Is John more of a douche in Dean/Castiel stories than he is in the rest of the ficverse? I kind of hope so—that my OTP sadly landed me somewhere without perspective, but if I were to broaden my horizons I’d see a complicated man that loves his sons and wants to help people and save lives, although he’s severely depressed and traumatised by events that tok place up to twenty years ago.
Because I like that guy. I like reading about that guy. I like thinking of the complications and panics he had when he found himself a single father. Of the guilt he felt when Dean stepped forward (my head canon says it is so) and tried to make his Dad feel better, and take care of his brother, because he let him, because by the time he might have done something to stop it, it was too late—it was too easy to continue down the path of obsession to avenge his wife and make sure his sons didn’t fall prey to the same mysterious evil that had stolen their mother from them while they were yet so young.
He’s not perfect, he’s not a role model, and he’s not babysitting my putative kids. But he’s fascinating, brilliant (remember how ASH was impressed by his tracking and pattern-finding skills? ASH?), fierce, passionate, devoted, and more than a little crazy. I definitely want him on my team, and we definitely go out drinking more than once.
Oh, good lord, Parenting 101 was never more sorely needed (shotgun? 10 year old? DUDE), but he walked a difficult path. He *chose* a difficult path, but he chose it feeling that any other path would not be doing either his living or his dead family fair.
He drank, and he raged, and he might have hit his kids. He was draconian—a harsh taskmaster with high expectations of obedience and not challenge. He was too shortsighted to see that Dean fell too quickly into step just behind him, and to see why Sam refused to. But he was proud of his university-attending son, and in the moments before he made the same stupid decision everyone in his family ended up at least trying to make, he realised what a marvel of a son he also had in Dean, and that he’d done wrong by him too.
His wrong saved a lot of lives, though. Dean knows that better than anyone, as he nurses the self-worth issues that were no doubt brought into full bloom by a father cum commanding officer. And Dean will make that choice again and again, to make similar sacrifices, and to keep saving people, and even Sam who wants out of the game reached a point of understanding with John, a point of love, where he could look him in the eyes, even though it wasn’t the man he had known, and say that he loved him.
I wish fandom loved him more, at least the corners of it I travel in. I don’t believe we’re seeing errors in Sam and Dean’s eyes when they begin to understand their father better, having gotten out from underneath his iron thumb.
He did always love them, for what that’s worth. He loved them all, and he contributed to fine men, even if he didn’t play ball with them.