A/N: I have no idea where this came from. Literally, no idea. I decided I was tired of how depressing Supernatural can be, and wanted to write a happy-ish AU fic, and then all the sudden, there was photographer!Cas. Who wears glasses.
The technical definition of 'parallax' is somewhat complicated- as in, only professional photographers will ever understand it. In broader terms, it's the difference between what you see through the viewfinder and what you see in the picture. In other words, what you see is not always what you get.
The sound pierces through the haze, sending the last misty remnants of dream scattering like fog before the morning sun. He groans, turns away from the noise, but reaches out blindly for it all the same. A few weeks ago Gabriel had reprogrammed his phone for him, setting certain ringtones to certain people. Ever a joker, he had set Rachel's number to the imperial march from Star Wars. It's one Castiel knows better than to ignore.
"What?" he slurs as soon as he's got his phone. He keeps his eyes closed, settles himself down a little more comfortably. He can tell without even looking that he fell asleep at his desk again. At least he wasn't using the keyboard as a pillow- it takes four hours for those marks to fade, which he can say with complete confidence.
"Are you serious?" his sister-slash-sometimes-boss demands irritably. "I knew this would happen. I told you, a thousand times, set your alarm and be here early."
"What?" Cas asks vaguely. He thinks fondly of his bed, but getting up and shuffling over to it sounds like an awful lot of work.
"You're late, Cas! Now get your ass moving!"
"What?" he asks again, a little more alert. He doesn't remember scheduling anything for today.
"Stop saying 'what' and get out here."
"Where is here? And what time is it?" Cas puts his elbows on the desk and pushes himself up, running his free hand over his face. The only clocks in his loft are the one on his cell phone and an odd old wall-hanger, with a hexagonal face instead of the standard circle, whose hours run about four minutes longer than the standard sixty.
"Quarter to nine, and I've texted you the address at least three times."
"Quarter to-" Cas stops, then pulls his cell phone away from his ear and looks at the screen for the date. Before he can bring it back in and start yelling at his sister, though, someone leans over his shoulder and neatly snatches his phone away.
"I'm here," Gabriel says, moving away from Cas as he talks. "Baby brother is moving. Yeah, I'll get it done. Buh-bye."
"Is this that wedding rehearsal?" Cas asks, twisting around to watch Gabriel.
"Yup," his brother says, tossing Cas' cell phone back to him. "And I know, that's not 'til tomorrow, but our dear ballbusting sister has got a serious case of SBD." He drops on the couch, sprawling carelessly out. "She's even got Rafe jumping. I'd do what she says."
Castiel pulls a face and turns forward. He scrubs at his face wearily with both hands and sighs. SBD- Sympathetic Bridezilla Disease, the name Rachel's brothers had given to the occasional bout of bitchiness that descends when she organizes certain weddings.
"This whole wedding planner thing was her idea, her business. Why is she trying to make it a family thing?"
"'Cause she's got a handful of brothers who, from her point of view, aren't doing anything, so they might as well help out," Gabriel drawls, looking boredly out the window.
"I have a career," Cas says sourly, and instantly regrets it.
"Yeah, I know," his brother responds with a lewd grin. "And what prestige you've brought to the family name. Forget the old fogeys who 'accidentally' leave you out of the introductions. I personally am very proud of the pornographer in the family."
"I am not a pornographer," Cas recites duly. They've had this conversation a few times before.
"No, that's right. You just take pictures of incredibly hot, naked people." Gabriel leans back even further, kicks one leg up over the arm of the couch. "By the way, when can I sit in on one of these sessions?"
"I don't let people sit in," Cas replies. "You want in, you're in the shoot. And you are not incredibly hot, and I am not ever seeing you naked."
"I should have gone to college," Gabriel says mournfully. "The things you can get away with when you have a degree… and damn, kid, where did you go last night?"
Cas takes a few wobbly steps forward, then glances down at himself. He's still wearing last night's tux.
"Gallery showing in the Metro area," he says, stretching luxuriously and listening to the gentle pops along his spine. "They showcased a few of my pieces. I had to go."
His plus-one had been Anna, the model in the pictures. She's shy and quiet and has alabaster skin and hair of deep wine red. She's one of Cas' favorites. He's not wild about going to gallery showings, but it had been worth it to see people do a double-take upon seeing the conservatively dressed, quiet Anna, so very different from the girl in the pictures.
"Such a brutal mistress, success," Gabriel says dryly. Cas ignores him, stumbles over to the kitchen to set the coffeemaker to work. He'd gotten back about five hours ago, sincerely regretting his decision to tackle the hour-plus drive that night instead of getting a room at a hotel up in KC. He regrets it even more now.
Cas sighs, rubs at his chin and feels the stubble there. "I need a shower," he mutters.
"You should go like that," Gabriel calls over to him. "Scruffy is sexy." He waggles his eyebrows when Cas looks at him.
"If you weren't my brother, I would totally do you," Cas says, as deadpan as he can manage. "How did you get in here, anyway? I thought I took your key away."
"I made a copy," Gabriel says, faltering just a beat, and Cas groans.
"You picked the lock. Seriously, Gabriel, dad didn't teach you that so you could terrorize your siblings."
"Then get an alarm system," his brother says carelessly. "Better yet, get a dog. Friend of mine has a new litter of cockapoos she's trying to find homes for."
"… a litter of what?"
"Cockapoos," Gabriel repeats. "Cocker spaniel and poodle mix. They're really cute."
Cas looks at him, trying to see if this is another one of Gabriel's head-games. His brother looks back guilelessly.
"You are the only straight man I know who can say 'cockapoo' without flinching," Cas mutters after a moment. "And no, Gabriel. No dog."
He's long since gotten used to his brother's scattershot style of conversation, hopping randomly from subject to subject and hauling the other person along for the ride. The trick is to not get lost in the shuffle, and to hold on tight to the salient points.
"Well," Gabriel grunts as he hauls himself to his feet, "my mission is accomplished. I am off to find someplace to hide from the tyrant. If she asks, I'm making a break for Mexico."
"Goodbye, Gabriel," Cas says, feeling very tired. Five minutes of Gabriel is about as much as he can handle, even on a good day. His brother blows him a kiss and leaves.
For a moment, Cas contemplates going to bed. He ultimately decides he doesn't need to deal with the inevitable family drama, however, and instead goes to take a shower.
Despite the old adage of not mixing family and business, Castiel has always found Rachel a reasonable boss. She's well aware of the fact that her little brother doesn't need the extra income, or the publicity, and is doing it more as a favor than anything else. Her rules are simple- show up on time, look presentable, and for the love of God do not mention what his real field of interest is.
He asked her once what she would do if one of her clients googled him, or had heard of him. She'd looked him dead in the eye and said, "Pretend I didn't know about it, and disown you on the spot."
The address leads Cas to a stately old church on the outer fringes of the city. He spots Rachel's car in the lot and parks several spaces away from it. She's waiting for him in the doorway, arms folded across her chest and eyes narrowed.
"About time," she says, not even waiting for him to reach her before starting in. She runs a critical eye over him. He'd taken Gabriel's warning to heart and had dressed in a button-up shirt and nice new jeans, and so she could find little to criticize. Any disapproval could be easily explained away- he is, after all, a professional photographer, and everyone knows how flaky artists are.
Then her eyes meet his, and her face softens a bit, allowing him a glimpse of his true sister through the raging she-beast this wedding has turned her into. She reaches up and taps a finger against the frame of his glasses.
"You really need contacts," she says. "Your eyes are too gorgeous to hide like this."
"I have contacts," Cas shrugs. "I can't get the focus right with them."
Rachel nods briefly, then turns and heads into the church. Cas follows along like a good little duckling.
"So where did Gabriel skulk off to?" she asks over her shoulder.
"I think he's somewhere in Oklahoma by now," Cas answers.
"And still running, no doubt. I'll find him." She says the last with utter confidence. It's more than a little menacing.
The church is a grand old open-air cathedral. Cas stops halfway down the aisle, leaving Rachel to go steamroll some other poor sucker, and turns on the spot, watching how the shadows move. He's framing shots in his mind, finding the best places to stand, when he hears someone approaching.
It's a small giant of a person, a man with longish dark hair and a youthful look about him, wearing ratty old jeans and an orange plaid flannel shirt. He's nervous and watchful, approaching Cas carefully, as if the photographer is a wild animal preparing to bolt. Cas doesn't need any introductions to identify the groom.
Another one of Rachel's rules, one that he had taken as an insult when she had first hit him with it, was that there would be no flirting with any members of the marriage party, especially not the happy couple themselves. Still, the young man- and he's not as young as he looks, but it's hard to shake off that impression- is looking a little tense, so Cas turns to face him and smiles, a good deal more warm and welcoming than is usual for him. It gives the boy the courage to move forward.
"Sam Winchester," he says, holding out his hand. Cas takes it firmly.
"Castiel Novak," he offers in reply, and can't help the wry twist of amusement as the young man shifts a little, eyebrows rising.
"Another Novak?" he asks, and Cas dips his chin in a nod. "How many of you are there?"
"Five, but you won't meet the oldest," Cas says. "You wouldn't be meeting me, either, but I'm a professional photographer and Rachel prefers talent she can rely on."
"Ah, well." Sam pauses, shoves his hands into his pockets, apparently for a lack of anything better to do with them. Like so many almost-married men Cas has met, he has no idea what to do with himself. He's an important part of the proceedings, in the same way the dummy is an important part of a ventriloquism act: there is no show without him, but nobody really expects him to do anything.
Before things can get too awkward, a blonde girl with a bright smile comes up, slipping her arm through Sam's.
"Hey, babe," she greets him, cooing in that slightly sickening way that young lovebirds have. She looks over at Cas, who has instinctively started studying her face, determining the most flattering lights and angles. Sam takes the hint after a moment.
"Uh, Jess, this is Castiel Novak. He's the photographer."
She gives him a nod and another sunny smile, this one dampened slightly. Cas is staring, and he knows it makes people uncomfortable when he does it, but he's fully switched over to professional mode now.
"Call me Cas," he says, distracted, eyes on her shoes. "Are you wearing heels?"
They both look at her feet, as if to check.
"Tomorrow," he clarifies, then gives a sharp shake of his head. "Saturday, I mean."
Jess frowns at him for a moment. Then understanding dawns, and she spares a quick glance at Sam.
"Yeah, two inches, so about…" She steps away from her fiancé and rises onto her toes slightly, adding an approximate two inches to her height. Cas compares her to Sam. It's not enough, but he'll have to make it work. He certainly isn't going to Rachel and telling her the bride needs new shoes- preferably with four-inch heels- by tomorrow.
"Thanks," he says, because it's the polite thing to do.
"So, is this a family business?" Jess asks.
"No," Cas says, looking her in the eye for the first time. "No, this is Rachel's business. We just help out because she scares us."
Sam barks out a laugh, then snaps his mouth shut tight. Jess looks like she's fighting off a grin. And Rachel, apparently summoned by her name, appears at Cas' elbow.
"He's joking," she assures the couple smoothly. "My brothers help me out because it's family. If they ever needed my help, I would be there." And she gives Cas a look that promises dire things in his immediate future before ushering the pair away, leaving Cas by himself once again.
He turns to face the altar, narrowing his eyes at it. Now that he's seen the happy couple, he has an idea of what he has to work with. After a while, Rachel tracks him down, sitting in the second row pew and writing out notes.
"So what do you think?" she asks, settling in next to him.
"The height difference is just awkward," he says, because it's what matters to him.
"I'm going to assume you had the tact to not say that to them," she says after a moment, and he decides not to take it as an insult. After a moment she reaches out and pats his knee. "You look tired."
"I had a showing in Kansas City last night," he explains. He glances at her out of the corner of his eyes, catches her brief, proud smile. She had been the only one in the family to truly support his career choice- aside from Gabriel's enthusiastic encouragement, which didn't really count- even if she disapproved of the subject matter.
"How did that go?"
"Same as always," he says, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on his palm. "Anna was there, I think she collected a phone book's worth of numbers. I was her prop."
"She looks good," Rachel says, somewhat grudgingly. "But only because you saw it in her."
Cas smiles at her, almost shyly. It amazes him, sometimes, how much he needs his older siblings' approval. Rachel gives him a quick smile of her own, here then gone, and stands up.
"Go home, get some sleep. Be here tomorrow at eleven, on time if you can. And wear something… nice."
"Tomorrow, then," Cas says, and she gives him a sharp nod and strides off, Killer Robot Rachel once again on the hunt.
A moment later he finds his own feet and heads out, to see if he can actually make it to his bed this time.