Should Have Known Better

Part One - November 2, 1987

John should have known better. He should have known not to get his hopes up, but he had waited so long to get that evil son of a bitch that destroyed his life by killing the one person who had given him life, given him hope and he couldn't help himself.

He finally had a lead on the thing that killed Mary. He finally saw an end to his family's torment and he had allowed himself to believe. To believe it would all be over and he could raise his boys and allow them a normal life. Dean could once again play baseball and Sammy could know what a real home was. He should have known better than to believe.

He had taken off on his last hunt. He would kill the evil bastard and he would get his life back. It would never be the life he was supposed to have, his life with Mary; but it would be a life where his boys could once again be children. He should have known better than to dream of another way of life.

He had left Dean in charge of Sammy for the last time. When he got back it would all be over. The demon would be dead and Dean could just be a big brother again: not a protector, not a warrior, not a young man robbed of his childhood.

He was close, he was just a step behind, he was so close to it all being over he could see it, he could feel it, he could taste it. He could see an end to his quest and a release from his torment but then all hell broke loose. He had waged war against evil and lost. It had defeated him one more time, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally: totally.

He was a broken man. He should have known better. He should have known not to hope, not to dream, not to believe. The pain of this crushing defeat was burying him under a massive weight of despair and regret. He had not felt this low since that terrible night when he lost the light in his life, when he lost his beloved Mary.

He stopped at the liquor store on his way back to the fleabag motel he had deposited his young sons at the day before. He needed to fortify his nerves. Hell, who was he kidding? He needed to drown his sorrows, he needed to disappear. He needed to bury this pain deep enough that it wasn't staring at him every time he looked in a mirror, reminding him of everything he had lost and would never have again.

Dean smiled broadly at him when he unlocked the motel door and entered the dank, cramped motel room.

"Daddy, did you get it?" Dean was so exuberant it only made the failure John felt more pronounced.

"No, Dean." John saw the wind knocked out of his son's sails. The disappointment on his face mirrored John's. Just what he needed, another reminder of his failure.

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Twenty-four hours later, John had finally accomplished something. He was no longer feeling the pain, the disappointment, and the anger at failing in his quest. He was feeling nothing but the dull numbness from drowning his sorrows in a bottle of tequila. It felt good to feel nothing. He had felt so much pain and disappointment and he just couldn't do it anymore. He just couldn't live with it any longer.

If he hadn't had his young sons he would have descended into hell and ended his suffering long ago. He would have rejoined his Mary and finally found the peace that eluded him. The only reason for him existing on this earth was his vengeance and his sons. He had failed in his vengeance and he had failed his sons. He had seen the light go out of Dean's eyes when he realized his dad was not the vanquishing hero he thought he was.

If he couldn't die then at least he could kill his feelings, his feelings of despair. He reached for another bottle. Damn, why was he still thinking? Why was he still feeling? He must not be drinking enough.

"Daddy, Sammy wants you to hold him. Can you tell him a story?" Dean softly asked.

"Not now Dean. Leave me alone." John pushed his son away. He couldn't deal with him now. He couldn't deal with his expectations. Dean wanted a dad and a hero and he was neither at this moment in time. The last thing he needed was to see that reflected in his son's eyes.

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John didn't know how many hours had passed which to his mind was a good thing. He was finally succeeding in disappearing off the face of the planet. His drunken stupor was the only comfort he had found in a long time. He sank into his numbness and found relief from all his worries and cares. He finally didn't have to think anymore. He was finally free.

"Daddy are you OK? Daddy I love you." Sammy jumped on the bed next to his dad and shook him.

John reacted as a hunter, not knowing precisely what the danger was; just knowing something foreign had invaded his space. He grabbed the offender and threw him off the bed. Sammy landed with a loud thump on the floor and started crying. Dean rushed to his side, picked him up and wrapped his arms around him.

"Sammy, it's OK. You're OK. Let me see, yeah you're fine."

"Dean, what's wrong with daddy?" Sam asked through tear streaked eyes.

"Daddy's sick. You've gotta leave him alone 'til he gets better. Can you do that? Can you just watch TV and be quiet 'til Daddy feels better?" Dean pleaded. He had his hands full already; he didn't need Sammy incessantly asking more questions he couldn't answer without lying further.

"Should we make him some chicken soup? Will that make him better?" Sammy's innocence asked.

"Maybe later, when he wakes up." Big brother replied.

So Dean waited for Dad to wake up. He kept his little brother quiet, he fed him Lucky Charms for dinner and told him stories of how it used to be, back when Mommy and Daddy would laugh and take them on picnics in the park and the one time they had a picnic on the floor in their big living room.

It was raining and Dad came home early from work and they spread a quilt on the floor and laid out a feast. Dad pointed out imaginary birds that were flying overhead and Mom shrieked when the imaginary ants tried to invade their food. How they had all laughed and hugged each other and how Sammy as the baby just sat and watched and giggled at their antics.

Dean's eyes misted over as he remembered those happy times. Sammy didn't remember. Sammy didn't know there could be a life other than the one he now lived, but Dean remembered. He knew other kids still lived happy lives, still got to go on picnics. He vowed that someday, someway he would take Sammy on another picnic. The kid deserved at least one picnic he could remember, didn't he?

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John stirred and reached for his bottle. He felt around and couldn't find it. Where in the hell did it go? He needed it, his feelings and thoughts were creeping back into his consciousness. He needed to drive them away for just a tad longer.

"Dean, where the hell is my bottle?" He yelled at his older son.

"It's gone. You drank it all." Dean quietly replied.

John's mind was not functioning fully but he knew that couldn't be true. He had practically bought out the liquor store. He had bought enough booze to keep him stocked for the rest of the month. Where was that bottle?

"Dean, get me a bottle." John was barely able to sit on the edge of the bed without toppling over but he knew what he knew. He knew Dean was lying.

"No."

"What did you say to me?" Anger growing from the frustration and desolation he felt invading his thoughts.

"Dean, get me a bottle now! That's an order." John was not going to stand by and let his son openly defy him.

"No Daddy." Dean appeared next to him and touched his arm. "Please don't drink anymore."

The liquor had control over John as he lashed out at the one obstacle to his chance at oblivion. He struck out and connected his fist with half of the only good thing left in his life. Dean was thrown across the room and into the dresser by the bathroom door. His ribs slammed into the corner of the dresser and he let out a painful gasp as the wind was knocked from his lungs.

John toppled off the bed and landed with a thud, out cold on the motel room floor. He lay there for another six hours before he finally stirred.

TBC