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My Brother’s Keeper

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Sam's used to being the only one who knows Dean. Even Dad, who spent so much time with Dean, didn't really know him. Sam knows that Dean would rather have apple pie than any other, though he always has to make a crack about the crazy pagans (and really, the number of times they've had run-ins with pagans is just wrong) with their "freakin' apple pie."

He knows how Dean takes his coffee, that he would exist on candybars if anyone let him, will put anything in his mouth (and consequently has an iron stomach). Knows that Dean sleeps like the dead (and okay, he needs—they need a new expression, because that one is still too fresh to be funny)—he falls into bed and doesn't move.

He snores through his nose for about an hour after he crashes—longer if he's more tired.

Sam knows Dean picks up aggressive girls—the kind who ride hard and leave with a shrug: that Dean might be love'em and leave'em, but he makes sure the girls don't expect much from him.

Sam knows these things because he and Dean have been he and Dean since Sam can remember, and these last three years especially they've been all each other had.

And now…things are different. Dean has an angel, and wow did Sam flinch when he first saw the guy, embarrassed by the way his hackles went up instinctively. And at first Sam thought that it was purely that he'd been around Ruby too long (four months, two spent trying to save Dean, two spent being dangerously [demonically] pissed off), but now, watching as the angel moves across the crummy hotel room to adjust the thermostat right before Dean shivers he thinks it might be more.

Sam is used to being the only one who knows Dean. But—Castiel (and okay, what a name), with his wide, guileless eyes and full lips and gentle hands (gentle hands that left burns on Dean's biceps), is…okay, the only word is that he's tending to Dean.

This morning it was Dean's favorite toothpaste in the bathroom. A Snickers on the Impala's dashboard. Ordering coffee before Dean articulated a want for it. Coming into the room while they were brainstorming with lunch for everyone—sub for Sam (same thing he ordered yesterday), a burger with fries from the local diner for Dean, and a can of soup for the angel.

The real kicker was the chocolate shake, which made Dean go bright with happiness ("Aw, man, shakes! Totally forgot about how long—awesome").

Sam feels awful for resenting him for it—he does. Dean was in hell and the angel saved him (where Sam failed—failed).

Castiel anticipates Dean's needs, and it's not until the three of them are awkwardly sitting two-by-one in the booth (Sam by himself, Castiel and Dean—already easy in each other's space, casually brushing arms and thighs) that he gets it.

And to be honest, he only gets it because Dean, while ribbing Castiel (because that's what Dean has been doing for the past forty-five minutes while Castiel looks on in quiet amusement and answers with an equally quiet, queer earnestness that just eggs Dean on), reaches over Castiel and tosses Sam a packet of sugar.

Because it's September, and Sam is going to order iced tea because it's the end of the season (not technically fall yet) and he wants to get it out of his system before he switches over to diet sodas for the winter.

Sam stares at the Dominos sugar packet, white with peach swirly writing—same in diners all over America (Sam knows this from experience).

Castiel is caring for Dean the way Dean cares for Sam. Intuitively, without comment, acknowledgment, or need for recognition. It's not the superficial things Sam knows about Dean—the way he can give to Dean what Dean wants if it occurs to him to consider the question. It's deeper.

Sam hates it.

He grits his teeth and plays with the packet. Wishes Ruby was here (and oh, that's going to be a throw-down for the ages when Dean finds out). Bobby, even.

Because Dean is his brother. And if he's being honest (and he is, lately—grief makes him obnoxiously introspective and now he can't kick the habit) Dean is just his. This angel has no right. The only person Sam has ever ceded to over Dean was Dad, and that was because Dean was just an idiot about Stanford and about needing to stay with Dad and Sam was 18 and angry and making his bid for freedom.

Dean is telling the story of the Christmas that Sam gave him the amulet instead of Dad, voice pleased and a little gruff, and Castiel leans in, sliding his hand against Dean's sternum to lift the necklace and peer at it, while Dean tilts his head up to give him a better view (which isn't necessary—it's not that tight a necklace) and Sam realizes that…

He never was in danger of losing Dean to the women with kids—the ones who Dean had looked at and thought maybe he could have in another life and maybe idealized a little. Never in danger of losing him to Dad, even, because Dean's loyalty to Sam was also compounded by feelings of responsibility for Sam. Never in danger of losing him to any of the girls he sleeps with, to Bela, to Jo two years ago—none of it.

He might lose Dean to an angel.

"You don't know that he is one," Ruby remarks later, pressing a bite beneath his left ear as she grinds down on him, skin flushed and shining from the neon signs in the bar across the street.

"Yeah," he grunts, bucking. "Yeah, I do." He flips her and speeds up—it's rough, it's always rough, always ends with her screaming, legs locked around his waist and her fingernails tearing into his shoulders hard enough to draw blood. He shudders, stills, panting, and then crawls off, goes to the bathroom (this used to be where he would peel off the condom, but it's Ruby, and it's not like the chick she's possessing is going to catch anything from him—hell, it's not like she's even still in there. He doesn't think that he doesn't care (but he doesn't).

He doesn't know how to articulate how he knows Castiel is an angel. Dean had said that he'd demanded proof—and yeah, that was so Dean, to need to be able to see it. But Sam had known as soon as he'd seen him. He doesn't want to think about that.

He heads back to the motel where Dean is probably zonked out in front of some Hallmark movie (Dean has been known to watch those movies in morbid fascination. All five hours of them).

He's not.

He's propped up on the two pillows of his bed and the angel is leaning down to kiss him—and Sam wants to yell, to bang on the window to let them know he's here, to stop it—to interrupt because no, no, no, no.

One of the angel's hands is cupping Dean's cheek and the other is on his right bicep, right over the mark he made pulling Dean out of hell. Their shirts are on the bed—there is nothing hurried about how they're acting, and by the way Dean's reacting, Castiel knows even Dean's body instinctively.

"Somewhere, Jerry Fallwell is dying," Ruby remarks dryly. "Mm, yum." Her borrowed eyes go glassy with lust for a moment as she observes.

"That's my brother," Sam snaps at her, turning away from the window (why don't they shut the blinds? Sure, it's California and not Alabama, but still!). He pauses, because Jerry Fallwell. "He one of yours?"

"My lips are sealed," she says, even as she nods vigorously. She glances back at the window, and Sam grabs her and shakes her hard. She looks down at his hand—if she was human she'd have a broken neck, but she's not. "Found your demons."

He follows her to the park, where they're preparing a sacrifice to something. He's so angry—about Dean, about Castiel, about Castiel fucking Dean—that it's not hard to plummet them back to hell, meatsuits and all.

The boy, naked and bloody on the rock altar, quivers and sobs—he's probably eight, and Sam watches him run away with that strange dispassion that always comes after he does this. It occurs to him, distantly, that there was a time he would find out where the kid lives, help him get there, be caring and concerned and disgusted. But then, Dean would be at his shoulder holding the Bible with the exorcism still fresh on his lips.

Things have changed.

"Who were they sacrificing to?" he asks, thinking maybe Lilith is getting ready to make a move.

Ruby turns her eyes to him (her eyes: black and uncomplicated), and says simply,

"You."