Author's Note: This is a coda to an earlier story Some things are clichés for a reasonThat story was told alternately from Dean and Sam's perspectives, and I realised after I'd finished it that there was a perspective missing. So here it is.
You don't really need to have read Clichés to understand this. But in case you want the context, Clichés described the aftermath of a fight between John and a thirteen-year-old Sammy about whether Sam could play soccer, set in Joss Whedon's Sunnydale.
Disclaimer: Don't own the Winchesters, or Sunnydale. So very, very glad that Kripke and Whedon created them.
He wakes up each morning with the weight on his shoulders. Every day it drives him down a little further.
John Winchester didn't know what fear was until he met Mary. Then he didn't know what it was like to live without it. The world was a dangerous place and every time she kissed him good-bye it could be for the last time. Accidents. Illnesses. All the tragedies of life that he read about and heard about and that could happen to his Mary.
He walked with her, step by step, sat by her, hour upon hour, as she gave birth to Dean and then to Sammy, and while he tried to lend her his strength he knew that ultimately the battle was hers. She won it and there were two new people in the world, two people that he and Mary had created together. The first time he looked in Dean's eyes John thought that he'd never before known what happiness was. And four years later there was Sammy, and now John truly knew joy. Joy was his wife and his sons.
With the joy the fear increased, because they could so easily be taken away.
But he never, ever, in his worst nightmares, imagined it could have happened like that. If someone had told him that a creature was going to invade his home and kill his wife in his son's nursery, he would have said, "Over my dead body," and he would have meant it literally. There were things from which he knew he couldn't protect his family, and he lived in fear of them, but this, this he should have been able to fight. This wasn't an accident or an illness or the dangers of childbirth.
The yellow-eyed demon should only have been able to touch Mary over John's dead body. But John lived and Mary died. That was his failure.
He wanted to die. He wanted to follow Mary wherever she had gone, but he couldn't. She had left him their boys, Dean and Sammy, and he couldn't leave them. He had to protect them. He had to make sure that the thing that had killed Mary could never touch them.
So he trained them.
His sweet, sensitive, brilliant, beautiful Sammy should have been his mother's boy. John should have been able to shake his head over his son's love of poetry, his gentleness, his tendency to cry. He should have been able to look at Mary across a table and say, "Well, he must get that from you because he sure as hell doesn't get it from me!" and hear her laugh and point out that the temper and the stubbornness were definitely John's. He should have been able to not understand Sammy, and be okay about it, because Mary understood him, and Mary could explain them to each other.
But Mary wasn't around, and he didn't understand Sammy, and all he wanted was to keep Sam safe, but he didn't know how. So he let Dean raise Sammy, raise Mary's baby, while he researched and hunted and tried to make the world safe for them both.
He loves his boys more than his life. He loves his boys more than the death that would reunite him with their mother.
When Sammy storms out after their argument over soccer he sends Dean after him. It isn't fair. He knows his sons, and he can see the heartbreak in Dean's eyes, and Dean's fear that his little brother will turn on him. But John knows his sons, and he knows that while John following Sammy would lead to more anger and yelling, Dean following Sammy will lead to tears and comfort.
It's a decision that he regrets as time passes and his boys don't return. To calm himself he sits at the table and one by one takes his guns apart, cleans them, reassembles them. The familiarity of the task soothes him, and at the back of his mind is the unrecognised thought that if anything has happened to his boys he will destroy every single evil thing in this town in fire and pain.
When the boys return Sammy is moving carefully, and Dean is helping him walk. John's heart stops for a moment at the sight, and then starts racing, but Sammy's first words, "I'm okay, Dad. Dean saved me," calm him a little. But he remains a little breathless as he examines Sammy for injuries and talks to Dean about the thing that attacked his boy.
From Dean's description, it was a vampire. The town was overrun with them. John hasn't told Dean about vampires. He knows that if he tells his cocky seventeen-year-old that vampires exist and that to find them all he has to do is walk down an alley after dark, that's exactly what Dean will do, every night, machete in hand. So John doesn't mention them, hopes that Elkins and others of his ilk wipe them all out, and gives thanks for the fact that everyone in this tiny town lives in denial.
And, of course, hunts them himself.
He takes a blade from the trunk of the Impala and walks quietly to the alley that Dean described. Then he moves out from it, walking down alley after alley in a circular pattern until he finds the thing, about to bite down on another victim. He's in time, the victim hasn't been bitten, and is able to flee when John grabs the vampire round the throat. He could have killed it without warning, but this thing hurt his son.
He can see fear in the vampire's eyes. Demons talk, and John has a reputation. So he smiles and says, "Those boys earlier? They were my sons." The vampire's fear multiplies, and that pleases John. "I want to give a message to every evil son of a bitch in this town: no one touches my sons." The vampire nods, terrified, but with a glimmer of hope that John will leave him whole to pass the message on. And John smiles again: "Oh no, you're not the messenger. You're the message."
After the decapitation he stands quietly for a moment, and then he roars: 'NO ONE TOUCHES MY SONS." And to reinforce the message he kills five more monsters that night.
When he returns to the motel the boys are asleep. The evening has obviously worried them, because they are sharing a bed, something they haven't done for several years now. Sammy's head is on his big brother's chest, and his hand is raised to curl around his Dean's neck. Dean's chin is buried in his little brother's hair, and his arms are wrapped tightly around his Sammy's body.
Dean opens his eyes as John enters, registers that the intruder is his father, and falls back into sleep. Sammy, cocooned in his brother's warmth and strength, doesn't stir.
John pulls a chair up by the bed, and sits down to watch his brave, beautiful boys. He wants to wake them so he can look into their eyes. He wants to curl up on the bed with them and feel their warm weight in his arms. He wants to tell Sammy that he can do anything he wants, play soccer instead of train, and see Sammy smile for him the way he smiles for Dean.
But he couldn't protect Mary. A demon invaded his home and killed his wife in their baby's nursery. He has to protect his boys. He has to make sure that they can fight back.
He would rather be hated by a living Sammy than loved by a dead one.
He failed their mother. He will not fail his sons.