Athena has been a cop for the past two years.
Dean thought he had accepted this fact when she first ever bought it up, in the same way that he’s just had to accept a lot of things that Athena bothers to tell him. He’d found out that she moved back in with her ex-boyfriend Logan over the phone—oh, you don’t know already? So unlike you, Dean—and that had felt like nothing compared to the three-am text message telling him that she’d decided to adopt a child with the douchebag.
Dean thought a lot of things before he was first ever arrested for being an idiot. He was an asshole of a teenager, building walls around himself thinking it would protect him, isolating himself from forming connections with anyone other than Athena—and now he’s a thirty something year old man driving a beat up car to park outside of her house on her daughter’s birthday.
He’d considered himself invincible before handcuffs touched his wrists for the first time of many, thought he was living in a thrilling crime show with Athena as his trusty sidekick—them against the world, a force to be reckoned with—until he missed out on five years and came back out to everything functioning differently. It’s not so much the fact that he’s single, a convict struggling between jobs with barely any friends to speak of—it’s the fact that Athena has left him behind.
Athena marches towards his car, red hair flaming behind her—a fire that lights him up inside. He loves her so much, maybe not ever in the way that would be expected of him, in a way that she wanted him to—but what does that matter when he’s being kicked out a painting someone is burning? Dean gulps as he unlocks the car door, and she slams it closed once she’s in the passenger side. It’s been months since they’ve been this close to each other—since she would let herself be this close to him.
“What are you doing here?” Athena demands, meaning she’d noticed his car outside for the past six nights. What is he doing—he’s trying to understand why his best friend is distancing herself, why he can’t fall back into routines like he had the last time he got out of prison, why it’s so hard to watch her live without him by her side. He’s being a fuck up—and Athena may like the truth in every form that it can come in, but she won’t like that, she’s never liked that as a reason for anything.
It’s a small town, it’s easy to fabricate a reason, and it’s easy to lie when it should be much harder. “I heard you got a new case.”
“So? I get given a case as fast as I finish the old one.” Her eyes narrow, shooting bullets from a gun she’s never held. It’s always like this now, in a new verse of a song of heartbreak—defensive, argumentative, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for Dean to mess up again and be arrested, waiting for things to ruin the image she’s trying to project. “For God’s sake, Dean—you can’t just show up here when you get bored.”
“I—I’m not bored!” He protests, wiping clammy hands on his jeans. He’s gained weight in ways he hadn’t expected to since being out of prison, he’s losing everything in ways he hadn’t expected since being out of prison. “I want to help. I don’t want to be alone all of the time.”
“I don’t want your help,” she says harshly, turning to open the door behind her. Dean scrabbles to take hold of her elbow—but she snatches it out of his grasp just as quickly. She’s scared of him now, the pity has slowly transformed into something which makes his throat burn at the thought.
“C’mon, Athena. I know the ins and outs of what you’re dealing with. It’s not like trusting me is going to hurt you or an—”
“You,” Athena’s finger pushes him back, “do not get to decide if you have or haven’t hurt me.”
“I would never hurt you, Athena! Do you even understand what you’re saying?”
“You’ve hurt me before, Dean, and every time you get out you do it again. I’m married now, don’t you get that?”
“This isn’t even about Logan!” He protests, the words coming out too fast but not quick enough. It’s about Athena—it’s always about Athena and he loves her and he’d never hurt her intentionally.
“What’s it about then?”
“It’s—” the words die on his tongue, the pause too long for Athena’s impatience, the moment rushes through, the sand finishes in the timer, and everything plays again. Athena sighs through the bridge of her nose, Dean knows her well enough to know she’s going to cry once she’s back inside her home, that she’ll cry for the fact that they lost something they never really had in the first place. Dean will cry, too, once she’s gone, before he pulls away from a place he won’t be welcomed at again—for the loss of a thing that’s authenticity is questioned, for the fact that Athena has been a cop for two years, but been pulling away for so much longer.