Dean can be an asshole.
Mostly, because being an asshole is just easier. He'll say asshole things to clueless civilians so they leave him the hell alone and not ask too many questions. Not be too familiar--no one wants to get their friendly on with an asshole. And, sometimes, Dean can't afford to get friendly.
Dean says asshole things to his brother all the time. Mostly minor-asshole shit he doesn't even mean, you know? Not really. It's just his asshole-right. Him just trying to do his job properly as the older asshole-sibling.
Sometimes, when he's as tired as No-Tell Motel wallpaper and nearing the end of his rope, Dean's actually a real nickel-and-dime-asshole to Sam. And Sammy? He doesn't deserve it. But--as much as Dean knows it makes him an asshole--he's sometimes, well, just kind of an asshole like that.
Dean's also prone to saying a shit-ton of asshole things to just about any poor bastard when he's busy losing his rag. An asshole-scorpion with an asshole in its tail: he'll sting you in the beat of a drum. Bar staff, cops, other hunters--basically anyone who's within spitting distance of Dean when shit's going downtown. If you rub him up the wrong way when he's up Crap Creek without a boat (nevermind a freakin' paddle) you're gonna get it. At those times, Dean'll just lash out like an asshole-Indiana Jones with a whip made of assholes.
Yeah, Dean can don the asshole hat with a variety of different outfits.
Stubborn Asshole. Petty Asshole. Sarcastic Asshole.
But this? This was some next-level assholery. This was just downright cruel.
'...if she is, then you're dead to me.'
Dean actually said that. To Cas.
Yeah, okay, so he'd just realised his Mom had most likely been... killed. His Mom was maybe--probably--dead again. After they’d only just got her back. Dean just couldn't deal. And Cas? Fucking Cas had apparently suspected Jack was unstable for a while--but had kept that revelation to himself. Fucking kept it from him and Sam.
Kept it from Dean.
But you're dead to me... was so damn far below the belt, Dean couldn't even see the buckle from way down in the dirt.
What's worse, is at that moment, he actually meant it.
Afterwards--like, a second after--Dean burned with regret at saying it. He regretted the words as much as torturing thousands upon thousands of damned souls in Hell. And now he hates himself, just as much. Maybe more.
But at that wild moment, he'd meant it. He had to mean it, to be believed.
So, just like that, Dean Winchester has finally moved up in the world. For once in his sucky, shitty life, Dean's a winner. He's now Class A; Top-Of-The-Range; he's Premium with a capital P--hell, he's goddamn Gold Standard.
One Hundred Percent Prime Fucking Asshole.
Everybody's good at something.
Yet, believe it or not, being an asshole hadn't always come naturally to Dean. He'd had to learn to be an asshole. Had to practice at it. Deano became a pro at hiding behind a surly, cocky asshole grin and a fire-cracker attitude in so many different ways. At a way-too-young age, Dean had to brandish his acquired asshole skills like a Let’s-Fend-Off-Those-Squirly-Emotions barrier.
And why become an asshole? Easy. Survival.
Survival at school, by being an asshole to the teachers. Especially those who so often said he ‘could do so much better'. Because Dean didn't have time to do better.
Survival from panic, by being a Class-Clown-Asshole to the endless supply of monsters who were trying to rip him in half or eat him up whole. It gave him the courage to do what he needed to do: keep Sammy safe.
Survival when it came to John, by being an asshole toward himself. Punishing himself for every stupid asshole mistake he made, letting his Dad down like an asshole-amateur. He needed to do better. Be better. So what if he was only thirteen? Asshole.
Asshole. Asshole. Asshole.
But how could Dean say that to Cas? How could he take Cas' friendship, Cas' warmth, Cas’ fierce yet gentle... concern for Dean, and crush it firmly, under his Logger heel like that?
For the exact same reason, is how.
Dean had spent years hiding behind his Asshole Shield to survive. Until the battered old thing wasn't big or sturdy enough to protect him from the Land of Emotions anymore.
So, he'd fashioned a Wall of Asshole, that he carefully laid out around himself, asshole-brick by asshole-brick. The upgraded Asshole Barrier was efficient, keeping him at a distance from The Hurt, keeping him from letting people in. And the trusty wall worked pretty damn well for some time.
But, eventually, with all the chaos and pain reigning down on Dean's life, the wall's protective barrier took one too many beatings. It became dangerously shaky and unstable. Dean decided, if he were to carry on surviving, his Asshole Wall wall needed fortifying. Making taller, sturdier. He began building it up all around himself. Higher, wider, thicker and stronger. Until it eventually became a huge, solid, inhabitable and impenetrable structure he could shelter inside of, and stay safely locked away from the Land of Emotions. It was Dean's survival stronghold. And he lived there, behind its dense walls, secure and untouched. A Capable Asshole, a Battle-ready Asshole.
Lonely Asshole in a Fort of Assholery.
And in the moment of panic, when Cas told Dean of what he knew about Jack, Dean had never needed the cover of his stronghold more... Because if Dean's restraint had have faltered, it would have all been over. All those years of protecting himself by being a Bravado-wielding Asshole would have been lost in one foolish instant. If Dean had have let down his Asshole Fort's drawbridge, even just a crack--for even just a second--Cas would have launched a full-scale attack on Dean's defences, and raised the whole fucking thing to the ground. Cas would have catapulted flame balls of burning Kindness into the Asshole Fort’s keep; he'd have taken a battering ram forged from the purest Affection and utterly decimated Dean's Fortress of Assholeitude. And Dean, the lone defender--this Lonely Fucking Asshole--would have crawled out, bleeding ribbons of tears from the years of hiding behind his learned-asshole bullshit. He'd have scrambled over the emotional rubble and reached out a shaking hand in a pathetic and desperate attempt to break free from his Asshole chains--and would have fallen like a sap straight into Cas' cunning trap. The Asshole Dean Winchester; a scared and wounded animal, weak and homesick for a place he's never even known. He’d have given in to his emotions. And Dean couldn't let that can’t happen.
Survival. At all costs.
In the dumb Mind Palace fairytale this asshole tells himself, Dean is no King of his Castle. He's not even a Brave Knight of the realm, sworn to protect Fort Asshole. No, Dean is the Fierce Dragon, transformed from man to beast by the worst kind of dark magic; an evil known as Fear. The Dragon stays chained up in the fort's dungeon, primed to terrify and scare away any and all who try to enter--those who claim they want More than Dean could ever dare to give them.
And Cas? Cas isn't trying to capture or ensnare the Dragon. Cas isn't actually the Villainous Duke or the Malicious Marauder in this stupid story at all. Castiel is the wise and benevolent Handsome Prince, who's travelled many, many miles, for so many years, battling those he once swore to protect. He’s on a thankless and fruitless pilgrimage from a wondrous and faraway realm known as Haven, to break the evil Fear's spell that was cast on the Dragon when he was just a four-year-old human boy.
To finally set Dean free.
But the primitive Dragon knows only rage. And thus breathed molten breath and white-hot flame at the Prince Castiel, so the loyal monarch would have no other choice than to abandon his noble plight and flee.
The Dragon protected itself in the only way it knew how.
Dean almost wishes he were a goddamn fictional Dragon. Because in reality, Dean's just a sorry-sonofabitch who makes up dumb depressing stories and is terrified of his own vulnerability.
Dean wants - more than anything he's ever wanted in his whole sucky, shitty life - to let Cas in. He's desperate to open up about how he’s scared all the fucking time and how he just needs to keep everybody safe. Dean wants Cas to put his arms around him and tell him everything will be okay, even when they both know it isn't. Dean needs to be weak. Dean needs to be honest. Dean needs to get in Cas' personal space and... just breathe. Let Cas support him, comfort him. Jesus, let Cas just hold him. Dean wants to let Cas give him more than he's had with anybody. Ever.
This Lonely, Frightened Asshole wants to let the angel love him. Because Dean loves Cas more than life itself.
But Dean's a coward. And allowing himself to be vulnerable would be so much more terrifying than anything he's survived so far, in his employment in the neverending shit-storm that is his screwed-up Family Business.
At that appalling moment, when Cas admitted his failing, Dean didn't want the anger. He wanted to break down and tell Cas it was okay ‘cause he knows he’s failed too. Dean wished he could’ve given Cas all his hurt and tears and let Cas comfort him. Let Cas share the burden. He wanted to let Cas try and protect him, like he knew Cas wanted. But he couldn't let down the drawbridge, it was just too risky. Too scary. Dean couldn't let his Handsome Prince into his hot-mess of a head. So Dean battened down the hatches, stoked the fire in his belly and he levelled the fuck up.
Prime Fucking Asshole.
Yeah, Dean is sickened by his cowardice. He doesn’t want to be the Fierce Dragon in the stupid damn fairy tale, who'll never get a Happy Ever After. Dean despises being the Lonely And Frightened Prime Fucking Asshole.
More than any of it though, Dean hates hurting his friend.
The best friend he's in fucking love with.
But Dean knows that kind of love isn't for him. There is no ‘Toes In The Sand’ for Dean and Cas. Dean is only here to survive. Dean is an asshole.
Asshole equals Survival.
So, Cas? Cas had to know. Cas had to be burned. The angel needed only to see the lie...
There be Dragons here.