Fic: Measured Hundredweight And Penny Pound
Author: A.j.
Rating: PG (with swearing)
Fandom: Supernatural, episode tag for "Abandon All Hope".
Notes: Uh... I have no idea what to say about this other than it's completely a reaction to all of the Jo-pining fic and turned out nothing like I expected it to. Hints of Dean/Jo, but gen.

Summary: The drive out of Carthage is long and quiet.

The drive out of Carthage is long and quiet. Not anything new, all told. Even the quiet, shocked grief settling between him and Sam is familiar. Some how, some way, the people math in his life always broke down to him plus one.

Mom and Dad and him and Sam, minus Mom, minus Sam, minus Dad, plus Sam. Four minus two equals two.

Today it was four minus two again. Blood and fire and all that's left is Sam and him, driving for South Dakota. Jo and Ellen's sacrifice coming down to a hand full of ashes and more grief.

Sam's next to him, staring out the window at the passing mile markers. He knows his brother's not asleep; too many years and too many miles take that from guess to certainty. Ahead of him is miles of blacktop, Bobby at the end. His rearview is empty but for an old, battered Honda that's been trying to pass him since Omaha.

It feels like it should be raining. Not because of any bullshit sentimentality - he knows enough about Jo and Ellen to think they'd both have rolled their eyes at that kind of thing - but because the air is heavy and thick. 'Breathing through soup', his dad used to say, arm thrown over the wheel and staring into the distance.

Honestly, that's how he remembers his father the best. Slumped comfortable and loose in the driver's seat of a car, one hand on the wheel and the other thrown over the seat, or holding a drink, or shifting into a higher gear.

His father is an older hurt, and, through sheer history, deeper. But that makes this new loss sting in a different way. He has years of memories of his father. Fights and loss and nights with pizza and beer. Awkward conversations involving condoms, hours of training. Laughter.

Ellen and Jo are different. Sharper because of their mystery and the fact that he just knows the world's lost something amazing... he's lost something amazing that he can't even describe. Because he never knew them. Not really.

Ellen, the woman, is a complete mystery. He has no idea what made her laugh - other than him getting smacked around - or if she liked or missed the Roadhouse or how well she'd actually known his father. Couldn't even begin to guess what her favorite food or brand of whiskey was. Hell, if she even liked whiskey or bourbon.

He knew she'd been a force of nature when it came to family and had an absolutely insane radar for bullshit. She'd been better with a pistol, at close range, than even his father and could field-strip an M-16 faster than him on his best day. And for some godawful reason, she'd cared. Even if it meant he'd been open for slaps to the face.

Because Ellen Harvelle didn't love easy or soft. She also didn't love stupid. Instead of leaving Jo to her ownself and hitting the nearest crossroads, she'd sat down next to her. Opened the doors to let Hell in, and died rather than let her daughter carry the burden of her eventual death.

Watching that fireball, he'd hated his father. A sharp, bitter pang from an old wound. Now, miles away, he wonders about his own mother. If she'd been half the woman Ellen had been. If she would have loved him and Sammy enough to die with them instead of for. Wonders if she and Ellen would have got on, had they ever met.

Absently, he watches the Honda finally pass him, the road empty and straight enough to let it pass on the left. The backseat is packed with boxes and a University of Minnesota sticker fights for room with a teddy bear in the back window. It's another sight - albeit with different states, car types, and stuffed animals – seen a thousand times over on highways and country routes. Someone's little darling striking out into the world.

What a fucking world.

And now it's Jo's turn. He knows he has to. Has to think about her and run her and all the tangle of everything related to her through his mind now. Not just because there won't be time later - and there probably won't - but now's the best time to do it. Lance the wound before it has time to fester, and damn if she wouldn't have punched him for putting it like that. Probably in the nuts.

He never did let himself really think too much on Jo. Not much past her mother or the occasional flashback to her ass. Because she was pretty and sweet and looked at him like there was something worth her time. That had been before most of the major shit that had gone down though. But he'd remembered her. That hint and promise of something. Something that had broken his father and driven Sam into a life he'd never imagined. One the boy'd spent most of his life trying to out run.

Maybe that's why he'd let it and her sit. Locked it and her away, only bringing it out to examine in the deepest hours. A little glimmer of hope for the end of the tunnel. Someone who'd look at him and know him, and still find it in her to love him anyway. Truth told, he has no idea if it could have been Jo. Might have. The way she'd felt, at Bobby's and on that godforsaken floor...

Not that she ever could have been anyone's prize. Life and reality didn't work like that. She wasn't some gift that was supposed to be waiting for him after the apocalypse. No. All honestly, she probably would have kicked him to the curb just as hard as she had at Bobby's if he'd shown up at her motel door if they managed to stop the end of times.

And she'd have been right to. Had been right at Bobby's too. She deserved better.

She deserved better.

He lets a breath out, slowly, through his nose. Fights an ache that's rising in his chest easy as changing a spark plug. Grief's old hand for him. More common than joy, to be honest. Don't make it easy and don't make it right, but it's sure as shit true.

Jo's dead. Ellen's dead. Their bones burned and salted, left unidentified in the smoldering ruin that was Carthage. Just two more women who dared help out and maybe even care about Winchester men. And it's only then that the regret hits. Sharp and hot, it sinks in its fangs.

They both deserved better than this. Hell, the whole fucking human race deserved better than being caught in this stupid, extended family feud. But Ellen and Jo?

It just wasn't fair. It wasn't fucking fair.

"You want me to drive?" Sam's voice is rough from disuse and other.

Dean stares at the center line, a yellow constant that runs together, a long seamless line made up of broken bits and pieces. Behind them is blood and fire and failure. Ahead is likely more of the same. Not for the first time, he feels exhaustion settle heavy over him, heavy and deep like sand. Like dirt. Like salt.

Suddenly, violently, he needs to be out from behind the wheel. Needs to not be sitting in the groove his ass has worn from hours of driving and constant motion. Ellen and Jo and Lucifer and Cas and Dad swim in his mind, grappling for dominance or consideration. It's still six hours until they hit Bobby's.

"Yeah," he says, pulling the car onto the shoulder, the wheels making a brrrrrt, brrrrrt noise over the scored pavement. "Yeah, I do."