Pre-Series. Dean puts up a fuss when John lets Sam stay by himself for the first time. John's POV.

SPN*SPN*SPN

Sam was gonna need to stay overnight by himself sometime and this seemed as good a chance as any. He'd stayed by himself for afternoons and all-daylight-days, but never overnight. It was time.

Caleb called with an easy salt and burn about five hours away from us. It was a Friday night and I recognized Sammy's 'I gotta study my brains out all weekend' attitude, with his head already buried in his books and it was hardly six o'clock. He was in his last quarter of eighth grade and as smart as he was stubborn, and we didn't need him on this job.

Why not give him seventeen hours to himself?

"Got a job near Minneapolis." I said when I hung up from Caleb. Dean perked right up, Sammy huffed down into his books.

"What is it?" That was Dean asking, of course.

"Salt and burn, should only take overnight."

Sammy seemed to shrink in, every single word I said. Until I tossed him my surprise.

"Hey, Sammy? What d'you say you sit this one out?"

"WHAT?" I got from both sides. Sammy perked right up, Dean I thought was going to draw down on me with silver and holy water.

I told Dean, unnecessarily, "Sammy's never stayed by himself overnight."

And Dean repeated it back to me, like I hadn't just said it,

"That's right. Sammy's never stayed by himself overnight."

"Dad – really?" Sammy asked me. He hadn't sounded that glad about anything in I couldn't remember how long. I was happy to hear it.

"NO." Dean told him. "Not really. Dad – what're you thinking?"

"I'm thinking Sam's got a big test to study for and could probably use some time all to himself."

Sammy brightened up just as much as Dean darkened down.

"Thanks, Dad!" Sammy rewarded me.

"No, not 'thanks Dad'." Dean fumed. "Dad?"

"Dean – get packed. We leave in twenty."

"Daaaaaaaaad."

"Dean – NOW."

He fumed some more, but did as he was told. Sammy seemed like he couldn't stop smiling at me, looking at me like I was the best Dad in the whole world. Maybe I should think about leaving him on his own more often.

Okay, that wasn't gonna happen again anytime soon. So I'd just memorize this one.

"What if he leaves the room?" Dean asked me.

"I won't." Sam told me.

"How's he gonna eat?" Dean asked me.

"There's leftover pizza." Sam told me.

"What about protection?" Dean at least finally asked that of Sam to his face, so I turned away and drank some coffee which turned out to be a bad idea when Sam answered,

"I already took one out of your wallet."

And I nearly choked myself on my coffee.

"Sam." Dean growled at him and I looked back at Sam. Protecting the room and himself was something we needed to cover anyway.

Sam saw that I was waiting for the answer too, and he rolled his eyes.

"Salt at the door and window. Shotgun by the bed. Don't answer the door. Don't answer the phone unless it rings twice first. Silver, Christo, holy water."

I looked at Dean to get his opinion. It wouldn't change my mind, but I was interested in what his opinion was.

"What if we don't come back?" Dean asked Sam.

"I spend the inheritance."

I had to work not to laugh. Dean looked like his head was going to explode.

"Try. Again."

Sam huffed and really rolled his eyes and said in the snotty tone I was all too familiar with,

"I call Pastor Jim and he gets me and finds you."

I looked to Dean again, but he only stared at Sammy, with his hands on his hips and that resolute look on his face.

"Well?" I asked him.

"If you even think of turning the phone off, Sammy, I will superglue it to your head."

Good, that was settled then. Dean was going to agree to let Sammy stay by himself. I turned to my packing just as Sammy asked me,

"Dad – will you please tell Dean not to call me every seventeen minutes?"

Without turning back, I said flatly, "Dean, will you please not call your brother every seventeen minutes?"

I felt Dean glare and I felt Sammy beam and I felt better than I had in months if not years.

Dean managed to pack up his duffel without once taking his eyes off of Sammy. Sammy managed to look innocent and triumphant both at the same time.

Before we left the room, I gave the room key and fifty bucks out of my wallet to Sam.

"He's not going anywhere." Dean informed me with some force. I gave Sam the money and key anyway.

"We'll call you when we get there, and when we're headed back. You call if you need anything. If we don't answer -" I gave a quick look to Dean, then gave fast wink to Sam. " – spend the inheritance."

Sammy smiled, Dean groaned.

"Real funny, Dad."

Sam laughed and took the money and key.

"Thanks, Dad."

I smiled at him and cuffed his shoulder instead giving him the hug I really wanted to give him. The times I could make Sammy honestly happy were few & far between. I'd nearly forgotten what it felt like.

"C'mon, Dean. Let's get on the road."

Dean huffed. He was going to use up all the air the way he kept huffing. He huffed and shouldered his duffel and kept glaring, at Sam, at me, at Sam again.

"I still think you should come with." He ground out through clenched teeth.

"Sooner we leave, sooner we get back." I pointed out to him, pointedly. "Let's go."

Sammy walked to the door behind us, staying in the doorway while we packed up the trunk. He was still smiling, grinning even.

Dean was still glaring, growling his disapproval low in his throat, making threats Sam could understand even if he couldn't hear them. After Dean shut the trunk, he went back to Sam for one last handful of rules and regulations.

"Don't stay up late. Keep the curtains closed. Stay near the phone all the time. Don't leave the room, even to get ice or a can of Pepsi. Leave the bathroom light on so it looks like somebody's awake during the night. Leave the TV on low so it sounds like more than one person is in there. But don't be watching the naughty channels…"

It could've gone on another half hour at least.

"Dean – now." I told him.

He huffed – but he got in the car.

"Go on in now, and shut the door." I told Sammy. "We'll call you when we get there."

Sammy nodded and started to close the door, but Dean had one parting shot,

"You damn well better get a hundred on that test!" He ordered through the open car window.

Sammy rolled his eyes at Dean, and gifted me another smile.

"Thanks, Dad." He said in the soft tone of voice usually reserved for emotional moments. Then he disappeared back into the motel room, shutting the door and throwing the locks.

I got in the car, next to smoldering-Dean. I started it up and we got on our way and it was pretty damn quiet for a handful of blocks. Just as I was thinking it was going to be a loooooooong ride with a pissed Dean, he said,

"Yeah, he'll be fine. It'll be good for him to be on his own for a day."

We were at a red light or I might've slammed on the brakes in surprise.

"Excuse me?" I had to ask.

Dean shrugged.

"Sammy's been ready to stay on his own for seven months now. I just wondered when the both of you were going to realize it."

"That was all an act?" I asked, suddenly realizing. "You put Sammy through all that, and it was an act?"

Dean shrugged again, like it was no big deal.

"Couldn't let him think staying on his own was that easy." He said, but then his voice dropped. "Didn't want him to think I didn't care. Just 'cause he's by himself doesn't mean he's alone."

The light turned green so I turned my attention back to the road, but I smiled. Nope, as long as my boys had each, they'd never be alone.

The End.