Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester
Word Count: 5,000
Synopsis: Set right after 1.03, pre-Wincest, Hurt!Dean, Mute!Dean,
Dean's not talking, so Sam is, much eggnog is consumed, a letter is written and read.
Author Disclaimer: Nothing is mine here but these little ol’ words.
Author’s Note: Written for the Dean-centric Hoodie Time Holiday Comment Fic Meme, for this prompt Slight AU for Christmas eps. Because mute!Dean is ♥
So ever since the fire sometimes, when things are bad, Dean stops talking. It doesn't happen often, and it never lasts that long. But for some reason, maybe because November is such a bad month, something always happens right before Christmas that shuts him up. So Dean's spend every Christmas since the fire mute. it gets to the point where he just associates them and it happens automatically. And now it's their first Christmas since Stanford and Dean stops talking around the 23rd and Sam just isn't used to it anymore. I don't know. Spark any bunnies for anyone?
This was my first time try at a comment-fic\-meme and I failed making it so long, sigh. I’ll do better next time, I promise.
Read it over at AO3.
November has been worse than usual this year. A lot worse. Better in one respect at least, Sam’s back with him at least. But that took his girl dying just like Mom did, and Dean’s not ready to admit to himself that he’s even a little okay with that. But they can’t find Dad, and Dean’s worrying more than he’s letting on to Sam. Sam’s not really noticing much anyways, still grieving so hard for Jess. So yeah, November really sucks this
year, more than usual. He doesn’t really notice that he stops talking less and less as the month goes on. And when he stops altogether later in December, it doesn’t seem terribly important. Who’ll miss his voice anyways?
Seems like there’s almost always something every November that triggers it for Dean, the not talking thing. Something beyond just it being the anniversary of the fire. Sam tries to figure it out every year that it happens, but it always takes him a while and by then it’s too late, once Dean’s stopped talking, he just stays that way for a while. It’s never more than two months, but it’s frustrating knowing that there isn’t anything he can do to prevent it, God knows he’s tried, ever since he was old enough to notice his big brother’s silence at the end of almost every year. Those months without his brother’s voice hurt more and more every year that it’s happened. Sam knows it maybe isn’t true, but he feels like it’s his fault somehow. If his Mom hadn’t died all those Novembers ago in his nursery, then, well his brother would be okay, or maybe a little bit better than he is. Which right now, is not talking.
And that’s really not a good thing this year. Because Sam needs him more than he ever has, he needs all of him, including his voice to get over these first months of grieving Jess. Dean’s all that’s getting him through, and if he can’t talk to him for a couple months then Sam’s going to lose it, maybe permanently. And he forgot that this is just what Dean does, and there’s no stopping it once it starts. He just has to try and remember what helps him get through it the quickest. Usually Dad took care of him, because Dean would just shut himself off from both of them. Sam always figured he didn’t want to talk to him because maybe he was blaming him. This year, he thinks Dean might have been right all these years. Because that’s what he’s doing, blaming himself. Mom’s dead, Jess is dead now too, all because of him. No wonder Dean won’t talk to him.
Ever since they got off that damned plane and called Dad’s cell phone, Dean hasn’t said a word. Not a single word. Now that Sam thinks back, he’d gotten a lot less talkative after the vengeful spirit case at the lake in Wisconsin, but he hadn’t noticed the change in his brother. Too wrapped up in his own loss and pain. He wonders if being around the kid, Lucas, who wasn’t talking triggered something for Dean this year. After hearing him talk about losing Mom to get through to Lucas, Sam is thinking maybe Dean identified a little bit too closely with Lucas. And the trauma of having to face his worst fear and fly and oh yeah, battle a demon for the first time was what put him over the edge. Of course it doesn’t help that they’re feeling so completely abandoned by their Dad. It doesn’t make any sense at all that he won’t call them.
Every year when the Dean-not-talking-thing happened, Sam would ask their Dad why, and he never had a good answer, and when Sam thinks of it now, he realizes his Dad really didn’t seem to be too worried about it. Maybe it didn’t matter to him, or maybe he’d given up over the years. Maybe it was just how Dean dealt with the traumatic anniversary.
But Sam’s at his lowest point of getting through the aftermath of Jess’ death, is pretty much stuck in the depression stage, and he’s down one functioning brother. Which maybe is a blessing in disguise this year. Because every year when Dean stops talking, he stops functioning normally and this year is no different. Over the weeks of silence their roles slowly reverse and Sam is forced to realize just how much he has to do to take care of Dean. He doesn’t have to wipe his ass or anything, thank God for small favors. He just has to make sure that his brother eats and drinks something non-alcoholic, and maybe goes outside a little every day.
So they’re stuck in-between jobs, can’t really do much for anyone else when one of them is barely keeping it together and the other isn’t much better, and oh yeah, not talking. So they’re holed up in a rent-by-the-month cottage near the Kanawha River’s edge just outside the small town of Eleanor, West Virginia. It’s a pretty basic little place, small kitchenette, three or four channels on the TV depending on the weather, two surprisingly un-lumpy beds, and one of the teeniest bathrooms he’s been in. But hey it’s cleaner than most of the motel rooms they usually end up in, and it’s cheap and paid for and he doesn’t have to drive them anywhere. It is home for a little while.
Late December now, and it is cold, of course it’s cold. So they spend only short amounts of time outside, taking fast training runs when the sun’s been up a while. Today Sam decides it’s the day to finally get Dean to learn some Tai Chi which he picked up at Stanford. “Dean it’s a warrior’s training regimen, just in slow-mo, tai chi means boundless fist for god’s sake, c’mon let’s go.” He practically has to drag him out the door into the weak afternoon winter sun. Not too much snow on the ground right now and there’s some cleared pavement for them to work in. He shows Dean the basics and gets him through about half of the first form in their first session. It’s peaceful with just Sam’s occasional comments and their steady breathing breaking the silence. The river endlessly flows past, not stopping, not noticing the mostly broken brothers moving in tandem on its edge. Sam doesn’t see much emotion on Dean’s face as they slowly practice, he’s facing the river, and seems lost in its constant movement. But at least he isn’t frustrated or bored, and he seems a bit more at peace than the last few days. He knows it’s too much to wish for, but he wishes Dean would smile, he misses that almost as much as hearing his brother’s voice.
“See, that wasn’t too hard for you old man.” Dean grimaces and flips him the finger. Which is more communication than Sam’s gotten in like a week. Sam helplessly grins back at his brother. Dean responds with a dramatic eye roll and walks right back into their cottage. He throws his sweatshirt off, flops onto his bed, toes off his boots and flips the TV back on immediately, filling up the small space with the noise of a football game. Sam guesses it must be Saturday since it’s a college game and he’s right, West Virginia University playing South Florida. Not that he cares.
“Dean I’m going out for a while, going Christmas shopping, it’s tomorrow you know.” Sam says it just to see if Dean will react this time. Nothing but one raised eyebrow, which is sadly, a whole lot better than the nothing at all he’s gotten used to.
“Well, I might as well actually go Christmas shopping.” Sam tells himself, out loud, as he pulls the Impala out of the driveway. He’s used to just talking now and not expecting to hear a response. There aren’t too many stores around, but there is an antique store which is actually open since it’s a Saturday. Maybe he can find something that will cheer Dean up. He pokes his head in to the crowded shop, trying not to jingle the front door bell too loudly. After poking around for a while he comes across a pile of vintage Look magazines from the 1960’s, all the yearly car preview issues that Dean’s always looking for, one even has Dean’s car on the cover. He snatches the stack up and pays the uncommunicative teenager behind the counter.
Next door is a drug store with a big Christmas display of decorations and lights, all on half off since Christmas is tomorrow. Sam decides to go pick up just a few things. He doesn’t know if decorations will cheer up Dean, but he hopes it will cheer him up at least, remembering how much Jess liked to decorate for all the holidays gives him an internal smile at least.
After picking up some dinner fixings at the small grocery, Sam returns back to find Dean asleep with the TV still blaring. He doesn’t even move. Guessing that the Tai Chi took more out of him than he thought, Sam moves around the cottage putting up the decorations as quietly as possible. When he’s done he turns off the TV so everything is dark except for the new Christmas lights.
He sits on the edge of Dean’s bed and touches his shoulder gently, “Hey Dean, I’m back. Got some stuff to make for dinner.” Dean rolls over slowly and looks around at the lights and decorations with widening eyes. Sam’s holding his breath a little hoping that his brother reacts well. And he does, he actually gets a smile from Dean. Not one of the full-watt versions, but hey, there were actual visible eye crinkles.
Sam smiles back at him, relieved and happy that something so simple and easy actually worked for once. “Glad you like them Dean, thought we could use something festive in here. Want to help me make dinner tonight? I was hoping you could show me how to do your version of chili. I hope I got the right ingredients, I had to guess.” Dean gets up slowly and stretches. On and on the rolling uninterrupted monologue goes, Sam just can’t help himself. He’s got to fill up the space between them with something. He keeps it up because he knows it helps both of them, draws his brother back out of himself, back to him where he belongs.
As they squeeze into the small kitchenette, bumping into each other constantly as they work to get the chili going, Sam keeps up with the talking, figuring Dean can shut him up anytime by a gesture or a poke in the ribs. He makes sure to throw in lots of questions leaving it open for his silent brother to answer or not, who knows maybe it’ll trick him into talking if he asks the right question in the right way at the right time. Like walking a tightrope balancing pipe bombs, hand-grenades and c4, anything can knock him off the wire falling to his doom, but he’s got to keep going and get to the other side.
“Dean, I like getting to cook with you, have we ever done this that you can remember?” This time he gets a shrug and a head shake as answer. “Well, we ought to do this more often. Can we try to again sometime? I’d really love that.” Dean catches his eye with a small smile and affirmative nod. “Okay, thanks. Um, are we almost done, because I’ve got a surprise for you.” Another silent head shake, another small smile. Practically an avalanche of communication this evening. But Sam’s not saying that out loud, just appreciating it that his brother seems to be coming out of his armored shell a little bit. “Don’t worry, it’s the kind of surprise that I know you’ll like.” Dean turns the pot down to a low simmer and looks at Sam expectantly. “Go sit over there and close your eyes for a bit.” Sam hits the trifecta with an eye-roll, small smile and silent chuckle, but Dean goes over to his bed, settling back with arms crossed behind his head and his ankles crossed too. “Comfy? Ok, this will just take a sec.”
Dean can see when he peeks through his eyelashes that Sam is mixing something out of a carton and a bottle. Now he’s coming towards him holding out two cups filled with milk, no eggnog, Dean groans internally, he really doesn’t like eggnog much, too sweet, all that thickness of the cream gets in the way of tasting the alcohol. But he’s going to accept it gratefully from his brother who he can see is trying really hard here.
“Here you go Dean, open up and check this out.” He sits up as Sam sits next to him on the bed and hands him one of the glasses of eggnog. He takes a sip and gives him a thumbs up and smile of approval, coughing a little overdramatically because Sam really never learned to mix a drink very well. “Hope I didn’t make it too strong.” Dean wonders if he used his good whiskey or not, tastes like maybe he did, but it’s not like he can say anything about it. “To us, to another Christmas together.” Sam says with a forced sounding jollity, and clinks their glasses together, smiling at him. Dean returns as hearty a smile as he can manage back, but god, his brother is a regular grinning fool today, what is up with that? Is it just because it’s Christmas Eve? What’s he expecting some sort of damned Christmas miracle or something?
“So do you want your present now or tomorrow morning?”
Dean shrugs in answer, leaving it up to Sam to decide. He can’t tell Sam that he doesn’t have a present for him, which he’s sure his brother already knows. It’s been a few years since they’ve even had a Christmas together, and he can’t remember what he got him last time. Probably a book, Sam always liked to get books from Dean because he always chose something unexpected, and always wrote a memorable inscription.
“Do you remember the last present you gave me Dean?” Sam asks quietly. Dean looks up sharply, surprised that his brother is somehow reading his mind. “You probably don’t, it’s been a few years, it was the Christmas before I went to Stanford. Well I remember even if you don’t. It was a book of Walt Whitman poems. I read it so many times when I was at Stanford I actually wore the binding out. That was a great present, and what you wrote in it always stuck with me, got me through some really hard times when I was on my own. Do you remember Dean?”
Yeah of course Dean remembers, and scowls a little thinking darkly that it sure didn’t seem to make a difference, Sam still left him to go to Stanford didn’t he? “What you wrote meant more to me than the poems ever could Dean. You wrote: You’ll always be more than a brother to me. You’re my reason.” They look at each, each searching the other’s eyes for an answer they’re scared to find. Sam asks quietly but as if it’s the most important question in the world. “Am I still your reason Dean?”
Dean’s head fills with a buzzing thrill at Sam’s question. His answer is a quick kiss to his brother’s temple. He hopes he interprets it as a yes, hopes that they haven’t grown so far apart that Sam doesn’t know that it’s still true, will always be true. Sam leans into Dean and sighs sadly, “God, I wish you could answer me Dean. I really miss hearing your voice.”
They stay there, leaned together, drinking their eggnog silently for a while until Sam jumps up to get a package. “Here, I hope you like them.” Dean smiles up at him, taking the package. When he sees what’s inside his smile turns into an enthusiastic grin.
“Yep, I know you pretty well don’t I? Found them in the antique store in town. How about that Impala picture on the cover, pretty sweet huh?” Dean nods and gives him a half hug which he hopes Sam gets is a big thank you. “Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome. Only 4 more shopping hours left ‘til Christmas Dean, you still got time, I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Think the chili is done yet?” It is, so they eat silently, half watching yet another football game that neither of them really cares about, both thinking about other Christmases, some happier, some not even close to as happy as this one.
Sam drinks several more eggnogs, getting chattier and more emotional with each one until Dean has to tuck him into bed. Sam grabs him around the neck, drunken slurred talking hotly into his brother’s collarbone, “Dean, love you, thanks for being my big brother, always loved you, never stopped, sorry for everything, the fires, both fires my fault, I know it’s my fault, no wonder you stop talking to me, all my fault, now you’re stuck with me, sorry Dean, sorry my fault…” Sam trails off as he passes out.
Dean stands up and looks down at his beautiful little brother, hair fanned out on the pillow, dark eyelashes closed, and he notices his mouth still moving, he leans down putting his ear right above Sam’s mouth. He can barely make out Sam’s breathless slightly slurred whisperings, “Still want you Dean, that never changed, never forgot, always wanted you.” Dean kisses him gently, stilling his moving lips, until he feels Sam relax and stop and fully pass out this time. He stands up, scrubs his hand over his face tiredly, touching his own lips as if sealing in the feel of his brother’s and then slowly runs his hand through his brother’s hair as if he knows it’s the only time he’ll ever get to do this.
Dean sits down at the little kitchen table and pulls over one of Sam’s notebooks and a pen. He turns to a blank page and starts writing, filling several pages with his neat scrawl. When he’s finally done he puts the pen down looking intensely satisfied, and rips the pages out of the notebook. He rolls them up tying the pages together with one of the Christmas decorations and sets it on the nightstand with a glass of water and some ibuprofen. He gets into bed and lies there looking at his brother lit up by the glowing Christmas lights that surround them both and falls asleep with a smile on his face for the first time in a month.
In the morning, Sam wakes up first and spots the water and pills Dean set out for him, he groans and takes them and then notices the tied-up roll of papers. He’s not sure what it is, if it’s for him or what, so he goes back to sleep. Dean wakes him up in a couple hours anyways, banging around in the kitchen fixing coffee and pancakes, always their Christmas tradition. “I remember you always making me pancakes for Christmas breakfast Dean when we had a kitchen, glad that hasn’t changed.” Dean gestures for him to come to the table and eat. “These are really good, what did you put in them this time?” Dean points to the bottle of lemon extract on the counter. “Where did you find that? I know I didn’t buy it.” Dean points to the cabinet over the stove. “Huh, guess lemon extract comes standard in West Virginia. Well it makes for a great pancake, thanks for fixing them, Merry Christmas. Uh, hey, so what are those papers over there on the nightstand?” Dean freezes, and then slowly gets up and starts to put them away in his duffle bag. “Looked like you’d wrapped them up for me, you didn’t write me something did you?” Dean shrugs.
“C’mon Dean, you gotta let me read it.” Dean reluctantly gives them over and quickly gets his boots and jacket on, leaving out the door of the cottage before Sam has a chance to read too much of what he wrote last night. He can’t be there when he reads it, call him a chicken if you must, but no, he just can’t do it.
Yes, you’re still my reason. I hope you know that. You better! And you always will be, you idiot, always asking me questions you already know the answers to, why do you do that, just to see what I’ll say? Anyways, you said a lot of things tonight after you drank the rest of the eggnog and since I couldn’t talk to you about them, I wanted to write it down for you here, what I would have said if I could have. You’ll have to consider this your Christmas gift Samantha, since I didn’t get you anything, didn’t realize until too late what day it was. So this is a written-down, caring sharing chick-flick moment just like you’ve always wanted memorialized for all eternity on this paper. Don’t expect me to ever say any of this stuff out loud to you, but I mean every word, I really do. I’d say burn this after reading, but I doubt you’d actually follow through and do it.
First of all, what I wrote in that book to you meant as much to me as it did to you. I’m glad that it helped you when you needed it when we were apart. But I don’t think you realize how hard it was for me to even write it in the first place. You of all people know how I have trouble sharing my feelings with anyone, even you, even myself if I’m honest. One of the biggest reasons for that is because I feel so much for you that I know I’m not supposed to.
I love you Sam, and I’ll repeat what I wrote in your book “you’ll always be more than a brother to me.”
I love you more than a brother ever should love his brother.
And I always felt so much guilt about it, knew it wasn’t right to think of you that way, and I let it get between us in those years before you left for school. I had to make that distance, otherwise I was going to act on those feelings and that wouldn’t have been right, it would have screwed you up and made it harder for you to leave and try and find a normal life. I’ve accepted my life is never going to be normal, but I always hoped you’d have a chance to get out of the life we were raised in. It was harder than anything to let you go off to school like that, but I know you needed to do it.
I’m sorry that I was weak and came and got you to help me find Dad. I pulled you back into all this crap, and I can’t ever say how sorry I am that your girl got killed as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised if you never forgave me for that. I didn’t know her, but I can tell you really loved her by how hard you’ve been mourning this last month. You were right I didn’t need you with me to find him, but at least I was honest when I said I wanted you with me. Because I do, want you with me, for as long you’ll stay. But I know this isn’t the life you really want or deserve, and that you’ll go back to school as soon as we find Dad. I won’t say I’m okay with that, because I’m not, but I’ll deal somehow. Just be warned that we’re staying in better contact next time okay? It was too hard for me to go that long without talking to you or seeing you. You’ll just have to cut your big brother some slack and let me into a teeny corner of your life, that’s all I’m asking for.
Another thing you said last night under the influence was that you’re feeling guilty, feeling like it’s all your fault about Mom and Jess dying in the fires, and me not talking. Sam, none of that is your fault. We don’t know why Mom or Jess died, not really. You were just a baby, how could it have been your fault? And you weren’t even there when Jess was killed, just got there in time for the fire. Something is messing with our family, you know that’s what Dad’s been after all these years, and it’s not you so cut it out blaming yourself. And the reason I don’t talk sometimes this time of year, well it’s complicated, but it truly has nothing to do with you, I promise. So stop it with guilt tripping yourself, okay? I’m sorry, I know it probably sucks to have to deal with me when I’m like this, and I’m sorry, but you know it will be over soon.
And also, I don’t feel like I’m “stuck with you” now. Not at all. How could you even think that? It feels like a gift Sam, that you’re here with me, that we get this time together, to be brothers again like this. You have no idea how much I missed it, being with you, I don’t think I can even describe it. I missed you so much, there was never an end to how much I missed you.
So, I guess I’ll end this monster by saying I’m not going to write about the last things you said right before you passed out. Feels like that wouldn’t be fair to you. If you ever remember them and want to say them to me again when you’re sober, I promise you I will listen.
Thanks for being here for me while I’m not talking (again), I appreciate it more than I can ever communicate to you. I’m sorry for the timing on it happening this year, I know you need more than I’m giving you to get over losing Jess, but you can talk to me at least. You know I’ll listen and answer the best I can, so if you think it would help you, go for it, okay?
Hope this was enough of a present for you.
I’m glad you’re my brother
I Love you Sammy,
Sam comes to the end and notices his face is wet, he’s crying over this gift from Dean. Of course he is. Who wouldn’t? He wipes his tears off and rolls the pages of the letter back up carefully. He looks out the window to see if Dean is anywhere in sight and there he is on the driveway, near the river’s edge, practicing the Tai Chi he’d learned yesterday. The river moves just as slowly as yesterday, gray, inexorable progress marked only by occasional sticks or debris passing by, nothing remarkable, just constant movement with a purpose, just like his brother. As Sam watches the graceful movements performed by his powerful brother he’s struck again by just how beautiful Dean is. Everything about him is, sure he’s annoying as hell sometimes, but that’s how brothers are supposed to be, but yeah, he’s truly beautiful, and he loves Sam, maybe as much and in the same way as Sam loves him.
Sam gets his boots and jacket and joins Dean out in the cold morning and starts in with the Tai Chi movements, they move in sync together, just like they have their whole lives, it feels normal. “Maybe this is what normal is for me now” thinks Sam. When they finish and start to walk back inside, Sam impulsively slings his arm over Dean’s shoulders pulling him in for a half-hug. “Thanks for the letter Dean, it was a great Christmas gift. Made me feel all warm and gooshy inside.” Dean rolls his eyes and mimes laughing at him, smirking with unrestrained joy.
“Man, I wish you were talking so we could, you know, get the rest straightened out. Because I do remember everything I said last night. And I need you to know I meant every single word of it.” Dean half-hugs him back when he hears that, and puts his head on Sam’s shoulder, just resting it there comfortably as if he does it all the time; they stand together closely on the cottage porch.
“Want to go inside, have some more coffee with me, or maybe see if there’s any eggnog left?” Dean looks up at him and slowly nods and smiles. Sam returns his smile and quietly says, “Merry Christmas Dean.” Dean caresses Sam’s cheek softly in silent answer, Sam catches his cold hand, places a single kiss in the palm and closes Dean’s fingers over, holding tight as they pass through the doorway.