Silence is a Terrible Thing.
Disclaimer : John and Dean and all things Supernatural belong to me. Also this was written for the prompt : Mute!Dean at preschool, and John is at a Parent/Teacher conference because the teacher is worried because Dean isn't talking or interacting with the other students. The teacher implies that Dean is mentally challenge/stupid/slow, whatever. Cue Protective!Angry John who not only defends his son, but lets the teacher know that he saw his mother die in front of him, and that he couldn't ask for a better son, and John also intimidates/threatens the teacher. It does not reflect my personal opinions of teachers or principals!!
Silence is a Terrible Thing.
It's funny how Mary had always dreaded this day, right from when she first brought Dean home from hospital. "I don't want him to grow up, John. I want him to stay this sweet little thing forever," she'd murmured softly as she gently rocked back and forth in the chair in the nursery, pressing a delicate kiss to the baby's head. "I don't want him to go out into the world out there and change."
John remembered the way he'd smiled and teased her about it, saying that he was sure that as soon as Dean was up on his feet she'd be changing her mind. She hadn't and if anything he'd come round to her way of thinking. Dean had grown but he'd been sweet natured and curious, full of life and joy and laughter.
He looked down at his sons. Dean was silently trailing after Sammy as the toddler weaved his way round the furniture of Pastor Jim's living room, laughing and calling to his brother to catch him. Dean was smiling softly at his brother, affection clear, yet not a word passed his lips. When Sammy's hand strayed too near to anything he might knock or break, Dean was swift to divert his attention or failing that to take his hands and pull him gently away, silently.
"Come on, boys. We have to leave now," he said, watching as Sammy turned and began to toddle towards him happily, arms outstretched and smile firmly in place fully expecting to be lifted off his feet. Dean hadn't moved though, eyes wary and reluctant. Lifting his youngest up, John stood and held his spare hand out to Dean, "C'mon, buddy. Time to go."
Dean took a step back and shook his head. John sighed, it wasn't entirely unexpected. Ever since the first mention of school, Dean had been clingy. He'd drifted round after John and whenever he went out, he'd latched on to Jim. He'd played constantly with Sam, but instead of roaming the house, he'd taken to keeping his brother in the same room as John.
Jim had been worried about the transition to school, warned John that Dean's not speaking could be an issue, like John hadn't been thinking that already. Hell, he didn't want to let his boy out of his sight, let alone leave him in some school where there was no one to protect him.
Dean stared at him with huge watery, soulful eyes from the other side of the room. "I know, son, but we've got to do this. You wanna learn how to read and paint and do numbers and stuff and then you'll get to play with other kids. It'll be good right. "
Dean shook his head and held up one finger and pointed in the direction of the kitchen where he knew Jim was washing the dishes, then held up a second finger alongside the first and pointed fiercely in Jim's direction again. Yeah and didn't John regret the fact that Jim had decided to get the boys some paints because hell if he knew what else Dean would be doing in school and books and numbers weren't quite as appealing as the whole painting and making a mess thing was.
Dean sighed then looked at his fingers and raised a third, before pointing straight at John and then at his fingers with a frown. John smiled, loving his son's logic at the same time as it was making his son difficult to get to school now. John had to admit that he was slightly curious as to what Dean was going to use for the last reason he'd given for going to school. Dean stamped his little foot, held up four fingers and pointed savagely at his little brother, who seemed to somehow know that Dean was talking about him and reached his arms out leaning forwards to Dean.
"I'm sorry, Dean. You're going. We're not going to argue about this." He held out his hand to his son again and with a soft but determined voice said, "Now!" Dean's resistance dropped and he stepped forward to take his father's hand. As John buckled him into the car, he saw a tear drip down his boy's cheek and gently wiped it away with his thumb. "It's gonna be fine. I bet by the end of today, your teacher's gonna love you and you're gonna love her right back." Dean shook his head furiously. John leant forward and pressed a tender kiss to his son's forehead.
Reaching the school, John lifted Sam from his seat first before heading round to get Dean out. He opened the door and bent down to be at eye level with his son. "You got the cards Jim gave you?" Dean nodded. "And you remember those special signs we learnt." Dean nodded hesitantly before raising one hand to his forehead and resting his thumb there with the fingers stretched out above. "Yeah, 'Dad', that's right, son. And I'll be back here at the end of the day to pick you up."
He lifted his son out of the car, a chance for another reassuring hug before setting him on his feet and closing the door before leading him up to the kindergarten class entrance. He knocked on the door and was greeted by the teacher who had a gentle smile. "Hi," she smiled at Dean. "What's your name, little one?"
Dean took a step back behind his Dad's leg, until John rested a hand on his head and guided him forward. "Come on, Dean. You know the answer to that one . . . Show your teacher, son."
Dean gave his father a look as he pointed at him and John laughed as he realized that he'd said Dean's name. With a gentle wave of his hand towards Dean's pocket though, he got the reaction he'd been aiming for. Dean pulled a small set of cards from his pocket and rifled through them until he found the one with his name on and held it up.
"Er, Mr Winchester?" The teacher said. "Your son . . ."
"Yeah, he's got cards to answer a bunch of questions. Figured that would make it easier on ya'all and he's learning a few signs as well." He looked at Dean again and smiled. "Come on, kiddo show us what you know."
Dean made the sign for 'Dad' again, eyes softening he then pointed at Sammy and signed 'Baby' followed by an S and then 'brother'. John watching as the little boy's hands confidently formed the 'boy' and then the 'same' that formed the word he wanted.
"Good boy. Go on though, show me the important ones," John smiled. Dean's face dropped instantly showing his confusion. "The important ones for here, sweetheart," John reassured. "D'you remember? We learnt 'bathroom' . . ." relieved when Dean made the requested sign. John continued, "Hurt?" Dean nodded and squinted his face as he twisted his fingers in the correct motion. John paused for a moment, before saying "Were there any others?"
Dean tapped his arm before demonstrating quickly one after another please, thank you and sorry. John pulled him closer and pressed a kiss to his head before standing up and pushing him gently towards his teacher. "He's got them all on his cards as well in case anyone here doesn't know the signs."
Two weeks. Two weeks was all it took for John to be being called in for a 'parent consultation'. Yeah, right, a whole lot less consulting and plenty of whining and complaining going on as far as he could see and what a load of crap it was.
"There's nothing the matter with my son," John declared adamantly. "He's learning just fine. He's been making friends and everything!"
"Mr Winchester. Dean's a lovely boy, he's very accommodating and has a lovely nature, but perhaps this is not the best place for his education," the teacher continued.
"What the hell are you trying to say to me?" John snapped.
"Perhaps Dean would be better at a more specialized school. One that could perhaps cater to his specific needs. Now I've got some paper work here for you from a variety of those schools that offer the sort of provision that might suit Dean. There's also some professional groups that can offer advise and support for you at home in dealing with his particular difficulties," the school Principal added.
He should have known there was going to be trouble when he was called in, even more so when both the teacher and the Principal were there. "What exactly is the problem that Dean is causing for you?"
"Dean can't communicate. He doesn't communicate sufficiently to learn anything in this school."
"He doesn't communicate or you don't understand when he does?" John asked. "He's learning new signs all the time, soakin' 'em up like a little sponge and the cards, he's got more and more of them words learnt. Far as I can tell he's learning plenty and if you know how to listen to him, he'll show you just fine."
"Mr Winchester . . ." the teacher started. She let out a breath of air before adding, "Dean doesn't speak, yet there doesn't appear to be a reason for that. Dean has needs greater than can be provided for in a mainstream . . ."
John cut her off, "You know, maybe you're right. Maybe this isn't the best place for him. Maybe he'd be better off where someone cared about him rather than seeing him as a problem too big to overcome. He's been learning just fine, coming home and showing us all the things you've taught him. Using his cards and his signs to tell us about his day, drawing pictures and trying to write his letters and his numbers. Constantly practising, constantly wanting to be better for you! But it just ain't gonna be good enough for ya, is it?"
"Mr Winchester . . . he should be speaking. Learning signs, using cards – you're encouraging him to not learn to speak. His behavior is difficult, it singles him out, gets him extra 'different' attention to the children in his class."
"He's been acting out?" John asked suddenly more worried about what his son couldn't tell him.
"No, it's just, because he won't speak, communicating with him takes more time, draws time from the other children. He would be better to attend a provision for children who are emotionally and behaviorally challenging, children more like Dean. The staffing is such in those kinds of provisions that Dean's demanding behaviors could be dealt with appropriately, so he learns how to fit in. It maybe that after time in a provision like that, Dean will reach a point where he is ready and able to rejoin a mainstream class."
"So he's not doing anything wrong? You just don't have time for him! My son can speak, but he doesn't, not anymore. We've seen the doctors and you know what they say?" He paused. "They say one day I will hear my son's beautiful voice again, because one day he'll feel safe enough to speak again, safe enough to sleep through the night, safe enough to be just like all the other little boys in your classroom. But for now, I have to wait and I have to be strong and supportive and show him that I can love him and his brother enough for both his mother and I."
The Principal leaned forward in her seat, hands resting on the desk before her as she said, "Exactly our point, Mr Winchester. Dean can speak but doesn't. This is a behavior, it's something he's learnt to do because he gets extra attention for it. He is attention-seeking, Mr Winchester. And Attention is his reward for behaving in this manner. By allowing him to continue like this . . ."
"More attention! Fuck you, ma'am. You don't know what you're talking about. Less than a year ago, my son watched our home and his mother burn. Everything that made him feel safe and secure was incinerated before our eyes and all he's been left with is his baby brother and I and our car. He carried his baby brother out of the fire, Madam! Carried him out while I tried to save his mother and failed. He hasn't made a sound since, not one, no matter how hurt he is. He cries silently. Do you know how difficult that is to know that your son is so withdrawn that you can't even be sure that he wouldn't fall and hurt himself and not be able to let you know!"
John ran a hand over his face before adding, "We've found a place to stay now, a home for the first time since the fire, thanks to the Pastor. He's got a routine, the doctors think that might help. He eats and he does as he's told and he's learning new things all the time and we're rewarding every little fucking step that he takes. He can't sleep through the night, he struggles to let his brother and I out of his sight because he's terrified that he's going to lose us too. You know maybe you're both right and this dump isn't the place for my little boy. He doesn't need your bullshit. I'll find him somewhere better to be, somewhere people actually care about him. You can stick your special schools and your behavior modifying. My son just needs someone to care for him and to show him life is gonna get better and that he's safe enough to be himself."
John stood and with a final "We won't be coming back, we'll find another way to do this, but we won't be back here," he left, storming from the building, glad that he'd asked Jim to take the boys home at the end of the day as it would give him a little leeway to take some time to calm down.
Six months they'd been here, living in the little cottage beside the Pastor's house, leaving the boys free to roam across the Pastor's property as well as play in their own small garden. John looked out the window as the two boys played. Dean trying to show Sammy how to kick the ball but the younger boy missing as often as he made contact and even when he did make contact he almost without fail ended up sitting down with a bump as soon as he'd kicked it. Dean showed almost infinite patience with his younger brother.
So many things were better now. Jim and a member of his congregation who had retired from teaching both spent time home-schooling and both were delighted with his speed of accumulating new knowledge. He still didn't speak, but he was becoming adept at signing in a way that John envied. Yes, they all had to remind him to go slower when he signed so they could remember what each sign meant. Mrs Hammond had said he was reading well now and John had made a point to sit in with them and watch that morning as Dean had read and signed his way through the simple book before him as she had said each word for him, drawing his attention to details in the pictures and patterns in the sounds of the words.
Leaving the school in the end had been a good thing. Dean was a bright kid, astute and eager to learn even if he wasn't ready to overcome the silence yet. There were other steps forward that he was making already and John reminded himself regularly to be thankful for those. One day, his Dean would be ready to speak again.
It was the early hours of the morning, well past midnight, but still a long time till dawn, when John heard the familiar sound of feet running from the boys' bedroom. Another nightmare. Even more than the not speaking, this was what hurt the most. There was nothing he could do to stop Dean's nightmares. Night after night, Dean would still run crying from his own bedroom sobbing into John's room and John's arms. More often than not he would have brought his sleeping brother with him, although as Sam grew he knew Dean was struggling to carry him along more and more.
Judging by the terrified look on his face and the tight grip he'd got on his mumbling brother, tonight's had been a bad one. So John just lifted both boys up and into his bed straight away, shifting Sammy to lie down and snuggle in contentedly to a pillow as Dean sobbed. John rocked him back and forth, soft words of reassurance murmured into his hair as his hand rubbed circles on Dean's back and the little boy clung on for dear life.
Finally as the heaving breaths eased and John placed another tender kiss on his son's temple, he heard a beautiful sound. "Daddy!" Dean had whispered. "Daddy, I don't want you to leave us."
Hope you enjoyed.