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Always By Your Side

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Lucifer Sam
By Pink Floyd

 

Lucifer Sam, siam cat
Always sitting by your side
Always by your side

That cat’s something I can’t explain

Jennifer Gentle, you’re a witch
You’re the left side, he’s the right side
Oh, no!

That cat’s something I can’t explain

Lucifer, go to sea
Be a hip cat, be a ship’s cat
Somewhere, anywhere

That cat’s something I can’t explain

At night prowling, sifting sand
Hiding around on the ground
He’ll be found when you’re around

That cat’s something I can’t explain

 

It's midday in Bobby's junkyard and Sam is sprawled across the hood of a rusted out shell of a car, working on trying to slow down his breathing.

He’d escaped to the yard in search of the sun, mostly, and had found it, mostly. Right now, it’s beating down on his forehead, and heating up the corroded chrome underneath his back, creating a circuit of heat that wraps around him, causing beads of sweat to break out along his hairline, along the back of his neck.

No matter how hot the chrome gets it gets, it still doesn’t penetrate anywhere deep enough to manage the cold inside of him. He wakes up at night these days, filled with this absurd, evangelical certainty that all of his red blood cells are currently freezing inside of his veins, black and cracked and rotten, and it’s only a matter of time before the icy rot reaches his heart. If it hasn’t already.

 

Dean has been watching him all day.

Scratch that.

Dean has been watching him since the moment he’d woken up with his soul, with a weary expression that said he was already mentally rolling up his sleeves, bracing himself for the task of putting Sam back together again, when he inevitably falls to pieces. It’s not like he blames Dean for that. Hell, he can’t say he actually trusts himself any more than Dean does, all things considered. But there is a not so tiny, traitorous part of Sam who resents his older brother for not even trying to pretend otherwise, for not bothering with a pretext that things were going to get back to normal.

These days, Dean watches him like Sam is a stranger. Like a civilian who Dean can’t quite read, with a threshold for the supernatural violence of their daily life that is as yet undetermined, but which could be breached at any moment.

Its oppressive, living with Dean’s concern, and with his complete and utter lack of trust. It’s just easier to catch your breath out here, when you’re alone. It helps to imagine, even for a minute, like breaking doesn’t have to be an inevitability.

Sam breathes, still and regular and uninterrupted. It feels indescribably precious this time to himself. He hates himself, just a little, for how much he doesn’t want to ever leave this spot, to go back to his brother and the latest world ending horror.

He shifts positions a little, angling his face further up to the sun. He thinks that he’s starting to remember the outlines of what it had felt like to be warm.

Feeling cold there, bunk buddy? You know, I might have a few suggestions for how we can deal with that.

The leer in Lucifer’s voice is unmistakable.

Sam starts violently, sitting up and pulling his legs in protectively. Then he shuts his eyes -as if that would make some kind of difference to a hallucination - and waits obediently for whatever comes next.

He can't not wait.

Disobedience is a forgotten concept, like uninterrupted sleep, like room temperature, but then again, none of that is anything he wants to think too hard about just now.

There is an icy puff of air as Lucifer leans in tight and silent, and just kind of breaths for a moment against his neckline, invasive and chilling and close.

Sam tries to do is own breathing, in and out, nice and slowly and focusing on the physical sense of sun in the sky above him.

Except the sun feels distant of a sudden. A little colder and farther away. And really, how does that happen, from one moment to the next?

“You know, I never really thought about it, but the sun is awfully fickle, isn’t it?” the Devil says contemplatively from behind him. (Nick is crunching down on something, could be an apple core, could be a phalange.) “Leaving you all alone once a day, and then in the winter, even when it’s technically there, it’s barely doing anything at all. Is it any wonder, that it was during that first dark winter when, terror struck with the idea that the sun would never truly return to them, human beings first truly acknowledged the existence of my father? And then, what do you know, my father left them too! It’s actually a wonder more of you humans aren’t in therapy after all of that. Abandonment issues, attachment disorder, and all that jazz.”

Lucifer stretches indolently, curling up his body close to Sam’s. The stretch and slide of Nick’s muscles across the chrome hood sounds unsettling loud, feels unnervingly real. In spite of himself, he starts to tentatively turn his head, ready to face the hallucination head on.

In return for his troubles, he gets a long rough lick on his hand. “You don’t have to worry about me Sam,” Lucifer drawls contentedly. “I’ll always be right here, one way or the other.”

Shamefully, Sam loses his nerve. Instead, of turning around, he focuses on knees and finds his bandaged hand, digging in with his nails hard enough to feel it, waiting for the world to reassert itself.

Nothing in particular happens for a moment, except that it gradually occurs to him that he can hear a motor somewhere, slow and steady. The Impala? Dean coming back from a supply run into town?

No, wait. Sam should know this, Dean is inside with Bobby, fruitlessly looking up Leviathan lore, to avoid fruitlessly angsting over his brother and anyway, the sound is far too quiet and close. A little less mechanical than what he had thought at first.

Sam finally mans up and twists around. Right behind him is a large, indolent Siamese cat curled in a sunbeam. Blue eyes blink up at him as the cat continues to purr comfortably. A little baffled, Sam lifts a careful hand and allows it to sniff him. The cat does so easily and then inclines his head elegantly as if giving Sam permission to pay homage with a scratch.

It's his first real smile in a while, at least since he woke up the second time, with Hell in his head. Unfamiliar muscles across his face get stretched. The cat moves in closer and Sam runs his fingers over thin blond fur.

Better not let Bobby’s dogs find you out here, he advises the cat. It blinks and cocks its head, like it has heard him and is seriously considering the matter, but it stays right where it is, leaning into Sam just a little more.

 

In the end, Dean comes out to find him on foot, with no dogs at his heels, to call Sam in for dinner.

Dean snickers comfortably when he finds Sam and the cat curled up together. On Dean Winchester’s scale of personal displays of affection towards his mentally fragile brother, a snicker is a show of relief. It means Sam isn’t a drooling heap on the floor, yet.

“Making friends there, Sammy?”

In lieu of an answer, the cat meows irritatedly in Dean’s direction, as if reprimanding Dean for breaking up the moment. Sam smirks.

“Can we keep him? I'll name him Robert Plant. I can already tell that he’ll be a better singer than his namesake.”

“Watch it,” Dean glares, but that’s all he does. Even Dean’s comebacks are tempered now. Sam’s desperate for a well timed insult to his masculinity, but that apparently is a thing of the past.

Dean offers Sam a hand up from the car which again, is unsettlingly out of character. Before he can take it though, there is an angry hiss, and Dean's hand is jerking back, an angry red line across his wrist.

The cat is bristling possessively in front of Sam, and suddenly Sam can’t help but laugh, full and long at the total absurdity of the moment. Dean just looks between him and the cat, looking slightly unnerved.
-----

They spend the next few days not making any particular headway on the Leviathans. (“Look,” Bobby had said pacifyingly, “something will come up. It always does.” Sam had sat in the corner and silently watched as his brother fought a losing battle against his need to hit something, anything. Dean swears he’ll build Bobby a new bookshelf, and a better one, but is it really any wonder that he finds them a hunt, less than 24 hours later?) So they pull out of Bobby's, headed east towards coastal Maine and a possible water monster.

Honestly, Sam is good, better than he’s been in days. He’s thrown himself into research for the case, more than happy to occupy his time on a project that doesn't have to do with understanding the depths of his own, screwed up head. Despite Dean’s recent propensity for trying to wrap him in soft cotton, the truth is that Sam has always been better handling his shit when he has a job to focus on. So, Lucifer is just going to have to take a seat for a little while. He’s good. If he shivers a little too violently for the middle of summer, doubling up on the flannel helps a lot. And if the very concept of meat, especially pork, makes him stomach churningly nauseous, well that’s something he can learn to live with. It’s nothing anyone else needs to know about.

They move eastwards, leaving Sioux Falls at the crack of dawn, since neither of them are getting much sleep these days anyway. Pretty quickly, Sam falls into a fitful sleep against the passenger window, lulled by the noise of the engine.

In sleep, the Impala rearranges itself, becoming a shiny black motor boat on a stormy night sea. Sam is watching the waves break and crest against the horizon line. Someone has their arms wrapped around him, disconcertingly, intimately close.

He knows without looking, knows on a skin crawling, cellular level, who is standing there with him, holding him steady every-time he starts to lose his footing and slide uncontrolled around the deck.

“Oh Sammy,” Lucifer sighs in his ear, hooking his chin over Sam’s shoulder. “I miss us.”

One broad hand snakes up to brush gently through his hair, and the gesture is so, so Dean like, that it brings him to his senses, so to speak, enraging and terrifying him enough so that he bites down on his lip, and then bites down harder as the sea flickers around him.

“Going so soon?” the water whispers in Lucifer’s voice, black and rough with watery tongues. “We just got started.” The waves get choppier, rocking the little boat into ferocious angles. The boat engine growls underneath, and he is falling ludicrously backwards into Lucifer’s arms, as they ride towards the crest. Lucifer’s hand has moved to his shoulder, claiming and possessive and clawing.

Sam moans in spite of himself as the wave starts to break and the boat angles terrifyingly, vertiginously downwards. He catches a brief glimpse of mirror dark water as Lucifer frantically shakes his shoulder.

 

The actual Impala and the little back road they are driving down reasserts itself with stomach churning speed. Without realizing it, Sam has grabbed Dean’s hand around the wrist from where it been reaching out to him, and he is twisting it hard, Dean is braking and swerving more than a little frantically, while shouting at Sam to just “snap out of it, would you?”

Sam drops Dean’s hand like it’s burning, and tries to calm his skittering breathing, while Dean evens out the car.

It was a nightmare. Par for the course, considering everything, and it’s not like Dean doesn’t have experience of his own with that. All things considered, Sam is good.

After a moment, when both of them have a fraction of their equilibrium back, Dean clears his throat.

“Dude.”

“No.” Sam says flatly, staring at the cornfields, undulating towards the horizon on both sides of the car.

“Hey.” Dean stops, and tries again, choosing his words carefully. “Look man, it’s not like I like talking about this stuff. But I think we might have to. Maybe...maybe with everything that’s going on, maybe a case isn’t such a good idea right now?”

Dean says it gently enough, but the rage that builds in Sam comes on with unsettling swiftness. Two hundred years in hell, and Sam’s big brother still has no faith in him not to absolutely mess things up.

“I am handling it” he grits out, nostrils flaring and throat clogged with everything else he would like to say to his brother.

“I dunno, Sammy. Are you?” Dean raises a single eyebrow, questioningly, and the combination of serene innocence and honest concern in his expression makes Sam’s gives a little irritated flutter of recognition. It’s like he’s 13 again, and had just face planted in front of the landlord’s cute daughter, because his suave older brother had somehow managed to tie his shoelaces together without Sam noticing. Dean had sprung to the rescue then, playing the concerned big brother for his female audience, and clucking at Sam’s awkwardness with an affected solicitousness. And Sam had been forced to just sit there on the ground with his bruised palms, grinding his teeth and far too keenly aware that any attempt to point out the actual truth would come out sounding more like a immature whine from an adolescent kid with wounded pride.

“Because you barely sleep, and when you do it’s nightmares. You’re seeing stuff that’s not there. It’s not your fault, Sam. But it’s a lot to be dealing with and no one would blame you if you felt like you needed to ease back into things a little bit, least of all me.” Dean says all of that with so much feeling in his voice, like he’s been practicing it for ages, that Sam can’t help softening fractionally at the clear worry in his voice.

Why is it again, that he’s somehow never permitted to be annoyed with Dean? Somehow Dean is always the martyr, and Sam always, always ends up feeling peevish and young

“Sammy,” Dean says, picking his own words with an enraging long suffering carefulness. “It’s not that I don’t want to trust you. It’s just that it’s all still so recent. And Lucifer’s there in your noggin, and I don’t know how you even begin to cope with that, when I can barely-”

“Lucifer is not here now, Dean. It’s the two of us, and I’m getting a little sick of-”

There is a brief engine sputter. Then, Dean stalls out halfway, right there in the middle of the road.
They both sit there for a moment, both a little startled, both taking in their surroundings. There is nothing-no hint of danger or obstacles-nothing but flat country off to the horizon line.
It’s Sam’s turn to raise his eyebrows at his brother, but Dean cuts him off at the pass.
"Don't Sam...."
He tries one more time to open his mouth, but Dean is serious.
"No. Whatever you could possibly say Sam, I don't want to hear it. The Impala just doesn't stall. It just...it's doesn't. Not on its own.
Dean stalks around to the front and lifts the hood. His eyes widen and he curses fluently. After a second, Sam gets out to join him, more than a little curious in spite of himself.
From the dark of the engine compartment, two unsettlingly blue eyes blink up at him expectantly.
It takes Sam a moment to recognize the cat from Bobby’s junkyard. Despite his threats to Dean about bringing it on the road with them, he’s completely forgotten about it.
"There is a cat, Sam. In my car." Dean is trying like hell to maintain his dignity, and not sound like an affronted five-year-old. Sam’s suddenly having trouble remembering that he’s supposed to be mad at him, and is instead finds himself fighting back the beginnings of a grin.
“Alright,” Dean says. “come on. Get out of here."
He reaches a hand in, and gets hissed and swiped at or his efforts. The cat backs further into the compartment it's been hiding in.
"Jesus, Dean." Sam can feel his grin transmuting to a sibling category 5 smirk, as Dean moves back half a step. “Scared much?”
He leans forward and sticks a more tentative hand inside. Immediately, the cat comes to Sam, like they're long lost friends, who have been reunited after a heartless separation, sniffing comfortably, and then eventually jumping out onto the ground with an elegant, full body gesture that shows that this was exactly what it had meant to do all along, and wasn’t it lucky that Sam and Dean’s plans just happened to sync up with their own?
Sam squats to pet it, unaccountably fascinated by the way it rubs and weaves around him, purring and claiming him. It takes him a second to realize that Dean has gone silent, watching them.
“Dean,” Sam says, getting uncomfortable under the weight of his brother’s stare. Then he notices something. “Hey, I think it's sick.”
Dean grunts.
"It's cold," Sam continues. "I don't, I mean I don't think cats are supposed to be this cold." If anything Dean looks even more worried by that.
"Sam..."
"Yeah?"
"that cat was stuck next an engine for couple of hundred miles. It's damned lucky, actually a miracle, that it wasn't flambéed."
"And you're saying, after all of that, it's problem is that it's too cold?"

in the end, the cat comes with them. Sam is dead set against abandoning him in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, with no sign of civilization in any direction, not when they had no idea if the cat was used to hunting for its dinner, and when something might be physically wrong with it. Dean reluctantly agrees to take it as far as the nearest town with an animal shelter, but only on the proviso he can test it with silver (a chain link pressed close along one paw) and a holy water (a drop or two flicked into that pointed, oddly human face). The cat handles it all with a testy expression of wounded dignity, but it passes with flying colors.

Dean finally gets the engine to turn over again. Then he sulkily opens the door to the back seat with a look that says this is, un-categorically, the lowest he has ever sunk, that they were never to talk about this again and that Sam would be completely responsible for picking each and every single cat hair out of the upholstery. The cat, who has been dozing on Sam’s lap as Dean works on getting the engine going again, perks its head up curiously. Sensing the opportunity, it jumps elegantly into the backseat of the Impala, inspecting the interior with evident fascination, before curling up and continuing with its nap.

They get back on the road again. They’ve already wasted an hour or so on their unscheduled stop, and Dean for some unexplained reason, has set them a deadline of getting across the Wisconsin border before dinner time, so Dean turns on Guns n Roses and floors it for a little while.

Sam’s in a bit of a reverie, staring blindly at the passing cornfields when he’s startled by a soft thump, as the cat jumps from the backseat into the front bench.
“Oh no you don’t” Dean says. “There are limits to my hospitality, and they extend exactly as far as the back seat.” The cat sniffs the dashboard, totally unperturbed. “Go on,” Dean reaches a hand to nudge the cat away. The cat hisses. The sound is feral, unsettling enough to make Dean’s hand pause in mid-air.
“You know Dean, I don’t think he likes you very much,” Sam observes dryly, fighting down another grin.
“This funny to you, Sammy?”
“Hilarious.”
A few years ago, Dean would have said something like, “Get your furry friend back where he belongs, before I dump both of you by the side of the road. Make you hitchhike to Maine. See how funny you find that.” He might even have actually followed up on his threat; kicked Sam out of the car and make him walk for a few miles, letting Sam stew in frustration before driving back for him, giant, infectious grin plastered across his face. They would have gone out for beers later and Sam would have taken great pleasure in meticulously applying super glue to the labels of all of Dean’s beer bottles. And within a week, Dean would have charmed the cat into eating fillet of fish straight out of his hand.

What actually happens is that Dean gives him an inscrutable sidelong look, before shrugging and turning away. “Fine, then you’re in charge of him.”
Sam suddenly, ferociously misses his brother.
There are a few minutes of silence. On the tape deck, Styx is singing Mr. Roboto. Finally, Dean says, “and how do you know the cat is a he?”
Sam is startled. He’s not sure when he came to that conclusion, only that the cat’s character and personality has been steadily taking shape for him and that the unmistakable maleness of the animal is as clear as it’s yellow fur, and it’s oddly compelling ice blue eyes.
“I mean,” Dean slowly cuts his eyes carefully over to Sam, “There’s some strategically placed fur on that thing, so that means you must have checked right? Got up, like, all close and personal?” There is a smile threatening to break out across Dean’s face, and Sam knows he’s supposed to roll his eyes and act horrified at just how gross his brother is, so that’s what he does. But he also can’t help smiling a little.
Maybe it means his brother isn’t so far away after all.
The tape turns over and they drive on. Beside them the cat arranges himself with his head on Sam’s lap and goes right back to sleep. Sam falls back asleep not that long after.

 

Pink Floyd is playing when he wakes up, stiff and sore and unaccountably twitchy from dreams he can’t quite remember.

“There’s someone in my head but it is not me?” It’s Lucifer in the back seat, singing along with Roger Waters on the tape desk. Don’t you think that’s just a little bit on the nose there, Sammy?”
Sam blinks and digs into his palm hard, until Lucifer flickers out. They’ve apparently pulled over into the parking lot of at a highway rest stop. Based on the direction of the sun, it’s late in the afternoon, clear that Sam has been sleeping for a while now as Dean drove on through Iowa, but even Dean needs to take breaks eventually. He looks over, catches Dean studying him with a concerned expression, which Dean (badly) hides with a cough and an arm punch as soon as he realizes Sam is watching.

“Rise and Shine, Sammy. Time for you to get snacks, I’ll fill her up and meet you back here.” Sam obligingly opens his door, lets the rush of over heated air bounce off the pavement and into the car. The cat, who had been sleeping soundly between them, finally stirs grumpily. “I’ll be back,” Sam informs it. Blue eyes blink up solemnly and Sam runs a reassuring hand across it’s fur. It’s still disconcertingly cold, for having spent the better part of the day in an overheated car. He has never been exactly what you would call, good with animals, but he’s finding it strangely hard to leave it alone. The remnants of some prehistorical feline survival tactic, he supposes. Draw humans in with big eyes, and a deceptively delicate body, and what do you know, you’ve got yourself a caretaker for the rest of your natural life span.
“Shake a leg, Sam,” Dean says from the driver’s seat. “Fido is going to stay with me for a little bit.”
Sam shakes his head, as if to clear it, then closes the passenger door.
“Fido is a dog’s name,” he comments through the window.

“Do I look like I care?”

The gas station is a squat, dilapidated building, sitting in the shadow of the highway, that looks like it sees visitors maybe once in a year if it’s lucky.
Sam grabs a key from the sullen clerk with complicated piercings, and he heads around the back of the building in search of the restroom. It’s a unisex, grungy little room, opening directly onto the back alleyway, and exactly the same as every other rest room in every other gas station across the country, down to the unsettling scum of dirt and unidentifiable fluids that’s built up in corners. Sam’s reflection in the tiny, cracked mirror is exhausted, uncertain.
“Better watch out there Sam,” Lucifer comments dryly. He’s fiddling with the hand dryer, making the air come on and off as he slides his hand in and out beneath the spout. The noise is tremendous, a staccato roar of air that’s impossible to ignore. Which is exactly Lucifer’s point.
“You start to lose your looks, who will want you then? You know, you’ve never done so well on your own.” Sam ignores him and turns on the water.

Thick, viscous blood comes out of the tap. Sam shuts it off in a hurry and jumps back. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Lucifer lift a single eyebrow, but he mercifully keeps silent.
Sam fumbles hastily to open the door and nearly face plants over the cat, who is confusingly, not in the Impala, but sitting primly, just in front of the door, as if waiting for him.
“How did you get out of the car? “he asks the cat, who instantly stands up and begins weaving around his legs with apparent urgency. The cat pauses and meows sharply, a noise with so much concern in it that it catches Sam off guard.
“Winchester” says a voice from behind them.

Sam spins on his heel, just in time to see a Leviathan unhinge its jaw. He swallows, and take half a step back, feeling for the hunting knife in his boot. His fingers touch metal as the monster lunges. Sam feints, then jabs upwards, missing it by a mile. The Leviathan sneers at him.
Where the hell is Dean right now anyway?
Sam regroups, intending to dash past the monster, and make his way towards the car. He has barely taken a step, when there is a blur of movement, as a sandy shape dashes past him, perfectly timed to make him trip over his feet.

He falls humiliatingly back across the threshold and into the bathroom, arms flung wide onto on to the scummy restroom floor, landing painfully on his knees. The floor under his is wet with something foul. drops fly up and splash his shirt. The door bangs closed with finality.

Sam twists and scrambles around, grabbing the door handle and pulling, but the door is not opening any time soon. His phone is in the car, because, of course it is. Dean will give him hell for that.

Dean is out there and he has no idea what kind of danger he’s in right now.

Sam punches the wall, and all that earns him is a hurt hand.

What is going on out there?

He pauses, listening, and hears only silence.
The air is stale, rank.

Seconds pass, and is that his own breathing in his ears, rasping like sandpaper?
He shouts, once, twice, just for the hell of it.

Nothing happens.

“Seriously Sam, what are you going to do, even if you do get out there? It’s not like you actually know how to kill that thing,” Lucifer says helpfully from the corner. He’s squatting, pulling the wings off a struggling fly. “If it’s still out there, Dean is probably dead already. He would have never seen it coming, you know? So busy worrying about your One-Flew-Over-Cuckoo’s-Nest Ass, all that thing would have needed to do is walk up, and chomp.
Oh come on, don’t give me that face Sam, you’d like that better than the alternative I bet. Because, the alternative is that Dean just left you here and ran for it. You know, it would actually be the smart thing to do, for once in your brother’s life. Cut his losses, I think that’s the phrase? Dean’s human, after all. Would you blame him for putting himself first, just this once?”

Sam studies the room, assessing his options. The door is thick, but not impossibly so. He backs up a few steps, intending to try a running kick. Lucifer performs a drum roll.
“Let’s see what’s behind the velvet curtain, kids.”

This time, the door swings open easily and Sam stumbles through, feeling more than a little ridiculous.

He’s alone in the alley, no sign of the Leviathans, so he dashes back around front.

Dean had clearly been perched across the hood of the parked Impala, waiting for Sam, but he slides off now, looking seriously alarmed by Sam’s appearance.
“Hey, man you alright? Did you see it come this way?” Sam skids to a halt in front of his brother.

“See what?” Dean says carefully.
“The…Leviathan.” Sam finishes, feeling suddenly ridiculous.

“Wait, hang on, you saw a Big Mouth?” Dean’s whole body languages changes within an instant, hand dropping automatically to his gun, barely perceptible changes to his stance, gaze doing a sweep of their surroundings.

“Yeah, just outside the bathroom, I rushed it, but it locked me in there somehow, and fuck man, it knew who I was. I figured it would be coming after you next, and-”
Dean is staring at him. “Hey, hey Sam, stop for a second. Can you do that for a second and listen to me?”
Sam obediently quiets.

His brother is silent for a moment as well, uncharacteristically choosy about his words. His hand has fallen away from his gun holster. “Okay…Sam, I don’t how to say this, but listen to yourself dude. You happen to run into a Leviathan, totally randomly, outside a shit gas station in bumfuck nowhere, and instead of eating you it…locks you in the bathroom and then just disappears?”
Sam’s jaw tightens fractionally. “Dean, I know how it sounds, but I’m telling you I know what I saw.”

“Sammy, I get that, but I’m sorry dude, you’re not exactly the most reliable witness right now. More to the point though I’ve been sitting here for at least 10 minutes and haven’t seen anyone come around the corner until you Rambo’ed over here.”

The condescension he sees in his brother is breathtaking, because Sam knows, he knows the difference between his hallucinations and real life, right?
In his peripheral vision, Lucifer raises a quizzical eyebrow. Sam fingers the scar on his palm warningly. Lucifer pulls his expression into a comically large sulk.
Sam knows the difference, because otherwise, going on the road with Dean, going on a hunt with Dean and having his back, starts to sound like a breathtakingly stupid idea, and Sam is trying to be done with those.

“Sammy, you good?”
He looks backs over to where he came from. The walls are concrete, high, with no obvious outlet save the one.
Nowhere else for a monster on the hunt to go, save in the direction of his brother.

No, he had seen it. Somehow… somehow the Leviathan had disappeared. In which case, since they don’t actually know how to kill the damn things yet, isn’t it better that they count their blessings and hightail it out of there?
Yeah, Sam is good. He’s good. He’s fine.
“Because before we get back on the road again, how about you change your shirt? You’re covered in something that I ain’t interested in smelling all afternoon. I gotta ask, did your Leviathan put your head in the toilet too or something?”

“What? No,” Sam says absently, as he goes to the trunk for his duffel. It was the cat that tripped me.”
Dean stops. “What?”
“Dude, you already think I’m a nut job, do you really need to hear everything?”
“No, I’m serious Sam, what did you say about the cat?”
“It was like, waiting for me or something outside the bathroom. Got in between me and the Leviathan, got underfoot, and you are absolutely never going to let me live this down, but I tripped over it and I face planted. Look I know it’s ridiculous, but it saved my life. Where is it?”

Dean’s face is an interesting mixture of alarm and guilt. It’s a uniquely Dean kind of look. “It um, kind of got away from me.”
Sam closes the trunk and looks at his brother, hard. “What happened?”
Dean mumbles something.

“What?”
“I may have tried to run some more tests.”

 

Sam raises his eyebrows, dangerously. “Did it pass?”

“It clawed me and jumped through the window. Ran off towards the highway, before I could finish dabbing it with the holy oil.”

“Yeah no shit, genius. It’s a cat, they tend to do that when you mess with them too much.”

“Since when you are the cat expert anyway?” Dean is crossing his arms, clearly looking for some way to get off the defensive. Sam isn’t really interested in giving him an opening.
“Well somebody has to be, because you just let an animal loose near a major highway!”

“Sam, dude. You weren’t there. It wasn’t just a normal cat reaction. It was…something more than anger.”
Dean actually looks unnerved as he recalls it, which infuriates Sam. He’s not exactly sure where this intense protective rage started, but he feels a little high off it. “That’s weak Dean. Real weak. Because from where I’m sitting, it looks like the great Dean Winchester was outmatched by a fucking cat, and his ego can’t manage it.”
“Think, Sammy! If it’s just a “fucking cat,” why are you so attached to it again? Can you tell me that? It’s a stray that shows up out of the blue two days ago, and now all of a sudden you’ve gone full crazy cat lady over it? You don’t think that’s just a little bit weird?”

I think you’re obsessed, Dean. God forbid. I try to make friends with a stray. God forbid I show affection to someone or something outside of my family. Outside of my psychotically obsessed big brother.”
Dean pounds the hood of the Impala. Then he shuts his mouth abruptly, like he’s thought better of whatever it was he was about to say. Sam waits as Dean takes 3 deep breaths, before turning back to get into the driver’s seat. “Get in the goddamn car Sam. I want to make Milwaukee by nightfall. If that…cat, whatever it is, has followed you this far, it can manage Wisconsin.

The drive to Milwaukee is a strained experience. The car already feels empty, Sam notes sulkily, without a soft warm presence curled up on the bench next to him.
Dean won’t look him in the eyes the entire way, and Sam finds he doesn’t really care. In the backseat, Lucifer sings “Another Brick in the Wall,” for the 12th time, and Sam is seriously considering selling his soul just to get him to stop.
At the motel outside Milwaukee, Dean stalks off (predictably) to find a bar, and Sam tries to get some sleep.

 

 

Sam isn’t exactly sure what wakes him up at first. The illuminated clock by the bed says a quarter to 3 and the room is silent, save for the weather which is gathering force outside.

Then he hears it, a soft scratching sound at the door. Sam picks his way over in the dark, carefully unlatches the deadbolt, with his hand on the gun.

The cat is standing there, at a respectful distance from the doorway, while still keeping itself carefully under the motel awning, and out of the rain.

The cat takes a few deliberate steps out into the parking lot, then turns its head back with a meaningful star, a clear invitation for Sam to follow. Sam considers it for a moment, thinking about what Dean had said. Then, Sam turns to find his shoes.

Outside the sky has turned swollen and winds have picked up to a ferocious whine. Scattered rain is beginning, not too hard yet but with the distinct impression of worse to come.

The cat meows inquisitively and flicks its ear in the direction of the ridge across the street from the motel parking lot, a scrub of trees opening up to a more heavily wooded area down below. The cat meows again, this time with more than a hint of impatience, before taking a few careful steps towards the trees. The request to follow is unmistakable and it is possible that Sam is completely cracked. But if not, there is something important going on here, and it’s not going to wait for Sam to drag Dean from whatever bar he is still holed up in.
He takes a step and then another into the parking lot, feeling absurd. Following a cat into a thunderstorm doesn't even rank in the top five stupidest things he has ever done, but it is definitely the one that Dean will have the most fun making sure he never lives down.

The sky crackles ominously, as if to punctuate exactly why what he is doing is a bad idea.

"Oh Sammy, you really need to learn how to let down your hair and live a little." Lucifer is smirking as he lounges against the Impala. Raindrops splatter against Nick's shirt and gelled hair and sizzle a little, before burning off as vapor.

Sam averts his eyes pointedly, and he digs into his palm. Lucifer flickers out exasperatedly, and for a moment, so does the cat. Sam panics for a moment until he spots a small shape crossing the street.

The rain picks up when he reaches the tree line, coming down in sheets that are already starting to transform the ground into a flood of mud and dead leaves. They pick their way carefully down the hill and through the trees, the cat running lightly between the trees.

Sam is starting to shiver, harder than he has since the cage. In the rain and under the moon light, the trees in front of him take on an indistinct psychedelic glow branches melting with chaotic sprays of needles. Sam is suddenly uncertain. “Double time Sammy, Lucifer purrs in his ear. Are you really going to let a little rain slow you down?”

It’s not the rain that is slowing him down, so much as the fact there is too much in his own head. He just wants a moment of peace.

"I'm so sorry Dean," he says out loud, nonsensically.

The cat stands in front of him cocks its head, like it's heard that. Sam watches it as it stares at him, feeling somewhat steadier. The cat's expression is judgmental, like Sam should know by now, that he isn't capable of making decisions by himself. He only makes the wrong one.

The cat nudges him forward, deeper into the trees.

A stuttering flash of light, and a crack of sound sends him skittering down the hill in a rabid burst, panting with sudden, animal fear.
He wants there to be quiet. He wants to learn how to be alone again. For centuries, he was never alone.
The cat is out of sight up ahead Sam realizes with sudden horror. When he said alone, he’s didn’t mean just yet.
Sam steps forward, calling out for any signs of life. No signs of the cat either. He walks further down, picking his way through the trees until a figure emerges out of the dark making a peculiarly unexplainable noise. It’s Lucifer, leaning against a rotten tree stump and laughing himself sick. The cat is currently weaving its way around Lucifer’s feet, Sam notes with a feeling that’s embarrassingly close to betrayal.

“Oh Sam, it's really a joy how painfully, hopelessly naïve you can manage to be, even after all this time. I really treasure that fact about you. Not as much as I treasure some of our other fun times together, mind you.”
“What is the cat to you?” Sam says, suddenly thinking about Dean’s earlier unease in a whole new light.

“Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. Did you really think, when you pull a soul out of Hell, that you would be able to limit the damage to a few hallucinations?”
“What do you mean?” Sam whispers, taking half a step backwards.

“Hell is not just a place Sam. You of all people should know that by now. Its...” Lucifer waves a hand around extravagantly. “Maybe it’s better to think of hell like a parasite right? A parasite that gets inside your bones, learns you, inside and out, and never lets you go. The truth is, Sammy boy, it loves you, and so do I. So, yeah. You know. We’re just a boy, and a cat, standing in front of another boy, asking him to love us back for all eternity.”

Lucifer shrugs.

“Dean,” Sam whispers, which again, doesn’t make any sense.

You need to let Dean go, Sam,” says the cat, or Lucifer, or, or…Sam doesn’t even actually know any more. His head is spinning and he needs to sit down. The ground seems too far down to navigate, and the rain is coming down more heavily.

You really think you’ll be able to have Dean’s back next time, when it counts?” Lucifer shouts louder, over the rain. “Or when push comes to shove, aren’t you more likely to end up with his death on your conscience, sooner rather than later? That conscience of yours must be getting pretty crowded, considering what’s in there."

Sam’s chin comes up, angered, which just provokes a giggle from Lucifer.

“Okay then Sam, how about we play a game, and I show you just what I mean. Hold your hand out, won't you?”
Sam tentatively spreads his fingers, palm down.
“That's my good boy.”
“Now, do you want to hear a secret? Something really important, something Dean will be glad to know? Something that will make things right between you?”
“First you have to do something for me.”
“Break your finger.”
Sam’s head comes up in alarm, but Lucifer just clucks and shakes his head. “Uh-oh Sam, Pull that finger back. Keep going. That much farther.
Good boy. Nice job slugger. Now, keep going, I swear it will be worth it.”
Sam’s shout of pain is muffled by the rain.

“Oh Sam, your expression. I was right, it was worth it. You’re such a twisted, confused cookie, but boy did I train you well. You just need someone to be there, holding your leash.”
A rough tongue is licking at his injured hand. Sam, looks down into blue eyes that seem almost, sympathetic.

The point is, Sam, you're not good at being alone. One way or another, you have always need someone to hold your hand, or you won’t like what happens. And the truth is that we’re better at that than Dean is, always have been. So, just think about it okay? We'll be here, when you are ready for us. But don’t tell Dean. This will be our little secret.”

Sam, thinks about that idea, turns it over in his mind. And then, above him, lightning illuminates the sky, snapping off a heavy tree limb that falls all around him, over him. Everything goes black.

Sam wakes up too suddenly on the thin mattress, spine curled in tight into a defensive crouch, every line of his body, scraped sore and brittle. Pale light is filtering through the heavy motel curtains. His dreams were complicated, Sam vaguely remembers, filled with a cast of shifting, uncertain characters committing terrible, unspeakable acts. He could probably sleep for another full night he thinks. There is something he was supposed to consider, maybe.

There is a blooming pattern of mold beneath the sink. directly in Sam's eye line. When the light hits, it looks a little like a bird in a cage, singing. Screaming for help maybe.
The last word comes unbidden, and Sam thinks he's almost on the edge of making an important connection when Dean bursts in loudly, door banging behind him.
“Dude.” The relief in Dean’s voice is evident, as he rushes over. How are you feeling?”
Sam tries to sit up.

“Whoa there, easy slugger. I was one step from taking your ass to the ER yesterday, how about you take it easy there for a sec?’

Something about the endearment hits Sam the wrong way, makes him feel unsettled and irritated, and he bats Dean’s arm away.

Dean sits on the bed and closes his eyes like he is the one in pain, looking slightly away. “You were so still," he whispers roughly. "When i found you laying there, under that tree, you were so still."

Sam’s chest tightens in sympathy and he closes a hand tightly over one of Dean’s. God, Sam thinks. He doesn’t actually remember what happened in the woods, but what he does know is that really has been a bastard to his brother recently. When all Dean has ever wanted to do is take care of him. Maybe he can try to be better for Dean, now. Make it easier for him. It’s not like either of them are any good on their own, after all.

Things are good for a while, or at least as good as they ever get, while Sam is recuperating. They call Bobby, who hands off the case in Maine. Dean orders in Chinese food and they sit for hours, watching shitty daytime talk shows. Sam sleeps a lot of the day as well. Lucifer is mercifully not very present, most of the time. He thinks about the cat, more than he admits to Dean, mostly with a weird sense of longing.

 

Epilogue

Dean's Perspective.
Things are good, after Sam's accident.

Until the fucking cat comes back, the night they are finally ready to get back on the road again, and Sam suggests taking it with them.

Dean flatly refuses, and things escalate from there.

I Don't. Trust. That. Cat." Dean furiously grits out the words.

There's a silence, which is confusing, because Dean had been expecting Sam to yell back, maybe even get in his face a little bit. Instead, when he dares to twist back around, Sam is just watching him, with a curiously gentle expression, like Dean's the one who is two seconds from the nuthouse and doesn't that just take the cake.

"Dean," Sam finally says, and he's using his Calming The Witness Who Is One Step Away From A Nervous Breakdown voice, just perfect. "Dean...I know there's been a lot going on recently, with, the Leviathans and Ca-."

"Sam," Dean says warningly.

Sam throws up his hands, pacifying. "I just wanted to say that it's been hard on you, I get it.

Don't think I don't see that, that's all. But you need to get some rest man. Take care of yourself. I need you to take care of yourself."

Sam is obviously humoring him and it makes Dean want to put his fist through the cheap plaster wall. It makes Dean want to vomit, just a little bit.

Instead, he turns on his heel and grabs for his jacket.

 

"Dean..." Sam says tentatively behind him, like's he's not sure he wants a response.

"Sure, Sam" Dean grits out, heading for the door. "We'll research. But right now, I need a drink. Don't wait up, honey."

The motel door slams shut decisively behind him. Outside in the parking lot, the night air is about 10 degrees cooler, and Dean is starting to feel like he can breathe again.

It’s miserable again outside, the kind of relentless rain storm that chills you in seconds, makes you swear up and down that you'll never be warm and dry again, no matter what the facts say.
His gaze turns automatically to the Impala, sitting cool and comfortable two spots down, just waiting for him to take her for a spin.

There's a small dark shape perched on the hood. With a sinking feeling, Dean watches as two amber eyes blink open and glare at him. Dean glares right back, not ashamed.

Then as if functioning on automatic, he takes his handgun out.

The cat sits there, looking smug as Dean raises his weapon and clicks the safety off.

"Dean. What the fuck?!"

Sam is right behind him looking outraged.

"Sam, go back inside."

"Not until you give me the gun."

"Sammy."

"No, Look, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but you are two seconds from murdering a goddamn stray right now, and that is not you man."

"I can't take that chance."

"Do you realize how insane you sound right now?!"

"Yeah, I sound almost as crazy as you huh." It's below the belt and Sam looks hurt, but Dean is having a hard time caring.

Sam darts in quick, manages to grab the gun and send it sliding across the asphalt. Dean makes a move for it, and Sam is on top of him, the two of them going down together, rolling and kicking in the kind of knock out brawl that they haven't really had since Sammy got his soul back. Dean's been so careful with him, treating him like he could break at any second, but honestly maybe it's too late, maybe he's already broken. Maybe Dean is too and if neither of them can be put back together again, then all Dean really wants right now is the chance to hit something and Sam is right there.

Sam's on top, with his knee in Dean's rib cage, like it has any goddamn right to be there, so Dean rolls them again, with a sudden twisting burst of energy and he's about to give his little brother the split lip he deserves for always, always sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong, when suddenly Sam begins to seize below him.

 

Dean's dreams are fuzzy, nauseatingly nebulous and filled with furiously moving shapes.
The air conditioner turns over begrudgingly and sends out an experimental burst of semi-cool air, carried forward on a float of mold particles.

On the other bed, Sam makes a high, uncontrolled little noise, somewhere between a gasp and a whine. Then he's twisting and arching, fingers clawing frantically at the bed sheets, huge overgrown body trying desperately to fold in on himself. Dean rushes over, practically throws himself bodily on top of his brother, grabbing his wrists, anything, anything just to make this stop happening.

Beneath him, Sam groans quietly, finally stilling. His eyes open into little half slits, but he's still more out of it than in, staring up and just past Dean at a point along the wall.

Dean follows his gaze, almost thinks he can see something low and liquid moving in the dark shadows along the wall.

Then again, most likely it's a trick of the light.