A/N: Written for cgf_kat over at the summer_sam_love exchange on lj. Thanks to Faye for the awesome last-minute beta, and for having the patience of a saint. Also thanks to zookitty for giving me the encouragement to go with this particular story line.
Spoilers/warnings: Follows right after 2.10 "Hunted", with various quotes from other episodes. So spoilers up through that point. And I don't own—shocking, I know.
Prompt: Any season. Sam is temporarily blinded, but they're not sure/don't know it's temporary.
ETA: Edited February 2012 for typos, missing section breaks, and the like.
Light filters out from the cavern ahead, casting the narrow stone passageway with a soft blue glow. Sam pauses, shifting his flashlight from his right hand to his left so he can pull his gun out of the waistband of his jeans. He thumbs the safety off and then brings his hands together, aiming both the beam of light and the barrel of his gun toward the cavern.
He doesn't allow himself to dwell on the fact that he's about to enter the shrine alone. It's because of the fact that he's alone that he's here in the first place.
"Get in, get the talisman, get out," Bobby had told him sternly. Not that Sam's ever had any intention of lingering in the shrine.
Not with Dean's life on the line because of Sam. Again.
He's not thinking about Indiana, though. Not about Ava and her disappearance; not about Gordon and his mission; not about how he up and left his brother again; not about how Dean nearly died coming after him. If he starts, he knows he won't be able to stop until the guilt has so completely overwhelmed him that he won't be able to think straight. He still doesn't think taking time off like Dean wants is a good idea at all—it's not like the demons are going to take a break—but it's not often that Dean asks for anything, let alone begs.
He creeps forward silently, eyes darting around constantly as he scans for any movements within the shadows. The warlock might be a human, but he's been endowed with supernatural grace and speed—something Sam and Dean unwillingly discovered first hand at the entrance to this labyrinth of passageways and caverns.
Then he's at the mouth of the cave, and he takes one step inside before pausing to look around.
Torches flicker, but the light they cast is a pale blue. The light itself is so dim that it's hard to see anything. The floor of the cave is littered with debris—pieces of wood, twisted chunks of metal, shards of shattered rock, and a nauseatingly large collection of both human and animal bones. Dried paint and blood are spattered on the walls, and trails of blood twist and turn among the debris on the floor. The air is thick with the stench of death, forcing Sam to breathe through his mouth so as not to gag at the smell.
He gingerly steps forward, carefully placing his feet on the floor, trying his best not to create any noise. The beam of the flashlight swings around the room as he twists his hips and shoulders, looking for any signs of life in the cave. When he sees none, he takes another step forward.
The beam catches the outline of a wide stone slab, and Sam pauses, focusing the light on the area. The twisting blood trails on the floor originate from the slab, but it's not the six-inch wide streak of blood painted on the side of the stone that has Sam's attention.
It's the body lying on top of it.
"Dean?" Sam breathes in confusion, lowering his gun slightly as he steps closer.
He'd left Dean back by the Impala with Bobby, so seeing Dean inside this cavern is the last thing he expected. It looks like Dean—from the torn jeans, to the spiky hair, to the leather jacket, to the scarred knuckles on the hand hanging limply off the edge of the stone slab. Even the blood smearing his hands, face, and clothes fall into place at the moment. That's how he'd looked when Sam had left after deciding to let Bobby take care of his brother as best as he could while Sam went back to kill the thing that caused all the damage.
But it's for that very reason that Sam hesitates, even though every instinct is screaming at him to get his brother off of what looks like a sacrificial altar. Dean's supposed to be above ground, comatose but breathing under Bobby's watchful care, and Sam's pretty sure he would've heard some type of commotion if the warlock had returned for his brother.
Then a strange glint of light reflects back at him when Sam adjusts the flashlight slightly. He takes a step closer to investigate the source, and his eyes narrow. A large gold amulet with a sapphire set in the center of the pendant is perched on Dean's chest. Light shimmers from within the stone as the amulet moves in unison with Dean's shallow breaths.
Sam recognizes the amulet; it's the same one the warlock was wearing when he attacked them on the surface.
Sam's foot nudges something, and he flinches as bone scrapes softly over stone. Before he can move, a tremendous pressure slams into him. He flies across the room, legs and arms flailing, before he slams into the far wall. Something gouges his thigh as he lands on the ground, and he can feel the sticky warmth of blood trickling over his skin before being soaked into his jeans.
The sound of footsteps crossing the cave draws his attention, and he feels the breath catch in his throat. The warlock's walking toward him purposefully, fists clenched and a sneer etched on his lips. It's still wearing Dean's face, but the thing coming after him looks nothing like Sam's older brother—not with his sharp yellow teeth, his blood-red eyes, and the pure hatred on his face. The glowing amulet swings back and forth almost hypnotically with each step the warlock takes.
Before Sam can even try to raise the gun that's still clenched in his hand, the warlock tosses him across the room again. Sam lands amidst a pile of bones, and he hears them snapping as he skids and tumbles across the cave's rough floor. He looks up in time to see the warlock kneel down next to the small pool of blood from Sam's thigh. The warlock sticks two fingers in the blood and smears it onto the amulet with a dark chuckle. A wave of exhaustion takes hold of Sam, and his eyes widen in realization.
The warlock stands and turns to look at him again, but his face has changed—it's longer now, with a sharper chin and higher cheekbones. The hair color is still the same, but instead of Dean's short cut, it looks more like Sam's shaggy mop of hair.
That's what he uses the blood for, Sam realizes as the warlock approaches. That's how he steals his victims' energy—the blood gives him a direct link to sap them dry!
And before he consciously knows what he's doing, Sam's lifting his gun, firing even though he hasn't aimed properly.
The first consecrated bullet hits the warlock in the knee, shattering the bone and sending a spray of blood over the debris behind him. The warlock stumbles slightly, but appears to be hardly phased by the shot as he continues his advance.
The second slug nails the warlock in the stomach. He reacts more violently this time, howling in pain as the consecrated iron stays lodged in his body, burning its way through his befouled flesh.
Sam locks eyes with the monster as he fires the third shot. The bullet strikes the amulet, shattering the sapphire and piercing the gold before entering the warlock's ribcage.
The room suddenly goes dark as a fierce wind blows the torches out and the beam from Sam's flashlight flickers out of existence. A split second later, the ground shakes as an explosion rips through the cave.
The air echoes and trembles with the sounds of falling rock as one of the tunnels leading into the cavern collapses. Sam throws a hand up instinctively as he flies backwards, and he has time to let out one pained cry as he collides into the wall before everything goes dark.
As he drifts in the dark silence, he thinks he hears Dean's voice, telling him about some girl he met in some bar in some random town four years ago. But some part of his brain says it can't be Dean because Dean's in a coma, and Sam's buried underground, out of sight and out of mind, and so he drifts away again.
He hears Gordon's voice, accusing and damning: "You're no better than the filthy things you hunt." It hurts because deep down, he knows it's the truth-why else would everyone around him suffer? Mom, Jess, Dad, Ava... and Dean. Dean most of all. It's because of him that Dean's even hunting at the moment; it's because of him that Dean's bleeding, comatose, maybe even dead by now. He hates thinking about that, so he doesn't fight the nothingness that comes for him again.
He might hear his Dad's voice, too, but he doesn't pay attention because Dad's dead. Dad's dead, Dean's in a coma, and Sam's drifting, and it's all his fault, and there's nothing he can do about it.
Waking up is sudden and disconcerting. It takes several moments before Sam realizes that he's lying not on a stone floor, but rather on a thin mattress. Everything's dark around him, but he knows he's in a hospital because he can hear the rattle of a cart rolling by, the faint whoosh of a ventilator down the hall, and the soft beeping from his own cardiac monitor.
He got out. He's not sure how, but he got out.
His head jerks to the left when he hears the soft whisper, and his eyebrows furrow a little. There's a glowing blue outline of a body sitting next to him, and he can tell by the tilt of the head that the person's looking at him. "Dean?"
The outline's shoulders slump a little in relief as the figure raises a hand to run it through his hair—a gesture that proves Dean's been worried sick. "Yeah, Sam. How're you feeling?"
"Confused," Sam replies honestly as he scans the room again. Everything else is dark; the only thing he can see is Dean's outline. "How did—I thought you were—"
"I woke up in time to see Bobby sprinting back into the caverns. Whatever the warlock did to me must've worn off when you killed him."
Memories flash across his mind—brief glimpses of the fight in the cave. They're scattered, out of order, but they're enough to remind him of what happened. "The amulet?"
"You were a damn fool and destroyed it while you were less than ten feet from the bastard," another voice growls from just behind Dean, and Sam lifts his eyes instinctively even though he can't see Bobby. "What the hell were you thinking, Sam? The backlash from the destruction of that thing nearly caused the cavern to collapse around you! You couldn't wait to get the damn thing back to the surface?"
"I didn't have a choice—the warlock was wearing it, Bobby. I had to stop him," Sam replies, looking back at Dean's outline.
"You couldn't have just shot the warlock and snagged the amulet?"
Sam's throat closes up at Bobby's question, and he shakes his head once. "It… he looked like Dean."
He hears both hunters suck in a breath, but he can only see Dean's movement, and it's more than a little disconcerting to know there's someone else in the room that he can't see. He blinks a few times, but nothing changes.
"Sam?" Dean calls as Sam rubs at his eyes, the worry in his voice implying, What's wrong?
Sam swallows as he hears someone else walk into the room—a nurse, judging by the sound of scrubs brushing the floor. "I can't see."
Sam goes through a few hours of tests before he gets the chance to tell his brother that he's not completely blind.
"What are you talking about?" Dean asks. He keeps his tone calm, but Sam knows his brother well enough to hear the panic and worry lacing Dean's voice. "The doctor said you can't see a thing! You said you can't see!"
"I can see you," Sam explains. He pauses, then amends, "Kind of."
"'Kind of'? What's that supposed to mean?" Bobby demands from the foot of Sam's bed.
Sam rubs at his temple with a finger to try and soothe away the headache he can feel approaching. "There's like this… glowing outline around Dean. That's the only thing I can see."
He can sense Dean's frown. "Why just me?"
"Why not you?" Bobby mutters. "Lord knows both of you have been joined at the hip since the day Sam was born."
Except for Stanford, Sam thinks, and judging by the way Dean's shoulders shift slightly, his brother's thinking the same thing. He shoves the thought aside and says, "I think it's something more than that." He pauses as a medical cart rattles past the doorway before continuing, "When we were fighting, the warlock… he looked like Dean. Well, sort of."
"What do you mean?" Dean asks, leaning forward in his chair.
Sam fiddles with the sheet on his bed as the memories flitter through his mind, and he chooses to focus on the sheet rather than on the hatred on Dean's—no, the warlock's face. The fabric feels stiffer under his fingers than other hospital sheets, and he's not sure if that's because it actually is or if it's because his sense of touch is making up for the absence of his sight.
He blinks and looks back at Dean. Not for the first time since he woke up, he wishes he could actually see Dean's face instead of just the outline of his head. "His eyes," he says softly. "They were blood red. And he just looked… wrong. Like you, but not."
"And you think that's why you can only see Dean?" Bobby asks, disbelief lacing his voice. "Because the thing 'sort of' looked like him?"
Sam shakes his head. "During the fight, the warlock smeared some of my blood onto his amulet and his face… it changed a little. He looked more like me."
Silence falls at his explanation and he goes back to fiddling with the blankets. "So that's how he got his power, then," Dean says finally. "He used his victim's blood to draw on their energy. Essentially became them."
"Also explains why the results of Sam destroying the amulet were so intense," Bobby adds. "Blood sacrifices are nasty enough on their own, but when they're from unwilling victims…"
"I still don't understand what this has to do with your eyes, Sam," Dean interjects.
Sam looks up at Dean's outline glowing in the darkness—the same colored glow as the amulet had. "I think… I think it's like some mystic backlash, letting me see just who the amulet had claimed. The glow around you is the same as the light coming from within the amulet. Your blood was mixed in with the rest of the blood sacrifices. And you're the only one who's still alive."
"Your blood was in there, too—you said so yourself," Dean points out.
"Not that much, though," Sam replies with another shake of his head. "He took enough of your blood to be able to look like you. He didn't do that with me."
There's a brief pause. "Sam…"
Sam closes his eyes instinctively at the unasked question in Bobby's voice. "I don't know," he says softly. "I have no idea if my powers have anything to do with it."
"They probably don't help," Dean mutters under his breath. Sam's fairly certain no one was meant to hear his words, and if it weren't for the fact that his other four senses seem to have picked up the slack caused by his missing eyesight, Sam probably would've missed it, too.
It's enough to make him realize that Dean hasn't completely disregarded everything they'd found out over the past couple of weeks, even if he says he doesn't believe it.
He says there's a war coming. And people like me… we're gonna be the soldiers. Everything's about to change.
He'd told Dean what Scott Carey had said on the tape because he needed the reassurance that he wouldn't become one of those soldiers—that Dean wouldn't let him turn into some demon's minion. He hadn't meant to freak Dean out even more about what Sam was supposed to become.
Of course, there've been plenty of things that Sam hadn't meant to happen that did, anyway. It's the story of his life, really.
Sam blinks in surprise, then flinches slightly when he sees the outline of Dean's face less than a foot from his own. At this distance, Sam can see the curves of his brother's nose and forehead, leaving a blank space where his eyes are supposed to be. It's unnerving, but Sam tries his best not to let that show as he says, "Sorry. I was thinking."
Dean stares at him for a beat before replying, "I warned you about doing that. Your brain can't handle the strain."
Sam rolls his eyes instinctively. "Jerk."
"Bitch," Dean answers easily, leaning back in his chair. His shoulders tense up slightly, and Sam knows he's being serious again. "Any clue how to fix this?"
Sam raises an eyebrow. Usually Dean's the one coming up with the solution, not asking about one. "Blow up another amulet?" he suggests half-heartedly.
"Funny kid," Bobby deadpans. "I suppose you like staying in hospitals for days at a time."
Both Sam's eyebrows go up this time. "Days?"
"It's been three days since you went down into that cavern," Bobby replies grimly.
"Oh," Sam says softly, fingering the sheets again. That explains why they'd been so relieved when he woke up. He looks up to where he knows Bobby is sitting. "Do you have any ideas?"
Bobby sighs a little. "I can take a look. Meantime, you boys can come stay with me."
"Don't even try it, Dean," Bobby snaps before Dean can say anything else. "It's not like you can do much else right now, anyway."
Sam lowers his head, staring at the dark space where he knows his hands are resting on his lap. Yet another occasion where Dean has to give something up for me,he thinks bitterly.
A glowing hand suddenly grips his wrist. "This isn't your fault, Sammy," Dean says softly, as if he knows just what Sam's thinking. "We'll figure it out."
It's a little harder than usual to sneak out of the hospital—Sam may be able to walk, but he still needs Dean to help him out, since he can't see anything. They pull it off well enough, though; between Bobby's distraction and the arrival of the victims of a four-car accident, no one seems to notice two brothers making their way towards the stairway leading to the parking garage.
Sam feels some of the tension in his shoulders release as soon as he's sitting on the passenger side of the bench seat. He knows this part of the car almost better than Dean does, and while part of him has long resented the fact, there's no denying this car is the closest thing to home Sam's ever had. The worn leather, the steady rumble of the engine, and the soft humming from the driver all do their part to make Sam feel a little safer, even if he still can't see.
As he drifts off, he thinks he sees the glowing outline of the dashboard and decides that's not entirely out of the question—the car is as much a part of Dean as the nose on his brother's face.
He can still see in his dreams. He sees Ava, the light glimmering off her engagement ring as she moves her hand in conversation. He sees Gordon, revulsion mixed with just a tiny amount of fear in his eyes as he stares up from where he's sprawled on the dusty, debris-covered floor. He sees Jess, sunlight streaming through her hair as he pushes her higher on a swing. He sees his father, hunched over his journal, poring through his notes yet again in his efforts to track down the thing that had torn their lives apart all those years ago.
He wakes up, heart pounding and a scream lodged in his throat, to Dean's hand on his shoulder as his brother asks if he needs something to eat. He stares with wide eyes at the glowing outline, and something inside him breaks a little as he realizes the only way he's going to see Dean's face now is dreams, when it's twisted in pain from being shot, being stabbed, or being pinned to the ceiling.
They're at Bobby's for three days before Sam decides he needs to learn to move about by himself. He's comfortable enough walking around Bobby's house but hasn't ventured outside yet. He still allows Dean to help him down the stairs, even though he knows the path from the bedroom at the top of the stairs to the kitchen downstairs all too well—it hadn't been all that long since they'd spent months here, recovering from the accident that had nearly claimed Dean and ultimately cost their father his life.
Last time they'd been here, though, Dean had largely ignored him, too caught up in his own grief to pay much attention to his little brother. This time, Sam can't walk three steps without Dean hovering nearby, and as much as he loves his brother, the close proximity is grating.
"Damn it, Sam, do you want to break your neck?" Dean calls, latching a hand around Sam's wrist.
Sam tightens his grip on the screen door handle. "I need to practice, Dean," he says softly, keeping his face turned towards the unseen world beyond the screen door.
Dean's hold tenses. "Bobby's going to find a way to fix this, Sam."
"And if he doesn't?" Sam replies, turning to look at his brother's glowing outline. "Bobby's a great researcher, Dean, I know that as well as anyone. But someday there's going to be something that comes up that he won't be able to find an answer to."
"Who says this is it?" Dean snaps tersely.
"Who says it isn't?"
Dean doesn't respond, and if he could see his brother's face, Sam knows he'd see a muscle working in his jaw. "Look, Dean… even if Bobby does find a solution, it could be months. Maybe even years," he says. "And I can't have you breathing down my neck that long. I know you don't want to do that, either. You gotta let me do this."
They stare at each other for a long moment before Dean's shoulders slump a little bit. "Hold on a sec," he says gruffly, releasing Sam's hand and going into Bobby's library. He returns a moment later, fingers clenched around something.
"Here," he says, pressing the object into Sam's hand. It's thin and wooden—a yardstick, Sam realizes, wrapping his hand around one end and letting the other rest lightly on the floor. "It's not ideal, but hopefully it'll keep you from running into a bumper," Dean explains.
Sam's lips twitch a little. "Thanks," he says, pushing the screen door open.
He pauses at the edge of the porch, feet hanging just over the lip of the top step. In his mind's eye, he can picture the stacks of tires, the walls of smashed cars, and the veritable maze of car parts scattered on the ground. The air is warm and dry, and he can feel specks of dirt blowing into his face in the light breeze.
Dean stands behind him, a silent support as Sam travels down the steps. Sam hears the creak of wood, and he knows without looking that Dean's leaning up against the side of the house, keeping watch over Sam, just like he always has.
Sam swallows hard, squares his shoulders, and starts forward.
The yardstick is a little short, so he has to bend over slightly to make sure it skims the ground. He quickly discovers that it's much easier to swing the stick back and forth over the yard rather than have it firmly pressed against the ground. It's low enough to alert him to when there's debris he needs to step over, but high enough so that it doesn't catch on every rock and dirt clod lying on the ground.
It's slow going, but Sam eventually makes his way to the wall of cars, and it's frustrating to know that this could be how he lives for the rest of his life—taking every step cautiously, never truly knowing if the ground was still going to be there when he put his foot down. Dean speaks up once, preventing Sam from tripping on a muffler he'd missed in his side-to-side sweep with his yardstick, but otherwise the older Winchester remains silent.
Sam had wanted his brother to start accepting the possibility that this blindness could be permanent. He hadn't expected a sense of failure to overwhelm him with that acceptance.
Another week passes before they even bring up the subject of hunting. Bobby's been searching almost nonstop for a solution, but he's running out of books and contacts to consult, and the possibility that Sam might not ever see again is becoming more and more of a reality.
Sam can't help but think that the whole thing is more than a little ironic, considering he'd told Dean less than a month ago that he wanted to keep hunting. Now, with this blindness, hunting is out of the question.
"I still don't see why you're so upset," Dean says. "You could go back to school, get your law degree." He pauses for a moment. "Dude, maybe you could be the next Daredevil—you always seem to know when people are lying."
Sam shoots his brother a look. "Yeah, because running around the rooftops and leaping off buildings is so much safer than walking through the woods."
"Yeah, okay. Bad idea," Dean agrees, taking a swig of the beer in his hand. "You wouldn't be able to see Jennifer Garner, either. That would suck."
Sam rolls his eyes. "I can't go back to school, Dean. Not like this."
"Sam, plenty of blind people have graduated from college. I'm sure you're more than capable."
"You know what I mean, Dean," Sam says, raising an eyebrow as he looks at his brother.
Dean stares back at him, setting his beer down on the table with a solid thud. "Who says the yellow-eyed bastard is going to use you? We never knew that for sure, and now, with you being blind…" He trails off for a moment, looking away and tapping a finger against the kitchen table.
"We can't rely on that," Sam replies earnestly. "Iwon't rely on that. Too many people have been hurt because of me, and I won't let that happen anymore."
"None of this has been your fault, Sam," Dean says firmly, whipping his head around to stare intently at Sam. Sam can't see his brother's gaze, but it's strong enough that he can feel it. "None."
"Sure feels like it," Sam mutters, squeezing his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to quell the beginnings of the headache he feels coming on. Not a vision headache, luckily—just an ordinary headache, but he absolutely hates how he knows the difference. He lowers his hand after a moment and opens his eyes. "In any case, I won't take the risk. I can't go back to Stanford, Dean."
Dean tilts his head a little as he looks at Sam. "Then we'll do something else," he says.
Sam snorts without humor. "Like what?"
Dean shrugs a shoulder, taking a long draw from his beer bottle. "Work somewhere. Do a little research. Live it up a little."
"You'd really just walk away from the hunt? Just like that?" Sam asks skeptically.
"Yes! Why is this so hard for you to comprehend?" Dean demands. Before Sam can reply, Dean laughs a little. "Unbelievable. I'm the one who wants to stop hunting, and you're the one who wants to keep doing it."
"Are you that contrary on purpose? Or do you really just want to get yourself killed?"
"No," Sam replies vehemently. "God, no, Dean. I don't want to do this anymore, but we don't have a choice. Whatever the yellow-eyed demon has planned, it's big. Maybe even end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it big. We can't let him win, Dean. We have to stop him."
Before Dean can respond, Bobby suddenly bursts into the room. "I think I found something."
"What?" Dean demands.
Bobby sets a book on the table with a loud thud and flips a few pages. "There's this house in Massachusetts built on land where two covens of witches duked it out centuries ago. The covens tried to curse each other out of existence. Would've worked too, if not for one spell," he says. "One of the witches cast a curse that absorbs all of the magical energy in the area."
"How do you know it still works?" Dean asks.
"Thirty years ago, someone tried to remodel a farmhouse house on the property. The place was abandoned before it was finished—all of the workers reported hearing voices. Scared them out of their wits."
Sam raises an eyebrow. "Ghosts?"
"Yep," Bobby answers. "Nasty ones, too, judging by some of the accident reports from the area. But no one's ever been able to purify the place—any charmed object or incantation looses all of its power there."
"How's this going to help Sam?" Dean asks.
Sam replies before Bobby can answer. "If the amulet caused all of this to happen to me, then the curse on the area would cancel out anything caused by its power."
There's a brief pause. "It's a long shot, I know," Bobby says finally. "But it's the only one we've got."
"You're sure this is the place?" Dean asks as the Impala comes to a stop.
"As long as you followed Bobby's directions, this should be it," Sam replies, turning his head to look out the window instinctively even though he can't see anything.
"This place is a dump," Dean mutters, tugging the keys out of the ignition and opening his door.
Sam opens his own door and steps out the car. Despite the warm night air, a shiver runs up his spine and goose bumps cover his arms. "What does it look like?" he asks, rubbing his left forearm with his right hand.
"One story house, with half the roof caved in," Dean replies immediately, coming around the front of the Impala to stand next to Sam. "Nothing extraordinary. Doesn't look like there'd be anything here, other than Hantavirus and tetanus."
Sam's lips twitch a little at the sarcasm. "Don't worry, Dean. I'll protect you from the mice," he says dryly.
Dean slaps the back of his head softly. "Bitch," he growls, stepping past Sam toward the house. "You better watch what you say, or you just might find a spider crawling on you in your sleep."
Sam rolls his eyes and follows after his brother, swinging his yardstick back and forth in front of him.
Despite their lighthearted banter, the air is thick with tension—but not from them, Sam realizes after a moment. The closer they get to the house, the heavier the tension becomes, making both Winchesters on edge.
"Steps," Dean murmurs softly as wood creaks beneath his feet. The yardstick touches wood a moment later, and Sam cautiously follows Dean up the two small steps onto the porch. The wood is spongy with rot, bending slightly beneath their weight. Typically it wouldn't be enough to cause Sam any concern, but his lack of vision makes the unexpected movement a little disconcerting-it feels like he's about to fall through the floor.
Sam freezes at the harsh whisper, turning his head a little to try and pick up the sound of any movement. The outline of Dean's head turns to face him. "What?"
"You didn't hear that?" Sam asks, turning his head again. "That whisper?"
The whisper is louder this time, and angrier. Dean stiffens. "I heard it that time," he affirms, tugging his gun out from where it was resting at the small of his back. Sam can't see the weapon itself, but he can see Dean's fingers curled around it, one finger moving to switch the safety off. Sam instinctively moves a little closer to his brother, reaching out to lightly grab the back of Dean's leather jacket. "You don't have to come in with me, Sam," Dean growls.
"Devil's son! You should not be here!"
The words are biting, filled with anger, and another shiver runs up Sam's spine. "I think I do, Dean," he says softly, tightening his grip on the yardstick. "Bobby said the power isn't contained in any single object—the entire house carries remnants of the curse."
"So, what, we're just supposed to walk around with these… ghosts, or whatever, yelling at us until you're cursed enough to see again?" Dean asks with a snort.
"That's the idea."
Dean hesitates for a moment before asking, "Are you sure you want to go through with this? What if it only removes your ability to see me?"
Sam swallows. It's been hard enough to do this as it is, but having to go through life without being able to see his brother frightens him more than the thought of never regaining the rest of his sight. "Then we'll find something else."
"Be gone, spawn of darkness!"
"Shut up!" Dean bellows at the house. "He's not like that!"
Sam can feel his face flush a little at the defense. "Dean…"
"No, Sam. That's not you. You aren't like that. And you're not going to be like that," Dean says sternly, gripping Sam's shoulder firmly. Sam wants to respond, but he can't—not with his throat clogged up like it is right now.
The grip on Sam's shoulder tightens. "Come on. We'll walk through the house once, then leave," he declares tightly, voice laced with venom that's not directed at Sam. "I don't want to have to stay in this crap hole any longer than I have to."
Sam nods once, throat still a little too tight with emotion to speak. He knows Dean's worried about everything that's been happening—about whatever it was that Gordon told him—but at times like this, he can almost believe that Dean can keep all of the evil things away.
Almost. But not quite.
The rusted door hinges screech horribly as Dean pushes the door open. "Stick close," the older Winchester orders, looking over his shoulder at Sam. "And try not to trip over those big feet of yours."
"I'll do my best," Sam replies, grabbing hold of Dean's jacket again. "Try not to scream too loudly when you see a mouse."
"Bitch," Dean mutters, moving slowly enough so that he won't accidentally tug his coat out of Sam's grasp.
"Jerk," Sam shoots back smoothly.
"Spawn of darkness!"
"Nobody asked you," Dean snarls, stepping into the house.
The floor feels slightly squishy beneath Sam's feet. Judging by the smell, the room they've just entered is covered with musty carpet and a thick layer of dust. "What?" he inquires as Dean whistles softly.
"There's some seriously dark symbols carved onto the mantel in the kitchen," Dean replies. "A couple binding symbols, too. Looks like they've been there a very long time—no wonder the curse has lasted for as long as it has. These symbols have been keeping the spirits trapped here."
Sam pauses, tightening his grip on Dean's jacket as realization strikes. "The whispers are gone," he says softly when Dean turns to look at him. "Why would they be gone? This is their domain."
They both stand still for a moment, and with their lack of movement, the silence becomes almost overwhelming. "We're leaving," Dean declares firmly, grabbing Sam's wrist and moving back toward the door. "We never should have—"
The air swirls around them, and something latches around Sam's shoulders. His wrist slips from Dean's grasp as they're suddenly pulled apart. Wood cracks and splinters as Sam is tugged through a wall and sent crashing to the floor. Over the sound of the howling wind and Dean's echoing yells, he registers the sound of his yardstick clattering to the floor, and suddenly he feels completely lost—no Dean to see, no yardstick to guide him around hidden obstacles in the darkness, nothing to give him any sense of where he is at all.
Then the world around him moves dizzyingly as he's lifted from the floor, the voices, which had been mere whispers before, are now practically ear-shattering as dozens of voices scream in his ears.
"Be gone, you cursed ones!"
"This is not your world, Devil's sons! Retreat back into the void which spawned you forth!
"This land was ours long before you arrived, marked filth! Leave now before we unleash the rage of our ancestors upon you all!"
"Your darkness shall not be allowed to pollute this land any longer, you spawn of darkness! Go back to the shadows from whence you came!"
His skin prickles with the latent power in the air, and his head is pounding in time with his rapid heartbeat. The voices become so loud that the words become indistinct, save for fragments of angry shouts and snarling curses.
"Devil's son… cursed… spawn of darkness… kill them… kill them… KILL!"
Then there's pressure—pressure like he's never felt before, squeezing until he can't move, pressing until all he knows is the force threatening to crush him. He can't move, can't breathe, can't remember why he's here, can't fight back, can't think—
Dean's voice cuts through the din, angry and worried and scared, and it's the fear that registers in Sam's mind. Dean's here, Dean's in trouble, Dean's in danger, and it's because of Sam, it's always because of Sam, and if Sam dies here, Dean's going to be next, and that can't happen, he won't let it—
Something latent inside him—something that hasn't stirred since he moved that cabinet at Max Miller's house—pushes back against the pressure, roaring in defiance, striking in anger against those who would threaten his brother. Sam fights back; he fights back even though he's not supposed to—even though he shouldn't be able to—because Dean's in trouble, and when Dean's in trouble, nothing else matters.
Then everything suddenly flashes white, and the last thing Sam's aware of before he slips into darkness again is Dean screaming his name.
Awareness comes back unexpectedly. One moment there's nothing, and the next there's everything—the smell of leather, the feel of the engines vibrations through the seat, the sound of Dean's voice, the taste of blood and bile on his tongue, and the sight of the Impala's roof.
It takes a moment before Sam realizes he's lying across the backseat, head propped on an impromptu pillow made from an old blanket and Dean's jacket and legs folded so that they're pressed against the paneling of the other door. The car is vibrating with movement, and Dean's talking on the phone.
"…we should have checked it out better, Bobby, this never should have—"
Brakes squeal, and Sam hurriedly braces a hand against the back of Dean's seat as the car comes to a screeching halt. Gears grind together as Dean hurriedly throws the car into park and twists around. "Sam? You back with me?"
Sam blinks a few times, taking in the curve of the seat, the worried lines carved in Dean's forehead, and the color of the eyes looking back at him. "What happened?" he groans, surprised when his voice comes out croaky.
"The house—it attacked us. You…you were floating in the air for awhile, and I couldn't get to you," Dean explains. Sam remembers fear and anger, fear from Dean for Sam, fear from himself for Dean, anger at the things that were threatening his older brother… "Then you started yelling, and the entire place was shaking and suddenly it just… wasn't anymore. The house was silent, and you were lying on the floor."
"How long have I been out?" Sam asks, twisting slightly so he can slowly push himself up to a sitting position.
"About an hour. How do you feel?" Dean asks, reaching over to lay a hand on Sam's forehead for a moment. "Your fever's gone."
Sam's eyebrows furrow a bit at the worry he can see blatantly carved on his brother's face and he opens his mouth to comment when it suddenly hits him.
He can see.
"It worked," he breathes, eyes widening as he looks at his brother. Dean stares back at him, the beginnings of a smile pulling at his lips. "Dean, it worked!"
"You realize those spirits weren't talking about you, right?" Dean asks hours later.
Sam glances over at his brother. They're lying on the hood of the Impala, staring up at the clouds swirling in the sky, stained in various hues of pink, blue, and purple by the light of the setting sun, and the overwhelming fact that he can see the sunset again has distracted him from the conversation. "What?"
"Back at the house. When they were saying 'spawn of Satan' and all that crap. You realize they were talking about each other, right?"
Sam frowns a little, turning his attention back to the sky. A bird soars high overhead, little more than a black speck silhouetted against the cloudbank. He's not really watching the bird, though; he's thinking about the power hidden deep down, waiting to come about; about the words that have haunted him since their encounter with the yellow-eyed demon back at the cabin.
"They got in my way, Sammy."
"In the way of what?"
"My plans for you, Sammy. You, and all the children like you."
Sam doesn't turn to look back at Dean. "He said he has plans for me, Dean."
Dean snorts a little. "Dude, you should know better than anyone how quickly plans can change," he says, a hint of bitterness lacing his voice. "That doesn't mean anything, Sam."
"You can't deny this forever, Dean," Sam replies softly. "Whatever he's been planning, he's been planning it for decades. He's not going to give up just because we tell him, 'No.'"
"No, but that doesn't mean that there's no way to stop what he's planning," Dean answers firmly. "You're not evil, Sam. You never will be."
Sam doesn't say anything, but he can't help but think about everything that's happened over the last year and a half—about the deaths of those he's loved, the pain, the suffering, the sorrow he's inadvertently brought about… it all sounds like something someone evil would do.
And yet… both times he's done something with his mind beyond seeing the future, it had been to save Dean. It's not a surprising realization—Sam's always known that his brother is both his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. Death and destruction seem to follow him everywhere Sam goes, but he's always succeeded in saving the one person that matters more than anyone else in the world.
Perhaps that's the key, he decides. If becoming evil means that Dean's going to die, then Sam's not going to do it. But as long as there's the possibility that the demon might come after Dean to get to Sam, there's a threat that needs to be taken care of.
"We've got to keep hunting, Dean," he says finally, turning his head to look at his brother. "We have to keep looking for the demon. That's the only way to end this."
"I can't go into hiding, Dean. You might not believe in my destiny, but as far as I can see, the only way to make sure I beat it is to fight it." He stares intently at Dean, silently saying what he can't quite bring himself to say aloud: I can do this, but I can't do it alone.
Dean stares back for a moment. "Okay," he says simply, his eyes holding the rest of his answer: And you won't have to.