Thanks to everyone for the feedback and sorry that these posts are so unpredictable. As per request, we now move on to what's happening with John and, at some point, what's happening with Sam.
John Winchester never claimed to be sentimental. He's not, by definition, a touchy, feely sort of guy. Most of this comes from being in a marine, the other part comes from finding his wife pinned to the ceiling of his home and watching her burn to death. Both those things created in him a dark gruffness which hides a lot of hurt and scarring. It tends to make him difficult to be around, an ass to talk to, and a shitty father when it comes to traditional comforting, supporting and remembering of national holidays and birthdays. He's just not the guy who's going to express himself and buy Christmas trees and wish his kid good luck before his soccer game. And if people have a problem with it, then they can shove guns up their asses and pull the trigger.
Of course, this mindset came with certain issues in the beginning. One of those was named, is named, Sam Winchester, his little bouncing, baby boy. The second was named, is named, Child Services. Neither Sam nor Child Services understood that what he did was important. One too many days of school skipped and both of them jumped down his throat like they were spelunking. Child Services looked at his sons' attendance records, looked at the bruises decorating them, looked at the strange hospitalizations, looked at his supposed lack of stable work and said, "Sir, we think you should consider seeking medical help or we may need to remove Sam and Dean to a… better suited lifestyle."
He'd fought them. He'd won.
Sam was a totally different bag of wet cats. While Child Services didn't know the whole story, Sam did and he still held the same opinion. This was, of course, because Sam needed more than John could give; he wanted, no, he needed, John would not deny him that, the dad who was home, who said good job when there was an A, who remembered birthdates and play dates and school dates, who wanted to hang up lights on the house when the winter season came about. He held it against John that John couldn't provide it and he searched for something to fill whatever hole had been opened up by John's absence. For a while, Dean fit the role and when Dean wasn't enough, Sam went to college and forgot about them all together.
Now, John Winchester does a shot of Jack; Sam's stumbled back into the game, gained his sea legs and made John's lack of attention look like child's play. But he won't think of that now, not today, not when he's got other things to do. That's right Johnny-boy, store it away, forget about it; forgetting is the easiest part to do when you've screwed up so bad that the banner you've fought under, your wife, would hate you for your actions. He gets off his barstool, tosses down bills to pay for the booze and the tip, and strides out the door to do something he would never have done ten years ago. Or five years ago even.
The parking lot has the Impala even though it should be Sam's car. Sam wouldn't take it, wouldn't sit in it, wouldn't even look at it. The day John barked they had to start moving on became so much like the day Sam announced he was going to college that after Sam stormed out the door, John reeled. And the funny part is, John didn't mean moving on the way Sam thought he had. He slips into the driver's seat, rearranging the rearview mirror so that he can't see any of the backbench. Some stains don't come out right and he can't bear to look at them. Not today.
The funny part is, Sam misinterpreted John this time. Last time, he'd hit pretty close to the mark and that's probably why it John got so angry. Sam, eighteen, impetuous, self-righteous, pinned everything John had done wrong, rubbed it in his face and demanded that he make right. No one in the world enjoys that, much less an ex-marine, current hunter, with a bit of a drinking problem. He kicked Sam out that time because it stung to hear the truth. This time, however, John meant start over, get another chance, make it up to Sam for years of missed opportunities.
Dean had died on them because John couldn't handle himself. His darling boy, Mary's little angel, had gone to the grave in a shitty old cabin because John couldn't break out of his ways; John wanted to fix that somehow and Sam interpreted it as, "Time to forget your brother" and "Time to forget all of his (John's) mistakes" and "Time to stop being a whiny little bitch." He had reason to; every previous time John had demanded he let go, those things had applied and John wasn't the type to change his spots. Still, it's been years, and every time he hears Sam's voice, his heart breaks a little.
He buys a bottle of Jack from a familiar liquor store, smiling at the woman at the counter who smiles back, her left incisor missing.
"That time of the month again, Johnny?" she asks. He hates the way she lisps it out, like they are friends, like she knows him. But he gives her a smile because anything else would be inappropriate.
"Things to do, Phyllis," he tells her so she won't pry into why he buys a bottle of Jack from the same place, same time, every month. It doesn't change the fact that he has to look at her name tag every purchase. "Thanks."
He takes the liquor back to the car in its neat little brown bag and places it reverently on the seat next to him. Once upon a time, he would've opened it and started the boozing as he drives, but the past years have taught him a thing or two about self-control. The car slides into gear seamlessly, though not as seamlessly as it used to, and he drives down the road towards his home away from home. It's late, it's not far and it's strangely comforting considering the connotations of his visit and the place itself; but he figures he emptied it of every ghoul, ghost and goblin ages ago. Anything new gets torched before it has a chance to get malevolent.
He parks outside of the iron gates and tucks the keys in his pocket. There's also a lighter, some fluid, some salt, holy water; these days, he can never be too prepared, even with every protection possible tattooed on his body. With his bottle and a few shot glasses stored in his jacket, he climbs the fence and slides onto the other side. It's not misty or particularly dark in this place; just a bit grubby, non-descript with a tiny house on the edge where the groundskeeper stays to ward off kids playing jokes. The two of them had words long ago, and the man gives John freedom to do as he pleases while John keeps the "impossible" away from the man.
Edgar, he thinks. The guy's name is Edgar.
His destination's at the very edge, far away from the other graves, tiny, inscribed with the words, "Dean Winchester, Loyal Son and Beloved Brother, 1979—2006." He tries not to think of what's actually there most of the time, kind of how he avoids looking at the backseat; it opens up something ugly and festering inside of him that he neither likes nor accepts. So, when he reaches the stone, every month, he settles next to it, legs crossed and opens his bottle of Jack. Then he and Dean split the bottle, shot for shot, him taking one and pouring another onto the ground over his son's grave. Considering his profession, it's a ridiculous sentiment; he knows Dean isn't there, but sometimes, human grief conquers all. And he's been doing this for a long, long time.
Something's wrong. He senses it before he actually reaches the marker and sees it before he's within ten feet. The grave's been disturbed; he can tell by the way the grass sits and the slight tilt to the headstone. His feet carry him faster to his son's side, because, damn it, no one messes with his boys if he can stop it, and his heart leaps into his throat. It's just a body, a dark part says to him. And a naïve part adds, what can they do with a body? Too many things, the hunter whispers, darkly. So many things. You should've burned him when you had the chance.
His gorge rises when he actually lays eyes on the area. The grass isn't brown as he's used to for most reanimations. It has melted, like Astroturf when it meets fire, everything molded and bright green until it looks like something not even related to grass. The headstone's warped out of proportion and the words, so important, have disappeared so now, all it reads is "Dn Wchs" with no dates at all. Trembling, he reaches out to touch the ground and discovers that underneath the ruined foliage is loosely packed earth, as though someone's recently dug.
Someone's stolen his boy; his precious son. And he has a pretty good idea who.
"Singer," a tired voice mutters through the phone as he paces, the bottle open, burning liquid tearing at his throat.
"Where the fuck is he, Bobby?" he demands. "Tell me, or I swear to—"
"Don't you threaten me, John Winchester," Bobby snaps in reply. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Dean," he hisses in a voice that's frightened even Demons. "Where is my son?"
"You're at his grave," Bobby states, doesn't ask.
"Yes and someone's done the zombie act with him," he snarls it. His heart's breaking because he knows what this means. "Where did you put him, Bobby?"
"Why do you think it was me, John?" Bobby sounds ancient, exhausted.
"Because, you bastard," his heart's in his throat and he shoves it back with the Jack, "because only four people know where Dean's buried. Me, Sam, Jackson and you. I didn't do it. Sam—" He can't finish so he skips. "And Jackson's dead. That leaves you."
There's a brief second of silence, just enough to make him certain, before Bobby says, "Well, John, for starters, Jackson's alive. Been out and about for nearly a year now but staying under wraps. But it wasn't him and it wasn't me either."
"Then who, Bobby? You know who it is."
"It was Castiel who did it," Bobby says it slowly, quietly, in a calm the savage beast manner that pisses him off even more, "under Michael's orders but it was me and Jackson who dug him up."
Castiel, Michael, heaven; he hates all those bastards almost as much as he hated the damn demon. His stomach lurches at the idea of them polluting his boy, bringing him back from whatever peace Dean found, and forcing him into a role. As much as he had sought to get his son back, once the shit really hit the fan, he decided to let Dean stay gone. The last thing Dean needed was to come home to a world that his family helped screw up, especially when his brother's… well… and his dad's on the run. But another part of him feels sick with himself because he knew this day would come, because Castiel had come to him months ago to warn him, and he hadn't listened.
The cell phone creaks under his hand as he clenches his fist. "Tell me where he is."
"We don't know, John," Bobby doesn't hesitate this time. "He's got a whole set of powers and he ran off somewhere. We're—"
"Powers," he interrupts. "What do you mean powers?"
"I mean turning tile to pudding and killing people with his voice," Bobby tells him. "And no idea how to control it. We think—"
"And you let him out on his own?"
"Will you shut up and let me talk?" He does and Bobby continues. "We didn't let him anything. We locked him down tight to keep Michael out of his head and Castiel away from him, and somehow, he jumped ship. Right now, we're trying to track him but John—"
He sits and dumps the rest of the bottle onto the dried out turf. His voice shakes despite his attempts to control it, "My son's alive."
Bobby's voice croaks a bit. "Yeah, Dean's alive."
"My son's alive."
"But he's different," Bobby's tone holds a warning. "He's… I don't know what to tell you John, but he ain't the same kid I knew."
"But he's alive," John whispers, as though that word overrides everything else, the powers (like Sam), the zombification (like so many he'd put down), the agenda (which he'd used Dean for under different circumstances) and the missing.
"If what's happened aligns with our worries," Bobby says. "Then he's being prepared to rot as Michael's vessel."
A bitter, slightly hysterical laugh escapes him. "Over my dead body, Bobby."
And he snaps the phone shut. With more confidence and determination then he's felt in years, he returns to the car. Dean paid for his mistakes four years ago and there was nothing he could do to stop it. But he's learned a few things since then and this will not pan out the same way. Just because he, John Winchester, won't agree to end the world as Michael's vessel doesn't mean that Dean Winchester has to. If John has his way, the angel's are going to regret ever daring to use his son against him like this.