Now

This was the first time they'd left Sam alone for three entire nights in a row. Dean was an old hand at looking after both himself and Sam when he'd been fifteen but he still hadn't been happy about leaving Sam by himself for so long. John thought Dean was coddling Sam too much and had insisted that things would be fine as long as Sam followed his rules to the letter and he expected nothing less than total obedience from his boys. Even if Sam had been almost constantly argumentative over the last year he still trusted that his youngest would do as he was told when it came down to it. It's not like the rules were hard to follow – keep the motel room warded, only leave the room to go to school and come straight home and under no circumstances draw any attention to himself or the fact that he was there alone. So when the Impala approached the motel the last thing John expected to see was the motel car park swarming with police.

"Jesus, what the hell?" He swore under his breath.

Driving away and pulling the car into a side street, John told Dean to get out of the car and follow him so they could slip in as close as they could without being seen to try and establish what was going on. At least the fact that it was dark would help.

From their vantage point they could hear snippets of what was being said and they heard one of the cops ask the motel manager which room the boy was staying in. The manager indicated their room and they watched as the officer knocked on the door several times but Sam either wasn't there or he wasn't opening the door.

"God dammit, what the hell has your brother done?" The eldest Winchester fumed. Dean didn't respond, he just went as white as a sheet as he took out his cell phone to call Sam but John's hand stilled him. "Don't. If he's inside and his phone rings, the cops will know he's in there."

The officer spoke again to the manager telling him to call them immediately as soon as the Wilson boy or his family returned. Yep, they were definitely looking for Sam – that was the name they had used when they checked in.

"Three days and he can't keep out of trouble, and with the law, no less! He knows better than this, I'm going to kick his ass six ways from Sunday when I get hold of him."

"But sir, what if he's hurt or gone? Anything could have happened."

John threw a furious look at his eldest. "He wouldn't be in trouble with the cops if he was hurt. I don't know what he's done but he's gone too far this time. Let's just hope we can get him and get the hell out of town before they arrest his sorry ass."

Another forty minutes later, after the last cruiser drove out of the lot they saw the curtain twitch.

"He's definitely in the room. Dean, go get the car and bring it right to the door, I need to get him out and us gone as quickly as possible before the manager can call the cops back here."

"Yes sir."

Dean wanted more than anything to go and get Sam himself because he knew by the look in his father's eyes that Sam was in for a world of hurt when John got hold of him but he knew better than to argue and he jogged back to the Impala.

John skirted the building and approached the room from the opposite direction of the office. As they always did when they could, they had taken the room at the end of the building to allow for a quick getaway if necessary. When he opened the door he found his youngest sitting on the bed chewing his thumbnail with their packed bags at his feet. At least the kid had sense enough to be ready to go as soon as they returned.

"Dad!"

"I don't want to hear it, Sam!" He roared as he picked up one of the bags and shoved it into Sam's hands as he grabbed the other two. "You can explain yourself when we're on the road. Dean's bringing the car around."

"But, Dad..."

John cut him off by grabbing him hard by the shoulder and shoving him toward the door. "Not one word out of you, do you hear me? You can't even be trusted to keep yourself out of trouble for three days, what the hell is wrong with you? Your brother knows how to follow orders but you – you do seem to go out of your way to disappoint me. I thought I could treat you like an adult but all you've done is prove to me that you're a spoiled little child."

Tears welled up in Sam's eyes and quickly spilled onto his cheeks. Why did his father always assume the worst in him and he couldn't even explain. It wasn't fair.

The rumble of the Impala as Dean pulled up in front of the room had John shoving Sam outside the door.

"Get in the car. Now!"

Dean slid into the passenger seat and watched as his father roughly pushed Sam out of the door and he winced. He dreaded the upcoming drive out of town knowing that it would consist of John screaming at Sam until he was hoarse while Sam tried to explain himself. He didn't think there was any excuse in the world that Sam could come up with for getting in trouble with the police that would make his dad calm down. Punishment was going to be severe. Even Dean had never brought the heat of the law onto them outside of hunting. What on earth had Sam done?

The back door of the car was pulled open and John pushed a scowling Sam into the backseat but before he could get behind the wheel the manager had run over to them...with a beaming smile on his face which morphed into confusion.

"Mr Wilson, are you leaving? The police need to speak with your son. You must be so proud of him, he was incredibly brave!"

Now it was John's turn to look confused. Dean swiveled his head from John, to the manager and back to Sam who was still scowling. John recovered quickly. "Yes, of course but we have a family emergency and have to cut our road trip short and get home immediately. We'll, uh, call the police to let them know where we'll be."

The manager frowned, fished a card out of his pocket and handed it to John.

"The deputy gave this to me, I really hope everything is alright with your family. Maybe they'll let your boy make a statement to the police in your home town."

He leaned in and smiled at Sam and said, "That was a hell of a thing you did, kid. Hell, most adults aren't that brave, you take care you hear?"

Sam's scowl lifted as he politely acknowledged the man, "Thank you, sir. I will."

The manager looked back to John shaking his head in awe, "And so polite too. You've raised a good boy, Mr Wilson. You travel safe now."

When John got into the car he and Dean exchanged bewildered glances and both looked back at Sam who was now wearing a monumental bitch-face as he sat with his bangs covering his eyes and his arms folded.

As John pulled out of the lot he glanced at his son in the rearview mirror, cleared his throat awkwardly and said, "I think you better tell me what's going on, son."

Sam rolled his eyes and grumbled, "So now you want to listen."

ooOoo

Three Hours Ago

Sam was sitting quietly in their motel room watching a rerun on the ridiculously archaic TV set. Dean had just called and told him that the hunt was successful and they were two to three hours away. At least they would be out of this dump in the morning, three weeks in this Hicksville was two weeks and six days too long. He was contemplating calling for a pizza because he had some of the money his dad gave him leftover when he heard an angry voice and an almighty thump on the wall from the room next door. Just great, now he was going to have to listen to the neighbors fighting, why did dad always have to put them in skeevy motels?

There was another shout and something banged against the wall so hard it made the picture above the beds rattle and then he could hear the sound of breaking glass. He wanted to call the manager to get him to tell them to shut up but he couldn't because then he might know he was by himself and no matter how annoyingly loud they were being he wouldn't break his dad's rule. He wanted the man to trust him like he trusted Dean. He could stay on his own, he was fifteen, it wasn't like he was a kid anymore.

He was about to turn up the TV to try and drown out some of the noise when he heard what sounded like a woman practically yelping. It wasn't the first time he'd overheard a bit of domestic violence but this sounded worse than he'd heard before so he switched off the TV. Now he could actually hear the sounds of a beating. If there was one thing he was familiar with it was the sound of fists connecting with bodies – he'd sparred enough and he and his family had been thrown around enough by all sorts of things since he'd started hunting with Dad and Dean. He was torn. He didn't want to break the rules but he couldn't sit and listen to some asshole beating on his wife or girlfriend. Maybe he could make an anonymous call to the police.

He was brought out of his musing by the sound of a woman screaming and begging for her attacker to stop. Sam slipped out of the door of their room and saw that a man a few rooms down had opened his door too but he shook his head when he saw Sam and turned around and went back inside. Typical, nobody wanted to get involved. The noises were getting worse and the woman was pleading and whimpering so Sam peeked through a gap in the window and what he saw chilled him to the bone. A man was beating a young woman bloody on the bed and tearing off her clothes. There were no prizes for guessing what he was about to do.

Without really thinking about it Sam threw the door open shouting for the attacker to stop. It wasn't until afterward that he thought that he probably should have gone and grabbed the gun Dad had left him. It would've ended things much more abruptly and quietly.

The man turned and shouted at Sam to get out at the same time the woman screamed again for help.

"Get the fuck away from her!"

"Piss off, kid, this is none of your business."

Sam stepped further into the room drawing up to his full six foot height – thanks to a massive growth spurt over the past few months – trying to look as imposing as he could, which really wasn't very because although he had gotten a good six inches taller, it had left him really skinny and gangly.

The man actually laughed as he backhanded the woman on the bed and stepped menacingly toward him.

"Walk away, kid or I'll fuck up your pretty little face too."

The man was much bigger than Sam – a couple of inches shorter but a hell of a lot bulkier – but Sam had the advantage of being sober where the other man was obviously drunk and he'd been trained in hand-to-hand combat and was also taught by Dean to fight as down as dirty as he had to.

"I don't think so," he answered as he saw the bleeding woman scramble to cover herself and try to flee to the bathroom.

As she made a dash for it the man lunged and grabbed her arm in a fierce grip. As he went to tug her back toward him, Sam kicked out connecting his foot with the man's soft midsection causing him to immediately release his hold on the woman as the air was knocked out of him. He recovered quickly and hurled himself toward Sam with a roar and was deftly sidestepped then Sam threw a solid right hook to the man's jaw and wow, he was really going to feel that later.

The man began swinging. Sam dodged a punch that was aimed at his face but wasn't quite fast enough to completely avoid being hit in the ribs which slightly winded him. The man had a feral look on his face and was attempting to crowd Sam into a corner. He knew if the guy managed to grapple with him, he'd lose the upper hand because of the man's sheer bulk so he feinted with a punch toward the man's face and then punched him solidly in the groin. As he doubled over, Sam slipped around and gave a brutally hard one-two punch to the man's kidneys and he went down like a sack of potatoes.

Sam stood over him still in a fighter's stance, panting and sweating and said, "Are you done?"

The guy used a chair to slowly pull himself to his feet and spat out at the woman, "This is not over bitch," and staggered out the door.

The woman who had managed to wrap the quilt around her mostly naked, battered body slumped to the floor and Sam ran to her side.

"Are you okay? God, stupid question, I'm sorry. Let me help you over to the bed."

He gently helped her to stand and moved her until she was sitting on the bed in an obvious state of shock. She looked up at him with glassy eyes.

"Thank you, you saved my life. When I left him he said he'd find me. He said he'd kill me."

A woman rushed through the door with a blanket saying something about how the police and an ambulance were on their way and Sam turned to find he had an audience of astonished faces of three or four motel occupants and the manager. When all eyes were on the injured woman he quietly slipped back into his room, packed their duffles and turned the lights off.

He thought his dad would be really proud of him but also knew that he wouldn't want Sam pulled into a police investigation so he knew to be ready to go as soon as Dad and Dean got back. When the police showed up they knocked on the door after they'd interviewed the witnesses but he stayed silent until they left thinking nobody was in the room.

After he heard the last squad car leave he chanced a small peek out the window to make sure they were all gone then sat on the bed to wait, coming down from the adrenaline high. Then his dad burst through the door and he felt enormous relief.

"Dad!"

ooOoo

Now

By the time Sam finished his tale John was speechless. He watched as Dean's incredulous look changed into a broad grin as he leaned over the seat and ruffled Sam's hair.

"Way to go, Sammy, you seriously kicked some ass! You're a hero, dude! "

Sam blushed and said, "I didn't do anything that anyone else wouldn't have done. M'not a hero."

John was still trying to wrap his mind around what his youngest had just told him. Surely he was embellishing the story so he wouldn't be in trouble. But then, there was the motel manager's expression and the way he said how brave Sam had been. He knew he had to say something but he just didn't know what. His son had displayed an amazing amount of bravery but he had also broken the rules about drawing unwanted attention with no thought to his own safety. Then again, how could he be angry at the boy for saving a woman from being beaten, raped and possibly worse. Still, it scared him to think of how many things could have gone wrong. Sam was a gawky fifteen year old child who took on a violent, grown man without even knowing if he was armed.

He was also slightly ashamed for thinking the worst and going off on Sam without letting him explain. Unfortunately, John didn't much care for the feeling and it made him angry.

"You realize you could've gotten yourself killed, Sammy."

The young teen rolled his eyes and then looked pointedly at his father. "So what was I supposed to do, just let the douchebag rape and kill her?"

"You could've called in an anonymous tip to the police," John replied gruffly.

"Dad, by the time they got there it would've been too late."

Dean's smile fell. After finding out what really happened – that Sammy was a god damn hero – his dad and his brother were back to fighting again. If it was Dean that handed the would-be rapist his ass he's sure his dad would be praising him so why was couldn't he do that with Sammy?

"He saved her Dad, isn't that what we do – save people?"

His father looked at him with an expression of frustration. "That's different, Dean and you know it."

Sam was back to scowling and Dean was pretty sure he could see tears in his eyes even though he had his head down.

"No, Dad, I don't think I do. Why don't you explain it to me."

"Don't you dare take that tone with me, boy."

"I didn't mean any disrespect, sir, I genuinely don't understand."

"He's just angry because it was me, Dean. Apparently I can't do anything right."

"Don't be a smartass, Sam. You're not too old for me to take my belt to."

Everyone fell into an uneasy silence that lasted for the next fifty miles until John pulled into a gas station to get some coffee. Sam huffed out that he needed to use the bathroom and practically stomped across the tarmac.

"I don't understand why you're angry with him, Dad. He did something amazing and brave."

"I'm not...I'm not angry with him, Dean but what he did was reckless."

Dean looked at his father, realization dawning, "You're scared. He could've been hurt and it frightens you."

John swiped his large calloused hand across his face. "He could've gotten himself killed."

"Dad, he could be killed on a hunt. How is it any different?"

"Because he has us to back him up," he shouted, "he went in alone and unarmed."

"So you are scared?"

"Of course! He's my baby and he went in alone!"

"And how would you have felt if we'd gotten back and an innocent woman had been killed and Sam had just sat there and done nothing? You trained us to protect people, Dad."

"I know. It's just...I can't lose him. I can't lose either of you."

"You didn't even apologize for jumping to the wrong conclusion. If you two keep fighting all the time you'll lose him anyway, by pushing him away."

John looked at his son and thought is that what I'm doing?

He bowed his head. "You're right, it's just he's so damn headstrong and it's going to get him into trouble."

"I wonder where he gets that from."

John scowled at Dean but knew he was right. As much as it annoyed him, he and Sam were too alike. He saw Sam walking back to the car, head down and dragging his feet.

"Go and get us some coffee, son. I need to talk to your brother."

He saw the look Dean gave him and said, "I'm not going to fight with him, okay."

Dean exited the car as Sam got in the back purposely not looking at his father.

"You did good, son." Sam's head snapped up and he looked at his father with hope shining in his eyes. "I'm sorry I thought the worst of you. I just saw the cops and..." He shook his head.

Sam knew that his father rarely apologized for anything and even though it might've sounded half-hearted to some, it was as close to praise as John ever gave.

"Thanks, Dad."

When Dean got back to the car Sam was staring out the window smiling and his father was watching him furtively in the mirror with a look of pride on his face that he couldn't quite hide and suddenly everything felt right in his world again.

He was with his family – his two favorite people, his father whom he idolized and his little brother, the reluctant hero.

Fin