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Sailing the Stars

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Jo remembers the first time she left the Roadhouse.

She couldn’t have been more than seven, and a friend of her dad’s on a neighboring planet, Missuris, had reached out, needing his help for something. At the time, she had never been anywhere beyond the old comet that hung in the orbit of Nesk where the Roadhouse proudly sat, and the idea of other planets with other people existing on them was such a fantastical notion. Especially to a seven-year-old. She had grown up hearing her father’s stories of when he was younger, sailing upon the Icarus. This cargo-turned-pirate ship had once sailed the inner core planets of Am’rica, looting and raiding large shipping vessels that chugged goods and mined ores from poorer mining colonies to rich wealthy ones. The crew had disbanded a few years before she was born when a planned ambush led to the loss of half the crew to the yawning jaws of the sirens. Even so, that had never stopped her father from regaling his tales of adventure. And Jo, in turn, from falling in love with the idea of following in her father’s footsteps.

When she had overheard her father mentioning his trip to her mother, she had begged and pleaded for what felt like days for him to consider bringing her along. Her mother hadn’t liked the idea, but Bill Harvelle could never say no to his daughter, and so Jo joined him, whisked off in her father’s small star jumper, to Missuris. Looking back, the whole journey wasn’t anything special, with packed sandwiches and one small cramped cot they slept on together, but as a child, it had been incredible. When she was awake, she had spent the time eyes locked on the stars as they blurred past, perched on her father’s lap, a grin stretched ear to ear. Landing three days later on Missuris, feet touching foreign soil, Jo had sworn to herself she would never remain at the Roadhouse forever. 

 


As she got older, she accompanied her father a few more times on his trips to other planets or to the Salvage, where a family friend of theirs, Bobby, had his ship to gather old parts. Most of them were nothing grand, just short trips back and forth that paled in comparison to the stories her father would sometimes still tell (at her insistence), but she could find no ill-will. Jo had got to travel the stars, to see new planets and colonies, to even catch glimpses of the Cluster in the distance, and that was more than enough. 

These trips were few and in between, and eventually, despite her father’s increasing trips, those she joined decreased. More often than not, she was told to stay at the Roadhouse, where she helped her mother clean and run the bar. It wasn’t as fun, and she would often storm off and lock herself in her room for hours when her father would leave without her, but then he’d take her out on his star jumper, and she’d forgive him. Besides the times she wasn’t able to join her father, Jo had learned she could still have some fun -- often in the form of pestering customers for stories. At ten, bright-eyed Jo, with her blonde hair braided neatly back, would march up to the nearest patron and sit herself down either across or beside them and demand they tell her a story in a stern, no-nonsense voice.

She’d then stare them down, testing scarred pirates or weary hunters or surprised travelers to see which would crumble and which might put up a bit of a fight. It was quite the sight; her mother would say with an amused smile, watching a short little girl staring down hunters who had fought off leviathans or survived exploding stars as if they were equals. After all, these were men and women who seen things far worse than a stubborn little girl, and yet, they’d all bow. It didn’t matter who it was, Jo found a way to pull a tale out of them, and slowly it became an unspoken rule at the Roadhouse: if Joanna Harvelle found you, you owed her a story. It could be grizzly or bloody or the type that kept you on the edge of your seat or none of the above -- she wasn’t picky after all -- but no one walked away without doing so. A few folks found it odd, but most took it in stride, and by the time she was fifteen, Jo could tease out a story from even the toughest of folks with only a look. 

And then her father died. 

A freak accident, some whispered. 

That Winchester is cursed , others added, lips pulled back into sneers. First his wife, now Bill. 

They always made their speculations where they assumed Jo couldn’t hear, but it hardly mattered. Her father was dead, apparently while on some hunt in Nova X, and no one, not even her mother, would tell her the exact details of what happened. To make matters worse, there went Jo’s chances of sailing the stars. Her father’s star jumper was destroyed, her mother now refused to let her leave, and it seemed like the whole universe had decided to crush Jo’s dreams of leaving. And that hurt so much more. She was stuck on a piece of old rock in a battered bar, surrounded by folks who could come and go as they pleased, still gleaming from stardust and minds alight with stories, and she was trapped, grieving for a lost father and no way to remember him the way she knew best: by traveling. 

So for years after her father’s death, she remained at the Roadhouse, stuck within Nesk’s orbit, longing to be anywhere else.

 Over time, it had gotten easier, even with her numerous failed attempts of stowing away in both pirate and hunter ships that docked at the Roadhouse, but she had never entirely given up on her dream. Instead, she let it lay dormant for a bit, choosing instead to remain behind the bar, feasting on what stories she could until her chance presented itself. Then she’d flee and follow the stars wherever they took her. 


Jo hums softly as she wiped dry one of the glasses in front of her. She’d had the same tune stuck in her head recently, and she wished she could remember the name of it, but all that had stuck was a few lines. The tragedy of befriending musicians, she supposed. They bounce lyrics and tunes off you, and in turn, leave you with a song that has yet to exist, repeating in your mind like a broken stereo. It could’ve been worse, she thought, surveying the Roadhouse. After all, things were relatively quiet at the moment, with only a few stragglers scattered at the tables, mostly sharing hushed conversations over long-since emptied glasses. As her gaze passes by the old holotable, Ash sends her a playful wink, making her snort. The table was empty minus him, no daring hunters or foolish pirates high off their recent acquisition of treasures wanting to go up against him in a game. A smart move, she knew, fully aware Ash would not only count every card played but also that he’d memorized every loophole there were to exist and knew how to exploit them well enough. To play against him was a dangerous game, and regulars ’round here knew not to play a game against him (much like how you never won a game of darts against her). 

Eventually, some poor sap, either too bold to care or too fresh to know better, would stumble in when the crowds start picking up, and they’ll stumble over to Ash’s table and learn their lesson. 

Looking away from Ash, she takes one more sweep of the interior, storing the now-dried glass under the bar. It will get busier soon -- there’s a shipment due to be making its way across Am’rica in the next couple of sols, and it just happens to be passing close enough to Nesk, and in turn, the Roadhouse. This means those small groups huddled around the tables whispering will grow. There will be more folks passing through, hoping to snag something from the shipment traveling from Ida to Nova Yor, be it legally or illegally (there will also be those coming for adventure or hunters heading towards the Cluster, but that’s to be expected. Still, Jo can expect pirates and traders will be the ones filling more tables here soon). The promise of more folks and more ships docking also brings the security of more people she might be able to ride with. If what she’s been hearing lately about the activity in Ida and the increase in mining in the colonies of Nev’da is true, then there’s a high likelihood at least one of these ships might be wanting extra hands.

A tap tap tap tap comes from the end of the bar, a consistent drumbeat that pulls her out of her thoughts and directs her attention elsewhere. Jo turns, following the noise, to find it coming from Bobby, who sits perched on an old bar stool. He drums the fingers of his left hand across the dark stained wood of the bar top, brow furrowed. 

“Stiff again?” she asks him, walking over to him. Jo nods to the mechanism that made up his left arm from elbow to fingertips as she did so. From experience, she knew the gears or wires that helped make up his bronze prosthetic arm would jam, causing problems for the older man and either making his movements in the one arm too stiff or completely lock up and refuse to move. 

Bobby grunts, reaching into one of the main pockets of his worn jacket and pulling out a small screwdriver. He then, with the screwdriver, began twisting some of the screws near the wrist joint, pausing to test the fingers out again.

Tap tap tap tap.

“My fault for joining that bastard on a hunt in Wyno’mia again after last time,” he tells her gruffly, sounding somewhat annoyed, although what it was directed at was unclear. Bobby then took the screwdriver to his arm again, dissatisfied with the results. 

Jo just nods, wiping down the bar top with her rag. That bastard, she knew, was none other than Rufus Turner, an old friend of Bobby’s. For all the man’s grumblings and complainings, anyone who knew Bobby well enough knew the man didn’t hate Rufus. Instead, it was the opposite. Despite the complaints of being continuously dragged out of his self-proclaimed retirement (a retirement that he had been bringing up the last ten years mind you), Bobby never once said no to Rufus. But no one would point that out, especially not Jo, so she’d nod and agree with him that it’s Rufus’ fault and probably not Bobby doing something dumb combined with the old, slowly rusting mechanisms of his arm (like usual). 

“Can I getcha a refill?” She offers instead, and Bobby nudged the empty glass within her reach. 

“Same as always,” he tells her, and Jo snags the glass, turning her back to him as she grabs a whiskey bottle from one of the shelves behind her. 

As she pours, Jo asks, “Any new stories you got for me?” She wears a smile on her face, knowing the response she’ll get. 

“You with your stories, girl,” comes Bobby’s gruff response that Jo mockingly mouths along to. Bobby shoots her a look, and her smile grows wider. “I swear if you could find a way to make enough cash on them, you would,” he continues, all without heat. But, of course, this is part of their game: Jo pours him a drink and heckles him for stories, Bobby then shares them, and she’s left wishing she can get off this damn rock and go sailing into the nebulas again. After all, if you asked Jo, it’s been too damn long since she was back among the stars (her mother would disagree, though).

“Don’t go giving me ideas,” Jo shoots back, handing him his drink. “Besides, you what? Want me to ask how the Salvage is?” She raises a brow and cocks a hip, referring to his junkyard off Polaris where he ran trades and the odd ship repairs. Like the Roadhouse, the Salvage was an old meteor that had since cooled and now hung in the sky like a dead red dwarf, accumulating junk and scrap metal bits on its surface and orbiting around it. Everyone in Am’rica knew if you needed parts (or were looking for info or trades), then the Salvage was the place to go. She had never been there herself, but Jo imagined it hardly looked that much different from the image in her head. 

Bobby snorts. “Suppose not. Ain’t got many stories, I’m afraid, though. At least, none you haven’t already heard one of these folks here mumbling about,” he explains honestly. “But from what I heard, those two boys of John’s are kicking up quite a fuss a couple of sols away.”

Jo leans in, intrigued. “Yeah?”

They’ve been cropping up quite a bit in the stories ’round here recently, and while she’s never bumped into them, she’s familiar enough with them she’s sure she could point them out if they walked into the bar. 

“What’d they do this time?”

Bobby gives her a look, the unspoken question of what didn’t they do? hanging in the air between them. “From what those boys said when they stopped by, apparently John’s gone missing on his suicide quest to trace whatever beast killed his wife, and those boys are set on trying to find him,” he explains before drinking heavily from the glass. 

Jo gives a low whistle, draping the rag in her hand over her shoulder. “What’d he think it was this time? Folks around here never seem to have a straight answer,” she mentions, and Bobby shrugs. 

“Think they’d said it was one of the Fallen.”

Her eyes widened. “A Fallen?” Jo echoes in disbelief. “That’s quite the claim. I mean, it makes sense, what with the Hellfire, but I didn’t think anyone’s heard from any of the Celestials, fallen or not, in centuries.”

The Fallen, and the Celestials in general, were a race of powerful beings made of holy light and born from stars' birth. They were absolute beings of terrifying power but were mostly myths at this point. In tales, they could destroy planets with little effort and were said to have helped create the planets, and during the Great War, their fighting had led to the birth of the Cluster and blackholes. 

Her father had told her stories of the Fallen, the Celestials who during the Great War had chosen to side with the Morning Star. From what she was told, the Morning Star had been the brightest of all the Celestials, and the fighting between the Celestials had led to the creation of the Fallen. Those who had joined the Morning Star had either crumbled and collapsed upon themselves, giving in too greatly to dark matter. They had either become vast, empty tears in space that threatened to swallow anything that got too close, or, those that were luckier, burnt out and became demon-like beings. They were dangerous creatures but were simply stories -- no such hunters had ever run into one or heard of Fallens attacking planets post-War, especially not minor planets like Kanz so far out of the core of the planetary system Am’rica. 

“Believe me,” Bobby tells her, “I told him that. It ain’t a claim you make lightly, but he was dead set that it was one of the Fallen, and those poor boys are setting themselves up for failure -- at best -- or death -- at worst.”

She nods grimly, knowing he was right. If they were real and as dangerous as the stories said, no mere human stood a chance against one of them. Paired with John Winchester’s inability to see anything past his blood-soaked vengeance and well, it was a recipe for disaster. She had seen less crazy revenge quests end poorly, and this made those look tame. 

“Hey, Jo! How’s that mom of yours?” 

Jo pulls back and turns (thankful for a reprieve from the conversation, which will start getting somber fast, even if it’s not intended), recognizing the thick drawl that only came from those who lived in the distant putter planets of the system. A few bar stools down stood Benny, who’s leaning half against the counter, fiddling with a toothpick in his mouth.

“Still too good for you,” she retorts, her somber mood dissipating. 

Benny barks a laugh, and Jo catches a flash of some of his metal teeth.  

“Oh, piss off,” he tells her, trying to sound mad and failing. “You know I ain’t asking like that!”

She laughs too, knowing he loved his wife far too much to even think of glancing at another woman the same way. “Drink?” She offers, holding up an empty glass but not moving towards him.  

“Should say no with the way you treatin’ me. Come here for an honest drink and work and you out here assumin’ me a dishonest man,” Benny tells her, and Jo rolls her eyes playfully.

“If you were looking for honest work, you’d make yourself useful and pick up an apron. You’d be a much better cook than whoever’s in the kitchen now.”

He snorts. “And give up the open night sky? Nah, ain’t happenin’ sister.” Benny leans back slightly, watching as Jo pours him a drink. They both knew, as much as sailing was in his blood, if Andrea asked even once, he’d put in no fuss and never board another. “Been quiet lately?” He asks, and she gives a hum. 

“A bit,” she admits, sliding him his drink. “But that’s ’cause we haven’t had any big ships docking lately. You’ve all been off in the outer planets or slinking near the Cluster with hunters.” 

He nods in understanding. 

“At least with the big shipment coming through, mom and I are expecting a larger crowd,” Jo continued as he took a drink. 

“Ah, you know about that, huh?” 

“Hard not to, working here,” Jo says, and Benny tilted his head and gave a half-shrug as if to say, ah fair. “Have no clue what exactly the cargo is, though. It sounds like none of the crews passing through here can make up their mind.”

Benny grins, glancing over his shoulder at the others sitting in the tables in the corners before whispering, “It’s got the Colt.”

Her eyes widened, and a soft no way slipped from her lips. “ The Colt?” She repeated back in the same hushed tone. The Colt was the stuff of legends, and if this cargo ship had the Colt, then it’d be a huge deal.

“Amongst other powerful weapons, yeah. Heard from the Captain it’s gonna be the big one, and anyone who gets their hands on it can make a fortune. Especially if you try to sell it to hunters or those elites on the inner core planets,” he adds, metal teeth flashing in the bar’s dim lighting. “Talbot reckons this’ll be the money maker and is planning to catch the ship before it reaches past the Twin Planets.”

“Why? Wouldn’t they be expecting an ambush that early on in the journey?” Jo points out, and Benny takes another drink. 

“Sure, probably. But the sooner we get to it, the less chance of someone else looting it first,” he explains. “Leave it too long, and those weapons will be scattered all through Am’rica by the end of the sol.” 

He then looks over at Bobby, offering a wave. “Hey, old man, glad to see you’re still kicking!” 

Bobby just flips him off, sending Benny cackling in delight. 

“Just as loveable and welcoming as always. Say, you happen to carry any parts on that old ship of yours? My star jumper’s nav system is actin’ off again, and I’m hoping you can help a brother out,” Benny then says. 

“I’d have to look at what you have but probably got the parts,” Bobby says. 

“Perfect! Good to come and check with me now before this one --” Benny points a thumb over at Jo, who gives an indignated hey! “-- gets me so drunk I forget my name?”

Bobby rises from his seat. “Sure.” He then places a few coins on the bar top for his drinks and looks over at Benny, who follows suit. Jo collects the money, but not before pointing out, “I’m not the one who keeps ordering drink after drink, Benny. I’m just the bartender. It’s my job to get you the drinks you order. It’s your fault if you can’t hold them.” 

Benny waves her off. “Oh, hush. I’ll be back soon before you miss me, and then you can let me get myself so drunk I forget my name, okay?” he says.

“I’m holding you to that,” she promises sternly with bright eyes before the two men begin walking away and leaving her back to her quiet bar. 

Going back to her glasses, Jo assumes the next few hours will be like this: mostly quiet with the odd interruption in between. So she gets to work, drying the rest of the glasses and storing them under the bar. Her mom, at one point, comes out from the backroom to do stock of the bar, and Jo spends the time leaning against the corner of the bar, sipping her drink. They talk a bit, and despite all of Jo’s rebellion and their conflicting views on her wanting to go off in her father’s footsteps, they get along well. When the stock’s done, her mom squeezes her upper arm, placing a kiss atop her head, and tells her to remind Ash not to con every last coin out of the next bastard who wanders in his direction. 

“We don’t need them not being able to pay for their booze,” Ellen jokes warmly, and it makes Jo laugh. 

“I’ll tell him you said that but it’s not his fault if they do decide to wager all they got,” she tells her mom, earning one more squeeze. 

Her mother then slips back into the backroom where their living quarters are, and Jo is left back at the bar, now with fewer patrons than before. The Roadhouse will be closing soon, and just when Jo figures Benny’s wandered off, the door opens again. 

About time, she thinks, but the man who opens the door isn’t Benny. Neither is the man who follows. For starters, they’re too young. Benny’s not old, but these two men are young, roughly her age, and still rather baby-faced compared to most folks who wander through the Roadhouse’s front doors. They’re not dressed like the pirates that come through, and they look a little too bright-eyed to be hunters. Travelers then, she surmises. Or at least, those looking to get drunk and maybe lose all their cash to Ash.

The two men walk up to her bar, and Jo watches how the bar around them seems to fall even quieter. Where there were once soft murmurs, there’s now silence as the folks at their tables focus instead on this duo. Their eyes follow the two men as they move towards her. She wonders if they notice and are pretending not to or are simply unobservant. Despite most people here being quite skilled with keen eyes, alcohol, she’s found, definitely removes subtlety. 

The shorter of the two flashes her a charming smile, resting one arm on the bar, and Jo internally wrinkles her nose. She knows these types of men, moving around like the galaxy owes them, thinking smooth-talking and pretty faces can get them anything and anyone they want. Now she thinks maybe she should point them in Ash’s direction -- at least this man. The other one’s still in her good graces at the moment. 

“Hello,” he seems to purr, “Can I get a whiskey, and for my brother a vodka cranberry?” 

The other man, who she’s now learned is his brother, shoots him an annoyed look, and Jo’s starting to like that one a bit more. 

“I’m perfectly fine drinking whiskey,” he tells his brother. “You don’t need to order me what you think is some ‘girly drink.’” He then looks at Jo and a bit shyly asks for a gin and tonic, which Jo’s happy to make. 

(She’s also happy to spit in the other guy’s whiskey if he weren’t looking, but she’s not going to say that.)

Jo nods and gets to work making the drinks. “So,” she says, as she pulls down the whiskey bottle, “ain’t seen you ’round here before. What brings you to Nesk?” This is all asked in good nature, just friendly small talk, but the shorter man seems to take it in an almost flirtatious manner.

“Just passin’ through,” he says, while his brother says, “Looking for directions.” 

The two share a look, and there’s something about the way they’re acting that makes Jo think she’s familiar with them. Not their faces, but their mannerisms. 

“We’re heading to the Cluster,” the taller one explains to Jo as she hands his brother his drink and begins to work on the next one. 

“The Cluster?” Jo raises a brow, giving them a once-over. “Don’t tell me you’re hunters.” She shouldn’t be surprised, what with how they’re dressed and how the younger one looks like he’s trying a bit too hard to look cool. They probably haven’t even had their first proper hunt yet.

“Uh, yeah, we are,” the taller one confesses, a bit surprised. “How’d you…?”

“Call it a lucky guess,” Jo interrupts, handing him his drink. “Gotta ask, why’re you heading to the Cluster? Not a lot of folks who head there come out alive or all together.”

“We’re looking for our dad.”

Looking for their dad. Two brothers looking for their dad. Where has she heard of… Ah. Now she knows why they seemed a bit familiar. 

“So you’re the Winchesters,” she says, and the shorter one, Dean she thinks, grins slowly while the other, Sam, blinks in surprise. 

Dean leans in a bit. “So you’ve heard of us.”

“Hard not to when you run a bar that hunters and pirates frequent,” she bluntly states, knowing he’s trying to be flirty. 

If Dean’s deterred by her lack of reaction to his flirting, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he just nods, going with it. “And you’re doing quite the good job, might I add,” he tells her, his grin still in place.

“I’m not interested in sleeping with you.” Jo cuts straight to the chase because she’s got no motivation to stand here and let him try a few more of his tricks. Dean looks stunned, trying to splutter out a response, and to his side, Sam snorts, having only just avoided choking on a mouthful of alcohol. 

“I, well, you see,” Dean stammers, and Jo takes pity on him. 

The pretty ones always take it the hardest.

Jo pats his arm in a “there there” gesture. “Don’t let it bruise your ego that much, pretty boy,” she explains, “I’m not interested in sleeping with one.” 

“Ah,” Dean eventually says, before downing half his drink, ear tips pink. 

The look Sam shoots at her is one of amusement, and she thinks she could definitely see herself befriending Sam (and maybe, with all this out the way, Dean, should he become less all that) eventually. 

“Now that you aren’t trying to hit on me, you wanna tell me why you’re chasing your dad through the Cluster of all places?” Jo then asks, and it’s Dean, who has recovered from his embarrassment, that answers her. 

“Last we spoke, he sent me a message to my jumper. Said he thought he had a lead and when I tried to reach out to him, got nothing, so now we’re trying to follow him and make sure he didn’t get himself killed,” Dean explained. “He had brought up that he was heading to the Cluster, so it seems like the best place to start.” He shrugs.

“That’s one helluva place to start looking,” she begins, trying to wrap her head around the fact that these two men were more than willing to start looking for their missing father in the most dangerous place first, despite their inexperience. Jo knew professional hunters that were more than happy to avoid the Cluster altogether, and yet, the way these two spoke of the Cluster, it was like it was nothing. Jo decided she didn’t want to address that yet. “You sure he isn’t hiding out on some other planet in the outer core or something?”

Dean shook his head. “I traced the message back. He made it from a ship on Utaleon.”

Jo sighed. That was right in the heart of the Cluster. She had to admit that it was impressive their father had made it to Utaleon at all, especially staying long enough to make a message. From what she pieced together from the stories of hunters who went into the Cluster, most never made it that deep in. They’d skirt the edges of it, sticking mainly to Calis or Oren if they needed to, and the furthest anyone went in was the edges of Nev’da or Ida for their ore mines (even those though were risky for business moguls who weren’t smart). No one quite knew what lived in the heart of the Cluster -- some said it was a black hole, others would swear up and down they’d seen a leviathan there -- but apparently, John Winchester (and his boys in turn) were stupid enough to find out. 

She’s about to call them idiots for following their father that deep into the Cluster when she pauses. “How much do you guys know about the Cluster and those planets at the outer core?” 

Sam frowns. “Not much, to be honest. We don’t know a lot of hunters, and the logs I’ve found on those planets are scarce,” he admits, and Jo nods. 

“So if I said I knew someone who might be a bit helpful, would you be willing to let them aboard?” She then asked because she knew quite a few hunters and pirates that had made it quite deep into the Cluster. Not to the heart, but compared to Sam and Dean, the knowledge she had far outweighed theirs. 

“I’d be willing to consider,” Dean said after a moment. “Who…?” He trailed off before eyes narrowing. “Wait, are you saying you want to come?”

Before she can open her mouth, Dean plows on, getting his confirmation. 

“No, absolutely not,” he tells her firmly, and Jo rolls her eyes. 

“What, are you hurt I turned you down?” she taunts. “You boys confessed you need help, and I have resources, connections. That’s a helluva lot more than either of you have, and at least with me, you ain’t going in blind.”

Sam tilts his head. “You have experience in the Cluster?”

“I, uh, well no,” Jo admits lamely with a wince. Then, when she sees the looks on their faces, she hurriedly adds, “but I’ve spoken to quite a few hunters who have, and I know folks that can get you what you need: weapons, maps, supplies.” Feeling more confident, she then crosses her arms and leans back, staring down the brothers. “I’m the best help you’ve got. Not like many hunters will jump at helping the two of you once they learn your dad is John Winchester. So, what’ll it be, boys?”

They share a look. Then Dean asks, “What’s in it for you?”

“Pardon?”

He places his glass on the bar top, and the glass makes a faint clink. “You offered to help us navigate the Cluster, but I doubt that’s out of the goodness of your heart. So what’s in it for you?”

Jo thought about her trips with her dad, sitting on his lap and later by his side, staring out at the stars whirling by, visiting nearby planets. She thinks about how she felt after every story he told her, that awe and thrill. The same thrill she’s been desperately trying to grasp again as she weasels and rips and teases and pulls stories out of hunters and pirates alike who walk through the Roadhouse doors. What’s in it for her? They ask and Jo smiles, knowing her answer. 

“I get to travel the stars,” she says simply. Dean doesn't look convinced, and Jo scoffs. “What? I’ve been stuck on this damn rock for too long. If you don’t want my help, fine, but when no one else offers it, don’t come crawling back to me.”

Sam leans over and whispers something to Dean, who seems to grumble and mutter something under his breath while Jo waits for their response. She’s offered them help and explained her motive behind wanting to join them on their journey; now, it’s up to them to make the smart choice. 

He then turns to Jo. “You mean it, that you’ll help us?”

“Sammy!” Dean hisses, but Sam gives his brother a pointed look, shutting him up. 

“You know how Dad was. I doubt she’s wrong that there aren’t many other hunters who would want to help us,” he tells his brother. Then, to Jo: “When are you able to leave?”

Jo grins, liking what she’s hearing. “Right now. The bar’s due to close anyway. I doubt I’d get much shit for closing an hour early.”

“And your partner is cool with you just up and leaving?” Dean asks, nodding to the ring that hangs around her neck on a rope cord. 

She had almost forgotten it was there until he pointed it out -- it had rested against her chest for so long that to Jo, it was like it was simply part of her. Glancing down at the black ring, she looks back up and smirks. “Ain’t got a partner, pretty boy.” 

He looks confused, brow furrowing as he tries to make sense of it. “Then --”

“It’s for myself,” she explains, saving him the headache. “Now,” Jo clapped her hands together, “we good to go?” 

Sam and Dean both nod, and Jo drops the rag draped over her shoulder onto the bar. Fishing for a napkin, she scribbles a quick note to her mother before slipping out from behind the bar and joining the two hunters. 

“Lead the way, boys,” she cheerily tells them, and they walk towards the exit, Jo following. 

At this point, Ash has already vanished to his room that resides on the far wall of the Roadhouse, and there are only two occupied tables -- both with a crew of ex-pirates who know better than to complain when she (nicely) kicks them out early. There’s no one left that’ll notify her mother right now of her actions, and with a quick turn of her wrist, she locks the front doors. 

“So, I don’t think I caught your name, but I’m Sam. And that’s my older brother, Dean,” Sam says, pointing to Dean, who’s a few steps ahead. 

“I’m Jo.”

Sam nods; when the three of them stop before the boy’s ship (which Dean lovingly refers to as the Impala), Jo has to admit the ship is a bit of beauty with her black, sleek metal coating. The Impala is nothing grand, no starship or cargo vessel, only a bit fancier than the average star jumper, but Jo’s not picky. She hasn’t left the Roadhouse in years and now’s her chance. Of course, to be picky now could mean dooming herself to never leaving. So she’ll take the Impala, and Sam and Dean too, who she’s sure probably aren’t as incompetent as she initially thought upon first meeting them. The door opens, and Dean steps in, Sam following after him. 

Jo pauses just for a moment at the opening, looking back at the Roadhouse. She let her mom know she’d be back eventually -- an old acquaintance and his crew are promising to swing back ’round, and despite some of their cheeky natures, they always put on a good show, and Jo’ll be damned if she misses one of their tales. 

But that’s still sols away, and besides, Jo’s got something better than the stories of old drunks, hunters, and immortal pirates that travel the cosmos: she’s got an actual ride to the heart of it. So, with a grin, Jo boards the Impala.