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Lost In Paradise

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Jo's never been one of the drifter type of hunters, the way the Winchester brothers are, itinerant and forever sleeping on shitty motel beds, or sofas, or curled up in the backseat of their absurd car. She just straight-up doesn't have the level of wanderlust for that kind of thing. Sure, she enjoys driving through the country, watching the landscape slowly change, all that, but she also likes having at least a semblance of stability. A bolt-hole she can retreat to when she needs downtime.

Even if she prefers not to live out of a suitcase, though, she's not an idiot. Unless you're Bobby Singer, you've gotta be ready and able to get your shit together and go at short notice. No matter how many hex bags and salt lines and sawed-offs you've got, nowhere's safe, not really. The quiver in Ellen's voice, fragile and faint over a long-distance phone line, after the Roadhouse burned down taught her that.

Two hours after Anna vanished into thin air, Jo's packed up and on the road, heading south.

She's got all her stuff in the back of the trunk – clothes and weaponry and her laptop and the small but respectable selection of books on demonology and all her other bits and pieces – and she's on the move. Not exactly how she'd planned to leave Denver, having a couple angels manifest in her flat and basically kick her out, but hell. Them's the breaks.

Quite what she's gonna do when she gets to Santa Fe, she hasn't worked out yet. She's got another set of fake ID and all that: Elizabeth Singer has to go, for now at least, because even if Anna disposes of the bodies in some untraceable angel way, those were some hella suspicious circumstances to leave in. So she'll change up, that's easy, she always makes sure to have aliases ready in reserve – saw one too many good hunters land their asses behind bars that way, back at the Roadhouse.

It's more the money that's the problem. She's got savings, but they aren't gonna last her all that long. She needs a job, and for that she needs an address a little more permanent than a motel room, and God this situation kinda sucks.

You'd think getting involved with angels would make things easier, but apparently not.

You might also think that the presence of angels and the whole thing about the apocalypse being nigh would make this oh-so-human shit about money and jobs pale into insignificance. Which, not so much. Just makes it even more irritating, like when her truck died on her that one time in the middle of a pretty nasty wendigo hunt with Rufus. She has a very vivid memory of being out on a back road, middle of the night, poking about under the hood of the damn thing with a torch, thinking, not only have I got a ravening monster to deal with, but now my fucking car breaks down as well? What is this shit?

It's not like Jo had ever been under the impression that hunting was super-lucrative as a career choice, and most of the time she doesn't really care – there's things a hell of a lot more important than money – but damn. Gotta admit it would be nice to get paid every now and then for putting your ass on the line. A little compensation for dealing with the Legions of Hell and angels that can break your mind with their voices, that'd be great.

Wishes were horses, fools'd ride, Joanna Beth. She hears her mother's old catchphrase in the back of her mind, rolls her eyes at the memory, and decides then and there that no matter how tight the Santa Fe situation gets, she won't run to her mom for help. Gotta stand on her own two feet, once and for all.

She's mulling it all over, starting to feel just the slightest bit pissed about the whole thing, when Anna appears in the passenger seat with a muffled sound of wings beating and absolutely no warning. Jo jumps and nearly swerves right off the road.

"Jesus Christ, could you not?" she yells, voice high with shock as she presses a hand to her chest and wills her heart to calm the fuck down.

"I'm sorry, Jo, I didn't mean to scare you." Anna sounds contrite, a little embarrassed even, but when Jo glances across at her, she doesn't look it. Just looks – abstracted. Gazing out through the windscreen with a thousand-yard-stare, as though her body might be here in the car, but she's really far away, somewhere she can't be reached.

On second thoughts, Jo realises with a chill down her spine, that might even be the truth.

She shakes her head, dismissing the thought. Can't be doing with getting caught up in all that, there's enough to be dealing with already. Aiming for nonchalance, she says, "So, d'you wanna explain what all that was, back there? How come your siblings are trying to kill you, or whatever it was they wanna do after they track you down?"

There's a long, long pause. Jo very determinedly doesn't look over at Anna, keeping her eyes tight to the road. Whatever it is that's really going on here, behind the scenes, among the angels where Jo can't see and Anna has avoided showing her, it's gonna come out now. It's got to, she's not going to rest until it does, and she knows it's not gonna be good. Whatever it is, she's not going to like what she hears.

Eventually, Anna says, "I can't explain. You'll be in danger if I do."

Another sideways look tells Jo she's still glazed over, absent, as though she's lost somewhere high and remote, all her attention drawn away to an angel-place, where everything human is just some impossibly tiny, insignificant detail. And just like that, Jo's had it with this shit.

"Oh yeah?" she snaps. "Well, Jeremiah was getting ready to blow me to bits when you arrived. They were gonna kill me because I wouldn't – couldn't – tell them where you were. So I think I'm in danger as it is, and you can at least tell me why."

"It's a long story." Anna's voice is taut, tight with tension, like a witness on the verge of coming clean about whatever fairytale nightmare they saw. That please don't make me remember tone usually gets to Jo, makes her stomach roll with sympathy and curse this part of the job, but right now she's pissed as hell and downright glad to hear it.

At least it's some kind of reaction, some emotion, not just that infuriating detachment.

"Pretty long drive to Santa Fe," she points out.

"I guess it is." Anna sighs heavily.

When Jo glances over at her, she's leaning forward, head in her hands, long red hair hanging in curtains that shield her face. She looks oddly vulnerable – the angelic presence, the power that's been cloaking her since she appeared in Jo's flat with her blade in hand, has diminished. Without it she seems physically smaller, and it's hard not to be fooled by that impression. Hard to remember that at any moment, the girl sitting beside her could reach out for that power and wrap herself in it until she's burning white-hot and unstoppable.

After a moment's pause, Anna says, "The first thing you have to understand is Heaven, and angels, they aren't like you imagine. It's not – rainbows and clouds and harps and – it's not like that. Angels aren't like that. After the Fall, after Lucifer rebelled, the Archangels said – they commanded us not to feel. No feelings, no emotions. Only obedience, that's all we had, and not to our Father, not to Him, but to them."

She spits the word them out with sudden, shocking vehemence, and Jo jumps a little. Anna's hands are twisted tight into her hair, pulling at it, and Jo can hear her breaths coming fast and shallow. Part of her wants to stop the car, reach out to stroke Anna's shoulder, try to calm her, but she doesn't quite dare. Too afraid that the slightest interruption will stop the confession in its tracks, send them all the way back to square one, Anna faraway and cold and alien.

Jo keeps on driving, one eye on Anna's hands, white-knuckled in her own hair (thank God the road is quiet), and says nothing. Eventually, slowly, the angel starts to talk again.

"Obedience to the Archangels, I mean. In Heaven, I was high-ranking, just one step down from the Archangels, the head of the Garrison, and I watched, saw how they were – I lost faith. Michael, he kept saying we had to have faith, but Gabriel vanished, and Raphael was – they were all just lost, like the rest of us. Children lost without our Father."

Anna gives a short laugh, harsh and cynical and a little shaky, and all the hairs rise up along Jo's arms and down her spine as it registers with her that she is sitting in a car with an angel discussing God. She has to bite down on her bottom lip to suppress a hysterical giggle of her own, because, fuck, this is beyond weird. This is too much.

"Anyway – I stopped believing in the Archangels. In Michael's plan. And I – I ripped out my Grace." Her voice rises then, threatening to break, and for a moment Jo thinks she's going to burst into tears, but she just lets out another shaken little laugh, and goes on. "An angel's Grace, it's the source of our power, a part of us, a bit like a human's soul. I tore mine out and I fell to Earth, and I became human."

"You what?" Jo blurts, despite herself.

Another laugh, more exhausted than cynical this time. In Jo's peripheral vision, she sees Anna sit up, leaning against the seat again, head tilted back, eyes closed and arms wrapped tight around her own shoulders, hugging herself. "Yeah. Human. I was born Anna Eleanor Milton, December 12th, 1985. Lived in Ohio. Had a family, went to college, friends, parties, the whole nine yards. Didn't remember a thing about Heaven, or the Garrison, or ever being Anael."

"So what happened?"

Sounding tired beyond words, Anna says slowly, "A few months ago, when the first Seal was broken, angels came to Earth – not just watching, but walking on Earth – for the first time in centuries. I started hearing them, their voices in my head, and I –" She breaks off, covering her face with her hands again, and Jo can hear her taking deep, juddering breaths. It sounds as though she's trying to stop herself from hyperventilating. That is, if an angel, or a not-quite angel, or whatever she is, even needs to breathe.

Jo's about to say something, try to calm Anna down, (though what the hell Jo can offer in the way of comfort to a being like Anna is quite beyond her) but then Anna lifts her hands from her face, folding them neatly in her lap. The raggedness of her breathing has evened out, and she's once more in perfect control.

Her is face pale and delicate but resolute, and her voice carries none of that deep, deep exhaustion as she tells Jo, "Once I started to hear the other angels' voices again, and then remembered who I am, what I am, I was caught in the crossfire of Heaven and Hell. Lilith would give anything to know what I know, and the Archangels – well. I disobeyed. That makes me Heaven's Most Wanted, you could say. The only way I could escape was to take back my Grace. And so I became ..."

She trails off, and Jo glances over to see Anna holding out her hands, turning them over slowly, staring at them with hawkish intensity, as though she's trying to puzzle out some enigma. As though she's not quite sure what it is she's looking at. It's a little like how Jo's seen stoners get after smoking too much, gazing at their own hands, fascinated, like they've never seen these things attached to their arms before. Except in Anna's case, it's more – well, probably anyone who was an angel and then a human and then an angel again would be entitled to a bit of an existential crisis.

"I became what I am now," Anna says quietly. There's something in her voice of the wildly powerful, untouchable creature who walked into Jo's dreams and seemed to gaze right down into her soul, but just as much of the girl who kissed her temple and held her hand and gained her trust. "Whoever that is."

And yeah, that's not something Jo's exactly qualified to help figure out. Metaphysical identity crises are way too much for her to handle. Time to dial it back, focus on the practicalities, her tried-and-true hunter method of coping with whatever too-weird shit crosses her path. "So, um, you're basically an angel, but you have all your human memories and whatnot?"


"And you're trying to stop the Seals from breaking, but you're, what, on the run from the rest of the angels?"

"Yes. The Garrison is attempting to stop Lilith, but they're caught up in fighting the demons, and Heaven is corrupt. Has been for a long, long time." She looks over at Jo, and they make eye contact for the first time since Anna appeared in the truck. Her gaze is just as intent as ever, eyes fiercely bright in the gloom, and it brings heat to Jo's cheeks. "I don't believe they will stop Lilith, not alone. That's why I decided to act myself, and to ask for your help."

Yep, she's definitely blushing now, damn it. Jo grips the steering wheel a little tighter, concentrates on the road, tries to keep her focus. "But the, uh, the Garrison? They want to stop you?"

"If they can find me, they'll take me back to Heaven." Anna pauses for a moment, then says, quite matter-of-factly, "And then execute me, I suppose. Or maybe give me to Zachariah, let him educate me."

Well, whatever that means, it sure doesn't sound like fun. "So, what now? I'm assuming you're not gonna just hide, so we should–"

Anna cuts over her. "We are not doing anything. You will go to Santa Fe, I'll ward you so angels cannot find you, and then I'll leave. Go back to protecting the seals. Alone."

All of a sudden, Jo is furious. Maybe it's illogical – Anna's plan is sensible, it's practical, it keeps Jo's life angel-free and relatively sane – but she's a Harvelle. A hunter. She's been face to face with the world's dark underbelly since she was in elementary school, and she's got a calling, and there's nothing and no-one in this world that gets to tell her otherwise. Not Dean Winchester, not her own mother, and certainly not some redheaded waif of a fallen angel.

Before she knows what she's doing, she's spinning the steering wheel, white-knuckled, pulling over hard and fast enough that Anna throws out a hand to steady herself. "Jo, what –"

"Just who the fuck do you think you are?" Jo yells. She’s trembling, heart pounding in her chest, riding some adrenalised wave of rage that seems to have come out of nowhere, taking her over. “You don’t get to just waltz into my life - into my dreams, goddammit - and start giving me orders. You don’t get to tell me demons are trying to start the fucking Apocalypse and drag me into your little angelic family drama and then pat me on the head and tell me to just go back to my life and pretend nothing ever happened!”

Anna says coolly, “My intention is to keep you safe.”

And fuck, but that cold, calm detachment - it just about makes Jo see red. If there's one thing she's never been able to stand, it's being treated like a goddamn child.

"You know what, you self-righteous jerk? That's not your call to make. It's not up to you to decide what is and isn't safe for me. And maybe you should have fucking well thought about that before you got me into this whole mess, huh? Maybe you should have given me all the fucking facts upfront instead of lying to me, because, hey, newsflash, I worked with you and then your brother nearly killed me!"

The blood is visibly draining from Anna's face, and hey, whaddaya know, maybe she's finally gotten through to the real Anna. Whoever the hell that is. If there's even anything real there to be found at all, hiding under the layers of masks and manipulations.

"You said you wanted to be human, right? Well, you oughta try treating me like a goddamn human being, Anna."

When Jo finishes, she's out of breath. She's still trembling, taut with anger, knuckles tight on the steering wheel, ready to go a few rounds. When she was still living at the Roadhouse, Harvelle family rows were known to go on til dawn. If Anna wants to bring it? Jo can keep this up all goddamn night. Will, if that's what it takes to get some sense into her.

There's a pause, Jo's pulse beating at her temples, raring to go – and Anna says nothing. Just stares out at the road, eyes saucer-huge in her ashen face.

Oh shit. There's something wrong here, and she doesn't know – can't tell – if it's just Anna freaking out or something more, some fresh life-or-death crisis ready to break over their heads. "Anna –"

And Anna breaks into motion, yanking the passenger side door open, hurling herself out of it, fast and abrupt as a hunted animal breaking for cover. She starts to run, manages to get about two, three paces away from the truck before collapsing.

Without thought, without hesitation, Jo unbuckles her seatbelt and jumps out of the truck, runs around to Anna. The angel is sprawled on her hands and knees, a tangle of long limbs and long hair, and she's throwing up.

And yeah, Jo's seen Anna kill a white-eyed demon, kill two angels, disappear into and appear out of thin air, walk right into her dreams, and yeah, she's mad as fuck at her. But right now, God, there in the roadside dust and dirt, shaking and sobbing as she retches, she looks so damn vulnerable. It's pure instinct to crouch beside her, gather that fall of auburn hair, hold it back at the nape of her neck, stroke her back gently in soothing circles.

When Anna's vomited up everything in her stomach, she pushes herself back up onto her feet. Jo stands as well, holding out her hands in case Anna's knees give out again – long Roadhouse experience has taught her how to tell when folks are about to hit the deck, and Anna's looking mighty unsteady. It's a relief that she just staggers back a few paces to lean against the truck, then slides down to sit with her back against the tyre, head hanging between her drawn-up knees. Her breathing's ragged. Jo thinks she might be crying.

For what seems like forever, she stands there, mute and baffled in the night. Every now and then a car roars past them, headlights blinding for a second, then plunging them back into darkness. It feels profoundly lonely – the road at night always has, to Jo. Like they might be the only people in the universe.

Then, finally, Anna lifts her head. Her face is puffy with tears, eyes reddened, strands of hair stuck to her cheeks, and she's never looked more human. Then she smiles, and it's shaky, looks like it costs her dear, but it's that wise ageless smile. Anael's smile, perhaps.

"You're right, Jo," she says.

"I'm – what?" Jo says, blankly. Of all the things she wasn't expecting –

"You're right, the way I've been treating you, it's – it's not. Not." She pauses, squeezes her eyes shut, takes a deep breath, fingers coiling tight in her own hair. "Not human. Not like a human. I tore out my – I wanted to be human so bad, Jo, I wanted to stop being an angel, because all we've ever done is watch and judge and use people. And I didn't want to be that anymore and – "

Anna's shoulders are shaking now, she's pulling fiercely at her hair, and, fuck, Jo doesn't know what to do. She's never been great with all this emotional stuff, and right now there's some instinct coiling in her stomach, telling her that there's a hell of a breakdown on the way. Bearing down on them like those headlights racing down the highway. "Anna – calm down, okay?"

It's a feeble effort and she knows it. Isn't surprised when Anna carries on regardless.

"I had to take my Grace back, I had to, or we'd all have died. But I – I didn't want to be this again, to be an angel, Anael, to be like that again. I tore my Grace out so I wouldn't – and – oh, fuck, fuck, fuck, I didn't want to BE this!" Her voice rises, breaks into a scream, hysterical and wild, pushes further, into something that's blazing white and straining at Jo's ears and pressing at her mind. It's an angel voice, the strength of it an unbearable, beautiful weight, and she is at once desperate for it to stop and wishing for it never to end.

The unearthly scream falls away abruptly, leaving Jo dizzy, after-images dancing over her vision. She gropes for the side of the truck, sits down heavily beside Anna. Their arms press together, both of them breathing hard.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to use my voice like that, it just ... Are you okay?" Anna sounds a little croaky, and it's impossible to tell if she's just tear-hoarse, or if it's some side effect of tapping in on the angel powers like that. God, life is surreal right now.

"Yeah, yeah, I think so." There's an echo ringing in Jo's ears, but she had worse after that run-in with a banshee over in Vermont. Hell, she had worse tinnitus after her first Foo Fighters concert.

Anna looks over at her, gives her the faintest, most hesitant of smiles. "I'm glad."

Another car rolls past, and for a moment the glare of the headlights casts her in silhouette, a halo. Jo shivers, suddenly cold, tugs her jacket tighter around her.

"And I'm sorry about treating you like that, too. I really am."

Jo swallows, shrugs. She's not used to fights going like this. Her and her mom, their style is more short bursts of knock-down, drag-out, followed by a lot of simmering and stewing and the both of them being too stubborn to own up to being wrong. Too busy brooding and building up defensive walls to apologise, and now she doesn't know how the fuck you go about negotiating a ceasefire.

"Well, uh. Y'know. I wanna work with you on this thing, but we've gotta be partners, you know?"

"I know." Anna ducks her head, peeks at her out from under the fall of red hair, fragile smile still playing at her lips. "I'm glad. I think – I think I'd like that."

And, God, she's exhausted. This day has been such a fucking bust, such a roller coaster, even for a hunter, and there's so much of her that just wants to sleep, so done with everything, but there's just something about the way that angel looks at her. It makes her stomach flip over, raises heat in her cheeks, brings out an answering smile before she even realises she's doing it. Damn it. Really not the time, girl.

She ducks her head, studies her nails. It's a little too much right now, everything tangled together, a mess of frustration and fear and wanting in her chest. Too hard to focus when Anna's looking at her like that. And there's still stuff they've gotta have out, because she's sure as hell not getting back in a car with an angel who's maybe about to have some kind of nervous breakdown and blow out all the windows in the process. That's the last thing she needs at this point.

"Look – Anna, are you okay? I mean, just now, you seemed pretty messed up and all." Somehow she's always way more awkward asking things like this when she's being herself, Jo, not hiding behind whatever alias she dreamt up this time for the case. "About the whole angel stuff, you know."

"I didn't mean to freak like that, I'm sorry," Anna says. She takes in a deep breath, and Jo can feel the tension in her where they're leaning on one another, faint tremors running through her. "It’s just, the last few months – I thought I was going mad, and then I remembered everything, and I lost my parents – and it's just –"

Her voice hitches, and Jo's heart constricts, because she sounds so young, young and lost and full of pain. Human pain, orphan pain, and Jo knows that pain, has lived with it as her constant companion for more than a decade, and even now she has nights when it feels too deep to bear. The grief that never dies, and with it the knowledge that the world is not, never has been, what you thought it was.

"I know." She finds Anna's hand in the darkness, cold and bird-thin, interlinks their fingers. "When my daddy died, and I realised all the things he hunted, how dangerous they were, how real they were … it's not like what happened to you, but yeah. It hurt so goddamn much. Still does."

Beside her Anna lets out a sob, clutches tight at her hand. There's the roar and flash of another car passing them, and in its wake the dark and the silence and the stillness seem that much more profound. Nothing but them, Jo's wretched old truck, the empty road, the wide sky and the stars. It emboldens Jo, and she finds herself saying things she's never, ever admitted before, not even to her beloved, battered journal.

"It's like, my dad getting killed, and hunting, they're so tied up in one another for me. And I love it, I love hunting, hell, I chose it, but – but sometimes it's like – I wish I never knew about it. Wish my folks could just've run a normal bar, and I wouldn't have to worry 'bout salt and silver and do I know the right exorcism, and is this the freaking End Times we're in, you know? It's just. Sometimes, it's too much. Someone's gotta do it, but why'd it have to be us?" She clears her throat, rubs fiercely at her eyes. "What I mean is, I think I understand where you're coming from, some."

Anna's gripping her hand like she's drowning and it's a lifeline. "Oh, Father, let this cup pass from me," she breathes, and then her face is pressed into the crook of Jo's neck and they're both crying.

It doesn't take long for Jo to cry herself out – never was very teary, not even as a kid – and then she just holds Anna. One arm around her shoulders, cheek resting on the crown of her head. She doesn't say anything, can't think of anything that wouldn't be asinine, and besides, there's some kinds of sadness you just need to let be.

And so she just sits. Breathes in the crisp cold night air, the fresh-rain smell of Anna, and lets the tears fall.

Eventually, they stop. Anna's breathing settles, quiets. She lets Jo tug her to her feet, gets into the passenger side of the truck. When Jo turns on the lights to check the map, she sees her face is blotchy, puffy and her eyes are reddened. And yeah, there's still that strange, too-fierce intensity to her gaze, and the image of her dripping power is still etched in Jo's mind (she's not fucking stupid) but right now? Heaven and humanity aside, they're just Anna and Jo. Two people caught up in a war they never asked for.

Two people who, at least, have one another.

"Shall I map-read?" Anna offers. "I went to Santa Fe on a road trip, back in college."

Jo considers for a moment calling her on it, asking, does this mean we're partners, then? Does this mean you've decided to stop calling all the shots and let me help you? But no, it's a long drive, and they're both worn out, and she knows an olive branch when she sees one.

"Roger that, co-pilot," she says, pulling back out onto the highway, and when she winks, Anna grins.

When Jo stops the truck in the parking lot of a Santa Fe motel, the Eastern sky is getting light. She's worn out, ready to crash – but she's been a lot worse before now. Hunting is pretty much a crash course in coping with whacked-out sleeping patterns, after all, and besides, this is more the emotional kind of exhaustion than the physical.

She's ready to hit the sack, forget about everything for a good eight, nine hours. No more near-death experiences or metaphysical revelations or angels appearing out of nowhere to shake up her life. Sounds like paradise, right about now.

As she steps out of the truck, hefting the rucksack that holds her laptop and wallet and toothbrush, not to mention her never-leave-home-without-em favourite weapons, heads over to the motel reception, Anna follows. Just a pace behind her, quieter even than she's been the last three hours of night-driving, a faithful shadow.

The thin, grey-faced man at reception doesn't look up from his computer once while Jo's checking in. Then he asks for payment, and for a moment Jo hesitates – she's got cards in a couple different names ready, but suddenly she can't remember where. Packed on autopilot and now she doesn't know where she stashed the extra cards, serves her damn right, rookie mistake, that –

That's the moment Anna picks to step up to lean on the counter next to Jo. She clears her throat loudly, and the grey-faced man looks up at her for a bare second – and all of a sudden his face goes blank. Just freezes, as if in shock, only long enough for Jo to register it and think, what the fuck? Then he's back to normal, nodding and mumbling, "Yes, that's fine, thank you," and handing her a key on a chipped plastic keyring.

What the actual fuck? The hairs on the back of Jo's neck are prickling, and it's only the cool firm hand at her elbow that gets her moving, heading mechanically out to find room number 46 like everything's completely normal, nothing to see here, no sir, move along.

The room's actually a lot less scuzzy than she was expecting – only a couple of stains on the ceiling, and the kitchenette looks borderline useable, thank the Lord for small mercies. She dumps her bag on the floor, makes it over to the bed, collapses down on the plasticky coverlet. God, it's tempting to just fall asleep right here, fuck everything else.

"That was practically stealing," she says, more baffled than accusing.

Anna's making a circuit of the room, drawing complex sigils at every window, every door, using a vial of some kind of oil she's produced from her jacket pocket. When she finishes each signal, she whispers something, and the air in the room tightens, shivers. Some kind of angel power, some magic alphabet Jo doesn't know. When her brain's more awake, she'll get Anna to explain. Could be handy against demons. "Hm? What?"

"That thing you did back there, the Jedi mind-trick routine."

"Oh." Anna pauses, turns to look over at her, doe-eyes huge and sincere. "I'll arrange to pay from my old bank account. You shouldn't have to – it's my fault you had to move in such a rush anyway. I didn't mean to offend you or anything, honestly."

"Ah, good to know." You can't hunt without occasionally straying onto the wrong side of the law, but she's been careful to keep those forays to the absolute minimum. Late-night grave-digging to take care of a vengeful spirit, sure, fake IDs and a spot of breaking and entering, necessary evil, credit-card fraud and outright thievery, not so much. Joanna Beth Harvelle's still got a clean criminal record, and after hearing a few of the Winchesters' stories, she'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much. Monsters are bad enough without having the cops on your ass as well. "Just didn't know you could do that. Mind control."

"It's not so much control as it is projecting an illusion, like dream-walking," Anna says absently, finishing the final sigil, then standing back with her arms crossed, surveying her handiwork. At a snap of her fingers, all of the oil lines flare with blue-white light for an instant, then fade, leaving behind no visible marks whatsoever.

"Neat trick you've got there," Jo says, eyebrows raised, and whistles.

"Well, that should keep you hidden from demons, most angels, too. You're the expert on monsters, but it's a pretty strong warding, I'd be surprised if anything else can get past it." Jo sits up, holds out her hand for a high-five, and exhausted as she is, she can't help but shiver at the way Anna smiles, slow and shy. They slap palms, and then their fingers interlink again, and Jo's not sure, can't tell, who started that, her or Anna or both of them together, moving on shared instinct.

"You gonna flap off again?" Part of her wants to hear no, part of her wants to hear yes. This damn angel, she makes everything complicated.

Anna holds her gaze, eyes steady and sad. "I have to go. It's not safe for me to stay here, not with Michael's best out looking for me – and besides, I have brothers and sisters I need to meet with."

"They're with you? On your side?"

"They're struggling, doubting. Some of them might join me, perhaps."

Jo squeezes Anna's hand, smiles as gently as she can. This is the one thing that unites both aspects of Anna she's seen – the fragile young girl, and the terrifying ageless creature – always so profoundly lonely. The idea of her being cut off from every member of her angelic family, after the loss of her human family, well, it hurts to think of. "I hope they do."

"Thank you." For a moment, Anna touches Jo's cheek, a barely-there brush of her fingertips. She hesitates, then says, "I should ward you, as well."

Jo's not sure what she was expecting, but it wasn't that, and her brain, still stuck on a loop and stuttering over Anna's touch, the softness of it, won't process properly. "Sorry, what?"

"Ward you. So the Garrison can't hunt you down again like they did today. There's a couple of options –"

Jo breaks in, "But how would you find me?" She raises her eyebrows, sets her jaw, does her level best to project this is not up for discussion the way her mom always can. So no one would even think to argue the toss with her.

For a moment, Anna considers, head tilted slightly, while Jo grits her teeth for another confrontation. Then Anna reaches into the pocket of her jeans and produces – of all the things – a mobile phone. She presses a few buttons, hands it over. Open on the screen is a new contact labelled JO, and holy shit, an angel just asked for her number. An angel. A fallen angel. A motherfucking fallen angel just asked for her number.

By the time she's sent herself a text and handed back Anna's phone, she's grinning like an idiot. "So, that's sorted, what was that about warding me?"

"There's a couple of options." Anna's hands are cradling her own elbows, almost hugging herself, like she's suddenly shy. "I'd need to use Old Enochian sigils, have them attached to you –"

"Like on some kind of amulet?" Jo suggests. She's been wearing an anti-possession charm, engraved into the underside of her watch, since she was eighteen and the demon omens started spiking. Adding an anti-angel one to her repertoire shouldn't be much of a hassle.

Anna grimaces. "Not enough. Enochian has to be linked to you physically, has to be part of you, for the enchantment to take. So, er – the most fool-proof solution is probably to engrave it onto your bones. The ribs, or the pelvis might work."

"Yeah, what's the next most fool-proof solution?" Jo asks, because, goddamn. A tattoo, she could handle – needles make her skin crawl, but she could power through it, and hey, then she might work up the guts to get a proper tattoo, a cute one. But, uh, something carved into her ribs? Not so much.

And thank the Lord for small mercies, Anna holds up that little vial of oil again. "Holy oil. I use this to draw the sigils on your skin, your back, maybe. I've got enough power to make it stain, like a brand, and it would be removable, too. That means it's a bit less secure, obviously, but it's also a bit less radical."

"Just a bit, yeah." For a moment Jo hesitates, chewing at her lip, hard-earned hunter paranoia warring with the desire to, y'know, not have a freaking set of Enochian sigils permanently etched into her skeleton. "Do you think it's really likely that your – well, the other angels – are gonna try and hunt me down again? To get to you?"

"I – I'm not sure." Anna's mouth twists, and she looks away. "When I commanded the Garrison, I wouldn't, but Zachariah – I don't know. But like I said, there's a few of my brothers and sisters I'm in touch with, and if they tell me anything, I'll tell you." Now she's gazing at Jo again, hazel eyes hawk-fierce and sincere, takes her hands, squeezes them gently. "I promise, if I hear anything that makes me think you're in danger, I'll tell you, Jo."

"And we'll work something out together?" She intended it to be a statement, but her voice betrays her, and it comes out questioning. Quavering. Because she's coping, she's dealing, but after the light show she got back in Denver a few hours ago, she's in way, way over her head, and she knows it.

Anna just nods, thumbs stroking over the backs of Jo's hands. "We'll work something out together."

"Okay. Okay. Then let's do the holy oil thing."

She sits down on the bed, cross-legged, her back facing Anna. Shrugs out of her battered biker jacket, strips off her t-shirt, unclasps her bra. She's never been self-conscious about her body – knows she's maybe not a beauty, but cute enough, but it's more than that.

When she was a kid she was always into sport, running, baseball, bit of gymnastics, bit of karate, and now she's a hunter, and she's always trusted her body. Known it'd do what she asked it, see her through whatever track meet or scrap with a poltergeist she was in the middle of. And sex? Well, that's just a fun time all over, nothing to get all shrinking violet about.

So yeah – it's no big deal. Same as that time she went along with Walt and Roy to help them with a couple revenants, and ended up having to stitch up Roy's leg. Just one of those things.

Then Anna's hands are at the nape of her neck, gently lifting her hair, so it falls over her shoulders. Just that barely-there touch, and then – then Anna exhales, and Jo can feel it, warm against her shoulder blade, and suddenly her skin comes alive, and she's so, so aware of that other body behind her, so very close.

The first stroke of the holy oil makes her jump a little. It's not cold, as she'd expected, but hot, almost uncomfortably so, and makes her skin prickle, like a more intense version of those medicated muscle rubs. It smells strange – some heavy, rich spice, and under that, musty. Like old books.

"Are you okay? It's not painful?" Anna's hand curled around her shoulder, voice low at her ear.

"No, no, I'm fine, you just got me by surprise. Go ahead."

A brief pause, then there's that sensation again, warmth running over her shoulder blades, across the knots of her spine. Now she's used to it, expecting it, the smooth gentle brush of Anna's fingers, the sound of her breathing, the heat and the tingle, it feels good. Sensual. Jo closes her eyes, loses herself in it, Anna's hands on her bare skin. Finds herself wishing it could go on forever.

Then Anna says something, a quick run of syllables Jo doesn't recognise. For a moment, the oil marks flare red-hot, and she gasps, shoulders jerking – then it's gone. Over.

Her skin's all the normal temperature again, and she's pretty sure that the way it's tingling is, well, not the holy oil. Just Anna.

"All done." There's a hand resting lightly at each of her shoulders. Anna's close enough that when she speaks it ruffles Jo's hair.

"I – thanks." Her cheeks are burning, and she's hyper-aware of the fact she's half-naked, cool air against her stomach, her breasts, her back.

"I should go," Anna says, slowly, reluctantly. "You need to sleep, and I – my siblings, I –"

"I know. It's okay." There's nothing Jo wants more than to grab her by the shoulders, make her stay, but she can't. She does need to sleep, and Anna needs to go do her rebel angel thing, and she also needs to get her head sorted, and for that she needs to be alone. She just – she just wants.

This time it's Anna who says, "You'll be in touch, won't you? Jo?"

She smiles, twists her neck so she can look up at the angel standing behind her, so close the fall of auburn hair brushes her cheek. "Don't you worry, I've got your number."

They both grin, and Anna leans in, lips still parted, and Jo can't take her eyes off them, pulse fluttering in her throat, and then they're kissing.

It's quick and quiet and chaste, just silk-soft lips and the pounding in her ears. It's not earth-shattering, it's not life-changing, nothing her melodramatic fifteen-year-old self imagined a kiss to be, but it's real. It's real and it's happening and, fuck, she almost can't believe it.

When they draw apart, Anna's redhead-pale cheeks are flushed, and Jo's pretty sure she's scarlet and staring like an idiot. For a long moment, they just look at each other, silent. Maybe Jo should say something, but she doesn't feel like she needs to. There's nothing more she could say that the way she's watching Anna, heart in her mouth, isn't saying already.

After a pause, Anna straightens up, steps back. She nods to Jo, smiles again, soft and secret, and then, in a whip-tear of wing-beats, she's gone. Leaving Jo to a motel room that smells of heavy spices, and old books, and fresh-fallen rain.