Warnings: (For complete, whole story) Torture, swearing, blood play, knife play, sex, noncon, dubcon, fighting, monster death, character death
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 at (remove spaces) patriciatepes. Livejournal. com and give the art some love! Hope you enjoy! Also, I'd like to add that I've gotten really behind on review replies, so what I'll do is on the very last chapter, I'll reply to everyone who reviews it. Thanks, however, for the great reviews thus far!
At the end of her torture session the night before, she had moved in and out of consciousness. But, she had been aware of Crowley lifting her from the floor and carrying her to her room. It made her feel sick to think of how tenderly he had pulled back the covers and laid her between them. He had even tucked her in and kissed her forehead. She had fallen asleep—or lost consciousness, she wasn't sure which—shortly after that.
Now, as she awoke, only a trickle of golden sunlight through the heavy drapes letting her know that, indeed, it was morning, she was suddenly made aware that she was still very much unclothed. She managed to work her legs out from underneath the covers, hissing and wincing at the long slashes up and down them. Crowley had stopped the bleeding and disinfected the wounds—such a thoughtful torturer, Jo thought wryly—before putting her to bed, that much came rushing back to her. Moving as quickly as possible, which wasn't really all that fast, she crossed the small expanse of floor from the bed to the bathroom. She caught the door, feeling her limbs go weak underneath her, and managed to keep herself off the floor. Her entire body ached and stung, and the damned necklace was ice cold against her bare flesh. She hesitated to look down at herself, to see the damage Crowley had sadistically placed upon her, but she couldn't help it. Her eyes drifted down her torso, looking past the swell of her breast, and what she saw there was almost enough to make her cry. Cuts, long and ugly, trailed from just above her breasts all the way down to the tops of her feet. She remembered, maybe, only half of them being made. The rest was lost to a haze of pain caused by the heart necklace and the blackness of losing consciousness.
Jo forced herself to look away, to steady herself. Her eyes trailed to the glass-enclosed shower, knowing that she needed one. But the thought of hot water touching the cuts made her wince even more, so she looked instead to the rest of the bathroom. Laying on top of the closed toilet, neatly folded, was her black tank and loose black sweats. A pair of black lacy underwear lay on top, but no bra was in sight. She wanted to retch. Not only had Crowley tortured her, and then treated her with such mock-tenderness, he had had the audacity to go through her clothing and leave them for her so neatly folded that it almost like he was leaving her a present. She had half a mind to go find something else to wear, but as she tried to whirl out of the bathroom, her cuts stretched with her skin, and she gave a little cry of pain. Shaking with hate and anger, she made her way over to the toilet and dressed herself as quickly as possible.
At least Crowley would have to wait for her to heal before he could send her on anymore hunts. And he couldn't argue that it was her fault. Well, he could, but really, he couldn't. That made Jo smile, if not a bit ruefully, as she dragged herself back into bed. She didn't crawl back under the covers, content to only sit up with her back pressed against the feather-soft pillows. She stared into the relative peace of her room, her eyes hyper-focused on the closed door across the way from her. She tried to relax her mind, to fill it with nothing more than a pleasant buzz in hopes that her body would follow after. However, the moment she managed to quiet it, a grim thought passed through.
How much more could she take?
Tears welled in Jo's eyes, but she denied them the right to fall. She was a Harvelle, and by God, she was her Momma and Daddy's daughter. She could take as much as Crowley could throw at her… or, at least, that's what she told herself. In truth, she knew that she was on a clock. The same clock she'd been on since Crowley had brought her back. Her information on Purgatory had grown since then, but still not enough. She didn't have that thing, that one thing that would be necessary to convince Castiel that opening Purgatory was wrong. That Crowley was blinded by the greed only a demon—and the self-proclaimed King of Hell—could feel. If she wanted to get ahead, ahead in the way that would truly make her safe, then she had to face facts. As much as she loathed the idea, perhaps Crowley and Castiel were right. Maybe torturing monsters about the nitty-gritty of where they went after they died was what had to be done. But, she would have to do it her way, on her own time. Which was a problem in and of itself. When was Jo ever alone? How could she possibly achieve this without Malcolm, Nell, or Crowley finding out? Maybe there was another way… some other way to get the answers she needed. Once upon a time, she might have thought to ask Castiel… but now that seemed as unlikely as her having her own time.
Almost that instant, a flutter of wings filled the room, and Castiel was suddenly standing at the foot of her bed. She crossed her arms, not making another move or any motion to speak, deciding that it was best that the angel tell her why he was there. As it turned out, that was exactly as he had intended.
"Sam Winchester's soul has been restored," he announced.
Jo's arms fell limply beside her, hanging there for a moment. Finally, she pushed herself up, managing not to hiss at the pain this time—the less Castiel knew, the better for both of them—and moved to stand just before him.
"What? How?" she asked.
"Dean made a wager with Death, to my understanding. Death also put in a wall, to block Sam's memories of his time in the cage with Lucifer and Michael. Honestly, it is the only thing, I believe, that keeps him from deteriorating," he explained.
Jo pursed her lips, leaning back to rest her weight on one of the posts of the bed.
"Is that enough?" she asked.
Castiel cocked his head to the right. "What do you mean?"
"I mean exactly what I asked, Cas. Is that enough to keep Sam from losing his marbles?"
Castiel seemed to drink that question in and mull it about before he finally nodded.
"Death seemed certain that, so long as Sam didn't scratch at it, that it would hold. Next to God, Death is a very powerful figure. There is even much debate as who came first. I wouldn't know, I was born much later, but—"
Jo rolled her hand, urging the angel to make his point. Castiel stopped, clearing his throat once before nodding again.
"Yes. I believe Death is correct."
Jo sighed, locking her brown eyes with Cas's blues. She nodded. She could tell that he realized that she wasn't fully convinced, that she wasn't sure how a wall of any sort could hold back memories as powerful as the ones Lucifer had made by torturing Sam's soul. But, when it came to such powerful figures, who else would know better than an angel? Even one making as many mistakes as Castiel.
She glanced away with that thought, looking back in time to see that the look in his eyes had changed. The light behind them had dimmed as he examined her body in full.
"I know—I know that Crowley tortured you again. Severely. And I'm also aware that you did not pray for me. Not even once."
He seemed hurt, like a kicked puppy. And that made Jo's skin crawl. What right did he have to be hurt when she was the one getting the shit cut out of her? Her tongue snaked out, wetting her lips, as she shrugged.
"Would it have mattered? Would you have shown?"
Castiel made a halfway I-don't-know gesture with his arms. Jo shook her head. He wasn't even going to try to deny it. He wouldn't have shown. Jo could feel a heat rising up in her, coloring her cheeks—one that the necklace was not responsible for.
"It is for your best interests that I don't intervene."
Jo bit the inside of her cheek, another pain just to compile upon the rest. Her left hand shot out, grasping the foot of the bed for balance as well as releasing as much frustration as balling up the comforter there could.
"You're some piece of work, you know that, Cas?" she snapped.
When Castiel didn't answer, his gaze averting from her, she felt the flames of anger roar fully to life within her. Forgetting her pain, she took a single step forward, shoving a finger in the angel's face.
"Do you remember what you said to me, Cas? When this all started? You said that if Crowley ever did too much, that I was to call on you."
"But you didn't call," he muttered.
Jo's glare intensified, and she figured it had grown a bit wild.
"Of course I didn't! Crowley's gone way beyond 'too much' now! And the reason I haven't prayed to you for help? Honestly, because I think Crowley could push me to the edge of life, about to careen into death, and I bet you wouldn't show!"
She rounded the corner of the bed, heading straight for the pillows. She grabbed up one, whirling and lobbing it directly at the angel. He blocked it easily, and that only earned a growl from the huntress. She threw the one that had been lying underneath at Cas too, only to have it blocked as well.
"You haven't helped! Not at all! The moment Crowley gets pissed at anything, at you, at me, at this whole Purgatory bullshit, guess who he takes it out on? His favorite punching bag, me!"
She stretched across the wide bed, feeling the strain on her cuts, but she bit the sounds of pain down. Instead, she grabbed both pillows there and throwing them one after another. Castiel seemed to have caught on to the reason for the thrown bags of fluff, as he finally let the fourth one hit him square in the face. His nose crinkled in slight annoyance, and that did help ease Jo's rage. But not nearly enough. Growling, she smacked the mattress beneath her hands, whirling back toward the angel. She balled the sheets in her fist, glaring down at the whiteness that was now stained brown with her dried blood.
"I'm trapped, Castiel. In prison for a crime I didn't even know existed—the crime of dying for a damn cause, and I just think that you really don't give a damn about how that makes me feel. What that does to me."
She wouldn't look at him, but she could almost sense that he was doing her the same, his eyes locked on the floor instead of her hunched back.
"The results of the war in Heaven will affect us all. It is crucial that I remain alert, so that I may win," he mumbled, but Jo rolled her eyes.
She whipped her head around, her own hair slapping her in the face and neck.
"Oh, stuff it, Castiel," she groaned.
She pushed herself off the bed, walking over to stand so close to the angel that he had no choice but her meet her eyes.
"I'm scared, Cas," she whispered. "Far more than I've ever been in my life."
She reached out, not even sure what she was going to do. Her hand hovered just at Castiel's face, but she pulled it away, instead pointing to her necklace. He had made no move to speak, so, by God, she was going to say her piece while she could.
"I remember the conditions of this thing," she said. "If I die with this thing on, either by hunt or by Crowley, then I get dragged to Hell. And you wanna know my guess? I guess that Crowley intends this to happen. That he means for me to go to Hell because that'll be one more soul in the pit" –her eyes lit up, just a tad, as if she had just realized a truth that had been out of reach— "because that's it, isn't it? For you and for Crowley. It's all about souls. More souls, more power, right? They… they have far more to them than what the average person knows… don't they?"
Castiel nodded. "Yes. That's true."
Jo sighed, putting her back to him. Now, her own gaze leveled on the floor, she laughed mirthlessly.
"You know what I wish, after all of this? I honestly wish there was a way to make sure that neither you nor Crowley got the power my soul holds, just for being the bastards that you are."
A long silence followed. The words she had spoken had been harsh, and in a way, they had been true. But, mostly, they had been cathartic. A small weight had been lifted off Jo's shoulders, and she took a single, calming breath. She turned back, looking up at Castiel from underneath her lashes.
"Please… tell me about Purgatory. Tell me why it's so important to you… how you plan to use it."
Castiel closed his eyes, sighing. Finally, he nodded.
"Crowley and I intend to split the souls fifty-fifty. Purgatory can be opened, but the ritual has long since been lost. After that, the souls will be directly absorbed into our bodies. Each soul is the equivalent of… I suppose that a single, nuclear reactor would be the closest description."
"And Purgatory holds monster souls?" Jo asked.
"Oh, Cas… how do you even know you can handle all of that? How do you know that you won't, I don't know, explode or something? Or go crazy with power?"
"I can handle it."
"No, you think you can handle it."
"I can handle it, Joanna."
She shook her head. "Cas… you've gotta take this necklace off me."
At that, he turned away, putting the distance of a few steps between them.
"I can't. You'd go directly to Sam and Dean."
Jo huffed. "You're damned right I will."
He whirled back on her, stalking closer. "You know that you can't. That I can't let you."
Her brow arched. "You can't let me? Since when were you in the business of giving me permission to do as I please or not?"
"From the moment Crowley brought you back to life without my knowledge!"
Jo was shaking, the anger flaring inside her once more. She closed the distance between them, getting right in the angel's face.
"So, that's it, isn't it? I was unexpected, so you decided to do what it is that you recently seem to think is best—lord over me. You know that it's either you or Crowley in charge of me, so you've decided to step in, try to make me stop stopping you. This is stupid, Castiel! I can't believe that the angel that Dean has put so much faith in could do this to him, to the world!"
"Back down, girl," Castiel warned.
"Go to Hell, Cas," she snapped.
He grabbed her by the shoulders, and she struggled, letting loose a couple of let-me-go's before a warmth, a pleasant one, filled her. He released her, and she fell back against the foot of the bed. Immediately she noticed that the pain from her cuts was gone. She reached down, dragging up the legs of her sweats to confirm. Her skin was milky, no nasty red gashes marring it any longer. She knew that she should be relieved, but a cloud of red covered her mind. How dare he? How dare he take away the one thing she could use to get back at Crowley, her inevitable healing time? How dare he do so without so much as asking?
She growled, her hand raising to fly across Castiel's cheek. He caught her wrist just inches before the slap could connect, and though the anger was still present in the grip, his features softened.
"I am sorry for your predicament, Jo. Please understand. What I do I have no choice in."
She shook her head, trying to best to jerk her hand back, but Castiel wouldn't let go.
"I'm done feeling sorry for you, Castiel. Done. You could solve it all so easily, but you just won't open your damn eyes. You could free me from this necklace, from this weight that I feel like is never going to be lifted. And you could go to Dean and Sam for help. But you're being a brat. A huge, celestial-powered, selfish brat."
"Jo," Cas said, tugging her forward by the grip he still held, but she only sighed.
"I hate myself, Castiel. I hate what I'm becoming for Crowley—nothing more than an errand girl. And most of all, I hate that the one friend I have doesn't seem to care."
Castiel's hand tightened, and Jo squeaked a little against the pain. "I don't have the luxury to care about just one person, Joanna Beth Harvelle. I, instead, have to worry about my Father's children all over this world."
"So that's it, huh? Me for the greater good?" she growled.
"Well, I'd be fine with that if I was sure this was actually for the greater good, instead of the foolish pursuits of angel who's in over his head and a manipulative, evil King of Hell."
"Back down. I'll not tell you again," Castiel said, his naturally gruff voice deepening further.
She leaned up, getting right in his face. "Never."
The space of a single heartbeat passed. And in that space, Jo was absolutely, completely uncertain about what was going to happen. A strange swell of feeling had washed over her, and she wasn't entirely sure it was still just anger. Or that it was still all negative. Castiel had his ocean blue eyes bearing into hers, searching for any signs of weakness. When he found none, this seemed to confuse him… and Jo thought she might even see something else there. Perhaps a bit of intrigue. He yanked her closer, dropping her wrist so that his arm wrapped about her waist. Jo's heart thudded in her chest, unsure of what was happening, if it should happen, or whether she cared or not. The two were frozen in place, staring as hard as possible into each other's eyes. A moment later, a small cough announced that they were no longer alone.
Castiel's grip on her waist disappeared, and Jo automatically retreated a handful of steps. Crowley grinned at both of them, his hands shoved within the pockets of his coat.
"Am I interrupting a lovers' quarrel?" he said, the laugh in his voice unmistakable.
When neither Jo nor Castiel said anything, the King of Hell shook his head.
"I'd like to take this moment to remind you that I don't damage your toys, Castiel, so I'd appreciate if you'd do me the same consideration," he grinned.
"I'm not your damn toy," Jo snapped. She paused, expecting the necklace, but when Crowley only smiled at her, she added, "Why are you even here?"
"Because I've got good news I wanted to share with the both of you. That troll was rather fruitful, as are the little birdies I have planted all about. We're going after the key to Purgatory, kiddies!"
Jo and Cas exchanged a look before the angel turned to Crowley.
"What are you talking about?"
The King of Hell's grin was nothing short of smug as he eyed the both of them once more.
"Eve, the mother of all—as in, the mother of all monsters—is topside. In town. Putin' on the Ritz. And you, my little Joanna, are the one I'm sending after her."
Jo let her eyes slide shut. She would have never had thought it… but she really did wish that Castiel hadn't healed her wounds.