Disclaimer: Yes, I own the show Supernatural...I bought it off EBay. No, I'm kidding, please don't sue…
Summary: An angst-ridden snapshot of what John Winchester's life has become, and a memory of baby Sam and young Dean makes him wish he'd become better.
Author's Note: I miss Supernatural entirely way too much as it's on hiatus, and I'm seriously going through withdrawal. In my pain and private torture, I whipped this up. I hope you'll let me know what you think.
A Thousand Minus One
It had been another long night. The last remnants of evening had dissipated when the moon sunk below the rolling hills off in the distance. And as night left, dawn broke into the horizon, coating the morning sky with the shades of sunrise. Azure mixed with plum and pale pink, a tinge of lemon yellow, a haze of orange, and then the sun made its appearance and lit the surrounding land with warm light. No matter how beautiful the colors were around him, all John Winchester saw was red.
Not just any red, but blood red. His hands were covered in the hot, red liquid. His clothing, what wasn't torn and shredded, was stained with the vile mark of blood. And he was certain without seeing it that his eyes, too, shone red from staying up all night.
He pulled out an old cloth from his nearly-falling-apart duffle bag and wrapped it around the doorknob of his latest motel room. After opening it and walking in, he shut it quickly, as if he was shutting out the lurking memories of what took place hours before. He knew, though, that even on the safe side of locked doors, the past would always be there searching for a way in.
He set his duffle bag down and made his first stop towards the bathroom sink. Blood smeared on the faucet handle and water poured out, greatly welcomed by John's bleeding hand. He let the water wash away the blood, watched as the blood left the palm of his hand and entangled with the whirling water, disappearing down the drain. Sometimes he wished he could disappear as fast as blood down a drain.
He took a long look into the mirror, studying the reflection that gave him such a look of pity.
See who you are? A killer. A justified killer. And it's all you ever will be.
No, not all he ever would be, he argued within himself. He's been a husband, he's a father, and just a few hours ago, he was a werewolf killer.
Well, you got two out of three…
He looked away from the reflection in a brief pang of anger. John Winchester, that's not the name of a father, but the name of a man who…partially raised two boys. He could have laughed at that, but laughter didn't come so easily to John. Instead he scoffed at his reflection once more, cleaned the sink of the remaining blood and wiped the faucet off. He then used a temporary bandage for his hand, grabbed a fresh change of clothing, and headed for the shower to rid himself of the remaining werewolf blood covering his body.
John sat at the empty table in the room. He looked at the empty chairs beside him, and wished his two sons could be here with him. Not a day passed by when he didn't think of his kids. Not a breath escaped his lips when he didn't remember why he was on this journey, this mission he had no choice but to accept; it was all for Mary, for Sam and Dean, for the innocent families who don't deserve to be torn apart by evil.
Then why are you here, alone, without your sons? What kind of a father are you? You've abandoned them, time after time…and now they're all alone.
But not alone. They had each other, and that was the single most comforting thought John had. Still, he wished it could be different…especially for Sam. He'd been so hard on his children, but Sam never seemed to understand why. And maybe, John didn't understand why either. If it wasn't for Dean…Sam would be alone.
John leaned back in the chair, it slightly budged, squeaking across the floor and disrupting the silence of the room. He had known and accepted for quite some time that his role in Sam's life might be lost. And he remembered terribly well the first time he realized it might be too late…
John Winchester opened his eyes, wearily lifting himself up from a pile of library books. Had he fallen asleep? He arose with haste, knocking a few notebooks off his messy desk, and ran out of his room. At first he turned left in the hall, this newly rented apartment had not been studied very well, and after he realized he was on his way to the bathroom he spun around towards the front room, painted in the glow of television light.
Baby Sammy, safe in his playpen, fiddled around with a stuffed mouse, really a cat toy that the neighbor lady didn't mind letting Sam borrow when he took it. There had been something about the look in his eyes she couldn't ignore, and even though her cat adored the toy, she knew Whiskers wouldn't mind letting the whimsical child take care of it. Hunched over a pillow on the couch was Dean, eyes painfully focused on the television portraying a psychotic Jack Nicholson yelling "Heeere's Johnny!" from The Shining.
John let out a small sigh of relief. He had no intention of falling asleep; leaving his children unsupervised….again. He ran his fingers through a disheveled mound of hair on his slightly throbbing head, sore from lying on hardcover books.
"Everything all right, Dean?" John said. Dean just nodded, completely involved in the movie. John walked over to Sam and picked him up, putting him in his highchair and grabbing a can of baby food from the refrigerator. He opened it up and began to stir it. He lifted a spoonful towards Sam, who was not entirely sure he wanted to eat it.
"Come on, Sammy, time to eat," John said, a tinge of hope in his dry voice. Sam refused. "Ahh," John attempted a sound of opening his mouth to welcome the food in. Sam still refused. "I wish your mother was here," John spoke in a hardly audible whisper. Just then, baby Sam began to whimper, tears fell from his eyes and his voice whined. Dean propped himself up from the couch, took one look at the situation and immediately ran over.
"No, dad, you're doing it all wrong," Dean told his father matter-of-factly. "Here, I'll show you,"
Dean took the spoon, scooped a bunch more of the mashed food onto it, and then began waving it around.
"Look, Sammy, you better catch it before it gets away!" Dean shouted with excitement. Sam caught the vision of the maneuvering spoon and his tears stopped. Dean waved it towards and away from Sam, splattering a little on the table, and Sam. Sam began giggling, opening his mouth and extending his arms out for the spoon. Dean was laughing with him and brought it to Sam's mouth, where he happily accepted it and flapped his hands in the air as if to ask for more.
John observed this with admiration and a true smile crept to his face for the first time in weeks.
"See, dad?" Dean smiled and handed the spoon to his dad.
"Yes, I see," John nearly laughed, ruffling Dean's hair. "I think I can take it from here, thanks,"
Dean jumped back onto the couch and once again joined the movie. John began feeding Sam, as Dean instructed, and it was working. For a brief instant, he felt like everything was…normal. And then it happened.
John's eyes widened. Sam was trying to say something.
"Go on, Sammy," John coaxed.
"D…D-dean. Dean!" Sam chirped. "Dean!" his little arms flailed in the air, gleefully yelling out his brother's name. Dean heard it and once again rushed over.
"Did he just say my name?" he asked, in an enthusiastic disbelief.
"Dean!" baby Sam shouted again.
"I'm here, Sammy! Dean, you're brother! This is so cool, dad, he knows me!"
In a mixture of joy and sorrow, John Winchester listened to his youngest repeat his first word. It wasn't "Dada" or "Mama", or anything else, but it was his brother's name…Dean. Sam's first word could have been "antidisestablishmentarianism", any other word, and John wouldn't have felt…like he did.
He understood that since Mary died, he'd hardly paid much attention to his boys. He'd become intensely focused with his studies, searching for the truth, searching for an answer he was desperate to find, and he'd practically forgotten his children, Mary's children. And Sam, in just a short time, has bonded more with his brother than with his father.
John was not ashamed that his sons were bonding. In fact, he was pleased to know their bond grew stronger everyday. John was not ashamed of Sam for relying on his brother. He was not ashamed of Dean for stepping in to take on a role bigger than a big brother's. John was ashamed of himself. He was ashamed of what he'd become and what he was becoming. And he was disappointed that it was too late to change what's been set in motion.
-:-:-:-:-:-The present time-:-:-:-:-:-
John threw a sheet over the motel window to help shield out the sunlight. Somehow, blinds and curtains were never enough.
He lied down on the bed and looked around tiredly at the walls, studied the furniture. He never much cared to look at the ceiling because no matter where he was, he'd always she her there. And he'd feel her blood always dripping over him. No, he couldn't look. His eyes wandered to the nightstand. It was bare, save for the cheap digital clock, the small lamp, and his cell phone. He stared at the cell phone. He studied it.
He could have called them, answered their calls, a thousand times. He could apologize a thousand times. He could tell them he loved them a thousand times. And yet, a thousand times, he let the phone keep ringing. And a thousand times he did not answer. And a thousand times he did not call. And it killed him.
He missed Sam and Dean so much, and part of him knew Dean would be fine But Sam…it'd been over four years since they've spoke, and it tore him apart. His two little boys, grown up but still his little boys, were a phone call away and albeit the demons and monsters he's fought without fear over the years, he felt like a coward.
Just call them. Dial the number. Talk to them. Talk to your sons.
Talk to them about what? How their life is going, holding the well-paying jobs and coming home through white picket fences, standing in living rooms that look like a page out of a catalog, being greeted by their wife and children, not to mention the loyal family dog?
And when they ask him what has he been up to? When Dean begs to know why his father left him answerless, and when Sam poses the interrogative plea to know why he hasn't been there to leave him answerless…
He'll have to lie. John was tired of lying, and he was not ready to tell them the truth.
For Christ sakes, John, they're your flesh and blood. Yeah, they care about what you're doing, but none of that matters nearly as much to them as knowing you're okay.
John sat up in bed, rubbed his temples. He'd begun to sweat and he was trembling. He picked up his phone and clenched it as if he was holding the most beautiful vial of poison. He traced the numbers with nervous fingers.
Press. Hold. Lift. Press. Hold. Lift. He started to dial.
His vision blurred with warm tears forming as he listened to the first ring.
Maybe they won't answer.
It rang again.
Maybe they're in trouble?
It rang again.
The other end picked up. A frail and tired voice answered.
John recognized the young voice at once. It was Sam. He froze with agonizing regret. Tears fell from his eyes and he shut them so hard that it hurt. He breathed in deeply. There were a thousand things he could say, but only one made it out.
"Forgive me," a meek but sincere statement uttered out of John's quivering lips, his voice weak from holding back a sob.
There was a pause.
"…Dad?" Sam questioned through a half-knowing, half-hoping tone. The hope in his voice reverberated in John's head like a tangible, wonderful embrace, followed by a jagged knife ripping into his chest.
It took every ounce of strength he had to hang up the phone. As much as he didn't want to, he did.
John Winchester put his phone back on the nightstand, staring at it like it was something he couldn't have.
There were a thousand things he wanted to say to his boys.
Well, a thousand minus one…
Author's Note: weep I'd skip Christmas for it to be January and to have Sam and Dean and all the brotherly tension back, and for their dad to just show up and give them an overdue hug…sigh Anyways, I'm thinking this will just be a one-shot, but I might continue it. I haven't decided yet. Thanks for reading, and know that constructive criticism is really appreciated. Now, I'm going to go sulk in my room until January, maybe writing some more stories to ease the pain.