A/N: Yo. Well, today's "Holy crap it's Tuesday already" writing spree really pushed the limit. I was like no, I'm definitely going to get this done, no matter what. On the bright side, after the last chapter you guys broke 100 reviews and 400 alerts :) Happy happy
Chapter 12 – Life at the Roadhouse:
Ellen Harvelle was not as quick to trust as Harry had hoped she would be. Admittedly, it was to be expected, considering the circles she ran in, but Harry was beginning to feel a bit suffocated by her silent distrust. He'd shared his story with her, the nitty-gritty details minus the magic and Crowley, and it was pretty easy to tell he wasn't lying, it was too difficult for him to tell it without emotion.
No-one was that good an actor. No-one would bother trying that hard just for the trust of one bartender.
He was essentially under some form of house arrest. It wasn't that he had any desire to leave the Roadhouse anyway, but he got the distinct feeling he wouldn't be allowed to. Wherever he went there was always someone keeping an eye on him, be it one of the come-and-go patrons who were apparently of the more trusted variety, or the fourteen year old Jo lurking around corners. It was unsettling, and it meant he could only read the same three books from his messenger bag when he was out of his room, because any more would cause suspicion. There simply wasn't enough room in any of his luggage, or his car, for him to have secreted away so many different books.
On the plus side, after seeing the books Harry had chosen to look through, Jo had become remarkably warmer towards him. Not so much, he suspected, because she wanted to read, but because of what they were about. She wanted to learn more about the supernatural world, just like Harry did. He suspected there was some deeper motive for her, but he wasn't going to pry. Harry knew better than most about secrets.
"Where did you get those from?" Jo asked one afternoon, peering over his shoulder as Harry sat at one of the tables near the back of the bar, trying to avoid the attention of too many hunters.
"I bought them when I was back home in England. It took a heck of a lot of research to find them, but I think it was worth it."
Jo hummed lightly and shifted again, squinting at a small section of text beneath a diagram.
"Can I borrow one of them?"
Harry paused, one finger drumming against the tabletop. It was an innocent enough question, asked in a casual, off-handed way, but Harry was unsure of whether to grant it. True, he had seen Jo hanging around with some of the hunters who stopped by, had even stumbled across her training in weapons with Gordon, who was about his age, apparently very young for a hunter. And yes, at fourteen she was old enough to decide what she wanted to read.
It was the look he sometimes caught on Ellen's face when she saw her daughter with the other hunters that held Harry back. He didn't want to say 'ask your mother' because he had only just managed to get on Jo's good side, and saying that would instantly ruin all the progress they had made. On the other hand, regardless of whether anyone else could tell, he could see the pain in Ellen's gaze as she watched Jo. He had to decide who it was safer to risk annoying.
"Maybe later," he said eventually, pushing the matter off to one side for the time being. "I'm not sure I'm ready to let them out of my sight just yet."
Jo huffed, a brush of warm air across Harry's neck, as she pulled away and straightened up, crossing her arms. She was quite obviously unsatisfied, but at least she wasn't complaining. It was a good sign. At least, he hoped it was.
"You're a weakling," Jo exclaimed suddenly, shoving Harry's shoulder.
Harry turned halfway in his seat and stared up at her, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. That was no secret. Harry knew he was weak.
"What's your point?"
"Well," Jo stared straight at Harry defiantly. "You should come train with me. Even though I bet I could beat you with my hands tied behind my back."
Harry considered her silently, green eyes narrowed in suspicion behind his glasses.
"What do you mean by training?" Sure, Harry knew she was good with weapons – frighteningly so for someone her age – but that didn't mean he could easily suffer the indignation of being taught how to fight by someone nearly five years younger than him.
Shocked out of her flow, Jo paused for a moment, humming thoughtfully. She sized him up, nodding to herself. It was unnerving.
"Come on a run with me tomorrow morning."
Harry's eyebrow quirked up in amusement at Jo's demanding tone and dismissive attitude. So as long as Jo said it was okay he could go outside? It was a curious notion, but he supposed he'd still be under observation that way.
Harry would soon come to regret agreeing to Jo's workout routine. The girl was fit and ruthless.
"What are you always reading over there?"
Harry was curled up in a corner booth out in the main bar area almost a month later, exhausted yet again from one of Jo's gruelling runs, A Ghostly Encyclopaedia spread open on the table in front of him. The name alone would have sent most people running in the other direction, but sometimes the phoniest sounding things had the best tid-bits of information in them. He'd noticed Ellen's gaze shift from suspicious to curious over time, but she had yet to confront him about what it was he actually did.
Wordlessly, still trying to calm his racing heart – Jo was probably laughing her head of somewhere with Gordon, who had dropped by yet again just the day before – Harry flipped the book closed, keeping his finger between the pages as a bookmark.
"Well then," Ellen whistled, arching an eyebrow at him, "Looks like you really know your stuff after all. What exactly is it that you do?'
It really had only been a matter of time before she asked that. Harry didn't appear to do anything, but he paid for whatever he could get her to accept, and his card certainly wasn't going to be declining any time soon.
"I read," Harry shrugged tiredly, flipping the book open again as though to demonstrate. "Study. Memorise. You know about the demon problem back home; I suppose I hoped that if I knew what was going on then I might be better equipped to deal with it all."
"But you don't hunt?"
That was a given, seeing that the only time Harry really left the Roadhouse was on fitness excursions with Jo.
"No. I'm a bit too scrawny to be a hunter, don't you think? I haven't got the physical capability to really deal with too much." He'd always been scrawny and he always would be. It was an accepted fact in his life.
"You know, kid, no-one ever said that the only way to fight those buggers was to be a hunter."
Harry tilted his head back, gazing up at the older woman. Sure he had a treasure trove of books, but what good was that to anyone else?
"Jeez..." Ellen shook her head fondly. "For someone who spends so much time with their head buried in books, you can be kinda thick sometimes. You ever take a real good look at any of the hunters who stop by here? They're more of the shoot first ask questions later persuasion; in other words, they aren't necessarily the brightest people around. Sure, they know the basics, they wouldn't be able to kill anything otherwise, but there's so much more out there than most of them know how to deal with."
Harry's mind was coming up blank. His brain was foggy with exhaustion, and he was sure he'd beat himself up over acting so dumb when he was more awake, but he just... couldn't be bothered actually thinking.
"Hey now! Don't you go falling asleep on me while I'm trying to give you life advice!" Ellen's hand darted out and she shook Harry's shoulder, jerking him aware again.
"Can we have this talk later?" Harry asked lazily, eyes heavy as he stared upwards. Ellen rolled her eyes.
"Sure. Just keep it in mind. And maybe you should ask Jo to go easier on you, she'll run you into the ground permanently at this rate."
Harry didn't respond. He was already asleep.
David was a reasonably young guy, maybe 28, and he'd started frequenting the Roadhouse between jobs just after Harry himself arrived. He was pretty new to the hunting-sphere, but despite being a newbie he seemed to be doing pretty well for himself. At least, that's what Harry gathered.
Eventually Harry had gotten sick of the three books he had on rotation, and switched them out for several others, hoping that no-one called him up on it. No-one did.
One day in mid-August Harry was adding a collection of symbols to his journal from one of his more runic texts when David dropped into a seat across the table, peering oddly at him. Harry glanced up at him through his glasses, pen hovering above the page as he tried to suss out what was happening.
"Umm... Can I help you?" He eventually asked, giving up on trying to out-stare the man. The patrons of the Roadhouse didn't usually interact with him, other than Gordon, but that was mainly Jo's fault. It was an off-putting change of pace. He didn't really like surprises.
"I... Hmm..." David shifted uncomfortably under Harry's scrutiny, scratching the back of his head. Finally he visibly pulled himself together – Harry mentally scoffed, a grown man, afraid of him? Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper and put it on the table in front of Harry, trying awkwardly to smooth it out some when Harry just stared at it.
"You... ah... Do you know what this symbol means?"
Harry straightened up from his slouch and grabbed the picture, bringing it up to his face. He immediately recognised it as demonic, but wasn't surprised that David had no idea what was what. Even if he did know a thing or two about demons, which Harry doubted, it wasn't the basics. It wasn't even a demonic sigil, as such. Instead, it was more like a signature – phantom fire rippled across the mark on his neck and he forced himself not to think about it. It wasn't a demon he-
Squinting, Harry turned the page sideways, ignoring the finger-tapping happening across from him. Impatient hunters.
No, he did recognise that. Surprisingly. He hadn't thought it real, at the time, but it matched.
Gaap. A demon noble from a side faction down in Hell. Depending on what she wanted, it was probably bad news.
Harry glanced up over the edge of the paper at the impatient exclamation. Ellen had been right; all muscle, no brains.
"This is Gaap's symbol." Harry told him, pushing the paper back across the table. "Apparently she's a handful, but she's cautious. As far as I can tell she's had the same body for the last 400 years. She's not someone you should take lightly."
David rolled his eyes and stood up suddenly, leaving without so much as a 'thank you'.
For a moment Harry was miffed. But then he realised he had just put his ridiculous knowledge to actual, practical use. Had that been what Ellen had been talking about?
Harry was pretty sure he could cope with ungratefulness if he could actually be useful for once.
Hey, if there was anyone who's review I was meant to respond to (anonymous ones) then I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive me, it's late and I'm really tired right now.