The first one was dragged in by the rain - tall, somewhat buff, clad in worn jeans and leather, cursing like a sailor and looking as dangerous as a drowned rat.
Feeling profoundly unimpressed, Benny watched him as he walked up to the counter with a swagger clearly ingrained by years of practice and sat down on a bar stool, wiping his forehead.
"Coffee," he rudely growled, rubbing his wet hair that stuck up in unruly spikes in the wake of his hand. He then let his green eyes sweep over the room to land on: "Pie. And pie."
The look in his eyes as well as the altered tone of his voice instantaneously made Benny understand that in spite of appearance this might just be exactly his kind of guy.
"Pecan?" the guy asked hopefully, confirming Benny's suspicion.
Benny didn't answer as he pushed away from the bar. However he made sure to pour the coffee right and to select a big slice.
"Awesome," the guy grinned when he put both down in front of him. Then, in an undertone: "Take that, Sammy. I do know how to enjoy the good things in life."
He'd gone from Tough Guy to Happy Kid in less than a minute. Benny was impressed. The guy didn't wait for a second more before tucking into his pie - and Benny couldn't help but smile at his immediate reaction.
He always enjoyed being a witness to love at first bite.
The second one came in a couple of months after Dean (whose name Benny knew by then because he was acquainted with all his regulars, especially the ones that knew how to appreciate the true worth of homemade pie). Suddenly the guy was standing there, right in the middle of the shop, like one would when lost in the middle of an airport. He even had the looks of a strayed traveler: messy black hair on his head, stubble on his jaw, rumpled trench-coat and suit on his shoulders, the whole package accompanied by a disoriented look in his wide blue eyes.
Elizabeth had to raise her voice in order to catch his attention. He squinted at the menu for several minutes and when he finally made his choice, he kept staring at the written words while pronouncing them carefully, like he had no idea what he was ordering.
(He probably didn't, given the drink he'd just asked for was the most disgustingly sweet blend of coffee, cream, sugar, honey and cinnamon Benny had ever had to make. He kept meaning to take it off the menu, but each and every time his sister found a way to thwart his plan.)
Benny was a professional though, and wordlessly gave him what he asked for. He did not expect the guy to drink the whole cup instead of spitting out the first mouthful - but he did. And he did not expect him to ever come back after such a traumatizing experience - but he did too, wearing far too many layers that were so badly color-coordinated Benny felt his eyes burn.
By the fourth time he came, each time with a different order, Benny had understood he'd for some reason decided to test every single item offered on the menu - an enterprise that would take him some time, especially since they had a weekly and a daily special. In short, Benny had found himself a new regular.
His name, as he made a point of finding out, was as weird as the man himself: Castiel.
And then, of course, Something happened.
More precisely, it happened that one day the coffee shop was extremely crowded when Castiel came in (the Lafitte business was doing very well for itself, thank you very much). So crowded, in fact, that by the time Castiel had a drink in hand, there wasn't a single table free for him to sit, leaving him forlornly hovering near the counter, not knowing what to do.
Benny took it upon himself to help him out and pointed him towards the table where Dean was seated with a cup of coffee, a slice of cherry pie and a book Benny was pretty sure was the Iliad.
"He doesn't bite," he said encouragingly when Castiel hesitated. "And you can tell him it was my idea."
He expected Dean to not be very happy about being interrupted and having to share his territory (ever since he'd first come in he'd always sat at the same table, on the same chair, which were progressively becoming 'Dean's table and chair' instead of 'table n°8'). But Benny was all for his regulars knowing each other and interacting like the members of a large, if distant, family. Therefore he was ready to give these two a little push towards acknowledging each other's existence and to meet Dean's death glare with an appeasing one. He waited for it as he poured coffee, waited for it as he made sandwiches for the last members of the lunch crowd, waited for it as he rung the cash register. And waited for it some more.
It never came.
When he finally had a moment to look he saw that Castiel had followed his advice though, and was now happily sitting on the chair opposite Dean's, quietly sipping his drink of the day while indulging in his favorite activity, namely people watching. But it was Dean who caught Benny's attention. He'd apparently - unexpectedly - allowed Castiel to share his table without protest but he was far from relaxed. Much to the contrary, he looked so tense it had to be painful, resolutely frowning down at his book as if he was reading it in the original text - but not without glancing up every five seconds or so to sneak a look at his new neighbor.
No, really? Benny thought with a raise of eyebrows.
He hadn't pegged Dean for the type to swing both ways. After all, the man had outrageously flirted with Elizabeth the two first times he'd come, until Benny had made him understand that she was his sister and consequently off-limits. Dean had immediately backed off after that, careful not to displease the local pie holder. But these looks right here? They were definitely of the interested, slightly incredulous, I-cant-quite-help-it kind.
Benny had not anticipated that.
"You're an addict, you know that?" Elizabeth told him after two weeks of him watching with morbid curiosity the Epically Failed Courtship of Dean and Castiel as it unfolded in his shop, complete with an excessive amount of near misses (one of the guys entering the shop less than five minutes after the other had left), longing glances (or rather, stares) and painfully stilted attempts at conversation when they both decided to try and sit at the same table for some mysterious (read: miraculous) reason. "And if you need a fix, preferably outside of work hours, that's what television is for."
Benny snorted scornfully, because this? This was so much better than TV.
And then, of course, Something Else happened.
More precisely, it happened that one day Dean didn't come to the shop alone. Castiel was here too, standing by the counter while he waited for his drink to be ready, which meant that Benny was in the front row to see him instantly perk up, then grow confused and hesitant, then deflate.
The man accompanying Dean was tall, more or less dwarfing everyone around him, with brown hair flopping around his face and a broad smile on his lips as he looked around, clearly very excited about finally discovering Dean's haunt. Benny, who had talked with Dean with no ridiculously obvious crush getting in the way, instantly identified the giant as Sam, Dean's "little" brother. One look at Castiel though, and he knew that their pathetic attempts at communication hadn't been enough for them to cover that essential portion of Dean's life and character.
Benny took a second to wonder what they'd been stammering about, if not that. "Sam" was more or less the third word Dean pronounced every time he opened his mouth. That he and Castiel hadn't even reached this point was sad, really. Or tragic, even, because it meant that Castiel, for once doing like the vast majority of people instead of going his own quirky way, took one look at the ease, closeness and obvious affection between the two men and assumed that these were the outer signs of a relationship headed right towards happily ever after instead of the results of years lived side by side as siblings.
Benny concluded that Castiel - as well as the vast majority of people - was either an only child or had a crappy family. And would choose to hastily retreat into a corner of the shop instead of waiting for Benny to decide if he should intervene.
Castiel didn't show for nearly a week after that - much to Dean's very obvious distress (in Benny's opinion; Elizabeth told him he was delusional). When he reappeared, looking worse for wear, it was to order the atrocity he'd asked for on his first day several times in a row and hunker down in the darkest corner of the shop to drink it with lowered sad eyes and broodily hunched shoulders.
Benny spent an uncertain amount of time wondering if this new pattern was some sort of fucked-up attempt at resorting to comfort food or if Castiel was quite simply trying to commit suicide by hyperglycemia.
Since the table at which Castiel had chosen to express his angst was half-hidden from the entrance door by the bar and a potted plant (Elizabeth had Opinions about decorating), it took Dean several days to notice his renewed presence - and a couple more spent throwing frowning glances at the man's slumped shoulders for him to give in and ask Benny:
Because of course he was too much of a coward to go ask Castiel himself.
Fortunately for him Benny was rumored to have the patience of a saint, something he really felt deep inside when he answered:
"I don't know, Dean, but I'd say the poor guy just got his heart broken."
"What?" Dean exclaimed, all pretense of coolness forgotten. "By who?"
He could try to hide it with his anger, but Benny caught the spark of hurt in his eye at the mere idea that there might have been Someone Else for Castiel. Benny shrugged. "Seems kinda obvious."
Dean's furrowed brow retorted that no, it wasn't obvious, not to him, but when he spoke it was to firmly order two slices of apple pie. Bringing out the big guns, Benny could see. He snatched the plates as soon as Benny brought them then stomped his way to Castiel's table. Castiel, who'd been facing away from the bar and probably deep in depressing thoughts of lonely days and dead kittens, jumped slightly when the pie landed in front of him with a loud clang. Then he quite clearly stared as Dean settled resolutely in front of him, intent on having A Talk.
From what Benny could see in the following minutes, he wasn't very successful with it. He grew more agitated, gesturing with his fork - and it was becoming very frustrating that Castiel was facing away from the bar because Benny couldn't see the expression he was wearing in return or read his answers on his lips.
Slowly but very stealthily, under the cover of diligently wiping the whole bar surface, he approached their table and managed to come close enough to hear when Castiel asked:
"And how's your partner?"
Now that was an obvious attempt to change the topic, if Benny knew one. The worst being that it worked:
"Partner?" Dean replied, perplexed.
"I saw you come in with him the other day and..." Castiel's voice trailed off, then came back forced when he added: "You make a beautiful couple."
Benny didn't see Dean's immediate reaction, much to his dismay, because pain exploded in his left side, courtesy of Elizabeth's elbow. Apparently she'd been trying to get his attention for some time and when he bared his teeth at her she pointed to the register with a raised eyebrow. Benny, who knew when not to push it, obeyed the silent command - but not without throwing a glance over his shoulder. He saw Dean raising his head from the table against which he seemed to have banged it, talking low and fast with what looked like - yes, that was definitely a blush rising to his cheeks. Castiel for his part was suddenly sitting very straight on his chair. And as Benny watched he took a visible breath, raised a hand and cupped Dean's cheek, cutting Dean's tirade short.
Then he leant over the table and kissed him.
Benny crashed right into the register, and it wasn't even because his sister had tripped him.
He took care of the couple of customers impatiently waiting to be served as quickly as possible, but by the time he could finally check back on the table, both seats were conspicuously empty. Looking around the shop, he barely caught a glimpse of leather jacket and trench-coat disappearing through the front door.
On the table remained nothing but two plates of half-eaten pie.
Benny didn't see hide nor hair of Castiel or Dean in the following days.
He did see Dean's brother though, who came in several times to sit at a table for a whole morning or a whole afternoon with the look of someone having barely survived the Apocalypse and therefore being a standing candidate for the role of martyr.
Benny didn't mind: the guy knew his coffee, which was all he needed to recommend him.
When Dean and Castiel finally came back, they did so together. And ordered pie - one slice of each kind - in obvious celebration.
Castiel - or rather, as Dean called him, Cas - ordered his disgustingly sweet cream sugar honey cinnamon coffee mix, this time probably because he was too preoccupied by staring into Dean's eyes to notice what he was doing. Dean didn't even mock him for his choice - probably because he was right there with him with the staring. Benny decided to do them both a favor and changed Cas' order - if only to make sure he'd live a long life instead of dying of sugar shock before he could enjoy the good part of his love story. Anyway, it wasn't like the guy would notice.
"Stop cooing," Elizabeth said, elbowing him once more (sometimes Benny firmly believed his body had grown so buff as a defensive reaction to protect itself from such assaults). But then she winked at Dean as she handed him his change and said: "Here. And think of inviting us to the wedding."