Authors' Note – This fic is a collaboration between Silverspoon and WelshWitch1011 . We hope you enjoy both our story, and our writing. This fic is set sometime during Season 5 and contains an alternate ending to and continuation of the episode Abandon All Hope.
For legal purposes, we do not own anything (although both of us wish we owned Dean).
Nausea; the feeling that let her know that she was still alive, although she was uncertain yet as to whether she was glad of this fact.
Her vision blurred at the edges and a groan that she seemed to have little control over escaped her lips. A single breath was all it took to ignite the burning pain in her side. Jo whimpered and although she knew that she should be comforted by the hand that pressed itself to her forehead, she was not. She struggled to pull her vision into focus and found a pair of green eyes, brimming with concern, boring into her own.
The metallic stench of blood was acrid, and Jo's stomach roiled in protest as it invaded her nostrils. She swallowed against a further wave of sickness and attempted to lift her head, finding her stilted movements halted by both the hand now caressing her temple and the pain that had instantaneously engulfed her.
The arms around her tightened, holding her in an embrace that was careful and yet also strangely desperate. Through the eerie silence that had now descended upon the room, she heard the pounding of a racing heart beneath her ear.
"Don't try to move," a familiar voice whispered. The owner of it sounded almost broken and Jo opened her eyes wider in an attempt to finally sharpen her vision. The gesture helped a little, bringing the dirty, abandoned hardware store the group now occupied into focus. Sam was working at the windows and doors with an open bag of rock salt he had retrieved from an overflowing bin.
The door, which had already been secured by a heavy chain, rattled as a body flung itself against the glass from the outside. The assailant was entirely invisible to the naked eye but Jo knew without a doubt what lay beyond the hopelessly thin barrier. She supressed a shudder for fear of causing herself further pain and simply concentrated instead on remaining conscious. Her head was spinning still and the memory of how she had gotten into such a predicament was hazy at best.
Strong arms set her down on the floor and Jo gasped as she watched her own blood begin to pool beneath her on the tiles. She realised that her hands, both pressed against the wound on her abdomen, were doing little to stem the flow.
"You're ok, you're going to be ok," the husky voice insisted, as though the mantra was more for their own personal assurance.
Jo could find neither the words nor the energy to reply, and instead licked her drying lips and merely peered up at the owner of the voice from beneath hooded eyes. Her body felt strangely light and calm. The rapid beating within her chest slowed to a lazy, inconsistent flutter, and her eyes slipped closed once more.
The cold and the darkness beckoned her, beginning to draw her deeper and deeper into sleep and as she felt the warmth of her blood seeping beneath her, for the first time in her life, Jo Harvelle contemplated surrender.
A sudden jarring of her body and a firm hand pressing against her wounded side jolted her from the edge of unconsciousness, and she cursed under her breath with as much enthusiasm as she could muster.
"Jo! You stay with me, Jo. You hear me? You need to stay awake. Stay with me," this time the voice seemed more insistent, desperate - perhaps even panicked.
The rasping of a second voice drew Jo's attention to the left. She turned a little too quickly and the wooziness claimed her again. Once her vision had cleared sufficiently, Jo's eyes took in the sight of her mother.
Ellen Harvelle was irreparably broken, that much was clear. Claw marks marred her upper torso, four thick tracks that stretched from the tip of her collar bone right down to the curve of her hip. Jo swallowed hard and watched as Sam Winchester crouched by her mother's side, capturing her hand in his own in a gesture of comfort.
Ellen's complexion was paling and some of the light had already begun to fade from her eyes, but still her concern was reserved only for her daughter. The daughter she had sacrificed herself to save.
"How's she doin' Dean?" Ellen drawled, her Southern accent thickening as it always did when she was resolute about something or other.
Lifting the bunched up shirt from the wound, Dean exhaled slowly and steadily, relieved to see his makeshift dressing and continued pressure had managed to somewhat control the bleeding.
"She's doing good, Ellen. She's going to be fine," grim determination coloured his tone and he reapplied the dressing firmly to her side, pressing his lips apologetically to her forehead as she winced at the gesture.
Ellen nodded, closing her eyes and allowing her head to rest wearily against the wall behind her, as her fingers closed around the object in her hand, a trigger that was wired to several gas canisters, complete with bags of rock salt and iron nails.
Dean watched as Sam approached them, his steps heavy and unwilling as he came to a stop before his brother and nodded at him solemnly, "It's time."
As if on cue, the doors shook once more against the weight of their invisible foe and the unearthly howls of the hell hounds suddenly spurred them into action.
Ellen watched as Dean gathered Jo up into his arms, lifting her limp body from the ground and bringing her hurriedly to her mother's side.
A shaking hand gently brushed at the young woman's hair and a single kiss was placed on her cheek, "You take care of my girl, Dean."
"Always Ellen," Dean promised, his voice catching in his throat as he regarded Ellen, who for many years now he had come to look upon as a mother figure. Ellen managed a warm smile, the corners of her eyes creasing with the gesture and her lips setting against the pain that it brought her. She reached out and brushed her fingertips lightly across Dean's cheek.
"I know you will," she replied, her bottom lip trembling as tears began to cascade down her cheeks. Sam swallowed hard from behind him, drawing Dean's attention.
"I'll open the doors, you guys get a head start," Sam murmured, his gaze never once wavering from Ellen's face. She was beginning to fade, and they had little time if their plan was to prove successful. The baying of the hounds from outside was almost mocking now, and Dean felt the fury building in his gut at what those mutts had almost achieved. They had taken one Harvelle woman today, but he was determined that they would not have the other.
"Mom…" Jo murmured, stirring in Dean's arms again. "Mom, no, please… I want to stay."
Ellen shook her head, visibly struggling for breath as she pleaded with Dean to take her daughter to safety, mustering up what little strength she had to yell, "Get her out of here, just get her out of here!"
Jo sobbed against the fabric of Dean's shirt, her fists pounding violently against his chest as she thrashed and kicked in opposition.
Swallowing hard and trying to fight back his own emotions, Dean focused on the task at hand and carried her hurriedly toward the fire escape, kicking the heavy metal door repeatedly until it finally gave way to his assault and flew open.
Rushing outside, he quickly placed Jo on her feet, an arm moving around her waist to steady her as her shaking legs almost gave way. Tears streamed down her face as she glared back at him and for a brief second they merely stared at each other.
"I hate you, I hate you," she snarled, struggling to break his grip but finding her strength almost gone as she wept uncontrollably.
Dean nodded, pulling her into his side and leading her down the alleyway away from the hardware store and out toward the main street, "Yeah, well I guess I'm going to have to live with that."
The sound of feet pounding against the asphalt signified the arrival of Sam, who was breathing heavily and wearing an almost shell shocked expression. He opened his mouth to speak, and that was when the explosion occurred. The ground beneath their feet shook as the building they had exited only seconds ago folded in on itself. Flames licked hungrily at the darkened sky and it was with satisfaction that Dean imagined the dying whimpers of the hounds. He hoped they were sent straight back to hell with their tails between their legs.
Jo stared in horror at the building for a split second before attempting to wrench herself away from the Winchesters with seemingly renewed strength.
"Mom!" she screamed, her voice hoarse from the sheer toll the day had taken on her body. She was in agony now from the gash that the hellhound had ripped into her stomach, but she ignored the pain and fought against Dean regardless.
Struggling free of his hold on her, Jo stumbled back toward the store, her eyes widening as she took in the scene of utter devastation before her. Having taken only a few shaky steps, she sank to her knees, tears freely splashing down onto the ground beneath her.
Her desperate calls to her mother now became little more than heartbroken whispers as the realisation of Ellen's sacrifice became too much for her to bear.
"You should have let me stay," she shook her head slowly, her eyes eventually finding Dean's, "You should have let me stay."
Crouching down beside her, he cupped her cheek, his empty words of comfort dying instantly on his lips as he saw the haunted look that now lay behind her eyes. Dean faltered, trying desperately to think of something to say, yet nothing his exhausted brain could come up with sounded even remotely profound enough.
Jo turned her gaze toward the burning heap of wood and rubble and blinked as a solitary tear rolled down her cheek.
"Jo, I'm so sorry," Sam's voice finally broke the silence and she simply nodded in acknowledgement, starting visibly as she felt a pair of arms once again encircle her.
Dean almost winced as he pulled her closer, expecting her to struggle or hit out at him again, yet instead she clung to him, her hands gripping frantically at his jacket as he held her.
"I'll be damned if I'll ever let anything happen to you," he stated softly, pressing his cheek to the top of her head as he listened to her sobs.
"Dean, we need to get her to a hospital," Sam whispered, placing one hand on Dean's arm and gesturing towards the direction in which the Impala lay. "She's lost a lot of blood."
"She's gone…" Jo merely whispered, a strange, glazed expression now in place on her face. She looked pale, and her usually flaxen blonde hair was matted with sweat and blood.
"Can you walk?" Dean asked, struggling to even his tone out. He realised that he was frighteningly close to crumbling himself, an unacceptable option for a leader. When Jo failed to reply, he hoisted her up into his arms again, worried by the way she simply wilted against him. He had never seen the spirited young woman looking so utterly shattered before and his fears were escalating by the moment that she would simply choose to give up. After all, what did she truly have left to fight for?
Dean swallowed the lump in his throat; the one that had seemed permanently lodged there ever since he had watched the hell hound drag Jo to the ground. It was on her for no more than ten seconds before Ellen had come to her rescue. For a moment, it had looked like the two women would emerge from the fray unscathed until a second hound had joined the party. It had taken Ellen by surprise, the woman's attention clearly diverted by her concern for her fallen daughter. Dean had been too far away to react much more than to turn and observe the scene in horror. He had raised his shotgun, even gotten off a few rounds, but his efforts had been pathetic at best in his own mind. He would never forgive himself for being unable to do more.
Dean had made a vow to Ellen that he would look after Jo and he had every intention of making good on that promise, despite any resistance he might encounter from the sometimes argumentative blonde.
Whilst he would do all he could to honour Ellen's final request, he was now faced with the reality that perhaps his reasons for wanting to protect Jo were slightly more self-serving than he would have liked to admit; because somehow, somewhere along the way, he had fallen in love with her.
He was sure Sam knew, he had known Ellen harboured suspicions, but events had always stood in the way of him ever getting to act upon his feelings. Vacations to Hell, possessed brothers and averting the apocalypse were certainly good enough excuses in Dean's mind.
However, Dean was certain that making a declaration of love to Jo Harvelle probably took more courage than your average hunt, and he couldn't help being slightly relieved each time fate had thrown another road block between them.
"Dean, we gotta move," Sam said, his tone low and urgent as his gaze shifted to Jo, whose eyelids were beginning to flutter closed. Dean shook her slightly, his expression grim. He would not give up, and neither would he allow the woman in his arms to do so.
"Hold on Jo," he murmured, his lips brushing her ear lobe, "just hold on…"