, they can’t quite shut down the innate connection they have. Sam receives feedback from both of them, and he’s crying again from being denied his release when their minds are painted with graphic images of him bound and completely at their mercy.

Gabriel doesn’t last, probably because it’s been building in him for some time now, and a shallow thrust later he’s spilling himself all over Sam’s back, hips stuttering and Lucifer bites down (he’s sure he drew blood; there’s no way he didn’t), finding his release just as quickly.

Gabriel chuckles moments later, chin propped on Sam’s shoulder.

“You creamed your pants like a teenage boy,” Gabriel teases, and Sam’s too high on endorphins to heed their first command anymore. “At least I had a half mind to magick mine away and avoid the mess.”

Lucifer peers up at them and he looks like a cat who got wet even though he did everything in his power to avoid it. Sam joins Gabriel’s chuckles and Lucifer sighs, conceding Gabriel’s point and snapping his fingers to make it go away.

He doesn’t as much stand up as he glides sinuously along Sam’s naked body (Too many layers. Off! he sends, words half-formed, drunk on watching Lucifer come up and the smirk that curves his lips before) kissing a hot and wet trail across his stomach, up on his torso, stopping to tongue one of his nipples, licking his collarbone and then, finally, reaching his chapped lips.

He devours Sam.

And Sam’s knees buckle under him, still weak from the multiple sensory input and the orgasms he still didn’t have; Gabriel catches him easily, mindful of the mess on his back — the mess that’s slowly sliding down onto his buttocks, over the strings of the harness, into the crack of his ass.

Just when he’s about to tell Lucifer that he needs air, if they don’t want him to pass out, Lucifer changes places with Gabriel. He looks down at a kneeling Gabriel, shirt gone and cock lying half-hard in the opening of his trousers.

“Oh, Sam.”

There’s reverence in the croak of his voice as he stares at the mouth-shaped mark on his thigh. When Sam’s eyes focus on it, he takes in the purple-bluish look it has, blood slowly oozing from a few points where Lucifer’s sharp teeth broke the skin. He swears under his breath when Gabriel’s fingers touch the edges of it, thigh spasming away from them.

“I’m sorry,” Lucifer says near his head. “I went overboard there. I’ll heal—“

“No!” Gabriel’s gaze darts up at the sharpness in Sam’s tone. “I mean, yeah, you need to clean it so that it won’t get infected, but— uh, I want to… keep it. Let it heal naturally.”

It’s only Gabriel that Sam can look at, so he’s not sure if the surprise on his face is mirrored by Lucifer, but he feels Lucifer’s body going stock still at his back and then a rush of delightlovepossessiveness suffuses his mind and body and he sags against Lucifer, head resting on his shoulder.

“I love you, Sam,” Lucifer murmurs into his jaw, teeth and tongue and lips. “I love you so much you can’t—“

“I actually can, y’know,” Sam drawls with a lazy smile.

Lucifer bites the skin on his cheekbone and Sam chuckles weakly.

“I thought that Gabriel was the one with the oral fixation. Not that I complain.”

Gabriel snorts, warm rush of air brushing Sam’s mark. He’s almost speaking into his skin, that close he is.

“Don’t underestimate Lucifer’s oral fixation. Between me an’ him, he’s the one that’s more bite-y and lick-y when he lets go. I have more of a — sucking fixation.”

Sam would laugh at that (Lucifer even sends a shock through their connection that makes Gabriel yelp and throw him a heated glare), but he’s starting to lose sensitivity in his arms even with their magick keeping him warm and fuzzy. He doesn’t get to voice the thought, though, because they return their attention to him just as quickly as they got side-tracked.

“Just a bit more, love,” Gabriel says, hand squeezing his thigh in reassurance. “Then we promise we’ll take care of you.”

The moment Lucifer touches his back it’s like a jolt of electricity pulls his body taut. They both freeze.

“Are you okay, Sam?” Lucifer asks from where he’s kneeling behind him.

“Y-yeah.” He exhales, scrambling to get his bearings. “I didn’t expect that.”

Gabriel peers up at him, suspicious. Then Lucifer licks another stripe of come and the ends where the wooden arc meet squeak in protest as Sam squeezes them together. His cock throbs in its restraint and a shuddering exhale is forced out, eyes meeting Gabriel.

A lopsided grin. “Somebody’s back is quite sensitive, hm?”

“I had no idea.” It sounds like an apology.

“Well, the more we know,” Gabriel quips, too delighted for his own good.

“The crazier we can drive you,” Lucifer says, entirely too pleased with himself.

He follows his words by licking a longer stripe on his back and Sam whimpers as both brothers keep his hips in place. Add to that Gabriel’s soft prodding and kissing on the outer regions of the mark and he’s about two seconds away from exploding from all the pent-up frustration.

God,” he gasps, head thrown back and lower lip quivering. “Please — just, let me come. I beg you!”

“He begs so nicely,” Lucifer quips, with a nonchalance that Sam hates right now.

“Best idea we ever had!”

“Next time I wanna see you two making jokes with this infernal thing chocking your dick!”

“Oh, he still has fight in him,” Gabriel chuckles. “Did you fall asleep, Luci?”

Lucifer growls in response and then latches his lips onto his tail bone and sucks at the same time as he magicks away the harness. Sam shouts and comes untouched, stripes of it falling onto Gabriel’s shoulder. He doesn’t have time to grin and scoop some into his mouth because Lucifer sends him a half-warning before he makes the arc disappear and Sam falls limp into their arms, muscles still spasming from the exertion and violent orgasm.

When Sam comes to, it’s the sound of water that alerts him of his surroundings, followed shortly after by the warmth and the familiar smell of bath oils. He’s cradled safely between his Maats, the hands that are not keeping his body afloat running aimlessly over his front.

“Welcome back, gorgeous.” Gabriel’s smile bleeds into his words, kissing his wet temple.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” he slurs.

He peers his eyes open to be greeted by two besotted expressions. They help him up into the water and he pulls Lucifer in for a kiss, which he relinquishes more than happy. Gabriel’s caresses migrate on his back, down where they now know how sensitive he is and a shudder wrecks Sam’s body, moaning into the kiss when his waking dick brushes over Lucifer’s stomach and his own half-hard length.

How was the scene? Gabriel asks, lips too busy kissing his shoulder and neck, Sam’s hand coming up into his hair.

Mm, much better than I expected.

Repeat?

The hopeful note makes Sam huff through his nose, moaning when Lucifer tilts his head to better explore Sam’s mouth.

Definitely. I’d also like to try and see if I can dominate you two.

A bit hard to accomplish, Lucifer sends. You’d need to give both of us your undivided attention at the same time. And I don’t think that either one of us will settle for a shadow of yourself.

Agreed! I want my mate to physically touch me. The wave of possessiveness Gabriel sends through their connection has both Sam and Lucifer gasp into their lazy kiss. When we do that kind of scene, it works better if we stimulate the one submitting through touch and depriving him of his other senses rather than magick to amplify the sensations. More fun that way.

Look at you being an expert on the subject, Lucifer teases.

Because I am. Been sitting on one too many scenes in the following centuries. A lot of them were a wreck and ended up with the one dominating chasing their pleasure rather than giving it to their submissive and taking care of them afterwards. So I know enough about what can go wrong to help us avoid it.

So you weren’t actually minding the perimeter of the castle.

A pause.

Not always? But I did see some scenes that were educational. So I have a lot of pointers to offer for our future sexcapades. Ones involving outdoors activities, kitchen dishevelment, bedroom remodeling—

He’s interrupted by Lucifer and Sam’s chuckles because Gabriel sounds so much like a schoolboy who’s eager to cover a mistake with something silly that it’s hard for them not to find it amusing. He pouts, but Sam kisses him, so he forgets about it easily.

How was the scene from your side?

Perfect.

That’s not helpful, Gabriel. I want to know if you worked out whatever frustrations you two had.

They look at each other, another old married couple exchange of unspoken words.

Yes, we did, Lucifer says, meeting Sam’s inquisitive stare. “As Gabriel told you, we work better together if you are the goal.”

“The same way you linked our magick back on the battlefield, the same you do with us.”

“You’re able to connect two extremes and withstand our powers easily.”

“Perfection doesn’t come anywhere near describing how you look into our eyes.”

The honesty of their words is painted all over their facesand it’s a bit too much for Sam to manage not to squirm a little and avert his eyes. A faint flush creeps into his cheeks and it’s not entirely due to the temperature of the water.

Gabriel chuckles into the side of his face and Lucifer kisses his temple with an amused smile of his own.

Later, when they’re dry and comfortable on their too sumptuous and luscious bed with sinful pillows and touch-obsessed lovers — not that Sam’s not a touch-starved person — Sam believes that his life couldn’t have turned out for the better if he prayed for it. Though, as in any blissful situation, a nagging detail keeps intruding in his bubble of happiness while he watches the brothers take off each other’s expensive clothes and helping each other into their respective sleepwear — as per Sam’s request.

No harm in having a bit of a voyeuristic tendency.

“Next time,” Sam grouches, lips pressed together into a pout. “If I don’t get to come you don’t get to either. That was hardly fair.”

It startles a warm laugh from the brothers, caught mid-exploring each other’s naked torsos (a bonus for Sam’s pleasure, obviously) and they topple Sam backwards in a tangle of limbs, soft kisses, and adoring chuckles.

 

 

III. The Empress

The Empress often represents a sense of contentment, and pleasure in what you have, particularly in terms of family and home life.

 

It takes the Empress a glance at the approaching men to know who they are.

“A Soothsayer, a Wiccan and a Klaver. What an unusual trio shadowing my marble floor.”

The trio kneels in unison, Lucifer’s left hand touching the marble floor and manipulating all tree shadows to rise into a mirage of black flames, burning white at the edges. In no time they morph into a ten feet burning symbol containing a prowling wolf along a sprawled lion and the symbol of the Hunters between them.

“The first and last bearer of the Morningstar symbol and name, along with my Gefera and Sawol, Gabriel—“

The Empress’ eyes light up, a shadow of a smile playing in the corners of her pale pink lips.

“Why is he both a traveling companion and a Sawol to you?”

It’s Gabriel who takes the word, not being one who easily lets other people talk for him or in his name.

“I am Lucifer’s brother and the bearer of the Black Clover mark. He chose to give me his soul when Emperor Death took my life, three-hundred lunar cycles ago, thus making me his Sawol.”

“A Klaver housing two souls.” Her gaze scrutinizes Gabriel. “Isn’t it strenuous on your body?”

Gabriel lifts his head, features set into a neutral mask.

“Not anymore. His soul is back in its original Vessel. But when it did become too much to bear, I took my other form. I’m a Changeling, Your Imperial Majesty.”

The Empress’ eyes twinkle with barely-restrained mirth.

“And a jester.”

“That is one of my lesser known noble titles, but I thank thee for making it known to your Court. I shall sing and shout your name and virtues to all known corners of your Imperium — and those less known.”

That pulls out a soft chuckle from the Empress and an unbidden grin from Gabriel. Sam watches how an unusual connection forms between their Protector and his Chosen. He glances once again at Lucifer’s pearl-white tie, recalling how he almost let Lucifer take him right there and then as he struggled to tie the damn fabric in the shape he so loves.

Gabriel went for the obnoxious purple one that has magenta patterns in it, and he was more handsy than Lucifer, which prompted Sam to restrain his hands using his magick so that he could do the tie and not be late. Cue the downpour of dirty words and fire shots of even dirtier images in his mind. By the time he got around to primp Gabriel up the way he liked it, he had to send Gabriel away from the room and take a few moments to get himself (and his erection) under control.

They offered a tie for him, too, but he declined; he likes to look at them around his lovers’ necks, not wear them, thus the open V in his shirt.

Not that they didn’t taunt him in their carriage, as a sort of punishment for him denying them, with the most creative ideas and images that had him in all sorts of — interesting positions. Repeatedly. But it wasn’t the opening in his shirt — entirely. He’s sure that if he were dressed like a monk they would’ve behaved the same. Maybe actually getting him rid of the robes and saying to hell with the visit.

“What about him?” She indicates Sam, clever eyes piercing through his very being.

“He is our Chosen Maat, Sam, born Samuel of Clan Winchester,” speaks Lucifer, head still bowed.

The mirth expands in her eyes at the name. “Clan Winchester, you are full of surprises and, dare I say, lucky beyond the stars.”

Sam, her voice reverberates in his mind, the letters ricocheting around. Is the Choosing consensual?

Such direct, unusual question. Sam lifts his gaze and meets the Empress’ shadowy eyes.

“Yes, I chose them as my mates as much as they chose me,” he says aloud, eliciting his mates’ attention.

With a manly yelp, though, Balthazar stumbles back, heel catching on the dais and falling square on his ass near the white throne, the moment the creature steps inside the grand hall. The look of horror on his face is genuine, mirrored by all the present except the Empress and the men who brought it there.

“What — what’s a kelpie doing here?”

The Empress’ eyes sparkle at the sight, a positive gleeful expression befalling her aristocratic features, leaning forward in her white throne almost as if she’s sitting on the edge of it, ready to pounce.

“That is no kelpie, Balthazar. The last of those treacherous water horses have permanently moved shop to the Underworld for more than half a millenium. Death made sure of it. This is— Lucifer,” she says, slow and calculating, even as her eyes do not leave the creature. “Is that— unicorn yours?”

A shiver runs through the court officials and Balthazar gawks. His shock when he stares at Lucifer is worth immortalizing, if Sam wasn’t so keen on damping his grin from taking over his face. Why yes, they have a unicorn. How mind-numbing is that?

The smile curls softly around the corners of Lucifer’s mouth, savoring the expectant pause.

“It is, your Highness.”

Her gaze flickers towards Lucifer before returning to the magnificent creature. An honest to god unicorn clicks his feet against the white marble, red, feathery mane and an azure tail with a few white spots moving around as if caught in water. The biggest spiraling horn protrudes from his forehead, bluer than his tail and hooves. It’s a wonder his small body can withstand those proportions, but despite his petite frame, he looks sturdy enough to drive through the hall’s thick, stone walls and emerge on the other side unscathed.

“And I don’t suppose you were keeping him around in your basement to look at when you were particularly displeased.”

The smile takes an edge to it. “No. This is Keldeo, the last of his kind and—“

“The Swords of Justice,” the words leave the Empress in a rush, almost a whisper.

Keldeo huffs and puffs his chest and his voice, young but firm, trails into their minds like a soft ripple on a lake.

That is correct. I am the last of my kind. The Swords of Justice were my family, and I loved them beyond any and all boundaries. Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion died in a battle against the Legendaries, beasts your folk songs remember as Raikou, the lighning that struck the Elder Tree, Entei, the flame that ignited afterwards, and Suicune, the rains that quenched the fire. You lost three of the most powerful and just Mythicals, and I lost my most beloved partners that day.

Sam watches Keldeo’s blue eyes glisten at the last words and his gaze catches on the three locks of feathery mane colored in three different shades: blue, orange and green.

The folk tales speak of a love to have surpassed centuries and centuries of wars and innocent blood spilled. They remember a young unicorn who lived by beautiful waterfalls and jumped on water surfaces lightning-fast and spry. They also tell another story, one that Keldeo summarized as dispassionately as he could, but what he failed to say stands stark and undisputed in Sam’s mind: Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion fought the Legendaries not because they were evil creatures, but because Keldeo angered them with his youthful impatience and thoughtlessness.

They protected their beloved and most precious companion because their love for him had been so great that they would’ve done anything to not lose Keldeo.

Even lay down their own lives. So the three locks appeared after their death, borne from remembrance, longing, and regret alike.

The hall is enraptured with Keldeo’s melodic voice, soothing their nerves and touching inner, sensible cords that they did not know existed. It is one thing to hear the tales or the songs from people who heard them from other people and so on; quite another thing to hear it from the very creature whose story helped enrich humanity’s imagination and warm their hearts.

But these folk tales have another function, and that is to explain the reason why their race died after only a couple of centuries. Why, baring this battle between Legendaries and Mythicals, unicorns of all kinds slowly ceased to exist. And it’s all there, in what Keldeo doesn’t say.

“Where did you find him?” asks the Empress, when Keldeo gives them no further information or any of his attention, busy eating the honey one of the serfs placed in front of him. “They were exterminated four thousand years ago.”

“Let’s consider this war spoils, your Highness,” Gabriel intervenes with a wry smile.

“On the contrary, Gabriel, I’d like to know the place where you found him and how come he’s so— docile, standing there as if I personally invited him in.”

“The Coven,” Sam says. “We rescued him from the Coven.”

A pale eyebrow inches upwards. “One of the Coven under my jurisdiction was keeping a Mythical without my knowledge?”

The words are soft spoken, but they carry along the walls like blocks of ice, weighing down on every head in the room.

“They were—“ the wince Gabriel sports does not escape the Empress. “feeding on his magick.”

The sparkling eyes turn into dark, dangerous things, the light in the room sucked into a void so black that some of the present attendees simply faint. The unicorn just shakes his mane, not bothering to lift his muzzle for more than a few inches to dispel the darkness surrounding him.

“Balthazar,” she says, still soft. “I feel compelled to order you to reverse the time. What do you suggest?”

Balthazar needs a few tries to get his voice to work, his eyes never leaving the unicorn.

“You’d have to get Crowley’s permission, since my magick is bound to him.”

The Empress sighs, letting up the oppressive force of her otherwise calm and balanced nature.

“If Crowley weren’t a hassle to handle on the best of days and that kind of magick wouldn’t wring you dry and leave you bedridden for a week, I’d make you do it, just to have the satisfaction of wiping out that Coven myself.” She turns towards the three visitors. “Nevertheless, I still fail to see the reason why you brought Keldeo here.”

“We are making our amends, where they are due,” Lucifer says.

“Amends. Do I need to worry about something more than a non-existent Coven in our registers?”

“We asked Death for his help and he allowed us a glimpse of the Book of the Dead.”

Narrowing her eyes, the Empress says, “yes, Keldeo stays here. Next time, however, you will seek audience with me first and foremost, no matter how dire the situation. Are we understood?”

“Yes, your Highness.”

“Good.” She inclines her head, gaze straying towards Keldeo. “Now, get out of my throne room before I toss you out on your asses.”

They nod their assent and get up as one, striding towards the grand crystal doors. But Sam stops right next to Keldeo and he lifts his head, meeting Sam’s kind eyes.

“You will be all right,” Sam murmurs. “You’ll be cared for here. The Empress won’t let any harm come to you.”

I will take your word for it, soðsagu. You, on the other hand, must take care of your companions, as they are prone to reckless behavior when one of you is involved.

His eyes brim with understanding and knowledge that Sam will probably never even grasp.

He inclines his head. “Will do.”

Keldeo bows his own head in a regal display befitting of only these magical creatures. It robs Sam of his breath, the magnitude and importance of such a gesture, and it takes every ounce of self-control and the steady presence of his Chosen through their connection not to leap at Keldeo’s throat and hug the living daylights out of him. He’d like nothing more than to take him home and care for him for the rest of their lives, show him that the world can be kind and forgiving, but he refrains, trusting the Empress to show him just that.

He looks behind Keldeo at his mates and twin adoring expressions beckon him to return home.

And he does with a mirroring smile of his own.