Shifting into Heroism

Summary: 13-year-old Sam is left behind while Dad and Dean go on an investigation; only things don't happen as they'd planned - nothing new for the Winchesters. When things turn bad, it's up to Sam to save the day…

When Dad and Dean left on another hunt and Sam was allowed to stay behind for once, he was glad. He hated hunting, so when dad told him he didn't have to go this time, Sam was silently giddy. He planned to read, something he didn't often get to do for himself. Then, Dad said he wanted Sam to do research for him while he and Dean were gone.

As he heard the Impala drive out of the motel parking lot, the thirteen year old let out a sigh. Even by himself, he still had to follow Dad's orders. He knew that he could've blown off the request, just skimmed over the research and read his own book if he wanted to.

Could've, but didn't. He could feel his Dad still watching him, making sure his wishes were carried out. Sometimes Sam thought his Dad really did have eyes everywhere, a statement Dean had made to him when he was a little, and lot more gullible, child.

Tonight, John and Dean were going to be meeting up with Bobby at a nearby truck stop, then the three were heading out to check out a nearby wooded area where a couple of teenagers girls had been found. At least most of them had been - their eyes had been gouged out of their heads after they'd been strangled. The police suspected a cult, and John wanted to investigate on his own. Harvesting body parts might be the work of cultists trying to summon something big and nasty, and he wanted to find out if that was the case.

So, Sam was on research duty for the evening. He flopped down on his bed, the local paper in front of him, a book on cults at his side.

Doing research wasn't exactly what Sam wanted to be doing that warm summer evening, but it sure beat the hell out of going hunting, when that was one of the last things he wanted to do.

Kicking off his shoes, Sam leaned back against the pillows, and began scanning the newspaper for possible leads. Dad had already done it, but Sam wanted to check again. More than once in the past, he'd done so and caught something dad missed.

After almost half an hour of scouring the paper, and finding nothing new, Sam set it aside and picked up the book. It was one he'd read before - Bobby gave it to him a few months earlier, but again, Sam figured it wouldn't hurt to refresh his memories on the details.

As Sam read through the book, nothing really seemed to fit with the information they had about the murders. Some cults practiced rituals that were close, very close, but nothing seemed to fit the pattern exactly. He let out a frustrated sigh, and rubbed at his eyes; they were feeling a little tired from reading, since the light wasn't the best. Maybe a splash of cold water would help.

Sam got up and walked into the bathroom, What he found lying on the edge of the sink made him smirk. Dean had left his cell phone behind, probably when he was fixing his hair for the 20th time that day.

It didn't matter much to Dean where he was going, or whom he was with - the kid had a thing about his hair. It had to be perfect. Sam snorted. "He calls me a girl."

He splashed water on his face, and wiped it dry, then returned to his spot on the bed. Giving up on the research for the time being, he picked up his book - the one he'd wanted to be reading all along - and quickly became lost in the story.

Until Dean's phone began to ring.

Sam almost jumped at the sudden crash of noise invading the silence of the room, but he quickly calmed himself and picked up the phone. When he saw the caller ID read Bobby, he thought that was a little odd, but he quickly answered. "Hello?"

"Sam?" Bobby's voice, gruff but warm, came down the line. "What're you doin' with Dean's phone?"

"He left it at the motel. I'm stuck here doing research for Dad. Have you guys found anything yet?"

"No," Bobby replied, "that's why I'm callin'. About halfway to meet you guys, the damn fan belt in my truck decided to croak. I've been trying to fix it, and also call your Dad to tell him I'm gonna be late, but his phone goes straight to voicemail."

A cold trickle of fear ran through Sam's body. "But Dad said he talked to you... I saw him on the phone. You called him and said where to meet up."

"Wasn't me, son." Now Bobby sounded worried as well.

Before Sam had the chance to ask what Bobby wanted him to do, Bobby told him as much. "I need to get this damn truck goin' again. You keep tryin' to get ahold of your dad. Somethin's off about this, and we need to reach him. If you get him, call me back."

"Yes, sir," Sam agreed before Bobby cut the call abruptly. Sam immediately hit the speed dial for Dad's phone, and just as had happened for Bobby, the call went to voicemail. "C'mon, dad. Answer!"

When the phone went to voicemail after a third try, Sam was tempted to throw it against the wall in frustration, but he took a deep breath, and forced himself to be calm. He looked over at Dad's pile of books and, sitting down at the small table, began to pour through them. Something was tickling at the back of his mind, something he'd remembered reading about on one of his many lessons both with Dad and with Dean, about the world that was out there. The world most people never even knew existed.

Whatever had called Dad had sounded like Bobby, enough to pull the wool over John's eyes, and that was damn near next to impossible. Which meant they had to be a hell of an actor - or a talented mimic, or...

Sam's heart felt it was going to burst from his chest as he found the information he'd been searching for.

"Shapeshifter," he whispered.

With the light bulb going off over his head, Sam called Bobby back and told him what he'd come up with. "It could be a shapeshifter, right, Bobby? It sounds possible to me."

"I think you have something there, kid. Have you gotten through to your old man, yet?"

"Not yet. I tried, like, four times. Nothing but voicemail."

"You stay put, son, I'll be there as soon as I can." With that, the phone went dead.

Sam stood there, every nerve in his body screaming at him to do something. Wait there for Bobby like a good little soldier?

"The hell I will," he muttered, going to the drawer where Dad had left his extra weapons. Sam grabbed a gun, and the box of ammo. He found what he was looking for at the bottom of the box; four silver bullets. From the lore he knew on shapeshifters, Sam knew silver would be deadly to the creature. He loaded the gun, grabbed a flashlight, and slipped out the door into the motel parking lot.

Sam Winchester was about to boost his first car.

Sam had seen Dean do it once, on a dare from a kid at one of the schools they'd attended for a couple weeks a year or so ago. He figured he could remember how it was done. He slipped through the nearly empty parking lot of the motel, dusk having fallen so he wasn't overly visible unless someone was looking for him. He made his way to a scrappy-looking, two-toned Ford Fiesta that was parked off in the corner of the lot. Checking the driver's side door, and being surprised that it was unlocked, Sam slipped inside. "C'mon, Winchester, you can do this." Sam reached under the steering column and located the wires.

His fingers wrapped around the wires he needed, and Sam took a breath to steady himself. Could he really do this? What if it didn't work? What if he set off the car alarm? What if he electrocuted himself?

No. He needed to do this. Dean and Dad could be in huge danger.

He touched the wires together - and the engine roared to life.

Sam let out a small whoop of joy, then slammed the door shut and peeled out of the parking lot.

At first Sam was so full of adrenaline and nerves he nearly drove the car straight off the road twice, but he soon focused on the job at hand. He was lucky not to meet too many cars on the road, since he would've had a ton of explaining to do. As it was the Fiesta made its way down the long stretch of road without incident.

When Sam could see the neon lights of Sylvia's, the truck stop where Dad and Dean had gone to meet "Bobby," he slowed down long enough to look around the parking lot. With a sinking feeling he saw no sign of the Impala.

He leaned his head against the steering wheel and sighed. Now what?

For a moment, he wasn't sure what to do at all, and Sam hated that feeling. Feeling small and helpless. Feeling like a little kid. Dean needed him. Dad needs him.

He took another breath, and cleared his mind. Dad had teased him just a few days before about how he and Dean were so close they could almost read each other's minds.

Sam had run out of options. It was worth a try.

He closed his eyes, and let his mind search out for his brother - for any spark of Dean's consciousness.

For several long moments, there wasn't a hint of anything that felt like his brother. Sam screwed his eyes tightly shut, and pleading with the universe and anyone out there possibly listening in, he begged for some sign, some hint of his brother.

Just when he was about to give up, a vision appeared in his mind, like a flickering image on a movie screen. Dean, slumped unconscious against a wall. Dad, also unconscious, lying sprawled out on the floor. Bobby - what had to be the shapeshifter appearing as Bobby - standing over Dad, with a grin splitting his face.

Sam gritted his teeth in rage, spun the car around, and slammed his foot so hard against the accelerator it was a wonder it didn't shatter.

As the car barreled down the highway, one phrase ran through Sam's mind like a skip on a record.

"Hang on, please hang on..."

As the last of the summer sun disappeared beyond the horizon, Sam caught sight of a dirt road off to the side of the highway, and some inner sense, whatever had given him that vision of his family in danger, made him turn and follow that path. He guided the car down the road slowly, dimming the lights about halfway down the path, not wanting to announce himself.

About halfway down, far enough away from the road, he came across the Impala, pulled over to the side of the road, and a truck that looked like it could've come out of Singer's Salvage yard right in front of it. Sam killed the engine, and got out of the car as quietly as he could. As his eyes adjusted, he could make out a ramshackle house, little more than a shack, right at the edge of a forest.

He could see through the cracked glass pane of one of the windows that there was light on inside - maybe from a lantern of some sort. Sam crept silently to the window and peered in, and the first thing he saw was his brother. Just as in the vision he'd had earlier, Dean was against the far wall, slumped and unconscious. "Dean!" Sam whispered softly.

Movement at the other end of the room captured his attention. "Bobby" stood over his dad, a wicked-looking knife clutched in his hand. The shifter grinned evilly down at John, then knelt over him and grasped the man's hair, lifting his head.

Sam had to suppress a shudder as the creature spoke in Bobby's voice, snarling at John. "It's too bad that you and your son are going to be the next victims of the 'cult' the cops are so high on pinning these killings on, but maybe gutting the pair of you will be enough of a sign that this area does not welcome hunters!" He tightened his grip on John's locks and hissed. "And when I'm finished up here, I think I'll wear your face back to motel to take care of your other little brat." The shifter laughed harshly. "Won't he be surprised when 'Daddy' guts him like a fish?"

John thrashed in the shifter's grip, his eyes blazing with rage. "Leave... Sam... 'lone..." he spat out, earning himself a vicious blow to the face for his defiance. He fell to the ground, his head slamming hard into the floor, and he was still.

The shifter snorted in disgust. "Well, if you're going to leave the party early, Johnny, I may as well start with your first-born..." He pulled Dean to the center of the room, and raised the knife high over his head, aiming straight for the younger man's heart.

Sam couldn't just stand there and let his brother, or his dad, be killed. He threw himself at the door, a yell ripping from his throat as he hit the shifter's body with his full weight, knocking the creature aside and away from his brother.

Dean mumbled as his body hit the floor; the sounds of a startled and angry creature and the equally enraged snarl of...Sammy? filled his ears as he struggled to gain his faculties.

Dean watched as his little brother ripped into the shifter with a dexterity and skill he hadn't been completely aware his brother owned. He caught himself grinning in pride, then, pulling himself to his feet, made his way over to his dad's side.

As hard as it was to strike out at someone who was wearing Bobby's face, Sam's attack was utterly furious. The heavy flashlight he'd brought made a powerful weapon as he slammed it into the side of the shifter's face, making a sickening crunch echo throughout the small cabin. When the creature fell to its knees, Sam whipped the gun of out his pocket and aimed it right at "Bobby's" head.

"Dean," Sam said, his voice eerily calm, "you okay?"

"Yeah," his brother replied, still shaking off the cobwebs in his brain. "Sam, how did you -?"

"Get Dad outside," Sam responded. "I'll take care of... of this," The disgust in Sam's voice as he stared the glowering shifter down was almost palpable.

Dean was about to object, but the look in Sam's eyes made him change him mind.

As Dean gripped their dad and got him from the cabin, Sam stared at the shifter, hate filling his gaze. "Didn't expect to see me so soon did you?"

The creature cackled up at Sam. "Heh, heh...not too bad, Sammy! I guess I miscalculated a bit, but it's not over yet, boy."

Sam tightened his grips, both on the shifter as well as his weapon. "It is for you."

The shifter grinned, but then it changed the look on its (or rather Bobby's) face to one of shock and hurt. "You'd really do it, son?" it said, sounding so much like Bobby that it made Sam's breath catch in his throat. "You'd really shoot your Uncle Bobby? You remember that, don't you, Sam? When you'd call me Uncle Bobby? When I'd take you fishing, and we'd talk 'bout everything that was running around that little head of yours?" The look on the shifter's face went from piteous to sly and mocking. "Yer Daddy talks to Bobby about you, Sam. When you're asleep, he tells me things. How he thinks about that night yer Mom died. How everything had been so good, and then you came along and it all went to hell."

"Shut up!" Sam growled. "You don't know anything about it." Hearing those words come out of the shifter's mouth, sounding and looking just like Bobby, Sam couldn't help but hear them and wonder. He fought it, fought the images they created in his mind. Pushing them away, he lifted the flashlight and swung it downward, striking the creature on the head, knocking it unconscious. He struck it again for good measure before pushing away from the thing lying at his feet.

"You don't know a damn thing, about me or my family." With that, he stormed outside to check on his dad and brother.

Sam ran outside, to find Dean leaning up against the truck, John sitting on the bumper, slowly returning to the land of the conscious.

Dean reached out and, chick-flick moment or not, pulled his brother into a hug. "Don't know how you found us, little bro," he whispered into Sam's hair, "but I'm so glad you - SAM!" Dean shoved his brother out of the way as the shifter, bleeding from his head but still very much alive, lunged through the open doorway, knife raised and aimed squarely at the Winchesters.

The crack of a gun exploded in the night air, and the shifter went down in a heap. It twitched once then was still.

Dean and John both looked down at their savior - Sam, still frozen in a crouch, the gun clenched tightly in his hands.

Sam felt his legs collapse under him, and he knew he would have gone all the way down had Dean not caught him up, grasping him around the shoulders. "Dean..."

Dean chuckled. "Way to go, little brother!"

Hearing words of praise from Dean wasn't out of the norm, but the next words he heard shocked him.

"I'm proud of you, son."

When Sam looked up at his dad, and saw pride and the accompanying smile on his dad's face, he gaped. "Really?"

John lifted his body off the bumper and went to stand in front of his youngest. Gripping his son's shoulder firmly, John nodded. "Yeah, son. You did good. Real good."

For a moment, Sam couldn't say another word, and for that moment, John saw the man inside his youngest son's eyes. The man he'd grow up to be. A strong man, just like his older brother.

A hero.

Because on that summer night, that's just what Sam Winchester was.