Title: Not By Your Hand
Rating: Adult (for dark themes and the occasional swear word)
Word Count: 4375
Warning: angst, hurt/comfort, permanent disability (blindness), seizures
Summary: Written for hoodie_time's h/c comment meme #6, in response to this prompt: Sam and Dean are having a huge fight. Words are said, Sam gets really mad and wants to shove his brother but suddenly his powers sparkle up (telekinesis or maybe unnatural strength, like Jake's). The consequences are tragic. Dean sustains life-changing injury, something huge and permanent. Sam has to deal with his guilt, Dean with his injury and John with them both.
Brothers fight. It's a natural fact of life, like the sky being blue or the grass being green. They fight about anything and everything; Dean's dirty socks and underwear lying around, Sam's obsessive compulsive nagging, Dean's moldy leftovers in the mini-fridge, Sam's reluctance to get off his ass and clean the weapons like he's been told, Dean's extra loud obnoxious chewing while Sam's trying to concentrate on his homework. The list goes on and on, with no shortage of triggers to set the rowdy and highly trained fighters into a tussle (or worse). Then there'll be punching, arm-twisting, kicking, hair-pulling (Dean, believe it or not, because Sam's got a big mop and Dean's not afraid to take advantage of it to prove a point), head-locking, and the inevitable crying of uncle.
And Sam always loses.
It's not that he's not a good fighter. Because he is. At 14, he's taken on opponents twice his size – bullies and monsters alike – and won. He's got killer instincts, sharp reflexes, and raw power fueling fluid movement. But when the opponent is Dean, all that training, those reflexes and instincts, are used against him by a foe who is ruthless, vindictive, and who knows his every move before he even decides to make it. Not only that, but Dean knows just which buttons to push to make his little brother crazy enraged, so that he's hotheaded and reckless when he should be calculated and careful. It always leads to disaster.
But today's fight is not about socks or weapons or Dad or their stupid lives. It's not about moldy food or Dean being an annoying jerk.
Today's fight is about a girl.
Julie Bixler is currently the light in Sam Winchester's rather bleak world. She is everything that a girl should be: smart, funny, witty, pretty, capable, independent, hard-working and keen. She's one of those over-achieving types who heads every school committee, has grades that any parent would be proud of, and yet somehow manages to come to school every day looking flawless. She's sweet and kind, without being saccharine or disingenuous, cares about the environment and animal rights, and in general is about the awesomest person God ever put on the planet.
So of course, she took one look at Dean and fell head over heels.
Sam knew he shouldn't have brought her home to work on that history project. If the weapons and 'research' weren't enough to scare her away, then the simple weirdness of Winchester day-to-day life should have been enough to send her running for the hills.
But it was Dean who ruined everything. Dean, who at 19 looks like someone straight from a teen fangirl magazine. Dean with his spiky, dark blonde hair and stupidly long lashes. Dean with his kissable lips (or at least, that's how the girls at school are always describing them) and broad shoulders and stupid, stupid, stupid perfect face. He'd taken one look at Julie Bixler, perfect, gorgeous, intelligent Julie Bixler, donned that cocky movie star grin of his, and said, "Sweetheart, you are way outta his league."
Sam could practically hear cupid's arrow as it zinged through the air and struck perfect, gorgeous, intelligent Julie Bixler straight through the heart. Her breath had caught in her chest and she'd whispered, breathlessly, "Oh…. Um… Is that your brother?"
Sam sometimes really, really, for real, hates his brother.
The fight that Sam provokes when Julie leaves is kind of epic. It starts out with pissy little comments, which Dean laughs at straight from his belly like he's tickled pink to be getting a rise out of his brother. Then Dean taunts back with the usual, "Hey man! I can't help that I've just got this natural animal magnetism. She wasn't the first and won't be the last chick to fall for this face." To which Sam promptly retorts with a rather below-the-belt, "Yeah, you're real attractive until they find out you're a high school drop-out with zero job prospects and a criminal record for grave desecration. You're every girl's dream."
That makes Dean's jaw twitch – a palpable hit! – and he comes out swinging. "Don't let your mouth write a cheque your ass can't cash, Sammy." And the fight is on.
Sam's aiming to hurt. Preferably in the face. He wants to mark up the pretty, blast it open and ugly it up because Dean is too freaking smug and it's not fair. Dad's perfect soldier with his perfect fighting skills and his perfect obedience and his perfect. Stupid. Face! Dean's a drop-out and a criminal and a crude, cheating, dirty bastard who loves chicks and leaves 'em and can't take anything seriously for 30 freaking seconds and it's not fair! It's not fair that Sam gets dragged along on this stupid quest for revenge, and it's not fair that Dean's Dad's favourite even though by any other father's standards he'd be considered a fuck-up, and it's not fair that Julie took one look at Dean and was like, 'Sam who?' Sam feels his rage build up inside him, like a balloon taking on more helium, expanding within his chest and rising into his head, flaming his cheeks red.
For his part, Dean's not cutting any slack, either. He's merciless in the most humiliating way possible, aiming for all the jabs and strikes that make his little brother squeal with pain without inflicting too much damage. He boxes Sam's ears, making his head ring like a bell, and twists his arm behind his back until Sam's yowling in pain. A lucky hit to the groin forces Dean to relinquish his hold, and Sam pivots away and faces his brother, poised in fighting stance and ready to strike where it hurts most. Sam's so angry he's sure he could breathe fire, the pressure in him so high it's like a boiler room inside his brain, inside his very soul.
"Maybe if you stopped acting like a pissy bitch all the time," Dean pants through bloodied lips, "you'd actually manage to snag a girl. Nobody likes a cry-baby Sammy."
It's the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.
Sam's brother is more intuitive, you see, than he ever lets on. He picks up on more than most people give him credit for. And where his little brother's concerned, he usually can take one look at him and know what's going on in that busy brain of his. He knows what makes him tick, and from the looks of things, from what he's just said, Dean knows what's fuelling all of Sam's current rage, knows that this is about a lot more than feeling rejected by Julie Bixler. Sam's big brother can see all of Sam's little niggling insecurities, knows how rootless and fringed and freakish Sam feels all the time, how like an outsider, even in his own family. And Dean is taunting him with it.
Something in Sam's head pops. It's like a pressure valve opens, and all the steam that'd been building up just sort of blows out through his ear drums. One minute Sam feels the energy of his rage building and building and building, and the next it sort of just: goes. His rage is focused into a white, hot, fiery light that bursts forth, but not in a haze of red the way that anger usually possesses him. No, this time it's a brilliant, blinding light.
Sam sees his brother's eyes, watches as the green rounds comically wide, a startled 'O' forming on Dean's lips before the white makes them glow with reflected light, and then everything is lost in the haze as the light whites everything out. Sam hears a loud crack from far away, a thud, his brother grunt, and then the white takes over everything and Sam doesn't have time to think anything else because then blackness takes over.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
When the world comes back into focus, it happens in the blink of an eye. Sam's eyelids flutter and the familiar shapes of the living room slam into focus with picture-perfect clarity. He's… sitting on his ass, tumbled onto the floor like someone let the wind out of his sails, and his right cheekbone stings from a right hook he'd taken from Dean. But other than that everything's exactly as he left it mere seconds… minutes?... ago.
For a moment Sam sits there, stunned, not really sure what happened. He thinks he might have blacked out. One minute he'd been fighting with his brother, and the next he'd sort of blown a gasket and everything went white. Now he's sitting on his ass and he guesses he passed out and Dean… Dean should be mother henning over him right about now, or making fun of him for falling in a swoon like a frail little girl.
Sam wobbles to his knees and fights his way to a standing position, his head suddenly pounding as vertigo assaults him and makes the whole world tilt to the right. He holds a hand to his throbbing temple and sniffs back as a trickle of wet, warm blood snakes a path down his lip. His head is fucking killing him, a staccato drumbeat of pain pounding behind his eyes. He doesn't really remember getting hit in the head.
The silence is suddenly unsettling. The sounds of his own harsh breaths are the only accompaniment to the drumbeat in his aching skull. Sam knows where his brother should be, looks to see where he should be standing a few feet from him, panting or cussing or being an ass like he usually is, but there's no sign of him. Maybe he freaked out when Sam blacked out and ran to get some help?
"Dean?" Sam calls tentatively. The eerie quiet causes goosebumps to pimple along his bare arms when his brother fails to reply. "Where'd you go, man?" All the rage has evaporated with the abrupt change in altitude, and now Sam's left feeling shaky and uncertain and inexplicably wrong.
Sam wipes the blood from his lip and moves on shaky legs through the living room, intent on taking inventory of himself in the bathroom down the hall, but the slumped, still form at the far end of the hall, opposite their father's bedroom, causes him to freeze in a panic. There's a large crack in the wall, the jip crock dented around it like something heavy was hurled against it, while a smear of blood drags from a spatter at its centre. Beneath it, lying in a boneless heap, like a marionette with its strings cut, lies a familiar shape.
Sam runs to his brother's side, all thoughts of skull pain and nose bleeds forgotten. He drops to his knees, fingers carefully assessing for damage, and sees the pool of blood soaking the carpet around his brother's head. Dean is completely unresponsive, his face bloodless and pale, pupils unequal and non-reactive to light, but at least there's a pulse. There's blood everywhere, leaking in trails down his ears, soaking through his hair, and most alarmingly, trailing like tears from his eyes.
"Oh God, Dean!" Sam whispers in a panic. "What the hell happened, man?"
It doesn't make any sense. They'd been fighting in the living room and now Dean's all the way down the hall, looking as though a poltergeist just threw him through the wall. There's so much blood, and Sam doesn't know how any of this happened. He replays the events of moments ago in his head, remembers that bottled up feeling of rage, that overwhelming intensity like he was going to blow, then the explosive feeling of release, the white light, the rush of power before everything went dark. He remembers his brother's wide eyes. He remembers a thud.
I did this, Sam thinks hysterically. I did this.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
The next 48 hours pass in a numb, detached blur. The whole world is hazy, stop starting in electrifying jolts. One minute he's in an ambulance watching EMTs buzz like bees around his brother; the next he's standing behind a Medical Personnel Only door watching Dean get wheeled away to the trauma unit. He doesn't remember calling Dad, but he must have because the man miraculously shows up some hours (days?) later looking frantic and disheveled, demanding to know "What happened, Sam! What happened to your brother?"
In truth, Sam is too terrified and stunned to give a proper answer, can only mutter in a detached voice. I don't know. I don't know I don't know I don't know.
Skull fracture, the doctors say. Bruising around the spinal cord. Cerebral edema. Coma. The impact of Dean hitting the wall was so intense that it's a miracle he's alive, that his neck wasn't broken from the force of it. Likely to be brain damage, they say. Possible loss of motor function. High risk of seizures.
And that's if he wakes up from the coma.
The blindness they can't explain. The doctors are completely stumped. The damage to the retinas and optic nerves is extensive. No chance at all that there will be recovery of sight. Blindness will be permanent. If he ever wakes up from the coma.
Dad's convinced that the apartment is haunted. There's no EMF, no EVP, no cold spots – nothing to indicate a restless spirit or poltergeist activity. But it's the only explanation he's got. What else could have thrown Dean clear across the room with such force, he reasons. And Sam hasn't got the heart to contradict him.
Terror the likes of which Sam Winchester has never known has become his constant companion. Terror of himself and what he's done (what he knows he's done). Terror of his father, who will hate him – who will kill him – if he ever finds out the truth. Terror of Dean's reaction when he finally wakes up.
There's something evil inside him, Sam knows. Has felt it, felt the change within him, since he lost control and summoned the white light. There's a dark power in him, something black and roiling and bubbling, that licks at his insides, tempting him to touch it, to draw on it, to use it. He knows it like he knows that he somehow made all the traffic lights switch to green on that frantic ride in the ambulance. Like he knows that he somehow compelled a babbling woman to stop talking when he snapped at her, with all the conviction and determination his 14 year-old will could muster, to shut the fuck up while he waited in the waiting room for news on his brother. He knows that doors have opened for him before he reached out to turn the knob: doctors have opened up to him and spilled the truth about the seriousness of Dean's condition because he told them to. He knows that he's behind all of this because he can feel that pressure valve releasing, that surge of white, hot energy surging forth with a rush of power, when he makes these things happen.
Of all the things that Sam Winchester has been afraid of in his short life, none has terrified him as much as himself.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
Dean remains in a coma for three weeks. By that time, the doctors have managed to ascertain that the bruising to Dean's spine has diminished enough that he should feel minimal to no effects of it. No paralysis. The cerebral edema didn't require surgery – the bleeding stopped on its own and the fluid that built up was drained away, the swelling reduced, without any complication. But Dean's melon is cracked and it'll be an uphill battle, Sam knows, from the moment he flutters his green eyes open to a world of darkness.
There are no dramatic reveals when Dean finally regains consciousness. He doesn't expose Sam for the monster (freak!) that he is, or even say anything at all. He's pretty much out of it, in fact, smacks his lips like he doesn't like the taste in his mouth, furrows his brow in confusion, and groans before his eyes flutter closed again and he's down for the count. Dad's so happy by the display that he cries for five minutes straight.
It's a week before Dean's coherent enough to have any kind of conversation. He's quiet and subdued, dealing with his injuries with his usual bravado and stoicism, but otherwise seems normal. He startles sometimes when people talk to him, as though he'd forgotten they were there or hadn't expected them to address him. Sam supposes it'd be hard to get used to being blind, hearing voices suddenly come at you from the darkness when you can't see where the person is standing, can't see that they've moved or even come or gone. It's a wake-up call to Sam, knowing that he caused this, that he did this to his brother.
Dad drills him about what he remembers, what happened, but Dean's tight lipped and says it's all a blank. It's possible he really doesn't remember. The doctors said that with this type of brain injury, Dean probably wouldn't remember the days leading up to the 'accident.' But Sam notices the way Dean flinches when he's around, the way he startles when Sam touches his hand or says his name. Dean remembers. He remembers and, though he won't say it, is scared of Sam.
The doctors keep Dean for another two weeks, running a battery of tests to make sure his head's okay. His motor skills improve daily and by the time he's released he's feeding himself and tying his own shoes without difficulty. He spaces out sometimes, though, and gets dizzy easily if he's standing for any length of time. Dad assures them that it's temporary, that Dean's a fighter and he'll fly through all this shit with flying colours.
Dean's blindness is an adjustment for everyone. It changes the landscape of every aspect of their lives. Feeding is the most obvious: Dean can't just dig into his food with relish like he used to. He has to touch every item with his fingers, get the layout of the land, so to speak, and sometimes struggles to get the food into his mouth without dropping it from his fork. It's messy – his fingers get into everything, have to get into everything – and not very dignified, but Dean does it without complaint. Dressing is a challenge too, because Dean can't see what he's wearing, can't always tell if he's put his clothes on inside out or facing the right way.
He moves so much more slowly now, with a care and attention that was never required when he could see. He used to be all fluid grace and cat-like reflexes. Now he's so tentative about everything he does. He shuffles, taking these timid baby steps that make Sam's eyes water to see. Dean shouldn't be afraid to move – he's never been afraid of what's out there in the dark before.
But, Sam supposes, your fears change when everything exists in the dark, not just monsters. For Dean, a carelessly tossed duffle bag can be a landmine. An unchartered chair can be a booby trap that would lead to a sprained ankle or broken arm or another head injury. Now the dangers aren't so much hidden as they are lost in plain sight, and the world is so much more dangerous now to navigate than it ever was.
The guilt of knowing that it's all his fault is enough to drive Sam mad.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
Dean's been out of the hospital a month before he has his first seizure. One minute he's sitting at the kitchen table, methodically polishing Dad's favourite colt, his blind eyes staring straight ahead as his hands work steadily and effortlessly, running from memory as they work with familiar reverent care to clean the weapon, and the next he's frozen in place, mouth slack while his eyes blink rapidly. Dad jolts from his perusal of his journal and looks around the kitchenette with a hunter's gaze, looking for whatever danger has caused his son to stop so suddenly.
"Dean?" he demands sharply, all senses on high alert, but Dean makes no move to reply. He doesn't even appear to have heard him.
Sam's sitting in the living room with a book, but drops it at the alarmed tone in his father's voice. He stands at attention immediately, rushes to the kitchen to offer help but pauses at the doorway so as not to startled his brother. Dean still flinches when Sam comes too close without warning first, and Sam doesn't want to scare his brother unnecessarily.
"Dad?" Sam asks worriedly.
Dad pulls the Taurus from the waistband of his jeans and removes the safety before he stands, coming up behind Dean and laying one reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"What is it, son?" he asks.
That's when Dean starts to convulse. It's like an electric current runs through his body, his limbs jerking spasmodically as his whole body seizes up and then trembles. His head thrashes back, choked off moans eaten up by the convulsive swallows as he bucks, tips off the chair and lands in an unsteady sprawl into Dad's ready hands.
"Fuck!" Dad hisses as he holds Dean tight.
"Dad?" Sam's voice sounds small even to his own ears. "Dad, what's happening?"
"Seizure," Dad replies, and those dark eyes look up towards his youngest son positively swimming with unshed tears, with unvoiced grief. "Time it, Sam. We need to know how long this lasts."
It lasts too long. Every second takes a lifetime, an agonizing eternity while Dean thrashes and moans and jolts with full-body tremors. The sounds he makes are inhuman, his movements unnatural, stilted, and wrong. A puddle of wet spreads out from his jeans when he pisses himself, and Sam can't bite back the sob that the sight tears from his chest. And when it's over, Dean goes slack, boneless, piss-soaked, and completely insensate.
It's so heartbreaking Sam has to leave the room before he gives into the impulse to swallow his father's gun.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
Later that night Sam sits at his brother's beside and watches him sleep. He looks the same when he's sleeping as he did before the "incident." All relaxed and unconscious, Dean looks unharmed and unaltered, and Sam can pretend that that day never happened.
"It's not your fault, you know," a rough voice half-whispers from the bed.
Sam blinks in surprise to see his big brother looking up at him, or through him, with a frown marring his handsome features. It's the first time they've talked about what happened. The horrible white light.
"How'd you know it was me?" Sam deflects.
"You kiddin' me? I can smell your girly stench from a mile away," Dean jokes. Sam marvels at how light and easy he can look when he wants to, how brightly the light shines in his eyes still even though there's nothing but darkness behind them.
"But seriously though," he goes on, sobering. One hand pats along the bed until it finds Sam's hand and clenches it tightly. "What happened to me is not your fault."
Sam snorts a mirthless laugh and looks away.
"Oh yeah? How do you figure?"
Dean squeezes his hand tightly and Sam knows without being told that his big brother wants him to look at him. Wants him to see the earnestness in his face as he says whatever it is he's going to say next.
"You were possessed, dude," Dean explains. "I saw it at the last second before everything went white. Your eyes were, like, yellow."
A jolt of pure ice shoots through Sam's veins at those words. He wasn't possessed. He can't have been. He was conscious the whole time (until he passed out). And in all the times since the accident, when he's used his powers to close cupboard doors or to turn the TV off when he was too lazy to reach for the remote, he's been cognizant and aware and in possession of his own body. But if Dean says his eyes changed colour…
"It was the sonovabitch that killed Mom," Dean goes on. "I know it. He came here, possessed you, and he was gonna kill me. But you fought him off. You saved me."
With everything in him, Sam wishes that that were true. He would love to paint himself the hero in that ugly nightmarish memory, rather than the villain. But deep down he knows. He knows that what happened was because of him, came from him.
"You said you don't remember what happened," Sam deflects instead in a voice choked with raw emotion.
"Not after the white light, no," he concedes. "But I know you, Sam. You'd never let anything hurt me, least of all yourself. You fought tooth and nail to get that thing outta you and you saved us both."
"You're blind, Dean," Sam sobs. "That's not saving you. That's disabling you for life!"
"But it wasn't you," Dean insists. His hand squeezes ever more tightly, nearly cutting off the circulation in Sam's hand. "It wasn't you, man." The crack's in his voice, the tremble in his lip, tell a different story, though. "It was the demon," he goes on. "The demon did this."
And Sam realizes in that moment that Dean needs to believe this more than Sam does. He can see it in the desperate, pleading vulnerability behind his eyes, the way the cracks in his façade of confident belief stretch and break open deeper and deeper, exposing the naked, raw core of him with each passing second that Sam doesn't confirm this universal truth: Sam would never hurt him.
"You're right," Sam musters at length, and Dean visibly relaxes into the bed at his words. "It was the demon. I…" and here Sam has to clear his throat to bring strength and conviction to it. "I would never let anyone hurt you, Dean. Not ever."
If it's the last thing he does, Sam will make it true.