Distribution: The Nook and
Spoilers: all of Joan of Arcadia and all of Dark Angel
Summary: Life hasn't changed much for Joan Girardi much since the pulse: she still talks to God and follows his instructions, this time in Seattle.
Joan was glad that she was wearing kneepads and heavy duty gloves, crawling as she was, but it was the only way in. She was getting too old for something like this, but God had insisted. She hoped that the tin of cookies in her backpack wouldn't pick up the sewer smell.
"The transgenics need some encouragement, Joan," God had said. "Tell them they're going the right way. Each one is unique in some way and they are all special."
"First I have to get there," she muttered to herself and unknowingly to her transgenic audience. "Encourage them. Can't I have an assignment with instructions a little more precise? What if they're all allergic to nuts?" She was now at an intersection and stood in the available headspace. Joan brushed off as much of the grit and smell that attached to her.
"What are you doing here?"
Joan eeped and whirled around. A teenager was standing behind her and holding a gun on her. Seriously, he was just a kid, thirteen maybe, but that didn't mean that the gun was any less deadly. Joan followed her first instinct and put her hands up in surrender.
"What are you doing here?" the kid demanded again.
Joan finally found her voice. "I just wanted to encourage you guys."
"Are you serious?"
Joan nodded. "I saw all the demonstrations and the preacher on the TV and I just wanted you to know that God doesn't believe that you don't have a soul. He really doesn't. He cares about you." Joan ran out of breath. "Seriously. I just wanted you to know that not everyone is against you."
"And you had to come in here to tell us?" The gun dropped slightly.
Joan straightened a bit in defiance. "Have you seen the mob outside? I couldn't exactly counter-demonstrate. I might be on your side but it won't do anyone any good if they kill me and there's a lot more of them than me. So," Joan shrugged out of her bookbag, freezing when the gun was focused on her again.
"Put the book bag back on."
The teen continued giving instructs as she followed them. "Turn around. Put your hands on the wall. Spread your legs." Then he expertly patted her down. Finally he opened the bag and the tins within. He dug through everything, taking and pocketing her sector pass.
"Hey! I'll need that to get home."
He finally let het turn around and Joan held her hand out. "Give me back my sector pass."
"This is a high level one." He blinked. "It doesn't expire?"
"I have friends." God had made sure that Joan had been in the right place at the right time to save the only son of the man who issued them for the police.
"Dalton, give her back her pass," a new voice ordered.
Joan jumped as the older transgenic walked out of the shadows, but Dalton barely flicked an eyelash as he obeyed the order.
The man offered Joan his hand, but the familiar face made Joan back up in shock (and a bit of fear). "Ben," she whispered.
'Ben' blanched, but Dalton snorted. "On our side, my ass."
"Dalton, that's enough," Ben bit out. "Report to Max, ASAP." The boy ran off.
Joan stared at him for a little while longer. "You look… better, Ben."
"Actually, I'm Alec. Ben's sane twin."
"I can have any number of transgenics verify it. My designation is 494. Ben was 493."
"Oh." Joan oscillated between staring at Alec and completely avoiding eye-contact with him.
"I take it my twin tried to kill you. How'd you escape?"
Joan shook her head. "He never tried to kill me, but…"
Alec waited quietly.
Joan dropped her eyes again. "He offered me human teeth and I freaked. Completely. I was trying to help him, really, I was, but I didn't know why he… did that. He… took them from an almost friend of mine."
"He thought you were the Blue Lady," yet another voice joined the conversation.
Joan jumped again as the infamous leader of the transgenics, Max, stood beside Alec. Joan's face crinkled in surprise. "How did you know that?"
"I caught him offering teeth to a statue of the Virgin Mary."
Joan shook her head. "He refused to use my name, just called me 'Blue Lady.' I always thought that it was because I was wearing blue that day I found him and brought him home to feed him."
Max leaned against a nearby wall, as if she had all the time in the world. "How long was he with you?"
Joan had to think about it. "Two weeks. He kept trying to help me and give me things, each bigger than the last. Then came the teeth, I freaked, he ran and by the time I realized it, I couldn't find him." Joan shook away the memories. "Did someone ever help him, the way he needed it?"
Just like that, Max's face became blank. "He's at peace now."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
The transgenics seemed to believe her. "So you brought us cookies?" Max asked.
"Yep." Joan reached for the tin Dalton had left off to the side and opened it. "It's not a lot, but they are pretty good." She offered the open container to the two, but they made no move to accept them. "Do you want me to eat one or something?"
"Now that you mention it." Alec sauntered forward and Joan thought that he didn't looked as burdened as Ben. The transgenic dug through the tin and came up with a cookie. Joan opened her mouth and grinned as Alec shoved the whole thing in.
It took a little while for her to chew the cookie and swallow. "They're nut and cranberry cookies. I hope you like them."
Alec tried a cookie, but wouldn't let Max have one. He sniffed it first. "Why'd you make this kind?"
Joan shrugged again. "Ben loved them. The berries were local and cheap in season. I would make a batch and he would eat them all in a day. Then he would go and get me more cranberries to make more. I couldn't believe how many he could put away."
Max looked so sad.
"I really am sorry about how I reacted to Ben," Joan confessed. "I just wasn't prepared for him to kill for me. I mean, why me? And to kill a mostly nice guy."
"I understand," Max said.
"Do you?" Joan asked.
"Why are you here again?" Alec asked. "Out of every one out there, you actually have a legitimate reason to be scared of us."
"I don't believe in stereotyping based on one experience. I don't do it for any other people group." Joan took a deep breath and something in her changed. "I really think you guys are doing the right thing and I'm pretty sure that God agrees with me. It's going to be really hard for a while." She turned to leave but then met Alec's eyes. "You are different from Ben, better adjusted. It's good to see it."
Then she left.
The transgenics were silent in her wake.
Two days later a pair of transgenics was on Joan's doorstop, needing help. Joan fed them, got them sector passes and sent them to another set of friends outside of the city. Transgenics came to her in a trickle. Joan dealt with them with understanding and acceptance and kindness. The 'conductor' manning the next stop for smuggling out transgenics teased that Joan was the new Moses of the New Underground Railroad. The code phrase was shortened to NUR and the transgenics would not refer to her as anything else for fear of exposing her.
It was weeks before she actually saw God again with yet another job.
"Harriet Tubman was one of yours," Joan said as soon as God was within talking distance.
Cute Boy God smiled. "You all belong to me. Some just listen to me better than others."