Disclaimer: Still not mine.

The Reason

Chapter Five

"Mom...no..." Jo started, but she started coughing, and the sound was wet and thick. It took her a minute to stop, and while she coughed, Ellen started to paint the symbols of the spell on the floor.

"Joanna Beth, you know better. You think I'm gonna just let you die, that I wouldn't pull out every damn stop I have to keep you alive? Maybe when you get out of here, you ought to have your head examined." Ellen looked around. "Damn, forgot red paint. Sam, go get me some red paint."

"Ellen..."

"Go!" she yelled. "You wanna argue with me, you can do it when you've gotten me my red paint. Won't do you any good either way, might as well accomplish something while you're at it."

Sam sighed. "What brand?"

"Don't matter in this case. Color's more important than ingredients this time." As soon as Sam left, she looked to Dean. "You gonna argue too?"

He shook his head. "Ellen, I sold my soul to save Sammy's life. Guess this is a better way of going about it. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but I understand sacrificing for your family. And I can tell when there's no use trying to talk somebody out of it."

Ellen nodded at him as understanding passed between them. "This will buy us a few minutes extra. When the wounds transfer to me, it will be like I just got them, so we'll have the extra time for me to get to where she is now. You take care of my baby if this goes bad and your angels can't get to me in time. You got that?"

"Mom, you can't put that on him," Jo argued. "You can't do this. I don't want you to."

"Dean?" Ellen pressed.

"Yeah. I got it." Jo glared at him and he kissed her hair. "I'm sorry," he told her. "But there's no stopping her. And I can't lose you."

Sam returned with the paint then and set the can down, already opened, next to Ellen. "This isn't right."

"Lucifer walks free and my daughter is bleeding out. How is this any worse than that?"

"There's gotta be another way. What about another spell? Something where the cost isn't as high."

"Cost is so high because it's the most effective. None of those lesser spells I've got will help this close to the end. Anyway, look at the symbols, Sam. Not an evil symbol in the lot. This is the best, purest healing spell out there, and it doesn't even cost me my soul to use it. Just a few years and some extra scars."

Sam studied the symbols, and he could tell that she was right. This was pure healing magic, even if it did come with a high cost. "Fine. Then let me do it. I started this whole thing, anyway."

Before Dean could object, Ellen shot down the idea. "Wouldn't work. This magic only works in the same bloodline, Sam. Appreciate the offer though." She'd finished painting the symbols on the ground. Sam recognized the central symbol as Greek, and he guessed the outer designs were too. On either side of the large circular middle symbol were two smaller, simple circles, one in red, and one in green, like the rest of the design.

She used a knife pulled from her boot to cut a piece of dropcloth, then mopped up some of Jo's blood with it before dropping it into the green circle. She sprinkled several items in the bag of herbs she had. While she dropped the right herbs onto the bloody cloth, she muttered, "I pray to Asclepius to heal my daughter, and to Athena and Ares to see her as the warrior she is. I offer my own blood in the place of hers."

She cut another piece of drop cloth, then she drew a long, shallow cut along her arm and pressed the drop cloth to it, gathering her blood. Finally, after the cloth was almost entirely soaked in her blood, she dropped it into the red circle and sprinkled the last of her herbs on top. Before going any further, she went to Jo's side. "I love you, baby."

"I love you too, Mom," Jo replied. Her voice was very faint. She was fading fast.

Dean cringed and gripped her hand tighter. "You hold on, Jo. Just a few more minutes."

Ellen kissed her daughter's forehead, then returned to the spell. She took out a lighter and lit the piece of dropcloth with her blood on it.

The spell took effect immediately. Both Jo and Ellen screamed out in pain, so loud it left a ringing in the brothers' ears. Jo kept screaming as a soft glow surrounded her and her flesh knit itself back together All the blood she'd lost filled her veins, burning hot and alive, and her scream burst a blood vessel in her eye, which healed itself in a second. Ellen's screams were just as loud as she fell to the ground and felt her stomach ripped apart by hellhounds that weren't there. Her instinctual reaction was to try to pull away from the source of the pain, but of course, it wouldn't relent until the glow faded from Jo's skin.

Jo collapsed into Dean, breathing hard, as tears rolled down her face. Her hand automatically went to her stomach, only to find herself healed. All her blood was gone from the floor too, as if she had never been mauled at all. "Mom!" she cried out, scrambling to Ellen's side.

Ellen could have looked worse, all things considered. But of course, she had just been injured, so they had a little time before she would start to look as horrible as Jo had. Dean brought the ace bandage, once again miraculously spotless, and Ellen pressed it to her side. She struggled to sit up, and Jo and Dean helped her lean against the counter, where Jo had been minutes before.

"This is a lot worse than you made it sound, honey," Ellen said grimly. "You might have mentioned that you couldn't feel your legs."

"Would it have stopped you?" Jo asked, tears still in her eyes. "I would have told you if it would have stopped you. How could you do this, Mom?"

"Mother shouldn't have to bury her child," she answered. "It's unnatural. This way is better. Now, I got an idea for what to do if those angels don't show up in time. Least I can make myself useful one last time, if all else fails."

Jo shook her head and disappeared into the aisles of the store. Dean got up to go after her. "Alright, you tell Sam all about it, and I'll go try to explain to Jo why self-sacrifice is more popular than Furbies."

Dean found her by a large display of power tools. She looked up at his approach. She had been quietly crying. "I don't think I can do this, Dean. Watching her talk about the best way to help us out if she's going to die. Why would she do this?"

"Hey, you are talking to the expert in self-sacrifice here. My mom kind of did it to save my dad. My dad did it to save me. And I did it to save Sam. So I can tell you, the reasons are...well, they're mostly selfish. People sacrifice themselves because sometimes it's easier to die than to live without someone else. That state of mind...doesn't matter that they're leaving whoever it is behind without them to suffer through the same stuff. No real thought goes into it, and logic..." He shook his head. "Logic's gone the second you know someone you really love is dying."

"So now what am I supposed to do? Now someone I really love is dying, and we can't just keep switching places until the angels show up to save the day." Jo went to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head on his chest. "How do you do it, Dean? I don't understand how you lose so many people and keep going."

Dean swallowed hard. What could he tell her? That sometimes the only thing that kept him going was the possible future they might have? That was pretty heavy, especially since they'd agreed on not letting it get to that point yet. So he told her a very small part of the truth. "I do it because somebody has to. The angels kind of made a big deal about pointing out to me how I was always meant to be a hunter. So I do it because I don't have a choice. And because if no one fights, we'll lose. We might never win...but that's better than losing."

"And my mom?"

"My guess is she's trying to go out like a hunter. Whatever her plan is, she's trying to keep you alive. So I can't exactly be against it."

Jo sighed. "Okay. Let's go see what the hell she's thinking."

When they returned to Sam and Ellen, Sam's face was grim. He quickly summarized what Dean and Jo had missed. "I reached Bobby. He thinks Lucifer is trying to raise Death. As in the horseman. And Ellen wants to build a bomb, let the hellhounds in, wait for us to escape, and then blow it all to hell to give us a way out."

"Mom, are you crazy?" Jo yelled, going to her mother's side.

"No, honey, what I am is fading. Fast. And you and I both know the important thing here is killing Lucifer. You three will never even get to him if we don't do something to distract those hounds." Ellen grabbed Jo's hand and squeezed it hard. "If you've got another idea, I'd love to hear it. But if we do nothing and I die, you three are still trapped here, and I'm still dead. If I'm gonna go either way, I'd rather take a few of those bastards with me and give you a snowball's chance."

Jo studied her mother for a long moment. Even though she thought it might kill her to say it, she looked at Sam and Dean. "Do it. In case the angels are late."

Sam and Dean built the bomb. It was crude and simple, but it would be very efficient. Small canisters of propane were placed in buckets of salt and iron nails. They made as many of these buckets as they could fill, then wired them all together and hooked the whole contraption up to a doorbell. They gave the doorbell to Ellen.

Anna and Castiel materialized in the store. "Sorry it took so long," Castiel said. "She was in an angelic lockdown. It was not easy to break her out."

"Finally," Jo said. She backed away from Ellen as Anna approached. "Five more minutes and we were going to have to resort to suicide bombing."

Castiel looked at Jo, surprised. "You seem better. Injury transference?"

"It wasn't my call," she said quietly.

"I can't heal her," Anna said suddenly. "She's too injured. I can heal her a little, but I'm cut off from Heaven too, and the wound is just too big. Maybe if she'd been stabbed..."

"What are you saying?" Jo asked. "You can give her a few extra minutes, but not enough to get her to a hospital or something?"

"Honey," Ellen rasped. "It's okay. The important thing here is killing the devil. So we go with Plan B."

"No!" Jo cried.

"No," Anna agreed. "Yes, I can buy her a few extra minutes. And I'll teleport her to the nearest hospital. They'll be able to do more for her than I can. With a hospital's treatment, she'll almost certainly recover."

She laid her hands on Ellen, and the older woman violently jolted. Immediately, there was more color in her cheeks, and her grimace was slightly less severe. Her leg twitched.

"Say your goodbyes quickly. She still needs a doctor," Anna said, going back to stand by Castiel. She was visibly drained, as if the small bit of healing she'd done had taken a lot out of her.

Jo went back to her mother and hugged her while Dean studied the two rogue angels. "So what's the deal? How come she can do the minor league healing and you can't?" he asked.

"Healing was my specialty. It was my most developed power, so I retained it. I was also higher up in the celestial order than Castiel was," Anna answered. "Good to see you too, Dean." She looked over at Jo, observing her for a moment. "So I take it that is the legendary Jo Harvelle?"

"How do you know who she is?" Sam asked.

She shrugged. "I had some downtime, so I read the books. I'm glad you two finally found each other. She'll be a great help to you in the days to come."

"And I'm guessing you don't want to elaborate on that?" Dean asked.

Anna smiled. "Of course not. Anyway, time runs short. I need to get Ellen out of here and into a hospital if she's going to make it. I'll stay there and help her as much as I can."

Once again, Jo backed away as Anna approached. The redhead looked around and met the eyes of everyone there. "Good luck," she said.

"Kick it in the ass for me," Ellen added. "And I'll see you lot after. Celebratory drinks on me." She smiled, and she and Anna disappeared.

Jo was shaken, but she struggled past it and joined the other three. "Okay, so what now? Cas, can you just zap us to...where did Bobby say he was going to be?"

"William Jasper's farm," Sam supplied.

"Yeah. There."

"No," Castiel replied. "I could, but...the hellhounds are still after us, and it won't take them long to run there if they know you're out. You said something about a bomb?"

"Yeah," Sam answered. "Ellen was going to wait for us to get to the roof and over to the next building, and then let the hounds in and blow them all to hell, herself with them."

The angel nodded. "It was a good plan. Noble. I like it." He looked at the three hunters. "You three escape. I'll blow the bomb."