I love you; you had to know…
She felt him stalking closer from behind, it made her nervous, but when he sat down next to her her stomach settled and she felt like a weight had been lifted. She didn't know how after everything his very presence could relax her like that, surely it should do the opposite, especially when she knew why he was here.
"You're done aren't you?"
He nodded and shifted on the step, to clarify he growled out a yeah in case she didn't see, as she hadn't turned towards him since he'd sat down.
"I think before you go, I should say I'm sorry." she said.
He looked at her completely confused.
When she turned and saw his expression she looked away again apprehensively, "I know I'm partly to blame for you leaving..."
"Jo…" he tried to interrupt, but she wouldn't let him.
"-I was too needy, too self obsessed, too…"
"Stop." he said strictly, "Jo, you didn't do anything wrong. You weren't any of those things." He hung his head, searching for the strength to admit his failings to her, to own up once and for all. He'd never wanted to before, but hearing her blame herself, he had to try, "Jo, you tried to help me, tried to reach out to me, I pushed you away…Worse even, I acted like you weren't even there to push away…" he sighed, "And then I left you." He ran a hand down his face, then he seemed to realise something and turned to her matter of factly, "And even if you had acted like that you'd just lost your daughter, however you were being, why would you have to be sorry about something like that?"
"Because I'm sorry I couldn't pretend Dean." she said mournfully, "For you."
He found it hard to breathe. He swallowed to try and calm himself down and gasped out, "I didn't want you to pretend."
"Yes you did." she replied, "You wanted me to pretend it didn't happen, or pretend I didn't care. You wanted me to pretend our world wasn't falling down around us…but it was, and I couldn't pretend. I couldn't stop grieving. You made me think I wasn't normal, because there I was trying so hard to stop crying and you never even started."
"I never grieved," he said in answer to that, "not really."
"I know that now," she said regretfully, "But at the time I was just so confused. I thought you were being strong, and I couldn't understand why I couldn't be that strong. I wanted to pull myself together."
"Why?" he asked, not understanding. He'd seen her go through all that pain, but realistically it was because she was dealing with her emotions, he wasn't. Why she would want to be like him he had no idea.
"Because I saw the way you looked at me." she said in explanation.
Dean felt an ache in the pit of his stomach, fearing where this conversation was heading.
She didn't turn to look at him, but she could see the pained expression on his face, she couldn't bare it, so she pretended it wasn't there just long enough to finished telling him what he'd really done to her, "You looked at me like you hated me…All I wanted was for you to still love me, but you looked at me as if I was nothing…When you could bare to look at me at all that is." She felt tears sting her eyes, "You made me hate myself."
His gut twisted and his eyes screwed shut at her admission.
"I never meant for you to feel that way," he said through clenched teeth, angry at himself, "I knew I was the fucked up one. You were the normal one, you were dealing, and the more I didn't deal with it, the more seeing you go through it made it too real. I just wanted to run away from it, I thought I could. I just wanted to undo it."
"But it can't be undone." she said as her tears started to roll freely now, "Dean, Ashley was our little girl, and she died. Nothing can change that."
He turned to her and saw her face streaked with tears. He'd seen it so many times before, but this time he knew exactly what he needed to do. "I know. I know, Jo." he said pulling her into his embrace. He hugged her shoulders to him and kissed her hair, rocking her slowly as he felt her sob.
They rocked back and forth like that until he felt her breathing calm, and then he stilled them both. "I don't even have a picture of her."
Jo looked up at him in surprise, not about what he'd said, but that he'd felt the need to say it, and she knew he was reaching out to her. As she wiped the tears from one eye she reached into her back pocket with the other, pulling out a folded photograph.
As she unfolded it Dean braced himself for what he was about to see.
"Its yours," she said, "The one you used to carry around in your old wallet."
Dean took the photo from her hands and stared at his daughters face. Different emotions swept through him all at once. He felt a longing to be with her and he missed her, he felt guilty that he'd tried to forget her, but most of all an overwhelming sadness and regret over what he'd done in her name.
"I know why you left, Dean." Jo said.
"I know you do," he replied, his eyes not yet ready to leave the photograph, "I heard it all the other night. Pretty much hit the nail on the head. S'why I was so mad at you for it." He smiled sadly and then looked at her.
She said nothing; she just stared down at the road dust she was kicking back and forth with the toe of her boot.
"Apart from the not loving you part…Jo…I…"
She looked up at him.
"I still love you, Jo." he confessed. When she hung her head to look at her feet once more he continued, "I could have got away with not saying it, but you had to know."
"I know." she said not giving anything away.
"And?" he asked fishing for something more.
"And…" she sighed, "And I don't know what that means anymore."
There was a heavy silence.
"Am I going to see you again?" Jo asked.
"Do you want to?" Dean asked back, but his smile faded quickly.
Neither of them said anything for a long time.
"What if I called you?"
Jo laughed quietly, "Novel, you've never tried that before."
Dean flinched at her joke, not finding it as funny as she did.
She saw his reaction, she'd honestly meant it as a joke, but she supposed nothing between them was funny anymore, she should have understood that more than he did, so she regretted saying what she had. "Maybe you shouldn't call me," she said suddenly thinking this whole thing was a bad idea. They couldn't even have a joke with one another without it hurting, how was something like this ever going to work out. She stood up, "Maybe it isn't a good idea." she said.
"Jo, wait." he said grabbing her arm tenderly. She stared down at where his hand held her, and then glanced into his eyes. He wasn't looking at her, he was looking at his hand and where it was rubbing the skin of her forearm absentmindedly. He seemed to be thinking, and she stayed there and let him, feeling it was important to.
"Jo." he said finally standing up and facing her, "Me, loving you…it means a lot. That's what it means. A lot to me anyway."
She'd wanted to drop the idea of talking this out, wanted to run back inside, but now he'd said that her head was full of unstoppable questions. "What exactly does it mean to you?" she asked.
He didn't answer.
"Do you want me to say I love you too; do you want me to feel the same way?" she pushed, but still he didn't answer. She sighed, turning her face away and mumbled, "Do you want anything from me at all?" She immediately wanted to take back that last question, she hadn't wanted to ask it, she feared the answer too much.
He stepped forwards. "One thing I agree with you on is that neither of us can pretend like nothing happened. I know now that can't work." He took another step closer and she found her back pinned against the wooden banister of the steps. "No couple should have to go through what we did, but it happened, neither of us could stop it. I know all the things I did wrong, but I hope you can see I was just too scared to do anything else." he said stopping only inches away from her face. "The worst thing was that I wasn't there for you, I made you go through it alone."
"You didn't answer my question." she whispered, still frightened, and now trying not to gasp at his proximity.
"Jo, I want…" his jaw twitched with restrained effort as he made himself pause and go a different way, "I left because I loved her so much, and when we lost her I didn't know how to deal with it. I never stopped loving you, but sometimes I did resent you, because I saw you doing what I couldn't. I couldn't face up to it, and I didn't know how to comfort you, I physically couldn't sometimes. After I'd left I never let myself think about you, because I knew if I did it'd hurt too much. No one has ever made me happy, except you Jo, so yes, it means all those things. I've wanted you back ever since I saw you again." he said, so close to her that he could smell the Jasmine on her. 'Some things don't change,' he thought and wanted to smile. Then his face fell, she was searching his eyes for something more, something definite, and he couldn't give her that, "But I'm trying to be realistic." He sighed. "Just like you, I don't really know what anything means anymore. What I want and what I can have, they've never matched…apart from when we were a family, but then…"
"You're still scared, aren't you?" she whispered.
He looked up into her eyes, this time was different, when she said he was scared she wasn't trying to brand him a coward or provoke him, she was asking honestly, so he answered her just as honestly. "Yes."
"Me too." she said, and caught the shock in his eyes.
He didn't understand what she had to be scared of.
"You don't think I'm scared?" she said laying a hand on his chest, "I'm the same as you Dean, everything I've ever wanted has never worked out. Of course I'm scared that wanting isn't enough."
"I want to make it enough." he said desperately, no longer afraid to bare all. "I think I need to."
"It'll take time." she said sadly.
"I'm not going anywhere." he replied, and she looked at him to gauge whether he was being serious. "I mean it, Jo. If you don't want me to."
That's when her head fell forwards into his chest and her arms wrapped around his neck. She hugged him tight, and his arms encircled her waist and hugged her back tighter.
She pulled back with tears in her eyes, and he smiled at her.
"Well, when I say I'm not going anywhere I mean I'll be around," he said and then defended, "I'm not staying here where your mom can kill me in my sleep."
She smiled at him, letting him know that was a good enough promise for now, and they headed inside together. Both wondering where the future would take them. And both wondering if wanting each other was truly enough.
Dean strode into the room anxiously, hoping Jo would still be asleep, she was. Her face still flushed and her hair messy, but she had never looked so beautiful to him. He smiled, for a minute wanting to go to her, but then remembering what he wanted to do first. He looked to the side of her hospital bed and saw that she wasn't the only one who was sleeping.
He reached into his pocket and took out the photograph, it was crinkled, creased, and bore white jagged lines across its picture where it had been folded and unfolded so many times. He moved closer, crouching beside the plastic box next to Jo's bed and put the photograph inside, leaning it up against the see-through walls that encased his son. The baby stirred at the intrusion.
"Its okay Johnny." Dean said running a hand gently over his new son's forehead, "That's just your sister." He took his hand away, shifting slightly on the balls of his feet, still crouching down so he was level with him, "Her name was…" he swallowed and started again, "Her name's Ashley," he smiled, his eyes following every movement the baby made as it writhed and stretched. "I just wanted her to be the first thing you see when you wake up," he continued, "because she's the first thing I think about when I do…" He laid a hand on his son's stomach gently to calm him as he continued to squirm, "and your mom…Now I'm going to wake up thinking about you too…"
He took a deep breath and looked over at Jo, "I'm gonna go sit with your mom now…cause…well I can't leave her on her own can I?" he paused sadly remembering and then continued, "But I'll be right over there…And your sister will look after you 'til I'm back."
Dean leaned in, kissing him, seeing he was already going back to sleep again. Then he traced his hand over the picture of Ashley affectionately. He stood up and walked around to the other side of Jo's bed. He sat down on the edge of the mattress and brushed a strand of hair out of her face. She stirred, just like the baby had, but then she opened her eyes and smiled when she saw him looking over her. She closed her eyes again, but moved up to make room for him, and he climbed into the tiny hospital bed and they lay together, facing each other. Her head snuggled into his chest; he leaned down to kiss her forehead, and hugged her even closer to him. This was his second chance, he thought. He wasn't ever going to let his family go again.
AN:- I can't believe I've actually finished this story, I had no idea it would take this long, and for EVERYONE who has read it I thank you from the bottom of my heart, if it wasn't for you guys I would have quit this completely when I lost all my notes for it and been too scared to give it another chance...I'm really proud of this story as its what got me into writing fanfic, so I'm feeling both extrememly sad and extremely happy to see it come to an end finally :)
I've reuploaded this because I noticed a few annoying errors in grammar and spelling (the problems of choosing not to have a beta I guess)... Thanx so much again Rae xXx