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“Homicide. Normal, human homicide?” Dean asked, his fake-FBI jacket thrown on over the clothes they were still wearing from that fiasco at Lux, and shot Sam a sideways glance. At their feet lay some poor, dead fucker who looked about about as thrilling as any rent-a-cop paid to play security at any high-class casino for the rich and famous. Too many donuts, not enough action.

It was almost comical the way that Dean looked about as unimpressed as Lucifer.

Okay, why do you all say human like it’s optional?” Decker demanded, doing that toe-tapping thing that Sam was sure would drive his brother up a wall in about ten minutes. Realistically, he gave it about seven, if she continued to tap loud enough to be heard over the sound of the slot machines.

Dean ignored her (mistake number one, Sam could tell, from the way her nostrils flared at the blatant disrespect) and shot Lucifer a sidelong glance. "This is enough to entertain you? Really?” He scowled. “Damn, if I’d known that, I would’ve tried that years ago.”

Like hell you would,” Sam muttered under his breath, and Lucifer beside him seemed to make a sound of agreement. He crouched beside the dead guy; forty-something, graying, entirely ordinary. Aside from the knife lodged in his chest, of course. He was careful to avoid the evidence markers, but leaned close enough to take in the details. “Arterial spray reached about ten feet, uninterrupted,” he said, letting himself slip into this, the hunt, and putting on his business voice to get Dean to do the same. “Strange, considering anyone that was gonna knife him like that would have to be directly in front of him, judging by the entry angle. And considering that the spray would only come from the blade leaving the body, which it didn’t.”

Yeah,” agreed the young coroner, who offered Sam an uneasy but friendly-enough smile. New to the job, probably. “It’s weird. Only one wound track, too, looks like. Not like they took it out and put it back in. But I’ll know more after the autopsy, for sure.”

Not straight to the heart, either,” Sam said, and pushed back his too-long bangs with one hand. “He risked hitting the sternum to sever the superior vena cava. Excess of skill, or lack of skill?” He felt someone standing at his back and looked up, expecting it to be Dean overseeing him as usual, and was surprised to see Lucifer instead. Sam frowned as he searched out his brother, distanced, almost behind Decker. Disengaged. That was never a good sign. It meant he didn’t have his head on straight; was too busy thinking about something else. “Dean.”

Yeah, I’m listening,” his brother huffed. “Hit the ribs?”

The coroner shook his head. “Slipped between.”

Excess skill,” Dean decided. “Blood was a show, probably to get away. What’s the groove look like?”

Sam tilted his head to survey what little he could see of the blade. “Looks deep. Custom?”

Maybe, or just modified,” Dean offered.

Decker’s foot was tapping again.

Lady, can you cut that out?” Dean snapped, rounding on her. The coroner scampered away from the impending squabble under the pretense of getting more tools from his vehicle.

Oh, sorry,” she bit out sarcastically. “Carry on. I was just listening to a pair of private investigators talk shop like precinct vets, but by all means.” She gestured angrily and flippantly, then leveled Lucifer with a look like it was his fault. “Private investigators, my ass.”

Lucifer held up his hands in front of him and shrugged, though Sam could see he was scrambling for an answer from a mile away.

Yeah well,” he cut in to save himself from Lucifer digging them a bigger hole. He shrugged, too, but more casually. “Military. And lifelong big game hunters. Not our first rodeo.”

Remind me how you met him again?” She insisted, eyes narrowed, and jerked her head toward Lucifer.

Lucifer made a sound of discontent. “I am right here, you know.”

Maybe I don’t trust your answers,” Decker shot back.

Detective, that hurts,” Lucifer wheedled. “I’ve been nothing but an open book for you. It’s not my fault if you don’t direct your important questions at me.”

She rounded on him like she was waiting for something like that, and Sam did his best to tune them out while they proceeded to bicker like an old married couple—or unseasoned hunting partners. It was grating, to be honest, and more than a little surreal.

He grumped under his breath and realized he sounded more like his brother than himself.

What do you think?” Sam asked, directed toward Dean.

Definitely not a panic strike, that’s for sure,” Dean filled, in, stepping around Decker to take his usual place beside Sam. “Planned job. Too clean, almost. Shouldn’t be this clean.” He glanced down at Sam with a meaningful look. “Like there was no hand on the knife, you know?”

Like telekinesis. That narrowed it down to a rogue psychic, a ridiculously overpowered witch, or the most likely culprit—a demon.

Where the devil goes, his soldiers follow,” Sam said quietly.

Question is, did he know about it?” Dean asked right back, then lowered his voice as he crouched beside Sam, and gestured subtly over his shoulder at Lucifer. “This Decker chick, I don’t think she knows this dickhead’s the real deal.”

Hell, who’d believe him, Dean? No one but us,” he offered helplessly. “If we don’t wanna clue her in, we’ll have to get him alone.”

Dean made a disgusted sound. “Us, trying to get the devil alone, on purpose . Christ.”

Have I not said to leave him out of this?” Demanded a petulant and all-too-familiar voice that was visibly starting to grate on Dean’s last nerve, judging by the jump in the vein in his temple. In unison, Sam and Dean stood, their usual vibe reached now that they were actually communicating. The fluidity seemed to knock Decker for a loop, but Lucifer hardly paid it any notice. “Well, then? What’ve you got? We didn’t bring you along for nothing.”

We,” Decker said, incredulous, sounding more like a so help me God. Sam might’ve been a little more irritated at how inexplicably well Lucifer got on with her if she didn’t seem so incredibly off-put by his constant presence and every time he opened his mouth.

Won’t know for sure until they check for prints,” Dean said with a significant frown that Decker echoed, but Lucifer seemed to pick up the ulterior meaning—that there wouldn’t be any.

But this spatter pattern,” Decker cut in with a shrewd glance. “Uninterrupted. That shouldn’t be right. The killer should’ve gotten blood all over if they were close enough to be this precise.”

Give the lady a medal,” Dean muttered under his breath.

She glared at him, and Dean shot her one right back. “What the hell’s your problem? I thought you wanted to help.”

No, you wanted me to help. I’m here to keep an eye on him.” Dean pointed accusingly at Lucifer.

Lucifer tried all-too-hard to appear innocent. It wasn’t working on anyone.

Why?” She demanded. “What’s so important about him?”

While Dean tried to come up with some sort of explanation to that, Sam took the golden opportunity to snag Lucifer by the sleeve and pull him aside.

Look,” Sam said quickly, urgently. “There’s no way a human did this. The detective’s right; there should’ve been blood all over the killer, not a clean getaway like that. I’ll ask you once—aside from the one at the bar, Mazikeen, are there any demons in the area?”

I’m sure there are,” Lucifer said with a frown, “but that doesn’t mean I have any control over what they do. Maze would never be this obvious. I suppose that leaves us with a free agent.” Finally, he glanced down at the corpse with some smidgen of interest. “A rather clean kill for a demon. I’m almost impressed.”

Don’t be,” Sam snapped. “Unless you want the detective to find out about everything, you’re gonna have to have a little tact about this. This is our kind of job, not hers.”

That assumes I haven’t been desperately trying to clue her in the whole time,” Lucifer said with a long-suffering frown. “She’s particularly dense, or perhaps just stubborn. Not unlike you, though not quite as quick on the uptake.”

Sam scoffed and turned away. “Yeah, you’re a real charmer. I can see why she’s so desperate to have you as a partner,” he bit out.

At that, Lucifer actually looked... hurt. “Sam, I’m trying to help. To learn. I thought you’d be more, oh, I don’t know, thrilled about the lack of fire and blood.”

You’re not trying to help, you’re trying to cause trouble. I heard you before, all chipper to find some death and destruction.” Sam poked him hard in the chest, not unlike the detective had back in the club. This time, Lucifer actually winced before he rubbed at the offending spot. Sam ignored it and carried on; it wasn’t like it’d actually hurt Lucifer. “If you want to help, you’ll keep her out of this life, our life.” Sam couldn’t help the flare of discomfort from the word our in reference to himself and to Lucifer. Like they had anything in the world in common—anymore, anyway. “It’s too dangerous.”

The detective is quite adept at taking care of herself,” Lucifer protested, then got indignant. “And, really, in her line of work, isn’t awake and aware a little less dangerous? In a city like this, how many of their calls are caused by your kind of job? More than you’d think, I’m sure. Strange deaths aren’t exclusive to small-town country bumpkins—except here, the only people around to protect and serve are those with real badges.” Lucifer sneered at him, and Sam shirked back. Lucifer had never directed that sort of derision at Sam before. “Being informed might just save her life, and many others. Unless that’s no longer your priority?”

The curl of Lucifer’s lip was more bitter a thing than Sam had ever been target of from him. He found he didn’t like the cold feeling it gave him; unsettled him more than the abstract anger that built up only because he knew Lucifer wasn’t wrong. In truth, the Winchesters just didn’t do well with cities; the tight spaces, the constant noise. After a mess of a life, they needed those long stretches on the open road to come to term with the horrors they faced day-in and day-out otherwise. And the unfortunate reality was that too many cops did die cluelessly at the hands of things they’d never dreamed of.

Introducing the detective to The Life might not be the kind thing, but that didn’t mean it was the wrong thing. Assuming, of course, she didn’t learn the truth and either arrest them, shoot them, or run screaming in the other direction from Lucifer, when it seemed she was the closest thing to an actual friend he had.

And wasn’t that just the damnedest thing. A few years gone, an apocalypse averted, and Lucifer had better things to do than be even a little bit worried about Sam anymore. Like none of it mattered; like he hadn’t waited thousands and thousands of years just for Sam to be born. Like Sam suddenly meant so much less than the life of this woman that didn’t even know the truth, would never really understand, would never really get Lucifer the way Sam did—

He had to stop thinking like that.

It didn’t matter what was dead and gone. If the detective was the real thing that stood between Lucifer and his usual business of mass-murder and rain of fire, then Sam was obligated to do all he could to keep that fascination standing. For the good of humanity. Be damned how he... felt about it.

And because, once, before things that seemed somehow more important, their job wasn’t just about hunting things. It was about saving people, too.

Maybe he looked especially pathetic or had a side order of defeat, but Lucifer seemed alarmed at the sudden sweep of misery that washed over Sam then. The wind had been unceremoniously ripped from his sails, true, but it was more the realization that it had been so damned long since it felt like they saved, well, anyone, that had Sam’s shoulders slumping, his chin tucking down. Like a scolded child, he knew.

It had been a while since they were really in the business of saving people. It felt like even longer since Sam had done anything right at all.

Sam—” Lucifer started. Sam held up a hand, abjectly miserable, and Lucifer ground to a halt, looking like he was just starting to realize he may’ve said something terribly wrong.

No, you’re right. If she knows what she’s up against, she’s got a better chance.” Sam shuffled his feet, and glanced over to where Dean and the detective were still arguing. “Plus, if she won’t believe you, maybe she’ll believe us. We’ll find the demon. We’ll show her.”

Sam,” Lucifer tried again. When Sam looked up, his words seemed to fall short.

The two stared at each other for a few long moments before Sam shoved his hands in his pockets and turned away. “Just because I don’t have a real badge doesn’t mean I’m not doing my best,” Sam said, and the memory of that little apartment, of Jess’ blonde curls, of thick textbooks seemed so far away, even as the pangs of sadness sank in. “I tried, you know? I did.”

Sam, that’s not—I never meant to imply—” Behind him, Lucifer huffed out a forceful breath through his nose. “You humans.” But he sounded more defeated than not.

Sam shrugged, and it was hard to walk away, but he did. He pulled Dean away from the detective with a grip to the back of his suit jacket, and Lucifer was quick on the uptake to reorient himself around her. The bitter taste in Sam’s mouth, he figured, had to be from that shot back at the bar. He turned his face away.

We’ll hunt it as normal,” Sam said under his breath. “And when we catch it, we show her.”

Dean bristled. “Sam, we can’t. We’re supposed to protect people, not throw them in the deep end head-first.”

It’s what he wants,” Sam said, and pushed out a long sigh.

Since when do you give a shit what he wants?” Dean demanded.

She works with him. She’s gonna have to learn sometime. And if she won’t believe him telling her, we’re gonna have to show her. It’s just the way it is.” Sam shrugged once, helpless. A long moment of tense silence stretched between them, the slots in the background continuing their jingles, and the sound of the coroner’s camera clicking away.

I don’t like it,” Dean said finally. “She’s a mom, you know. S’got a little girl. Told me if I knew anything about him that would put her kid in danger, I needed to tell her.”

Did you?” Sam asked.

When Dean shook his head, Sam wasn’t surprised. “What could I tell her that he hasn’t already? He’s Lucifer, the Lucifer. He’s the freakin’ devil. He’s standing over there all buddy-buddy with her and we don’t even know what poor bastard he’s possessing or how long he’ll last. Hell, we don’t even really know why he’s here. Why LA, Sam? Because he knows it’s one of the last places on planet Earth I ever wanna be? Because we’re usually two and a half thousand miles from here? Because he’s got some plan that involves killing off almost four million people?” Dean looked just as helpless as Sam, except he seemed a great deal more pissed off about that fact. “We know what he can do. She doesn’t. And she’s a smart lady, Sam, she is. But if a little girl gets hurt because of that monster playing dress-up, I’ll.” Dean scuffed the bottom of his new shoe against the marble floor.

Sam understood. “Like Ben,” he said.

Dean’s expression crumbled, and he hastily tried (and failed) to put himself together. “I told you not to bring them up again.”

Sam nodded. It was still too sore a spot, too raw.

The best way to protect her kid is to tell her what’s out there,” Sam said quietly. “So she knows. So she can prepare.”

Prepare for ghosts, demons even—sure. But prepare for Lucifer?” Dean’s fists clenched. “We were the closest thing to prepared in the world. We got screwed.”

Yeah, but he likes her,” Sam replied. Lucifer seemed to be harassing the coroner now, wearing a pair of the orange glasses and wielding a UV light like a baton. Decker seemed equal parts amused and exasperated, like this wasn’t even close to the first time this had happened.

He liked you, once,” Dean pointed out, and damn, it stung, but he was right. Lucifer had liked him. Once. “Look how that turned out.”

Yeah, well. Push comes to shove, I’m the one who ruined his plans. I doubt she can outdo that.” Sam sighed, long and defeated. “If he needs a moving target to keep him away from her, he’s already got one.” They frowned in unison, that fact settling well with neither of them. It didn’t change the truth. “And there’s something else. In the bar, when I showed up. He said he had that demon cut his wings off.”

Dean’s head snapped around at that. “Cut his wings off? Like, literally?”

I dunno. Sounded like it.” Sam brought his thumb to his mouth and chewed on a hangnail, thoughtful. “And there’s other stuff. Little stuff. I need more time to get a read on him.”

Do you think there’s a chance we could pull one over on him?”

Sam shrugged and shook his head. “Too early to tell. Might not matter. He bugs her, but she likes him, too, I think. We’d never get out of here.”

Dean made a sound of disgust. "Likes him ,” he muttered. “Wouldn’t like him if she knew what he freakin’ was.”

Yeah.”

Because no one in their right mind could ever find the devil endearing, not like Adam and Eve did before their ultimate downfall; not like Sam remembered him full of indignant fury when he shredded everything that’d ever tried to get to his human vessel, when he destroyed anything that had ever made Sam hurt. No one could ever like that protective streak, that stupidly charming grin, his dumb fluffy hair, that jawline and those cheekbones and those eyes that had no right to glitter like they did. Not so much that, as the perfect feeling of contentment Sam remembered in his bones, his river of worries slipping away at the gentle pressure of Lucifer’s Grace, his aches and pains soothed with a balm that came solely from an archangel’s divine will.

What kind of person could ever like— against their better judgement or not—an exterior like that wrapped around the intelligent, complex, deeply protective being on the inside?

And with the echo of Lucifer gone from Sam’s head, it was getting harder and harder to deny that this Lucifer, the one in front of him again after all this time, had almost nothing in common with the shrill little imp that seemed to delight in Sam’s pain, Sam’s suffering. Which meant that every moment, every terrifying moment he’d spent with Lucifer in the before that was real.

God.

God.

Sam was so screwed.

 


 

Surprisingly enough, Lucifer was quite good at case legwork—or, at least, faking it. Whether he really did learn that from being in Sam’s head, or whether he picked it up from palling around with the Detective (whose name, they learned, was Chloe, and Sam had to sock Dean in the arm when his eyes lit up and the words Hot Tub High School had the detective turning a truly impressive shade of red) Sam couldn’t be sure. Still, Lucifer seemed cheerful enough to troll LA with the detective the next day looking for a human suspect while Sam and Dean set up wards and sigils for a summoning ritual in a warehouse Lucifer owned near the docks. Alcohol, he insisted, was much cheaper to buy in massive bulk and store for whenever Lux needed it. And whether it was the thrill of having a case, or simply the passage of time that made Lucifer a better sport in regards to Dean’s antics, he didn’t do more than roll his eyes when Dean cracked open a bottle of Jack Daniels while they got to work, and said he was willing to write it off as a consultant’s fee.

We’ll be ready tonight,” Sam said before Lucifer had taken off, Dean circling the room with a can of red spray paint, throwing up every variety of effective seal and devil’s trap they could manage. If there was going to be a civilian with them on this ride, they were going to take every precaution they could. Especially, Dean insisted, because she had a kid at home. “We’ll give you a call when we’ve summoned it. And if it was your demon bartender, we’re still getting the job done.”

No need to worry,” Lucifer said, less interested in Sam’s thinly-veiled threats than the prospect of dicking around with his new best friend, and maybe Sam should’ve phrased it better in his head— “Maze is protective detail only. No, whoever we’re looking for won’t be quite so intelligent. Greedy, yes. And more importantly, guilty.” There was a fierce look on Lucifer’s face that Sam couldn’t figure out how to interpret before Lucifer was slipping out onto the street toward his antique little Corvette that Dean would barely qualify as a car. “See you boys tonight. Save us some fun, will you?”

Which brought them to now.

Lucifer, it seemed, did know his own people well enough to know when they were guilty—or, at least, when they weren’t. The summoning had turned up a demon possessing a young Latino man, his eyes glittering black under the old light that swung lazily overhead when the demon had tried to break through the power-stripping wards and the Key of Solomon painted overhead. With all the preventative measures Dean had taken, the warehouse didn’t look unlike the old barn that had once been where Dean first met Castiel.

We’re ready,” Dean said, looking over the gallons of newly-christened Holy Water, the pouch of rock salt, and the old latin exorcism that had been carefully extracted and pasted into the front of their Dad’s old, battered journal. It seemed like years since they’d last bothered to use an exorcism on a demon instead of the brutal efficiency of Ruby’s knife.

But tonight wasn’t about them or their hunt, not really. It was about welcoming Chloe Decker to the real world.

Make the call.”

Sam did as he was told, dialing the burner Lucifer had supplied them with, already pre-programed with his and Decker’s numbers.

It didn’t take long for Lucifer to answer. “Finally. I was beginning to wonder if you’d been eaten. A little slow for professionals, don’t you think?”

“Funny,” Sam said, his dry voice signaling he found it anything but. “Considering we could’ve had this done six hours ago. You better be close, or we’ll just finish this up and you can do the next one on your own.”

My, you’re grumpy. Brother not share enough of the liquid courage?”

“More like liquid patience when I’m dealing with you,” Sam snapped. “And, no. He didn’t. Because I’m working. So you better hurry up and get here before I decide you’re the one on the menu.”

Ooh, aggressive. Very well, Sam, we’ll be on our way shortly. It’ll be my pleasure to spirit her away from Detective Douche for the evening, believe me.”

“Whatever,” Sam sneered. Maybe it was the months of exhaustion catching up to him, or the strange unpleasantness in his gut that he would’ve been more than glad to leave at the bottom of a bottle of Jack—but Sam wasn’t his brother, and alcohol had never really allowed him to forget the way Dean could with a drink in his hand.

Sam, I understand things between us are a little... tense. But have I done something untoward to upset you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried or anything—it’s just that I don’t remember you being like this, is all.”

Sam struggled to find an answer. It wasn’t like his anger toward Lucifer was unfair (in fact, it was anything but). However, maybe in this instance, his aggression was a little... misplaced. “No, you wouldn’t,” he said, terse, his voice dropping so Dean wouldn’t overhear from where he was antagonizing the bound demon. He didn’t have time for this. And, in all honestly, he simply wasn’t ready to face it. “Because I wasn’t like this, not before you came along.”

Sam—”

Just get here,” Sam said, final. “So we can enlighten your little girlfriend and Dean and I can get the hell out of here. We have more important things to do than play house with you.”

He hung up.

Who, Sam Winchester, bitter?

Never.

 


 

Lucifer, I really hope you didn’t just drag me away from the precinct because your butt buddies are playing Blue’s Clues. I mean, seriously, they could’ve just called—oh, holy shit.”

Unholy, I’m afraid,” said Lucifer in that long-suffering way, exhaling the word in a cloud of tobacco smoke, and since when did the Devil smoke cigarettes? “You know how we’ve been going through this whole I’m actually the Devil thing?” he asked her.

Mm,” Decker said, though it sounded a little less of her immediate concern than the way her eyes were bugging out at the guy bound with chains in a chair in the middle of her partner’s warehouse, the Winchesters flanking him on either side, one armed with a silver flask, the other with an old book.

Well, I’ve found a way to prove it to you,” said Lucifer with another long drag and sigh. He must’ve been smoking on the way over, Sam realized, because he was already down to the cherry when he dropped it and ground it out under the heel of what looked like an expensive leather boot. His eyes scanned over the demon, and his upper lip pulled in what looked more like a snarl than a smirk. “Detective, meet Kazidor. Third-rate demon extraordinaire, and our murderer.”

Demon,” she said, and turned on Lucifer. “You said you weren’t involved in any of that gang crap, Lucifer.”

No, I meant a rather real demon, thanks,” he snipped back. “Scourge of Hell? Blood and smoke? Ring any bells?”

Lucifer,” Decker said, and then seemed to think better of it. “Alright, you like the metaphor, I get it. But we’ve talked about this. Due process? Ring any bells?” she parroted in a mockery of his accent, and Lucifer actually looked a little irritated at that. “You can’t just kidnap people and tie them up in a warehouse, whether you think they’re guilty or not.”

Detective, I can rather assure you on this,” Lucifer said slowly. “This one, he is, without a doubt, guilty. And he’d be rather unwilling to sit still without the chains and whips, understand?” He huffed, then turned his eyes to the Winchesters. “Care to demonstrate?”

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Sam muttered under his breath, and shuffled their father’s journal between his occupied hands.

Lucifer frowned at him, but conceded, “That’s not a bad idea, really.” He strode with long steps to the bag of rock salt and pulled out a handful, then held it out to Decker. She looked perplexed, and cupped both her hands under his, only to have the heaping handful of salt dropped into her waiting palms.

What the hell is this, meth?" She asked incredulously.

Lucifer huffed. “Detective, really, do you think I’m an idiot? If I did have a warehouse of illegal drugs, I’d hardly drop it in your waiting hands, would I?” He sniffed, every bit the arrogant ponce he was playing at. “No. It’s rock salt. Real, mineral, cheap as dirt.”

And why did you just give me a handful of rock salt?” Decker demanded.

Well I want you to throw it at him, of course,” Lucifer said like that was just common sense. She stared at him like for once, she really wondered whether he’d completely fucking lost it. “Come on, Detective, it’s just salt.”

She squinted, less than thrilled. “Okay, one—I’m not gonna throw rock salt at a guy, suspect or not. Especially not one that’s chained up by your pet freaks. I’m gonna have to take you in for kidnapping, by the way,” she directed at Sam and Dean. Sam fidgeted. Dean sighed and rolled his eyes and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like again? “And two, how would me throwing rock salt at a guy prove that you’re the Devil?”

It’s less about proving the me, specifically, and more about proving the concept of the supernatural,” Lucifer replied. When Decker didn’t budge, he rolled his eyes skyward and seemed to mutter something. “Fine; you’ve touched it, at least. You know it’s nothing special. So here—” he reached out to take a well-rounded pinch from the salt held in her hands, and threw it at the man chained to the rusty old chair.

The demon, Kazidor, as Lucifer called him, howled when the salt touched his skin, and his flesh let off trace amounts of the black smoke that three of the four present knew was locked inside. The sound and the immediate flailing startled the detective enough that she went for her gun, and the salt in her hands spilled to the floor. She then looked from the bound man back to the salt, then to her own hands. Upon seeing nothing remarkable about her own flesh, thus signaling nothing wrong with the salt, she turned on Lucifer. “What the hell?”

Precisely,” Lucifer agreed, stooping to scoop up more of the salt from where Decker had dropped it, and cheerfully tossing another handful onto the man, whose shrieks redoubled. “Holy water next, shall we?” Lucifer asked, and held his hand out toward Dean, wiggling his fingers and looking altogether too excited to be entirely appropriate. Dean sneered at him, crouched to pick up a consecrated gallon of the grocery-store water, crucifix still coiled harmlessly enough at the bottom.

Holy water?" Decker demanded with wide eyes.

Yes, of course. Does nothing to me—I was an angel, after all—but works wonders on the salt of the earth. Or rather, those anti-salt.” He popped the cap off and took a swig for show, swallowing visibly before he handed it over. “Just water. Try some yourself, so you don’t have to arrest me. I recall you mentioning you’re rather opposed to that.”

The woman hesitated.

Lucifer shook the container, sloshing some over the sides and spilling some over his own hand. “Come on, then.”

Decker snatched it away from him, tentatively sniffed it (whether she expected vodka or bleach or something entirely different, Sam would never be quite sure), and finally poured some over her own hand, probably to wash away what was left of the salt. She frowned in that deep, creasing way one does when they feel they’re about to regret something, before she lifted the jug to her mouth and took the barest sip. And... nothing. Her frown morphed into one more perplexed as she swallowed what was, really, just water, before she gave it back to Lucifer. “Okay, so it’s water. What exactly—?”

Lucifer barked out a manic laugh, his eyes alight and glittering under the flickering bulb, and marched forward to upend the container over the demon’s head. Sam shuddered as the demon opened his mouth wide and screamed. This... this was what Lucifer had been. Light and fury, always eager to tear a demon or ten to shreds. It was only the Winchesters’ interference that had him using substances harmless on the host, but anathema to the monster within.

Decker, pale and startled, finally did draw her gun when Kazidor’s eyes went pitch black. “What did you do? What is that thing?” she demanded. Her voice shook. “Is it. Is he—?”

Human?” Dean asked, casually leaning over to pick up the other container of holy water, now that Lucifer had effectively wasted a good portion of their stash. “Not quite.”

Decker, to her credit, kept her gun trained on the most immediate threat (which, to her, wasn’t much of a threat at all, thanks to Sam and Dean's earlier efforts). “But that’s—”

Impossible?” Sam asked, with a small, wry smile.

Her eyes panicked and expression drawn, Decker nodded once.

Welcome to the club,” Sam finished with a shrug. “It’s a brave new world. One that Lucifer’s been trying to clue you in on, I guess.” He frowned, and looked down at the yellowing pages of John’s old journal. “Dean and I, we’re not... exactly P.I.s. This is what we are, what we do. We find things, the kind of things that kill people without thought, without guilt, and we... stop them.” His eyes flickered to Lucifer.

Chloe’s did the same. Lucifer still looked wild as they came, pacing in predatory circles around the demon, clearly raring to go and not entirely concerned about the detective’s reaction now that he’d caught the metaphorical scent of blood.

Her eyes went back to Sam.

Is there.” She swallowed hard, and seemed to steel herself, and left the most pressing question, for the moment, unasked. “Is there a person in there?”

Yes,” Sam answered honestly with a frown. “Demons can take possession of a person or a corpse, and there’s nothing the person can do about it unless they’re incredibly strong, well-trained, or unless the demon wants them to show through the cracks.” Sam touched the page in the journal carefully. “That’s where this stuff comes in. Holy water, rock salt. Exorcisms. They can send a demon back to Hell.”

And there’s ways to kill them,” Dean cut in with a heavy scowl. “But they can kill the host, too. This stuff’s harmless, as long as the demon hasn’t broken anything important on the inside during the possession. This guy, we’ve got him all wrapped up in about ten miles of de-powering spells. This is about as safe as you can get, but that’s because Sam and me have been doing this our whole lives.”

Decker huffed out a breath. “Not your whole —”

Dean turned his eyes on her, impossibly old for his age, full of the pain and suffering of a thousand lives and deaths, and of everything they’d seen between Heaven and Hell. “Our whole lives,” he said, and she stopped, stricken. “From the time our mom burned alive on the ceiling of my brother’s nursery when he was six months old, and our dad took us out on the road to find the demon that did it. It’s not a sob story, Detective, that’s just cold, hard fact. Truth is, we didn’t want you in this, but your buddy there...” Dean’s face twisted with years of hatred and revulsion of the supernatural, and the personal vendettas that came with everything Lucifer’s existence had subjected their family to. “He wanted you in this. He wanted you to know. To be warned. And you’ve got a little girl.” The plastic jug in Dean’s hand protested and creaked. “And the only way you can protect her one hundred percent is to know what’s out there at night. And I wish to hell we weren’t the ones that had to tell you.”

So he,” Chloe started, voice weak. “Lucifer, I mean.”

Yeah,” Sam whispered, and ducked his head. “He’s the real deal.”

So the things I’ve seen—?” Her voice was shaking now, and when Sam looked up, he couldn’t tell if it was just the crappy light or tears building in her eyes.

Real too, probably,” he answered. “I’m sorry.”

She swallowed once, hard, loud enough to hear. Lucifer still seemed lost to the developments going on without him, and that, really, was the most tellingly supernatural thing about him.

He’s nothing like I expected.”

Sam’s hands tightened on the journal. “He’s different, Chloe. A few years ago, all those crazy things that were happening. The fire and blood? The landslides, the disasters, and things going extinct? The freak storms and the livestock deaths, and the crop failures, and the water they said was contaminated with acid? That. ” The panic wanted to climb its way back up his throat again, but Sam stamped it out. Now wasn’t the time. This wasn’t the place. “...but we stopped him. And he’s different now. That stuff he did back then, he can’t do it again. And I don’t think he wants to, but.” Sam fidgeted and looked away.

Dean stepped up and held his hands out for the old journal, their Hunter’s Bible. Sam handed it out without a word, and his brother started reading the exorcism rite aloud.

The demon screamed and screamed and screamed.

Tears slid down Decker’s cheeks, and with her loaded gun in hand, she tried to cover her ears in horror. She was freaking out, losing it the way any sane person would.

Sam surged forward before she could accidentally shoot herself and carefully, gently extracted her gun from her hands and put the safety back on. He slid his arm around her, offering the only comfort he could, while he guided her away from the screams that were all too human to ignore, toward the old door that would take her outside while Dean finished the exorcism and Lucifer got the best thrill he could next to killing from listening to the demon howl.

Come on,” Sam soothed, voice low, as he got her outside and they stood on the docks—not far enough away to make the noise fade, but the sounds of the waves a welcome buffer.

Am I in danger?” Chloe gasped through her tears. “My daughter? God, he’s touched my baby, he—” Her hands covered her face as she doubled over and started to freak out in earnest. Sam could tell this wasn’t a woman who lost it at just about anything, and that, more than anything, just made being a witness to her pain all the more difficult. “Trixie, my god. And you—? Why aren’t you doing something about him?”

I can’t,” Sam said then, his hands on her shoulders, feeling helpless. “Believe me, Dean and I. We’ve tried. But there’s nothing left for us to do. We can’t kill him. Aside from this one old gun, nothing we do can even make a scratch.”

Decker’s head snapped up, her jaw set, even with her lip still trembling. Her eyes were hard. “That’s not true.”

What?” Sam asked.

He told me to, weeks ago,” she said. “Trying to convince me he was actually the Devil. And I didn’t believe him, why would I? Before...” Her eyes flickered to the warehouse, where the night had finally gone blessedly silent. “But he told me to shoot him. Said he couldn’t get shot, like it would bounce off. And in the beginning, I think he might’ve been right. But now.”

Now?” Sam asked, a sense of urgency pressing upon him. If the demon was gone, it wouldn’t be long until Lucifer came to find where the two of them had gone.

I shot him,” Decker said. “And he bled.”

Sam? Detective?” called Lucifer, and Sam could hear the warehouse’s door squeal open. There was that voice, like he actually worried—more like worried that he’d let them both see his dark side, the most out-of-control portions of the Devil that were still wild, like an animal. “Sam?"

Here,” Sam said, but he felt almost dead.

He kept eye contact with Chloe as he gave a single, short nod. He understood the significance of what she’d told him, and he would pass it on.

Maybe, just maybe, there was a way to put Lucifer to an end. But it would take all of them, if it could be done at all.

But in the end, would they be willing?