“Wait, but why the hell does it have to be me and Cas?” Dean asked, his voice gruff as he protested their plan for the hundredth time.
Sam pressed his lips together tightly. He breathed in deeply through his nose and exhaled in a huff. “We've been over this, Dean. They’re looking for gay couples this season--and," he interjected before Dean could cut in, “I don’t fit their demographic.”
He didn't say it out loud, but it just made more sense for it to be Dean and Cas. Sam and Cas were close friends but he just wasn't as close to him as his brother was. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as easy to convince people that they were in a relationship as much as it was to sell that Dean and Cas were a thing. He also didn't mention that even if the show wasn't focusing on gay couples, it wasn't like they knew any girls that'd be able to fill in for something like that.
It probably would've ended up being Dean and Cas anyways.
Dean just didn't like the way those words rubbed off on him. Demographic. His more paranoid side thought it sounded too much like Sam was hinting at something else--like it was obvious it made more sense for Dean to be seen with, not just Cas, but a dude in general. So he did what he always did and scoffed it off. “Whatever, bitch. Just cause I’m prettier than you, I gotta get all cuddly with the angel on national television.”
He knew the other logical excuse was that Sam was too much of a damn sasquatch to be on TV. After they caught wind of the hunt they'd researched the screening process and they found that it'd be a bitch to get someone of Sam's height to fit a frame with the rest of the contestants so the producers probably wouldn't even consider him before moving on to the next couple.
“Don’t be such a jerk.” The younger Winchester rolled his eyes as he flipped through their case file. “Now stow your macho-man bullshit so we can get to work.”
Dean grimaced, resisting the urge to stick his tongue out at him. “Alright, so what’s the pattern again?”
It had taken a while to catch onto this case. Something was killing couples that had recently participated in a reality game show about fiancés. It was one of those shows that tested the ‘depth of your love.’ Dean thought the whole thing seemed like The Newlywed Game mashed up with a watered down version of The Hunger Games--minus the whole killing each other. (Well until now, that is.)
He didn't really get why anyone would be willing to publicly subject their relationships to that shit but he guessed the grand prize was enough of an incentive for some people.
The winning couple got their dream wedding plus an extended honeymoon paid in full by the show.
The reason it took a while to notice was ‘cause not all of the couples were getting ganked, and the ones that were had already lost the game and been sent home--after that, no one gave a shit about what happened to em anymore.
“There’s not much of a pattern. Two of the couples just vanished, two of em were listed as murder-suicides, the cops marked one of em down as a double homicide, and the rest were put down as accidents.” Sam sighed. He shuffled a few of the papers around. “There are twelve couples per season and there've been three seasons so far. Out of those thirty-six couples, nine of them are dead. That’s eighteen deaths, counting the ones that vanished.”
Castiel had been across the room, sitting on the edge of one of the beds and glowering at the wall where they’d set up most of the info they’d gathered for the hunt. He tilted his head, choosing to comment then. “I don’t understand. If one-fourth of the contestants have been presumed dead, why has there not been much of an effort to stop it?”
Dean snorted. “The show’s way too popular. They’re real good at covering up bad press. Plus, no one really bats an eye once your fifteen minutes are up.” He looked over at the former angel. “You sure we’re not dealing with a rogue cupid here?”
Castiel rolled his eyes, turning his head as he did to focus on anything but Dean.
He hadn't expressed it out loud but they all knew he was personally offended that Dean had put up such a fuss over pretending to be his lover--something he wasn't over yet, if his tone was anything to go by.
“That’s ridiculous, it goes against their very nature. Even if it was, Cherubs are at such a low rank in the order that they would have barely, if any, ‘juice’ left after the fall. Nowhere near enough to pull off anything like this.”
Sam let out a low whistle and just barely lowered his voice as he commented, “Looks like you pissed off your better half, Dean.”
“Shut the fuck up, Sammy.” Dean glared at him.
Sam just shrugged. “Alright well pretty much all of the couples affected either died or were last seen at night, and the ones that weren't were late enough in the evening that it’s a safe enough guess that whatever this thing is, it’s nocturnal.”
Dean nodded. “What about the one’s that weren't--y’know.” He mimed slicing his own throat.
“Alive, married, and happy--freakishly happy, actually.”
“And that doesn't seem a little off to you?” Dean frowned. “You think we’re dealing with some kind of trade off? Like that witch, what’s his name, the poker player,” He thought it through for half a second before snapping his fingers. “Patrick. Like you play your cards right you got yourself a happy marriage and if you don’t you end up roadkill?”
Sam shook his head. “The couples I interviewed were clean--I checked. None of em said anything seemed out of the ordinary either. Except, get this--all of them said they had this weird feeling, like they were being watched, but only at night. They all chalked it up to the hidden cameras the show’s known to keep. The only ones that didn't notice anything like that were the winners.”
Dean’s brow furrowed at that, his mind on the case but Castiel zoomed in on an entirely different point Sam had brought up. He side-eyed the younger Winchester. “Are you saying they will be observing us even when we are not aware?”
Sam winced in sympathy. “Uh, yeah. That’s the other thing. You guys are gonna have to be undercover practically 24/7.”
Dean’s head shot up, mouth flopping open as he looked from Cas to Sam and back to Cas. That meant he didn't just have to pretend to be with Cas, they were basically gonna be dating, like almost forreal dating if they wanted to have any chance at selling this long enough to gank whatever was killing all these couples.
Castiel looked resigned. He gave a slow nod in understanding. “I see. And when is our ‘audition’ scheduled to be?”
“In a couple of days.” Sam hesitated for a second before pulling out another folder from his satchel. “I already started working out most of the paperwork if you wanna take a look.”
Dean worked on clearing his throat before holding out a hand for the folder. He took a peak. “Dean Smith and Castiel Novak?"
His brother shrugged. "Can't use the usual aliases and I didn't wanna change your first names so it'd be less complicated for you guys." He stood up and ran a hand threw his hair. "I'm gonna go get us some lunch." With a halfhearted wave, Sam fled the motel room.
Castiel finally turned to look at Dean head-on. He had a grimly determined expression on his face. "We should begin preparing if we have any hope of catching this creature."
The hunter gulped and nodded. He kicked out the chair across from where he was seated, the one Sam had vacated to indicate Cas should sit with him at the motel room’s little round table.
When he did, Dean slid the folder towards him. He took a minuscule sip from the two fingers of hunter’s helper he’d been ignoring before opening his mouth. “Look, Cas… I-it’s not about you, alright? I wasn't upset about you.” He knew it probably didn't look like much, but this was him pleading.
Castiel nodded, his somewhat petty ire dimming.
He had experience seeing past Dean’s coarseness, and even if at times he didn't quite understand what he found, he still trusted him and allowed the moment to pass. “Well, Sam has researched the show extensively and compiled a set of believable biographies that would present us sympathetically towards the ‘casting directors.”
He handed Dean a copy of their fake couple resume.
Dean’s eye scanned the sheet and snorted. Happily Ever After, the show’s name, was scrawled across the top.
“Yeah, sympathetic is damn right. Have you read this shit?” He made a face as he skimmed the questionnaire. “We live in Iowa. I’m a mechanic, you’re in between jobs, and we’re doing this because we can’t afford a nice wedding.”
He glanced over at Cas to see his arms crossed and his head bowed. “Hey--what’s wrong?”
The former angel looked up, his adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed (which reminded Dean of the time he took him to that brothel.) “I-I don’t think I would be a very believable lover, Dean.”
His marriage with Daphne as Emmanuel was a farce, April was the only person he’d ever had sex with and she’d killed him the morning after, and the one time he tried to go out on a date with his former coworker Nora, he’d found himself completely misinterpreting the signals and ended up babysitting while Nora herself went out with a more suitable companion.
And those were his experiences in heterosexual relationships, which were the only kind he’d truly observed before, because of course those were the only kind Sam and Dean found themselves in.
Since becoming human, Castiel had noticed that he did find himself objectively attracted to certain men but that didn't mean he understood any of the social nuances that came with a homosexual relationship. He was sure that he would end up jeopardizing their hunt.
“Hey, Cas, buddy, don’t say that.” Dean leaned forward, his brow furrowed as he regarded Castiel with confusion etched across his features.
He seemed to hesitate a moment, uncertain, before sliding his arm across the table and taking Cas’s hand in his. “Look, you don’t gotta worry. We’re not gonna change much about the way we act together, alright? There’s just gonna be more stuff like this,” he rubbed his thumb gently, back and forth across Cas’s wrist in emphasis, “that’s not too bad, right? We’re just gonna be a little closer, physically I mean--”
Dean decidedly ignored the hot flash spreading across his cheeks that meant he was blushing and pushed on quickly. “--and maybe a couple of schmoopy pet-names. Got it, babe?” He said the last part too gruffly to be an actual term of affection which made him think that he'd have to practice a little more if he really wanted to sell this.
A touch of the weight Castiel had been feeling in his chest eased at Dean’s persuasion and he decided it truly wasn't terrible, holding his hand. He was limited when it came to touch and he couldn't help comparing how much rougher the skin on Dean's hands were compared April’s, but it was also warmer, more reassuring than the memory of her touch.
Cas still didn't look one hundred percent convinced but it was enough for Dean.
“Good.” He eased into a small smile and gave Cas’s hand an experimental squeeze. “Plus, a catch like you? Man, everyone’ll think I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” His smile grew into a lopsided grin as he winked at his angel.
Castiel gave him a dry look in response.
He pointedly rolled his eyes before looking down at his copy of their false backstory. He cleared his throat awkwardly. “Yes, well, Sam tried to incorporate as much truth as he could in spinning our history as a couple. We've known each other for six years, but only entered a romantic relationship a little over a year ago. I am estranged with my family and the only family you have left is a younger brother who convinced you and I to go on the show. We've both been listed as bisexual,” His blue eyes flick towards Dean for a second. “So that we do not need to disguise our attraction to women.”
Dean was proud of himself for not reacting to the word bisexual. He ended up scooting his chair closer to Cas so they sat side-by-side rather than face-to-face, their hands intertwined between them.
That’s how Sam found them when he came back with lunch a little while later, Dean absentmindedly rubbing circles into Castiel’s skin and Cas comfortably leaning into Dean’s space every now and then as they poured over everything they needed to know to get this done successfully.
If he noticed a slightly more intimate shift in their dynamic, then he chose not to comment on it.