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[personal profile] rageprufrock
All right, normally I wouldn't post a section this short, but this journal has been a WASTELAND this month, so you know what, why not? Happy reading. Have some Deanna Beth Winchester's Crazy Fucking Family Being All Crazy All Over Each Other:

Title: Wayfinding, pt 9/?
Rating: R, for see above

The hunting community at large responds to John's miraculous resurfacing on the circuit with disdain and suspicion; he hadn't expected anything less, but it does make him wonder about the number of times someone sneers at him and says, "I fucking knew it," like he'd called in stuck in hell to get out of God damn work or something.

He stays in Kansas for two weeks, hoovering up three small-fry ghosts and offing one poltergeist, rapidly becoming a hazard at the local bar, before he goes west, into California, where he loiters around Napa exorcising minor demons out of winery basements and drives in the cool early mornings.  When he calls Bobby, all he gets is that they haven't found anything; when he calls Sam, Sam doesn't pick up the phone.  So basically, everything is pretty much the same as always, with Sam righteously furious and Bobby barely tolerant and Deanna dead and John good for fuck-all.

John's never been good at taking care of Deanna, not the way he should have been.  He taught her to shoot a gun and throw a punch, how to salt and burn a ghost and take out a witch, but none of it ever helped.  All the people who've really hurt her are immune to rock salt and prayer.  

Sam hates the fact that John thinks they're doing the right thing, that he won't bend enough to consider there's another way; John's never fucking thought he was doing the right thing — he's always just been doing whatever he can to try and keep his family safe, to protect Deanna, to teach Sam how to protect himself, to look after his sister the way she always looked after him: unwavering.

He works every connection he has.  He beats down the door of every psychic he's ever met, pulls every string, calls in every favor, and all he gets is rumors, third-hand rumbles filtered and aged through a barrel of whiskey, but he'll take it — he'll take anything, and that's how he ends up at Conner Beverley Behavioral Medical Center.

The ward clerk is about three-quarters battleaxe, one-fourth soft touch, because even though she glares at John like he's about to set the entire hospital on fire when he wanders up to the station, her face softens in increments when he says he's looking for Anna — Anna Milton?  

"No one's been to see her in ages," the clerk, Angela, says suspiciously.

John ducks his head.  He heard that from Sam.  

"Well — she and my boy used to date," he mumbles.  "I thought one day they might — anyway, I haven't seen her in ages, since she and Sam broke up."  He glances back up at the clerk, looking embarrassed.  "I guess I was just wondering if she was okay."

Angela raises a finger and picks up the phone, a tiny smile on her mouth.  

"Hold on a second," she tells him, and a few minutes later he's ushered into the rec room, watching people in paper pajamas mill around and stuffing himself into an awkward chair in front of an awkward-height table and staring a shattered-glass girl with bottle-red hair and dark circles under her eyes.  John's a daddy, too, and something in his chest aches, looking at her, and he didn't know it yet, when he was lying to Angela, but maybe he meant it when he said he was worried about her.  

"You're Anna Milton," John says.  

Demon activity, Trevor had told him, drawn like fireflies to this mental hospital, and more than that, crazy girl who said she could hear voices like the possessed, who kept talking about the end of the world and angels.  

The girl just stares at him.  "I never dated anybody named Sam," she tells him.

John raises his eyebrows.  "Then why did you come out and see me?"

"The other option was continued confinement — lying creeper still seemed like a better choice," she answers, surprisingly lucid, and she tips her head to one side.  "Why did you want to see me?"

John shifts in his seat.  "I hear you hear things."

Now it's her turn to raise her eyebrows.  "That's kind of why I'm here."

"What sorts of things do you hear?" John asks, because he's on fucking radio silent, here. Bobby's got jack shit, Sam's still ignoring his calls, half the hunters he's talked to think he came back wrong because he's asking about angels — which are generally agreed to be myths.  The other half tell him to give the phone to Deanna.

"That the end is coming," Anna tells him flatly, like she's said this before, like nobody listened all those other times.  She plucks at her hospital bracelet, the knee of her loose pants.  She doesn't look away from his eyes, and there's a sort of wrecked determination he knows in her face, like she knows she's crazy but fuck you anyway.  "That there're more than 600 seals, but Lilith only needs to break 66 to free Lucifer."

John remembers hearing about Lilith in hell, the way people topside talk about Mary, the virgin theotokos, and he swallows around the nausea building in his chest, asks, "Who's talking about all of this?"

Resigned, she looks away, at a window, at the green leaves outside, in full summer green now, luminous and thick, and sighs, "The angels."

"You can hear the angels?" he asks, but he must sound more hopeful than unconvinced, because Anna says, wondering:

"You believe me."

He can't help the smile that creeps, ragged, across his mouth.  "I've heard stranger."

Her eyes change then, gone suddenly clear and quick, like the still-sharp edge of a flaked onyx, and she asks, "Who are you?"

Now John looks away, to the same windows, and outside, the crackling, unrelenting heat of July is steaming up the glass where it clashes with the A/C vents inside the hospital rec room.  He has a sudden, vivid flash of summer afternoons like this — during his five-year embargo on air conditioning — when Deanna and Sam would ride their bikes down to the quarry and come home hours later, sunburnt and languorous, and how for an afternoon they'd been perfectly normal and both his babies were completely safe, and the easy pleasure of that memory is sweet like honey rolling down his throat, and aching all the more because it's lost.

He shakes his head a little, snaps himself out of the dense, North Carolina heat, and turns back to the girl, back to Anna Milton, who's looking at him like she's seen him before and she's just trying to remember from where.

"John Winchester," he tells her, and he doesn't get a chance to explain what he does, why he's here, that he needs her help, if she knows anything, ask if the angels have mentioned Deanna, if she knows anything, because Anna's eyes go round and she whispers:

"It's you — the angels have been talking about you."

The next time they talk, it's half a day later, ragged and crazed and panting for breath in John's truck as they haul ass the fuck out of town, the demons who'd kicked down the door of Connor Beverley's rec room hot on their heels.

"So," Anna gasps, twisted around in the car, hospital pajamas flapping in the blustery wind from the opened windows of John's Ford, "demons."

He tightens his hands on the wheel. "Oh, yeah."


They end up at the Roadhouse.

Ellen takes one look at John, at Anna, at her hospital-issue clothes and their generalized air of being busted and sighs. She says, "God damn it, Winchester," and lets them in. Jo's shy with him, the way she'd been shy with with Deanna, too — older and intimidatingly pretty to everybody but herself — and Anna just looks startled and sometimes distracted, like she keeps hearing loud noises in another room.

"All right," Ellen says, after giving both of them stiff cups of coffee, Irish, and sandwiches and situating herself so she can glare at them over the bar. "You're being fed and watered. What the hell is going on?"

John clears his throat. "So, this is Anna."

Anna waves, awkward. "Hi."

Ellen takes this in and turns back to John. "She's younger than Deanna, you pervert."

"She can hear you," Anna protests, sounding so obviously mortified John feels sorry for himself for half a beat.

"And also," he says, recovering, "she can hear the angels."

Ellen purses his mouth and turns to Anna. "Angels," she says. "Really."

Distracted again, Anna says, "Yeah — my parents put me in the hospital because of it."

"Great," Ellen says, and turns back to John. "You broke her out of the mental ward?"

John realizes this whole thing is destined for shit when he hears himself say, "I had to! Demons busted in and were trying to kill her!" and Anna burst into sudden, aching tears, gasping that the angels are talking about her again, talking about her human parents, and how the demons had ripped through them like tissue paper. He watches Ellen and Jo run to her, sweep her up in the circles of their arms and hush her, and all John can do is remember's Deanna's face, wet with tears in the familiar air of their kitchen at night: how reflexive it had been to hug her tight and scrub her cheeks and to love her like reflex, and how he'd known then that hell could scrape for eternity and there were some things they could never have, never take.

Later that night, after Jo's put Anna to bed, John's left alone in the main room, staring at the uneaten sandwiches and debating whether or not it's worth it to call Sam. He's sort of a coward at the heart of it, so he calls Bobby instead.

"You're a piece of shit, Winchester," Bobby says by way of hello.

John says, "I found a girl who can hear angels."

The conversation doesn't go anywhere, really, from there. Bobby wants to know what the hell she's hearing, if they can believe her; John tells him that she's too busy weeping her eyes out over her dead parents, which pretty effectively kills the conversation until he sucks it up and asks, "So. How's Sam."

"Crazy," Bobby spits at him through the phone. "Totally fucking crazy."

"Great, good to hear," John says.

Bobby cultivates a long and worried silence before he admits, "I'm worried he might do something stupid."

Over the years and over a million different fights, John's said a lot of ugly things about Sam, stupid's never been one of those. But he knows, too, that if Sam's stupid about anything, it's Deanna.

They've always loved each other best, kept one another's secrets, been thick as thieves, and John has only ever been able to watch from a distance, to send messages through Deanna and hope that Sam would listen when they got there. He's okay with that, sort of, because John never really knew Sam as a baby, didn't get a chance to fall in love with him the way he did Deanna, to memorize every second of her. John didn't take Sam to the playground or read him bedtime stories or make him extravagant promises or worry that Sam would be embarrassed by him and look up medical schools, this time. He lost all of Sam's childhood to revenge; John made this bed, and he'll sleep in it.

"Yeah," John croaks. "I worry, too."

Because John remembers how the motel room had looked, when he'd gotten back in the rippling Mississippi heat a dozen lifetimes ago. He remembers how Sam and Deanna had called him from the parking lot pay phone and said the police had made them and they were hiding out, that John should come get them, that they'd cleaned out the room. He doesn't remember why he went to the fucking Castaway Motor Lodge anyway — maybe he didn't believe them — but he remembers fucking Malcolm Verkerk, gutted and already going cold on the floor, blood soaking into the carpet and his eyes fogged over. He remembers the torn up sheets on the bed, the scratches on Malcolm's arms, the blood on his mouth, and Deanna's green panties with their white polka-dots ripped up and halfway under the motel dresser and he remembers wishing Verkerk wasn't already dead, that John could kill him all over again.

In the subsequent year, when Deanna wouldn't let anybody touch her and Sam stood by her like a terrifyingly earnest child soldier and sentry, John remembers trying to take the scene apart, make sense of the pieces that didn't fit. Like how Malcolm was solid, 200 pounds, easy, and fit like any good ex-recon Marine should be. Like how Deanna was just a baby — Jesus, just a baby — and mean as hell and fucking terrifying with a gun, but not strong enough by far to gut a grown man. And how shit just seemed to fall over all the time around Sam: glasses breaking, lamps tipping over, and him seemingly across the room each time. That one time Deanna and John had fought about something, and the kitchen window nearest to him had shattered like someone had thrown a fist through it. How that night when he'd gone to Deanna's room to stare at her in mute apology, Sam had been sitting at the foot of her bed scowling into a copy of Martin the Warrior and then John, when he'd tried to go into her room.

Deanna always made excuses for Sam, let him hide behind John's inability to ask her any questions after Malcolm for fear she would answer one honestly. And so in that big silence that grew out like a cancer between them, Sam and Deanna built their own cities and walls and John lived outside, always uninvited. He remembered them curled up like puppies in the backseat of the Impala with a beat-up paperback, Deanna letting Sam read over her shoulder, the two of them lost somewhere in the pages while the world rolled by the car windows, and John just drove from point to point to point, hoping they'd forgive him and let him in.

"Just call him, Winchester," Bobby sighs; John's always thought that Bobby loves John's kids to much, that those kids love Bobby back in a way that makes jealousy knot up in the pit of his stomach, coiled like a snake. "You should call Sam."

John shakes his head. "He won't pick up."

"Doesn't mean you should stop trying," Bobby says. "Tell me about your angel radio."

Upstairs, there's no more muffled crying, but John thinks Anna's just tired, cried out. He wants to know what she's been hearing badly enough that he might go full asshole and to interrogate her anyway, but he can't handle anymore crying girls in his life, he's all full up, and so he hides on the first floor and fiddles with the tumblers instead.

John tells Bobby about the 66 seals, about hell picking locks to free the devil, and Bobby cusses a lot of redneck cusses and starts rattling off names, talking about a phone tree, saying he's got to contact as many hunters.

"You've got Ash there at the Roadhouse, get him to help," Bobby instructs.

"I'm not completely fucked in the head, Singer," John snipes, even though he hadn't seen Ash at all and neither Jo nor Ellen have volunteered him. "I was going to."

"No, you're just mostly fucked in the head," Bobby retorts, and after a pause, says, "You have to consider you might not be able to get her back."

"Shut the fuck up, Bobby," John tells him.

"Because I saw how this shit went down the first time," Bobby goes on. "And Sam doesn't deserve to go through that shit again, not when he's already lost his — "

John hangs up.

And I mentioned a while back that I had made a playlist for when I was working on this story, and I think a few people expressed interest in knowing what it was. I'm not going to upload any songs, but in case you want to put your own version together:

1. "Astigmatism," Astronautalis
2. "Breathe," Telepopmusik
3. "I Will Possess Your Heart," Death Cab for Cutie
4. "All These Things That I've Done," The Killers
5. "She's a Jar," Wilco
6. "Daughters," John Mayer
7. "The Artist," The Hush Sound
8. "Soldier," Ingrid Michaelson
9. "Feelin' Love," Paula Cole
10. "American Car," Mike Doughty
11. "Teardrop," Massive Attack
12. "Cold Cold Water," Mirah
13. "Cruel," Tori Amos
14. "Light on a Hill," Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos
15. "All Is Not Lost," OK Go
16. "Chain," Ingrid Michaelson
17. "Suitcase," Joe Purdy
18. "Anthem," Phantom Planet
19. "Come on Get Higher," Matt Nathanson
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