Disclaimer: I own nothing Supernatural.
Summary: John misses important parts of Sam and Dean's lives.
"Wow, Sammy! Come on! Do it again! Just one more step!" Dean held both his arms out, ready to catch his baby brother if he started to teeter.
Laughing and drooling, Sam took another step and was engulfed in Dean's hold.
"You did it! You walked!"
"De!" Sam squeezed Dean's cheeks together and smushed his face.
"Ow. Don't do that."
It just made the toddler all the more excited.
Their attention was drawn to the key fumbling in the lock. Their dad stumbled in, laden with equipment, dirt, and some goo that Dean wasn't even going to ask about.
"Sammy took his first steps!" Dean announced.
Floored with the memory of Dean's first steps, John was rooted to the floor. "Really? Think he'll do it again?"
No matter how much cajoling Dean did, Sam just plopped down to the floor and grinned at them.
"Maybe he's just tired." Dean tried to make John feel better.
John shrugged off his coat and said nothing while he went to take a shower.
"What the hell is this?" John's voice roared through the motel room as he searched for his research that had other papers on top of them.
Dean stepped closer to see what his dad was upset about. Luckily, Sam was in the tub and might not find out about John's latest explosion.
"Sam wanted to make sure you saw his gold stars," Dean whispered. "He knew you'd see them if they were over your maps and notes."
"And you let him!"
"Yes! It's the only way you'd ever see them. Maybe if you tell him you saw them, you can tell him a more appropriate place to put them so you'll see them. Then, if you actually look at them, he'll stick to putting them in the right place."
Stunned because Dean had never wanted John's approval for his schoolwork, John was silent.
"Hey, Dad," Sam greeted him as he dried his hair.
"Good job, Sammy. Might want to put your papers on the table from now on. That way I won't miss them."
"Yep. Proud of you."
That was the only time Sam would ever recall hearing those words from John, no matter how often he tried to please him.
His noisy cell phone woke him and he answered it with a curt, "What!"
"Sam graduated today, Dad. Thought you were going to make it to the ceremony."
"That was today? Why didn't you remind me?"
"Check your voicemails." Dean snapped his phone shut.
"Who was on the phone?" Sam held his graduation cap in his hands, looking a little lost.
"Dad called to say congratulations. He's sorry he couldn't come."
Sam pressed his lips together. "Sure, Dean. Yeah, I bet he is." The light of the excitement for his accomplishment dimmed. "Other families are more important than his own. I get it."
Dean tried to call Sam back as he stalked off but didn't know what he could possibly say to make it hurt any less.
"Where the hell have you been!"
He reminded himself to count to ten and be the adult in the situation. "More important things to life than hunting, Dad."
"I met Sam's girlfriend. She had wanted to meet the family, which includes you."
"So? I'll drive by when I'm in the area."
"No you won't. She died."
"Did you hear me? She burned on the ceiling like Mom. He'd had a glimpse of happiness and you weren't able to see it or meet the girl of his dreams."
"Maybe I should call him."
"Don't bother. He won't answer you anyway."
"Dean, if I'd--"
"You would have known if you cared to call. There's no more excuses that either of us will buy."
Dean's boots splashed a little in the puddles that the firemen had left behind from the devastating night before.
"There's nothing here to find, Sam." Dean pulled the forlorn man in the direction of the Impala.
"There has to be."
"She had just baked me cookies. She was looking forward to me coming home."
"Yes, she was."
Tears slid down Sam's face. "I wasn't there for her. She died alone."
"Her last thoughts were of how much she loved you. She didn't die alone."
"How can you know?"
"I just do." Dean hoped to hell he was right but still had to be determined if Sam was ever going to get over the guilt of his loss.
John picked up a newspaper and found an article about Jess. She'd had a life with his son--a happy one--and he'd never made an attempt to be a part of it.
Of all the things he missed, knowing he willingly missed critical points of his boys' lives hurt the most.