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Fic: Family Ties 4/4



Dean’s car was packed for a four-day break and he had a file folder of research for a hunt in New York, and he was really looking forward to maybe using a flare gun or a shotgun and getting away from the station for a few days. Sometimes he thought life as a hunter would be so simple compared to the politics of the sheriff’s department in Arcadia. Dean had specifically joined the sheriff’s department so Will wouldn’t be accused of nepotism and because he had a feeling he would like his foster father a lot better if he didn’t work for him, and that had been shot to hell when Will blew the whistle on the City Council.

Because he had plans for the days off, it made perfect sense for his cell to ring just as he was making sure everything was turned off in the apartment. He barely had a chance to grunt out a greeting before Will started talking. “Can you get to Joan’s school?”

“What happened?” And just like that, he was down the stairs and starting the car for the hour-long drive to University of Maryland, the hunt forgotten.

“I have no idea,” Will said, and Dean could hear the frustration burning behind the words. “All they can tell me is that there’s been an incident and they need someone to come to her dorm room. Helen and I are ten hours out.”

“Call and tell ‘em I’m on my way,” Dean ordered and hung up. This was exactly why he wasn’t a full-time Hunter like his dad had been. His family needed him.

When Dean was very young, the specter of CPS had hung over his head whenever his father had gone away on a hunt. It was ironic that he’d found his way to law enforcement, considering the bone-deep fear he’d held onto for years about being taken away by a social worker and separated from Sammy. And then his father had died on the hunt, and a cop had taken him and his brother home with him.

He hadn’t expected the Girardis, and he definitely hadn’t planned on the baby sister he’d picked up the night Will had found them in the motel room, but there was no way he’d let anyone or anything hurt any of them.

He managed to shave almost fifteen minutes from his drive, pulling up in front of the ugly brick dormitory and parking in a mostly legal spot on the street. Someone was waiting to let him in, which sent another stab of worry through Dean, and they hurried him down the halls and up two flights of stairs into a hallway crowded with coeds. Dean pushed past the college girls without a second glance and stopped in front of Joan’s room.

“You’re Joan’s brother?” someone, probably the RA, asked, her expression oddly suspicious.

He nodded. “Dean. What happened?”

“We don’t know,” the girl said, her manner a little helpless. “She won’t come out and she won’t let anyone in and she isn’t answering the phone in her room.”

Well, they’d see about that. Joan sucked at telling him no, always had, and Dean had a feeling he’d be able to talk his way into her room. He knocked on the door. “Hey, kiddo, it’s Dean. Let me in.”

There was silence on both sides of the door, and Dean turned to glare at the gathered onlookers. This served to disperse all but the most determined, and even those stepped back a little. He was getting ready to knock again when he heard a very small voice (and it was very wrong to hear his opinionated little sister being so quiet) say his name. “Dean?”

“Yeah Joan, it’s me. Gonna let your big brother in?”

There was another long wait, during which Dean took the opportunity to use his police badge to scare off everyone but the RA. “Prove that it’s you.”

Dean rubbed the back of his neck. “Seriously, kiddo?”

“Just do it.”

“When you were five you had an imaginary friend named Yaya and you drove us all crazy insisting that Yaya had a place to sit and a place at the table.” He grinned a little. “And when you were eight . . .”

The door cracked open. Dean took that as an invitation and slid inside, closing the door behind him. The room was dim, the fading daylight the only illumination available, and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. What he saw notched his unease up to straight-up worry.

Joan looked thin, and it wasn’t the ‘hey I took up running’ type of skinny. This was more ‘I haven’t eaten properly in a few weeks.’ There were dark circles under her eyes and her dark hair was greasy and limp around her face. He wondered how long she had barricaded herself in her dorm room before someone noticed.

“What’s wrong, kiddo?” The man stepped closer and then stopped when she jerked backwards. Dean realized that she wasn’t looking straight at him but focusing to his left, and he glanced in that direction but didn’t see anything.

“They keep coming. I can’t make them go away and leave me alone,” she said, her voice hushed. “Nothing I do keeps them out.”

The lever went up from worried to slightly freaked-out. “You have to tell me what’s wrong, Joan. I can’t help if you don’t tell me.” He moved toward her again, this time a little more slowly, and while she flinched she let him approach. Dean never thought he’d be using the negotiation tactics from the academy on his little sister. “Who’s bothering you?”

“The ghosts,” Joan whispered. “Judith. Rocky. Some lady named Catherine that I didn’t know. An old guy named Chris. A girl my age named Susan.” She focused on his left again. “Her name is Mary.”

Ghosts. OK, he could fix that. “Any flickering lights or cold spots?”

She shook her head. “Just the one time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what they are. They . . .they just look like people.” There was a pause while Joan looked off to his left again. “No, I’m not telling him that.”

Crap. Dean didn’t have a good feeling about this. “Joan, are they hurting you?”

She tore her gaze from the empty space beside him. “Don’t be a moron. They’re ghosts, they can’t actually touch me.”

Two years ago, Dean had sat and watched as his sister lay in a hospital bed and argued with people who weren’t really there. He’d scanned the room with EMF and even laid a salt circle around her bed just to be sure, but there weren’t any spirits in the room then.

Just like there weren’t any now.

“All right, kiddo. How do you feel?”

“Tired,” she said, her voice taking on a bit of a whine. “They won’t let me sleep.”

“Why don’t we go and get you checked out, just in case?”

“I’m not sick, and I’m not crazy!” Joan was very close to both tears and shouting, which often came in tandem with his sister. “And the one you brought wants you to stop being a stubborn Winchester mule and pay attention.”

“The one I brought?” The idea that a spirit had followed him to his sister would have been worrying if he didn’t know for a fact that the EMF in his pocket was completely and utterly silent.

“Mary,” she said. “She walked into the room right behind you. And she says you’re being just like your father and John Winchester was a stubborn b-bastard.” Joan stumbled over the swear word a little, but she had a smirk on her face. “Pay attention, Dean. You know better than this.” That last seemed more like a direct quote than something Joan would say.

This was starting to get a little unsettling. He’d been told on more than one occasion since he reunited with Bobby Singer that his father had been, in fact, a stubborn bastard, usually followed by a string of colorful language befitting a USMC Vietnam vet. But Dean was pretty sure he’d never told Joan this piece of information. He’d never shared more than the most bare of details with any of the Girardi family. “What does Mary look like?”

Joan shrugged. “Blond. Pretty. A few inches taller than me.” That look to the left happened again. “She says to tell you that angels are watching over you.”

Dean went cold. No one alive knew about those words, the last ones his mother had ever said to him. They were something he kept to himself, something special between him and his mom. “Mom?”

Now Joan looked a little shaken. “She says yeah. How long have you been following him around? ‘Cause that’s a little creepy.” She waited, obviously listening to the response, and seemed a little more relaxed after that. “Okay, that makes sense. So you watch over both of them, then?”

“Dude, can you not have a conversation with my dead mother right now?” Dean sat down on the bottom bunk, wondering for a split second where Joan’s roommate was before abandoning that train of thought as irrelevant. Joan sat down next to him, leaning against him a little, her skittishness gone. He put his arm around his sister, ‘cause that’s how he knew how to care for her. The bones of her shoulders poked at his arm.

Food would be the next thing on the list, once she relaxed enough for him to let go. He eyed her mini-fridge and hoped that she had something good in there. Given the state of his sister, he doubted it.

Meanwhile, Dean was trying to work through Joan’s problem. How long had this been happening? He remembered how he had gained entrance and wondered if Yaya had been a ghost and not an imaginary friend. And that scene at Joan’s hospital bedside just got re-evaluated. Obviously, Joan could see ghosts that didn’t register on his EMF meter. He was so going to have to recalibrate it. If these were the same kind of ghosts as before how was he going to chase them away if salt didn’t work?

She needed an expert, and Dean hated to admit it but he wasn’t. Oh, he knew way more than most people about this kind of thing, but he was far from knowing everything. He needed help. He needed Bobby.

Joan needed Bobby. But Dean had no idea how he was going to get his stubborn-as-hell sister out to South Dakota in the middle of the semester.

He was still trying to formulate a plan when Joan spoke up. “I can’t stay here,” she said, her voice regretful. “It’s too much. He said I’d have to make a hard decision soon.”

“Who said?”

Joan smiled for the first time since he’d walked into the room, her eyes closed as she rested against his shoulder. “Yaya.”

It didn’t take much time to get her things packed up and loaded into the car. Joan wasn’t much help, still a little too wrung out to be of much use when it came to packing boxes and too shaky to really carry anything out to the car, so Dean just threw all of her clothes into a laundry bag, dumped the contents of her desk into her backpack, and piled the rest of it haphazardly in the backseat. The Impala was built to handle this kind of thing. He remembered his dad moving them more than once like this when he was a kid. They were on the road within an hour and something in Joan seemed to relax once they were in motion.

Dean should have spent the drive trying to come up with a cover story to sell to Helen and Will, since the truth would have them sending Joan back that camp and he couldn’t protect her there. Instead he focused on cheering her up and making sure she ate something. She’d turned greenish-white at the suggestion of a cheeseburger, but seemed to handle a Wendy’s baked potato well. He still wasn’t sure when her last real meal had been, but he was sure that it had been a while.

He had coaxed her into bed when they got to the Girardi house, feeling a little silly as he asked the probable spirit of Mary Winchester to make sure his sister got some rest. The feeling of potential embarrassment was definitely worth it when his sister relaxed into sleep almost immediately. He whispered a thank you to the room in general and headed down to wait for Joan’s parents.

Helen and Will came rushing into the house while he was on the phone arranging for leave. He hung up immediately; he was probably going to quit the job anyway since they weren’t going to give him the kind of leave he really needed. “She’s upstairs sleeping,” he told them. “Looks like she hasn’t really had anything like that in a few days, so you should probably leave her alone for now. I’ll tell you what I know.”

They sat down on the couch in something close to unison, holding each other close. “What happened?”

“She hasn’t told me the details,” Dean stalled a little. “I just know that whatever happened, it scared her so bad that she locked herself into her dorm room for at least a week before anyone noticed. She’s still really freaked out about it and it might be a while before she calms down.”

Helen frowned at him and went to stand up, but Dean shook his head. “She also didn’t sleep for most of that week, I think, or eat or shower or anything. I was an inch away from taking her to the hospital, but we all know how much she hates the hospital.”

“Did anyone at the school know anything?” Will asked.

“No one in that dorm could tell me anything. She’d barricaded the door and wasn’t talking to anyone before I showed up.” He blew out a breath, frustrated with those people in general. “One of us should probably head upstairs and keep watch in case she wakes up. Other than that, I’ve got no idea what’s going on.” It was as honest as he could be, under the circumstances. Helen went into defensive mode when something happened to any of them and she wouldn’t handle the truth well, to say nothing of Will.

It took most of a week to convince Helen that a change in scenery would be good for Joan. He couldn’t exactly tell her he was taking his little sister to see a psychic that one of his dad’s friends had recommended, so he had settled for calling it a road trip. They all knew that Joan wouldn’t see a therapist after her experience a few years ago, and in lieu of anything else to help her Helen reluctantly agreed, with the caveat that they would call in every night and that if she called one of them would always answer.

So Dean and Joan packed up a few things and drove halfway across the country to an address Bobby had given him. The house didn’t make much sense to him. In his admittedly limited experience with this side of the supernatural world, the psychics who didn’t hang out a shingle shied away from the normal folks altogether. This leafy residential street and nicely kept home didn’t fit that pattern, and when things broke pattern it tended to worry him, especially since this woman was supposed to help his sister.

Dean glanced out of the corner of his eye as Joan fidgeted a little. She looked a little better than she had a week ago, but that wasn’t saying much. He was unbelievably surprised that Will and Helen had let her leave with him instead of checking her into some sort of hospital. She was still painfully thin, skittish around anyone but Dean, and he knew that Helen suspected all sorts of things could have happened to her daughter to make bossy, opinionated Joan so quiet.

Joan twitched once more, glancing off to her right and pulling her jacket closer around her body, and then the door opened and Dean was looking at a seriously hot chick. He took a moment to give her a once-over, because seriously, Bobby could have warned him. “Pamela Barnes?”

She laughed. “Dean Winchester, I presume? Bobby called and warned me.” The smile on her face was oddly gentle as she turned to the girl beside him. “And you must be Joan.”

His sister nodded and gave a weak smile, though her eyes kept glancing past both of them. Dean felt the knot in his chest tighten a little. God, he hoped he was doing the right thing.

“Come on in,” Pamela said, pushing open the door and beckoning them inside. Dean followed close behind Joan, looking around the cluttered room carefully. Bobby had vouched for this one, called her the best psychic in the state of Illinois and the closest help available, but no one had ever been hurt by being cautious. She settled Joan down at a table and headed into the tiny kitchen, the rattling, clinking sound of dishes filling the silence as Dean settled down next to her.

The psychic came back into the room with some weird, arty mug in her hands. “Here you go, sweetie. This should help.” She slid into the chair on the other side of Joan, sitting next to his sister and across from Dean. “The house isn’t shielded completely. Given what I do that would be pointless, but the wards should take the edge off a little.”

Joan nodded and managed a small smile. “It’s a little better.” She sipped from her mug, making a face at the taste.

Pamela laughed at the expression. “I know. Tastes kind of like grass with a little bit of dirt thrown in for color. But it should help you relax enough that we can get to the bottom of this whole mess, see what you can do and how I can help.” She turned to Dean. “Get you a beer while we talk?”

Dean shook his head. “Coffee, please” he said. Trusting this woman on Bobby’s say-so didn’t mean letting his guard down when Joan was at stake.

Pamela didn’t seem insulted, though she probably knew why Dean had made that choice. “You drink it straight, I take it?”

“Of course.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” She sauntered away and Dean watched until she disappeared into the kitchen.

Joan kicked him in the ankle. “Cut it out. If you have sex with her it’ll be icky later.”

“That a technical term?” Dean grinned.

“Yes.” She kicked again, a smile on her face, and this time got his shin.

“Brat.”

“That’s right, dorkface,” she said sweetly.

Pamela came back then, two mugs in her hands. “Black coffee for handsome, something with a little kick for me,” she said, sitting back down next to Joan. “That tea working for you, sweetie?”

Joan made a face. She had apparently forgotten about the somewhat nasty beverage while she was talking with Dean. Thankfully it hadn’t cooled down that much. He had a feeling that it would be disgusting lukewarm. She drank it quickly, her eyes darting between Pamela and Dean, very occasionally flitting to a corner where he knew no one was standing.

“All right,” Pamela said once the mug was set aside. “We’ll start with a little hypnosis. Nothing too drastic, just a little glimpse into your subconscious so we can figure out exactly what’s happening and how things work.” She got to work right away, lulling Joan under easily now that his little sister was a bit more relaxed. “All right. Joan, can you hear me?”

“Yes,” his sister said quietly, and Dean felt a chill chase up his spine at the monotone coming from her mouth.

“Good. When did you start seeing the spirits?”

“January 9th, 2004.”

The date was a little startling. It was several months before the episode that ended up with her in the hospital, which meant that she’d been seeing ghosts for a lot longer than he’d suspected.

“What happened that day?” Pamela continued.

“Rocky Tardio came to me in a dream and told me to look in the paper the next day.” Her voice was still that calm monotone, completely void of the emotion that Dean remembered when she’d done exactly that the next day. He’d heard the tears in her voice when she called and asked him to take her to the funeral.

“All right. When was the first time you saw a spirit when you were awake?”

“April 19, 2005. Judith Montgomery was in my bedroom when I woke up from a bad dream.”

“You’re doing great. What does a spirit look like to you?”

A line appeared on Joan’s forehead for a moment before smoothing over. “Like a normal person. Judith and Rocky looked like they did when they were alive.”

“And is there anyone else you have seen that most people don’t see?”

“Mary. Chris. Catherine. Susan. God.”

That last one startled Pamela for a moment. “You’ve seen God?”

“Yes.” Joan appeared to be struggling a little now.

“How long have you been seeing God?”

“I first met Yaya when I was five years old.”

Pamela sat back at that revelation, the expression on her face clearly saying something along the lines of ‘oh crap.’ “All right Joan, I’m going to count to three and you’re going to wake up and remember this conversation. One, two, three.”

At three Joan’s eyes popped open, a similar expression to Pamela’s on her face. “I’m not supposed to tell people that.”

“It’s all right, it just makes things more complicated,” Pamela reassured her, though her expression was still not entirely reflecting that answer. Dean couldn’t exactly blame her. Despite Helen’s best efforts, he’d never really warmed to the idea of God and all of that religious crap. It was clear that Joan believed what she was saying completely and that Pamela also believed it. The psychic wouldn’t have been so suddenly uncomfortable if she hadn’t believed. “I can’t do much about that big reveal. That’s way out of my pay grade. But I can teach you some ways to shield yourself and a few things that will keep out some of the more troublesome spirits you’ve been seeing, as well as some things that will help you handle what you’re seeing. It’s all pretty boring, really, mostly meditation and focus exercises and all of that new-agey stuff.”

“But it will help,” Dean stated, still staring at his sister. As soon as Pamela gave them a little privacy they were going to be having words.

“It should help,” the woman agreed. “We can get started right away.”

xxx

In his free time, while his sister was busy becoming a hippy and learning yoga and meditation and ways to ward off hostile spirits, Dean started to flesh out the idea he’d had on the way to Pamela’s house. He’d been chomping at the bit to drop his job for a while now. The politics of working with the sheriff’s department were awkward at best, especially with Will working there as well, and he’d had to pass on too many hunts over the past six months. It had occurred to him that he could probably make a decent living as a private investigator, between his background in criminal justice and the skills he’d picked up as a hunter. Joan would probably be willing to work with him, possibly even help on hunts now that she knew the truth about things.

If he planned it right, he could probably even dovetail legitimate investigations with hunts and manage to basically get paid for hunting. The thought of that made him smile.

When he finally mentioned his idea to Joan, as casually as he could manage, she was lukewarm at first. She was still clinging to the hope of going back to school someday, but Dean was pretty sure that hope was fading. Her focus was getting better, no question about that, but she would always be able to see what others didn’t see. A normal life would always be difficult for his sister, much less one in the public eye as a lawyer.

Dean had to get Joan completely onboard with the idea to make it happen because Helen was going to hate it. It wasn’t college, for one thing, and to make it work they’d need to be a little more centrally located than Maryland. He was thinking Chicago or Indianapolis, personally, and both of those were a fair distance from Arcadia. Will would be right behind his wife in disliking this particular plan, and Dean was reasonably certain that none of his other siblings, including Sammy, would be big fans of it either. He would need Joan’s complete cooperation and support, and therefore he needed to convince her that this was what was best for both of them.

He started small and subtle, for him, dragging her out for a weekend to Chicago to celebrate that she was slightly less manic than she had been two weeks ago. There was a lot of ground to cover in that city, especially some rumors that a lot of hinky stuff went down but that someone outside of the hunting network took care of it. Dean made sure to take his time when building his case, working up to the proposal the whole weekend.

It was something he didn’t really need to bother with. Joan picked up on what he was doing, possibly before they left Pamela’s house, and let him twist in the wind until the drive home. “Once I’m a little more prepared for things, you can start setting up shop in Chicago,” she said, giving him a smirk. “Someone else already convinced me that it was a good idea.”

“Who?” Dean couldn’t think of a single person who was on his side when it came to this arrangement.

She gave him a raised-eyebrow look. “Who do you think?”

He racked his brain for a few seconds before he caught on. “Oh.”

“Yeah, exactly. Apparently you need someone to keep you out of trouble and God decided that was my job.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around,” Dean protested.

“Whatever,” she sighed. “Chicago, once I’ve gotten in a little more practice at blocking things out. I’ll run the business stuff and you’ll do the detective part. And you get to be the one to tell Mom.”

xxx

Their home base might have technically been in Chicago, but they weren’t in the office often enough that it mattered. Joan kept track of most of those details, paying the utilities and the rent online and keeping track of their clients on the computer. She was surprisingly efficient at those kinds of things, especially considering she’d never worked a real job before this. Dean didn’t count her work at the bookstore. Her boss there didn’t really care about much as long as she kept the shelves stocked and didn’t steal from the till. It was even more mystifying when factoring in that she ran their small business from her laptop using free wifi in coffee shops and motels.

Dean did most of the actual investigating, at least most of the things that might put either one of them in danger. That was done on purpose, to keep Helen from completely losing it over this whole situation. Joan was supposed to go to college and have a nice, safe job in an office somewhere. This was not part of the plan and it was difficult for the woman to let it go.

They were in a small town in Indiana, mopping up a hunt that he’d found that had coincided nicely with a piece of work for a company who was looking for a little more in-depth background on a potential employee. Dean had been making sure that all traces of the changelings were gone and the children were all safely home while Joan hit the pavement and tracked down the people mentioned on the man’s resume to see if they had, in fact, recommended him and if they had any sort of background information they might need to share. Joan had begged to meet up for lunch at the small coffee shop just off the square, the kind of local place that catered to college students from the area. She had a weakness for those coffee shops, a holdover from her brief college days and whenever there was an opportunity Dean gave into that particular craving. His sister had a hard enough life most of the time. It wouldn’t hurt to indulge her on something that didn’t really matter to him.

She was sitting in her regular type of spot, the one that made his heart feel all warm and fuzzy: close to the door, but not immediately visible from outside, tucked away from prying eyes. That was a direct result of his training and he couldn’t help but feel glad that she was still following those particular lessons. Then he circled around a little further and saw that she wasn’t alone.

At first he thought this might be one of her more special visitors, the ones that made him more uncomfortable than any ghost could possibly top, but her expression was a little too guarded for that. When he circled around to get a better look at the guy’s face he recognized the expression, if not the face. This was just a guy who was trying to pick up Dean’s little sister.

He wasn’t having much success, if Joan’s amused smile was anything to go by. She hadn’t seriously dated anyone since Adam Rove and it didn’t seem like that was going to change anytime soon. As Joan liked to put it, she had a lot of unbelievable issues and an overprotective family, so she might end up dying a spinster at this rate. Dean was strangely comfortable with that idea.

He decided to take care of the problem in the most expedient way possible: he sauntered over to the table, kissed Joan on the cheek, took a drink from her cup and sat down next to her. Joan pulled her coffee in closer, protecting it from his grasp. “Go get your own,” she told him.

“Yours is right here,” he pointed out, turning his attention to the guy at the table. “Who the hell are you?”

The jackass trying to pick up his baby sister made an odd sound in his throat. Dean wasn’t sure if it was an aborted attempt at an introduction, or just a reaction to realizing that there was no way in hell he was getting anywhere near this girl in the way he wanted. He was gone before Dean could clarify.

Joan gave him an oblique look. “I’m never going to have a boyfriend, am I?”

“Probably not.” He made another play for her coffee cup only to be denied. “I’m going to get a cup of real coffee. You almost done here?”

“Get the coffee to go,” Joan said, closing her laptop and tucking it into her messenger bag. “I’ve got a couple of potential cases that we’ll talk about someplace that isn’t the middle of a coffee shop.”

xxx

Dean walked into the motel room with peace offering coffee to find his sister packing their belongings. The fact that she was packing the weapons duffle was enough to make him set the cups down on the now-vacant table. Joan wasn’t terribly comfortable with most of the weaponry, especially the guns, and though she knew how to use and maintain them, she didn’t often handle them unless it was absolutely necessary. “What happened?”

“Sam’s in trouble,” she said, stepping away from the task as he moved in. “At least, he will be if we don’t get there soon.” It was obvious that the argument they’d been having earlier was forgotten, although the coffee would be a welcome addition.

“What kind of trouble?” Dean finished storing the weapons with brisk efficiency while Joan shrugged into her jacket and reached for her coffee. “What’s coming after him?”

“He’s not in danger,” Joan said quietly, her dark eyes looking up from the cup in her hands. “Not directly, anyway. Jess is. Something is going to come to their apartment and there’s going to be a fire.”

A chill ran up his spine and Dean ruthlessly suppressed the shiver that should have accompanied it. Even after almost a year of this, it still freaked him out a little when Joan pulled the prophetess act. He wasn’t deep in the hunter community, not like his father had apparently been, but he’d met enough of them to know that this alone would be enough to get her killed. He put that thought aside and concentrated on her words. “The same thing that got my mom?”

Her focus shifted to his left. “Mary doesn’t know,” she said, shrugging. “She was killed by a demon with yellow eyes. She says its possible that the thing is after Sam or . . .something.” Joan turned back to Dean. “Your mom is going to watch over Sam. We need to get going if we’re going to get there in time.”

“All right then,” said Dean, zipping up the weapons bag and picking up his own duffle. Joan grabbed her own bag and both coffee cups, juggling them a little awkwardly until she could sling the strap over her shoulder. “Can you check us out of the room and call Mrs. Grant?”

Joan nodded. “I’ll call from the car.”

xxx

He waited until they were on the road, since the spirits that trailed after his sister seemed to find the confines of the Impala . . . uncomfortable. Besides, that way she had a chance to call the client and give up what information they’d managed to dig up about the location of her ex-husband. “What didn’t you say earlier?” he asked once her cell was closed and tucked into her bag.

Joan sighed and looked up from the notebook on her lap. “You won’t like it,” she said, her voice quiet.

“I usually don’t.”

There was a nod, Joan accepting this as fact. “I think Mary knows something more about what’s happening now, and about what happened to her.”

“You think my mom knows about what killed her?” His disbelief was almost palpable.

“She knows something,” Joan said, stressing the last word. “I don’t know if she knew it before she died, but your mom knows something that she isn’t telling us.”

Dean took a few moments to mull that over while his sister sipped her cooling coffee and wrote madly in her notebook. People often underestimated what Joan noticed because she was so young for their world and didn’t have the sharp, harsh edges of most hunters, but she was almost as good as he was at reading people and putting together the pieces from what she saw. She would have made a damned good cop. “Any theories?” he finally asked.

She set her pen down and took a deep breath. “I see guilt when Mary looks at you, sometimes. Like she could have prevented something. I don’t know what it means, not yet, but that’s what I see.”

The silence that followed her statement was more contemplative than anything else. Truth be told, Dean had come up with a similar theory based on a few things he’d turned over in the past few years. Mary Winchester had once been Mary Campbell, daughter of two hunters that Bobby had heard of back in his early days of hunting. Dean Winchester believed in a whole hell of a lot of things, but coincidence wasn’t one of them.

He cleared his throat and changed the topic. “So, seven hours until we get there. Maybe you could fill me in a little on what to look out for?”

xxx

Sam’s apartment was a few blocks away from the main campus, on the second floor of a renovated home from the turn of the century. No one was home when Dean guided the Impala into a parking space across the street, and Sam didn’t answer his phone when they called, so Dean made his sister get in a little lock-picking experience.

He’d done a little basic warding on the place when Sam had first moved in, using some tricks he’d picked up from Bobby to try and make the place safe like he’d done on the Girardi house as soon as he got back, but he’d learned a lot since then. Pamela had taught them both quite a bit during Joan’s little apprenticeship, and he’d been forced by necessity to find even more esoteric and discrete methods of protection when they’d left the safety net of Pamela’s house. The two of them applied those things to the apartment when they got inside. Sam would be pissed if Jess noticed that anything had been done. He didn’t like it when this kind of weirdness bled over into his happy, stable life.

When they were done Joan sat down on the couch, small hands toying with her ever-present notebook. They were shaking slightly, which worried Dean a little. Joan was riding on adrenaline and caffeine and would crash soon. “It’ll go down here, right?”

She nodded. “The darkness wants Sam,” she said. “It wants Sam on the same path your father took. My dad finding you wasn’t part of the plan. It’s trying to put things back the way they used to be.”

“Was Sam safe as long as he was at the Girardi’s?”

“You both are,” she said confidently. “I was promised.”

“That’s why it’s after Jess. The darkness thinks he’ll react in the exact same way. Can you think of a way to get Jess and Sam to fly out to Arcadia today?”

She shook her head. “Does Sam know about your second job?”

“He won’t listen. He hangs up the phone anytime I even hint at the supernatural.” Sam had never been told everything, but he’d put together a few bits and pieces from their childhood and his memories of their dad. It had apparently been enough to turn him off of the idea of the supernatural entirely. His brother was far more skeptical than any member of the Girardi family except Will. Even Luke liked to err on the side of caution and allow for the possibility of more than he could really understand.

Joan sat up and turned toward the door without warning, her eyes focusing on a spot just to the left of the door. “Something’s here,” she said.

“What’s here?”

“Not Sam or Jess. Something dark. Not the thing that Mary knows about, but similar.”

“Does it know we’re here?”

She looked back to the area surrounding the door. “I don’t think so. Mary thinks it’s waiting for Sam to show up.”

“Perfect. Can it get through the wards?”

“Probably.” She grimaced at the thought. Dean stood up and headed to the door, shivering slightly when he hit a cold spot that was probably his mother and definitely not something he was going to think about right now. He stood there and listened, trying to figure out what was out there waiting to eat them now. It would be sad if it wasn’t so familiar.

There was a creaking sound from a floorboard in the hall and Dean tensed, his hand going to the weapon at his hip. The seconds ticked by with an aching slowness as he waited for the thing to make a move.

Joan exhaled, the sound a little shaky. “It’s gone.”

“This is shaping up to be all kinds of fun,” Dean said, his tone biting. “Take a nap, brat. I’ll wake you if something happens, but you’re hanging onto things by your fingernails. Whatever it is, it’s not going to make a move until Sam shows up. I’ll wake you up then.”

She shook her head. “There’s no time.” Her hands tightened on her notebook. “It’s coming now. We have to be ready.”

“What, right now?” She nodded and Dean cursed. “Call Sam. Say whatever you need to say to get him and Jess here.”

“I don’t think they’re safe here.”

“I don’t think they’re safe anywhere,” Dean countered. “Not if this thing is gunning specifically for Sam. But they’re really not safe if they don’t even know what’s coming or what to do about it.”

“We don’t know specifically what’s coming,” she pointed out.

“Darkness with its eye on Sam,” Dean said promptly. “There’s a good chance that means demon. That means we lay down devil’s traps. We know a hell of a lot more about this kind of thing than Sam does.”

“What if it’s something else?”

Dean sighed. “Then we’ll take care of it, brat. Stop freaking out. You’ll give yourself wrinkles.”

She huffed as she dug her cell phone out of her bag and hit speed dial. “’You’ll give yourself wrinkles,’” she mimicked back at him while she waited for Sam to answer. “Hey, Geek,” she said once Sam answered. “Dean and I are at your apartment. Can you come and let us in?”

Dean rolled his eyes and gathered up their bags so that they could head back out into the hallway. He supposed Joan was right and that Sam really shouldn’t know that they broke into his place, but he wasn’t crazy about going out from behind the safety of the walls, especially since something was gunning for Sam and could easily take them out while they were waiting.

Joan hung up the phone after a few more teasing remarks to their brother. “He still hasn’t proposed to Jess,” she said, slipping the phone back into her messenger bag. Normally Dean would have been all over that information, but right now he was a little more concerned with his brother’s safety than whether or not he’d finally manned up.

They waited until Joan got an all-clear from her ghosts and then stepped out into the hallway. Sam must have been pretty close, because they barely had time to get the door relocked when Sam and Jess started up the steps.

Jess looked a little tipsy, which was understandable. The two of them had probably been out celebrating Halloween in true college fashion. Joan popped over for a hug as soon as they cleared the stairs, but Dean hung back and just watched. He and Sam weren’t really the type to hug unless it was something big, with Joan and Helen being the only real exceptions to the rule.

“Not that I’m not glad to see you, but why are you guys here?” Sam asked as he unlocked the door, frowning a little as he looked at it. Dean grimaced; Joan hadn’t been terribly careful and there were probably signs of forced entry.

“Just finished up a case and we were kind of close, and Joan here missed her big geek brother,” Dean said. It wasn’t anywhere close to the truth, not really, but they could argue with him once they were in his apartment and at least behind a few wards. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something that would hopefully keep them all alive.

Sam held the door open for Jess and then Joan and Dean before stepping through and closing it firmly behind him. Dean relaxed very slightly once they were behind the closed door, even though he knew they weren’t really safe. Joan was following Jess further into the apartment, oohing and aahing like she hadn’t just seen the place five minutes earlier, and Sam pulled Dean aside. “Is she still sick?”

“She’s fine,” Dean said, a little defensive. Joan wasn’t quite back to where she had been; she was still much too thin and nervous and she had a hard time interacting with the ghosts she saw without people around her thinking she was weird. “I hear you still haven’t sealed the deal with Jess.”

His brother rolled his eyes. “I’m waiting for the right moment.”

“Sure you are, you giant girl.” Dean grinned, having successfully distracted Sam from worrying about Joan. There was no point to that. She would adapt, eventually.

There was a knock at the door and Sam was there before Dean could stop him, opening the door and greeting some guy that practically had ‘douchebag’ stamped on his forehead. “Hey, Brady. Now’s not really a good time.”

“Sorry about that, Sam,” the guy said, stepping into the room and gesturing with one hand. Dean couldn’t quite contain the startled yell when he felt something shove him back against the wall and hold him there.

Joan ran into the room, Jess at her heels. “Dean? Sam?”

It gestured again, a malicious, nasty smile on its’ borrowed face. Joan had a moment of confusion before her face hardened into understanding and determination, and she planted her feet and glared at it.

The thing’s pitch-black eyes were staring at Joan with something close to fascination, which made Dean want to curse and kick and punch it in the face. He’d been worried that something like this would happen. Joan hadn’t really had much interaction with anything besides ghosts when it came to the creepy, fugly side of the tracks. There had been a shapeshifter last month, and something that they’d never entirely identified acting as Jenny Greenteeth out of a lake in Minnesota, but for the most part he was making sure she cut her teeth on salt-and-burns, though sometimes she managed to talk the ghosts down instead. Dean had made sure to keep his sister far away from witches and anything that even hinted at demons because he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to pick up the God-thing. It looked like he was right to worry.

It had tried to do something to her when she’d stepped in front of Jessica, no doubt some variation on flinging her across the room with its mind since that was what it had done to both him and Sam. He had a feeling that it wasn’t exactly creative when it came to those kinds of things. Joan apparently hadn’t felt anything from it, though she was grimacing in disgust so she was probably picking up something else instead. It tried again, this time adding a flick of its fingers, and once again failed. Dean couldn’t help but chuckle. If the moron had just gone up to her, he could probably physically overpower her. Joan had a modicum of self-defense training, both from a class her first semester at college and a martial arts class she’d taken when she was eleven because all of her brothers were doing it, but she was only five foot five and still skinny as hell from when all of this began. It wouldn’t take much to overpower her.

Instead, the thing wrapped up in a douchebag fratboy kept trying the same tricks over and over again. It was between the girls and the door, unfortunately, but Joan was trying to angle Jess toward the window instead. There was nothing wrong with his sister’s escape instincts. With a high-strung family like the Girardi’s, knowing when to get out of the room quickly was a valued survival technique.

Dean racked his brain as he tried to stand up once again, but he was fairly certain his leg was broken. He’d never gone up against a demon of any kind, but Bobby had taught him enough to read the signs and he was fairly certain he was facing one right now. “Christo,” he called out, and the thing flinched and turned to him. Well, that was the identification problem solved.

On the plus side, he’d managed to distract it from pursuing Joan and Jessica and the two of them should manage to get out. There was bound to be a crowd out there now, and possibly police. He doubted the thing wanted that kind of publicity, so as long as Joan kept them surrounded by people they would be safe.

“Regna terrae, cantate Deo,” he heard Joan say, and the demon whipped back around to face her. Jess was climbing out of the window behind her, no doubt pushed that way by his sister, but Joan was standing with her fists clenched and a mule-stubborn expression on her face. “psallite Domino
 qui fertis super caelum caeli ad Orientem
 Ecce dabit voci Suae
 vocem virtutis,
 tribuite virtutem Deo.

” There was a pause, Joan looking off to the side, and the thing managed to get a step closer before she started up again. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus
 omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio
infernalis adversarii, omnis legio,
omnis congregatio et secta diabolica.

” Another pause, and Dean abruptly realized that one of the ghosts, probably Mary Winchester, was feeding Joan the exorcism she was reciting. That was a risky proposition without a trap of some kind, from what he remembered. He’d never actually done an exorcism before, only heard about it from Bobby, but it was obvious that was exactly what he was hearing now. She started talking more quickly, the words stumbling out but apparently correct. “Ergo draco maledicte
 et omnis legio diabolica adjuramus te.
 Cessa decipere humanas creaturas,
 eisque aeternae Perditionis venenum propinare.” The thing was twitching now, trying to get closer to her, but apparently the words caused it enough pain to keep it from getting there. Joan kept moving as well, her eyes on the empty space of the ghost in the room. It meant that the thing never got near her, and it got further away from him and Sam. Dean wanted to move over there and check his brother, but he didn’t dare take his attention from Joan’s little stageshow. “Vade, Satana, inventor et magister
 omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae salutis.
 Humiliare sub potenti manu dei, 
contremisce et effuge, invocato a
 nobis sancto et terribili nomine, 
quem inferi tremunt.

” The thing was screaming now, trying desperately to drown out her voice, but Dean could still hear her. Sam was starting to stir on the floor and Dean squirmed over closer, ignoring the pain as much as he could. Sam couldn’t interrupt what was happening now. “Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine.
 Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias 
libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos.
 Ut inimicos sanctae Ecclesiae humiliare digneris,
 te rogamus, audi nos.

” Joan faltered for a second when it switched from simple screaming to vicious, barbed taunts about her relationships with Dean and Sam, but she caught herself and continued, the final words pouring out in a rush. “Ut inimicos sanctae Ecclesiae
te rogamus, audi nos. Terribilis Deus de sanctuario suo. Deus Israhel ipse truderit virtutem
et fortitudinem plebi Suae.
Benedictus Deus. Gloria Patri.”

Sam’s friend’s mouth opened in a cracking sound that made him wince and a cloud of purple-black smoke rushed out, crackling with energy, and disappeared through the floor. The body dropped to the ground like a dropped toy. Joan rushed past him and knelt down next to the two of them. “I’ve got Sam,” he told her, a little roughly. “Is that guy still alive?”

“No,” she said, staring at a space behind them for a second. “Brady says he hasn’t been alive for a while, but he couldn’t move on while that thing was using his body.”

It was a relief in some ways, but it would be headache-inducing for the immediate future. At least the guy was free and he wouldn’t have to pay for the shit that the demon did in his name.

Out in the living room of the apartment the door crashed in. “We’re in here,” Joan cried out. Sam was starting to come around now, though he was clearly very confused. Two uniforms swept into the room first, weapons held ready, but it didn’t take long before the paramedics rolled in behind them.

The immediate aftermath was more than a little confusing now that he didn’t have impending danger to keep his mind focused through the pain. He managed to pick up that Jess was safe and alive and fine, if a little confused and traumatized by this whole mess. That was a good start, since it had been the main focus of their showdown in the first place. Joan was shaking with adrenaline and showing signs of going into shock and Dean had to talk her into letting the paramedics take her along to the hospital with the rest of them. It was frighteningly easy for him to do, which meant that his sister might have something seriously wrong that she wasn’t sharing.

Jess had already promised to call Will and Helen and let them know what had happened, at least the parts they would be able to handle. By tomorrow evening they would be overrun with family. Tonight, though, Dean would let the paramedics do their job and glory in the fact that all of his siblings came through the whole mess alive.


Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
jebbypal
Jun. 14th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
\0/
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC)
:-)
firefox1490
Jun. 14th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
:D

That was really freaking good!
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
tenshinrtaiga
Jun. 14th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
Wait! But, but, but... WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!

Really good fic, btw. I just need to know what happens after that *pout*
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
You will just have to wait to find out! It is coming, eventually.
mims_oh
Jun. 15th, 2012 12:34 am (UTC)
Wowza.
What a great new beginning. And so many directions you can take us next! Love this story, and always love when Dean gets to live up to some of his potential. He and Joan can change the history of the world. Ack - so eager to see where you lead us.

Um, if you're leading us anywhere, I mean. If not, well - this is still an awesome meld of universes, and I am glad for it.

But...more would not be unappreciated. At all.

Lovely addition to your crossover collection - the PaBurke/FaithDaria team is pretty much the best reason to go on the internets. Thanks!
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Wowza.
There will be more, eventually. Glad you liked it, and thanks for the review!
mandraco
Jun. 15th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
I loved this. Especially Dean and Joan's relationship. I liked the way you portrayed Will and Helen and I thought Sam was believable, especially toward the end. =)
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! This story actually had it's start at the same time as the Home 'verse, when I was talking over the concept with my sister and she mentioned the idea of them being raised as part of a normal family.
mandraco
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:38 am (UTC)
Giving the boys a normal life where the supernatural still exists is one of my favourite things ever. So I'm glad you wrote this and I'm glad I got to read it. =)
auntmo9
Jun. 16th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! I loved Joan and Dean's sibling relationship and want to know what happens next!
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
Be patient, there is more coming, eventually. Happy that you liked it!
carodee
Jun. 16th, 2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thoroughly enjoyable! It was lovely seeing Dean and Sam get a normal upbringing with family support. It made sense that Dean was already hunter-bound even at that early age and always planned to go back to it. He seems a lot more stable here and it's great seeing him be the big brother to all the kids.

Do you think you'll continue this? I'd love to see the difference Joan makes, especially with God not being so absent.
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
I will write more in this universe, but it might be a while in coming because of other writing projects. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
cjandre
Jun. 22nd, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
very cool crossvoer - It's always interesting to see how the Winchesters would have turned out if they'd had a different up-bringing. I really like how you blended in Joan and her parents. Wonderful job!
catnthecradle
Sep. 9th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
Great story, I really enjoyed it. It's definitely the Winchester luck that they went from a family of hunters to a family where God makes guest appearances.:)

Seeing Dean interacting with, and taking care of younger siblings is always fun.

As you've commented that there will be more of the story to come, I'll be keeping an eye out for future installments/timestamps.

Thank you for sharing.

Edited at 2012-09-09 03:56 pm (UTC)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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