Jo paced near the edge of the table, her footsteps tapping almost inaudibly against the wood. She had a newfound appreciation for independent mobility and not having to worry about being tossed around in a car. At least she’d managed to stay dry above her shoes for the most part during her ordeal. She was high-strung enough without being cold and wet.
“I put a bullet in his shoulder,” she told Sam, taking the opportunity to speak before he could start tapping away at his laptop keys again. “I dunno how long that’ll keep him occupied, if at all. Who knows, maybe he’ll be right back at it again tomorrow night. As if nothing happened.”
It made her heart sink to realize that maybe she’d made no difference at all. This should have been ended tonight, and she’d only managed to become another victim. She swiftly put those thoughts to rest. The creep wasn’t going to get away with it, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to stay doll-sized.
With fresh determination, Jo broke the back-and-forth pacing and walked around to the side of Sam’s laptop. She tried not to appear too tense, but it was difficult with the fact that even the upper half of his body occupied so much of her vision. She turned to the screen instead. “Any chance I won’t be spending the night as a Barbie?” she asked, trying not to get her hopes up.
Sam's heart skipped a beat when Jo rounded the corner. He'd known she was there, of course, but he was far from used to interacting with a person the size of his ring finger. He raised his fingers from the keyboard as he turned his attention downward.
"Uh, maybe." Sam said with a sigh. He tapped the screen of his phone, highlighting the zoomed-in picture he'd taken of the gemstone on her neck. "He's using African Opals, I can say that much. But as far as removing the curse goes... It's complicated. The closest match I could find were medieval book of hours illustrations, but the text is unreadable." He planted his chin in his hand, giving her an apologetic smile. "l'll keep digging."
Wrestling a look of disappointment off her face, she gave him a grateful nod. “Thanks, Sam.” The thought of sleeping at her size… She couldn’t imagine anything worse that putting herself in such a vulnerable position. It was even more nauseating to wonder how much longer beyond that would she need to stay pocket-sized.
Jo’s eyes drifted down to the phone, examining the image of her own neck. Considering she couldn’t get a look at it on herself, she stepped up closer. It was utterly surreal to think the zoomed-in photo was scaled larger than she actually was at the moment.
“Do you mind if I…” She trailed off and looked up at Sam, holding her ground despite the surprise of how much closer she’d gotten to him than she thought. “Maybe I could use your phone to look stuff up, too. I hate this, just sitting around and waiting for something to fall on my lap.”
Sam held very still as Jo walked around the perimeter of the laptop to lean over his phone. Around such a fragile little person, he was as good as a walking death trap. Just a flick of his wrist could send her plummeting off the side of the table.
"Not a bad idea, actually." Sam admitted, grateful that not every word from his mouth was more crushing disappointment for her.
A dark shadow shifted over her as he reached over to press the home button. He got it set up on the mobile web browser with a few taps of his fingertips. He angled the phone towards her just a smidge before pulling his hand away again. The sheer comparison up close was dizzying.
He set back on his fruitless search for a countercurse, idly glancing down at Jo every three seconds. He didn't want to discourage her, but he doubted she'd have much success working a phone that topped her in height.
Relieved to have a productive distraction, Jo leaned over the screen’s keyboard. Far more suited to her size than a laptop, but trickier to use than she would have anticipated. The screen was sensitive, inputting touches that she didn’t mean for it register. She glanced up at the search bar periodically, only to groan under her breath and tap backspace to delete garbled words.
With so little to go on, she knew deep down that she wasn’t offering much beyond what Sam was doing. A search on the gem itself didn’t bring up anything significant, though she wasn’t sure what she was expecting--for something to miraculously come up for her? It wasn’t long before her frustration mounted.
Jo straightened suddenly. “It wasn’t just the opal, though,” she recalled. “He had that black dust too, in a little bag from what I saw.” She remembered the sharp burning sensation, the gem attaching to the same spot she was hit. “I think it activated the gem.”
Sam frowned thoughtfully, typing speedily into his favorite search engine. "Primer powder, maybe?" He scrolled down further and wrinkled his nose. "Oh God... You don't wanna know what goes into making this crap."
"Yahtzee!" Dean grinned at his laptop, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
The table quivered at his approaching steps- something neither he or Sam could perceive. Though he'd spent the better part of the night avoiding all further contact with Jo, Dean made an exception to share his success.
"Still nothing on reverse the shrinking spell, but I think I might have a lead on who we're chasing." Even standing a foot away from the table's edge, Dean still made sure he knew precisely where Jo was before setting down his laptop as gently as he could. He angled the screen so Jo had a chance to see as much as they did from her low vantage point. Sam got up out of his seat, leaning down over Dean's screen with a practiced scrutiny.
"I found a symbol on the guy's powder bag. Turns out-" Dean said, setting down the little burlap sack next to Jo and tapping the symbol stitched into the corner. "-it traces back to an old Celtic legend of druid thieves. They were famous for thieving from witches and warlocks, using the spell-work to make fortunes." Dean let his eyes drop to Jo again, remembering to lower his voice at the last second.
“So, we’re dealing with a witch wannabe,” Sam said, eyes flickering between the web page Dean had pulled up and the bag on the table. “Could explain why he ran for it instead of getting more aggressive.”
Jo was quiet, staring at the screen. She had to admit, her hopes had soared for a moment at Dean’s excitement--that maybe he found a way to get her back to normal. She knew she shouldn’t be disappointed that some of the perp’s mystery was unraveled instead; after all, a step closer to getting him could mean a step closer to fixing the damn curse.
But before she could be elated about the prospect of that for very long, a realization struck her and weighed upon her heart with horror. Turning away from the laptop, she looked up at the boys with round eyes.
“F-Fortunes?” she uttered. “Wait, he’s… Do you think he’s selling these girls?”
It was impossible for the brothers to hide anything from a four inch woman standing directly below them. She visibly saw the identical realization flicker through their eyes, the blood draining from their faces as they considered it. Dean glanced subtly to Sam, just needing a split second of eye contact for the assurance that they were on the same page.
"I wouldn't cross out the possibility," Sam said delicately. sugar-coated or not, there was no hiding the grim look in his eyes.
"We should give Bobby a ring. See if he's heard any whispers about black market dealings in our line of work." Dean said in a hollow voice, sizing Jo up for the umpteenth time. So friggin' tiny. And she could have been one of them.
Sam mumbled an incoherent agreement and snatched up his cellphone. Minimizing Jo's research, he pulled up Bobby's number and dialed. With Sam wandered over to the window for a better signal, Dean was left alone with Jo, feeling entirely awkward.
"I'll just get this out of your way..." He muttered, more to fill the silence than anything. He reached around her, scooping up his laptop and setting it down on the foot of his bed. Even with his back turned, he could still feel her eyes on him. Dean had to admit, it was a lot less glamorous being a giant than he'd ever expected, despite his endless jabs towards Sam.
Positively sick to her stomach, Jo averted her gaze from Dean briefly to step to the edge of the table and sit down, her legs dangling over the side. Systematically shrinking women for an unknown purpose already had her skin crawling; the possibility that they were being sold off like merchandise instilled even more disgust and anger.
Without Sam’s phone to occupy her, she quickly became restless again. She ran a hand through her hair and adjusted her jacket. Still, the fidgeting wasn’t enough. Reaching for her knife, she pulled it out completely. Clutching the handle, she ran her fingertips along the smooth, flat part of the blade.
She looked up toward Dean. “You know, you being nervous only makes me more nervous,” she remarked. She could remember ever seeing him so insecure. He had changed since their last encounter over year ago, and she knew why. But the way he was acting now had nothing to do with that and everything to do with her size.
"I'm not nervous. Just being careful." Dean said.
Spurred to prove this, he lumbered back over to the table with those casual, heavy steps of his. Yet as he took a seat to her right, an anxious vein pulsed in his neck.
"Would you get away from the edge?" He pleaded, the hint of exasperation with her antics not exactly subtle.
His approach made her heart jump a little, but she managed to stay still other than rhythmically tapping her hanging feet together to release some tense energy. He was still intimidating, but the shock factor had faded for the moment. She doubted she would ever be completely at ease with that face focused on her, daunting and handsome.
Jo raised her eyebrows at him coolly, giving a small chuckle. “Dean, I’m not gonna fall.” She leaned forward a bit, looking down at the long distance to the carpet. It wasn’t as scary as being in Dean’s hand. At least here, she had control over herself. “I lost five feet, not my balance.”
Dean scoffed under his breath, a flat look conveying his continued disapproval. Resting his arms on the table, he gauged the distance from Jo's dangling boots to the carpet. Not more than two or three feet for a normal person, but for her it had to be the equivalent of a 30 foot drop, at least. Dean shuddered at the thought of such a daunting height, quietly admiring her courage yet again.
"Pretty ballsy for a little person." He quirked an eyebrow at her, a shadow of a smirk hinted at the corners of his mouth.
Jo rolled her eyes, still thinking he was making her placement a bigger deal than he needed to. “Gotta be ballsy,” she retorted. “Pretty sure that’s the only way I’ll stay sane through this.”
She didn’t feel particularly brave at the moment. It was just a little easier to forget that she was on a giant table when she sat on the edge. It meant having her back to the enormous objects on the tabletop--normal, everyday things that now dwarfed her up close. But she wasn’t about to try explaining that to him, especially with that “little person” jab.
Desperate to get off the topic of her height, Jo gave Dean a more cautious look. She hadn’t forgotten what he revealed to her before all the excitement. It had been impossible to bring it up again, what with him clearly avoiding her since arriving in the room.
“Listen… Are you okay?” she questioned. “You had me worried when you took off at the bar. I mean, you can’t just drop a bomb like that and then leave it at that.”
He smirked tensely. "Sure I can."
Though she was literally sitting in his shadow, she'd lost lost nine of her fiery stubbornness. Dean knew immediately he was going to get an earful if he didn't find a way to satiate her for the time being. His smirk dropped, gaze becoming shifty like it had back at the bar.
"I'm fine." Dean insisted. "Let's just worry about catching this bastard and getting you back to normal, kiddo."
The click of a phone snapping shut drew Dean's attention over his shoulder. Sam ambled back over to them with a weary expression.
"So?" Dean asked.
Sam shrugged. "It's up in the air. Bobby's gonna make some calls and get back to us. Says he might know a guy in marketing these things... These auctions."
After plugging in his phone and laptop, Sam rocked on his heels uncertainly. "I'm gonna head to bed. We should probably talk about where Jo's gonna bed for the night, too." Sam said, giving her a little nod of acknowledgement to reassure she wasn't forgotten.
Dean pursed his lips in thought, tapping a finger on the tabletop while he let his cheek rest in his other hand.
"We could put her in a shirt." He mumbled aloud.
Sam shot him a dirty look. "Dean, we're not shoving her into a friggin' shirt."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Just the pocket part! She'd fit, I think."
Sam still looked uneasy, looking down to Jo as if apologizing for his own brother's lack of filter.
"You got a better idea, I'm all ears." Dean raised his eyebrows at him expectantly.
“Or you could, you know, ask me,” Jo piped up, seeming to have lost a great deal of timidity that came with her reduced height.
She kept her eyes on Dean, annoyed by his evasiveness and fully ready to argue that he could talk to her about Hell and angels, regardless of her own predicament. Kiddo. It wasn’t as if it would slow them down from finding a counter-curse. But she held her tongue with Sam around, especially with her sleeping arrangements up in the air.
Tearing her glare away from the blonde hunter, she stowed her knife away and stood. She knew it was somewhat--or very--childish, but she wasn’t uneasy about sleeping in a shirt so much as she was determined to refuse Dean’s suggestion. Her sweep of the room paused at the bed. “How about taking off one of those pillowcases for me? I can work with that.”
Sam strode over to his own selected bed without question. He ran his hand over the floral throw pillow, finding it far too rough of a spin to be comfortable. But the plain pillows underneath were housed in much more worn, soft cases. He pulled off the one with less age damage and folded into a neat square. For a moment, he just held it there, looking from Jo, to the beds and the other furniture scattered about the room.
He crouched down at the joint nightstand sandwiched between the queen beds. Underneath the drawer was a little alcove built in to hold the complimentary King James Bible and hefty Oregon phone book. The way they were stacked crested what Sam hoped would be like a makeshift staircase for their tiny friend. He laid out the pillowcase square at the top and stood up again.
"How does that look?" He asked, standing back so Jo could see.
"Pocket woulda been a better fit," Dean grumbled under his breath.
“Get over it,” Jo sighed, a smug look plain on her face as she strode across the table to get a better look at the nightstand.
It didn’t look half-bad. She was delighted at the idea of not being stuck on some tabletop or drawer for the night. Taking a stroll on the floor with two giants around wasn’t really on her to-do list, but it was comforting to know she wouldn’t be stranded.
Crossing her arms, she gave a nod with a tight smile. It was very much apparent to her that she couldn’t get down there on her own from her current perch. “Looks fine to me. Thanks, Sam.”
"Hey, no prob." Sam's face lit up in a little quirk of a smile, quietly proud of his little achievement. He glanced to Dean, but seeing as his brother wasn't making a move to touch her, Sam returned to the table with hands outstretched to the table's edge.
"I can just set you down on the floor, if you'd prefer." Sam said quietly.
"Sure," she answered with a hesitant nod. The expression on her face became a tad less confident, but she stepped forward anyway. Sam's hands were even bigger than Dean's--not that it made a great deal of difference, considering either of the pairs of hands could engulf her with room to spare. She was prepared for the strange sensation of walking on skin this time, but Sam had yet to hold her before. His hand flinched the slightest bit, prompting her to drop to a crouch prematurely.
Hearing him mutter an apology, Jo stiffened as his other hand cupped beside her like a wall. Air brushed past her when he turned and lowered her. The ride was short, and before she knew it, carpet was laid out before her. She tried not to display too much eagerness to get off.
Jo counted herself lucky the carpet wasn't too thick, but the texture felt strange anyway. She knew better than to look up, remembering the goosebumps that lined her skin when she first saw Dean's full height from beneath the dumpster. Squaring her shoulders, she strode across the carpet toward the nightstand between the beds.
The walk felt lengthy and awkward, and she regretted not asking Sam to take her right to the nightstand. She came to a stop in front of the books. The Bible was over half her height laying on its side. Before she could show her hesitancy, she reached out over the spine and hoisted herself on top of it. The next "step" to the phone book was far less cumbersome, and she barely even needed to step up to reach the alcove beneath the nightstand.
The moment she started actually climbing into the little pillowcase bed was the moment Sam and Dean realized to the extent at which they were ogling her journey. Both brothers casually resumed some sort of activity to create the illusion that they weren't, in fact, hypnotized by the impossible sight of a four-inch woman. Sam strode around to the other side of his bed, tossing the other pillow to the middle and stripping down to an undershirt and sleep pants. There was no way Jo could see him from the alcove under the nightstand, but Sam still took the extra courtesy to change further back towards the corner.
Dean trudged around to wipe off his favorite handgun; a part of his ordinary nightly routine. He sat on the edge of his bed, polishing it to a brilliant gleam before sliding it under his pillow.
Raising his head, his gaze inevitably sought out Jo. He watched her settle in with a deep ache inside. If he had just been a minute sooner, this all might have been prevented.
The nightstand vibrated dully with a few careful steps before the light was blocked out altogether. Dean knelt on one knee, one arm resting up out of sight on the wooden surface to support him as he leaned in.
"Hey," He said, nothing even remotely joking in his voice now. "If you need anything, or anything changes... You've got our numbers." He gave her a little look, something understood between them. Sam might not understand yet that Jo's voice truly couldn't carry far.
After gazing up at him for a prolonged moment, Jo blinked away and nodded. “Yeah, of course,” she responded. She knew he meant to assure her, but it brought her fresh chills to be reminded of how small she was. Couldn’t even hope to get some sleep without worrying what could happen, even in the safety of the room.
She pulled her phone out, the screen illuminating her brown eyes as she peered at it. A little less than three quarters of the battery left. It didn’t feel like enough. It could be fully charged, and it still wouldn’t feel like enough. The surest connection to the boys, and it was on a time limit. Guess I just need to grow back before it runs out, she thought ruefully.
“Dean,” she called up, in case he would leave. She sighed deeply, knowing it had to be said. “Listen… Thanks for being a stubborn ass and staying on the case. If you hadn’t… who knows where I’d be right now.” As she spoke, she shed her jacket, emptying it of its meager contents so she could roll it up like a pillow. She left her knife tucked underneath for a sense of security and gave her car keys a wry look. Still parked at the bar, but that was the least of her worries.
A smile pulled at his lips, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. Her gratitude didn't erase the constant reminder that he let this happen to her. Still, Jo got a softer look from the hunter, his sharp eyes for once not avoiding her tiny form.
"Hey, you know I'm not one to let go easy." For a second, his smile looked real.
The left bed groaned as Sam let himself under the sheets and got comfortable. Dean's attention was momentarily torn away, prompting him to do the same. He looked back to Jo, so much more on the tip of his tongue. But it never came.
Giving the top of the nightstand a gentle rap, Dean flattened his hand to push himself to his feet. "I'll see you tomorrow," his farewell was a low rumble. The carpet slowly inflated itself from the weighty imprints of his shoes as Dean left to climb into his own bed. There was a brief pause before the lamp was clicked off. The room was left in a state of darkness coupled with the drum of a dying rainstorm.