Characters: Sam & Dean, Cas, Rowena
Summary: Cat got your tongue, Dean asks. Sam says nothing.
Notes: written for the ohsam tripleplay challenge, for cowboyguy's prompt: Dean, forest, nonverbal
All these years behind windows
With blind crosses sweeping the tables
And myself tracking over empty ground
Animals I never saw
I with no voice
Remembering names to invent for them
Will any come back will one --W.S. Merwin, "The Animals"
Cat got your tongue, Dean asks, toes the carcass of the two-tail. He laughs, but it's empty, soft-sounded in the spruce and cedar they're hunched under, and dark.
Sam doesn't answer. Hasn't answered since they killed it, and when he puts his hands to his neck, to his own throat, it feels like a hollow. A clearing.
"Sammy," Dean says, "you're scarin' me." Somewhere off to the north a hoot, probably an owl. Probably.
It's a long walk, needles and early frost, back to the car.
First time Sam stopped talking he was eight.
Four-day vow of silence, sick, animal coloring book; saltines-only.
He's never told Dean what he saw.
Dean flicks, drops; they watch as ruff and marrow go up, up, watch the burn turn gold and go to ground. Sam lifts his hands, stabs at a couple of rusty signs.
Dean takes his arm, tugs his coat round like they're kids.
"Can you talk now?"
The cat-ash doesn't do it. Nothing does, and the dark drops fast in these claw-haunted woods.
Dean checks his weapon, Sam's; their salt and knives.
Their feet crunch, snap twigs, slip, hit stones.
Dean, flashlight in one, won't take the other from Sam's belt, as if not speaking means he can't see, can't walk soft as that cat did, in the right direction.
"We're gonna figure this out," Dean says, stops for another hoot in the wood.
Sam tries to sign:
Not like we use words that much anyway.
But that's lost, in the dusk, and the dark, and Dean.
Sam was seventeen when he met a different kind of apex, in the bathroom of a truck stop a third of the way to California. Me me me in clawmarks on the wall, blood-whorl on the tile, terrier yipping from the cab of an eighteen-wheeler--
doesn't bear speaking of, what the monster made for, or how Sam left it, or how Sam left.
Silence. All the way to the coast.
"Two-tailed shapeshifting demon cat," Dean muses, rights Sam like a weak oak guides him over a downed one.
Something like that, Sam signs, tries.
His throat hurts, but it isn't that.
"Some kinda toxin...or a curse?" Dean says. His shoulders hunch in the dark, unresolved.
The woods ebb out around them, thin and give way, with a catch of branch, to the road.
Sharp, decrescent moon.
Bones. In the blue-gray ranchlands north of Flagstaff (Dean drove,Sam sat stony) there were a lot of them, buried beneath. Sheep and pumps and bones, old skin.
And one Bones left behind, tail gold-dusting over the floor of the local no-kill.
Dean puts Sam in the car and Sam lets him, lets him do sick-Sam, little brother, one who hasn't bedded with the devil, or the demon, or drunk her up, or broken the world entire.
Dean shines light in his eyes. Checks his pulse. Lets him twitch, annoyed. Gives him water, says--
"Sam, use your words."
Sam signs, half-hearted:
Dean looks at him, skepticl, gestures at the belt like Sam's forgotten.
Never been that hard, though, to hide his silences, theirs: splits, breaks, drinks, sleeps, walks.
Baby rumbles awake.
"Two-tailed demon cat," Dean muses, puts the radio on soft:
"Wish You Were Here."
Sam's sick for two days, that's all. Dean brings him drinks, a frost-white blanket, calls in the cavalry and lets them, witch and angel, look at him pitywise.
"Your brother is--" Cas says, doesn't finish. But he sends Sam a burst of something, a sound like bells.
Rowena threatens to conjure up a cat, calls him Samuel, points to the cup in Dean's hand, says, that'll do more good than anything.
"Yeah, thanks," Dean says.
Sam watches her go, shedding redlets and lives.
The forest was trackless in places, full of sound.
The two-tail killed three hikers, one hunter, and a hound.
When Sam speaks again, he doesn't say it, not quite.
Dean's face in the doorway, sun at the edge of a wood.
"Hey, you're talkin'!"
Sam smiles at his brother, puts a hand to his throat, thinks-
sometimes it rises.
Sometimes there's nothing there.