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Fic: A House is Not a Home, Chapter 7b

“So, Reno or Vegas?” Dean took a long, appreciative swallow of his coffee once Joan’s ex was gone. It was strong and black and so hot it almost scalded his throat. Perfect. “Or, hey, Gatlinburg has awesome food and drive-thru wedding chapels.”

“No,” Joan said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not getting married by some tacky Elvis impersonator. I want a real wedding.”

Dean glanced at his brother, but Sam was using the baby in the booster seat across from him as an excuse to avoid Dean’s eyes and he knew he wasn’t going to be getting any help from that direction. Weddings were expensive. Dean wasn’t quite sure how expensive, but the loss of income when they’d ditched the fake credit cards meant that any expense was going to hurt. They scraped by on the money from the Order, occasionally supplemented by Joan’s odd jobs and his and Sam’s hustling, but most of the time just barely.

“It doesn’t have to be a big one,” Joan hedged, probably catching on to Dean’s thoughts. “We could go to Chicago. Father Forthill will probably do it for free. It’s just . . . I want my mom there when I get married.”

“All right,” Sam said, abandoning the apparently fascinating sippy cup and smiling across the table. “That sounds good. We can do that.”

It was Dean’s turn to roll his eyes. His brother was so whipped. “All right, then. You two go ahead and plan the wedding. Let me know how much we need to pay for it so I can hustle up the cash.”

Joan was looking oddly thoughtful. “It might not be very much. I’ll call Charity, see what she says. I’m pretty sure she could throw a wedding for almost nothing.” Charity was the MacGyver of those types of things, possibly with secret ninja skills thrown in for a little extra spice.

The call to the Carpenter household once they got back to the motel room was both enlightening and harrowing by turns. Charity laid out the details that Joan and Sam would need to take care of, both legally and for the party, and then proceeded to give her extremely low-budget options for everything. Joan wondered if their wedding was a dry run for Molly’s eventual marriage, but she couldn’t begrudge Charity the practice.

She got to talk to Molly before Charity hung up. Sam was going to have a best man, of course. It was unthinkable to deny Dean the privilege of standing up next to his brother. That meant she needed an attendant as well, and Molly was her first and best choice. Her ears were still ringing from Molly’s expression of joy when she hung up. Dean had made himself scarce during the conversation, but Sam had stayed, going back and forth between her and Billy. “Charity pretty much just planned the wedding,” she told him, a little bemused at how much had taken place over the hour-long conversation.

Sam smiled. “I could tell. I talked to Father Forthill. He says to pick a date and let him know.”

“That just leaves calling my mom,” Joan said. It shouldn’t worry her as much as it did. She was pretty sure her mom liked Sam, even if Sam and her dad didn’t get along at all. Christmas with her family had been beyond awkward, especially since she and Sam made no effort to hide their relationship. They hadn’t shared a bedroom while under her parent’s roof, but she liked being physically affectionate and had no desire to behave otherwise.

“It’ll be fine,” Sam assured her. “Your family just wants you to be happy. It just took your father a while to figure out what was going to do that.”

Joan made a little non-committal humming noise and wrapped her arms around his neck. “You know what would make me happy right now?”

Sam grinned and pulled her in close. “I can make a guess.”

xxx

“Hey Mom,” Joan was pacing across the motel room on her cell phone and was wishing for something, anything to keep her hands busy. This was the first time that she had called since Sam had proposed. She had mostly kept in touch with her family with e-mails and especially with pictures of Billy.

“Joan.” Her mother’s voice was relieved and cheerful just to be able to talk to her. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah. Uhm. Is the family available for a long weekend anytime soon?”

“Joan?” Her mom paused. “I’m sure we can arrange something. How soon?”

“Whenever you’re available.”

“Are you going to tell me why, honey?”

“Sam and I are getting married and I want you to be there.”

Helen Girardi pulled in a ragged breath. “Honey…” Joan could practically hear her mother think through and then discard several questions. “Is this what you want?”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation on her part. She’d known for a while that a life with Sam was what she wanted. “I love him, Mom. I knew I was in love with him months ago.”

“All right.” There was quiet on the other end of the line for a moment before her mother spoke again. “Do you need any help planning?”

“I don’t think so. There’s the priest in Chicago that I’m friends with. He said he’d perform the ceremony.” She’d talked to Father Forthill before she’d called her mother, just in case there was a problem. He’d given her an all-clear and a list of the things she needed to take care of in order for everything to be legal. Charity was willing to host, since she wasn’t planning on having anyone but the Carpenters, Bobby, and her family there. Now all she needed was a date. “So is there a weekend that works for you?”

There was a rustling at the other end. Joan spent the time waiting for a response by picturing her mother looking at the calendar. She could feel Sam’s eyes on her as she made her circuit, but he kept his promise and stayed away. This was one conversation that she wanted to stay private. “How does the week of March 23rd sound? We’re on spring break then.”

Joan thought that one through. Spring Break usually meant Easter, and she’d need to double check with Father Forthill, but a wedding in the middle of the week after Easter should be all right. They weren’t planning on having it at the church, after all.

“Wait a minute,” she told her mother. She opened the door and poked her head through the opening. Sam was waiting at the table for her question. “Could you call up Father Forthill and ask about the week of March 23rd?” He nodded and reached for his phone. Joan closed the door behind her and returned her attention to her mother. “Sam’s checking.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. “So where is the wedding?”

“Friends of mine, Michael and Charity Carpenter have offered to host it in their backyard. You remember when I told you about the Carpenters?” She was hoping for something resembling pleasant temperatures and weather. It was going to be a small enough wedding that if it turned into an ice storm they could probably all cram into the Carpenter’s living room, though. Michael had assured her that they could fit plenty of people into the house if need be.

“Who all is coming?” Her mother was trying to be circumspect in her questioning.

“You guys, Sam and Dean’s uncle, and the Carpenters. Molly –she’s the oldest of them- made noises like she already invited her teacher. And, of course, Father Forthill will be officiating. Patricia McDonald, she was my mid-wife for most of my pregnancy, might also be there. That’s about it.” She’d toyed with the idea of inviting Adam and his fiancée, but that didn’t seem to fit.

“That’s a pretty small group.”

“It’s the important people,” Joan retorted firmly. She might have dreamed about a big fancy wedding when she was a teenager, but that was utterly impractical for the life she lived now. “If you could pass on an invite to Grace?”

“I’ll make sure that happens.”

“Thanks Mom.”

Another pause, but this one wasn’t tough.

“Can we bring anything, honey?”

“Just yourselves. And food. A big veggie tray and maybe a salad. I don’t want to be a burden on the Carpenters. They have a lot of mouths to feed without me inviting guests over. Michael was talking about grilling, so if you bring whatever meat you want in a cooler, that would help.”

“That won’t be a problem,” her mom promised.

“Thanks Mom.”

joaspn

“That was Ceria,” Dean announced when he hung up the cell phone. He shook his head in disbelief. “She heard about the wedding and would like to come, if we don’t mind. She said that Ellen would drive with her.”

Sam and Joan exchanged rueful looks. Though the guest list would never be large, it had increased. Missouri hadn’t given them a chance to tell her ‘no.’ Father Forthill had told them that Sanya was going to be in Chicago during the same week as the wedding and it’d be rude not to invite him. Molly had invited Harry Dresden and again it would be rude to bar someone that had helped keep them safe. Harry had called them directly about bringing a date, who wasn’t a date, it was all very confusing. The one item that stuck out was that she was a cop in the know.

Joan really, really didn’t like that almost everyone but her family would know about the supernatural. Charity had pointed out that these people liked her and the Winchesters and wanted to share in the happy day. Also, the more hunters that were floating around, keeping an eye out for the boogey monsters, the more Joan and Sam (and Dean) could just focus on the wedding. Molly had squealed with glee when being asked to be Joan’s only attendant opposite Dean, as Best Man. Charity had ignored any protests and was sewing Joan’s and Molly’s dresses. She had promised that they would be simple. She had even e-mailed Sam the pattern for Joan’s approval.

Patricia had volunteered to make the cake and she promised that it wouldn’t be a ‘cake wreck.’ Whatever that was. Joan remembered the scones and cookies the mid-wife always had fresh baked. She had no doubt that Patricia could bake. Harry Dresden wanted to bring the adult drinks. Something about having a paycheck to spend and wanting to share some dark ale. He promised that Karrin Murphy, his not-date, would be able to pick out an appropriate wine to share. Sam and Joan felt that it was a little out of control. They had no idea how their wedding day would turn out.

She would have felt stressed over it, except she’d already decided that those kinds of details didn’t matter. Sam would be there, she would be there, and their families would be there. Everything else was something that could be dealt with later.

joaspn

Ceria awkwardly pulled on the front of the sundress and Ellen occupied herself with the pasta salad she had made in the tiny motel kitchen and brought. Ceria hadn’t worn a dress since she had found out about the supernatural –at the tender age of five- and was extremely uncomfortable. Ellen had tried to make the experience as easy as possible for the older woman, once Ceria admitted to needing help. The hunter wanted to come to the wedding and felt that this would be a perfect time to practice Joan’s words of wisdom: she needed to express her feminine side and an informal wedding was a perfect place to start.

So Ellen had taken her shopping. They had found the green sundress and matching cardigan in the fifth store that they had arrived at. It fit, accenting all the right places, and so Ellen had Ceria buy it before any second thoughts could roost. In the same store, Ellen had found a colorful, flowy shirt (but not too colorful and flowy). When matched with a jean skirt, Ceria was set. Ellen had helped her choose a couple make-up essentials, all natural colors and a pair of nice sandals. The purse had ended up being the hardest part of the shopping trip, but they had decided on small messenger bag, one that was designed to hang diagonal across the body. While they were out and about, they had bought gift cards for the newlyweds, packable and practical.

Ceria had decided on the sundress for the wedding, even though Spring had yet to take hold in Chicago. Ceria’s fingers flexed again and Ellen knew that she was dying to scratch at her face; the make-up was still itching her intermittently. Ceria distracted herself by adjusting her purse and then took another step closer to the door to knock.

A car door slammed and Ellen turned to look. Missouri Mosley headed her way with a crock-pot hitched up on one hip. The wind changed directions and Ellen could smell Missouri’s famous jambalaya. Her mouth was already watering. Missouri was brightly arrayed in reds and oranges and she walked with confidence in her heels. She addressed Ceria first. “You clean up nice,” she said with the perfect inflection to make the hunter relax.

Ellen tossed a grateful look her way and murmured her hellos. Ceria knocked on the door and a man taller than Sam opened it. He was a hunter of some sort, but he had never been through the Roadhouse.

“Guests of the bride or groom?” he asked.

“Both,” all three women chorused.

He raised an eyebrow. “Names please?”

“Ellen Harvelle.”

“Ceria Johnson.”

“Missouri Mosley.”

The man looked down and Ellen realized that he had a huge dog at his side. “What do you think, Mouse?” The grey dog ‘woofed’ and the man stepped out of the way to let all three women pass without a verbal invitation. Ellen had to admit that between the two, no uninvited supernatural creatures would get through the door. A hunter that took cues from his dog –which could rather easily be trained to identify the supernatural – would keep out problems.

“And what’s your name, young man?” Missouri asked.

“Harry Dresden, ma’am.”

The name meant nothing to Ellen but obviously Missouri had heard of him before. There was an up and down look while the older woman took his measure. “You’re too skinny,” she finally said, and the man laughed.

“So people keep telling me.”

Missouri stepped through the door first, Ceria and Ellen close behind.

The house was carefully organized chaos. They followed in the wake of Missouri as she made a beeline for the kitchen, introducing themselves to the tall blond woman who was obviously in charge of the proceedings. Charity put them to work almost immediately, handing Ceria a well-worn, well-sharpened kitchen knife and directing her to a pile of raw vegetables and leaving Ellen in charge of a stack of potatoes. Missouri quickly ensconced herself into a supervisory position, setting up the food table so that when it was time for the reception they could just throw the meat onto the grill and be ready.

Dean charged into the room after they’d been working for about ten minutes, a little wild-eyed and trailed by a handful of small children, with Billy held in one arm. “Help me,” he said, and Charity rolled her eyes and directed the children out to the yard.

“Help your father set things up,” she instructed before shooing them out of the room. “You should be with your brother,” Charity told Dean, holding her hands out for the infant in his arms.

Dean passed Billy over with an exasperated expression. “I’m trying,” he said. “They swarmed me when I went down to the car to get the rings.”

“Go.” The tall woman flicked a glance towards the living room. “Take Joan’s brothers with you when you go. The younger one is distracting Dresden and I want him to do one more check to make sure everything’s safe.”

Dean reached for a deviled egg and scowled when Missouri smacked his hand with a warning look. “If I do that someone else has to distract Joan’s dad. Sam’s already a nervous wreck and those two shouldn’t get within ten feet of each other until after Sam and Joan get hitched.”

“Does Sam not get along with his new in-laws?” Ellen asked, honestly curious. Sam had a way of getting along with just about everyone. Dean shrugged and didn’t say anything, obviously unwilling to air his family’s dirty laundry.

“I’ll go,” Missouri said, taking off the apron she had put on the instant she walked into the kitchen. “I know how to keep a stubborn man like Will Girardi from asking too many questions. You take care of your brother. God only knows what kind of trouble you two get into when you’re separated.”

There was a flash of a grin and Dean disappeared around the corner into the living room. Missouri bustled out after him a moment later, leaving the kitchen a little quieter. “Joan’s family doesn’t know about anything,” Charity said into the slightly more empty room. “She wants to keep it that way, so it would be a good idea to keep the shop talk to a minimum when they’re around.”

“They don’t know anything?” Ellen was a little skeptical about that. Dean was not exactly subtle and Joan was a terrible liar.

Charity shook her head. “You know what it’s like for most people. Unless something big happens right in front of them, people rationalize away everything.” She snorted and turned her attention back to the preparations. “Sometimes even that’s not enough.”

xxx

Helen wasn’t quite sure what to make of the handful of guests that had shown up for her daughter’s wedding. Joan had developed a habit of making friends that went against the normal, but this group went a little beyond even that. The obvious affection she held for Sam and Dean’s uncle, for example, who was blunt and uncomfortable in his dress clothing but clearly adored her daughter, or the woman named Ceria who was crass and a little rude to Helen’s new son-in-law but softened around the Carpenter children. They all had sharp eyes and were clearly wary around the Girardi family and Grace, especially the incredibly tall man who introduced himself as Harry Dresden. The woman with him was probably a cop, which eased Will’s mind a little, but even she held herself a little more carefully around Helen’s family.

It was a little unsettling, but Joan was happy and she was safe and that was what mattered. Sam obviously loved her daughter and their son and he and his brother had already demonstrated their abilities to take care of them both. It wasn’t ideal, and it wasn’t what she’d dreamed of for her daughter, but it was enough.

Right now she was in a small upstairs bedroom with her daughter and her daughter’s friend Molly, yet another demonstration of Joan’s tendencies when it came to making friends. The young woman’s surprisingly modest dress didn’t hide the elaborate tattoo that stretched up her arm and disappeared beneath the neckline and her hair was dyed a light shade of pink that somehow coordinated well with her bridesmaid attire.

Molly was snapping pictures with a small disposable camera despite Joan’s attempts to snatch the thing from her hands, and Helen watched as her daughter was finally successful. She turned the camera back on her tormentor almost immediately with a triumphant laugh, taking a handful of pictures while the tall girl preened and posed. “I’m going to check and see how things are going,” she said when the camera was done. “We should be getting started soon, assuming everyone managed to find the place.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone’s here,” Joan said. She was smoothing the soft, light material of her dress.

“Good. One more chance to ogle Dean in his suit then. I’ll let Father Forthill know that we’re ready.”

“Tell him ten minutes,” Joan said, her voice quiet, and Molly nodded and slipped out the door, leaving Helen alone with her daughter.

Xxx

Joan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She’d once thought that she would be nervous on her wedding day, but she was more worried about her parents getting their minds blown with the truth than anything else. This was right. She’d made the decision to stick with Sam months ago. Getting married was just a formality, a way to make her a Winchester in name as well as spirit.

Her mother stopped fussing with the simple dress that Charity had made and stepped back, her eyes filling with tears. Joan immediately felt sympathy for Sam and Dean and the random times she had burst into tears over the last year or so. “If you start crying I’ll start crying, and we both know I don’t have time to fix my makeup,” she warned, her voice already choking up a little.

There was silence as her mom worked to pull back the tears. Joan wrapped her arms around her in a hug and took several shaky breaths. “You’ll always be my mom,” she said. She didn’t know what else to say, so she kept her mouth shut and held on tight.

“And you’ll always be my little girl,” her mom told her. There didn’t seem to be much more to say, so they stayed like that for a minute or so before Joan took a step back and away.

“Can I have a few minutes alone?” she asked, and her mother nodded, dabbed away the tears still threatening to spill over, and stepped out of the small guest room.

Joan waited until the door was securely closed behind her mother. “You’ve been kind of scarce lately,” she said, and God stepped up next to her.

“This is an important step for you,” He said. “You didn’t need any distractions. Besides, you were already doing what I needed you to do by putting this thing together. A lot of connections are being made today, and those things are going to be important in the future.” There was a smile as He tucked His hands into the pockets of the corduroy jacket. “Spend a little time with Dresden and Murphy if you can. They’re going to have some important roles to play in the future and could use you as allies.”

She nodded, smoothing her dress and resisting the urge to fuss with her hair. “This is the right thing,” she said. “Are Sam and I going to be happy?”

“You know I can’t tell you that, Joan,” He chided. “I will say that you and Sam are good for each other, and you and Billy are good for Dean. That was the plan from the moment I introduced you. And there are all sorts of interesting things waiting for you in the future.” He leaned in close and kissed her on the forehead. “Also, while you’re on your honeymoon you might want to go with Sam to a few museums, and maybe Northwestern University. Just something to think about.”

He waved on his way out the door, leaving Joan alone. She looked in the mirror one last time, smiled at her reflection, and went to the door. “I’m ready.”

xxx

The wedding was a brief and welcome respite before the Carpenter children began clamoring for their favorite plaything again, but Dean passed them along with only a slight feeling of guilt. Keeping Sam and Joan happy was his main focus for the rest of the night. The older Carpenters would reclaim responsibility soon enough.

In the meantime he had Billy to keep occupied and in-laws to divert. The Girardis were all more or less happy with the current arrangement, barring some dark looks from Joan’s father, but Dean wasn’t taking any chances. He’d enlisted Bobby’s help early on and discovered that the older Hunter was almost as good as Missouri at distracting Will Girardi.

Sam and Joan were sitting next to each, a little closer than normal, and the sight made Dean smile and relax a little. Despite everything, his brother was happy. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as close as the Winchesters were ever going to get.

Now he just had to convince his brother and sister-in-law that they wanted a houseful of kids. Dean settled back into a comfortable chair and started plotting.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
tenshinrtaiga
Apr. 13th, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
I had no idea that that Home had a sequel, so I'm really glad I found this :) Great fic.
faithburke
Jun. 21st, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! There are a lot of future pieces to this 'verse, honestly, so keep your eyes open.
nyx_girl
Feb. 23rd, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
Awesome!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )