It’s only after Jess dies that she changes her name, which she feels terrible about sometimes: an insult to Jess’ memory; Jess, who was witty and charismatic and a charmer and who was the first girl she met who was like her, who showed her what creating your own womanhood felt like. Waiting until after Jess is dead feels like spitting in her face.
She found the name listed in the book of saints plucked from the bargain bin of a bookstore in Santa Clarita, where she visited Luis’ family for a week; she didn’t need the book, she already knew her choice. She fingered the locket around her neck, a gift from Jess, one of the few things that later survived the fire. Now, remembering, she plays with it again, popping it open and closed, open and closed. She has the name on her tongue, now she just needs to speak it into life, to make it official.
So she does: shrugging off her old name isn’t that difficult, really; life spent perpetually on the road means the only person she has to convince is Dean, and he catches on pretty quick.
It’s after hell, after Lucifer, after everything’s gone to shit that Joan realizes the name she chose is just John, rebranded. This realization is accompanied by a fit of panic one morning, after she reads in the newspaper an innocent and cheerful birth announcement about a baby girl, Joanna, whose parents chose her name because it was the feminine version of her father’s name, John. When it hits Joan she nearly throws up her breakfast. She spent years trying to get away from John Winchester’s grasp, and after all this, it’s like he’s taunting her from the grave. The name she chose with care, with love, the one she gave to herself like a gift—it was him all along.
By this time, she’s been Joan for nearly seven years, but when she and Dean stop at a diner on the way to their next case, she tells him she’s changing her name back.
He doesn’t ask why. After watching her get her soul back, and seeing her go through all that shit with Lucifer, he seems to accept that issues of identity are a little shaky for her at the moment. “But you’re still, y’know, a woman, right?” he asks, and she nods, swallows. Thanks him for understanding. Later that afternoon, she introduces herself to the victim’s family as Sam Singer. Dean gives her a look.
So she’s Sam now, it looks like. She slips back into the name like it’s a well-worn old jacket. Sure, the tags itch sometimes, and sometimes the fabric pinches around the shoulders, but a jacket’s a jacket. She can tolerate it. She’s Sam when Mary comes back and she’s Sam when Cas dies and fate hands her and Dean a baby nephil. She’s Sam when God tries to kill her and her brother, personally, and the entire world on top of it all, impersonally, and she’s Sam when Cas dies again and they bring him back and everything’s all over.
She’s cleaning out some boxes in storage down in the bunker’s basement when she stumbles upon that dime store paperback book of saints again, and without thinking she flips automatically to the dog-eared page, First Names Ivo – Job, that she first marked all those years ago.
She reads the section titled Early Life and Upbringing. She has a revelation.
“Hey,” she says to Jack the next day, gathering courage as she sits at the foot of his bed, watching him scribble on a coloring sheet, “I have a new name now. If you could call me Joan, that would be really great.”
She’s terrified he’s not going to understand, that he’ll say, “No, you can’t, you’re Sam and I need you to be Sam”, that he’ll hate her for this and for not being what he needs her to be. Her hands are frozen, fingers clenched on the bedspread. Jack puts down his coloring sheet and cocks his head at her.
“Oh,” says Jack, “that’s like my name.”
Jeanne D'Arc shared her name with her father, too—her father was Jacques, or in English, Jack. A diminutive of John, and the masculine equivalent to Jeanne, Jean, Joan.
But the difference between Joan and her father is this:
No one remembers Joan of Arc’s father anymore. He couldn’t be less important if he tried.
The story is hers.