AN: Okay. Here we go, guys. My last epic story. The whole story behind this piece of fiction is pretty strange: I was re-watching season two of Teen Wolf and thinking about how unfair it was that nobody ever told Lydia anything and how I hated that the writers never let her be badass. And then I re-watched The Slice Girls episode of Supernatural. And basically, I just went, ''well, if Supernatural isn't going to give Dean a kid and Teen Wolf isn't going to let Lydia save herself, then I guess I better do it myself.'' So I did. This was supposed to be a oneshot. It is not a oneshot. Somehow, it morphed into a big beast of a fic, and honestly... I can't remember the last time I had this much fun writing a story, so... That definitely had something to do with why I didn't give up on it.
Just a few quick notes:
- This story is not at all in chronological order. It's an upside down, sideways, backwards, all different directions story.
- This story is focused around Lydia and Dean and will alternate between Lydia POV and Dean POV.
- All other Teen Wolf characters will not be appearing for awhile but they WILL be appearing eventually. They're important to the story as well, just not right now.
- I started this story just before season three of Teen Wolf started, which means a lot of the events in season three have been disregarded.
- This is NOT a Dean/Lydia romance fic.
Title: (she said she collects) pieces of sky
Summary: He's pretty okay with admitting that he'll do whatever she asks him to do whenever she asks him to do it, at this point. OR: The one where Dean Winchester and Lydia Martin attempt to fix themselves and each other in the midst of Purgatory, PTSD, amnesia, and immeasurable loneliness.
Fandom(s): Teen Wolf/Supernatural
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Dean Winchester. Lydia Martin. Sam Winchester. Ruby. Castiel. Kevin Tran. Julia Hollaway (Original Female Character). Benny Lafitte. Charlie Bradbury. Naomi. Eventually, the Beacon Hills Pack and Co. Kevin Tran/Lydia Martin. Side helping of Dean/Ruby/Castiel OT3. Eventual mentions of Allison/Scott, Allison/Scott/Isaac, Boyd/Erica, Derek/Stiles and Sheriff Stilinski/Melissa McCall. Mentions of past Ruby/Julia, past Laura Hale/Ruby (if you want to see it that way) and Sam/Amelia.
Rating: T for safety.
Timeline: Alternate season eight of Supernatural. Sometime in the vague probably AU-ish future for Teen Wolf.
Spoilers: Blanket spoilers for all aired episodes of both series.
Warnings: Non-explicit sexual situations, memory loss, altered memories, kind of brainwashing, memory lapses, fugue state, canon level violence, gore, self-harm, in a way, possibly something that could be seen as dub-con, character death (both major and minor), PTSD, seizures, vomiting, and polyamorous relationships, I suppose. I feel like I should also warn for this thing that Ruby does with her heel in part one, but I'm not really sure how to warn for it.
Notes: Title from the poem ''Girl'' by Lisa Zaran.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters you recognize nor any of the songs featured in this story.
she said she collects pieces of sky
Written by Becks Rylynn
a long, cold lonely winter
it's been a long, cold lonely winter
it seems like years since it's been here
- the beatles; here comes the sun
She wakes to an unnerving silence and cold air on her skin.
Her head feels full and empty all at the same time. There is a throbbing ache behind her eyes, one that goes all the way through her body, and she feels stiff and sore everywhere. Her stomach is rolling and she can feel her body shaking, trembling in the cold, the tips of her fingers numb and tingling. She moans and tries to move, but she doesn't dare open her eyes. The ground under her is cold and damp. The scent of dirt overpowers her senses. It's all she can smell.
''Ssshh, sweetheart,'' the shock of warm hands on her skin startles her into opening her eyes. ''Take it easy,'' the voice advises her as she struggles to clear her blurry vision. It's a deep voice, low and gravelly, like a smoker's, and it is undoubtedly a man's voice. ''Go slow,'' the voice is also warm, soft in a way that is not traditionally soft, not sweet but safe, almost but not quite comforting. Not quite because there is also an edge to the voice, a spark of danger, of impatience. The warm hands feel nice against her freezing skin but they are also calloused and rough and she can smell blood on them.
Her vision clears while the strong hands are helping her to sit, and when she gets a look at him, her heart thuds noisily against her ribcage and something akin to a scream threatens to erupt out of her throat. Maybe this is wrong, maybe it's judgmental, but he does not look like a giant gentle teddy bear of a man. He is not what she was expecting. She doesn't know what she had been expecting, to be honest.
He is bloody and dirty, covered from head to toe in grime and filth. It's smudged under his eyes and caked under his fingernails. His clothes are ripped and stained with blood. His green eyes are determined and hard edged. He smiles at her, just enough to show off his pearly white teeth that stand in stark contrast to the dirt on his face. She can't decide if he's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen or the most terrifying. ''Hey,'' he holds up his hands when she jerks away from him. ''I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise.'' He draws away from her, going very slowly, seemingly for her benefit, and rises to his feet. He glances behind him briefly, and that's when she notices the two other men standing behind him, far enough away to make her feel safe, she imagines. They are not any less intimidating.
The first man, the one with the warm hands and white teeth, says, ''You're sure?''
A man in a dirty overcoat nods. ''Yes,'' he says, his voice even lower. ''She's just a girl. She's human.''
She shivers and wonders what else could she be?
Warm Hands sighs and closes his eyes, as if he was hoping she wasn't just a girl. ''Okay,'' his voice is tight. ''Okay, all right.'' He turns back to her and gives her an unconvincing smile. ''Can I just...?'' He offers her his hand. ''Let's get you up.'' She hesitates, but ultimately takes his hand and allows him to pull her gently to her unsteady legs. It's only when she's standing that she realizes how tall he is. Or rather, how short she is. She barely comes up to his chest. He doesn't waste a moment, instantly stripping himself of his jacket and carefully draping it around her shoulders. He seems so scared that she'll break. She looks at all three of them. They all seem so utterly terrified of her.
The jacket stinks like sweat and blood, and it's ripped and tattered probably beyond repair, but she accepts it gratefully and pulls it tight around her skinny frame. She wiggles her toes in the mud and leaves. She is suddenly all too aware that she is only wearing a tank top and pajama bottoms with no shoes and most unfortunately, no bra.
Warm Hands edges towards her hesitantly. Quietly, calmly, he asks, ''What's your name, honey?'' and that's when it all comes flooding back to her.
She remembers waking up in the darkness, surrounded by trees and silence. She remembers running through mud and twigs, her heart thundering in her chest, blood roaring in her ears, until her lungs burned and her feet ached. She remembers being so scared she couldn't see straight. But most of all, she remembers what she does not remember. She knows her name. She knows that she is sixteen years old. That is all she knows. Everything else is a blank slate. She wants to cry. She doesn't. Instead, she stands tall and she says, voice wavering only a little, ''My name is Lydia Martin.''
''Well, Lydia Martin,'' says the man, ''I'm Dean Winchester.'' He pauses and gives her another pained, fake smile, and there's this strange look in his eyes. He's petrified. Not of her, she realizes with a start. For her. She looks around the forest and breathes in the damp air. ''Welcome to Purgatory.''
That's it. That's how it starts.
She has good days and bad.
On the good days, she'll hunker down in a corner of their newly acquired batcave and plow through a pile of books, taking notes, making file folders, and ordering them to do the same. Or she'll boss him around the grocery store, strutting ahead of him with a way too long list held in between her perfectly manicured nails, picking out only the expensive organic crap and smacking his hands away from chocolate bars and pre-made pie, telling him that she'll help him bake a kickass pie but only if he promises to have a salad for dinner twice a week. She'll make him take her shopping at boutiques downtown, or she'll play Scrabble with Sam and always win, or she'll demand that they go see Kevin, because - and this is not something he likes to think about for too long- she likes Kevin and she worries about him incessantly.
On the bad days, she won't do any of those things. She'll throw tantrums instead. She'll get violent. She'll cry. She'll sleep a lot. Her wide eyes will brim with fear at the sight of him, because she won't remember him or how greatly he cares for her. She won't remember Purgatory, Benny, Cas, Sam, Charlie, or Kevin. She won't remember that Dean sits on the floor outside her bedroom sometimes, just in case, because there are some parts of Purgatory that will never leave. And when she wakes up and remembers - remembers that she is Lydia Martin, she is seventeen, and Dean and Sam Winchester are looking after her - she'll look at the scratches she's made on his face, or Sam's arms, and she'll burst into tears.
The first few days after Purgatory were bad days. Not just for her. She spent them huddled in a fetal position in the bathroom of a cheap motel. He spent them trying to re-train himself to exist in a world he had almost forgotten about.
The shock of everything - the brightly lit world, the civilians, the clean pavement, the running water, the new clothes - sends her spiraling and spinning away and all of the conflicting emotions trigger one hell of a memory lapse. For two days, she goes back and forth between bursts of violence (because he's the big scary unfamiliar man who has her locked in a strange motel room in the middle of nowhere, and she is a tiny five foot three teenage girl) and a catatonic state (because, he imagines, that must be easier).
She has a hard time keeping solid food down, body so used to Purgatory and the suppressed hunger, and she sleeps a lot, curled up under the covers. He sits on the floor and doesn't sleep. He keeps her safe. He blatantly ignores the way his hands shake, the way his muscles scream at him to be on alert, or the way he obsessively counts her every breath.
It's called hypervigilance.
It's a common symptom in people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Most of the good days involve music in some way or another.
Lydia cannot remember any of the details of her life, nor - apparently - can the rest of the world. She can't remember her favourite color, her address, where she's from, her mother's name, nothing. One of the things that bothers her the most about this is that she doesn't know what kind of music she likes. Perhaps that sounds trivial, but she's a detail oriented girl. That is not something she needs to remember. She is also endlessly determined, so she makes it her life's mission to discover where her taste in music lies.
Much to Dean's utter dismay, she quickly dismisses Black Sabbath and AC/DC as ''Dad music'' and declares that Metallica is ''only okay.'' But she also shoots down Sam's suggestions of Coldplay and Jason Manns with a scrunched up nose and a dismissive frown, so at least she's an equal opportunity soul crusher. She does seem to genuinely enjoy Zeppelin and the Beatles, but as it is, most of her enjoyment seems to come from - sigh - top forty music.
She is a seventeen year old girl, he has to remind himself. It's not like this should be breaking news.
It's still a little disappointing. If only because it means he's stuck listening to Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.
But then he comes home one day with a bag of Chinese food that he doesn't even like and three of Lydia's dresses fresh from the dry cleaner's (he's pretty okay with admitting that he'll do whatever she asks him to whenever she asks him to do it, at this point), and finds Lydia trying to coax Sam to dance with her while some peppy pop song blares (gold roads leave Kansas, scarecrow loves dances, live it up, you're growing up, parties in the wilderness of life) over the sound of his half hearted protests. They're both smiling. They're both happy.
Dean stops in his tracks. He breathes. He decides that anything that puts smiles like that on his kids' faces can't be that bad. And then he cuts in between them and steals her away, twirling her around until all he can hear is the sound of her boisterous, joyful laughter.
She has good days and bad.
On the good days, she will remember her name and that she has people here who love her. On the bad days, she will not.
Dean lives for the good days.
Whatever has been done to Ms. Lydia Martin is not medical. It's not natural. Somebody has stolen her, erased her, wiped her mind clean. Like a supernatural lobotomy. Dean has been told this over and over by countless sources - psychics, healers, witches, a crossroads demon or two. They all say the same thing. I can't help you, I don't have that kind of power, this is bigger than me, this is bigger than you.
Shortly after they get back from Purgatory, before Cas comes home, before the Men of Letters bunker, while he and Sam are not talking about the things they should be talking about and everything is still fresh and painful, Dean bundles Lydia up, leaves a note for Sam, and he goes to New Orleans. It's not a terribly well thought out plan, and it's definitely not the smartest plan in the world because...
Because hunters are not permitted in New Orleans. Haven't been since '07. It is a safe haven for supernatural critters of all shapes and sizes. It's where you go if you're a Wild Thing seeking asylum. No hunters allowed. If there's a problem, it's dealt with in house.
...She has never admitted it out loud, but Dean has a very hard time believing that Ruby didn't have anything to do with it.
They make it farther than he thought they would, in any case. Just outside of city limits, the Impala comes to a stop in the middle of the road. It just dies. He releases a breath and closes his eyes, choosing to rest his forehead on the steeling wheel and curse in his head instead of letting loose a stream of expletives and hitting the steering wheel. Beside him, arms folded, Lydia clicks her tongue and shakes her head. ''I told you so,'' she says decisively.
Dean looks up.
And there she is. Just like old times.
Ruby is standing in front of the car. Her arms are crossed, she's got one leg jutted out in a supermodel pose, and there is a light breeze ruffling her otherwise perfectly coiffed hair. It's her signature stance. The Ruby pose. If it weren't for the subtle changes, he would think it was still 2008. She's smiling at him, eyebrows raised, laughter making her eyes twinkle in the sunshine. A real smile, too. Not a smirk. Her hair has darkened from blond to a softer golden color and it falls in waves down her back. She's wearing a plaid flannel shirt that he isn't even going to pretend doesn't belong to him over her jeans instead of her previous wardrobe of black t-shirts and leather jackets.
She looks softer somehow.
Dean would like to think that it's because of him, or maybe because of Sam, but it's not. It's Cas. It's always Cas for her. He understands that better than anyone.
At the sight of Ruby, Lydia narrows her eyes and huffs. ''Great,'' she sneers. ''Do you see what you've done, Dean? Now we're stuck with her.'' Lydia does not like Ruby. Honestly, Dean once thought that Lydia and Ruby would've gotten along like gang busters because, let's be real here, they are basically the same person. But nope. As it is, Lydia does not like Ruby one bit and Ruby seems completely indifferent to Lydia. It's probably because they're so alike. Either that or it's jealousy, and he's really hoping it's not that because he'd have no clue how to broach that subject.
With a stern warning of, ''Be nice,'' he climbs out of the car and into the chilly morning air. The smile remains firmly painted on Ruby's face. He attempts seduction and smiles back. ''Morning, gorgeous,'' he drawls.
Lydia pulls a face. ''Ugh, gross.''
Ruby laughs, looking thoroughly amused. ''Do you really think your sex voice is going to change anything?''
''Again,'' Lydia says, ''I say: gross. How do you even know what his sex voice - '' she shudders in disgust, which, hey, offense '' - sounds like?''
Ruby's smile widens enough to show off her teeth. ''So smart, so feisty, and yet so naive. You're adorable, kid.''
Lydia sticks her nose up in the air and flicks red hair over her shoulder. ''Don't call me kid.''
''Sure thing, kid.''
Dean clears his throat. ''How'd you know we were here?''
Ruby laughs again, this time there's a sharper edge to it, and begins to slink over to Dean. ''Now, babe, you know I make it my business to know where you are at all times.'' Her fingers dance up his chest and she peers up at him through her eyelashes. He tenses and can't decide if he wants to lean into it or back away from her. A frequent problem when it comes to Ruby. ''For booty call purposes,'' she tacks on with a wink.
Lydia gags. ''Oh my god. I'm gonna throw up. I am literally going to vomit all over.''
It kind of kills the moment. It kills the moment with fire. Ruby rolls her eyes and steps away from Dean, but doesn't bother with a withering glare or a clever retort. ''Sam called me,'' she says. Her face sours, turns serious, all of the playfulness and laughter draining right out of her. ''What are you doing, Dean?''
He smirks easily. Stuffs his hands into his pockets. ''Applying for a tourist visa.''
She shakes her head. ''That's not a good idea.''
''Ruby - ''
''It's not safe here for you,'' she warns. She looks over at Lydia. ''It's not safe here for her.''
''Lucky for you,'' a brand new voice chimes in, ''Little Miss Sunshine doesn't get to dictate shit when it comes to this town.''
All eyes go to the newcomer. She is a tall, pretty woman, mid to late twenties, with an olive complexion and a cunning smirk. She's wearing a tank top and a pair of short shorts, an odd outfit given how cold it is. She is sitting perched on the hood of the Impala, one leg thrown over the other, and her eyes are only on Dean. He forgets all about subtlety and simply yanks Lydia behind him by her wrist, ignoring her startled gasp.
Ruby's entire demeanor changes at the sight of the mysterious woman. Her back goes ramrod straight and her face twists into a mean looking glower, pupils dilating until only black remains. ''Fuck off and die, Sheridan.''
''Excuse me,'' Sheridan snaps her attention from Dean to Ruby. ''I'm having a private conversation with a client.'' She slips off the Impala and eyes Dean slowly. ''Nasty attitude on that one,'' she says. That's when she spots Lydia. Her lips curl back into a disturbingly lethal looking grin. She looks Lydia up and down hungrily. ''Mmm.'' She licks her lips. ''Little Red,'' she purrs, ''don't you look good enough to eat.'' Her eyes flash and she snaps her teeth, letting a momentary slip of fangs show. Ah, right. That explains things, then.
Lydia does not cower behind Dean. She tries to move out from behind him and lunge, but he spreads his arms out wide and traps her behind him. ''You're a - ''
''Vampire,'' Sheridan cuts her off. ''Yes, sweetie. Sure am. I'm also your only hope of getting into New Orleans.''
''You the toll booth operator?'' Dean mocks. ''Head of tourism?''
''I'm border patrol, asshole,'' is the deadpan he gets in response. ''You should know, Mr. Winchester, there is a way to get you a temporary pass.'' She smiles again, perfectly pleasant and professional, as she circles him like he's her prey. ''But there's an entry fee.'' She comes to a stop and locks eyes with him. ''And it's a steep one,'' she moves her eyes back over to Lydia. ''Let's talk.''
''Oh, for the love of...'' Before she can attack, before Lydia can duck under his arm and jump on her, there is a rush of movement, a flurry of blond hair, and then Ruby has Sheridan pinned back against the hood of the Impala with her knife pressed against the brunette's neck and her fist wrist deep in Sheridan's chest. Sheridan is gasping pathetically in pain, blood bubbling from her lips. ''Tell me again,'' Ruby hisses, ''that I have no power here.''
Lydia has stopped struggling, but all Dean can think to say is, ''Watch the car.''
''Sorry.'' Ruby pulls Sheridan up, yanks her hand out of her chest, and throws her down to the ground, pressing her foot against the vampire's neck, stiletto heel cutting into her flesh. ''You want to talk?'' Ruby asks, voice perfectly even and calm. ''Let's talk. More specifically, let's talk about how if you drink even a drop of their blood, I will cut off your head, display it in the middle of Bourbon Street and tell everyone you were a traitor. Now. Let's talk about waiving the entry fee.''
''Keep your heads down, don't talk to anyone, don't linger anywhere for too long, and you both stay with me at all times.'' There is blood staining Ruby's right sleeve and she has stolen Dean's sunglasses from the car and placed them over her own eyes. She is walking briskly down Bourbon Street, gracefully avoiding crashing into anyone, while Dean seems to be bumping into everyone and Lydia is struggling just to keep up with them. ''Higher ranking demons can't get into New Orleans, so don't worry about Crowley.''
''Aww,'' Lydia calls out, sarcasm lacing her tone, ''does that mean you're a lowly chum on the food chain?''
It doesn't even faze Ruby. ''For now, yeah. That's what happens when people like me choose angels and Winchester idiots over the hierarchy.''
''People like you?'' Lydia retorts. ''People?''
''Yes, Lydia,'' Ruby says, ''people. And that reminds me,'' she sends them both a warning look. ''You two should keep your bigotry to yourself while you're here. I've accepted your flaws because I like your penis,'' she points at Dean, ''and I like your determination,'' she points to Lydia, ''but not everybody thinks bitchiness is adorable and not everybody gets to have shower sex with Dean Winchester, which means not everybody is as forgiving as I am.''
Dean and Lydia share a look.
''Feel free to ignore any of these rules if they make you uncomfortable,'' Ruby states lazily, sounding this close to bored. ''Because I'm not your damn keeper, and because in all honestly, I'm not that invested in this, but be aware that if you do, you'll probably be murdered horribly by the angry cousin of some poor sap you've gutted at some point in the past.''
''You know,'' Dean pauses to apologize to yet another person he's run into and then reaches behind him to grab Lydia's hand. Ruby is walking like a woman on a mission and Lydia seems entranced by everything New Orleans, often hanging back to stare into a window or smell the roses, which just does not work for him right now. They came here to help her. He's not going to lose track of her in a city full of people who apparently don't like him all that much. ''I remember that when you were lurking around the hospital with Meg and Cas, you said you were actually going to try and be a nicer person. A nicer person with tact.''
''I did,'' Ruby agrees. ''But then you and Cas rode an exploding Dick to Purgatory and Sam hit a dog, so there wasn't really any reason to be anything but a ruthless, kamikaze woman. At least I get shit done this way. Kindness will get you nowhere.''
''Um,'' says Lydia. ''I don't think - ''
''Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown,'' Dean quips.
Lydia wrinkles her nose. ''What?''
He sighs. ''We're going to watch a lot of movies after this, okay?''
Ruby makes a sudden turn down a side street and Dean stops in his tracks, which causes Lydia to smash her face into his shoulder with a startled shriek. She harrumphs and pulls her hand out of his grasp to fix her hair and smooth down her dress. She frowns at him, as if it's his fault, fixes her own sunglasses over her eyes and spins on her heel to follow after Ruby. Dean rolls his eyes heavenwards and shakes his head. Teenagers, man. He follows after the girls. It's not an alley exactly, it's almost smaller than an alley, and the entrance is relatively hidden away from the rest of the street. The noise of cheerful Bourbon Street diminishes slightly as he walks farther down the street. He feels weirdly like he's stepped into some weird ass Harry Potter shit.
About halfway down the road, Ruby is lounging comfortably against the brick wall, waiting for them to catch up with her. She pushes Dean's sunglasses up onto her head and licks her dry lips. ''There you go,'' she says, and nods at the shop in front of her. ''We're here.''
Dean and Lydia turn their attention to the shop. There is a single black door in the middle of the brick wall and a single tiny grimy window. There is a flickering neon light in the window that says open and another neon arrow pointing to the handmade sign that reads, in faded block letters, Miss Tallulah's Psychic Predictions. There is a poorly drawn picture of a crystal ball and a tarot card next to the words.
''Oh, for fuck's sake,'' Dean pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. ''You're yankin' my chain.''
''She's the best,'' says Ruby.
Lydia looks less than impressed. Actually, scratch that. That's too nice. She looks openly judgmental. ''You're joking.''
''You're the one without a past, kid,'' Ruby shrugs. ''If I were you, I'd give it a shot.''
''Well, you're not me,'' Lydia scowls.
''And thank God for that.'' Ruby disappears into the shop before Dean has a chance to tell her to knock it off, leaving behind a very pissed off looking teenage girl who is quite clearly trying to cover up her fear with frustration.
Lydia narrows her eyes and stares at Dean.
He grimaces. ''Okay, so, she's not a Georgia Peach.''
She glares. ''This is a waste of time,'' she declares. ''I don't need some two-bit psychic telling me I'm unfixable.''
''You don't know that's what she's going to say,'' he tries to placate.
''I do,'' she hisses. ''I do know that's what she's going to say, Dean, because that's what they all say.'' Her eyes cloud over and she looks scared all of a sudden. She looks tired. ''We have been to fucking every psychic or witch or faith healer in Kansas, in Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and they all say the same goddamn thing. They don't know what's been done to me and they don't know how to fix me. What makes you think Tallulah Bankhead or whatever is going to be any different?''
''What makes you think she won't be?''
''Logic,'' she monotones. ''You should try it sometime.''
''Lydia,'' he smiles softly and brings his hands to her shoulders. ''Honey. This is New Orleans. Home of witchcraft and voodoo and the real life Hogwarts.''
''No. But if anyone can help you, it's someone here. This is the most powerful city in America.''
''Is it really?''
''I dunno. Maybe?''
She huffs impatiently.
''And if Ruby says Miss Tallulah is the best, then she's probably the best.''
She still looks hesitant. She still looks afraid. She stares at the door for a moment and he can practically see the gears turning in her head. Slowly, slowly, the fear begins to evaporate. Her body slackens, relaxes, and he watches the steel doors close, shutting out the fear and the pain, replaced only by bravery. Whether it is false bravado or not remains to be seen, not that it matters. Faking it, Dean has learned, is sometimes a nifty little life skill. She may not remember who she is, but he has a feeling that Lydia Martin has always been an incredibly brave girl. Her parents must have been proud of her. She squares her shoulders, balls her hands into fists, and strolls forwards, right into the shop.
He watches her go.
Miss Tallulah is not what he was expecting. When he enters the shop, Ruby is leaning against the entry way, gnawing on her thumbnail, and Lydia is being looked over by... Miss Tallulah? No, but seriously. Not at all what Dean was expecting.
She is a slim, dark skinned woman, wearing a sleek black dress and sky high heels. She's younger than he thought she would be, only about early to mid thirties. She's...quite beautiful, actually. And she's looking over Lydia like a worried mother. Like she knows the girl.
''Stop staring, Dean,'' Ruby murmurs. ''It's unbecoming.'' She slips his sunglasses off her head and hooks them onto his shirt. Her hand creeps up to his neck, then his face, and then, quite abruptly, she gives him a shove. He stumbles farther into the room and Miss Tallulah looks up from Lydia.
For a moment, all she does is blink at him, but then she smiles. It's a warm smile, welcoming and gentle, still somehow cocky, and something about it... Something about it reminds him of his mother. ''Dean Winchester,'' she greets. She makes her way over to him slowly, heels clicking on the hardwood floor. ''The man, the myth, the legend.'' She grins in a way that lights up her pretty eyes. ''It's nice to finally meet you. I have to admit,'' she gives him a nice, long look. ''You're not what I was expecting. You're much more...'' She tilts her head to the side. ''Handsome.''
''You're not exactly what I was expecting either.''
''Oh, I know,'' she nods. ''You were expecting Miss Tallulah. Some old, haggard woman wearing too much jewelry who speaks in riddles. Sorry to disappoint. My name is Julia,'' she holds out her hand. ''Miss Tallulah is for the tourists.''
''Yeah,'' he takes her hand. ''Trust me, definitely not a disappointment.''
Ruby and Lydia both roll their eyes at exactly the same time and let out a collective scoff.
''Well, thank you,'' Julia laughs. ''You're a flirt. That,'' she pats Dean on the chest, ''I was expecting.'' She looks over his shoulder at Ruby. ''I hear stories. Now. I hear you need help.'' She steps back, away from Dean and back over to Lydia, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. ''Should we get started?''
Julia's shop is small and cramped and much too warm. The lighting is dim, only consisting of a couple lamps, a few flickering candles, and the light streaming in through the windows. The main room, a small foyer, has a table with a crystal ball and a deck of tarot cards. There's a miniscule kitchenette in the back, a bathroom door to the left, and a small living room off to the side. It's full of cushions and blankets with a couch pushed up against the wall. Right after the introductions, Julia ushers Lydia into the living room, chatting away with the girl about her shoes in a clear attempt to calm her frayed nerves.
Dean hangs back, carefully surveying the room. Just in case. ''You coming?'' He asks Ruby.
She hasn't budged from her spot leaning against the wall. She looks up at him, expression unreadable. ''Can't,'' she says, and doesn't bother to elaborate.
''Demons may be welcome in New Orleans,'' Julia says, looping her arm through Dean's and pulling him into the living room. ''But they're not welcome here. I've taken precautions.'' She throws a look over her shoulder. ''No offense.''
''None taken,'' Ruby shrugs.
Dean is not sure why the look shared between Ruby and Julia makes him so nervous. He's also not sure what Julia is exactly, and it's putting him on edge. She's not a demon or a vampire, she doesn't seem like a witch, but she's not simply a mere psychic either. She is something else entirely. That is precisely why he is not willing, at all, to put his complete faith in her. Ruby recommended or not. And when she sits him down on the couch next to Lydia and lets them know just how much she knows about them, it only serves to make him that much more suspicious.
Julia knows exactly who they are and what they're here for. She knows Lydia wants to know who she is and where she came from, she knows nobody else has been able to help them, and she knows fucking everything about Dean.
''I can help you,'' she says, promises. ''As a favor to Ruby.'' She slings a strange looking smirk in the blonde's direction. ''And as a thank you.''
''A thank you,'' Dean echoes. ''For what?''
Julia's smile is slow and all knowing. It cuts right down to the bone. ''For saving the world, of course. You think I don't know all about the adventures you've been on, Dean?''
He isn't sure how to take that. Fuck, though, he isn't sure how to take any of this. This day has been so ridiculous and outlandish, and he's so goddamn desperate when it comes to this girl and - Jesus. He's been ignoring phone calls from Sam all day long. It's just been a really long day.
Julia, unsurprisingly, knows all of this.
She explains to Lydia, choosing her words carefully, that she believes someone has put a wall up in Lydia's mind and to tear it down, she has to enter into her subconscious. That would be where Dean protests very loudly. He has been through this before, he has been in people's head, it's not pretty. He doesn't want people sticking their noses in Lydia's head. It's too dangerous, he argues. She could get hurt.
Lydia agrees without a moment of hesitation.
Suddenly, Dean regrets everything.
The worst part is when the doors shut.
Dean has been told over and over again what is going to happen. He makes Julia tell him everything she's going to be doing, right down to the very minor details, and he still doesn't feel comfortable. Lydia is going to be put to sleep - ''she'll be comfortable, don't worry, it's perfectly safe'' - and then Julia will put herself in a trance like state and try to get past the wall. Like African Dream Root only more concentrated and more controlled. Lydia seems totally at ease with the whole sha-bang. For awhile. She goes along with everything, calm and confident. ...And then Julia makes the mistake of saying that Dean has to leave the room.
Lydia does not appreciate that one bit. She's a strong girl, she really is - she's probably stronger than he is - but it's understandable that she'd be a little wary about some obviously less than human woman putting her to sleep with some magic tea and wandering around in her mind. He stays with her until she falls asleep, absently brushing hair out of her eyes and making sure she's comfortable, trying to pretend that he's not freaking out. It happens quite quickly after she drinks the aforementioned magic herb concoction, and then Dean gets kicked out into the foyer.
Where he proceeds to annoy the fuck out of Ruby for the next hour.
It doesn't take her long to get peeved. ''Shit,'' she says from her spot seated on the floor, after about twenty minutes of sporadic pacing and grumbling. ''You need to calm down.''
''Shut up, Ruby.''
''Okay, I realize you're having some sort of overprotective big bro panic attack, but there's no excuse for rudeness.''
''Well, excuse me if I'm a little stressed out because some woman is poking around in my kid's cranium!''
Ruby looks up from her game of Angry Birds. ''...Do you realize what you just said?''
His mouth dries up. Yes, he realizes what he said. But now is not the time to deal with that particular issue. ''I should go in there. Just... Check on her.''
''Don't you dare.''
''I can't just sit here and do nothing,'' he insists, through gritted teeth. He comes to a stop in the middle of the room and stares at the closed living room doors, willing them to slide open.
'' 'Kay,'' she slips her phone into her pocket and pushes herself up onto her knees. ''Then do me.''
He rolls his eyes. ''Ruby.''
''What? Not like it would be the first time.''
She scoffs and sits back down. Says, ''You used to be way more fun.'' He shakes his head and sends her a momentary glance, before looking away. When he eventually does look back at her, she's on her feet, grinning from ear to ear. ''So, you wanna hear my theory about your new girl?''
She ignores him. ''I think there's some straight up Buffy and Dawn realness going on here.''
He blinks. Blinks again. ''You think she's a mystical ball of energy meant to open a portal to another world?''
''I think she was placed with you,'' she corrects. ''I think she was placed with you for a reason.'' She leans her arm up against the invisible barrier keeping her in place. ''For safe keeping.''
''She's not an object.''
She shrugs. ''Whatever,'' she flicks a piece of lint off of his shirt. ''If I'm right, you owe me fries. Actually, scratch that. If I'm right, you owe me a dinner. A nice one. At a place with tablecloths that aren't plastic. I'd kill for a decent steak.''
He works his jaw silently and rubs a hand over the bristly stubble on his face. He doesn't turn her down. Hell - he looks at her with careful eyes - it might not be a bad idea to get a meal in her. Or two. She's skinner than ever these days, and not because she's wearing a man's oversized shirt. He clears his throat. He tries to focus all of his attention on Ruby and not whatever Julia is doing to Lydia in the other room. ''You know, you've lost weight,'' he comments needlessly.
''So buy me dinner,'' she says flippantly.
He hums thoughtfully. ''Haven't seen much of you lately.''
''Aww,'' she smirks, ''you miss me, Winchester?''
''I'm being serious here, Rubes. You're okay, right?'' He gives her a look. ''You'd tell us... If you were in trouble.''
He's honestly not trying to provoke some sort of reaction out of her. He just likes her. She's been a part of his life for seven years now. He... He cares about her. Despite everything. She goes still. For a split second, there's a deer in headlights look in her eyes, but it is quickly replaced by a sneer. Her go to fuck off expression. ''Dean Winchester,'' she says, ''always relegated to the caretaker in the background of the story.'' She folds her arms. ''Parent the kid, sweetheart, but don't parent me.''
He holds up his hands, palms up. ''I'm just sayin'.'' Reluctantly, he tears himself away from the doors and moves over to Ruby. ''You've been working yourself ragged,'' he says. ''Do you think I don't know why?''
She squirms. ''None of your fucking business.'' She has to adjust her position as he gets closer and closer, pulling herself up to her full height and tilting her head back slightly to meet his eyes.
''You won't find it,'' he warns her quietly, moving closer still.
''Find what?'' She is trying a little too hard to look nonchalant.
''A way to get him out.''
Her breath audibly catches. She looks pale in the dim glow of light. She barely allows herself to falter, bouncing back with a cruel, taunting smile. ''I wouldn't have to find a way to get him out,'' her voice is cold and hard, ''if you hadn't failed to bring him home in the first place.''
He feels it physically. It's like a gunshot wound. It's searing pain, it's a dull ache that turns into an awful pounding, pulsating pain, it's the world's worst nausea. It's guilt. It's guilt because she's right. He lumbers towards her, a coiled bundle of nerves and misery. Her back hits the door with a thud and he slams his hands up against the wall on either side of her head.
It only serves to annoy her more. ''You're the one who failed him,'' she spits out at him. ''I never did. You're the one who left him behind. I never have. I never will. You don't deserve - ''
Seven years. Seven years and he really only knows one way to make her stop. She doesn't seem at all surprised when he kisses her, but she doesn't exactly welcome it either, if the way she bites down on his lip harshly is anything to go by. But she still kisses him back. It's not a romantic kiss. It's not even a good kiss, really. It's harsh and frantic, their teeth clack together and she pulls at his hair while he leaves finger shaped bruises on her waist. He comes to his senses first, pulling away from her abruptly and stumbling back, wiping at his lips. She chuckles humorlessly, remaining pressed up against the door. She swipes her thumb over her swollen lips. He turns away from her, angling his body in the opposite direction. He tries his best to catch his breath. There is a moment of tense silence between the two of them. He wants to apologize, but he can't force the words out.
He asks, ''Do you love him?'' It's out before he can stop it, tumbling from his lips in a hoarse, dry croak. He can't look her in the eye.
She doesn't answer right away, because it's not that easy to answer, he knows, and when she finally does, it's not the answer he had been hoping for. ''Do you?''
He sucks in a breath that won't reach his lungs.
''It wouldn't be wrong,'' she goes on. ''If you did. It wouldn't make you bad.'' Her voice softens and she sounds sympathetic, such an odd thing to hear from her. So out of character. ''He's easy to love.''
He straightens his back, doesn't look at her, and walks away. Now is not the time for this. Now is not the time for any of this.
Sometime later, just before Julia comes out, Ruby finds yet another way to stick a knife in him. He is sitting at the table playing with the tarot cards like he knows what he's doing. She is sitting back on the floor with her back against the door, staring at him. They haven't talked since their ill-fated kiss, and this is merely her trying to stir the pot. This is not an important moment.
But it will be.
''Dean,'' she says his name quietly, not particularly viciously, just curiously. ''Can I ask you a question?''
He flips over a card. The magician. ''You just did.'' He flips over another. Queen of cups. He swallows.
Ruby ignores him, again. ''What happens when she remembers?''
His hands falter.
''If she wants to go back to her old life,'' she adds. ''If she wants to leave you. Would you be able to let her go?'' Her voice has taken on that slow, raspy quality that always accompanies a punch or an insult. Or subtle manipulation. Something that breaks you. She's always been great at breaking people. ''You've already lost one daughter,'' she murmurs. ''Could you lose another?''
He flinches the places the deck of cards down slowly. ''She's not my daughter,'' he points out.
''Your head knows this,'' she nods. ''Does your heart?''
He looks up and clenches his jaw.
She looks perfectly calm, sitting back against the door. She would almost look smug, if it weren't for the barely there sorrow and hurt in her eyes. Oh, you've got to be kidding. This is still about what she's lost. This is about not feeling it all by herself. ''I heard what Fiona Delphine said to you, you know,'' she drawls. ''Every little bit. Look me in the eyes, Dean,'' her lips twist, ''and tell me this,'' she gestures to the living room doors vaguely, ''isn't it about Emma.''
''Don't,'' it's a growl. It's a warning. He holds up one finger and looks right at her. ''Don't.''
She looks pleased that she has gotten such a reaction out of him.
And then the doors open.
Dean's on his feet so fast he nearly sends the chair toppling to the ground. Ruby is more elegant, rising to her feet gracefully. The look on Julia's face does not inspire confidence. She looks absolutely, one hundred percent petrified. She's skittish, wringing her hands and avoiding their gazes, and she does not look well. She's sweating, strands of her hair plastered to her forehead, she's shaky on her feet, holding onto the wall for support, and she's breathing heavily.
''Julia,'' Ruby says, looking uncharacteristically worried. ''Are you okay?''
''What happened?'' Dean automatically reaches out to steady her when she wobbles. ''Is she okay? Is she hurt?'' He cranes his neck to try and look around her. Her fingernails dig into his arms. ''She's okay, right? What did you do to her?''
''I... Um...'' She doesn't answer. She shakes her head and looks confused. ''I...''
''Julia,'' Ruby repeats, urgently. She strains against the barrier. ''Jules.''
That's when blood starts to dribble from Julia's nose. A quiet gasp passes through her lips, and then her eyes roll back in her head and she collapses limply against Dean.
here comes the sun
here comes the sun
and i say
it's all right
- the beatles; here comes the sun
end part one
AN: And we're off!
- The peppy pop song Lydia and the Winchesters danced to in the beginning was Where the Kids Are by Blondfire.
- I'm pretty much in love with New Orleans, and I know that the force is strong in that town (there are, for whatever reason, a lot of supernatural happenings in that town - witchcraft, voodoo, ghosts, vampires, other assorted creatures) and I started thinking... If there were still a lot of witches and practitioners in New Orleans then a hunter could always find something to hunt (whether they should be hunted or not) and then I thought, well, why the heck would trigger happy hunters ever be allowed into New Orleans? (Yes, I'm one of those weirdos who does not like the black and white-ness of Supernatural. ''Monsters'' are people, too.)
- Yes, the Ruby in this story is Katie!Ruby and no, this Ruby never betrayed the boys and has been loyal to them and their cause for seven years, so she's still popping up and saving their lives. In the headcanon for this story (actually, in my headcanon in general) the woman who betrayed them and got Sam all addicted to demon blood was someone else entirely.
- And yeah, if you're picking up Julia/Ruby vibes, that is also a thing that happened at some point.
Note for anybody reading any of my other stories: I have some sad news. At this point, my fanfiction career is, sadly, coming to a close. I just don't really have the time or the inspiration anymore, and when I do have time to write, I'm focusing more on original fiction. Which means that this story is going to be something of a last hurrah for me. I'm still desperately trying to finish up Everything You Want (originally, there was supposed to be a sequel, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen now) and I'm going to be doing one last Halloween story in October, but after that... I don't want to say goodbye forever, though, because you never know when the inspiration might strike. I love fanfiction, I will always love fanfiction - it's where I came from, it's where I started - but I think, for the most part, it's just time for me to move on. AFTER this story, of course. Like I said earlier, I haven't had this much fun writing a fic in what feels like forever and I can't imagine not finishing my last hurrah fic.