'Stem The Flow'
Within mere weeks, so much had changed; some for better and some for what seemed to be irreparably worse. The confrontation with Castiel had been less about Sam and Dean making headway with the angel, and more about them receiving a rather humbling lesson in where they now fit in the grand scheme of things.
Later that morning, with despair settled painfully in his gut, Dean had returned to the hospital and to Jo; the first of many instances he hoped in which he would keep that vow. Jo had provided comfort through his sorrow, and soothed his fears regarding a future in which Castiel would be against them. Wrapped in Jo's arms, for the first time in his life, Dean had sought true solace and not even for a moment had Jo given him cause to feel weak for it.
Following her discharge from hospital, Bobby had insisted that Jo join him at his house, declaring that he was tired of rattling around the many empty rooms alone and could use a figurative lodger. With not a penny to her name or even the faintest inkling of how to begin rebuilding her life, Jo had accepted the offer, glad that Bobby had dismissed her promises of paying rent with a customary growl. Instead, Jo settled for cooking his meals, and cleaning his house from top to bottom and back up again for good measure. During her first week there she had hired a dumpster, disposed of half of the trash he had squirreled away, and left every room almost gleaming. At first, Bobby had groused like the crotchety old man that Dean did not doubt he was, but soon his protestations died down and he began to quietly relish both Jo's cooking, and the clean, crisp sheets that she fitted to his bed every Sunday evening. However, Jo had warned him not to get too comfortable with the domestic arrangement, and secretly confided in Dean that Bobby was being 'housebroken'.
Of course, Jo had not been the only guest Bobby had to contend with, and for the first time in a long time, the Winchester brothers found themselves staying in one place for more than a few days. Whilst Sam appreciated having a more definite base, he knew their decision to stay had more to do with the sudden reappearance of a certain blonde hunter rather than anything else.
Almost a month later, Bobby and his 'waifs and strays' made up a happy if not dysfunctional household, who enjoyed the stability of their impromptu living arrangements. Despite the uncertainty of the future, each of the hunters found it difficult to recall a time when they had been happier.
Dean in particular appreciated the changes that having Jo back had brought to his life. He was almost disbelieving now over the events of the previous year, and often reflected upon them with the undeniable benefit of hindsight. Dean had found happiness and not simply an elaborate pantomime of what he believed he should regard as such.
It was following a hunt with a particularly vicious poltergeist, as Jo worked at patching up his wounds in Bobby's lounge, (all the while griping about the blood that Dean had seeped into the carpet), that Dean first realised as much.
"Dean, quit moving," Jo grumbled, wielding an iodine soaked gauze pad in her hand. She advanced upon him again and Dean hissed through gritted teeth as she swept the pad across the cut above his eyebrow.
"You're a cruel woman," he accused, watching as she shuffled her chair closer to his and liberally doused another piece of gauze with the solution.
"Okay," Jo answered with a shrug and seemingly nonchalant expression spread across her face, "I'll just go ahead and let these wounds get infected. You're up to date on your tetanus shots right?"
Dean let out a grumble that was only half serious before leaning closer to Jo and allowing her access to his lower right arm, which was marred with an impressive patch of gravel rash.
"Suck it up, baby," said Jo, squinting as she daubed at Dean's grazes whilst also attempting to extract stray fragments of gravel that littered his wounds. Dean cursed under his breath, and instead focused his attention upon Jo's face, noting how her tongue poked ever so slightly out of the corner of her mouth as she worked.
Feeling Dean's eyes affixed upon her, Jo glanced up and arched an eyebrow in questioning. "What?"
Dean smiled, releasing a contented sigh, and then leant toward her, gradually closing the distance between them. Jo slid closer, dropping the gauze pad onto the kitchen table as their lips met. She giggled against his mouth as Dean reached out and hefted her unceremoniously into his lap.
Their lips crashed together again and again, until finally the faint burning in their lungs forced them apart. Dean swept his hands over her back, their foreheads pressed together in an intimate pose. Sweeping her palm across his jaw, Jo lifted her head and pressed a kiss above the cut on his brow before then repeating the gesture on his purple mottled cheek.
"You took quite a beating there, Winchester," Jo observed, cocking her head like an artist surveying a canvas as she took in Dean's many cuts and bruises. He frowned, and realised as pain ricocheted through every nerve in his body, that Jo was indeed correct.
The poltergeist had not only seized Dean but succeeded in slamming him repeatedly against a stone wall and also dragging him twenty feet across a gravel parking lot. Whilst Dean supposed that was one of the usual perils in attempting to dislodge a poltergeist that was haunting a carwash of all places, Jo recognised that the reason for his current condition was the many risks he had taken that evening on her behalf. Risks that if truth be told were entirely unnecessary.
"You didn't need to come in there after me, Dean. Bobby and I had it under control," she scolded, although she made no attempt to move from his lap as she felt his hands settle on her hips.
"I know," Dean replied with a shrug, shooting her a slightly remorseful but thoroughly charming grin, which she deflected with an arched eyebrow.
"I'm serious Dean, if this is gonna work out... me hunting with you guys, you can't keep taking stupid risks like you did tonight. I can look after myself," she implored, trying not to be swayed by the adoring expression he bestowed upon her.
"I know," he repeated, sliding his hand across her cheek and rubbing his thumb in slow circles behind her ear.
"I just..." he faltered, averting his gaze from her face as he struggled to voice his fears, "I just don't want anything to happen to you, Jo."
"Yeah? Well right back at you, Dean-o," she said with a grin despite her annoyance, and allowed Dean to press a fleeting kiss to her lips in an act of repentance.
The couple turned their gaze toward the refrigerator where Sam was attempting to retrieve two bottles of beer for himself and Bobby without being noticed. The two men were happily caught up in a college football game that had also served as a distraction from Dean's whining and loud opposition to Jo's first aid skills.
"Not so fast, Sam," Jo called out, as he attempted to sneak past, "that cut on your hand needs cleaning up."
"Uh, it's fine, really," Sam stammered, flashing Jo what he hoped was a convincing smile, although his jaw twitched in fear at the prospect of Jo's heavy handed nursing.
"Sit your ass down boy," Bobby yelled from the lounge, snickering as Sam sighed and dropped down into the chair opposite Jo and his brother, wearing a sulk that instantly transported Dean back to their childhood.
"Aw c'mon Sam, if you're real good, maybe we can find you a lollipop," Dean snickered, ignoring the irate glare that Sam directed at him. As Jo turned to unwrap a clean piece of gauze, Sam raised his middle finger pointedly in Dean's direction.
"Hey man, at least I didn't get my ass handed to me by Casper," Sam snarked in response, watching through hesitantly narrowed eyes as Jo began to soak the gauze in more of the iodine solution. "Just warm water would be fine, really."
"Don't be such a baby," Jo sighed in exasperation, biting back a smirk as Sam winced almost as soon as the gauze made contact with his skin.
She turned her head as she caught Dean's taunting sniggers and shot him a withering glare, "And you're just as bad."
Dean watched carefully as she cleaned and dressed the angry looking wound. Placing the last piece of surgical tape around the dressing pad, Jo sat back in Dean's arms and gestured that Sam could now make his escape.
"Try not to get it wet," she directed, frowning as she tossed the first aid supplies back into their bag and he rose thankfully from the chair, glad to be out of her well meaning but painful clutches.
"Thanks Jo." He smiled gratefully down at her, and she beamed back in response.
"You're welcome," she answered in a sing-song voice, placing her hand over Dean's as he settled both of his over her waist and pressed a kiss to her shoulder.
Dean nuzzled against Jo's neck, enjoying the warmth her body had to offer, and the feel of her silky skin against his. He closed his eyes and rested his head wearily against her shoulder, the hunt beginning to finally take a toll on his body.
"Bed?" Jo queried, stroking the tips of her fingers along the bridge of Dean's nose. Wordlessly, he nodded, and Jo climbed to her feet, beginning to haul Dean up behind her in preparation to lead him upstairs to their shared bedroom.
At moments such as this, Dean never failed to be amazed by the way in which things had turned out for him and Jo. After Carthage, she had been reduced to nothing more than a painful memory in his mind; her blood a crimson stain upon his hands that he had been certain would haunt him until his dying day. Dean would have given anything to take back that day and, although he had never admitted as much, his heart had never felt quite whole in Jo's absence.
Dean had thought of Jo often during his time with Lisa. At times, when reality had become too much to endure and he had been lulled into the comfort of slumber by half a bottle of Jack Daniels, he had dreamed of Jo; and the life they perhaps could have had. He knew that she would be not only supportive of the hunting lifestyle, but also in the thick of it; capable, efficient and more than a match for even the deadliest hellspawn. He found that life with Jo had far exceeded all of these expectations.
Padding along the hall from the bathroom, Dean stifled a yawn and rubbed his hand over his face, cursing as the action made his cheekbone throb. He paused in the doorway of the bedroom and found both his weariness and irritability ebbing away as his attention befell the woman already lying between the sheets. The sight of Jo - hair spread across the pillows and a sleepy yet serene smile on her face- quickly made him forget his woes, and yet again Dean found himself thankful that he awoke beside her each morning. It had been a curious sensation at first, and the very first time they had shared a bed, he had pinched himself when the breaking dawn had disturbed his slumber. Jo fit into his arms like she was always meant to have been there, and Dean knew he had never come close to feeling the sense of peace he did when she was in his embrace.
"What have I told you about staring, Winchester?" her voice suddenly broke his reverie and Dean closed the bedroom door behind him with a careless kick. His smile grew as Jo threw the covers back on his side of the bed and leant up on her elbow to regard him.
As the door slammed, the TV volume downstairs suddenly shot up in response.
"Think they're trying to tell us something?" Dean said with a smirk, quickly discarding his jeans and t-shirt and sitting on the edge of the bed as he took off his watch then tossed it onto the nightstand.
A blush flooded Jo's cheeks and she merely smiled in embarrassment as she waited for him to get under the covers before moving into his open arms. As she laid her cheek against Dean's bare chest, Jo allowed her eyelids to close, a sigh escaping her as contentment washed over her.
The weight of Jo against his own body was comforting, and familiar, and soon he felt himself drifting away. Dean enjoyed the moment; something he had learned to do since Jo had returned.
Dean Winchester had finally realised that both the past and the future were unimportant, when the present had given him all he would ever need.