Authors Note: Ridley I apologise for having a title so similar to yours, and I hope you forgive me if you read this for confusing people a little. I just felt it was the perfect title. So I figured I'd write a ditty on our favorite absentee father. John. I am so unsure and conflicted about the man but I'm sure that deep down he loves his children, just in the phonecall in Scarecrow you could see that. Anyway I hope this goes to some way to doing justice to the man that he is and the way he feels. He is a human being and flawed. I hope to see more of him in the future because he just intrigues me to no end.

Feedback would be brilliant but you know what someone reading it would be reward enough too. So thanks. And I hope you enjoy.


"Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible." Mary Mcleod Bethune

Faith

When you are eighteen years old heading into the Marines something happens to you, something as rare and as unbelievable as the perfect rainbow as that elusive four leaf clover that always slips such tentative grasps. Her name is Mary and she is sunshine, and oxygen and hope in a 5'5 bundle. 'John' a whisper, a whisper from lips that tasted of nothing but your own. That was all it took to have faith. Life could be nothing but beautiful, a world could not be evil, not if it had created the creature that not only held your hand but your soul in her tiny little fingers.

'John…'

How could one name bring so much faith, so much hope, so much happiness. An angel's breath. Faith always clung to Mary like fear clung to you.

'In sickness and in health.'

Faith.

'For richer or poorer'.

Faith.

'Till death do us part.'

And you believed it.

A lamb to the slaughter never fully knows its only outcome can be death, could only possibly be murder. It follows the farmer blindly, it doesn't see, it is so blinded by trust, by hope, by blind faith that it fails to see it's fallen for the very lie that will destroy it.

Faith.

Fuzzy blond hair. Tiny fist curled around your finger. Lips infinitely small, pursed, defenceless, alive. Vulnerable against the corners and the crevices of a world it's new to. 'Dean, I want to call him Dean.' Eyes root you to the spot. Something shines within them. Something you can't describe. Something you can only just see. Infinite trust, even at an hour old.

'Dean means proverbial official, it means strength John. It means he can take charge. He'll be our little man.'

Our little soldier.

The baby kicks its legs.

Faith.

He doesn't look like Dean. Hair as dark as midnight. Eyes darker still. Watching. Alert. Even from the moment he first cried. 'He knows something, look at him John, look at how he stares at you, like he can see the world in your eyes.' This grip is more tentative. Gentle. So different to Dean, so very different. This baby listens. It watches and looks at you like it can hear you, really hear you and the faith is there. Like you'd seen in Dean's eyes and you laugh at how fleeting that thought was. 'Sam; he who hears. He does you know John.'

This baby smiles.

Faith.

Burning flesh smells.

It's not something someone tells you nor warns you about in that infinite book of life, but it does.

The white of her gown flickers with the flames, you'll always remember the fire reflected in her eyes. The moment they consumed her so completely so fully you couldn't see them anymore. Faith had danced in those eyes. Now fire did.

Sam wails. Mary burns. The room fills with smoke and darkness and screams, pieces of your past and pieces of your future all burn before you in the present. Your soul is on the ceiling, but your mind is a beat behind. How can she possibly be on the ceiling?

You search for the faith even as the bundle in your arms screams and the smoke scratches at your throat, clawing at the desperation within. You can't find it and it is only when you watch the black bag remove your wife's body from your inferno of a house that you realise.

Faith is gone.

Something like this doesn't happen to someone who brought such light, such infinite love to another. Faith is a myth, an illusion, like the old truck you had when you were little that you needed with all of your tiny being but when it was gone you couldn't remember exactly why you needed it in the first place.

Faith dies with Mary.

Faith began with Mary.

Revenge begins with a fire.

Over the years there are moments when you encounter faith again, when it literally freezes you to the spot, when you can no longer hear what goes on around you as you remember it burning, vanishing on the ceiling.

Dean brings home a drawing he did for you at school, his pudgy fingers wrapped tightly around the crispy edges. The red pen rudely disturbs the bottom corner. 'Dean has a wonderful imagination for a little boy'. The teacher has something you don't. Faith, faith that Dean will be alright, that the ability to draw a simple stick figure will carry him into a bright and glorious future. And you try to find the revenge, you try to fill the emotion that explodes in your heart as you cuddle your little boy to your chest.

And you can't.

All you can smell is his little boy shampoo, and all you can feel is his tiny body wriggling and alive in your lap. And for a moment you dare to hope for him.

Faith.

Sam is hard. Sam has always been a little harder than Dean, a whole lot of Mary wrapped up inside a gangly ten year old. All nobbly knees and shaggy hair and questions. Faith practically shines from Sam. In Sam's eyes you see Mary burning, you see the faith you had watched vanish. So you don't look Sam in the eyes all that often. You let Dean do it for you.

But sometimes it can't be avoided.

It's night time the clouds threaten to pinch at your skin and damn it all to hell if you're not a little afraid. The creature is darker, more sinister than the rest, you lie at the bottom of the abandoned barn, blood pools beneath you somewhere, hay and blood and ground. Someone's dimmed the lights and you're tempted to scream at them of the danger of a world without light. Then the light blurs and you realise it's you. Dean is on the phone. Fourteen year old voice breaking, frantic, none of his ingrown strength showing then. 'Yes, at the old Thompson Barn, off Oakridge…as soon as you can.' You try to adjust your eyes and the blur starts to become clearer, the darkness abaits a little. Sam is before you. Hair dangling, tears on his cheeks, a cut on his forhead. The blood mingles with the tears but you barely notice, because the tears only accentuate it. They only make it clearer. And you can't bring yourself to look away this time.

'Daddy. You're going to be alright Daddy, I promise.'

Faith.

You're ok. You're always ok. In Clifton you deal with some Devil's Gates which bring you pretty damned close to not being ok. Close enough to see Mary for a moment. She isn't smiling. She's burning, again. And you feel nothing but revenge once more.

But then Dean's standing over you, all bravado and strong hands and poorly disguised fear and you see a different emotion in Dean's eyes. Fear. Fear is attracted to Dean like it is to his father. No blind faith like Mary's or Sam's.

And you don't feel revenge anymore.

What you feel is grief.

It's not for your wife. It's for your son. Is this what you have done to him? Given him nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for. Nothing to have faith in.

There should have been something in Dean's eyes. There should have been something he could have held onto.

And you vow to resolve that, as soon as you stop bleeding on this cliff face, you will at least try to give your son something besides you to believe in.

Faith.

Then Sam's back all breathless and teenage and flustered and when he bends over you, traces Mary's long fingers through your hair, you look into those eyes.

Again.

And the faith gives you hope this time.

'We're here Dad.'

Faith.

You never get to resolve that part of your eldest son. You are distracted with epic battles inside and outside the hotel room. Sam wants to go to College. Sam with the eyes that knew to much, the ears that heard to much, the damned faith that never left him, that kept this family together. Sam wants to go. Your baby wants to go.

'Sam; He who hears'.

You hear nothing.

'Don't be stupid Sammy. You're chasing some impossible dream.'

'I want to go to school, god damned school dad, why can't you let me just have that.'

'This belief that you can be normal, this blind faith you insist on following is going to kill you Sammy, can't you see that?'

Sam can't.

He takes his laptop, his rucksack and his faith and he goes.

You realise too late that it was Sam's faith, the last remnant of his mother's faith, that wonderful innocence that things would turn out alright in the end that was keeping you going.

Dean is bereft. He had little faith to begin with. You saw to that. But what he did have you realise the two of you shared. Sam was the faith. Faith was gone.

Faith.

Alcohol becomes your faith in the end. Everything turns out alright when you're too drunk to remember. Your conversation, your intention to talk to Dean, to help him find faith again becomes lost. Lost between beers and hustling and gunshots and drives to Stanford. You lose yourself somewhere between leaving Lawrence when the boys are small and giving yourself a way out with the Woman in white in Jericho, California.

There's little left anymore.

Revenge has eaten what is left of your soul and all that remains is a father's love for his children. Because you do. Love them that is.

Sometimes you think they are all that keeps you on this earth. Then you look into the eyes of the demon that killed your wife and you know otherwise.

You leave Dean. You leave him. You know he will find Sam. They'll look for you. You never did have that talk with Dean but you did the next best thing, you sent him to Sammy, you sent him to faith.

You learn from Missouri what happened to Sammy's Jess and you nod, school yourself so she doesn't see reaction in your eyes, try to school your mind to avoid her psychic wanderings. You stay ten more minutes so as not to look suspicious then you calmly leave and head back to your hotel.

It makes you sick being back in Lawrence, knowing your boys are here, the minute you open the door you exhale deeply and then smash your fist repeatedly into the bathroom mirror until it breaks. Your hand bleeds. You let it. If you're still bleeding you're still alive. When you look back up, back into that mirror you meet the eyes of a soldier, of a cold blooded killer.

Sam's girlfriend is dead.

You failed to protect him.

How can he possibly still have faith now?

How can he possibly believe?

The part of Mary that still lived in Sam must be gone now.

And suddenly you have to see, you have to know it for sure, you have to look into your baby's eyes and know that there really is nothing to hope for, nothing to have faith in. And then you can truly let go.

You drive like the hounds of hell are behind you but when you get there they've gone, the Impala merely dust in the wind. Missouri's angry with you. 'Why don't you go talk to your children.'

They aren't just your children anymore, they're your soldiers.

You try to ask Missouri if it's still there, the faith in Sam's eyes, is it still there? But she doesn't understand what you're asking and you don't know how to explain. So you move on. You head closer. You know you're right on its tail. The creature that destroyed your faith.

On the road you have time to think.

You also have time to check your phone messages. When Dean speaks you hear Mary for a moment and then you shake your head at how ridiculous that is, how a 26 year old man could sound like a woman but he does. 'I don't know what to do…so whatever you're doing if you could just get here…please…I need your help dad.'

And that's when you hear it. And something stops you. You hear for the first time something in Dean's voice. Something you'd never heard in his voice before. Something that has scared you and terrified you and thrilled you all these years.

Faith.

And you realise just where Dean's faith has lay all these years.

Inside you.

He has faith in you.

And you feel hot tears sting your cheeks and you try hard to see the roadsign through the blurred vision and your fingers itch to call them, to phone them right now. But you can't.

Dean deserves something better to have faith in.

He deserves something a whole lot better.

Driving, your mind drifts even as the car drifts over states and miles. Your mind wanders.

Always to your children, forever to your boys.

Dean needs to believe there's good in the world, like his brother does. You need to make him see that. It's not enough to believe that you can make the world better. Because you know you can't. You can fight for your children, you will always fight for your children but you can't give faith to a boy when you have none of your own. You can however show him how to find it. Encourage him to see it in Sam. Part of you knows he does, but a greater part knows he doesn't believe it.

You long to see the faith in Sam's eyes and you long to put some back into Deans'. You can fight the thing that took away your faith, but Dean, he can't fight his.

It's you.

And suddenly the realisation that you're a shitty shitty father hits you as you're driving down some endless Sacramento dirt road and you pull over and vomit everything in your stomach. You love your children more than life. They are your life.

You head to the nearest phonebooth.

'Sam is that you?'

'Dad'. He's concerned, emotional, angry but you don't care because the moment he speaks you can hear it in his voice.

Faith.

It isn't gone completely.

Sam's never listened to you. And for once you're glad. Faith is a part of him, something even the death of his girlfriend hasn't completely destroyed.

Dean listens to you. He is too much like you. You have damaged him in a way no one can damage Sam.

'Listen Sammy. You and your brother.You've gotta stop looking for me.'

Sam doesn't like that. But it's true. You are so close now you can taste it. The time has come for revenge. You're pretty sure you're not going to make it out of this battle. Sam is again with the questions, the anger, the defiance, the faith. The blind faith that they can help you. Does he honestly think you'd ever let them?

Then Dean's on the line.

'Dad it's me. Where are you?'

You tell him what you told Sam. In the same voice. In the same tone. But something is different. You're about to tell Dean, you want him to know, you love him, you're proud of him, he needs to have faith in something.

'Yes sir'. Dean replies.

Faith.

And you say nothing.

You're in Maine when you lose it.

When you lose any shred of hope or faith you hoped to have. The newspaper glares at you in glorious black and white.

'Three suspicious deaths by fire in a week'.

Three women.

Three ceilings.

Three fires.

You've cornered it.

And you don't feel satisfied, you don't feel hopeful, you feel angry and distraught that this had to happen to other people too. That three other families had to be destroyed. You are going to make this bastard pay so badly it'll regret ever being spawned. Your fists curl on the blankets and your eyes squint as they adjust to the darkness. You turn on your side. You never did like looking at ceilings for long.

As you lie there listening to the sound of your own solitary breathing you wonder where your children are, you wonder if you could call them, if you could say goodbye. You know you're a coward, but you're not coming out of this one. You know you will kill it but you also know damned well that once it's dead your purpose is gone, your revenge is complete. And you will be drifting. You don't know how to exist in a world without purpose.

You have your children and they have kept you going. But you don't want to burden them, they have each other, ever since Dean crawled into little Sammy's crib when he was tiny they'd had their own bond, their own language, a perfect little unit, you couldn't have infiltrated if you tried. It left you lonely sometimes. It left you sad. But it gave you comfort and any emotion was better than revenge. Maybe that's why you let Sam make you so mad all those times, anger was different, anger was good.

Sam and Dean have each other.

You still want to say goodbye though.

You still feel you should.

You owe them that much.

They need to know that in a world without them you'd have been lost 22 years ago. That you are so very proud of the men they have become, that they are never to lose that faith.

You reach in the darkness for your phone with shaking fingers, the battery is dead.

You laugh.

Isn't that just your luck.

Life has never been too lucky to you.

You lie back and lose the love, the sadness, the anger, instead allowing revenge to consume you once more. You are pondering for the eighteenth time which weapon to face your most epic battle with, when there's a noise at your door.

You're on your feet in seconds. A hunter never loses his awareness, never lowers his guard.

You grab your knife. The cool metal you know as well as your own name. As well as your old friend revenge. Could this be the creature? Had it found you already? Was this the darkness you'd been waiting for for 22 years of your life.

You clutch the knife so hard the handle disappears in your palm.

You open the door.

Your boys don't look overly surprised at the knife that is pressed to Sammy's throat as the door swings uselessly behind you. It takes you all of one second to drop it soundlessly to the floor.

'Nice to see you too Dad.' Sam's gruff and he moves passed you into the bedroom. Still all long limbs and deep voice.

Dean fingers the knife then hands it back to you, stares at you a beat before following his brother into the room. 'So…you never call, you never write…'

His words are cut off as you whirl and grab their shoulders in your thankfully large arms. You barely register the surprise on Dean's face, the relief on Sam's. You pull both of their heads to your chest as you all fall tangled to the floor awkwardly. You've never been the hugging type. No wonder they're shocked. You don't care. You hold them to your heart for a long time before you realise you're crying. Great heaving silent sobs as you hold a hand to each back, one for each son.

'What…what…are…you doing here? How did…how did you find me.' You finally manage, never letting go of their heads. As you keep them pinned to your shoulders.

'Uh…Dad?' Dean mumbles, your shoulder muffling his words 'a little room here.'

You reluctantly let go and they both pull back, you're surprised to see their own eyes shining along with yours.

Sam's hair is too long. You run a hand through his sideburns and decide he needs to see a hairdresser.

Your palm traces Dean's chin and you decide he needs a razor.

'Turns out you suck at hiding Dad. I mean really, using the same rental car in the last three jobs. Not smart, and getting a speeding ticket? There's only one Robert Plant I know that'd drive a chevvy Impala and it ain't the Led Zepplin one.' Dean snarks even though his voice is thick with unshed tears.

Smartass. His Dean always was the smartass.

Then Sam's looking at you, in that Sam way that only he has, that way that screams fuck you and I couldn't love you anymore in the same breath, 'did you really expect us to just stop looking for you? To leave you alone?'

And you shake your head because you did, you really did. Dean never disobeyed your orders and Sam trusted his brother so you hadn't thought they'd carry on.

Seemed you'd underestimated your boys yet again.

'You can't be here boys.' You whisper finally. 'I can't let you fight this for me.'

Sam's looking at you and he opens his mouth to dispute it, but it's Dean who finally answers.

'You're our dad. Where else are we going to be?'

You look into his eyes then, and you see it, maybe it's a miracle, maybe it's just a trick of the light but there's some of Sam's blind faith there, some of Mary's and you wonder where and how that happened, and it doesn't hurt you like faith has always done before.

Faith.

'We're in this together.' Sam confirms.

And you nod. And you hold them both close again and later that night when you're up in the bathroom you look into the mirror there and you see a different man. You see it in your eyes for the first time since Mary.

Faith.

And you turn back and stand in the bathroom doorway a moment. Your boys are here, and you may be terrified, and you know your about to face the biggest battle of your life, you should be scared and you should feel angry and you should feel the revenge. But you don't.

You stare at the sleeping boys before you and you find faith.

Tomorrow you may be dead, you may never see a blue sky, or a brilliant sun, or hear Sam's laugh, or see Dean's cocky grin, but for tonight…

You have your boys. And that is enough.

You are John Winchester.

And you have something to believe in again.