For Love is Strong as Death

Chapter 17

The thing about Dean was that he was fucking annoying when he was happy, in Sam's humble opinion. His brother had gone from proverbial thundercloud to positively chipper.

Sam had been unceremoniously awoken that morning by the strident tones of Eye of the Tiger coming from the bathroom, as Dean enthusiastically sung his way through a twenty minute shower. Exasperated, and thoroughly of the opinion that he'd already lost quite enough sleep due to his brother's love life, Sam had face-planted back into his pillow and slept in for another hour out of little but spite.

When he finally ventured down for breakfast, it was to find Castiel sitting at the kitchen table and Dean still whistling the same tune as he busied himself cooking French toast. Unbelievable, Sam thought with mild incredulity, stopping in the doorway to watch. Dean hadn't bothered to make anything more sophisticated than warmed-up leftover pizza in... longer than Sam could remember, frankly. Had he been in a slightly more generous mood, he might even have said it was sweet, that his brother was obviously pulling out all the stops to impress his new – boyfriend? Partner? Angelic significant other? As it was, however, Sam was irritable and unimpressed and the most he could summon was a resigned eye-roll as he moved to join them.

"Good morning, Sam," the angel greeted him pleasantly as he took a seat opposite.

Dean glanced over his shoulder. "Hey, you want some toast?"

He grunted something vaguely affirmative and Dean resumed whistling, seemingly quite happy to perform the mundane task of making breakfast. Sam supposed it was a novelty for him, of sorts. So, as he sat there yawning his way back to full consciousness, the sound and smell of sizzling butter filled the room around him, and his brother's good mood seemed almost contagious. Sam really wanted to go on finding it grating, but, against his will, the unfocused sense of irritation he'd woken up with gradually slipped away.

Eventually Dean turned and set down a plate of stacked French toast in front of the angel with a flourish. "There you go, try that. Do yours in a sec, Sammy."

Sam smirked, amused beyond reason to see his brother playing domestic goddess. He debated asking if this was going to be a more permanent fixture, now that Dean was apparently one half of a married couple.

Cas, meanwhile, studied the food he'd been presented with in fascination. Dean, in turn, watched with visible expectation, clearly not intending to move until he'd witnessed a reaction of some kind. Sam rolled his eyes again, but even he found himself slightly curious. After a moment or so, the angel picked up a piece of the toast and ever so carefully bit off a corner, chewing thoughtfully. Dean practically held his breath.

At last, Castiel nodded once, so seriously he might as well have been passing divine judgement. "It's very good. Thank you, Dean."

"Better than the burgers?"

"Much better."

Dean grinned blindingly. "Hell yes, told you I'm awesome." He turned back to the frying pan with such obvious triumph that Sam had to smother a laugh.

His mirth was short-lived, though, as Crowley chose that moment to blink into existence in the chair right next to Sam, making the human jerk away from him in such surprise that he very nearly overturned his own chair.

"God, don't do that!"

The demon ignored him, didn't even seem to hear him, eyes drawn instead to the plate in front of Cas. He rubbed his hands together briskly. "Looks good, boys. Where do I place my order?"

At the stove, Dean let out a bark of sceptical laughter and turned to point a spatula sternly in their direction. "Dream on, demon. You think you're eating my food, you can think again."

"What? Why?"

Dean shrugged, widening his eyes innocently. "Call me crazy, I don't cook for the soulless."

"That's highly discriminatory, I hope you realise," the demon informed him snidely.

"Yeah, well, bite me."

Crowley scowled, tapping his fingers in annoyance against the tabletop. Sam had no doubt he was busy thinking up some sharp retort that would immediately put Dean's back up, but before he could say a word, Castiel abruptly slid his plate over towards the demon. "You may try some of mine, if you wish."

Sam performed something of a double-take, staring incredulously at the angel.

Crowley, too, seemed equally taken aback. "I can?"

"I believe I... owe you," Castiel said with dignity. "For your advice. It proved much more helpful than I had imagined."

The demon blinked, and then chuckled with genuine amusement. "My hard-earned wisdom for a bite of Winchester's mangled attempt at fine dining. Well, that certainly sounds like a fair trade." Despite the sarcasm, he wasted no time in accepting the offer, swiftly sliding the plate over the rest of the way. "Fine, fine. We're square, angel."

Dean turned and started to hand a second plate of toast over to Sam, but stopped when he spotted the swap that had occurred. "What the hell? That's not–"

Before he could voice protest, the demon hurriedly crammed a larger than necessary bite into his mouth and chewed smugly.

Dean glared at him, unimpressed. "Fuck's sake..." Breakfast promptly swerved away from Sam and was irritably placed in front of Cas again, along with the instruction, "Don't give it away this time."

Crowley scoffed, and mumbled through his mouthful of food, "Oh, that has got to be the first time he's ever given that advice."

Caught by surprise, Sam almost ruptured something in his effort not to laugh, especially given the thunderous expression that came over his brother's face at the comment. Once again the spatula was brandished at them in wordless warning.

There came the sound of heavy footsteps descending the stairs overhead, and a moment later Bobby ambled in, immediately raising his eyebrows at the sight of them all. "Well ain't this just cosy..." He headed straight for the coffee pot, edging past Dean with a smirk. "Might still have one of Karen's old pinafores if you wanna borrow it, Dean."

"Oh, funny man," his brother grumbled. "You want something while I'm slaving over this hot stove?"

The old hunter snorted, pouring his coffee black. "Not if it's that pansy-ass toast you're offering. We got any bacon?"

Dean grunted appreciatively. "Man after my own heart, Bobby. Pull up a chair, I'll see what I can do."

Sam smiled to himself, glancing around at the rather mismatched group that occupied the room. This wasn't at all where he'd imagined he'd ever be as little as six months ago, when the apocalypse had been bearing down on them and everyone at this table had been some kind of soldier, spy or traitor. It was kind of nice, if unprecedented, to watch Bobby automatically place a second mug of coffee in front of the demon as he passed (which Crowley promptly spiked with a hipflask); or to see Dean lean over Cas's shoulder and pinch food from his plate, unrepentant when the angel frowned up at him.

But after a second or two the smile dropped slowly from Sam's face, as the realisation struck that this bid they were apparently making to play happy families wasn't yet complete. They were noticeably short one person. His hand went instinctively to the phone in his pocket, but he hesitated before he could pull it out. This, he imagined, wasn't going to be a conversation he wanted witnesses for.

He got to his feet. "I'll be back in a minute. Save me some toast, okay?" And with that he turned and ducked out of the room, his brother's voice drifting after him.

"Don't be long, bitch. I re-heat for no one!"

Standing in the middle of his room upstairs, Sam chewed his lip in indecision, and then suddenly hit send on a text that read simply, 'Come back.'

He waited. A minute passed, and then two. Still there was no flutter of wings; no flashy entrance; not even a reply to his phone. Sighing, he tried again.

'Seriously, Dean's cooking breakfast for us all and there's some kind of group-gathering in the kitchen. I think we're having a collective Moment. You should be here to ridicule it.'

He wandered over to the recently repaired window and peered out at the salvage yard while he waited. His phone remained conspicuously silent, despite the fact that Gabriel usually made a habit of responding within seconds. After another few minutes, Sam rubbed his forehead tiredly. He should have known the archangel would be stubborn enough to make him spell it out.

Exasperated, he typed out hurriedly, 'I'm sorry I didn't say I liked you back, okay? I froze when you asked me. Just get back here, I need to talk to you.'

He watched as the little digital envelope onscreen sailed away, too late to hit cancel, and had just enough time to begin questioning the wisdom of such a message when suddenly there was a sharp crack! of sound right behind him, so loud he ducked on instinct.

"I knew it!"

Whirling around, it was to find Gabriel wielding his own cell phone in grim victory. "I knew I didn't get my wires crossed!"

Sam clapped a hand over his pounding heart, swearing in fright. "Hello to you too..." he muttered pointedly.

Gabriel ignored him, too busy gesturing angrily. "You, Sam Winchester, make everything complicated."

"Wh– Excuse me? I make things complicated?" He put his hands on his hips, nonplussed. "Really. That's what you're going with."

The archangel shrugged. "Well, if I recall correctly, only one of us had the decency to be upfront." He waved his phone. "Oh, and look at that. I happen to have it in writing that it wasn't you."

Sam knew he shouldn't have started this conversation by text. Damn it.

"You're the one who skipped out of here at the first opportunity," he shot back defensively. Then, suddenly incredulous, "To Vegas! Have fun, I hope?"

The archangel glanced off to one side, oddly evasive. "Probably not as much as you're thinking..."

Sam sighed. "Look, whatever. Forget it." He raised his hands, running them through his hair in a calming gesture. Easy as it would be to let this devolve into an argument worthy of ten year olds, that wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind. "Gabriel..."

But the archangel was busy studying the last text Sam had sent to him, and seemed to have decided further explanation was unnecessary. He motioned to it inquisitively. "I suppose I'm to understand from this that you've, what, had a change of heart?"

A little embarrassed, Sam stared off into the middle-distance and muttered, "It wasn't exactly a change of heart..."

The archangel cupped a hand to his ear. "What was that, sorry?"

"It wasn't a change of heart! I like you, okay? I liked you when you asked me." He pinched the bridge of his nose and snorted humourlessly. "God knows why. You're immature and obnoxious and... and really fucking annoying!"

Dry as dust, Gabriel purred, "Well you just know all the tricks to sweep a guy off his feet, don't you?"

Sam felt himself colour slightly at the mild reprimand. But hell, wasn't like he was lying. "Just thought I should let you know," he said, with as much dignity as he could still muster.

The archangel huffed, apparently offended. "Yeah, thanks for that." Hands in his pockets, he raised his eyebrows impatiently. "That it, then? We're done with this conversation, right?"

Sam's stomach dropped unpleasantly at the other's unimpressed tone. Abruptly, the conviction came upon him how stupid it had been, calling Gabriel here for this: stupid to think he was still interested. Maybe even stupid to think that had ever been the case in the first place. After all, Sam was damaged goods at best, and it wasn't like Gabriel was stuck for options anymore.

Unnerved, confidence vanished, he looked away. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess we are..."

"Just checking." He nodded unhurriedly, allowing awkward silence to descend tense and heavy between them, before adding like an afterthought, "So... why exactly aren't we making out yet?"

For a few seconds Sam didn't react, not entirely sure he'd heard that correctly. When he did at last turn to look back at the archangel, it was to see the slow slide of a smirk and golden eyes alight with mischief. All the breath left him in a rush. "You're such a dick...!"

Gabriel practically preened. "You like it."

And yeah. He did, kinda.

Fuelled by exhilaration and still-lingering annoyance (something that had become an almost permanent state of being around Gabriel) he moved forward and didn't let himself hesitate when he got close enough to fist a hand in the archangel's shirt and haul him into a kiss. Gabriel came easily enough, not even a twinge of resistance. In fact, he laughed delightedly right into Sam's mouth, which was probably just about fitting for the first time they did this, and had to stand on tiptoes while the human stooped to reach him properly.

"You're too short," Sam complained, grinning like it was an endearment.

He should have known better, really.

Before he'd even finished speaking, the archangel planted hands on his shoulders and fucking jumped. Sam caught him on nothing but instinct, staggering a little as he unexpectedly found himself with an armful of archangel. There were legs wrapped around his hips and one sneaker digging into the back of his thigh, and it had never been more apparent that he was in over his head here.

"What?" Gabriel said, all innocence. "I am perfectly willing to climb you like a tree if I have to."

Sam blinked, stunned momentarily wordless by that particular phrasing. At last he managed to rasp a weak, "...Good to know," and then they were kissing again.

It was almost a shock to find the archangel still loose-limbed and heavy, seemingly unchanged by the restoration of his Grace. Sam revelled in it, turning them towards the nearest wall without any pretence of coordination, shoving Gabriel up against it to better hold him in place. Generally, this wasn't at all the type of behaviour he considered appropriate for a first kiss – but god, what about Gabriel was ever appropriate? Sam figured he'd have to come to terms with that sooner or later, and there was really no time like the present...

Too late he heard the floorboard creak out in the hall, his brother's short-tempered yell, "Sammy, get your ass back downstairs, food's getting cold!"

Before he had time to so much as claw back higher brain function (never mind do anything about their position) the door opened and Dean poked his head inside with his usual disregard for privacy.

"You hear m– Fuck, fuck, my eyes! Oh my god, what the hell, Sam? Put him down!"

Downstairs, at various points around the kitchen, Crowley, Castiel and Bobby all raised their eyes to the ceiling as a succession of dull thuds and the muffled sound of Dean's screaming filtered down through the house.

"...Great," Bobby drawled after a prolonged moment or two, turning to scowl at the angel like he was personally at fault. "Sounds like the other idjit's back."

"Oh good, he owes me money," Crowley commented mildly.

Castiel just smiled, relieved.

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