Characters: Jo, Castiel, Crowley, with an assortment of others in minor roles
Pairing: Castiel/Jo/Crowley triangle; with Jo/Crowley not being remotely romantic
Warnings: (For complete, whole story) Torture, swearing, blood play, knife play, sex, noncon, dubcon, fighting, monster death, character death
Summary: SPN Season 6. Jo Harvelle remembered dying, a hellhound at the cause. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up, a cursed necklace about her neck that binds her to the service of the current King of Hell, Crowley. When Castiel appears, she's sure that she's saved… only to learn the truth. Now, bound by a beautiful, cursed antique, Jo must do as Crowley orders, hunting for the answers to accessing Purgatory… or else.
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or any related characters. They belong to Kripke. No money made here.
Author's Notes: Written for the spn-hardcorebang. OMG, I so didn't expect this story to be as long as it turned out to be. Just a quick note on the rating: yes, there are some scenes that definitely require that rating. Granted, there are also several scenes that are of a much softer nature. A nice balance I would say. Also, huge thanks to my awesome friend and beta Kimmi! And to Twisted_slinky for cheering me on as I outlined and helping bounce the many issues I encountered off her. Also, that thanks extends to my artist, Casper-san, who was just super awesome. I know she was just as busy as I was trying to do other challenges while doing my art, so yes, huge thanks! Drop by my livejournal to check out the art at (remove spaces) patriciatepes. livejournal. com Hope you enjoy!
Length of Chain
There was a lot of bad that went with waking up after having died. Which was funny, since most would probably figure that there would be a lot of good, a bit of confusion, relief of being back on familiar earth. But no. Mostly it was a lot of confusion, mostly prefaced with the memories of what took place right before the big dirt nap had happened. And for Joanna Beth Harvelle, none of those pre-death memories were particularly good.
She remembered being unimaginably cold, despite the hot blood pouring out of her gaping wounds like water out of a faucet. She remembered her mother's arms around her, holding her tight as they both sat—well, for Jo it was mostly laid—upon the store's cold flooring. She remembered hearing Ellen's plan, her refusal to leave her daughter behind. She remembered wanting to protest—but she couldn't remember if she did. But, after that… nothing. Except that she was alive again, and the earth she was on was in no way familiar to her at all.
She sat up, gasping. She was cold, but it wasn't like she cold she had experience while dying. No, this was a I'm-dressed-in-only-a-hospital-gown cold—which fit, since a white with blue dots hospital gown was exactly what she was in. She was on a cold bed, one that was attached to the wall by bolts and chains. She knew a cot was supposed to be on the metal support, but all she had was the gurney-like structure. The white paint on the iron bars to the cell she was in was chipped all over, and it would've taken a blind and deaf man to keep from seeing that the prison hadn't been used in forever.
She whipped her head around, running nervous, pale hands through her thin blonde tresses. They were slightly matted, but nothing a brush couldn't handle. Provided she could ever find one. She tried to make herself focus, tried to make herself think, but a sudden weight from around her neck was pulling her thoughts. It wasn't heavy, the weight, just unfamiliar as she reached a hand toward the source. Looking down, she could see a necklace, one that she was sure she had never owned in her entire life. Its chain was an antique gold, leading down to a paisley designed heart. And in between the carved designs were a red color, and one touch to the red told Jo that this was some kind of jewel in the metal. She shook her head, putting her bare feet to the frigid stone floor.
Right in front of her—and wow, how had she not seen this before?—was a chair. Nothing special. Just a plain, wooden chair, painted in chipping white paint as well, that looked as if it could have been snatched from any ol' kitchen anywhere. But lying across the seat of the chair was a pile of clothes—a pair of jeans, and two different fabrics, tops presumably—clearly visible in the pile. She made her way over to them, pulling on the jeans underneath the gown. They were just a bit too big for her, but a belt—black, plain, and leather with a silver-colored buckle—was waiting in the pile as well. She strung it through the loops, fastening it, and bent to inspect the rest of the clothing left for her.
A green—pale, almost like a darker seafoam—spaghetti strap top lay in the pile. She gave a quick glance around, poking her head just outside of the cell. When she confirmed that no one—at least, no one she could see—was watching, she all but torn the hospital gown from her, pulling the top down. In contrast to the jeans, the spaghetti strap was a tad on the small size, leaving a little of her pale mid-drift showing. Something about that sent goosebumps, and not the good kind, up and down her arms. But the remaining mess of fabric was a thin, plaid designed button up. She used it simply as an over-shirt, pulling it on like a jacket. She pulled her hair free from it, shaking it loose down her back. Unconsciously, her hand flew to the pendent of the mysterious necklace, and she fingered it lightly as she stepped out of the small confines of the cell.
She fought every human instinct in her to shout, "Hello" to the emptiness around her. The hunter training of her youth had taught her better. In fact, she found herself sorely wanting for some sort of weapon. But if wishes and buts and all that, so Jo continued on, turning left as it seemed that that was the way farther into the building. The person—or thing, rather, since she was pretty sure it had to be a thing—that had raised her from the dead had to be in this place somewhere. After all, if she had raised someone from the dead, she would hang around to see if they were all right.
Another thought seized her as she continued her way, slowly, cautiously, through the dilapidated halls of the prison. What if she didn't want to meet this thing? What if this wasn't even earth, home? What if she was in Hell, and it was just screwing with her head? But Jo couldn't honestly think of anything she had had the opportunity to do in life that would merit an eternity in Hell. She'd made no deals. She'd not murdered anything that wasn't of the supernatural variety. No, she was back among the living. She had to be.
She arrived at an intersection in halls, and a loud noise from a room somewhere off the new hall on her left drew her attention. She turned, hugging the wall as she went, and made her way through the noise. It was terrifying. It sounded like a lot of banging—metal on something very solid—and sawing. Like, with an electric saw. Or maybe even a chainsaw. But she steeled herself, pressing on until she came to the end of the hall, where a pair of double, swinging doors hung, nothing but tiny circular windows in each one giving her any indication of what was on the other side. And right now, from where she stood on tiptoe, all she could see was the back of a man—balding, but not terribly so—dressed in a black business suit, a white apron tied about the middle. And, to her surprise, he lifted a hand, pointed over his shoulder at her—because it had to be at her, there was nothing or no one else it could be—and waved her inside.
Her breath caught in her throat, but what else could there be done about it? Red flags rose up in her mind as she pushed on the door, letting herself in. The man turned, a smile on his face that spoke more about his attempt to fake congeniality rather than actually providing it. Green eyes lit as he took in Jo's face, but there was just something off about the look. There were flecks of yellow in the green, making the look decidedly snake-like. In his right hand he held a handsaw, bloody, and he laid it on the medical tray beside him. He undid the tie of his white apron, slipping it over his head and laying it over the tray as well. He clapped his hands, rubbing them together as he took a step toward her. And Jo, despite being aware of it, took a step back. He laughed.
"Such a relief to have you awake," he said, and his accent was foreign—British, Jo thought.
She let her arms fall to her sides, flexing her fingers as she began to think. If this man attacked her, could she take him, weaponless? If he was just a man, sure. But she really doubted that.
"Where am I?" she asked, finding it suddenly strange to hear her own voice.
She couldn't remember her last words. She felt like she ought to be able to do just this one thing, but that was a blur to her. And her throat felt dry, like it hadn't been used in a while. Her hands suddenly flew to her hips, feeling of them. Why she hadn't thought to do this earlier, when she was less clothed, was beyond her, but she was trying her best to see if her body had any remaining scars from the hellhounds' attack. The denim she was working with was thick, but she still knew that no scars remained. Of course, it would've been silly. After all, if her mother had gone through with her plan, then nothing of her body should have remained.
The man turned, approaching a nearby sink mounted on the back, green-tiled wall. He pulled a glass from beside the faucet, filling it, and crossed the room, offering it to her.
"Might help," he said.
Jo reached for the glass slowly, her eyes never leaving the man as she grasped it. This remained her course of action even as she drank the proffered water. It was cold, somewhere just above ice, and it felt wonderful on her parched throat. She downed it quickly, and he took the glass from her, setting it back on the sink.
"Answer my question," Jo said.
He smiled. "It's not important where you are. How you're here. Now, that's an important factoid."
Jo sighed, glancing about the room. He was right, of course. She had been dead, and now she wasn't. She ran her hands over the fabric of the flannel over-shirt she had on, feeling for something—anything—that would indicate that an angel had been responsible. She remembered Dean—after some careful prodding—showing her Castiel's handprint. But there was no raised mark on either of her arms, and she highly doubted that an angel would have grabbed her anywhere else.
"I died," she said.
"Yes, dear, and as disorienting as that can be, I had expected you to be a bit quicker than this, mentally speaking of course."
Jo shook her head, locking eyes with the man.
"Who are you? How do you know me? Why are you not in the least bit surprised that I'm back from the dead?"
He grinned, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks. He shrugged, his grin becoming smugger the longer he took to answer. Jo was beginning to feel a bit antsy, the way he was eyeing her. Unconsciously, her hand flew to her throat, and it found the mysterious pendant there. She frowned.
"And what is this necklace?" she added.
That seemed to please him, and he took a step forward, wagging a finger at her.
"Ah, he said. Now that's the question I'd been waiting for. As for who I am, I don't believe we've ever had the pleasure of introductions, but if I'm not mistaken, you're the pretty little blonde that helped the Winchesters gain access to my house. You know, when they needed the colt?"
Jo's brown eyes widened. "Crowley."
He grinned. "I'm touched. You remember. Oh, btw, colt against Satan? Didn't work."
Jo took a step back, but Crowley appeared behind her, catching her by the shoulders, as if she had intended to run. In truth, she had no idea what her plan had been. She was weaponless, and this demon seemed a lot less than concerned with her presence. "Get away" was the only thought she had, but now that seemed futile.
She wrenched her shoulders out of his grasp, whirling and taking a step back—which was now a step farther into the room. Crowley put up his hands, showing that he had no ill intentions. Jo seriously doubted that.
"So what happened? After I… After I died? And why am I back? Did you do this?" she asked, looking down to indicate herself.
Crowley shrugged. "Well, we won. The anti-Lucifer side, that is. And the hellhounds held on to you tight. Regular little chew toy, you were."
Jo shuddered, pulling the open flaps of her shirt closed. Crowley chuckled.
"See, dogs—Hell or not—tend to be like that. Once they get a hold of something, they don't like to give it up, unless ordered. That whore, Meg, thought she had two generic pups. Instead, she had one of mine. And I told my pup to keep you nice and safe for me, once I realized whose soul they had."
Jo's breath was coming in short huffs now, completely irregular. She shook her head, taking another ever retreating step—as far away from Crowley as she could get.
"You don't own me," she said through gritted teeth. "We didn't make a deal."
Crowley's nodded once. "Given. Which brings us to your new little neck charm. Pretty little trinket, isn't it?"
Jo's hand released the pendant, having not realized that she was still holding on to it. She pushed back the curtains of her hair, looking down at it. Her lips pursed, she looked back up at the demon.
"What about this thing?"
"It's cursed, darling. A very useful curse, too, I might add. You see, the possessor of the necklace—moi—can recite a very special little ritual, and then attach the necklace to the wearer—you. It acts as a leash, you see. You behave, do what you're told, and it's nothing but a bauble. But, if you step out of line—"
Crowley snapped his fingers, and suddenly Jo was filled with fire. It rattled every bone in her body, pervaded every muscle, every tendon. She was sure there must be flames rising from her skin, and she would have dearly loved to have glanced down to see, but it was no use. Her body was frozen, stiff, her arms and legs slightly outspread as nothing but the most unimaginable pain filled her—all the pain of Hell, she imagined.
Crowley snapped his fingers again, and it stopped. Jo felt woozy, and she very nearly hit the floor. She stumbled a bit, catching herself against the medical table. She glared up at Crowley the moment she had composed herself. He was grinning like Christmas had come early.
"It's all very S&M, as you can imagine," he said, waving his hand dismissively.
Jo's limbs felt shaky, but she forced the disobedient things to work as she pushed herself upright. Her breaths were heavy now, like she had just come from a very intense run. Crowley's eyes were dancing as he watched her, and Jo didn't like the way he obviously derived some sort of pleasure from her pain. But, that was being a demon, she supposed.
"Why me?" she gasped. "Why bring me back and then bind me like this? What's the plan?"
He chuckled, all but sashaying his way toward her. "I like that phrase, 'bind me like this,' very nice. But, yes, when I realized that I had you in my grasps, then I knew I had what I needed."
She shook her head. "You didn't answer my question. Why me?"
A flutter of wings filled the room, and in the blink of an eye, the two of them were no longer two, but three. Dressed in the familiar tan overcoat, black suit, white shirt, and blue tie was the dark haired angel Jo knew as Castiel. She grinned, feeling bolder as she moved to stand between Castiel and Crowley.
"Yes, Crowley," Castiel said, his bright blue eyes trailing on Jo before meeting the demon's dark, green ones, "why Jo? Why bring her back to life?"
"Insurance, o'course. I'm nothing if not enterprising," Crowley said.
Castiel put on his best confused face—and Jo never realized just how much she had missed that. She moved a bit closer to the angel, grateful for the sudden back-up.
"Insurance against what?" Castiel asked.
"The Winchesters, just to start."
When no one said anything, Crowley huffed and continued his explanation.
"When those boys find out what we're trying to do—trying to pop open Purgatory—do you think they'll just sit back and let us do it? Hell no! However, if we have this pretty little thing to hold over their head, particularly Dean's head if I understand correctly, then we haven't a worry in the world. Plus, we'll have another pair of hands to help drag in the monsters."
"'We'? 'Us'? Who's working with you?" Jo demanded.
Crowley chuckled. "Smart as a whip. Nice to see the juices seem to be flowing through the brain now. Me and Castiel, that's who."
Jo glanced back at the angel, who was the very picture of unreadable, before she whirled back to Crowley.
"You're insane. Cas would never work with you."
"Fine. You could be right. I mean, you've only been dead for a little over a year and a half, but answer me this: How did he know to show up here?"
Jo's mouth opened, searching for words that did not seem to want to come. Finally, she huffed.
"He must've known, somehow, that I was alive," she said.
Crowley laughed, hard. "Did you, Cas? Did you know she was alive?"
Jo turned to face him, but Cas averted his gaze. A long moment followed, during which she simply waited. Waited for Cas to come to his senses and deny what Crowley had said. Before long, it all became painfully clear. Jo was caught between a rock and a hard place—Heaven and Hell, and they were in cahoots. She backed away from Castiel, the betrayal hurting more than she remembered the hellhound's bite had.
"Cas? How could you?" she whispered. "Dean and Sam don't know? And Purgatory? What's so… so necessary about it that you would have to team up with him?"
Crowley grinned. "Now, now. I'd play nice. Remember…"
With a snap of the demon's fingers, Jo felt the pain return. It knocked the breath out of her, and she was sure she would asphyxiate before she could burn. She fell forward, and Castiel caught her, holding to her tight—but she could just barely feel his touch beneath the pain.
"Stop!" the angel ordered, and Crowley snapped his fingers.
Jo sucked in air like she thought she might never have it again. And, to tell the truth, for a second there, that had been exactly what she had thought. Castiel knelt on the cement floor, cradling Jo since it was more than a little obvious that she had not the strength to stand.
"What is this?" Castiel asked, lifting the necklace in his hands.
Jo moaned and began trying to push herself to her feet. Castiel aided her, but she brushed off his help, putting a separating step between them.
"To Hell with this," Jo said, reaching for the clasp of the necklace.
"Ah, ah, ah!" Crowley said, and Jo paused, her fingers poised, seconds away from undoing the dreadful thing. "You think what it does when I snap is bad? Try taking it off."
Jo's arms fell, defeated. Demons were not to be trusted about a lot of things. Pain wasn't one of them. Castiel stepped closer to her, and she could feel his hand just at the back of her neck.
"I'm sure I could remove it," he said, his deep voice even harsher.
Crowley shrugged, and Jo felt her heart swell. Castiel's hands descended on the necklace, but just before he could free her, Crowley stopped him.
"Go ahead. Remove it. That way, Miss Harvelle can go running to her precious Dean and tell him all about the misadventures of Crowley and Castiel. Do you think they'd welcome you with open arms then?"
Castiel shook his head. "Dean's not even a hunter anymore. He's happy."
Jo pursed her lips. At least that was something. Crowley put his back to the two of them, shrugging again.
"You're right, of course. For now. With Sam surface-side again, we all know that Dean's little happy homemaker life is on a clock. So, I ask you again, what would the Winchesters do if they knew what you were really doing?"
Another pause, another tense moment. Jo held her hair up, waiting for Castiel to free her from the cursed object. Her heart sunk when, finally, his hand moved away. She whirled on him, brow furrowed.
"Cas? Why? Why are you doing this?" she demanded.
"You have to understand, Jo. I'm doing this for them, for Sam and for Dean. Raphael… he wants the Apocalypse, and if he takes over Heaven, that's what he intends to do. All of the sacrifice, all of the death and destruction… it'll all be for nothing. And the first people he'll destroy? The ones who stopped it last time."
"Including you now, sweetheart," Crowley added.
"Shut up," Castiel snapped, and again, Crowley threw his hands up.
Jo huffed, backing away from the both of them now.
"To Hell with this," she said, whirling and making a beeline for the double doors.
"One more thing," Crowley called, and Jo paused, not bothering to turn. "Don't go away thinking that some noble suicide or something will get you off the hook. Die with that necklace on, and it's a one-way ticket down to the Pit."
Jo peered over her shoulder, watching as Castiel turned to Crowley, the angel's face, again, unreadable. She clenched her hands, trying to best to restrain the fury that was welling up inside of her—the fury that she had absolutely no outlet for. She hit the doors with as much force as she could muster, which was much more than necessary, and stalked out of the room.