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: IMO, there are worse things than dying in this particular 'verse. Thanks for reading and thank you to all who've taken the time to review!
Jo rolled over and stretched, blinking away the last vestiges of sleep to find Cas crouched beside her bed watching her. His expression was odd, one of so many mixed emotions that she could barely identify one before it had slipped into the next. She sat up, turning and swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.
"Jo, I've something to tell you."
She glanced at the clock, surprised to find that only a couple hours had passed since she'd left him preparing for that gathering he'd postponed. Odd in itself. Usually those lasted awhile. "Sure. What happened to your…orgy?"
"That's what I want to tell you and Dean won't like it."
Dean didn't like anything these days, especially if it had anything to do with her in any way. "Okay. Shoot."
He moved close, pushing so that his body was between her legs and he could slide his hands up her thighs to caress her hips as he spoke. "The Dean who will be your Dean is here. Now."
Running a hand through his hair, she scrutinized his expression. He didn't look any more stoned than usual. Had he tried another combination again? She was going to have to really talk to him about that soon instead of putting it off. "Cas." There were a lot of things she was going to have to do instead of put off.
"Dean's trying to keep it quiet about the other Dean, but I thought you should see him. Dean doesn't really want anyone to see Dean. I'm…ignoring his wishes this once."
She nodded. "Okay. Sweetheart, why don't you tell me what you took this time so I can get some sort of idea the kind of symptoms we're going to be riding out over the next few hours?"
Cas frowned, stared at her a moment, then ducked his head and chuckled. "Nothing save the usual. I guess I should be clearer. Do you remember Zachariah?"
"Never met him, but yeah. Douche bag angel with a penchant for nasty tricks to get his way? Dean mentioned him a few times." Usually with a few choice descriptive words before and after the name.
"Yes. He plucked Dean from '09 and set him down here. Your eventual Dean, Jo. Past Dean for us. Our Dean in the present is not…pleased to have him here. He's trying to keep the knowledge from spreading."
The news wasn't as surprising as it could have been. Jo had learned that a lot of things she'd not thought possible actually were, like time travel. Angels could make that happen.
Cas clasped her hands in his, squeezed them gently. "You should see him before he's gone. Remember the man Dean used to be."
She looked away, remembering Dean's words the previous week. Present Dean didn't want to see her. Would past Dean? She thought about '09, tried to remember what had happened that year and where they'd been in their relationship. Still dancing about each other, occasionally meeting on jobs or at Bobby's house. "Will he want to see me?"
He nodded. "I'm certain of it. Why wouldn't he? He has no knowledge of what's happened since '09. He only knows what he's seen since he's been here, which is not much at all. He's seen me and himself. I think he's seen Chuck and Risa. A little of the camp and our…world. He knows things are very different. I think he'd like to see you, especially since…." Cas kissed her knuckles.
"The changes in you aren't like the ones in Dean and myself. You're still very much you, even after everything that's happened."
Did she want to delve into the past? Wasn't it best left there?
"You'll see the difference immediately I think."
"Okay. Let me wash my face and brush my hair first."
His hands raised, cupped her face. "You're beautiful as you are. Radiant. Every time I like at you I think you're more beautiful than the last time I saw you. I don't know how you do it."
"It's not flattery if it's the truth," he told her, helping her off her bed. Within five minutes, he was leading her across the camp, giving her instructions in a low voice that was nearly a whisper. Things not to tell Past Dean and things she couldn't even allude to. There was so much she couldn't say that Jo wondered if there was anything at all that she could. "You'll only have a few minutes. I'll stay outside and keep watch for our Dean, distract him if it comes to that."
At the cabin where he was being kept, Jo stopped walking, drawing back a little. "Cas, I don't know if I can."
"Up the steps and inside. I'm right here if you need me."
Whirling, she drew up onto her tiptoes and kissed him. "Thank you for this."
"Go on. Go see Dean." He gave her a little gentle shove.
Jo went to the cabin door and inside. Dean was sitting in a chair, his boredom palpable in the air. "Hello, Dean."
He looked up, surprise and delight in his eyes, his lips curving into that easy grin she hadn't seen in a very long time. "Jo. I didn't know you were here." He stood up.
"How could you? I've been…busy elsewhere." She stayed at the door, not moving closer. Even from there, she could see the difference between him and the man he'd eventually become. "Cas said I should see you before you're gone. I'm glad I did. Reminds me of better days."
Seeing him made her yearn for the way things should have been and for the way things had been right after they'd first met, before life had gotten far too complicated. She blinked back tears, not willing for him to see her cry. He'd see a lot of it in later days and one day, he'd make her cringe and cower and not even care that he did so. That man he'd become.
"Don't." She held up a hand. "Just…don't." She could see he was dying to say something and smiled when he ignored her request.
"Relatively," she agreed. "Until something happens and I'm not. It's something of a hazard these days."
"I can't tell you how glad I am to see you alive here."
"Well, I'm glad to be alive." She was too. Despite it all, she was glad to be alive.
His gaze kept sliding over her, as though he was drinking in every little thing about her. "I think you look better than I've ever see you."
"Thanks." It was nice to hear him say that. Present Dean wouldn't, but Past Dean? In '09 he'd still been something of a sweetheart.
He slid his hands in his jacket pockets. "Um…how's Ellen? Is she here too?"
Jo considered how best to answer that without giving anything away that she shouldn't, finally settling on an answer she thought Cas would approve of. "She's in another location." It was truth to a point. "And…she's good as far as I know. It's been awhile since we've had contact." The latter was true, the former a hope she had. Jo hoped her mother was, as Cas had once put it, resting in the fields of the Lord and happy.
Dean sighed, relief on his features. His shoulder slumped a little. "I saw Bobby's chair, Jo, and you know it was all shot up. Um…to know that you and Ellen are alive and well here…."
She couldn't tell him the truth of Bobby's death; that Bobby had become infected and it had been Dean himself that had put those bullet holes there, unwilling to let that responsibility fall upon anyone else. He'd done it and Cas had once told her that Dean hadn't cried at all, at least not where anyone could see him.
So many things had shaped the bitter man he'd become. It was tempting to lay out all those things for him in the hope that he could change one of them when he went back and keep at least some of this from happening. It was so very tempting, but Jo refrained, holding her tongue when all she wanted to do was cling to him and tell him everything that had happened.
Cas didn't think anything she said would change anything, because it wasn't just Dean's choices involved in each case. It was the choices of all involved leading to this juncture. Had there ever been a single moment where Dean's choice could have stopped any of this?
He came to her, dragged her into a hug. The ghost scent of his aftershave brought back more than a few memories. In the beginning of their romantic relationship, things had been fairly good, if not what they'd expected. Jo embraced him in return, knowing full that she'd probably never have such an embrace ever again from him in this time.
Dean released her from the hug, but kept his hands on her arms. "So, since I'm apparently stringing along a couple women in this camp --"
"More actually," she told him. "Quite a few hearts broken over you."
"More." He shook his head. "Right. Should I take that to mean you and I…." He didn't finish the query and Jo laughed.
"I can't tell you that. You know I can't." She loosed herself from him altogether. "But I had to see you." In a weird way, she felt stronger, more like her old self -- that girl who'd chosen the life of a hunter and eventually suffered consequences for it.
"Glad you did."
There was a rap of knuckles on the door, Cas's voice telling her to hurry up, that he could see Dean coming and she had to go now. Jo opened the door, looking back at Dean a final time. "When you get back, do me a favor?"
"For you, always, Jo. Name it."
She drew in a sharp breath, her tears almost breaking free. For you, always. Very unfortunately not true. "Kick as much demon ass as you can."
"Oh, you know I will."
She hurried from the cabin and let Cas steer her out of their Dean's path.
Dean hated 2014. He hated everything about it. What he saw, heard, smelled…. Everything. He hated seeing what Cas had become and what he himself had become. But he was very glad to see Jo; grateful that Cas had brought her to see him; grateful that she at least didn't look changed. Save the tiny scar on her cheek and the healthy extra roundness to her limbs, of course. Where everything else looked terrible, Jo looked…beautiful. He'd always thought she was and now she seemed more so, though he supposed it could largely be due to his relief at seeing her alive in this time. She was safe and well and he was glad for it.
When he embraced her, he smelled perfume, felt her return the hug with no reservations, her body very warm against him. A million thoughts ran through his mind, things he wanted to ask her -- about herself and Ellen, about his future self, about future Cas. She wouldn't tell him anything, refusing with a regretful turn to her brow.
Dean supposed he understood. Still, he'd hoped to hear that he and Jo still got along in these days, that they were still friends if nothing else.
Too soon, she had to leave and he wondered right then why she had to sneak in to see him. Why did she avoid his future self?
It became obvious later that Jo apparently had nothing to do with the running of the camp. She was just a part of it like any other person, trying to live a life in chaos. Dean -- his future self -- ran everything, gave all the orders, and expected his orders to be obeyed. Maybe she had some other role in the camp? Maybe….
Dean committed her presence, and Ellen's elsewhere, to memory, one more detail about this time he'd remember. Jo and Ellen lived. Bobby died. Cas was a bitter, drugged up, sexed up apparent non-angel of sorts and Dean himself was a…what? A psychopath? A man obsessed? So far, he didn't much care for his future self.
There had to be a way to change all of this. There had to be. Surely this future wasn't set in stone?
Dean was fired up and ready to move. Not only was Dean aware that his plan was reckless, he was going to carry it out anyway. Cas knew he could stay behind. It wasn't like Dean was ordering him to go, but he'd feel better if he could have Dean's back like old times. He didn't want to go. There was no part of him that wanted to go, yet he knew Dean wanted him there.
He knew there was a good chance it was a trap of some sort. After all this time, the Colt passes by right when Lucifer will be conveniently near? Had to be a trap.
After telling all who needed to go that they were going and getting them started in preparation, Cas left Risa to oversee them. She was pissed enough at Dean that she could handle it all herself. When she was pissed, she could handle pretty much anything. He had a limited amount of time and one thing he had to do before they left.
He had to say goodbye to Jo.
Cas didn't dawdle, running to her cabin. The light was still on inside and he opened the door without knocking. There was no time to waste on pleasantries.
Jo stood from the bed. "Cas?"
"Come here." Cas pulled her into an urgent embrace, his mouth coming down hard on hers. He was desperate to have a final moment with her, his hands gripping her hips, squeezing.
Jo leaned back. "You've only got twenty minutes."
"Ten of those will work for me."
She nodded. "And me."
Jo wanted desperately to hold on to him, but knew he had to go on this foolish quest of Dean's. She laid on her bed, watching him dress. "He even have a plan?"
He drew his shirt on, fingers working the buttons. "Walk in and kill Lucifer. Straight up the drive."
"Reckless. I gave that objection."
There was no way he wasn't going to go. Jo knew she could plead all she liked, but if Dean wanted him to go, he'd go, and Dean wanted him to go, whether it had been said or not. "Stupid." She could see the knowledge of that in his eyes. He knew it was all of those things.
He leaned over, kissing her once more, hand slipping down to caress her breasts. "Hold down the fort?"
Jo brushed his hair back from his brow. Her fingers shook. "Of course. Don't I always?"
He chuckled, gave her a last caress and pulled the sheet up over her, carefully tucking it about her. "That's my girl. Get some sleep. Love you."
For just a few seconds, he was that same Castiel who'd long ago invited her into his cabin and his life. "Love you too." When he reached the door, Jo sat up. "Cas," she called, but when he turned, she didn't know how to say it. She opened her mouth. "I…."
Jo wanted to blurt it out, to tell him before he left her cabin, but she couldn't seem to form the words.
From outside, came a voice calling him, telling him it was time.
"Jo, I have to go." His brows rose and, when she didn't say anything, he nodded, and left.
Jo laid back down and tried to will the hours to pass, praying that he'd come back to her in one piece, yet knowing he probably wouldn't come back at all.
On the second day, Jo went to supplies, taking note of each worried face as she passed the people, surprised when some even asked her if there was a recon plan yet. And then she remembered that Dean hadn't told anyone that she'd quit. He'd just ignored it, focused on finishing his task of killing Lucifer, so intent that he'd not told the camp that Jo was no longer the one to go to in his absence. She wondered who had reminded them Dean's second was supposed to be her. Jim maybe? Chuck?
She gave non-answers and perused the shelves with a practiced eye, looking for the pregnancy tests she knew were there. Finding one, she took it to Chuck.
"I'm taking this from the shelves," she told him.
He looked at the box and nodded. "Shouldn't you have taken that a couple months ago," he ventured.
Jo sighed and nodded. "I probably should have that day you tried to diagnose me."
"You think you are?"
"I know I am. I just need a confirmation."
"You still having…um…your…" He shrugged, still hesitant to say it and Jo shook her head. Chuck really was endearing beneath it all.
"No, I haven't been. Like I said, I just really need a confirmation of what I already know and what apparently everyone else already knew." Tears gathered in her eyes and she wiped them away. "I should have taken it before, Chuck. I should have taken it and told him before he left and now I'll never get that chance to --"
He came around the desk and took hold of her arms. "You don't know that, Jo." He glanced at the door, then back into the cabin, his voice dropping in pitch. "It's only been two days."
"Listen to yourself. It's only been two days? Chuck, it's been two days. They'd be back if they'd succeeded, if any of them were still alive and in any condition to come back. They're gone. You know it and I know it and I have to take this test so I can deal with being pregnant and having to take charge of an entire camp of people because I promised Dean I would. I promised him I'd take care of them and I have to get myself together enough to do that, so can you go get Maggie for me? If you can't find her, then Alexis will do, but I'd really like Maggie if it's not too much trouble."
Cas and Dean were gone. Risa was gone. The entire team that had gone out with Dean was gone. Jo knew it and she also knew she had to take some sort of action to confirm it. She let herself focus on that and not on the loss itself. Planning would calm her. Planning would make her feel better, as though she could do something when she knew she could really do nothing.
But first things first.
Maggie arrived with Alexis in tow and they headed for Cas's cabin so Jo could take the test in relative privacy. Alexis kept watch at the door to the cabin, keeping the young women Cas had been friendly with away, while Maggie tidied the cabin itself, both there to support her.
It took all of her courage to go into the bathroom and pee on that little stick and then she paced, holding it, watching the lines appear, dark and solid with no room for doubt. She started to cry, letting herself be drawn into Maggie's arms and held.
"It's okay," Maggie soothed, guiding her to the bed and moving so that Jo was hidden behind one of the curtains there.
"It's not. Maggie, he didn't know. I was stupid about it."
"Maybe it's better he didn't. You know he'd have Dean's back out there if he could and if he'd stayed behind because of this, Dean might not have even had a fighting chance. Cas can be fierce when he needs to be."
"But if he'd stayed, he'd be here."
Maggie didn't argue.
Jo got the regret as purged from her system as she could and still do the job that had been entrusted to her. Once Jo pulled herself together, she asked that Jim, Chuck, and a couple other of the trusted men join her there. They had planning to do.
The plan they decided upon was a simple reconnaissance mission heading in the direction Dean's team had gone. They'd go as far as they could without risking themselves intentionally. Meaning, if they went into a heavily Croat infested area, they'd turn around and declare the original mission a failure. No sense in getting themselves killed too, but she had to do something. The camp expected it.
Jo chose Jim to lead in her absence. She'd always gotten along well with him and he knew how to take orders, not caring that she was a woman, just that the orders were sound. If he didn't like something, he'd say so. He'd be a good leader if something happened to her. Then she asked Chuck to continue making his supply lists and for Maggie and Alexis to listen to the concerns of the people in the camp. Write out the concerns and bring them back to Jo so that each one could be addressed.
She chose Nate, of exquisite coffee brewing fame, and his friend Lee to go with her in search of Dean's team, with a promise to Jim that when they returned, if Dean wasn't with them, she'd sit down with him and evaluate Dean's policies. They'd change anything that might need changing. The three man team armed themselves well enough to attack a third-world country and, on the third day, they headed out.
They'd only gone a couple hours when they came upon bodies in the road, covered by a tarp. The tarp had a long rope tied to one end, trailing towards the direction they'd come from.
"A trap?" Nate cocked a brow, putting the truck in park.
"Maybe." Jo searched the area with binoculars and saw nothing suspicious. "Lee, step out and pull that tarp away."
Beneath the tarp was their lost team. Dean, Cas Risa…. All of them. The entire team laid out nice and neat in a row.
"What the flippin' hell," Nate whispered.
Jo eased from the truck. "Check the area. Be careful."
She walked to the bodies, noting that although all but Dean were shot up, they were in very good condition. There was no stink of decomposition, nor were flies and bugs crawling on them. Someone was keeping them preserved. She looked around, not seeing anything out of place. The entire area was open. There wasn't even any tall grass or deep ditch for anyone to hide. No buildings and the only trees were skinny ones with few leaves on them.
I'm not going to cry, she told herself. I knew they were gone.
Her promise slipped when she crouched down beside Cas's body. Jimmy's body that Cas had been in. Jimmy and Cas's. She started to count the bullet holes and stopped when she realized there were over twenty riddling his chest and stomach, that shirt he'd liked so much dark and stiff from the blood. Stretching out her hand, she touched his face, ran her thumb along lips that had kissed her three days earlier and sighed.
Even knowing the mission was foolish, he'd still gone. He'd followed Dean to the death.
Jo closed her eyes at the familiar voice behind her.
"I was beginning to think you didn't care."
She reopened her eyes, turned on the balls of her feet, and slowly stood. "Lucifer."
He slid his hands into the pockets of his impossibly white suit. "Hello Jo. It's been a long time."
Though she'd been prepared for this, seeing Sam this way hurt. The last time she'd seen him had been when they'd defeated War years earlier. He'd left Dean's company after that, never to return as himself.
"Don't worry," he soothed. "I'm alone. I'm not here to kill you or your little reconnaissance team. In fact, they don't know I'm here. It's just you and I for a little while, mourning our loss together."
"Yes." He nodded, a pleasant dip of his head. "Like I mentioned. I've been waiting for you, keeping them fresh. There's nothing worse than trying for closure while having to look at the decomposing, stinking sacks of flesh that were your loved ones." He stepped around the bodies so that he was facing her across the line of them. "You lost your lover and friends, Sam lost his brother, and I lost one of mine. Despite his human affiliation at the end, Castiel was family to me. Not close, of course. There was a long line of brothers and sisters between us, but I did know him somewhat."
Jo felt dirty when his gaze swept over her.
"I thought about offering to bring Castiel back for you. I can do that, you know. Just pluck him from death and return him and his vessel's soul to that body. Has to be both of them. They're rather intertwined now, more one than two, fused together. But…. I decided not to. You and I both know how much he hated being human. He despised the limitations forced upon him." He sighed, long and loud. "If only he'd taken my offers. I sent Meg to give him an out and he refused. He took the human end."
"I'd never agree to have you bring him back anyway. It'd make me indebted to you and I think I know better than to do that."
He managed to look wounded by her words. "An offer of peace from my heart, Jo. I'm aghast that you'd think I'd want something for returning the father of your child to you. It's a shame he didn't know about that baby he put in you." His stare lowered to her belly. "You're in your fourth month, right? Nearly your fifth? The spotting is gone now, along with the nausea and exhaustion. You had it so terribly bad, you poor woman. How sad that Castiel will never know. And sad for you as well not to have the father of your baby there to share the experience with."
"That's just how it is."
"You should have told him. He would have had such wonder in it. I can picture him putting his cheek to your belly, smiling when a little foot or hand presses against him…."
"What do you really want, because I don't believe you want to mourn. To gloat, maybe?"
"Most of your friends suspected, Jo. Didn't you wonder why Dean quit looking at you and when he did, he stared at your stomach? He thought you were being irresponsible and childish, selfishly keeping your state to yourself. Didn't you also wonder why they kept trying to lead you towards the subject of children? I'm all for willful ignorance, because it's good for my cause, but you took it to a masterful level. I applaud you for that. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, honey."
Jo hugged herself, wishing he'd get to the point. If he wasn't going to kill her, then what did he really want?
"I have to ask though. Is the end of the world really the best time to have a baby? I mean think about it. You'll get to experience the wonder of childbirth, the sensation of your helpless baby nursing at your breast, getting his nourishment from you…but not the terrible years of talking back, the hard task of disciplining first a toddler, then eventually an adolescent and teenager alone." His smile was gentle. "Oops. Did I just let the cat out of the bag? I did, didn't I? I'm so sorry, Jo, I can't keep this from you. It's very exciting."
She took a few steps back towards the truck. Nate and Lee still searched on either side of the road, unaware of the Lucifer's presence.
"You're having a boy, Jo." He clapped his hands together in mock glee. "Any names come to mind? You could name him Castiel Jr., or maybe William or Anthony for your father or…. I know." He snapped his fingers. "You could name him Sam. Or Luc. What do you think? Luc Harvelle. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? After all, it is due to my influence that you're going to be a mother at all."
"You have absolutely nothing to do with my pregnancy."
"I beg to differ. It's because of the threat of me that Castiel disobeyed to begin with and then he kept on making those choices to bring him, well, ultimately here, but to you. Because of me, my Croats, your mother made that call and you let Dean take you to his camp. And you did choose to have sex with Castiel and continue to do so. Pregnancy is a possible consequence of that, so with all of that in mind -- his choices, your choices, and my actions are all entangled. It's almost like I did cause your pregnancy when you look at it that way."
He was likeable in a strange way, she realized, calm and focused, behaving like they were friends having a long overdue chat.
"Sam says hello, by the way, or he would if his mind wasn't shredded. He'd also say congratulations on the rugrat." He snapped his fingers again. "I almost forgot. You might want to prepare Maggie for the birth, get her to read up on procedures and save some of Castiel's drugs back for you. She'll be a good midwife. Have Jim there to hold you down. You're having a big boy. I'm not saying you can't take the pain, because you can, but it'd be best to have that option to take the edge off. With over twenty pounds of baby on the way, you might feel more than the average amount of discomfort in the birth."
"You're lying. It's what you do. You lie."
"Do I? Are you so sure of that?" His head tilted a fraction to the left. "Have I mentioned the wings yet," he mused, glance turning to the sky a moment before returning to her. "Sometimes the angel human babies have partially formed wings on their backs that are visible due to the human DNA. He'll have the ridges. Didn't you realize?"
"Realize what?" He was talkative, much more so than she'd expected Lucifer to be. But then, this was his time to gloat and tell her just how bad it was going to get, wasn't it?
"That even though Castiel lost his powers, he was still, technically, an angel, with all of the supernatural changes remaining to Jimmy Novak's body. Angel sperm, human egg…." His brows raised and he waited.
Jo returned the gesture and he seemed almost disappointed that she didn't make the connection he wanted her to. When he spoke, she heard a trace of irritation in his voice.
"Nephilim, Jo. Half breeds. Part angel, part human. Giants. That's why your baby will be big."
His eyes narrowed. "Your child will be the first one in a very long time."
"How nice," she managed to reply in an unconcerned tone.
"You'll be healthy and so will he. I guarantee you'll have no more physical troubles the rest of these months. As for his size at birth, the Guinness Book would be calling you if they were still printing." He crossed his arms, now visibly annoyed that she wasn't reacting the way he wanted. "Maybe it's just as well Castiel is dead. He would have known what your pregnant state meant for him in eventual judgment. Hell, Jo. It means he goes downstairs, to be worked over like anyone else."
"Why would I lie? There's no reason for mistruths, is there? I suppose I could lie if you wish me to. Would you rather?" He cocked a brow. "No, I didn't think so." He paced a short while, then turned back to her. "You'll live to the very end, Jo Harvelle. I promise you that. I'm going to save you for last. You and your half-breed child. I'll take care of you personally. So go home to your camp. Rest up, sharpen that little knife Dean gave you, and wait for me. I'll be seeing you in about…oh…two years. Two years to live, to watch, to fear…to suffer." Facing her, he gave her a pleasant cheerful smile. "Be seeing you."
He was gone in a blink, as though he'd never been there, and when Jo looked down, the bodies on the ground were decomposing, covered with flies and bugs, the stench driving her back.
Nate and Lee returned, helping her to salt and burn the bodies. They stood, the three of them in a line, watching the flames consume their friends. Dean, Castiel, Risa. The entire team. As they watched, Jo put her hands over her stomach.
Two years, he'd said. Two years to watch everyone around her die and wait to meet him again. Wait for him to come collect her and her baby himself. In a way, a fate far worse than death.
It was time once more to be strong and to fulfill that promise she'd made to Dean.
"Okay, let's pack it up and head back. There's nothing more for us here."
She watched the bodies in the side mirror as they drove off.
Soon, they rounded a curve and were gone.
Jo didn't look back again.