John woke up, his arm and shoulder still aching like hell despite the IV drip delivering pain meds at regular intervals. He was surprised to see Dean still asleep in the chair. He'd expected the nurses would've thrown him out sometime in the night.
John smiled to himself. Of course Dean would've managed to sweet talk them into letting him stay. As long as they were female, Dean would've had no trouble doing that at all.
"Hey," John called softly. "Dean, get up."
Dean scrunched up his face, and with a groan opened his eyes slowly. Reaching up with one hand, he massaged the back of his neck.
"Morning Dad," he said with a yawn.
"You alright?" John asked kindly, knowing from a many long nights of his own that hospital chairs were about the least comfortable thing to sleep in that you could imagine.
"Yep, I'm good. You want me to run out and get you some breakfast? Good thing you don't have any diet restrictions with a broken arm and dislocated shoulder, otherwise you'd be stuck with nothing but hospital food." Dean got up and stretched, looking out the window, making sure the Impala was right where he'd left her after dragging his father into the emergency room the previous night.
"Thanks but I have something else I need you to do," John said.
"What?" Dean asked, his attention still partially out the window.
"I need you to finish off that ghost."
John waited for his words to sink and knew they had when Dean became completely still. Slowly turning to his father, he grinned like a kid who'd just gotten the bike he always wanted for Christmas.
"You mean it?"
"Dad. You're…….," Dean paused, looking for the right words. "You're awesome." He finally finished.
John laughed. "Yeah well you might not say that after you have to do all the work by yourself."
A few hours later John was sitting in bed, trying to watch the small tv set but too anxious to pay it much attention. He had sent Dean off to research where Frances was buried. Dean had found out without any trouble and also given John the good news that the grave was on private land. Since there would be no other graves and therefore no mourners around to see the desecration, he was going to burn the bones immediately. It was a definite advantage not to have to wait for nightfall.
The sun had nearly set when John's phone finally rang.
"Finally," he muttered, snatching it up from the table.
"Well?" he said tersely, too nervous about his firstborn being on his own, for pleasantries.
"Deep Fried Frances is now being served," Dean replied. He was standing over an open grave, watching the corpse burn and brushing dirt off himself with his free hand.
John breathed a sigh of relief. One part down, one part to go, he thought.
"Good. You know what to do next."
"Yep, I'll call you when I get there." Dean replied then closed his phone and put it back in his pocket. Taking his shovel, he walked quickly back to the car. Pulling out quickly he raced off to the last place on Frances' list. They were nearly sure that Frances' spirit was gone but "nearly" wasn't good enough for John Winchester.
"Nearly" got people killed more times than he could count, before he'd learned that lesson the hard way. Now John made sure, every time, every hunt.
Dean pulled into the parking lot of another camp ground. The difference between this one and the last being that this place was still open. A few RV's were parked around the place, some with tents outside, some tents just on their own.
He hoped the ghost was gone, otherwise he was going to have one Hell of a time keeping an eye on everyone. Finding a spot in the back of the lot, he pulled his bag out of his trunk and returned to the driver's seat. People weren't surprised to see a guy getting some quick shut-eye in a camp ground so close to the highway so no one paid him the slightest attention.
Pulling the rock salt shotgun out of his bag, he laid it on his lap and set out to wait.
Dean Winchester never fell asleep on the job……or at least he never had before.
Snorting awake, Dean looked around, his heart pounding in his chest. Something was wrong. He knew it.
Getting out of the car, he heard a scream in the distance. Another scream had woken him up, he knew that now.
"Dammit!" he yelled at himself, taking off at a run towards the source of the sound.
He found the ghost hissing and glaring at a young woman. A man lay at the woman's feet but as Dean ran up he was relieved to see him move. The woman looked like she had screamed everything out of herself and now as the ghost advanced towards her, she could only open and close her mouth silently.
"Get down!" Dean screamed.
The woman practically collapsed on top of her boyfriend and as the ghost turned its attention to Dean, she dragged him out into the woods, headed back in the direction of the parking lot.
The spirit turned towards their noisy exit, hissing again in anger.
"Hey bitch! Don't you wanna play with me instead?" Dean yelled, putting his rifle to his shoulder and firing a round right through the thing.
She dissipated but Dean was surprised when she reappeared only a moment later.
"Crap," he whispered to himself as she headed straight for him. Inside his pocket he heard his phone ringing.
Dad, Dean thought. I'm sorry….
John tried not to worry as Dean's phone rang and rang and then went to voicemail. He worked hard to convince himself that there could be a million and one reasons why that would happen. None of them necessarily had to be bad either. Dean could have left the phone in the car while he patrolled the area. He could have dropped it somewhere and not even noticed that it was gone.
John didn't have as much luck convincing himself of it the second time he called. Again it rang and again Dean's voicemail picked up.
"Okay, that's it," John said, throwing the blankets off and getting out of bed. Luckily the night shift had started and there were only half as many nurses to catch him sneaking out. He fumbled under the bed for the bag Dean had brought him earlier and struggled to get dressed. Putting everything on with one hand was harder than he thought but he was still slipping out a side entrance barely ten minutes later.
A few minutes after that John was in a car he'd hotwired, going for one in the farthest back corner of the lot. He didn't like it but with his son in danger he was capable of doing a lot of things he didn't like.
The sedan threw up rocks and gravel as John skidded into the parking lot of the last location in Frances' diary. Just as he pulled himself out of the car a couple came running out of the woods. The woman was crying and the man was limping but they were alive. John left them to fend for themselves, his mind on his son. He saw the Impala parked nearby but no Dean.
Heading back in the direction from which the couple had come, he ran as fast as his body would let him.
Within minutes he heard a screech coming from deep within the woods. It didn't sound human but it sure as hell sounded pissed. John took that as a good sign. If the spirit was pissed then it meant his son was still in the game.
Through the pitch black John thought he saw light from a fire and surged ahead. He skidded to a stop, shotgun held ready when he saw movement near the fire as he got close. A shadow passed in front of the small blaze, seemingly staggering, then fell.
John's heart fell with it for he knew that the figure had to be his son.
As he ran the last few feet towards the light, John found himself in a clearing. He heard a hissing scream nearby and raised his gun. He got ready to blow the spirit away but paused in shock as she screamed again, twitching in obvious agony. As the fire nearby sputtered, so did the spirit before him. A final burst of flame signaled the end of them both.
Not bothering to wonder what had happened, John turned his attention back to the figure lying a few feet away.
"No," he whispered. He ran to Dean even though his feet wanted to stay where they were, afraid that he was already too late.
Hardly daring to believe that he'd heard Dean's voice, John fell to the ground beside his son. He pulled Dean's head into his lap and watched as his son's eyes looked into his and then started to close slowly.
"Hey!" John said, gently shaking Dean.
"Dad. It hurts," It was the understatement of the century but the fact that Dean had said it was enough to scare his father. He didn't admit to pain easily, not unless he wasn't hurt at all and was just screwing around to get attention.
"I know, I know," John said placatingly. He could see that the bitch had taken a good swipe at Dean. The younger man's shirt and the flesh beneath it were torn to strips. It was bad but he couldn't let Dean know so went on talking as normally as he could.
"Stop being such a baby, it isn't even that bad," John lied, he lied with all his might.
Times like these John Winchester hated that he had to be tough on his sons. Knowing that his actions would save Dean, he had to continue. The father in him hated it, he really, really hated it.
Looking heavenward and biting back tears he gathered his strength and called out to Dean again - the Marine returning while the father hid away, unable to do what needed to be done.
"Hey!" John called, shaking his son more forcibly. "You listen to me! You're gonna be fine. Now let's get you up and out of here."
"Dean, listen to me, you're gonna be okay. You're going to be okay!"
It was the closest John Winchester had come to a prayer in a very long time.
He could feel the life leaving his firstborn and John knew what he had to say to bring him back. They were the only words that would mean anything right now.
"Dean! You can't leave! You can't! What about Sam? What is he going to do without you? You have to look out for him remember?"
Just as he knew it would, the last comment brought Dean back. The young hunter's eyes snapped open and he looked at his father.
"Yeah, I'm here kiddo. Let's get you out of here."
John helped Dean the best he could with his good arm, the two of them grunting and hissing in pain. Then he helped Dean to walk, each of them leaning just as much as the other.
After a long, agonizing walk to the car, John finally got Dean settled into the passenger seat and raced them both back to the hospital.
Dean woke up and instinctively reached up to block his eyes from the bright light streaming in through the window. His hands were tangled in something and when he looked down he saw a tube running into his arm. Then he remembered where he was and looked over into the next bed. His father was awake but hadn't noticed that he'd woken up, continuing to stare thoughtfully out the window.
"Dad....I'm sorry....I," Dean began, not sure how he was going to apologize for the stupidity of his mistake.
"It's okay, Dean." John said quietly.
"No it's not, I screwed up. I fell asleep and those people almost..."
"That's right, they ALMOST died. But they didn't and that's because of you. You saved their lives, Dean."
Dean hadn't thought of it that way and paused in surprise. He'd been so sure that a good reaming was coming that he didn't quite know what to do.
"So, you're not pissed?" he asked quietly.
John laughed and finally looked away from the window to regard his son. "Oh, I'm plenty pissed. Next time," he continued. "We'll make sure that you have..."
"Next time?" Dean couldn't stop himself. "You mean you're gonna let me hunt again? Alone?"
"Well, not until I'm sure that I've drilled the hell out of you but yeah, someday I'll let you handle a job on your own again. You did okay, Dean"
John was rewarded with one those grins that reminded him so much of the little boy who used to run around behind him in Scooby Doo pajamas.
A nurse came in then to check on both of them and once she'd decided that both men were stable, left them alone.
"I forgot to ask but how did you get rid of the ghost? I guess burning her bones didn't do it."
"Nope, that just made her really mad," Dean said with a laugh, absently putting a hand to his ribs over the worst of the gashes she had given him.
"So what did you…?" John began.
"Well as she was tearing me up I dropped the diary and that's when it hit me. She had put so much of herself into it. Her dreams, her thoughts, her very soul were such a part of it that I thought maybe it was the diary that was holding her here. So I burned it," he finished with a shrug.
John smiled proudly. "That was a great idea Dean, I couldn't have done better myself."
Dean ducked his head, almost embarrassed at the outright praise that could so rare from his father.
"Yeah well, it was all I could think of at the moment. I'm just glad it worked."
Me too, John agreed silently. Thinking of how close he had come to losing his son sobered him for a moment. Then he remembered what he'd been thinking about just before Dean woke up.
"Oh hey, kiddo. Can you hand me the paper over there?" John asked, pointing to the table that was in between them. Dean reached over to the paper and tossed it to his Dad. As he did so, he saw that it was folded open to the classifieds.
"What ya doing Dad, looking for a job?" Dean joked.
"Nope, a truck," John replied, keeping his voice and expression carefully neutral as he studied the paper in front of him. "I want something a little bigger than the Impala and I figure a nice old pick-up will work. I bet I could fit twice as many weapons into the back of one."
Dean's heart sank. "You're getting rid of the Impala?"
John knew that he was enjoying this a little too much but couldn't help but to play with his son a little bit longer.
"I don't know, maybe. Aren't you tired of that old car?"
"No way! Dad, she's a beauty! She's still got plenty of life in her!"
John decided to let Dean off the hook. "Good, I'm glad you think that way. You can have her."
The elder Winchester couldn't help the smile that spread across his face as he watched his son try and process that last piece of information. Dean's expression went from anger to disbelief to happiness in the span of about two seconds, flat.
"I can….you mean……she's…." Dean stumbled.
"Yep, she's yours. If you're going to start hunting on your own then you'll need something to drive, right?"
"You got that right!" Dean replied with another high wattage grin. It was returned by a matching one from his father.