She doesn't run out of gas until the third week, stuck between towns because the last two places she's stopped haven't had any left. Jo's been expecting it, and it only takes her a moment to take the essentials from the car and start walking.
She still has her knife, water, enough food for a while, and a gun loaded with rocksalt along with a few bags of salt for refills. She doesn't expect she'll need much else. Her bag is light enough that she can almost pretend it isn't the end of the world, but the way her hand clenches around her phone in her pocket won't let her forget that Ellen never answers when Jo makes one precious phone call every day. Her battery is almost dead.
The cell towers finally fail for good during the fifth week. Jo stubbornly keeps her phone anyway, dead battery and all, a small part of her still hopeful for some kind of miracle, for the Winchesters to pull an apocalypse-reversal out of a hat. Her mind skitters over the facts, ignoring the way they'd both looked the last time she'd seen them. She knows it won't do any good to keep hoping, but it's all that keeps her moving. Ellen had trained her, had prepared her for anything, and she does have a destination. If her mother is still alive, she'll be at the bunker in Kansas, and Jo doesn't think beyond getting there and seeing her, because Ellen will know what to do. Jo can't imagine anything else.
The gifts start showing up sometime around the third month. Jo almost wants to stop keeping track of the passing time, because it shouldn't be taking so long for her to get anywhere, but it’s one of the only trappings of civilization she has left. Her tiny pocket calendar is slowly getting marked up, the months running together as she stumbles across the Midwest. There are still pockets of people living in tiny towns and villages, untouched by the Croatoan virus or demon infestations, and she re-supplies every time she manages to find a group that will listen to her long enough for her to prove she's safe to be around. People have learned how to spot demons, and no one lucky enough to still be alive is dumb enough to be caught unawares.
When she gets to what she thinks is the Missouri-Kansas border, things start to look worse, and she doesn't see any signs of human life for more than a week. It just figures that Kansas would be ground zero for the apocalypse. Her water won't last much longer, and she's more worried than she's been so far when she bunks down for some sleep on her eleventh day of no human contact.
She jerks awake with a sharp, sudden crack of consciousness, almost panic, and it's still dark. Her fire is dead, carefully put out before she went to sleep to avoid giving away her location to anyone who might be looking. The ring of salt around her campsite is unbroken. Jo catalogs her surroundings, trying to find what woke her, but nothing's gone from her little pile of possessions, and she can't hear anything but the low croaking of a nearby frog. When she lies back down, though, her back hits something hard, and she scrambles up and pulls a brand new, still sealed water bottle from beneath her sleeping bag.
Jo drops it immediately. Who the hell knows where it came from? When it doesn't explode, grow feet, or do anything else suspicious for about ten minutes, she gingerly wraps it in one of her dirty t-shirts and sets it aside. She'll sleep, and maybe when she wakes up it will have all been a hallucination.
Jo wakes up early, just after dawn, and finds the water bottle where she left it, wrapped up and looking not at all like anything sinister. But it has to be, she thinks, debating about taking it with her. There's no way drinkable water just magically appears out of nowhere. Someone or something sent it, and there must be a hidden agenda.
But Jo's fucked if she knows what. After minutes of deliberation, she yells "goddammit!" to the empty air around her, just for the satisfaction of hearing her own voice, and packs the bottle, still bundled in her shirt, with her other belongings.
She won't drink it, she reasons to herself. She'll just bring it along, in case of an emergency.
Two days later, after she finally concedes that she won't find drinkable water before she dies of thirst, she breaks down and takes her first sip out of the possibly-dangerous bottle. It tastes better than any drink she's ever had before, the liquid sliding down her throat, sending cool relief to her entire body.
Jo isn't stupid, though, just desperate, so she waits for half an hour before taking another drink. It's just as delicious, and she rations herself. Just one more swallow for today.
When she sleeps that night, in short but surprisingly restful bursts, she dreams of red hair and pale skin, instead of her mother and demons and the end of the world.
In the morning, Jo finds a peach carefully tucked into the front pocket of her bag.
Utterly unembarrassed by her new habit of talking to herself out loud, she mutters as she picks up the peach to examine it. The skin is fuzzy and smooth, no cuts or bruises marring the soft surface.
"What on earth is going on?" she asks the empty landscape. "Did someone not get the message about the apocalypse happening? Who the fuck sends fruitbaskets at a time like this?"
There's no answer, and she tries to make herself believe she wasn't expecting one.
She stops for a break a few hours later, and hefts the weight of the peach in her palm. It looks just as perfect as it had that morning, and she can't resist taking a bite. The rest of the peach is gone in mere minutes, and it isn’t until Jo is licking the juice off her fingers that she remembers she shouldn't have eaten the whole thing at once. Now all she has for the rest of the day is dried jerky, and an airline package of peanuts a little girl had given her at the last populated town she'd found. She can't regret it, though, not with her stomach sated, full of ripe fruit, and the taste still sweet on her lips.
She takes a short rest and dreams of red hair again, sees a pale shoulder, the curve of a long, slender neck, and wakes up just as she reaches out with her hand to touch.
That night Jo sleeps in an abandoned house in a town she vaguely recognizes. She's getting closer to the right area, might be there in a matter of days, and the fact that she still hasn't found any signs of human life is drowning the spark of hope she's kept burning within her that she might see her mother again. When she wakes up, she smells pancakes, but she thinks it must be leftover from her dream, a vague memory of a time in her childhood when her father had made breakfast for them all every Saturday morning.
She stumbles down to the kitchen, thinking she might find some leftover food that's still good. The house had been locked up tight when she'd broken in the night before, no evidence that it had already been raided.
Instead of canned beans and bottled water, she finds a steaming plate of pancakes, covered in syrup, and a mug of coffee on the table. She searches the whole house, but doesn't find anyone, and she sits down to eat the breakfast. She says thank you, like a quiet prayer to her magical benefactor, and eats slowly and carefully, afraid of upsetting her stomach after so long with so little.
After breakfast, Jo loads up on food and water. The shower works, and even with no hot water, Jo feels cleaner than she has in weeks – bathing in streams just doesn't cut it on the hygiene front. She nearly does a dance when she finds two unopened tampon boxes in the bathroom, and even takes a stick of deodorant despite her bag being almost too heavy to lift. She's on the homestretch now and she doesn't want to have to stop again. She walks steadily all through the day and only stops when her bladder forces it.
She builds a fire and roasts a hotdog just after sunset. She's sure she'll make it to the bunker in the morning, but doesn't want to risk traveling in the dark, so she sleeps on the ground restlessly, willing time to move faster. Hours later, the moon bright and high in the sky, she hears the sound of something hitting the ground and scrambles for her gun.
On the other side of her dead fire stands a tall, red-haired woman. Jo blinks, tries to wake up, but the scene doesn't change.
"I'm sorry," the woman says, clutching a small package in her hands. "I didn't mean to wake you, but it appears that I can't leave."
Jo shakes herself, says christo even though she already knows somehow that this isn't a demon. This is her dream, the silent presence that saved her life with small gifts of fruit and water.
"Do you know who I am?" the dream says, a tremor shaking her voice.
"You gave me a peach," Jo stammers, and closes her mouth tightly in embarrassment.
"I did," the woman says, with something like a smile. "You know about angels, don't you?" she asks, and Jo nods, doesn't offer anything else.
"I used to be one," the woman says, her eyes so sad and guileless that Jo believes the words instinctively. "My name was Anael for a long time, but now I'm Anna."
"Why are you here?" Jo asks, trying not to drop her guard any further. "Why have you been helping me? How can you keep finding me if you aren't an angel anymore?"
Anna takes a cautious step forward and sits cross-legged on the dirt. "The angels are all gone now, and my grace has been fading more every day without their presence. I must have used the last of it on this trip."
"So you're human now?" Jo asks, still trying to wake herself up, missing that Anna hasn't really answered any of her questions.
"I am," Anna replies, and laughs without humor. "For the second and last time."
"What does that mean?"
"Did Dean ever tell you about the girl who used to be an angel?"
Jo sits down abruptly. "No, but Sam told my mother. You're her, you're Anna."
Anna nods and Jo remembers her earlier question. "So why aren't you helping the Winchesters? Why me?"
Anna looks down. "They… didn't need my help anymore. You did."
"Are they?" Jo stops, not sure she wants to know the answer.
"I don't know," Anna replies. "I can't – I don't think so, but I can't know for sure."
They sit in silence for several minutes while Jo processes her new circumstances.
"Well," Jo says at last. "Thank you for saving me."
"I'm sorry I can't do more." Anna looks down at her hands and seems to remember her package. “Here,” she says, handing it to Jo. “This is for you.”
Jo opens the package to find three bars of chocolate. She hasn’t had chocolate in so long, she’s hardly sure she remembers what it tastes like. She looks at Anna, making a decision quickly.
“Thank you,” she says, then rummages through her bag, pulls out the spare blanket and offers it to Anna. "I could use some company while I'm looking for my mom."
Anna hesitates, then nods and takes the blanket and lies down gingerly on her side of the fire.
Jo is almost asleep again when Anna whispers "thank you, Jo."
Traveling with Anna isn't that different from traveling alone, but Jo feels like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders. When she looks to her side and sees Anna there, walking without paying attention to where she's going, focused on the scenery instead of the road, Jo can almost pretend this isn't the end of everything she's ever known.
The bunker is empty when they arrive, but still locked up correctly, and Jo hopes that means Ellen left of her own free will. Anna watches her curiously, but makes no move to touch anything. Jo digs through some loose papers and finds a note with her name on it in Ellen's bold handwriting.
Jo, if you find this note, get over to Blue Rapids as quick as you can. I've gone with some old friends to join up with the hunters based outside the town. Not many people left in Kansas, but those who can are all heading there. Left you a map in case you need one – hid it where I always do. Hurry, and take care of yourself.
It's dated a week ago. Jo holds it to her chest after reading it out loud and wills herself to be strong.
"I'm sorry I can't take us there the angel way," Anna offers, her hand reaching out hesitantly for Jo's shoulder. Jo lets her do it, grateful for the reminder that she isn't alone.
"It's okay," Jo says. "It'll only take a few days, maybe less, to walk there, and we should have enough food and water."
They load up on water, and Jo opens the trap door under the desk to find the map. She could probably make her way without it, but there's no point in taking chances. Almost an hour after arriving, they set off again, and Jo feels hope again in a tangible way. Her mother is still alive, and she has Anna.
Anna is quiet all day, and even as Jo wonders how she can know for sure when she's only known Anna for a few days, she knows something is wrong. Something beyond the obvious – being stuck as a human in the middle of the end of the world with only Jo for company.
Jo doesn't pry until after they've eaten, sitting next to each other on a blanket in front of a dying fire. It’s getting warmer at night, and Jo thinks they'll be fine without it. Not to mention safer – salt lines can't keep animals out, after all.
"I'm just gonna sit here and stare until you decide to let me in on it," Jo says conversationally, and Anna flushes, but doesn't reply.
Jo waits, watching Anna's fingers tap a nervous rhythm on her jean-clad thighs.
"I'm not used to being a burden anymore," Anna finally says, head down and turned away from Jo.
"Hey," Jo whispers, pulling Anna's face toward hers. "I'm not glad you can't leave me and go back to your old life, not glad you've lost something so important, but I sure as hell am glad you're not leaving."
Anna grins faintly, shakes her head. "I'm not much use to anyone like this. You'd be better off with the Winchesters, or almost anyone else, and I wish – I wish being human didn't mean taking away everything about me that might help at the end of the world."
Jo snorts. "I'd take you over a Winchester even if they had superpowers and you had never been an angel at all."
Anna still looks less than convinced, so Jo leans in, takes the kiss she's been wanting since she first dreamed of Anna and her bright hair. Anna's mouth opens in surprise, but her hands lift to hold Jo's hips, pulling her close, and she kisses back with no hesitation.
Jo pushes Anna down into her blanket, moves to cover Anna's body with her own.
"Is this," she whispers into Anna's neck, not really sure of what she's asking.
Anna gasps as Jo's teeth tug at her shoulder, opens her eyes and shudders as Jo presses down with her hips. "Yes," she says with panting breaths, "yes, yes, yes."
Jo slips her hand inside Anna's shirt, rubs her fingers lightly over one nipple and then the other, mouth never leaving Anna's for more than a moment. It's new and familiar and perfect, and when Anna unbuttons Jo's jeans and stops, looks up to see if Jo wants her to keep going, Jo nods frantically.
After, when Anna is sleeping against Jo's shoulder, or doing a really good impression of it, Jo doesn't think about all the things that could go wrong. She doesn't think about what this might mean, about the future or the apocalypse. Her hands run through Anna's hair, and she only lets herself think about this moment, how she feels safe and content, as if they are the last two people alive. The thought doesn't scare her the way it should.
It only takes one more night of camping to make it to the edges of Blue Rapids. Jo almost resents that her time alone with Anna has been cut short, but the thought of Ellen pushes her forward without true regret.
They stumble into the town around dusk, dirty and tired. Anna is still adjusting to her power loss, and Jo knows it's hard, even if Anna protests that she's been human before and can handle it. Jo's not exactly feeling optimistic about their chances for survival in the long run herself, not with everything the way it is.
At first there aren't any signs of human life, but as they walk, Jo hears the rustle of footsteps alongside them, behind the buildings that line the road. She's almost relieved to know that they aren't just letting people walk into the town willy-nilly.
A minute later, when two men appear from behind an old church and aim their shotguns right at Jo's face, she’s more pissed off than relieved.
"Identify yourself," the older one says, while the other yells christo and waits for a reaction.
"I'm Jo," she says, "and this is my friend, Anna. We're looking for Ellen Harvelle and I think she's been expecting me."
The younger man lowers his gun and shakes off his companion's warning glare, but before Jo has to prove her humanity any further, there's a commotion from behind the welcoming committee.
"Joanna Beth!" cries a voice that Jo has wanted to hear for so long, and she sees her mother running down the street. She looks healthy, if tired and dusty, and Jo can't do much more than hold back her tears and collapse into her mother's fierce hug.
Ellen swings her around, ignoring everyone else.
"Baby girl," she whispers into Jo's ear. "What the hell took you so long?"
They each pull back, still beaming around their tears, and Jo tugs Anna forward. Everything else can wait, all the details of her journey and what they'll do now, how they can help, but Anna is important.
"Mom, this is Anna," she says, and grips Anna's hand tightly when Anna tries to let go. "She got me here in one piece."
Ellen eyes their joined hands with a knowing smile and pulls Anna in for her own hug.
"Thank you, then," she says firmly, and Jo relaxes. Whatever happens now, however bad things get, she's exactly where she wants to be with the people that matter the most. She takes Anna's hand again, whispers into her ear as they follow Ellen into the town proper.
"Are you sure you want to stick around?"
Anna presses a smile into Jo's hair, then pulls back to meet her gaze. "I'm sure."