Title: Stone and Blood
Author: Maychorian
Characters: Sam, Dean, Castiel
Category: Gen, Angst
Rating: PG13/T (I did not go light on the language here, folks.)
Spoilers: Season 4 in general
Summary: Drunk on a hunt, and Dad so would have kicked his ass for it, but Sam just gave him a quick little glance and soldiered grimly on.
Word Count: 1478
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they're not mine.
Author's Note: For smilla02. Her prompt was You have a face of carved stone/blood of hardened earth/you came from the sea, and somehow that became this. (Yeah, I don't know.) Hope you enjoy it, my lovely!

Stone and Blood

Sam was being so fucking nice. So fucking gentle and kind and accommodating. Dean hated it, hated it with everything he had, which, granted, wasn't much. Dean was empty, now, all used up. But what there was left of him really, truly, and completely hated this new sweetness in his brother.

Hated most of all the fact that he needed it. Because damn it, damn it all to the farthest, darkest, bloodiest dungeons in Hell, Dean needed it. Every time he flinched at a sight that wouldn't have bothered him six months and forty-one years ago, every time he woke gasping from a true dream with Sam's hand splayed across his chest steadying and grounding him, every time his hands shook so bad that he pulled the car over and let Sam slide into the driver's seat while he stood still as granite outside the door with his hands jammed in his armpits…

Every single time, he hated and needed Sam in equal measure.

And Sam just accepted it. He didn't ask for more, didn't push Dean to talk, didn't say a word about that afternoon by a Kentucky road. Just calmly stepped in and took over, steady and competent, doing both his job and Dean's without a word of complaint. He just put up with it all.

Damn freaky, was what it was.

The worst thing was that he didn't seem to expect anything from Dean. Didn't expect him to do research or perform well on a hunt or talk kindly to witnesses or cut back on his drinking or quit finding extremely questionable bar hook-ups. He let Dean do what he wanted. Dean didn't know how to handle that. There had always been expectations of him, always, from his mommy, from his teachers, from his little brother, from Dad. Most of all from Dad. And from himself, of course. Not anymore. Dad was gone, and Sam had given up on him, and Dean just couldn't do it for himself.

And so he ended up breaking one of the oldest cardinal rules, because what did it matter? Drunk on a hunt, and Dad so would have kicked his ass for it, but Sam just gave him a quick little glance and soldiered grimly on, pressing aside the dark-wet leaves and limbs, pushing deeper into the forest. Night out and the stars and moon couldn't reach through the thick branches above, leaving only the mag-lights clipped to their coats to show the way. Dean was stumbling over roots and hidden burrows, chuckling drunkenly to himself, but Sam didn't even tell him to be quiet. Just said, "Careful, Dean," as if that was enough, as if the words were a shiny bright talisman that could keep them both safe from any harm.

Of course the hunt did not go well at all. To Dean it was all a massive blur, confused and opaque. Wasn't it just another restless spirit? A simple salt-and-burn with an out-of-the-way grave? Yet somehow there were claws in there, too, silver-white in a patch of moonlight, and then thin red lines appeared across Sam's cheek like a party trick from a malevolent magician. (Now you see it, now you don't! Where did it come from, where did it go? Sorry, kid, a good magician never reveals his secrets.)

Something ignited in Dean at that, some long-banked fire being fanned back to life, and the blur was punctuated with the impact of his fists, pressure on his knife and the feeling of slicing through something that resisted his blade, his own grin hot and bright, a taste of blood that wasn't his. All very familiar, comforting even as the sensations twisted his gut and pulled his lips back in a snarl. Dirt, lighter fluid and matches, flames flickering red on the trees, smoke fading dark into the sky. Then stumbling back through the forest, Sam's hand on his arm holding him up.

When they got back to the Impala, Dean realized that there was a deep gash on his left thigh, slowly leaking blood down his leg. Realized that it had been hurting all along and he hadn't paid any attention, because, c'mon, just one cut? Nothin'. Absolutely nothin'. He was more worried about Sam, but his brother just growled and shoved him down on the bumper, quick and dirty stitches to stop the bleeding, efficient. Sam's kindness was starting to fray at the edges, finally wearing away to reveal the bloody bone beneath, and Dean was perversely glad.

He didn't apologize, though. No point.

Sam pushed him roughly into the passenger's side, went around to the other door, started the engine. A brief roar as he nudged the accelerator, and then Sam cursed and slammed the brakes, lurching them forward so that Dean bounced off the dash and back into his seat. A man was standing in front of the Impala, white in the headlights. Still as a statue, the planes of his face marble, a stony mask of diapproval, eyes dark diamonds glittering in the light.

Dean gaped for a second, then fumbled for the door and got out, palming the hood to hold himself up. "What the fuck, Castiel? Seals going under attack in the middle of the night, now? The Apocalypse you promised us finally showin' up?"

Castiel didn't even blink. "Gird your loins up like a man, Dean Winchester."

His mouth fell open in a drunken "O" of surprise. "Um…not following you, buddy."

Sam had exited the car on the other side, splitting his time between staring at Castiel and staring at his brother. Now he sighed gustily. "He means that you need to grow a pair, dude."

"I gotta pair. They're nice. Big brass ones."

Castiel thoroughly invaded Dean's space in only two smooth strides, practically shimmying up against him. He touched two fingers to Dean's forehead. Instant sobriety.

Dean blinked, and everything came flooding back, a swift tide rising, threatening to drown him. He gasped one last lungful of air before he went under. "What is this, an intervention?" A wild glance at his brother. "You two goody-two-shoes plan this? You working together against me?"

Sam rolled his eyes. Dean was both pissed as hell and blindingly happy to see the bitchiness back. Sam's sweetness had finally found its limit. About fucking time. "We didn't plan this, you moron. Did you want us to?"

Dean blinked. He had no answer to that one, neither truthful nor flip.

"You are needed," Castiel said grimly, forcefully, right in Dean's face. His eyes were hard and piercing, and Dean wanted to flinch away from them, but he couldn't move. "Perhaps not at this moment, but soon. I say again, gird up your loins. You cannot afford this. We cannot afford this."

Expectations. Dean should have been furious, railing against these new constrictions, fighting yet one more pressure in his life, one more demand, one more captain and commander shouting orders in his ears.

He wasn't angry. He was relieved.

"Okay, okay," he grumbled. "Get off my case."

Castiel took one step back, still too close, still hard and implacable, mouth firm, jaw set. "Do not get yourself killed, Dean. I will be very displeased."

Then he was gone.

Dean drew in a breath for what felt like the first time in weeks, instinctively looking at his brother, waiting for Sam to put in his two cents. Sam stood on the other side of the car, hands folded on the roof, watching Dean with narrowed eyes. The thin lines across his cheek were bright and red, a slap in the face. "You know, I've been trying to be nice."

"I noticed," Dean muttered.

"But same goes for me, man. I can't afford this, either."

Dean looked away, feeling a flush of shame. He should have remembered—just because Sam was being kind, that didn't mean he didn't expect something in return. Sammy was made of steel, now. He'd always been made of steel, under that puppy-dog exterior.

"I know," he said helplessly, unable to offer anything else.

Sam glared for a moment longer, then got back in the car.

Dean stared into the trees, back the way they'd come. Still couldn't remember more than a few shuttered glimpses of that whole hunt, blurry snapshots in his mind. The cut on his thigh burned, unpleasant and aching. He could have avoided it if he'd been acting like the man his father had trained, Dean Winchester the hunter, instead of the shattered shell the Pit had left of him.

Maybe he wasn't that man anymore, but he could still pretend. The training was there, lurking in his bones. He just had to access it again.

Castiel was right. Time to gird up his loins.

He lowered himself into the car and kept his eyes straight ahead as Sam drove them back to the motel.