Ruby is beautiful, and she is good. When Sam lowers her head between Ruby’s thighs, it is as an act of worship, a sacrifice and a prayer, a devotion and an invocation as much to Ruby as to God.
It’s kind of like this — Ruby is the only altar before which she’s ever quaked.
All her life she was told to fear herself. There was something wrong about her, something rotten to her very core. Her father would talk about the demon with the yellow eyes who killed his wife, and Sam would feel like she could reach into her chest and pull out her heart and it would crumble away like old wood in her hands.
Finding out Azazel’s blood runs through her veins was a relief, in a way. After all, it makes sense. Explains why she’s the way she is, in more ways than one.
Sam goes to church. She hasn’t been in a long time, outside of the occasional need to visit for a case — maybe not since before Jess’s death. It’s a small local church in the area near the motel they’re staying at, and Sam knows how they feel about people like her, so she changes into her old clothes, flannel and jeans, and skips the barrette she usually uses to clip a lock of hair behind her ear. Truth be told, it’s not that big of a change.
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the pastor proclaims, and Sam shivers in her seat despite the summer heat. She runs a hand along the smooth wooden seat of the pew and half-expects to leave a seared-in handprint.
“Lift up your hearts,” the pastor says, and Sam murmurs with the others, “we lift them up to the Lord.”
“Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” He’s an older man, and thin.
“It is right and just,” Sam mumbles.
It’s almost time for communion, and the priest is reciting the lines about the Lamb of God and His supper. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed,” the congregation responds as one. The words are sweet, warm on Sam’s tongue. It felt wrong at first, being back here, but the longer she stays the more at peace she feels.
She stands with her row and makes her way to the front of the church, shuffling forward until she reaches the front of the line. She ducks her head, says the customary amen, opens her mouth for the deacon to put the wafer on her tongue.
She swallows, moves to the side, where the attendant holds the chalice of wine. The woman gives her a smile, holds out the cup. Sam sips. The wine tastes chemical as it burns down her throat, hot and painful and searing. The peaceful feeling’s gone now. She gives the attendant a wavering smile and ducks away, escapes to the little bathroom in the side hallway, in the back of the church. Into the sink she coughs up blood.
After the service, Sam shakes the priest’s hand, says It was a lovely service, Father, and doesn’t react when the priest gives her a once-over and frowns, replies, Thank you, young man, with that look on his face.
She knows that look. There’s something off with her, and people pick up on it. Just her luck, then. She can never hope to pass, and she’s made peace with it, but if she slips back into her old habits and clothing she’ll still never be out of the danger zone. Even masquerading as old Sam, she still comes off as wrong enough that she’ll probably never rid herself of the understandable fear of getting beaten up in a dark alley somewhere.
Or maybe it’s Ruby’s blood under her skin that the priest picked up on. Who’s to know?
Dean’s still uncomfortable around her. Gives her a look when she comes out of the bathroom after putting on a little makeup, bites his lip when she tries on a skirt again for the first time since college. It hurts, a little. But honestly, when all’s said and done, who gives a shit what Dean thinks.
Drinking Ruby’s blood feels like a sacrament. The power, potential energy, hums under her skin, and she shudders when she drinks. She knows it’s wrong, she hears Dean yell at her in her head to stop, she feels the sharp, hot pain in her bones and the ache in her joints when she goes too long without it. But it doesn’t stop her. This power — if she can wield it, and she can wield it, she’ll be able to do so much good. And she doesn’t have a choice. So she puts her faith in herself, and in Ruby, and she swallows the Eucharist down.
“Can I see that?” Ruby asks. She fingers the little gold cross on its chain around Sam’s neck. It was Mary Winchester’s necklace, once, a long time ago.
“Sure,” Sam says, and slips it over her head, passes it over. Ruby twirls the chain between her fingers, studying the tiny crucifix. She puts the necklace on, and the cross touches her bare chest, just above her breasts. Sam’s transfixed by how lovely she is.
“You look almost… holy,” Sam breathes, leaning in — because it’s true, really, Ruby’s dark hair falls on either side of the crucifix, framing it, it’s so beautiful — but before she can put her mouth on Ruby’s skin she hears a faint sizzling sound, and Ruby tilts her head, looking down.
There’s smoke coming from the cross, where it’s leaving a blossoming mark on Ruby’s bare skin. As they both watch, her skin reddens and then darkens under the cross, and Sam can smell burning flesh.
“Take it off,” she urges Ruby, feeling suddenly sick. Ruby just stares down at her chest with mild curiosity.
“Take it off,” Sam says, stronger this time.
Ruby looks up at her slowly. “Why, Sam,” she says, her voice all Old Hollywood, “don’t you like it?”
“It’s hurting you,” Sam grits out.
“It tickles,” says Ruby, “and it’s pretty. I think I feel better wearing this, Sam, don’t you?”
“Please, Ruby. Give the necklace back.”
Ruby stares at her, considering, drawing it out. Then she concedes, ducks her head and pulls the necklace off, deposits it gently in Sam’s hand. She swipes a thumb from the hollow of her throat down to her mid-chest, over the cross-shaped burn mark. It disappears.
“There,” she says flippantly, “all gone.”
Sam exhales, wills the tension out of her throat. “Okay. Thank you.”
“Whatever keeps you happy,” Ruby smirks. “Now,” she says, picking up Sam’s knife from the bedside table, “time for a little body and blood?”
Okay, maybe Dean’s right, sometimes. Ruby is a demon, after all. Sam knows it’s addiction, what they have between them; Ruby’s blood is intoxicating and heady and if Sam keeps this up maybe it’ll be the death of her.
But she’s saying lives. She’s saving lives.
“Breathe, Sam,” Ruby says, “hold it in your chest and shape it. Concentrate. Pull.”
They’ve got a demon tied to a chair in front of them, a lower-level grunt according to Ruby, possessing a young construction worker. A good candidate for exorcism practice.
Sam feels the power in her center like Ruby tells her, shapes it into a tightly coiled ball, and extends her hand. She tugs, within herself, feels the lines of energy tighten like taut cords. She strains, and the demon throws its head in the air and screams as it’s ripped out of its host.
The young man slumps back in the chair, unconscious. Ruby squeezes Sam’s arm. “Wasn’t so hard, huh?”
Sam lets out a shaky breath. It’s exhilarating. “Not at all.”
“Thirsty?” Ruby asks, and winks.
“God. Yes,” Sam says, and waits as Ruby draws out a knife, makes a cut on her forearm, and offers the wound to her. She bends down and drinks, and when she raises her head again, Ruby is… different.
Her host’s face is still there, but it’s like someone’s turned down the opacity — Sam can see darkness behind the eye sockets, and teeth where teeth shouldn’t be. As Ruby shifts, so does the image, rippling and flexing like a terrible maw.
“Ruby,” Sam starts, her voice a little higher than usual.
Ruby looks at her, uncomprehending, and then understanding dawns on her face. “You can see my true face, can’t you. I knew it’d happen eventually.”
“Yeah,” Sam manages.
“Whaddya think?” Ruby asks with a smirk. “Am I still your golden gal, even without the makeup?”
Sam tries for a smile.
Ruby is cruel, and she can be awful; she is terrifying and empty and she makes Sam feel like she’s on the edge of something terrible. But she is beautiful, and Sam aches wonderfully inside when they touch each other, and she is perhaps the only thing Sam has left to hold on to these days, so does it matter, after all?