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Oddly Shaped Empty

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Oddly Shaped Empty

 

Need A Roommate

 

Dean really doesn’t have a lot of stuff. He watches this new potential roommate — Castiel, he’d said his name was, and what kind of name is that anyway? — wander around the apartment and tries not to feel judged. Castiel doesn’t look judgey. Just observant. He noses around the vacant second bedroom and counts outlets, ducks his head into the closet; he inspects the bathroom and the kitchen, both scrubbed down to the grout to look presentable.

“So,” Dean says finally. “You work around here?”

Castiel nods. “Downtown. I take the bus, so this location is a good one.”

There isn’t much Dean can say to that, so he just nods and swings his arms and tries not to feel awkward. Castiel had shown up in a suit and tie, so the news that he works downtown is not a surprise. The bus thing sort of is, but Dean supposes that explains the state of his hair. It looks ruffled. Like it’s been towel-dried. Not that Dean’s looking or anything.

“This is a nice place,” Castiel says, turning back to him. Damn those eyes are blue. Dean’s not usually the type to notice that kind of thing, but damn.

“Thanks,” he says. “You, um. Interested?”

Dean’s ready for a polite refusal or something noncommittal, but Castiel nods and steps closer. Close enough that Dean catches the edge of his scent. Cedar. Sage. He breathes in deeper. Sandalwood. Just an afterthought of dark citrus. Unmated alpha.

Of course he is.

And if Dean can scent him, then Castiel can definitely scent Dean. Or try to. Old nauseous anxiety swirls in Dean’s gut when he sees Castiel’s nostrils flare, trying to catch a scent that Dean knows he won’t find. Arms crossed and fists clenched, Dean waits.

“I hope you won’t take this the wrong way,” Castiel finally says, tentative, “but I’m having trouble pinpointing your secondary.”

Yep, there it is. Not phrased as a question, but at this point there’s no way Dean can dodge it. “Actually, I’m beta,” he says.

“Oh,” Castiel says. “Interesting.” Dean looks up. Over a decade of listening to this reaction has made Dean a connoisseur of ‘oh’s. This one isn’t in his repertoire.

Castiel doesn’t even look particularly surprised, and there is none of the flustered back-foot pity or confused ignorance Dean’s grown accustomed to. It’s like he means what he says — interesting — but also not like he wants to put Dean under a microscope and study him.

“That’s not gonna be a problem, is it?” Dean asks, and if he’s more brusque than necessary… well. Best for Castiel not to get any wrong ideas from the start.

“Not at all,” he says. “As long as you don’t mind living with an unmated alpha. It shouldn’t cause you any problems; I’m not territorial, and I have standing arrangements for my blockout days.”

Standing arrangements. Blockout days. Dean snorts. “No. I’ve lived with alphas all my life, it’s fine.”

Castiel smiles, an easy, closed-lipped smile. “I think we can make this work,” he says, and holds out his hand. Palm up.

Dean frowns down at his upturned palm, then reaches out to meet the handshake, keeping his wrist firm and his palm directly vertical.

“Alright,” Dean says, then clears his throat as he retrieves his hand. “Well, um. Castiel. Roommates then?”

Castiel nods. “Roommates. And please, call me Cas.”

~*~

Dean: Do you need me to air the place out any more? I’m sure it still kinda smells like my old roommate

Cas: It’s fine. I was going to move in this Saturday if that works for you.

Dean: Sure

 

Dean is on the couch with a half-finished beer when he hears the click of a brand new key turning the lock. He turns to find Cas shouldering a heavy-looking box against the wall and jiggering the door open with his other hand.

“Woah, hey,” Dean stands immediately and pulls the door open all the way; Cas catches the box before it falls.

“Thank you,” Cas says with heavy breaths, making a beeline for the second bedroom.

“You need a hand?” Dean calls after him.

Cas just grunts as the box lands heavily by the bedroom door. Dean peers down the hallway to where Cas is bent over the box. He’s ditched the suit for the day in favor of a pair of old, soft-looking jeans and a loose T-shirt. Dean can already smell the sandalwood sweat rising from him and tries not to breathe too deep. Not because it’s unpleasant. The opposite of that, actually.

“If you want,” Cas finally says, standing back up. “I don’t know why I decided to bring one of the heaviest boxes first.”

“Wait — Did you haul that thing up the stairs?”

Castiel blinks at him. “Um. Yes?”

“You know we have an elevator, right?”

Castiel just stares blankly for another moment before breaking into laughter. “Clearly I didn’t,” he says.

Dean rolls his eyes. “You dork. C’mon.”

Cas doesn’t have a whole lot either, just the smallest size of U-haul van not-quite full of boxes and bags, a couple of small furnishings, and a bed without a frame. The elevator turns out to be too small to manage Cas’s queen box spring and mattress, so those they have to maneuver up the three flights of narrow stairs. “Dude,” Dean pants as he shoves the mattress up onto the last landing. “How did you expect to get all this up the stairs by yourself?”

Cas stands up straight and leans against the end of the mattress, flopping lazily against the wall. “I have no idea,” he says, wiping some sweat out of his eye. “I had a friend who was supposed to lend a hand, but she cancelled this morning.”

Dean shrugs and bends down to heft the mattress again. “Her loss, I guess,” he says.

“Is it?” Cas pants as he scrambles backward up the stairs, awkwardly clutching at the mattress. “I think she made the right call.”

Dean’s too busy grunting under the weight of his load to reply to that right away. “I dunno,” he says as they get to the top of the stairs. “She’s missing out on some killer pizza you’re buying me later.”

Cas’s whole face crinkles up and he almost drops the mattress in a fit of giggles. Dean feels himself grinning too, uncontrollably, at having made this near-perfect stranger laugh. “Deal,” Cas says eventually.

Things go quickly after that, and in a couple of hours the van is empty and the second bedroom is a forest of boxes and out-of-place furniture. Cas leaves to return the van, and Dean flops down on the sofa, content to vegetate for a while. Maybe he’ll have a shower. Maybe he’ll take a nap. Either way, Cas is buying pizza when he gets back, and Dean’s got the other half of his rent taken care of, so for now life is good.

He’s about thirty seconds into becoming one with the couch when he notices the woody, herbal scents drifting on the air. It tingles in his nose, and he breathes in deeper. He can’t help it. He’s gonna have to get used to it because Cas lives here now; he won’t be able to help that the whole apartment is going to smell like him. Dean inhales again. Cas smells good.

It hadn’t been like this with Benny. Benny had smelled fine, all southern spices and soft leather, but basically neutral to Dean’s nose. Cas, though. The more Dean smells him, the more he wants to drown in that scent. This scent is something complex, warm, comforting. Alluring. With every breath it goes down to his belly, thick and sultry. Like he’s sitting in a steam bath, and the scent of Castiel is the vapor clinging to his skin, sinking into his pores. Dean can’t stop breathing in deeper and deeper, and soon he’s just laying there on the sofa luxuriating with every breath as deep as he can get it, one hand idly cupping his half-hard dick through his jeans. Just from the scent of the guy.

Dean’s eyes snap open and he bolts upright. “Fuck,” he mutters, running a hand through his hair. He shakes his head to clear it, scrubs at his eyes. Ok. That was weird. And completely inappropriate. Dean grabs his warm, flat beer off the coffee table and downs most of it with a grimace.

He’s just tired, that’s all. It’s been a long day. Long week. This sort of thing isn’t even supposed to affect him like that.

Fuck, he can’t even be a beta right.

Dean’s heart has barely calmed down when he hears the door open behind him again. “I brought beer too,” Castiel says. “To go with the pizza. What do you like on yours?”

Dean sucks in a tremulous breath and turns to face Cas. “Um. Whatever. Just no anchovies.”

Cas grimaces. “I think we can agree on that.” He tucks a few beers in the fridge to chill, leaves the rest of the case on the counter, and ambles into the living room area. “May I?” he asks, gesturing at the far end of the sofa.

“Sure,” Dean says before he thinks twice about it. Castiel settles into the sofa, and Dean has no polite way to escape the fresh wave of sweet cedar and herbal-spice. It’s maddening. He sucks in air and tries not to be too obvious about holding it.

Just breathe, Dean. Take it easy. It’s just new. You’ll get used to it.

Between the two of them they settle on a pizza delivery place and two pizzas: Hawaiian for Cas and sausage and mushroom for Dean. Cas drops his phone on the table and settles back, one leg cocked up on the sofa cushion. Dean hunches forward, elbows on his knees.

“Thank you for your help earlier,” Cas says.

“Oh, sure. No problem.”

God, is this guy throwing his scent out on purpose? Because Dean can barely draw breath without bathing in it. His blood is going to boil right out of his veins at this rate, and he’s not even sure he’d mind. What the fuck is wrong with him?

“Do you play?”

Dean looks up sharply, then follows Cas’s eye line over to the acoustic guitar resting on its stand next to the TV. He swallows.

“A little. Sometimes.”

“Hmmm. I don’t think that’s true,” Cas says.

“What?”

“Most people who have guitars in their living rooms don't play, and their guitars are covered in dust. I see no dust on that instrument.”

“You don’t know when I last dusted,” Dean mutters, but he knows that the bookshelves and television and everything else in the room will give him away on that front.

Cas squints at him for a moment, then grins. “I’ll bet you play every day and are secretly a genius.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Well, you’re half right.”

“You don’t play every day?”

“No, I do,” Dean admits. “But I’m sure as hell not a genius.”

“Prove it. Prove to me how bad you are,” Cas says with delighted expectation, settling back on the couch.

Dean hesitates, a nervous chuckle and refusal ready on his lips. But he feels a sudden reckless rush, an urge to try and impress this beautiful blue-eyed man who smells so good and smiles at him like that. Besides, he’s bound to hear it eventually. May as well get it over with. So Dean picks up his guitar, pulls the pick from the strings. Gives a slow strum to make sure it’s close enough to tuned — it’s not, so he twists a peg or two.

“Are you going to stall until pizza gets here, or are you going to play something?” Cas asks with a teasing grin.

Dean glares at him. “Screw you,” he says. Cas cackles silently, but thankfully keeps further commentary to himself.

Finally, Dean’s fingers land on the opening chords of the most recent song he’s been working on. He strums over the scales and can tell the exact moment when Cas recognizes the tune by the way he draws in breath.

“There is a house in New Orleans
They called — wait, shit.
They called the Rising Sun .
And it’s been the ruin of — of many — of many a poor boy
God, you know
— Sorry, I swear this goes better when I don’t have an audience.”

“You’re fine,” Cas says, all low and soft. Dean glances up, and the smile on Cas’s face is far too genuine. “Just keep going.”

So Dean takes a deep breath — still laden with cedar and sage — and relaxes around the curve of his guitar. He starts again, filling the silence with slow sounds, letting his hands speak for him.

He makes it through with minimal stumbling, though he skips some of the more ambitious flourishes and mostly just strums through the solo. When he finishes, the last chord lingering in the air, he looks up to see Cas grinning at him, small but bright. The thought crosses his mind that he wants to do whatever he can to put that smile on Cas’s face as often as possible.

Thankfully Cas doesn’t do anything patronizing like applaud. “That was beautiful,” he says, quiet in the silence after the music.

Dean looks down to hide his smiling blush. “Thanks.”

“I mean, you’re no Eric Clapton, but —”

Dean scoffs. “Shut up,” he says, and Cas giggles behind his hand as Dean moves his guitar back to its stand.

He’s only just rested it on the forks when the doorbell buzzes.

“That was fast,” Cas says, getting to his feet to buzz in the pizza man.

“Yeah, they’re not far from here,” Dean says, standing and stretching his spine. He watches Cas pay for the pizzas, watches him fumble his way around Dean’s kitchen, watches him dig into his single box of kitchen supplies for a couple of plates.

“I’ve got plates, you know,” Dean says.

“I’m sure you do, but I bought the pizza. So. My plates.” Cas pushes one at Dean’s chest.

Dean takes the plate — cheap plastic, blue with a big white swirl pattern — and listens to the sudden rush of his heart and knows that he is doomed. Completely and utterly fucked.

He doesn’t know how long he and Cas will live together, but he has the sinking feeling that he will spend the entire time fending off this stupid, hopeless crush.

Chapter Text

Dean’s high school sweetheart was Cassie Robinson.

She was his first — first crush, first kiss, first date, first base — and for a long time, she was his only.

In his sweet sixteen heart, Dean was certain that they would be together forever. She would be his beautiful omega, and he her strong alpha, and they would have a fairytale wedding and a beautiful family and live happily ever after. Not that he ever told anybody any of this. Sam knew, but Sam knew everything. To his friends, he just wanted to get laid. He barely mentioned her to his father. But Dean was smitten with Cassie, and she looked at him like the moon looks at the sun.

They were waiting until they both presented to “go all the way.” They fantasised that it would happen at the same time for both of them, that they would mate for life during their first heat and rut. They played at scent marking, with their simple childhood scents of home and family, nuzzling against one another's hands and shoulders and cheeks, daring to go as far as the ear in a flirting, blushing game of chicken that left them both so ready. They were ready.

Then, in the summer before their junior year, Cassie presented — omega, as expected.

Dean didn’t.

By Halloween, Cassie was going out with Victor Hendrickson, who had presented alpha the spring before. And thus she became Dean’s first heartbreak.

~*~

“So how do we want to do this?”

“I’m sorry?”

“This, this living together — thing. How do we want to arrange it?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know. I’ve never had a roommate before.”

“Seriously? Huh. Okay. Well, Benny and I kinda did communal food, cuz I like to cook big meals and, I dunno. It worked. If you’re cool with it, I’d like to keep doing that.”

“That seems fine.”

“OK. If there’s anything you don't want me to go after, just tell me or put a note on it or something. We’ll figure out how to split grocery bills.”

“Alright.”

“Do you have any preferences?”

“On food?”

“I mean, sure, but I meant in general. Like, what about cleaning? Do we want a chore board or something?”

“I usually clean things when they need it.”

“Yeah, me too, but different people have different standards for that. I don’t know where yours are, and you don’t know mine.”

“I don’t mind a comfortable level of clutter. This, for example. This is fine.”

“Okay, that’s good.”

“Bathrooms and kitchens should maintain a higher degree of cleanliness.”

“That’s one way of putting it. But, yeah, I agree.”

“But I hate cleaning bathrooms.”

“I don't think anybody really likes cleaning bathrooms, Cas.”

“I will take care of cleaning the kitchen on a daily basis if I don’t have to clean the bathroom.”

“Seriously?”

“I would prefer it.”

“Well alright then. Problem solved.”

“Good.”

~*~

Cas is fully dressed in a dark suit when Dean wanders into the kitchen, though his tie is loose around his neck and the top two buttons of his shirt are undone. Dean yanks his eyes up. “Morning.”

“Good morning. I made coffee.”

“Awesome.” Dean helps himself to a mug, inhaling the steam. He takes a careful sip and has to fight it down with a cough. “Wow. That’s. Strong.”

Cas smiles, a little sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry. I’m not exactly a morning person. So. I make strong coffee.”

Dean cocks his finger and thumb at Cas and shoots. “I like it,” he says, then winces at himself. Finger guns. Really?

But Cas is grinning in earnest now, so it must be alright.

“When are you out of here?” Dean asks, sipping his bitter coffee. Damn, he can feel his teeth starting to jitter already.

Cas checks his watch — an actual watch, on his wrist and everything. “I have to catch a bus at 7:15,” he says, and then, “What about you?”

Dean glances at the clock. “We open at 9. I try to get there by 8:30, but I don’t have to leave for another hour.” Dean shrugs. “It’s my shop so I can kinda do what I want.”

Cas lights up at that. “You didn’t tell me you owned a business,” he says, and he sounds impressed.

Dean shrugs and tucks his chin into his chest. “It’s not like I built it from the ground up or anything. My, uh. Uncle, I guess, Bobby. It was his thing; I just took over when he retired.”

“Still,” Cas says, finishing packing up his lunch and tucking it into a messenger bag. “I look forward to hearing about it.”

Dean shrugs. “If you want.”

“I do.” Cas angles toward the door, but he keeps looking back at Dean with something unreadable in his eyes and a tiny smile at the corners of his lips. It makes Dean squirm, flutters up all those little butterflies he’d been trying to quell for the last few days. He has to break away from staring at Cas and take refuge in his coffee, even as Cas stares back at him.

“I’ll see you tonight,” Cas finally says.

Dean nods. “Yeah. Oh, hey Cas,” he calls as Cas has one foot out the door.

Cas stops and looks back.

Dean points at his own neck in a vague circle. “Don’t forget your tie.”

Cas looks down in surprise, then juggles his bag under one arm to button the buttons. Dean has the absurd urge to go button them for him — or maybe unbutton them further, maybe burrow his face under that crooked collar and breathe deeply of the scent of cedar and sage, maybe see if he can’t make Cas late for work —

Dean cuts that train of thought brutally short.

“Thank you,” Cas says. He still hasn’t got his tie done, but he seems to have decided he’s at least bus-acceptable.

Dean waves, and then the door is shut.

Dean stands in the kitchen for a long time, sipping slowly at his too-strong coffee.

~*~

“Hey, I’m going to the store. Any requests?”

Cas looks up from the notebook he’s got balanced on his knee, twiddling his pen. “Now?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“I’ll come with you,” Cas says as he sets the notebook aside and stands from the couch.

“You don't have to —” Dean tries to protest, but Cas is already brushing past Dean to grab his wallet out of his room. He’s wearing those jeans again, the ones that drive Dean to distraction, and this T-shirt is tighter across the shoulders than the others and that is just not fair. Dean learned quickly that Cas only wears the suits for work, and the very first thing he does when he gets home is change into something soft and yielding. Usually those God damn jeans. They sit on his hips like he was born wearing them, not tight but perfect.

One day Dean is going to snap and slide his hands right down between denim and skin.

But today he blinks away and shifts from foot to foot while waiting for Cas to come back to the living room. “There are some things I need anyway, and this saves me the trip. You have a car, right?”

“Of course I have a car,” Dean says, borderline offended. “You don't think I could own a body shop and take the bus, do you?”

On their way down to the parking garage, Dean feels almost giddy, anticipating Cas’s reaction when he sees Dean’s pride and joy. He’s not disappointed. Cas stops in his tracks for a second or two and takes in the full length of the Impala’s sleek beauty. “Wow.”

Dean grins and waggle his eyebrows. “Eh?” He watches Cas glance wide-eyed back and forth between Dean and the Impala.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” he says. “It suits you.”

Dean can’t help the swagger that swings into his step. “Yep, she’s my baby,” he says with a grin and a pat to the Impala’s hood. “Hop in.”

They make it to the grocery store — which, in Dean’s estimation, is very lucky, because the vision of Cas in his car is incredibly distracting — and it’s not until they’re past the first set of sliding doors that Dean realizes that he forgot his list.

“Aww, son of a bitch,” he mutters.

Cas grabs a cart anyway. “What was on this list?”

“I don’t know, man, that’s why I made a list. So I didn’t have to remember.”

Cas steps up on the bar of the cart and balances for a moment before his weight tilts the empty cart up off its wheels. “Well, I’m sure some things will come to you as we go.”

They wander through the produce first, and Dean finds out about Cas’s distaste for bananas. “They’re too soft and they smell like my grandmother’s vomit.”

“Ew, Cas. Too much information.”

Dean does not buy bananas.

Dean has been toying with the idea of making chili, so they bicker about the problem of beans. “If there are no beans, how can you even call it chili?”

“Uhh, it tastes like chili? Smells like chili? Walks like chili? Talks like chili? I dunno, it’s chili.”

“If your chili walks and talks, I really don’t think we should be eating it, with or without beans.”

In the breakfast aisle, Cas raises an eyebrow at the number of Pop-Tart boxes Dean tosses into the cart. “What?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“They’re good!”

“I did not say a word.”

They load up on the essentials: coffee, eggs, bread, and ponder their way through the non-essentials with an enthusiasm Dean cannot muster on his own. They end up with several strange condiments neither of them have heard of before, a few lumps of exotic cheeses, and several items that one of them insists the other absolutely must experience. (From Cas: his favorite marmalade. From Dean: white-chocolate-dipped oreos.)

They somehow end up in the clothing section for a minute or two, and Dean snaps a picture of Cas wearing a floppy straw hat with a sunflower on it and enormous rhinestone sunglasses. He’s making a ridiculous kissyface, and Dean immediately saves it to Cas’s profile on his phone.

Cas needs a new set of towels, so they wander through housewares in the general direction of bath supplies but get lost in kitchenware. Dean laughs as he points out the exact same plates that Cas has. Cas ends up buying a waffle iron that promises to double as a sandwich press. They never make it to the towels.

Eventually they realize that they’ve been there for over two hours, and the four or five things that Dean could remember from his list have ballooned into an overflowing cart of sundries. They make a quick spin through the pharmacy and Dean leaves Cas by the toothpaste, dashing toward the aisle where they keep the more “personal” personal effects. In retrospect he should probably just come back for this another time, but before he can think too hard he’s got a bottle of lube in hand and is back at the cart. Cas is distracted, squinting at Cavity Prevention versus Fluoride Plus, so Dean tucks it in under the eggs. If Cas notices or sees it at all, he doesn’t mention it.

It doesn’t occur to them until they get to the register that they never discussed how they were going to divide the bill. The cashier tells them their frankly absurd total, and they both just stare at each other blankly.

“Split it 50/50?” Dean eventually asks.

Cas nods. “Why not?”

~*~

“Got my first real six string
Bought it at the five and dime
Played until my fingers bled
Was the summer of —”

The sound of the door opening stops his fingers. Dean cranes his neck over the back of the couch to see Cas closing the door behind him. “Hey.”

Cas doesn’t do much more than grunt in response. He drops his bag on the kitchen table, steps out of his shoes and kicks them away, tugs off his tie as he wanders through and disappears down the hall toward the bedrooms. Dean hears the soft click of his door shutting.

Dean frowns after him and toys with the idea of going to see what’s wrong. But in the end, Cas is just a roommate, and a closed bedroom door is a pretty universal signal of not wanting to talk. So Dean starts strumming again, moving easily through the chords, drawing them out slow and deliberate, exploring the space in the progressions.

It’s several minutes later when Dean hears Cas’s bedroom door open again, and he comes shuffling down the hall and into the kitchen. Not jeans this time; he’s gone straight to flannel pajama bottoms. Dean strums a few more quiet chords, then puts his guitar down. “You want dinner?” he asks as he joins Cas in the kitchen.

Cas shrugs one shoulder and fills up the electric kettle.

Dean can’t stop himself now. “Bad day?”

This gets him an eyeroll and Cas’s shoulders slumping like someone’s snipped his strings. “You could say that, yes.”

Dean nods and fumbles around for something to do with his hands to keep himself in the kitchen for a minute, tossing a dry dish or two in a cupboard. He tries a subtle sniff and picks up a sour tang overlaying the richness of Cas’s scent. Dean has never been very good at picking up emotional states from scents, but there’s no mistaking this one. Frustration. Impotent anger.

“You don’t have to stop playing just because of me, you know,” Cas says to the kettle as it starts to heat.

“Huh? Oh.” Dean shrugs. “I was just goofing around anyway. I’m gonna start some dinner.”

Dean cooks, and Cas wanders over to the couch with his tea, which he sips slowly through a rerun of M*A*S*H. Dean halfway watches from the kitchen, paying more attention to the back of Cas’s head than the show. By the time the episode is over, Dean’s putting a casserole in the oven and setting a timer.

“Dinner in like half an hour?” he says as he sits down on the couch, opposite Cas.

“That’s fine,” Cas says. “Do you want to keep playing?”

Dean’s natural inclination is to decline, say it’s fine, they can keep watching TV, but his fingers are itching and he needs something to do with them. Cas must catch him glancing at his guitar, because, before Dean can respond, he’s flicked off the TV and picked up his notebook.

They share tiny smiles, and then Dean’s got his guitar back on his knee. He’s not really looking to play anything, just strumming around in scales, but his hands fall naturally into the rhythm of Summer of ‘69. It’s one of the first songs he ever learned to play, and it’s still a kind of home base for him. He can tool around with these four chords for hours; it’s almost a meditation. Benny used to give him shit for it.

When he hears a deep baritone voice humming softly over one of his chorus rounds, his pick almost slips out of his fingers in surprise. He looks over at Cas, who is doodling in the margins of his notebook without actually writing anything. Cas glances up.

“Sorry,” he says. “I can stop.”

“No no,” Dean says, his throat dry. “You’re fine.”

Cas looks up again with a genuine smile, and the last of the tension he’d brought home with him sloughs off his shoulders. The sweetness of sage in his scent overpowers the sourness, and Dean is glad. Cas kicks his legs out, feet on the coffee table; Dean goes back to his strumming, and Cas sings along, low and rough and perfect.

“Ain’t no use complainin’
When you’ve got a job to do
Spend my evenings down at the drive-in
And that’s where I met you

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that you’d wait forever
And when I held your hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life”

Chapter Text

One Sunday morning, Dean wakes up furiously hard, with an aroma like melting resin in his nose. Waking up hard is nothing unusual, but this — this isn’t just morning wood. His skin is sticky with sweat; his hips are rolling into the mattress before he’s even fully awake, a slick little puddle in his boxers. He can’t remember what he was dreaming about, if anything, but he can guess. He’s had one or two less-than-innocent dreams about Cas since he moved in.

“God, son of a —” Dean flops on his back, reaches his hand down under his sheets and palms his throbbing cock through his boxers. He can feel when he leaks a fresh well of stickiness, clinging to the cotton, and his hips twitch into his own touch.

Dean knows he shouldn’t think about Cas. He shouldn’t. It’s like twelve kinds of not good. Inappropriate. Disrespectful. Pointless. Hopeless. Ultimately just painful. But he can’t help it. As soon as he’s got one hand wrapped around his dick, his brain zeroes in like a homing beacon on his current personal favorite: last week, when he’d stepped out of his room and straight into a towel-draped Cas fresh from the shower.

God. He’d smelled like sin, wet and clean but so absolutely, quintessentially himself that Dean had gone weak at the knees. Dean has almost gotten used to the scent of Cas around the house, how everything smells faintly of sandalwood and cedar now, but when he’s hit right in the face with it it’s enough to send his blood rushing. Coupled with a fresh, unprecedented view of broad shoulders, slender waist, softly toned stomach, tan skin dappled with water droplets...

Fuck ,” Dean moans, tugging on his dick hard , old habit never quite broken, and in no time at all he is spilling over his fist and up his bare stomach.

It takes him a long time to come down from the tingling high of orgasm, longer than it actually took to get there, and he would be tempted to go back to sleep if it weren’t for that sticky-pithy blood orange scent that’s filling up his lungs. He cleans up, pulls himself out of bed, and as he’s tugging on some track pants, he hears Cas’s door open and hurrying footsteps down the hall.

Curious, Dean cracks his door open but doesn’t leave yet. The scent hits him like a wall, fresh and strong enough to make his eyes cross, and he thinks he knows what’s going on.

“Hello, yes.” He hears Cas’s tremulous voice and strains his ears to listen. “I’d like to speak to Hannah, please. Castiel Novak.” Phone call. Okay. Dean waits and listens to Cas waiting. “Hi, Hannah. — Yes, I know I’m ahead of schedule but I — Yes. Please. As soon as possible. — Not sure. Environmental factors? — Yes. — No. — 4pm? Seriously? — Okay. Yes. Driver escort, please. — Okay. Thank you, Hannah.” The beep of a phone call ending.

Standing arrangements , he’d said. Blockout days. Dean’s hand trembles on his doorknob.

Cas is in rut.

~*~

Beta.

“It’s rare to see someone at your age who hasn’t presented…”

Beta.

“We think it’s time you considered the possibility…”

Beta.

“Mister Winchester? Did you hear…?”

Oh, Dean heard alright. Heard the school nurse and the guidance counselor drop a gavel on him. Now all he hears is static. His heart pounding.

Beta, beta, beta.

No, this can’t be right.

Screw them.

This wasn’t how this was supposed to go.

This wasn’t how his life was supposed to go.

He wants a family, a real family. How can he have that if he’s beta? Never had that desire been so clear and visceral as when he felt it snatched away.

The nurse and the counselor are still talking, crossed arms and concerned, compassionate faces, but Dean shoves back his chair, knocks it to the floor as he stands. Flees the office with blood ringing in his ears. He’s still clutching a handful of well-meaning pamphlets on “What It Means To Be Beta,” and he shoves them into the nearest garbage can without a second glance.

Because this can’t be right.

He can’t be beta.

His dad’s going to kill him.

Dean’s worst fear growing up was that he would turn out omega. Just another knotless bitch.

Being omega would have been better.

Being beta had never even been an option.

Nausea lurches in Dean’s stomach and his breath is coming too fast. He can barely see through the fuzzy static, but he can see judgement, pity , in the eyes of his passing classmates.

Beta. Beta. Beta.

He fights the urge to actually run — more or less — but he can’t stay here. Though it’s barely past lunchtime, he stumbles out to his car and watches himself drive in flashes. Out of the parking lot, out of the neighborhood, out of the city onto wide flat Kansas backroads where it doesn’t matter how fast he drives.

It’s wrong. It has to be. lt just feels wrong. Betas are different. No sex drive — fuck no, that’s wrong, he’s been horny since he was 13, tugging as hard as he could, every single time, to try and get his knot to pop. No sense of smell — bullshit, the air in the school halls was always heavy with the scents of newly-minted alphas and omegas and their hormones. Dean could still remember exactly how Cassie had smelled, after she had presented but before Victor, the crook of her neck sweet and floral: gardenia, lily of the valley, honeysuckle. He’d wanted to breathe there forever, fill up his senses with her.

That wouldn’t happen if he was really beta.

Would it?

Beta.

No one will ever want you, no one will ever love you if you’re beta.

Why would they? You aren’t alpha, you aren’t omega. You’re neither. You’re nothing.

You have nothing to offer. No heat. No rut.

You’re nothing .

The road smears behind the welling in Dean’s eyes. He scrubs it away, punches the wheel, and pushes the pedal to the floor.

~*~

Dean dresses himself fully, complete with three layers of shirts, before he emerges from his bedroom. There is no way in hell he’s going to try and face Cas in rut wearing nothing but track pants.

He sees Cas hunched over with his elbows on the back of the sofa, head hanging down and body moving in restless, tempting rolls. Dean flushes hot and has to avert his gaze. It’s only polite.

Cas must have thrown open the windows because there’s a cool breeze thinning out the lush citrus musk of his rut. But when Cas notices Dean, Dean catches an edge of brightness on the air, a fresh wave. Probably embarrassment. Dean should back off. Should hide in his bedroom.

Too late now. Cas has caught his eye, and Dean could swear he sees Cas’s nostrils flare, can see the morning sun catch golden in flat discs behind his eyes.

But then Cas shakes himself, sighs, and hangs his head again. “Sorry if I woke you,” he says.

Dean licks his lips. “You didn’t,” he says.

“I’m guessing you heard some of that?”

“Yeah. How, um. How are you feeling?”

Cas scoffs and scrubs his face with his hands, fingers raking back into his hair. “Ready to pound nails, if I can be frank.”

And wow, Jesus, Dean was not ready for that mental image. But still, he manages to volley back, “Honestly, I’d rather you just be Cas.”

Cas dissolves into giggles, ribs shaking and tension mostly sapping out of him. Cas laughs quietly, Dean has discovered. Quiet, but often, and at length.

“Thanks, Dean,” Cas sighs, scrubbing at his eyes. “I needed that.”

Dean tries not to smile his pride — it’s not his fault Cas laughs at his stupid jokes. Then he’s opening his mouth again and what falls out is, “Can I help at all?”

Cas’s eyes are on him in an instant, wide, shocked. Flashing gold.

“I just —” Dean stammers, “I just meant. Can I get you anything? Uh. Coffee?”

Cas sucks in air. “Oh, there is plenty you can do to help, Dean,” he says, all low and gruff and growling. Dean has absolutely nothing to say in response to that. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Cas lets out an explosive sigh and drags his hands through his hair again. “I’m sorry. That was — I should — before I make an ass of myself.”

He pushes off the couch and for just a second — Dean can’t help where his eye line lands, dropping to the tent in Cas’s jeans. Those stupid fucking jeans that Dean didn’t know what to do with in the first place, and now he has this to contend with, knowing exactly what those jeans look like when Cas is hard underneath them. Fuck . Lust and shame run hot and cold through him, confusing, and Cas is walking toward him now, right toward him, and Dean freezes, like there's a freight train barreling down on him —

“Excuse me,” Cas mutters, very deliberately avoiding eye contact as he motions to move past Dean into the hall.

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” Dean steps back so that Cas can squeeze by. Dean tries very hard not to breathe when he passes, and to ignore the sparking frisson of heat in the space between their bodies.

Cas does not pause at any point between passing Dean and his bedroom door. But Dean does hear him sigh, heavy and explosive. He does watch him clench and unclench a fist.

Then his bedroom door is closed and latched.

And Dean finally exhales.

This was not how he had expected this day to go.

He’d expected to get up and make coffee. Cas would wander in at some point, all wild-hair and rumpled, complaining that the coffee wasn’t strong enough. Then Dean would make breakfast — maybe waffles — then they would go about their mornings in quiet companionship. Separate hobbies, side by side, just sharing space. Cas might go for a run, Dean might take his car down to the shop for some off-hours detailing.

But now.

Jesus. Now he knows how Cas sounds and looks and smells when he’s rutting and how the fuck is he supposed to just go about his day with that knowledge?

He should have anticipated this. It was bound to happen eventually. He’d been avoiding thinking about it, because if he let himself think about Cas in rut he might never have been able to look him in the eye.

So what the hell is he going to do about that now?

The ringing of his phone from his bedroom startles Dean out of his thoughts. It’s Benny, and Dean answers, almost lightheaded with relief. Benny is exactly the person he wants to talk to right now, even if he didn’t know it until he saw his name pop up.

“Benny, hey.”

“Hey there, stranger. Long time no see.” Goddamn is it good to hear that drawl.

“Yeah, uh. Sorry about that.”

“S’ok. Just calling to check in, see how things are going. I heard you got some other guy in there stinking up my room now?”

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, you could say that. Hey, um. You wanna do lunch? Today?”

A pause on the other end, and then, “Sure, I think I can swing that. Everything alright?”

Dean glances toward the door, hopes Cas can’t hear him. “Yeah, I just — something I wanna talk about. And it’d be a good time to get out of the house.”

“Oh, okay. Yeah, I get you.” And he probably does, more than Dean wanted him to. Shit. “Whenever you like, brother.”

They agree on a time and a place, and Dean hangs up.

From the other side of the hall he hears a muffled thump and a noise which, if he strains to hear, could be a gasping breath, a husky moan, and that deep, dark citrus seeps stronger through the air again. Lust fires in his veins and Dean flops back on the bed with a groan.

Maybe he should have suggested breakfast. He’s not sure he’ll survive until lunch.

~*~

“Cas?” Dean taps twice on the door. He’s not really expecting a response — it’s been quiet in there for a few hours now — but he hears a rolling thump and then the door opens.

For just a fraction of a second, Dean gets a full view of Cas, bare-ass naked, panting, sweating, and erect. He slams the door shut again before Dean has a chance to react, which is maybe a good thing because the reaction he feels is hysterical laughter bubbling up to his lips. He bites down on it hard and tries not to breathe in the potent waft of musk from the bedroom.

Well. Maybe just a taste.

“Sorry,” Cas says, his low growl muffled through the door. “What, um. What’s up?” It’s a ludicrous attempt at normalcy, but Dean is grateful for it.

“I, uh. I’m just — I’m gonna go out for a bit. Okay?”

He hears Cas sigh, and it sounds very close, very clear. “Okay.”

“You need anything before I go?”

“Don’t — Don’t ask me that right now, Dean.” Strained. And definitely just the other side of the door, right up against the wood. Dean’s mouth runs dry.

“Right. Sorry. I’ll, uh. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay. Yes. Later.”

“Text if you need — Uh. If there’s anything I can get for you, okay? I’ll try to be back before you, um. Head out. To. Wherever you’re going.” Dean’s stalling now and he knows it, and he knows this is none of his business. But standing arrangements could mean any number of things, and it had taken him almost half the morning to wonder about Hannah, but once the question had occurred to him he couldn’t stop.

“I will,” Cas says. “Thank you.”

And that is as far as Dean can reasonably stall. He backs down the hall, slowly, step by step. “You’re welcome,” he says. “Good luck,” with a stupid little thumbs up even though there’s a closed door between him and Cas.

Good thing, too.

Finally, he turns and flees through the kitchen.

He’s almost escaped when he hears Cas’s door squeak open. “Dean?”

He turns to see Cas slumped against the hallway wall, his bathrobe flung over his arms and clutched tightly closed in front of himself. He’s decent, but only barely, and Dean can’t help a once-over before dragging his eyes back up to meet Cas’s. Definitely flashing yellow-gold when the light hits them right.

“It’s a hotel,” Cas manages to grate out between sucking in deep draughts of air. “Where I’m going. One of those, um. Establishments. Alphas only.”

“Oh.”

“Just if you were wondering.”

“Thanks, Cas. That’s good. Good to know.”

Cas nods, and Dean watches as a fine tremor runs over Cas’s body. His nostrils flare on each panting breath. His eyes slide closed. He clutches his robe tighter around himself like he’s trying to hold on to something, anything, and Jesus fuck his hand is starting to wander down south and Dean has to get out of here before he does something really, really stupid.

So even though every nerve and muscle in him wants to go the other direction, Dean opens the door and slips out, locking it behind him.

Chapter Text

When Benny strolls into the diner — too tall, too wide, fisherman’s cap and long jacket — Dean stands and lets himself be enveloped. The scent of him is familiar, blessedly neutral, and Dean feels a little of his tension relax just from being around him.

“Whoo!” Benny pushes him back to arm’s length. “You reek, brother.”

“Oh, shit, do I?” Dean sniffs his shirt, catches a faint whiff of citrus musk. “Dang. I showered right before I left.”

“Yeah, and you still stink. This why you needed to get out of the house today? Couldn’t stand the stench?” Benny asks as he slides into the booth and starts scanning the menu.

Dean laughs and starts idly sliding a napkin around the table. “Yeah, sort of. I guess. Well. Not exactly.”

“Uh oh.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I know that look.”

“What look?”

“You sweet on this guy, ain’t you?” Benny is grinning like the cat that caught the canary, and the menu is forgotten.

“No, it’s not like that!” Dean protests. But it’s no use. By the look of Benny’s raised eyebrow, he knows too much already. “Okay, maybe it’s a little like that.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“Is he single?”

This is really not what Dean came here to talk about. Or, okay, maybe it is, but he still feels weight drop like a stone into his stomach. “I guess, yeah.”

“And what do you plan to do about that?”

“Nothing.” The waitress shows up to take their orders, and before Benny can ask again, he swoops in with a quick topic change. “How’s Andrea?”

It’s a safe bet. Benny’s face gets all soft and pink the way it always does when he starts talking about his new fiancee. Andrea is the reason Benny moved out, and Dean has never seen a better reason to lose a roommate.

From there conversation moves on to business at the shop and Benny’s latest catch (“Dude, it was not 15 pounds; smallmouth don’t get that big”), then their respective musical hobbies, which leads Dean perilously close to the subject of Cas again as he remembers his rough-honey voice humming along to whatever tune Dean had decided to pick up that day. The distraction must show on his face, or maybe he’s quiet for just a second too long, because Benny latches right on.

“So. You gonna tell me why you ain’t gonna make a move on this guy?”

Dean wants to play dumb, he really does, but instead he just slumps over his burger and fries. “You know why.”

“Maybe that won’t matter.”

Dean just shrugs. It will. He knows it will. Maybe not at first, and maybe Cas will tell him it won’t matter. But it will. In the end it always does.

“Hey.”

Dean looks up to see Benny leaning forward, all big blue eyes, concerned and caring. “You’re a good guy, Dean. You deserve to be happy now and then, alright? Just like everybody else.”

Dean clenches his jaw. He’s at the point where he’s either going to get angry or slide right into maudlin, and he knows which one he prefers. It’s not pretty, but it’s easier. “I’m not like everybody else though,” he grates out. “I don’t get to have all that happily ever after crap. I just don’t. It’s easier if I just accept that.”

Benny leans back, showing his palms. “Look, brother, I’m just tryin’ to help.”

“Don’t.” Dean sags, and the fight drains out of him as quick as it came. “Not today, okay?”

Benny looks at him, long and speculative, and Dean fidgets under that stare. Chugs on his beer. Shoves his burger in his mouth even though it tastes like cardboard at the moment.

“Alright,” Benny says finally. “I’ll mind my own business.”

Hearing that doesn’t exactly make Dean feel better, but it is a relief. He offers Benny half a smile, and they spend the rest of lunch skirting around the issue. When Benny hugs Dean goodbye, he holds just a half-second longer than usual, and somehow that makes Dean feel even worse.

~*~

First, there’s Cassie.

That doesn’t end well, and it’s a long, long time before there's anyone else.

Well, anyone else who mattered. Omega twinks and chicks he finds in bars and fucks in his back seat, or a seedy motel room if they’re really pretty — they don’t count. He picks them up wearing a false scent, they’re always gone with a smile and wave, and sometimes Dean doesn’t even get around to telling them he’s beta. It’s better when he doesn’t, actually. Right up until they look at him all puzzled, dewy and warm, and ask in soft, breathless voices, “Aren’t you going to knot me?”

That hurts.

(Occasionally he uses being beta to his advantage. With a certain kind of omega, when Dean is at his lowest low, it becomes part of his pick-up routine. “Maybe I just haven’t met the right omega,” he says. “Maybe you’ll be the one to give me my first knot.” It usually works. The pretty little things melt right into his arms, pull out all the stops for him, but they’re not the ones who have to deal with still being beta in the morning.)

Eventually, though, there’s Aaron.

Aaron is a good guy. The two of them work on cars together and take a road trip to Yellowstone, and he’s the one who encourages Dean to take up the guitar. Dean’s not sure he loves him. He’s not sure if that’s even something he’s capable of, but if nothing else, Aaron is a good friend.

They spend two of Aaron’s heats together. Dean is terribly nervous the first time but tries not to show it. It’s better the second, or at least he thinks it is. But things change after that. Dean tries to ignore it, tries not to pay attention to the constant feeling that the other shoe is about to drop.

Before Aaron’s next heat, he sits Dean down to talk.

Apparently, it isn’t enough.

After Aaron, it takes Dean a long time to get back to his one night stands, and even when he does, it’s less frequent. His heart’s not in it. But one day a woman walks into his shop with a beat-up Charger and introduces herself as Lisa.

Lisa is an alpha, but she’s beautiful and smells like black cherries and dark chocolate even over the grease-and-gasoline stink of the shop. When she asks for Dean’s number, he can barely stammer it out. She leaves with a swing of her hips and a backward grin, and Dean has no idea what to make of the way his heart pounds.

He’s never been with an alpha. But for Lisa he makes an exception.

Lisa is smart and ambitious, stubborn and gorgeous, and her ruts are fucking intense, and even though she reassures him over and over that that it’s fine, that he’s enough, Dean never quite believes her.

It lasts almost a year before he chickens out.

She’s too good for him.

Besides, she wants kids, and even though he’s wised up enough by then to know that betas aren’t actually sterile, that’s farther than he’s willing to hope. He won’t let someone like Lisa settle for someone like him.

After Lisa, there are no more pickups. It’s not worth it. He stops trying. He has the shop, his guitar, he has friends and his brother, and Sam and Jess are doing great by the way, he’ll probably have nieces and nephews soon.

He’s fine. It’s enough.

Really.

~*~

Cas is gone when Dean gets home, and he’s gone for the next few days. Dean has no idea how long his rut will last. Benny had always been out of the house from Wednesday to Saturday, every three months like clockwork, but every alpha is different. Cas had never given Dean any indication of how long his ruts lasted; it had never come up. (It might have if it weren’t for this thing between them that they don’t talk about, that Dean’s convinced he’s imagining.)

So Dean gets up and goes to work, comes home and cooks too much dinner for one person because he never knows when Cas might turn up, but does know he’ll be hungry when he does. The fridge fills up with leftovers, and Dean stays up just a little too late trying to pretend he’s not waiting for Cas.

He mostly avoids thinking about it. Mostly.

Except at night, between settling in and falling asleep, when he wonders if Cas is getting any sleep. The answer is almost certainly no, and when Dean gives in to the temptation and pictures all the things Cas is probably doing instead of sleeping, he pictures it with his fist around his cock and — once — with two fingers inside, as deep as he can get them. He wonders, not for the first time, what would have happened if he’d been born omega.

And then in the morning when he sees Cas’s shower things still in their usual spots, he wonders if this hotel has special soap for alphas in rut, all scentless and gentle for overstimulated noses and skin. (Not that Cas’s soap is super highly scented anyway. He’d checked.)

He wonders if maybe Cas isn’t bothering to shower at all. Maybe he hasn’t even left the bed. And god dammit that shouldn’t be hot, but it is.

But other than that, he does pretty well at not thinking about it.

It’s weird, and confusing, this whole stupid crush. If he’d thought that exposure would make it fade, he’d been absolutely dead wrong. But it’s definitely weird because Cas is not at all his usual type. Yeah, ok, so his longest relationship was with an alpha, and of course he’s been with men (who hasn’t?) but there is something… else about male alphas. Something that has always — not exactly scared him off, but not not scared him off. He’s never looked twice at a male alpha. Not even in his pickup days when it would have been easy.

And yet, something about Cas just gets right inside him and pulls. Hard. And he doesn’t think he’s the only one who feels it. If he were the type to believe in true mates —

But that’s impossible. On more than one level.

On Wednesday, Dean gets a text while he’s patting together hamburger patties. He’s got his hands covered in ground beef, but the light of his phone screen catches his eye, and he leans to take a closer look when he spies a short name with a capital C.

Cas: I’ll be home tonight. Not sure what time but I —

The preview cuts off. Dean feels a brief, stupid spike of adrenaline, and the rest of the burgers are a little less perfect than the ones before.

When he’s done with his patties, Dean washes his hands and grabs his phone.

Cas: I’ll be home tonight. Not sure what time but I’ll text you when I’m on the way.

Dean nods and types out a reply.

Dean: How are you getting home? Do you need a ride?

He stands there waiting for a response for probably longer than he should. Of course, it comes in almost the same instant he puts the phone down.

Cas: No, thank you.

And that’s all it is. Dean tries not to be disappointed at the brevity of the text. Dude’s probably still all distracted.

He’s about to move away again — the grill’s probably hot by now, the little hibachi out on the fire escape that he’s not supposed to have but fuck if he’s making burgers any other way — when the little typing ellipsis pops up and he waits.

Cas: I’ve missed you.

Dean feels cold sweat break out on his palms, behind his ears. How the fuck is he supposed to react to that?

The typing ellipsis appears again almost immediately.

Cas: Please forget I said that.
Cas: I’m sorry. Blame the hormones.

Dean places the phone down gently on the counter and tries to figure out whether he wants to laugh or throw things. Alright. So. Yeah. Forget about it. He can do that.

Dean: Whatever, dude. I got burgers cooking if you’re hungry later.

Cas: You are a saint.

Dean does laugh at that and takes his plate of hamburgers out onto the fire escape.

~*~

The text comes in a few hours later that Cas is on his way home. Dean definitely waits up this time, an hour or so past his usual bedtime, and he’s halfway dozing on the couch with only the kitchen light and the TV on low volume when the sound of the door opening jerks him awake.

“Hey,” he says, craning his neck and then standing up, stretching. “How you feeling?”

Cas looks rough, smells like sour orange candy, and has bags under his eyes. Nevertheless he greets Dean with a tired smile. “Better.”

“You hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Say no more.” Dean moves forward, stops just shy of taking Cas by the arm. “May I?”

Cas doesn’t hesitate before nodding, so Dean pulls him into the living room and settles him in on the sofa. “Sit tight,” he says. “I’ll fix you a burger. You want pickles?”

“You don’t have to do that,” Cas says, but he sinks deeper into the cushions and his eyes slip halfway shut.

“Yeah, but I’m gonna,” Dean says with a shrug and half a grin.

“In that case, yes, pickles.”

So Dean heats up the patty in a pan, melts cheese on top. Toasts the bun. Slices tomato and tears up lettuce to go with the pickles. Doesn’t want to admit that he paid attention to Cas’s condiment choices the last time he’d cooked burgers, but now uses that information to his advantage. By the time he brings it over he’s almost embarrassed, but at least he can pass it off as pride in a good burger.

When Cas takes the first bite and groans deeply, gutterally, it gives Dean a deep-seated satisfaction. “Good?” he asks.

“Oh my god,” Cas says around a mouthful. “I definitely needed this. Thank you.” He’s barely swallowed before he’s inhaling another huge bite.

Dean smiles and tries not to blush. “Yeah, I know. Hey, slow down, don’t choke.”

“I’ll try,” Cas says, with a smile between bites.

Dean grins. “I’ll get you some water too,” he says. “Next time, let me know if you’ve got any cravings, alright? I can try and make those happen.”

“You don’t have to. This is perfect.”

“Yeah, but sometimes you want what you want, y’know? I had this girlfriend once, Lisa. She craved macaroni and cheese like nobody’s business right after. Like, real mac and cheese, with about five kinds of cheese, baked with bread crumbs on top, after every single rut. I was gonna try and make that for you, but I didn’t know when you’d be home, so….” He shrugs, coming back with a glass of water to find Cas actually choking on his burger. “Dude —” Dean pounds Cas on the back and hands him the water, which he sips carefully.

Once Cas is breathing normally again, Dean takes his seat and turns off the TV. “You alright?” he asks.

Cas nods, but doesn’t look at Dean, looks instead into some middle ground between their knees. “Fine.” He takes another bite of burger — smaller now, slower. There’s a weight to the silence that wasn’t there before. Dean doesn’t know how to lift it.

“So you’ve dated alphas?” Cas asks, and even though he sounds casual, the weight gets heavier.

“Uh. Just Lisa.” Dangerous, dangerous ground. Thin ice. Dean gets up again and starts back toward the kitchen with the vague intent to wash the pan.

When he gets there though, Cas has followed and is leaning on the breakfast bar, looking at him over the sink, brow furrowed. Under the cooked beef smell, Dean is starting to detect citrus and sage again, and he’s really not sure what to make of that. So he just focuses on washing the pan while Cas watches, slowly chewing the last bite of his burger.

“Would you consider it again?” Cas asks. The words come out quick and quiet.

Dean’s ears flush hot. He’s not having this conversation. Not now. Not unguarded as he is. “Uh. It’s late. I’m gonna —”

“Dean.”

Dean clams his mouth shut and feels like his heart stops with it.

Cas’s eyes are very, very blue, and he sucks in a deep breath. “If you say no, we can pretend this never happened. But I would very much like to have dinner with you, if you’re amenable.”

And there’s the starting of Dean’s heart, fitful and stuttering. “I’m guessing you don’t mean —” he gestures to the kitchen around him, and Cas laughs a little.

“Don’t get me wrong; you are an excellent cook. But no. I was thinking a restaurant of some kind. A couple of drinks. Perhaps a movie?”

“Movies make terrible first dates,” he says, and well, better to call a spade a spade.

“Maybe that will be the second date, then.” Cas is smiling now like he’s hopeful, and Dean has to suck in air.

“Cas, I’m — I’m beta, you know that.” Beta, beta, beta.

Cas cocks his head to the side. “Yes, I’m aware.”

“So… you know what that means, right?”

Cas shrugs a little. “It means you’re not burdened with all of this,” he says with a gesture at himself. “It means you’re different. So? I’m different.”

Dean snorts. “Yeah? Different how?”

Cas’s smile comes back. “That sounds like something to discuss over dinner.”

Dean has to laugh at that. “Smooth. Real smooth.” He goes back to scrubbing the pan, focusing hard on the circling of the sponge.

Cas is quiet for a moment, and then, “Is that a yes?”

Dean freezes. He can’t say no. He can’t say yes.

“If you’re not interested, I respect that, and value your friendship. Hopefully this can just be water under the —”

“No no, I. Uh. I’m — interested, yeah.” That’s one word for it. Dean can feel the flush in his neck now, warm and bright. At this point it’s starting to feel inevitable, like gravity, him and Cas falling into each other. “Friday?” he asks, finally looking up.

Cas’s smile is incandescent. “Friday,” he says. He stands and pushes away from the bar. “And on that note, I think I’ll turn in. Thank you, again.”

Dean waves him off. “Alright. G’night, man. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Cas nods. “Good night, Dean.”

Dean watches him go and waits until he hears Cas’s door click shut before collapsing over the sink.

Gravity. Yeah. Now all that’s left is to see how quickly they’ll crumble.

Chapter Text

Dean: So Cas asked me out last night.

Benny: No shit! Good for you brother!
Benny: Wait you did say yes, didn’t you?

Dean: Yeah, I did.

Dean stares at this text for a long time before sending it, trying to decide if he should add anything. Yeah, I did, but why the hell would he do that? Yeah, I did, but it’s scaring the shit out of me. Yeah, I did, but what the hell am I supposed to do now?

In the end, he doesn’t say anything else. Just an affirmation of the fact that he’s going on a date with friggin’ Cas Novak.

He tries to calm himself and keep his thoughts from racing in circles. It’s just dinner. Probably nothing will happen. They’ll just be friendly the way they have been since Cas moved in — nothing more, nothing less — and then they’ll go back home and never speak of it again and go back to being roommates.

That’s probably best case scenario anyway.

His phone bleeps.

Benny: I hope it goes well for you two. Go get ‘em tiger!

Which gets a laugh out of him. Benny’s a good guy to have in his court, but this time talking to him doesn’t help Dean’s jumpy nerves. He’s stuck in the office today, supposedly preparing paperwork for some audit that’s coming up while the bangs and shouts and whistles of the garage filter in through his open door. It would be better if he were out there working on something. At least then he’d be able to get his hands dirty, move around. Might help get his mind off things. It’s days like this he kind of misses being a grunt.

It’s almost lunchtime when he gives up the pretense of focusing and opens up an incognito browser window, checks to make sure nobody’s peeking through the door or windows, and types slowly into the search bar: “beta dating alpha advice.” This isn’t something he does often — or ever, really — but the situation is dire.

He finds a few forum threads and the occasional article, but they are mostly not applicable. How to attract an alpha — apparently, somehow, he’s already done that. How to present as alpha — might have been of interest to him at one point, but not anymore. How to convince an alpha to mate you — creepy, for one thing, and a little premature for another.

A knock on the door startles him, and he quickly minimizes the window. “Morning, Boss,” Alistair says, looming in the doorway. “I’d like to talk to you for a minute.”

Dean feels his teeth set on edge, but he forces a smile. “Sure. What can I do for you?”

Alistair takes up more space in the room than it seems like he should, standing too close to the desk with his chest puffed out. Dean tries not to inhale too much of his oil-and-vinegar scent.  “It’s about that new kid you hired. Jo.”

Dean bites down on a flinch. “What about her?”

“She's an omega.”

Dean bristles. “And?”

“You sure she can handle it?”

If he’s being honest, Dean has been waiting for this since Jo’s interview. He's ready. “She knows her stuff, Alistair. She’s been doing this a long time, she just hasn’t got paid for it. Besides, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.”

Alistair shrugs and picks at a grease spot on his cuticle. “Oh, I don’t deny she’ll be a valuable addition to the shop, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking. Probably for reasons you aren’t even aware of.” He’s still looking down at his own hands but Dean catches the lascivious grin on his face.

“Lay off, Alistair. She’s here to work. I won’t have you making my employees feel uncomfortable.”

“Ooh, little beta’s got bite,” he leers, his grin not getting any kinder. “Well. Mister boss man. All I know is you’ve been making some pretty interesting changes around here.”

“I’ve talked with Bobby; he supports my decisions.”

“You gonna hide behind Uncle Bobby your whole life, son?”

Dean spreads his hands. “What is it with you today, Alistair?”

He shrugs. “Well, I don’t know, Boss. You waltz in here smelling like some new alpha’s time o’ the month, it’s enough to put any man on edge.”

Dean flushes, even though he wishes he didn’t. “That’s my roommate.”

Alistair takes a big sniff. “That what they’re calling it these days?”

“That’s enough. Okay? I’m serious.”

Alistair just laughs at him. “Okay, tiger. Look. I’m gonna do you a favor. I’ll keep an eye on that Little Miss Jo for you. Okay? Okay.” And before Dean can even open his mouth, Alistair turns with a wink and a grin and waltzes out of the office.

Dean puffs out a breath and scrubs his face in his hands. Alistair. Good at his job, the old customers all know him and like him and would probably pitch a fit if Dean fired him. But some days it is really, really tempting.

Whatever. Dean has more important things to worry about. After all, he’s really only ever an asshole to Dean, and Dean can take it. Though he should probably see about switching Jo’s shift so that they overlap as little as possible. Just to be on the safe side.

Dean’s thoughts turn quickly back to his clandestine internet searching. In lieu of finding anything useful already written, Dean picks the most helpful-looking forum and tries not to feel ridiculous as he types out a new post.

 

 

Name: d.impala1967

My alpha roommate asked me out last night. I’m interested. I’ve been interested since he moved in. But I

 

Dean stops and considers for a long time before continuing.

I guess I’m just nervous. Has anyone else been here before? Thanks.

After hitting the post button, Dean sits back in his chair and attempts to get some actual work done. It’s easier now that he’s at least managed to get it out of his brain so it's not just rattling around in there.

By lunchtime, there is a little pop-up message notification.

 

 

Name: queen_ray

What’s got you nervous?

 

It's a fair question. Dean lets it sit for a few minutes, shuffles some papers on his desk, trying to articulate what he's feeling.

 

Name: d.impala1967

I really like this guy, for one thing. As a friend, or, y’know. I don’t want to mess things up.

 

Name: queen_ray

Well if he asked you out it sounds like a positive. I’m guessing there’s more to this story?

 

Name: d.impala1967

Sort of. I’m just really nervous about it and I was hoping for advice from anyone who might have been in this boat before.

 

Name: queen_ray

Well you’re talking to the right person! My girlfriend is alpha, and even though we weren’t roommates before, she asked me out first. I’m gonna PM you, ok?

 

Dean doesn’t even have a chance to respond before he has a direct message popping up in his inbox.

Queen_ray: Hi. I’m Charlie. 28/fb/Kansas City KS. What’s your name?

D.impala1967: Hi. I’m Dean. 31/mb, also KCK.

Queen_ray: Seriously? Small world! Awesome! Okay, so have you ever been with an alpha? In any sense of the word.

D.impala1967: Wow, straight to the point. Okay. Yes. My longest relationship was with an alphaz woman, actually.
D.impala1967: But other than her, no, just omegas.

Queen_ray: So what’s different this time?

Dean thinks for a long while, starts and stops several versions of his reply before answering. Charlie, thankfully, gives him time.

D.impala1967: Well, I ended it, me and my ex girlfriend. I guess I don’t want to disappoint anyone again.

Queen_ray: So, A, there's always a risk of things not working out, for everybody, but that's no reason not to give it a shot. B, what's got you thinking you're so disappointing?

He starts to type his stock answer, but given that he’s talking to another beta, suddenly that seems impolite.

D.impala1967: You said your girlfriend is alpha, right? Do you ever feel like this?

Queen_ray: Well she’s certainly never disappointed, I can tell you that much!

Dean grins, because that is in fact almost enough to be reassuring.

Queen_ray: Are you worried he won’t like you because you’re beta? He knows, right?? Omg please tell me he knows.

D.impala1967: Yeah, he knows. And yeah, I guess I am.

Queen_ray: Look, every person is different, so I can’t for certain say that this guy WON’T get frustrated about it. We’ve all been through that, trust. Except the asexuals, probably, but they have their own set of problems to deal with.
Queen_ray: BUT, there’s another side to that coin. Every person is different. Regardless of their secondary. So, who knows? Maybe he likes you BECAUSE you’re beta, did you ever think about that?

D.impala1967: You mean like a pervy pseudo-pedo fetish thing? Because I really hope not.

Queen_ray: Not like that, gross. I just meant maybe it isn’t as big a deal to him as you’re assuming it is, or as it is to you. And maybe if you let yourself be with him, some of that might rub off on you and you can breathe a little easier.

D.impala1967: Maybe.

Queen_ray: You don’t sound convinced.

D.impala1967: I just don’t want to screw it up. We've become really good friends, plus roommates.

Queen_ray: Like I said, there's always a risk but that's no reason not to try. Give him a chance to impress you!

D.impala1967: Or I could just be his friend.

Queen_ray: Something tells me that ship has sailed, bucko

Dean finds himself smiling.

D.impala1967: I guess you’re right.
D.impala1967: Thanks for talking with me. I gotta get back to work.

Queen_ray: OK. Hey do you want my deets? This website blows but you sound like you could use more beautiful betas in your life so I’d like to keep talking to you. And I have to find out how this date goes!!!

Making a friend is not really what he actually set out to do here, but Dean can’t say Charlie is wrong. Hopefully, she’s right about more than just the fact that he needs more friends.

~*~

Dean: I’m gonna be late getting home tonight. I left all this audit crap for the last minute. Probably just gonna snag a sandwich.

Cas: Alright. Or maybe I’ll make YOU dinner for a change ;P

Dean snorts and grins down at his phone. Dean doesn’t remember seeing him do a damn thing in the kitchen besides make coffee. Maybe cereal once.

It’s stupid to get all fluttery over a semi-colon. Doesn’t stop him. Everyone knows winking faces are grade-A 21st-century flirting, right?

Dean: Date’s not til tomorrow, buddy ;)

Doesn’t want to admit how long he dithers over that response. Once he hits send, he stares at his phone in his hand for a long time, waiting on a response.

Cas: Trust me, if I’m cooking, it’s likely to be a date with the fire department ;D

Dean laughs down at his phone, hoping Alistair and the others who are cleaning up the shop for the night can’t see the lovesick grin on his face.

Dean: The whole fire department? Sounds exhausting ;D

As soon as he hits send, something in his chest lurches and he wonders what the hell’s gotten into him.

Thankfully the reply comes quicker.

Cas: We really need to stop with these winky faces ;)

Dean: I’ll stop if you will ;)

Cas: Okay ;^)

And on and on for most of the afternoon, texts every minute or two or ten putting a smile on Dean’s lips and a bubbly feeling in his chest. It’s a miracle he gets any work done.

~*~

For all Dean’s nervousness, dinner is easy. They agree on a burger joint, a sports bar with style; Dean gets the lasagna because they’ve been eating the burgers he made for two days.

“Dude, aren’t you sick of burgers yet?”

Cas, with his mouth full and a smear of ketchup on his lip, just shakes his head in closed-eyed bliss.

Dean grins and chomps down on his garlic bread. “Mmff. Cas. No offense, but THIS is how you do garlic bread.”

Cas swallows and glares at Dean. “It’s not my fault ‘broiler’ is another word for ‘incinerator.’”

“When you said a date with the fire department, I thought you were kidding.”

“It was just smoke. It cleared out just fine.”

It’s a bit weird, to Dean, going on a first date with someone you already live with. It feels like they’re doing this whole thing in reverse. So much of most first dates is breaking the ice, getting to know the other person, but Dean already knows that Cas rolls the toothpaste tube from the bottom up and can’t stand American Idol. It’s pointless to drop a pick up line like “how do you like your eggs” because the answer is scrambled, with Tabasco, and no matter how this goes, Dean will probably be making them tomorrow. It’s weird, but it’s also nice.

They chat about work. Books Cas is reading; songs Dean is learning. Dean tries for about the hundredth time to get Cas to tell him what he’s always scribbling in that notebook. They talk about TV shows they’re watching, together or separately, and it’s all easy banter and laughter, and when their ankles nudge together under the table, Dean stutters to a halt, and he doesn’t move away.

Cas catches his eye, then, and Dean hopes the flush he can see in his cheeks isn’t just from the beer. He doesn’t think it is.

“So, uh,” Dean starts. “The other day you said something about you being different. Care to elaborate on that?”

Cas drops his eyes and moves his fingers up and down the beer bottle in a very distracting way. “Yes, it’s something you should know. I’m bisecondary.”

Dean’s brow crinkles in confusion. “You’re — what. Does that mean you’re, like… both?”

“Attracted to both. Alpha and omega and everything in between. So I guess I should say I’m pan secondary, since I would hardly exclude betas.”

He tips his beer bottle at Dean. Dean’s brain does a quick spin through a kaleidoscope of options. “So — have you been with other alphas?”

Cas nods, not breaking eye contact as he sips on his beer.

“Other alpha men?” Jesus, why is that so hot?

Cas nods again, still with the eye contact. His legs shift against Dean’s ankles, neither toward nor moving away. Just a slow denim-friction slide.

Dean chuffs, cheeks pink.  “Uh. Sorry, just. That’s really hot.”

Cas laughs, all his teeth showing.

“You know I always thought I’d be alpha,” Dean says. “My dad was alpha, my brother’s an alpha — my dad was an old-school type, y’know, manly man, alpha boys or bust. I grew up knowing he’d beat me black and blue if I presented omega.” Dean takes a small, careful drink when what he really wants to do is neck half the bottle.

“How’d he react to you being beta?”

“Never really got the chance to find that out,” he says. “He died right after I — y’know. Failed to present.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Dean shrugs. “It was a long time ago. Maybe it’s better this way.”

Cas takes a long look at him, and there’s no pity there. Just empathy. Softness that makes Dean squirm in his seat.

“So what about you? What’s your family sitch like?”

Cas rolls his eyes, and his feet withdraw under the table. Dean misses the contact immediately.

“My family —” Cas shakes his head and picks at the beer bottle label with his thumbnail. “Too many sons and no idea what to do with all of us. I’m the fifth son; do you know how rare it is to have five male alphas a row?”

“Wow.” Dean’s eyebrows rise. “Full house.”

“They were all expecting me to be omega.” Cas just shrugs. “I think when I turned up alpha….” he stops and shakes his head. “It’s like I had to earn my place at the table all over again.”

Dean cocks his head and listens, but instead of elaborating, Cas just asks, “How’s the lasagna?”

~*~

“So — you wanna come up for coffee?” Dean asks with his best saucy wink, as if Cas weren’t already closing and locking the door to their own apartment.

Cas laughs. “You never make coffee how I like it.”

“That’s because you don’t like coffee; you like mud in a cup.”

“Then I guess I’ll just have to be on coffee-making duty forever.”

Forever . Dean’s stomach wobbles, because that has a really nice ring to it, and he is absolutely putting the cart before the horse here, but with Cas looking at him all soft through his eyelashes in the half-light of their living room, it’s really hard not to.

“I had a great time,” Cas says. “I’d like to do this again.”

“Uh- huh,” is all Dean can get out past his dry, numb tongue. “Me too.”

Cas smiles up at him, a shy, small thing. Then moves forward, a half-step into Dean’s personal space, and Dean sucks in a breath that’s all sage, cedar, sandalwood. He licks his lips, anticipating, and Cas draws nearer, nearer —

Instead of leaning close, Cas reaches for Dean’s hand, clasping his fingers against his palm. He lifts Dean’s hand to his face and rubs his lips, his cheek, his chin over the back of Dean’s knuckles. A scent mark. Dean’s breath leaves him in a rush.

Cas drops his hand and smiles up at Dean, still shy and blushing a little. “Goodnight, Dean,” he says, and starts to turn toward the hall to the bedrooms.

Dean could let him go. Say goodnight, linger on the couch or go to his own room, press his hand to his nose and treasure the scent that Cas has left there, left there for him.

“Cas, wait —” he says instead, and as Cas turns, Dean barrels forward, catches Cas in his arms and brings him close.

He stops with a hair's breadth between their lips, barely-breathing each other's air and losing himself in the blue of Cas’s eyes. He waits for Cas to tense in his grip, to pull back, waits for him to not-want this.

Instead, Cas lifts his chin toward Dean, lips parted, and Dean closes the final distance to brush their lips together, warm, dry, and shivering.

Dean feels Cas exhale, shuddery and sweet against his cheek, and then Cas is pressing back against him, harder than Dean was willing to risk. He “mmff"s against Dean’s lips, tilting and sliding and slotting into the perfect angle, and Dean feels his knees go weak. When their bodies brush, chest to chest, Dean gets a wave of citrus, fresh and bright, and he whimpers. He tries to kiss back for all he is worth, just praying he’s not making a fool of himself, but he must be doing okay because Cas answers with another sound low in his throat — Christ, Dean can feel it rumble — and they open up, both of them at once, for a quick flick of the tips of their tongues together.

Dean feels a little lightheaded when he pulls back, lips still open and spit-slick. His hands grip tight to Cas’s shoulders, like he’s afraid the earth will move if he lets go. Cas lets the tips of their noses brush just once before he opens his eyes — startling blue, holy shit — and blinks dazedly at Dean.

“Yeah,” Cas sighs. “Definitely doing this again.”

Chapter Text

Oddly Shaped Empty

Dean doesn’t really remember the first few days after the counselor’s office. He remembers driving away from school and not going home, but he doesn’t remember where he wound up. He doesn’t remember his first time having sex, except for a sticky-sweet tangerine smell and the leather squeak of the Impala’s backseat. He remembers whiskey burn and the impact of a fist on his jaw. He remembers truck headlights oncoming. He doesn’t remember swerving, though he must have because the car was T-boned, and he definitely saw those lights staring him down.

He does remember waking up in the hospital, though it’s faint and bleary. His dad was there, a shadowy silhouette against a blue window.

“Dad?” He remembers his voice creaking like a faucet that hasn’t had anything come out in years.

John doesn’t turn to face him. Just ducks his face into his palm and shakes.

The next time Dean remembers waking up, Sam is there, folded up tight into a plastic chair.

“Hiya, Sammy,” Dean croaks.

Sam’s face is tear-streaked, and the next thing Dean knows there are words like “coronary occlusion” and “myocardial infarction” being spoken around him. Bobby’s there, and his father isn’t.

Dean doesn’t remember a lot about the few months after that either. It’s a blur of hospitals, doctors, physical therapy, going home to Bobby’s and finding all of his stuff piled in boxes he didn’t pack. Sam, always Sam, growing like a weed and babbling about high school drama to keep Dean’s spirits up even though Dean can see the cracks in his facade too. It’s wrong, and it’s backwards, Sam trying to take care of Dean, but everything is wrong these days.

It vaguely registers to Dean that he’s supposed to be graduating high school, but it all feels so very far away. Like another life, belonging to a different person.

Some days that other person feels more real than he feels now.

This isn’t how his life was supposed to go.

They try to tell him it’s not his fault, but they wouldn’t be saying that if they didn’t think it too.

One day in late summer, Bobby takes him to the far back of the scrap yard, right up along a line of scrub brush. There’s a long hulk under a drop cloth, and Dean knows what it is with sinking certainty. He can’t look at Bobby’s hopeful face when he tugs back the cloth.

“I managed to get her back from the salvage yard,” Bobby says. “She’s in bad shape, but, well. Your dad wanted you to have her.”

Dean just stares at the twisted metal and torn leather. Bobby scratches the back of his neck and says, “I dunno if you know this, but your dad was gonna give her to you when you graduated. For good, not just to drive around when he took the truck. So. She’s yours.”

Finally, Dean summons up words from deep in his lungs, forces them out his mouth. It’s not easy to do these days.

“You can sell it. It’s just scrap.”

Bobby’s face pinches, surprised. Hurt. Why should he be, though? It’s just a car, like all the others. A wreck of a car, no less.

“I’m not gonna do that, boy,” Bobby says.

For a second Dean feels like he’s going to sneeze, but then his vision blurs and there’s wetness when he blinks. He turns away, shoves his hands in his pockets.

He doesn’t know what to say.

“Look, I know it looks bad, but she can be fixed. I’ve seen some real good restoration work done on these babies. And don’t think you don’t know a thing or two already, alright?”

With what money, Dean thinks, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort to say it.

“Could be good for you. Just — just think about it, okay? That’s all I ask.”

Bobby turns back toward the house with a clap to Dean’s shoulder. Dean stays for a long time after, numb and still, staring at the wreckage.

~*~

Dean: Date went well :-)

Charlie: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TELL ME EVERYTHING

Dean: Not really a lot to tell. It was nice. We ate food and talked. He said he had a good time and wanted to do it again.

Dean: He scent-marked my hand.

Dean: And I kissed him.

Charlie: OH MY GOOOOOOOODDDDDD I AM DYING!! You two are so cute!

Charlie: How do you feel now?

Dean hasn’t quite come up with the answer to this when Cas shuffles into the kitchen. Dean stands up a little straighter, his heart beats faster. “Morning,” he says.

Cas is not really awake yet, but the smile he gives Dean is like a little sunrise. “Good morning,” he says, all rough. His nostrils flare. “You made coffee.” It’s almost accusatory.

“Just try it,” Dean says.

Cas squints at him but gets down a mug and milk. On the first sip, his eyelids snap open, for what looks like the first time this morning. He coughs a little.

“Better?” Dean asks with a cheeky grin.

“Are we about to start an arms race? Who can make the strongest coffee?” There’s a challenge in Cas’s grin, and Dean laughs.

“I don’t know if my stomach lining could handle that.”

Cas snickers into his cup and adds a little more milk.

“Well if you made coffee, does that mean I’m making breakfast?” he asks.

“Hell no,” Dean says. “You sit. Take your coffee, do your scribbling. I’m making bacon.”

Cas acquiesces with a nod and starts to leave the kitchen. But then he stops, sets his cup down on the counter, and turns to face Dean again. He opens his nose and inhales, deep and slow. Dean wonders what he’s scenting. Probably just the coffee. Then Cas moves closer, gently places the tips of his fingers on the crook of Dean’s elbow, leans in, and brushes a light kiss at the corner of Dean’s mouth.

It’s simple. It’s nothing. It’s everything. Cas grins through a blush as he takes a step back. “I hope that was okay,” he says. “I probably should have asked.”

Dean, stunned to stillness, can barely manage a nod. “No. I mean, yeah. Yes. You’re fine. You can, um. Do that whenever you like.” Dean can feel his face radiating heat, and he turns back to the fridge. Right. Bacon.

“That’s very tempting,” Cas says, but before Dean can pull his head out of the fridge to ask what that’s supposed to mean, Cas has retrieved his coffee and is moving toward the couch.

Still grinning. That’s probably good.

Dean lets himself smile too, and before he gets too engrossed in breakfast, he scoops up his phone to tap out a quick text.

Dean: Good. I feel real good. :-)

~*~

“Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“It’s about being beta.”

That makes Dean glance up from the oatmeal nutrition facts. “Uh. Sure, go ahead.”

“If you’d prefer I didn’t pry, it’s not —”

“Just ask, numbnuts.”

Cas licks his lips before asking, “What’s your sense of smell like? I’ve heard that betas are scent blind, but I’ve also heard that’s a myth.”

Dean shrugs and tosses the oatmeal into the shopping cart. “I don’t really have any basis for comparison. For all I know, your sense of smell is a thousand times better than mine and I just can’t imagine it. Like, when you first moved in, you said it still smelled like Benny. I didn’t get that.”

“You were probably acclimatized.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Can you tell me about it? What are you smelling right now?”

Dean shrugs. “Just sort of a general ‘people’ smell, mostly. But, um.” Dean sniffs a little deeper. “I can tell an omega came by here a few minutes ago. Probably a woman?”

“What does she smell like?”

“Like… Sweet bread? Not cake or pastry or anything. Like… whole grain oat bread, or something. With butter. And some kind of herb. Rosemary, maybe?”

“I smell that too. Do you get molasses?”

“A little, yeah. Definitely sweet.”

“Omegas always smell sweet, no matter their base scents.”

Dean shuffles his feet a little. “Yeah.”

“What else do you smell?”

Dean blushes a bit at that. “Um. You, mostly.”

Cas grins. “Oh?”

“Yeah, you.” Dean pushes the cart a little faster.

“Please feel free to elaborate.”

“Come on, man, you know what you smell like.”

Cas sticks close to the cart, not letting Dean escape. “I don’t know what I smell like to you. It’s hard to really smell yourself.”

“Well I’m not telling you in the middle of a grocery store.” Dean’s certain his face is already a four-alarm fire; if he thinks too hard about Cas’s scent, he’s a goner.

Cas walks a little closer, close enough that their shoulders brush. “Okay. You can tell me later,” he says quietly, and Dean is overwhelmed with the sandalwood and burning cedar he’s been drowning in for weeks now. He has to close his eyes, though he’s not sure whether he’s savoring or trying to compose himself. Maybe both.

He turns to find Cas standing very close, watching him. He swallows thickly. “Deal.”

~*~

“No way, man. Kirk was the ultimate ladies’ man. He had ex-girlfriends all across the galaxy!”

“Exactly. Ex- girlfriends. Not conquests. Not jilted ex-lovers. Girlfriends. He clearly remembered all of them very fondly and had a real emotional connection to them.”

“I mean… okay, but what about all the times he seduced women on the actual show?”

“It was actually very rare.”

“Come on.”

“I’m serious. He was a flirt, yes, but usually it was either casual or to get what he wanted. He had no compunction against using his sex appeal to his own advantage, but that was rarely about —”

Cas is cut off by the buzz of the front intercom. They share puzzled frowns, and then Dean gets up, jams the button. “Yeah?”

A woman’s voice answers, soft, but with a biting edge. “Let me up, douchebag.”

Dean pulls back and stares at the intercom. “Uhh. Sorry, I don’t respond well to that.”

An electric-static pause. “You’re not Clarence.” She sounds surprised.

“Who?”

Cas is getting up off the couch in a hurry. “Meg?” Dean lets go of the button and turns to face him.

“Who the fu —”

Cas slams the intercom button, and Meg’s voice picks up again “—  and if you think I have time to stand on your stoop listening to some fuck —”

“I’m letting you up,” Cas growls, and presses the button for the front door.

“Cas — help? I’m lost.”

“I’m sorry about this,” he says, eyes wide and dire.

“Okay, now you’re scaring me,” Dean says, but Cas just cups the back of his neck and pulls him in for a quick kiss. It’s still new enough that Dean’s heart flutters and he chases after for a moment when Cas pulls away, still not really believing that he’s allowed.

Then their door opens, unannounced, and in waltzes a woman whom Dean assumes is Meg.

“Well, well, well,” she says. “This is cozy.”

Cas leans back and glares daggers at the newcomer. “What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you too, Cas. Who is this?” she says, moving close enough to Dean that he can catch her scent. Anise and clove, cardamom and wild honey. Alpha. Definitely. She smiles at him with a hint of sharp teeth, sweeps him with her eyes.  “Aren’t you going to introduce me?”

Cas sighs loudly. “Dean, this is Meg. My ex — we’ll say friends-with-benefits.”

“Fuckbuddy,” Meg corrects him. “It was mostly benefits,” she says with a wink in Dean’s direction.

“And Meg, this is my — Dean. This is Dean.”

Dean looks sharply at Cas. They hadn’t talked about it — does a couple of dates and a lot of kissing make a boyfriend? He thinks maybe it does, but he’s not sure this is the right way to debut the moniker.

Meg is grinning a Cheshire grin now. “Your ‘Dean’? Awww, is he your ‘It’s complicated’? That’s adorable.” And with that, she moves a bit closer, sniffing around Dean with zero subtlety or class. Dean just stands there, cheeks pinched, jaw clenched, and lets her. “Yeah, he smells like yours. Beta?” She looks quizzically back over at Cas. “You fucking queer.”

“Hey!” Dean barks. She’s been in their apartment for all of five minutes, and Dean has had enough. “My house. You don’t get to talk like that.”

Meg doesn’t seem deterred. In fact, her grin gets wider. “I see why you like him,” she says. Then she flounces away, plopping down on Dean’s end of the couch. Dean spreads his hands in a ‘what the fuck?’ gesture at Cas, and Cas responds, mouthing ‘I’m so sorry.’

“I heard that,” Meg says, still facing away from them. She’s picked up Cas’s notebook and is starting to open it; Dean feels the illogical urge to rip it out of her hands.

Luckily Cas dives over the back of the couch and does it for him.

“What do you want?” Cas growls.

And wow, Dean suddenly needs to hear that growl again in a very different context.

“I need you to take me shopping,” Meg says, tilting her head over the back of the couch so that she’s looking at them both upside down. “My cousin is getting married tomorrow, and I need a dress.”

“So pull something out of the back of your closet like anyone else,” Cas grouses.

“We’ve known each other a long time, Clarence. When was the last time you saw me in a dress? And that sequinned hooker sheath doesn’t count.”

Cas presses his lips together and catches Dean’s eye. Dean’s not sure what to read there.

“This is Lilith we’re talking about,” Meg says. “She’s got this fairy tale country club wedding all fixed in her mind’s eye, and if I don’t look the part she’s likely to push me in the boating lake. There’s duck shit in that lake, Clarence. Duck shit.”

Cas rolls his eyes, but Dean almost sees him start to smile, and that just sours him even further.

“Please, Cas.” Meg turns backwards on the couch and is looking up at Cas with pleading eyes and a pouting lip. “You’re the gayest friend I have. You can bring your boy toy if you want, but I need your help.”

Cas closes his eyes, and Dean can see the moment he relents. “Okay. Give us a minute. I’ll be right down.”

Meg bounces off the couch, grin back in place. “You’re a peach,” she says as she whirls back through the living room, pausing only to grab Cas’s chin and press a kiss to his cheek.

Then she’s gone, and Dean is grateful for the reprieve.

“I’m sorry about this,” Cas says, and he does sound genuinely disappointed.

Dean shrugs. “It’s cool. Not like we really had anything planned today.”

Cas’s mouth does a rueful quirk. “I know. It’s just a bit early for my new ‘it’s complicated’ to meet my ex-‘it’s complicated.”

“Are we complicated?” Dean asks.

Cas meets his eyes for a moment, clear and blue. “I don’t think so, no. But even if we didn’t have plans, I’d wanted to spend the day with you.”

That brings a little smile to Dean’s face. “She did say I could come.”

“You don’t have to do that. I know she’s a bit… abrasive.”

“Yeah, well.” Dean shifts. “Maybe I wanted to spend today with you too.”

Cas smiles at him then, full but shy. “Okay. I’d like it if you did.” Then he steps close, takes Dean’s hand, and is about to raise it to his cheek before pausing. “May I mark your shoulder?” he asks.

Dean sucks in a breath and he nods. Cas keeps ahold of Dean’s hand, giving his fingers a squeeze as he leans in and nuzzles at the round of Dean’s shoulder. Dean leans into the firm warm pressure, breathes deep the wash of woodsy herbs, and tilts his head down to mirror the gesture on Cas’s shoulder.

He yearns — aches — to leave his own scent mark. Yearns so bad he can taste the bitterness. He wants his own lingering trace on Cas, ephemeral but obvious. He wants everyone, especially Meg, to know that he and Cas are — something. Whatever they are. He wants Cas to be his.

He can’t, though. It has been years since he felt the denial so acutely.

He presses his lips to the bone of Cas’s shoulder anyway, nuzzles into him as if he could leave a mark there. When Cas leans back, he breathes in sharp and deep through his nose, smiling a contented smile. Dean smiles back and lets himself feel the warmth. If he can’t mark Cas as his, at least he can still be Cas’s. Maybe that will be enough.

Chapter Text

Dean has more fun than he expects, ultimately. Even when he’s squeezed in the back of Meg’s vintage VW Bug, Cas makes a point of sitting so he can look back over his shoulder at Dean. The mall isn’t crowded when they get there, and there are only two other people in the lavish, overpriced boutique. A shop attendant smiles and waves at them when they walk in, but he’s busy with the other two customers, so Cas and Meg dive into the displays on their own. Dean balks at the numbers on some of the tags and tries not to breathe on anything.

“You seriously didn’t think of this before today?” Cas is asking, sorting through racks of taffeta and tulle and silk. “The day before the wedding and now is when you start looking for something to wear?”

Meg shrugs. “I don’t see what the big deal is. How hard can it be to find a damn dress?”

Cas turns away from her, and Dean catches his wide-eyed, harried look. He barely manages to not laugh. “It’s not just the dress,” Cas sighs, like he’s explaining to an inattentive child. “You need the right undergarments, for one thing.”

“Wow, Cas, didn’t realize you still cared about my undergarments.”

“And shoes that match,” Cas continues as if she hadn’t spoken. “And a clutch, probably. Accessories, makeup, and we should talk about your hair…”

“What’s wrong with my hair?”

“Nothing. But how are you going to style it?”

She gives him a blank look.

Cas looks to the lights and prays. “Lord help me. Here, try these on.” He shoves an armful of fabric at her.

“All of them?”

“Just go!” Cas orders her into the fitting room.

At that moment, the shop attendant finishes with the other ladies and makes his way over to them.

“Hi there!” he says with a huge grin. “What can I help you with today?”

“A hysterectomy,” Meg grumbles as she tries to wrangle her dress mountain.

“I think we’re beyond help,” Cas says with a roll of his eyes.

Dean tries and fails to stifle his grin, and points it at the poor attendant. “We’re fine, thank you,” he says.

“Alright then.” His smile shows far too many of his teeth. “My name is Jacob. Just let me know if there’s anything at all I can do for you.”

With that, he swans off to play with the mannequins. As he passes, Dean gets a powerful whiff of meyer lemon and shortbread.

“He smelled sweet,” Meg says.

“Yes, thank you. Take your dresses and go.”

“Okay, okay, no need to get snappy.” Finally, Meg disappears with her armload. Cas slumps down in one of the chintzy chairs by the fitting rooms and drops his head in his hands.

Dean sidles up next to him. “You okay?”

He lifts his face out of his hands; his hair is stuck up in odd directions but he gives Dean a tired smile. “I’ll be fine. I just hate shopping.”

“Coulda fooled me,” Dean grins as he plops down in the adjacent chair. “How’d you get to know so much about dresses anyway?”

Cas is quiet for a moment, just long enough for Dean to start to worry. Then he says, “I haven’t told you about Anna, have I?”

Dean shakes his head and is about to ask who Anna is when Meg steps out of the dressing room. “Okay, loverboys. Laugh.”

It’s not the right dress. The cut is wrong, the color is wrong, the length is wrong; even Dean can tell all that.

Cas grimaces and orders her back into the dressing room.

Dean debates whether or not to bring it up again, but Cas is forthcoming. “Anna was my twin sister.”

Dean recognizes the past tense immediately. “Was?”

Cas bites at his lips. “Yes.”

Dean is brimming with curiosity, but he swallows his questions. This is neither the time nor the place. He does, however, reach out with two fingers to touch Cas’s wrist and is gratified when Cas turns his hand over and lets Dean squeeze his palm.

The next dress is even worse.

The one after that is better, but not right.

“I dunno, Castiel,” Meg sighs when her fourth dress is met with disappointed frowns. “Maybe I’ll just take my chances with the duck shit.”

And then it happens. Both Meg and Cas smell it before Dean does, their nostrils flaring and their eyes flashing briefly gold as they turn in unison to look toward the front of the store. Then Dean smells it too. That meyer lemon scent, but thickened to a soft cream, damp and edible. Even he feels a pull low in his gut at the unmistakable aroma of an omega in heat.

A loud clatter rings out and Dean sees Jacob, kneeling low to pick up the hangers he’s dropped. He’s trembling, red in the face, fumbling the hangers again. After a moment he stops, gives up, just hangs his head, breathing heavy.

“Shit,” Cas murmurs.

“God damn, I told you he smelled sweet,” Meg almost purrs, her nose open wide.

“You want to handle him?” Cas asks, and god, now he’s breathing heavy too. Dean can see a flush in Cas’s neck, and he feels his stomach turn to ice.

Meg shakes her head though, finally blinking away from where Jacob is lurching to his feet, wide-eyed and nervous, backing up against a counter. “You were always better at this than me. I’d just eat him alive.”

Cas closes his eyes and swallows, clenching his fists. When he opens his eyes, he turns his gaze to Dean, still sitting in the armchair and frozen stiff.

Cas takes the two steps toward Dean, cups his chin, lifts his face. When Dean meets his eyes, he sees no trace of gold. Just rich blue.

“I’ll be right back,” he says, and seals it with a kiss.

Dean watches him cross the shop and approach Jacob slowly, slowly, crouching a little so that he’s not towering over the omega. When Jacob notices him, he stiffens at first, and then relaxes and lets Cas come close. Cas offers him an open palm; Jacob stares at him for a second, then takes it and hauls himself close, falling against Cas’s neck and into his arms like a collapsing building.

Dean can’t watch anymore. His mouth tastes sour and he kind of wants to hit something.

Meg is still standing there in a violet A-line with a too-deep V-neck and not enough body in the skirt. He catches her smirking at him. “I don’t wanna hear it,” he snaps.

“Wasn’t gonna say it, peaches.”

Dean scowls at her. “What’s he doing anyway?”

“Well you see, that sweet little thing over there is an omega who just started his ‘special time’ —”

“Yeah, I can smell as much, thanks.” He really hopes he doesn’t sound like he’s sulking, but that’s probably a lost cause.

Meg grins. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, your boyfriend will be back. Now help me out of this thing.”

Dean rolls his eyes and stomps — doesn’t stomp, walks, just walks like a normal, sane fucking human — over to where Meg stands. “He’s not my boyfriend,” he grumbles as he hunts for the top of the zipper.

“Psh,” Meg laughs. “Come on. Do you even see the way he looks at you? He’s your boyfriend.”

That soothes the tightness in his chest and throat, but only a little. He finds the zipper and tugs it down halfway. “There. Go do — whatever it is you do.”

“Thanks, babe,” Meg says, and disappears back into the dressing room. Dean fidgets in the armchair.

Finally he can’t hold it in any longer, even though he wants to. “I’m serious though, where did he go?”

“Surprise heats aren’t that uncommon,” Meg’s voice floats over the door. “Poor kid probably just misjudged his timing. Or he was trying to conserve his heat leave — these places don’t ever give you enough.” There’s a thump and a brief moment of cursing. “Anyway. At the start of a heat like that in a public place, the only thing that’s going to keep them from doing a runner is the presence of an unthreatening alpha. Enter your main man Cas. He’s got a good heart. He’ll talk him down and keep him safe, let him hide in his neck while they call his favorite hotel and arrange for a pick-up. If possible he’ll hand him off to an omega matron, but at this point that’s not very likely. That kid grabbed on hard. It’ll be hard enough just to get him in the cab by himself.”

Dean chews on that for a minute. He doesn’t like the idea of some hormonal omega getting all familiar with Cas’s neck, getting his too-sweet scent all over Cas, but there isn’t much to be done about it at this point. “Does he do this often?” he asks.

“Whenever it comes up, I guess.”

“Has he ever — uh. Done anything with them?”

“Relax, sweetheart. That’s not what this is about.”

The door opens on Meg in a sleek, ice-gray boat-neck sheath. Dean’s eyebrows shoot up. “That’s the one,” he says.

“Y’think?” Meg asks, picking at a seam. Even though she sounds skeptical, Dean can see a pink glow on her cheekbones. She likes it. She just doesn’t want to admit it.

“Definitely. Turn around, I’ll zip you up.”

She does, and he’s right — she preens in the mirror, turning this way and that, standing up straight and admiring her own ass.

“Huh,” she says. “I knew I could count on you queers.”

Dean scoffs and rolls his eyes, but feels himself smiling a little bit too.

“Do you want to wait to show Cas, or —”

“I see him. But I don’t think he’s interested in my dress.”

Dean turns and sees Cas moving across the floor like a stormfront, flashes of gold in his eyes as he passes under the lights. He’s staring right at Dean; Dean’s stomach trembles. As Cas gets closer he scents a wave of tangy blood orange and his mouth runs dry.

“Move,” he growls when he’s close enough, and shoves Dean bodily into an empty fitting room. Dean lets him — partially because it’s difficult to resist a determined alpha, and partly because his heart is pounding hard and he’s not sure he wants to resist.

Cas locks the stall door and then crowds Dean up against the mirrored wall. Dean catches a glimpse of his eyes glinting gold before Cas is kissing him, full, swift, and filthy, filthier than Dean has been kissed in a very long time. Possibly ever. It sends shivers over his skin, all the way down his spine. Both of Cas’s hands come up to cup Dean’s neck under his ears, tilting to kiss him just so and then opening him with an invasive tongue. Dean melts back against the mirror, willingly pliant, letting Cas take control. Cas growls his pleasure at Dean’s submission, and then his hands are roving everywhere. Under Dean’s flannel and gripping in his T-shirt, tugging, burrowing in until they find the skin at the dip of his back. Dean clutches at him, twining his fingers in Cas’s shirt and hauling him in closer. Close enough that their chests press and Dean can feel the rolling of Cas’s hips, feels him —

“Son of a bitch —” Dean breaks away long enough to murmur when he feels Cas’s cock in his jeans, hard against his fly where he’s rutting against Dean’s hip. Dean’s knees part just a little, involuntarily. Blood surges into his own cock, and he rolls right back against Cas, shifting his hips until their lengths slot together through the hot friction of denim. Arousal burns bright through him, finally, finally . Cas moans low in his chest and shoves Dean harder against the mirror. He wants, god how he wants, it scares him how much he wants to open himself to Cas. He wants to fall down and present himself right fucking now, and he doesn’t know if that’s something he’s always wanted or if Cas’s potent aroma of sandalwood and orange is inciting him to think crazy thoughts, want crazy things. “Cas —”

“Mine,” Cas snarls against his lips, and Dean whimpers, lets his eyes close, nods.

But as Cas bends to nudge under Dean’s chin, lipping and nipping at his throat, Dean catches a cloying lemon-shortbread scent — an omega’s sweet heat smell clinging to Cas’s clothes, to his neck, to his body.

It’s like a douse of cold water seeping through to his skin.

This isn’t for him. This is because of the omega.

“Cas wait — stop —” he murmurs, pushing at Cas’s shoulders.

Cas pulls back at once, though his hands stay where they are, on the overheated skin of Dean’s ribs. He blinks, and the gold disappears. “What — I’m —” he stammers, still a little lost in the lust fog. “I’m sorry, I just — I thought you wanted…” He trails off.

There’s a slow fist tightening under Dean’s ribs. “This isn’t gonna work,” he forces past the lump under his larynx.

“What?” Cas’s eyes are fully blue now, searching his face in dismay.

“This. It won’t — I’m not that, I’ll never be that.”

“Dean —”

Dean just pushes Cas further away, easy now that he’s not throwing his alpha weight around, and ducks past him.

“Dean — Dean wait!”

Dean just charges past Meg, still in the dress; past the pile of hangers that no one has bothered to pick up yet; past the hideously overpriced scraps of silk; and out into the anonymous mass of the mall.

~*~

Cas: Where are you?
Cas: Dean?
Cas: I want to talk. Please?

Dean: Sears.

~*~

Cas finds Dean in the back of the mostly-empty big box store, staring at rugs. Dean glances up at him, then back at the geometric patterns and swirling colors. He doesn’t say anything at first, just watches Dean staring at rugs. When he looks over again, Cas hasn’t looked away.

“Might get a rug for the living room,” Dean mutters, pointing vaguely at one with a green-and black-chevron pattern.

“I hear they can really tie the room together,” Cas says.

In spite of himself, Dean feels a laugh break out; it feels foreign on his face. “Never shoulda watched that movie.” When he looks back up, Cas smiling softly, softer than anyone making Big Lebowski references has any right doing. Dean’s smile falls away.

“Look, I —”

“I’m sorry,” Cas cuts him off. “I shouldn’t have come back like that. I wasn’t thinking clearly, but that’s no excuse. I should have known it would be insensitive.”

Dean sighs and closes his eyes. “It’s fine.”

“No, it isn’t. You know I wasn’t ever going to do anything with him, right?”

Dean nods. “Yeah, Meg told me what that was all about.”

“I should have been the one to make sure you knew that. There just wasn’t time.”

“It’s fine. I don’t care that you went off, I know you were just trying to help him out.” Dean chews his lip and crosses his arms over his chest. He can’t look at Cas right now, not when he’s being all earnest like that. “But it doesn’t change the facts.”

“What facts?”

“I’m never gonna be that, Cas. I’m never — I don’t go into heat. Or rut. I just don’t. I’m never gonna be able to be that for you.”

Cas shakes his head and takes half a step closer to Dean. “I know that. I’ve known that since before we started this, and I don’t care.”

“Yeah, well I do.” The words are hard to get out, so he keeps talking to the rugs. “I care. I want — I want you to have that. I want to — be that for you, and I can’t.”

Cas cocks his head. “So you think just because you don’t have an estrus cycle, you should be barred from romantic partnership altogether?”

Dean shrugs.

“Dean.” Cas edges closer again; Dean fights the urge to step away. “All of — that — it’s just a hormonal response. You are the one I want, not just someone with whom I can take care of biological necessities. There’s so much else we can do, Dean. There’s more to sex than heats and ruts.”

Dean says nothing.

Cas shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “That is, assuming you want to have sex with me. We haven’t actually discussed that.”

“I do,” pops out of Dean’s mouth before he’s quite thought about it, and he spends a moment looking at his shoes to hide his embarrassment. “That — that’s not the problem, I do.”

Cas’s grin lights up the rug aisle, and Dean feels a pull in his belly, like a magnet drawing him in. He wants to kiss that smile.

“I look forward to it,” Cas says.

Dean laughs, even as he feels his cheeks flare.

“But there’s no rush,” Cas continues. “We can go at the pace you’re comfortable with.”

“It’s not that I’m not comfortable with sex,” Dean says, and it’s sort of surreal to be having this conversation between the rugs in a Sears, but there’s nothing for it now. “This just always ends badly. People leave. Because I’m —” he stops. Bites his lip.

That seems to be the final straw; Cas steps close and cups Dean’s chin in his hand. Dean clenches his jaw at the touch, leans hard into Cas’s broad palm.

“Dean,” Cas murmurs. “I’m not going into this blind. Okay? Just because it’s ended badly in the past doesn’t mean it will this time. Right now, I want to hurt the people who’ve made you feel like you aren’t enough. And I certainly do not want to be one of them.”

Dean has to close his eyes, but he reaches up to press Cas’s hand tighter to his cheek. “You don’t know you won’t be though,” he says.

“And you don’t know I will.”

A tear finally falls down Dean’s cheekbone. Cas brushes it away with his thumb.

“I want to try. Will you let me?”

It takes effort, but Dean opens his eyes, meets Cas’s close gaze, and nods. It’s worth it for Cas’s glowing grin, the soft press of his kiss.

“Thank you,” he murmurs against Dean’s lips.

Dean nods again, then sucks in a breath and stands up straight. “Let’s get out of here before we make a scene.”

As they wander out of the Sears, Dean reaches out to hook his index finger onto Cas’s pinkie. He lets himself feel the crackling warmth in his chest when Cas laces their fingers together, palm to palm.

Chapter Text

Dean: Hey Charlie — I need some advice.

Charlie: What’s up Deanaroonie??

Dean: It’s kind of personal.

Charlie: I’m an open book.

Dean: How do you have sex with Dorothy? How do you guys handle her ruts?

Charlie: Just like any other couple, mostly. Outside of rut there’s really not much difference between you and me and anybody else.
Charlie: During rut… Basically the same thing, just more concentrated. It’s kind of intense but totally (totally) doable.

Dean: Yeah, but you guys are lesbians. That probably makes it a little easier.

Charlie: Is it his knot you’re worried about?

Dean: I wouldn’t say worried, no.

Charlie: >:)

Dean: Cut that out.

Charlie: Well if you’re not worried about the knotting, there’s really no difference.

Dean: I guess I’m worried about making it good for him.
Dean: Fuck that sounds stupid. Sorry I asked.

Charlie: It does not sound stupid. You care about him and want him to be happy with you. That’s normal. And a good thing.
Charlie: As is often the case with sex, it’s gonna come down to communication. Pay attention to him. Talk to him. In and out of rut. Make sure he’s paying attention to you too — remember that this isn’t all about him!! It’s a two-way street! Get your own needs taken care of too!!
Charlie: You hear me?

Dean: Yeah, I hear ya

Charlie: Just enjoy each other. That’s the important part. :)
Charlie: Hey do you maybe wanna meet up in meatspace sometime? Get some drinks maybe? We could make it a double date! I wanna meet this dude who’s got you all twitterpated lol

Dean: I’d like that :-)

~*~

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly”

Over his strumming, Dean hears the water shut off and the last few clinks of plates and glasses. Then the humming start of the dishwasher. A few moments later Cas is leaning over the back of the couch, his arm just brushing Dean’s shoulder. Dean stills his hands and tilts his face up for a kiss, which Cas gives him, then murmurs, “I love this song.”

So Dean keeps playing.

“All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arrive”

Cas hums along like he always does, his harmony a low anchor to Dean’s not-quite-tenor. He leans closer, closer, until he’s humming just above Dean’s ear. The warmth of his breath and scent feels like a ray of sunlight on Dean’s hair. As Dean plays, he feels Cas’s chin, his lips, the tip of his nose sliding lower until they ghost over the round of his ear. “Dean?”

“Yeah?” Dean hums back.

“I’d like to mark your neck,” Cas murmurs, low and soft in the shell of Dean’s ear.

Dean fumbles a chord. “Okay.” His voice is tremulous, heart kicking up.

“Keep playing,” Cas says, and shifts his body until his nose is tucked behind Dean’s ear and his lips are in position.

“You were only waiting for this moment to be free”

A firm pressure of closed lips, cheekbone and jaw, and Dean gasps at the rush of affection, lust, adoration as Cas presses his scentmark into the sensitive spot at Dean’s neck.

“Can you feel that?” Cas whispers.

“Yeah,” Dean breathes out, and his hands still the guitar strings because there is no way he can keep playing with Cas’s lips below his ear. He’s fighting just to keep his body still.

“That’s me,” Cas says, still low, still rumbling. “Marking you as mine.”

Dean gives a shaky nod, even though doubt and old shame burrow through the lust in his belly. He knows what Cas means — the blending of two partners’ pheromones when they mark each other's necks like that. The creation of a whole new scent, unique to the pair.

But Dean has no unique scent to add to this mixing. His scent has never been anything but neutral.

He leans to put down his guitar, and Cas comes around the sofa. He’s staring at Dean, wide-eyed, but there’s something cautious in his face.

“Would you —” he pauses. “Would you mark me too?”

He’s so sweetly hesitant, coy like he really wants Dean to do it but isn’t sure if Dean wants to. Dean lets out a damp little laugh.

“I can’t. I don’t — I don’t have a scent.”

Cas cocks his head, squinting. “What are you talking about? Of course you have a scent.”

Dean’s brow furrows down. “Uh. No I don’t?”

Cas looks at him for a while, all confusion, then scoots toward Dean across the couch cushions. “Remember when I said it could be difficult to scent yourself?”

Dean nods.

Cas moves in slowly, as if Dean would frighten so easily. He reaches out to tilt Dean’s head so he can bury his nose in Dean’s neck again, on the opposite side from his own scent mark. Dean shivers all over when Cas inhales deeply below his ear. “It’s subtle, and it doesn’t throw as far as an alpha or omega’s. It took me a while to find it, and believe me, I was looking. But it’s definitely there.” Cas inhales again; Dean’s heart feels like a pair of caged wings.

“You — you gotta be kidding,” he says. It’s not possible. After all this time, it shouldn’t be possible.

“I’m not. Before we left for the mall, you left a scent mark on my shoulder.”

“I did?”

“Yes. Jacob commented on it, actually. He said you smelled lovely.”

The cage in Dean’s chest begins to break. “What — what do I smell like?” he asks, holding Cas’s face close to his neck, hardly daring to hope.

Cas inhales deeply, then sighs against Dean’s collarbone. “Lavender. But not soapy lavender. Like a whole field of lavender bushes with the sun shining on them.” He breathes in again. “Amaranth. Wheat chaff. And —” Cas takes a few short sniffs that tickle at Dean’s pulse point. “Something else. Here, let me —” He pulls back and turns Dean so that he can lay against him fully, chest to chest, settling himself between Dean’s legs. Dean lets himself fall open to Cas’s embrace, and Cas rubs his body up and down Dean’s in a sweet slide of clothed friction. The heat of it prickles over Dean’s skin. “Beeswax,” Cas gasps. “You smell like beeswax.”

When he pulls back, he’s grinning wide and gleeful, his eyes sparkling like ocean waters.

“You smell incredible, Dean,” he says.

The wings burst free; Dean leans up and captures Cas’s lips, hard enough that their teeth knock. He wraps his arms under Cas’s shoulders and pulls him down just to feel himself pinned under Cas’s weight. He’s trembling, head to toe.

“No one’s ever —” he starts to say, but then he can’t keep himself from kissing Cas again. “I haven’t —”

“Dean,” Cas murmurs, shifting against him, pressing them tightly together from neck to hips. “Mark me. Please?”

“Fuck yeah —” Dean grabs Cas’s hair and pulls his head to the side, maybe too rough, but he doesn’t much care right now. He’s busy burying his face in Cas’s neck, searching for the source of sandalwood-cedar, citrus-sage, the Cas-scent he loves so much.

And now he’s going to make it his own.

There it is, in the softness just under Cas’s earlobe. He opens his nose and drinks in deep of Cas’s scent, the warm lush wood, and then he licks his lips — his tongue touches the skin of Cas’s neck on accident, and it’s almost too much to handle — and then he nuzzles, pushes, and rubs his cheek and jaw into Cas’s scentspot.

“Ah!” he hears Cas gasp and feels his whole body shudder. “Dean —”

Dean pulls him closer still, enough so that he can press their necks close together, sliding sweetly. The tingling pressure sends a warm wash all over him; he feels his toes curl and his fingers clutch at Cas’s shirt. When he pulls back, he takes a trembling inhale at Cas’s collar, and —

The change in Cas’s scent is subtle, but profound. More like summertime grass and floral herbs, grounded by the gravid sweetness of honeycomb wax. “Oh wow.”

“Can you smell yourself on me?” Cas whispers. Dean nods against his neck. “I can too. It’s beautiful.”

Then Dean pushes him back just far enough for a kiss. It’s deep and wide open, and Dean feels thirsty for more. His hands are everywhere, skimming Cas’s T-shirt and finding the edge of his jeans.

“You oughta know, I hate these jeans,” he mutters against Cas’s jaw.

“Why’s that?” Cas asks, arching into Dean’s touch wherever it lands.

“You look so fucking hot in them,” Dean says. “Been driving me crazy. I just wanna —” He dips his thumbs under the waistband, teasing them both.

“You can,” Cas says. “In fact, please do.”

Dean kisses him again as he slides his hands under the waist of those jeans, over Cas’s boxer briefs. Cas humms against Dean’s lips, pushing back against Dean’s hands. “You can touch me,” he says. “Touch me anywhere.”

“Me too,” Dean says. “Yeah, me too.”

Cas sits up a little and skims his hands up under Dean’s shirt. They skate over his stomach, his chest, all the way up to his collarbone, dragging the fabric along for the ride.

“Can we —” Cas starts.

Dean answers by struggling out of his T-shirt. Cas helps, and when Dean tugs on the fabric covering Cas’s chest, that’s gone too. Cas lays back down against him; the smoothness of skin-on-skin sparks between them. Dean can’t help but press up with his hips, wanting pressure against his firming cock. He gets his hands back under Cas’s jeans and pulls him in, and even through two layers of denim he feels the ridge of Cas’s own rising erection.

“Jesus, Cas,” Dean breathes against his collarbone. Cas answers with a firm roll of his hips and a skittering skate of one hand up and down Dean’s chest and belly, over and over, while he purrs deep rumbles against his neck.

“Dean — I want —” Cas is quickly losing his breath, and he sits back, gaze locked on Dean’s face as his hand wanders down to the fly of his jeans. He hovers teasingly over the rise there; Dean can feel the ghost of it and pushes up into that phantom touch. Permission granted; Cas rubs gently with the flat of his palm, and Dean’s head hits the arm of the sofa with a thump.

“Ah, yeah —” Dean pants.

“I want to suck you,” Cas says, “I really, really want to suck you.”

“God yeah, you don’t even have to ask,” Dean says, and he’s about to reach for his own fly, but Cas is doing it for him, fumbling with the button and zip and then tugging both jeans and boxers down his legs. He doesn’t go straight down, though, like Dean expects him to. First he sits back and looks. Just looks.

Dean squirms under the attention, very aware of the things he lacks. No knot swelling at his base. No slick starting to leak. “You waiting for an invitation or something?” he mutters, feeling a flush blooming over his skin that has nothing to do with his arousal.

“You —” Cas starts, then swallows. “I’ve been wanting to see you for so long.” Cas drags his hands down Dean’s flanks, his hips, his thighs. “You’re so beautiful.” Then he bends his head to press a kiss to Dean’s chest, on the flat hollow of his sternum, and Dean wraps his arms around Cas’s head and shoulders to hold him there for a second while the feeling overwhelms him.

But Cas is still moving his hands, and they circle around his thighs, up the sensitive inner curve toward the heat of Dean’s arousal. He wriggles and opens his legs more, and then feels Cas’s palm slide over his balls and up the length of his cock.

“Fuck — yeah —” Dean gasps, and his hips twitch into Cas’s touch.

Cas pulls back, and Dean catches the feral gleam in his eye for just a heartbeat before he’s being thoroughly, deeply kissed.

Cas’s hands are so much softer, so much lighter than his own touch. It’s almost maddening. It makes him want to cry. But he is absolutely not going to do that, so he grabs Cas’s hand over his dick and makes him squeeze harder, pushes up into the pressure.

“Dean,” Cas growls against his lips, and Dean whimpers, clutching at the belt loops of Cas’s jeans. Cas makes his way down Dean’s chest, nuzzling and nibbling and getting his scent, their scent, absolutely everywhere — Dean is drowning in bright citrus and, sweet sage and lavender, the deeper bass of woods and beeswax, and it’s making his blood simmer.

“God we smell good,” he gasps, and Cas hums a deep chuckle against his belly.

“We do,” he says. “I can’t believe you’ve never noticed your own scent before.”

Dean shrugs. “No one ever bothered to ask if — if I’d scentmark them,” he pauses to gasp as Cas’s kisses dip below his belly button, hand still working his cock in slow pulls.

“They just assumed it wouldn’t work?”

Dean shrugs. “I guess.”

“They’re idiots. Betas have scent, and even if you didn’t, you’d deserve — you deserve everything.”

Dean hides his face in the crook of his elbow, then laughs because it’s as good a cover as any. “Are you gonna suck my dick or what?”

He hears Cas’s rumbling laugh, and then he feels breath over the head of his cock. He sucks in air, and then moves his arm so he can look down and watch Cas open his mouth over the head of his dick for the first time.

That seems to be what Cas was waiting for, because he’s staring up at Dean as he parts his lips and —

Dean’s breath punches out of him at the silk-rough glide of lips and tongue. He can’t help the twitch of his hips, but Cas doesn’t seem to mind. He cups both hands under Dean’s thighs, hooking them over his shoulders and cradling Dean’s hips. His mouth slides down cool-hot, luxurious, and Dean cards his hands through Cas’s hair just for something to hold onto. But he doesn’t want to grip, doesn’t want to be rude, so as Cas finds his rhythm and the heat spirals out over Dean, his hands flail from Cas’s hair to his shoulders, to the couch cushions, and finally end up pulling at his own hair instead, arms tense.

“Mm-mm,” Cas hums, then pulls off. “You can —”

He reaches up then and tugs at Dean’s arm. Confused, Dean uncurls his fists and follows Cas’s gestures until he’s got his fingers resting on Cas’s hair again. Then Cas goes back down and oh, Dean understands.

“Oh sonuva—” Dean rakes his fingertips over Cas’s skull and pushes up with his hips until he feels the head of his cock push against the back of Cas’s throat, and then further and — “Jesus, Cas, I’m not gonna fucking last.”

“Mmhmm,” Cas hums again, and swallows him deeper.

A few more pushes, a few more swallows, and Dean feels the heat crackling over his skin, from his cock to his belly to his brain and down to his toes, and “ Fuck yes, Cas, oh fuck —” he’s coming in long pulses, shaking in Cas’s grip and clutching him tighter than is probably polite. But this is Cas, Cas is sucking him dry, and he can’t even think about his lack of a knot because Cas is lapping him clean and just holding him in his mouth while Dean comes down, panting and blinking the stars from his eyes.

When Cas pulls off with a soft sucking noise, Dean smiles lazily down at him.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas murmurs, his roughened voice even sexier than usual, somehow.

“Fuck,” Dean laughs. “Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

Cas grins at him, then moves up to nuzzle at Dean’s nose and lips. Dean kisses him deep, chasing after the taste of himself.

“You’re still wearing pants,” Dean says when Cas pulls back. He can feel the roughness of denim between his thighs, the firm ridge of Cas’s erection nestled in the crook of his hip.

Cas looks down. “That would appear to be the case, wouldn’t it?”

Dean drops his hands to Cas’s waistband. “Much as I love these jeans —”

“I thought you hated them.”

“It’s a fine line. Get out of ‘em.”

“Dean. You don’t have to —”

“I want to.” Dean stills. “Unless you don’t —”

Cas silences that with a deeply thorough kiss as he hastens out of his jeans.

Dean sits up, crowding Cas back against the other arm of the sofa. “My turn,” he says. “I wanna look.”

Cas lets him, a smug little smirk appearing and disappearing on his lips.

For all that Dean knows he’s dating an alpha, he’s sort of been avoiding thinking about what that really means. It’s easy enough to forget; Cas doesn’t always fit the stereotypes. He’s certainly not the kind of alpha Dean’s father would have approved of. But looking at him now, there is no mistaking exactly what he is. He’s more than half hard, his thick prick rising from the thatch of curls and a dark-pinkish swelling just starting to show at the base of his shaft. As Dean watches, Cas strokes himself with one hand, cupping his own barely-there knot and gliding feather-light up his length.

“You said you’d never been with an alpha man.”

Dean swallows and shakes his head.

“Are you nervous?”

“A little.”

“Come here.” Cas opens his arms and Dean goes willingly. There is a shocking amount of skin touching; Dean takes a moment to just appreciate that.

Cas presses his face into Dean’s scentspot, nuzzling and breathing in deep, long pulls. Dean grins against the skin of Cas’s shoulder.

“I said you didn’t have to,” Cas murmurs. “I meant it.”

Dean shivers at the brush of Cas’s breath over his ear. “No, I really, really do want to.” Dean pulls back a bit and looks down between Cas’s legs. The naked snuggling has not abated his erection one bit.

“There’s nothing to be nervous about,” Cas says. “It’s just a dick.”

Dean laughs, then nods. “Yeah. Good point.” And then he sits back on his heels and rubs the palm of his hand down the shaft.

Cas sighs, open-mouthed, tilting his head back and rolling his hips up into Dean’s touch. Dean leans forward, needing to get his mouth on something, and finds the sweet skin of Cas’s bared throat, the hollow space between his collarbones, the soft-muscle curves of his chest. Cas’s hand comes up to cradle the back of his neck, the top of his spine, in slow caresses.

Dean tries to mimic the soft touch he’d seen Cas use on himself, the drifting, barely-there fingertips. He skims his mouth over salty-sweet skin, breathing in deep lungfuls of sandalwood and citrus and his own beeswax  — the scent he didn’t even know he had until it blended with Cas’s and amplified — he can’t help that his hand tightens. He sticks to the shaft at first, sliding skin over firm flesh; then, as his lips wander over Cas’s belly toward where his citrusy musk is concentrated, deep and hot, he dares to lower his hand to cup the swelling of the knot. Cas groans, guttural, and Dean feels his thighs twitch around his shoulders.

When Dean looks up, Cas is watching him with wide eyes, pink tongue licking a dew of sweat from his upper lip. Dean winks, cheeky, and opens his mouth to take Cas in down to the knot. Cas cries out and his hips surge up. His cock fills up Dean’s mouth and presses softly down his throat; against his lips Dean feels his knot flare and he  inhales a concentrated burst of Cas-scent. Even though he’s spent, Dean feels heat rushing through his belly and limbs because he is the one making Cas’s knot pop right now, and that’s just —

Dean hums around Cas’s shaft and works his hand under the knot. He squeezes tight up under it, forcing the knot to flare harder, firmer.

“Motherf — ah!” Cas gasps, and then his hand clamps down on Dean’s wrist. “Gentle — gentler,” he pants.

Dean loosens his hand around Cas’s base, and Cas collapses back onto the couch.

“Too much?” Dean asks.

Cas nods.

“Sorry,” Dean mutters, trying to calm a swell of embarrassment.

“It’s fine. Sometimes that would feel really, really good. Just, um. Later.” Cas’s panting distraction makes Dean feel a little better.

Dean bracelets his fingers under the knot, so loosely he’s barely touching flesh. Cas squirms and glares down at him. “Too little?” Dean asks with a smirk.

Cas reaches down and takes both of Dean’s hands in his, cups them around his knot. “Like this,” he murmurs, squeezing lightly and rhythmically. He presses Dean’s thumbs into the underside where knot meets shaft, and gasps. “I like that,” he says, all breathy, tapping Dean’s thumbs with his fingers. Dean grins and plays for a while, massaging, feeling Cas’s knot fill and firm up under his attention, watching Cas squirm.

“Can I suck you off too?” he asks.

“At this point I would be a little upset if you didn’t,” Cas says, head lolling back and hips restless. “Just don’t let me knot in your mouth. I’ll want to.”

Shit. Even though he knows it’s dangerous, the idea that he could make Cas lose control like that is the hottest fucking thing.

He takes his time working the shaft between his lips, over his tongue, down his throat. Then he pulls off to lick and suck all around the thickening knot. He watches Cas clutch at his own hair, tugging and whimpering, hips restless. It’s intoxicating, watching Cas come apart at the seams just from Dean’s hands and mouth. He wants to touch him everywhere, wants to find all the secret places that make him feel so good.

Dean mouths at Cas’s knot until Cas is shaking, and then he takes the shaft deep, all the way down, his lips and nose pressing into the firmness of his knot and the head nudging into his throat. Cas is everywhere, filling up all of his senses, and god, he feels like he won’t ever get enough. He squeezes Cas’s knot gently with both hands as he swallows around him.

Cas’s hand alights on the back of Dean’s head just for a moment before returning to grip at his own scalp. Dean knows what’s coming, and he holds Cas’s knot well away from his lips even as he suckles and works the shaft. “Oh god, oh god ,” Cas moans, and then a long, long, hot pulse and Cas shivering, shaking. The knot at Dean’s lips swells impossibly, pink and pretty, but stone-hard and not quite the size of his fist.

As Cas relaxes, Dean lets him slip from his lips, examines the inflated knot.

“How long does this last?” he asks.

Cas is still panting. “Not as long now as when I’m in rut,” he says.

True to his word, it’s already starting to soften. But that doesn’t stop Dean from wondering, in a jittery flash, what that would feel like inside him.

Or what it would feel like in his own flesh.

He’s not sure, in this moment, which one he wants more.

“Hey,” Cas murmurs. Dean looks up and finds his soft eyes. “Stay with me?”

One corner of Dean’s mouth quirks up. “Yeah, I’m not going anywhere,” he says. Then he goes into Cas’s welcoming arms, lets himself be wrapped up in Cas’s warm, sticky-skinned embrace.

So much skin; it’s different now that the urgency has drained out of them both, but Dean is still amazed. Cas’s fingertips stroke soothing nonsense patterns over his back and neck. “You think maybe we should have gone to a bedroom?” Dean asks. “We do have two of them.” Cas’s laugh rumbles under his cheek.

“Next time,” he says. “Next time I want to lay you out and take care of you properly.”

Dean cannot think of a way to respond to that — or rather, he can think of a dozen responses but none of them make it out past the drumming in his chest. So he just nuzzles deeper into Cas’s embrace, tucking his hands between Cas’s shoulders and the sofa cushion to squeeze him tight. All around them, their intermingling scents mist the air with cedar-and-herbs, sandalwood-lavender. Comforting. Soothing.

It smells like home.

“All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arrive
You were only waiting for this moment to arrive
You were only waiting for this moment to arrive”

~*~

Dean: Did you know that betas have scent?

Charlie: Uh, yeah? Duh? Wait did you not??

Dean: No one ever told me

Charlie: WHAT?? Dude!! Where have you been all your life???

Dean: I dunno. I never really looked into beta stuff. It was depressing.

Charlie: You don’t still think we all have a gland malfunction, do you??

Dean: Uh. Maybe?

Charlie: Dayum. That’s it. I’m moving up those drinks from “sometime” to like tomorrow. THIS IS AN INTERVENTION!!!

Chapter Text

“Dean.”

“Hmm?”

“Dean.”

“What?”

“I’ll be late.”

Dean grins against Cas’s collarbone. “Been wanting to make you late since you moved in.”

Cas huffs but tilts his head a little more, inviting Dean to nuzzle deeper under his shirt collar. Dean grins, lips at the skin of his neck, and reaches up to pop open another button.

“I’m going to miss my bus,” Cas protests again.

“I’ll drive you,” Dean says between little nips. “Better idea: call in sick. Tell them your rut came early.”

“That’s — alarmingly possible.”

Dean pulls back just enough to look Cas in the eye, but no further. “Wait, seriously?”

“Not right now. But it came early last time because of you, and we weren’t even dating yet.” In spite of his protests, Cas holds him close by the waist and shoulder and urges Dean to bury his face in his neck again. Dean goes willingly, filling his lungs with their shared scent.

“Oh baby, baby, talk dirty to me,” Dean says with a grin, and he can feel Cas laughing where their bodies are pressed together. “You can tell them your boyfriend went into heat. They’ll buy that.” God, he feels like he’s in heat, completely infatuated with Cas and unable to stop touching him, thinking about him, breathing him in. Arousal spins lazily in his belly, and he lets himself feel it down to his toes.

Cas digs his fingertips into Dean’s skin, scratching trails over his back. Dean knows they’ll fade in minutes; he wants to feel them for hours. “Don’t tempt me,” Cas growls, and it’s the growl that nearly does him in. Dean has to pull back now or else he never will.

Cas’s eyes glint gold as Dean puts some space between them. Dean reaches to button his shirt back up, and Cas shakes his head to clear the lust-fog, blinking the gold from his eyes.

“Still meeting Charlie after work?” Cas asks, rubbing at his face.

“Yep. You coming?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Good.” Dean tries to let go of Cas. He really does. But he’s still got the lapel of his suit jacket in his fingers, and he’s still smoothing down his shirt front with his other hand and maybe enjoying the feel of Cas’s chest under the fabric. Venturing under the jacket, seeking out his warmth. He can’t help it.

“Dean?”

“Hmm?”

“I think you have to drive me to work.”

“Awesome,” Dean says, and leans in to catch Cas’s kiss.

~*~

What would have happened if he’d been born omega?

This thought distracts Dean all day. He can’t stop thinking about Cas’s knot: how it feels in his hands, under his lips, how it swells, heavy and firm when Cas comes. He’s developing a minor obsession. Who would have thought?

No matter what his father thought, there’s no reason to think Dean would have been alpha if he hadn’t been beta; he could just as easily have been omega. He’d gotten used to that notion when he was with Lisa, but he’d never really latched onto the idea. Not like this. Thinking about it now, with Cas, makes his heart pound, makes him squirm in his squeaky office chair, wondering what it would feel like to leak slick, to open up for Cas’s knot, to tie together with him and feel him pulse.

Of course, he doesn’t have to be omega to get fucked, he knows that. And he fully intends to.

But what if.

If he’d been omega, he and Cas might have already shared a heat-rut cycle. That first morning when he woke up to the scent of Cas in rut, instead of just a hard-on, he would have been leaking a puddle on the sheets. What if Cas had scented him, been enticed to come into his room instead of calling that hotel? Dean wouldn’t have been able to resist, wouldn’t have wanted to. Would have gladly let Cas pin him to the bed and rut into him for as long as he needed, until they were both a sweaty, sated, come-covered mess. What if Dean had come out to the living room and dropped to his knees, bent over, and presented for Cas? Would Cas have knotted him right then and there?

Or maybe they both would have kept to themselves like civilized human beings. But the fantasy is enough to keep Dean firmly in his chair, hidden behind his desk, and utterly unable to focus on work for the entire day.

~*~

“Are you nervous?” Cas asks low in his ear.

“What? Me? Why would I be nervous?” Dean takes another big sip of his beer and looks back at the door.

“Your leg is twitching.”

Damn. Dean immediately stills his restless knee, though he can still feel the muscular urge to wiggle it. “I’m fine,” he says.

Cas lifts his eyebrows.

“I’ve just — never really been around other betas before, that’s all,” Dean admits.

Cas bumps their shoulders together. “I hear they’re just like everybody else,” he teases with a crinkle of a smile.

Dean laughs into his beer. “Shut up.”

The door to the bar opens and Dean’s head snaps up, just as it has every time it’s opened since they sat down. This time instead of a group of after-work Joes or glitzed-up soccer moms, a woman enters on her own. Shocking red hair, large, dark sunglasses, and a long, black coat. Even through the sunglasses he can tell when she spots him, and he lifts his hand in a shy little wave, hoping his hunch is right and he's waving at the right person.

Her expression does not change as she glides over to their table.

“D.Impala 1967?” she asks, and her voice is deep — but it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be that way.

Dean raises an eyebrow at this mysterious figure. “Queen Ray?” he asks in response.

She considers them for another moment, and then Charlie’s face breaks into a huge grin. She whips off the sunglasses and envelops Dean in a sudden bear hug, which he awkwardly returns.

“It’s so good to meet you finally!” She squeals, thankfully after she’s pulled back from Dean’s ear. She tosses her coat into the booth before sliding in; under it she’s wearing a bright green T-shirt with the cartoon figures of Han Solo and Greedo on the front, with the words “Han Shot First!” emblazoned underneath. “And you must be Cas.” She momentarily adopts her mysterious persona again, although without the sunglasses it loses some of the effect. “I trust you are treating my protege with dignity?”

“Um.” Cas is blinking like he doesn’t know if he should laugh or be afraid. “That — depends on your definition of dignity.”

Charlie laughs again, then laughs harder when she sees Dean’s face going beet red. “Okay, you can stay,” she says.

“Where’s Dorothy? I thought this was gonna be a tag-team thing?” Dean asks.

“Oh, she’s just parking; she’ll be in in a minute.”

Cas is squinting down at Charlie’s shirt. “I remember that scene,” he says. “Didn’t Han Solo and the green person shoot at the same time?”

“Oh man,” Dean laughs into his beer while Charlie’s face drains of color. “You just opened up a can of worms, buddy.”

“Don’t make me rescind my approval of you,” Charlie warns with a sternly-pointed finger.

The door opens again, and in strides a statuesque woman with dark hair, leather riding pants and jacket, and a motorcycle helmet tucked under her arm. Dean can’t help the once-over he gives her as she saunters over to their table and greets them with a smile.

“You must be Dean,” she says. Charlie provides introductions all around, and as Dorothy leans over to shake Cas’s hand, Dean catches a breath of incense and dragon’s blood resin, but playing over the top of those notes he gets crisp pear and ocean breeze that he recognizes, on some instinctive level, must be Charlie’s. The scent makes him giddy, because he thinks of what people must be scenting on Cas all day, his scent rearranged to incorporate Dean’s.

He feels Cas shift beside him, and that very same cedar-lavender scent overpowers Dorothy’s smokey-sweet spice and Charlie’s crispness. He feels the warmth of Cas’s arm draping behind his shoulders over the back of the booth and glances at Cas out of the corner of his eye. Then takes a longer look, puzzled. There's something different. He can’t quite figure it out. Something about the way Cas is staring at Dorothy with a slight squint, not quite frowning but jutting out his jaw.

Dean tears his gaze away from electric-blue eyes and stubble-shadowed jaw and nods at Dorothy’s motorcycle helmet. “You ride?”

Dorothy grins, with a confidence that borders on smug. “Whenever the weather lets me.”

“Babe, you went out riding under a tornado warning last year,” Charlie protests.

Dorothy just shrugs. “Wind doesn’t scare me.”

“I never had the stones for that,” Dean says. “If I’m gonna be doing 90 on a back road, I want a nice body of steel between me and the road. And some comfy seats.” He turns to waggle his eyebrows at Cas, leering a little.

He catches Cas puffing out his chest a bit, straining the buttons of his blue-gray dress shirt, and that’s when it clicks. Cas is posturing. Of course. Obviously. Dean used to play this game, though it was only ever just an act for him. Something he put on deliberately and with conscious effort. But with Cas, it’s all instinct, and it’s goddamn effective . He’s got his arms and legs in a wide sprawl, and he’s sitting up straighter, generally taking up more space than usual. Dean’s space, specifically. The possessive arm faux-casually behind Dean’s shoulders, the press of his thigh up against Dean’s, the way Dean is suddenly awash in cedar-sandalwood scent — he won’t be able to help that, that’s just a basic physiological response to a new alpha, but the rest of it —

Dean can’t decide if it’s adorable or incredibly hot. He wonders if it’s possible to be both.

In spite of Cas’s peacocking, they all chat amicably about everything from Cas’s lack of nerd film education (which Charlie takes special objection to) to their opinions on various TV shows to the sorry state of politics. Charlie has a lot to say about all of it, quickly and enthusiastically. Dean finds out that she plays drums (of course she does) and Dorothy is a bassist, which leads to a brief enthusiasm for starting a band — which Dean knows from experience will never actually happen, but it makes him smile all the same.

“The Tender Tentacles!” Charlie suggests, her volume increasing exponentially. “No wait — Betas Go Bananas!”

“Maybe we should play a song or two together before deciding on a band name?” Dorothy suggests with an affectionate smirk.

“Psh, come on, this is the fun part!” Charlie exclaims before knocking back the last of her tequila sunrise. “Bathroom break! C’mon, Dora!”

She pushes at her girlfriend until Dorothy slides out of the seat, then makes her way to the back of the bar. Before following her, Dorothy leans over the table, one elegantly red-nailed hand square in the center, and looks Cas straight in the eye.

“You can relax, you know,” she says. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m very happily taken.” And with a swish she follows Charlie back into the bar’s shadowy recesses.

Cas deflates a little at his side; Dean’s sorry for it, and doubly sorry when Cas’s arm and leg withdraw into his own personal space. “My apologies,” he says.

“It’s okay,” Dean says, smiling at Cas. “It’s kind of adorable, actually.”

Cas scowls out the window. “I swear, I’m better than a caveman.”

This makes Dean laugh, and he reaches for Cas’s hand, placing it on the inside of his own thigh. “You know I’m pretty happily taken myself, right? She’s not a threat to you.” It never would have occurred to him two days ago, but with a giddy rush Dean leans in and rubs his chin against Cas’s shoulder.

Even though Cas is trying to play above his baser instincts, Dean can feel him relax at the gentle gesture of reciprocal ownership. He looks through his lashes at Dean, and a smile touches his lips. “Thank you.”

Dean can’t help but lean in to kiss that smile. “I thought you said you didn’t get territorial,” he murmurs into the space between them.

“I don’t get territorial,” Cas says. “I get possessive. There’s a difference.”

The thought of Cas getting all possessive over him sends a thrill down Dean’s spine. From this close distance he notices a subtle flare of Cas’s nostrils, and he wonders if Cas can scent the beginnings of arousal in him.

“You like that,” Cas says, his voice low and rumbling.

Dean swallows and shifts in his seat. “Maybe a little.”

There is heat behind Cas’s eyes, and he’s leaning in, either to kiss him or whisper something filthy in Dean’s ear — but then his eyes dart past Dean, and he sits back up straight. His hand retreats from Dean’s thigh, but settles back in its spot on the booth behind Dean’s shoulders. That’s good. Dean likes it there.

He doesn’t get to enjoy it for long, though, because as Dorothy slides back into the booth across from them, Charlie grabs Dean’s arm and pulls. “My drink is dead!” she exclaims. “Come help me revive it!”

Though he sends Cas a look that he hopes telegraphs his distress, Dean has little choice but to follow her to the bar.

Charlie leans on the bar and waves a hand to flag down the bartender. Once their orders of tequila sunrise and beer are entered, Charlie hops up on a barstool and says, “Sorry, it was getting a little whiffy over there.”

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, I guess.”

“So. How are you?” All at once she is laser-focused; Dean squirms under her attention.

“Uh. Good. Yeah. Real good.” Dean fights to keep the dopey grin off his face as he glances back at their table. Dorothy is entertaining Cas with some story, told with a smirk, and Cas is laughing his quiet laugh. It warms Dean better than whiskey ever did.

“He’s cute,” Charlie says. “And he’s so super into you.”

“Y’think?” Dean’s not an idiot; he knows. But sue him if he wants to hear it from an outside party.

“Absolutely! Sheesh, do you even see how he looks at you?”

Dean’s spared the necessity of answering when the bartender reappears with their drinks.

Charlie eyes him closely as she sips at the straw. “I’ll bet his scent was all over you before you even started dating.”

If Dean wasn’t blushing before, he definitely is now. “Yeah, that came up a couple times. I didn’t think much of it.”

“Why not?” she asks. “That is like, tell-tale alpha-is-interested signal!”

Dean shrugs. “I dunno.” That’s a lie. He knows why. And Charlie’s raised eyebrow tells him she’s perfectly aware that he knows. So he sets down his beer with a sigh. “Okay, yeah, it crossed my mind. But I’m used to just blocking it out, y’know? I never thought —” He bites his lip, staring back over at where Cas is talking now, Dorothy listening with her head cocked. “Never thought it would apply to me, I guess.”

Charlie just glares at him over her maraschino cherry.

“What?” he asks.

“Come on, Dean! Are any of my little pearls of wisdom penetrating that thick skull of yours?” She indicates said skull with a hard poke over his eyebrow.

“Ow, quit it,” Dean bats her hand away. “Yeah, I know. It’s tough to unlearn, like, twelve years of bullshit, okay?”

She smiles, and this time it’s all sympathy. “I know. Trust me, I do. But you’re working on it, right? That’s important. Just let him help you work through it. Okay?”

Dean nods vaguely and sneaks another glance back at Cas. Cas catches him looking this time, his eyes crystal blue and magnetic even in the low light all the way across the bar. Cas smiles a secret little smile at him, and Dean’s heart skips sideways.

“You guys remind me a lot of me and Dora,” Charlie says. Dean breaks eye contact with Cas in time to see Charlie’s sappy grin; she clearly caught that little exchange.

“How’d you two meet?” Dean asks, happy for an excuse to get the topic off of himself.

“Ooh! Oh! That reminds me! Um. Okay.” She hops off the barstool and skips back to the table, drink in hand. Dean’s head is going to start spinning if he tries to keep up with Charlie’s train of thought, so he just follows along.

Dorothy scoots over to let her exuberant girlfriend back into the booth, and Dean slides back under Cas’s arm. Their scents surround him again, and he takes a second to inhale the soul-deep comfort of their shared warmth.

“I have so much crap in here, I swear to god —” Charlie says, elbow-deep in a canvas tote bag. “Ah-ha!” She comes up with a slightly crinkled flyer for something called Be(ta) Yourself (Lunch And Board Games), which she proudly pushes into Dean’s hand. “Remember how I said we betas gotta stick together? I host this lunch thing! It’s not a big deal, really, just a bunch of us hanging out at cafes and game shops, but you should absolutely come!”

Dean takes the flyer in hesitant fingertips. It’s hand-drawn and photocopied, and it contains very little information besides the Greek letter beta, a short blurb, and Charlie’s contact info “for details of time and place.”

“Alpha or omega partners are welcome, by the way,” Charlie says, nudging into Dorothy’s side. “So long as they are respectful — and acknowledge that Han shot first!”

Cas squints at her, but Dean spies a smile quirking the corner of his lips. “Am I ever going to hear the end of that?”

Dorothy answers with a grin: “Nope.”

Dean is still looking at the flyer. It makes him nervous, somehow. Like a gateway into a world he never wanted any part of, or maybe didn’t even know existed. Maybe he didn’t want to acknowledge it.

But being beta is part of who he is. Maybe it would be easier if he wasn’t the only one.

“Think about it,” Charlie says. “You got my number if you want to come.”

Dean nods. “Thanks. I’ll let you know.”

~*~

The night air is refreshing and cool after the stuffiness inside the bar. Dean and Cas amble slowly toward the car, content to bump shoulders and breathe.

“Did you have a good time?” Cas asks.

“Yeah. Yeah, I did. Charlie’s kind of a handful, but I like her.” A few more steps. “How ‘bout you?”

Cas nods, looking up at the sky. There’s too much light pollution to see more than a few stars, but Cas looks at them anyway. Dean, meanwhile, looks at Cas.

“Seems like you and Dorothy sorted out your pecking order,” Dean says, lightly teasing.

Cas scoffs. “Yes, we’ve established our dominance hierarchy, thank you.”

“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by that. You’re allowed to be a little Big Bad Alpha now and then.”

They reach the car, but Dean doesn’t get his keys out just yet. Cas stops with a scuff of sole on pavement and raises one eyebrow at him. “You liked it. When I staked my claim on you.”

There’s that shiver again, racing up and down Dean’s limbs. “Uh. Yeah. Yeah, I kinda did.”

“Hmmm.” Cas takes a step forward, crowding Dean against the side of the car, and Dean feels himself flooded with white-hot heat. It’s insane, how quickly he responds to Cas. He assumes it’s the newness of it all, the novelty, and he plans to enjoy it while it lasts. So he tilts his head back a fraction, offering Cas his throat.

Cas purrs, leans in, and cages Dean with his arms braced on the Impala’s hood. He tucks his face under Dean’s chin, and Dean opens further, trying not to gasp, or whimper, or spread his legs in invitation.

Then Cas opens his teeth — closes them around the skin of his throat — and Dean finds it impossible not to do all three.

“Ah, fuck —”

Cas doesn’t roll his hips against Dean’s. He just shifts until they’re lined up, presses their groins together lightly at first, and then closer, harder, with aching deliberation that has Dean’s knees weak and breathless noises lining up behind his lips.

“We should go home,” Cas growls against the teeth marks he’s left on either side of Dean’s larynx.

“Abso-fucking-lutely.”

Chapter Text

The door is barely shut before Dean is shoved against it. Cas is a solid, muscular weight pinning him there, nosing under his chin and growling, sucking a mark with claiming force. Dean goes limp against the door, just letting himself be held there by Cas’s alpha strength, surrendering to it.

“I want to make you mine,” Cas says, low and dangerous against Dean’s throat, and Dean’s arousal flares hot through him.

“Yeah,” Dean gasps. “Yeah, you can.”

Cas groans and rolls his whole body in a wave against Dean’s, but then he pulls back. The light is low, but Dean still catches a glint of reflected gold in his retina. Dean stares at him, mesmerized, while Cas tugs off his own suit jacket and then starts on Dean’s shirts, shucking two layers at a time. By the time Dean catches on and starts to unbutton Cas’s shirt — his fingers slipping and shaking — he’s down to a T-shirt and Cas has moved on to unbuckling his belt.

“We really ought to make it to a bed one of these — ah!” Dean starts, then his head thumps against the door as Cas slips a hand inside to cup his rising cock. He gropes firmly — possessively — and when Dean hardens further under his touch, Cas purrs, low and satisfied, right in Dean’s ear. Goosebumps shiver in the wake of his rumbling. While Dean pants and presses up into the touch, Cas’s other hand slides down the back of his jeans and boxers to caress his ass cheeks, testing the waters with one finger grazing the divide between them. Dean’s heart leaps crazily in his chest. “Oh fuck —”

“Yes?” Cas murmurs, eyes still locked on Dean’s. Dean nods, squirming between the two touches. Cas exhales hard, then strips Dean’s T-shirt off over his head, catches Dean’s wrists in the fabric, and holds his arms above his head with one hand while the other skims his chest. Dean tries and fails to control his breathing as Cas explores his nipples, his ribs, the sweaty dip of his spine, bending to nip under his collarbone. Dean loses track of the hands and individual touches. All he knows is he’s straining against an iron grip and he feels like he’s going to tremble out of his skin.

“On your knees,” Cas orders, and Dean drops like a stone. Cas’s hands are in his hair in a second, pulling his face into Cas’s groin. Dean opens his mouth against the hot, firm ridge of Cas’s cock in his suit pants, breathes deeply of bittersweet citrus and grazes Cas with his teeth through the fabric. Then he’s released, and his hands and Cas’s are bumping over his belt buckle and zipper.

Dean really does want to make it to a bed, but for now he just pulls Cas out of his clothes and swallows him down, nose pressing into the soft swell of his knot. He hears Cas’s choked gasp as he leans against the door over Dean’s head and rolls his hips, fucking into Dean’s mouth and throat, and fuck , Dean just wants to open up for him. Even when he feels the back of his head thump against the door, he wraps his arms around Cas’s thighs and encourages, pulling him in. Cas’s groan echoes against the wood, and he cards one hand through Dean’s hair, curling behind his ear and holding him in place while his cock slip-slides over Dean’s tongue.

When Cas’s knot starts to swell against his lips, though, and he’s still pushing his cockhead against the back of Dean’s throat, Dean pulls away as best he can and taps hard on Cas’s thigh. Cas pulls back instantly, and Dean takes a few labored breaths. There’s a string of spittle from his lips to Cas’s cock, and Dean can’t remember the last time he’d gotten so hard giving head.

“Are you alright? I’m —”

“Dude,” Dean pants, resting his head back against the door. “Yes. That was fucking hot.”

Cas just looks down at him, past his own knotted cock jutting from the fly of his trousers, petting Dean’s hair. “How do you feel about being penetrated?”

Dean feels the breath punch out of him. “Only you could say ‘being penetrated’ and have it be hot.”

Cas’s head cocks to the side, a glint of gold flashing with the motion. “Do you want me to fuck you?”

That hits low in Dean’s gut. “Yeah. Yes. But. In a bed.”

Cas gets a grip in Dean’s hair once more and shoves his knot against Dean’s face, just grinding against his cheek; when he steps back far enough for Dean to stumble to his feet, the thick scent of Cas’s groin lingers, and Dean is floored by the realization that he’s been marked , in a way far more primal than any scent mark he’s ever worn. He sways woozily, then lets Cas herd him through the kitchen.

Dean stops when he gets to the juncture, his door on the left and Cas’s on the right. “Which —”

“Mine.” This is accompanied by a shove in the middle of Dean’s back. “My bed is nicer.”

“How do you know? You’ve never seen my bed.” It’s barely a protest; Dean is already tripping over the threshold into Cas’s room, which he hasn’t been in since they were hauling in boxes. It’s dark and cozy, even when Cas turns on the bedside lamp.

“My bed is very nice,” Cas says, and then he manhandles Dean down onto the unmade blankets. He strips Dean’s jeans off and settles himself, still fully-clothed except for the jut of his cock and a few undone shirt buttons, between Dean’s legs. He grinds down into Dean’s nakedness, their cocks lining up and pushing against each other as they groan into each other’s mouths.

“I —” Cas bites Dean’s lip. “I don’t have any lube.”

“I do.”

“Where?”

“Top drawer — with the socks —”

Then Cas pushes up off of him and is gone.

Alone in Cas’s room, Dean tries to catch his breath. Listens to the frantic thumping of his heart. Feels the arousal thrilling over his skin, overwhelming and huge. He sweeps one hand over his face and his other up his cock, then rolls onto his stomach to grind against the mattress. God, this bed — Cas was right, it’s very nice, and it’s a concentrated nest of Cas-scent, blood orange and woodiness. Dean squirms higher up on the blankets, wanting that scent all over himself, wanting his own newfound scent to permeate the sheets just as much, wants to make this their bed —

And Cas is going to fuck him in it. Just the thought sends ripples over Dean’s skin, and he pulls himself up onto his knees, presenting like he’s seen omegas do.

Cas is going to fuck him .

With Cas gone, Dean feels unmoored, lost in a sea of unfamiliar needs. His brain kicks into gear, and with it the lust in his belly lurches into something more wriggling and nervous. He’s about to get fucked. Knotted. He’d never thought he would want this. Does he actually want this? It’s a stupid question because it’s all he’s been able to think about since he got his mouth on Cas’s knot.

But what if he hates it? Hell of a time to find that out. What if he can’t even take it? He’s not an omega.

He’s not an omega, and yet here he is with his ass in the air, presenting like a bitch in heat —

Dean’s fingers clutch in the sheets, and then he hears Cas’s footsteps come back in the room and stop short.

“Ohh Dean —” Cas groans.

The bed dips and Cas’s hands are on him, on his hips, massaging his ass cheeks, stroking the length of his thighs and up to curve around his waist before settling back around his hip bones. Dean is still trembling finely, but Cas’s touch grounds him in reality, quieting the what-ifs. He focuses on the pressure of his touch, the certainty in it. He’s safe. He trusts Cas. Cas wants him. He wants Cas.

Then those hands are pushing on his ass cheeks with intent, spreading him — Dean takes in a juddering breath — there’s rough stubble and breath on his most tender skin and the damp press of an open mouth just to the side of his hole.

He almost jumps out of his skin. “Jesus!”

Cas goes still behind him. “No?”

Dean pants a few breaths. “I — it’s okay, you just startled me.” Then he presses his face into the mattress again and tilts his hips up. For all his nerves, he’s still hotter and harder than he’s been in a very long time, and the wild leaps of his heart are doing nothing to quell the lust burning in his belly. He reaches underneath himself to give his cock a quick squeeze.

Cas is back to massaging his ass cheeks, spreading and rolling them while peppering kisses from the bottom of Dean’s spine to the sensitive swell of his cheeks, right beside his hole. He circles over and over again, each time coming close to Dean’s opening, hot breath ghosting over it but never a touch, never those lips or tongue that Dean knows are coming, that he wants with ever-brighter desperation —

“Come on, Cas, seriously —” he pants out against the sheets, lifting his head as much as he can to try and catch a glimpse of Cas over his shoulder.

The second he asks, Cas goes straight in, his lips landing on Dean’s hole and his tongue laving broad and wet over his opening. Dean’s face hits the sheets again, muffling his outcry.

“Shit — Jesus — Cas — Fuck —” Dean pants as Cas works his hole open. Long, wet strokes alternate with pointed wriggling, delving deeper, and when Dean tries to squirm, push his hips back into the slick contact, Cas growls into his flesh and hauls him back with both hands on his hips.

It should feel wrong, but it doesn’t. It feels filthy-dirty-so-fucking-hot, not just the tongue in his ass, but the vulnerability, presenting like this. Dean has done this to others enough times himself that he knows how sweet it can be, how an omega’s slick invites you deeper, deeper. He wonders what is drawing Cas in now. His mouth is so, so wet, and Dean feels a trail of saliva leaking down, and that’s filthy-hot too. As if he really could get slick for his alpha. He reaches back with one hand to tangle it in Cas’s hair, but as soon as he gets a good grip Cas untangles his fingers and pins his wrist to the bed, and that’s fine, that’s great, but what’s better is when he maneuvers his hand so that he can tuck his fingers between Dean’s. And yeah, he’s being pinned to the bed, but Cas is also just holding his hand, and Dean has no idea what to make of that.

The hand on his wrist feels like an anchor, but the seas are still wild and stormy, and Dean whimpers into the sheets. He feels like he’s falling, falling from a great height, and he doesn’t know if he’ll hit the bottom or catch himself or —

“Hey,” Cas’s voice, just above a whisper and still very close to his slick-tender opening. “Are you alright?”

Dean exhales, and it feels like he hasn’t done that in a while. He pulls his hand out of Cas’s grip and pushes up on his elbows. “Yeah — Oh yeah. Great.”

“Roll over.” Dean does. He’s still mostly hard; a few palms of his cock bring him back all the way up. Cas got naked somewhere along the way, and Dean is very glad that when he lies full-length on top of him, there is only skin. God, he loves Cas’s skin. He’s warm and solid pressing Dean into the bed, and he smells fucking incredible and his cock —

“You’re trembling,” Cas murmurs. “Are you sure —”

“Yes. Cas. Absolutely. I just —” Dean fights down another wave of shivering. “I —”

Cas pets a hand over Deans hair, looking closely into his eyes, following when Dean tries to evade his gaze. “I got carried away. I’m sorry. We can slow down.”

“I don’t need —” Dean bites down on his lips. “Yeah. Actually. Let’s do that.” Fuck it. He wraps his arms and legs around Cas and clings to him, hiding his face in Cas’s neck, while Cas strokes him from the crown of his head to his shoulder and back again.

“I should have asked already. Have you done anything like this before?”

Dean pulls his face out of Cas’s neck and makes a conscious effort to relax into the pillows. “Once,” Dean says. “With this kinda kinky omega guy. He was, um.” Dean flushes, glancing down at Cas’s cock and knot.

“Not as well-endowed?” Cas asks with a bit of a smirk.

Dean can’t help a laugh. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“We don’t have to do anything,” Cas murmurs, stroking now from Dean’s collarbone down to his navel, first with fingertips and then with his whole hand. “Even if you still want me to fuck you, I don’t have to knot you.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Now you’ll say fuck...” After another moment to breathe, he reaches down to cup Cas’s slightly-softened cock, coaxing hardness back into it, then further to give his knot a gentle squeeze. Cas hisses quietly and sighs, open-mouthed. Dean’s desire reignites, molten and sure, and he presses his own cock against Cas’s hip. “I want it. It’s all I’ve been able to think about since I got my hands on you, Cas,” he murmurs into Cas’s neck, painting his lips and breath over the skin. “I want to know what it feels like.”

Cas takes a shuddering breath, in, and out, and pushes into Dean’s touch. Dean feels the knot swell under his grasp, and he’s still a little nervous, but this time, instead of succumbing to the undertow, he rides the wave to its crest.

“Okay,” Cas murmurs against his lips and pushes him gently onto his back.

They spend a long time there, exploring each other’s kisses, moving their bodies in time. Dean takes both of them in hand, pressing Cas’s knot tight to the base of his own cock, stroking from root to tip. Cas is bigger, thicker, but not by much except the knot, and Dean’s leaking precome slicks the way under his hand.

“Dean,” Cas sighs into Dean’s neck, luxuriating in their shared scent.

“What happened to the lube?” Dean asks, then laughs at Cas’s wide-eyed blinks of consternation. “You did get the lube, right?”

“Yes.” Cas hunts in the blankets with increasing frustration while Dean tries to keep his giggles to himself. Finally, Cas finds the bottle where it rolled onto the floor, and then he’s back between Dean’s legs in a flash. Dean missed his heat and brings him close for more kisses.

Then Cas is leaning back, pushing Dean’s legs up by the knee, and spreading lube over his fingers. Dean draws his own knees further apart, cupping his cock loosely just to keep himself going.

He twitches into the touch when Cas presses the slicked pad of his finger to the sensitive hollow of Dean’s ass. “Tell me if it hurts,” Cas says. “And tell me if you want to stop, at any point.”

“Just get your fingers in me already, okay? That much I do by myself.”

Cas’s eyebrow climbs, and he finally — finally — slides a finger into Dean’s body. “Do you now?” he asks, archly.

Dean tosses his head back and can’t help how his entire body clenches, but it’s a good clench. “Yeah.”

“Tell me about that,” Cas murmurs, giving Dean slow, shallow thrusts with his finger.

Dean just squirms and pants for a moment, then says, “Not very often. But sometimes. Why do you think I have lube in the first place?”

“That did occur to me,” Cas says, pulling most of the way out and adding a second finger. Dean squirms his hips down into the pressure. “Hold still,” Cas growls, a flare of gold showing in his eyes. He braces his other arm on Dean’s hips to hold him in place and moves his fingers with intense focus.

“Ah—!” Dean gasps, struggling against the hold. “That time you — when you left —”

“For my rut.”

“Yeah. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

The fingers pause for a moment inside him, then he adds a third. “Really?”

“Yeah. I, uh — fuck. Cas, I can — come on, please —”

“Not yet.”

Dean lets out a high-pitched whine and knuckles his fists against his forehead when Cas’s fingers find his prostate and rub in tight circles. He’s already seeing stars and Cas isn’t even in him yet. “Ah, fuck — please —”

“Tell me more about how you touch yourself,” Cas murmurs, low and smokey.

“Shit — I — It was — like this, but — I wondered what would have, uh. If I’d been omega. Would you — Would I be — Ahhhh shit —” Dean’s ability to think is diminishing rapidly with the press and stretch of Cas’s fingers. “I can’t, Cas, please, I just need you —”

Cas pulls his fingers out and digs around in his bedside table drawer for a condom. After watching Cas fumble with it for a moment with lube-slick, shaking fingers, Dean takes it from him, tears open the packet, and slides it on Cas himself. It seats securely behind his knot, and then Cas is on him, pushing his legs back and open, lining himself up, pushing inside slowly. So slowly. Dean inhales deep while Cas drives in, in, in, stopping to scoot forward and add more lube, letting Dean adjust to the stretch.

“Okay?” Cas asks once he’s pressed in to the knot.

Dean nods. “Yeah.”

“Do you want —”

“Yes, fucking yes, put your knot in me Cas, please —”

Cas sucks in a deep breath, shifts his knees under Dean’s hips, and gives a long, slow push.

There is a pop when the tender knot slides past the ring of Dean’s muscle, and suddenly he feels twice as full, even though at the moment Cas’s knot is not all that much of a swelling. Dean sucks in air like he can’t get enough and rides down to feel Cas’s hips flush with his ass, the intense pressure of the knotted cock seated inside him.

Cas’s eyes are wild and golden, and he’s breathless when he asks, “Are you —”

“Cas if you ask if I’m alright one more time, I’ll smack you,” Dean says in a rush. He reaches for his cock and fists it firmly, relaxing inch by inch around the intrusion.

Then Cas starts to move.

“Ohgod,” Dean gasps, the push-pull slip-slide of Cas’s knot stretching him like nothing he’s ever felt. He writhes on the sheets as much as he’s able, hikes his own knees up as high as he can. He wants that cock deeper. “Fuck yes, fucking hell, Cas —”

Cas lets out an animal growl, holds Dean down at the shoulders to drive his cock home over and over, again and again. He pulls against his own knot, grinds deep and dirty, and Dean is a writhing mess, pliant below him. He can feel Cas’s knot swelling larger, harder, with each tug and rut of Cas’s hips, and it presses against all the sweetest spots inside him. With a whine, he reaches for his cock and fists it firm and fast, hitching his legs just a little higher and bearing down, opening, opening.

“Open your eyes,” Cas murmurs.

He does, and Cas is watching him through eyes that nearly glow, astonished and reverential and —

“Shit — Shit fuck shit,” Dean moans as he spills over his own fist, clenching down hard as his whole body seizes around his alpha.

Cas is close behind him, mouthing at Dean’s neck like he wants to sink his teeth in but doesn’t dare. Dean wishes, in his orgasmic delirium, that he would. He wants that unmistakable mark of Cas’s possession, that Cas is his.

Cas comes with a groan against Dean’s neck, gripping him tight and his knot expanding to full firmness. It’s a shocking sensation where Dean is already overstimulated. He jerks, clenches, snarls his fingers in Cas’s hair, and Cas shakes and sighs against him before they collapse together.

“Jesus,” Dean sighs a few moments later, breathing still labored. “That was intense.”

Cas nods in agreement, then pushes himself up, gulping a few breaths. He’s looking down at where they’re still joined, and Dean looks too, past the mess he’s made of himself and his own spent cock. As he watches, Cas pulls gently, and his already-softening knot slips free. The noise Dean makes at the sudden egress is not dignified in the slightest, and he ends up laughing at himself, dizzy with endorphins.

Cas smiles up at him, eyes back to sky blue but wide with wonder as he stumbles off the bed, shaky-legged. He pulls off the condom and disposes of it, then tosses Dean something from the laundry hamper to wipe himself up with — some surprisingly colorful boxers, it looks like. Then he tucks himself into Dean’s side, an arm over his waist and his chin on Dean’s shoulder.

“How are you feeling?” Cas asks, after long minutes of silence when Dean is on the edge of dozing off.

Dean has to laugh. “Uh. Pretty thoroughly fucked,” he says. “In a good way, though. That, um. That was good.”

Cas purrs against his shoulder and tucks himself a little closer.

“Would you stay with me tonight?”

“My room’s just right across the hall,” Dean says, but even as it’s coming out of his mouth he knows he’s not going anywhere.

Cas nods against Dean’s shoulder. “You can go if you like.” He starts to withdraw his hand from where it rests on Dean’s belly but Dean catches it and pulls it back.

“Nah,” Dean whispers. “M’comfy.”

He is, too. He feels like every muscle in his body has had the tension wrung from it, and Cas is a warm, sweet-smelling presence at this side. He turns his head to nudge his nose against Cas’s hair, slightly sandalwood-sweaty and perfect. He drifts gently into sleep with the feeling of Cas’s smile pressed into his skin.

Chapter Text

Oddly Shaped Empty

 

The Impala sits under the tarp at Bobby’s for a long time.

Dean tries to avoid going over there, but whenever he just needs space and silence to try not to think, he ends up perched on her bumper or leaning against her crippled side. Sometimes he peels back the tarp and brushes off some rust or knocks a critter’s nest out of the wheel well. It’s still a wreck, but something in him won’t let her go completely.

He takes refuge in the Impala after his doctor’s appointment to confirm that no, he’s not just a really late bloomer. In the words of the curmudgeonly old doctor, he “displays the peculiar glandular dysfunction characteristic of a beta designation.” In plain English: he will never be normal.

This time he pockets the pamphlets they give him — always with the stupid pamphlets — about general beta health and safety; he sits in the relatively undamaged passenger seat to look them over, a feeling like heartburn in his chest. He learns that betas, contrary to popular belief, are not sterile (which makes Dean think twice about a few things) and that while some are scent blind, others can have a range of scent-sensitivity from marginal to almost average.

Almost average. Great.

The pamphlets get stuffed in the glove compartment to gather dust.

*

When Sam presents as alpha, Dean goes out to the car in the driving rain to avoid the stink. The rear door doesn’t quite open at the right angle, and the back seat is dusty and smells a little like mildew, but it’s the same leather he’s always known. He lies there for most of an afternoon, listening to the rain drumming on the roof.

*

The second anniversary of his father’s death hits him harder than the first. He can’t be in the house. Too confined and it smells like alpha and when he bites Sam’s head off for asking a stupid question about Gilligan’s Island, he knows he has to just get out. What he wants to do is take one of the loaner junkers and drive it until the wheels fall off, but he’s already drunk, so that’s not an option. Bobby would flay him alive. If he survived.

Dean ends up staring at the Impala, sipping on the end of a bottle of Jim Beam, not quite breathing right. When his last sip is empty, the anger sears through him, quick and hot, and he hurls the bottle at the wreckage. It shatters against the bumper, and it’s not enough. He rips off the tarp to see her twisted, broken body, his twisted, broken life, and drives his fist into the metal. It echos, tinny and dull. So he swings again. Again, again, until he hears something crack, and he’s not sure if it’s the car or his fist. There’s a pile of scrap plywood nearby; he grabs a length of that instead.

New dents in the fender, dings in the side paneling. A tail light smashed. Why not beat it up when it’s already broken?

Half a swing from smashing a window, he catches a glimpse of his reflection, tear-streaked, grimacing. It’s barely recognizable.

He can’t do this. Any of it.

The plywood slips from his hand to thunk on the ground, a hollow sound, and he leans his hot face against the cool glass instead of shattering it. He watches the fog of his breath obscure his reflection. Watches himself disappear. A few more feeble punches, a cry that ends on a whimper, and he sinks to his knees in the dust.

It’s a long time before he goes back.

*

There’s nothing special about the day he comes out with a brand new tail light cradled in his hands. It’s a Thursday? He pops out the broken light and fits the new one in place, using some old tools of his dad’s — the ones he’d learned with, knows how to work with, even if they aren’t perfect.

With the new light secured, he starts to slump his way back to the house, but he doesn’t get far before his steps slow and stop. He glances back over his shoulder at the car halfway-covered by the dusty tarp and bites at his lip, considering.

A few hours later, he’s covered in dusty grease and he’s made a mental list of the damages. It’s severe, and he’ll have to do some research before he even knows where to begin, and he has no idea where he’s gonna get the money, but the engine is in pretty good shape, all things considered. So it’s possible. It’d give him something to do besides work at the diner or the scrap yard.

Hell. Might even be worth it.

*

Sam graduates high school a year early. Of course he does. He never shuts up about school and how he’s gonna be a big-shot something or other (this week he’s got his sights set on astronaut, but last week it was paleontologist. Who knows what next week’s dream will be).

After Sam’s graduation, Bobby finds Dean sitting on the Impala’s hood, staring into the brush. He sidles up next to Dean and leans against the front end, quiet for a long time.

“You know, that college fund ain’t just for your brother,” Bobby tells him.

“There’s not enough for us both,” Dean says. Words are still hard to get out sometimes.

“Maybe. But there’s enough for a trade school. They don’t care about a GED. Besides, Sam can get money other ways, too. Scholarships, loans, whatever. You really think he’s gonna let you stay here high and dry?”

Dean shrugs.

Bobby looks back at the slowly reshaping bulk of the car, then looks again. “You been doing work out here?” He sounds like he’s playing at more surprised than he is.

Dean drops his head to hide the flush creeping up his neck.

“Looks good, kid.”

The stretch of the smile feels strange and foreign on Dean’s face.

*

Dean’s halfway through his automotive program when Sam brings home his acceptance letter to Stanford — complete with a scholarship, full ride. He finds Dean under the undercarriage to break the news, and Dean ends up with a bruise over his eyebrow in his haste to hug his little brother. Not so little. Dean wishes for just a second that he could still swing him around like when he was a bean sprout instead of a giant. Since he can’t, he just hugs tighter for as long as Sam will let him before he bounces off to tell Bobby the good news.

He spends the summer fixing the car — really fixing it, not just the idle tinkering he’s been doing. By the time Sam is ready to go off to Stanford, Dean is ready to take him there. (Bobby questions the wisdom of taking a recently restored, 40-year-old car over the mountains, but he doesn’t stand in their way.)

It’s a long drive, and Dean spends a lot of time coaxing his old girl through the rough spots, but they make it to sunny Palo Alto with time to spare. Dean sticks around through orientation, watching Sam get settled into his dorm, into the exuberant pace of college life. Then a few days after that, right up until Sam starts giving him side-eyed glances that question what he’s still doing there.

Dean takes the scenic route back to Kansas, taking the time to think, though about what he couldn’t afterward say.

Somewhere in Colorado he realizes that he feels… good. For the first time in years, he feels really, really good. He’s got prospects, however modest. There’s this guy, Aaron, from his program he’s been texting back and forth with. He fixed the car. Sam is safely off to his big, bright future.  

Maybe he’ll be able to say he did one or two good things in his life.

~*~

It’s a sleepy, sunny afternoon, and they’re cuddled up sweaty and satisfied in Dean’s bed when Dean asks, “Can you tell me about Anna?”

Cas had only mentioned his sister once, though he talks — complains — about his brothers from time to time. Mostly he’s pretty tight-lipped about his family, and Dean knows better than to push.

Now, though, he turns his head to blink at Dean and sits up. Dean almost regrets asking, just for the loss of skin-to-skin touch. “You don’t have to,” he starts to say, but Cas shakes his head.

“I think I was waiting for you to ask.”

Dean shifts on his side so his knees are touching Cas’s thigh, but otherwise lets him have his space and a moment to gather his thoughts.

“Anna was my twin sister,” Cas says. “We were very close. She was my protector, even after we presented — she was omega.” Dean nods his understanding. “She was the darling of the family. The only girl, the only omega. I was... the one always wearing hand-me-downs,” he says with a quiet shrug. “When we were eighteen or so, we went on a road trip. Twelve states in two months. She met this girl up in Washington Sstate. Ruth. She traveled with us for a while, and I had to get my own hotel rooms.”

Dean chuckles at that, shifting up on an elbow.

“They kept in touch when Ruth had to get back to school. The whole rest of the trip, Anna would call Ruth most nights.”

“How’d you feel about that?” Dean can’t help but ask. Cas looks over at him, perplexed.

“I was happy for her. For them. They —” Cas bites his lip and fiddles with a fold of the blanket. “I don’t know if you believe in true mates, but. Well.” Dean feels a slow bleed of adrenaline in his chest, his heart drumming loud. Cas is looking directly into his eyes when he says, “They made me believe. For a while, at least.”

Dean picks up Cas’s hand and nuzzles a kiss into his knuckles.

“There was just one problem,” Cas says. “Ruth was also an omega.”

Dean’s eyebrows rise.

“When we got back home, we started looking at colleges in Washington, so that they could be together. We were already at Evergreen when our family found out that their daughter was queer. They didn’t take kindly; they cut us off. I dropped out to get a job so that Anna could stay in school.”

Cas goes silent; Dean barely dares to breathe under the weight of it.

“It’s not just that, though, right?” Dean finally asks, so softly.

Cas shakes his head. “No.” He’s quiet for a long time again, and Dean is about to speak up — though he’s not sure what he wants to say — when Cas draws in breath. “There was this night club we liked to go to. It was just — a place to have a good time, to be ourselves. To not worry about all the stupid dynamics or our families who wouldn’t accept us or any of it. To just — celebrate our freedom instead of fighting for it.” Cas swallows. “Some people take exception to that.”

“What happened?” Dean asks, quiet.

“There was a shooting. Nine dead, thirteen injured.” Cas swallows again, thicker, harder. “Anna was one of the nine.”

Dean clenches his fingers against the urge to wrap Cas up in his arms. His hand jerks abortively toward him, ending with just his fingertips grazing the dip at the base of Cas’s spine. “I’m so sorry, baby,” he murmurs.

Cas shrugs like it doesn’t matter. “I came back here after that. Got a job with my family’s corporation, just like they always wanted — the only way they seemed to think I’d be any use —”

“Wait a second. Your family owns Sandover?”

Cas nods with a scoff. “Yeah. A few other corporations, too.”

“Then what the hell are you doing rooming with me?”

Cas glances over his shoulder and lets his eyes wander down Dean’s chest, even though there’s still dampness lingering around the corners. “I would have thought that was obvious,” he says.

Dean tries to pretend that doesn’t still make his heart skip. “Come on, man, I’m serious.”

Cas’s mouth goes small and tight, but he meets Dean’s eyes. There’s a fire in them. “My family doesn’t want to give me one red cent more than I earn,” he says, low and dangerous. “And even if they did, I wouldn’t accept it. They blame me for what happened to Anna, but they’re the ones that cut us off —”

“Woah, hey.” Now Dean does sit up, a hand flat in the middle of Cas’s back, hot palm, cool skin. He feels goosebumps prickle under his touch. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Slowly, Cas relaxes under Dean’s touch and is willing when Dean pulls at him, lying back against the headboard and tucking Cas under his shoulder. After long minutes of playing with Cas’s hair and listening to him calm down, Dean asks quietly, “How long has it been?”

“Six years. Give or take.”

Dean nods against his hair, presses a kiss to the crown of his head. “I’m sorry.”

Cas shrugs against him. “It happened. I’ve made peace with it. More or less.”

“Sorry I opened up old wounds?”

Cas takes a deep breath and squeezes Dean tighter around the middle. “Don’t be. I’m glad you know now.”

Dean nods. “How ‘bout I’m sorry your parents are dickweeds?”

This time, he gets a soft laugh against his collarbone as Cas lifts his head to nuzzle under Dean’s ear. Dean lets the shivers race over his skin before he turns to brush noses with Cas, drop a kiss on his lips.

“Hey Cas?” Dean murmurs, a long while later.

Cas hums in response.

“I’m glad I met you.”

Cas’s eyes fall closed, and he holds Dean a little tighter.

~*~

It’s late, but not too late. The light from the TV is muted and subtle on Cas’s face, and Dean has no idea what they’re watching anymore. He’s focused on Cas: Cas’s lips and how they move against his own. The texture of Cas’s hair between his fingers. Cas’s scent, woody and warm, threaded through with citrus spice; the grassy-lavender sweetness of his own scent through the lens of Cas’s. Dean can feel himself half-hard, but there’s no urgency . Just pleasure at the warmth of physical contact. His mate.

There’s a thrumming in his stomach at the word. Mate. It’s a wild, crazy sensation for a wild, crazy thought.

Cas pulls back just far enough that Dean can see his eyes, like little moons in the half-light. Cas draws his fingertips over Dean’s lips, his neck, sliding the fabric of his shirt around over his skin as his hand moves down, down. “What do you want tonight?” The suggestion is clear in his breathy voice and wandering-low fingers.

Dean shivers, squeezes Cas’s hips where they rest in the cradle of his thighs. “Is it okay if I just want to kiss you?” he asks.

Cas smiles down at him, sweet and small. “Of course it is.” Those fingers twist in Dean’s shirt and pull him back in.

Dean loves kissing Cas. Loves the taste of his lips and gentle breath on his face. Loves all the myriad shades of blue in his eyes. Loves Cas’s body nestled against him, chest-to-chest, belly-to-belly, a warm, solid weight. He loves how their shared scent lingers around them, like a forest grove in summer, a rolling field, just for them.

He’s pretty sure he just loves Cas.

But he hasn’t let himself say it, not even to himself. Doesn’t even really let himself think it in so many words. Nothing definite. Nothing fixed. But he feels it brimming inside of him, and he has to kiss Cas deeper to keep it from spilling over.

They kiss for a long time, breathing into one another, before Cas draws back again, drawing his fingers through Dean’s hair and biting his lip in consideration. “I have something I want to show you,” he says.

“Sure,” Dean says, dreamy and distracted by the shine on Cas’s lips.

Cas sits back on his heels, then scoops up his notebook off the coffee table, and Dean’s curiosity sharpens to a point. He doesn’t quite look at Dean as he flips through the pages. In the low light Dean can’t quite tell if he’s blushing, but he thinks he might be.

When he finds the page he wants, Cas takes in a deep breath, licks his lips open, and breathes out. —

Poetry. A poem , written in his own scrawling hand. Dean’s pulse quickens, and he sits very still while Cas whispers the words into the air between them. Words about seeking and the joy of finding. The pain of losing, cautious hope in gaining. He speaks in metaphors about fragrant fields and sunshine, verdant spring yielding to exuberant summer. Though it isn’t a romantic poem at first glance, Dean is reminded, viscerally, and with every word, of himself.

Dean doesn’t know much about poetry, so he doesn’t even know how to tell if it’s “good” or not. But it touches something inside him, some deep well of feeling, which seems like a good thing. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s Cas, his voice low and lilting, speaking words from the heart like Dean has never been able to do.

The words linger in the air after Cas stops speaking and folds the notebook closed; Dean feels them sinking into his skin like ink. Cas doesn’t look up at first, and Dean is shocked to silence. He’s silent for long enough that Cas starts to fidget at the knees.

“I, um. I know it’s not much, but I —”

“That’s what you've been doing this whole time? Writing me a goddamn poem?” Dean’s voice is tremulous and he wishes they were still kissing.

Cas sits up straight, clears his throat. “Usually,” Cas says. “Not just this one, I’ve been working on other things too. But mostly this.”

“Can I read your others?” Dean blurts without thinking, and Cas’s fingers clench on his notebook, an involuntary protective measure. “I mean — not all of it. I just —” want to read every everything, Dean doesn’t say. Every jotted line and half-turned phrase you’ve ever written.

“Someday, maybe,” Cas says hesitantly. “I can’t promise anything.”

Dean can’t stand to not be touching him anymore. It pulls at his bones, and he flops ungracefully into a weird sideways hug, almost knocking Cas off the couch. Cas lets out an ‘oof’ of surprise, then a shy chuckle, leaning his shoulder into Dean’s embrace.

“I had no idea you wrote anything,” Dean murmurs into Cas’s collar.

“Not many people do.” Cas’s fingers cradle the beat-up spiral notebook, fiddling with the frayed edges. “It’s just something I’ve always done. Sort of a release valve, I guess.”

“Have you ever published anything?” Dean asks. Cas laughs in earnest.

“Um. No. No, and I don’t think I ever will.”

“Why not?” Dean leans back to look at this amazing man. “I mean, I don’t know technicalities, but that sounded pretty good.”

“You just liked it because it was about you,” Cas chides with half a smile, his eyes on his own knees.

“Yeah, I guess that helps,” Dean teases, and Cas shoves at his shoulder without much intent. Dean shoves back, and then it’s a giggling fight for dominance, full of joy and tangling limbs. Dean puts up a token protest, but eventually lets Cas pin him to the sofa cushion. He considers it a win anyway.

Everything slows as Cas looks down at him. Dean stares back, even though it feels like Cas can see everything, every thought Dean can’t give voice to, every feeling Dean won’t name. He keeps his eyes open and, for once in his life, lets himself be seen. Cas leans down to whisper a kiss to his lips and says simply, “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

They don’t always wake up in the same bed. Dean does still sleep in his own room most nights, and Cas, for all his protests that he’s not territorial, gets antsy if he falls asleep in Dean’s and moves back to his own in the middle of the night. But this morning Dean wakes up in Cas’s bed with the sweet weight and warmth of him curled up at his side, breathing in the comfort of their shared scent. Watery sunshine streams in the window, a newly-bloomed pale rose. He turns, still half-sleeping, and pulls Cas against his chest, tucking his knees into the crook of Cas’s thighs. Cas gives a sleepy hum and pulls Dean’s arm tighter around himself, scoots backwards into Dean’s embrace.

Together they drift between sleeping and waking without really falling to either. Dean’s heart thrums around the weight in his arms, and he listens to the soothing rise and fall of Cas’s breathing, his gentle snores ebbing, flowing.

The next time Dean starts to break the surface, it’s because his morning erection has sprung up and is pressing between Cas’s thighs, right up close to the plush swell of his ass. His hips push forward, slow subtle grinds he’s not even entirely conscious of until Cas draws in a deep waking-breath and pushes back in counterpoint.

Low-burning arousal flares bright, and Dean blinks awake at last. “G’morning,” he murmurs on a smile.

Cas lets out a voiced sigh. “Good morning.” He grinds back again, with more conscious intent. They move together like molasses, all panting, humid breaths, warm hands on sticky, slip-sliding skin. The sunlight warms, gilding the room around them, honeyed and bright like the scent that shrouds them, and Dean wonders if maybe he’s still dreaming.

“Dean,” Cas moans, long and breathy. “I want —”

Dean knows what he wants. The sweet slide of his cock between Cas’s thighs is just shy of perfect, and the way Cas keeps wriggling back, tucking Dean’s cock tighter and higher between his thighs, his ass cheeks, is going to drive him over the edge soon if he’s not careful.

But then Cas squirms forward, and Dean rolls with him, loathe to lose that heat and the friction. Cas flails with one hand at the nightstand, then falls right back into position as soon as he’s grabbed the lube — and a condom.

Dean does a double-take. “Seriously?” he asks.

Cas bows his spine luxuriously, arching his ass against Dean’s erection. “If you want,” he murmurs. “I’ve been thinking about it.”

Dean sets aside the supplies for a moment to lay more firmly on top of Cas, nuzzling through his hair to find the back of his neck and bite down, just a denting pressure of teeth on skin and a firm roll of his hips. Cas chokes on a moan and tilts his ass up against him — presenting.

“Jesus, yeah, okay,” Dean breathes into Cas’s hair and scoots back, away from the heat of Cas’s body; it feels like ripping his skin off but he needs to calm down anyway if he’s going to do this right. He slides the condom on himself first while Cas stretches on the sheets, a long sinuous line of skin and muscle, and hitches his knee up on the bed, opening for Dean’s gaze. Dean fumbles the lube three fucking times before popping the cap, but his hand is steady when he slides his fingers into the humid heat between his cheeks to find Cas’s opening.

“Oh, yes —” Cas moans, and Dean feels him bearing down, pushing back, eager. The sight of him —  this man, this alpha — at the mercy of his hands, open and needing, rocks Dean to the core. He melts like caramel, and Dean sinks his slick fingers in one at a time, relishing his deep groans and messy breathing. Inside, he’s hot as an oven, tight and soft, and the idea of sliding his cock into him is making Dean feel two steps past tipsy and itching in his skin.

He works at him until three fingers are slipping easy in and out and Cas is pedaling his legs in the sheets, riding down hard against Dean’s hand. “Please,” he breathes, “please, please,” reaching back to sink his hand in Dean’s hair.

“Please what?” Dean murmurs in his ear before sinking his teeth down on the lobe.

“I want to feel you inside me,” Cas whispers. “Now, please.”

And yeah, Dean is done teasing. He pulls his fingers out and wraps Cas up in his arms, pulling him close, lining himself up. Pushing in. Cas gasps once, but then he’s sinking back and Dean is falling forward and jesus jesus Jesus —

“Jesus — fucking hell, Christ,” Dean groans in Cas’s ear as he bottoms out. He can feel every flutter and clench of Cas’s muscles from the inside, feels like he just sank into an inferno — not just his cock, but his whole body. He’s melting. He’s on fire. His skin is going to crackle right off his bones.

“You have such a deplorable mouth,” Cas says, breathless, and Dean laughs against his shoulder before drawing back for a firm thrust.

“That’s not what you usually say,” Dean pants.

“Usually —” Cas pauses to gasp, “Usually your mouth is — otherwise occupied — oh fuck, Dean —” Then Cas is wringing the pillowcase in his grip and grinding back against Dean’s rocking thrusts. Tension coils into Cas’s spine as Dean lets a hand wander from his hip, over his tensing belly, down to ghost his palm over the jut of Cas’s cock. Cas breathes a shuddery inhale, twitching between Dean’s cock and the touch of his hand as Dean smears his fingers over the leaking head, spreads wetness down the thick length. There’s a little cooling puddle on the sheets, and fuck, that probably shouldn’t be hot but it is.

“God, Cas,” Dean moans, rolling Cas forward so he can press his body into the sheets with his weight, roll his hips harder, deeper. “Okay?” Dean asks as he pins Cas to the mattress with his free arm across his shoulders, knocks his knees wide to kneel between them, and drives his cock home.

Cas just whimpers, shivers, and nods his head.

Every thrust pushes Cas’s dick through Dean’s fist, down to the knot which flares against his palm. Dean rolls his hand around that knot; with every thrust of his hips, he feels it pulsing, pushing against his fingers. A low growl escapes his throat and he latches his teeth onto the slope of Cas’s shoulder, the tensed muscle there yielding under the claim of his teeth. “Dean —” Cas whines, high and trembling.

God, Dean wants to knot him. Wishes, with a sudden seizing ache, that he could.

It’s familiar, the lurching want under his ribs. Like reaching for something that’s not there, a phantom limb, like missing somewhere he’s never been. Dean grinds his cock slow and deep and tries not to imagine pulling against the grip of his own flesh.

It only bothers him when he thinks about it. So he just clings tight and focuses on the heat, the slick friction, the way Cas is coming apart underneath him. Pleasure burns through him like a fire in tall grasses, and it’s enough.

“Dean —” Cas moans as Dean nips at his neck, “— pull — hard — now —”

“Huh?”

“My — my knot —”

It clicks, and Dean tightens his hand under the knot to a near-brutal grip. Cas stiffens — his knot firms, pops — and Cas is coming, writhing under Dean’s weight, clenching and releasing around Dean’s cock and slicking the bedsheets.

“Oh, fuck, sweetheart, oh —” Dean moans into Cas’s hair, grinding deep and quick into that firm-muscled grip. He needs to be closer, closer, can’t get close enough. Wants to crawl inside Cas and live there, wants to consume him, wants to cherish him, worship him. He wants to use his hands, his lips, every part of his flesh, to make Cas feel so good . When he spills, shuddering his bliss, he latches on again with his teeth, sucking a deep purple mark into the slope of Cas’s neck, a hard, bruising claim.

As they lay there, melting into each other again, Cas tries to wriggle out from under him, but Dean holds him still with an arm around his ribs and fingers clenched at his hip. “Don’t,” he murmurs. “Let me — I. I want to stay.”

Cas holds still for a moment, then goes pliant and loose underneath him. He pets Dean’s fingers where they’re still pressing white into his hip, soothing, tender, then pulls until Dean’s grip relaxes and he can press their hands together in the cradle of his belly.

“Was, uh,” Dean starts. “How was that?”

Cas’s ribs shake under him. “God, Dean. Perfect.” Cas stretches on a deep breath in, and Dean can’t stay inside him anymore. He holds the condom on as his softening cock slips free, then pulls it off and rolls to toss it into the waste bin.

When he turns back, Cas is facing him, and he’s stunned all over again by the blue of Cas’s eyes in the golden sunlit bedroom. They look like chips of sapphire. And they are obviously far too perceptive for Dean’s comfort because a tiny frown crease appears between them as Cas scans his face. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

“Nothing, I just —” and it’s all about to spill out: how much he enjoyed that even though it leaves a hollow pang in his gut. How he’d hoped it would be better with Cas, but if anything, it’s worse —  because he wants more, he wants so much more, to have the full experience with him, to knot him, to tie with him and stay there pulsing for as long as possible.

But he bites his tongue. He knows what Cas will say — that it’s fine, it doesn’t matter to him, but that’s not even the point this time. It matters to Dean. He gets so frustrated — why can’t he just fuck his boyfriend on a lazy morning and be happy about it, goddammit? He is happy about it. It felt amazing, and Cas is gorgeous and perfect and his , and that should be enough. Why spoil it with his stupid... beta-ness?

It can’t always be like this, can’t always be about this. Flapping his jaw about it all the time will only make Cas leave faster.

So he buttons it up, tries his hardest to relax. He runs one hand through Cas’s hair and fingers the marks he left on the back of his neck, relishes the way Cas’s eyes slip closed and he pushes into the touch like a spoiled cat. The affection Dean feels is not feigned, and neither is the satisfaction he feels at having marked Cas up, made him all pink and dewy like this. If he can just focus on that, he’ll be fine.

“Nothing,” he says again, with more conviction this time. ”How ‘bout pancakes?” He rolls away and starts to get out of bed, but Cas’s low voice stops him.

“You’re not neither, Dean.”

Dean freezes. “What?”

Cas hasn’t moved, his voice soft in the pillows. “I know you think of yourself that way sometimes. But. It’s not how I think of you.”

With one leg out of the blankets, Dean stares at Cas — his Cas, his lover, warm and satisfied in their bed, looking up at him like he sees right through to the back of Dean’s skull and adores everything he finds there. Dean feels his throat constrict. No one has ever —

“You’re not neither. You’re both. And it’s incredible. With you, I —” Cas stops and shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t know if you even want to hear this.”

“You can’t start something like that and not finish it, dude,” Dean says, pulling himself back into bed. His knees just brush Cas’s thigh and his heart beats slow and hard in his ribcage.

Cas looks at him for a long moment. “I’ve been with alphas. I’ve been with omegas. I’ve never been with anyone like you. Everything in you speaks to everything in me. You’re both, and that lets me be both too. Does that make sense?”

It does, but Dean couldn’t possibly dream up words to follow that. Cas reaches a hand to cup Dean’s cheek, heedless of how Dean can scarcely breathe. “You’re not neither, and you’re not nothing, Dean. You are everything.

Dean lets out a damp breath, leans hard into the hand on his cheek. “How the hell did you know I was thinking about that?” he asks.

Cas laughs a little and tilts his head closer. “Were you?”

Dean nods.

“Just lucky, I guess.”

That makes Dean laugh harder through the rush of feelings in his chest — gratitude and joy and validation all at once. He nuzzles closer so that he and Cas are nose to nose on the pillow. “I dunno about that,” he murmurs. “I think I’m the one who got lucky.”

When Cas grins, from this close distance, it’s impossible not to kiss.

~*~

“Well, he’s right.”

“What, about being both?” Dean asks around a mouthful of shawarma.

“Mmhmm!” Charlie hums as she licks some stray hummus off her thumb. “So you know your quack doctor who told you we have a gland disorder?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s not wrong to say that our endocrine systems function differently, but it’s not a disorder or a malfunction. It’s just different. That’s why they took it out of the DSM-V. And in some cases — like mine, and yours probably — that functionality is sort of a blend of both.”

Dean’s brow furrows. “How does that work?”

“Well you’re looking at it.” Charlie grins and gestures to herself, Vanna White-style.

“No, I mean — if we have both, then, why no mating cycle? Why no — y’know. Tertiary sex characteristics?”

Charlie thinks for a moment. “I’ve known a lot of betas,” she says at last. “And there is really only one thing that we all have in common: we don’t cycle. So whether we have all the hormones or none, they maintain consistent levels. And there’s a few theories on the anatomy, but you know that’s all determined by developmental hormones, right?”

“Sure.”

“One going theory is that they just cancel each other out.”

“Have you ever known a beta with — you know. Actually both?”

“You mean —” Charlie gestures vaguely at her pelvic region, and Dean nods, trying not to blush. “Not to my knowledge. It’s pretty rare, but it can happen. I just don’t usually go around asking about my friends’ nether regions.”

Dean nods his head side to side. “Yeah I guess that’s kind of rude.”

Charlie just gives him a soft little grin. “Human sexuality is a beautiful, weird, widely varied thing,” she says. “And gender is never, ever, as strictly defined as people like to think it is.”

Dean can't think of a response to that, so they both eat for a while in silence while he processes.

“So that’s why we have scents,” he says eventually. “Because it’s all the same basic, y’know. Chemistry.”

“Yeah, exactly! And that’s why if you get marked —” he sees Charlie’s gaze cut down to the proud bite mark just over his clavicle, and Dean shrugs his shirt a little. Not that it will help. “ — Or if you mark someone else, you’re gonna trigger the same bonding process.”

Dean considers that, staring out the window. His previous lovers and partners had been hesitant to bite him, and he’d been hesitant to let them. He’d given Aaron a mark or two during his heats, and Lisa had given him one — exactly one — every time she’d gone into rut. It had felt fine, but nothing special, and he’d assumed it just wasn’t something he was capable of. Just something else that being beta barred him from.

But with Cas — with Cas’s teeth at his throat he feels like he’s flying. It’s dizzying and strange and it makes his teeth ache with the desire to bite right back. Oftentimes, he does. He loves to see his marks on Cas’s skin, but it’s more than just the visual that makes the hurricane swirl in his stomach. And from the way Cas squirms and gasps and laughs low in his belly when he does, the feeling is mutual.

Maybe it didn’t work so well with Aaron or Lisa because… they weren’t Cas. The thought pulls the corner of his lips up into a secret little smile.

“You see?” Charlie continues, watching him closely. “You’re not defective.”

Dean rolls his eyes but can’t stop smiling. “Well, that’s a relief.”

“I’m serious,” Charlie says, and for once Dean believes that she is. Her bubbly smile has faded to something a little bit pensive, a little bit fierce. “I’ve seen too many betas in my life walking around with this impression of themselves, that they’re broken, or wrong, or can’t do this or that or whatever because they’re beta. Honestly? I hate it.”

“So you make it your mission in life to get our heads out of our asses?” Dean asks.

Charlie smiles, nods. “Pretty much exactly that, yeah.”

Dean chuckles and dips a french fry into his ketchup. “Thanks,” he says eventually. “I, uh. I was always real nervous to look into beta stuff before. My dad — my dad never would’ve liked it.”

Charlie cocks her head to the side. “He passed away, right?” she asks in that soft tone people always use, no matter how long ago it happened.

“Yeah. Like, right after the counselors suggested it. We never got a chance to talk about it, like, at all, but he would’ve hated it. Just, me being beta, all of it. So. I guess I — I sorta hated it for him, since he never got the chance.” The words ring true as they come out of his mouth, even though he’d never consciously thought of it that way before. He frowns down at his work-rough hands and is still frowning when one of Charlie’s lays over his fingers, pale and cool.

“For better and for worse, Dean, your dad’s not here,” she says. “He can’t tell you how to live your life. And who knows? Maybe he would have come around. Maybe he would have been upset at first, but people can change. He never got the chance to do that, either.”

Dean smiles at that, the words sinking in like a balm for old wounds. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Chapter Text

Cas’s rut is coming up. Dean doesn’t know exactly when, but soon.

There are signs, of course. He didn’t notice them the first time because he wasn’t intimately familiar with Cas’s skin and scent yet, but now? Now he notices. He notices when Cas’s blood orange resin scent clings to his own skin, heavy and claiming, even fresh from the shower. He notices when Cas’s knot lasts a little longer each time and when he starts to bite a little harder, darker, more fiercely.

With giddy anticipation, Dean prepares.

Dean: Hey

Charlie: I know that Hey. The answer is yes

Dean: You don’t even know what I was about to ask

Charlie: It’s something personal
Charlie: Or else you would have just asked right out
Charlie: Your silence is not making you look any more innocent, champ!

Dean: Okay okay fine. Yeah, it’s kind of a personal request.

Charlie: I already said yes!

Dean: I don’t just want to dive into googling this so I want to know if you had any reliable resources for how to handle a knot in rut.

Charlie: Say no more Deanaroonie!

Charlie practically buries him in helpful links, way more information than he can actually use. He’s pretty sure some of it is just porn. So far he hasn’t had any trouble (any trouble at all) taking Cas’s knot, but rut knots are different. His reading confirms that during rut, Cas will be larger, firmer, and will stay that way for anywhere from several minutes to, in extreme cases, an hour. Dean boggles at that and has to take a few seconds to process the possibility. (Rut knots regularly lasting an hour or longer are encouraged to seek medical attention.) And yes, it will actually be tying , as removal before the knot goes down can be extremely painful and cause tearing. So there’s no getting out of it before Cas’s body is good and ready to let him go.

He tries to pretend that thought doesn’t set his skin to prickling and make him squirm in his seat. Tied with Cas, knotted together while Cas comes and comes and comes inside him. Fuck.

The spirit is absolutely willing. He just needs to make sure the body can handle it.

With some careful mailbox monitoring to make sure Cas doesn’t pick it up first, he rush-orders an inflatable silicone stand-in. Technically it’s a heat aid for omegas, but he figures it’ll serve his purposes. Every morning, after Cas leaves for work, he “practices,” which is really just plugging himself up and jerking off without letting himself come, but he has a purpose, dammit. He wants to be ready.

He wants to be good.

In his mind’s eye, he can’t help but see Cas in rut, as he’d been that morning those few months ago. The first time he’d seen Cas’s eyes glinting, scented his citrusy tang. So much has changed since then. He hopes they’ll wake up together the morning it starts so that he can just spread himself open and take it — he wonders if Cas will be surprised at how well Dean opens for him, his perfect mate.

Never in Dean’s life would he have predicted this fixation he’s developed. He loves Cas’s knot. He wants it in him all the fucking time, as often as possible, and he’s not sure he wants to examine exactly what that says about him. He’s not going to think too hard about something that feels so good.

So he prepares, and it’s not just about the knot. He gets himself accustomed to drawing it out, to getting close to the edge of orgasm without tipping over, to taking the knot in all stages of arousal, so that he doesn’t come too soon or too often, and if he does he can still satisfy Cas when he needs it. (The thought makes his blood run hot and shivery through his veins.) If he’s going to withstand rut with a full-blooded male alpha, he’s going to need to conserve his stamina, and dammit, just thinking about it like that has him hard again already —

It doesn't occur to him until this has been going on for almost two weeks that they should probably talk about it. Cas hasn’t mentioned it. Dean almost brings it up that evening, when Cas’s scent is thick and their touches linger with just a bit more heat. But the words get all jumbled in his throat, and then Cas is going down on him, so it doesn’t seem all that important.

~*~

Cas is handsy in the kitchen that morning and doesn’t seem interested in breakfast. The scent of citrus is thick on Dean’s tongue, bittersweet and dry. He wants to lick it from Cas’s skin, and he doesn’t really see a reason not to.

Cas bows into the swathe of Dean’s tongue over the scent gland under his ear, then he worms away. “I have to get to work,” he pants, like he’s reminding himself. Dean clutches Cas’s shirt in his fingers once, then lets Cas slide out of his hands.

Dean is pretty sure Cas is going into rut, or will be by the end of the day. He can smell it on his skin, can feel the itching warmth under his own, the pull in his gut that says take me, fuck me, I’ll get down on my knees so long as you’re with me. Dean had been half-hard all morning, persistent and hungry in his pelvis, and he keeps catching glimpses of gold behind Cas’s irises.

“You sure?” Dean asks, and his voice comes out breathy.

Cas closes his eyes like he’s praying for strength as he sucks in a deep breath through his open nose. But he lets it out with a nod. And even though he stands at the door for a moment with fists clenched, staring at Dean like he wants to crawl inside his clothes and live there — like he would give anything to not have to walk out this door right now — he leaves.

Dean sighs hugely and rubs one hand over his face and the other up the length of his dick in his shorts. Right. Time for his morning blueballing.

~*~

There’s no text at 8:40 when Dean gets to work. Not that he really expected one; it’s still early.

There’s no text at 9:35 when Dean grabs a donut out of the box that Ash brought in. He snaps a quick picture of himself with a smear of Boston Creme on his lower lip and a saucy raised eyebrow and sends it to Cas.

Cas texts back at 9:41 with a winking kiss and nothing else.

There’s no text at 10:14, 10:37, 10:52, or 11:28, and with every glance at his phone Dean gets a little more restless. There’s an anxious pit in his stomach that he’s been trying to ignore for days — just nerves, it’s natural, it’s fine — but it’s growing exponentially now, past the point of ignorance.

Dean comes back with his sandwich for lunch and finds Rufus by himself near the workbench. He sidles over, trying not to look obvious; he’s been stalling on telling Rufus, or anyone really, that he’s going to have to make use of his heat leave, and this might be the last opportunity he gets. He’s gonna have to peace out quick when Cas texts him.

“Hey Rufus,” he starts, leaning as casually as he can on the cluttered workstation.

“What’s up, Deano,” Rufus says, then takes a second glance. “Something wrong?”

Dean deliberately tries to relax. “Nah, it’s — I just, um. I’m gonna have to take a few days off. Probably starting any minute now.” Maybe that’s the feeling in his gut, the coiling tension. Aren’t mates supposed to be able to feel when their bonded goes into rut? Is that what this is?

Rufus raises an eyebrow and turns to face him fully. “Oh really?” he asks.

Dean nods. “Yeah, really.”

“And does that have anything to do with the fact that you stink like two thirds of a brothel?”

Dean closes his eyes and swallows. Son of a bitch. “Yes, okay? Call it heat leave if you have to, but preferably don’t call it anything. It’s nobody’s business.”

Rufus’s grin is as wide and bright as a Cheshire cat’s. “You sly dog. Sure thing. I —”

Dean gets a whiff of sea salt and vinegar before he hears the cool, nasally voice from behind him. “Hey, boss.” It makes him cringe, but he clears it before he turns.

He knows. He heard. Fuck. The nasty sneer on Alistair’s face speaks volumes. “How can I help you?” Dean asks, as icy as possible in return. Just fuck off, you sleazeball, it’s none of your concern.

Alistair’s sneer just widens into a grin. “The manifold on that Camaro’s giving me the run-around. Thought maybe you might be able to… get under there and take a look.”

It takes all of Dean’s professional will not to haul back and punch him in the face.

Rufus answers for him. “I’ll be right over, Alistair,” he says, half a twinge away from snarling. Alistair just waggles his eyebrows and saunters off.

Dean lets out his breath. As Rufus starts to follow Alistair, he leans closer and murmurs to Dean, “I’ll run damage control. Try not to worry.” And then with a brief pat on the shoulder, he’s gone too.

Leaving Dean with his now-cold sandwich and no better option but to go back to his office to eat it. Or try to, at least.

12:01. No text.

~*~

It’s not even 3:30 when Dean lights out, completely unable to focus. Something’s wrong. He’s ready to shed his own skin and his stomach feels drumbeat-hollow, and he still hasn’t heard from Cas.

He drives home fast. What if Cas was already so far gone he couldn’t even send Dean a text? What if he was back at the apartment, waiting and ready to jump Dean the moment he was in the front door? He has the wild, crazy thought: should he lube up in the car? Oh god, he hadn’t thought of that. What if Cas forgets that he’s not omega and needs lube? What the fuck has he gotten himself into?

The elevator clunks up the shaft with its twitchy, nervous occupant. The moment the door blings open he’s out, and god — Cas has to be home because Dean can smell him in the damn hallway. Dean’s heart bangs and rattles in his ribcage as he approaches their door — locked, he digs out his keys, drops them, scoops them up, opens the door at last and —

Nothing. The apartment is silent and still. It smells like an orange grove in full flush, all gravid fruit and resin; Cas is definitely here and definitely in rut. But where —

Bedroom. Dean goes to the bedroom — no. No Cas.

Dean’s room? No…

Dean stands in the hall, peering out into the living room.

He’s — nowhere.

Two short beeps of a car horn outside snap his head around; he stumbles to a window and peeks down at the street.

Just in time to watch Cas’s mussy bedhead disappear into the back seat of a car with dark-tinted windows and the Greek letter alpha emblazoned on the doors.

He’s gone.

Dean stands and watches as the car drives away, too stunned to move. He waits for time to rewind, for that to have been someone else, not his Cas. But it doesn’t happen. Cas is gone, off to that stupid hotel of his instead of —

The couch is there to catch him when his legs don’t want to hold him anymore.

Instead of being here, at home, with his mate —

Obviously there had been a mistake.

Maybe Dean had made the mistake.

No. Snap out of it, Winchester, stop thinking like that.

Maybe Dean was the mistake.

Dean feels the hitch in his chest and he knows that tears are coming, but he can’t —

He picks up the closest thing he can reach, Cas’s slim spiral notebook off the coffee table, and hurls it at the bookshelf where it knocks down a precarious pile of papers. After that, the TV remote. A coaster. A pillow from the arm of the sofa, and then Dean runs out of things to throw so he kicks the couch a few times instead. Not that it helps, really.

He doesn’t even know where the hotel is, so he can’t —

Wait a second.

With a wild glimmer of hope, Dean searches the coffee table, the kitchen, both their bedrooms. He tears apart the surface layer of their intermingled clutter looking for a note, a scrap of paper, a scribble on an envelope, anything that might be an invitation to follow.

Maybe Cas wanted to do this at the hotel. Maybe he’s supposed to go to him. He will in a heartbeat.

But he finds nothing. Not even a fucking text message.

After searching, Dean just feels drained, and the sallow yellow light of an oncoming storm through the windows isn’t helping. He sags back onto the couch — the couch where they’d first — anyway — and lays down with his head on Cas’s end of the cushions. His nose opens to the aura of orange trees and sandalwood, and so many emotions swirl through him he can't even begin to sort them out. He scrunches his eyes against the tears and rolls over so he can wipe them on the rough upholstery.

So what if he’s being pathetic. He’s entitled.

He still has his phone in hand, so several minutes later when he has the urge to text Cas, it’s right there to help him go through with it.

Dean: Cas?

Dean: Cas what’s going on

Dean: I know you’re in rut, man

Dean: Why didn’t you tell me?

Dean: You bastard. I wanted to do this WIT—

He deletes that one before he has a chance to send it, then starts typing again.

Dean: Dumbass

The light is fading behind the clouds, thunder rolling in and rain starting to pelt the city streets. The windows are open; Dean can’t bring himself to care. Let it soak.

Let it all drown.

~*~

Three days.

Three days he already has off work, and the thought of going back before it’s up is even more humiliating than what he’s already going through. Three days moping in his sweatpants and an ever-fouler T-shirt that becomes ripe with the stink of Dean’s fugue. Three days unable to sleep for the gnawing in his stomach, but unable to remain awake for longer than a couple of hours at a time.

His mate is in rut, and he’s not there.

It’s hell.

He knows it’s all just hormones. Bonding hormones triggered by prolonged scenting and bite-marking. That’s all it is. That’s all love is, is biochemistry. So. It doesn’t mean a damn thing.

But that doesn’t change the churning anxiety, the restlessness. Goddammit, the horniness , even though he feels like about twelve kinds of crap. He makes it halfway through the first night before he has to shove his stupid fake knot up his own ass and finally jerk himself to a hollow conclusion, because his dick won’t shut up otherwise.

It doesn’t really work. When he wakes up in the morning it’s like he hadn’t done anything.

It’s petty and selfish, but — all that work, all that preparation, turning his balls bright blue for the sake of some asshole alpha who apparently doesn’t give two shits about him —

And why would he anyway? Dean’s just a beta. Probably doesn’t even think he’ll be affected like this.

Oh god, what if Cas isn’t affected like this? What if Cas is just having a normal rut like always and doesn’t feel a damn thing for Dean’s absence?

It seems likely enough. Cas hadn’t wanted him there, so. It’s possible this mating thing only goes one way with betas.

That might explain why everybody was always disappointed in him.

Midway through the first full day, Dean forces himself to go out and walk through the pouring, persistent rain to the nearest liquor store. It’s not far. He knows exactly where it is, even though he doesn’t let himself go there very often anymore. He comes home with a fifth of Jim Beam.

The next day he goes out again and buys two.

He doesn’t touch his guitar once.

~*~

Cas: I’m coming home

Cas: Dean? I’m

Cas: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Cas: This was a terrible mistake

Cas: Dean?

Cas: Will you still be there?

~*~

The texts come in while Dean is passed out on the sofa; he reads them blearily as he wipes drool off his cheek. Then he reads them again, brain clunkily turning its gears.

A terrible mistake.

That’s. Going to need some clarification.

But first.

Dean blinks around at the pigsty he’s made of the house. He’s barely eaten so the kitchen is fine, but everything else is in shambles, including himself.

Fine. If he’s going to get dumped, he’s not going to do it in filthy sweatpants and squalour.

The mess of the living room is quick work: detritus shoved in a trash can, the couch straightened, the things he’s thrown around returned to wherever they came from. Dean’s fingers tremble when he handles Cas’s notebook, returning it gently to the coffee table and smoothing out a bent page or two.

The mess of Cas’s bed is more difficult because it’s come-and-lube stains, but he strips off the sheets and tumbles them in the laundry with his sweatpants. He stands naked in front of the in-suite washer debating whether or not washing their things together is too intimate, especially if — but he ultimately decides that he doesn’t have a choice.

His own bed can be dealt with later. He just shuts the door on the ugliness in there.

And then a shower — an extremely thorough shower. He knows he reeks of shame and humiliation, so sour and putrid even he can detect it. He just hopes the air in whole rest of the apartment doesn’t give him away, because there’s not much he can do about that but leave the windows open.

He scrubs the sweat, the come, the grime, and the stink from his skin and hair, prods gingerly at his ass with the washcloth. The soreness is present but tolerable; he doesn’t want to think about how much lube he’s gone through in the past three days, but there were a few times it wasn’t enough. Then he just stands under the scalding water, letting it drum down on his shoulders and pink up his skin. A headache pounds between his eyes and he wonders if he has any whiskey left.

Probably better if he doesn’t.

He stays in the shower too long; by the time he shuts off the steaming water his skin feels like a hot sponge. He slides into a clean, soft T-shirt and jeans, and he does feel marginally better. Not quite more human, but a passable automaton.

He'll survive. He always does.

Barefoot and damp-headed, he flicks on the light in the kitchen, staring around like he doesn’t recognize the place. He's vaguely aware that Cas is going to be starving and he’s got nothing. Even if this is the end of it, he still wants —

And that’s when the door clicks open.

Chapter Text

Dean’s feet freeze to the floor as the door swings open, admitting Castiel. He looks weary to the bone and his scent is stale, unsweetened orange peel. It doesn’t matter. In that first moment, none of it matters; Dean’s just so relieved to see him. He sags at the knees and only manages one stumbling step before he’s in Cas’s arms.

“Dean,” Cas sighs his name like it’s worth the whole world. Dean squeezes tighter, then tighter, and tighter still because he can’t get Cas close enough to him. He feels his spine pop where Cas is gripping him like a lifeline.

“What the fuck , Cas?” Dean murmurs into his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had no idea it would be like this.”

Dean chokes back a sob and skims his hands over Cas’s broad shoulders. He’s shaking, and he knows it, but so is Cas, so it’s okay. He turns his head into Cas’s neck and inhales deep into his belly. God, he’s missed this. It’s only been a few days but it feels like weeks, months, a lifetime. Before he can quite process what a bad idea it is, his lips are pressed to the warm skin of Cas’s neck.

A shudder wracks Cas’s body, from neck to navel, and he presses impossibly closer. Shifts so that the closeness takes on a different tenor, lining up just so, and the blood orange in his scent blooms like a desert flower given rain. Cas turns his nose to Dean’s neck and drinks in deep, nuzzles his scent around, mixing it with Dean’s while his hands rove around the breadth of his back.

“You showered,” Cas rumbles against him, and his voice goes straight to Dean’s groin.

“Yeah, I —” Reality clunks back into place and Dean feels ice water in his gut. “Trust me, it’s for the best.” But he can’t force himself to step back. Not with Cas clinging to him and swaying in like a man possessed, filling up all the dark corners where Dean’s been hiding.

Cas just growls a little and keeps rubbing all over him, face in his neck, hands dipping under his shirt, whole body rolling in one long, sinuous wave down Dean’s —

“You’re still in rut,” Dean says as it clicks.

All the loose, candid motion of Cas’s body tenses still, and he puts a deliberate distance between them, though he can’t seem to force his hands to let go. “I’m sorry,” he says, and through the luminous flash in his irises Dean can see panic, fear. “I thought I was safe. I — I can go, I’ll just —”

He tries to circle around Dean and escape toward the bedrooms; Dean pins him to the counter instead, moving before his brain even catches up. “No,” he says, brokenly. “Please, Cas, I. I can help.”

Cas’s whole body is taut, singing like a harp. “You don’t know —”

“Yes I do, Cas!” Dean stops and forces himself to breathe, nose wide open to Cas’s scent. “Do you — do you want me?” He braces himself. For any answer.

Cas starts to crumble and leans his forehead on Dean’s collarbone. “Yes.”

“Then be with me,” Dean begs into his hair. “Okay? Don’t run away again.”

Cas is breathing like he’s being chased, body restless, white-knuckled on the counter and a whimpering whine at the back of his throat. Dean leans in to snuffle at his neck, edging under the sharp turn of his jaw, and whispers there, “Please, alpha.”

The dam breaks. Cas barrels Dean against the other counter, and his hands are everywhere, Dean’s ass, his hair, gripping his waist, pulling on his shirt so hard Dean hears a seam pop. And finally, finally, Dean is being kissed, knocking teeth and bitten lips and deep, claiming tongue. “Yes,” Cas bites out, guttural and barely a word, and Dean feels his knees go weak under him. If Cas weren’t pinning him to the counter, Dean’s fairly sure he would be on the floor.

“Where?” Dean asks.

“Bed?”

Cas’s sheetless, his own a mess. “Too far,” he says. “Couch?”

Cas rumbles in his throat and shoves Dean roughly toward the end of the kitchen, following close behind. Dean crosses the distance in a few long strides, the looming presence of his alpha at his back intimidating and heady. Before they reach the couch Cas grabs at him and yanks on the back of Dean’s shirt, hard enough to make him stumble.

“Hey, I like this sh—”

“Off,” Cas orders, and Dean does not stop to question, just whips the shirt off over his head.

In an instant Cas is on him again, pinning him over the back of the couch. Dean might be taller than Cas, but Cas has him beat in breadth, and he uses every inch that he has on Dean to surround him in warm strength. Somewhere along the way Cas lost his own shirt too and he’s all sturdy muscle and hot skin down Dean’s back. Teeth latch onto the slope of Dean’s shoulder, hard — almost hard enough to break skin, and Dean doesn’t even think about protesting. Not when Cas’s long arms and broad hands are cradling him like a prize, like a treasure he’s won and intends to cherish. Especially not when Cas’s hips nudge against him and —

“Oh, fuck yeah, Cas,” Dean moans, shoving his hips back into the firm jut of Cas’s cock. Cas responds with his own rough shove forward, and it almost hurts where his hips are pinioned between the hard sofa back and the freight train force of Cas in rut.

Without warning Cas bends down, grabs Dean around the knees, and vaults him over the back of the sofa. Dean lets out a surprised half-shout and lands on the cushions, ungainly but unharmed. He gets himself laying the right way just in time to see Cas clear the sofa back himself, landing with much more grace, crouching over Dean’s legs and prowling toward him, a low, rumbling purr resonating in his chest. Heat floods over Dean watching the barely-checked power of his movements, the flat glow of his eyes; he resembles a jungle cat more than a human, and Dean feels just the first trembling thread of fear in his belly.

Cas blinks, and for one second the panic is back and the gold flash fades to blue. “I’m — I’m sorry,” he stammers. “I’m sorry for this — I — I won’t hurt you, I can’t —”

“Hey,” Dean murmurs, reaching for him. He threads his fingers through the hair at the back of his lover’s skull. “You won’t,” he says. “Okay?”

Cas looks barely contained, at war with himself, but his breathing is coming hard through his nose and he’s shaking with wild fervor. Even so, he nuzzles his head into Dean’s touch, turns to nibble softly at the tender skin of Dean’s wrist. And he keeps nibbling, face all rumpled like he’s about to cry, gentle nips and occasional sucks or light kisses up the skin of Dean’s forearm. Fuck — Dean almost lost him.

Thought he had lost him.

His throat seizes up, but he just pulls Cas down into it, baring the most sensitive skin of his jugular to Cas’s teeth. Cas gives a moaning cry against his pulse, nipping lightly, and then he’s pawing at Dean’s jeans. Soon they are both out of them, nothing but naked skin and scent between them, thick and potent with arousal. It makes Dean feel dizzy, light-headed. Thinking is impossible in the face of his need. He hikes his knees up higher on Cas’s hips, rutting his own slicking cock against Cas’s stomach, begging with his body. He can feel the press of Cas’s cock and the swell of his knot against him, nudging down and under, searching, and he needs it — needs it —

“C’mon, Cas, please,” he growls.

“Lube,” Cas pants against Dean’s neck. “You — you need lube —”

Son of a bitch. Dean flails over the side of the couch until his fingers close around the bottle, still out here from one of his many joyless jerkoffs the past few days. The thought rolls in his stomach, but he pushes it away. Cas is here now . That’s what matters. Has to be what matters.

Cas’s fingers are quick but thorough, stretching, spreading lube. “You’ve been —”

“Yeah, I have —”

Dean —” And then his fingers are gone and he’s pushing Dean’s knees up, arrowing his cock straight down into Dean’s open hole. Dean feels that first thrust like he’s being pierced right through to the center, white hot heat. They both cry out, and it’s only a few thrusts before Dean feels the fever-hot knot swelling at his opening. Cas is beyond words, but he is whimpering little, desperate noises and pushing deeper each time.

“Do it, alpha, fucking knot me —”

With a keening cry, Cas shifts so that he is holding Dean pressed to the sofa with an arm across his chest, other hand pressing Dean’s knee back higher, higher, opening him up — and then —

It’s bigger, yes, and it’s going to swell up even more. “Oh — fuck —” Dean moans as he consciously relaxes and bears down into the stretch. It pops in slick and easy. “Yes yes yes fucking yes , Cas.”

Cas leans up and locks eyes with Dean, running delicate fingers through Dean’s hair. He still looks feral, wide gold eyes and head cocked, nose open and teeth bared, but he bends to brush gentle kisses over Dean’s lips. “Dean,” he whispers. “Dean.”

“You here?” Dean asks, panting.

Cas nods with a heavy blink, and rolls his hips, small and abortive. Dean feels the knot inside him pulsing, shifting, the tip of Cas’s cock pushing deeper. It scratches an itch deep within him, something he’s needed, something he hadn’t been able to reach on his own. A feeling swells huge and unfathomable inside him, and all at once he’s going to cry, or burst out laughing, or maybe both, because this — this is what he has needed for so fucking long. Long before the last few days. It clicks, finally, something clicks.

Cas —

But why wasn’t he here? The feeling lurches off-center and it’s gone, falling into an uncertain pit. Then Cas is moving, pulling on his own swelling knot, and Dean is so full, so full. And Cas just keeps getting bigger —

“Cas, I — I don’t know if I can —”

Then Cas is fucking him in earnest, panting high-pitched huffs against Dean’s neck. He can’t move much with the knot as huge as it is, but every tiny motion is overwhelming, sparking through Dean’s whole body, like Cas is touching the inside of his skin everywhere . Dean can’t speak, can’t think, can scarcely breathe. His own cock is still hard as iron against Cas’s stomach, and he feels like he’s going to come at the slightest provocation.

“I —” Cas gasps, “Dean, I —”

“Yeah — Cas — Me too —”

He’s not going to cry, he’s not going to cry, he’s not going to —

Cas is coming.

Oh fuck, Cas is coming —

For just a second Dean panics as the flesh filling him up turns to a solid weight inside him. If he’d thought he felt full before, ever in his life, it all pales to this. The stretch is obscene, and it burns, and the sudden intensity of sensation spikes in his belly and cock. Without warning he spurts between their bodies, gasping, “Oh fuck, fuck, fuck —”

He breathes through it, through all of it, shaking through the throes of pleasure while Cas releases a high, wordless cry against his throat, muffled where he’s sunk in his teeth. Panting, shaking, gasping curses and nonsense, they come down together. Dean feels like he’s slowly sinking back into his body, all soreness and endorphins, pinned in place by the huge knot.

As his head clears, a different kind of panic comes out from behind the clouds of pleasure, makes itself known in the crazy pounding of his heart, the way his limbs don’t stop shaking. He’s stuck, and Cas may be busy twitching out his orgasm into Dean’s body for now, but he’ll come back to himself soon enough, and when he does, they’re still going to be locked together like this for quite some time. The last three horrible days have left Dean feeling vulnerable and raw, and even with Cas here in his arms, he’s not sure he can handle this.

“Dean?”

Shit. There he is. He sounds lucid now, aware.

“Dean, are you alright?”

Dean trembles under him, around him, fighting the urge to run, because he can’t.

“Your heart’s beating so fast. Are you — What’s wrong? Am I hurting you?” Cas sits up as best he can, and Dean can feel him pulse and tremble with another wave of orgasm at the motion, but then he’s trying to find Dean’s eyes. Dean hides his hot-flushed face under the crook of his elbow.

Cas just strokes his fingers up and down the back of Dean’s arm from his elbow. Doesn’t try to move the arm, just lets him hide, and Dean is grateful. “Tell me,” he murmurs. “Please tell me.”

“You didn’t even ask me.” The words tumble from Dean’s lips, and he shakes harder around Cas’s body, uncontrollably. Cas tenses up, and not with pleasure. “I just wanted you here, I wanted you , and instead you —” Dean presses his arm tighter over his eyes to hide his tears.

“I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think — estrus cycles always seemed to make you uncomfortable.”

“What?” Dean pulls his face out from under his arm for a moment to squint at Cas, incredulous.

“You said you couldn’t be this for me.” Cas’s face is red, and his eyes are back to blue but downcast.

Dean thumps his head back on the cushion. “I didn’t mean —” He tries to breathe through the rush of anger because he knows that’s not going to get them anywhere. “Look. Just because I don’t go into heat doesn’t mean I didn’t want to — to do this with you, okay? And the fact that you just decided this for both of us —” Dean buttons his lips and clenches his fists, squirming under Cas’s body, wishing he could just get away.

Cas buries his face in Dean’s neck again, shuddering a damp breath there. “I’m so sorry. I wish I hadn’t left. I didn’t realize — I didn’t want to force you into anything, Dean. And once you were there with me, there’s no way I would have let you leave.” As if to punctuate the point, Dean feels the knot inside him pulse once more, and he and Cas both jerk at the feeling. “I was trying to be respectful,” he continues once the wave has passed. “And it backfired horribly.”

Dean closes his eyes and tries to calm the panicky rush of his heart. “I get that,” he says at last. “But I don’t need protecting. I can make my own decisions, okay?”

“I know that,” Cas says. “Clearly this was the wrong approach. And I’m sorry.”

“You could have asked me about it,” Dean points out.

“And you could have talked to me, if it was this important to you.”

And, yeah, okay. In retrospect, that probably would have been a good idea. “You're right. I should have. Everyone else I’ve been with just kind of assumed I’d spend it with them, but — well. You’re not them.”

“No,” Cas murmurs and brushes his fingertips over Dean’s sweaty forehead, through his hair.

“I guess we're both a couple of idiots?” Dean tries for a grin and it mostly works. Cas exhales roughly against his neck, and Dean's not sure if it's a laugh or another wave of pleasure.

After a long, quiet moment, Cas whispers, low and secret, “I’ve never shared my rut with anyone before.”

That startles Dean into trying to catch Cas’s eye. “Seriously?”

Cas shakes his head; all Dean can see is one pink-flushed cheek.

“Not Meg? Or Balthazar, or… anybody?”

Cas shakes his head and whimpers as he tugs Dean closer again, nudging his still-swollen knot around inside Dean in a starburst of sensation. “You’re the first person I’ve bonded with like this. I didn’t really think it was possible. Didn’t think it was —” he cuts off with a shuddery breath.

“Real?” Dean supplies.

Cas nods. “Exactly.”

Dean clutches Cas closer, harder, as hard as he can, tries to wrap himself around the slow-motion explosion of feeling in his chest.

“I thought I’d lost you,” he whispers. “I didn’t know if, when you got back, if you’d — I thought maybe you didn’t want —” It hurts too much to finish the sentence.

Cas opens his mouth and bites down gently at Dean’s neck, just a scrape of teeth. “I would never do that to you, Dean. Not like that.” The fierceness with which he holds Dean close betrays the depth of emotion. “You are so very special to me.”

A tear pricks Dean’s eye, and he’s glad Cas is hidden in his neck and can’t see it. “I didn’t know what else to think. All I knew was — I thought, anyway — that you didn’t want me with you.”

“I did. I didn’t know how much I would want you there until it was too late.”

“So. Never doing that again, right?” He tries for a laugh, but it’s weak and watery. Cas just shakes his head and wraps his arms even tighter around Dean.

For a long time they just lay skin to skin and breathe, noses tucked into each other's scentspots, nuzzling and nudging their scents back together. Cas shudders with occasional waves of residual pleasure; Dean’s come between them dries tacky and itchy on their skin, but Dean can’t bring himself to even reach for a shirt. With every breath in, Cas’s scent is changing, the ripe citrus of his rut cooling, calming, but this time, instead of going sour, it blends with the softness of Dean’s beeswax and wheat and just…. calms. The quiet, satisfied scent of mates.

“Uh, Cas?” Dean says eventually.

Cas answers with a hum.

“We forgot a condom.”

Dean feels his eyelashes flutter open against his neck. “Shit.”

Dean laughs. “Well, uh. I’m clean. I checked.”

Cas nods. “We’ll both get tested again, obviously. If only for peace of mind.”

“And it’s not like you’ll get me pregnant.”

Cas laughs, vibrating into Dean’s chest. Then he sits up, consternation on his face, and he pulls against his knot. It feels softer, smaller; with a slide it pops free, leaving Dean feeling empty and very, very wet.

“Aww dude, that’s gross,” he laughs.

Cas laughs too, the sunlight bright in his eyes. “I know you just showered, but —”

“Absolutely. Wanna order pizza after?”

“God, yes.”

“Perfect.”

“Yes,” Cas murmurs, suddenly very close again and looking Dean straight in the eye. “You are.”

Chapter Text

Dean: Hey Rufus. I’m gonna need another day off

Rufus: Sure. Do what you gotta do.

Dean: Thanks

Rufus: Just FYI, the peanut gallery has some colorful commentary for you when you get back
Rufus: You want me to bloody his nose for you?
Rufus: Hope you’re having fun, kiddo

~*~

The tail end of Cas’s rut rides out smooth and sultry. It’s mostly over, but they spend the next day in bed anyway, making up for lost time, luxuriating in each other’s skin and scents and touch. They talk about anything, everything, and nothing. They prop up Cas’s laptop at the foot of the bed and snuggle up to watch whatever looks good on Netflix until they get distracted. Dean’s glad he laid in those supplies of easy snacks, because neither of them feels like cooking. And the extra lube because… well.

“Are you sure you’re not too sore?” Cas asks, scraping his teeth over the back of Dean’s neck while his cock rubs up and down between Dean’s ass cheeks. He’s still slick from last time.

“Nah,” Dean says, lifting his hips into Cas’s rolling thrusts. “I might not be able to walk much tomorrow, but —” he cuts off with a gasp.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Dean,” Cas says, wrapping his arms around Dean’s waist. “Not ever.”

Dean huffs into the pillows and pushes his hips back hard. “I want it, though. I want to feel you as long as possible.”

With a high, soft whine, Cas bites down harder on the slope of Dean’s shoulder. His teeth find the mark he’s been worrying there since the previous night — the darkest of several collaring Dean’s neck and throat — and then angles his cock so that he slides smoothly into Dean’s loose, messy hole. It’s filthy and it’s ridiculously hot and Dean’s recently-spent cock gives a valiant twitch in response to the heat sizzling under his skin.

Yeah, he’s not worried at all about the next time Cas goes into rut.

The sky is rosy with sunset by the time they drag themselves out of bed, scrub each other down in the shower, and haul themselves into some clothes. “Why bother?” Cas asks, buttoning his softest jeans. Dean steps close and slides his hands down the back of them.

“Because I love these jeans,” he murmurs into Cas’s ear. “And so I have something to take off you later.”

Cas’s low purr rumbles in his chest, right up against Dean’s, and they’re about four seconds from the clothes coming right back off when a different kind of rumbling echoes from Cas’s stomach. Dean bursts into laughter.

“Alright, alright, message received.” He retrieves his hands from Cas’s jeans and they wander out into the living room.

It’s leftover pizza and Star Trek for dinner, but once they’ve eaten, Cas catches Dean eyeing his guitar. At the end of the episode, Cas flicks off the TV; Dean grins and scoops up his neglected instrument.

She’s grossly out of tune, so he hums and fiddles with the pegs while Cas doodles and scratches words on the paper. Dean picks out some scales and chords, just messing around, warming up. When his fingers fall into the familiar patterns of Summer of 69 , Cas sends him a soft smile. Dean smiles back, and that’s when another song pops to his hand.

He starts out just strumming the chords, and he can tell when Cas recognizes it when his pen stops abruptly on the paper. He looks up and Dean catches his eyes, and on the next round they both draw breath to sing.

Hey Jude
Don’t make it bad
Take this sad song
And make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start
To make it better

Dean’s voice chokes. He lets Cas take the next verse, focusing on the chords and trying to keep his watering eyes under control. One drop falls on his own hand, and Cas’s voice falters, just barely.

And any time you feel the pain
Hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world
Upon your shoulder
Well you know that it’s a fool
Who plays it cool
By making his world
A little colder

Cas skips the nah-nah-nahs, and Dean fumbles a cord. His fingers feel a little jittery on the strings, so he curls them into fists and drops them to his lap, hunching around the body of his guitar, pressing the wood against the ache in his chest.

He feels more than sees when Cas slides closer. He also feels Cas’s fingers under his tear-damp chin, cupping his jaw and bringing his face up. When he meets Cas’s eyes, he finds a look of such open empathy and care that he can’t help but laugh a little, embarrassed to be seen so clearly.

“It’s, um.” He swallows hard. “My mom used to sing me that. Before she —”

He doesn’t have to finish that sentence either. Cas knows, and he drops their foreheads together so that they breathe the same air.

“You’ve lost so many, haven’t you?” Cas murmurs, and Dean can feel the little whisper.

Dean nods, the tip of his nose brushing Cas’s.

“I’m glad we found each other.”

The promise in those words goes unspoken.

~*~

“Are you sure we have to go back to work?” Dean asks, watching Cas make coffee while the toaster toasts.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re out of excuses,” Cas says, leaning against the counter. “Four days is already extravagant for a rut leave.”

Dean tries not to pout. It’s weird seeing him all buttoned up in his suit again after yesterday’s bare skin marathon. It almost feels dream-like, but Dean’s body won’t let him forget that it happened. Every part of him feels stretched, sore, well-worked, and warm. Some parts more than others. He shifts his hips just enough to feel the twinge, the delicious reminders of everything they had done together.

And this was just the tail end, not even full rut.

Dean can’t wait.

“Are you sore?” Cas asks.

Dean looks up and finds Cas standing a little closer than he was before. Dean takes a quick breath of their scent and shrugs. “Yeah, but in a good way,” he says with a grin.

Cas gives him a little smile, his eyes dropping to Dean’s collar. “You should probably cover that, though,” he says.

“Hell no,” Dean protests at once. “Come on, people aren’t idiots. They know what goes on on rut leave.”

Cas still looks skeptical, but he reaches out to press his fingers to the darkening teeth marks and purple bruises. A smile touches the corner of his lips. “I do like seeing them on you,” he admits.

Dean grins. “And I like wearing them.”

~*~

For all his big talk, Dean does check his reflection in the Impala’s mirror and tug the collar of his shirt up a little before he goes into the shop. It’s probably his imagination that everyone turns to look at him as he strides to his office; either way, he keeps his eyes on the concrete floor.

He hasn’t even settled himself behind the desk before Rufus sidles into the room. “Hey, boss.”

Dean greets him with a grin that is not returned. “Hey, Rufus.”

Rufus hovers near the door, brow heavy with the weight of bad news. “You ready to face the music?” he asks.

A pit opens up in Dean’s stomach. “What music?”

Rufus snorts. “I did warn you. You’re gonna have a peanut gallery at that big meeting of yours, which I’m sure you remembered and spent your whole vacation planning for.” Now he does smile, his sarcasm laced around a grin and a twinkling eye. Dean groans.

Right. The audit prep meeting. He had definitely forgotten all about that. “To be fair, I was a little busy,” he says, eyes on his paper-buried desk. He wonders if he’s blushing. He feels like he might be blushing. The hickies on his collar give a little sting.

“Well. No pressure,” Rufus says. “I just hope your man’s worth it.”

He’s gone before Dean can figure out what he means by that.

~*~

There are not actually very many people working in the shop. A few are left from Bobby’s original crew — Rufus, Alistair, Jody — plus several that Dean has hired on — Ash, Garth, Jo, Cole, a few others. But when they all cluster around and wait for him to speak, it feels like a lot of eyes on him. Dean has to clear his throat a couple times.

Alistair and Cole are in the back, sending curl-lipped smirks in Dean’s direction, shaking their heads at each other. Dean tries to just ignore them.

“Alright, everyone,” he says, deliberately deepening his voice, trying to carry it further. “It’s audit season, which means we’re gonna hafta be on our toes. As you might remember, we passed the AIB audit with zero non-compliance.” This gets a smattering of polite applause and a single “woo!” from Jo. Notably, nothing from Alistair or Cole; Dean smiles his thanks at Jo. “Doesn’t mean we can let her idle, though —” a couple of snickers from those who appreciate car puns. “— We got that score because we worked our butts off. Now —”

Dean cuts off when Alistair and Cole burst into audible laughter. Cole doubles over and Alistair claps his hands a couple of times in sinister mirth. Dean feels his jaw clench; he’s on the verge of calling them out when a short hiss brings his attention to Rufus, who mouths ‘later.’ So Dean shuts his mouth, glares daggers at the two clowns in the back, and continues with his spiel.

It’s not until Cole shamelessly turns his back on Dean and Alistair starts saying something to him almost full voice — Dean can’t be certain, but he thinks he catches the words “daddy’s bitch” — that his temper snaps.

“Hey!” he barks. All heads turn toward Alistair and Cole, who present identical faces of innocence. Dean puffs out his chest and spreads his hands. “You guys wanna share something with the class?”

Alistair raises a demurring hand. “Not at all, skipper,” he says. “By all means, continue, I’m positively enchanted.”

As soon as all heads are turning slowly back toward Dean, Alistair runs the tip of his tongue lewdly over his top lip, just for Dean to see. Dean fumes and rushes through the end of his notes, then dismisses his team to the floor.

With a hand swiping over his face, he tries to find a moment of calm. He shouldn’t let Alistair get to him. He’s just an asshole alpha, set in his ways, a knothead past his prime. There’s no changing those dicks; they’re just surly that they aren’t automatically the top dogs anymore.

A hand on his shoulder makes Dean jump, but it’s just Jo. She’s smiling at him, but her eyebrows are high. “Nice pep talk, Deano,” she grins, then leans a little closer. “Are you seriously gonna let them talk to you like that, though?”

Dean pulls his game face firmly into place. “Like what?”

“Like — you know. All disrespectful like that.”

Dean shrugs, eyes cutting over to where Cole and Alistair are loitering near a Ford with no front bumper. “Not much I can do about it,” he says. “Insubordination is annoying, but it’s not a crime.”

“Yeah, but you could fire them.”

Dean shrugs. “What good would that do? They’ll just go be assholes somewhere else, and I’d be out two skilled hands. It’s fine.”

Jo looks like she wants to say more, but instead she drops her gaze to the bite marks peeking out of Dean’s collar. “Those are real pretty,” she says, sparkles in her eyes.

Dean doesn’t try to hide his blushing grin this time. “You big softie,” he says, hauling her into a sideways half-hug, half-headlock.

“What can I say? I’m an old fashioned romantic,” she says with a wink as she gives him a squeeze before squirming out from under his arm.

“Yeah, real pretty,” comes a slimey voice from behind. Dean feels his hackles rise. “I was just saying that to my associate. We were wondering if that necklace originally came with pearls?”

Dean whirls around to find Alistair’s smug, smirking face entirely too close to his own. “Step off,” he says, low and dangerous.

“Or what?” Alistair asks. “You’ll kick my ass? I bet not. Not with the state your ass is in today.”

Dean strides past him, determined not to acknowledge another word he says. No matter that his heart is pounding in his ears. No matter that he can feel a fine tremor in his hands from outrage. How dare this guy talk to him like that? How dare —

“I’m surprised you can even walk,” Alistair taunts from two steps behind him, following at a casual pace. “This guy of yours must not be much of an alpha. Not that that’s a surprise. If he’s settling for a beta, clearly he couldn’t get himself a real omega.”

Dean wrenches open his office door, hoping to escape into what little privacy the fishbowl-windowed office provides him. No such luck. Alistair grabs the door as it swings; Dean slams it closed out of his grip.  “Alistair. I am warning you.”

“Ohhhh, that’s cute. A warning. And what exactly are you warning me about? You gonna start crying like a bitch—”

Before Dean can even process what’s happening, a small blonde tornado whirls in, fist first into Alistair’s jaw. Dean sees his head snap around and hears Jo’s shriek. “Don’t you fucking dare!” is all she gets out before Rufus has her by the arms, pulling her back from the scene.

Alistair touches a finger to his lip. It’s not really bleeding, but it’s probably going to bruise. “You snot-assed little cunt,” Alistair growls. And as he makes one abortive move toward Jo, Dean sees red.

Alistair’s throat is in his grip before he quite knows what he’s doing, and Dean lifts just enough to keep the asshole where he wants him. With his other hand squeezing white-knuckled around Alistair’s bicep, he drags him toward the bay doors of the shop and throws him out onto the street. “Alistair — you’re done ! Get out of here and do not even think about coming back!”

Alistair stumbles, keeps his feet — barely — and he takes two charging steps back toward Dean, halting when they are almost chest to chest. “You bitches stick up for each other, huh?”

Dean scowls and sticks a firm finger in his face. “I don’t want to hear it. If I see you here again, I will call the cops.”

Alistair sneers. “Good luck with that. She hit me first.”

“And you know damn well you provoked it, and I got a whole team full of witnesses. Do I need to call them now?”

Finally, Alistair storms off. Shaking with the surge of adrenaline, Dean turns back to the open garage door.

A round of applause greets him from inside the shop. Rufus is grinning and saying something that looks like “about damn time,” and Jo is jumping up and down with her bruise-knuckled fist in the air. Cole stands off to the side, looking uncertain and sullen.

Dean grins at the ground and waves them all off. “Alright, alright, clearly that was good for morale. Get back to work,” he says, and most everyone scatters. “You three,” Dean says, pointing to Jo, Rufus, and Cole. “Cole — you just pick your friends better next time, alright? Rufus — you can handle Alistair’s old customers, right?”

Rufus snorts. “More’n half of ‘em were mine anyway, they just didn’t know it.”

Dean nods. “And Jo —”

Jo holds up her hands. “I know, I know. Punching people is bad.” She gives him a sly wink. “Worth it, though, right?”

Dean can’t help his grin. “Yeah, yeah. You don’t get off easy, though. I’m gonna have to suspend you. One week. With pay.”

Jo blinks at him. “So… you’re sending me on vacation?”

Dean grins a little wider.

As his employees scatter back to their respective tasks, buzzing with chatter, Dean catches sight of a familiar dark-haired head at the back of the shop, and his stomach does a funny little jump. Blue eyes lock on his, and Cas gives him a small, private smile.

Dean picks his way back to where Cas is standing, trying to calm his nerves. Why is he nervous? There’s nothing to be nervous about. Is there? Shit, maybe there is.

Before he can get farther down his anxiety spiral than that, he’s right in front of Cas, and a deep breath of woodsy cedar calms him down. “What are you doing here?” he asks

Cas holds up a heavy, white plastic bag bearing the logo for their favorite Mexican place. “I was going to surprise you with lunch,” Cas says.

“Well, I’m surprised,” Dean says, moving close to nudge their noses together.

“So am I,” Cas admits, stealing a quick kiss.

They take their burritos out back to a small smoking-and-lunch area. It’s just a plastic table with one scrubby hedge standing between them and the parking lot and busy street beyond, but there’s a patch of grass and a tree for shade. It could be worse. “That was Alistair, I presume?” Cas asks as he dribbles salsa on his burrito.

Dean nods, his mouth already full. “Yeah, he’s been a real pain in the ass lately. Guess that won’t be a problem anymore.”

Cas nods. “Are you alright?”

Dean looks down at his hands, which are still shaking with leftover adrenaline. “Yeah. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have canned him just ‘cos he pissed me off. Good bosses don’t do that, right?”

He’s startled by Cas’s fist thumping on the plastic table. “Dean — no. You did the right thing. Alphas like him can’t be allowed to get away with that kind of behavior. They give all of us a bad name.” Cas drops his eyes from Dean’s and scowls at his burrito. “Besides, he threatened one of your own.”

Dean picks at the foil wrapper on his burrito, damp with condensation. “Honestly, I should never have put up with his bullshit,” he says eventually. “I didn’t think it mattered because he was only ever a dick to me. But seeing him start to go after Jo, I —” he cuts off, ready to spit fire again and not wanting to go back down that road.

Cas reaches out to touch Dean’s wrist with warm fingers. “I’m sorry he treated you that way. I’m even more sorry you felt like you ever had to just put up with it. Like it didn’t matter.”

Dean swallows hard and shrugs.

“You do matter,” Cas says, looking down at his own hand on Dean’s wrist. “I hope you remember that.” When Dean doesn’t come up with a response to that, Cas’s empathetic expression shifts to something more roguish. “Besides all that, righteous anger is a good look for you.”

Dean laughs and flicks a piece of tomato at his face.

 

Chapter Text

Oddly Shaped Empty

 

“Winchester and Moore.”

“Is that how you answer the phone these days? Sheesh, when did you get to be such a dweeb?”

Dean?

“Oh right, nevermind, you were always a dweeb.”

“Dean! Holy shit! It’s good to hear from you, man, how’ve you been?”

“Been okay. Been… really, really good, actually.”

“Yeah? That doesn’t sound suspicious at all.”

“Yeah, uh. So. How’s Jess?”

“Jess is good. We’re both good. She’s about to graduate from the culinary institute.”

“No way! That’s awesome!”

“Yeah! But something tells me you didn’t call to talk about Jess.”

“What, you rather talk about yourself, Sammy boy? Big ol’ partner now or somethin’?”

“Dean.”

“... Yeah, yeah alright. Um. So. I’m, uh. I’m seeing someone.”

“I never could have guessed.”

“Well if you’re so smart, I guess I don’t need to tell you anyth—”

“Dean, wait, I’m sorry — please, continue.”

“.... His name’s Cas.”

“Cas. Good name.”

“And he’s an alpha.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So?”

“So — so what?”

“Exactly.”

“You — you’re cool with it?”

“Dean, you might still be stuck in backwater nowhere, but seriously — yes, I’m cool with it.”

“Oh. Good. Cool.”

“I mean. It’s not like you’re really one or the other yourself, right?”

“... Right.”

“So it could have gone either way?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“..... Are you okay with it?”

“Yeah, oh, God, yeah. Cas is great.”

“I’d love to meet him sometime.”

“Yeah, well, if you came home once in a while —”

“Don’t start that, Dean. You could come out here too, y’know.”

“Look, I really didn’t call so we could guilt trip each other. I just wanted to let you know.”

“Thanks, Dean. I’m glad you did.”

“Yeah.”

“And if he makes you happy, that’s all that matters.”

“Yeah. He really does.”

“Alright, don’t go getting too mushy on me. You’re still my big brother.”

“Yeah, and I can still kick your ass any day of the week.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“Which one of us talks for a living, huh, brainiac? And which one of us works with heavy machinery?”

“Can’t fool me, Dean, I know you’ve got a desk these days!”

“Hey, just because I have a desk doesn’t mean I use it!”

“Yeah, that’s because you can’t find it under all the papers and crap!”

“You watch your mouth or I really will come to Cali and kick your ass.”

“Promises, promises.”

~*~

When Dean hangs up the phone, Cas is there almost immediately. He’d been listening in, of course, and not even trying to be subtle about it. “That sounded relatively painless,” he says.

Dean smiles down at the phone still in his hand. “Yeah, I dunno what I was so worried about.”

“He’s your brother,” Cas says, leaning his hip against the kitchen counter. “Of course his opinion matters to you.”

Dean sets his phone on the counter and stretches. “I should really go visit one of these days. I haven’t seen him and Jess since the wedding.”

“I’d like to meet them,” Cas says, his eyes on the counter like it doesn’t matter. Dean stops mid-stretch.

“Seriously? You’d come with me?”

Cas shrugs, again, as if it were nothing. “Of course I would. If you wanted me to.”

“Hell yes I want you to come,” Dean says with a glowing grin and a quick kiss to Cas’s lips. After that they’re both smiling. “We could take the scenic route. Maybe swing through Yosemite. Grand Canyon. The Sierra Nevadas.”

“Is defiling the back seat of your car on the table?” Cas asks, his voice somehow both sultry and playful at once. Dean flushes hot.

“Dude,” he laughs. “You’re a little late for that; she lost her innocence a long time ago.” He edges forward to slide his hand around the curve of Cas’s lower back, just because he can. “But I’d love to get you naked in my backseat. How have we not done that yet?”

Cas leans into the touch and his head lolls back on his neck. “Too much city life,” he sighs.

“Yeah, it’ll be good to get out. I miss the back roads.” Cas’s hair smells especially sandalwoody today, the sweet-earth spice making Dean lose his train of thought. He nuzzles deeper.

“I do too.”

“Let’s do this,” Dean pulls back a little to say, meeting Cas’s gaze close and cross-eyed. “Let’s make it happen.”

Cas nods. “Yes. After my next rut. I don’t think I can get time off work until then.”

Dean relishes the rush of anticipation, giddy and bright under his belly. “Can’t wait,” he says, and with a final peck to Cas’s lips, he pushes away. “I’m gonna call Benny, see if he wants to get dinner. You wanna come? He’s been dying to meet you too.”

Cas grins and blushes down at the floor. “Definitely.”

~*~

Dean’s halfway through assembling a lasagna when Cas gets home, a small whirlwind of fury. The door slams open and Cas doesn’t bother to close it; his shoes hit the wall with an alarming pair of thuds; by the time he’s struggling out of his jacket, Dean is watching closely, frozen with a long, wide noodle flopping from his fingers.

“You okay?” he asks.

“No, I am not fucking okay,” Cas snarls, yanking at his tie and getting tangled up in his own shirtsleeves.

“Micheal or Raph?” Dean asks, setting down his noodles and rinsing the starch from his fingers.

“Both of them, and Naomi to top it off. I swear, she thinks I’m some sort of pity case.”

“Shit.”

Cas has freed himself from his front buttons and is trying, without success, to yank his sleeves off over his arms. “I hate — this stupid — monkey suit, and I — hate — this stupid — company — and everything they stand for — and I hate — my fucking — brother —”

“Woah, hey,” Dean approaches with a gentle shushing sound, pulling Cas’s tie all the way off from where it’s dangling around his neck, wrinkled and stretched. Cas goes limp under his assistance, though his face is still pinched and red with fury. “Come on, let’s get you out of this,” he murmurs, picking up Cas’s hands so he can properly unbutton the cuffs and push it off. Once he’s got Cas down to his skivvies, he parks him on the couch and fetches his favorite pajama pants — linen, now, since it’s too hot for flannel. Cas gives him a small smile that still looks sulky and wriggles into the pajamas.

“Thank you,” he mutters. Dean flops down on the couch next to him, arms open but not demanding; he’s gratified when Cas tucks himself in under his arm, head pillowed on his shoulder, breathing deeply.

“Thank you,” he says again, and this time it’s less surly and more heartfelt, as their shared home scent surrounds them both with the comfort of sunny herbal woodlands. Dean presses a kiss to Cas’s hair and rubs gently at his shoulder.

“Wanna talk about it?” he asks.

Cas just sighs. “There’s nothing new to talk about. It’s all the same issue, over and over again. It's never better; some days are just worse than others.”

“Ain’t that comforting. Same shit, different day?”

Cas scoffs. After a long moment of quiet, a question formulates in Dean’s brain and pops out his mouth.

“Hey, um. Can I ask you something? It’s only loosely related.”

“Sure.”

“What did you study when you were going to school?”

“I didn’t get very far.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Dean shrugs. “What did you study while you were there?”

“Counseling and mediation. I was considering environmental law but ultimately decided I didn’t have the discipline. I’d rather work with people than bureaucracy.”

Dean stays quiet, rubbing Cas’s shoulder and debating with himself.

Eventually Cas sighs. “Just say it.”

“Say what?”

“Whatever it is you’re thinking.”

“What do you think I’m thinking?”

“This is reverse psychology, isn’t it?” Cas sighs, but answers anyway. “That I should quit and go back to school.” Cas sounds resigned.

“Is that what you want?”

Cas drops his forehead lower on Dean’s chest. “I don’t know. I don’t want to work for my parents for the rest of my life, that’s for certain.”

“Well, then —” Dean shrugs. “Why not?”

Cas sucks in a breath, holds it. “It’s risky,” he says.

“Yeah, so? Most of the good things in life are risky.”

Cas stays quiet for a minute. “It’s worth thinking about,” he finally admits.

“Hell yeah it is. And who knows, maybe — maybe you’d get along better with your family if you weren’t working for them?”

Cas gives an indelicate snort. “I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. I’m still the black sheep, remember?”

Dean shrugs. “Either way, I hate seeing you all pissed about it all the time.”

Cas rolls his head so he can look up at Dean, still frowning, but less angry and more pensive. “I don’t feel like me when I’m there,” he says. “I feel like some… automaton. I say the right words and I smile at the right people and I do what they want me to do, but inside I’m just constantly screaming.”

Dean squeezes him tight. “I know, sweetheart.” He kisses Cas’s forehead. “We’ll get you outta there.”

Finally, Cas relaxes and nudges under Dean’s chin.

After a long while, he asks, “Weren’t you making lasagna?”

Dean shrugs under his head. “It can wait.”

“No, it can’t. I’m ravenous.”

Dean laughs and kisses his forehead before getting up to finish dinner.

~*~

It’s a cloudy Tuesday when they pull up to the Outward Bound Community Center. Dean eyes the building out the Impala’s window, half curious, half skeptical, entirely aware of Cas’s eyes on him.

“Are you nervous again?”

Dean sends him a brief glare. “No. Come on.”

They wander into a large, echoing lobby of a building that may have been, at one point, either a church or a school or both. Along the far wall is a huge mosaic of colorful stripes and Greek letters. The arrangement of colors looks random, but on closer inspection they form concise rectangles that twig something in Dean’s memory, but the patterns aren’t registering much.

Finally, Dean recognizes a sequence of colors, and taps Cas’s shoulder. “Isn’t that the bi-sec pride flag?” he asks, pointing to a series of blue, purple, and pink stripes.

Cas smiles at him, small and bright, and nods.

“Are these all pride flags?” he asks. There are a bewildering number of different combinations, a staggering display of diversity. “I didn’t know there were so many.”

Cas nods. “Up there is the trans flag — with variations for trans alpha and trans omega.” He points down at one corner. “That one’s the OLO flag.”

“Olo?”

“Omega loving omegas.”

Dean holds his breath for half a second before leaning to kiss Cas on the cheekbone. Cas stares fondly at the flag in shades of pink with two intertwined greek omega letters; Dean watches Cas, looking for signs of bad memories. He finds none. Just a quiet smile of remembrance. Dean lets him have his moment, scanning over the flags and wondering —

Finally his gaze catches a bright turquoise, yellow, lavender, and white banner with a Greek letter beta proudly in the middle. “Is that —?” he asks.

Cas grins at him. “Yes. That’s the beta flag.”

Beta flag

Dean stares at the flag for a long moment, blinking and trying to process what he’s feeling. He’d always sort of thought pride flags were a little goofy. Why would you need a flag? Why does everyone have to have their own specific flag? But he keeps staring at the simple triangles and bold lettering, and it stirs something in him. It feels like… belonging. Recognition. Not that he recognizes the flag, but that the flag somehow recognizes him. It’s his. He has a flag.

And if he has a flag, he might have a people. Maybe he doesn't have to be alone. This whole journey he’s been on, he might have had company.

Cas’s fingers intertwining with his bring him out of his reverie. “I think it’s this way,” he says, pointing down a hall.

There are not many people around — the hallways are basically empty — but one room is full of voices, the door standing wide open. Charlie catches sight of them the moment they peek through the door, and she launches off her perch on the arm of a sofa.

“I'm so glad you came!" She says, enveloping Dean in a quick hug before pulling him into the room, Cas trailing behind. The whole room, moderately full of people, have already halted their conversations to watch with friendly curiosity. Dean raises one hand shyly and clings harder to Cas’s with the other. “Everyone! This is Dean,” Charlie presents proudly. “And his boyfriend, Cas.”

“Hi,” Dean says.

“And Dean, this is everyone. Don’t worry, they don’t bite.”

A few of the assembled raise their hands to wave or just mutter a pleasant greeting. There aren’t a ton of people, but enough that there are a few distinct groups: a cluster on the couch around a video game, a few seated at a table setting up some kind of board game. Dean sees Dorothy by the window having a grinning conversation in sign-language with a dark-haired woman. They pause to wave hi, and Dorothy gives him a not-so-subtle wink.

Charlie gives Dean a gentle nudge on the shoulder and says, “It’s my turn in the Smash Bros tournament, but I’ll be back, I promise!” Then she bounces away toward the couch, and Dean is left a little at loose ends.

Thankfully, one of the women setting up the board game waves him over. She’s a little older than him, he thinks, dressed in earth tones with dark hair cut short and a friendly smile. Dean doesn’t get any scent off her, so she must be beta too. “You ever played Settlers of Catan?” she asks.

“Can’t say I have,” Dean says with a shake of his head. “But I’m willing to try.”

“Great!” says a cheerful, wide-grinning blonde on the other side of the table. “You two can be on a team if you want?”

Dean shoots Cas a look; Cas shrugs and nods. “Alright, we’re in.”

“I’m Donna,” the blonde says as she reaches across the table to shake their hands.

“Jody,” says the dark-haired woman who’d first invited them over.

“And I’m Linda Tran,” says the other woman to Dean’s right.

As Dean shakes her hand, his nose registers hints of sweet ginger, fig, and green tea. His confusion must show on his face because Linda grins knowingly. “My son Kevin is over there on the couch,” she says. “Getting his ass handed to him at Smash Brothers, it looks like.”

Dean glances over at the kid groaning in frustration and flailing his controller, sandwiched between Charlie — who looks triumphant — and a quiet young man in a beige jacket.

“He’s beta?” Dean asks, then flushes. “Sorry, I — guess that’s kinda personal?”

The trio chuckle; Donna and Jody share a fond look, and Dean’s not sure if he’s being patronized or not. “You’re fine,” Linda says with a hand on Dean’s wrist. “Yes, Kevin is beta. I’m sure he would rather I just dropped him off, but —”

“But once she started coming here we wouldn’t let her leave,” Donna says with a teasing wink. Linda just bats her hand, at once fond and exasperated.

“Anyway,” she continues. “I’m here to support him.”

Dean blinks at her, shifts in his chair. “That’s real nice of you,” he says.

They deal cards, explain the rules. It doesn’t make a lot of sense at first, but after a couple rounds they are moving quickly and snickering like twelve year olds at “wood for sheep” jokes. Dean and Cas attempt to communicate about resource allocation without giving away their plans to their opponents, which leads to some surely-entertaining eyebrow acrobatics.

Dean looks up from one particularly energetic exchange to find Jody and Donna giggling at him from behind their hands and Linda giving them a bright, toothy grin.

Dean smooths his face out and sits up straight from where he’s been bent toward Cas. “What?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Linda says, waving a hand.

“So, Cas, Dean,” Jody says, riffling her cards. “How long have you two been together?”

Dean shares a quizzical look with Cas, uncertain all of a sudden. Cas, thankfully, has an answer more ready. “Our first date was five months ago.” It doesn’t seem long enough — he can scarcely imagine a time when Cas wasn’t in his life — but when he thinks about it, yeah, that’s true.

Donna’s eyes bug out, but Jody makes a triumphant punch with both fists. “Yes! I knew it! Pay up.” Donna rolls her eyes, purse-mouthed, and hands over a brick card.

Cas squints. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s cheating.”

Dean just looks back and forth between them. “What just happened?”

Donna rolls her eyes. “Yeah yeah, we were taking bets on how long you two have been, y’know. Jody’s got the best nose this side of the Mississippi, and she can always tell that kinda thing.” Donna sighs. “I should know better by now not to think I can do better than her. I coulda sworn you’d been at it at least a year.”

Dean flushes dark, then looks twice. “Seriously? Best nose? I thought you were —”

“I am,” Jody says. “People underestimate my nose all the time. Makes a great asset at crime scenes and witness interviews, I can tell you that much. Just because you can’t smell me doesn’t mean I can't smell you!”

“You’re a — what, a detective?”

“Sheriff,” Jody corrects. Dean catches Donna giving a little leer and a private look between the two of them, and his eyebrows climb up with the certainty that he knows way more about their private lives than he should, having just met them.

“You’re both betas, right?” he asks. “I’m just trying to get the lay of the land around here.”

“You betcher sweet cheeks we are!” Donna crows.

“Right,” he mutters. “I’ll trade you that brick you just won for a sheep.”

“Fat chance, loverboy,” Jody smirks.

In the end, Mrs. Tran comes from behind and soundly trounces them all, but Cas and Dean are proud of their Longest Road bonus. As they’re debating another round, Charlie comes over with a few of the others from the video game enclave and drapes an arm around Dean’s shoulders.

“You guys aren’t traumatizing my new best friend, are you?” she asks of the assembled women.

“Only as much as we traumatize everybody,” Donna replies. “It’s a prerequisite!”

Cas speaks up from where he’s helping clean up the game pieces. “They’ve been perfectly nice,” he says. “Only the bare minimum of lewd remarks.”

Jody and Donna both burst into peals of laughter, and Mrs. Tran pats Cas on the arm. “You can stay,” she says. Dean catches Cas smiling shyly.

Shortly after that, lunch shows up — nothing fancy, just a spread of subs from the sandwich place down the street. Dean and Cas mingle and meet a wide variety of people. Now that she’s not distracted by video games, Charlie sticks close and introduces them properly to everybody. There’s Eileen, and Cas struggles through some basic signs for a minute — surprising the pants off of Dean, but he should be used to that by now — before she laughs gently and tells them she can read lips just fine. They meet Kevin; he’s a quick-witted young man, and Dean likes him, even though he rolls his eyes when Dean says how lucky he is to have his mom’s support. There’s Claire and her omega boyfriend, Jack, who are a real odd-couple type, but they seem smitten with each other. Jack and Cas end up talking about their favorite pulp sci-fi authors while Claire challenges Dean to a round of Mario Kart.

“Your boyfriend’s not gonna steal mine, is he?” she asks right before her Waluigi knocks Dean’s Bowzer off a ledge.

“Huh?” Dean glances over to where Cas and Jack are chatting. He takes a sniff while his character resets in the game — all he can smell is cedar and sage and a hint of his own herbs from Cas, and from Jack, apricot and walnut with undertones of dark red wine that probably belong to Claire. The scents are light and devoid of interest, and at that moment Cas glances back over at Dean with a soft smile.

“Eugh, nevermind,” Claire says with an eyeroll. “You two are clearly too far gone. Watch out you’re gonna —!”

Dean’s kart ends up in the lava again.

~*~

It’s late afternoon by the time they all disperse. Dean has a few new Facebook friends and Donna will be bringing her car in later in the week for a diagnosis on “that funny whistling sound.” Charlie gives him a big hug on the steps of the community center and doesn’t let him go the first time he tries to step back.

“I’m so glad you came,” she murmurs in his ear. “Welcome to the family.”

Dean chuckles and blinks away the mist in his eyes, hugging her back tighter. “Thanks.”

The sun slants golden, and his and Cas’s shadows are long on the pavement, connected at the hands. “Did you have a good time?” Cas asks in a voice as low and warm as the sunshine at their backs.

“Yeah, I did,” Dean sighs, trying to reconcile the soft, glowing feeling in his chest. “They’re good people.”

“Do you think you’ll go back?”

Dean nods. “Yeah, I think so.”

Cas stops him with a tug on his hand. With the light like this, Dean can see some of the lighter brown in his perpetually rucked-up hair. His jaw is shadowed with a little stubble, and he has a soft little smile on his pink lips. “I’m proud of you,” he says.

Dean cocks his head to the side. “For… what, hanging out with people?”

“For accepting this part of yourself. For opening up about it. You’ve come along way just since I met you. It’s been a joy to witness.”

Dean feels his face flush bright, but he squeezes Cas’s hand in his fingers, drawing him closer. “You helped,” he says. “You helped a lot.”

“Then I am proud to have done so,” Cas replies with a cheeky grin. Dean laughs and pushes his shoulder gently.

“Dork. C’mon, let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

“Oh fuck — Cas — yeah — fuck —!”

Cas’s knot pops hard inside Dean, pressing up against his prostate and sparking the wildfire of his own orgasm. Cas’s teeth sink in at the top of his spine, bruising and sharp; Cas’s arms wrap possessively around him; Cas’s groans and panting breaths echo in his ear.

It’s a long time before Cas lets go; when he does, he laves with his tongue over the mark, humming in satisfaction.

“That was —” Dean is still breathing heavily into the pillows. “That was —”

“Yes,” Cas sighs. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

Dean groans, ending in a laugh. “Oh god, don’t be. You didn’t.”

Cas hums against the bite mark like he doesn’t believe him, then pushes himself up and tries to pull out.

He’s still stuck. Dean gasps and clenches down on him, and Cas collapses again over his back.

“Um. Cas?” Dean asks, an excited-nervous thrill in his belly.

“Yes.”

“You seem to be, uh —”

“Yes, I’m still —”

“Are you —?”

“Soon.”

“Okay.” Dean chews on his lip, his heartbeat thudding dull and hard against his ribs. “We’re, uh. We’re not gonna go through all that again like last time, are we?” He tries not to let his voice warble, but it’s difficult.

Cas wraps his arms under Dean’s ribs and doesn’t answer for a long, torturous moment. Emotions cascade over Dean, nervousness and disbelief and a preemptive wave of anger before —

“I told you I’ve never spent my rut with anyone. That’s — that hasn’t been a matter of circumstance.”

All Dean’s panic sweeps aside to make room for confusion. “Do you not want to?” he asks, quiet.

“With you, I do,” Cas says, sweeping a hand over Dean’s hair in a soothing slide. Dean lets his eyes fall closed. “But I’m — terrified.” The admission rushes out of him on heavy breath.

“What’s — ah!” Cas’s knot finally relaxes enough to slip free, and Dean turns to meet his lover’s wide-eyed, bitten-lipped gaze. “What are you scared of?” he asks.

Cas closes his eyes and lays down at Dean’s side, hiding half his face in Dean’s pillow. “I don’t know who I will be when I’m in rut with you,” he says, muffled. “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to lose control. I —” He breaks off, fist clenching in the sheets.

Dean places his hand over Cas’s, then rubs up his arm, his shoulder, threads through his hair, down his back, following the fierce tension. He doesn’t say anything yet.

“I don’t want to turn into an animal,” Cas finally says, lifting his head but keeping his eyes on the pillow. “I don’t want you to look at me differently afterward.”

Dean pets his hair again, smoothing the unruly strands so that they all lie the same direction. “It’s gonna be new for both of us,” he says at last. “I’ll tell you one thing, though: I’ll probably just look at you like you’re the hottest thing since Hot Pockets.”

Cas just snorts into the pillow.

“I’m serious, Cas. You’re still gonna be you, even if you’re all —”

“Hormonal?”

Dean nods.

Cas flops on his back and stares at Dean. “I thought it was just a biological process,” he says quietly. “That it wouldn’t matter.”

Dean cuddles closer to Cas’s side, insinuating his hand under Cas’s where it rests on his chest. “I knew it was… something,” Dean says. “I just didn’t know — I thought it was me that was wrong. I just —” He bites his lip.

“What?” Cas asks with a tilt of his head.

Dean feels his face flush hot and rolls his eyes at himself. “I wanna make it good for you, okay? I know it sounds stupid, but I —”

“It doesn’t sound stupid. I want you to have a good time too. That’s what all this is for, isn’t it?”

Dean shrugs. “That and procreation, but good luck with that.”

Cas bites off his laugh. “I mean it, Dean. This isn’t all just about me. And I don’t trust myself to not make it all about me. Does that make sense?”

Dean looks at Cas across the pillow for a few moments, absorbing that, getting lost in the blue of his eyes.

“Yeah. Yeah, it does.”

Cas sighs. “Thank you.”

“We’ll do this together, right?”

With a firm nod, Cas says, “Together.”

~*~

“No oral,” Cas says a few days later while he’s loading the dishwasher.

“‘Scuse me?” Dean asks. That is not a request he ever thought he would hear from a lover.

“During rut,” Cas says, his eyes flicking up from the dish he’s inspecting but not quite meeting Dean’s. “You can’t try to get me off with your mouth. It’s dangerous. Normal knots are bad enough, but rut knots —” he cuts himself off with a shake of his head. “I could choke you or seriously injure your jaw, and I don’t relish the idea of bite marks in that particular area.”

Dean decides not to mention the fact that he’s still curious about Cas knotting in his mouth with a regular knot. It doesn’t seem the time, even though he has to shift his dick in his pants a little bit at the idea.

“Okay,” he says. “No oral.”

Cas breathes a little easier.

~*~

“Where do you want to do it?” Dean asks while Cas is nuzzling under his chin on the couch, the TV on low.

“Hmmmm. We could do it here,” Cas says, his voice a low rumble.

“Or we could go to your hotel.”

Cas laps at the hollow at the base of Dean’s throat, his tongue a damp rasp, and Dean shivers all over. “We could. Do you want to?”

Dean smiles a little at his own goosebumps. “Wherever you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Cas hums again, thinking, and he continues to kiss and lip and nibble all the sensitive spots from Dean’s neck to his navel as he considers. Then he slides back up to brush his lips and nose to Dean’s, their groins pressing firm together.

“Let’s do it here,” Cas murmurs even as Dean gasps at the roll of his hips. “I want you in our bed.”

Dean grins and presses up in answer. “I was kinda hoping you’d say that.”

~*~

Dean gets home a few days later to find a pile of boxes in front of their door, all addressed to Cas. There are four boxes altogether, stacking up almost to Dean’s chin. He snaps a picture and sends them to Cas with no commentary beyond three question marks, then starts moving them into the apartment.

The response, when it comes, is brief.

Cas: Supplies

Dean stares at the text, then the boxes. Then it clicks.

Dean: You really think we’ll need all this??

Cas: I estimated what I go through in a given rut and doubled it. You’ll need your strength too.
Cas: It’s possible I rounded up.

Dean snorts and starts to open the boxes. He finds what looks like a month’s supply of protein bars, sports drinks, jerky, snack mixes, and dried fruit, plus two rubber mattress pads — one for each of their beds, he assumes — three new sets of sheets, and a literal gallon of grade-A lubricant.

He takes another picture of the lube and sends it to Cas.

Dean: SERIOUSLY???

Cas: It never hurts to be prepared.
Cas: Pun not intended.

~*~

Dean is in the shower with his cock hard and the fake knot pumped up huge inside him when the curtain rings squeal on their rod. He spins around, almost loses his balance, catches himself, and stares into Cas’s wide eyes.

“Dean?”

“Uh. Yes?”

“What are you doing?” Cas asks.

There’s a glint of gold behind Cas’s pupils as they sweep down his chest. Dean flashes him a grin and turns to brace himself on the wall, arching his hips up. “I gotta train up, don’t I?” he says, wagging his hips back and forth, showcasing the brightly-colored knotted dildo filling him out.

He really should know better than to taunt an alpha approaching rut.

Before he knows it, Cas is in the shower with him, pajamas and all. He grabs the fake knot around the flared base, pulls it out just a hair, and then pushes .

Fucking son of a —” Dean curses, fingers scrabbling at the tile and his legs trembling. For one second he worries that he’s going to collapse to the tub floor, but then Cas’s arm is there around his waist, steadying him.

“Yes,” Cas sighs in his ear, nipping sharply at the lobe. “You’re so beautiful like this, Dean. I can’t —” he pauses to bite down and suckle hard at the base of Dean’s neck, sending sparks all down his spine. Dean can feel him shake. “I can’t wait to tie with you. Stretch you out. Fill you up. Dean —”

Dean bites down on his lip bruising hard and whimpers, shoving his hips back.

“You love this, don’t you?” There’s a snarl in his voice, and he twists the toy inside Dean.

Dean whines high past his teeth and nods. “Yeah — dammit, Cas —”

“Say it,” Cas growls.

His lip tingles when he takes his teeth off it. “I f-fucking love your knot, Cas,” he says in a rush. “And I want it — I want it in rut. I wanna feel you all huge and — shit —”

With a growl, Cas tugs so hard the knot almost pops out past Dean’s rim — he clenches at the last second to stop it — then he shoves it in deep. The dildo’s cockhead spears all the way through to the center of him. Dean’s knees can’t hold him, so he just leans on Cas’s broad chest, into his arms, into the scent of orange blossoms, earthy-spicy sandalwood, and his own honey-resin beeswax permeating the closed, warm space of the shower.

“Cas — Cas, I wasn’t gonna —” Dean breaks off when he feels a subtle pumping in the knot. It’s already at maximum capacity, but fuck — Cas is trying to pump it up more. Dean stamps one foot against the orgasm building in his balls, tense and itching. “I was trying not to —”

“Shhh,” Cas murmurs. “You want to come, don’t you?”

Dean finds himself nodding before he means to. He slits his eyes open and finds Cas watching him with parted lips, gaze not wavering from Dean’s face even as he grinds the knot in and out against the muscles of Dean’s rim, forcing it right against his prostate, deeper, deeper, harder —

“Oh shit — ” Dean’s whole body tenses and his knees jerk against his will as he comes all over the shower wall, shivering and intense and entirely untouched.

Dean ,” Cas moans against his scentspot, holding him up as Dean pants through his pleasure. Aftershocks are still zinging through his bones when he feels Cas’s cock pushing hot and firm against his hip through the soaked linen of his pajamas. That’s all the urging he needs to give in to gravity and drop to his knees on the shower floor.

“Dean — what are you doing?” Cas asks as Dean tugs at the pajamas.

“You’re not in rut yet,” Dean says with a smirk; Cas’s cock pops free and smacks him on the chin before he sucks it between his lips.

Cas’s hips jerk forward and he growls out a groan. He stumbles forward until he’s standing right over Dean, forcing him to lean back and look up the stretch of Cas’s stomach and chest as he shoves his rock-hard cock to the back of Dean’s throat. One hand comes to Dean’s wet hair, fingers cradling his skull and holding him in place for a filthy grind. Dean moans around Cas’s cock as he opens for him, letting Cas go as deep as he can — and then deeper. That knot is swelling against his lips and nose, huge and hard, and Dean wants it. He swallows Cas down and tries to open wider, trying to coax the firm flesh into his mouth, to wrap his lips around it.

“Oh — Oh Dean — ” Cas gasps, and then he is surging forward, fucking into Dean’s throat. Dean can scarcely breathe, and his eyes start to water, and his whole world is Cas, Cas, Cas, Cas . He wraps his fingers around the base of the knot and pulls it up, forward, swallows one more time, straining to get it between his lips, and then —

Cas shoots right down his throat, thighs tensing against Dean’s chest where they pin him to the wall. Dean swallows convulsively, his nose buried in the taut flesh of Cas’s knot, still outside his mouth. He’s only a little disappointed.

Cas pulls back and Dean stumbles to his feet, knees protesting, and gathers Cas into his arms. “That was — phenomenally stupid,” he pants against Dean’s collar bone.

Dean nods, leaning against the wall and sighing in satisfaction. “I know. You liked it, though.”

“That — is neither here nor there.”

Dean grins. “Only a little sorry, then.”

Cas pulls back and scowls at him, though his heavy breathing and lust-drunk eyes ruin the effect a little. “Try something like that again, and I swear to you, I will — I will —”

“You’ll blow your load down my throat so hard it goes in my sinuses?” Dean smirks, taking a big and definitely unattractive snort. Cas’s expression remains stern for half a second before he breaks into soft giggling against Dean’s shoulder; Dean grins into his hair, squeezing him tighter, letting the light, buoyant feeling fill his chest.

“You are incorrigible,” Cas says, and it doesn’t actually sound like a complaint.

“Yeah, I know. Hey, uh, help me deflate this thing, will you?”

~*~

When Dean confides on Monday morning that he’s going to have to skeedaddle sometime this week, Rufus doesn’t even bat an eyelash.

“Mmmhmmm,” he replies, not even taking his eyes off the newspaper.

Dean waits for a beat. “You’re not gonna say anything?” he finally asks.

Rufus gives him a smirk, eyebrows arching high. “It’s been a few months, right?”

Dean shrugs. “I guess.”

“Then no, nothing more needs to be said.”

As Dean is heading back to his office, though, he catches Jo flashing him a thumbs up and an enormous grin. He can’t help it — he grins back.

~*~

It’s close to midnight before Dean realizes they’ve both forgotten dinner. It seems irrelevant compared to Cas’s weight on his thighs, solid and reassuring. They were kissing a while ago; now they’re just holding each other, Cas’s fingers laced behind his neck, Dean’s hands on his lower back, breathing in time. Savoring deep draughts of scent, luxuriating in the warmth stirring between them. Unhurried. Content.

“Dean?” It’s barely a whisper, so soft Dean’s not sure he heard it at first. Probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been so entranced by the sound of Cas’s breath moving in his lungs.

“Yeah?” he whispers back.

“Tomorrow.”

Dean feels his belly clench, and his hands rummage under Cas’s shirt at the small of his back, needing to touch skin. “Okay.”

“There’s something —” Cas tries to pull away, but his nose is drawn back to Dean’s neck like a magnet, and he doesn’t try too hard to fight it. “I want to say something before I — while I still can.” He takes a few deep inhalations before he speaks again. “I should have told you weeks ago. And maybe it’s obvious, but even so, if you don’t — I don’t expect you to say anything back —”

“Cas.” Dean leans until he can find Cas’s eyes, turned down at the corners, bright like arctic ice. Dean smiles. “I love you too.”

Cas’s breath punches out of him, but he gives Dean a squinty frown. “That’s not fair,” he says.

Dean laughs and cups Cas’s cheeks, pulling him down to kiss the pout from his lips. “You can say it now, if you want.”

Cas huffs, but lets the tips of their noses brush together, breath over lips. “I —” he stops and starts again. “I love you. More than anything, Dean. I love you.”

And there it is — that feeling of something clicking into place just right , unlocking something with wings in Dean’s heart. He leans up to kiss Cas, couldn’t stop it if he’d wanted to. Nose to nose, he and Cas giggle like schoolchildren, whispering “I love yous” back and forth between kisses. In the morning, Dean knows, they will be fierce and unbridled in their passion. For now, though, he drinks in each sweet kiss, lines his heart with each murmuring affirmation. And they are enough.

Chapter Text

Dean dreams of heat, of hot oil, of the color orange. He wakes to the now-familiar orange resin scent, bittersweet and ripe, heavy in the air. His cock is already hard, stretched and heavy between his legs.

“Dean,” he hears Cas’s voice, low and quiet, stone-rough.

Dean lifts his head from the pillows. Cas is crouched over his legs, tense and still as a tiger ready to pounce. His eyes gleam, and his breathing comes in slow, deep lungfuls through nostrils so wide, he looks feral. Wild. Like if he could, he would be growling. Dean’s cock pulses.

“Cas?”

Cas blinks, shakes his head a little. “I’m here,” he says, like it’s hard to dredge up the words. “But I —” He walks his hands up Dean’s legs, pressing into his muscles, feeling their shape. Dean gets a glimpse of his cock, angry red and stiff. His knot looks puffy, pink, ready to lock inside Dean and stay there until Cas is satisfied, and Dean feels his legs fall open just a little under Cas’s roving fingers. He licks his lips.

That’s all Cas needs. With a growl and a rush of cool air, Cas whips the blankets off and scrambles over them, ungainly in his haste. Dean’s ready to catch him when he falls heavy on his chest, all hot skin and muscle and scent. “Dean,” he moans against Dean’s lips before diving into his neck, scenting, seeking. Tingling goosebumps race from scalp to sacrum as he bows up into Cas’s weight and bares his throat to his alpha.

Cas keens, high and wordless, then opens his mouth against Dean’s scentspot, pressing the rows of his teeth into the tender skin of Dean’s throat. Cas quivers against him like a finger poised on a hairpin trigger. But he doesn’t sink his teeth in. As much as an alpha in rut is capable, he hesitates.

“Cas —” Dean huffs, “Cas, you can — c’mon, please —” and tilts his head further, pushing his neck into the sharpness of those teeth.

Cas’s whining cry echoes on Dean’s skin, and he gives a firm suckle that is still not a real bite before drawing back, threading Dean’s hair through his fingers while he searches his face.“Dean,” he pants, close and humid between their lips. “Are you — are you mine?”

Dean wants to laugh but keeps it to a smile as he pets a hand through Cas’s hair, already a little damp with sandalwood sweat. “Yeah, Cas,” he murmurs. “I’m all yours.”

Cas’s face crumbles, contorting in what looks like devastation, like he’s so relieved he could cry. The tension in him melts to a shivering tremble Dean can feel in his own skin, and he buries his face again in the solace of Dean’s neck. This time, when he opens his mouth, he bites down quick right at the juncture of neck and shoulder. His teeth bite deeper, deeper, and Dean draws a slow, shakey inhale until — “Jesus!” — a dull tear as Cas’s canines pierce the skin. In a blinding flash, Dean’s perception narrows down to Cas, and nothing but Cas. The scent of him flares so high he can taste it; his skin sparks in all of the places they touch; Cas moans against his flesh and Dean clutches at him, scrabbling fingertips, trying to hold onto anything that might be stable and finding only Cas.

After a moment that encompasses worlds, Cas withdraws his teeth. Hot soreness wells in the bite; droplets of blood slide sluggishly over his shoulder. Cas has blood on his lips and teeth when he leans up to kiss him, and Dean doesn’t hesitate.

The kiss is a deep, languid thing. Restless heat still courses through Dean’s belly and Cas’s cock is blood-hot, wrought-iron-hard where he straddles Dean’s hips — but now that he’s staked his claim, Cas doesn’t seem to be in any hurry. Dean throbs with need, everywhere, from his neck where he’s been bitten to his belly to his cock to the goosebumped skin on the backs of his thighs. But Cas seems content just to lay over him, all warm weight and wet sloppy kisses.

“Cas —” Dean gasps between his lips. He tries to sit up, to wrap his arms around him, wriggles his legs to try and get leverage, but that just earns him a soft growl. He tries again and Cas shoves him back down with a firm hand on his chest.

“Stay,” he says, his voice like tumbled rocks. Dean goes still.

With a satisfied hum, Cas nudges under his chin and bites again, not so hard or so deep, but enough to leave a small, stinging mark. It’s the first of many, a rosy ring of nips all around his throat down to his collarbone. The sensation of breath and lips and teeth has Dean restless in his skin, squirming under Cas’s thighs, bucking up to seek friction and pressure for the ache of his cock.

When he finally gets some leverage to nestle his cock into the notch between Cas’s thigh and his groin, Cas hisses and his head snaps up, eyes wide and glowing. Like he’d almost forgotten that he had skin and could do more to his mate than just mark him up. Dean grins up at him, cheeky. “Yeah, come on, alpha,” Dean says, more than a little breathless. “How do you want me?”

“Dean,” Cas murmurs, his breath picking up. “Dean,” again, ending in a whine as he rocks his hips, stirring the heat between them. “Dean,” once more, softly under his ear as he lets Dean’s cock pop up behind him and slides the cleft of his ass up and down Dean’s hardness.

“Oh — shit,” Dean moans, gripping Cas’s sharp hip bones. His cock slides friction-hot over Cas’s sweaty skin, so close to so good. It’s maddening. Dean wants a thousand things all at once, but mostly he wants to dislodge the weight of his alpha so he can roll over and present himself. He wants that — wants Cas pinning him down and fucking into him, taking him, using him, knotting him in place.

But Cas refuses to move. He’s little better than deadweight on Dean’s pelvis — at least until he reaches back behind himself, angling up to the tip of Dean’s cock, and —

The reality of what Cas is doing thunks into Dean’s brain. “Oh — fuck , Cas,” he moans. “For real?”

Cas’s only response is a long, groaning, “ Dean ,” as he sits up and positions himself over Dean’s cock, entirely ready to sink down with only Dean’s sticky precome between them.

“Woah, hey —” Dean protests, still short of breath, gripping tight to the curve of Cas’s hips. “You — We need lube, babe.”

Cas freezes, the head of Dean’s cock just barely grasped by his dry opening, and tilts his head bird-like to one side. Dean’s heart squeezes with affection, and he tries to scoot himself across the bed to retrieve the lube. No such luck — Cas pins his arm to the mattress.

“Mine,” he growls, licking a stripe up Dean’s bicep to his elbow, adding a mark there too.

Dean huffs, exasperated and fond. “I’m not trying to get away, Cas, I promise.”

Cas squints at him, still suspicious. Then he blinks hard, and for a brief second Dean sees a flash of lucid blue behind the gold.

“Okay?” Dean murmurs.

“I — I’m s— I can’t —” Cas struggles through his breathing, too quick, panicky. Dean soothes with his hands, sliding up tense shoulders to cup his face.

“Hey, shh, it’s okay. You’re okay. Just us here, alright?”

Cas answers with a pained, whimpering whine, leaning his cheek hard into Dean’s hand. Dean feels the click of his swallow against his fingers.

Then the world tilts as Cas rolls to one side, pulling Dean over him like a blanket. Dean feels a bit dizzy with the change, and all at once he is staring down at Cas, his golden eyes open, trusting. He’s a vision, all tanned, sweaty skin, his knot puffy and cock starting to drip onto his belly. Cas hikes his knees up higher on Dean’s hips, begging with his whole body to be fucked, and Dean swallows on a dry throat as lust flash-floods through him. He can’t seem to stop touching, but neither can Cas, fingertips skating over Dean’s arms and shoulders, chest and neck, through his hair.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Dean sighs, pulling back just a little for a better look, careful to keep both hands on him. Cas whimpers and pulls his knees up to expose his cock, his ass, but all Dean can focus on are the soft little rolls of his belly. He is enchanted by them. He leans down and buries his face in the softness, breathing deeply of Cas’s scent and taking joy in his body.

The little puddle of his precome is tempting, though. Dean scoots down and laps at it, and some part of Cas’s hormone-soaked brain must be online because fingers scrabble at his hair in warning when his lips stray too close to the tip of Cas’s cock.

“Relax, Cas, I know the rules,” Dean murmurs. He bypasses Cas’s cock — mostly. He can’t resist wrapping his lips sideways around the bottom of the knot, giving it one strong lashing with his tongue. Cas’s thighs squeeze tight around Dean’s head, and the inflamed knot pulses under his lips.

“Please… Dean… Please,” Cas whines from above. Dean takes hold of his thighs behind the knees and pushes until his hips lift off the mattress.

“Grab on,” he says, and Cas pulls back on his own legs, spreading himself wide. Dean leans down to place his lips and tongue hot over Cas’s opening.

“Ah!” Cas cries out, straining into the touch of Dean’s tongue. Dean laves and sucks at the tender skin, the winking hole, working his tongue into the orange-musky entrance. He gives him long licks up and down his cleft, pulls his cheeks wider open to delve deep. Soon he has Cas clenching on his tongue, whimpering breathy little sounds. His hands are white-knuckled on his knees and his toes curl, every muscle of his body straining for Dean.

When Dean finally leans back, it’s like he’s cut Cas’s puppet strings as the tension in him goes slack. As Dean slides off the end of the bed, Cas growls his displeasure at having lost contact with his mate, reaching for Dean with boneless legs and arms. Dean rubs a calming hand up and down his shin and murmurs, “Don’t worry, I’m coming right back,” before stumbling to the nightstand.

He grabs the lube and is about to turn back to his anxious lover when a flash of color catches his eye. He looks again, then grins, struck with an idea. He grabs the toy and sets it within easy reach of his place on the bed.

When he returns, Cas clutches at him like he hasn’t seen him in days; Dean goes willingly. “Dean,” he sighs, satisfied, clamping his teeth briefly over Dean’s scentspot. “All mine?” he asks.

Dean grins, his heart melting a little. “All yours,” he promises. Cas nuzzles against the marks on his neck, like he has to make them his again — as if Dean could ever be anyone else’s — then wriggles his hips up with a grunt, aiming for Dean’s cock. Dean has to laugh. “Easy, tiger. Almost.” It’s a miracle that he manages to get lube on his fingers with Cas still clinging to him. He watches Cas’s face while he sinks two, and then three, fingers into him, watching the play of feelings across his face, every blissed-out whine and bitten lip.

Dean spends a long time working Cas open, playing against his prostate and swirling as deep and wide as he can. Finally, Cas snaps his hips so that Dean’s fingers slip out. “Dean,” he growls with a glare.

“Okay,” Dean says with a faltering smile and a thick swallow. “Okay.”

His hands shake just a little as he slicks himself. Then he’s lining up, and it hits him that he’s about to fuck his alpha in rut . With the head of his cock pressed against Cas’s entrance, Dean’s heart goes crazy in his chest.

He was not expecting this. He was in no way prepared for this.

“Ready?” he asks, more of himself than Cas.

Then Cas’s hand curls around his ear, threading through his hair, and he looks up from where he’s about to press inside. Even behind the flat, golden glow, Dean can see his affection, his wonderment. His love. Dean’s lips quirk a little smile, and Cas pulls him in for a kiss, gentle and sweet, even as he pulls Dean into himself. Dean holds on tight as he lets himself be enveloped.

Dean, ” Cas grates out against his lips, bearing down, clenching and unclenching.

“Oh fuck —” Dean says on a punched-out breath.

He’s falling, falling into the tight grip of Cas’s body. It’s like sinking into a pit of molten gold, scalding-hot and overwhelming. He hears Cas panting in his ear, “In — inside — in,” and he feels Cas’s legs tighten around him, rhythmic pressure of heels into his ass cheeks as Cas drives him deeper. Dean nearly loses balance, shifting his knees to compensate; Cas just sucks in air, then sighs, deep and satisfied, when Dean bottoms out inside him.

Dean takes a moment just to breathe, mate scent, rutscent , so thick his mouth waters for it. “Fucking hell, Cas,” he groans against his neck — then opens his teeth against the skin. Cas gives him a little whining cry as he bites down harder, and a little harder, stopping just shy of drawing blood to suckle and bruise the spot with his teeth and tongue. Cas shakes and whimpers against him, clinging tight and fucking himself on Dean’s cock with desperate little circles of his hips.

“All yours,” Cas whispers, and Dean feels a lurch inside him like he might cry. Instead he snaps his hips back and drives his cock deep.

And it’s a heady thing, to watch his alpha fall to pieces underneath him. God, it’s a rush, watching Cas throw his arms back and grab onto the headboard, bracing himself. Dean sits up to watch his cock disappearing over and over into Cas’s body, Cas’s cock bouncing on his belly and leaving slick little trails of precome. He’s flushed all over, slippery with sweat; Dean’s fingers slide a little on his waist.

“Dean —” Cas whines, one hand dropping down to cup his flushed, thickening knot. He’s close. Dean bats his hand away.

“Not yet,” Dean pants and pushes on Cas’s knees to spread his legs as wide as he can, trying to get deeper, deeper. Surprisingly, Cas listens to him and goes back to clenching his fists around the headboard rungs, arms tense, lip caught between his teeth. Dean can feel the pleasure spiraling in him, the hot rush of orgasm building in his groin. He doesn’t fight it. He lets it build and build, flames fanned with every thrust into Cas’s clenching grip, his volcanic heat.

“Fuck — Cas, I’m gonna — Cas —” He moans, and Cas’s eyes flare like the sun.

“Dean —” is all he says, riding his hips down on Dean’s cock, eyes bright with carnal intent, reaching again for his own knot, which is looking more round and red by the second, and that’s all Dean can fucking take.

“Son of a — Ah, fuck !” he moans, as pleasure scours through him, a breaking wave as he sinks deep inside his mate. Over and over it tumbles through him, until finally the riptides ebb, leaving him feeling washed out, clean. He pants over Cas, still trembling, then pulls out, quicker than he might otherwise. Cas gasps in protest and clutches at him, but Dean doesn’t go far. He reaches for the inflatable toy and wags it where Cas can see; Cas’s eyes zero in on it, licking his lips, comprehension clearing his face, and his hips give an involuntary jerk. “Yeah?” Dean asks, still panting.

Cas nods, frantic. His cock pulses out another little puddle, and Dean really, really wishes he could taste. So hard his teeth ache.

Instead he lines up the tip of the toy at Cas’s entrance, then braces the wide base against his pelvis and pushes, driving the cock home with his hips. Cas seizes around him, all shaking limbs and sweat and need. Dean rocks the toy deep inside, holding the base of the cock against his hips with one hand, finding Cas’s prostate by the way he shivers just right .

“Get ready,” he warns right before pulling the tab to inflate the knot fast and firm inside him.

The effect is immediate. Cas stiffens, legs locking around Dean’s hips, grinding his knot in the tight space between their bellies, reaching down for just a few swift tugs to pop his knot hard between them as he comes. Thick spurts paint white all the way up to Cas’s chin, spilling over Dean’s fingers, and he cries out high and breathless, an anguish of pleasure. It goes on for what seems like forever, and Dean pulls and pushes in slow-moving drives of his hips while Cas pants and whimpers through it.

It’s a revelation. Overwhelming. He can almost feel it, even though the knot is made of silicone, and  the rush of rightness knocks the breath from Dean’s lungs. It’s like a second orgasm that’s all in his heart, his mind. Every time he pushes on the base of the knot with little shoves of his hips, they both shake apart a little more, sharing this tidal wave. The fat round of Cas’s knot rubs against Dean’s belly, slick with come. Cas lets go to cling to Dean tighter, holds him close, and Dean trembles down to his soul as he feels the final piece of the puzzle lock in place.

This. This was all that was missing. His mate, coming apart underneath him, coming on his knot, his knot, whether made of his flesh or not. Elation cascades through him like a pure, healing light as they cling together, each tighter than the other. If Cas’s collarbone is damp under Dean’s eyes, well. No one else has to know that.

It’s a small eternity before Dean pulls his face out of Cas’s neck. Cas’s eyes are still closed in shuddering bliss, and Dean’s gaze gravitates toward his knot. It’s enormous , red and taut-skinned. Dean’s not sure he could get both his hands around it. Cas’s hand is loose around the base now, and when Dean reaches to touch, Cas lets him with a shiver and a sigh. He spends a long time petting and stroking the swollen flesh while Cas comes down slowly, slowly.

“Dean?”

Dean looks up and sees blue eyes blinking at him. He grins.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he says.

Cas closes his eyes and tries to catch his breath while Dean strokes him and moves the knot toy gently in slow circles. He leaks another small mess of come.

“This is — backwards,” he gasps, tossing his head back on the pillow.

Dean laughs a little. “Yeah, I know. Kinda surprised me.”

Cas’s belly moves softly with his laughter. “You don’t mind?”

“Hell no,” Dean says immediately. “Are you kidding? Why would I mind?” He leans up to press a kiss to Cas’s sweaty brow, still moving the knot in subtle pulses, just to watch Cas tremble around it.

“I know you were, um. Looking forward to — ah. Being in my position.” Cas’s dopey, love-drunk grin makes Dean smile back as he shrugs one shoulder.

“We got a few days for the other way around. Besides,” he says with another deep circle of the toy that makes Cas gasp and twitch. “I’m having fun with this.”

Cas’s eyes slip closed and he tosses his head as another wave of orgasm overtakes him. For a long time, he just pants and moves languorously on the sheets as he lets Dean wring pleasure from his body with long pulsing circles of the toy, driven by his hips, and slow strokes of Cas’s knot, switching hands when his wrist gets tired.

“We’re going to need a towel,” Cas murmurs when his cock finally stops pulsing and his knot starts to go down.

“Yeah, probably a few of them,” Dean teases. Cas is an absolute mess. “Do you think you can handle a shower?”

There’s a brief flash of gold deep in Cas’s pupils. “That could be dangerous,” he says.

Dean’s stomach flutters. “I’m ready for whatever you need,” he says.

“No,” Cas says with a final aftershock shiver and a shake of his head. “I mean literally dangerous. We could fall.”

Dean laughs. “Alright, you can sit in the tub and I’ll wash you,” he says, grinning fondly.

Cas snickers, then chortles, and finally gives him a deep belly laugh with his hands over his face. Dean’s heart swells at the sound. Cas doesn’t laugh like that very often.

“Okay,” Cas says finally. “Get this thing out of me and we’ll give it a shot.”

Chapter Text

By some miracle, they make it through a shower intact, even though Cas gets lost for a while scenting the hollow above Dean’s collarbone. Dean lets himself be pinned to the tiles, willing prisoner to Cas’s firm hands while he sniffs and nuzzles and hums all over his neck.

“I’m sorry about this,” Cas murmurs with soft, warm lips against the bite at the bend of Dean’s shoulder.

Dean snorts and slides his hands around Cas’s waist, squeezing him tight. “Yeah, I felt like I’d stumbled into some cheesy romance novel. You need a lot more hair so it can blow in the wind, Lothario.”

“Dean.”

“And you should start wearing your shirts unbuttoned. Show off that gleaming alpha chest.”

“Dean —”

“D’you think I can make my bosom heave with passion?”

“Dean, I’m serious.”

“Then how come you’re laughing?”

Cas tries and fails to pull the grin off his face and be stern, then gives it up as a lost cause and shakes his head. “I don’t like falling victim to that kind of instinct,” he says after a moment. “It’s barbaric. I didn’t even ask if that’s something you wanted. And besides, you’re —” He stops short, eyes on Dean.

A penny drops into Dean’s throat. “I’m what?” he asks, though he thinks he knows the answer.

Cas closes his eyes and lets out a sigh, letting his shoulders drop. “You’re beta. You deserve to be outside of all of — this. This mating cycle nonsense.”

“I deserve to be a part of it, too,” Dean says, and a second later can’t quite believe those words actually came out of his mouth. Cas just looks at him, expression unreadable. Dean shifts from foot to foot, and the steam of the shower is not to blame for the pink in his cheeks. “Listen, I — just because I’m not affected the same way doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here. Doesn’t mean I don't want — all of this. Everything. With you. Okay?”

Cas tilts his head, blinking at him sideways. “Why?” he asks, finally, softly.

“Why? Because I love you.” The words are still so new and raw, they trip over Dean’s tongue and send his heart fluttering dangerously, too close to the sun. “Or did you forget that part already?”

“I didn’t forget,” Cas says, not meeting his eyes. He traces little circles around Dean’s nipple with a fingertip.

“I thought we learned this lesson last time,” Dean says. Cas closes his eyes with a small breath of frustration.

“Don’t remind me about last time,” he says.

“I don’t wanna ever go through that again, alright? I always want to be here with you. Promise.”

Cas looks up again, finally, his eyes clear and ocean-sky blue. He offers a small smile. “Even if it means getting your neck torn into?”

Dean grins. “Yep. I always wanted to be a swooning damsel. You think I could pull off crinolines?”

Cas snorts, then goes back to running his fingertips over the mark. It’s sore, starting to bruise. Cas grabs a washcloth, wets it in the warm shower spray, and holds it to the worst of the punctures. Dean hisses at the sting, but relaxes as it starts to soothe.

Cas keeps glancing up at him, furtive little flicks of his eyelashes Dean only catches because he can't keep his eyes off him. “Go on, say it,” he says eventually.

“What?”

“Whatever’s on your mind.” Dean soothes his hands up and down Cas’s back, encouraging.

Now it’s Cas’s turn to shift a little on his feet. “Would you —” he swallows. “Would you give me one to match? Not right now, but sometime?” he asks in a voice so quiet he can barely be heard over the water.

Dean’s chin pulls back in surprise. Mating bites that break the skin are rare enough these days, but they are nigh unheard of on an alpha. “You know it doesn’t actually make a difference, right? As for whether or not we’re — you know. Mates?”

Cas nods. “I know. But — it’s something I want. Besides, it’s only fair.”

“Only fair that you get one too? Or only fair that I make you suffer this horrible agony you’ve put me in?”

Cas glares at him, not dignifying his snark with a response. Dean just grins, then pulls him close and nuzzles at his scentspot. He imagines sinking his teeth into the skin there, the spot he’s already marked and worried so often, placing the ultimate claim. The thought sends a thrill down his spine and his hands tighten on Cas’s waist. “I’ll see what I can do.”

A barely-perceptible tension drops from Cas’s shoulders with a little sigh. “Thank you.”

The water is starting to go chilly around them, so Dean ticks the knob up until it’s hot again and rubs Cas down with a special scent-free body wash, listening to Cas’s contented hums. He scrubs the last of the come off his chest, then slows as he dips lower to Cas’s navel. Cas sucks in air through his teeth when Dean starts to tease the trail of hair between his hip bones. He knows he’s treading on dangerous ground — literally, given the slippery shower floor — but he rubs the washcloth down over Cas’s nether regions anyway.

Cas sways into him with a gasp, and when he looks up through veiled eyelashes, Dean sees a spark stirring in their depths. A crooked smile quirks his lips. “Still with me?” he asks.

Cas’s eyes slip closed and he nods. “That feels — very nice.”

Dean cups Cas’s knot in the soapy washcloth just to feel the hot flesh pulse in his palm. His sloppy grin grows. “Playing with fire here,” he hums, giving a little squeeze.

Cas bites down on a raw tremor, a ragged exhalation. “Dean — I’m serious. We could fall, and if we fall while knotted, I —” he stops with a throaty groan and a short stutter of his hips into Dean’s hand.

Dean laughs and steps back. “Then I guess we’d better get out of here, huh?”

Cas’s urgency fades as they towel off, and Dean follows the empty growling of his stomach out to the kitchen. Cas trails along behind, lucid for now but keeping just a little too close to Dean’s side. Not that he minds. With Cas this close and his scent throwing out like an umbrella, it’s like living in a warm, summery cloud of dark citrus, cedarwood, sunshine, and herbs, and Dean doesn’t ever want to leave it.

“You hungry?” he asks over his shoulder.

“You know I’m not,” Cas replies, resting his palms on Dean’s flanks, stroking up and down his sides. Dean shivers. Cas’s voice is low and gravelly again, but Dean’s stomach is being very persistent in reminding him that they haven’t eaten since lunch the previous day.

“I’m just gonna grab a power bar, okay?” He curses the trembling of his voice as he moves further into the kitchen with Cas shuffling a step behind him, hands roving around the plane of his back. “I’m getting one for you, too, whether you like it or not. Alright? You need to eat.”

Whose bright idea was it to put the snacks in the lowest cupboard? “Did you do this on purpose?” Dean asks, trying not to bend at the waist too much as he crouches down. He can already feel Cas’s alpha heat radiating into his skin, can hear Cas’s breathing coming harder.

“Dean—”

Fuck it. It’s not like he hasn’t presented his ass before. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

With a sly glance over his shoulder, Dean lifts his hips just a little. “See anything you like?”

He halfway expects to get himself knotted right here on the kitchen floor. Instead, Cas falls to his knees and buries a needy whine into the crease of Dean’s ass. Dean braces himself on the counter and shivers when he feels the cool, slick trailing of his tongue wandering up, in. Before he’s really aware, Cas is pulling his ass cheeks apart and delving straight to Dean’s opening, lighting a fire down the backs of his thighs. His knees almost give out on him in their urgency to spread for his mate’s tongue. “Fuck — Jesus, fuck, Cas,” he whines, scrabbling at the kitchen counter and riding his hips back on Cas’s face. That fucking tongue — it does things to him as it licks and swirls right to his center. “That is — look — when I said you need to eat, I —”

In spite of the lust clouding his brain, Cas bursts into laughter, sending a wholly unexpected booming shock up Dean’s spine. Then the touch is gone, both Cas’s hands and his tongue, and Dean hears a soft thump. Dean cranes his neck to look over his shoulder; Cas has fallen backwards on the kitchen floor, helpless with giggles and glee rather than desire.  

“Sorry,” he pants. “Sorry. I —”

“It’s okay,” Dean says, grinning and grabbing two power bars from the cupboard. “Here,” he tosses one of the bars at Cas’s chest. “Eat up. You’ll need it.”

Cas lets his giggles subside to a soft sigh, then plucks it from his chest. “I told you, I’m not hungry.”

“Yeah, but you are in rut. So. Let me take care of you. Okay?”

Cas stares up at him from the floor, blinking his eyes from blue to gold and back again. “Okay,” he finally says, and when Dean offers him an arm to stand, he clasps it, brothers-in-arms style. “I’ll hold you to that,” he says once they are eye-to-eye again.

Dean flashes a grin at him. “Good. Now, c’mon — If you play nice, I’ll let you have your dessert.”

Cas’s eyes flash gold, and with a snarl he grabs at Dean. Dean narrowly avoids his grasp with a hop backwards, and then he takes off, cackling and skipping his way around the living room, circling the couch, Cas hot in pursuit. They have a moment of stand-still where Cas is in front of the sofa and Dean is behind — he sticks his tongue out at his alpha from his place of relative safety — then Cas launches straight over the seat and nearly topples it vaulting over the back.

“Oh sh—” Dean darts down the hall toward the bedrooms, picking his own at the last second, but then Cas has him cornered, and he’s caught. Which, honestly, was both inevitable and exactly what they both hoped for.

Dean will never admit to the yelp that comes out of his throat as Cas lifts him up, ungainly with one arm under his leg and the other around his chest, and deposits him on his own bed with a bounce. Dean barely has time to get his knees under himself before Cas is on him, fitting teeth into the mating bite for just a second — a blinding ache — and then knocking Dean’s knees further apart so he can kneel between them, and a thrill of triumph sings in Dean’s veins and his belly, because this is it. Cas is going to knot him. This is everything.

“Oh fuck yes, sweetheart, come on, do it —” he moans against the sheets, tilting his hips up, begging, presenting. Cas whines against the dip of his spine, hands roving hot and huge all over Dean’s skin. Dean is just about to remind Cas of lube when the alpha lunges for the bedside table of his own accord. There’s a click and a squelching sound, and a tortured cry when he almost drops it, then two slick fingers are shoving hard and quick into Dean’s hole. “Ah — shit, Cas —” Dean moans, breathing through the sudden stretch. It’s fine, really, it’s just fast — but he bears down and takes it, wants to be good, wants to be —

Dean — ” Cas moans, broken and aching. “Dean —”

Dean pulls his head up out of the sheets and cranes his neck to catch Cas’s golden-eyed glance. “I’m here, baby. Keep going.”

Cas whines again, bitten-lipped, and works a third finger inside.

Dean is certain that Cas gives him as long as he’s able, which isn’t quite long enough, but they’re both desperate. With a wet slide Cas pulls his fingers out, and then he’s moving over Dean, mounting him, pinning him to the mattress with a hand on his shoulder and one on the back of his head while he buries his cock inside.

“Ah — God, fucking — fuck!” Dean shouts into the sheets, his face pushed into their softness by Cas’s hand on his skull, keeping him completely pinned. He’s probably drooling on them. He can’t spare a thought to care. He is consumed, by fire, by flesh, by Cas, and his every fiber yearns for him. He pushes back just as hard until he feels Cas’s hips flush with his cheeks. Behind him, Cas gives a belly-deep groan of satisfaction as he seats himself.

There’s barely a moment to adjust before Cas is hammering home in hard, staccato bursts, nailing Dean’s sweet spot in a primal, vicious taking . In spite of coming hard enough to see stars just an hour earlier — inside his alpha, for fuck’s sake — Dean is hard again and ready to burst. He manages to get one hand down between his legs and finds his cock, leaking copiously, and there’s not much room to maneuver, but that doesn’t matter because the relentless push of Cas’s hips has him fucking his own fist in no time.

And then he feels the hot, solid swell of Cas’s knot starting to catch on his rim. “Oh, sweet Jesus, yes —” he moans, and Cas is whining, panting helpless moans and grunts above him, his weight still pinning Dean to the bed. His thrusts get faster, erratic, punching deeper and that knot catching over and over inside Dean’s grip until he —

“Oh fuck —!”

Mine —

It’s huge. It’s fucking enormous, and Dean feels like he can’t get enough air in his lungs for how full he is. Riding his ass back on Cas’s solid knot and forward into his own hand, Dean’s climax bursts over him like a white flare, huge and bright. He babbles nonsense as he spills into the sheets, half-formed words and curses, Cas’s name, maybe a few declarations.

As the bliss of orgasm slowly ebbs, Dean sends up a silent prayer of thanks that he doesn’t have to choose, the one or the other. This or that. Alpha or omega. That he can have both, that he can be both . In one bright and shining instant, Dean is eternally glad to have been born a beta.

Cas calms slowly this time, drifting back into himself as his muscles relax, one by one. Eventually he rolls them to one side, and the shift of the knot inside Dean makes him jump, but Cas just snuggles them together, hips to ass, knee to thigh, chin to shoulder.

“That was —” Cas tries to say after several long minutes. He’s cut off by a convulsion of pleasure.

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, it was.”

Some time later, Cas speaks again. “I think I might be hungry now.”

Dean dissolves into helpless giggles, his ribs shaking. “I have no idea where those power bars ended up,” he confesses. Cas just shrugs with a hum like he’s already forgotten about it.

Another silence, breathing slow together, and then, “Dean?”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you. For being you. All of you, everything you are.” Cas punctuates this with a kiss to the round of Dean’s shoulder, a long sweep of his hand up and down Dean’s arm, then around the chest to pull him in tight.

Dean relaxes into the sheets and the warmth of Cas’s embrace with a satisfied sigh. “Likewise.”

~*~

Dean had no idea his skin could feel so much. They alternate between napping — entwined, sometimes still knotted, sometimes seeking the temporary respite of their own sides of the bed — and bouts of desperate, intense coupling, and Dean’s half-hearted attempts to provide Cas with sustenance in between. Dean gives up on the idea of keeping pace with Cas sometime around sunset, after Cas sucks a weak, watery orgasm from him with three fingers pressed tight to his overstimulated prostate. Dean tries to convince him not to, to save it for the next time Cas needed him. But he’s gold-eyed and hungry, and apparently as undeterrable in his pursuit of giving as he is in taking.

~*~

By the evening of the second day, Cas has slowed from desperate-to-knot-as-often-as-physically-possible to spending hours just touching, exploring. As if there were still any part of Dean’s skin that did not already bear his fingerprints, his scentmark, or the trail of his tongue. He massages Dean’s sore muscles, snuffles into his sweaty armpits and groin, examines the spaces between Dean’s fingers, his toes.

“Quit it, Cas, that’s weird,” Dean complains half-heartedly when Cas starts licking the sweat from under his arms. He pushes at him ineffectually, but he can’t quite muster the energy to squirm away.

~*~

The third morning, Cas is lucid for a full two hours, though he still doesn’t like being out of skin contact with Dean. For a change of scenery, they drag a pile of blankets and pillows — pilfered from Dean’s slightly cleaner bed — out to the sofa. Dean dumps a bunch of their snacks on the table so they can graze if the mood strikes, and they spend the morning watching bad daytime soap operas and game shows they’ve never heard of between bouts of soft, unhurried kisses.

Somewhere between the Tide commercials and Enrique’s deathbed confession, Dean finds himself losing focus on the television and just breathing in the warm contentment he finds in Cas’s orange blossom-sandalwood hair. Cas’s scent makes his head swim and his blood surge; even now, he can’t get enough of Cas’s touch, the heat between them, the spark along his nerves at the caress of his skin.

Cas has gone quiet and is nuzzling into his neck slowly but with intent. “May I?” Cas asks with his lips against the bruised, tooth-bitten mark on Dean’s shoulder. It’s still sore, but the ache is a good one, and Dean tips his chin up and to the side.

“Go for it,” he murmurs, pulse already quickening.

Cas breathes hot and humid against the tender skin, and Dean shivers, leaning his head against Cas’s shoulder to give him all the room he needs. When he fits his teeth into the marks he made before, Dean jumps at the sudden spark of pain. Cas pauses, then pulls back to soothe with his lips and tongue.

“I don’t have to,” he says.

“You can, though,” Dean says. “It’s fine.” It truly is. Though the pain is like needles under his skin, it quickens Dean’s blood and sets his hips to squirming.

But Cas just brushes a kiss against the mark and hums. “I have another idea,” he says.

“Hmm? What’s that?”

In answer, Cas just leans his head to the side, baring his own throat.

Heat sinks into Dean’s belly; he swallows hard on a dry throat. “Yeah, okay,” he says, husky.

“If you don’t want to —” Cas starts to say, then gasps when Dean leans in and sinks his teeth into the flesh in front of him, right at the slope of his shoulder. “Ah! Dean —” he moans. “Harder.”

Dean laves his tongue around the sweetly salty flesh in his mouth and complies.

Harder .”

It’s more difficult than Dean thought it would be, but he knows how to read the tensing and shaking of Cas’s body, and every muscle in him cries out for this. Dean’s heart pounds fast in his chest, hard enough he can feel it booming through Cas’s ribs too. He hopes this works. He really fucking wants this to work, wants to mark Cas as his, wants everything . So he screws his eyes shut and clenches his jaw until one sharp canine pierces the skin.

Cas ignites. He clutches Dean to him, not letting him move an inch as Dean tastes a drop of coppery blood on his tongue. He sighs against Cas’s shoulder, holding him tight, tighter, as a calm satisfaction wells up in him, the scent of oranges swirling through his brain. With the sinking of his teeth into Cas’s shoulder, he feels something center inside him. A balance at his core. Cas is his. And he belongs to Cas.

It’s right.

When he does finally draw back, Cas’s eyes are golden-bright and he’s breathing hard, scrambling up and over Dean’s legs, straddling his thighs and lunging in for an open kiss. He moans as he licks the traces of his own blood from Dean’s teeth.

“Dean,” Cas moans with barely a breath of space between them. “Need —”

“Like this?” Dean asks, already rummaging for the lube he stashed between the cushions and stupidly grateful his dick wants in on the action this time. He’s kept the knotted toy close, and he’s sure that will come in handy as well, but right now Dean wants to do the claiming himself.

Cas nods and whines in his ear as Dean prepares him. It’s sweet torment until Dean can slide inside, and then Cas is riding him hard, like a man possessed.

Later, when Cas is blue-eyed and sated, slumped on Dean’s chest — Dean working the firm silicone knot through the mess of his come inside his alpha and worrying at the mark he’d left — into this space of warmth, Cas murmurs, “You don’t think I’m a freak, do you?”

Dean almost drops him. “What?”

Cas pulls back, eyes downcast. “I —” he stops to swallow. “I never expected to want — this.” He shifts his hips on the toy inside him. “Not during rut. It’s not —” Cas pauses to roll his eyes. “Not very alpha-like.” Dean fish-mouths at him for a moment while a ruddy flush stains Cas’s neck and cheeks. “Neither is wanting a mating bite,” he mutters quietly.

“And what exactly makes you think I care about what’s ‘alpha-like’?” Dean asks, wholly incredulous.

Cas sighs and drops his forehead to Dean’s collarbone. “I don’t know.”

“Cas. Hey. Look at me.”

Cas lifts his head and meets Dean’s gaze, drawing up, ready to fight. Dean cups his cheek, stroking gently with one thumb until his defensiveness melts.

“Does it feel good?” Dean asks.

Cas nods, a blush stain on his cheeks, looking down again.

“Then that’s what matters. Believe it or not, Cas, this is — this is part of why I love you. I didn’t expect you to want this either, but —” He pauses to twist the knot a little and to let Cas quiver and tremble his way through an orgasm. “But I’m really glad you do,” he says with a grin.

Cas pants, eyes closed, then shoots him a small glare. “You’re just saying that because you — have the upper hand right now,” he gasps.

Dean shrugs with a cheeky grin, but then shakes his head, petting Cas’s hair. “Nah. Listen. We’re both a bit of both, alright?” He pulls so that Cas meets his gaze. “I’m serious. You hear me? We’re okay.”

Cas stares at him for a long, long moment. Then he seizes down on the knotted toy inside him, lets the pleasure wash over him with his head thrown back and a beatific smile. Dean pulls him close, inhales deeply of their shared scent, smiles against the puffy red bite on Cas’s shoulder.

“Feel good?” Dean asks.

Cas nods.

“Good.”

~*~

“Dean…”

Dean almost-wakes to the whimper of his name in the dead of night, somewhere between very late and very early. Cas’s eyes are the only light in the darkness, and in spite of his burning thighs, aching hips, every muscle screaming for stillness, Dean hauls one leg over Cas’s hips and settles himself down. He’s so slick, so open, he doesn’t even bother with fresh lube. Cas slides in easy, with a sting and a spasm of abused muscles and tender skin, teetering on the edge between pleasure and pain. It does hurt, but Dean still wants. Still needs.

Under him, Cas hisses in through his teeth; shaking fingers dig into Dean’s hips. They’re both so oversensitive that it barely takes a touch.

“Dean —” Cas murmurs, pulling — and Dean goes down with a sigh until they are nose to nose, letting Cas grind up inside him. “Hurts,” Cas groans.

“I know, baby,” Dean murmurs against his chin, words all mussed with sleep. “We’re almost through.”

Cas gives him a gasp, hands sliding through sweat all over his skin, and it doesn’t take more than a dozen more hard pushes before the knot flares inside him, Cas’s voice breaking on a cry. Dean flutters more fully into consciousness, but the press of the knot is almost a comfort at this point, a soporific. He nuzzles into Cas’s neck, breathing a satiated sigh that smells like their combined sweat, sex, and scents.

“Dean…” Cas moans, nosing at his chin, seeking his lips. “You’re here —” he whispers against them “— you’re here — you’re with me — you — thank you… Thank you. Dean. Thank you.”

Dean yawns so wide his jaw cracks, and he nestles down again, settling in on Cas’s knot. “Any time, babe,” he mumbles.

He’s asleep before Cas’s knot goes down.

~*~

It’s morning. The first thing Dean feels is Cas’s fingers petting through his hair, sweeping down to brush oh-so-gently over the soreness on his neck and back up. When he opens his eyes, the sunshine is butter yellow on the walls, and Cas’s eyes are blue.

“Hey, you,” Dean murmurs, sleepily stretching every overworked muscle in his body.

“Hello, Dean.”

Dean relaxes into the bed, perfectly content to not move ever again, sort of tempted to go back to sleep. “All done, you think?” he asks.

Cas nods, and though his gaze does linger over Dean’s muscles, the blazing fire that has burned in him the last few days is banked. Sated. “I believe so,” he says.

“How’s it feel?” Dean asks. “Different from on your own? Smells different,” he says with a sniff. Cas’s scent is all cedar and sandalwood now, underlaid with lavender and wax and lingering orange blossoms. None of the sourness he’d always come home with after ruts at the hotel. Dean likes it much better this way.

Cas doesn’t answer right away. He lets his fingertips walk down Dean’s chest, touching each abrasion his teeth and nails have left, a gentle benediction. “It is different,” he says. “Ruts on my own have never felt this… satisfying.”

Dean smirks. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Cas glares at him, but is betrayed by the uptick at the corner of his lips. “Fishing for praise is not an attractive habit,” he says.

“C’mon, Cas, you know I’m adorable.” He nuzzles his head lower so he can bat his eyelashes at his beloved, and Cas rolls his eyes before letting slip a shy grin.

“Yes,” he says. “You were —” then pauses to plant a soulful kiss on Dean’s lips. It’s not deep, or lurid, or lustful, or passionate. But it sends a quivering down to Dean’s core. “You were everything. Everything I could have wanted.”

Emotion swells. Dean slams his eyes shut on the mist he feels gathering there and pulls Cas in the last hair’s-breadth so that their foreheads rest together.

The peace of the moment is broken when Cas’s stomach lets out a howling growl.

“I am also very hungry,” Cas states the obvious.

Dean laughs. “Hey, I tried to get food into you,” he says. “C’mon. I got eggs for now, and then I got stuff to make burgers for lunch.”

Cas’s groan of pleasure makes Dean question if he’s really out of rut.

Chapter Text

Oddly Shaped Empty

 

Dean: Hey. Miss you already :*

Cas: I thought we agreed no more emoticons? You know how quickly things get out of hand. ;-)

Dean: Don’t care. :* :P

Cas: Wearing clothing feels odd.
Cas: So does not having your skin on mine.
Cas: Or having you anywhere near me, for that matter.

Dean: Yeah, I know. Not sure I like it.

Cas: We should run away. Deserted island. Hammocks. Drinks with little umbrellas in them. Clothing optional beaches.

Dean: If this is our own private island, why wear clothes anywhere?

Cas: I knew I loved you for a reason.

The soft rap of knuckles on his door pulls Dean out of his phone. Rufus is giving him an eyebrow and Dean tries to force the dopey puppy grin off his face. “Come on in, Rufus,” he says.

“Somebody’s in a good mood today,” Rufus smirks as he steps into the office.

Dean’s phone buzzes again, but he resists checking it. His cheeks are pink enough. “What you don’t know can’t hurt you, buddy,” he says. “Did I miss anything?”

Rufus nods, his smile drooping a little. “Yeah, a couple things,” he says. “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

“Let’s start with the bad,” Dean says, leaning back in his chair, a little to the side in deference to his sore muscles and tender rear end. He only has half a mind on the shop today, and he’s pretty sure nothing Rufus can say will sour his good mood.

“Alistair came sniffing around.” Rufus’s words drop like a stone in the middle of the room. Dean feels his teeth set on edge and he sits straighter in his chair.

“Is that a fact?”

Rufus nods. “Sent one of his old cronies in to case the joint, then mosied right up here, all smiles and charm.”

Dean sits up straight in his chair again, elbows on the desk. “What did he want?”

“He started handing out business cards.”

“Business cards?”

“Mmhmm. Freelance auto work. Said since this place was going to the dogs, maybe people wanted a little freedom of choice.”

Dean shakes his head. “Well, I guess there’s nothing technically wrong with that. That’s kinda pathetic, though. If that’s his idea of revenge, I overestimated the guy.”

Rufus laughs for a moment. “Yeah, I wasn’t gonna do nothin’,” he says, “‘til he started moving in on Andy.”

“Andy? The new guy?”

“Yep. Kept saying sweet little omegas like him needed to keep better company. Jo was ready to spit fire.”

“Don’t blame her,” Dean mutters, scrubbing his face with both hands.

“Mmhmm. Anyway, I filed the paperwork for a restraining order on his ass.”

Dean nods. “Thanks. Maybe that will help.”

Rufus nods. “That does lead me to the good news,” he says and steps to the side so that Dean can see more of what’s going on out on the floor.

Dean stands up a little out of the chair, doing his best not to wince at the strain on his thighs and hips, and peers out the door. He can see Jo, leaning against a powder blue Honda CRV, twirling a strand of her long, blonde hair. Fuzzy-haired Andy is not paying nearly as much attention to the engine as he should, opting instead to watch Jo with pink cheeks and fumbling fingertips.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Dean shakes his head. “You take a few personal days around here, and you miss all the good shit.”

Rufus snorts. “My old nose tells me they’ll be taking some personal days soon themselves.”

Dean just snorts. “Keep your nose to yourself, Rufus.”

With a grin that shows all of his pearly whites, Rufus saunters out of the office.

~*~

It’s almost lunchtime when Dean’s phone rings. Actually rings, not just the buzz of a text message. He expects some robo-call when he glances at the screen, but instead he sees the picture of Cas in the floppy hat and sunglasses they’d taken at the grocery store all those months ago. Perplexed, he slides to answer. “Hey, babe,” he says.

“Dean. I did it.” He sounds out of breath.

“You — wait. What?”

“I did it. I quit.”

Dean drops his pen on the table, shock and excitement stuttering his heart. “You — wait. You quit? For real?”

“I couldn’t take it anymore. I was supposed to sit in on a sales meeting. Michael was giving me the third degree about not being prepared, and I just — I couldn’t. I left.”

“Just like that?”

Cas pauses. “I might have said something to Michael.”

“Oh god. What did you say?”

“Something about a trained monkey in a cheap suit.”

Dean buries his face in his hand, but he can’t help the laughter that bubbles up. “Well, he’s had that coming for a long damn time.”

There’s quiet on Cas’s end for a moment, a staticky whoosh of tires on distant pavement in Dean’s ear. “I don’t think I will be welcome at family Christmas this year,” Cas says at last.

“Don’t worry. There’s enough cheer around the Winchester-Singer household for the likes of you.” He picks up his pen and twiddles it for a minute. Cas is quiet on the other end. “You okay?” he finally asks.

“I don’t know what to do with myself.”

“Head on home. Get your jammies on. Have some coffee and spike it with that Irish Cream stuff. Write something. I’ll see if I can knock off a bit early and come join you. Maybe tonight we can go out and celebrate? Get Charlie and the beta gang together. Call Meg. Maybe Benny. We’ll make a party out of it, if that’s what you want.”

“Shouldn’t I be looking into schools, or — I’m going to have to get financial aid —”

“Hey. That stuff can wait for tomorrow.”

“But —”

“Tomorrow. Okay? One night off. You’ve earned it.”

There’s a gusty sigh on the other end, and Cas doesn’t say anything, but Dean can hear the gears turning in his brain all the way down the cell phone lines.

“Whatever it is you’re thinking,” Dean says, “stop. I’m glad you got out of there. And you’ll be kicking ass and taking names at counseling and mediation before you know it.”

Cas’s chuckle echoes staticky in his ear. “That’s not how mediation works, Dean.”

Dean grins. “Yeah, well, however it does work, I know you’ll be great at it.”

There’s a warm pause, and a lull in the traffic on the other end, and Dean can almost hear the affectionate smile on Cas’s face. “Thank you, Dean.”

~*~

The door bangs open, and Dean spares a thought for the neighbors. “Shh,” he tries to hiss at Cas, but it gets interrupted by a giggle. “S’late, Cas.” The floor is a bit unstable, but Cas is here, and he’s solid, and warm, and real, so Dean clings to him instead of relying on the ship’s-deck of their apartment.

Cas sways under his hands, and maybe this is a bit of the blind leading the visually challenged. “Pfft,” he scoffs. “It’s only — um.” Cas squints into the kitchen at the bright blue LED clock over the stove. “11:12 pm. 11:13.”

“Yeah,” Dean says. “That’s late. Too late to go bangin’ doors around.” He lets go of Cas and wanders into the living room, pin-balling off the walls a couple of times. “Man m’glad you talked me into takin’ the bus,” he says.

“It does have its advata-advantat—” Cas stops and screws up his face like he’s about to sneeze, then tries again. “It does have its perks.”

Neither of them have bothered to turn on the light, and the sofa is a vague lump in the dim orange street-lamp glow. Dean falls on it, snuggling his back into the cushions and convinced that there is nothing more comfortable in this world. “Oh, man, Cas — you gotta try this couch.”

“I would,” Cas says, coming to stand over him, “but there’s a strange man laying on it. I’m not sure how he got there.”

“I’m not either,” Dean says, fighting off a wave of giggles and losing. Badly.

“We shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch, anyway,” Cas says.

“Who said anything ‘bout sleepin’?” Dean asks with a lascivious leer. “C’mere.” He grabs at Cas’s wrist, misses twice, then finally latches on and pulls.

“Dean —” Cas barely has time to protest before his weight lands squarely on Dean’s chest. They both burst into laughter again, Cas muffling his in Dean’s chest and Dean letting it right out into the open air. Dean’s sides are in stitches, and he’s pretty sure people on the street can hear them. To say nothing of the neighbors.

“Hey,” Dean says when he finally starts to calm down. “Hey. I had a good time tonight. Did you have a good time?”

Cas nods into Dean’s chest. “I had a very good time. I enjoy your friends’s’s company.” Dean decides not to comment on the extra s’s.

“They like you too,” Dean says, leaning up to kiss the tip of Cas’s nose. “They’re happy for you.”

Cas sighs, and it sounds content. Satisfied. Like he’s breathing easier, finally. “I’m happy for me too.”

“Jody offered to burn your suits, y’know,” Dean says, tugging tighter on Cas’s shoulders, still wrapped up in the soft flannel he’d worn instead of his usual suit jacket.

“Hmm,” Cas hums. “Tempting.”

Dean shoves at him gently. “Don’t you dare,” he says. “At least not the black one.”

“They’re all black, Dean.”

“No, no, no — you got one and it’s — I dunno, blacker black or, somethin’. Anyway you’re not allowed to burn that one.”

“And why’s that?”

“S’cuz you were wearin’ that one — when you first came over here. Y’know. The day we met.” If his face weren’t already flushed with drink, Dean’s certain he would be blushing. Either way, it’s getting too warm on the couch.

Cas lifts his head and looks down at Dean, his nose and chin starkly outlined in the dim light, half his face in shadow. “You are a hopeless romantic,” he says with a wide grin.

“M’not hopeless,” Dean protests. “I got you.”

Cas’s smile turns into something soft and open, and Dean has to kiss it off him. It only halfway works because they’re both smiling too wide to kiss properly, but it doesn’t stop them from trying.

“I notice you didn’t deny romantic,” Cas points out when they part.

“Oh, did you?” Dean asks, and Cas hums an affirmative. “I’ll show you romantic —” And with no further warning, Dean wriggles his fingertips under Cas’s armpits, by his ribs, and Cas seizes up, thrashing violently.

“No!” He protests. “Dean! That’s —” his spasms land him on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, and still Dean doesn’t let up, moving his fingers down to the soft spots just above Cas’s hipbones. “Not fair!”

“What’s’matter, Cas? Ticklish?” Dean asks, finally letting up for a moment. Cas tries to catch his breath, still prone on the floor.

“I’ll get you for this,” he threatens with a squinty glare. “I have no qualms about pinning you down.”

“Catch me if you can!” Dean crows as he hops off the couch, darts around the end of it — and veers directly into the stools at the breakfast bar. “Ow! Son of a —” But it doesn’t slow him down. He reaches the bedroom before Cas can even get up off the floor.

By the time he hears Cas’s footsteps in the hall, Dean has hidden himself behind the open door, lying in wait, just barely able to control his panting and giggling long enough for Cas to move into the middle of the room. “Dean?” he says.

On cue, Dean darts out from behind the door, wrapping his arms around Cas’s shoulders from behind. “Gotcha,” he says, and sinks his teeth for just a moment into the still-red mark on the side of Cas’s neck. He doesn’t miss the way Cas’s knees dip at the sensation, but he recovers quickly and turns around in Dean’s embrace.

“You’re trying to distract me,” Cas growls, his voice halfway to full alpha. “It’s not going to work.”

“You sure about tha— ah!” Dean yelps as Cas tackles him to the bed, lifts his shirt in spite of Dean’s hands trying to keep it down, and blows a series of big, wet raspberries on his stomach. Dean collapses into fits of laughter, shoving weakly at Cas’s head until they are both spent. Happy, sated; Dean feels lit up from the inside.

“Dean?” Cas murmurs into the gathering quiet.

“Hmm?”

“I’m a free man.”

Dean can’t keep the grin off his face as he hugs Cas a little closer. “Yeah y’are,” he says with a kiss to Cas’s tousled hair.

“I’m glad.”

“Me too.”

~*~

Fall comes earlier in the mountains than on the plains of Kansas. They’ve left high summer and flat grassland, and now they’re driving up through winding roads, purple mountains with only the barest white brush of glaciers. Denver is behind them; now all that stands between them and California sunshine is a wall of mountains cut through with black tarmac. The trees are aspen gold and maple red between the dark spruce green. They drive with the windows down and the music loud, Cas hanging halfway out the window until the air gets too cool. Then they roll up the windows, and Cas huddles closer to Dean’s side. “For warmth,” he says. Dean doesn’t call him on it, just smirks and wraps one arm over his shoulder.

They stop at a few picturesque viewpoints, places where the high cliffs open up on broad valleys and views of jagged peaks that rip at the sky, places where they can snap selfies to send to Benny or Charlie or Meg. As they drive, Dean finds himself taking specific turns that aren’t necessarily the most efficient route. They are taking the scenic route, after all. But after the third such turn he realizes where he’s taking them.

“Hey, um.” He clears his throat. Cas turns the music down a little. “There’s someplace I’d like to take you. It’s only a little out of our way. Do you mind?”

Cas shakes his head. “Not at all.”

So Dean nods and steers them in the right direction, a tiny tremor of trepidation in his throat.

They reach the trailhead; it’s only a short walk, but Dean remembers when it felt much longer, partly because he was younger, partly for the weight he carried. They cross bridges over dry creek beds and duck under a couple of fallen logs before the path opens up on a dark rock outcropping. They can see the ragged line of the mountains under the blue, blue sky, and below them the rocks drop away steeply into an emerald green valley.

Dean hasn’t spoken since they got out of the car; Cas has said little, sensing Dean’s solemnity and matching him without knowing the reason. Dean is grateful. He leans his elbows on the wooden fence between them and a certain drop, taking in the stillness, breathing the fresh air.

“My parents are here,” he says, finally, a whisper as loud as a bell between them and the mountains.

Cas shifts beside him. “Your parents?”

Dean nods. “After my mom died — a long time after, I think I was in 8th grade or something — my dad brought me and Sam up here to spread her ashes. He never said why here. Sam thinks it’s where he proposed to her, but — anyway. When he passed, it just seemed right.”

Cas doesn’t say anything, but he takes a shuffling step closer with a loud scritch of gravel under his shoes. The wind kicks up a little, ruffling at them, carrying with it the subtle resin of pine, fallen wood, and ice on granite. Dean breathes in deep, letting his eyes fall closed, and when Cas wraps his arms gently around Dean’s shoulders from behind, Dean clasps his forearms in his hand under his chin, wrapping Cas around him like a warm cloak.

After a long moment, he stands up straight again and turns to look into Cas’s eyes, heartbreaking blue that rivals the sky, even here when they are so close to it.

“I never thought I’d get to have this,” he says. “You — someone who gets me like you do. Someone who —” he chokes a little and has to look away, but Cas just gives him time. “Someone who loves all the pieces of me. Not in spite of, but because — I’d, uh. I’d kind of given up. So. I guess, just. Thank you. For — this. For being who you are. For accepting me.”

Cas smiles at him, just a tiny quirk of pink, wind-chapped lips, and draws in breath. “The feeling is mutual, Dean.” He laces his fingers through Dean’s and brings his hand up to kiss the places where they cross. Dean leans close, knocking their foreheads together, and lets his eyes fall closed. Cas’s cedar scent joins the breeze around them, layered under with lavender and sunshine wheat, and they just… breathe. Together in quiet communion.

After a long span of heartbeats and silence, Dean pulls back; the world is brighter when he blinks his eyes open. Cas grins at him and then at the beauty all around them, but Dean keeps his eyes on Cas — wind-tossed hair, looking rough around the chin from relaxing his shaving habits since his career change, finally at home in a soft maroon hoodie he’d found at a thrift store in Boulder. Dean loves him more than the air stolen from his lungs.

“C’mon,” he says, tugging on Cas’s hand. “We got a long drive.”

There are more smiles on the return hike, more banter, even though it’s mostly up hill. By the time they get back to the trailhead, Dean’s cheeks hurt from grinning like a lovesick fool, and Cas is glowing. As Dean pulls out onto the road, a trilling opening chord makes him grin, and he cranks the volume.

“Can you play this one?” Cas asks, close to his ear.

“No, but I can learn.”

 

Hey lady
You got the love I need
Maybe more than enough
Oh, darlin’, darlin’, darlin’
Walk a while with me

Oh you got so much
So much

Many have I loved, and many times been bitten
Many times I’ve gazed along the open road

Many times I’ve lied, and many times I’ve listened
Many times I’ve wondered how much there is to know

Many dreams come true, and some have silver linings
I live for my dream and a pocket full of gold

 

~fin~

Chapter Text

In order of ascending biological weirdness (and descending order of relevance to the story)

Mating Bites

Mating bonds and the bites that trigger them are often pseudo-mystical in a/b/o. I didn’t want to go that route. The way I see it, the bonding that happens between alphas and omegas (and betas) in my world is based on the same basic bonding hormones humans have (like oxytocin), just super souped-up and with different triggers. These triggers include scenting and scent-bonding, and marking/biting on the neck.

However, mating bites that break the skin are not inherently different from bites and marks that don't. It’s more of a cultural thing than a biological thing: see Dean’s commentary about romance novels. I figure they used to be more common, like in pre-regency era. Picture renaissance paintings with swooning maidens with teeth marks all over their neck, that kind of thing. More orthodox cultures and fundamentalist enclaves probably still practice through-the-skin biting more than others. Dean and Cas do it because they want to, not because they have to to be bonded or mated.

As for whether or not “true mates” exist… is up to you.

 

Beta Endocrine System

This is more of a disclaimer than anything else: I have a biology degree, but it’s more focused on ecology and ecosystems than anatomy. I have a rudimentary knowledge of how hormones work in humans and I did my best but I was definitely making it up as I went along. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Pregnancy or Lack Thereof (The Male Omega)

Mpreg isn’t something I wanted to deal with. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a thing in this world, but since omegas only really make tangential appearances, if you want to imagine that it does exist, feel free to do so. It doesn’t change the story much.

Regardless, how I was picturing it was that women, regardless of their secondary gender, are always the ones to get pregnant. Male omegas are just as capable of impregnating as male alphas. I figure heats would probably manifest differently depending on the gender of the alpha partner, but honestly I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it.

 

Alpha Females

Okay so here’s where my thought process gets weird. You know how female hyenas have pseudopenis? If you don’t… and you’re feeling brave… google it. That shit’s weird and kind of awesome.

Anyway that’s what I was picturing for alpha females. Do with that as you will.

 

On a slightly more serious note…

The inspiration for this story was very much wanting to express an outsider’s point of view. I identify as genderqueer. I’ve struggled for years with feeling “not right” in either gender camp. I have some mild gender dysphoria. I drew a lot on those feelings when exploring Dean’s emotional journey in this story.

As I’ve gotten older, I have found a place of comfort in the middle, and my relationship with my husband has helped that immensely. Without getting into too many personal details, his acceptance of my gender fluidity has helped me settle into who I am, has given me a safe space to explore any part of the spectrum that feels right to me on any given day. I can’t thank him enough. This story is, in some ways, my attempt to do so.

I know that some expected or were even hoping for Dean to present as omega at some point in this story. And that is okay! That is also a fine story, and one that I would read! It’s just not the story I was telling. It’s not my story. I hope that you can all appreciate where I’m coming form on this one and embrace the middle space the way I have.

Anyway, thank you for coming to my TED talk.