Clear as a Bell

Author's Note:

Prompt comes from jennytork: A hunting accident leaves Sam deaf or blind. No one knows if it's permanent.

I've decided to go with deaf Sam since I have already written about blind Sam in this series.

Set pre-series, Teen!Chester where Sam is 14 and Dean is 18.

"Are you sure, Dean?" Sam asked for the hundredth time.

The eighteen-year old rolled his eyes.

"It's perfectly safe, Sammy," Dean assured his sibling, "The only way to get rid of these guys is by lighting them up."

Sam nodded, his eyes wide. The brothers were hiding behind an old overturned Ford Taurus as they waited for night to fall. John had on a hunt for a ghost the next town over and hadn't needed either of his sons for backup- it would just be a routine Salt-'n-Burn- but the boys soon found that they had their own hands full with the supernatural.

The residents of the town they were staying in- Lima, Washington- had been plagued with odd disappearances for the past two weeks.

It wasn't pets or people that were missing but mirrors, light bulbs, hubcaps, jewelry and anything else that was metallic or bright.

After some researching and interviewing- Sam did the former and Dean did the latter- the brothers discovered the town was infested with gremlins.

Though not necessarily dangerous to humans the creatures were a nuisance.

The only way to get rid of gremlins permanently was by killing them with fire.

So that was why Sam and Dean were taking cover behind a scrap car in front of the abandoned warehouse the gremlins- who looked surprisingly close to the ones from the movie- had congregated in.

Sam peered over the top of the car.

There was no sign of movement yet from the warehouse, its windows glassless and dark, seeming to stare out balefully at the boys.

"Are you sure we're far enough away?" Sam asked nervously.

Dean nodded and laid a hand on the rocket launcher sitting on his lap, "Dad and I have used this before. I know what I'm doing, Sam."

"Couldn't we just do it now?" Sam asked but Dean shook his head, "We've gotta wait 'til the little bastards start coming out."

Sam sighed and stared out at the dirt road behind them. They were far enough away from the town that no one should come upon them before they'd had a chance to kill the gremlins. The warehouse had been in disuse for quite a few years but no one had taken the time to tear it down so it had been left to molder away, home now to the occasional raccoon family- and nest of gremlins.

W

Darkness had fallen by the time Dean peered over the edge of the car and motioned to Sam to do the same.

The fourteen-year old looked up and saw gremlins swarming from the warehouse like insects.

"That's why we needed to wait," Dean whispered and settled the rocket launcher against his shoulder, "Better cover your ears."

Sam nodded and ducked down, his hands against pressed against the sides of his head.

The car shook and Dean staggered back slightly as he pulled the trigger and the shell was released.

Dean sat down heavily beside his brother, dropped the weapon and put his fingers in his ears.

The car shuddered again and Sam could see orange light glowing behind them, casting their shadows on the pavement.

Dean sat up and glanced at the warehouse.

"Whoohoo!" he cried triumphantly, "Sammy, come look at this!"

The fourteen-year old scrambled to his feet and stared wide-eyed and open mouthed at the warehouse; his hands fell to his sides with shock. Where the front doors used to be there was now a gaping hole, orange and red flames spurted from the empty windows. Gremlins erupted from the building, many on fire, screaming and dying.

"That's awsome, De-"

Sam was thrown backwards as an explosion tore through the warehouse and pushed outwards, sending pieces of burning brick and mortar flying.

Sam slammed into the pavement a dozen feet away from where he and Dean had been hiding and lost consciousness instantly, his head slamming into the cracked asphalt.

SPN

Dean picked himself up. He wasn't too badly injured. He wasn't bleeding, which was a relief.

He glanced to his right and was alarmed to see no sign of his brother.

"SAM!" Dean shouted over the roar of the fire behind him.

"SAM!' he called again before spotting a form sprawled out on the pavement a dozen feet away.

Dean ran forward, cursing a sprained ankle that sent stabbing pain up his whole leg every time he took a step. At least, he hoped it was just sprained.

"Sammy," the eighteen-year old said and fell onto his knees beside his brother, "Oh God, please be okay."

He reached out and pressed two fingers to his sibling's neck, breathing a sigh of relief when he felt a pulse.

Sam stirred and blinked groggily up at him.

"Sam, are you hurt?" Dean asked.

Sam frowned at him but said nothing.

Concussion, Dean thought and picked up his brother, one arm supporting the fourteen-year old's back while the other rested beneath his knees.

Sam curled up instantly against Dean's chest like he used to when he was a toddler and closed his eyes.

Dean ran back to the overturned car, grabbing the rocket launcher and then headed full-tilt- careful not to jostle his brother too much- across the parking lot to the road to the car he had 'borrowed'.

Since John had the Impala, Dean had needed some form of transportation to get to the warehouse and had jacked a car that had been sitting- apparently unwanted- in the parking lot of the same motel they were staying at. The rocket launcher had been slipped from the 67' Chevy's trunk the night John left for his hunt. John didn't even know Dean had it.

The eighteen-year old opened the car door and settled his brother onto the passenger's seat carefully. He sat the launcher in the backseat and ran around the front of the car to the driver's side.

"It's going to be okay," Dean muttered to himself as he started the vehicle and pulled out onto the road, "It'll be fine."

The eighteen-year old drove recklessly, concerned only with getting his brother back to their motel room. Sam was curled up in the passenger's seat, his eyes closed tightly.

Dean pressed his foot down on the gas and relaxed when he saw the sign for the motel they were staying at. He thanked his lucky stars when he saw that the Impala was still missing from its parking spot. Maybe he'd get Sam checked out and into bed before John returned.

Pulling into the parking lot and stopping the car exactly where he had found it, Dean got out and ran across to the passenger's side, grabbing Sam- picking him up like a toddler so that Dean had one arm beneath his brother's bottom- and the rocket launcher.

Hurrying across the parking lot, Dean stepped up onto the sidewalk and set the bazooka aside, taking his key out and opening the door to the motel room.

SPN

Sam opened his eyes as Dean carried him into their room, his older brother closing the door tightly behind them.

He clutched Dean's shirt and buried his face into his shoulder.

His head heart and his ears were ringing.

He looked up when he felt Dean set him down on his bed and saw his lips moving but Sam couldn't hear his brother's words over the sound of the ringing.

Sam shook his head, "I can't hear you."

Dean looked taken aback for a moment before he leaned forward so that his face was only inches from Sam's.

His lips moved in the same way and Sam had an idea that Dean speaking louder but he still couldn't hear him.

Sam shook his head and put his hands on his ears, "I can't hear you."

Dean said a single word and stepped back, running a hand across his mouth.

Sam watched as his brother's eyes darted to the motel stationary and Dean grabbed it from the table, pulling a pen from the pocket of his jeans.

Sam watched as Dean scrawled something down on the paper before showing it to him: Are you hurt anywhere?

"My head," Sam told him and raised a hand to touch the back of his head with his fingers.

Dean nodded and instantly checked Sam's head, poking and prodding gently.

Dean seemed satisfied that Sam wasn't gushing blood and picked up the notepad again: Are you feeling dizzy? Tired?

Sam paused before nodding. Dean looked as though he had expected as much.

Are your ears ringing?

Sam nodded again. That was it; he had a concussion. All he needed was rest and the symptoms should go away in a while. He'd had concussions before but he'd never experienced this high-pitched ringing. He must have hit his head pretty hard then.

Get some rest Sammy. I'll make sure to wake you up.

Sam nodded gratefully and pulled his shoes off. He dropped them at the side of his bed and watched as Dean moved to the end of his own bed, limping slightly.

"Dean," Sam said, causing his brother to jump, "Are you okay?"

Dean turned and nodded, giving him the 'thumbs up'.

Sam nodded and lay down, closing his eyes and trying to ignore the ringing.

SPN

Dean was now not as worried about his brother as he'd been earlier; Sam was just suffering the effects of smashing his head against the ground but he'd be fine again in a few hours.

Sam hadn't noticed but he was almost yelling as he spoke, meaning that the ringing in his ears must be pretty damn loud. Dean was sure it would fade as the other symptoms dissipated.

He was glad that they hadn't sustained any serious injuries, a concussion and a sprained ankle was pretty mild.

Speaking of, Dean bent down and slipped the boot off his uninjured foot before carefully easing the second one away from his banged up ankle.

He hissed in pain as he had to fight with the footwear but it eventually came off. He pulled his sock off and rolled his pant leg up.

Dean's ankle was swollen about two sizes and was bruised.

"Shit," he muttered.

The ankle was sure to be tender for a few days but Dean was sure it wasn't serious; as long as he could manage to stay off it as much as possible.

Glancing at the time on the alarm sitting on the nightstand, Dean wished he could go to sleep but he had to stay up to make sure Sam was okay. Instead he grabbed the remote and turned on the television.

W

"Dean! What the hell is that doing in here?!"

John's voice startled the eighteen-year old awake.

Dean looked up, blinking tiredly at his father's formidable form standing at the end of his bed.

"What?" Dean asked sleepily.

He looked around; the television was still on and Sam appeared to be sound asleep.

Sam!

Shit! Dean had fallen asleep and hadn't woken his brother when he needed to.

Instead of answering his father's question, the eighteen-year old leaped out of bed and called out to his brother as he approached.

"Sam? Hey, Sammy, wake up," Dean reached out and touched his brother's shoulder and the younger boy woke suddenly, peering owlishly up at him.

"Dad's back," Dean said and turned to his father.

"What?" Sam asked loudly and Dean's heart just about stopped.

"Dean, what's going on? Why is the rocket launcher in here and what did you do to your leg?" John interrupted.

Dean took a deep breath and turned to his father, "We needed it to get rid of some gremlins in town."

He turned his attention to his brother when he felt Sam tugging at his sleeve.

"Dean!" Sam cried, "The ringing!"

"Dean," John said, "What is he talking about?"

The eighteen-year old sighed.

"We had a little accident," Dean admitted sheepishly, knowing that his Dad was going to be pissed at him either way, "We were a little too close to the warehouse."

"Damn it, Dean!" John snapped, "Why didn't you wait until I came back and let me deal with it?"

Dean shrugged, "I've seen you use that bazooka a dozen times and thought I could handle it."

The eldest Winchester's face was red with fury.

"I've told you a dozen times not to use it when I'm not with you, Dean! It's not a toy! It's a military-grade weapon!"

Dean glanced down.

"Now, what the hell happened?" John asked, "I want details."

Without looking up, Dean explained how, at first, the building had burned, as it should have- killing the gremlins- before unexpectedly exploding.

"Did you check to see what was in the warehouse besides gremlins?" John asked tensely.

Dean shook his head, "I… just figured it was empty."

"Anything could have been in there!" John informed him, "You're just lucky it wasn't chemicals."

Dean nodded; it could have been a lot worse.

"Sam and I kind of got thrown… and he hit his head," Dean told his father.

John now turned to his youngest, "Concussion?"

Dean nodded, "He's got ringing in his ears."

The eldest Winchester frowned and stepped over to the fourteen-year old's bed. He leaned forward until his nose was only inches from Sam's.

"Can you hear me?" he asked.

Sam's eyes were wide and damp with tears.

John cut eyes at his eldest, "I don't think this was caused by the concussion, Dean."

The hunter had seen his fair share of horrific injuries during the war: limbs blown off by mines, bullet wounds, even the aftereffects of Agent Orange but he also knew of men who lost their hearing from the constant artillery fire that surrounded them, the loud explosions of sound damaging their ears.

"What… what do you mean?" Dean asked nervously, "It's not permanent, is it?"

"I don't know," John said, "We'll have to take Sam to the doctor's first thing in the morning to get him checked out."

Sam turned to stare at Dean; clearly scared and confused.

"We should all try and get some rest," John said brusquely.

Dean nodded and climbed onto the bed beside Sam. He wrapped a comforting arm around his brother's shoulders.

Sam reached up and grabbed his shirt like he used to do when he was a toddler and had woken from a nightmare.

John sat down on Dean's vacated bed and pulled off his boots. He was facing away from his sons and Dean knew he was still angry with him; why wouldn't he be?

The father grabbed the remote and turned off the TV, lying down with his back to his boys.

Dean reached out and turned the light on the nightstand off, shifting down until he was lying with Sam resting against his chest.

What have I done? Dean thought as he stared up at the dark ceiling.

SPN

John couldn't believe how irresponsible his eldest son was. He had told Dean not to play around with the weapons they used, especially the bazooka. The shells for the rocket launcher weren't exactly easy to come by and it could be very dangerous if used incorrectly; as Dean had so wonderfully displayed.

The teen was just lucky local authorities hadn't seen him with it.

John checked his watch. He and Dean had been sitting in the emergency waiting room of Lima's only hospital for over four hours. Which wasn't surprising; if a person wasn't gushing blood they were in for a long wait. Sam had been taken into a room two hours ago now.

John hoped that Dean's mistake wouldn't cost his youngest son his hearing. He didn't know what to do if Sam's hearing loss was permanent.

"I'm going to get some coffee," Dean said, "You want any?"

John shook his head without looking at his son; he wasn't ready to forgive the eighteen-year old just yet.

W

Another hour dragged by with no word of how Sam was doing with his tests when a doctor suddenly appeared, "Family of Samuel Winchester?"

John stood up instantly, his back protesting the sudden movement after remaining seated for so long.

"I'm his father, John," he told the doctor and the man shook his head.

"I'm Doctor Tweed," he introduced himself.

"Is Sam going to be okay?" Dean asked and Dr. Tweed looked at him for a moment before John introduced his eldest.

"If you'll come with me," Dr. Tweed said, "Samuel's waiting for you."

John felt his heart rate speed up.

Was Sam okay? Or had the damage to his ears been permanent?

He and Dean followed the doctor down the hallway and into an exam room where Sam was sitting on the paper-covered table.

"Samuel," Dr. Tweed began but John interrupted.

"It's Sam."

The doctor stared at the father, "Excuse me?"

John frowned at the physician, "He likes to be called Sam, not Samuel."

Dean sat down beside his brother on the table and put an arm around his shoulders.

"Sam," Dr. Tweed repeated, "Has developed Tinnitus due to exposure to a loud noise, causing trauma to the cells of his inner ear. Tinnitus is the constant ring-"

John held up a hand, "I know what it is, Doctor, thank you. What I want to know is if it is going to be permanent."

The doctor looked somewhat ruffled at having been interrupted in the middle of his speech but John could have cared less. The man had terrible bedside manners anyway.

"I do not believe that Samuel will suffer from this permanently," the doctor replied, calling the fourteen-year old by his full name again, "As long as he rests. He should stay away from any loud sounds that could cause profound damage. The ringing should stop in a few weeks."

John's shoulders slumped with relief. He glanced at Dean from the corner of his eye and saw that his son looked just as happy with the news.

"I would advise that your son refrain from future activities that could cause permanent hearing loss," Dr. Tweed explained, "Now that his ears have been damaged it will become easier for Samuel to lose his hearing."

John nodded.

"Can we take Sam home now?" he asked and the doctor nodded.

The fourteen-year old hopped off the table and walked out of the exam room with his brother.

John followed his boys at a distance.

Sam was going to be alright. His hearing would return and he'd be able to hunt again soon.

SPN

Dean rode shotgun on the way back to the motel room. They were just going to pick up their things and head out of town. He hadn't turned on the stereo, as he usually would have. He loved listening to the music as loud as he could stand but he refrained now for Sam's sake.

Dean still felt guilty for his actions the night before. He should have known better. He should have listened to his father.

Dean knew that it would be a long time before he touched the rocket launcher, if he ever did so again.

As a result of his own stupidity he'd almost hurt his brother beyond repair.

Dean just hoped that Dr. Tweed was right and that Sam's Tinnitus would clear up within a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, it was going to be a pain in the ass having to write everything down.

It could be worse, Dean thought, you could be learning sign language right now instead of having to communicate through writing for a couple of weeks.

SPN

Sam opened his eyes tiredly. He was exhausted. That ringing in his ears made it difficult to sleep, to concentrate; it was really driving him nuts.

It never stopped, just one long, continuous chiming sound that blocked out every other sound.

He couldn't even go to school like this. All he could do was stay in the motel room while his father and brother went hunting without him. Not that Sam really wanted to go hunting, but staying in was making him stir-crazy.

John wasn't in the room; he'd likely left early to interview the witnesses to the latest monster he and Dean were hunting; Sam's brother looked a little too young to be an FBI agent and so had remained behind.

"Hey, Sam," Dean said, "What do you want for breakfast?"

Sam looked up sharply. He'd just heard his brother speak! He could still hear the ringing but it had faded considerably from what it had been.

"Oh, shit," Dean muttered, reaching for a pad of paper and a pencil, "I forgot."

"Dean!" Sam cried happily, "I can hear! I can hear you!"

Dean dropped the paper and rushed over to him.

"You can?" he asked, hands on Sam's shoulders.

The fourteen-year old reached up and grabbed his sibling's hands, "Yeah! I can!"

Tears stung Sam's eyes. He knew that the doctor had said the Tinnitus should wear off but as the days passed he'd been less and less confident that the physician had been right. He'd been afraid that he'd be plagued with listening to only that bell-like chiming for the rest of his life.

Sam hugged his brother, ecstatic.

"What do you say we celebrate?" Dean asked, "How does pancakes at the diner sound?"

Sam looked up at Dean and grinned, "Sounds great, Dean."

Author's Note:

Thanks to Jenjoremy, Leahelisabeth, Need2no, Lisa Boon, elliereynolds777, BranchSuper, mb64, JaniceC678, and daleaikman for reviewing.

Thanks to everyone who alerted, followed and favourited.

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