Winter


The only place to go was the last place he deserved to be.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.

Rating: M (Language, angst, sex and a four-poster bed.)

Pairings: Dean/OFC, Dean/Jo (Het)

Miscellaneous: This is the sixth story in the Gobsmacked 'verse and follows directly after Black Bird. This installment contains more angst than is normally found in the stories and I am serious about the rating, particularly in the second half of the story. Within the arc of Season Two, this takes place after "No Exit" but before "The Usual Suspects."

Beta: merioddities wrangled my run-on sentences and gave me the best pacing advice the story could ever have been given. vunidiwai, as always, was gracious and supportive of my story and all of my characters. iamentheos went through both sections so quickly I was able to start editing ahead of my schedule and also kept me company on IM when I was stressing about Part Two. embroiderama suffered another week of random spammage whenever I freaked out about Dean's POV, Penny's POV, the smut, the plot; in short, everything. misskatieleigh sent me notes (even if she said it wasn't a real beta) on both parts and also put up with my more spastic moments. Everything in this story rocks because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me.


Part One: Sleeping Beauty Trips Me With a Frown

It turns out my dad had a partner on his last hunt.

Dean knew where it was headed the moment Jo had said the words. No good deed goes unpunished, son. Like letting Jo Harvelle tag along on a hunt because she reminded him of Sam with something to prove. She even had the same look on her face, a twisted flush topped off with angry eyes and the sucked-in breath before the volley of words poured out designed to wear you down. When she was done, Jo had mixed up Holmes with what happened to her father; blaming him – blaming Dad – for the way things turned out.

He tried to get her to stop. See what he could do to make amends, but the damn girl kept right on talking – pushing what little peace they had made in Philadelphia back into his face with terse accusations. She'd been shaking like falling leaves in a storm.

But she wasn't listening, pinched and hurt by her mother's revelation. Dad had told him once that there wasn't anything as fierce as a mother protecting her young; he'd been talking about werewolves but the same principle applied after Ellen cornered him in the hallway and demanded to know why he was playing two nice girls against each other. Ellen was probably just giving Jo a reason to let go that gave her daughter some dignity, some righteousness against the sting of being dragged back home like she was a kid; maybe even some tricks to get past the rejection of always being left behind.

There'd been too many women after that night in Harvelle's storeroom to apologize, long before Penny Hillsworth marched into the pool room at the Roadhouse wearing the rattiest pink sweatpants he'd ever seen on a chick. Even comparing the two was fucked – everyone but Sam had stuck Penny on the sidelines, the girl who grew up with a backyard full of trees and a dozen kids sneaking up to rub her on the belly. Jo didn't get what he saw in her, had asked him why when Sam was out getting coffee, in a conversation where he had said too much.

And not even Dean had played her fair, all the times he should have called after that – not deserving the way Penny Hillsworth would slip past the cracks and cushion the aches with nothing but the way she laughed. He wasn't about to tell anyone that Penny made him want to promise things he never should; a Winchester's promise wasn't worth much, with him spilling open because he was watching the burn in Jo's eyes while waiting for Sam and coffee.

I was six or seven, and uh, he took me shooting for the first time. You know, balls on a fence, that kind of thing. I bulls eyed every one of them. He gave me this smile, like... I don't know.

He had managed to screw the pooch without even unbuttoning his pants.

It just slipped out when Jo pushed, between anxiety and all of the lies; the ones they told to each other, the scams they pulled to solve the case. There wasn't much difference between the lies a father told his sons and the lies a mother told her daughter; a man was still dead, probably a good one, and Dean still didn't know which life was the real one – the one he thought belonged to his father or the one John Winchester actually lived, all those secrets tied up in death and broken promises.

The only thing that made sense was running towards the luck-bright smile that convinced a man that he could fight fate; even one with a list of things to do and no clue where to start, tasks no brother should ever be asked to perform. It wasn't anyone's fault but his that Jo wasn't first on that list, no matter how high up the Harvelles were, and no amount of wishing on her part would change that; there was no hope that he could offer her because those two mistakes would never mean more than they did.

When it came, Jo's ultimatum had been a relief.

Just get out of here.

The only place to go was the last place he deserved to be.

Dean drove it straight, stopping only for gas and pit stops. Sam didn't even make a crack about it the first time they pulled into a drive-through, just leaned around Dean and placed his order like a thirteen-hour drive to some chick's place was the normal Winchester MO. He mentioned something about stopping for presents after seeing some of the decorations they'd been passing in small towns, shutting up only when Dean scowled at him.

The weather started turning bad around Cedar Rapids. Another goddamn storm Dean was determined they'd outrun, gunning the Impala with a grimace while AC/DC blared from its speakers. Sam stole a look at him when the wind howled louder than the engine's roar and the tires skidded through a turn. He slowed the car down just enough to keep from roaring over a highway barrier but kept right on driving. He could sleep when they got there.

The blizzard chased them the entire way.

Sam was hunched against the window when they rolled up in front of the apartment building, curled around his arm and looking like he was six years old all over again while he slept.

You don't have time for this, Dean.

There were more important things to worry about than which story was true, which promise had been given. All that mattered was that the yellow-eyed freak wasn't getting Sammy. Dean still couldn't shut out his father's voice telling him what he needed to do if he couldn't save Sam, that he had to put his baby brother down like a dog.

Dean blamed the hospital. Dad was probably desperate when he said it, couldn't think of another way out given what was coming next. John Winchester always stood between innocents and the dark that threatened them. There was more to the story than Ellen was telling her daughter; she just didn't know the man the way that Dean did. John Winchester didn't make a habit of sacrificing anyone except himself. The fact that Dean wasn't a pile of ash was proof enough that John Winchester was Corps, would shoulder the burden himself rather than passing it on to someone else.

Except that's exactly what John Winchester had done – exacting the one promise that Dean was destined to break.

Semper Fi.

Dean swallowed, leaning over to shake his brother awake. "Hey, Sam. We're here."

Sam blinked, eyes adjusting to the moonlight reflecting off the snow. He didn't say anything, flipping up the lock in one brisk movement before stepping outside and closing the door. Sam shifted from foot-to-foot, breath coming out as a cloud, while he waited for Dean to unlock the trunk. They both grabbed their duffels – Sam snatching the gun bag before Dean closed the trunk – and started heading towards the building.

Sam got there first, pulling out a set of shiny keys and unlocking the front door with a huge grin on his face. "We should have gotten her something," Sam said, head nodding pointedly at the fake holly and mistletoe garland wrapped around the banister on the staircase. There were glossy metallic ornaments peppered across the ceiling, hanging down at different levels. It wasn't like Dean had planned on driving to Chicago when he woke up that morning and Sam was the one who always remembered crap like that when they were growing up; Sammy had bugged Dad so much about it the year he turned ten that Dad made it Sam's job just to shut him up.

Penny Hillsworth had picked the wrong damn Winchester if what she wanted was gift wrap and bows.

He started walking up the stairs, Sam following closely behind. Dean took a breath when they reached the third floor, staring at the number before pulling his own set keys out of his pocket. His eyes met Sam's before he turned the key; Sam smiled like they always dropped by Penny's and let themselves into the apartment, never getting how fucking weird the whole thing was. Dean unlocked the door slowly, listening for sounds and waiting for instinct to kick in as he pushed the door forward.

The living room was full of those goddamn twinkling lights – enough to make an epileptic have a seizure just by stepping across the threshold. Penny had even set up a tiny plastic tree in the corner near the fireplace, covered with fake silver icicles and every Disney character known to man. Dean half-expected some elf to come bounding down the hallway with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk but all that happened was a rush of air coming out of Sam.

"She laid salt lines," Sam whispered, pointing down to his shoe. The line was so precise, Penny could have laid it with a ruler; not one grain out of place.

"Didn't use her chain," Dean observed. He'd have said more but the stretch of rustling fabric on the couch brought hands above their back holsters, each of them framing the door by taking a side. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, getting ready to make his move.

A tousled blonde head popped up over the folded afghan on the back of the couch. "Jesus!" Lynn Lucas snapped, frowning as Sam shut the door behind them. "Don't the two of you believe in phones?" she added. Her face flushed when Dean started kicking off his boots. "She's sick, Dean. If you think you're just going to waltz into her bed – " Lynn's face softened when their eyes met and she gulped. "You both look like hell."

"Long drive," Sam said, shrugging out of his jacket and throwing it over the armchair.

"Where from?" Lynn glanced at Dean as he walked by, shaking her head and settling her attention on Sam. There was nothing keeping him from Penny Hillsworth now that he was standing in her living room, not even the ghost of every broken promise that followed him over the threshold. "A blizzard's heading in from the west," she added, face going gentle with concern. "You two didn't…" Lynn gasped.

"My brother's a lunatic," Sam confirmed.

"I think it's catching." Lynn gave a small laugh. "Well, since you're here, do you want hot chocolate…"

Their conversation drifted to whispers, unintelligible when Dean reached the bedroom. He twisted the doorknob, stepping over another salt line Penny had placed on the inside of the door, before setting his duffel on the floor. Dean started shucking out of his clothes, listening to wind whipping the snow up outside. The curtains above her bed were open, moonlight reflecting off the snow and lighting up the room like the sun was rising, and Penny stirred when he unzipped his pants.

A better man would have grabbed some blankets and headed for her bathtub but Dean slid under the covers. Penny rolled right into his arms, burrowing into his chest like she knew that he was there. Maybe she did, because a raspy sob escaped from her throat as she curled tight around him.

"Hey," he whispered sharply, a stab against the silence. Penny's body went stiff when she heard his voice. "You're crying all over me, for Christ's sa – "

Penny's head shot up and her eyes opened, a hand suddenly clutching each arm. She stared into his face with a twist to her mouth like she was still expecting to wake up, eyes blinking fast. He recognized the Metallica logo on her chest, a little piece of faith that he didn't merit, but he just grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it up over her head. Penny shivered when he leaned down and started kissing her collarbone, her chest rattling as she breathed.

Penny Hillsworth smelled like goddamn lilacs, like she was standing in the back yard in Lawrence instead of laying underneath him wearing nothing but an amethyst on a chain.

Dean closed his eyes, inhaling the scent off the curve of her neck, and wrapped his fingers in her hair. Penny brought her hands down to his hips, opening her mouth underneath his as tangled fingers pulled through curls, but it wasn't enough to stop the Fury's voice.

It was your father, Dean.

Dean recoiled – there might be something there if it was true because a man who left a partner to die could easily sacrifice a son for the good of the mission – but Penny's hands were stroking his hips; already guiding him right between her thighs. She lifted her hips slowly, drawing him inside unhurried inch by unhurried inch, until she quivered warm and wet and soft around him. "I've been missing you," she said, voice low and husky. She knotted her hands behind his neck, her back arching underneath him as they started rocking slowly against each other.

"I'm right here."

And that was their only preamble, shuddering skin to skin and falling into each other with a muted moan that was enough to silence the entire storm.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lynn was laughing loud enough for her voice to carry past the bedroom door, followed through the crack along the doorjamb by the smell of cooking bacon. Penny heard another voice talking animatedly, a story punctuated with low chuckles and a muffled rumble in a cadence she recognized as easily as one of her own brothers.

Sam.

She sat up, curling her knees against her chest; back straight against the headboard. Even asleep, Dean looked exhausted – with darkened circles around his eyes and his mouth stretched into a thin line. Penny blinked; the last thing he needed was to see her bawling all over again because the smudges around his eyes were almost as stark as the freckles sprinkled across his nose. Last night had been bad enough; she hadn't realized it was Dean crawling into her bed, caught up in the memory of him and the lingering scent on the pillow he always used.

It was like she was in junior high all over again, watching her brothers' faces for signs of bad news – except now the monsters were real, their existence etched in scars she'd traced with tongue and fingers, and even the losing battle against her mother's cancer was easier to fight. No amount of wishing could steel men against what lurked in the dark, the shadows where even memories teased.

Penny stared hard down at the foot of the bed, listening to the slow rhythm of Dean's breathing as he slept. A lesser man would have taken one look at you and thrown you back in for something a little bigger. It was true – but probably not the way he meant it. She was still trying to figure out how to help him but Dean Winchester was the one keeping an eye on her, showing up unannounced in her bed three days before Christmas; at least six feet of urgency and need, roaring through a blizzard to be with her.

"Your cousin screeches like a hyena." She turned to look at him. Dean was leaning up on one elbow. The grin she remembered plastered on his face. "Sam's probably deaf by now," he continued. "I should be deaf, too, given how much the women in your family like to scream." His eyes were bright despite their circles and one hand was suddenly brushing down her arm like a dare.

Penny's laugh was choked by a cough, bent over with her fist cupped over her mouth. Dean wasn't grinning at her when she looked back at him. "It's just a bronchial infection," she explained. "And it's mostly gone by now. You can't catch it."

"I'm not worried about catching it," Dean snorted. "Just a bronchial infection. You look like crap on toast, Short Stuff."

"That means so much coming from the man sporting those sexy circles under his eyes."

"Didn't say I looked any better."

Penny shook her head sharply, stopping herself from asking about the job. She used to drive Peter crazy with all of her questions, pouncing on him when he came back from academic conferences or a night out with his friends, and he'd get angry about her not trusting him. Penny didn't want to make that same mistake with Dean but it was hard not to say something when he looked away so quickly; swallowing as he stared intently at the wall while his jaw worked.

"If we don't hurry," she said, " Lynn's going to eat all of the bacon." Penny winced before she even finished. Fucking bacon? Dean was watching her like she was spawning another head.

"You ever heard of H. H. Holmes?" he asked.

"This is Chicago, Dean." Penny's stomach suddenly flopped up into her chest and she wanted to wrap her arms around his shoulders because of the way they stiffened; Dean Winchester looked like he was close to breaking. "But I thought you were going to Philadelphia?" she added softly. "What does that have to do with H. H. Holmes?"

"That's where he was executed. Some idiot built apartments on top of the site and his ghost's been coming back to finish what he started. Jo fit the profile. She ended up getting kidnapped by him." His hand was on her arm.

"Jo?" Her throat was raw. It shouldn't have surprised her. Jo Harvelle was a trained hunter, could probably decapitate a zombie with a flick of her bar tray; Penny Hillsworth was the idiot who burned her arm carrying two bowls of oatmeal because she forgot the tray. "Is she okay?" It was the only question Penny could think to ask that wasn't an accusation, her voice so shrill she wondered why her throat wasn't cracking.

"Angry's the word I'd use but she's…safe." A shadow crossed his face but he looked her right in the eye. Whatever Dean was trying to tell her wasn't something he was hiding but Penny didn't want to know the answer. It was about Jo. "She came after us. Made Ash set up a false trail and followed us to Philadelphia. I should have sent her ass home instead of letting her stay." He clutched her arm, his fingers white stripes in relief around her bicep. "Holmes was going after blondes. When she went missing, I…"

"Felt responsible?" she asked. Dean carried responsibility the way most people kept secrets, unspoken but always flickering just beneath the surface; burdens he nurtured for reasons Penny still didn't understand. She grabbed the back of his neck with her right hand, leaning down into him and pushing the kiss deep inside – hoping that he'd listen when she pulled away. "It was her decision, Dean, and she knew the risks."

"Ellen didn't quite see it that way. And Jo's not so keen on Winchesters anymore. She told me – " He finally let go of her arm. "I shouldn't be laying this crap on you. You're sick."

It was the most he had ever come out and said to her about the mistakes he had made but there were more burdens woven into what he didn't say – something about Jo, the way his eyes clouded when Dean said Jo's name. It was the same look he got whenever he was talking about Sam being the only family that Dean had left.

Guilt.

She swallowed, bringing a hand down to brush through his hair. "It's not crap," Penny said softly. "And I'm not that sick." Dean snorted as she sucked in a breath, chest wheezing. "You have more important things to worry about than me," she added. "Especially when you're working."

"So, uh…" Dean frowned when she started coughing.

"How bad was it?"

"Yeah."

"I started getting sick a day or two after I left Nebraska. I thought I had a cold, so I kept working on the proof for my thesis defense." Penny took a deep breath. "I fainted one night at my dad's house." Lynn would have no problem filling in any gaps that she conveniently missed if she didn't tell Dean the truth. "My father overreacted like he always does and took me to the emergency room."

The shadows darkened in his eyes and they stared each other down. "And you didn't think that was fucking important enough to call me about?" Dean finally hissed.

"Would you have interrupted your little ghost-hunting escapade with Jo Harvelle because I had a fever?" she snapped. Penny wished she could take it back the moment she said it, watching his face crumple. She swallowed and touched his cheek. "They released me six hours later with a bunch of antibiotics," Penny added gently when he didn't pull away from her hand. " Lynn got the short straw and Dad forced her to stay with me. And he wasn't happy about having to pull string two weeks before Christmas to get my defense rescheduled. Thanks to him, I won't get to start my doctorate work until next fall."

"Penny – "

"I'm sorry." Penny's fingers swept across his mouth. "I… I wanted you here, but...how could I ask that when you were saving people's lives, Dean?" Her mouth twisted wryly. "The truth is, I'm just as hypocritical as Jo Harvelle – knowing the risks and saying that I accept them but if I really did…I wouldn't get upset about the things you need to do."

Dean started, eyes flickering to the wall and getting wider every time she mentioned Jo's name. She couldn't even manage an apology properly, bristling deep inside with the feeling that there was something Dean still wasn't telling her about Jo.

He shifted just enough so that he could rest his chin on her stomach and sighed loudly. "A freaking heads-up would've been nice," Dean said slowly, "Because I got lectured by your goddamn cousin and Lynn's worse than Sammy." And then he was grinning up at her, a lopsided apology. "At least she's not fucking jealous of Jo."

"I'm not jealous!" Her cheeks burned.

Dean snorted, pushing himself up by the arms. "Liar." Before she could say anything, his mouth was circling her right breast. Penny felt the draw right between her thighs when he slid a hand up with a rough chuckle that had her toes curling. "Seems to me like you're ready to be confined to your bed, Baby Doll."

"Take your best shot, Agent Han," Penny breathed, scratching lazy circles on his back.

"I'm not above pinning you to the mattress myself if that's what it takes."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When they stumbled down the hallway and into the kitchen, Lynn was sitting at the small table laughing at Sam's goddamn story about the beer bottle back in Texas. Sam was making faces and doing a whole pantomime thing and Lynn only laughed louder when Dean slid into a chair across from Penny.

The whole thing sounded so normal that it should have made his teeth ache, listening to Sam go on about a practical joke with a beer bottle like he was still a college student – like it had nothing to do with tracking down some Tulpa and the two girls were listening to the story in some bar. The way Sam acted, handing Penny a plate of bacon and talking about nothing, Dad was still alive and Jo hadn't told them something about John Winchester that changed everything.

"My brother gets himself into some pretty stupid situations," Sam continued. "Like the time Penny beat him up with her umbrella because he couldn't keep his goddamn mouth shut. The look on his face when she hit him a second time should be on t-shirts or something."

"That's because she smacked me right into a freaking tree," Dean said. He shook his head, watching Lynn and Penny sneak a glance at each other before both of them started laughing again. Penny had to steady herself on the table with her elbows. "Come on, it was a lucky hit!"

"You keep telling yourself that, Mr. Hi, I'm Undercover – Here's My Phone Number." Penny smiled at him, handing him a platter of French toast. She made it so easy to forget the whole damn thing when she smiled, the same look in her eyes when she was writhing on top of him. There was always a lilt to her voice that told him a different truth, that a father's wishes and their family debts were already paid in full – had already been met by every person Sam and Dean Winchester saved since leaving Stanford. "And I did warn you," she added, following up the plate with some syrup.

"You scarred me for life," Dean replied sharply. Sam snorted and Dean turned on him. "Laugh it up, Sasquatch!"

Sam's shaggy head shook back and forth as he speared some French toast and slapped it down on his plate. "You're the one who blew our cover, Romeo," he retorted.

"You're the one who actually blew it, Agent Luke," Penny returned calmly, not even looking up from her plate as she cut a piece of French toast and slid it onto her fork. "Come on, Sam," she said, finally shooting a glance at his little brother. "Ford and Hamill? How often do those aliases work?"

Sam didn't say anything – just grinned at Penny sheepishly as he poured syrup on his food. It was Dean's turn to snort. "More often than you think, Short Stuff," he said. Her smile went soft at that and the only thing keeping Dean from dropping his fork when Penny's foot started sliding across his calf was the fact that kickass demon hunters didn't drop forks at breakfast like they were a kid. "People are damn gullible," he continued. "Even Sam can convince most people he's with the FBI. I mean, your cousin believed him."

"I was in shock!" But Lynn was still laughing. "Some monster out of Penny's comic books had just attacked my roommate."

"No wonder you recognized Ford and Hamill." Dean retaliated by snaking his big toe up the inside of Penny's thigh, flipping up the edge of the Metallica t-shirt Penny had put back on after dragging him out of her bed for breakfast. He'd show her how the game was played. She didn't even flinch. "You're a fucking geek." Her green eyes narrowed but Penny was shifting forward on the chair. "Who would have thought I'd be banging a chick who reads comic books?" he added.

"Seems to me that endearing cracks like that make you pretty damn lucky that any chick is banging you at all, Shotgun." Her voice was as tart as the lemon she was squeezing into her tea but Penny's eyes reminded him of that night back at Bobby's – and her smile was a dare, opening her thighs wider the closer his toe came to reaching its target. Dean returned her smile with a grin of his own; Penny Hillsworth wasn't wearing any fucking underwear, jumping backwards and smacking her left foot into the nearest table leg. Dean chuckled, putting his foot back down on the ground.

"Are you two playing footsie?" Lynn demanded.

"Winchesters don't do footsie, sweetheart," Dean retorted instantly. Goddamn Sam was actually cackling. "It's called ankle wrestling."

"Ankle wrestling?" Lynn looked unconvinced.

"Yeah." Dean nodded. Penny was flushed, her hand inching towards his across the table. "Penny's pretty vicious," he added, grimacing a little when Penny started spreading his fingers wide to slip hers inside. Sam was staring at that so hard, he stopped laughing; goddamn Dean Winchester holding hands over some hinky French toast breakfast with a chick. "Scratched me all over the place with her mutant toes." Dean made to pull back the tablecloth.

"Not really interested in seeing your hairy legs, Dean Winchester." Lynn's blue eyes twinkled just as much as Penny's did when she was amused. "But I'm guessing there are four brothers who'd probably love learning how you ankle wrestle."

"Only four?" Dean managed. He sure as hell hoped the Hillsworths didn't play football in the snow because he was going to be fucked – and not by their little sister – when they figured out that ankle wrestling was just a clever way of playing with Penny Hillsworth underneath the dining room table.

Lynn shrugged her shoulders. "Tommy says you make Penny happy and that was all Daniel needed to hear." She smiled sweetly at Penny. "He's going to have to do something more amazing than ankle wrestling to impress the rest of them at the party."

"We're not going," Penny said, back going stiff as she settled into her chair. "Even Mom hated those parties and she was the only reason I'd ever go once I moved out." Lynn made a face. "I'm serious," Penny added, her fingers so tight around Dean's that her knuckles were turning white. "I don't know how long Sam and Dean can stay and I'm not putting them through that. Dad's questions after the barbecue were bad enough."

"Last time I checked, I'm old enough to handle anything your dad can throw at me," Dean drawled. Penny's head rounded on him, eyes angry. He wasn't about to tell her why; he'd learned deception at the hands of a master, how to bluff and how to make the lie so real even you believed it was the truth.

Why do you think John never came back? Never told you about us? Because he couldn't look my mom in the eye after that, that's why.

Dean swallowed.

"Do you honestly want to spend hours dressed up in silly Victorian clothes while my dad pretends to be lord of some English manor with his lawyer friends?" Penny retorted, but her eyes had softened – catching hold of something inside his own with a small frown. That didn't keep the damn girl from talking. "He even makes sure we all go in authentic costumes. It sucks. The boys get starched collars but Lynn and I both have to wear corsets!"

"Corsets?" He blinked. A vision of Penny in a white corset flittering across the back of his eyelids – her eyes liquid green when he thrust inside of her, looking up into his face like the world was just the two of them while she scratched her nails down his back. It'd be just like that hallucination he had after she knocked him out with her umbrella, except that it'd be Penny arching into his hips and crying out his name and not some chick in his head. He grinned at her. "I could wear a starched collar for one night if you're wearing a corset."

"Why am I not surprised?" There was a tilt to Penny's mouth but her hand held onto his even more tightly than before. A small smile flickered across her face. "Just remember you said that after you start getting a rash." She lowered her eyes, voice going husky from something besides her infection. "But my dad won't let me go if he thinks I'm still sick. He's afraid I'll…" Penny picked up her fork with her free hand, tapping its end on the table slowly. Her cheeks flushed all over again.

"Like I said," he growled, "I'm not above pinning you to the bed if that's what it takes to make you rest, Baby Doll." Lynn made a noise in the back of her throat, before grabbing the bottle of syrup and pouring some on her already drenched French toast.

"Your chivalry is duly noted," Penny answered, eyes down-turned demurely as she sipped her orange juice.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dean Winchester's definition of bed rest would never make it into a medical journal but it beat her cousin's trays of ginger ale, tomato soup and oyster crackers – especially when his voice was rumbling through her back, his fingers the spark that arched through her as she bent into him.

It was always easier to sleep when he was there, waking up with Dean's arm flung haphazardly across her face or feeling the pressure from the one leg he hooked around her thighs when she drifted backwards against him. His big hands would splay across her belly or on her hips, intertwined with her fingers, and she'd just listen to him breathe. The wisp of air hot against the back of her neck and skin growing slick from sweat where they touched – back to chest, thigh to thigh, hand to palm.

He didn't make her feel safe. Dean Winchester lived in a world where last conversations were gifts and Penny Hillsworth needed to be strong enough to deal with his long stretches of silence and new bruises without breaking into pieces like she'd been doing since she left the Roadhouse. Ellen Harvelle had told her that, cornering her over a basket of hot wings with a warning bend to her mouth and a lecture about the kind of woman a hunter needs, but it was Bobby Singer's gravel-kissed voice that made her remember what she'd forgotten.

Some things out there are stronger than luck.

It was time to stop acting like she was ten.

"Dean," Penny whispered gently. "Are you awake?"

"No." His voice was rough in her ear, hands curling around her hips. "I'm having this dream about some hot chick waking me up for sex." His lips left a sizzling mark on her shoulder as his arms tightened. "But even my goddamn brain hates me. You're a shrimp." Dean chuckled sleepily. "Now I know why you're always trying to save them." One hand trailed up her hip, curving around a breast and brushing the nipple with his palm.

Penny sighed, leaning into the warmth of him, and every thing she wanted to say boiled down to the simplest statement underneath the slow pressure of his fingers. "You were right." It didn't surprise her when the words came out in a whisper but she took a deep breath and continued. "I'm jealous of Jo."

Dean didn't say anything for a long time, rubbing her stomach with his other hand while he traced slow circles with his fingers. Penny listened to him breathe, wondering if he'd heard her after all, but then there was a shiver and a sigh. "Nothing to be jealous about, Baby Doll," he said. She must have imagined the hitch in his voice because his lips were on her neck, tongue flicking against her pulse, and she was the one who shivered when the hand on her hip tightened.

Penny finally found her voice when their breathing slowed down, her fingers stroking the hand that Dean was still using to circle her breasts. "It's hard, sometimes. Just looking at yourself and seeing all the places where you're wanting."

Do you have any idea how disappointed your mother would be by the mess you've made of your life?

She sucked in a breath when he scratched her hip lightly down to her thigh. "But Jo? She knows enough to go on jobs with you. If I could do that, maybe I could really help you instead of just being the girl who brings you oatmeal."

Dean took a ragged breath and stopped scratching. The edges of his nails pricked into her hip and there was an ache from his hand digging into muscles. "You're never coming with me on a job," he murmured into her hair. Penny closed her eyes, expecting the shift between them as he rolled her onto her back – the way he'd follow up every pronouncement he made by pushing between her legs, all those unspoken promises they moaned into each others' mouth – but Dean just pulled her closer. "Penny, I…" She heard his swallow over the hum of the heater.

Her throat hurt. "Me, neither," Penny managed to whisper. His hands were soft and slow like she was some delicate thing he was going to break and even the brush of his lips on the back of her ear was gentle – just enough air against the hairs to make her shiver backwards into his arms. "I can't lose you, Dean."

Another torn breath dragged out of both of them. Dean's hands were firmly on her hips as she wrapped her fingers through his and, suddenly, there was a smile curving against her neck. "That bronchial thing's really made you goddamn emo," Dean drawled as he unhooked his leg from across her thighs. "You're just lucky it's too late to throw you back in, Penny, because you made me fucking spoon."

"You ass," Penny retorted. Dean cackled as she twisted to face him, burying her head into the space between his chin and his shoulder blade while her arms settled around his neck.

"At least you're not coughing anymore like some old dude with emphysema." Dean's grin was bright in the light filtering past the curtains. "Because that was all kinds of attractive, wondering what you were going to hack up ne – " His eyes widened when Penny abruptly pushed him backwards onto the mattress with a hand on both shoulders and straddled him, mouth coming down hard on his. He was grinning all over again when she pulled up to look at him, his big hands tracing the muscles on her back as she arched up into their coarse lines. "You think you're big enough to pin me to the mattress, PeeWee?"

"PeeWee?"

"You've got that whole 'waking me out of a dead sleep' thing to answer for before I let you pull out that rope you're always promising to use on me."

"This would be much easier on me if you knew when to shut up, Dean."

He chuckled, wrapping his hands into her hair, and pulled her back down. "But not as much fun," Dean whispered against her lips before launching into something in Latin.

She hoped it wasn't a prayer because she was already closing her eyes and giving herself up to his voice, tremors building from his mouth kissing a wet trail down her neck while insistent fingers marked his territory. Penny moaned, quivering all the way down to her curled toes.


A/N:

The title of this story is a song by Tori Amos. There's a lot of lovely imagery in it about growing up and a father's expectations; this idea suited Dean and Penny – both of whom currently define themselves based on their fathers' judgment of them. The song also references several fairy tales, which fits the "feel" of the 'verse to me.

As always, I did my best to tone down the adult situations. If more work is needed in that regard, please let me know and I will be happy to make changes.

Semper Fi is the abbreviated version of the U.S.M.C motto used by the marines themselves to show loyalty and support for their brothers in arms. The full motto, Semper Fidelis, translates as "Always faithful."

For those who read "Though Hearts Reach Back and Memories Ache," Dean and Penny's reunion is the same scene from his POV.

The scene in the kitchen was an homage to the desk scene in "By Gaslight." Penny, however, is slightly more modest than Penelope when people are around (although, get her drunk and stick her on a pool table and that's pretty much all she wrote)…and I suspect she didn't think Dean would actually, um, go there with Sam and Lynn sitting next to them.

Part Two is forthcoming. I'm just doing one more edit on it before I post it. I am that worried about it.