SUMMARY: Sam and Dean help Bobby foil a coven's plan to ally with demons, and a vengeful witch turns to an unusual source to pay back the hunters. Plenty of h/c and brotherly banter, and Cas makes an appearance, too.
RATED: T for mild swearing
SPOILERS: Timewise, set mid-to-late Season 6, but no spoilers. References to canon events through the end of Season 5.
DISCLAIMER: Sadly, the Winchesters are not for sale, therefore I don't own them. Many thanks to Kripke & Co. for allowing me to play in their sand box with their toys.
A/N: Hope you enjoy. Many thanks and a big hug to Harrigan for the beta and constant support. You are a gem. I tinkered after the beta so any remaining mistakes are mine and mine alone.
THREE WISE MONKEYS
"Oh, I am so sick of this crap." Dean stumbled through the motel room door, dropped the weapons bag on the floor and flopped onto the nearest bed. "Where is it written that the Winchesters get the shit kicked out of them every freakin' time? I mean, son of a bitch – we're the good guys, right?"
"That's kinda the point – of the shit kicking, I mean." Following Dean into the room, Sam scowled at the blood-soaked cloth he'd just had pressed to his temple before tossing it into the trash can. He swayed noticeably as he reached behind his back to pull his gun from the waistband of his jeans. "Bad guys just don't like us."
"What's not to like?" Dean toppled onto his back, throwing an arm across his eyes. "I mean, come on. I'm awesome."
Sam snorted as he sank tiredly into the chair in front of the window and placed his gun on the wobbly motel table.
"That was good work today, boys." Bobby stood in the doorway, leaning against the jamb as he cast a worried glance from Sam to Dean. "But we still came way too close to getting our asses handed to us."
"Close only counts when you're tossing hand grenades." Dean pushed himself up onto his elbows and squinted over at Bobby. "But speaking of asses, how's yours? That witch must've thrown you twenty, thirty feet when you started reciting that spell."
Bobby shifted uncomfortably, and rubbed his hip. "The less said about my ass the better. I'll live. What about you? You're gonna have a world-class shiner in the morning. How many of me are you seeing?"
Dean rolled the one eye not swollen shut. "One – most of the time." He shifted his gaze to Sam. "How 'bout you, Sammy? That little blond witch clocked you but good."
"What?" Sam seemed kind of dazed as he looked over at his brother.
Dean frowned as he sat up. "I said, you doing okay in there?"
"Oh. Yeah. Just didn't hear you." Sam stood up with a groan, grimacing as he tried to rake his fingers through hair matted with blood. "Think I've got blood in my ear. I'm gonna, um, wash up, then hit the hay."
Dean watched Sam move slowly toward the bathroom. "Blondie had to be like four feet tall. How'd she manage to smack a redwood like you on the side of the head?"
Sam glared at his brother. "She had a big branch-"
"Her broomstick?" Dean grinned.
"A branch, Dean…" Sam sighed, suddenly looking a little sheepish. "She, um, took me out at the knees. Then when I went down, hit me-" he hissed as he touched the side of his head, "here." His glare at Dean's snort slowly morphed into a smile. "Wait... I saw the witch who decked you. She must have been, what – a hundred and fifty?"
"Shut up. She may have been the Cryptkeeper's older, uglier sister but she had a mean right hook." Dean changed the subject by turning to Bobby. "What do you think the coven's next move is – 'Plan B' or revenge?"
Bobby scratched his forehead under the brim of his trucker's cap. "That's a damn good question."
Bobby had gotten word that witches from a large east coast coven were gathering in the woods outside Salem, Mass. An alliance had been formed between the witches and a demon faction. The witches had agreed to be possessed, a coupling that would magnify their own powers through those of the demons inhabiting them. Once possessed, the new witch/demon hybrids would then scatter across the country, recruiting other covens as hosts to strengthen their numbers in the building war between Heaven and Hell.
At least that was the plan until Bobby and the Winchesters intervened.
First, Sam and Dean had snuck into the coven's compound and spiked the ceremonial meal with an ancient herb mixture – courtesy of Cas – designed to render the witches permanently unfit as demonic hosts.
Then, the three of them had drawn a giant Devil's Trap around the ritual meeting place, leaving a small opening to allow the demons to enter. Once all the demons were inside, they'd closed the trap. As the poison inside each witch forced the demons to vacate their vessels, the hunters reused the trick that had helped the Winchesters destroy the demon army at the Monument, Colorado police station: they broadcast an exorcism.
That got rid of the demons, but they still had to deal with a coven of livid witches. Even after another spell temporarily neutralized their powers, the witches had fought tooth and nail – in some cases, literally – leaving the hunters in their current battered state.
Bobby shook his head. "That spell we cast should leave'em without their powers for about 24 hours, give us time to recharge and get the hell outta Dodge."
Dean pulled a hexbag from his jeans' pocket. "Then for," he glanced at the clock on the nightstand, "the next twenty-two hours, these things are useless."
Sam nodded as he pulled out his own hexbag. "Yep. Without their powers, technically, they're not witches." He looked over at Bobby. "But most of them seemed pretty damned determined to take our heads off even after they lost their powers. What's to stop them coming after us anyway, you know, with baseball bats or something?"
Bobby shrugged. "Nothing. But they were running on adrenaline tonight. When they come down, I think they'll hold off. They know we're hunters, far from a soft target, so they'll wanna be powered up before they take us on again, and by that time we should be long gone."
Dean tossed the hexbag onto the nightstand. "Well, they ain't the first to want our heads on a platter, and sure as hell won't be the last."
Bobby turned to go, then paused and looked from Sam to Dean. "Couldn't have done this without your help. I'm just sorry that-"
"Don't." Dean leveled a mock glare at his old friend. "It's not like you haven't gotten your ass kicked helping us out from time to time."
"Well, there's that." Bobby grinned. "Get some sleep. I'm gonna meet up with Johnny Walker for a nightcap, then do the same." With a nod to the brothers, he stepped out of the room and pulled the door closed after him.
Sam flipped the switch on the bathroom light and stared at his reflection in the cracked mirror. Dried blood from the jagged gash just behind his temple caked his ear and matted the hair all along the side of his head.
He peeled off his jacket, tossed it back into the room onto a chair, and then turned the hot water on full force. After soaking a facecloth, he scrubbed the blood from his face, hissing as the heat and friction met torn skin.
Behind him, Dean was moving around the motel room. He said something, but his words were muffled by the sound of running water.
Sam shut off the tap. "What?"
"Whiskey. Want some?"
"Yeah." Sam walked back into the room, still scrubbing the blood from his face.
Dean recapped the bottle after pouring two generous glasses. He handed Sam his before grabbing his own and sitting down on the end of his bed. He winced as he pressed his fingers into the bruised skin around his black eye.
Sam tossed the facecloth into the bathroom sink, then took a large gulp of the whiskey, grimacing at the welcome burn. His eyes narrowed as he stared at Dean. "Nice shiner. I'm driving tomorrow."
"Like hell you are. By morning I'll be fine." Dean downed his whiskey in one gulp. "And FYI, you look like crap."
"Jerk." Sam finished his drink, then kicked off his boots. "I just need sleep." He pulled off his long-sleeved shirt, walked over to his bed, then emptied his pockets onto the nightstand. After shucking off his jeans, he pulled back the ugly gold bedspread and slid between the sheets. He was out by the time he'd pulled up the covers and rolled onto his side.
Dean stood up and stretched, then crossed to the dresser. He poured himself a second drink, downed it, then undressed quickly and fell into bed. He gave Sam a quick glance as he reached to turn off the light; his brother was already snoring softly. He nodded, flicked off the light and, like Sam, was asleep before his eyes were fully closed.
The witch pulled three tiny bags from her pocket, then shoved one inside each of the three cloth dolls – poppets – laid out on the table.
The woman sitting opposite her was older, her thick, dark hair heavily streaked with gray. She reached out and pulled the dolls toward her, her arthritic fingers tying closed the pockets where the bags had been inserted into the crudely-made, white cotton figures. When she spoke, it was in heavily accented English. "And what is it these men did that has angered you so?"
The younger woman leaned forward impatiently. "They stole from us our place in the new order." Hatred turned her pretty face ugly. "But they know magic, and took our powers. I want revenge, and I don't wanna wait until my powers return. I need you to find them for me."
The older woman's expression remained neutral but her dark eyes narrowed, deepening the lines that age and emotion had etched around them. "So, I was not invited to be a part of this new order, but now you are impotent, it's my help you seek."
"You never wanted to be part of it, Magda, but…" The young witch weighed her words carefully, "it was not my place to invite or exclude you." Her smile didn't reach her eyes. "They fear you, you know? Your Roma ways are a mystery to them, but they know too well the power you wield. To blend that kind of power with those of a demon…" She shook her head. "If you were to be part of the new order, my sisters feared that you would become the most powerful of all, that they would soon answer to you."
Magda gave a low chuckle. "Your words are smooth, young Serena, but there is more self-interest than truth behind them." She held the younger woman's gaze. "On one thing you are right. They did not ask because they knew my answer would be no. Demons are not to be trusted. Had this plan worked, they would have consumed you. You would be a prisoner inside your own body, your powers used at their whim, not yours."
Serena shook her head. "You're wrong. This was not simple possession. We were to be a new race, a hybrid – more powerful than either demon or witch. And we will be again – once we reclaim our powers, once these hunters pay for what they did."
Magda studied the young woman in front of her. "Dark magic can be intoxicating, but when mixed with revenge, its effects are most often deadly."
"Look," Serena shifted impatiently. "I know you and my mother both liked to play in the light, do nothing heavier than cause mischief, but there's something bigger at stake here, so… You have a life debt to repay, and I want it repaid today. Find these men."
Magda glanced down at the dolls laid out in front of her. "While you choose not to see it, these men, they saved you."
"Repay your debt." Serena's smile was cold. "A Romany is only as good as her word, right? My mother saved your life, which means you owe her. And because she died before you could repay her, the repayment comes to me. Now reveal these hunters, or I tell every witch I know that Magda's word is meaningless."
Magda shook her head sadly. "I think your mother would be disappointed in the dark path you have chosen but you are right, I am indebted to you." The old Romany gathered up the dolls. "Each of the bags you placed inside these, they contain something from the men you seek?"
Serena nodded, her excitement evident now she was getting what she wanted. "Blood, skin from where we scratched them, a torn piece of clothing…It's all there – something from each of them."
Magda held the dolls tightly before closing her eyes. "I see them… and they are worthy adversaries." Her eyes opened slowly. "Did you know they walked amongst you?"
Serena frowned. "Of course they did. We fought them after the demons were destroyed."
Magda shook her head slowly as she again closed her eyes. "No. I see them in your camp much earlier, masked by magic and your own arrogance, not the cover of darkness. But what is it they are doing?" Her head tilted as her mind's eye strained to decipher the actions of the three men. "Ah, I see. They poisoned your food."
"Poison?" Serena scoffed. "They didn't poison us. We're fine."
"You are not." Magda's eyes slid open. "The poison was not to take your life, but to forever pollute your vessels as hosts. There will be no second chance for this new race you spoke of… not for you, not for your sisters. These men made sure of that."
The young witch looked horrified. "No. That's not true. They don't have that kind of power."
Magda shrugged. "I have no reason to lie. Just as you and your sisters are allied with demons, I sense that these men also have the protection of a higher power. It is through that alliance they beat you." She stared hard at Serena. "Had you not been blinded by greed for power, you might have taken more care, seen through their glamours, seen this result. But you were careless, and now it is done."
Serena's devastation quickly turned to fury. "I don't believe you, but that doesn't change the fact that these men will pay. Reveal them to me – now."
Magda stared at her for a moment, then put down the dolls and pulled a small, elaborately decorated knife from her pocket. "Watch carefully." With the knife, she slashed her fingers then, muttering ancient words under her breath, marked each of the dolls with her blood. She nodded, satisfied, then pushed the dolls toward the younger witch. "There. I have marked them."
Serena frowned. "Marked them? How? What does that mean?"
Magda waved her hand over the poppets. "The answer is right here. Do you not see?"
Serena's eyes flashed angrily, but she said nothing. She reached forward to touch the dolls, then closed her eyes. Her frown only deepened as her eyes snapped open. "I don't see them. Where are they?"
"I see their past, their intentions but as for where they are…" The old Romany smiled. "Like you said, these men know magic. They are masked to me. I cannot tell you where they are. So I have marked them. Decipher the marks, and you will know what to look for."
Livid, Serena shoved back her chair and stood suddenly. "This is how you repay a life debt…with riddles?"
Magda shrugged. "You asked me to help you find these men, and I have given you the means to do so. But I have no quarrel with them, so it is you who must do the work. The debt is repaid." She pulled a lace-trimmed handkerchief from her pocket and used it to wipe the blade off her knife. "Of course, since you have no powers, they will not be masked to you as they are to me. You could look for them as civilians do – knock on doors, ask questions…"
"You mock me?" Serena leaned across the table. "You are playing a dangerous game, old woman," Her eyes glittered with fury. "You will pay for this. Just like these men. On that you have my word." She stormed out of the trailer that was Magda's home, slamming the door after her.
"Your arrogance will be your downfall, young Serena." Magda gathered up the poppets, then glanced at the door the witch had just disappeared through, "and mine, I fear. But do not underestimate your quarry. Even marked as they now are, these men will not easily be beaten."
Serena paced in front of Magda's trailer, trying to rein in her temper. The meeting had not gone as planned. It was supposed to be a quick visit: Magda would repay the debt, tell her where the men were, then she and Claire would find them and get payback.
Instead, she had nothing but riddles and lectures in morality – from an old gypsy woman, of all people.
A shiver ran through her as she recalled Magda's words: "…to forever pollute your vessels as hosts. There will be no second chance for this new race…"
Serena shook her head. No, it wasn't true…it couldn't be. It was just more head games fueled by the gypsy's fear of demons, by her jealousy of the power the coven would soon possess.
But if the hunters had been sneaking around their camp, had slipped something into their food, she needed to know what – and how to reverse its effects. And that meant she had to interrogate the hunters before she killed them.
But she still had to find them. Magda said they were marked, but what the hell did that mean?
No. Serena shook her head. She had no desire to waste her time figuring out gypsy riddles. She had something far more productive in mind.
She turned back to Magda's trailer, her face twisting into a cruel smile as she climbed onto the step and twisted the doorknob.
Sam stretched under the covers, then scowled when the sheets pulled loose from the bottom of the bed and his bare feet met cold air. He groaned and curled up his knees. Once, just once, he'd love to have a bed that fit him.
He slid deeper beneath the blankets, wrapping them tightly around him and, without opening his eyes, listened for any signs that Dean was moving around. There were none.
Sam frowned. As much as he wanted to stay where he was, sleep away the exhaustion that the night, so far, had failed to erase, he couldn't settle. His head felt muzzy, like it did when he was battling the flu, and there was a growing knot in his stomach that said something was off. He pushed away the blankets and peeled open his eyes as he turned toward his brother's bed, squinting against the bright light forcing its way through drapes that didn't quite meet in the middle.
Dean was still asleep, sprawled on his stomach, arms tucked under his pillow, his right hand no doubt wrapped around the hilt of the knife he routinely kept there. Sam often wondered how he did it without cutting his hand in half, but he'd never seen his brother with so much as a scratch.
He glanced around the room: The salt lines in front of the door and along the window sill were both unbroken, the protective sigils they'd drawn in chalk on the walls still in place. Sam rubbed his eyes and yawned as he turned to the old digital alarm on the nightstand between the beds. It read 9:55 – far later than they usually woke up, but not too surprising since it had been well into the early hours of the morning before they'd finally fallen into bed.
His frown returned at the strange silence that seemed to envelop the room. Dean had bitched about the room's heater sounding like a F-18 taking off, and had threatened to rip the alarm clock from the wall, complaining that the constant ticking as the numbers flipped over was like Chinese water torture. Now both the heater and the clock were silent. The only noise was a strange, muffled howl, like wind on the far side of a closed door, or like the sound you got when pressing a shell to your ear.
Sam sat up and threw back the covers. He screwed his eyes closed as he swung his legs over the side of the bed, and grimaced at the nausea the simple movement caused. "Dean, wake up. Something's-" He froze, his eyes snapping open, his heart racing.
He was speaking, but he couldn't hear his own voice. "Dean, wake up…" He repeated the words but, again, heard nothing.
Sam clapped his hands together hard. His palms stung with the impact, but there was no sound. Breathing heavily, he stared at his hands then, out of the corner of his eye, caught sight of the heavy, old book on witchcraft he'd left on the nightstand. He snatched it up and threw it against the wall opposite the bed. Several pages fluttered loose as the book hit the wall, then dropped onto the dresser beneath, but there was no accompanying thud. The book fell in silence.
In shock, he turned slowly, then jumped, startled to find Dean sitting up in bed, staring at him. Sam swallowed, forcing out words that seemed stuck in his throat. "I… I can't hear, Dean. I can't hear."
Dean's right eye was still swollen shut, the purple and red bruising around his eye socket deepening to indigo and black over the eyelid. His left eye, though, was wide open and locked on his brother, the dilated pupil virtually hiding the hazel-green iris.
Dean's mouth moved as he said something, but Sam had no clue what it was. "I don't know what you're saying, Dean. I can't hear you."
Dean punched the bed in frustration, his chest rising and falling noticeably as his breathing sped up. He raised a hand, tapped the side of his good eye, then waved his hand, up and down, in front of his face.
Sam went cold. "You can't see." He leaned forward, his heart racing even faster. "You're…blind?"
Dean gave a terse nod, his fingers curling into fists.
Sam ignored the churning nausea in his gut and the low, steady hum that filled his head as he pushed himself off his bed and sat down beside his brother.
Dean's focus shifted toward Sam as the mattress sank under his brother's weight.
He said something and, this time, Sam had no trouble reading his lips because he was thinking the same thing.
"Yeah. The witches. They did this. Some kind of…spell or curse? But how? We yanked their powers." Sam frowned as he tried to decipher what Dean what saying. "Say it again."
Dean did, and this time Sam got it. "Bobby?"
Dean nodded, then held up his thumb and finger to his head, mimicking a telephone.
"Right. I should call Bobby. Make sure he's okay." Sam stood up and grabbed his phone from the nightstand. He'd scrolled down to Bobby's number when the obvious hit. "I can talk to him, but I can't hear a damn thing he says." He turned to Dean. "I'll text him."
Dean's WTF expression was clear.
"Right." Sam raked his fingers through his hair. "It's Bobby, the guy who still has a Commodore-64." He nodded as Dean made a 'Gimme' gesture. "Okay. Good. I dial, you talk."
Sam punched in Bobby's number, then pressed the phone into Dean's hand. He watched as his brother lifted the phone to his ear, tried to read his lips then frowned as he watched frustration quickly set in. "What? What's wrong?"
Dean shook his head, listened a moment longer then shoved the phone back at Sam.
Sam took it, his frown deepening when Dean clumsily grabbed his arm. "What? What'd he say?"
Dean shook his head, reached out for Sam and pulled him closer. He tapped him twice on the chest with his fist, then gestured toward the door of the motel room.
Sam quickly put the pieces together. "Bobby didn't answer. The witches could've got to him, too. I'll go check on him."
Dean nodded, pointing again toward the door.
"I'm going, I'm going." Sam pulled on his jeans and jammed his bare feet into his shoes. "Just…stay put." He ignored Dean's bitchface, quickly crossed the room and yanked open the door, almost colliding with Bobby who was standing in the doorway, fist raised as if about to knock. "Bobby! Why the hell didn't you answer your phone?"
Bobby held up a small coil notebook. On the displayed sheet of paper he'd scrawled: Voice gone – and it ain't laryngitis!
Sam's stomach did a somersault. "The witches?"
Bobby nodded curtly.
Sam swallowed. "I can't hear… Dean, he can't see."
Bobby's eyes widened at the news, worry mixed equally with shock as he glanced from Sam to Dean. He tapped Sam on the shoulder and gestured at his brother.
Sam turned around to see that Dean had pushed himself up and was now standing between the beds. His mouth moved and while Sam couldn't tell exactly what he was saying, there was no mistaking the gist: What the hell's going on? "Bobby's here. And yeah, the witches got him, too. He…he can't speak."
Dean looked like he wanted to hit something, but he just took a step back and sat down suddenly when the back of his knees hit Sam's bed. He shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands in another WTF gesture.
Bobby tapped Sam on the arm. When Sam turned around, he was writing in the notebook. He showed the page and this time he'd written: They're screwing with us - Three Wise Monkeys?
Sam frowned, puzzled for a moment. Then he got what Bobby was suggesting. "Oh, man…that's warped."
Bobby nodded then pointed again at Dean. The frustration over not being able to see what was going one was painted clearly across the elder Winchester's face.
Sam walked over to his brother. "The witches are screwing with us, Dean. It's the Three Wise Monkeys… You know – Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil. Whoever cursed us, robbed each of us of one of our senses."
Dean muttered something unintelligible to Sam, but he needed no translation for his brother's two raised middle fingers.
Sam turned back to Bobby. "So how the hell do we fix this?"
Bobby shrugged, then wrote again in his notebook: Figure out who did it, reverse it!
Sam nodded, then pointed to the table under the window. "Computer's over there. I'll put the coffee on."
The dark had never bothered Dean.
When he was very little, Mom had told him angels were watching over him so he'd always felt safe. After she died, he'd lost all faith, all belief in angels, but he had Dad – and Dad's growing collection of guns, knives and other weapons that he knew would protect him and Sam from whatever came after them, night or day.
Around the age of three, Sam had gone through a phase where he was scared of the dark. Dean hated lying to him, telling him there was nothing to be afraid of, especially when he knew damn well there was, but he'd gone through the motions to reassure his brother. Whenever they checked into a motel room, they looked under the beds and in the closets. Then when Sam went to bed, they turned on either the bathroom light or one on the dresser. The light stayed on until Sam was asleep.
Then, when Sam was around five, Dean had gone to turn on the light and Sam had sleepily mumbled, "No." As Dean turned around in surprise, Sam just snuggled down under the covers, yawned and, with his eyes closed, said, "Don't need the light, Dean. Got you." It was a non-issue for both of them from that point on.
Dean remembered waking up six feet under after Cas yanked him out of Hell. He was terrified, but more by being trapped in that confined space, the dirt raining down on him as he frantically clawed his way out, than by the pitch black broken only by the weak illumination of his lighter.
But this…this was different. It was dark, and there was no light to turn on.
He'd woken up confused, his still muzzy brain thinking power outage. But as he shook off the haze of sleep, he'd realized that, whatever time it was, there should be some kind of light – whether it was the emergency lights in the parking lot outside their room, or the morning sun poking in through the threadbare drapes.
He relaxed his grip on the knife under his pillow and blinked as he lifted his head, wincing at the pain radiating through his injured eye. The old witch who'd decked him wore a big-ass ring and he blamed that for most of the damage…
Dean inhaled sharply. Damage. Could the injury have stolen his sight? He'd lost count of the number of shiners he'd earned doing his job, but while a black eye often inhibited his vision, he'd never been blinded.
He jumped when he heard a loud clap behind him. "Sam?" Dean rolled onto his back and listened, only to jump again when he heard a loud thud, followed by the sound of something heavy falling. He sat up suddenly. "Sam, what the hell's going on? I can't see."
When Sam answered, his voice sounded strange. But it wasn't the flat tone that sent a chill spiraling down Dean's spine; it was his brother's words: "I… I can't hear, Dean. I can't hear."
It was then Dean realized that his blindness has nothing to do with physical injury, and everything to do with the witches.
After Bobby showed up, Sam had begun tracking the witches who had been part of the ceremony. Without their powers, it was unlikely they were directly responsible for whatever hex had stolen their senses, but chances were they were working with whoever was. Logic said find one, find the other.
Bobby, meanwhile, was poring over some books on witchcraft he'd retrieved from his truck, looking for any mention of a spell or hex that could steal senses and, more importantly, a way to reverse it.
For anything that needed a phone follow-up, the two of them would pass along the information to Dean. Then, Bobby would dial the number, hit the speaker button and listen in and take notes as Dean conducted the interview. When they were done, Bobby would pass the notes to Sam to fill him in.
It was tedious work, and Dean's always limited supply of patience was rapidly waning. He knew his blindness was temporary, adamantly rejecting any thoughts to the contrary, but he hated that it had stolen so much of his independence: Bobby had to dial the phone for him, Sam had to make him coffee. He'd snapped at his brother twice for babying him, immediately regretting it, but… he was the caretaker, damn it. He looked after his family.
He'd insisted on moving around the room under his own steam, brusquely batting away proffered helping hands. He'd paced out the distance between the bed and the bathroom, then the bathroom and the table by the window. He'd added a few bruises to his shins in the process, but it was a small price to pay for reclaiming a little self-sufficiency.
Then Sam had handed over his recently purchased iPad, onto which he'd downloaded a voice recognition app designed for the visually impaired. That took Dean off the sidelines and into an active role in their research.
After five hours, they had twenty possible locations charted on a map where the witches could be holing up. The now familiar sounds of Bobby flipping a page in his notebook and scrawling in it were followed by Sam's voice. "You're gonna go check'em out? All of them? Solo?" Sam exhaled loudly. "Come on. That's gonna take forever. You-"
"I'm gonna call Cas."
Bobby relayed that information to Sam.
"Cas kinda has his hands full, Dean. You know – war between Heaven and Hell. You think-"
"He'll help us." Dean hated the atonal timbre of Sam's voice since he'd lost his hearing. God, he'd teased the kid mercilessly when, as a young teenager, his voice had broken. He'd be speaking, then all of sudden, he'd squeak. Literally squeak. Dean remembered laughing so hard once, he'd fallen off the bed.
Sam, understandably, had been less than impressed. His recent growth spurt had already made him a world-class klutz, tripping over his own feet on a regular basis. His squeaky voice was just one more thing to be self-conscious about.
But Sam had had the last laugh. He'd outgrown his brother and his voice had settled into the deep, rich pitch that Dean had given thanks for more than once when it was raised in a warning shout while on a hunt.
But now, unable to hear for only a short time, it unsettled Dean just how much the cadence had flattened, how words ran together, how the volume swung wildly from barely audible to almost shouting. Dean hurt for his brother…and for his own inability to fix him. So the sooner they were all fixed, by whatever means necessary, the better. And Cas could help with that.
"Look, maybe Cas can fix us up, then we don't have to worry about the damn witches. He brought Bobby back from the dead, didn't he? Next to that, this should be a piece of cake." Dean lifted his head toward the ceiling. "Yo, Cas, who art fighting in Heaven. We're in kind of a bind and could really use your help, so drinks are on me if you get your feathery ass down here."
He waited a moment, but there was no sign of the angel.
Dean exhaled impatiently. "Look, I know you're busy but we're gonna be a lot more use to your cause if you lend us a hand, here. So…please…could you-"
"I'm here, Dean." The angel's voice was accompanied by the now familiar flutter of wings. "What is it you want?"
Dean's head snapped toward to the sound of Cas's voice. "Well, the smackdown last night with the coven of witches didn't go exactly as planned."
"I'm over here, Dean." Cas's voice, sounding puzzled, now came from right beside him. "I heard you destroyed the demons."
"Yeah. Mission accomplished on that front. But, um..." Dean sighed as he shifted toward Cas. "Long story short – the witches hexed us. I can't see, Sam can't hear and Bobby can't speak. We're kinda hoping you can do something about that."
He jumped when a hand touched his head, by his injured eye. Heat and a pins-and-needles sensation spread throughout the side of his face, but faded quickly, taking with it the pull of injured skin and all pain.
Dean blinked, then shook his head slowly. "Nothing." He was unable to keep the disappointment from his voice. "Still can't see squat."
"I feared as much." The mattress bounced as Cas stood up. "Hold still, Sam, while I repair your wound." There was silence for a moment, and then Cas was back in front of Dean. "Your physical injuries are healed, as are Sam's, and Bobby no longer limps. But your loss of senses is the result of a hex. That's not something I can fix. You need to find the perpetrator of the spell in order to lift it."
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Well, that's the $64,000 Question, isn't it?"
Cas sounded puzzled again. "What does that amount of cash have to do with it? You think you can buy-"
"It's an expression, Cas." Dean looked up to where he hoped Cas was still standing. "Trust me, we're trying to find the witch bitch who did this, have been since we woke up like this. But we did a little hexing of our own. The witches we went mano-y-mano with yesterday are still without their powers, meaning they can't be directly responsible."
After a rustle of papers, which Dean assumed was Bobby feeding Sam crib notes on his conversation, his brother cut in.
"They must be working with someone who, for whatever reason, wasn't invited to the big pow wow. We've tracked other covens where they might go underground till their powers return, and looked into reports of rogue witches who they might turn to for help. We've got about twenty possible locations – so far."
There was another rustle of paper, which Dean surmised was Sam or Bobby handing over the map to Cas. "If you can't fix us, think you could do a little recon? Save us some time and let us know where we should be looking?"
"I think I can help." Cas's response was followed by the flutter of wings.
Dean turned his head, listening intently. "What? What just happened?"
"He's gone." Sam answered, just before there was another flutter of wings. "And now he's back."
Dean shook his head. "Damn, Cas. If you weren't such a lazy ass time-waster, you might get more stuff done."
"I don't waste time, Dean." Cas sounded hurt. "In fact-"
"Man, we gotta work on your sense of humor." Dean shifted toward Cas's voice. "You find any of them?"
"I found all of them. It appears you've upset them."
Cas sighed. "Yes. I suppose it was inevitable since you destroyed their plans to create a new race of evil that-"
"Cas." Dean fought to keep his voice even. "Who hexed us?"
"I don't have a name, but I believe it was a gypsy."
That took Dean by surprise.
Sam, too, by the sound of his voice. "A gypsy?"
"Yes. One of the Roma people, if you prefer." The bed dipped as Cas sat down again beside Dean. "I visited each of the places you marked on the map. In several, I overheard the witches talking. Well, plotting your demise to be exact, but they appear to be waiting for their powers to return before taking action. But, according to more than one witch, it was a Romany who fulfilled a debt by hexing you, supposedly to make you easier to find. But, either this gypsy did – what's your expression, Sam? – a piss poor job, or, as you, Dean, might say, the witches are a few fries short of a happy lunch, because they are unsure what they should be looking for. Hence the reason there has been no retaliation thus far."
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. "First, it's happy meal, not happy lunch. Second, what do you mean, they don't know what to look for? She didn't just tell them, you're looking for three men – one blind, one deaf, one mute. How many of those combos can be wandering around?"
Cas shifted on the bed. "Well, technically, you're not wandering around – you're holed up in here. But, from what I overheard, I don't believe she told them exactly what she did to you. The witches are angry because she was so cryptic.
"From my experience, the Roma have no love for demons, which would explain why the gypsy witch wasn't part of the ceremony you interrupted. But they do have a very strong sense of honor. If one was indebted to a witch for some reason, and was asked to repay that debt by revealing your whereabouts, she would be honor-bound to do so. Perhaps being vague is her way of fulfilling her obligation without handing you over on a silver tray."
"Platter… It's silver platter." Dean leaned forward. "Let me get this straight, she did this to… protect us?"
"It is a logical conclusion." Cas stood up and appeared to be pacing again. "It has forced you to stay in this room, therefore you have remained safe."
"I'm blind, Cas." Dean was incredulous. "Sam can't hear and Bobby's had his mute button pushed. Forgive me if thanks isn't the first word that comes to mind. We -"
"This Romany witch – did you find her?" Sam unwittingly cut off Dean's rant.
"Yes." There was a rustle of paper as Cas tapped his finger on their map. "The gypsy camp is here."
"What did you see? What did she say?"
"I could not enter." Cas sat again beside Dean. "The camp is protected by angelic sigils."
Dean frowned. "How the hell would a gypsy know about angel-proofing?"
"It is unusual, I'll admit." Cas's voice was typically deadpan. "But the fact remains, it is."
Dean shook his head. "Never mind. Doesn't matter." He pushed himself off the bed. "Zap us over there."
Cas sounded surprised. "I told you, Dean. I can't get in."
"No, but we can. Just drop us at the curb, we'll take it from there."
"Dean, wait." Sam's voice was closer this time. "We can't just go barging in. Even overlooking our obvious…handicaps, we know jack squat about Romany hexes and spells. Don't you think we should do a little homework before Cas drops us on the front lines?"
"According to Cas, this gypsy witch is on our side. And since she's our best shot at fixing these handicaps, I say we go now." Dean shifted impatiently as he waited for Sam's reply. "You and Bobby grab a gun and let's go."
The rustle of papers said Sam was reading Bobby's notes. "Look, the site Cas pointed out is like a 30-minute drive from here. Once we get a little more ammo, just in case she turns on us, we can drive ourselves over there."
"What Sam says makes sense," Cas added. "I could get you there, but I can't protect you once you go in. It would be best if you had some insurance."
"Fine, head back to Heaven, to whatever you were doing up there. We'll take care of this." Dean sank down onto the bed. They were right, and he knew it. He was just so sick of the helpless feeling that came with not being able to see, he was willing to toss every basic rule of hunting out the window and charge in…blindly. He snorted at his unspoken pun. "But one hour, that's it. We find out what we can, then we go."
Bobby watched the boys work.
Sam looked like he always did when researching – completely engrossed. It was only when he stopped to ask a question or share information that his current handicap became apparent.
And Dean was still, well, Dean. Bobby couldn't help but smile as he listened to him use the voice recognition software. It was a good program that worked well, if a little too slow for Dean's impatient taste. And the more frustrated he grew, the more colorful his language became, further confounding the program.
'Did you say sandwich?' the electronic voice asked. "No, you son of a bitch," Dean snarled in reply, "I said son of a bitch." 'Recalculating,' the program chirped in response, causing Dean to toss the tablet across the bed in frustration.
Bobby knew too well the study in contradictions that was Dean Winchester. He was so much more than the driven hunter, ladies man and smart ass that most of the world perceived him to be. Those were masks, worn interchangeably to hide the vulnerabilities beneath: his love for and need of family, his unflagging loyalty and that mile-wide protective streak that had led him to take on Heaven and Hell, literally, in defence of those closest to him.
In the so-called normal world, these were heroic traits, strengths of character. But to hunters, they were weaknesses, ripe for exploitation.
But no matter how practised he became at slipping on a mask, at heart, Dean would never change. Bobby's smile softened. He was too much of a protector by nature. Even now, blinded by this spell, struggling to maintain both his composure and independence, his concern was still more for Sam than himself.
While pacing out his way around the room, he'd collided with Bobby, who was coming out of the bathroom. Bobby had patted his shoulder in a universal 'No worries' gesture, but Dean had grabbed his arm before he could walk away. 'How's Sam doing?' he'd hissed. 'Just squeeze my arm if he's good – all things considered.'
Bobby had squeezed his arm, then added another pat on the shoulder for emphasis.
Dean nodded. 'Good. But if anything changes, if he's hiding anything from me, if he's hurting…you find a way to let me know, you hear me?'
Course, he didn't miss how Sam tracked Dean's movements around the room, either, wincing in sympathy when Dean collided with a piece of furniture, smiling softly when he successfully circumnavigated the room under his own steam and rolling his eyes when Dean batted away his offers of assistance.
The brothers had been through some rough times over the past few years but now, despite everything that each was going through, they were in sync, and it did Bobby's heart good to see it.
"Think I got something… Some Northwestern prof did his dissertation on Roma history and culture and there's a whole section on curses."
Sam's voice pulled Bobby from his reverie.
Sam said nothing for a moment as he clicked through a few more pages. "Check this one out – it's said to be one of the most famous Romany curses. 'May you wander over the face of the earth forever, never sleep twice in the same bed, never drink water twice from the same well and never cross the same river twice in a year.' Sound like anyone you know?
"Yeah." Dean drained the last of his coffee and clumsily returned the empty cup to the nightstand. "Maybe ol' Yellow Eyes was part gypsy. You got anything a little more useful?"
Bobby scrawled the last part onto his notepad and showed it to Sam.
"Hang on…." Sam scanned a few more pages. "Okay, here we go. Seems that gypsies, like in voodoo, often use dolls to carry out their hexes. The dolls, called poppets, usually contain something belonging to the victim – nail clippings, hair, that sort of thing."
Dean frowned. "If they did use dolls, what've they got of ours?"
Sam was obviously on the same wavelength because he answered before Bobby could write down the query.
"For us, I'd say they've used blood, skin or hair. We all got scratched and banged up fighting the witches. Wouldn't have been hard for them to find something."
Bobby scribbled on the page and showed it to Sam: Destroy the dolls, break the hex?
Sam nodded, then turned to Dean. "Each hexed person needs to hold the poppet representing them and read a Reversal of Misfortune spell. When the spell's finished, you burn the poppet and, shazam, curse is broken – according to this, anyway."
"You find one of those spells? 'Cause we should memorize one in case these… muppets are behind the hex."
After Bobby's translation, Sam nodded. "Yeah, there's a couple listed here."
"Good. Let's do it." Dean swung his legs off the bed, "Then we go meet this gypsy."
Bobby wrote again in his notepad, this time a single word: Protection?
"Hang on, Dean. Bobby's right." Sam turned back to the computer. "We need to protect ourselves. If dolls are involved, great, we know how to break this hex, but we've got nothing to stop the gypsies tossing another spell at us. We don't know for a fact they're as friendly as Cas seems to think." He looked over at Bobby. "What the hell's the gypsy equivalent of a hex bag?"
Bobby turned to a book he'd been reading a few moments earlier. Flipping back a few pages, he handed it to Sam and tapped a passage on the right-hand page.
Dean was puzzled by the silence. "What? What's going on?"
"Bobby found something." Sam read quickly through the passage. "Okay, each of us needs to carry a twig from a willow or a rowan tree."
Dean scowled. "Rowan tree. What the hell is that? The only Rowan I know is that Mr. Bean dude."
Bobby flashed him an 'idjit' look and motioned for Sam to keep reading.
Sam did, and then nodded. "Okay, this sounds a little easier to get our hands on. Each of us needs to wear a mirror. It will repel a hex if one is directed at us, reflecting it back on whoever is casting it."
"Good to know." Dean snarked. "Grab your purse, Samantha. Who knew your compact would come in handy some day."
Bobby chose not to transcribe that, writing instead. "Get ready. I'll grab supplies from the drugstore around the corner. Be back in five."
Sam nodded, and turned to fill in Dean.
Yanking open the door, Bobby paused to glance back at the boys. He briefly considered ditching them and heading out to the gypsy witch's camp solo. He still had his eyes and his ears, was more than capable of sneaking in there without them but, if these poppets were involved, each had to be in possession of the cursed doll when the reversal of misfortune spell was read. If the brothers were with him, they could get the spell done that much sooner, and it would be all hands on deck for the trek home – something that would prove useful if they had to fight their way out of there, again.
He nodded to himself as he closed the door. All hands on deck it was.