Author: Philomena Guinea dark_roast
Summary: Jo meets her after-hours bar patrons. AU, as is the original.
Rating: R, for brief bad language and sexual references
Spoilers: Through 2x14, Born Under a Bad Sign
Title, Author and URL of original story: Jo, by soundingsea, at Soundingsea.org
The only monster here was supposed to be at the bottom of the lake, and Jo was pretty sure that was for the benefit of tourists lost on the way to Wisconsin Dells. She hadn't taken the job at Winnebago Craft Brewery to hunt, anyhow. She wasn't much for hunting lake monsters at all. A girl ought to know her limits. Jo learned that the hard way.
She counted herself lucky to be well rid of the Winchester boys, and she knew that wasn't a lie. All the same... Dean.
Her habit now was to push a stray thought of Dean out of her head as fast as she could. But, the fact that she still thought about him, and that she still had to push him out... that was depressing.
On her first night working the bar, Mike the owner told her, "Don't forget to restock the cooler, don't forget to wipe out the speed rack, and don't forget to tip the gentlemen."
Jo understood the first two things, but the third one earned Mike a blank stare. Mike laughed. He was a large, smiling guy with a round face and a bristling beard that had grown in redder than his brown hair. He scooped up a shot glass and set it on the bar.
"Scotch," he said. "They do like beer, but beer goes flat."
"Who are they?" Jo said.
"The little men," Mike said.
Jo knew he was yanking her chain. "Fairies."
"Brownies," Mike clarified. "They help out around the brewery, they bring us luck, and you really can't make decent beer without them. Ask anybody."
"Uh-huh," Jo said.
Mike nodded, as if Jo had agreed with him. "Just remember. Tip the gentlemen. They like single-malt."
Jo did what Mike told her to do. She didn't mind closing and cleaning up. She'd done it for years at her mom's roadhouse. Every night, she poured a shot of scotch and left the shot glass on the bar. In the morning, maybe it was gone. She didn't know; she didn't work mornings. She figured Mike drank the scotches. He and the bar-backs were having a good laugh at the newbie's expense. Jo didn't mind. The pay was decent, and her little rented room was clean and safe. She poured the shot at the end of every shift, and she waited for the night Mike would finally tell her, Okay, stop. We were just kidding.
Mike never did.
Jo had been working at the Winnebago Craft Brewery almost three months, when she met the gentlemen.
About half an hour after closing, Jo was doing one of her least favorite clean-up chores: sweeping the floor. Even that wasn't so horrible. The Winnebago Bar was bigger than Harvelle's Roadhouse, but the Winnebago's clientele tracked in mostly dirt, and they didn't drop anything weirder out of their pockets than the occasional quarter. Jo only needed to mop about once a week.
She stopped pushing the big janitor brook, and stood resting with her hands braced on the top of the handle. When she glanced over at the bar, there was a small, hairy brown creature sitting on the edge of the bar, swinging its legs and watching her. It, or rather he, was buck naked.
He banged the empty shot glass on the bar. "Bar-wench!" His voice was a surprisingly deep. "How about a refill?"
Jo blinked at him. Nobody ever specifically told her that brownies didn't exist. But, she'd never run across one, and no one she knew or talked to had ever mentioned one.
"You simple?" the brownie demanded.
Jo found her voice. "I thought... you're not supposed to show yourself?"
The brownie looked scornful. "We choose not to show ourselves, until we choose to show ourselves. And then we only show ourselves to the fortunate few who deserve the honor of seeing us. The least you could do is get me another drink."
Jo propped her broom against the wall. "Coming up."
She walked around behind the bar, took the brownie's empty glass, and took the bottle of single malt from the high shelf. She tipped him another shot. As slid his glass across the bar, she saw she had two more customers. She poured two more shots. No sense pissing off the little gentlemen. She worked here, after all.
She said, "So, I have to ask the obvious question..."
The brownie in the middle, the one she'd seen first, tapped his chest and said, "I'm Angus." He pointed left. "That's Fergus." Pointed right. "And that's Mingus."
"I thought I was supposed to guess your names," Jo said. "Or catch you by the toe, or something."
"For a Hunter, you're sort of an idiot," said Angus. "Anybody ever tell you that?"
"We're not flippin' leprechauns," Fergus agreed. His voice was raspy. A thin, pale scar squiggled across his throat. "We're the little gentlemen."
Mingus poked a finger up his nose and started excavating.
Jo asked the question she'd meant to ask originally, "To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"
Angus bunched his tiny fists on top the bar. "Peaches, we did a lot of arguing about whether or not to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"It's the rare human who sees us at all, and the even rarer human who doesn't fuck it up afterward, and force us to find a new home. There are rules, understand? You can't ever tell anyone you saw us."
"I promise," said Jo. That wouldn't be too difficult. Nobody would believe her. Except maybe mike. Jo wondered if Mike had seen the gentlemen himself. He wouldn't be able to tell her that, of course. Not directly.
Angus continued, "Secondly, you mustn't never, ever thank us. Ever."
Mingus pulled his finger out of his nose with a small but distinct pop. "Fifth, how about some beer nuts?"
Jo tried her best to ignore Mingus wiping his finger on his chest hair.
"What made you decide to talk to me?" she asked, as she opened the cupboard under the bar, and retrieved the big plastic jug of peanuts. She poured a bowl full.
"Well, you're hot," Fergus said. "I'd like to get my pegger up in there. You got gorgeous ears."
Jo clapped her free hand over her ear, and the bowl of peanuts clattered to the bar.
Mingus said, "I'm more of a navel man myself."
"Get to the point," Jo said. "Or I'll express my gratitude to you in no uncertain terms."
Angus waved both hands at her irritably. "Fine, fine!"
But Fergus piped up scratchily, "Oh, and don't ever give us clothing. Very important."
"I'm comfortable with my body image," Mingus said.
Jo got a fourth shot glass, and poured herself a drink.
Angus said, "Mingus is a little simple when it comes to the here and now, but when it comes to the future, he's never wrong. He saw some bad shit coming your way very soon."
"A monster with a friendly face," Mingus said.
"That's it?" Jo said.
He shrugged, looking apologetic.
"It's okay," Jo said, then she smiled at him. "Is it a lake monster?"
Mingus shook his head. "That'd be a monster in the shape of a monster. Unless you made friends with it." He scratched his wiry hair, then examined his fingernails. "No. That would be a friend in the shape of a monster."
"Wait a second," Jo said. "The lake monster's real?"
"No," Fergus said, a bit too quickly.
"Just watch yourself," Angus told her. "We enjoy looking at your ass. And you got pretty hair."
"It would make us uncomfortable if we were looking at you like that while you're dead," Fergus added.
"I see." Jo caught herself before she said thank you. "I'll be careful."
She didn't add that she had no friends in Wisconsin. Only her co-workers and the regulars at the bar. That was on purpose. She needed to be away from her mother and everything related to Hunters for a little while.
Angus nodded, as if satisfied. "You won't see us again."
"Unless you try killing the lake monster," Mingus said.
Angus closed his eyes in frustration.
Fergus downed the last of his scotch, then leaned forward and told Jo in a low and confidential tone, "It keeps the trout population down. They're not even supposed to live in that lake. They were all stocked artificially, and they've got no other predators. Completely messes up the ecosystem."
"I'll keep it in mind," Jo said. "Anybody for a top-up?"
She lifted the scotch bottle off the side of the bar, and when she looked back, she was all alone. Her broom was gone. When she walked around to the other side of the bar, she saw the scuffed hardwood floor shining clean, as if it had just been waxed and buffed. Morning light seeped between the slats of the venetian blinds.
Jo's gaze flew up to the neon Sam Adams clock over the bar. Eleven forty-five. In the morning. She'd heard stories about time passing faster while you were in fairyland, but you were supposed to step through a ring of mushrooms under a full moon first.
Her shift was definitely over now, and it all her cleanup chores were done. Standing on tiptoe, she set the bottle of scotch back on the high shelf, then she carried the four empty shot glasses into the back.
The brewery was right past the bar kitchen, and Jo inhaled the citrus scent of Cascade hops as she set the empty shot glasses on the steel sink, next to a plastic carrying crate full of beer mugs with dried foam crusted up the sides.
There was a tap on the outside door of the brewery. The brewery sold growlers on-site, and it was just about noon. Almost time to open. Jo had been awake all night, (apparently) -- but she wasn't tired at all. She walked through the brewery, unbolted the scarred wooden door, and pushed it open.
Darkness against the sunlight in the doorway resolved into Sam Winchester. Nice to see a friendly face. But, Sam's all-black eyes told Jo another story, as did his hand on her arm, gripping her tight.