The fact that you won't face me in your true state..." Jim looked on at the spectre before him with disappointment. How far into the darkness have you gone...How long are you going to torture..." Jim stared to ask, but was interrupted.

"Until I know..."

"Know what! That everything will go the way you want it to. Remember the puppet master is often killed by its creations. What will you make him do?"

"Nothing!"

"Liar. You healed Sam and then... came to heal Dean..."

"Can you blame me?"

"But at what price, my friend. Please drop the facade. Why play such games?"

"You should talk!"

"I couldn't- I was forbidden to interfere. I was only here to provide comfort and take Dean to some peace."

"He's fine where he is."

"He can't live forever. Not as flesh. Dean's time will come, but you are still in the game as if you can win it like some blips on a TV screen. Can't you see that? Even your name... WAIN ETCHERS- A WINCHESTER in anagram. You wanted to leave Sam and Dean clues to know you are here, even though you feel it's dangerous. Just to be close... come now, it's not like I can't see it's you. We never... "

With that Wain dropped his illusion and only John's image remained. The man that seemed to be pitted against them thorough Dean's ordeal showed his true form."Can't blame me for leaving a little clue. I had to show as Wain… to throw off anything else…"

How arrogant. You've made excuses for your actions. "

"And seems to me you did more than comfort."

"Pretending to be something... appearing before them...You should not be here. You should have crossed over long ago. You place the boys in more danger with every passing moment. Is this what you wanted?" Pastor Jim asked.

"Ended up better than I hoped." John scoffed.

"That you used almost all of your energy to heal Sam and did the same for Dean... but you can't...you can't lose that precious claim on Dean."

"If I go over...then I lose him."

"If the boys know you are around, the demons will use that knowledge against them."

"And you happen to take it upon yourself to come here and take the form of a priest… very original."

"I guess we both are still old con men. But I was sent to reap a Winchester...and even on this side I don't have all the answers."

"You were guiding them."

"I was giving them hope."

"And now he just loses that knowledge- Dean goes on feeling just as abandoned as before."

"No, he won't remember us until he is ready to pass again, but I was permitted to leave him with the joy he felt in the presence of the people he helped. He deserved that much."

"He deserves more!"

"And you are going to make sure he gets it?"

"By hell I will."

"You're right. Hell will be the one leading you down that path. At first, it's just a little manipulation...good and easy thing for a con man to dismiss. Then you start moving the pieces. Directing them how you wanted. Like pulling your boys in this game how you chose. You moved the obstacles- put up the wall- leaked information in your own time. All unnecessary. Then you gave them the name. You interfere with GOD's time."

"I want to stop losing people we love. I want….I want Dean to be safe."

"And it's that easy? Have you ever got what you wanted before?"

"This time."

"And what do you do now?"

"My family needs me and if I can only be there for them in a small way, that will be fine."

"This isn't over. You know as well as I do. The thing after those boys lost its hold on Dean, but it's not going to give up. Do you think it's only one small demon you have to kill? Look inside of yourself. Soon you will turn... serve someone even worse than Armaros. It's only a matter of time before it seeks you out and you will fall to it... your soul will perish a bit each day. You're an abomination. Coming here wasn't your place."

"I can't switch it off! Are you asking me to watch the pain?"

"No, but don't cause it. Go ahead reveal yourself and let those boys watch you turn to something that is worse than a walking shadow. You want him to know it was you. The over the top hints. You called them tiger. You know the stakes and the dangers in this. Why don't you just lay out the cards behind John Winchester's new poker face?"

"I'm keeping them safe..."

"BULLSHIT! You are losing yourself... every second. You could have played this differently. Tell me. If you showed up... told Bobby... hey the demon that destroyed your life has its hooks in Dean... Even if he thought you were not who you seemed, he would have checked into it. Where is John- the straight shooter? That's the Winchester I know."

"I couldn't. I need to stay a secret like a weapon."

"No! You liked the thrill… the gamemaster... thrived on it. Can't you feel that? The darkness in you is growing. I didn't recognize your presence I felt when you demanded I help you. I had to be shown by... the man I knew…. He is soon to be no more… "

"Save the sermon..."

"Everyday more of you is lost. I can take you over, make you whole again. I was here for you all along and until now I didn't know it."

"But they need me. I don't care if it kills all that I am. Sam killed her... for Dean and for Bobby and I won't be sorry for that. It was worth it to see them…" John let a ghost of a smile play at his lips. "Thought I had saved him years ago, I didn't know the she would come back for him. I had to make sure she died this time. I promised him."

"I thought I was here for Dean, but I'm here for you... because of you... Can't you feel it... the pieces of who you were drifting from you, taking your further away from the light."

"It saved my boys."

"And when all the kindness and love you have has been eaten away... Why did you stop Sam's darkness?"

"The demons can't have them!"

"But, it's all okay for you to turn... twist in a demonic playground. Stay here and you will turn to something that is at best a vengeful spirit and at worse a full on demon. Can you tell me right now, that you could face having Dean hunt you down, kill you? Ignore what you would become. What would that do to Dean?"

"He would be strong."

"Don't lie to yourself. He would shatter. You remember the hurt in that boy. Don't make the man relieve it. When is it enough!? You know he can't stop trying to save you all. "

"He would do what he has to. I can't leave him. They need me and I can find ways to keep them safe. I fooled Sam, Bobby, Dean, even Missouri."

"You would not have been capable of the ruse had you not been walking down this path of ruin. Your own children couldn't see you in Wain... and that should scare you more."

"They just didn't have time to see."

"You were just standing next to Dean and all he saw was hate and the need for warning. He could feel it seeding inside you. Is that the last thing you want to legacy to your son? Is it more hate- pain- regret? Can you honestly answer now, as bad as you are getting, that you wish him to face killing you? Can you say you're sorry for the monster you will become? Will that make him feel better? Can you break what's left of his heart?"

"He needs... I have possession of a part of him now."

"Forget you... Let's talk about your 'POSSESSION'... When did you become the owner of him... He's not a thing! He's you're son- a person you should love and respect as a grown man, but he is a trinket in your hand to you now. One day the dark will take over and you will be just like Armaros... hurting him... can you look in Dean's eyes knowing you will..."

"Stop..."

"But you won't stop... never! Dean will beg… you remember what that's like. When the yellow possessed you and made you hurt him. The look on his face as he called out to you- unable to reconcile that his father could allow that to happen. He believed in you when you always told him that you could protect them. Trusted in it…. But you lied… everyday to him… and still he believed….not because of some stupid idea of a big bad solider… because you were his father… You won't stop it…not until someone kills you. Will it be Sam? Wonder how Dean will feel knowing Sam destroyed all that was left of his father...or better yet... Bobby? You can forget Dean asking for his help again. So that means they are on their own without any guidance. So the next time Dean's in pain it will be because of you. How you liking the irony!? You save him now just to become a replacement for Armaros. Stay and love them for a brief moment... Maybe it will be a few years...I know Dean would beg for you to do it now. The loss of you devastated them both. But in the end of things...defeated... broken..."

"STOP IT!" John huffed, flying towards Jim as if he wanted to rip the words out of Jim's throat.

"See... you see the path you are walking. Remember I saw how you were ripped apart, finding Deans so close to death, battered- abused and almost not human. What will you do to him on your day? Come with me to peace and let Dean have some too."

"I can't…. I can't leave this time, not when..."

"There are those ready to protect Sam and Dean and you know it..."


THEN... December 1989

The wind against the cabin rolled, as Bobby stared John down. "So you want to tell me the truth now?" He asked. You didn't fight a Banshee did ya?"

"How could you tell?"

"Been at this too long... conned better than you have dreamed I imagine. Dean said the demon took his momma... So unless Sam has a different mother... you ain't been at this too long..."

"Five...six years... what the difference...

"And the cuts are too far apart. Those things have neat claws… like razor blades….Why did you lie to your boys?"

"To keep them safe and sane. I almost lost Dean to this…"

"The thing that hurt him? Something…"

"A demon. I didn't want him to know. I promised him she was already dead."

"Don't seem wise. Kids scared like he's keeping everyone close. Don't know if it's to protect him or you."

"Yeah, then why did he trust you?"

"Wasn't easy. Just seem to take to my cantankerous ways. Maybe he recognized a hunter cause he is one."

"What can we do about it now?"

"Could slug it out some more."

"Likely..." John added, still not pleased with a new addition in their lives, especially one he knew very little about.

"Or drink a few beers and find out what led us both to this hellish life. I think your lies will keep for another day."

"Forever." John mouthed.

"For the life of me, I don't think you want Dean seeing any more worries at the moment- not even a good fist fight."

"Beer… sounds good. Guess it's time to lay the cards on the table and see where the chips fall."

"Ain't much to tell, Damn demon showed up one day and took over my wife simple as that.."

"It's never simple." John countered, more to himself than Bobby. "You get so cold…. Like nothing will ever dig you out of the hole they put you in."

"Yeah, but then sometime life surprises you... when you least suspect it, you find that people need you and it..." Bobby glanced back at the boy's bedroom.

"Never found that." John stated.

"Then you need to look around you, buddy. Take a strong look at those boys."


Now...

With a hostile thud, Bobby inched forward, barely keeping the takeout bags in his hand.

"Dammit... Sorry, man..." A young man, dressed in army fatigues, said after bumping into Bobby. As he impacted, he carefully picked Bobby's wallet. "I just got too much on my mind and I didn't even notice you there."

"It's best to keep your eyes peeled..."

The man gave him a solemn look like he longed to be anywhere but the parking lot of a hospital.

"Ah... shit happens" Bobby scoffed in a particularly good mood.

"I'm really sorry." The response was a little more sincere than it was supposed to sound. "I know... I know... Got my sons on my mind. They sorta..."

"Got in deep..." Bobby offered.

"Sounds like you got a few of your own."

"Not anymore... I once did."

"Oh, sorry. I just assumed you were a..."

"Here for friends."

"You don't seem to act like you're visiting friends. I've seen that look- hell had that look- more times than I could count. Anyway, thanks for not taking my head off... I think you could do that pretty easy and I might deserve it."

"Nah, I only do that to a boogeyman...and they are in short supply these days."

The young man chuckled, "Good, then I can rest easy with my sons on that count."

"If your kids are like Dean and Sam you may just want to duck and cover until they hit teenage years, and then get yourself body armor and a tank."

"Sounds about right… just like great kids."

"Heck, men now... not that they act it. But they are- really... Ahh...hell I think children live to learn new ways to give you grey hair. Take care now." Bobby offered as he took leave from the seemingly worried man.

As the Bobby walked away, the young father leafed inside of Bobby wallet, finding the adoption drawing. Carefully, he put the locket inside of the worn paper's folds whispering a small amount of Latin before he closed it all. Finally, he rushed after Bobby, calling out as he sprinted.

"Hey! Hey... excuse me! I think I knocked this out of your pocket when I bumped you. Is it yours?"

"Hell, I am getting old."

"You seem to have as much weighing on your soul as I do mine- so maybe we are all not ourselves these days.

"Use to be able to tell it was gone by the weight. Course money ain't as heavy as it use to be- not enough of it." Without missing a stitch, Bobby glanced inside making sure everything appeared to be in place.

"Nothing's like it use to be."

"I'd tell you to say that again, but I know too damn many people to agree with ya."

"Still some people are still worth it."

"Yeah, got me on that one." Bobby said, but his mind was really on Dean and his former family.

"Sorry again. Take care." The young man said, taking steps in the opposite direction. As Bobby shuffled from view entering the hospital, the young father dropped the fake image and John watched his friend until not even a shadow could be seen.

A slight smile flipped on his face, but his eyes were full of sorrow. "Take care of him..." He said as he faded back to his son's room.


"I'd say I was proud of you." Jim offered a small amount of justified pride in John. "Did he realize..."

"He'll never know… and if he finds that... it will just be some useless thing he picked up and forgot."

"He would never use it even if he knew he has that power. He loves Dean…." Jim reminded John.

"Facing him was damn hard. Guess the demon bonded them together. Use to bother me how close the boys got to him, but now..."

"Things look different on this side."

"No…. just… I know Dean will be safe with him. Bobby proved himself time and again. I was wrong so many times, but he always stuck by us… Like all our good friends. I don't think I can do this."

"You can. One day, Dean will need you on this side. I promise. Bobby will make sure…"

"Guess Dean always knew that even when he was a scared pup. They connected because of that demon. I didn't understand it then, but ... they needed each other and we needed someone to pull us out of our own pain. I don't want to leave them... not like this... in pain… they'll never know how...

"An exception can be made. He will remember the power of the lives he touched and maybe something else…"

"…All the hell he went through."

"No… that his father loves him and got to say goodbye."


"Sammy?" John said. "He can't hear me…" Even with John's attempt to heal them both, he had not gain all the knowledge needed to bring them back fully.

More like a war hoop than a snore, Sam's body protested the lack of sleep and battle weariness. A loud, rumbling intake of air stirred Dean slightly. Within seconds, Dean sighed, falling back to deep sleep. Sam managed to move some, only to learn further over Dean's forearm. A heavy drop of spittle made threats at the corner of his lips.

"Damn, they look so young...so..."

"Just put a hand on them. I'll make sure they see you. We don't have long…but I promise you this…. They'll always have this with them… forever."

Then as if the boys were touched by an electric eye they found themselves in the brightest place they had ever seen.

"Sammy?" Dean mouthed.

"Where..." Sam said, equally confused.

"Okay, I'm officially dreaming!"

"Maybe you are," a voice called out.

Dean flashed a sad lopsided smile, turning his head slightly. "Dad?"

"Hello, boys. I know you have lots of things you want to say... but you don't have to... you never did..."

"I... I..." Sam started.

"Hush now... Let an old man say his peace with some dignity". John's voice sounded croaky. He knew that he would be a weak chink for his sons. He knew in order for him to move on and his boys to move on, he would have to leave them to fend for each other.

"What… I…" Sam protested.

"I never got to say goodbye to my sons… never said…"

"Dad, please..." Dean begged in shock.

"You must think I'm the worse father. I screwed up so much I think I might have set a world record. But I had you... I never told you... never said a word... just assumed... "

"No, it's okay… You didn't..." Sam offered.

"Yes, I did. You told me that plenty of times... hurt so much that you were right. I know you thought I hated your spirit, Sam... That drive to defy me. Truth is, it scared me. I thought if I could keep you in some boundary, the yellow eye would never be able to touch you."

"And you... Damn, Dean. I expected so much and you always found more to give. I was never there for you when you needed me. And you deserve better. I'm not going to make excuses for any of it."

"This can't be real."

"Does it matter?"

"Yes," Dean interrupted. "You shouldn't have….. Should be here... not…me…"

"Course I had to…. You… you're my boy. I couldn't live without you. I'm okay. I'll be waiting for you. But, I need you both to know this. I never wanted this life for you. I wanted you to know love and kindness, but I couldn't find my way back. But I loved you both... Damn, I could have lost my mind with how much you meant to me. I let fear and the need to control... Sam... I'm proud of you for standing your ground and doing what you want... Dean-you healed this family more times than I can count. Always had my back even when I was completely wrong. "

"I have to go for good... but I'm sorry I was scared and never said what I should have. Most parents don't worry about their kids getting destroyed by demons! How good of an excuse is that! Hey boys, I'm scared! Just dread that if I slip up my boys will die alone in so much pain."

Dean breathed in, moved forward, and threw his arms around his dad's neck, leaning on a bristly cheek and squeezing him tight. He trembled afraid to let go. "Dad," he whispered.

"I have to go…"

"NO… no…" Dean sniffled.

"I got you son. I got you... "Sam?"

His youngest boy hadn't waited for an invitation either, but let himself be pulled in to the embrace. "I'm sorry," he began, but John didn't let him speak.

"Neither of you have anything to be sorry for. I loved you and always will. You were more than I could ever ask for. Can you remember that? How you grew up so well is not my doing, but you make me so damn proud to call you mine. I carry my love for you…." John cracked. "I carried it for so long… I wish I could give you the life you need, but I have to go now. Goodbye boys."

Before either boy had a chance to speak or reach out John was gone and the connection faded. They were both back asleep and alone in their own thoughts.

"I know that was hard." Jim offered. "Ready to go now?"

"Just let me watch them for a bit more... just a little bit more. To make sure they are okay."

Instantly the door opened as Missouri popped her head in the cracked doorway. When the door squeaked to a close, Sam bolted upright.

"Sorry. I didn't want to wake you…baby…what's wrong?''

"Nothing... just... just had a dream.

"About John?"

"Yeah, he...he was...How did..."

She gave him a look.

"Nevermind." Sam smiled. "Think I just wanted to see him... He… he told us he loved us… that we… we…. I never told…never got"

"To say goodbye. You papa knew…. Truth is I keep thinking about him. Can't seem to shake him after all this time. Maybe I got to use to his hardass. Never did drill enough good sense in him."

"We all got that thick head."

"Don't you be talkin' like that round me." She scoffed and glared with a hard look.

Sam laughed. "Yes ma'am."

A familiar voice sounded out from his left. It seemed to reverberate through his skull. Dean squeezed his eyes shut. He rolled in the white, crisp sheets on his bed.

"Now, you can work on teaching Dean those same manners.

"Hey," Dean said gruffly.

"You feelin' okay?"

"I'm trying to sleep here."

"Don't you even think of getting up." Missouri ordered.

"I will if I want to." Dean peaked open one eye and then let the other one follow to give the rebellious impression of thinking about it, but had already decided against it. He wasn't sure who would give him hell first.

"Don't you back sass me again. I still need to take a switch to your behind and a bar of soap to your mouth for what you said during the coma."

"How could I say anything…"

"You thought it…"

"I did what?"

"You got pretty mouthy." Sam admitted.

"I did?"

"And don't think you not remembering saves you one ounce of hide."

"No, ma'am," Dean said with sarcasm.

She raised her hand as if to smack him a good one, but only grazed and rough Dean's hair with fondness. He beamed a smile

John shook his head laughing. "Charmer to the end."

"They'll be okay now. They would want you safe and at peace."

"Sheesh, great way to start the week." Dean muttered.

"Week… try longer than that…"

"Stop. I ain't that bad."

"Came within an inch of meeting your maker." Missouri gave him a suspicious eye.

"Good thing he tossed you back."

"Heaven doesn't want me and hell just spits me back." Dean grinned.

"Don't press that boy!" Missouri warned.

Just then, Bobby entered, balancing two bags of grub. "Hey… about time you got up… lazy bones. Next time you think not telling us your hurt is a good idea……

"Hey! I was fine…."

"Don't start." Missouri smiled.

"Why is that the first thing everyone says to me?" Dean shook his head in mock gloom before changing the subject. "What the doctor's say?"

"You're a pain in the ass." Bobby suggested.

"Smart doctor!" Sam smarted.

"How're you feeling?" Bobby asked giving Dean the once over.

"Like crap. What do you expect? And why does it look like you all got fired on Viva la Bam?"

"We had a little demonic moment. You don't remember telling us about Armaros…"

"I…I don't have a clue… who the hell is he?"

"She…" Bobby started, "She was the one that …"

"It's over," Sam noted. "She's never coming back…you're safe."

"Good! You kick'er ass?"

Sam shrugged. "Something like that."

"So much more... all this energy surrounding you boys... "

"She's right... Bobby…Back there… Wain…... Wain... He... the demon said she was the one that took your son? But..."

"I..."

"My God... all that pain... you've..." Sam tried to explain.

"It's the past. I can't change it and reliving it is not..."

"I'm sorry..."

"What the hell for?"

"That you couldn't be the one to kill her."

"Listen good to me, son. That thing hurt us all. No matter who rid the world of it- knowin' it's gone will let me sleep way better."

"Why didn't you ever tell..."

"Never seemed right burdening you with my..."

"But, you're family, Bobby." Dean said.

Even after all these years, though he loathed to admit it, the pain still burned for his wife and son. He had moved on, accepted it, and grown to love Sam and Dean as he would his own. "The dead don't need me so much..."

"We do..." Sam said with tears in his eyes.

"That's cause you ain't got sense that God gave a goose."

"They're okay! Really okay…." John muttered. "Promise me they'll be okay?"

"You'll see them again- when it's their time. For now, you have to….

John flashed a pirate smile, glancing once more at his sons. "We can go now."


THE END


Author's note: Hope you liked the ending.. and didn't see it coming.

Thanks for reading and sharing thoughts, reviews, and ideas with me. I appreciate it.