Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters do not belong to me.

Author's Note: A one-shot fic from John Winchesters perspective. Set pre-pilot.

I hope you enjoy!

They told me once I should try writing to you… to say goodbye… to let you know how I feel.

I practically spit in that guy's face—some faceless neighbor who was trying to be kind, to offer some solace to a grieving widower—solace that could never exist.

I'm not much of a writer, Mary… never have been... never will be. That's why I'm here—aside from the boys, this car is the only physical link I have to you; that why I'm here—because tonight… tonight I have to talk, to tell you something…

I want you to know something.

I don't care that I'm sitting here talking to myself, that I must look like a maniac—I don't care. I know you can hear me, I know you're listening… and I have to… to talk… to tell you…

I want you to know something.

The most amazing thing happened today— horrifying, chilling, damning…

I saw myself.

The man I was.

The man I've become.

Sam left today; for college. Stanford. Full-ride. You'd be proud.

I wasn't. I felt— betrayed. Blindsided by a tidal wave I should've seen coming and didn't. I yelled and cursed and nearly shoved the kid into a wall.

And you know what, Mere?

He yelled back and cursed back and nearly shoved me into a wall.

I saw it then… myself—in Sam's eyes.

I'm a fool. I really am. All his life, he was the baby, the one to be protected and watched over. I watched over him so well that I never really saw him, Mary; never really saw the man he was becoming… a man like me.

A man who knows what he wants and will go for it—and to hell with anything and anyone who stands in his way.

A man like me— the me I used to be. The me you fell in love with; determined, strong, independent.

He has my eyes – dark and deep. Tonight they were angry, defiant; tonight they told me to go to hell… I was standing in his way—and I wasn't moving, hell no. I have to protect him… whatever It is—Its after him, and I won't let It have him. I wasn't ready before—when It took you, Mary, but I've spent a lifetime getting ready… It won't take Sammy.

I stood in his way and I wasn't moving. He turned from me, cursed, slammed the door…

And I turned around…

… and found you looking at me.

Steady, hazel eyes – reproaching, demanding, accusing…

And fucking lord, how could I have forgotten? How could I have forgotten for even a moment that—that Dean has your eyes?

He was just leaning back against the wall… and christ Mere! I saw— in his eyes— your eyes… what I've become…

… angry, bitter, old…

Your eyes… gold and glimmering. Tonight they were cold, disgusted; tonight they reminded me—

"You owe me." The words were quiet, steady and as cold as the frozen, gold eyes fastened on the older man's face.

John paled a bit more, still breathing hard from his argument with Sam, suddenly feeling like a sleepwalker in a dream. This couldn't be real—Mary wasn't looking at him, wasn't seeing him through those eyes, she's couldn't be…

"What?" he choked out, his voice hoarse.

Dean pushed away from the wall, Mary's eyes still fastened on his father; he straightened, "Sam wants to go to college, but its more than that—Sam wants to be normal or haven't you been listening for the last five years?"

The room was silent.

Dean snorted, his eyes still steady, his mouth smirking in disgust, "Of course you haven't—stupid question." He muttered, then took a step closer to his Dad and John fought the urge to take a step back.

"He wants to be normal; to be happy… and you are not going to stand in his way. You're going to let him go."

The ability to speak seemed to have abandoned him. John couldn't think of a single thing to say… arguing with Dean didn't come to him as easily as with Sam. He'd never had to argue with Dean…

Dean obeyed. Always had.

Dean didn't question. Never had.

Dean didn't give orders, didn't demand, didn't need…

Dean was his perfect little soldier…

"You owe me." His little soldier repeated, coming closer. And Mary shone in his eyes… Mary reiterated the words and his breath caught, "I've followed every one of your orders from the moment I stepped out into that hallway."

The words felt like a sucker-punch, stealing the air from his lungs as they spun around the room, meaning nothing—meaning everything.

The little boy his son had been—baby blonde hair, wide innocent eyes— and trusting… so trusting…

"You owe me."

A childhood stolen.

John swallowed hard, shaking his head, breaking eye contact, "Dean—he can't be—be normal, you know that… and I—I can't… "

"Yes. You can. For once in our lives… be a dad… be the Dad I know existed… once… put your child before the hunt… just this once." He stated.

And against his better judgment John lifted his gaze to meet his son's once more…

"Let him go. Let him try…"

I still feel numb inside.

Disoriented, it's like I was underwater for too long and I've suddenly came up for air; for the first time in… too long… I'm seeing—and god, what I'm seeing…

For so long it was all about the hunt. Nothing else mattered. I had to find It, to stop It, to stop them all.

I'm not noble.

I've saved lives, yes, and that's great. It's a great justification for what I do, for I've done – to save lives.

But it's not the reason… the reason is vengeance.

I want to kill as many of those bastards out there as I can find—I want their existence obliterated, I want to hear their screams, to watch them dissolve, melt… to see them burn

Vengeance. It always has been. I wrapped myself up tightly in the thirst for it, the need for it… and now this cloak has slipped and I find myself surrounded by strangers.

My sons—

I lied to myself Mary. Tonight though— tonight you reminded me. Tonight you looked out at me through Dean's eyes— and suddenly I can see again…

Sam is me – determined, strong, independent.

Dean is you – loving, loyal, generous.

Irony really is a bitch. I spent a lifetime molding Dean into my image—when it was Sam… all along it was Sam that was like me…

I should have known… I should have remembered… Dean could never be like me, not really— Sam and I have much more in common—no mother, asshole father, that ability to brush aside anything in our path…

Dean cares… deeply; like you. Its how I was able to do it… see? How fuckin' blind could I be? The fact that I was able to mold Dean at all should have told me… he let me do it… because he loves me, because I'm his Dad, because somehow he must've sensed that I needed to—

He was your sweetheart. Your honey-bear, remember…?

I did.

In the beginning.

In the beginning it hurt so much to look at him… because I saw so much of you in him; a gentleness, a kindness, a generosity that was all innately you…

And the pain burned.

So I did the only thing I could think of, the only thing that eased the pain… I buried it. I turned your honey-bear into a con-artist, into a hustler; I turned him into a hunter.

I taught him how to lie, how to steal… how to kill…

And when your seven-year old honey-bear unloaded the clip of a .45 into the heart of a Black Dog I watched with something like relief... because that I could watch— because that didn't remind me of you…

So I taught him more, trained him more, hardened him more…

A far cry from the little-league-and spelling-bee life you'd planned for him, I know, but I had to—for so many reasons… It was easier to protect just one rather than of two. I had to be ready if It came again. I had to make sure he was ready. I needed someone to guard Sammy…

Reasons that mean nothing to you, I'm sure.

He was so eager… so willing to please.

God, why wouldn't he be? I was "Daddy" then… and I could do no wrong… he trusted me.

I buried your honey-bear, Mary. I did it slowly and steadily… because—because I had to… I couldn't look at him… and see you… I couldn't be reminded of all the things I was doing wrong… all the things I was doing that you'd hate… I turned your honey -bear into my little soldier, my perfect little soldier—

— I lied to myself. I did it so well and for so long that I forgot… I believed it; believed that he was like me… believed that he was mine—my soldier.

And I need… I need to tell you… how—how sorry I am, Mary… so sorry—that I —I used… that I used the gentleness, the kindness, the generosity; everything that was innately you in him to turn him into that— into my soldier… into a killer…

But you—you don't have to worry…. Because tonight—tonight I saw that—that it doesn't matter how hard I tried, how deep I buried it… he's still yours… he isn't my hunter, my solider… he's your honey-bear.

I saw that tonight.

He's nothing like me… he doesn't hunt for vengeance. He—he hunts for others—to help people… god Mary, he's— he's your son.

And you—you would be so proud of him. Of Sam too… Sam who's so like me he'll never see it.

Both so strong…

One strong enough to pull free.

One strong enough to let go.

And me… not worthy of either them—

I won't dishonor your memory by telling you I did the best I could… because— I didn't. I know that. After you—

— it was just too hard.

Too hard to be a dad, to be there all the time. Dean made it easy not to be. He demanded little from me and accepted all of Sam's demands; a buffer between me and fatherhood.

Not tonight though. Tonight he wouldn't buffer anything. Tonight he demanded of me— reminded me— I owed him.

I cut Sam off, Mary. I told him not to come back. I told him he was no longer a part of this family…

I wanted you to know that; to know that…

... I gave him a chance. That, for once, I put my son before the hunt.

And I just—I just wanted you to—to know that.

I just wanted you to know.