Author's Notes: I know this is faintly out of character, and I didn't deal at all with the fact that technically Dean ought to be dead, and there's no canon evidence that Bobby and Ellen are more than just friends (but ohmygodwouldn'ttheybeadorable?!) but I really, really, really felt the need to write something just fluffly and happy and, yes, okay, clichéd.
But really. Our boys deserve it. And anyway, I wanted to find a way to have Dean and Jo be friends without being anything more and was sort of interested in the way it turned out. :)
No Other Place
Go. To. Sleep!
They arrive slowly, dripping through the door like reluctant raindrops slipping against glass. First Ellen and Bobby, a good fifteen minutes before the set time, and only when Bobby orders two beers and a shot of whiskey to chase it does Ellen start to relax.
"Whoa, darlin, starting a little early tonight, aren't we?"
He shoots her a look that makes her smile and settles against the back of the booth. "Oh, honey, if I have to listen to Dean and Jo throw sexual jokes at each other than I'm going to have to be too drunk to care."
She laughs, squeezing his hand under the table and kissing his cheek quickly. He smiles slowly, ruefully, the way he always does because she's not sure he remembers any other way to smile anymore. Which is fine with her. She likes him like that, old and tired and living in a dumping ground for damaged cars, house practically submerged in an ocean of salt, bed practically buried in a room full of charm lockboxes and ammo.
"Aw, isn't that sweet, Sammy. The two grandparents are kissing."
Bobby pulls a face and Ellen watches him do it, warmth spreading through her stomach as he scowls. "Ah, shaddup, ya idjit," he scolds, standing up to enfold Dean in a rough but earnest hug. "You're late."
Sammy smiles apologetically, accepting his embrace with far more grace than Dean. "Sorry, Bobby," he murmurs sincerely. "Got caught up in a case, almost didn't make it. Luckily Dean here has a head thicker than steel."
His older brother reaches out a hand to whap the back of his head with half-hearted offense; he's grinning as he slides into the booth across from Ellen and leans over the table to give her a kiss on the cheek. "It's good to see you, Ellen," he tells her, and she knows he means it.
Sometimes she's so honored that she's been accepted into the quickly diminishing circle that Dean considers family, and others she is so scared of the position she's tempted to simply walk away.
"You too, boy. Have you heard from that damn daughter of mine? She was supposed to be here by now."
He leans back against the cushion and shakes his head, a tiny smirk spreading across his lips. "No ma'am, I haven't. But you know Jo. She's probably out back somewhere, grabbing a quickie before—"
She claps a hand over his mouth before he can finish teasing her; she's not above physically silencing him in the middle of his new favorite hobby. Plus, she notices a very troubling hint of pride in his voice at Jo's supposed exploits, pride which hints at her worst fears: without the complications of being lovers, Jo and Dean have found much more dangerous common ground.
Her daughter has a competitive streak a country long and two miles wide, and Ellen makes a conscious decision to not contemplate what sort of stakes these two will climb to in order to out-whatever the other.
Sammy shakes his head with a little grin, shooting Ellen a reassuring glance. "He's lying through his teeth. You know if Jo were out somewhere doing . . . er . . . whatever, Dean'd be the guy knocking the door down to defend her honor."
"Hope it ain't me he's defending."
All four eyes snap to the speaker; Jo's wearing a smile that's somehow both sweet and sassy at the same time, and Ellen can't help the way she relaxes into her chair, knowing that Jo's in the same room, knowing she's not out there doing God-knows-what. (Although she's not ashamed to say she'd rather Jo was having sex with every damn Jerry who asked than hunting down a single spirit; but she's learned to be happy with what she gets.)
Bobby stands again, letting Ellen follow him so that she can wrap Jo in her arms and hold her tight for a second, getting the smell and feel of her before letting go. "Hiya, Mom," Jo greets, kissing her cheek. "Hey Bobby." She kisses Bobby once too squeezing his shoulder and giving him a quick nod.
Then, with childish glee, she climbs over Sam to plant herself between the two Winchesters, nestling between them with a simple, happy grin. "Hey, Jo," Sam offers at the same time as Dean quips, "Jo, you reek of sex."
She answers Sam first because, she claims, she likes him better. She gives him a hug and tells him hello, glad to see you, I like you better than I like Dean. Then she turns and tells Dean that he's just jealous because he doesn't reek like sex and probably hasn't for a while.
Sam wriggles uncomfortably and Bobby drops his head into his hands. "This is why I ordered the Jack," he mutters out of the side of her mouth and she laughs, leaning her shoulder ever-so-slightly against his.
Dean and Jo wear matching grins that make Ellen nervous, so she orders a beer and two Jacks; one for Bobby and one for herself.
On the one hand, she is unaccountably thrilled that nothing ever happened between Jo and Dean. That boy has the ability to love a girl dry and leave her gasping for water without every meaning to, without realizing that the women he spends a single night with probably remember him for the rest of their lives.
On the other, once they both got over the initial attraction and moved into hesitant and then eager friendship, they realized they had far too much in common. A day with Dean and Jo in the same room is a day full of quickly swapped banter and gleeful teasing, of dares and half-truths and exaggerations.
A hunt with Dean and Jo is like looking through a kaleidoscope while tripping on acid.
Or at least that's the way Sam describes it.
"All right, look, before you two get started, Ellen and I have an announcement to make."
Silence falls immediately. Sometimes it hurts Ellen too look at them all like that and know that if they were living any other life the assumption would be that the Roadhouse had burned or a demon army unleashed or another friend dead.
She smiles, to put them out of their worry. "We're . . . getting married."
Three pairs of eyes blink disbelievingly for a minute, and then simultaneously there are cries of, "No way!" chased by "Congratulations!"
Sam reaches across the table to shake hands with Bobby and hug her awkwardly, his eyes suspiciously bright as he mutters into her ear, "I'm happy for you Ellen, you deserve this," while blushing like a little girl.
Jo hugs Bobby tight and then launches across the table, looping her arms around her mama's neck and settling comfortably on her lap like she's a little girl again. Her tears are plain as she says quietly, fiercely, sincerely, "Ash would be thrilled."
Dean's hand is a whisper on Jo's arm as he kisses Ellen's cheek, optioning comfort if she needs it and a joke if she doesn't. He hugs Bobby and whistles as he settles back into his seat. "So, Ellen's making an honest man out of you, eh, Bobby?"
"No, I mean it. I think it's great. I've been meaning to talk to you for a while. Both of you have been setting a horrible example for Sam and Jo—"
Sam slugs his brother in the arm, laughing. "They're setting a bad example? Dude, what do you call that disaster of a waitress from Illinois?"
"I call it better than any ass you've gotten since you were possessed," Dean shoots back, and Sam laughs, and Jo laughs, and Bobby laughs, and Ellen laughs because only her family could find demonic possession—even if it is years after the fact—hilarious.
That's what they are, in the end. They're the smartass Winchesters, pains in her butt, incorrigible, irrepressible, heroic, loyal, and wonderful. They're Jo, fierce and independent and sometimes stupid as all hell. They're Bobby, kind and thoughtful and too tired for anything but Ellen. They're her family, and they're a hodgepodge, and from the outside they must look like freaks.
She still misses Bill, every day, and sometimes Dean and Sam still look at each other with a blind panic that might never fade, and Jo keeps knives stashed under her bed and avoids ashes because they remind her too much of the brother that never really belonged to her.
She's lost a lot, they all have, but it's led them here and right now, at this moment, surrounded by warm yellow light and smell of beer, Ellen's sure there's no other place she'd rather be.