For Jeannie, who really wanted the scene to go on a little longer

Last-Minute Save
K Hanna Korossy

He could rarely remember being so scared before, and that was saying something.

It wasn't even that the insane Doc Benton was planning to kill him, because Sam fully believed what the mockery of a man said, that the "surgery" wouldn't be fatal. But there were worse things than death, and greater fears. The soft voice that talked so rationally about scooping his eyes out, the tight restraints that spread him out on the doctor's bloody operating table like some frog awaiting dissection, and most of all, the tape peeling his eyelids back so he couldn't even do something as basic as close them…

Sam's heart was stampeding, and his mouth dried to dust. He'd been blinded once before, but only briefly and Dean had been there then. Nausea swamped him; hyperventilation threatened. Almost vivisected, too, but not his face, not his eyes. He trembled, speechless as panic washed away every plea and argument he might have made. Been alone with fear many times before, but never with Dean so far away. Only his mind repeated an endless, silent plea: please, please, please.

Then the metal scoop descended toward his eye, and Sam couldn't even focus that much, crying out in terror.

He thought he heard gunshots then, saw blood. His mind was too hazed to be sure, but the scoop moved away. Sam's breath puffed out of him in short, frantic bursts. No one there. No one could be there. Dean was…somewhere else. Sounded like his voice, but that was his mind playing tricks on him. No one would be coming to the rescue now. Dean only had a few weeks left; no one would come ever again.

Footsteps approached, and Sam shuddered, mind shutting down over what was to come.

A hand grasped his shoulder.

He whimpered, trying to roll away and failing once more.

"Hey hey hey, it's me. It's me, take it easy."

Sam gasped for air, tried to make sense of the words, the upside-down image above him.

The touch moved down from his shoulder to over his heart, pressing lightly there, and the figure looming over him moved to his side. "Sammy? You with me? You're okay—Doc's out of the picture."

His eyes were sore and dry and refused to focus right, but he squinted as best as he could at the figure. It looked like Dean. Sounded like him, too. But…

"Okay, just relax, let me get you out of here, okay? Everything's okay, now, all right, nobody's cutting anything out of anybody unless it's yanking out Dr. Frankenstein's heart like Dad did."

The thought of surgery, rusty blades and bright blood and endless pain and mutliation, made the air saw in and out of him again, frantic exhalations even when he felt the vise holding his head loosen and move away. He tried to blink, his eyes tearing yet again at their vulnerable forced exposure. But the indistinct features, the very distinct voice was beginning to penetrate, and he swallowed hard. "Dean?" His voice was high, almost shrill, and he could mostly see the wince across the other's face.

Roughened hands cradled his face. The fuzzy figure dipped low, inches from his face. "Yeah. I'm here. You're okay, I'm just gonna get you free, okay? Calm down, Sam."

He gulped again, nodded as much as he could with that strap still over his forehead. Dean. Dean was there, he was there and Benton wasn't. Sam's eyes blurred again. He tried to settle his breathing, especially when he felt Dean carefully start peeling the strips of tape from his face, but his hands kept clenching and loosening and he couldn't seem to get enough saliva in his mouth. He was pretty sure he was still quaking, might have even scratched his own eyes out in his clumsiness if his hands were loose, and the thought brought a sharp laugh from him.

Dean's fingers paused a moment, then kept going, freeing one eye, then the other. "Easy, Sammy," he coaxed. "Almost done. Just keep it together a little longer, dude."

Sam slammed his eyes shut, panicked at the dark and the disappearance of his brother, and immediately wrenched them open again.

Dean was frowning at him. "Sam? Hey. I know the doc really freaked you out, but try to calm down, okay? You hear me?"

Sam's throat bobbed. Hear, right. Listen. He could do that. Calm down—that was harder. He tried. Paid attention to Dean unstrapping his head, then moving down to his wrist.

But his mind seemed to keep fragmenting on the thought. Dean was there? He wasn't losing his eyes? Safe?

"Yeah, kiddo." Dean's voice, soft with more than distance. "You're safe. Freak's just gonna have to find his spares someplace else."

One of Sam's wrists freed, Dean lifted it and placed it on his brother's stomach. Sam immediately reached up toward his eyes.

Dean checked his motion, the restraint gentle this time but still momentarily spiking Sam's heartbeat. "Still there, dude," he soothed. "You know you're safe, right? It's me, it's just me." Dean leaned over him and started in on the second wrist restraint.

Sam listened as the patter of his brother's words that fell on him like summer rain, soothing without making sense. The idea was finally starting to take root in his numb brain that Benton was gone and Dean was there and he was safe. His free hand fumbled toward the figure bending over him, touched and examined the amulet that was swaying over his chest, holding on to it until his brother's warm fingers carefully extracted it from his grip. Dean moved down to unbuckle the leather strap across his stomach.

He shot up as soon as his upper body was free, frantic to get away from the bloody, rank table.

Straight into Dean's grip. His brother's hands grabbed his shoulders, dug in, rubbing at his clenched muscles. "Sam?"

His eyes no longer felt so raw, focusing on command, and every worry line was sharp in Dean's face. But with clarity came memory, and Sam clutched at his brother's jacket. "Dean! Dean, I can't do this, I can't. I was careful, I saved her, I didn't leave a trail, I swear, but he found me. He…" He gulped. "I can't do this, man, I can't hunt alone. Don't leave me. He would've…he would've…" His breath was sobbing out of him, all the terror pooled in his brain spilling over: the crocotta and Benton, being trapped and helpless, losing his eyes. Losing his brother. Powerless to stop any of it.

Dean shook him a little. "Sam—Sammy! Listen to me. Listen to me, okay? You got a little sloppy, didn't watch your back—we'll go over it, I promise. We'll figure it out and make sure it doesn't happen again. But you did good. You did good, bro—Dad would've been proud of you. Nothing to be ashamed of here." He freed one of Sam's arms to gently pat his cheek. "We'll figure it out, okay?"

He wasn't sure about that, heart still pumping double-time. But he swallowed the fear and nodded, calming instinctively at the sound of Dean's voice and promises. Because his brother always came through.

He closed his eyes, head aching, his stomach doing another swoop, and groaned.

Dean had let him go to move down to his feet, and his voice seemed to come from far away as he asked, not unsympathetically, "Chloroform hangover setting in yet?"

"Yeah, think so." He still sounded ragged, and concentrated on calming himself down, Dean freeing him. "How'd you—?"

There was a smile in the words. "You left some pretty good maps, dude."

"No." He shook his head. Later he would ask about the details, but for now he was content to accept that Dean could always somehow find him. "How'd you stop him?"

"Doc's alive, right? I mean, sort of." At Sam's nod, Dean continued, "Chloroform works on the good doctor, too. Dipped my knife in it."

Sam nodded, feeling like one of those stupid bobbleheads as his head jerked up and down. Chloroform. And everyone thought Dean was the stupid one.

His legs were freed, tugged over the side of the table so he was sitting up. Then Dean was standing in front of him, his grip warm on the back of Sam's still-bristling neck, breath breezing across his face as his brother leaned close. "You okay?"

Not really. He squeezed his eyes tighter shut, and reached up to hang a couple of fingers off Dean's wrist. A pulse pounded beneath his fingertips, the first sign he'd had so far that Dean had been scared, too.

Dean cupped his neck a little tighter. "Sammy. We'll work something out—it'll be okay, I promise. All right?"

There was the doc still. He wasn't dead, and that meant there was hope. Plus three weeks left. Not to mention he still had his eyes, and Dean was still there. Sam nodded, a little stiffly but with belief.

Dean scruffed him a little, like a dog its pup. "Can you stand? You ready to go give the doc a little taste of his own medicine?"

Sam took a breath, opened his eyes to stare at Dean. And couldn't help smiling at the almost gleeful anticipation in the green eyes. "Yeah. I'm good."

Dean nodded and stepped back, hand on Sam's arm to hold him steady as he slid off the table. Eyes warm with more than revenge.

As Sam followed him around the table to where Benton lay on the ground, all he could remember now of his fear was losing Dean. And two words: I promise.

It was only later that Sam would realize that Dean had promised that things would be okay, not that he would be there to make sure of it.

The End