It starts as just a phantom itch under the skin. Jess will turn away from Ruby and the hair on the back of her neck will prickle.
At first, she took it as a sign that her feelings for Ruby were strengthening. But... she can't break herself of the habit of waking up and expecting blond hair in the bed next to her, and so maybe that's it, maybe it's what's making her antsy.
But Jess doesn't really think that's it.
Ruby's driving, and she's chattering on as she likes to do when she drives--Jess isn't required to listen to her or respond, it's Ruby's way of having something to listen to without having the radio playing.
And Jess is thinking. She steals glances at Ruby, wondering. Why this odd feeling, after so long? The dark hair hasn't bothered her before. It's always been refreshing before.
Besides which, she likes the other girl. They've grown so close, sharing quarters; they don't have sex all that often, but she sees Ruby naked a lot and vice versa, and when they do have sex, it's pretty outstanding.
"And once," Ruby is saying, "I hunted this thing like ripped the heads off its victims..."
Jess isn't really expected to do anything, but suddenly she can't help herself.
"Where are you from originally?" she asks, blurting out the question because, to be honest, she doesn't know Ruby all that well.
That makes Ruby go silent, filling the car with a moody atmosphere.
"Just..." she says finally. "A little town in Kansas."
"You never talk about yourself," Jess says. She's suddenly annoyed that they've spent months in each other's pockets and she still knows next to nothing about this girl. This girl that her hands and fingers have searched and explored. The pretty lips that she used to kiss, before it all started to get strange.
"Neither do you," Ruby snaps back, and Jess is flustered. It's a sharp tone, very much unlike how Ruby usually is: soft-spoken and gentle, even when she's being a wicked tease or a commanding partner during the hunts they've been on.
"I almost died when I was four," Jess says. "Ellen took me in."
"I stay away from the Roadhouse," Ruby says casually. "I may have slept with someone there once, on the road, and let me tell you, it's a scary prospect ever going back there."
And instantly, immediately, Jess begins to doubt, to wonder. Ellen is the scariest thing about the Roadhouse, and sleeping with Jo is probably the quickest way to light the fire of intended murder under Ellen.
"Here," Ruby says. "This is the place where the latest storms seem to have centred on."
Jess reads the sign, creaking in the slow breeze, over a tiny general store: Sioux Falls General Store.
She shrugs, throws open her door and prepares to ask the type of probing questions she's gotten so adept at in the time she's been on the road.
Ruby bumps into a grizzled old guy as he steps out of the general store, and he stops and looks at her, head tilted a little.
"Yeah, what?" she says, a little rudely. Jess shifts, stuffing her hands in her back pockets. This isn't usually how Ruby greets people.
But, Jess did make her angry in the car, so that must be why.
"You hunt?" the guy says gruffly, still considering Ruby. Jess wants to take a step closer, but for some reason, she doesn't.
"Maybe," Ruby says, just as calculating in return in her assessment of the guy.
"Listen," he says, "come back to my place for a drink, it's as hot as a beast out of hell here, and I got cool beer and a/c. You too," he says, gesturing to Jess. "Maybe I can help y'all."
Ruby doesn't seem all that certain of the idea, but she turns back to the car. And the guy gives Jess a really, really long look before he shoves his trucker cap down further on his head and makes his way over to a beat-up truck.
Maybe, Jess had finally been clueing in. It isn't as much a surprise as it should be when Ruby sputters over the beer she's been given and the guy--who'd introduced himself as Bobby Singer--flips back a corner of the rug.
"How long you been associatin' with this demon?" he asks Jess, and all she can do is stare in shock. Sure, something had been off for awhile, but this? She doesn't know what to say.
"I, uh. It's been a few months."
"Take it from me," Bobby says as he picks up an ancient looking book. "You don't want to be here in about ten minutes, so you should probably take the car and scram."
That's pretty rude too, but Jess isn't sure she cares; she picks up her bag and practically runs out to the car, where she sits for a few minutes, panting and unsettled.
She'd slept with Ruby. She'd thought she had feelings for her.
Broken up, confused, she opens the text that beeps on her phone.
It's from Jo.
She's already read half the message before her shaky fingers can find the delete button.
Please, come back.
Jess closes her eyes, blocking out the rest of the neatly typed letters, and hits delete before she can weaken and reply.
This is the last thing she needs.
Alcohol. Copious amounts of alcohol, that's what she needs, Jess decides as she kicks back on the motel bed with the bottle of whiskey.
Jess is already shitfaced from too much time spent in the bar, fending off touchy-feely guys, and still, her body is begging for something to make her forget, something to take the sting out of knowing she let a demon touch her in her most intimate places.
No matter how drunk she is, she can't black out the fact that she'd been so stupid to sleep with a demon.
She's loose and relaxed though, her palm cupped over the crotch of her panties.
Drunk, so drunk. No other explanation. Running, hiding, avoiding, and sweet, blessed alcohol is her undoing all over again.
Her cell phone feels cold against her hot, sweaty cheek. It rings, and Jess slumps farther down the pillows, her fingers wiggling into the leg elastic of her panties.
When the ringing finally cuts out to signal her call has been answered, Jess is half-way unconscious and half-way to coming.
"Jesus. It's fucking 3 A.M., now you decide to actually talk to me?"
Jo sounds angry, but Jess, even wasted, knows that part of that anger is from worry. She forces her lips to form words.
"S-sorry," she slurs. "'m an idiot, I know it. I don' think I'll remember this t'morrow."
"Jesus," Jo repeats. "You're trashed. I should have known. Listen to me, Jessica Moore, because this is important. You better get your ass back to the Roadhouse when you sober up. So you better remember this tomorrow."
Jess is sure that Jo is probably dying from relief that Jess isn't ignoring her at the moment, but her friend--former girlfriend?--still sounds angry.
"Don' see why," Jess says, eyes drooping closed.
"Just fucking do as you're told," Jo grumbles. "Sam needs to meet you, and Bobby Singer's been in touch, so you ought to know what'll happen to you if you don't get your ass back here and face the music."
"Shit," Jess mumbles, and the cell is starting to feel awfully hot against her face. She tries to say something else, but the alcoholic haze drags her under.
Jess wishes that her hangover and foggy memory would have kept her from recalling Jo's urgent, impossible-to-disobey message.
She hangs around the motel room for a couple of hours trying to conquer the pain in her head and the terrible pit of darkness in her stomach; it's not like she's going to take off when she's still kind of drunk.
But eventually she has to admit to herself that she's sobered up enough, and now she's just being a coward. Whatever it is, it's got to be important--Jess still hates herself for sleeping with a demon, and then calling Jo to whine about it.
Jess sighs deeply. She packs up the few things she'd taken out of her duffle and checks out of the motel; the kid sitting at the counter gives her a second glance, but Jess gets out of there before he can hit on her--she's still not comfortable around guys who want her, even after the months with Ruby... Jess pushes the thought away.
There's really no reason why this time, the summons should seem important enough for the prodigal daughter--so to speak--to come home, but maybe it's just that Jess is worn down, tired.
She's been on the road for over a year now. She's killed things that before, she'd only dreamed about; she's had a fling in numerous towns and cities as she criss-crossed the U.S.; she's had an affair with a demon that had, briefly, felt like it meant something--like Jess had finally found someone else.
That relationship burns low in her belly like acid. That she gave herself a chance to feel something for longer than a couple of nights, and it turns out to be the worst idea she's ever had. Compared to that type of bad judgement, going back to the Roadhouse--even if it means facing up to Jo--can't really be any worse.
Jess shifts her car into gear and begins to drive. Back to... well, the closest thing she's ever had to a home since the one she was born in burned to the ground, a pile of ash, and ashen memories.
Haunting the corners of her mind is her sister: was that real, or is there just something wrong with Jess?
Is she crazy--did she know, all along, that Ruby was a demon; was that why she'd fallen for her?
It's a long drive back to the Roadhouse. Plenty of time to reflect and beat herself up over her own stupid choices. Too much time, really. She can't bring herself to put the radio on, so she just drives towards the sun, her cell on the passenger seat, and wonders just what's so important.
God, she's a fucking dumbass. How amateur does one have to be, to shack up with a demon and not even know it? She'd thought she could handle this; thought she was a good hunter, but this? This is confirmation that Ellen was right from the beginning.
Jess just wasn't ready. Deep in her mind, she's cursing Jo, but that's not really fair. Because she had enough choices besides just running away, which, even though she would probably do it all over again, she has to admit was a cowardly move.
"This is the dumbest thing I've ever done," Jess mutters to herself. She's expecting Ruby's response when she remembers. She frowns and squints through her sunglasses. "Ellen's going to have my ass if she's found out about Ruby."
Talking to herself is probably lame, the truly ultimate expression of it, but it's quiet in the car and she just...
"Sam," she says, shaking her head. "Why do I need to go back there, meet Sam?" Is that Jo's boyfriend now--is she supposed to meet him, give her approval or something? "Well, it's not going to happen."
Jess is not going to pretend like she doesn't care. She's not going to give Jo the satisfaction: either knowing she broke Jess's heart, or that she hates even the idea of Jo with some guy.
"I always thought it meant something," Jess mumbles, fighting the tears. She's got nothing but time, nothing to do but rehash her life, the mistakes she's made. "Why me," she wonders aloud. Her parents dead, her sister erased from existence--her first love, not even like her.
Because one thing Jess has learned from this journey through the past year: she likes girls, and that's who she is, she can't turn it off.
"Why, Jo," she asks the empty air, "why did you do it, if you weren't like me, if you didn't even like girls?"
Jess shoves her sunglasses up her shorn blond hair. In the oppressive heat of summer, she'd chopped it all off. She's curious as to what Ellen's going to think of it; will she scold? Or will she be too distracted by Jess's colossal error in judgement? And what will Jo think, a tiny voice whispers in her head, will she think it's hot? Will she even care?
Pulling a huge, bracing breath into her lungs, she walks towards the Roadhouse door. And just before she gets there, hand outstretched for the handle, it opens, and a very tall, very pretty girl is standing highlighted by the sun.
"Oh, hi!" she exclaims. "I'm sorry, did I hit you with the door?"
Jess is stunned stupid. She can't make her tongue work to reply; this girl is probably the only one she's met in a long time--if ever--that is taller than she is. And so beautiful. Her hair is short, swept away from her face, but all the edges are uneven as if she's cut it herself. And oddly, it's incredibly attractive.
Her features are anything but classically perfect: the nose tips up and flares in a unique way; her eyes are slanted up, cat-like, enchantingly green with a touch of blue. Jess is waxing poetic in her head and the girl tilts her head, narrowing one eye.
"You okay?" She lets the door slam shut and steps fully into the sunshine.
All of the oxygen leaves Jess's lungs, and her body wavers a little, knees weak. This is impossible. In all of her travels across the U.S., she comes back to the Roadhouse, and the most beautiful woman she's ever seen is here? Jess feels dusty and dishevelled and completely unable to measure up.
"Oh, my, I'm..." Jess pauses and brushes her hands off on her cut-off shorts. "God, I'm sorry. I'm just tired." And enthralled, the little voice helpfully adds.
The girl smiles, and again Jess is struck by her unconventional features, yet arranged on her, they're perfectly matched. It makes no sense. And beyond even that, she looks oddly familiar...
"You know..." she says. "Are you Jess? Jo said you should be arriving soon, and you look..." she trails off, holds out her hand. "I'm Sam."
This is Sam? Not a boy after all, not the guy Jo had been coming on to, but this striking girl? Jess is suddenly glad that Jo insisted she come back. What are the chances she can get her into bed?
Way, way down, oppressed and locked down, is the notion that she's back to her old habits, trying to pick up every girl she finds the least bit attractive.
In the sun, Sam's hair is a mixture of light golden brown with streaks of gold highlights. It actually kind of reminds Jess of her own hair, only Sam's is definitely darker.
"Listen, we should go inside. Your mother wants to talk to you."
Jess feels a sharp, unbearable pang that makes her eyes water. Ellen's not her real mother, and it's odd to hear someone refer to her that way, but at the same time, Ellen's the only mother Jess really remembers.
It's a painful but likely necessary reminder. Ellen's probably worried herself into a truly wonderful rage, and Jess tries to prepare herself.
"Yeah," Jess says, late. "I am. It's nice to meet you, Sam." Remembering her manners is something she better do fast, if she's going to spend any length of time around Ellen.
Sam grabs her hand as if they've been friends forever and pulls her towards the door.
"And Jo is dying to see you," she says in a whisper. "She won't say so, but I can tell how anxious she's been since she found out you were coming back."
Jess may never be ready for this, but there's no getting away from it now. She folds her fingers together with Sam's and, heart beating in trepidation, draws strength from Sam as she opens the door.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?" Ellen isn't shouting; on the contrary, she's so furious her voice has gone quiet with a lethal edge. Jess figures she deserves the scolding, even if she ought to be allowed to make her own life choices.
Of course, considering some of the choices she's made lately, maybe she does need someone to give her advice once in awhile. She sneaks a peek at Jo, wondering if Jo has enough good sense to have helped Jess had she not run off, rashly, by herself. Does Ellen let Jo hunt?
"Are you even listening to me? Jessica Lee, your poor mother, bless her, would have shot me if she knew what you've been getting up to these past months!"
"I'm sorry, honestly," Jess says meekly; it's not entirely true, though. She's very sorry about the snafu with Ruby, but if she could get away from here again, just take off to get as far from Jo as possible, she would--at the first available opportunity.
"I'm telling you," Ellen says, shaking her head, "if Bobby Singer hadn't been there, who knows what might have happened to you. You don't mess with demons, Jessica. They will fuck you up."
Jess can tell from the fact that Ellen's pulling no punches with her language that she's beyond simply angry and into the realm of vehement due to worry.
"I didn't know," Jess points out, but her voice is small. She understands that ignorance is not an excuse--it can get you killed. It has gotten plenty of hunters killed.
"Which is why you should not have been hunting by yourself!" Ellen exclaims, throwing her hands up, exasperated. "If you had only spent some more time learning things, you might have been able to take on some hunts with a more experienced hunter. You should have done this the right way, not running off half-cocked; what in the world were you thinking, anyway?"
That I didn't want to watch Jo slip away, to lose her to some boy, Jess thinks, lowering her eyes and staring at her feet. "I don't know," she whispers, because it's not like she can tell Ellen about the stuff she and Jo have gotten up to. She's not really sure how Ellen would react, but if the gayness of it didn't bother her, she's pretty sure the fact that those things happened with her daughter would, in fact, bother her a great deal.
Sam is sitting at the bar, sipping at a glass of water, eyes trained on the door carefully, trying to convince everyone she's not listening, but Jess has the sense that Sam is very much invested in what's going on, though why, Jess hasn't a clue.
Jo is leaning with her back against the bar, her low-slung jeans displaying her hips to perfection. She pushes off of it, steps closer, but Jess, without telling her feet to do it, backs up. Jo pauses, hesitates, then gives her an indiscernible look and disappears into the back, where the rooms are--including the one that she and Jess used to share.
Angrily, Jess wonders whether that guy is back there with her. Does Ellen approve of Jo having a boyfriend?
"This was a colossally stupid thing to do," Ellen tells her. Jess knows she's about to continue, but then Ash interrupts from the doorway.
"Okay, there will be time for more lectures later, but for now, we need to catch Jess up to speed."
"I'm exhausted," Jess says, feeling every inch of her hangover and the hours of driving. "Can it please wait until I've had a nap, a bath, something to eat, and maybe a beer?"
Ellen stares at her for a moment. "All right," she says, "though you might want whiskey instead. Go on. But please bathe before you get into one of the beds, all right?"
Jess lifts her bag from the floor, then pauses. She doesn't know where she's supposed to go; to the room she shared with Jo? But...
Ellen understands without Jess even opening her mouth. "Jo's moved to the smaller back room; we stuffed a tiny cot in there. In was necessary when we started getting more overnight travellers. Sam's in the room you used to sleep in, and there's two beds in there, I am sure she won't mind. And you know where the bathroom is."
Jess nods, then walks out of the room. There's a strange feeling, cloying around her, making her want to hunch her back and duck her head down.
Like the knowledge Ash has to impart is going to change her life forever, but why would it? What is there that he could say, that would change her perception of herself?
part five! -->