So this is a story in which Jo didn't die and Sam is still in the cage after a couple months. Dean never stopped hunting, and is doing so even more intensely now that Sam is gone.

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. I simply use the characters for my own enjoyment.

Without further ado, onto the story!

The foam sitting on the top of the clear, amber liquid rose up the sides of the glass as Jo refilled it, pushing it back across the bar towards the man when she was finished. She set the bottle back under the counter as he nodded a quiet thanks in her direction.

She looked up when Ash called across the room to her from where he sat at the far end of the bar, typing something on his computer.

"Hey babe, I'll take another round, if you would," he said, grinning and holding up his empty shot glass.

Jo rolled her eyes, but was given a valid excuse for not catering to him when the cell phone in her jeans pocket vibrated suddenly. "I've gotta take a call," she replied. "You live here. You can damn well come and get your own." Ash gave her an exaggeratedly disappointed look, but he eased off his stool and walked around the bar, grabbing a bottle and refilling his glass. "While you're at it," she said, while taking her phone out of her pocket, "you can watch the bar for a sec."

She walked through the swinging door leading to the back room, glancing down at the caller ID as she flipped the phone open. Dean Winchester. She frowned.

"Hello?"

"Jo?"

"Yeah, this is Jo. You did call my number, after all," she said wryly. "I haven't heard from you in months." Why was he calling her now? "Mom's been worried." She figured that Dean knew her well enough to hear the implied and so have the rest of us at the end of her sentence. Bobby, Ash, Jo herself . . . hell, even Castiel had come calling, wanting to know if they had heard anything from him.

"I know, and I'm sorry." His voice sounded slightly rough, and seemed to lack some of its usual bravado. "Hey, uh . . . if this is a bad time . . ."

"It's as good a time as any, Dean," she replied. "Shut up and tell me what's wrong."

She heard an expelled breath of air on the other end of the line, followed by a muttered, "damn, she's good." Jo was pretty sure she hadn't been meant to hear that. She waited silently.

"Uh, well . . . I was . . . am . . . on a hunt an hour or so away from the Roadhouse. I took care of the fuglies, but uh . . ." Whatever Dean was trying to say, it was hard for him to get it out. Jo estimated she knew about what he was going to say, and she wasn't surprised at his obvious reluctance to say it.

"Yeah?" she prodded.

"It'd be nice if someone . . . came out here to pitch in a little."

She rolled her eyes. Trust Dean to never be willing to admit to needing help.

"Pitch in like how? If they're dead, what do you need?"

Another frustrated sigh. "I can't drive anywhere, okay?"

"So you're saying you need me to come out there and drive you back here?"

". . . yeah, something like that."

"What happened to the Impala?"

"Nothing's wrong with the Impala," he replied quietly. "It's me, alright? I can't drive."

"Oh." Jo was slightly taken aback. It was highly unusual that Dean ever asked for help on a hunt, and almost never did he admit it was because of his own shortcomings. She put two and two together and realized why his voice had sounded weak and breathy. "How bad is it?" she asked quietly.

A moment of silence. "Pretty bad."

"I'll be there as soon as I can," she replied. "Just hang on. Where are you?"

She listened as he gave his location. If she drove fast, she could be there in fifty minutes or so.

"Jo?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

She snorted. "Thank me when I'm there." And she snapped the phone shut.

She wondered if she had been too harsh, then dismissed the idea. Dean Winchester was a man who needed a little of his own medicine sometimes. It was his comfortable mode of communication; he needed someone to treat him exactly as he treated everyone else.

And besides, she had every right to be a little terse with him, she reasoned. He didn't call anyone for months at a time, leaving them all hoping and praying that he was alive; the only proof that he was still kicking were the reports that came from all around the country saying he had ganked this creature or that. And he didn't have Sam around anymore to watch his back. He ought to check in with someone more often. Even Bobby rarely heard from him.

On this note, she turned decisively towards the door. Striding back into the bar, she walked up beside Ash. "You too drunk to drive?" she asked.

"I'm never too drunk to drive," he replied.

"Dean just called. He needs someone to come get him and the Impala. You're gonna drive the Impala back, so you'd better not be too drunk to drive, or you'll have Dean to answer to. You know how he feels about that car. So speak now if you think you can't."

He shook his head. "I ain't even really started drinking yet. I'm game."

"Good. Let's go."

She called across the room to Ellen, who came over. Jo explained the situation to her.

"You be careful, you hear?" Ellen said, giving her a hard look. Jo nodded.

"He said he took care of whatever it was."

Ellen gave her a look that told her exactly what she thought of that. "You be sure to bring that boy back in one piece. I aim to give him an earful."

The drive there was mostly silent, with the two friends riding in contemplative silence, both unwilling to admit that they were worried about Dean and so saying nothing because there was nothing else to be said.

Finally, they pulled up the driveway to the house where Dean had given her directions. She could tell that it was old and dilapidated, but she couldn't see much else in the dark. She knew it was the right place because the Impala was there, parked further up towards the house.

Both Jo and Ash grabbed their guns and flashlights and got out of the car, proceeding quietly towards the house.

Jo took out her cellphone and dialed Dean's number. It rang three times before he picked up.

"Jo?" Her name was barely a whisper on his tongue.

"Dean, where are you?"

"In the basement." His breathing was an audible pant. His condition—whatever it was—had obviously deteriorated in the past hour and a half since she had last talked to him.

"I'll be right there."

They ventured into the house and quickly found a flight of stairs leading down. They led to a dank, musty smelling room built into the foundation of the house. Once at the bottom, Jo shone her flashlight around, looking for signs of Dean.

The beam swept over several dead bodies before it revealed him. He sat slumped against a wall, eyes closed. Even in the dim light, she could tell his face held an unhealthy pallor. Blood spread out from his body, staining his clothes and hands. The distinctive knife lying a few inches away from his hand betrayed exactly what he had been fighting: demons.

Jo couldn't help the wave of shock that washed over her as she saw Dean. He looked so small and vulnerable, something that she was entirely not used to. As she stood there, his eyelids fluttered and she knew he saw her. Apparently, the effort of keeping his eyes open was too much, and they fell shut once again.

Before she realized it, she was across the room and kneeling next to him, hands exploring his body to find the source of the blood.

"Woah there," Dean slurred in a travesty of his normal tone. "Dn't know y' felt that way. Shudn' we at least finda car'r somethin' first?"

"Shut up and tell me where you're injured." She didn't wait for his reply to start unbuttoning his jacket and inspecting his torso.

"Ever'where." He was listing more and more to the side.

His groan of pain was simultaneously uttered with her gasp of surprise when her hand hit a part of his T-shirt that was sopping with blood on his lower abdomen. Wasting no time, Jo peeled the fabric away from his skin, pushing his shirt up above his ribs, revealing ripped and bloody flesh below it. A deep gash spanned across half of his stomach, the edges gaping and jagged.

It was bad. Jo knew it at a first glance, and she shared a significant look with Ash, who was looking uncharacteristically dismal. Honestly, she was surprised that Dean was still conscious—and on the same token, she wasn't at all. He could be incredibly stubborn sometimes.

Trying to keep steady hands and a calm voice, she took out a knife and cut his shirt up the middle of the chest so it wouldn't get in the way. "Ok, Dean, you're gonna . . . gonna be fine." He looked up at her groggily; his eyes drifted every few seconds, but he kept attempting to bring them back to her.

Quickly removing the flannel shirt that she wore over a tanktop, she balled it up and pressed it against the deep gash in his stomach. Dean let out a gasp, his eyes rolling back at the pain. He was on the verge of unconsciousness.

"Come on, Dean. Stay with me here," she urged. After a few moments, he managed to bring his eyes back around to her face, but she doubted he could really see much of anything, anyway.

"S'not . . . s'not the . . . only . . . one . . ." His words were followed by another agonized groan.

"What are you saying? Dean? What are you saying?"

Suddenly, Ash gripped her shoulder and pointed the beam of his flashlight down. "That's what he's saying, Jo."

Her gaze followed the direction of the light and her stomach dropped at what it revealed. "Oh, Ash . . . his leg," she choked out.

Dean's thigh was bent at an awkward angle. She could tell his femur was broken. Jo couldn't imagine how much force it had taken to do that, considering the femur was the most difficult bone in the body to break. But of course, demons had much more force at their command than any human.

"How are we going to move him?" she asked. Dean's eyes were closed once again and he lay still save for his heaving chest.

Ash shook his head, indicating his hesitance with an answer. "Gonna have to stabilize him somehow. And fast. He's lost a lotta blood."

Jo nodded, unable to take her eyes from the injured man's chest, as if willing it to keep moving, keep forcing air into labored lungs.

She managed to pry her gaze away and glanced up at Ash. "Take off your shirt." On any other day, under any other circumstances, she would have gotten some kind of suggestive comment from that, but he merely shucked his T-shirt off and dropped it in her lap. She promptly ripped it into strips and used those to secure her own shirt over the gash in Dean's stomach.

"He needs a hospital," Ash said.

Dean moaned and his eyelids flickered. He seemed to attempt to push himself up, but got absolutely nowhere. Jo placed a hand on his chest, holding him back from any more attempts at moving. "Hey, hey. Don't move, okay?"

"No . . . hosp'tl."

Jo looked back at Ash questioningly. "Do you think you could fix him up?"

Ash looked doubtfully at Dean's broken body for a moment. "Maybe."

"'Maybe' is better than chances of a hospital-induced heart attack," she said.

Ash shrugged. "Closer to the Roadhouse, anyway. If we're gonna do it, let's not waste any more time talking. Guess we're just gonna have to carry him to the car. Lay 'im out in the seat."

Jo winced in anticipation of how this was going to turn out: lots of pain for Dean. But she sighed and stood up, tucking her gun in the waistline of her jeans, snug against the small of her back, and clamped her flashlight under an arm.

She and Ash bent down on either side of Dean, helping him sling one arm around Ash's shoulders and the other around Jo's. Ash supported his upper back and upper thighs, while Jo wrapped an arm around his lower back and under his knees.

The two of them looked at each other across Dean's body. Jo gave a nod.

"Three . . . two . . . one."

The instant the word was out of Ash's mouth, the two hoisted upwards. At the same moment, Dean let out a strangled cry of agony. Jo felt his grip tighten against her shoulder as if he was trying to ground himself in the pain.

Somehow, they managed to carry him up the stairs and outside the house into the cool night air. Jo tried to ignore how it felt like something was stabbing down into her gut every time he cried out. By the time they got to the car, sweat was dripping down Dean's temples. The muscles in his jaw and neck stood out in testament to how hard he was trying to hold back the groans that oozed between his teeth despite his best efforts. But at least he was still awake. For the most part.

Jo could feel the shivers that wracked his body, probably caused by a combination of shock and cold. When they had situated him in the passenger seat of her car (so that she could easily see him while driving) and put it down to complete reclining position, Jo dug a blanket from the trunk and tucked it around him securely, shutting the door and walking around to the driver's side. Ash had already taken the keys to the Impala from Dean, and he got into the man's treasured car and started the engine.

"I'll follow you," he called to Jo. She gave him a thumbs-up, shut her own door, and glanced over at Dean, whose face was turned towards her, chin resting on his shoulder. His eyes were cracked open; in the moonlight, she could barely see slivers of his eyes underneath a layer of eyelashes. Pain etched lines in his face.

She turned the key and the engine purred to life under her.

Dean's lip twitched infinitesimally. "You're here," he breathed.

"Yeah, Dean. I'm here. I've been here." He can't be losing memory. He can't be. She did her best to hide the worry his words elicited.

"Just . . . means I c'n thank you now," he finished.

She breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh."

Putting the car into gear, she backed out of the driveway and took off down the empty road.

"Thank me by staying with me," she said softly, glancing over at him in sympathy.

The hardest part of the night was yet to come.