Trick or Sweet was a bakery-slash-chocolate shop, but Dean was fairly sure that Gabriel would have him turn half of it into a joke shop if he could—something epic, of Fred and George Weasley proportions. The man was a prankster extraordinaire, so Dean was slightly suspicious when his business partner welcomed him with a wide smile, freshly made coffee, and a cheery greeting. It would hardly be the first time he squeezed in a major prank before eight in the morning.
“Dean-o! Good morning! I’ve got you some fresh coffee right here. Sit down and take a load off, buddy!”
“What do you want?” Dean asked suspiciously, very slowly sliding himself into the offered seat in the café portion of the bakery.
Dean and Gabriel had met at culinary school, both of them taking night classes, though for different reasons. Dean had worked as a mechanic since he was just fourteen, and his Uncle Bobby still needed him during the daytime; Gabriel was taking classes his family didn’t approve of, as apparently Novaks were all lawyers, philosophers, or doctors, and certainly didn’t dabble in genital-shaped chocolatery, like Gabriel did.
They’d bonded over their shared love of food, fun, and frolics, and had discovered that in their own secret ways, they were both huge nerds. Whereas Dean obsessed over movies and books and spoke several languages that were—in the strictest of senses—entirely fictional, Gabriel was tinhat-deep in bizarre conspiracy theories whenever he wasn’t at Doctor Who conventions or designing new, startlingly good, chocolate combinations.
Even so, both dorks as they were, Gabriel could be trying to work with on occasion.
“I don’t want anything!” Gabriel protested, lowering a steaming cup of joe to the small, bistro-style table just inside the window bay. They weren’t open yet, so they had a few minutes for… whatever this was.
“Uh-huh,” said Dean, unconvinced, wary of being lulled into a false sense of security.
Gabriel disappeared behind the pastry counter and emerged with a fresh, flakey slice of apple pie. The plate was even complete with the tiny doily under the slice.
“Pie for breakfast?” Dean asked, still convinced that Gabriel was entirely untrustworthy.
“Hey, nothing wrong with a sweet treat for breakfast! It’s great pie!”
“I know it is, Gabriel,” Dean said flatly. “I was here at four this morning making it, remember? Before I went to do the deliveries.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes dramatically and flopped down into the chair opposite Dean. He took a moment to pull off his hairnet, letting loose blond waves fall about his face. “Can’t a business partner and best friend provide breakfast to another on occasion?”
“Balthazar’s your best friend.”
“You wound me, Dean. You’re at least equal, when you’re not criticizing my ganache.”
“Did Kali kick you out again and you need to sleep on my couch?”
“Nope!” Gabriel sounded quite proud. “We’re actually doing well. I haven’t even had to sleep on my own couch for a couple of weeks now.”
Dean couldn’t help but huff out a laugh. To say that his friend was dysfunctional was an understatement. But given the way he’d been raised, Dean often gave him a pass. His family were big; big name, big money. The perfect society family. At least until his dad had run off and left them when Gabriel was a kid, claiming that he couldn’t stand Naomi Novak’s coldness any longer, and that he’d found love with a Russian waitress named Rachel. Charles gave up his citizenship and put an ocean between himself and his emotionless ex-wife, not to mention his kids. Gabriel never really spoke about it, though as far as Dean knew, he had a whole other half of his family over in Russia.
“Alright, so no couch surfing,” Dean said, with some relief. Gabriel had occupied Dean’s guest room for a while when their business first launched, and they’d about killed each other. Thoughtful, he raised a forkful of his own goddamn fantastic pie to his mouth. “Did you forget to get the order in to the supplier on time again?”
“Jesus Dean, that was one time. ”
“Alright, alright. You don’t need an alibi, do you? Because if it’s a law thing, you’d be better off with my brother.”
Gabriel gave a long, drawn out, suffering sigh. “Fine.”
“Aha! So there is something!” Dean snapped his fingers and grinned for a moment, before alarm overtook him. “Wait, you don’t really need an alibi, do you?”
Gabriel grabbed the sugar shaker from the table as he chuckled, depositing far more crystals than a grown man should consume into his own coffee. “No, dude. I’m not in trouble with the law. Well, I mean… not unless we get caught.”
“We?” Dean spluttered, pie forgotten.
“This isn’t going well.”
“Gabe! Out with it!”
“I need you to marry my brother,” Gabriel said.
All at once, Dean’s brain did an illegal U-turn over the center line and screeched to a halt in the middle of oncoming traffic. There were so many things to say to that, but for some reason, what came out of Dean’s mouth was: “But Michael and Luke are both already married.”
Gabriel blinked. “Well you took that better than expected.”
“I’m not so sure I did; I think my brain is just rebooting. I suggest you talk quickly before it fully reloads.” Dean slid his hands around the white porcelain mug that Gabriel had provided, watching the heat curl from the black mirror surface in the dim, early morning light of the shop.
“Not Michael or Luke,” Gabriel confirmed. “I need you to marry Castiel.”
“Who?” Dean felt his own forehead crease as he raised his eyebrow in utter confusion.
“My younger half-brother. He’s Dad and Rachel’s kid.”
This was new insight into Gabriel’s family, for Dean. “You’ve never even spoken about that side of your family to me, Gabe.”
Gabriel nodded slowly to his coffee. “Yeah, I know. As a kid, I was angry and I pushed them all away, but as an adult… you’ve met my mother. I don’t blame Dad one bit for leaving, making a new family. We’ve gotten closer over the last couple of years. I have two half-brothers and a half-sister—twins, Anna and Alfie, and Castiel is the youngest.”
“Anna and Alfie are only two years younger than me, twenty-six. And then Cassie is twenty-five.”
“Alright,” Dean said slowly. “Now that we’ve played Novak Guess Who, are you planning on telling me what the fuck the marriage thing is about? Is this some kind of weird prank?”
“No.” Gabriel sighed, finally taking a deep gulp of his sweet coffee. “My brother is gay, Dean. In Russia… that can be difficult. But, technically, it’s not illegal as long as you aren’t ‘promoting’ homosexuality.”
Dean nodded, pie forgotten, feeling like he was sort-of following along. He wasn’t quite sure what he was following along with, but the words themselves made sense.
“The problem is that Cas is a novelist. He writes erotic novels. Very gay ones.”
“Oh. Well, good for him,” said Dean, nodding politely, until it clicked. “Oh—oh. Right. That’s… probably not good, then.”
“Yeah,” Gabriel said quietly, before taking another gulp of his coffee. “My dad has been increasingly concerned about his safety. He’s had a lot of threats. Cassie is a bit of a wildcard sometimes and he was too stubborn to leave, but some recent events got to him, got under his skin. He’s agreed to come to America to live and work if we can find a way to get him here.”
Dean blinked slowly. “But—why me? He has family, he has—”
“Step families aren’t covered by immediate family visas, Dean. I can’t get him here that way. And because his work can be done anywhere in the world, the delightful people at the bureau of consular affairs that I spoke to warned me that he’s unlikely to get accepted from Russia with a work visa. And claiming asylum here is notoriously difficult unless he’s been physically harmed—which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid happening.”
Despite himself, Dean was impressed. “You’ve really looked into all of this.”
“Of course I have. I know I’m an ass most of the time, well aware of that, but he’s my brother, Dean.”
They were silent for a moment, the heavy topic settling around them while Dean returned to picking at his pie. The crust was perfection, but he might look into searching out a new supplier for his apples; they just weren’t as tart this year.
“So, again—why me?” Dean found himself calmly asking.
“Well, you’re bi.”
“And you interpret that as ‘will marry anyone thrown at me’?” Dean scowled.
“No, I just meant—I don’t know any other guys who are single. And as a known homosexual, it wouldn’t be super convincing to pawn him off on a woman,” Gabriel explained.
“Pawn him off?” Dean pointed his fork at Gabriel disapprovingly. “You’re making him sound like an ugly pocket watch someone found in grandpa’s attic.”
“Well that part”—Gabriel stopped for a second to grin widely and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Thumbing through his gallery, he pulled up a picture—“I can reassure you of. Cassie isn’t an ugly anything.”
Placing his phone down on the small table, Gabriel shunted it across the polished surface toward Dean. Picking it up, Dean rested his eyes on Gabriel—still disapproving—for a moment before he looked down.
Castiel Novak, it was clear even from a shitty photograph on a phone, was an incredibly attractive man. The picture was unguarded. He had his mouth slightly open, pouty, full lips parted. He wore pajamas; honest to goodness striped pajamas. And he sat on the floor with a Christmas present in his lap—perhaps one from Gabriel, Dean surmised, as someone had decided to send Gabe the picture. Castiel had wild, thick, dark hair that looked like he’d just rolled out of bed. His eyes were the most fantastic blue Dean had ever seen, vivid and gripping. His skin was tan, his firm muscles showing even in the sleepwear he wore.
“And you say he’s a novelist, not an underwear model?” Dean couldn’t help but grin.
Gabriel snorted. “Oh, he’s had the chance. But he likes books. Not to mention, he’s super damn awkward. No sense of boundaries, he just says what he thinks. Makes for interesting family relations.”
Dean made a small, noncommittal noise and passed Gabriel’s phone back across the table.
“I know this is crazy, even for me,” Gabriel said. “But he’s my brother. I’m not asking you to wine and dine him, just sign some paper. If he was able to be here, in America… well, my whole family would feel a lot better. We’d owe you.”
Incredulous, Dean shook his head at Gabriel. “Gabe, man—you can’t just ask me to marry a stranger. What if I meet someone I actually want to date? How is that conversation gonna go? Plus—this is definitely, one hundred percent, very illegal.”
Gabriel’s shoulders gave a slight slump, but Dean didn’t miss the motion. “Yeah. You’re right. I was just desperate and—you know what, forget I mentioned it, okay? We’ve got a store to open.”
“Too right. Today’s maple bacon cupcakes aren’t gonna frost themselves, and we’re almost out of your chocolate strawberries,” Dean said, pushing up from the table.
With another small smile, Gabriel stretched his hair net back over his blond locks. “Hazelnut pralines, too. Busy day,” he said, heading back behind the counter to the kitchen.
Dean followed. It was only when he looked down at his own hands, gripping the empty mug and plate from the table, that he realized he was holding them so tightly his knuckles were white.
The Roadhouse wasn’t the greatest nighttime spot; it attracted a lot of bikers and truckers, and there were often peanuts on the floors, shady dealings in the corners, and fights at the bar. But it was welcoming and homey, and Dean had been going there since way before he was legally allowed to drink.
The owner Ellen and her daughter Jo had been great family friends, and it was them and his Uncle Bobby who had supported Dean when he finally came out as bisexual to his family at twenty-one. His brother Sam, of course, couldn’t have given two shits who gave Dean butterflies and who didn’t, but some of the rest of the Winchesters hadn’t been so welcoming. Despite that, and despite their mom dying when Dean was only four, Dean had never felt like he was lacking in family.
The newest member of his family was the cause for his being in the bar that particular night; Sam and Jess had finally got a sitter for baby Mary that wasn’t Dean. Of course, that meant dinner at the pizza place down the street, and then drinks at the Roadhouse once they were done.
Sliding back into the leather corner booth that they occupied, Dean’s brother Sam dropped three fresh beers onto the table with a satisfying clank.
“What were you two talking about? I could hear Jess yelling from the bar,” Sam said, settling in next to Jess and looking across the table at Dean.
“Oh, you just wait.” Jess grinned at Dean. “Crazy Gabriel again.”
“It’s not that crazy,” Dean said, feeling oddly defensive on his wacky friend’s behalf.
“Dean! Yes, it is!” Jess insisted. “Come on, tell Sam. Cliff notes.”
Dean looked over at his brother, taller, leaner, and at that moment looking puzzled and mildly concerned.
“Gabriel asked me to marry his half-brother, Castiel, for immigration purposes,” Dean said plainly.
Sam blinked slowly before a laugh began to break his features, though he fought it valiantly. “Are you serious?”
“Yes, actually. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Well—I take that back. It is totally and utterly crazy, but it makes a strange kind of sense,” Dean said defensively.
Sam raised his left eyebrow fully, before picking up his beer bottle and leaning back in his seat. “Alright then. Go ahead. Explain,” he said, gesturing both hands out before himself in an almost welcoming gesture.
And so, Dean did. He told him everything Gabriel had explained while they had coffee that morning, about Castiel’s sexuality and his work as a novelist, about Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws (which he may or may not have researched a little out of curiosity while the shop was slow), and about Gabriel’s plan to safely move Castiel over to America.
Sam’s eyebrows drew closer and closer together as Dean explained, looking more and more concerned.
“Dean that’s awful!” Sam finally said, frowning as he exchanged a look of agreement with his wife. “To constantly be on edge like that, worrying if who you are and what you do is going to get you hurt, or fined, or imprisoned—or worse!”
“Yeah,” Dean agreed picking up his beer bottle and peeling at the edge of the label. Bravely, he took a breath and voiced something he hadn’t even said to Gabriel, keeping his voice deliberately low. “Am I nuts for actually considering this?”
Jess and Sam exchanged a long, alarmed look.
“You’re really considering it?” Jess asked, her expression as gentle and non-judgmental as always.
“Yes—well—I mean, I don’t know. There’s nothing in it for me, not really. It’s not like they’ll pay me or anything. But…” Dean trailed off, shrugging one shoulder self-consciously. “My biggest problem was how to come out to Dad and Grandpa Campbell. And that was rough for a few years, yeah. But now they’re gone, I pretty much just get to live my life.”
Neither Jess nor Sam interrupted, letting Dean say his piece.
“And sure,” he continued, “that hasn’t always been easy. But this guy could be in danger because of who he is, if he stays in Russia. It’s not like I’m planning on marrying anyone else any time soon, and it wouldn’t even have to be forever, once he has citizenship. I could help. It could make a big difference in his life.”
When Dean looked back up again, courageous even if he was feeling a bit awkward about the bizarre proposition, Sam was smiling at him oddly, as was Jess.
“Nothing, just—that’s actually a really selfless thing to do. We’re kinda proud of you,” Sam admitted, before quickly clearing his throat. “Though obviously, as a lawyer, I must reiterate how incredibly, incredibly illegal such a thing would be. Clearly we’re only talking in hypothetical terms.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Right. Hypothetical. Gotcha.”
“So, you’re actually considering it?” Jess brought them back on track. “Have you told Gabriel?”
Deflecting in his usual way, Dean gave her a grin. “Sure. I could use a roommate. I’ll let Gabe know I’ll shack up with his bro, as long as he takes the trash cans out at Trick or Sweet from now on.”
Sam rolled his eyes, and Jess shook her head, but neither of them looked away.
The truth was, something in Castiel’s story had resonated with Dean and he had found, as the day wore on—against his own better judgment—that he really was thinking about doing it.
As he’d said to Sam… it wasn’t like he planned on marrying, or even dating again, anytime soon. Since he’d broken up with his girlfriend Lisa (‘broken up with’ was still easier to think than ‘been dumped by’), he’d been very, very single. And honestly, he saw it staying that way for a while. Having a paper marriage was hardly going to be a hindrance to him personally.
But it could change Castiel’s life. It could mean Gabriel didn’t have to worry so much—because as much as Gabe was goofy and flippant about most things, Dean had seen how tense he had been when they talked, and then how disappointed. Gabriel cared about his brother and he was worried.
“Can I talk you out of it?” Sam asked him, seriously. “I don’t want you getting in trouble, Dean.”
“I get it, Sam. I do. I know it’s a dumb decision. I’ve looked up what it could mean for me if we get caught. But as weird and sudden as this is, I think I’ve decided. It just feels like the right thing to do, somehow.”
Sam gave Dean a long, considering look across the table. Dean couldn’t work out what was happening with all the different emotions playing out in Sam’s hazel eyes. There was fear, and worry, but a little pride, too. Eventually, he nodded.
“Okay. If you need anything—a lawyer, a marriage witness, a mediator when having a stranger in your house drives you crazy… I’ve got you.”
Even Jess looked surprised, but she smiled too. “Well, alright then! I guess this calls for another round of drinks!”
As Sam and Jess went off to grab them—and no doubt gossip about Dean between themselves—Dean picked up his phone. His heart thumped oddly with fear as he rested his thumb on the screen for a moment, working up the courage to unlock the screen.
You’re not going to get caught , he told himself. This is just… a favor. For a friend and his brother. Nothing more.
Regardless, no matter what he told himself, with one simple text, he changed his life.
Dean: Hey G. Been thinking about what you said this morning all day and… Yes. I’ll do it.