The following day head nurse Laura Wilmington called in sick and she didn't show up again over the next week. Sam's health improved steadily and by the end of the second week in this hospital, he was able to sit up a little and although his wound was still painful, it wasn't half as bad as it had been. Dean had pushed off the clean-up job for the time being because he first and foremost assumed that nobody would go out there. If they did, it could most likely link the damaged phones to them, but Dean was willing to risk that. Just because someone found their phones didn't mean they could find them.

The only thing that didn't seem to improve was Sam's hangups about being alone. Dean repeatedly tried to talk to him about it, but they were either interrupted or Sam flat out refused to open up and that worried Dean to no end.

Dean wasn't a big fan of the emotional blow-outs that some people seemed to put so much stock in, but he knew that his brother needed to get this out in the open before he could move on. And the longer it took for Sam to open up about it, the harder it would be in the end for him to deal with it. And Dean had begrudgingly admitted to himself that he couldn't even begin to imagine what Sam had to be going through.

It was near the end of their fourteenth day at the hospital and Sam was finally off the antibiotic IV. The shunt was still in his arm, though, because he needed regular injections to keep the pain at bay. But even that had been cut back to a bare minimum and Maryann had more or less promised him that they would try his first day without the painkillers the following day.

Sam sat there and stared idly at the tv-set mounted on the wall. A muted film was showing that Dean wasn't paying attention to because he was planning the trip back to the old waterworks and was going over the schedule. As things were at the moment, he would have to go in, do the job, and get out as fast as he somehow possibly could because of Sam's reaction to whenever he even mentioned the idea. To say his brother wasn't happy about the prospect of having to spend some hours alone would be the understatement of the year.

"Man, you're right," Sam suddenly said and frowned at the tv-set.

Dean glanced up at him, a pen clenched between his teeth, and eyed his brother with a frown of his own. "'bout what?" he asked and removed the pen.

"Daytime tv really does suck," Sam said and made a face in sheer disgust. Then he glanced at Dean. "I think my brain's rotting," he added and scratched absentmindedly around the shunt in the crook of his right elbow.

Dean chuckled and shook his head lightly. As long as he was with Sam, Sam's mood seemed to be miles better than it had been in the last two weeks; hell, even before that. "Yeah, well, you've got more brain cells than the average person, dude. You can spare a few," he countered and returned his attention to the map he was studying.

Sam eyed him for a moment longer, then looked back up at the tv. "I think I'm going to die of boredom," he muttered and shifted a little, sighing with the effort. "Two weeks on my back and I probably won't be able to walk two steps without support," he added.

Dean suppressed a sigh. He had been listening to that rant a couple of times already and it was getting old. "You'll get back on your feet in no time. As Maryann keeps telling you, dude. You're young. You heal faster than an old geezer like me," he countered and smirked at the way Sam rolled his eyes at him.

"Right. Like you're that much older than me, man," Sam grumbled and shifted again, muttering something under his breath that Dean didn't catch. "I'm serious, dude. I'm fed up with this. I was fed up with it a week ago and it's not getting any better."

"No, Sam, it's not. Especially not because you keep harping on about it," Dean said and folded up the map, giving up on the planning for now. "Patience is key when you're recovering from an injury like that. Keep the doc's words in mind. Don't overdo it, whatever you want to do. Stop before it hurts."

"I'm not doing anything, Dean. That's the problem. I can't even sit up without help and even that I can't do completely. My thighs are still numb and I'm really starting to lose it here. I need to get outside. I need to be able to move on my own again," Sam countered a little aggressively and switched the tv off with the remote. "I'm going stir-crazy."

Before Dean could think of anything to say to that one, the door opened and Maryann stepped in. She was on the night shift this week and had taken to drop by to chat a couple of times during the night when they weren't sleeping. Dean glanced over at her with a grin on his lips, but instantly realized that something was up. She had an oddly cautious look in her eyes.

"Something wrong?" he asked and turned the chair a little to face her better.

"In a manner of speaking," she agreed, her tone oddly flat.

Sam watched her with a slight frown creasing his brow. "What's up?" he asked.

She glanced at him for a second, then focused on Dean. "Can I talk to you outside, Dean?" she asked.

With Sam's mood deteriorating right now, Dean figured it would be a bad idea if he agreed to that one, so instead he rose and turned to fully face her. "Anything you have to say you can say to both of us," he stated.

Maryann glanced at Sam again and something told Dean she had bad news. He just hoped it wasn't about Sam's condition. Then she sighed and focused on him again, her eyes narrowing a little. "Your ... name isn't really Daniel Weatherly, is it?" she asked quietly.

Dean pretty much felt like she had smacked him across the face for an unknown offence, but like always he managed to maintain an air of surprise. "What?" he asked and glanced at Sam, who was presently staring ahead of himself, visibly paler than before.

"Dean ... or whatever your name is," she said and made a face. "We just received a message from the insurance company. And you're not Daniel Weatherly," she said. "You know, I don't get this. Usually, when someone runs an insurance scam, they don't go to extremes. And this is ... unspeakable," she added and nodded in Sam's direction.

Dean knew what she was talking about the second she had said those words and he honestly had to admit that it shocked him that she would think that. "What? No, that's not what this is about, Maryann," he countered and instantly knew he'd blown their cover. He might still have been able to save this if he had kept a cool head, but the mere indication that he would have done this to Sam in order to reap the insurance money incensed him to such a degree that he got careless. He sneered and felt like kicking himself.

"So the card is fake?" she asked and the disappointment in her voice was nearly too much to take.

"Will you let me explain?" he asked, raising both hands in a deprecating gesture. He knew he would have to lie like hell to get them out of this one. The truth was not an option, no matter what.

"Just tell me why," she said.

Dean raked his mind for a good explanation, one that was as close to the truth as he could get without telling her the sordid details of what was really out there, and figured there was only one path to take. "I don't have a job," he said and that, at least, was the truth. "Hence no medical insurance. This is not an insurance scam, Maryann. That card ... it's for emergencies. I know it's wrong. I know it can land me in jail. But ..." He paused, laying it on thick with the desperation, "... what was I supposed to do? Sammy's disaster-prone," he added.

Sam jerked and sent him a quick dark look before returning his attention to that far-away land he was staring at.

"There are hospitals that help people for free," Maryann said, her voice still heavy with disappointment.

"Yeah, but would they have been able to save him?" Dean countered. "Look, I know it sucks and you have every right to be pissed at me right now, but don't take it out on Sam, okay? It's not his fault. This was my idea. He said not to do it, but I thought we could get away with it."

Maryann sighed and glanced down at her clipboard. "I honestly don't know what to do right now," she said and looked up again to meet his eyes. "I have to admit that I do understand why you did it if what you're saying is true. But how could you even think that you would get away with it? This is fraud. And yes, it can land you in jail."

Even though he had said it first, hearing it from her made his mouth go dry. This was not the way he had pictured this. He had assumed he would catch on to any problems before anyone else knew about it and that he would be able to get Sam out of here before it all went to hell. Right now, he was caught between a rock and a hard place and there was nowhere for him to go. "Uhm ... I guess there's not much chance of you letting us get out of here, huh?" he asked.

"Dean ... or whatever your name is," she said and eyed him sadly, "it's my duty to report this. We're talking thousands of dollars here, taxpayers money. You think it's fair that you're scamming them out of their hard-earned money?"

Pensively, he rubbed the back of his neck and wished to god he'd seen this one coming. "No, of course not," he admitted reluctantly. He didn't really feel it because he knew what he put on the line to save those taxpayers on a day-to-day basis, but he couldn't tell her that.

Sam had that tense expression again that Dean knew so well, the I-told-you-this-wouldn't-work expression, even though they hadn't ever really discussed this part of their scams before.

"Then you tell me. What am I supposed to do?" Maryann asked, glancing from Sam to Dean and back again. "How am I supposed to believe what you say?"

"Because the actual truth isn't something you want to know," Sam suddenly said and focused on her.

Maryann frowned. "What do you mean, the actual truth?"

Dean only barely prevented himself from telling Sam to shut up. Sometimes his little brother was better at this game than him and he just had to count on that Sam wasn't about the spill the beans to a stranger.

Sam sighed lightly. "I'm cursed," he said and made a face. "I know how that sounds, but I am. It's cost us every damned cent we've ever earned so far and ... well ... Dean's right. I am disaster-prone."

Dean frowned lightly at Sam's odd confession and realized that he actually meant it. He wasn't telling all, but he was putting into words what had been rumbling around his head ever since Jess had died.

"Please, Maryann. Give us a chance to get out of here," Dean begged.

She glanced from one to the other and back again, then sighed again, closed her eyes for a second and shook her head lightly. "I must be out of my mind," she muttered, then focused on Dean again. "Stay put. I'll be right back," she added and left the room again.

Dean stood still for a moment, uncertain of what she was going to do, then suddenly burst into activity. "Crap," he hissed, grabbed his ever-present duffle and started throwing all the things scattered across the room into it. "If she calls the cops, we're in deep shit," he stated.

"You mean I am," Sam corrected him. "You can still get out of here, but I can't. I can't even get up on my own."

"Sam, there's no way in hell they'll pin this one on you. But I'm not leaving you here, so don't worry. We'll get out of here, one way or another," Dean countered.

Sam eyed him darkly. "You're not packing, are you?" he asked, his tone cautious.

"What do you think I am? Nuts?" Dean shot back. "Don't be ridiculous. I wouldn't be able to get past the metal detectors downstairs with a gun on me."

He came to a fluid stop when the door opened again and Maryann came back in, pushing a wheelchair ahead of her. On the seat there were two transparent bags of some sort of solution and a smallish white case. Dean stared at it until she closed the door behind her.

"What's that?" he asked, nodding toward the chair and its odd load.

"A wheelchair. You can't get Sam out of here without it," she countered, then picked up the two bags. "This is more of the antibiotic solution he was getting. In case he has a setback, hook it up to the shunt in his arm and give him the full treatment. That means both bags," she said and dropped the bags into Dean's duffle together with the tubes, then picked up the white box. "These are sixteen ampoules of the painkiller we've been giving him along with sixteen syringes without needles," she added and opened the box for him to see. "Never ever give him more than 2 ccs at once. It's strong stuff and too much of it can kill him."

Dean nodded and accepted the box, closed it and put it in the duffle as well. Then he focused on her. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.

She glanced at Sam, then back at Dean. "Because I like you guys. I can't help feeling that turning you in to the authorities would be very wrong. So I'm giving you the chance to get out while you can," she said. "Keep an eye on the suture. If it gets red, you need to find a doctor. If he's in excessive pain, do the same. Don't try to deal with this on your own if it gets worse. In about two weeks time, it should be healed up enough for you to remove the stitches. The internal ones will dissolve on their own." She then turned her attention to Sam. "You need to train, Sam. Once the stitches are out, you need to start retraining your abdominal muscles. It will be painful at first and probably very frustrating, but you need to keep at it. Don't overdo it, though. Stop before it starts hurting. But keep going. Every day. If all goes well and you don't pull any sutures, you should be back on your feet quickly."

She opened the tiny closet and pulled out a robe. "Put this on. It's chilly outside," she said. "And now for the hard part. We need to get you into that chair," she said, nodding toward it. "Generally I would not advise you to move too much yet, let alone get out of bed, but it can't be helped. We have to do it slowly and carefully."

"We'll lift him," Dean said.

Sam didn't look happy about that, but said nothing. Maryann pulled the sheets away from him after draping the robe over his shoulders, then took a hold of his legs. "Okay, I'm gonna swing your legs out now. Don't try to help. Just keep the position you're in right now and let us do the rest, okay?" He nodded tensely.

Dean stood by to help if necessary as Maryann pulled Sam's legs over the edge of the bed, turning him at the same time. She was very competent and managed to get him that far without aggravating his wound.

"Do you know the orthodox lift, Dean?" Maryann asked.

He nodded.

"Good, let's do this. And lift from your knees. Don't bend your back," she told him and positioned herself on one side of Sam while Dean took the other. "Sam," she started, but before she could finish, he draped his arms around their shoulders, ready for it. "On three," she said. "One, two, three."

Together they lifted Sam off the bed and fairly quickly managed to get him into the chair. But the second they moved him, all color drained from his face and he emitted a strongly suppressed sound of agony.

Dean grabbed one of the blankets from the bed and tugged it around Sam, who was fighting a losing battle against the pain.

"I can't take you down there. If I do, I'll lose my job," Maryann said, regret in her voice.

"Don't worry. We've got it," Dean said. "Thanks. We owe you big time," he added and meant every word of it.

"Just make sure he gets better," Maryann countered, then hunkered down next to Sam and pulled a syringe out of her pocket. She injected the fluid into the shunt in his arm and a moment later he began to relax a little. "Don't give him any more until tomorrow morning. He's had plenty today," she said to Dean, then again focused on Sam. "I know it's a pain sometimes, Sam, but listen to Dean, okay?" He nodded tensely, but said nothing.

She rose again and opened the door for them. Dean stopped next to her and eyed her seriously. "I mean it. We owe you."

"Just go," she said. "I'm holding back the information until tomorrow. You've got somewhere between twelve and twenty-four hours to get as far away from here as possible. Use it well," she said.

He nodded and pushed the wheelchair out the door. How he was going to get Sam into the car was something he wasn't prepared to think about right now. All he knew was that they needed to get the hell out of Dodge and preferably right now. A brief detour around the motel to pick up their stuff was all the time he would spare in this place. And then they would be out of there. "Hang in there, Sammy," he whispered and hurried toward the lifts just outside the ward.

Dean had to admit that he was a bit surprised that nobody gave them a second look when they arrived at the ground floor and he pushed the wheelchair straight out the doors and over to the Impala. Nobody was paying attention to them and that meant that Maryann had kept her word so far. She hadn't reported them yet, which gave them a good chance of getting away.

The evening air was chilly and Sam responded almost instantly by shuddering. Dean opened the passenger side door, removed the arms of the wheelchair and eyed the gap between the chair and the car. Then he shook his head lightly. "Okay, this one's gonna be a bit tough, Sammy. You ready?" he asked.

Sam nodded mutely and Dean picked him up off the chair after Sam had draped an arm around his shoulders. His fingers clawed into Dean's shoulder instantly as Dean pushed the wheelchair away and slid Sam onto the front seat. Somehow, he managed to get him into the car without jostling him too much, then fussed over him for a second by tugging the blanket more tightly around him and helping him settle as comfortably as he could.

"It's at times like these that I curse the fact that she doesn't have single front seats," Dean confessed. It would have been a hell of a lot nicer if he could have eased the seat backwards so Sam could have stretched out. "Ah well, we'll manage," he muttered, made sure everything was in order and shut the door carefully.

He threw the duffle onto the backseat and figured he would have to move Sam back there when they reached the motel. The kid needed to lie down. Without sparing another glance at the hospital that had virtually been home these past two weeks, Dean slid behind the wheel, fired up the engine and drove them out of there. He did spare another grateful thought for Maryann Gowers, though, and promised himself that he would send her a postcard once they were safe.

***

An hour later they were heading out of town, the car packed. Sam was on the backseat, covered in blankets and with both of the motel room's pillows behind him. Dean had done the best he could to keep him comfortable and Sam appreciated it, but the fact remained that the Impala wasn't comfortable enough for him. The backseat wasn't long enough for him to stretch out on, which meant his knees were bent and that again put him in a very uncomfortable position.

The shot Maryann had given him was still working and he thanked heaven for that. At least it kept the throbbing pain of his disturbed injury at bay for now.

"You okay back there?" Dean asked and briefly glanced back at him.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Sam pressed out, aware that he couldn't lie to his brother right now. He gripped the back of the seat hard, took a hold of the front seat as well and hauled himself up a little, unable to keep a groan at bay.

Dean kept driving, but Sam knew that his every sense was tuned to Sam and any sounds he made. "Dean, what about the bodies?" he asked. Even though he wasn't really focused on much other than his own discomfort right now, he still couldn't shake the fear of what it might mean if someone stumbled over the bodies they had left behind. And, of course, there was that other bit that Sam didn't want to think about, but which kept creeping to the forefront of his mind constantly anyway. What if that bastard felt he hadn't finished the job and was out there looking for a way back?

For a moment Sam thought that Dean hadn't heard him, but then Dean slowed the Impala down and finally pulled to a stopped on the shoulder of the road. It was dark outside and traffic was very light, only a few cars passed them by in the opposite direction. For a while he just sat there and stared out the windshield. Then he glanced back at Sam. "There's a motel in Zortman. It's to the North of here. We'll get a cabin there. Tomorrow I'm going out to deal with this crap and then we haul ass out of here. I say we go to Bobby's. Or maybe the Roadhouse. We need to find a place to hole up until you've healed."

Sam nodded. "Okay. Fine with me," he said. "Maybe it would be best if we got as far away from Montana as we can, though."

"Not until you're ready to travel, Sam, and you're not ready," Dean countered and pulled back out on the road. "Besides, what are they going to do that hasn't already been done? I'm among the most wanted in the Fed's database anyway. What's a little insurance fraud going to do?"

Sam made a face and shifted a little, trying to get more comfortable without really managing. "Yeah, I guess," he muttered.

They drove on in silence for a while. Sam leaned his head back against the window and closed his eyes, trying to force the constant fear of aggravating the wound to subside. He kept wondering about why the only fear he really felt was that when he was with Dean. The second he was alone, things got a hell of a lot worse, though. "Why do you think he did it?" he suddenly asked and opened his eyes.

Dean glanced back at him for a second. "Who did what?"

"That ... man. Why'd you think he ... did that?" He couldn't get himself to say the words out loud. It would be too much like acknowledging that he was scared shitless of a dead man. Of course, in their world that wasn't so ridiculous. Even dead men could come after you.

"Don't know, dude. He must have been majorly off his rocker. When I get back out there, I'll see if he has any identification on him. Maybe we can figure out who he was. An escaped lunatic from an asylum somewhere maybe. Doesn't matter, though, bro. He's dead and I'll make sure he stays dead," Dean countered.

Sam frowned lightly, then rubbed his brow pensively. "I can't help thinking about that Ellicot guy. Remember him?"

"Remember?" Dean countered with a snort. "I've still got scars from the rocksalt, dude. That was one majorly disturbed guy. Both in life and after."

"Yeah," Sam agreed. "Thing is ... he came back and he continued doing what he did in life."

"Yeah, and he was bound to that hospital. If that freak has returned, he's going to be very lonely out there in the old waterworks," Dean countered. "Ghosts are always bound to the place where they died. You know that."

"Not always," Sam disagreed.

Dean didn't answer right away. It seemed to take him a moment to gather his thoughts, then he sent another brief glance back at Sam. "Is there something you're not telling me, Sam?" he finally asked.

Sam blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Have you seen this guy hanging around?" Dean asked and he sounded worried now.

Sam briefly closed his eyes. The wound was really beginning to ache now. "No, nothing like that," he said after a moment. "I'm just worried, okay?"

"Sure thing, little brother. I get that," Dean agreed and sped up. "Let's find that motel and get you to bed," he added.

It took them another hour and a half to reach Zortman and by that time Sam was beginning to feel like he had been beaten up with a baseball bat. Everything hurt. He knew that he felt that way because he had been so damned focused on not moving too much that he'd tensed every muscle in his body and doing that for two and a half hours in a row was bound to make him feel worse.

Dean, of course, was ready for anything and had parked the Impala with her door right in front of the entrance to the cabin. He pulled Sam backwards out of the car and carried him inside without so much as a grunt and Sam marveled at the fact that his brother, who was not only shorter than him, but also lighter, could carry him without any apparent effort. It just showed how dedicated Dean was when it came down to it and Sam felt pretty much blessed to have him on his side.

Like always, Dean took the bed closest to the door and he eased Sam down on the other one. He fussed over him for a moment, making sure he was comfortable, before he returned to the car to get whatever else they might need. Then he parked the Impala properly and finally returned to the motel room and closed the door behind him.

"You okay?" he asked as he picked up his duffel and threw it on his bed.

Sam nodded tensely. "You know, when I said I was going stir-crazy back at the hospital, I didn't really think you'd take it this far," he said and gave Dean a tired grin.

Dean just eyed him for a moment, then snorted and shook his head. "Dude, you're too much," he said and finally grinned. "Are you hungry? I saw a burger joint further up the street," he added.

Sam considered it for a moment, keeping in mind that he'd only had what Maryann had called easily digestible food over the past two weeks, and figured he could go for a burger right around now. He was a little hungry. "Yeah, sure. But nothing too big."

Dean nodded. "You okay for now? You don't need to ... uhm ..." he tried and glanced toward the bathroom.

"No, I'm good," Sam quickly said and grimaced. That was the one thing that was causing him trouble. He hadn't been out of the damned bed for two weeks and all the nurses on that ward had been female. During the first week he hadn't really cared that much, but the better he got, the worse the thought was of having to handle matters like that with a woman standing around next to his bed. At this point in time, he realized that it didn't make much difference who was standing by, it would be awkward no matter what. So he decided right there and then that he was going to get back on his feet, no matter how much it hurt. There were certain things he just needed to do on his own.

Dean left to get the food and Sam saw that as his opportunity to try this new decision out. He knew he would have to take it slow, really slow, and he had no intention of trying to get up just jet. He just needed to get the ball rolling. The door had barely closed behind his brother before he pushed himself up, very slowly, his arms jittering with the effort he put into it. The pull on the suture was manageable for now, so he kept going, keeping Maryann's words in mind. Stop before it hurts.

It took him five minutes, but he managed to sit up on his own without screaming in pain. That had to count for something, he figured. As of yet he couldn't remain sitting upright without supporting himself and he mostly felt like curling in on himself right now, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

With an effort that raised beads of sweat on his brow, he started pulling his left leg up, bending the knee until his foot was flat on the mattress. Then he repeated the procedure with his right leg and had to admit that this was as far as he was going to get tonight. The pull on the wound was slowly getting painful now.

Slowly, he stretched his legs out again and was rewarded with the cessation of the pain. Using mostly his arms at this point, he pulled himself backward, grinding his teeth together with the effort. It took a bit of doing, but he managed to wiggle the pillow out from behind him and shift it so he could lean back against it, and despite the thudding of his heart and the sweat on his face, he felt pretty damned good about being able to move a little on his own.

And at this point he also realized, to his own surprise, that he hadn't struggled with the fear of being alone yet. Of course, the second he thought about it, the first smokey fingers of fear started crawling up his back again, but they barely managed to do any damage before the door opened and Dean stepped back in with several brown paper bags in his arms.

He stopped short. "Weren't you lying down when I left?" he asked and dropped the bags on the small table by the window.

"Yeah, I was," Sam countered with a smile. His voice was a little tense right now, but he figured that was understandable.

"You're not overdoing it, are you?" Dean asked with a slight frown furrowing his brow.

"Don't worry. I'm keeping Maryann's words in mind. Stop before it hurts," Sam said. "What'd you get?"

"I didn't know what you wanted, so I bought a little bit of everything," Dean said and started unpacking the items.

"Anything with chicken?" Sam asked and craned his neck to see. It was really a pain that he couldn't do things for himself.

Dean grabbed one of the boxes and a bottle of water. "Nuggets," he said and handed Sam both things.

"Thanks."

They ate in silence until Dean muttered something about awkward and switched the tv set on. He flicked through the channels, grumbled something unintelligible under his breath and held the remote out to Sam. "You choose," he said, dropped down on his bed and stretched out.

Sam channel-hopped for a while until he realized that Dean had fallen asleep. He eyed his brother for a moment. Dean's plan was simple for the coming day. Sam just couldn't help thinking that simple was never an answer in their lives. Nothing was ever simple. With a light sigh, he pushed himself forward a little, biting his lip to keep a groan at bay when the suture was pulled a little too taunt. But he eventually managed to lie down on his own and settled for pulling the blankets up over him. It took him a while to fall asleep, but eventually he drifted off with the comforting mutter of the tv turned down low in the background.

***