He knows somehow, the moment he accesses the phone message. It hits him like claws sinking into his guts. Like a knife slicing open the side of his face.
Hey Dad, it’s Sam.
This is bad. He feels it, he knows it.
Uh, you probably won’t even get this, but, uh,
It hurts, knowing that Sam thinks John’s not listening to him, to them. He is, but-
Of course it is. His youngest wouldn’t be calling him otherwise. Sammy doesn’t have that kind of faith in his own father. John understands too well why that might be.
He’s sick, and uh…doctor says there’s nothing they can do.
John aches inside. He wants to go to them. To drop the hunt, drop everything, and just go to be with Dean. Be a father to them both once again, the way he never could since Mary died.
But he can’t. He knows he can’t. As much as it hurts. Him and them. And if Dean’s really hurt that bad, what could John do, anyways? Go sit by his bedside and tell Dean he loves him? That he’s sorry for the mistakes he’s made, trying to be both father and protector?
Dean already knows all of that, John tells himself.
Because if John somehow leads one of the Demon’s followers back to his boys, if Sammy somehow gets caught in the middle of this battle John is waging....he can’t bear that thought.
He has to stay away, he has to. Even if it means that he never holds his eldest again. Sammy’s life is too important. And Dean’s is already forfeit, by the sound of it. Going to see him now would change nothing.
Or so he tries to tell himself. Until he listens to the rest of Sammy’s message.
Um. But, uh, they don’t know the things we know, right?
John feels the weight of guilt on him lift. Just a fraction.
Um. So don’t worry, ‘cause, um, I’ll do whatever it takes to get him better.
Maybe there’s hope. He thinks that maybe he should go after all.
But then he reminds himself: Sammy – Sam - is a big boy, he can deal with it.
He knows he may be gambling with Dean’s life. That if he doesn’t go and help Sam, he might lose Dean.
But he still can’t risk it.
Alright…Just wanted you to know.
The message ends, and John closes his eyes, feeling the tears on his cheeks. He can’t. He can’t. It’s not safe to go to them. It’s not safe to help Sam. The stakes are too high, even with Dean’s life in the balance.
If he brings evil down on his boys, they could both die. He couldn’t bear that. If Mary’s death nearly killed him, this would be the death of him. And the Demon would be free to torment other families. Mary’s death – his sons’ death, his death – would all be a cruel waste.
John made a decision that night, the night he finally picked up the Demon’s trail. A decision which meant that he had to cut off all contact with his boys, for their own safety. So that what happened to Mary wouldn’t happen to them. So that the boys couldn’t be used against him.
And now, as painful as it is, he knows he has to stick to his resolve. He has to have faith in Sam and his ability to save Dean. Faith in Dean’s ability to fight as long as possible. And when John’s task is done, when the Demon is dead and it’s safe to see his boys again, he’ll apologize. He’ll try to undo the damage.
He hopes it’ll be enough.