Decisions & Goodbyes

Summary: 1-shot. John's POV as John contemplates his last decision he remembers his past as he has one final moment alone with his sons & he voices the truth that his boys would never know. Fatherly/musing!John.

Tags/Spoilers: It's really a tag but it takes place before the end of 02x01 In My Time of Dying.

Warnings: Some language and other things so I'll rate it T and also place a slight tissue warning but that's just me.

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or anything to do with it, the characters, the show, etc. This is written for fun and the enjoyment of others. No money is made.

Author Note: This is mostly in John's POV and this is what happens when John Winchester's voice gets in my head. He babbles on and on and on, lol. I don't normally write John since I'm not a huge fan & it's rare for me to write him in a good way but again on this one a different side wanted to come through. So I hope you guys enjoy it.

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I've made a lot of hard decisions in my life. My life hasn't ever been easy so making them was something I'd grown used to but this last one…it was the hardest. Oh, not because I doubted it because I didn't, I knew it was the only choice I had left to save him but that didn't mean it was an easy choice to make.

I made the deal even though it went against everything I'd been taught, everything I'd taught my boys but in the end I knew what was more important and I just had to hope that my boys knew enough, were strong enough to get through what would be coming.

Decisions. As I walk through the quiet halls of the hospital I think on some of the ones I've made in my life. I didn't grow up with everything, hell, I barely grew up with anything. I joined the Marines and survived Vietnam then I came home and met Mary.

Mary Campbell was beautiful, smart, funny and we hated each other with a passion from the first day we met. She thought I was arrogant and cocky and I thought she was stuck-up but for some reason the more we saw of each other, the longer it went, the more we fell in love until it didn't matter what her father said, I'd've moved heaven and hell for her.

Something about my future father-in-law always gave me the creeps and I never trusted him but then he and Mary's Mom were dead after a very confusing week. Something about that time always nagged me in the back of my head but couldn't place what it was…until the other week when I was going through Dean's box of fake ID's and it hit me like a brick.

Before Mary and I got married, before her parents died, I was buying my first car. I'd been looking at a VW buss since that's what Mary was leaning toward when I met this guy in the car lot. I hadn't given him much thought except he knew a lot about that '67 Chevy Impala that I ended up buying but he'd always seemed familiar to me, like a sense of de ja vu or something. Nice enough guy I'd thought to myself and I always credited Dean Van Halen for nudging me toward the Impala. Now I know why though I haven't mentioned it to Dean yet since…for him it wouldn't have happened.

I've seen a lot since that November night in '83 when Mary died and our boys lost their Mother but I hadn't really considered time travel possible until now since as I looked at my oldest boy's list of names and watched him sleep, understanding who I'd met if not fully the why since the man I'd met in '78 looked a couple years older than Dean was now and there was an edge to him that I was honestly praying neither of my sons would ever have to know.

I suppose I always knew there was something about Mary's family that she kept to herself since after we were married and Dean was born she was much more adamant about steering clear of them so after awhile I stopped mentioning it.

Mary was sweet and loving but damn she had a temper and I wish I could say that we always had a smooth marriage but we didn't. I'm glad the boys were too young, especially Dean, to remember the fights or the one time I moved out of the house. I loved my family but there were just sometimes when I became too obsessed with things, like the garage or something else and nearly lost it all.

After Sam was born I'd sworn to make a change. I'd promised to make more time for Mary and the boys and I'd been doing that. I worked from 9-to-5, came home and was almost always met by a happy smiling and laughing Dean. The only times I could recall him not meeting me at the door would be the times he'd be glued to his baby brother's side.

The guys at the garage used to say that Dean would resent his brother because every first child hated losing that attention but not my boy. Right from the moment we told him that he was going to be a big brother, well, as soon as Mary got it through his hard little head that for the first nine months his new brother would be in her tummy, he loved Sammy and Mary said that we'd never have to worry about that.

Dean adored Sam from the first second he saw him and from the moment Sam was big enough to be in his own crib in the nursery, Mary and I knew where Dean would be if we couldn't find him. More times than not, Dean would find a way into that crib as if he was watching his brother, protecting him or so he told me once when I tried to take him away from Sam and he pitched one hell of a fit. Dean was always protecting his brother…even before I told him he had to.

The night Mary died in that fire, the night our world changed, is what impacted the decisions I would make for the next eighteen years because from the time Missouri first showed me, told me, what was really out there in the world I swore three things:

1-I'd find and kill what killed my wife and took the mother away that my boys needed. 2- my boys would be trained and prepared as best as I could prepare them to fight and survive those things and 3-Sammy would be kept as safe as he could be regardless of what I'd been told.

The week of the fire Mary had been tense like she was expecting something but it hadn't been until a few months ago that I finally understood what she'd been worried about. Shortly after the fire I was beyond devastated. I'd lost my wife, my sons had lost their Mother and Dean wasn't speaking and that was when I met her Uncle.

Aside from Deanna and Samuel I'd never met any other Campbells until I met her Uncle, Samuel's brother, and to say he shot my senses back to combat level would be an understatement. Oh, he gave off the right words. He was sorry it happened, he understood my loss and how hard it must be on me to keep up the day to day life of raising a four year old and a six month old. His interest in the boys warned me to watch myself and I have no doubts if he hadn't died the way he did that I would've had to fight to keep Dean and Sam and I guess I shouldn't be shocked now at how much interest he showed in Sam.

The next eighteen years I made decisions and choices I didn't like. Ones that I knew would affect my sons, Mary's sons, all their lives, but I knew early on…from the first time I killed something that came to close to my boys, that I would have to sacrifice in order to do what needed to be done. Even if that meant letting my sons think I was a heartless bastard.

People I met over the years, Bobby, Jim, Jefferson all told me I was doing wrong in keeping the boys with me, that they needed to raised in a stable life, in one school. Did I know that? Hell, yeah, I knew that and I knew I could've left them with Jim but early in Sam's life I learned the hard way not to leave them in one place too long.

Dean always thought I would tell him to watch his brother because Sammy was the youngest but it wasn't all for that. It was because I needed Dean to always be near Sam, to be my second set of eyes because too many people seemed to be interested in my shy, quiet, naïve little boy.

From the second that teacher in that one school tried to kidnap him I'd decided to never stay in one place and never let the boys get too close to anyone except people I knew I could trust and even then I worried more than I often let on. I know Jim and Bobby bitched that I left the boys alone too much, laid too much on Dean from too young an age. I know I did and I only wish it could've been different.

The last decision I've made will always affect the boys and I wish I could've made a different one but to save Dean it had to be made. From the time I dropped the job in Jericho to follow the last clues that would led me to the truth that I'd been seeking for twenty two years I suspected that I'd have to make a choice that would break my heart but this wasn't the one I was considering.

Both boys had been hurt in that damn cabin. I hadn't expected them to come after me when I went to meet Meg with the fake Colt. I had left them in Iowa to deal with the demon who killed Mary and I thought all the bad blood between me and Sam would keep both boys safe from the damn black eyed demons but I knew deep down as I heard my boys voices that things would go bad.

I felt that yellow eyed bastard inside me, I could feel and hear and see everything he did to my boys. I knew that despite the act he showed that every damn word that demon said to Dean that a little piece of him believed because no matter the show he put on, the shell of uncaring that Dean had always been able to show I knew the piece of Mary that he'd gotten still felt and he was scared and hurt.

Sammy…I'd seen just a few days earlier the things those boys would do for one another but despite the fact that he and I hadn't been able to be in the same room without fighting since he'd been thirteen he still wouldn't shoot me to kill the demon. He thinks I'm angry with him…just like he thinks I didn't care about his brother lying in this hospital in a coma after that semi hit us…but he was wrong. About so many things. Things that I will never have the time to explain to him.

Dean woke up earlier…just woke up. He's still hurt but he's awake and off the breathing machines. He won't die which is what I wanted. He's still too much in shock to question it…yet and Sam's just too tired after staying awake with his brother for so long, and being hurt himself to think of the possibilities of why his brother came out of the coma so suddenly and with barely any trauma. It'll be a couple days before either of them come to understand the truth of it and by then…by then it'll be too late.

My time with my boys is running out. I'd known I was pushing things by laying out that stipulation but I wasn't making the deal without knowing the boys would be safe for the moment. I wanted to have at least some time with them even if it did involve me and Sam getting into another fight but…that's just how it is with us…how I let it get…how I needed it to be.

I ignored the doctors who told me that I should be resting. I'll rest when I'm dead, Doc which is a lot closer to the truth than the man knew but now I'm in the new room they moved Dean to. I just want to watch them sleep one more time.

I say them because it was all but impossible for either the staff or Bobby to get Sam to budge from Dean's side before but now that his brother was awake, the kid had downright refused so right now he had somehow managed to curl himself into a chair beside the bed.

Dean, my oldest son, the first child Mary and I were blessed with. From the second he was born I knew he'd be a charmer. He had the ability to smile and show those big green eyes, he taught his brother that puppy dog look too well, and people were charmed so did it surprise me that now, as an adult, he can still smile and wink and have women dropping at his feet? No, because he's a natural.

When Mary died a lot of the light and happiness died in my oldest and I had no doubts that if he wouldn't have had Sammy to look after I doubt if Dean would've survived. Dean was the one who raised his brother. He's who Sam turned to, who Sam knew he could count on and Dean was the one who was always only a step away from his brother.

Was I upset when Sam's first word was 'Dean' or when he walked to his brother first? Oh, I let on that I was because I needed to do that. I needed to establish those lines early on. I knew Sam's first word would be his brother's name because it was Dean that Sam woke up to every morning. It was Dean that was always by Sam, it was Dean who learned to feed, change, and love his brother…like I needed him to.

As the boys grew up, I knew what needed to be done and while it hurt me every time I left them, or every time I pulled them from a school or showed disinterest in some project Sam was doing I needed to make it happen. I needed to set those lines early so when the inevitable happened it might not hurt too much.

"Ugh," Dean's in pain but even in his sleep he reaches out a hand until he finds his brother then he slowly goes back to sleep.

I'd learned early on when Dean was about fourteen what he'd do for Sam. Dean was older so of course I taught him early. Not only because it made sense but because I knew he'd have to know how to defend himself and his brother one day. It's just scary how much he picked up and how good he got.

Dean was intense as a kid. Sometimes too intense but I never doubted he could take care of himself even though I tried to shield them from the worst crap. Monsters, demons, witches I could shield them from. School bullies were another matter and Sam, because he was small, was a target and Dean only took so much. It was rare for me to get a call from a school since I was usually hunting but that time I got it and when I got to the school both my boys were bloody and dirty but one look at Dean's eyes told me what had happened.

Four older boys his age had jumped his brother and he'd responded in the way I had taught him. He'd gotten hurt but I knew the other boys looked worse than what mine did. That night after Sam was sleeping in the back of the Impala I noticed Dean was too quiet which meant he was more hurt than he'd let on or he was brooding because he thought I was disappointed in him.

I rarely showed the boys praise or much emotion since it was hard for me to show those things myself which is probably why Dean has his 'no chick-flick moments' rule but that night I told him I was proud of him. It didn't matter if he lost a fight but he'd protected Sammy and that's what he should've done.

Dean grew up tall, lean, and rangy. He's got quickness and agility and taught himself more than I like about more things than I like but I will never question his ability either as a hunter or a brother. I pushed both boys hard but Dean was a fast learner and picked it up faster. He took to the life a lot more than I liked but by that point it was too late. I couldn't look back and just had to pray Mary forgave me for bringing her boys into this crap.

Dean did everything I ever asked of him and he never questioned it. Oh, I know he didn't often like some of it but he did it without question…unless I pushed Sam too hard then he'd get in my face. As his brother got older, the more we fought about Sam's choices, I caught Dean staying closer to Sam as if not knowing what I'd do or say to him. The year Sam was sixteen though I screwed up more than even I was expecting.

There were two things that changed how Dean looked at me, how he acted or trusted. The first was when I lost my temper when Sam ran off on his own for a week or so. I'd known that Sam was angry with me, that he wanted a normal life, a chance to be with his friends, to play soccer or whatever the hell normal kids did and he skipped on Dean while I was off on a hunt.

Yes, I lost my temper with Dean. Yes, it was one of the rare times that I raised my hand to one of my boys in more than a typical backhand but what Dean didn't know, what no one knew, was that I had just killed a demon who was nosing too close to my sons and I knew that despite what his brother and I had taught him, Sam was still too damn naïve to be on his own.

When I got back with Sam, I'd tried to explain to Dean but he just tuned me out. That was also the first time he ever reached for the gun I knew he kept under his pillow and I began to see what he would do to protect Sam. Protect Sam, not himself because I knew Dean didn't care about himself but he'd fight, kick, claw or kill to save Sammy and not for the first time did I ask myself what the hell had I done to my boys.

The second and final time Dean pulled a gun on me, actually pulled on me, was when Sam was sixteen and some son of a bitch that I trusted, that I had known in the Corps, had hurt him. I'd been hunting with Jim and Caleb when we got back to the motel. Dean was supposed to have on scouting duty that night while I'd banished Sam to the motel to do research and because I'd planned to get back early to take both boys out for Sam's birthday. That didn't happen.

Clay had been a friend in 'Nam. He was working as a bounty hunter in the town we had a job in. It had been awhile since I'd seen the man and I had forgotten my first inner rule…never let anyone near my sons. I saw rage in Dean's eyes the moment I walked in, then I was seeing stars because at twenty Dean was quick and lethal. My basic response was to hit back since both boys got that from me…if I'm hit I hit back but something held me back. Then I saw the bruises on Sam's arms and face, I saw the way he was trying to grab for his brother and the things Dean was shouting finally got through and I understood.

My friend, a man that I had trusted with my life, had hurt my son and Dean came back too soon. Dean wanted blood and only Sam kept him from going after Clay on his own. I left Jim and Caleb to handle the boys and while Dean thought I stormed out because I was angry at what he had said against my friend I had actually went to handle it on my own.

One of the first things Jim first taught me is that hunters never killed humans and I had mostly kept to that rule but that night I wasn't a hunter. I was a father and some bastard had put his hands on my youngest son, a boy that despite him being sixteen and shooting past me and his brother in height, I could still see as a chubby baby in his Mother's arms. I made damn sure Clay didn't survive the night and I made certain he knew why. Neither of the boys know that and I'm sure a piece of Dean still looks for Clay in the cities he goes to. I should tell him that he doesn't have to anymore.

From them on, Dean was always close and every fight up to the final one the night Sam was eighteen I could see him tense and I knew it would only take me putting a finger on Sam to have Dean turn on me. That was proved the other night when I learned of Sam's dreams and reacted rather…badly. Sam was sick that night as he usually was after one of those or so I was told and I made the sad mistake of touching Sam to check for a fever when I heard the safety being let off the pistol Dean was holding under his pillow.

I'd learned the truth of the night in Lawrence, I knew why everyone was so interested in Sam so learning about his dreams scared the Devil out of me because I could see the signs but I couldn't bring myself to tell Dean the truth yet…just like I knew that no matter what I couldn't ever do what might one day be needed because if I did I'd end up losing both of my sons.

That night in the cabin had been the first time since the night Sam left for college had I watched my sons sleep under the same roof as me. This would be the last night I'd do the same thing. Pausing by the bed, I pull the blanket up carefully before letting my hand brush over the short hair of my eldest much like I would when he was small and sleeping in the back of the Impala with his brother.

"I'm sorry, Dean," I tell him softly, knowing he's out like a light or else he'd be awake since I was closer to Sam than he like. "I'm sorry I raised you boys like this, I'm sorry you gave up so much for my obsessions. I'm sorry you thought you had to drop out of school to give your brother the future you knew you'd never have and I'm sorry for what I'll have to lay on you in the end."

Laying a hand on the closest shoulder, I squeeze it lightly before turning to eye my youngest. Sam still showed the bruises from the wreck but he'd been covering his pain and fear over losing Dean. Now, the strain's showing on his face because while Dean was the master of hiding his emotions, Sammy was pure emotion. I'd often yelled at him that but deep inside I knew where he'd gotten it.

Sam and Dean both got their softer sides from Mary and I see a lot of her in Sam. I wish he could've known her like his brother and I wish I could've been more open with him about her but that just hurt too damn bad.

"C'mon, kiddo," I'd gotten the nurses to put in a rollaway bed since I knew Sam wouldn't leave to sleep until his brother was out of here so very carefully I did what I would when he was a child and clinging to Dean…I got him to his feet and I knew for certain he was past exhaustion when he flipped onto his stomach down on the bed and I have to chuckle.

No matter how old they get my boys still remind me of the little boys I would once watch sleep in the Impala. Sam had always slept on his stomach when sick, hurt or scared…or exhausted. He was nearly all of those things this time.

Kneeling down, I brush back hair off his face and remember every time I had done that as he'd been growing up. I remember the first time I held him in the hospital and it never fails to amaze me that this 6'4" young man is the same little chubby baby I held twenty two years ago.

Twenty-six and twenty-two…my sons were grown young men…grown men who had never known what normal could be since even the chance Sam had at normal while at school was only held by a thin wire. I'd known Dean was working more jobs in the California area only so he'd be close to Sam and Caleb was the one who told me how many times Dean went to check in on his brother and how many times he'd been hurt doing it.

Only once did I go to Stanford. I'd heard that something or someone was looking for Sam and decided to check it out. That was when I saw him with the girl, Jessica, and realized that in some small way Mary's little boy had finally gotten what he'd wanted. Sammy had a little bit of normal and I just wish it could've lasted. Of course, I also found his brother staked out a block away from the apartment bleeding from a fight with a vengeful spirit.

I could've blown Dean's cover, let him know I was there but instead I called Caleb and told him to go get my oldest and make sure Sam was safe. I wanted Sam to have that life his Mom and I didn't get to have but I think I always knew that he'd never have that chance. Fate wouldn't let him…fate and a deal made long before either of my boys were born.

"Sammy," reaching for a blanket, I notice that Sam's hand is curled in Dean's jacket…my old jacket, and I simply lay it over him knowing that he'd leave it on while he'd toss a blanket to one side since that's what he'd do as a baby too.

As I watch him, I think back to watching him grow up. For years Dean and I tried to keep the truth from Sam but I knew the moment Sam learned because he just looked at me and said I could've told him the truth, that he wasn't a baby.

Huh, he never got it. They will both always be babies in some part deep inside of me…the part that still recalls what it was like when Mary and I met. The part that screams that I'm a father and had two sons to raise, to love. They will be my babies, my boys, long after I'm gone.

I had known a long time ago that I needed to form a line in the sand so to speak between me and Sam because it was his welfare, his life, that I was fighting for. All these years, all those fights, the training sessions, the cold nights in the woods, the guns, the knives, everything I drilled him for, every fight we had…all had to happen just so…he'd hate me enough one day to walk away.

I trained my sons to survive, to fight, to beat the evil that killed their Mom but in the long run I was really teaching them how to depend on one another, how to beat the odds no matter what and how to survive on their own.

I'd known about Sam's wish for college and I knew he'd gotten into Stanford long before he thought I did but I had to wait for it to happen at just the right time. I needed Sam to make the break and I needed to say to him the worst thing I ever had. The night I told my son, my youngest boy, to never come back, broke my heart and I was relieved that Dean had run after his brother because I sure as hell didn't want to break down in tears in front of him after all I'd done over the years to make that scene look real.

Sam was the one who wanted normal, he wanted…needed to be at college for as long as he could manage to have it but I knew he'd never stay gone unless I forced the issue because he'd always be scared to be on his own, to be that far from his brother because they'd never been separated in that way. I needed to make Sam mad enough to walk out on his own and though I know it broke Dean in ways that I'd never seen, it had to happen because it was the only way at that time that I could protect me sons.

At that time, Sam needed to be on his own. He needed to learn what he could and I needed Dean to learn to fight for himself even though in some way he never did because in every hunt, in every fight I knew Dean was seeing his little brother and I suppose that's the way I'd trained him to be.

I wish my boys could've had more time together to renew those bonds but I've seen them together, I've watched them from a distance since I learned they were hunting together again…my ears still ring from the yelling Jim did when he thought I was ignoring Sam's calls after Dean was hurt…but damn, I could've sworn I'd taught that boy not to stand in water while using a taser.

I was close to them then. I'd gone to the hospital to see Dean even though he'd been sleeping then much like he is now…though he has more color now than he did then.

To shield them, to protect them I had to make the boys hate me or at the very least make them dislike the choices I'd made for them. I thought I could protect them, I thought I could shield Sam from this but…I was wrong. To save Dean from death, I had to make the hardest decision in my recent life and now I had to say goodbye.

"Sammy, I'm sorry you thought I was disappointed in you. You didn't want to hunt but you never quit when I gave you a job and you were always there for your brother when he needed you to be. I'm not disappointed in you, son. You could've had the happy life and I pray you get that chance one day. Stay strong, don't give in to this crap and don't lose faith in your brother because you'll need each other before this is over. I wish I could tell you this when you're awake and looking at me with your Mom's eyes but…I need you to still stay hard so I need you to still believe of me what you always have. I'm sorry, son."

There is so much more that I want to say to Sam but I know it wouldn't help now so I lay a hand on his shoulder and smile when he pulls the jacket closer to him and I see he has his brother's amulet in his hand as I stand to go back to Dean's bed.

For Dean, there is so much I need to say but most of it will need to wait until he's awake and I've sent Sam on an errand. I need to lay one final burden on my son's already too burdened shoulders but I know in my heart that no matter what I say to him, he will do exactly what he has to in order to save his brother and that's what I would expect from him.

I sit in the chair the rest of the night and I don't miss the reminders of their childhood in either of my boys as they wake up…though Dean's the first to hide his and shoots me a weak but typical cocky smile that gets strained as I pick a fight to get Sam out of the room then I tell Dean what I have to…I tell him the truth about his brother and can only pray that the boy I watched grow up, the man who would still rip someone's lungs out to protect Sam will do what he has to before resorting to what I said.

I know Dean's confused, his hurt, and deep down he's scared by the change in me. This is the closest I've come to saying to him that I love him and he knows it. I watch from the door as he tries to digest this news and I can see the way his jaw muscle is tightening that he's already determined to fight to save his little brother because I know as he knows that Dean would never kill Sam. I only hope both my boys can be saved.

Down the hall fighting with the coffee dispenser, I see Sammy. I wish I could see the future, I wish I knew what laid ahead for my boys but I don't. I know I have to keep my deal and pray they survive it. I pray they stay together and nothing ever tears them apart…and I pray Mary forgives me one day.

"Sammy…Dean, my sons…I love you both. I'm proud of you and your Mom and I always will be. Goodbye." I look one last time at the sons I'd lost long ago in order to protect them before stepping into a room down the hall and laying the Colt on the table. "Fine, let's do this."

I'm not sure what to expect but as I feel myself falling to the floor and facing whatever was to come, I offer a final prayer to those Angels Mary always said watched over Dean to guard my sons, to protect them and to one day give them the happy life they deserved then I was gone…

Six Years Later:

A thin mist watches two brutally exhausted young men try to cope with the latest emotional blow in a long line of blows that was close to breaking them.

He'd watched these boys fight for one another, he'd seen them sacrifice in the worst ways, he'd seen both Heaven and Hell try to tear them apart and he'd seen one nearly driven mad by what he'd endured in Hell's fiery pit.

Now as he watched Dean and Sam Winchester struggle with only having one another to depend on again, as he watched Dean fight to bury the emotions that had been threatening to break since a day in a hospital while trying to keep his emotionally broken little brother stay sane, John watched as Dean got his brother to sleep before finally crashing himself.

Brushing a soft ghost hand over the heads of his sons, he recalled the night each one was born and thought of all they'd endured since his death. Now as he watched them sleep, as he used this brief glimpse through the veil to watch his sons he smiled shakily and knelt between the beds like he would when checking on them as boys.

"No matter what you face, no matter what they throw at you, you will always be brothers. You will always be Winchesters and my sons. No matter what else, I am still proud of you boys. Sammy…Dean…be careful, be strong, and be there for one another," he murmured before giving a light touch on each shoulder before vanishing with a final offering to two tired hunters. "Your Mom and I love you. Goodbye."

The End