“I swear to God, Cas, If I have to make nice with one more rich old white guy, I’m gonna puke.” Gabe tips his head back and swallows the last of the scotch in his glass.
Cas looks around at the room. Bloated businessmen and their jewel-bedecked wives stand in knots all around the ballroom. A string quartet in tuxedos plays something tasteful yet bland in the corner. There are orchids in the centrepieces on the snowy white tablecloths of the all the tables in the marble-floored room. Naomi Novak, CEO of Novak Pharmaceuticals, and now in the race for mayor, has spared no expense for this fundraiser. Gabe sighs as the woman herself catches sight of them and starts across the ballroom, smiling dangerously.
“Incoming,” Gabe says under his breath, putting his glass on the table. Cas straightens up, unconsciously putting himself in front of his brother.
“Mother,” he says in an effort to forestall her, “what a lovely party. You look beautiful.” Naomi leans forward so Cas can dutifully kiss her cheek.
“Castiel. Gabriel.” Naomi’s voice is cool as she takes in the empty glasses on the table and the fact that Gabe’s bowtie is definitely askew. “The reception isn’t over yet. I don't want you two sequestering yourselves in a corner. Get out there and mingle. I want them to see me as somebody who values family, so it's important for my sons to talk to people.”
“Of course, Mother,” Cas says.
“We’ll get right on that.” Gabe says, insincerity shining through the words. Naomi, message delivered, sighs and pats Cas on the cheek, throws a look at Gabe, then moves back towards the crowd, a force of nature in a black silk gown.
“Yeaaah, I’m out,” Gabe says, and stands up. He’s not exactly swaying, but it seems to be taking a noticeable amount of concentration for him to push out of the gravitational pull of the table and head towards the door. Cas rolls his eyes and follows his brother, casting a wary eye over to where Naomi stands deep in conversation with a group of suits. Gabe detours a few steps to pluck a glass of champagne off the tray of a passing waiter. There’s going to be hell to pay when Naomi figures out they’ve ditched, but Cas can’t help feeling like he’s broken out of Alcatraz when he and Gabe cross the lobby of the hotel and spill out onto the sidewalk grinning at each other.
It’s been this way since they were kids: Gabe rebelling, getting into trouble as he pushed back against their strict parents and scheduled existence. Cas following along trying to smooth things over and mitigate the fallout from his big brother’s antics. So a familiar sense of resignation tempers his joy at leaving the stultifying atmosphere of the fundraiser as Cas follows Gabe out into the late San Francisco evening.
Cas shivers a bit at the cold. The fog’s come in and the overcast sky means there’s not even a moon. Gabe leads them up Geary Street and Cas wonders where he’s going, the garage where they parked is under the hotel they’ve just left. Gabe notices he still has the champagne glass in his hand, and he stops to deposit it in a concrete planter of petunias on the sidewalk.
“Gabe,” Cas starts, but his brother doesn’t wait to hear it, he just starts walking along the sidewalk again, motioning Cas to keep up. At least he’s walking in a straight line, Cas thinks, and that’s when things go from bad to worse and the rain starts. Within seconds, it’s coming down hard and Cas goes to grab Gabe’s sleeve to lead him back to the hotel.
“I need another drink,” Gabe says.
“No. You don’t,” Cas answers.
Gabe grabs Cas’s wrist and drags him across the sidewalk and through the nearest doorway. Cas stops and shakes the water out of his hair. They’re in the lobby of another hotel, a small fire is burning in a fireplace against the back wall, and Cas heads towards it, intending to warm up, not realizing that Gabe is no longer behind him until he looks around and sees his brother disappearing through an open set of French doors. A brass easel beside them holds a placard with ‘Winchester-Moore Wedding’ printed on it in flowing gold script. Great. Gabe the wedding crasher.
By the time Cas gets across the lobby, held up briefly by a lady with two miniature schnauzers and a giant rolling suitcase cutting across his path, Gabe is nowhere to be seen. Cas sighs and heads into the room. No one takes any notice of him, his suit makes him blend right in with the wedding guests. He stands at the door, looking around.
If he knows his weddings (and he does, he’s been to enough of his cousins’ nuptials) this one is in the post-dinner, dancing stage. The bride is on the dance floor with her bridesmaids, shaking it to a Rihanna song. People are lingering at the tables with coffee cups and wine glasses in front of them. And there’s Gabe, at the bar, quelle surprise, a glass of whisky already in hand, talking to perhaps the most attractive man Cas has ever seen.
If this were a movie, this is the moment when the music would start up, Cas thinks. A stray sunbeam or well-placed spotlight would illuminate this Greek god as the camera zoomed in on broad shoulders; light brown hair, thick and plush and barely tamed; beautiful eyes scrunched up as he laughs at something Gabe is saying; a killer jawline, and a mouth. A mouth with lips. Cas realizes his descriptive powers are faltering here. He settles on deciding that it’s the sexiest mouth he’s ever seen making the sexiest laugh he’s ever heard. Ever. And he’s in a perfectly tailored black tux, white rose in his lapel. Cas feels shaken to his very core. He’s always mocked the idea of love at first sight as a device in bad romance novels, and yet Cas finds himself standing there for a full minute, dumbstruck, before finally remembering how to use his legs and cross the room to where Gabe is talking to this vision.
Gabe looks up as he approaches. “Ah, there you are,” Gabe beams at him in single-malt bonhomie and pulls him close in a side hug before handing him a glass of red wine that’s sitting on the bar. “I was just congratulating Dean here. The wedding was beautiful, and the reception….Man, so perfect.”
Cas takes the glass without saying anything. First, he’s in the orbit of this amazing golden man, which has rendered him pretty much speechless; and second, Cas is almost certain that if he says anything, the whole edifice of Gabe’s fiction of them being wedding guests is going to shred like tissue paper left out in the rain that’s still pelting down outside the window. Lying is not Cas’s forté.
The Greek god, Dean, is looking at him now, an easy smile on his face. Gabe gestures with an eyebrow in Cas’s peripheral vision. Okay, it’s clearly Cas’s turn to say something. Cas’s mouth dries right up, and he takes a hasty gulp of his wine before saying, “Yes, it’s been great.” Cool. Not a really a lie. By the level of laughter in the reception hall, it’s been great. So far, so good.
“I hope the drive down wasn’t too bad, Lucas. Bay area traffic is really crazy if you’re not used to it. Jessica said that you two had decided to drive instead of fly.” Dean grins at Cas, and it makes him even more appealing. “I can get behind that. I don’t like to fly either.” Turns out those eyes are green. Green like spring fields, like tropical lagoons, like forests and shamrocks and the creepy female M&M, and they seem to be gazing back at Cas just as intently...and what now? Why does Dean think they’re from out of town? Who’s Lucas? And who’s Jessica? Belatedly, Cas’s brain starts working again. Blessedly, before he has to formulate a reply, there’s a cry from the dance floor.
“Dean, get over here! It’s our song!”
“Coming, Mrs. Winchester,” he hollers back. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m needed on the dance floor.” He smiles at Cas and heads across the room.
Cas watches him go sadly. Of course. Just Cas’s luck. He’s crushing on the groom. Tux, rose in lapel, Gabe congratulating him, Cas should have figured this out sooner. Cas watches as he sweeps the diminutive blonde bride into his arms to the opening keyboard chords of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. They look good together, Cas thinks. Dean twirls her away from him, keeping hold of one of her hands as she pauses dramatically, arms outstretched, and then reels her back into his arms. She throws her head back and laughs. It’s too much. Cas turns back to the bar and downs the rest of the wine in his glass.
“Why so glum?” Gabe asks him, motioning to the bartender for another drink.
There’s no way Cas is going to admit he’s sad that Dean’s married, he’s only just set eyes on him. Cas turns on Gabe and hisses, “We. Are. Crashing. A. Wedding. We don’t belong here. We don’t know the groom or the bride. And Mother is going to be furious when she notices that we aren’t at the fundraiser.” He breaks off as the bartender slides another glass each of wine and scotch across to them. “Who’s Jessica? And who does Dean think we are?”
Gabe smiles like he’s about to tell the best joke he’s heard in weeks. “Oh this is good. Jessica is the bride. Dean is under the impression that we,” Gabe waves a finger back and forth between them, “are Jessica’s cousin, who, coincidentally is also called Gabe, and his husband Lucas. From Portland. They own a bakery.”
“Dean thinks we’re married?” Cas is incredulous.
“I know! Isn’t it hilarious?” Gabe is practically giggling. “He came right up to me and asked if I was Gabe. So of course I said yes. I figured the rest out from context. This sure as shit is more fun than that mortuary of a party watching good ol’ Mom try to separate the monied classes from their, well, money. And,” he leans forward conspiratorially, “the booze is better here.”
“Gabe, we can’t stay.”
“Sure we can.”
“Sooner or later people are going to realize that we are not Gabe and Lucas. And getting thrown out of here would really be the cherry on top of a pretty shitty day.”
“Relax, bro. At least let me finish this drink and then we’ll see about leaving.” Cas realizes this is about the best he’s going to get from Gabe when he’s in this mood. Cas leans back against the bar and lets his eyes follow Dean again. The song’s over and he’s on the other side of the room talking to an older couple, the man with a greying beard and in a wheelchair, the woman with long brown hair. Next to them is a blonde girl who listens to what Dean’s saying and then looks shocked and slaps him on the arm, but then bursts out laughing. Dean grins at her and moves off. A redhead calls him over, hugging him tightly as he drops a kiss on the top of her head. Dean is well-loved by his family and friends, it seems. As if Cas conjures it, Dean looks over and catches Cas’s eye from where he’s standing. He smiles at Cas for a long moment, and then drags his attention back to the red-haired girl.
Cas drinks his wine and broods. Jessica is dancing again, this time with a really tall man with longish brown hair. He’s also in a black tux with a rose in the lapel. Must be a groomsman, Cas thinks. He turns to Gabe. “I have to go to the restroom. Stay here. Don’t move until I get back.” Gabe raises his glass in assent.
Cas leaves the hall and crosses the lobby to a corridor where he saw the signs for the restrooms. A few minutes later, he’s heading back towards the lobby when a giggle from the coat room attracts his attention. A feminine giggle. And then a few muffled noises of the illicit romantic variety. Cas doesn’t know why his imagination immediately jumps to Gabe, but it does, because much like their mother, Gabe is also a force of nature. A chaotic, uncontained force. And the chances that Gabe's still at the bar waiting for Cas’s return? Slim to none. This is the last thing he needs: Gabe necking with a bridesmaid when he’s trying to get them both out of here.
Cas steps forward quietly and peeks in, wanting the element of surprise if he needs it. But he’s the one who’s surprised. A snippet of song insinuates itself into his brain.
"What a beautiful wedding!
What a beautiful wedding," says a bridesmaid to the waiter,
“And, yes, but what a shame,
what a shame the poor groom's bride is a whore."
It’s not Gabe and a random woman in the coatroom. It’s Jessica. And the long-haired groomsman. Making out passionately.
Cas backs up in a hurry and stands indecisively in the corridor. Oh God. How could Jessica do that? On her wedding day? To Dean? What can he do about it? What should he do about it? As much as this bothers him, and to be honest it bothers him a lot more than it should at such short acquaintance with Dean, there isn’t much he can do. Time to get Gabe and get out of here before someone else finds out about the bride or discovers that he and his brother don’t belong here.
Cas practically sprints back into the hall. Gabe’s not standing at the bar. Of course he isn’t. Cas looks around to find that Gabe’s on the dance floor with the blonde girl who’d slapped Dean’s arm earlier. Great. What is he going to do now?
“Hey, Lucas?” Cas turns around and it’s his combo worst nightmare/dream man standing there.
“I hate to do this to you, but I could really use your help.” Dean grimaces. “I know you’re here as a guest to celebrate with Jess, but we have a situation. In the kitchen.”
“A situation,” Cas repeats helpfully, “in the kitchen.” His heart is not speeding up because Dean is standing so close. It’s not. It’s probably coincidence, or a heart attack. When was the last time he saw a doctor? Cas shakes his head and concentrates on Dean again.
“Yeah. There’s supposed to be a surprise dessert at midnight for everyone. Profiteroles, Jess’s favorite. The chef baked them earlier, but he just left for the ER. It looks like appendicitis. Gabe’s kinda blitzed but I figured that you’d be an old hand at filling them and making the chocolate sauce.” Dean gives him puppy dog eyes and Cas is lost. He doesn’t have a clear idea what profiteroles even are, but how can he not help? Telling Dean that he’s not Lucas the baker is not an option. It’s far too embarrassing, and besides, Cas wants everything to go perfectly for Dean.
On the other hand. Jessica is cheating. She doesn’t deserve the special midnight profiteroles. No one who cheats on someone as obviously special as Dean, on his wedding day no less, deserves special surprise dessert.
All of this is running through Cas’s mind while Dean gazes hopefully at him with his field/lagoon/forest/shamrock/lady M&M eyes. It’s no contest. Cas is in. Anything to keep Dean smiling. Even if it is lunacy. He’s a high school teacher, not a baker. There is no way this ends well.
“Uh okay. No problem, let me see what the chef got done before he got sick.” Gabe waves at him from the dance floor as he and Dean walk into the kitchen.
“I can take it from here,“ Cas says, not wanting Dean to see exactly how not at home he is in a kitchen. “Go. You should get back to your guests, and Jessica.” Dean looks confused for a moment, then smiles at Cas.
“Hey, thanks. You’re the best.” Dean’s smile is worth it.
After Dean leaves, Cas looks around the kitchen. He pulls out his phone and finds a Gordon Ramsay YouTube video on profiteroles and watches it twice. Huh. Profiteroles are another word for cream puffs. Who knew?
Turns out the profiteroles are already baked and in airtight tins. There are hundreds of them. Pastries, not tins. He checks the refrigerator and hallelujah there are containers in the fridge marked ‘profiterole cream.’ He replays the video. Okay, he needs to put the cream in a piping bag and then fill the cream puffs. How hard can it be? He can totally do this.
Cas washes his hands and fills the piping bag from the first container of cream. He’s got the tins of cream puffs on one side of him and clean platters on the other. He takes the first cream puff and inserts the end of the piping bag inside it, like Gordon did, and squeezes. Way too hard. The whipped cream shoots back out of the overfilled pastry like the money shot in a porno. Cas makes a mental note to wipe that off the floor later. The second one gets ruined too. And the third. It takes him a while to get the hang of it.
Pumping cream into pastry after pastry he finds he can’t get his mind out of the gutter. And who’s he imagining down in the mental gutter with him? Three guesses and the first two non-green-eyed ones don’t count.
He finishes filling the last cream puffs, and licks some stray cream from the back of his hand. It tastes good. And that feels good. What would it feel like if it was Dean’s tongue licking whipped cream off his skin? He idly squeezes some of the cream out of the piping bag onto his finger and considers it for a moment, and then squeezes out more. He puts his whole finger in his mouth and then sucks the cream off it as he pulls his finger back out through his lips, eyes closed in enjoyment, a small groan escaping him.
A choked noise from the doorway has his eyes flying open. Dean is standing there. Of course he is. He’s trying to hold back a smile. Cas is mortified. Despite his immediate and heartfelt prayers, the floor doesn’t open up and swallow him.
“I uh, just came in to check in and see how it’s going, but I can leave if you want…you know, more alone time with the whipped cream.” The smile bursts out and Dean is so goddamn beautiful that Cas almost forgets his humiliation.
Cas says the first thing that pops into his head. “Uh, I still have to heat up the chocolate sauce.”
“No worries,’ Dean says, obviously trying to bring the smile back under control, “Take your time. Jess still has to toss the bouquet and we gotta do the garter thing.” The smile escapes again. “I’ll, um, leave you alone to…” he pauses for a significant second, “finish up.” And with a last flash of teeth he heads out to the hall.
Cas leans against the wall and then slowly thumps the back of his head against it a few times. Can this night get any worse? He’ll heat up the chocolate sauce and then that’s it. He’s grabbing Gabe — in a headlock if necessary — and leaving before anything else happens.
Once the sauce is heating gently in a large double boiler (thanks Gordon) Cas stands just outside the kitchen door drying his hands on a dish towel, watching as Jessica stands there laughing, her back to the dance floor full of women, the bouquet in her hand. The DJ counts down from three, and she tosses it high over her head and it drops into the hands of the blonde girl Gabe had been dancing with. Jessica looks radiant. Cas cannot understand how she can look so happy, knowing the depth of her betrayal.
The women all return to their tables and someone brings a chair out onto the dance floor and Jessica sits down like a queen surveying her court. The DJ calls for all unmarried men to go out on the dance floor because the groom is going to throw the garter, and then Joe Cocker is singing You Can Leave Your Hat On. Jess laughs and shimmies a bit on the chair. Dean and the groomsmen go out on the floor, followed by a dozen or so male guests, Gabe among them. The rest of the crowd is goodnaturedly catcalling them.
And then the floor seems to fall out from under Cas, because it’s not Dean who’s advancing towards the bride and then sliding across the floor on his knees to end up at her feet. It’s not Dean who’s making her howl in helpless laughter as he grabs the hem of her voluminous wedding gown and throws it over his head. It’s not Dean whose head appears again a few seconds later, after some theatrical flailing, dragging the lacy garter down past her ankle with his teeth. It’s not Dean who stands up triumphantly brandishing the scrap of lace and ribbon while Jessica giggles and smooths down her skirts. It’s the floppy-haired groomsman she was making out with in the coat room. It’s not Dean. Dean is not the groom.
Oh my God. He spends a quick second mentally apologising to Jessica for thinking the worst of her. Now he’s glad he stepped in to help with dessert. If he were planning on sticking around, he would find the nicest looking profiteroles and plate them just for her. The groom hooks the garter over his thumb and pulls it back with his other hand to shoot it into the crowd of bachelors. Dean puts his hand up and catches it in midair.
“And the best man catches the garter!” the DJ announces “Let’s have a round of applause for Sam’s brother.”
Best man. And unmarried, since he caught the garter. Cas feels a strange elation. He shuts it down fast. He’s still here under false pretenses, Dean still thinks he’s married to Gabe. The best thing he can do for everyone involved is to stick to his plan of grabbing Gabe and disappearing before this farce can get any more complicated. He regrets that he won’t be able to say goodbye to Dean, but the dessert is ready to be served and it’s better this way.
A merciful god sends Gabe past the kitchen door at that point and Cas grabs his arm and drags him inside, closing the door behind him.
“We’re leaving. Now,” he says, his voice brooking no argument.
“Okay. But I didn’t get Jo’s number,” Gabe grumbles, swaying slightly.
“Too bad.” Cas takes one last look around the kitchen. The filled profiteroles are piled neatly on the serving platters, small pitchers are set out on the counter to receive the chocolate sauce that’s warming on the stove. It’ll have to be enough. He needs to get out of here.
Dragging Gabe with him, Cas opens the door to the hall. Dean is standing there, leaning against the wall, arms crossed in front of him. Cas can’t read his expression.
“Oh hey there.”
“Dean,” Cas starts, but the best man doesn’t let him get any further.
“I just had a pretty interesting conversation with Jess.” Cas’s heart falls. “Yeah, I thought it was odd that Gabe here was in the crowd to try to catch the garter seeing as how he is married to Lucas.” Cas notes in dismay that Dean said ‘Lucas’ and not ‘you.’ “So I asked Jess to point out her cousin Gabe and his husband to me. Imagine my surprise when they were not you two.”
“Dean, I can explain.” But he can’t. Not really. How can he tell this man that he only came in to drag Gabe out, but after seeing Dean, his heart made him do stupider and stupider things? He’s saved by Gabe.
“Dude, I’m sorry. It was my fault. I crashed the reception because I wanted another drink, and when you called me by name, I couldn’t resist pretending to be Jessica’s Gabe. Cassie was trying to get me to leave, but I put him on the spot and he had to play along. And I was having fun. I didn’t want to leave. You throw a hell of a party.” Gabe may be apologising, but he doesn’t have the grace to look ashamed. “I’ll wait out in the lobby.” He sketches a salute with two fingers and then slides past them and heads out of the hall. Dean turns back to Cas.
“It’s Cas. Castiel Novak. And that was my brother Gabe, it’s really his name.”
“Brother?” There’s an odd look on Dean’s face. “Not husband?”
“Oh God no. He’s my older brother.” Dean smiles at the distaste in Cas’s voice, and then seems to remember this isn’t a smiling situation. Cas hurriedly adds, “If it’s any consolation, I thought you were the groom.”
“The groom?” There are comic levels of incomprehension on Dean’s face. “What would make you think that?”
“I don’t know, maybe the tux, the rose, Gabe congratulating you at the bar.” Cas’s voice is indignant. He can’t help it. He turns and says accusingly “You and Jessica have a song!”
“Jess was my friend first, before she started dating Sam. We used to watch Dr. Sexy together at her place, with her sister.” Cas’s eyebrows rise at that. “Guilty pleasure,” Dean says defensively. “That song played after Johnny Drake died, and it’s so dramatic and Jess cried so hard that I teased her about it forever, so it became our song.”
Dean stops and gazes into Cas’s eyes, his face curious, “Why did you help out with dessert instead of 'fessing up, or just leaving? That would have been easier.”
Cas looks down. “Embarrassment, mostly. I didn’t want to get found out.” He looks back up into Dean’s eyes, “and I wanted everything to go well for you on your wedding day.”
“Why?” Dean asks, looking like he really wants the answer.
“I, uh, like you.” It’s a simple statement, devastating in its directness. Cas cannot believe it just came out of his mouth. The floor still doesn’t open up and swallow him. Fucking floor.
A small storm of noise breaks out around the room, people clinking their spoons on their glasses. At the head table, Sam grabs Jessica, dips her, and kisses her soundly. Dean and Cas both watch for a moment from their spot by the kitchen.
A slow smile breaks over Dean’s face as he turns back to Cas. “Well, I guess I just have one last question about this whole mess.”
Cas’s heart pounds as he waits for Dean’s next words.
“Are you exclusive with those cream puffs in the kitchen? Or could I take you out sometime?"