Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers through what's current of S7
Word Count: 2,855
Summary: This is the way hunters approach things.
Dedication: zatnikatel- happy (late?) birthday! I am out of practice with this whole writing thing. What is it even.
A/N: I wrote this way too fast! BUT IT IS NOT YET MIDNIGHT HERE IN CA SO I MADE IT? HA.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
Dean Winchester is trying very hard not to come to a realization.
He stares at the ceiling of the Impala determinedly, waiting for Sam to come out of the public library with the thirty dollars worth of Xerox copies that they apparently absolutely need regarding their latest case. Whatever.
Dean grunts and clears his mind. Realizations with regards to Winchesters are usually costly and troublesome as a whole, but this one—the one Dean is studiously avoiding—is a doozy even by their standards. Which means he’s pretty sure it will involve a lot of screaming and punching things and alcohol for breakfast.
Avoiding it at all costs seems like the smart thing to do right now.
But then again, the smart thing and Winchester don’t exactly go hand-in-hand (as Bobby liked to constantly remind them), so, despite Dean’s best efforts, he feels himself starting to slip-slide haphazardly towards a conclusion anyway.
He can’t help it, okay. It’s instinct by now.
Because the thing about being a hunter is that you can’t avoid the big realizations, no matter how much you might want to. You can’t ignore all the signs on a case pointing to your killer of the week being a friggin’ witch just because you really, really hope it’s a ghost instead, since ghosts are a lot more straightforward and you hate witches. You can’t just avoid noticing that the cute little kid over there is actually a people-eating vampire now, just because it’s a goddamned tragedy. As a hunter, you gotta take all the clues you find, put the story together, and deal with whatever the fallout might be from there. Either that or you (and a bunch of other people) die.
The point is, hunters with willful blinders on don’t really last in the game, and despite what some people might say about Dean Winchester and denial, he’s a good hunter. He’s lasted.
And maybe it’s the conditioning from a lifetime of hunting or something, but Dean feels himself helplessly teetering on the edge of the realization he doesn’t want to have despite his best efforts to avoid it. He thinks it’s because his brain might actually be convinced that this has really become a life-or-death type of situation at this point, except without actual fangs for once.
His brain, Dean thinks, is also kind of a bitch.
Which makes sense, because sometimes his conscience talks to him using Sam’s voice. “Just man up and do it, Dean,” it says right now, complete with Sam’s most whiny, girlish sighs of judgment. If his conscience had arms, Dean is pretty sure it would throw them up in the air in the exact same way Sam does when Sam is washing his hands of all things Dean for the day.
Dean’s eyes slide to his watch. He has been staring at the ceiling of the Impala for the last fifteen minutes. He tells himself to keep staring for as long as he can. The blankness of it all is kind of soothing, and very good at helping with the avoiding of things he is doing right now. Even if it goes against every survival instinct in his body.
He’s concentrating so hard that ten minutes later, he doesn’t even notice Sam’s giant hulk skulking through the rain towards the Impala, as evidenced by the little start he gives when the passenger door abruptly flings open. Sam climbs in and tosses a slightly damp file folder full of papers on the bench seat between them while passionately bitching about the weather and the price of black and white copies nowadays. He sounds about eighty years old right now.
“Jesus, Dean, have you been out here the whole time?” Sam breathes when he climbs in, making a confused expression that is torn between bewilderment and disgust once he realizes that the Impala is parked and Dean is bone dry. “I thought you were gonna check out the crime scene while I was making copies.”
Dean blinks and determinedly doesn’t look away from the ceiling. Just a little bit longer.
“Dean?” Sam prompts when he doesn’t get a response, and sounds downright worried now. It’s—as Sam’s distress often is— enough to break Dean’s Zen-like concentration on the roof of his car and suddenly, he’s barreling straight into the very thing he’s been avoiding this whole time.
Dammit, he thinks, and glumly starts the engine again.
“Dean, what’s wrong?” Sam pushes.
Dean huffs and puts the car into gear. “Nothing,” he says. “I just realized something, is all.”
Sam looks like he wants to press for more answers but wisely refrains, mostly because he can probably tell that Dean is going to be stubbornly quiet about it until he’s good and ready. Which might be sooner rather than later, because Dean can already feel himself carefully preparing for what comes next.
Because, you see, once a hunter figures out what the problem is, it means it’s time to decide what to do about it.
And Dean knows better than anyone that it’s a process that, once begun, is impossible to stop.
God or Fate or whatever other powerful entity it is that has since taken the reins after Cas’s failed stint at godhood must have it out for Dean today, because traffic in the rain is absolutely ass and they end up sitting in bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go for thirty minutes in historic downtown, waiting for freaked out drivers to get their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that the rain is not going to kill them unless they insist on continuing to operate their vehicles like they don’t actually possess opposable thumbs. Dean spends that entire thirty minutes tapping his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel and thinking about his realization and, inevitably, coming to a decision.
In his defense he can’t help it. Hunters get attacked by creatures with lightning fast reflexes, superhuman speed, and sharp pointy teeth, so when something dangerous like that is running at you full speed, you only have a split second—if that—to decide whether to dodge right, roll left, or brace yourself and take the fucker head on.
So, naturally, thirty minutes of sitting in the parking lot that is 3rd Street while Sam stares at him like he’s a terrifying and indecipherable puzzle bomb that might explode at any second is more than enough time to come to a decision about his thing.
Sometimes Dean wishes he wasn’t so damn amazing at his job.
Decision thus made and plan of attack subsequently mapped out, Dean wordlessly and suddenly turns on the right turn blinker, cuts some guy snoozing at the wheel of his Prius off, and abruptly turns onto the next street. “Dean, what are you doing?!” Sam complains when they unexpectedly lurch into movement, only to come to an abrupt halt in front of a Barnes and Noble.
“Out,” Dean grunts just as abruptly, torn between irritated as hell at what is about to happen in his life and anxious to just hurry up and get it done and handled.
Sam stares at him like he’s worried Dean is dying of cancer. “Dean?”
Dean sighs somewhat apologetically at the cautious note in Sam’s voice, because none of this is Sam’s fault, even though Dean’s conscience sounds just like him and urges him to do completely inconvenient and worrying things. “Just… I uh…” Dean feels warm under his collar as he tries to find words to explain this to his brother. Just because he’s decided to act doesn’t make it less uncomfortable. “I have a thing I need to do,” he admits eventually.
Sam, possibly because he sort of lives in Dean’s brain and possibly because he is also a genius, pulls up suddenly at that, eyes widening, eyebrows jumping up on his ridiculous caveman brow until they reach his hairline. “Do you mean…” he breathes, and his enormous, well-oiled brain must have figured it out right at that moment for himself. Which makes sense, because between the two of them, Sam is better at the whole willing and immediate realization thing.
Dean, feeling so embarrassed he wants to die, can only nod a little. “Yup. That thing.”
Sam looks genuinely awed as he reaches out to squeeze Dean’s shoulder with one of his giant meat hook hands. “Wow,” he says.
“Out,” Dean barks again, more vehemently now.
Sam’s eyes twinkle as he hastily gathers up his printouts and practically jumps out of the car.
Dean manages to wait until his enormous bulk jogs through the rain and squeezes through the front doors of the bookstore before he pulls the Impala back onto the road.
Decision thus made, Dean takes a deep breath and gets ready for step three of this case.
And by that, he means that it is time to finish it.
He manages to take a shady little back alley road around the bulk of traffic and drives the final three miles back to the motel in ten minutes. It may have helped that he’d been driving aggressive and that the Impala is bigger and scarier than a lot of the Japanese imports currently populating the roads, so he’d been able to bully the more defensive drivers on the way out of his way.
Once in front of their room, he squares his jaw, straightens his shoulders, and slides the keycard in the reader with all the anticipation he feels when he’s preparing to fire a gun. Once he sees that first little green light blinking back at him, telling him to go, he gathers his courage and throws the motel door open with a slightly hasty bang. He winces when the sound bounces off the small double room’s walls, because it ends up startling Cas right off the edge of the bed, where it looks like the former angel had been sitting for the past few hours, probably staring at the paint peeling on the far wall and wallowing in his own guilt and self-loathing.
While Dean is standing in the doorway like that, Cas shakes his head and looks up from the ungainly heap he’s fallen into on the floor. “Dean?” he manages cautiously, and Dean stares at him, at the unshaven, wild-haired human mess of him wearing Dean’s too-big clothes. The bed he’d been sitting on and part of the floor around it is covered in yesterday’s printouts, pictures of the victims and of the weird symbols the cops had taken at the murder scene. It’s a hurricane of paper around the room, and ever since they found Cas again they’ve since learned that this is just how his newly human brain works when it takes on a case, all whirlwind patterns and complex moves and motions that are somehow beyond either Dean or Sam’s realm of comprehension.
They stare at each other like that for a long moment, Cas’s chest heaving from being startled, Dean’s from the adrenaline pumping through his veins because his body apparently seems to think all of this is the same as chasing after something you can’t quite make out in the dark. Maybe it is.
“Is everything okay?” Cas ventures after a moment, and puts a hand on the edge of the mattress to brace himself as he picks himself awkwardly off of the floor, sending papers tumbling off the edge of the bed as he does.
Dean takes a deep, slow breath and steps into the room, shutting the door behind him. He looks Cas over carefully, and it’s exactly like that moment on a hunt when you realize where all the puzzle pieces have been leading you this whole time, when you’ve eliminated all the other possibilities and you know exactly what you’re dealing with now. It’s that moment when all you can do is go in with what you’ve figured out and fight for your life and hope you get the kill.
He stands in front of Cas—fallen, repentant, awkward, human Cas— and pokes his friend accusatorily in the chest.
“You love me,” he says, and goes straight for the kill.
Castiel blanches slightly under the weight of that, under the firm look in Dean’s eye, under the press of Dean’s finger over his rapidly beating heart and the heavy accusation there. Eventually he wilts a little, steps backwards, and looks away, down at the floor. But through all of that he doesn’t for a moment deny any of it.
And Dean can only marvel at how it all makes sense finally, all the evidence big and small that had been leading to this finally clicking into place to form a perfect, unmistakable picture. From giving up Heaven and dying multiple times all the way to that small, weird moment last week at the bar in Santa Fe, when that hot waitress had totally offered to blow Dean in the bathroom during her break and Cas had randomly said—all snooty like— that just because someone wasn’t currently exhibiting physical signs of a herpes outbreak didn’t mean they couldn’t still pass the virus on.
It’s all there. Because Dean knows exactly what he’s dealing with now, so he knows exactly what to look for, too.
He grabs Cas’s chin—gently— in his hands and forces Castiel to look at him again. “Why didn’t you ever say anything, man?” he asks in a soft, incredulous growl, because this is some fucking ridiculous shit to have to study all on your own, especially when someone right next to you knew exactly what was going to be on the final exam the whole time.
Castiel blinks in bewildered confusion and doesn’t even try to wrench his face out of Dean’s grasp to look away again. He just kind of stares, wide-eyed, like he expects Dean to punch him in the face any second now. That look of dread in Cas’s startled blue eyes clearly means that Cas hasn’t had a chance to come to his own realizations about anything yet. Which is fine. He’s still new. An amateur, really.
Between them, Dean is the professional here.
It’s why Dean is there already and Cas isn’t. It’s why Dean got there an hour ago in the parking lot of the public library. Cas hasn’t figured it out yet, doesn’t know exactly what all those moments big and small for Dean must have meant as well. Cas doesn’t know what to look for, doesn’t get what could have possibly lead to that surging feeling of nausea that had overcome Dean the moment he knew Cas had betrayed them, or what drove that shattered wave of grief that had nearly broken him as he’d gathered that wet, dirty trenchcoat up from the reservoir. Cas has no way to interpret the joy Dean had felt seeing him again, or even the blood-thirsty rage he’d fallen into last week in Albuquerque, when that douchebag who had been chatting the former angel up at the Indian Casino bar had tried to slip a little something into Cas’s drink when Cas wasn’t looking, and then tried to convince Cas to go back to his room with him.
“Do you want me to leave?” Castiel asks after a beat of silence between them, his voice small and impossibly filled with grief.
“You’re a moron,” Dean says back plainly, because as stupid as some people seem to think he is, Cas, right now, is about a billion times more so. Luckily for him, Dean is the one who has the answers to the test this time, and unlike Cas, he’s actually willing to share with his friends.
Castiel looks wounded and terrified at Dean’s growled accusations all at once, standing stock still and clearly not knowing what to do next either way. Dean really thinks he and Sam need to work on Cas’s training, because all signs are currently pointing to the guy being lousy for hunter’s instincts.
At least Dean is here to pick up the slack. To figure out exactly what they’re dealing with, to make a decision whether to dodge right or roll left of brace for impact, and then to do it.
This time, Dean doesn’t dodge or roll or brace at all. This time he closes the distance between them and presses his mouth to Cas’s.
It’s both weird and nice at once—definitely more nice than weird—and when, a moment later, Castiel sighs into his mouth and relaxes into the circle of Dean’s arms, Dean thinks that it must mean Castiel’s finally come to a few realizations of his own. Which is good, because apparently this means Cas can be taught.
A second after that, Cas pulls back a breath, eyes shifting to glance at the bed beside them like he’s deciding whether or not to go for the gold and just pull them both onto it. Much to Dean’s gratification, this time, it doesn’t take him long to make that decision, act on it, and do it.
As it turns out, Cas can be a pretty fast learner when he wants to be.
Dean thinks they’ll make a hunter of him yet.