Author's Notes: Dude

Author's Notes: Dude. The season is coming to an end and Dean is not yet out of his deal. FIX IT, KRIPKE. FIX IT NOW.

it just gets better every time

-X-

She could hear the dogs howling long before they actually reached her. She'd never really stopped to consider that they wouldn't just burst through the floorboards or materialize on her chest, claws reaping death into her skin.

So Bela looked out of the window, watching the rain, and waited. The clock struck 12:01.

Bela has spent her whole life waiting. It used to be for her father, drunk and stumbling, hands reaching for places on her body that they had no right to be. Afterwards it was for the call from the police, for some sort of sign that she'd climbed out of that hell and into a whole new one. And then for Bobby—because he was older and half polite and good-hearted and maybe she thought that he could be Uncle Bobby again, the way he'd been when she first got into this business. And now for Lillith, for the hell hounds,

But mostly she is still waiting for her father, drunk and stumbling. Maybe she'll never stop waiting. Isn't that a trick?

She can see them now. They're running fast.

She wonders if she really will see Dean in Hell, and if she does, will he have forgiven her? She thinks she might have been able to fall in love with him, if she'd ever stopped and breathed long enough to try.

The hell hounds are coming. She can hear her father on the stairs.

Four, three, two—

The window shatters.

-X-

Six months after she runs away from home, Jo Harvelle realizes that even in a world full of hunters, she's still the freak with the knife collection. The only difference is that now the stakes are higher.

Back in school, they looked at her sideways because she could tell the difference between brands of knives, because she could drop kick a football player, because she didn't like wearing dresses. Out in the real world, the hunting world, they look at her sideways because she is twenty-two, a woman, and alone.

As a general rule, hunters leave hunters alone. It's a fucked up world that they live in and the baggage single, twenty-two year old young ladies who carry guns in their back pockets drag into bed with them aren't worth the lay. But Jo's a challenge few men have ever been able to resist—her raw sexuality coupled with jaded naïveté has always turned hardened men into suckers. It makes things both harder and easier—men will tell you anything during seduction, over a beer or a whiskey sour, especially if your chest is spilling out of your shirt and the lip of your jeans don't quit meet the lip of your top. And Jo is a master of manipulation, of making men see what they want to see (sex, no strings, six shots) and carefully disguising what she doesn't (she's not stumbling or even slurring, she hasn't touched him all night, her feral smile is just as lethal as it is friendly).

So she gets jobs, and she gets contacts, but she doesn't get respect. She doesn't even really get disrespect; mostly they just ignore her (unless, of course, they're reaching for her zipper).

She gets a call from her mother four days after Dean's deal comes due. She doesn't answer—because her mother's voice would bring her home—but she listens to the message. "Dean… Dean did it, honey. I don't know if you'll get this, 'cause you haven't returned any of my other messages, but… Dean… Dean's gonna be okay. He and Sam both. I thought you'd want to know." There's a brief hesitation. "Aw, Jo. I ain't gonna ask you to come home. Just call me, baby, okay?"

She doesn't. (But she saves the message with all the others.) A week later Dean drops into the bar where she daylights as a waitress and orders a beer. She sits down across from her, half-expecting him to demand she call her mother but what he says is, "Hi."

She smiles cautiously. "Hey yourself. Been a while."

"Yeah. I'm sorry I never called you, after…" he trails off, gesturing. "I just wanted… I was in the area, and. Aw, fuck, Jo. I'm no good at this."

She cocks her head to the side, not faking the bewilderment that's stamped across her features. "If you ever need anything. I know we left things… not right. But if you ever need—help, or… a job, or… a friend. Sammy and me, we'll be around."

He says it with the joy of someone who is just starting to believe his own truth. Jo laughs. Tells him about the hunting, about how frustrating it is to be ignored just because she works solo. Solo female hunters have it harder than any man ever did, but she's doing just fine.

They share a beer and she's open to something else but he just kisses her cheek and says goodnight. Next night she's out looking for a job, trying to flirt with hunters and getting nowhere. Night after and they start handing her jobs without her having to tempt them with her chest or her attire and by the next week they're letting her play poker and calling her Jo instead of honey.

And she's wondering what the hell happened, why they suddenly let her become one of the guys, why they want to see her knife tricks and not her boobs, and then—

A new face, his hand on her ass and mouth in her ear, muttering something about a hotel room and a night full of dreams. Donny, an older hunter with a permanent snarl on his face, puts his fist through the guys teeth and growls down at her, "You keep your hands off our Jo. She's Dean Winchester's girl and a damn fine hunter, you got that?"

Jo blinks.

And then it all starts to make sense—Dean must have spread the word. And then they started to accept what they thought was her story: she and Dean were a thing, and he turned her on to hunting, and she's worthy of trust and respect because Dean and his brother deem her so.

She should be annoyed. She's actually kind of flattered. Chauvinist bastards,

one and all, but she loves them. So she kisses Donny once on his grisly face and says, "Thanks, honey. Who's up for a game of darts?"

-X-

Ruby disappears from Dean and Sam Winchester's life after she tells Dean that she can't save him. Partly because she's ashamed of it, that she was once human and that for all her powers she still can't do this one damn thing, and partly because she can't stand to face Sam.

Which is a bit embarrassing, really, because he's just a gutter-born human being and she is more powerful than even he could imagine. But everything about Sam is fascinating to Ruby—both his innate, unending goodness and gentleness and the stain of demon evil on his soul. He is the best of both worlds and Ruby has always been greedy.

So she doesn't go back to them, doesn't stop in to say hello, here's Lillith's address, want a knife to kill some evil sons of bitches?

What she does instead is watch from afar, is protect him without letting him know, is offer herself up to save his brother.

Lillith looks down at her with raises eyebrows, amusement glittering on her lips. "You want me to do what?" She asks with a high-pitch laugh that makes Ruby's ears bleed.

"Look, honey," Ruby says flatly, "You know as well as I do you can get Dean any old time, any old way. His soul will be yours whether you take it now or later—later, when it's really ripe and sweet and you can watch it bleed out of him with actually fear in his eyes. You think it's going to be fun, getting it now? Dean'll march down into hell with a goddamn smile on his face. But if you let him go now, if you let him walk away, there will come a time when it's not his choice, and then … then the theft of his soul will be so much sweet than merely buying it."

Lillith looks tickled, her little toothless grin somehow ugly on the little face. "So you want me to just… let him go. Just like that. Ruby, you've lost your touch."

"Of course not," Ruby snaps. "I'm offering a trade."

"Trade?"

"Yes. A trade. Me for Dean. You have to admit, it's tempting."

Lillith looks interested but she isn't sold, crossing her little hands over her chest. "Why?" She asks suspiciously. "Why should I trust you?"

"Because deals between demons can't be broken," Ruby reminds her. "And I'm being honest with you: I don't like you. I'm doing this for Sam. It just so happens that what I want and what's best for you happen to coincide."

Lillith hesitates. "If I have Dean, I control Sam."

Ruby rolls her eyes. "That's where you're wrong. Dean is the only thing standing between you and Sam. If you take Dean, Sam will come after you faster than you can turn your eyes black. If you leave Dean with Sam—if you take Sam before you take Dean—you never have to worry about anyone taking your throne ever again."

She says she'll consider it. Ruby drops by the boys' hotel room while they're sleeping and writes with her lipstick on their mirror: Me for Dean. No more contract. See you in hell. –Ruby.

Four days later Lillith signs the new contract and Ruby is choking on smoke. When she opens her eyes, she sees Sam's face in the flames.

-X-

Sarah never quite gets over Sam. She dates, she flirts, she even gets engaged once. But it never goes through to the end, because none of them are Sam.

None of them are six-foot-infinity with that gentle, goofy smile and eyes that wrinkle at the edges when he smiles. None of them hunch over when they walk because they want to fit in, go unnoticed. None of them gave up a promising career in law to chase down demons and ghosts and other jeepers creepers because—because it was the right thing to do.

None of them throw their bodies over hers to save her from the sharpened edge of a barber's knife, and none of them say, "Sarah…" quite like he does.

Eventually she gives up trying. She turns thirty and starts looking for an apartment in the city because, fuck it, she might not ever be married but she's not going to spend her life waiting for Sam.

Then eventually she meets Aiden, and he's six-foot-infinity, and he's got shaggy hair and a smile to match. He's a lawyer and he defends the innocent and oh, yeah, he loves her so she agrees to marry him and this time it goes all the way. After six months of being Mrs. Sarah Redford Sam shows up at her door with a big smile and a hug and a… home ice-cream maker?

"Congratulations," he tells her, genuinely. "Dean tried to make me bring a doll with real hair but I think we both know how well that would have gone over."

She blinks dumbly at him, waiting for the longing, the ache, the attracting. What she gets is a laugh. "I would have kicked your ass, creep. Want some coffee?"

And just like that, she introduces him to Aiden and they talk law and Sarah realizes: Sam isn't for just one woman. The Winchesters are not meant for family life, as much as they deserve it—because they have to be shared. She makes him some vanilla ice cream to bring back to Dean and kisses his cheek.

"I'm sorry about the way it all turned out," he tells her regretfully at the door. "I wanted… I wish it could have been different."

She smiles at him. "You drop by whenever you can," she instructs him. "You're always welcome here."

-X-

In the milliseconds before the bullet rips through Madison's skin, she has these three memories:

Her sister, sitting cross-legged on her purple bedspread, grinning widely and waving a little white stick in the air. It has the word no written in big, bold letters on one end and she's never seen Emily smile so wide; and even though this is somehow a really unimportant moment, because nothing is going to change, and because pretty soon (though she doesn't know it yet) Emily is going to decide that she wants nothing to do with this family, it's the closest that Madison has ever felt to her baby sister. They are smiling and laughing and hugging each other and there is so much love in Madison's chest that she think she might burst. And that's how she wants to remember her sister, that's the last thing she wants to see.

Her mother and father, gathered around the kitchen table and her college acceptance letters spread out before them. Madison is waiting for the "Princeton God" speech but it never comes; her father just turns to her with a proud smile and says, Babydoll, you choose wherever you want to go and we will make it work, and her mother has happy tears in her eyes and in the background she can hear the Rockets humming in the background, rolling over them and wrapping them all together.

Sam, mouth open in a gasp, face hovering above hers as she digs her nail into the skin on his back. His eyes are open and wrinkled around the edges and he's whispering her name, quiet and loving, teeth so white and smile so wide that it hurts her eyes to look at him. And she really loves him, in that moment, and if it doesn't last then that's okay because then—right then—she could taste something in his sweat that she knows only comes around every so often. It's pure, unadulterated goodness and Madison thinks: if anyone has to pull the trigger, I'm glad it's you.

-X-

Ellen thought it would be harder, rebuilding the Roadhouse. She expected more tears, more heartache; but she's been hardened by the world and the people—and the monsters—in it, so she grits her teeth, thinks fuck you, and builds the thing.

It's missing Ash and Jo and Bill's smell in her bedroom but it's good enough. It's good enough. Bobby drops by a lot, to check on her, and they form a sort of friendship that almost fills the holes in her chest. She leaves messages for Jo that don't get returned, but she gets emails sometimes:

Hi Mom,

Been working a lot. Things are getting better. I love you.

Jo.

And it's not enough, but it's what she gets, so Ellen takes it without complaint.

She's getting frighteningly near to sixty when a young man saunters into her bar—not the first, undoubtedly not the last. He's got dark hair and light skin, green eyes with gold flecks in them, and a smile to charm the pants off every woman in sight. He plops himself at her bar and says, "Hi, ma'am. Ben Braden. I'm looking for my father, maybe you know him?"

She smiles at him, handing him a beer, and asks, "Sure, honey. What's his name?"

Ben grins at her and she knows the answer before he even says: "Dean Winchester."

Ellen throws her head back and laughs. Because Sam and Dean Winchester aren't her boys, but they also are her boys, and she loves them just like she loves Jo and just like she loved Ash. "Oh, Lord," she finally manages.

"Thank God, we've got another one."