Summary: Sam and Dean are on a hunt for a garden variety ghost when a drunk driver derails their plans and may just change their lives forever. Sam suffers a debilitating injury and Dean is left to pick up the pieces. **Be warned there may be spoilers** There be cussing here.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I gain nothing from this story but the pure enjoyment of putting this idea out there. I don't have any power over the show, it's wonderful characters, or franchise and take no gratuity in return.
A/U: **This chapter is not my best work, but I hope that you enjoy it anyway. Basically this is a filler/fluff chapter and I promise the action will be picking up sooner rather than later, but I needed to put this in to explain Sam's state of mind for upcoming chapters.**
Heat was the first thing he noticed, smoldering and cooking him from inside out, his cocoon of sleep only slightly protecting him from the shrill blanket of warmth practically drowning him. What the hell? He thought, running a dry tongue over cracked lips. The next thing he noticed was the sound of someone unsuccessfully moving around somewhere off to his left. Faint cuss words floating mischievously in the rancid morning air. With a slight twist of his legs, he managed to dislodge himself from the dank motel comforter he'd been immersed in. His body covered in a thick sheen of sticky, glazed sweat. Wrinkled boxers, damp and clingy underneath a mass of shabby bedding, hung vindictively, while playfully chafing the very area's they were designed to protect. With a frustrated sigh, Dean opened his eyes.
Rays of rich, brilliant sunshine assaulted his retinas causing him to dive for cover under his free hand. It took a moment, but finally, Dean was able to focus. No longer a painful blur of bright intrusion he was able to recognize his surroundings. He was in the motel room he'd rented with Mr. Darknell's credit card sometime late last night. Barely able to keep his eyes open, the selection of residence had come down to the first exit off the freeway.
The place was a dump, even by Winchester standards. Surrounded by integrated freeway routes, train tracks, and the occasional call girl, it was decorated in dirty brown's and flamboyant yellows. The dumpy little establishment hadn't seen a paint job in over thirty years and Dean was incredibly surprised when he was quoted for a entire night instead of an hourly rate at check in. But as was more often than not the case, it was a place to lay their heads and sleep in something larger than the Impalas back seat so they paid. Besides, at 1:30 in the morning with no sleep and a heat wave from hell the place may as well have been heaven. Dean made a promise right then and there, that once they reached Bobby's both him and Sam were taken some serious downtime. Burning the candle at both ends had to stop for awhile, at least until Sam was doing better.
Even though Dean had pleaded with Sam to join him for breakfast that first morning, back at the truck stop, Sam had refused stating he had a horrible headache and could barely stand. Dean knew that wasn't the case, his brother would never let a headache stop him from living, but figured Sam had a right to feel insecure and let it slide. Over the course of the last few days, however, it hadn't gotten any better and it was obvious to the older sibling that his brother needed to accept things or they'd both end up in the nuthouse. As Dean was left to pick the meals as of late, he'd purposely been buying items that, under normal circumstances, would drive his borderline vegan brother insane. It was his attempt at trying to coax the kid out of the thickening cocoon he'd begun to wrap himself in, but even that had failed and now Dean was starting to get worried.
Ever since the first motel, Sam had been making excuses as to why he couldn't go into public places. It didn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out the kid was scared but he had to face reality sooner or later. Dean had to find someway to bring Sam out of this state of hibernation before he buried himself so far in he'd never resurface. The youngest name sake may be a geek but the kid had spunk and lately that spunk had diminished so much it'd practically disappeared altogether. Pulled under by a pool of uncertainty and despair that now shrouded his entire world Sam, himself, was beginning to fade away.
Despite all his taunting and teasing, Dean loved having his kid brother with him and missed the usual banter, pranks, and general disagreements that always arose. It kept him grounded in a world of uncertainty and degradation and let him know not everything in this world revolved around flesh eating monsters or black eyed demons. These days Sam was reserved, scary quiet, and going out of his way to avoid anything and everything. He didn't laugh, didn't argue, and didn't speak unless spoken to first. The guy didn't even protest when Dean called him Sammy. Now if that wasn't a sign that something was wrong, Dean didn't know what was.
It was like his kid brother had been swallowed up by a pod person and replaced with a less then adequate copy. He was a shell of his former self and that, above all else, scared the hell out of Dean.
The fact that Sam was up and mulling around intrigued the older brother. It'd been getting harder and harder just to get the guy out of bed and dressed let alone into the bathroom without prompting. Now all of a sudden he was awake, pissing and moaning, and spewing choice words at inanimate objects. Maybe Sam was starting to come around. The kid was always so resilient, this time it just must have taken him longer than usual. Maybe he'd get his pain in the ass little brother back after all and burry just a piece of the worry he'd been housing. Dean always made it a point to pick on Sam, that's what big brothers did. Nitpicking every oddity the younger Winchester possessed, but truth be told, he didn't want this version, he wanted the obnoxious, whining, touchy feely Sammy they'd all grown to know and love.
The most disturbing part of Sam's new attitude was his lack of self esteem and the overpowering desire he had to disappear when anyone other than his brother was near by. As a matter of fact, Dean still hadn't figured out how Sam had managed to ditch the last group of people they'd encountered. It was obvious by the noise he was making now that he couldn't even find a door knob, let alone pull a Houdini and vanish. But true to Sam Winchester form, he pulled it off and wouldn't divulge the secret as to how he did it. After shelving the panic attack he'd had, thinking his brother had been abducted by aliens, or Demons, or, hell, even angels, he'd found the kid sitting in their room staring out a window he couldn't see. Completely mute as to the details of how he got there.
"Son of a bitch!" Sam shrieked from behind the closed bathroom door. Instantly regretting his volume as Dean was finally sleeping peacefully for the first time in days. Playing nurse maid to their blind brother would tire anyone out, but with his brother it was like caging a wild stallion in a fish tank and Sam was painfully aware of that fact. All he'd wanted to do, when he woke up in a pool of his own fermenting sweat, was take a cold shower and wash the puddles of salt that had collected on his grungy body down an invisible drain. Problem was, even a task as simple as that, seemed to evade him at the best of times these days.
Their current residence was a dump, Sam didn't need eyes to figure that one out. It smelled like cigarettes, urine, and an old folk's home. The walls shook whenever someone moved and the sheets felt like a combination of nail shavings and cheese cloth. No matter how much he tried, he just couldn't relax, let alone sleep. Dean, on the other hand, although constantly complaining about the heat, had managed to conk out the minute his head hit the waif of a pillow below it. But Sam, well, he just couldn't get past his own thoughts, add in the tumultuous temperature and he was finished before he even began.
The heat was seeping into Sam's soul, suffocating him. Strangling his every fiber like a cotton blanket in water. He had no idea what time it was, but could feel sun blasting through the bathroom window encouraging his already ragging headache to increase its pounding tenfold. Who knew light could still give you a headache when you couldn't see it. Yeah that was fair.
And, yes, Sam did know it was a window because when he'd entered the room and tripped over the stupid little plastic trashcan crammed in the corner, he'd managed to fall face first into the mesh that separated the outside from in. Now, to top it all off, he had to take a leak and although he knew where the toilet was, the freedom to stand over the bowl and piss still eluded him. Surprisingly enough, not being able to see where to aim created quite a predicament. How many times over the last few days, had his big brother cleaned up his misguided trajectory? Sam thought to himself. He couldn't remember, but he wasn't going to give him an opportunity to do it again. Deflated and frustrated, Sam plopped down on the moist seat and went about his business.
This whole helpless routine was getting pretty damn old and it had only been a few miserable days. What if I'm stuck like this? What if I'm forced to spend the rest of my life trapped in darkness? Sam thought. There was no way Sam way going to let his big brother become his nurse maid and if he'd had any guts at all, he'd of found a way to make sure of that. More than once, Sam had imagined what it would be like to down the entire bottle of painkillers he'd been given and let the whole horrible world just slip away. But then he'd hear Dean's worried voice and the thought would pass by unabated. He couldn't do that to his brother. It would kill him and after what the guy'd already been through to keep him alive it wasn't an option. Dean had sold his soul to keep him alive, the least Sam could do was suck it up and live in this blindness the best way he knew how. Which at the moment meant sticking his head in the sand and ignoring everything.
Pulling himself out of his current daydream, Sam set forth to finish what he'd started. If it killed him he was going to take a freakin shower. By himself, like a big boy. He was tired of having his independence stripped from him, replaced by gentle tugs and placated sympathies. More than anything he wanted to be whole again. Sam didn't miss the whispers when he was forced into public. He felt the stares boring holes in the back of his head when he dared to venture out of the car or motel room. Only days ago he was normal, or as normal as anybody in his line of work could be, and now here he was, even more of a freak than what his childhood molded him into. In the course of a day he'd gone from flawed but strong and independent, to weak and helpless. Broken in every conceptual way, the youngest Winchester was left with only a frail imprint of his former self.
Sam smirked as he thought of what his father, the great John Winchester, would think of him now, so helpless and weak. Useless. Oh how the Winchester pride would swell at that one. Not only a complete waste to the hunting community, but also a hindrance to everyday society. Not to mention his brother. If the man was disappointed in him before, Sam could only imagine what kind of disdain he'd have for him now.
Pushing the salt crusted covers off his now exposed legs, Dean scooted to the edge of the bed and prepared to stand.
"Damn broken down, piece of crap motels with their shitty appliances and non-existent amenities." He grumbled prying off the last of the sweat soaked linens clinging to him.
At check in, Dean had been assured the air-conditioning worked and it had until they'd unloaded everything and were too tired to find someplace else. Teetering on the edge of full blown sleep, Dean could recall a loud snap as the machine died and the air swelled with heat. His last thoughts before sleep claimed him; of the pudgy balding, squid of a man sliding a rusty key over the counter, one more assurance resting on his fat lips that the ventilator was cooling the room as they spoke. Damn owner probably planned it that way. Dean thought, eyeing the dilapidated contraption. Hurry them along, get their money, eagerly trying to settled them in, knowing full well the damn contraption only had minutes to live. Dean tabled his brewing annoyance, at least for now, standing and stretching as he tried to relieve a little of the kinks in his aching back. He prepared for another smoldering day.
Another curse sailed through the air making Dean's lips curl into an irritated smirk. The trail of destruction leading to the bathroom door made it clear where Sam currently resided. Apparently he wasn't as acclimated with this room, as he'd been with the last four before it. Dean had tried to make Sam use the cane given to him at the hospital, but stubborn to a fault, his sibling used every excuse in the book in order to avoid it.
Each day that passed with no improvement in his vision, had caused Sam to retreat further and further inside himself. Each minute he spent in the dark caused the younger man to become more introverted and withdrawn. If Dean didn't say something soon Sam would just shut down and quite living altogether. Then where would they be? Dean had thought losing Jess was the lowest point for his brother, but this, stripping away his self worth, was far worse.
Watching a person as independent and headstrong as his kid brother, somebody who could take on their father without even breaking a sweat, being reduced to complete dependence was paralyzing and way scarier than the prospect of hell had ever been. Each time he looked into his brothers big, hazel orbs, Dean's heart tore a little more knowing they were useless to the kid. Sam's eyes, still so expressive and vibrant, were beginning to dull. The toll of his blindness choking the sparkle of life he'd always managed to retain/ possess. His expressions of emotion no longer clearly visible through them.
Dean mentally cursed the fact that he was powerless to help or change the current tragedy they found themselves in. For the first time, in his life, Dean wished he were something other than a hunter. If he were a doctor, at least then, he'd have something in his arsenal to fight what was attacking his brother so virulently.
"Son of a bitch!" Sam cried as his cheap, flimsy razor slipped from his grasp. He could hear it shatter as it hit the broken porcelain edge of the cracked sink below. Leaving what he could only assume were splinters of useless plastic everywhere.
A second later, another curse slipped from his dry lips. "Stupid, substandard piece of crap!"
As Sam knelt down, he used his long arms to locate the remains of his now useless toiletry, he couldn't help but feel sorry for himself and his current predicament. Everything inside the small room was swathed in a blanket of clammy heat. He didn't want to think of what kind of germ infested colonies he was sticking his hands into but also didn't want to risk stepping on the damn instrument and slicing open the bottom of his bare feet. The only upside to dropping the dam thing now, was he hadn't yet taken his shower and could wash the rancid carnage off.
Dean heard the new curse and pushed his aching body forward. As he made his way to the door, he could hear his six foot four inch brother clumsily searching for something. Whispered expletives drifted under the break of the door causing Dean to snicker one more time. It was hard to miss, considering with every thunk or bump from inside the hidden room, the walls shook and another angry word would surface and penetrate the feeble paneling separating them. Dean quickly stifled his amusement and pushed the warped blockade open.
Sam heard the distinct creak of the door as it was pushed open and momentarily froze. He had been making that much noise? Now Dean was disturbed from the first solid night's sleep he'd had since this whole ordeal began, great! Feeling for the flat lip of the soap scum dyed tub, Sam sat down and waited for his brother to scold his stupidity.
"Jesus, Sammy, what the hell are you doing in here, demolition?"
Sam grimaced. "I was trying to take a shower and dropped my damn razor." He spat angrily waving his hands in the air then resting them on his thighs. "Sorry, I was trying to be quiet so you could sleep."
"If that's your indoor voice, Sammy, I'd hate to hear your outdoor one." Dean teased, shaking his head. The older brother then bent down to pick up the razor's shattered remains.
"These things are such a piece of shit. That's the last time I buy disposable razors from a burger stand. Why the hell didn't you wake me up, Sam, I could have gotten this all ready for you?"
Sam's lip curled into a hard shelf of defiance, as his nostrils flared from pent up anger. "Because I'm not two years old, Dean. I'm tired of my big brother setting out my clothes and cleaning up my piss. I wanted to do it myself!"
Dean pulled the lid of the toilet down to sit and faced his distraught baby brother.
"Dude, you will, but, God Sammy, it's only been a week, do you really think you're gonna have it all down in a day? Nobody's that good, not even you, brainiac. Don't be such a douche."
A smile cracked Sam's harsh scowl, the tension on his face loosening slightly. "You know Dean you really should work on your pep talks, they kinda blow."
Shrugging his shoulders, Dean stood up and grabbed Sam's right hand placing a new razor inside. "Well if you still want to take that shower I suggest you do it soon or I'm kicking your blind ass out so I can take one. It's so fucking hot in here, my grandchildren are melting."
Sam snorted and stood up himself. "You and children, now that's something I'd like to see."
Dean's forehead wrinkled into a scowl. "What the hell is that supposed to mean Sam, I've been babysitting your butt since I was four years old"
Dean flexed his fingers and began counting them. "I've changed your diapers, cleaned up your puke, even gave you new sheets when you wet the others. If I can raise you I can raise anybody. I'm a pro."
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Mrs. Doubtfire, now get the hell out of here so I can shower." Sam's arms flailed until his hands connected with his brother's bare shoulders and pushed him towards the open doorway.
"Aagghh, jeeze Dean, please tell me you didn't sleep in the buff." Sam made a gagging noise as he thrust the elder Winchester forwords.
"You wish, you perv. Wouldn't want to give you any ideas, Samantha."
"Get out!" Sam huffed trying to grab the handle but missing by a mile.
"My pleasure." Dean smirked as he punched his little brother in the shoulder.
"What the hell was that for you jerk."
Dean shrugged. "Just showing my love, bitch. Now quit stalling and get your stinky ass clean, we're going out to eat this morning and I don't want your stench embarrassing me."
Sam's face blanched, the humor that was there seconds earlier now replaced by palpable fear.
"I'll just stay here Dean. You can get me something while I'm in the shower."
"No way dude, I'm tired of being your waitress. For freaks sake all I'm missing is a pink uniform and a lacey apron." Dean did a impromptu pirouette in the middle of the room.
"I'm not hungry Dean." Sam tried. "I'll just eat something from a drive up later on, once we're on the road."
Sam tried to push the door closed, but Dean's foot blocked his attempt. In his best big brother, John Winchester tone Dean spoke. "You're going Sam, so hurry the hell up, I still need to shower too and I don't want to pay another night for this hell hole."
"No Sammy!" Dean demanded cutting his brother off mid-sentence. "It's time to start living again, whether you like it or not, and the first step is eating, together, in public."
Sam knew when he was defeated and closed his gapping mouth. He knew this was coming, knew Dean wouldn't take his excuses forever, but had hoped they'd get him as far as Bobby's where it'd be twice as hard for anybody to force him outside.
Dean patted Sam's shoulder. "Chop chop princess, I'm hotter than hell and just as hungry. No more stalling, move your ass." With that Dean thrust the door shut, a warm blanket of air hitting Sam's face, effectively ending their conversation.
As Dean moved away from the bathroom, hearing the water finally running and the squeak of feet as they slapped the slick surface below, he grabbed Sam's duffle and threw it on his bed.
If he were honest with himself, Dean would have to admit he'd be acting the exact same way his brother was, if their situations were reversed. Probably worse. Trying everything he could to hide from prying eyes and insulting whispers. It was easy to keep up the strong, macho persona when you were healthy and able, but showcasing something as devastating as blindness, would make that mask nearly impossible to sustain.
The little taste of blindness given to Dean by Vicki had frightened the hell out of him. It had given him a prospective otherwise unattainable if not experienced firsthand. Lucky for him he could take the specialized contacts out anytime he wanted and see again, his brother, on the other hand, wasn't so fortunate. The real harsh irony was that Sam could see when assaulted by the Cold Oaks bitch, but was instantly thrust back into darkness the moment their connection was severed.
Pulling Sam's neatly folded shirts from his duffle, Dean was about to pick something out for him to wear when his brother's earlier statement hit him. "I'm tired of my big brother setting out my clothes and cleaning up my piss." His mind made up, the elder sibling threw the clothing back in the bag and waited for the younger man to exit the restroom.
Sam wrapped the thin, coarse motel towel around his defined waist and dried his hair with the hand towel hanging haphazardly off the metal display rack. Once satisfied he didn't resemble a drown rat, Sam moved towards the doorway. As gracefully as possible, he attempted to find his bed without the aid of his obnoxious older brother. He'd never convince Dean he could be left alone if he couldn't even find a bed that was two feet away.
Even though the water had been cool and refreshing in the shower, Sam was already starting to feel the heat of the room envelope and strangle him once more. Somehow, however, he didn't think the dwindling confinement that held him was entirely related to the weather. The impending threat of maneuvering in public was nearly as terrifying to him as his first hunt had been. Somehow, even through all his families many hunts, that first one stuck with him. Sam would never admit it, but that initial werewolf had given him nightmares for weeks after he'd watched his father kill it. The proud Winchester smile decorating the grizzled man's otherwise emotionless face, a true testament to how important the father felt the encounter was for his baby boy. From that point on it was clear to Sam he should hide his true feelings and pretend to be elated at the death of a monster instead of saddened by the loss of life it presented.
At that moment the young boy was confident his dad would have whipped out a 110 camera and proudly taken a picture of his youngest standing next to the creature displaying his first hunt's spoils if he could have gotten away with it. Good thing nobody believed in the beast and Sam was spared the archaic ritual of posing smugly with the kill of the day. He'd seen the same picture several times, when residing in small, country towns. Young boys standing stoically with shit eating grins plastered on their faces, grasping the horns of their newest elk or deer carcasses. If they only knew, Sam thought to himself, making his way towards his intended target.
"You good it over there, sasquatch, or do you need help?" Dean's voice echoed from somewhere near the door.
After searching the frame with his barefoot, Sam extended his arms and felt the edge of his bedspread.
"Got it, I'm fine."
"Ok, just checking, since you seem to have left your cane on the nightstand, again."
Rolling his still wildly expressive eyes, Sam sat on the tip of the bed. He could tell Dean was emitting a smug expression even though he couldn't see his face.
A little more defensively than probably necessary, Sam countered. "I am not going to use the damn thing just to go to the bathroom Dean, so drop it, ok? Anyways, didn't you want to take a shower or something? Why the hell are you nagging me, the heat making you cranky?"
Dean scoffed and stood up from the chair he'd nested in moments before. "Making me cranky?" He mumbled to himself.
"Yes I do and yes it is, damn it." Dean whined. "Think you can behave yourself while I'm gone little brother?"
"Yes, Dean." Sam stated running his hands over the disheveled blankets.
"Hey did you set my clothes out, I can't find them?"
Like a ghost Dean seemed to materialize right in front of his brother. His hot breath brushing Sam's ear.
"As I recall, Samantha, you said you didn't want your stupendously awesome big brother to pick your clothes out for you anymore. So do it yourself. Your duffel's on the table about four steps straight ahead of you."
Sam's face crinkled into subordinate contemplation. "So you're using my own words against me now, Dean?"
Dean displayed a forced smile, hopeful his brother wouldn't hear the concern hidden in his voice.
"You got it. I have to take low blows at you, little brother, since you're taller than the freaking Empire State building."
"You stink Dean, go take a shower before your blind brother dies from affixation. You smell like a rancid goat."
Dean did a quick pit check and smiled. He may be a little ripe but that nose of his brother's was impressive. The things the kid was beginning to pick up on since he couldn't rely on his sight were amazing. Sammy to a fault, he was absorbing stuff up faster than it could be put in front of him. Dean Just hoped he wouldn't have to live the rest of his life in complete darkness, constantly coping with this devastating disability. He had no doubt his brother would thrive, no matter what the circumstance, he just didn't want him to have to.
"I smell like a rose Sammy. You know that superhuman nose of yours is gonna get us both in trouble one of these days right?"
"Great; your mouth and my nose, it's a miracle we're still alive."
Dean rounded the doorway and stuck his head around corner.
"Behave Sammy, get dressed, and pack your stuff, after breakfast we're blowing this joint."
Sam heard the bathroom door shut and felt a small sense of loneliness wash over him. It was irrational and stupid, but not having his brother within ear shot still freaked him out.
As he stood up and located the canvas duffle bag resting on the small desktop exactly where Dean had said it would be, Sam felt for the zipper and peeled the contraption open. He knew he didn't have anything that would clash if he picked the wrong thing, all of his clothes were relatively interchangeable, but the fact that he couldn't see them was beyond frustrating.
The first thing Sam encountered was what felt like a flannel, which made him chuckle. The last thing he wanted to do was wear layers when it felt like the sun had camped right outside their door, seconds away from breaking it down. As his long fingers rummaged through his meager belongings, he surprised himself at just how quickly he was able to find the appropriate attire. A pair of khaki shorts and a smooth cotton t-shirt, complete with cotton socks and a pair of lightweight tennis shoes, he finished the ensemble.
With a renewed sense of feeble accomplishment, Sam managed to get dressed and, to the best of his knowledge, completely packed in the time it took his sibling to shit, shower, and shave. Leaving him to sit quietly on the edge of the bed, impatiently drumming his fingers on his knees, waiting for the older Winchester to get his own butt in gear.
The smile that automatically lined Dean's face was all the clarity needed to know he'd made the right decision in telling his brother to find his own clothes. Operation "get Sam back to normal" started here and now whether the kid liked it or not. Next step, Dean thought, while staring at his brother with resounding pride, was to force him back into the public limelight. Neither one of them were what one would particularly consider social butterflies, but they did need human interaction and Sam was not going to miss out on it any longer. There was only so much brotherly interaction either could take before somebody lost an eye. Really, Dean thought, he was doing both of them a favor, as neither one wanted to be charged with first degree murder. What would their defense be? His brother was just to damn annoying? Yeah that would fly.
A/U: Ok so this is a much shorter chapter than I'm sure you were expecting, and for that I apologize, I also want to apologize for not posting in Months!!!!, but hopefully from now on I will do so on a more constant basis. The chapters will probably be smaller for that to happen, but at least they will be more frequent. My life and my Muse both took a turn for the worst, but writing is my passion so I'm going to due all I can to keep it going. Again I want to thank my poor Beta, Marlana, that has to wade through all of my horrid spelling and grammar errors and also say that any remaining errors are all on my shoulders.
I have put a poll up at my profile page, so if you could, please stop by and tell me what you think I would sure appreciate it. Also let me know in your reviews if you would like to see Sam stay completely blind, regain partial sight, be legally blind, need corrective aids to function, or be completely healed at the end of this story. I haven't decided yet what I want to do and your suggestions would certainly help. The more I get the more I know which direction to take.
Things have been extremely difficult for me the past few months, well years, and I would sure love to hear what you think of the story with a review. The more reviews I get the better I feel and I then I also know you're still hanging in there over such a stretched out story and that you want it to continue. I'll do my best to answer each one that I get now that my review reply function is working.
***As a special side bar, I realized that this story doesn't really fit the time line the actual show set forth. Dean came back from Hell in Sept. 08 and for them to be traveling in Oregon, where I'm from, and for it to be that darn hot in what would most likely be October is ludicrous so let's just call this an AU on the old time line of actual events and call it a wash. I'm putting this story in the summer of 09 and conveniently forgoing the whole rising of Lucifer thingy. J**