It's time you listened…

Disclaimer: As usual nothing belongs to me – wishing it is don't make it so.

Summary: John and Pastor Jim talk about John's relationship with his sons. Set shortly after Sam's phone message to his father when Dean is ill in 'Faith'

Rating: some swearing (naughty John!)

Author's note: Thanks to Rae Artemis for her betaing expertise and for all her help with the 'pancakes'.

Author's note 2: I don't dislike John but it may look that way. As we get nearer the end, his viewpoint will become clearer (and a lot less harsh! I hope!) Please read and review and let me know what you think. Chapter 2 is almost ready to go if people think this one works.

Chapter 1 – First and Last

The door opened. 'John? This is a surprise. I hadn't expected to see you here,' surprise was an understatement; Pastor Jim was stunned to open his door and see John Winchester. Not that it hadn't happened before, countless times, it was just the timing of this particular visit. He remembered how it used to be that on seeing John, he would look immediately for the two young boys who would either be standing somewhere nearby, waiting quietly, too still for boys their age or at times curled in the back seat of the car, the younger asleep more often than not in the arms of the elder, who would be watching out warily. The boys were grown now, Jim missed seeing them.

'Come in. What brings you here?' he ushered the man on his doorstep through to sit in comfort.

'I was nearby. I just needed a bit of company, I've been on my own a while.'

'So I heard. Your boys are trying to find you. They need you, John, badly.'

'Don't. I don't want to hear that.'

'Well, I'm sorry John, but you're going to hear it. Dean's ill, probably dying from what Sam says. They need you.'

'They'll manage. If he … well, he won't… I'm sure… he wouldn't leave his brother like that.'

'Do you honestly think Dean has a choice? Sam needs your support to help Dean.'

'Dean will be fine, if he thinks his dying will leave Sam alone he'll fight harder. He won't leave Sam unprotected.'

Jim turned away. Old arguments that is what they were. He and John had been disagreeing on the boys since the first time John had brought the boys for refuge at Jim's. He understood John's desire for revenge, even if he didn't agree with it. The Bible said, 'Vengeance is the Lord's.' Jim believed it was right to hunt down and kill the evil, supernatural things that lurked in the corners of their world, he supported the network of hunters like John Winchester and Caleb, offering them guidance, a place to stay, help with research and whatever else he could, but they were adults, adults who had chosen to pursue this vocation. He had always believed John wrong to drag his children into the life in the way he had. His desire for revenge had cost his children their childhood and now it seemed quite possibly at least one of them their life.

The first time he had met them as a family rather than just John, Dean had been about eight and Sammy about four. John had turned up late at night and asked for somewhere to stay. He'd been battered and bruised and too exhausted to drive any further. Dean had been silent, holding his brother's hand but using his body to shield him almost completely from view. Jim had taken them in without a qualm. He had cooked a meal for them, which John had eaten whilst talking about the just finished hunt not looking once at his sons. Jim had watched as Dean had made sure that Sam's food was chopped up, that Sam had eaten and that he had not made a mess as if worried that anger would follow from any mishaps. He had taken snatches of his own food in between looking after Sam, eyes flicking from his father to the Pastor. When they had all finished eating, it was Dean who had made to start clearing away until Jim had stopped him and he had sat down in silence again and returned to trying to keep his brother quiet and still, a job made easier by the fact that by that time Sam was barely awake. John still hadn't looked at the boys, so Jim had taken matters into his own hands saying that maybe the boys needed some sleep. Snapping back from his rant about the hunt, focus changed and John had agreed, returned to the car for a bag of clothes and wash kits for them.

Jim had led the boys upstairs to the guest room with its two twin beds, remembering the first conversation he had had with Dean, away from his father's intimidating presence, 'I'll bring a mattress through, there are only two beds, one of you will need to sleep on the floor.'

'It'll be okay. Sammy and I can share one bed, he'll be safe then.'

'You looked after your brother well downstairs.'

'That's what I'm supposed to do. I'm his brother.' A statement of fact softened by the smile he had given his brother who was watching, there was no question in the young boy's mind that his brother was his responsibility and that he wouldn't want it any other way.

Jim had been astonished when John had walked in with the bag, dropped it on the floor and turned to leave the room again, turning at the door to say, 'Got everything you need, sport. You make sure you look after Sammy. I'll be up later' and with that had gone back down the stairs, not even waiting for a response from Dean.

Jim had stayed to help, not that Dean had needed any help, once he knew where the bathroom was, he had followed what was clearly a well-practised bedtime routine, before climbing into bed alongside his brother with a book from which he had begun to read aloud until his brother fell asleep. Jim had watched as the younger child had drifted to sleep soothed by his brother's voice and presence. Dean had stopped reading when he was asleep and put the book down and looked up at the Pastor. 'Sammy likes that story best.' Another statement of fact, softened by the way he ran his small fingers through his brother's hair.

'And you read it well to him. Which story do you like?'

'I don't know.' There had been an unexpected edge to his voice then, panic that he didn't know what the expected answer was.

'Hey, it's okay. Would you like me to read something for you?'

He had watched as Dean sadly shook his head, 'I think Dad wants to talk to you. I'm going to go to sleep now but thank you.'

'Okay. So in the morning, do you two boys like pancakes for breakfast?'

That had elicited a shy grin and a nod before Dean had snuggled down arm round his younger brother and closed his eyes.

'I know we've disagreed about the boys before John, but this might be your last chance to see him, make your peace before…'

'No peace to make, Dean will understand.'

'You sure about that? I heard about Lawrence, you're breaking that boy. Anyway, Sam won't forgive you, you do know that don't you? He is not Dean.'

'Talking to Missouri again, Jim. The two of you should fucking butt out.'

'Sam told me.'

'Like I said mind your own fucking business Jim.'

'And as I've said to you before, you want to stay, you keep a civil tongue in your head. Disagree all you like, but stay civil. I heard that Bobby had had enough of your attitude too. When he heard you and Dean were travelling separately, he told me to let Dean know he was welcome anytime, it's a shame because I've never had the chance. I didn't hear from him again.You left him to fight the battles alone.'

'He'd got his brother, he was fine.'

'But he didn't have his brother. You do realise he spent weeks trawling morgues looking at dead bodies in case one was yours. What do you think that did to him? If he phoned here once during that first month, he phoned every few days. I wish I'd spoken to Bobby earlier. But since then nothing. Why do you think that is John?'

'It was time he stood on his own two feet. Anyway he didn't even do that, he went and got Sam. The only good thing might be that now Sam is back in the hunt, he might be stronger.'

'So Dean, pancakes. Isn't that what we agreed last night? What shall we put in them?' The elder of John's two boys had been up early with his brother and had brought him downstairs washed and dressed and the two had been out in the garden when Jim had found them. Dean had been showing the younger boy the bugs in the garden and making him laugh.

'Sammy likes blueberries,' he'd said with a smile.

'Fine, blueberries for Sammy, come on help me pick some, they're over this side in the garden. What about you?'

Yet again, a confused look had passed over Dean's eyes, making him look his age, rather than the mature mini-adult he seemed most of the time.

'You don't have to have the same as Sammy. Look here in the garden, we've got strawberries and raspberries and inside I have some bananas. I bet I could even find some choc chips if you'd like?'

He had smiled before quietly answering that he and Sammy would share a pancake and blueberries were good.

'Tomorrow we'll do your favourite then, how about that?' Jim thought how odd it was that this eight year old, could elicit such a protective streak in a man who had known him only a few hours, yet at the same time be almost invisible to his own father. The shy flashes of smile could warm a cynical heart. Hell, if it would stick around long enough it could melt the Arctic glaciers.

'John, let me ask you a question?'

'Jim, just leave it rest. I did what I thought was right.'

'Why do you make them suffer?'