By San Antonio Rose
Sam berated himself as he raced the Impala through the darkened streets, Dean beside him doing his best to choke back the sobs of agony. He should have known better. The moment he'd read that their Land Before Time monster of the week sprayed poison as a defensive mechanism, he'd known he should have insisted that they both wear some kind of eye protection. But Dean had been confident that they could gank the thing before it woke up, and Sam had backed down. So naturally, the thing had been wide awake when they got there, and Dean had gotten a faceful of scalding, irritating, possibly corrosive liquid before Sam killed it.
Fortunately, the warehouse the creature had been living in had emergency showers, so Sam had been able to get Dean's skin clean quickly enough to prevent much damage. But there hadn't been an eyewash station nearby, and even if there had been, Dean's eyes were swollen shut; he couldn't open them even if he wanted to. All Sam could do was to rush him to the ER and pray that he'd been able to shut his eyes in time.
If that stuff had reached Dean's contacts... the consequences didn't bear thinking about.
After what felt like an eternity, the Impala roared into the hospital parking lot and slammed to a halt in front of the ER. Sam jumped out, raced to the other side, and scooped his moaning brother into his arms before sprinting into the building yelling for help. Only after the initial flurry of triage and explanations and treatment and paperwork did Sam manage to catch his breath long enough to even think about calling Dad.
He didn't call, though. Even if he could get through, even if he thought Dad would respond, he didn't want Dad to know they'd both been so careless.
After what felt like another eternity, the ER doctor came out to talk to Sam. "We're keeping your brother overnight, Mr. Anderson," she said, "just to make sure the swelling goes down enough that he'll be able to breathe properly on his own. But it looks like you acted fast enough that there'll be no lasting damage."
He nodded. "What about his eyes?"
"We were able to get them open and get the contacts out. Looks like they bore the brunt of the damage, and it's a very good thing they were hard lenses, since we can't tell how soft lenses would have reacted to a chemical cocktail this bizarre. His vision will be fine. But his eyes will be irritated for a few days still, and he will need new contacts once he's able to wear them again."
Sam sighed a little in relief. "Okay. Do... would it be okay for me to spend the night in his room with him?"
The doctor smiled. "Sure. You can come on back and sit with him until we're ready to move him to a room."
He followed her back to the examining room, where Dean lay propped up on the hospital bed with an oxygen cannula under his nose and an IV in his left hand, his face still red and puffy but not quite as swollen as it had been, tears still slowly leaking down his cheeks. But somehow, even as miserable as he had to be and with his eyes still tightly shut, he still knew Sam was there. He stirred and turned his head a little. "S'mmy?"
"Yeah, Dean, I'm here." Sam pulled a chair up to the bedside and took Dean's right hand. "Doc says you'll be okay."
"You'll be fine."
Dean nodded and relaxed, then squeezed Sam's hand in Morse code. You did good, Sammy.
"It's my fault, Dean. I should have..."
Two quick squeezes—No.
One eyebrow went up in Dean's Do not argue with me, Sam expression. Then he winced and relaxed his face, though the skin around his eyes was still tight with pain.
Sam sighed and rubbed the back of Dean's hand with his thumb. Then he leaned closer and whispered, "You're gonna have to wear your glasses for a while, until your eyes heal and we're able to replace your contacts."
Dean whimpered, and a couple more tears escaped his eyes.
Dean's hatred of his glasses wasn't simply a matter of vanity. Granted, he was proud of his looks, possibly more than he should have been, but that wasn't why he'd pleaded with Dad to let him get contacts as soon as he was old enough and they were affordable enough. His prescription was very strong, and because they'd always been too poor to be able to afford the thinner, lighter-weight polycarbonate lenses, he'd been stuck with thick, heavy plastic lenses and frames that were hardly the height of eyewear fashion. "Coke-bottle" might not have been the right adjective—Sam had once had a classmate whose eyes were so bad that his glass lenses were a good two inches thick, so they'd always regarded those as "Coke-bottle lenses"—but Dean's glasses were thick enough to be embarrassing.
And "four-eyes" was the least of the names Dean had been called, never mind the fights he'd gotten into when some bully tried to break his glasses. Only once did anyone ever come close to succeeding, and that only by slamming a volleyball into Dean's face; fortunately, he had had wire frames that had bent under the impact, not broken as plastic frames would have, and the blow had barely missed breaking Dean's nose, too. The culprit hadn't been so fortunate when Dean's fist found its mark.
So between the humiliation of having to wear glasses to school and the occasional comments from other grown-up hunters about how unwise it would be to wear glasses on hunts, Dean had grown hypersensitive about his vision problems. Once he'd gotten contacts and found that girls found him far more interesting without his glasses, he'd vowed never to wear glasses again unless he absolutely had to. Dad had always insisted that he keep a spare pair on hand just in case, but he almost never needed them.
Now he had no choice.
That didn't stop Dean from trying to delay the inevitable, though. He grouched about everything, from the hospital food to his inability to see the nurses before leaving to being stuck in their dingy motel room, but for two days, he steadfastly refused to put his glasses on, even after his nose had healed enough that the nose pads wouldn't hurt him as much.
Finally, after the third time Dean misjudged the locations of the furniture in the motel room's poor lighting and whacked his shin on his bed, Sam had had enough. He got up from the search he'd been running for a new hunt, dug through Dean's duffle bag, retrieved the glasses case, and slapped it into Dean's hand.
"No," Dean replied.
"I'll look stupid!"
"You will not. Not any more stupid than you look walking into furniture that you can't see."
"You haven't seen these frames—my old pair broke a year or so ago, and Dad took me to Walmart, and these were the only ones we could afford even there. They're nerd glasses, Sammy," he concluded in what Sam, in his current state of annoyance, would call a whine.
Sam crossed his arms and pulled his Do not argue with me, Dean face, knowing that even if Dean couldn't see his face clearly, he'd recognize the stance and the silence. And he held that pose and that face until a very unhappy Dean caved and opened the hard case. He didn't get a good look at the frames, though, until Dean had reluctantly put them on and looked up at him miserably.
Thick black plastic. Horn-rim. The kind of glasses worn by computer geeks who used pocket protectors and put masking tape on the bridge... but also by...
"Buddy Holly," said Sam without thinking.
Dean frowned a little, then blinked, then looked at Sam wide-eyed. "Buddy Holly?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah. Very rockabilly, especially with the leather jacket."
Dean got up cautiously and went over to the mirror above the dresser to ponder the comparison, even going so far as to quietly sing the first verse of "Peggy Sue" more or less in tune. Sam was a little surprised at that; he knew Dean was a metalhead, but he didn't think either Dean or Dad liked music that was much older than the Impala. Yet the song seemed to have the desired effect, as Dean appeared to warm to the Buddy Holly comparison the longer he looked at himself.
"Think you can live with that?" Sam finally asked.
"Yeah," Dean answered. "At least... for a little while."
They didn't go out that night, though, and while Sam convinced Dean to go with him to the diner for breakfast, he came out of the bathroom to find Dean turning the glasses over and over in his hand, debating whether to risk the humiliation of wearing them in public.
Sam sighed a little. "Dean, they look cool. Just wear them."
Dean sighed deeply and put them on.
The cute blonde waitress who'd served Sam the last couple of days grinned as they walked in. "So this is the brother! Cookie was starting to think you didn't exist," she told Dean with a wink.
Dean ducked his head and chuckled.
After she got them seated, she looked at Dean a little more closely and said, "You must be really into vintage, huh?"
Dean blinked. "What makes you say that?"
She shrugged. "That cool old car, the Buddy Holly glasses..."
He brightened and put on his most charming grin. "Yeah, they sure don't make styles like they used to. Music, especially."
"Yeah, my boyfriend says the same thing. He's a big Chuck Berry fan."
If Dean's smile dimmed at all, Sam was pretty sure he was the only one who saw it. "It's gotta be rock and roll music if you want to dance with me!"
She giggled and blushed a little. "Bacon cheddar omelet with hash browns, right? That's what your brother's ordered for you."
"Yep. You've got a good memory."
"And to drink?"
She took Sam's order before turning back to Dean. "Um... may I ask what happened to your face?"
Dean gingerly touched the burns that hadn't quite healed yet. "Ah, my psycho ex threw acid at me. I'm lucky Sammy was there; probably saved my life."
She nodded sadly. "Well, I'm glad it didn't hurt your glasses. They're really cool." Then she blushed, as if she hadn't meant to say that out loud, and hurried back to the kitchen.
He watched her go before looking back at a highly amused Sam. "Think she was lying about the boyfriend?"
Sam snorted and shook his head. "Nope. And I also think she's 16."
"Hey, at least someone other than me thinks your glasses are cool."
Dean ducked his head again with his wry, shy smile and started playing with the sugar container, which oddly made him look even more like Holly. The waitress had her game face on when she brought the coffee and their plates, but she couldn't help blushing a little every time Dean smiled at her, and that seemed to soothe Dean's ego just as much as actually hooking up with her might have. Her boyfriend did turn up at the counter later, though, and glared when Dean raised his coffee cup in silent acknowledgment, so Sam decided they might be better off finding another restaurant for future meals.
On the way out, however, Dean stopped next to the boyfriend's chair. "Your girl's got good taste, dude," he said quietly. "Marry her." Then he slapped the startled kid on the back, winked at the waitress, and walked out, leaving Sam to shake his head in amusement and follow.
They'd just reached the Impala when a male voice behind them shouted, "Hey, Buddy... Buddy Holly!" They turned in tandem to see the boyfriend running after them.
The kid wasn't anyone Dean couldn't have taken in a fight—in fact, he probably ought to think twice before trying to fight Dean—but Dean still looked a little nervous, probably flashing back to junior high and bullies trying to make his vision even worse than it already was. "Yeah?"
"Why'd you say that? That I should marry Darlene?"
Dean huffed a little and smiled. "Kid, most of the time, a pretty waitress won't say no to me even if she does have a boyfriend. Darlene, she told me she was taken before I'd done more than smile at her—and honestly, I suspect she wouldn't have even looked at me if I hadn't been wearin' these," he added, motioning to his glasses. "She liked the attention, but her heart's yours. Keep her. With a love like that, you know you should be glad," he concluded with a wink.
The kid stared at Dean for a long moment before nodding. "Yeah. Uh, thanks. And, uh... that's a groovy car." He smiled a little and ran back inside.
Grinning, Sam shook his head. "And you were worried chicks wouldn't like you in those."
"Shut up," Dean shot back, visibly embarrassed.
It was another ten days before the contacts finally arrived, and Dean loudly proclaimed his relief at being able to go back to his normal lack of visible eyewear. But every now and again, between hunts, he would claim eye fatigue for no real reason and switch back to his glasses—usually, Sam noticed, when they were headed to a bar where there might be Buddy Holly fangirls. Sam was highly amused, but he never called Dean on it because for once, his brother had something to associate with glasses that wasn't negative.
A/N: If you didn't recognize the two songs Dean quotes, the first is "Rock and Roll Music" by Chuck Berry and the second is "She Loves You" by the Beatles.