Genre: ANGST like crazy.
Spoilers: Born Under a Bad Sign and before.
Summary: It had been over a month since Sam had disappeared. Five weeks with nothing but a note, an apology: I'm sorry, Dean, but I have to do this on my own. Except for a lonely white sock with a hole worn through by Sam's big toe, his cell phone and a clip of silver bullets, he’d left nothing behind.
A/N: MASSIVE BIG HUGE ENORMOUS THANKYOU to herowlness who beta'd this monster over and over again, and caused it to grow from 17 pages to 30. Prompted by redbrunja who asked for Dean/Jo, bullets, and "Now all the demons look like prophets and I'm living out every word they speak." This was supposed to be 1000 words at most. Yeah. Right. Pfffft. 13k later...
Due to length restrictions, and the fact that this thing is 30 pages long, it is posted in two parts. The link to the second part appears at the end of this fic. :)
banner by quiet_rebel who is seriously awesome for randomly making this [heart]
also, abrupte = me. changed my user name.
I can see it in your eyes, Dean. You're worthless. You couldn't save your dad, and deep down, you know you can't save your brother. They'd have been better off without you.
It had been over a month since Sam had disappeared. Five weeks with nothing but a note, an apology: I'm sorry, Dean, but I have to do this on my own. Except for a lonely white sock with a hole worn through by Sam's big toe, his cell phone and a clip of silver bullets, he’d left nothing behind. There was no trace, no trail, not even after he called every contact he'd ever had - Ellen, Jo, Bobby, Missouri, and any hunting buddy his father had ever known. Ash searched through every database, looking for any hint, and Dean followed up on every possible lead, but the weeks stretched into two months and then three.
He was gone, and Dean was in over his head, losing his mind. His ears were filled with a thousand apologies: I'm sorry, Dean, but --
The phrase had grown far too familiar.
It had been six months, two weeks and four -- no, five days since Sam left, and Dean had given up the search. He hated the voices in his head, the ones that said he failed, and everyone who’d ever told him he was worthless was right after all. He couldn't even find his brother, much less save him. He'd stopped going to the roadhouse hoping for news, had accepted that there was none to be found. Ellen said we'll let you know if we hear anything, but he knew there would be nothing. He hated that empty feeling in his chest, the fact that he'd actually gotten used to getting a motel room with just one bed.
Jo found him in Alabama, licking his wounds after a job gone wrong in the cheapest motel he could find while the drug-addict next door fucked a hooker, and he only let her in because she had a six-pack under her arm. She sat down on his bed without invitation and handed him a beer, setting the case aside. My mom's worried about you, she told him flatly, recited like a message she'd been told to deliver. He just shrugged, lying back on the bed. She watched the way he moved, slow and not quite right, his back too straight and stiff.
You're hurt, she observed, but he just turned the television up to drown out the moans of the couple next door, making a vague gesture in the direction of the beer, (help yourself) but she didn't move. He watched the TV, some low-budget porno she guessed he'd picked just to piss her off, and she watched him. He made the mistake, later, of taking off his jacket, dumping it onto the floor in a heap with some other clothes. Blood was seeping through his thin grey t-shirt beneath the dirt stains and the tears, and she had to convince him to let her sew him up. The gash on his back was shallow but long, and as she crouched over him, needle and thread from his first aid kit in hand, she told him you really shouldn't be hunting alone.
I'm not gonna quit hunting. It's all I've got left. Fuck, watch where you're sticking that needle, would you? He turned his head slightly to look up at her, wincing, and she remembered him calling her a butcher when she'd dug the bullet out of his shoulder. She'd kept it, tucked it away in a small box with some old birthday cards from her father and a couple pieces of fake ID. She hadn't even known for sure why -- for luck, maybe, as if such a thing could ever be lucky.
That's not what I said, she whispered, but he didn't seem to hear her. There. Done. What would you have done without me? She smiled even though she didn't feel it, leaving him with a couple of aspirin and the rest of the beers.
She came back in the morning, picking the lock to get in. Shaking him awake, she said there's another job, small town just north of Houston. Come on, let's go. Wake up.
What the fuck are you talking about? he grumbled into the pillow, not getting up. He was too stiff and sore, his back aching where she'd sewn him back together, and he wanted to sleep for the next three weeks. What the fuck are you doing back here, anyway?
Get up. Job. Houston. And don't think you can leave me behind, either. She finally got up, sat on his unmade bed while he showered, told him she'd turn around while he got dressed, but fat chance he was getting her to leave. I don't trust you not to sneak off on me. He went back into the bathroom and came out to put his boots on.
Alright, let's go. But if you hold me up, I'm leaving your ass in Texas, got it?
Jo took that as permission to stay.
The job went okay. They bickered a lot, stupid arguments about stupid things, like Jo's taste in music (REO Speedwagon and The Doors, Jo? Jesus, didn't Ash teach you anything?), or how she took too long in the bathroom (Fuck, you're worse than -- he stopped and turned away, but she knew he was going to say Sam). Dean wanted to get separate rooms, bitching about how he couldn't share space with a girl, but she wanted to save the money. It turned out she could be just as stubborn as he was, maybe even a little more. He shut up when she paid for dinner with the money she'd gotten from selling her truck, muttering you're worse than my mother.
I'm staying, she said, stealing a french fry off his plate. He scowled at her, grabbed a fry off hers in retaliation, and they were both perfectly aware that it was nothing more than a pissing contest neither of them would ever really win. Get used to it, or get yourself killed. Your choice.
He just shrugged, glancing out the window at his car in the parking lot, as if he might escape while her back was turned. Suit yourself, sweetheart. But if you hold me up --
You're leaving my ass behind, I got it. She smirked. Shut up and eat your dinner, asshole. And don't call me sweetheart.
What, you're interested in my dick now?
And they both smiled. Truce. It was an echo of a million conversations he'd had with Sam, and he knew it, but it was better than being alone.
They worked their way north, through Oklahoma and Missouri, stopping to see Ellen in Nebraska. It was the first time Ellen had seen her daughter since she'd left home, and she didn't even try to make her stay. She understood now and liked that at least she wasn't hunting alone. In any case, she couldn't make a scene inside of a full bar, and the pair of them slipped into stools like any other pair of hunters, made small talk about this hunt or that one. It didn't erase the stiffness in Dean's shoulders, or the way he sat up too straight instead of hunching over his beer, or how he never really smiled anymore.
Jo had gotten used to him, to the fact that this was Dean now, and whoever he might have been before didn't come around much now. She left her beer with him, murmuring just don't let Ash drink it, and disappeared to find the washroom.
Refill? he asked, tipping his glass towards Ellen.
On the house, she told him, putting a glass of whiskey in front of him. Just so long as you promise to take care of my daughter. But if you let anything happen to her, Dean, and he could see the threat in her eyes when she looked at him, I swear to god I'll have your balls.
He tried to ignore the voices that whispered he'd fucked up too many times, he'd get Jo hurt or killed or worse, he wouldn't be able to save her when he had to and told her, Yeah, of course. C'mon, Ellen, you seriously think I'd let anything happen to her?
It's good to see you looking better. You were getting too skinny, she said instead of actually answering him, and he knew it wasn't that she didn't trust him. It was just that she didn't think she needed to dignify it with a response. She knew Jo would be fine. Dean wished he had half her confidence.
Oh, and boy? One more thing. If you so much as touch her...
Dean smiled broadly, waving her off. She's not really my type, Ellen. Don't worry about it.
They were in Utah when she got hurt, thrown out a window by an angry poltergeist. She didn't remember much about it, just Dean's shout of horror. She was okay, really. They'd only been on the main floor, but he was shaken. On the way back to their motel room, she watched his knuckles turn white as he gripped the steering wheel.
It took a long time to dig the shards out of glass out of her skin as Jo laid on her stomach on his bed while Dean knelt over her with the tweezers. Her skin was soft and golden-brown between the sticky red smears, and she gritted her teeth every time he poured what was left of the cheap whiskey he'd picked up long before she joined him on the hunt over her wounds. She didn't have to ask him to know it was bad, could tell by the slight tremor in his hands when he tried to clean away some of the blood to see the tiny slivers of glass pressed into her flesh. I'm okay, Dean, really, she promised. He took a deep breath before he started sewing, and she didn't make a sound while he stitched up the deeper tears and murmured words she couldn't understand under his breath.
He turned away as soon as he was done, like he couldn't stand to look at her, shirtless and stitched up like an old rag doll. I'm sorry, he whispered so quietly that she barely heard him. She sat up, covering her chest with one arm as best she could and putting a hand on his shoulder.
Not your fault, Dean, she told him for the fifth time.
He didn't answer for a while, and she was a little surprised that he didn't flinch away from her touch. Maybe, he said, but it's my job. He glanced at her, and then quickly looked away, and she could swear he was blushing. Dude, put a shirt on or something.
She laughed, going over to his duffle bag and fishing out one of his t-shirts. Dude, she said as she pulled the shirt over her head. I'm not a dude.
Yeah, he admitted, and she could hear his slight smile even though she couldn't see his face. I just got a real eyeful of that.
He could tell she was hiding the pain, didn't want him to see how badly it hurt her every time she moved. With every action that tugged at the stitches holding her together, he was painfully aware that he had failed her. It had been two months, a little more, since she had broken into his motel room and dragged him to Texas, and he'd gotten used to finding long, blonde hairs in the shower, to finding the toilet seat down.
Let me check your back again, he murmured, and she sighed, pulling her shirt up to show him the patchwork of stitches and healing wounds. He tried to ignore the way his touch raised goosebumps on her skin as he trailed calloused fingertips between the cuts. They'd leave scars when they healed, but she already had a few, and it was part of the job.
Jesus, don't poke them, she complained, and Dean wondered if he'd miss her when she left.
Sorry. Still hurts?
It's fine, Dean.
He would. He would miss the way she sang off-key with him to AC/DC, or how she snuck REO Speedwagon into the tape deck of the car when he wasn't looking. Most of all he'd miss the extra rifle that backed him up, and the way she lectured him for every scrape, every cut, muttering you get yourself killed, I'm gonna kick your ass.
Oh, yeah, sorry. Looks good, no infection. Stitches are holding. He pulled away, looking at the opposite wall while she pulled her shirt back down.
It had been ten months, two weeks, and two days since he had disappeared (not that Jo was the one counting) when she got a message on her phone from Sam. All he said was don't tell Dean I called, but thanks for looking out for him. She didn't tell him, knew they kept too many secrets from each other, but that night when they collapsed into their separate beds, she told him I'm sure Sam's okay, wherever he is.
He looked at her, his eyes hurt and a little hollow, distrusting. She hated that look, and the way it came up every time someone mentioned Sam's name. How would you know?
Just a feeling. Night, Dean.
They took a break in California, even splurged on a nice motel near the beach. It was wet and raining, so they stayed inside, watching the water splatter against the windowpanes and drinking. She felt tipsy and warm, sitting on the edge of the bed and pulling absently at the frayed edge of her denim shorts while Dean was propped up against the headboard.
I haven't been to California since... since I came here to get Sam, he murmured quietly, reaching for the bottle of whiskey they'd been sharing and taking a swig. His voice was soft and a little sad, and she turned to look at him, drawing her knees up onto the bed.
He'll be back, she told him, prying the bottle from his grasp and drinking a healthy swallow. He will, Dean. I know it. She didn't know, not really, but she believed it, and that was enough. He wasn't convinced, and she couldn't tell him that he'd called, that he was alright. He took the bottle from back from her, giving a slight shake of his head.
I did something wrong. I couldn't... I can't protect him like this. And I couldn't find him. I fucked up. I always fuck up. He was raw, looking for understanding, and she got it. She barely knew what she was doing as she reached out to touch his stubbled cheek. His skin was too pale, and desperate and a little drunk, and he looked at her like maybe she had all the answers.
She hated that look in his eyes. Coming to California, she decided, had been a bad idea. There were too many bad memories. (This is where Sam was, this is where Bill Harvelle died, these are the worst moments of our lives.) She didn't say it, but she felt it, wished they'd never set foot in this godforsaken state where the past was eating them both alive.
You didn't do anything wrong, Dean, she murmured, moving closer to him. You're a good brother. You take care of people. You're good at it, and you didn't screw up. Sam did, because he didn't trust himself enough to trust you.
His voice was hoarse, muttering how do you know?
Because you take care of me. She leaned in to kiss him then, couldn't help but press her lips against his, trying to comfort because nothing else worked.
He actually responded, moving his lips against hers, his free hand resting on her arm before she slowly pulled away. Except for when I let you get thrown out of windows, he corrected her, and she shook her head, pulling her hair of its ponytail and taking the whiskey out of his hand.
You took care of me then, too, and she kissed him again. His lips were soft and yielding beneath hers, and she wondered if it was the alcohol, the fact that it had been too long since either of them had gotten laid, or a combination of the two that made him so responsive. She straddled his lap, one hand pressed against his chest, as she looked down at his face.
He gripped her thighs loosely, a slight smirk on his lips, hands warm on her bare skin. Am I taking care of you now? he asked her, self-deprecating, like he thought he was taking advantage of her. Am I taking care of you by letting you fuck me when you're drunk?
She kissed his neck, breathing into his ear we're not quite there yet, and I'm not that drunk, sliding one hand up under the fabric of his threadbare t-shirt, his skin smooth and soft where it wasn't scarred.
Another warm, soft kiss, and Dean whispered, I can't do this, Jo. He pushed her hands away, left her feeling awkward in his lap. She didn't know what to do with his rejection. Lifting herself slowly off of him and settling onto the mattress beside him, she crossed her legs and looked away from him.
Can't, or don't want to? What she meant was don't want me? but she couldn't put that into words. She remembered what the demon in Sam had told her about little sisters and schoolgirls, feeling her face turn pink because she'd been stupid enough to kiss him. He probably thought it was like incest or something and wasn't attracted to her, even though once upon a time he'd started to make that very offer.
He reached out to touch her shoulder, fingers brushing against the strap of her red tank top. Can't, he said, and when she turned to look at him, he pushed a strand of her hair back from her face, the closest he'd come to an apology. Not right now. Although I want to. God, right now, I really want to, promises to your mother aside. She leaned over and kissed him again, fast and hard, pulling away before he could respond.
I'm gonna go for a walk. Get some sleep, Dean. She slid off the bed, her feet slipping easily into her sandals.
She heard him say I'm sorry as she closed the door and stepped out into the rain.
It was four hours before she went back to their motel, feeling cold, wet and tired. Dean wasn't there, and she sighed, stripping out of her wet clothes. She left them in a soggy pile at the foot of her bed, remembering what it was like for a minute to have personal space, a luxury no longer hers. She changed into one of his t-shirts and a faded pair of sweatpants, crawling into bed and wrapping the blankets tightly around herself in an attempt to get warm.
Dude, where the hell were you? Dean was pissed off, shouting, and she sat up, rubbing her eyes as she tried to gauge what time it was. You left your phone behind, you were gone for fucking ages, and I went out to go find you, and you weren't anywhere -- he sounded panicked, still scared even though she was right there in front of him.
She was still half-asleep, trying to figure out what the hell he was so upset about. Her phone, like he'd said, was right there on the bedside table. I just went for a walk --
Yeah, six fucking hours ago! Jesus, I was starting to think maybe you weren't coming back.
And then she understood.
She stood before him, reached out and slung her arms around his waist just so she could touch him, as if that contact would make him understand, too. She met his eyes and said quietly I didn't leave. I wouldn't walk out on you, Dean. If I leave, I will tell you, and I will tell you to your face and give you plenty of chances to convince me to stay. I won't just leave. I didn't leave.
He pulled away from her slowly, like he wasn't sure if he wanted to, rubbing his temples tiredly. You scared the shit out of me, Jo.
I won't leave, she said again. You're stuck with me. Get used to it.
By the next day, the skies had cleared, and he was in a better mood. They went to the beach, and even though Dean didn't go near the water, he laughed at her as she splashed through the tide pools in her jean cut-offs and pink bikini top. He'd been surprised when he'd first seen it, not because it was a bikini but because it was pink, and he said I didn't figure you for a pink kind of girl. It showed off her scars, white against her gold skin, but he didn't seem to mind.
Well, I'm just full of surprises, aren't I?
She tried to splash him whenever he came near enough for her to think that maybe she could get him, but he always got out of the way just in time. It was nice to see him smile though. He didn't do it nearly enough anymore.
They ate lunch at some café that wasn't really their style, too trendy and a far cry from the greasy diners where they usually ate, but the food was pretty good. They sat outside because the weather was nice, warm and bright. She put down her BLT, looked at him across the mostly-empty pitcher of beer that sat in the middle of their small table, and asked do you want to sleep with me?
He choked on his drink when she said it, and she laughed then, couldn't help herself because he looked so damned stunned. Well? Do you?
There was that smile again, a little crooked, definitely guilty. Maybe, he said. The bikini helps.
Their first time was a little awkward, as if neither of them could wrap their minds around the fact that it was actually happening. Dean wasn't as gentle as he meant to be, but Jo wasn't fragile enough to mind. It felt good when they got into it, their bodies moving in time, their kisses feverish and needy. Definitely been too long since I got laid, Dean murmured in her ear as he thrust into her, and another girl might have been more than a little pissed.
She just chuckled, wrapped her legs a little tighter around his waist, and whispered yeah, me too. Just don't stop.
When it was done, he collapsed next to her, pressed his face into her neck and draped an arm loosely over her body. He whispered, I think maybe I like California after all.
Me too, she told him, reaching up a hand to stroke his sweaty hair, breathing a sigh of relief. Me too.
A call from Bobby about something going on in Montana pulled them out of their vacation. He said don't get your hopes up, Dean, but Thomas said he saw a guy matching Sam's description. Dean promised not to and what Jo saw in his eyes wasn't hope. It was fear, raw and obvious.
When he hung up, he looked at her. I don't know if I want it to be him or not.
She shrugged, starting to shove their things back into their bags. Look at it this way. By the time we get there, if it is him, he'll probably already be gone.
He snorted, shaking his head. Is that supposed to be the bright side?
Sam had been there. They managed to get a hold of some security tapes from a gas station, and it was him, alive and apparently well, buying coffee and a pre-packaged salad. He looked tired, his shoulders hunched as he turned away from the camera. At least you know he's okay, Jo told him as he stared at Sam's figure, paused on the screen in fuzzy black and white. He's alive, right?
Dean didn't sound relieved or happy, just tired and frustrated by what was so obviously just another dead end, a glimpse of the brother he had failed and would never be able to save. I guess.
You still miss him, and when he just shrugged, she took that as a yes. He's your brother. And even though he's a jerk for walking out on you in order to protect you or whatever stupid thing he thought he was doing, that doesn't change anything.
He didn't want to talk to her, didn't answer, just got up to turn off the TV. I'm going to bed, he told her, not even looking at her. The heater rattled in the silence, and she suddenly missed the sun and waves of California, and Dean's brilliant smile as she'd tried to convince him to come near enough for her to get him wet.
Yeah. Night, she finally said, but he just stripped out of his jeans and got into his separate bed, turned out the lights and left her sitting alone in the dark. Jo didn't know what it meant that he'd gotten two doubles again and wondered if what they'd done had only been a one-time thing. This time, she didn't have the guts to ask. She was afraid of what he might say.
She was still awake when he snuck out in the middle of the night, listened to him get dressed again, figured he'd gone to get drunk or get laid, maybe both. She listened for the Impala's engine turning over, but there was nothing. He must be going to the bar down the street, and Jo thought about following him. Instead, she rolled over and tried to get some sleep. Just because Dean was being a bitch didn't mean she couldn't get some shuteye.
The sound of him stumbling in woke her at seven in the morning, and she listened to him wretch in the bathroom. Apparently his attempts to drown his pain with liquor had left him worse for the wear. She sighed, crawling out of bed to find him crouched over the toilet, groaning with a hangover. He was pale and shaking, his jacket bunched up in the far corner of the bathroom. Dean, she sighed, kneeling next to him, stroking his messy hair.
Leave me alone, Jo, he muttered before throwing up again.
And here I thought you could hold your liquor, she murmured. I left you alone last night. Not making that mistake twice.
He didn't push her away, let her sit beside him until he was done throwing up what little he'd eaten. She hauled him to his feet, helped him into bed, and said I'm gonna go get you some breakfast. Just relax.
She brought him eggs and pancakes, sitting on the bed next to him while he ate. She half-wanted to lecture him for being an idiot, but instead she just told him next time at least tell me you're going out. I woke up last night, and you weren't here. Freaked me out. It was a lie, but he had no way of knowing she'd been awake when he'd gone out. When you're ready to go, I think there might be a case in Idaho. 'Ready to go' had less to do with his bitch of hangover than it did with Sam's fuzzy form on the black and white security video. They both knew that but pretended otherwise.
They'd gotten very good at pretending.
Maybe tomorrow, maybe Friday, he said quietly. Thanks, by the way. For doing this, for... He trailed off, didn't have to finish, didn't even really know how. He'd never been good at apologies or gratitude. With Sam, they'd always been left unspoken but understood, so he just gestured vaguely at the motel room like the furniture would tell her what he couldn't say. Everything hung there between them in the silence before she answered him.
Don't mention it. She didn't say anything more, but she wondered if the sex was just one more favour she'd done for him.
Idaho turned out to be a possession, and Jo wished they could just stay away from demons that reminded them both of things they'd rather forget. He doesn't give a shit about you, he just wants to fuck you because it makes him feel less alone, and you know you can't protect her either, you're just going to get her killed, or make her hate you, and she'll leave you alone, just like your father, just like your brother, just like everyone you've ever cared about. But a job was a job, and as they went back to their motel, shaking and tired, neither of them knew what to say.
Dean was quiet, and Jo finally reminded him, voice soft, demons lie.
It wasn't a lie, he told her, not looking at her. I used you, in California, to make me forget about Sam. It wasn't lying about that.
And I used you right back, she murmured, going over to him, leaning up to kiss him.
His hands fell, heavy and warm on her hips, and he breathed quietly god, I just don't want to be alone.
Me neither, Dean. I understand. So just -- just shut up and fuck me. She took his face in her hands, pulling his mouth over hers, guiding his tongue past her lips. He did as she told him, and they fell into her bed, searching for relief in the darkness.
They ended up at a motel in Grand Junction, Colorado, with Jo waiting outside while Dean got their room. Coming out of the office, he tossed her the keys, saying it's room 23. I'll get the rest of the stuff. She shrugged, hefting the duffel bag with her things over her shoulder as she headed for the room.
It was like any other motel room, except... One bed, she murmured as Dean came in behind her, dropped the rest of their stuff on the floor next to where she'd put her bag. She heard the door close behind him, felt his breath on her neck.
Yeah, he said, his hands reaching around her to start undoing her belt. I didn't think you'd mind.
She smiled then, turning to face him, a slight quirk to her lips as she helped him shrug out of his leather jacket. I don't.
The spirit flung her aside, out of the way, and Dean heard the sickening thud when her head slammed against the wall. The house was eerily quiet then, and Dean turned his head to look at the knife buried up to the handle in the door behind him. Jo was slumped on the floor, and she wasn't moving. He could see the blood spreading through her blonde hair, and she didn't get up, didn't move.
Jo, he breathed, the floor creaking beneath him as he crawled over to her. The knife would have been embedded in his back instead of the wooden door if she hadn't shoved him aside. She'd put herself in front of it only to be thrown out of the way by the little girl whose spirit haunted the house. God, Jo, you stupid bitch. He didn't know what else to say to her when she wouldn't answer him, when she just lay there on the ground like some bleeding, broken toy.
She woke up in the car. Dean saw her eyes open, groggy and out of focus, staring at the road in front of them. Jo? Jo, you okay? She didn't look at him, didn't answer, just stared vacantly ahead. Jo? Hey, can you hear me? She didn't say anything, didn't flinch at the sound of his voice, didn't do anything at all. Answer me, Jo, say something, anything.
She started to cry, and he pulled over, the brakes moaning in protest and his hands trembling on the wheel. Something was wrong. She still wouldn't speak, couldn't speak maybe, so he took her chin and forced her to look at him. Her eyes were blank, and Dean knew she couldn't see him. Fear rose in his chest, curling around his heart like a fist. There was no sound as she cried, just tears, fat and wet as they fell from her unseeing eyes.
He fumbled for the map on the dashboard, tearing a corner in his haste to unfold it, He tried to remember where he'd seen the hospital, which roads would take him there. Jo still just stared at nothing, perfectly blind and perfectly still. He tried to ignore the agonizing panic screaming in his head.
She saw her father lying on the rocks next to the water, the moon high overhead. His blood made the stones red and slick beneath him, his eyes glassy with pain. John stood over him with a shotgun. It was all wrong. God, it was all wrong. Bill's insides were strewn over the rocks, and John was whispering as he stood over his dying friend, eyes closed. It was a prayer. She wanted to scream, wrest the gun out of his hands, force her father's guts back into his body.
She heard John's voice, gruff and sad, as he whispered Bill, I'm sorry.
Bill smiled, just the slightest twitch of his upper lip. Thank you.
All she wanted was to look away, to not see what happened when John Winchester levelled the shotgun at her father's head. The gunshot echoed through the still night air as more blood spilled across the rocks, slick and red beneath the light of the moon. Bill Harvelle died at the water's edge at Devil's Reservoir, and the man who shot him sat down in the dirt beside him and cried.
It wasn't real. He was sitting at the edge of the water, staring out at the waves, elbows folded over his knees, feet bare. He always wore his boots. Even when he'd walked alongside her on the beach in September, he'd never taken them off. She knew they weren't in California any more, that they'd been and gone. But there he was, sitting on the California beach, looking out to sea.
Dean? He turned his head to look at her, a slight smile curving on his lips. He didn't say anything, just patted the sand next to him. I think I'm dreaming, she told him as she sat down, glancing at him before looking out at the water.
Maybe, he agreed. He took her hand in his, and his skin was cool to the touch, even with the warm sun at their back. She frowned a little, looking at him, because Dean wasn't really the handholding type. He said I think I'm dying, Jo.
No, you're not. She clasped his hand tightly. You're not dying.
Dean looked down, and she followed his eyes. That was when she saw the gaping hole square in the center of his chest and the blood splattered across the front of his shirt. He shot me, he whispered. I can't believe Sam fucking shot me.
You're not dying, she said again. You're not. This is a dream, it's not real. You're fine. It sounded too much like denial even to her ears, insisting it wasn't true when she could see that hole in his chest and the red, wet blood seeping out of it. She glanced down at their joined hands, and his was sticky with his blood. The bile rose in her throat, and she had to look away, trying to focus on his pale face.
He smiled a little, whispering I've been dying since he left, Jo. You keep trying to save me, but you can't.
What else am I supposed to do? Her eyes felt hot with tears, even though she knew it wasn't real, knew Dean wasn't bleeding to death while he sat with her on the beach. She remembered being in Colorado, their motel with only one bed and a lumpy mattress, the way it felt to have him inside her, how his sweat smelled when he collapsed next to her, and how his arm felt heavy and warm curling around her. Even the memory of laying there with him, warm and sated, wasn't enough to make it hurt any less as he bled out next to her. It wasn't real, but it was still the truth.
His hand tightened around hers. I don't want to die alone, he told her. Just don't let me die alone.
She remembered hearing once that everybody dies alone, but she leaned against his side, resting her head on his shoulder. I won't, Dean. You're not alone. I'm right here.
The first words out of her mouth when she woke up were promise me something, Dean. The room was quiet aside from their breathing and the hum of the machines she was hooked up to. She recognised the hospital smell of antiseptic as he stared at her, her hand clasped tightly in his, skin warm and calloused. Dean, promise me.
Promise what? he asked her. Jo? She could tell he was scared. The fear was plain in his eyes, as was the guilt, and he looked at her like he'd heard this before.
She didn't look away from him, wouldn't avert her eyes. This was important. She didn't know exactly why, but it was. If I get hurt, and I'm dying (the way my father was dying, the way you were dying, but she doesn't say that part) promise me you'll end it. His grip tightened on her hand. If I'm dying, and you can't save me, promise me you'll make it quick.
No, he whispered, and it wasn't a denial. Jo, you're gonna be okay. It was just a concussion, but you're fine. Nobody needs to die over it, alright? He was terrified, his grip growing a little tighter on her hand.
No, Dean, you don't --
He didn't let her finish. He couldn't. We'll leave in the morning, okay? Get back on the road.
Dean, she whispered.
I'm sorry. Jo, I'm sorry. You got hurt, and it was my fault. I fucked up. We won't come back here. We'll leave tomorrow. He gently pulled his hand out of hers, murmuring I'll leave you alone so you can get some sleep.
Wait, she said when he started to stand. He stopped, hesitating, and she sat up all the way, reaching out for the lapels of his button down shirt. She pulled him down, pressed a kiss to his mouth and told him softly it wasn't your fault. I'm sorry I scared you.
His warm hand curled around the back of her neck, and he kissed her warmly, taking comfort in that simple touch. She wished she could do more for him, wanted to pull him down onto the small hospital bed and apologise in a way he'd actually be able to understand. She wanted to feel him inside her while she whispered comforts in his ear, but instead she let him go.
We'll leave in the morning, she agreed quietly.
He went back to the house that night, making his way through the creaking hallways to find the little girl in the basement, sitting on top of an old trunk.
You came back, she told him. She was pale, her skin perfectly white in death, her blonde hair shiny and almost too neat. Dean remembered that her name was Melissa, and she'd disappeared when she was eight years old. You're going to put me to rest.
You're not gonna try and kill me? Dean asked, putting down the shovel he'd brought with him.
She saved you, the spirit told him. She was going to die instead of you.
Yeah, well, that was a pretty stupid thing of her to do, he said.
You're not like him. Dean understood she was talking about her father, the man who had buried his murdered child's body in the packed earth beneath his house. She wouldn't have saved you if you were like him. She wouldn't care, but she does.
He knew you didn't argue with spirits. The ones that hadn't lost their minds saw things that others didn't, knew things they couldn't. I guess, he said.
You care back. You got scared. She glanced away, like a child ashamed about breaking a lamp instead of a human girl. I'm sorry I hurt her. I didn't mean to.
She's okay, he said. It's okay.
You'll take care of her. He couldn't quite tell if it was a statement, a request or an order, but ultimately it didn't really matter which it was.
Yeah, I will.
She smiled a little then, pointed at the far corner of the cellar. I'm over there.