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.
Dean has never liked hospitals. He avoids them whenever possible, which doesn't help because it means the only time he goes is when something is really, really bad. Like the times when he almost died. Like the time his dad did die. He feels himself start to disconnect from reality the instant they step through the doors. He's only surprised that it took this long for it to happen.
The doctor at the hospital is spectacularly unhelpful. Sam allows his wounds to be checked over to make sure nothing is broken, and then hovers around Dean making sure his brother knows he is nearby as lights are shined into his eyes and he is checked for signs of head trauma. Dean remains worryingly quiet throughout the process, sitting on the hospital bed in the cubicle room they were showed to, placidly allowing the doctor and nurse to do whatever they want without a word of complaint.
When they are finished and the doctor gives his verdict, Dean remains in the same position, not moving, while Sam, sitting at his side listens intently, wondering whether Dean is even aware that he is being spoken to. “There's nothing wrong with your eyes, Mr McCready,” the doctor tells them. His use of the false name from Dean's insurance card does little to ease the sense of unreality about the situation, “You're reacting to light normally. As far as I can tell, you should be able to see.”
Sam opens his mouth to argue, but Dean answers before him. He speaks softly, still not so much as moving his head towards the sound of the doctor's voice, “Except for that I can't,”
The doctor clears his throat, “I think we should explore the possibility that this is a neurological problem,”
This does get a small reaction, the corners of Dean's mouth twitch upwards in the tiniest of smiles, “Hey, Sammy. You've been saying for years there must be something wrong with my brain. Maybe you were right.”
“We'd like to keep you in over night for observation, and I'll schedule some more tests for the morning,”
Dean shakes his head, “No offence, doc, but I think I've wasted enough time here.” To his right, Sam makes a disapproving sound, which Dean ignores. He has had enough of what he knows to be pointless tests. Whatever has been done to him is supernatural in origin and every minute spent here is a minute that could be spent trying to find out the real cause and fix it.
He gets down from the high bed, and Sam immediately grabs his hand and places it on his arm. Dean fights off the urge to push his brother away, because he knows he needs help, but the idea still makes him feel queasy.
The make it back to the motel a lot quicker than they should have, and into their room. By the time they reach the door, as much as Sam is guiding Dean, Dean is supporting Sam, keeping him upright. Their combined injuries, as well as general exhaustion makes them a sorry sight to behold. A fact which pleases the unnoticed man watching them from around the corner a great deal.
Sam manages on the third attempt to raise his arm high enough to place the key in the lock, and they stagger unceremoniously into the room. Sam half drops Dean onto the first bed, Sam's bed, incidentally, and just about makes it to the second one before he falls asleep.
Dean stays awake for a few moments longer. He finds himself preoccupied with whether or not the light is switched on. Finds it difficult to sleep with it on, and the idea that it might even now be bright as day in the room fascinates him. Eventually he too succumbs to exhaustion and falls asleep on top of the bed, still wearing boots muddy from stomping through a wet graveyard.
Dean is woken by Sam saying his name. Sam doesn't touch his brother, he doesn't know whether he can see again yet, and if he can't, Sam worries that Dean might panic and take a swing at him before he realizes he isn't under attack.
Dean's eyes do open before all the memories of the night before filter through, and he is confused at first by the darkness. Then he remembers, and feels his lungs involuntarily drawing in air far too quickly. He struggles to suppress the reaction and mumbles into his pillow “What?” Pleased to hear that his voice sounds steadier now. He cringes at the brain crushing headache that he had hoped would fade by morning, and rubs at his brow with his thumb and forefinger.
“I'm going for coffee, you want any?”
Dean keeps his eyes closed, both against the headache and the reality of the fact that even with them wide open he can't see anything. He rolls around to face upwards, “Sure.”
Sam doesn't move, he stands and watches Dean with concern, trying to think of a tactful way to ask whether he was still blind, “Are you, y'know, any better?”
Dean opens his eyes a fraction, just to check. He keeps his expression and voice neutral as he answers, “No, not yet.”
The silence then stretches for a little longer than is comfortable, before Dean breaks it for both their sakes, “Go get the coffee, Sammy,” Maybe you'll think of a way to make me feel better later. I doubt it, but you never know.
“Yeah, I'll be back soon. You need anything before I go?”
“No, Sam. I need my coffee, so hurry up and get it.”
Dean listens to Sam leave, unable to see look of concern on his face, but painfully aware of it anyway. He hears the door close and knows he is alone. In the dark. He takes a deep breath and fights down the wave of fear that threatens to overwhelm him.
Dean isn't scared of the dark. He knows logically, that with everything he has seen, he should be. He has told Sam exactly that at least twice over the past few years, but he has managed to get used to it. That should be a help at the moment, he knows, but somehow it isn't. The idea that a person can get used to darkness scares him, because if he can get used to regular dark, with time he can get used to this. And he doesn't want this ever to seem normal.
He sits up and brings his legs around to sit on the edge of the bed, then stared ahead, eyes open wide, willing some light to make it through. It's disconcerting, not being able to see. He knows vaguely where everything is in the room, but in order to find his way from one place to another will take a lot of trial and error. Before he even attempts it, he runs through in is head exactly where everything had been when he last saw it. His destination is the bathroom, but in order to get there, he has to find his way past beds, a table and two chairs, as well as anything he or Sam might have left around on the floor.
He stands up and walks along the edge of the bed, keeping his leg touching the mattress the whole time so he keeps an idea of where he is. Arms reaching out in front of him zombie style, searching for any forgotten obstacles, he reaches the end of the bed and turns the corner, walking now along the bottom. Then the bed stops. He remembers the second bed being about three feet away, and so keeping his left hand on the first bed, he reaches out with his right until he touches it. Only then does he allow himself to step forward, feet shuffling along the ground to prevent him tripping.
At the end of the second bed, he performs the same trick again, this time reaching out fro the bathroom door, which he discovers, to his relief, is exactly where he remembered it being. Fingers close around the door frame and he steps inside, feeling the difference between the carpet of the bedroom and the tiles of the second room under his feet. That done, he closes the door behind him, doesn't lock it, and stands there, back against the wall, trembling.
The shower is remarkably easy. He often closes his eyes anyway, and once he has located the power switch and the soap, he's really just going through the motions. It feels good to be able to do something normal, without needing help, without it being a struggle. The warm water pounding down on his head and shoulders does wonders for the headache, temporally soothing the pain until he almost forgets about it. It comes back almost as soon as the water stops, but for a few minutes this had been just a normal day.
He emerges from the bathroom wearing a towel and cursing the fact that he didn't think to take fresh clothes in with him. The room still sounds empty, but he calls out just to be sure, and Sam doesn't answer. Not wanting to take the risk of the towel dropping and his little brother opening the door and revealing his bare ass to innocent bystanders, he tucks the towel into itself so that he can use both hands to navigate, and to search through his bag when he finds it.
He finds it easily enough, right where he had left it at the side of his bed, the one where Sam had slept the night before. He opens it and feels around for his clothes. They are easy enough to find, what isn't easy however, is knowing what is what. Unfortunately, there's no way around that dilemma, short of waiting for Sam to get back and asking for help, which Dean is not about to do. So he chooses based purely on whatever he finds first, and just hopes it looks okay. Probably it will, most of his clothes look okay together anyway. He decided to get dressed in the bedroom, worries about Sam opening the door aside, it was just so much more convenient than carting everything all the way back into the bathroom and risking dumping his clean clothes in a puddle of shower water.
Dressing in the dark is easy, as long as you remember where you put everything. It takes a few minutes longer than normal, but he is reasonably sure that the end result will look okay. He rubs at his hair with his towel and tries to push it into position with his fingers.
Sam still isn't back. Dean wonders how long he has been, the coffee shop wasn't that far away, and he certainly hasn't been quick at getting ready this morning. Sam should have been back long ago. The thought provokes a spark of worry, which he squashes down with the rationalization that he's being paranoid, that not being able to see is making him feel a little insecure. A lot insecure.
Sam arrives back a few minutes later. Dean is sitting on the bed facing away from the door when he hears the key turning in the lock. The smell of coffee follows his brother into the room and every cell of his body begins screaming out for the caffeine. “You took your time,” he tells him as he turns around.
“Sorry, there was a queue. I got some food too, if you're hungry.”
Dean feels like he food should be the last thing on his mind right now, but the mention of it triggers hunger pangs in his stomach, “Hand it over,”
Sam crosses the room and places the coffee in the table at the side of the bed, then drops a paper bag into Dean's lap. “You got dressed,” he says.
“Yeah, so? I'm not incapable, Sam,” Dean reaches into the bag and finds a burger wrapped in paper which he unwraps and bites into greedily.
“I know. Sorry.”
Sam stands there for a few moments longer, not moving, just watching Dean as he finishes his burger and reaches carefully out for the coffee, hand moving slowly so as not to knock it over. He locates if quickly and takes a sip before turning to face Sam. “I can eat and drink on my own too, dude. Don't need you hovering over me. If you want to make yourself useful get online and read up on how to fix my fucking eyes.”
He listens to Sam back quietly off and power up his laptop. The coffee is half cold, but he swigs it down anyway. Behind him to his left he can hear the sound of fingers on keys, and Sam's breathing just a little too hard.
The typing stops and he correctly imagines the expression on his brother's face, surprise mixed with confusion, “Me? Why wouldn't I be?”
Dean doesn't answer, allowing the question to hang uncomfortably in the air until Sam decides to answer. Which he does after a few minutes, “I'm just worried about you.”
“Well don't be. I'm fine as long as I've got you to watch you for me. And you're gonna find a way to fix this, it's what you do, right?”
Sam knows Dean wouldn't be able to see him nod even if he was facing him, which he isn't. He does it anyway.
“And I meant physically,” Dean continues, “You were beat up pretty badly last night,”
“The doctor said I'll be fine, just bruised. I took some painkillers this morning, I'm good.”
He gets the impression Sam is exaggerating. He had seen the beating his little brother took just a few hours ago. Under normal circumstances, he'd be suggesting a few extra hours sleep at the very least, but then he needed Sam researching right now. “Okay. Painkillers, that sounds like a good idea now you mention it, my head's still killing me.”
Sam gets up and places a packet in his hand, “Tylenol, keep them so you know where they are. Why don't you get some more sleep while I get on with the research?”
Dean frowns as he dry swallows two pills. Sam ordering him to bed? How's that for role reversal?
When Dean wakes up, Sam watches him open his eyes and look around in confusion, then press the light on his watch to check the time. As he does, he remembers why 's dark and smooths his expression to complete neutrality before calling out to Sam.
“Just here,” Sam tells him from the other side of the room. “You need anything?”
“Nah, I'm good.”
Sam watches him wake himself up fully, and move his position to sitting on the edge of the bed. Dean isn't acting completely like himself, and while Sam understands why, it still seems strange. Dean hasn't asked him what he's found yet. “Feeling any better?”
“You mean the headache, or the blindness?” It's the first time he's used that word out loud, it feels strange.
Dean shakes his head.
Sam finishes the post he was making on a forum, and quickly flicks through his many open internet windows, each less informative than the one before. On the second viewing, they provide just as little information. You know you're stuck when you start posting questions on supernatural forums in the hopes that someone has had the same problem and can tell you how to fix it. Sam doesn't hold out great hope of the answer arriving in his inbox though, and makes himself sound busy in an effort to put off talking to Dean.
Even without seeing him, Dean can tell what he's doing, and interrupts, “What did you find out?”
Sam freezes, mind running through the reams of useless information, trying to think of something that sounds even vaguely like it could be the solution. He gives up, not because he can't think of a way to sell it, or even because he knows Dean will see right through any lie, but because Dean needs the truth far more than a comforting lie. He sighs, “Nothing.”
“There can't be nothing,”
Sam closes the lid of his laptop and rubs eyes weary from staring at the screen for hours. Dean isn't quite facing towards him, but he is at enough of the right angle that Sam can see his face, and he wishes right now that he couldn't. He looks away. “I know. There will be something, I just haven't found it yet. I'll keep looking,”
“Right,” The neutral expression on Dean's face hardens to blankness and he gets up off the bed.
Sam looks up just in time to see him go through the bathroom door and slam it closed behind him. Sam stares at the door for a few seconds, wondering whether he should try to talk to his brother or give him his space, then he reaches for his telephone and makes a call.
“Dean? Hey, Dean? You okay in there?” It has been half an hour since Dean slammed locked himself in the bathroom, and while Sam understands, to a certain extent, how upset he is, he is worried by this uncharacteristic behaviour. And he needs the bathroom.
Dean is sitting on the tiled floor, back to the door and head tilted backwards when Sam knocks. He's been sitting like that for quite some time. He almost opens his eyes, then decides against it. “I'm fine, Sam. Go away.”
For a second, he thinks that for once in his life, his younger brother might have done as he was told, but the few seconds of silence were quickly broken, “I called Missouri.”
What? He gets to his feet and opens the door, “Why?”
“Well, first I called Bobby. He said she might be able to help.” At the look on Dean's face, he hesitates, “What?”
Dean's expression has slowly changes from curious to furious, “You told Bobby?”
“Why?” he echoes. “Because...”He falters. He can't think of a single reason not to call Bobby, except that he didn't want him to know. He doesn't want it getting around the hunter community that Dean Winchester made a mistake. And Sam should have thought of that, He knows Bobby doesn't gossip, but he just really, really doesn't want anyone to know about this. He thinks about telling Sam that, but doesn't. What's done is done, no point making his brother feel like crap too. He shrugs. “Doesn't matter. What can Missouri do?”
“I don't know,” Sam tells him. She might be able to help, but she'd have to see you in person.
“How convinced did she sound?” Dean walks to the table where Sam had been sitting earlier, arms outstretched, eyes open wide as though trying to see in the dark. Which he was, Sam supposed. “Because since this happened here, we should probably stick around and do more research if we can. No point going all the way to Kansas for no reason.”
Sam resists the urge to help Dean to the and bites his tongue against any comments about his brother being afraid to go in case she can't help. “We might as well go, Dean. There's no point just hanging around here, if nothing else, maybe on the way we can pass through a town with a decent occult section in their library.”
Dean wants to argue. He wants to yell at Sam for going behind his back and talking about him. He wants to insist on staying put, since this is where it happened, it makes sense that if there is an answer, it will be here. More than that, he wants to storm out of the room and install himself in the nearest bar and work out his frustrations on the pool table. But that's obviously not going to happen. He also realizes he's being stubborn, and knows how well Sam can read him, especially when he has the upper hand like this. Besides, they can come back afterwards if she can't help.
He agrees by picking up has bag and nodding.