Spoilers: Dawn is the key
Warnings: Sunblock is your friend. Especially if you’re Danish and live in
About a story: I wrote this around the end of June (2008,) but between losing my beloved Beta to her SHareCon and zine publishing, my SummerGen assignments, and whatnot, it kind of got lost for a while. Now it’s found.
Ellen’s hand hovers over the phone. She knows she has to make this call. She can’t take the chance of Jo hearing this from someone else. But dear Lord, she’d give just about anything to not have to do it, for it to not be necessary.
This is hardly the first time the Lord hasn’t given a whit about her prayers, though, and Ellen’s never been one to shirk an unpleasant duty, so she makes herself pick up the phone and dial Jo’s number.
“Mama?” Jo sounds wary, like she’s expecting a lecture or a summons home. “What is it?”
“Jo, honey, where are you?”
“I’m working a case, Mama. What is it?”
“Honey, I need to see you. There’s something—” Ellen stops, closes her eyes and takes a deep steadying breath. “Jo, sweetheart, there’s something I need to tell you in person.”
“Mama, just tell me what it is.” Jo’s trying hard for exasperated, wants to sound grown-up and sure of herself in the face of whatever her mama’s calling her for, but Ellen can hear the fear in her voice. “I don’t need you to baby me.”
“Joanna Beth, just tell me where you are!”
“Fine, I’m in
“I’ll call you back in a few minutes, let you know when my plane will get in.”
She’s about to hang up when Jo’s voice comes back to her, soft and hesitant, like it hasn’t been since she was a little girl. “Is it bad, Mama?”
“Yes, baby, I’m afraid it is.”
* * *
Ellen sees her the moment she steps off the escalator, hovering anxiously next the baggage carousel. There’s a moment’s hesitation, a flicker of insecurity across Jo’s face as she tries to convince herself that she’s not afraid of whatever news her mother’s come to deliver, but Ellen can see Jo can’t even convince herself of that. Next second she’s launching herself into her mother’s arms.
“Oh, Jo, sweetie.” Ellen hugs her close, clinging just as tightly to her baby girl as Jo does to her. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“What is it, Mama? What happened?”
“Not here, baby.” Ellen can’t help reaching out and smoothing Jo’s bright hair away from her face, even though she knows how Jo hates it, has since she was a tiny thing who had decided she didn’t want her mama to baby her. “Let’s get out of here and find some place we can talk in private.”
“Are you sick?” Jo’s voice is tight with worry and instead of pulling away she clings tighter than before.
“No, baby, it’s not me. I’m fine. I promise.”
When Jo finally breaks the embrace, her eyes are bright with unshed tears. “Someone’s dead, aren’t they?”
“Jo, please. Let’s just—”
“Just tell me, Mama. Just tell me who it is.”
“Jo, it’s—” Ellen’s voice sticks in her throat and she just can’t bring herself to break her daughter’s heart in this crowded, noisy airport. “Jo—”
“Mama.” She’s still scared, Ellen can see it in those big brown eyes she got from her daddy, but that damn stubborn streak she inherited from her mama is kicking in, and Ellen knows that as much as she wants to avoid a public scene, there’s just no way Jo’s budging from this spot without the truth.
“It’s Dean, baby. He’s dead.”
“What? No.” Jo takes a quick, unsteady step backward. “No. That’s wrong. He’s not—he can’t—” She’s shaking her head and continuing to move away from Ellen, like distance can somehow change the truth of it. “No. Whoever told you that they were wrong, Mama. They were just—Who told you? Who would say something like that?”
“Honey, it was Bobby that called me. He was with Dean and Sam when it—“
“He’s wrong.” Jo’s clutching at her middle now, folding in on herself like she hasn’t since the day Ellen had to tell her that her daddy wasn’t coming home. “He has to be.”
“I’m sorry, Jo, baby. I’m so sorry.” Ellen approaches her daughter slowly, like the wounded animal she is. “I know how much you cared for him.”
Jo’s shaking now, tears streaming down her face, and part of Ellen wants to resurrect Dean Winchester just so she can kill him herself for putting her baby through this. The rest of her just wants to curl up next to Jo and cry with her.
“I don’t—I can’t—“ Jo’s sobbing now, not caring about all the people looking at her. “I didn’t want to—I tried not to—not to—“
“I know, sweetheart, I do.” Ellen’s got an arm wrapped around her shoulder as she leads Jo out of the airport. “Let’s get out of here and back to your room.”
* * *
Jo’s quiet through most of the drive back to her motel room, curling up in the passenger seat and staring blankly out the window.
“Did they get it?”
“Get what, baby?” Ellen stops just inside the doorway and says a quick prayer that Jo’s not asking what she thinks. It was hard enough to deliver the news, she doesn’t want to have to tell Jo how and why Dean died.
“The thing that killed him. Did Bobby and Sam get it?”
“Jo, please, can we just not talk about this anymore toni—“
“They didn’t get it?” Jo sounds angry now, on top of her grief, ready to jump back in the car and go after whatever it is.
“There wasn’t—they couldn’t—” Ellen turns and pulls Jo into another tight hug. “It was a hell hound. There wasn’t anything they could do about it.”
“A hell hound? I don’t—“ Jo tries to pull away, but it’s Ellen who clings tighter this time. “That doesn’t—that can’t—Hell hounds only come for people who make deals. Dean would never—he wouldn’t. Not after his father....”
“He did it for Sam.” Ellen can feel Jo jerk in her arms, but doesn’t let go. “Last year, when Sam went missing and the Devil’s Gate got opened, I didn’t tell you everything. Didn’t know it all myself until later. Sam was killed, stabbed in the back by one of the other psychic kids. Dean, he just—you know how he feels about Sam, thinks it’s his job to keep Sam safe. Dean went to the nearest Crossroads and made a deal to get Sam back.”
“Sam!” Jo hisses, yanking herself out of her mother’s arm, eyes narrowed and angry. “He did it for Sam?”
“Jo?” Ellen reaches for her again, but Jo backs away, her hands clenched into tight fists.
“He died for Sam! After Sam shot him and killed Steve Wandell and—”
“Jo, stop it! That wasn’t Sam’s fault. You know that.” Ellen manages to grab onto one her arms and tries to reel Jo back into her. “He was possessed.”
“God! Why does everyone always make excuses for him!”
“Now, you stop that right now, Joanna Beth!” Ellen replies sternly, stepping up closer to her daughter. “I know how much Dean meant to you and I know you’re hurting, but this is not Sam’s fault. He didn’t ask his brother to do this. He’s spent the whole last year trying anything he could think of to get Dean out of this. And I guarantee you, no matter how bad or how hurt you’re feeling right now, Sam’s feeling a hundred times worse.”
She finally gets her arms back around Jo. “I know it hurts, baby, I do. My heart is breaking for both those boys right now. But we have to think about what Dean would want. And the last thing he’d want is for anyone to blame Sam, or for us to tear ourselves apart over it.”
“Oh, Mama.” Jo collapses into her arms once more and Ellen leads her over to the bed, sinking gratefully into what support it gives. As Jo cries herself out in the comfort of her mother’s arms, Ellen can’t help thinking of Sam and wondering if there’s anyone to hold him tonight, to listen as he cries for the brother that was the only family he had left in this life.
* * *