Character/Pairing: Jo/Dean, Sam
Genre: Drama, Action
Summary: Jo and Dean dig deeper into some of the mysterious deaths in the area, hot on the trail of the creature that escaped from Purgatory.
Author's note: Since this was started before season 8 premiered, this is AU after the season 7 finale.
"But maybe tomorrow
you'll wake up to find out
If I'm not good enough for now
I'm good enough to wait for you"
-Good Enough, 8 Stops 7
Jo clearly had access to at least some of her old hunting contacts. Dean was surprised when she produced a pretty damn good fake badge for their investigation. It made things easier, to be certain. He did his fair share as they asked their questions around town, but he had to marvel a little bit at how good she was at this. Sam had always been good with people too. He'd had those puppy dog eyes that made people trust him, made them want to tell him things that they ordinarily wouldn't share with strangers. Jo had a way of getting people to open up too. She had an empathy that hadn't been dulled by the few years she'd spent hunting before her death or by coming back from the dead. She was also just petite enough to seem harmless, even when wielding a badge. That wasn't to say that he agreed with that assessment these days, but he could see why people would underestimate her. He certainly had.
The more they found out, the more questions he had. The victim in question was a college professor. There'd been a lot of whispers about his affairs with students, and Jo had even managed to seek out one of the students in question. The woman had admitted to the affair, but had seemed positively distraught about the professor's death. Which didn't rule out some of the other women that he'd supposedly had affairs with. He wasn't married, so there was no wife in the picture to blame. Never mind that whatever this was wasn't human. The lower half of his body had been literally burnt off. It was a hell of a way to go and Dean couldn't help but grimace a little as they looked over the crime scene photos.
The entire day was also filled with the same dance that they'd started this morning. Dean was almost painfully aware of where Jo was in proximity to him. Each time she came close enough to touch, he had to wonder if she was doing that on purpose. Even if she seemed oblivious. He'd screwed things up all right, but that was for the best. Wasn't it?
They'd just returned to the station to question the local sheriff on a few more things when Dean's phone rang. Specifically, when he recognized Sam's ringtone. He looked over at Jo and the Sheriff.
"Sorry. I need to take this."
Jo smiled up at him and nodded. He thought he caught a hint of understanding in her eyes, so he figured that she probably knew who was on the other end.
"That's fine. I can finish up here."
The Sheriff-a guy who called himself Woody, of all things, didn't seem to broken up about Dean stepping out. Yeah, the oldest Winchester hadn't missed the googly eyes the Sheriff had been giving Jo when they'd first talked to him or now. He looked between the two and almost considered staying and checking his messages afterward. Which was stupid, he knew that. Finally, he exhaled and stepped outside.
"Sammy?" he asked as he answered the phone. He could still see Jo and the sheriff through the window on his office door and he watched as she laughed at some joke or other and touched his wrist. He grimaced and turned away.
"Dean, I found Kevin," Sam said. "He's okay, but he wants to go see his mom."
"Of course he does," Dean said, suddenly very tired. "Okay, where are you? We're finishing up here and I'll meet you somewhere in the middle."
Dean heard the office door open and shut behind him and saw Jo in his peripheral vision. She nodded to him and they both started toward the car. Sam filled him in on their location and they figured out a motel to meet at that would be somewhere in the middle of where they each were and where they needed to go, assuming that they couldn't talk Kevin out of exposing himself by going back home.
He hung up the phone once they got themselves settled in the car and he could feel Jo's eyes on him, questioning. He looked over at her and considered his options.
"If I leave, you're going to keep digging on this, aren't you?"
Jo gave him a hard look and nodded.
"I'm a little old for this 'sit at the kiddie table' shit, Dean. Go ahead and meet Sam. I'll keep digging on my end and I'll tell you if I come up with anything."
He resisted the urge to let out a growl of frustration. He still didn't know what the hell the thing that they were tracking was, but he knew that he didn't want her going after it alone. He'd lost her once, and didn't she realize that he didn't want to repeat that experience?
"Or you could come with me. Sam and I have been looking for this kid Kevin-he's a prophet, and Crowley got his hooks in him. Sam just found him and we could use an extra set of hands to keep him safe. Besides, we can discuss what you already know and try to work through this on the way."
There was a moment of silence as Jo watched him and he thought he could see the internal arguments reflected in her expression.
"Jo. Please," he added, his voice gravelly.
That word seemed to cease whatever hesitation she had. She even gave him a smile.
"Well, I suppose I can't let you and Sam have all the fun."
Jo spent most of the drive shuffling through the case file that she'd put together. Dean still didn't know how or why the deaths might fit together, except for the fact that they were damn weird and all within relatively the same area. There was the eating contest champ who seemed to have been blown up from the inside, yet they couldn't find the cause of that. There was the executive who'd had his hands removed and then had been strangled with his expensive tie. Then there was the teenage stoner who'd gone to sleep and never woken up, with no medical reason.
Four deaths, and besides them all being weird, Dean didn't see the connection. But Jo seemed to have a gut feeling that something was tying them together and he figured that he owed it to her to trust her judgment on this. He'd spent years underestimating her, right up until she'd put herself between him and those hellhounds and faced down death for him.
Jo shuffled through the papers once more.
"Four," she murmured. Then she paused and looked at them once more and then glanced over at Dean. "This is probably a long shot, but what if we're looking at this all wrong? They don't know each other, they're not in the same town. But what if the link has nothing to do with that? What if it's a set."
"A set?" Dean asked, frowning over at her as he turned onto the exit ramp.
"We have lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth. Do you know of anything that might go after people guilty of the seven deadly sins? Is that a thing?"
Dean grunted, trying to remember if he'd seen anything in his dad's journal about that. Not that dad's journal was the be-all, end-all, but even now he still was amazed at how many answers he'd found in there. Bobby would have known, though he dismissed that thought and the stab of pain that came with it.
"I don't know. Could be. And if it's that thing that followed me out of purgatory, there's a chance that it's something no one's seen for who knows how long."
Or there was a chance that this was the first time the creature had ever gotten out of purgatory. He didn't like the implications that they could be dealing with something that had no lore or history to back it up, but whatever the case they would find a way to end it. Dean didn't want anyone else dying just because Jo and Sam had saved him.
He checked in-two rooms, even if his first instinct was to stick together. Truthfully, there was a part of him that didn't want to let her out of his sight at all. Especially since they still didn't know what had brought her back or why.
Once he returned from the front desk and handed Jo her key, he noted the faint look of disappointment on her face. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared, so he figured that he was just imagining things.
"Well, good night Dean. Come get me when Sam gets here, okay?" Jo gave him a small smile and then turned her back. It was only then that Dean realized how much he didn't want to let her go.
"It's not that I wasn't interested," he blurted out. He winced. That wasn't something that he'd meant to say out loud.
Jo turned around and stared up at him, obviously confused. "What?"
Maybe he could have just dismissed it, said it was nothing. He probably should have. No, make that definitely. He definitely should have. And yet, he kept talking.
"It wasn't a lack of interest. Jo, I'd gladly take whatever you were willing to give me. But that's the problem. I'd take and I'd take and eventually you'd end up broken or worse. I don't have anything to offer you or anyone else anymore. I'm not that guy who walked into the Roadhouse all those years ago and... you deserve better. You always did."
Jo didn't say anything right away. She just stared, and the silence was almost excruciating. His first instinct was to just excuse himself and go in his room and close the door. Even months after his return to Purgatory, he still wasn't exactly used to human interactions. Especially not something like this. Finally, she took a step closer.
"It was never your job to decide what I deserved," she said softly. Her brown eyes studied his face and he wasn't sure exactly what he saw there, but it was uncomfortably close to sympathy and understanding. "There's a part of you that didn't come back from Purgatory, isn't there?"
Dean let out a harsh laugh. "There's a part of me that didn't come back from a lot of places, Jo."
She was still in motion, still getting dangerously close. He barely heard the sound of a car pulling up and two doors opening and closing. In fact, he didn't hear anything until Jo shifted her attention away at the sound of a throat clearing somewhere nearby. Dean looked over to see Sam and a weary-looking Kevin standing near a car. Sam at least looked somewhat apologetic and like maybe he was jumping to conclusions that he shouldn't. Jo looked between the three and offered her hand to Kevin.
"Hi, I'm Jo. You must be Kevin." Then she tilted her head toward the motel and looked between the three of them. "And we should probably get inside and talk some things over."
Dean wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or relieved, but it didn't matter really. Jo was right and they did have a lot to talk over. Feeling more lost than ever, he led the way inside for the others. They had a prophet's safety to arrange and a monster to track down. There really was no rest for the wicked, he thought to himself.