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13 July 2008 @ 09:51 am
Supernatural Gen Fiction: Salting Old Wounds (Ruby, Gen)  
Title: Salting Old Wounds
Author: HalfshellVenus
Character: Ruby (Gen)
Rating: PG
Summary: Ruby once was human, and the passing of centuries spent in darkness cannot help her to forget it.
Author's Notes: Written during a 60_minute_fics session on "Fables," for spn_xx, Challenge #11 using the quote below, and for my switch_25 challenge ("Salt").


"Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad."

- "Remember" by Christina Rossetti

She did it all for love.

As crazy as it seemed afterward, when her life—her very soul—was taken from her, in the beginning it was a simple matter of love.

A young woman of fourteen years, she was of the wrong station and appearance to draw the notice of Charles Westingbrook. He always greeted her politely, but she was only the tailor's daughter who answered the door when he stopped at their business, a slip of a girl fetching fabric from the storeroom at her father's request.

The apothecary's potions failed to turn Charles' eyes her way, those eyes as blue as a summer sky, eyes she searched for in her dreams. A five-month of days she waited, and received no more from Charles than the gracious remove that had long been the pattern of his attentions to her.

Widow Paltrey, it was whispered, knew of secret ways to bind a man's love and hold it true. Cecily did all that the widow told her, performed strange rituals requiring soil and herbs and hair, spoke words in unfamiliar tongues.

For a season, Charles was hers.

More precious than jewels, he called her, a ruby of his own with her dark red hair and star-bright eyes.

But when the last of the hollyhocks faded, he was gone. Then, before the first frost dusted the earth, so was she.

A foolish girl unprepared for her fate, she had wandered the breadths of the Devil's own realm until the faceless creatures found her. She would have chosen eternal solitude at that point to avoid joining them, if such a thing were possible.

Tempting. Tormenting. Taking—this was to be her work now. Walking the earth again in borrowed form, she committed acts more unspeakable than any she could have imagined.

Her rebellions were small.

She held onto her name—the one Charles had bestowed upon her—in remembrance of who she'd been and what her choices had cost her. It was rarely spoken, but the flame of it lived on inside her, still uniquely her own.

Certain memories, whether hers or those of the people whose skin concealed her, survived through centuries. She didn't speak of them, but sometimes she saw that same knowledge in one of her own kind, a certain shred of humanity, a reluctance to destroy those who were ignorant rather than evil.

She became stronger; not just in the way of demons, but in her willingness to navigate the precipice of the authority she served. Ruthlessness came more easily to her as she grew hardened, but some aspect of herself stayed with her, preserved like a flower that still rose to bloom between the rocky crevices of the desert.

In the world of the living, she saw glimpses of such deep and abiding love that she almost remembered why she had thought it worth the sacrifice herself. Caught by a sudden blue gaze, she remembered Charles and how much she missed him still in this eternity of enduring darkness. Hearing the laughter of a rose-cheeked baby held in the safety of loving arms, she remembered how little she had lived herself

The others of her kind, the demon hordes, remembered nothing. Focused wholly on the brimstone path, they marched to their orders and dreamed only of a coming surge toward the End of Days.

Ruby was different enough to know that the purpose lay in living, not in death. A gift so wonderful and brief was not given that it might be destroyed by her kind or any other. She would collect her due of souls but she would not turn or tempt, not if she could avoid it. With one foot in both worlds, she belonged to neither. There was no peace or safe harbor to be found, not even within the most secret recesses of herself.

Hundreds of human years had passed, but the changes in speech and style meant nothing. She was battle-honed and clever, quick to adapt to the situation at hand. The details were buried by the larger transformation, for it was that which had haunted her from the beginning.

Even now, Ruby avoided mirrors when she could, unprepared for the stranger's face looking back at her and unwilling to risk the truth so easily revealed by the terrible blackness in those soul-dead eyes.

Far better to let it all fall away, all she once was and could no longer be.

But she had only herself to cling to anymore, that and the certainty of that gossamer thread of memory being the only thing binding her to that lonely mission to help shift the course of Fate.

--------- fin --------

Pheebs1pheebs1 on July 13th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
oh I really like this. I love the look you take at Ruby. Lovely phrasing in this, like for example:

Ruthlessness came more easily to her as she grew hardened, but some aspect of herself stayed with her, preserved like a flower that still rose to bloom between the rocky crevices of the desert.

Really lovely!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Pheebs!

I was very surprised when one of the late S3 episodes revealed that Ruby had not only been human once, but that her "era" was not at all recent.

Getting her from who she might have been then to who she is now was such an interesting challenge. Especially since there is an innate goodness in her that other demons lack-- how did that happen?

Glad you liked it. That challenge prompt was SO evocative-- I read two other fics that used it, both very good. :)
Pheebs1pheebs1 on July 16th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
I am happy the challenge prompt brought about something so awesome! :)
eponin10 on July 13th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful concept. Gorgeous turn of phrase, great piece.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This is so unlike the kind of thing I usually write-- both in language and in the fact that it's a backstory for a character we know very little about.

It's foreign territory, entirely. :)
Cass E. Pants: SPN - dean and coffee hmmmmcass404 on July 14th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
I love this snippet of Ruby's life and motivations. Well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
I worried that it was too "soft" for her, but what I got from canon hinted that she had been more innocent while living, and that without some part of that still in her she would have been like any other demon.

Hardened over time, but at the core some threads of self and memory still remain.

That prompt was perfect for Ruby, it seemed to me. Forgetting would be easier, but then she would not be Ruby!
layne: spn laurenlayne67 on July 14th, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Wow. That is so awesomely written. I've read Bela fics before but this is the first time I've seen Ruby explored.

Guh, and I don't even have a Ruby icon ...
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
I don't have one either! This was a totally unexpected story for me-- the kind of thing a really good prompt pulls out of you that you never intended to write.

The episode where she revealed that she'd started out human, and that remembering parts of it were why she was "different," was such a fascinating revelation.

That plus the prompt formed this picture of her, which I hope reads true enough for readers!
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: spn:rubydotfic on July 16th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
I really like how you showed her evolution here and got into her motivations and thoughts.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Dot!

It really seemed to me that she could not have been terribly "bad" as a human being, or she would not be the type of demon-creature to take on such a dangerous and unpopular mission.

The witches in "Malleus Maleficarum" seemed to have something in common with who she might have been-- they made choices that aligned them with "evil," but had no idea that they were doing so. They were not (other than the first whacked-out witch) bad at heart, not at all. Yet the demon hiding among them remarked that they'd bound themselves (and their souls) over to her. That's exactly the kind of unknowing mistake I could see being in Ruby's background.

Thanks for the continuing spn_xx challenges! That's what really got this whole idea rolling. :)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on July 18th, 2008 11:03 am (UTC)
They weren't evil, and the episode showed that -- which is interesting because it in fact undermined Dean's hard-line view on witches. MM is not a comfortable episode for me (and even if they managed to show the witches as not evil, they were still stereotyped women, I think).

Anyway, I like how the show has moved towards showing not all supernatural beings are outright evil, and I liked Ruby and her sometimes opaque motivations, nice to see a story about her background. I'm glad you're enjoying the prompts! \o/
jelly babies to manualthehighwaywoman on July 17th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Chilling and beautiful! This gives me a new perspective on Ruby.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
I like that the show gave us such provacative glimpses of her near the end. We can't ever be entirely sure what she was up to, but she was hated enough by the other demons that we know her attempts to help Sam had some measure of sincerity.