Summary: Pre-Series AU – Deaf Sam, Big Brother Dean – Dean had cringed at Sam's request for him to join the kid at the play but had agreed because that's what Dean did...whatever Sam needed. And tonight, Sam needed him to interpret.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Usual language.
Abbreviation Clarification (just in case): ASL = American Sign Language
A/N: A two-shot born of the E/O Challenge word-of-the-week (play).
You know talk's so overrated. Put your hand in mine. ~ Largo
As a general rule, Dean didn't do plays...and he sure as hell didn't do Shakespeare plays.
With "thee" this and "thou" that and the talking in circles and just...no.
If you had something to say, say it...and say it plain...and then shut the hell up.
Don't waste people's time – especially his time – just because you liked to hear yourself talk with fancy words.
...which was pretty much the gist of all Shakespeare plays according to Dean – people standing around throwing fancy words at each other.
Words that most people in the audience didn't even understand anymore, so they would just nod and smile to mask how completely lost they were in following what the hell was going on.
Dean sighed. "This sucks," he muttered, ignoring the nasty look from the woman sitting on his left – undoubtedly the proud mother of one of the actors about to dazzle them all with the performance of a lifetime.
Dean rolled his eyes.
He didn't want to be dazzled – and didn't expect to be.
After all, this was high school drama club.
Dean's expectations were as low as they could go.
He already knew he wasn't going to enjoy this experience. He only wanted to survive the cruel and unusual punishment of the next two hours and then go back to the motel to eat pizza, drink beer, and watch TV.
But that reward seemed painfully far away, and Dean figured the best he could hope for was maybe some character getting killed early in the play, which would at least make the show halfway interesting.
Otherwise, Dean was bored already, and the damn thing hadn't even started yet.
...which brought him back to his original point about never subjecting himself to plays, especially if Shakespeare wrote them.
Yet here he was, sitting beside his 16-year old brother on the back row of the high school's auditorium preparing to endure at least two hours of cultural torture.
God, this was going to suck.
Dean sighed again, his leather jacket squeaking as he shifted uncomfortably in the hard wooden seat, and attracted his brother's attention when his arm brushed against Sam's.
Sam turned to face him, looking uncomfortable for a different reason.
Dean arched a concerned eyebrow; his gaze briefly scanning behind Sam for any indication of something – or more likely, someone – that had upset his brother.
But there was nothing.
People in the audience were either too busy talking to those they had come with or too intent in finding their kid's name in the program to even notice Sam, much less intentionally antagonize him.
Sam shook his head at his brother's question, easily reading the single word on Dean's lips.
Nothing, he signed in response, his hand shaped like an "O" under his chin before pushing forward and becoming a loose "5".
Dean narrowed his eyes, doubtful of that being true.
Because something was clearly bothering Sam.
Dean could read the kid like a proverbial book, no sign language required.
Sam's face always spoke louder than his hands, and Dean could tell by the kid's expression that something was up.
Dean glanced again beyond his brother...and again saw nothing to indicate why Sam was fidgety and nervous.
Dean sighed. Sam... he called, using the name sign he had given to his brother years ago; his fisted right hand – "S" for "Sam" – crossing over his chest and tapping over his heart – because he loved the kid.
It was a combined name sign, linking an emotion or personality trait with a hand shape corresponding to the first letter of the person's name, and was generally viewed as unacceptable in the Deaf community because it didn't adhere to the classic ASL rules.
But Dean didn't give a shit about rules.
He'd always been a rebel and had never followed any other rules, so why would that change when giving his kid brother a name sign?
And it didn't.
Besides, it wasn't like the Winchesters were deeply ingrained in the Deaf community.
They were hunters, which meant they weren't deeply ingrained in any community.
They were lone wolves used to making up their own rules...even with ASL...which was why when Dean called his brother's name, he tapped an "S" over his heart and knew that Sam knew the rest – everything else that sign meant that wasn't spoken and didn't have to be.
And Dean used that sign now to call his brother's name again since the kid was looking at him but hadn't answered him.
Sam twitched a smile at the personalized sign, the one Dean had used to call his name for as long as Sam could remember; the one nobody else ever used except Dean...not even John.
Because most people, including their dad, weren't fluent in ASL...just knew a few phrases to get by.
Or worse, they didn't know the language at all. Which meant most people didn't know how to call Sam's name; they just tapped him on the shoulder or shook his arm to get his attention.
Or some people would actually wave their hands in his face; often startling him and making him feel even more inferior than he usually did since he was apparently expected to respond to the same kinds of gestures used to attract animals' attention.
Of course, if people did call his name, it was rarely a name sign. Most people preferring to just quickly fingerspell a short name like his – "S-A-M" – with no personalization to reflect relationship or affection.
...which was what John did, their dad's fingers moving fast and jerky since he was always in a rush...and usually angry about something.
Sam sighed again, blinking as he realized Dean was still staring at him as they sat side-by-side in the auditorium.
Sammy... Dean called, switching name signs – the fisted "S" now combined with the sign for "little"...as in "little S"...which somehow meant "little brother" to Dean...which somehow then further translated to "Sammy".
It didn't make sense...and yet it did.
Dean had used that combination to call his brother "Sammy" for as long as he had used the other name sign to call the kid "Sam".
And Sam liked both name signs, liked how he and Dean had molded the signs of ASL into their own type of language over the years – a language known just between them.
It somehow made him feel safe, wrapped in the security of their secret dialect.
Sammy... Dean called once more, his expression reflecting his growing annoyance at not being answered. Tell me, he commanded, his finger briefly tapping his chin before pointing to himself.
Sam shook his head. Nothing, he assured, keeping his hands low, his phrases short, and his signing quick.
Like he always did when he didn't want to attract attention...
...which explained everything.
Realization lit in Dean's eyes as he suddenly understood the problem.
Because even after all of these years, even after having been deaf since infancy and knowing no other way of life, Sam still had high levels of anxiety in public places; still worried about people staring at him when he signed; still wanted to be normal and felt self-conscious because he wasn't.
He was different.
Dean sighed as he stared at his brother, knowing better than anyone that all of Sam's angst and apprehension had only gotten worse in adolescence – and it seemed to be operating in full force tonight.
...which Dean guessed was understandable.
After all, there was about to be a whole lot of signing between him and his brother when the play started...and that's what Sam was worried about now.
But the signing was going to be done as inconspicuously as possible, with Sam's hands over Dean's as Dean interpreted the dialogue onstage through a combination of signs and fingerspelling...and Sam followed through a combination of touch and movement.
The brothers having used that version of hand-over-hand tactile signing for years as a continuation of the secret language between them; a language that was especially useful in dark, dangerous places – like on hunts...or when the boys didn't want anyone else to know they were talking to each other – like in front of strangers...or when they were around John.
After years of experience, both Sam and Dean were exceptionally good at this type of signing, sometimes using a combination of one-handed ASL along with their own signs which only had meaning for them.
Both brothers were extremely watchful of each other and knew that if one dropped his hand by his side, then the other should to do the same to receive whatever message needed to be exchanged without anyone else noticing.
Dean had lost track of how many times his hand had been over Sam's, or Sam's over his, as they had held entire conversations.
But tonight the tactile signing would be used for a different reason, and the brothers would both be exhausted by the end of the performance due to the amount of concentration it took to communicate in that way.
Because they wouldn't just be casually conversing but Dean would be interpreting word-for-word what was being said onstage – or least as much as he could, since ASL and spoken English...especially Old English...didn't exactly translate smoothly sometimes.
But Dean would do what he could to literally stick to the script...even if that meant Sam got a slightly slang version of Shakespeare.
Dean quirked a smile and glanced at his brother, knowing that while he was interpreting, Sam would be furiously trying to keep up; the kid's fingers feeling the shapes of Dean's hands as Dean signed and fingerspelled the actors' dialogue against Sam's palms.
It was going to be equivalent to running a marathon with their hands.
And quite truthfully, Dean felt a little overwhelmed by the task, even though he knew it would be worth it in the end.
Because no one else in the audience, including those sitting on either side of them, would even know what the brothers were doing.
And for whatever reason, that was important to self-conscious, 16-year old Sam – that no one knew they were signing...which meant it was important to Dean as well.
Dean sighed and shook his head, watching Sam chew on his bottom lip; the kid literally sitting on the edge of his seat as he glanced around the auditorium while twisting one of the strings of his hoodie around his finger.
Dean frowned at the nervous habit and nudged his brother's shoulder with his own.
Sam glanced at him, his finger almost purple from how tightly he was twisting that stupid string.
"Relax," Dean told his brother, knowing Sam could read his lips as long as he spoke slowly, and tugged Sam's arm down until the hoodie's string released the kid's finger. "And sit back," he added, lightly pressing against Sam's chest. "Nobody's looking at you." He paused. "I mean...why would they when they could look at me?"
Sam rolled his eyes at Dean's usual implication that he was the better looking brother and huffed a laugh, knowing Dean was only trying to distract and soothe him.
And Sam appreciated and loved his big brother all the more for it; thankful that Dean always knew exactly what to do and say; thankful that Dean was always Dean.
Sam sighed, rubbing his tingling finger as circulation returned, and tried to calm down as he pushed himself further back in his seat.
Knowing that Dean was probably right – nobody was looking at him.
It just felt like they were; like the spotlight was shining directly on him every time he lifted his hands.
Sam sighed again and glanced at Dean, well aware that his brother was watching him.
Stop, Sam signed, his right hand slicing through the air as he brought it down to his open left palm.
And Dean knew what he meant – stop looking at me.
Dean rolled his eyes at the touchy teenager and hoped – not for the first time – that Sam grew out of this phase soon.
'Cause the kid was driving him crazy with his drama queen mood swings these days.
Fine, Dean allowed, signing the word by holding his hand in the shape of a "5" and touching his thumb twice to his chest inches from where the amulet rested. Whatever you say, Samantha... he added, combining the sign for "S" with the sign for "girl" and thus completing the third name sign he sometimes used for his little brother, especially when Sam was behaving like a moody girl.
And Sam knew it, too; knew the dig that particular name sign was intended to be.
The 16-year old scowled.
Dean chuckled at his brother's reaction and then sighed; deciding to give Sam his space and instead glance around the auditorium; his hunter instinct immediately recounting the exits and re-estimating the number of steps it would take to reach the closest one while hauling a kid brother behind him.
Plus, Dean would have to allow for the extra seconds it would take to maneuver around panicked people who would be crowding the exits in an emergency situation...not to mention the added complications to be dealt with if the evacuation had a supernatural source.
Dean nodded at the possibility – because the supernatural was everywhere – and was glad he had come prepared just in case...and was thankful that security at the auditorium's entrance had been practically nonexistent.
The single policeman at the door had barely even glanced at Dean and Sam as they had entered.
And that was good.
Otherwise, Dean would've never made it inside with the kind of stuff he had hidden on his person.
Dean smirked – always pleased when civilians made his job easy – and then turned his attention to the audience; having already given most everyone a once-over for any glaringly obvious paranormal characteristics but deciding to check again.
A hunter could never be too careful, and that was especially true when Dean had Sam along for the ride.
Dean glanced to his right at the thought of his brother, not surprised to see the kid staring into space and undoubtedly overanalyzing something that was best left alone.
Because that's what Sam did – got himself worked up over nothing.
And that's where Dean usually came in to remind the kid to chill the fuck out.
Life wasn't nearly as serious as Sam took it.
Dean shook his head fondly at the kid who drove him crazy – but who he wouldn't trade for anything – and once again nudged his brother's bony shoulder.
Sam visibly startled and then blinked as he looked at Dean expectantly.
"Okay?" Dean asked, knowing John would disapprove of him "coddling" their youngest, as their dad would describe it.
But checking on Sam was a big brother habit that was hard to resist and even harder to break.
Because for most of his life, that's what Dean did – made sure Sam was okay...and if the kid wasn't, then Dean figured out a way to fix it.
John couldn't identify with that role because he had never fulfilled it; had instead dropped the responsibility in Dean's lap when Dean was only four-years old and hadn't looked back; had expected Dean to take care of Sam and to learn Sam's language but had never shown interest in doing either task himself.
Because after Mary had died, John had been overwhelmed by life...and then even more overwhelmed by Sam's diagnosis of sensorineural hearing loss following a bout with a nasty virus.
Sensorineural – meaning that Sam's hearing was gone and wasn't coming back, that Sam was deaf and would stay deaf.
It had been a life-changing shock on the heels of catastrophic loss, and John had transitioned from stunned to aloof in the span of a week...and that detached indifference had only increased with time.
Dean clenched his jaw, freshly pissed at how John often treated Sam and remembering the heated words exchanged between him and their dad about the kid whenever their old man was around.
...which thankfully wasn't very often since John totally buried himself in the constant chase of one hunt after another to avoid having to spend time with his sons – especially the deaf one.
Dean shook his head disgustedly, wondering if John ever felt ashamed about how much he sucked as a father.
Not that it really mattered.
Because Dean was ashamed for him...and yet glad – thankful – that John had given Sam to him all those years ago.
The kid was certainly better off with their dad gone.
Dean nodded his agreement with himself and then sighed, noticing that it was now Sam who was staring at him.
He arched an eyebrow at the kid's tilted head and intense, concerned expression.
Ok?, Sam asked, quickly fingerspelling the two letters.
Dean smiled fondly, it feeling good for the proverbial tables to be momentarily turned and to be checked on by his little brother.
Dean nodded, being sure to speak slowly so Sam could read his response. "Yeah. I'm okay." He paused. "You?"
Sam nodded as well, relaxing a little more in his seat as if to prove it.
"You sure?" Dean pressed. "I don't need to kick anybody's ass?"
Sam shook his head, quirking a smile at the offer that was only partly made in jest.
Because even though it had been a while since Dean had to defend him against bullies, Sam had no doubt that his big brother would still do so if Sam needed him to.
And that felt good.
That felt safe.
That felt loved.
And now Sam felt sappy.
The 16-year old laughed softly at himself, his smile still lingering as he stared at his brother.
Dean stared back. "What?"
Sam didn't hesitate. Thanks, he signed, his right hand held flat as it moved forward and down from his lips.
Dean nodded, knowing he had helped Sam feel safe and secure in what the kid had perceived as an intimidating situation...and that would always be its own reward for this big brother.
There was a pause, Dean glancing around the auditorium steadily filling with people who seemed entirely too excited to be there and then glancing back at Sam as his brother nudged him.
And thanks for this, Sam added, his expression genuine as he signed the phrase and then made a vague gesture at the stage hidden behind the faded, dingy curtain that had probably hung in the building since the high school had first opened.
Because while this wasn't exactly fun to him, it also wasn't a big deal; it was just all in a day's work for a big brother.
But Sam scowled at the dismissal. I mean it, he told Dean, wanting his brother to know how much he appreciated this.
Because Sam knew that Dean was miserable and would rather be somewhere else – almost anywhere else – on a Friday night rather than sitting there waiting for a play to start.
Sam knew that Dean was only there because he had asked him to come; because he had needed him to come.
Sam sighed, remembering how Dean had listened when he had first mentioned the play on Monday after school...and then had cringed when Sam had asked if Dean would come with him.
Because Sam had known the rural school wouldn't provide an interpreter for the performance – especially since he was the only deaf kid on campus – and he needed Dean to fulfill that role; to sign to him what was being said, so he could complete the required assignment that was due the following Monday.
And Dean had known it, too.
...which was why he had agreed.
And which was why he had also lied to John the previous night to dodge helping with a hunt when their dad had called from two states over.
Not that Dean lying to their dad for the sake of Sam was anything new.
Dean lied to John all the time.
Because it was no secret who was Dean's priority when made to choose between father and little brother – it was Sam...always.
Sam smiled, once again feeling sappy at the reminder of how lucky he was to have Dean.
Thanks, he told his brother again.
Dean rolled his eyes, sensing the kid becoming emotional – which was typical of Sam – and played it off with a snarky comment – which was typical of himself.
"Dude, don't be a girl," Dean reprimanded his brother and quirked a smile so Sam knew he was joking since the kid could only read his lips but not hear his teasing tone.
Sam scowled good-naturedly in response and roughly shoved Dean's shoulder.
Dean chuckled, hoping Sam knew that he would always come first in his life – no matter how old his little brother got – and that he would never refuse the kid anything...including attending high school productions of lame-ass plays.
Dean sighed, freshly reminded of where he was and of what he was about to endure.
But Dean didn't blame Sam for his impending misery.
That honor went to Sam's English teacher, the dumbass who required all of her students to attend the drama club's live performance regardless of whether they could hear it or not.
And while Dean usually appreciated teachers treating his brother just like any other student, this was ridiculous.
After all, what the hell was the kid supposed to do? Sit in the dark and wonder what was going on for two hours while people talked onstage?
Because Sam obviously couldn't hear the dialogue...and couldn't lip-read that fast...and couldn't rely on an interpreter since there wasn't one provided...and was told that he couldn't just read the play and write the report.
He had to attend the play and write the report, and the teacher would require the ticket stub attached to the assignment for proof.
Dean sighed, remembering how he had cringed at Sam's request for him to join the kid at the play but then had agreed to go along – because that's what Dean did...whatever Sam needed.
And tonight, Sam needed him to interpret.
So, that's what Dean would do.
But that hadn't stopped the big brother from bitching all week about the inconsiderate teacher who had put Sam in an awkward spot.
Dean shook his head, freshly annoyed by Ms. Pennington, sophomore English teacher and self-proclaimed Shakespeare buff; wishing he had the opportunity to tell the woman to shove this play right up her...
Dean blinked as the lights suddenly flashed twice and then began to dim in the auditorium; his hunter's instinct momentarily flaring and then calming as he realized the slowly darkening room had nothing to do with a supernatural presence but with the show finally starting.
It was about damn time.