Title: Silent Night
Prompt: From the lovely and talented roque_clasique:Deaf!Dean. Sam steps out for some eggnog and in his absence a bunch of carolers come to the door. They're little kids and Dean doesn't have the heart to tell them he's deaf, so he just lets them sing. Original prompt and my reply is here.
Spoilers: Spoilers up to 3.08. So, y'know, nothing recent.
Word Count: 3,042
Disclaimer: Kripke made me give 'em back because he said I was breaking his toys. Meanie.
Neurotic Authorial Disclaimer: No beta, no nothin'. Probably riddled with typos, malapropisms, and unhappy syntax. Proceed at your own risk.
Extra Neurotic Authorial Disclaimer: I am not deaf, nor Deaf. I know just enough about the culture to get myself in trouble. I also know that ASL has its own grammar and syntax, but I have no idea how to convey that in writing, so please bear with my excessive use of italics, mmkay?
riama82 has made some gorgeous, gorgeous fanart! It's included at the end of the fic, along with a link to her LJ. All hail riama82!
elsewhere_kels has made a podfic of the story! Go here for the downloads. :)
There's nothing on television except for Christmas specials. The game ended a while ago, and Sam's been fidgeting ever since. It's one thing to sit around and pretend like it's a normal Christmas, but they're both going a little stir-crazy, cooped up in the motel room with nowhere to go. They're both still a little hyped up from that Christmas-meets-slasher-flick incident from before, and Dean is a little worried about the two corpses they left behind in that gingerbread-perfect kitchen. Not that anyone's going to find them before the holidays are over. He hopes. Sam's finger is bandaged, the only physical reminder of that little adventure, when Mrs. Carrigan (he still finds it hard to think of her any other way) yanked his fingernail from its bed by the root, a spot of blood on the white gauze. It must sting like a bitch.
Dean's a little buzzed, having gone through more than a couple of beers on an empty stomach, and maybe the fact that he's been amusing himself by tossing peanuts at his brother's head at irregular intervals has something to do with the fact that Sam is kind of in a pissy mood now. Maybe. Still, beer and boredom are a bad combination, especially after a hunt. If he could, he'd go out for a run, but the ground outside is slick with ice, and he has no intention of ending up with a broken leg because he slipped on the ice. Broken limbs don't happen, they are forced on you by supernatural badasses. He lies back on the bed, fingers laced behind his head, stares at the ceiling, mentally traces an outline around the water stain he can see creeping out from the corner of the wall, wonders just how big a fit Sam would pitch if he lights up a cigarette indoors. He doesn't want to go outside, it's winter and he likes his ass unfrozen, thank you very much. He suspects it would be a pretty big fit. Besides, he's almost out. He's going to have to pick up more tomorrow.
Sam gets up, taps him on the shoulder to get his attention. Dean looks up, sees that he's put on his boots, has on his jacket, though it's unzipped.
I'm going to the store, we're almost out of beer. I'll bring some takeout, too. Want something?
What is it with you and eggnog lately?
It's Christmas. Eggnog's traditional.
Fine. I'll see what I can find. Is that it?
Dean gives him what he hopes is his most endearing grin. Cigarettes?
I'm not enabling your filthy habit. Sam has to fingerspell “enabling,” which makes Dean grin even wider, though he suspects it probably doesn't look endearing anymore.
Loser. You should look up the big words before you try to use them.
Bitch. I should never have taught you that sign.
I learned it on my own, jerk. Stay put, I'll be back soon.
Sam turns his back, and Dean throws another peanut at him to get his attention. Sam ignores him, because of course he's been throwing peanuts at him all evening just for kicks. Change of plan. Dean doesn't really like talking, not unless he's talking to a hearie who really can't communicate otherwise, because he's never entirely sure if he's talking at the right volume, but sometimes Sam leaves him no choice. Pain in the ass little brother that he is.
Sam spins so fast it's almost funny, an apologetic look on his face for having turned his back, and Dean almost feels guilty. Instead he grins and signs again. Cigarettes?
Sam just rolls his eyes, zips up his jacket, and Dean knows he's won. You're awesome.
You know it's because you love me.
Then Sam is gone, and he's alone. He picks up the chocolate bar that Sam bought, turns it over in his hands. He's not really hungry, but it's chocolate. Not pie, but chocolate bars are pretty much next on the list after pie. He holds it by one end, tosses it in the air, catches it by the other end. Tucks it into his duffel bag, in case of a snack emergency, he tells himself. Definitely not for any other reason. You never know when you'll be out on the road one day with nothing between you and starvation except a chocolate bar.
He switches the TV back on, flips through the few available channels, finally finds one with closed captioning. It's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Great. Animatronic puppets, and he can't even hear Burl Ives doing the narration, which is the only good thing about the whole production. That, and the abominable snowman. He's always liked the abominable snowman. Kind of like a really friendly monster that didn't need hunting, which was a nice change of pace. Too bad real life can't be like television.
He really needs a cigarette now. He glances at the clock, figures Sam is going to be at least another twenty, maybe thirty minutes. He's got plenty of time before his brother comes back and starts giving him eyerolls, sighs, and the smoking-is-bad-for-you bitchface. He pulls on his boots, grabs his jacket, feels for the slightly-crushed pack he keeps in the inside pocket.
The air outside is frigid, and before long the tips of his ears are tingling and his fingers are starting to freeze. He fumbles with the pack, sticks a cigarette in his mouth, nearly drops his lighter. Freaking weather. Whose idea was it to come out here in the middle of freaking winter, anyway? Oh, right. His idea. Shit. He takes a drag on the cigarette, blows the smoke through his nose, watching it mix with his breath in the cold air, grins as he contemplates figuring out how to blow smoke rings. It would totally bug the shit out of Sam, which adds a lot of allure to the prospect. Also, kind of cool.
He's coughing after his first attempt (okay, harder than it looks) when he realizes that there's someone else beside him. He whips around, startled, hates it when people or things (especially things) sneak up on him, exhales shakily when he sees it's just a kid. A cute kid, at that. A boy, probably about seven, all freckles and blue eyes under a too-big toque with a pompom. He has to get Sam one of those, it would be awesome. The kid, wrapped up in a scarf and one-piece snowsuit, is gesturing enthusiastically at him, but he can't make out a word, because the stupid scarf is in the way. Dean is about to get the kid to repeat himself when he turns away and waves frantically to a group of kids standing at another motel door, accompanied by a woman in her late twenties, all of them wrapped up against the cold. It looks as though they've just come out of another motel room, and he can't quite wrap his mind around what they're doing here.
The kids come sprinting over, falling over themselves in their excitement, followed closely by the woman —teacher, Dean decides, by the look of her, but young enough to still have that bloom of optimism that comes from watching too many movies about that one teacher who made a difference. She's cute, too, with big brown eyes, long lashes, and long brown hair held back with a clip. She's wearing earmuffs rather than a hat, and a woolen coat that flatters her figure rather than hides it. Her hands are encased in black stretchy gloves, making it impossible to tell if she's married. She arranges the kids in three rows, and he sees now that they're all holding identical red and green binders. There's a lot of shuffling and obvious signs of giggling and whispering, nudging and poking and more giggling before they're all sorted out and standing still again. Consummate professionals. It's only when the teacher turns back to him that he realizes she was talking the whole time, and he's missed most of what is probably the explanation for this whole circus. At least her mouth isn't behind a scarf.
“... how much it means to the kids to do this. It's really nice of you,” she's saying.
He grinds out his cigarette on the ground with the toe of his boot, flashes her a grin and makes a carry-on motion with one hand. He sees her give a count, one-two-three-four, and suddenly all the binders are open and all their mouths are moving in unison.
“God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!”
He almost laughs, bites his tongue. He leans back against the door jamb to the motel room, watches their faces, flushed with excitement, noses red from the cold, mittened hands clinging to their Christmas-themed binders. It's freaking adorable, and even though he's not exactly the sentimental type, he can't quite bring himself to tell them that their carols are, literally, falling on deaf ears. The song is a long one, and he amuses himself by watching their faces, seeing which ones stumble on the harder lines, which ones are standing up and singing confidently, and which ones are trying to fake their way through it. He suspects that they're probably not all in key, but it hardly matters.
There's a pause, and then they all shuffle a bit, trying to turn the pages of their binders without taking off their mittens. It's bitterly cold out, and he can see one or two of them stamping their feet to keep warm. Why on earth would anyone voluntarily go out on Christmas Eve when it's this damned cold out? Even he and Sam aren't that bad, unless there's a hunt involved. Christmas is a time to stay inside and be warm. The teacher smiles at him, starts to say something, then turns away again, making him miss everything, and he shoves his hands in his pockets, clenching his fists in frustration. The kids are singing again, though, so he figures she was probably telling him the name of the song.
“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright...”
At least he knows this carol, remembers it from when he was little and his mother used to sing it at Christmastime. Before. Sometimes it feels like his entire life consists of befores and afters. Before the fire. Before he landed in the hospital. Before his world went silent. Before Sam left for Stanford. Before Dad died. Before he made the deal. His face suddenly feels colder, and he realizes he's got tears running down his cheeks. He has to turn away, scrub at his eyes with the heel of his palm, feeling stupid for tearing up over a Christmas carol like a damned girl. He's never going to live this down, and now he really wants another cigarette, except he's got twelve school-aged children standing in front of him, all young and impressionable, bright-eyed and innocent, and he'll be damned before he starts showing them just how cool it is to smoke when you're a grown-up.
He takes a deep, shaky breath, turns back, sees the teacher watching him. She's got a look on her face that it takes him a few moments to identify as sympathy, and he wonders just what she's thinking of all this. What can she be seeing, after all, except some pathetic loser all by himself on Christmas Eve, smoking outside his motel room, with no company except the television? The look vanishes from her face, replaced by sudden embarrassment, and he realizes he's probably been telegraphing his anger, schools his face into a more neutral expression, shrugs sheepishly. Good job, he tells himself. Make the Christmas do-gooders feel bad. Way to get into the holiday spirit.
Headlights flood the motel parking lot for a moment, and the Impala pulls up in the space nearest the room. Sam hops out, doesn't look his way while he's pulling out the bags of take-out, trying to balance them and the beer at the same time. He makes his way carefully across the icy asphalt, stops a few paces away, looking more than a little nonplussed. Dean turns and grins at him, waves him over. Sam's got his hands full, so he stops in front of the kids, makes sure he's facing Dean and that the light above the door is illuminating his face.
“What's going on?”
Dean hopes he isn't talking too loud. It always gives him away. “What's it look like?”
Sam gives him a what-the-hell? look, then shrugs. “Open the door for me?”
Dean nods, unlocks the door and nudges it open with his knee, turns back to the carolers, who are fussing with their binders in search of another song. The teacher —he really has to find out her name— gives him a questioning look, but when he makes it clear he's not going anywhere she smiles and gives the kids another count. She's shivering in the cold, her teeth starting to chatter, and a few of the kids are starting to look a little frozen. He hopes they're headed home after this. No sense freezing to death for the sake of a few songs.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Sam comes back out, leans next to him against the door, arms folded across his chest. He's smiling, though, and Dean knows he's in for a world of merciless taunting. Well, he's taken worse from Sam. He fingers the pack of cigarettes in his pocket, but figures he can wait until the kids aren't watching: no use setting a bad example now, after he's held out all this time. This carol is a shorter one, although he doesn't really remember the tune. He's kind of glad, at this point, doesn't know how he'd live it down if Sam caught him getting all emo over another song. Sam would want him to have a heart-to-heart, and then Dean would probably puke, and it would ruin Christmas.
The teacher says something to the kids when they're done, and they all chorus something that looks like “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” Or at least, that's what he hopes it is. She points to a large van sitting in the parking lot, and they practically fall over themselves running toward it, eager to be out of the cold and heading home to their families. She watches to make sure they make it safely, and when she turns back Dean realizes she's been talking again. What the hell is it with people not looking at you when they talk. He shakes his head.
“I'm sorry, I didn't hear you,” he says, trying to keep his voice at a normal level. “Can you say that again?”
She smiles, repeats herself, but her teeth are chattering even more than before, and he can barely make out more than a couple of words. Cat's out of the bag. Frustrated, he turns to Sam.
I can't make out a word. A little help, here?
She's saying thank you. I can't believe you stood here for however long and let those little kids sing without saying a word.
What? They were cute. Dean allows himself a grin, and turns back to the teacher. “You're welcome.”
She's staring at him, horrified, and he feels his heart sink. “Oh my God, I'm so sorry... you... I didn't... why didn't you say anything?”
Sam interjects, signing at the same time for Dean's benefit. It's second-nature to him now, and neither of them think twice about it. “Don't worry about it. He's a soft touch, this one. He thought the kids were cute.”
She's squirming. “I just... if I had known...”
“Then I wouldn't have had the chance to get a free concert,” Dean says. “I could see what they were singing, even if I couldn't hear them. Besides, Sam here got to hear the last part of it, so it wasn't a total loss. Plus, I kind of liked the view,” he adds with a wink. He wants her to stop apologizing, can't quite figure out how to make her feel less awkward. Hell, he wants himself to feel less awkward, hasn't ever managed it with hearies. Maybe it's easier for people born Deaf, but he doubts it.
She stares, then suddenly throws back her head in a burst of laughter. “Cute and sneaky,” she says, moving so that he can see her face clearly, speaking a bit more slowly, letting him focus on her mouth. “I knew there was something about you. You guys in town for long?”
Sam shrugs. “A couple more days, maybe.”
She rummages in her purse, scribbles down a number and the name “Sharon” on a scrap of paper, hands it to Dean with a smile. “Text me? You're buying me a coffee to apologize for this.”
He salutes her, tucks the paper next to his cigarettes. “You got it.” Tries to ignore the vicious jab in the ribs from Sam.
“I have to get the kids home. I mean it about the text message. Don't forget, I know where you live.” Then she's off, skidding across the parking lot toward the van and the waiting kids.
Dean watches the van drive off, then turns to find that Sam's already gone back inside the motel room and is sitting on his bed, kicking off his boots.
Did you see that? I totally still have it.
Sam rolls his eyes, then pulls out two glasses and a carton of eggnog, and carefully fills each one. I can't believe you. Here. I went out into the howling arctic wilderness for this, so you'd better drink it.
He flops onto the other bed, accepts the proffered glass, spikes it liberally with the contents of his flask, and salutes Sam with it.
Merry Christmas. It's a little awkward while holding a glass of eggnog, but he switches the glass to his left hand and pulls it off. Sam shakes his head, grins back at him, returns the salute.
Yeah. Merry Christmas.