Rating: PG-13 (Dean!whump, a bit of blood)
Fandom: SPN, gen, slight AU (Sam & Deaf!Dean, season one)
Word Count: 3700ish
Summary: This was written for neonchica's prompt at the fifth Dean-focused h/c comment-fic meme at hoodie_time:
The boys are on a hunt and end up separated - not by distance, but by access (say a wall or a cave in or whatever). Dean is hurt bad, and Sam can hear him, but he can't get to him & he's unable to call for help. I want the angst & the hurt factor as Dean gets worse and worse (goes into seizures, breathing lessens, pain increases - whatever) & all he wants is for Sam to get him the hell out of there!
Uhm, this went in a random direction. Unbeta'd because I am too shy to ask for help; thus, all errors are mine. This is the first time I've tried writing from both Sam and Dean's perspectives, all rolled into one. So...tada. I hope it fulfills your prompt, neonchica. And so you know, Dean went deaf sometime during high school.
The lighting is shit to begin with, clouds rolling in overhead that quickly dim the Wyoming woods, but its not like that would be something that could stop Dean Winchester, Man on a Mission.
Nevertheless, Sam points it out again, and Dean huffs in annoyance.
“It’s a cave in the middle of the forest,” Dean signs, pointer finger lazily spiraling through his cupped hand to emphasize the word ‘cave’. The movement, combined with Dean’s facial expression, communicates clearly Dean’s sarcasm. “Where you expecting skylights? Electric dome lighting? Of course it’s dark inside.”
Dean bends down and shoves the first aid kit and the spare flares back into his pack. Sam grabs his shoulder and pulls him back up, wanting to say his piece.
“I know it’s a cave, you moron. But being down one sense on this hunt has been hard enough. The sun is going down and I’m sorry, but you’re a pretty big something in the dark.” Sam doesn’t sign the word ‘something’ but Dean doesn’t recognize the gesture Sam makes for that particular word.
He mirrors it back, tapping his right shoulder with both hands just as Sam had, one eyebrow arched in confusion. Sam fingerspells it out for him.
“Liability?” Dean says aloud, hoping to inflect as much incredulity as possible. He says it probably too loudly because Sam twitches a bit. Dean switches back to signing, his hands moving a lot faster than they did when he was making fun of Sam. “I am so not a – ” he exaggerates the new sign, “liability. We’ll be fine. You’ve still got ears, and my voice still works. Do we have to go over this again?” Dean signs ‘liability’ again. “And where the hell did you learn that?”
Sam shrugs, digs a toe into the dirt at his feet, and looks all of five years old when he signs sheepishly, “I took a few classes at school. It’s not a big deal.” Even though he signs the generic meaning for school and not college, Dean knows he means Stanford. What he doesn’t know is that Sam’s use of ‘a few’ is a gross underestimate, considering American Sign Language was Sam’s undergraduate minor. Or would have been, if he hadn’t dropped out.
Dean just stares back at him, absently rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. It just figures. Sam, the moody eighteen-year-old that swore up and down he was never coming back to their life, this life, didn’t send Dean a single letter during the three years he was gone, not after the first postcard that confirmed he’d arrived safely in Palo Alto. But the kid took ASL classes, kept up with his signing. It’s a gesture that just screams Sam so loudly that Dean’s heart stutters in his chest.
Standing there, Dean is unaware of the flurry of activity growing in the forest around him as the fauna prepare for the coming night. He can’t hear the wild chirping of birds as they flit through the gaps in the trees or the steady drone of the cicadas greeting dusk. But he does notice the elongating shadows, the way the sun drops below the tree line and how the dirt at his feet feels cooler, smells damper. Sam’s right about it getting late, but it doesn’t change anything.
“Whatever, you big nerd.” Dean signs, shrugging off the chick-flick moment. “Fine. Let’s head back into town to Mrs. Hamilton’s house. You can sit her down and tell her we tried our very best, but we can’t save her daughter because you’re afraid of the dark. It’ll be difficult to explain at the funeral, you know, if they every recover her body, but maybe little Annalise should have chosen a more convenient time of day to be abducted from her campsite by a Wendigo.”
Dean finishes finger spelling ‘wendigo’ and then pointedly glares at his brother. Sam watches the entire tirade, guilt settling in the pit of his gut. His brother is right, like usual, but it doesn’t lessen the gravity of the situation. He feels trapped, laden with yet another possible life or death decision, and maybe the pain in his stomach isn’t guilt but a stress ulcer. Just a typical day in the lives of the Winchesters, taking extreme risks in the name of saving people, hunting things.
“The clock is running on this. You’re not allowed to say no, not unless you have a better idea, Sammy,” Dean adds, rubbing a circle over his heart with his hand fisted as the letter ‘S’.
Sam sighs and adjusts the straps of his backpack. He forms the letter ‘I’ with his right hand, brings it up to his forehead. “You’re an idiot. And for the record, I really hate this plan.”
Dean grins and shoulders his pack, flashlight in hand and flare gun in pocket. “So noted,” he says aloud, and leads his brother out of the forest and into the mouth of the cave.
They had communicated without words long before Dean had gone deaf. It was a symptom of growing up in each other’s pockets, never having enough personal space and yeah, their extensive childhood military training really honed their nonverbal communication skills. Sam took a ballroom dancing class with Jess one semester, and he thinks he and Dean a lot like those professional dancers, the ones who work together for years and years. One body reacts to the other in perfect harmony, giving and taking and bending and straining in all the right ways without even a single voiced directive.
It had been under Sam’s insistence that Dean picked up formal sign in the first place, after Dean spent all summer after the accident between sophomore and junior years practicing lip reading and learning to control the volume of his voice that he could no longer hear. John actually landed them in a town with a Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at the local high school for the fall and Dean enrolled reluctantly. Sam and John took a community class a few nights a week, and Sam used his exhaustive library skills to find helpful books and videos.
John didn’t really have the patience for signing, hell bent on finding the demon and holding the family together and staying under the radar and drinking cheap whiskey that he was. He learned the signs for ‘gun’, ‘iron’, ‘salt’, and so on, all the things that were valuable for their line of work. And that was fine, because Dean could read his lips and his body language and his cramped but legible handwriting and they did just fine the rest of the time.
But Sam took to signing like a new religion and then ASL became an extension of their already private brotherly language.
Dean rarely interacted with other deaf people after he left high school, and he preferred to let Sam do the talking when out in public anyway. Dean still loved to talk, especially to swear or call Sam names. But they augmented their signs over the years, adapting ASL to their hunting lifestyle. Lots of signs that usually required both hands were learned with one so that Dean could still communicate while holding a gun or a flashlight or a beer. It wouldn’t fly with a fluent speaker, but Sam always knew what Dean was saying. Always.
Their exploration of the cave is slow going. They can’t split up, they have to point their flashlights at each other in order to talk, and it appears that this Wendigo is some kind of neat freak because it doesn’t leave behind any discernable trail of blood or human remains.
They eventually find Annalise. Sam follows the sound of her soft whimpering down a skinny corridor that opens up into a wider cavern. The little girl is hunkered behind a stone, face blotted with dirt and tear tracks. Sam goes to her and Dean circles around, examining the rest of the room for any sign of the Wendigo.
Dean feels the tremor and deep rumble of the rocks before Sam hears it. In a few years, Dean will read that animals can sometimes anticipate earthquakes. It’s got something to do with keener senses or a sixth-sense or what the hell ever. He reads a paper that says animals show erratic behavior in the seconds before the world shakes.
Though he detects the quake before Sam, Dean does not behave erratically. He’s actually quite composed when he whips around to locate his brother, who is crouched down next to Annalise. Sam’s not looking at Dean, so he shouts.
“Sam!” He sees Sam turn around and mouth, “What?” and then everything goes to shit.
The earthquake disturbs the structural integrity of the cave, and the ceiling collapses. It’s all over in less than 20 seconds.
Sam’s eyes snap open when the ground stops jarring his body back and forth. He’s covered in dust and dirt and rock shavings, and Annalise has gone quiet in his arms. Sam gropes around for the flashlight he dropped when he dove for cover, and starts to uncurl himself from around the little girl. They are still huddled along the wall, but instead of seeing the other wall of the cave, Sam’s view is now blocked by an impossible pile of rocks and boulders. The cave-in cleverly bisected the cavern, and only knocked loose a few layers of the ceiling. They’re still deep inside the hillside, and Sam realizes that the new mountain of rubble has cut him off from the last place he saw Dean.
He shouts, “Dean!” without even thinking, and the echo of his own voice is worse than the silence of moments before. It’s like someone was listening when Sam worried through all the possible worst-case scenarios this hunt could produce. They’re separated; Sam can’t see Dean and Dean can’t hear Sam. They’re entirely cut off and it feels like the yawning isolation of those first sleepless nights in his dorm at Stanford, when he was unable to drift off without the persistent snoring and snuffling coming from Dean across the way.
Sam stands shakily up, brushing the debris from his shoulders. He makes to step away from the wall when Annalise grabs his wrist.
“Don’t leave me!” she says, eyes glassy with tears. Sam crouches down next to her again.
“I won’t, I promise. But I have to get to my brother; he’s deaf and he can’t hear us, so he is all alone on the other side. Do you think you can help me find him?” She looks up at him, considers his question. She bites her lip and then nods.
Sam scoops her up and she folds her arms around Sam’s neck, pressing her damp cheek against Sam’s collarbone. Together they start to pick their way toward the wall of rocks. They are just at the base, Sam scanning for any weak spot, when he hears a groan followed by some wet coughing.
“Sam?” Sam hears more coughing, and a flashlight clicking on. Then Dean let’s out a sharp intake of breath, followed by a string of curses. His voice is slightly muffled by the wall of rocks but Dean is speaking loudly, probably unable to concentrate on regulating the volume of his voice.
On the other side of the wall, Dean has just blinked back into consciousness and discovered the jagged rock shard embedded in his left thigh. It’s two inches thick, protruding five inches out, and Dean’s entire left leg is lit up in pulsing throbs of white-hot pain. That combined with the goose egg sized lump at the base of Dean’s skull and a raging headache has Dean’s stomach churning threateningly.
And he doesn’t see Sam anywhere.
Dean has been programmed nearly since birth to watch out for Sammy, and the particular horror of Sam being out of sightline has only amplified since Dean lost his hearing. It makes Dean’s skin crawl, lends his mind toward irrational overreaction as he imagines intricate scenarios where Sam is in danger and Dean is oblivious. Sure, Sam can take care of himself, for the most part. But Sam had less warning about the earthquake, there’s no telling what condition Sam might be in. He could be buried or he could be unconscious. Worse than that, he could be calling, fucking screaming for help and Dean would never hear him. The nausea swells and hot tears spring up behind his eyes and Dean presses a fist to his mouth, wills himself to calm down.
It doesn’t really work.
“Oh, Jesus fuck,” Dean yells, the strong vibration in his throat the only indication he is making any sound at all. His desperation rises. From where he is propped against a large stone, he can see the original cave wall, which means the wall behind him is the result of the cave-in. He takes a few deep breaths and looks anywhere but the rock jutting out from his leg. “Dammit, Sam, god fucking dammit,” he says.
In any other situation Sam might find comfort in the predictable consistency of Dean’s verbal reaction to pain, or maybe he’d tell Dean to watch his language in front of the child. But right now he’s on a mission to somehow communicate to Dean, through the mess of boulders, that he’s still alive.
Sam peels Annalise’s arms from around his neck and plops her down on a rock at Sam’s hip height. She drags her knees up and hugs them to her chest. Sam runs a shaking hand through his hair, and then paces to the place in the wall where he imagines Dean to be.
Next he finds a loose stone, about the size of a grapefruit, and starts slamming it against the rock closest to the floor of the cave, hoping Dean will be able to feel the vibrations. It takes a minute or so, sweat beading and dripping down the back of Sam’s neck, but then Dean responds.
“Sam?” Dean calls out again, heart hammering as he sits in silence. The vibrations stop as soon as he speaks. “Please be Sam and not another damn earthquake. Oh, fucking hell. Shave and a haircut?”
There is a two second delay, but then Sam slams the rock down twice to answer: two bits.
He hears Dean start to laugh, but it quickly dissolves into another coughing jag that leaves Dean sputtering and swearing again as the coughing effort jostles his leg. When he recovers enough breath, he feels Sam knocking again.
Dean knows exactly what Sam is asking. “I’m good. Concussion, maybe. And my leg is…uh, bleeding. You? Are you okay?”
Sam knocks out ‘two bits’ again. “I’m going to try and get through,” Sam says, even know he knows Dean can’t hear him. “It looks thinner near the top, I’ll try shifting the rocks.”
He’s not even done speaking when Dean echoes, “Try moving the rocks near the top, it doesn’t look as thick up there.”
Annalise blinks up at Sam. “Are you sure he’s deaf?” she asks.
Sam huffs a little laugh. “Yeah, I’m sure. We’re just – we spend way too much time together.”
Sam helps Annalise climb up behind him and she perches off to Sam’s left as gets to work.
It’s excruciatingly slow work. He stops every ten minutes to climb back to the bottom and knock his grapefruit rock against the wall. Dean dutifully responds, but he sounds further and further away, voice becoming hoarse and distant. After an hour of shoving and heaving Sam eventually manages to shift enough of the rocks at the top of the pile to fit his torso through a hole. He pulls the flashlight through and starts shining it in every direction, hoping to catch Dean’s attention.
“Sam! I see the light!” Dean says, and Sam doesn’t like how gravelly and tired Dean sounds.
Sam leans through the exposed hole, only his arms and head sticking through. He can see the tips of Dean’s boots, and even that sends a wave of relief down to his gut. “Can you see me?” he signs over the lip of the rock.
“I can’t see you, man,” Dean calls immediately after, and Sam, not for the first time, wonders how his brother is able to answer a question he doesn’t know has been asked of him. He hears Dean gasp and then let out another grunt of pain. Sam pushes until his shoulders are exposed, then leans out as far as he can and finally gets a glimpse of his brother.
Dean is scooting slowly away from the rock backrest, trying to move just enough to get a better angle on the hole Sam has created above him. His face is pale, eyes a bit sunken, sweat speckled around his forehead and temples, and his arms shake with the effort of dragging his lower half where, oh crap, Sam can see the shard of rock jutting out of Dean’s thigh. From above, Sam sees where the blood has soaked through Dean’s jeans and into the dirt below.
“I gotta turn around –” Dean bites out, and holy hell, moving was an extremely bad decision. Tensing his leg muscles sends new jets of pain along every nerve, and the blood flows a bit freer from the entry wound. He makes it three feet and collapses against a new boulder, allowing his head to loll back and rest against the cool stone. Dean’s hands come up to grip his leg just above the puncture, and his eyes falls shut as he focuses on the sound of his heartbeat in his ears, willing the shooting pain his leg to recede. He must stay like that for too long because then something strikes him in the chest, and then another small projectile and Dean blinks heavily until Sam materializes among the rocks.
Sam’s torso in hanging out of the rock wall about ten feet above him and Sam immediately signs, “You’ve got to keep talking to me. No sleeping.” Sam’s index and middle finger clamp down against his thumb with force, repeating the word ‘no’.
Dean opens his mouth to reply but his tongue feels thick and useless. He signs instead, tapping his chest with both hands and then pointing from his eyes back to Sam. “Glad you could show up. How’s the girl? Wendigo?” His finger spelling is sloppy, and when he finishes he lets his arms drop heavily at his sides.
“She’s fine. Scared. I haven’t seen the Wendigo.” Sam holds up a finger, signaling Dean to wait, and he shimmies his abdomen and then his hips and then he’s fully through the hole. He turns back and helps Annalise crawl through. Dean’s eyes slip closed again, and then Sam’s hand is at his shoulder, shaking him.
He waits for Dean to look at him, frowns as he sees how slowly Dean’s eyes are tracking. “Concussion and you’ve lost a lot of blood. Absolutely no sleeping, Dean.”
Dean blinks purposefully. “Okay,” he huffs out, and brings his left hand up, rubbing his index and thumb together. “What now?”
“First aid kit?”
Dean points to his backpack, lying a few feet from them. Sam finds a pill bottle inside, and shakes three painkillers into Dean’s trembling hand. Dean dryswallows them while Sam starts peeling off his flannel layer. He cuts the shirt into a few long strips and then he unbuckles his belt and slides out of the loops of his jeans. Sam pauses, rubs a thumbs-up fist around his chest. Dean nods at the apology, and then braces himself while Sam slides the belt under Dean’s upper thigh. Sam cinches it as tight as it will go.
The number one rule of penetrating wounds is do not remove the offending object. Sam starts wrapping the fabric strips around the rock shard and Dean’s leg, holding it as securely in place as possible. Dean screws his eyes shut and his breathing become shallow and hitching, small grunts escaping his lips every time Sam moves his leg. His face becomes impossibly paler, and his whole body starts shaking.
Sam clutches at Dean shoulder again, and Dean opens his eyes. Sam catches Annalise staring at Dean’s leg, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. He talks while he signs his next set of instructions. “We need to leave. Annalise is going to hold the flashlight while I help Dean. We’ll head straight out and find the car.”
Dean nods grimly. Sam liked it better when Dean was cussing, but now talking seems like too much effort and it’s scaring the shit out of Sam.
What makes this story memorable, what makes it stand out among endless monster-of-the-week hunting tales is that the Wendigo leaves them the fuck alone on their way out of its lair. Dean is half expecting to blink his eyes and wake up back in the cave, buried under rubble and the victim of a very realistic hallucination.
But seriously, for whatever reason, it lets them go.
Dean pinches his arm, just in case. He is stretched out in the backseat of the Impala, deep rumble of her engine carrying up through the metal cage and through the well-worn seats. Dean sinks a bit more into the leather embrace, pain dulled around the edges from the painkillers and gulps of whiskey he’d pestered out of Sam when they’d gotten back to the car. There’s still the giant stone protuberance to deal with, but it has more or less stopped bleeding and Dean feels safe inside the Impala with Sam at the wheel.
Sam isn’t as relaxed. He takes the backcountry curves at 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and keeps flicking his eyes to the rearview mirror every three seconds to check on Dean even though he already told Annalise to keep an eye on him.
Dean catches Sam’s eyes in the mirror and signs, hands moving slowly but purposefully. “That was a horrible plan. Why did you let us go through with it, bitch?”
Small crinkles appear around Sam’s eyes, like maybe he is fighting off a smile. He takes one white knuckled hand off the steering wheel and flicks his pinky finger through the air, returning the customary retort. “Jerk.”