AN: Well, my lovelies. As you can see, this is another late update. I apologize for that. I've pretty much given up on getting this story finished by the end of June (there are things going on with my novel and with my real life that have to come first) so my new goal is to at least get it finished before Supernatural starts up again in October, which I should be able to do.
Also, this story... I don't think it's going to be quite as angsty as I had originally planned, so I hope all the angstaholics are okay with that.
Chapter title from the poem ''The Waste Land'' by T.S. Eliot.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters you recognize.
Prayers to Broken Stone
Written by Becks Rylynn
''i will show you fear in a handful of dust''
''I don't believe you.''
''There's no way.''
She rolls her eyes at him and reaches up to pluck a twig from her bizarrely coiffed hair. She carries with her an irritating air of confidence and arrogance. It pisses him off to no end. This is the bitch who fucked his brother into nearly ruining his life. Dean would rather die than let her help him. He doesn't waste any time with questions. He goes after her like a dog after a bone, curling his fingers around her neck as tightly as possible and driving her into a tree as hard as he can. She makes a startled noise in the back of her throat at the force of her back hitting the tree, something between a moan and an exasperated sigh, and gasps pathetically when her oxygen supply is abruptly cut off. ''Dean,'' she pleads, one hand clawing at his arm, the other still clutching her crossbow. ''Dean...''
If she wanted, she could use that crossbow to get him away from her. She could smack him upside the head. Shoot him in the neck. Shoot him in the foot if she wants to go a non lethal way. She could do anything. Hell, she's a demon. She could beat him off with her pinkie finger. It really bothers him that she is not fighting him back. Doesn't bother him enough to let her go, however. ''You lying little bitch,'' he spits in her face. ''You expect me to believe your sob story?''
''It's...It's the truth,'' she rasps.
''Yeah, right,'' he sneers. ''Someone stole your life.'' He snorts. ''I'm supposed to believe that? I'm supposed to believe that some skank took your place for over a year and we didn't notice?''
She manages a choked laugh that turns into a gag. ''Guess you're just...that stupid.''
''Fuck you, Ruby. This isn't All My Children.''
''I'm not lying,'' she tries. ''I've never lied to you.''
He laughs loudly and tightens his grip, intent on strangling the life out of her with his bare hands. He reaches down with his free hand and easily wrestles the crossbow out of her quickly loosening grip. She makes a noise of protest, but can't do much to stop him. It still bugs him that she's not trying to fight him off. Fuck it. He lets go of her, because he's not going to kill someone like that if she's not even going to try and fight back, and takes a step back, watching her sink to the ground with a smirk on his face. Okay. So maybe he won't kill her just yet. But he's not going to let her go. He raises the crossbow without a moment of hesitation and trains it right between her eyes, finger on the trigger, staring down at her with disgust and hatred gleaming in his green eyes. ''All you do is lie,'' he snaps, venom lacing his tone.
Much to his surprise - and disappointment - the hellhound leaps right into the middle of this fight and goes straight to Ruby, dancing around her and crying out in worry. He sniffs at the blonde on the ground and then whips back around to face Dean, glowering and baring its teeth. Dean automatically steps away and jerks the crossbow, determined not to lower it, but unnerved by the hound's apparent loyalty to Ruby. Of all people.
Knew it was too good to be true.
No fucking way. There is no way she could be telling the truth. She is Ruby. She is made up of endless lies built from dirt and hellfire. She is a Lucifer junkie. She is a filthy, lying demonic whore. These are the things he knows about her. This is the truth. She was always lying, and that is the end of the story.
''I saved your life, you bastard,'' she coughs, rubbing at her neck.
''Who asked you to?''
''Dean, I know it's crazy,'' she says quietly, getting to her feet slowly. She pulls the hound back, resting a hand on its back comfortingly. ''But I swear, it's the truth. I realize it's a little...outlandish,'' she nods, hands raised in surrender. ''But it's the truth.'' She shrugs, somewhat helplessly. ''I don't know what else to tell you.'' Even the tone of voice she is using irks him. Soft and steady like she's a hostage negotiator. Like he's the crazy person here. ''You need to believe me if you want to get out of here alive,'' she tells him.
Dean remains stubborn. ''Know what? I think I'm fine on my own.''
''Do you think this is a joke?'' She lets out a humorless laugh and lets her hands fall, all pretenses dropped. Ah, now there's the Ruby he remembers. She glances away from him, off to the side, and when she looks back, she is pissed. ''Listen to me, short bus,'' she takes a step closer and locks eyes with him, holding his gaze. ''If you have any hope of getting out of here alive, alone shouldn't even be a word in your vocabulary. This isn't a Disney movie, princess. You're not frolicking in the Enchanted Forest with Bambi. This is Purgatory, bitch. You need help. You need me.''
In response to that, Dean sighs, looks away momentarily, deep in thought, and then he pulls the trigger. Because screw her. He doesn't need her. He'll never need her.
The hellhound gets ready to pounce.
The arrow never pierces Ruby's skin. It doesn't even come close. Her hand shoots out impossibly fast and catches the arrow inches away from her heart. There is a painful moment of silence and then Ruby slowly looks up at Dean. And attacks. Eh, well, maybe he had that one coming. It's entirely too easy for her to gain the upper hand. She kicks the crossbow out of his hand and with almost lazy movements, she grabs his wrist, twists it behind his back and tosses him up against the same tree he had been holding her against. He grunts, face pressed into the rotting bark of the gnarly looking tree. The tip of the arrow is held against his throat and he can feel her body pressed into his. ''Don't do that,'' she warns, tone clipped. She lets him go then, fingers grasping his jacket and shoving him away from her. She breaks the arrow in half and throws it away carelessly, like its trash. She shoots him a distrustful and disappointed scowl, but turns her attention to the hellhound. ''Baby,'' her voice instantly drops a register, to a near coo and she crouches down, patting her leg.
The dog happily sprints over to her and lets loose a string of happy noises.
''That's my good boy,'' Ruby smiles widely and rubs the beast's fur. His eyes roll back into his head when she scratches him under the chin. ''You did so good, Baby.'' She giggles (no, really) when he licks her neck she murmurs a few more whispered compliments before gently pushing the dog away and standing. She turns back to Dean with pinched lips and crosses her arms.
He stares at her.
She frowns uncomfortably. ''What?''
''You named a hellhound Baby?'' Dean questions incredulously.
She huffs and sticks her nose up in the air. ''No,'' she denies. ''I didn't. Baby isn't mine. He belongs to a friend of mine. And besides,'' she sniffs. ''He is a baby. He's my little perpetual puppy. Aren't you, Baby?''
Dean blinks, horrified. ''That,'' he gestures to the very large dog. ''Thing is a puppy?''
Baby growls in offense.
Dean rears back instinctively.
Ruby snickers and pats Baby on the head. ''Just a warning,'' she says. ''Baby doesn't like being called a thing.''
Dean gulps. He decides maybe it's best to trust her on that one. He still thinks she's a lying crazy psychopath, but getting mauled by a hellhound named Baby, because he accidentally offended it, is so not on his list of things to do today. ''Note to self,'' he monotones. ''Don't piss off the pup. Got it.''
A smirk briefly flickers across Ruby's lips before she tightens her lips and takes another step forwards. ''Dean,'' she begins and her voice is so gravely serious that it almost reminds him of Cas. (There is a slight pang in his chest at the mere thought of Cas. A reminder that if the two fries short of a happy meal angel is off somewhere picking Purgatory flowers, Dean had better get to him quick, before something else does. He can't imagine the inhabitants of Purgatory are too terribly fond of Cas right now.) ''You can judge me all you want,'' Ruby is saying. ''You can think whatever the hell you want to think about me. I don't care. Judge me for what I am, for the mistakes I've made, for my less than compassionate demeanor. But don't you dare judge me for the lies someone else told you. I am many things, but I am not a liar. And I have never lied to you.''
Well, excuse him for being a little wary. ''Ruby - ''
''Her name was Kristy.''
''The woman who stole my life,'' she monotones. ''Her name was Kristy. We were friends. ...When we were human. She was my best friend. I trusted her with my life and she trusted me with hers. And I got her killed. We were members of the same coven and when we were found out, I gave her up and I ran.'' She shakes her head regretfully and an apologetic glint shines in her eyes as she takes just one more step towards him. ''It was never about you or your brother, Dean, and for that I am truly sorry.''
He stares at her for a long time, trying to force words out of his mouth. He can't. There really is nothing for him to say. What can one say when their mortal enemy apologizes to them? The look in her eyes, sorrowful and regretful, is making him supremely uncomfortable, so he looks away, back to Baby, who is now busy licking himself.
''But we don't have time for that.'' Her eyes shift, from vulnerable to carefully deliberate indifference. ''We need to get out of here,'' she sends a look around at the bodies strewn out around them. ''Before they wake up.''
His heart plummets. He looks at the grossly shredded corpses of Gordon, Constance Welch and the hellhounds. ''Wake up?'' He echoes.
''The souls in Purgatory,'' she starts. ''...We're already dead. We can't be killed. They're all going to wake up soon and I don't know about you, but I don't want to be here when they do.'' With a wry grin, she chucks the homemade crossbow at him and begins to glide towards him. ''You don't have to like me, Dean. Just trust me long enough to get you out of here.'' And then she brushes past him and stalks off in the opposite direction, Baby trailing behind her obediently.
Dean sucks in a breath of cool air and looks down at the makeshift weapon in his hands. He turns to glance at the bodies on the ground, then out at the vast Purgatory floor. He squeezes his eyes shut and grips the crossbow tighter. ''Sammy,'' he murmurs under his breath. ''Please don't hold what I am about to do against me.'' With one last deep, cleansing breath, he turns on his heel and chases after Ruby.
It feels like they've been walking for hours and yet they've barely made a dent, no closer to finding any sort of anything other than dark and creepy woods. The crossbow feels like a dead weight in his hand and his fingers are clenched so tightly around it that they've gone numb. And it's motherfucking freezing in Purgatory. At least in Hell it was warm. He wrinkles his nose. Fuck, he must be really messed up if he'd rather be in Hell.
And another thing...
He needs a drink. He needs it. Right now, he'd take a glass of scotch over water or food or shelter. He needs it so badly he can almost taste it. He's starting to feel a little...off. It's been too long since his last drink. He doesn't know what to do with himself. In the darkness, Dean smirks bitterly and takes in a few gulps of air. He doesn't know a whole lot about withdrawal but he's guessing the way he's feeling right now can't be a good sign. He's kind of fucked himself in that department, hasn't he?
''How much further is this shelter of yours?'' He asks gruffly, breaking the awkward silence between them.
Ruby sends him an unimpressed sidelong glance. ''We'll get there when we get there.''
He snorts. ''Thanks. That's not vague at all.''
''Have some fucking patience, dumbass,'' she snaps.
He rolls his eyes. ''I don't even know why I'm trusting you. You're unpleasant,'' he mumbles. ''You're probably leading me into some sort of death trap. Swear to God if you're tryin' to fuckin' kill me, I'm gonna - ''
''Why? Have I offended you with my extremely natural trepidation? Well, fucking exsqueeze me for - ''
''No, I'm serious.'' She stops short and turns, body folding into his as she claps a hand over his mouth. ''Shut up.'' Up ahead of them, Baby stops bouncing along like an animated character in a children's movie and sniffs at the air. ''Do you hear that?''
Unfortunately, he does.
The sound of rapid footfalls and panting getting closer and closer. At the exact same moment, Baby lets out a howl, a blur of dark hair slams into Ruby with a wild battle cry and two bodies go rolling to the ground. The woman on top of Ruby, clawing at her savagely and screeching like a banshee pays little attention to Dean other than to push him out of her way. Ruby cries out, mostly in shock, and kicks the woman off of her. The brunette goes tumbling to the ground, hair obscuring her face, but for a moment, Dean gets a look at her face. The recognition is instantaneous. The brunette is on her feet in a second and turns her focus from Ruby to Dean with a small smirk. In the blink of an eye, she has a hand on Dean's cheek and her dirty fingernails are cutting into his skin. Blood blooms to the surface and he groans.
''No!'' Ruby's voice seems to snap the demon out of whatever trance she had been in. ''He doesn't have anything to do with this,'' Ruby says. ''Let him go.''
The other demon, smug and annoying, obliges. Sort of. With ease, she lifts Dean up off the ground and sends him flying through the air. Dean hits the ground hard, tumbling into a rock, the wind knocked out of him. He moans and wheezes, trying to catch his breath. He can hear the two fighting behind him and it doesn't sound like Ruby's winning. When he hears Baby let out a deafening whimper of agony, followed by Ruby's distressed scream, he rolls onto his stomach and grapples for the crossbow that went flying. He can't reach it. He grabs a stick instead, lurching to his feet unsteadily. The chick currently beating the shit out of Ruby doesn't notice. Every time Ruby tries to get up or fight back, the other woman bests her.
They have been here before. In the exact same position. Once. It would be virtually impossible not to notice the similarities. Dean approaches the situation at hand with caution and a firm hand, overflowing with flustered impatience. He uses a different tactic this time and drives the knife into her left side instead of her right. She turns this time, her eyes flickering with hatred. For good measure, he rams the pointed end of the stick into her neck and watches the life drain out of her eyes. For now, anyway. The body falls to the ground with a dull, almost comically anticlimactic thud. Dean is - once again - left staring down at Ruby, both breathing heavily and both acutely aware of the similarities. He stares down at her and swallows hard, refraining from acting on his impulse to kick her when she's down. And that is the closest she is ever going to come to receiving an olive branch from a Winchester.
She chuckles, a wet and throaty kind of laugh, rolling onto her stomach and pushing herself up onto her hands and knees. ''We've been here before, sweetheart,'' she breathes. ''I'm sure you remember...''
He ignores her and steps over the skewered body to get to Baby. The poor dog is in a crumpled heap at the base of a tree, making continuous whimpering noises in the back of his throat. Dean crouches down next to him and sighs. ''Aw, little dude, that bitch worked you over good, didn't she?''
''Baby.'' Ruby crawls through the mud and dead leaves to get to the dog. ''Oh, Baby,'' she murmurs sadly, stroking the dog's fur. ''I'm so sorry. I should've known she would come after me.''
''His leg is broken,'' Dean points out needlessly.
''It'll heal fast.'' She casts a look over her shoulder. ''But I need to get him home. I can't leave him out here. There are too many monsters who want him dead for helping me.'' She licks her lips and shrugs. ''I'm not exactly Prom Queen.''
''My God, that is unexpected. I am flabbergasted.''
She pulls Baby to his feet with a small groan of difficulty. ''Come on, Baby,'' she whispers. ''We'll get you home and your Mom will take good care of you, okay?''
Looking quite dejected, Baby takes an experimental step forwards. He expresses his agreement by licking Ruby's hand. Dean feels a frown pull at his lips as he watches Ruby with the animal. He doesn't think he has ever seen her so...so human. He's never seen her love something before. It's...unnerving. He trudges through the muck after Baby and Ruby, still watching her carefully. He falls into step with her, trying not to draw attention to the way he's staring at her.
She notices fast, whipping her head around to face him with narrowed eyes. ''What?''
He wants to ask her so many questions about everything. He wants to ask her, more than anything, why. If her story is true (and that's a big damn if) why isn't she mad? Why isn't she more afraid? What he wants to know is if he ever really knew her at all. None of these things are what wind up falling out of his lips. ''How come I'm lookin' at a hot chick and not some scary black cloud of demon?''
She stops walking, throws a look in his direction that tells him she thinks he's an idiot, and then she huffs and speeds up, leaving him in the dust.
''Hey!'' Affronted, he chases after her. ''It was a valid question!''
Baby lets out a pitiful whine at being left behind. Both Dean and Ruby slow their movements.
''It's not like this is your real body,'' he states. ''And I'm fairly certain that Tammi the demonic housewife has an uglier form too.''
Ruby gives up, folding her arms. ''Long version or short?''
''In a nutshell, preferably.''
''Your mind is simple.''
''Wha - Hey!''
''We appear the way you remember us,'' she says. ''In wrappings your delicate human mind is able to process.''
''This isn't the way I remember you.''
''Except that wasn't me. That was Kristy.''
He lets out a laugh. ''Whatever. I don't even care.''
''Then why did you ask?''
He silences and focuses on walking through the treacherous forest, avoiding bones and booby traps. He moves away from her, keeping far enough to one side to avoid her as much as possible. She doesn't press for conversation, which is about the only kind thing he is willing to say about her at this point. She keeps her eyes simultaneously peeled for danger and on her injured pet. In the quiet, his mind gets away from him and drifts to the things he cannot afford to think about right now. Mainly Sam, Cas and alcohol. He needs to focus on staying alive right now. He doesn't have the time to think about these things. But it's hard not to think about the things you need so badly in life. He needs his brother to survive (it's something he has accepted by now) and apparently he has a quite painful addiction to alcohol. And Cas... Dean furrows his brow and drops his gaze to the ground. Let's just say his Facebook profile would say It's Complicated. It's not like Cas was ever his...boyfriend...or whatever. They've never been anything. Not really. Okay, so there might have been a few...incidents. But they didn't mean anything! They didn't...
Look, shut the fuck up. He doesn't want to talk about it, all right?
Dean pinches the bridge of his nose, unable to stave off his headache any longer. Honestly, he's just hoping that Cas is being an asshole. He hopes this is just conflict avoidance, because if it's not and Cas is out there alone... He licks his lips. Abruptly, he has to stop short when he runs into a still and tense Ruby. ''Christ,'' he grumbles. Arms crossed over her chest, she tilts her head and squints out into the darkness curiously. ''Um... Have you gone on strike?'' Dean quips. ''Because I have no problem crossing the picket line.''
She inclines her head towards something in the distance. ''What's wrong with this picture?''
He follows her gaze and tenses. There is a figure in the distance, hurrying towards them in the moonless night. The figure is draped in a black cloak, very fairytale-esque, hood up, identity kept a secret. ''Holy shit,'' he gasps. ''It's Lord Voldemort!''
Ruby slides her eyes to him. ''You're a dork.''
''Humor helps me to not piss my pants in terror.''
The figure gets closer. Ruby's body slumps. ''Oh, geez.'' She sighs in exasperation and draws her lips into a thin line. The short figure rushing towards them does not seem to invoke any particular bad feelings in Ruby, other than exasperation. She sighs again. ''Wait here, Harry Potter,'' she orders, walking away before he has a chance to question her. He watches her stride right up to the caped crusader without even a hint of reluctance. Dean blows out a breath and looks around. Theoretically...
He still doesn't like Ruby and he still doesn't trust her as far as he can throw her but at least if he sticks with her, he gets the protection of Baby and can use her as a human shield if need be. He watches the conversation play out in front of his eyes and turns his gaze to Baby. ''You know who that is?'' Baby gives him a pitiful expression, looking miserable as he tries to hop along without putting any pressure on his broken paw. Dean studies the masked newcomer very carefully. He doesn't have the best viewpoint, but from what he can tell, the person is a female, short and frantic. He mentally goes over a list of all of the females he could run into in Purgatory. One name jumps out at him and an icy cold fist squeezes his heart. His breath catches. He takes one step forwards.
As if sensing the shift in his demeanor, Ruby snaps her attention back to him. She says something to the girl and then spins on her heel, sprinting back over to him. ''Come on,'' she says tersely, and takes his hand, pulling him off the beaten path, into the dark trees. Baby, sensing Ruby's tension, darts ahead of them like he's trying to sniff out any potential predators.
Dean is still stuck on the girl. ''Who was that?''
''Little Red Riding Hood,'' she says. ''Now step it up, Winchester. That Leviathan you ganked knows you're here. He's looking for you.''
Dean's eyes widen. ''Dick Roman? He's - ''
''He's the one eyed man in the land of the blind, babe. And you pissed him off somethin' fierce. So move it, old man. We gotta get you the hell out of dodge.''
There are many, many things Dean would be willing to argue Ruby on. He decides this is not one of them.
She pushes dirty dark hair out of her sweaty face and enters the warm, dark room lit only by candlelight. This is not good. This is monumentally not good. That Leviathan has been here for two hours. Two hours and he's already dethroned Azazeal, beaten the ever loving tar out of the former Queen, and gained way too many followers to count. He's going to take over. She licks her lips and pushes off the door, making her way over to the hastily made table. There's a war on the horizon. She can almost smell it. It's going to happen. That Leviathan bastard is determined to be the king of Purgatory. Sooner rather than later, this place is going to be split right down the middle with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other.
And this is Purgatory, a place chalk full of bitter and dead supernatural creatures. Who do you think will have the winning team?
She shivers lightly and picks up one of the arrows she has masterfully constructed. She has spent the past who knows how long (seriously, it's really hard to keep track of time down here) in this godforsaken hole. It has become all she knows. It's home. Her fingers smooth over the tip of the arrow. She runs her tongue over her teeth. The amount of time that has passed since they all split up is rapidly growing in size, becoming more and more alarming with each second. She doesn't know where the hell Ruby and Baby are with Dean and the chances are pretty high that Balthazar and Gabriel probably got distracted by something shiny. She shakes her head and sighs. Dean and his angel are so fucked.
There is a sudden loud rapping on the heavy door, followed by Baby's yelp and Ruby's impatient, ''Open the damn door!''
She practically flies across the room and rips open the door. Baby, whining and crying like an actual infant, jumps at her.
Ruby huffs and mumbles in acknowledgment, brushing right past her.
Dean sees her next, and he freezes the second he lays eyes on her. His eyes get wide and his body seizes up. He stands there, startled, guilty and almost aggravatingly pitiful. Out of everything, it's the pity in his eyes that gets to her the most. It's the most prominent thing in his eyes too. It's like a searchlight. 'You poor thing,' his eyes tell her, little green darts of remorse. 'I'm sorry you're stuck down here for the rest of eternity because of some stupid bad luck. I'm so sorry you died without any underwear on.' He doesn't say any of these things. That would be rude. He just looks at her with this sad and guilty but ultimately relieved look on his face. ''Madison,'' he greets, and she hasn't heard such warmth in someone's voice since...since so long ago.
''Hi, Dean,'' she says, offering him a smile. She moves first, leaning in to wrap her arms around him in a hug. It's for strength. It eases the terror. And if she pretends, for a brief second, that he's Sam... What's the harm in that? His body is warm, but his hands are cold and she can't help but notice that his body is humming, vibrating, near quiver, an almost tremble. She pulls away when Baby rams his head into the back of her knee and nearly sends her stumbling. ''Yes, yes, I see you,'' she says. She crouches down to examine the pup, instantly spotting the way he's cradling his paw. ''Oh, Baby!'' She exclaims. ''Your poor leg is broken!''
From somewhere behind her, Ruby snorts and says, ''Jesus Christ, could you sound any more like Cinderella? Fucking seriously.''
Madison rolls her eyes and shoots a look at the blonde, sticking her tongue out.
''Baby's yours?'' Dean asks.
Her lips pull back into a gleeful grin. ''I have a way with dogs.''
''Imagine that,'' Ruby monotones.
Without wasting precious time on pleasantries, Madison flicks her long dark hair over her shoulder and marches over to Ruby. She eyes the other woman for a moment, raking her gaze over mud stains and blood. ''I'm fine,'' Ruby says, just as Madison opens her mouth to ask. In the time Madison has known Ruby, she has learned that an I'm fine is all she's going to get.
She shrugs and leaves it alone. ''Okay then. Dean.'' She turns to throw him a reassuring smile. ''Let's get you out of here.''
''A thousand times yes. But - ''
''Don't worry,'' she interrupts. ''I sent some people to go track your friend down.''
Ruby laughs loudly. ''Yeah, 'cause Dumb and Dumber are totally competent angel catchers. That's like sending two of the stooges out to catch the third with a giant butterfly net. Questionable and insane and hijinks will ensue.''
''Hey, peanut gallery,'' Dean says. He rubs at his forehead. ''Do you offer any other services besides sarcasm?''
In response, she sends him a wolfish grin and waggles her eyebrows.
He rolls his eyes. ''All right.'' He rubs at his forehead once more, a pained grimace flashing on his lips. He doesn't finish the rest of his sentence for what feels like a long time, sitting down heavily on a chair and massaging his temples, all the while looking uncomfortable and in pain. ''So,'' he clears his throat. ''Let's just say your mysterious people find Cas. How the hell are we supposed to get out?''
Madison and Ruby share a look. ''Through the back door, of course.''
''...There's a back door?''
''Oh, there's always a back door, Dean.''
He blinks several times and then flings his gaze to Ruby. She smiles. ''I know, right? Curiouser and curiouser, huh, Alice?''
''If there's a back door,'' Dean begins slowly, ''and you know about it... Why are you still here?''
''We're dead, nimrod,'' Ruby snaps.
''Ruby,'' Madison sighs.
''Well, it's true, isn't it? We're fucking deader than NBC's ratings.''
There is a smile on Dean's face that he is obviously working hard to cover up. ''What Ruby means to say,'' Madison says. ''Is that we can't use the back door because technically, this is where we belong. We were supernatural creatures, and we died. You're a human, and you're alive. Your friend - ''
''Also not so much with the deadness,'' Ruby nods.
''Which is exactly why we need to get you out.''
''Mmmhmm.'' Ruby licks her lips and inspects her nails critically. ''If you die down here, you're stuck here for the rest of eternity and honestly? I can't look at your face for that long.''
Dean opens his mouth to say something, exasperation clear on his face, but he never gets the chance. The door clangs open and Larry and Moe themselves saunter through the door, bickering loudly. They both look a little worse for the wear, mud stained and a little bloody, but the second they see Dean, they stop in their tracks. Gabriel is the first to pipe up, with an excited chirp of, ''Dean!'' Much to Dean's apparent horror, he follows up his ecstatic yelp by shoving past his brother and nearly tackling Dean in a giant bear hug.
Dean grunts. ''Oh, for the love of God.''
''Dean,'' Balthazar greets, most certainly not as jovial as Gabriel. ''How goes the business of alcoholism and debauchery?''
Unfortunately for him, Dean has no visible reaction, which seems to disappoint Balthazar greatly. ''Awesome.'' He shakes Gabriel off of him. ''How's being dead workin' out for you?''
''Oh, it's been wonderful,'' Balthazar nods. ''Like a dream. I've been catching up on my rest, learning how to cross stitch, writing a novel - it's a romance, by the way; plenty of smut - really just reconnecting with who Balthazar is. I've loved it. It's a treat. Except, you know, THE PART WHERE I'M DEAD!''
Again, Dean has no reaction whatsoever to the attitude he's receiving. ''Ain't my fault, man. I didn't skewer you.''
''Oh, don't mind him,'' Gabriel says, wrapping an arm around his brother and blatantly ignoring the huff he gets in response. ''He's been a miserable SOB since he got here. He's a cranky little dead guy.''
Madison sighs heavily and perches herself on the edge of the table, mildly offended at being ignored. Because God forbid anyone bring up anything important, right? She turns her eyes to the side and catches Ruby's eye momentarily, but the blonde looks away quickly, leaning back in her chair and putting her feet up on the table. ''Did you two find Castiel?'' Madison asks, cutting into the pointless back and forth.
''Find him?'' Gabriel repeats. ''Yes. Catch him? ...There might have been a little hiccup with that.''
''He skittered like a frightened deer,'' Balthazar says. ''A shamefully hilarious chase ensued. He got away.''
''It would've won the big bucks on America's Funniest Home Videos,'' Gabriel tacks on. ''This one,'' he jerks his thumb at Balthazar, ''screams like a twelve year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.''
''See?'' Ruby cries out. ''Hijinks.'' She casts a filthy glare in their directions. ''Morons.''
''So he's... He's alone out there,'' Dean says flatly. His lips pinch together, his eyes narrow, and his hands clench into fists. ''You left him alone out in Purgatory?''
''Excuse me, but what part of skittered off like a frightened deer do you not understand?'' Balthazar gripes. ''It was as if he was Bambi and we were the hunters who shot his mother. There wasn't much we could do once he disappeared.''
''Hate to break it to you,'' Madison tells Dean, ''but your friend has screwed himself. It would be in your best interest to go into every man for himself mode. We need to act fast with this back door. If we don't get it opened fast, your Leviathan friend is going to try and hitch a ride back to the Enterprise.''
Dean looks up sharply and stops shifting from foot to foot like a nervous fourth grader who has sharpied the bathroom wall in an act of half hearted rebellion. ''I thought you said Purgatory peeps couldn't get to the other side.''
''Purgatory peeps,'' Gabriel echoes with a giggle, throwing himself into the chair next to Ruby. ''I'm gonna use that one.'' When he tilts his head back to look at Ruby, she grimaces and scoots her chair away from him.
''Yes, but...'' Madison pauses. She bites her lip and looks over at Baby, huddled in his corner with his eyes closed. ''He's a Leviathan.''
''Land of the blind, sweet cheeks,'' Ruby says. ''Land of the blind.''
''Well.'' Dean smiles tightly. ''Super awesome fun times then.'' He claps his hands together. ''Then I'm all for door opening. Who's got the keys? Let's get this shit on the road because there is no fuckin' way I'm letting Dick Roman out so he can eat America.''
At that, both Balthazar and Gabriel get a near identical what the fuck? look on their faces. ''That was his plan?'' Balthazar asks. ''He wanted to eat America?''
''That's a sad plan,'' Gabriel says. ''He sounds like he needs a hug. Or sex. ...Probably the sex.''
''One caveat, however,'' Madison says softly. By the way Dean folds his arms and puts on his stoic face, she's guessing he already knows what's coming next.
''We don't have a crapload of time, Dean,'' Ruby says bluntly. ''And your little angel friend is not doing you any favors by prancing through the daisies.''
''You want me to leave him here?''
''We don't know where he is,'' Madison points out. ''Or how long it'll take to find him. Or even if he's still alive. There are a lot of creatures here that aren't exactly his biggest fan. But you are alive and you have a chance to get out and I think it would be in your best interest to take it.''
''No.'' It's instant. No hesitation, no stopping to think about it, no nothing. Just a short, sharp, ''No.'' The quiet but very firm statement rings throughout the confined space, appearing to surprise even Dean himself. Over in the corner, Baby opens his eyes and lifts his head.
''Your window of opportunity is incredibly small,'' Balthazar starts.
''I don't care,'' Dean counters coldly. ''I'm not leaving without him.'' He looks in between Balthazar and Gabriel. ''Look, he's your brother. He's my friend. We are not going to just leave him here. He's alone and he's off his damn rocker, all right? If the door closes, if Dick catches up to me and I'm stuck here forever,'' he shakes his head and sucks in a breath, frowning deeply, ''then that would fucking suck. But I can't leave him alone out there. I won't.'' He shrugs, somewhat helplessly. ''Guy's a fuck up, but he's my fuck up. He's my responsibility.''
Madison is doing her best not to facepalm. Hey, in another life, she'd be all for that self-sacrificial bullshit that is love, but there's really no place for that crap down here. Somehow, she doesn't think Dean or his super special friend would fare well in such an environment.
''Well,'' Ruby says, and stands. ''I'm game. I like damsels.''
''Me too,'' Gabriel nods. ''I'm always up for shenanigans.''
Balthazar sighs. ''Fiiine. But I won't enjoy it.''
Gabriel reaches over to pinch Balthazar's cheeks. ''Okie dokie, Mr. Grumpy.''
All eyes turn to Madison, expectantly. She wavers under their hopeful eyes. Ruby grins at her. ''Aw, come on, Maddie,'' she says, voice low and raspy. She leans over to tug at Madison's sleeve, winking inconspicuously. ''It'll be fun. We'll get to play superhero and fuck shit up. Be the Black Widow to my Black Canary.''
''Black Widow is Marvel,'' Gabriel says. ''Black Canary is DC. Get it right, sister, or else I will make another lesbian joke about you and Princess Puppy.''
Madison rolls her eyes and holds her hands up. ''I'm all for helping the helpless,'' she says, turning to Dean. ''But don't come crying to me if we can't get you back home in the end.''
Dean looks relieved, but still tense and still pained. ''Deal.''
''Super fantastic,'' Ruby says. ''Now that that's settled, let's roll, A-team. We've got an angel to catch.''
This is not good.
When Castiel opens his eyes, he is in a dark, cave-like structure, alone in utter darkness and there is only one thought rolling around in his head: This is not good. The room he is in is warm, too warm, and the air is stale and leaves a bad taste in his mouth. He tries to remember how he got here, but his brain is working sluggishly. The last thing he remembers is running away from his brothers in fear. It isn't as if it was an extreme reaction. He didn't part with either of them on good terms. He was the one who killed Balthazar. He doesn't think it was strange that he ran from them.
His body feels heavy and stiff, his limbs are sore, and his head is throbbing. Nausea rolls in his stomach like a tidal wave. He blinks in an attempt to clear his blurry vision, but it fails. At first, he thinks the wetness on his face and in his eyes is a mixture of tears and sweat, but when the mysterious substance drips into his mouth, he realizes it's blood. He tries to move, tries to get up, only to find that he can barely move at all. When he determines that his hands and feet have been strapped to a table, all he feels is panic.
He wonders, briefly, if he is back in the hospital. Was it all a dream? Reuniting with the Winchesters? The demise of Dick Roman? Was it all just a hallucination? Despite this unfortunate crawling feeling of dread, of perhaps because of it, the one clear and true thought in his head, outweighing all the jumbled what ifs, is that he must find and protect Dean.
Castiel scowls and tries to jerk his arms, twisting his wrists fruitlessly.
He knows an awful lot about Purgatory. He knows too much. Someone like Dean will not survive it. That is...unfounded. This is not something that he, as a mere human, is equipped to deal with. Dean Winchester is nothing more than a powerless bug around these parts. He won't last a day. Not all alone.
Castiel is not okay with letting his charge (former charge? friend?) die a horrible death in a place like this. Shackles or not. He may be on the lower end of the mental health spectrum, but he still has responsibilities. He still has a job to do. It is his duty. He struggles uselessly, ignoring the pain. Sweat mixes with blood and his head wound throbs mercilessly. His vision swims again, out of exhaustion and blinding pain this time. He clenches his teeth to keep the bile in.
He is fairly certain his powers have been drained out of him.
The sound of footsteps approaching breaks through his reverie and he licks his lips nervously. He watches a shadow dance across the cave wall. The footsteps pause, and then resume. The feeling of eyes on him is unmistakable. All at once, a slow, rather intimidating laughter starts up and a cold chill runs down Castiel's spine. He recognizes that laughter.
''Oh, how the mighty have fallen,'' the voice drawls. The footsteps get closer and closer. And then there is an all too familiar face smirking down at him with cold eyes. ''What's the matter, big guy?'' The voice mocks. ''Not happy to see me?''
Castiel swallows hard.
Suddenly Dean is not the only one who may not survive Purgatory.
The first thing Dean said upon being handed a bow and arrow was, ''Fucking awesome. I'm a caveman.'' It was followed by a boisterous, loud, monumentally unconvincing burst of laughter. It probably would have been more convincing if he hadn't been shaking and perspiring at an alarming rate as he accepted it. It wasn't so much that he seemed scared or intimidated at the prospect of filling Oliver Queen's shoes, it was more like he was...ill.
Now, admittedly, Ruby does not know massive amounts about this older, sadder, unhealthy Dean Winchester with the shadows in his eyes and the drawn look on his face, but she knows that he doesn't act like this unless something is seriously wrong.
A theory that is proven true when Balthazar pulls her aside just before she heads out with Dean and Madison and says, ''Kitten, be aware that he's entering the painfully dark and dreary waters of alcohol withdrawal. I'm just warning you so that you can avoid being vomited on when he inevitably gets to that stage.''
Ruby sighs and her lips thin. ''Awesome,'' she deadpans. ''He's such an idiot.''
Balthazar brightens. ''No argument here.''
''Here's hoping we get him back to the other side before he turns into a quivering mass of sweat, tears and puke,'' Gabriel chirps, butting into the conversation like the annoying brother he is.
Balthazar nods. ''Word.''
And then they do that embarrassingly dorky secret handshake that they've created for themselves and Ruby scoffs and stomps after Madison because she cannot be bothered to deal with these morons for any longer than she has to.
You know, the funny thing is... She had always wanted a big family in her human life. Growing up, she had been an unhappy only child and then when she eventually had her own children, she lost them to the plague. She used to long for a big, loud family of crazy and unique characters. Now she's got one and they annoy the fuck out of her.
Ruby's un-life is a sitcom. There's no other way to describe it. She's got the two geeky sidekicks in Balthazar and Gabe, the overdramatic, pissy and moody teenager in Dean's dead hellspawn (who had better not show her face again while Dean is here, because who knows how that confrontation would end), the unresolved sexual tension partner in Madison, and a pretty awesome dog. Ruby, being the only sane one, is clearly the protagonist, and it is her personal belief that heroines should not be delegated to the unimportant act of babysitting a human dumbass. But, because this is her life, she winds up following behind Dean, Madison and Baby as they all tromp through the woods looking for an angel, which sounds far more profound and deep than it actually is.
She keeps one eye trained on the alcohol challenged Winchester at all times, and the other on her surroundings. Who knows what could pop up? Eventually, after a long stretch of awkward and tense silence, Dean sighs and falls in step with her. She gets the feeling that he is uncomfortably comfortable around her, most likely because he feels no guilt over her death but cannot manage to look Madison in the eye without looking sick with remorse. ''There isn't much for scenery around here, is there?''
Ruby peers up at him through her eyelashes incredulously. ''What the fuck were you expecting?'' She asks. ''A bright and sunny forest complete with a meadow fit for frolicking?''
The filthy look he shoots her in response is enough to make her giggle madly. ''I don't frolic,'' he says flatly.
She continues to laugh loudly. Up ahead, Madison's shoulders tense ever so slightly at the sound. Ruby feels a thrill rush through her at the sight of the jealous, pinched lips look that Madison throws over her shoulder. ''Honestly, Dean. I find that hard to believe.''
''You know, you would not be able to work in any sort of customer service industry. And what do you mean you find that hard to believe? I don't frolic. What's so hard to believe about that?''
She stares. ''Dude, you're friggin' fruitier than a fruitcake.''
Dean stops walking. His entire body tenses and he draws himself up to his full height, towering over her and glaring down at her in what appears to be an attempt to scare her. It's adorable, really. ''I am not gay,'' he spits.
''Funny how you assume I meant gay by that statement,'' she says. She shrugs and waves it off. ''Fine, okay, you're not gay. Bi then. Any way you slice it, you're clearly in love with your angel friend. Look at the situation we're in, Dean. We are literally pulling a Princess Bride. He's the Buttercup to your Westley. If I liked you at all, I would find it cute and romantic.''
Dean smirks and looks away from her. ''I have a question for you,'' he says. ''Are you stoned all of the time, or just right now?''
She beams. ''Deny it all you want, Princess,'' she says with a smile. ''But true love and all that bullshit always prevails in the end, asshole. Also, horniness. It's a powerful emotion.''
''I will punch you,'' he sneers. ''In your face. I will punch you in your face.''
''Whatever,'' she yawns. With a distracted pat on the shoulder, she speeds up to catch up with Madison.
As soon as she takes up her spot next to the werewolf, Madison gives her a disapproving frown and says, ''That was mean.''
Ruby rolls her eyes. ''He's a big boy, Maddie. He needs to learn how to handle constructive criticism.''
''You can't push him to admit something he's not ready to admit,'' Madison says meaningfully.
''He needs to stop being a wuss,'' Ruby replies tersely. ''People can't wait forever to be acknowledged.''
''Down here they can.''
''Doesn't mean they want to.''
Madison smiles, a twinge of melancholia in her eyes. ''Are we still talking about Dean and Castiel?''
Ruby licks her lips. ''Were we ever?''
Madison starts to answer. ''Ruby - ''
But the sound of a branch snapping and gravel crunching under boots averts their attention to the sudden head of dark hair darting out in front of them and blocking the path. An ice cold rage spreads throughout Ruby's body and her teeth clench. No fucking way. This is not the fucking time for this shit. The brunette standing in front of them with a smarmy smirk on her face nods at Ruby and locks eyes with her. ''Hello, Ruby,'' she greets, folding her arms. ''Puppy Princess,'' she nods at Madison. Then she grins and cranes her neck to stare at Dean. ''Nice to see you again, Dean. Send my love to Sam.''
Ruby spares a glance over her shoulder at Dean. His eyes have widened to the size of saucers and he's looking back and forth between Ruby and the newcomer with shock. He repeats this action several times before focusing his gaze on Ruby. ''Shit,'' he breathes.
She clicks her tongue at him. ''Told you so.'' She takes a step forwards and Madison reaches out to grasp her wrist loosely. ''What do you want, Kristy?''
The smile fades off the other woman's lips and she licks her lips.
''We need to talk.''
end chapter two
AN: For the record, yes, Kristy is Ruby 2.0. Her brief alias in 4.01 was Kristy, so I just use that as her name when I'm writing her. You know...I kind of think that Dean and Ruby would be awesome gay BFFs. Also, as you can see, I've decided that Madison/Ruby (as in Madison and Ruby TOGETHER) is going to be a thing that happens in this story.
Okay! So! I have news! Unfortunately, I will once again be leaving the fanfic realm for two months at the end of June for my summer vacation (I'll be going to my hometown to spend some time with family and then I'll be heading to the Vancouver SPN convention in August) and once again, I will have little to no internet access, which means... Yep. No story updates. As of right now, I think that this chapter will be the last update for this story until September. However, be on the look out for updates to Everything You Want and I Melt With You, because I'm really hoping to get some new chapters out before I leave. Okay! So, I think that's all for now, folks.
For those of you that are readers of EYW and IMWY, I hope to see you soon! For those of you that are just reading PTBS, I'll see you again in September!