AN: And here we are! Part three! The chapter that will take you from the lightheartedness of the first chapter and the brief sadness of the second chapter and BUM YOU OUT HARD. I apologize in advance for the extreme angst. Chapter title from ''Hallelujah'' by Jeff Buckley.
Chapter warnings: This is a dark, dark chapter, people. It's got infant death, implied suicide, mentions of substance abuse and self-harm, prescription drug use, violence, uncomfortable imagery, and just basically all around AU angst. Do not take these warnings lightly, guys. This is not a happy alternate universe Ruby has been thrown into.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Take Me Home
Written by Becks Rylynn
she broke your throne and she cut your hair
Ruby walks through the door and ends up in a dingy looking apartment.
Sucks for her.
Daylight streams in through the holes in the ratty curtains, sirens echo in the distance and water drips somewhere far away. She curls her lips in disgust at the filth and turns to check for Dean and Sam. She catches sight of herself in the bathroom mirror instead and horror builds up in her throat, resulting in a revolted shriek escaping her lips. She jumps back in surprise, hands flying to her hair, which is now just below her shoulders. ''My hair! What has that little bastard done to my beautiful hair?''
Then she pauses, takes a step back, realizes what she has just said and shakes her head. That was a little too vain for her. Perhaps she's been spending too much time with Dean. She doesn't have a whole lot of time to think this over because that would be when a brave little rat scurries past her feet and she loses her shit. What? Everybody's allowed to be afraid of something.
She screeches wildly and leaps onto a nearby table, heart beating erratically in her chest. ''What is wrong with this version of me?'' She spits out. ''What's my damage? Don't I realize that rats can be carriers for the bubonic plague? Haven't I learned that yet? Don't associate with rats! That's one of my top five rules!'' She shudders and wonders, idly, if rats can claw their way up table legs.
When she decides that, unfortunately, she cannot stay on this wobbly table all day, she presses her lips together and shakes her head. ''I,'' she announces to the empty room, ''am going to shove a wooden stake right up that Trickster's ass.'' She takes one more look around the sparsely furnished apartment, fingers her shorter hair with dismay and then quickly decides, ''Fuck this shit, I'm goin' to Bobby's.''
So here's hoping Bobby knows who she is.
He does. Sort of. She thinks.
Well, it's all very confusing here, isn't it?
When Bobby sees her standing on the other side of his door, his eyes get all sad and sympathetic and he actually takes his baseball cap off. That means there is some seriously serious shit going on in this world. ''Ruby,'' he says her name extremely carefully in the softest voice she has ever heard. ''I wasn't expecting to see you...today.'' And then he hugs her, which is just - I mean, Bobby likes her just fine in the real world. He appears to be fond of her and he absolutely adores Bray. He's just not a hugger.
She counts twice. He has hugged her exactly two times. The first hug was when he visited her in the hospital after she gave birth to Bray and the second was right after the war ended. He has hugged her twice, and that is almost one time too many. So this is strange. It's also strange that he looks so sad.
This cannot be good.
She is getting really bad vibes from this place. There is something dangerously off balance. There's something terribly wrong. An awful sinking feeling in her gut is telling her that someone who should be here is not and she'd really, really like to get out of here before she learns just who is missing.
See, for the longest time, she had petrifying nightmares about a world without Dean. A world where he never came back from Hell or a world where the hellhounds came and took him away from her again. Terrible, horrible worlds where he never got to meet his daughter and Ruby had to do it all alone. Dreams are bad enough. She doesn't want to live that life.
''Uh, Bobby,'' she pulls away from him with a half hearted smile. ''I kinda need to tell you something.''
''...Did you fall off the wagon again?'' He asks with a tired sounding sigh.
She blinks. ''What wagon? There's a wagon? I'm on a wagon? Is it a metaphorical wagon? Am I an alky? You know, I've never understood the wagon analogy. Did drunk people fall off of a lot of wagons and it caught on?''
''Is that a yes then?''
''No, look, let's just forget about wagons, okay?''
She lets out a nervous little laugh and runs her hand through her new short hair that she just can't get used to. ''What I'm about to say is going to sound crazy,'' she tells him quietly. ''But I swear it's the - ''
She whirls around to face Sam, raising an eyebrow when he sees the way he's looking at her with wide, shocked eyes as if he can't decide whether or not she's real. Why does everyone keep looking at her like that? It must be the hair. It's upsetting. It irks her too. ''Oh,'' she pauses and looks back at Bobby briefly. ''...Hey, Sam.''
''You're here,'' he states bluntly.
Sam snaps into action, clearing his throat and moving to kiss her cheek somewhat awkwardly. ''Well, uh, it's good to see you. I just didn't think - ''
''That you'd be seeing me today. Yeah, people keep saying that.'' Know what? Fuck it. She's done with playing along. There are too many rules to this game. She'd prefer to cheat. The list of things that are wrong with this place is endless. Her hair is all messed up, that feeling in her gut is getting stronger, she feels a headache coming on, Sam and Bobby are treating her like she's made out of glass and she still hasn't seen Dean or Bray and that's worrying. ''All right, so I'm just gonna lay all my cards out on the table. Bottom line here is that I'm not who you think I am. This isn't my world. In my world, Dean and I are together, as crazy as that may sound to you people, we have a three year old daughter and you,'' she jabs a finger in Sam's direction, ''have longer hair. Right now an asinine Trickster is messing with us in what I can only assume is an attempt to move up on the success ladder. First the little nutjob sent us to the future and now I'm here and I really need to find my Dean and my Sam. I'm not drunk, I'm not high and I'm not having some sort of breakdown. This is the truth. You believe me or not?''
She looks back and forth between Bobby and Sam, waiting for them to offer her a sedative or something. Neither one of them even move. Sam's eyes are watery looking and Bobby's taking off his hat again and none of this is a good sign. Even if they do think she's cuckoo for cocoa puffs, they don't say anything. Judging by the looks on their faces something she said has assaulted both men like physical blows.
''Bray?'' Sam gets out, voice cracking and breaking. Oh no. No, no, no. Not her. ''She's...'' His lips curve into a wobbly little smile. ''She's...there? Is she happy? Is she healthy? What's she like? Is she pretty? I'll bet she's pretty. She was such a beautiful baby.''
''Sam,'' Bobby says softly.
Ruby's heart drops to her stomach. Her breathing speeds up and she can't stop her hands from shaking. Anyone but her. Any world but this one. It's a fake world, she tells herself. It's not real. Bray is safe and happy with Bobby right now.
Bobby keeps a picture of Bray on top of a book on his desk. It's from her first birthday. Her face is smeared with cake and she's smiling a blinding version of her father's smile. It's a beautiful picture of a beautiful little girl. Ruby turns to look at the picture.
It's not there.
This is a story you were never meant to hear.
That's what Sam tells her. She tries to hold onto that. It's a story. A fable, a legend, a lie. It's a horror story to tell around the campfire, a nightmare she can wake up from, its fiction. But that's all it is. None if it is real. It's just a story. It's not important. But here it is anyway:
According to the story, it goes like this:
Bray was born a healthy and gorgeous baby girl. She had her mother's eyes, her father's smile and she was the center of everyone's universe. The sun and the moon rose for her. The stars in the sky shone for her. She was the reason her family kept fighting the good fight. She was that element of hope they needed.
And then one night in late April, her daddy came into her room to check on her and she was cold and blue. Just like that. No explanation, no warning, and no goodbyes. She was just gone. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Statistics say two hundred and twenty babies die of SIDS each month. In this world, Bray was one of those babies.
Her death was the catalyst, Sam tells her, for a lot of things. She and Dean couldn't make it work, she quit hunting (and evidently cut her hair) and that was just it for Dean. Losing his daughter was the final straw. He just gave up on everything. Hunting, the war, Ruby, Sam, Bobby, life. He's still alive. Sam makes sure to tell her he's still alive.
He's just not Dean anymore.
She can successfully convince herself ten times over that this world isn't real. She can close her eyes, see Bray and know that's what she has to go home to. Just this morning, before the Trickster and the future and this, she was standing on Bobby's porch watching her little girl giggle and jump through puddles with the dad who worshiped her. That is what's real. This is not. This is just a fabricated world created by a coward to torture her.
However, with that said, this world has a Dean who needs to be fixed. And one thing she has never been able to do is shake her compulsive need to fix those Winchester men.
Quite telling, don't you think? It's an entirely different world and yet for her everything still comes down to Dean Winchester.
She supposes that is simply destiny.
She finds Dean in a bar about a block and a half away from the shithole where he supposedly lives. To be brutally honest, she doesn't know how she manages to recognize him. Clean clothes, shaving and basic personal hygiene appear to be among the list of things he has given up on. But above all else, he just looks old. Way older than he should. Come to think of it, she does too. She's looked in a mirror. This world's Ruby is worn out looking, much too skinny and there are fine lines on her face that shouldn't be there. This world's Dean and Ruby look older than future Dean and Ruby.
Lesson: Loss is bad. It eats away at you. It gets under your skin. Turns your hair gray. (During the year Sam was gone, Dean found his first gray hair at age thirty two. He had a panic attack and had to breathe into a paper bag. It was bad.) Loss is something powerful and hideous. But she's betting there's also some hardcore substance abuse going on here. Combine those two things together and you've got a lethal combination designed to leave someone rode hard and put away wet.
Then again, she could be wrong. Maybe it's just loss that aged them prematurely. She doesn't know what it's like to lose a child. Her child is happy and healthy. Losing your brother is one thing. Losing your child...
Dean is leaning back against the bar without a drink in sight, looking thoughtfully at something across the bar. She can practically see the wheels in his head turning. Just as she's weaving her way through the throngs of rowdy bar patrons, Dean makes his move. He casually pushes off the bar, calmly makes his way to the biggest, baddest biker dude in the joint and punches him in the nose for absolutely no reason at all.
A gasp bubbles up in her throat and she races forwards. Just as the big guy raises his fist, she reaches them. Her fingers wrap around Dean's wrist and she shoves him away, putting herself right in the line of fire. ''Whoa, hey!'' She holds her hand up. ''Let's think about this for a second.''
Big guy lowers his fist slightly, face red, chest heaving. Her presence affects him for exactly three and a half seconds and then he's snarling out a, ''Get outta my way, Blondie.''
''Yeah,'' Dean grins widely, grasping her elbow. ''Fuck off, Ruby. And you,'' he reaches past her to poke the biker in the chest. ''You better get this fucking right. You do this correctly and you can actually shove my nose right into my brain. Instant death. So you make this one count, okay, tubbers?''
Ruby turns to throw Dean a horrified look. Harley Davidson decides to take this opportunity to yank her towards him roughly. Regardless of his personality face lift, Dean's first instinct is still to grab her and swing her out of harm's way. So that's nice. Except that this time she swings right back because she is just so very sick of everything this universe entails. ''Hey,'' she snaps out, shoving a finger in the biker's face. ''You really wanna hit me? I'm a twig. I weigh like two pounds. And I have a totally non threatening haircut. And this guy?'' She jerks a thumb in Dean's direction. ''Is obviously unstable and massively suicidal. Do you really want to play Kevorkian? Dude, look at us. We're physically and mentally unhealthy. I'm on some sort of wagon and he just told you he wanted you to shove his nose into his brain. Aside from that being one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, it's also assisted suicide. You could go to jail for that, Harley. You still wanna hit us? Go ahead. Pick on the weak ones. Prove what a big man you are. Also,'' she grins and leans closer to him. ''I'm a woman. Despite this bar's questionable clientele, there's got to be at least one person in here who'd shoot you in the foot for hitting a chick.''
As predicted, after a moment of blinking and grumbling under his breath, he turns and slinks away in defeat. Triumphantly, she turns back around to face Dean. By the way he's looking at her in disgust, eyes narrowed in frustration she's guessing he does not feel as victorious. She reaches out, getting ready to make her case and plead for him to talk to her but he won't let her. With a scoff and a shake of his head, he spins on his heel and stalks away from her.
''Dean!'' She rushes after him, pushing out the door and into the chilly night air seconds after him.
She isn't expecting what transpires next. She doesn't see it coming. How could she? He's Dean, she's Ruby. He'd never do anything to hurt her. In her world, they have a charmed life (as she's beginning to realize.)
In her world.
But this isn't her world. This world goes by an entirely different set of rules. She learns that when she grabs his arm and he responds by twisting free and backhanding her across the face. It stings more than it should. She can't tell if it's an accident or not because the momentary flash of overwhelming guilt and shock in his eyes at his actions is gone within a second, replaced by anger and frustration alike. ''That,'' she says, cutting him off when he opens his mouth to speak. ''Is never okay, Dean.''
''You appealed to his conscience?'' He hisses out through clenched teeth, voice dropping with venom that makes her shiver. He startles her by grasping her upper arms tightly and pulling her to him. She flinches unwillingly. ''Goddamn it,'' he breathes out. ''Can't you just let me die in peace?'' His voice changes from harsh to lost just like that and his angry eyes deflate.
She wrenches free of his grip, smacking away his arms and pushing herself away from him. She doesn't like this Dean. He's erratic and broken and she doesn't know how to fix him. That bothers her. ''That was peaceful?'' She retorts. ''That was your peaceful way of dying?''
''Get out of here,'' he begs, voice tight. ''Before I hurt you.''
''I can't leave you,'' she whispers. ''You'll do something stupid.''
He chuckles dryly, flicking his eyes upwards at the stars briefly. ''You ever think maybe this is the way it has to be?''
''It doesn't have to be like this,'' she protests quietly. ''You're just drunk.''
''No, I'm not,'' he kicks at a rock on the ground. ''I'm not supposed to mix alcohol with these new anti-depressants.'' He looks up at her with a grim smile. In the glow of the streetlight, he looks like a mad man. ''I'd get plastered and overdose but it wouldn't hurt enough,'' he says hollowly. ''It has to hurt.''
She tries to swallow the lump in her throat but it won't go down. ''Dean,'' she says. There's supposed to be more to that sentence but she can't remember what she meant to say. What would take it away? I'm sorry? Sorrys don't mean jack. She knows that from experience.
''Why do you even care anymore?'' He asks bitterly. ''You've barely said a word to me in over a year. Why would you suddenly start caring now?''
She looks down at the ground, arms wrapped around her middle. It's ridiculous to feel guilty for something another version of her has done, right? ''I needed to see you,'' she answers honestly.
''Really? Why? Because today's the anniversary of her death? Because you wanted to make sure I was okay?'' He snorts. ''Like I believe that. You don't give a damn about me, Ruby. Not anymore.''
''If I didn't give a damn about you,'' she says hotly. ''I would've let that guy beat you to death.''
''Well, you should have!'' He shouts, advancing on her. He actually looks a little disappointed when she doesn't leap away from him in fear. ''That's what I wanted! Don't you think...Don't you think it's a little selfish to keep me here when I don't want to be here? Ruby, I'm tired and I want to go. Can't you just let me go?''
He sighs. ''It doesn't get better, all right? Nothing gets better. It doesn't go away. I wasn't even a father for a year, but...but that's all I know how to be. ...Back then...I had a place. I was a father,'' his voice cracks, ''and I was a brother and I was a hunter. I was needed. Those were the only things I knew - Those are the only things I know how to be. But now the war's over, Sam's grown and Lila Bray is gone. So what's left? Hmm? Tell me what's left, Ruby. Give me a reason to stay.''
''Well,'' she blinks furiously and tries to gather herself together. Truth be told, there was a time when Dean was horribly broken and emotionally disfigured. It wasn't that long ago. She remembers it much too vividly for her taste. He was mess during the war and he was a shell after Sam died. But he always had someone to fall back on. He could always look at his daughter and keep going. This Dean just seems so terribly, utterly, completely...alone. And that is one of the saddest things she has ever seen. ''There's me.'' She takes one cautious step towards him, and then another. ''You have me.'' For a second, just a second, there's a flicker of the Dean she loves in his heartbroken eyes. But it's just for a second and a second is never enough.
When she bravely reaches out to touch his cheek, he catches her wrist and his lips thin. ''Ruby,'' he spits out her name like it's something revolting. ''When she died, I put a gun in my mouth - '' she flinches at the unashamed, blunt, matter-of-fact tone of his voice '' - and I would have pulled the trigger if my dumbass brother hadn't tackled me. This is what happened. This is what I became when she died. ...And you just cut your hair. Trust me, babe,'' he sneers and squeezes her wrist tightly until she grimaces. ''I don't want you.''
''People grieve in different ways,'' she informs him plainly. ''Ever think of that?''
''Then let me grieve,'' he pleads. ''Let me go with her.''
She shudders unnoticeably at the haunted look in his eyes, and she tries to hold onto him but she can't quite keep him from slipping through her grasp. He steps away from her and looks up at the stars once more with a tight smile ripe with promises she wishes he wouldn't keep.
(She remembers that when Bray was a baby, she used to love looking at the stars, reaching out a pudgy little hand like she wanted to grab one and keep it forever. That's probably one of the only memories this Dean will ever have of their daughter.)
''If I had checked on her earlier,'' he says in a whisper. ''If I had just checked on her...she could...she could...'' He trails off and shakes his head, lowering his shining eyes to the ground. ''Just stay away from me,'' he orders lowly. ''Just go home. I'm not your problem anymore.'' He sends her one last empty eyed look and then turns to leave.
She moves to go after him, but a sudden hand on her shoulder prevents her from taking a step. She whirls around to face what is probably a drunken man who wants to hit on her only to find herself staring into very familiar blue eyes. And suddenly she's not standing in a parking lot anymore and instead she's standing in a wide empty field, breath hanging in the air, stars twinkling above her head.
Castiel stands in front of her, lips curved into an aggravated frown as he scans the trees that edge around the clearing. ''Hello, Ruby,'' he greets with a nod.
She swallows down the cries that have been rising in her throat and tries to tell herself, once again, that nothing here is real. ''Get me out of here,'' she demands, grabbing his coat roughly when he dares to turn his eyes away from her briefly. ''Get me out of here right now.''
He looks at her fingers grasping his jacket, looking entirely unimpressed with her. ''I'm working on it.''
''That's not good enough! Just get me out!''
''It's not that simple,'' he snaps out impatiently, swatting her hands away. ''Every time I try to pull you out, something happens.''
''Something,'' she echoes. ''Something...like what? What happens?''
Naturally, the answer to her question must come in the most dramatic way possible. The ground underneath her feet opens up like the mouth of a frightening beast, swallowing her whole. Castiel makes a grab for her and misses by about an inch.
Much like Alice, she falls right into the looking glass, and sometime while she's falling, she decides it would be wise not to ask anymore stupid questions.
end part three
Sam finds himself in an alternate universe with Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy...and Dianna Agron.