Disclaimer: I own nothing except for a raging infatuation with Dean Winchester, and a vivid imagination.
Author's note: So, here is my very first solo SPN project! If you guys like this, then please head on over to Silverspoon's profile where you will find a veritable buffet of our completed and WIP projects. (All are a Dean/Jo pairing - because let's face it, they belong together).
With thanks to the amazing, talented and altogether fabulous 'Silverspoon', who is the best beta, writing partner and sister in the world - and who is just brimming over with awesome-sauce. Thanks doody, you rock! :)
The first time Dean Winchester went star gazing, he was four years old. He believed in fairy tales and happy endings, that his mother's lullabies could soothe away all fears or pain, and that his daddy hung the moon.
It had gradually become a ritual between father and son that they would sit out on the hood of the Impala, gazing up at the night sky, sharing a contraband candy bar and talking about the things that matter only to little boys.
But then Mary had died, and soon this cherished time between father and child slowly became no more than a succession of goodbyes. Dean struggled to make sense of his lot in life, no longer finding solace in 'make believe' or bed time stories. He abandoned the role of big brother in favour of protector; and big boys didn't cry.
He grieved for the loss of both of his parents, because something in John had died too that night.
Aunt Ellen tried to comfort him with tuneless lullabies and promises that his mother was in a better place, and he silently wondered if he'd ever forgive his father for wanting to join her.
John gazed down at his son with unchecked pride and ruffled the child's light brown hair affectionately. It was now the face of a little boy that greeted him, not the baby he still somehow pictured in his mind, and the chubby cheeks and dimples of infancy had lately begun to fade.
"Maybe when Sam's bigger you can teach him all about the stars."
"Sammy's a baby," Dean's nose wrinkled derisively and he continued to line up his prized soldiers on the hood of the Impala, tongue poking out the side of his mouth as he frowned in evident concentration.
"Well, he is now, but some day he's gonna be all grown up. He'll be big and strong, just like you'll be."
John closed the trunk of the car with a heavy heart and stole a glance back at the house behind him. His little boy's expression darkened as he watched his father shrug on a leather jacket, and he knew that he would be leaving them once again.
"Daddy, when I'm all grown up, will you take me with you?"
Scooping the little boy up in his arms, John hugged him tightly, dreading a future where either of his sons would follow in his footsteps. He never wanted them to know the horrors that existed in the world. He wanted them to live the life he never could, free from fear or heartache.
John refused to make that promise to his son, and so he said his goodbyes instead.
Sitting on the front porch that night, Dean Winchester gazed up at the sky, trying to commit each constellation to memory so that one day he might teach his baby brother.
Dean's childish heart - broken and bruised- had now forgotten the hopes of fairytales and the comfort found in the notes of a lullaby; but he'd always remember the stars.
Fear gripped Dean Winchester's heart like a vice, and as each precious moment passed, he saw the very fabric of his life flicker before his eyes. The sands of time refused to be halted, and the certainty of his death now hung in the air, tainting every glance or conversation with those he loved with an air of tragedy.
But he refused to succumb to his terror, dismissing thoughts of death and the flames of Hell to ease the pain he found etched on his brother's face. Because Sam Winchester lived in dread, cursing the dawn of each new morning that brought the reality of Dean's deal that much closer.
Dean had always been the protector, a role that had been cruelly pushed upon him as first born. And through a childhood of sorrow and grief, he had forged a grim determination that nothing would ever harm his younger brother. And so now he waited - bound by an act of desperation - as he prepared to surrender his own soul for the life of his sibling.
Months of heavy handed jokes and light hearted jibes now ebbed away and Dean found it increasingly difficult to maintain his facade, falling into moments of quiet reflection and regret. Dreams of the future that had once been ahead of him plagued Dean each night, and he found his mind filled with images of a home and family, and the beautiful smile of a girl in Nebraska. Occasionally, he contemplated saying goodbye to her, but the fear that she may care either too much or too little deterred him from doing so; she would hear of his death after the event, and he allowed himself to believe that she would shed a tear.
Grasping the bottle of bourbon in his hand, Dean lifted it in a silent salute to the night sky, before swallowing a large gulp of the amber liquid, and wincing at the slow burn ignited in his gullet. He offered the bottle to Sam and merely shrugged at his refusal, and the siblings sat in silence once more, neither quite knowing how to surrender to fate and prepare for their imminent parting.
Dean slid his hand over the hood of the Impala and found himself instantly met with images of his father, the two of them sitting side by side, pointing out the planets and constellations, just as he had done with Sam all those years later. Their entire life it seemed was woven into the metal and leather of the old car, and it seemed only fitting that ownership was passed to his brother.
"You make sure you use the good wax, okay, none of that cheap hardware store stuff. She's an old lady, you treat her with respect, Sammy," he stated suddenly, drawing an incredulous and slightly angry glare from the younger Winchester.
Sam looked at him aghast, tired of the deflection and the smiles Dean had pinned in place over the last year. Whilst he kept up this act of indifference, Sam could not deal with his own grief. He could not tell his sibling just how much he would miss him, how afraid he was for him; that he was not only his brother, but his best friend. And that he was sorry.
After a few moments of perfect silence, Sam cast him a mournful glance and then returned his gaze to the blackened sky. They stood side by side, as always.
"Dean... are you scared?"
Dean focused his weary eyes on a cluster of stars, suddenly unable to remember the name of the glittering constellation. Staring down at the bottle in his grasp, he steadied his shaking hand as he lifted it to his lips and simply nodded in reply.
It had been an impromptu proposal and, as the words 'Marry me' had formed on his lips, Dean had found even himself surprised at the unwavering certainty behind them.
A mere few hours later, a heavy gold band adorned his finger and he had promised eternity to his bride in front of a tired, disgruntled judge, and four shell-shocked witnesses.
There had been no church or lavish reception, the bride had not lifted a veil, nor thrown a bouquet, and not a single champagne glass had been raised to the happy couple. But somehow that didn't matter, those things belonged in the lives of normal people, anyway - a life they had been denied almost from birth.
So they had second hand rings and takeout pizza, beer and Zeppelin IV; and a love that both knew would never tarnish with time.
The skies above them hung heavy with stars and, as a cloud drifted across the face of the moon, they glanced toward the heavens, hands clasped tightly together.
They sat in silence on the hood of the Impala, the doors open and the headlights illuminating the field before them as the strains of classic rock drifted from the radio.
Her head fell against his shoulder, errant strands of blonde hair brushing against his cheek as she glanced up at him from behind impossibly wide brown eyes.
She smiled, and he found himself powerless to do anything but smile right back at her. She was his to love and his to lose, and Dean suddenly understood his father's heartbreak that little bit more, because he couldn't imagine a world without her beside him.
His hand gently caressed her cheek, his thumb brushed idly over the curve of her cheekbone and she blushed under the intensity of his gaze, "I love you, Jo."
She kissed him in response, breaking away only to whisper her reply before he claimed her lips once again, kissing her with longing and desire and the promise that they belonged only to each other.
"You ready for a lifetime with me, sweetheart?" Dean's eyes shone mischievously as he held her close and he raised his beer bottle in an impromptu toast to their future.
Angling the bottle in her own hand to gently clink against his, Jo Winchester nodded in affirmation at her husband, her smile betraying her happiness, "I wouldn't hate it."
They danced together bathed in moonlight, and their wedding night was spent beneath a blanket of stars.
Four years later, the same gold band still proudly adorned Dean Winchester's finger, yet another had now also lay claim to his heart.
Her dark blonde hair was soft against his fingertips and she stared up at him with unrelenting trust through perfectly brown eyes that were so very like her mother's.
Cradling her tightly against his chest, Dean pressed a kiss to her rosy cheek, eliciting a smile from his baby daughter that made his heart ache with love.
Standing under the gentle glow of the moonlight, he watched the baby's curious yet sleepy gaze drift over the yard below, the lights of distant houses beyond the fields obviously catching her attention.
A half empty bottle of formula sat abandoned on the nearby dresser, as father and daughter stood beside the window, both simply content in each other's company as they watched the night sky.
Emitting a weary yawn, the seven month old twisted her rose bud lips into a frown, finding herself slowly succumbing to the sleep she had been furiously fighting for the past hour.
Dean smiled as her head fell back against his chest, a chubby cheek pressed into the fabric of his shirt as her eyelids cautiously flickered closed. Pressing a kiss into her downy hair, he turned to glance at the sleeping figure in the bed and his smile widened as he gazed with unchecked adoration at his wife.
The baby started suddenly, alarmed to have been teetering on the precipice of slumber, and she jolted from her sleepy haze with an irritated squeal.
"Shhh. Go to sleep, darlin'," Dean soothed, finding himself simultaneously fending off the yawn he had felt quickly approaching.
Though the news of their child's impending arrival had briefly prompted the couple to consider retiring from hunting altogether, they had instead reached a compromise; no solo hunts, no gung-ho plans, and their daughter was always to have one parent at her side.
Road trips across the country had been abandoned, yet the Impala sat in front of their house as always, and down the hall members of their extended family slept on, blissfully unaware of the youngest Winchester's bedtime picket.
Having returned his attention to the night sky, Dean rocked the cooing infant slowly in his arms, repeating the names of constellations that had become emblazoned upon his memory. He paused as he heard the gentle creak of the floorboard behind him and the faint traces of a now familiar perfume awakened his senses.
A smile tugged at his lips as Jo's arms slid around his waist, and he felt her brush a gentle kiss against his neck.
"Want me to take her?" she offered, peering down at her daughter with an ever present love and awe reflected in her eyes.
"No, I got it," Dean assured her, waiting until her gaze came to rest upon his face before he bent his head and kissed her tenderly, "go back to bed, sweetheart."
Jo shrugged, resting her chin on his shoulder as she stroked her hand across the baby's head and smiled contentedly. "I'm okay. You guys want some company?"
"Always," he nodded, patting the baby's diapered rear before he placed her gently in Jo's arms and tapped the tip of her tiny nose. The child's eyes creased into a beaming smile in response and she kicked her chubby legs exuberantly, gurgling her approval as her mother held her against her body.
Indicating the edge of the window seat behind him, Dean sat down, leaning back against the wall as he settled Jo in his arms and enclosed 'his girls' in an affectionate and undeniably protective embrace. The couple shared slow, languid kisses, their lips parting only to exchange whispered affirmations of love and knowing smiles.
Placing his hand over Jo's, high against the baby's back, he brushed his thumb over the gold band on her finger, and a smile of utter contentment overcame Dean as he held his entire world in his arms.
The first time Lucy Winchester went star gazing, she was seven months, ten days and eight hours old. Wrapped safely in her parent's arms, she stared up in wonder at the sky, soothed by the sound of her momma's heartbeat beneath her ear, and her daddy's whispered lullabies.