“I’m getting real tired of this crap,” Dean groaned as he climbed another wall. He leaned up over the top and kicked back when he felt Sam’s big hands on his thighs, pushing. “Dude, knock it off. I got this.”
Sam chuckled and dodged the kick. He pushed until his big brother was up on the wall. “Right. You were doing awesome dangling up there like bait on a hook.”
“Shuddup.” Dean glared down at his brother and then looked over the other side of the wall. “I don’t see him. How the hell does he move this fast?” He swung his legs over and dropped to the other side. “Hurry up!”
Sam jumped and easily caught the top of the wall. He pushed up with his feet and swung in a graceful roll over the top to land beside his brother.
“Show off,” Dean said with a smirk and slapped his shoulder. “Come on.”
Sam rolled his eyes at the smile on his brother’s expressive face and followed along beside him at a jog. “I hate ghouls.”
Dean grinned and slid to a stop beside the next alley when he heard the sound of running footsteps to their left. “This way! This asshole is not gettin’ away from us!” He cursed himself for not running the bastard down before he managed to duck into the storage yard. The place was a maze of sheds, alleys, and high walls. Worse was that the ghoul seemed to know his way instinctively through all of them. “How come he couldn’t have eaten a fat old dude? Huh? No. He’s gotta chomp on the high school track star. Son of a bitch!”
Sam managed a breathless laugh as he paced his brother. They stopped at a junction of buildings and he blew out a breath. “I’ll take right.”
“You get dead, I’m gonna be pissed,” Dean warned him with a bump of his fist to his brother’s shoulder before he took off to the left.
“Same goes, jerk!” Sam called back and broke into a sprint. There was little point in being quiet. The ghoul knew it was being chased and knew where they were. He reached another junction of alleys and made a quick decision, heading left and hopefully back around in a wide circle to meet up with his brother and trap the creature between them. Sam ran, keeping an ear out for the sound of footsteps through the moonlit night. The moon shone bright enough that he didn’t have a need for his flashlight. Sam ran down the alley and heard his brother’s shout from ahead. “Dean!” he called and picked up his pace. A moment of fear shivered down Sam’s spine when he heard the report of a gun, and he ran. It wasn’t that he didn’t think Dean could take care of himself. His big brother was the most amazing Hunter Sam had ever known, even more so than their father, but he was still Sam’s brother. Sam worried, whether Dean liked it or not.
“Dean! Talk to me!” Sam shouted. He skidded to a stop as his alley opened up into a small square surrounded by storage sheds and took in the scene. Dean was on his knees with the ghoul behind him. His gun was on the ground, too far to do any good, and Sam could see blood dripping from his brother’s forearm to the concrete, glistening darkly in the moonlight. The ghoul, wearing the likeness of the tall, muscular, dark-haired track star was bending Dean’s head back at an unnatural angle and opened his mouth wide.
“No!” Sam shouted. He drew his machete and broke into a run.
Dean craned his head to the side for a glimpse of Sam when he heard his brother’s terrified shout and had to admit for once he didn’t have the upper hand and wasn’t sure how to get it back. There were times when having backup really was a welcome relief, and this definitely one of them. His arm burned where the ghoul had bitten into him and he wondered absently what sort of diseases the nasty thing might be caring from munching on all that rotting flesh. “Get off me… son of a… Sam!” Dean shouted as a red light suddenly burst around his little brother. It enveloped Sam, seeming to glow from the inside of him, and then he was falling to his knees with a shout of pain.
It gave Dean the extra burst of panic-fueled strength he needed. Dean reared back against the ghoul’s strength, wrapped his arms around his head and pulled the creature over his shoulder to thump into the ground. “What’d you do?” Dean demanded as he straddled the creature’s chest and took a bruising hold of his throat. He reached out with his other hand and caught Sam’s fallen machete up, bringing it to press just under the ghoul’s chin.
The ghoul laughed and tried to tip his head back away from the machete blade without success. “Had a witch for dinner… last month.” He grinned up at Dean with bloody teeth. “Picked up a few things… after I cleaned my teeth. Sucks to be your pal.”
“Screw this.” Dean growled and shoved the machete blade down through muscle, sinew and bone until it thunked into the ground and severed the ghoul’s head on a scream. “Bastard wasn’t gonna tell us anything anyway. Sam?” He scrambled off the ghoul’s still-twitching, headless corpse and went to Sam, grabbing his shoulders as he knelt in front of him. “Sammy, talk to me. You ok?” The red glow had subsided and left his skin, but Sam was blinking dazedly down at the ground even as Dean gave his shoulders a shake. “Sam!”
“Dean.” Sam’s voice was hoarse with emotion and he fumbled his hands up to grab his brother’s arms. “Dean, I can’t…” he swallowed hard and felt moisture gathering in his eyes in reaction. “Dean, I can’t see,” he whispered, as though saying it too loud would make it more real, more nightmarish.
“What?” Dean grabbed Sam’s face and tipped it up. He watched Sam’s eyes rolling in fear, but they never settled on his own, never saw him. “Oh, my God. Ok. Just… when you say you can’t see, you mean like it’s dark? Shapes, maybe? Something?”
Sam shook his head and started shaking. “Nothing. There’s nothing. Just blackness. Oh, God. Dean!”
“Ok, ok. Calm down. Take it easy.” Dean tightened his grip on his brother’s shoulders. “We’ll figure this out. It’s just a spell. We’ll fix it. I’ll fix this.” He had no idea how he was going to fix whatever was wrong but couldn’t afford to let his little brother know that he was every bit as panicked as Sam was. “Lemme finish this and we’ll get outta here. Just… sit tight for a minute.” Dean gave Sam’s shoulders another squeeze and then stood. He pulled Sam’s pack off his arm and dug out the salt and lighter fluid.
Sam sucked in a breath as Dean’s hands left him and felt cut adrift in the darkness. The feeling that had roared through him had felt like something sucking the life out of him. His head was pounding with pain to rival his visions, enough so that his stomach was rolling and, as he listened to Dean’s footsteps move away, he lost his battle.
Dean spun with the sound of retching and found Sam hunched over on all fours, gagging out what little he’d had to eat that afternoon. “Crap. Hang on, buddy,” Dean told him and hastily poured salt and lighter fluid over the ghoul’s corpse and head.
Sam coughed and spat and swallowed hard, forcing back the need to throw up again as he rocked back on his heels. His balance was shot, and he toppled back onto his butt on the ground in a dizzying spin. “Dean,” Sam called and put a hand out, suddenly needing to know where his brother was. He needed an anchor to remind him that he wasn’t alone. He gasped when Dean’s hand grabbed his own and the sound of flames filled the quiet.
“Hey, I’m right here.” Dean soothed his brother and looked at Sam’s fear-filled, rolling eyes. “Take a breath, Sammy. Come on. Let’s get you up. You hurt anywhere?”
Sam allowed Dean to pull him unsteadily to his feet and he leaned heavily on him while he put a hand to his head. “My, uh… my head is killin’ me.”
“Ok, not a shock.” Dean turned his brother and started toward what he hoped was a way out of the damn maze while the ghoul burned merrily behind them. “So, snuggles back there said he ate a witch. I’m thinkin’ you tripped some sort of screwy hex. We’ll call Bobby and figure this out. No big. We’ve dealt with this crap before. Freakin’ witches.”
Sam nodded. “Right.” He tried to latch onto Dean’s optimism, but he couldn’t quite make himself believe his brother’s soothing words. Something told him getting his sight back wasn’t going to be a simple deal. He’d never seen a hex like the one he stumbled into. He remembered red light swarming through his vision and seeming to explode inside his head before everything went dark. Whatever the ghoul had done, wherever he had learned that particular trap, there wasn’t going to be an easy out. He knew it instinctively and tried not to let the fear choke him. “Dean.”
“I mean it, Sammy. We will fix you.” Dean refused to let Sam hear the uncertainty in his own voice. That was the last thing either of them needed, Dean adding to his little brother’s obvious terror. “Easy,” Dean steadied Sam when he swayed and slipped an arm around his waist. “Just walk with me. That’s it. Don’t make me carry your gigantor ass.” It bothered him that Sam let the comment go by. It wasn’t like him to let Dean get away with teasing him, and that said more about Sam’s current state of mind than any words could. “We’ll figure this out, Sammy.”
Sam sat on his bed with his head in his hands and tried not to give in to the need to yell for his brother. He could hear Dean on the phone outside their room, but it wasn’t enough. He needed Dean inside. He snorted to himself. If he was honest, he needed Dean to be within touching distance. It was the only thing that helped push away the crushing loneliness of not being able to see anything and he hated the weakness of it. Without Dean to hold onto, Sam felt cut adrift in the black. He curled his fingers in the legs of his jeans and tried to stop trembling like some frightened school-girl. He was a grown man and a Winchester dammit. He needed to do better than this. If Dean said they would figure it out, they would. He just had to believe that.
Sam jumped in surprise. He hadn’t heard the door open or Dean return, so lost in his own thoughts had he become. “Shit.”
“Sorry. Should’a knocked or something.” Dean grinned and it faded quickly with the reality that Sam couldn’t see it. He frowned and went to his brother. Dean sat next to him and grabbed one of Sam’s hands on his thighs. “Dude, loosen up.” Sam had a white-knuckled grip on the legs of his jeans and it hurt just looking at his fingers. “What’s goin’ on?”
Sam shook his head and took his first deep breath with Dean in the room and touching him. “Just… nothing.”
“I can’t see, Dean. Isn’t that enough?” Sam retorted angrily and then blew out a breath. “Sorry. It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have…”
“Forget it,” Dean said with a smile and put his other hand on the back of Sam’s neck to offer him comfort. “Look, Bobby’s gonna check it out and find some way to reverse the hex or spell or whatever it was you tripped. Have you good as new in no time.” He squeezed Sam’s neck and chuckled. “And in the meantime, you got me waitin’ on your happy ass hand and foot. What more could you want?” He was relieved when Sam simply smiled instead of answering. “We need food. You wanna wait here and I’ll go get something or you think you can eat in public?”
“I’ll go with you,” Sam said quickly. The thought of being alone in the motel room while Dean was gone sent a shiver of fear through him and he smiled to cover it. “I’m starving. I’d rather not wait.”
“No problem. We’ll do sandwiches or something that doesn’t require silverware.” Dean stood and brought Sam up with him, smiling when Sam’s hand slid up his arm to his biceps and took firm hold. “And we’re walkin’,” Dean said in his best prissy, museum tour guide voice.
“You’re such an ass,” Sam said with a laugh and focused on following the tug of Dean’s arm under his hand. To his surprise, he found it easier than he might have expected to walk fairly confidently with Dean’s guidance until he recalled why it felt so familiar. Part of their long-ago training under their always-plan-for-the-worst father had included plenty of blindfolded exercises, including helping each other out of whatever trap he set for them. It still amazed him sometimes just how ingrained so much of that early training was that it could come back when needed without even conscious thought. He wondered if Dean realized he was using the same technique to guide him as he had when they were children.
Still, ancient training exercises aside, the reality of the situation was unnerving and still threatened to swamp him emotionally at any moment. It was jarring to feel the cooler air outside on his face, hear the passing of cars and the sound of a jet flying by overhead and not be able to see anything. “This really sucks.”
“Yeah, I know.” Dean took Sam to the passenger side of the car and opened the door. He put a gentle hand in Sam’s hair and made sure his brother didn’t crack his skull on the frame bending his long body into the seat. He shoved the door closed and went around to the driver’s side, sliding behind the wheel before Sam had time to do more than frown at his absence. “I need me some pie.”
Sam smiled and then sighed in relief when the engine growled to life. It was one of the most comforting sounds he’d ever known and didn’t fail to help settle his nerves now.
Dean rolled his eyes fondly as he drove when he noticed Sam’s left hand inching across the seat until it found and latched onto the hem of his jacket. It was something Sam had done often as a child when he needed reassurance and Dean didn’t have it in him to tease Sam for it now, not with what he was going through. “There’s sunglasses in the glovebox. You want ‘em?”
Sam nodded and reached his right hand forward until he found the catch, more from memory than anything else. He felt around until he found the glasses and took them out; placing them on his face one-handed. “Thanks, Dean.”
Dean pulled up in front of the diner they’d eaten at yesterday and parked. “Ok, Stevie Wonder. Let’s get some grub.”
Sam slapped a hand out and caught his brother’s shoulder before he could leave the car. “Jerk!”
“Bitch.” Dean chuckled.
“Gigantic, huge jerk,” Sam grumbled and opened his door. He barely had one foot on the ground before Dean’s hand was on his head again, making sure he didn’t crack it on the car as he got out. It was both frustrating and comforting. It had been a long time since Dean had mother-henned him so completely and Sam couldn’t very well complain about it. He was helpless and he hated it.
Dean led Sam up the three short steps into the diner and to a booth near the back where hopefully his little brother wouldn’t feel quite so on display, not that Sam could see any of the curious looks darted their way. It was night after all and Sam was wearing sunglasses. People were going to look. Dean glared at each person who dared to stare at his brother until they looked quickly away.
Sam let Dean nudge him down into a booth and he tried not to feel like a room full of people were watching him. “Dean, are people staring at me?”
“With me in the room to marvel at?” Dean snorted. “Please. All eyes are on the prettier brother.”
Sam gave a small laugh, shaking his head at Dean’s shamelessness and stretched his feet out under the table until they bumped into Dean’s. He shamelessly slid his foot in between Dean’s and left it there, needing the contact. “Just order me a BLT and coffee.”
“You can order your own food,” Dean said and kicked Sam’s foot gently. “Your eyes don’t work, dumbass. Not your mouth.”
“Shuddup,” Sam grumbled but inwardly he was warmed that Dean was trying to appear as normal as possible in spite of everything. He ordered when the waitress came and even found his coffee cup on his own. Sam poked at the glasses over his eyes and frowned. “It’s still dark out isn’t it?”
“Naw, it’s almost morning.” Dean said easily. It was actually more like four in the morning with dawn hours away but Sam didn’t need to know that. “You know, normal people are asleep now.”
“Well, that counts us out as usual.” Sam sighed and huddled his hands around the warm mug. “Dean…”
“Bobby’ll find it, Sam,” Dean said before Sam could finish his thought. It didn’t take a genius to figure out where he’d been going. “Try to let it go for now, man.”
“Right.” Sam blew out another breath and bit back the harsh, angry words crowding his tongue. The need to lash out was hard to ignore, but Dean didn’t deserve it and Sam couldn’t do without him just then, not that he thought Dean would abandon him no matter WHAT he said, but still. They ate in strained silence with Sam listening to the restaurant around them --the low voices, clinking silverware, a dish dropped in the back, the scuff of their waitress’ no doubt sensible shoes each time she came to their table. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being stared at and shook his head at himself, wishing for even the smallest sliver of light in his dark world.
Dean was at a bit of a loss as to what to say to Sam to make it better, or at least make it less terrifying. He didn’t even want to imagine what it would be like to be blind and not know if you’d ever get your vision back. He shook himself and was glad Sam couldn’t see the dark expression on his face. It was too terrifying to consider. Sam’s life as a hunter would be over, and Dean’s head jerked up to stare at Sam’s covered eyes. Sam’s life as a hunter would be over, and so was Dean’s along with him. Sam would be defenseless without his sight, and Dean would never again be able to put him in harm’s way or leave him alone.
Yes, most normal people finding themselves suddenly blind through accident or illness, eventually learned to adapt and many lived very independently. But no matter how much Sam may have wished for it, they were far from normal folks. There were way too many things, evil things, with a deadly interest in his little brother to ever risk it if Sam couldn’t see. Once word got out in the supernatural community that Sam was vulnerable…Dean didn’t even want to think about how bad that could get. “Shit.”
“Dean?” Sam heard his brother’s soft curse and frowned. “You ok?”
“Uh, yeah.” Dean nodded even though Sam couldn’t see it and tried to come to terms with that revelation if Bobby couldn’t find a way to fix him. “Just bit my tongue. Finish your coffee, princess.”
“Bite me,” Sam grumbled but he picked up his cup. It actually wasn’t as hard as he’d thought it’d be to eat a sandwich and drink his coffee without seeing them. Some things the body apparently could do from muscle memory and he didn’t miss his mouth once. He lifted his coffee cup again and gasped as pain lanced behind his eyes.
“Sam?” Dean watched his brother’s brows vanish behind the glasses in a frown as his hands started to shake. “You ok? Sam. Crap!” He lurched up as Sam’s coffee cup fell from his hands to the table with a clatter. Dean put a knee on the seat next to Sam and grabbed his hands. “Shit, Sam. Your hands are scalded.” The skin of Sam’s hands was wet from the coffee and reddening as Dean watched.
“Dean,” Sam managed between clenched teeth. He freed one hand to bring it up to his head as the pain amped up even higher.
“Vision?” Dean asked softly as he leaned over Sam and ignored the murmurs of the other people in the diner.
Sam nodded once and moaned softly, letting Dean pull him in against his chest as the pain rolled through him. “Dean…”
“I gotcha.” Dean hated the visions as much as his brother did, maybe more so. Sam, though he hated how different they made him, could at least focus on the chance to do good with them. Dean just saw his little brother in pain, and it pissed him off and frightened the hell out of him that there was nothing he could do about it, not to mention that neither of them knew what it meant. That fear only grew after dad’s death and those whispered last words that haunted Dean daily.
Sam choked on a scream when the pain seemed to explode inside his head all at once and then it was gone. He collapsed into Dean, weak from the onslaught and tried to remember how to breathe.
“Shit, Sam? What the hell was that?” Dean asked worriedly. “No, he’s fine, dammit. Back off!” he told the waitress and the few patrons who had dared to come over to the table to either help or see what all the fuss was about. “I got him. Sammy?”
Sam shuddered against Dean’s chest and fisted his hands in his brother’s shirt. “Didn’t… didn’t happen. The vision… it didn’t.” He sagged deeper into Dean’s presence and was dizzy with relief as the pain started to slowly fade back to manageable levels. “Oh, my God. It took the visions too. The hex or spell or… or whatever. It took them too.”
Dean wrapped an arm around his brother’s shaking shoulders and held onto him. He couldn’t tell if Sam sounded relieved or upset about that and figured it was probably a little bit of both. “You good to blow this pop stand?”
Sam nodded slowly but didn’t release his hold on his brother. “Yeah. Just… help me up?”
Dean eased off the booth and brought Sam with him. “Ok, easy.”
“Sir, I should really call an ambu…”
“We’re fine. I told you,” Dean said angrily when the waitress bugged him yet again and tossed a few bills onto the table. “We’re leaving.” The last thing his little brother needed was to be locked down in a hospital with all kinds of tests being done on him for something they couldn’t fix. “One foot in front of the other, Sammy. You got this.”
Thoughts were whirling through Sam’s sore head as Dean carefully led him out of the diner. If the visions were gone, then he had no way of helping people, no way of tracking the demon that had killed their mother and Jess. He hated the pain that came with them and he hated that it meant hewas tainted somehow by evil, but without that small leverage, they would never find the demon. More people would die. He swallowed hard around a sudden burst of nausea. “Dean.”
“Just hold it together ‘til we get out the door and you can puke on the ugly bushes.” Dean smirked and kicked open the diner door. He steered Sam out and then turned him, putting an arm across his chest to keep him standing just seconds before Sam began heaving into the aforementioned bush. “Ok, easy, buddy. I gotcha.” Dean slid his free hand over Sam’s forehead, keeping his hair out of his face while he gagged until finally he was reduced to panting to catch his breath. “You good for the car?”
Sam nodded and felt a little humiliated at the tears he could feel wetting his face. He felt worse than useless and couldn’t help but strain his eyes trying to see when there was no point. His only comfort was Dean’s steady presence and touch that, thankfully, his big brother hadn’t started shying away from yet. He let himself slump a little into Dean as they walked presumably toward the car. He’d missed being able to touch Dean whenever he wanted. Sam had stopped touching Dean somewhere in his teens, right about the time his hormones had woken up and he’d had a few disturbing wet dreams that featured his big brother. He knew then it was wrong and had pulled back from Dean to put a stop to it. At least Dean had never realized why Sam had suddenly needed to grow up so quickly. That would have been truly humiliating on every level.
“Hey, watch your head.” Dean eased Sam down into the passenger seat, closed the door and then leaned on the roof of the car for a moment collecting himself. “Dammit.”
Dean stood outside the bathroom door, listening to the shower run and Sam’s quiet cursing. “Sammy?”
“I, uh…” Sam’s face flushed as he bent and felt around the bottom of the bathtub. “Nothing.”
“What?” Dean stepped into the room and could see Sam’s shadow hunched over behind the curtain.
“I dropped the fuckin’ soap, alright? Don’t say it,” Sam warned in a bad-tempered growl. “Just don’t even…”
“Hey, hey. I wasn’t gonna.” Dean chuckled, smiled and kept the comments to himself. “You, uh… you need a hand?”
“No.” Sam pulled his bottom lip in between his teeth and chewed on it rather than give in to the gut reaction that warmed him with the thought of Dean in the shower with him. He shook his head and sighed when his questing fingers finally closed around the small bar of soap. “I got it.”
Dean watched his brother’s lean shadow straighten and stand behind the curtain and nodded. “Ok, I’ll be right out here you need anything.” He quickly left the room rather than watch the shadow play of his naked little brother bathing and the mental images that suddenly swarmed his mind; the all too easy imagine taste of licking water off salty skin. Dean shook his head and scrubbed his hands over his face to push the thoughts away. It had taken him an hour to convince Sam he could do it, and he’d finally managed it by stuffing his nose behind Sam’s ear and sniffing loudly, telling him that he stank. Sam had stiffened up, gasped and jerked to his feet with a curse. Dean chuckled again, un-brotherly thoughts back where they belonged for the moment, and dropped into the chair at the table. Having his little brother blind was challenging Dean’s rules about chick flicks. For two days Sam had been keeping him within arm’s reach and, really, Dean understood, as much as he was able to at least.
Sam fumbled for the knobs to turn off the water and tried to imagine spending the rest of his life like this, in the dark, having to learn to even find the damn shampoo by memory rather than sight. The fear settled into the pit of his stomach like a weight as he pulled the curtain aside and tried to find the towel he knew Dean had left him. “Dammit. Dean! Where’d you put the towel?”
Dean jumped to his feet and stuck his head around the door to answer. The sight that met him dried the saliva in his mouth as he took in his naked, dripping brother. His eyes watched the beads of water traveling down the muscles of Sam’s chest and between his legs and Dean quickly jerked his head back out of the room. He swallowed hard, ignoring the reaction of his traitorous cock and cleared his throat. “It’s on top of the toilet. Your right side,” he called and paced across the room back to the table. “Jesus,” he muttered and scrubbed his hands down his face. “The fuck is wrong with me?” Oh, he’d had thoughts before when Sam was younger, when his little brother suddenly became not so little and it was impossible to ignore how beautiful he was becoming; his brother and that ridiculous shaggy hair of his that just made his blue-green eyes even harder to ignore. “Get a grip, Dean.”
“Yeah.” Dean spun to find Sam in the bathroom door with a towel clutched around his waist. “Clothes?”
“Yeah.” Sam tried not to scream at the humiliation of needing his big brother to pick out his clothes for him. He couldn’t even handle that task on his own. He knew with practice he’d be able to keep everything sorted and in its place so he could find it, could even learn the layout of a home so he could walk without running into things. People did it all the time. But, dammit, he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life crippled without his sight, let alone what that would mean for him and Dean. He knew Dean. There was no way his brother would leave him to deal with being blind alone, and Dean without hunting… Sam shook his head to himself. It would never work. Dean loved the job too much; and worse, Sam couldn’t even imagine being separated from him again. It had been hell while he was at school, even with Jess. He’d thought of his brother every day. Sam jumped when something soft was pushed into his chest.
“Easy. Here ya go. Sweats, panties and a shirt.” Dean grinned at Sam’s bitch-face and patted his damp shoulder before moving quickly away.
“Funny, Dean.” Sam rolled his sightless eyes and turned to his right. He bent and stretched his hand out as he took a step, relieved when he found the end of his bed on his own. He sat down and started feeling through the clothes in his lap. “We ordering in?”
“You actually hungry? Yeah, sure.” Dean nodded and grabbed his phone. “I’ll step out and call. Back in a sec.” He made a hasty retreat as Sam pulled the towel loose from his hips and pulled the door shut behind him. “Christ, I need a cold shower… or a lobotomy.”
Sam dressed as quickly as he was able, using the tags on his clothes to make sure he put them on the right way around and not inside out. When he was dressed, he sat on his bed with the damp towel in his lap and tried not to feel bereft without Dean in the room. “Get a grip, Sam,” he told himself disgustedly but couldn’t help picturing his brother’s eyes and those full lips and the increasingly painful need to actually see them with his own eyes once more.
To Be Continued…