Title: Best Laid Plans
Author's Note: Despite saying I wasn't going to write this fic, well... I have. This is intended as a sequel to 'Homecoming', but it can be read as a stand alone fic. With thanks to Silverspoon for her beta skills!
Once again, I feel I should issue a fluff warning... So, if that's not your thing, look away now!
Best Laid Plans
They're halfway through the appetisers when his phone rings. Now, some three hours later, instead of the evening of romance and fine dining he had planned, they're sitting side by side in the waiting room of the local ER.
Exasperation and defeat settle upon him in equal measure, because this is the third time his plans have been foiled, and the ring that's been burning a hole in his pocket still isn't on her finger.
Of course Sam hadn't intended to ruin their evening with an ill-timed concussion, just as the other unwittingly guilty parties hadn't meant to foil his previous two attempts at securing himself a fiancé. In hindsight, a moonlit stakeout had not perhaps been the best setting for romantic declarations, because screaming victims will always take precedent over affairs of the heart. Likewise, Bobby had not meant to eat the takeout pizza that had been painstakingly ordered with the words 'marry me' written in bell peppers across it; though it had admittedly irked Dean no end that the old hunter grumbled about the resulting indigestion for hours after the event.
So, all in all, Dean Winchester is now quietly confident that the fates are indeed conspiring against him.
His fingertips trace haphazard patterns across the back of her hand, and Jo emits a sleepy yawn as she repositions her head on his shoulder. He can't help but stare at her, and he reaches out impulsively to brush a golden curl from her cheek. His lips ghost gently across her temple and he breathes her in; she's warm, soft and sweet, and everything he's ever wanted.
Jo shifts a little and opens her eyes, immediately squinting against the stark lighting of the waiting room that seems to paint everything with a harsh, yellow glow. She smiles as her gaze finds his, and her fingers coast along the edge of his jaw until her palm rests against his cheek.
Dean covers her hand with his own and drags it to his lips, and her smile widens at the gesture, and the affection he beholds her with.
It's a side of him she never knew existed. A side, she imagines and secretly hopes that only she has ever seen. The easy and often teasing banter between them is still there, yet when it's just the two of them, there is an innate tenderness that his outer bravado and confident swagger could never betray. Jo loves him even more in moments like this, when he makes her feel like she belongs to him. Because she knows in her heart she always has.
His arm reaches behind her, and he pulls her gently into his side, and Jo hugs the edges of his suit jacket a little tighter around herself, and tries not to shiver at the sleepy chill that is steadily creeping up on her. Her short, black evening dress provides little protection against the cold winter climes, and though Dean's jacket is proving a measure of warmth, she can't help but angle her body closer into his. Feeling her shudder in his arms, Dean holds her to his chest, bending his head to whisper in her ear. An elderly eavesdropper struggles to overhear, but she wears a wistful smile as the word 'darlin'' hangs in the air, and reminds her of someone who used to hold her in that way so very long ago.
Dean returns Jo's smile uncertainly, and then begins tugging his tie away from his collar. He pops the top two buttons with practised ease, and he and Jo sit in silence once again, her head on his shoulder, his hand possessively curled around her hip.
The small velvet box that nestles patiently in his pocket digs into his thigh as he shifts his weight and a weary sigh escapes him. He'd wanted things to be perfect; perfect in the grand scheme of ridiculous Hollywood movies and trashy dime store novels. Because he knows that a future with him might not always be so perfect and he wants to give her one small moment to carry with her in the absence of a 'happily ever after'.
Romance has not generally tainted any of his previous relationships or encounters with women, and is arguably not an inherent trait that Dean possesses; but things have always been different with Jo- that's how he knows she's the one.
Her fingers slowly curl around his thigh, and he shakes himself from his thoughts and stares across the room toward the source of her diverted attention. He feels Jo sigh against him, and her eyelashes guard her brown eyes from view as she directs her gaze to their joined hands.
The woman standing at the desk is flanked by two nurses and a solemn faced police officer, and as she crumples, sobbing into a vacant seat, they stand before her, powerless to do anything but watch the grief consume her features.
It doesn't take long for Dean and Jo to connect the dots and realise that the lifeless man rushed through the double doors a couple of hours earlier is the spouse to whom she now cries out.
Jo slips her hand into Dean's and squeezes it a little tighter than necessary. She finds herself realising that the everyday lives of those around them are also often tainted with loss and tragedy that has nothing to do with demons or supernatural beings. Though they may be consumed by hunting and all it entails, life carries on around them, for better and for worse.
A nursing assistant appears beside them, tactfully avoiding glancing over toward the sobbing woman, and she toys nervously with the lanyard around her neck. "Mr. Winchester, your brother can go home now."
"Thanks," Dean smiles in evident relief, and the couple climb to their feet.
They walk hand in hand down the hall, trying to forget the slice of real life they have just been privy to. Sometimes, Dean reasons that apple pie existence he used to crave isn't always so sweet.
An hour or so later and Sam is under Ellen's watchful and entirely domineering eye. She fusses and clucks about him like the mother hen they all know she is. Sam complains, but Dean knows he secretly appreciates the smothering care she inflicts upon him, especially as he carries no real memories of his own mother.
Happy to leave his sibling in the Harvelle matriarch's care, Dean is suddenly filled with a sense of purpose, and when Jo excuses herself and leaves to draw a bubble bath, he follows behind her.
A CD of REO's greatest hits - an oxymoron in Dean's opinion – is soon on pause in the stereo, and a scattering of candles are hastily lit. He tosses the ring box back and forth in his hands as he waits, feeling his heart rate quicken as he anticipates what he might say. It's only when he hears the water being drained from the tub that he remembers it's what she says that perhaps matters more.
He's too busy reassuring himself of her answer to hear the familiar flutter of a trench coat, and it's only when he hears his name being called by a decidedly male voice that he actually glances in the angel's direction.
Dean visibly starts at the sudden intrusion, and his eyes widen in frustration as he glares at the annoyingly expressionless man.
Almost instantly Dean's hands are raking through his hair, and he casts an incredulous glance up toward the heavens at yet another ill-timed interruption. "Aww, come ON!"
Castiel shakes his head in confusion at the display of anger, yet he simply jams his hands in his pockets, and makes no attempt to leave. He is unflappable as always, a trait that usually fascinates but now suddenly infuriates the Dean.
"Cas, do you mind getting the hell out? I'm kind of in the middle of something, here," Dean states testily with a nod toward the bathroom, where the sound of Jo's approaching foot falls can be heard.
Castiel follows his gaze to the bathroom door that remains ajar and then frowns as he scans the room, taking in the sight of candles and the blinking display on the stereo. His eyebrows furrow as his lips draw into a tight line, and the angel cocks his head questioningly.
He nods toward the bed as he speaks, "You are planning to have intercourse?"
"What? No!" Dean shakes his head in annoyance. He hadn't really thought that far ahead. He shrugs as he cautiously eyes the bathroom door. "Maybe. Just... get the hell out, would you? Seriously, dude... now is not a good time."
Castiel sighs, a gesture Dean could almost take as indignation, were angels capable of owning or conveying such feelings. "You seem nervous, Dean."
The floorboard creaks and Dean winces as he hears Jo switch off the bathroom light. In a final act of desperation, he holds the open box up before the angel and rolls his eyes in Jo's direction.
Castiel has watched enough Hallmark movies to recognise the small glinting object that nestles between the folds of velvet, and he very nearly manages a smile of approval.
However Dean's hopes of a silent disappearance from the angel are dashed as Cas unwittingly unleashes a parting comment. "Very well, I will leave you to your proposal."
Jo steps through the door the very moment the words leave his lips, and as she quickly takes in the scene before her, her mouth drops open in surprise and confusion.
Fury overcomes Dean, and his jaw tightens as he sits down on the edge of the bed. Flipping the lid of the ring box closed resolutely, he shakes his head and laughs in utter disbelief at his luck, or lack thereof.
Castiel is gone before he can be informed of his error, and Jo walks slowly across the room, rubbing the ends of her blonde curls in a towel as she tries to digest the meaning behind the angel's words.
"Proposal?" she breathes, sitting down next to Dean as she tries to stem the smile she feels tugging at her lips. She pulls the bottom of his blue t-shirt further over her thighs and plants her hands on the edge of the mattress, mirroring his pose.
Dean shrugs dejectedly and stares down at the floor, all hopes of that elusive perfect moment now well and truly dashed. "Yeah, I uh... I was gonna ask you to marry me."
Jo's eyebrows furrow and she bobs her head to catch his gaze, "And now you're not?"
He laughs bitterly and places the box down onto the bed, reaching out to her as she moves into his arms.
"I've wanted to ask you for a while. I was gonna do it on my birthday, and... and then we ended up going on that damn hunt. Then last weekend, when we had the place to ourselves... Then tonight..." he shakes his head as he adds quietly, "I just wanted it to be something, you know?"
Jo smiles at his confession, touched by the effort and forethought that had gone into his ill-fated plans. It is, after all, the thought that counts.
She leans in and cajoles him gently, bumping her arm against his.
"You know, if you asked me, I'd probably say yes," she offers, watching as a smile twitches at his lips, "I'm just putting that out there."
"Oh yeah?" he chuckles, now helplessly amused by the entirely ridiculous turn of events. Shaking his head, he entwines her fingers in his as he admits, "I guess I just wanted it to be perfect."
Pausing in silence for a moment, he picks up the small blue box again, and appears about to drop down on one knee when Jo suddenly stops him and hauls him back up onto the bed beside her.
Confusion clouds his features, so she reaches out to caress his cheek in reassurance. Her thumb brushes tenderly over his skin as she speaks.
"Dean... don't. The fancy restaurants... the expensive dinners... that's not us. I don't need any of that stuff. I'm not exactly a high maintenance girl, in case you haven't noticed?" She smiles, a genuine smile that prompts his own lips to curve upwards. "It's not who we are... and that's okay. I like us better."
Dean briefly ponders the sentiment, and then nods in agreement. Jo is right- that's not them. Whilst most couples spend their time together going to the movies or idly walking hand in hand through the mall, they hunt ghosts and exorcise demons from unwilling meat suits. A quiet night in for them means cleaning and reloading shotguns, and a moonlit stroll in the woods generally ends with something fugly being decapitated.
Sitting there in that moment with Jo beside him, Dean realises the perfection he'd been so desperate to create, has been there all along. Big romantic gestures and clichés pale in comparison to what they had found with each other, because what they have is real, and that's what really matters. The proposal is unimportant compared to the life they could share together, and he doesn't want to waste another moment.
Leaning in toward her, Dean stares intently into her eyes, remembering the years that have passed between them in fleeting snippets of memories. He brushes a lock of damp hair from her cheek and smiles as he vividly recalls the feel of a rifle pressed to his back, and recounts all the moments in-between that led them to the here and now; some five years, a few near apocalypses, a couple of trips to hell, and a brush with Lucifer later.
Words fail him as he always assumed they would, and so he simply grins as he stares down into her face and says the only thing that comes to mind. "Marry me, Jo."
"Okay." Her eyes shine with happiness and she nods her head as she whispers her reply. Jo watches as he slips a simple diamond ring onto her finger, and she feels a shiver course up her spine at the implication of the cold metal against her skin.
Her arms are suddenly around his neck and she pulls him closer as he claims her lips in a lingering kiss that leaves them both panting breathlessly through identical smiles.
"See?" she grins, shrugging as if to dispel any of his previous concerns, "perfect."
Dean's smile momentarily disappears, and he presses his fingertip gently to her kiss swollen lips.
"Never... never say that," he directs wryly, glancing pointedly around the room as if in inference to all the things that could plausibly and even implausibly go wrong in their lives. Being at the mercy of the heavens as well as the forces of darkness provides more than enough opportunities for interruption, surprise attacks, and general supernatural annoyance.
Jo simply giggles and instigates another kiss, murmuring as his mouth moves hungrily against hers. Breaking apart, Jo arches an eyebrow as she trails her finger down his chest. "You know, Cas was right..." Smirking at Dean's suddenly confused expression, she climbs onto his lap and explains, "We're gonna have sex now."
Dean chuckles and instantly makes plans to rid her of his 'I Wuv Hugs' t-shirt (a Christmas gag gift from Sam) that currently hides her body from view, and from his now questing hands.
"I love you" he enthuses, grinning as his fingers sneak under the hem of the shirt.
Jo laughs and rolls her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah," she scoffs playfully as her head hits the pillows, "pants off, Winchester."
Dean shakes his head and smiles, and he leans up off her and quickly tugs his shirt over his head, tossing it haphazardly over his shoulder and onto the floor. Then he's back in her arms again, dragging a slow path of kisses down her neck as her fingers comb through his hair and she arches beneath him.
His lips leave her skin and he lays his head against her chest, suddenly enclosing her in an embrace as he seems quietly reflective.
"... I mean it," he says gently, closing his eyes as her arms now fasten around him, "I really do love you, Jo."
Her hand ghosts across his jaw, and he smiles as she tilts his chin to meet her gaze.
"I know you do," she whispers solemnly, her brown eyes widening expressively as he moves to lie above her.
She loops one arm around his neck and lifts her head from the pillow in order to brush her lips against his. As she draws back, she traces the pads of her fingertips over the tattoo on his chest, only to retrace their path seconds later with a tender kiss.
"I love you too," Her voice is tainted with a sincerity and reverence that tug at his heart, and Dean can do nothing but hold her unwavering gaze as he nods his head in silent acknowledgement.
Because he knows Jo Harvelle loves him; it's there in her eyes and in her smiles, in every kiss and touch, and in the unceasing loyalty and bravery that keeps her by his side.
Dean Winchester wants nothing more than to remain by hers for the rest of his life.