A Life Spent Wishing

Disclaimer: Neither anything Supernatural related nor the lyrics of the song 'Wishing (If I had a photograph of you)' by A Flock of Seagulls belongs to me nor accrues me any financial benefit (regrettably – if I had the choice I'd have Dean and continue to make do with no financial benefit)

Rating: some swearing

Summary: a look at John before and after Mary's death.

Spoilers: some for 'Home' although in a sideways look not very direct.

Author's Notes: I have borrowed the italicised lyrics fromA Flock of Seagulls song 'Wishing (If I had a photograph of you). For some bizarre reason, this song sprang to mind at the end of 'Home' when we see Dean holding the photos by the side of the Impala and that is what set me on the road of this story. Probably even more strange is the fact that when I wrote this it is from John's POV for the most part and not Dean's (considering it was watching him that inspired the thoughts).

Please review and let me know if this works. Thanks.

It's not the way you look,
It's not the way that you smile.
Although there's something to them.

It only took a look in her direction to take John's breath away. He had married Mary three years ago and it felt like it was yesterday. He still couldn't quite believe that she was his wife. She was everything to him. She had become the reason he woke in a morning, kept breathing, smiled. She had his heart and there was nothing he wouldn't do for her. He couldn't imagine a day without her. And today she had told him she was pregnant. He couldn't see how life could possibly get any better.

If I had a photograph of you,
It's something to remind me.
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing.

Burnt. Everything. Nothing to live for. Mary gone. John stared at the wreck that had been his home. He could still smell the smoke. Hell, the fire was out and had been for the last two days but sat here outside what was left of his home, he could still feel the heat of the fire on his skin. Why Mary? He thought of the clichéd sayings about Better Halves and knew that clichéd or not, Mary had been his.

'Daddy, Sammy's waking up, he's gonna be hungry soon.' Dean's voice broke through his contemplation of the devastation that had been his home, their home. His eyes flitted to his eldest, who had sat silently all the time they had been here. He stared blankly until Dean spoke again, 'Sammy needs something to eat.' He nodded and turned the car engine on. Thoughts of joining Mary put aside in the more immediate demands of the children. He would join her; she would be waiting for him. He had thought of nothing but that since …

He just had to wait, she would want him to. That was all; wait until the boys were old enough… How long would that be? He'd actually tried to work it out last night once both boys were asleep; how would he know when the boys were old enough to manage without him. She wouldn't forgive him if he left too soon. That thought was more frightening; he wanted her love, he missed it already; missed her like someone had cut a chunk out of his heart. The thought of managing without seeing her for another day was killing him slowly, the knowledge that he was going to have to manage years while the boys grew up was a thought he could only skirt around the edges of.

He sorted it out, food for the boys, bath, bed. That was what they needed. He remembered how she had made it fun, both children and her laughing through the whole sequence. He remembered how he had loved to watch and how they had settled down for the night with a story. Well, the boys were going to have to adapt, there was no time for stories, no time to molly-coddle them. They needed to learn to stand each on their own two feet; stories and hugs weren't going to get them there any quicker. He left the room, turning the light out as he went. He heard the first of Dean's sobs before the door clicked shut behind him.

It's not the make-up
And it's not the way that you dance,

John had loved the way Mary danced when they were out, like she was free, like an inner spirit was being let loose. He'd never been one for dancing but she would drag him up with her and despite the feelings of awkwardness, he would enjoy it. In truth, he loved it because it was with her and she was happy. That was all he needed, all he wanted; for Mary to be happy.

He remembered when Dean had been born, the look on her face and in her eyes. He could see the exhaustion that he'd been told to expect, but nothing quite prepared him for the devotion he saw there. If he hadn't been equally proud, he could almost have felt jealous of this new baby that was taking his wife's attention away from him, but instead he looked at this; his family.

John remembered when Sammy was born, the look in her eyes spread wider taking in all three of her men; love, unconditional, undemanding, unending. He had let it wash over him and hoped it would last ever.

Months later and she was gone, dead, burnt. He knew she'd said she would love him forever but now he wondered what forever meant. Was forever until she died or until he died? Did it go beyond? Would he find her again? When? How soon?

If I had a photograph of you,
It's something to remind me.
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing.

Sam talked Dean into going back to the house in Lawrence. John was impressed; he didn't think it would ever have been possible.

His thoughts wandered back to when they'd left after Mary had died. It had been easier to go than to stay, he knew the thing that had killed her wasn't there now and people were starting to talk. They thought he was wrong for wanting vengeance, they thought he was nuts when he said something had killed her, but worst of all, they thought he was damaging her boys. He'd moved what was left of his family on and didn't allow people close enough after that to comment on her boys.

He'd been frightened then that they were right. Not about the vengeance and the thing that killed her because he knew what he'd seen, he knew the truth. He was frightened they were right about the boys. He knew the truth now – both boys had been irreparably damaged by his hunt for vengeance, his insistence that they grow up like men and be good soldiers. Dean had done exactly what he'd asked and Sam had fought him all the way; it hadn't helped either of them.

He remembered the arguments he'd had with Mary's friends about Dean. They said he didn't talk any more, he wasn't himself. He'd said what did they expect? Dean had lost his mom and sure he talked, not like he used to, non-stop chattering about everything under the sun, but he still talked plenty. It had taken him a year before he realized that the only time Dean spoke was to ask for something for Sammy. He hadn't in the whole year asked for anything or said anything about himself. Since that fire started he had only said two things that weren't about Sammy. The first had been to ask when his Mom was coming out of the house and John had had to tell him she wasn't and had seen his tiny heart begin to crumble into pieces then. The next time had been as they left Lawrence and John had heard him sitting in the back of the car next to Sammy say, 'Won't come back here, bad and nasty, promise Dean.' John had looked in the rearview, expecting to see him talking to Sammy but he hadn't been. Dean had been staring intently out of the window talking to himself.

In the years that followed, John would go to Mary's grave on her birthday and the day she died, but it was the one thing, the only thing that Dean ever refused his father. In his younger days, he would scream hysterically until he was sick rather than enter the Lawrence boundaries, John resorting to calling friends to look after him whilst he went alone. As soon as he was old enough to be trusted, John would leave him at a motel in a neighbouring town. Nothing John had ever said could make Dean break the promise he'd made to himself the day they left. So sure, John was impressed that Sam had managed to get him there.

He'd been even more surprised the next time he checked the mail and had found a letter from Dean. He was surprised his son could even bare to think of him at all. He knew how hard it had been for Dean to go back, hell, he knew it was even harder for Dean to phone him to ask for help and he hadn't responded at all. Suck it up Dean, the sooner you and Sam don't need me the better. He knew when Mary frowned on him. Dean didn't deserve that, John knew better, she seemed to whisper.

John also knew that he hadn't deserved the letter from Dean, absolution given. In the letter, Dean explained that the woman living in the house had found a box of their stuff, photos and the like, he had had reprints done and that was why he had sent the letter so that John could have the photos of Mary and of the boys when they were small. A reminder of Mary's smile. John knew he'd never forgotten how beautiful she was but it was good to have a photo to be sure of what he still saw in his mind's eye.

It's not the things you say
It's not the things you do
It must be something more

John had always believed that the wedding vows were going to be just the start of his time with Mary. The whole 'until death do us part' just didn't feel permanent enough. He was certain that he and Mary were set for eternity together. He had never been able to wrap his head around the fact that she wasn't actually still there. He still talked to her, he waited until the boys were asleep or he was on his own but he still told her everything. He told her how lonely he felt, asked her what she thought of the boys, could she remember was it raspberries or strawberries that Dean liked, how did she keep the boys clothes clean and was there a way to get chocolate milkshake out of Sammy's t-shirts because he'd washed it three times already and it just wasn't coming out. He took the boys for clothes when theirs were worn through and wondered which Mary would buy, read school prospectuses when Dean was young and it still felt like it would make a difference and wondered which school she would pick.

As time went on, it just got harder to remember what she would have wanted. Even when he knew what she would have wanted, it would never quite fit with what he could do, not if he was going to find the thing that killed her, not if he was going to bring the boys up strong.

Then the day came, the day he knew he'd got it wrong. The argument. Hell, it wasn't an argument, it was a war and it had been raging for months but he had kept his head down and battled on, ignoring Mary's pleas in his heart and Dean's pleas in his ears and Sammy, well he just wouldn't back down either and so the end came and Sam, no longer Sammy, had left, bag in hand and door slamming behind and that was it.

Dean had left him too, not physically but emotionally. Dean, loyal to the end, wouldn't actually go, couldn't actually go. It didn't matter how much he didn't want this life, how much he did want to be with Sam, like Sam, Dean stayed with his father. He stayed and John watched him fade and Mary's pleas became shouts, 'do something, John, make it right.' John watched and didn't know what to do, so he did nothing and he and Dean went on as before. Father and son, Commander and good soldier, Vengeance and Faith.

At some point, John realized Mary's voice was getting fainter now. He thought at first that maybe she was accepting the ways things were. He listened carefully and realized that it wasn't that. Mary didn't believe he listened to her anymore, she didn't hope he would do the right thing anymore.

John was frightened now; the old fear came back reminding him how people had believed he was damaging Mary's boys. He knew that was why Mary was getting fainter she believed it too. He was frightened that maybe she wouldn't want him anymore, maybe she wouldn't wait for him, and maybe she wouldn't listen to him when he talked to her.

The final night came; he stayed awake for hours watching as Dean slept. This would be the end, he hoped it would be enough, he hoped Mary would forgive him. He hoped the boys would forgive him, would understand. In the morning, he helped Dean pack the Impala and sent him on his way, he promised he would be there when he got back and that he would be okay on this hunt alone. He knew it was a lie. It worried him that instead of getting more confident about hunting alone, each time Dean left he seemed to need more reassurance that it would be alright. This was best; Dean could make a choice now, his own choice now. He stood at the motel door until the Impala was out of sight, and then slowly walked inside closing the door behind him. He moved methodically round the room picking up the last of his things and packing them, making sure nothing was left then went out and left.

Dean's choice now, only he wouldn't know it until he got back to this motel in a couple of days and found John gone. John wondered what he would do. Mary touched his heart, he knew she recognized his sacrifice, she would forgive him, and she would wait and something more…

If I had a photograph of you,
It's something to remind me.
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing.

Mary wished she had been able to stay longer. She wished she could have been there for her baby boys but she consoled herself, knowing she had waited and watched them grow. They were good boys, she was proud of them. She watched them and wished she could have protected them from everything that happened to them and saved them from John. She knew he hadn't meant them any harm, she wished she could still see in him the man she had married but this man was a shell of who she had known. She wished she could remember more clearly what they were like when they were young and happy with the boys. She knew he had a photograph that Dean had sent him after he'd been to the house, a photo of them as a family, she hoped that when he joined her that he'd bring that with him. She hoped that maybe if she saw that she'd be able to remember the good man that John was before she died and that then she would be able to forgive him because she still listened to him and she knew he had done it all for her.