Insert standard disclaimer here.
The reasons Ruby is helping Sam are complicated. Then again, they have been doing this deadly dance for centuries.
A bit of a "story for the ages" type experiment that deals with Sam, Ruby and the idea of reincarnation. Takes place some time after "Sin City"… let me know how it turns out?
Sam's vitals are dropping, and Dean watches on as a flurry of doctors and nurses scramble to save his brother's life.
Dean wants to turn away, but that would mean turning his back on Sam and he won't do that. No matter how fucking scared he is at that moment.
And they shouldn't even be here. They didn't belong at the hospital; there were too many questions, too many memories. Dean doesn't like to think about how many times they interrogated victims in rooms so similar to the one where his brother is now fighting for his life. Dean's on the other side of the glass, praying that his baby brother is going to be all right.
Ruby's standing behind Dean, leaning up against the wall across the narrow hallway. She's looking at the window, too. But she doesn't want to be there, either. While hospitals hold a lifetime of painful memories for Dean, they hold so much more for her. A hunt gone bad, a trap that went down too soon. She should've been able to stop it, she had the speed. She should have been able to see it, she had the memories.
The human heart inside her chest thunders rapidly. Oh hell, oh hell, please no…
Sam's body arches up as the doctors charge the paddles on his chest and ribcage. A beep, a steady beep. She hears it and looks up with eyes that aren't her own, borrowed eyes from a borrowed body.
Sam's stable. For now.
Dean breathes for the first time in seven minutes, and Ruby watches as he accosts the doctor with questions as soon as the man exits the room. He's using his Older Brother tone, the one people don't question because of the dark look in his eyes. The doctor talks to him quietly, quickly, and Ruby walks into the hospital room where Sam lies on a gurney with a steady heartbeat of 58 BPM.
His face is slashed with the blood of the Wendigo, the same beast he and Dean have been tracking for a week. It should have been a simple job, but they didn't bank on a demonic curve ball, one even Ruby couldn't see coming.
She walks up to his bedside, but doesn't reach out to him. There's a breathing tube in his mouth, a butterfly needle guiding fluids into his arm, a synthetic substitute for all the blood he lost when the beast tried to carve him up like a Christmas ham. She knows it would have been a routine job, if the Wendigo hadn't been possessed.
Her hand reaches for the Colt, the precious Colt, where it rests inside her jacket pocket. It's one bullet shy of a full chamber, but she wonders if she was too late when she fired it
It wouldn't be the first time.
Ruby kneels next to the bed, rests her head near Sam's shoulder, slides her hand in his and closes her eyes.
She's gone before she can hear the drop in Sam's stable heartbeat, the doctors rushing in to revive him.
X X X X
When he opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is a blinding, white light. For a second, he thinks it could be the light at the end of the tunnel, but the romantic notion is soon tossed out when he looks around him. The sky is grey, but it's still bright. Every few moments, a silver streak shoots up from the soft, green ground, joins the sky and dissipates into nothing. His boots are wet, there's a small pond a few feet from where he sits, his back resting up against something cold and hard. He turns around – it's a gravestone, but the letters have worn away with time.
Sam doesn't know where he is, but it isn't heaven. His mom would be here if it was.
He hears a whisper to his left, and turns to see a girl with pale white hair and even paler skin. Her eyes are oily black.
His body tenses. "What are you doing here?"
"Don't you recognize me?" She asks, taking a step towards him. She's wearing an ankle-length nightgown, white, just like her hair.
Sam tilts his head to the side, staring into her black eyes. It's at the edge of his mind, the tip of his tongue— "Ruby."
Her skin seems to glow as he says her name, thin pale lips pulling back to reveal a startling smile. She looks angelical almost, if he didn't know better.
"I never said I was an angel," Ruby tells him. He opens his mouth to ask a question she knows is coming, "I'm not a telepath, either."
"You already know the answer," Ruby tells him. She takes another few steps towards him, the nightgown billowing around her legs to reveal her pale feet. Her toenails are painted black.
Figures, Sam thinks, fighting a way of déjà vu. Ruby only smiles.
"You're reading me like an open book," Sam says flatly. He doesn't like it.
"It's a two way street, Sam," Ruby reminds him, as if she's told him a thousand times before. She's, smiling again. Her black eyes flash but he doesn't feel the usual danger creep into his spine; the déjà vu is still there. "It's always been that way."
X X X X
"Clear," the doctor says, paddles hovering over Sam's chest.
"Sam! D'you hear me?Come on, hang in there, Sam!" Dean stares, incredulous.
"Who's the girl?" One of the nurses speaks up. She presses a hand to Ruby's neck.
Dean looks over, startled. He had forgotten about her.
The nurse's eyes go wide. "Damnit, she doesn't have a pulse."
X X X X
Sam watches as Ruby walks along the edge of the silver pond with a perplexed expression. He wants answers, and he's pissed because she won't she give them to him. He doesn't have time for cat-and-mouse games, not when his life is hanging in the balance. He has to get back to Dean; he has to figure out how to get out—
"I've already done this with you," Ruby cuts off his thoughts, and Sam looks up, startled. She stops walking, turns toward him. The nightgown billows in a breeze he can't feel on his face. "We've already had this conversation."
"Then why don't I remember it?" Sam demands, his patience snapping. He doesn't know what she's talking about, but he has an idea, an idea in the back of his mind that refuses to take full form. "Why is this—" he indicates their current location, "—not scaring the shit out of you?"
"Perks of being a demon, I suppose. I've pretty much seen it all, Sammy," Ruby replies, a laugh escaping her pale lips. "And I believe you just skipped denial. Went straight to anger."
"I've seen enough to know what's happening is real," Sam tells her, irked. That he's sure of. "We're in limbo, aren't we?"
"We've been here before, too, on more than one occasion," Ruby agrees. Her light expression disappears. "I watch you die every time."
Sam feels an inkling of fear in his chest, but ignores it. He needs answers and the surface of the pond begins to ripple near Ruby's feet. His eyes travel again to her painted toenails. "I did that, didn't I?" He motions towards her feet.
Ruby glances down, and when she looks up again, there's a smirk firmly in place. "You told me it would match my hair. You never could stop talking about my hair back then. You were my best customer."
"And the pistol?" Sam asks, the words leaving his mouth before he fully understands what they mean. The memories are there, locked behind a door in his mind, but his mouth has access to them. "I never understood why you would want to help me." Somehow that detail is clearer.
"A rugged, struggling cowboy living on the edge of the frontier? Sam, that was every girl's fantasy at the time." Ruby shakes her head at him. She smirks again, "Still is."
Sam feels a breeze against his face, but it's not the wind. More whispers — Ruby's low, husky voice against his ear. Soft, small hands running up and down his arms, shivers racking his spine. The anticipation nearly makes him groan—
He looks up, startled again. He checks to make sure it was just a slip of the mind — he's still sitting up against the gravestone, and she's still standing at the edge of the pond, but he can swear she has a glint in her dark eyes.
Ruby, with long black hair, sparkling green eyes all wrapped up like a marionette doll in a crimson corset. He remembers now. Red and black, his favorite colours. She had looked damn near irresistible.
"We were partners," Sam says finally, the dusty mirage forming into a memory. "Colt. That was my name."
"And I was Bonnie to your Clyde." Ruby brushes a few strands of pale hair from her face, and it's then that Sam sees the scars on the inside of her wrists.
X X X X
"BP's ninety over sixty, she's going into cardiac arrest. Get me paddles, now," a second doctor orders.
"He still needs them!" A nurse says, exasperated. She's alternating with another nurse, pumping Sam's heart while the paddles recharge for a third time.
Dean stares between the two bodies in the room. His brother on one bed, a demon in the body of a girl on the other.
What's the connection? He thinks suddenly.
"Then get another set in here! If we don't get oxygen to her brain soon, she's as good as dead."
Wouldn't mind that all too much, Dean utters darkly.
X X X X
Sam leans back against the gravestone, clasping his hands behind his head. He pauses when he feels metal. A thin, cool line. He holds his hands before him, and stares blankly at the gold band, wrapped plainly around the ring finger of his left hand. He looks up to stare at Ruby with wide eyes, disbelieving eyes.
She holds up her left hand too, but doesn't move from the pond's edge. The silver surface has begun to ripple. "I wasn't always just a whore to you, Sam," she says in a soft tone.
Sam shakes his head, pushes himself to his feet. "In what fucked up reality would I marry a demon?"
"One where you didn't know I was a demon," Ruby answers, and the words actually make her chest tighten.
Sam feels what she feels, and sees something flashes across his vision. It's a fragment; a piece of his memory shattered after so much time has passed. He's staring at the edge of the pond, Ruby's billowing nightgown at the edge of his vision. "When?" He asks quietly.
"Andover. 1692," Ruby tells him slowly. She knows he's remembering, but she wants to explain, just in case his mind doesn't catch up with his past life. He's had so many, after all. "I had just climbed out of Hell, I had almost perfected it by then, but it didn't change what I saw. I still wanted to forget…I wanted to start over. I put my hopes in you."
Sam looks up, remembering. "We had—" He breaks off, his voice barely above a whisper.
Ruby doesn't speak, but her left hand unconsciously moves to touch her middle. It's flat and empty now, no longer swollen with life. "We almost had the dream, Sam." Ruby smiles, it's a bittersweet sight. "But Azazel…he'd already killed my brother, nearly killed me."
Sam cocks his head to the side. "But you hadn't helped me make the pistol yet."
Ruby walks over to him, and he feels himself tense up involuntarily. He's not used to seeing her like this, as pale as the light sparks that continue to shoot up out of the ground around him. Her hair is too thin, her skin too translucent. He can't help but think of angels — until he looks into her oily black eyes.
"I'm not going to kill you," Ruby tells him, her tone equal parts rebuffing and hurt. Sam gives her a look; he still doesn't trust her. "Remember when you and Dean took on the Seven?" She doesn't need to pause for an answer, because she already has it, hears it resound inside Sam's head. Yeah, you saved my ass.
"Azazel has wanted me dead for centuries, because I've had this," Ruby tells him.
Sam watches as she pulls a dark silver blade from inside the folds of her nightgown. The blade is curved, engraved with symbols he recognizes but can't read. The knife is old, very old, and he's seen it before. She holds it out to him, and Sam takes it without hesitation, his fingers moving to wrap around the familiar hilt of smooth, brown leather.
"This isn't the first time I've held this," Sam says, looking up to meet Ruby's pitch-black gaze.
She smiles, a proud smile. The surface of the pond behind them both ripples again. "Do I need to tell you when you made it?"
"Romae," Sam whispers, and Ruby smiles.
Good boy, she thinks.
X X X X
"Bobby, I need answers and I need 'em now," Dean says into the phone, his eyes on his brother's still form and the possessed girl in the next bed over.
Their vitals are stable, but Dean doesn't know for how long. They're both in a comatose state, and the doctors have done all they can for the time being. It's a goddam yo-yo situation and he hates it.
"I don't know what to tell you, Dean," Bobby's voice comes through over the phone. "Every contact I have tell me Ruby's as old as they come, some say as old as the demon who killed your mom."
"Then how the hell is she connected to Sam?" Dean demands.
"It's gotta be the deal," Bobby says, and Dean hates him for it. The hell it is.
X X X X
Sam places the knife on the ground between him and Ruby, glances at the silver pond over her shoulder. Its ripples are becoming steadily larger, and Sam has an idea of what's coming.
"I was an iron smith," Sam says and the notion almost makes him smile, despite the daunting situation. "Another fantasy of yours?"
Ruby smiles, showing all her teeth. Her black eyes say it all. Hell yes. "You were always the brains of the operation, Sam. Even then, even when you had four sisters instead of one brother. You made your father proud, taking over the family business."
"You came by the shop every day," Sam says, a ghost of a smile on his face. "But we weren't married then, were we?"
Ruby's expression falls; she wrings her hands and pushes herself to her feet. Sam follows, standing as well. "Nullus. Demons in the lower circle caught wind of what you'd made. They killed you before I could stop them."
Sam swallows, running a hand absent-minded across his stomach. He can almost remember the blade, the ghost of a blade that spilled his blood over the forge ending his life. It's a centuries old memory, but still he feels the slice of the demon's sword, a sword he had welded with his own hands only days before.
"I made a mistake, coming to see you every day," Ruby tells him.
"Too much attention in one place," Sam finishes her thought grimly. "And after I was killed? That's where the memory gets hazy."
Ruby closes her eyes, and now all Sam can see is a pale girl standing before him in a white nightgown.
"You die, I die," Ruby says, eyes still closed. "Well…you die and visit the big guy upstairs for a little while, I go back to Hell." She laughs, shaking her head; "The fucked up version of the life cycle."
Sam's throat tightens and he reaches for Ruby's hand, her left hand, but their wedding bands are gone now. Another life gone, another life spent. They aren't those people anymore, but in a way they are. They carry the memories still; they'll always carry the memories. It had been dark times in Andover; he'd been hung for witchcraft and Ruby died soon after, their unborn son barely six months old.
"Why?" Sam asks. "Why do we always end up here?"
"I think it's a lesson." Ruby clasps his hand gently, opens her eyes. Black orbs still. "Because happy endings don't exist in reality. In fact, endings in general don't really seem to exist anymore…"
Sam laughs a little at that, but it's only half-hearted. "And what about this war? It's going to be the end for one of us."
Ruby gives him an indulgent smile. "I've been around so long, I've lost count how many times I've had to dig myself out of Hell," she tells him truthfully.
"But a guess?" Sam asks, his curiosity peaked. He remembers the Colt, the witch trials, the iron forge. It's fragmented, but whole enough for him to realize they are all pieces of his past lives. He's had so many.
"If you die on that hospital gurney? That'll make it…somewhere in the high fifties," Ruby answers.
The shock registers in Sam. "So I've lived and died—"
"Over fifty times? Yeah," Ruby confirms.
"Dean'll never believe me." Sam rubs his forehead with one hand. He remembers the gravestone, doesn't need to ask Ruby if it's his. He already knows.
Ruby smiles. "Didn't your daddy ever tell you were an overachiever?"
"I don't think he meant it like that." Sam rolls his eyes.
"Don't be so sure," she says right back.
It's a familiar banter that Sam is used to. They've done this dance before, and not just in limbo. They would verbally spar for a little while and even though Sam didn't understand the attraction and Ruby knew what would come of making contact with him, they would end up together in the end anyway. Are they masochists? No. But in a hundred years, they'll still be doing this dance, always this deadly dance. They're two of a kind.
"Birds of a feather," Ruby echoes Sam's thoughts, and he doesn't find it annoying anymore that she can read him so easily. "And don't go calling us soul mates. I already lived through 19th century England, I don't need anymore of that Romantic crap."
Sam just stares at her, not knowing which words to speak that could fill the space between them, not that it is a big space to begin with. Instead, Ruby takes him by the hand, leads him toward the silver pond. She dips one bare foot in the water and Sam can see a tremor course through her body.
"Cold?" Sam asks, amused.
Ruby glances at him once. "Hell always is, despite the stereotypes."
"Ruby—" Sam starts, but she stops him with one pale finger against his lips.
"Shh…" she whispers. Her black eyes stare up at him guilelessly, "We're experts at this by now, aren't we?" she asks him rhetorically, right before she kisses him.
X X X X
Dean's sitting at Sam's bedside.
He's racking his brain for all possible explanations, because this can't possibly be happening. A job goes south, Sam nearly gets his guts shredded to pieces and then the blond-haired, knife-wielding demon Ruby strolls right in and goes into a coma the same time as his brother?
Dean's not buying, not for a fucking second. So what's going on? His contacts are useless because, according to them, nothing like this has ever happened before.
"My ass, it hasn't," Dean begins, but is cut off by a sudden cacophony of machine beeps and alarms. "Oh, God, not again." He stands and dashes out of the room.
"I need a doctor!"
X X X X
Now, Sam's been kissed before, but never by a centuries old demon who most certainly is not his soul mate. And the kiss he's having right now, with a too-pale girl with too-dark eyes in a too-grey world between worlds, is the best one he's ever had. Probably because he's fallen in love with her kisses before.
Her mouth is soft, and she tastes like vanilla. Her hands are running up and down his arms, through his hair; the resulting shivers are intoxicating. When Ruby pulls back, Sam's reluctant to let her go. His hands are wrapped around her, fingers pressed up against her shoulder blades. He doesn't want to let her go.
"What if I fight?" Sam says. "And I don't die and you don't get sent back to Hell."
Ruby gives him an indulgent smile, but the sadness creeps into her voice. "Sam."
"Azazel's dead and most of the demons are already above ground," he continues. "I don't want to leave Dean to fight them on his own. He's gonna need both our help before it's all over, right?"
"Sam," Ruby says again. She rests a hand on his cheek, hating the hopeful expression on his face. She stands on her tiptoes and wraps her arms around to hug him tight. "This isn't a bargain that can be broken, not like the crossroads demon and her deals, not like the promise I made you to help Dean."
She pulls back to look at his broken face. "Dean already traded his life to give you a second chance. We should have been here weeks ago, but Dean wouldn't have it."
"What are you saying?" Sam asks, the first shadow of doubt in his eyes.
"There are no happy endings," Ruby says finally. The tears are at the edges of her onyx eyes, but they don't spill over. She presses on. "Not for Dean, not for your mom."
"My mother—" Sam begins.
"Had a similar situation," Ruby says the difficult words, the part that Sam always has trouble remembering, every time they have this conversation. "With Azazel, except he didn't love her. He used her. Azazel kills every last trace of her every time, anyone who's ever been close to her. If Mary ever had a love, it was John Winchester."
It was almost too much to process at once, and it felt like a punch to Sam's stomach. His mom and the yellow-eyed demon? It wasn't possible, it just wasn't fucking possible. His mom loved his dad, they had gotten married right after high school and she loved his dead. The yellow-eyed demon had killed the mothers of all his psychic soldiers, she wasn't special. The demon hadn't known his mother before, not like Ruby knew Sam.
Demons lie. Wasn't that what Dean had always told him? Demons lie. Ruby was no different.
Sam sees the effect of his thoughts as Ruby's face compresses, crestfallen. She isn't lying. They are both about to die; the memories are there for him to offer hard proof. They have been doing this dance for centuries, and she's never lied to him. Not once.
One tear, silver like the surface of the rippling pond, rolls out of the side of her eye and slides down her cheek.
It occurs to him that he's never seen her cry, not since she watched him hang for witchcraft four hundred years ago.
"There are no happy endings," Ruby repeats in a whisper. Her voice is raw; he can feel it in his bones. "Your mother's in Heaven now that Azazel's gone. But your father…" She lets the statement hang, because Sam does know what happened to their father, after he had made the deal with Azazel, after he had traded his life for Dean's, just like Dean had done for Sam.
"This war has no end. It's been here forever, and it'll endure until we meet here again," Ruby says brokenly.
She's a demon, but she had a family once, just like Sam. Azazel slaughtered them because of her betrayal and Sam knows that she tried to start over with him, tried to make amends. But he doesn't accept that she's giving in.
"Then help me stop it!" Sam pleads, taking both her hands in his, crushing her smaller, paler hands. "The knife, the Colt — we made them for a reason. Screw Azazel and his plans. The bastard's dead for good now and I'm not willing to accept the fact that every Winchester has to die before it starts to make a difference, Ruby." He looks her hard in her face, seeing her as a frightened girl instead of a black-eyed demon. "Are you willing to dig yourself out of Hell one more time only to find it on Earth?"
That's the first new question he's ever asked, and it catches Ruby off guard, but she shouldn't be surprised. This time was also a first for her, the first time she had asked Sam to give up and go away with her. To where, she didn't know…just away. She should've known it wouldn't work on a Winchester, should've known it wouldn't work on Sam.
She still had so much to learn about him.
"Damn straight you do," Sam tells her, not waiting for her answer as he takes her pale face in his hands and kisses her the same way she kissed him, but with far more urgency, pleading, hope. He won't let her step into the pond without this.
He feels a shock go through him, and wonders for a moment why he can hear his heartbeat reverberate in his ears.
X X X X
Dean's face is tear streaked, there's no point in stopping it. He watches as the doctors shock his brother a second, third, fourth time. He's about to punch his hand through the wall when a steady beep resumes on the monitor. The doctors hold the paddles, hovering above Sam's chest.
Sam coughs, sputters with the breathing tube in his mouth. His eyes open and it takes all of Dean's strength not to punch him in the face for nearly dying. He rushes into the room as the doctor clears out. A nurse removes the breathing tube, but keeps the butterfly clip in. She moves to check on Ruby in the next bed over who's still unconscious but Dean's attention is focused on Sam.
The two brothers stare at each other for a moment in utter silence. Dean doesn't know how to react because he doesn't know what happened and Sam doesn't say a word because the memory of limbo is still too fresh in his mind. They've never been good at this touchy feely crap, and they like it that way. Actions speak louder than words where the Winchester brothers are concerned and Sam doesn't need Dean to tell him how fucked up he would have been if Sam had died. It's in his face, his eyes. He can read his brother like a book, just like he can read Ruby's mind.
The silence is almost deafening, until Sam speaks. "We get the Wendigo?" He asks with a note of hope in his voice, and Dean is relieved it's a question he can answer.
He smiles down at his little brother, bloodied and torn up but alive and shrugs. He ruffles his hair and Sam tries to shove him off, making a face.
And just like that, it's back to normal between them. It's easier that way for them, their way of coping.
"Overgrown canine never had a chance," Dean tells his little brother.
X X X X
It's been a few hours, and the memories haven't subsided yet.
Sam is sitting in a chair next to the bed with Ruby's still form. Dean's off flirting with a redhead intern or getting soup or something equally productive. Sam knows he probably won't be back for a couple hours, regardless. Dean has always hated hospitals.
When Sam had asked the doctor about Ruby's condition, the man shrugged and said it will only be a matter of time before she woke up. She isn't in a coma and her vitals are stable. All Sam has to do is wait…which is one thing he sucks at.
It's odd; looking at Ruby in the body of the girl she's been possessing for the last few weeks. Odd, because, he thinks he's seen her true form — in limbo, where her skin was so light he could see her veins and her hair was the color of snow, but her eyes were still black. It's not the usual look of a demon from Hell.
"Stare long enough, you might burn a hole in her."
Sam looks up, startled to hear Dean's voice behind him. He turns to see his brother leaning against the doorway, arms crossed with only a slight smirk on his face.
"Hey," Sam says, and it only comes across as a little uneasy. "I thought you were—"
"Nah." Dean shrugs, walking into the room to stand next to where Sam sits. "She had to go save some old geyser from clockin' in early."
"Your humanity astounds me, Dean," Sam deadpans, shaking his head.
Dean pulls his trademark grin, but gets down to business, nodding towards Ruby's unconscious form on the bed. Or rather, the unconscious girl possessed by Ruby. Sam has to keep reminding himself that there's a difference, even though the picture of angel-white hair and thin, pale lips isn't likely to leave his mind any time soon. Especially when those lips are so good at kissing—
"So, you gonna tell me what happened between you and Demon Girl or do I have to pry it out of you?" Dean asks, cutting through Sam's thoughts.
The answer seems simple enough now that his life isn't in the balance. Well, you see, Dean, she's my demonic…not-soul-mate. I was going to ask you to be my best man… Sam tries to picture how Dean would react, and it doesn't end well.
"Sam." Dean is giving his brother an impatient look.
In the end, Sam just shrugs and he can see the steam flare out of Dean's ears. His brother doesn't like to be kept in the dark.
"Fine," Dean says, bristled. "There's a job in Iowa with our names on it. Let's go."
"What?" Sam can't help but sputter. "Now? It's, like, three in the morning, Dean." He glances at the clock on the wall just to double check; 3:13 AM. He points at the clock for emphasis.
"Unless you need to give Sleeping Beauty here a goodbye kiss, we're going," Dean says, and his tone tells Sam he's made up his mind. "I'm sure there's some demonic motel Demon Gal can check herself into when she wakes up…" Dean's voice fades off as turns on his heel and leaves the room.
Sam glances back at Ruby, but she's still unconscious. He debates about what to do, and ends up leaving his cell number on nightstand by her bed. In past times, she has always been the one to make the first move. Demons lie, but they're also fearless; Ruby's only an exception to the first rule.
With one hand on the doorjamb, one foot over the threshold, Sam turns back and glances over his shoulder at Ruby one last time, even though it won't be the last time he sees her. But before he sees her again, he and Dean have got work to do.
"Sweet dreams," he says before he leaves, and he knows that it's not the first time he's said that to her, nor the last.