A/N: This story is set in an AU where a water monster did not kill Patty Halliwell. Previous stories in this series include "American Witch" and "Beauty in the Breakdown." Thank you to Tommygirl for the beta.
San Francisco. 1988.
John Winchester rubbed his eyes as he watched the road stretch out before him. He clutched the steering wheel and peered into the rearview mirror. His boys were sleeping soundly. He turned his attention back to the road.
Christmas Eve wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be filled with toys, decorations, and a warm house, not a night out in the cold, on the open road. John had had no choice, though. Patty Halliwell had called and had said she found mention of a demon that killed its victims with fire.
So there John was, with two boys in tow, heading out to San Francisco.
After what felt like forever, John veered onto Prescott Street. He searched for the rose-colored manor and turned into the drive way when he found it. Parking the black Impala, he glanced at the dashboard clock. Eight p.m. At least they made it by a reasonable time.
He checked on Dean and Sam, still sleeping in the back seat, and climbed out of the car.
"I'll be in and out," he told himself. "That's it."
He heard the front door open as he stepped onto the first porch step. Looking up, he saw Patty standing in the doorway, a bright smile on her face. Her brown hair fell in waves to her shoulders. She pulled her green robe tighter around her small body as she leaned against the door jamb.
"John, I didn't expect you so soon." She stepped back into the house. "Come in." She looked past him. "Where are your sons?"
"They're out in the car." John didn't budge from the porch. "We can't stay. You can hand me the information, and then we'll get out of your hair."
"Get out of my hair? Don't be silly, John. It's Christmas Eve. You should come in and have dinner with us."
"I don't want to impose. Besides, I think I saw a motel down the street."
Patty shook her head. She tied her robe together, walked onto the porch and passed John to the car. John followed her, calling her name. Patty simply ignored him and opened the passenger door of the Impala.
John watched as she flipped the front seat down and leaned over the boys. He saw her gently shake Dean and Sam awake. Sam's eyes popped open first.
He blinked and rubbed his eyes. Sam studied the woman in front of him until his face broke out into a grin. "Patty!"
"Hey, sleepyhead. Come in and have some dinner. I know you're hungry, and Phoebe would love to see you."
John knew Phoebe was Sam's favorite babysitter. There was no protesting now as he saw excitement light up his youngest son's face.
"Dad?" John looked over at the driver's side door to see Dean climbing out. The older boy rubbed his eyes and yawned. He looked quizzically at his father. "Can we stay?"
John knew he was defeated. His boys deserved a good meal in a warm house, especially on Christmas Eve. He ran a hand through his dark hair and looked at Patty, who was helping Sam out of the back seat.
"As long as you don't mind."
"Of course not," she smiled. "You're practically family, John."
All four of them headed into the house. When John stepped over the threshold, the heavenly aroma of freshly baked chicken greeted him. He inhaled deeply and realized his stomach rumbled in response. He was hungrier than he thought.
Dean and Sam made a mad dash toward the kitchen, nearly knocking over Patty's middle daughter Piper as she came into the dining room. Both boys skidded to a halt and watched as she set the chicken on the table. Piper pushed up her glasses and studied the two boys in front of her. She grinned when she realized who it was, her braces glittering in the light.
"I wondered when we'd get to see you two again," she said.
Dean and Sam's eyes never left the chicken.
"Boys, say 'hello' to Piper. You weren't raised in a barn," John said as he came up behind them. He then said his own hello to Piper.
Sam tore his eyes away from the chicken. "Is Phoebe here?"
"Right behind you."
John turned to see a short, dark haired girl of about thirteen standing behind them. "You grew up," he commented.
Phoebe hugged Sam, and then answered John. "I'm a real teenager now."
"Patty, who's out there?" John heard the kitchen door swing open and saw Penny Halliwell, Patty's mother, saunter through it. She crossed her arms when she saw John. "I see Winchester is back in town." She raised an eyebrow. "Give him the information so we can have our dinner."
"Mom, he's staying for dinner and the night." She raised a hand to stop John from protesting. "He even brought Dean and Sam."
"Patty, we can't..." John started.
She pinned him with a glare. "Don't make me freeze you, John Winchester."
John had seen her freeze time before. He wisely closed his mouth on his protests.
"Hey, Grams, the potatoes are done!" The kitchen door swung open to reveal a beautiful younger version of Patty. She stopped when she saw John.
"Prue Halliwell, is that you?" John couldn't stop from grinning. "You look just like your mama."
She smiled. "Thanks, John. You staying with us?"
John glanced at Patty, who nodded. "I guess so. But we have to leave in the morning. I want to find this demon your mom tracked down right away."
"We're not going to talk about demons tonight," Patty declared. "Tonight, we're going to enjoy dinner and Christmas." She indicated the table. "Have a seat, John. Dinner's almost ready."
John sighed as he sat down. He watched his sons as they found seats at the table as well.
"Phoebe, guess what?" Sam said as he climbed into his chair.
Phoebe sat next to him. "What?"
"I can read a whole book."
Sam nodded emphatically. "Yep. I read a whole one to Dean, didn't I, Dean?"
Dean was already filling his plate. "Yeah, and he wants to read it every night."
Prue laughed as she sat down next to him. "At least you only have to deal with it one time. I had two sisters who had to read books over and over when they learned."
"Yeah, but every night!"
Everyone else laughed and began to load their plates. Sam and Dean talked to the Halliwell sisters all through dinner. Sam told them all about his Kindergarten class. Dean talked about learning how to shoot a rifle.
The conversation finally turned to Christmas as Sam rattled off the list of things he wanted from Santa. Then his smile faded as if he realized something. He looked across the table at his father.
"Dad, what if Santa can't find us this year?" he asked.
John exchanged a look with Patty. She smiled encouragingly. He met his youngest son's worried eyes.
"Did Santa find you last year?" he asked.
Sam nodded. "But we're not at home this year. He won't know we're here."
"Yes, he will," Patty spoke up. She leaned forward. "He's magical, remember. He'll always find you."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. Besides, he has to stop by here to visit Prue, Piper, and Phoebe."
Prue snorted. "For some reason he hasn't figured out I'm seventeen yet."
"Even seventeen-year olds need visits from Santa," Penny grinned.
Looking relieved, Sam picked up his fork and finished his dinner. The conversation changed to something else.
John sat back in his chair. He knew he should be out there hunting for the demon that killed Mary. Who knew where it was hiding itself? He looked at all the faces surrounding the table. Family, Patty had called them. He didn't feel like family, but he accepted her invitation anyway.
If the Halliwells, witches born with the power to fight demons and warlocks, could put demon-hunting aside for one night, John supposed he could do the same. After all, this was how Christmas was supposed to be.