Author's Note - If I owned Supernatural, this s**t would have gone down a little differently! Suffice to say, I don't. All paragraphs in bold are intended to be 'flashback' sequences of Ellen's memories.
According to the Supernatural Wiki, Jo's birthday is 7th April 1983, making her one month older than Sam Winchester. William Anthony Harvelle's date of death is recorded as 15th April 1986 in John Winchester's journal, making Jo just three years old at the time.
This is my first Supernatural fic so constructive criticism is really appreciated but please do not comment just to say you hated Jo. I actually really liked her!
For just the briefest of moments, she had been leading; a healthy combination of fear and adrenaline spurring her onward. This had hardly been surprising as, although she was petite, Jo Harvelle was nothing if not spry. She could have made it- would have made it- Ellen was positive.
Until Dean had taken a tumble, his body driven to the ground by an invisible menace that would have doubtlessly ended him as quick and easy as snuffing out a candle.
Jo was first to notice. Instinctively, she fell back behind her mother and Sam who were both too preoccupied with scouting out a route of escape to immediately notice. Jo wheeled around, ash blonde hair buffeted by the breeze, and drew her shotgun tight into her shoulder as her mom had taught her all those years ago. Ellen could only watch, horrified and proud in that same moment. Jo's movements were fluid and graceful and, despite the cumbersome weapon she wielded, she was beautiful.
There had always been a spark between her daughter and the eldest Winchester brother; Ellen was hardly blind to that fact. However, her years of experience had chalked it up to little more than infatuation on Jo's part and an appreciation of the finer feminine form on Dean's. Never would Ellen have guessed that her daughter's feelings for the hunter ran deep enough that she would abandon all reason and logic just for a shot at saving his sorry ass. Had she known this, then perhaps she would have been a little less eager in rolling out the welcome mat time and again to those Winchester boys.
Jo had gotten off three rounds, at least one of which had connected, drawing a strangled yelp and a cloud of inky blood from Dean's attacker. Ellen had dared to hope then as she watched Dean stagger to his feet and start out towards the group again. And then in a single breath Ellen's world had fallen apart.
The fourth shell had barely cleared Jo's gun when she was flung to the ground with such force that the air was expelled from her lungs. Time slowed and with it Ellen's reactions. She had raised her gun, aiming blind at the thing that pinned her daughter to the tarmac, but before her finger could close around the trigger a scream tore from Jo's chest. The sound made Ellen's blood run cold in her veins.
"S'matter honey?" Ellen mumbled, voice still thick with sleep as she rolled back the covers and gestured to Joanna to join her. The almost- three year old clambered without hesitation into her parents' bed, her small frame hardly making a dent in the mattress that already bore the permanent impression of her father's body. The man was built like a bear and although Ellen told herself they really aught to replace the sagging mattress now it brought her great comfort during those nights of solitude.
William Harvelle was away on a hunt, his third of the month to be exact. Just recently his jaunts with John Winchester had increased in frequency, becoming somewhat of a bone of contention between he and Ellen. Of course she knew that she had no other choice than to let her husband go- he was a grown man after all- but his departure always saw a change in their daughter. From the moment Joanna would watch the door of the Roadhouse close behind her father, her usual courage seemed to dissipate and she would mould herself to Ellen like a shadow. Ellen had grown quite accustomed now to serving beer and wiping down tables with a toddler clamped firmly to her right leg.
"Hadda bad dream…" Jo whispered, her blue eyes wide as the images of her subconscious echoed once again in her head. Although the night air was balmy, Jo trembled and so Ellen drew the scrawny body into her own. Jo relaxed a little and her fingers gripped onto her mother's forearm. She breathed deep and found comfort in the intermingling scents of fabric softener and her mom's night cream.
"What about baby?" Ellen inquired, nuzzling the back of Jo's blonde head with her nose and struggling to force her eyes open.
"Don't matter," Jo answered with a small shrug. Ellen nodded and allowed her eyelids to flutter now Jo was cosseted in her arms. Nights like these were usual when William went away.
"Why didn't you just yell? I would have come got you," Ellen chided gently. She felt the guilt prickling her as it so often did. Her little girl was only too aware of those things that may be lurking in her closet or under her bed, and that was a fact that all but broke Ellen's heart.
Jo snorted and her contempt was unmistakable as she replied, "Screaming's for girls and wusses."
Ellen chuckled. Jo's tough exterior and tom boy antics served as a constant source of amusement to her. Joanna favoured her grandmother in looks- that was to say William's late mother, Florence. She had been delicately built with silky blonde curls and blue eyes that any man could drown in. She had been the most serene looking woman that Ellen had ever laid eyes on, and also one of the most deadly hunters. It seemed fitting therefore that Jo resembled her so well.
"Momma?" Jo's voice was strained now, "when's Daddy coming home?"
Ellen sighed and chose to draw her daughter in closer rather than answer immediately. Fact was, there was no easy or definite answer, but she knew that the truth would not serve her daughter well. So Ellen did what any good mother would do, and she lied.
"Real, real soon baby," she promised, her tone filled with a conviction that surprised even herself. She knew that Jo would be crotchety and mad at her should the coming days not bring William's return but Ellen was willing to risk her daughter's wrath, knowing for the moment what she needed to hear.
"Ok," Jo replied, seeming genuinely placated. With trepidation, she allowed her eyelids to flutter closed against the alarming darkness of the Roadhouse.
"NO!" the cry of anguish had escaped Ellen's lips before the creature had even finished its assault. Ellen registered the sharp intake of breath from Sam at her side and then they were running once again, Dean cradling Jo protectively to his chest. The next moments passed in a blur but Ellen was faintly aware of more gunshots, and her own body in motion. Jo was keening like a frightened animal and Ellen all but threw herself onto the store floor as Dean set her girl down. His eyes were wide and guilty, and he seemed reluctant to leave Jo's side but a cry from Sammy soon drew his attention. The Winchester boys set about securing the windows and doors of the store with bags of rock salt. Outside, Ellen could hear the hounds roaming, their talons raking up the tarmac beneath their paws. She narrowed her eyes in an effort to staunch the tears that threatened to take hold of her as she examined the gashes marring Jo's abdomen. Ellen Harvelle did not easily succumb to emotion and in all her twenty -six years her baby had seen her cry only once that either could recollect.
"Stupid, stupid asshole…" Ellen hissed, sucking in deep breaths through her gritted teeth in an effort to calm herself. She wiped at her swollen eyes with a dish towel and Jo watched cautiously from behind the door. It was the first time that she had ever seen her mother cry and Jo was uncertain of how best to proceed. Even when news of her father's death had arrived at the Roadhouse on the lips of her Uncle John, Ellen had remained remarkably stony faced. Sure, she had done her share of screaming, even thrown a couple of bottles at the man, but not a single tear. Jo had cried hard for her father until her breath had come to her in great hiccupping sobs. She recalled the day they had salted and burned his body on a pyre, surrounded by more hunters than Jo could count at that point. But her Uncle John had not been among the quiet mourners. In fact, since her Daddy had died, Uncle John didn't make a habit of coming round anymore.
Ellen sniffled, drawing Jo from her reverie. The little girl took a deep breath and stepped forwards, twisting a strand of her hair around her index finger as she stared at her mother.
"Hey honey," Ellen said, forcing a smile as she suddenly registered her daughter's presence. Jo failed to return the gesture, instead cocking her head to one side.
"Mom… are you… crying?" Jo asked hesitantly. Her voice was filled with such concern at the possibility that tears welled quickly again in the corners of Ellen's eyes. Determined not to buckle once more, Ellen simply outstretched her arms to her daughter. Jo flew across the bar and nestled into her mother's embrace.
"I'm fine baby," Ellen assured, her voice a little more controlled now. "Nothing to worry about."
"I thought… well… you said… Harvelle's don't cry?" Jo stated although the inflection of her tone made her words sound more like a question than anything else.
For a long while Ellen was silent, mulling over the line she had so often delivered to her daughter in her efforts to better shape her for the world. Ellen was far from a hard woman but she often came across as such, especially to the hunters that frequented her bar. She had quickly learned that it was the only way she could command respect from the boys, who in William's absence could so easily have run roughshod over her.
"I guess I did, didn't I?" Ellen murmured, raking her fingers absently through Jo's curls. Ellen glanced down at her girl, who peered back in evident confusion. Her skinny arms wound tight around her mother's waist and she rested her cheek against her stomach, offering as much comfort as she was physically capable. Ellen smiled then; not her usual tight-lipped, guarded smirk of amusement, but a watery, sorrowful gesture that sent a shudder through Jo's body. Ellen straightened up and laid the palm of one hand on the crown of Jo's head. The moment had passed.
"What do you say we go out back and practice shootin'?" Ellen enthused, the merry light now flickering once again behind her eyes. Jo's responding grin was brilliant and dazzling, and Ellen took her daughter by the hand without hesitation. They shot at tin cans and sacks stuffed with straw until dusk descended, and Jo had never once worked up the courage to ask her mother what those tears had been in aid of.
Jo was crying now. The certainty of her fate was heavy on her shoulders as she stared with wide eyes at the gas canisters lined up in the aisle of the hardware store. Her skin was deathly pale and beads of perspiration lined her forehead. The crude bandage pressed in place against her wound was soaked through but Jo barely seemed to notice the puddle of her own blood that had collected on the tiles. Ellen could hardly tear her eyes away from it on the other hand. Every now and then Sam would touch her arm as he passed by to check the windows, and the gesture of comfort was not lost on Ellen. However, not God himself could comfort her now.
Ellen had watched Dean with a combination of loathing and sympathy swirling in her gut. He pressed the detonator into Jo's hand and they shared hushed words that Ellen could not fully discern. Then Dean Winchester kissed her daughter.
First, a tender somewhat fraternal brush of lips against her damp forehead, almost as though he were kissing her goodnight as Ellen had done for almost two decades. Then, Dean paused, appearing to look a little closer at the dying woman before him, and leaned forward to instigate a gentle kiss that contained so much promise that Ellen had to look away to spare her own heart. It was with reluctance that Dean broke apart from Jo and for just a second his tensely locked jaw slackened, and his bottom lip trembled. Jo, clearly fading, panted laboriously and Ellen could tell that every gasp was another razor blade across Dean's heart.
Ellen stared after the oldest Winchester as he crossed the store to stand at his brother's side. The weight of all that Jo was losing crashed suddenly down upon Ellen with the full force of a Buick.; a normal life free from hunting, someone to love her the way her parents had loved each other, and maybe even a family of her own someday. Ellen wasn't entirely certain that her daughter was or ever would be the marrying type. Sure, Jo was young, impulsive and had often declared herself too selfish to ever contemplate settling down, but Ellen was positive that she did not want to live even a second in a world where such possibility did not exist for her girl.
Fear rolled off Jo in waves and Ellen knew that there was little she could do to assuage it, and so instead she held her baby's hand tight in her own. The same way she had done on Jo's very first day of school, and every dentist appointment she had faced up until the age of fifteen.
The chains were flung free of the door now, and the line of rock salt that the Winchesters had spread for protection smeared and broken. As Ellen set herself down by Jo's side, breathing in the gas that filtered around them, she encircled an arm around her daughter's shoulder. The two Harvelle women huddled together, both shivering slightly, and Ellen tightened her grip on the detonator that nestled in the palm of Jo's hand. Jo's eyes were growing dimmer, and her lids fluttered rapidly as she struggled to focus on a seemingly empty spot in the distance. Ellen sensed the Reaper but refused to acknowledge it. The ghost of a smile played across Jo's lips, and realisation finally dawned upon Ellen that she was close to witnessing the one thing that no parent ever dared conceive. She sucked in a breath to steady her nerves but her resolution never once wavered.
Her thoughts wandered briefly to the old Harvelle family bible that was tucked safely amongst her things back in the room that she and Jo had shared at Bobby's. The last name to be written there was William's, which had been done by her own shaking hand not twenty-four hours after his funeral. Two more names would earn their place in those yellowed pages before the day was through, and Ellen hoped that Bobby would think on that tradition. Yet with no surviving Harvelles to pass the book down to now Ellen hardly supposed it mattered. She knew that on some level the Bible spoke of suicide as being a mortal sin, but Ellen was beyond the point of caring now. If she was to be dragged off to hell at the push of a button then so be it, but her place was where it had always been, at her daughter's side.
Jo's shoulders heaved and a final shuddering breath escaped her blue-tinged lips before she was at peace. Ellen choked out a sob, hysteria bubbling to the surface of all her bravado. The pain was unimaginable and although Ellen knew that she would be forced to endure it for mere moments more, the severity of it took her damn breath away. Struggling to regain some composure, Ellen crushed her lips against the crown of her daughter's head. Her daughter, who had sacrificed everything for love, and for the world. Ellen could not have been prouder.
On April 7th 1983, during the worst storm that Nebraska had seen for going on thirty years, Joanna Beth Harvelle entered the world. Ellen Harvelle, exhausted beyond all measure, chestnut hair dampened and wild, choked out a laugh and held her arms out to receive the squirming bundle. Moments later, the shrieking child was placed in Ellen's arms.
"It's ok, it's ok…" Ellen soothed, smiling euphorically as she planted a soft kiss on the infant's forehead. The baby, seemingly comforted by the warmth of her mother's body, quieted suddenly, turning to affix the woman with eyes so blue that they were almost black. Her heart swelling with wonder and a rush of incomparable love, Ellen breathed in an awed tone, "That's my good girl."