Title - Best He Knew How

Summary - John Winchester knew he wasn't the best father in the world - certainly would never win Father of the Year - but he took pride in the fact that he did what he could for his boys.

"My dear father; my dear friend; the best and wisest man I ever knew, who taught me many lessons and showed me many things as we went together along the country by-ways." - Sarah Orne Jewett

"Best He Knew How"

John Winchester knew he wasn't the best father in the world - certainly would never win Father of the Year - but he took pride in the fact that he did what he could for his boys. He used to be the outstanding kind of father, one that Mary would tease would win the coveted award one day. He would go to each and every one of Dean's T-Ball games and help the boy practice whenever the kid wanted to. John was the one who always got up in the middle of the night to tend to dirty diapers or midnight feedings telling Mary she dealt with them all day while he was at work so nighttime was his time to tend to their needs. He loved his boys, that was a given, but after Mary it was hard to even look at the boys.

Dean looked exactly like his mother with his fair hair, green eyes, and nose splattered with freckles. He smiled her smile, laughed her laugh. Though his looks were his mothers, his actions were purely a Winchester. He had the stubborn streak down by the time he was two. The independent mantra radiated off him by the time he was four. Mary used to joke that he was a mini John despite that the looks were all hers.

Sammy, on the other hand, looked exactly like his father with the dark hair and eyes. He even had the same dimples as his father and had acquired all the same ticklish spots. His personality was all Mary. The studious, asking a million questions, never stopped talking, rolling his eyes whenever a family member said something inappropriate was purely Mary. Although, John's beloved wife was never be able to see that the boys acted like one parent but looked like the other. She would have laughed at the irony, laughed Dean's laugh.

When Mary first died, John didn't think it was possible for him to go on. The constant aching of his heart, the feeling that his insides were being pulled out, the hot tears that would slid down his face at night, the bottomless pit of alcohol he would consume - it was all too much. It wasn't until two week after practically being a zombie did he snap out of it. Stumbling into the room Sam and Dean shared in his Marine buddy's house, he watched the older boy singing a song that Mary used to sing to the boys. His voice was so soft and gentle that John had to strain his ears to even hear the boy's voice.

"So close your eyes on Hush'bye Mou'ain. Wave g'bye to cares of the day."

For some insane reason that John never understood, Mary loved watching that old movie. She said that it was Dick Van Dyke's charm that won her over and his voice was just an added bonus. John had attempted so many prat falls over furniture during their marriage when he'd come home from work, anything to hear Mary's infectious laugh ring throughout their house. John hated Dick Van Dyke now… he hated anything that reminded him of Mary. There were only two things that he couldn't hate that reminded him painfully of his late wife: Dean and Sammy.

Once John found his footing, started to research his wife's untimely death, he vowed that he would be a better father. The small family left Lawrence at the end of January in 1984. He was well aware that his best friend had called child services after their talk about the supernatural and how a demon had claimed Mary's life. Mike thought he wasn't right in the head, was suffering severely from post-traumatic stress disorder or something, worried that he would harm the boys, but John couldn't let anyone or anything take away the two kids who were helping him breathe.

The year of '84 was the hardest on all the Winchesters. Dean refused to talk to anyone but Sammy. If he needed something from John, he'd look at his father with pleading eyes and force sad smiles. That was the year that his oldest became a man, much too young and much too quickly as he found himself responsible for the youngest Winchester. The childish notions he held in his head were gone. Fairytales, knights, and happily-ever-afters now resided on the Island of Misfit Toys. The belief of God and angels that Mary talked so fondly of were bitter and cold. Sammy, the little boy who used to be so quiet and curious, stared clinging to his brother or father and his chubby cheeks always seemed to glisten with tears of not being able to understand where Mommy had went and why.

They moved from motel room to motel room, state to state, all across the American frontier. John checked out the local legends and researched everything paranormal. He didn't dare hunt yet, afraid that he'd make a rookie mistake and leave his sons helpless to the Department of Child Services. They had just lost their mother and John would be damned if he let them lose their father as well.

There were two things that ate away at John that year: sorrow and fear. The grief he felt was overwhelming and without the alcohol to numb the pain, sometimes it was all consuming. At times he felt as though he would drown in it, suffocate until he was a stiff. There were times, however, that fear overpowered the sorrow. The slightest noises would cause his heart to stop as flashes of his sons' dead and bloody bodies filled his dreams until he couldn't even be awake without seeing the horrific images in his head. It had become so bad that John would not let the two out of his sight. He's set them down next to him in libraries, diners, or their motel rooms not more than a couple of feet away from him at all times. At night, the boys became a permanent fixture in his bed. It was always the same arrangement: John on the left, Dean on the right, and little Sammy squished in the middle. The toddler would take turns on whom he would comfort when darkness fell, one night snuggling with his brother and the next clinging to his father.

It wasn't until October that John rented out an apartment for a good five months, staying in one place longer than he ever imaged he would after what happened to Mary. Missouri Mosely had pointed him in the direction of Manning, Colorado to a hunter named Daniel Elkins. The hunter taught him more than any book could, even took John on his first hunt - a pack of vampires who had been feeding a county away.

On his first hunt, John started a tradition. Right before the hunt, while sitting in the Impala, he would talk to Mary. Twirling the wedding band on his finger, he would ask his late wife to look out for him so that their boys wouldn't become orphans. He begged Mary for strength, pleaded to make sure that their family was safe from harm's way. It was a habit, talking to his wife through his ring. Somehow, it always brought him ample amounts of comfort, comfort that usually his boys could only supply him.

It wasn't long until Elkins and John had a falling out. The bastard thought he could tell John how to run his family, raise his boys, rule his life. Give the boys up if you're serious about this, Winchester, because you can't be hunting with two brats in the backseat to worry about, Elkins said harshly one cool March night. By the next morning, John skipped out on his lease with the apartment complex. He packed the tired boys into the back of the Impala and drove off, determined to get as far away from Colorado as humanly possible.

Though John gave back some of the boys' independence, allowing them to be out of his sight for longer than a few seconds, he nearly had a nervous breakdown on Dean's first day of school. The kid plastered a sour look on his face, determined not to go to the dreaded kindergarten. John had almost let Dean talk him out of going, but then thought of how much education meant to Mary filled his mind. So for the first few weeks of kindergarten, John and Sammy sat outside the building in the Impala, watching to make sure nothing could harm Dean. John would watch him out on the playground, so antisocial and unwilling to join in on any of the games that were being played. Sammy whined when he'd see Dean, begging in his bizarre form of twin-talk that the two brothers had started to use, to play with his big brother.

By this time, John allowed the boys to have their own room. Though it was awkward at first not to be sleeping with the boys, he thought it was what was best for them. For years, however, Sammy had planted his small body into Dean's bed every night. John tried to discourage it at first, placing the youngest in his own bed every night. However, merely twenty or so minutes after John read them a story and placed kisses on both their foreheads, he could hear little Sammy disregarding the rule that he was a big boy and big boys slept in their own bed. The bed would creak, pillows and comforters would make soft thumps on the floor, childish laughter would ring, clothed feet would pitter patter across the floor, Dean would mumble tiredly, some more creaking, and then the soft exchange of words before everything went silent. Before going to bed himself, he'd peek in the boys' room to see Sammy using his brother as a pillow and hogging most of the covers. It wasn't until Sam was ten that he even considered sleeping in his own bed, but he only agreed to it after the two twin beds were pushed together.

"Just in case I need Dean, he's right there," Sammy had stated matter of fact.

When his youngest asked to join the soccer team at the tender age of seven, John immediately said no. It would only cause a rift in their routine. Dean always picked Sammy up from school and the two of them walked home together. If Sam had soccer practice, that meant making a whole knew schedule to their day. John didn't have enough strength to figure out a new plan. Dean and John were all about consistency. Sammy sulked until Dean suggested the two play soccer by themselves.

"Who needs all those brats, anyways? You really want to be on a team with them? I'd rather be eaten by a werewolf than have to spend extra time with them."

John was glad peacemaker came so easily to Dean. He knew how to play the kid, manipulate a situation around until Sammy had no choice but to believe what his brother was saying was true. So the little boy was back to his normal self. He started asking a million questions a minute, running his mouth off every second he got, and even started to give John wet kisses again after brooding moodily for two weeks straight. In return, John decided for the next week he would walk Sammy and Dean to school - something that Sam had been begging him to do since he started kindergarten. With Dean walking on his right and Sammy's sticky, candy-coated hand swinging his left hand, John couldn't help but wonder why he didn't walk with them every day.

As the boys grew older, Dean became more of a best friend to John than a son. The teen listened to his father, respected him, and he had more good laughs with his oldest than with anyone else. Sam, on the other hand, was a different story. The kid wasn't obedient like his brother. He was more defiant than John ever thought possible. Whatever John said, Sammy did the opposite. It became sort of a game, say the opposite of what he really wanted and hope that Sam didn't catch on. Although, it only worked a few times before his youngest outsmarted him - being too smart for his own good.

Then his youngest hit his teenage years with full force. His hormones got the best of him as he complained more than not about hunting - whining about how it affected his academic career. Certainly, the boy didn't take after his older brother who had flunked out of high school during his senior year and just barely passed his GED test. Dean was always half-assed when it came to school matters which irritated Sammy and his 4.0 to no end.

John always thought it fruitless that Sam spent most of his time studying and taking honor classes. But when Sammy became valedictorian, John couldn't have been prouder. He remembered Sam's nervous smile as he stood in front of his classmate's before starting the valedictory. Dean, who sat to his father's right, gave his younger brother a thumb's up and an encouraging smile. Though hesitant at first, John was glad he allowed Sam to live with Pastor Jim through his whole senior year just to see him up on that stage delivering his speech.

"… As we move on to life's next big adventure, we can't forget our cheering section who have been there through the best of times and the worst of times," Sam said as his closing as he nodded towards his father, brother, and the good pastor.

The happiness was short lived as the Winchesters' lives were turned upside down. Sammy declared he was no longer a child and had no desire to continue his father's crusade. Sam left, and John regretted telling his son to stay gone as a last ditch effort in scaring his son into staying with his family. The day Sammy left was the day that John knew he was the world's worst father. His youngest was gone and unprotected. His oldest was lost and drunk himself shit-faced every night until he wound up in the hospital to get his stomach pumped. John let Dean have his freedom, letting the kid do whatever he wanted after one last lengthy lecture about drinking too much alcohol. There was no way in hell he was going to lose Dean like he lost Sammy. He would have no will to live without at least one of his sons.

The two worked well together as a team, and John loved hunting with his son. When he got whiff of the demon cropping up and repeating what happened in '83 all over again, John knew he had to do something and that something could not include his twenty-six year old son. It was too risky to allow Dean to be apart of that. He already lost Mary, and he'd be damned if he lost his oldest to that son-of-a-bitch as well.

Setting up the gig in New Orleans had been easy and far away enough that Dean wouldn't be able to pick up his father's trail. What John didn't put into consideration was how Dean would feel about his father's disappearance. The kid had abandonment issues, and John added fuel to that fire by not even attempting to explain what was going through his mind.

What surprised John the most was that Dean went to Sammy, asking for the kid's help. Even more shocking was that Sam actually left school to try and help. The weekend Sam was out in Jericho with Dean, John had been in Palo Alto. Signs and omens were turning up in the college town, and John feared for Sammy's life. The demon was there, and John was determined to stop it.

Mustering up all the courage he had, John walked up to Sam's apartment door and knocked. He played the scenarios in his head, each one ending in either a door slamming in his face or a shouting match. What he didn't expect was a pretty blonde opening the door, her brow furrowing as though she had recognized him but couldn't put her finger on where she had seen him.

"Is Sammy here?" John asked her.

"Uh, Sammy? Oh, Sam! No… he went on a trip with his brother. Can I help you with something?" she told him, her eyes narrowing as her head tilted to the left ever so slightly.

"No. No. I'm good. I just… never mind. Thank you for your help. I'll come back later."

"He won't be home until Monday… but he's got this interview so you won't be able to talk to him until after dinner sometime. Do you want me to give him a message for you? I'll call him and tell him you dropped by-"

"Thank you but no… I'll give him a call myself. I just thought I'd drop by and surprise him."

It wasn't until a month or so later when he finally put the pieces together. The demon hadn't wanted Sam; it wanted the person that his son had grown closest to in the past couple of years when he was away from his family. John knew the demon had plans for Sammy, wanted him to be part of some demon army or whatnot. He felt like he had failed Sammy by letting his girlfriend die, by not figuring out what was going on sooner. At least Sam had Dean to get through it; he had his big brother who would do anything for the kid.

Knowing that his sons were hunting together, John felt more at ease about leaving. They had each other to watch their backs. It wasn't often, but John did trail his sons sometimes to make sure they were well and still breathing. As soon as he received Dean's voicemail about being in Lawrence, John was there within twenty-four hours. Staying with Missouri, he hid in the shadows as he watched his sons fight the nightmare of their mother's death all over again. When Sammy called him, stating that Dean was dying, John had turned up in Nebraska at the faith healing ritual, hidden in the back under the shadows. He's split as soon as the reverend healed his son. In a heartbeat, when Dean called him from Chicago stating he had a lead on the thing that killed Mary, he drove to the Windy City as quickly as he could. There was no way in hell he was allowing his sons to fight the demon alone without him.

Now they were in Manning Colorado again, hunting vampires just like his first hunt. John felt torn, not knowing if he wanted to wipe out the vampire nest because they had the Colt or because they killed Elkins. All he knew is that he needed that gun and if he got a little revenge for his ex-friend then it was a win-win situation.

John sat in the darkness, a police scanner clenched in-between his hands. Sammy and Dean were fully clothed and sound asleep. His boys and him were together again in another shitty motel room in another town. It had been four years since the last time were all together like this. It made his heart ache to see them sleeping so soundly. Dean was the first to collapse on the bed, not bothering to even take off his shoes. John half expected Sammy to ask him to help push the beds together so he could go to sleep as well and was more than a little disappointed when Sam collapsed on the other bed without pushing it closer to Dean's.

"Unit 22, let me confirm. Mile marker 41, an abandoned car, you need a workup?" a female voice said from the scanner.

"Copy that. Possible 207. Better get forensics out here," a male voice replied.

Setting the scanner down on the table, John stood up grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair. He may have screwed up royally when raising his boys, leaving them alone for weeks at a time while he hunted. He may have never allowed them to be normal by playing on soccer and baseball teams. He was, however, proud at the men they had become - watching over one another and being there when the other needed him. John swallowed hard as he walked in-between the beds.

"Sam. Dean. Let's go."

"Hmm-hmm," Dean groaned.

"Picked up a police call," John told them.

"What happened?" Sam questioned.

"A couple called 911. Found a body in the street. Cops got there, everyone was missing. It's the vampires," John explained.

"How do you know?" Sam questioned farther.

"Just follow me, okay?"

"Vampires, it gets funnier every time I hear it," Dean commented.

As the three Winchesters walked out of the motel room to their cars, John couldn't help but see the boys as little kids. He slid into his truck and watched as Sam and Dean did the same through his rearview mirror. Gripping the steering wheel, John saw that he did all he could do raising his boys. He wasn't the best father but he wasn't the worst despite what Sammy told him four years ago during their last screaming match. He did well by his boys and watched them grow up to be fine men. That was really all a father could ask for.

Author's Notes - So this is another John blurb that I wrote. It irritates me to no end when people bash John, stating that he was a horrible father. Seriously, he wasn't. He did the best he could, so I wrote a story to show the positive side of John that most people don't seem to see. Reviews are more than welcomed. I'd love to hear what you think.