Ghosts are simple. They’re angry at the living. You find their foothold in the world and burn it. And then you move on. Actually, it was that way all the time. You find it. You kill it. And you move on. Sure, there was the occasional stabbing or beheading thrown in for variety, but it was all the same in the endgame. Find it, kill it, move on. All Joanna Harvelle had wanted to do since her dad died, was be a hunter. She was good at it. She saved people on a regular basis and she killed the bad things. Find it, kill it, move on. But after two years of hunting, it was starting to get to her and after the last seven months, she was lonely. She knew she could always go back to her mother. Ellen still ran the new Harvelle’s Roadhouse Bar and Grill and would love to see her. She’d be even more ecstatic to see Jo hang up her gun. But the thought of going back to busting tables and listening to other hunters tell their tales, set her teeth on edge. No, she was a hunter, for bad or for worse. Other hunters seemed to deal with it just fine. Most hunters were solitary people or, if they were lucky, they might have a buddy they hunted with. But outside the Roadhouse, you never saw hunters working together very willingly. They were all too damn distrustful. They had good reason to be, she knew. They didn’t live in the same world everyone else did. Their world was darker, filled with violence, danger and death. They lived in a world where not only was the monster in the closet real, but they had watched it kill their family. In all honesty, that was how most hunters started. Civilians whose loved ones were murdered. So they tracked it down and they killed it. Find it, kill it, move on. A lot of hunters didn’t see five years. The good ones might see fifteen. Every once in a while there would be someone like Rufus, Travis or Bobby who actually made it to thirty-plus. Even the great John Winchester had only made twenty-two. But no hunter ever died of old age. They all just kept hunting until they found something better or luckier than they were. She could understand why other hunters were alone and distrustful, but understanding didn’t make it any easier. Jo was getting tired of the ache in her heart and the name carved into it. It was like a sore tooth, it hurt like hell and he wanted it gone. But she couldn’t seem to stop poking at it, causing that flare of pain.
Almost two years ago, there had been a whisper. Dean Winchester had made a deal. Sold his soul so his brother could live. Ellen had confirmed it for her. Sam had called for help, desperate to find a way to save Dean. She thought about calling him then, but she knew that all she would do was scream at him for being stupid, which wouldn’t have done either of them any good. So she waited it out, just like everyone else, hoping for a miracle. A year later, hunters were rocked again. His time had come. Jo still relived that moment sometimes. She’d actually gone home to visit and had been across from Ellen when the phone rang. Ellen had looked right at her and started to cry. “Mom?” Jo had walked over to Ellen, trying to figure out what could be so wrong. In the back of her mind, an alarm started going off, reminding her that it was May. “Thanks for calling, Bobby.” Ellen dropped the phone back on its hook. ‘Mom, what happened?” The hunters around the bar realized that something was up and a silence spread through the room, everyone waiting to hear what Ellen would say. “It’s Dean. He’s gone, baby.” Her voice cracked with tears, “His time ran out and the Hellhounds found him.” Jo didn’t think that Ellen had been anymore aware of crying than she had been. Every hunter bowed his head in silence. Winchester was a respected name and a damn good hunter. Drinks were lifted in his honor across the bar. Lot of good they’ll do him now. And that’s when it really hit her. Jo didn’t hear her mother calling after her. She didn’t even know she was moving until she was outside, running through the bushes; stems and leaves slapping at her as she tried to escape. Dean, gone. Her friend, the man she had loved (still loved) was dead. The shock was quickly giving way to a terrible hurt in her heart. She ran out into the countryside, pushing harder and further, trying her best to outrun it. Trying to push past the pain. She ran until time had no meaning, and the world around her was a haze. Until her chest exploded in pain with every breath and her body, completely used up, finally collapsed. She had run herself, literally, to her breaking point. But the pain had stayed with her, step for step. And the racking sobs that threatened to tear her apart came from the ruins of her heart. She cried and screamed to the emptiness around her, cursing John Winchester for teaching his boys to be self-sacrificing. She cursed Sam Winchester for getting hurt in the first place and not being good enough to save his brother. Most of all, she cursed Dean for not thinking he deserved to live, for ever walking into the Roadhouse and for dying and leaving her behind. She cried and she cursed them all until there was nothing left. No tears, no anger, and a kind of numbness settled over her because she was too exhausted to feel the pain.
When she woke, hours later, the sun had long since set. The world around her was black and unrecognizable, even though she knew she was only a couple miles from home. She kicked herself for letting her guard down so completely. Her pain had made her sloppy and here she was; miles from back-up, after dark, completely unarmed. She was sure Ellen was terrified, and she even had the vague notion that her mother had been trying to say something to her when she left. It had been a stupid, rookie mistake that could have gotten her killed. The kind of mistake HE never would have made. Never again, she promised. Never again would she let her guard down that much. Jo collected what was left of herself and walked back to the bar. When she finally made it home, Ellen tore into Jo the minute the door opened. Jo didn’t really hear anything her mother was saying, she knew it was all about being careful. But she was already planning her next hunt. In her mind, she was already executing the next monster. “Do you hear me, Joanna Beth?” Ellen’s voice cut across Jo’s thoughts. “Don’t worry mom, it will never happen again.” Jo’s eyes were still red-lined and slightly puffy, but strangely empty as she stared through Ellen. “I’ve already made that promise. Never again.” With that, Jo drifted back to her old room. Ellen’s eyes watered as she fought the tears. Watching her daughter drift away broke her heart. Ellen was not a simple woman and she knew well enough that Jo wasn’t talking about going out unarmed.
Jo had been hunting non-stop since that day seven months ago. She’d taken every hunt she’d come across and had killed them all. No matter how many times she did it, no matter how many things she killed, the hurt really wasn’t getting any better. It was the same thing over and over. Find it, kill it, move on. She didn’t even remember the name of the town that she was in. She just knew it had a ghost problem. It should be a simple “salt and burn.” After all, ghosts were easy. It was the living she had a problem with.
Shaking her head to rid herself of the melancholy thoughts, Jo began to review her case again. In the last few weeks, six people had been found dead. Well, close enough that they should have been. Though nobody had actually died yet, Jo hesitated to call them alive either. They were completely catatonic and based on all preliminary reports, becoming permanently brain dead. According to the local paper, no one could figure out why these people were gone or why they were steadily getting worse. The file sat in the seat next to her with what information she’d been able to dig up. All the victims had been found inside their own homes with no sign of forced entry. There was no tie in age, sex or race so the locals couldn’t find a common link. She was almost positive it was a hungry ghost. She’d already stopped at the first victim’s home. The grieving family hadn’t been able to tell her much and other than some minor EMF readings, the only thing she’d found was that the woman had been a scrap-booker and pack rat.
Her next stop was going to be the hospital. She had a nice “living will” tucked in the file to smooth over any problems. Her grey pantsuit was professional and crisp, her long, blonde hair was pulled back into a French roll and her makeup was understated. Just so long as no one saw her getting in or out of the car she was driving, she should be credible. But the car… She hadn’t been able to pass it up. A fully restored 1970 Challenger RT with a modest 426 Hemi. It was even painted the original Plum Crazy with black accent stripes. Jo had just about creamed herself when she found it. Normally, she wouldn’t steal cars. Her old truck was good enough for her. But this car had just been sitting in the driveway of some middle-class suburban hell. Probably the toy of some respectable father of two having his midlife crisis and wanting a classic car to putter around in on the weekends. That’s what she kept telling herself. Surely it was fully insured and if it wasn’t, then Jo figured that he deserved to have his car stolen. The key had been in a magnetic case on the frame; she hadn’t even had to hotwire it. So, storing her truck in a monthly shed, she’d found herself flying down the highway in her new car. She knew she’d have to drop it off, probably sooner rather than later, but for now she was having fun putting the car through its paces. With a sigh, she parked as far from the main doors as she could get. She gave the car one last longing look and grabbed the file.
The polished hospital floors tried to gleam in the poor fluorescent lighting but the neutral, nondescript tiles just looked dingy despite the lack of traffic. This wasn’t a highly populated area so the hospital wasn’t very busy and a single receptionist sat behind the front desk, obviously bored. Back straight, Jo walked directly to the receptionist, “Can you direct me to Mrs. Ramirez’s room, please?” She watched the woman hesitate for the barest of seconds, probably trying to decide if she was glad for the change or annoyed at being disturbed, before she began to pull the information from the computer in front of her. “Hall C, room 315.” Jo smiled pleasantly, “Thank you.” She continued into the patient area, glancing at the signs as she went to find the room.
Mrs. Ramirez was a small woman, as ethnic as her name suggested. In her mid-forties, she was lined with age and her skin seemed to fall off her, as though she’d lost a significant amount of weight recently. Which, having been unconscious for weeks, she probably had. The hospital bed seemed to swallow her, I.V.s and tubes trailed over the bed and disappeared under the sheets. A ventilator obscured the lower half of her face. Monitors beeped steadily, showing that at least her heart was still functioning.
“Excuse me, can I help you?” Jo turned and found a balding man, also in his late forties, worry and frown lines mapping his pale face, dark bags making his brown eyes almost black. He wore faded blue scrubs and all the badges and instruments that hospital workers always seemed to have on their person. It was the sense of defeat and concern that made her assume he was the doctor instead of another nurse.
“Are you Mrs. Ramirez’s doctor?”
“My name is Joanna Blake. I’m here to discuss my client’s condition.”
“Client?” he quirked his eyebrows at her.
“My apologies. I’m of the Gentry and Blake Law Firm out of Jackson. My client has a living will and in the event of her becoming incapable, I’m to make the decision whether or not to continue care on her behalf.”
“Her children seemed pretty sure that she had no plans.”
“Her children love her dearly. She was afraid that they would keep her around even after there was no hope. She specifically requested that the decision should be mine. Now that I have been made aware of Mrs. Ramirez’s… affliction, I need to know how she is doing and what can be done.” Jo had intentionally told the man what to do instead of asking. People responded to confidence and authority. They were hard pressed to argue against it. If she acted like she was supposed to be there, ordering people around, then obviously she was. That was the real secret to how she was able to get her information. It wasn’t the clothes or the fake badges, though those helped, it was the attitude. She’d seen the Winchesters impersonate FBI and push people into doing what they wanted while wearing jeans and t-shirts, using nothing but attitude. Thinking of them made her heart falter. She hated that after seven months, even the thought of him still stopped her. Keeping her expression smooth, Jo pulled the “will” from her file and held it out so the doctor could read it without actually handing it to him.
He wanted to believe her; she could see it in his face. The whole thing had him on edge and he wanted someone to share the responsibility with. “Believe me, doctor, this is not a decision I will make lightly or on incomplete information, but I do intend to make sure that her wishes are carried out.” She slipped the paper back into the folder and waited on him. Sincerity and confidence just oozed off her.
“Ok. I’m sure you’re already aware that she isn’t the only person who has arrived in this condition, however she was the first. When she was brought in, she was un-responsive, though we couldn’t find the cause. All her vital signs were stable, so we assumed she was inebriated or overdosed on narcotics. Then she started failing. Her blood pressure dropped and kept dropping until she coded. We got her heart started again but then she started showing signs of oxygen deprivation. Her airways were clear, but she still wasn’t getting enough oxygen. We started her on a nasal canula, but she still wasn’t fully functioning. She has since stopped breathing on her own. Honestly, the machines are keeping her alive. I could understand it if she was in her eighties, but she’s only forty-five. She shouldn’t be shutting down like this. When the second patient came in and started going through the same symptoms at only twenty-eight, I got more than a little curious. I called a friend of mine who owns his own practice, doing dream research. He came down and brought some of his equipment with him. We started monitoring their brain activity. The closest comparison I can give you is to think of a machine powering down. Their brains are shutting down with their bodies. Eventually there won’t be anything left.” His eyes darted to Mrs. Ramirez. Like her. was unspoken but she understood what he meant.
“Is there any chance that they could possibly recover?”
His sharp burst of laughter was harsh and bitter. “Recover? Recover from what? We can’t even figure out the ‘why’ in the first place. All the screens came back negative, there is no drug or poison known to man in their systems.”
Jo turned again to look at the bed. She knew it was just her imagination, but the woman lying there seemed even smaller than she had before. “So, it’s not caused by bad drugs or some kind of obscure poison?”
“None that I’ve been able to find. And before you ask, yes, I have sent the samples to other places to be tested. Our facilities are non-existent. The other hospitals and universities I’ve sent them to say the same thing, everything is normal.” He sighed heavily, “At this point though, it doesn’t much matter.”
“I’m not going to lie to you; I don’t have much hope for Mrs. Ramirez. Statistically speaking, the longer someone is in a coma, the less likely they are to come out of it or come out of it whole. The most recent cases might recover if we could figure out what’s causing this and stop it, but Mrs. Ramirez has been under and gone for weeks. I doubt her mind will ever be fully functional again.”
A cold ball hit the pit of Jo’s stomach. She had known that, probably better than he did, but it hurt to hear him say it and sound so defeated. She sighed herself and turned back to him. She read his name tag for the first time as she held her hand out to him. “Thank you for your honesty, Dr. Carlisle. I know that this is hard for you, not being able to help them. I won’t make this decision right now. I’m going to think it over for a couple days. Thank you again for your time.” She shook his hand and left him standing in room 315. She wanted out of there.
Keeping her head down, Jo headed for the closest exit. The quite whoosh of the automatic ER doors almost seemed anticlimactic. Knowing the horror behind them, it seemed like an alarm should have gone off, or there should have been some kind of ominous sound. Jo knew better, but it still seemed wrong. Once outside she stood, taking deep breaths and trying to calm her nerves. In her opinion, that was worse than being killed outright. She preferred a violent, bloody end to that. At least violent and bloody was a clean death. You died fighting and doing some good in the world instead of slipping away, with no control over yourself and in the hands of strangers. She wanted nothing more right now than to take the car out on a back road and let it fly, engine growling and sliding around corners. But that wouldn’t get her any closer to stopping this. She started around the building to the front parking lot. Jo was still sure it was a hungry ghost. The doctor was right, sort of. These people were shutting down and it wasn’t physical. Their life was being slowly sucked out of them. But what was the connection?
She was still going through the possibilities when something at the edge of her vision stopped her dead. Adrenaline flooded her system, setting every nerve on edge. Jo turned to the parking lot she was walking through and there it was. A ’67 Chevy Impala in near perfect shape. She already knew it wasn’t just any Impala either. It had been his car, his baby. She didn’t know if she could bring herself to walk up and talk to the new owner. The last time she had seen Sam, he’d been possessed by a demon and he’d hurt her deeply. They’d spoken on the phone since then and she’d forgiven him. She knew it hadn’t really been him but still… It had been his body hurting her, his voice saying terrible things. She hadn’t spoken to him since his brother’s death. As far as she knew, no one had. He wouldn’t speak to anyone. That, more than anything, had her walking across the pavement. Besides, he was obviously here to work her case. She couldn’t have him screwing it up for her.
Sam didn’t notice her walking up to the passenger side door, too intent on the screen of his laptop, deep in “research mode” as he called it. Some things would never change. Sam jumped slightly when she knocked on the window, automatically reaching for a weapon. He managed not to pull it but she could tell he didn’t recognize her. He was actually rolling down the window when he finally saw past the power suit and makeup. She could actually see it in his face when he did recognize her. “Jesus, Jo?!” He barely thought to put the computer to the side before he opened the door and climbed out. She just stopped herself from flinching as he wrapped his arms around her. This was Sam, really Sam, and she knew he would never hurt her. She could feel him stiffen and knew he’d noticed her hesitation. She quickly threw her arms around him and hugged him before he could let go. He’d lost enough already and she couldn’t stand the thought of hurting him any more than she had. She wasn’t really afraid of Sam, more the memories he represented.
“Where have you been? Mom’s been worried sick and so have I.”
“Sorry, I just had some things that I had to do by myself.”
“Well, thank you for that fulfilling insight. What are you doing here?”
“Same as you, I guess. Checking up on a case.”
“Yeah, I just talked to the doctor, everything in the papers are true. This thing has to be stopped.”
“Well, it will be taken care of, don’t worry.”
“Why would I worry since I know I’m gonna kill it?” Jo smiled at Sam, knowing he wouldn’t let it go. His answering grin shot straight through her. If Sam could smile like that, maybe things could be ok. Maybe she’d been wrong to not try calling him. “All right, maybe we can both kill it. I’ll give you what information I’ve gotten and help you research, then maybe you can help me kill it.” Jo suddenly looked at the still open passenger side door, “Why were you sitting in the passenger seat?”
Sam’s smile slipped away into confusion. “Why wouldn’t I be, that’s where I sit?”
“Where you sit? Who-”
“Sammy, you ready? This freaking doctor is useless. Really, who worries about privacy for a vegeta- oh. Sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to someone.”
Jo could feel the blood drain from her face.
Sam’s eyes widened as the understanding hit him. “Shit, you didn’t know.” Sam grabbed her arms as her legs started to give out from under her.
“What the hell?” four jogging steps and the voice behind her was a lot closer.
“I’m ok. I’m ok. I just….” She regained her feet and turned to face that voice.
Dean looked back at her, worry lines between his brows. She wasn’t imagining it. He was really there. She threw herself into his arms, holding him as tightly as she could, tears threatening to fall.
“I know. I’m so beautiful it hurts me sometimes too.” But Dean still put his arms around her.
A strangled laugh escaped through the tears. Reluctantly she gave him one last squeeze and stepped back.
“How? How are you here, you’re supposed to be in Hell?”
“Yeah, well, I’m just full of surprises. We’ll talk about this later, somewhere less public.”
“Fine. We can talk about my case.”
“Yes, MY case.” I was here first and I even got to the doctor.”
“What do you want me to say, Princess? I’m that good.”
“Ok, children.” Sam’s reproachful words didn’t match his tone. He was smiling again, happiness apparent as he watched the two of them. In that moment, Jo felt right. Like that was the way things should be, the three of them. “Alright. Come with us and we’ll figure out what’s attacking people and decide who gets to kill it.”
“Sure thing. Where are you guys staying?”
“We scoped out an abandoned house, a ways outside of town. It’s secluded and keeps out the weather.” Dean walked around to the driver side door, “Get in, so we can get started.”
“How about I follow you in my car?”
Dean groaned in frustration. “God, I’m gonna be driving five miles an hour the whole way just so you can keep up. Why don’t you just ride with us, sweetheart? It’ll be quicker.”
Jo’s smile turned feral, “Wanna bet?”
Twenty minutes and forty dollars later, Jo was sitting in the living room of the abandoned house on a couch that had seen better days. The look on Dean’s face when she pulled up behind them in the Challenger was worth his weight in gold to Jo. No matter how fast he’d gone or what turns he’d taken, she’d been right there with him every step of the way. Twice, just to show off, she’d passed him on straight stretches just to drop back behind him and let him lead again. He had been anything but graceful when he’d had to pony up her winnings. He grudgingly handed her the money and stalked off, muttering something about, “…damn Dodges…” under his breath. Now she was watching the boys unload the Impala and set up their wards. They’d done well with the place. The house was in good enough shape and had only one point of entry. Some of the hotels she’d stayed in had been in worse shape. There was a functional fireplace in the far wall already stacked with unlit logs. It looked like someone’s vacation home that had probably been given up because of the failing economy. As hard as it was on John Q Public, it was hitting hunters even harder. Credit card fraud was becoming almost impossible and people were less willing to part with their money at pool tables and darts. In all, she didn’t feel bad about breaking into houses like this. She didn’t pay too much attention to the house though. She couldn’t keep her eyes off Dean.
It was a miracle. That was the only world she had for it. She wanted to touch him, run her hands over him and reassure herself that he was real. She couldn’t do it; Dean wouldn’t understand. But she thought Sam might. She kept catching him doing the same thing she was, watching Dean when he wasn’t looking. Staring at him again and again, making sure he didn’t disappear. She smiled at Sam when he met her eyes. Yeah, Sam would understand. He was a sweet guy and he idolized his brother. Sam was as quiet as Dean was loud. He was so quite that Dean’s presences kind of overwhelmed him sometimes. He faded into the background and let Dean take over. She’d never been able to understand how that happened. Sam was good looking; had a tall, lithe body, built like an athlete. Adorable puppy-dog eyes, great smile complete with dimples. She just didn’t get how he was self-conscious. Then again, Dean was confident enough for the both of them. Two of them with that much presence would be too much. Dean’s personality floated around him like cologne. Those green eyes absolutely burned when he was angry, looking just like jagged emeralds. She should know; she’d pissed him off enough. She had thought she’d never see those eyes again. Jo fought the tears that threatened to spill over. She had a hard enough time getting Den to respect her as a hunter. Being over-emotional would kill any chance she had. She’d had her one cry and that would have to be enough. She stood and took a few steps around the room to help clear her head. She was a hunter and they had a case to concentrate on. Now, how did she keep from getting kicked off her own case?
“So, I think it’s a hungry ghost.”
The boys both stopped what they were doing. “A what?” Dean asked.
“A hungry ghost. Every mythology has them. The ghost of someone, who had some unfinished business, was greedy or unburied. They come back and try to get what they were missing.” Jo looked from one Winchester to the other, offended by the twin looks of shock. “What? Don’t look at me like that. It’s been over a year since either one of you has even laid eyes on me. I’ve been busy.”
Dean snorted and went back to drawing a Devil’s Trap. Sam’s brows were pulled together as he sat on the couch and grabbed his ever-present laptop. “She’s right. Every culture has them; they all have different reasons for them existing but they all agree that they can ‘punish’ the living. The Taoists believe that they can scare you and then eat your energy. It doesn’t sate them; they just keep getting hungrier and eating more. That would explain why the people at the hospital keep getting worse and why the attacks increased in frequency.” Sam trailed off as his lap-top actually found Wi-Fi. Jo decided that whatever brand or service he used, she was getting it. That thing worked EVERYWHERE.
“Ok, so we’ve got Casper with a serious case of the munchies. How do we kill it? Do they agree on that?” Dean looked at Jo expectantly.
“Well, munchies or not, it’s still a ghost so we should still be able to salt and burn the remains.”
“Yeah, near as I can tell, they’re just another type of ghost. So we figure out who our Casper is and have a bonfire.” Sam looked at his brother and Jo, obviously waiting for one of them to make the next move.
“Well, I did find a connection between the victims, I think. The third victim, Nick Hearne, is pretty well liked by the community. Apparently there is a small theater here and a group of locals that do plays and musicals and pansy crap like that. Anyway, I found that interesting since victim number four worked there as a prop person.”
“Mrs. Ramirez had a scrapbook of ticket stubs for that place. If I had to guess, I’d say she went to every show.” Jo was kicking herself for not having put that together herself. “Ok, so if it’s haunting the theater, why is it only just starting now? I mean, she had enough ticket stubs to account for years of performances. Why has it only started in the last few weeks?”
Jo and Dean hadn’t been paying attention to Sam and they were both slightly startled when he spoke up, “I think I know.” They moved to the back of the couch and looked over his shoulders at the screen. Two side by side photos stared back at them, one of a smiling young woman and the other of the theater itself. He was on the local paper’s website looking at the front page from three months ago; Local Actress Disappears. Sam started giving them the basics of the story, “Deseree Michaels disappeared about three weeks before the first victim. She was the leading lady for the theater group. Apparently her apartment was undisturbed, she just left the theater one night and never made it home.” He clicked the link for related articles, “Looks like her body was found a week later, out in the woods. Throat slit and all her jewelry and wallet were gone. Cops think it was a robbery gone wrong. No suspects, no evidence, no arrest. She was buried at Blackburn cemetery five days before the first attack.”
“So, what, the people she’s attacking had something to do with it? That doesn’t seem right.” Jo leaned further over, trying to read the words for herself.
“Doesn’t really matter.” Dean said, walking back over to the supplies, “That’s not our problem. We fry this bitch either way.” He dug a couple of salt containers out of a duffle and started digging around for the matches.
“You can be such a prick.”
“So I’ve been told. But it’s the truth. Whatever reason she has for going after these people, she still needs burned.”
Jo rolled her eyes. “Well, at least we know what our next step is and,” she looked at her watch, “we have seven hours until the town beds down for the night.”
“I could go for some food. Pie would be good.”
“You always want pie. Can’t Sam get you to eat anything else?”
“No, believe me, I’ve tried.” Sam stood and reached for his jacket, “I’ll make a food run. You want anything, Jo?”
“Just something simple. Cheeseburger and fries.”
Sam shook his head as he walked out the door, muttering, “Probably wants bacon too.”
Jo did her best not to smile at him.
“Where’d you get the car?”
That hadn’t been one of the questions she’d been expecting and she wasn’t prepared with a convincing lie. She should have known he wouldn’t let go of a loss like that. “I liberated it.”
“You liberated it.” Dean stared at her, waiting for the real answer.
“Yes! She was sitting in some saps driveway not getting driven the way she needs to be. So I rescued her.”
“Uh-huh. And how long has it been since you ‘rescued’ her?”
Jo wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes, “Bout two weeks.”
“Shit, Jo. You know better than to keep a car for that long. You have to dump it. You should have dumped it a week and a half ago.”
“I know, I know. It’s just such a great car. You saw how she drives, all that power and speed.” Jo actually shivered, “Besides, you just want me to dump it because it’s faster than your baby.”
“Oh, sweetheart. Nothing’s faster than my baby. You just caught me by surprise and I didn’t want you to hurt yourself or that pretty little car you STOLE trying to play with the big boys.” Dean tried to loom over her, but Jo had spent her whole life in a bar and around hunters. One puffed up Winchester was not going to make her back down.
“Sure, whatever helps you sleep. You want me to take another forty bucks off you?” She smiled up at him sweetly, crossing her arms over her chest. Everything about her daring him. He laughed and surprised her by pulling her into a hug.
“You did turn into a little hard-ass didn’t you?”
“I always was. You just didn’t notice.” Jo shoved him playfully away, not wanting him to let go first. Miracle.
“Seriously, though. That car is flashy and attracts a lot of attention. We need to dump it somewhere.” He could see Jo getting ready to protest, “We’ll even drop it somewhere safe. Where it will be found quickly and kept out of the weather. We’ll do it when Sam gets back.”
“You are a pushy bastard.” Jo scowled up at him, but she knew he was right. She just hated the idea of giving up her baby. “Fine. But that means you have to get me another one after we burn the body. I gotta get back to my truck somehow.”
“We? Jo; Sam and I can finish this ourselves. You don’t have to stay. We’ll get you something after we drop the car off.”
She had to restrain herself from hitting him by counting to ten. Twice. There wasn’t any sarcasm in his voice and she didn’t think he meant to be condescending. He just couldn’t seem to help it. “No. It’s my case too and I’m going to see it through.”
He shrugged one shoulder and sighed, “Suit yourself. You’re helping dig too then.”
“Fair enough. I’ll help with the grunt work.”
“Whatever.” Dean walked over to the couch and flopped down. Even she knew that he was just working on wearing her down another way. “Wake me up when Sam gets back with dinner then, huh?”
“The hell I will. Get your ass right back up and come on. You’re gonna help me clean my car.”
“Really? And why would I do that?”
“Because if you’re gonna make me dump her, then you have to help me clean her. Come on, Princess.” She threw his jacket on his chest and opened the front door. It squealed and whined in protest, years of disuse making it stiff. Dean huffed as he sat back up.
“I think I liked you better back when you weren’t quite so sure of yourself.”
“Sticks and stones, Winchester. Come help me say goodbye to my baby, or tonight I’m taking yours and going for a joyride.”
“You wouldn’t dare. I’d kill you.”
“Are you kidding me? That thing is cherry. And you’d have to catch me to kill me. How well do you think you’re gonna manage that if I’m in the Impala?”
Dean really looked at Jo then and realized she wasn’t kidding. Huffing again he followed her out the door. He watched her as they crossed the yard to her car. Jo had really come into her own. She moved with the kind of confidence and tension that only fighting can give someone. She was strong and definitely shapely. He looked her over, deciding he liked the way that pantsuit emphasized the swell of her ass without being too clingy. “Eyes up here, Winchester.” Dean’s head snapped up and found that, to his horror, Jo was looking back over her shoulder at him.
“I was looking for weapons. You should be better armed than that, Jo.”
“Right. Because the knife in my boots, the other one clipped to my thigh-highs and the vial of holy water tucked into my bra isn’t enough.”
“Thigh-highs…” Dean choked out.
“Yeah. There’s a whole in my pants pocket. I can reach through and grab the knife on my thigh easier than the one in my boot.” She looked back at him again and saw the flush spreading across his face, adding to an already slightly vacant expression. Well, not ‘vacant’ but not innocent either. “Please tell me that out of everything I just said, ‘thigh-highs’ wasn’t the only thing you heard.”
“Uh… heh.” Dean smiled in a vaguely apologetic way.
“Of course.” Jo shook her head, “Enjoy the view while you can, Princess. Cause that’s as close as you’re ever going to get.” She looked ahead again to hide the smile she couldn’t quite stop. Part of her was more than a little pleased that he’d noticed. Damned if I’ll ever let him know that. She went straight to the trunk and started pulling out her bags. “Here, be a good boy and take these inside for me.”
“Wait a minute, why haven’t you dropped these off wherever you are staying?”
“Because, genius, I haven’t got a place. I came in knowing this was going to be a salt and burn. I didn’t plan on staying anywhere. Burn the bitch and head out to whatever the next town over is. But since I have to give up my car, I guess you guys are stuck with me.” Grabbing a couple more bags of supplies, she headed back inside leaving Dean standing at the trunk quietly mumbling, “Friggin’ great. Just what I need.” Yep, Jo was definitely pleased and didn’t bother to hide the smile as she walked back inside.
When Sam returned an hour later, he found a cheerful Jo and a slightly sullen Dean. “Where did the extra stuff come from?”
“Me. You’re stuck with me until this is over because SOMEBODY is making me dump my baby.”
“If you want to keep it and get picked up by the cops, fine. Be my guest. I was just trying to help.”
“Ok, so I have pie. And food.” Sam tossed a burger from the bag he was carrying to Dean and handed the other to Jo.
“Thanks Sam. Did you get anything to drink?”
“There’s a drink carrier out in the car still.”
“I’ll get it.” Jo put the knife she had been sharpening back into her bag and headed out the still open door.
“The only pie I could find was pecan.” Sam held the covered tin out to his brother.
“Dude, its pie.”
“Save a piece for Jo?”
Dean snorted and forked a piece of pie from the tin, “She can get her own.”
Chuckling, Sam laid his own food out and went to start the fire. Dusk was settling in and the house was beginning to get dark and chilled. As he lit the kindling, Sam was fighting down a smile. Dean hadn’t been that lighthearted since he’d come back. It was like parts of the old Dean were peeking through. Whether Dean would admit it or not, and he probably wouldn’t, Sam knew he was glad to see Jo. And Sam was glad for the effect it was having. If we can all just keep from killing each other.
“Here, Sam.” A white cup appeared over his shoulder, startling him from his thoughts. He watched Jo as she sat against the wall, halfway between Dean’s seat on the couch and his seat in front of the fire. They all settled into their food, letting the comfortable silence grow. The fleeting thought crossed Sam’s mind that this whole scene was somehow domestic. That it had the comforting feeling of ‘home’ to it. They finished their meals, each lost in their own thoughts. From the look on Jo’s face, Sam figured her thoughts might be a little deeper than necessary. “Penny for your thoughts?”
“More like questions.” One side of her mouth twitched in a ghost of a smile that was gone almost as quickly as he saw it. “It tried not to ask because I know that now isn’t really the time, but I can’t- I have to know. Dean, how are you alive?”
The boys met each other’s eyes. She could almost hear them silently asking each other how much to tell her. “It’s kind of unbelievable.”
“You’re alive. What could be more unbelievable than that?”
Dean shifted, obviously uncomfortable. He seemed to be weighing his words, trying to figure out how to tell her some terrible secret. Finally, he sighed and looked down at his lap, “Angels.”
“Angels?” Jo started to laugh, thinking he was trying to joke his way out of answering, but Dean looked up at her and the laugh died in her throat.
“I did die and I did go to Hell. I was pulled out of the pit by angels to help stop the apocalypse.”
“Dean…” Sam’s voice was more a plea than an order.
“She should know, Sam. We’ve let everyone else think that I managed to beat the contract, kill the demon that held it, but she knows better. She knew I was dead and we can’t tell her it was a rumor.” Dean looked from Sam back to Jo. “Lilith, the demon who did hold my contract, is breaking the sixty-six seals and trying to start the apocalypse. For some reason, that I’m not entirely sure about, I got pulled to help stop her.”
“Then why are you guys here? I mean, this can’t be a seal.”
“No. We don’t know where she’s going to be or what seal she’s going after next. We don’t know what all the seals are or how to stop her. So until I know what’s going on, we’re just going to do what we’ve always done. Work a case, hunt things.”
“I still say we should still be concentrating of finding Lilith.” The harshness in Sam’s voice shocked Jo.
“We have no leads. Do you know where she’s going to be? Do you have any ideas?”
“We should ask Ruby. She could find something out for us.”
“Oh, right. Why didn’t I think of that? Sorry if I’m having a hard time trusting the hell-bitch.” The sarcasm was acidic.
“She saved my life, Dean!”
“She’s a manipulative bitch, Sam!”
“Guys, what the fuck!” Both Winchesters turned their angry faces at Jo. One puffed up Winchester hadn’t fazed her, but two of them made her want to flinch. “I get the feeling this is an argument you’ve had before?”
“What am I supposed to do? I come back from Hell,” Dean nearly screamed the word, verbally twisting the knife. Everyone in the room knew that Sam flinched, “and find my brother shacked up with a demon?! And it’s not like you’ve been entirely truthful about everything here, Sam.”
“We weren’t shacked up! How many times has she helped us, saved our asses? I trust her because she’s earned that trust. I didn’t tell you about her because I knew you’d do this. Besides, you want to talk about truth, what about you Dean?”
“Watch it, Sam.”
“What is it you won’t tell me? Why is there always something in your flask? Why do you run us ragged and hardly sleep?”
“Now who’s the liar?” The words were barely more than a whisper but the sudden stunned silence was like an explosion, stopping them all. Even Sam looked surprised.
Dean was off the couch and lunging at Sam before Jo could react. The boys seemed to have forgotten that she was even there. Sam had barely managed to stand when Dean reached him, slamming him back against the fireplace. Dean’s fists where balled in Sam’s shirt, his angry face almost touching Sam’s.
“Don’t you ever, EVER, go there. Everything I did, I did for you! And this is what you do with it?”
“And I never asked you to! You’re such a fucking hypocrite, Dean. You can’t live with me dead but I’m supposed to live without you? I never wanted that! I never wanted you in Hell and I did everything I could to stop it. YOU? You didn’t even fucking try. And now you want to be angry with me because I kept trying to save your stupid ass? Well fuck that and fuck you! Sam shoved Dean away from him.
Jo didn’t remember doing it, but she was already standing when she saw Sam’s shoulders tense. Without thought, she stepped between the brothers as Sam swung. Everything seemed like it happened at once. Dean realized what Jo was doing and pulled her towards him, trying to get her out of the way. Sam saw her a moment too late. He tried to stop the swing and change directions at the same time, his mind giving mixed signals in his panic. He managed not to hit her at full force, but he did still clip her, splitting her lip and knocking her even more unsteadily into Dean. Dean’s arms tightened around her and were the only reason she was upright.
“Oh, Jesus! Jo, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!”
Blood filled her mouth and ran down her chin, staining her jacket and pants. She let go of Dean’s arms and stumbled to the fireplace, spitting blood into the flames. Thank god no teeth went with it. “Christ, Sam, you pack a helluva punch.”
“God, I’m sorry. Please let me see.” He hovered over her, his hands on her face, trying to turn her to him. She shook his hands away and spit into the flames again.
“It’s alright. I’m ok. You weren’t trying to hit me. I know you tried to stop, I could see that. I probably still have all of my teeth because of it. Just, get me some water and a rag, please?” Sam ran out the door for the first aid kit in the car. Jo looked over and found Dean watching her. “What?” she snapped a little more harshly than she meant to.
“You’re really not angry.” It was somewhere between a statement and a question.
“No. If I’m stupid enough to get between you, I’m stupid enough to get hit. I should know better. Besides, I really could see him try to stop.” Jo narrowed her eyes at Dean, “I saw something else interesting, too. I saw you stand there and do nothing until I stepped between you. Funny how you could see it coming well enough to try to save me, but not yourself.”
Sam came hurrying back through the door, stopping the conversation. He handed her a bottle of water and pad of gauze from the first aid kit.
“Thanks.” Jo rinsed her mouth and spit the bloody water into the flames twice before she drank half the bottle. She looked up at Sam, anxiously hovering over her. “Apologize.”
“Seriously, Jo, I’m sorry. I never meant-”
“Not to me, idiot. To your brother. He’s the one you were trying to hit.”
Sam looked over at Dean’s surprised expression. “She’s right. I’m sorry man, I went too far.”
“It’s alright. You didn’t mean it.” Dean walked away from them both, clearly saying that he thought the conversation should be over.
“I don’t know what you’re walking away for. You need to apologize too since you started it.”
Dean glanced at her before going back to pacing, “I’m sorry you got hit.”
Jo sat down in front of the fire, gauze pressed to her lip. Stubborn Jackass.
“Where are your keys?”
“What?” Jo looked at Dean, the sudden change of topic throwing her.
“Your keys. To the car you ‘rescued’, where are they?” Jo pulled her keys out of her pocket and handed them to Dean. “Sam and I will take the car to a covered garage somewhere and park it. With the way you’re bleeding they’d haul it into a crime lab if you drive it anywhere.” He tossed the Challenger’s keys to Sam and got his own keys in return.
“Bullshit! I don’t even get to drive her the last time?”
“Oh, quit your bitchin. If you’ve stopped bleeding by the time we get back, I’ll let you drive the Impala tonight. What?!”
Sam and Jo both stared at him.
“Really, I can drive your baby?”
“Dude, you don’t even like me driving the Impala!”
“Shut up and let’s go.” He turned from them both and stalked out of the house. Sam gave Jo an incredulous look, “I think that may be as close to an apology as we’re going to get.”
“Come on, Samantha! Let’s get this over with.” Dean’s voice came from somewhere across the yard. Sam hurried out the door, closing it behind him.
Once she was alone, Jo started shaking. She didn’t want Sam to know how much he’d hurt her. It wasn’t that he’d hit her. She hadn’t been lying about that being her fault. It was that he’d swung on Dean. It was the way they had looked at each other right before he’d thrown that punch. Like they had betrayed each other beyond words or forgiveness. It scared her to think what could have put that look on the Winchesters’ faces. Still shaking, she changed out of her blood-spattered clothes and into some jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. The last five hours had been a whirlwind. Jo sank down in front of the fire and tried to let it all sink in. Dean’s resurrection, the apocalypse, the case, the boys… and so deep down she could almost ignore it, she kept hearing a voice. That sing-song voice that had haunted her dreams for months. Sam, NotSam, taunting her, “My daddy shot your daddy in the head.”
Jo was able to compose herself by the time the boys returned three hours later. In fact, she’d had the time to quit crying and straighten the living room in to some semblance of order. She’d also drifted up the stairs briefly for an idea of the house layout, but stopped short of exploring any of the rooms. She’d checked the front door, making sure the salt line was in place and the wards were well drawn. She’d sharpened all her knives, cleaned all her guns, checked her water bottles for leaks and checked the clasps and latches on all her holsters. She was beginning to consider taking apart and re-sewing the gris-gris bags she’d collected, when she finally heard the purr of a familiar engine pull up outside. She was out the door before they even had time to come to a stop. She could see that things weren’t entirely better between them. They were very carefully not looking at each other and Dean’s shoulders were somehow stiff and hunched at the same time. “Where is she? Did you take her someplace safe?” Dean rolled his eyes with an exaggerated sigh. He hadn’t even gotten his car door shut yet. “Yes! She’s fine. She’s in an underground parking garage at a mall forty miles south. She’s completely wiped down and the key is back in the holder. They’ll notice it’s been sitting in a couple days and start sending tickets to the REAL owner.” He shouldered past her and stomped into the house. She looked over to Sam, “Goin that well, huh?” Sam snorted, “Yeah. One big, happy family.” He shook his head as he started for the house. “Sam? What’s really going on with you and Dean? I mean, he’s literally back from the dead, and you guys are completely at each other’s throats. I don’t get that. There is nothing and no one on this earth more important to you guys than each other. What could possibly over-shadow that you got him back?”
Sam glanced at the open front door to avoid meeting Jo’s eyes. “It’s complicated.”
“More complicated than a second chance?”
His laugh was sharp and bitter, all hatred and aimed at himself. “Second chance? Yeah. That’s exactly what I got. I got a second chance to fail him. I couldn’t save him, Jo. The one time he really needed me and I couldn’t… But not again. I will stop him from going back and I will get revenge on Lilith.” He kept his voice low; as if he was afraid those words would carry into the house.
“Sam.” Jo wasn’t sure what to do. Everything he’d said had cut through her like glass and she knew it only hurt Sam a hundred times worse. She grabbed his arm as he started to walk away again. “All I know is that you have your brother back. You got a miracle Sam. You both did.” We all did. She kept her hold on him until he finally met her eyes. “Whatever happened before or whatever happens now, he’s your family.”
“I really don’t want to talk about this, Jo.”
She stared at him for a moment before she dropped her hand. He followed Dean’s steps, leaving her alone in the growing dark. Without looking, she already knew what would be happening inside. Dean would be sitting on the couch, working on some piece of their equipment. Something repetitive and thoughtless. His mouth would be pinched in a line, keeping whatever comments he had inside, and his eyes would never leave his hands. Sam would walk right past him without a word and get a piece of equipment himself. They’d sit on opposite sides of the room, not acknowledging each other and use work as a distraction. They would just as well be on opposite ends of the earth. She would only be an intrusion on their grief. But she didn’t have another choice. Dean had hauled her car off, her things were inside so she couldn’t just sneak away, and she wasn’t walking the twenty-five miles back to town anyway. The best she could do was keep to the background and have them leave her behind tonight after the job. She followed them inside, dreading the hours of silence to come.
As it turned out, she was only able to handle it for about forty-five minutes. She decided she couldn’t take them ignoring each other anymore; the tension was so thick she was having trouble breathing past it.
Both boys jumped at the sudden sound of her voice. “Why what?” The question was bitten out as Dean glared at her, obviously thinking she was asking something personal.
“Why these people? I mean, ghosts normally go after whoever killed them, or people in the wrong place. They follow a cursed object, rise on exact dates or phases of the moon; none of that applies here. We know they all worked at the theater with her except Mrs. Ramirez. She was just a patron who liked to go to the shows. But she was the first. I just,” Jo looked from one confused face to the other, “I feel like we’re missing something. Something important and I don’t like it.” Jo trailed off nervously. The pressure in the room was beginning to seep away as their thoughts turned to other things. Maybe we can work on this.
“No, I get what you’re saying.” Lines appeared on Sam’s face as he thought. “We know that they are all connected to the theater, but they aren’t being attacked there. It’s happening in their homes. So why these people? How is Deseree choosing who to go after?”
The line of Dean’s mouth softened as he turned that over in his mind, slowly forgetting to be pissed off. “Well, what do we know about the hunting habits of hungry ghosts? Is there anything that they’re specific to?”
Jo stood and started to pace large circles around the room. As she thought over everything she knew, she watched the boys watch her; it was more neutral than looking at each other. She slowed her pace and began smaller circles, concentrating on the area between the boys. She could see the flick of their eyes every time she passed one of them. They looked at each other while never actually looking at each other. Darting glances that could be explained away as watching her. “Well, hungry ghosts are just like other ghosts mostly. They haunt because their deaths were violent or they were angry or cursed or had unfinished business.” An ugly idea started to form in the back of Jo’s mind and she frowned to herself.
“What?” Sam leaned forward as if he could coax the answer from the air.
She stopped her pacing off-centered between them, letting them look at each other and her at the same time. “Mrs. Ramirez had a ticket from after Deseree died.”
“So? You said she went to every show.’ Dean looked past her and finally looked at Sam directly, arching an eyebrow at him. Sam shook his head; he hadn’t figured it out either.
“Yes. She went to every show. Deseree was their lead actress so the theater must have been pretty important to her. The newspaper articles didn’t mention any surviving relatives, or a career other than this theater. And they plugged someone else into her part, and understudy or whatever…”
Sam’s eyes went wide and the lines disappeared from his face, “Oh, shit.”
Jo nodded, “Exactly. We have to fry this bitch TONIGHT.”
Dean looked from his brother to Jo, “Ok, that’s a given. But can someone explain to me why you both look so freaked out?”
“She’s not just a hungry ghost, Dean. She’s a Guei.” Sam said the name with emphasis.
“A Guei. It’s a hungry ghost from Taoist traditions.”
“She feels forgotten.” Jo turned to face Dean fully. “That’s one of the reasons a Guei will rise, is if they’re forgotten. And when they do rise they go after everyone they feel should be remembering them. She isn’t tied to a place or time or an object like a normal ghost. Anyone, anywhere at all that she thinks should be remembering her could be her next victim.” Jo watched Dean grasp the magnitude of the problem.
“She could go after anyone she’s ever met or anyone that has ever seen her act.”
“Yeah. Thank God most ghosts aren’t hungry ghosts or I don’t think we’d ever do anything else.”
Sam scoffed as he stood, “Yeah, cuz that’d be worse than demons.”
“Oh, absolutely. Dude, how fucked is it when a world full of life-sucking ghosts sounds like an improvement?” Dean shook his head as he gave a brittle laugh.
Jo stepped back so that she was standing to the side of them. She was fairly sure at this point that she wouldn’t have to jump in and stop them from swinging, but ‘fairly’ wasn’t one hundred percent. Sam was obviously unbothered though and ignored Dean as he stood, stretching his stiffness away. His hands almost reached the ceiling. When his back arched, the waist of his jeans dropped and his shirts lifted, showing an expanse of some of the best abs Jo had ever seen. Naturally her eyes dropped to the skin, tight over well-defined muscles, then followed those lines to the shadows of his hip-bones, moving on following the natural V down to where it disappeared into his jeans. The shirts dropped back into place, blocking a perfectly lovely view. Realizing she had been staring, Jo quickly looked away and automatically looked back to Dean. There was a look on his face she didn’t understand and couldn’t read. His eyes were widened slightly as they trailed up Sam’s lanky frame. A smile curled one side of his mouth, “Careful, Sasquatch. You may put your hands through to the second story if you’re not careful.”
Sam rolled his eyes at Dean, “Ha-ha.”
“No, I’m serious. These old houses weren’t designed for the freakishly huge.”
Dean’s chuckle was more real this time, the brittle edges smoothing away.
Jo felt the corners of her own mouth twitch. It wasn’t what she’d call perfect, not by a long shot, but she’d take it. She’d take it and be damn happy for it.
When the darkness was finally thick enough for them to start, they were all anxious to be doing something. Dean tossed the salt container next to the shovels and closed the trunk. Jo stood by
the open driver’s door with her arms crossed and a smirk that was all too easy to see, even by moonlight. Shit. Shoulda known she wouldn’t let that go. What in the hell prompted me to offer that anyway? Dean shied away from the answers the back of his mind threw at him. “Something you’re waiting on?”
“Yeah, the keys to this beautiful car.”
Behind him, Sam did a terrible job of covering his laugh.
“Keys, huh? So you really think you can handle my baby”
“As well as you can. A deal’s a deal, Dean-o. And you promised.”
“Damnit.” The keys jingled as they flew through the air and into Jo’s hands. Sam’s laughter wasn’t even poorly disguised this time. “Yeah, great. Chuck it up. When you ladies are ready?” As Dean came around the side of the car, Sam nonchalantly climbed into the front passenger seat. “Oh, no. Fuck you. I am NOT riding in the back of my own car.”
“Too late, man. I’ve already got shotgun. ‘Sides, you’ll be driving on the way back so you’ll be up front then anyway.” And Sam shut the door, leaving Dean standing next to the car, jaw clenched. For just a moment, he actually thought about punching through the window. But only for the split-second it took him to realize he’d thought it. Then he quickly changed his mind and started sending his baby silent apologies.
“Are you coming, Princess? Or am I leaving without you?”
Grumbling under his breath, Dean dropped in the back seat as the engine turned over. With a quick smile at him in the rearview, Jo floored it. She was good to her word. She drove the car the way Dean would, like she was part of the Impala and knew her every move. Tires squalled, the engine roared, the wind rushed around them and above it all Jo laughed. Twice she slid sideways around a twenty-mile-an-hour curve. Not once did Dean worry that she was going to hurt his baby.
Blackburn cemetery was like a thousand other small-town cemeteries across the Midwest. It was just outside of town, the newest graves were up front in neat lines and the older graves were further back, where lines were more defined by families than space. The upside to this was that Deseree Michaels’ grave was easy to find and close to the road. Unfortunately, that also meant that it was more visible and once they found it they really couldn’t use too much light. Jo had spent enough time in dark cemeteries by now that she wasn’t really bothered by them anymore. But not being able to see what she was doing while digging, that sucked. With the three of them taking turns on the two shovels, the grunt work moved quickly. It only took little over an hour for them to clear off enough of the coffin to open it. Jo managed to hold back her gagging when Sam popped the lid. Ghost or not, a three month old corpse was a three month old corpse. She didn’t care how long she did this or how many bones she burned, that smell was something she would never get used to. She knew just as surely, though, that she would die before she let herself puke in front of these boys. She concentrated on that as she climbed out of the grave. She was going after the salt and gas, honest. Never mind that Dean was a couple graves down, watching the road and Sam had to lift her up for her to climb out. She was handing the salt down to Sam and only half-hearing the boys jokingly argue, when she had the most unusual sensation of weightlessness and Sam sped away from her. She realized that she was flying backwards through the air when she clipped a headstone with her shoulder and rolled across the grass. If it had been a weeping angel, she would have died, her skull crushed against the marble. Jo had just enough time to be thankful then Deseree was above her looking exactly like her picture in the paper. Scrambling, Jo crab-walked backwards into a headstone. Deseree was screaming without sound, like someone had hit the mute button on a bad horror movie. She reached out to Jo and laid her fingers gently on Jo’s cheek. Over Deseree’s apparition she could see Dean running toward her and Sam scrambling for the dropped salt. The screaming was inside her head now, “LovemeLovemeStaywithmeLovemeforever” and she knew they would never make it in time. Not before she gave in. And of course she would give in. How could she not surrender to this beautiful woman? Why had she been trying to hurt her? How could she do anything less than love her? Stay with her? Why would she give anything less than her life? She never wanted to leave, never wanted to forget her, would always worship her. Forever. She was so beautiful, so perfect, so…warm. Hot. Too hot. Burning. OhGodOhGodOhGod! She’s on fire! I’m on Fire! Make it stop, Make it stop! Jo screamed with Deseree as she went up in flames. Dean was there now, trying to hold Jo down, trying to stop her from hurting herself as she trashed and even still reached for the burning specter. She screamed and burned in her mind until the link finally snapped and Deseree died for the second time. Then Jo went limp in Dean’s arms, gratefully falling into the darkness.
“Jo?!” Dean frantically searched for her pulse and almost choked on his relief when he found it, strong and steady. Tears were still running down her face and drying in pale tracks. He gathered her in his arms like a child. She’s such a tiny little thing. She’s so much smaller than she seems when she’s moving around. What is she doing in this life? Jo’s head lolled back and against his shoulder. He carried her to the Impala and laid her in the backseat. “Sam, grab the stuff and let’s get the hell out of here.” He buckled the middle seatbelt around her waist and grabbed a spare sheet from the trunk. As Sam put their few supplies up, Dean laid the sheet over her and tucked it in around her. It was a familiar act. He’d done it for Sam hundreds of times when they were growing up and more than a couple times since, when a hunt had gone wrong. Without thinking, he brushed her bangs out of her face and his lips across her forehead. He closed the door and quickly went around the car. He caught Sam staring at him over the roof. “What?” A slow smile spread over Sam’s face, “Nothing man.” He folded himself into the passenger seat and waited for Dean. The Impala rumbled to life and rocks arched behind her as Dean floored it. All the way back to the house, his eyes flicked to the rearview every few minutes, hoping he’d see Jo sit up. Every time he saw nothing but darkness, the pit in his stomach grew. The last ten miles flew by, the pedal to the floor, a prayer without aim in his mind. Don’t let her be like the others. He wasn’t sure why he was so worried. She was still breathing, her heart was still beating and with Deseree gone, there was nothing to keep stealing her life. Jo should be just fine. Still. Please don’t let her be like the others.
They slid to a stop in front of the house, gravel pinging off the undercarriage. The headlights were the only light besides the moon and in their yellow spheres, the house looked even worse than when they had left. The paint was faded and cracking and the boards over every window darkened it. It seemed condemned, like the whole thing was derelict and sagging. Home Sweet Home. Even as he jokingly thought it, he knew what a lie it was. The Impala was the only home he had ever known. “Go stoke the fire and I’ll get her inside.” He didn’t even look at Sam as he climbed out. No matter what fights they were having, he knew that when everything went south he could still count on Sam to do what was needed. He opened the back door and stared at Jo. He was pretty sure she hadn’t made a single movement not caused by the car. He pulled the sheet away gently and pulled her to him. On the way into the house, he only just heard a soft moan above the rustling of his jacket. There was a slight tension in her neck and shoulders that wasn’t there before, like she was subconsciously trying to keep her head still, and a small frown started to form between her brows. She was starting to wake up. His heart unclenched and he finally managed a full breath. Sam was still coaxing the fire up, but he’d already lit the oil lamps, so a soft glow filled the room. Enough to see, but not enough to hurt her eyes. Dean laid Jo on the couch and kneeled next to her. The frown was more pronounced now and she moaned more distinctly when he pulled his arms out from under her. “Are you with me, Jo?” He spoke just above a whisper; half hoping she wasn’t awake enough to hear him yet.
“No.” It was more of a moan than a word, but he knew she was answering him. Slowly she rolled onto her side and curled up, almost to the fetal position. “No, I think I’m half-dead. What happened?”
He ignored the flare of fear her innocent statement sent stabbing through him, “Casper the Life-Sucking Ghost showed up and tried to eat you. You were, I don’t know, connected to her somehow when she went up in flames.”
“Of course I was. Ask a silly question. Why me, damnit? Why not one of you?” She knew it was petulant, but she really couldn’t care past the pounding in her head.
“Probably because you looked so tasty.”
She groaned again and it had nothing to do with the pain. “Fuck you, Winchester.” She tucked her head down even further and tried to shut out his answering chuckle. “I feel like I went three rounds with Jose and lost.”
“Do you think you could eat or drink something?”
Jo wanted to tell him to fuck off again, but she actually stopped and thought about it. She was hurting everywhere, but mostly it was the throb in her head that had her attention. Moving past her headache she realized that she actually was pretty hungry and could probably suck down about a gallon of water. How much life did that bitch steal? “Yeah. I think I could be pretty dangerous to a steak right about now.”
“Well, steak’s not on the menu, but I want you to get something in your system. Some sugar water might not hurt either.”
“Can I have real food later?”
“You suck.” Even with her eyes closed, Jo knew Dean was smiling at her, laughing silently.
Slowly, very slowly, she managed to force herself upright on the couch. Tucked in the right-side corner, she huddled and tried not to let the boys know that the room was spinning every time her eyes twitched. Dean was hovering over her uncertainly, hands half-held out. She could practically see him trying to decide if he should just hold on to her or if her resulting fight would be worse than her falling. He settled for staying squatted near her in front of the couch, watching her intently. She huffed at him, “All right, Steak Nazi, what am I eating then?”
He turned to find his brother was already searching through one duffle bag, a bottle of water at his side.
“Well, I’ve got some turkey jerky, some wheat stix, and a couple of energy bars.”
Jo eyed Dean frantically behind Sam’s back.
“Uh, check my bag. I think I have some snacks too.”
Sam shook his head as he pulled Dean’s bag over and started pawing through it.
“Dude, all you have in here is a couple Slim Jims and a Nutty Bar. Not helpful.”
“What? You get protein and sugar. It’s plenty helpful.’
“Yeah, I think I’ll take those.”
Sam rolled he eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh as he handed the junk food over.
“Thank you, Sam.”
“Great, now eat.”
Jo bit into the greasy ‘meat’ and realized how hungry she really was. She had Dean’s snacks gone quickly and smiled at Sam, “Could you maybe share yours too?” It was a mild apology and they both knew it. Sam grinned as he handed her his food that she also devoured, wheat stix and all. Bless Sam’s heart; he didn’t make a single snarky comment. As meals went, it was small and unimpressive and she was still slightly hungry when she finished, but she felt steadier. Less weak. Jo figured that since the room had stopped canting to the left every time she blinked, it had to mean an improvement. Her mind was starting to come back on line a little. She sipped on her water and tried to stop remembering what Deseree had made her feel. She tried not to remember that if felt like coming home. That it felt like having everything she’d ever wanted with no strings attached. Like the love of her life had put his arms around her and held tight. If that was how the victims at the hospital had felt, then maybe it wasn’t such a terrible way to die after all. The other victims. If I’m awake… She started to struggle to her feet.
“Whoa. Where do you think you’re going?” Dean was right there, sitting her back down into the couch.
“I need my bag. I have to make a call.”
Sam scooped her small purse off the floor and held it out for her. She wanted to argue about them babying her, but the world was back to doing streamers if she moved her eyes too fast. Maybe she shouldn’t have tried to get up. She smiled as she accepted the bag from him. “Thanks, Sam. I have the hospital’s number in my phone.” She began fishing around. “I want to call and check on the other victims. If I’m ok, then maybe we got lucky.” She found her phone at the bottom of her bag and dug it out. Quickly scrolling her contacts, she found the hospital’s main number and selected it. A painful IVR later she was finally connected with a human receptionist. “I need to speak with Dr. Carlisle, please.” She had a moments panic when she realized that it had to be near midnight, almost twelve hours since she’d spoken with him. “Just a moment, ma’am. I’ll see if he’s available.” The woman was gone, replaced by terrible muzak and a cultured voice extolling the abilities of Metro-Imaging for all her radiological needs, cheerleading the staff of their wonderful hospital twice, and she was being reminded to be sure she scheduled her yearly prostate exam when a tired and gruff voice stopped the torture. “This is Dr. Carlisle.” She would have kissed him if she could.
“Dr. Carlisle, this is Joanna Blake, Mrs. Ramirez’s lawyer? I am calling to ask you a couple questions.”
“So you heard about our coma patients already, did you?”
Jo tried not to get her hopes up, “Is it true then? Are they ok?”
There was a moment of silence before he answered. “Sort of. I’m sorry but Mrs. Ramirez wasn’t one of the ones that woke up. Whatever reason the others are recovering for, I’m afraid it didn’t help her.”
Jo’s brief burst of happiness faded a little. “How many? I know that you’re not supposed to tell me, but please. I need to know. How many didn’t wake up?”
Dr. Carlisle sighed heavily. For a moment, she didn’t think he was going to answer, then a whisper barely carried over the line, “Two. Mrs. Ramirez and one other. That’s all I’m going to tell you.”
“That’s enough.” Without saying anything else, Jo flipped her phone closed, ending the call. “Two people that didn’t wake up. Two people dead.”
Sam perched on the arm of the couch and tentatively put an arm around her shoulders.
“Yeah, but that means that there are four people that did wake up. We saved lives today.”
“I know that. There’s nothing we could have done about the other two. They were gone before we even got here, I’m sure.” She sat staring at the fire for a moment before she spoke again. “You know what took me so long to get here? I was over in northern Oklahoma clearing out a nest of sprites.”
Dean looked past Jo to Sam, “We were two states over torching a ghost.” He blinked and added, “A normal ghost.”
“See? That’s my point. We were all off, doing other things, saving other lives. I know we can’t save them all, it just seems like it’s never enough. Save Tom and Bob dies. Save Bob and Jane burns. Fuck. I don’t know. Whatever. I’m just tired and it’s late and I guess I’m just feeling the day. Life goes on, yadda yadda.” She leaned over and put her head in her hands, her cell still clutched in one fist. The small display quickly warmed to her skin until the whole thing was body temperature. If she didn’t concentrate on it, she couldn’t feel it in her hand. Like it wasn’t there, like an exhausted and confused doctor hadn’t been on the other end. She listened instead to the steady, thick beating of her heart. The fire crackled and if she strained she could just make out the constant low hiss of the wood itself burning. Sam’s hand settled on the base of her neck, a weight of warmth on her spine. He traced small circles on her skin with the pad of his thumb, soothing her like a spooked horse. But neither he nor Dean said a word. They sat in the silence with her, and their breathing was the only sound they made. She was mildly amused after a few minutes to find that they were breathing in time with each other. She did smile into her palm when she realized that she was too. Yeah, life goes on and we go on with it, whether we want to or not. Find it, kill it, move on. I guess this is the ‘move on’ part. Jo took a deep, staggering breath and that seemed to break the spell. The silence was broken and her breathing shifted, falling out of step. She raised her head and found Dean sharing another look with Sam. She couldn’t begin to read it and she couldn’t see Sam’s face so she decided not to care. With a last gentle squeeze Sam went back to the hearth, settling down near the fire and stretching his forever long legs out in front of him. Dean stayed near her feet but he turned, leaning back against the couch and facing Sam. “You know what sounds good? A beer. An ice cold beer and an Italian sub. When we leave here, we are heading to the closest town with an Italian restaurant. In fact, get your laptop. Use your Google-Fu and find me a restaurant.”
Sam snorted, “No. The only thing worse than extra onions is if you have peppers too. Then the whole car just reeks.”
Jo smiled and let the mood wash over her as she settled back. They bickered back and forth over food and driving rights and regressed down to who smelled worse. It was like watching a couple of eight year old kids on the playground. Granted, they were over six feet tall and really hot, but eight year olds none the less. She was half expecting one of them to pop off with, “I’m telling Bobby.” She had to put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing aloud. It would totally be Dean who said it, she just knew. Once she managed not to laugh she realized she was still holding her phone tightly. She pulled her small purse back into her lap and opened it. Surely there was someplace she could put her phone where she wouldn’t have to search for twelve minutes. It wasn’t like she kept a lot of stuff in her purse either. No bank account, so she didn’t have a check book. She wasn’t really comfortable with credit card fraud so she didn’t have a huge wallet; just a glorified card holder with a couple different IDs. Not much cash; she’d have to get a job or hustle soon. Let’s see; half a pack of gum, truck keys, lock-pick set, tampons, chap stick and birth-control packet. Oh, shit. I still have to take my pill. Yeah, life goes on alright. She shoved her phone in back in her purse and opened the pill container. A quick glance at the boys told her they were still paying her no attention.
“What are you talking about? My man Jack was totally more awesome than some pilled out pretty boy. The joker was nuts, but he wasn’t insane.”
“… You are ridiculous.”
Jo popped the little yellow pill into her hand and put the container back in her purse. It was half-way to her mouth when a hand clamped around her wrist.
“What are you doin?” Dean looked rather pointedly at the pill in her palm. “What is that?”
“It’s nothing. Just something I have to take.”
“Jo, I really don’t want you taking anything right now. As weak as you are, I don’t want anything putting you under or messing with your balance too much.”
Jo scoffed and rolled her eyes. “I promise it’s not going to knock me out or make me loopy.”
She reached out to grab the pill with her other hand but Dean beat her to it; scooping it away before she realized what he was doing. Maybe I’m a little more out of it than I thought. “What the hell, Dean?”
Dean held the pill up, squinting at it in the lamplight. “I don’t recognize this. What is it, Jo?”
“Give it back.”
“Not unless you tell me what it is.”
“I told you, it’s nothing.”
“Well if it’s nothing then you should have no problems telling me.”
“Oh, for fucks sake! It’s a birth-control pill. Happy?”
Dean blinked owlishly. “Oh.”
“Yeah, OH. Now can I have the damn thing back?” Jo held her hand out to him, scowling.
Dean coughed and cleared his throat. “Yeah, uh… here. Sorry. You, uh- you go ahead and take that.” He dropped the pill back into her waiting hand and motioned vaguely at the bottle of water sitting next to her. He was trying for nonchalant and almost pulled it off; except for the redness in his ears.
“Thank you.” She glanced at Sam as she popped the pill and saw him biting his lips together. He didn’t seem to be embarrassed at all. Hmph. Glad one of us isn’t. He just kept flicking his eyes between her and Dean, shaking with suppressed laughter. Oh, hell. Turning back to Dean, she asked sweetly, “Got anything besides holy water in that flask?” And Sam lost it.
Jo’s eyes flew open, every nerve in her body at alert. What had woken her? She couldn’t hear anything and the house seemed empty. Empty. That’s it. She glanced around the fire-lit room. Abandoned houses don’t normally have working heaters, so they had all bedded down in front of the fireplace. Sam and Dean had been nice enough to let her have the dilapidated couch, if nice was what you wanted to call it. It was scratchy, there was a support bar digging painfully into her back and she swore she must have found every remaining spring. No wonder it had been left behind. The boys had brought in pillows and sheets from the Impala and made pallets on the floor between the couch and the fire. Pallets that were empty now. That was what had woken her. She automatically reached for her knife, tucked safely under the couch edge. She hadn’t been awake for long after the fight over her pill, but she wouldn’t sleep without her father’s knife nearby. I’m insane. The ghost is gone and we’re all safe. The boys probably went out for a drink. Logically, she knew nothing could be wrong, but she couldn’t get rid of her anxiousness. It seemed almost as if the house itself held its breath, waiting. Jo knew better than to ignore her instincts. Whatever it was, she wasn’t just going to lay around waiting for it. She slowly stood up from the couch, miraculously not squeaking a single spring and strained with all of her senses, searching for whatever was wrong. Upstairs and towards the back of the house, she heard a sound like a sob. Ok, so either something is very wrong with the boys, or this house is haunted. They hadn’t noticed any cold spots or scratching noise, and this house being haunted would be too ironic for words. She still traded her knife for a container of salt before she began to creep up the stairs.
The threadbare carpet still covered the floors, swallowing her light footsteps. The wood paneled walls had started life a dark cherry color but now, after years of neglect and in the dead of night they were just sheets of blackness, eating the light. By the time she reached the top of the stairs the light of the fire was dim and distant. She could barely see the hall around her. She knew there was a large empty room to her right and a hallway on her left with three doors down one side and a window more than halfway down the hall that made a square of moonlight on the carpet. The light made the end of the hall impossible to see. She stood at the stairs, indecisive, until she heard something; a muted smack from the end of the hall. Once she crossed to the other side of the window, she could see the closed door at the end and was now close enough to hear the sounds coming from behind it. There were muffled voices on the other side, low and angry sounding. Shit! They’re fighting again. Jo strode those last few steps, arm out and ready to barge into the room to break it up. Her hand was on the door handle when the back of her mind stopped her. She was hearing something else now and, she realized, she had been hearing it since that first smack. Her rational mind hadn’t wanted to hear or recognize it. She had been trying to deny it but, part of her a lot lower than her heart knew that sound and reacted to it. That fast paced and mostly rhythmic sound of flesh hitting flesh. One of the boys brought someone back here after I passed out. Deep down, she knew better. All of the first floor windows and the back door had been boarded over. The only way in or out of this house was the front door. No way had they brought someone through that door without waking her. Just as she had known they hadn’t really gone out when she had woken up. Her denial was starting to fall apart at the seams. There were only two possible people behind that door and only one thing that sound means. She put her hands on either side of the door to steady herself and let go of the last shred of denial when she heard Dean plead, “Sam…” Sam growled in response. The tempo got faster and the smacking sound got louder. “Jesus!” Dean’s yell turned into a moan and Sam followed shortly after. They both faded into heavy pants as the sound of flesh on flesh slowed to a stop.
Jo was kind of surprised to find that she was breathing a little heavily herself and maybe more than a little aroused. “Sammy…I’m sorry.” Dean’s voice was deep and beaten sounding.Jo could her fabric rustling and the metallic slide of a zipper. “I just worry about you and want you to be safe, that’s my job. Whatever else we are, I’m still your big brother.”
Sam chuckled, “Yeah. I know. I just wish you wouldn’t worry so much. Trust me, Dean. I do have an idea what I’m doing.”
There was a very weighted silence before Dean spoke again. “Come on, let’s get down stairs. I don’t like leaving Jo alone for so long after what happened tonight.”
As quietly as possible, Jo ran back downstairs. The last thing she wanted was to be caught. Her mind raced as she all but threw herself back on the couch and dropped the salt on the floor. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!!!! What the HELL just happened? No, I can’t have heard what I just thought I heard. I’m perverted and sleep deprived and mind-fucked by a soul sucking ghost and irrational and, and, and there is no way, that THAT was happening. They were fighting. Just like I originally thought. Jo began to desperately rebuild her walls of denial as she heard the footsteps coming down the stairs. Oh, God! I can’t face them right now. She forced her body to go limp and her breathing to steady as she closed her eyes. She felt them come into the room and head to their separate pallets. Separate pallets, Hah!! That’s a joke. Wait, no. Fighting. They were fighting and that’s it. Sam was beating the hell out of Dean. Denial: not just a river in Egypt. She felt one of the boys lean over her and stare at her for a brief moment before she heard them quietly pick up the salt container near her head and retreat back to a pallet. Sam’s voice whispered through the air, “Wasn’t she laying the other way earlier?”
“What?” Dean’s whisper was already half asleep.
For an agonizing moment, Sam didn’t answer. She could feel his eyes on her. Jo prayed that the firelight wasn’t bright enough to show the blush spreading her cheeks or that he didn’t notice her breathing was a little shaky. “Apparently, Jo likes to move around. It’s nothing. Go to sleep Dean.” She laid there for hours, even after the boys had obviously gone to sleep, afraid to move. Afraid of waking one of them and having to look them in the eyes. She lay there fighting with herself, rebuilding her denial and trying desperately to ignore the low, steady burn in her own body. She couldn’t see the sun through the boards, but she could hear the chorus of birds outside making riotous, beautiful noise that meant it was either way too late or way too early when she finally slipped off into a real sleep and dreams that were vaguely erotic.
“Let’s stay a few days.”
“Excuse me?” Dean and Jo both looked at Sam as though he’d sprouted a second head.
“What? I mean, come on Dean. You said it yourself, we don’t know where Lilith is, we don’t know the next seal she’s going after, and you refuse to talk to Ruby. We have nothing. The ghost we came for is gone and we don’t already have another hunt lined up. Look, all I’m saying is we should take a few days. Just three or four. And we should reassess where we are and what to do next. No one knows where we are, the house is decent enough and it’s free.”
The meager hours of sleep Jo managed had been enough to rebuild her denial. She had been able to face the brothers this morning without blushing or stammering and she’d built up a pretty firm wall of disbelief around those thoughts she’d fought with the night before. Something about this, though, was striking a chord with her. She was having a hard time believing that Sam, who always wanted to rush in and go straight for the end goal, would be pushing for temperance. Dean was saying something to that effect even as she thought it. Of course. His brother would know him well to. Hm. Brother…. Even with her walls, that was a word she was stumbling over this morning. She forced her mind away from that and back to Sam. Frustration was coming off him in waves, “I’m tired Dean. All we ever do is run and work. You don’t let us stop. I’m tired and I need a break. The last time we stopped, even for a couple days, was over a year ago. You wanted a break before you went to Hell. Well, I do too.” The silence that hit was thick enough to drive a truck over.
“We’re going to win. We’re going to stop it.” Dean was firm, as if he believed his will alone could make it true.
Sam sighed, heavy and deep. “I’m sure we will. But Dean…please?”
Jo’s wide eyes flicked from one to the other. Dean’s shoulders were drooped, his head was hung. She could feel his defeat. “Ok. Sure thing, Sammy.” His voice was low and rough.
Even though her heart ached for them, Jo couldn’t stop her mind echoing Dean’s voice, “Sure thing, Sammy…. Jesus, Sammy, yes!”
“…stay too, Jo.”
Her attention snapped back to Sam. “What?”
“I want you to stay too. Stay here with us for a couple days. You need to recoup too. Besides,” he smiled as he stepped forward and gently rubbed his thumb across her still sore lip, “we need you to keep us on our best behavior. Who knows what we might do if you’re not here.” Jo’s heart stopped. God, don’t let me be blushing. She didn’t know how to back out gracefully without implicating herself.
“Yeah, alright. We’ll have to go into town and get some supplies. I am not sleeping on that couch again; in fact, I may salt and burn it. I’ll by an air mattress or something.” She really hoped her voice sounded normal, though angry would be better. The boys both laughed at her. Dean walked up behind her, putting his hands on her shoulder and leaned in like he was getting ready to whisper a secret, “You’re a pussy, Jo.” He chuckled at her. Her retort of 'being pissy, not a pussy' didn’t make it out because she only just heard Sam. “She certainly is.” Something about the way he whispered it made her suddenly aware that Sam was still in front of her, only a couple inches away, and Dean was still directly behind her, his hands on her shoulders. She was trapped neatly between them. She was also suddenly aware that her body wasn’t entirely unhappy about that. Another brick fell out of her wall. Damn.
The first stop they made was a campground just outside of town that had showers. The heat relaxed the soreness in Jo’s shoulder. The bruise seemed content to be under the skin and she was just happy not to have broken it. Half an hour later, they were clean of body if not spirit and continued into town. The ride was quiet. She couldn’t bring herself to make conversation, because she just didn’t know what to say. “So, you two been fucking long?” it just didn’t seem like that had the potential to be a friendly conversation. Besides, it wasn’t really any business of hers anyway. She did manage to participate enough to suggest McDonald’s instead of waiting for brunch at the diner. Dinner could come from the diner. “It’s a change. It’s cheaper.” The truth was she didn’t want to have awkward conversation while they waited for their food. This is stupid. They’ll notice more wrong from you avoiding things than you not talking. Besides, it was just a fight, remember? She was having a hard time convincing herself again. She forced herself to be normal as they piled back into the car to shop, which went much easier. She was able to forget all the weirdness watching them butt heads. Sam was getting canned goods, rock salt, bottled water, duct tape, gauze, thread, and all the necessities. Dean walked up with a large bag of M&Ms, two bottles of Jack and the latest issue of Busty Asian Beauties. “I’m done.”
Jo busted out laughing. “Nice, Dean, real nice.”
“Hey, only the necessities of life. Didn’t you ever listen to that singing bear?”
“First of all, that was the bear necessities; second of all, I doubt he was talking about liquor and porn.”
“Of course he was. He’s a bear.”
And that was the kind of logic that she didn’t even want to try and follow. The only odd moment came when she was getting her air mattress. Dean had wandered off, under orders from Sam to put. The porn. Back. When she and Sam walked into the sporting goods section, she grabbed the first twin size she saw and dumped it into the cart. “Done. What’s next on the list?” Before she could walk away, Sam took the mattress out of the cart and handed it back to her. “What?”
“No, you’ll need to get a queen or possibly a king, but at least a queen.” She arched an eyebrow at him. “I may not always have room to set up a queen. I’ll pretty much always have room for a twin.”
Sam scoffed, “If you don’t have room for a queen size mattress, then there isn’t enough room for you anyway. Specially with as much as you like to move around at night.” Sam’s eyes met hers. Fuck! Without saying anything, she put the twin back and grabbed a queen. Sam didn’t say anything else, but his smirk made her heart race. After three more aisles of silence, Jo took her mattress to the front and paid, leaving Sam and Dean to finish shopping on their own. By the time they came out to the Impala, she had convinced herself it was an innocent remark. She even took Dean’s teasing about being a terrible girl for not liking to shop. They picked up their order from the diner and headed out of town. They returned to the house just as the sun was beginning to sink below the horizon. Dean built up the fire and lit the kerosene lamps as Jo set up her new bed in front of the hated couch. When it was fully inflated, a plastic bag dropped down in the middle of it. “What’s this?” Jo pulled the bag to her.
“An Un-Birthday present.” Sam smiled down at her, “You forgot to get sheets.”
It was a set of simple, white sheets and a matching pillow case. “Thank you Sam, I totally spaced on that.”
“Figured you had. Enjoy.” Sam flashed her a smile, all dimples and white teeth.
Conversation was easy and relaxed after that. They talked as they ate the greasy food, and kept talking when they moved on to Dean’s Jack. They were all relaxed by the time the bottle made its fifth or sixth round. Being half their size, Jo ended up drunk much sooner than the boys, even if she did last almost through the bottle.
She didn’t remember lying down or passing out. Her limbs were heavy and lethargic, but her mind had already begun to reach consciousness. She was at the blissful place where she was awake enough to know it, but not awake enough to care. She was barely aware of a rustling sound in front of her and an occasional sigh, but she was more concerned with all the alcohol she’d drank. How bad was tomorrow going to be? How close to empty had that bottle been the last time it had passed her?
“Dude?! What are you doing? What if we wake Joanna?” Dean’s shocked whisper suddenly had her caring about the here and now. She kept her eyes closed and focused all her attention to the boys.
“She’s not going to wake up unless you wake her up. Do you want to wake her up?” There was more rustling followed by the sound of a zipper slowly, teasingly being pulled. Sam’s voice was lower than normal. Huskier and more sure of himself. Just barely opening her eyes, she gazed at the boys through her lashes. Things low in her body tightened and her heart hammered against her chest. They both had their backs to her and Sam was spooning Dean in what was definitely un-brotherly ways. He was propped up on one arm, nibbling at Dean’s neck, his other arm reaching over Dean’s waist and disappearing into obviously open jeans. Almost casually, he rocked against Dean in time with the movement of his hand. “You want to wake her up, don’t you? You’ve thought about it. Her waking up, maybe coming over here and joining us?” Dean arched his back, pushing against Sam. His breath exploded into ragged pants, covering the gasp that Jo couldn’t quite stop. With a dark laugh, Sam’s hand reappeared and settled on Dean’s hip, stilling the movement. “Shh. If you can’t be quiet, you’ll wake Jo.” Dean rolled over to face Sam, his eyes wide and a little wild.
“Please. Let’s go upstairs and finish this.”
“Why not here?”
“Because I really don’t want to wake her up. But, God, I want you. Please, Sam. Take me upstairs. Fuck me, please.” Every sentence had been punctuated with Dean kissing his way up Sam’s throat. She had to close her eyes against the sight as Dean’s eagerness washed over her. It was all she could do to keep her eyes shut and her traitorous body still. Sam gave another dark laugh, “Alright. If you want it that badly. Take the pillows up with you, I’ll grab the sheets. And Dean,” there was a startled gasp that ended in a soft moan. Cracking her eyes, she could see Sam leaned over Dean’s neck. Dean’s eyes were closed and his mouth was slack, the arm around Sam’s back was shaking. Sam released his hold and ran his cheek along Dean’s. His growled whisper drifted over to her, “I want you naked when I get there.” Dean scrambled to his feet, grabbing the pillows as he stood, his muscular chest glowing gold in the firelight. Any doubts on how much he was enjoying himself were gone since his still open jeans perfectly framed his erection. This was it; she was going to burst into flame. Sam looked up from gathering the sheets and right at her. Behind her now closed eyes, Jo prayed. Don’t let him have seen me, don’t let him have seen me. Dean was already up the stairs but Sam stood over Jo a moment before following. When his footsteps disappeared at the top of the stairs, Jo let out the ragged breath she’d been holding to keep still and rolled onto her back. She put one hand over her mouth and the other between her legs. Already she was inflamed and slick. Her whole body was pulsing with desire. It only took a couple rough strokes and the world exploded. She sucked in a huge breath and had to block all air to keep from screaming as she bucked and arched into her own touch. Holy God! I should be sickened, disgusted, not having the hardest orgasm of my life, but OH GOD….. Her thoughts trailed off into want as the waves rushed through her. After the feeling and aftershocks finally faded, she rolled onto her other side and hugged her knees to her chest. She had to; anything else would have her walking up those stairs.
She wasn’t sure when they came back down; alcohol and a massive orgasm had sucked her back down into sleep. When she woke, it was just like the morning before. They were in their separate pallets, deeply asleep, looking for all the world like two fallen angels; beautiful and strong. All the worry and stress normally etched into their faces were gone. They were beyond relaxed. Well, a night of ridiculous drinking and epic sex will do that to you. Her own thoughts were fuzzy and slow. Must still be the alcohol, since I’m the only one who didn’t get laid last night. She tried to ignore the feelings that thought brought with it. Excitement, fear, a dying speck of shame, but mostly arousal. The flashes of the night before buzzed through the cloud in her brain skittered down her spine and settled between her legs. Already, she could feel the moisture. Jesus Christ! What the hell? Why is this getting to me so badly? She couldn’t keep lying there, because she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She eased herself off the mattress, watching them for any sign of movement. Even in separate sleeping places, they angled toward each other, as though they were moving together, reaching for each other even in their sleep. Quietly, she gathered some fresh clothes and went into the nearest room. She gently shut the door behind her and leaned back against it. It helped just to be away from them for a moment. She opened her eyes and looked around and was surprised to find she’d escaped into the kitchen. It looked just like every other kitchen built in the 1950s; open floor, cabinets and counters lining one wall on either side of a double sink, and an empty square for the stove. Well, there’s no running water and nothing to cook anyway so I guess it’s just another room. At least I can use the counter for my clothes. She walked to the far side of the room and set her clothes on the counter top. She stared sightlessly at them as her mind started to chase itself in circles. Dean and Sam. Sam and Dean. Dean and Sam. Sam and Dean. Dean and Sam and… she shut the thought down before it could finish forming. No, it wouldn’t do her any good to go there because obviously, all they needed was each other. She figured that, in a way it made sense. She had never seen two people as devoted to each other as they were. No one could come close. They were all they had ever had. No worries about hiding their lives or making someone understand about all the evil. I swear Dean acted like he was interested at first, but this must be why Dean would never…. Oh, God, did I make a fool of myself!
Angrily, she began to get changed. Her movements were harsh and jerky as she ripped her shirt over her head and dropped it on the floor. She shoved her pants down and kicked them on top of her shirt. What the hell, they were dirty anyway. She’d just dropped her bra on top of the rest of her clothes when she heard a guttural sound behind her. Instinctively, she was already throwing a punch as she turned. Her throw was swept aside and her momentum carried her on. A hand gripped her wrist and twisted as another hand shoved at the top of her back. Next she knew she was bent over the counter, her right arm painfully twisted behind her back and someone had pinned her from the hips down with his own hips and legs. She couldn’t move to fight effectively but she struggled anyway; giving in just wasn’t in her nature. “Jo, it’s me! Calm down!”
She stopped thrashing as her mind finally caught up with the words.
“It’s me, Dean.”
“What the FUCK are you doing?!”
“What am I doing? I came to see if you were ok. I thought you heard me come in until you started, well… I tried to tell you I was here but you attacked me. What was I supposed to do, let you jack me in the jaw?”
“Yes! And what do you mean, ‘tried to tell me’? You didn’t say anything. I attacked you because you were just standing behind me grunting.”
“Well, um… That was me trying t- you see you caught me off guard with the stripping, and, well, in my head it started as ‘hey’ it just didn’t exactly make it out that way…” Dean trailed off into silence. He’s embarrassed? Jo realized then exactly the position she was in. She was wearing nothing but her underwear, And why the hell did I have to be wearing lacy boy-shorts today?!, and Dean, of all people, had her bent over a kitchen counter. He was pressed firmly against her to keep her trapped and certain parts of him were not entirely unhappy about that. The feel of him hard against her nearly undid her, and a shiver of excitement wracked her body.
Dean felt her shudder against him and restrained his own shiver. Oh god, she CANNOT struggle like that again. He knew his last shred of control would come unraveled if she did. He had to let her go or he would come undone and take her, then and there. Keeping his hold on her arm he stepped back enough to break that intimate contact.
Jo almost cried.
“If I let you go now, are you going to turn around and gouge my eyes out?”
“No,” YES!!! “you can let me go.”
Slowly, Dean released her, trying to back away at the same time. He knew that he was right to be wary. She was a Harvelle after all. He stood there, balanced on the balls of his feet ready to fight or, much more likely, run if she seemed inclined to attack again. She just reached over, grabbed her shirt and pulled it over her head as she straightened. She didn’t pull the shirt on quickly enough. Dean’s already tortured erection hardened even more at the sight of her breasts. Apparently a t-shirt was enough to make her feel covered because she didn’t reach for her pants, much to Dean’s disappointment. Jo just glared at him. He didn’t blame her for being angry. She had to have noticed. Crap, how do you apologize for that? He was distantly aware that words were coming out of his mouth and had been since she turned around. None of them were complete or made any sense, but he couldn’t seem to stop them as he backed out of the room. She kept glaring at him until he all but fled through the door and back to the safety of the living room. Once she was sure he was gone, the anger and her heart dropped through the floor. She was soaking wet and even more confused and horny than before. Ugh! He obviously wanted me. Why didn’t he DO anything about it? Was it because of Sam? Or did he not want me at all and that was just morning wood? Jo became even more annoyed as she finished getting dressed; she still had to go out there and face him. Then, she heard Sam’s surprised burst of laughter. She could guess what he was laughing about. Make that face them. Can he keep no secrets? Sonofabitch!
Sam had gotten himself under control by the time she came back out. There was only the tiniest hint of a smile when he looked at her. Well, shit. This is going to be the elephant in the room. “Well, in light of recent events,” she glared again at Dean, “I think I’m going to look the house over myself.”
“Why?” Sam asked.
“So I can find a better place to change than the kitchen. You know, a door with a lock.”
Dean blushed scarlet to his hairline as Sam choked off another laugh. Ignoring them both, she turned around and set back off through the house. The first floor offered nothing useful. The front room, kitchen, and a small door-less laundry room made up the entire first level. The basement was out of the question. That only left one direction. She only stomped a little as she went up the stairs to the second level. Jo looked briefly around the room at the right of the stairs, deciding that the old fashioned lock was not acceptable. You could look right through it. She turned to the left and her heart pounded when she realized what room she could go look at, making her pause while she was still at the head of the stairs.
“Jo, you alright?”
She glanced down at Sam, “Yeah. I’m fine. Just wondering which door to start with.” She tried to ignore the look on Sam’s face as she started down the hall. I’ll just start at this end and work my way down. No reason for that room to be special. The first door turned out to be a ladder leading upward to a small attic. The next two were unimpressive bedrooms of medium size, both with no lock on the door. She stood in front of the last door, staring at it. And of course, this door locked. She had no idea why her pulse was racing so fast; both boys were downstairs, not behind this door. Besides, hadn’t she seen all the proof she’d needed last night? What was the point of looking, really? She opened it slowly, expecting another medium sized bedroom. She was surprised by how wrong she was. This room ran the width of the house and was significantly larger than the others. Floor to ceiling windows were on the eastern and southern walls, letting in the maximum amount of light. Of course, they’d let in a lot of moonlight too. There was another abandoned couch; it was faded and sagged in the middle but it was still in much better shape than the one downstairs. Selfish bastards. An equally faded area rug was still on the floor and empty shelves lined the walls that weren’t taken up by windows. She drifted over to the couch without realizing it and ran her hand along the back edge. It may have been old and faded, but the fabric was still soft and pliant. It felt good under her hands. She could all too easily imagine the hard plains of a certain chest being pushed into the couch, enjoying the soft skin against him and the soft fabric under him. Jo shook her head to clear the image. She had been standing there, staring at the couch seeing unspeakable things. She didn’t feel ashamed or wrong, she just felt horny.
Jo heard the footsteps half a second before he spoke, “Are you going to stand there petting the couch all day?” Sam’s voice curled around her. It wasn’t the brother she had been hoping for, but she recognized that tone. This wasn’t the voice Sam normally had. This was the voice she’d heard late in the night, taunting his brother, saying wicked things. She breathed deeply, trying to calm her anxious body and suddenly she could smell it. The tangy, musty smell of sex; oily and salty and metallic all at the same time. The couch reeked of it. Had it smelled that way before or was she imagining it now because Sam was behind her? “Look at me, Jo.” Taking another shaking breath, she turned slowly to face him.
Even fully clothed, it was almost like a strip show, watching him come into view. He was so much more confident than normal. His stance was wider and more relaxed; he looked stronger and more capable. It dawned on Jo how large Sam really was. He was not as wide in the shoulders as Dean, and he wasn’t quite as toned, but he was tall, his reach was long and the only thing soft about him was that hair. He was not at all a small man and without his normal self-consciousness making him slouch and shrink down, she could really see him. She could even see the force of the person that hid behind those puppy dog eyes. It was almost as if someone else was looking out at her. Jo felt a momentary flash of fear, remembering the last time she’d seen someone else looking out from Sam’s eyes, but she relaxed almost immediately remembering also the tattoos. No, he wasn’t possessed. Not by a demon anyway. Looking at Sam’s smile though, it was no wonder her thoughts had turned to demons. Sam could almost read the thoughts on her face and his smile faded. “I’m not going to hurt you, Jo. Not ever again.”
She nodded slightly, “I know that.”
Sam’s eyes regained that mischievous look, “Well, not unless you ask me to anyway.” Her teasing smile was short lived because Sam began to close the space between them. He cupped her face with one hand and smiled down at her. “I won’t hurt Dean either.” She looked up at him, her confusion plain. “I know you know, Joanna.”
Her eyes widened just a touch before she caught herself. Most people wouldn’t have noticed, but then, most people weren’t Sam Winchester. His smile became darker, more sensual. “I know you saw us.” She tried to use her walls of denial, give him one of her thousands of bricks but everything died in her throat as he leaned down, putting one hand on the couch behind her and lowered himself to her lips. Not quite a kiss, he just touched his mouth to hers and she could feel him smiling still. Jo started to pull away but his hand held her in place. “I won’t hurt you. But I know you saw us. I saw you too, Jo.” Her mouth dried completely. She couldn’t speak, could barely breath. “When you thought I was upstairs and gone, I stood there and watched you.” His tongue ran slowly along her bottom lip. She hated the anxious whimper she made. “Watching you get yourself off, knowing that watching us made you that hot…” Sam shuddered and sighed, “Well, it certainly did something for me.”
He pressed his lips gently to hers. Jo stood there, too shocked and unsure to respond until his tongue ran her lips again, this time trying to get in. Her control snapped. She opened for him, letting her inhibitions slide away. She pushed roughly against him, crushing her lips on his teeth, growling in his mouth. His tongue plunged into her, drinking the taste of her in, stabbing and curling around her as if he was trying to learn the shape of her mouth. Jo wrapped her arms around him, holding him to her, trying to pull him into her, through her, trying to join them in whatever way possible. Her hands slid under his shirts and up the warm skin of his back, nails digging in slightly as she grasped at him. He grabbed handfuls of her hair and jerked her head back, breaking the kiss. He came up laughing; a thick wet sound that made Jo think of dark things done in dark places. “You heard us that first night, didn’t you? Snuck up here and spied on us?”
She was beyond any kind of denial. “Yes.”
That smile came back. He twisted her hair and wrapped it around one large hand, pulling just a little; enough to hold her still. “I have to know why, though?”
“Why you want me right now? Why you want this? Is it because you want me? Or is it because of him? Is it because I’ve had him and you want him? Why, Joanna?”
She forced her brain to work past the feel of his hands on her. Why was she so desperate for this? Was it because of Dean? That didn’t’ seem right. She hadn’t thought about Dean in the last few minutes with Sam touching her. What about Sam made her want this? “Because I heard you. I heard you talking to him like that and manipulating him and I want it. I want to be used.” The grip in her hair got tighter.
“You want me to top you?” Sam asked, clearly surprised.
“Only a little.” She leaned towards him, forcing him to pull harder. “Please, Sam.”
There was a moan deep in his throat and he pulled her tight against him. She was right, he loved the begging. Sam captured her mouth, violently kissing her, biting at her lips, demanding more. She gave into him utterly, trusting him to hurt her. He let go of her hair and grabbed a hold of her thighs with both hands, lifting her up onto him. When she wrapped her legs around him, he shifted his grip to her ass, digging his fingers deep into her flesh. She knew that she would have fingerprint bruises later; he was doing exactly what she had asked for. Eager noises where escaping her as she struggled to hold onto him and writhe against the cock she felt pushed against her at the same time. He set her on the back of the couch to grind harder into her. The harsh rasp of their jeans was just this side of too painful. Taking hold of her hair again, he jerked, forcing her head back and her back to bow, offering up her neck like a Black Swan. He set his teeth at the base of her neck, just above the jugular, letting the threat of it thrill through her. Then he bit down, hard. She screamed and bucked against him as best she could, amazed to find that she was already coming. The pain washed through her, making the orgasm short but hard and he kept his teeth tight on her neck until she calmed. He was pleased when he released her to see a bruise already forming on that wonderfully pale skin. Sam languidly ran his tongue over her throat, licking the bruise as if he could taste it. Jo slumped forward as soon as she was free, still almost lost to the waves of pleasure.
He chuckled darkly against her, “Not done yet. Now, it’s my turn.” His hands were already at her shirt, pulling it over her head. She barely felt him brush her back and suddenly her bra was undone, spilling her breasts into the chilled air. His warm hands cupped her firmly, thumbs brushing over her nipples. Jo shuddered, enjoying the contrast between the warmth of his hands and the cold of the room. It made every touch seem hotter. He squeezed hard enough to send joyful pain racing through her system and another whimper past her lips. His breath caught in response. “Those are some nice tits. Next time, we’ll put them to good use.” His hands slid lower, leaving her shivering. He unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans, “But for now, I want these off.”
His eyes followed her as she slid them down her legs. His hands had gone to his own jeans, releasing the hard-on straining against the cloth. Jo’s eyes trailed the length of that warm flesh where it nestled back against his stomach, already shiny with pre-come and, Christ, Sam is HUGE. Automatically, she leaned down to take him; wanting the taste, the feel of him in her mouth, wanting to see if she could take it all. Sam put his hand on her shoulder, stopping her as he laughed hoarsely. “Not right now. I want in, first.” He pulled her back to her feet and against him, trapping it between them. He kissed her again, holding her tightly until she began to make hungry noises for him and she couldn’t quite still her hips. Then he spun her around and bent her over the back of the couch, quickly grabbing both of her arms in one hand and holding them behind her. It was so much like earlier that she couldn’t help but fight just a little and cry out. Her struggles only made him harder, close to bursting. He had to finish this, but he couldn’t pass up this chance, it was too perfect. “I know this makes you think of the kitchen and Dean.” Jo was shocked into stillness. “But I’m gonna do what my brother wasn’t man enough to. I'm gonna fuck you, Jo, and I’m gonna fuck you hard. While you’re screaming and coming, you're gonna know, I’M the one doing this to you. I’M the one making you scream.”
Without any further warning, Sam pushed her panties aside and plunged deep into her, managing half his length before she clamped around him. Jo did scream and it wasn’t from pain. It felt too good to contain, driving all thought and breath out of her. As soon as she had caught her breath he shoved inside her again, forcing another scream from her as he buried himself in her fully. That seemed to satisfy him and he put his free hand on the small of her back as he settled into a faster, shallower rhythm, lightly smacking against her. His fingers gripped tight around her wrists, the other hand gripping into the flesh of her upper ass. “God, you’re wet. Practically fucking dripping, and it’s all from me, isn’t it, Jo? Isn’t it?” He punctuated his question with a harsh jerk on her arms.
“YES!” It was almost too much, too good.
“You’re gonna give it up for me again too. Give me everything I want, aren’t you?”
Sam’s other hand left the small of her back and tangled in her hair. He pulled her into a standing position as he continued to fuck up into her. The new angle was sharper, more intense; the length of him stabbing into her at raw angles, forcing pleasure-pain whimpers out her. Pulling her head to the side he bit into her throat, working over his mark. Jo let out a startled yell. Fuck, this was going to be the mother of all hickies. She realized then, that was what he wanted; to mark her visibly. Leave her with a sign of possession, letting her and everyone else know that he could own her. The thought made her shudder as a small orgasm crashed through her, making the world white-out for a moment.
“Fuck!” Sam released her throat and threw his own head back growling, his hips stuttering in their rhythm. “You’re gonna let me do anything I want because for now, you are mine, every part of you. I’m gonna come wherever I want. Even if I want to stay in this nice, hot pussy; you’re gonna let me. I’ll bend you back over and come inside you, fill your pussy full.” Sam’s teeth closed lightly on the shell of her ear.
“Jesus Fuck.” His low chuckle sent a hot wind down her neck. “Anything, just please, don’t stop.”
Sam shoved her back down, still holding her hands captive behind her. His hand dropped her hair and curled hard around her hip as he lengthened his strokes, bottoming out with every thrust. She desperately wanted another sensation. To bite down on something, grab hold of something, thrash; but there was nothing she could do. Her hands were trapped, he was out of reach of her mouth and the only struggling she could do was to move her hips. She stopped begging but she couldn’t be quiet either. She couldn’t think past the sensation. Sounds were coming from her with words and fragments falling out because she couldn’t quite get the feeling into words and couldn’t stop the sounds from coming. “Christ! OH, God, I- oh. Fuck!” Sam filling her, her tits jolting, the back bar of the couch grinding against her clit with every thrust, even her inability to move added to it. She realized she was on the edge again already. “God, Sam! Close, so close, I just- almost.”
His rhythm faltered as he shuddered, “Beg me for it.” It was more like a growl than words. The command tightened her around him even more.
“Shit! Please, Sammy, Jesus, please. I- ohgod, Please Sam, please. Want it, need you.” She couldn’t make any more words, she was too close. Sam felt every word she had said and pounded into her as hard and fast as he could. She felt him lose control and it was enough. She came, screaming one ragged scream after another.
Sam dropped her hands and grabbed her hips tightly, holding her still as he slammed into her. The suddenness of his movements changed her screams and she braced herself against the couch. It was starting to be more pain than pleasure, which tightened her as much as she could. He faltered, crying out himself and emptied into her. A few more deep thrusts and he finished. Shaking, Sam leaned over and placed a strangely gentle kiss on her spine. Almost reluctantly, he slid out of her, leaving her empty and quivering, gasping at the sudden loss. He picked her up and carried her around to the front of the couch before dropping both of them on it and laying them down. She stared at the ceiling, sprawled on top of Sam, trying to relearn how to breathe, how to think. Another groan caught Jo’s attention. She looked up and into Dean’s face. He filled the doorway, where he had obviously been for some time, his hand quickly working his own cock. Her eyes traveled down in time to see his final spurt and the shudder that racked his body. She briefly wondered what part had affected him the most, her or Sam, but just at that moment, she couldn’t bring herself to care.
Of course Dean was there. She’d screamed loud enough that, had there been neighbors, they would have called the cops. He saw her watching him and dropped his eyes. She was surprised to find that he was embarrassed and maybe a little ashamed. Embarrassed at being caught; ashamed of enjoying it. He would have run if she hadn’t managed to call out to him first, “Dean, wait.”
It stopped him from leaving, but he didn’t offer any other response. He stood there, shoulders hunched, waiting for her to freak out and call him a pervert; it was written plainly on his face, he was expecting a fight. She was happy to find that her mind and motor skills weren’t completely shot and held her arms out, beckoning him to her. Sam shifted her more comfortably against him and she could feel his heart hammering against her back. Sam was afraid, too, watching his brother walk slowly toward them. So much could change, would change and it all depended on her. On what she did next, how she handled this little bit of voyeurism. Dean stopped next to the couch, looking past her to Sam, trying to find a clue in his brother’s face. Jo grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him down, on top of her and Sam. “I’ve wanted you since I met you,” she whispered, “I don’t think I can stop.” She laid a gentle kiss on his neck and felt the tension flow out of him when he realized this wasn’t headed toward a fight. He snaked his arms under Sam, holding them all more tightly together. She almost couldn’t breathe for all the pressure and weight against her, but she didn’t care about that either. Surrounded by warm bodies, she felt safe and right. She turned her face to Dean, dragging her lips across his stubbled jaw as she sought his mouth. The kiss was careful. More a brushing of lips, a gentle promise, than anything passionate. She heard Sam’s breath hitch beneath her and then both boys ground into her. The way they mirrored each other was too much; her body clenched in anticipation and protested in pain. A moan escaped her and immediately the arms loosened and Dean started to pull away. She locked her arms around him to keep him from fleeing. “I’m not saying ‘no’ Dean.”
Dean finally met her eyes. Jo glanced back at Sam before answering Dean’s unspoken question, “I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into and I don’t think my body could take anymore right now or I won’t be able to walk.” She kissed him again, nipping lightly at his lips, “But I do want this, I want you.”
Dean smiled at her, his eyes crinkling with dark humor. She’d always loved that smile. Mischievous and charming at the same time. “I could carry you?” he offered.
She laughed softly. Jo was mostly sure he was joking. “No. No. I think what I need now is food and a nap… or maybe coffee and aspirin.” Laughter rumbled through her body in stereo. Dean lifted off her slowly and this time she let him, trying not to wince when the weight disappeared. He kept smiling at her as he shifted himself and closed his pants. Which, she was sad to say, had been distracting her. Now if she could just get off of Sam gracefully.
To her surprise Dean lifted her up and cradled her in his arms, tucked carefully against his chest. “I said I’d carry you.” He gave Sam a moment to compose himself and carried Jo downstairs. Sam stood at Dean’s side as he laid Jo on her bed. “We’ll go get some breakfast and coffee and aspirin. You just lay here and rest.” They pulled on their boots and jackets and Sam stoked the fire while Dean placed a kiss on Jo’s forehead. His grin reminded her of the Cheshire Cat. “Then it’s my turn.” She could feel his gaze slide over her still mostly naked body before returning to her eyes. “Rest well, Jo.”
When the door closed behind them her whole body shuddered. What had she gotten herself into? Her endorphin high was fading, leaving her pained and exhausted. She drew the sheet over her, grateful for the warmth of the fire on her sweat chilled body. Despite the excited nervousness fluttering her stomach she dropped off to sleep quickly, slipping into dreams of hard bodies, hot mouths and too many hands.
Dean slid behind the wheel in a daze. His whole body was flushed with want. He’d played his part and done what he does best; be cocky and charming as hell. Now he was mildly confused as to how he’d gotten to that point. He did try, futilely, to gather his thoughts as Sam folded into the seat next to him. “Sammy, what the hell just happened?”
Sam scoffed, “Which part?”
“All of it, man. First she’s mad because I saw her changing and now she wants to fuck? And dude, why did I just walk in on you and Jo?”
“Yeah, about that… How mad are you that I did that, anyway?”
“I don’t even know yet. That’s just not you, you don’t fuck other people.”
“Start driving and I’ll explain on our way.”
Dean looked at him.
“I’d really feel better if you’re busy driving while I tell you this, because you’re not going to like it.”
“Start like that and I already don’t like it.” Dean stared at Sam a moment more before he sighed and started the car. The low thunder of the engine soothed him a little. He revved it twice just to hear her purr before he put her into gear and stared down the long driveway. “I’m waiting, Sam.”
“So, when, exactly did you walk in?”
“The first time she screamed, when you were chewing on her neck. Seriously, dude, I think you have a fetish.”
“More than one, but that’s not the point.”
“Then what is?”
“Jo knows, Dean.”
Dean’s heart faltered. “Knows what?” Please let me be wrong.
“Knows about us. Being together.”
The flush in Dean’s body vanished because his blood froze. “Oh, Jesus, no. I told you! I told you she would wake up.”
“Dean, it’s ok. She’s ok with it. More than ok with it, actually.” A flush of red highlighted Sam’s cheeks.
“Are you blushing? I just caught you banging her six ways from Sunday and now you’re blushing?!” Dean couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice. She knew their secret, THE secret.
“Well, we were kind of fucking because she knows. Dean, it wasn’t just last night. She heard us the other night too. She went upstairs and stood at the door and listened to us have sex.”
Dean’s brows drew together, “And she’s really ok with it?”
Sam’s laughter seared the air, “Last night, the second we were outta sight, she couldn’t keep her hands off herself. And you should have seen her in that room today. She was so horny, I could almost smell it. So I confronted her, sort of.”
“And you saw most of what happened after that.”
The flush began to come back. Dean shifted in his seat, trying to ease the fact that his pants were shrinking. He forced the picture that statement brought out of his mind and glanced at Sam. “That doesn’t answer why you fucked her. You’ve never shown any interest in her before.”
“Because we need her. We can’t keep doing this.”
“Us! The way we’ve been with each other since…” Since you died, since you came back…. “We can’t do us like this anymore, not by ourselves. We’ve changed. Neither one of us is the man we used to be and neither one of us wants to admit it. I love you and I always will, but we aren’t enough for each other anymore.”
Dean felt like Sam had taken a bat to his chest. Don’t leave me. “What are you suggesting that we just recruit Jo? And how are you picturing that’s going to go: Hey Jo, wanna stick around for a while and save our gay incestuous relationship? Come on, man.” Dean made sure his voice was angry, each word dripping with derision.
But Sam didn’t rise to his taunting. Sam’s voice was even and serious when he said, “Maybe Jo can make it work for the three of us. We need someone as stubborn as we are who cares about us. Besides,” Sam smiled sadly at him, “you love her. I’m not the only one in your heart anymore, Dean.”
Dean kept his eyes on the road and didn’t say anything. He couldn’t say anything. He’d never been able to lie to Sam and that’s exactly what a denial would be.
“It’s ok. I’ve known for a while. You’ve loved her almost since we met her. I don’t blame you, she’s worthy of it.”
“How do you figure that? I’ve never hit on her, not seriously. I’ve never slept with her-”
“That’s why. I know you. Every woman that you’ve ever wanted, you’d tell me. And I’d send you after them because I knew you didn’t love them. It didn’t bother me because I knew it was just sex, just like when I would find one. But Jo… You wanted her, but you never made a move. You wouldn’t go after her. You never came to talk to me, because you knew it would be too much, too real. You knew that then it would be cheating.”
“Sammy-” Dean didn’t know what to say. Sam was right, he loved Jo. He loved that she was such a hard-ass and still so naïve. She knew about hunting and was good at it. She knew as well as he did how bad the world really was. She knew cars, she knew music, she was beautiful and, God, that temper. She’d lose it and all he could see was an angry kitten. Ok, well, maybe an angry tiger. Jo could be dangerous. He couldn’t lie to himself, he did love her. But Sam… Sam was his everything. Since the night of the fire, Dean’s every thought, action and choice had revolved around Sam. Taking care of Sam, protecting Sam, loving him. Sam was the center of Dean’s universe. He literally had been to Hell and back for Sam. Nothing could ever replace that; no one could ever come close. But he couldn’t deny that he loved them both. Between the two of them, Dean thought that he might be able to be whole. He’d known that he’d never be able to have that, though. No one would ever accept him and his brother or understand them. Hell, he didn’t even understand them. So, as always, he’d chosen Sam. He’d thought his feelings for Jo had been a secret.
“She loves you too, Dean. You’re both just too chicken-shit to tell the other.”
“Yeah? What about you, Sam? Does she love you?”
“I’m not sure. I know she cares about me, but love? Doesn’t matter though. You need her. WE need her. She keeps us balanced, or shoves us around when we’re not. You saw her the other day, she didn’t hesitate to jump right between us and put us both in our place. I feel like shit that she got hurt, but you know we’ll both be more careful because we’ll be afraid of hurting her. ‘Don’t hit human girls’ is too far ingrained. We’re family, we’ve been beating each other our whole lives.”
Dean smiled, “You mean I’ve been beating you.”
“Keep lying to yourself, Dean.”
Sam put his hand over top of Dean’s. “Please trust me?” Dean sighed heavily and gave a curt nod. He was worried about this. He trusted Sam but this could go wrong in so many ways. He didn’t like the fact that Sam was right. They loved each other, but they didn’t seem to be on the same page anymore. Sometimes Dean wondered if they were even in the same book. He looked at Sam’s hand, resting so easily on top of his. He knew this was not normal. They shouldn’t love each other as much as they did and definitely not the way they did, but he could no more give up Sammy than he could breathing. Fuck other people and what they thought, anyway. It had been eight years since they had crossed that line. He still loved Sammy unconditionally and he still reacted to every touch. But lately, they had been different. He knew his trip to Hell had changed him. He knew what kind of a person he really was now and he could never share that with Sam. He didn’t deserve Sam. Jo either, for that matter. And they sure as hell deserved someone better than him, a world-class fuckup. He’d earned his corner of Hell and all the nightmares that stalked him. Dean’s trip to Hell and changed Sam too. He was harsher, more dangerous. It was as if that part of Sam that had always managed to stay shiny and new had finally been ripped away. Dean would sell his soul again to get that part back. He intertwined his fingers with Sam’s. He hoped Sam was right, that Jo could love them both and accept them wholly. He hated himself for being selfish and weak, but most of all, he hoped she could fix them.