liptonrm_fic: (spn jo-noafterglow)
[personal profile] liptonrm_fic
Title: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
Fandom: Supernatural
Disclaimer: Alas, Kripke and the WB own it all. Here’s hoping they picked up on that lesson about sharing right before naptime.
Rating: PG-13 (language, violence, and intense situations)
Spoilers: A sequel to More Than Just a Pretty Face and while this story stands on its own reading the prior story could definitely be helpful. Set during the front half of SPN Season 4 with general plot spoilers for the beginning of the season.
Author’s Note: This, like the vast majority of my work, would not have been possible without [livejournal.com profile] baylorsr and [livejournal.com profile] hiyacynth. They both cheerleaded during the planning stage and beta’d during the editing stage. Their love and enthusiasm made all of this possible.

Summary: Three blonde chicks walk into a bar. It might sound like the beginning of a joke but you’d better watch your back cause these chicks will fuck your shit up.


The bar door slammed shut behind Kat, its force pushing her another step forward. She blinked rapidly, letting her eyes adjust to the smoky dimness after the bright sun of an Austin afternoon. The interior slowly came into focus, the same dinged-up tables and mismatched chairs as nearly every bar she’d trolled through in the past few days, complete with Patsy Cline crooning out of the jukebox. A man sat slouched over at the far end of the bar, his shoulders up around his ears and his hands wrapped around a bottle. The bartender haphazardly polished a glass, his dirty rag only making the smudges worse. Neither man looked up.

She sidled up to the bar. The bartender flicked his eyes over her and then looked away, nothing but dispirited observation in his glance. She knew she looked a wreck; she felt one too. She’d been searching for a long time and she could feel every weary mile as a buzzing exhaustion under her skin. She was grimy and sweaty, Texas taking its own payment out of her hide, and she didn’t even want to think about her hair.

But it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to stop until she found her quarry.

“I’ll have a Bud, please.” Her voice creaked from too much second-hand smoke and too little fresh air.

The bartender grunted in reply and pulled a longneck out of the fridge under the bar. He cracked it open for her and even gave her a napkin. A little Midwestern always got a result.

Kat took a swig, grateful for the cool liquid that bubbled down her throat. She sighed softly and then reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out a battered photo. It had seen better days, the edges worn and the picture creased, but you could still plainly see a young blonde girl with a frozen smile set before a ubiquitous blue backdrop, the same one used on school picture days the country over. She set it down on the bar, careful to avoid a sticky puddle.

“Maybe you can help me out,” she said and used a finger to push the paper closer to the other side of the bar. “I’m looking for someone and the last I heard she was tending bar down here in Austin.”

The bartender picked up the photo and studied it, eyes squinting in concentration. He looked back up at her, a suspicious look in his eye. “What, she owe you money? Or did she steal your boy and you’re looking for a little payback?”

None of which was necessarily a no. Kat smiled bright and hoped her face looked extra convincing. “No, nothing like that. She’s my cousin and she kind of dropped off the radar a couple months ago. My aunt’s been going crazy. We don’t want to hassle her, we just want to make sure she’s okay.” The lie skipped easily from her lips, as well it should after all those hours she’d spent repeating it to herself during the never-ending drive.

But even that story didn’t seem to soften the bartender up any. He hummed and glanced down at the photo. His mouth tightened and his head gave an involuntary negative jerk.

“Here, lemme see.” The drunk from down the bar had meandered over, drawn by the drama of their discussion. He grabbed the photo before the bartender could yank it away.

“Lennie,” the bartender growled, warning in his body’s stiff lines.

“Aw, yeah, that’s Bethie,” Lennie the Drunk blithely declared, completely oblivious to the bartender’s disapproval. He tilted his head and squinted at the photo. “She’s a little older nowadays, but it’s the same girl. I’d bet on it.”

Kat plucked the photo from Lennie’s hand. “That’s wonderful,” she beamed. “Do you know where I can find her?”

Lennie shook his head, his face a caricature of seriousness. “Nah, but she works here. Just ask Mark over there.” His hand flopped in the bartender’s general direction.

Mark looked her up and down again, that same secretive, disapproving mask on his face. “Yeah, she works here.” His mouth tightened even further. “I’m not gonna tell you where she lives, but she’ll be on later tonight. If you wait around you might run into her.”

“Thank you so much,” Kat said, the earnestness ratcheted up to maximum. She grabbed her beer and headed over to a table in the far corner, Mark’s suspicion hot on her neck. She picked a chair with a good view of the bar and settled in for the long haul.

Time passed and the bar filled up with a pretty equal mix of students and after-hours office drones in rumpled suits. One of the nice things about Austin was the lack of cigarette smoke in its bars. Other places hadn’t been as health-conscious. It was a good thing Kat was lucky enough not to have the kind of allergies that had tormented her old roommate. She’d’ve been pretty screwed in the past few months if she hadn’t been able to spend long chunks of time in smoke-filled, nicotine-tinged dives.

Her stomach rumbled but she ignored it. She really didn’t want to have to deal with that bartender again. Plus, she was dangerously low on money. If Jo didn’t turn up to comp her drink she’d be pretty screwed.

She chewed thoughtfully on her pen, her attention divided between the people going in and out of the front door and with the notes spread out on the table in front of her. A good chunk of her time in Austin had been spent kicking her heels, waiting around for someone who wasn’t going to appear, so she’d started picking up random newspapers. It was blind luck that had dropped a really weird set of coincidences in her lap via unrelated articles in different papers. The piece de resistance had appeared in this morning’s Austin Statesman, and while the front page photo of a jumble of charred corpses piled in a field turned her stomach she knew that it proved her theory.

Something was definitely rotten in Denmark, and she was going to do something about it.

A flash of blonde hair by the door pulled her out of her investigation. She looked over, a response borne more from habit than any actual belief that Jo would actually appear. She was running on the dregs of stubborn persistence, actual hope having been abandoned a long way back on the road.

Her eyes tracked that long hair as it bobbed over to the bar. The person was certainly slight enough to be Jo but Kat wasn’t going to make any assumptions, not until she had something more credible to go on. One tackling hug of a total stranger had definitely taught her that lesson.

The figure bent over the bar and talked to Mark, who smiled at first, then frowned. His hands gestured as he told some story and then he pointed straight at Kat’s table. Tension clawed up her chest.

The blonde turned around. It was Jo.

They stared at each across the smoky room, identical looks of shocked recognition stamped across their faces. Kat couldn’t believe it; she was really here. After all of her searching she’d finally found her.

Kat’s mouth began to spread in an ecstatic smile when Jo suddenly turned and rushed out of the bar. The crack of the door slamming shut ricocheted in Kat’s head.

She sat frozen and stunned for a moment, liquid pooling in the corners of her eyes. She’d never imagined that Jo would walk away from her. She swallowed hard around the lump in her throat.

A wave of anger swept through her drowning out any sorrow. Screw that. She hadn’t come this far to not get some freaking answers. In a single movement she shoved the papers on the table back into their folder, grabbed her bag, and stood up. She wouldn’t let Jo get away that easily.

She banged out of the bar. It was dark outside and hot, the day’s heat still radiating out from the concrete and asphalt. Groups of people trickled through the open spaces, their conversations strangely muffled under the weight of the clouds that had crept in since the afternoon. The high-pitched howl of an ambulance blew by from a distant street.

Kat searched the crowd, eyes flitting from one dark gap to the next. A flash of streetlight bouncing off of bright hair sparked in the corner of her eye. She turned without thought, running on instinct, and ran down a nearby alley.

She grabbed the door of a beat up old blue pick-up as it was closing and wrenched it open. “You don’t get to escape that easily,” she said, heart pounding in her chest.

“Go home, Kat,” Jo said, tired and low, her face hidden in shadow.

“No, no way. Not a chance. I’ve spent way too much time looking for you to not get some answers.”

Jo snorted a brief, bitter laugh. “If that’s what you want then you’re out of luck. I don’t know jack.” She sighed. “You shouldn’t be here, it’s not safe.”

“Like anywhere is safe,” Kat scoffed. “You’re the one who told me about that Devil’s Gate opening in Wyoming. And then you say you’re going to work a demon job down in Texas and then poof, you disappear. You don’t call, you don’t email and I’m left freaked out of my mind. I thought you were dead. The least you owe me is a reason why.”

Jo leaned forward out of the shadows, her mouth drawn into a tight, angry line. “Maybe you should’ve taken the clue and left me the hell alone.” The corner of her mouth curved upwards into a cruel smirk. “Sorry, honey, it’s not me, it’s you.”

Rage spiked through Kat’s chest. Her hand trembled on the door. “Yeah, sure, it’s all my fault. ‘Cause you’re just fine, hanging out in Austin, not talking to anyone, working in some yuppie bar and ignoring everything that’s going on around you.” She pitched the folder into the cab, its papers spilling out all over the bench and the floor. “I bet you never even realized something big is going on around here. People are dying and you’re sticking your head in the sand.” Her mouth twisted with disgust. “I expected better from you.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jo growled. “Hunting isn’t some kind of game you can play in your free time. People die and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“So, what, things get a little scary and you just pack it in and give up?” Kat shook her head in disgust. “I never thought you were a quitter.”

“That’s because you never knew me at all.”

“Bullshit,” Kat said, anger and scorn sharpening the syllables in to spikes. “So you’re not dead, yay. Whatever.” She slammed the truck door shut. “I’ll see you around. I’ve got work to do.”

Kat walked off down the alley and out onto the street. Thunder boomed somewhere in the distance and a few lukewarm drops fell from the sky. She didn’t look back.

~~~

A warm, damp wind blew over the barren field. The rustle of the tall, dry grass shivered up Kat’s neck. The ambient light that bounced off of the low-hanging clouds kept the night from being too dark, but a thick, expectant silence pinged Kat’s nerves, keeping her wary and on edge. The threatening rain had yet to fall, the world holding its breath until it did.

She ducked under the muted yellow police tape. The grass had been trampled in a large, shapeless expanse centered around an ashen indentation in the soil. She knelt and studied the charred scar. Her mind called up the reports she’d read, the images of the burned, dismembered corpses that had been found. The police had released statements about serial killers and ritualistic cults; standard cop code for they didn’t know what the hell was going on or what the fuck they were looking for.

Kat pulled a pen out of her jacket and poked at the charred ground. The pungent stink of sulfur wafted up from the dust making her nose twitch. She knocked some of the dirt into a Ziploc baggie and put it carefully into her right pocket. She didn’t know if taking it would do any good, but it made her feel like she was accomplishing something.

She stood up and cracked her back. She turned in a circle, eyes gazing over the scene, her mouth set in a thin, frustrated line. Something awful had happened here, she could feel it, but she had no clue what might have caused it or whether it was going to happen again.

She’d hoped to have a little help on this case but it looked like she was on her own.

This was a whole lot bigger than a haunted lab or a cursed fraternity. She was swimming against the tide and all she could do was keep on going and hope for that something she did had an effect.

Kat walked along the edge of the tramped down grass, scanning the ground, looking for anything the police might have missed, anything that might clue her in. The wind dropped off as she searched, and sweat prickled the back of her neck.

The world stilled; the soft crackle of dead grass being trampled under her shoes the only thing she could hear. Her chest tightened. She felt like she was being watched.

She jumped when a rough grumble of thunder rolled overhead. She froze, her heart pounding. A dark figure crouched in the grass across from her. She could feel his stare.

Her hands clenched into fists and panic gripped at her throat. She didn’t know what to do.

A flash of lightning cracked overhead. The field glowed for a second, a confused backwards negative of reality. The figure in the grass stood and shutter-jerked across the field, its eyes dark holes.

Rock salt dribbled out of Kat’s hands. All of her old tricks wouldn’t help her now. She would’ve given anything for the gun that she’d left in her car.

The lightning flashed again and the figure was in front of her. It cocked its head to the side. It licked its lips, a hungry curl to its mouth. It reached its hand up and caressed the side of her face. Invisible maggots crawled across her flesh.

“Kat!” a familiar voice shouted as a stream of water arched across her vision. The creature in front of her screamed as the water hit and bubbled like acid on its skin. A hand grabbed hers and pulled her away.

“We have to get out of here,” Jo yelled as thunder pealed through the air.

Kat nodded. Her mouth opened to respond, but the words died unsaid as other figures appeared out of the grass. They were surrounded.

Lightning bolted from the sky, striking the ground near them, so close that Kat could feel the electricity sizzle through the earth. Dirt exploded into the air and one of the demons screamed. Pandemonium erupted in the surrounding horde.

Jo splashed holy water on the nearest demon and pulled Kat out of the circle while it was stunned. Kat clung to Jo’s hand, the only sure object in a world gone mad.

They ran through the grass as the clouds unleashed their torrent and lightning crackled in their wake.

~~~

Jo pushed the motel door open and strode into the room. She was soaked through, her hair straggled down her back and her pants were coated in mud. She tracked dirty footprints across the almost neon green carpet.

Kat followed her into the room feeling as miserable as the other woman looked. Her hands shook and she couldn’t make them stop. She didn’t know whether she wanted to cry or vomit.

She caught the towel that Jo pitched at her and started scrubbing it over her hair. Jo wouldn’t even look in Kat’s direction, she just started changing her clothes as if there was no one else in the room.

Jo hadn’t said a word since they’d escaped into her waiting truck. She’d driven like a bat out of hell, her eyes never once straying over to the woman on the other side of the cab.

The silence was awful, and Kat didn’t know how to break it. Instead she looked around the room and tried to feel safe. It was small and cluttered, the bed unmade with clothes scattered haphazardly over the chair beside it. Take-out containers were strewn over the table nudged up against the far wall and the carpet crunched with spilled salt.

Jo had drawn sigils on every open surface, the walls a collage of symbols, a mélange of every color of Sharpie in the box. A shotgun stood sentry in the corner closest to the bed.

“You’re a fucking moron,” Jo said to the dresser, her back still presented to the rest of the room. She yanked a dry tank top over her head.

“Yeah,” Kat said, more of an exhalation than a word.

Jo rounded on her, her hands gripped white-knuckled around a long-sleeved shirt. “You don’t get it. You almost died out there. Those demons were going to kill you and they wouldn’t have been nice about it. They would’ve taken their time, milking you for every scream and enjoying every goddamn minute of it.” She advanced on Kat with every bitten-off word until they were face-to-face, breathing the same air.

Blood pounded in Kat’s ears. She couldn’t look away from Jo’s ravaged eyes, frozen in the twinned fear and anger she saw there.

She didn’t know what to say.

“Jesus Christ,” Jo ground out in a harsh voice. She whipped away, flinging the shirt at her bed and stalking to the window. She leaned against the windowsill. “Are you done playing yet?”

“I’m not playing a goddamn game!” Kat shouted, the words erupting through the barrier in her throat. She threw her towel at the wall, where it hit with a damp splat. “Did you even look at that stuff I gave you? People are dying out there, and someone has to do something.”

“You’re just going to get yourself killed,” Jo sighed.

“So the fuck what?!” Kat crossed the room, her hands balled into fists. “At least I’ll have done something.” She grabbed Jo’s shoulder and spun her around. “I’m not a quitter, not like you.”

“Shut your goddamn mouth,” Jo hissed and shoved Kat away.

“Make me,” Kat replied, her jaw tight.

Long seconds ticked by as they stared at each other. Kat’s whole body hurt, the long miles and even longer nights finally taking their toll. She collapsed against the wall, the back of her head hitting it with a hollow thunk. She closed her eyes.

“Help me do this, please,” she whispered.

“Yes, Joanna Harvelle, help us,” an implacable voice replied.

Kat jerked straight, her eyes flying open as a shotgun snick-clacked into use. Jo had the gun pointed at a woman standing in front of the closed door. The woman merely gazed serenely at them. The white of her dress and the blonde of her hair the most vibrant colors Kat had ever seen.

“I am Miriam, an angel of the Lord,” the woman stated simply. Her voice sounded a chord deep in Kat’s being. Somehow she could not doubt her.

“Like hell you are,” Jo replied. The barrel of the shotgun twitched by she stood firm. “Get out of my room.”

“Peace, Joanna Beth.” The woman glided across the floor and plucked the gun from Jo’s hands. “You already know I speak the truth.”

Kat moved to put a hand on Jo’s arm, whether in comfort or restraint, she didn’t know. Jo’s body vibrated under her hand, a thread stretched too thin.

“How? Why?” Jo drew in heavy breaths and her eyes were thick with tears.

The angel smiled, and the room warmed. “You have been chosen. Both of you.” The angel looked at Kat, who couldn’t drew her eyes away from the endless depths in those eyes.

“What can we do?” Kat rasped.

Miriam’s smile widened, and pure light surrounded them. Kat’s heart battered against her chest in either joy or terror.

Jo reached up and grabbed Kat’s hand, her fingers squeezing tight.

“There is much to tell,” was the inevitable reply.

~~~

“Sixty-six seals, seriously?” Jo snorted.

Miriam raised an eyebrow. “Goat-sucking monsters, seriously?”

Kat giggled, and even Jo grinned a little. Kat dropped her wet shirt next to the bathroom door and smoothed her hands over her borrowed duds. “So we have to stop some hotshot demon from releasing a plague and bringing us one step closer to Armageddon.” She sat down on the edge of the bed next to Jo. “But what I don’t understand is what any of that has to do with a field full of burned corpses.”

“Nothing, in and of itself.” Miriam frowned with sorrow. “The demon Lilith chose to accomplish this task is known as Ba’al. Thousands of years ago he was worshipped as a god and was offered burnt sacrifices. Parents would offer their living children to Ba’al’s flames just as children would offer their parents in turn. It was considered a great honor to be given to appease Ba’al’s vast hunger. Upon his release from Hell his demonic followers eagerly reinitiated the practice.”

“That’s what I don’t understand.” Jo’s voice was hoarse, and her body radiated exhausted tension. “There’s so much evil. I mean, hell, even before the Devil’s Gate was opened we were just barely staying afloat and now—” She swallowed and looked away. “You’re here now, but where have you been? If God is good then where has he been hiding?”

Miriam leaned forward and placed her hand on Jo’s knee. “You should not blame yourself for Brian’s death.” She gazed at her kindly as Jo blinked tears out of her eyes. “Many of my kind would tell you that it is all part of the Creator’s plan and that you should not sorrow. For myself, I do not think that God can be God if He plans for such evil. I can only have faith that I will find comfort and understanding in time, when all has been revealed.”

“You don’t know any more than we do,” Kat gasped in sudden understanding.

Miriam laughed and sat up straight. “No, not much. We angels are not very different from you humans. We simply have fewer choices; we can serve or fall, and there isn’t much wriggle room between.”

“So what good are you?” Kat’s question more curious than combative.

“I apparently can’t offer much help with the deep metaphysical questions of life but I am able to do a few things. Or have you not realized yet who it was that provided the lightning during your encounter earlier tonight?” Miriam’s eyebrow raised in wry, Vulcan-like observation.

Kat gaped in awe, her mouth hanging open in a way she only thought happened in the cartoons. She felt kind of like an idiot but, in her defense, it had been a really long, weird night.

Miriam’s smile widened in good-natured amusement. She rose from her chair. “You both should rest. Tomorrow will be soon enough to accomplish our task.” Her gaze strayed over Jo and her face softened with empathy. “Thank you both for your willingness to assist me.”

The sound of innumerable wings fluttered through the air as Miriam disappeared.

Kat waited as her mind tried to make sense of everything that had happened. She’d woken up that morning certain of who she was and her place in the cosmos, and now she wasn’t sure of anything. She didn’t know what tomorrow might bring or even if she’d be around for long enough for any of it to matter. It was all deeply unnerving and utterly exciting at the same exact time.

An uncomfortable silence stretched in the room. Kat looked out of the corner of her eyes and saw that Jo was hunched over. She had pulled into herself and was staring blindly at the floor, her mouth clenched flat. She looked very alone.

Kat cleared her throat and Jo looked up, startled, as if she’d forgotten that anyone else was in the room.

“I guess I’ll go call a cab and have them take me back to my place.” Kat stood up and shrugged a little awkwardly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jo just stared, her face blank. Disappointment dropped in Kat’s chest. She should’ve known that she wouldn’t be wanted. She turned towards the door.

“Wait,” Jo said when Kat’s hand fell on the doorknob. “You don’t have to go.”

Kat couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed across her face. “Okay, then,” she said and turned back to the room.

~~~

Kat shoveled hash browns into her mouth by the heaping forkful. Nothing except maybe the Apocalypse was going to interrupt her communion with her breakfast. And the Apocalypse might have to wait in line.

She scraped the last bit of yolky, potato-y mess off of her plate and into her mouth, the fork screeching against the cheap diner porcelain. She sat back with a contented sigh. Food had never tasted so good.

Jo regarded her with an amused little grin over her still half-full plate. “A little hungry?”

“Shut up.” Kat snorted a laugh. “I’ve been kind of preoccupied lately and food wasn’t at the top of my priority list.”

Jo tsked and waved a fork at her admonishingly. “First rule of hunting: Never work on an empty stomach. It’s a good way to wind up lunch for something else.”

“I am a tasty morsel.” Kat nodded with an exaggerated frown of seriousness. “What other tips do you have, o font of hunting wisdom.”

“Don’t steal your partner’s bacon.” Jo slapped away the hand that Kat had been inching across the table towards the other plate. “You had plenty of your own.”

“There’s never enough bacon.” Kat grinned and sat back in the booth. She grabbed her coffee instead and took a long sip, taking a look around while she drank. The diner was mostly empty; they’d managed to hit it at that ideal time between the breakfast and lunch rushes when the staff was trying to recover enough to handle the next wave. So while their food had taken forever to arrive they also hadn’t been bothered every other minute by a waitress trying to refresh their coffee, a definite bonus when you were seriously discussing how to stop the demons from ending the world.

“You know,” Kat mused. “Something about this whole angel thing feels kind of, I don’t know, absurd. It’s like we’ve wandered into an overblown Sunday evening show on CBS.”

“I have often had similar thoughts myself,” Miriam said from behind Kat’s shoulder. She slid into the booth next to Jo and grinned at the embarrassed blush that crept up Kat’s face. “Though on my best days I can only aspire to being as formidable as Della Reese.”

While Kat sat flabbergasted, trying to come up with an appropriate response, Miriam looked at Jo’s plate and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Jo grinned and handed her a strip of bacon.

“Hey,” Kat said, an involuntary reaction learned from years of snotty little sibling-hood. “Why does she get bacon?”

“Because she’s an angel,” Jo replied, nonplussed.

“It is one of the unspoken perks,” Miriam responded but she broke the strip in half and offered part of it to Kat.

“Thanks,” Kat muttered and took her piece. Frankly, she was finding the entire situation a little unnerving and surreal. There was something deeply unsettling about sitting across from a bacon-eating angel in a grimy greasy spoon.

Jo pushed her plate away and turned a little so that she was at an angle where she could see everyone in the booth at the same time. “Last night you had a lot to say about the end of the world, but you didn’t mention any specifics about what we’re supposed to do.”

“Specifics that I will be happy to share with you at this precise moment.” Miriam brushed invisible crumbs from her fingers. “As I said last night, the seal that we are meant to protect is one that would unleash devastating plague upon the world. Of all of the seals it is one of the most vile.”

“I guess we’re talking more Steven King, Captain Trips-kind of plague than a bad head cold,” Kat posited.

“Quite,” Miriam succinctly replied. “Researchers at UT-Austin have been experimenting with many forms of viral infection in an effort to gain a more thorough understanding of disease and how to prevent its spread. It is Ba’al’s design to take and corrupt their research into an unholy organism. If we do not stop the ritual he undertakes today then great evil will be released.”

“But why do you need our help?” Jo asked, cynicism thick in her voice. “I’d think that an angel would have a pretty easy time putting a couple of demons in their place, no matter how super-duper evil they might be.”

“Unfortunately it is not that simple.” Miriam sighed. “The older, more powerful demons like Ba’al are difficult to subdue, and he has surrounded himself with many demons almost as powerful as he. Also, they have coated their abode with perversions of angelic script that can be used to lock out me and my siblings.”

Jo stared at Miriam, her forehead creased in thought. “So, you need Kat and me to sneak into the building and erase some of those symbols.”

“Yes, and to do everything in your power to delay the ritual.”

“Are any other angels going to show up to help us?” Kat asked. Tension was building deep in her chest. The reality of saving the world was a lot more harrowing than the theory was.

“No. We are stretched thin as we attempt to stop Lilith. There are many possible roads she could travel, and we are hardpressed in trying to anticipate and prevent her actions.”

Jo sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. “And we have to do this today, no time for more prep or research.”

Miriam dipped her head in an affirmative reply.

Jo looked over at Kat, her question implicit in the set of her mouth. Kat nodded over the panic that nipped at the edges of her mind. She was with them, no matter what.

“I guess we’d better get it over with,” Jo announced for them both. It was now or never.

~~~

“Here.” Jo handed Kat a charm strung on a leather cord. They were standing across from a ramshackle warehouse a few miles from the city. It was situated in an industrial park that had seen better days, the glass from broken windows glittered on the ground between the buildings and brown weeds pushed through cracks in the asphalt drives.

“What’s this?” Kat asked. She turned the dull trinket around in her fingers, studying it under the blinding light of the late-afternoon sun.

“It’ll protect you from possession. It should keep any of those bastards from getting up inside of you.”

Kat grimaced at the thought. “Eew. Thanks.”

Jo’s mouth quirked in amused understanding before they both turned to stare at their target.

The warehouse was just as rundown as its neighbors, but where they only looked abandoned the building across from them seemed to radiate malevolence. Kat wasn’t sure whether the noxious aura she could almost see was a product of her pre-formed judgments or not but it still turned her stomach. Her imagination was full of all of the atrocities the building must have witnessed over the years.

She didn’t want to go in there, but she wouldn’t let Jo handle it alone.

Wings fluttered on the edges of her mind, and Miriam appeared in front of them. She had left them there to reconnoiter their target and now she returned with a grim mask drawn across her features. Her arrival was anything but reassuring.

“It is worse than I feared,” Miriam said without preamble. “The symbols are drawn inside of the building and are invisible to your eyes. There is no way for me to discover how many demons have congregated or what their ritual will entail.”

“What can we do?” Kat asked, scared but determined.

Miriam smiled at her as if her puny courage was an extraordinary thing. “You will have to enter the building and draw a certain sigil on the walls. One on every side of the building should suffice. Observe.” She reached out and grabbed their wrists. Kat flinched as a burning sting shot up the inside of her arm.

A moment passed and Miriam stepped back. Kat gasped out a breath and looked at her left arm. Tattooed on the tender part of her wrist was a design she’d never seen before.

“Are you set? Do you have everything you need?” Miriam asked.

Jo nodded in assent. “We have everything we can carry.”

“Stay hidden and safe.” Miriam stepped up to Jo and reverently placed two fingers on her forehead, a gesture she repeated on Kat. A flush of real or perceived warmth rushed through Kat’s body. “Go with my blessing. May God be with you.”

“Also,” she added before they had taken more than a few steps. “If I should tell you to look away you must do so, regardless of how dire the situation may be. There are things that you cannot see and remain whole.”

Kat and Jo shared a loaded glance before nodding silently in agreement. It was one crazy thing after another, and Kat didn’t dare envision what might come next. All they had to do was draw a couple symbols. They could do this.

They climbed through a shattered window into an abandoned office. The warehouse was dark and cold when they entered it. The chill froze Kat’s breath in her throat, the sense of something deeply wrong lodged in her chest.

Jo uncapped her Sharpie and quickly drew the symbol in the shadows under the window. She glanced over her shoulder and her grin flashed bright in the dark. She stood up and raised a finger. One down, three to go.

Light flickered in the cracks underneath and around the edges of the partially open door. Jo gestured, and they took positions on either side of the door. She peeked into the other room and slowly opened the door before ducking out in one quick, fluid motion. Kat followed on her heels.

They crouched behind a pile of debris. Figures milled on the far end of the large room, only alike in their studied normalcy and the foul aura that shimmered from them, too powerful for any nonchalance to overcome. The low hum of scattered conversations echoed off of the shadowed concrete walls.

The girls scuttled carefully from pile to pile, Jo in the lead and Kat behind. A wild confidence pounded through Kat’s veins when they made it to the right-hand wall and Jo began to draw the symbol. They were going to do this. They were going to win.

Kat practically jumped out of her skin when the heavy double doors on the other side of the warehouse slammed open. Her head whipped around, and she saw a small, pale man walk in. He held himself as if he were the center of the universe and all else orbited around him. He made her skin crawl but she couldn’t look away.

The room went still.

Jo tapped her shoulder and quickly slapped her hand over Kat’s mouth to block the noise she hadn’t meant to make. She gave Kat a long, hard look and then jerked her head towards the next wall. The job, she had to work the job.

The cacophony of conversation picked up again as they crept from one shadow to the next. They were close enough to see the thick candles that sat ablaze in elaborate holders and the symbols that were painted on the floor in what Kat feared was blood. Demons with black, bottomless eyes arranged vials on a card table in chaotic order.

She crouched behind a wooden crate and peered out at the milling crowd, holy water and shotgun clutched in her hands. Jo drew on the wall. They were so close to winning that Kat could taste it.

Wood clattered and Kat brought her gun up, eyes and barrel tracking the shadows. Before she could move a hand reached out and gripped Jo by the back of her neck and pulled her away. Kat only had time to catch a glimpse of Jo’s face, stark and terrified, before her partner was pulled into the flickering light.

But somehow Kat hadn’t been seen. Somehow she was safe.

Her hands shook around the stock of the gun. She’d understood the message that was bright in Jo’s eyes. The mission came first.

She hated herself for turning away from Jo and creeping towards the final wall.

A heavy silence descended on the warehouse as Kat crept around the final corner. She pulled out her marker and began to draw, her eyes fixed on the design imprinted on her wrist. She didn’t let herself listen to the smooth, hypnotic voice that rose from behind her or the clear defiance of Jo’s response.

The fierce bite of a cramp cut through her hand, grip too tight around the pen, but she didn’t let go and she didn’t stop. She wouldn’t even let her fingers vibrate with the tremor she could feel building in every nerve.

She was extending her arm to draw the final line when a strong hand clamped the back of her head and pulled her away. Her pen flew one way and her gun the other, but she only had eyes for the lines on the wall. She couldn’t tell if she’d finished the design or not.

Her leg collided with the sharp edge of a metal bed frame and the bright flare of pain wrenched her attention away from the wall. The demon threw her down into the center of an alien symbol, and she landed hard on her knees next to Jo.

Blood trickled down Jo’s face from a gash on her forehead, the beginnings of a bruise painting the right side of her face. A light-haired demon towered over her, rage in his eyes and an ugly, bubbling gash on his face. A small knife glinted at his feet.

The small, pale man stood before them, avid lust transparent on his face. His eyes burned with a dark, terrifying hunger. His smile was the worst thing Kat had ever seen.

He clapped slowly and the death’s mask rictus of his smile widened. “Two for the price of one. How delightful.” He reached down and gently tucked a straggling piece of hair behind Kat’s ear. His touch was familiar and awful. “I was so hoping that my two favorite girls would show up again after we had so much fun last night. I always say, you can’t keep a good hunter down.” He grabbed her chin and raised her face until she could do nothing but stare into eyes that were bright with a light that didn’t shine, only consumed. She couldn’t breathe.

“Get your hands off her, asshole.” Jo’s voice broke through her sick reverie. The demon released Kat and she fell forward, gagging on bile.

“Temper, temper,” he admonished in a voice both sick and sweet. “Don’t make me reprimand you again.”

Kat weakly pushed herself back up onto her knees. “You won’t get away with this,” she gasped.

“But, my dear, I already have.” He chortled and turned to the table behind him. When he turned back he held two vials in his hand, filled with a clear liquid. “Not even your pet angel can save you now.”

He held the vials over his head and the candles went out. A low, rhythmic chant rose in the dark from all around them. It started as a whisper and grew until it was all Kat could hear, all that she knew.

The symbols on the floor began to glow with a sickly green light. The vials shined with the same unlight, floating in the air.

Somehow she found Jo’s hand in the dark. She held onto her and prayed.

A nova of white light exploded through the warehouse, coalescing into a woman’s form. The candles flared back to light and the demons cringed.

“Ba’al. Halt.” The angel’s voice ricocheted through time and space, implacable. “I abjure thee and command thee to depart.”

Ba’al’s hideous laughter cut through the frozen world, shattering the power of Miriam’s words.

“You’re too late, angel. My work is done.” He held out the vials that still glowed with a noxious light. “Alone you cannot stop me.”

The horde of demons closed ranks around him, blocking Miriam from view. Ba’al reached down and pulled Kat to her feet.

“My very own Typhoid Mary,” he whispered with loathsome delight. Kat didn’t think she’d ever be able to get clean again.

One iron hand tipped her head back and held her mouth open while the other brought the vials level with her lips. Kat wanted to scream, to lash out, to run, but she couldn’t look away from the horror that swirled in his eyes.

A blade slashed out and carved Ba’al’s neck open, Jo’s hand steady and sure. Blood poured out, and he shrieked. He released Kat, and as she fell to the ground he grabbed Jo’s neck and squeezed.

White light flashed in the corners of Kat’s eyes, and from faraway she heard a demon scream its death throes. It wasn’t close enough. Miriam wouldn’t make it through in time to save any of them.

Kat silently implored salvation from a God she wasn’t sure could hear.

Quiet, indomitable words floated up from Kat’s core. Close your eyes whispered through her mind. She obeyed.

A silent explosion ripped through the air, and a light brighter than the sun burned red through her eyelids. A torrent of anguished screams rose around her, and she covered her ears.

With a merciful burst conscious thought was torn away. She dropped gratefully into the dark, a stone slipping down through still waters.

There was peace in the end.

~~~

Kat squinted against the early morning sun that spilled through her windshield as she pulled into the motel’s parking lot and stopped. She turned her car’s engine off with a flick of her wrist and sat for a second, listening to her heart beat.

She stared at the paint peeling off of the garish sign with a frown. She didn’t know what she was doing there. She had no idea if she’d be welcome. And she wasn’t even sure whether she wanted to confirm the reality of her memories of the past few days or not.

She squared her shoulders and levered herself out of the car. She wasn’t going to chicken out now.

The force of her knock sounded through the motel’s cheap plywood walls. A loaded, expectant moment ticked by while she waited for a response.

The door opened and Jo appeared, her hair still wet from the shower. A darkly vibrant bruise colored one side of her face and a red welt slashed across her hairline. A purple handprint circled her throat like a necklace.

Kat grabbed the doorframe, the world unsteady under her feet. “It all really happened,” she gasped.

Jo’s face brightened in rueful amusement. “Yes, we met an angel and yes, we might have helped save the world.” She stepped back and gestured Kat into the room.

Kat fell into the room’s hard chair with a thud, still shaken by all of the memories that were surging across her mind. “Do you know what happened at the end? Because one second I was watching that demon choke the life out of you and the next I was waking up in my car with the worst headache of my life.”

Jo sat down on the bed across from her. “I don’t know. I blacked out just like you did.” She shrugged. “But I figure that if the bad guys had won we wouldn’t be here talking to each other.”

Kat nodded wordlessly, her mind still struggling to put everything into perspective. “I guess not,” she finally muttered. The mingled fear and awe of the angel’s appearance flashed across her memory. “I wonder what happened to Miriam.”

“I guess she went back to whatever it is angels go when they’re not smacking down demons.” Jo’s tone was irreverent, but Kat could hear the wonder behind it. “But, you know, I kind of hope we never run into her again. Know what I mean?”

“Yeah.” Kat’s face creased with humor. “Averting one seal of the apocalypse is more than enough for me.”

Jo collapsed backwards onto the bed, sudden laughter ripping through her. “I went head-to-head with the end of the world. My mom is going to kill me,” she gasped.

Uncontrollable giggles hiccupped out of Kat’s throat. “Oh my God,” she stuttered. She could not believe that this was her life.

That only redoubled Jo’s fit. Their combined mirth echoed through the thin motel walls for long moments, their joy at life starting to wash away the horrors they’d experienced.

Their laughter slowly faded away. “We went head-to-head with the end of the world,” Kat finally said after the world had righted itself.

Jo sat up and considered her with narrowed eyes. “Yeah, we did,” she slowly agreed. Her mouth cocked to one side in a good-humored smirk and her head dipped in a decisive nod. A decision had been made.

“So,” Jo continued with forced nonchalance. “There’s this werecat that I’ve been tracking up in Alabama. You wanna come take care of it with me?”

Delighted shock cut through Kat’s chest. “Yes, of course,” she immediately declared. This was the only logical course her life could take, college and a career fading into the nebulous dreams they always were.

Jo slapped her hands onto her thighs and stood up. “Come on, then. We’ve got work to do.” She held out her hand.

Kat reached up and let Jo pull her to her feet. She’d finally come home.


~~~

Author's Notes and Music Mix
Podfic read by Baylor

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-29 11:27 am (UTC)
ext_11786: (spn:Jo)
From: [identity profile] dotfic.livejournal.com
This is awesome. I love that you wrote a follow-up, and the tension and caring between them works so well.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liptonrm.livejournal.com
Thank you! It's nice sometimes to let the boys have a little time off and let the girls out to play. I'm really glad that it all worked out.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-29 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ragingvirgin.livejournal.com
*does a little dance* I love side character hunter stories! AND I (am secretly admitting something shameful SHAMEFUL) love Jo. I love that you picked Kat as her partner--which I probably went into last time---as she was one of the females in the show who handled herself better than most victims. I'd love to read more in this 'verse. Awesome job, hon!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liptonrm.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I'm not entirely sure that I have another full story in me but it is only season two of the Jo Harvelle spin-off show, so there's definitely more story out there.

Glad you liked it!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-29 08:57 pm (UTC)
ext_1310: (i dig chicks with guns)
From: [identity profile] musesfool.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this a lot.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liptonrm.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hiyacynth.livejournal.com
I love that you write about women so wonderfully, especially in such a man-centric canon and fandom. You're so good at it, and you picked two good ones.

These two hunting together... I just love it. I love seeing how Jo's perspective has changed and made her jaded, and I love seeing Kat maturing into her chosen life.

Oh, and I love that Miriam proves that it's not all angels who have heavenly sticks up their butts, it's just Castiel :-)

Also? I love you a little bit. Just fyi.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liptonrm.livejournal.com
Well, you know what they say, write what you know and man do I ever have lots of examples of female awesome around me.

I'm so glad that I got Miriam's comparative flexibility across. I mean, come on, there had to have been at least a couple angels who skewed to humanity's side after all of those years of creepy watching.

Hmmmm, I guess I love you a little bit too. Just so you know.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 06:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beyond-wonder.livejournal.com
First off... OMG brilliant! I just went back and read the first kat and Jo fic and I have to say I was blow away by this new story. Jo was so brilliant and Kat was equally cool. Really interesting way to have them stopping a seal being broken. This read just like an episode and I wish i could have seen this played out on TV. I really hope you write more -- like maybe meeting up with the guys???? I've got cookies, I'm not above begging! :D
Thanks for the awesome read!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-30 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liptonrm.livejournal.com
Thanks to you for the awesome comment!

I can't rule out another story even though I don't have another one specifially in mind right at this very minute. But since in my head this is the season two premiere of the Jo Harvelle spin-off show I'm pretty sure that these two have another story to tell, at least.

Plus, I can never say no to cookies. =D

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