It was cold. That was the first thing he noticed. It wasn't the white-hot pain of hell, nor the faint nothingness he felt when the devils gate had been opened and he pulled himself out. Those boys had done it, the ones no one had believed in. The ones the world had abandoned. They had stopped Azazel from opening the gate. Well… not quite. But they had closed it soon after. And he had managed to break free from that god-forsaken place first.
Slowly, he stood, a raged shadow in the night. He was alone on the roadside, as he had been for a terribly long time. Always alone…
With a shaky hand held up to his face, the light through the treetops caught his fingertips, sending cobweb-shadows onto the ground below. He had a body. A living body. He felt his face; it felt familiar. The same tired eyes, the same scraggly beard. He was in his old body… but that couldn't be possible. He knew that he would have been taken care of after his death. Maybe he had been somehow reborn.
Carefully, with caution, he stepped onto the road, and a car honked as it swerved to avoid him. So, they could see him. He was alive. His resurrection must have a purpose, but what was it?
Heart pumping in chest, he began to make his way towards the lights ahead, marking a town some miles off. In his heart, John Winchester knew. He hadn't been brought back for nothing.
The trace had taken two days, to John's dismay. Police had barely accepted his story about loosing his cell phone. But still, they eventually allowed him to trace his old cell, and it had lead him to a small town in Nebraska. And now he was there.
With a flick of the wrist, he turned to the yellow pages of the phone book, searching for the first hotel listed. That had always been his system for finding the boys incase they ever got separated. He wondered if they still stuck to that system. A thought suddenly came to John. We're they both alive? One of them had the cell phone; that much was clear. So that guaranteed that one of his boys, his flesh and blood, his sons, were alive. God, please let them both be okay.
When he found the hotel, he made a phone call, looking for his old contact names, and soon found Dean's alias listed as someone staying in the hotel. Still… Sam could be using one of Dean's ID's. It wouldn't be the first time. John hoped again that both the boys were okay. He began his research again.
John walked around the corner slowly in the dark, his hunter instincts still as fresh as the day he died. Room 408 was just a few feet away, which had been where his son – or sons, as the case was hopefully – were staying. He waited, and soon he saw the door open a crack and a tall young man slipped out. He dared edge a bit closer. Sam? The man looked around, and John's thoughts were proved correct. It was Sam.
He watched in his hiding spot as Sam looked around suspiciously, his similar hunter instincts likely picking up John's sent. John drew back a few inches, and Sam put his key in his pocket, and drifted around the corner until he got to a small convenience store down the block. John tailed him the whole time, staying in the shadows.
Sam seemed a little different, he noticed. It was just little things, the way he walked, the way he seemed to be aware of his surroundings, the way his hand drifted to the inside of his jacket once or twice as if reaching for a gun; but John saw it. Sam had become more like… well… him. He had Winchester written all over him. Not that he wasn't ever a Winchester. Somehow, John was saddened that Sam had finally caved, after all John's years of raising him. John had wanted Sam to be more like a hunter, but Sam had fought back. That was secretly the way John wanted his son to be. Normal. Sam had now become a reflection of his father, which John was both proud and confused to see.
"What a surprise," John ducked in an alley as an attractive brunette woman in a leather jacket appeared behind Sam. Where the heck did she come from? "Out for a little stroll are we?"
"Ruby," Sam sighed, looking around and leading her a few steps into the alley, and out of earshot of any passers-by, forcing John to hide behind a dumpster to stay out of sight. "What are you doing here?"
The woman gave a little sigh, leaning against the brick wall of the alley. "I waited at the junkyard last night. You didn't come."
"I told you I wouldn't be there. I'm done with it, all of it." There was both anger and embarrassment in Sam's voice.
"How am I supposed to do this by myself?"
"I don't know, you were a witch once. You think of something."
"I can't do an exorcism Sam!"
"Not the ritual romanum," Sam's voice lowered a tad as someone walked past the alley entrance. "But you know a lot about a lot of things, and there's no denying that."
"The person died you know…"The woman seemed to be testing Sam. " The woman who was possessed. She didn't make it."
"It's a harsh business." Sam's voice was somewhat cold.
"You know I can tell when you're lying, Sam." The woman rolled her eyes, as if bored. "All you had to do was" –
"I think I've lied enough already, least of all to you. I think I own it to my brother to use a little good judgment for once."
"I think it was a little of my good judgment that saved you're ass how many times now? Imagine what Lilith would have done without my little intervention..."
"Yeah, what a great help you were! I'm sure Dean really appreciated it."
John felt himself panicking. Dean? What happened to Dean?
"Maybe if you would have been a little quicker with that knife, you could have finished the job I started, and we wouldn't have this problem!" The woman pushed off of the wall, taking a step closer to Sam.
Sam hesitated, glaring back at her. "And I wouldn't have this problem either." He looked the woman over, obviously stating that she was the problem.
The woman gave Sam a cynical smile. "And that is why we need to do this. We can get through Lilith's minions until we find her and end this once and for all."
"You know, Dean isn't worthless either. We will do an exorcism you know. The old fashioned way. Or the knife" –
"Yeah, the knife! Because you know that that is such a brilliant idea." The woman threw her arms in the air at the clear absurdity of Sam's idea. "Why do you think what we do works so well Sam? No words, no Latin, no colt, no knife. And at least we have a chance in hell of saving the person!"
"A chance in hell? What do you have to loose Ruby? I actually have a soul to worry about!"
The woman shook her head both sadly and cynically. "You disappoint me," She gave him once last look before beginning to walk away.
"I'd sure like to hope so." Sam didn't even watch her leave. He just let her. Then, with a heavy sigh that showed how much Sam had now taken on, he continued into the convenience store.
John waited until Sam left again, and continued to tail him after he left the store. He knew it was no point alerting Sam of his presence until at least tomorrow, lest Sam know that John had been following him. It was nothing personal; John had been gone a long time. What was wrong with checking up on his boys?
When Sam rounded the corner of another alley on the way back to the hotel, John's thoughts were interrupted. Where is he going? He followed Sam around the corner carefully, down to the end, and around another corner, but stopped. Sam was gone. What the…
Suddenly Sam jumped at him, knife in hand and John was thrown against a wall. John ducked back from another swing, temporarily dazed but still ready for self-defense. "Whoa, Sam. Wait" –
"What are you?" Sam held out the knife in front of him, ready to fight. John noticed that it was silver.
"Sam, I'm not" –
Sam took another swing, this one John ducking under Sam's arm and backing up.
"Now Bobby I would understand. Or Dean. But my dad?" Sam interrupted once again. "Now that's a neat trick."
"Damnit Sam, It's me."
Sam pushed John against the brick wall, the knife at the ready. "You would have to be a shape-shifter, wouldn't you? I mean, how stupid do you think I am?"
"I'm not a shape-shifter Sam!" John was surprised. Sam had really changed. He was stronger, faster, a better hunter."I just woke up in the middle of nowhere, and I traced my old cell phone, and" –
"That story's a little convenient, don't you think?"
Sam made a movie with the knife, and John grabbed his wrist, and slamming it against the brick, managed to get the knife to fall out of Sam's hand. Sam pulled away quickly, his sleeve pushing halfway up his arm, and reached for the knife, but a knee to the side sent him to the ground long enough for John to grab it.
"Look," John held the knife in front of him, gesturing for Sam to stay back as he pulled himself to a stand. "Now listen to me. I am not a shape-shifter. And I'm not a trickster or a demon or a …" he took a deep breath. " I'm old. I don't want to do this. Now how can I prove to you that I'm me?"
Sam, also breathing hard, looked from the knife to John, as if considering his options. Just then, John noticed something on Sam's arm under his sleeve that had been pushed up in the fight. It looked like some kind of circular burn mark, with a line down the center…
"What the hell is that?"
Sam gave a look around, then followed John's gaze down to his wrist, still weary of the knife in front of him. Even though Sam was a lot more of a guarded person than he used to be, John could still read his face to see what he was thinking. Firstly, How do you not know this? And second of all, If you aren't my father, why would you care?
John forced a tight smile. "So… how's your brother?'
Sam hesitated. "What do you want with me?"
John huffed a little bit, letting the knife fall to his side. "Well a better greeting would have been nice. But, It's nice to see you taking care of yourself so well."
Sam didn't say anything. He didn't seem to know if John was insulting him or complimenting him.
"Truth be told,"John started hopefully. "I didn't even think about how you boys would react when… I just knew I had to find you. It's been so…"
"So long." Sam nodded a little bit, finishing John's sentence. "Over two years now. I…"He hesitated, frowning at John. After a few seconds, Sam's eyes raised back to John's. He gave a little sigh of disbelief, as if finally seeing in John's eyes something that told the truth. "I can't believe it."
"Neither can I." John smiled, shrugging.
Both men stood staring at each other for a minute, and then Sam started forwards, pulling his father into a hug.
After a while, John pulled away. "Damn boy, were you always this tall?"
Sam laughed, shaking his head. "Way to ruin the moment dad."
"I'm serious. Did I get shorter or something?"
"I doubt it." Sam reached down and picked up the knife, sticking it into a little sheath in his belt.
"Hey Sam," John caught up with his son, as they made their way out of the alley together. "What year is it?"
"Two-thousand and eight."
"And…"John was almost afraid to ask. " How is Dean?"
Sam smiled. "Well if you hurry up, you can see for yourself."
"What?" John looked over to Sam, curious.
"Just be careful. Dean has a knife of his own."