“Dammit!” The kitchen door slams uncharacteristically loudly right after Cas’ curse, jerking Dean out of his half-doze on the sofa. He blinks awake, turns his head towards the kitchen.
Cas stomps around, throwing his jacket onto the banquette. He kicks his shoes off and throws them into the closet. They thunk into the back wall, then clatter to the floor. He throws his keys into the key bowl; they bounce out and fall to the floor. “Dammit,” he repeats, a little less dramatically. Dean watches as he bends over – his shirt sliding up just enough to reveal a sliver of skin at his back – and scoops the keys up, throwing them at the bowl again. This time they rattle around but stay put.
Okay then. Dean picks up his phone to check the time. 9:30 pm. Early for Cas to get back from his date; Friday night dates usually go to at least midnight, if not the next morning.
He turns off the TV — he wasn’t watching it anymore anyhow — and shifts to face the kitchen. “Thinking I don’t need to ask you how your date went.”
Cas glares at him.
“Whoa.” He’d been roomies with Cas for years, and this? This might be the most frightening expression he’s ever seen. “You could probably zap me to green goo with the strength of that glare. Sit down. I’ll get us beers, and you can tell me what’s got you in a state.”
“I am not ‘in a state’.” Cas glares at him defiantly.
“Okay, buddy, whatever you say. Come sit down anyhow.” Dean stands up, pats the cushion of the couch and holds Cas’ gaze until the other man sags imperceptibly, and nods. Okay. Dean can work with this. Once Cas breaks that first amount, he can be eased farther down. Just have to get that first crack of vulnerability.
Dean grabs two bottles of beer from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, opening both of them, then bringing them with him back to the living room. Cas hasn’t seated himself yet. He’s pacing, almost growling.
Dean is reminded of some of those nature documentaries that Cas likes to watch, when Dean would rather be watching wrestling or some mindless sit-com with pretty faces. Better yet, a Dr. Sexy marathon. Not that the documentaries don’t end up being interesting, probably more interesting than the aforementioned sit-coms… but it’s the principle of the thing. Cas doesn’t admit he likes watching Dr. Sexy, and Dean doesn’t admit he enjoys the documentaries. It’s one of those things they’ve silently negotiated over the years. If one of them were to break the rules it would probably cause some sort of seismic imbalance in the universe or something. Disaster.
He holds the beer out to Cas by the neck, waiting until Cas takes it, avoiding looking at him.
He can work with that. He’s had to deal with it before. Not often. Dean’s usually the one that has some sort of emotional crisis. Cas is the steady one, the reasonable one, the logical one. Dean’s temper gets him into trouble now and then.
Dean takes a long pull from the bottle, enjoying the malty flavor of the beer. “So. Spill.”
“Danny wants to ‘take a break’,” Cas says, emphasizing the phrase with air quotes. “He wants to see other people while we explore whether or not we’re actually ‘end game’ or not.”
“Dude,” Dean breathes. “Shit, Cas, I’m sorry.” He is, too. Cas has been seeing Danny for, what, seven months now? That’s a long time. Not that Danny is some awesomely great prize, or anything. The guy isn’t anywhere near good enough for Cas. This stunt is some prime evidence right there. Still, Dean isn’t about to rub salt in the wounds by saying Danny’s a jerk anyhow and he’s better off without him.
Even if it’s true.
“Yes, thank you.” Cas drinks half the bottle in one long gulp, then wipes his mouth on the side of his hand. His lips stick briefly to his hand, all pink and swollen and moist with beer. Shit. Abort.
“I told him that if he wanted a ‘break’, then it was going to be permanent. I am not about to give the person I’m in a relationship with a free pass to sleep with other people while keeping me on retainer, as it were. Particularly when I’m not even getting paid.”
“So you gave him the old heave-ho. I’m sorry, man. That’s rough.” Dean really is sympathetic. Whether or not he actually likes Danny doesn’t matter. Cas dealing with heartbreak is what’s important. He can keep the little glow of vindication to himself until enough time has passed that it won’t sting the same way.
Cas makes a growling sound in the back of his throat. “Breaking it off is… well, it’s fine. It was coming soon in any event. Danny is far more pretty packaging than substance.” He tosses back half of his beer, then starts coughing for a long moment before catching his breath again.
He groans, looks up to meet Dean’s gaze with his own. “Quite frankly, I am far more perturbed by the timing than I am by the break-up itself,” Cas admits.
Dean frowns as he tries to figure out what Cas means. Why would the timing matter? “Oh. Anna’s wedding?”
“Yes, Anna’s wedding.” Cas scowls again. “Couldn’t Danny have waited just a little while longer? I’ve already responded that I’m bringing a date. I was very much looking forward to not having to fend off the endless questions about why am I not married yet, I’m over 30, time is running out. And the family members who completely ignore the fact that I’ve told them, repeatedly, that no, I will not be meeting a nice girl who will help me to forget all about this phase I’m going through. Right after telling me that I’m over 30. If being gay were a phase, I should think I would have ‘gotten over it’ long before now.”
Dean winces sympathetically. Cas not going to his cousin’s wedding isn’t really an option. He’s close to his immediate family, not quite so close to the extended family. Dean’s known Cas’ parents and siblings since they were in college. He hasn’t seen them often, but they’re good people. On the other hand, he’s never met the aunts, uncles, and cousins — though he’s heard plenty of stories.
They’re good stories, but he suspects they’re much better as stories than they are as events to live through.
”I’ll go with you,” Dean says, surprised even as the words spill out of his mouth. He didn’t know he was going to say that before he did.
“What?” Cas sounds incredulous. “Dean, the wedding is next weekend.”
“Right, which is why it has to be me, right? You don’t have time to get a new boyfriend by then. Even if you met someone, you wouldn’t know each other well enough yet to convince anyone you were really together.” The words just keep coming. “You and me, even if we’ve never actually dated, we’ve lived together for ten years. I know you well enough to pull it off. I know you put the spiders outside instead of squashing them. I know you’re a bear before you get your coffee in the morning, and that you drink it black when you have to but you’re much happier when there’s a double squirt of whatever seasonal syrup is out.”
Dean can tell that Cas wants to jump at the idea, but is fighting it. The guy hates to ask for help on anything, hates to accept help even when it’s freely offered.
“You said the reception’s open bar, right? And they’re serving some sort of fancy-ass meal? And entertainment for two days before the wedding itself? So it’s essentially an all-expense paid vacation at a country estate?”
“At my grandmother’s estate. When you put it that way, yes, I suppose so. With the added obligation of trying to maintain a certain level of pleasantry around relations I rarely see.”
“Yeah, well, there will be lots of people around. You can get by with not doing a whole lot of that. Seems simple enough to me. You can’t get out of the wedding. You no longer have a date, though you responded with a plus-one. I can take a couple days off easily enough, and I get a free luxury vacation out of the deal. Sounds like a neat and tidy solution to me.”
It isn’t quite so neat and tidy as all that. Cas reluctantly agrees, which Dean counts as a victory, but the rest of the arrangements aren’t quite as easy as he’d hoped. He has to cash in some favors at work, and then he has to upgrade his wardrobe sneakily enough that Cas doesn’t catch him at it, and quickly. They’re heading out on Wednesday around noon, and it’s already Saturday.
Once he starts looking at what to pack for the trip, he realizes that his good jeans fit him great, but part of that is because they’re worn just so, and he doesn’t think worn jeans are going to win him any points at Anna Adler’s Big Society Wedding.
Cas is a big-shot architect now, and has to wear suits to work whenever he’s meeting with important clients. When he doesn’t have to wear suits he still has to wear nice, business casual attire. Cas has plenty of wardrobe choices for the trip. Dean kind of hopes he brings that one designer tee, the blue one that fits him really well and brings out the color of his eyes.
Dean is never going to tell anyone, ever, that he notices when a tee shirt makes someone’s eyes pop. Even if that someone is Cas, who definitely has the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen.
Anyhow. Dean doesn’t happen to own any eye-color-popping tee shirts, and even if he did, odds were high they’d have little rips and tears in them. He wears scrubs at work. He doesn’t have to have a business professional wardrobe.
The one suit he owns he bought nearly ten years ago when he was interviewing for jobs.
It doesn’t fit any more. Apparently he’s gotten a little broader across the shoulders, filled out a bit around the waist. Which means he needs a suit for the wedding, and has to pretend like he doesn’t, because Cas would Not Be Happy if he knew Dean had to spring for a suit for this shindig.
He needs a suit anyhow. Every guy should have at least one, right? Witness this occasion right here. Going to a wedding. Need a suit.
Never mind that the last three weddings he’s gone to, he hasn’t needed one. Two of them were too casual for suits, and the third? He was the best man at Sammy’s wedding, so he had a rented tux for that.
There are probably more weddings in his future, though, so it would be good to have a suit.
There isn’t time to get it tailored, so it’s a good thing he’s able to find one off the rack that fits him really well. He’s lucky that he’s got the proportions for that, the sales clerk tells him. He can still get the trousers hemmed and the sleeve cuffs adjusted to fall at the perfect length, and as long as he doesn’t button the jacket it’ll be close enough to a good fit. The shop can do that for him in time for him to pick the suit up on Tuesday – the night before they have to leave for the wedding.
Dean gets home with his new purchases, but leaves them in Baby’s trunk for now. Last thing he needs is for Cas to see him with an outrageous number of shopping bags. Dean and shopping bags don’t really get along. He avoids them wherever possible. Unfortunately it’s not always possible.
He nonchalantly strolls into the house they’re sharing, attuned to Cas. There’s a lingering aroma of coffee in the air. That means Cas has been home long enough to make a pot of his afternoon coffee. Morning coffee tends to be a straight brew, but afternoon coffee? That can be an indulgence. Sometimes, if he’s feeling particularly in need of pampering, he’ll make himself a cappuccino, steaming the milk and everything. Or is that a latte? Dean can never keep those fancy coffee drinks straight in his head.
“Hey, Cas, I’m home,” Dean calls out.
“Hello, Dean. I’m in my office.”
“Okay.” Dean heads over, through the living room to the small adjacent room. It was probably intended to be a formal dining room, but neither Dean nor Cas are formal dining room types of people. They eat at the kitchen table or in the living room with the TV on, plates either balanced on their laps or sitting on the coffee table in front of the sofa.
Cas has his laptop open, hooked up to the extra-large monitors. One of his CAD programs is up. He does most of his design work at the office, but sometimes he likes to do some work at home. His computer set-up is amazing. Sometimes Dean thinks it would be awesome to watch sports on Cas’ computer, with the multiple monitors. They could have the game on the central monitor, and stats on another monitor, and keep tabs on other sports on the third monitor.
He knows better than to mess with anything in Cas’ office, though, and Cas isn’t so much into sports, though he doesn’t mind the occasional baseball game when Dean talks him into going.
“What’s this project?” Dean asks, propping a hip against the door frame. He knows better than to get into Cas’ personal space while he’s working, too. The guy focuses so hard, sometimes he reacts before he knows what he’s doing. Dean’s gotten his toe run over by the office chair before. When all you’re wearing is a pair of socks, an office chair can hurt, okay? He had bruises for weeks. Almost lost a toenail. Cas felt horribly guilty. Dean may have played it up a little in the interests of getting beverages delivered to his chair along with the occasional snack while he was watching TV. Not that he’d admit it.
“It’s an addition to a home. The family is expecting triplets, and don’t want to move, but adding three more children to the existing space isn’t going to work. They’ve decided to invest in expanding their current home. The budget is limited, though, so I have to be cognizant of that with the plans.”
“Triplets? Wow. That ought to be interesting.”
“They already have two children. So yes. They’re quite pleasant, though, so I enjoy working with them. Are you packed for the trip yet?” Cas changed the topic abruptly. He often did that. Sometimes gave Dean conversational whiplash, though he was mostly used to it by now.
“Working on it. I’ve still got a couple days.”
“I have your ticket, too. I was able to exchange Danny’s ticket and use the refund to put towards yours, so we’re good on that.”
Cas’ fingers still on the keyboard, and he slowly turns his chair until he’s facing Dean. “Yes. Ticket. The wedding is on Saturday, and the events start Thursday morning. Wednesday is your first day off. So yes. Ticket. For the airfare.”
Dean can feel his face going white, his pulse racing, his breathing getting shallow. “Airfare.”
Cas stands up and pushes Dean down into the chair, circling his wrists with his fingers, pressing hard enough to ground him. “You didn’t think that part through, did you.”
“Um.” He swallows hard. “Apparently not?”
“What am I going to do with you?” Cas sighs.
Not what I’d like you to, that’s for sure, Dean thinks. “I’ll… think of something. Maybe have a couple drinks at the bar before we board the … before we board.”
“Mm. Let’s try it without self-medicating first, all right? I’ll be right there with you. I’ve been reading some articles about how to manage flight anxiety. There are some useful tips. One of them is for you to educate yourself about how flight actually works, and how airplanes are designed to handle turbulence as well as take-off and landing. I want you to read them.”
Dean makes a face. “The last thing I want to do is read all about how metal death traps actually work.”
“I’m aware. Nonetheless, I think I will have to insist.” He reaches to the side and picks up a stack of papers that he’s printed out earlier in the day. “Your homework assignment, Mr. Winchester. I’ll make dinner so you have more time to get through them.”
Dean groans, but reluctantly accepts the papers. He knows Cas well enough to know that he’ll save himself a lot of time if he just gives in now, because he’s going to lose this battle no matter what. If he refuses to read them himself, Cas will read them aloud.
Hm. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. He’d get to listen to Cas’ reading voice, which is definitely worth listening to.
On the other hand, he can get out of making dinner, and it’s definitely his turn.
The flight is horrible, absolutely horrible, though Cas helps him find ways to address his anxiety without making him feel less for it. “Everyone has things they deal with less well than others,” he comments philosophically. “For you, it’s flying in an airplane. Or in anything, really, though we should test out a hot air balloon sometime.”
“We really shouldn’t.”
Cas’ lip twitches, his eyes twinkling in amusement. “Here.” He hands Dean his earbuds. “Listen to your favorite music, and I’ll be right here. If you need to grip something, take my hand.”
Dean looks at him dubiously, but obeys. He turns on the music, leans back into the seat. When the plane starts moving his pulse rate accelerates and he grips the arms of the seat. Cas taps his hand, then opens his hand, palm up, toward Dean.
Dean hesitates, then places his hand in Cas’. Somehow having Cas’ hand holding his, squeezing it reassuringly, helps. Not so much as to eliminate his nerves, but it helps. He manages not to silently scream with the plane starts hurtling down the runway and then flings itself heedlessly into the air.
Cas squeezes again.
The music helps for a while, but when it stops helping, Cas reaches over and pulls on the cords, popping them out of Dean’s ears. “This seems like a good opportunity to go over who I’m expecting to be at Grandmother’s estate.”
“Do you always call her Grandmother?” Dean asks, curious. “Never anything like Gram, or Gammy, or Nana? Even Grandma?”
“When I was little I called her Grammom, but once I could speak more clearly I followed everyone else’s lead and switched to Grandmother.”
“Never knew my own grandparents,” Dean muses. “My dad’s parents died when he was young. Mom was older when she lost hers, but still.”
Cas nods. He’s heard this story before, after all. Living with someone for 10 years you gradually find out some things about their history even if you don’t deliberately try to.
“So… the guests who will be staying at the estate. There will be Grandmother Shurley, of course. Anna. Her parents, my aunt and uncle Naomi and Zach Adler. Their other two children, Michael and Lucius, along with their families.”
“The douchebags,” Dean says with a nod. He’s heard plenty of stories about Michael and Lucius, though he’s never actually met either of them.
“The douchebags,” Cas agrees. “Naomi is the oldest in the family. Dad is next. He and my mom will be there. Gabriel’s coming but won’t arrive until Friday; I forget the reason. Hannah and her husband, and Alfie will be there too.”
Dean nods at that. He knows Chuck and Becky fairly well, and he’s at least met all three of Cas’ siblings at some point or another.
“Father’s younger sister Amara, and her husband Crowley. My cousin Gavin is supposed to be there as well, though there’s some family rumor that he’s not going to be able to make it. He’s going to school in Scotland right now, and I don’t believe he and Anna have ever been particularly close.”
“That’s a lot of people,” Dean says, catching his lower lip between his teeth and biting at it. Were they going to be able to pull this off? He knew he wouldn’t have too much of a problem looking like he was head over heels for Cas. It was, quite frankly, harder to pretend like he wasn’t. But that many people meant they’d never really be able to let down their guard, except at night safely in their own beds. There would always be the possibility of someone right around the next corner, so the charade would have to be uninterrupted.
Dean makes it through the flight without throwing up, though it’s a close call.
Finally, though, they land in Virginia, collect their luggage, and make their way to the rental stand. Dean wonders if he should have trusted Cas with the car reservations; the guy drives a hybrid, which, sure, admirable and good for the environment, but the thing is butt-ugly. At least Cas knows enough to not try and make him abandon Baby in favor of something more fuel efficient. That? That would be grounds for immediate termination of the roommate arrangements.
(Or so Dean tries to tell himself, though deep down he suspects that if push came to shove, he might… might… choose Cas over Baby. It would be painful, though, and he might not ever truly get over it. Good thing that Cas would never make him choose. At most he’d push for ‘in addition to’, rather than ‘instead of’.)
Thankfully the rental isn’t a subcompact. “Don’t be foolish, Dean, we’re both tall enough that a subcompact would be a painful experience, no matter how economical. I do temper my eco-friendly choices with a certain amount of common sense and practicality.”
“You know, I think this is the farthest east I’ve ever been?” Dean comments as they make their way towards the Shurley estate, in rural Virginia.
Cas is driving, which makes Dean a little itchy. Dean’s the better driver. He enjoys it, rather than just seeing it as a means to an end. Cas knows this, but right now? Right now Dean is still recovering from the plane ride, and on top of that, Cas is the one who knows where they’re going. He could certainly navigate from the passengers’ seat, but he doesn’t want to.
“You’ve been to southern Florida,” Cas points out.
“Oh, yeah, I have, haven’t I. Is that farther east than this?”
“I would have to check a map to be certain of the coordinates of where you were in Florida. But I believe it is. The Mercator projection maps can be misleading. It’s important to actually pay attention to the longitude and latitude lines. Longitude, in this case, if we’re looking at east-west direction.”
Dean chuckles. Trust Cas to turn a simple question of how far east they are into a discussion on how much distortion occurs in any given type of map.
“We can look it up later.”
“Yes, that’s true. We’re almost there, in any event.”
“Yeah?” Dean looks around. He can’t see that it’s much different from what they’ve been seeing, from the time they left the Washington DC urban sprawl behind them. “Do we need to talk more about how we’re going to do this, before we actually get there?” He probably should have brought it up before this, but he was too busy getting the time off and making sure he had clothes that wouldn’t embarrass him at an east-coast high society wedding.
“What do we need to discuss?”
“Dude, it’s not going to be enough to just say we’re dating. It needs to be believable.”
“And what, pray tell, makes it ‘believable’ in your estimation?” Cas just sounds curious, not defensive or argumentative.
“You know. Boyfriendy types of things.” Dean waves his hand dismissively.
“Boyfriendy?” Cas shakes his head and chuckles. “What criteria need to be met in order for things to be considered ‘boyfriendy’?” Oh no. Cas brings out the finger quotes.
Bringing up this topic may have been a mistake. On the other hand, if he’s going to get a long weekend of pretending to be dating Castiel Shurley, Dean wants to get the full experience. He just doesn’t need Cas to realize he wants that experience.
“You know. Casual touching. Walking and sitting too close together. Conversations carried out without saying an actual word.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Of course it does. We do it. You know, like if we’re watching TV and that one commercial comes on that I always laugh at but you think is stupid? You give me a look, and I know you’re really saying ‘I don’t understand why you think this stupid commercial is entertaining’ and I give you a look back and you know I’m really saying ‘because I’m an immature moron, suck it up and deal with it’.”
“You’re not a moron.” Cas pauses. “That commercial is moronic, so I suppose you occasionally exhibit tendencies in that direction. But on the whole? Not a moron.”
Dean grins. “See, you knew exactly what I was talking about. Conversations without saying a word. And don’t your parents sometimes look at each other, and then one of them will say something that you know they just decided?”
“That may have happened. Usually over Gabriel.”
“That’s because Gabe is over the top crazy. You said he’s going to be here, just arriving late?”
“Yes. This is something of a command performance. Even Gabriel knows he’s required to come. Grandmother is starting to point out that she likely doesn’t have many of these occasions left in her, and she wants to see everyone. Even Gabe.”
“Awesome. Maybe there will be enough other people around that I’ll escape being his primary target this time. Though maybe she meant everyone except Gabe? That makes a lot more sense.” He’s kidding, mostly. Dean actually likes Gabe and his insane sense of humor – when that wit isn’t aimed at him.
Cas chuckles. “Maybe.”
“Anyhow, that’s some of the boyfriendy stuff.”
“You do realize that boyfriendy isn’t actually a word, right?”
“Shut up. Of course I do. Since when has that stopped me?”
“Mm. An excellent point. Very well. Do go on. You were saying?”
“I was saying. That’s some of what we need to be able to pull off if you want to convince your family that we’re actually together, not just friends.” He pauses a long moment. “There may need to be kissing.” Dean hopes he sounds casual enough, matter-of-fact enough despite the loud pounding of his heart. As though kissing Cas was just something he’d have to do in the service of their charade… not something he may have fantasized about in the past. Repeatedly. For years.
Cas goes still for a moment, then deliberately takes a breath and swallows. “Yes, I suppose that may well be required if they are to actually believe us.” He turns his head towards Dean, regarding him seriously. “We don’t really have to do this if you’re uncomfortable. I have endured my family’s questions for this long. I can get through another weekend.”
“Hell no,” Dean disagrees. “One weekend of potential embarrassment and awkwardness between us in exchange for them getting off your case for the foreseeable future? Totally worth it.”
Cas visibly relaxes. “All right. Thank you. If I haven’t said that, yet. Thank you.”
“Hey, you know I’m in it for the free drinks and meals. I expect at least one excellent steak out of the deal.” And the kiss. He’s very much looking forward to the kiss.
It’s not too much later that Cas pulls off the main road onto a narrow tree-lined drive that winds up some hills. The trees look old and well-established, arching over the roadway in a canopy of green with sunlight peeking through like sparkling gems. Eventually the trees part to reveal a large house set out in an open field, overlooking the land. There’s a low stone wall around the house, with flowering shrubs interspersed with flowers at the base of the wall. Most of the flowers are white; Dean wonders how many were specifically planted with the wedding in mind.
‘House’ seems like a very modest word to use for what he’s seeing. “Holy shit, Cas, is this the place?”
“Yes,” Cas confirms, sounding uncertain and even a little embarrassed. “It’s rather ostentatious, I know.”
Dean laughs. “That’s one word for it. Place like this seems like it should have a name. Like… like those old English manors in all of the Austen novels. Pemberley.”
“It does. Have a name. Ostentatious and pretentious, both. It’s called Domus Angelus.” Cas squints, looking at the façade of the house. “Look up above the main entrance, at the apex of the roofline. See the angel statue?”
Now that Cas points it out, it’s hard to miss. It’s a dull white, not as grimy as he’d expect from something up on top of the roof. It’s a female angel with vast feathery wings and a Greco-Roman style toga, holding a book. From here he can’t tell what sort of facial expression it has, or even really see if there’s a halo or not.
“The home of the angels?” Dean snorts. “From what I’ve heard about your aunt and uncle, not to mention your cousins, that seems singularly inapt. So, Mr. Architect, what style is this place, anyhow?”
“Mostly Georgian, though there are some other elements incorporated in ways that make the purists wince. I’ll give you a tour later and point out the features, if you’re interested.”
“I’ll take you up on that.” It isn’t so much that Dean is really all that interested himself in the architectural details of Cas’ grandmother’s home. It’s more that Cas himself is passionate about architecture, and Dean has always loved listening to Cas when he loses himself in something. He comes across as so reserved that it’s just a delight when he forgets himself enough to really let himself go. He fondly recalls one occasion where Cas went on a twenty-minute rant about the addition one of their neighbors put on the side of their home.
They pull into the paved courtyard where a number of other vehicles are parked. Dean is mildly alarmed by the sheer number of them, though he knows he shouldn’t be. Cas has a large family.
Cas is nervous. Incredibly nervous. Why did he ever think this was a good idea, bringing Dean here? No one is going to believe for a minute that he and Dean are dating. His parents and siblings have met Dean before. They’ll see through the charade in an instant. Perhaps not his mother; he loves her, but she can be blind to the most obvious things if she wants to believe something different. But his father will know. And Gabriel? Gabriel will not only know, he’ll fall onto the floor laughing. There is no one more skilled at poking holes in Cas’ ego than his older brother.
There’s no way Dean would ever date him. Cas knows exactly Dean’s type. He’s lived with him since college. He’s seen Dean’s type, over and over and over again. Beautiful women, beautiful men who throw themselves into their experiences with him. Far, far from Cas’ qualities. He’s an intellectual with uncommon interests and an unfortunate habit of talking far too long about them when he finds a willing audience.
Dean must know everything there is to know about both architecture and bees by this point. It’s a wonder he still listens, rather than just walking away the moment Cas opens his mouth about them. He does listen, though, and quite intently. He even asks questions, sometimes thought-provoking questions that Cas doesn’t know the answers for.
He doesn’t know how he let Dean talk him into this so easily. His entire family is going to pity him. Oh, they won’t say it that directly. They’ll just give him sad looks and cluck their tongues, shake their heads when they think he isn’t looking. Poor Castiel, with all the social grace of a clam.
This will be a disaster.
Cas sighs, parks the rental car and turns off the engine.
It’s his father, emerging from the terrace door of the house looking healthy and happy. His hair is getting a bit long on top, the beard generously sprinkled salt and pepper. He’s starting to show his age, which is alarming. Parents are supposed to be ageless. He waits for Cas to get out of the car, then envelops him in a warm, welcoming hug. “It’s good to see you, son. It’s been too long.” His arms are comforting. He smells and feels like home, making Cas feel the way he did when he was five and Daddy came back from a business trip.
“It has been,” Cas agrees, hugging him one more time. “I’ve missed you, Dad.You’re looking good.”
“You too. So.” Chuck Shurley turns towards the car, full of curiosity. He’s rocking forward onto the balls of his feet while Dean gets out.
Cas is watching his father for his reaction, so he sees the slight widening of his blue eyes, followed by a pleased smile. “Dean?” Chuck says.
Dean steps forward, extending his hand. “Hey, Mr. Shurley.”
“Well well. This is certainly … maybe not such a huge surprise. Just a little one. It’s good to see you again.” Chuck walks right past Dean’s hand to give him a brief but warm hug, slapping his back twice. “Cas didn’t say his mystery date was you. In fact, I could have sworn he was saying something about a ‘Danny’…”
Shit, shit. Here less than two minutes and already this charade is blown.
Dean flicks his glance over to Cas, and suddenly Cas understands exactly what he was talking about with the bit about holding entire conversations without speaking a word. Dean wants him to roll with whatever he says.
Cas nods slightly. Lord knows he has no idea how to sell this. Dean, however… Dean is entirely charming and has the glib tongue of a snake oil salesman when he wants to use it. He should have gone into sales rather than becoming a radiology tech. He would have been quite successful, between his extreme good looks and his engaging charm. Cas would certainly buy anything he chose to sell.
“I was a little nervous about the whole thing,” Dean says diffidently, dipping his head just enough to look up through his gold-tipped eyelashes. Cas knows the technique well. It’s damnably effective. “So I didn’t want him to tell you guys right away. He started referring to me as ‘Danny’ just to keep it under the radar. It’s not that different from Dean, right? But different enough.”
Chuck considers that for a moment, then nods. “I hope you aren’t still nervous. I’m very happy it’s you. I must say, I’m not entirely surprised.” He smiles and his whole face lights up. “You guys have been living together for years.”
“Dad…” Cas can’t help but protest. “A gay man can live with another man without their relationship being sexual in nature.”
Chuck laughs. “He says while introducing his formerly ‘platonic’ roommate as his current boyfriend. Oh, relax, son. I know that. I’m just trying to say I’m happy for you. Let me get your bags while you head in. I know everyone else is going to want to say hi, too.”
“Oh, we can do that, Mr. Shurley,” Dean says.
“No, no, it’s fine. I’ll recruit some of the kids to help. That’s what they’re for, right? Free labor?” He smiles. “Go. Most everyone’s probably in the… what did Naomi call it… the blue sitting room.” He puts on a very snooty accent as he says that. “We didn’t used to have fancy names for it when we were growing up. It was just the front room. You remember where that one is, kiddo? There are too many sitting rooms in this place. It’s ridiculous when you have to distinguish your sitting rooms by color. The blue sitting room, the canary yellow sitting room, the red chinoiserie sitting room. And I say that as someone who actually grew up here.”
Cas hesitates, then nods. “All right. Thank you. Dean?” He waits for Dean to come around to him.
Dean looks at him, giving him fair warning, then slides his arm lightly around his waist, resting his hand on the small of Cas’ back. He slides his thumb back and forth over one of the knobs of Cas’ spine. That feels good. That feels far too good. Cas should shift away, put more distance between them, but can’t.
Dean’s fingers curl into his shirt, and Cas feels electric sparks tingling all over his body. His spine stiffens and he almost pulls away, but Dean tugs harder on his shirt, silently reminding him that this is a performance and he’d better perform, damn it. Dad may have been the one to come out and greet them, but there’s no guarantee there aren’t various aunts, uncles, and cousins watching them from any of the numerous windows.
“Are there really three sitting rooms?” Dean murmurs as they head to the door, leaning closer.
“What?” Cas’ head is spinning. Dean is close, so close. They’ve been close before. They live together, after all. There have been times they’ve sat together on the couch to watch the television, times that they’ve bumped against each other while trying to assemble the IKEA dining table. Physical contact is nothing new. But somehow? Somehow this feels different.
“Sitting rooms. Are there really three? Does that include living rooms and parlors? What even is the difference between them?”
“No, it doesn’t include living rooms and parlors,” Cas answers. “It’s been some time since I’ve been here.”
“But you’re an architect. You pay attention to things like floor plans, flow, window placement. Everything.”
Cas can’t deny that. He sighs. “There are three sitting rooms, and two additional rooms that you might quantify as a living room and a parlor. The difference between them is largely a question of semantics.”
“Still. Three sitting rooms. And we’re supposed to head towards the blue sitting room.”
“Yes. We are. It’s the largest, and overlooks the back gardens.”
“The back gardens. As opposed to…?”
“The front gardens, or the side gardens, of course.” Then he decides to mess with Dean, just because he can. “Or the rooftop garden, or the vegetable garden. Or the herb garden. Of course.”
Dean follows Cas through the halls of the immense house, aiming towards the sound of people talking and laughing. Sometimes he hears the racing footsteps of children playing tag. Sometimes he even catches a quick glimpse of movement.
He can’t stop thinking about what Chuck said, though. He wasn’t surprised? Why wasn’t he surprised? And then he was all smiley about it. Maybe just because Cas brought his plus one? Not so much because it’s Dean?
Dean’s met Chuck Shurley before. He’s a strange dude… but then, Cas has to have gotten that from somewhere. Both Chuck and Becky Shurley are good people, though, even if they’re a different breed from what Dean grew up with. Becky is sunshine and optimism, though if you hit her bad side you’d better watch out. It takes a lot for her to move someone to the ‘naughty’ column.
He hasn’t seen any of Cas’ family in years. He hears stories all the time. Cas goes to his parents’ home at least once a year, usually twice, but no one except Gabe has actually come out to visit since college graduation. He gets it. It’s a lot easier and cheaper for one person to travel to the family rather than for the family to travel to one person. Cas insists that it makes the most sense that way. Still, Dean thinks that he would like it very much if they were to come visit him occasionally.
It’s obvious when they reach the Blue Sitting Room. There are lots of people around, mostly the adults, but also the smallest children, the ones too young to leave to their own devices. And ok. Blue sitting room. It’s very blue. The walls are a combination of blue paint, blue watered-silk wallpaper, and dark wood trim. The large rug on the floor is a soothing pattern, clearly old. Even the furniture has a lot of blue in the upholstery, with silver accents.
“Cas!” Becky exclaims, setting her drink down and coming over to hug her son. She’s dressed more casually than the other women in the room, with a pastel pink cardigan over white denim jeans and a yellow and pink floral print blouse. “You’re here!” She barely comes up to his collarbones; he has to bend slightly to hold her properly.
“I am. Hello, Mother.”
Dean stifles a grin.
“How was the flight?”
Cas glances briefly towards Dean, who faux glares at him.
“It was… uneventful, in the end.”
“And Dean! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you in person, though Cas has sent the occasional picture, of course.”
“He… oh, yeah, of course.” Pictures? Cas sends pictures of him to his mother?
“It’s good to see you. I was surprised about the two of you getting together, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been.” She pats his arm affectionately.
Another woman gracefully unfolds herself from a … settee. That piece of furniture is far too elegant to be called a couch or a sofa. So settee it is. She’s as elegant as the furniture, though something about her feels cold to Dean. Maybe it’s the way she’s dressed and wears her hair, all straight lines, sober colors, crisp and controlled.
“Castiel,” she says. “Welcome. And who is your guest?” She commands the attention of everyone in the room with an ease that Dean finds both impressive and a little creepy.
Cas turns slightly towards Dean. He looks calm and collected on the surface, but Dean can tell by the tension in his shoulders that he’s this close to freaking out. So Dean crosses the short distance between them until he can bump his shoulder up against his friend.
Cas flashes him a quick, grateful smile. “This is Dean Winchester. My date. Dean, these are my family. You already know my mother, Becky. This is my aunt Naomi, her husband Zach.” He continues around the room, introducing everyone who is right there – Cas’ cousins Anna and Michael, Anna’s fiancé Vincent, Vincent’s parents. Apparently there are others who are at the estate but not taking tea in the blue sitting room right this moment.
Dean feels very much like a fish out of water, but hell. No way he’s going to let that show. “Pleased to meet everyone,” he says, putting on his most charming smile and raising one hand in a half-hearted wave. “Those I haven’t already met, that is.”
“We’ve known Dean for a long time, Naomi,” Becky says before turning towards him. “Dean, it’s good to see you. And now you and Cas are dating! How long have you been together? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it. You just were too shy to let anyone know, which, you know, that’s silly. Because Chuck and I are entirely supportive of all our children, no matter what. Well, we might not be supportive if they were running around the country committing felonies. We’d still love them, but as good parents, we’d have to not be supportive of those actions. We’d have to lovingly encourage them to do something else entirely.”
“Mom.” Cas sounds pained, but Dean knows Becky well enough by now that her stream-of-consciousness ramblings don’t faze him in the slightest.
Cas looks around. “Where’s Grandmother?”
“Mother decided she wanted to rest for a while before dinner,” Naomi says. “She’ll greet you then.”
“Dinner will be served in about an hour and a half,” her husband adds.
"You'll want to refresh yourselves before then," Aunt Naomi says, running her gaze down Cas and Dean with only a hint of disdain for their comfortable travel clothes.
Cas doesn't outwardly react, though inwardly he feels unsettled and somehow lesser, which annoys him. They shouldn't have that kind of power over him. Appearances are sometimes important, yes, but they shouldn't matter so much for a family gathering. It's not like they showed up in torn jeans and stained tees. He's wearing a pair of khakis and a blue button-down shirt, and Dean is wearing his nicest pair of jeans, the black ones that fit him so beautifully, along with a forest green Henley that brings out the beautiful shade of his eyes.
Dinner, however, is a far more formal affair here than it is at home. No matter how nice the jeans, they aren't going to cut it.
"Of course," he says, keeping his tone polite and respectful. "We'll just go up and ... refresh."
"I'll show you up," his father offers, having returned during the introductions. "It's easier to just show you where I put your things rather than remember how to describe it."
Chuck leads them to the grand central staircase. It starts out wide at the bottom and narrows towards the second floor, a rich-looking dark wood with beautifully carved balustrades.
"Holy shit," Dean murmurs, pitching his voice low. "Look at this thing!"
Cas blinks and looks at the staircase again with new eyes. It's highly polished wood, and wide enough for five people to walk side by side comfortably. He supposes it is quite something. It's always just been part of his life rather than anything noteworthy.
Chuck turns and smiles at the two of them. "When they were small, one time Gabriel 'borrowed' a pair of silver trays from the pantry and convinced Castiel that they would make amazing toboggans. Naomi was horrified, but Mother just laughed."
Dean grins, delighted. "Cas, you troublemaker you! I would have never thought you had it in you!"
Cas scowls. "It was all Gabriel's influence."
"It usually was," Chuck agrees, laughing softly.
They take a right at the top of the staircase, walk down the hallway a short distance before turning and taking a second set of stairs up another floor. "There are a lot of people here for the wedding, so we had to put you up here," Chuck says. “Let me apologize in advance – the room nearest to yours is housing some of the boys. They’re just old enough to not be in the nursery, and they can be loud. Hopefully they’ll go to sleep at a reasonable time, but no guarantees.”
Cas nods. "That's fine. I always liked it up on this floor better anyhow, so if the price is some noisy cousins, well, I’ll pay that." He turns towards Dean. "The rooms up here are a lot smaller, and you’ve probably noticed the ceilings are lower. They get lower with each floor. About a hundred years ago, this floor was primarily servant quarters, though the nursery was also up here. The rooms were converted after live-in staff went out of fashion."
Dean chuckles, and Cas realizes he fell into architectural lecture mode without even intending to. He huffs.
"Wasn't mocking you, Cas," Dean says, reaching out to squeeze his arm affectionately. Cas' eyes widen before he remembers that they have an audience in his father, so the casual touching is obviously just part of the act. "Just amused, because it's so you."
Cas sighs, unable to defend himself from that. It's undeniably true, after all.
“When we came here when the kids were young, the others usually went outside to go run around the garden paths,” Chuck says. “Cas, though? He wandered through the house studying the architectural details, and cataloging where repairs were needed.”
“Must you tell tales on me before we’re even settled?” Cas complains half-heartedly. First the tray story, now the one about him preferring to spend his time sketching crown molding patterns rather than playing outside.
“Part of my job, son. You haven’t brought anyone home before. I have a lot of catching up to do.”
Dean has known, objectively, that Cas is from a wealthy family. There are the small things, the way he doesn't think twice before dropping money on whatever he wants when he decides he wants it. His thought process goes through whether he really needs the item, what benefits he'll get from it, whether it's worth the space it takes in his life, whether the quality lives up to his expectations. But while he might evaluate whether an item is worth what it costs, he never stops to think about whether or not he can afford to pay for it.
This, though? This house is insane. He's doing his best to shove that under the surface, not let it intimidate him. Just because somewhere back in history one of his relatives made a shit-ton of money shouldn't make any difference, right? Right.
Still, when they go up to the third floor, and the main difference between this floor and the ones below it is just that the ceilings are only about nine feet tall rather than twenty... sometimes it's not so easy to keep being deliberately oblivious.
The more normal-height ceilings do make him feel more comfortable. He lets out a slow breath, letting some of the tension leave his body.
"Here you go, boys," Chuck says, stopping in front of a door towards the end of the hall and opening it up.
The room inside is nice, spacious by Dean's standards if cramped in comparison to the other rooms in this place. There are two modestly sized windows with blue and yellow striped drapes, an armoire, two night-tables with lovely lamps on them, one on either side of the bed. The bed itself is covered with a quilted coverlet, exquisitely pieced together in bright colors. Fluffy pillows are perfectly arranged against the headboard. There's a big oval braided rag rug on the wide-planked wooden floor. On the whole it's a much more comfortable room than the suffocating formality on the main levels. Their bags are sitting against the wall just inside the door.
Dean's brain stutters to a stop and does a quick rewind. He can almost hear the screech of brakes. The bed. The singular bed. One queen-sized bed. In a room with both of their bags.
"Cas can show you where the bathroom is," Chuck continues, thankfully missing Dean's reaction entirely.
“Yes,” Cas says, sounding strangled himself. “I can do that.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then. Dinner’s promptly at 7. See you then.”
As soon as Chuck closed the door behind himself, Cas turned towards Dean with a stricken expression. “Dean… I’m so sorry. I should have foreseen this.”
Well. Nothing for it but to sell it to Cas as no big deal. It shouldn’t be. “Hey, it’s fine, right?” He turns and sits on the bed, bouncing experimentally. It’s a nice mattress. It would be very comfortable for – nope, don’t go there, not right now. “We’re both adults. We can share a bed without making a production out of it. It’s just a place to sleep. Not like I’ve never seen you in your sleepwear. We’ve lived together for almost ten years. I know what you look like in the mornings.”
Absolutely adorable, for the record. Cas tends to sleep in boxers and a soft, worn tee. When it’s cold out he wears socks, too, which makes Dean cringe. Socks with boxers isn’t a good look on anyone, not even Castiel Shurley. The mussed up bedhead, though? That’s a good look. So are the heavy lids and morning scruff, before he shaves. That is a very good look.
Cas still looks dubious. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, of course, man.” Dean flops back onto the bed, hands laced together behind his head, carefully leaving his feet hanging over the side. He doesn’t want to get anything dirty with his shoes. “There’s plenty of room. Unless you hog the whole bed, in which case I reserve the right to jab you in the ribs with an elbow. And trust me, I have sharp elbows.”
Cas reluctantly laughs. “Alright. We have some time before dinner. Let me show you where the bathroom is. We’ll have to share it.”
“Awesome. Brings back memories of the early years. Remember that first apartment we shared, the last year of college?”
“The one that had a rusty shower stall and a tiny pedestal sink with no storage?”
“That’s the one. This will be a piece of cake compared to sharing that with you.”
After pointing out the bathroom nearest the bedroom they return to unpack their luggage and put things away in the armoire. Cas still feels uncomfortable despite Dean’s protestations. He agrees that sharing a bedroom, sharing a bed, should be a non-issue – but that is predicated on a very large assumption which in Cas’ case, at least, is entirely invalid.
It’s one thing to share a bed with a good friend. It’s quite another to share one with someone he’s attracted to, and has been for years.
There was a time, it must have been three years ago now, when the two of them stayed up late watching a movie together, both sitting on the sofa because it had the best viewing angle for the television. Dean had dozed off, his head dropping until it rested against Cas’ shoulder.
Cas can still remember the way it felt, Dean’s warmth, the slow deep rhythm of his breathing. Sometimes the softness of Dean’s hair against his chin makes an appearance in his dreams, only instead of against his chin, it’s in his hands while he cradles his head between his palms, and he looks up through his gold-tipped lashes, his mouth…
Cas opens the armoire too forcefully. The door bangs against the adjacent wall, making him cringe. “Sorry,” he apologizes.
Dean flashes him a smile. “For what?”
“For the noise. Would you like me to hang up your suit as well?”
“Sure.” Dean hands him his suit bag, unzipping it just enough to air it out but not revealing much of the suit itself. “Thanks.”
They continue working in silence for a short time longer until everything’s put away.
“If dinner’s a dressy thing, should I take a shower first, too? And how dressy is dressy?”
Cas looks at Dean, considering. “You should be okay without a shower, though if you would feel better there is certainly time for it.”
He’s long since gotten accustomed to the thought of Dean naked in the shower when he can hear the water running. He may still indulge in daydreams about joining him, but it’s nothing new for him.
“As for attire, jeans are definitely not acceptable. Nor are sneakers or other athletic apparel. Slacks and a button-down shirt, perhaps with a sports jacket as well. A tie is optional.”
Dean makes a face. He doesn’t dress up for dinner except for the rare dinner date. Even his dates, such as they are, tend to be on the casual side. He nods though. “Okay. This is where I meet the grand matriarch of the family, huh?”
Cas nods, feeling his mood immediately improve. “You will like my grandmother. I’m glad you’ll finally get to meet her.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it too.” Dean’s voice is mostly confident, but there’s a small wobble in there.
“Dean. She will like you. Even if this house belongs to her, she’s a very down-to-earth person. My father takes after her very strongly. My aunts take more after my grandfather.” Evelyn Shurley was extremely progressive for a lady in her nineties. She hadn’t blinked when Cas had come out to his family, instead treating it as a complete non-issue.
That goes a long way with the extended family as well. Some of the others might not approve, but they know better than to be vocal about it. No one wants to incur Grandmother’s wrath. She’s had almost a hundred years to master the art of politely freezing people out, and isn’t afraid to use it on family when they deserve it.
Dean tugs at the sleeves of his sports jacket as he and Cas descend the long stairs down to the main floor and the formal dining room. He’s been thinking about how best to go about this. He’s slightly behind Cas, which means that he can see his best friend is tense. His shoulders are hovering about two inches higher than usual, and his posture is perfect. They should have practiced going out together in public. Not like they really had time, but they should have figured out a way to make it happen anyhow.
He figures he’s best off not giving Cas too much time to think about things. If Cas has time, he over-analyzes everything and overthinks it, which would ruin the spontaneity of his reactions to anything Dean says or does. Then he looks stilted and artificial. Not good. He needs to get Cas to relax and enjoy himself.
That might be too tall of an order, but Dean isn’t going to give up before he even tries. Cas needs to relax. One way to do that would be to push shots down his throat until he gets all slouchy and bendy, but they don’t really have time for that option. He’s also not sure that showing up in front of the family matriarch with a serious buzz going is the best idea, no matter how much fun it might be.
Dean refuses to acknowledge that this may be most a rationalization to do what he wants to do anyhow, but hey, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea.
When they get to the enormous doorway leading into the dining room, he reaches forward and catches Cas’ hand in his, lacing their fingers together and stroking his thumb over Cas’ knuckles.
Cas jumps and looks sharply at Dean, but after a moment he nods slightly to himself and squeezes back.
Dean hides his grin, ignoring how good it feels just to hold Cas’ hand. He has nice hands, smooth, rather than roughened like Dean’s are from all of the harsh soaps he’s constantly washing with. He rubs hand cream into his skin every day as soon as he’s done with work, but it only helps so much.
The whole family has arrived, though they aren’t all seated yet. Dean looks around and spots Cas’ grandmother easily. She’s seated at the head of the table, though her chair isn’t pushed in. She’s small, white hair arranged in a neat chignon atop her head.
Cas pulls Dean forward. “Grandmother. I’d like to introduce you to my boyfriend,” he says, barely stuttering over the word. Dean’s impressed that he actually manages to say it. He thought for sure he’d go with something more innocuous, like ‘date’ or maybe ‘guest’. But Cas is the one that wants to sell the relationship thing in the first place. Nice of him to be making the effort. “This is Dean Winchester. You may have heard the name before; we’ve known each other since college, and have been living together as roommates.”
Mrs. Shurley smiles and holds out her hand for Dean. “Yes, I’ve heard about you before, dear,” she says. “Come closer so that I can see you.” She tugs his hand, looks him over with keen blue eyes, eyes that look remarkably like Cas’.
She looks at Cas then with a smile. “You never told me before just how handsome this ‘roommate’ of yours is. Nor that you are romantically involved.”
Cas blushes adorably, the blush that starts at the back of his neck and spreads up to turn his ears pink. “Yes, well… we wanted to avoid the awkwardness, with the roommates situation and all, if for some reason it didn’t work out.”
Dean slides his arm around Cas and pulls him close. “It’s working great, though. I never thought he’d actually be interested, you know? So when we finally said something, just boom. Away we went. He’s amazing.” He leans over and presses a soft kiss to Cas’ temple. Touching his lips to Cas’ skin sends a zing of heat through him. His face feels unaccountably hot. He holds tighter to Cas, feeling momentarily unsteady.
Cas jumps under his touch. Dean wishes he could see his expression, but the angles are all wrong.
Cas’ grandmother chuckles. “Yes, I know that. It’s good that he has someone who can properly appreciate him. He’s always been something of an awkward thing.”
“I’m old enough to get away with saying whatever I want to, young man. Just be glad it’s mostly positive. There’s nothing wrong with being awkward, other than that it’s made it difficult for you to actually have what you want.”
She turns back to Dean. “Now give me a kiss on the cheek, and sit down beside me. I want to talk to you over dinner, get to know you better, dear.”
Dinner is interesting. The food is amazing; Mrs. Shurley tells Dean that she has a personal chef for occasions like this, though usually she just eats something more simple that she can prepare herself.
Though he spends most of his time talking to Cas’ grandmother, Dean is aware of the rest of the family, too. He’s also aware that since he’s the new one at the table, he’s getting a disproportional amount of attention. It feels like everyone is watching him with various degrees of interest and, in some cases, animosity.
Because of that, he makes a point out of being extra affectionate with Cas, touching him frequently, offering him a bite from his plate, looking at him with smiles and soft looks. It’s surprisingly easy.
All he has to do is stop holding back what he’s always wanted to do.
He leans forward, his mouth against Cas’ ear. “Relax. We’re in love, remember?”
Cas looks at him sidelong. “Of course, dear.”
“So what is it that you do?” Mrs. Shurley asks. “For a living?”
“I’m a med tech. I work in the radiology department at the hospital – so I end up doing a lot of x-rays for people that broke something.”
“Dean is being modest,” Cas says. “He has an advanced specialty in radiology.”
“I’m not a doctor,” Dean protests.
“No, but you are a specialist with a lot of training and a lot of responsibility. I’m proud of what you do. You shouldn’t minimize it.”
“How sweet,” Cas’ Aunt Amara murmurs under her breath. Dean bristles at her tone but chooses to let it pass for now. If this is the kind of snark Cas always has to deal with when he’s here, he can see why he didn’t want to show up solo for this.
After dinner is over, they head outside. Cas’ mom and sister Hannah have spent the time to set up some yard games – bocce ball, croquet, a beanbag toss. “Isn’t bocce ball just a fancy version of lawn bowling?”
“Depends on who you ask,” Cas replies.
“Mm. If you ask some of my relatives, it’s an elegant game with a long history in Italy. If you ask others, it’s just an excuse to throw balls at each other.”
It’s late when they finally head back up to their room. Cas is unaccountably nervous. Dean was right, earlier, when he said it wasn’t a big deal to share a bed. They’re both adults, perfectly capable of sleeping in the same bed without it having to have any sexual implications at all. Once they’re in their room with the door closed, they can let the act drop and just go back to their normal relationship.
He likes their normal relationship, most of the time. He likes Dean a great deal, or he would have never invited him to continue rooming together after graduating from college. He likes Dean’s sense of humor. He even likes his taste in music, though he still pretends like he only tolerates it. Years of exposure to Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and AC/DC have eventually resulted in his appreciating them more than he would ever admit. He suspects Dean knows, but the pretense is a part of their relationship that he enjoys.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy playing Rachmaninoff at volume now and then.
The problem is that he’s enjoyed this evening, enjoys having Dean’s attention directed at him. Having Dean casually brush his fingers against his arm is a form of torture all by itself, not even counting the soft affectionate kisses. He wanted so badly to turn his head so those kisses aimed at his cheek would land on his lips instead.
He never knew Dean was such a talented actor. He almost believes that Dean is enamored of him, and he knows better.
He can’t forget that it’s all an act. He can’t.
But maybe he can at least let himself enjoy the pretense, while it lasts. Even if that means it’s going to hurt that much worse when it’s over. For once he can be the person Dean brings into his bedroom at night, rather than the one on the outside trying not to notice.
He opens the door, lets Dean go in first, then closes it behind them. He stands there, not quite certain what to do now. It’s ridiculous to feel this awkward. He’s far too old for adolescent fears.
“Well. One day done,” Dean breaks the silence, kicking his shoes off and flexing his toes into the rag rug, then bouncing on the balls of his feet to stretch his calf muscles. “Your grandma kicks ass.”
Cas has to laugh at that. “Yes. Yes, she does.”
“Some of your cousins, on the other hand… let’s just say I can see why you don’t always spend Christmases here at the old family homestead.” He winks.
“Indeed.” The less said about that the better.
“So which side of the bed you want?” Dean eyes the bed, his gaze narrowed in concentration. Cas wonders what he’s thinking. It’s just a mattress. No need for such deep thought.
“You seem to have claimed the left. That’s fine with me.”
“At home I usually sleep in the middle, so really doesn’t matter.”
Cas gives him a dry look, hoping he’s covering well enough that Dean can’t tell the way his heart starts racing at that little comment. Dean in the middle would be close enough that touching would be unavoidable. That could well land Cas in an embarrassing situation.
Fuck. He’s going to have to plan ahead for how to get himself out of that with at least a bit of his dignity intact. Or maybe that isn’t even possible. He really didn’t think this arrangement out well enough, did he. In his own defense, though, he also didn’t think they’d have to share a room. This house is large. Plenty of bedrooms.
Though if he’d come with Danny as originally planned? He would have expected to share a room with him. He just wasn’t thinking.
“I’m going to go wash up and get ready for bed,” Cas says, going to the armoire and gathering everything he needs. “Unless you need to go first.”
“Go for it. I’ll just read for a bit until you get back.”
“I won’t be long.”
True to his word Cas returns shortly, having changed into lightweight pajamas and taken care of brushing his teeth and everything else.
Dean’s eyes widen when he returns. “Dude. You’re wearing actual pajamas. You never wear actual pajamas. You wear boxers and t-shirts with clever environmentalist sayings on them that you love but refuse to wear in public.”
Cas flushes, because… well, because that’s entirely true. He does love them, but a professional architect should not be seen in an old t-shirt with potentially polarizing statements emblazoned on them. “Yes, I’m wearing actual pajamas. Almost my entire family is here right now.”
“Not like you’re planning on parading around the house in your jammies, are you?” Dean points out. His eyes are sparkling with amusement.
“One never knows,” Cas replies, raising his chin in an exaggerated haughty expression.
Dean chuckles, gets out of bed, pulls Cas close as he passes him, drops a quick kiss on his cheek before picking up his own toiletries and sleep attire. “I’ll be right back.”
Cas’ cheek is tingling where Dean kissed him. He carefully exhales, then inhales again. They’re alone here; he didn’t need to do that as part of the act. He’s not entirely sure how to process that.
Still dazed, he crosses over to the right-hand side of the bed, the one closer to the windows. Come to think of it, that’s likely why Dean subconsciously chose the left side. He always positions himself between the door and whoever else he’s with, especially if that person is Sam or Cas.
Cas doesn’t know all there is to know about Dean’s childhood, before he escaped to college, but he does know that he and Sam spent too many nights sleeping in places that Cas would have been terrified to stay.
He’s propped up in the bed, reading on his Kindle, when Dean returns. Cas can’t help but look at him. He’s seen Dean in his sleep pants and tee a million times, yet somehow this feels different. His hair is a little damp around the edges, where he splashed water onto his face. It’s a little longer right now than he sometimes wears it. Cas likes it this way. It gets tiny little curls that he very much wants to play with, but knows he’s not allowed.
He catches his breath, feeling a rush of heat start low in his chest and spread up to warm him all over when Dean flips back the blankets on the other side of the bed. The mattress dips down when he settles in and rearranges the pillows, yawning dramatically.
“So what’s the plan for tomorrow?” he asks, flipping onto his side to face Cas.
Cas has to take a moment to turn his thoughts from mush back into forming actual words. “A golf outing, and a luncheon at the country club. There are other activities there are as well. Tennis, horse riding, a swimming pool.”
“You mean you don’t have all of that right here?”
Cas laughs. “Not quite. There aren’t horses any more, though there used to be. And the only golfing available here is a small putting green.”
“So you’re saying you do have the rest of it. Tennis, a swimming pool.”
“Yes. There’s a pool not far, in an adjacent outbuilding. It’s not an Olympic sized pool, but it’s large enough to swim laps.” Cas stops, plays with the edge of the blanket. “And there is a tennis court, though none of us play it.”
Luncheon at the country club.” Dean huffs a laugh. “Just wait until I tell Sam about this. We’re going to have to do selfies or he’s never going to believe me. I want to golf. Just not necessarily with certain of your cousins.”
“Meaning Michael,” Cas says knowingly. “He’s mastered that look of arrogant disdain, hasn’t he. Of course he’s been learning at Zach’s knee since he was born.”
Dean grimaces. “Arrogant disdain. That’s one word for it. I’d call it a superiority complex. Anna’s pretty cool, but her brothers are both douches. If I knew how to play golf at all I’d love to kick his ass at it.”
“You can set that as a life goal.”
“Yeah, but that would mean I’d have to learn how to play golf well enough to kick his ass. And also that I’d have to spend more time with him. Do they have target shooting?”
“No!” Dean’s eyes light up. “Do they?”
“Skeet shooting. I forget if there’s actual target shooting or not.”
“Now that I can kick ass at.”
“Mm. I’m aware.” Cas chuckles. “Go to sleep, Dean. We have a busy day of hobnobbing at the Country Club ahead of us.”
“And boyfriendy stuff. Don’t forget the boyfriendy stuff.”
“That’s not a word, Dean.”
Dean wakes up sometime in the middle of the night feeling deliciously warm and content. It takes his sleep-addled brain a little while to realize it’s because Cas is pressed up against his back, his mouth close enough to the nape of Dean’s neck that he can feel every warm breath in and out. Cas moves slightly, and his lips brush against Dean’s skin.
Dean’s reaction is instantaneous. He shivers and goes half hard. Cas’ hand is fisted in the back of Dean’s tee, his knuckles lightly pressed against his spine, and his knees are touching the backs of Dean’s thighs.
A pang of longing shoots through him from head to toe. He clenches his fist in the soft cotton of the quilted coverlet. He can’t turn around. He can’t. Cas is asleep and doesn’t know what he’s doing. If he knew, he’d be utterly mortified. Dean would be, too, if Cas knew that all it took for him to pop a boner was for Cas’ mouth to land anywhere on his skin. His breath tickles. He’s so warm. It feels so damned good to have him there.
It takes him a long time to fall asleep again.
“Oh my God.”
Cas follows Dean’s gaze out to the yard, where the family is gathering to head out to the country club as a group.
“What?” Cas says, unsure what exactly Dean is reacting to.
Dean nods towards the knot of people near an SUV. “Your cousins.” Michael and Lucius. “They’re wearing white polo shirts. Polo shirts! White! I bet they’ve even got some upscale logo on them.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised in the least,” Cas agrees.
Michael and Lucius are arguing about something as they load their golf bags into the back of one of the SUVs. They argue all the time, though they’re quick enough to gang up on anyone else. Cas has never understood them. He was the victim of some of their practical jokes when he was a child, so he’s never been particularly fond of them, either. Anna is another story; he enjoys her company, and so likely would have come to her wedding even if it hadn’t been a command performance.
He might not have shown up until Saturday, though.
“We don’t have to ride with them, do we?” Dean whispers.
“No. We can ride with someone else. How about Hannah and her husband?”
“That works for me. I like your immediate family. The rest of them… well, let’s just say they have their moments.”
“How’d you end up a sister named Hannah and a cousin named Anna, anyhow?”
“Hannah is older. Naomi wasn’t about to change her choice of name merely because her brother’s daughter had a name that sounds almost the same.”
“Of course.” Dean rolls his eyes.
Cas hesitates a moment, then places his hand lightly on the small of Dean’s back to gently guide him towards a vehicle. Dean tenses, then relaxes into the touch. It makes Cas think of his utter embarrassment when he woke up this morning to find himself turned towards Dean and far too close. Exactly what he’d feared.
Thank God that Dean had remained asleep, and hadn’t noticed when Cas carefully maneuvered himself out of the bed, hardly daring to breathe until he got safely into the bathroom.
Three more nights. They still had three more nights here. Three more nights of sharing a bed with Dean.
How is it possible to both dread something and look forward to it at the same time?
Hannah turns just then, sees the two of them. Her gaze drops to the way Cas is touching Dean, and her smile softens. She looks up, meets his gaze, and nods faintly.
Cas flushes. This… well. Having his family be actively happy about him being here with Dean? It makes him feel guilty, since it’s all just an elaborate deception. He doesn’t feel at all bad about pulling off a con on everyone else. But his parents and siblings? The ones who genuinely care? His grandmother?
Maybe he didn’t think this through enough.
Cas enjoys watching Dean at the country club. Cas knows him well enough to know that this type of setting hits all of his buttons, everything that makes him feel inadequate and out of his league – and yet, almost no one can really tell. Cas knows because his smile gets brighter, his laugh louder, his body language more exaggerated.
Zach rented out a pavilion outside of the clubhouse for them to use as a staging area and a place to relax between activities. It’s outdoors, but there’s a roof to protect them from the elements, and comfortable seating. There’s also a server on duty, ready and able to obtain drinks or snacks on demand. There will be a luncheon promptly at noon. Grandmother will be out for that, though she’s not spending the whole day on site.
Dean checks out the facilities and wanders over to the snack bar. “Oh hey, mini sliders!” He picks one up and pops it into his mouth.
Michael makes a face. “They are not sliders,” he says. “They’re bison patties on brioche with a red pepper aioli.”
Dean chews, his face going through some contortions.
“Yeah. Not digging the ‘red pepper aioli’. What’s wrong with ketchup and mustard and dill pickles?”
“Cretin,” Michael mutters.
Cas reaches around Dean to take one of the sliders, tasting it himself. “I agree,” he says. “Red pepper aioli is a bit much on these. The bison is good, though.”
They’ve just returned to Ground Zero, as Dean starts to call it, after a round of target shooting that Dean kicked ass at. Cas isn’t surprised by it. Dean has told him that his dad taught him how to shoot when he was eight, and made him learn how to do it well. Michael and Lucius muttered somethings about redneck hicks. Dean didn’t reply, just blew them out of the water with whichever weapon they chose to shoot with.
There’s a stir of activity over near the bar.
“Dean-o! It’s good to see you again!” Gabriel steps out of the shadows, arms spread wide in greeting, a bottle of beer in one hand and a plate of sweets in the other. It’s good to see him. In a manner of speaking, that is – Gabriel’s choice of attire is painful. He’s wearing a pair of highwater khaki pants with loafers, no socks, then a print shirt with full sleeves in bright yellow with an abstract blue and yellow pattern. Over it he has an open scarlet vest. The colors are painful.
He offers one of his blinding grins, the one that always makes Cas wonder what mischief he’s planning. He reaches out and hugs Dean, slapping him on the back just hard enough to make Dean rock.
“Gabe, good to see you too. Cas didn’t think you were going to make it until later.”
“I had some business to finish up, but I got done faster than I thought and got here as soon as I could. Imagine my surprise to find out that ‘Danny’ is actually my old pal ‘Deanie’.”
Cas feels a spike of panic. If anyone is going to see through their deception, it’s most likely going to be Gabriel. There’s a reason that ‘it takes one to know one’ is a saying.
Dean, however, is entirely cool. He just places his other hand on Cas’ other shoulder and squeezes reassuringly. “Well, I needed a little more time before I was willing to be open about it,” he says with just the right mixture of self-deprecation and seeming honesty. “It’s been amazing, but also scary, falling in love with your roommate.”
Cas’ heart hammers his ribcage hard at that. If only it were true.
He’s glad that Dean can’t see his expression, but he has the sinking sensation that Gabriel can, and also knows him well enough to read it correctly. There’s a little flicker in Gabe’s expression that worries him. He isn’t sure if it’s better to ignore him, or try and head him off at the pass somehow by talking to him alone.
Gabe turns to him, his grin widening. “Good to see you, too, Cassie. You’re looking well and healthy. The architect gig seems to be treating you well. Have you been enjoying this little soiree here? The two of you? I heard you kicked Michael’s ass at target shooting.” Gabe pops a grape into his mouth, making an obscene sound and visibly rolling it around with his tongue.
Dean grins. “I did well, thank you very much.”
“Great to hear it. Did you shoot at all, Cassie?”
Cas manages not to grind his teeth at the nickname. He’s long since given up on trying to get Gabe to change. “Yes. I was not nearly so proficient as Dean, but I held my own. He’s been teaching me a little.” Which isn’t a lie. It’s just that it’s been probably three years since the last time they went to a shooting range for an afternoon’s entertainment.
“So you’ll be prepared if our dear cousins come visiting unexpectedly, eh?” His gaze shifts to where Michael and Lucius are walking into the room, arguing in a low voice.
Cas chokes on nothing. Did Gabe really just suggest… Of course he did. He shakes his head to clear it. These next few days ought to be entertaining, with Gabe doing everything in his power to be outrageous, while their cousins fall for it hook, line and sinker.
Ah, the joys of family.
Dean bumps his shoulder against Cas’, turns towards Gabe.
“Mind if I steal your brother for a little while?” Dean continues without interruption. “I’m thinking that the view over there has to be amazing.” He nods towards a pathway leading away from the clubhouse up to a garden bench perched atop a rise.
Gabe chuckles. “It is. Perfect secret spot for a little bit of making out, am I right?”
Dean laughs. “I’m not the kind to kiss and tell. Though I am the kind to kiss. So guess you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Cas? Come with me?” There’s a note of pleading in his tone that’s impossible for Cas to resist.
“Of course, Dean.” He stands up, links his fingers with Dean’s when Dean slides his hand down the length of his arm and makes space for him.
“Awesome. Talk to you more later, Gabe.”
Dean leads him to the garden path and up the hill until they reach an overlook with a view of the golf course.
“Gotta say I’d prefer the view at a national park or something less manufactured, but this is nice too,” he muses aloud.
“It’s particularly beautiful in the spring, when all the trees are in bloom,” Cas offers.
“Yeah?” Dean turns towards him, facing back the way they came. “I can see the pavilion from here. With all your family still dining on things I can’t pronounce.”
“They use French to sound pretentious. It’s still just meat and potatoes. And salad.”
Dean chuckles. “I suppose that’s true. Anyhow. As I was saying… I can see the pavilion from here.”
“Yes.” Cas looks, too.
“And if I can see them, they can see us, too, right?”
“That’s generally the way line of sight works, yes.”
“So. This might be a good opportunity to up the game, I’m thinking.”
Cas’ brows draw together in confusion. “I’m not following you.”
Dean shifts, seeming nervous for some reason. “Just go with it, okay?” he murmurs. He lifts his hand then, laying it gently against Cas’ cheek. His fingertips are slightly rough, yet infinitely tender. He brushes his thumb lightly against the corner of Cas’ mouth, and Cas shivers.
“Just go with it,” he repeats, even more softly this time, as his gaze drops to Cas’ mouth.
Cas barely has time to catch his breath before Dean is moving forward to press their lips together. His lips are plush and soft, warm, silky. Cas has dreamed of this in the dark secrecy of his room for years. He’s seen Dean kiss some of the people he’s brought home, and while he didn’t go out of his way to watch, sometimes it was impossible to miss.
He’s always thought that Dean looked like he was a good kisser, paying attention to his partner, taking his time, seducing with his mouth and hands.
If he’d only known just how much he was underestimating his friend.
Cas’ hand comes up of its own volition to lightly wrap around Dean’s wrist, his other sliding to his waist. He hears a quiet, needy sound and realizes that he’s the one who made it. His pulse races, his breathing going shallow and raspy.
Dean tastes like the craft beer he was drinking with his lunch. He tastes delicious.
When Dean’s tongue lightly licks at Cas’ lower lip, he moans and opens to him, pressing into him like a man dying of thirst. It’s everything he’s ever imagined Dean’s kiss to be, and more.
He will never be the same.
After forever, and all too soon, Dean gently backs away, looking into Cas’ eyes. His pupils are wide and dark, his breathing uneven as well. Cas could almost convince himself that Dean is as affected as he is himself.
Dean looks over his shoulder, back towards the pavilion, and smiles.
Cas follows his gaze, sees at least half a dozen people suddenly turn away and busy themselves with something or another, and his stomach falls.
Of course. This was a show, nothing more than a show to add veracity to their charade.
If he was a different man, Cas would cry about now.
Instead he swallows hard, nods, and takes Dean by the hand. “We should return. It looks like Grandmother has arrived, so luncheon will be served shortly.”
He can’t talk to Dean right now. He just can’t. So he tugs on his hand and starts back down the path with determination.
Dean and Cas are seated at a table on the edge of the pavilion while Cas’ grandmother presides over the luncheon in the center of the room, with Anna and her fiancé in the places of honor by her side. Anna is quite lovely, Dean thinks, though she seems weirdly fragile. Cas’ aunt Naomi is at her side, leaning over now and then to whisper something to her. Right afterwards, Anna always does something to correct her posture, fix her hair, rearrange her skirt, adjust the placement of her utensils at her place setting.
Dean leans towards Cas. “Is your aunt seriously trying to teach Anna manners right now? As if she doesn’t already have flawless ones?”
Cas flicks his gaze towards them, then back. He’s been a little off since Dean had the brilliant idea to haul him up to the overlook and kiss him. Dean won’t pretend he isn’t kind of upset about Cas’ reaction, but he’s not going to show it. He’d kind of hoped… but no. Not thinking about that right now.
“Naomi does believe there is a right way to do everything,” Cas murmurs.
“In most cases, yes.”
“Hm.” Dean takes a bite of his salad. It’s very pretentious and not really all that good, as far as he’s concerned. Sort of like those bison sliders, not terrible but also nothing like an old-fashioned cheeseburger dripping with fat and cheese, heart attack on a platter. Yum. “So golf tourney this afternoon?”
“Yes,” Cas confirms. “The teams will be assigned randomly. So odds are we won’t be in the same foursome.”
Dean smirks at that. “Foursomes, huh?”
Cas rolls his eyes in exasperation, though Dean’s pretty sure he’s amused, too. He just won’t admit it most of the time. He likes pretending he’s a stick in the mud.
Good thing that Dean knows him well enough to know he’s really a teenager in a trenchcoat.
After spending the entire day together, from breakfast through the day at the Country Club to another dinner at what Dean has privately started calling The Manor, Dean’s smile is getting brittle. Gabe suggests a game of poker, but Cas shakes his head. “I think that Dean and I will retire to our room and have a little quiet time.”
Gabe smirks. “Can you keep it quiet? Really?”
“Gabriel,” Mom says in her best Mom voice. It has the usual impact – almost none. He does go quiet, but he still smirks at them.
Dean chuckles. “We can be quiet when we need to be.”
Cas can feel himself turning red. Having Dean and Gabe together in the same room is always, always dangerous.
“I’m leaving now,” he says abruptly. “You can come or stay, as it suits you.”
“I’ll come,” Dean says easily, standing up and holding out his hand to take Cas’.
Cas tries not to think of how nice it feels to have Dean’s hand in his. He does, however, notice the look of mild distaste that Naomi directs towards their clasped hands.
He knows it’s got nothing to do with their sexual orientation, honestly. Naomi doesn’t care about that. She does, however, have a classist streak a mile wide. She’s undoubtedly decided that Dean comes from a decidedly underprivileged background, and has no business dating a Shurley.
She’s not wrong about Dean’s background. She’s wrong about everything else.
Including the dating.
Once they’re in the room they share, Dean kicks off his shoes and flings himself onto the bed. It bounces three times before settling.
“Wow. Who knew the whole Country Club experience could be so exhausting?” he complains. “Holy shit. It’s like you have to be playing your mental ‘A’ game the whole time, or someone’s going to skewer you with your own words. And that’s your family. Wow, Cas. Just… wow.”
Cas sits more gently on the other side of the bed, reaching up to loosen his tie and draw it out from underneath his collar. He then reaches down to untie his shoes, lining them up and sliding them neatly under the bed. “I did warn you that my extended family is a lot to deal with.”
“You did. But seeing it in person, I’m thinking you understated the case.”
“Quite possibly. Are you regretting the trip?”
“Nah, man. Never. Unless you’re regretting taking me along.”
“No.” Cas sighs. He should be regretting it. Even this? This simple moment, both on the bed, talking. It’s so sweetly domestic. He could be happy if he had this every day.
But he doesn’t. He has to remember that. It’s all pretend. Everything is make-believe.
“So what’s on the docket for tomorrow? Not another day at the Country Club, I hope?”
“No. Tomorrow is the rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner. We aren’t part of the wedding party, so we aren’t required for the rehearsal. We could probably get away with taking some time to ourselves. Possibly even leaving the premises for the afternoon, so long as we returned in time for dinner.”
Dean’s eyes light up. “Yeah? We could go exploring? Wasn’t there a town not far from here?”
“Yes, there is. Around a 20 minute drive. You wish to go to town?”
“Sure. Why not? You still owe me the big architecture tour, too, of the house.”
“You actually want to hear me discuss the history of this home?” Cas is surprised.
“Well sure. It’s your ancestral home, right? One of them, anyhow. From one root of your family tree. I like listening to you when you’re talking about something you’re interested in.”
“Even when it’s not something you’re interested in?”
Dean gives him a sideways look. “Dude. Yes. Of course. I like knowing about the things that are important to you.”
Cas doesn’t know why that makes him tingle inside. Of course? Of course.
Cas wakes up in the middle of the night with his hand tangled in the fabric of Dean’s sleep shirt, his knuckles pressed against his spine. He carefully loosens his grip, smoothing the fabric down again and forcing himself to flip over and cling to the edge of the bed.
He hopes it lasts this time. He distinctly remembers positioning himself exactly this way before turning off the bedside lamp to begin with.
Friday is a lovely day. After a lively breakfast where Dean entertained Cas’ cousins’ children with silly stories and faces, the two of them head out to town by themselves. Cas plays tour guide, pointing out various historical sites and how the styles of architecture in use tell a story all by themselves. It’s lovely and relaxing after the chaos at the estate.
Then it’s back into the middle of the chaos.
In the evening, after the rehearsal dinner, Cas excuses himself from a conversation with Hannah and her husband in order to go outside and get some fresh air. He loves his family, he does, but he is at heart an introvert, and so much time around so many people is exhausting. He just needs some space. Dean is playing a hard and fast game of Mario Kart with Alfie and Gavin. Cas wouldn’t have thought that his grandmother would have a gaming system anywhere on the premises, but then it occurs to him that his brother or cousin likely brought the system themselves and hooked it up to the television. It’s a nice television. Grandmother likes to watch an eclectic mix of the business news and trashy reality TV, with the occasional sappy Lifetime movie thrown in for good measure.
Cas sees movement from the door, turns his head slightly. It’s his father. He comes to stand beside Cas at the edge of the terrace, looking out over the formal gardens. The fountain is running, lit with floodlights. It’s beautiful. The reception will be held out here tomorrow, so there’s also a great deal of construction in progress where the wedding designer and the various teams of people are transforming everything into a wedding wonderland, but with the darkness most of the evidence is disguised.
Chuck lightly bumps his shoulder against Cas’. “It makes me happy to see you with Dean,” he says softly. “I always thought it was a shame that the two of you hadn’t gotten together. You’ve always seemed so right for each other. But I didn’t want to be one of those people who assumed that just because you were both open to dating men, that you should automatically be dating each other.”
Cas laughs faintly. “Thank you for that.” He’s been victim to that before… people thinking that hey, Cas is gay, and this other person they know is gay, so that’s all they need to have in common in order to date. Even though he knows they mean well, he still finds that offensive.
Then, because he’s a martyr and can’t help himself, he asks, “You think we seem right for each other?”
Chuck turns towards him. “Yes, of course. You’re different in a lot of ways, but you have the important things in common. You’re both intensely loyal. Once you decide you care for someone, that’s it. You have very similar senses of humor, though you express it differently. But more than anything else, you adore each other. Anyone can see it. You already know you can get along living together, too. That’s a plus.”
Anyone can see it?
Shit, has he really been that obvious in how he looks at Dean?
No, no, he can’t have been, or Dean would have called him on it. Dean might hate talking about feelings or admitting any kind of vulnerability, but if he knew how Cas feels about him, he wouldn’t have suggested coming along as his boyfriend. He wouldn’t be cruel that way. Not intentionally. As it was, Cas might be suffering, but it’s his own fault for agreeing.
Chuck pats him lightly on the back. “He’s a good guy, your Dean. I’m happy for you.”
Cas doesn’t know what to do or say, so he forces a weak smile. “Thank you, Dad. That means a lot to me.” It did. Or it would, if it were true.
He hopes that his family will eventually forgive him for ‘breaking up’ with Dean. Even if they continue to live together. When they continue to live together. He can’t see himself ending their arrangement until something huge happens to change it, like Dean finally meeting someone he wants to actually date, rather than just hook up for a night or two.
Anna’s wedding isn’t until late afternoon, so they have time for a round of golf before they have to get ready. Cas tells Dean he doesn’t have to play, but Dean insists. He may not have much experience with the game, but he has a natural athleticism that at least makes for strong shots if not straight ones. He loses a lot of balls in the water and in the trees, enough that Cas can tell he’s getting frustrated simply by the increasing number of jokes he cracks.
Cas finishes buttoning up his dress shirt and loops his tie around and under the collar, leaving it loose for the moment. He can hear Dean getting ready behind him, but he hasn’t looked yet.
He’ll admit to a sense of anticipation at seeing Dean in a suit. He’s seen it a handful of times before. He wore a suit for his graduation from college. It wasn’t perfectly tailored, but he still looked amazingly good in a proper jacket and tie. Even back then Cas had been highly appreciative. He’d worn a suit jacket for his Uncle Bobby’s wedding to his Aunt Ellen, and to a benefit dinner for the hospital. There were a few other occasions over the years as well, but they were few and far between.
“Can you help me with these cuff links?” Dean asks.
“Of course,” Cas says before he turns. When he does he stops dead in his tracks.
Dean… Dean looks utterly amazing. Cas has never seen this suit before. It fits him perfectly, from his broad shoulders to his trim waist to his unfairly appealing bow legs. The crisp white shirt with its shadow stripes makes his skin tones sing, and he’s done something with his hair.
He’s beautiful. There’s no other word for it. Absolutely beautiful.
“Cas?” Dean’s voice wavers with uncertainty.
“Dean. You look… that suit is exceptionally flattering.”
Dean’s smile is soft and a little shy, and he ducks his head slightly, his cheeks flushing a pale rose. “You think so?”
“I do think so, yes. It’s new?”
“Yeah, figured for a fancy shindig like this, I should have something a little better than my old suit.”
“You made an excellent choice.”
“Thanks.” His green-eyed gaze sweeps over Cas as well, lingering here and there… his adam’s apple, his biceps, his hips, his thighs. “You look good too. I like that one. And good choice with the tie. You going to let me do the knot for you?”
Dean’s hands were unfairly tender as he fixed the knot. “There you go.” He brushed his thumbs under Cas’ chin. Cas wasn’t sure if it was accidental or not.
“Okay then. Let’s go watch your cousin get married.”
“There you are.” Cas’ mom, Becky, comes over to Cas and Dean as they reach the bottom of the staircase. “Oh, don’t you both just look amazing?” She pats Cas on the cheek, then tugs him down to kiss him. Dean smirks, but that smirk goes away when she turns to him and repeats the action. Her lips are cool on his cheek.
Cas laughs. “Mother. You’re leaving lipstick behind.” He reaches over to Dean, wipes at his cheek. “There.”
Becky’s smile doesn’t leave her lips. She steps back a half step, and looks at the two of them. “I’m just so happy to see the two of you so happy. Maybe in another year or two there’ll be another wedding here, hm?” She reaches out to squeeze Cas’ hand.
Dean blinks, his brain refusing to compute what she just implied. No. Rather… damn. No. Not going there.
He refuses to look at Cas. He doesn’t want to see his expression right now. If it’s the constipated expression he expects, he can’t take it.
The entire wedding is on the grounds. The ceremony is in the West Garden. Dean tries very hard not to roll his eyes at the idea of having a West Garden. He thinks he’s mostly successful. Since it’s on the property they don’t have to drive anywhere to get there.
He notices a lot of cars outside. “Who are all these people, anyhow? I thought most of your family was already here.”
Cas shrugs one shoulder. “I don’t even know most of them. Social acquaintances of Naomi and Zachariah. Friends of Anna and Vincent. Some family friends that my grandmother has known for a very long time.”
“People that the Adlers think they can curry favor with by inviting them to their daughter’s wedding.”
“There he is. My adorable little cynic.” Cas reaches out to pat Dean’s cheek affectionately.
Sarcastic little shit.
“That said, you’re not wrong.”
They walk from the terrace doors to the path leading towards the garden. There are large urns filled with white and pink flowers, spiky ones and full blooms, tiny ones spilling over the sides in cascades. They’re lovely and smell good, but Dean has no idea what they are. There are roses in there. Those, at least, he’s confident in the label. A string quartet plays soft churchy music, hidden behind a screen.
If you’re going to pay to have live musicians, why hide them?
“Okay, showtime,” Dean murmurs as they get up to the floral arch delineating the entrance to the ceremony site, where rows and rows of white folding wooden chairs are arranged facing the wedding arch on the far end. He reaches out to take Cas’ hand, twining their fingers together.
He’s almost used to the zing of pleasure he gets every time their palms touch. Almost.
Dean can feel the gazes of the various guests watching as he and Cas make their way to their seats, near the front. He smiles back at them, knowing the two of them make a striking picture. Cas is gorgeous, especially all spiffed up in his suit, and Dean knows he cleans up good. He gives his best smile to the ones who are looking all judgmental.
Once they’re seated, he leans closer, so close that their arms are touching along their full length, from shoulder down to where their fingers are still twined together. He pulls Cas’ hand over to rest on his thigh, and leans closer to brush a kiss against the shell of his ear.
Cas turns his head, a question in his eyes.
“Just the whole romance of a wedding, babe,” he says, voice pitched to be intimate and yet not so low that no one can possibly overhear. “I might be catching some feelings. Caught up in the whole festive atmosphere.”
“It is quite a panoply, isn’t it.”
“A panoply, huh?”
Cas’ gaze narrows. “It’s the correct usage.”
“I have no doubt of that. I didn’t say anything. I love your vocabulary.” No lie there, either. Cas uses words the way Dean uses physical tools – precisely, exactly, specifically. It’s ridiculously hot.
The music stops for a moment, and when it resumes, the ushers walk the guests of honor down the white runner. Vincent’s grandparents, Cas’ grandmother, then Vincent’s parents. Vincent and his groomsmen come out with the officiant, looking sharp in their dark gray suits with deep rose-colored waistcoats and ties, small boutonnieres of dark pink roses and a wisp of baby’s breath pinned to their front pockets.
Another music change, and the bridesmaids walk down the aisle. Dean doesn’t know any of them other than superficially. He met them at the rehearsal dinner last night, but didn’t bother committing their names to memory.
Finally, Anna herself walks down the aisle, escorted by both her parents. Dean’s a little surprised. He would have thought Naomi would be traditional and conservative enough that Zachariah would walk their daughter down the aisle alone, but apparently not. Maybe Anna insisted.
Anna is beautiful in the late afternoon sun, her dress a slim column with lace and beads and sequins that shimmer in the light. Her hair is done up in some elaborate design, a veil flowing down her back and behind her. Her bouquet is enormous, all white with hints of palest pink. She smiles and gives tiny waves to the guests, until finally she turns all of her attention to Vincent.
Dean reaches over to catch Cas’ hand as the ceremony begins. The traditional words wash over him. Love, honor, cherish. In sickness and in health.
He’s mortified when tears prick behind his eyes and emotion forms a hot ball of feelings behind his breastbone.
Damn. Damn, damn, damn.
He wants that. He wants someone who’s all of that for him, with him. The problem? The problem is that the only person who could possibly fit the bill is sitting next to him, oblivious to everything that Dean is feeling. Cas loves him, Dean knows he does. Just not the way that Dean wants to be loved.
Usually he can suck it up and be happy with what he’s got, because having Cas as his platonic roommate who sometimes dates other guys is better than not having Cas in his life at all.
But there are times when it just hurts so damn bad that he’s never going to be the one standing up there, holding hands with Cas, gazing into his eyes the way Anna is looking at Vincent, as though the rest of the world has completely disappeared.
He swallows hard, sniffles once.
Cas hands him a tissue.
Dean laughs, accepts it and wipes at his eyes.
He is so fucked.
Cas hands Dean a flute of champagne before taking one for himself. “Anna makes a lovely bride,” he observes, watching her with her new husband on the dance floor. The live band is alternating classics for the older crowd with newer music that resonates with the younger people.
“She does,” Dean agrees. “She looks happy. That’s even more important than the dress.”
“Agree.” Cas sighs.
“Hey, none of that feeling sorry for yourself crap,” Dean says, taking a sip of the champagne, then a second, deeper one before he sets the glass aside. “Come on. Let’s dance.”
“What?” Cas is startled when Dean takes his elbow.
“You heard me. We’re doing this, right? And everything that goes along with it. That includes dancing.”
“I don’t dance, Dean, you know that.” Cas is flustered.
“No excuses, sunshine. You don’t have to win the state ballroom dance championship. You just have to stand on the dance floor with me, put one hand on my waist, or maybe my ass if you’re feeling daring, and hold my other hand, then sway vaguely in time with the music. It’s easy.”
Cas flushes. Put his hand on Dean’s ass. Just like last night, in the bed they shared, while Dean was asleep. Cas was asleep too, to be fair, so it wasn’t intentional. Consciously intentional.
Shut up with the internal monologue already, Castiel.
Dean pulls him onto the dance floor, thankfully keeping towards the edge, and turns towards him. “Hands.” He makes a beckoning motion with his, fluttering his fingers.
Cas swallows and slowly places his hands in Deans.
Dean grins. “There you go. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Remember… this isn’t our first rodeo.”
“Sh, babe.” Dean leans forward and kisses him quickly, then brushes his lips along his cheek towards his ear. “Boyfriendy.”
Oh. Of course. “That still isn’t a word.”
Dean steps in closer, so close that Cas can feel the heat of his chest. His thigh brushes against Cas’ as he positions them, resting his hand on Cas’ shoulder, tucking his thumb inside Cas’ collar. “Close your eyes and listen to the music. I’ll lead. Just follow.”
“As though it’s that easy.”
“It’s that easy. Trust me. I’ll take care of you.”
Cas obeys, and Dean is right. It’s that easy. It helps that it’s a slow song, and Dean isn’t trying any elaborate choreography. It’s not like Dean is a trained dancer either.
If only this were real.
He swallowed hard. This is a mistake. This whole idea is a huge, colossal mistake.
Yet even knowing it’s a mistake, he’s going to enjoy it while he can.
“Dance with me,” Becky says to Dean, holding out her hand. “I insist.”
He laughs, stands up. “Yes ma’am. It would be my pleasure.” He flashes a quick grin at Cas, brushes his fingers lightly through his hair, then heads off to the dance floor with his mother. Cas is more than content to let him go. Dean enjoys dancing, throwing himself into it with enthusiasm.
Gabe slides into the chair Dean vacated. His bow tie is hanging loose around his neck, the brilliant lime green with purple polka dots standing out among the sea of more conservatively dressed guests.
“Hello Gabe,” Cas says with a sigh.
“Hey there Cassie. Saw you dancing with Dean earlier.”
“I imagine you did. Did you not expect me to dance with my date?”
“Honestly? No. You’ve never been one to kick back and have that kind of fun. Except around Dean, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised after all.”
Cas takes a sip of his wine. It’s very good wine. Zach and Naomi spared no expense. Cas figures there’s no reason not to indulge. He and Dean are staying right here at the estate. No driving required. All he’ll have to negotiate is a couple flights of stairs, should he choose to get intoxicated.
He’s not drinking fast enough to get really hammered, though. Just pleasantly tipsy, which is enough. He doesn’t need to be that guest.
“So what happened with the actual Danny?”
Cas chokes on the wine.
Gabe whacks him on the back, which doesn’t really help but does give him a moment to catch his breath. He sits up straight and glares at his brother. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Gabe doesn’t look impressed. “How many times have you actually been able to pull one off over me?”
Cas feels like a petulant child. He doesn’t like the feeling.
Gabe sighs and leans closer, bumping their shoulders together. “Don’t worry. I don’t think anyone else has figured it out. Mom and Dad are just so happy to see you two together, and the douche cousins are too busy trying to be douches without Grandmother picking up on it and disowning them.”
Cas pinches the bridge of his nose. He should just ignore Gabe; that’s always the most effective way of dealing with him. It takes a while, but eventually he gets bored and goes away.
“We broke up a week ago,” he admits. “Dean offered to step in so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath.”
“Playing with fire there, Cassie.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“You understand exactly what I mean. You’re not that good of an actor. Dean might think you are. But you’re not. What happens when you get home again and this is over?”
Cas drains the rest of his wine glass, suddenly weary and afraid. “I don’t know.”
Going back to their regular lives is surreal. It may have been only a handful of days, but being able to openly show how he really felt about Cas had been amazing. Now, back at the house they share, Dean just feels weird.
When Cas shuffles into the kitchen in the morning, he has to physically stop himself from ruffling his hair and kissing him lightly on the lips. When he comes home from the hospital and Cas is sitting on the couch, he wants to drop down beside him, so close that their bodies are pressed together head to toe, but he can’t.
He thought everything would be okay.
He had no idea he was going to be miserable, knowing for such a short time what it would really be like, and then having that happiness taken away from him again while Cas was still just. Right. There.
Cas is sitting slumped on the couch when Dean gets home from work. He’s eating ice cream right from the carton while Dr. Sexy plays on the TV, dressed in sweat pants and an old tee.
Dean frowns at the sight. He sets his things down and goes over to Cas, squatting down in front of him. “Cas? What’s wrong?” Cas never indulges like this unless he’s truly miserable. The last time this happened was when he’d gotten word from home that the family dog had died, and he felt guilty since it had been months since he’d last seen him.
Cas looks at him, shakes his head slightly.
“Come on, dude. You can tell me. I want to know.” Dean places his hands on Cas’ knees, rubbing lightly. “I always want to know.”
Cas’ expression crumples briefly before he gets control again. “I just…” He clears his throat. “I’m sorry, Dean. I don’t mean to be so dramatic. But I miss you, illogical as that is when you’re right here.”
Dean’s breath catches. “You do?”
Cas shrugs a shoulder helplessly. “I know it makes no sense.”
Dean shakes his head. “I miss you too.”
Cas’ expression morphs through a series of changes—confusion, disbelief, cautious hope. “But I’m right here.”
Dean knows this is it. This is the moment where everything changes, one way or another. Once he says anything, it can’t be unsaid.
But they can’t go on like this, either, tiptoeing around each other.
“Not the same way you were at Anna’s wedding,” he says. “I miss you like that. I miss us like that. And every time I see you, I remember that I don’t have that any more. That it was always just make-believe.”
Cas swallows and leans forward. Dean made the first small breach in the walls they’ve erected between themselves. It’s his turn to smash them into oblivion.
“Was it? Or was it wish-fulfillment, and the only thing stopping us… is us?”
Before Dean responds, he takes a breath and leans forward to kiss Dean.
Dean can’t help but smile against Cas’ mouth, laughing in joy before he lifts his hands from Cas’ knees to wrap one arm around his waist, bringing the other up so that he can curl his palm around Cas’ neck, holding him in place while he deepens the kiss, turning it from a fragile, tender thing into something deeper, fuller, richer.
He pulls back when he can’t breathe properly, looking into Cas’ eyes. “Oh my God.”
“Dean. Is… are… what…”
“Yeah. All that.”
“For so long, Cas. So, so long.”
“Me too.” Cas lifts his hand as well, shakily running his fingers through Dean’s hair. “Me too. So long.”