It was seven when they pulled into the parking lot of Herby's. The place closed at seven-thirty, and Dean rushed inside, praying that Trixie was working. The bell above the door dinged, and one lonely waitress looked up expectantly.
"Hey." It wasn't Trixie, but Rachel who greeted Dean at the counter. Rachel, the other waitress who was working that first day. Dean recalled his talk with her and smiled, turning on the charm.
"Hey." He replied. "Rachel, right?"
Rachel tucked her bangs behind her ears. "Yeah."
Dean flashed her a smile. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor." He said nonchalantly. "There was an old woman in here last Friday. Hazel? You don't happen to know where she lives?"
"Not really." Rachel said with a pout. When Dean's smile faded she scrambled to add, "But I know she lives by the lake. Her last name is Higgins, I'm sure you could look her up in the phone book or ask around town. Someone will know." Rachel looked at Dean, hopeful.
"Thanks, Rachel." Dean's smile was a bit more genuine, and Rachel nodded fervently and returned the look. "See you around." Dean said as he turned to leave.
"I hope so." Rachel called after him.
Sam was waiting impatiently in the Impala. The second Dean's door creaked open, Sam twisted toward the noise.
"You get it?" He asked.
"I got a last name and a general location." Dean answered. "We'll stop at the gas station and look in a phone book."
By the time they found an address for Hazel, it was already after eight. Dean wasn't waiting around until morning, though. Not this time. They were too close to the end. Just one more piece and the puzzle would be complete. Sam was going to be fully functional before they went to sleep again in that crappy hotel.
"This is it." Dean said. They were parked in front of a small log cabin on the lake, surrounded by evergreen trees. A thick line of smoke trailed from the chimney. Dean checked his pocket for the handgun he had there.
They snuck up to the house quietly – well, as quietly as they could with Sam shuffling his feet in the gravel of the driveway. Sam stood out of view of anyone who might peer out from the house, and Dean cautiously stepped in front of the front window and cupped his eyes to the glass. The room inside was dark and he couldn't make out many details, but around the corner, a small sliver of light shone out from a partially closed door.
"Stay there." He whisper-shouted to Sam, and Sam folded his arms across his chest and remained where he was.
Dean moved swiftly around the side of the house to find the room that he had seen with a light on. He stopped when he rounded a corner and found a soft yellow glow from a window illuminating the grass. Through the window Dean could see Hazel. She was sitting in a rocking chair reading a newspaper with glasses low on her nose. Her hair was up in curlers and she was wrapped in a yellow robe that was at least two sizes too big. For a split second, Dean was convinced they had the wrong person, and he almost felt bad for spying. Then, on a small desk behind Hazel, Dean saw all the proof he needed.
A very thick, very old book was open on the desk. Next to it sat a large wooden bowl. Dean knew enough about witches to be suspicious from those two items alone, but that wasn't what convinced him. Above the bowl there were three photographs taped to the wall. One, of a little girl with dark hair and a pink dress. It looked like a school photo. Dean assumed it was Ellie, the little girl who went deaf, because to the right was a black and white photo of Brad Lanners, clipped right out of a newspaper. To the right of that photo was the one that had caught his eye in the first place. It was a bad picture, blurry and overexposed, but it was unmistakably Sam. He was slouched over a plate of food and in the corner of the photo, Dean could just see the top of his own head. It was taken at Herby's.
Sam was waiting in the driveway when Dean returned, and he tensed when he heard Dean's footsteps on the gravel.
"Relax, Sam, it's me." Dean whispered. "We've definitely got her. Looks like witchcraft."
Sam's eyebrows shot up excitedly and he took a step forward, scraping his foot across the gravel. "That's great!" He whispered a little too loudly. "That means we can probably reverse it."
"Yeah." Dean answered. "But lets not get ahead of ourselves. We still need to get in there first."
Sam nodded. Dean decided to skip knocking on the door. If Hazel saw them standing on the front step, who knows what kind of nasty spell she could whip up really quick before they could get in there and stop her. He wrapped his hand around Sam's elbow, leading him a bit more quietly to the house.
It took less than thirty seconds for Dean to pick the old key lock, and he breathed a sigh of relief when the door didn't squeak as it swung open. Dean stepped inside and paused.
"Maybe you should wait here, Sammy." He whispered. He already knew how Sam was going to react to that suggestion.
"No." Sam said sternly. "No way. Dean, I'm coming with you."
Dean sighed. "Sam, I can focus better if I'm not worrying about you." He felt a little bad for being so blunt, but this was it. Their one shot at fixing this. Dean wasn't going to take chances.
Sam scowled. "I am not going to let you go in there alone." He whispered harshly.
"You can stay right here then." Dean offered. "By the door. If you hear me being killed you can rush in and save the day."
"That's not funny, Dean." Sam snapped.
Dean shrugged. "You good?"
Sam sighed and leaned back against the door. "Yeah. Fine." He whispered unhappily. "Be careful."
"Always am." Dean answered as he tiptoed slowly down the hall, leaving Sam frowning at the front door.
The door to the room Hazel was in was open a crack. He peeked inside and found Hazel exactly as she had been when he saw her through the window. Pulling the gun out of his waistband, Dean took a deep, steadying breath and pushed the door open, gun aimed steadily in front of him.
"Don't move!" He shouted. The door banged against the wall and Hazel shrieked and dropped the newspaper, raising her hands up in surrender.
"Please don't hurt me!" She cried. "I have grandchildren. Take anything you want."
Dean circled around towards the alter with the photos of Sam, Brad, and Ellie. He kept the gun fixed on Hazel as he moved.
"I'm not robbing you." He said. He reached the desk and nodded toward the photos. "What's all that?"
At that point, Hazel recognized him from Herby's. She started to lower her hands, but Dean waved the gun and she put them back in the air. "I remember you." She said. "You were at Herby's last Friday. How's your friend?"
Dean would have laughed if he wasn't so angry. "Blind!" He snapped. "Thanks to you!"
Hazel looked sad and maybe even a little embarrassed. "I was only helping him." She said.
"Helping!" Sam demanded from behind Dean, and Dean spun around, shocked by the unexpected sound. He collected himself quickly and turned back to Hazel, relieved to see that the woman hadn't moved.
"How the hell do you think that making me blind would help me?" Sam said.
Hazel shook her head. "I was only trying to help." She repeated. "The things you've seen."
"And what about Brad Lanners?" Dean demanded. "Huh? And that little girl Ellie Gould. Were you just trying to help them, too?"
Hazel looked up at Dean, her eyes pleading. "Yes, of course."
Dean didn't know if the woman was just trying to confuse them or if she honestly believed she was helping. Either way, it wasn't what he had been expecting. He lowered the gun but kept his finger on the trigger, ready to react to the first sign of danger.
"How were you helping?" He asked.
"Little Ellie Gould listened to her parents fight every day." Hazel explained. "She sat in her room and cried as her mother called her father nasty names and her father admitted to having an an affair. She didn't want to hear them any more." Hazel paused and looked to Dean for any reaction. He didn't give any, and she continued. "Brad Lanners went to that awful stripper bar every week and looked at those girls." She frowned and then added sheepishly. "I was helping his wife and son that time."
Hazel looked over Dean's shoulder to where Sam stood in the doorway, a look of disbelief on his face.
"The things you've seen." She said again. "Such horrible things."
"That's bull." Dean said angrily. "I've seen the same things as Sam, and–"
"No." Hazel cut him off. "He sees so much evil. So much death." She brought her hand to the side of her head and held it there. "Here." She said.
"His visions?" Dean asked.
"I deal with it." Sam said. "I would rather see the visions than nothing at all."
Dean turned to Sam. His brother was standing his full height, shoulders squared. Trying to look authoritative, Dean thought. Trying to prove his point and convince Hazel that he knew what he wanted. To Dean, though, Sam just looked like his little brother. His little brother who needed his help. Who needed him to fix things. Who depended on him to make everything okay.
"Fix him." Dean demanded, pointing the gun back at Hazel.
She put her hands back in the air and her eyes widened. "I was only trying to help." She said for the third time. "If you really want to go back, Sam, if it's what you really want..."
"It's what I want." Sam growled.
"You'll see those awful things again." Hazel tried. "It may never stop."
"I'll take that chance." Sam said.
Hazel sighed and lowered her hands, despite the gun that was pointed at her.
"Very well." She said.
She stood and went to the alter. Dean watched her suspiciously. It would be all to easy for her to cast another spell, to make things even worse.
"No funny business." He warned.
Hazel grabbed the photo of Sam without a word and placed it in the wooden bowl. She pulled a jar from under the table and sprinkled a little of the powder into the bowl, then lit a match, recited a few words from the book, and dropped the match into the bowl. It hissed and sparked, then died. Dean tensed and watched Sam carefully out of the corner of his eye as he waited.
"It's done." Hazel said.
Dean spun around to Sam. He blinked rapidly and rubbed at his eyes. Dean waited expectantly.
"It didn't work." Sam said. His voice was strained, trying to hold back emotion.
"Sometimes it can take up to a full day for the spell to take." Hazel explained.
Dean looked between Sam and Hazel, unsure of what to do. A part of him believed that Hazel was really just trying to do what she thought was right. He wanted to believe that the woman had put things back to normal, but the thing he was gambling with was his brother's sight, and he didn't want to take the risk.
"How do we know you're not lying?" Dean demanded.
"Check the book for yourself." Hazel offered, stepping back from the alter and waving a hand toward the book.
Dean stepped forward and peered down at the book. He didn't understand the words of the spell, but the title on the page was clearly labeled sensory deprivation and underneath it was the counter-spell.
"Do the others, too." Dean said.
Hazel hesitated, but the gun in Dean's hand convinced her to do as he said, and she repeated the process with Ellie and Brad Lanners' photos.
"They will return to normal." Hazel said sadly once the counter-spells were complete.
"Good." Dean said. "And if I ever hear of you doing this again, we'll be back." He warned. "And next time we wont be so understanding."
Hazel gave them her word and they hesitantly left her behind and returned to the hotel. They made it back to the AmericInn without any luck.
"You think it'll work?" Sam asked once they were in the room, each on their respective bed. It had been hours since they left Hazel's, and Dean was frustrated and nervous and tired. He couldn't sleep, though, no matter how hard he tried.
"Yeah. I do." He answered, and he wasn't sure if he really believed it or if he was just trying to reassure Sam. If things weren't back to normal by morning, Dean decided, they were going back to Hazel's and they weren't leaving until Sam could see again.
Dean jerked awake and sat up in bed, reaching for his gun and preparing for a fight.
"What?" He asked, still groggy from being pulled out of sleep too quickly. Come to think of it, Dean didn't remember falling asleep at all. The last time he remembered seeing the clock, it was four in the morning and Sam was still awake. He looked at the clock now. It was 6:00am. Two hours of sleep he had gotten. He wondered if Sam had gotten any at all.
"Dean." Sam said again, and Dean rubbed his tired eyes and looked at his brother. Sam met his gaze and Dean was suddenly wide awake. He raised a hand and waved at Sam dumbly. Sam watched Dean's hand move and then smirked. "I can see that." He said.
Dean jumped out of bed and went to stand in front of Sam. "You can see?" He asked excitedly.
"Yeah." Sam answered, a wide grin on his face. "It just came back. Just as fast as it left."
They spent a good ten minutes just being glad that everything had worked out in the end. Sam paced and commented on the poorly decorated room. He flipped through a newspaper that had been left in front of their door, too quickly to be reading the words, just marveling the simple sight of it. Finally, Dean suggested that they get the hell out of town, and Sam hastily agreed. They had a demon to catch, after all. Bobby had a lead, and with their help, the son-of-a-bitch wouldn't be hurting anyone else ever again. They packed in record time. Dean took one last look at the small hotel room he had spent the last five days in. He gave the room the all clear and met Sam at the car.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam said over the hood of the Impala.
Dean paused at the driver's door. "Yeah?"
Sam was quiet for a long moment, staring off down the road. Dean followed his gaze. The sun was just beginning to rise, painting the sky a brilliant orange and the fields below yellow with dark shadows. The road ahead curved over a soft hill and disappeared into the line of silhouetted trees in the distance. It was beautiful, really, and Dean couldn't imagine never seeing a sunrise again.
Sam exhaled audibly and they both turned back to face each other. "Can I drive?"
Dean smiled. "Sure, Sammy." He said, and handed his brother the keys.
Thanks so much for reading, everyone! I hope you enjoyed it! :D