Sam was acting squirrelly.
Dean had been watching him for a few days. The first night, he put it down to a new case--Sam always got a little on edge when the law firm started working on a new case. But then he always settled, thriving on the challenge.
Except this time he didn't. If anything, he became even needier, and anxious. He sat a little closer than normal on the couch while he worked, and quit early, shoving all the papers aside to sprawl on the floor, his head near enough to Dean that it was easy to breath in the comfortable scent of his brother, and Dean could pet his fingers through Sam's ridiculous hair as they watched Die Hard. Again.
He didn't even get bitchy when Dean tugged, lightly, on that hair, pulling Sam's head back with a gentle grip. Sam didn't resist, letting the alpha move him where he wanted, his long neck exposed, his eyes closed, as close to blissed out as Dean had seen in months. "You should get this shit cut."
Sam shrugged, and Dean's eyebrows shot up.
Sam was an omega, and he liked to be touched. He was a natural submissive, and nature said he bent easy to the will of an alpha.
But he wasn't an omega bitch. He didn't roll over and take any shit dished out by a douche with a knot. For an omega, he was downright mouthy and more than held his own when it came to Dean. Which worked, because Dean adored his brother, and while he was willing to play pack alpha to Sam's unmated omega as long as Sam needed, it was in name only. He didn't want to control Sam's life, didn't want to tug him by the leash of biology and protocol.
So Sam being submissive, needy, baring his throat like that--it's setting every instinct Dean has on edge.
His inner wolf is screaming protectpackprotect!
And his inner older brother is screaming, wrongwrongwrong!
"Sam?" He asks, and Sam shifts, hearing the thread of wolf in Dean's voice, the hint of command.
Just a hint. Dean would never truly compel Sam. He's spent a lifetime making sure that Sam lived free of that shit, even after he presented as an omega.
"It's fine. I'm fine. I think it's about time for my cycle."
Dean makes a face, but then concern inches in. "You're good though? Suppressants still working?"
Sam nods, huffs a little in irritation, and Dean grins a little.
Kid always gets a little bitchy when it's time for his heat. Even if he doesn't go through that shit anymore, his attitude will be all over the damn place for a few days. Satisfied it's nothing more than biology, Dean does what he has always done best: he settles back against the couch, and tugs his fingers through Sam's hair, letting his nails rub against his scalp until Sam is almost purring, half asleep as the movie ends.
Dean takes care of his brother.
Dean was sixteen when Sam presented. John had been convinced Sam would present as an alpha. He'd been talking about it for years. Dean personally thought that having three alphas in the house without a beta or omega to balance their tempers was asking for trouble. He kept that to himself.
So John thought his boys would be alphas, ready to go out and make little packs of their own.
Dean knew that was bullshit, but he kept that to himself, too. When Sam slammed into his first heat, John was shocked, furious and completely unprepared. Dean came home from wrestling practice to a house that reeked of heat and slick and a brother sobbing in their room, a wet mess of need and want, and a father standing in the doorway of the bedroom, eyes wide and vacant.
"Dean," John said, his voice bewildered. Searching.
"Dean," Sam wailed, his voice aching. Begging.
And Dean did what he has always done best: he shoved past his father, shoved his own instincts down, and hurried to the closet. Grabbed the bag of shit he'd bought a few months ago, when he knew Sam was gonna present soon.
John may have thought Sam was an alpha, but Dean had never once believed that. Sam was all sass and fury and sharp biting edges, but he was omega through and through.
He settled on the edge of the bed, and ignored the way his brother writhed. "Ok, buddy. We talked ‘bout this, remember?"
Sam gives him a frantic nod and Dean smiles at him. Runs a hand through the kid's long sweaty hair. "Everything you need is here. Remember how you use everything?"
"I remember," Sam rasps out, and his body gives this big shudder, and Dean stands.
"I'll be outside, buddy. You need anything, I'll be right outside."
Fear flickers in his eyes. "Don't leave me."
Omegas get hurt, alone during heat. Every child knows that. Even now, now that omegas aren't treated like property and a pretty hole to be stuffed and fucked--omegas in heat are too tempting. They get hurt.
Dean shoves down the fury that's nipping at his heels, and grabs Sam's hand where's it's reaching for his sleeve. "I'm not leaving you, Sam. I'll be outside that door, until this is over. Got it?"
Sam stares at his brother, and for a heartbeat, the fever of heat recedes, and he nods, relief in his eyes.
Dean nudges John out of the room, and closes the door behind him, and leans against the door. Closes his eyes.
"You were ready for heat." John says.
Dean opens his eyes, and eyes the man who has been his alpha for sixteen years.
"I was. He's my pack. It’s my job to make sure he's taken care of. However he presented."
John blinks. The word in that is clear. My pack. My job.
Dean holds his breath, waiting. John could challenge him. Sam is his son, after all. Claiming the kid as pack is risky and stupid and so instinctive it's done before Dean even realizes it.
John doesn't respond, though. He nods. And retreats.
Dean sits outside that door for five days, while Sam's first heat ravages him.
Because that's what an alpha does--they take care of their pack.
Dean takes care of his kid.
"Something's wrong with Sam," Dean announces, throwing himself into the booth.
Krissy blinks at him, a small smile turning her lips. Her voice is very dry when she says, "Gee, I'm good, Dean. Thanks for asking. I got that job at the dentist’s office. I know. Isn't it spectacular."
Dean points at her, fierce, "Don't get sassy, Kris. I'm still tempted to make you move in with us."
She makes a face, but ducks behind her laminated menu.
It's an empty threat. Dean doesn't have room in the small apartment he and Sam shares--that's why he didn't throw (much of) a fit when Krissy and Charlie and Kevin all moved out. At least Kevin and Charlie lived in an apartment in the same building. He could keep an eye on them--they crashed into his apartment more nights than not--but Krissy lived all the way across town, in a big house with two other kids her age. It made him nervous, having one of his omegas so far away and so unprotected.
"You're doing it again," she says, without looking up, shifting a little. Dean grimaces and takes a deep breath--even he can taste the worry he's throwing off.
"Tell me about Sam," Krissy says, and he lets out a grumpy huff. His worry dissipates into annoyance and a familiar concern.
"He's been...submissive. Not Sam's normal bitchy attitude."
Krissy stares at him and Dean waves a hand. "He's been clingy, Kris."
She keeps staring. "There," Dean shrugs. He toys with a fork lamely. "He's just...off."
Krissy blinks. "Your omega brother--your pack--has been acting like an omega. And you're worried."
When she puts it that way. "Well, when you put it that way," he mutters.
"You know that this is why I live on the other side of town and not close to you,” she says dryly.
He glares and Krissy laughs. She stands up and circles the table, pressing up to her alpha.
Dean hugs her close.
She’s a good kid. He worked with her dad, until he was killed in a car accident, leaving Krissy alone. Dean had watched the kid grow up, and it was a no brainier to claim her as pack. Sam was a protective of her as he was. The problem was that Krissy was just as independent an omega as Sam was--and she didn't want to be a good little pack omega. She wanted to move in with her best friend and finish school and work her way through college.
So Dean did what he does best: he moved into her little rental house for a month, grounding it in his scent, and making sure that Krissy was as safe as she claimed. He scared the shit out of Josephine's boyfriend and let everyone know that Krissy was under an alpha's protection.
Sam dragged her to an omega doctor to gett her on suppressants and Dean dragged her to their little apartment when her heat slammed into her, where he sat outside her door, a protective hulking presence, while she worked her way through it.
And then he gave her what she needed--space to grieve and to grow up. It hurt like hell and he hated it more than he would ever be able to say, but he did it. He gave her the space that let her grow up to be the smart as fuck little omega that eyes him affectionately now and reminds him that he has a tendency to worry over nothing. It was, looking back, one of the hardest things he's ever done. But it’s what Dean does best.
Dean took care of his pack.
"You collect strays, boy. It's gonna bite you on the ass."
Dean glares at his surrogate father. Bobby is the alpha who stepped in and helped take care of the Winchesters when John realized his youngest was an omega. John didn't ditch them--not completely--but he was gone, in mind and spirit, more than he was present. Maybe that was Dean's fault, for claiming Sam so young.
Bobby smirks and leans against a glass case. Kevin hisses and hip checks the older alpha off the display case, wiping it down with quick, furious strokes. Dean swallows his laugh as the young beta glares at Bobby one last time before darting back behind the counter and adjusting the coffee maker and cash register.
They open in five minutes, and Kevin is doing what he's so damn good at--making sure the shop is ready for the influx of morning commuters. Dean would be lost without the kid. He was vaguely worried about what was gonna happen when Kevin graduated from college. The kid was getting a damn degree in astrophysics and political science.
He wouldn't want to run a damn bookstore forever.
It's something Dean's been avoiding thinking about.
"I like my strays," Dean says casually, pouring a to-go cup and grabbing a bran muffin. Shit was nasty, no matter how much magic Charlie worked in the kitchen, but Sam loved them.
There's a rap at the door, and Bobby huffs a sigh, pushing the door open and letting Sam in. He gives the omega a once over and then, gruffly, "What the hell has you in knots, boy?"
Sam's eyes dart to Dean and then back to Bobby. "Nothing. I'm fine. Why?"
"Because you smell like fear and reek of Dean," Bobby says bluntly.
Dean straightens, and Kevin goes still. His eyes dart between his two packmates.
"A word," Dean says, tightly.
Sam shifts half a step back, "I'm gonna be late, dude."
Dean smiles, and lets a little bit of alpha slip the leash, lets his smile go just a little too feral to be called polite. "I don't really give a fuck."
Sam stares for a moment, and then huffs, and throws Bobby an affronted, angry face. Bobby shrugs once and sips his coffee as the brothers stomp into the tiny office Dean rarely uses.
"Tell me what the hell is going on with you." Dean says, before the door is even shut.
"Nothing," Sam says stiffly.
"You've been submissive for a week. You've been fucking cuddling, and you haven't argued with a single thing I've said. That’s not you, brother, even if I am your alpha. And you slept in my bed last night. I've been giving you space, but if Bobby is smelling the fear on you, I'm clearly missing something and that shit won't work. So tell me. What the fuck is going on, Sam?"
Sam stares at his brother for a long minute, and then lets his gaze drop.
And Dean can smell the fear on him, under the scent of coffee and baking sugar. He swallows the snarl that's in his throat when he scents something else. A curdle of guilt and embarrassment.
Like whatever has Sam scared enough to sleep in Dean's bed is his fault.
"Dude, you gotta talk to me," Dean almost begs and Sam nods.
"I think--I think someone is courting me."