Dean loved the cold. There was something clean and refreshing about a cold winter’s day. Layers weren’t as good as blocker spray, but they helped. He hiked his scarf up tighter around his neck and quickly returned his hands to the warmth of his jeans pockets.
He leaned against the cold steel of his car as he stared up at the looming brick duplex in front of him. He took in the chipped paint around the door frame, the rotted-looking steps and rusted metal banister. He thought it was kinda perfect and the sooner he got the lease signed and himself moved in, the better.
He had emailed the landlord for the listing on Craigslist and was relieved the guy was willing to show it to him the next day, and let him move in mid-month. Dean was tired of sleeping in the motel and it just wasn't safe there, but trying to find a place that would rent to him and not ask too many questions had been a challenge. This guy didn't want any kind of background check or presentation paperwork, just first and last. It was also affordable enough, since Dean had to figure out the job situation ASAP.
"Hey there," a voice called from the sidewalk, startling him from his thoughts and making him jump. He flushed with embarrassment and eyed the man walking toward him. He had two big brown grocery bags filling up his arms.
"Are you Chuck?" Dean asked hesitantly, trying to catch a glimpse of the man's face behind a bushel of kale.
"Nope, sorry," came a deep, gravelly voice that in no way matched the soft blue eyes and messy black hair. "He should be coming any minute, though. I'm Castiel. I live on the other side of the duplex. Are you the new renter?"
"Yeah, I'm Dean. Nice to meet you." He thought he should offer the guy a hand, but that would mean getting up in his personal space and Dean knew that sure as hell wasn't an option. He drew in a deep breath through his nose, seeking out the scent of this man when he was met with ozone, and fresh cut grass and ... ALPHA. He instinctively sunk in on himself, the fear rolling his stomach into a knot.
The man didn't seem to notice though, as he climbed the steps to the opposite side. "He should be here soon. I can put these down and wait with you, though? Or you're welcome to come in and warm up a bit."
Yeah I bet you would love that , Dean thought, sneering to himself, willing his heart rate to slow. He had used the scent blockers this morning and he shouldn't be giving off a smell to this guy other than boring old Beta.
"I'm fine, I can wait here," he replied, managing to sound a lot calmer than he felt, willing the man to go inside and take his overwhelming scent with him. Go away, go away, go away, go away .
"Alright. Well, it was nice to meet you. Welcome to the neighborhood." With that, the man shuffled into his house, locking the door behind him and Dean let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.
His fingers dug into the soft flesh of his thighs through his jean pockets, trying to get composure. Should he just get in the car and leave? How was he supposed to live right next door, hell, in the same building, as an Alpha? What choice did he have, though? He needed a place, and he needed a place in a Beta neighborhood that wouldn't ask too many questions, and that he could afford. As he grappled with what to do next another voice cut across his train of thought, making him jump yet again.
"Hello, are you Dean?" a scruffy-looking man asked.
Dean breathed in first before responding and was hit with a muted smell of Beta. The tension in his shoulders eased slightly at the scent. "Yes. You Chuck?"
"One and only. Come on, I’ll show you the place, and remember I did say it was in need of work."
Dean towered over the small man, and that gave him just a tiny bit of confidence, since he had felt about one inch tall since he scented the Alpha. Chuck showed him around the duplex and it wasn't in any better condition than the front of the building. The hardwood floor was warped, probably from water damage based on the stains on the ceiling. He noted the peeling wallpaper and wet musky smell of the place. It was small and narrow, a kitchen and living space downstairs and one bedroom and bath upstairs. He was glad to see there was a working washer-dryer in the basement so he wouldn't have to go out to do laundry.
"I'll take it. Is it, uh, still really $500 a month?" He knew the place was a shit hole and Beta neighborhoods were a lot cheaper than some of the rich Alpha communities in the city, but still.
"Yeah, that works for me. I mean, you said you could do some work to fix the place up so I figure that's worth a lower rent. Plus, I don't owe on the place, just wanna make enough to support my writing." Chuck smiled sheepishly, pulling out a piece of paper. It was the most simple lease Dean had ever seen but he happily signed it, handed over the cash, and before he knew it Chuck was handing him keys and running out the door.
Dean stood in the unfurnished living room and closed his eyes a moment, listening to the silence. He'd never lived alone before and it was a little unsettling. He had a moment of regret for not having his brother Sam come help him, but like he had insisted, Dean didn't own much and he could handle it on his own. He needed to be able to handle it on his own. Sam had been great the past few weeks, but Dean was ready to try and find some normalcy in his life again.
He hurried outside and opened the back door to the car, starting to haul out boxes and bring them inside. He was glad his Impala had a big enough back seat to hold it all so he didn't need to make multiple trips. He stacked the boxes in the living room, all four of them, and tossed his duffel and sleeping bag on top. His stomach gave an intense growl and he thought about whether he should order a pizza soon, since it was already getting dark out. He would be taking a risk that the delivery guy was an Alpha, but chances were slim since most Alphas didn't degrade themselves to work in the foodservice industry. He scolded himself for needing to rally courage just to order a pizza, and he took a few deep breaths and hit the numbers.
He paced the house as he waited for the pizza, his ears attuned to the muffled noises from next door. His neighbor was banging around in the kitchen from the sound of it, listening to low music he couldn't make out. Probably trying to find a way to make that kale edible, as if that's possible, he chuckled to himself. He knew that not all Alphas were bad. He knew logically that many of them were completely normal, rational people, like his brother was. But his gut, his gut smelled Alpha and all he could think was danger .
He breathed through his bubbling anxiety, continuing his pacing till the doorbell rang. He tried to look through the peephole but it was too grimy to make anything out. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door a crack seeing a pizza box, but it was not being held by a pizza boy, but by Castiel. Freezing in terror, he felt the gooseflesh rise up his arms. Come on Winchester, get a grip .
"Hi again. I see you uh, took the place. The pizza guy brought this over to my door, because he didn't know anyone lived here yet. I thought I'd pay and treat you to some pizza, as a welcome to the neighborhood." Castiel flashed him a small warm smile and Dean fought the urge to slam the door in his face.
"Uh- yeah thanks," Dean snatched the pizza box, nearly dropping it as he hurried to slam the door shut and slide the deadbolt through, panting. He could only imagine the look the other man must be giving his front door right now. He didn't want to be rude but better to be rude than, well, than risk losing control.
"You’re welcome," a voice called through the door and he cringed, feeling like a royal asshole. He listened till he heard Castiel return to his side of the duplex. He was shaking as he moved to the corner of the room and sat down with his pizza on his lap. The floor was freezing but the pizza was warm and the shakes eased off as he ate a few slices. Food helped calm him down. The warm cheesy goodness melted on his tongue and he savored it, eating way more than he should considering he only had another fifty-three bucks to his name.
When he finished eating he stowed the remaining slices in the fridge and stood staring at the bare apartment. It wasn't that late and he wasn't tired yet, so he walked a loop through the apartment, inspecting every nook and cranny of the place and making a mental list of all the things he would want to work on. He carried his clothes, sleeping bag and pillow up the stairs and thought that the first thing he was gonna need was a mattress. How he was gonna buy that mattress, he had no fucking clue. He had loved camping as a kid - this was just indoor camping.
He found the thermostat and turned up the heat before sitting down cross-legged against the wall, his cassette player in hand. As he tried to pick out a good cassette from his shoe box to help him relax he heard the tell tale footsteps of Castiel heading up to his bedroom. Dean cursed the incredibly thin walls. He couldn't help but listen to the sound of drawers opening and closing, the footsteps becoming lighter likely cause he took off his shoes. He heard the pipes creak - he must have started a shower or been running the sink. Dean wondered absentmindedly how old the pipes in this place were and judging by the water stains and smell, he should focus in on the plumbing as soon as possible.
Dean was exhausted from the day, truth be told, and the house was still freezing so Dean decided to climb into his sleeping bag, clothes and all, pulling it up close under his chin. He slowly began to warm up a bit as he pulled out his prepay cell Sam had given him and shot his brother a text.
Dean: Hey, all moved in
Sam: Yeah? how'd it go? I still wish you would have let me help
Dean: Went fine landlord was nice didn't ask many questions, place needs work tho
Dean: and I told you I could handle it and I did, took ten minutes to carry it all inside
Sam: I'll stop by tomorrow and check the place out
Sam: You doing okay?
Dean: that's fine
Dean: What’s that supposed to mean?!
Sam: Just wanna know you are okay, aren't I allowed to worry about my brother?
Dean: You most certainly are not, I am the older brother and I am entitled to all the worrying
Dean: Seriously though Sam I am fine
Sam: Fine is quickly becoming my least favorite word
Sam: Get some sleep, see ya tomorrow Jerk
Dean: Night Bitch
He closed the phone and listened again to the sound of soft footsteps in the room next to him and the squeak of the bed as well. Dean felt a flash of bed envy as his hips were already giving a painful pinch at being on the hard floor. He wondered how in the hell he got to this place. He was supposed to be better than this, smarter than this, he should have protected himself better. He could practically hear his father’s voice in his head, never let your guard down, don't let anyone get the upper hand, trust no one, especially Alphas . He was glad John Winchester wasn't here to see him, even though a small part of him longed for the feeling of safety his father provided. Dean rolled on his side trying to get more comfortable and failing. He had left the light on in the hall, completely by accident of course, but wasn't gonna get up now to turn it off.
He caught the slightest hint of Castiel's scent again, likely through the vents. It wasn't quite as shocking a smell as it had been earlier, and it had a soothing, calming quality to it he hadn't noticed before. It reminded Dean of warm summer nights, laying out under the stars and feeling the soft grass underneath him. Closing his eyes, Dean forced his body to try and relax as he drifted off to sleep.
Dean woke early, mostly because his body was protesting at sleeping on the hard ground. He stretched and rolled his neck a few times, yawning and wishing to god he had coffee with him. He really was in hell having to go through the morning without the sweet nectar of life. He bundled on a few layers before grabbing his dad’s journal and flipping through the contacts.
As an Omega, it was hard to find a job and most places required presentation paperwork. His best bet was working under the table for a friend of the family. He flipped through the book till he came to Singer Salvage Yard. It was a bit of drive outside the city and he hadn’t seen Bobby in years, but John had it down that he was Beta in his book, so it was worth a shot.
Dean applied more of the Beta blocking spray and popped his heat suppressant pills before heading out the door. With any luck he would have a paying job by nightfall and he was putting coffee maker top on his list of shit to get with his first paycheck.
Castiel grunted in pain as he stubbed his toe on the chest at the foot of his bed. If that wasn’t a sign he should just crawl back in bed, he didn’t know what was. Still, he had promised to meet Balthazar for breakfast before work and he did really crave a good cup of coffee. He listened for sounds from his new neighbor but he couldn’t hear anything. The man was a mystery, though maybe it was just another example of Castiel’s poor social skills.
He had done everything Balthazar had suggested, he had smiled and offered assistance, introduced himself, and still the guy had looked at him like he was a pariah. Castiel was not skilled at interacting with people - one of the reasons he only had two friends to his name. Well he wasn’t gonna get bogged down worrying about the opinion of one standoffish Beta.
He made his way to the cafe a few blocks down the street, cursing the cold weather as he tugged his hat down over his ears. Balthazar had already ordered the usual and was waiting for him at their usual back table.
“Morning, sunshine,” Balthazar greeted the grumbling Alpha who snatched up the proffered coffee, taking a big sip and wincing at the burn. “Easy does it there, cowboy. You had a rough morning already?”
“No, I much prefer the bitter cold to my warm, soft bed,” Castiel grumbled again, snatching up a muffin from the table.
“Someone is a grumpy gus this morning,” Balthazar teased, taking a sip of his tea.
“Sorry, thanks for the coffee, Zar,” Castiel tried for a smile and it seemed to be enough to appease the other man.
“So did Chuckles get the new tenant yesterday?”
“Yeah, he moved in yesterday.”
“So go on, dish. Did you act like an actual human being or did you go all robot on him?”
Castiel shot Balthazar a warning glare, his Alpha hackles rising. “I was perfectly nice. He doesn’t seem to want anything to do with me. Who said you needed to be friendly with neighbors, anyway?"
Balthazar looked Cas over a moment. “Hmm seems like this guy has you all frazzled. Please tell me, is he some hot piece of Omega ass?”
“Balthazar!” Castiel scolded, “You can be so crude, you know that? And he is Beta, for the record.”
“A hot Beta?” Balthazar wiggled his eyebrows.
“Hard to tell under all those layers, but I suppose you would call him attractive, though I don’t see where you are going with this.” Castiel took another long sip of his coffee, reveling in the warm sensation down his throat.
“Just always holding out hope that my old friend won’t die a withered old bachelor. Is that so bad of me?” Balthazar made a few less then appropriate groans as he bit into his scone. “They have the best scones here, almost as good as home.”
“I’m only twenty-six that hardly puts me in the old bachelor category, thank you very much, and who are you to talk, old man?” Castiel scowled at him.
“Hey now, I may be thirty but I don’t look a day over twenty-one.” Balthazar wiggled his brows at Castiel, who couldn’t help but smile at his friend’s antics. “Seriously though, Cassie, you act like being an Alpha is some kind of curse.”
“I do not. It’s just that I don’t want to be looked at as just some Alpha knothead,” Castiel sighed not for the first time wishing he had been born a Beta and all this would be so much simpler.
“You are the farthest thing from a knothead, Castiel, and you know it. Oh shit, we’re gonna be late. Come on, let’s get out of here.” Balthazar jumped up and Castiel followed him out the door, heading into the office a few blocks down.
Dean pulled up to the salvage yard and peered out at the old, worn-looking house. Not a thing had changed since he was a kid. He got out and gave himself a quick sniff check, not sure if Bobby already knew what he was, but hell if he was gonna give it away that easy if he didn’t. He knocked on the front door and held his shoulders back firm as he heard heavy footsteps approaching.
The door swung wide and Bobby stepped out, eyeing him. “What can I do for you?”
Dean swallowed hard before answering, “I’m Dean, Dean Winchester. I know you haven’t seen me in a few years bu-”
“John Winchester’s boy?” Bobby interrupted and Dean just nodded. “Well hell, I ain’t seen you since you was what, twelve years old. Shit, you got tall.” Bobby’s demeanor changed from agitated to relaxed and Dean let out a breath he didn’t notice he’d been holding.
“Yeah, you should see my brother. He’s practically giant status,” Dean chuckled and Bobby smiled warmly at him.
“So what brings you to my doorstep, Dean?”
“Well, I moved to town recently to be closer to Sammy. He’s finishing up university this year. I was just checking to see if you might be in need of any help around here. I could really use the job and I’m a good worker I promise.”
Bobby rubbed at his beard a moment. “You know, I could actually use some help around here. You any good with transmissions?”
“The arthritis in my hands is worst at winter and it makes that kind of work a real pain in the ass. I tell you what, I got a mini-van out back needs a new tranny, and a jeep that needs a new set of tires, if you don’t mind starting right now?”
“That would be great.” Dean felt a wave of relief at the prospect of a real job.
“We can hash out the details once I get a look at your work today.”
“Thanks Bobby. I appreciate you giving me a chance here.”
“Yeah well, don’t thank me yet. Let’s see how you do.”
Dean happily headed out back and began work on the mini-van. He hadn’t worked in a garage professionally, but John had and showed Dean just about everything he knew. Dean hoped what he didn’t know he could figure out along the way. He ended finishing the job in record time and even managed to get an oil change done on Bobby’s Charger. Dean liked how far back the actual garage was set from the house and the front office. With any luck, Dean wouldn’t have to deal with too many people and could put his hands to work on the cars in peace.
Bobby came out to inspect his work and gave a little harumph of approval. Bobby gave Dean a few bucks for his day’s work and said he could come back tomorrow and he would get him on a weekly pay schedule.
Dean was sweaty, grease-stained, and exhausted when he pulled up to the house that night, but it was the best he’d felt in weeks. He climbed out of his car, bags of supplies for the house in hand and looked up to see that a flurry of snow was starting. He stood a moment and on impulse closed his eyes and stuck out his tongue, catching the cold, tingly flakes on his tongue.
He jerked his head at the sound of a trash can banging and looked to see his neighbor round the corner of their building, dragging out a trash can behind him. Castiel’s messy brown hair was already dusted in the light snow and his cheeks were pinked up from the cold. Dean took a moment to actually look at the man. Broad shoulders filled out his knitted grey sweater that tapered at lovely square hips. He was a bit broader than Dean but shorter by an inch or so. His eyes moved up over his adam’s apple to the sharp line of his jaw and shadow of a gruff five o’clock shadow. His eyes moved up and caught on Castiel’s who was now staring at him in confusion. Shit, way to look like a creeper, Dean.
“Hey,” Dean called with a tiny nod and jogged up the steps, fumbling with his key in the door. He heard Castiel walking up the steps behind him and for the life of him he couldn’t repress the tiny surge of fear that ran through him.
“We’re supposed to get a few inches tonight,” the gravelly voice came from behind him and he turned to lock eyes with the Alpha, who was now standing right next to him on the doorstep.
“No way, never would have guessed,” Dean chuckled sarcastically but was actually kinda grateful for the information. He should probably allow more time in the morning to clean off his car.
“Well if you need a shovel, I keep a spare on the back porch. You can feel free to borrow it. Unless you plan to stand out here and catch all the snowflakes on your tongue instead.”
Dean scowled a moment at the man. “You make it habit of watching people, Cas?”
“Do you?” Castiel countered and Dean just gaped at him a moment, unable to come up with a witty reply. “Have a good night, Dean,” Castiel smirked, shaking the snow off his hair and heading into his house, closing the door on a very speechless Dean.