Dean/Castiel, Sam, Bobby | spoilers for almost everything so far.
You should know upfront: this is not a love story.
you know the feeling of trying to wade past the membrane between two worlds before the old one has closed behind you? The stray wisps of old memories cloying your clothes like unhappy ghosts, the half-formed vowels framing your mouth rising like balloons. Here’s a chasm you can’t bridge, the reflex you can’t shake: still turning, an old name weighing down your tongue, reaching for the hollows on the other side of the bed.)
Dean has never been very good at forgetting.
Sam doesn’t know how to talk to Dean anymore, no matter how much he wants to. Sometimes it’s like the more he tries to make it past the tightrope Dean reels it in, a little at a time, while Dean unspools into late-night bad television and washes down the bitterness with beer. He doesn’t know why it feels like masochism.
He can’t lock up the beer because then Dean would just go out to get blind drunk. Dean crawls home from bar brawls when he’s had so much alcohol in his system he can’t tell a caress from a punch, the skin of his knuckles torn and his lip split and bleeding, and he’d laugh and say had it coming didn’t he? Shoulda known shoulda fuckin’ known until the words bled into stupid motherfucker stupid stupid fucking I didn’t want this and now Bobby’s-
Sam patches him up, when he can, because it’s just too hard trying to stitch back broken things when his hands shake so hard. Months after months and it’s only gotten worse and sometimes Sam thinks what do you do when it feels like there’s nothing left to salvage because he keeps trying but there’s nothing left either and he’s never wanted to see Dean falling apart but he can’t put him back and how do you pick things up when you’re aching so much you can’t bend over anymore?
He thinks of Bobby, the moment the line went flat and he knew without touching his scar that this was real because there was something twisting in him, sharper and keener than old skin broken by glass. He thinks about Castiel’s face once when he reminded him that he could always come back, the way Cas smiled sometimes when he said us, about the way Jess smiled, about dad. They’d both lost so many things.
(Most nights Dean’s a vague smear in his vision, and sometimes Sam’s far gone enough to let himself pretend that maybe he’s still in hell because it’s all wrong, all wrong.)
The worst is when he puts away the bandages and Dean gives the kind of laughter that’s too close to tears for any sort of comfort and it’s infectious and bitter and Sam maybe hates him a little bit for it.
"Are you goin’ to leave now, Sammy?" He slurs, face slick. "Leaving too? Isn’t that what- what everybody-"
Sam locks himself in his room and prays for patience, prays for the things they’ve lost to come back. He never stays long enough to hear Dean say please.
Then and Now blurs.
If the last few months have taught Dean anything – and there’s no guarantee that they have (every inch of him gorged on bleakness down to the fiber of his bones, drinking alone in the impala, trying to dissect everything he did and didn’t and should have and shouldn’t have said as though they’ll give him a reason for the way they fell apart) – it’s that he needs to pick and choose his battles. Because maybe he’s getting a little sick of trying to fight it out with himself, all the time, and it wasn’t like he hadn’t been doing that already long before this.
Dean wants to lie as prettily as he did leaning over countertops with every single one of his teeth gleaming under the hazy neon, his mouth a cupid’s bow promising all the things he could do naked and nothing about what he was like under his skin. Now when he thinks about lies he thinks about blueblue stand behind me the one time I ask and careworn electric flatlines and it pretty much fuckin’ figured that Cas would rebuild him and then take him apart by leaving them even though Cas couldn’t have known, wouldn’t have known (but he must have, he must have)
Dean finds a 1976 Chevrolet- same build as another one from so long ago, huge hands getting grease on his fumbling fingers as Bobby says the wrench now- paint peeling and scratched, colored red like the things you can’t scrub out easy from under fingernails.
He takes it to a field somewhere out of town and sets it on fire.
Sometimes Dean wakes up with Cas’ name on his lips like shrapnel and he
remembers the way Cas framed three words against his ribs, once, in bed, and Dean pretended he didn’t hear them, but later traced out the brands of them with wet fingers when he was gone, tried to carry the taste of them in his mouth long after Castiel’s smell faded from the overcoat.
Cas knew him too well, really, probably enough to have known Dean would never be able to scourge him out from under his skin, that he’d spend the days after that taking everything apart until he’s left with but a handful of memories he haven’t yet destroyed. Probably it’s a good thing that he can’t see the things he’s remade come to ruination.
(Dean wears them, now, around his neck, his own widow’s hood next to an orphaned mantle- you know how it goes.)