Title: Blood and Anesthetic
Summary: In the end, Jo Harvelle was tired of being strong. She wanted someone to be strong for her and someone to love her. It wasn't necessarily the same man. Castiel/Jo
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: My plot bunnies liked the bleak future world in 'The End'. Please be patient for new chapters. I'll do my best to update at least weekly.
She hadn't spoken in three days.
Dean Winchester led Jo Harvelle into the camp dining hall and directed her towards the tall urns at one end of the room. One had coffee, the other hot water. Beside the water urn was a wide selection teas. Dean had been surprised at the number of people who actually drank tea. Chuck tried to keep the shelves well-stocked.
Jo looked up at him and crossed her arms, as though she expected him to say something more, but after a long moment, she walked down the center aisle between the tables and made herself a cup of tea. Since when did she drink tea? Dean remembered her drinking coffee -- black, two sugars.
Turning, Dean went to confer with Chuck rather than spend more time in silence with Jo. He'd had enough of that already. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her take her cup to an empty table and sit.
Chuck gestured at Jo. "How is she?"
"She saw her mom being torn apart while still alive. That's how she is." Lowering his voice, he took the clipboard from Chuck's hands and pretended to look it over. "I had to drag her away, Chuck. She kept trying to run back even as Ellen quit screaming and I couldn't let go of her. I couldn't because I'd promised I wouldn't. Ellen made me promise that if anything happened to her, I'd get Jo to safety, so I did." He stared at the paper on the clipboard, not seeing any of the writing on it. "Jo hasn't said a word since she stopped screaming for Ellen, but I can still hear her screaming for her mom. The panic and anguish…."
Ellen had made a split-second decision that had cost her her life. Dean didn't think he'd ever forget the look on her face once she'd made that decision. She'd known she was going to die and that it was going to be more painful than anything she'd ever experienced, but as long as Jo would be safe, she'd do it. Her expression was seared into his mind, one more face he'd see in his nightmares for the rest of his life.
"Can she talk? I mean…did it mess with her head?" He took the clipboard back.
Dean eyed her a long moment. Jo was less than her usual put together self. Her long hair was loose and limp about her face, the clothes she wore stained with dirt, blood, and dark streaks of grease. There was a tear along one sleeve of her blouse. She'd wiped her face sometime during those three days they'd traveled, but there was still a smear of something along her left cheekbone. Dirt maybe? She was sane, though. He could see it in her eyes. Whatever this not talking thing was, it was temporary. "She's grieving. Jo's tough. She'll bounce back."
He wanted her to bounce back. He wanted to look at her and see the same Jo that had socked him in the eye and pursued the hunting life with all of the not so inconsiderable determination in her slender body. With all of his body and soul, Dean wanted a past neither of them could go back to.
The door opened. Castiel sauntered through, pausing right inside to take note of all in the room. His two fingered salute in Dean's direction was just jaunty enough to convey his altered state of consciousness. He moved to Jo's table and slid into the chair beside her with that boneless grace he had from being high most of the time. Some people got clumsy, some hungry…Cas however, moved with an elegance most people never achieved.
Most people weren't former angels.
He watched Cas talk to her and was relieved that he wouldn't have to take care of her. Castiel would work his sensitive new age male crap and she'd be fine again in no time. Frankly, he'd dreaded the attention Jo was going to need, because he knew full well he couldn't give it to her. Dean couldn't be anyone's emotional anchor. Not anymore.
"You still love her?"
Dean crossed his arms. Of course Chuck would know that he'd loved Jo. "Not that way. Not anymore." He didn't elaborate. If Chuck's visions had given out before Dean's relationship with Jo after Sam fell, then Dean wasn't about to enlighten him. As much as he cared for Jo, the two of them hadn't been a good fit together, not like they'd both hoped. All they'd done was argue and make-up, a vicious circle neither of them had expected. "Not for a long time."
As soon as Castiel heard that Dean had returned and only brought Jo Harvelle with him, he made his way across the camp to the dining hall. He sat beside her, careful of her personal space. That was one lesson he'd learned well over years of knowing Dean. It was important to respect personal space unless given permission to ignore it.
"Jo. We met before." Their meetings had consisted mostly of 'hello' in the doorway of Dean's motel room as Cas left to give them time alone. They'd never had much in the way of real conversation between them in those days. He'd gotten to know her mother far better than he knew Jo.
She looked at him. After a moment, she nodded, recognition in her eyes. It was understandable it took her a minute. He'd changed a lot since then.
"I'm Castiel, remember? Cas to my friends."
Another nod. Her brows rose and she gripped the steaming mug of tea with both hands, raising it to inhale the fragrance of orange and spices. She must like her tea strong, for he could smell it from his place beside her. Chuck tried hard to keep that flavor stocked. It was a favorite among the tea drinkers.
"Would you mind if I spent some time with you over the next few days? Maybe show you around and help you get oriented?"
One shoulder shrugged, Jo sipping the tea. She looked like she was trying desperately to suggest that she didn't care what he did or didn't do. Cas decided she had to feel adrift, frightened. Perhaps relying on whatever bravado was left inside her to get by.
"You don't have to talk if you don't want to, Jo. Sometimes a lot can be said without using our voices." Catching Dean's eye, he gave a tiny nod. Jo Harvelle needed someone and it certainly wasn't going to be Dean. He didn't have the time or patience to deal with her, not with all of his other responsibilities. Cas tried not to think too much about the change in Dean over the past months. It caused him nearly as much pain as his own circumstances so he consciously pushed it aside.
Over the next fifteen minutes, he talked to her, telling her about the compound as she drank her tea. He didn't tell her the rules, not yet. There'd be time for that later. Instead, he told her other things, like the group dining hours and the entertainment opportunities that were supposed to keep up camp morale; day-to-day activities they all engaged in in an attempt to deny the truth of their coming future demise. When they'd established the camp, with Bobby and a few others, it had been Dean who insisted on pieces of normality, clinging to them like lifelines he couldn't let go of. Others had grasped those pieces, shaped them into what they were today.
In those minutes, he determined that the best thing for Jo was attention almost exclusively focused on her. For a couple weeks at least. Not a problem but a pleasure. Cas had discovered a deep appreciation for women. Each was beautiful, talented, unique. A wonder of creation. Jo deserved attention. He wanted to give it to her and make her realize just how special she was.
"You can stay in my cabin tonight," he offered, "and as long as you want or need to." It wasn't an offer brimming with salacious thoughts, merely one based upon her emotional needs. Jo Harvelle needed someone to listen to her; to hold her while she grieved, and give her a sense of closeness during this time. He'd do all that if she let him.
Jo quirked a brow, clearly conveying her reservations about that suggestion.
Castiel crossed his arms on the tabletop and grinned. "So that must be a 'thank you for that offer, Cas, it's very generous.' To which I reply, 'it is generous, Jo, and heartfelt. You need a place to stay and I have the room.' Besides, I hate to say it, but some of our people at present aren't that friendly. Their attention, in the face of what happened to you recently and your known prior relationship with Dean, will be," he flicked his gaze along her, "uncomfortable for you, to put it in delicate terms." Dean's women, in other words, were a jealous, catty, sometimes violent bunch who'd take advantage of Jo's circumstances to do something they'd probably all regret later. "You'll be safe from their scrutiny with me. I will keep my hands to myself, if that worries you."
Her glance went to Dean, the sadness in her eyes betraying the aching in her heart. She still cared for Dean. Too bad. It'd be better for all concerned if she didn't.
"You shouldn't bear this alone. Let me help." He wondered what was going through her mind, but being human didn't give him the easy way of knowing. He'd have to wait for her to share her thoughts.
Across the room, Dean gave a last fleeting look their way, then left.
Cas watched hurt and anger cross Jo's features when Dean didn't come to their table. She swallowed hard. To stave off tears, maybe? A moment later, she nodded.
"You accept the invitation," he guessed.
"Then we should go get you settled so you can rest for awhile." He stood, taking her empty cup in hand and showing her where to put it before leading her out of the building.
There was no door on his cabin. Jo stepped through the bead strands and wondered what he'd do when the weather got colder. To one side, she saw a small bathroom, little more than a closet and obviously added on a long time after the cabin was built. It, thankfully, had a door.
He indicated it with the languid motion of one hand. "The shower is small, the water merely warm, but it should be enough to refresh you. Leave your clothes outside the door. They'll be taken to be cleaned and mended. There should be plenty of towels. Feel free to use the soap and shampoo that are there. I'll wait outside."
Going into the bathroom, Jo shut the door and looked at her reflection in the small mirror above the sink. Her eyes were wide and she could see her fear clearly. Time would tell if she'd made the right decision in letting Dean bring her here. Their journey here hadn't been an easy one, but not for the reason people would think. Making their way through croat infested areas hadn't been the problem. The problem was Dean. He was hardly the man she remembered anymore, making no attempt to touch or comfort her in any way during their drive, as though doing so would be ridiculous. The drive had been awkward, filled with tension, Jo crying as silently as she could in the passenger seat. All the while, she'd expected him to say something like he once would have or hold her, yet he never did.
She winced as she undressed, feeling the pull of misused muscles. There were purple bruises on her body, with only faint yellowing at the edges. Some were from where Dean had gripped her and some from their escape. That they were still dark three days later told her how badly she'd been bruised. The initial bruises must have been black. No wonder she hurt all over.
Hopefully the shower would help with that.
The water was lukewarm, as Castiel had warned her, just a step above cold, yet after nearly a week without bathing, it felt heavenly. She did use the toiletries available, uncaring that the soap had a masculine scent. The stall was so small that she wondered how Cas managed, since he was taller than she was.
When she stepped out, she felt a bit better.
Dean sat on the bench, hands gripping the edge of it. He could hear the water in the bathroom running. Only a few of the larger cabins had full private bathrooms, tiny rooms barely large enough for a toilet, sink, and shower. The rest of the cabins didn't. Both he and Cas had snagged cabins with bathrooms. He wondered if Jo appreciated it. After a few weeks of the communal bathrooms, he thought she might. "She hasn't slept much, so if you can get her to…."
He'd wanted so badly to reach out and touch her in the car, to drag her against him and cry for Ellen like she did. But to do that would release a torrent of emotions he didn't think he could face. It had been best not to touch her at all. Let it all stay buried deep inside, so deep it'd never surface.
He watched Castiel hand off a basket of clothes to…what was that girl's name? Alexis?…and give her directions.
"These need washed and mended. She has nothing else to wear, so if you or Melanie could pick out a few things for her…. Provided you agree to that, Dean?"
"Sure. Whatever Jo needs or likes is fine." There hadn't been time to find Ellen's truck and collect Jo's belongings. It'd been all he could do to drag her away before the horde of croat infected people caught them as well as Ellen. A fine payback that would have been for Ellen, after she'd deliberately given them time to run. He cleared his throat, waiting until the girl was gone. "She also hasn't eaten much --" By rights she should be fainting from hunger, yet somehow Jo pushed on.
"I'll take care of her, Dean."
"I know you will, Cas." He nodded. Cas understood what Jo needed, he could see that already. Uncertain what else to say, he left Jo to Cas. She'd be in good hands with him.
She had to be.
Opening the bathroom door, Jo peered out. She was wrapped in only a large towel and there didn't appear to be any robe nearby that she could put on. By the doorway to the outside, two women were talking with Castiel, their voices low. His reply, however, was clear.
"I'm sure Jo will appreciate your generosity. Both of you. Maybe tomorrow she'll be up to meeting a few people."
One of the pretty young women glanced her way and smiled. Jo ducked back into the bathroom until she heard his voice again.
"You can come out, Jo. They're gone."
Looking into the room, she clutched the towel tighter, glad it was a bath sheet that covered her and not a regular sized towel.
"Come out." He beckoned her with one hand. "There are a few things here for you."
Laid out on his bed were clothes and a makeup bag. The bag was bright pink and plastic, of the sort that had once been given away as part of several cosmetic manufacturer 'gift with purchase' sales.
"Melanie did some shopping for you in clothing acquisition. Dean already signed off on whatever you'd like, special permission. There'll be some jealousy for that from other women, just so you know. Clothing is one thing we haven't raided extensively for yet. Most have been making do with what they brought with them and our focus has been on food and weapons. We'll raid for clothes soon though I think. Chuck would know." Cas indicated each item. "Underwear, socks, a pair of jeans, one blouse, one long sleeve t-shirt, and a jacket. Alexis took your other clothes to be cleaned and repaired. If anything here doesn't fit you or you don't like any of it, you can exchange it later."
Off to one side was a small pile of silky emerald green fabric and a tiny glass bottle with a flower shaped stopper. Jo clutched the towel tighter to her body, suddenly wondering if she'd been too hasty in accepting his offer. Did her stay here have conditions attached to it? With Dean, Jo would have just assumed he had some ideas. Castiel though? She didn't know.
The bag was unzipped, opened. Inside were trial-sized toiletry items. "These should get you started if you ration carefully. There's a raid planned on a super Walmart in a week or two. Tell Chuck if there's anything in particular you'd like and he'll try to have his team get it for you."
Her attention returned to the fabric and bottle. She was getting the feeling that he wasn't the same man…angel…she'd met before. While still quiet, he had an appealing air about him. "And those?" She indicated both items.
His smile was pleased. "Those are gifts. You're the same size as Alexis, so she'd like you to accept her favorite chemise." Scooping up the fabric, he shook it out for her to see. It was a basic spaghetti strap, mid-thigh, bias cut design, with lace at the hem and embroidery along the neckline. "She worked the embroidery herself."
Her brows rose. Okay then…. "I can't take that or wear it. I'm more of a cotton p.j. girl." Speaking of p.j.'s…. There weren't any. What was she supposed to wear to sleep in?
"It's an offering of love from her heart. She's welcoming you to the camp. Alexis is a very warm, welcoming young woman. If you want a friend here, she'd be a good one."
Reluctantly, Jo took the chemise, dropping it beside the bag.
"The other gift is from Melanie. Perfume."
"I don't wear perfume." It was best not to when out on a hunt. Perfume could give a person away. Jo hadn't worn perfume since…never. The closest she'd come were those scent imitation body sprays.
His smile faded. "You've an excuse for everything. Take the gifts and tell them 'thank you' when you meet them."
"You said some of the people here aren't friendly," she pointed out. "Seem friendly to me so far."
"You know what I meant by that, Jo."
Yeah, she did. Dean's women. She ended up taking the perfume as well, dumping it in the bag with the toiletries. Through the window, she could see it was getting dark out. Her stomach rumbled with hunger and she retightened the towel about her, very aware she was half naked. "I should stay somewhere else."
"Most people here have heard your name and know who you are. It's no secret you and Dean had a relationship and there'll be speculation that your relationship is going to continue here. Even if you deny it, it'll incite jealousy. The fastest way to diffuse it is for you to stay with me a couple days." He sat on the bedside. "You'll be safe here. Now, do you feel up to a group meal? If not, we can make a tray and bring it back here. No one will mind and if we go soon, you won't have to see many people at all."
Was she ready to meet more of the camp? No. What she wanted was to crawl under the bed covers and hide for weeks. Jo wasn't up to the emotionally draining task of meeting new people. "I don't want to see anyone."
"A tray here it is then. Do you feel up to getting dressed? I've a robe you could wear if you don't."
"I'm not stepping outside in just a robe," she protested.
"I do it all the time."
"I'll get dressed."
Getting up, he moved towards the doorway. "I'll wait outside again."
The clothes fit well and Jo was dressed in minutes, ready for the trek back to the dining hall. All the way there and inside the building, she was aware of the women present watching her. Their jealous stares seared through her, their hostility high. It seemed Castiel was right about that. She suspected a couple of them would as soon shove a knife in her back as look at her. Not a pleasant sensation.
Would she have even noticed if he hadn't warned her? Maybe not. This camp was supposed to be a safe place. She would have assumed safety for herself.
They ate their food sitting on the couch in his cabin.
"That was worse than I thought," she admitted, shoving imitation mashed potatoes about her plate, mixing them with what had to be formerly powdered gravy and canned green beans. "Some of them hate me already."
"Wait a few days. Dean's aware of the potential trouble."
"Is he?" She watched him rip open several small packets and douse the meatloaf with a liberal application of ketchup.
"He is. There's a current dearth of available men, so…."
"You're available," Jo pointed out. "Sure some of those looks weren't because I was with you?"
His laugh held something besides amusement, but she couldn't figure out what that something was. "I'm very sure. There's a reason I can say that, but I'm not going to explain it tonight. Maybe tomorrow. The reason can wait."
"I'm intrigued." Though she waited for more, he refused to tell her. Finally, she gave up on the conversation and the meal, setting her plate back on the tray and looking around the cabin for clues as to the sort of man he'd become. Candles, gong, statue. Some worn paperback books stacked on one chest. Nothing that really told her anything at all.
When he offered to make them some cocoa to go with the cookies that had been served with the meal, Jo accepted. It had been a very long time since she'd relaxed with cocoa and cookies. She'd probably been eleven or twelve at the time, sitting in the Roadhouse after school with her homework spread out on one table, her mom telling her she couldn't have any more cookies until after dinner, and their server Wendy slipping her two more cookies when Ellen wasn't looking. Jo had liked Wendy, but one day the woman hadn't shown up for work. She remembered her mother taking a call from someone that said Wendy was hurt, dying in an emergency room hundreds of miles from her family. Jo barely remembered the drive to the hospital, though she did remember her mother sitting in a chair at Wendy's side, holding her hand right up to that last breath.
Raising a hand, she wiped at her cheeks and the tears that had slipped silently down them. Her mother had been the emergency contact for more people over the years than Jo probably ever knew about.
Jo got up, accepting Castiel's invitation to pile the pillows behind her back and sit on the bed.
Dean stood by one window in his cabin, ignoring the woman getting dressed behind him. His attention was on Castiel's cabin and the fact that he could see Jo through the open curtains. She was sitting on the bed, drinking something.
From behind him came a miffed sniff and he sighed impatiently, glancing over his shoulder. "What, Tracy? What now?"
"It's Terri," she reminded him, throwing his pillow at him. "You should remember it. You said it not ten minutes ago."
Reluctantly, he turned from the window to face her. "What do you want?"
She looked out the window, lips tightening. "Nothing, Dean. I don't want anything. And for the record, you're not getting anything ever again."
He didn't watch her flounce out in a huff, which undoubtedly would have made her madder if she'd noticed. Instead, he turned back to Castiel's cabin. Jo was still sitting, illuminated by the many candles Cas kept lit in the evenings. More than once, Castiel claimed that candlelight gave the world a softer edge, dulled the harshness of their current reality to something a bit more palatable. He saw Cas pacing, hands moving like they did sometimes when he was telling a story. Maybe he was telling her a story, Dean decided. Had to pass time somehow.
How long did he stand staring at them, his own cabin plunged into darkness as night descended upon the camp? How long did he look at Jo there across the clearing and ache to be the man he couldn't be, the sort of man Cas had become? In another time, another place, another lifetime…. Damned if that wasn't their story right there.
Cas would heal her. He'd help her regain herself. He had to.
Even after Castiel drew the curtains closed, Dean kept his attention there. It wasn't until the lights were extinguished that he went to bed.
The cocoa he'd made was good, the sweet orange the perfect foil for the bitterness of the dark chocolate. Jo sipped and listened to him tell her about some of the raids they'd been on. He made them a comedy of errors for her, making much of his own learning curve on humanity. Somewhere during the stories, he closed the curtains, but kept on talking as he did so. His voice was soothing, sliding in pleasant cadence in the air about her and Jo drank the dregs of the cocoa, setting her over-sized mug down.
She was sleepy, so very sleepy. All she wanted was to lie down, stretch out on the bed and close her eyes. Leaning back on her hands, she rolled her head on her neck, trying to pay attention to what he was saying and finding it difficult. She blinked, frowning a little. Her vision was a bit fuzzy. Sitting back up, Jo put a hand to her forehead. Her head started whirling as though she'd had too much to drink. "What did you give me," she demanded, interrupting him.
"Something to relax you," was his prompt reply.
"No." She tried to get up and couldn't, the dizziness increasing when she attempted to stand. Jo sat down heavily on the bed, gripping the edge of the mattress and shaking her head. "Oh no…."
"I apologize for the subterfuge regarding the cocoa. Dean said you haven't slept much in three days. You need rest. It's the best thing for you." He got up from his position on the floor and opened one trunk, removing some folded fabric from it. "Again I apologize for that and for the awkwardness of the next few moments. I'm going to undress you to make you more comfortable while you sleep."
I'm helpless, she thought. I can't stay awake.
Pinpricks of panic escalated to slashes up and down her body. The 'fight or flight' urge was there, but there was nothing she could do about it. There was no fight or flight available to her.
The need to simply close her eyes and sleep was overwhelming. Jo fought it with every ounce of will inside her. Still, her eyes kept slipping shut. If she slept, she'd be even more helpless and he could do anything to her.
"I know you're afraid, but your fears are groundless. If I'd wanted to rape you, Jo, or hurt you in any way, I could have at any point this afternoon and evening. You know that's truth."
Was that supposed to be a comforting thought?
"Besides, do you really think Dean would leave you with someone who'd harm you?"
He crouched down in front of her, undoing the buttons of the blouse and slipping it from her. Jo's eyes closed. Her head felt heavy. When she opened her eyes again, she discovered her head on his shoulder, one of his hands stroking her hair. After a moment, he eased her back, slipping a t-shirt over her head and working her arms into the sleeves. It was big on her, obviously a man's shirt. One of his?
Carefully, he laid her back onto the bed. Jo stared at the ceiling, blinking slowly, barely able to even roll her head to one side while he stripped the jeans from her. With gentle hands, he shifted her so that her head was on the pillows, then pulled the covers up over her. "Go to sleep, Jo. You're safe."
Jo succumbed to sleep.