Dean lives the kind of life that’s hard on the knuckles, and he’s okay with that.
Always punch back. Never stay down. Kick ‘em before they get too close…
That’s how he does everything. Hell, it’s how he gets out of bed in the morning. Fists up; swing at the sun.
And seriously, he’s okay with that. It means he’s always tired. It means he’s always bloody. But that’s just the way it’s always been, so he doesn’t mind. Except for right now. Right now he feels kinda stupid about it, because Cas is standing three feet away with his blue eyes and his soft mouth and his bad posture, watching Dean go to war.
And all Dean’s doing is shelling peas.
Dean can tell from the way Cas is standing that he’s trying to psych himself up into saying something. It’s like he’s put down roots in the kitchen floor, and his hands are all bunched up in the front of his t-shirt, stretching out the cotton. It takes a long time, these days, for Cas to find his voice. Dean doesn’t really know what’s going on with that, but he suspects it’s a little bit the bad guy’s fault and a lotta bit his fault.
Which is…well it sucks. But even he finds it hard to draw a clear line between himself and the monsters anymore, so he doesn’t push it.
He splits a fat green pod. It pops and cracks under his fingers. He dumps the peas into a white bowl, chucks the shell, picks up another.
Split. Crack. Split. Crack.
He thinks about purgatory, snarling vampires and the butt of his knife crashing into their frontal lobes.
Cas says, “Dean.” And Dean hasn’t said a goddamn thing, hasn’t even looked up from his peas yet, but Cas already sounds exasperated. “Will you let me help?”
Dean’s hands pause. He thinks about saying “No, I got it,”—kick ‘em before they get too close. He thinks about calling Cas on his own bullshit, “You mean the way you helped Sam? Or the way you helped Metatron?” He thinks about not saying anything, because Cas isn’t the only one who’s having trouble seeing his friends for friends…
He digs into the plastic bag on the counter and shoves a handful of peas at Cas. Then pushes the white bowl between them. “Sure,” he mumbles.
Cas moves next to him. He smells like fabric softener (Sam’s doing) and sawdust (who fucking knows?). Dean goes back to war. Cas just shells some peas.
Dean hums The Four Horseman under his breath and tries to act normal.
“Why do you refuse to talk to me?” Cas asks suddenly, hard and upset. Like he thinks he can ambush Dean into giving him an honest answer.
Always punch back.
“Nothing to say,” Dean bites out. He mangles a pod and eats it instead of throwing it away.
Cas takes the hit lying down. Same way he always does. A deep sigh and a nod.
“Of course,” he says.
Dean figures that’s gonna be it. They’re gonna finish these fucking peas and then Cas is gonna go hide somewhere and Dean will sit through another lecture from Sam about misdirected anger and Dean’s irrational fear of emasculation. Which is not even the fucking issue. Dean isn’t worried about people thinking he’s queer. He’s not even worried about being queer. There are a lotta people in the world banging on about how much God hates the gays and he doesn’t really think it’s true, but pissing God off is pretty much Dean’s favorite hobby. So if fucking a guy with a smoker’s rasp and baby blue eyes is what’s gonna do the trick, then hell, Dean is putting out.
That’s not what his problem his.
His problem is that every time he tries to let Cas in, he rediscovers all the places where they don’t fit perfectly together. They’re small places, but they’re sharp, and they rub like sandpaper, and Dean is used to being bruised but he doesn’t really like the idea of someone knocking him around from the inside.
He tries to go back to humming. The song has left him.
“What will you do if I never get my grace back?” Cas asks. Another attack. Dean chucks his fucking peas down and rounds on Cas—
Who won’t look at him. He’s holding onto the counter, white knuckled, waiting for Dean to mow him down at the knees.
Dean doesn’t swing. He just barely doesn’t swing. It takes everything he’s got. “I don’t know,” he answers.
Cas clears his throat and shifts his weight a little, breaks his anchor.
“What if I do get my grace back?” he asks.
It suddenly occurs to Dean that Cas doesn’t know shit about being mortal. He’s been dead a couple of times, and human for about half a second, but his only real experience of mortality is the one he’s seen Dean scream his way through.
Stay down, Dean thinks. Stay down.
Cas looks up at him. It’s like a knife at Dean’s throat. Gun at his gut. Long, long drop at his back.
“I don’t know,” Dean says.
Cas nods and sort of hugs himself, a gesture he’s only picked up recently. Dean wonders if he used to do that with his wings.
“Me either,” Cas says. And those aren’t exactly fighting words.
Dean wraps an arm around Cas’ shoulder and calls a cease fire on the peas.