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In saecula saeculorum

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"Well," Lucifer murmurs, eyes raking along Sam's body, "this is not what I expected."

When he had heard the prayer, Sam's prayer, Lucifer could do nothing but drop his preparations for summoning the next Horseman and fly to his side. The prayer came to him as bells through the ether, long-forgotten words piercing through the silence where once there were his brothers' voices. How could he do anything but cling to that sound and follow it home?

What he had not anticipated was Sam's condition. Bloodied, bruised, and bound to a chair with restraints not visible to human eyes, Sam is clearly in over his head. The location Lucifer finds him in is not even properly real, either. It exists in that same existential plane on which the Cage had been built, pockets of reality out of sync with human experience.

Lucifer cocks his head and concentrates. There are Angels near. He can no longer hear them, cannot eavesdrop on or threaten that particular Angelic wavelength, but he knows that they are near. Heaven's influence is all over this place. All over Sam.

There are screams and curses coming from somewhere nearby, just out of sight and out of sync. Each one makes Sam flinch and struggle against his binding.

Lucifer frowns and kneels down by the chair, fury coursing through him that one of his brothers thought to touch what is his.

"Three of your ribs are broken," he tells Sam stonily, placing his palm over the skin above them. "One is about to puncture your lung if you do not stop moving."

“I don’t care!” Sam shouts, breath coming too fast and too shallow as he continues struggling against his bonds. “Lucifer, you have to save him!”

Lucifer ignores that as he pauses to move his hand to Sam’s sternum, pushing his Grace through the skin and bone to alter the sigil so cleverly carved into Sam. The light sinks into Sam’s chest and only then does Lucifer release a breath and begin systemically healing the damage to the rest of his true vessel.

“Lucifer,” Sam pleads again, “please-“

And that gets his attention. Sam has argued and fought with him, but he has never begged.

Lucifer reluctantly removes his fingertips from his vessel’s bloodied skin and leans back to stare at him.

“It’s Dean,” Sam continues, sounding much more like himself now that his broken bones are mended. “They have him, they’re going to force him to say yes to Michael.”

Lucifer curls his fingers into his palm, Sam’s blood making them slip over his own human skin. “And you want me to protect him.” He does not phrase it like a question.

It is tempting – so tempting – to agree with a caveat of Sam saying yes. But Lucifer looks up at Sam’s desperate face and remembers that he prayed to him. He prayed for Lucifer to intervene, to find him. It has been a very long time since anyone has done that.

“Okay,” Lucifer murmurs in agreement, fingertips now spread against each of Sam’s knees and leaving smears of red in their wake. He stands and begins removing the intricate bindings layered on his true vessel but Sam starts twisting and fighting him.

No,” the human insists. “Dean first. He’s dying, Lucifer.”

Sam has a point, the screams from nearby have faded to insolent muttering and whimpering. But still Lucifer hesitates. His brothers would not let the elder Winchester stay dead, after all. “Sam-“

Please.”

And there it is again. Lucifer frowns as his human form reacts to Sam’s voice, left hand twitching to call his sword. This is the first time he has been permitted to truly see Sam Winchester in the flesh and his vessel is begging him to leave him tied and helpless. And for what? For a brother who denies what Sam is?

He places his hand on the side of Sam’s face, thumb swiping a clear path through the sweat and blood and grime. “He isn’t worth your pain.”

Lucifer sighs and does not give Sam time to refute him. He leaves Sam in that pristine room in unacceptable condition to fly to the aid of a righteous man who is not so good that he could love his brother unconditionally.

He does not expect Michael and does not find him. Michael would not lower himself to this task and would likely not approve of it should he find out. The Angels crowding Dean Winchester’s ruined form are strangers to him, young and unimportant. Barely worth the effort of dispatching them.

Lucifer is not fond of murdering his brothers. He does not take joy in the scream of an Angel as he sends it to oblivion. Even so, he is well practiced in the art of vanquishing his own kind. The war that started this all was not fought between only he and Michael, after all.

These three have strung Dean Winchester upon a cross. Lucifer’s wrath flares cold to see Sam’s brother made into a mockery of divine torment. Dean is bleeding heavily from his side, his wrists and ankles pierced through with iron. Worse is the barbed wire crown, sending rivulets of blood into the human’s eyes as he fights to stay conscious.

Lucifer would kill any Angel for this blasphemy done in Michael’s name.

He leaves three empty vessels and the scorch of Angelic forms behind as he approaches the frame where Dean Winchester lies bound. His sword drips patterns in red on the floor.

“Hello, Dean.”

Sam’s brother is only vaguely watching him, his eyes going unfocused when Lucifer moves closer. Lucifer watches him in silence for another moment before removing the iron holding him to the cross.

Dean crumples to the floor and Lucifer crouches near, two fingers pressed against the human’s thready pulse. A push of will reforms the human’s body but does nothing for his exhaustion. Dean still stumbles when Lucifer hauls him upright, ending up with an arm around Lucifer’s shoulders, weight fully against his side.

This is the most he has ever touched a human being and it makes him furious that it is Dean and not Sam physically clinging to him. Whether Dean can see the wrath in his vessel’s face or is merely too worn down to fight, he is silent as Lucifer grips him around the waist and thrusts them both back into the ether and toward Sam.

He contains his wrath until he is able to let Dean Winchester collapse against a wall where Sam is being held. His rage is then turned to the ropes and Angelic will pressing Sam into that damnable chair. They disintegrate with barely a sound and then he can press himself between Sam’s knees, run shaking fingertips over his face.

But why? Since when has he considered Nick’s hands his own? Since when has human form been anything but an encumbrance he must bear?

Lucifer pays Dean Winchester’s growing complaints no mind as he touches Sam, skin to skin at last. It is like an epiphany. A revelation.

Nick’s skin, his skin, sings where he touches Sam’s cheek, his throat, his hands. His Grace lifts and the crushing weight of fate feels halved, feels bearable. Sam is beautiful and brave and selfless and he does not tremble under Lucifer’s touch. Of course he doesn’t – Sam was made for him.

But for all that, Sam is still human and prone to missing these moments that feel like cosmic birth to Lucifer’s true senses.

“Uh,” Sam starts eventually, ruining Lucifer’s silent worship. “Before you kill us, could you zap us home?”

Dean makes a strangled noise from the floor but Lucifer merely smiles, meeting Sam’s hesitant amusement with his own.

Sam is in no danger from him. And best of all, he knows it now. The fear that permeated their first encounters has drained away and Sam jokes with him.

Lucifer feels unbearably light.

He stands and assists Sam in regaining his feet, pulling the human’s arm across his shoulders. To Dean he holds out a hand, regarding him with little interest. He will assist Dean Winchester because Sam desires it, not out of any innate regard for him.

“Trust me, Dean,” Lucifer drawls, “I’m an Angel of the Lord.”

Sam stifles a too-high giggle against his shoulder and though it makes him smile once more, Lucifer wonders how long his vessel was trapped here, if it has affected his judgment.

But Dean takes his hand with a grimace nonetheless, resigned to requiring his help.

Lucifer adjusts his grip on the humans and throws them all into flight. They spin through the world until Lucifer finds an appropriate place to leave them -- a rest stop overlooking a wooded town, their transportation still parked haphazardly across the road.

Dean pushes away from him immediately on landing and staggers toward the vehicle despite his exhaustion but he is in no condition to escape in that contraption of steel and gasoline. Lucifer watches curiously, never releasing his grip on Sam’s waist, silently reveling in the weight of him leaning across his shoulders. He is more than strong enough to support Sam.

Dean eventually just slumps behind the wheel, face in his hands and making no effort to attempt to flee. Only then does Lucifer deem it safe to deposit Sam on a nearby bench and go back to running his still slick fingertips over the places where bone had broken and skin had rent.

“Hey,” Sam complains quietly, batting at his hands. “I’m okay, all right?”

It is not all right. Lucifer bares his teeth in an unhappy hiss, resolutely placing his hands on Sam’s hips and holding him. The rage at his brothers' presumption rekindles in his Grace and he presses human fingertips against Sam's skin, seeking that elusive touch of his soul, the brightest warmth he knows.

“They took you,” he reminds Sam angrily, his human voice giving too much away. “They dared.”

“Yeah. But you got me back.”

Sam looks as surprised to have said this as Lucifer feels to have heard it. There is a moment of charged silence between them -- Sam unsure and tiredly weary, Lucifer filled with a sullen sort of hope.

“You got me,” he repeats quieter, gripping Lucifer’s shoulders as though to steady him.

As though an Archangel could ever need steadying.