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A Virtuous Woman

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Her name isn't Ruby, of course. Ruby is the blonde girl, the one she will ride to her death. The one she can still hear screaming, deep down in the cellar of her mind. She likes the name, though; hard and bright and precious and the colour of blood.

She may keep it longer than she keeps the flesh it's pinned to. She has had many names, in her time, but only one true one. Ruby will do very well for now.

When she first slides inside the blonde girl and overpowers her, it takes a long moment to get used to the sense of dislocation. She's possessed human shells before, of course – there is nothing she hasn't done at this point. But she still finds it a little distasteful. She peers into the looking glass and watches with horrified fascination as the smooth, pale skin flexes and stretches over meat and bones. She hates the symmetry of these borrowed features, innocent and human in the glass. Clean. Dull. She misses Hell already – but there is nothing she would not do for Lucifer. Nothing. This form is suited to its purpose, and that is more than enough. She loves her own form best, but vanity is not one of her vices and she can endure this disguise for as long as it takes. She has always been pragmatic.

“Sam Winchester,” she says experimentally, and the crisp, clear syllables are alien on her stolen tongue. “Trust me.”

* * *

She is still stalking the Winchester boys, still assessing their characters and pondering her best approach when she is obliged, by their sheer, suicidal incompetence, to intervene. It irritates her, but at the same time she does take a simple delight in being able to plunge into the fray. She has always been a better warrior than a spy.

The other demons recognise her, of course, despite the flimsy mask of flesh. Traitors. Her heart brims with righteous joy as her blade darts through the air and carves them out of existence. 'The Seven Deadly Sins' indeed. She feels nothing but disgust at their hubris, their lack of loyalty. Lucifer is bound, and these creatures can think of nothing but their own petty delights. She sees Sam Winchester's face, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, human and vulnerable and utterly clueless, and she darts him a smile both fierce and gleeful. She could not let them kill this special boy, but she is not yet ready to meet him properly. She has not quite decided which cards to play here. She must be careful, must take no needless risks. Deception has never been her favourite tool.

* * *

She finds Sam Winchester in a diner, the first time. She has given this careful consideration, has pondered his reactions to each of a dozen approaches. She has thought about who he will trust, and has concluded, in the end, that he trusts only Dean. So she plays on that. It is no coincidence that she chose a girl with long blonde hair – there is power in that too, with these boys. But she takes her tone from the elder Winchester boy, plays it cocky and challenging, abrasive and desirable. Gleeful and unapologetic in her appetites. She is bright and sharp and brittle and human and not, at all, herself.

It works like a charm.

He is tall and bland and annoyingly weak in places where he should be strong, but he is still special, this boy. He is the one who can open the door.

She feels a little flash of something almost like fondness at the thought. She isn't sure what to do with this unaccustomed emotion, and she crushes it without a second thought. But some trace of it, some taste of it still lingers in her heart.

* * *

She had hoped, at first, to pass herself off as a human. As a hunter. But she realises very quickly that this will not work, and so her task becomes more difficult: to make them trust her even though they know her for what she is.

She rather relishes the challenge.

They don't trust her, exactly – but they tolerate her. They let her live, let her talk, let her intervene, let her inch her way into their circle, disarmed by her mannerisms, by the shape she's inhabiting, by her usefulness. They think they know her. She smirks, she flirts, she struts and snarls, and more than that she dangles the promise of Dean's salvation before Sam to make him do her bidding. Dean must not be saved, of course. Dean is vital to the plan, an instrument as precious and perfect and utterly oblivious as is his little brother. A righteous man, and breakable.

She could almost love them, in a way, these brothers. Messy, noisy, irritating puppets – but they are going to free her Lord, whether they know it or not, and that makes them shine in her eyes. Slowly she grows accustomed to her role, and the banter, the attitude, the brusque flirtation become second nature. She has always been more self-possessed than this Ruby person she has created, has always been ferociously competent and pure of heart. She has always been defined by her devotion and by her efficiency. Still – she finds herself almost enjoying the part. She is a better actor than she had ever suspected.

* * *

It would be easy to feel lonely, so far from Hell, so utterly alone. None of her kindred know the truth, now, not even the other Lilim – only her mother. And she and Lilith have never been friends. In this, they are allies. But still – she is very much alone.

* * *

Dean Winchester pretends not to hope. He fools even himself, for a while. She watches dispassionately as the year is winnowed away, and the cracks gradually appear in his facade. He has enough sense to be afraid, although he does not know just how afraid he should be. He cannot begin to imagine the reality of Hell, and of what he will suffer there. She knows. She thinks about this every time he insults her, and she thinks about the moment when he will finally break, and what this will mean. And, in her own way, she almost loves him.

* * *

Dean Winchester goes to Hell. She sees him there, screaming until the illusory membranes and sinews are sliced clean away and his voice is lost. She watches his bones shatter. She watches his eyeballs burst; watches his ribcage torn open and his heart pulled out of his chest and crushed into a pulp; watches him be remade and torn apart a thousand thousand times; watches him squirm and shudder and twitch; watches his certainty gradually eroding and his sense of self get chipped away until, at last, and so beautifully, he breaks.

Then she watches, entranced, as his green eyes grow black, watches the blood run in rivulets down his forearms as he loses himself in the brutal artistry of Alistair's work. He is unexpectedly lovely like this, with the symmetry of his features marred at last, and the hope and strength and light all leeched out of his heart. Sullied. Scarred. Lost.

Knowing what he has done, knowing what this will lead to, she could almost kiss him.

Instead she returns to the world.

* * *

Sam Winchester is a mess, and when she sees him she finds herself shocked by the changes time and the loss of his brother have made. She has, she realised, misjudged his reactions, and perhaps fatally so. The boy is no use to her like this. She bullies him, charms him, wheedles with him, but soon she realises that she needs a new strategy. It begins with taking on a new body, one with no annoying soul cluttering up the insides and making Sam Winchester uncomfortable. She has to seduce him in increments, and he has still so much compunction over so many stupid things – but it will serve her best to accept this, and work around it.

Ironically, annoyingly, the new body is as unlike Jessica as it could be; still, she tempers Dean's brusqueness and cocksure manner with more of Jessica's warmth, more of her yielding sweetness. This shell has big, cowlike eyes that brim with sincerity, and soft, clutchable curves. Gentleness will be her leverage, this time. Sam needs to feel strong. She experiments, trying to gauge the right balance, trying to figure out which of Sam's buttons to push at which moment. She learns him like a new language, knowing that her expertise is the most important thing in the world.

He knows she isn't a real girl, and yet – and yet. He does not truly think of her as a demon any more. He does not remember to be afraid.

This is how she will make him hers.

* * *

She did not expect to enjoy this. She surprises herself by how involved she slowly becomes as she makes a study of Sam Winchester. She surprises herself by how much she begins to enjoy – not simply tolerate – his company. Partly it is, perhaps, because she is so very alone. But there is more to it than that, surely? She has been alone before. But now – she has surprised herself by how much she enjoys the sex. She has surprised herself by how much she enjoys the feel of his mouth upon her as he drinks her tainted blood. He is still frustratingly weak, still malleable, still too tender and tentative, but there are moments when he shines bright and pure and merciless, and then she cannot look away. Moments when he reminds her almost painfully of Lucifer.

She is beginning to hope that she can keep Sam Winchester.

* * *

It is more difficult when Dean returns, of course. But she had been braced for the possibility, and she deals with it calmly and efficiently, and trusts in what she has already wrought. She has always known she was playing a long game.

But the angel worries her. Especially once she sees him, and watches him with Dean. She has taken a calculated risk, introducing Anael into the equation, and she is satisfied that in so doing she has helped convince the Winchesters that Heaven is not to be trusted, and that she is not allied with Alistair. Uriel played his part to perfection, but Castiel – Castiel is another matter, and although he did what she expected, there is still something about him that she finds disturbing. She is enough of a zealot herself to recognise faith and doubt. It would have been easier, perhaps, if they had sent someone else to pull Dean Winchester from the pit. Anyone else. Castiel, though – she is not entirely sure whether he will play the part the way he should. The way she needs him to. He burns. And he has marked Dean Winchester as his own.

* * *

The Winchester brothers move further apart, and further still. She watches Dean struggling to deal with his guilt over what he became in Hell, and she watches Sam struggling to make himself stronger. She watches hurt and mistrust and disappointment growing between them, and it makes her smile. Sam is hers. He has always been hers, always been Lucifer's, although he knows it not. He is meant for greatness. He has a purpose. She holds him tight, offers him soft words and kisses when he needs them, offers him mockery and contempt when he needs that too. She would rather be done with disguises, would rather hold a sword to his throat – but that is not the way to make this work. So she plays at subtlety, and plants more seeds of guilt and doubt and insecurity, and pulls the boys gently, oh so very gently, apart.

* * *

Victory is intoxicating. It's building now, building to a crescendo, all the barriers collapsing before her, events conspiring to bring the world to this single, perfect moment: Sam Winchester, killing Lilith and opening the door.

Almost, it all comes to nothing. She isn't expecting to see Dean Winchester come tearing towards them, but all it takes is a thought and the door is closed and barred against him. She isn't expecting Sam to hesitate, and that, oh, that is a horror all its own – but Lilith never flinches. Lilith plays him perfectly, says just the right words, and then it's done. Done. Done, and her lord is stirring in his bonds, pulling free, rising, rising, everything coming together at last. It's too late, when Dean busts the door down. Too late for anything, and this is joy, this is rapture, this is the kind of ecstasy only angels know. Success. As Dean Winchester hurls himself towards her, she feels a rush of something almost like affection for him. For both of them. They have done this, these boys, whether they knew it or not. It would not have been possible without them.

“You're too late,” Mazikeen tells Dean Winchester, and her voice is almost tender.

And she should probably have expected this, because she has studied these boys so closely, but still it's a surprise when she feels Sam seize hold of her arms, and in that split second while she hesitates, still feeling almost motherly towards them both, Dean stabs her with her own cursed blade.

“I don't care,” he says.

There is time only to feel astonished, and then to grant that, if she must make an end of it, then this is fitting. Mazikeen would have preferred a field of battle, would have preferred to have Lucifer's face be the last thing she sees – but he is coming. She can feel him moving up through the shattering layers of his prison, bouyant and exhilerated, power rushing up towards the surface of the earth, and she knows that he can feel her here, reaching out to him.

He will know who bought his freedom. That will have to be enough.