Bobby's Place
Fort Pierre, SD

Sam scrubbed his fingertips over his brow while eying the piles of books Bobby had dumped in front of him. Do some research, he had said. Read through this stuff and find a way out for Dean. Sam had no living clue where to begin and generally didn't feel like reading anything right now. But, of course, if it meant it could get Dean out of his deal, it would be well worth the headache in the end.

With a light sigh he picked up one book and started leafing through it, looking for something, anything, that might help break that deal, but after a few moments his mind started to drift. There was so much pain in the world, so much agony. Where was the love? Why weren't there more happy people in the world?

He glanced up toward the ceiling. Where was God through all this? He had heard all the explanations before. God worked through men, angels were there to guide you, not fight your battles for you. He closed his eyes briefly. Then why were demons so active in messing up people's lives? How could humans be expected to handle it all on their own? It didn't make any sense. And how could something like an angel become so corrupted that it turned into something like Azazel?

A shudder rippled through him at the thought of the demon. "Why me?" he whispered and stared forlornly down at the book. What was it about him that had made the demon choose him? What exactly was it about his mother that had warranted the murder of all of her family and friends? What had they known about Mary Winchester that was so horrible?

"How's it going?"

He glanced over one shoulder and eyed Bobby for a moment, then returned to staring down at the book. "I don't know," he confessed. He felt a little bit like he was stuck in a limbo, like his body couldn't really catch up to his mind right now. There was a constant delay in everything he thought and did. "I think you're right," he added thoughtfully.

"About what?" Bobby asked and picked up one of the books to leaf through it.

"I don't think we'll find the answer to Dean's problem in a book," Sam said and closed the book lying in his lap.

"That's a given," Bobby agreed and sighed lightly.

Sam blinked a little sluggishly. Then he looked up at Bobby again. "Where is Dean?" he asked.

The look that earned him raised tendrils of worry in him. "He told you," Bobby countered.

"He did?" Sam frowned lightly. "I ... don't remember. When's he coming back?"

Bobby eyed him for a moment. There was concern in his eyes and something else Sam couldn't really identify right now. "He said three days tops," he finally said.

That Dean had left without him was bad news. That he couldn't remember that Dean had told him he was going alone worried him big time. "Where'd he go?"

"Whitefish. He said he had some loose ends to tie up there," Bobby said.

Sam stared ahead of himself for a moment while Bobby's words sank in. Then he looked up at him. "What?" he asked and rose. "No, he can't go there alone." Panic began to bubble through him, burning away any sensible thoughts immediately. He glanced down at his feet, then looked around for his boots, which he couldn't remember taking off in the first place.

"Where are you going?" Bobby asked when Sam tried to step past him.

"I have to go after him. He can't ..." Sam started, then trailed off. "He doesn't know who she is. He's ... oh god, I have to stop him."

Bobby grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks. "What the hell are you talking about, Sam?" he demanded.

Sam blinked, then glanced down at Bobby's hand locked around his arm. "LL. I should have seen it earlier. I should have known," he said and looked up again to meet Bobby's eyes. "She's the devil," he whispered.

For a long moment all Bobby did was stare at him. Then he released Sam's arm. "That box," he said quietly.

Sam nodded, feeling suddenly incredibly clearheaded. "Double L," he said. "Lucifer the Lightbearer."

"Why the hell would your daddy have a box made by Lucifer?" Bobby asked.

Sam shook his head lightly. "I don't know. But it must be a curse-box. Maybe it's ... I don't know." He raked all ten fingers through his hair and sent a searching look around the room. "Where's my phone? I need to call Dean. I need to warn him."

"Upstairs, I guess," Bobby suggested.

Sam nodded, pushed past him and hurried upstairs to find his phone, which was lying on the nightstand next to his bed. He flipped it open and speed-dialed Dean's number. It switched to voicemail at once. "Dean, listen to me. You have to come back here right now. Please! There's something about Lucy you don't know," he said, then paused and grimaced. "Call me, okay?"

He hung up again and sank down on the edge of his bed. Most of all he wanted to rush out there and find his brother, but something told him that might not be such a good idea. Besides, he had the distinct impression that Bobby wasn't going to let him leave.


Lucy's place
Whitefish, MT

Dean glanced at his watch, noted that one hour had passed since he had called Bela, and then he slumped back in the high-backed armchair by the window. It was getting dark outside and Bela still had two hours left before he would call it off and go back to Sam to find a different path out of this mess. But something told him that this was his last and only chance of reversing the deal without risking Sam's life in the process.

Lucy just sat there on the couch across the room and stared into space, her mind seemingly miles away.

"I don't get it," he finally said after getting tired of the silence and a little antsy from waiting.

Lucy arched her brows and turned her attention fully towards him. "What don't you get?" she asked.

"You. Why are you here? Why aren't you ... in Hell, doing whatever it is you do down there?" Perhaps these were silly questions. Maybe she wouldn't answer them. But he figured he had little to nothing to lose by asking.

Lucy smirked. "Truth be told, when I originally arrived here, it was to refresh my memory. As time passes, you tend to forget things. You fight, but you forget what you're fighting for. It becomes routine, something you just do. I reached a point in time where I began to wonder why exactly it was that I hated humans so much. It's hard to incite others to do your biding when you don't really remember why you do it in the first place. So I took a leave of absence to walk the Earth and rediscover my purpose."

That sounded sensible, even though he had a vaguely hard time wrapping his mind around the whole issue of sitting here with her like they were old friends. Which in truth he supposed they actually were. And his only true reaction to that thought was that dad would have had a cow if he had known. "How long have you been here?" he asked. In spite of himself, he was curious about her and as long as she was willing to answer his questions, he figured he might as well ask.

"A while," she countered. "I've changed identity a few times along the way. You humans are so hung up about longevity. It's hard to explain why I remain young when everyone around me ages, so it's easier to find new identities rather than rouse suspicion by remaining the same," she said with a vague smile. "It's easier to just change the way I look slightly and become my own beneficiary," she added and snorted.

"Change the way you look?" He frowned at the idea. "I thought you had possessed ... whoever Lucy St. Clair is in real life."

That drew a chuckle from her. "Lucy St. Clair is not a real woman, Dean. She is a clever play on words," she said. "If I have to say so myself. Lucy, obviously, is short for my real name. Clair in french means light."

"Lucifer the Lightbearer," Dean echoed. "You know, I kinda find it hard to believe that you're supposed to be this big bad behind all the demons out there."

Lucy tapped the tip of one finger against her lips a few times, a thoughtful look in her eyes. "I could show you my true form, but that usually never goes down well," she said. "Besides, revealing myself would draw too much attention. You'll just have to ... trust me," she finished with a small smile on her lips.

"You're not at all what I thought you would be, you know. There are so many ideas of what you could be like, what you look like," he said, unable to not answer her smile with one of his own. It was probably most of all the fact that she looked so human and that he still saw the image of the best teacher he'd ever had in his mind when he thought of her.

"All false," Lucy said, clearly amused. "And just because some white-bearded idiot ate a few mushrooms a couple of thousand years ago and had a fever fantasy that made him write a book about God, that doesn't mean that everything you read is true."

"What do you mean?" Dean asked. His curiosity was definitely peeked right now.

In an almost thoughtful act, she ran the tip of her tongue over her lips and for a moment he actually expected to see a snake's tongue. "The good book was written by men for men," she said and smirked a little. "And no, my tongue is not forked," she added.

"You read minds, huh?" he asked.

"When I want to. Your mind is pretty dirty most of the time, though," she countered and chuckled. "I like that about you. You have no shame." She leaned forward a little, resting her elbows on her knees. "Except when it comes to Sam. It's very important to you to look good in your brother's eyes, isn't it?"

"He has a severe case of hero-worship going on. I can't let the kid down," Dean countered and almost smiled at his own words.

"Sarcasm is a weapon, Dean. You're hiding behind it," she stated and leaned back again.

"What are you? My shrink?" he asked. It was easier to pretend that she was human than letting himself grasp the idea of what she really was.

"This is ... nice," she said. "It's not often that I meet someone like you. Someone who knows what I am and still manages to treat me like just another human being. Do you have any idea how frustrating it can be when everybody bows and scrapes before you or cowers in fear?"

"I can't say that I do," he admitted. "But you never answered my question. Why are you still here?"

She eyed him for a moment, then waved a hand and every single candle in the room lit to shed their flickering light over them. "Because, even after I came here, to the world, to remember why exactly it was that I hated humans so much ... I couldn't recall. As it turns out, I rather like humans. The versatility is refreshing, the depravity enough to feed demons for all eternity. So I stuck around. To learn more, to watch and wait."

It sounded like she was reluctant to return to Hell and that alone made him shudder inside. If even Lucifer didn't like Hell, it really had to be bad. "What are you waiting for?" he asked.

She shrugged lightly. "Who knows?" she countered. "I rather like the peace and quiet of this life, of not having to make the big decisions, of not having to incite hatred all the time. It's very draining. Of course, it's my job and it's not really a position I can quit. Not ... easily. There is a balance to be upheld, of good and evil." She smirked. "Actually, some singer touched on that very topic with so much accuracy that I suspect she may have had inside information there."

"Really? A song?" Dean eyed her, trying to spot the difference he knew was there, but it wasn't immediately visible. She still looked pretty much human to him. "Which one?"

"Don't recall. But the phrase is, it's with the aid of demons that angels can be born," she said and chuckled. "There is a balance that has to be upheld. If it is not ... well, who really wants to be eternally happy? If there is no evil, how will you measure good? If there is no sadness, how will you know you're happy? The scale is a good example of it all. It's an eternal battle that neither side can win. Azazle's scheme was to overrun the world, to bring about a new world order where humans were ruled by demons, enslaved. But that would bring eternal misery and would tip the scales. They have to be balanced. Too much of one or the other and the whole thing comes tumbling down. The world ends, the universe explodes, life in all its versatility will cease to exist. It's a grand scale. And it takes so little to upset the balance. Eventually, I will have to return. Other demons will try to take my place, will want to rule and do what Azazel almost managed. I can't have that."

And still it all made sense in an outrageous kind of way. He considered her words, what she was telling him. "So, why don't you return?" he asked after a moment. "I get the feeling that things would calm down a lot if you did."

Lucy's eyes darkened a little. "Have you ever been to Hell?" she asked with a cynical little smile on her lips. "No, of course you haven't. Hell is ... hell. It's fire and pain and darkness. There is no hope, no love, no understanding. It's all agony. Everything you fear will tenfold and become unmanageable. And it just goes on and on and on. It burns you, it rips you apart, it tears into you with talons and claws and it never stops. Demons are depraved. They thrive on the misery of others because they have forgotten what it's like to thrive on love and happiness. Those feelings are so much stronger, so much more life giving than pain and fear and hatred."

"Then why don't you go back and teach them? Show them what it's like?" he asked.

"I started this reign of terror. I instilled the need to hate humans in every single one of them. And those that believe in the power of darkness tend to become rather obsessed with it. It's the lust for power, for the superiority you feel when you can subdue others, that governs them. To them I am ... a god. I guided them, spurred them on. Imagine what it would do if I returned with a message of the opposite of what I have taught them before. Imagine the uprising this would cause. No, I can't do that. And I won't do that. When I return, I know that Hell will wash me clean and reestablish my hate. So I delay until I can't delay any more. This might take ten years or a hundred or a thousand. It's hard to say. Time is a curious thing when you are eternal. It matters so little." She tilted her head to the right briefly, then glanced at the windows at the front of the house. "Time's up. Bela is here," she said with a smile, rose from the couch and left the livingroom.

Dean watched her go, torn by what she had said, by how simply she accepted that she would have to return to hatred and darkness someday. But he assumed she was probably right about all of it. "Balance," he muttered and shook his head lightly. "Who the hell came up with that concept anyway?"

Before he could think more about it, there was a knock on the door. He remained seated, waiting for Lucy to take action. But all that happened was that the front door opened of its own accord.

"Dean?" Bela's tone was tentative, laced with an undercurrent of nervousness, and he decided to remain where he was and let her come to him. He didn't know how far he would have to take this before Lucy intervened and transferred the deal to Bela.

"In here," he called.

Bela shut the door behind her and stepped into the livingroom. She sent a quick glance around, then focused on Dean. "Isn't this a little on the dramatic side?" she asked.

"What? The candles?" he asked. "Not my place. I don't decide on the decor," he added.

"Do you have the box?" Bela asked and eyed him closely, obviously looking for it.

Dean pulled it out of his pocket and held it up for her to see before he returned it to the pocket. "Are you gonna pay me?"

"Of course," she said and pulled a slip of paper out of one pocket. "Just give me the box and let's be done with it," she added.

"Not so fast," he said without moving. "First I want to know why you're so eager to get this box that you're willing to kill my brother for it."

"I already told Sam. I'm surprised he didn't tell you the whole thing. Keeping secrets from each other, are you?" she asked, her tone sarcastic.

"What's in it?" he persisted.

"I don't know. I generally don't care either. My buyer is very adamant about getting the box and unfortunately I was foolish enough to sell it to him before I had it. I assured him I could get it when I thought it was still in your father's lock-up. But then Sam went and removed it and he really left me no choice," she countered. "Just give me the box, Dean, and I promise I'll stay out of your way from now on."

"Yeah, and we both know what your promises are worth, don't we?" he asked and rose. "Tell me, Bela, how the hell did you end up being so cold?"

She eyed him, her demeanor that of a cornered animal. He was sure she would strike if he didn't hand over the box soon. "For your information, I'm not cold. And when I give my word, I keep it," she said, her tone tighter now.

"Right. You lie like hell is what you do. I know about your sister," he said.

Her expression dropped. For a second she looked totally stunned, then she sneered. "You don't know anything," she snarled and raised a gun she'd obviously had in her pocket. "Give me the damned box or I'll shoot you," she added.

As if someone had flipped a switch, all the candles died at once, plunging the room into nearly complete darkness. And then the temperatures dropped radically. Dean took a hesitant step back, bumped into the edge of the chair which upended his balance and he sat down hard on it the same second as Bela's gun went off. The distinct whizzing sound of the bullet zipping by right above him and the subsequent sound of glass shattering somewhere behind him sent a shiver through him. Bela was obviously deadly serious about shooting him if he didn't comply.

"What happened to the damned light?" Bela hissed.

"Delego pestis," a dark, grating voice whispered somewhere in the darkness.

Bela yelped. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she snapped. "This is not funny, Dean."

"Wasn't me," Dean countered and it struck him how indifferent he managed to sound when in truth he was pretty much shaking right now.

The temperatures dropped further and a single, small candle at the far end of the room flickered to life briefly. In that brief second, something huge, dark and damning hovered right behind Bela, who had gone utterly pale. Then the candle died again for a few seconds before every single candle lit up again, bathing the room in light.

Lucy stood right behind Bela. "Drop the gun, dear," she said quietly.

Bela's grip tightened on the gun as she swirled around and aimed it at Lucy. "Who the hell are you?" she snapped.

Lucy inclined her head a little. "I'm Lucy St. Clair," she introduced herself, then glanced at Dean. "Do you want to transfer your curse to her?" she asked.

Dean just stared at her for a moment, then swallowed and slowly rose to his feet again. "Yes," he said, then cleared his throat.

"So shall it be done," Lucy said and smirked. "Dramatic enough for you?"

"Plenty," he agreed.

Bela glanced back at him, then returned her attention to Lucy. "What are you ..."

"His debt is now yours. The life he paid for is yours to carry. You have six months left. Use them wisely," Lucy said.

"I came here for a box. Stay out of this, lady," Bela snarled, obviously not aware of what was going on.

"You're not expecting her to accept this, are you?" Dean asked, a little unsure of how this was all going to go down.

Lucy ignored him. "Your deal for luck in all endeavors has been voided, Bela. You carry the mark of the damned now. And no amount of bargaining will get you out of it. You must pay for the atrocities you have committed against family and friends, against strangers and enemies," she said, never once taking her eyes off Bela. "If you accept this willingly, there might be extenuating circumstances. Will you?"

"No, of course I bloody won't. What are you talking about?" Bela snarled. She sounded more scared than angry now.

"Then you are damned from hereon in," Lucy countered and before Bela could avoid it, she had pressed the ball of her thumb against Bela's brow. "The box you came here for is not yours to take or sell. If I were you, I would run like hell," she added. "Your buyer is hot on your heels and he's not happy with you."

Bela stared at her. "You work for him, don't you?" she nearly whispered, then snorted. "You can't undo my deal. It's iron-clad," she added disdainfully.

Lucy merely smiled. "Believe what you will," she said. "In six months, your life ends and you go to Hell. And nothing you do can change that. Now leave. I don't like having the damned in my house," she added, stepped aside and pointed toward the front door which swung open of its own accord once more.

Bela stared at her for a moment longer, then glanced back at Dean. "You will pay for this," she promised, then turned and strode out of the house.

Dean watched her go with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "You call that handling it?" he finally asked and focused on Lucy. "She's gonna come after us and she's more than ready to put a bullet in both of us."

"Ah, but she will never get that far," Lucy countered. "Her buyer is hot on her heels. He will catch up to her in about half an hours time. And that will be the end of Bela Talbot. He has given her plenty of chances and his patience has just run out. Courtesy of me."

The idea was surreal and he didn't feel any different than he had before. Then again, he hadn't really felt any different after making the deal to get Sam back either. "So ... that's it? I'm ... free?"

"As a bird," Lucy agreed. "I suggest you call your brother. He's worried sick about you right now," she added.

This would take some time to digest, for him to really understand what this meant, and he figured it would take the next six months before he really began to believe that he was free of the deal. He wiped a hand over his lips, then pulled his phone out of one pocket and turned it on. For a moment he considered staying in Whitefish over night, but then shook his head lightly at his own thoughts. "I'd better get back there," he said and looked up to meet her eyes.

"You haven't slept for nearly twenty-four hours, Dean. Perhaps you should rest up first?" Lucy suggested.

"Nah, I'll be fine," he said. "I'll just pull over somewhere and sleep a bit on the way. I just want to get back to Sam as fast as possible."

She nodded once. "Have a safe trip," she said. "And remember our little bargain. Not a word of me to anyone," she added, then smiled vaguely. "Although Sam has guessed who I am. Smart kid, your brother."

Dean paled. "Sam knows who you are?" he asked and she nodded. "Shit," he muttered.

"Oh, I won't hold that against you. It was only a matter of time before he guessed it. And he has shared it with your friend as well. I expect you to assure that neither of them shares this knowledge with anyone else, though."

"I'll do my damndest. But I have no control over what others pass on. I won't say anything, though," he promised.

She eyed him for a moment, then nodded. "Good enough," she said. "It is only a matter of time before I have to go home anyway." She stepped in his way when he started past her. For a moment all she did was look at him. Then she smiled again. "Enjoy the rest of your life, Dean. May it be a long one."


Four hours later
Past Butte, MT

After driving for four hours, Dean realized that now was maybe a good time to pull over somewhere to catch a little sleep. He was tired enough to nearly nod off behind the wheel, which wasn't the best thing he could do right now. He pulled off on a forest road and drove as far in as he felt was appropriate, then pulled the Impala off the road and stopped her among the trees. "Cozy," he muttered, then fished his phone out of one pocket. It was half past eleven at night and he still hadn't called Sam.

For a moment, he just sat there and stared at his phone, unsure of what to tell his brother. If he told Sam the deal was off, then he would have to explain how. And he wasn't so sure he wanted to do that. As it were, he wasn't a hundred percent positive that the deal was off. What if Lucy wasn't who she claimed to be? What if it had all just been a play for the peanut gallery? "Would'a, could'a, should'a," he growled, flipped the phone open and speed-dialed Sam's number.


The worry in Sam's voice was evident, but it was even more evident that the kid had been sitting with his phone in his hand, because he answered before it had even managed to ring once.

"Hey, Sam," Dean countered. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't call earlier, but I got kinda sidetracked and ... well, I had to get a new phone and I couldn't find one that I liked at first. You know. Shit like that. How are you feeling?"

"Uhm ... okay, I guess. Where are you?" Sam countered a little slowly. "Did you get my message?"

"Yeah, yeah, I did," Dean said, aware that there was a message, but he hadn't checked it. He felt lousy enough as it was for not keeping his promise to call Sam before. "I'm on my way back. Just wanted to make sure we left no loose ends behind."

"Dean?" Sam sounded a bit hesitant, like he wanted to ask something without knowing how.

"Yeah?" Dean picked idly at a thread hanging from the edge of his jacket.

"Uhm ... did you ... meet anyone while you were there?" Sam asked.

"Well ... uh ... yeah, I did. Dropped by Lucy's place. She's ... still the same old same old," Dean countered and grimaced. He didn't want to say anything to Sam unless Sam said it first and he got the feeling that Sam wasn't going to come right out and say it.

"So ... nothing happened? She didn't ... do anything weird?" Sam asked.

"Weird? No, why would she?" Dean said and made a face in disgust at his own lies. He really didn't like lying to Sam.

"Uhm ... I think I figured out what the LL on the box means. Do you still have it?" Sam said, effectively changing the topic.

"Yeah, of course I do. Never let it out of my sight," Dean said and patted his jacket, feeling the box in the pocket there. "So ... what does it mean?"

Sam was silent for a moment and Dean could just imagine him sitting on his bed, fiddling with something while trying to decide what to say. "Uhm ... maybe we shouldn't talk about it over the phone. When are you back?"

"Don't know. Sometime tomorrow evening, I guess. I'm right past Butte right now, so that's ... what, about ten hours away?" Dean countered, relieved to have something else to talk about.

"Yeah, about," Sam agreed. "Well, I guess I should ... uhm ... let you go. It's late and all."

Dean frowned lightly. Sam usually wasn't that hesitant. Of course, he had a lot of heavy stuff to struggle with right now, which probably accounted for his hesitation, but it still bothered Dean a little. "Are you sure you're okay, Sam? You sound a little ... weird."

"Just tired, I guess," Sam said quietly. "It's been a bad couple of days."

"Yeah, I guess it has," Dean agreed and made a face, then prodded his still slightly sore cheekbone. "Look, I'm wasted. I need some downtime. So ... I'll call you when I'm on the road tomorrow morning."

"Okay. Just ... stay in touch, okay?" Sam begged

"Sure. Of course. Don't I always?" Dean shot back with a vague smile. "Go to bed, Sam. You sound about as wasted as I feel."

"Yeah, okay. See you tomorrow, then," Sam said. "Hey, Dean?"

"Still here," he confirmed.

"Just ... uhm ... well, see you tomorrow."

"Yeah. Sleep tight," Dean countered and couldn't help a grin. He knew what Sam wanted to say, but also knew his little brother wouldn't say it because he was afraid Dean would make fun of him for it.

"You too," Sam replied.

Dean waited a few seconds and still the line remained open. "Hang up, Sam," he said.

"You hang up," Sam countered.

"I can't do this all night. Besides, you're not five any more. Go to bed. Get some sleep and I'll see you tomorrow evening. Tell Bobby to throw a steak on the grill around ten. I'll be starving by the time I arrive," Dean said, unable to subdue the snarky tone in his voice.

It had the desired effect. He could hear Sam snorting with repressed laughter. "Okay. Be safe, okay?" he finally said.

"Aren't I always?" Dean countered. "Sweet dreams, princess," he added and hung up. "Brat," he muttered and chuckled under his breath. Maybe this whole deal-thing was over with. He sure felt better about things right now.