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Men of the Cloth

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Sam did not, in fact, stay the night. Nor did he return the next day or even the next, once Dean got wind of a spirit haunting an old suburb and whisked him away with barely enough time to leave a voicemail to explain his absence. It’s a boring few days (aside from a bout of terrible migraines and some sleepless nights) but it’s the usual grind, and for some reason, Sam never expected it to be any different for anyone else.

So when they rolled back up to Lux five days later, having been declared VIPs by Lucifer the week before, the last thing he expected was for the place to be closed at the early hour (at least for Lucifer) of 2am.

Sam and Dean exchanged glances, but, with Dean intent on taking up Lucifer’s offer of a real room and a real bed and a kitchen, well, they figured it was worth crashing the party. Except it seemed that there was no party to be had and Lucifer was nowhere to be found.

“Man,” Dean complained. “I told you we should’ve called ahead.”

“I told you, my phone died. Wasn’t anything I could do about it,” Sam replied. Against his better judgement, he felt a pang of worry. After everything that had happened, Lucifer wouldn’t turn them away, would he? Surely he couldn’t be so pissed at Sam that he’d—what, retreated?

The reality ended up being far less petty than that, and of far more concern.

Dean had gotten out on the lower floors, intent on finding a room and crashing hard. After the salt and burn earlier, Sam didn’t blame him. Still, he’d wanted to find Lucifer and announce their presence at the very least. But when the elevator doors opened on Lucifer’s apartment, it was a disaster he found.

Lucifer’s beloved books had been ripped from their shelves and thrown about with little ceremony. An expensive lamp was shattered across the floor, and the table it had sat upon overturned. Broken knick-knacks, shattered photo frames, upended furniture.

Sam went for the gun in his waistband and held it at the ready, making his path along the wall as he carefully cleared the living room, the study, the hallway, and found no one and no sign of anyone. In case whoever had done this was still present, he didn’t want to yell out, but he found he had little choice. “Lucifer!”

“Sam.”

Sam turned, startled, his gun pointed at Lucifer’s chest. The man looked a fright, and that, more than anything, had Sam stowing his gun and stepping forward hastily. He grabbed Lucifer by the shoulders and gave him a once-over, looking for blood and bruises and finding none. He reeled, confused and full of adrenaline and concern. “What the hell happened to you? Are you okay?”

“I...” Lucifer reached out, his palm coming to rest flat over Sam’s pounding heart. “You’re here.”

“Jesus,” Sam muttered. He checked Lucifer’s eyes for signs of concussion. None, but he seemed in shock. “Come on,” he said. “Where can I bring you that isn’t torn up? You need to sit; tell me what happened.”

“There was a case,” he said, and Sam could hear the telltale detachment and silently cursed Decker for leaving him alone, archangel or not. It was clear to Sam that he needed to talk, needed to get out whatever had shaken him so badly. “An undercover drug operation. A priest, he came to me to ask for help.”

“Came to you?” Sam asked, and shook himself. That wasn’t the point. This wasn’t about him. Instead, he grabbed Lucifer by the arm as gently as he could manage to guide the man from the hall to the first door he found—a massive ensuite bedroom, a king-sized bed with black sheets on a raised platform, a smaller bar, and several chairs in a comfortable but small sitting area. Sam pulled him toward a leather loveseat and firmly made him sit.

When he went to sit in another chair, though, Lucifer grabbed him by the sleeve. “Please,” he said quietly, and shit, his eyes looked almost glassy with sorrow.

Sam sat beside him and Lucifer folded, his elbows rested on his own knees, his hands covering his face as he composed himself. Sam reached out on autopilot to put his hand on Lucifer’s back, a warm weight and an offered condolence to whatever pain Lucifer had suffered while Sam... while Sam was gone.

What happened to you?” Sam asked, his voice pitched low. “You said the priest came for help. A drug operation? I thought you and Decker dealt in homicides.”

I grant favors,” Lucifer said to the floor. “On the side. People come to me to ask for things; I usually oblige. Call it a hobby.”

Sam wanted desperately to ask why, but had to admit it didn’t seem all that far-fetched. After all, Lucifer had offered him many things all those years ago—it had been Sam’s adamant refusal that prevented them from being given.

So the priest...”

Came to ask on behalf of a child. A troubled child—teenager, really. He thought the boy was involved in a drug operation as a mule, and he was right. Of course, on principle, I turned him down. I was convinced he had something to hide.” Lucifer shook his head and dragged his hands down his face. “Stupid.”

Sam’s fingers drew together in surprise until he had a handful of the back of Lucifer’s shirt. Still, he hung on. “What then?” He knew that telling a story the whole way through was the best way to stop the onset of PTSD. He intended to see that through.

I asked Chloe to help me look into it anyway,” he said, and Sam figured it was the fact that his defenses were so damaged that he’d slipped and called the detective so casually by her first name when he so rarely did before. He noted the change, and the pain that flared with the keenness of Lucifer’s suffering. Something had hit him hard, and Sam intended to find out what. Sam’s other hand went to Lucifer’s knee and rested there, palm-up. Just in case.

Lucifer carried on without notice, it seemed. “We found the man the preacher suspected had been murdered. As an official case, we became involved in its workings. The Father was much more entertaining than originally thought; not so different from myself, he insisted. I thought him mad.” When Lucifer’s hands rolled into fists, his knuckles cracked, and the sound was so human it made Sam flinch. “But the case went on. We got shot at, and then looked into the drive-by—”

Sam’s hand jerked, and Lucifer allowed Sam to pull him back. “ Shot at?” He demanded.

Well, we weren’t hit; the boy was a terrible shot,” Lucifer said, and barely cast a glance to Sam’s face. Instead, his eyes were focused far away, wherever he was in his story. “It doesn’t matter, Sam.”

But the turnabout was so blatant that Sam finally understood how Lucifer could’ve been so furious all those nights ago. Doesn’t matter, said Lucifer, but nothing seemed to matter more than the idea that Lucifer, even with Decker’s company, was still in danger... and Sam hadn’t been there.

Hey,” he said, and caught Lucifer’s eyes finally. “If I can’t say that to you, then you can’t say that to me.”

Lucifer stared, and opened his mouth to say something, but never followed through. Instead, he looked away, disagreement clear on his face, but didn’t protest.

It was so unlike him. It was unsettling, to say the least.

Then what?” Sam prodded gently.

Then we found the murderer trying to turn the child against the priest. When the boy couldn’t follow through, the fat lard put a hole in the Padre himself.” Lucifer’s face twisted with rage, and he covered his face again. “I tried. I did everything. I put pressure on the wound, but. Father Frank did not survive.”

The fact that this seemed to matter to Lucifer on such a deep level was something Sam couldn’t even try to figure out right then. All he knew was that Lucifer was hurting something awful, and Sam wanted to try to help. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Lucifer burst into movement, on his feet, and walking away in an instant. Sam stayed where he was, because, as he was learning, these moments seemed to come when Lucifer was experiencing intense emotion. All he could do was ride it out. “Of course it wasn’t my fault!” Lucifer snarled, picked up the closest blown-glass knick-knack he could get his hands on, and lobbed it solidly at the wall. It shattered on impact, sending glass shrapnel around the room. “The man followed every rule— every one, Sam— and it didn’t matter a damn bit! In the end, the one person that could save him...” He turned, expression twisted with grief. “Why didn’t my Father save him, Sam?”

Oh,” Sam whispered.

Then the momentum of Lucifer’s fury snapped and he fell to his knees there in a pile of broken glass. Sam launched after him when he hissed in pain, pulling him to his feet and guiding him back toward the loveseat.

Idiot,” he murmured, turning the lamps on beside the couch to get a better look at Lucifer’s cut knees.

Ow,” Lucifer said in response.

Yeah, ow,” Sam agreed mildly. “Stay there.” He rounded up the strongest alcohol and the cleanest-looking towel he could find from the small bar, and figured that with this life, Lucifer could afford the waste. He poured some onto the cloth as he returned, then (and he tried not to think about the symbolic gesture) knelt at Lucifer’s feet, moving aside the cut fabric of his trousers to extract the bigger pieces of glass with his fingers. However, the tailored slacks were too thin in the leg to be rolled up above the knee, so Sam shuffled back just enough to give Lucifer room to stand. “Drop ‘em.”

I beg your pardon?” Lucifer asked with a frown, finally coming to focus on Sam.

You’ve got glass grit in your patellas and they need to be cleaned. Your pants are in the way and I need to get a better look.” Sam frowned up at him and tried to fight back a flush. “Look, I’m just trying to help, okay? You’re the one who says you’re mortal. When mortals bleed, stopping it is kind of a thing that has to be done. You know, when possible.” He frowned at himself then, and figured he probably could have gone about that better, considering the sensitivity of the issue.

But Lucifer did as he was asked, and at the very least didn’t look at Sam while he deftly undid his belt and pulled his now-ruined pants down and kicked them off, leaving him almost humorously in his well-fit shirt, black boxer-briefs, and in his socks and oxfords. And, of course, his bloody kneecaps.

Sit,” Sam said, and he sat.

Sam took the time to roll the pants up in such a way to keep any wayward glass contained, then moved them to the side. When he turned to go back to work, Lucifer was holding out a throw pillow and pointedly not looking at Sam. “For your knees. If you’re going to stay down there.” Sam hesitated, then Lucifer continued, “I know they hurt you sometimes.” So he took the pillow and knelt.

Lucifer hissed at the first contact of the alcohol to his knees, some vodka that was 151 proof ironically labeled Devil’s Springs. Sam imagined it was shit for drinking, but about as good as he would get without a first aid kit to clean the wound. Somehow he rather doubted that Lucifer had something so human and commonplace as a way to patch up his brushes with mortality. Sam sighed but continued working, knowing that Lucifer would know better than to jerk away and risk injuring himself more. One gentle sweep at a time, he cleared the smaller particles away from the skin and folded the rag over, then doused it again with alcohol, taking time and care to pick out any larger bits as to not cause more damage by jostling them. He kept Lucifer’s leg steady with a hand on his thigh and cleaned it to his satisfaction before he switched to the other.

It wasn’t as symbolic as washing his feet, Sam supposed, but the ritual felt strangely sacred all the same.

The priest,” Sam started slowly again. “You liked him.”

He was entertaining,” Lucifer admitted. “And could play the piano quite well. Good sense of humor. I usually find men of the cloth rather lacking in that department.”

Sam nodded once, but didn’t verbally agree. In truth, Sam had met many priests that he’d liked well. But pointing that out to Lucifer at this point, what with Sam’s status as his True Vessel, just seemed like adding insult to injury. It hardly seemed necessary when the injury was still open and raw.

He knew,” Lucifer added.

Sam stopped. He looked up at Lucifer and saw the misery on his face, and placed the cloth on the floor. “How do you know?”

What he said,” Lucifer replied. “When he was dying. The way he said it. But, Sam...” his eyes were so big, so lost, so sad. It was so unlike Lucifer to care so much about a human life—but maybe this was a new era for him, Sam supposed. If he could care about Chloe, then maybe he could learn to care about others.

Maybe he really was changing.

Something he said, when we were talking. I said that my Father’s plan for me had seemed pretty clear. And he wondered... if it was over yet.” Lucifer looked desperate. “But I’ve done everything, I’ve given everything. What more do I have to lose?” He reached for Sam; touched his hair, his cheek. He stared at Sam kneeling at his feet, and those sorrow lines around his eyes grew deeper. “I can’t imagine losing anything more and coming out sane on the other side.”

Growing isn’t always from losing,” Sam said, and let his fingers touch the back of Lucifer’s hand where it rested against his cheek. Then, with a deep breath, he leaned into the touch and allowed his eyes to close and Lucifer to linger. “You lost someone today, that’s true. But Lucifer, all I see is you gaining. Friends. Feelings. Mercy, empathy. Those are good things, good changes. Maybe that’s what the Father meant.” He opened his eyes to see Lucifer staring at him still. “What?”

Why did you leave?” Lucifer asked.

Sam turned his face into Lucifer’s hand; his lips brushed the base of Lucifer’s thumb. He didn’t want to answer, but knew he owed it to Lucifer anyway. “I was scared.”

Are you still?”

Sam nodded. Then, just barely, he pursed his lips into a simple, chaste kiss against Lucifer’s hand. “I never expected this, you know. Never thought anything like this was something I could have with anyone. But, if I’m honest, even with Jess... I dunno. It didn’t feel like this. I’m still a hunter, you know? I’ve seen Dean die. I’ve seen everyone die. I don’t know... I mean, we’re kind of in the same boat.” Sam looked up at Lucifer, feeling the sadness pulling at his mouth. “I just don’t know how much I have left to give.”

Lucifer nodded, understanding. He shifted, and winced again when the wound on his knee pulled. That broke the spell that Sam had found himself trapped in, and he gathered up the cloth, folded it again, and got back to work.

You’re good at that,” Lucifer offered after a moment.

Lifetime of practice,” Sam said. Then, “Sorry we were away for so long. Dean found a haunting a few districts away. If I’d known...”

I wouldn’t expect you to have done any different,” Lucifer said. “You still have a job. Despite our... disagreement about the Leviathan, I can’t imagine you doing anything else. You being here to cater to my whims would’ve been boring, anyway.” He offered a small, teasing smirk. “It makes me appreciate when you’re here—after you’ve been gone.”

Sam ducked his head, secretly pleased to know that he’d been missed. He dabbed at the last smudges of blood, the white cloth coming away rusty-red and watery pink. “Well, I came up to tell you that Dean has decided to take you up on your, uh, hospitality. Honestly, I think he’s just sick of motel beds.”

That, at least, seemed to make Lucifer genuinely pleased. “Good. I’d imagine the beds here will be kinder on your back.”

And hips, and shoulders,” Sam agreed. Finally finished, he set the cloth aside and started to shuck off his own shirt. Lucifer watched, curious, until Sam started to tear.

Sam, what—?”

Bandages,” Sam said with a shrug.

That’s not—you shouldn’t,” he protested. “That’s yours, and I happen to know you have very few.”

It’s just a shirt. Nothing I wouldn’t do for Dean,” Sam argued. “Besides, there’s tons of thrift stores around here, anyway. It’s not like it’s our nice clothes or anything. Plus, the flannel will be softer on your skin, you know?” Sam looked down and flushed. “And absorb better from seeping when you walk. Joints are harder because they move more. They tend to take longer to heal.”

Sam.” Lucifer touched his hair, and the brush of his fingers against the shell of Sam’s ear was so strangely intimate that Sam shivered. “Thank you.”

Sam nodded once as he wrapped Lucifer’s knees, careful not to tie too tightly. By the time he was done, Lucifer looked a bit like an idiot with his red-plaid knee bandages. Sam grinned to himself, and decided to do the man a favor and bent to untie his oxfords and remove them.

Sam,” Lucifer said again, at a loss.

Shh,” Sam replied. The gesture was screamingly private, and he didn’t want words to ruin it, really. Lucifer obligingly lifted his feet when Sam tapped his ankle, and removed both shoes and socks before he placed them to the side. Then he stood and held out his hands for Lucifer to take, and pulled the man to his feet. But rather than letting go, he let their fingers tangle, and looked down at them, pressed into the space between their bodies.

Lucifer leaned into Sam then, and when he unlaced their fingers, it was in favor of wrapping his arms around Sam’s waist, his face pressed hard into Sam’s shoulder. Now in only a t-shirt, Sam didn’t have any trouble in feeling the few drops of wetness that soaked through. He didn’t mention it. Instead, he let one hand thread into Lucifer’s hair, the other spread large and comforting over his back.

The wounds inflicted tonight on Lucifer’s heart would last much longer than the ones on his knees, Sam knew. But he hoped that with time, perhaps they could be mended, or at least scar over and fade. In the end, perhaps his soul and Sam’s wouldn’t seem so different, after all. If they were really so alike, Sam knew he couldn’t be the only heart that was perpetually bleeding.

But eventually, Lucifer had finished with such human weaknesses, and pulled away from Sam in favor of taking his hand. “Come,” he commanded, but his expression was open and unsure. He tugged Sam toward the bed.

Sam hesitated.

It was incredibly remiss of me to allow you to leave without fulfilling my end of our bargain before,” Lucifer said. “I owe you a second healing session. It will be easier if you’re horizontal. No funny business, scout’s honor.”

Scout’s honor,” Sam scoffed in good humor. He allowed Lucifer to tug him toward the bed. When he settled on his back, eyes closed, he realized he hadn’t rested on something so soft... possibly ever. He didn’t hesitate to make himself cozy.

Lucifer lifted his upper body then with surprising strength and sat on the edge, and when he lowered Sam’s head, it was onto his lap instead of a pillow. Sam balked, but Lucifer’s softly considering expression was a reassurance in its absence of heat or lust.

Sam closed his eyes and allowed himself to trust.

The peace that followed with Lucifer’s fingers on his temples was bliss, pure and sweet. The heavy aches disappeared and the clouds that seemed to hold him down dissipated a little at a time. Sam remembered feeling like this once—whole, unbroken, unblemished by the world. It wasn’t as electric as he’d expected. Instead it was just... harmony. Comfort.

After a lifetime of feeling empty, it was like being whole.

Sam didn’t remember drifting, really, or when Lucifer scooted out from under him to return the favor of removing Sam’s shoes. Nor did he remember Lucifer jostling him only enough to pull the comforter out from under him and tuck it over and around Sam’s body. But the next thing he knew, the light behind his eyelids was out, and he was incredibly comfortable, and there was a warm weight pressed into his side that smelled a little like liquor and a little like cologne. But he didn’t mind, not in the least.

He drifted, and then slept, and encompassed by warmth as he was, there was not a nightmare that could touch him.