A faint tremble claims Anna's hands as she walks, fingers stiff with cold even tucked into the pockets of her dark jacket. The chill is just one more reason to move quickly. A breeze stirs the stagnant night air, ruffling Anna's tied-back hair. She squares her shoulders against the added coldness, walking faster.
She reaches her brother's house quickly. It's a large home, looming and dark at this late hour. Anna slinks through the backyard on quick, quiet feet, coming to a stop in front of a ground-floor window. She checked the locks yesterday; she can pry this open without breaking the glass. She'd fly in, but another angel could sense it, and she can't risk her brother knowing she's here until it's too late for him.
The window makes only a faint rushing sound as she pushes it up, and she's near silent as she climbs through. Once inside, she pauses only to close the window behind her and draw her blade from its sheath on her arm, then moves forward. Her feet are light on her brother's carpeted floors. She makes no sound as she moves through the house.
He's lying in bed when she finds him, his arm tucked around a favorite of his human vessels. Anna's stomach turns at the sight.
Anna is undetectable thanks to the runes that pattern the bones of her ribs, but her brother is sleeping soundly; she would've had surprise on her side anyway. His back is facing her. God, this is so easy. Her siblings have grown lazy in their power, unthreatened by any danger.
Except for Anna. Anna is danger.
Anna glides forward on soundless feet, blade ready, breath held. It is convenient that breathing is not a requirement for angels. It's a habit, one that helps them blend in with the rest of the human population, but not a necessity. It's thanks to this, and to extensive practice of stealth, that Anna is able to stand just beside her brother's bed, the point of her blade inches away from his vulnerable back, without him noticing a thing.
Anna closes her eyes for a moment. It's not the smartest of things to do, but then, Anna has long been doing things that aren't smart, and she's been okay so far. Behind her eyelids, everything is solid darkness, easy and clear and comprehendible. There's no moral ambiguity here. There's no doubt, or confusion, or guilt. Anna basks in it for just one moment.
Then she opens her eyes, presses her lips together, and drives her blade forward into her brother's back. His body jerks, and he twists towards her as much as he can, a snarl twisting his lips - but Anna struck deep, and there's no way he will survive. She moves with him as he rolls to get away, keeping her blade buried. He can't heal with another angel's blade still in his back.
The screaming doesn't start until after her brother's Grace has flared, bright and cool all over everything. No, the screaming only starts once the Grace is gone, once the outline of wings is burned across the sheets and over the floor.
Anna reaches forward, placing her palm on the human's forehead even though it only makes her shrieking worsen and, regrettably, will leave a tacky handprint of blood on her skin.
"I'm sorry," Anna whispers. She closes her eyes again, letting a little of her Grace flow through her palm, erasing any memory this woman has of angelic things. Anna feels discomfort tug in her gut; without those memories, this human hardly has anything at all. She must've been taken when she was very young, inhabited by Grace until the angel connected to the Grace died, and then... now... she will have nothing.
"I'm sorry," Anna says again. "I am so, so sorry."
The woman's panic fades suddenly once the memories are gone, replaced with confusion and only slight fear - which is understandable, given that she now has no idea where she is.
"Shhh," Anna says, pressing her gently to lie back down. She doesn't remove her palm from the woman's forehead until her features have softened with sleep.
Anna herself exhales as she steps back, but is unable relax. Killing always makes her skin crawl, leaves her feeling sick for the rest of the night. She still must clean the minds of all the other vessels, who are surely panicking now that the Grace that has been keeping them dull-minded all these years is gone.
Taking a deep, slow breath, Anna wipes her blood-coated hands on the white bedsheets, cleaning them as best she can, then slips from the room to seek out the rest of the vessels.
It's with a body heavy with fatigue that Anna returns to her safe-haven. The human vessels are all safe, if disoriented, and she's disposed of her brother's body. It's been a long night, but thankfully not one as arduous as the night before: another of her siblings had put up much more of a fight, and Anna, after barely succeeding in her mission, had limped to her resting place and spent nearly an hour healing her various wounds.
Actually, she's not entirely certain that she hadn't been too careless in her fog of pain; she may have allowed her Grace to shine too brightly. If a human saw the light of her Grace, there may be cops watching her haven right now. If another angel sensed it... well, that would be far worse.
It's with this in mind that she takes the stairs slowly, wary and alert even though she longs to just release the excess Grace that's been building in her veins over the past weeks, and return to her apartment to fall asleep.
She was right to be cautious. At the peak of the staircase, she can see light from the end of the hallway, and hear soft movement. Not humans, then. The electricity in this abandoned house has long been disconnected, but an angel could turn on the lights anyway, if they so chose.
Anna lets out a weary exhale before starting down the hall.
She's in no condition for a fight. She's tired after two nights of killing, and she's already let her Grace build for too long; it's a strange electric tingle within her veins, making her feel jittery and unstable. Still, she slides her blade from its sheath, gripping and re-gripping its hilt in search of comfort in familiarity.
Her brother is waiting for her when she steps into the room, standing tall and broad and proud as he always does. "Anna," he says, in that rich voice of his. He smiles, small and controlled. He is clearly in the position of power in the room, and they're both aware of the imbalance. "I was wondering if I would ever see you again. Rumor says you hadn't survived, but I never was quite sure."
"Uriel," Anna greets him. "Please leave. I have no wish to fight."
He laughs, at that. "Grand words for someone with blood still fresh on her hands."
Anna says nothing.
"You chose to fight when you killed your first fellow angel, Anna, when you chose those mud-monkeys over your own family. Don't try to tell me otherwise."
"Uriel, please." It's a fight to keep the desperation from her voice. She doesn't want to kill him, not Uriel, not when he could just leave instead. "I don't want to fight you."
Uriel raises an eyebrow. "We'll see about that."
"I still don't know how I feel about this."
Dean is sitting on the edge of Jo's desk, absently picking through her small collection of things.
"Yeah, I got it, Dean. Just because I'm a girl, you don't think I should be in the Angel Crimes division."
"Those things are fucking scary, Jo!"
Jo presses her lips together, leaning back in her chair and folding her arms. "You think I didn't study them extensively before I got offered this job? Do you know how your own department works, Winchester?"
"Jo, even if you don't count the freaky mind control thing, and if you ignore the fact that they could kill you without even touching you, you have to consider how strong they are! If you get caught without a weapon -"
"Which I won't."
Dean narrows his eyes. "If you get caught without a weapon, you're dead."
The smile Jo gives him is wide and full of false-sweetness. "I would say 'lucky for you I've always got at least one knife on me,' but if you keep sitting on my desk, it might not be so lucky for you."
Dean sighs. Jo slaps his hand away from a picture of Dad, the one where tiny-Jo is sitting on his shoulders, grabbing at his police cap. "Just... be careful, okay?"
Jo grins up at him. "Have you met me?"
Dean closes his eyes. "Just don't get yourself killed. And watch out for Victor while you're at it. I'd like my fiancé home in one piece, if you don't mind."
"Sure thing, boss," she agrees.
Dean retreats back to his office to grump at somebody else, and Victor replaces him beside Jo's desk. Thankfully, he doesn't sit on her stuff.
"You got somethin'?" she asks. Excitement is buzzing through her whole body, tingling in her fingertips.
"I do 'got somethin','" Victor says, offering her a smile. "You ready for your first angel case?"
It takes about three seconds for Jo to be out of her chair with her jacket on and her badge tucked into her pocket. She grins again, this time up at her new partner. Victor Henricksen stands almost a foot taller than her, and he's a sturdy, imposing figure in his dark blue FBI coat. She has to reach up to sock him in the arm. "You bet I'm ready."
As dangerous as angel hunting sounds, working a real case turns out to be boring. Very, very boring. Jo can't stand stakeouts on the best of days, and for her first-ever angel case? Come on.
"Stop fidgeting," Victor says for the fifth time this hour.
"Yeah, sorry," Jo mutters. She starts up a fast drumbeat with her fingers on her thigh.
Her eyes wander around the room once, quickly - but of course nothing has changed in the past three hours: the upper floor of this abandoned house is still empty, decrepit, and boring. The window they're staring through is cracked in places, and the glass, where it remains, is nearly opaque with grime. While not ideal for looking through, it will make them harder to see from the other side, provided they keep fairly still.
The house they're watching is in a similar state of disrepair, as is most of this street. It would be a perfect place for an angel to nest up; as long as they kept their heads down it's unlikely they'd be discovered, and if they were, this place would be easy to vacate without rousing suspicion.
"If someone reported Grace-light last night," Jo whispers, "the angel responsible has gotta be long gone by now. Why are we still standing here?"
The skin around Victor's mouth tightens. He looks like he has more important things to be doing with his time, but Jo's realizing that this seems to be his default expression. "Standard procedure," he answers, his curt voice kept low. "We get a report of a possible Grace sighting, we gotta do a thorough check." His eyes have been fixed out the window as he spoke, but now they flick over to Jo. "So, would you rather barge in there now and risk upsetting an angel's nest, or wait to see if they come back tonight?"
Jo raises her eyebrows. "Barge in there now!" she whispers incredulously. She shakes her head in disbelief, although she does keep the movement tiny to avoid giving away their position. "I swear, it's like you and Dean don't even know me."
Victor gives her a look that tells her any protest is useless.
The big empty room falls silent, save the occasional creaks of the house that make Jo wonder about its structural soundness.
Jo can only sit quietly for so long. "No way that angel's coming back,” she whispers. “A flare of Grace big enough to be seen from the next street over doesn't just happen accidentally. They've gotta know we saw, that we're sitting here."
Victor turns his head incrementally, one eyebrow lifted. "Yeah? And what do you suggest we do about that?"
Jo spares him the eye-roll, because he's her new partner and, contrary to popular opinion, she knows how to be friendly, thank you very much. "Barge in, remember?"
"Still not a good idea," Victor grumbles.
"Oh, please. You really think they're gonna come back?"
"I really think that going in there right now would be breaking procedure."
"You're no fun."
The angel does come back. Or, someone does, at least. From this distance it's impossible to gain any information other than that the figure is tall, slim, and dressed entirely in black. A hood covers their face and hair, and in the expanding darkness of the late evening, their dark clothes make even following their motion difficult.
At the door of the house across the street, they turn. The head shifts left, then right, then dead ahead.
Jo holds her breath. Her heart thrums violently in her chest. If it's the angel, then that creature is powerful enough to kill them both with a twitch of its little finger. A faint burn grows in Jo's lungs, her held breath lasting shorter with anxiety.
The figure's eyes flash a brief, bright blue. Definitely an angel, then.
Jo's heart takes up residence in her throat.
The angel must not see them, because it turns, pushes open the front door, and steps out of sight. Well, it's possible that it did see them, but deemed them too inconsequential to kill. Under any other circumstances, Jo would bristle at being considered inconsequential - if that's the case now though, she finds she doesn't mind.
"Fuck," she exhales. She casts her eyes over at Victor to see him awarding her with the smallest of smiles.
"First angel everything you thought it would be?" he breathes.
Jo considers this, then shakes her head. "Are we really just gonna stand here?"
Victor's shoulders lift in a tiny shrug. "Nothing else we can do. We can't fight that thing. We just make sure the house is clear once it's out."
"Doesn't seem like enough," Jo murmurs.
"You'll get there. Everybody on the angel team starts on clean-up duty."
They settle back into silence.
One would think that watching the house would be a little more interesting now that they know there's an angel inside, but no such luck.
They stand there for an amount of time that Jo considers ridiculous. The sun curves lower to dip below the horizon, the shadows on the narrow street growing longer and longer. The thick, orangey shades of evening are replaced with the heavy blanket of night, and Jo finds herself squinting to keep the house across the street in clear focus.
What is the angel doing in there? Is it already tucked in for the night, somehow oblivious that its hiding spot has been discovered? There's no way. Angels are too smart for that. Even if it wasn't this angel's Grace last night, it would've sensed the flare, and there's no way it doesn't know someone's watching.
So what's taking so long?
Jo stifles a yawn, pressing her lips together and fighting her jaw's will to open. It's gotta be pretty late by now; she'd check her watch, but surely the angel will emerge soon, and there is no way in Hell Jo is missing a second of this. The darkness of the world and the steady aches building in her legs and back are a good enough indicator of time, anyway.
She shifts her weight from leg to leg, moving slowly in the interest of keeping quiet. Victor is a dark, solid, immobile presence to her left, tucked just to the side of the window. Her eyes scan up and down the street with restless anticipation.
"What d'you think it's doing in there?" she whispers after a while, not taking her sight off the road.
She can see Victor half-shrug out of the corner of her eye. "Don't bother trying to get into their heads. First lesson you gotta learn. They're violent, unpredictable creatures, Jo. Don't analyze the fuckers."
Jo bounces up onto her toes once, flexing her fingers at her sides. "Doesn't make sense," she says, shaking her head. She lets the subject drop, though she's unsatisfied. She's tired, and stiff after all this standing, but her blood is still buzzing with want to do something. Go in after the bastard, or call for back-up and surround the place.
"You sure we can't - whoa, what the fuck?" Jo drops that train of thought entirely, eyes latched onto the cold white-blue Grace-light emanating from the building across the street. "Uh, Victor?" She spares him the quickest of glances, and catches him shaking his head before returning her stare to the ominous glow of blue.
"I got no idea, Jo. Never seen anything like this."
Grace is like... exploding outward from the house, a big sphere-ish blue thing. There's one big, quick flare, bright enough to make Jo squint, and then it's just... gone.
The street falls back into darkness. It takes a moment for Jo's eyes to adjust, and then she's able to see the house clearly again, still standing, still in poor condition. Everything is just the same.
"What the Hell just happened?" she asks, voice coming out more ragged than she would've hoped.
Victor's shaking his head again.
Jo bites her lip. "Do we... Do we go in there? Investigate?" Victor looks ready to protest, so Jo pushes on. "Come on, there's not standard protocol for this, is there? We wouldn't be breaking any rules."
"It's a bad idea, Jo. Even if there's only one of 'em in there, the two of us aren't enough to take care of it - and that much grace... I'm guessing there's more than one."
Jo huffs, but concedes. "Yeah, fine," she grumbles.
She sees Victor squint down at his watch, and then sigh. "We give it till one," he says. "And then we go in, or we head out."
Excitement spikes through Jo's veins. "Cool," she says, grinning. "Okay."
They wait until one, argue in quick, hushed tones, and end up creeping across the street, guns drawn and senses in high gear. Nothing visible has happened in the abandoned house since the big wave of expelled grace, and that's as likely to mean that the house is still occupied as it is to mean it's empty.
Victor turns the handle of the front door and leans into it, and it swings open with only a slight creak. They work through the downstairs rooms quickly, finding all of them empty. They rejoin each other at the staircase. Victor takes the lead, gun held ahead of him, and Jo follows, scanning the empty house behind them, distrustful of the peace and quiet.
They check three vacant rooms upstairs before they find it.
"Victor!" Jo calls, half-whisper, half-hiss. Quick, quiet footsteps move towards her. Victor's gun greets her before he does, and she rolls her eyes. "Looks like it's been here a while, huh?" She flicks on the small flashlight from her belt, shining it into the corner of the room. Under a cracked, filthy window, a good several square feet of floor have been cleaned of dirt. A couple of pillows and what looks to be some sort of first aid kit rest in the corner, clean in contrast to the entire rest of the house.
There's nothing else in sight.
"I thought angels usually had... stuff," Jo says thoughtfully. "You know. Clothes and books and food and... stuff."
Victor shakes his head, lips pressed together. "They do. They're practically humans. This is what a house looks like when it's been abandoned."
Jo curses under her breath and switches off her flashlight.
"We'll come back once we've swept the rest of the house," Victor whispers. "You'd be surprised what you can find, even somewhere that's been abandoned."
Somewhat placated, Jo tucks her flashlight away and retreats from the room, gun raised as she enters the hallway. She and Victor split off as they reach the end of the hallway, each taking one of the last rooms.
It's Victor who calls out, this time.
He's standing a few feet from the center of the room when she reaches him, staring downwards.
"What'd you find?" Jo asks needlessly.
Victor gestures forward at... at the body lying in the middle of the room.
The air leaves Jo's lungs in a quick rush, leaving her unsteady.
Victor nods. "Sure looks like it."
"But no one knows how to kill them," Jo whispers. Her voice comes out somewhere between terrified and awestruck, and that seems appropriate for circumstance, considering that there's a dead angel sprawled out on its back in front of her. The shapes of huge, sweeping wings are charred into the ground, spreading outward from the fallen body. The tips curve up onto the wall, as if the room is too small to fully contain such a creature.
"What the Hell," Jo breathes.
Anna tugs her thin black jacket tighter around herself, speeding her footsteps on the cracked sidewalk. She's shaken from the events of the night, but she still has to find a safe place to loose her excess Grace before she can sleep. That house had served her well for a long time, but it's been discovered now, and she cannot return.
She shivers, body thrumming with too much power, making her movements jerky. She needs to let off some of this Grace, and soon, or she won't be able to maintain this human façade.
She can't risk flight, not when she doesn't know if others of her siblings are nearby. They could sense the use of power, and find her, and she can't afford another fight tonight. She walks as quickly as she dares, heading in the direction of her apartment. She can retrieve her car, drive beyond city limits...
A shudder shakes up her spine, her Grace fighting to be free of this thin human skin, and she presses her lips together tightly. There's no way she'll make it that far.
Something quicker, then. Somewhere closer where no one will see the glow of her Grace.
She curses again her family's decision to live in the city, where there are people in every alleyway and where houses are too close together for Grace-light to go unnoticed. It makes sense though, of course. The bigger the city the easier it is to whisk innocent people up off the street, and transferring excess Grace into a human vessel doesn't let off enough light to be conspicuous.
Shivering again, hoping it can be accounted for by the chill of the early, early morning air, Anna curls her tingling fingers into her pockets and walks faster.
A sewer is not the most glamorous place she's ever let off Grace, but it's certainly not the worst. (Once, in a moment of desperation, she'd had no choice but to submerge herself in the ocean, deep enough to prevent any light from reaching the surface. No human could survive that depth, but she's fairly certain her leaked Grace had introduced several new species of fish to the water.)
Anna sighs as she uses her blade to slice open the soft skin of her inner forearm, watching a tendril of curious blue light curl into the air. It provides enough illumination to see by, but Anna does her best not to look at her surroundings. The Grace spills out faster, a thin, steady stream of white-ish blue, a vapor-like substance that hangs in the air for a moment before dissipating. A tail of it reaches toward the sewer wall, and a delicate vine, pale green and complete with tiny flowers, takes root and climbs. A small patch of flowers springs up at her feet. Anna takes a deep breath, the buzzing in her veins dying down with the release.
Angels were never meant to hold human form for as long as Anna and her siblings have. As an angel ages, and their Grace grows, they become more powerful, even more difficult for these fragile skin-and-bone frames to contain. Of course, Anna has stopped growing more powerful. Angels never stop producing new Grace, and Grace is power - but Anna has been shedding her new Grace for as long as she's been passing as human.
Her siblings have chosen a different solution. The discovery had been made millennia ago, that humans can serve as... as containers, as vessels for the grace that overflows. As her brother Michael grows older, more powerful, he has amassed a huge amount of Grace, held safely within a tiny army of human vessels. He is the eldest, and the strongest, and the entire family follows his example - except for Anna.
She'd broken from the flock long ago, unwilling to participate in the vile act of enslaving humans. For that is what her siblings do: they lure vessels in with the promise of unspeakable power, and then keep them in their homes, unwilling to let their Grace out of sight. A human filled with angel Grace can be controlled, for it makes them complacent, easy to manage.
It's a sickening practice.
Anna does what she can to stop them, though she's not sure if it's enough. She frees the humans by killing her own family, and still Michael sits with his collection of human vessels, untouchable. Still, one lonely king is better than a king with a full kingdom.
Anna returns her blade to the sheath on her forearm. She holds her left hand over the open incision in her right arm and closes her eyes, letting the Grace still within her knit the skin back together. She exhales, shaking out her arms, and gives the little sapling that's shot up in front of her an apologetic look.
"I don't think you'll make it down here," she tells it in a whisper, reaching out a hand to touch one of its small, soft leaves. "I'm sorry."
She leaves the sewer and drinks in the fresh night (morning?) air, enjoying the calmness that comes after a release of Grace. The new Grace will begin to build up again soon, more and more pressing until she's forced to let it go, but for now... for now, the night is as quiet as it gets in the city, and Anna feels level-headed again, and her bed is waiting for her in her apartment.
She'll have to rise at six-thirty to arrive at her desk-job on time, but that doesn't bear thinking about right now. Right now, she walks down the street at a more leisurely pace, headed home, decisively not thinking about the brother she'd had to kill just because he discovered her.
Alarm clocks are certainly the most wretched, horrible things humankind has ever invented. If there were anywhere else for angels to go, any place for them to live other than discreetly among the humans... but no, Anna is stuck here.
She slaps at her alarm clock with vicious early-morning grumpiness, swinging her legs out of the tangle of blankets and pillows she sleeps in atop her mattress and staring down at the thing with an overwhelming desire to zap it out of existence forever with one quick spark of blue.
She can't though, of course. Someone could see, and she'd be forced to move. She's already lost her transition house, the place where she released Grace and stored her weapons; she doesn't want to lose her home, as well.
With a weary sigh, she stands, running a hand down her face. Her sleep-messy hair wants to fall in front of her face, and she tucks the tangled red behind her eyes, padding in socked feet to the kitchen.
Coffee is a good human invention. One of their absolute best.
Sometimes her body translates her calm after releasing Grace as tired instead of relaxed, and caffeine will do wonders for her lagging energy. She waits for it to brew leaning against the counter with sleep-heavy eyelids, scratching an itch along her jaw and wondering idly how the Grace-born sapling is faring in the sewer. Not well, she would expect.
With a warm mug wrapped in her hands, she's able to think with a little more purpose. She'd risen an hour early this morning, because she still needs to take care of her brother's body before it's discovered. Federal protocol dictates stake-out and observation for a period of several hours after a report of sighted Grace-light, so no one should've gone into the building yet. Even if someone had reported the Grace-light from when Anna healed herself the night before last, protocol would still demand they wait after a new flash. Well, the feds can watch her burn that house to its foundations, if they want to. She doesn't mind.
She'll take care of the body and the remains of her house, and then she'll stop home to shower before work. She'll grab another coffee from the little café down the street, both because she could use the extra energy and because breaking routine could draw attention. And, hey, maybe that cute blond girl will be there again.
A small smile plays on Anna's lips as she carries her mug with her to the bedroom, setting it down to get dressed. She pulls on worn jeans and a fitted green jacket, much less conspicuous in the daylight than wearing all black.
Of course, no matter how inconspicuous she looks, if the Feds are watching, they'll see her light the building. She'll have to fly in, set fire to the inside of the house, and fly out once she's sure it takes.
Good. Easy. She'll have time to shower and grab her things and even make it to the coffee shop before work.
Anna checks that her blade is tucked away but accessible, closes her eyes, and lets her wings unfold behind her, incorporeal, silent and unseen. They take her to her nest with just one sweeping flap, and she opens her eyes to the shadows of the abandoned house, settling her wings in against her back. She crouches, scanning the room with quick eyes, and presses her palm to the wooden floorboards.
The scratched wood grows hot under her skin, then begins to smoke. The fire catches, and spreads slowly.
Anna watches it for one long moment, gaze heavy with dismay. She will miss this place. It has served her well ever since she left her family. It's been her retreat after killing a sibling, the place she can clean her hands of blood and purge her eyes of tears and find a way to face humanity again, even with her lungs full of choking, liquid guilt. She admires humanity so, and that's of course why she must protect it - but in protecting it, she herself loses any humanity she might've hoped to attain.
Anna turns, unwilling to look at the flames a moment longer, and spreads her wings and draws them sharply down in one practiced motion.
Her limbs feel heavy as she climbs into the shower. She will enjoy her second coffee this morning.
Jo wakes at six thirty-seven, a full eight minutes before her alarm, and sighs loudly, flopping onto her back. She deserved those eight minutes, damn it. She and Victor parted ways at three in the morning, both eager to grab what sleep they could before they were due back in the office hours later.
With another indecipherable grumble of complaint, Jo wiggles over to the edge of her bed, staring at the floor for a sullen moment before pushing herself up and climbing out from under her blankets. She groans when she stretches her arms over her head, her whole body protesting the movement.
"I'm gonna need so much friggin' coffee today," she mumbles, trotting off in the direction of the bathroom.
She takes her phone with her and sends Victor a text while she's brushing her teeth (yes; impressive, if she does say so herself), because she is a fabulous partner.
[ How do you take your coffee? ]
She spits, rinses, and gives her sink a sleepy, dull-eyed stare before remembering that she's supposed to be getting ready. She turns the stubborn knob for shower water, holding her hand under the cold stream while she waits for hot water. Her phone buzzes on the counter.
[ Black. ]
Jo snorts. Very macho, she sends back.
Deciding the water is tolerable, if not hot, Jo tugs off her soft sleep clothes, rubbing at her eyes again. Jesus, she aches all over with fatigue. Her phone alerts her of another text just before she steps in, and she backpedals, reading it quickly and chuckling.
[ I've found that drinking coffee straight restores the manly image I lose when people learn I'm about to marry a man. ]
[ Yeah, okay. I assume you want a large then, big boy? ]
Thanks, Victor sends, and Jo shakes her head as she steps into the shower.
Although she still has the general physical feeling that she's been run over by a semi-truck, Jo feels good. She's finally, finally working the job she's wanted to since angels took her dad when she was still in pigtails. Her new partner, if too much a lover of rules for her usual taste, is really pretty awesome. (And he's Dean's fiancé, too, which really should be fun.) She's done with her first stake-out. She has visual proof that angels can be killed. They've got a hair from the angel nest, which, while it won't have any recognizable DNA (angels are weird like that), is long and red and pretty damn distinctive.
Jo grins at Ruby as she steps up to the counter, and the barista smiles back. "The usual?"
"A large today, actually."
Ruby nods, reaching for a large cup and scribbling down the same drink Jo orders every morning before work. It has, like, milk and actual flavor in it and everything.
"Anything else? Since we've broken from the norm already."
"One large drip coffee, please."
Ruby raises an eyebrow. "Bringing coffee home to someone special?"
Jo makes a face. "You knew I was starting in Angel Crimes this week. It's for my new partner."
When Ruby smiles this time, it's slow and sneaky. "Are they cute?"
"He's my friend's fiancé, Ruby."
Ruby shrugs. "And? Is he cute?"
Jo rolls her eyes. "Not really my type. Bigger fan of rules than I'm into."
Ruby nods like she understands. She probably does. She and Jo don't hang out very much, but they get drinks every now and then after that one awkward first date that they're both still trying to forget, and Jo's heard a lot of stories. Some that make her wonder if she's supposed to like, report something, being an officer of the law and all.
The bells on the door clink as Jo's handing Ruby her credit card, and Ruby looks over Jo's shoulder with a sly smile the whole time she's ringing up her order. "Cute redhead, six o'clock." The effort required to not turn around is about equivalent to the effort it took the first time Jo ever ran the FBI physical course: which is to say, a lot. In all honesty, one of the first thoughts in Jo's head when she was promoted to Angel Crimes was oh, good. I can still get my coffee at the same time as that girl. Which, come on. That's a little out of hand.
"You ever gonna ask her out?" Ruby prods. "I think she likes you. She stares a lot." Jo takes her credit card back, about to give Ruby a stern look - but then she smiles a little, instead. She's got a fancy new job, and a cool new partner, and they've already got a lead on their first case. Why shouldn't she have a first date with a new girl, too?
"You know," she says, "maybe I will."
Ruby grins at her before turning to fill up Victor's coffee, and Jo is smiling herself as she slides her credit card away.
"Hey," Ruby says, handing the full, hot cup to Jo over the counter. "Large drip coffee just so happens to be Miss Redhead's daily order."
For a second, Jo just stares at her. "Oh, you mean..."
"I do mean," Ruby agrees, flapping a hand at her. "Go. Flirt, drink, be merry."
Jo snorts. "Yeah, all right." She still has to wait for her own coffee, so she steps aside, setting the coffee that still might be for Victor on the counter. Because she is polite, she of course does not take note of the cute redhead's cute little pant-suit, light gray and fitted, pressed neatly as always. She also, of course, does not notice that that pretty red hair is swept up efficiently into a bun, or that those dark eyes look exceptionally tired, but still bright.
"Ah, jeez," Jo mutters, digging in the breast pocket of her jacket for a pen. She picks up the coffee that will now definitely not be for Victor and scribbles on it quickly, finishing just in time to grab her own coffee and give the barista a rushed smile of gratitude. Hands laden with hot drinks, she heads to the end of the line, purpose in her step, before she can lose her nerve. She is awesome. She has an awesome new job. Anybody would wanna date her.
"Hi," Jo says brightly. Cute Redhead looks up, blinking. Jo gestures at the counter with one of her coffee-cup-filled hands. "Ruby told me this was your order." She holds out the coffee.
"Oh!" She takes it, lifting the lid to check. "Yes, thank you." She shifts the coffee to her left hand, holding out her right and smiling. "I'm Anna."
Anna. It fits. "Jo," Jo says, gripping the offered hand. Anna's hand is slim, but feels just about as strong as Jo's. Jo grins at her, unable to stop herself. "Well, Anna, I hope you have a great day."
"You too, thank you," Anna says as Jo pulls away. They're both still smiling. Maybe Ruby was right. Something warm and bubbly and silly makes Jo's chest feel tight, and she gives Anna a last smile, then heads for the door before she can start spouting sappy poetry or some shit like that.
Her cell number's on Anna's coffee, anyway. She'll call if she's interested.
Jo doesn't manage to stop grinning all through the drive-through (she's still gonna bring coffee for Victor, she's not a dick), and all through the drive to work, and all the way into the building.
"Hey, partner," she says, plopping a big cup of hot coffee onto Victor's desk. "Let's start lookin' for this redhead angel."
[ Hey, Jo. It's Anna. ]
[ Oh, hey! ]
[ Would you like to grab coffee sometime when we can actually sit down? ]
[ Sounds great! Uh, I'm usually busy with work in the mornings, but drinks later could work. ]
[ Oh. I often have... prior commitments at night. Early evening? ]
[ That works. Can't wait! ]