Title: Wired

Summary: One unlucky punch teaches all three Winchesters a lesson they won't forget.

A/N: This fic is so utterly ridiculous that I simply have no excuses for it! I started this a LONG time ago and it's part of my fic table that I also started a LONG time ago. Then sendintheclowns begged so I finished it. I asked her how far she wanted me to go with it and she asked for going ALL the way, so the gratutitous limpness in the next four sections is all her fault :) Much thanks to her Rachelly who took time out of her busy life to beta this for me. She is invaluable! And she needs to start writing herself again--well, posting. I know she writes :)

Disclaimer: So not mine.

-o-

It was six o'clock on a Wednesday night and Sam had homework to do. Lots of it. A lengthy Algebra assignment. A couple scenes to read from Hamlet. A chapter and study guide for World History. If he was lucky, it would only take him a few hours, and if he got started right away, he'd still have time to head to bed at a reasonable hour so he wouldn't have to pinch himself to stay awake through first period.

He wasn't lucky.

Nope. Sam wasn't lucky. He was a Winchester. And Winchesters didn't worry about homework or staying awake in class. No, Winchesters trained. They practiced. They prepared.

The fact that they didn't have a hunt lined up was beside the point. Constant vigilance.

In other words, constant training, day in and day out, with no reprieve.

His father had always been annoying about such things, to the point of being a bull-headed jerk, and it seemed that these days, Dean was more and more amenable to such nonstop training. Not that his brother had ever really been contrary to it, but in the days since Dean had finished his own schooling, his focus was singular, as though he was ramping up to take a much more active role in the family business.

Which was even worse news for Sam.

Sometimes, in the past, Dean had covered for him, let him shirk a little on the ends of training, given him a few more minutes of study time before making him buckle down.

Clearly, that was no longer the case.

Sam had barricaded himself in his room, shut the door tightly and hoped that his family would forget about him and their nightly routine.

The minute Sam heard his brother's footsteps on the stairs, he knew it was a lost cause.

He contemplated his options. Part of him wanted to make a break for it. His room was on the second floor of the crappy house they were squatting in, but that would make little difference. Even though he was still skinny at fifteen, he was wiry as hell and he knew that if the whole ghost hunting thing was ever something he was allowed not to consider, he could have a successful career as a Trapeze artist. It seemed like he'd been squirming out of tight spots for as long as he could remember--in fact, it was one of the few skills his father had always praised him on, because it came in handy when they ended up in locked, tight spaces. Somehow he was always the monkey boy who had to slip through spaces to help them make their great escapes.

He had no doubt he could do it, but he really didn't want to face the consequences of what would happen when he returned. He wanted to escape for a night, not for the rest of his life.

He could always play sick. It was a tried and true method, which really might work with his father's sketchy attention to them. The only problem was that it was Dean who was coming up to fetch him, and all of Sam's sick-tricks had been learned and not quite perfected from his big brother.

That left honesty. Telling Dean the truth. Admitting that he needed to study, that he didn't want to train, and that he just needed a night off. It was an earnest plea, and Sam could pull off earnest far better than Dean ever could.

Too bad he tried it every night. Even worse that Dean had just stopped listening.

No matter how he looked at it, no matter how he tried to get out of it, Sam was screwed. His father tolerated no dissention. Dean was far too into his own training to understand Sam's reluctance. And they were both still bigger than he was, they held all the cards, and Sam was still stuck doing whatever it was they told him to do.

When the door opened, Sam didn't even look up, but kept his eyes fastened on the page of his textbook.

"Training time, Sammy," Dean's voice came to him, light and airy. "Dad wants us to spend some time sparring."

Of all the training they did, sparring was pretty low on Sam's list of ones he liked. He could get into physical fitness to some degree--he liked to try to make his stick-like body a little broader, if for no other reason than to stroke his own fledgling ego. He couldn't deny that he was a teenage boy with hormones and a real attraction for pretty girls, even if he was too terrified to talk to them nine times out of ten. And with his recent growth spurts, his body was gangly and awkward, so weight training helped him feel like he could combat that somewhat.

Not to mention that endurance training just felt good. He liked setting his own goals and beating them. Just him against the clock. His father added pressure, that was true, but it was still Sam's body and it was still Sam's success and there was nothing more to it than that.

Weapon training had ceased to interest him when he realized what damage the weapons could do.

But sparring--sparring was just a cruel exercise in futility.

At fifteen, Sam was tall, and, despite his best efforts, still thin. That made sparring not only awkward while he tripped over his own feet, but embarrassing as well. Because in sparring there were winners and losers. Sam, inevitably, was always the loser. Which was exactly what he didn't need. One more thing his father could look down on him for, one more thing he could be told to just be more like Dean.

Apparently his disappointment was visible.

"Aw, come on, Sammy," Dean chided. "It's not so bad."

Sam let his book fall to the bed and he grunted. "Yeah," he muttered. "For you."

Dean just grinned, far too cocky. "Maybe if you'd get your head out of a book more often--"

Rolling his eyes, Sam forced himself off the bed. "I'm pretty sure that's not the problem."

"Whatever, dude," Dean said. "Downstairs in five. Dad'll be down in a bit to check up on us."

As his brother disappeared from his door, Sam just frowned. "Great," he said under his breath. "Just great."

-o-

The house they were in was hardly upright. Sam was pretty sure it was infested with something, though his dad gruffly assured him that it wasn't. There were mice, which was typical, and there were vast, wide-open spaces around it, which wasn't so common. Squatting was cheaper than motel rooms, though decidedly less clean. However, the trade-off was always in the space--getting his own room was something Sam couldn't deny that he relished, and having space to roam around outside helped keep his imagination satiated.

It also usually provided more ample room for training--a natural shooting range in a wide open field, a winding creek to follow for training runs. Even the house had enough space to clear the living room of its decrepit furniture and create an ideal makeshift gym. In his father's eyes, anyway.

Sam had to admit, it was nice to be able to do jumping jacks without bashing into walls and furniture, but more often than not, his father liked to use the carpeted space to exhibit his sons' talents against one another. Without fail, that made it one of Sam's least favorite places by default.

When he finally came downstairs, donning his sweats and socks, Dean was already stretching. His brother, at nineteen, was done growing in height. However, Dean made up for it by bulking up and filling out. Dean was handsomely built, which Sam would never admit to noticing but he couldn't help it. He'd been following Dean around his entire life, trying to be Dean, trying to impress his father like Dean could, and Dean's new and refined build was yet another area where Sam simply failed to measure up.

Spotting him, Dean grinned. "You better stretch," he advised. "I'm feeling good today."

Rolling his eyes, Sam dropped down, pulling his hamstrings. "Great," he muttered. Just what he needed--not only was his brother stronger and more experience, but he was feeling good. Like Sam needed any more reasons to feel like disappearing into the threadbare carpet.

Dean wasn't exaggerating either. His older brother was practically bouncy with energy, rolling his head on his neck and shrugging his shoulders as he bounded up and down in anticipation.

Meagerly, Sam stretched, before resigning himself to the inevitable. "Let's just get this over with."

Dean cocked his head. "Aw, come on, Sammy," he cajoled. "You don't sound very excited."

Sam tensed, on the balls of his feet now, as his brother began circling him. "Excited? To spar? Give me one reason."

Dean lashed out experimentally with a kick that Sam dodged. "A chance to prove yourself," he said.

Glowering, Sam evaded a punch and grunted. "Yeah," he said. "Sure. More like another chance to be told all the things I do wrong."

Reaching out with a kick of his own, Sam's foot only met air and Dean spun away, grinning. "You're no fun sometimes," Dean said.

Feeling perturbed now, Sam went forward again, making contact with Dean's midsection, but his brother countered with a kick of his own. Pulling out, Sam worked to control his breathing. "I've got tons of homework tonight," he said. "I have better things to do."

Before Sam could fully gather himself, Dean grabbed Sam's arm and flung him down where he landed spread-eagle, Dean perched on top of him. "You might want to try paying attention instead of complaining," he suggested heavily. "This isn't a game."

Sam rolled his eyes, huffing out a breath, still pinned flat on his back. "Thanks, Dad."

Dean grunted as he pulled his brother up. "Just shut up and spar."

Sam sighed dramatically, but took up his stance again, charging Dean this time with a steady rhythm of attacks, all of which Dean danced with in tandem. Though Sam tried, he could find no opening. Dean's arms blocked his blows and his footwork anticipated Sam's without fail.

It was supposed to be a feint, but Dean read him the entire way, and caught Sam's arm, yanking it before Sam had a chance to rectify the situation.

"Nice move, Dean," a gruff voice said, and Sam cringed from the arrival of his father's presence. Losing to Dean was one thing. Losing in front of his father simply provided his dad one more thing to harp on him about.

His brother was grinning, his eyes sparkling, and Sam noted with frustration that his older brother had barely worked up a sweat.

Perturbed, he tried to counter, but found no purchase.

"Sam, you're not focused." John's voice cut through the heat and Sam felt his frustrations mounting as Dean's hand did not waver.

Brow furrowed, Sam yanked back on his arm, using one foot to kick out at his brother. Dean retreated, letting Sam's arm go, and the two circled each other once again.

Sam, you're not focused.

This isn't a game.

Reprimands. Reminders. Ridicule. All the things Sam had to overcome, Sam needed to avoid. Nothing he did seemed to be enough--the good grades, the school activities meant nothing to his family--and his meager attempts at training seemed to incite more criticism rather than praise.

He'd just have to--

"Try harder," his father barked. "Move in, come on."

Frustrated, Sam lunged forward, reckless and strong. At the very least, he'd have the element of surprise. His brother expected him to be careful, reserved, tactics Sam usually preferred because they ended up with his butt on the mat fewer times than his blind offensives.

He connected a kick to Dean's midsection, but missed the follow up to his face. The forward momentum made him off balance, and Dean sent him flying toward the wall. Sam cushioned the impact, but still hit with a thump that rattled the small room.

Blushing vigorously, Sam pushed away, turning back to his brother.

This time his father didn't say anything, but Sam could feel his scowl burning into him. Swallowing hard, he approached his brother again, lashing out.

Dean dodged and Sam feinted. His brother tried a kick to Sam's stomach that he managed to block. With Dean's balance precarious, Sam pulled away, and his brother righted himself.

"Come on," his father snapped. "You have to follow that up. Your brother is bigger than you and better than you. If you don't follow through, you'll never make it."

The tenacity and terseness in John's voice shredded the last of Sam's concentration. His movements became jerky and angry and sloppy.

Dean's punch was easy to see coming, strong and sure, and Sam had dodged the same one fifty times that day. But this time the sound of his father's disappointment was prominent in his mind and instead of going right, he went left.

And Dean's fist connected solidly with his jaw.

The force dropped him, and he fell to the ground with nothing more than a muted whimper. The pain was instantaneous and blinding, splintering like sheer whiteness that overtook his consciousness. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think, he couldn't feel--there was a painful nothingness that suddenly encompassed his entire being. He was weightless and heavy all at once as the whiteness buzzed into nothingness.

Distantly, he could hear Dean and his father, yelling, talking, saying something, and could even feel them leaning over him, grabbing his arms, shaking him.

It was the shaking that tore him from his white expanse with a jolt of radiant pain, which forced a cry from his throat before he could stop it.

Blinking, he could see them now--a matching set of worried faces hovering over him. Dean looked sheet white, about two blinks from tears and his father's face was drawn and blank, which was the closest thing to emotion Sam had ever seen.

"Sammy? Can you hear me?"

It was his dad, but his lips weren't moving in tandem with the voice.

His ears rang and the words sounded distorted and too slow.

"Sam? Talk to me."

The order sounded more like his father and Sam felt himself trying to comply without thought. His mind tried to think of a response, something to say, but then he realized that he couldn't even remember how to speak.

"Dad, look at his jaw."

That was Dean, and Sam's eyes flicked sluggishly to his brother, who looked positively sick now, even Sam could see that with his hazy eyesight.

John didn't say anything, didn't even look at Dean, though Sam was pretty sure that Dean needed just as much help as he did right then.

Instead, John's hands reached toward him, and Sam wanted to flinch, but instead felt nauseated. His father's fingers probed the side of his head, his ear, but when they touched his jaw, another strangled moan escaped his throat.

Fire erupted now with new intensity on the side of his face, jolting all the way down his arm.

"Easy, kiddo," John soothed, placing a restraining hand on Sam's shoulder. "You're okay."

"It's broken, isn't it?"

Sam wasn't sure what he was talking about--his head? His brain? All of him?

"Looks that way," John said. "We're going to have to take him to the hospital."

Normally this would annoy Sam. Not the hospital, because in general he believed in things like doctors and anesthesia, but they were talking about him. He was lying right in front of them, and they were discussing this like he didn't have a say in anything.

He tried to open his mouth in protest, and fresh pain spiked through him. Squeezing his eyes shut, he felt a tear trickle from his eye. Maybe he didn't have a say in this.

"Sam?" his father's voice came. "We need to get you to the car. Can you move, son?"

Sam wanted to say no, not in this lifetime, but he moaned instead. He opened his eyes in time to see his father reach out and take his arm, levering him to a sitting position. Nausea swelled and he swallowed, closing his eyes.

His father's arm was on his back now. "You ready?"

Apparently Sam's groan was enough because next thing he knew he was being pulled to his feet. He staggered a little, leaning into his father's steady arms, for once not too proud to accept the help they offered. It was better than doing a face plant on the floor.

"Dean's getting the car started," his father said. "You going ot make it?"

Sam opened his eyes and met his father's and wanted to throw up.

John smiled a little. "One foot in front of the other."

Sam nodded and obeyed.

-o-

Most of the time Dean didn't mind being his father's good little soldier. For the most part, it came naturally, and he'd been at it for as long as he could remember. It was who he was, as much a part of him as his love for rock music and hot women.

That didn't mean that he didn't doubt his father from time to time. Because sometimes the orders sounded ridiculous, sometimes they sounded cruel, and sometimes they went against the only instinct to Dean that was stronger than his obedience: the one to take care of Sam.

Seeing Sam curled up in pain, barely coherent, in the backseat of the Impala, was enough to make him question everything. Because this wasn't a hunt. This wasn't an angry spirit getting the one-up on them. Those times were bad enough as it was. But this? This was training. This was Dean's fist in Sam's face under the constant mantra of telling Sam to focus. All their admonitions, all their lectures, all their insistence that Sam got it right had wound up like this, and Dean just wasn't okay with that.

Feeling that and voicing it were two different things. Dean glanced at his father, who was sitting stonily in the driver's seat, his hands gripping the wheel tightly.

Sam had been aware enough to walk himself to the car, but it had taken more than one firm word from their father to get his younger brother to settle and stop touching his jaw. It was obviously broken, disjointed and sitting out of place on Sam's face. It looked like it hurt like hell—after all, Dean's own jaw throbbed just looking at the damage to his little brother's face. But he had to give the kid credit—Sam hadn't cried--not more than a tear or two of sheer pain reaction. Dean figured his brother didn't even realize he was making any noise at all, so he couldn't fault him for that.

Dean had raced back to the door in an effort to help, but his father clearly had not wanted assistance as he ushered Sam to the backseat. A look from his father had cowed Dean into the front seat, as if sitting in the back would be too much like coddling since Sam was with-it enough to manage on his own. Sitting in the front was usually a privilege Dean relished and liked to lord over Sam. But this time--this time it was hard to not be next to his brother, to not offer his brother the simple reassurance of touch.

The car ride was tense--and silent. His father wasn't much of a conversationalist and it wasn't like Sam was going to start talking any time soon. Dean tended to be the talker in the family these days, ever since Sam's teenage years had brought about his brooding, but any glance at Sam or his father had him swallowing back any words he might say.

Sam, for his part, looked miserable. Accidents happened, Dean knew, but he hadn't wanted to hurt his brother. Kicking his ass was a brotherly gesture, and it wasn't supposed to carry long-term side effects—even bruises were outside of Dean's comfort zone more often than not. Such things went against his most basic desire: to keep Sam safe

Keeping Sam safe meant not bashing his jaw in, accident or not.

Stewing in his own guilt, the car ride was a blur, the town still unfamiliar and unimportant to him. It seemed like no time had passed when his father pulled them up in front of the hospital.

In a flash, John was out of the car and swinging open the backseat. Dean moved to get out on his side, eager to get Sam inside, to hear that his brother would be just fine, but his father's voice stopped him cold.

"Dean, I want you to take the car and find a parking spot," he said. His voice was terse and to the point, but not unkind. There was a hint of annoyance, but no sound of accusation.

Nonetheless, Dean's need for obedience could not fall in line here. He needed to be there with Sam, to hear them say Sam would be okay. "But--"

He never got another word out. His father was shaking his head, helping Sam maneuver out of the backseat. "No buts. This isn't an emergency. We can't risk the car being towed. Now, Dean," he ordered. The back door slammed and Dean could see Sam wavering on his feet, leaning heavily on his father. "Go."

His jaw clenched, Dean nodded through blurred eyes. "Yes, sir," he muttered, scooting his way to the driver's seat. By the time he pulled the door shut and had the car in Drive, he could see his father disappearing with Sam into the ER doors.

-o-

It was a testament to how bad Sam looked that the doctor took him right away. One look glance and the man had grimaced, nodding to a nurse to gather a gurney to haul Sam off on. While John was relieved that his son was getting treatment, part of him hated to know that it was serious enough to warrant immediate attention.

He hated even more that he was relegated to the waiting room.

A few simple questions about Sam's age and allergies and what had happened, and then he'd been escorted out and given a clipboard with forms to complete. Standard procedure--all of it, but that didn't mean he liked it. That didn't mean he liked trusting his most precious possessions with strangers--no matter how trained they seemed to be. That didn't mean he liked being completely uninvolved when he was used to having final say in everything in his boys' lives.

Making Dean leave had been cruel, but John couldn't deny that he was glad he'd made the decision. He could already tell that guilt was eating Dean alive, and he needed Dean sharp and focused, not wallowing and terrified. Besides, he could only handle one son's trauma right now, and Sam's seemed to be a bit more pressing.

There was little doubt in John's mind as to what the diagnosis would be. Sam's jaw was clearly broken, which was bad news. It meant a hiccup in their training; it meant a stall in the hunt. It meant a worried Dean and a needy Sam, two stressors that he really did not relish having at this point in his life.

But seeing Sam so pale—it'd made the kid look so young. And John couldn't help but think that it shouldn't have to be like that, that his little boy shouldn't have to feel that pain.

It was still Sam's fault, though, he tried to remind himself. The boy was demanding too much and it was distracting him. This was just more evidence that his boys needed structure, they needed the orders. Sam's wayward interests were compromising his skills, and next time it might not just be a guilty Dean and a broken-jawed Sam had to worry about.

He was so absorbed in thought that he barely recognized the alias he'd printed on the forms just seconds before.

"Sir?" the doctor was asking, nearly on top of John. "Sir, I'm Dr. Howard."

Scrambling John stood, trying to hide how flustered he was. "Yes," he said. "Can you tell me about my son?"

"Mr...uh, Garrity," the doctor said, glancing again at his clipboard. "Your son suffered a fracture of his lower jaw. X-rays show that the displacement was quite severe."

Forcing himself to take a deep breath, John tried to focus on the doctor's words, on the calm tone of his voice. This wasn't a man telling him his son was in critical condition. This man hardly seemed frazzled. That could only bode well for Sam's recovery. "So, what do you do? He'll be okay?"

Dr. Howard nodded. "He'll be fine, of course, but we will have to wire his jaw shut in order to allow the bones to heal. If the break had been much worse, we would have had to go with surgery, but I'm confident that wiring will do the trick. It's not a pleasant procedure, but it's fairly routine and it will only require a local anesthetic. I'm afraid he'll have to have it wired for nearly six weeks after he's released, which isn't fun for anyone."

John winced a little. Sammy would take poorly to this, no doubt blaming the extensive training load John heaped upon them as responsible for his condition.

The doctor smiled lightly. "While it will require extra care for Sam--grinding his food up so he can drink it--it also does afford most parents with more silence than usual."

Looking up, John caught the twinkle in the doctor's eye, and couldn't help but smile himself. A quiet Sam? A Sam who couldn't voice his opinion whenever he wanted, in whatever tone he wanted? He didn't wish harm to come to his son, but maybe a little silence would be good for all of them. "When can I see him?"

"Well, he's resting right now. We put him on some rather strong pain medication, because like I said, it's a rather painful break, and we also didn't want him to injure his jaw further. We're getting prepped for the procedure, but you can see him for a few minutes before we're ready to take him up."

John nodded. "I'd appreciate that."

Dr. Howard smiled benignly. "Right this way."

-o-

The first thing John noticed was that his son still looked awful. The kid was pale and his jaw was still clearly broken--only now that he was clad in the generic hospital garb, he looked even worse, sicker, with his mop of dark hair standing out starkly. Moreover, he was stuck up in a neck brace, which looked terribly uncomfortable for the kid. John's stomach turned over with guilt, wondering if maybe this was his fault.

The second thing John noticed was that Sam was most undoubtedly high. It took his usually alert son a minute to process his presence, but when recognition lit in Sam's eyes, a sloppy half grin lit up his face. "Dad!" he said, overly bright. The kid tried to sit up, but found it difficult with his neck immobilized.

John winced. "Are you sure you should be talking?" he asked, inching closer to the bed.

Sam didn't appear concerned. "They just said not to open my mouth too far," Sam informed him quite seriously. The problem was that the neck brace seemed to hinder his ability to talk, making his slurred words stunted and awkward. "I broke my jaw."

"I know," John said simply, studying Sam. It was odd seeing Sam like this, his eyes unfocused and his disposition relaxed. Lately it seemed that Sam was all seriousness, always assessing, always critiquing, always being contrary. "You feel okay?"

The grin reappeared. "They gave me something for the pain," Sam told him. "Feels good. I can't even feel my jaw." To prove his point, Sam's hand went up to his face, touching it.

John moved forward quickly, grabbing his son's hand swiftly and putting it back on the bed. "I don't think they want you touching it."

Sam shrugged, or attempted to anyway, nonplussed. "I think Dean would love this stuff."

Sinking into the chair by Sam's bed, John sighed. "He probably would," he agreed.

Sam turned his body to look at him, rolling his large eyes up to meet John's. "They say I won't be able to talk really well after they wire my jaw," Sam said, a sudden somberness in his tone. "So I just wanted to say--to say that I'm sorry, Dad."

John raised his eyebrows. Loopy, unusually happy Sam was one thing, but now an apologizing Sam? Just how much pain medication had they put his son on? "For what?" he asked hesitantly.

"For not paying attention," he said. "I didn't want to spar, and I always feel like you're watching me. You and Dean. Sizing me up. Making sure I'm up to it. And I don't want to fail you. I let that get in my way. And I failed you anyway. So I'm sorry."

The apology left John speechless and he stared at his son, his own mouth hanging open slightly. High or not, he hadn't expected that. Not from his defiant son, not from his son who never agreed with him on anything. He thought Sam was indifferent toward training, purposefully negative--the idea that there was something else going on in Sam's head--it had never occurred to him. The fact that Sam was afraid of failing just as much as John himself was--he didn't know what to make of it.

Sam's eyes rolled away and he let his body flop stiffly back to the bed. He laughed suddenly. "You're going to have to feed me through a straw," he said. "I'm not so sure that pizza will taste very good blended."

For a moment, John just stared at him, dumbfounded. "Well, don't worry about that quite yet," he said finally, trying to smile.

Before Sam could think of something else to ramble about, the door opened. John turned, looking at the nurse standing in the doorway.

"Mr. Garrity?" she asked, a little tentative. "May I have a word with you in the hall?"

"Yeah," John said, almost a little grateful for the reprieve. Dealing with Sam when he was obstinate made him angry; dealing with Sam when he was apologetic--well, that was just not something John ever knew how to deal with. He stood, patting Sam lightly on the arm. "Just take it easy."

Sam grinned up at him again, this time letting his eyes close.

With a sad smile, John sighed, and made his way out to the hallway. He found the nurse waiting for him, a clipboard in hand, a furrow in her brow.

"Mr. Garrity, there's been a flag raised on your insurance," she said quietly. "Apparently the policy number you filed with us is stolen."

John's hear skipped a beat, and it took his years of lying and subterfuge to not flinch. Instead, he let his own brow crease. "What?" he asked. "What do you mean?"

She swallowed, clearly unnerved. "The policy has been reported as stolen--the insurance company is holding all claims under this policy until further investigation can be done. I'm sorry, but I have to ask you what you know about this."

"What could I possibly know about this?" John asked, letting his voice rise with anger. The lie was so polished, that he nearly believed it himself, sometimes. "I work hard to keep me and my boys afloat. That insurance costs me an arm and a leg and if the company has some kind of hold on it, that's their problem, not mine. I've always been in good standing with the company--I always make my payments, so they sure as hell better be willing to support us now that we need it."

Her smile flickered uncomfortably. "Perhaps you should call the company yourself," she suggested. She hesitated.

John knew that look. He knew it all too well. It wasn't just the insurance she wanted to know about.

"We've found some inconsistencies with Sam's medical background that you filled out," she said slowly, looking at the clipboard. "Given the x-rays we performed and upon physical examination, we've found some things you haven't accounted for."

John played dumb. "I'm sorry, but your point is?"

She smiled wanly. "Perhaps there are some things you left out of his medical history? Other injuries or procedures Sam has undergone."

John scowled. "My son needs me—"

"Please, Mr. Garrity," she said. "I would very much like you to think harder."

Tightening his jaw, John strained for calm. "My son is a teenage boy," he ground out. "He enjoys high risk sports—skateboarding, weird bike tricks. I can't count the number injuries I've caught him with, much less the ones he's managed to hide from me."

She looked unconvinced and held out the clipboard. "I'll be back for it in an hour," she said shortly, and her meaning was not lost on John.

He took the clipboard, and turned to head back to Sam.

"The waiting room, Mr. Garrity," she said. "Sam needs his rest."

He wanted to argue, but knew it wasn't the time or place. With one last look of contempt, he allowed himself to be ushered back to the waiting room.

Upon arrival, Dean practically charged him, his eyes wide and pleading. "So?" he prompted, anxious and jittery.

John ran a weary hand over his face. Between Sam's broken jaw and stoned behavior and Dean's skittish guilt, this was turning out to be one hell of a day.

-o-

The waiting room was a terrible place, made worse by the fact that his father wasn't there, that no one was there who could tell him anything at all, and all Dean could do was wait.

He'd parked the car like his father had told him. The lot had been full and the ramp had been small and winding, making it difficult to hurry like he wanted to. Because he needed to know that Sam was okay. Finding the emergency room from the roof of the parking garage took time, too much time, and Dean had been positively crestfallen when he found no sign of his father in the waiting room.

Dean's nerves had led him to pacing when he finally caught sight of his father's weary face. Without hesitation, Dean moved to him, suddenly terrified by the look on his father's face. His father rarely looked happy, but he'd been hoping for something a bit more relieved, a bit less anxious.

"So?" Dean asked, prompting him when his father seemed reluctant to speak.

"He'll be fine," his father replied. "A broken jaw, just like we thought. They're going to be wiring it shut soon."

There seemed to be more, there had to be more--that alone didn't explain his father's tone. Something else had to be wrong, there had to be some other complication, something they hadn't seen. "So he'll be okay?"

John nodded dismissively. "He'll be fine. He won't be able to open his mouth for a few weeks, but he'll cope just fine."

Tense, Dean couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. If everything was fine, if Sam was okay, then his father wouldn't look like that, wouldn't look like the world was taking another swipe at him, wouldn't look like things were a heartbeat away from falling apart.

Sighing, John pulled Dean to the side of the room, setting them both in identical plastic chairs. Once seated, he leveled Dean with a serious gaze. "Once Sam is awake and oriented, I want to get out of here," John told him quietly. "The insurance is falling through and they're already asking all the wrong questions. We were done here, anyway. We'll make sure Sam's doped up on pain meds and get out of town as fast as we can. I caught wind of a haunting up in North Dakota--that should do it."

Dean's brow creased, concerned. Few things sparked Dean to question his father, but his baby brother's well being was one of them. He knew his father needed him to follow orders, but his father clearly missed the point sometimes. Dean would be the one doing most of the Sammy-watching, and he didn't think he could handle seeing the kid in pain. "Are you sure Sam's going to be ready to travel?"

His father looked at him, a little surprised. "The wiring is a simple procedure," he said. "And we'll just have to invest in a lot of protein shakes--stuff he can drink to keep his strength up."

"Maybe we should just stay here for awhile, though," Dean said. "Sounds like they want to keep him overnight at least."

"Which is exactly why we need to go," his dad came back sharply. He glanced around, nervous. "The longer they keep Sam, the more suspicious they're going to be. If we're not careful they'll take our visiting rights away and start some kind of inquiry. Is that what you want? Is that what you think Sam needs?"

Reluctantly, Dean shook his head, feeling guilty and chagrined. There was a reason he knew not to question his father--because no matter how harsh his father could seem, no matter how abrupt his tactics were, they were always with the intention of keeping Sam and himself safe. "Okay," Dean said. "What do you want me to do?"

The fire in John's eyes abated, and he swallowed. "Go back to the apartment. Pack up the car and get things ready to go. Fill her up with gas--you know the routine. And be sure you get some food—protein shakes and other liquids and nab some glasses and straws, too. Anything Sam might need. By the time you get back here, hopefully Sam will be done and awake. All we need is to make sure he's alert and we can take off."

Dean nodded tightly, but he couldn't help feeling like something was wrong--very wrong. They'd had tight spots before--they'd run from well-intentioned law enforcement and government officials more than Dean liked to think about, much more than they tried to let on to Sam. Usually it was just a concerned teacher, or a hunt that went dicey. This time--it was Dean's fault. Dean had hit his brother. Sam would miss out on all the things he'd wanted to do--to finish his classes, pass his tests--and all because Dean hadn't been careful.

More than that, his father was stressed now--again, which was never a good thing. His father's life was full of enough things to worry about, and now another town would be off-limits in the future. The Winchesters didn't exactly make a lot of friends, but they avoided making enemies if they could, and thanks to Dean's wayward fist, they'd just racked up another list of possible risks.

Dejected, and feeling guilty as hell, Dean made his way to the car. Breaking out of hospitals was always first on his mind when he was stuck in them; but with Sam, he would have rather seen this through.

He shook his head. Too late for that now.

Too late for much of anything except following orders and getting the hell out of Dodge.