Nightmares

Drinking Ruby's blood always gave Sam strange dreams. Horribly real dreams. Dreams that woke him up in a cold sweat, often fighting invisible monsters or blinded by unshed tears. But it was the price he had to pay for the wonderful rush her blood gave him, the sick, infected, wonderful feeling of being stronger than anyone and anything.

Still, sometimes he wished the dreams would stop following him into every post-coital slumber. Especially when they were as bad as last night's. He shuddered, then slammed the skillet into the kitchenette sink so hard it dented. Ruby, sitting at the small table in one of Sam's large shirts, looked up at him, barely phased by his outburst.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked softly as Sam fumed over the battered pan.

"No."

"Sam . . ."

"I said I don't want to talk about it, Ruby, alright?" Sam stared at the wall, fingers gripping the edge of the counter.

There was the squeak of a chair being pushed out from the table, and suddenly Ruby was standing beside him, one hand on his bicep. "Then at least look at me. You haven't looked at me all morning, Sam. What is it, what did I do?"

Sam licked his lips, glanced down at her face framed by dark hair, and saw it momentarily covered with blood. Dean's blood. Twitching, he turned away again, slapped the counter with the heels of his hands once, and then left the kitchenette, retreating into the bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind him.

"Sam!" Ruby's voice, hard and angry now, came from behind the door. She slapped the door with her palms, making it rattle on its hinges. "Sam Winchester, open this door right now! We have to talk!"

He was frightened of her. Repulsed and frightened. The doorknob rattled again. He involuntarily put the bed between him and the shivering door. The bed . . . It was no longer a bed – it was a rack, like it had been last night in his dreams. Dean was splayed across it, buck naked and lacerated by a million cuts. Blood ran down every inch of skin. His face was twisted in a rictus of agony. Demons were swarming around him, black smoke pouring into his mouth only to burst out of his chest in a spray of shattered bone.

Ruby was sitting cross-legged beside the rack, dressed how she had been earlier that day in a gray leather jacket and skinny jeans, idly peeling the skin and flesh off his brother's fingers with a razor. She picked out the strips of skin and sucked them delicately in her mouth as though they were carrot shavings in the salad bowl. She invited him for a taste. She said it was good. Sam listened to her and then agreed with her. All the while Dean screamed his name. But Sam didn't help him – Sam was too busy eating . . .

"Gah!" Sam fell back into the dresser when Ruby kicked open the door and shattered the vivid memory.

"Sam," Ruby scaled the bed and grabbed his face in her hands. She locked her eyes on his and didn't look away. Her breath smelled like fresh toothpaste and knocked some sense into him. No matter how vivid the dream had been, it was still only that – a dream. It hadn't happened, and he was being unfair to Ruby for holding her accountable for his own warped imagination.

"I'm sorry," he breathed, eyes still fixed on the bed, making sure it didn't morph into something out of his nightmares again. "I had a dream last night. I guess it kind of shook me up." He attempted a smile and a laugh, but it melted on his face the instant he put it on and dissolved into a worried pucker.

Ruby smoothed the hair away from his forehead. "Was it about Dean?"

Sam nodded.

Ruby bit her lip. "You realize the only way you're ever going to get peace . . ."

". . . is by killing Lilith," Sam nodded again. "I know. You've told me that. But still – how is it going to help him?"

"By honoring his memory."

Sam took a deep, inhaling breath. "But he isn't just a memory, Ruby. He's still out there – down there – somewhere, suffering. Every day. Fighting Lilith isn't going to bring him back."

"Nothing can. But at least fighting Lilith will bring some good out of all this," Ruby leaned in to kiss him. "Please, Sam. Eat something and then we can go hunting. Those demons we got wind of yesterday will be long gone by nightfall."

Sam relented. Ruby was trying to help him. Hell, she was helping him. She was offering herself as a kind of supernatural steroid just so Sam could gain the closure he needed. But the fact remained, a small part of himself nagged, that she was a demon. One of the things that were torturing his brother this instant. If she were in hell, she would be doing the same.

And the whole crux of the issue, the subtle or not-so-subtle indication of his dream, was that by drinking demon's blood and embracing that part of himself, Sam himself was – in trying to redeem Dean – actually joining forces with the enemy side.