Authors :WelshWitch1011 and Silverspoon
A.N. –Our sincerest apologies for the hiatus on this fic, which is now over. This fic will currently be our priority until it is completed. Thank you for bearing with us, all those who have, and all those who haven't… COME BACK, WE HAVE PIE!
RECAP – Jo Harvelle shows up on Bobby Singer's doorstep, very much alive, and with no memories of where she has been. After she passes all the tests, Dean is ready to welcome her back with open arms and seize his missed chance, whilst Sam is quietly suspicious. Dean asks Sam to allow Jo to hunt with them, and slowly, Dean and Jo begin building a romantic relationship. After a hunt at a carnival which sees Sam go unexpectedly solo, the group returns to their motel, Dean and Jo finally rooming together, only for Sam to disappear the next morning without explanation. With Jo at his side, Dean embarks on a mission to torture as many demons as necessary in order to gain information regarding Sam's whereabouts, but all he is succeeding in doing is destroying his own sanity. Sam is in fact being held by the angel Michael, who has managed to crawl out of the cage, and who also admits to having been the one to resurrect Jo, only because he is eager to destroy Dean by once again taking her from him. And so, the story continues…
Angels and Personal Demons
One month later...
Jo hands trembled as she worked, and her breathing echoed in her own ears, sounding laboured and raspy as a consequence of fear. She soaked the wad of gauze in iodine before daubing it gently over the laceration on Dean's forehead. He stirred and groaned, but his eyes did not open, and Jo swallowed hard as she continued to apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
Dean was a mess, and Jo ached from head to toe. They had both received one of the worst beatings they had endured for a long while. A tip off from a demon had led to an apparently abandoned house, which the hunters had discovered, too late, was actually crawling with a dozen burly, black-eyed meat-suits, who had taken exception to Dean and Jo's recent penchant for torturing their buddies for information they claimed not to have. The forces of darkness were pissed and, for once, they had reason to be craving Winchester blood on their hands.
Castiel had arrived just in time, summoned by Dean's frantic calls, and had transported them back to their motel as Dean had succumbed to unconsciousness. After staring at Jo steely eyed for several intense seconds, Castiel had merely disappeared from view with a flutter of unseen wings, leaving the blonde to tend both of their injuries.
Jo brushed the back of her hand against her nose, not surprised to find a splash of blood stain her skin. A deep, pulsing throb had settled into her left shoulder, and she winced through gritted teeth as she leant forward to pass a damp washcloth over Dean's face. Watching his fluttering eyelids begin to open slowly, Jo leant back and surveyed him with unchecked concern, and a lump rose up in her throat at the conversation she knew was pending.
Dean groaned as he leant up on his elbows, and he eased himself up the bed with a muffled list of expletives to a near sitting position.
Jo busied herself with dabbing another iodine soaked piece of cotton against his forehead, and willed her hand to stop shaking as it connected with his skin.
Dean watched her closely, and an uneasy silence descended upon the pair until the tension in the room was palpable.
Releasing an unsteady breath, Jo finally consented to hold his gaze, and a sudden, rolling nausea rose up from her stomach as she saw the undeniable sadness in his eyes.
His fingers curled around her wrist, and he gently moved her hand away from his face.
"I'm okay," he said stoically.
Jo sighed and stared down at her hands in her lap.
"How long are we going to do this for, Dean?" she began, wringing her hands as she continued, "are you gonna carry on torturing demons forever? Because... I can't watch you destroy yourself, and I won't."
She lifted her gaze and Dean blanched as he saw tears streaming down her cheeks, "This isn't who you are. You're so much better than this."
Dean shook his head and smiled somewhat sadly, "Maybe I'm not. You ever think this is who I really am, huh? Maybe this is the real me."
Jo gulped down a sob, refusing to buckle under her anguish and fear. Instead, she looked away from Dean, the curl of her lip telling him that she was disgusted.
The hunting hiatus at Bobby's had lasted barely a week, before Dean had been chomping at the bit to get back on the road and begin tearing up the surrounding states for any information about Sam. The week had passed pleasantly enough, but something with Dean was undeniably off the whole time. He talked and ate dinner and drank Bobby's beers as usual, but his laughter was forced and hollow, and at night, when he thought Jo was sleeping, he would steal from the bed to sit on the porch and simply stare out across the lot. Jo had tried to be as understanding as she was capable of being, even coming to the realisation that, so long as Sam was missing, there would always be something a little off with Dean. She had hit the road once more with her boyfriend with barely a backward glance at the old hunter who had waved them off from his stoop. However, in the wake of the evening's events, as her whole body protested against the beating it had taken, and as her mind screamed at her to take charge of the situation as she should have done from the very beginning, Jo refused to simply keep quiet.
"Bull… shit…" she hissed, balling her hands into fists and glaring at Dean through narrowed eyes. She leaned towards him, hissing suddenly as her aching stomach muscles sent a jolt of pain ricocheting through her body, and she pressed her palm to the spot where she had been kicked repeatedly by the three demons who had finally gotten her down on the ground. She closed her eyes momentarily against the images of Dean, surrounded and falling, calling out for Castiel, even though his eyes said he had resigned himself to a fate worse than death.
Dean was almost too ashamed to look at her, to watch the signs of physical pain his vendetta had caused her; the emotional pain he knew he continued to inflict made his heart constrict. Because in all his life, she was the only woman he had ever really loved with everything he had. Knowing he was the cause of her misery and of the tears streaming from her brown eyes was almost too much to bear.
Realisation began to flood his mind. His brother was in all likelihood dead, and he was destroying the one good thing he had left. Dean could live with self-destruction; it was a sentiment he was all too familiar with- but he would not do that to Jo. She deserved better.
Dean clutched at his ribs as he sat up slowly, and he swung his legs over the edge of the bed to sit beside her.
Licking his lips, dried through fear and split from the fray, Dean lowered his eyes to the ground and closed his eyes at the words readied on his tongue.
"It's over," he said hoarsely, meeting Jo's teary gaze. She nodded hesitantly, watching a myriad of emotions flood his features, led by regret and defeat.
Jo's bottom lip trembled, and she continued to bob her head slowly in understanding, as his hand landed over hers and he fought to entangle their fingers.
"I'm so sorry, Jo," Dean swallowed hard, "for everything. And, I wouldn't blame you if you packed up and left... I... "
Jo shook her head, turning over her hand that rested under his, until their palms were pressed tightly against each other.
"I'm here," she smiled through her tears, and reached up to cup his cheek, "I'm not going anywhere."
The pad of her thumb swept his jaw, and a steady line of tears began to leak from his eyes.
"He's gone," Dean admitted aloud, pain and misery contorting his features, "Sam's gone, and... and I can't bring him back."
"Shhh…" Jo soothed, curling her legs beneath her body with some effort as she moved into Dean's side and moulded her body against him. They were both still trembling forcefully, a combination of factors sending their bodies into shock.
They remained silent, Jo simply enveloping Dean in her arms as best she could given their considerable size difference. Dean pressed against her limply, all his fight gone now, and his eyes simply affixed on some unknown spot on the ceiling as salty tears continued to track down his cheek. Jo longed to say something that would help – anything that would help- but she was not still naïve enough to believe that mere words could suffice in every situation.
Jo had finally opened her mouth, poised to at least offer some affirmation to Dean, when the flutter of wings dragged both of the hunters from their reverie. They did not move from each other's arms, both slumped against the mattress, simply staring at Castiel as he glowered down at them.
"What you did tonight was reckless, Dean," he all but growled, his gaze wavering to Jo as he added sourly, "and I am surprised that you went along with it, Joanna."
Jo stayed silent, and the couple simply remained sprawled side by side, like sulky teenagers being reprimanded by their celestial elder.
Dean cleared his throat and attempted to shift the focus of the conversation from blame to a more appreciative tone he hoped Cas would approve of.
"Thanks, man... for helping us out back there."
Castiel arched a dark eyebrow and glanced between the pair, "I am not in the habit of letting my friends get torn limb from limb; no matter how irresponsible or distasteful I find their behaviour. I hope you will finally reconsider your actions of late. This attitude cannot be allowed to prevail, Dean. You will get yourself or Joanna killed, perhaps both... I had assumed from studying human behaviour that there was an innate desire to protect your mate. I do not understand why you continue to put yourself, or the woman you profess to care for, in danger."
Jo wrinkled her nose at the use of the term, but Dean looked thoroughly embarrassed and more than a little ashamed.
Sighing heavily, Dean's jaw set as he turned his gaze from the angel, "Yeah, well if you're here to give me a wake-up call, Cas, you're too late. So you can stop with the lecture before you get the part about me being socially damaged and a general all-round asshole."
Jo frowned, glancing up and mouthing the words 'socially damaged' to Dean with a quizzical expression.
"Dr. Phil," Dean explained quietly, shrugging off any further tirade from Castiel as he left the angel wincing in well-practised confusion.
"Very well," Castiel replied eventually, nodding at Dean, although his lips were still twisted into a scowl of evident displeasure. "Do you require healing?"
Albeit rather reluctantly, Dean shook his head, trying not to allow the pain he actually endured to reflect on his features.
"Thinking I kind of deserve this," Dean answered, his smile wry as he regarded the angel, who snorted in agreement.
A few moments of heavy silence followed, before Castiel sucked in a breath and took an almost hesitant step towards the hunters. Dean leaned forwards expectantly, seeing the look of fleeting uncertainty pass over the angel's face.
"I know that look, Cas," Dean said softly, his eyes narrowing as he stared at his friend, who ducked his head momentarily and jammed his hands into the pockets of his old trench coat.
Castiel faltered in a very un-angelic display, and he cleared his throat as he stared down at his friend and nodded his head.
"You asked me to continue my search for Sam..." Cas began.
Dean quirked an eyebrow and swallowed down the sense of dread he felt rapidly enclosing on him.
Castiel watched Jo squeeze Dean's hand in reassurance, "I have been unable to find any information on his whereabouts and... I am no longer able to sense his energy."
Jo's lips felt impossibly dry, and she licked them nervously, "What does that mean, Cas?"
Dean stared down at his lap, trying to hold back the tears he felt beginning a slow burn from the back of his throat.
Castiel sighed, and Jo flinched as she detected sadness in his tone, "It means I believe he is no longer on this Earth."
"He's dead," Dean said quietly, looking up quickly at the angel and clumsily swiping a fresh onslaught of tears from his face with his fingertips.
The angel bowed his head solemnly, "I know this is not the news you wanted to hear, yet I suspect it is what you anticipated."
Dean's hands fell into his lap, and he clasped them there until his knuckles began to whiten. His jaw set and Dean nodded, but his chiselled features were devoid of anger now, and he leaned a little closer to Jo. His shoulders slumped and his head dropped- his defeat evident in his countenance.
"I am very sorry," Cas said softly, his tone bordering on achieving genuine sympathy.
Remaining mute, Dean nodded once again. Letting out a pained sigh, Jo peered up at Castiel through watery eyes.
"I got it from here, Cas," she murmured, adding quickly, "thanks again for earlier."
"You're welcome," Castiel replied, and before Jo had even finished blinking, the angel had vanished entirely from the spot in which he stood.
Dean dropped his head into his hands, "I didn't want to believe it, you know? But I knew. I guess I've known all along, I just didn't want to admit it... I couldn't."
His voice emerged as little more than a whisper, and Jo sidled closer and encircled her arms around him. Dean turned into her embrace and she cradled his head against her chest.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled into the crown of his head, stroking his hair soothingly and allowing him to cling to her as if his life depended on it.
Dean's breath was hot and rushed against her neck, and she felt the fabric of her shirt becoming damp with tears.
"I was supposed to look out for him. I promised I'd take care of him," Dean said miserably, thinking back on the vow he had made to their father when he had been little more than a child himself.
"Hey," Jo said sternly, gently forcing his head up to hold her gaze, "none of this is your fault, Dean. You hear me?! None of this is your fault."
She repeated her words with a certainty that defied him to argue with her.
Jo leant her forehead against his and she pressed her palm gently to his cheek.
Dean shook his head, tears tripping freely down his cheeks as a reflection of his terrible, final acceptance; Sam was never coming home again. He averted his gaze, moving back from Jo as he attempted to swipe the moisture from his eyes.
"I don't know… how do…" Dean trailed off, his words eclipsed by the sob that bubbled up from the back of his throat, and Jo found herself crying along with him, although her tears fell quietly – a pale imitation of the gut wrenching sorrow that Dean felt at the loss of his brother.
"We don't worry about any of that right now, sweetheart," Jo breathed, raking her fingers through Dean's hair and placing both palms against his cheeks. Gently but firmly, she manipulated his head so that they were nose to nose, their eyes locked.
"You take each day as it comes," she insisted, her voice shaking horribly as she forced the words out, "believe me, this won't be easy… it'll be hard, and there'll be days you feel like quitting… some days you won't even wanna get out of bed… hell, probably some days where you'll contemplate pouring Jack Daniels on your cereal, and a few days where you'll actually do it… but you know all this, Dean… you've been here before."
She trailed off sadly, screwing her eyes shut as she sucked in a steadying breath to help steal herself against the utterly broken demeanour of the man she loved. He was sinking fast in front of her, after months of staying barely adrift, and Jo knew that she was the only one now who could pull him back to shore.
"But this time, you got me, Dean-o," she whispered, pressing a frantic kiss first to his forehead, then his jaw line, and lastly to the palm of his hand, before she brought it to rest over her heart. "You and me, together… I'm not Sam, and I'd never pretend I could take his place… I'm not something better, just something different… and I won't let you be alone through this."
Dean held her gaze, staring at her with such intensity that it made her cheeks burn.
He felt her heart pounding beneath his palm, a steady, comforting rhythm that helped regulate the gasping breaths he found himself taking. His palm slid gradually up her chest, until his fingers brushed her collar bone and his hand slid around to the back of her neck.
Dean guided her carefully closer, angling his head to brush a tender kiss against her lips.
A faint smile settled briefly on his face, and he stared at her with obvious adoration. The past could not be changed now, and though his heart would remain heavy with grief, the possibility of a future, and some semblance of a life was still before him. Sam would not be beside him to share that life, and there would always be a vacant spot in his heart that only his brother could fill. But it was not like the last time; he didn't have to surrender who he was, or betray Sam's memory. He could wake up each morning knowing who he was, for better or for worse, without having to hide his grief, or dismiss the demons he had carried since childhood. Jo wasn't Lisa, and those slowly festering feelings of unease and displacement would never exist with her. Jo was home, she was where he belonged. She was love and passion, comforting and understanding, and with her Dean had found an unfamiliar sense of safety and belonging that had eluded him almost all of his life.
"You and me," he agreed, as if making a pledge to do what he knew his brother would have wished. Sam knew Dean perhaps better than anyone, and he had seen the unspoken yearning in his older brother for the life their mother had fought so hard to attain.
Dean knew that the very least he could do now was live the life that not only Sam would have wanted for him, but that he wanted for himself. This time, there was no terrible knowledge that Sam's soul had been condemned to eternal torment to weigh down on him, and Dean could only hope that wherever his brother now was, he was finally at peace, and perhaps even at the side of the woman he had loved the most.
Dean blew out a breath and eased himself back against the mound of pillows, gently taking Jo with him, careful not to connect with any of the bruises rapidly blooming on her skin following their earlier showdown at the house.
"Tomorrow morning, we'll pack up," Dean said quietly, his voice laden with exhaustion that was also evident in the dark circles that ringed his eyes. His body felt heavy, and as though he hadn't slept in months, which Dean realised was as good as true. Now, however, there was a sense of closure that he knew would allow some semblance of sleep to claim him that night.
Several hours later and Jo awoke with a start, wrestled from slumber by the nagging ache in her ribs. Turning her head, she struggled to read the numbers on the digital clock on the nightstand. The flashing red figures told her it was almost 4 am; little more than an hour after she and Dean had eventually allowed sleep to claim them.
Dean held her in a vice like grip, his arms tight around her, and his body moulded around hers as he slept fitfully behind her. Jo rolled over as much as his arms would allow, and she stared thoughtfully at the sleeping man beside her.
Even in sleep Dean's expression was troubled, and his eyelids flickered as if his mind was still not able to rest. Jo could only guess as to the dreams that plagued him.
Nestling closer, she tucked her head beneath his chin and slipped her arm around his torso.
"We'll get through this... I promise," she vowed in a whisper, closing her eyes as she felt him pull her back into his arms.
Eventually, the slow rise and fall of his chest lulled her, and Jo fell into a deep sleep. She would not recall her dreams when she awoke the next morning; she silently prayed Dean would not either.