Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. I am not making money from this. Some dialogue in this chapter is not my own.
Note: Much of this chapter incorporates "What's Up Tiger Mommy?" Season 8, episode 2. I don't want to give anything away, so maybe you want to read the synopsis of the episode? Or maybe you remember what happened! I didn't really want to spend much time re-capping, my fingers just wanted to get right to the action!
Channing's death lit a fire under Kevin's worry.
Jo had noticed over their time in Iowa, her partner had his loved ones on his mind again. It seemed they always returned to worm through his mind, and now with the Winchester's return, Jo knew he would be adamant to rescue his mother from the demonic activity, no matter how low-key it was.
She, personally was against it, but knew that Kevin would climb for the majority vote; one brother at a time.
He brought it to the table over lunch at a park, and after some of Dean's banter Kevin managed to pull at Sam's heart-strings. Which, in turn, convinced a grudged Dean into agreement.
She was slightly annoyed, it seemed the Winchesters were back to calling the shots. Authority going unquestioned.
Not a few minutes later the gang packed in the Impala and on their way to Neighbor, Michigan. There, after a short stake out, the hunters called to action.
Stocking up for it gave Jo a hefty sigh, handing the demon-killing knife back to its second-hand owners. Her and that blade had been through a lot in the past year, she was loath to hand it over, officially.
But at Dean's open palm and expectant stare, she placed the handle for his fingers to curl around. Again, she met his hardened eyes, feeling her own solidify during the action. Again, they lingered, though it was brief.
The plan was simple, and of course involved the Winchesters on point; Dean and Sam would infiltrate, and kill all Demons. Jo and Kevin would wait in the car, until the signal was given, then Kevin could enter with his bodyguard close behind.
Of course Kevin was quick to the draw, and Jo had hurried after him, holy water at the ready.
When his mom opened the door, Jo threw the water on her. She was demon-free.
Dean and Sam's heavy footsteps echoed through the house, having entered through the back and already checking up on the sulfur she smelled when the door opened.
Sam was quick on his reverse exorcism, and Dean quick with the blade, at the threat was gone.
Soon they sat on the couches Kevin played on as he grew up, talking it all over with his mother.
Jo let the boys handle the discussion, she was stretching her legs in the hall, looking at collective pictures of Kevin through the years. There were some empty, one labeled: 'College Graduate'.
At that one, she paused. From the sides of her eyes, she saw Kevin's mother approach, but she didn't take her eyes off the empty photo.
She turned to met her eyes, "Mrs. Tran."
"Linda, please. I wanted to thank you. From what I understand, you kept my son safe this past year."
Joanna clasped hands together in front of herself; a closing gesture. Her mind flashed to the bullets flying, the stabbings, the training the grueling.
Tears shone lightly in the mother's chocolate eyes.
"Thank you so much."
She could shoot Kevin in the head.
Jo's left hand twitched, as if the Taurus was back in her hand, almost ready to aim at the Prophet's face. She had been prepared to kill Kevin, so that Crowley would suffer the loss in the endless war.
The moment from their escape with the tablet struck her hard at the mother's words. No more than a swallow betrayed her guilty memory faced by Kevin's mom, however.
Jo nodded, words lost for fear of spouting the truth. Before the nod completed, Linda surrounded her arms around the blonde huntress, and squeezed tight.
She returned the arm wrap, but was stiff for the contraction. It was as if her body was simply copying the movement.
Linda let go, met her eyes again, smiled warmly and turned back down the hall to pack for the trip. Jo was left feeling numbed, empty in a sense, like the humanity had left her.
Following Linda's form down the hall, Jo saw Dean, leaning at the end of it.
His eyes hadn't missed the interaction.
She turned her eyes back to the empty frames, keeping her body angled as the elder Winchester pushed with his shoulder off the wall, arms still crossed. He made his way over to her, slow and swaggered.
"Never seen you so weird in a hug."
Jo allowed a small laugh to escape, "Well its been awhile."
He grunted in agreement and nodded, "Seems there's a list of people who need to thank you."
They turned to each other completely, alone in the hall, all the Kevins watching them with still eyes.
"You stayed with Kevin, you kept fighting against Crowley when Sam didn't. You tried to drag me out of Purgatory...so thanks Jo, really."
"Don't get all sentimental on me again, Deano."
She made light, unsure of how she felt around him now. The flip-flop effect seemed to take its toll, as it always did, with him.
Shuffling, she glanced at the floor, confusion still persistent.
"Want another hug?"
Her face broke in smile at his joke, as did his.
"I'm good, thanks."
"You sure? I don't think you've had enough yet."
They chuckled again, and met irises.
She wished he would stop doing this to her. Year after year he would disappear then bust suddenly back into her life, then charm his way back into her emotional graces. They still have yet to talk about how they felt, or what would or had become of their abruptly ended relationship a year ago, but she felt herself sliding back all the same.
She would have to fight to stand her ground.
The clearing of Sam's throat broke the quiet thoughts between the former couple.
"Let's head out."
An hour later, Linda had anti-possession symbol freshly marked on bloody skin, and they drove off to Laramine, Wyoming.
Before they climbed in, Dean gestured for her to sit between him and his brother in the front.
Jo smirked as if he were joking and sat behind Sam, and almost immediately regretted it. Sitting next to her, Jo wished Linda would stop looking at her as if she owed Jo a life-debt, it made her feel the guilt pressurize around her.
All business-Dean returned when they opened the locker Jo had stashed the tablet near two months ago.
The niceties between the two turned sour once again.
He hounded her on details of the stashing, questioning her memory. She retorted with ice, frustrated with his constant mistrust of her experience. Their reminiscent behavior revolved again and slammed the hammer down on a loaded chamber, blowing a hole through the previous sentiments.
During the entire process of uncovering what happened to the tablet, the wound between the two of them continued to bleed.
Plans A (Kevin memorizing the tablet), B (stealing the tablet), C (bidding with money for the tablet) and now even D (Linda selling her soul for her son) were shot to hell.
Dean had charged after Linda/Crowley, who had some sick want to wear other people's mothers and took off down the hall.
"Move!" Kevin spotted the next danger; Beau the demigod assistant had a gun aimed at the three of them.
Gunfire buzzed in her ears; rapid and flinching.
Sam slid behind the overturned table, a protection from the flying bullets.
Jo reared up with the first weapon she grabbed from the confiscated weapons box.
Dean's nickel-plated Colt was gripped in her hand and she fired.
The demigod only laughed, "Cute."
Jo's eyes saw his contraction around the trigger and turned her body around the brick pillar. The bullet struck it and blew out dust at her back.
"DON'T!" the supernatural secretary shouted Kevin's standstill before he reached the door.
She took small comfort knowing that he wouldn't shoot the Prophet, no doubt Crowley ordered him live and kicking.
"You know what's better than one private island?"
Jo peeked out from behind the pillar, readying Dean's gun. She paused her aim when her eyes found Sam with a heavy silver hammer in hand, sneaking behind the gray-suited man.
"Two private islands."
There was a flash of lightning and Sam smashed in Beau's brains with Thor's hammer. The blood splattered in an uneven line to Kevin's feet.
The kid didn't hesitate to take off, and while the younger brother was heaving in breath after wielding a god's weapon, Jo followed her partner.
She knew there would be nothing but trouble waiting for him with Dean, his mother, and Crowley.
Skidding into the room, Jo found Dean pinning Crowley against a pillar, Ruby's knife at Linda's throat. His Purgatory reflexes hard and fast for the kill.
Jo rushed and grabbed Kevin, holding him from ripping Dean away from his possessed mother. She knew that the kid would try to stop the older man from what needed to be done.
"MOM!" Kevin screamed
He struggled for a moment in the strong hold, but he had already done the damage.
Dean, distracted, glanced back at them, and Crowley found his out. Pushing Dean away, Linda's body convulsed.
As the red smoke ejected from Linda's mouth, Jo released Kevin.
She swiftly stashed the Colt between her belt and her back, on safety; it was no use against Crowley.
While Dean's eyes fixed on the door that the red soul disappeared behind, Kevin moved to his mother, and Jo stepped for the tablet laying next to the door.
Crowley walked out, looking suited in his normal attire.
Jo craned her head up just to see Crowley grin at her.
"Hello, love." he snapped his fingers.
Crowley's energy hit her like a wall before she could gather enough of her own to reduce the intensity. With a curse, Jo slid across the room, behind a firmly stilled Dean, and into the opposite wall, thumping there painfully.
"Well that was exciting." He brushed off his arm and bent down to get the tablet.
"Good luck closing the gates to hell..."
He picked it up as Jo rose, watching him.
Crowley turned the attention to Kevin.
"Surprising what Mommy dearest has rattling around in her head. Want to know who your real father is?"
Kevin looked ultimately confused, gulping down bile and turning his gaze back to his comatose mother.
"Crowley!" Dean growled, echoing in menacingly in the room.
The King of Hell only smirked slightly, still speaking to the Prophet, "I know we're not mates, Kevin, but one word of advise - run. Run far and run fast. 'Cause the Winchesters..."
Crowley tilted his head in Dean's direction, face grim and smug, "Well they have a habit of using people up, and watching them die bloody."
The two of them exchanged hefty glares.
Jo stood breathing heavy, knowing despite the elder Winchester's unexpressive face, that the comment stung. It did to her, two of those people he spoke about included her family.
"Toodles." Crowley wiggled his fingers, the grin still spattered on his face.
They were then forced to watch Crowley walk out of the room, door closing behind him, tablet in hand.
Jo sat in the tanned plush chair, Linda's back faced her. She positioned herself to watch Kevin instead, eyes carefully aimed at him from behind his locked gaze on his mother.
Her partner's head was hung down, hand placed on his mother's knee as if concentrating to wake her.
"Has she said anything?" Sam asked.
Kevin's head shook silently, eyes clenched tight.
"Listen, Kev, what your mom went through, it's Hell, trust me, I know."
Jo's legs uncrossed, and she leaned her torso forward, annoyed with Dean's failed handling of another situation.
"She's tough, Kev." Jo spoke up, purposefully interjecting one of his condescending talks, "She'll pull through."
Kevin's breathing was unsteady, and Jo feared suddenly that she had made it worse, adding on to Dean.
"You tried to kill her." his voice spoke finally, low and gritting.
His face spoke for every word he couldn't express, and all of it directed at Dean.
Kevin always hated when they had to use the demon-killing knife, the idea of wasting the human soul inside never settled well with him.
She, similar to Dean, didn't give the action a second thought; the sacrifices had grown accustomed to them while Kevin had only just began to experience them.
"Kid, in this life -"
Before Dean could explain, Kevin burst.
"I don't want to hear anymore of your crappy speeches." devastation and anger shook his voice.
Jo had never seen him like this before. Understanding came easy; her mother had also been the target of a supernatural force.
"I just want to talk to my mom alone."
Dean blinked as if he didn't understand, Sam was quick to accommodate, "Sure."
"Five minutes." he added as Dean went for the door.
Sam's eyes flicked to Jo's expectantly.
She stared right back, letting him know that Kevin's statement didn't include her.
He nodded and followed his brother.
Once the door closed behind them, Jo turned to him.
Linda's face showed no recognition.
Jo got up after their exit, placing a tentive hand of Linda's shoulder, eyes seeking Kevin's to gage permission.
"Can I heal her?" her voice was gentle.
Kevin nodded curtly, still harboring the anger not only for Dean, but for her also.
In a minute, she had worked her spell and Mrs. Tran's burnt arm healed. In a few more, Jo had coaxed the mother out of her comatose loop and she returned in her right mind, blinking furiously.
"Kevin, what...what happened?"
"Don't worry mom, let's just go."
"Let me get them." Jo moved for the door.
"No." Kevin spoke firmly, "We're not going with them."
The blonde hunter took a breath, preparing for another timeless argument, the one they always and continually struggled through.
"Kevin, You can't listen to Crowley."
"Can't I? Dean was going to kill her Jo, kill her."
She took in a breath.
"You would have killed her too." Kevin's statement took the air from her, "You tried to stop me from saving her."
Jo sealed her lips and rolled them in on each other, admitting guilt.
His voice was shaking, "you're no better than them; Crowley was right, you guys do have a habit. I don't want me or my mom to end up like whoever Crowley was referring to."
Though her body was too stiff to flinch, though her eyes betrayed the sting with a blink.
He helped his confused mother to her feet, face still seething.
"Besides, you guys have no need for me anymore anyway right? The tablet's gone and you don't need me to read it. So I'm going to leave before one of us ends up dying."
Jo's lips tightened, and she felt a blockage in her chest; deep.
"Kevin, I'm -"
"Don't follow us, Jo. Thanks for everything you've taught me, but we'll be fine without hunters."
He walked, hand in his mother's toward the back door.
Jo stood firm, watching him go without protest.
"Apparently that's all you can be."
Another bite sank into her chest, drawing a tear over one eye.
He was gone when she opened her eyes. Her ears had missed the sound of the backdoor closing behind them.
She gulped down the rest of the tears, and bent her head back to the ceiling, as if to send the emotional waters back down, hidden before she had to face the Winchesters.
Sam opened the door slowly, not wanting to interrupt a personal moment between Kevin and his mom. When his eyes spotted Jo's singular form in the room, he opened it wider.
Jo set her head back to normal, quickly wiping away a tear as Dean entered.
Explaining what had happened was difficult, it was as if Kevin had written a note through her for them to find.
"Hey." Dean closed the hotel room door behind him, beer in hand.
"Hey." Jo nodded, not moving from her chair on the small patio.
She had sat there, alone, minutes dragging thinking about Kevin's words and her place now with the Winchesters.
It had been a week, and no sign of Kevin. Half of her was impressed that he had actually learned so much about covering travel tracks from her, the other worried intensely about his safety. Sam was right, Crowley still needed him and would jump at the thought that he had separated himself from his protectors.
The game of roulette between Dean and Jo continued as their search for the prophet gained miles, constantly dragging the two from tenderness to hostility with an extreme reload rate.
Now, though, as Dean sat with a sigh into the chair next to her, she thought the moment would follow with a mixture of the two.
Taking a break from her thoughts, she looked up at the stars.
"Rough day." was all he offered.
She nodded, lips tight, eyes up.
"Tomorrow we'll head south-"
"I'm not going with you."
She looked down at her own beer bottle, between her legs.
"I think we'll have more luck looking if we split up."
"Yeah, right." His voice was cynical.
She turned her head, "Do you have something to say?"
"Yeah, how about that's bullshit?"
"We'll find him twice as fast with you, you know him best, Jo, so why don't you tell me why you can't stand to be around us?"
"Oh it's just me then?" he nodded, irritated, "thanks, Jo, that's just great."
"You're jumping to conclusions." she snapped.
"Right, that's why I've noticed you avoiding me all week."
"Because I don't know what to do Dean!" she blurted, "We keep flipping around this love-hate relationship and its exhausting. We haven't talked about us yet-"
"What do you think I'm trying to do?" Dean interjected quickly and harshly.
She fell silent, and so did he. The quiet of the night stole moments from them.
"Anyway you want to make this easier?" he spoke softer, with a small uncomfortable chuckle.
"I can't think of any."she too lost the hostility in her voice.
"Yeah, me neither."
He took a breath and shifted his body to face her front, "Is it too late to tell you my darkest secrets?"
She offered a small grin, remembering her concussed moment, "No."
"I teamed up with a vamp in Purgatory and helped him back out with me."
She gave him an expression that said, 'really?'
He nodded, "Sam doesn't know."
She scoffed, unsurprised by his unhealthy relationship quality with his own sibling, "I'll one-up you; I'm a practicing witch."
He started at her for a second, uneasy.
"Oh relax. No dark stuff, I started with James Frampton. You like him, remember? Not all witches are bad."
He shrugged and lifted his eye-brows, as if to shake the new information off.
"Your turn." She sipped her beer.
"I left Cas in Purgatory."
"I don't believe that."
"Why not? I almost killed Linda."
"I almost killed Kevin."
Her sudden admittance surprised him, but he shook his head all the same, "No way."
She nodded slowly, "We were on a tight escape from Crowley. We got the tablet, but he almost had both of them. I thought what I could do to prevent Crowley from getting them, and I could only think of one thing..."
Tears were springing quickly, she hated that they were showing themselves in front of him, but the flow did not stop.
Dean shifted, "You wouldn't have-"
"I was going to do it Dean. The gun was in my hand, and I was gonna put one right between his eyes."
She sniffed, more than one tear streaking over the previous on her cheek.
"Maybe he's right about us, you know? How have I come to this? After all these years...how could I be so soulless...?"
Tapping her bottle against the plastic chair in between her legs, she faltered.
Dean reached a warm palm to rest on her thigh as the tightness returned to her chest.
Their eyes met, and he gave an uncharacteristically comforting gaze. With his other hand he took her bottle and his, placing them to the floor. Then, he gestured for her to come closer with not a word spoken.
She did so, getting out of her chair and he guided her down, rough hands lightly on her hips, sitting her on his leg. Her own draped across his opposite Jo-free one.
He held her.
Her head fell on his shoulder.
Together, their breathing matched, inhaling the other. It was the most physical contact they've shared in over a year. It reminded the two that they weren't hunters drilled only to the job, to the war. It reminded them they did have some compassion left for something, for someone.
Those moments did not drag for either of them.
"Don't leave, Jo." Dean murmured into her hair, her ear behind it.
"Why?" she spoke soft, "So we can find humanity in each other?"
She took a deep breath of him, half-brain internally craving to stay, to be with him again...but her other mind won control of her lips.
"No. I'm sorry Dean, but we can't."
She lifted her torso away from resting on his to meet her favorite colored eyes.
"Not yet. I don't want to rely on my feelings for you to find that. I want to find it myself. I'm still not entirely sure what we are, or how I feel about you. I'm sure it's the same for you, I mean Purgatory is a big deal, and this last year was something I've never experienced before either. You and Sam need to work yourselves out too, spend some time-sharing. We need to figure ourselves out, Dean, before we can commit to each other again. Or else it will just turn into the last time we tried this. We have to break the cycle."
He stared back, eyes falling on different parts of her face.
"Alright." Flicking a rough tongue over his lips, "You're not going to disappear on me though, right?"
"Oh you mean like what you do to me?"
Her shrewd comment earned a grin and chuckle from him, "Exactly."
"No." Jo's lips turned up looking down at him, "I'm a better person than you."
He nodded, smiling, his hands drawing her closer to his face, "That's right."
Their eyes closed and lips met, short and soft. His hands pulled at her body to close the distance between them; deepening it.
Letting herself feel the sparks stirring between them once again, she released control for one more time before departure. She quieted the part of her mind that protested, 'it will be harder to leave after this.'
Jo couldn't help but think that maybe Dean was counting on that.
Still, not even Dean Winchester would change either of her minds.