Eaten smooth, and polished

The memory throws up high and dry, a crowd of twisted things.


Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all of the time if they were. River doesn't belong to me, either.

Rating: M

Pairing(s): Sam/River, Sam/Ruby

Warnings/Spoilers: Everything up through SPN 4.21 is fair game. Adult themes. There is an additional, although spoilery, warning at the end of the story.

Beta(s): Just me and my mistakes.

A/N: Written for lady_fox.


He wakes up to her voice whispering 'Sammy-Sam' and the slap of bare feet against concrete, her footsteps moving towards him in time to the whir of the overhead fan.

Sam doesn't need to open his eyes to see her, the way her dress flutters around her knees; caught in the private dance only she could see when she lifted her face to the sky. He used to get lost in the way she would smile, with the riddle on her lips and the answer in her eyes, the same way he gets lost in the ache that remains; the razor-sharp memory of the girl who made him believe in 'forever' every time he woke up with River Tam sprawled on top of him, both of them twisted together in the sheets.

She used to giggle so much in the morning, Dean would throw a pillow at them.

But it doesn't matter to a ghost that she's the scab that never heals.

It doesn't matter whether he's awake or whether he's hallucinating or whether both of them are trapped in one last moment of in between before the wind finally blows her to the one place he can never follow.

None of that keeps her from reaching down to poke him on the nose, smiling at him when Sam opens his eyes.

"I miss you, Sammy-Sam," she says softly. "I miss the before."

The before is a lifetime ago, both of them marked by his bloodstained mouth and the thin tracks of dried crimson marring the smooth curve of her arm. Sam can see them when River reaches out a hand to touch his cheek, when she's wearing nothing but her flowery sundress and the smile she saves just for him instead of the black leather jacket covering up his sins while they heal.

"River…"

She puts a finger on his lips.

"You didn't know the red woman bottled up the hurricane instead of setting it free. You can't be blamed for what you didn't know." The words are gentle, as light as the butterfly kiss she drops onto his mouth, but there are knives in River's eyes. "You didn't know there was a river pulsing past your lips along with the ruby ruby red, flowing out into the sea of Sammy-Sam."

She cocks her head. The question waiting in the quirk of her mouth scratches into him before the words even have the chance to hang heavy in the air.

"But when you bleed us, what are you kissing? The sulfur or the shell?"

She waits for his answer, standing on the tips of her toes as she stares up at the whirling metal blades above their heads. She rocks back and forth, her dress swirling around her legs in prelude to the dance that never comes, and waits for Sam to tell her the lie.

It's the same lie he tells himself every time Ruby is hissing 'fuck, Sam' into his ear, when Ruby is digging her nails into his shoulders with the same catch to her breath that would pop out of River Tam every time Sam Winchester kissed her. It's the lie Sam tells himself when he's listening to his own breath hitch, when he closes his eyes and remembers what it was like to drown in her. He tells himself that it's never Ruby he tastes and it's never Ruby he touches when the dagger comes out, that there's soft instead of sharp underneath his tongue.

River waits an extra heartbeat before she sighs. She kneels next to the cot, resting her folded arms on his chest, and stares at the door.

"Will you promise me something?"

She always wants the same promise.

It doesn't matter whether he's awake or whether he's dreaming, if he's leaning against the window in the Impala watching the trees fly by in a haze of green leaves or listening to Dean snore on the other side of the room while he waits for the cell phone in his pocket to vibrate.

Sam had promised her everything once.

He watches her blink and wishes they hadn't tied him down. His fingers twitch, remembering the way he would tuck her hair behind her ear or brush her lips whenever a small smile followed the shadow crossing her face. He watches River wait for another lie, turning her head to look at him with a shine in her eyes strong enough to crack open a fissure, another hole ripping open through his chest with her name written inside of it.

He swallows past the ache.

"You know why I can't."

"I know why you won't. You need the ruby ruby red inside of the shell."

Her voice slashes deeper than the dagger slipped inside Ruby's boot. River drags her thumb across one of the scabs on her wrist, biting her lower lip as the blood swells along the gash before spilling to the floor; crimson drops splashing against the concrete in time to the murmur rushing through his temples.

Sam arches his back when the first drop reaches his lips, when she's teasing him with a wrist held over his mouth. She pulls it away slowly, smiling at him while the rusty tang spreads across his tongue and suddenly his hands are pulling the blood down to his mouth, holding her arm against his lips until they're both flowing inside of him.

Until he's drowning.

"Dean was right," she purrs, twisting her arm out of reach. "I was a girl once but you've always been a monster, Sammy-Sam."

The left side of her dress is as bloodstained as his mouth when she turns on her heel, her dress fluttering around her knees, and her hair moves in its own wind as River walks away.


A/N:

The title of this story is a line from the poem "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" by T.S. Eliot, as is the summary. Ironically, this story is not part of my Rhapsody on a Windy Night 'verse. I just liked the metaphor.

Written for ladyfox, based on the following prompt: Sam/River, River teaches Sam a lesson, Post 4.20.

For the record, this damn thing nearly killed me to write. I owe Sam and River a much happier ending than this. *pets poor wee crossover OTP...* ;-P