Ficawesome Gift Exchange- 3some
Title: The Other Side
Written for: Saren Kol
Written By: Silverspoon
Summary/Prompt used: 1) Our pair get lost.
2) Our pair end up in a sticky situation.
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this exchange visit the Facebook group: Fanficaholics Anon: Where Obsession Never Sleeps or add the C2 to get all the stories direct to your inbox.
She rarely slept a full night these days. Peace, for the most part, evaded her, and so it was that night after night Jo found herself slumped over Bobby's old kitchen table nursing a mug of untouched coffee that grew colder with the approach of dawn.
She was uncertain how long Dean had been standing in the doorway before she finally called him out and invited him to the table. Dean complied immediately, seizing a chair and turning it round before straddling it backwards. He folded his arms and then rested his chin atop them, watching Jo with an intensity that should have made her acutely uncomfortable. Jo flicked a glance towards him, accustomed now to the sharp stab in the gut the simple action prompted. He was identical to her Dean in most ways, and Jo found it more than a little difficult to remind herself that she was not faced with the man she had married but rather his doppelganger. It had taken Jo months to accept that Dean was gone, and her biggest fear was that the appearance of this man would set back her progress indefinitely. She swallowed her discomfort with a mouthful of lukewarm coffee, and her lips twisted into a grimace.
"I could brew a fresh pot?" Dean suggested, seeming grateful for an opportunity to shatter the silence. Jo shrugged, reluctant to commit to any kind of answer, and secretly hoping that an epically sullen display would drive Dean back to his bed. He and Sam had selected the bedroom farthest away from her own, and Jo suspected they had done so to set her mind at rest. She supposed it hardly mattered however, as she had recently become inclined to welcome the prospect of being murdered in her bed. In fact, such a result would only have succeeded in alleviating the feeling of guilt that her occasional and errant dwellings on the prospect of suicide brought. Of course, even in her weakest moments, she would never succumb to the selfish yearning and risk leaving Bobby at the mercy of strangers. Mostly, she could tamp down such thoughts with a generous serving of liquor, and during the instances she found she could not, she took Dean's rifle out back and peppered the wreckages of a hundred classic cars with buckshot.
Apparently realising that a reply was not imminent, Dean shifted in his seat and reached across to Jo. She withdrew the hand that had been pressed flat against the table top before Dean's fingers had even made contact with it, and she looked away as sorrow and regret fought for dominance upon Dean's features.
"Sorry..." he offered, his voice a low rumble. He sounded weary and somehow battered, and Jo resisted the urge to close the space between them. She reminded herself sharply for the thousandth time since his arrival that he could never be what she required him to be, and so she wrapped her arms around herself despite the balmy feel of the night air.
The awkward silence returned, and Jo worked doubly hard at ensuring that her gaze remained trained upon anything other than his face.
"Tell me about me... I mean, him."
"Excuse me?" Jo's head snapped up and she was staring the man straight in the eyes before she had even realised what she was doing. It was her first mistake, and Jo's breath caught painfully in her throat. She made a noise akin to that of a wounded animal, and Dean straightened up in his seat, immediately sorry for uttering the question.
"I just... I..." he faltered, his mouth falling open and closed as he struggled to formulate an apology. Jo climbed to her feet, crossing the kitchen in two strides and throwing her mug down into the sink, not caring when it shattered on impact and splashed brown liquid up the sleeve of her top.
"You're curious... I get it," she retorted, with more venom than she had really intended. She dropped her eyes to the un-mopped tiled floor for a moment, and then back to Dean, not relishing the sucker-punch of pain to her gut when it came.
"Jo... my Jo..." Dean began, hesitating as he considered his words carefully.
"You never found your 'right place, right time'," Jo answered, leaning back against the sink and crossing her arms in front of her chest. She added quietly, "You want to know what it could have been like."
Dean sucked in a breath through his teeth and then bobbed his head. He was surprised by the use of the familiar phrase, and such a small nod to the past left him wondering just how similar the two realities really could have been, for the Winchesters at least.
"Dean is... was..." Jo corrected, blanching a little at her own forced use of the past tense, although she recovered quickly, "Dean was the most annoying jack-ass I ever met."
For a moment, Dean thought he may have misheard, but when he spotted the fond smile playing across the lips of the blonde, he let out a guffaw. His laughter only served to fuel her grin, and Jo pushed up her now wet sleeves as she prepared to continue.
"We met at the roadhouse. Mom left a message for John but it was Sam and Dean that picked it up a couple days later. First time I saw him, I put a gun in his back and socked him in the nose," she stated, pride colouring her voice. Her cheeks flushed a little, and Dean could see that she would become easily lost in the memories. He only hoped that emerging from them once again, as she inevitably would, would not bring her too much pain.
"Yeah, she did," Dean murmured, his eyes creasing at the corners as he recalled the smell of beer nuts and gunpowder that had accompanied his first meeting with Jo Harvelle. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, and Dean's heart constricted as he recalled just how green the young woman had really been. He had told himself she was little more than a kid, although she was barely younger than Sammy, and yet she had been filled with such an innocent eagerness that Dean had been half crazy with the desire to protect her; to shove her out of 'the life' before she was truly even initiated, and she became as hardened to the world as he was.
Slowly, Jo made her way over to the table and lowered herself back into the chair parallel to Dean's. He found that his eyes never wavered from her face; the soft line of her jaw, the way her hair curled about her shoulders, and the deep caramel coloured eyes that narrowed just a fraction as she regarded him in return.
"Took him all of ten minutes to recover, make a grab for my ass, and hit on me fast enough to make my head spin," she remarked, cracking a grin as she reminisced. "Mom was real pleased about that."
"I'll bet," snorted Dean, recalling the air of suspicion with which Ellen had first treated him not too long after he had ambled into the roadhouse. However, Dean also remembered the circumstances surrounding that first meeting, and how he had been too immersed in his grief for the recently deceased John Winchester to act on his initial attraction to Jo. That had been the moment that Dean had uttered a phrase that had come back to haunt him ever since; wrong place, wrong time.
"Well, of course I said 'no'," Jo revealed, leaning back in her chair and chuckling as she set her feet up on the table. "Dean and Sam kept coming around though, practically every week. They must have worked every job in a hundred mile radius."
"What changed your mind?" Dean inquired. Jo paused for a moment before drawing a deep breath.
"This one night, they came by after a hunt… Sam and my Mom had already gone to bed but Dean and I just sat up in the bar talking and drinking for hours," she hesitated, her cheeks visibly colouring even in the darkness. "I guess we got kind of loaded… one thing led to another."
Dean quirked a brow, puffing out the breath he had not realised he had been holding.
"I didn't really expect him to be there in the morning," she said, shrugging in a matter-of-fact manner, "but give him his due… when I rolled over, it was Dean-o's pretty face looking back at me."
"Well, how about that," Dean murmured, an almost wistful smile brightening his features.
"Yup," Jo admonished, folding her arms, "there were a whole lot more mornings like that one. Things just sort of became… permanent."
"You guys hunt together?" asked Dean, arching an eyebrow as Jo snorted derisively.
"Hell no!" she exclaimed, toying with the amulet suspended from her neck. "We tried it a couple times but Dean was always so scared something would happen to me. Tried treating me like a freakin' china doll, so I started hunting with Mom until…"
Dean nodded, understanding Jo's need to tail off and quit talking before the words became too much.
"Two years in and suddenly he's popping the question," Jo continued, her voice growing quieter and her eyes flashing with the pain of remembrance. "It wasn't perfect… God knows, some days I don't have a clue how we made it from dawn to dusk without killing each other… but it was ours and… well, we loved each other."
"Sounds pretty perfect to me," Dean mumbled, shaking his head and dropping his gaze to the surface of the table.
"I guess I should have known it wouldn't last," said Jo, seeming to be speaking more to herself now than to Dean. She fingered the amulet absently, screwing her eyes closed for just a second before speaking again, "It was just supposed to be a regular hunt… one demon- that was all. He said it would be a quick exorcism and he'd be home for dessert… he never came home, and by the time I'd got a team together to go out looking, the sheriff was at the door. I barely made it to the hospital but... he waited for me... said he couldn't go without saying goodbye. Sam passed first- Dean a few minutes later... always were co-dependent, those two."
"I'm sorry," Dean said in a husky voice as he watched a single tear descend from Jo's eye. She did not bother to wipe it away, and it coursed down her cheek before rolling off her chin and splashing onto the table. It took every last ounce of Dean's restraint not to gather the woman into his arms, but he knew that he had caused her more than enough pain without offering her what she may perceive as false comfort.
Finally, Jo swiped the back of her hand across her eyes and sniffed, straightening up a little in her seat.
"What about you?" she demanded, clearly having decided that she had earned the right to be privy to Dean's own story. He frowned, shaking his head as though understanding escaped him.
"Cut the bull, sweetheart," Jo stated, a somewhat mischievous look present upon her face as she added, "I'm a big girl… I can take hearing about my death."
Dean hesitated, the weight of his own rising grief making it difficult for him to breathe for a few seconds. When he finally had managed to suck in a much needed breath, Dean found that Jo was staring at him with apparent concern, and just the faintest traces of empathy.
"I guess I just can't take talking about it," he whispered, bowing his head, "it's been over a year and I still…"
"It's ok," Jo assured him, hesitating before she leaned across the table and covered his hand with her own. Dean's gaze rose to meet hers and for a while the couple simply stared at each other in perfect, understanding silence.
"Why do you think things worked out so different for us?" asked Jo when it had become apparent that Dean had regained control of his emotions. He shrugged in response, having wondered nothing but the very same since having accepted Jo's story as the truth.
"Who knows," Dean answered, shaking his head as he contemplated how unfair each of their situations seemed. It appeared that no matter the reality, Dean was simply not destined for happiness at Jo's side.
"Not a week after I set that pyre in the yard, I drove out to a crossroads," Jo murmured, pushing her hair back from her face with one hand and avoiding Dean's gaze. His eyes widened and he felt Jo's grip on his hand tighten.
"What happened?" he pressed.
Jo shook her head, swallowing the lump that rose in her throat, before she said quietly, "I summoned demon after demon but not a one would deal. Apparently, they don't draw up contracts with Winchesters."
Dean's eyebrows shot up and he shook his head slowly.
"Can't say I'm cut up about it after my all expenses paid trip to Hell, but since when?" he asked, watching as Jo frowned at him, shock and surprise crashing over her features.
"Hell?" she repeated, almost incredulously. "You went to Hell?"
"Yeah," he replied, drawing back and scrutinising Jo, "after Sammy died – the first time, anyways- I struck a deal. I got a year and Sam got his life back, but I'm guessing from the look on your face, your Dean never…"
"No!" Jo interjected hastily, looking distraught at the idea. "When did Sam die?"
Dean's brow furrowed, "Right before our big showdown with Azazel."
"Yellow eyes," Jo admonished with a curt nod of her head. "John died taking him out in 2008 not too long after he tracked down the Colt."
"Wait, Dad found the Colt?" Dean demanded, rubbing his forehead with one hand as he felt a headache beginning to brew, more than likely as a result of the reams of information his addled brain was attempting to process.
Jo nodded, chewing on her bottom lip as she explained, "Sure. About two months after Sam and Dean showed at the roadhouse, John rocked up with this crazy story about how he'd stolen some gun from a hunter named Elkin. Said it could kill any demon or supernatural being. Ash helped him track down Azazel and John went out after him. Demons came looking for him; burned the roadhouse to the ground. Mom and Ash… they were trapped… we were at Bobby's looking for a way to help John. By the time we got there… well, it was too late."
"It all makes sense now," said Dean quietly, realisation dawning upon him. For whatever reason, in this reality, John Winchester's stubbornness had yielded just long enough that he had accepted Ellen's offer of help before it had been too late. Coupled with the fact that he had managed to track down the Colt, John had finally gotten to Azazel and ended his life's mission before the demon had been able to assemble his psychic children. Sam had never died; Dean had never entered into the deal that had condemned his soul to Hell; and the entire apocalypse had been avoided before it had even begun. With the seals remaining intact, the Winchesters had simply carried on as regular hunters, avoiding the heavenly war that had claimed Jo's life.
"Hey… are you okay?" Jo checked, brushing the back of Dean's hand with the tips of her fingers. He started visibly, taking a few moments to regroup before he flashed Jo a reassuring smile. It was both thrilling and yet simultaneously heart-breaking to learn that things could have been so very different for them; that happiness could have existed for Dean despite his capacity as a hunter, if only John Winchester had possessed the ability to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and accept the help of the people he had once called family. The message on John's cell phone that had first led the brothers to Harvelle's Roadhouse had gone unanswered for four months in his own reality, but it seemed that in this one, it had been only a matter of days before that meeting had occurred. Without the shadow of grief overhanging him, perhaps the Dean Winchester of this dimension had recognised the capacity to carve out something good with Joanna Beth Harvelle.
"I'm fine," Dean managed to choke out, making a show of examining the clock that hung on the wall above the sink. "It's pretty late… I guess I should…"
"Sure," Jo said in understanding, exchanging a small smile with Dean as he climbed to his feet and started out somewhat reluctantly towards the door. He had barely made it several steps before Jo called out his name.
He turned on his heel immediately, the look of longing etched across Jo's face tugging at his heart.
Although it was evident that she wished to say more, Jo simply breathed, "Goodnight."
Heading back up the winding staircase, Dean returned to a familiar bed in an all too familiar room, and for the rest of the night he lay awake, contemplating brown eyes and missed opportunities.
Author's Note – My updating has sucked and I truly apologise, but pregnancy, a difficult birth and recovery, and now four kiddies, have kicked my proverbial and literal ass. Just a few more chapters to go, and hopefully the updates will be more consistent. Virtual pie is available in exchange for reviews.