Title: Future's Light at Present Tense
Summary: Sequel to 'Fork in the Road'. Dean thinks about Jo and what might have happened to her. Finally, he decides to see her.
Disclaimer: Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: I knew if I waited long enough Dean's POV would burst out for me. The plot bunny for this story grew because of a forced, completely unplanned break from my other current work.
When the end of the world was averted and the world began to settle from those shock blows upon it, Dean Winchester dreamt of Jo Harvelle. He relived that night they'd spent together in every aching, luscious detail, from the frantic, pulsing need inside him to have her, to that moment when he'd lost control. It had happened so suddenly that he'd been unable to do anything except ride the waves of ecstatic climax and shudder in his pleasure of it.
Sometimes Dean wondered if he'd left her in something other than a normal state. He wondered if, in those impassioned, frenzied seconds, he'd made her pregnant.
Jo had insisted they could do without condoms. She was on the pill, she told him, and she trusted him. He shouldn't have agreed, he knew it, but it had been so long since he'd not used a condom that he'd agreed without hesitation. Any man who'd had sex with and without one would. He was no exception. If Jo said she was covered, she was. Dean had trusted her on that. After all, Jo wouldn't do anything to derail herself from that hunter life she'd fought hard to get for herself.
But those seconds….
Dean didn't lose control like that and yet, he'd been completely and utterly rung out by it. He recalled thinking he was too heavy for her; that he needed to lift his weight up from her though it felt like he'd no strength in his body at all. Jo hadn't complained.
She'd kissed him, wrapped her arms and legs tighter about him and made such a contented noise that he'd had the strange sensation that he'd come home. There, in her arms, enveloped by her warmth, Dean had never wanted to leave. He'd wanted to press his cheek to hers and stay with her. He'd wanted to pretend his time wasn't limited. He'd wanted to pretend he still had hope for a future.
Instead, he'd left her before she woke, pressing a final kiss to her lips and breathing in the scent of her perfume as though he could sear it to memory so fully that he'd never ever forget it. A comfort to carry with him in the last months of his life.
Despite everything, he'd not forgotten her. How could he? Jo Harvelle wasn't easily forgettable. He'd had years to think about her and wonder…. What if he had gotten her pregnant? The prospect of having done so didn't fill him with terror or the need to run from it. Instead, he found he liked the idea. Not the whole 'having left her to deal with it alone' part, but rather that idea of her having their child. A part of him left behind to live on. He could admit to himself that he loved her. Maybe it was love love and maybe it wasn't. The feeling was there. To know though, he'd have to spend time with her, explore the full depths of his feeling.
He could picture her pregnant, belly curved out, features radiant. Beautiful. In idle moments, Dean imagined a baby born, boy or girl, he didn't really care which, as long as it was healthy, and the child at her breast. The image he saw in his mind was appealing for the sheer normalcy of it. He'd never really had a normal life, but he could imagine one and had many times.
Now, with things back in proper balance and demonic events curtailed for the time being, he could look for her in relative safety. Even Castiel told him to relax for awhile and take the time off -- angel Cas with the stick up his butt. He never thought he'd hear Castiel tell him that.
However, Dean didn't look for Jo.
Sam and Bobby actively looked for friends and acquaintances, reforming those bonds. Dean didn't. He didn't think he'd like what he found anywhere, so he didn't start looking. Instead, he stayed at Bobby's, working on the Impala and letting the days slide by him. Sam told him he had his head in the sand. Dean told him to go screw himself. And Bobby? Bobby called him an idiot and told him his head wasn't in the sand, it was up his ass.
While it was true that he had a longing to see Jo again, beneath it was the fear that she was dead, or even worse, that she'd found a man who wouldn't leave her before dawn like he had. He couldn't bear to look at her and know that every part of her she'd given to him was now another's. It was easier not to look for her.
He was eating a sandwich the afternoon Sam sat across from him at Bobby's table and slid an index card across the table. "What's that," he asked, indicating it with one finger.
Sam stared back at him and crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair. "It's Jo's address, Dean. You wouldn't look for her, so I did. She's not far from here. A few hours drive."
Though he tried to glean information of some sort from Sam's expression, it was irritatingly blank. Somehow, Sam had developed one helluva poker face and Dean didn't know when it had happened. "And?" He couldn't suppress the eagerness in the word. "Did you see her?"
He nodded. "Sure. Bobby and I both did. That's where we went a couple days ago. Saw her. Saw Ellen. Had quite the reunion. You should have gone."
"I had things to do. And?"
Sam's eyes narrowed. Dean recognized that stubborn clenching of his jaw. "You should see her yourself."
"How is she," Dean persisted, though fully aware Sam wasn't going to tell him.
"What do you care? Couldn't be bothered to go with us."
"Sam," he protested.
"Call Ellen, by the way. She's pissed you haven't already."
For two weeks, Sam refused to say anything more on the subject, raising Dean's curiosity more than a fraction. Bobby continued to call him an idiot in several languages, shaking his head and exchanging a look with Sam that translated to Dean as 'his loss'. He began to weigh his fears against his thirst for knowledge of her circumstances until Dean's curiosity couldn't be contained. It became an itching on his skin. He had to know how she was. It wasn't enough to just know she was alive. Dean needed to see her himself.
Taking Sam's advice, he drove to the address, determined to sit outside and watch for her. One glimpse, that was all he wanted. He wasn't going to go in or even talk to her. For all he knew she'd punch him for having left that morning long ago.
The address was a small house in a nice, if old neighborhood. He imagined her neighbors were elderly. Why a house? Jo had never seemed a house woman to him. He'd always pictured her in apartments, or maybe a trailer. But a house? It was such a domestic, normal thing. The house had to be four rooms at most, with a porch along the front wide enough for a chair and a one car garage at the back that shielded whatever backyard there was from his view. A house. Did she own? Rent? That Jo had a house both surprised him and heightened his apprehension. Houses usually meant more than one person didn't they?
A car was parked in the driveway, nothing special. Older, but serviceable, and looked to be in decent shape. He didn't see any activity, settling in to wait. At five-thirty, his phone rang. The number wasn't one he recognized. Out of boredom, he answered it.
"Dean Winchester, what is it with you and not calling me? You couldn't be bothered to tell me you were alive when you crawled out of hell and now this? I have to hear from Sam and Bobby you're still kickin'? Do you know what it did to me to see them here without you? I thought you were dead. You're lucky I had work to get to or I would've come over there and whipped your ass for making me worry like that again."
Dean closed his eyes. "I'm, uh, I'm sorry Ellen. I've had a lot on my mind."
"A lot on your mind?" She snorted. "Well, don't give a single thought to the folks who care about you. Damned inconsiderate of you. I'd think John didn't teach you any manners if I didn't know better."
He didn't reply. What could he possibly say anyway?
"Sam called me a little while ago. He said you'd taken off and thought you might be coming our way. Am I correct in assuming you're sitting outside my idiot daughter's place trying to decide if you've got the balls to go see her?"
Dean let out a whooshing breath. Ellen had cut right to the matter with her usual forthrightness. "Yes, Ma'am."
"Get out of that car, go to the door, and knock. She's not working tonight."
"Yeah, okay." He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
"I'll be driving by in a bit, Dean. If you're still sitting in the car, I'm dragging your butt to the door. Am I understood?" She hung up on him.
Out of defiance, Dean sat in the car another half hour, keeping an eye out for any vehicle that could possibly be Ellen. He didn't doubt she'd do it, too.
Finally, Dean was tired of waiting. He opened the door and stood. In the evening air, he smelled the scents of cooking somewhere along the block. Hamburgers maybe? An apple pie? Nice, normal America. Or was he just imagining it? Wishful thinking? He slammed the door and started across the street, then up the walk.
The door opened. Jo stood there waiting, slim and beautiful, with a difference in her that he couldn't quite decipher. She looked…strong. Sure of herself. She watched him approach, a tiny sliver of pleasure in her eyes.
She didn't hate him for leaving. That was a relief. He felt some of the tension in his shoulders ease.
"So…." She leaned a little to direct a pointed stare at the Impala. "Were you planning on stalking me all night or did my mother call you and order you to stop it and come to the door?"
He let out a nervous laugh. "Both," Dean admitted with a shrug.
Stretching out one hand, she swept her fingertips along his left cheekbone in a quick caress, snatching her hand back with an almost guilty expression. "Do you want to come in?"
Did he? His gut clenched, afraid of what he'd find. The one thing he didn't want to see was evidence of another man. "Yeah. If you don't mind."
Jo smiled. "Of course I don't mind. Why would I?" She stepped to one side, inviting him to brush past her into the house. "Come in."
In four steps, Dean was in the living room. His breath caught in his chest. In seconds, he understood why Sam had insisted he see Jo himself.
There was a bin of children's toys beside the couch, a few toys scattered on the rug. Kid's movies with a library sticker were on the coffee table and he saw what looked like a kid's leather jacket on the couch. Longer looks about the room revealed more details. Little shoes set beside a pair of women's sandals. A child's recliner in the corner with a stuffed dog sitting in it. In the kitchen, visible from where he stood, was a high chair.
Jo cleared her throat. She still leaned by the wall beside the door. "He was born September 22, 2008, a week early. He was nine pounds, twelve ounces, twenty-two inches long. A big boy. He slept through the night almost immediately and…he's got your eyes and mouth. I named him William John, after our dads. Wil for short."
Dean swallowed hard. "God, Jo, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not." She crossed to the couch and sat down. "If you want to stay for awhile, meet him when he wakes up from his nap, then close the door. If you want to leave," she clasped her hands between her knees, "I won't hold it against you."
His fantasy was reality. It still appealed. This was what both Sam and Bobby had known. They'd met his son, his and Jo's. No wonder Bobby had called him an idiot over and over. Dean now understood the look that had passed between Bobby and Sam. Reaching out, he closed the door. Jo's pleased smile took him back to the early days of their relationship, when all they'd had was a bit of flirting. He joined her on the couch.
"Would you…" Raising a hand,, he wiped it along his mouth, unsure just what to ask. He wanted to know everything.
"Sam said to give you a month after they left and if you didn't come, to show up at Bobby's with Wil."
"He didn't tell me anything."
"I made him promise not to. It wasn't his news to tell."
Dean took off his jacket, setting it on the arm of the couch. "Jo, what happened?"
Her amused regard settled upon him. "You need a diagram?"
He shook his head. "No, I got that part. Boy, did I get that part. It's," he gestured with one hand, "the after."
"You want to know why I didn't contact you and all that?" Her brows rose.
All he could do was nod.
Jo sighed, glancing at the clock. "Let me go check on him, get us something to drink, and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
It didn't take her long. She went down the short hallway and turned left. In less than a minute, she was bringing him a beer and settling back beside him. "I actually had a big dose of denial for a long time. Kept telling myself I just had the flu, things like that. Belly out to here," she demonstrated with her hands," and I was trying to keep hunting. There just came a point when I couldn't do it and I knew it. I had to accept it. I'd heard you were dead and I didn't feel right about calling Sam." She shrugged. "He told me I should have anyway."
"Maybe. But when you popped out of your grave neck deep in demons, angels, and the apocalypse it's probably a good thing I hadn't. Wil or I or both of us could have been used as bargaining chips against you."
She had a point and a damn good one considering the angels were almost as big dicks as the demons.
"Anyway, I came home to mom. I don't think I could have done this without her. I used to fight for her to think of me as an adult. You remember that? But one baby later and I am to her. I'm all grown up. Her baby's a mama now herself."
The change he'd noticed in her was this; the confidence that came from caring for a child. "I should have been there. I shouldn't have left."
Jo shook her head. "Stop it. You died, Dean. That's leaving in a big way. There was no way to know you'd be pulled out by an angel and be walking around again. You can't regret what wouldn't have happened. You couldn't have stayed even if you'd tried." She licked her lips, leaning slightly towards him. "You're here now though. You can be a part of our lives. I want you to. I want you to stay as long as you can and leave if you must, but don't look at the past. We have to go forward. It's not healthy to look back all the time and regret. If it's bothering you, do something about it."
"It's still a bad world out there. My being around could endanger --"
"It always will be a bad world. There's always going to be something, maybe not a ghost, vampire, demon or whatever. It could just be the human monsters. Dean, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that the future is what we make it with our choices."
He'd learned that himself. One choice could change a war. And had.
"We have to live. We can't be afraid of what might be in the future, because if we were, we'd never do anything. You know, if we fail, it's okay. We pick ourselves up and move on, sometimes trying again over and over. I see Wil do that every day."
She was right.
She pointed at herself, then him as she spoke. "I'm not the woman I was that night and you're not the same man." Jo shook her head. "You know all of this. I shouldn't have to tell you." She got up, pacing the living room. "I sound like my mom. You hear it? I sound just like her. She loved my dad and he loved her. They had a good life, even if it wasn't considered the normal life. Why is normal so important anyway? There's risks in every life and maybe hunters do have a shorter lifespan overall." She stopped and faced him, hands on her hips. "If something is important enough, you'll find a way to get it. And that's all I'm going to say on the subject. Want another beer? I bought more earlier. I'll get you another."
The rest of the evening, Dean thought about what she'd said. He considered every word as he met his son. Jo didn't back down from telling Wil that Dean was his dad and the boy did seem to take to him after awhile. She invited him to go through their evening bedtime ritual with them and stay longer, through the night. What she didn't do was push. The option to leave remained open. Dean could walk away if he was uncomfortable. It was clear that if he did leave, it wouldn't shatter her. Sure, she'd be hurt, but she'd made a life for herself and Wil without him. Jo hadn't expected him back in her life. She and Wil would be fine if he chose to leave.
On the flipside, she offered some semblance of normalcy. She'd include him in their lives if he wanted that.
Dean liked that. He liked the idea of a future, even if it wasn't the usual definition of normal. She was right. If something was important enough…. This was important to him. It wasn't right to not know his own son. As for Jo, he'd like to get to know her again.
He hoped they could make it work. He hoped they'd have happiness. He hoped they'd have years to learn about each other. Most of all….
Dean had hope.