John Winchester almost uttered a "Hallelujah, Jesus," when the truck stop appeared on the horizon. It wasn't a chain store, it didn't look clean, but at this point it didn't really matter. No, what mattered was getting his two hellions out of the car before he considered tying one to the hood and the other to the trunk just so he could get some piece and quiet.
The parking lot held a few cars, a very battered jeep, and a lot of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Considering what that boded for the clientele, John briefly reconsidered driving another fifty miles.
"I'm hunnngr-y," Sammy whined as only a seven year old could.
Eager to have a few moments respite from high-pitched voices reverberating around the cabin of the Impala, John turned the car off and stuffed the keys in his pocket before he could change his mind again. "You're lucky we found this place then," John said. "Dean – keep Sammy in sight." Dean huffed, but didn't argue, earning a hand that messed his hair from John when they got out of the car. The kid was slowly developing instincts about his surroundings.
Sammy ran in circles around them while they walked across the parking lot to the diner that was attached to the truck stop. Dean threw saved bottle caps at his brother along the way, hitting the other boy 8 out of 10 times. John grabbed Sammy's arm before they entered the diner and kept his hand firmly attached to the boy's shoulder as they walked through the door.
In less than five seconds he had the exits memorized, ten seconds to gauge the danger presented by the various biker gang members and sleep deprived truckers, and fifteen to spot the pretty brunette with a boy Sammy's age being pestered by a very unsavory lecher with a lazy eye. Her own eyes held murder.
John didn't even wait for the hostess to reach them, he just steered his sons to the brunette's table. "Cousin Greta – so glad you could make it out on such short notice. I don't think my car's engine is going to last the next fifty miles to your ranch," he opened.
The brunette knew a savior when she saw one and how to act the part he'd given her without batting an eye. "Larry! And little Darrel and Jo Bob! I wouldn't miss seeing you for the world."
The lecher tried to engage John in a battle of wills, but didn't stand a chance. On a yearly basis, John had to stare down one Jim Murphy, and sometimes he was convinced that Jim flat didn't need to blink at all. Sammy settled things by slipping out of John's grasp and kicking the old pervert in the shins. "Leave Auntie Greta alone! She doesn't like you!"
As soon as the lecher was a sufficient distance away, "Greta" relaxed visibly. "Thank you so much."
"John. This is Dean, and the future World Cup player is Sammy. Mind if we join you?"
"Not at all."
John slid into the booth and then Dean scooted in after Sammy. "I didn't catch your name, Greta."
He didn't miss the haunted look that passed over her face. He'd seen it in the mirror more than once. In a different time, when he was a different man, it wouldn't take him until midnight to convince her to tell him everything and how to track down the SOB that put those shadows in her eyes. "Sarah. This-" she poked at the sandy haired lump that was slouched over the table in exhaustion, "is John."
"Well, his parents have excellent taste in names," John replied easily. The waitress arrived bearing plates of food and a steaming cup of coffee to Sarah and young John. "Three menus, please," John requested. The waitress shook her greasy head dismissively and shot a glare at Sarah before stomping off to retrieve them.
Sarah gave a small smile. "Here's hoping the food is better than the service." Judging from the way little John beside her had woken up to the smell and was quickly devouring his burger, John figured they'd be fine.
After wrangling orders from Sam and Dean that weren't guaranteed to make him want to blow his brains out when he got back on the road with two satiated and hyper children, John returned to the joy of adult conversation
"The car trouble was just a line, right?" Sarah asked.
John nodded. "In another life, I worked at a garage. How about you?"
"Gets hard to remember sometimes."
"Scoped out a hotel yet? Because I have to say, I'm not looking forward to the distance remaining between here and civilization, if not."
"Obviously, you've never been to Amarillo if you think that's civilization," Sarah answered from behind her coffee cup. "Ten miles down the road is a small motel. Not much, and definitely not clean since it gets used due to the base down the road, but-"
John nodded. "Definitely better than driving off the road due to hallucinations, thanks."
Suddenly, she started digging for her wallet. "We've still got a while to travel though, so."
John held up his hand. "It's on me. Be safe out there."
He held her gaze for a second before she nodded and grabbed little John's arm gently. "Time to go, John." A moment of discontent crossed the boy's face when she interrupted his conversation with Sammy, but something stopped him from saying anything. John turned to watch as they exited the diner, just in case the lecher from earlier tried to waylay them again, and that's when he saw the four cops being seated in the back by the kitchen.
Sarah kept her head down as she walked, pulling John along behind her as fast and gently as she could without drawing attention. "Dean-"
"Yeah, Dad, I got it. We'll be at the car."
One of the diner's staff started yelling when they saw Sarah leaving. One of the problems of having a child in these sorts of places – it drew attention and meant you were watched, for better or worse. The cops were standing again.
John didn't know why he was doing it. He and his boys had as much to lose as this woman from the wrong kind of attention, but something in her eyes had spoken to him. Told him this was more than a custody battle gone wrong or an addict on the run from a warrant.
A trucker would make a ruckus, but it wouldn't be enough to stop one of the cops from going after Sarah and getting at least her license plate. Fortunately, a table full of bikers was only six steps away. Not for the first time, John grabbed a man from behind and threw him across the room. All around him, hairy, large men, all in leather, stood as one and faced him.
Thanks to a bit of karma in his favor, none of those men were sitting between John and the nearest door.
Even better, Dean had the presence of mind to snag a coffee pot off the wait station for him as he got Sammy out of the building.