John is angry.
No, scratch that, he's furious. Furious... and proud.
They locked him out. The bastards put salt lines everywhere—and locked him out; he can't enter the motel room.
It's the right thing to do, it’s what he drilled into them for as long as he could: identify the problem and react accordingly, they are doing exactly as he has always told them.
It’s just… they locked him out; he can’t watch them or find out what they are planning to do. Or help them.
Sam had spent most of yesterday trying to figure out what had happened at the motel that could have led to a violent death, but, of course, there was nothing to be found. They’d switched motels, sealed the new room off against him… and left him outside. Trying to figure out how to get rid of him.
He knows he should go, should try to find some kind of peace, some kind of exit. Some way to not be haunting his sons. He has no right being here anymore, but with what he has seen on his son’s soul—the stain that is definitely of supernatural origin—he can’t just leave. He gave his life to save Dean from death… he’ll give his afterlife to save him from a fate worse than that, if he has to. As much as he knows that he should take the hint and go… he can’t leave like this, with one son falling to that yellow-eyed bastard's machinations, and the other so emotionally devastated that he couldn't see what was in front of him.
It’s unacceptable, he can’t just let go of everything and leave. They aren’t ready for that. It’s not an option.
But neither is being forced to remain outside and spend his time waiting for the boys to come up with a plan.
John looks up when the front door is opened and Sam comes out, blinking into the sun. He scans the parking lot, even looks directly at where John is sitting on the hood of the car, but, as always, doesn’t see him. Can’t see him. John has to fight the impulse to snarl at the boy. Oblivious, Sam walks to the trunk, opens it and takes out his rucksack. Looks around again. “If you’re still here… we’re trying to help you, we need some more time to figure out how.”
John sighs. "You better find something soon."
Dean appears in the open door, catches the car keys that Sam throws at him and walks toward the car as well as Sam heads back into the room. He gets into the car and John gets off the hood, about to shift onto the backseat when he—hesitates.
He feels different. From one moment to the other, he feels—weird. Like something is calling him, not a voice, more like a feeling. He needs to be someplace else, he needs to be inside that room—
John turns around and approaches the door cautiously. Behind him the Impala slowly rolls out of the parking lot and onto the street—but he feels no urge to follow it… or get inside it, no, he needs to be in that room.
The door looks like it always has, but after what happened at Bobby’s, he’s become a little wary of doors. The closer he gets to it, though, the stronger the feeling becomes. John reaches out to touch the door—and his hand goes through, it disappears inside the wood. It feels weird... and suddenly he knows he can pass through the door, he knows it with a certainty that surprises him, he will be able to walk through the door as if it wasn’t there. It will hurt, it won’t be easy—but he can do it.
John pulls his hand back as if he’s been burnt, looks at it—and makes a decision.
John doesn’t hesitate; he takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and takes a step forward.
It hurts. Fire breaks out across his body, a pure, bright heat that threatens to dissolve him into nothingness. It’s the salt, it tears at him from every side, holds him back—
And then it’s over.
John is suddenly hit by a wave of exhaustion. He sways, his sight dims, the noises be-come softer, seem to move away from him. He’s certain he would feel dizzy if he was still alive. Opening his eyes becomes a real challenge and he is so tempted to just sink to the floor and stay there. He forces himself to look around and realizes he’s inside the room. There’s movement near one of the beds, Sam is going through his duffel, looking for something. John turns slowly to look at the door, half expecting to see some sort of fire leap out at him, but it’s just a door with salt lines in front of it—
Sam’s alarmed voice causes him to whirl around in a panic to find his son, standing next to his bed—staring at John.
John is too stunned to move, to do anything but stare back.
Sam blinks, eyes wide and shocked. “Dad?” His voice is no more than a whisper, a breath of air—but it has to be the best thing John has ever heard.
John takes a step closer, can’t take his eyes of his youngest. "Can you hear me?"
Sam's eyes widen, he cocks his head to the side. As if he’s listening to something. "Dad, is that you?"
The sudden urge to pull his kid into his arms and just hug him for being able to finally, finally see him is overwhelming. Relief washes over him in waves and he realizes he’s grinning like an idiot, but, for once, he doesn’t care. “Yes, Sam, it’s me.”
His eyes are drawn to Sam’s hands and he actually gasps when he sees what his son is clutching in his grasp.
It’s John’s journal.
And the last piece of the puzzle suddenly clicks into place. John knows—he knows it was the journal all along. He’s not attached to the car, but to his book. It’s the journal that allows him to cross salt lines. It’s the journal that strengthens his connection to reality so that Sam can see him. He should have seen it before, should have known, somehow. Of course it’s his journal. The car is important to him, yes, apparently a lot more than he always thought, but the journal… It’s his life, the one thing he has been holding on to through all the years.
Some hunter he is…
It’s his last thought, he sees Sam turning back to his duffel bag, sees him put the journal on the bed—
And then nothing.
It turns out that crossing a salt line, even with the object you're attached to on the other side of it, is a pretty stupid thing to do. When he opens his eyes the next time, he's stand-ing next to the Impala. The car is parked on a lonely side-street as it seems, locked. No one inside. The boys nowhere in sight.
It's disconcerting, to say the least. The last thing he remembers is Sam staring at him, holding his journal and talking to him. And now this...
He sits down on the hood of the car, tries to gather his thoughts. The car, the boys, are not in the motel anymore. From the surroundings, John’s not sure if they’re even in the same state anymore. He has no idea where they are—though a hunt seems most likely given where the car is parked—and he doesn't know how much time lays between now and that afternoon in the motel. And he has no way of finding out.
If there is one thing he is not good at it's not knowing things. It's frustrating.
John takes a look around, tries to get a feeling for which way the boys might have gone—and that's when he feels it. It's like a call, at the edge of his hearing, a voice, urgent. Demanding his attention. Something is wrong.
It's the boys. He doesn't know how he knows, but it's them, he can feel it, like he knew they were in Singer's house. There's something wrong with the boys and he has to help them. Find them.
And has no idea where they are.
John gets up from the hood and turns, slowly, listening for the voice, trying to pinpoint it. It isn't easy, it takes him a long moment—too long probably—but then he finally has a direction.
He starts walking, then without thought, his steps stumble into a jog. He concentrates, seeking his children with an instinct that is so much stronger than death. He knows he has to get to them as fast as possible, doesn't care how.
And then he's suddenly standing in front of an old farmhouse with no idea how he got there. It feels a little like shifting from one point of Singer's salvage yard into the Impala, and yet it's different. But there is no time for analyzing the details of his brave new ex-istence now, because, however he got here—he can hear the kids.
There are sounds, the sounds of fighting. Sam's voice, yelling something that vaguely sounds like Latin, Dean barking an order that's followed by a curse. John is too far away to make out words, but it sounds tense, troubling. Whatever is going down on the other side of the house is outside, and he wastes no more time listening from the dark. John runs, sprinting as fast as he can around the corner of the house….
And into a battlefield.
A strong wind is blowing, whipping around like a tiny storm, sending leaves dancing through the air in a wild rhythm. On this side of the house, this close to it, it’s impossibly loud. The wind snatches away most of what Sam and Dean are shouting at each other. Sam is standing next to a tree, a book clutched in his hands, obviously reading something from it, a spell is John’s guess. The wind is particularly strong where Sam’s standing, he seems to be having trouble remaining on his feet. As John watches, the wind slams against Sam, shoving him against the tree at his back, over and over again. He looks like he went head first into a mud bath, dirt clinging to his face, matting his hair and staining his clothes, but he seems unharmed, if a little pissed.
Dean is at the other end of what appears to be a garden. He's trying to dig up what John thinks must be a grave, but the wind is keeping him from it, causing him to stagger back whenever he tries to get started. He's definitely swearing a blue streak, John knows that special expression he's wearing by heart. Whenever his shovel hits the ground the wind picks up even more and he loses his balance, forced to stagger back and away from the start of the hole, until he stops what he's trying to do and turns to glare at Sam.
Nobody needs to hear him to understand that expression. Get on with it.
In the center of all this there is a young woman—more like a teenage girl. She is dressed in black, long, dark hair dancing around her as if it has a mind of its own. She doesn't do anything but stare at the boys, and John knows she is responsible for the storm. He has no idea how she is controlling it. She hasn't seen him yet since he is still hidden largely from her view by the wall of the house. He stays where he is, for just a moment, watch-ing her, trying to find out how she is doing it, if he can feel anything, if there is a clue to how to control such forces… but there’s nothing, he can't feel the wind at all.
John is still staring at the girl, when suddenly the atmosphere changes. The wind picks up, gets so strong it throws Sam against the tree and knocks Dean off his feet and into the fence close to him. The girl starts to mumble something in a weird voice, too low to understand and definitely not a teenager's voice. A red light appears on her head and John realizes she's opening her eyes, eyes that have the color of blood and murder. Her head snaps around toward Dean and she raises her arms, pointing her hands at his son who seems to be completely oblivious to the girl and tries to get to his feet again.
She points at his son, at his living son, at his living son who can’t see her. Can't see the red energy that is gathering at her hands, crackling like a supernatural fire, lethal.
John doesn't think, he acts.
From one moment to the other he's standing behind the girl, wrapping his arms around her body before he is even aware what he's doing.
The girl—the thing—cries out, and her scream becomes so high-pitched it hurts his ears. Behind her he sees Sam wince and bring his hands to his ears, covering them, his face morphing into a grimace of pain. John growls furiously and pulls her off her feet, determined to drag her away from this place.
He isn't strong enough, he doesn't see what she does, but suddenly he's flying through the air, landing right next to Dean near the fence. His son is on all fours, crawling toward Sam determinedly. He doesn't seem to be hearing the girl who is still screeching at top volume, but he is barely strong enough to overcome the wind that is pushing him back.
"HOW DARE YOU?"
John looks up into red, glowing eyes, eyes that are dead and furious. The thing has turned on him and is now pointing its skinny hands at him. They start glowing again and he’s sort of fascinated with the raw power that surges through her body, can feel how she gathers it from the air around them and manipulates it, changes it, until she can use it.
And use it, she does—to send a red lightning bolt into the ground where he crouches.
John is still a hunter, even in this form—especially in this form. His reflexes are still intact and that saves his un-life. He blinks—and he is standing behind her again. He changes his tactic and tries to throw her off her feet. She staggers, but catches herself, reaches her hand out to touch his shoulder, but he isn't there anymore, standing a few feet away from her now.
“You’ll have to try harder than that, sweetheart.”
She does, she whirls around with another bloodcurdling cry—
Just like that.
She’s gone. As is the wind and the screaming. He looks around, blinks, confused… until he sees. Sees Sam standing a few feet away from him, looking up from the book, scanning the place, a cautious expression on his face. As if he’s waiting if whatever spell he’s cast is working.
John knows it is, she is gone, she’s been banished from this place. He doesn’t know how—but he knows.
He staggers, almost goes down. Feels himself weakening. Knows he’s spent too much energy in the fight, has to rest now. The boys are safe and he—
John has been thrown a lot of the later when he was still among the living and, in true Winchester-fashion, it didn’t change once he crossed the line and became what he had originally hunted. His reality now follows different rules and he has to learn them, learn how to live in this world and how to survive in it. Figuratively speaking.
The boys don’t know he’s there and he is still looking for a way to make them see. He knows now that the journal is the key to his existence and also his link to them. He might not be able to talk to them, yet, but the last hunt has shown him that there is a way for him to make sure they are safe, to keep an eye on them.
For a long time he has thought about his prolonged existence as a curse, as another opportunity for the universe to once again fuck with him and his plans and his dreams—but he was wrong.
What he should have seen in it is a second chance, the last chance for him to finally do what he had fought all his life to accomplish: Look out for his kids.
John has no illusions, this is going to be one hell of a ride, especially with him still learning about everything and no way of talking to them—but he’ll manage. He always has. There will come a day when he will be strong enough to reach across the gap that di-vides them and reconnect with his boys.
As long as it isn't there, well, he has a job to do.
(or the beginning?)