Song Remains the Same: Opening Notes
(Last Updated in February 2022)
Welcome and thanks for stopping by! I'm your author River, and if you're like me, you like to know what you're getting into at the beginning of a fanfic (especially one that clocks in at two million words plus), so here's some introductory info:
Song Remains the Same begins at the end of season three and stays close to canon (at first, anyway!) while including my AU addition of Alex Winchester who was recently and inexplicably cured of a lifelong condition of mutism.
A lot of new readers are curious about the pacing of the romance. The slow build starts as soon as Cas and Alex meet a few chapters in, and once you get to Chapter 20, you'll be a happy camper :-)! Many of my readers have reported that the feels in this story are lethal, so strap in if you love angst and pain because it's about to get intense up in here. The Cas/Alex ship is everything from painful to fluffy to sappy to angsty to dark depending on what part of the story you're in. Basically, if you love a slow burn and an epic soul-shattering romance paired with character study, you're in the right place.
In addition to romance, SRS features a lot of family moments and character development — and FYI, both Sam and Dean eventually get original love interests too. You can expect more and more alternate storylines and original material especially as the story progresses to Season 7 and onward. Please be aware that the ending of this fic is completely AU from the show.
Readers, I hope you enjoy the story that follows. Please read and feel free to review/PM/email me; I love hearing from you (and yes, I still check + respond to reviews and messages whenever possible!). This story has been an absolute labor of love to write and I've put my heart and soul into it. Thank you dearly for your support!
Finally, I invite you to check out winchesteralex dot tumblr dot com where you can see pictures of Alex as I envision her plus manips, videos, questions & answers, Calex shipping mania, and lots more. The Tumblr blog does contain major spoilers for the story and the show, so please be forewarned. Cheers & happy reading! #SPNSRS
Rating: Rated M for violence, language, drug use, sexual scenes, and some dark subject material. Trigger warnings are on chapters with especially sensitive content.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and all characters from the show do not belong to me. This story is for fun only, no profits are being made... only tears.
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for seasons 1-10ish. The story begins in 3x15 but does include flashbacks to previous seasons.
What to expect: family drama - overprotective Dean - twins with grudges - Alex working to overcome a complicated and painful past - Castiel learning how to deal with emotions and feelings - epic romance between Cas and Alex with many ups and downs throughout the seasons - plenty of steamy scenes - some dark subject matter here and there - very LONG chapters as the story progresses (to my ADD/dyslexic readers, you have my apologies).
Pairings: Castiel/Alex Winchester, Dean/OFC, Sam/OFC, slight Kevin/OMC + a few other very small side ships.
Story Tags (for the reader who wants to know even more about what's ahead! Warning, spoilers follow): Alternate Universe, Alternate Ending, Plot Twists, Winchester Sister, Sam's Twin, Overprotective Dean Winchester, Black Sheep Sam, Abusive/Gray John Winchester, Protective Castiel, Winchester Family Drama, Fallen Castiel, Human!Castiel, Guilty Castiel, BAMF Castiel, Het, Slash, Forbidden Love, Loss of Virginity, Uncensored Sex Scenes, Family Feels, Angst, Fluff, Pregnancy, Non-Con, Violence Typical of Fandom, Original Female Characters, Original Male Characters, Secret Marriage, Original Episodes, Angel and Bible Lore, Angel/Human Relationship, Drug Use, Miscarriage, Depression, Suicide, Prescription Drug Abuse, Strong Language.
A STATEMENT ABOUT TRIGGERS: This story is overall not a safe space. Read at your own risk. As a reminder, I do include trigger warnings on chapters with especially sensitive content matter, but please know that this story is intended for adults and if you're sensitive about any of the above tags, please be careful!
Song Remains the Same
Chapter 1 / Born to Run
"We face the path of time. And yet I fight."
- Alice in Chains
Late April 2008
Alex woke up to the closest thing to home in existence: the familiar growl of the Impala's engine. Van Halen crackled faintly on the stereo as she blinked sore eyes and groggily wondered what time of the day or night it was. Her muscles grumbled at the crammed position she'd slept in—which was funny because by now, she thought her body should be used to all this abuse.
With an internal sigh, Alex stiffly hauled herself upward to sit, grimacing as she kneaded a sore shoulder. As was all too often in her life, she almost felt more tired after resting than she had before.
In the front seat with one hand on the wheel, Dean acknowledged her with a slight turn of the head.
She could hear the affectionate smirk in his voice. Alex gave up on her shoulder, mumbling a reply as her eyes went to her slightly older twin brother Sam. A twinge of wistful jealousy ran through Alex. He snored softly in the front passenger seat, his giant head lolling onto his shoulder. The dude could sleep through a hurricane. Alex wished she'd gotten that trait from the genetic lotto.
The car slowed and pulled over, rolling to a stop at a rural gas station. Dean punched his snoozing brother in the shoulder, enjoying the reaction he got: Sam jolted awake, hands flying up to defend himself as he scrambled for his bearings and exclaimed something like "huh wha!?"
"Enough with the shut-eye, Sammy. Rise and shine!" Chuckling like everything was fine and dandy, Dean got out of the car and began fueling it up.
With a prissy expression, Sam exhaled his annoyance and rolled his eyes before glancing back at his twin. "Hey," he mumbled, voice rough with sleep. Then his face softened and whispers of concern appeared. "Nightmares again?"
Alex's eyes flicked up to his. Was she really that transparent? Maybe it was just part of being twins. Maybe it was because he had nightmares, too. She almost forgot to reply. Being able to speak was still relatively new. Clearing her throat when she realized she needed to respond, Alex went with a very eloquent, "Nah."
Sam looked doubtful. And he was right—it was a lie. Alex fought against lingering on the twisted dreamscape plagued by yellow eyes and crunching bones… the personal hell of screams ringing as she fought uselessly to stop clawed hands dragging Dean away to death.
She shivered, abruptly wide awake and sober. The reality they'd been running from for the past eleven months was getting more and more impossible to avoid.
Sam still watched, and his studious concern was only increasing. "You okay?"
Alex shook her head only just so, managing a softly defeated, "no." She gritted her teeth and looked away as her mind began to spin faster. A long, tense silence endured as she battled herself on how to ask the terrifying question she whispered next: "I mean, what are we gonna do, Sam?" She didn't have to specify about what.
Sam's jaw tensed and he went quiet. "We… we still have some time," he finally muttered, then turned away fully. "We'll figure something out." He didn't sound confident about his statement. The silence became unbearable. "I, uh, I need some coffee." And just like that, he exited the car, heading toward the dingy convenience store in his long stride like he could outrun reality. Alex stared after him, everything inside sinking slowly.
Ever since Dean had made the crossroads deal to bring Sam back from the dead, the Winchester three had lived it up wild and free, doing whatever the hell Dean wanted in between jobs. His 'last hurrah' he kept jokingly calling it. There had been a steady rotation of booze, women, and bad burger joints punctuating hunts. The Winchesters had never really talked at length about the approaching day that they all knew was coming: the day Dean would have to make good on his deal. Dean refused to talk about finding a way out and said that if he so much as tried to get out of the agreement, Sam would die again. However, Sam and Alex? They'd been trying to figure things out behind his back. So far, all their research and inquiries had come up luckless—and the proverbial clock was drawing close to midnight. For the past week, it felt like Sam was beginning to avoid Alex... like he couldn't face the issue anymore. Like he had given up.
And Dean? Dean had avoiding reality down to a science, and he'd always been like that. Never able to tolerate sitting around, he preferred to always be moving forward. Right now was a perfect illustration of his maddening penchant for not wanting to give a single thought to his future: they were on the way to investigate a zombie outbreak while he was literal days away from being brutally murdered by Hellhounds.
Despite the deafening fear screaming inside, Alex forced herself to follow her big brother's lead. She didn't bring it up. She acted like everything was normal. She consoled herself privately, telling herself that no matter how bad things got they somehow always found a way out. This time would be the same. Something would come to them in the eleventh hour. It had to.
Alex glanced out at Dean, the one trustworthy thing in her life. Off in his own little world, he bobbed his head along to the music playing in the car as he gassed up the Impala. How could he be so cavalier? It made her angry, wrenching her heart painfully. She wanted so badly to just go out there and shake him and demand for him to get off your ass and do something, please!
Instead, Alex slid out of the backseat and headed into the store to shake off her building nerves. It was cold outside despite being April. Her breath made little puffs of vapor as her worn-out boots crunched against frost on cracked pavement. She crossed her arms against the chill, her mind mostly absent from her surroundings. How did normal people handle knowing that they were going to lose someone they loved? Even as she wondered that, she scoffed at herself. The Winchester family was anything but normal.
Once in the store, she headed to the back. One rule of thumb for life on the road: go while the going's good. The bathroom was a predictable dump smelling of mold and piss with a cracked toilet and a water-damaged mirror. While washing up afterward, Alex was taken aback at the sight of herself in that mirror. She looked like shit. Alex yanked a few damp fingers through her hair, trying uselessly to tame the long brown mess. She gave up and studied her face, wondering about the circles under her eyes—had they always been that dark and pronounced? I'm starting to look like Dad for real. That had always been the comment made when people saw Alex and her late father John side by side: How alike they looked. The dark hair and brows, the similar features. Alex turned away from the mirror before bitterness propelled her into smashing the glass.
She pulled her army-green jacket around her closer then shoved her hands into her pockets as she exited the restroom. Outside through the main glass door, she saw Dean and Sam leaning against the Impala. She faltered, feeling a stab of pain and fear for a day when instead of two brothers waiting… it would be only one.
Dean had always been there, always. Her mouthpiece, her defender, her biggest brother, her best fucking friend... he knew her better than anyone else in the world. How the hell was she supposed to live without him? The terror rising inside was too much and she slammed it down forcefully. Dean was still here, and they had work to do. They could save him somehow. They had to. There wasn't another option. With a deep breath in, Alex walked out of the gas station stone-faced. Sam offered her a tentative little half-smile and held up a coffee in her direction. Alex accepted it when she reached them, cupping it in her hands for warmth and sniffing through the little hole where you were supposed to sip. It had the aroma of burnt rubber. She grimaced, resigning herself. She'd drink it anyway.
The Winchesters hit the road again and Dean doled out the plan for the day: get a motel room, suit up as feds, then divide and conquer. The brothers would go to the morgue to see what they could find out while Alex went to the hospital and interviewed the victim of the strange 'kidney-napping,' as Dean put it.
"And then make sure you remember to find the actual nurses and doctors who treated the guy and ask them all about what they saw, and pay attention to t—"
Alex cut in. "Dean, I've watched you do it a million times—I know what to do." She gave him a pointed look and her oldest brother conceded with a reluctant sigh.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered gruffly. "I know it's been like a half year or whatever, but I still can't get used to it. The whole you-having-a-voice-thing."
Alex's eyes snapped up to the rearview mirror where Dean was watching with dubious eyes. She looked away. "Me either," she murmured, the tightness in her voice giving away how weird she felt about it. Maybe as weird as her brothers did. Dean and Sam shared a significant glance before Dean frowned and shook his head. Unsolved mystery number one: how Alex had inexplicably gotten her voice back after being silent since she was six months old.
Alex had been a normal baby until that night—the twins' six-month birthday. Up until then, she'd cried, babbled, and screamed like all babies did. But after the fire, after Mom died... nothing. It was like her vocal cords had just been flipped off. Doctors couldn't make sense of it. After a few years, the Winchester family had just accepted the fact that little Alex would never speak.
At every new school, she received cruel nickname after cruel nickname. Her inability to speak made her a target for bullying and estrangement. Sam had agonized over it, Dad had been angry and closed off about finding solutions, and Alex had alternated between wallowing in depression, being consumed in self-pity, or engaging in rage-fueled fits of destroying property or starting fights. And Dean—well Dean had always taken it hard. Real hard.
As they sped toward their destination, Dean's mind wandered into an old memory. Sam and Alex must have been about twelve at the time. He remembered it like it had been just a few days ago...
He came in alone into the motel room with canned chicken and some instant noodles—the ingredients of their meager dinner for the night. Dad wasn't there, as per usual. A concerned Sam sat on the bed beside his sister with an arm around her. Sniffing heavily, Alex's face streamed with ribbons of tears.
"What happened?!" Dean threw down the groceries on the motel table and made a beeline to his siblings.
"Kids at school being jackasses," Sam muttered in frustration.
Dean sat on the bed on the other side of Alex and put an arm around her. "Hey, come on kiddo. They're stupid assholes, they don't know crap."
Pained, Alex hesitated, then bent and scrawled in her worn-out pocket-sized notebook—she took one with her everywhere and wrote in it countless times a day to communicate. None of the Winchesters knew much sign language—just some basics thrown in with some stuff they'd made up themselves. Dad hadn't wanted Alex to learn it because he was going to 'fix her soon, just you wait and see.' Well, Dean was tired of waiting. And he knew Alex was too.
they said i'm weird & a freak
Dean felt a familiar righteous anger thump in his heart as he read the words and then looked down at his emotionally lashed kid sister. He'd lost count of how many shithead bullies he'd bruised up when he caught them fucking with Alex. As always, he felt guilty that he hadn't been there today. With a defeated sigh, he squeezed Alex's shoulder gently and spoke firmly, hoping he could lift her spirits. He put an optimistic, knowing tone in his voice. "Well, you're not a freak or weird. You're awesome. You could kick any of their asses from here to Tuesday and we all know it. I mean, think about it! Do any of those punks know how to gank a ghost? Hunt a werewolf? Have any of those dumbasses ever helped their dad research how to finish off a wraith? Yeah right. I don't think so." He tried to play it down, hoping she'd laugh it off and see it for how it was: "They're cushy little brats, why would you care what these idiots think anyway?"
Alex contemplated his words for a long moment then shrugged miserably as another fat tear rolled down her cheek. Dean was crushed inside. This was her primal wound, and he was relegated to watching it get re-opened day after day by the vicious world existing outside of his control. Sometimes he thought about telling Dad screw it, they just weren't gonna go to school anymore.
How many times had they had that exact conversation? How many times had he seen that defeated, lonely, outcast look on both of his siblings' faces? Dean wearily thought of how many hard nights he had helped his brother and sister through when he was just a kid himself too. Alex's muteness had caused her to become a vagabond and Sam was picked on too for varying reasons—often for being the brother of the mute girl. Neither of the twins had made many friends. As such, the three of them had been a family to each other in ways many siblings weren't. Dean had often been more of a father than their actual one.
Alex and Sam had remained joined at the hip until maybe around middle school, which was when things had gotten a little less cozy. Sam had tried harder to be quote-unquote 'normal' and Alex hadn't been into that at all (or capable, really). And then when Sam decided to go off to college... she'd taken it personal. Things had never been the same between any of them since. The whole college thing, in Dean's opinion, had royally screwed the Winchester family. He was still pissed about it, honestly.
He'd always felt very protective over both of his siblings, but especially over Alex because he saw her as being incredibly vulnerable. Yeah, she was a good hunter and Dad had raised her just like him and Sam: to be capable and resourceful, strong and smart—but up until her unexplained, 'miraculous' healing a few months ago, Dean hadn't ever wanted to let her out of his sight—hell, he still didn't. Too much risk out there. Back in the day, Dean had always held out hope they would find some voodoo, some mojo, some something to get Alex her voice back. It killed him to see her struggle. She'd always been so unhappy, so isolated, so undeserving of the crap fate had dealt. She didn't care too much about the outside world because they didn't care about her either. And who could blame her? Even if she were in a room full of people, she would be off to herself, resigned to watching. Quiet whether she wanted to be or not. He had always felt responsible for trying to make her feel normal and for making sure she felt accepted and included. That was his baby sister. He just wished she could see herself like he did. Not as a freak, but as one of the most special people in the world. She and Sam both. His siblings were everything to him.
Dean's mind again wandered into his memories, this time a more recent one... imagine his surprise, shock, and disbelief when a few months ago, out of nowhere, forever-silent Alex had stubbed her toe on something and yelped out loud in pain. All three Winchesters had been mutually shocked at the first sound out of her mouth since she'd been a baby. At first, they had all been beside themselves with disbelief and overwhelming confused joy—but then they had all quickly gone to deep suspicion wondering how, why—and who? They still didn't have any answers. Maybe they never would.
The first few days, Alex hadn't been able to speak too well, stuttering a lot and getting overwhelmed and frustrated with her newfound ability. But these days, you'd never know she'd ever been mute. She spoke easily, argued a lot, joked around, laughed, and snarked off as if she had always been able to—which was another mystery, something that bothered Dean. She'd caught on fast. Too fast. It had to be supernatural—but he didn't have a clue how to find out who or what was responsible. He thought maybe, maybe Dad had done it somehow from beyond the grave, but he had no way of knowing that for sure. If nothing else, Dean knew he had to be glad he'd lived to see this moment. Because soon, the Hellhounds would come. Dean's expression darkened and he gripped the steering wheel tighter as he swallowed hard.
In the back seat, Alex was also thinking about her newfound voice as she absently bit at a fingernail. Being inexplicably healed of a life of silence didn't sit well with her. The having a voice part was great, the not having a clue why was what ate away at her. In her experience, good things didn't just randomly happen. Ever. There was some catch lurking in wait... she just knew it.
For her entire life, she'd been trapped inside an internal world. She'd spent a lot of time imagining her responses to conversations she was never a part of, giving grand monologues inside her head for hours at a time, wondering what would change if she could speak, respond, and participate like everyone else could. She had never learned sign language—instead communicating through notepads or morse code or texting more recently. She knew a few ASL basic signs and the alphabet, but Dad had always insisted, sometimes really angrily, that she didn't need to learn 'that crap.' He was 'going to find a way to fix her.' Well, he never had. Throughout the years, some kindhearted teachers had insisted on sign language classes, but Alex had never put any effort into learning. She just didn't see the point and didn't want to ask her already stretched-thin family members to learn it with her. Anyway, academia had never interested Alex. What was she supposed to do with Algebra and prepositional phrases? She hadn't been like Sam, with his good grades and Mr. Honor Roll status. She'd been the F student who never tried. She was more familiar with detention than anything else.
It had always seemed like a cruel joke, that someone like Alex—born into a family that hunted and killed the undead—would have an extra thing holding her back. She was already in the minority being female, the smallest, and the youngest. So being mute was the cherry on top of the crappy ice cream sundae. She had overcompensated, trying to prove herself to Dad. She'd obsessively worked on her marksmanship until she was the best shot of either of her brothers, she'd studied Latin on her own instead of doing homework, she'd taught herself to look at something for just a few seconds and remember details, she exhausted herself in dry fire drills, loading speed, tactical studies, physical challenges—she'd tried and tried and tried. But still, she'd felt overlooked by Dad. After a while, she gave up on pleasing him because nothing ever seemed to cut it.
The disappointment of Dad never being proud of her remained. But Dean. He'd always been proud of her and told her as much too. Dean, who had always gone out of his way to look out for her, comfort her, stick up for her, protect her, and consider her feelings before his own. Dean, who had noticed the ways she worked hard to please Dad and been the one to pat her on the shoulder and tell her good job when Dad had said nothing. Dean, who had stuck by her side even when Sam left the family, even when Dad disappeared for weeks and months on end. Dean, who had never let her down or abandoned her, not even once. Dean who couldn't die, who couldn't leave her here alone.
Alex felt desperation bubbling up inside and helplessness soon followed. You couldn't just break a soul contract. No one ever had, or not that they knew of. Tears pricked her eyes painfully and she cut her eyes at the window beside her, trying to get a grip.
Don't cry. Don't let them see you cry.
She steeled herself, breathed in deep, then cracked her knuckles one by one as she forcibly made herself think about anything other than the soul deal, but not before reflecting miserably that maybe she was more like her brothers than she thought: ignoring the inescapable reality that was staring her straight down the barrel.