Authors' Note – We own nothing but at least ten plausible ways to #Bring Back Jo. (Sign the Twittition now)!

Another collab between Silverspoon and WelshWitch1011. When you get sick of us, just say. We can't promise that will make us go away though.

WARNING – Contains spoilers and dialogue from episodes 6:21 and 6:22, 'Let It Bleed' and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'.

'Stem The Flow'

Part One

x-x-x

Fear was palpable, smothering even. Lisa sat back to back with her son Ben, their hands bound together against a post, and their hearts racing in unison. There was little Lisa could do now to comfort her son, nothing suitable that she could say to soothe away the fear and the hurt that bringing Dean into their lives had caused them. And so, Lisa simply sat in silence, hoping that her mere presence was enough to calm Ben as it once had been when he was child.

In many ways Ben was still a child, and yet in many others he teetered on the uneasy precipice of manhood. Tonight, however, he seemed every inch the lost little boy, and Lisa felt almost guilty at the realisation that she was glad. Lisa needed to be needed, and that was something she had never had with Dean- no matter how much she had liked to pretend.

Dean would come for them. Of that, Lisa was as certain as she was that the grass was green or the rain was wet. As a hunter and a hero, Dean was dependable; as a steady partner and a father figure, however, he was shaky at best. Lisa had spent many an hour since his departure tormenting herself for ever having fallen for Dean and his charms.

From the moment that Lisa Braeden had laid eyes upon nineteen year Dean Winchester, she had realised that before her was a man she could truly fall in love with; hard and fast, the way the movies always made seem so appealing.

Of course, Lisa had known little about his family and 'vocation' back then, but she was certain that had she been privy to the life Dean had been born into, her gaze and his advances would have been swiftly redirected. Lisa craved a normal, even mundane existence, and she still berated herself for ever having allowed Dean with his many demons to taint her life. However, even knowing all that she did about him, Lisa could not shake the image of Dean as her ideal man; the only man that she had ever truly loved with the kind of passion she had dreamed of as a little girl. Try as she may, Lisa could never bring herself to regret that.

"It's okay Ben, it's gonna be okay," she glanced down at her son and smiled faintly, hoping that if she spoke the words aloud, they would provide her too with some comfort.

The sound of measured footfalls caught her attention and Lisa stared up wide-eyed at the man who was pacing before them.

The creature she had now come to know as 'Crowley' paused momentarily before directing a smug grin at his captives.
"Don't worry, I won't be needing you for very much longer," Crowley promised, his eyes widening and a chuckle reverberating from his chest. From behind the doorway above the stairwell, a cacophony of bangs and crashes filled the air. The sound of bodies falling coupled with heavy, urgent footfalls now captured their collective attentions.

The door to the basement room was swiftly and efficiently blown from its hinges, as the body of a demon connected with the wood that splintered upon impact. The demon's body flew through the upper banister of the staircase and crashed to the ground below, a puddle of crimson beginning to pool beneath his head.

A figure wielding a gleaming blade rushed through the threshold of the doorway, pausing only to bury his knife in a second attacking lackey. The demon stumbled to one side, his true countenance flashing across the otherwise human visage several times, before he slumped over. A booted foot in the base of his spine sent him tumbling down the stairs, taking the rest of the ruined guard rail with him.

With eyes wide and breathing laboured, Dean stepped through the remnants of the doorway and surveyed the scene before him.

Crowley clapped his hands together and nodded in approval, "Can we get a fan-girl swoon for that palpable, testosterone fuelled display?" The smile faded rapidly from his lips, and Crowley regarded the new arrival closely, "Dean, how nice of you to join us."

"Crowley," Dean growled, and the hatred in his voice caused Lisa to flinch. His tone was far from the gentle purr that she recalled, and something about it was altogether dangerous and alarming. Anger flashed behind Dean's eyes and, despite her previous concerns, Lisa dared to hope that the spark may have been ignited by the very thought that she and Ben were in danger. Perhaps Dean did still care after all, and perhaps it meant little that her calls to him over the last seven months had all been directed to a voicemail service that never appeared to be answered. Perhaps the hope that was alive in her belly was not as futile as she had first believed.

"Well now," Crowley began, clapping his hands together and taking a few steps towards the stairwell, "since the pleasantries are out of the way, shall we get right down to business?"

"Wouldn't have it any other way," snapped Dean, a sinister smile present on his face. Lisa shuddered as Dean's gaze swept both she and Ben, clearly checking on their wellbeing. Satisfied that both were for the moment safe, Dean returned his heavy gaze to Crowley, who beckoned the hunter with the slight curl of his index finger.

"I have something of yours," Crowley crowed, eyes dancing as he rocked back and forth on his heels in a demonstration of his excitement. "Or should I say, someone of yours."

An expression of blatant confusion flashed across Dean's face and he glanced from Lisa and Ben to the demon before him.
Crowley chuckled and shook his head, "Ah, ah, ah... cold... very, very cold."

"What are you talking about?" Dean's eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. He was tired of the childish games and misdirection that had been hurled at them over the past few weeks, and months.
Crowley folded his arms across his chest and stared up in mock contemplation at the ceiling, "I thought using your unfortunate ex and her illegitimate offspring would be the most pertinent way of grabbing your attention, and keeping your meddling little paws out of my business." Crowley smiled in obvious delight as he added, "But then I had a nice long chat with Lisa here and, I suddenly realised I wasn't thinking big enough. I wasn't... considering all my options."

A further sense of dread began to settle over Dean and he briefly wondered just how the situation could possibly get any worse. Judging from the broad smile on the demon's face, things were definitely on a decline.
"See, when you went to Lisa after Sam decided on his little vacation, you really were out of options. And that got me to thinking; where would Dean Winchester have run to if Lisa Braeden hadn't been the only one left?"

Crowley watched as Dean flinched and he widened his eyes as if talking to a child, "Can you guess... Dean-o?"
A flash of acknowledgement passed across the hunter's face and Dean felt all eyes in the room focus in upon him.
"What have you done, Crowley?" he yelled, trying to ignore the rampant pounding of his heart as it echoed in his eardrums.

The demon buried one hand deep into the pocket of his trousers and rubbed at the darkening line of stubble on his jaw with the other.

"Dean..." Lisa hissed, her entire body trembling and causing her voice to do likewise, "what's he talking about?"

Dean shot a glance at Lisa, but she could tell even from the distance between them that his full attention was not with her. Dean's mind was elsewhere; a fact that was communicated by the haunted and frantic look adopted within his eyes.

"Oh, don't worry my dear," Crowley crooned, striding towards Lisa and placing one hand upon her head. He ruffled her mane of dark hair and winked down at his hostage, "This part has absolutely nothing to do with you."

Lisa turned a questioning glance upon Dean who immediately averted his eyes to the floor as though he had not registered Lisa's presence at all. Guilt flickered across his features but Lisa sensed that the emotion had little to do with her or even her son; whatever Dean was going through, Lisa was oblivious to. In that one moment, the painful realisation struck Lisa that she had never truly been allowed to see inside the soul of the man who she had welcomed into her home, her bed, and her heart. Dean swallowed hard.

"What does he mean?" Lisa repeated, far from assuaged by the demon's words that either she or Ben would escape from the situation unscathed. Lisa had assumed that Dean's arrival would spell imminent rescue, but as he stood facing down the demon, that prospect seemed to be dwindling with every passing moment.

When Dean refused to answer, his mouth pressed into a tight line that he dared not break, Crowley instead rested a hand on Lisa's shoulder. The woman shivered at the cold touch, but peered up at the demon nonetheless. She would take her answers from whichever avenue they were offered.

"You see Lisa, despite what Dean may have told you, you and the brat were in fact never first choice," Crowley stated, chuckling with delight as Lisa recoiled a little from the barb. Ben remained deathly silent, shock and fear rendering him mute.

"I don't believe you," Lisa hissed, surprised by the venom dripping from her voice and her own bravado, "we had something special. We loved each other."

"Dean?" Lisa pressed, her eyes widening as she implored him to answer.

Dean shook his head, lifting his eyes almost pleadingly to Crowley, "Just let them go."

"The lady deserves to know the truth, Dean," Crowley replied, not missing a beat as he added slyly, "why don't you tell her about... Carthage?"

He pounced on the word with delight and grinned as it provoked the desired response.
Dean closed his eyes and turned his head from view, but Lisa saw him blink rapidly and visibly hold his breath. The fear that had previously been so all consuming now ebbed away as her curiosity got the better of her, and she found it impossible to tear her gaze away from his face. Only when talking about Sam's death had she ever seen Dean so clouded with grief, and Lisa wondered who or what had evoked such an emotive response.

"What's the matter, Dean?" Crowley shrugged "hell hound got your tongue?"

Dean's hands clenched into fists at his sides as he hollered, "Shut your mouth, or so help me God, I'll..."

"Oh," Crowley waved his hand dismissively in the air, oddly jovial for a demon on the wrong side of a hunter, "God won't help you now, Dean. He never has before."

"Now, my surprise..." Crowley continued, rubbing his hands together as he glanced over toward a minion who had been lurking in the corner, "I'm not usually one for sappy reunions, but... I think you're going to like this."

Dean, Lisa and Ben all stared in trepidation toward a darkened corner of the room, as the demon marched from the shadows, all but dragging a woman along beside him.
Lisa remained none the wiser, simply furrowing her brow as she failed to recognise the petite blonde who was being hauled toward the group, her feet barely touching the floor.

Dean, however, looked as though the breath had been stolen from his body, and his eyes widened as he stared. Elation, confusion and despair all flickered in rapid succession across his features.

"Jo..." Dean breathed the name as though it physically pained him, and Lisa's eyes ticked to his face. The passion etched into his expression was surprising and unequal to anything Lisa had ever witnessed from Dean Winchester before.

The woman stood trembling from head to toe, slightly hunched over as her own arms encircled her middle, and Lisa found herself feeling almost sorry for the pathetic figure she cut. Honey blonde curls spilled almost to her elbows, and formed a curtain in front of her face that partially obscured her features. However, despite the poor light in the warehouse, Lisa could see that the woman was both young and beautiful. She wore tattered blue jeans and a men's shirt that almost reached her knees. Her appearance gave the impression that clothing had been thrust upon her, rather than actually owned.

Dean took a step forwards, and instantly the demon with his hand on the woman's arm yanked her away. She let out a whimper that was barely audible but the sound of it seemed to lacerate Dean's heart where he stood. Crowley looked on, gloating and squeezing his hands together at his chest.

"Please forgive young Jo, she's been through quite a lot," Crowley said, savouring every wince that his words extracted from Dean, "I'm sure that Lisa and Ben here are quite intrigued though."

Lisa's gaze flicked between Dean and the woman, and she found herself hesitantly voicing her question, "Who is she, Dean?"

Dean stood in silence, his chest visibly rising and falling with every breath. He ran his hand over his face and shook his head, beginning to mutter repeatedly to himself to prevent any sense of hope from building. "She's not real... she's not real."

Crowley cleared his throat, interrupting Dean's quiet murmurings. "Oh, I assure you she is," he promised, nodding at the demon that held Jo against his chest. Crowley smiled merrily as the guard produced a silver knife and ran the blade against the young woman's palm.

Dean rushed forward as a startled yelp escaped her, making his stomach churn as he allowed himself to consider the impossible reality. Crowley nodded once more at the demon and he shoved Jo toward the centre of the room. She staggered on unsteady legs and Dean found himself automatically reaching out to catch her.
"Jo?" he whispered softly, the disbelief evident in his tone as he brushed her hair back from her face. Her eyes opened slowly and Dean could do nothing but stare.

"Dean..." she murmured, her bottom lip quivering. Tears began to spill from the corners of her muddy brown eyes as she whispered, "Where am I?"

Without uttering a word, Dean moved forward and wrapped his arms around the woman, drawing her into his body in an embrace so tight that she could not have escaped it even if she had wished to. Lisa watched quietly, fascinated by this new glimpse of a side of Dean that she had never seemed able to coax out of him.

Dean kissed the crown of Jo's head repeatedly and Lisa could have sworn that she saw a few renegade tears splash onto the collar of his shirt. The fabric was dark however and so even in good light she would be unable to tell. Lisa's question remained unanswered and so as the reunion continued in the middle of the floor, she wracked her brain for any mention of a woman named Jo. Recalling none, Lisa let out an irritated sigh and began to struggle against her wrist bonds were the rope had started to dig into her skin.

"What a beautiful scene," Crowley cooed, throwing his arms wide as though inviting an embrace as he strode towards Dean and Jo. Crowley slammed his balled fist against his own chest as he added, "Just gets you right here."

Jo clung to Dean, her mind a blur as she struggled to recall where she was and exactly how she had come to be there. She drew back slightly from Dean's embrace, staring around the room in confusion.
"I'm not supposed to be here," she whispered, frowning as she returned her gaze to his face, "I... I died."

Her eyes widened expressively and Dean caught a tear that tripped her cheek with the pad of his thumb. He remained silent and simply nodded, not caring for the hows and whys of her being his arms; she was somehow alive, and that was all that mattered. Dean reached out and cupped her chin in his hand, feeling a sense of awe wash over him at the warmth of her skin. The last time he had touched her, she had been cold and clammy, minutes away from a cruel death.

Although afraid and confused as to her surroundings, Jo looked as vibrant and alive as Dean had often imagined her in his dreams. His eyes roved her body and he steadied himself before his gaze reached her side. Jo watched as his hand fluttered to her waist and he appeared relieved to find no sign of the injury that had taken her life. With a shudder, Jo recalled the claws that had torn through her flesh as easily as if they were slicing butter.

"How am I here, Dean?" asked Jo fearfully, surprise colouring her expression as Dean blinked back tears and shook his head.
"I don't know," he replied, searching her face one more time before he pulled her back into his arms. One hand grippedthe back of her head as he glared across the room at Crowley, his eyes blazing.

"You freakin' son of a bitch," Dean snarled, looking as though he wanted to say more. He refrained however, simply remaining locked in an embrace with this new mystery woman.

Crowley grimaced in disapproval, before laying one splayed palm against his heart, "How your words wound me, Dean. Is that really any way to talk to the bearer of such a magnificent gift?"

"Magnificent?" Dean spat through gritted teeth, unconsciously holding Jo closer, "you ripped her straight out of heaven, you bastard."

Lisa released a gasp that she seemed helpless to prevent, beginning to piece fragments of the story together for herself now. Crowley chuckled and shot Lisa an uninterested glance before returning his attention to Dean.

"Who says I found her in heaven?" countered Crowley, cocksure grin still in place, rendering the truth behind his claim unreadable.

Dean took a moment to process the demon's words, unwilling to believe that Jo Harvelle's soul had belonged anywhere but heaven. Yet Crowley's words struck home as he remembered Ash informing them that nobody had seen either Jo or Ellen in the afterlife. It was a thought he had pondered often but refused to acknowledge the implications behind.

"No, no way." Dean spat, his expression darkening as he remembered that fateful day in Carthage and the sacrifice both women had made. The guilt over Jo's death would haunt him until the very end and, no matter how Sam or Bobby had tried to comfort him, he knew within his heart that she had died because of him. The idea that Jo had given her life for his and then been subjected to the horrors of hell or purgatory made his blood run cold.

"Bored now!" Crowley stated, miming a yawn as he watched Lisa and Dean exchange significantly awkward glances, "and I have a ritual to attend, so if you don't mind..."

Pausing to bend down and address Lisa, Crowley whispered something inaudible in her ear and then rose to his feet, his ever present smirk set in place.
"Well, I'm sure you three will have lots to talk about," he chuckled, waving at Jo as she stared back at him from the relative safety of Dean's embrace. "Let's see if this doesn't keep you busy for a while. Ciao!"

The demon strode toward the centre of the room and almost immediately vanished from sight, leaving Dean in a state of shock as he looked first to Lisa and Ben, and then to the woman in his arms.

"Dean, cut us free," Lisa instructed, imploring Dean with her eyes, "before more demons come."

Dean stood frozen for several more seconds, unable to wrench his eyes away from Jo's face. He could not begin to fathom why Crowley had resurrected her and to what purpose she would now serve. It seemed odd that the demon would go to such lengths and then simply disappear in a figurative cloud of smoke, seemingly having taken nothing from Dean.

"Dean!" Lisa called out, her tone desperate as she struggled against the ropes that bound her and Ben. Dean suddenly leapt into action, removing the knife from his belt once more and using it to slice through their bonds. Both Lisa and Ben jumped to their feet, the latter massaging his wrists were welts had formed.

"Let's get out of here," Dean said, taking Jo's arm as she blinked up at him in confusion, and beginning to start towards the stairs.

"The brat's not going anywhere," Lisa hissed, a strange grin twisting her lips as she glared at the hunter. Dean's jaw dropped as an onyx shadow inked across Lisa's eyes, and she reached out a hand to pull Ben towards her by the throat, "And neither am I."

If being brought back to life and finding herself in the midst of an apparently apocalyptic demonic scheme had not been enough of a jolt for Jo, Crowley's parting surprise left her reeling.

Dean advanced toward Lisa, his heart breaking for Ben as the young boy stared back at him from behind terrified eyes.
"Just a little insurance, can't go losing our leverage now, can we?" Lisa explained. "Ah, ah, ah," she chided, "one more step, kid gets a free appendectomy."

Jo remained at Dean's side, desperately trying to piece together events in order to ascertain just who this woman was and what she meant to Dean.

"You know, she's awake in here, your Mom. I can hear her thinking," the demon purred, smiling gleefully as Ben trembled within her grasp and stared up at the thing that bore his mother's face.

Dean edged forward slowly, ushering Jo behind him. "Don't listen Ben, that's not your mom... it's not your mom," he said emphatically, drawing the child's gaze in his direction.

The demon chuckled and cocked her head to the side, "Why, I was just gonna tell him you're his real Daddy."
A shadow of doubt crossed briefly behind Dean's eyes and hurriedly he shook off the uncertainty her words provoked. Jo's head whipped around in his direction and Dean saw her in his peripheral vision; her gaze flickering repeatedly between Dean and Ben.

The demon noted Dean's expression with obvious delight and she gave a flippant shrug, "Just kidding. Who knows who your real Dad is, kid. Your mother's a slut."

"Shut your mouth," Dean growled, reaching into his jacket pocket cautiously without the demon noticing, "let the kid go."

"You think you're her white knight, Dean?" Lisa challenged, her blackened eyes blazing as she shook her head, "she wishes she'd never met you. You're the worst mistake she ever made... well, second worst, after keeping you." Her arm tightened around Ben's throat as she arched a pointed eyebrow in the boy's direction.

"Ben, she's lying..." Dean called out, shaking his head. Despite what Lisa's feelings may now be about him and their ill-fated relationship, he knew she loved her son beyond reason.

"Says the C minus lay with ten miles of daddy-issues," Lisa growled, hoisting the knife up against Ben's throat as Dean made as though to advance, "back off, cowboy."

She lowered her lips to Ben's ear, her features contorted by the demon within, "You know, she's begging me to kill you. She says you hold her back. Never had a lick of fun since you were born."

"Ben look at me," Dean stated calmly, drawing Ben's eyes to his own face, "you're gonna be just fine." In one hand Dean grasped a vile of holy water, which he flung at the demon with a growl.

Lisa reeled back, releasing a blood curdling scream as smoke poured from her skin. She released Ben from her grip as the knife dropped from her hands and clattered to the floor. Kicking the blade away from the demon's reach, Dean watched as she fell back against the ground after smashing through a wooden work bench behind her.

"Jo, take Ben. Sam's outside... just get out of here," he instructed, handing Jo his shotgun as she nodded in understanding and drew the weapon tight to her chest. Dean watched her turn away from him and he reached out on impulsive to tug on her arm, propelling her back towards him to press a brief yet urgent kiss against her lips.

The last few moments they had spent together in Carthage were fresh in both their minds, and the intimacy they had finally shared left no room for any further misunderstandings about the nature of their feelings.
"Just... be careful," he implored, stroking her cheek with his thumb. Jo brought her trembling hand to rest over his and attempted a smile.

"You too," she said in earnest, holding Dean's gaze for a split second before she took Ben's arm and began to lead him toward the stairs in the presumed direction of the exit.

Dean fell backwards as the now recovered demon landed a blow to the side of his head that sent him sprawling across the surface of a desk. Pushing himself back from the workbench, Dean affixed a cold glare upon Lisa, beginning to recite a Latin exorcism with practiced ease. The words flowed freely from his tongue and the demon in Lisa's body twitched as it felt itself beginning to be ousted from it's host.

In a split second, Lisa flung herself across the room and gripped Dean about the throat, holding him up off the floor with one hand.

"Stop it," she demanded in a throaty growl, her eyes wide and teeth bared in a snarl. "I'm warning you."

Clawing at the fingers that dug painfully into his throat, Dean narrowed his eyes at Lisa, uttering his curse with conviction, "You can go to hell, you black eyed bitch."

Throwing his head back, Dean rammed his forehead into Lisa's face, sending her staggering backwards and releasing him from her hold. Dean picked up the incantation once more, feinting to the left as Lisa swung a punch at him. Every syllable he uttered seemed to enrage the demon more and more, but Dean continued with determination.

Jo and Ben ran towards the stairs, arm in arm, and pounded up the steps two at a time. As they approached the doorway, several demons loomed through the gap, and Ben let out a startled cry that drew Dean's gaze for a moment. Lisa seized the opportunity and clocked Dean in the jaw, a resounding crack echoing through the abandoned factory. Dean grunted in pain, tasting blood in his mouth, but continued to chant regardless.

Jo flung one arm out behind her body, pushing Ben back down the stairs towards the easier fighting forum of the warehouse floor. Ben jumped backwards obligingly as with accuracy Jo deflected the blows that the first demon rained down upon her.

The sound of their altercation quickly caught Dean's attention and he watched helplessly as the three demon guards rounded on Jo. The sound of gunfire rang out across the basement and he sighed in relief as one of Crowley's minions was hit square in the stomach by a round. His lifeless body tumbled from the staircase and landed with a thud below.

Dean focused upon Lisa once again; she prowled around him, one hand on her hip as she followed the path of Dean's gaze to the blonde hunter.
The demon stared at him thoughtfully, suddenly laughing through a thoroughly menacing sneer, "Ah Jo... poor, innocent, love struck Jo."

"Leave her out of this," Dean snapped, watching his step as they walked in counter circles, each trying to anticipate the other's next move.

"Oh, but where's the fun in that?" Lisa mocked, watching Dean cast a fleeting look toward Jo as another deafening gunshot resounded.

"You can't save her Dean, just like you couldn't last time," Lisa stated, her matter of fact tone sending shivers down his spine, "she'll die saving your sorry ass... just like Carthage. You ever wonder what was running through her pretty little head in those last few moments?"

Dean tried to block out the taunts and took a step forward. He resumed the incantation, struggling to hold Lisa at bay without causing her injury as she lunged for his throat, throwing him up against the wall whilst snarling in his face.
"She hated you, Dean. Just like poor Lisa does now. She imagined all the things she'd never have... a home... love... children. She gave up everything because of you."

"You don't know anything about her," Dean winced, trying to wrench her fingers from his throat.

"I know enough," Lisa countered with a chuckle as she slapped Dean across the face. Dean grunted and kicked out at the demon, succeeding in breaking her grip as he swept her legs from under her. She hit the ground hard and immediately rolled to one side before jumping to her feet once again. She raised her hands in a defensive poise and Dean mirrored the pose.

"I even know why Crowley brought her back," the demon hissed, watching stoically as Dean's determination wavered.

"Demons lie," he answered, his tone cold and un-conceding, "you're poison. Why should I believe a word you say?"

Lisa shrugged, but something in her expression made Dean pause at least for the moment. However, as another gunshot echoed, Dean was hauled from his trance and he dove for the demon with both arms outstretched to trap her.

Holding her fast against the wall, his arm pressing against her throat, he began the final part of the exorcism, trying to finish the incantation to help Jo, who had managed to fend off the guards and was now headed for the stairs once more with Ben beside her.

"You want to know, I can see it in your eyes. You want to know why she's here, why we gave her back to you," she gasped, her eyes flickering and body convulsing as the demon inside began to fight to remain within it's vessel.
"I know Dean," she said, "I know where that tortured, noble, pathetically loyal heart of yours truly lies..."

She gasped as the demon fought to regain control, "With her. That's why she's back Dean... so you can say goodbye to her all over again."

"Go to Hell," Dean growled, stepping back as the final words of the exorcism burst from his lips and Lisa gasped frantically for air. Throwing her head back and mouth wide open, a stream of black smoke poured from Lisa's body and she collapsed sideways onto the floor, almost fainting as a consequence of the ordeal.

Dean rushed to Lisa's side and extended a hand to her, which she accepted with a wary glance up at Dean. He pulled Lisa to her feet and withdrew his handgun from the holster he wore at his hip, checking to ensure that the safety catch was flicked off.

"Are you okay?" he checked, relieved to see Lisa nodding. "Let's get out of here then."

Dean and Lisa ran towards the staircase just as the second onslaught of demons arrived. This time there were six, and they wasted little time in engaging the hunters in combat. Jo landed a few good, hard punches to the nose of her attacker, whilst Dean slammed his elbow repeatedly into the face of a demon wearing the body of a teenage boy. Although somewhat remorseful at the action, Dean knew that any hesitation could cost them all their lives, and so he ploughed forwards with the resolve to simply do whatever needed to be done.

Lisa screamed as a demon barreled into her, sending her sprawling across the ground, and in the next moment Ben had rushed to his mother's aid, breaking away from the safety of Jo's side. Jo's head whipped around in order to follow the boy's path as she kneed her current combatant in the groin.

"Mom!" Ben shrieked, his voice breaking with concern for his mother. Knowing that Lisa could do little to defend herself, Dean strode across the room with his handgun raised, and fired off several rounds into the demon's cranium. The demon rolled away from Lisa before jumping to his feet, a trail of blood beginning to course down his cheek from the two holes that now marred it's skull.

Lisa remained on the floor, trembling, and Ben moved to his mother's side. That was when a raven haired woman, moving with the fluidity and viciousness of one possessed, struck out at Ben with the machete she clutched in one hand.

Dean could do little more but watch in horror as Jo slammed the handle of the shotgun against the demon's skull, causing the woman to redirect her attentions.
"Jo!" Dean called out frantically, dispatching another demon with his knife as he raced to Jo's side.

The female demon stumbled backwards as the shotgun hilt connected with her abdomen, but with a sudden surge of renewed vigour she redoubled her efforts and lunged at Jo with clear intent.

The blade of the knife glimmered menacingly as the demon's hand propelled the weapon forward and, mere seconds later, Jo tumbled to the ground. Dean was at the grinning demon's side in an instant and, when he slid Ruby's old knife into her chest, he did so with fury darkening his features. Blue light flashed over the demon's body and both she and her innocent host fell to the floor.

With the final demon dispatched, Dean dropped down at Jo's side, and peeled her cupped hands away from her stomach. She hissed through her teeth but Dean ignored her obvious pain, stealing himself for the sight that would greet him. The wound was deep and blood immediately spurted from it, beginning to seep out onto the dirt floor.

Black and white images, all too sharp in focus for comfort, flashed immediately through Dean's brain and suddenly he was in a hardware store in Missouri, cursed to bear witness to the death of the woman who had always meant more to him than he dared admit.

"No, no," Dean growled, shaking his head in his refusal to believe that it had come to this once more; Jo's life leaking away from her on the floor of some forgotten hole as a consequence of her own bravery. Ben watched from behind Lisa, his eyes wide and his mouth open in an 'o' of fear. Guilt settled heavily upon the boy's chest as he realised that he had been the cause of the scene before him, and that the life of Dean's friend was now hanging in the balance as a consequence of his mistake.

Jo whimpered and Dean pressed her own hand back against the knife wound, uttering soothing sounds as she grimaced in pain.

"I know honey," he murmured, touching the back of one hand to her forehead briefly, his heart almost shuddering to a halt as he watched her eyes begin to roll back in her head. "We need to keep pressure on this."

Ben wandered from Lisa's side and she watched mutely, half with a sense of pride, as her son stumbled to the aid of the hunters.

"Let me help," Ben begged, touching Dean's arm and forcing the man to look at him.

Ben faltered as he looked up at Dean's face, shocked to see tears welling in Dean's eyes as he nodded at Ben's request.
"Keep pressure on this, just... just press down real hard," Dean instructed, his eyes never leaving Jo's for a second.

Tears streamed down her face, yet she forced a weak smile for his benefit, reaching out a shaking hand as she pressed her palm to his cheek.
"Wrong place, wrong time?" she whispered, echoing words from a place and time that now seemed so very long ago.

Dean's breath caught in his chest and he shook his head resolutely as he placed his hand over hers, "No, you listen to me Jo, you're gonna be fine... I'm gonna get you out of here and..."

"Dean, it's okay," she soothed, her eyelids fluttering with evident pain.

"No. No, it's not," Dean choked out, brushing a kiss against Jo's palm before resting her hand across her chest.

He stood up and scanned the floor for his shotgun, which he ran to with increased urgency. Shooting Ben a reassuring smile, he tossed the weapon to the boy and bent to scoop Jo up in his arms, whispering to her calmly as the jarring motion caused her further pain.

"Wait, you're giving my son a gun?" Lisa demanded incredulously, watching as Jo gritted her teeth and her hand gripped tightly at the fabric of Dean's shirt.

"You know how to fire one of those things?" Dean replied evenly, waiting for Lisa to shake her head before he gestured to Ben, "well, he does. And he's gonna help me get us out of here, right Ben?"

"Yeah," Ben nodded, moving to stand beside Dean as his eyes settled fearfully on Jo's face.

"Hold on sweetheart, I'm gonna get you to a hospital," Dean vowed, beginning to climb the staircase out of the basement to where he hoped Sam would be waiting. Dean glanced over his shoulder at Ben, calling in warning as the next demon ran at them headlong, "Watch out for the kick."

Ben acknowledged Dean's cry with a nod, and within a second had blasted the demon aside with an impressively accurate shot. Lisa clapped her hands over her ears, her eyes widening as she stared at Ben, who seemed to be handling the weapon in a practiced manner.

"Good job Ben," Dean breathed, ducking his head in order to pass underneath a low hanging beam in the corridor. Ben followed in his wake at a mild jog, whilst Lisa brought up the rear of the party, wringing her hands nervously as she picked her way down the corridor. She let out a squeal as two more shots rang out. Lisa realised that Ben had both spotted and dispatched two more demons within seconds, and tears began to descend her cheeks at the awful situation both she and her son seemed to be in the thick of.

"Lisa, you okay?" Dean called back, noting her dangerously slow pace. She nodded and stepped over the debris that littered her path, relieved beyond measure to see the exit only steps away.

Dean stepped through the doorway, the cold chill of the night air greeting him, and was somewhat relieved to feel Jo's arm tense around his neck as he gazed furtively for any sign of his brother.

"In there," Dean directed, hearing furious banging emanating from behind the steel door of the bunker beside them. Ben scrambled to the door then wasted no time in pulling the lock back, freeing the younger Winchester from his prison.

Dean nodded in thanks at the child, although his gaze settled on his sibling's face, which had rapidly descended into shock at the sight of Jo Harvelle.
"Sammy, we need a ride to the hospital," Dean barked, indicating that now was not the time for an explanation.
"Uh, yeah," Sam shook himself out of his reverie and ran off toward the car, speeding to their side in the white four by four less than a minute later.

Lisa ushered Ben into the front seat alongside Sam, momentarily setting aside her hatred of Dean's brother in favour of her son not having to watch someone bleed to death in the backseat. She jumped into the back of the car and wordlessly reached out in order to help Dean settle the blonde hunter comfortably across the seat. To Lisa's surprise, Dean pulled Jo into his lap, cradling her there as though afraid to let go.

Pursing her lips, Lisa pressed two fingers to Jo's throat, feeling a thready pulse beneath. She glanced up into Dean's face, noting that the usually unflappable man was barely holding his emotions in check.

"Her pulse is weak," Lisa murmured, watching as Jo's head lolled back in Dean's arms. Dean shook her gently, propelling her back into consciousness with the jolt of pain that the action sent through her body.

"Don't you dare, Jo. Not again. Stay awake, stay with me," he demanded, swallowing against a tide of nausea as her eyes flickered open.

Jo cast an uncertain glance in Lisa's direction and the two women merely peered silently at each other for a moment before Jo met Dean's intense gaze.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, her bottom lip trembling fearfully at the sudden taste of blood in her mouth. She coughed and the action stained her teeth with an alarming crimson hue.

"You've got nothing to be sorry for, sweetheart," Dean replied incredulously, drawing her closer against his chest. His hand shook as he combed his fingers through her hair and he swept his thumb repeatedly over her cheek, making quiet, soothing sounds he hoped would provide some degree of comfort.

"Almost there," Sam called back to them, glancing in the rear view mirror before returning his attention to the road ahead.

"You're gonna be fine," Dean promised, although his tone of voice made his words seem somehow more like a plea than a reassurance.

Lisa hugged the edges of her cardigan across her chest and kept her eyes trained discretely on Dean's face. It was difficult to discern his soft whispers to the woman in his arms or to read his expression in the darkness, but the light from the next intersection allowed Lisa one tiny moment of focus; even to the casual observer, Dean Winchester's world was crashing down around him in flames.

Lisa swallowed, gulping down the bile that sudden and unwelcome realisation brought to her throat. Even when she had all but thrown Dean out of her house, he had never faced the prospect of losing her and Ben with such terror as he did now with this woman. The endearments had never been so free flowing from his tongue with Lisa, and his caress had never seemed quite so tender. Words spilled desperately from his lips, anything that sprang to mind no matter how mundane or inappropriate, and Lisa saw then just how close Dean actually was to losing his sanity.

Jo cried out as the car hit a bump in the road, and Sam directed an apologetic glance to the backseat.

"Sorry, Jo," he called out, his own voice trembling. "Not far now. Just hang on."

"Good to see you, Sam," Jo croaked, a strange smile spreading sluggishly across her lips. Sam laughed and a look that was halfway between elation and sorrow descended on his face.

"You too, Jo," he stated, "you've no idea."

Lisa noted the affection contained in Sam's tone, realising that whoever this woman was, she clearly had touched both of the Winchester's lives. That was just great; how could Lisa ever have competed with someone that was so obviously accepting and perhaps even indulgent of the ridiculous relationship the brothers shared?

Jo nodded, her smile fading somewhat as she leant her head back against Dean's shoulder, whilst a familiar sense of dizziness overcame her. Despite the comfort and reassurance Dean was all but chanting, in her heart of hearts, Jo Harvelle knew she was dying.

This was her second chance and before she had even begun to live it, it had been cruelly snatched away from her. Jo was certain there would not be a third. She and Dean would never be allowed to explore the bond between them, and Jo was once again hit with an infinite sense of loss at what could have been.

Dean seemed able to ascertain her thoughts and hope visibly drained from his face as he held onto her.

"You're a pain in the ass Harvelle," he said with a forced smile. Dean sucked in a slow breath to try and hold back a threatened onslaught of tears, "But you have no idea how much I missed you."
She murmured unintelligibly, traces of a returned smile ghosting her lips as she tried to assure him that she knew.

Lisa could do nothing but watch in silence as Jo continued to slip away and, in turn, Dean Winchester drifted just that little bit farther from her own reach.