AN: And I am back with a new chapter of Breakable Hummingbirds! Now, just to warn you there is a large smattering of OC's in this chapter. Most of them, however, will not make an appearance again.

Also, I am so sorry for taking so long on the next chapter of Queen of Hearts. It's more challenging than I thought it would be and either I have been fighting off a persistent and nasty head cold or my winter allergies are flaring up again.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Breakable Hummingbirds

Written by Becks Rylynn

Chapter Three:

''Damaged Goods''

Like any other kid his age, school is not high on the list of things he enjoys. That's normal. Every kid feels that way. But it's different for Ben. His whole life, school has been merely a distraction. A prison. A place he desperately wanted to escape. School has always been a place where he's felt trapped. He simply didn't want to be there. That feeling is kicked up by about a hundred notches now that he's going to be starting a new school in a new town where he knows nobody except the town ''old drunk'' and his ''daughter.''

However, Mom would kill him if he didn't go and Ruby has made it perfectly clear that he will not be allowed to stay in her house if he doesn't get an education. So on Monday morning he drags himself out of bed and prepares himself for a day of pure hell. Ruby on the other hand...

For someone who is so hell bent on him getting an education, she sure doesn't seem to be concerned about the time. At 8:14, he's leaning against the kitchen counter, staring at his watch and tapping his foot impatiently. ''Ruby! It is 8:15! School starts at 9:00 and we're supposed to get there early. Will you hurry up?''

''Relax, kid!'' Her voice drifts into the room from the direction of the hall. ''Don't get so anal about the time. We've got loads of time.''

''No, we don't.''

''Yes, we do. We're practically swimming in it.''

''This is a stupid argument, you know.''

''Well, you're the one who started it.''

He rolls his eyes and looks down at his watch again. ''Great. Now it's 8:17.''

''You're incredibly tense for a thirteen year old.''

A thirteen year old whose life Death has picked apart, he wants to remind her. He sighs impatiently and folds his arms. When she finally enters the kitchen, his eyes widen. He blinks, looks her up and down and can't quite manage to find the words to say. Finally, he clears his throat and raises an eyebrow. ''...We're not going to a nightclub, you know.''

''Hm? Oh.'' She grins and smoothes down the tight black dress she's wearing. ''Yeah, well, I figured since I won't be able to fit into it much longer I should get good use out of it.''


Her grin widens and her eyes twinkle. ''And your new principal is a man.''


''So...first impressions are everything, Ben.''

''Right, and you...want to come off as a high class hooker?''

She pauses and cocks her head to the side innocently. ''Do you think that would help?''

Ben exhales and reaches down to pick up his backpack from the floor. Leaning back against the counter, he watches as she goes for the pot of coffee. A smirk dances on his lips as he fixes his backpack on his back. He waits until she takes a sip before speaking. ''Did you know that when you're pregnant you should limit your caffeine intake because too much caffeine means there is a higher risk for miscarriage, stillbirth and if the baby's a boy, he could be born with his testicles undescended. I looked it up.''

She chokes and sputters, spitting the coffee back into her mug.

He shrugs carelessly and looks at his watch. ''That's why I made you decaf.''

She glares at him, putting the mug back down on the counter. ''You're a mean child.''

''But you still shouldn't drink a lot.'' He shakes his head at his watch. ''Its 8:24 now. Super.''

''Geez, dude. Would you just chill?''

He tries to calm down and take a deep breath. It doesn't help. ''Sorry,'' he mumbles, taking a seat at the counter.

She frowns and eyes him for just a moment too long before smirking and leaning her elbows on the counter top. ''You're nervous, aren't you?''

Is it that obvious? He fidgets in his seat and winces uncomfortably. Well, she certainly was right when she said she can see through bullshit. She sees through his like Mom and Dad used to. ''I'm not nervous.''

''Ben.'' Ruby laughs, which makes him frown because he doesn't think it's very appropriate to be laughing when he is so clearly in emotional distress. ''Don't be nervous. You have Winchester blood in you. Do you know what that means? It means you're a natural charmer.'' She pats his hand, which is the most amount of comfort she's ever shown and then she's moving past him to grab her jacket. ''Now, despite the fact that we will get there insanely early if we leave now, if you feel you'll have a coronary should we leave in...say...five minutes, we can go now.''

Ben leaps to his feet. ''I'll be waiting in the car.''

Let's just get this stupid day over with...

Ruby's cell phone rings as soon as they pull up to the school and her eyes darken when she checks the caller ID. He catches the briefest bit of the conversation before she climbs out of the car and it's enough for him to deduce that the person on the other end of the phone line is his currently extremely troubled uncle. Dude, Sam seriously needs to get it together. He wrenches open the door of Dad's car and stares up at the school in front of him with trepidation. With a sigh, he leans back against the car and crosses his arms. Memorial Middle School is a big, slightly intimidating looking place and he really doesn't want to step one foot inside. You know...

...In theory, he could run right now. Ruby's not paying attention to him and it's so early that there aren't many people milling around. He could do it. He could run away and, like, live in the forest or something. Except he's pretty sure Mom and Dad wouldn't like that. Ruby probably wouldn't be fond of his life plan either. She'd drag him back here by his ear. He groans loudly and kicks a rock. He has hated school for as long as he's been going to school. But there's something different about this place. It's a whole new level of contempt that, frankly, scares him a little. He hasn't even stepped foot in the place and he already loathes it with every fiber of his being.

''You know, Ben...'' Ruby comes to stand beside him, back against the car, cell phone still held tightly in her hands. ''I don't think this is going to be as horrible as you're making it out to be.''

''No, I'm pretty sure it's going to suck ass.''

''Yeah, well, life sucks. Get used to it.'' She pushes off the car with a tight smile, barking out a sharp, ''move your ass'' over her shoulder. Her suddenly sharp tone and darkened eyes tell him the phone call did not go all that well. That's a real shock. Again, Sam needs to get his shit together.

Despite the fact that he's wearing sneakers and she's wearing heels that are higher than any of Mom's, he still has to practically jog to keep up with her. Even after they step into the school. Which has slippery floors. ''I take it Sam's still in a mood?'' He guesses.

''Sam's drunk,'' she replies tensely. ''Like that's anything new.''

''Is he...Is he going to be okay?''

She halts in her tracks, causing Ben to slam into her. ''Sam is broken, Ben. Nobody can fix him if he won't let them.''

''To be fair,'' he tosses her a slightly bitter smirk. ''Aren't we all broken?''

As it turns out, the principal, a wiry, bald man named Mr. Keystone (who reminds Ben a little of Principal Snyder from Buffy) is really short. His height deficiency coupled with Ruby's skyscraper heels mean Keystone comes up to right above her chest. Giving him a real nice view. Plus, he's a little...weasel-y. So the dress actually does work in their favor. After Keystone fails to keep his eyes off of Ruby's cleavage for more than thirty seconds at a time, Ben finally has to lean over and tell her to put her jacket on.

And yes. This place is as bad as he's making it out to be.

It's an uncomfortable meet and greet. To say the least. Keystone is trying way too hard to either impress Ruby or make it seem like his school is awesome when it's probably not. No school is awesome. That's just an oxymoron. School and awesome shouldn't even be in the same sentence. They shouldn't even be in the same hemisphere. The assurances that Ben will ''fit right in here'' was uncomfortable. The hurried condolences upon learning that his father is dead and the awkward apology after mistaking Ruby for Ben's actual mother was bad. But just when Ben thinks it can't get any worse, it does.

Because they're early, Principal Keystone decides that the next best course of action would be to take both Ben and Ruby (whose attempts at escaping are thwarted by the clearly enamored dorky principal) on a tour of the school.

The only thing this tour does is make Ben want to get out of this stupid place as fast as possible. Mostly because this happens:

''Will you put your phone away?'' Ben hisses. ''Who could you possibly be texting right now? Its 8:30 in the morning.''

''Oh, I'm not texting,'' Ruby replies. ''I'm tweeting. By the way, you should totally follow me.''

''...Okay, you're joking, right?''

''Yes, Ben, I'm joking. Do I look seventeen to you?''

''Then what are you doing?''

''Playing Maze.''

''Yeah, right. You're mature.''

''And this,'' Principal Keystone says proudly, opening a creaking classroom door and stepping inside. ''Is your math class, Ben.''

Ben and Ruby jolt their attention back to Keystone, step inside the room and the math teacher looks up. Ben can already tell he's going to be trouble. Because he's handsome. And he spots Ruby like a douchebag spots a hot chick in a club. Not. Good.

Mr. Math Teacher puts his pen down and rises to his feet, eyes fixated on Ruby. ''This is Mr. Littleton,'' Keystone says with a smile. ''He'll be your math teacher.''

Littleton? That's the guy's name? Ben stifles a laugh and looks up at Ruby, waiting for her to say something. ''You,'' Mathboy holds a hand out towards Ruby. ''Can call me Casey.''

Effortlessly, Ben jumps in and takes one for the team, grasping the man's hand. ''Well, thanks, Case. I'm Ben. I'm the one who is, you know, an actual student.''

''Oh,'' Casey smiles a tight little smile, dropping his hand. ''It's nice to meet you, Ben. I'm sure you're going to love it here.''

''All signs point to highly unlikely.''



''So...'' The man's eyes are once again drawn towards Ruby. Wow. This dude just does not give up, does he? ''You must be Ben's...'' He pauses and shoots her what is probably meant to be a charming smile. It just winds up looking creepy. ''...Older sister.''

Ruby opens her mouth to speak, but Ben cuts in once again, giving his new math teacher a bright, overly cheerful smile. ''Nope. She's my stepmother. As in my father's wife. As in...they're married.''

There's a beat of silence and then Ruby gives Casey an effortless smirk, placing her hands firmly on Ben's shoulders. ''Most people just call me Ruby.''

''Or Mrs. Winchester,'' Ben mumbles under his breath.

''You teach math?''

Casey nods proudly, clearly thinking she's interested. Which is not an entirely unfounded thing to be thinking considering she's giving him a dazzling smile. ''Yep. Sure do.''

''Yeah,'' the smile drops off Ruby's lips. ''I don't really like math. I find it dull.''

Poor Casey's face falls. ''Right.'' He clears his throat and steps away from her, his smile becoming just a tad more forced as he shifts his attention back to Ben. ''So, Ben. You're new here.''

''Brilliant deduction, Sherlock.''

''Ben.'' There's a certain warning tone to Ruby's voice that makes Ben roll his eyes and sigh in defeat. Even though he doesn't realize why she wants him to be polite to this guy. It's clear she doesn't like him either.

''Yes, I'm new here.'' He bites back another comment that could be perceived as rude and sighs again when Ruby gives him a look as she's being pulled away by Principal Keystone.

''Where are you from?'' Mr. Littleton is asking, writing something on the white board.

Ben pinches his lips together and leans against a desk. ''Alaska. I used to hang out with Sarah Palin all the time. And yes, she is just as annoying as she seems.''


''No. I'm from Indiana.''

''Oh, Indiana. That's nice. I have a cousin who lives in Indiana.''

''Imagine that. The world is small.''

''Why'd you move? Needed a change of scenery? It's nice to change things up every once and awhile.''

Ben's eyes darken and he pushes off the desk to scowl at his new teacher who might be good at math and looking slightly handsome, but is not good at life. ''Oh, yeah. Change of scenery. That and my mom died. A month after my dad died. So Ruby's basically all I've got left. By the way, pretending to be interested in me and my life isn't going to score you any points with Ruby. She wasn't lying when she said she didn't like math. It's a thing. Also, she's pregnant and she's been a widow for like a month and a half. And hitting on a widow? Stupid.''

The man looks quite startled by Ben's words but before he can say anything, Ruby has stepped in to steal Ben away with a polite, thin smile thrown in the math teacher's direction. As soon as they're in the hallway, Ben looks around the now noisy halls where students are milling around and scowls at Ruby. ''You said it wouldn't be that bad.''

''Yeah, well, apparently the male teachers here are leeches. But listen, I have to go now.''

''Great. Now I have abandonment issues on top of all of my other issues.''

''Hey, here's an idea for you. Maybe you should try out for the drama club.''

''Ha ha.''

''Look,'' Ruby steps forwards to fix the collar of his jacket for him and Ben anxiously looks around in an attempt to figure out if anyone is watching this embarrassing display. ''Ben, high school is just like the real world, okay? It's all about survival.''

''This isn't high school.''

''Close enough. Same rules apply. What you need to do is keep your chin up, grin and bear it and for God's sake, make sure Littleman knows I'm not interested.''

''Uh, I think its Littleton.''

''Okay, why are you defending him?''

''I'm not. He's annoying. They're all annoying. Don't leave me.'' He clamps onto her arm desperately. In a previous life, he would have instantly stepped back in fear of bodily harm. In this new life, however, she seems only a little deadly. Still frightening, though.

''Survival,'' she says with a firm nod. ''Remember that and you'll be fine.''

''But - ''

''I'm sorry, Ben,'' she apologizes, sounding sincere. ''But I really have to go now. I have an appointment. ...At noon.''

''Ugh, fine. But I resent you for this.''

''Don't worry. That'll pass. Winchester boys love me.'' She smiles, pats his cheek, winks and then she's turning on her precarious heel and strutting down the hall, leaving Ben to navigate this stupid school all by himself. ''Oh!'' Halfway down the hall, she turns and sends him a smile. ''By the way, the guidance counselor is going to want to talk with you later today! Okay, bye!''

''Wait, what?'' Ben's eyes widen in panic and he takes a step towards her retreating figure, halted only when the bell rings. ''Ruby!'' A girl passing by stops to look at him oddly. Ben gives her his best glower. ''What?''

So far...the day has gone pretty much exactly like he had been expecting. Lots of sucking. Basically, it's a big giant suck fest with a heaping side of suck. By eleven, he's lost count of how many times people have looked at him and then quietly dissolved into whispers of gossip behind his back. Including a few teachers. Of course, when his homeroom teacher made him start the day by standing up and introducing himself to his new peers, it certainly didn't help anything. By lunchtime, he's the talk of the school. That's not his ego talking either. He really is the talk of the school. It's aggravating and he has never wanted to punch someone in the face more than he does right now.

He drags his feet down the hall, purposefully ignoring the stares and whispers and tries to remember his goal. Why is he here? Why is he not pulling the fire alarm and sneaking off in the commotion? Mom. And Dad. And Ruby. And his little brother or sister who deserves a better role model then some failure. And really, who drops out of middle school?

On his way to the cafeteria, his day changes when a girl falls into step with him. She's pretty and smiling with dirty blond hair and a mini skirt that makes him really thankful that he's over the cootie stage. She smiles at him with glossy lips, flicks her hair over her shoulder and he stops walking. ''Hi,'' she greets cheerfully. ''You're new, right?''

''How'd you guess?''

She purses her lips in thought. ''It's...Ben, right?''

He raises an eyebrow. ''And you would be...?''

''Oh, I'm Adrianna.''

''Well,'' he smirks. ''Can I help you with something, Adrianna?''

''I just...wanted to welcome you to the school,'' she says kindly. ''I was the new kid a couple years ago and I know how uncomfortable it can be. People can be...judgy.''

''But you're not?'' Ben questions doubtfully. There is no way in hell a pretty girl like Adrianna would go out of her way to make the new kid feel welcome. Things like that don't just happen.

She shrugs and looks around the hall. ''I don't think it feels very nice to be judged. I learned that the hard way.'' He doesn't say anything, still staring at her with narrowed eyes. ''I wouldn't want anyone else to feel that way so I thought it'd be nice if I showed you that we're not all like that here.'' She flashes him another smile and Ben can feel his suspicion slipping away purely because she has a really nice smile.

He relaxes ever so lightly and offers her a small nod. ''Then...thanks.''

''Sure,'' she chirps happily. ''I'd...'' She waves to someone down the hall and her smile dims a little. ''Better go. I'll see you around, Ben.''

He nods and watches her walk away. She sashays down the hall like she owns it. He can't help but arch an eyebrow in response. Huh. Maybe there are some good parts to this place. Interesting. When he moves to walk away, someone pops up in front of him. ''Whoa.''

''Dude,'' the strange kid says. ''Can I give you some advice?''

Ben stares at him in wonder. ''Where did you come from?''

''Oh.'' The boy laughs and holds out a hand. ''I'm Levi Rowland.''

Ben blinks.

Levi retracts his hand quickly. ''Okay, so not a hand shaker. That's cool.'' Levi Rowland is wearing a shirt with a comic book character on it and judging by the way his eyes dart around nervously, Ben's guessing he's a frequent target for bullying. In short: If Seth Cohen and Xander Harris had a baby together, Levi Rowland could be that baby. ''Whatever you do,'' Levi warns seriously. ''Do not engage in conversation with Adrianna Carlson. Don't even look at her. It's safer.''

Ben sighs and pushes past Levi to get to the cafeteria. ''She doesn't seem very dangerous.''

''Oh, she's not dangerous. She's a kitten. She...has a tendency to let the color of her hair affect her IQ, but she's not dangerous. It's the people she hangs out with that you should be scared of.''

''Um...The Heathers?''

''Fletcher Michaels. Believe me when I say that pissing him off is about as smart as taking a ride with Clemenza.''

Ben chuckles, pushing through the cafeteria doors. ''Heh. Godfather reference. I like you.''

''That's...'' Levi pauses. ''New for me.''

''Listen, no offense or anything,'' Ben pulls out a chair and sits down at an empty table. ''But why are you telling me this? I've never met you before in my life and now you're giving me - ''

''I sat next to you in homeroom,'' Levi points out in a deadpan. ''You borrowed a pencil from me.''

Ben grimaces. ''Oh. ...Sorry.''

Levi shrugs. ''That's okay. I'm used to being invisible. I mean, it could be worse. I could be Lucky.''

''Who's Lucky?''

Levi points out a mousy brown haired girl with glasses and an enormous backpack that must weight a ton. She's standing in the cafeteria line and when she turns, her backpack slams into the boy behind her. When she whirls around to check on him, her tray is somehow knocked out of her hands and crashes to the floor. ''The name's supposed to be ironic,'' Levi informs him.

''Yeah, I got that.''

''Lucky's an improvement, trust me. Her real name's Daisy and she hates it.''

''Daisy? As in Buchanan?''

Levi lets out a low whistle and grins, eyes twinkling. ''You're smart.''

''My mom...'' Ben clears his throat and crosses his arms uncomfortably. ''Her favourite book was The Great Gatsby.''

If Levi notices the past tense, he keeps quiet, instead choosing to glance over at the table Adrianna's sitting at. ''I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say Adrianna pulled the whole 'I was a new kid just like you' bit.''

Ben slumps farther into his chair and keeps his face carefully blank. ''Maybe.''

''Yeah,'' Levi snorts. ''The girl was the new kid for two years. By the way, thank you for taking that title from me. My point is, Adrianna talks about how she knows what you're going through and that not everybody here judges, but she's lying. We all judge. Even the teachers. And she can try to kill it with kindness but in the end, she's one of them. She turns a blind eye to certain things and that really sucks because - Fletcher!'' Levi sits up straight with wide, slightly fearful eyes and Ben swears he can hear him gulp audibly as a tall blond kid strides up to the table with honest to God lackeys trailing behind him. Ben thinks he has officially entered The Twilight Zone. Worse. He has entered a place where Mean Girls is where people get their codes of conduct. ''H-Hey there!'' Levi laughs nervously, shifting in his seat. ''Have you been working out? 'Cause you look great. Really, have you lost weight? I-I mean, not that you needed to! I'm not calling you fat or anything, I just - please don't hit me, okay? And if you do, can you avoid the nose because - ''

''Shut it.''

''Okay.'' Levi shrinks back into his seat like a child that has just been scolded.

Ben frowns.

Fletcher glares down at Ben like he's nothing. Something Ben does not at all appreciate. He already hates this place. He doesn't need the stereotypical jock villain pushing him around. How cliché is that? Fletcher puts both hands on the table and leans down to study Ben. ''You're new.''

''What gave me away?''

''Do you know what happens to new kids around here?''

''I'm...guessing it's not a Welcome Wagon?''

Fletcher narrows his eyes. ''I don't like you.''

''Shame. Is this the part where you pick a fight with me because I'm different? Oh,'' Ben gasps dramatically and his eyes widen. ''Is this Glee? Oh my god, am I in Glee? Because that's my worst nightmare. I've had nightmares where everyone around me bursts into song. Or no, is this one of those after school specials? Because if it is, let's skip to the end, shall we? I overthrow the bullies in some showy way and you, being the bully in this situation, run off screen crying like a baby. And then I get the girl and the meek take over the earth.'' Ben smiles pleasantly. ''Or we could just skip all that and co-exist in peace.''

Fletcher looks momentarily stunned and then rage quickly clouds over in his eyes. ''What makes you think you can talk to me like that?''

Ben shrugs and rises to his feet. ''I don't know. What makes you think you can talk to people like you're above them? Oh, see. Here we go. It's starting. We're starting the movie.'' He gestures between himself and the bully, pleasant smile still etched onto his lips. ''Let's not do that, okay?''

Fletcher takes what is probably meant to be a threatening step towards Ben and when Ben doesn't move, he stops. The dude actually looks confused. ''I don't like you,'' he finally growls out.

''You...said that already.''

Fletcher still looks confused. Like his master intimidation tactics have failed him horribly and he has no idea what to believe in anymore. Ben doesn't care. All he wants to do is get through the rest of his middle school and high school years relatively unscathed so he can be free of fluorescent lights, bored teachers, bullies and shit he never needs to learn. ''I've got my eye on you,'' Fletcher says lowly.

Ben grins. ''I'm flattered, really. But I don't swing that way.''

His comment pushes Fletcher over the edge and the taller and bigger boy goes forwards with his fist raised only to be stopped when his cronies suddenly stumble and fall into him. ''Oops,'' a small voice squeaks out from behind them. All eyes go to the girl with the gigantic backpack. ''Sorry,'' Lucky apologizes, smiling brightly in Fletcher's direction. ''It's this backpack. I think it might be too big.'' She stares up at the agitated bully with big doe eyes and even Fletcher seems to realize that hitting a girl ain't cool because he backs off.

''Whatever,'' he mumbles. He slinks away like a wounded puppy.

Lucky's eyes linger on Ben and Levi for a moment before she turns to go. She looks over her shoulder once and meets Ben's eyes with a small smile.

Ben feels a barely there grin start on his lips. When he eventually looks back at Levi, the other boy's eyes are wide and he looks positively dumbstruck. ''Dude,'' he sputters out. ''Are you James Dean reincarnated?''

Ben flinches at the name Dean and sinks back into his seat. No. Not James Dean. Better.

He is Dean Winchester's son.

The car rolls down the dusty driveway, crunching over gravel and dirt. Behind the wheel, Ruby is biting down on her lip and trying to ignore the dread creeping up in her stomach. Or maybe that's just the morning sickness. The old, familiar house looms in front of her and a sigh escapes her lips. This is probably the last place she wants to be. But what choice does she have? No one else will give her answers. What else is she supposed to do?

She cuts the engine and falls back against the seat, staring at the house with apprehension shining brightly in her eyes. Finally, she shakes her head, scoffs at herself and climbs out into the dust. She waves away the unfortunate dust cloud with a grimace of disgust, eternally grateful she decided to ditch her heels in favor of flats. This dirt driveway would be unforgiving. Honestly, Ruby will never understand how she lives in seclusion like this.

The stairs creak under her weight and she steps cautiously on the old, rotted porch, mildly afraid it will give way beneath her. Birds chirp in the distance and seconds before she rings the doorbell, she feels that all too familiar feeling of eyes on her. She turns to scan the cluttered yard with careful eyes. Nothing. She slides her game face into place, tells herself this is the only option and rings the doorbell.

After a moment, the old door cracks open and Ruby barely catches a sight of those annoying big Disney Princess eyes before the woman on the other side of the door lets out a frightened squeak and tries to shut the door in Ruby's face. Ruby slams her hand into the door and forces her foot into the doorway, giving the redhead a glare. ''Clara,'' she says sternly. ''Don't be stubborn.'' She forces the door open and steps inside.

Clara Devonshire staggers backwards in fear. ''W-What do you want from me, Ruby?''

Ruby rolls her eyes at the other woman's oh-so-aggravating fear. Why are people so afraid of her? (Although, she does enjoy the fear most of the time.) ''I need your help.''

''That's unlikely.''

Naturally, because no is not an option, Ruby decides to take advantage of the fear radiating off of Clara. She shuts the open door behind her, scowls cruelly and takes a step forwards. ''Clara,'' she repeats. ''Don't. Be. Stubborn.''

''Okay, listen,'' Clara's voice trembles with anxiety as she clasps her hands in front of her. ''I know you must be devastated about...about Dean - ''

''Don't say his name.''

''But I don't think going after me will solve anything. I know we haven't always gotten along, but - ''


''I'll scream. I swear, I'll scream.''

''Oh, for God's sake.'' Ruby roughly shoves past Clara to take a seat on the ratty old couch, smoothing down her dress daintily and crossing one leg over the other. ''I'm not going to hurt you, little mouse. Haven't you heard? I'm not a demon anymore. This fine packaging is all human.''

Clara relaxes and leans against a nearby table, crossing her arms. ''Really?''

When Ruby catches sight of Clara's eyes sliding over to the knife Ruby knows she has hidden away somewhere, all she does is smirk. ''I wouldn't,'' she warns. ''Just because I'm not a demon anymore doesn't mean I can't beat your ass.''

''You know, I've never understood why you hate me so much,'' Clara says, sticking her nose up in the air.

''Oh, now.'' Ruby frowns in mock offense and tilts her head to the side. ''Whatever gave you the impression that I hate you?''

''Uh, the numerous death threats and yanking of the hair tipped me off.''

''I still maintain that there was something in your hair and I was merely helping you.''

''Ruby, whatever happened between Dean and was years ago.''

Ruby stiffens and has to clench her fists to keep from standing and yanking out more of Clara's fugly red hair. ''I don't give a crap that you had sex with Dean up against some dirty bathroom wall in some dirty bar ten years before he even met me. The reason I don't like you is because when Bobby brought you onto that stupid case because we needed your stupid psychic help, you blatantly flirted with Dean even though you knew he was married.''

Clara grimaces. ''Okay, that was a bit of a bad judgment call on my part. He was pretty.''

''You're digging yourself a grave here, Red.'' Ruby jiggles her foot impatiently, folding her arms across her stomach.

''You still haven't explained to me why you need my help,'' Clara says quietly.

''Well,'' Ruby gets to her feet. ''It was either you or Haley Joey Osment and since I'm pretty sure he's still wallowing in shame over the fact that his little sister chose to take a role on Hannah Montana, you're the next best thing.''


''You see dead people, Allison DuBois. You communicate with them. You talk to them.''

Clara looks apprehensive, attempting to avoid the other woman's eyes unsuccessfully. ''Yeah...''

Ruby's eyes go blank and devoid of any emotion as she pulls something from her pocket and tosses it onto the table Clara's leaning against. ''I want to talk to my husband.''

Ben is called into the guidance counselor's office during Math class. So in the end, going to the guidance counselor's office actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise. When the teacher's aide pulls him out of class, he throws a lazy smirk over his shoulder and drawls out a, ''See you, Case'' to the math teacher who, by the looks of it, is really beginning to dislike Ben. Not that he particularly cares about what Girlname Littleman thinks of him. (Dude has totally ruined math for him, by the way. Ben used to enjoy math.)

He strolls into the guidance counselor's office five minutes after leaving class, even though it should only take about two. There's a pretty young woman sitting behind the desk, looking nervous as she rearranges a stack of papers on her desk. She has dark hair and a kind, warm smile and his cocky attitude is instantly taken down a notch because of her strange likeness to his mother. She looks up, catches him staring and he looks away. ''Oh, hi.'' She smiles nervously and pushes a strand of dark hair from her eyes. ''You must be Ben Braeden.''

He blinks, clears his throat and does his best to avoid looking at her as he takes a seat in the chair across from her desk. He notes that the anxiety in the room is not just coming from him. ''Is it your first day too?''


''Oh. I...guess that terrified look on your face must be natural, uh...'' He glances at the nameplate on her desk. ''Ms. Monroe.''

''You can call me Jamie.''

''What is up with this school and unisex names?''

''I'm sorry?''

''So, do you make kids call you by your first name in an effort to connect with them? Because if it is, can I give you some advice? Stop. Kids don't connect with adults.''

''Sure they do. But we're not here to talk about me, Ben. We're here to talk about you.'' She taps her blood red fingernails on her desk and matches him with a smirk that rivals his. She...definitely doesn't look like a jumpy guidance counselor anymore. She actually looks like a competent guidance counselor. ''And I'm assuming that's why you're pulling a 'tude with me?''

Okay then. So...looks like Mom, acts like a mixture of Dad and Ruby. Scary. ''I'm guessing you heard about my parents then? And now you want me to cry and reminisce and lay my head gently on your shoulder?'' He's doing his best to be a cocky brat, but he doesn't feel half as cocky as he did before. This Jamie chick actually seems to know what she's doing and talking about his feelings is even lower on his list of priorities than school is.

She studies him for a moment and then begins with a classic, ''I know this must be hard for you.''

He shuts down completely and tries to pretend he's not there. ''With all due respect,'' he says tonelessly. ''You have no idea what it's like. You don't know how hard it is.''

''Ben - ''

''Are your parents alive, Ms...Jamie?''

She flinches and looks away. ''Yes.''

He scoffs. ''Then don't pretend you know how hard it is for me or that you know how I feel because you don't.''

''...You're right,'' she says softly.

He looks up at her, lips puckered in surprise. That was not what he had been expecting. Frankly, he had been expecting a lecture about his attitude.

''I don't know what you're going through,'' she admits. ''And I can't pretend I do. But what I can do is listen. That's what I'm here for. I listen. We don't have to talk about your parents if you don't want to. We don't have to talk about school or moving here or how your home life is. You can talk to me about anything, Ben. I want you to know that.'' She smiles gently. ''We can talk about sports, if you want. Or what's on TV, or your favourite color.''

Ben looks up at her hopeful face for a long time before sighing and sinking farther into his seat. ''You mean well,'' he says eventually, voice so quiet he's sure she can't hear him. He looks up just to see if she's heard a word he's said and she's looking at him intensely. ''Everybody means well. I know that. And I'm not a bad kid. I'm not. I don't mean to be rude, but...talking doesn't help.''

''You'd be surprised.''

''It doesn't help,'' he repeats firmly. ''All it does it make things worse.''

She frowns, shaking her head in confusion. ''Why do you say that?''

''Because when I talk, I remember,'' he blurts out. ''Look, all I'm trying to do is move on. Remembering doesn't help me move on. I just want to forget and move on with my life, but I can't if people are always trying to get me to talk which I realize you have succeeded in and I'll be shutting up now.''

She seems to purposefully ignore the last part of his sentence, leaning forwards on her desk as she looks at Ben and holds his gaze. ''Ben,'' she says seriously. ''This probably isn't what you want to hear, but...forgetting does not come as easily as you might think. All it does it make those memories build up and build up until one day it all explodes and you can't do anything but remember.''

Ben swallows hard. ''...I don't want to talk anymore.''

The school day comes to an end. Finally. Ben has never been so relieved to hear the sound of a school bell in his entire life. As soon as he steps out of the school, he spots Ruby. His stepmother is not hard to spot. She is definitely not an inconspicuous person. She's perched on the hood of Dad's car (something Dad would, no doubt, snap at her for doing), staring down at something in her hands with her blond hair hiding her face from view. That coupled with the fact that she's the only parent there showing that amount of skin kind of gives her away. A mother and father a few feet away from her send her a few disapproving looks that she either doesn't notice or ignores and Ben shakes his head with a small, barely there smile. She's one of a kind, that's for sure.

As he's moving towards Ruby, a girl with brown hair bumps into him. He stops and turns to look at her. Lucky, her comically large backpack being hauled by a young man who Ben suspects is her older brother, turns her head and their eyes meet briefly. Eventually, Ben tears his eyes away from her to look back at Ruby. He approaches her with caution and a frown and when he sees what she's holding, his breath catches for a barely noticeable second. It's Dad's amulet. ''Ruby?'' He keeps his voice soft, debating whether or not to reach out and put a hand on her shoulder. ''Are you okay?''

She looks up at him and smiles. Ben finds it a little insulting that after she told him she hates fake smiles she has the gall to fake smile him. ''I'm fine.'' Yeah, sure. She's always fine, isn't she? She slides off the hood of the car, jingling the car keys in her hand.

Ben trains himself not to react, gesturing towards the familiar necklace. ''What's that?''

Ruby holds it up and frowns deeply at the inanimate object as if she is incredibly disappointed in it. ''It was your Dad's. Here,'' she tosses it at him and he scrambles to catch it. ''You want it?''


She shrugs, making her way over to the driver's side door. ''Sure. Why not? Thing's useless to me.''

He arches an eyebrow as she yanks open the car door. ''Well, what was it supposed to do?'' He asks, walking around the car.

She climbs into the Impala without answering. Ben rolls his eyes and throws his backpack into the backseat before sliding into the seat next to her. ''So, how was school? You learn anything?'' She asks.

When he determines that no matter what he does, she is not going to tell him the reason for her bad mood, he shrugs and turns to look out the window. ''Yeah, actually. I learned that we apparently live in Tree Hill.''

''Mmmhmm and...who's the girl?''

He whips his head around to face her. ''Excuse me?''

''The girl. The one you were doing the whole Noah/Allie eye contact thing with. I'm not blind, you know.''

''Oh, her?'' He shrugs and can't look her in the eye. ''I don't know,'' he mumbles. ''She's just a girl.''

''A girl you like, you mean.''

He throws a hand over his face to hide the blush that he's sure is creeping up his cheeks. ''Shut up.''

Ruby waits until Ben is settled in the living room with his homework and AC/DC blaring from his headphones before she ducks into her room and allows herself to stop pretending she's fine. She's not fine. She is so far from fine it's not even funny. Fine...Fine is a dot to her! The door clicks shut quietly behind her and she leans heavily against the solid wood, a tired sigh escaping her lips. Bad day. Bad, bad day. She's exhausted, morning sickness (terrible, terrible name) is kicking her ass and her appointment with Ghost Whisperer did not go the way she wanted it to go. She closes her eyes tight and feels that old familiar burn behind her eyes. She tries, but she can't quite keep the tears from coming this time.

When a choked whimper tumbles through her lips, she buries her face in her hands and can't do anything but let the sobs come. Her legs go weak beneath her and she slides to the ground. This isn't right. None of this is right. This isn't the way it's supposed to be. He's supposed to be here. They had been through so much; they had cheated death so many times before. Why is it so different this time? Her wedding ring feels cool against her skin that is hot with tears and that control she has strived so hard to have is slipping through her fingers fast. She swallows down another sob and does her best to breathe through it. She takes a few gulping breaths in an attempt to calm down and when she finally manages to regain her composure she hears his voice.


She looks up at him with red, blotchy eyes and a shaky smirk comes to rest on her lips. Sniffling, she wraps one arm around her stomach. ''I went to see Clara Devonshire today,'' she says in a whisper. ''That mousy little Jenna Fischer look-a-like may be an idiot, but she's good at what she does.''

Castiel nods stiffly. ''I know.''

She wipes at her eyes and hauls herself to her feet, mouth twisted into a scowl. ''She made sure to explain exactly how her...abilities work. Her soul reaches out to the soul of a deceased person and she makes contact. You give her a personal item that belonged to said dead person, you let her hold your hand and you get the answers you've been looking for. It's hokey and the last thing I ever wanted to do was hold that chick's hand because who knows where she's been, but I did it all. Because I wanted answers. I wanted the answers that you wouldn't give me.'' She circles him slowly and he may look impervious to her intimidation tactics but she can see the way his eyes are following her nervously. ''Can you guess what happened next, wings?''

He swallows visibly. ''I can.''

''She told me she couldn't reach him. Care to wager a guess as to why she couldn't reach him?''

He sighs this tiny little sigh that makes her want to hit him. ''There is no need for games, Ruby.''

Her eyes flash; she darts forwards to grab his jacket. ''All you've done since he died is play games with me, Castiel! I don't want to play games anymore. I want the truth. For once! For once just give me the truth. You owe me that!''

His eyes darken and he looks down at her with his lips tightened into a thin line.

She lets go of him abruptly and takes a step backwards. ''Just tell me...'' Tears gather in her eyes once again and she doesn't even try to fight them off. She knows it's no use. ''Why couldn't Clara find his soul? Where is he? Is he...'' She swallows the lump that grows in her throat with some difficulty. ''Is he in Hell?''


''Then is he in Heaven?''


''Then where is he?'' She bursts out. ''Where is my husband, Castiel? Where is his soul?''

He waits a long time before he tells her the exact answer she doesn't want to hear.

''I don't know.''

end chapter three

AN: Oooh, intrigue. And Original Characters galore. Okay, now the only Original Characters who will probably make a few more appearances are Levi, Lucky and Ms. Jamie Monroe. Fletcher and Adrianna will probably be mentioned again, but not seen. And Clara's too afraid of Ruby to come back again. I'm not sure how many more chapters I'll be able to get posted before I go away for Christmas (and I also have to work on Queen of Hearts) but I'm aiming for at least one more chapter.