This is a disclaimer.
AN: Title paraphrased from Nick Harkaway; very, very vague SPOILERS FOR 4.15.
It's not really a decision. Well, actually, it was, but it was made a long time ago. Even now, you don't like to think about it. Better to pretend it never happened. Better to act as though this life was inevitable from the start.
When you look in the mirror, you can see Dad standing behind you, arms crossed, glaring. He's not impressed.
"You're making a mistake," he says bluntly.
"I am not," you tell him, just as firm.
He raises an eyebrow. "It won't thank you for a life on the run from that demon."
"It – he – won't have a life like that."
Dad groans. "You're deluding yourself."
You look down at your hands, clenched around the edge of the sink, fingertips sliding against the white ceramic. "You have no idea what's in my head."
"I'm in your head," Dad points out acidly, not without some justification. "What the Hell are you doing this for? To piss me off? I'm dead! And this is stupid. You should be out there. You should be using what I taught you. You should be –"
"I should be downstairs having dinner with my husband," you snap at last, patience gone. It was always easier to get angry with Dad than admit that you were afraid he was right. He'd get this triumphant look, this delight even, that always made you feel like the smallest, dumbest person who'd ever lived. You won't be made to feel like that again. You're a grown-up now.
"For God's sake," Dad tries again.
"No! No, Dad. Enough. I know what you want from me, and it's not happening, not ever. I made my bed, and you know what?" If your voice takes on a slightly malicious edge, well, there's no one to hear but yourself. And your imaginary father. "I'm going to lie in it. I'm going to go downstairs, and I'm going to tell John that no, I'm not having any wine, and I won't be for the next nine months, and then we're going to decide whether the nursery will have clowns or cowboys, and after that we're probably going to make love for the rest for the night, which you had better not be around for, but you're welcome to come back and hover invisibly in mirrors when your grandson is born next January. Now get out of my head!"
And that's that, as far as you're concerned.
It's a crossroads. Well, actually, it's a T-junction, one where there's just the three pathways, because even you know that you can't just ignore it and carry right on the way you were going, much as you'd sort-of like to. There must be a decision. There must be a choice.
There must be an end.
"The problem with knowing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," you say out loud to the empty room, "is that it puts things in perspective. It takes away certainties."
Pause then. Swallow of whiskey, smooth and burning.
"It takes away everything," low and worried.
The room is dark, lit only by edges of streetlight pushing past the curtains. You feel an urge to get up and toss a shirt over the TV to hide the glaring red eye at the bottom left hand corner, it's watching you so accusingly. It reminds you of a sniper taking a shot.
The room is quiet without him, an emptiness that echoes in your bones. Another swallow of whiskey. This is what it would look like. This is what life would be – could still be. Add to that a world transformed, twisted, destroyed, landscape lifted from your nightmares, and you know.
If you're as good as they say you are, if you're lucky, if you're smart and strong and quick and ruthless, they, at least, will never have to make this decision. If you manage to be, just for once, a good father, and keep the shadows away from them instead of pushing them to face them.
You choose, and you leave.
"You don't make decisions," Dad used to say. "You act on your gut instinct, and nothing else."
"My gut instinct is better than yours," you'd point out, and he'd grin a little, at your sheer audacity.
"Yeah, maybe. But one day? It's gonna get you into a whole load of trouble. Just be careful with it, kiddo."
Bah. What does he know? Your gut instinct told you he was in trouble. Your gut instinct told you to turn the Impala around and go back to Sam's apartment. Your gut instinct told you Dad wasn't Dad, and it told you Dad was Dad when he was saying things that Dad would never, ever say, and it told you there was a hunt to be found not ten metres away from Mom's headstone and it's guided you and led you and never pointed you in the wrong direction, never –
Your gut instinct led you to a dirt-track crossroads with a metal box in your hands. Your gut instinct got you off the rack, too.
Dad wouldn't have broken. Dad would have laughed at Alistair and wished him to Hell and Dad got out, dammit, he didn't need any angel's help, just an open door.
You are beginning to come to the conclusion that your guts? Have shit for brains.
You start thinking rationally. You start planning. You start weighing the pros and cons of this über-pretty Trenchcoat Guy who shows up in your dreams and claims he's a Messenger of the same Lord that let Mom die.
You're standing at another crossroads (well, sort of). Castiel is a strange mix of relief and irritation and I-don't-have-to-justify-myself-to-you, except if he didn't, he wouldn't still be here, and there's a barely-concealed current of delight and triumph running under his skin that you want more of.
Tessa is grim, of course. D'uh. But a little sad with it. Her words slide into your skin soft as butter, smooth as a sharp knife, and leave trails of blood and fire in their wake.
Sam is a quivering mass of fury. His face is set and hard, expressionless, and he's clenching and unclenching one fist to a beat you never want to hear.
Rational thought. Make a decision. Left or right? Up or down? Pros and cons?
It's been a long, long time since your head and your heart were in perfect agreement about a certain course of action.
There is what's right, and there is what's easy, and never the twain shall meet, it seems. Except for now, because you're doing this to save people, to help the world, to fight the bad guys, and finally, to protect Dean, and it's so easy. So very easy. A second skin, another life, a mindset waiting for you to put it on and become – and learn to be –
The point is, you're doing this for Dean. He doesn't understand, doesn't see it like that, but you are. You're doing this for every single Dean that's ever lived, everyone who's fought and died and suffered in this war that's lasted a thousand thousand years.
You're going to end it. You're going to win it.
That's not a decision. That's a fact. A certainty.
Dad would have told you the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but you never did really listen to him. Even at the end.