author: victoria p. [musesfool]
summary: Sarah hasn't felt safe since she met Sam Winchester and he turned the universe upside down.
characters: Sarah Blake, Jo Harvelle
original story: Hair of the Dog by dark_roast
notes: thanks to mousapelli for looking it over.
Wake Up a Little Bit Braver (Duet for Beginners)
Sarah is pulling out of the driveway as her father pulls in, her night starting as his work day ends. He purses his lips, and she can feel his disapproval. It's not safe, he says, every time she leaves, and thank God, every time she comes back. She's told him not to wait up, but he's not one to listen to anything anyone else has to say once he's made his mind up.
Like father, like daughter, her mother used to say.
Safe. Sarah laughs. She hasn't felt safe since the Telescas died. Since she met Sam Winchester and he turned the universe upside down.
Sam keeps in touch for a while , which is more than she'd expected; she opens her inbox to short, funny emails describing something he's seen that day, and she responds in kind, telling him about feuding families selling off their heirlooms or pretentious hipsters trawling for kitschy antiques. She slides in questions, though--how can you tell if an object is cursed? what should you do if it is?--and records his answers--usually a terse, let the professionals handle it, but sometimes he lets things slip--in a brand new Moleskine she bought for the purpose.
She spends a lot of time on the internet, trying to separate truth from fiction. When she hits something that looks real, she'll run it past him, and when she puts him on the spot like that, he answers truthfully.
She saves all his emails, but the ones with hunting tips get stored in a special folder with all her other research. It's amazing what you can find, if you know where to look.
She always reads the obituaries anyway--it's good business, her father says, and she always thought it was morbid--but now she's on the lookout for mysterious circumstances, anomalies, things that don't add up.
She orders an EMF detector off the internet, starts paying attention to flickering lights and fluctuating temperatures. She threads a new chain through her mother's sterling silver cross and starts wearing it around her neck, fingering it ruefully when her father looks at her askance.
He doesn't want to believe her when she tells him the truth, but it's hard to argue with the history of death that followed the painting of Isaiah Merchant's family, especially when he knew both the Telescas and Evelyn.
He shakes his head. "Be careful, Sarah."
"I will," she promises. And she means it.
She still has nightmares about that little ghost girl and her razor, about Evelyn's slit throat and all the blood on the walls. She worries about Sam and his brother, but she worries about herself and her father, too.
The emails from Sam slow to a trickle after he and Dean get arrested in Baltimore. She tells him it doesn't matter--she doesn't care, because she knows the truth--but she also understands that it means a lot worse than a slap on the wrist for grave desecration if he gets caught.
She knows she'll never have more than this with him; even if he comes back, it will only be for a few days, and there's no room in his life for a long-term relationship. She can't be with him, but she can take what he gave her--knowledge, and how to use it--and make the world safer for other people.
She can't think of a way to tell him that without sounding ridiculously sappy or trite, and she's pretty sure he'd tell her it's not safe, but she thinks deep down, he'd like it knowing he's had that effect on her life. She likes to think he'd be proud.
The papers are full of a suicide cluster at SUNY-New Paltz, headlines blaming the school and the parents and the media, but never really looking deep enough for the cause. Sarah wonders, though, enough that she drives over to the campus to have a look around, her EMF meter and a canister of salt tucked into her bag.
She talks to the students, to the girls who knew the girls who killed themselves, to their boyfriends, to the RA, to the counselor in the career center who advised all three. She still has her student ID from Vassar, and it gets her into the library without a problem, where she learns that this isn't the first set of suicides at Capen Hall. And digging further brings her to Mimi Moskowitz, a local girl who'd gone to school there and killed herself in 1976 after a series of romantic misadventures and a sad lack of anti-depressants.
It's like researching the provenance of a painting or piece of jewelry, and she's been doing that since she was old enough to help out at the auction house. She's good at it, enjoys it, even, following the tiny hints and clues to solve the puzzle. And now it's more than just a game or a way to win her father's approval. Now, it can save someone else's life.
She grabs a shovel from the gardening shed, and a pair of gloves to go with it, remembering long afternoons in the garden with her mother, and blistered hands afterward. She's not sure she can actually dig a grave all by herself, but she's going to try. She's got salt and lighter fluid and a box of matches. Hopefully, this is a straightforward case of salting and burning Mimi Moskowitz's bones, and she'll be home by dawn.
She takes a nap and drinks a double espresso before heading out to the cemetery; the caffeine makes her jittery and she feels like she's being followed even though she's the only car on the road.
When she gets to the grave, she's surprised to find someone already digging.
The blonde girl looks her over with something like disbelief. "Did my mother send you?" she says. "Because I've got this covered."
"Your mother?" Sarah says, startled. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You normally wander around cemeteries in the middle of the night with a shovel?" The blonde gives her another once-over. "You don't look like a hunter."
"I--I'm not, really." She tightens her grip on her shovel.
The girl rolls her eyes. "Oh great. Amateur hour."
"I've done this before," Sarah says defensively, but then feels compelled to add, "Well, I watched someone else do it. Once. And it didn't actually work. There was still this creepy doll..." She puts a hand over her mouth and vows not to drink double espressos anymore.
"Since you're here, you might as well dig."
Sarah nods. She pulls on her gloves and puts her back into it. It's even harder than she thought it would be, and she's glad she's got the gloves.
They dig in silence for a few minutes, and then the girl says, "I'm Jo Harvelle."
The silence is friendlier this time, and longer. Sarah wants to ask what brought Jo here, how she knows what to do, why she does it; she wants to tell her own story, or the part of it that's hers to tell, anyway. But soon she's too achy and out of breath to do more than keep digging, pride the only thing keeping her going.
They finally reach the coffin, and Jo splits the rotting wood with the blade of her shovel. Sarah gags at the smell and scrambles out of the grave gracelessly, stumbling and retching.
She hears Jo mutter, "Newbie," but she doesn't care, not while her stomach is trying to turn itself inside out. She feels Mimi before she sees her, chill prickling on her sweaty skin, and she scrabbles for the salt in her bag, rips open the canister and sprays the ghost with it while Jo drops lit matches into the grave.
It isn't any less freaky this time to see the ghost disappear in a puff of flame and smoke, but now she feels like she played a real part in it, in doing something to protect other people from getting hurt. It feels good.
They end up at Denny's, because there isn't a whole lot that's open this late, and over coffee and pancakes, Jo tells her about growing up at the Roadhouse.
"You don't look the type," she says when she's done, and Sarah recognizes the invitation to tell her own story.
She laughs ruefully. "My family owns an auction house," she says. "There was this cursed painting, and the people who bought it kept dying. And then these, uh, hunters showed up and I ended up helping out. Well, tagging along would probably be more accurate."
Jo raises a skeptical eyebrow. "Tagging along?"
"They were hot," Sarah says before she realizes that's probably not the best defense, especially not by the way Jo frowns.
Sarah sits up straight, puts down her mug of coffee. "You know them?" She hates that she sounds so eager, but it's been a few weeks since Sam's last email.
"I know they're a lot of trouble."
That's not encouraging, and there's really no way to ask politely, but Sarah tries. "So are you, uh, involved with--"
"What? No. I wouldn't give Dean the time of day," Jo answers, much too quickly.
Sarah gives a small laugh. "What about Sam?"
"What about Sam? Oh." Jo's eyes widen in realization. "So you and Sam--"
"Not exactly." Sarah shrugs. "I mean, we email occasionally. I mostly ask him about this stuff. Once I knew what was out there--"
Jo nods. "If you need help, give me a call." They exchange phone numbers and email addresses, and then Jo slides out of the booth. "I need to hit the road. Got a line on a black dog in Rhode Island."
"Thanks," Sarah says awkwardly. Thanks for taking me seriously.
"There aren't a lot of women hunters," Jo says. "We've gotta stick together."
Sarah learns to shoot, much to her father's dismay, and she spends a lot of time at the local shooting range, learning to trust the feel of the gun in her hand, her finger on the trigger.
She hasn't heard from Sam in a while, though she gets a terse email from him after the botched bank robbery in Milwaukee. She worries, of course, but at least she doesn't feel completely helpless anymore. She can't protect him, but she knows what to do with salt and iron and silver; she can protect other people, thanks to him. The more she learns, the scarier things get, but she feels stronger now, braver. Like she's making a difference.
Jo's working a job in Duluth, but she promises in her latest email to swing by as soon as she's done there, to check out some of the weird objects Sarah's catalogued for an auction they're holding at the end of the month.
Despite her father's concerned looks and put-upon sighs, Sarah's looking forward to it.