Summary: Everything Jo knows and loves has gone up in flames with the Roadhouse. So she does the only thing she can, she hunts. When she tries so save a little boy from a djin, she ends up falling under its spell instead. What is the only thing Jo could ever wish for?
Authors Notes: Set after 3.16, but actually only spoilers for 2.20. Also warning for POV shifts.
The bleached concrete is icy against her spine, the blood singing in her ears near boiling. Her hand immediately reaches out for a weapon as Jo comes to with a start. Sounds must be her guide as her eyes refuse to properly open. Her head feels like it’s splitting in half, pain clouding her thoughts in a hazy blanket. From a million miles away she can hear a voice calling her name, almost familiar. Furious blinking and a little half shake of her head and then the words become clear.
“Easy, easy, you took quite a knock to the head there.”
He answers with a quiet chuckle that rumbles from deep in his chest as he runs a hand over her forehead. His fingers tangle as they sweep through the bloody knots of hair covering her face.
“Who else would be stubborn enough to put up with your shit?”
Sam leans down to place a soft kiss against her trembling lips and as he pulls back, her eyes finally manage to stay open and find focus. A drop of blood clings to the stubble above his upper lip where it brushed against her split bottom one. He’s hovering over her, a deep concern in his eyes belying the jesting quality in his voice.
“You had me worried there for a second. What would I tell your folks if I had to take you home all busted up?”
Adrenaline surges through Jo’s system, her rapidly pumping heart sending currents of power to her flailing limbs. Her hunter instinct dismisses Sam’s presence as unimportant, the djin and the little boy she had cut loose are her primary concern. She needs get him the hell out of here and finish that fucker off.
“Whoa, where do you think you’re rushing off to? Take it easy, let’s get you checked out first.”
As Jo pushes him off her, black roses bloom across her vision again. With a groan she collapses back to the floor as some bile pushes its way up into her mouth, bitter and wrong.
“I need to get him out, need to …”
“Shh, never mind that. Dean’s already taken the guy outside, he’s taking care of him. The spirit’s gone. For good.”
Jo growls her irritation low in her throat, pushes his hands away again. Sam grabs hold of her wrists, iron grip pinning her down, anger and concern twisting his mouth. Warm spit sprinkles on her cheek as he hisses into her upturned face.
“What happened to waiting for us to back you up? You should know better than to go rushing in all alone half cocked, Jo. I thought we’d agreed you wouldn’t do that anymore.”
Jo breathes in and out against the pain of the bones in her wrists being ground together. When she doesn’t answer, doesn’t fight back, the fight leeches out of Sam as quickly as it had risen. He releases her hands, touches blunt fingers to her chin, tilting her bruised face up to him.
Before he has a proper chance to assess the damage, Dean’s alarmed call forces Sam into action. He places Jo’s arms around his neck and curls one hand under her knees and the other around her back, effortlessly sweeping her up into his arms. Jo curses herself for helplessly clinging to him as he purposefully walks out of the abandoned warehouse.
Something about the whole situation tickles at the back of her mind, tries to force its way to the front, but it’s all just becoming too foggy again. Her body wants to escape from the screaming pain in her tortured muscles and abused bones, slowly weighs on Jo’s grimy eyelids, shutting it all out. Her arms start to slip from around Sam’s neck and a faint whimper escapes her lips as she tries to strengthen her hold.
“Hey, don’t cry. It’ll be alright. We’ll be back at the roadhouse in no time and Bill will patch you up just as good as new.”
Her voice slurs and sounds foreign to her own ears. “My dad?”
“No, the other Bill living with your mother. Yes, your Dad.” Sam tries to keep it light, fails to keep the worry out of his wavering voice as he walks a little faster. The ruby red of the thin trail of blood seeping from her ear cuts a stark contrast against the pasty white of her exposed neck as her head lolls to one side.
“I want to go home.” Sam’s heart hammers harder and faster in his chest, so painful he can barely breathe.
“I’m working on it, baby. We’ll have you home in no time.”
Home. Jo finally surrenders to the darkness and goes completely slack against Sam’s chest. She hopes the dream will still be there when she wakes up again.
The water stain against the ceiling is exactly the same. The heavy linen draped over her aching limbs still smell of lazy summer breezes, dry grass and sunshine. Jo is back in her little room above the bar. It would be so easy to pretend that she was waking up from a good night’s sleep just like a couple of months ago. Allow confusion and claim she doesn’t know where she is or how she got here. But Jo’s never taken the easy way out.
She remembers Sam’s worried face and she remembers him saying her father’s name. She knows it’s not real, can’t be. She has to figure out what’s going on.
She doesn’t want to think about how much she wants it.
There’s movement at the door, so she closes her eyes again, feigning sleep. Jo can hear them whispering, Sam right next to her by the bed. There’s a dip and a rise in the mattress when he kneels down, rests his elbows on the bed next to her and reaches out to hold her hand. Her mom’s by the door and then there’s another man’s voice, steadily coming closer. She hadn’t heard the soothing tone of it since she was a child, thought she had forgotten a very long time ago how it used to whisper secretly in her ear about how pretty her momma was.
It’s not that hard to pretend to wake up slowly, eyelids fluttering and a long breath pulling fresh air deep into her lungs. It is very hard not to open her eyes trained directly on him, staring at him like he was every wish she ever had her entire life suddenly come true.
Instead she looks at her mom first, doesn’t have to act to put the croak in her voice when she says “Mom?”
“Hush sweetie, you’re alright. You’re going to be fine. Just lie there nice and quiet and let us fuss over you for a little bit, okay?”
Truth be told, she really was still feeling very tired and if she just closed her eyes again for a quick second, that would probably be alright. She risks one quick glance in her father’s direction, but he’s just a dim shape against the morning sunshine as sleep lays claim to her again.
When she wakes up, she is alone again and the sun is shining through the lace curtains steadily and warm. She experimentally wiggles her toes, reaches up to touch her nose. Everything seems to still be working, feels heavy and comfortable, no longer like an 18-wheeler backed up over her five or six times.
Jo throws back the covers and swings her legs out. It’s time.
She moves through the room silently, but quickly. Her searching hands and eyes quizzing over scattered objects, evaluating, cataloguing, discarding.
Some clues are out in the open and easy to find. The picture of her and Sam on the bedside table. They’re wearing oversized sweatshirts with Stanford written across their chests in big bold letters and he’s got an arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders. She’s smiling up at him while he’s beaming at the camera.
Others are more difficult to unearth. The journal and a few scrapbooks hidden under heavy winter coats at the bottom of her closet.
The answers, the real ones, when they come, are hard and cut deep.
John’s obituary, the familiar date stabbing into a daughter’s broken heart. Bobby’s weathered smile captured on torn yellowed photographs with bent corners. His arms wrapped tightly around two lost boys. She thumbs over Dean holding himself straight and rigid, barely concealed hurt held back behind a brave and controlled face turned, as always, towards his brother. Sam’s smile bright and sunny.
Her handwriting on unsent teenage love-letters addressed to the older boy, perfumed and scribbled full of red hearts. Drunken entries about sneaking into frat parties with the younger one, stolen tequila and unplanned declarations of love. Waking up with a wicked hangover and a new boyfriend. Happy memories stuck between faded theatre programs and greasy take out menus. A lone picture of Dean leaning against the hood of the Impala slips out. There’s a smile on his face this time, but the hurt is in his eyes is the same.
Jo plucks at the diamond ring tenderly tucked away safe and sound. She slips it onto her finger and wonders how she could ever marry him.
A sharp pain stabs through her head as she gathers everything up and puts it away. It kills her to admit it, but she really did get beat up pretty good. She moves quicker now, wants to hide all the traces of what she’s been doing before she maybe passes out again. With one last glance around the room to satisfy that every thing is as it was, she finally allows herself to settle back into bed. Without thinking, Jo reaches under her pillow when she sees the doorknob twist. Her hand closes around the comforting weight of a hunting knife and she smiles before letting go again. It’s nice to know that some things, at least, have stayed the same.
“Hey, babe, how you feeling?”
She forces herself to smile at Sam, the ring on her finger reminding her that she loves this Sam, trusts him. That this wasn’t the Sam that tried to rape her, violating her with his body and his words. The one that she had prayed never to lay eyes on again.
“Better.” She replies and starts to sit up.
In a flash he’s next to her, a strong hand sure on her arm, helping her settle. He doesn’t let go as he sits down on the bed next to her. She flashes another brave smile up at him and hopes it doesn’t look as fake as it feels. When he bends down to kiss her, Jo thinks she must be a better actress than she thought.
“Damn girl, you had me really worried. What would I have done if something had happened to you?”
“I don’t know?” She hesitantly ventures.
“And I don’t ever want to find out.”
He just sits there looking at her for the longest time, until she wants to squirm uncomfortably under his gaze. So she leans in and pecks a quick, dry kiss to his cheek, cold lips to his warm flesh, and says, “How about you give a couple of minutes to take a shower and get dressed and I’ll meet you down in the kitchen, yeah?”
“Really? You up for that?”
“Well, I’m still kinda out of it and really sore all over, but yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”
Sam’s face just about splits in half with a grin before he gets up and with one last kiss to her forehead heads for the door.
“I’ll tell your mom to make you some pancakes.”
Jo grins before she can help herself and she’s still smiling when she undresses and waits for the shower to heat up. She even giggles when she catches sight of the pink lace panties she’s wearing and vows to get some of her usual white cotton ones as soon as possible. The lace itches.
Jo creeps down the stairs like she’s a teenager sneaking out again, avoiding the third step down that creeks no matter where you step on it. She stands in the doorway for the longest time, just looking at the people gathered around the kitchen table. Her family.
Finally her dad looks up and catches her eye.
‘Hey, look who’s up.”
She takes a tentative step forward, suddenly shy, scared that he won’t be real when she touches him. Then he dips his head, gives her a little smile and she’s running into his arms, holding onto him like she’s never letting go.
Bill looks first at Sam, then Ellen, for some reason his daughter is nestled crying against his chest. Jo just cries harder when he wraps his arms around her and tells her everything will be fine as he strokes a hand up and down her spine. Bill looks towards his wife again in desperation and she comes up behind Jo to wrap her arms around her daughter and her husband. Sam looks on as they stay like that, unwilling and unable to break apart three people fused together by an unknown grief. The only sound other than Jo’s soft sobs is the second hand of the clock above the stove slowly ticking over.
Ellen reluctantly let’s go and looks around when the screen door slams shut and someone tries to unobtrusively clear their throat.
“Heya Dean, want some lunch?”
Finally Jo slowly releases her strangle hold on her father and turns to face the other man that’s haunted her dreams.
“You feeling better, Jo? Told Sammy he was worrying over nothing, but you know what a pussy he is.”
“Dean!” The collective admonishment from Sam, Ellen and Bill start them all laughing and breaks the tension that no-one had noticed building as soon as he’d stepped into the room.
They sit down to stacks of pancakes with enough bittersweet maple syrup to satisfy even Sam’s sweet tooth. To any that looked they would make a pretty picture of a perfectly normal happy little family framed by the bright afternoon sunshine pouring through the yellow linen curtains lazily shifting in the breeze.
The next couple of days go by in a blur. She has to re-learn how to be Jo, this Jo. This new Jo has a mom that smiles and teaches her how to knead bread and mix chocolate chip cookies that Sam steals and eats while they’re still too hot, giving him stomach aches. She has a dad that lays a warm hand against her shoulder when he shows her how to straighten her aim with the shotgun. He even takes her on a hunt, some pesky spirit two towns over that they dispatch with a simple salt and burn, but it’s a hunt and it makes Jo’s blood sing.
Her days are busy and full and sometimes she doesn’t even have to pretend to be asleep by the time Sam slides into bed next to her.
As usual Jo doesn’t see a lot of the boys. They go off on their own, once disappearing for five days straight on a hunt. She doesn’t really mind having them around, but she’s still trying to figure out how to be around Sam and how to keep her gaze neutral and uncaring around Dean.
There are moments when she forgets, when she can’t help herself. Dean saunters through the door, stops to throw back the single shot of whiskey that Ellen slides to him over the smooth polished wood of the bar before exiting it again at the back. Jo sees the dust swirling around him, hears the creak of his heavy boots, and smells the leather rubbing against the exposed skin of his neck. Sam follows a couple of steps behind. She gets up and finds something else to do when he tries to sit down next to her.
Sam buys her candy – sweet lemon drops that dissolve slow and bitter on her tongue. He cleans her guns and sharpens her knives until Ellen tells him to stop before he scares her patrons away. He doesn’t try to touch her though and apart from the being asleep when he gets to bed she doesn’t even have to make up silly excuses.
Her dad is saying grace before they dig into Sunday’s lunch, her mom’s famous fried chicken. Sam tightens his grip on her hand for a second before letting go, but the smile she flashes at him doesn’t quite reach her eyes. He turns his head away before she can see the hurt and confusion written all over his face. Her gaze flicks to Dean for an instant, feeling strangely guilty when she catches him looking away quickly, caught intruding on an intimate moment between the two young lovers.
Dean avoids her almost completely. He’s also noticed the change in her, how she reminds him again of the sweet sixteen year old with the unrequited crush that looked at him with uncontrolled hero worship in her dark eyes. For the longest time he’d wished he could uncover his own hidden feelings and display them as openly to her, but she could never be his. She had belonged to Sam since she was six years old, when she had stolen Sam’s heart with a punch to the gut when he’d taken one of her dolls to do a pretend salt and burn in the back yard. Not that she minded about the doll, she was just pissed that he’d done it without her.
Ellen usually stays out of her daughter’s business, but she doesn’t understand what is going on with Jo these days and it’s killing Sam. That much was plain to see. Ever since their dad died, she had shared in the responsibility of raising those boys and they were part of her family too. Hell, a couple of days ago everything was still on track for Sam to officially become part of it. So she sets the boys up on an easy hunt, sends Bill on an errand and corners Jo in the backyard while she’s hanging up the laundry to dry.
“What’s going on with you and Sam these days?”
Jo tries to keep her features cool, her voice neutral.
“Exactly. A week ago you two were a pair of nauseating lovesick puppies and now you’re barely speaking to him. Anything happen that I need to let your Dad know about so he can sort Sam out?”
“No! No, nothing like that. I don’t know … what’s wrong. Ever since that hunt …”
“When you got hurt?”
“Yeah, that one. I just … it made me look at my life, you know? Question it. Try and figure out what it is that I want.”
“That used to be us. Used to be Sam. You telling me a bump on the head changed your mind about that?”
“Maybe.” Jo answers sullenly. Ellen looks at her daughter with hard eyes and makes her voice stern, hoping it’ll break through to her.
“Well, whatever it is, you better figure it out soon. That boy loves you dearly, but there’s only so much a man, even a man like Sam, can take before he breaks and I don’t know if you’ll be able to put him back together if he does.”
With that Ellen turns and walks determinedly away, leaving Jo squinting into the sun, thoughtfully dragging the toe of her sneaker through the dirt as if the answer was some hidden treasure she might uncover there by accident.
Jo decides there’s not much to think about after all. If having her dad back means having to be with Sam, then that’s it. She’ll make it work.
So when Sam comes back with a cut over his eye and Dean with some bloody knuckles, Jo leaves her mom to wrap some ice in a dishcloth for Dean’s hand and drags Sam upstairs. Sam quirks an eyebrow at Ellen over Jo’s head, but Ellen just shakes her head and pulls up her shoulders. So Sam smiles, allowing a little bit of hope and goes with it.
Pulling him through her bedroom and into the adjacent bathroom, Jo makes Sam sit on the edge of the bathtub while she runs some hot water into the basin and takes down the necessary first aid items from the medicine cabinet. He automatically opens his legs for her to come closer when she leans down to poke at the cut with a q-tip dipped in antiseptic. It feels safe, familiar, so he dares to rest his hands against her legs were they’re pushing against his thighs.
Jo’s hands still and finally she gathers the courage to look down from the cut into Sam’s eyes. The love, the trust, the hope she sees there is enough to make her heart cramp painfully in her chest. Briskly she turns away for a band aid and when she’s finished smoothing it over the injury, she lets her hands slide down to cup his face and places a gentle kiss on his lips.
When she pulls away a little bit, it’s to find Sam looking up at her with questioning eyes. Jo gives him a little smile, the corners of her mouth barely turning up, but she hopes it’s enough to let him know that it’s okay, that it’s what she wants.
“Shhhh. Just kiss me.”
So he does. It’s soft at first, just a chaste pressing together of their lips. Jo’s lips part slightly with a sigh and it’s all the invitation Sam needs to softly lick his way inside her mouth. He traces the contours of her lips, the hard edge of her teeth, sucking her tongue into his mouth hesitantly, like it’s their first kiss all over again.
Jo breaks the kiss with a gasp for air and at the same time reaches behind Sam to drag his shirt over his head. His chest is rising and falling rapidly and Jo’s too mesmerized at the sight to even realise Sam’s reaching forward to do the same to her. Their lips come crashing back against each other again as Sam stands up and lifts Jo to wrap her legs around his waist. Sam slowly walks them back into the bedroom and over to the bed, stopping with a yelp when he hits his shin against the edge. Jo smiles into his gasping mouth, catching his bottom lip between her teeth as he bends to lay her down.
Sam pulls away a little as he reaches down to undo her belt and the top button of her jeans. The touch of his fingers against her bare stomach sends a shock coursing through her body, breaking the spell the moment had cast over her. Jo knows two things. Sam loves her. And she can’t do this.
Sam feels the exact second the terror overtakes her and he’s pulling away even as Jo scrambles to get out from under him. He sits there shaking as the bedroom door crashes closed and slams a fist into the pillow as a barely concealed sob bursts from his lips.
Sam isn’t stupid and he isn’t blind. He’s noticed the way his fiancé has been looking at his brother. And the way Dean’s been looking back at her when he didn’t think anyone was looking. He knew that once upon a time Jo had, had a crush on Dean, but he thought that, that was long forgotten, a youthful fancy left behind along with pigtails and lollipops. Once he suspected that Dean might have felt something for Jo too, hid his feelings until he was sure Dean wasn’t going to make a move. Then he went to his big brother to ask him how to win the heart of the girl of his dreams.
Maybe … maybe this was for the best. The demon had already tried to get to him by killing Bobby. Maybe it was better this way, safer for Jo to be with Dean. It could throw that Yellow-eyed son of a bitch off her trail and at least she won’t be alone when it finally does whatever it is it has planned for Sam.
Jo pulls her shirt over her head just as she bursts into the empty bar. Without slowing she heads straight for the broom closet and sinks down to her knees as soon as she’s enveloped by the darkness. Pulls on fists full of hair as her face distorts in a silent scream.
She’s blinded for a second when the door is suddenly yanked open and then Dean is on his knees in front of her, trying to lift her face so he can look at her.
“What happened? Did Sam do something?”
“No. No. Dean, just get out of here and leave me alone.”
Dean ignores her and keeps tugging at her arms, trying to get her to rise from the floor, to come out into the light. Gives up and reaches out to hook a finger under her chin to force her to look up at him instead. She relents and meets his questioning gaze, her eyes fervently pleading with him as they swim in unshed tears.
This time when the door is yanked open, there’s no blinding light. Sam’s just standing there and looking at them. Dean lets go of Jo and rises to meets his brother’s eyes. Sam doesn’t say a word, just turns to the side. As Dean squeezes past him, he reaches out and grabs Dean’s arm.
“I’ll meet you outside by the car.”
Sam waits until he hears the bar’s door close before he turns back to Jo.
“Do you want him?”
“Do you want him!”
Jo swallows as Sam screams the words down at her. She wants to turn around and hide, but finds the words forcing her mouth open, spilling out from God only knows where.
“I thought I did once. Now, I don’t know what I want anymore.”
“Just that it’s not me.”
“No, Sam. Maybe you. I just … need time to think. Time to figure this out.”
Sam doesn’t answer her, starts shaking his head before she even stops speaking and backs out of the doorway.
“You’re right. Maybe we both need some time to think about this.”
Dean leaves short voicemails on Ellen’s phone, letting her know where they are and that they’re all right. Sam keeps calling Jo’s phone but hangs up when she answers it. Mostly he phones in the middle of the night and leaves her these long rambling messages. He sounds a little drunk when he tells her about how he saved up to buy her that walkman for her thirteenth birthday or how he had to hide quarters for the laundry machines at school so she wouldn’t blow them all on the pinball machines.
Jo doesn’t call back.
Jo’s lost track of the empty days and never ending nights when she goes outside one evening to sit in the tired old tire swing hanging off a half-dead tree out back. She doesn’t know it, doesn’t remember her dad putting it up or swinging her in it until she was dizzy with laughter. Sometimes she forgets that this isn’t how it’s always been, that maybe it’s wrong and she doesn’t belong here.
It hurts and she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
She’s so lost in her own thoughts that she doesn’t register the rain softly starting to fall, minute drops settling in her hair like little fallen stars. When the thunder rumbles in the distance, Jo looks up just as twin headlights appear over the rise. They grow alarmingly bigger as the noise roars ever louder, coming closer very fast, too fast. She’s on her feet, running forward and yelling for her mom even as the Impala swerves to a sudden stop. Only the driver is visible and he’s practically falling out of the open door. She can’t see who it is, just keeps running towards him, muttering a mantra of please God, please no even as she struggles to breathe around the terror choking down around her throat. It grips her completely, ripping at her sanity when she recognizes who it is.
He doesn’t answer her, mouth opening and closing uselessly as his voice refuses to obey her command. Jo skids to a halt in front of him and grips his head in her hands, her fingers struggling for purchase as the rain slicks down his face and hair.
“Dean, where’s Sam? Where’s Sam? Where is Sam!”
Finally Dean manages to lift an arm and points to the back of the Impala. She lets go of him and rushes to open the door. Sam’s just lying there, completely motionless and God there’s so much blood.
Her dad’s gripping her shoulders, turning her away into her mother’s waiting arms as he bends down to lift Sam out of the car and struggles to get him inside. Bill dumps him onto the pool table, immediately tearing away at his ripped clothing as he searches for the source of the bleeding. Ellen calls to Jo to fetch towels and hot water as she comes in after, an arm around Dean as she helps him shuffle inside. He’s cut up and bruised, barely conscious, the long miles getting them to safety leeching every last ounce of strength from him.
Frantic hours are spent walking to and from the kitchen getting more clean towels and a never ending stream of fresh boiling hot water while her father stitches Sam back together. Jo struggles to keep it together with every basin of bloody water she throws down the kitchen sink until Sam is finally settled safely in her bed upstairs and breathing steadily and warm. She pulls up her little dresser stool and slumps down next to him. Downstairs her parents force a shot or two of whiskey down Dean’s throat before they tend to his injuries and get him bunked down for some much needed rest.
She can’t let go of his hand.
The next morning she wakes up slumped over their entwined hands, sore and stiff. His hand is big and warm around hers and when she tries to pull it away to sit up a little, his fingers close around hers strongly. Surprised she looks up into his wide open eyes and that familiar grin that tells her everything is going to be alright. With a sigh she tightens her grip and closes her other hand around their clenched fingers as well.
“You feeling okay?”
Sam nods and pulls their hands up to rest on his chest.
“You stayed with me the whole night?”
“Who else would be stubborn enough to put up with your shit?” Jo answers with a soft smile.
“You gonna kiss me now?”
Jo doesn’t bother answering, just leans up and kisses Sam softly on his forehead, his nose and finally his lips.
She feels Sam’s free hand come up to wrap around the base of her neck as he tries to deepen the kiss when an agonizing pain shoots through her body. With a startled cry she yanks her hands from Sam’s and wraps her arms around her waist. It’s tearing her apart, intensifying with each ragged breath she tries to desperately force into her lungs.
“Jo! Jo, what’s wrong? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know. Oh, God! Sam!”
Her vision is blurring, threatening to go dark as the pain consumes her.
“I’ve got you, Jo. It’ll be alright now. The djin is dead and I’m getting you out of here.”
Jo looks around the abandoned warehouse, sweeps over the small boy wrapped up in a dark blue hoodie, the couple of decomposing corpses hanging from chains across from her and finally settles on the pair of warm eyes looking down at her.