A/N I have to give credit for this idea to Staceycj, who sent me a message asking if I'd consider writing a story where Sam was blind. I hadn't honestly thought of it before – as I know similar themes have been done by other people, for both the boys – but once I did start thinking it sort of began to flow… So thank you, Stacey, for the inspiration and I hope it matches what you had in mind.
As the match he was desperately trying to get alight flickered out Sam swore and hastily grabbed another one. There was an extremely loud crashing sound from the room next door and he winced, holding his breath slightly as he waited to hear further signs of movement.
"Anytime now would be good, Sam!"
He let out the breath at the sound of his brother's voice, albeit in a decidedly unhappy tone. Still listening out for anything more deadly sounding he went back to trying to get at least one match to stay alight longer than three seconds.
He couldn't help exclaiming when he finally did it and he was just about to drop the flame onto the bowl of herbs - and other less straightforward ingredients - when he was shoved from behind. He still let go of the match but it meant that he was far closer to the bowl than he should have been when the contents flared up.
There was a flash of white light and then searing agony across his eyes.
The sound of Sam's scream made Dean's blood run cold. His head whipped round towards the door that separated them, instinct alone making him duck the chair that came flying at him even as he stood there.
His call went unanswered and he was already moving towards the other room even as a more unearthly shriek told him that his brother must have completed the ritual. As he entered the darkened room he could smell ozone and other things that made him cough. He ignored all of that though, instead focusing on the figure that was curled up on the floor.
There was no disguising the urgency in his voice this time as he dropped to one knee beside his brother, gripping Sam's shoulders as he tried to turn him over. Sam moaned and stayed curled up, his hands covering his face.
"Hey, what is it – what the hell happened?" said Dean, still trying to coax Sam out of the foetal position he'd adopted.
Sam's voice was barely above a whisper but full of pain, and Dean clenched his jaw.
Whatever this was, it was not minor.
"What hurts? Tell me what it is." he said, unconsciously using the same tone of voice that had always worked when they were kids and Sam would come running to him with skinned knees.
Dean very gently grabbed hold of Sam's hands, trying to pull them away from his face. Sam resisted though, turning his head to one side. "Don't!"
"Sam, I have to look. Come on, man, just let me see. I won't hurt you, I promise."
Sam didn't need the softly spoken affirmation, knowing that already, but his eyes felt like they were on fire and he had a childish notion that if he took his hands away they would fall out. He could still feel his brother's hands, gently trying to coax his own into lowering. Gritting his teeth he allowed it, but kept his eyes tightly shut.
Not that he was even sure he could have opened them at this point if he'd wanted to.
Dean was unprepared for the livid redness that spread right across Sam's eyes and the surrounding skin, making his brother look like an extra from an Adam Ant video. The skin looked red raw, like the worst case of sunburn ever, and already Sam's eyelids were swelling. Tears were seeping out from underneath the swollen lids, running down Sam's face, and Dean wasn't sure if it was a reaction or because it was hurting so bad.
The tentative query and the way Sam's hand fumbled for a connection reminded Dean that he hadn't said anything yet and that his brother couldn't see what he was doing.
"Yeah, it's ok, I was just looking." he said, absently taking hold of the hand that was reaching for him while gently turning Sam's head with the other as he tried to get a better view of the damage.
"How bad is it?" said Sam, his voice still tight with pain and slightly breathless as he struggled not to panic.
"I don't know. The skin looks a bit like bad sunburn but your eyelids are swelling. We need to get you to a hospital."
Dean's tone implied this wasn't up for discussion but Sam hesitated anyway. "Dean, we can't. It's too risky." he said, gripping his brother's hand tighter.
Dean shook his head, belatedly remembering Sam couldn't see that right now. "I don't care. This is your eyes, Sam, we can't mess with that. Come on, let's get you up."
As Dean helped him to his feet Sam clutched the front of his brother's jacket, not sure if the dizziness was a result of the adrenaline and pain, or because his eyes were still shut tight. He felt Dean slide his arm around his waist, holding him firmly.
"Ok, I got you. Just put one foot in front of the other and let me do the rest."
Sam obeyed as they moved slowly, trusting Dean to steer him round all the obstacles he knew were between them and the car. When they stepped out onto the porch the cool night air made the skin around his eyes tingle like dozens of tiny razor blades were being scratched across it and he made a small noise. Dean stopped immediately and Sam sensed him looking at him.
Sam managed to nod and although he knew he probably wasn't remotely convincing right now, they started moving again anyway. Dean's voice quietly told him when to step as they negotiated the stairs and then it was a short walk down the path to where the Impala was parked. Dean had to let go with one hand to dig the keys out of his pocket and Sam heard the clink of metal on metal as the door was unlocked.
"Watch your head." said Dean, carefully guiding Sam past the doorframe as he slid shakily into the passenger seat. "I'll be right back."
Sam heard the door shut and the sound of Dean's boots as he ran back up the path. He shivered, pulling his jacket tighter around him and leaning his head against the door. Every noise seemed magnified now he couldn't see and he was horribly aware of each second dragging by. What if the ritual hadn't worked completely? What if the poltergeist they'd been dealing with was still able to attack Dean? How would he know? These questions and dozens of others like them swirled round his head and he struggled to keep his breathing even as he began to panic.
His hand was just beginning to fumble for the door handle, unaware of what he was going to do but unable to sit there any longer, when he heard the driver's door open. He jumped, flattening himself against his own door.
Dean winced at the panic in Sam's voice, realising he should have announced his presence given the current situation. "Yeah, it's me."
Sam relaxed, his shoulders sagging. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine, I was clearing up our stuff. Just sit tight, I'm gonna get you to the hospital."
Sam didn't argue this time, his own fears about how much damage might have been done already growing to epic proportions.
The drive seemed to take forever but probably wasn't any longer than fifteen minutes. Sam concentrated on not throwing up, the motion of the car making him queasy. He could feel Dean's tension mirroring his own and didn't need his eyes to tell him that his brother had probably spent as much time watching him as he had looking at the road. They rounded another corner and then the car slowed, coming to a stop. He heard the engine switch off and the sound of the driver's door opening. He moved away from his own door, not wanting to spill out onto the parking lot when Dean opened it. Once again Dean's hand made sure his head didn't connect with the doorframe and when he was out, Sam felt his brother's arm latch firmly around his waist.
"You ready?" Dean asked and Sam nodded, wanting nothing more than to get this over with. Normally he disliked hospitals almost as much as Dean but this time he really needed someone to fix this and tell him it was gonna be ok.
That he wasn't going to be permanently blind.
He heard the swishing noise of the automatic doors opening as they approached and even with his eyes closed he flinched slightly as he was aware of a much brighter light on his lids, hoping it was a good sign he could still see that much. Dean murmured that they were at the desk moments before they stopped and he heard whoever was on there make a quiet exclamation as they saw his face. He felt himself blush, hating that he was so vulnerable and that people would be looking at him with pity. He tightened his grip on Dean's jacket and felt his brother move closer, even though he didn't pause in his explanation to the nurse behind the desk.
For his part Dean could feel the tension radiating off his brother and he moved closer in an attempt at silent comfort and reassurance, knowing how much he'd hate it if he was the one in Sam's position. Not that he wouldn't swap in a heartbeat, if he could. The nurse was shooting Sam sympathetic looks that irritated Dean no end but he forced himself to smile politely and take the forms as she directed them to a row of plastic chairs behind them.
"Come on, Sammy, we're gonna sit down over here."
Sam allowed himself to be turned round and led a few steps until his knees gently bumped against the front of one of the chairs. Dean kept a hand on his shoulder as he fumbled for the seat, feeling exactly where it was before he sat down in it. He felt Dean sit next to him, closer than he normally would have and he leaned into the contact not caring if it made him seem like he was six years old again. Every noise nearby was making him jump and his head was starting to throb, partly from the pain and partly from the fact he was straining his hearing to make up for the lack of sight.
Dean casually flung his arm across the back of Sam's chair, feeling his brother lean into it with a slight smile. It was a little awkward trying to fill the forms in one handed but the noticeable lessening of the tension in Sam's face made it worth it. As he managed somehow to pull his wallet out of his pocket and jot down the most recent insurance details he scanned the waiting room, noting every exit and door and assessing every person there. It was something he did automatically, out of habit, but it was even more pronounced now he had total responsibility for Sam in a way that he hadn't since they were kids.
He saw a doctor approaching them and dropped his hand onto Sam's shoulder. "We've got company." he said and Sam sat up straighter, his head tilted to one side as he listened to the footsteps.
"Mr Campbell?" the man said, giving them a brief smile, and Dean nodded. "Yeah, that's us."
The doctor indicated for them to follow him and Dean took Sam's arm, waiting for him to get to his feet and then carefully guiding him as he had before. Sam concentrated on walking, not wanting to add falling on his face in front of everyone to the list of things that had gone wrong that evening. Dean pulled him slightly to the left and Sam sensed a doorframe as they moved through it, Dean turning to one side so he didn't have to let go of his brother's arm.
"If you could just hop up onto the bed here." said the doctor, trusting Dean to guide Sam to where he needed to be. Once he was settled Dean moved back and Sam fought the urge to reach out. When a hand appeared on his shoulder again, moments later, Sam found himself wondering if he really was the only psychic in the Winchester family.
He listened as Dean outlined the fake details of his 'accident', blaming a sudden flare from something explosive that they hadn't realised had been on a fire Sam was lighting. The doctor said little but he did warn Sam before he put his hands on his face to gently manipulate his head under the light, for which Sam was grateful. It might have been embarrassing trying to explain why he'd taken a swing at the guy who was supposed to be helping him.
Dean watched carefully, as pleased as Sam was that the doctor was explaining everything he was doing first so that he wasn't taken by surprise. He stayed out of the way but kept his hand on Sam's shoulder, having seen the way his brother tensed when he was out of contact. Normally he might have teased him for this sudden touchy-feelyness but not today. When Sam winced as the doctor touched the raw skin around his eyes Dean tightened his grip, fighting the urge to smack the guy for hurting his brother.
Sam sensed the guy step back and waited, fearing what he was about to say.
"Well, it looks as if the skin around the eyes has been scorched but luckily the burns don't appear to go too deep. They're no more than you would get from a bad case of sunburn, although obviously that's still very painful. The swelling around the eyes is a normal reaction but I need to try and open the lids so I can check the eyes themselves. I'm just going to get a nurse to come and assist me, ok?" he said and Dean nodded for both of them.
He waited for the guy to leave the room before turning his attention back to Sam. "How you doing?" he asked quietly and Sam attempted a smile that fell somewhat flat. "Ok, I guess. I just want to know how bad the damage is." he said quietly.
There wasn't really much Dean could say to that so he stayed silent, knowing that useless platitudes wouldn't be welcome. Sam rested his head back against the bed and tried to relax, drawing strength from Dean's presence next to him. He could hear the creak of Dean's jacket as his brother fidgeted and actually smiled slightly, knowing the waiting was probably driving Dean even crazier than it was him. Eventually he heard footsteps a few seconds before Dean announced the doctor was back and he sat up again.
"Right, what I'm going to do is bathe your eyes with this saline solution before we try to open them. It might be a bit uncomfortable but I'm afraid it's necessary."
Sam simply nodded slightly, wanting them to get on with it. He had a feeling 'uncomfortable' wasn't going to quite cover it.
"Perhaps you could wait outside?" the doctor continued and Sam answered before Dean even had a chance to draw breath. "No! I want him to stay." he said, surprising even himself with the vehemence in his tone.
"Don't worry, I'm staying." said Dean, giving the doctor a look that clearly said this was non negotiable. The doctor was bright enough not to argue, instead pulling on some gloves while the nurse filled a dish with saline solution.
"Could you lean forward a little please, and hold onto this bowl for me." he said and Sam complied, Dean guiding his hands to the bowl that had appeared in his lap. He tensed as doctor began to wipe his eyes with a damp cloth, each touch feeling like it was brushing against raw nerves.
Dean put his hand on Sam's back, rubbing circles in a calming motion without even thinking about it. Sam tried to focus on the soothing touch and not on the agony his face was in. The doctor told him he was now going to rinse the eyes and Sam coughed a little as some of the saline ran down his face and into his mouth.
"Alright, now I'm going to open your eyelids one at time, starting with the right one. This will probably hurt but try not to close them again until I've finished, ok?"
Sam nodded and braced himself, hearing a click that he couldn't place but which was in fact the nurse turning out the light. There was just enough coming in from the corridor outside for the doctor to see what he was doing and he held an instrument in one hand that Dean vaguely recognised from having had something stuck in his eye one time when he was a lot younger.
Sam gasped as the doctor got his right eye opened, unable to help himself, and Dean placed his hand under Sam's on the bed so that his brother could grip it. He winced a little when he did so with enough force to break bones.
Sam meanwhile felt like someone was shoving an ice pick into his eyeball. He couldn't see anything except a bright light and it was only Dean's quiet reassurance that he was doing great that stopped him jerking his head away from the doctor. The second time was no better than the first and he practically collapsed with relief when the doctor finally told him he could close both eyes again.
Seconds later he realised he was still gripping Dean's hand and looked slightly guilty as he let go. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it." said Dean, glad that Sam couldn't see him trying to shake some feeling back into his fingers.
The nurse turned the light back on and took away the bowl and cloths as the doctor made some notes on a chart. He must have sensed Dean's glare boring a hole into his head as he looked up after a moment. "Well, from what I can see the surface of the eyeball in both eyes is inflamed at the moment. Now the eyelids would have closed automatically almost instantly so there is a good chance that the damage is minimal. We won't know however until the irritation dies down whether any of that damage will have a long term effect."
"So you're saying I could be blind?" said Sam and he heard Dean's sharp intake of breath.
"Not necessarily. I'm going to give you some drops that I want you to use twice a day, in both eyes, and you'll have to keep them bandaged to give them a chance to heal. You'll need to come back in a week's time and we'll see how things are progressing then. It's impossible to say at this stage if the damage will heal itself or if you may have any long term difficulties as a result."
It wasn't quite the 'everything will be fine' Sam had been hoping for and he couldn't bring himself to respond. Dean did that for him, thanking the doctor for his help and listening to instructions on how to administer the drops and change the dressings. Sam heard the crinkle of paper being torn from a sheet and felt Dean put it in his pocket. The doctor seemed to sense Sam's mood and directed his goodbyes at Dean, stating that he'd see them again in a week.
Sam turned his head at the softly spoken word, even though it was a futile gesture in his current condition. He could picture the look on Dean's face though as he continued. "He said they don't know what's going to happen so there's no point getting yourself worked up, ok? We're gonna go pick up this stuff and do exactly like he said, and we'll come back on Friday to see if it's any better."
Sam raised his eyebrows, painful as that was, and Dean grimaced as he realised his poor choice of words in that last statement.
"Alright, but you know what I mean. Don't go panicking just yet, Sam. We need to take it one step at a time, that's all."
Sam wished he felt that confident but he knew Dean was doing his best. "Ok. But you're gonna have to do the steering."
He could almost see Dean's grin. "Atta boy, Sammy. Come on, let's get these drops and stuff and get the hell out of here. Hospitals give me the creeps."
He got no argument from Sam as he helped him stand up and waited for him to grab hold of his arm. Walking slower than normal and being careful to point out everything in their path Dean got them to the pharmacy and then out to the car in one piece. He allowed himself to relax a little as he closed the door on his brother, settled once more in the passenger seat, and only then did he rub his hands over his face. As upbeat as he was trying to be for Sam's sake this was bad and they both knew it. He hadn't been able to see the damage himself with the lights off but the look on the doctor's face told him it was pretty serious.
Aware that Sam was probably beginning to wonder why he hadn't got in yet Dean pushed aside the thoughts and quickly opened the driver's door, sliding into the seat. He drove slowly back to the motel and after depositing Sam on his bed, he went to the office and extended their stay to the end of the week. When he came back Sam was sitting in exactly the same position he'd left him and for the first time that night it really hit Dean just how helpless his brother was without his sight.
Glad, for once, that Sam couldn't see his face Dean coughed to clear the lump in his throat before speaking. "I'm gonna go get some food so you can take these painkillers. You got any preference?"
Sam shook his head. "Something I can eat without having to see it?" he said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He heard Dean sigh but he didn't call him on it. "No problem. I'll be right back."
As he heard the lock click into place behind Dean, Sam dropped back onto the bed. He hadn't meant to lash out but right now he was more scared than he had been since the accident. He'd felt helpless then, unable to do anything to save his brother, and now he felt just the same except he was the one that needed saving. Or at least his eyesight did. Logically he knew he could survive even if the blindness was permanent but there was a hell of a difference between surviving and living. How would he be able to carry on hunting? To watch Dean's back? To do anything at all? Sitting in the empty motel room he realised he'd be totally reliant on Dean, and while he knew Dean would take that on without question he couldn't do that to him. Not again.
Frustrated at the route his thoughts were taking he sat up, shoving off his jacket and leaving it to drop onto the bed since he had no idea where the chair was. He considered taking a shower and then reconsidered, given the fact Dean would kill him if he knocked himself out or worse just trying to prove he wasn't useless. The room was too silent and he reached out with one hand, feeling his way along the bedside cabinet till he came across the clock radio. He turned the dial and music began to blare. He quickly turned it down and felt around behind him for the pillow, shoving it up against the headboard so he could lean against it. Having exhausted his limitations in that short time he sighed and waited as patiently as he could for Dean to return.
In the diner across the street Dean tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for his order. It had taken longer than he'd imagined to find something simple that could be eaten without too much hassle, if you couldn't see. He found himself wondering what it would be like if they had to do this permanently. Would they be able to eat out anymore? Or would Sam be too worried about getting food all over himself and feeling humiliated? They'd passed the point of Dean feeding him or cutting up his food about twenty years previously and they certainly couldn't go back there. There were so many things to consider – they'd have to get a special programme for the laptop, one of those speaking things that told you what was on the page. He'd have to do all the driving from now on, assuming of course that they had anywhere to go. Which led neatly to the big question – how were they going to carry on hunting if only one of them could see? Would Sam be prepared to stick to research? To wait in the car while Dean took care of the monster-of-the-week? Dean could answer that one without even thinking about it and it did not bode well for future conversations.
The waitress finally called out his number and Dean took the bag. As he walked back across the road he told himself sternly not to think about those thing just yet. This was temporary. Like he'd told Sam, they had to just take it one step at a time, for now.
And pray that it would fix itself.
Sam was grateful for the loud announcement as he heard someone unlock the door. He marvelled silently at how quickly Dean was adapting to this and wondered if it had anything to do with how well they knew each other. Certainly he could picture in his head what Dean would be doing, just from the noises he could hear – the rustle of a paper bag being dropped on the table, the creak of leather as Dean took off his jacket and shoved it on the back of a chair. The dull thud as his boots were kicked off, without undoing the laces. It was comforting really, not that he had any intention of announcing that aloud. Sympathy would only get him so far, after all.
"I got you a sandwich and some fries. Figured that'd be pretty easy to eat. Got the same for myself too."
Sam angled his head towards the sound of Dean's voice, trying to track his movements. He heard the sound of running water and the click of a switch that no doubt meant the coffee machine had been switched on. There was more rustling, this time from his right, as the food was taken out of the bag. He heard Dean's footsteps, light as they were, as he made his way over to Sam's bed.
"Here." Dean said, putting the sandwich and the bag of fries in Sam's hands. He waited for the nod that said his brother had them, then moved back into the kitchen area to deal with the coffee.
Sam made sure he had a firm grip on the sandwich in his hand and guided it to his mouth. He felt a few pieces drop out onto his lap but that was no different to when he ate a sandwich normally, so there was no need for embarrassment. It hadn't escaped his notice that Dean was limiting himself to eating exactly the same and he made a note that if – and he sincerely hoped it was 'if' – this turned out to be a more permanent problem then he'd have to make sure Dean didn't miss out on things just out of some sense of solidarity. He chewed and as he swallowed he put his head to one side. "Stop watching me eat."
Dean jumped and actually found himself looking to see if Sam's eyes were open, even though they were covered with bandages. Seeing a smirk forming on Sam's face Dean felt himself blush. "I wasn't." he said, defensively, and the smirk became a chuckle. "Yeah, sure you weren't." Sam replied, somewhat smugly.
Dean narrowed his gaze and busied himself rinsing out two mugs for the coffee. "You can knock it off with the Daredevil crap you know. It's not clever, it's just creepy."
Sam chuckled again. "As flattered as I am you're comparing me to a superhero, that's not it. I just know you. That's all."
Dean muttered something under his breath and Sam listened to the footsteps as his brother came towards his bed again. "Your coffee is just to your left, a couple of inches back from the edge and the front." said Dean, again giving Sam the information he needed to manage. Sam gave a more genuine smile this time. "Thanks."
He heard the rustle of covers as Dean sat down on the other bed and began eating his own food. The room was silent momentarily as they both chewed, but it didn't last long.
"What the hell is that we're listening to?"
Sam was surprised it had taken that long really. "It's the station it was already on. I could hardly retune it, could I?" he said, but there was no bite to the words this time just amusement.
"Well I can." said Dean and a few seconds later the music changed to something he considered more suitable.
Sam wished he could roll his eyes. "You know that's doing wonders for my headache, really." he said, dryly, and there was more rustling as Whitesnake was reduced to a slightly lower decibel level.
"Better?" Dean said and Sam just nodded, his mouth full.
As Dean ate he tried not to watch his brother too much, still not entirely convinced the earlier accuracy hadn't been the result of some hitherto unknown psychic power. Although, on reflection, it did make more sense that Sam just knew him far too well.
Even in their world.
He didn't really notice the sandwich or the fries, instead finding his mind wandering back to the thoughts he'd had earlier. If he didn't look at the stark white bandages covering Sam's eyes then it was almost possible to believe that there was nothing wrong. Except for the extra care in his movements, and the slight hesitation now and then when he reached for something. But just because you couldn't see the difficulties didn't mean they weren't there and he knew that depending on the news they got next Friday, they would have to change their lives beyond measure were this to become a permanent state of affairs.
"You do know I can hear you thinking from over here."
Dean glared, even if it was going unseen. That was definitely getting irritating. "I'm not thinking, I'm eating."
"Right, I forgot you can't do two things at once."
"Do you want me to let you bounce off the walls for the next week?"
Sam grinned as he carefully felt around for his coffee. It felt good to be bantering with Dean, even about this. It made things seem just a little more normal. Finding the mug exactly where Dean had said it would be, he picked it up and used both hands to bring it to his mouth.
Dean was relieved when that manoeuvre went without a hitch, although he kept that part quiet instead reaching for his own mug and downing half the contents in one gulp. He was glad to see that Sam was trying to maintain his sense of humour, so far, and vowed to do what he could to keep the mood light for the next few days.
Maybe that might distract both of them from thinking too much.
As Sam finished his coffee and put the mug back, Dean got up. "You wanna go ahead and take the first shower? I can take the bandages off, long as you keep your eyes closed. We'll put the drops in before I put them back on."
Sam felt his stomach flip at the thought of trying to take a shower in his current state, even if it was normally something he never even paid attention to. "Sure. Might as well milk the benefits of being an invalid, right?"
Dean frowned slightly but the tone was light enough for him to let it go. He could tell by the way Sam moved though that he was apprehensive and he tried to think of the least embarrassing way they could get around this. A thought occurred to him and he paused. "How do you want to do this, Sam?" he asked and he saw that it was definitely the right way to go when Sam gave him a grateful look. It meant a lot that Dean was giving him some semblance of control, given the fact he was totally dependent on him right now.
"If you could put my clothes in there, in some kind of order, and put my stuff in the shower then I should be fine. I can tell the difference between the shape of the bottles, so that won't be a problem. And can you put my towel on the sink, where I can reach it."
"Alright, just give me two seconds."
Sam listened to Dean as he moved about the room, gathering clothes and laying everything out in the bathroom. Dean was careful to put the clothes in the right order and made sure that the bottles in the shower were not too close together. Scanning the room to make sure nothing was lying around to be tripped over he went back to where Sam sat waiting patiently. "All set. You wanna hold onto my arm?"
Sam nodded and put his hand on Dean's arm, moving slowly. They navigated the small gap between the end of the beds and the chest of drawers without too much trouble and when they reached the bathroom Dean took Sam's hand and laid it on the pile of clothes. "That's your clean stuff there and your towel's on the side of the sink. I set the dial for you on the shower so the temperature should be ok."
Sam found himself unreasonably touched by that small gesture but put it down to the stress of the day. "Thanks. You promise it's not set to ice cold or anything?" he said, jokingly, and Dean adopted an insulted tone. "I'm hurt, Sam. As if I'd do anything like that."
"Says the man who filled my boxers with itching powder and one time left me bald for weeks."
Sam could imagine Dean's grin. "Yeah, well, I don't kick a man when he's down, Sammy. Let me just take these bandages off and I'll leave you to it."
Sam stood very still as Dean unwound the bandages and gently pulled away the gauze pads. He forced himself not to react when he saw the livid red marks sweeping across Sam's face, knowing that his brother was eerily capable of picking up any change in his mood. "You're good to go." he said, evenly, and Sam nodded. "Thanks. I won't lock the door but I'll be ok."
Accepting the hint that Sam wanted to do this for himself Dean left him to it, closing the door behind him. He walked over to the TV and put it on, switching off the radio, more to show Sam that he wasn't listening at the keyhole than because he actually wanted to watch anything.
Sam stood there for a moment after Dean left and smiled when he heard the sound of the TV. Trying to tell himself that this was no different to every other time he'd taken a shower he quickly stripped off his clothes and felt around for the edge of the bath. Keeping one hand on the side he stepped in, straightening up and feeling around for the shower controls. Finding them he hit the button, standing to one side until the water ran warm. Ducking his head under quickly he gasped as the water hit the burnt skin, making it feel like it was on fire all over again. Quickly turning round he angled himself so his face was clear of the spray and with only a little fumbling he managed to wash himself. Turning off the water he felt around for the edge of the bath again and stepped over it, feeling with the other hand for his towel. Once he was dry he managed to get it on the rail, feeling absurdly satisfied with that small victory, and reached out until he felt his clothes. Dean had indeed put them in logical order and it took him barely a minute to dress himself, making sure to put the labels at the back. He shook his head ruefully as he realised he hadn't been this pleased about getting his own clothes on since he was about five years old.
Finding the door handle on his second attempt he opened it and went into the other room, his hands out in front to stop himself bouncing off the furniture.
"That was fast." said Dean, jumping off the bed and hurrying over to help. Sam heard him coming and waved him off. "Let me try on my own. I can't spend the whole week holding your hand."
Dean snorted but stood back, understanding the desire for independence. "I wasn't offering, princess."
Sam smirked but was too busy concentrating to form a proper reply. He kept expecting to fall any second, even though he knew Dean would warn him if he really was about to trip over something. The trouble was, he couldn't expect Dean to be with him 24/7 so he needed to get a handle on how to manage this by himself.
Even if it would only be for one week.
Dean was almost as pleased as Sam was when his brother made it to his bed without incident. It might not be the most graceful way of moving about, and the way he waved his hands in front of him made it look like some bizarre parody of pin the tail on the donkey, but it worked and that was what mattered. "Nice job." he said, sincerely, and Sam ducked his head.
Now he was settled Sam waited for Dean to gather the creams, drops and bandages and sat as still as possible as his eyes were covered and re-wrapped. The drops felt cold but not painful, although getting them in was somewhat trial and error. The first time he'd blinked and it had ended up running down his face but Dean had said nothing, simply wiping the wetness away and trying again. It was surprising how patient his brother could be, when it really mattered.
As Dean finished wrapping the bandages Sam felt ridiculously tired all of a sudden and more than ready for sleep. "What time is it?" he said and felt Dean lift his arm to glance at his watch. "11:45"
Happy with everything, Dean cleared away the stuff and tipped out two painkillers in his hand. Filling a glass with water he walked back over to the bed. "Here, you should take these." he said, putting the pills in Sam's open palm and folding his other hand securely around the glass.
Sam didn't argue, given that his head was throbbing almost in time with the skin on his face. Swallowing them down, and managing not to tip the water all over himself, he handed the glass back to Dean. "Thanks."
Dean watched as Sam slid down under the covers, getting himself comfortable. "I'm gonna take a shower then. Just yell if you need anything."
Sam listened as Dean got fresh clothes out of his bag and heard the click as the door to the bathroom was closed behind him. As he heard the shower start up, he turned onto his back. The TV was still on quietly in the background and he could hear noises from outside – a dog barking, a car engine starting up. A quiet conversation between two people as they walked past their door. He tried to imagine what it would be like to live this way forever, only hearing the world go by without ever being able to see any of it. His eyes burned, and not from the damage, and he mentally shook himself. Now was not the time to start bawling, if for no other reason than it would wash out the drops and undo all the work Dean had just done. Sniffing, Sam turned over again and tried to concentrate on going to sleep.
Dean meanwhile had his head forward, resting against the tiles, as the hot water loosened the tension in his neck. It felt like a lifetime ago that they'd left this room with the simple intent to rid the world of one more angry spirit. Whilst they'd done what they set out to do, the price this time had been far too high. He scrubbed his face with his hands, trying to work out if there was something – anything – that they could have done differently. But that was the worst part, there really wasn't. They'd done everything properly, the way they always did, but this time they'd simply been unlucky.
Sam had been unlucky.
As he washed himself Dean was forced to admit that there was nothing he could have done to protect his brother this time. All he could do now was try and get him through the next few days and hope like hell that it was good news when the bandages came off on Friday.
Dean wasn't sure if it was the cursing or the sound of breaking glass that had woken him, but either way he was out of bed even before his eyes were properly open. "Sam?" he said and heard a long drawn out sigh come from the bathroom.
"I'm in here."
Rubbing his eyes Dean stumbled over to the doorway, taking in the scene in front of him. Sam stood to one side, his fists clenching and unclenching. The front of his tee shirt was soaking wet and there was water all over the floor. In the sink lay the remnants of one of the motel glasses. Dean rubbed his forehead but kept his tone calm when he spoke. "What happened?"
Sam turned to him, his expression dark around the bandages. "What do you think happened? The cripple here dropped the glass and threw water everywhere. I thought I was supposed to be the blind one?"
Dean winced at the acerbic tone and reminded himself they'd actually done pretty well so far. Five days stuck in a motel room, with most of their usual ways of passing the time off limits, there'd actually been very few arguments and hardly any mishaps. Of course today was the day they were going back to the hospital and it was only natural that Sam's nerves would be on edge.
As were his own.
Deciding the practical approach would be best Dean grabbed a towel and quickly mopped up the water before Sam could slip on it. "Why don't you sit down and I'll take care of this." he said.
Sam said nothing, pushing past and feeling his way round the room. He almost didn't need to now, having gotten to know the layout like the back of his hand, but it was force of habit to keep his hands in front of him just in case.
Dropping down onto his bed Sam listened to Dean cleaning up his mess and felt the anger drain out of him. Running a hand through his hair he let out a long sigh. He'd been equally dreading and longing for this day ever since his accident and now he felt wound tighter than a spring. The time they'd spent stuck in the motel had actually been better than he'd expected. They'd watched – or in his case, listened – to old movies, talked about random, unimportant stuff. They'd even researched, Dean reading out loud what he was seeing on screen. Neither of them had broached the fact that there might not be a next job, for him anyway, and at times it had felt like his blindness was the biggest ever elephant in the corner of the room. Dean had offered a couple of times to take a walk, just down to the nearby park, but Sam had shied away from going outside. At least in the safety of their room if he fell there was no one to laugh at him, but out there he wouldn't risk the humiliation. Dean hadn't pushed, understanding perfectly since he would have been exactly the same. Instead, he'd simply stayed inside as well venturing out only to get food. Sam had tried to persuade him to get out for a couple of hours, even if it was only to get a beer, but Dean had stubbornly refused. Sam was grateful but it made him worry even more about how they'd manage if this was forever.
And now he was only hours away from knowing and he was terrified. He turned his head towards the bathroom as he heard Dean come out, listening as the broken pieces of glass clinked against each other when his brother carefully put them in the trash. He heard the rustle as Dean sat down on the bed opposite him.
"You want to change out of that wet tee shirt?"
Sam shrugged. "I guess so."
Dean tried not to be too upset by the dull tone, knowing that Sam was on tenterhooks about his appointment. He rummaged around in Sam's duffel until he came up with a clean shirt and handed it to him, stepping back and letting Sam change it himself. He'd quickly learnt that if he didn't interfere it made things a lot more bearable, even if it was hard to stand back. He wanted to help but he understood that in this instance that actually was helping. He picked up the discarded one when Sam was done, opening it out on the back of one of the chairs to dry.
"We need to talk, before we go to the hospital." said Sam, suddenly, and Dean turned round. He had a feeling he wasn't going to like this.
"Ok. What about?"
"The Superbowl. What do you think, Dean!"
Dean rolled his eyes, safe since Sam couldn't see him. He hadn't actually been trying to be sarcastic, he genuinely wasn't sure exactly what his brother wanted to talk about. Other than the obvious. Deciding that one of them needed to stay calm he let it go. "Fine, you want to talk about your eyes. What about it?"
"How about the fact it might be permanent? We can't just ignore this, it's not going to go away just because we don't talk about it."
"I know that, Sam. But I still say there's no point talking about the 'what ifs' until we know for sure. There's just as much chance that your eyes are gonna be fine when we get down there today. You already said you thought you could see some blurry shapes when I was putting the drops in yesterday."
"Oh yeah, blurry shapes. That's brilliant. I take it you won't have any problem with me driving the Impala on that basis? Or pointing a shotgun in your direction?" Sam demanded and Dean tried not to sound as exasperated as he felt. "Of course not, but they're going to rinse out your eyes properly at the hospital and it might not be just blurry shapes then. Just because they're still healing doesn't mean your sight won't come back completely, in time."
"How much time? Can we afford to sit on our asses in motel room after motel room, waiting for me? Or are you going to hunt by yourself? Cos that always works out so well."
"Hey, I'm not the one who set fire to my face, Sam."
"Oh so now it's my own fault? That's nice, Dean."
Dean took a breath. This was not helping. "No, of course it's not your fault. Listen, we're both a little worried about this appointment and right now we're not gonna help matters by getting into a fight. Let's just see what the doctor says, ok?"
Sam leant forward, his elbows on his knees. "I can't. I need to think about what happens if he tells me I'll never get my sight back. I need to be prepared, you know?"
Dean sighed and sat down next to his brother. "Ok. What do you think is gonna happen, if – and I mean if – that is the case?"
Sam swallowed. "We'll need to split up."
He could feel Dean's stare and could picture the incredulous expression.
"Are you kidding me? Did those drops melt through to your brain or something? We are not going to split up just because you can't see, Sam! Don't be an idiot."
"I'm not being an idiot, I'm being practical! I know I can't stop you hunting but maybe you could hook up with Bobby, for the big stuff. You need someone to watch your back and I won't be able to do it anymore. It's not like you can't still visit me, when you get the chance."
"Visit? And where exactly will you be while all this is going on?"
Sam shrugged. "I don't know. They have those houses, for people that are. Different. I'll be able to manage."
Dean tried not to feel hurt but it wasn't easy. Sam was sitting there telling him he'd rather live in some sheltered accommodation somewhere, with the odd visit now and then, than stay on the road with him.
He might as well have stabbed Dean with his own knife.
"Fine. If that's what you want, then fine. I'm not gonna force you to stay where you don't want to."
He went to stand up but Sam's hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, with unerring accuracy for a blind man. "I didn't say I don't want to stay," he began but Dean interrupted him. "Not in so many words, no, but it was pretty clear."
Sam shook his head, frustrated, still not letting go. "I'm doing this for you, Dean – can't you see that? I'm just gonna be a burden like this and I won't have you give up your life for me, not again! All my life – all your life – you've taken care of me, looked out for me. And I appreciate it, but I am not going to let you give up everything for the rest of our lives! Look at this last week – you've barely left the motel room, hell you've even forced yourself to eat the same as me just so I don't feel like I'm missing out! I'm the one who's blind here, not you, and I'm not gonna sit back while you live like that."
"But what, it'll be so much better for me to leave you in some crappy halfway house while I go on hunting by myself? Wow, you're right, that is a much better life for me to have! You want to pack your bags or shall I?"
Sam was almost glad he couldn't see Dean's face right now because he could imagine exactly the look he'd be getting. Before he could say anything though, Dean carried on.
"You know you're supposed to be so smart – do you have any idea how dumb this plan of yours is? Let me ask you a question, Sam. If it were the other way around, if it were me who was blind, would you really leave me behind somewhere so you could go get on with your life?"
Sam didn't answer, knowing that Dean would catch him in the lie if he came out and said it. There was a heavy silence for a moment and when Dean spoke again his voice was rough.
"Yeah. So it's just me you think would do something like that. That's nice, Sam. That's really nice."
"Dean, I didn't," Sam never finished the sentence as he heard the door click and realised he was alone. He took a shaky breath, knowing with a sick feeling in his stomach that somehow his attempt to try and do right by his brother had just ended up hurting him instead. He sat there, feeling his heart thudding in his chest. He needed to fix this and he needed to do it now.
Standing up he started heading for the door. He had no idea how he was gonna follow Dean, or even how he was going to cope being outside, but he couldn't stay there like this. Feeling for the door handle he finally found it and wrenched the door open. Stumbling outside he put one hand behind him, feeling the wall. His heart was thudding for a different reason now, the panic at being outside and unable to see anything kicking in. He swallowed, his mouth dry and a wave of dizziness washed over him. He shivered as he went hot, then cold but he took another step forward, trying to remember if there was a drop down into the parking lot. He was about to take another when a hand grabbed his arm and he jerked backwards, stumbling as he tried to get away.
"What the hell are you doing now?"
Sam felt a wave of relief at hearing Dean's voice, even if he did sound majorly pissed still. He reached out with his other arm, flailing around until it latched onto Dean's sleeve. "I was looking for you." he said, slightly embarrassed that his voice sounded as shaky as he felt.
Dean gave him an exasperated look that was of course entirely wasted. "Looking for me? How exactly?"
Sam blushed and ducked his head. It did sound kind of stupid when you said it out loud. He heard Dean sigh. "I wasn't going to leave you alone, I was just sitting out here for a minute that's all. I figured it might be better to calm down before one of us said something we couldn't take back."
Sam felt a lump appear in his throat, partly at how weary his brother sounded and partly at the fact that – even mad – Dean hadn't gone far enough away that he wouldn't be there if Sam needed him.
Now he felt even worse.
"Dean, I'm sorry – I never meant it to come out like it did, I swear. I just couldn't stand the thought of you giving up everything to take care of me. You've already done that once, you deserve better. I didn't want to drag you down with me and I thought this would be the best way round it. I never meant to imply that you'd just abandon me, or to make you the bad guy. I really am sorry."
The entire sentence was blurted out in one breath, the words almost tripping over one another. Sam waited anxiously for a response, wishing he could see Dean's face and have some idea of what he was thinking.
It was obvious to Dean how worked up Sam was getting about all this and whether he went by his brother's expression, or the fact that he'd stumbled outside with no notion of where he was going or how he was gonna get there, it was clear that he really hadn't meant to wound with what he'd said before. Accepting that perhaps the stress of the last week had made him overreact a little himself, Dean shifted so that he had a better grip on Sam's arm.
"Fine. We'll just chalk it up to the fact you suck at explaining yourself. Although you might wanna work on that a little, just for future reference. Now do you think we could stop making a scene out here and get back inside?"
The words were gruff but the tone told Sam that he really was forgiven – again. Feeling relieved he offered no resistance as Dean led him back inside, closing the door behind them. Sitting back down on the bed he listened as Dean went into the kitchen area and started the coffee machine. Sam wasn't sure either of them really needed the caffeine right now but he knew it was partly for Dean to have something to do so he said nothing.
"Here." Dean held out the mug and waited until Sam had a firm grip on it before he let go.
"Thanks." said Sam, cradling it with both hands and blowing on the liquid to cool it down. Deciding to be the first one to break the slightly awkward silence he took a deep breath. "So about what I was saying, before. I might have explained it badly but I still stand by what I meant – if this is permanent then we won't be able to carry on like we have been."
"I know that, but we're not going with your dumb ass plan so you can forget it. We'll adapt, Sam. Just like we always do. Besides, you don't even know what they're gonna say yet so how about we hold off on the decision making until we know for sure, ok?"
Sam nodded, reluctantly, and carried on drinking his coffee. He still wasn't happy but he knew it was the best he was gonna get and the last thing he wanted to do was start another argument. He could feel the tension building already and he really couldn't decide if he wanted the whole thing to be over with or to put it off so he didn't have to know for definite.
An hour later he still hadn't decided as he sat on the bed in the exam room, tapping his fingers nervously against his thigh.
"Would you cut that out?"
Sam jumped and clenched his fist, aiming an apologetic look in Dean's general direction. Dean shook his head, nudging Sam's shoulder slightly since he couldn't see that, and looked at his watch for the fifteenth time.
"What the hell is taking this guy so long?" he muttered, feeling almost as nervous as Sam was. As if on cue the doctor appeared, looking harried.
"Sorry I'm late, we had a slight emergency. Right, let's get these bandages off shall we?"
It was a rhetorical question but Sam nodded anyway, tensing up even before the doctor touched him. As if by magic Dean's hand appeared on his shoulder again, keeping him grounded as he tried to remember the simple stuff like breathing.
Dean had been changing the dressings every day so he knew that the skin had calmed down from the vivid red that it had been to start with. The swelling had also gone down, making Sam's eyes look almost normal except for the slight rawness that still lingered. If anything it just looked like Sam had spent too long in the sun. Dean only hoped that his eyes were healing just as well underneath.
Sam silently endured the bathing with a cloth and saline solution again, and the doctor had him lean forward to wash the eyes out with the solution as well. He knew his hands were shaking as he took the towel to dry his face and eyes, gently, and he felt Dean squeeze his shoulder and knew his brother had seen it too. He kept his eyes shut, as instructed, and heard a click that this time he recognised as the main light being switched off.
"Alright, we're going to get you to open your eyes now and I want you to take it slowly. They're going to be very sensitive, especially as they've been covered for the last week, so don't panic if you can't see clearly at first."
Easy for you to say, thought Sam, feeling his stomach doing back flips. Steeling himself, and drawing strength from the firm grip Dean still had on his shoulder, he tentatively opened his eyes. At first he couldn't see anything and he blinked rapidly, feeling them start to water automatically. He resisted the urge to rub them, knowing that wasn't a good idea, and instead kept blinking to try and clear the fuzziness.
Dean was holding his breath, willing everything to be ok. He was certain time had never moved so slowly and it took monumental effort not to rush Sam and ask what he could see.
Squinting slightly Sam lifted his head up, still blinking. He turned so that he was facing Dean and for a moment he was silent, then he couldn't stop the grin spreading across his face. "You never told me you hit your head."
Dean's hand unconsciously went to the bruise that stood out on his temple, courtesy of a flying table, having almost forgotten about it after what had happened with Sam. He was about to defend the fact he hadn't mentioned it before when it suddenly hit him – Sam had seen the bruise.
Sam could see the bruise!
Letting out the breath he'd been holding Dean just shrugged, knowing he was grinning like an idiot just as Sam was. "Yeah, well. You never asked."
The doctor cleared his throat politely, reminding them he was still there, and Sam turned back to face him.
"Well, I assume that was a yes as to whether you can see?" he said, dryly, and Sam nodded vigorously. "Yeah, yeah I can see. It's a little blurry round the edges, and it still kinda hurts a little, but I can definitely see."
"Excellent. I'd still like you to use the drops for another week and I'd recommend wearing sunglasses outside for another couple of days, just until your eyes adjust to the light again. You should still apply the cream to the outer skin as well, it will help stop any scarring. I'm just going to take a quick look, if that's ok with you?"
Sam endured the exam patiently, feeling a slight thrill when the beam of light actually made him wince slightly. Satisfied, the doctor stood up. "That all looks to be healing nicely. I'd say in a few weeks time you shouldn't have any remaining difficulties at all."
Both Winchesters beamed at him, Dean holding out his hand and shaking the doctor's firmly. "That's great, doc. Thanks."
"Yes, thank you." added Sam, feeling almost giddy with relief.
Accepting the thanks modestly the doctor left them to it, moving on to his next patient. Sam turned to look at Dean again, feeling his face starting to ache from the smiling but unable to stop. Dean rolled his eyes but he was grinning too still and Sam chuckled at the simple fact he could see the eye rolls now instead of just picturing them in his head.
"Come on, let's get out of here. Before someone thinks you're an escapee from the Psyche ward with that dumb look on your face."
Sam ignored the jibe, instead taking pleasure in the simple act of looking where he was going. The fluorescent light hurt his eyes a little and he shaded them with one hand, still feeling them water like he had a bad case of hayfever. Dean reached into his pocket and held out Sam's sunglasses. Sam took them, giving him a quizzical look.
"I figured you'd need them, once the bandages came off." came the reply and for a second Sam stared. He wasn't quite sure what to say in the face of such optimism and he wondered whether Dean had just been avoiding dealing with the issue or if he'd really had that much faith that everything would be alright. He was saved from having to respond though by Dean's awkward shrug and a nudge to get him moving again. Slipping the glasses on Sam felt instant relief as his eyes stopped stinging quite so much and the watering abated.
As they walked towards the Impala, Sam's grin grew wider. It really did look so good, even though he wasn't going to give Dean any ammunition by actually saying that out loud.
"Hey, can I drive?" he did say, and was rewarded with a horrified look. "Yeah, right. Ask me again when everything's not blurry anymore." said Dean, indignantly, and Sam laughed out loud having already known what the answer would be.
Getting in the passenger side Sam wound down his window, eagerly watching the scenery go by as they headed back to pick up their stuff from the motel. By silent agreement he knew they'd be staying somewhere else tonight, the room having too many difficult memories from the past week for both of them. He glanced over at Dean, watching him for a moment as he steered with one hand, resting the other on the open window and humming along to the radio. Sensing the scrutiny Dean looked over. "What?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing. Just, thanks."
There was no need to elaborate and Dean just nodded. As Sam went back to looking out the window again he wondered what would have happened if things hadn't gone so well. Deep down he knew the answer to the question though – they would have dealt with it, together, just like they always did.
And maybe that certainty was better than all the blind faith in the world.