Title: Lost and Found
Summary: AU: Castiel learns that Zachariah's deeds extended to denying a deserving soul rest: Jo Harvelle. He informs Dean, who hatches a plan to save the woman he once knew.
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was crated by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: The quote is from S6 'You Can't Handle the Truth'.
Castiel was tired of war. He'd been embroiled in one war or another for a very long time and it'd be nice if just once there could be some sort of peace. He'd made enough allies to dictate some tasks, but this one he was currently engaged in was one he only trusted to himself. He'd been following the trail of one of Raphael's favorite generals, sometimes almost catching up with him and other times hitting the path when it was almost cold. The one he followed would practically run from place to place, backtracking, and generally trying to shake Cas from his tail, but Castiel was persistent. He knew the angel was important to Raphael.
It was comforting to know he was annoying Raphael's supporters with his tactics. Annoyed angels, like annoyed people, tended to make mistakes. He planned to be there when one of them, hopefully this one, made a mistake. They needed something to turn the tide from this neck and neck balanced fight they were in. All it would take was one misstep on either side to start that.
He touched down in a small town on the east coast. It was a picturesque place. Dean would have made a crack about Norman Rockwell. Castiel knew what that one meant at least. Usually Dean's jokes made no sense, as they were all cultural references angels wouldn't know. Most traditional angels anyway. There were quite a few like Balthazar who'd embraced the idea of living with humans in all ways.
He searched for the trail, following it to a small diner in the center of town. There. The angel had gone inside and lingered there longer than he had anywhere else.
Interesting. Why here? What was important here that required a stop of more than the fraction of a section?
While it was late, the diner was still open. Castiel stood outside, continuing to wonder what had brought the angel here. Several possibilities went through his mind, both worst case scenarios and the opposite. Many things had ceased to surprise him these days. It was nothing for one of them to walk into a crowd of humans and dare their pursuer to take action. He was tired of Raphael's tactics and just plain tired of Raphael. He'd come to think of Zachariah and Michael as bullies, but Raphael surpassed them both, using every dirty trick in the book to win this fight. Castiel rather thought Lucifer would have approved of Raphael at present.
He materialized inside. After a thorough search, he concluded the trail was now cold, turning to study the area a final time and make certain he wasn't being misled. He accidentally jostled a table. The cups on the saucers rattled.
"Seat yourself. Wherever you like," a feminine voice called from behind the door into the kitchen.
The voice struck a chord of memory and he frowned. It couldn't be. Castiel waited for the woman to step from the back and when she did, his eyes widened. Jo Harvelle. How was she alive? Dean and Sam had told him that she and Ellen died. He took a quick glance at her mind, puzzled by the presence of memories that didn't match what he knew of her. It was a mystery that he wanted to unravel, for she was indeed Jo Harvelle.
The color of her eyes was a precise match to Jo's, the arch of her brows and the curve of her lips the same as Jo's, and a glance showed him that her physical measurements were exact as well. He knew her. This woman was Jo without one doubt.
Cas sat at a booth in the back of the room, where he could keep an eye on the area and her. For Dean and Sam, he thought he should investigate more closely. They were going to want to know about her and when he told them, he'd need to have all the information Dean would want. Besides, his own curiosity was piqued. Lifting the laminated menu shoved between the salt and pepper caddy and the wall, he opened it, pausing a second to wonder why the menu in these places was always sticky. Dean had told him it was something to do with small children and either jelly or syrup.
Jo brought a glass of water and set it down in front of him, along with a straw and silverware rolled in a paper napkin. She smiled. "Hi, I'm Jo. I'll be your server tonight. Ready to order or do you need a minute to look at the menu?"
Her nametag was lopsided on her shirt and Castiel considered her name. It was her last name that was completely different. She thought herself to be Joanna Elizabeth Dunn instead of Joanna Beth Harvelle. A made-up name and life for a woman whose real life had been cut short. "I'm ready."
She fished a pad of paper and pencil from her apron pocket. "What would you like?"
"Coffee." A drink Dean often ordered. It was warm and since the night was chilly for humans, he concluded a normal customer would order it. He wanted to be a normal customer, not to alarm her or make her suspicious.
He blinked. He hadn't really looked at the menu, but he'd observed that most of these places served meatloaf. Jimmy had liked meatloaf. He'd always enjoyed Amelia's recipe for it. Castiel thought he might try it since he was going to be here awhile sorting Jo out. "Meatloaf." Once he'd ascertained what was wrong, he'd fix it, if he was able, then be on his way.
"Mashed potatoes and gravy?"
"Green beans okay? We ran out of the mixed veggies earlier."
"Salad and rolls?"
"Dressing on the salad?" When he tried to think of an answer, she glanced up from the pad. "French, Thousand Island, Italian, Blue Cheese, Ranch, honey mustard?"
"Thousand Island." He didn't know what it tasted like, nor did he care, but it sounded interesting. Dean never ate salad and Sam never chose Thousand Island when he had salad. At least not when Castiel was with them. Sam would say he was being adventurous by trying it and good for him. Dean would say it was a means to an end, that he wouldn't be eating for enjoyment, so it didn't matter, and couldn't he at least try to want to try something? Food was a pleasure. Even now, after all the time Dean had known him, he still tried to get Castiel to enjoy human things.
A sliver of sadness pierced through him. Once, he'd begun to enjoy some of those human things and while he'd retained an appreciation for them, he rarely had the opportunity these days to indulge. War wasn't the time to relax, though he'd dearly love to. He despised being pulled in several different directions at once. It was wearying being in charge and sometimes he wanted to find Sam and Dean and have a few beers with them. Kick back and talk about something other than duty and war. Though there had been few in reality, he missed the days of doing just that with them, learning how to be a friend.
"Okay." She smiled. He'd always found her smiles to be attractive and this one still was. "I'll get that turned right in. Holler if you need anything."
"Thank you," he glanced at her nametag, "Jo."
He attempted to engage her in conversation, drawing out his visit to this locale as he worked his way through a long meal. It took most of his concentration to keep all of Dean and Sam's advice on conversations in mind, difficult since he wasn't used to conversing with humans very often, at least not on the level he was attempting at present. Fortunately, his occasional stammers seemed to only amuse her. He even order a few desserts, noting that Dean would approve of the pie. Since it was only him as the customer, Jo seemed inclined to chat awhile - only not on herself specifically. Every remotely personal question brought an abrupt change of topic and a fresh inquiry from her on where he was from and what his business in the area was.
"What did you say your name was again?"
"Castiel. Cas to my close friends."
"Got a last name?" She brought the check, setting it down on the table and studying him.
He set his hand on hers before she could move it and began to actively dig in her mind, staring up at her.
He was able to discover a few facts in the barest fraction of a second. The good news was that she didn't appear to be physically damaged. Her movements were lithe, athletic, and very graceful, her body in excellent condition. He peered more closely at her recent memories, quickly viewing the ones of her naked in the bathroom of her apartment, getting ready to take a shower - not doing it with salacious intent, only to ascertain the depth of injury she'd retained upon her resurrection. He focused on her side, noting a slim scar about the width of a knife blade. It didn't look like the original would have been of the life threatening variety, unlike the wounds that had actually killed her. The scar indicated a wound with much pain and bleeding, deep enough to have needed stitches, but not enough to kill her. Whoever had brought her back had taken care to leave nothing like what she should have had from the hellhound.
His observations took less than ten seconds.
"Let go of me. Let go!" Jo tried to pull her hand away and Castiel gripped her wrist. "Please!"
He felt her burst of panic and tried to hurry, digging deeper, starting with what she did remember. He was saddened to see the story she'd been given for her life, as it had none of the warmth and love her real life had had. Instead, he saw a series of tragic events that were designed to leave her feeling desperate, helpless, and very afraid of what fate might bring her next. He pressed on still, ignoring her startled gasp when he found the thread that led to her real memories. It had been buried deep inside the lies.
Jo gripped the edge of the table with her other hand and let out a cry. Her knees buckled.
Castiel moved, catching her as she slid to the ground and lost consciousness, drawing back from her mind as he embraced her. He hadn't meant to hurt her. It wasn't supposed to hurt. He'd never hurt anyone before with it, yet this time he'd caused real pain. He held her gently, grimacing with regret for that pain and for what he'd found. It was no nameless angel who'd done this to her. He'd gotten far enough along that broken path to her real memories to see a glimpse of Zachariah in her freshest one. He was the last thing she'd seen.
Castiel carefully set her in the booth, arranged her into a semi-comfortable position, took care of the bill, and left. While he lamented that burst of pain to her, he didn't regret the information he'd discovered.
Jo wasn't sure she liked the way the stranger was looking at her. His blue eyes seemed impossibly blue in shade, the intensity of that stare searing through her so fully that she felt stripped bare clear to her soul. There was something different about this man.
She took his order and turned it in, then turned her back to prepare a fresh pot of coffee, willing it to drip slower by some miracle so she could delay going to his table. Jo glanced back at him. For a second when she'd walked out from the kitchen, he'd seemed familiar, so much so that she could almost see him sitting across from her at a table, those eyes alight with enjoyment and a bit of wonder. A name had been on the tip of her tongue, there and quickly gone.
He was handsome enough she supposed, with tousled dark hair, a straight nose, nice mouth, sculptured cheekbones, and light stubble on his jaw, but she had no specific memory to account for that familiar feel. He looked old enough that they couldn't have gone to high school together, but maybe he'd attended the college she'd gone to? Maybe he'd been a student or even a professor for the two years she'd attended? It was going to bug her until she figured out how she knew him, for she didn't doubt that she did know him somehow.
When the coffee was ready, she took the pot over and poured a cup. As she brought his meal and came back to check on him, he was almost chatty, which seemed somehow wrong for him. It was sweet and a bit charming when he'd start to ask something very seriously and suddenly stammer over a word, almost like he wasn't used to talking to women. But those two qualities didn't last when his questions became leading ones that put a slight fear in her mind. He wanted to know about her family, where she was from, and while they were normal questions that she got all the time, she felt on edge by him asking and by the very way he'd gone about it - engendering a sort of camaraderie between them, attempting to lull her into a sense of casual flirtatiousness.
Who was he? Why was he asking questions, especially those questions?
That slight fear grew when he refused to answer her own questions, giving her a name for himself, but nothing she could check on. Castiel. While familiar, she couldn't find out who he was without more than that. A dark thought niggled in the back of her mind. What if he was working for him? What if this man had been sent to track her down and soon she'd have her psycho ex showing up to drag her back?
Jo quickly wrote out the check with shaking hands and took it to him, her fear turning to alarm when he placed his hand on hers. It was only her and Marie closing up tonight. Tuesdays were always slow and they never had any trouble. What if he tried something?
He looked up at her, eyes narrowing, and Jo had the sense that he really was seeing inside her somehow. She tried to pull away and he grasped her wrist instead, sparking a memory of another time.
- Her hand on the bar, trapped beneath her ex's, his voice coaxing, trying to convince her he was more to her and always would be. A concerned tilt to his brow, handsome features arranged in a caring expression. He'd be there for her, he'd take care of her, he'd never let anything bad happen to her, so why was she being difficult? It didn't have to be like this. She'd told him to go and he'd seemed to accept it, but as soon as she'd turned away with relief that this time it would be different, he'd grabbed her, turned her, assaulted her right there in her workplace. -
Her ex was the bad thing. He'd known just when to be so sweet and understanding, like when she'd had a fight with her parents. The violence had only erupted when she'd tried to stand up to him on anything. He'd always claimed he knew what was right for her. In the memory that reared up, that violence had ended with her tied up in her apartment for hours until she'd agreed to go back to him, nursing a concussion from how hard he'd slammed her head onto the bar to knock her out.
It had been a long time before she'd gathered her courage to run from him again.
There was a sharp jab of pain in her temple, the sort of pain that took the control of her limbs from her. She'd had many occasions to feel pains like that with her ex and wondered what this man was doing to her and how he was doing it when he only had hold of her wrist. She let loose an involuntary cry, reaching for the table, feeling the pain slide along her body as consciousness fled from her to leave her distressingly helpless once more.
When she woke, only a few minutes had passed. The man was gone and he'd left an exact twelve percent tip with the payment of his meal.
Jo finished her shift, helped to close, and spent the entire short walk home looking over her shoulder. It wouldn't be the first time that psycho had hired someone to find her. If he came for her this time, she had a few surprises in store for him. She'd been taking self-defense classes and had learned how to shoot a gun. Hell, her instructor had called her a natural. Plus, she had friends here, people who'd taken the time to draw her out of that shell she'd been in, and she'd gone to counseling. She knew he was the one with head trouble, not her. He was the one with a screw loose.
Once safely in her apartment, with the door locked and windows checked, Jo took a long shower. She shivered and shook beneath the hot spray, turning the tap as far as she could in an attempt to get warm. Thinking about him always made her feel cold and strange, unsettled, like she'd forgotten something important about them together. When she stepped out and dried off, her fingers lingered for a moment on the scar on her side. Another mark of his upon her.
She pulled on pajamas and curled up in bed under the covers. With any luck, she wouldn't dream. The last thing she wanted was to dream of Dean Winchester.
With all of the crap that had been in his life in the past few months, it was nice to take a break with Sam and see a few sights instead of seeing the underbelly of the world. They were taking a few weeks off and getting to know each other again. They used to have a good relationship and he thought if they tried, they could regain some of what they'd once had. The love, friendship, and trust. Knowing each other so well they could predict how the other one would react. It was going to be a long road, but they were going down it together. Maybe their relationship hadn't been perfect - whose was? - but it had been good, contrary to Lisa's hurtful words that day long ago. Those words still rang in his mind, a stark reminder that she hadn't really understood the things he'd told her about Sam and himself. She'd never 'gotten' him the way he'd thought she had.
You two have the most unhealthy, tangled up, crazy thing that I've ever seen, and as long as he's in your life, you're never gonna be happy.
He and Sam did have a messed up, crazy relationship, but it was their messed up, crazy relationship and, in their world, it was normal. He wouldn't exactly call it healthy either, but she'd been very wrong about him never being happy with Sam in his life. The only time he was happy was with Sam in his life. When Sam was safe and alive, he was fine. The problem was, when Sam was gone, he was a mess and he didn't need anyone to point that out to him. Who didn't have issues, right? He sort of worried about anyone who wouldn't die for family. Parents often said they'd die for their children to protect them. How was that wrong? How was that sick and twisted?
It was Bobby who'd suggested they take off, let their phones go to voicemail, and get to know who they'd become. Of course, he'd probably suggested it because they'd been driving him nuts….
Dean finished getting dressed while Sam was in the shower and right when he reached for his shoes, his phone rang. He glanced at it, curious who it was and not really intending to answer it. It was Castiel. Dean ignored the phone rules they'd set up and answered. He wondered if Cas was going to appear this time or not. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. "Cas. Hey."
"I have something to tell you." He appeared in front of Dean, ending the call. His expression was wary and even sad.
"Whoa. Why the face? Who died?"
"It's not about who died, but who should have died and apparently didn't." The sadness increased to an extent that it even started to freak Dean out a little.
"Spit it out."
Castiel sighed and straightened a bit more as if to brace himself. "I've found Jo Harvelle. She's alive, Dean. She apparently didn't spend long in heaven."
His throat seemed to close up, his legs felt weak, and Dean stumbled back to sit heavily on the end of the bed. His hands began to shake. "Jo?" Jo was dead. Had been since 2009. He covered his mouth with a hand for a few seconds, then gripped then edge of the mattress with both hands. "You're sure it was her? Maybe she's got a twin out there somewhere. I've heard everyone does -"
"Yes, it's Jo. She's a unique woman in many ways. If I hadn't been following one of Raphael's generals, I wouldn't have found her. He led me right to her. It is her."
There were hundreds of questions circling in his mind. How was she? Why didn't she call? If she'd been brought back, surely she'd known how much it would have meant to him, Sam, and Bobby to let them know? That she hadn't called hurt and he understood how Ellen must have felt when he hadn't called her after getting out of hell. A tiny part of him wondered if he would have gone to Jo instead of Lisa if he'd known she was alive, but he pushed it away. What had happened had happened. There was no changing it. "How? Was it God?"
"I don't believe so. I think she was put in place for a specific reason."
"What reason would that be?"
"I don't know. Her memories are intact in her mind, but the connection to them has been shredded. The memories she has access to are all planted." He glanced at the empty whiskey bottle on the dresser, gaze lingering there as though he wondered if Dean had drunk it all himself. "She has Zachariah's marks all over her. He brought her back and I'm uncertain why. Perhaps with ideas of using her against you. I suspect Raphael may have put him up to it, since it was one of his generals I was following."
"Shredded? Planted memories? Are you sure?" How on earth could Zachariah have thought to use Jo against him? For that matter, how could Raphael? Had the angel Cas had been following been sent to check on her?
"I'm sure. I ate a full meal and several desserts to stay long enough to fully ascertain her mental state. Jo has her memories, she simply can't access the proper ones correctly."
"Is it fixable?" Castiel's pause before answering made a sick lurching sensation occur in his stomach.
"Perhaps. What was done to her is different than what Zachariah did to you and Sam. He never shredded the connections to your real memories. With Jo, the disconnection is almost complete. There may be something that can trigger a return of comprehension, but I don't know what it is. Seeing you and Sam before her might be enough. Until that return of memory happens, she'll believe the lies that were put into her mind." He looked down at the floor. "It's not a good life they made her believe she's had, Dean. They gave her a life of fear and pain, with little love and warmth. They've destroyed who she is…was, taken away everyone she ever trusted."
"Where is she?"
Castiel gave him the information he had on her. Name, address, phone, work address. The location was all the way across the U.S.. It'd take days to get there, but maybe if he and Sam drove in shifts they could get there in half the time. It wouldn't be the first time they'd done that and Dean wanted to get to Jo as soon as possible.
"Thanks, Cas." His mind churned with plans.
"She may be easy to upset at first. I suggest Sam speak to her before you do."
"Sure. We'll figure it out."
"Her memories -"
"Yeah, I got it. Shredded. Thanks."
Castiel opened his mouth as though to say something else, then twitched on brow and closed his mouth. He vanished with the faint sound of fluttering wings.
The bathroom door opened, a cloud of steam swirling. Sam stepped out, a towel wrapped around him. He went to his bag and laid out some clothes. "Did I hear Cas out here?"
"What'd he want?"
He tapped the motel pad of paper against his palm. "You might want to sit down for this, Sam."
Sam frowned. "Can I get dressed first?" Once he was dressed, he sat on the end of one bed. "Okay, I'm sitting. What bomb did Castiel have for us this time?"
Dean looked down at the paper. He thought about Jo, alone and alive, without a clue as to who she really was and all of her real life gone. He couldn't let that stand; let that fearless woman she'd been disappear beneath angelic lies. This was what he knew, what he was good at: helping people that needed it and Jo needed their help. "We're going to Rhode Island, Sam." He held out the paper. "Take a look."
"Why?" Sam took it, looked at it. "Is this a case?"
"It's more than a case. It's Jo."
He stared at the paper, quiet a long moment. "Jo died, Dean. Jo and Ellen both."
"Cas says no. I think we should go see her, check it out. I'll explain as we drive." For a moment, he was afraid Sam would say to let her be and he'd have to go alone, but then Sam was nodding, agreeing.
"Okay, we'll go. She gave up her life for us. The least we can do is make sure she's okay now."
They packed up, checked out, ate breakfast, and were on their way by ten-thirty.
If the man who'd been in the diner was an investigator working for Dean, Dean would know where Jo was by now. That thought both terrified her and relieved her. It terrified her because he would come after her and relieved her because she was tired of always watching for him. It'd be nice to have it all over for good.
In her fantasies, she shot him in the head and that was that. No more Dean. In reality, she knew it was going to be a bit harder. He wasn't going to stand still and let her shoot him. She was going to have to be ready.
Jo tidied her apartment, checked to make sure her gun was handy, and hated that she had to always be looking over her shoulder for him. He was the ex that wouldn't go away and if he knew where she was, it'd be a week at most before he was showing up and destroying this nice life she'd worked hard to have here. So did she go ahead and run away on the chance that man was working for him? Or did she stay and stand her ground if he did come for her? She was tired of running. There had to come a point where she took back control of her life.
She would have thought he'd have found a new woman to target after three years, but maybe not. There were always nuts out there who fixated on one person. She'd been reading online just the other day about some poor actor and his wife who'd been the target of a person claiming to be married to him. The nut had fake articles to make her case and several sock puppet accounts on various sites to support her claims. Jo had read the posts and stories with a growing feeling of disgust for the perpetrator and an empathy for the actor and his wife, since she had her own nutcase after her.
Her dreams during the week were not nice, soothing things, but rather nightmares of those things that had happened to her, all mixed up in a horror movie format. She dreamed of vampires and of Dean. That one was a no-brainer. It probably meant that she felt he was sucking her life away. But the rest confused her. Demons, werewolves, ghosts and other creatures were mixed in, along with people she didn't recognize: a honey haired older woman and a tall, dark haired man about her own age. In her dreams, Jo knew both of them and in one dream the woman hugged her with affection and warmth and called her, 'sweetie'. She'd woken crying that time, saddened though she didn't understand why.
Consequently, she didn't get much sleep and felt like a zombie walking through her shifts.
It was her only excuse for being surprised when, nearly ten days after the mystery man had appeared, Dean finally showed up.