Title: Emet (the Bitter with the Sweet remix)--Part 2 of 2
Summary: the Winchesters are a package deal, and George Clay will never be Dean’s top priority. Not while Sam is alive—not even, Jo realizes, when Sam isn’t alive.
Pairing: Dean/OC, allusions to Dean/Jo and Dean/Sam
Disclaimer: Supernatural characters belong to their creators; OC belongs to rivkat
Original story: Dabarim by Rivkat
Part 1 is here
Part 1 is here
Jo puts George in the spare bedroom; if George ever remembers sleeping elsewhere with Dean, he doesn't mention it. She’ll figure out what the hell to do about him in the morning. Her phone rings (again) as she’s getting into her own bed. The display tells her that it’s Sam calling (again). The phone chirps, sending the call to voicemail. This will be the fifth message he’s left since she’d driven away from the cemetery.
Jo balances the phone on her palm for a moment, judging its weight, and then hurls it against the wall of her room. It does not ring again.
The sky is spitting a chilly April rain the next morning, but Jo goes running anyway. There’s a beat-up duffel bag waiting on the delivery bay steps when she returns. No sign of the Impala or the Winchesters. She hauls it upstairs.
“Your luggage,” she announces sourly.
George looks up from the newspaper. “Oh. Thanks. I made coffee.” He gestures to a mug sitting on the table next to a defrosting packet of broccoli.
“Ok,” Jo says finally, because really, it’s not George’s fault the Winchesters screwed him over. They have a habit of doing that to people. And if George isn’t exactly people…well, still. The point stands.
She picks up the mug—it’s nice and hot after her cold run—and reaches for the sugar bowl.
“I already added sugar,” George says absently. “One teaspoon.”
“Thanks,” Jo says, trying to remember if she’d ever told him how she took her coffee.
George just shrugs. “Hey, I was looking over the police blotter—there’s this guy in, uh, Observatory Hill just died. No apparent cause, but several suspicious bite marks.”
Jo sits down, puts the frozen broccoli on her knee, and takes the section he’s handing her.
Marie is delighted to see George again. More and more frequently, when Jo comes home from work, she finds the two of them in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of something. Her boss is thinking about expanding, opening the front of the bar as a coffee area, and George is content to listen to Marie dither over possible paint schemes all day.
("I'm thinking about calling this place The Bittersweet Bakery," she says one day.
"Sounds good," George says and Marie bestows such a smile that Jo can't help but interject, "Not very appetizing."
"Oh, yeah, that's true," George agrees, immediately, as though there is no contradiction).
The rest of the staff like George well enough, too. Why shouldn’t they? He’s always happy to pitch in and restock ingredients or to run a last minute delivery across town. He’ll make endless batches of basic bread dough or chocolate chip cookies, freeing time for everyone else to do the more interesting, more elaborate recipes. He’s the only one with the patience to make lace cookies according to Marie’s grandmother’s recipe, whipping them off the griddle a second before they burn so that they’re crisp and perfect. He'd drop any one of those tasks in a heartbeat if Jo asked him to, but she never asks.
The only one who seems to be ambivalent about Jo’s “cousin” is Jo herself.
It’s not that she doesn’t like him, Jo decides. She just doesn’t know him—though that’s a weird thing to say about someone who lives with you, who followed you to work ‘til you told him to knock it off, who spends his weekends assisting you in activities of questionable legality. George knows how she takes her coffee, knows she likes to read the City section of the paper first, knows she’s fanatical about using the parking brake when she drives, that she overcorrects and aims slightly to the left of her target when she gets nervous. He hands her the auto classifieds before she even mentions that she’s saved up enough to buy a car. Two weeks later, he mentions seeing one she might like while out on a delivery run. It’s perfect, and cheap, and she almost doesn’t buy it just because he suggested it. Another day, while cleaning the house, she blasts her old R.E.O/T.W.O album: he can sing every word even though she’d bet good money that he’d never heard it before.
And through all of this, Jo is keenly aware that she knows nothing at all about him. There’s nothing to know. He has no opinions or preferences that aren’t hers. When she mentions
Lying in bed, Jo wonders if George has really forgotten all about Dean. Maybe the memories are there, but locked away. There’s a magic word that animates him; maybe if she knew the right word, she could retrieve those stories that he told her the first time they met, about what it was like to hunt with the Winchesters. Dean’s—well, a pretty memorable guy, to put it diplomatically. Even if he weren’t, it just doesn’t seem possible that anyone could completely forget someone who they…
Jo gradually realizes that Dean and George slept right here, in her bed, that first time they visited. She shifts, newly aware of the knobby spring on the left side. A door squeaks somewhere—and suddenly, George stumbles into her room, looking less than half-awake. His hair sticks up on one side and he’s wearing his usual pajamas: a raggedy t-shirt and scrub pants with STORMONT-VAIL stenciled down one leg. (Jo has never asked).
“Hi,” he says around a yawn.
“What are you doing?” she hisses, resisting the urge to pull the sheets up to her chin like a maiden aunt.
“You didn’t want me?” George looks confused. “You don’t need anything?”
“Oh.” He scrubs a hand through his crazy hair. “Are you sure?” he asks, like she might somehow be mistaken.
“Yes! Yes, I’m sure!”
“Huh. Ok. G’night.” He wanders back out into the living room and Jo can hear his footsteps as he crosses back to his bed. Jo stares after him. Weird. Fucking weird.
She expects the next morning to be awkward, at the very least, but George seems to have completely forgotten about barging into her room. It occurs to Jo that maybe she summoned him, mentally, somehow. After all, she had been thinking about him…and Dean…and her bed... She chokes on a bite of muffin. George is at hand with a glass of water instantly, and if she’s blushing it’s just because she couldn’t get enough air for a moment. Not because she was thinking—well, not because she thought George might know what she was thinking. Which was nothing. She wasn’t thinking about anything at all.
On their next trip to the library, Jo sends George off to the microfilm room and head off to the mythology/religion section herself. It’s more efficient to split the research like this; George can be trusted with basic photocopying and they’ll just meet up by the circulation desk at . When Jo darts into the World Religions alcove, she barely allows herself to consider what she’s doing. When she requests an Atlanta-area phonebook and starts jotting down the names of synagogues, though, it gets harder to deceive herself.
Maybe it’s a guilty conscience, but that night she dreams of the Roadhouse for the first time in months. She’s shelving glasses along the bar which, for some reason, is lit by a series of tall candles. The candles—tall, ecclesiastical pillars—are all wrong, but Jo accepts them with the equanimity that comes with dreams. Everything else is just like it was: the heavy-bottomed glasses, the worn dish rag, the faint click-rattle of the jukebox as the needle pivots and falls. There’s someone sitting at the end of the bar, flipping idly through a thick book. When the room lightens, the way it does sometimes in dreams, Jo can see that it’s Ash.
“Found the answer,” he tells her casually.
“About the golem.” He slides the book down the bar to her, knocking one of the candles askew. He stands up and walks to her. “It’s a book on robotics. Had it at school. Golems are kind of like robots. Or computers. Can only do what they’re programmed to do.”
“Well, can’t we change the program?” Jo demands.
Ash shrugs laconically. “Dunno. Ask the system administrator.”
He's wearing a flannel shirt, just like Dean’s, and Jo knows before it happens: the sleeve is going to catch fire. The candle that he’d bumped with the book is tipping, tipping, closer to his shoulder where he stands at the bar.
Jo opens her lips to warn him, but she can’t get any words out. Her tongue is stuck, her mouth full of Marie’s lemon bars, sour and too sweet. She reaches out to grab him, but he’s just a few inches beyond her grasp.
“What?” he asks. The candle, she tries to tell him. The fire! But it’s too late: the flame catches at his wrist, races up his arm, turns his hair into a burning halo. And now, now that it’s too late, Jo finds she can scream.
“Whoah! Hey—ouch! Careful!” George is talking to her, dodging her fists as she tries to shove him away. Jo pulls away from him, sits up in bed. She’s still in her room in
“You were talking in your sleep,” George explains.
“I was not,” Jo says automatically, just to be contrary.
“Ok,” George agrees. “Maybe not.”
He stands barefoot next to her bed, like the statue he is. He would stand there all night, Jo knows, but now the demons are in her own head, and how can he protect her there?
“Here,” she says, and holds open the rumpled blankets. “Don’t just stand there.”
She’s still feeling jumpy, shaky with adrenaline, as she slides over to make room for him. George, however, is not at all perturbed by her behavior. He happily arranges the pillow and sighs contentedly. Five minutes later, Jo figures he’s asleep, but, all of a sudden he whispers, like a kid at camp after lights out. “So, why does everyone here call you Joan?”
For a moment, she doesn’t know what to say; she decides to go with the truth. “Because I told them it was my name.”
“Mmm,” George snuffles. He doesn’t seem to wonder why she might not want to tell them her real name. Jo wonders if he has a real name, something his creator called him before giving him to Dean. What does he call himself in his own mind?
“Joan was a warrior-saint,” he observes. “The men didn’t want to let her fight, but in the end they had to, because she was brave and powerful. And, y'know, pure of heart," he adds, like that was a necessary job requirement.
“What?” Jo turns, startled, to look into eyes that are greener than they once were.
“I read about it in the library today,” George replies, muffled by the pillow.
Jo wonders if he knows what she was reading about in the library today.
As a kid, Jo had spent every July going to day camp at the Holy Love Baptist Tabernacle, which started life as a track shed sold off cheap when the Missouri Pacific Railroad went bust. (Pastor Blakely’s default sermon involved the stone which the builders reject becoming the foundation of the Church). When she wakes the next morning, with George spooned behind her, his arm thrown over her waist, Jo finds herself thinking about the Tabernacle for the first time in years. She knows exactly what she is going to do, and she knows that George cannot come with her.
Johadn’t been “raised religious,” exactly, but the Canteer kids down the road were brought up in the Church and there was no one else to play with when they went to camp, so she’d tagged along. Didn’t much care for the choir, but on Wednesdays and Fridays, they had crafts. There was a big Fourth of July picnic for the whole congregation and, on clear summer nights, open-air showings of The Ten Commandments, projected in all its Technicolor glory onto sheets hung along the side of the building.
Rabbi Simcha wasn’t having it: “You cannot allow a golem to roam without a master.”
“Sorry,” Jo says, standing. Then, before he can react, she dips her fingers into his brain—and Jesus, that’s a weird feeling: tingles all the way up her arm, like touching a low-volt livewire.