AN: Holy effing crap, it's finished. Thank the Lord above. So sorry it took so long. It gets a little draggy at the end, just to warn you. I had the hardest time ending this. Not because I didn't want to, because I have never wanted to end a story like this, but because I just couldn't figure out the right words. But I did it and here it is. So enjoy.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Written by Becks Rylynn
''And who can bear to be forgotten''
Sam hates waiting.
He knows Cas has some grand master plan to end all master plans or what the fuck ever, but he positively loathes standing around and waiting. Besides, it's not like they have an unlimited amount of time to wait around here. The clock is ticking much too fast and Wyatt's time is beginning to run short. He doesn't want to wait anymore.
Glancing around the room, Sam sighs heavily and runs a hand over his tired face. The Campbell's are on one side of the room talking in low whispers and occasionally sending looks Sam does not appreciate in Ruby's direction. On the other side of the room, Ruby is pale and terrified looking as she tries to calm down an increasingly hysterical Aggie who does not understand anything that's happening. And Sam is the odd man out. Again. Seems to be becoming a pattern.
He rubs his temples, swallowing back a yawn and when he lifts his eyes again, he catches sight of the front door closing with a quiet click. He stiffens, stands straight and frowns. When his eyes slide to Ruby, she looks at him silently for a moment before giving him the briefest, shakiest thing that could pass for a smile and nodding her head towards the door.
He moves towards the door.
Samuel's questioning eyes follow him, but Sam brushes it off.
He hesitates briefly, gripping the doorknob. A wince flickers across his lips when he remembers the last time he walked out this door. The cold October air is the first thing that hits him when he steps outside. The second is the quiet fusses of the baby in his brother's arms, bundled in blankets and warm clothing. The last thing to hit him is what hits him the hardest. Dean looks crushed beyond belief. He looks frustrated, guilt ridden, scared, fueled by sadness and impossibly tired. It scares Sam because...well, because Dean is Dean and Sam still sees him through the eyes of an eight year old boy whose big brother was invincible and who didn't know what a Mom was, but who knew what a Dean was.
But this Dean is...defeated.
It reminds him of Lucifer and Michael and all of the things he tries so hard not to remember.
Dean is quietly shushing Ella, gently bouncing the baby in an attempt to soothe her.
Sam doesn't say anything, but he gets the feeling Dean knows he's there. He takes a breath and then tentatively takes a seat next to Dean. They don't say anything and Ella continues to fuss. After awhile, Sam finally decides one of them better say something before they both die of old age.
Dean beats him to it. ''Do you think,'' he starts quietly, ''if I hadn't come back - ''
''Don't,'' Sam cuts him off abruptly, swinging his gaze to his brother, mouth drawn into a frown. ''Don't do that, Dean. This had nothing to do with you.''
''I just...I thought I could find it, you know?''
Dean meets Sam's eyes for the first time in months and Sam has to swallow. ''...Normal. I thought I could have that with her. But the truth is, normal...that's never going to be in the cards for me, is it? I mean, hunting and monsters and...and you...it's in my blood. I can't walk away from that and they can't walk with me.''
Sam doesn't say anything for a moment that might be a little too long. ''Dean,'' he finally says thoughtfully. ''Did you hear what Cas said? The reason Ruby and Wyatt are alive is because he saw how they would save you from...everything. You are the reason they're still here. You saved their lives. And yeah, maybe this is an unfortunate consequence but in the end, she is just one ghost. They're here because of what they mean to you and what you mean to the world. Someday, you'll learn that half of the things you think are your fault...aren't. You need to stop punishing yourself, Dean. I want you to be happy. That's all I've ever wanted.''
Dean blinks, stares and then, much to Sam's surprise, he smirks and lets out a snort of laughter. ''God, Sammy,'' he mutters. ''Don't be such a girl.''
There's a moment of stunned silence on Sam's part while Dean chuckles. Sam's not sure if it's because Dean has just let him in or because Dean has just called him Sammy again, but either way the shock passes quickly and he can't help but let out a small laugh. Ella seems to have calmed down, busying herself with trying to burrow herself inside her father's jacket and playing with a button on said jacket. Sam looks at his niece without even attempting to hide the adoring (and slightly longing) look in his eyes. He used to want this. What Dean has now. A wife, a house, a job, kids, normal. Now everything has changed. So much. He has changed so much. He's not sure if he could have normal even if he wanted it. ''She's gotten big,'' he comments, breaking the silence and nodding to Ella.
''It's been awhile since you saw her,'' Dean points out. Something about his tone is almost accusing and Sam has to bite back a bitter retort because, really Dean? It's not like he kicked himself out.
''Is she crawling?'' He asks instead.
Dean nods and looks over at his brother briefly. Sam searches for that proud father look in Dean's eyes and can't find it. There's something familiar, a spark Sam can't quite put his finger on. He knows it from somewhere. And then he remembers a few years ago when Dean was telling Ruby all about when Sam was little and he remembers this same look in his brother's eyes. He remembers when he told Dean he got into Stanford. For just a brief second before he closed himself off and got all huffy, Dean's eyes lit up. This...is his proud father look. It's just something Sam's been seeing his whole life. Sam clears his throat and wills himself not to smile.
''She crawls,'' Dean's saying. ''She's just...She's a very cautious baby. Kinda paranoid.''
''I wonder where she got that from,'' Sam mutters.
''Shut up, I'm not paranoid.''
''You have your moments. I'll bet the first time she crawled, you walked behind her the whole time.''
''She could have stuck her finger in an outlet or something! Babies aren't very bright, you know.''
''That's why you have outlet covers.''
''I...well...oh, whatever.'' Dean looks down at Ella, who is currently peering up at him with those big eyes of hers. ''Yes, I know, doll. You're a genius.''
Sam laughs again and shakes his head. ''You're such a dork sometimes.''
''Yeah, well, at least I don't have a girl's name, Samantha.''
''You were named after our grandmother!''
''I knew I shouldn't have told you that.''
For a minute, it's almost like nothing's changed. It's just like they're Sam and Dean again and none of the badness has happened. It's almost like Dean didn't kick Sam out when he chose the Campbells over real family and Sam never threw the first punch after Dean compared him to their father. Dean sobers first, smile dimming slightly as he throws a sidelong glance at Sam. ''Sam,'' he offers quietly. ''Listen...about that night...It shouldn't have gone like that.''
Sam tenses and swallows. ''No, it shouldn't have.''
Dean is silent for a moment, attention focused back on his daughter. Sam lets a sigh slip through his lips and turns his eyes up to the stars sparkling in the sky. ''Sam,'' Dean takes the first step, looking at Sam with those ever searching eyes of his. ''You should know that I'm - ''
The door opens and Ruby steps outside. Sam would like to be annoyed with her for interrupting the first time alone with his brother he's had in months, but she still looks shaky with fear and pale in the soft glow of the porch light. ''Cas is ready,'' she says quietly. ''Can we go get my son back now? Also, can we get these people out of my house?''
In the dark of night, as wind blows through the trees and seems to sigh mournfully in the quiet night, Wyatt shrinks back against the cold slab of concrete, heart hammering nervously in his chest. He swallows down the mind numbing fear and tries not to think about the fact that it's a gravestone he's leaning against or the fact that he is currently being held hostage in a bone yard while he chats up a dead chick who has previously erased his entire existence and would now like him to die so he can be with her forever.
His fingers are curled around the small glass vile he's been given and he has no idea what it is, but he's fairly certain it can't be good. He scrambles to his feet, avoiding her piercing eyes. ''What is this?'' He asks hesitantly, willing his voice not to tremble.
Joy smiles and shrugs carelessly. ''Just a little something that will stop your heart instantly.''
Of course it is. Because what else would it be?
He works hard not to cringe, gulping and looking down at the vile in terror. Holy crap, he's really going to die, isn't he? ''Wait.'' His voice comes out hoarse and raspy, but still strong and he chokes back all the fear and tries to look fearless instead. ''Before I do this, I need to know something.''
Joy crosses her arms and taps her foot impatiently, lips pinched together. ''What?''
''I need you to promise me that you won't ever touch my sister again. I don't care if we'll be ghosts or if we'll be tethered together for all of eternity or whatever your master plan is. If you touch her again, I'll leave you and you'll never see me again. I'll go haunt some creepy old house. Rattle some chains. Scare some locals.''
She throws her head back and laughs at the sky. ''I don't think you're in any position to be threatening me, Wyatt.''
He silences for a second, looking down at the liquid inside of the vile. He's sure Mom and Dad have to be looking for him right now. If he stalls her long enough, maybe he can actually get through this night in one piece. ''Oh, I think I am,'' he says confidently. ''You don't scare me, Joy. You love me. And right now, I'm the one who has this.'' He waggles the vile in front of her face and turns away from her carelessly. ''I mean, what's your plan? You can kill me sure, but I'm never going to love you like you love me. I'm only going to hate you for taking me away from my family.''
''You'll learn to love me,'' she says strongly. ''It might take awhile. It might take years, but sooner or later, you'll love me.''
''See, I don't think I will. I can never love you, Joy. Not after everything you've done. You made my family forget me. You choked me. You threatened my sister. This isn't going to work out. I think we should break up.''
She seems stricken for a moment before recovering with a nasty smirk. ''If you don't kill yourself, you know what I'll do.''
''What will you do?''
''I'll kill your father and your uncle and your sister and then I'll torture your mother until she can't even scream and it will be all your fault.''
He pales dramatically at the images that flash through his head, but keeps his careless smirk firmly planted on his lips. ''And if you do that, you will never get me.''
She glares at him, her nose scrunched up in disgust. ''Fine, whatever,'' she mumbles flippantly. ''I promise I won't go near them if you just drink it. I never realized you talked so much.''
Wyatt almost sighs because honestly, he was hoping he could keep up the charade for a little longer. He clears his throat and looks at the vile nervously.
''Well,'' Joy demands. ''Are you going to drink it or not?''
He hesitates. ''You know, Joy,'' he starts, softening his tone. ''You haven't actually hurt anyone yet. At least not seriously. You could make this right. You could find your mother. Go with her. You don't need me. You're a good person, Joy. You just have to - ''
''Really?'' She scoffs. ''This is your pitch? I have to say, I'm quite disappointed in you.''
''Well, think about it this way,'' Wyatt shrugs. ''If you force me to drink this, you technically commit murder. And if I die then my dad will go insane. I mean, he will literally go insane. He'll want revenge and when he finally gets a hold of you, he'll kill you in the most painfully slow way possible. I've seen him when he's sad and grieving. It's not pretty, Joy. It won't be good for you. He'll find your bones, dig them up and burn them one by one and eventually, you'll be forced to spend eternity in, like, Hell or something. But as of right now, you have a chance to avoid that nastiness. You could give up and go elsewhere. I don't really care if you move on, just leave me alone. I'm trying to help you here, Joy. And that's just my dad. You don't even want to know what my mom will do to you. Talk about scary.'' He laughs nervously, taking a step backwards when she moves forwards.
''That's a nice try,'' she cackles, perching herself atop a tombstone. ''Very convincing. But I know I was cremated. There are no bones to burn.''
Oh. Drats. He was kind of counting on her not knowing that her ashes were currently probably residing on her father's mantle. This is an unfortunate twist. ''Well, so? There are lots of other ways to kill a ghost,'' he says smoothly even though he has no idea what he's talking about. ''Ways that hurt. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot.'' He hopes he sounds confident, but he's really starting to flounder here. He has no idea how he's going to keep stalling; he just knows he doesn't want to die. He's not even eight yet! He's not ready to go. ''I see this as being a lose/lose situation, Joy. If I die, my parents will make sure you go through more pain than you can imagine. If I don't die...while you might kill everyone I love, you'd only wind up hurting yourself because I'd never go to you if you did that. Plus, if you killed them, they'd be ghosts too and then they could kick your butt. Literally. Any way you slice it, you're the one who will get screwed here. I'm not really seeing a super endgame for you here. This really sucks for you.''
''Kid's got a point.''
A gun cocks, Wyatt drops to the ground, a shot goes off and Joy disappears. Wyatt takes advantage of her momentary disappearance and fumbles with the vile, twisting the cap off and dumping the contents. Safe, warm hands pull him back and he clings to his mother's shirt desperately. Behind her, Dad and Sam keep the guns raised and ready to fire. ''This isn't going to hold her off for long,'' Dad warns. ''Where the hell is Cas?''
''He said he'd be here,'' Sam says evenly, eyeing the trees lining the graveyard nervously.
''Stupid unreliable angel!''
''We need to get Wyatt out of here before she comes back,'' Mom says, holding tightly to Wyatt's hand.
''No!'' Wyatt protests, wrenching free of her grip. ''We can't! If I leave, she'll go after everyone I care about! Starting with Ella. I can't let that happen, Mom!'' His eyes briefly flick to his father, who, for some reason, looks like he's been slapped. Looking away from Mom, even for a second, turns out to be a mistake because when he looks back at her she's got an odd look on her face and her hands are moving to her throat. She looks away from him, probably to hide the pain in her eyes and she begins to choke, like she's being strangled. Her desperate wheezes for air get her nowhere and Wyatt reaches for her as she claws at her throat. ''Mom!''
Dad rushes towards his wife, grasping her shoulders. Wyatt can't see her eyes in the dark, but he thinks they must be filled with fear and his heart is beating so fast he's scared it'll just stop. ''Ruby!'' Dad's voice is sharp and hiding something that sounds almost like terror. She keeps choking and gasping and when Sam reaches forwards to pull Wyatt away, he shakes off his arm and looks around desperately. Mom goes to the ground, still unable to breathe and Dad goes with her.
''Joy, wait!'' Wyatt screams out, whirling around in search of her. ''Please stop this! You're not a bad person, I know you're not. Just let my mom go!''
''That's where you're wrong, Wyatt,'' Joy says from behind him. ''I'm not a good person.''
He turns to look at her with wide eyes and his breath floats in the air like tiny gray wisps of smoke. Hers doesn't. There are frustrated tears glistening in her eyes that shine in the moonlight and he thinks, with fear, that he might have pushed her over the edge. Now she's snapping like a dry, brittle twig and she's going to kill his mother. ''If you don't want me, I'll take her instead!'' She screams through gulping, angry sobs. It's the first time she's acted like a scared, lonely child instead of some cunning, evil spirit. ''I'll take her away from you and she can be my mom!''
''No!'' Wyatt lunges forwards, dodging Dad and Sam's hands reaching for him. ''You can't take her! You can't take my mom!''
''Then come with me,'' she pleads. ''Tell me you love me, Wyatt!''
''I...'' He swallows and can't quite manage to force the words out. He's seven. He doesn't even know what love means yet. ''Joy, I - ''
Wyatt watches as shock replaces the frightening desperation that has taken over the girl's face. Her grip on Mom loosens until she can breathe again and when Wyatt looks at Mom, she's gasping and air seems to be reaching her lungs once again. Joy slowly turns around to face the newcomer standing beside Cas with big eyes. When she speaks, her voice sounds weak and shaky and she...doesn't sound all that scary anymore. ''Mom?'' She whispers out, looking the woman up and down.
Cecelia Harper. It must be Cecelia Harper. Joy's mom. Cecelia Harper is a pretty young woman with hazel eyes and dark, dark hair. She looks a lot like Joy. What strikes Wyatt is, despite their physical differences, something about Cecelia reminds Wyatt of his own mother. There's something in the way she holds herself. In the way she's standing there, looking at Joy with complete and utter devotion in her eyes. He stumbles backwards, right into Dad and can't take his eyes off of Joy's mother.
''Joy,'' Cecelia whispers, her hands flying to her mouth. ''I found you.''
Wyatt tears his eyes away from Cecelia, looks at Joy for a second and then decides to focus his attention on Mom.
''Mom,'' Joy whimpers, going backwards. ''What are you...Why are you here?''
''What are you doing, Joy?'' Cecelia asks softly. ''Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting this family? This boy? You're better than that.''
''You wouldn't understand,'' Joy scowls, sticking her nose up in the air. ''You don't know me anymore. You went away. You went into the light and left me here all alone!''
''I thought you were right behind me,'' Cecelia all but wails, ghostly tears running down her cheeks.
Joy rolls her eyes and though she's obviously trying to look unaffected by her mother's appearance, she's clearly rattled. ''You always were a little stupid,'' Joy spits out cruelly. ''Guess that's what you get for getting pregnant so young.''
Mom makes an offended noise in the back of her throat at that.
The weak insult bounces right off of her mother and Cecelia takes another step towards her bitter daughter. ''You'd be seventeen in a few days, you know,'' she murmurs wistfully. ''If we had lived...you'd be turning seventeen in two weeks.'' She lets out a choked laugh. ''You would've been a gorgeous woman. But you're always going to be my beautiful little girl. I want you to know that.''
Joy sucks in a breath and closes her eyes. ''Go away. Nobody wants you here.''
''Joy, you know these people don't deserve what you're doing to them.''
Joy's eyes darken and every last ounce of her attention swivels to her mother. Wyatt lets out a breath. ''They don't?'' Joy cackles madly, taking a step towards her mother. ''We died for them,'' she screams. ''I died for that boy. You died for her,'' she waves towards Mom. ''We should be able to do whatever we want with them. We gave them life. Don't you see that?''
Cecelia's eyes linger on Mom and Wyatt's not sure if it's his imagination or what, but he thinks he might see their eyes meet briefly. Cecelia's lips turn downwards into a frown and Wyatt catches sight of a flash of something that almost looks like bitterness in her eyes before she tears her eyes away from Mom and looks at her daughter. ''The past is in the past, baby,'' she says firmly. ''We can't change that.''
''Yeah, whatever. We're dead,'' Joy snipes. ''I don't care. I just want Wyatt to be with me forever. I love him.''
Cecelia sighs patiently. ''You don't love him, Joy. You're nine.''
''Whole other can of worms,'' Cecelia mutters flatly. ''Listen, I understand why you think you're in love with him.''
''Don't patronize me.''
''He's been your only friend for so long. But you don't love him.''
''You can't tell me how to feel, Mother!''
Cecelia looks a little shaken by the pure rage in her daughter. ''You know, Joy, you used to be such a sweet little girl. You just...You had this beautiful heart of gold. You had a smile for everyone you met and you always, always tried to see the best in people.'' At the sound of her mother's tearful words, Joy starts trembling and she moves closer to Wyatt, almost like she wants him to protect her from the emotions she's feeling. ''Your father and I were so young when we had you,'' Cecelia continues, maintaining eye contact with her daughter as she moves forwards. ''And things got so hard sometimes. But when I looked at you...when I looked at you, it was all worth it. It didn't matter how difficult things got with money or with your dad or just...life in general. You were worth it. You are worth it. You made things better just by smiling. What happened to that girl?''
''Uh, she died,'' Joy sneers. ''Duh. Where have you been?''
Cecelia swallows and nods in defeat. ''Joy,'' she says strongly. ''You're my little girl and I'd do anything for you. But if you keep hurting this family, I will stop you.''
The confidence in her mother's eyes seems to startle Joy for about half a second before that ever present snotty little brat sneer takes over. ''What are you gonna do, Mom? Ground me?''
Cecelia flinches. ''You and I...We used to be best friends. Can't we go back? Can't we go back to that?''
(Don't think Wyatt misses the way Dad and Sam look at each other for a fraction of a second.)
''I promise you'll be happier. I've spent so long searching for you, baby. I'm not giving up on you now. Can you just...come with me?'' She holds out her hand towards her daughter with a watery smile. ''We can be happy.''
It might be a stupid thing to do, but there's a moment there where Wyatt actually thinks Joy might take her mother's hand and then they'll both skip off into the great beyond or whatever. She looks at her mother's hand for a long time and Wyatt mistakenly thinks she might do something right for a change. But then he sees the anger in her eyes and the ghostly energy crackling on her fingertips and they're all screwed. ''No,'' Joy says and then all hell breaks loose. It happens fast. Joy throws her hands out and two white hot bursts of energy go blasting towards Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, Joy doesn't count on Castiel and Sam.
Easily, Castiel pulls Mom out of the way and Sam pushes Dad out of the energy's path, taking the blast himself. Wyatt looks away from Joy and towards his parents for a second. Just a second. It proves to be a deadly mistake because when he looks back, she's inches away from his face and her hand is shooting out and wrapping around his neck before he can even scream. Someone yells his name, but he's too busy trying to breathe to listen. Her vice like grip is this close to crushing his windpipe when she gets this funny little look on her face and her eyes widen in either shock or pain.
Wyatt drops to the ground, coughing and spluttering for air. Joy looks down at the hand latched onto her wrist and then up to her mother's carefully blank face. Real fear skitters across Joy's previously rage darkened eyes and in the next second, both mother and daughter have disappeared in an explosive burst of white light that Wyatt has to shield his eyes from. When it dies down, he looks around the lonely graveyard, half expecting Joy to come back and finish the job. ''Wh-What just happened?'' He finally manages to breathe out. ''Did she kill her?''
''No,'' Castiel says calmly, offering the boy a hand. ''She just took her away.''
Wyatt frowns and takes Castiel's hand, letting the angel pull him to his feet. ''Took her away where?''
''Somewhere where she won't be able to get to you ever again.''
Wyatt wants to ask more questions, but in the end he only nods and takes a breath of fresh air. When he glances behind Castiel, he catches sight of his mother pulling herself to her feet and his eyes light up. ''Mom!'' Relief drums through his veins and he races towards her, throwing his arms around her waist and squeezing his eyes shut. ''Can we go home now?'' He asks shakily, suddenly feeling the adrenaline wear off, replaced by exhaustion and the incredibly unpleasant feeling that his bruises have bruises of their own.
''Yes,'' she whispers. ''We can go home now.''
''Uh...hey!'' All eyes go to Dad, whose eyes are still wild and panicked as he pushes himself to his feet and gestures madly towards Sam's prone form. ''Does nobody see the injured Winchester here? Cas!'' He stomps forwards and grabs Castiel by the collar. ''Do something miraculous! Just fix him!''
''Dean,'' Castiel murmurs slowly. ''He's just unconscious. He's going to be fine.'' As if on cue, Sam stirs and a groan slips through his mouth as he sluggishly brings a hand to his head and whispers his brother's name.
Dad pauses, blinks and then lets go of Cas and steps back. ''Oh.''
Castiel frowns and smoothes down his trench coat. Wyatt thinks the guy might care a little too much for his coat. It's like Dad and his car.
Somebody clears their throat behind them and Wyatt holds his breath, clutching his mother desperately. It's Joy. She's back. But then he turns around and the image that flickers in and out is not Joy, but Cecelia. She looks apologetic and regretful as she looks at the Winchester family in front of her. Mom holds Wyatt so tight he almost grimaces. ''I'm sorry,'' Cecelia apologizes. ''I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to apologize for my daughter's involvement. She won't be bothering you again. I'm not going to let her out of my sight ever again.'' She looks at Mom for a second, meets her eyes and then she's gone without another word.
There's a moment of tense silence and then Wyatt speaks. ''So...home now?''
Cecelia Harper always tried to do her best for her daughter when they were alive. Joy always had clothes and food and a roof over her head and plenty of love no matter what. Cecelia made sure of that. She also made sure that bad behavior was not just shook off. Just because she's dead doesn't mean any of that needs to change.
She enters the dark, dank and dirty room and looks at the pouting child behind the bars. The heavy door slams shut behind her and Cecelia fights the urge to wince. Instead, she swallows hard and tries to act unfazed.
Joy sneers at her through the prison like bars. ''You can't keep me in here forever. Sooner or later, I'll get out and the first thing I'm going to do is kill Wyatt and his mother. Then I'll kill that little baby that means so much to Wyatt and I'll make you watch. Then you'll see I'm not that little girl anymore.''
''Actually,'' Cecelia takes a seat on the dirty floor, leans back against the equally dirty wall and flicks an imaginary piece of lint off of her outdated jeans. ''You're wrong about that, baby. You're never getting out of here. Neither of us ever will.''
''What are you - ''
''Just because we're dead doesn't mean there aren't rules to be followed, Joy,'' Cecelia explains patiently. ''And you broke them. You're being punished.''
Joy silences for a moment, fingers wrapping around the bars as she looks around her eternal prison. ''So, what? Is this Hell or something?''
''Not Hell,'' Cecelia corrects. ''It's something else.''
''Why are you here then? You didn't break the rules.''
''I'm your mother. I'm not going to let you spend eternity alone.''
Joy pales. ''Eternity?'' She questions weakly.
Cecelia sighs heavily. ''I'm sorry, baby. I really am. But you messed up.''
For a second, Joy looks like she wants to cry. But then she scowls, shrinks back against the wall, slides to the ground and draws her knees up to her chest. ''Don't talk to me.'' Cecelia presses her lips together and silently watches her daughter through the bars. After a moment, Joy lowers her head and Cecelia catches sight of frustrated, angry tears glimmering in the dim light. ''I hate you,'' Joy mumbles out around her tears.
''That's all right,'' Cecelia smiles gently. ''I love you.''
''I still think she should have been Robin.''
''Well, you're going to need to get over that.''
''But think about how cute that would've been!''
''Wyatt, dude, think about what you're saying for a minute. You're almost eight years old. Would your friends have thought that was cool? Not to mention, the bigger issue is your mother. We never would've gotten out of the house because she would have insisted on taking fifty thousand pictures.''
''Hey, do not try and pin this on me, Dean Winchester.'' Ruby falls into step with her husband and son, glancing down at her sleeping daughter in her arms. ''You're the one who put our daughter in the store bought lion costume.''
''Know what?'' Dean drawls in response. ''I'm perfectly comfortable with taking responsibility for this because you wanted to dress her as a flower.''
She shrugs and he watches as she fixes Ella's costume carefully. It's clear she doesn't dislike the lion costume nearly as much as she says she does. ''I had the costume left over from when Wyatt was a baby. I thought it'd be easier on us.''
''Hold up.'' Wyatt stops in his tracks, pushes his mask up and looks at her in horror. ''You dressed me as a flower?Couldn't you have gone with the standard baby pumpkin? Just tonight I've seen five different babies dressed as pumpkins. That's - You dressed me as a flower?''
''See,'' Dean gloats proudly. ''I made our daughter unique.''
''What can I say?'' Ruby shrugs again, eyes twinkling. ''For the first year of your life, we all thought you were a girl.''
''Geez,'' Wyatt grumbles. ''Way to traumatize a kid.''
''You weren't traumatized,'' Ruby protests innocently. ''You seemed to greatly enjoy being a flower.''
''Uh, okay,'' Dean arches an eyebrow and glances from his wife to his son. ''This conversation is bordering on disturbing now.''
''You're just realizing that?'' Wyatt mutters under his breath.
Ruby laughs a twinkly little laugh and the smile on her face draws Dean to her like a moth to a flame. Halloween has never really been his favourite time of the year. In past years, he could pretty much take it or leave it. The last time he took someone trick or treating was when Sam was eight. (He and Ruby were supposed to take Wyatt trick or treating last year, but he had gotten the flu and she was sick and pregnant so Ruby's uncle wound up taking Wyatt out. And do you know what's not fun? Flipping a coin with your wife to see who gets to puke in the toilet and who gets the trashcan.)
Now he's got a family and October 31st suddenly means something awesome to them. Ruby loves Halloween for reasons Dean doesn't understand at all, but it makes her smile and he's willing to give anything a chance if it will make her smile. Wyatt loves Halloween for the candy and the costumes, like any other kid. And despite the fact that she had seemed quite alarmed at the discovery that her costume covered her hands, leaving her unable to chew on her fingers, Ella is bound to love the holiday just as much as her mother and brother do. Long story short, Halloween is apparently a big deal to his family and he's willing to do anything for his family.
Except dress up. That's where he draws the line. Unlike Ruby, who is currently sporting black cat ears and whiskers drawn out of black eyeliner which he only finds incredibly charming.
He trails behind them slightly, admiring how normal they look at the moment. Ruby is saying something to Wyatt, who grins up at her in response. A small, contented smile crosses his lips briefly. Technically, they're still dealing with the fallout from the whole Casper the Unfriendly Ghost incident. Wyatt's been having nightmares and he's been spending the nights in his parent's bed and Ruby keeps waking up in the middle of the night to make sure Wyatt is still beside her and that Ella is safe in her crib. But Joy is gone for good and his wife and kids are safe. He thinks he can handle a little paranoia for awhile. Just as long as they're safe.
As they near the house, he catches sight of a familiar car in the driveway. Apparently, Wyatt does too. ''Sam!'' The littlest Batman rushes forwards to launch himself at Sam, and Ella stirs in her mom's arms at the yelp. Out of the corner of his eye, Dean notices Ruby sending him a look and he smiles to let her know he's okay.
Sam laughs, lifting Wyatt off the ground. ''Hey, Batman,'' Sam greets with a smile. ''You been out saving the world?''
''Yep. And all I got was this candy.''
''Hey, if you don't want it, I'll take it.''
''Hi, Sam.'' Ruby greets him with that beautiful smile of hers and kisses his cheek.
His smile turns into a full blown grin when he sees Ella. ''Hello there, little lion girl. And...'' He frowns at Ruby, tilting his head to the side curiously. ''...Weird...eared...person.''
''I'm a cat,'' she informs him in a deadpan.
''Oh. ...I did not get that.''
''Hey, Sammy.'' The nickname slips through his lips naturally and it's only after he's said it that he realizes what he's just said. The smile on his face doesn't budge as he looks his brother up and down, and he quickly finds it's not as uncomfortable to be around Sam as it was only days ago. ''What's your costume? Wolverine? 'Cause I gotta say, dude, your hair is gettin' out of control.''
Sam rolls his eyes. ''I'm laughing on the inside. And anyway, what's your costume? I don't see you dressing up as Robin.''
''Oh! You should have been Robin!'' Wyatt yelps, snapping his fingers in realization.
''Um, I'll have you know I am, in fact, wearing a costume.'' With a smirk, and a wink thrown in his wife's direction, Dean pulls his jacket back to reveal a gift tag on his shirt that reads To: Women. From: God.
Sam blinks, sighs and looks towards Ruby. She's shaking her head, looking severely disappointed in her husband and embarrassed that she chose to marry such a geek. ''God's gift to women?'' Sam asks dryly.
''You know it.''
Sam's lips twitch and he tries very hard not to smile.
''Sam,'' Ruby pipes up, laying a hand on his arm. ''Would you like to stay for awhile? Wyatt's going to make us sit through The Nightmare Before Christmas again. And your brother's going to eat all of Wyatt's candy. I, for one, would like to have some mature company.''
''Oh, uh...'' Sam sneaks a glance towards Dean briefly before smiling softly. ''Sure.''
''Great.'' Ruby flashes him a brilliant smile before bouncing back towards her husband to peck him on the lips. ''I'm going to take the kids inside,'' she murmurs against his lips. ''You need to talk to your brother.''
Dean chokes back a sigh and watches her lead Batman inside with Little Lion Girl in her arms. When he looks back at Sam, he's leaning against his car while he eyes the trick or treaters running up and down the street. Silently, Dean takes his place next to Sam, folding his arms over his chest.
''How's Wyatt?'' Sam asks after a beat of silence.
Dean shrugs. ''He'll be okay. He's been sleeping in our bed because of nightmares, but...he'll be fine. He's a strong kid.''
Sam looks like he wants to smile. ''That he is. And Ruby?''
''She's...still a little shaken. But she's Ruby. She'll get over it.'' Dean watches his brother out of the corner of his eye. Sam's eyes are on the ground and his hands are in his pockets. After all these years, Dean thinks he can tell when his brother has something to say. He waits for the words to come out and when Sam doesn't say a word, Dean blows out a breath and runs a tired hand over his face. He watches as a little tiger and a princess scramble up the front steps of his house, yelling out an animated ''trick or treat!'' when Ruby opens the door. A brief smile starts on his lips when he sees her grin widely at the children, Tallie running circles around her feet. ''Hey,'' he looks over at Sam. ''Do you remember that Halloween when you were four?'' He chuckles and shakes his head. ''You dressed up as Dad.''
Sam snorts. ''That certainly was a memorable Halloween. I had never seen Dad look at me like that before.''
''Well,'' Dean frowns thoughtfully. ''He was proud of you, dude. The guy had his flaws but he was a good man at heart. You know that, right?''
''Of course I know that.'' Sam purses his lips and shoots him a look that Dean can't quite decipher. ''Is this your roundabout way of telling me I shouldn't be mad at you for comparing me to Dad? That I shouldn't be hurt?''
''Oh, hell no,'' Dean scoffs. ''Course you should be mad at me for that. That was a dick move. And at the time, I meant for it to hurt. I wanted you to hurt like I did, Sam.''
''Like you did?''
''Yes,'' Dean admits quietly. ''Like I did. I mean, you're...you're Sam.'' He pushes off the car and turns to give his brother a slightly offended frown. ''You're Sammy and you chose those...those people over me. I didn't understand why. And that hurt so I...got angry.'' He pauses, pinching his lips together and narrowing his eyes. ''Why did you do that anyway? I don't care if they're technically family or not. Why did you choose them?''
Sam doesn't answer for a very long time and when Dean follows his semi vacant stare to the house, he rolls his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation. ''Come on, Sammy. If we're going to do this chick flick moment shit, we're going to do it fucking right.''
''You've got a nice life here, Dean,'' Sam says softly.
Dean blinks. ''...Yeah.''
''You're happy. You've got this amazing wife who waited all those years for you and you've got these two incredible kids. And you've got your house and your job and your truck and your apple pie - ''
''Well, actually, Ruby's not much of a baker.''
''And I'm a hunter.'' Sam draws his lips into a thin line and Dean easily recognizes the look in his eyes. ''I'm still a hunter. You wanted a family, Dean. Ever since you met Ruby, you wanted a family with her. Now you've got that. You've got your perfect happy ending. Where do I fit into that? Really Dean,'' Sam lowers his eyes and shakes his head. ''Where do I fit into the picture?''
Dean stands there gaping at his brother for several seconds before he reacts. All he can see when he looks at Sam is an unsure, hurt kid instead of that unflappable, strong man he pretends to be. Something about Sam's words hit a little too close to home (because all that time ago when Sam had Jess and Stanford and Normal, Dean had been the one on the outside looking in) and something inside of him snaps. Despite the fact that he knows this is no way to solve their problems, he reacts on gut instinct. His eyes flash, he goes forwards and he clips Sam over the back of the head.
''Ow!'' Sam yelps, hand flying to the back of his head. ''God! What the hell, man?''
''You're a moron,'' Dean deadpans.
''Where do you fit in? Really? That's your excuse? Are you ten years old? Tell me, where do you think you fit in?'' Sam opens his mouth to speak, but Dean cuts him off, too invested in his rant to allow anyone else to speak. ''You are a part of this family, you floppy haired Sasquatch! You should've known that! Do you realize this whole thing could have been avoided? Do you understand that this stupid fight was for nothing?''
''I don't think it was for nothing,'' Sam says evenly. ''I think it was a long time coming. It would have happened eventually, Dean. We've both changed so much these past few years - ''
''Oh, boo friggin' hoo,'' Dean sneers. ''Life goes on, Sam. And things can change and we can change, but you'll still fit right here.'' His touching statement is contradicted by a mocking laugh that really only makes him sound like he's losing his mind. ''You are the world's biggest idiot.''
''No, I'm pretty sure that title still belongs to you. For...many reasons.''
''...I'm sorry, Sam.'' He kind of just blurts it out without thinking. That doesn't make it any less real, of course, he just doesn't mean to say it like that.
Sam's eyes widen in shock at the apology. ''Did you just...apologize to me? Because I don't think you've ever done that. Ever.''
''Look, you want the bottom line? The bottom line is I want to see you.''
''Am I invisible?''
''Don't be a smartass. You're still a hunter and I'm still not. But I want to see you. You're still my brother. You're still family. And...that's the one thing that never changes. Things...'' Dean swallows painfully. ''...They can't ever be like they were. But if we try...maybe we could be better.''
Sam looks vaguely startled by Dean's outburst. To be honest, Dean's a little startled himself. Also, embarrassed. He has just initiated one whopping chick flick moment. That has got to lower his street cred. Becoming a husband and father has so clearly softened him. ''This is Ruby talking, isn't it?'' Sam asks flatly.
''Okay, okay.'' Sam chuckles and raises his hands in surrender. ''Sorry.'' There's a pause and then, ''I'm sorry, Dean. Really, I am.''
Dean nods briskly. ''I don't trust the Campbells,'' he admits quietly. ''But I trust you, little brother. I thought you should know that.''
''Well, it's...good to know.''
Dean nods again and leans back against the car. There's a moment of silence, broken only by the sound of children laughing and yelling ''trick or treat'' all through the neighborhood. And then Dean decides he just can't hold this in anymore. ''Sam?''
''I hate your bitch car.''
''...I hate your bitch truck.''
(They're not okay yet. But they'll get there.)
''There you go, ladybug. That's better, isn't it?''
Ella blinks sleepily up at her mother and curls her tiny fist around Ruby's left hand, small fingers brushing her wedding ring. Ruby smiles softly and lays her sleepy-but-not-quite-asleep daughter in her crib. The baby kicks her feet and a barely audible noise, like a sigh, escapes her lips. ''Next year,'' Ruby whispers. ''We'll have to dress you up as an actual ladybug. How does that sound?'' Ella's eyes drift shut in response and her fist clenches and unclenches like she's searching for something to hold onto. Ruby gently grazes a finger over her daughter's cheek before gliding away from the crib towards the closet, grabbing Ella's discarded lion costume on the way.
She does her best to open the creaky closet door quietly; carefully storing away the lion costume that, despite her comments, she actually thinks is cute. When she closes the door once again, she is suddenly all too aware that she is not the only adult presence in the room and there is currently an angel about two feet away from her studying her silently with pursed lips. She jumps in surprise and stifles a scream, putting a hand over her heart. ''Holy crap.'' When she regains her wits, she fixes him with one of those stern looks you only get from being a mother and grabs the sleeve of his trench coat, dragging him out of the room. ''You should really look into getting a bell for around your neck,'' she informs him in a deadpan, shutting the door to Ella's nursery.
''My apologies,'' he says. ''I didn't mean to scare you.''
''That's why some people announce their presence.''
''Ella is sleeping.''
She presses her lips together and gives him a look. ''Dean's downstairs,'' she tells him, arching an eyebrow after a moment goes by in silence.
''I'm not here to see Dean,'' Castiel says with a shrug. ''I'm here to see you.''
''Oh.'' She nods like she understands and clasps her hands. ''And why is that?''
''Are you upset with me?''
Taken aback by his oh-so-blunt tone of voice (although in hindsight, she really shouldn't be), she raises an eyebrow and can't formulate a response right away.
''Because,'' he goes on seriously. ''I don't want you to be upset with me. When you're upset with me it's...upsetting.''
''You seem to be going in circles.''
''I...consider you a friend, Ruby.''
She smiles lightly, feeling a blush creeping up her neck. Who knew Castiel, the Hopelessly Confused when it comes to Real Life Angelman, could be sweet? Even if he doesn't mean to be. ''Well, thank you for that.'' She takes in a breath and meets his eyes. ''I'm not upset with you...anymore. It was just...a lot for me to take in. It's difficult to face the reality that my son and I would be dead if it wasn't for your divine intervention. And I know it's not your place to care, but Joy and her mother...I feel responsible for that. For them dying, for Joy's bitterness.''
''You shouldn't,'' he says slowly. ''I gave you and your son a second chance. Do not spend it feeling guilty for things out of your control.''
She brings a hand to the back of her neck, offering him a small smile. She doesn't say anything and he stares at her with those piercing blue eyes of his like he knows there is more she has to say. ''You were right, you know,'' she finally sighs out. ''About what I saw when Wyatt was born. A Reaper. Before they even let me hold him, I just...I saw this shadow. And something didn't feel right for a minute there. But I was exhausted and sore and then when they put him in my arms, I was so happy I forgot and eventually I stopped feeling like something was wrong. But now that I know that we were supposed to die, I can't stop thinking about when I was pregnant with Wyatt. Did I do something wrong? Could I have prevented all of this if I had done something different while I was pregnant with him?''
''Ruby, I'm not sure if you were ever told this, but Wyatt was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. And you narrowly escaped hemorrhaging to death. Those are things that you could not have prevented. Things that were not your fault.''
''You saved me,'' she points out. ''You saved me because of Dean.''
''Yes.'' For a brief second there, she actually thinks he's going to smile. The second passes quickly. ''Because of Dean.''
''You'd do anything for him, wouldn't you?'' When he opens his mouth to respond, no words come out. He actually looks a little flustered. She takes pity on him and laughs gently, laying a hand on his arm. ''That's okay. I would too.'' She hesitates for a second and then leans forwards to press a soft kiss to his cheek. ''You saved me and my son,'' she whispers. ''How could I ever be mad at you for that?''
He, again, doesn't say a word, but he does seem to be blinking quite a bit.
''Don't be a stranger,'' she orders firmly.
That's when he responds. With a frown and a head tilt, he holds her gaze and says, ''I don't know what that means.''
''It means come around more often. The kids seem to sort of adore you and I know Dean would like to see you more. He loves you, you know. Like, inappropriately so. To the point where I'm almost a little jealous.''
''Are you inviting me into your home?''
''That's the general idea, yes. Whether you understand it or not, Cas, you're family. And this is what family does.'' With one last smile, she lets her hand linger on his arm before brushing past him to make her way down the hallway.
(He turns to watch her walk away, still trying to understand what has just happened.)
Normalcy is overrated. Maybe that's the lesson here. Her family is never going to be normal. Dean will always have the blood of a hunter, Sam will too and Cas is a freaking Angel of the Lord. These are things that don't change. Things she has to learn to live with. Danger will come and go in their lives. That's just a fact. If she were anyone else, she would take her kids and run scared. But she's not anyone else and Ruby Daniels has never been one to run scared of the unknown.
Whatever life throws at her next, she's not going to let it destroy her family. She has always hated to lose, after all.
So no, she probably will never have normal. But maybe that's okay because she's got Dean and this family and those things are better than normal ever could be.
Halfway through The Nightmare Before Christmas (Wyatt's favourite movie that he makes them watch at both Halloween and Christmas) she goes to check on Ella and when she comes back down the stairs with the baby monitor in hand, she stops in her tracks and has to pinch her lips together to keep from sighing.
Dean and Sam are both holding a giggling Wyatt upside down by his feet while Castiel carefully examines a candy bar with an odd amount of interest. They all freeze and look at her when she clears her throat.
Wyatt waves and greets her through giggles. ''Hi, Mom.''
''Oh,'' Dean smiles sheepishly. ''Hi, honey. This...isn't what it looks like.''
She doesn't even know what it looks like. She decides she doesn't want to know. ''Don't break any bones,'' she warns. ''I'm going to bed.''
Those are her boys.
When she wakes up at one thirty, she searches Dean's side of the bed and finds it empty. A sigh slips through her lips and she blinks sleep from her eyes, pushing herself into a sitting position. Yawning, she tugs on her robe and snatches the baby monitor, stumbling downstairs in the dark. She is fully prepared to play the part of Mean Mom and ruin all the fun because it is long past time for bed. However, scolding appears to be unnecessary because when she gets to the living room, she sees Wyatt sprawled out in Sam's lap, fast asleep while Sam is passed out with his head tilted backwards. Castiel, who has apparently discovered the joys of chocolate, is surrounded by candy wrappers and she's not sure if he's sleeping or not (because she's not all that sure if angels sleep) but his eyes are closed, he's using his coat as a blanket and he appears to be pretty dead to the world.
Tallie opens her eyes and peers up at Ruby from her spot on the other side of Sam.
Dean, however, is nowhere to be seen.
Eventually, she finds him in the garage, sitting in the Impala looking pensive. He doesn't seem at all surprised when she slides into the passenger seat, offering her a tiny smile instead. ''Couldn't sleep?''
''What are you doing out here?'' She asks quietly, placing the baby monitor on the dashboard.
His hand comes to rest on her knee and he sighs, leaning back against the seat. ''My truck is practical, right?''
''Dean, I never asked you to give up your car.''
''I know. It's just...after Ella was born, I thought I needed something more practical.''
''You know, we do have my car.''
''All the sexual favors in the world will never get me to drive that thing. It's a minivan.''
''Actually, it's a Jeep.''
''Whatever, it's close.''
''She doesn't deserve to be cooped up in here.''
''I still think it's weird that the car's a she. Why can't it be a he?''
''Because that would be weird.''
''Oh. Right. That would be weird.''
''I don't want to be sitting in a dude, okay? ...That didn't come out right.''
''Well, you may be perfectly fine with sitting in a chick, but I'm not.''
''You're cute when you're jealous.''
''Well,'' he flashes her a wolfish grin and the hand on her knee starts sliding up her bare leg. ''I thought you'd never ask.''
''Dean,'' she grabs the back of his neck and pulls his forehead to hers. ''This isn't just about the Impala, is it?''
He closes his eyes and sighs. ''Ruby...''
She kisses him hard on the lips and his hand automatically tangles in her hair and draws her body closer to his. She is the first to pull away after a moment, collapsing back against the seat, leaving him looking a little dazed. She presses two fingers to her lips and casts a sidelong glance in his direction. Normal isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway. ''You know,'' she drawls casually. ''If Sam ever needed help on a case every now and then, I wouldn't mind if you gave him a hand.''
She watches as his jaw clenches and his hands curl tight around the steering wheel of the immobile car. ''I can't ask you to do that.''
''You didn't ask me to do that, Dean. I'm offering. If you need it, have it. Wyatt and Ella and I...we're not going anywhere. You should know that by now. Hey, look at me, Winchester.'' She grabs his hand tightly, holding it against her chest. ''I don't need normal, Dean. I know you think I do and I thought I did, but I don't. I just need you.''
''Ruby - ''
''I'm not saying I want it to be like it was before because I don't. But...there are plenty of husbands and fathers out there who go on business trips once a month. That doesn't mean they're not good husbands and fathers. And there are lots of brothers out there who make it a habit to get out of town together and bond every once and awhile. Dean,'' she touches his face lightly and smiles. ''This is in your blood. This is who you are. I'm not going to keep you from that.''
He stays quiet for a minute, looking forwards like he can see the open road he left behind. Then he leans towards her and presses a kiss to her forehead. ''You're amazing. Have I told you that lately?''
''Mmm, not since yesterday.''
''Well, I'm sorry I've been so neglectful.''
''That's all right. You can make it up to me.'
''Right. Yeah,'' he smirks. ''I can eat you.''
''Yeah, whatever you say, Mr. God's Gift to Women,'' she laughs and swats him on the shoulder when he waggles his eyebrows suggestively. ''But I'm serious,'' she says, folding into his side. ''Whatever makes you happy, Dean. It's okay by me.''
He purses his lips in thought and she peers up at him through her eyelashes. ''Every once and awhile,'' he all but whispers.
She nods. ''Every once and awhile.''
''Well...okay then.'' He wraps an arm round her and pulls her against his chest, dropping a kiss to the top of her head. She smiles lazily and closes her eyes, relaxing into his embrace. After a moment goes by in comfortable silence, he speaks up. ''Hey, Ruby?''
''Have we ever christened the backseat?''
AN: And there you have it. Now I can devote all my time to Breakable Hummingbirds and Queen of Hearts. Hope you enjoyed the story! The End.