Title: Breathing Ain't So Hard
Author: Saberivojo
Characters: Dean and John
Genre: Gen, PG 13
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: Dean hustles pool and pisses off the wrong person. My last John fic showed him in a less than desirable light. I hope this helps shift some perspective.


There were a couple of sounds that Dean had learned to associate with a piss poor night.

The sound of a pool cue breaking over some part of his body was usually indicative of some bad shit.

In this case it was across his lower ribs. The funny thing about a pool cue is that it can be flexible. With enough kinetic energy behind it, the damn thing can actually wrap around a person. There was certainly enough force behind it when being wielded by a three hundred pound redneck.

Dean felt it hit his right lower ribs and then tag his left. It was gonna make an impressive stripe. He knew from experience. If he had time to lift his shirt there would be a large red wheal. By tomorrow it would be purple. But right now he had a bigger problem on his hands.

Gorilla man.

Dean could feel the slick line of blood start to well up along the track of the pool cue. He touched a finger to the smear, right through the damn shirt. Maybe gorilla man hit him harder than expected. "Well, fuck me." Dean swore and then bounced on his toes, fists up.

"'Fuck you' is right, boy." Gorilla man closed the gap between himself and Dean. Dean wasn't a coward but tactical retreat sounded good right about now. He snatched the wad of money up, 'cause Lord knows he won it fair and (mostly) square and backed his way toward the front door.

For the first time that night, Dean wished there was the comforting feel of steel against the small of his back. Bringing a gun to a pool hall was stupid but right now, Dean felt he needed the edge, because he was backing up blind and that just naturally turned out to be a bad move. His shoulders abruptly fetched up against a brick wall, otherwise known as Gorilla-man's buddies. Dean had kept them in his peripheral all night but they had made no move to intercede in the game. Maybe they were just waiting for incentive.

Tweedle Dee grabbed his right arm. Most folks are right handed so in a regular brawl it might have been a good move, but Dean could switch hit and he proved it with a solid left upper cut that sent Dee ass over teakettle. Dum grabbed Dean roughly and spun him around. Dean wondered briefly if there was some kind of bar room brawl decorum that stated you must look the dude in his face before you smash it.

Dum plowed a big old meaty fist right into Dean's mouth. Dean staggered back, tripped over Dee who was blissfully unaware of the altercation going on around him. Blood dripped down his face and throat. Christ, he hated getting punched in the mouth.

"Let me give you a hand, kid." Gorilla reached down to wrench Dean off the floor.

"No thanks, buddy." Dean staggered to his feet. Dum was closer than Gorilla, so Dean jabbed a quick right and then a left cross to Dum's face. It would have been smarter to hit Gorilla, but Dean had to admit there was some satisfaction in watching Dum's eyes glaze over and add his fresh blood to Dean's. Unfortunately, the momentum caught him off balance and he found himself in the ever-loving arms of Gorilla. Dum shook his rattled head and then grabbed both of Dean's arms tightly behind his back.

Then Gorilla proceeded to beat the shit out of Dean.


The fist to the belly sent a whoosh of air out which made the rest of the fight hard to breath through. Same with the punch to the nose but for different reasons. Blood was dripping down his throat far faster now, and Dean found himself gagging at the flood of blood. Once Dean's nose was sufficiently realigned, the Gorilla went back to Dean's ribs and belly. Dean clenched belly muscles in a vain attempt to side track some of the pain.

It was useless.

The Gorilla sent a sharp roundhouse to Dean's jaw. If Dean had not been held up by Dum, that would have ended it there. Dean sagged, his head lolling in the direction of the floor as he watched through one slitted eye. The floor was slick with red; it was hard to believe that much blood had come out of him.

"S'at all you got?" Dean had to admit, it didn't sound like much but it was the principle of the thing.

Gorilla reached in to Dean's pocket, and nimbly picked out the cash. The move was rather impressive for a guy with fists the size of a Yeti. Then he spun Dean around again and kicked his ass out the door.

The closed door.

Dean figured he should be thankful it wasn't locked or anything. He slammed it with his head and shoulders with enough impact to knock it open.

Dean hit the asphalt hard, felt the jeans rip, and then his knees.

Well, shit, fucked those jeans up.

It was a cool night and the wind felt good on his face, kind of numbing actually. Dean sidled himself up against the outside of the pool hall. He was licked, truly, and he hated to admit it but he might need some back up. It was the lack of breathing that was a hard thing to deal with. That and the choking on the blood. But mostly the breathing.

Dean knew first aid, had fucking known since he was five.

Airway. Breathing. Circulation.

Well, his airway was open, sort of, except for the choking on the blood. And Lord knows blood was circulating, 'cause it was spilling everywhere but the breathing part…that was still pretty iffy

Every breath was agony. He tried shallow, then a little deeper, and found out shallow was much better by far. Tentatively he touched the right side of his ribcage. He didn't think ribs were supposed to crunch like that.

Well, fuck.

He flipped open his cell, punched in Dad's name.

If he wasn't feeling like shit now, he figured once his father got done with his sorry ass he would be feeling a lot worse.


Dean licked his lips, wondering if he sounded as bad as he felt.

"Dean, where are you?" He must sound pretty bad, because there was no string of expletives following his name.

Dean tried to focus on the pool hall. What did Dad tell him about pool halls?

"Hustling a pool hall is never a good idea, Dean. Mostly 'cause they play better pool but they also find losing to a kid to be a little personal"

Well, hell. Guess the old man was right again.

Dean snuffed hard; spit something bloody on to the pavement.

"Jerry's Pool and Billiards", he muttered mush-mouthed into the phone. Then as an afterthought, "Billiards—ain't that a crock."

"That dive on Route One?"

Dean tried to grin but it hurt too much. "Dive is a strong word, Dad."

"You safe?"

"S'all good, Dad."

"If it's so damn good, son. Why the call?"

Dean coughed and the rib pain went from "oh, shit" to "fuckin' off the wall". It hurt so bad he just plain had to stop breathing.

So that is what "takes your breath away" means, he thought muzzily.

Whether he blacked out or whether he just plain forgot Dad was on the phone, Dean wasn't sure but when he realized the phone was open he could hear his father bellowing through the tinny speaker.

"Dean. DEAN."

When John Winchester yelled like that, you just naturally answered. Even if it was through a tiny speaker.


There was a break and a low. "Jesus, thank God." Which Dean thought was kind of funny considering Dad was not a religious man.

"Sit tight, Dean. I'll be there in twenty. Don't you fuckin' move. You call 911 if you need to. You hear me?"

Dean snorted.

"You understand me, son?"

"Dad, whatabout CPS?"

"You let me worry about CPS. Get your ass under cover and you wait for me unless you need to call an ambo. Got it? – DEAN!"

"Yes, sir."

Dean leaned back against the wall of Jerry's and waited. Twenty minutes. He could do twenty minutes.

Dad made it in fifteen. The gravel threw up against a half dozen cars. Oh, thank God he parked his girl way in the back.

Dean was annoyed at himself for how fuckin' happy he was to see John Winchester. In a moment he was at Dean's side and even though Dean couldn't figure how it made him breathe easier, it did.

"Jesus, Dean."

Again with the God stuff. Dean must be a helluva lot worse than he'd thought.

Dad carefully ran a trained hand down Dean from head to toe. Noticed the lump on the back of his head, gently moved down his shoulders and neck. Dad stopped at his right ribs. Dean wasn't sure how Dad knew but he was even gentler there, fingers lightly tracing along his ribs. Dad stopped, palpated slightly.

"Crunchy ribs ain't so good, Dean." Dad tried to smile and Dean grimaced back but it was all for show.

Dad leaned over and put his ear to Dean's chest at the same time he dropped a hand to his wrist.

Pulse, breathing, heart sounds, yada, yada, yada. Dean yelped when his dad pushed on his belly, couldn't help it. He felt kinda bad about that. But Dad continued down, groin, legs. "Should I take off your boots, Dean?""

Dean grunted. "Fuck no. They didn't step on my feet doin' a Texas Two Step, Dad."

And then Dad reached for Dean's forehead, back of the hand to his head

"Dad, do you think I have a fever?" Dean snorted and spit a fresh splat of blood onto the blacktop.

Dad grinned again. "Well with all the bellyachin' who would know?"

Dad rocked back on his heels and gave Dean an assessing look. "Ya want the scoop?"

"Yes, sir."

"Broken ribs. Don't think your lungs collapsed but it could be. I really think the breathin' problem is because of the ribs. Hurts like a bitch, eh?"

Dean grunted. Dad had a way with words.

"Busted nose. That eye is gonna be black and blue tomorrow. You got an egg on your head the size of well, an egg. Maybe a concussion. And even though your belly probably hurts like a sonofabitch, I think it's just soft tissue stuff. Oh and that pool cue stripe's gonna leave a mark for days."

"We can go to the hospital now, or we can go in another fifteen," Dad added.

Dean started to whine a bit he hated hospitals but Dad growled low.

"Dean – the lung thing? I ain't a fuckin' x-ray."

And then it occurred to Dean-Dad gave him a choice, something he very seldom did.

Now or fifteen?

Dean smiled then, truly smiled and tentatively wiped the heel of his palm under his nose then brushed the bloodied hand against his jeans.

"I can wait fifteen, Dad. It's all good."

John stood, rolled his shoulders twice and sighed.

"Ya wanna 50 -yard view or want me to take you to the car?"

"This is good, Dad. I like the air."

John squatted back down balled up his jacket, gently put it behind Dean's head, shifted Dean a bit so he could see the front door of Jerry's and then walked into the pool hall.

It took ten minutes. Just ten. Tweedle Dee went first, took a header through the glass window. Tweedle Dum followed. They both landed a good ten feet from Dean but didn't move once they hit asphalt.

The Gorilla? Well he and Dad made it to the door. Sort of. They broke through the door that Dean himself had been pitched through not a half hour before. The Gorilla was a big dude, had a good fifty on his Dad but that was all that could be said about what could maybe have been called a fight.

It ended a little quicker than Dean thought it might. For all of his bulk, the Gorilla apparently had a tender skull. It did not hold up to the repeated head trauma of Dad slamming it against the hood of a '78 Ford pickup.

Once Gorilla stopped moving, Dad shook him once, kind of like a terrier, and then let him drop.

"That's for m'boy."

Then he stepped over Gorilla, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and carefully made his way back to Dean.

"Okay, kiddo. Let's get you out of here." Dad crouched over Dean, brushed bloody knuckles against his cheek and then lifted him like he weighed no more than Sammy.

"What did I tell you about pool halls, Dean?" Dad carried Dean to his pick up.

"Something about kickin' my ass if I was ever to get my ass kicked."

"Somethin' like that." Dad laid Dean in the truck as careful as he could.

"Sammy and I will get your girl later tonight."

Dean sighed.

"Yes, sir."

"Hey, Dean?" Dad turned on the ignition and the pickup roared to life. "Let's try not to do this again, okay?"

"Yes, sir." Dean slumped against the cool of the truck's window. He still couldn't breathe, but suddenly it didn't seem all that important.