For Love is Strong as Death

Chapter 16

Fearful of any further displays of Gabriel's attention raining down on them during the night, Dean had resolutely banished his brother to go sleep in another room, any other room. Then, swiping a handful of conveniently placed M&M's, he'd thrown himself down atop his own bed and proceeded to eat them one by one while he stared up at the ceiling, restless.

He was awake for maybe another hour, thoughts refusing to settle as he considered the remaining DIY jobs he'd have to tackle tomorrow; Sam and Gabriel; when they'd next be able to go hunting; whether that rattle in the Impala needed fixing; Sam and Gabriel. And when, finally, he did begin to drift off, annoyingly it didn't last long.

There was a quiet flutter in the darkness, and he opened his eyes to peer blurrily up at Castiel standing above him. He twitched in surprise, privately cursing the angel's creeper tendencies. Cas didn't say anything, just went right on staring, and after a while Dean turned his face pointedly away, dismissive. Honestly, he didn't want to be the guy who held grudges like this, who sulked and felt sorry for himself whenever things didn't go the way he'd pictured them – and he wouldn't be; he really wouldn't – but just for the moment he wasn't in any kind of mood to be reminded of what he couldn't have. His defences rose instinctively, muscles going tense as he prepared to drag himself up and walk away if Castiel wasn't going to.

But before he could do a damn thing, the mattress abruptly dipped as the angel wordlessly perched himself on the edge. And, to Dean's further astonishment, with movements stiff and hesitant, Castiel proceeded to lower himself even further until he was prostrate, lying right next to Dean on the too-small bed. Dean froze, utterly incredulous. For a few moments Castiel fidgeted restlessly, trying to find somewhere to place his hands. He at last settled for interlocking them carefully atop his stomach.

They were both silent for about a minute.

And then, "The hell? Not sure if you're aware or not, but you're kinda starting to send out mixed signals here, Cas."

"I apologise."

Dean waited for further comment, and when none came he sighed irritably. "You have no idea what mixed signals are, do you?"

"Not really, no."

"Awesome." Angrily, he started to sit up, but the angel halted him with a hand on his wrist.

"Be still, Dean. We need to talk."

"Not like this we freaking don't!"

"Dean." And it was so completely unfair of Cas to trot out his Serious Business voice, which by now Dean practically had a pavlovian reaction to. Almost against his will, he stilled and waited anxiously. Clearly and precisely, Castiel said, "The reason I wouldn't allow you to kiss me is because I did not wish to lessen our relationship."

Privately, Dean marvelled at the ability to just come out and say shit like that. He sat up slightly, bracing his weight on one elbow and turning on his side to regard the other sceptically. "Lessen? Wait, are you... Are you actually giving me the 'We're Better As Friends' talk?"

"Dean, you're already more than a friend to me."

He blinked, taken aback. "I am?"

Castiel's expression promptly fell, much to Dean's bemused alarm. "You didn't know..." he murmured in disappointed realisation, looking off to one side. "It would seem Crowley was right in his judgement of my communication skills."

"...Crowley. You talked to Crowley about this."

The angel disregarded his nonplussed commentary, instead turning back towards him with a newly determined look on his face. "I want to tell you something."

Dean raised his eyebrows, by now so turned around he had no idea what to expect, and was half braced for almost anything. "Uhm. Okay?"

"When I was brought back, I did not believe you and I would meet again," Castiel said without preamble.

Dean immediately frowned, disliking the panicky feeling that that thought still caused in the pit of his stomach. He shook it off, trying to refocus on what was actually being said.

"At the time, Gabriel asked me what I would say to you if this were not the case – and I must confess, I've been remiss in not yet saying it."

Vague alarm bells were starting to go off somewhere in the back of Dean's head, and it was more an instinctive reaction than anything else to pull back and mutter in protest, "Cas, c'mon man, no chick-flick moments..."

It was probably fortunate that Cas knew him well enough by now to thoroughly ignore him. Instead, the angel raised a hand, the way he used to when he'd zap Dean through time and space at a moment's notice. Dean tracked the movement warily, half expectantly; but rather than the usual jab to the forehead, Castiel slowly settled his palm against Dean's side. The human twitched in surprise and then froze, horribly certain that Castiel could feel the nervous jackrabbit pace of his heartbeat, which only got worse as the angel pointedly ran his thumb along the line of one rib, where Dean knew Cas' handwritten Enochian sigils were carved into the very bones of him. "Set me as a seal–"

Dean drew a sharp breath. "Cas–"

"–upon thine heart." Refusing to let him pull away, the angel moved his hand again, sliding it up beneath the short sleeve of Dean's T-shirt and positioning it so that his fingers were lined up with the silvered handprint scar his Grace had once seared into human flesh. "Set me as a seal upon thine arm." He kept them like that for long moments, the contact too close, too personal, before slowly allowing his hand to slip back down Dean's arm and away. "For love is strong – stronger – than death."

Dean stared down at him, wide-eyed and stunned into silence. He opened his mouth to say something, anything; but for the life of him couldn't think of what would be an appropriate response. He was almost certain that an angel had just confessed to being in love with him, and yet Castiel's expression remained open and completely free from expectation, not looking for reciprocation but merely having stated fact. It was mildly terrifying.

Finally, Dean managed to sheepishly mutter the only thing that came to mind. "...Dude, no Bible Camp moments, either."

And Cas just smiled beatifically, like he'd known all along Dean was going to say something painfully tactless in response.

In the next room over, Sam attempted in vain to muffle a groan of embarrassment with his pillow. He truly was doing his best not to listen to the low timbre of voices that drifted through the wall by his head (if only for his own precious peace of mind) but it was almost impossible to ignore entirely, and he had no doubt whatsoever that he was inadvertently overhearing something intensely private between his brother and the angel. He didn't even dare get up to flee downstairs, for fear of drawing attention to himself. Not to mention that doing so would probably bring a screeching halt to whatever emotional development was currently taking place next door, and Sam genuinely couldn't take another week of Dean and Cas dancing around their shared issues.

He was just going to have to suffer through.

But that, he figured, was no reason to suffer alone. Admitting defeat, he grabbed his phone from the nightstand and quickly typed out, 'Oh my god, I think I'm listening to Cas and Dean's epic love unfolding in the next room. It's cringe-worthy.'

The reply from Gabriel came within seconds: 'Five bucks says Castiel's a screamer.'

And really, Sam only had himself to blame for that particular mental scar.

Still lying propped up on one elbow, Dean regarded the angel in his bed and thought to himself that this really wasn't going the way he may once or twice have imagined it to. For one thing, considering the amount of pillow-talk they seemed to be having, there was a whole lot less making out than Dean was personally accustomed to.

He frowned as something else occurred to him. "So wait. Let me get this straight. You wouldn't kiss me because of... I mean... 'cause of all that stuff you just said about..." He cleared his throat gruffly. " And stuff."

Castiel blinked earnestly up at him and nodded once in confirmation.

Dean floundered for a moment, feeling vaguely cheated, before hanging his head in defeat. "Man, you are just... not human."

"You were always aware of this."

"Yeah, well. I forget sometimes." He heaved a breath and tried not to sound like he was whining as he said, "Ah, Cas, c'mon! That's not how it works. The more you like someone, the more you're supposed to want to do that stuff!"

"Dean, I understand the human desire to participate in sexual intercourse. Gabriel explained–"

Dean cut him off with an aborted sound of horror. "Stop! Oh god, please stop talking. Look, please do me a favour. Whichever way this goes tonight, just... just never mention sex and your brother again in the same sentence, okay?" He shook his head mournfully, and then seemed to actually process what Castiel had been saying. "And what the hell? You actually took advice from Gabriel? Earth to Cas, he was probably lying!"

"How do you know?"

"Let's see. Was he saying words?"

They glared at each other, left at something of an impasse, until Castiel added, "I wasn't acting solely on Gabriel's advice, you realise. I've witnessed for myself your past behaviour towards sexual partners."

Offended, Dean shot him a look. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean?"

"You leave them," Castiel said bluntly.


Which, okay, true – but it wasn't like Dean did the whole cut and run routine in the middle of the night or something. He'd always been careful to make sure any girl he was with wasn't after more than he was offering. Alright fine, it wasn't like he'd ever claimed to be classy, but at least he was honest, damn it. Only...

Only this wasn't like that.

Cas wasn't some one-night-stand he'd found in a bar somewhere, and Dean wasn't just looking for a hook-up this time. Actually, he had no idea what he was looking for, in all honesty. Only that Cas was it. He'd had these kind of genuine... feelings (god forbid he use the word) a total of twice in his entire life, first for Cassie and then for Lisa, and twice it had ended in disaster as soon as they'd gotten to know him well enough. But Cas... Christ, Cas had already seen him at his worst – literally at the very worst he was ever going to be – and yet here he was, having just told Dean he loved him. It was overwhelming. It was, frankly, more than he deserved.

But in the end, Dean couldn't bring himself to say any of it. He'd never done well with words; not the ones that meant anything. That was Sam's gig. Dean tended to subscribe more to the philosophy that actions spoke louder.

"Cas–" He stopped, mortified by how rough his own voice sounded. Gathering himself, he tried again. "Cas. You trust me, right?"

The angel regarded him strangely. "Yes," he said, as though he couldn't fathom why Dean even had to ask.

Careful as he'd ever been with anything, Dean slowly shifted his weight, bracing himself to lean further over the other. Castiel watched him, tense and confused. No sudden movements, Dean told himself firmly, determined not to make the same mistake as the last time he'd tried something this stupid.

Once again, however, Cas started to turn his head away. "Dean–"

And it was maybe the most dangerous thing he'd ever done to bring a hand up and forcefully halt the motion. After all, Castiel had his powers back now; he could vaporise Dean with a thought, if the mood so struck him. And if asked, Dean would maintain that was totally the only reason his heart was pounding like he'd just finished a hunt.

He caught Castiel's gaze, refusing to let it turn aside. "Then trust me," he insisted desperately, and ducked his head to kiss the angel for the second time.

He kept it tentative, stilted; found it disorientating, for a second, to feel the sharp graze of stubble instead of a woman's glossed lipstick. It reminded him that Cas wasn't the only one experiencing a certain first time here, and a swift jolt of nerves made heat prickle excitedly across his skin. But once again Castiel didn't react in the slightest. He was too rigid, too inflexible wherever he came into contact with the human, as though not at all meant for this kind of intimate proximity. Dean stopped, drawing back just far enough to quirk a hopeful smile and nudge their noses together, trying his best to prompt a more positive response – any response – from the frozen angel.

Castiel's eyes were luminous blue even in the shadows of the room, wide and assessing and maybe just a little bit intrigued. He didn't say a word, but Dean could feel him deciding whether or not to let this continue. He held his breath, both of them waiting on the judgement.

And then, to Dean's genuine surprise, the angel relaxed incrementally beneath him. He tipped his head back in something like curious invitation, and Dean didn't hesitate to take it. He clenched one hand in the pillowcase beside Castiel's head, gently reached out to curl the other around the angel's hipbone, the rough texture of denim almost startling beneath his fingers. Cas twitched like he was ticklish, but allowed Dean to coax his mouth open as though accepting instructions, sharing breath back and forth between them. It was clumsy, and unrefined, and probably the best kiss Dean could remember.

"Me too," he mumbled breathlessly against the curve of the other's jaw, without having made a conscious decision to do so. "With the... the love stuff. Me too, okay?"

"Oh," Castiel said quietly, lips shaping the syllable against Dean's cheek, spoken like a revelation.

Sam hesitantly lifted the pillow he'd had jammed over his head for the past ten minutes. He couldn't hear anything this time, and for a moment he let himself indulge in sweeping relief. That, however, lasted only as long as it took him to realise that the profound and oddly suggestive silence from next door was about ten times worse than the low, intimate murmuring of a few moments ago. Furiously, he cursed the stupidly thin walls in Bobby's house.

His phone buzzed where it rested on his stomach, and he picked it up to read, 'What's happening now?'

He rolled his eyes and sent back with a wince, 'It's gone quiet. I honestly don't want to KNOW what's happening now.'

'Give me a minute to grab my harp and halo and I'll come serenade them while they finally get it on.'

Sam snorted, amused despite himself. 'Yeah, let's maybe hold off on the choir of angels for a while. Somehow I don't think Dean would appreciate your rendition of Barry White right now. Go back to your roulette tables.'

Gabriel didn't text back, so Sam assumed he'd done just that.

Eventually, Dean forced himself to pull away, made stupidly happy when Castiel strained after him for a moment. It was difficult, not to give in to that kind of wordless request; but after considering the state of confusion Cas had gone and gotten himself into over issues of love and sex, Dean reluctantly supposed that taking it slower than usual would probably prove the wiser course of action. He ducked his head to nose at the line of Cas's jaw one last time, and then grudgingly rolled away, stretching out onto his back and trying to suppress the insistent flare of heat low in his belly. Slow, he told himself yet again, like a mantra. Sure. No problem...

After a minute or so had drifted by, Castiel turned his head on the pillow to face him. "That was much more pleasant than last time," he acknowledged.

Dean closed his eyes and grinned helplessly. "Good. Glad you thought so." It was dumb, he knew, to feel so triumphant over finally vindicating himself to the other as a good kisser. Didn't stop him, though.

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