Author's Note: My, I am an errant writer, aren't I? First Labor Day got me, and then Gameday Weekend—I've been slacking. 1,000 apologies; here's Chapter Six. I'm afraid it's got a miniscule word-count, but that's all leading-up to some serious busting-out angst I've got primed a few chapters down the road.


"Who are you: a stray they picked up on the side of the highway?"

When she spoke to me—and, I assumed, to anyone—her voice shifted slightly; it was kind of rough, but I got the sense that it was…I don't, changeable somehow.

I turned around and looked her right in the eyes. She was pretty, but rigid. And she looked smug.

"I'm not a stray."

She quirked an eyebrow, "So what, then—you just play one on TV?"

"Ruby…" Sam's voice was there in the corner now; I hadn't noticed. It was low and…menacing?

Not for the first time in the last five minutes I wondered who she was, and why she'd suddenly decided to step right into our lives.

She turned to him, a smear of false cheer across her face. Smiling, she spoke again.

"Sam! It's been forever."

He flinched a bit. She smiled wider.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"Oh, you know…" She trailed off and, with a theatrical pause, walked closer to him and away from me.

"What have you been up to?"

Her tone made me wince in sympathy; and that question…it turned my stomach. There was a level of intimacy there between them. I couldn't tell yet: it was easier to assume it was feigned. But the way Sam was around her left me wondering…

Wondering, my eyes wandered: they caught the cracked cement around the Impala and hung on the browned weeds who'd rebelliously disrupted the parking lot; the flickering fluorescent lights of the gas station across the street; the steaming haze coming from a sewer cap twenty feet away.

They saw all of this, and as I took in what they saw, I realized how wrong it was that we were here. That she—Ruby—was here. How vulnerable we were…how vulnerable I felt.

In a flicker of panic, I looked for Dean. I found him standing behind Sam's right shoulder, not a few feet back. He wasn't moving; his face was a mask. But the longer I looked at him, the less reassured I was by his calm demeanor. It seemed…fake. And strained.

Sam cleared his throat. It made an awkward noise here, between the four of us.

"I've been on the road, mostly."

She smiled.

"Kill anyone I know?"

For a second, it looked like Sam went a little pale. Glancing behind his shoulder, I saw Dean's face tighten.

Ruby laughed.

As the sound died down, she sighed—almost to herself, but it was loud enough that I heard (and what did she mutter? It sounded like "boring")—and turned to me.

"So, someone: fill me in—you have a scraggly orphan with you because…?"

For the first time, Dean spoke.

"He carries our supplies for us. And Ruby, I'm not gonna lie—he's a huge AC/DC fan."

She shot my older brother a dirty look; I cracked up.

Leave it to Dean to kill a killer mood.

Hearing my laughter, she turned back to me. That smile was back, in full-force. Looking straight at it, I saw what Sam must have seen—it didn't touch her eyes. They had a different sort of humor in them.

"Really, kid: AC/DC?"

I couldn't think fast enough to snap back, so I settled for shrugging sarcastically.

She smirked and came closer, looking me over.

A step or two away, she stopped.

For a second she looks directly at me. She opens her mouth; she turns.


And then she's gone.


In the space that's left I can see both Sam and Dean clearly. For a full fifteen seconds, I stare at each of them, curiosity written plainly across my face. Neither looks back at me.

My feet scuff against the ground nervously; I don't remember moving them, but it breaks the silence.

But, surprisingly, before I can speak, Sam looks at Dean. He draws a breath, and I can tell his face is a carefully-wrought mask of pain and indecision. My stomach turns even before a word leaves his mouth.

"She knows…"

Our older brother jerks his head at this and looks at the both of us.

"We need to get going."

And then he's off, and Sam's following, and everything is way more fucked up than it was when the sun rose.