Notes: Yeah. First attempt at SPN fanfic. The world decidedly needs more Ellen fics. This didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to, but I had fun writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
I am a shippy person. I tried to keep this gen, but I might have not achieved that. I guess it can be read either way. Insert your own ideas here.
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or any of its characters. I also don't own Shania Twain's album Up! Well I own a copy of it. But you can't have it. The title comes from a Sara Bareilles song, "Love on the Rocks." You can't have my copy of that CD either.
Setting: Somewhere in season 4, after "Yellow Fever" but I don't think there are any spoilers past season 2.
Ties That Won't Bind
Jo had picked a Shania Twain CD for the drive and Ellen hadn't argued. She hadn't argued when Jo had insisted on driving to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to check out some suspicious events, even though it was most likely nothing—it had been nothing. Ellen hadn't argued when they checked into the Blue Star Motel, or when they had checked out two days later, even though they had no leads on anything. Jo suggested they head west and pick up some newspapers to scour along the way. Ellen said nothing more than "Fine. You ready?" before climbing into the driver's seat again.
Now they had been riding a few hours without talking and Jo watched her mother from the corner of her eye. She couldn't remember Ellen ever being like this. Not after her father died, not after the Roadhouse burnt down. She had been sad then. Angry. Looking toward what to do next. Now she started ahead, eyes on the road, glancing into the mirrors periodically, not talking, not smiling, not singing along to or complaining about "Ain't No Particular Way." She looked… defeated, Jo thought.
Suddenly Ellen pushed her hand though her hair and broke the silence. "I know you're staring at me, baby girl. If you got something to say, say it."
Jo jumped and was instantly annoyed that her mother could still catch her off guard. "What? No, I—I just—" Ellen turned her head slightly to flick no-nonsense eyes toward Jo and then back to the road and Jo petered off. "Are you okay?" she asked caringly.
"I'm fine," Ellen answered flatly, eyes still on the road, face still blank.
Jo gave her her best disbelieving stare, but she had learned it from Ellen, so Ellen found it easy to ignore. Jo rolled her eyes before returning to the newspaper. "Fine."
Ellen couldn't help but smile at that; her daughter's attitude was far more effective than any borrowed look. "You know what I miss?" she asked softly. Jo's head bobbed up to look at her. "My bed," Ellen sighed. "A bed of my own, in my own room—not that I don't love sharing with you." They both smiled ruefully. "But a space that's mine. A bed with clean sheets, where I know who was the last person to sleep or do Lord knows what else there." She sighed again, and Jo heard the weariness in it. "That's all. That's what I was thinking about."
Jo nodded. She searched for something to say, but came up with nothing; she had chosen this life. The only thing she had missed when she had taken off had been—ironically, she realized—her mother. But Ellen hadn't ever wanted this life. She was just here for Jo.
Ellen saved her the trouble of saying anything. "It'll be dark soon. You got us a destination yet? 'Cause I'd rather a lumpy motel bed than sleeping in here. And will you find something else to listen to please? This is giving me a headache." She slapped at the CD player to skip the relentlessly up-beat "C'est La Vie." Jo rolled her eyes and complied, but her mind began working on a plan.
Another hour of driving and Ellen was even more stoic and sullen. When Jo asked to take a rest stop, she complied with barely even a hum of acknowledgement. Ellen ducked into the small shop to grab a coffee for the both of them while Jo found the bathroom. When Jo returned, Ellen was leaning against the hood of the car, face turned up to the stars. When she heard Jo approach she tried to summon up a smile but she failed miserably. "Ready?"
Jo nodded and accepted the proffered cup of coffee. "You want to let me drive for a while?" Ellen quirked an eyebrow in response. "You could use a break is all. Come on, I haven't hurt your car yet."
"'Yet,' she says," Ellen grumbled but tossed the keys to Jo anyway and walked around to the passenger door. "So you know where we're going yet?"
"Yeah." Jo climbed into the driver's seat. "Missing persons in Colorado. Two people, once a month for the past few months. Always a man and woman about the same age, always around the same time."
"Sounds ritualistic," Ellen agreed. "I guess we're driving through the night then. Wake me when you get tired, I'll take second shift." She sunk down in her seat and leaned her head back, staring out the window.
Jo knew she'd be asleep soon. She smiled and pulled out of the parking spot, eager to get on the road.
Ellen opened her eyes when she felt the car pull off smooth asphalt onto gravel. Blinking, she glanced out the window trying to gather he wits and surmise where they were. Cars were stacked and sorted around the narrow path they were on. Focusing bleary eyes ahead she could see the faded "Singer Salvage Yard" sign dimly lit in the distance.
She spun her head around to look at Jo, who she could see in the green light of the dashboard lights was smiling smugly. "What are we doing here? Is something wrong?" Jo shook her head, practically bouncing in her seat. "Jo, what's going on?" she demanded.
Jo kept her eyes ahead, navigating through the sea of discarded vehicles. "I thought you—we—could use some time off the road. You know, separate bedrooms, clean beds. And in the company of… a paranoid, old man." Bobby was sitting on the porch as they pulled up, shot gun in easy reach.
Jo killed the engine, but Ellen didn't move. "What about Colorado, the missing people?" she asked, flabbergasted.
"Complete lie." Ellen stared. Jo shrugged. "I wanted to surprise you."
Ellen smiled—the first real smile Jo had seen in weeks—and climbed out of the car.
"Ain't you two beauties a sight for sore eyes?" Bobby called as they trudged up the porch steps. He stood but didn't step away from his weapon. Ellen stopped herself from rolling her eyes as he held out a flask to them—you couldn't be too careful these days. Jo gulped down a mouthful of holy water then passed the flask to Ellen before launching herself at the older hunter in an enthusiastic hug. Ellen took a swig too, then handed it back to a satisfied Bobby. "Good to see you, Ellen," he said quietly, eyes shining.
"You too." And it was. She stepped closer to hug him too and he ran a hand over her hair and kissed her cheek. The familiar way his beard scratched her skin brought tears to her eyes, so she squeezed them shut till the feeling passed. "So my daughter has been plotting with you?"
"She just called and said y'all could use a place to crash. I was happy to oblige two good-looking ladies like yourselves." He looked between them genially. "You're the prettiest things as have come through here since—"
"The Winchester boys?" Jo quipped, smirking as she jumped off the porch and headed back to the car to grab their bags.
"Well thanks for lettin' us stay, Bobby. I appreciate it. Really." She would not let the tears so close to the surface color her voice. She was not only glad to see such an unexpected port in the storm of chaos that had become her life, but also touched beyond reason at her daughter's actions.
He touched her chin to bring her gaze off his porch steps and back to his own. "You know you're always welcome here, Ellen. Always."
She nodded, not trusting her voice, and leaned into his shoulder for a moment.
"So am I gonna carry all these bags in by myself or what?" Jo asked setting two duffels down on the porch.
"All?" Ellen found her voice. "There's only two more. So yes." She linked her arm through Bobby's and led him through the front door.
Jo grinned broadly as she crunched across gravel back to the car. Mission accomplished, she thought.
Inside, Jo said goodnight right away and went upstairs to one of Bobby's guest rooms.
"You heading up, too?" Bobby asked.
"I got a few hours sleep in the car actually. I'll stay up and keep you company if you don't mind." Bobby went to the kitchen to get a couple beers while she settled herself on his couch.
They chatted about nothing important, friends happy to see each other again. She asked what he'd been up to and he filled her in on the details of ghost sicknesses, seals, and angels of the Lord. "What have you been up to?" he asked.
Her smile became weary. "I've been to every corner of the country, or at least that's how it feels. Doing lots of good, I know, helping lots of people. I understand why Jo wants to keep at it, why Bill kept at it." She shook her head.
"But?" Bobby's voice was gentle.
"But I'm tired," she whispered, as if she were ashamed to admit it. "I'm tired of moving from one town to the next, one seedy motel to another. One stranger's nightmare to someone else's. Hunters who used to come through the Roadhouse, I could always tell which ones were passing though on their way from one job to the next and which were just fueling up enough to make their way back home. It was the second group that were the lucky ones. They had a place, a family, or something, something that kept them tethered, linked to the normal world, or at least keeping them sane, keeping them from getting hard. And making them keep fighting. The ones with a home were the ones that fought like hell to get back to it. Too many hunters lost everything and then went out and lost themselves."
"Is that what you're worried about? Losing the will to keep fighting?"
Ellen shrugged, smiling sadly and hating the way tears thickened her rough voice as she said again, "I'm just tired."
Bobby was silent for a minute, and took a long pull from his beer. "Actually, I'm surprised it took you this long to get here. But then, you always were the strongest women I'd ever met."
Ellen brushed off the compliment. "What do you mean 'this long'?"
"It only stands to reason. Home has always been an important thing to you, anyone who ever passed through the Roadhouse knew that. Hell, I can name half a dozen hunters who considered the back room of Harvelle's as much theirs as any other place in the world. You were their link, their tie to the normal world. And when the Roadhouse burnt down, you didn't just lose your home, Jo's home, you lost the home you'd been givin' to others for years. That's a big part of who you are, Ellen. You take care of people. You think you can't do that anymore, that you lost that part of your life. But I'll tell you something." He leaned forward and gently wrapped his hand around her wrist, his rough thumb skimming across the back of her hand. "You're still taking care of people. Just in a different way. And you didn't lose your home. You take home with you. You're out there with Jo, you girls taking care of each other. She's the home you need. You're both all the home the other'll need. And that's why I don't worry about you losing your will or turning hard."
Ellen's smile was genuine and warm as she listened to him, and this time it reached her eyes and made them shine. "When did you become such a sage, huh?" She turned her hand over in his and laced their fingers together.
"Introspection comes with the wise-old-man package," he said gruffly, squeezing her hand in his.
"Oh, that," she chuckled.
"And Ellen?" She raised her eyebrows. "You always got a place here. And you got me, anytime you need an extra link."
She felt her eyes fill again, but didn't bother wiping the tears away that spilled out. Instead she dropped their joined hands in favor of leaning in to hug him tightly. He leaned back into the couch, pulling her with him, content to hold her as long as she needed. She pulled her feet up onto the cushion next to her, comfortably tucked away against his chest.
Jo found them sleeping soundly the next morning in the same position when she came downstairs dressed for a run. She gaped at them for a moment and shook her head. She started a pot of coffee brewing before heading out, fixing the buds of her iPod in her ears and mumbling to herself. "I bring you here, give you a bed, clean sheets, room of your own, and what do you do? Sleep on a couch all smushed up against Bobby." But she was smiling as she reached the entrance of the salvage yard and started her run along the familiar stretch of road.
Hope you liked it :) Also, if anyone knows of any other Ellen fics, even ones that are not solely about her, I'd love to hear about them!