Characters: Dean, Sam, Missouri, Bobby
Spoilers: None that I can think of, and set before AHBL
Wordcount: 3367 (this chapter)
Summary: What should have been a routine job goes wrong, and Sam and Dean's lives may never be the same again.
Part 1 ¦ Part 2
The car journey passes in relative silence, neither brother sure what to say to the other. Sam drives quickly, Dean rides shotgun, once again turning his face towards the window. The sun feels warn on his skin and the heat of it radiates through his clothes making his sweat, but he can't see the bright light he knows must be there. And that, he decides, is the freakiest thing so far about this whole damn nightmare.
They reach Lawrence late that night and check into a hotel not far from Missouri's house. Sam had called Missouri from the road and told her they would be there in the morning. Dean doesn't suggest that they turn up as soon as they arrive, despite wanting to. Desperation isn't a good look on him, and he knows it. He tells himself he's protecting Sammy, being the older brother, but he knows that really he's trying to save himself from embarrassment.
It is at times like this, and Dean is glad that they don't crop up very often, that he wishes he could be more the kind of person who talks. Not about hunting, or pretty girls, about the things that Sam wishes he would talk about. But he isn't, and admitting how he feels right now wouldn't help him, no matter what Sam probably thinks, it would just make him feel like a girl.
Exhausted from the journey, still tired from the hunt the night before, Dean is ready to fall asleep almost as soon as they arrive in their room. He doesn't know the time, and he doesn't want to ask. It feels late, but oppressive darkness constantly pressing claustrophobicly against his eyes leaves him with that impression most of the time. He walks into the room cautiously, but a little quicker than he feels comfortable with, very aware of Sam's concerned gaze following him. Just a few steps forward and he feels the edge of a bed touching his knees. A solid object in the sea of nothing. It had been different in, he had seen it before, he could remember where things were. This is completely new territory. He turns around, sits down and takes off his boots. There is the click of a light switch, and Sam's footsteps cross the room, followed by the sound of bags being dropped on the floor and the creak of springs as his brother sits on the second bed. Maybe the motel doesn't provide a chair.
Sam has barely said anything in almost an hour, and it is making him nervous.
“So, what's the room like?”
There is a pause that goes on just long enough that Dean thinks Sam isn't going to reply, then, “It's okay,”
“Great, nice and informative.” Dean shuffles himself backwards and positions himself laying on the bad, back propped up against what feels like an old-fashioned cushioned headboard. He supports his hear with the palm of his hands and closes his eyes. Not much point keeping them open anyway.
There is a sharp intake of breath from Sam's side of the room “Oh, sorry. You want me to show you around or something? Let you know where everything is?”
Dean shakes his head, “One motel room is petty much the same as another. I know my way around them all by now.” It's not true, of course. But the thought of being led around the room by his little brother, Sam awkwardly guiding him around the small space, moving either too quickly because he's nervous or too slowly because he thinks it's what Dean needs, it doesn't sound like a lot of fun, and it doesn't sound too useful either.
“Okay,” Sam sounds relived.
In the lull in the conversation, Dean feels his eyes start to close and almost falls asleep.
At the other side of the room, Sam watches his brother. It makes him feel guilty staring, like he's spying. Dean doesn't know he's being watched - although being Dean he probably does - but the point is Sam can watch Dean, Dean can't watch him back. “Can you just run through what happened when the ghost had you again?” He asks. Dean's first attempt to to explain had been at the hospital when the doctor had left them alone in the examining room. It had been rushed and not very useful, suffering from mild shock and clearly not wanting to relive the trauma, Dean had given the bare minimum of information, and not wanting to put him through it again, Sam hadn't asked. But now, with his searches online proving fruitless, he needed more, and there was every chance Missouri would want to know what happened too, going through it now might help
He watches Dean's eyes open again, and wonders why he bothers, probably just habit. His brother's head turns towards Sam's voice. “Now? I was just about to fall asleep.”
“Just quickly. Please, Dean.”
Dean sighs and runs through the story quickly, including everything he remembered, but missing out the feeling of terror as he was held immobile, eyes forced open, helpless and at the mercy of the people that had killed Hilda Marburg. “Witness,” he whispers at the end, his voice sounding weak in his own ears.
“What?” Sam's voice shakes too.
“That's what she said before she did it,” Dean explains, “She wanted people to know what she went through. How she died.” He shakes his head, “All the real monsters out there, and those people wasted their time torturing innocent old women because they worked a few spells in their spare time. That's if she even did, probably she was just an innocent old woman who they they thought was giving them the evil eye because she had a bit of a squint.”
He turns around facing away from Sam and lays down. Sam lies awake for a while longer before he too falls into an uneasy sleep, plagued by dreams about angry mobs and glad he'd been born in to a age that, okay was just as likely to attack anyone different, but had lost the belief in the supernatural that a few centurys ago might have gotten someone like himself killed by the people he tried to protect.
They wake up early in the morning, and Sam puts great effort into not helping Dean, while Dean pretends not to notice as obstacles are pushed out of his way and missing items turn up suspiciously close to wherever his hand happens to be feeling.
In the car, Dean opens his passenger side window, and listens to the world rush by; a whoosh every time they pass a car, the shouts of children playing, dogs barking. He closes his eyes and imagines this is just a normal day. They aren't back in Lawrence, which really is Dean's least favourite place in the world. They're heading to a hunt somewhere miles away, and the only reason he can't see is because his eyes are closed. He had grudgingly let Sam drive for a few hours while he has a rest.
They arrive at Missouri's around nine. Sam pulls the car up as close to the house as he can manage, leaps out and rushes around to Dean's side before his brother has had chance to find the door handle. “Oh, we're here are we?” Dean says to the enthusiastic footsteps in front of him as he gets out.
Dean shrugs, “For what? Sammy, you still haven't even told me what she's meant to be able to do. 'She might be able to help'? What's that even mean? Is she gonna be able to fix me?”
Sam stands in front of him, unsure of the answer, “Bobby said she's got experience of psychic wounds, and that that's what this sounds like. He didn't know if she'd be able to help, but said she might,” He reaches out and takes Dean's hand, placing it carefully on his own arm, “When I called Missouri, she said she'd do whatever she could.”
“Which could mean a big pile of nothing,”
“Just come on, will you?” Sam sets off to the door, and gripping his arm tightly, Dean allows himself to be led through the impenetrable darkness, allowing himself a glimmer of hope that maybe when they walk out, he'll be finding his own way, and sitting back where he belongs, in the driver's seat.
Missouri meets them at the door, opening it before Sam knocks, her face full of unspoken concern. “Dean, Sam, come in.”
“Hey Missouri,” Sam says, echoed a second later by Dean.
She ushers them inside and watches as Sam leads his brother into the sitting room and to the couch. She senses something wrong, something actually inside the older brother. A deep wound that she already knows will be difficult, if not impossible, to fix.
The expression on Deans face is neutral, but below the surface, an emotional storm is raging. Anger clashes against frustration, with an undercurrent of terror so deep that she feels as though she could drown in it. “Oh, Dean,” she murmurs without meaning to.
“Skip the sympathy, Missouri. Just tell me if you can fix it.”
He winces as the palm of her hand makes contact with the side of his head. It isn't a hard slap, but it takes him by surprise, and that fact hurts him much more than the mild discomfort of being hit.
“Dean Winchester. You'll mind your tone while you're in my house. You understand me?”
Dean nods and has the good grace to look ashamed of himself as Missouri eases herself into the chair opposite him.
“Good boy. Now, Sam honey, would you mind going in the kitchen for me? I know you boys haven't eaten yet. Make us all some sandwiches or something.”
Sam hesitates, glancing at Dean, waiting for confirmation. When none comes it takes him a few seconds to realize it's because Dean can't see what he's doing. “I'll be just back there if you need me,” he says.
“I'm not a baby, Sam. I'll be fine.”
Sam hesitates a moment longer before he heads into he kitchen, leaving Dean and Missouri alone.
Missouri doesn't speak straight away. Dean can almost feel the deep scrutiny as she watches him sitting there, waiting, arms folded, feet tapping on the floor in time to a tune playing in his head. “Okay, honey,” she say finally, “Why don't you tell me what happened?”
Dean opens his mouth, and out pours the whole story once again, from hearing rumours from three towns over of a murderous spirit, to waking up in the cemetery unable to see.
As he speaks, Missouri monitors the psychic fluctuations of whatever has been done to him, feeling her way through the layers of consciousness to what is buried underneath. It's bad. She could tell that from the moment that car pulled up outside her house. The wound is deeper and larger than anything she had ever encountered before and, she knows now, far beyond her ability to heal.
When Dean has finished, he sits back and smiles nervously, “So, is this the part where you fix it?”
Missouri knows he can't see her shake her head, that's why she does it, a trial run in delivering bad news. “I'm sorry, Dean,”
Dean flinches as though she had hit him again, and at those simple words, the torrent of fear and panic emanating from him almost knocks her backwards.
“You have to understand, this is a deep wound. It was done maliciously by something with a lot of power. Now, I'll do what I can, I'll heal it as well as I'm able, but in the end the only thing that will really help is time.”
“Time. Right, Heals all wounds.”
Missouri smiles sadly and stands up. She walks around the table separating them and seats herself next to Dean, who is sitting with his hands on his knees, head tilted forward so that he appears to be staring at his feet. “Not all wounds, but this one it will. And I'll help it on its way, so it'll be quicker than it should.”
Dean tries, and fails, to smile. “So how much time are we talking about? Days? Weeks?” his voice cracks, “Years?”
“Possibly,” She reaches out and takes his hands in her own, her heart breaking for the scared little boy she used to know, that she feels as though she has just seen him become again, “but possibly not. Dean, you know as well as I do that nothing supernatural is ever an exact science. I'll do what I can, then we'll see how it looks afterwards.”
“So to speak...”
Missouri withdraws her hands and puts on her sternest voice, “That self pitying attitude isn't going to help you one bit, Dean. So if we're going to do this, I need you to be determined and fighting, okay?”
He straightens his pose and nods, “It's what I do best.”
“Good. Now I need you to close your eyes and relax. You might be able to feel what I'm doing, you might not, but it won't hurt.”
Rather than answering, Dean follows her instructions, slouching down and resting his head against the back of the couch, praying that it works.
Missouri doesn't actually need to physically touch people to do this, but she has found that it helps people remain focussed. She isn't telepathic, she can't actually read thoughts, but she is strongly empathic and she can reach into person's mind and use her gifts to ease some psychic wounds. This is the first time she has attempted something on this scale, however. This aspect of her work is normally restricted to easing the emotional turmoil left after an encounter with a spirit, and more recently she had treated a few people who had been left traumatized after a demonic possession. Never had she encountered a wound so deep that it caused an actual physical reaction like this.
She feels her way tentatively inside his mind and seeks out the damaged area It isn't difficult to find. Now she can see it, she can tell that is is just as bad as, if not worse than, she originally thought. Reaching out, she puts as much energy as she can into healing what essentially looks like a wound the size of the Grand Canyon running through Dean's psyche. It isn't much. The only thing that could undo this is the creature that had caused it.
The damage goes beyond his ability to see, it is a wound to his spirit, weakening him and leaving him vulnerable to attack. Although blinding ha been the intention of the ghost responsible, it had gone far beyond that. It feels to Missouri like putting a band aid on a broken leg, but she knows she has done some good and set him on the road to healing.
She pulls back, and when she opens her eyes and looks at him, there is a visible change in his appearance, he actually looks calmer, less like the weight of the world is resting on his shoulders. “That's all I can do, Dean,” she tells him.
He nods, leaving his eyes closed, “Well, you've done something. My head's been pounding for a day and a half, now it's stopped.”
“Good.” Missouri smiles.
Dean tentatively opens his eyes and disappointment clouds his face for less than a second before he squashes down both the emotion and the expression.
“I'm sorry Dean, it was never going to do much for your sight. I thought you realized that.”
“Yeah, I did,” he shrugs and rubs nervously at the back of his neck with one hand. “I was just... hoping, y'know?”
“It will come back it, just needs...”
“Time,” he interrupts, “yeah, I got that part.” He stands up and alls out to his brother, “Sammy, time to go.”
“At least stay for something to eat, “Missouri insists, but Dean's head is shaking before she even finishes speaking.
“We're fine. Thanks for everything, Missouri, but we should really go.”
Sam emerges from the kitchen with sandwiches. Seeing Dean standing to leave, he places them on the table and crosses the room to stand next to him, “Did it work?”
He's asking both of them, but Missouri leaves it to Dean to answer, as she suspects that they each have different ideas of what it working looks like.
“I'll tell you in the car,”
“Don't you want a sandwich?”
“No Sam. I'm not hungry. Can we please go?” he hates having to ask, but Sam clearly wants to stay and catch up, and he needs to leave. He knows he wouldn't be able to find his way alone. This is what his life is now, for the time being at least, and he decides he had better get used to it.
Sam and Missouri exchange a look, and decide not to press the issue. “Fine, come on then.” Sam doesn't place Dean's hand on his arm this time, leaving him to grope in the dark for a few seconds to find him for himself.
As they leave, Missouri shows them to the door and smiles at Sam, touching Dean on the shoulder, “You boys remember you're welcome here any time, okay?”
Dean almost smiles, “Thanks, Missouri,” and he is surprised to realize that he actually means it. Sort of.
Sam isn't driving fast any more, there isn't any point. They don't have anywhere to be, nothing to do. They checked themselves out of the motel that morning, before they had been to see Missouri. Sam would have suggested going back, but knew Dean would refuse. His brother had already made it clear that Lawrence was the last place he wanted to be, and from the look on his face, not to mention the face that he clearly still can't see, Missouri hadn't given him good news. So that was another bad memory associated with the place. Sam finds himself wanting to leave too. But having nowhere to go, they are just driving, moving for the sake of not staying still.
Led Zeppelin is playing, but Dean has turned the volume down much more than he normally allows. As he drives, Sam sneaks the occasional glance at Dean. Instead of turning his head away, he is facing forward, his brow creased in an expression of concern. They have been driving north for almost an hour before Sam finally works up the courage to ask.
“When are you going to tell me what happened?”
Dean shrugs, but doesn't reply.
Dean sighs, “She did something. I don't know what it was, but the headache's gone.”
Sam nods, “Well, that's good.” He waits for Dean to continue, but no further information is offered. “And the rest?”
Dean finds himself turning away from his younger brother again. “Same as before. She says it'll heal on its own, but it'll take a while.”
He is clearly trying to maintain control, but his voice cracks and Sam winces in sympathy.
“She says it might take years,” he adds in a voice that is almost a whisper, “so if you've got any bright ideas about what I'm supposed to do now..?”
The words linger in the air as Sam tries to came up with an adequate response. Saying that, hey, at least you might be able to see again before you hit thirty didn't sound like that much of a comfort, somehow. Dean's face is reflected in the window, and Sam pretends he can't see the shine of unshed tears in his eyes.
“Dean, we'll think of something,” Sam just wishes he had any idea what.