Much love to MadServer for the beta-reading.
Dean wakes up mute one morning.
Nodding a greeting to his dad and brother he joins them in the diner for breakfast. He sips the cold coffee his dad has already ordered him and steals a pancake from his brother's plate.
On the road he fills the car with the sound of music and mouths the familiar lyrics. His dad sleeps in the seat next to him while his brother reads Ulysses. The road ahead of them is straight and the desert landscape beautiful.
Life is simple, he thinks to himself.
Around midday he hands his brother a bottle of soda and some candy bars. When his dad wakes up he turns off the music without anyone needing to ask. His dad fills the silence with information about their next hunt.
They stop at a small motel. Dean fiddles around with the Impala while his dad gets them a room and his brother goes off in search of food. They eat their dinner together in silence.
Dean falls asleep with a smile on his lips.
The next morning he wakes up to a shouting match.
His dad's face is a dangerous dark red and his brother's hands are clenched hard by his side.
For half a second Dean forgets. He kicks off the blanket and struggles out of bed. He opens his mouth to speak and two pairs of dark eyes meets his. There's a warning in their eyes and that's when he remembers. He remembers and presses his lips shut.
They leave late that morning. His brother drinks coffee in the car while staring out through the window in studied nonchalance. His dad reads a heavy leather-bound book about curses. The road stretches on forever and they're surrounded by nothing but sand.
No one talks and there's no music. The smooth sound of the car engine fills Dean's head and the thud thud thud of his own heart fills his chest. He licks his dry lips and thinks about the bottled water by his dad's feet and the soda cans by his brother's side.
It's not easy, he thinks. But it's still simple.
That evening his brother shouts at him outside yet another motel. His hands wave in the air, drawing intricate patterns. He uses the term passive aggressive twice. Dean just listens until his brother runs out of words.
That evening his dad gets drunk. He empties bottle after bottle with a determined look on his face, his eyes daring Dean to say something about it. Dean doesn't even consider it.
Instead he falls asleep with a strange taste in his mouth.
Dean wakes up alone.
There's no note waiting for him and the car is gone. Bright sunbeams reflect off the green beer bottles and Ulysses with its bent spine and dog eared pages rests on the pillow of one of the beds.
He tries to remember if this was in the plan but it's hard... hard to remember, hard to concentrate, hard to think. Hard to breathe. He's struggling to inhale as the ring tone from his cell phone catches his attention and he scrambles over to his bed.
It's his brother and the relief makes him dizzy.
His brother talks and talks. The words make no sense but Dean holds on to the fact that nothing in his brother's voice screams of danger or mortal peril. There's a long pause and Dean thinks that maybe it's his turn to say something now. Instead he just hangs up and puts the phone away.
He patiently waits for them to return. Tidies the room and makes the beds to pass the time. Throws away the empty bottles and collects their dirty laundry. He takes a shower and fills his head with the sound of running water. Ignores the sound of his cell phone.
It's still simple, he thinks. Only it's not.
They rush in with fear in their eyes and weapons in their hands. There's shouting and cursing and manhandling. Then his dad makes him drink holy water while his brother mutters Latin words through clenched teeth. And all along Dean wants nothing more than to speak.
In the end he just shrugs off their hands and goes to bed. Closes his eyes to protect himself from both light and reality. After a few moments someone pulls a blanket over his shoulders and a rough hand gives his shoulder a hard squeeze. Later on the bed dips as someone crawls into bed with him.
He falls asleep with his family watching over him.
The next morning he forces out a few words. His voice is rough, his lips cracked and his tongue an uncooperative lump in his mouth. There's relief in his brother's voice and his dad's eyes.
No one asks him why and except for months later when his brother's dead calm and his dad surprisingly sober, no one ever mentions that one afternoon Dean wouldn't answer when spoken to.
Dean figures that's just as well.