With a muffled groan of disapproval, Dean dodged the sunbeam slicing across his face and rolled over to shield his eyes in his pillow.
Arm outstretched at his side, he felt along the expanse of mattress, and was surprised by the empty space that greeted him.
A quick glance at the clock on the night stand informed him that it was almost 10am – a full two hours after the wake up call he had been anticipating.
Somehow, the details of this morning began to seem strangely familiar, and with his heart hammering in his chest, Dean Winchester sat bolt upright in bed and struggled to free his legs from the twisted sheets.
Memories of his dream suddenly came flooding back to him, and it was with a building sense of trepidation that he hastily pulled on his clothes and reached for the door handle.
His right hand curled around the cool metal, and he wasn't sure whether or not to be relieved or unnerved by the absence of the old silver band on his finger.
Too afraid to sweep his gaze around the room for fear of what he might not find, Dean gingerly lifted his left hand up in front of his eyes and stared down at his finger.
Throwing open the door, he stalked down the hall and began a hasty descent of the stairs, his bare feet pounding heavily against each wooden stair in turn.
A peel of familiar laughter suddenly caught his ear, and though his knees felt weak with trepidation, he hurried toward the kitchen.
Dean rounded the corner of the kitchen and almost instantly released the breath he had been holding. Smiling broadly in relief, and at his own over-reaction to a bad dream, he lingered in the doorway of the room, and leant against the door jamb.
"Hey sleeping beauty, you're just in time for waffles."
Flashing Jo an unashamedly delighted smile, not at her offering, but at her mere presence, Dean strode across the kitchen and ignored the muffled greetings he received from his fellow diners.
Sam and Holly sat side by side at the table, pouring over the morning paper as they diplomatically averted their gaze and continued on with their breakfast.
Jo sat perched on the counter top, nursing a large mug of coffee between her hands. Clad in her pyjamas, with her hair piled up in a messy pony tail, she smiled quizzically as Dean stood in front of her, and curled his hands around her thighs.
She giggled as he pulled her effortlessly toward the edge of the counter, and she set her mug down for fear of wearing the scalding hot beverage.
His mouth descended suddenly on hers, and she whimpered in surprise at the apparent urgency of his kiss.
Gathering her closer, his tongue swept against hers, and her legs locked around his waist as she found herself melting into another hungry kiss.
Jo pulled away, her brown eyes creasing through a beaming smile as she fought to get her breath back and she rested her forehead against Dean's.
"Mornin'" she laughed at his attentions, cocking an eyebrow as he simply nodded and returned her smile.
Snatching another kiss, Dean cupped her cheek in his hand, and held her bewildered gaze. Jo stared back up at him, shooting a cautious glance at Sam and his girlfriend before she spoke to her husband.
"Not that I'm complaining Dean, but are you okay?" Her fingertips wove intricate patterns across the back of his neck and he inclined his head to press his lips to her wrist.
"I am now," he nodded, hugging her tightly and resting his head against her chest. The faint traces of her perfume were comforting and familiar, and the gentle thrum of her heartbeat steadied his own raging pulse.
"I guess I just had a bad dream," Dean finally explained, smiling self-consciously as Jo slid her palm across his jaw, and swept the pad of her thumb over the shell of his ear.
"You want to talk about it?" she soothed, trying to guess the reason for his apparent nightmare. Given Dean's past, there were certainly enough opportunities for lingering night terrors.
Dean shook his head dismissively, thankful that the blur of memories he had awoken with were now lifting, and he knew all recollection of his dream would soon be gone. Already the details were blurring, and the fear and sense of loss that he had awoken to were now ebbing away.
"You hungry?" Jo asked, turning to her side and lifting a piece of waffle from her plate, which she offered to him with an encouraging smile.
"You made waffles?" Dean asked, biting enthusiastically into the syrup laden delicacy.
"Sweetheart, please, you think I'm gonna cook for you now?" Jo guffawed , rolling her eyes and gesturing with a dainty, painted pink toenail toward her brother in-law, "Sam did."
Taking the food from her hand, Dean made appropriate and well practised moans of approval, and after pressing a crumb laden kiss to Jo's cheek, he made his way over toward the table and snatched another golden waffle from atop a tower of breakfast foods.
"One day Sammy, you're gonna make someone an awesome wife," Dean remarked, earning a sigh and an eye roll from his sibling, who returned his attention to the newspaper and chose to ignore the goading comment.
"Morning, Dean," Holly laughed, absently placing her hand atop of Sam's. The gesture did not go unnoticed by the older Winchester, and Dean smiled at her in greeting, hoping her presence at the breakfast table meant the young woman was about to become a regular feature in their lives.
Sam was happier than he had been for a long time, and Dean was nothing but thrilled for his brother.
Though the threat of the war in heaven still weighed upon upon them, as did the burden and responsibility of their regular hunts, there was a definite sense of peace and contentment that had settled upon the hunters in recent months.
Laughter regularly rang out in the old, dilapidated house, and whilst loneliness and fear had once ruled their lives, Dean and Sam had started to view the future with an unprecedented sense of hope.
Jo hopped down from the counter top and pulled the sleeves of her old college sweatshirt down over her hands in protest against the cold. She paused as she spied the flickering TV screen in the living room and couldn't help but smile as she watched the opening titles of an old black and white movie.
"I love this movie!" Holly enthused, craning her neck to get a better view of the screen before she quickly climbed to her feet and hustled a bemused Sam into the living room.
Dean and Jo joined them minutes later, the former wearing an expression of utter confusion that mirrored his brother's. Jo dragged the throw from the back of the couch, and snuggled beneath it, her head resting against Dean's shoulder.
He smiled as her arm fastened around him, and his hand enclosed around hers as he stared down at her with ill-concealed wonderment. He watched her lashes flutter as she blinked, felt her chest rise and fall with every breath against his own, and he realised there and then just how Jo Harvelle had changed his life.
The two couples sat quietly, tangled in each other's arms, as the snow continued to fall outside, and the Christmas lights twinkled beguilingly from the tree.
Periodically, Dean's gaze would find his brother's, and they'd simply stare at each other as if they couldn't quite believe their luck; as if they were somehow undeserving of the life they now lived.
But gradually, Dean too became engrossed in the movie, finding something of a kindred spirit in the beleaguered figure of George Bailey, who had found his salvation in the form of love, and family.
Of course there was another parallel that Dean Winchester would never know about; that, like George, his second chance had been granted by an angel.