Beauty in the Breakdown

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. John and his family belong to Eric Kripke. Patty and her family belong to Constance M. Burge, Brad Kern, and Spelling Entertainment. I am but a simple librarian.

Author's Note: AU – Patty never died at the hands of a water monster. This is also a small sequel to "American Witch" written for Medie on her birthday.

San Francisco. 1994.

He was restless. Destroying a poltergeist earlier in the evening left him edgy and unable to go back to his hotel room. The latest fight with his pre-teenaged son didn't help ease his nerves either. So he climbed into his truck, leaving his boys in the room, and drove. He didn't know where he would go or what he would do, but he knew he had to do something. His hands gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white. He felt the rumble of his engine through the leather seats. If he wanted to, he could go on for miles.

He didn't, though. Instead, he found himself parked in front of a pink Victorian manor located on 1329 Prescott Street. He knew the place well. He had been there several times over the last ten years, asking for help and returning the favor. A light burned in the right corner window. Someone was awake, but he didn't know if it was the right someone or not.

He should've turned around and gone back to his two boys, but he turned off his engine and climbed out of the truck. His feet led him to the door, almost of their own free will. He stood on the first step, then the next. Before he knew it, his fist knocked on the door.

"I'll get it!" It was a female voice he recognized. He breathed a sigh of relief. He wouldn't have to jump through hoops with her mother or her daughters tonight.

He heard a set of latches unhook until the door swung open. Her brown eyes lit in surprise.

"John Winchester? What are you doing here at nine o'clock at night?" Patty Halliwell smiled. Her smooth face appeared younger than her forty-four years, and her smile added to the youthfulness. She brushed a strand of her long, dark hair back as she waited for his answer.

John didn't realized he had been staring. "Got a poltergeist earlier tonight. Couldn't sleep. Found myself at your door."

Patty crossed her arms and leaned against the jamb. She'd known John long enough to realize he didn't just drop by and visit. If he showed up, he usually had a reason.

"Is everything all right?" she asked.

John smiled, gracing her with his dimples for a moment. Patty rarely ever saw his dimples. She counted it as a blessing when she did. He shoved his hands into his pocket and shrugged. Patty bit back the urge to chuckle. John Winchester, a grown man of thirty-eight, standing on her doorstep with the demeanor of a little boy.

Before he could answer, she turned towards the inside of the house. "Go ahead and start the movie. I'll be back in a minute!" she called.

"But, Mom, you'll miss the best part!" A young woman answered her.

"We can always watch it again. You aren't leaving until tomorrow." She stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind her. "Phoebe's home from college and demanded I watch this horror movie with her. You'd think she'd seen enough real life horror not to watch those things." She sat down on the front stoop and patted the concrete beside her. John sat down next to her. "Now, what's going on? Demon trouble? New leads?"

John's greenish hazel eyes glanced from Patty to her door and back. He envied the easy relationship she had with her girls, but he refused to tell her that. He leaned forward, resting his forearms on his faded blue jeans.

He didn't have to say anything. Patty recognized the look on his face. "You had a fight with Sam, didn't you?"

John looked away from her and trained his eyes on the sidewalk in front of him. The grass was starting to curl over the sides. He supposed she would have to cut it soon.

"John?" she prodded.

"He doesn't understand. He knows what's out there, knows what has to be done, but he'd rather ignore it." He met her eyes again. "Hell, he'd rather do homework than vanquish a ghost."

"Sounds like you should be proud, John."

He sighed. "I am. I just wish he'd like to do homework and kill monsters."

Patty drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "He and Piper seem to be a lot alike. She took off for culinary school the first chance she got. It's not that I'm not proud. After all, she gets her love of food from me." She smiled. "But it's been hard to make her understand she has a destiny."

"I need Sam to understand that." John played with the gold band on his left hand. As long as she had known him, Patty had never seen him without it.

Gingerly, she reached out and touched his arm. He didn't flinch like she expected him to. Instead, he seemed to welcome it. "John, your fight doesn't have to be your sons' fight."

He waited a beat, let her words sink in. She was right. For a time he thought he could keep his boys away from the dark. Hell, Dean still had a choice. But Sam was destined for this. He didn't know how or why, but he knew his youngest son took more after him than he'd like to admit. John took a deep breath.

"Sam has the dreams," he simply said.

Patty's breath caught in her throat. Five years ago John had told her how he always knew where he needed to be. It wasn't only the newspapers, but his dreams offered more details than he could get from an article. She immediately went to the Book of Shadows to see if there were a mention of witches named Winchester. She couldn't find any so neither one of them knew why he had them.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Yeah. He had one the other night about the poltergeist we fought tonight." John looked at the clear night sky. "I don't think he realized it was the same one from his dream."

"Then how do you know he had it?"

"I overheard him telling Dean." He turned his gaze to her. "And it matched my dream."

Patty raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. Looks like I'll have to do some deeper research. Now that it's hereditary, we need to know where it comes from."

"And if it's tied to that demon."

They sat in silence for a moment. Patty let the new information sink in while John felt a weight ease off his shoulders. Finally, he stood and stretched. He turned and offered Patty a hand. She took it and stood beside him. Patty broke the silence.

"I would ask you to stay, but I know you need to get back to Dean and Sam," she said.

John took both of her hands in his. "Thank you for everything, for listening to me. These are things I should've been able to tell Mary."

"I know." Patty had learned a long time ago John's heart would always belong to his dead wife, even if she did harbor a small crush on him. "Anytime, John. You know that."

He nodded. "I do. Thank you." He let her go and headed down the remaining two steps. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he made his way to his truck.

Patty watched him from the porch, making sure his truck started. As he eased out of the driveway and started down the street, her heart ached for him. He had so much pain inside he wasn't ready to let go of, but maybe some of it had eased tonight. She wished both him and his boys luck.