Disclaimer: I own nothing Supernatural.
Author's Note: Just a little angst-filled Father's Day story. Hope you like.
When Mary first told John she was pregnant again, he was concerned. They had very little money, a brand new mortgage, and a three-year-old who still wet the bed nearly every night. But as the months wore on he felt that same anxious joy he had encountered nearly four years prior. Fatherhood was a blessing John had never asked for. It was one he vaguely expected, as most men of his generation might. It was something he assumed would one day happen. But it was not a thing that he ever thought would change his life so completely.
Mary and Dean thought the baby would be a boy. John knew it would be a girl. A perfect little Daddy's girl to round things out, even them up. He would have his beautiful wife, his adorable son, and his darling daughter. The American ideal, the perfect family. If only Mary would let him have that Doberman he so wanted.
But Mary was allergic to dogs. And Sam was born a boy.
And when John first held him in the hospital room that day, when he looked down at the bundle in his arms and saw tiny slits of eyes, eyes the same color and tone as his own, he chucked the idea of perfection. This was something better and more real than any sort of esoteric ideal. Mary watched him as he cradled his son and mouthed grumbled words. She strained her ears to hear him mumble something along the lines of, "more than I ever knew."
John had never had a better Father's Day than the one just after Sam was born. That morning he woke to his month-old son's cries from the crib not five feet away. Before even opening his eyes he heard Mary's sweet voice, laden with sleep, whispering, "Mommy's coming, baby." He felt her rise from the bed just before feeling the quick slap of silky skin on his cheek. Still with eyes loosely shut, he peeled his young son's hand off of his face and wrapped his arms around the boy. Dean was spoiled, there was no doubt. Mary had been telling him for months that they would have to break him of this habit, sleeping in their bed whenever he had a bad dream or heard a scary noise, or just plain felt lonely. But John could never bear to say no to his little boy's pleas.
Dean barely stirred as John lifted him across his body, depositing him on the other side. Then Mary came and took her place, baby in hand, beside her groggy husband. And there they sat in utter silence, save Dean's slight snore and Sammy's constant suckling. There John sat, with his beautiful boy pressed into his right side, curled so tightly against him that he could feel his tiny heart beating in the slow melodic rhythm of a child at peace. And on his left there was Mary, his wonderful, amazing, everything he always wanted without ever knowing it Mary, who sleepily nursed their baby. She yawned briefly before resting her head on his shoulder, fitting perfectly within the crook of his neck. And he nuzzled her corn silk hair with his chin while taking in his baby's ever-alert stare, the hazel eyes gazing up at him with nothing short of devotion. And he returned the gaze.
Everything he could ever need or want was in his arms at that moment. There was, he knew, and never would be, anything more or less of his world.
But the Father's Days of years to come would not be so bright as that one.
Ten years later he would return from some such mission to a hotel room table stockpiled with goodies from the vending machine around the corner. He would enter the empty, hazy room on a Tuesday while his boys were still in school, and he would notice the layout before even dumping his bag let alone taking a quick shower. He would see the assortment of sugar-filled pseudo-foods and feel the crave that only a man who had spent the last week surviving on cheap coffee and stale chips from the glove compartment could feel. But he would not partake yet. He would wait for his boys to get back so he could offer Sam the Twinkies that he knew he had really picked for himself anyway. And then he would slide that nearly hidden bag of M&M's over to Dean, acknowledging his attempted sacrifice but turning them down all the same. Then, perhaps, he would delve into the horrific little apple pie, pure preservative perfection, the only thing he could ever really enjoy from a vending machine outside of gum and cigarettes.
But before that even, he would take a seat at the table and notice the flaps of paper sticking out from under the foods. He'd pull them out and see that they were homemade cards, sorry little pictures and loopy, extravagant looking scrawl put down in black ink on hotel paper. He would study the cards until his eyesight blurred, not with strain or fatigue, but with tears. And he would sit at that table in that lonely little stuffy room, and he would cry. He would cry because he had forgotten that two days ago was Father's Day, forgotten when he called and said he'd be longer than expected. He would cry because, looking at the unhealthy assortment in front of him, he would quickly realize, for the first time in fact, how awful it was that his boys had no idea how to make any foods outside of Spaghettios and toast. They could never have prepared for him the typical Father's Day feast, barbecue and chocolate cake, like Mary used to make. He would cry because his children had no one, while he was gone, gone God knows where, to take them out shopping for a gift or a card. And even if they did, he would doubt that they would have any idea what to get for him.
And he would cry because, to them, none of that mattered. They didn't care about what they didn't have or didn't know. They did what they could with what they had. And that would make him cry the most. Because all they had and all they knew was wrapped in the four little words inside Sam's dinky card – the one with the hotel motto emblazoned on the outer corner and the chicken scratch of the nearly inkless complimentary pen. The one John would fold up until it could be folded no more and stick into a hidden pocket of his wallet so it might be carried around with him forever. "I love you, Dad."
And ten years after that John would spend Father's Day in much the same way, crying alone in a hotel room, fingering that card from his 10-year-old boy. Only it would be a different hotel room in a different city and state. And the tears would be for different reasons. This time he would cry because his son had left him, and might never come back. And he knew exactly whose fault that was. He would cry because he had let his anger and self righteousness get the better of him, his stubbornness color his words, so that when he had meant to say "I need you" it had come out, "never come back."
And he would cry for Dean, the son he had left, the son who was so broken by Sam's departure and John's betrayal, but fought tooth and nail for the strength not show it. He would cry because the card he found waiting for him when he woke that morning would be signed, "Dean and Sam," even though he would be certain Sam had nothing to do with it. Sammy would have no reason that year to celebrate Father's Day; his father was dead to him.
But for more than any other reason he would cry because his boys were boys no more. They were strong and sturdy and capable. They were men. And he would be unable to remember how or when that might have happened, them growing into adults. He would think back to that night when he sat outside their burning home, Mary still inside, already gone. He would remember holding his children close to him and thinking that surely he would never see them grow, his broken heart would give out long before they would come of age. And so, in the years to follow that day he would never even look for signs of maturing, because it would only kill him quicker to know they were getting older and wiser, and he'd never see the result. But his boys would grow with or without him looking on, and he would live to see it, whether or not he wanted to.
And so he would cry because he was the father of men. And these men he did not even recognize.
He would never want to celebrate another Father's Day again. He would gladly tear every calendar from every wall in all the world to keep from knowing on which day it would fall, to keep his sons from knowing. But he would have no such luck. Dean especially would remember, every time. Just as he made it a point to celebrate every birthday, no matter how sad the gift, how awful the cake. Just as he would always acknowledge the day Mary died, hiding away by himself, quietly talking to his mother's ghost thinking no one but her would hear. Father's Day would not go unnoticed or uncelebrated, not as Mother's Day had always been.
And so, every year John would receive a gift of sorts. A card, some flowers, perhaps even a visit. And every year he would pray it would be the last time. But it would not stop, and there would be nothing he could do to make it stop. And in time that old anxious joy would rise up in him again. And he would get to see his sons move ever further into true adulthood, free from his selfish reign. And he would get to meet his grandchildren, and their frequent visits would be the greatest of any Father's Day gifts, not just for him, but for his boys too. Because they would come to realize the blessing he took for granted all those years ago, and he would be given a second chance at watching his own flesh and blood grow. His grandchildren. Their voices as they would speak to him and their faces, always looking up, would be the most bittersweet remembrances he could ever have. They would come for years, make the Father's Day trek from the time they were babies until they were men and women themselves. They would bring gifts all their own, handmade cards, flowers plucked from a neighbor's garden, a single stone. They would come and stand amid the countless headstones scrawled with unknown names, and look down at his. They would stand there above a man they'd never met and say the words he always wanted to hear, always without even knowing, "I love you, Grandpa."
And somewhere, somehow, John would cry.