Title: A House is Not a Home
Genre: Crossover, Joan of Arcadia/Supernatural
Summary: The continuing adventures of Sam, Dean, Joan and Billy on the road.
Author's Note: Sequel to Home is Where Your Story Begins. We will be posting one chapter a week until this story is complete.
They were back on the road the next day, keeping up with the same schedule as before. Dean found two more salt-and-burns as the newly formed family traveled around, seemingly aimlessly. Joan and Billy stayed in the Impala for the proceedings for both of them. It actually freaked Dean out a little, how easily she adapted to the Winchester world. Despite the fact that she apparently carried on conversations with God, a girl like Joan shouldn't slot into this life so easily. Hunting was a hard life, made even more difficult when the hunters in question were as nomadic as the Winchesters had always been, and Joan had pretty clearly led a somewhat gentle life to this point.
"What are we doing for Christmas?" Joan leaned over the bench seat to inquire, interrupting his train of thought. She had mentioned earlier that she didn't know what state they were in at the moment. They had only stopped overnight three times since Billy was born and she probably figured that Christmas was a good time to stay in one place for a few nights.
Joan waited patiently for either Dean or Sam to answer her. It had been a week since she'd gotten to sleep in an actual bed and was looking forward to stopping somewhere for the holiday. Knitting the boys' gifts was a hassle since they were always right there. Though she got away with more than she would have thought, since they apparently knew absolutely nothing about knitting.
Sam and Dean looked at each other. They didn't have many fond memories of any of the holidays and hadn't thought about it.
"What do you have in mind?" Sam asked tentatively. It never hurt to ask before dashing any unrealistic, rose-colored-glasses hopes that Joan might be harboring.
"I just want some place where I can cook."
"We normally get a meal from Boston Market," Dean inserted.
"That's sounds good," said Joan. "There're just a couple things I'd like to make." To be more accurate, there were a couple of things she wanted to try making. Her father had always made tiramisu at Christmas, and Joan wanted to do the same. That little connection with her family would help ease the pain of missing them. She looked between the two men. "Please?"
Sam and Dean stared at each other for a while.
Joan covered her eyes. "Yes, I know you two are having a private conversation but could you please keep one eye on the road?"
Dean flashed her a smile.
"We didn't mean to exclude…" Sam started.
"Yes you did," Joan countered. "It's okay. I get it. I just get worried when the driver of the vehicle I'm in isn't paying attention to the road."
"I'm a good driver," Dean complained.
"I don't care. My brother was paralyzed in a car accident and…well, you don't have to worry about me bugging you to drive. I prefer not to." She looked between the two males. "So, Christmas?"
"Missouri?" Sam asked.
Dean considered it. "Only if you call her. She'll say yes to you."
Sam grinned slightly and grabbed his cell phone. He dialed the number and waited.
"Hello?" Missouri sounded slightly confused.
"Sam. Boy, are you in trouble?"
"No. Not really. It's just…"
"Well, spit it out, Sam. I don't have all day."
"Do you have plans for Christmas?"
"Not really. Everyone cancelled on me. So I have a bunch of food and no house guests."
Missouri sighed. "Yes, boy. What is going on?"
"Going on?" Sam echoed.
Dean grinned. "You mean she doesn't know? I'm disappointed. I thought Missouri knew all."
"Tell Dean I heard that," Missouri teased.
"Can we come over?" Sam asked the question to prevent being in the middle of another Missouri-Dean confrontation.
"Can we bring guests?"
Missouri paused. "Are your guests with you now?"
"Who are they?"
"Joan and Billy?" Sam wasn't sure he understood the question.
"What are they?" she corrected himself.
"They're our family."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." Why was Missouri so clueless?
"So can we come?" Dean asked impatiently.
"We don't have to," Joan offered. "It's just I was hoping to do a little cooking. We don't want to intrude."
Missouri heard that too. "Sam, you bring that girl and your reprobate brother straight here, do ya hear? No dawdling."
"Yes, Missouri. We'll see you soon."
Sam hung up. "Missouri said that we could come. She had plenty of food."
Dean instantly perked up. Even Joan smiled a bit. "She doesn't mind?"
"She said that all her planned visitors canceled on her."
Joan looked relieved and a bit non-surprised. "Oh, that's good. I just need to stop at a higher class grocery store. Actually, if you can give me her town, I'll call ahead."
"What do you need?" Sam asked.
"It sounds dirty."
"It's for a dessert that you will love."
Dean smirked. "I love it already."
Joan rolled her eyes. "Just find me a store with fresh lady fingers, please."
Sam opened his computer. "I can do that."
Joan was a sweet young thing, but determined. She was someone Missouri would have normally liked on sight, but the shield Joan had was so sophisticated that Missouri never knew when she was around and she couldn't get a hint of Joan's thoughts or feelings. Missouri had to read her face and posture (which was very nearly an open book), something she hadn't done in decades. It was disconcerting, like one of her ears was blocked.
But still, Missouri had to smile when Joan cornered Missouri in the kitchen the second the boys disappeared outside. "Do you know how to knit?" She asked.
"Of course, girl."
"I need help on the heel for their stockings."
Missouri grinned. "That sounds like a fine idea."
Joan grinned slightly. "I started two and I was thinking about buying a pair of old lady, heavy duty, knee high stockings for Dean's. And I still might if I don't get Sam and Billy's all done in time."
Missouri laughed. "I'll tell you what. You show me what you've got and I'll work on one and you work on one and then we'll raid my stocking drawer for something for Dean."
Joan looked slightly horrified. "I didn't mean to insinuate…"
"Girl, I am an old lady and I have plenty of those stockings. I'd be delighted to see Dean's face when he realizes that his gifts are in one."
Joan giggled a bit. "That's what I thought too."
"Well, what are you waiting for? Those boys won't be gone for long. Go get those stockings you started."
The young woman darted off to the spare room where she and Billy were set up, returning momentarily with a bulging plastic bag. "I already finished these," she said, setting aside a bundle of knitted wool. "A friend gave me a bag full of yarn and some extra needles when I was in Chicago, and I needed to practice so I made scarves." Joan pulled out her unfinished projects next. "I got down to the heel on all of these and just stopped. I would use the book, but I left it behind in Utah. I was almost ready to just sew one end shut for each of them and give them Christmas legwarmers instead of stockings."
Missouri made a mental note to get a stocking for the girl. There was probably something she could use in the attic, and even though she knew Sam and Dean were out shopping she knew they probably wouldn't think of something like that. They spent the morning working on the stockings while Billy slept on a blanket on the floor.
Joan took Billy for a walk when Missouri had a client around noon. After assuring the client that her son was fine, and that the girl he was bringing home was good enough for him, the psychic watched the woman leave with a sigh and retreated back to her kitchen to work on Christmas dinner.
Joan came in with glowing pink cheeks from the brisk wind before too long. The baby was strapped into the Snuggly and was starting to make little hungry sounds. The girl hurried upstairs to feed him. She came back down with Billy before too long and started on her special contribution.
They had spent a companionable hour cooking together when the telephone rang. "What kind of gift do you get for a girl like Joan?" Dean didn't even give her a greeting when she answered the phone; he just rushed right into what was worrying him. He was fingering his credit card with the highest limit and glancing around the store. What kind of gift did you get for a girl like Joan?
Missouri walked out of the kitchen where Joan was working on her tiramisu. "First thing you do is put that card back into your wallet." Since Joan was with her and not the boys, the things that she 'just knew' she knew again. The blank area around Joan was slightly disturbing.
Dean glared at his phone.
"Boy, don't give me that look."
"Shopping with Joan would be better than this."
"Not when you're shopping for her," Missouri argued.
"I know that she's been knitting for us… and she needs to get something too."
Missouri softened. She knew how inadequate he felt completing the nurturing part of taking care of 'his family.' "Dean…"
"She doesn't wear any jewelry and that should be more of Sam's thing. And there's no way in hell I'm buying her clothes."
Meanwhile, Joan had followed her into the parlor with a piece of paper and a marker. 'Dean?' she wrote.
Joan scribbled some more and then lifted it so where Missouri could see: 'Disposable camera.'
It made perfect sense to Missouri. What mother wouldn't want pictures of her son's first Christmas? "I've got an idea," Missouri hedged.
"Well, tell me already."
"A disposable camera. Joan could use it tomorrow and use it to take pictures of the growing baby."
A pause. She could tell that Dean liked the idea. She knew he was debating saying 'thank you.'
"It's a good idea," he finally admitted.
Missouri tried to sound insulted. "You doubt me?"
"I know you can't read her," Dean countered.
How had he figured… Dean was a lot smarter than most people, including Missouri gave him credit for. "I can read you like an open book," she countered.
"What am I thinking now?" Dean teased. She knew that a very pretty girl had just crossed his path.
Missouri hung up on him. That boy!
They had the stockings up and Joan's gifts tucked away inside before the boys got home. Missouri had even managed to sneak away and dig through one of her boxes of extra Christmas decorations and find a stocking for Joan, which had prompted the girl to go upstairs and find the one marked 'Missouri' that she hadn't bothered to put up this year. It had seemed a little self-centered and lonely to put up a stocking for yourself when it would have been the only one.
Sam and Dean caught on quickly, and while Joan was upstairs getting dressed for Christmas dinner they slipped their gifts in with the others. Missouri managed to impress upon them the fact that this was apparently a dress-up occasion, and one at a time they trudged into the tiny downstairs bathroom, the one she kept for clients, emerging clean and wearing button-up shirts with their jeans.
The baby was content in his carrier when everyone was finally ready. Missouri said grace, bowing her head and joining hands with Joan and a reluctant Dean. Sam was on his brother's other side, by Dean's machinations, and holding hands with the girl. She kept the blessing short, since even without her gifts she could pick up on Dean's growing impatience.
Dinner was so filled with conversation that it took an hour to eat. Dean managed to put a hold on the shop talk and kept to safer topics, and Sam followed his brother's lead. Joan practically glowed when the boys complimented the food, and Missouri didn't really miss the slight blush on the girl's pale cheeks when Sam praised the tiramisu and asked for seconds. Despite the way the girl had brushed away the topic, there was definitely still something between them. The psychic tucked that information away for a later date.
After dessert the four of them sat around the table sipping coffee, too full and languid to move into the living room. The conversation had slowed, drifting into a comfortable quiet.
"Presents?" Joan eventually suggested, setting aside her empty mug and sitting up straighter. When she received no objections, she stood up and hurried into the living room, returning with all five stockings. She set Billy's to the side, since the baby was still asleep, and proceeded to pass the others out to their respective owners. Missouri accepted hers with a bit of surprise, wondering when and how any of them had managed to pick up gifts for her.
Dean, bless his hard heart, had managed to one-up Missouri's Christmas suggestion. He had bought a relatively cheap point-n-shoot digital camera for Joan. He promised that Joan would be allowed to upload and save the pictures onto one of the computers anytime she wished. What was left unspoken was that someday Joan would talk to her parents again and they would want pictures of their grandson.
Sam had bought jewelry for Joan. The simple, elegant, single blue topaz on a silver 'Mother' charm was beautiful. He had also bought a silver necklace. Missouri hoped that he hadn't used a credit card to pay for them. Joan blushed beautifully at the gift and had immediately put it on. Sam barely fumbled as he closed the tiny clasp. Dean watched the two of them interact with great interest.
The gifts from Joan included a black knit scarf for Dean and a green and tan one for Sam. She stuffed store-bought socks for both of them in the stocking. Dean unwrapped a second hand Metallica tape from a garage sale. It was one that he had worn out. Sam's gift included a journal and a USB drive. Joan then helped a sleepy Baby Billy unwrap a rattle and two baby books. The infant was much more interested in the crinkling wrapping paper than the gifts.
Then they were all watching Missouri expectantly, waiting as she carefully unpacked the contents of her stocking. It wasn't much; chocolates, a sampler of different coffees and teas, as well as a bag of her favorite blend of loose-leaf tea from the local organic food store. Joan, it seemed, had sent one or both of them to the store with a list. She beamed when Missouri thanked them all.
It was three in the morning and Missouri couldn't figure out what woke her. She heard the kettle boiling and a shushed whimper in the kitchen and knew that Joan and Billy were trying to be quiet. Neither of the boys was awake or they would be making more noise.
Missouri put on her housecoat and went to join her guest. Joan smiled a tired greeting. She had balanced a grumpy Billy in one arm and was pouring with the other hand. "Tea?" she offered.
"Please." Missouri bustled around until she found the mug and tea type that she preferred on sleepless nights. "Billy hungry?"
"A bit," Joan admitted. "Dean doesn't understand the value of having a strict schedule. When we put him to sleep around ten, he sleeps through the night. But he has to be woken from his last nap by seven."
Missouri nodded. She understood. She caught both of the tea mugs in her hand after Joan was finished adding sugar to hers. Missouri had no problem carrying them to the kitchen table.
Joan settled down with Billy across the table and started feeding him. They kept the companionable silence until Billy fell back to sleep.
"Thank you for having us," Joan finally whispered. "I hope you aren't too disappointed that your plans were changed."
"Honey, that's not your fault."
Joan looked even guiltier. "It might have been done for my benefit."
"It was a coincidence," Missouri said even if she didn't believe it.
Joan smiled wryly. "I've been doing this long enough to know that there are no real coincidences. Everyone meets at the exact time and place they were supposed to."
"Joan?" Missouri was afraid of what she was about to ask. "Are you a Servant?"
Joan shrugged a tiny bit, careful not to disturb the sleeping baby. "He calls me a catalyst or an instrument."
Oh my. Missouri wasn't sure if she really wanted to contemplate these thoughts at o-thirty in the morning.
"Missouri?" Joan asked concerned.
"It's alright, girl. I guess He decided that I was getting complacent in my… talents."
"The mind reading thing that drives Dean crazy?"
Missouri nodded. "I can't read you," she confessed.
"Oh." Joan didn't know how to respond to that.
"It's something to takes some getting used to."
"But in the end it was okay?"
Missouri skipped to answer what Joan was really asking. "Girl. Joan. You are welcome back to my home at anytime, with or without any of your boys."
Joan's smile was gentle but just as brilliant as Sam's. "Thank you, Missouri."
"It is most definitely my pleasure, Joan." It was truly a joy to get to see this part of the Winchester life, to see how love and stability was beginning to develop. The boys didn't know just how much they depended on and doted on their new family. She just hoped that the yellow-eyed demon didn't get a hold of Joan; it would shatter the burgeoning goodness to slivers and take all three boys with her.
But God had a plan and it reassured her that the Winchesters were being so obviously cared for.
Missouri and Dean watched from the shadow of the window curtains. Joan and Sam were outside talking. It didn't look like they were arguing, but it didn't look like it was a fun discussion either. Missouri didn't know what it was about since Joan was involved, but Dean was nervous. She would have known that even if she couldn't read his thoughts.
"Don't screw this up, Little Brother," he murmured.
"He's not going to declare his undying love," Missouri read that hope in Dean. "He doesn't know if he does love her."
"I know," Dean grumbled. "But he could. He could so easily and she's perfect for him. It's as close as normal as he could get without losing all his memories."
Dean was more right than wrong, though he was being really, really optimistic.
Billy started fussing and Dean instantly went over to the makeshift crib and picked him up. "It's okay," he cooed.
The waves of reassurance emanating off of Dean bounced upon the baby's aura and Missouri was surprised to see the aura change in that moment. The non-supernatural part of her saw the baby settle. "Oh, my."
Dean stiffened and glared at Missouri. The baby fussed as a result.
"Boy, you have to calm down."
Which instantly got him riled. She heard the thought 'Knew the holiday was too good to last.' "Dean, that baby is an empath." She spit out the truth before the boy could work up a good head of steam.
Dean cuddled Billy closer and turned his body so that she couldn't see the child. As if by taking the baby out of her sight (or Sight), he could make the pronouncement go away. "No," he argued.
"He echoes whatever you feel and I don't believe that he latches on to only your feelings but everyone's." The pieces clicked together as she said it, things she'd noticed about Joan and the baby falling into place.
"No." He met her eyes evenly. "It's not true. He's slept through some fights and some really, really uncomfortable silences."
"I think Joan shields him in that way too."
She had peaked his interest enough that he was settling and the baby as a result. "Too?"
"I not only can't read Joan, I don't know where she is, nor anyone around her," Missouri confessed. And if she couldn't, it would make it harder for anyone else with supernatural powers.
Dean computed that at lightening speed. "Ol' Yellow Eyes is still going to be following us around. Ash said that he was heading this way."
"My guess is that it's because he's latched on to Sam somehow. And Sam went to the city yesterday to get the necklace."
"I'm not leaving my brother behind like some lunch to throw off the bear following me."
"And no one is asking you to."
"Joan's guardian asked me to protect her and the baby, but they are not more important than Sam." 'But close and getting closer everyday.'
Missouri caught her breath in surprise. "You've talked to Him?"
"So?" Dean challenged.
"And He asked you to do something?" Missouri clarified.
"It doesn't matter."
Missouri look was full of pity.
"It doesn't matter," he stressed. Billy fussed more and Dean made himself calm down.
Sam and Joan came in just then, both still looking a little stormy. Joan collected Billy and headed upstairs, presumably to the room she'd been staying in. Dean looked at his frazzled brother. "So are we loading up the car?"
Sam nodded. "Joan just needs a few minutes to pack up Billy's things." He smiled at Missouri, though the smile seemed a little frayed. "Thanks for letting us stay for Christmas, Missouri."
The woman huffed an exasperated sigh. "You go easy on that girl, Sam Winchester. It's hard enough being around you two without giving her more trouble on top of that."