Disclaimer: I own nothing Supernatural.

Author's Note: I know, I know...angst, angst, angst. But really, what was I supposed to do? I had to write something.

They said it was a stroke. A clot, from some injured part of his seemingly sound body, had broken off and drifted along, up, up, up into his brain. A massive ischemic event. Fatal.

They said he didn't know what hit him. No pain, no warning.

They said it was unforeseeable. Sad and unfortunate, but no one to blame. It was random. Tragic.

They said they were very sorry.

But John was not sorry. And he did see it coming. And there was pain, so much pain. A restless sort of ache, wrapped up in the past. Mary burning. Sammy crying. Dean loving. And a vicious agony that chipped away at his flesh, his bones. His soul. As it had done for days. Dean begging to live. Him pleading to die.

And then he did.

He had never intended on making an exchange so extreme, never thought an offer of such would even be considered. But then a statement was issued with an inhuman voice, an ultimatum spewed from behind yellow eyes.

There's something else I want, as much as that gun, maybe more.

And he knew. He knew this was the thing responsible for Mary, killing Mary. And turning his boys into virtual orphans. Turning him into nothing more than a soulless warrior, a shadow of a man. A poor excuse for a father.

Let it never be said that John Winchester was not a petty and vindictive man. Or a stubborn old fool. He looked into those glowing eyes and felt the familiar fear and rage that had nearly toppled him on so many occasions, when he was somewhat out of his element, but committed none the less. When he had to work to suppress the boiling emotions so he could do his work.

But restraint did not come on that night. It was not needed. Because before he even got the chance to realize how his hate of this monster might color his judgement or sway his hand, he heard, in a voice oddly his own, Fine.

Let it never be said that fatherhood wasn't as instinctual a thing for John Winchester as firing a gun. Maybe even more so.

His promise came out like a breath. Unthought of. Unheeded. Innate.

Because it was Dean. Dean, who's smile used to light up his heart. Dean, who offered him comfort and love when he was neither deserving nor particularly receptive. Dean, who he promised the world to on his very first day in it.

Dean, his son.

The choice was not simple. It wasn't a choice at all.

He made his deal. And he went to ensure that the other had made good on his end. And he saw his sons. And he said goodbye the only way he could.

Let's not fight.

Because certain words would never come.

I'm sorry.

And others needed to be said.

I'm proud of you.

And he returned to his room, ready as he'd ever be. Gave up the colt, with it the reprisal that he had spent his past twenty years yearning for. And he looked that demon in the eye, the cold glaring yellow eye that he could barely remember gazing through. Barely, but still.


He did see it coming, and he did feel the pain. Thinking of Mary. Because the last thing she touched was Sammy's sweet face.

And his fingertips still tingled from the cool metal of the revolver.

Because the last thing she saw was her baby boy's body, fleshy and soft and radiating hope.

And he had looked into the eyes of the beast.

No hell could scald him more than his own regrets.

And no sacrifice could be more worthy. Damnation be damned.

They said it was a stroke. But they were wrong.

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