Title: From a Scream to a Whisper
Characters: Dean & Sam
Warnings: language, permanent injury
Word Count: 1,140
Disclaimer: None of the Winchesters belong to me, alas.
Summary: Dean learns to live without his voice.
Notes: Written for roque_clasique rather belatedly for her birthday comment-fic meme.
In Sam's dreams, the blood never stops. It bubbles through Sam's fingers, pours down Dean's chest like a thick, stinking red waterfall. No matter how tight Sam holds on to Dean's throat, the blood flows until it rips Dean away from him, carrying him off and drowning him. The dreams end with Sam alone, his hands covered in clotting blood, and he wakes up gasping for air, hoping he didn't scream. Hoping he didn't make a sound.
Dean gets tired of the way Sam watches him sometimes, those big concerned eyes. He catches Sam waving his hands around in front of the laptop, playing with some sign language program he downloaded, and seriously? Sam doesn't need to learn sign language. Sam can talk, and Dean can hear just fine. He can even talk, sort of, a rough whisper that makes him feel like a villain in a bad horror movie. If he whispers too much, it irritates his throat, makes the scar inside ache like an echo of those first few days coming off the good drugs.
He mostly keeps his mouth shut. He and Sam don't need a whole lot of words to communicate most days, and Dean's found his own ways to make himself heard. The laptop helps, and he even screwed with it until he found the function that would read things out loud. One of the accessibility functions, and the best way to get past the sting of that is annoying Sam by making the computer speak the words to "Eat It." Dean's gotten a lot faster at texting, for when he and Sam are split up doing research or recon or when he needs to run something by Bobby or Ash.
Dean knows that Sam wanted them to stop hunting, or at least take a hell of a lot longer break than Dean needed to recover from surgery. He wanted Dean to sit around somewhere and go soft and drive himself crazy not talking to anybody. A hunter doesn't need to talk, and when Sam finally understood, when the sympathy lit up in his eyes Dean walked out to the back of Bobby's property and screamed. The blast of air over severed vocal chords was nearly silent but it felt good, right up until Dean tasted a trace of blood in his mouth, his angry wound screaming back at him. He spat a red-tinged loogey on the dirt and stood there breathing until he thought he could go back and listen to Sam and Bobby talking without screaming all over again.
A hunter doesn't have conversations with monsters, doesn't bother trying to reason with ghosts, and he and Sam work out a system based on the old whistle code Dad made them learn as kids. There's a whistle for left and right, one for duck and one for get-the-fuck-down-now. One for get-your-ass-out-of-my-face. Dean has a crazy-loud safety whistle on a cord around his neck--just in case, Sam said, in case they were too far apart for a regular whistle to carry. Dean gave in because really, the thing could be a good weapon in its own right--temporarily deafen your opponent, then punch him in the face.
Dean doesn't need his voice to communicate with women, either. In a bar, he still has no trouble catching a woman's eye. He smiles, lifts an eyebrow, and she walks over, leaving her friends behind her. When she gets close and says "Hi", Dean tips his head back to expose the still-healing scar on his neck. He points at it, points at his mouth, and shrugs. No big deal, his face says, just can't talk.
He can weed out the stupid girls fast. Their eyes go wide and they talk at him, loud and over-enunciated like he's hard of hearing rather than mute. "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh," they say. "That's awful!" Dean had a lot more tolerance for girls like that back when all of his scars were under his clothes, back when he could spin them into badges of honor, telling stories about damsels in distress while they shimmied out of their jeans. These days he's learned to look past the stupid girls--and isn't that one hell of an apt word for him to use. Stupid, dumb. He wonders if not-so-bright would be any more PC.
When he meets a woman who manages to understand that a fucked up throat doesn't equal the inability to hear or think, Dean likes to pull her in close, whisper in her ear. "I can talk a little," he says, conscious of the rasp of his little-used voice. "But it's kind of loud in here. Wanna go somewhere quiet?" He's been smacked for it once or twice, but what the hell. Foreplay is foreplay.
When it comes to talking to civilians, Dean leaves the grieving families, the shaken-up friends to Sam--even more than he did before. He can't stand passing notes back and forth with them, seeing their concern for him warring with the sadness in their eyes. He can't hate them for it, but it chafes. In those interviews, Dean goes for strong and silent. Or absent.
But when it comes to the other side of the coin, the hostile witnesses as Sam likes to call them, Dean's figured out he's better off handling those alone. He ambles up in his generic Fed suit, his tie knotted up high to hide his scar, flashes his fake badge and flips open his little notebook. He writes down a question, an opening gambit, and hands it over.
The witness gives him the hairy eyeball and then talks right in Dean's face, a wave of halitosis and enunciation. "I didn't know they let people like you in the Eff Bee Aye."
Dean writes quickly and hands over his answer with a shit-eating grin. AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER. It's all bullshit, as far as Dean knows. He figures any mute FBI agents are stuck in offices, chatting on the internet with sex offenders or combing through paperwork. Still, a hell of a lot of people buy it hook, line and sinker, and their next step is what bags Dean the information he's after.
The witness turns to his friend, turns around to the side where Dean can't read his lips, and details everything he thinks he better not tell the deaf fucking FBI agent. It's a lot easier than roughing people up.
In Dean's dreams, he's flying along the highway in the Impala, and he's singing along with Robert Plant, not missing a note. The only ache in his throat is from pushing his voice too high. He's singing, shouting the familiar lyrics out into the night, and his own voice all around him is enough to drown out those last words his father whispered in his ear.