Summary: Even the past she could once conjure up, the one where she has a mom who smiles and a dad who comes home in a whirlwind of leather and gun oil, recedes into hazy memory.
Pairing: Sam Winchester/Jo Harvelle, Sam Winchester/Dean Winchester
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Spoilers through 4x16 to be safe, but set in and after a Season 3 that wasn't.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Three Answers by rivkat
Thanks: to spiralleds & entrenous88 for beta-reading.
Three Kisses Jo Never Saw Coming (World Enough and Time Remix)
August blows into the Midwest with heavy green clouds and stifling heat. The air in the Impala hasn't worked right for months, but they haven't had time between hunts to visit Bobby. Car repairs are on that unwritten list of things Sam and Jo don't talk about, when they talk at all. Other non-topics include the box of tapes Sam looks at but never plays, the leather jacket that's too narrow for his shoulders but sits untouched on the back seat, and Jo still being here.
Too many weeks since their last stop at the rebuilt Roadhouse, but the other hunters give Sam a wide berth and Jo doesn't want to drive her mom's customers away yet. She's going to have to go home soon enough. So they park at rest stops or check into flea traps. Sam's been driving on auto-pilot since Nebraska, and it's been almost as many weeks since he's spoken an unnecessary word.
Tonight's no-tell motel is no worse than most, but some event at the VFW's got all the two-bed rooms booked up. Sam hunches over on his side of what this dump is calling a king bed, the curve of his back speaking volumes he never says aloud. Jo can't take the silence any more. Even the vitriol he spewed in Duluth would be preferable.
"I miss Dean too, you know," she says, because she can't think of anything less awkward. She can't say he asked me to take care of you, and bartered his last months to me so I would. She definitely can't add and I'm late, because that's not a conversation she's ready to have.
Sam turns to face her, eyes suspiciously bright. Instead of answering in words, he reaches for her with hands and lips. She kisses him and tastes the last echoes of his brother.
The tilting headstone reads Wm. A. and something illegible, followed by Beloved Father. Jo pretends the date of death reads 1995 instead of 1880. No such marker exists for her dad; driving a body down the interstate isn't the hunter's way. A guy like John Winchester hands a pocket knife to the grieving wife and kid, telling a story that ends in a clean fire. Jo gets that now.
She uses that knife to scrape some graveyard dirt into a baggie holding cat bones and her old grade-school ID. The girl in the picture still has a dad, and will forever. The girl driving out of the graveyard, though, has only a mom left, and not even that for much longer if the doctors are right.
The past is a foreign country, Jo remembers reading in high school. Even the past she could once conjure up, the one where she has a mom who smiles and a dad who comes home in a whirlwind of leather and gun oil, recedes into hazy memory. All she has is now.
There's a hush in the air when she digs at the crossroads, like this is a sacred space. She buries the plastic bag and waits. The night air is cool, but that's not why she shivers.
"If you're here for those Winchester boys, they're beyond my reach."
Jo whirls, finds herself inches from a dark-haired woman in an evening gown and high heels that make no sense on this gravel road. Jo tries not to blink, tries to keep her eyes from widening. She knows demons can taste fear.
"No, not them," she says with fleeting regret. Dean's time was up months back, and Sam walks a dark path Jo can't follow, one of blood and vengeance. "It's my mom."
"Ten years more with your mom," the demon agrees. "And she'll never know why she went into remission." She looks Jo up and down, arching one perfect eyebrow. "You can even leave her with grandkids to take care of her, if you give up hunting and find a man."
Jo ignores the barb and steps forward until she can smell the demon's perfume, incense-sweet, and hear the beating of the demon's heart -- no, the heart of the woman whose body the demon's stolen, a woman who may be still alive in there. Jo doesn't fight the tongue darting into her mouth or the breasts pressed against hers. A deal's a deal.
The kiss tastes of lipstick and graveyard dust.
Jo sometimes wonders if Sam came back from the dead not quite the same. He's still quiet, still introspective, but the odd glint in his eye reminds her of that time he wasn't Sam at all.
But Dean's bluster and charm nearly banish such doubts. In the glint of new sun, in the sheen of sweat, he and his brother help put the finishing touches on the Roadhouse her mom won't let go. Dean claims to have worked construction, and that's apparently not all talk. There's competence to back up Dean's words, and what Sam lacks in experience he makes up in effort.
Dean ribs Sam about his oversized monkey-arms and they move on to reminiscing about vanquished evils past. They both end up laughing like happy-go-lucky kids, like everything's okay, even with Dean's expiration date looming. All this teasing and banter; she's never seen them quite like this. It's... nice.
By afternoon, Sam's calling first shower and heading for the crash space Mom keeps for hunters she trusts. Dean stays behind, and the cheer is gone. His desperation for Sam's safety fills the space between him and Jo with tension. He wants a promise from her that she'll stay with Sam when he's gone. There's an implicit offer there, but she doesn't want it to be a pity fuck for either of them. She gives him the assurance he craves before sending him to his brother.
Her mom reminds her they'll need towels, so Jo grabs a stack, freshly-laundered and not too threadbare. She rounds the corner leading to the guest room, and finds the door standing ajar. She watches, fascinated, as Dean strips off his shirt and drops it to the floor, exposing sweat-slick skin. The bathroom door opens, and Sam emerges. The towel he would probably be wearing is still folded in her hands. This does not seem, to Jo, to be an entirely bad thing.
Before she can figure out a gracious way to announce her presence, Dean and Sam draw close together, and then closer still. Dean strokes Sam's chest with fingertips splayed wide. Sam's head tilts, hair falling in his eyes, but not before Jo sees how he's looking at Dean. And then... oh, hell. Jo sets the towels on the floor inside, then quietly takes her leave. That kiss doesn't look like it has room for three.
The brothers Winchester have neither world enough nor time; she hopes what they have is sufficient.