Author: S.N. Brown
Disclaimer: I don't own anything (sad, but true), as I am a poor college student who barely makes enough to feed herself and her pretty little dog.
Author's Notes: Gosh, it's short. But, here we are: chapter seventeen. We are coming to the end (only the epilogue left). This was supposed to be up on Tuesday, but ff was not having it.
Jo woke to the sound of a cat's meow. She blinked a few times, trying to clear her vision of her blurry grogginess from waking at an early hour—two fifty-four, if she believed the digital clock on the nightstand. She noticed two things almost immediately: the other side of the bed—Dean's side—was empty and cool, as if he hadn't been there for awhile, and the bedroom door was open and light drifted in through the small hallway. She climbed out of the bed, wincing at the coldness of the floors on her feet, and made her way to the living room as the cat meowed again.
"Sssh, Oreo," Dean whispered, though she knew that he was petting the pretty black and white animal they had picked up from the shelter nearly a month before. The cat meowed again. "I warned you. When your mommy comes out here all grumpy because you woke her up, I'm feigning sleep."
Jo smiled, stepping into the living room. Dean was on the couch, his back to her. She watched the muscles in his back tense, bunch, and relax, a fluid motion under his tan skin. The white scars inflicted so long ago stood out in stark contrast from the tan, but his most recent scar was puffy and red and so close in memory. It was the scar that signaled the end to Dean's baseball career, and one he hated so.
It had happened last April, the end of their junior year, at a game both she and the other Winchesters attended. Dean had turned to get popped-up foul ball (or whatever), not realizing the bat had splintered. The bat smacked into Dean's shoulder, and then he fell backwards, his arm twisting and he landed on it, cracking his shoulder near the socket. It had required surgery, and physical therapy, and Dean had lost his scholarship and it had…it had nearly ended them.
But Jo pushed those bad memories to the back of her head as she walked to the front of the couch and sit by Dean, scaring off Oreo. "What are you doing up so early?" she asked, resting her head on his shoulder.
"I was just thinking."
"Thinking?" she repeated, eyebrows raised in confusion.
"What about us?"
"About all we've been through…about all I put you through. Especially with-" he shrugged his shoulder, and she rolled her eyes, kissing his arm. "If you weren't as strong as you are—and if we weren't as strong as we are—we would have broken up."
"But we didn't, Dean."
"Exactly. I keep thinking…thinking about how much you mean to me. About how devastated I'd be if something happened to us."
"But nothing's going to happen, Dean."
"I know. But I—in high school, I don't think people would believe that here we are, four years later, still going strong. We were best friends, and I think people expected us to not last as anything but. But I keep thinking about how much I love you, about how lost I'd be without you—they're wrong. I couldn't do this without you, and I couldn't be who I am without you. When I got hurt, you were the one who pulled me back in, the anchor in my storm."
"I love you, too," she interrupted him, and he grinned at her, leaning in to kiss her. "But you are scaring me, Dean. Why all this talk of love and the past?"
He didn't answer, reaching forward to scratch the cat underneath her chin. "I just-I've got that big interview next week, you know? And what happens if I get it and we have to move? You won't be done with school and I won't let you not graduate-"
"My place is with you, Dean, no matter if that's here or in Texas or wherever. We'll see my dreams through, but we'll be together, even if that means I need to transfer."
Dean nodded, biting his lip hard for a few seconds, staring at the television again.
"Did I mention before how much you're scaring me?" Jo repeated, and Dean turned his head to look at her, eyes wide. "Dean-"
He leaned forward to kiss her, his hand resting against her cheek, fingers curling in her hair just barely. She gasped, her nails pressing in his upper arm before her hand relaxed, she relaxed, pulling him on top of her as she stretched out on the couch, the cat meowing in protest when she pushed her off. Dean pulled away from her, eyes clouded and—scared.
"What's wrong?" she murmured, sitting up beneath him, worried. "You've been—"
"Will you marry me?"
He had a box, a black, velvet box that rested in the palm of one hand, opened, a single diamond glittering down at her. "Wh-"
"Will you marry me, Jo?"
She pushed away from Dean, her back pressing into the arm of the couch. "That's an engagement ring, Dean."
"Yes it is."
"As in marriage."
"Yes, as in marriage."
"As in us marrying."
"Yes, as in us marrying."
Dean cut her off with a kiss, grinning when he pulled away. "Now that I have your attention: I've been distracted tonight, and it's been because I've been thinking about the perfect way to propose to you. I've been thinking about how to tell you I want to be with you forever because that just doesn't seem like long enough. I wanted to be romantic. I wanted it to be everything you wanted in a proposal, and all I've managed to do was give you some crappy weirdness at three o'clock in the morning."
"But crappy weirdness at three o'clock in the morning? Totally worth it, Dean. Yes, I'll marry you."
His grin turned into a genuine smile, and he pulled the ring from its case, slipping it on her ring finger with care. "I hope you realize that this means you are going to be with me to your dying day," Jo finally broke out, and Dean chuckled.
"It can't be any worse than being stuck with me to your own dying day."
"And I hope you realize that I'm gonna want my wedding to be simple."
"As if I'd have it any other way."
"And that I'm going to have my happily ever after with you no matter what. You asked me to marry you. You're totally stuck with me now."
And all he did was grin.
Mary sat in front of Dean and Jo at the restaurant, mouth wide. "I….I make one comment about the fact that I know you two are sleeping together, what with the one bedroom and all, and you decide to take that as we're getting married?" she teased gently, looking at the ring Jo was sporting. "When did you pick that out?"
"Three months ago," Dean answered. "When Sam came up. He and Chris came with me and helped me pick it out."
"It's beautiful, sweetheart. I'm surprised though—usually, these are the things you just blab out to me without meaning too."
"I blab out a lot without meaning to," Dean replied. "But this couldn't be told. If I told you, I knew you'd probably tell John, who would probably tell Ellen, and then there'd be that off chance she'd tell Jo. And you know, I kinda needed to keep this quiet. So as not to ruin the surprise."
John joined them, finally, sliding in beside Mary. "Sorry. Couldn't find a place to park."
"Or you wanted to give Mary some time to talk to us about the engagement. Whichever," Dean answered with a smirk, moving out of the way when John reached over to smack him in the back of his head. "Hey, newly engaged person here!"
"She could find another," John quipped, grinning at Jo. "Congratulations, honey. Again, are you sure you couldn't do better?"
Jo smiled, leaning in to kiss Dean's cheek. "I don't think I could. Dean's pretty amazing."
"That he is," John murmured, smiling at his son. "Congratulations to you, too, son. I'm so happy for both of you."
It was later; Mary and Jo were shopping, and John was handing Dean a beer as they watched the game. "So, what do you think? I-" Dean started, clearly nervous. John shook his head, smiling at his son. "John?"
"It was a beautiful ring, from what I can tell you proposed in a meaningful way that she will never forget, and you chose one hell of a girl to get engaged to. I think…that it's a hard choice saying which moment makes me proudest, between now and when you graduated high school, when you pulled yourself up from your accident, or when you walked through the front door that first day…I'm so proud of you. For everything."
"You don't think we're making a mistake, that we're too young or our lives aren't settled-"
"I think you two both no what you're doing; I think you've probably thought about it for awhile. If you're ready, then I don't think you're jumping into anything."
"I look at her sometimes, mostly when she's sleeping and I'm still up, studying, and I think about what our children will look like, if they'll have her hair, my eyes, her eyes. And I think about how I'm going to be one of the first people they see, and I will let those tiny fingers wrap around mine, and how I'm going to be better than my father. But I see children with her. I see my future with her, and I can't imagine life without Jo."
"You know, your kids are going to be lucky to have a father like you, whenever you and Jo decide to start a family." John stopped taking, petting Oreo again. "That's not to say you need to have a family now. Most definitely after you get a job, and you know, maybe get married. And maybe Jo graduates. And gets a job."
Dean smirked, glancing at John out of the corner of his eyes. "I promise, no kids before I'm twenty-five. At least."
"When are you flying out for the interview?"
"Tuesday. I'll be back on Thursday. Thanks, for paying for the ticket."
"This is a good opportunity for you, Dean. You've worked really hard; you deserve to reap the benefits." It was an opportunity to work with a speech pathologist, to gain experience in the field and to work with one of the best in the country.
"One of the kids at the center-" Dean worked part time at a center for children from single-parent homes while their parents worked-"went to this pathologist; all his mom does is sing her praises. She works all day, John, from seven until six, but she still wrote me a kickass recommendation."
"You're going to miss here? Your job?"
"I am." Dean murmured, looking around the room. "But, this is the opportunity for me to really help, and I can't leave that behind because I don't want to leave here."
"You've grown up to be a great man, Dean, did you know that?"
"I do try. But I wouldn't be like this if it wasn't for you and for Mary. I would probably be dead, be forgotten, if it wasn't for you two."