Rating: T (M for later chapters)
Authors: Silverspoon & WelshWitch1011
A . N. - This fic is our own AU take on just one of the ways Jo could make her return in SPN Season 7. We are fairly certain this will not be it, though.
Once again, we own nothing, aside from a couple of Harvelle's Roadhouse mugs, a few boxsets, books, a drawing of Jensen, and a sex-eh Dean Winchester bookmark.
Reviews are the naked Winchester smothered in ice cream, on the fluffy bed of life.
Angels And Personal Demons
Closing the bedroom door with a quiet click, Dean Winchester rested his forehead against the wood panel, and screwed his eyes closed. His hands shook as he released the doorknob and pressed both palms flat against the door jamb, as though the gesture left him somehow connected to the woman who lay sleeping inside the guest room. If he truly strained, Dean could still hear the soft, measured breaths that left her body with the rise and fall of her chest.
Dean blew out an unsteady breath of his own and finally, gathering his jumbled thoughts into some semblance of order, pushed his body away from the door before taking the stairs two at time.
Both Bobby and Sam looked up as Dean returned to the study, barrelling in as though the devil himself was on his heels. Sam sat quietly on the couch, his expression distant as he reflected upon recent events, whilst Bobby had taken up his usual residence behind the desk, where mounds of books almost succeeded in obscuring him from view.
"H-how is she?" stammered Sam almost immediately, leaning forwards in his seat as he regarded Dean, his hands clasped in his lap and his features twisted in earnest.
"Finally asleep," Dean stated, running his hands through his hair and beginning to pace the floor with nervous energy.
"Cas?" Dean shouted abruptly, causing Sam to leap several feet in shock. Dean had been careful to keep his voice low enough so as to not wake their slumbering guest, but loud enough that the angel in question would not be able to ignore him for long, "Castiel, get your ass down here!"
Sam let out a gasp as the angel appeared beside him, an altogether impassive expression upon his face.
"You require information?" Castiel stated rather than asked, hardly flinching as Dean strode toward him with hands balled into fists.
"What the hell is she doing here, Cas?" Dean demanded, stepping closer to Castiel in a manner that should have proved unnerving. However, secure in the knowledge of his own superior strength and powers, Cas continued to stare at Dean.
"I do not know," Cas answered after a beat, dropping his head to convey the remorse behind his statement, "we are as surprised by events as you."
"Surprised?" Dean guffawed, "surprised doesn't even cut it. I- I watched her die... I saw that store get blown to kingdom come, and then suddenly here she is... standing on the freakin' doorstep with no idea how she got here, and no memory of where she's been!"
Dean finished up his rant panting raggedly, and affixed an almost accusatory glare upon the angel.
"I wish I could help you, but alas, I cannot," Castiel widened his eyes to emphasize his point.
"Is it really her?" Sam interrupted, brushing off the murderous glare he received from Dean in response to his question. "We need to know what we're dealing with here, Dean."
"What do you mean, 'what we're dealing with'? She passed all the tests, okay? It's her, it's... it's Jo," Dean insisted, his voice breaking as the words left his lips, and he found that he had given life to the name he had long ago vowed never to speak aloud again.
Castiel stepped closer to the brothers, his eyes darting between them, "It is her. Of that we are sure."
"Is she back for good?" Dean demanded, his mind racing at all the possibilities that his imagination could conjure.
Castiel's shrug was maddening, and he jammed his hands into his pockets as he regarded all three men in turn, "That I do not know."
"Well then you get your ass up there and you damn well find out!" Dean barked, feeling tears prick at the corners of his eyes as the events of the day began to weigh down upon him. The idea that Jo might be once again taken from him was almost too much to bear and, as usual, Dean was satisfied for the outpouring of all his emotions to take the form of another angry tirade.
A creak from the floorboards upstairs caused Dean's head to whip around and, as he turned to unleash a further barrage of threats on the angel, he found that Castiel had made an unannounced departure.
The stairs creaked under the weight of soft footfalls, and Dean sucked in a breath as he watched her walk uncertainly down the stairs.
"I-I thought I heard shouting..." she whispered- something she had been doing a lot of since showing up on Bobby's doorstep at exactly noon, with a vacant expression spread across her face and her arms wrapped around herself.
"It's okay," Dean soothed, taking a step towards Jo, who seemed oddly fragile and small as she stood barefoot wearing an old t-shirt of Dean's and a pair of Sam's sweatpants that hung low on her hips and were turned up several times at the ankles.
"You should rest, darlin'," Bobby said kindly, a smile spreading across his lips as he regarded Jo, who stared back blankly at the three men.
"No, I... I'm fine," she shook her head, looking entirely confused as she admitted, "I don't want to be alone right now."
Dean nodded in understanding, closing the distance between them in two tentative strides before he reached out and enclosed Jo in an embrace. Ignoring the startled expression of the woman in his arms, and the presumptive glances of Sam and Bobby, Dean closed his eyes. He breathed in the heartbreakingly familiar scent of her hair and found his breath catching in his throat.
"You uh... you want something to eat? Something to drink?" he offered, feeling Jo shake her head against him before whispering a quiet 'no' to each question.
Dean swept his hands down her arms, frowning as he felt goosebumps rise up on her skin, and he rubbed his hands vigorously from her shoulders to her elbows. He snatched up an old throw from the back of the couch in order to wrap it around her shoulders.
"I'm okay, really," Jo promised, even managing to flash a smile. However, her tone and general demeanour indicated otherwise.
Dean nodded, although clearly unconvinced, and bent to press a kiss to her forehead just as he had the last time he had held her. The gesture was not lost on either of them, and he felt her arms enclose that much tighter around his waist.
Jo allowed herself to remain in Dean's embrace as she stared across the room at Sam and watched him peer back at her in a slightly analytical, uneasy manner.
"It's really me, Sam," she assured him, shrugging helplessly at her own inability to account for her sudden and unprecedented reappearance in their lives, "I don't know how, but..."
"We'll figure it out, I promise," Dean assured her, barely noticing as his fingers weaved in and out of her hair. Jo nodded before her gaze dropped to the floor. Dean shot Sam a warning glare and, instantly, the younger Winchester leapt up from the couch.
Dean ushered Jo over towards it, watching like a hawk as she sank back against the battered cushions, evidently weary but reluctant to succumb to slumber. He wondered if she would suffer nightmares- visions of the unknown place that had up until now contained her soul- but he pushed down the thought without entertaining it for longer than necessary. He hated to think of Jo so vulnerable, especially to something he had no hope of protecting her from.
"I guess you guys aren't any closer to finding out how I got here," Jo said rather than queried, her eyes sweeping the room in a cursory glance before coming to rest upon Bobby. She seemed to be relating to the old hunter more easily than either of the Winchesters. Whilst Jo was aware that Sam continued to view her with perhaps wise suspicion, Dean had rarely allowed her room to breathe, whilst being painfully careful not to reference any of the events leading up to or proceeding Carthage.
Jo shuddered as a draft blew across her legs, and shot a warning glare at Dean as he moved as though to resettle the blanket around her.
"Guys, I'm fine," she reiterated, her pointed gaze befalling Dean, "live and kicking over here."
Sam stared at the young blonde with unchecked dubiousness, his eyes roving her body, which appeared to bear no signs of the wound that had claimed her life over a year before. It had been Sam who had answered Bobby's door earlier that day to a frantic and relentless pounding. To his amazement and horror, he had been greeted by the sight of a bedraggled and blood-soaked Jo Harvelle standing on the stoop, a faraway expression in her eyes. Still dressed in the clothes she had died in, and with no memory of how she had arrived at the house or where she had been prior to her re-emergence on earth, the three hunters had spent the majority of the day in a state of shock.
After subjecting the arrival to numerous and varied supernatural tests, Bobby and Dean had been content that it was in fact Jo Harvelle; somehow alive and well, and standing before them. Sam had been the only one to retain his suspicion, and was watching the young woman now with obvious concern; a fact which Bobby, Dean nor Jo herself had missed.
When a few minutes of uncomfortable silence and uneasy staring had elapsed, Jo rose to her feet and pulled the blanket around her body, shuddering against both the cold and the decidedly strange atmosphere in the room.
"I think I'm gonna go sit out on the porch for a while," she stated, smiling weakly at Bobby as she shuffled out of the room, the screen door swinging shut behind her only seconds later.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Dean demanded, rounding on Sam almost immediately.
"Well I'm sorry, Dean, but I'm not letting my emotions get in the way. After all that's happened, I think I have a right to be suspicious, and if you were thinking straight, you'd be asking yourself how any of this is possible too," Sam argued, his jaw and mouth set stubbornly.
"Boys!" Bobby interjected, not wanting to referee yet another fight between the brothers, who seemed to have been at odds all afternoon. Whilst Sam continued to wonder as to the hows and whys of Jo's return, Dean seemed to have simply accepted the fact, and appeared too busy grappling with the unaddressed guilt and grief that Carthage had left him with to focus.
"To hell with this," Dean growled, standing and stalking out to the porch in search of Jo.
Bobby watched him go, leaving he and Sam alone with their thoughts.
"It's really her, Sam," he reiterated, understanding the younger man's concerns, yet also feeling bad for Jo that one of her closest and most trusted friends could be so openly hostile toward her.
Sam ran his hand over his face, leaning back in his seat as he mulled over Bobby's words then nodded in apparent repentance.
"I just... I want to know why she's back, Bobby. Whoever did this... for whatever end, it can't be good."
Bobby shrugged, removing his cap and smoothing down his hair. "That ain't her fault Sam and you know it. And well, whoever or whatever did this, we gotta figure it out. Because it's Jo... and I'll be damned if I'll let that kid get hurt again."
Sam nodded thoughtfully, peering out toward the porch as Bobby replaced his hat, "Dean... he was in love with her. I'm not even sure he saw it until it was too late."
He frowned as a low chuckle reverberated from Bobby's chest and the older man simply smiled in silent agreement.
Jo was watching the stars intently, her knees hugged to her chest and the blanket swathing her. Dean approached with caution, making just enough noise for his presence to be noted but not enough to appear alarming. Jo glanced back and awarded him a smile before returning her attention to the night sky, her eyes impossibly wide as she drank in the sight of the stars.
"Sam's right, you know," Jo said, before Dean had even properly settled himself at her side. He blinked in surprise, frowning as he shot her a questioning look.
"About?" he prompted, unable to meet her gaze. Jo chuckled and shook her head.
"Come on, Dean, I'm not blind," she snorted, adding somewhat sadly, "I see the way he looks at me."
"Naw... no, Jo," Dean interrupted, shaking his head and scooting even closer to Jo across the porch step, "he's just..."
"I should never have come here," Jo interjected, "it was stupid. I could have put y'all in danger. I mean, who knows what brought me back... what they want... what they're planning..."
Dean shook his head, gingerly extending his arm and wrapping it around her shoulders.
"We're family, Jo. Where else are you gonna go, huh?" he said simply, finding her proximity comforting.
"I just don't want to put you guys in danger. Soon as I figure things out, I'm gonna head out of here," she stated, picking at loose threads on the fabric that lay across her lap.
"Jo, no," Dean protested, leaning toward her and capturing her cheek with his palm.
"No," he implored, searching her eyes with his own and feeling an unfamiliar ache tug at his heart.
Jo's breathing slowed as she returned his gaze and desperately attempted to blink away the memories their exchange was beginning to conjure.
"I said goodbye to you once before, Jo... I'm not gonna do it again," Dean swallowed, watching the path of his thumb as he swept it over the curve of her cheekbone.
Jo opened her mouth as if to reply, yet her words died on her lips and tears pooled in her eyes, catching on her eyelashes and sliding onto the back of Dean's hand.
"Look, I'm sorry, but this..." Jo pulled away from him gently but firmly and stumbled to her feet, "this is all too much."
Without a word, Dean nodded his understanding as Jo moved back towards the door of the house and tugged on the screen. She shot him a final backwards glance and opened her mouth as though to speak. However, when words failed her, she pressed her lips into a tight line once again.
"Goodnight, Jo," Dean murmured, watching as she retreated back inside, presumably to the safety of the guest bedroom. He doubted she was in any hurry to return to the scrutiny of Sam's gaze, or Bobby's paternal concern.
Casting a futile glance to the heavens, Dean continued to watch the stars.
Two weeks had now passed since Jo's reappearance and, though none of the hunters had been able to ascertain how or why she had been returned to them, the old friendships that had once existed between them seemed revived.
Sam's suspicions had waned, and he and Jo had managed to re-forge the almost sibling bond they had previously shared, whilst Bobby had stepped in to fill the gaping parental void left in Jo's life by Ellen's absence.
The question of the nature of Dean's relationship with Jo, however, was a far more complicated one. It was true that an unspoken attraction had existed between them since their first meeting, but just prior to Jo's death, that unresolved tension had taken a more acute turn. In their final moments together, when both had assumed there would be no second chances to explore their feelings, they had shared their first kiss; a kiss both grieved would ultimately be their last.
They had said goodbyes with regret and sorrow haunting their eyes, whilst mourning the endless maybes that were forever taken from them.
But now, having Jo around him once more, Dean's emotions were proving difficult to rein in. However, he worried that perhaps yet again, it was not the right time or place for them to explore a romantic relationship.
Whilst he longed to reach out and touch Jo, to admit to the feelings he had harboured and denied for years, he recognised that she was in no emotional state to hear such a declaration. Having resolved to be there for her simply as a friend, Dean was left constantly at odds with his feelings; desperate to keep her close, but concerned he may scare her away.
"Can I help?" Jo asked, gesturing to the plate of steaks and assorted cuts of meat that Dean was about to barbecue out back. It was a bright and balmy day and, with his spirits somewhat elevated by both Jo's presence and the recent lack of hunts, Dean had decided on barbecuing the stack of meat that Bobby seemed to be storing in his freezer for when the next apocalypse swung round.
Jo jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans and shuffled closer to Dean, standing at the kitchen counter at his side so that her hip gently bumped him.
"Sure," he said, gesturing over toward the refrigerator with a smile, "you wanna grab us a couple of beers?"
Bobbing her head in reply, Jo wandered across the kitchen, opening the refrigerator door and bending to peer inside as she sought out the chilled bottles. Dean watched her, transported back to a night that now seemed so long ago- a night he had often thought about over the past year when the memory of Jo's laugh or simply her smile had kept him awake long into the early hours of the morning.
"Dean?" she held the beer bottle up before him, having apparently called his name several times with no response. Jo frowned as she noted the faraway look in his eyes.
"Thanks," he said gratefully as he accepted the beer, and Jo hopped up onto the counter beside him, her legs dangling over the edge and her feet far from the floor.
Dean continued to slice open burger buns, glancing discretely in Jo's direction and accidentally catching her gaze as he found her staring back at him just as raptly. His eyes wandered down her legs, and an amused smirk twitched at his lips as he noted the deep pink nail polish adorning her toenails. A sudden sharp, searing pain struck at his palm, and Dean cursed under his breath as the knife clattered to the counter and splashes of bright red blood dropped down onto the surface beneath him.
"Here, let me see," Jo demanded, hopping down from the counter and taking his hand without awaiting a reply. Leading him over toward the sink, she ran the faucet and eased his hand underneath.
"It's not so bad," she soothed, watching as the blood was washed from his skin, leaving a thin nick in the centre of his palm.
"Thanks," he said hoarsely, watching as her fingertips trailed over his skin, and he sighed out loud at the warmth that radiated from her touch that was both intoxicating and reassuring.
Jo nodded, lifting her gaze to meet his as she made no effort to release his hand. Her thumb brushed against his, and she felt a slow warmth begin to burn in the pit of her stomach, which soon spread to every nerve in her body.
The sound of Sam clearing his throat in the doorway of the kitchen visibly startled Jo, and she jumped a little as well as almost losing her purchase on the beer bottle she still held. She leapt back from Dean almost guiltily, releasing her grip on his injured hand and casting her gaze to the kitchen tiles.
"Bobby wants to make a store run, I said I'd drive him," Sam said by way of explanation, the apples of his cheeks beginning to burn crimson with embarrassment as he realised that he had evidently interrupted a promising moment between the two. The murderous glare that Dean shot him served to confirm as much, and Sam winced as he regarded his brother.
"Is there anything you guys need?" Sam continued, beginning to toy with the zip of his jacket as his eyes ticked from Jo back to his infuriated brother.
"No," Dean growled, beginning to rifle through the drawer for a band-aid and pointedly refusing to meet Sam's gaze.
"Yeah, sure," Jo stammered, setting her beer bottle on the counter and stumbling towards the kitchen doorway. Awkwardly, she sidestepped Sam and called out over her shoulder, "I got a list upstairs. I'll be back in a second."
Sam nodded, despite knowing that Jo, who was already padding around the upstairs hallway, would obviously fail to see the gesture. Dean slammed the drawer shut and pressed both palms against the counter top, leaning forwards and glowering at Sam.
"You guys looked..." Sam began, grimacing as Dean's eyes narrowed. "Never mind."
"You maybe want to make a little noise next time Sammy?" Dean demanded, "stomp or... hell, I don't know... yodel?"
"Dean, I'm sorry," Sam repented, holding his hands out before his body in a placating gesture.
Shooting his brother a final, withering glare, Dean affixed the band-aid to his hand and snatched up the plate of steaks.
"Dude, I said I was sorry," Sam muttered under his breath, wincing as the screen door slammed shut and Dean stormed off into the yard. Sam jammed his hands in his pockets and, with a groan, stalked after his brother.
"Dean?" Sam began quietly, watching as Dean opened the lid of the barbecue and began to clean off residual char from the grill, "you got a minute?"
"Sure, what's up, Sammy?" Dean inquired, lighting the barbecue with a flick of his wrist and casting a cursory glance down at the gas canisters below as the flames wavered.
Sam cleared his throat and gazed down at the ground, preparing himself for the response he knew would be inevitable. "It's about Jo."
That caught Dean's attention, and he looked up sharply at his brother, his brow furrowed, "What about her?"
Sam appeared to pick over his next words carefully before speaking in a halting tone.
"Look, I know that you... that you had feelings for her," he said tactfully, watching Dean's expression, "and I know how easy it'd be to just... fall right back into that, you know? But I just think you need to prepare yourself. I mean, we don't know if this..." He swallowed, noting that Dean had not once glanced in his direction. "We don't know if this is a permanent thing."
"Stop," Dean demanded, although his tone betrayed just a hint of pleading. "Just... stop, okay?"
"Dean, I just want you to be prepared, I don't want you to get hurt again," Sam stated helplessly, looking on as Dean momentarily closed his eyes before meeting his brother's gaze.
Shaking his head mournfully, Dean said in a voice barely more than a murmur, "It's too late for that, Sammy. From the second I saw her again, I... "
He slammed down the lid of the barbecue and leant on the metal rail, massaging his forehead with his hand, "I can't think about that."
"Dean, man, I know you don't want to..." Sam began, running one hand through his hair and puffing out a breath from between his cheeks as he regarded his brother. Dean shook his head, and when he turned back to Sam, the fear within his eyes was almost physically painful to behold. Sam's breath caught in his throat, and his mouth fell open as he watched a saddened smile form upon his brother's lips.
"I can't, Sammy," Dean replied, an almost hysterical chuckle bubbling up from his chest, "I... I think I love her."
From behind the cover of the thick curtain that swathed the screen door, Jo Harvelle pressed her back against the wall and sank to the floor as a solitary tear rolled down her cheek.