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They who knew the storm

Title: They who knew the storm
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Jo/Kat
Summary: "Hunting creeps up on you: nobody wakes up one morning and says 'golly, I think I'll kill me a wendigo or two'." Spoilers for Asylum (whence Kat) and some for BUaBS. Written for medie for innumerablehues; the prompt was the pairing and the summary quote.

"They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm." --Dorothy Parker




Hunting creeps up on you: nobody wakes up one morning and says 'golly, I think I'll kill me a wendigo or two'.

Well, okay. If you grow up the way I did, sometimes you do, when you're all of seven and your head's full of stories from the real hunters, but it doesn't usually get as far as packing sandwiches and your not-so-little pocket knife before your parents catch wind of it and put a stop to it so fast you can't sit down for a week. But that's not the point.

It starts slow. Really, it starts with finding out that ghosts are real (which is usually most peoples' introduction to the darker side of life, 'cause other things either kill you or look normal enough to be forgotten pretty damn quick), and that goes faster if you grow up knowing hunters, but it can also happen if you find yourself in the middle of a Something. And don't get yourself killed. And don't promptly forget all about it.

That's the first of the first times.

And there's always a first time for when you stumble onto a Something and you actually have a choice between walking away and walking in. And it's maybe something you know how to handle, or you have a damn good reason for going in, or your parents told you you weren't allowed to; whatever the reason, you go in, and if you're lucky you walk back out again.

And then it happens again.

And then at some point you do something really awesomely stupid. It's like a rite of passage or something; every hunter has an early Stupid Moment. Ask any hunter you know, and a bit more'n half of them will tell you (and will probably exaggerate wildly) and the other half will use irritation to mask embarrassment, and none of them actually deny having one.

(I asked Mom once what her Stupid Moment was, and she said, "Falling in love." I think she meant it to be a joke, maybe, but she then glanced behind her like she expected Dad to be there, and her mouth pinched shut. "Don't you ever fall in love if you can help it." She cleared her throat then, and started scrubbing at an already-clean spot on the bar, and told me a bit gruffly to go bring out some more beer. I didn't ever bring it up again.)

You come out the other side of the Stupid Moment either: a, dead, or insane, or both; b, alive but completely cured of any desire to come anywhere near anything that even smells supernatural; or c, a hunter.

#

My first reaction to getting shot at was to duck, and fast. And maybe yelp, just a little, but don't tell anyone about that.

Mind you, I wasn't expecting to be shot. Chased, maybe, if the thing I was hunting got wind of me and reversed the situation, but it used claws, not guns. And I didn't expect anything in the way of company, at least not of the human sort.

Hunters tend to avoid cities. Too much noise, too much distraction, too many people in too close quarters; hard to find hunts, hard to chase stuff without getting caught by people who think they're doing the right thing. (It's why the Roadhouse is where it is, out in the middle of freaking nowhere: no one'd come, otherwise.)

So I really didn't expect to run into anyone outside an abandoned warehouse in a fairly-abandoned district in the middle of Chicago; but the stop-drop-and-roll reaction was sheer instinct. I was already moving to intercept whoever it was, to sneak up behind him and get control of the situation and knock some sense into his thick skull, by the time my brain caught up enough to realize a couple of things.

For one thing, it wasn't bullets that had hit the wall over my head.

For another, the person I was in the process of tackling was a she, not a he.

Possibly a hunter, but one new enough that she didn't have all the right reflexes, and so we ended up on the ground, gun knocked out of her hands, me on top of her with a knife at her throat. I didn't recognize the face, which didn't mean all that much; she was maybe about my age, blonde, and looked a little harmless (which was always a dangerous assumption to make) and a lot human (which could also be a dangerous assumption, but in this case probably wasn't).

I kept the blade in place for a heartbeat or two, long enough to make my point, and then backed off. Helped her to her feet, handed back her gun, but didn't quite let go when she took it. "Rock salt?" I asked skeptically, guessing.

She nodded -- which also confirmed my guess that she was a hunter, or at least a wannabe, rather than some buckshot-happy kid in the wrong place. Most hunters hadn't even thought of salt guns, but it was one of those things that seem like common sense once you come up with it. Shooting a gun tends to be faster and more accurate than trying to fling a handful of loose salt at a ghost.

Except. "Why the hell did you bring a salt gun for this?"

"It's worked before," she said, defensive.

"Yeah. Against ghosts."

She gave me a baffled look. "What else is there?"

Which confirmed my guess that she was only a wannabe. Right. "Lots of things, but we don't have time--" I cut my words off when I heard the beginnings of a weird whistling howl that could have been wind but probably wasn't. "Look, just get out of here, okay? I can handle this."

"No," she said. "I'm staying."

I thought about arguing -- baby hunters were cute, sure, but this wasn't the place for cute -- but the howl came again, louder, and we really didn't have time for me to drag her far enough away that she wouldn't find her way back here. "Fine. Just don't do anything stupid. And this," and I nodded at the gun, "won't work. Did you bring anything else?"

She had, but nothing effective. Decent equipment for your average salt-and-burn job, which wouldn't do a hell of a lot of good here. "Take this," I said, handing her one of my backup knives. "And word of advice for the future -- get yourself a couple of knives at least, one silver and one pure iron if you can manage it, and get a real gun. There are some things out there that, you shoot 'em in the face with a bit of salt, it just pisses them off."

She nodded; the expression on her face was a little bit scared and a little bit angry and a lot determined, and I grinned and led the way inside.

#

Afterwards, when we were cleaned up and safe and relaxing with a couple of beers, I asked her, "So how'd you find out about all this?" I didn't clarify what sort of 'this' I was talking about; I didn't need to.

"Uh." She blushed; it was cute. "My boyfriend -- ex boyfriend now -- thought it would be a great idea to go into this old asylum. With, like, creepy stuff."

"Ghosts?" I hazarded.

"Well, them too, but at first it was just... you know, creepy insane-people stuff." She smiled wryly. "Anyway, I was completely terrified, and he kept going, which is part of why he's ex now, and we found the ghosts. Or the ghosts found us. Or something."

She paused to take a drink of beer.

"So you ran like hell? That's the usual response," I said with a grin. (I hadn't run away the first time I saw a ghost, but that's because I had my daddy there -- I was young enough to believe he'd protect me from anything, and old enough that I didn't want to look scared in front of him, and apparently I flung a handful of salt in its approximate direction and then stuck my tongue out at it.)

"I wanted to." She laughed. "But no. We got separated, and I didn't want to leave without him, and anyway the ghosts wouldn't let us leave. It was just loads of fun."

"I bet." I grinned at her. "How'd you get out?"

"I'm not sure. It wasn't just us, there were these two guys there, and they did somethingorother to make the ghosts go away. I don't know. I wasn't actually there for whatever they did; I was waiting as far away as possible, with Gavin and with a shotgun full of salt that one of the guys loaned me."

Something clicked in my head. Two guys -- not unheard of, working in pairs, but not particularly common, since a lot of hunters were solitary creatures. Guns with rock salt -- rare, but I'd seen it before.

"Lemme guess," I said, half knowing the answer already. "These two guys, their names were Sam and Dean?"

"Something like that," she said, looking a little bemused. "You know them?"

"Yeah." I could hear the shake in my voice, wasn't sure whether it was laughter or tears that I was holding back. Was sure I didn't want to find out. "Had a few... encounters." Of course, the last 'encounter' had been pretty bad all around, given the fact that Sam was possessed, but I didn't mention that.

She sat forward, interested. "So who are they, anyway? What're they like?" She hesitated, and then asked, looking away and blushing furiously, "Are they, y'know, together? Like, you know," and she gestured vaguely. "Together."

I choked on my beer, once I figured out what she was asking. "God, no, they're brothers," I said, "and they're okay I guess, and can we not talk about them?"

She gave a bark of laughter. "That bad, huh?"

"You don't want to know," I said. "Just -- never mind them, okay? Go on."

She had a dubious expression, but did: "One of 'em, Sam I think his name was, he told me to just go home and forget about it all. Which I did, for about a month or so. Only then I heard about this... thing, and it sounded a lot like what I'd experienced, and there was a kid involved, this four-year-old girl, and so I had to investigate, y'know? I mean, I'm probably crazy -- it's one thing to walk into a haunted building when you don't think ghosts are real and it's just your boyfriend being an ass, but when you know they are, it's..." She shrugged.

"Crazy." She nodded, and I gave a wry grin. "We're all crazy."

"I guess you kinda have to be. Anyway, back in the asylum I'd overheard some stuff that didn't make much sense, the two of them about dealing with ghosts. Sam did tell me about the salt, and how it repels spirits, and I did a bit more research based on the stuff I'd overheard, and then I went in." She looked down, expression a little embarrassed. "I think I was more scared than the girl was."

"You saved her, though," I said, half question. She nodded, and I said: "That's why we do this." One of the reasons, at least.

"I'd wondered why anyone would. I think I kinda get it, now, a little."

"For some people," I said quietly, "it doen't matter why you do it. You just can't not."

#

She -- Kat, though I didn't learn her name until after -- stuck with me as we skulked through the warehouse. There were several times that I think she wanted to turn back; she never said anything, but I could kind of sense it.

Especially when we actually found the damn thing we were hunting.

"What the hell is that?" she said, and her voice had the tight sort of evenness that meant she was close to freaking out.

"Not a ghost," I told her, helpfully, watching the thing with narrowed eyes.

"No shit."

"And it's feeding," I muttered. Dammit. I'd been hoping it wasn't yet. I chewed on my lip, thinking. For her sake, I said, "It's invulnerable while it's feeding, but if we turn its attention onto us we won't get anywhere close. So we need to distract it, without distracting it."

She blinked at me in confusion. "How?"

"I don't know," I hissed, "we just have to think of something."

Kat was silent for a moment, and then said, "If I distract it, could you get close?"

"Yeah," I said, "but--"

"Great," she said with a cheerful smile, and burst out of hiding. "Hey!" she shouted. The thing abruptly stopped feeding and focused on Kat, who was flailing her arms at it and shrieking, "Go for the eyes, Boo!"

Okay, so as a plan it kind of sucked, in that I was about as distracted by it as the thing was. But I recovered in enough time to move in the shadows, slipping in close enough to get the thing through both its hearts. It had gotten way too close to Kat for my liking, but it was dead. The exploded sort of dead at that; we were both covered in sticky purpleish goo that smelled oddly yeasty.

I raised an eyebrow at her. "'Boo'?"

She gave a slightly sheepish grin, and said, "Hey, it worked, didn't it?"

#

"So what about you?" Kat asked me, later. "Why do you do this?"

"'Cause I want to." It was the simplest answer. "Also, my dad was a hunter. He showed me... things. And how to deal with the various whatevers that are out there."

She grinned slightly at that. "My dad taught me a bit how to defend myself. Well, against people, at least. He neglected to mention the ghost thing."

"Can't imagine why," I murmured.

#

Two of the three hostages were still alive, and for the record I really prefer rescuing kids than rescuing adults. For one thing, kids are cuter anyway; for another, they might get scared, but they don't turn fear into belligerence and start hollering about how they're going to sue us.

Kat gave me a helpless sort of look -- what do we do now? -- and I just flipped the guy off, beamed at him, and walked away.

"You know," Kat said, "this would be a damn good time for one of those Men-in-Black flashy thingies," and I snickered. "Seriously, though. What if they make a police report?" she asked.

"...like the police would believe them?" I pointed out, and wrinkled my nose. "Damn, I didn't know these guys got this messy." I shook a blob of goo off one hand. "I need a shower."

"My place is close," she offered, a bit shyly.

#

We showered together, because her shower was big enough (barely) and we both needed it (a lot). It took a while before the water ran off clear instead of purple, and during that time I found out that she didn't have either a roommate or a boyfriend, and she found out that I had a three-inch scar on my hip.

"Long story," I said. Wasn't really long so much as embarrassing, but hey, it sounded better this way.

She touched the scar, and her fingers lingered a bit longer than they might have. I looked at her, and quirked an eyebrow, and she smiled.

"Yeah?" I said.

"Yeah," she said, and then, "--hey, you wanna borrow some clothes?"

I didn't even have to look at the twin piles of purple-goo-stained clothes before accepting.

#

"Uh," Kat said, late in the evening, and was silent again for a long moment. Then she asked, "Does it ever stop being scary, hunting things like this?"

"Nope," I told her with drowsy cheerfulness. The post-hunt adrenaline high had worn off, and the beers had kicked in, and I was quite content not to move. "Not really." I didn't mention that fear is what keeps us alive, when hunting; if we stop being afraid, we start being dead pretty damn quick.

"Great," she muttered.

I regarded her. The people that hunters rescued were supposed to go off and live normal lives; that was the point of rescuing them. Before my brain could kick in, I said, "You know you shouldn't be out here, doing this," and immediately realized how much I sounded like my mom, and Dean, and pretty much everyone else who tried to convince me I wasn't suited for this job.

"And how many times has someone said that to you?" she asked dryly, like she was reading my mind, and I grinned and raised my beer bottle in a toast.

"Here's to us, then."

#

I left her with my cell phone number, and instructions to call me if she found anything she wanted to hunt (because, hell, I might as well help her, and we made a damn good team), or if she had questions about stuff, or if she wanted pizza sometime, or company, "or, y'know, anything."

She called the next day, and I was smiling into the phone as I answered.

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