Characters: Ruby, Azazel, John, Dean, Sam
Rating: PG 13 (language, violence)
Warnings: Huh. Specific spoilers through 3X1; Vague spoilers through Season 4
Genre: gen; outsider POV; covers time span from pre-series through 3X1
Disclaimer: Not mine
Word Count: 4340
Author’s Note: So much gratitude for my betas, callistosh65and ancastar
Summary: Family milestones as observed by demons. Azazel and Ruby have been keeping an eye on the Winchesters for a long, long time…
But Azazel strides through the swinging doors from the ER, and he’s smiling. Ruby knows that Azazel smiling could mean just about anything—pestilence or plague, doomsday or the likelihood of carnage…
Or it could simply mean that John Winchester—their favorite Father of the Year—didn’t manage to get his boys killed today.
Ruby can’t help it. She’s cracking up and almost loses it altogether when Azazel aims a warning glare in her direction. She believes in Azazel, she always has, but there’s a point where faith gives way to lunacy.
“You’re attracting attention,” he whispers darkly.
He’s right– people are staring. Ruby knows she’s not dressed for the part in a place like this. The meat-suit she’s wearing would work in a boutique in West LA, but it’s not cut out for waiting in line at a Sears Portrait Studio in Lawrence, Kansas. Ruby’s vessel is so fucking beautiful, people are going to stare without her laughing. It’s just that the absurdity of the whole thing gets to her sometimes.
“I’ll try and stop.” Ruby digs her manicured nails savagely into her palm as a distraction. “But are you sure he’s the one?”
Azazel shrugs. “I hope so. He’s always been my favorite.”
Ruby doesn’t see it. The chosen one is pudgy, dimpled, and is screaming like any demon in hell about getting his picture taken.
The unbearably cheerful photographer suggests, “Let’s try for a bare bottom shot. Some babies do better with their clothes off…especially the shy ones.”
Ruby snorts, earning herself the evil eye again. But come on… there’s nothing shy about this baby. He’s enraged. Furious. Ruby likes him already.
Ruby asks, “So does this little visit mean you’re writing off the others?”
She’s seen the list with the other special babies all about to turn six months old, but Azazel practically dotes on this one. This is the first time he’s brought her along, but she knows for a fact he’s been looking in on this family since the baby was born.
“I’m not writing off anyone.” He turns to her, dark eyes gleaming, but she can see the glints of hidden gold. “But I always did have a soft spot for this one’s mother. I only had a taste of her but that was enough…”
Ruby rolls her eyes. Having a soft spot is putting it lightly. Azazel has been obsessed with the girl for as long as Ruby can remember. Not that Ruby blames him. There is nothing worse than being bored with your prey, and the very blonde and spirited Mary Winchester is interesting.
The girl comes from a long line of hunters, and Ruby knows not to dismiss her. She also reminds herself to pick up a blonde meat-suit someday.
But right now, Mary is laughing and trying to sit her nude baby up on the blue velour draped table. Apparently, the photographer knows what she’s doing. Sammy isn’t crying any more, forgotten tears already drying on his cheeks. The photographer is spreading out garlands of white feathers, and Sammy is trying to stuff them in his mouth before his brother can pull them out of his hands. The baby laughs, and Ruby feels like screaming: take the damn picture now!
“Apparently, they’re going for the angelic look,” Azazel mutters under his breath, and Ruby chokes back a laugh.
Mary tells the photographer, “You’d better take his picture before he pees on your feathers.”
The brother—Dean—starts to giggle. “Sammy always pees when his diaper’s off. Hey smile, Sammy! It’s your birthday.”
“Half birthday,” Mary corrects, and Ruby wonders if Mary knows that it is ten years from the day that Azazel brought John back to life again. It’s a binding contract, and Mary has never been a fool. She’s got to know that nothing worth having comes cheaply.
The father says, “Mary, I’ve got to get back to the garage, and I’m going to have to change first. We’ve got to get a move on.”
Ruby remembers his name is John. She has never seen him before. When Azazel talks about John Winchester, it’s always in relationship to Mary—at most, the man’s a pawn.
“Deal with it.” Mary pats John on the cheek. “You’re always in a hurry, and you’re going to regret it someday. The boys aren’t going to be this age forever. I just want to remember this—all right?”
John wraps his arm around her waist and kisses her. “Okay—I’m posing for one more picture, and that’s it.” He looks down as Dean wedges himself in between the two of them.
“Dean, hold onto Sammy,” John says, pushing him gently back toward the table. “Don’t let your brother fall.”
There is something interesting about the two brothers. Ruby wants to get a better look, but Azazel places a hand on her shoulder just as she’s about to step forward.
That’s when Ruby notices that the receptionist behind the counter is looking at them strangely. “This family’s almost finished—I’m sorry the session is taking so long. Are you here for a couple’s portrait?”
“Of course,” Azazel says, taking Ruby’s hand.
Ruby smiles brightly. “Yes. A very special one.”
The receptionist smiles politely but still looks confused at the two of them together. It’s a common reaction due to the fact that Azazel insists on choosing meat-suits that are flabby and a little insipid. Says he can disappear in a crowd. Ruby always goes for the most gorgeous one she can find, so they make for an unlikely couple.
“Okay this is the last one,” the photographer is telling the Winchesters. “Everyone—look this way. Smile!”
They smile. Even the baby giggles at the rubber clown the photographer’s squeaking maniacally.
The picture is going to be absurd with the three of them grouped around the naked baby in the middle, but Ruby supposes they’ll think it’s cute. One way or another, it will commemorate the most important day this family will ever know.
Ruby’s own excitement grows, just thinking of what’s to come, and she tightens her grip on Azazel’s hand until she can feel bones in his fingers breaking, one by one. They’re going to ditch these meat-suits as soon as they’re through with them any way. Azazel growls deep in his throat at her but doesn’t let go.
Azazel never lets go of anything.
“Can you give me a reason why I shouldn’t just walk across the street and take him? This is ridiculous. You and I could do a better job of raising him than that asshole.”
Ruby is sick and tired of the drama that is taking place across the street in front of the elementary school. This is apparently the big day—Sam’s first day of kindergarten, and both John and Dean are trying to get him to go inside. Willful as ever, the little brat is digging in his heels, and Dean is kneeling beside him, apparently trying to talk him into it.
Azazel shakes his head. “No, he stays where he is. John and Dean are doing just fine.”
But Sam goes stiff as a board when John tries picking him up. It’s impossible to carry a kid when he does that.
Ruby smirks. “He really doesn’t want to go.”
“The boy has got to go to school. I’m not going to have an illiterate moron as my Second in Command.”
Ruby shoots back, “Do you have any idea what public schools in California are like? He won’t learn to read until he’s ten!”
“He’ll learn. He’s smart.”
“They’ll teach him crap like coloring inside the lines and using the crosswalk. They’ll civilize him.”
“With John for a father, I don’t think it will hurt,” Azazel says dryly.
But Ruby feels strongly about this. If Azazel is so sure that Sammy Winchester is the one who can free Lucifer from his infernal prison, they should just take the boy now. Why take a chance in letting him grow up around humans?
“We could teach him. That way we won’t have to deprogram him from all that touchy-feely crap they’ll be feeding him.”
Azazel smiles at her. “You haven’t changed in five hundred years, Ruby. You always want your fruit before it’s ripened.”
“Nothing tastes as sweet as forbidden fruit,” she replies with a smile and leans closer to him. “Come with me and let’s take the boy.”
“No. Not yet. Not until he comes into his powers.”
Ruby shakes her head and sits back to watch.
Sam is clinging bodily to Dean now like some sort of demented monkey. John is pissed, trying to pull Sam off, but Dean is also holding onto Sam. John throws up his hands in obvious frustration. Other parents are giving them a wide berth, slipping past the Winchesters with their own well-socialized children.
From across the street, Ruby can hear Sam screaming, “I won’t go! I want to stay with Dean!”
Finally, John manages to pry Sam off his brother and carries him, kicking and screaming through the school gate. Dean is still kneeling on the sidewalk, and even from this distance, Ruby can see how upset he is.
She says, “I still think we could do better.”
“We could teach him to hate. But you and I could never teach him love.”
Ruby groans. “Love? Are you kidding me? You’re so full of shit, Azazel, I swear—”
“It’s our blind spot,” he interrupts. “It’s why we’ve never been able to make inroads before. Hatred is powerful, but it’s love that poisons people against each other.”
“That boy will never let Sam go,” Ruby says, watching Dean sulk after his father, Sammy apparently abandoned to the public school system.
“I’m counting on it.”
This is pathetic. Ruby didn’t have time to be picky when she chose this meat-suit. The woman is wearing flip flops and sweats, and seeing as how Ruby found her rushing frantically across the hospital parking lot, was probably in the middle of some sort of crisis before Ruby possessed her.
It has come to this—Ruby is stuck inside a soccer mom.
Not only that, but this is taking too long. Ruby hates this, all the waiting, and who the hell decided it was a good idea to decorate an ER waiting room in aqua and peach? She supposes it’s meant to be reassuring.
But Azazel strides through the swinging doors from the ER, and he’s smiling. Of course, Azazel smiling could mean just about anything—pestilence or plague, doomsday or the likelihood of carnage…
Or it could simply mean that John Winchester—their favorite Father of the Year—didn’t manage to get his boys killed today.
“Sammy’s fine,” Azazel says. “It was close, but neither of the boys were actually disemboweled.”
“Thank God,” Ruby says, not knowing where the hell that came from. “Or thank whoever—the last thing I want to deal with is any blood magic crap bringing him back to life.”
“Too messy,” Azazel agrees. That’s when Ruby notices the blood soaked scrubs for the first time.
She raises an eyebrow. “Are you wearing a doctor?”
“It was the only way to get past John.”
“I’m so sick and tired of dealing with John. Why the hell don’t we take Sam? The timing would be perfect. John is still out for the count and—”
“He’s not. John Winchester is conscious and standing guard in their room.”
“What the hell? The man had his throat slit.”
“Apparently it wasn’t very deep.” Azazel looks amused. “Sonuvabitch isn’t easy to kill.”
“We could still take him. It would be easy. Hell, we could take Dean too, if you’re really determined to keep him in the picture. The bastard’s going to get Sam killed before he’s any use to us. It’s like Max Miller all over again.”
“Look at you—I’ve never seen you like this before. Motherhood agrees with you.”
Ruby flips him off, and he laughs out loud. She would snap his neck, but she’s not in the mood for theatrics.
Ruby is sick of waiting around for Sammy Winchester to grow the hell up. It’s insane that the freedom of Lucifer could potentially depend on a nine-year-old boy with a gut full of stitches and a batshit crazy father who doesn’t know a thing about raising kids.
Ruby knows they don’t have much time. Any minute Azazel’s doctor meat-suit is going to get paged or a gaggle of hysterical relatives is going to show up and surround Ruby’s soccer mom.
“This is the second time this month that John has gotten Sam hurt. What’s he thinking?”
Azazel shrugs. “He thinks he’s getting closer to us. It makes him take risks that are…unacceptable. I think we need to stand down until it’s closer to when we actually need Sam.”
Ruby doesn’t like it, but Azazel is right. The last thing they need is John Winchester closing in.
It’s probably this ridiculous body flooding her with maternal hormones but for the life of her, Ruby wants to check on Sam first and see for herself that he’s okay.
Azazel knows her too well. “Make it quick. Dean has a pretty bad concussion and needs his rest. You look harmless enough—Winchester will probably let it go if you say you have the wrong room.”
“Like I’m worried about Winchester!” she tosses back, even as she plows through the swinging doors.
Nobody gives her a second glance. The soccer mom has definitely coming in handy. Ruby may just let her live when she’s done.
“Trust me. I chose the right one—it’s not supposed to be Dean. Sam is the one who’s been chosen for this.”
“Sam isn’t even paying attention to anything John’s teaching him. Just look at him—he’s reading!”
The Winchesters are sitting at a picnic table at the other end of the park. John has his battle plans spread out across the table. Dean is hunched over the table, apparently immersed in strategizing with his dad. John and Dean are hunting monsters, but Sam has his head buried in a book.
“He doesn’t care about the book. He’s blowing John off,” says Azazel.
“He’s reading Catcher in the Rye, Ruby. Does that tell you anything?”
Ruby smirks. “The novel preferred nine times out of ten by serial killers?”
“And pissed off teenagers. You need to stop worrying. Sam is everything I hoped he would be. Things are coming along right on schedule.”
“Because he doesn’t give a shit what his father wants?”
Azazel looks at her sharply. “Of course he cares. He cares too much. You know, you really need to get your head around this. Stop taking the obvious route.”
“Go to hell,” she fires back.
“Can’t today. My schedule’s already full,” he deadpans, and she rolls her eyes.
And honestly, Ruby doesn’t want Azazel in hell. She wants him here with her. She sure doesn’t want to do this without him. “All I’m saying is that Sam’s not a soldier. Dean is.”
“Dean does as he’s told. Sam would damn the world to hell if he thought it would piss off his dad. That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very. Look at him more carefully. What do you see?”
It’s hard to see his face underneath the bangs and hooded jacket, but Sam’s entire body is telegraphing his bad mood. “Bitterness. Resentment. Boredom. He has too much time to think.”
Azazel leans in. “Given a thousand years with that boy, you and I could never teach him all of that. John’s doing the work for us.”
“And the brother?” Dean is always too close, getting in between anything that could potentially hurt Sam. “What about Dean?”
“Dean’s the wild card. He—complicates things.”
“We could take care of that.”
Dean’s a beautiful boy at eighteen, fully coming into his own. How Ruby would like to sink her teeth in that.
“Not yet. We still need him.”
Ruby can’t help it. She shakes her had. “Why? He’s dangerous.”
“I just have a feeling that Dean Winchester is going to make this interesting.”
Ruby wonders how much John knows. The guy has been a cold-hearted bastard for eighteen years, but honestly, kicking Sam out like that is a bold move, and it has thrown them off guard. Azazel has followed Sam to Palo Alto, just to be sure everything is on the up and up, but Ruby has been sticking around, watching John and Dean from a distance. She’s pretty sure this is legit.
Sam is gone, and Dean is a wreck.
Ruby watches Dean work on the Impala’s engine outside the motel room. He does his job with his head down, eyes forward, but she knows a broken man when she sees one. She’s broken her share of men … but hell’s rack couldn’t do half of what John Winchester’s done to his own son. Honestly, Ruby thinks John could give Alistair a run for his money.
So Sam is gone, but Ruby is pretty sure it’s for the best, and not for the reasons she has always believed. Grudgingly, she has to admit that Azazel knew what he was doing. John’s raised himself a warrior with an epic chip on his shoulder, just like Azazel planned.
The truth is that Ruby is still concerned about Dean’s relationship with Sam. Azazel sees Dean as a necessary evil, but Ruby thinks he is taking an enormous risk in not getting rid of him sooner. Ruby is a professional, someone who demons can come to with their questions. She’s been tagged as the one who still understands people, which has made her both an anathema and a strategic asset in Hell.
But there is something about those brothers that lies outside of her comfort zone. She doesn’t understand what it is between them, and she definitely doesn’t trust Dean to mind his own business and stay away from Sam. As far as Ruby is concerned, it’s just as well that Sam is going to Stanford. It’s for his own protection, safeguarding his powers until they come into their own.
Ruby has this feeling, and she’s pretty sure Azazel believes it too… that if John knew what Sam had inside of him, he would be the first to cut his own son down. John would hate himself for it, might eat his own gun afterward, but he would do it. He would kill Sam if he had to.
Family drama is entertaining. Ruby has always been the first to appreciate a classic murder/suicide, but they’ve come too far for John to ruin everything now.
John and Dean need to let Sam go. It’s time.
Dean finishes with the engine and slams the hood. It must be a signal because John comes out of the room with their gear and tosses it in the empty back seat. Ruby wonders if Dean ever gets sick of riding shotgun.
Doors slam, and they’re gone. It’s not like she’s going to follow. This job is over as far as she’s concerned. John and Dean can take care of themselves for a while.
Ruby is killing time, waiting for Azazel to call with an update about Sam. A meter man pulls up and tells her that she has to move the car because her meter has expired. Bored, Ruby pulls out her knife and slits his throat before he has a chance to pull back from her open window. She’ll move her damn car when she feels like it, thank you very much. If anyone else comes along, she’ll have to abandon this body before she’s even had any fun with it. That’s all right. It’ll be fun to watch the owner try and explain the dead meter man.
Finally, Azazel calls from California. The news is good. Sam has moved into his dorm and is doing just fine. Ruby feels a surge of pride that takes her by surprise.
Sam getting himself out of his father’s hands is a monumental exercise of free will. It’s this kind of self-determination that can change the world.
Lucifer will appreciate that quality in his liberator…
Ruby hates Jess from the beginning. Sam’s already moved in with her—love at first sight—all that crap. It would be laughable, if it weren’t so damn serious, and Ruby has never seen Azazel so unnerved, not in the hundreds of years she has stood by him.
The girl’s cup is half full, never half empty, but she isn’t an idiot either. Jessica is smart and funny with a good head on her shoulders. She got into Stanford with perfect SATs. She loves Sam and wants them to live happily ever after.
Ruby decides to check things out, so she possesses the body of a pretty junior who’s taking a class with them and sits in the row behind them and just watches. Jess saves Sam a seat. They sit too close together, knees touching. Jess shares Sam’s coffee, and he borrows her eraser.
It’s everything she and Azazel were worried about. Jessica Moore is the enemy.
So when Azazel comes to her says, “Pretty Jess is in the way,” Ruby simply nods. Jessica’s fate is sealed between them.
The how is obvious, given Azazel’s penchant for symmetry. The only thing left to decide is where and when.
“We need to kill Dean and make it stick this time.”
Azazel shakes his head. “Not yet. It’s too soon.”
“Too soon for what? I don’t know why you’re hesitating. You almost killed him yourself.”
His voice hardens. “I’m not a prophet. Please remember that I’m flying in the dark here.”
“Then why did you try and kill him before if you don’t want him dead?”
“One of them had to die, and I thought it should be Dean.” Azazel’s eyes are sparkling. “I had no way of knowing that John would make that kind of deal.”
Azazel is being insufferable – he’s just so thrilled over everything that’s gone down. But Ruby is still reeling by how quickly things have changed. She isn’t sure that Azazel made the right choice in making the deal with John.
She’ll be the first to admit that Azazel played his hand beautifully. By possessing John and nearly killing Dean, he got the ball rolling with dizzying speed. Ruby didn’t see it coming. She possessed a nurse and saw Dean for herself in the ICU. She figured he was dead meat.
The truth is that they were blindsided by John. John Winchester’s entire life has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only—destroying the demon that killed his wife. The idea that John would simply step down is almost unthinkable. Who would have guessed that he would trade his quest for the life of his son?
But Azazel is happier than Ruby has ever seen him. She’s still a step behind, trying to fit the pieces together.
“John is in hell,” Ruby says slowly.
Azazel nods. Yes.
“He’s a righteous man,” she continues.
“He’s a son of a bitch,” Azazel says, “but yes, he is also a righteous man.”
“And it was written that the first seal will be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell.”
Azazel smiles, still nodding. Yes. Yes.
It provides surety in a way that nothing else has before. The Winchesters have been mired in Azazel’s plan from the beginning. Yeah, it could be random chance or the universe’s idea of a practical joke, but Ruby has never known the universe to work that way. Ruby knows that everything happens for a reason.
It has to be Sam. She’s certain of it.
“I want to teach him.”
“No, not yet. I’m the only one who contacts Sam. He can’t know who you are.”
“Why the hell not? This isn’t all about you, Azazel—I’ve had your back from the start.”
Azazel’s expression softens. “If something happens to me, you’ll need to step in. Ruby—you’re the only one who can.”
Ruby understands what’s being asked of her. “I won’t let him down.”
Azazel doesn’t ask if she’s talking about Sam or Lucifer, but it doesn’t really matter. If they play their cards right, it’s all the same.
Ruby doesn’t mourn Azazel.
He fought the good fight, died a martyr’s death, and Azazel will be remembered as one who kept his eyes on the prize until the end. The best way she can honor Azazel is to complete his life’s work.
The devil’s gate is open, and the world is a different place.
John is gone for good, out of Hell and out of her hands. And Dean—that boy ended up being the death of Azazel after all, and Ruby will never forget it.
But Dean also saved his brother. Ruby almost lost Sam at Cold Oak. All Ruby’s inside sources are insisting that Sam didn’t go to hell after he died. Ruby is convinced that if Dean hadn’t made his deal with the crossroad’s demon, Sam would be gone for good—irredeemable.
She owes Dean for this. Maybe someday she will repay him. But Ruby will never underestimate Dean Winchester again.
Ruby is standing outside a hellhole of a bar, listening to the howls of pain and despair coming from inside. The Seven Deadly Sins are having their fun, but all their work will be for naught if something doesn’t stop them.
This is it—her one chance to play—and Sam Winchester is the end game.
It’s going to take a miracle, and Ruby knows the odds are stacked against them. But Lucifer has been waiting for far too long. Ruby is going to see to it that he doesn’t have to wait much longer.
So Ruby tosses back her long blonde hair and crosses the threshold to save Sam’s ass for the first time. She is pretty damn sure that it won’t be the last.