It's last period when the gym teacher brings him to Akeley's office. She'd found out that the note he brought in was forged; compared it against some of the student's handwriting she found God knows where and decided to head straight to the principal who of course has nothing better to do.

She leaves the kid outside the door and hands the note to him solemnly, her eyes wide as if she can't believe in the possibility that anyone would want to avoid gym.

Akeley tells her he'll deal with it, and then takes a look at the dreaded note as she heads back to her class.

The name's familiar, so he pulls out the kid's file: he's a straight-A student.

Well, he wouldn't be the first one of those to dislike gym. He's only been here for a month, too, so who knows, maybe he's being bullied. The only surprising thing is that he had been stupid enough to get caught. Akeley calls through for Hannah to send him into the office, and then gestures for him to sit down.

It's a tall, awkward kid, messy hair covering half of his face. He glares at Akeley with a mixture of boredom and poorly-feigned condescension as he sits down in the chair across the desk from him. After a second he seems to remember to sit up slightly, but then winces, resuming his habitual slump.

You'd think it would be too late for theatrics.

"So. Sam." Akeley says. "Let's talk about this. What's the real reason you wanted to avoid gym? Someone causing you trouble?"

"No sir." The words don't quite match the sour expression, but they don't clash enough to be sarcastic, either. He decides to ignore the attitude for now.

"Then what is it?"

Sam nods down at the note, still sitting on top of his open file on the wooden desk. "I injured my shoulder."

"Come on, Sam." Akeley taps the piece of paper with his index finger. "It's obvious that this is a forgery. Let's get to the real reason, or you're wasting my time."

He shrugs lopsidedly, and looks past him, out the window.

"You can stop pretending your shoulder's broken, Sam."

"Cut."

"What's that?"

"Nothing. Sir."

"No, Sam, I want to know." Akeley leans back in his chair. "If the shoulder's cut, you should have no problem showing me and proving yourself right."

Sam glares at him disparagingly. "I don't think that would be appropriate, sir."

Akeley nods. "You may be right. We can send you to the nurse instead. Or you can just go back to gym."

Sam scowls. But he leans forward, and pulls back the collar on his too-big shirt, sliding it down over his right shoulder.

There's some gauze taped over the area of skin, but past the edge of it Akeley can see the end of a deep gash, held together with stitches.

He actually gasps. The sight of it silences him for a few seconds: he'd been expecting a graze, if anything. God, no wonder the kid was wincing.

"I'm – I'm sending you to the nurse," he says finally.

Sam pulls his shirt back up quickly, suddenly looking uncomfortable. "You don't have to do that, sir. I'll just go back to gym."

"No," Akeley says. "You can go to the nurse and she can give you a note. You –"

"I'd rather not go to the nurse, sir," Sam says, his voice firm.

Akeley pauses. The kid looks at him intently. For a little while they just stay like that, a stalemate.

Finally, he nods. "I can't let you out of here until I know you're okay, Sam. So, you either show me the whole cut here, or you go to the nurse."

Sam glares at him some more. Akeley didn't think the kid could convey a more intense dislike, but he manages it now.

"I'll get Hannah in here to supervise if it makes you feel better," he adds.

Sam scowls again, but then turns in the chair, and lifts up his shirt. Holds it up over his shoulder with his left hand, and pulls the gauze off with his right. And Akeley sees why he had been so reluctant.

There are two deep gashes down his shoulder and along the length of his back, a third, shallower one beside them that's not much more than a scratch. From where Akeley is, the two deep cuts look like they've been stitched up by a layman.

But even that's not the worst part. It's the scars. There's several of them of varying ages across Sam's back, his ribs.

Akeley stands up, moves around the table, barely thinking about what he's doing. Sam doesn't move. He is looking at the ground.

For a moment he can't speak. Finally he manages: "How… how'd you say you got these?"

"I was at the junkyard with my brother and I tripped and cut it on some metal," Sam says without looking up. The story comes out in a monotone. He's barely even trying.

"You don't seem like the kind of kid who'd be hanging around a junkyard, Sam."

"My brother likes collecting stuff," he says, in the same monotone.

From where he is now Akeley can get a better look: if anything, the cuts look like scratches from an animal. But that doesn't make sense, not unless the kid had been hanging around in the wrong part of a zoo. Akeley's mind is swarming with unpleasant thoughts about what, exactly, could have caused this.

All he can think about is the fact that there is someone out there that would do this sort of thing to a kid.

Funny, he wouldn't have picked it looking at him, but then you never can tell.

"You get a tetanus shot?" he asks finally.

"Yes. And antibiotics."

Akeley sighs. He goes back over to his chair and Sam drops his shirt and carefully faces the front again, glaring at him. "Can I go now?"

"I can't let you go, Sam."

His face flashes nervous before he goes back to glaring.

"I'm legally obliged to report this."

"I told you. I tripped over –"

"Cut the crap, Sam."

That shuts him up for a second. He swallows, and takes a deep breath. "I'd rather you didn't do that, sir."

"It's out of my hands, Sam."

"Not necessarily."

Akeley frowns. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," he goes on, "Maybe we could work something out."

He leans back slightly, confused. "What do you mean by that?"

Sam reaches into the pocket of his jeans with his good arm, pulls out a wad of dirty notes. He puts them down heavily on the table.

"I can get more," he says. His tone is confident, but he doesn't quite meet Akeley's eyes as he talks. "A lot more."

Akeley takes a deep breath.

"Sam," he says. The kid looks up. "All that this does is raise the question of is who it is you've got at home teaching you to bribe authority figures."

Sam glares, and snatches back the money, shoves it back in his pocket. Under the anger, though, his face is starting to grow scared.

Akeley signs and shakes his head. Nothing else to be done. He reaches for the phone on his desk.

"I'd rather you didn't call anyone, sir." Sam says quietly.

Akeley ignores him, and goes to lift the receiver.

In an instant Sam clamps his hand on top of Akeley's, pinning it down.

Akeley takes another deep breath, decides to remain calm. "Let go of the phone, Sam," he says firmly.

"I can't let you call anyone," Sam says.

He nods carefully, not breaking eye contact. "Are you threatening me, Sam?"

Sam sets his jaw. "I don't want to."

Akeley nods again. Still not breaking eye contact, he pulls the handset firmly out of Sam's grasp. Sam doesn't move. Akeley lifts the receiver.

Instantly there's a loud crash: stunned, he looks up to see that Sam has pulled the cord out at the wall.

"Mr. Akeley?" Hannah calls from the next room.

Akeley looks at Sam, his hand still clutching the dead receiver. Sam is holding the phone cord, his expression surprised, like he can't believe what he's just done. Apart from that, though, he still looks determined.

"No problem, Hannah," Akeley calls back calmly. "Just an accident."

He turns his attention back to Sam.

"Okay. We'll forget that that happened, Sam. I'm going to call some people on my mobile, and you can –"

"No." The voice is firmer now, perfectly calm and flat.

Akeley forces a small smile, although concern – no, actual fear – is rising in his chest; fear that he had completely misjudged this kid up until now. "You're not in a position to make threats, Sam."

"I think you'll find that I am."

He manages to keep up the smile. "What do you mean by that?"

Sam puts the phone cord down on the desk. He leans forward, his voice dropping, low and serious. "I don't want to threaten you, sir. But we both know that I have the advantage physically here. And we both know that I could say things about you that would ruin your career. Even if they weren't true."

"What do you –"

"You asked me to take my shirt off in your office." He pauses for effect. "I'll say I was uncomfortable with that and raise it with a few people. I can say other things as well. You know this."

He stops again for a second, to let the idea sink in.

"But I don't want to do that. And I don't want this –" Sam stabs his finger on the file open on the desk – "to get messed up. I don't want that. It's important to me. So I don't want you to make me do that. Don't make me do that. Please."

Akeley waits for a second, looking him in the eye. He can't speak. Sam doesn't waver.

Finally, he sighs. "Okay, Sam. Maybe we can make a deal."

--

The guardian turns up within half an hour. Akeley had sent Sam to wait outside the office, in the seat opposite the door, where Akeley can see him. When he arrives the guardian gives Sam what appears to be a pointed look, and then walks right past Hannah and into Akeley's office.

He decides to ignore that. "Dean Winchester?"

Dean nods and sits down cheerfully, smiling at him. "So, is there a problem? Because let me tell you, Sammy –" he raises his voice so that it can be heard in the next room – "he can get a bit crazy with the ladies sometimes. Isn't that right Sammy?"

Outside, his brother pretends not to hear. Dean sits back in the chair and grins. It's mostly an act, Akeley can tell. He's almost as scared as his brother.

He decides to get right into it. "Your brother has some bad cuts on his back."

"Oh, those? Yeah, we were in a junkyard and he tripped and cut it on some metal."

Akeley nods. "I see. What were you doing in a junkyard?"

"Me and Sammy like collecting stuff." The smile doesn't waver.

He nods again. "To tell the truth, Mr. Winchester, it's the other scars on Sam's back that I'm worried about."

Dean shrugs slightly. "He's clumsy."

"I see. The two of you live with your father, right?"

"Yeah. He's away."

He sighs. He's going to have to spell this out. "Dean," Akeley says slowly. "I guess my concern is that someone might be hurting Sam."

Dean's expression turns to one of careful confusion.

"Deliberately," Akeley goes on.

"Who, Sammy?"

"Yes."

Dean leans forward, smiles conspiratorially. "Have you seen the size of the guy?"

He sighs again. "What I'm trying to say here, Dean, is that in some situations, a child might be too intimidated to fight back. No matter how big they are. Sometimes they won't even fight back verbally. Sometimes they will even defend their attacker to others. Do you understand what I'm saying, Dean?"

Dean nods, like he's taking it in. Then he leans forward again.

"Look. Akeley." He smiles. "Sammy seems to like this place for some reason. And judging by how he looked out there, he doesn't even mind you that much. So, I'm being civil right now. But if you imply one more time that my dad or me are deliberately hurting Sam, I won't be able to hold back any longer from kicking your ass. I swear to God."

Akeley nods carefully. He holds his gaze, and Dean doesn't flinch. For the first time since he came into Akeley's office, he looks completely honest.

When he doesn't respond, Dean stands up. He smiles again. "Nice talking to you. I'll take him home now."

Akeley finds that he can't answer.

Sam stands up as his brother comes out of the room. Dean puts a hand on his good shoulder, and shepherds him out. Akeley watches the two of them go.

After a few seconds, Hannah knocks slightly and then comes in, looking puzzled.

"What was the problem with those two?"

Akeley frowns, watching the hallway they'd disappeared down for a few seconds.

"The kid hurt his back," he says finally. "Tripped over some stuff in the junkyard."