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The pack where Dean grew up was warm. Even in fall, even when the harsh winter wind cut through the settlement, and rattled the shelters, it always felt warm. There was no moment when Dean wondered if his family cared for him, no question as to his place. His place was with his mother and father, caring for his little brother, and playing with the other pups.

Sammy was four years younger than Dean, and they were together almost all the time. Even when Dean wanted to play big kid games with the other pups, he would find ways to make it up to his little brother, by taking him down to the creek to fish, or teaching him how to stalk rabbits in the tall grass.

They hadn’t caught one yet, but that was ok, there was plenty of time to practice.

 

They slept in their own tent with their mother and father. Father was pack alpha, so he was often busy, but he still made time when he could to play with his sons. And he always came back to the tent to sleep, curling around his family protectively.

 

They lived in the wilderness. Not completely isolated, they had enough that was from the closest town, enough that Dean knew something of the built up societies beyond the trees. But he had never been himself. Too little, his mom would say, and he left it at that. He didn’t really want to go anyways, he was happy in the woods with his pack.

 

Even the warmest pack couldn’t keep the cold out forever.

 

There were whispers of the scuffles happening around the border. Glimpses of strange paw prints and wolves in the distance, that had turned into scent marking and altercations with the sentries. At night sometimes, when he was curled between his mother and his younger brother, he would hear his Dad wander into their hut, feet dragging heavy, scent tired. His mother would nuzzle at him, and he would whisper that they had found more tracks further in, or a guard, a friend, had been injured chasing one of them off. Dean could smell how guilty his father felt for that. It was the first time his father had seemed like anything other than the impervious pack alpha, Dean’s hero.

 

Daylight cast things in a different tinge, with the older wolves trying to hide the threat from the pups. But the tension they held in their shoulders, the way all the eyes in the settlement would track the tree line over and over, spoke for itself.There was no way the pups, at least the ones old enough to know the difference, could have been oblivious to it. Even so, this was the pack they had all grown up with, it had always been a safe haven. Especially for smaller pups, the pups like Dean who were still little and had only ever seen their leaders win, it seemed like whatever was bothering the grown ups would have to blow over, and things would go back to normal.

 

A couple weeks after the rogues had first been spotted, the settlement was infiltrated. It was late enough that the younger wolves, and most of the old, were already bedded down. Dean’s mother was pulling him and his brother through the settlement before either of them were fully awake, carrying them in her mouth and running towards the cave in the center. Dean could see, when he was able to fully open his eyes, that his friends were already in there, a wall of their own pack’s wolves separating them from whatever was happening outside. It seemed as though, suddenly, there were rogue wolves all around. Dean could see out of the corner of his eye his own father tearing into the hide of a large mangy thing would sharp claws and long yellow teeth. The smells were overwhelming now, aggression and fear and blood overpowering the pups’ noses, and the sound of Sammy crying was loud in Dean’s ear as they darted between battles.

And there was something dark right in front of them, blocking his mother’s path, and snarling open mouthed. Dean could smell the alpha’s breath, hot and foul, and he couldn’t help but squirm to get away. His mother’s grip was firm though. He was secure, he knew that. She wouldn’t let him go. But the other wolf was advancing. The aggressive growl he heard resonating from behind where he was being held in his mother’s muzzle was startling, and real fear started to curl its way through his small body. This wasn’t right. His father would come protect them. His mother would keep them safe. He reached a paw out to hold onto his little brother, just as the larger wolf attacked. His mother dropped them, jumping in front to tear into the leg of the beast. Sammy was whimpering, shivering on the ground, and Dean was frozen in place, just watching his mother’s flesh torn through by sharp teeth, and blood slowly cover the fur that smelled like home and safety.

And then he wasn’t on the ground anymore, he was in the air. He saw his brother running towards the cave, urged on by a pack beta, but he was turning too fast, moving too fast to see if Sammy ever made it. He could hear his mother in the distance, screaming his name, but he couldn’t see her through the darkness, couldn’t smell her through the chaos. And then he couldn’t hear her at all anymore.

 

Dean wasn’t sure how much distance they covered before he stopped howling for his parents, for the rest of his pack. But he knew it wasn’t long after he stopped howling that he passed out, because when he awoke, he was in a box of metal bars, a sort of container he had never seen before, and he was cold all over. It was still dark, but this time it wasn’t a matter of not being able to smell his family through the fighting, he just knew, could feel in his gut that if they were alive, they weren’t anywhere near where he was.

 

~~

 

Whenever it was that Dean found himself jostled awake, he couldn’t tell at all how much time had passed. He was still shrouded completely in darkness, though jerky movements told him he was being transported somehow. Smells were filtering in more distinctly, now that his nose had cleared of the distressing scents of fighting. There was dirt, drier than where he had been in the woods, and the smells of unwashed fabric and leather. He could also smell other wolves, though their scents were more like they were in human form than the musk that tended to overlay the wolves of his own pack. The occasional sound that made its way in seemed to corroborate that. The muffled voices outside were foreign and frightening, but nonetheless, with the constant state of movement the box was in and his own exhaustion, Dean couldn’t help but be lulled back to sleep.

 

~~



The rapid tumble from the metal box to the ground is jarring, and Dean wakes up to his face hitting the hard ground. The light is blinding after all the time in the dark, and it takes a moment to work through the pain and the sun to realize that he is surrounded. Tall men look down on him, wolves by the smell of it, though they are in their human forms, dressed in leathers and boots. The smell of alphas, and a few betas filters through Dean’s small nose, and he whimpers, curling in on himself. Their smell is that of sour rot, and it’s overwhelming.

The one closest to him leans down, the gouge over part of his face becoming prominent. Somewhere in the back of his head Dean thinks that his own pack must have inflicted that on him, and his pride is outweighed by the fear he feels, in his position. The man sneers, his scent ratcheting up as he sees that Dean has noticed the wound.

“Shift, mutt,” he spits out. Dean doesn’t want to. They almost never do in their own pack. Living in the woods, there is no need, and often it’s more dangerous in their human form, so they do it only for practice. The man is not patient. His heavy black boot makes hard contact with Dean’s back, and the pup whines in pain.

“Shift, or I’ll beat you black and blue.” Spittle flies through the air, and the warm breeze carries with it the stench of the other men as well.

 

Dean shifts.

 

It is slow, and nearly painful, for he has not made this transition in months, but he manages. Curled naked, with his pink baby flesh exposed to the air in a way that has never felt quite natural, he feels even more vulnerable than before. The man is still sneering, and his lips part over his teeth more broadly when he tosses a bundle of rough fabric down at the pup on the ground.

“Put this on. We’re walking.” It takes another kick to the back for Dean to move, and uncurl himself. His fingers feel stiff when he tried to untangle the fabric, and he doesn’t understand how to put it on. His own pack has never had use for such things. He looks around at the men, who have largely shifted their attention to other things. There is a wagon Dean had not noticed before, full of packages of different shapes and sizes. There is a horse. He wonders if there are other pups, though he can’t smell them. He hopes Sammy is a million miles away from these men and anyone they know.

The alpha who caused the slowly blooming bruises on Dean’s back is still watching, waiting. Dean doesn’t dare look him in the face, but he does look at the way he has covered himself, hoping to understand how the cloth he grips in his small hands is meant to work.

After a couple humbling tries, it might be crooked and ill fit, but he manages to clothe himself.

Another one of them has stopped working, and is staring now, watching as Dean tries to climb to two feet instead of four. The pup accidentally makes eye contact, and finds himself back against the dirt, a handprint bright red on his cheek from where the man backhanded him.

“Don’t look an alpha in the eye, mutt. There’s your first lesson of the city.” The wolf crows like he’s given a great pearl of wisdom, a gift for the road, and Dean tries not to cry again.

 

The road itself feels longer than it should have, since Dean could already see a tall wall in the distance when they started out. After only a few minutes, though, his feet are dirty and scraped, and he’s been pushed for not moving fast enough so that his knees and hands sting. It’s more open here than anywhere he has ever seen, and he feels exposed. Not only because of the men, but also to the elements. He doesn’t want to see the horizon, it’s frightening to know that the world expands so far, and he has no idea how long he’s traveled away from his family.

 

When they finally reach the wall, it’s taller than the tallest tree Dean ever saw in the forest, taller than he thought anything could be. The gate they’re making their way towards is a giant gaping maw, through which a train of people stream in both directions. There are so many more scents and sounds here than the pup is used to. The men he is with have no sympathy for how overwhelming it is, though, and push him again when he falters at the overstimulation. An old woman sitting on a wagon to their right laughs when she sees.This is a very different world than he is used to.

 

Inside the gates, there is dust swirling, and the sun feels more blistering when it bounces off the buildings. These are a different kind of shelter than what Dean’s pack had in the woods, made of stone and packed tightly together. There are pups on the street, running between wagons, and everyone is in their human form. Dean starts to shiver despite the heat, hearing the screech of metal and shrill cries of animals in the alleyways. The men are herding him towards a large building behind what seems to be one of the busier areas. The noise dies off only slightly, but it is still a relief to his young ears. The place is dark, somehow, in the shadows of other, brighter, buildings. There are more metal bars on the windows, like the ones that had been on the box he woke up in. He’s not sure if he can’t smell anything, or is simply smelling too much, but the place is giving him a cold feeling in his gut.

 

The alpha with the wound on his face isn’t looking at him, but Dean can feel he’s being watched as one of the men knocks on the door to the building> The door was made of dark wood, with metal strips across, rust edging at the corners like it hadn’t been open in a while. A small metal rectangle was embedded in the middle of the upper half of the door, which is where one of the man knocks; once and then three times in rapid succession. There’s a pause that fills the air, the men all tense, like something is about to happen. And then the window slides open, revealing a pair of narrow eyes on the other side, squinting out at the light and the group on the outside of the door. The eyes shift rapidly for a moment before landing on Dean, and he feels like he is being pierced through to the soul.

“We got one for ya.” The man with the wound in his face speaks, and the eyebrows behind the door raise, while the eyes themselves narrow.

The metal window slides shut with a clang, and then there is the sound of metal clanging, and the door is swinging open with a squeal. It’s dark behind the door, and Dean finds himself being pushed through.

 

Inside, the air is cold, and whatever figure let them in has disappeared. There’s a tight grip on Dean’s shoulder, he assumes from the man with the wound, but it could be any of them in the group. They’re leading him down the hallway, claws just slightly extended and digging in to his skin enough that he wonders if he’s bleeding. His feet hurt, but the smooth floor is a marked relief from the rough ground outside.

They end up in front of another doorway, illuminated by a dim light that still feels bright enough to blind after the dark of the hallway.

More smells are coming through, now that they are deeper in the building. Dean thinks he can smell other wolves, or other people, but it’s also masked somewhat by a deep scent of disinfectant that burns at all of their noses. He follows the feet of the men moving around him, unable to look up at their faces.

“How much?”

It’s the man with the gouged face speaking. Dean had barely noticed another stranger joining in the midst.

“He’s a wisp of a thing. How about a hundred.”

 

The smell of anger ratchets up and Dean has to keep from folding in.

 

“A hundred? That’s bullshit. He’s wild. That means he can work.”

 

“That also means he’ll need more training.”

 

“Two hundred at least.” Dean can’t smell the other person, and he can’t gauge their reaction.

He realizes, vaguely, that they must be bargaining over him, and he doesn’t know if this place is better than with the men he’s with now. He thinks it must be, but without the scent of the other person, or even being able to see their face, he has no way of knowing.

 

The haggling continues, a compromise reached that has the group of men tossing Dean forward with sneers of disgust that he couldn’t fetch them a better price. And then they are retreating down the dark hallway, each echo of their footsteps making Dean flinch in the new emptiness of the room.

The stranger moves now, coming to stand in front of Dean. He can see their feet, covered in dark pointed shoes.

“Look up at me, pup.” The voice is firm. More feminine, now that he’s listening, but none of the warmth he remembers in his mother’s voice, or any of the female wolves in his home pack.

He lifts his head, looking up into the face of the person who bought him. Her skin is smooth, pulled taught around her features, and her dark hair is pulled back into a tight bun in the back of her head. She is dressed in all white, a long garb vaguely reminiscent of the stories his family used to tell of angels.

She is not one.

Her eyes are cold as they regard him, flicking up and down, scanning his form.

 

“You will call me Miss Naomi. You will speak when spoken to, and only when spoken to. You will do as you are told, and only as you are told. If you do not follow the rules of this establishment, you will be punished until you understand the mistakes you have made. Do you understand.”

 

It feels like a statement, but Dean, even as young as he is, knows that this is the first test. And he thinks, he knows, that alone in this room for the first time with this woman, is not the place to fail.

 

“Yes, Miss Naomi,” he says.

 

And it is just the beginning.

Chapter Text

It was shocking that more of the scents of the upstairs of the building didn’t filter through to the bottom, for the number of pups that were crammed in. Dean had never seen so many pups in one place, limited as he had been to his own pack.

 

Miss Naomi had passed him off quickly enough. Although it seemed she was the leader, the headmistress of sorts, it was another boy some years older than him who brought him to the main room where he would be staying. At least for the moment , he had said. Whatever that meant.

 

It was a broad room, easily the size of half Dean’s settlement. It covered a full floor of the building. The metal bars he had seen going in the front door extended all the way around, and made the whole place feel like a metal box, top to bottom.

 

There were small cots spread in rows across the dirty floor, thin cotton blankets on each, and a single pillow. Dean was told there was to be no touching, no sleeping in anyone else’s cot, no fraternization. And this was the boy’s floor. He especially was not to go up the stairs to the girl’s floor without a chaperone and explicit permission. It was just one of many rules he didn’t really understand.

 

The older boy showed him to his own cot, so identical to all the others that he wasn’t sure how he would ever remember. There was a pup standing by the cot to his left, a boy around his own age, Dean thought. He was thin and wan, his skin a little gray, and dark circles under his blue eyes. The older boy hardly glanced at the other pup before immediately taking Dean down to the bottom floor once more, and showing him to the kitchens and the school rooms.

 

It quickly began to fall into place, that this was not a place where someone could stay for free. The older boy almost didn’t think to explain it, only catching it at the last minute after he asked “Any questions?” and Dean had one.

 

“What is this place?” It had been so long since he had said anything aloud, any words, that his voice came out as more of a hoarse whisper. Again, this didn’t seem to be something that phased the other boy in the least.

 

“Oh. No one has told you?” Dean shook his head.

 

“This place is...different there you were before, I imagine. We...the children. We work. We stay here and learn, until we are sent somewhere else to work. I’ve been in several households. I specialize in kitchen work now. But starting off, you’ll likely clean. Once you’ve been taught, of course. This place has something of a reputation, for...a broad range of well trained workers.”

 

For the first time, some darker emotion seemed to pass over the other boys face, and he looked away from Dean’s wide eyes.

 

“It’s better to just do as your told here. If you want to eat.”

And then the tour was over, and Dean was being taken back up to the big room full of cots and pups and silence so unnatural that Dean didn’t even notice until the older boy had gone. The room was so full, and yet no one said a word. There was an occasional sniffle, or rustle, but it was like someone had muted the space completely.

 

Dean stood by his cot before turning to his left where the boy his age still stood, not having moved an inch. Unable to force his voice out in the silence of the room, Dean settled for a small wave, and wasn’t sure whether or not the twitch of a hand he got in response counted as a greeting.

 

~~

 

The next few months were as close to hell as Dean had ever gotten. He missed his family. He missed his mother licking his head before they fell asleep, and he missed his father play hunting with him and Sammy in the day time. He missed the way his little brother would follow him everywhere, even though sometimes he had wanted to do things on his own.

 

He wasn’t even allowed to touch the other pups. None of them were. It was part of their schooling, to be proper, to blend in, to not need anything when they were assigned to other households. They were to be as cold as the objects they touched.

 

The pup in he cot next to Dean was named Benny, which he found out several days into his stay. An opportune moment when they were both alone in the big room just before supper  gave Benny just enough time to lean over and whisper his name, and for Dean to do the same, before they had to be afraid of being late.

That interaction alone gave Dean enough strength to keep going, it had been so long since he spoke to someone else.

 

The silence of the big room didn’t change. The only place there were voices was downstairs, where Miss Naomi would glide around, instructing and demanding. There were others, too, other men that came in and would enforce when she needed them to. She never got her own hands dirty.

 

Dean didn’t know, at first, what happened when pups didn’t follow orders. He had tried to find ways around the bars, sometimes, or to discover any times when the doors were left unlocked or unguarded. He wasn’t sure where he would go, but he thought surely if he could just get out it would be better. The first and only time they caught him trying to break out, he didn’t eat for three days, and he couldn’t walk without wincing for over a week. When that happened, Benny was gone, away somewhere no one would tell him even if they knew, and Dean had never felt so absolutely alone.

 

There were lessons on how to scrub and clean, how to cook, how to measure and sew.The washing water was so cold, and every night when he dragged his tired body back to the cot, he would hold his hands to his chest, trying to get feeling back. It would come with a stream of pins and needles, until he was left with only the actual stinging pain of the places where skin had worn through, or dried and split from the water.

 

They were taught numbers and letters, but only for the take of understanding household inventories. Miss Naomi spared them no detail. And it showed in the way the children would come and go from the building without warning. They would be brought away, somehow, sent to new assignments, returned and exchanged like faulty goods.

Sometimes they were ok, sometimes they weren’t, and as time passed and Dean saw more and more pups with bruises covering the skin where their ribs and spines protruded, some of the hope drained out of him.




~~

 

The house of his first assignment was huge and looming. There were tall glass windows, and wrought iron fencing around the edges of the property. For Dean, who hadn’t been outside in so long he had lost count, even the brightness of the sun as it peeked over the edge of the horizon was bordering too much.

 

The man who was bringing him was one of the ones who worked some days for Miss Naomi, carrying heavy things in from the market, and making sure that none of the pups got out of line. He had met Dean personally only a few times, but it was more than enough to leave an impression on the child.

 

“Yer going around to the back entrance.” He growled, not asking for or expecting a response.

 

The two of them made their way around back, slipping in through a small door mostly hidden by a wooden gate. Workers were meant to be neither seen nor heard, ghosts who flitted from room to room tending to any and all needs before they were even voiced. It was a fitting start to this, that Dean was practically snuck into the building.

 

The man greeted an older woman, who stood firmly in the kitchen, her hands stiff by her sides. And then Dean was alone with a stranger, again.

 

The woman was largely nondescript. Not too harsh or too lenient. She brought him to the servants quarters where he would stay for the duration of his employment, and then showed him to the small closet where most of the cleaning supplies were kept.

His job would be to scrub grout, clean out compost, wash out sinks and toilets, and any number of other odd tasks that might pop up throughout the day. As the woman, Rowena, explained, he had very little other to do than to keep his head down and the house clean.

 

It was an unexpected moment of kindness that before he was sent off to work, Rowena pressed a husk of bread and some cheese into his hand.

 

“I had a son once,” she said, so quietly it might have only been meant for herself.

And then she was pushing his shoulder and he was moving to the closet, shoving the food in his mouth like the most delicious thing he had ever tasted.

 

~~

 

There was a sort of endless monotony working in the large house that Dean hadn’t expected. He woke up to a blank ceiling, before the sun rose, and fell asleep to the same sight long after the sun had set. As exhausted as he was in the beginning, his body began to adjust to the work. But that seemed almost worse, as he would lie awake at the end of the day, trying to remember the fading image of his family’s faces. It seemed wrong, like he was betraying them, or forgetting about them completely, that they had begun to blur at the edges. And Sammy was so little still, he had seemed to be growing and changing so fast. Dean wondered if he would even be able to recognize him, without scent, by now.

 

And then Dean would think of the last time he saw his family, and wonder if any of them were even alive to recognize.

 

He started to work his body harder, if only to avoid those thoughts late at night.

 

Rowena was a fine leader. It was mostly her that Dean saw. He would catch glances of other servants occasionally, thought none of them spoke to him. Even another pup here and there. He never saw the people who actually lived in the house though. It had gone on long enough that he was beginning to suspect that they weren’t even there at all.

 

He began to grow bolder, under this presumption. Walking around less vigilantly as he moved from room to room. Normally no one seemed to see him, just as he saw no one else, but it only took one time at the end of the week, for a woman dressed in more finery than he could comprehend to spot him out of the corner of her eye by one of the sitting rooms.

She shrieked, her long dress flowing behind her like a web in the wind. Dean stood frozen, unsure of whether running or standing would keep him safer. He thought neither.

A pale arm extended upwards, a decorated nail longer than any talon reaching towards himm from across the room.

 

“Wretch!” Her voice was sharp. “I will not have this in my home! This filth! I cannot stand to see it!” Her voice drew one of the butlers, one of the more accepted servants, dressed in his own form of finery. His black suit made him seem so much more intimidating as he attempted to wordlessly reassure the woman by catching Dean by the back of the neck and pulling out of the room towards the kitchen.

He was tossed through the doorway, hard enough to hit his knees with a deep thud when he reached the floor. Rowena looked up from where she was at the stove, her face drawn in deep, concerned, lines.

 

“What have you done?”

 

Dean couldn’t speak, but he had to answer back. “I...I-someone saw me. I was walking, and she saw me.” Too quiet, too hoarse, but Rowena heard, and her face grew grimmer than he had ever seen it.

 

“You will be gone by tonight.” She glanced at the doorway, confirming that the butler had disappeared.

 

“They will come back for you, and take you. You will be taught until you understand. You are not to be seen.”

 

Dean shook where he kneeled still on the ground. He knew what that meant, vaguely. It had never happened like this though. He was expected to be better, to be invisible, and he had failed. And now they would punish him. Miss Naomi’s words from the first day flashed through his head. Until you understand , she had said. But he already understood, it was just a mistake. How would they know when to stop.

 

Rowena finally looked back at him. She had never been kind, exactly, but not unkind either. This was the most sympathetic her expression had ever been, and Dean didn’t like to think that it was born of pity. She gestured him towards the table, and brought him a bowl of soup and some bread once he was seated.

 

“Savor it,” was all she said, a touch to his shoulder not quite comforting enough for the amount of time he had been without contact.

 

He savored it anyways.

Chapter Text

Something felt different after Dean came out of the room at the end of the hall, with the metal bars on the door, and the dirt coating the floor. Everything was louder, and brighter now. Too loud and too bright.The oppressing silence of the big room had become overstimulating, with Dean honing in on every rustle, every cough in the night. It didn’t feel natural to speak anymore.

 

It was the place you went when you needed to learn. Miss Naomi had been there at times, had explained to him the mistake he had made at his first assignment. But mostly it was her helpers, her assistants, who had driven the point home. Don’t be seen, don’t be heard. Don’t exist, just work.

Dean already knew what they wanted, but after all that time, all the time they spent to teach him, he thought maybe he understood it more deeply. His bones knew what it meant, and they ached at the thought of disappointing Miss Naomi, of making those mistakes again. He had wondered, before, how they would know when to stop. He still didn’t know. But it had been a long time.

 

There was no real concept of time in that place. He had asked Benny, at some point, how long he had been in that room, but the other boy didn’t know either, just shrugging.

They had grown closer, once Dean had come out. They were more similar now, the same experiences guiding their needs and their fears. Sometimes, after a long day or when one of them was hurt, they would sneak into each other’s cots and just lie there, appreciating the warmth and contact of another person. Another thing no one seemed to get much of in this place.

 

Dean’s second assignment came sometime after that, and then the third, and the fourth. These did not end because he was seen again, though. He was far too careful for that. He understood his mistake, and would not repeat it. It was natural to slink around the edges of rooms and hallways.

He grew to like the solitude, in some way, not having to try and talk to the lords and ladies, the alphas and betas and even some omegas who ruled the houses where he was put to work. Some of the homes were sold, sometimes they were downsized, and sometimes the term of employment simply ended without fanfare, and Dean returned to Benny and the big room, and Miss Naomi who still graced the children with her presence when she felt it necessary.

 

~~

 

Dean grew older. His clothes stopped fitting, and he had to exchange them with others from the store kept in the facility. His skin was pale, from the time spent inside, though he still had pale freckles like scars where his skin remembered being in the sun as a child.

Benny grew too, becoming broader in the shoulders, and stronger in the arms. Dean wished he could get that kind of strength, felt like it might protect him somehow. But he had developed a more wiry sort of build from his household cleaning work.

He never was sent on to specialize in anything, like that older boy had said so long ago.

 

That boy was gone now, and as Dean grew, he heard more of the rumors that spread sometimes among the others. It was still silent, it was almost mysterious how these things spread despite that, covert glances and gestures becoming their own sort of language in the facility. That boy had gone on to manage the kitchen for one of his former assignments. He had presented beta and was gone the next day.

It was easier to follow rumors on assignment, where the other housekeepers and cleaners were not limited by such laws of silence. Dean could hear there, what often happened to pups like him.

 

Not everyone followed that path. Dean knew some of the boys had presented alpha in recent years. He could smell them, vaguely, the stench permeating the big room before they too were snatched away without a warning. The rumor was that these boys were sent on to perform manual labor for the cities, or the lords and ladies of high society. A lucky placement would be landscaping. An unlucky one would be working in the quarries or the mines outside of town.

Dean imagined that at least a couple of the alphas under Miss Naomi’s employ must have originally been children housed in the facility. They must have been exceptionally promising or exceptionally well trained for her to keep them.

 

There were only whispers of what happened when one presented omega.

 

It had happened once, a few months ago.

 

A girl, upstairs, had presented, her sweet smell filling the space, just barely filtering down the big room where the boys slept. She was taken without a word as well, the first omega in several years at least. No one really knew what had happened to her.

 

Dean saw muted conversations, speculating that she had been sent off to the auctions, but there was no way to prove it. Anyone who went into the auctions couldn’t be tracked unless you had money and paperwork, something no one in the facility could even dream of.

 

The auctions were something everyone had heard of, but no one really knew what they meant. It was something kept off the main streets, even for a place as allowing as the cities. One of the housekeepers had spoken a little too loud, in one moment, letting Dean catch that it was a place where people were brought up and sold to the highest bidder, a place where many omegas went when they presented out of one of the labor facilities.

 

Dean suspected she would not have explained any such thing if she had known he was lingering beyond the kitchen door. He was not one to be spoken to.

 

~~

It was only at the facility, now, that Dean could remember that he was a person. Benny had become the closest person in his life, and he knew that the same was true for the other boy as well. Though it was difficult to spend much time together, with them both being sent off more time than not, the returns when they saw each other again were no less poignant.

Even as they grew larger, too big for the small cots themselves, let alone the two of them, Dean and Benny would still find solace in each other’s company, curling up when they were hurt. On the rarest of occasions, one of them would whisper into the darkness that they hoped they would both present beta, they hoped they could be sent to the same assignment, they hoped that when the time came they would be able to see each other again before disappearing into the void that seemed to suck up everyone they knew.

Dean could hardly remember Sammy’s face now, but he thought Benny was surely the closest to a brother he would ever have again.

 

~~

 

Dean had just been sent back from his last assignment. The house had downsized, rendering him and several other workers useless, and returned. Miss Naomi had been there when he entered the building, her eyes burning him as they raked over his growing body, now nearly a young adult.  

She hummed to herself quietly, nodding slightly to indicate that he was dismissed.

 

That night, Benny presented alpha. Dean only woke because the smell was strong enough from right beside his own cot. It was too dark to see much, but he could tell his friend seemed to be in pain of some kind, the way he was gripping the stiff cotton sheets, his knuckles white and his eyes pressed tightly closed. Dean thought to go to him, to wipe the sweat off his brow, to ask him, somehow in the quiet, if he was ok.

But there was no time. He had hardly been awake for a moment when the door to the big room was opening, light shining through and silhouetting the men who had come. Dean’s eyes widened, going back to where his friend had lifted his head slightly. The sheen of sweat was shining now in the light cast from the hallway, but Dean couldn’t move. The men were right there, near silent despite the weight of their heavy boots and determined movements. Surely only a few other boys would have even woken at this point. Benny himself had yet to make a sound.

They picked him up, by the shoulders and feet, one gripping his ankles and the other lifting beneath his armpits. He was young enough still, that he was physically smaller than these men, who had to have been middle aged if they were a day. And then they were carrying him out, the only friend Dean had known in years passing over the threshold and into the unknown.

 

Dean couldn’t stop staring after them, even after the door was shut, and the smell of alpha had begun to fade in the air. It was still heavy and potent, but much less so without the source in the room.

 

Benny’s cot was mussed up, the blanket tossed to the side, the pillow askew. Dean felt himself moving before he knew why, curling himself in the still warm empty cot of his friend, and letting silent tears work their way down his face. He would have to stay awake, would have to move back to his own cot before daylight, before anyone saw. But for now, this was the only way he knew to say goodbye.

 

~~

 

Dean supposed he could only be grateful that he was sent away again almost immediately after Benny had been taken. He thought it would have been too much to lie in his small cot, forcing himself not to look over and realize all over again that there was no one beside him. Or, even more startling, that another pup had been brought in to take Benny’s place.

 

No, it was better that Dean was away, working. Where he could pretend everything was normal, that he wasn’t alone again, that he would work here until he went back and saw his friend.

 

Sometimes, in moments of bitter optimism, he would imagine that it was ok Benny was gone, because everyone had to present at some time. Dean would present soon too. Since Benny was alpha, maybe Dean would be alpha too, and they could find each other again that way.

 

In this new house, where the head housekeeper did little but criticize, and the head butler hardly glanced at him even once over the entire stay, it was these flights of fantasy that kept him going through the darkest hours.

Chapter Text

Omega. That was all Dean could smell, all anyone could smell, and he woke up crushed with the scent of it. It was sweet and overwhelming, and with a jolt looking around, he realized it was coming from him. It had to be. Everyone else was still asleep, oblivious to the overwhelming heat and scent of the room.

 

Dean vividly remembered what Benny had looked like, gripping the sheets however many months or years ago that had been, his knuckles white and clenched. Dean was sure he must look the same, gripping the rough cotton in his sweaty hands, and hoping he can stifle any of the sounds that threaten to burst out of him.

 

He’d never felt anything like this before.

 

The heat was coming from inside of him somehow, burning him up, and singeing the air around him. He could hardly breath, couldn’t smell anything beyond his own overpowering scent. It was different than it always had been, something new and yet the same, and yet so so much more.

 

His nose felt oversensitive.

 

The smells of the other boys in the room started edging their way in, foreign and overpowering in their own way. All of them are unpresented still, which made it easier. The strongest smell in the room, other than Dean, and sweat, is still pup.

 

He wasn’t like them anymore, had never felt so different.

What happened to that girl?

He wondered as the light from the hall flooded over his closed lids.

Did she go to the auction?

He felt himself being picked up, rough hands tight around his ankles, and under his armpits.

He wondered if Benny felt like this, like a bag of flour, like a drunk in the street being carried away from civil society. He thought probably.

But he wondered if this is what Benny felt inside too, this overwhelming need for something, this heat, this pain in his abdomen that felt like it was ripping him apart and forming him anew each moment, his own personal circle of hell.

 

He could feel that he was being carried now, out of the big room where he’d grown up, down the stairs, out of the facility. The cool air of the night hit him in the face, and every inch of bare skin breathed a sigh of relief.

 

It didn’t last long. He felt himself tossed in the back of closed wagon, wooden doors banging shut. A muffled voice started cursing outside.

 

“Fuck, it’s so sweet.” But it sounded like an insult, and Dean didn’t know why.

 

“He smells fuckin’ ripe, is what it is.” That didn’t sound like an insult, and Dean found that even through the burning heat he could still shiver. He didn’t want to know why that didn’t sound like an insult, but rather a token of interest.

 

The wagon began to move, jolting him around, bruising his elbows and hips. He thought to himself that he must have bitten through his lower lip by now, for all the struggling he had done to keep quiet.

 

It was hard to know, to keep straight in his head through the heat and the fog, if it was ok to make a sound now that he was out of the facility. But years of having it drilled in was too much to break, it seemed, even in this state, and Dean was silent for the duration of the ride.

 

He blacked out at some point. He must have. Because suddenly, there were men there, more or different than before, hauling him out of the back of the wagon. He could feel their hands on him, and it felt like burning.

 

He was carried, not too gently, into another building that reminded him of the facility. This place didn’t smell like pup though, it smelled sterile, with lingering hints of fear and arousal that Dean wished he couldn’t pick up with his nose the way it was now. He had always had a good sense of smell, but this was too much at once. He didn’t want to know the sort of place this was, he wanted to be back in his cot, cold, with Benny sleeping next to him.

 

Or he wanted to be home.

 

It had been a long time since he let himself think of that, remember his family. But now, in pain and too hot and overwhelmed, he wished more than anything that he could be back with them. He was sure, in a way that was deep and instinctive, that they wouldn’t treat him poorly for this. They would know what to do, and they would help him. He wished he could smell the comforting scents of his mother and father, and little brother for the first time in his heightened state, instead of being surrounded by strangers.

 

He let out a whimper, and was grateful that the men carrying him were making too much noise themselves to hear it.

 

He ended up in a small room with yellowed walls and a dirty floor. There was a blanket in the corner, and a pot that stunk of piss and sterilizer. The men weren’t careful about depositing him on the floor, so he hit the ground with a silent groan, gripping his elbow in his hand.

 

“You’ll be in here until you’re done, and then you’ll go up for auction.” One of the men said. He must have been wearing some sort of nose plug, since his own scent seemed relatively unaffected by Dean’s.

 

The omega found himself looking up through a haze, to make eye contact with the man standing over him. His expression was strangely blank. Not sympathetic, but not malicious either. It was a long moment before the man finally broke off, giving Dean a nod, and walking backwards through the door they had entered from. It swung shut with a clang, followed by the hollow thud of a bolt being slid.

 

~~

 

The next few days really felt like a haze. Dean blanked out for large parts, plagued by hunger and thirst between waves and waves of burning heat. He didn’t know what was happening to him. None of the children learned about this part, what happened after the first night, when someone was stolen away. It had never even really occurred to Dean that it could last longer than the one night, but this feeling seemed to go on for eternity.

When it finally seemed like it was over, he could hardly move. He had lost weight, he was sure. Once or twice, he thought something had been slid in from the door, a glass of water, a plate of food. He must have eaten and drunk, but he had no memory of either. Whatever had been given, it hadn’t been enough.

 

The door opened on him, and he felt cold. The blanket from the corner was wrapped tightly around him, but the air from outside was sudden and harsh, and he started to shiver immediately.

 

“Get up.” The order was clear, but it took Dean too long in his weakened state, and the man, the alpha , quickly lost patience. He was wrenched up by the arm, struggling to grip the blanket around him still with the other hand.

 

Being led out of the room and through this new place was an odd experience. In some ways his body had stabilized, but there was still so much that was new he had yet to adjust to. Scent was still overwhelming, and there were so many more people here than he was used to smelling. So many more alphas in one place.

 

There was the smell of omega too though. It was faint, but sweet and tinged in what smelled like fear.

 

As they made their way through across the broad floor, it came back to Dean what this place was and why he was here.

 

The auctions. He was going to be auctioned, now that he had presented.

 

It was too soon, too abrupt, but the firm, unrelenting grip on his wrist, and every other facet of his life so far told Dean that there was little to nothing he could do to escape this.

 

He ended up standing in an office, still wrapped only in his blanket, his clothes lost to the heat days ago. A man in a suit sat behind a desk, looking him up and down. His fingers tented in front of his face, elbows resting on the arms of the chair. It felt like the auction had already started.

 

“Omega.” The man’s voice was clear and unexpected, especially directed at Dean himself.

 

“Can you work?” Dean nodded, and the man’s expression twisted into something sardonic. “Can you speak?”

 

Dean’s voice was hoarse with disuse. “Yes, sir,” he croaked, just loud enough to be heard.

 

“Good. What was your work?”

 

“Cleaning”

 

“Anything else?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

The man leaned back, his fingers finding their place in front of his face again. “Interesting.”

 

He leaned forward suddenly, catching Dean in a piercing gaze. The omega wrapped the blanket impossibly tighter around himself.

 

“A pretty little thing like you. Only cleaning, eh? You one of Naomi’s kids?” It seemed like a nonsensical line of questioning, but Dean responded nonetheless.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

A self satisfied smirk spread across the man’s face.

 

“She always was a stickler for rules, wasn’t she. Alright, then. You’re fresh meat. You’re skinny, but you’ll fetch a good price. Bidding starts at 18,000.”

 

Another man emerged from the shadows, abruptly enough for Dean to flinch at his entrance. But then he was being gripped tightly by the wrist again, and led to a new set of rooms.

 

~~

 

The omegas working at the facility seemed not to have had the strict training that Dean had experienced, for they were far more chatty than anything he was used to. They talked while they brought him to bathe, and cut his hair. They asked him about himself, but he could manage no more than a few syllables at a time, and they quickly tired of his apparent lack of engagement.

 

He was being groomed for the auction, he knew, but not at what speed. He didn’t know even remotely how the whole thing worked. The omegas didn’t need to hear his question to start talking about it though.

 

“Tomorrow is the big day, honey. We’ll make you look beautiful, so hopefully someone with money will take you, someone who can take care of you.” The older one had soft brown hair and a tired face, but she gave him a little smile when she spoke. It was almost reassuring.

 

“Money?” Dean asked, in his rough, quiet voice.

 

“Mhm. Money. The folks with money are the only ones who can come in here anyways, but better that you end up with someone rich. Maybe they’ll get more than one, and there won’t be so much pressure on you.”

 

The younger one nodded sympathetically. “Better it’s not just you.” She echoed, driving the point home.

 

Dean understood in a slightly different way than they likely meant. He didn’t want to be alone.

 

After being cleaned and groomed, and given two sets of clothing barely fit for the public eye, Dean was sent to a new room. This one had a bed, albeit a small one, and a chair where he could lay the clothing he was meant to wear out tomorrow.

 

He couldn’t help wincing at it. The flowing fabric was unnatural for him, something he could only associate with the ladies of the households he had seen. Suddenly he wondered if any of the omegas there had started out in a place like this.

His face scrunched up again with the thought. None of them had seemed kind.

 

Despite the relative comfort of the room, he could hardly sleep. It felt like he was filling up with anxiety, from his toes to his stomach, and up through his shoulders, gradually covering his nose until he couldn’t breathe at all, and was gripping the sheets much as he had been in his heat.

 

That’s what it had been called. A heat. A fitting name for the burning that ripped through him.

 

He was omega. Omega. Omega. He would never see Benny again. The thought washed over him, and did not help him breathe.

 

~~

 

In the morning, the younger of the two omegas from the previous day came to help him dress.

 

She seemed more somber in the morning light, somehow, the chatty enthusiasm of the day before gone. She brushed his hair and powdered his face, covering some of deep bruises under his eyes from his sleepless night. She showed him how to dress in the new clothing, fastening the back. They didn’t speak a word.

 

It wasn’t long that she stayed, her somewhat comforting, if not reassuring presence replaced with a beta in a suit. Dean found himself being led through another series of hallways, each with yellowed walls and grimy floors. They reached a door that was jarring in it’s sudden opulence. Deep brown wood clashed with the sallow color of the walls, but based on the smells emerging from the other side, it was clear that this was the entrance way to something entirely different.

 

The beta knocked, and took a place to Dean’s right, a grip on his elbow just this side of bruising while they waited for the door to open. The second the door cracked Dean was flooded with the scent of omegas.

 

Entering the room, he found that there were four others. He didn’t know what to expect, really. This was foreign territory. Three of them sat sort of huddled together on a red couch that looked worn but expensive, and the other had found a place by the window, staring out at who knows what. There were bars on it anyway, shattering the illusion that this was the gateway to something better. Another wooden door on the other side of the room indicated that they would not be leaving the same way they came in.

Only two of them looked up when he entered, the others firmly entrenched in their own thoughts. This room was also silent, broken now only by the sound of the heavy wooden door shutting behind him.

 

After standing, unsure, for a moment, Dean made his way over to the side of the room. It was hard to tell what the other omegas were feeling, but easier to focus on than his own whirling thoughts.

Too much was happening at once, he knew, for him to process properly. It seemed the same might be true for these omegas. The three of them on the couch seemed to know each other, the one on the left stroking softly through the hair of the one in the middle. They looked similar enough to be related, maybe. So hard to know. The one by the window looked like she was thinking about what it would be like to be on the other side of the bars, no matter how high up they happened to be. Dean thought maybe he understood that.

 

There was a distant sound of applause, and all five of them looked up towards the as yet unused door.

 

~~

 

The whole process was jumbled and nonsensical, as far as Dean could tell. He had spent too much time watching the other omegas, both boys and girls, and now he found himself completely in the dark as to what was expected of himself.

 

Another beta in a suit, or maybe the same one, they looked so similar, had come in and grabbed the omega by the window first. She made eye contact with Dean, hard and sharp, and he hoped she knew that whatever dark feeling was twisting inside her was shared by at least one other in this place. Not quite fear, but a mix of disgust and confusion, and enough self preservation to keep from letting any of it show.

 

One of the ones on the couch was next, the extraction process not as easy when two sets of hands were gripping at the long robes, hoping to delay the inevitable. Dean wondered what it was like to have someone want to protect you like that, but when he had to look away from the broken faces of the ones remaining he thought maybe it wasn’t worth it in a life like this.

 

He was next. He wasn’t sure why he expected them to go out in the same order they came in, leaving him last, but that wasn’t how it happened. He was gripped again by the elbow, the left one this time, and led firmly through the doorway, down a hall towards the sound of applause. At the end, through the bright lights he caught a glimpse of the girl by the window being led away by an alpha in a suit. Dean closed his eyes, wishing her the best and that they were both a million miles away.

 

Out of the hallway, into the light, and Dean was led up onto a stage. When his eyes adjusted, he could see a moderately sized crowd of alphas and betas, the majority dressed in suits or expensive dresses. His elbow was squeezed tight enough he thought for a moment it would break, before being released. The beta who had escorted him was stepping off to the side now. He was close enough to stop Dean from running, not that there was anywhere he could go, but far enough to make it very clear who was for sale.

 

The crowd was given a moment to look. Maybe not more than twenty seconds, but it felt like much longer. And then a booming voice started to speak, echoing over the crowd, naming a starting price, and the place erupted into a flurry of movement.

 

Eighteen thousand, nineteen five, and the price kept climbing. Dean kept as still as possible, unsure of whether he wanted to entice someone better to bid, or wanted to ward them all off somehow. He kept his eyes down, after the initial moment seeing the crowd. Too many faces, and the unpleasant smells of territorial competition and arousal kept ramping up. He kept his eyes down right up until the gavel hit the stand, and the booming voice cried out with a resounding note, “Sold!”

Chapter Text

The man who came to collect his winnings was of medium height and wiry, his thinning hair the least of his problems. Beady eyes looked Dean up and down, and a slow grin spread across the man’s face. He smelled of rotten eggs, something deep and sour, and Dean wished he had run when he had the chance. Any of the times. Even if he didn’t get far, even if he was caught again, he wished he had ended up somewhere that wasn’t with this man who looked at him like he was the prime cut of an animal, served up and ready.

 

It was too late though, the man was holding Dean’s wrist in his hand, sharp uncut nails digging into the skin. He had brought his own restraints, for some undisclosed reason that made Dean shiver to consider, so once they were nearly out of the building, he proceeded to tie the omega’s hands behind his back. The rope material was too tight, and chafed at Dean’s already bruising wrists.

 

There was a group waiting for them in the back. It seemed the man, Alastair he had sneered out as his introduction, was part of a pack.

 

“It was actually a whim, that we came here at all,” he leered again at Dean, as he was pushed yet again into the back of a wagon. “But I’ve recently come into some money, and I thought I deserved a nice reward for all my hard work.” The man looked almost regretful for a moment.

 

“I’m afraid I won’t get to enjoy you until we reach my homelands, though, pet. We have some travelling to do. So in the meantime,” the sickly smile was back, “just sit tight back here.” The door to the back was slammed shut.

 

Dean thought maybe this container was the same size as the one that was so hazy in his mind from when he was a pup. The only difference being that he had grown significantly since then, and hadn’t been in his wolf form in as long. The space was cramped and hard, and he was still dressed in the less than adequate clothing provided by the auction.

 

The places where his skin touched the wood felt raw within minutes, as the wagon began to move. There were no windows or cracks where Dean could see outside of the box, so time seemed to pass endlessly.

 

Occasionally the group would stop, the wagon stopping it’s jarring movements. Each time, Dean’s heart rate would ratchet up, fearing that they had arrived at their destination and any moment he would be pulled out by Alastair and taken to “play.” It never happened though. There would be muffled speech and sometimes laughter, but no one came to open the box, and eventually the group would resume their path.

 

~~

 

Dean thought it might have been a couple days of travel already, when the wagon stopped far more abruptly than it had before. There was the sound of shouting, and then loud growls echoed in through the wood.

 

His whole body ached, muscles cramped, skin sweaty and raw from the lack of room and constant movement within the confined space. It was with pure exhaustion overwriting every other emotion that Dean listened to the sound of confrontation outside. He didn’t know what was happening, but he assumed it would be only some moments, and then they would be on their way again.

 

It was jarring, then, when the door of the wagon was thrown open, revealing Dean to the light for the first time in days. He hissed at the onslaught, at first completely unable to see.

 

“How about this, for safe passage, then.” He could hear Alastair’s voice, dripping with poorly veiled distaste and false friendliness. Another voice spoke then, unfamiliar, and deep.

 

“You would offer this as a trade?” The voice sounded unhappy, angry even, and made Dean try to force himself deeper into the corner. Trying to adjust only made the blisters and raw spots across his body more aggravated though, and he winced again in pain.

 

“Ok.” The deep voice spoke clearly.

 

“Ok, he is yours, and we will go swiftly.” Alastair again.

 

At last blinking his eyes open successfully under the bright light of day, Dean could see Alastair standing to the side of the box, a position of display for what he assumed was himself as the goods. Directly in front of the box but at a slightly greater distance stood a man with dark hair and serious eyes, an expression of mild disgust ghosting over his face. There were three wolves behind him. Surrounding them, Dean could see now, as he moved his head forward minutely. Wolves, he hadn’t seen since...he was much younger. Seeing them now was much more frightening than he used to think it would be. He had forgotten how much wilder wolf packs who lived as such were. How much bigger and stronger they could be than their human forms.

 

An instinctual yelp left his throat, quiet but audible nonetheless, when his shoulder was grabbed and he was wrenched roughly out of the box, and tossed to the ground behind the wagon. In only moments, the whole contraption was pulling away, leaving the omega collapsed on the ground in the dust.

 

One of the wolves moved forward, causing him to shrink back in fear. His legs weren’t listening to him, he didn’t think he could stand. Especially not with his hands still tied behind his back as they were. But before he could scramble too far and cause himself too much more damage, the wolf was shifting into the form of a young beta woman.

 

She came to crouch in front of him, her red hair spilling over his shoulders and providing a sense of false modesty that she might have cared nought for, but Dean wished she would have. It looked like blood against her pale skin. She moved slowly behind him, extending one nail into a claw. He felt his breathing quicken again, but she used it only to cut the rope tying his nails, and then retracted it once more, showing him that he had no reason to fear.

 

“Are you hurt?” Her voice was soft, and Dean wondered if this was some sort of trap. Unsure of what the rules were, he fell back on what he had been taught as a child. Speak when spoke to, and only when spoken to.

 

“Yes, miss.”

 

She looked surprise at the address, and the meek sound of Dean’s voice coming out of what he knew was a larger body than most omegas he had seen.

 

“Oh, my name is Charlie, honey, you don’t have to call me miss. Can you tell me where you are hurt.”

 

Dean honestly didn’t know. It felt like his whole body was in pain, raw to the touch, a livewire that would ignite at the slightest jostle. He couldn’t not know the answer to such a simple question though, what a disappointment that would be. Immediately he would be showing this pack how weak he was. He shouldn’t have told them he was hurt at all.

 

Hunching down on himself he responded, “I don’t know, Miss Charlie,” and prepared for some sort of blow.

 

After a moment of nothing happening, he chanced a glance upwards again. Not to the woman’s eyes, never to their eyes, but just enough to see where her hands were lying, whether she was preparing to let him to the wolves, figuratively and literally.

Her hands were open on her thighs, palms up, the picture of nonaggression.

 

“That’s ok. You don’t have to know, there’s no wrong answer.” Her voice was unchanged, maybe a tinge sadder than before, but there was no burning scent of anger in the air. He could see that she looked back at the man who had accepted him as payment. The pack alpha, perhaps. He seemed to be standing in the midst of the other wolves, still in his human form, and still bare for the world to see.

 

Dean wondered if it was his body that had caused that wave of disgust to pass over the other’s face. He hadn’t been aware of himself to keep from looking right in the other’s face when he had finally been able to see, but he Dean was studious now, only allowing his gaze to move up as far as the man’s shoulders. His body looked tense, from a distance, his hands clenched at his sides. There was no anger that Dean could smell though, and he was hoping that meant that for the moment whatever cultural ignorance he had displayed would be forgiven.

 

His new status as an omega in foreign lands was sitting heavier with each passing moment, though. Surrounded by wolves like this, he felt small and vulnerable, although he supposed that was nothing new. The other wolves, were growing restless, shifting on four paws, and sniffing at the air. Dean wondered if they were on the edge of their territory, and smelling potential threats from the other side. Maybe this was the only way that Alastair and his caravan had been stopped at all, straying too far inside of an invisible border.

 

There was a memory faintly in the back of Dean’s mind that this was how territory worked in the wild. Unseen borders to land, marked off only by scent and word of mouth. He thought he remembered his father patrolling, aunts and uncles from the pack making sure that no one came in uninvited. Until the end, at least.

 

Shivering under the unwelcome onslaught of memory, Dean hardly heard the woman speaking to him again, her voice still as soft as it was.

 

“Do you think you can walk?”

 

Dean checked his legs, wiggling his toes, testing his weight as subtly as possible.

 

“I..think so. Miss Charlie.” There was a sigh from somewhere out of his eyeline, but then Charlie was lifting herself from her knees to a crouch, and reaching out to touch his left arm. The contact was slow, and gentle, and gave the distinct impression that she was trying not to startle him. He furrowed his brow lightly at his feet. She didn’t need to worry so much, he could take it.

 

They were standing though, slowly. Part of Dean’s weight was supported on Charlie’s shoulder, and though she made some reassuring comments, none of them were questions so he felt no compulsion to answer. His feet were in no terrible shape, thanks to the relative frequency of wagon transport to actual walking he had experienced in recent days.

 

Seeing Charlie and Dean on their feet, one of the other wolves took off first, yipping shortly. The other stood by the dark haired man, who was still watching carefully. The man and Charlie exchanged some sort of communication, at the end of which the man shifted to his own wolf form as well, and took his place at the head of the procession. The other wolve went to stand behind the two in human form, forming a sort of train.

 

When they started walking, Charlie leaned in to ask, “What’s your name?” She had been kind to him so far, and this question too did not seem to demand so much as inquire.

 

“My name is Dean.”

Chapter Text

The going was slow, with Dean leaning increasing amounts of his weight against Charlie’s warm side. Once the initial fear had passed, though it never went away completely, Dean was at least able to appreciate the fact that it had been a very long time since he had contact with another person like this. He thought he could take some solace in that, before finding out what would become of him.

 

When the strange procession, still led by the presumed pack alpha wolf, made its way into a settlement, it was clear that the message about a newcomer had been passed on beforehand. Wolves raised their heads curiously, peering at and around the members of their own pack to see Dean. He felt self conscious under their gazes. As of yet, there were no distinct smells other than a mix of alpha, beta, and omega, and a curling tendril of curiosity. No animosity that Dean could smell. But that didn’t mean it would take long to come out.

 

Charlie, still holding him up, started to guide him through the settlement, not even asking permission from the pack alpha. It was clear that was who he was, now that they were back among the pack. He sat taller than everyone else, his gaze heavy and focused. He smelled more strongly than the other wolves, as well, something like cedar and wood fire that tickled Dean’s nose in a not altogether unpleasant way.

A jolt of fear passed through Dean, making the hair on his neck stand up when he realized that he and Charlie had continued moving while the alpha had stopped, but when nothing happened, he thought maybe it was just the way of this pack. Everyone already knew their duty, there was no need for the alpha to constantly order.

 

Charlie brought his to a small hut towards the middle of the settlement. It was low to the ground with a broad doorway, large enough to accomodate the size of any wolf. For two humans side by side it fit nicely. The inside was a bit dark, but Dean could make out various containers on shelves, and herbs hanging from the ceiling. It smelled like food and medicine, but neither particularly appetizing.

 

There was a wolf already in the hut, who pushed themselves up from a cot in the corner, and moved towards where Charlie had stopped with Dean.

 

“This is Jody.” Charlie nodded towards the wolf, unable to use her hands fully as they were still carrying a large portion of Dean’s weight.

 

“Jody, do you mind if I..?” The wolf bobbed her head, moving towards Dean to sniff at him, and prod at his body with her cold nose. He flinched back from it, but refused to make a sound, now that he was in better control of his facilities. He found himself being nudged forward by Jody’s muzzle until he had reached the cot in the corner, and Charlie helped him collapse onto it without falling.

 

“Jody here, is the camp doctor. She can help you with your injuries, and…” Charlie hesitated, lowering her gaze, “Anything else that might be bothering you.” Dean saw Jody sniff at his stomach, and understood they were concerned he might be pregnant. Jody could tell immediately though, judging by the slight press against Charlie’s side, and the way the redhead sagged slightly in relief.

 

“Well, then. I’m going to leave you here for a bit, but I’ll be back, ok? Jody will take good care of you.” Charlie leaned in towards Dean’s face with a slight smile. “Don’t worry, Dean, you’re safe here. No one will hurt you.” Charlie put her hands on her thighs with a slight slap, and pushed herself up, leaving Dean alone with the new wolf.

 

After a few more moments of sniffing and snorting, Jody shifted as well, her human form that of a woman with short brown hair, and a kind but firm face. Dean was endlessly taken aback by how quickly these wolves could shift. The last time he had shifted had been as a child, just after being taken, and he knew it hadn’t been nearly as seamless.

 

“Your name is Dean?” Jody asked, clearly just confirming what she had already heard.

 

“Yes, Ma’am.”

 

“Oh, none of that. It’s Jody, like Charlie said. Now, can you tell me how you ended up with us? I’m going to start to get you patched up what I can see, but I might need you to fill in the rest for me, can you do that?” Her no nonsense speech wasn’t something Dean was used to, but he appreciated that she was being clear.

 

“Yes, M-...Jody. Miss Charlie and Alpha traded for me at the border.”

 

The woman’s face twisted into something like shock and disbelief at hearing that. Dean was just glad she could hear him, as soft and rough as his voice was.

 

“They...traded for you? How did that happen?” It was clear she was skeptical, but as far as Dean knew, there was no lie in the statement. He tried to curl up more, shifting his legs towards his body, before Jody gently pushed them back down so she could begin tending to the rubbed raw wounds on his feet and knees.

 

“I-I was being transported, Ma-Miss Jody. And we stopped, and Alastair opened the box and said to trade me for safe passage, and Alpha agreed.” Dean’s voice was wavering fiercely now, unsure of whether he was meant to share the information with this pack member or not. Charlie hadn’t said anything about keeping secrets, and she had been there from the start, so he hadn’t considered it. Not until seeing the unhappy expression on Jody’s face.

 

“I see…” she frowned. “Alastair?”

 

“Former alpha. Won me at auction.”

 

Jody’s face turned sad, and she paused from where she had been dabbing antiseptic on Dean’s elbow.

 

“Oh, honey. Where’d they take you from?” Dean was confused by the question.

 

“Alastair?” Jody shook her head lightly. “No, the auction house folks. Where’d they steal you away from?”

 

Dean was the one to shake his head now. “Not stolen. I’m omega.” Jody’s expression was still confused, so he tried again. “Presented omega at the facility, so they brought me to the auction. Not stolen. Given.”

 

It seemed like Jody understood what he was saying at least, though her face didn’t clear. Rather it seemed to fall more, sympathy clear in the lines around her mouth. She didn’t ask anything more though, continuing to clean and bandage any wounds on his body that warranted it.

 

~~

 

Castiel was completely out of his depth. What was supposed to be a simple confrontation, a warning to get out of the outskirts of his territory, had turned into something far darker seemingly instantaneously. He didn’t deal in omegas, didn’t condone it. But when the wagon box opened, and he found himself face to face with one that appeared to be weak if not sickly, bound and confined in a container far too small and entirely inhumane, he couldn’t leave them at the hands of their captors.

 

So the trade happened.

 

Charlie had informed him that the omega, named Dean, was now in the medical hut with Jody. Charlie hadn’t been able to get much information out of him, only his name and that he seemed largely unwilling or unable to say more than a few words. But beyond that, the boy was a mystery. His designation had been clear as soon as the box was opened, a waft of something apple sweet combined with sweat had hit Castiel in the face, bringing with it steady undercurrents of fear and pain. Yet another reason he hadn’t been able to just let the omega go.

 

But now, what would they do. He couldn’t just keep him, Dean, just for the sake of keeping him. But where would he go? Did he have anywhere to go? The entire thing left the pack alpha more than a little unsettled.

 

Seeing Jody approach from across the camp, Castiel made an effort to relax and cease his antsy fidgeting.

 

Things really are different in the city .” Was the first thing Jody said, a seemingly obvious statement that took Castiel aback enough for him to successfully sit still.

 

What?

 

Jody sighed, sitting down. Her wolf form was brown with streaks of gray running through, and a head or so smaller than his own.

 

I don’t know where that boy started out, but it sounded like he’s just been passed from place to place. ” Castiel’s fur stood up, and he couldn’t entirely say why. Jody continued, oblivious.

 

He said you traded for him at the border? Sounded like someone came in too far past the lines, and then offered him up, is that right? ” Castiel nodded, vaguely uncomfortable with even the insinuation that he had sought this out himself. The omega may as well have been dropped in his lap for all he knew how to handle it.

Jody nodded.

Thought as much. It seems like the folks who offered him had got him at an auction. One of those where they sell omegas for profit. ” She scoffed in disgust. “ Can’t believe those places still exist.

 

Yet you know they do, Jody. ” Castiel spoke sadly, having heard plenty of tales in the process of trading with other packs, or from merchants from the city. They tried to avoid the city as much as possible, though.

 

Jody sighed again. “ I know they do. Seems like Dean in there was passed on from one of those child labor facilities once he presented omega. I didn’t get much else out of him. It sounded like he hadn’t spoken in a month and I didn’t want to press so soon.

Castiel nodded his approval. “ That’s likely wise. Did he seem...upset? ” Castiel wasn’t sure why the thought of this omega being upset bothered him, but it did. Something protective was already starting to rear its head, and it was showing.

 

Jody glanced at him sharply. “ He seems more confused than anything. Can’t get him to stop calling us by title. ” After a moment of silence, she continued. “ I think I’ll head over to get him some food. Poor thing looks half starved.

 

Castiel dipped his head in understanding, and thanks for Jody’s help. The other wolf stood back up, stretching before making her way back towards the center of the camp.

 

As confusing as the whole thing was, Castiel thought it might be best to stay away for the moment. If Jody’s impressions were correct, it might be overwhelming for Dean to have the pack alpha with him in the medical tent immediately. He trusted his pack to take care of the new guest, and tell him if there was anything needed.

Chapter Text

Four days. It had been four days since Dean had arrived in this foreign camp, and not once had he had direct contact with the pack alpha.

 

He had kept mostly to himself, to be sure. He was finding small ways to help, where he was allowed. The pack members he had come in contact with were kind, not asking or expecting too much of him. They spent most of their time in wolf form, but since he hadn’t mentioned being able to shift, they generally shifted to their human forms to interact with him. He had not originally realized, in the city, that not everyone was able to shift, many of them having been born and spent their entire lives in human form. Though he still had fuzzy memories of living in wolf form, it had been so long that he really didn’t know if he was able any longer, and certainly wasn’t going to mention such a tenuous connection to their way of life.

 

He could work, he had worked with far more injuries than he had now. But Jody had told him to spend some time recuperating, and he didn’t want to go against a pack healer.

 

Or anyone, really. He wasn’t a member, so any one of them had higher status than himself.

 

He had learned that Charlie, who had helped him walk back to the camp, hadn’t been born into the pack, but had joined as a teenager. Her role was a sentry, which explained why she had been out by the border with the alpha.

The other wolves who had been with the original group of four were Inias and Cain. Cain had stayed behind with them, while Inias went ahead to alert the pack and then go back out to maintain rounds. It was especially important for sentries to be out during the day, when caravans like that which had held Dean were travelling, and more apt to fall inwards of the border.

 

Dean understood that to mean he had been taken as a sort of ransom for their transgression. All things considered, he thought it might not be bad to be held here. He had known for years that eventually he would be owned somehow, in a more legal sense than he had been at the facility. He didn’t expect to be omega, to be sure, but even as alpha or beta he would be owned by whoever contracted him to do labor or housework. This was just...an unexpected avenue.

 

He spent most of his time with Jody, in the healer’s hut. He helped her mix herbs and pastes, and very occasionally when someone came in with a fever or scrape, he would watch as Jody patched them up. Never touching though, he was careful about that, just as he was careful about speaking. The pack thought he had some form of selective mutism, and Dean didn’t know that they would expect any differently of him.

 

On the fifth day in the new pack, Dean was coming out of the healer’s hut, and ran directly into the pack alpha.

 

The omega froze in fear, his own scent clouding over any smell of anger or frustration that might be emanating off the alpha. He dropped to his knees, bowing his head studiously, eyes on the ground directly below him. His neck was carefully and deliberately exposed, as he had found that to be the clearest way to indicate apology and regret without being permitted to speak.

 

The alpha did not move for a long moment. Just as Dean’s anxiety began to work itself into a silent frenzy, the alpha finally spoke.

 

“Ah...are you hurt? Apologies….for coming up unexpectedly…” His voice, though low and gravelly, sounded far more hesitant than Dean had expected. It threw him off enough for him to lift his head slightly, just to the sightline of the alpha’s feet. Where Dean was sure he had run into a wolf, there now stood the man, shifting his weight awkwardly from foot to foot.

Letting his gaze travel slowly upwards, Dean was finally able to note that there was no smell of anger, or frustration, or anything negative other than mild discomfort. Realizing he had been asked a question, Dean jolted.

 

“No, Alpha. It was my fault, Alpha. I am sorry.”

 

The mild discomfort heightened.

 

“No, not at all. As long as you’re not hurt. Um. Is Jody in?”

 

Dean nodded, moving slowly to get to his feet, and make way for the alpha to pass. He dipped his head in a sort of bow as the man started to walk forwards, still not letting his gaze carry any further up than the man’s knees. It was old hat, at this point, to react in such a manner. Despite the fact that this had been far less painful than he was used to, it was still unexpected enough that he flinched when he realized the alpha had stopped once again, just outside the door of the hut. Dean could feel the other’s eyes on him, and was careful not to react beyond that, lest the alpha was waiting for him to slip up somehow.

 

“Dean?” The alpha’s voice was calm, if a little unsure.

 

“Yes, Alpha?”

 

“You can just call me Castiel. Please.”

 

Dean felt his expression twist into confusion and his own mild discomfort. The idea that this could be its own test flitted through his mind, before he disregarded it. It wasn’t clear if the alpha, Castiel , expected a response to that or not, but by the time Dean had decided to say something, the alpha had already made his way fully into the hut and was gone.

 

~~

 

Castiel had gone to see Dean. After four days, and a nagging curiosity that wouldn’t let up, he thought it was time that he went himself to enquire after the newest addition to the pack. He wouldn’t think in terms of membership yet, not sure what the omega wanted to do, but he couldn’t help but consider the boy under his protection now.

 

What had started with only the best of intentions had promptly and dramatically backfired, when he fully ran into the omega, causing him to fall to his knees, head bowed, scent wild with fear. This was not what Castiel had wanted from his first real interaction.

 

He had tried his best to stay reassuring, even through his own hesitance with the whole thing. He had been pack alpha for a few years, but his pack was one that generally stayed far enough on the outskirts that there was little crossover. Guests were uncommon, particularly those who were welcome. Omegas falling into their pack abruptly was unheard of. A new experience that Castiel couldn’t help but feel he was bumbling through atrociously. Maybe if he had come to address this sooner, the omega wouldn’t have felt such abject fear even making physical contact.

 

After the whole thing had happened, Castiel thought it might be better to simply extricate himself from the situation, rather than continue to frighten the poor boy. So he asked for Jody, and went in to see Jody.

 

She could tell that he wasn’t really there for anything. He had coughed slightly and asked if there was anything new she needed or was low on in the healer’s hut, anything he could go out and get for her. She answered with raised eyebrows that she was perfectly fine, thank you, and if something came up she would be sure to tell the alpha herself. Sheepishly, Castiel nodded and made his way slowly out of the tent, torn between hoping that Dean had taken the opportunity to go wherever he had been headed, and that he might still be out there.

 

The spot where Dean had been kneeling was, of course, empty.

 

~~

 

The second interaction was planned, at least on Dean’s side. He had been there for two weeks, now, and Jody had been teaching him more in depth about her medicinal work. He was fully healed himself now, the raw spots on his skin covered anew, and any lingering bruises no more than shadows of what they used to be. He had a knack for the medicine, Jody said.

 

He had gone out with Charlie a few times as well, just to get a sense of the camp. He didn’t know how she felt so comfortable telling him about the way things worked here. He was, afterall, still practically a stranger. But it seemed that little bothered the bubbly redhead, and so each time she came to the healer’s hut to take him for a walk, she would tell him about who lived where, and where they had come from.

 

On one such walk, she asked him if there was anywhere he wanted to go, or anywhere he was headed from here. Dean was always quiet, but it felt like this time the silence was something oppressive.

 

“I don’t have anywhere to go. No one to go to.” He said, finally. Charlie didn’t react too strongly to the statement, just nodding.

 

“I understand that. My parents..well I don’t know my father, but my mother had an accident when I was still small. Couldn’t take care of me after that. So I was on my own for a while. Worked in a trading caravan for a while, lied about my age. They had plenty of folks who hid their designation, so they didn’t notice that I hadn’t presented yet. For a while, anyways. When I did though, we were passing through Cas’ territory. It just felt right somehow.” Charlie glanced over at Dean as they walked, close enough to the camp to see the settlement and other wolves, but far enough that the conversation felt private.

 

“I think this place...this pack is good for that. For people who don’t really have anywhere else to go.”

 

It was a nice sentiment, but Dean wasn’t sure how that applied to him, when he had nothing much to offer, and clearly hadn't been invited to stay. Part of him still lay awake at night in the healer’s hut where he was allowed to stay, waiting for the moment when anonymous men would come in the night and carry him away.

 

He didn’t share that with Charlie, though, who was still watching him out of the corner of her eye. He thought it would be nice, in another life, if he could stay in a pack like this.

 

When they got back to the healer’s hut, Jody came out of the doorway to meet them.

 

“Dean, I wonder if you could go to Castiel and tell him we need more gauze? Last time Samandriel came in, we had to use most of the rest of it for him, his leg was so bad.”

 

Dean stood straight and stiff, not wanting to go to Castiel, but unable to say no to Jody’s request. Charlie was seemingly oblivious to his anxiety.

 

“Have you been to Castiel’s tent before, Dean? If not, I can take you!”

 

Dean’s voice was a mere whisper when he responded, “Thank you, Charlie.”

 

The walk to Castiel’s tent was tense, and as soon as they reached the door, Charlie seemed to vanish, leaving behind only a cheerful, “Well here we are!”

 

Dean could see his hand shaking when he raised it to knock on the side. There was silence inside, but he could smell that Castiel was there.

 

Even after he knocked there was nothing, and then a muffled “coming.”

 

Castiel opened the flap to his tent, not as surprised to see Dean as he might have been. It was likely that Dean’s scent had made its way ahead of him.

 

“Ah, Dean. Can I help you with something? Are you well?”

 

The solicitous questions were disarming, and the omega found his voice stuck in his throat. Castiel frowned slightly, before lifting the flap of the tent further.

 

“Would you like to come in?” When Dean slipped through the opening to enter the tent, he got a closer scent of Castiel. It didn’t smell like he was aroused, but it was so hard to tell what would set an alpha off. At the auction, it seemed that even seeing an omega was enough. Here, Dean wasn’t sure, but if the alpha wanted him to go into his tent, he didn’t feel like he could refuse.

 

Inside, the space felt bigger than it had looked. Light filtered in from slits in the side, and a pile of furs in the corner made up the alpha’s nest. For a split second Dean thought it certainly wasn’t big enough, before noting what an odd reaction that was. Bringing his gaze back to the feet of the alpha, he swallowed deeply.

 

“J-Jody sent me to inform you that she is nearly out of gauze.” Dean’s voice was a whisper, but it seemed loud in the quiet of the tent. Castiel’s scent swelled in confusion before settling into something calmer.

 

“Oh. Of course. I will send someone to trade for it on the next run.”

 

A pause.

 

“Are you...is there anything you wanted to discuss with me? Anything you might need?” Castiel’s tone was almost desperate. Dean thought, in a wild moment of clarity, he might understand what he was saying.

 

“I...need you? Alpha. I need you.” There was a certain strength to the timber of his voice, but Dean knew that there was no way he was controlling his scent the way he wanted to. It must have been projecting fear and reluctance, stinking up the whole tent with it, but maybe that was what the alpha wanted too. If he went so far as to invite Dean in, maybe it didn’t matter, maybe it was part of the appeal.

Dean started to move towards the nest, legs shaking.

 

Castiel’s scent spiked in panic.

 

“Oh! No! No no. I’m, so sorry. That’s not. This isn’t what I meant at all. Dean. Please, if you would.” The shadow of Castiel gesturing towards the flap of the tent caught Dean’s eye, and in surprise he let his gaze carry all the way up the man’s shoulder, where his arms were moving. Letting himself be guided out, the omega wondered how he had misunderstood. Was it meant to be a public affair? That of claiming the omega? Was this more formal than he had initially imagined? But no, Castiel had guided him out of the tent, and remained standing a modest distance away. His arms were held around his own bare chest now, and the set of his posture was tense.

 

“Dean, perhaps I haven’t been clear in my own...expectations as alpha. That’s my fault, I should have gone to speak with you sooner than this. But you must know, I don’t...do that. I don’t condone that sort of thing in my pack. The only circumstance in which...we...would ever….um. Engage in any sort of physical contact would be if we were both consenting. And enthusiastic. You will certainly never be expected to perform as such.” Embarrassment was wafting off the alpha in droves, and Dean found it confusing. He was relieved more than anything else, though. It seemed Castiel was not the claiming type. Whether or not that was because Dean was a source of disgust, as their first meaning had led him to believe, was hardly relevant. That would only be logical, and Dean was glad the alpha was not powering through such a response simply for the sake of the claim.

 

“Alright, Alpha.” Dean couldn’t see the pained expression on Castiel’s face at this address.

 

“Castiel. Please.”

 

“Alright, Castiel.”

Chapter Text

There was another omega in the pack, Donna. She was loud and effusive, soft and maternal, and didn’t seem to ever fit into one category. She had no pups, was not mated yet, but still had free roam of the camp. She hunted. She called the alpha Castiel, like all the other pack, and Dean wondered if it had taken her as long not to trip over the syllables.

 

Castiel. Castiel was as confusing as his name. He was formal in his speech, but casual with his rule over the other wolves in his pack. Dean remembered his own father from so long ago, and had thought he was the anomaly for all these years. Ruling with care towards the lower members of the pack. But Castiel seemed to practice the same.

 

If anything, he was less strict with the hierarchy.

 

It was unusual that the two of them had any direct contact, but more often Dean would see Castiel from across the camp, entering or leaving his own tent. Castiel came to the healer’s hut several times, but only once when Dean was there. He seemed to shuffle in discomfort for several moments, asking Jody innocuous questions. Dean thought perhaps he was looking for a more private setting, and so left himself, quietly skirting the room and exiting the hut. He missed the look of disappointment that flitted across Castiel’s face as he did so.

 

Jody did not.

 

The pack at together, after a hunt in particular, there would be a feast of the fresh meat, before it was taken to be cured for winter and preserved. Jody and Charlie had pulled Dean to the first of these that he was present for. He worried he would be pushed out, an outsider not permitted to eat with the pack, as was their right. He was earning his keep now, or trying, with his learning in the healer’s hut. But still, he was not invited to join them. It was odd that Jody and Charlie would have such unwavering confidence in his permission to attend.

 

Castiel said nothing of it, nor did any of the other pack members, but Dean waited until everyone else had eaten their fill before claiming some of the meat.

 

~~

 

A party of wolves, sentries, had gone off to investigate a possible intrusion at the border. It might have been another trade caravan, or another group simply lost at the outskirts, under or overestimating their own distance from the edge. But as much as that needed to be dealt with, there was also the constant underlying threat of other packs encroaching on their territory, or rogues.

 

Dean had heard rumors about the rogues in the city, as well. It was of a different sort though, since the threat of encroachment was simply not felt in the same way. The towns and cities were constantly expanding outwards, there were clear borders but little in the way of individual territory. Rogues were not rogues in the city, but merchants or mercenaries. They would barter with people of the town, facilities and business owners. In the most unusual of cases, even lords and ladies themselves. The rogues who had stolen Dean away as a child had themselves bartered with Miss Naomi. There was no item too much or too little, as long as it would fetch a decent price. Dean remembers being a disappointment, then, something they hadn’t even found worth it to have stolen for the amount of money he brought them.

 

He also remembers the fear though, the pain of seeing his own pack ripped apart by a rogue attack. And he does not wish that for this one. They had few children in this pack, but it was enough that Dean thought it could bring rogues here. It was enough of a source of trade that many wild packs found their young stolen away. It was too hard for them to track the pups once they were taken, their baby scent washed away quickly by distance, changed over time. The paper trail would only start once they were in the city, documentation of purchase, price, and quality. No wild pack had the resources to find them.

 

Dean had learned, over time, that many of the other children in the facility were born in the city, or had come from other towns on the streets. But some, enough, had been brought in like him.

 

When Charlie learned of the threat, she was walking with Dean. Inias had approached, with his typical tense countenance.

 

“Charlie, we need you for a border check.”

 

“Has something happened?” Charlie was concerned, which indicated to Dean that this was not routine. Inias glanced minutely at the omega before responding, the only hint that he thought this might not be for outsider ears.

 

“Not yet,” he said, “Just an unknown breach. But it is outside usual travelling times.” Charlie nodded, understanding something instantly that remained just outside Dean’s reach.

 

“You think it might be rogues.” The statement hung in the air, and Inias left turned to go without confirming either way.

“I’ll be right there.” Charlie called after him, and they could both see the slightest dip of Inias’ head before he shifted to wolf form and loped away. Cain was already waiting in the distance, along with one other Dean could just barely distinguish as Samandriel. He was sure Castiel would be joining soon as well. If it were rogues, it was sometimes better to go in larger groups as a show of force, even if there was no formal dispute yet launched.

 

Charlie turned to Dean, a mask of reassurance over her own concern.

 

“I have to go, I’m sorry in the middle of our walk. Will you be ok getting back?” Dean nodded. His voice caught in his throat with the unfamiliar feeling of words crawling up and no way to speak them. Charlie was already turning to go, when Dean could finally cough out her name.

 

“Charlie.” She turned, surprised. Any vocality from Dean was surprising.

 

“If...if it is rogues, you must protect the young.” There was something desperate in his voice, he could hear it. He couldn’t stop it though, she had to understand.

 

“You must gather the young early. Even if there is no fight. They’ll take the pups.” Dean’s voice broke on the word pups, his voice breath closing in on itself. He could say no more. Charlie understood though. More than he had meant to tell, he thought, based on the heartbroken expression of shock on her face. She pulled herself back up and in with a shake of her head.

 

“I understand. We will check the border, and if it seems it might be rogues, we will gather the pups together. It’s only the two of them now, but they will be safe. They’ll stay with their mothers.”

 

Dean nodded, grateful in a deep sort of way he couldn’t put a name to. Relief sung in his bones the same way as exhaustion. He needed to go back to the healer’s hut so he could rest while he awaited news. He was sure, now, that Charlie would tell him of their findings once they returned. Safely. She nodded once more as well, and then was turning and shifting, running over to where the rest of the wolves waiting restlessly. Castiel had indeed joined them.

 

By the time Dean had made it back to the healer’s hut, they had disappeared among the trees.

 

~~

It was late when the group of sentries returned. Dean was by the fire in the healer’s hut, a kettle over the heat where Jody had left it for him to watch. It needed to steep another while, and he had reassured her he would be up anyways. It was the least he could do, afterall, since she had been so kind all this time.

 

He could hear the rustling of paws on underbrush, stirring something anxious inside him. But the scents were familiar now. To a point. Charlie’s beta scent wafted stronger, and he could tell she was coming towards the healer’s hut. He hoped for a personal visit rather than for an injury.

 

Castiel’s clear cedar scent tickled strongly around Dean’s senses as well. It must have covered the entire camp. This smell too, stirred something inside him, something anonymous and familiar. It was too soon to call it safety.

 

Charlie pushed her way into the hut, her long hair rippling with the movement of her form in the firelight. Dean nodded to her as she crouched by his side, reaching her palms in front of her to absorb some of the warmth.

 

“We don’t think it’s rogues.” She said finally. Her scent didn’t match the finality of her words.

 

“You’re not sure.” Dean thought he had spoken more of his own will today, than any other. Charlie hardly blinked at it.

 

“No.” She sighed, hanging her head chin to chest, her eyes falling closed as though from bone deep exhaustion. “We’re not sure.”

 

When she looked back up, her eyes were sad where they met Dean’s.

 

“Castiel thinks it was just some tradesmen. Well. He says he thinks that. There were some scratches in the dirt around the border. Cain thought it was a sign of intentional encroachment, a warning or something. But Cain...Cain thinks the worst, often. He lost his former pack to rogues. He is willing to act aggressively and quickly, if he thinks there is even a hint of threat. Castiel is more even, level headed.” Her eyes closed again. “And I don’t know what to think.”

 

Dean remained silent, slowly stirring the mixture in the kettle.

 

“It was just some scratches in the dirt. But you. What you said before. It’s been in my head all day.” Charlie’s hand rests itself on Dean’s arm, lightly, barely there.

 

“Where did you come from, Dean? Not where you were when you came to us, but first.”

 

~~

 

The story of Dean’s pack did not come, the first time Charlie asked. Nor the second, when she pressed lightly on his wrist and asked him, are you ready to talk about it?

 

No.

 

He’d never put it into words, never been asked to describe what had happened, or where he had come from. No one wanted to know. There were a hundred children like him, a thousand, with their own stories. No child wanted the burden of another story on top of their own, and no adult from the places where Dean was would even pretend to care enough to hear it. Wouldn’t have listened even if he had begged.

 

There were no words that Dean knew that could describe this to someone else so they would understand.

 

The talk of rogues had started him having nightmares again, like when he was young. They had shifted for a while, threats of bodily harm and isolation and auction pushing in at the edges of his subconscious while he slept. An alternate selection of fears. But he was remembering now, in slumber, the events that led up to that night when he had been stolen. The smell of blood over his camp, and alpha and fear. The way he could hear his mother calling, could hear Sammy crying, but couldn’t see either of them no matter how hard he looked through the dark. He was always moving too fast.

 

The odd thing about the dreams was that it was so vivid then, but when he tried to think of his parents faces or Sammy’s smell when he was awake, it was like pulling teeth. If he tried for too long, his head would start to hurt. He knew it threw his smell into knots, even if it was just from Jody glancing over with a wrinkled nose the first time he had tried with her in the hut.

 

Aside from Charlie and his own inner turmoils, things proceeded as usual. Wolves came in for healing, most often simply scrapes or illness. They trusted Dean well enough for these things, telling him the problems and thanking him when he was done. It didn’t seem to bother any of them that he was an outsider, or an omega, and made for poor conversation.

Chapter Text

There were only two pups in the pack. A little thing with brown fur and a tan chest named Ben, and a slightly older pup with pale tan fur by the name of Jo. Both of them were rambunctious and energetic, and constantly together.

 

Ben was the son of a wolf named Lisa. She had no mate, but seemed happy about that fact rather than overwhelmed. Dean, despite not asking how the pup had come about, had heard through Charlie that Lisa had been part of the pack before Ben, and that he was conceived on a trip to one of the towns for trading. It was a fling, as Lisa had described, and there were no hard feelings about the conception. Rather, it seemed, Lisa had taken to the unexpected role of motherhood like a fish to water.

 

She also was not lacking for support, as the entire pack had at one point or another had Ben to stay in their tent for the night, if Lisa was sick or in need of a rest. Or if he wanted to visit.

 

Jo was Ellen’s daughter. Ellen hunted and gathered and cooked, providing more human sustenance for the pack when it was required. They lived most of their time in wolf form, but enough of it was spent as humans that the need for someone who knew how to cook was appreciated, if not necessary. Ellen’s mate had died many years prior, in a fight at the border.

 

Neither of them had paid much mind to Dean when he had first entered the camp. He had noted their staring at different points, but mostly it seemed they were content to ignore him, and continue on with their own games and pastimes. They had training and schooling, learning to read and how to shift smoothly. The first time Dean had seen one of the shifting lessons he had stared for several long minutes before he realized how odd it might look, and had hurried back to the healer’s tent, basket of herbs only half full. The lesson was something he hadn’t thought of since he was young, remembering what it was like to be in wolf form and not entirely sure he would ever experience it again.

 

When Ben and Jo tumbled into his path in front of the healer’s hut, he thought it would be best to simply find his way back into the shadows and try to remain unnoticed. His scent wasn’t subtle enough though. Even the underdeveloped noses of the pups could easily detect it, and they were curious enough to stop their play fighting and come towards him.

 

Both in wolf form, the pups stopped around two feet away from the omega, practically quivering in curiosity and nervousness. Ben yipped, quick and sharp, and jumped on something invisible in the patch. Jo watched Dean from wide eyes as he tried to scoot slowly, invisibly, back around the corner.

 

They could certainly smell him, he knew. Even as a pup himself, in human form at that, he had been able to smell alphas and betas and omegas. Even if the smells weren’t as strong, they lingered in the air and children could identify them easily enough, even through underdeveloped noses. He thought maybe they were attracted by the omega smell, though he wasn’t sure.

 

Eventually, he simply started walking in another direction, once it seemed they wouldn’t tire of their staring. With them in wolf form, it was impossible for Dean and the pups to communicate with each other. They didn’t follow after him, though he could sense that they were still watching as he turned the corner around a tent.

 

~~

 

Castiel approaches him on a warm evening, while he is by the creek washing cloths. He is still in wolf form, a large black form with thick fur that rustles slightly in the breeze. Dean freezes where he stands, unsure of what the alpha wants from him. When there is no order forthcoming, though, he slowly continues his work.

 

The transition Castiel makes it seamless. The omega catches it out of the corner of his eye, unable to let his guard down enough not to watch where the alpha is around him. The shift from wolf to man is as fluid as the creek, leaving Castiel sitting loosely cross-legged on the bank.

 

Dean won’t be the first to speak, and yet the silence hangs.

 

“I think you heard from Charlie about the issue around the border.” Castiel speaks at last, and Dean already suspects he knows where it will go. He didn’t mean to interfere, only to offer warning to Charlie, but he doesn’t know how the alpha might have seen it. Maybe as presumption from one who is not pack.

 

Dean nods his head, and Castiel hums quietly.

 

“She told me that you warned about the children. To gather them together, if it were rogues. She was concerned.”

 

Dean glances up, the unspoken assumption in the air between them. About the children.

And Castiel plucks it close to him, cradles it, and soothes it right.

 

“About the children, of course. But I meant, she was concerned about you. She said it seemed you had some sort of connection to it. I know she can be persistent, if she wants information.” There’s a fondness in Castiel’s voice, as well as something mildly apologetic, but Dean isn’t sure why Castiel would need to express that. It’s his own fault he can’t find the words, after all.

Castiel leans forward, bracing himself on his elbows, propped up on his knees. Tired.

 

“I don’t really know what to think, Dean.” The omega isn’t sure if this is the prelude to being told to leave, but he doesn’t have high hopes. The whole exchange has been confusing. But then Castiel continues.

 

“Cain is insistent that there’s more, that we’re missing something. Or that the rest of us are missing it, and he’s seeing the truth, rather. The scratch marks in the dirt, I’m sure Charlie told you, but they were very plain. Someone was there, for a while, and marked intentionally. I wanted to think it was just a group of tradesmen who had rested a little too close to the line. I still want to. But what Charlie said has been weighing on me, along with Cain. I don’t want to act hastily, cause some neighboring pack to think we are trying to engage in conflict. Or alarm our own.” Castiel looks over at Dean. He can tell by the way the hair on his arms rise, even though he’s not looking up at the alpha.

 

“How do you know about the children?” It’s asked so straightforwardly, it comes as a jolt. Even Charlie, for all her questions, had never asked him so clearly, only hesitant questions about where he came from, what happened. Dean’s head is rising before he knows it, and he finds himself locking eyes with fields of blue. It’s a profound feeling he doesn’t know what to do with.

 

Too soon, not soon enough, he slams his head back down, eyes to the ground. But even for that second, he had been able to see that there were no walls behind Castiel’s eyes. They were clear and soft, lines in his face that indicated a man who smiled. Dean thought, wildly, that he must have a nice smile with eyes like that.

 

“I was a child.” Dean found himself saying. And the rest suddenly didn’t seem so hard to grasp anymore.

 

“I was a pup. Ten, maybe. It’s...fuzzy. I know there were rogues. My father was alpha, he would patrol. I remember him coming back to us late, telling mother about what he saw at the border. Scratches in the dirt, in the trees. Scent marking, moving inwards. Strange wolves, sometimes, they would see far away.” Dean’s breath hitched, and his voice cracked. It had been a long time since he had spoken so much at once.

 

“They thought it was nothing, or something, but they could fight. We were strong. Not too big, the pack, but strong. Wild.” The barest hint of a smile curls around the edge of Dean’s lip, as he remembers the pride of being part of that pack, and then vanishes.

 

“But the rogues came at night, when we weren’t ready. Everyone was spread out, in their own tents. And I-” his breath catches in his throat. “I was with my mother and my brother. She ran with us, but there was a wolf there, between us and the cave with the others. He tore into her, and they were fighting, and Sammy ran but I couldn’t move and then...one of them took me.”

 

Castiel’s form swam in Dean’s eyes, but when he tried to scent the air there was no smell of judgement or anger, only a faint curl of sadness. At first he thought it was him, but then it smelled like both of them together. Odd.

 

“Do you know what happened to your pack?” Castiel asked, soft but clear. Dean shook his head.

 

“I couldn’t see them. Sammy was running. Mama was screaming. I don’t know what happened.”

 

Castiel began to shift, sitting up straighter, and curiosity bloomed.

 

“Dean. You were part of a wild pack?” The smell of the air was different, and Dean couldn’t tell why. It was better, though, than staying too long in the stifling heat of his own memories.

He nods in response to Castiel’s question, his voice exhausted.

“So you could shift.”

 

It’s not precisely a question. Dean could hear a sort of question in the edges of it, but Castiel was referencing when he was a pup, living his life in wolf form rather than human. That’s what Dean had to assume.

 

“I..could.”

 

“You can.”

 

Dean shook his head jerkily.

 

“I haven’t shifted since I was taken. That was the last time.” Dean thought he could smell Castiel’s horror at the revelation that it had been nearly a decade since the last time Dean had shifted. He masked it well in his voice, though.

 

“That must have been painful. It would be painful to try now, I imagine. But you should still be able to do it. With time, it would grow more smooth.”

 

Dean tried to think about shifting. The last time he had registered the pain of not being able to shift was the last full moon of his third year at the facility. It had been agony, a sort of nervous twitching pain that made keeping his silence in the big room near unbearable. But he had managed. And at the end of the night, when the sun came up over his exhausted and aching body, he had told himself that this wouldn’t happen again. Much time had passed since then. Dean thought the wolf had been nearly snuffed out.

 

“Do you think I could?” There’s a hesitant sort of hope in Dean’s voice that both of them are surprised to hear. No more surprised, though, than at the warmth in Castiel’s voice when he responds, “Certainly.”

Chapter Text

Things started to change after Castiel came to talk to Dean on the creek bank. Not much and not fast, but enough that Dean finds an unfamiliar sort of refreshment.

 

Castiel has sent him, or rather invited him, to join in with the pups who are learning to shift. Ben and Jo stare at him with wide eyes the first time he makes his way towards their little gathering, both of them still in wolf form. Often times, it was Castiel himself who taught the shifting lesson. Dean’s first time attending, Castiel made sure that he was there.

 

Dean wasn’t sure at first, whether it would be more comfortable like that, but since their conversation on the bank, it seemed as though the alpha might actually be as he said, and would allow for more leniency even with an outsider like Dean.

 

The lesson was grueling.

 

The omega’s whole body hurt, felt like it was ripping apart from the inside. But even as the children found the connection and shifted, Dean was still on his very human hands and knees, panting. It was discouraging, and he felt shame course through him at the idea of the whole pack now being able to see that he had lost the connection with his wolf.

 

Thinking about this, his first instinct was to flinch when the alpha came to kneel beside him. The pups stayed a short distance away, but he could tell they were watching still.

 

Castiel slowly, clearly, laid a gentle hand on Dean’s shoulder.

 

“It’s been a long time.” Dean clenched his eyes closed, willing tears not to fall. It was too cruel for the alpha to promise this and then take it back once he had seen what a failure it had been.

 

But then he continued. “It might not come at first. It will take some trying. You did very well today, I know you tried. It will take some time for so many years of distance to be overcome, just as in any relationship. You’ll find the connection to your wolf again, it’s still in there.”

 

The hand on Dean’s shoulder was warm, rubbing slow circles on the aching muscle. The omega nodded his understanding. He hoped it was true.

 

The pups, who had been hesitant with Dean at first, had somehow become some of his greatest supporters, and he felt that he was more able to connect with them than most others in the pack. There was less sense of hierarchy with the pups, although they were pack and he an outsider, making them still technically above.

 

The didn’t indicate any bias on that account though. The initial interaction with them, full of curiosity and nervous energy became the pattern. Ben would leap, and Jo would chase, and they would barrel towards Dean like he was one of the pack adults, waiting to play.

 

They had been inquisitive at first, asking why he wasn’t able to shift like the other grownups, and why he didn’t talk too much. Once, Castiel had heard them asking, and Dean had been worried that he would be mad they were talking to Dean at all, that Dean was corrupting them with outside knowledge.

But he had just gently told the pups not to push, and Dean could talk about, or not talk about, whatever he wanted. There was nothing wrong with being a grown up learning how to shift. Gratitude had swelled in Dean’s heart at that, though by the time he had looked up at Castiel, the alpha was turned away, speaking to another pack member. So he tucked the feeling away.

 

By the fourth time Dean came to the lessons, he was able to elongate his teeth and nails at will, and the pups could hardly be pulled from him for how excited they were.

 

“You’re doing so good Dean!” Jo cried out from where she was dancing around his feet. Ben screeched and clapped, digging his human toes into the dirt.

 

They were always able to shift from wolf to human and back again, and even though they were slow, these sessions were more practice for them to get faster than to learn how. Dean was grateful the pups didn’t tease him for his lack of ability.

 

He was so proud, though, the first time he was able to look down and see that his nails had grown into a sort of claw, and he could feel his sharp canines digging into his lower lip in an unfamiliar way. It was a little frightening to be so close to the wolf and yet only see these manifestations, but more than that Dean was full of joy.

 

Even Castiel seemed to be emanating a scent of pride, but maybe that was just the omega’s imagination.

 

The pups were not nearly so shy in remarking.

 

“Oh, Dean you smell happy! You smell so nice! Doesn’t he smell nice Ben?” Jo exclaimed, sniffing at the omega with a pleased expression. Ben ran over to do the same and smiled wide.

 

“Ohh! That’s so pretty, it’s like wildflowers! And fruit! Come smell, Castiel! Dean smells so nice!”

 

Dean knew his face was red, and his scent was shifting rapidly into nervousness, but he was frozen in place. Two parts of his mind warred with whether he wanted Castiel to scent him as well. It seemed far more intimate, somehow, for the alpha to do rather than the pups. He was quickly able to scent a waft of embarrassment in the air, as Castiel coughed.

 

“I can smell from here, thank you Ben. You’re right. Um. Dean does smell very nice.”

 

The pups started to play, but Dean was only aware of where Castiel was swiftly making his way in another direction.

~~

 

There was silence at the border. No more evidence of intruders, no more scratches. It had even been some time since a group of travellers had wandered in accidentally. Cain had even stopped his endless insistence that there was something more to be done, to be fought. There was nothing.

 

But Castiel still thought about what Dean had said.

 

Looking over the pack that was his home and his family, Castiel would remember that Dean had once had a pack like this. A wild pack, no less. Dean had been part of a family, before he was ripped away. Hearing that the boy hadn’t shifted for as many years as he had been away from his family tore at something deep in the alpha’s heart. It must have been so painful.

 

It was frightening for Castiel to consider what that meant.

 

Ben and Jo were so young still, and yet Jo was already older than Dean had been when he was taken, and Ben nearly the same age. Castiel watched them with their parents, and wondered if Dean’s pack was still out there somewhere.

 

It was clear that the boy himself had no connection to them anymore, no way of finding any of them. It was hard, in the wild. There was little communication between packs other than for trading purposes. With the constant flux and shifts of power, it was impossible to even know how many packs existed, or who was part of them. Even if some had survived from Dean’s family, it was possible, even probable with such a violent incident, that the pack had shifted and many had gone on to join with other groups. Many from Castiel’s own pack had been adopted in over the years. It was common, and inconceivably hard to track.

 

But.

 

Looking at Ben and Jo, clapping for Dean when he was able to shift something for the first time. Watching Dean as he ate silently at the edge of the pack, and helped Jody make medicine, and as he walked with Charlie, and spoke more in his actions than his words.

 

Castiel wondered if it could be worth searching.

 

~~

 

Charlie’s question, when it came, of what Dean’s pack name had been was odd and difficult, but easily dismissed once answered. Their walks were largely unchanged, resuming after the incident with the border. Although it was Charlie who carried most of the conversation, telling Dean about what she had seen while she was on sentrie, or about her budding flirtation with another wolf who was a member of a local tradetribe named Gilda, occasionally he would speak as well.

 

Dean didn’t think that he asked anything too untoward or revealing, but it seemed to become a pattern over the course of his time with Castiel in the shifting lessons, that Charlie would offer more and more information about the pack alpha.

 

She had revealed, on one such walk, that Castiel had actually taken the pack over somewhat recently.

 

“Cas was alpha when I got here, but he was new, I think.” Charlie leaned towards Dean conspiratorially, something the omega found disconcerting.

 

“There was some conflict around the position. As far as I heard it, the old alpha just kind of disappeared. Not like he was hunted or anything.” Charlie shivered at her own words. “He just kind of wandered off. But then his son, Lucifer, wanted to take over, and Cas challenged him.”

 

Dean raised his eyebrows at this, a bolder gesture than he would have made even a few weeks prior. He had begun to consider Charlie a friend, and was comfortable enough to believe that she felt the same. She wasn’t like the silent pups of his youth, but he could feel a sort of residual loneliness in her that he related to.

 

It was typical for an alpha son of the pack alpha to take over leadership once the older had retired or lost the position. Snippets of Dean’s own childhood reminded him that at one point before he presented his parents had vaguely discussed the possiblity of him taking over from his father when the time came. The memory sent a sort of ache through him, knowing that even if he had stayed he likely never would have been what his parents had hoped.

 

Omega.

 

Charlie shook him from his reverie with the continuation of her story, having seen his confusion about Castiel’s challenge to the natural successor.

 

“Lucifer wasn’t a good alpha. Or wouldn’t have been, to the pack, apparently. He was ruthless, and had no respect for other designations. Alphas were competition, betas were subservient, and omegas were. Well. Certainly lower.”

 

She was sugar coating her words, but Dean let it pass for the sake of getting the rest of the story.

 

“Castiel was a younger alpha in the pack, but he was the old alpha’s nephew or adopted nephew or something like that. It was before my time here so I’m fuzzy on the details.” Charlie laughed sheepishly, and Dean smiled something small to indicate that he was still listening regardless.

 

“Castiel didn’t like where Lucifer was going to take the pack. Politically. So he challenged him. It was an awful fight. No one talks about it, unless their drunk, and then they’ll only whisper it so Castiel doesn’t hear. But I guess it was brutal. Castiel won by the hair of his teeth, and Lucifer was banished. He was seriously injured, so no one is really sure what happened to him. If he made it, you know. But they all love Castiel.”

 

Her voice shifted, then, from telling a ghost story to a tone far more fond. Dean could see her eyes had glazed over slightly as she gazed over towards where the pack alpha’s tent was. The alpha himself was nowhere in sight.

 

“We all have a lot of respect for him. And he has respect for us, too, as much as if we were of equal status. But not because he has to, he just does.” She looked towards Dean then, her fainter beta scent sending tendrils of pride and affection and what he imagined was relief at the edges.

 

“I’m really glad you’re here, Dean. This pack is safe because of Castiel, and I don’t even...want to think of where you might have ended up otherwise.”

 

She made it sound like they had rescued him, and in a way he supposed that was true. As Dean walked back towards Jody’s hut after Charlie had scampered away to something else, he wondered if being trapped in this pack until he was eventually turned out or used to procreate was really preferable to where he was headed. It was hard to know.

 

From somewhere across camp, the scent of cedar and woodfire drifted.

 

Maybe it was better after all.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until a month after the lessons in shifting had started, that Dean was finally able to complete a full shift.

 

It was summer now, the trees full and green, and the smell of flowers and fresh dirt carried through the camp on a warm breeze. Lessons had been conducted every two days or so since the start of Dean’s involvement, and though he would never admit it, Castiel had taken to leading the sessions more often than when it had been just the pups.

 

If pressed on it, he would say that he simply felt a sense of obligation and investment, since he had been the one originally to encourage Dean to join the sessions and learn how to regain his wolf form.

 

The truth had far more to do with the lovely spring scent that wafted through the clearing when Dean was successful, and the increasing comfort the omega seemed to demonstrate not only with the pups who also attended, but with the alpha himself.

 

It was no longer a solitary occasion when Castiel could catch a glimpse of vivid green, peering up at him through dark lashes. Of course the moment never lasted, the face falling towards the ground once more before they could hold the glance for more than a second. But as it happened more and more, the smell of panic fading into the background, Castiel hoped he would be able to one day face the omega directly. He wondered what it would be like to look into those green eyes as equals. He thought it might mean he was looking slightly upwards, since Dean’s current height seemed to be the product of the way he hunched to make himself appear smaller. The thought of seeing the omega stretched to his full height, eyes bright and forward made something in Castiel feel warm and hopeful.

 

So yes, he was invested in the lessons.

 

Castiel’s initial encouragement may have started the whole thing, but it was Dean’s absolute dedication that was yielding such incredible results. It was clear the struggle the omega was going through, but he showed up each lesson, coming towards the small group with steady footsteps, his hands clasped in front of him. Even when the pups were distracted, chasing a bird or rolling in the dirt between shifts, Dean continued to try.

 

The first time he fully shifted was incredible. His wolf was beautiful, standing tall in a way that the human had lost. He had brown fur, with a streak of white running down from below his muzzle to over his chest.

 

He stood still for a long moment, as though the wolf and human were taking time to relearn each other, to reassure themselves that the transformation was real. Castiel found himself shifting back to his wolf form as well, eager to get to know this side of the omega, as much as he was permitted. The smell drifting off the wolf was addictive, something sweet and strong and blossoming, like the side of spring that meant not just flowers and fruit, but also the light scent of rain and fresh soil to give life.

 

Both in wolf form, Castiel hesitantly reached out. Wolves could communicate with each other in the same form, but Castiel was unsure of whether this was something Dean remembered, since his last time in this form had been as a small child. It might be a jolt to the senses, suddenly to have the voice of someone else in one’s head.

 

Hello Dean.

~~

 

Shifting for the first time was incredible. The feeling zipping around inside himself was like something hazy from his past quickly coming back into clarity. It felt like finding an old friend and picking up right from where he left off. The energy was boundless. His bones and muscles hurt, were screaming from the transition, but he could hardly feel it for the energy and the joy coursing through him. He stood still for a long time, remembering the feeling of being on all four paws, the ground beneath him solid in a different way. He wanted to run and jump and hunt , but first he needed to remember what just standing was like.

 

Hello Dean.

 

Castiel’s voice was unexpected, and it made the omega startle slightly where he stood. But it was not frightening in the way he thought maybe it should be.

 

For all the years he had been in his human form, Dean had not had to think about what it would have been like to have the words of Miss Naomi, and all the others, all the alphas, in his head rather than outside of him. He was almost grateful, now, that he never had the opportunity to know. Castiel’s voice reminded him of this, but only because it felt so different than he thought it would have before.

 

He tried to answer, finding that it came naturally, despite the years away.

 

Hello Castiel.

 

The scent that came off the other wolf was pure joy.

 

The pups noticed, of course. They had been over by the edge of the clearing, digging after a small rodent that had scampered over their path. But the two wolves in the center of the clearing were broadcasting the occasion in every possible way, and the pups were quick to catch on.

 

Dean! Dean!!

 

Jo made it over to the pair first, leaping with her small canine body, and crashing into the omega’s larger form.

 

You’re a wolf! You did it! That’s so cool, we are all wolves now!

 

Ben was fast on her heels, zig zagging around Castiel’s paws and then to Dean’s.

 

Can we go play chase? We can play chase so much better now!

 

Warmth began to curl in Dean’s stomach, separate from the joy he felt at being reunited with his wolf form. It was something cozier. It wasn’t just being in wolf form that was reminding him of the feeling of being home, now, it was seeing how excited the pack pups were for him. Wanting him to play chase with them, like he was one of them. He wouldn’t, he couldn’t without their parents around. But when he glanced up at the alpha and scented the air, all he could smell was joy and pride.

 

It seemed the alpha was pleased with him as well, and despite the it being near the peak of summer, it was the warmest Dean had felt in years.

 

~~

 

Dean was invited to hunt.

 

It was less than an invitation, and more of a firm insistence on Jody’s part, but nonetheless, Dean knew he would not have been forced if he had resisted too much. But Jody had been so proud when he came to the healer’s hut in wolf form for the first time. She hadn’t noticed at first, only smelling him at the door, and calling for him to bring in the basket of herbs by the threshold. But when he came in, dropping the basket from between his teeth at her feet, she had been stunned, and then elated.

 

“Oh, Dean! This is wonderful! I didn’t know you had come so far already!”

 

It was the first time the omega had seen his unofficial caretaker tear up, and he felt touched that she was so affected. Somehow, until that moment, he had not known that she cared for him that much.

 

And then the hunt was arranged, and Jody shifted to wolf form to convince Dean to join them.

 

You need to learn how to hunt for yourself. To survive as a wolf. You won’t do well this time, but that’s ok. You’re not coming with us because we’re desperate for wolves, you’re coming with us for you. And for me, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing you could shift but had none of the knowledge to survive in this form.

 

It was touching, if not a little intimidating. It also felt a little like Jody was reminding him, subtly, that even after the joy of learning how to shift, he still needed to learn how to fend for himself. He was not pack, and she cared about him enough to want him to live once he left.

 

Charlie had instantly been on board as well, joining the hunt even though it wasn’t her assignment that day.

 

Castiel had declined. But Dean could see him watching the progression of wolves as they dissolved into the forest.

 

Dean didn’t know why he felt a small sense of disappointment when they lost sight of the alpha through the trees.

 

It was an odd experience, being back in the woods. The last time he had been so far on the outskirts of the camp was when he was being transported back from the exchange with Alastair. Charlie was there then, too, but it didn’t look like she was remembering the walk, by the way she was flitting too and fro in excitement. A hunt brought everyone’s adrenaline up.

 

The last time Dean had been a wolf in the forest, he had been in someone’s mouth.

 

A rabbit was the first to cross the group’s path, and a couple of the younger in the group chased it lightly, but that wasn’t the main goal. They were heading deeper in to get further from the smells of camp and out into area where deer would be more likely caught unawares. The started to spread out after a few minutes, wolves disappearing into the trees, everyone seeming to know where they needed to be.

 

Just stay by me, Dean. Jody’s voice echoed in Dean’s head, and he nodded his understanding. The merged towards the back, and in the distance Dean could smell a doe. How odd that he recognized it so quickly. Jody started to run, and the omega could only follow, falling slightly behind from lack of practice. They were distraction though. Another wolf was lying in wait behind some bushes, waiting for the prey animal to be spooked and run towards them.

 

The whole thing was over in a matter of seconds, the deer hanging limply from someone’s mouth, the group reconverging to help bring the meal back to the pack. Dean didn’t feel like he had done much of anything, but Jody seemed pleased enough with his participation.

 

You did well, hon. You were faster than I thought. The omega frowned, remembering how Jody had outpaced him. She read his scent and laughed.

 

Of course I was faster, I’ve been doing this for years. It was your first hunt. You did well, trust me.

 

Dean believed her because she said so.

 

When they got back to camp, two wolves pulling the deer to the center, Castiel came out to thank them for their work. Dean wasn’t sure why the bright smile the alpha cast his way made him believe Jody just a little more, but it wasn’t just because she said so anymore.

Chapter Text

 

Dean had started going out more in wolf form, since his first shift. It still took him longer than other members of the pack to shift, but he was religious about practicing. He still attended the lessons with the pups, something Castiel seemed pleased about, although Dean wasn’t sure why. It seemed like more trouble than it was worth to continue helping an omega who wasn’t even pack learn how to shift. But after all his time in with the pack, Dean had found that Castiel was fair, and dedicated to his members. In a roundabout way, the omega supposed that Castiel would certainly feel less guilt about casting him out if he knew Dean would be able to take care of himself in the wild.

 

In the meantime, it was nice to have the alpha dedicate so much time to him, seemingly without expecting any sort of payment or subservience in return. Castiel would smile every time Dean shifted, the time it took getting shorter with each lesson. The pups continued to play, engaging him in odd conversations about the sorts of bugs they found in the woods, and their favorite adults to play chase with, and who made the silliest faces.

 

The first time one of the pups had tackled Castiel had left Dean breathless with fear for the young one, as he had grown to care for them both of time. But the alpha just laughed and let Ben lick his face, before fake growling and chasing both the pups laughing around the field. No one even thought twice of it, and Dean quickly realized that it was a relatively regular occurrence for Castiel to play like that with the children. It was soothing, somehow, to watch the alpha cast off some of the weight of his position in order to roll in the dirt with the little ones, who clearly cared nothing for how they should treat an alpha.

 

Watching them play, Dean almost wished he was allowed to join in.

 

He contented himself would becoming more engaged in other areas of pack life. It might have been more realistic to say that Jody and Charlie, and even the gentle encouragement from Castiel, played a larger role than Dean’s own prerogative. Nonetheless, he found himself following along on hunts, and even on slow days, joining Charlie on some more casual sentry runs around the border.

 

Even Charlie would not insist that he accompany them on more formal runs, when a threat had been indicated in the form of odd smells or trespassers. But the daytime runs that were more formality than real threat assessment now occasionally found Dean running alongside Charlie, observing as she showed him where the lines to the territory were, and how they went about scouring the place for anything unusual.

 

Castiel heard about this after Dean had already gone on two runs.

 

The alpha saw the group returning, small as it was, and Dean could see the instant he noticed Dean among them, a deep frown coming to his usually placid face. Castiel approached them immediately.

 

Charlie. Dean.

 

He greeted them perfunctorily, and Charlie didn’t notice right away, but Dean could tell from Castiel’s scent that he was unhappy.

 

Hey Castiel! What’s up? Charlie asked casually, her usual bubbliness not failing her now.

 

Have you been taking Dean with you on patrol?

 

The tone of the question finally seemed to make it to Charlie, and her wagging tail lost some momentum.

 

It’s just a regular daily run, alpha. No risk. I thought it would be good for Dean to see more about the camp and how it’s protected.

 

Castiel seemed to pause at this, though he displeasure in his scent did not dissipate.  He glanced over at Dean, who was standing uncomfortably to the side, unsure of whether he should take responsibility for the event or stay silent.

 

Stay inside the borders, Charlie. Keep a careful eye out, determining if there is risk or not is what these runs are for. Dean. The alpha shifted his full attention abruptly.

If there is any sign of danger, Charlie will tell you to run and you must listen. Alright?

 

Yes, alpha. Dean lowered his head respectfully to Castiel’s wishes, and was confused when he could tell the smell of displeasure increasing slightly. He heard Castiel sigh, quietly, and then the scent cleared, leaving worry behind. Dean jerked slightly at the realization, lifting his head in time to see Castiel wandering back towards his own tent, the sense of intent far less strong than before.

 

Charlie sighed, nudging Dean’s side with her shoulder.

 

It’s not you, ok? She spoke reassuringly, despite her tired voice. He’s just worried. It’s all he can do to protect everyone, as alpha. To keep track and make sure no one is at risk. Besides. Charlie smirked. Alpha likes you.

 

Dean found himself unable to respond, and Charlie merely guided him towards the healer’s hut, where he was to spend the rest of his day with Jody.

~~

 

It was on one of these standard runs that Samandriel stumbled upon a scent marking at the border. It was less than a day old, and stunk of something rancid that Dean would rather not think on when he caught a whiff of it. He didn’t understand at first, the heavy silence that came over the entire group when Samandriel pointed it out. But then Charlie was nudging him away, closer to her side, and telling him they would be going back to camp early.

 

I’ll alert Castiel, and take Dean back. You patrol the surrounding area and see if there are any other signs.

 

Charlie’s voice echoed in Dean’s head, as well as everyone else’s from the way they stiffened and set out without another glance. If there was an emergency one of the them would howl to alert the pack and gather reinforcements. Dean had never heard this in his time with the pack, but Charlie had told him on one of the runs, after Castiel had found out about him attending, what the protocol would be if something happened.

 

Charlie started to run, and Dean was hot on her heels as they made their way back towards Castiel’s tent.

 

Castiel was standing outside his tent, having heard the whispers travelling even faster than the wolves themselves.

 

What’s happened?

 

Charlie was efficient with her report.

 

There was a scent on the southwest border, unfamiliar. Unsure if it was aggressive but the placement seemed intentional. The others are patrolling the area.

 

Castiel was stiff, and Dean was almost taken aback by the way his entire demeanor seemed to change, seamlessly shifting into one of authority. His hackles were slightly raised on his back, and his voice was sharp, body poised to move at an instant’s notice.

 

How fresh?

 

Maybe a couple hours, Alpha. Charlie’s use of the title was another indication that this was no regular occurrence within the pack. It was foreign but fitting for the scene, the unquestioning deference to Castiel’s leadership.  

 

Dean remained perfectly still at Charlie’s side, a little to her rear. Castiel had looked at him in concern when they first blew into camp, but he had hardly a glance to spare now, and Dean stifled the odd feeling of disappointment that came with the dismissal.

 

The alpha was already turning away, looking back towards where some of the rest of the pack had gathered.

 

There is a possible infiltration on the border, a foreign scent. Charlie has reported this to me, and several of our sentries are patrolling now. Victor.

 

A brown wolf with a broad muzzle stepped forward, tense as the rest of them.

 

Take some of yours with you and scout the other borders. We need to assess.

 

The wolf was off in seconds, several others trailing after him without having to be told.

Castiel stepped forward now, raising his voice so it would carry further.

 

With an unknown incident at the border, I ask you all to gather as a pack in the central area of camp. I do not know whether there is an immediate threat, but while the sentries assess, I would rather not take any risks. Keep the pups with you as well.

 

Only on Castiel’s final line of address did his eyes slide over to where Dean stood silent and still, lingering for a long moment before moving back to the crowd. It was nice to know that the alpha had taken Dean’s worries so close to heart.

 

The camp broke into restless movement, and Castiel stalked briskly back over to Charlie, gesturing for her to follow as he made his way towards his tent. She brushed her side against Dean’s as she went, aiming for reassuring, but the omega was left only with a chill and the desire to follow.

Chapter Text

Several days passed under the tense atmosphere of the camp. The wolves were still unsure of whether there was a threat present or not, but the sentries were vigilant, and Castiel himself looked like he hadn’t had a full nights sleep in far too long. There were dark circles under his eyes when he was in human form that Dean could see, even from across camp where he waited with Jody in her hut.

Since he returned with Charlie after first being there for the discovery, he hadn’t spoken to Castiel at all. The alpha had a stream of pack members in and out of his tent, asking about the threat, requesting advice or guidance on how to proceed. And there were of course the meetings with the senties, ensuring that everyone was patrolling every inch of the border, no stone left unturned, no scent left unidentified as long as there was the heightened threat. So Dean waited for Charlie to tell him what was happening, or for Castiel to send someone to inform Dean that they were cutting their losses, moving on, and Dean needed to find somewhere to go.

 

It came as a surprise, therefore, when Castiel arrived at the door to the healers hut, brushing Jody’s concerned murmurs aside and heading towards Dean, where he sat by the kettle.

 

They were in human form, for the moment. Castiel’s feet shuffled over the dirt floor, and Dean remained still, silent as always, his eyes downcast and following the movement.

 

The alpha lowered himself with a huff, the air expelling itself without his permission.

 

“Dean.” Alpha’s voice was rough and worn, gravelly in the quiet of the hut. Jody had excused herself at some point in the short journey Castiel made towards Dean, and the omega missed her presence now, nervous alone. He had expected someone to be sent to send him away, not for Castiel to come do it himself. Some part of him thought maybe it didn’t make sense for this to be what Castiel was doing. There was no real indication that it would happen. But then, there was never a warning before Dean was thrown into something new. And with chaos, he had only learned to expect the worst.

 

His pulse rate was up, and he wondered if Alpha could hear it, could smell how his scent was shifting wildly, even over the fumes of whatever medicinal tea was boiling over the fire.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

The question caught him off guard, but only slightly. Even for all his obligations and authority, Castiel had been nothing but kind.

 

“Yes. Castiel.” Dean’s eyes flitted up to where the other man was slumped by the heat. “Are you?”

 

The slight hitch in Castiel’s breathing was loud in the hut, but before Dean had time to panic that he had crossed a line, the alpha was sighing long and deep, his scent calming into something exhausted and not even slightly offended.

 

“I will be. I’m quite tired, to be honest. This whole thing has been….stressful.”

There was a rye emphasis on the last word that let Dean know that it was perhaps the understatement of the week. His lip quirked up at the side before he could stop it, and the fond scent that curled into the air, soft and mellow, made him think maybe Castiel saw.

 

Dean wasn’t sure how they kept ending up in this position, sitting quietly side by side, confessing things to the other that they wouldn’t say to the rest of the pack. At least, Dean had to assume that this wasn’t the sort of thing Castiel would admit to the pack. Even a kind alpha can’t show weakness, lest another alpha think they could gain the upper hand. Even in the city, Dean saw enough of alphas to know that.

 

Hazy heat from the fire drifted out to envelop the two of them as they sat, lulling Dean into a sense of calm. Whatever Castiel had to say, he would accept it. Spending this much time with the pack was already more than he could have dreamt. Not since he was a child had he found such acceptance, even for an omega such as himself. He would miss it, but it couldn’t be helped.

 

Castiel’s voice in the quiet of the room brought Dean back to the moment, and he braced himself.

 

“Dean. I was...I’ve been thinking. I wonder if you might..be willing to help us. Take a more active role.”

 

At the odd spike in Dean’s scent, confusion and anxiety, the alpha hastened to clarify.

 

“As we investigate, I mean. I know it might be distressing for you to recall events from your childhood, but I was hoping you could provide some insight, and perhaps give some guidance in our assessment. See we are still unsure of the threat, and Charlie suggested, and I myself had considered as well, that you might be...helpful. Only if you are willing, of course.”

 

It was too far from what Dean had been anticipating, and the request left him reeling. He wasn’t being thrown out, Alpha was asking him to help. Was not just implying, was saying outright that he thought he, Dean, might be helpful. But to recall things from his childhood was not distressing so much as it was impossible. Dean might remember being pulled from everything he had ever known, watching his family attacked and his pak torn apart, but he had no tactical knowledge of how it was done. Everything in his mind was tinted red at the edges when he thought of that night, thought of the days following. The cold in his bones, the loneliness, the silence. He couldn’t let Castiel labor under the delusion that he had something to offer now.

 

It was a terrible misunderstanding.

 

“Alpha. Castiel.” Dean stumbled, catching his mistake in address too late. “I. My most humble apologies, alpha, I cannot assist. I cannot remember. I would if I could but I don’t..know enough to be of assistance to you.” He hunched in on himself preemptively, anticipating the anger and disappointment that would follow his reveal.

 

Castiel remained quiet for too long, his scent steady, giving nothing away, until Dean grew too anxious and again chanced a glance up towards the alpha’s face.

 

He was facing Dean with a soft look in his eye, something melancholy in the lines of his face as they were put in stark relief by the fire. His posture remained relaxed, hands limp in his lap. When their eyes met, Dean was surprised to find that he wasn’t as anxious anymore, and the feeling seemed to be mirrored in the way Castiel’s face smoothed out minutely.

 

It was wrong to look in such a way, though, and Dean dropped his gaze after a long moment.

 

“It’s alright. If you don’t remember how they did it. It’s alright if you don’t want to be involved, as well, of course. I can understand that feeling. But, to be honest, I would like to have you there. In some of the meetings. Perhaps even if you cannot remember anything about the attack on your own pack, it would be good to have a fresh perspective. The same people, myself including, have been going over every detail for hours. Maybe you would see something new.”

 

The quiet lingered longer between them this time, before Castiel heaved himself to his feet. His joints popped, and he sighed again, stretching out his back.

 

“No matter how you decide, Dean, I do hope to see you again soon.”

 

Dean’s eyes were high enough to see the small smile the alpha gave him, and certainly high enough to watch the man’s silhouette as he left the hut.

 

~~~

 

When Dean arrived outside the pack alpha’s tent the next day, shortly before the sentries were due to return from their patrol, Castiel’s scent was sweet. The omega thought he might be smiling more than he had in weeks,  certainly since this whole incident began.

 

By the time the rest of the members of the meeting had been assembled, Charlie included, Castiel had mellowed, but Dean found himself placed comfortably in a seat directly by his side, two of many spots surrounding a medium sized round table in the center of Castiel’s tent.

 

There was little displayed, overall. Plenty of notes describing the exact routes and any findings from the patrols of the border. Apparently a small vial of dirt was stashed somewhere in the room as well, the scent contained growing stale and old, but still potentially identifiable if the perpetrator were to be located. Diagrams of scratches on trees around the border, and anything out of place that Cain had deemed worth collecting, which now had amounted to several cloth scraps and small animal bones.

 

None of it looked especially threatening laid out as it was on the table in the center of the wolves, but the mood was somber enough to make up for it. Cain was chomping at the bit for something to be done, but Castiel could not get a clear answer on what he thought exactly that should be. Charlie’s excitement that Dean would be joining them had not worn off so much as been overshadowed by the stress that was being passed around.

 

Samandriel, who had originally found the scent, was saying very little at all.

 

“So there was nothing again today.” Castiel sighed out.

 

“That is not true.” Cain was close to growling, even in his human form. “There were marking at the outskirts, that could have been claws. It looked like a large group.”

 

“Those were outside of the border by nearly a quarter mile, Cain, we cannot assume that it was anything. As it stands, there was no evidence of intrusion,” Charlie burst in.

 

Dean sat silently, staring at the diagram of some scratches that had been found on a tree right along the border several weeks ago, predating the scent mark. It was only a slight fluctuation in his own scent, he had thought, hardly noticeable, until Castiel was raising his hand for silence.

 

“Do you have any thoughts, Dean? It’s alright if you don’t, but anything could be helpful at this point, I imagine. We’re just talking around in circles.” The last part was said with a meaningful glance towards Cain and Charlie, who were on the edge of breaking out into a quarrel.

 

With silence in the room, and all eyes on him, the omega felt frozen. He couldn’t help with this, he shouldn’t be here. He wasn’t even pack, for god’s sake. And yet he could feel words coming out if his mouth, shaking with nerves, so quiet he could only be heard because the others were straining.

 

“My pack was on edge for weeks. When I was young.” Dean directed his full attention to Castiel. He was the one who knew the story, he was the one Dean had finally felt able to share it with.

 

“My father...the pack alpha...he was always out. With the patrols. He would come back late. We hardly saw him. But everyone knew they were out patrolling, even though...for a while...we didn’t know why. I don’t think.”

 

Castiel laid a gentle hand near Dean’s own, not covering it, but offering support.

 

“Do you think this follows a similar pattern?”

 

Dean nods. “At first they didn’t know what it was. Something would happen and it would be tense, and then a little while later it would be nothing and everyone would relax, but it kept happening more. It started small, I think. I remember my father coming back late, and my mother asking if everyone was ok, and he said not to worry, it was just a scratch. And he laughed a little. I didn’t understand what was funny.”

 

Dean was a bit breathless from speaking, and he wasn’t sure if he was making any sense, but he was even less sure that he would be able to continue. Wafting towards him in delicate tendrils, he could smell Castiel, soft and pleased and proud, and something Dean wasn’t sure he could name. But he thought, if Castiel smelled like that, surely it couldn’t have been too bad.

 

It seemed he was right.

 

“I think that is very helpful. At this point, I suspect many of us would have liked to say that the scent mark was potentially a fluke, since it seems we are not finding anything out there on patrols. But if this is indeed to follow the same pattern Dean has just described, then it stands to reason that once our guard has been let down, it will begin to slowly escalate. I believe this will help to keep us motivated and focused on the real threat at hand.”

 

Castiel’s speech was heartfelt, and there were nods from around the table, thought some were more reluctant than others.

 

The meeting was concluded shortly thereafter, everyone scattered, likely to spread the news that there was no news to be had, but they would still be on alert.

 

Dean stayed seated until most everyone had gone, moving slowly to try and remove himself back into the shadows after the brief moment in the spotlight. Castiel had already tidied away the papers, and Dean was almost out of the tent, before the alpha turned and spoke again.

 

“Oh! You’re going already. Of course.” He shuffled slightly in place, laying the stack of papers back down.

 

“I just want to thank you for coming today Dean. It means a lot. And I am glad to have you.”

 

It was too sincere to be just for the meeting. Dean had hardly done anything anyways. His memory was not particularly insightful. Yet Castiel sounded as though he had done something great.

 

As in most confusing moments, Dean found himself quietly showing the back of his neck and murmuring a brief, “Thank you Castiel,” before escaping to outside the tent.

 

Chapter Text

 

The laborious tracking continued for two weeks. Two long weeks of waiting and watching, the pack sitting tightly wound, the pups gathered at night, surrounded by wolves who would sooner let their throats be torn out than surrender them.

 

The more time passed, the higher tensions seemed to go, as Castiel pushed them to stay vigilant. The sentries were patrolling in groups every few hours, around the clock, and signs of wear were beginning to show.

 

But it was worth it.

 

Howls echoed across the camp, an alarming signal that had everyone who wasn’t a sentry gathering at the camp center, and everyone who was dividing instantly. Some went running to assist whatever was happening at the border that had raised the alarm, others standing at attention around the rest of the pack. Ben and Jo were huddled together beneath Lisa, who stood stiffly, ready to move at any moment.

 

Dean had been at Jody’s hut, as usual, when the howling began. He froze, unused to the scent of fear and confusion that abruptly accompanied the sound from the rest of the camp. It was Jody who finally came rushing into the hut, breathing out a loud sigh of relief at the sight of Dean, still by the fire, and hustled him out the door to join the others.

 

Dean was surprised to find that Jody was pushing him towards the center of the group, and even more surprised to see that wolves were separating, allowing them through to where the pups were. With a firm “stay,” Jody let go of where she had been holding his arm and moved back towards the outskirts of the huddle, a bundle of medical supplies clutched in her other hand and ready. With the rest in wolf form, Dean shifted as well, taking longer than most but still reveling in the feeling of being so connected to his wolf.

 

The silence that followed the howls was oppressive, the camp waiting for some sign. Finally, they could hear rough panting and the sound of heavy paws hitting the ground. Samandriel came into view through the trees, letting up a series of yips to alert everyone as to who was approaching. Castiel came forward to meet him.

 

His wolf form was radiating power as he listened to whatever Samandriel had rushed to tell him. It was too far away for Dean or most of the wolves to be able to hear, but whatever it was had Alpha’s fur bristling and a low growl emanating from the back of his throat. It was clearly not directed at the young sentry, though, as the other wolf’s posture had hardly changed at the noise.

 

A quiet gasp was audible towards the front, and before Dean knew it the whispers were flying back towards the rest.

 

Infiltrators.

 

A pack at the border.

 

A skirmish.

 

Injuries?

 

Prisoners.

 

Castiel turned towards the group, his eyes serious. He was casting his message now, so they would be able to hear even at the back.

 

Samandriel has come bearing news that there has been a fight at the border. There have been no casualties, although I am told there are some light injuries.

 

A meaningful look towards where Jody stood, still in human form, had the healer tightening her grip on her bundle and nodding sharply.

 

Though many of the intruders scattered, our sentries have captured several. They have been apprehended, and will be transported back to camp. I tell you this now, so that you know there will be rogues in our midst. They will be well guarded, and I know you all will be on the lookout as well. But be ready. Samandriel. What is the ETA for their arrival back at camp?

 

The smaller wolf stepped forward, spreading his voice wide to reach the pack.

 

Charlie and her group are on their way with the prisoners now. They were just past the big rock near the east side when I came ahead, so they should arrive in ten minutes depending on the speed.

 

Castiel nodded in approval, as murmurs broke out once more among the pack. Castiel raised his voice to be heard.

 

The rest of the sentries are performing heavy patrol around every edge of our territory. This will continue until further notice. Hopefully the apprehended rogues will be able to shed some light on this dark situation.

 

The pack alpha, now done briefing the pack, turned to dismiss Samandriel, who ran back into the woods.

 

The rest of the pack remained tightly knit in the center of the camp. Castiel had jumped into motion, going first back to his tent, before beckoning several wolves to accompany him and moving towards one of the huts towards the outskirts. It was a building that had never caught Dean’s attention before, as no pack members generally entered. He had assumed it was some sort of storage area.

 

Now Dean suspected it might double as a holding cell.

 

When a series of yips echoed over the camp, accompanied by low growls and the sound of scuffling, the entire pack froze, before closing in more tightly. Ben and Jo were still pressed to the center, near Dean, and he could see wolves scenting the air, pressing large paws between the pups and the incoming intruders.

 

Charlie’s voice was clear as it carried to the group, warning them to be careful.

 

And then the group came into sight. The rogues were in wolf form, but had been bound in a way that restricted their movements. Their steps were slow and shuffling, from their paws being connected by thick rope, and there were ties around their muzzles to keep them from biting. They could open their mouths just enough to breathe and emit the low growl that had carried, but little beyond.

 

There appeared to be two rogues, though it was hard to tell, as they were flanked on all sides by pack members, standing tense and tall to keep them contained. The blend of fur as it approached through the shadowed forest made it hard to see who was friend and who was foe.

 

Dean could barely see over the sea of wolves between them, anyways, as pressed to the center as he was. He was curious, but also glad that he was not expected to go forwards. Somewhere else, he might be serving the alpha and the sentries as they returned, bringing them whatever they needed. Even here, he thought Jody might request his assistance for treating anyone who needed it. But he was grateful that there seemed not to be enough need for it.

 

The pack alpha had emerged from the hut, and was waiting. He had placed his body purposefully in front of the pack, sending a clear message. He was Alpha. The rogues would go through him before any harm came to his pack.

 

With a hard growl, and a sharp nip at one of the prisoner’s scruff, Charlie broke away from the group and trotted forward to greet Castiel. She spoke only to him, though, not loudly enough for the rest to hear. The meaning became clear, though, when Castiel nodded his head towards the hut.

 

Charlie dipped her muzzle in acknowledgement, her deference more pronounced in the presence of intruders. Dean suspected it was to send a message.

 

The group flanking the prisoners began to move forward again, passing in front of the pack. Dean dipped his head, a strange nervousness bubbling up in his chest at the idea that these wolves were members of the same sort of pack that had stolen him away as a child.

 

The smells were stifling, the anxiety and fear and anger of the pack creating a miasma that made it hard to breathe. Dean snorted, inhaling sharply and then freezing as a whiff of a scent broke through.

 

It was burnt and angry in a way that he had never smelled it before, radiating a foreign edge of aggression and just a little fear. But it was there. It was familiar. Too familiar to stand, and in a fit of spontaneity that Dean hadn’t experienced in over a decade, he was fighting his way through the pack around him. Wolves he could hardly see weren’t providing much resistance as he pushed his way through, but he could tell that a slight panic was working its way through. He couldn’t help it though, couldn’t think of that.

 

Finally, after pushing between two sentries who only let him through because they weren’t expecting any resistance from their backs, he was in open air. His eyes zeroed in on the large form of one of the rogues. Their backs were to him now, still moving towards the hut.

 

Charlie, who had been in the lead, turned her head just slightly to see what the commotion from the pack had been about, and her eyes widened in fear to see that Dean had broken out into the clearing. He didn’t notice though.

 

His voice was clear and loud, echoing to the whole pack when he yelled.

 

Benny!

 

The effect was instantaneous.

 

Confusion rose from the pack, sentries behind him trying to herd him back.

 

Dean was aware, as he always was somehow, of where Castiel was standing, his eyes wide with something that somehow didn’t just look like anger.

 

But the thing that was holding his attention closely, desperately, was the rogue wolf who had wrestled himself around and was facing Dean with clear blue eyes.

 

Dean.

Chapter Text

Dean hadn’t realized how used to the easy acceptance of Castiel’s pack he had become until they started looking at him with suspicion.

 

It was easy to understand why.

 

After his initial outburst, calling to Benny with a single minded focus he hadn’t remembered he possessed, there had been brief chaos. Eventually, between being pushed back behind the sentries, and pushing forwards towards the rogues, he had found himself bundled into the hut with the rest of them.  

 

There were folding chairs set up, an unexpected feature for a wild pack to have. But the hinges were rusty and the seats cracked and gray, and Dean assumed they hadn’t been used for quite some time.

 

The two rogues, as Dean could now see there were two of them, had been told to shift back into their human forms, and were tied to the chairs. Sentries still in wolf form prowled outside the hut, and several guards in human form remained inside.

 

Dean was not restrained, but it was made clear by the narrowed eyes of Cain and other members of the pack from beyond the windows that he was not necessarily free. It was worrying, but he was too overwhelmed to process it too deeply for the moment.

 

Benny had changed since the last time Dean had seen him.

 

Of course he had, it had been years. He was broader and rougher, scruff around his chin where it had been smooth, and circles under his eyes that weren’t new so much as deeper and more pronounced. His voice was louder.

 

No less gentle when he spoke to Dean though. The rough growls and aggressive posture only melted away when he was speaking to Dean, as they had been in whispers since they had been allowed to communicate. The omega was seated on the floor next to where Benny was tied, his hand on Benny’s arm, fingers tangled in the fabric of his sleeve. It had been so long since they had seen each other, it was like finding a sort of home, and he wanted to be able to hold on and remind himself it was real.

 

“I waited for you for a while, cher. Hoped you would present and you’d be sent to work at the same place I had, like we talked about.” Benny’s voice was soft and spoke of the deep loneliness he had experienced after his own presentation, waiting for his only friend.

 

Dean understood completely.

 

“I-I waited too. I’m sorry, Benny. I wanted to. I presented wrong.” Remorse and guilt clawed at the omega’s throat, making it hard for him to speak. Benny just shook his head.

 

“You didn’t present anything wrong, Dean. I’m just glad to see you now. Are you-” Benny trailed off, glancing around at the guards still in the room, clearly listening in.

 

“They treat you well here?”

 

Dean nodded. “They’ve been very kind. I’m treated very well. Especially for not being pack.”

 

Benny blinked in surprise at that. “Not pack?”

 

Dean shook his head. The alpha narrowed his eyes.

 

“How’d they get a hold of you?”

 

Dean shook his head again, in disagreement this time.

 

“They didn’t steal me. It was a trade, for passage.” At the other man’s raised eyebrows and questioning expression, Dean clarified.

 

“After the auction-” Benny’s low growl had a guard barking at him to calm down, and Dean rested his other hand on Benny’s arm as well until he was settled enough to listen again.

 

“After the auction, when I presented omega, I was purchased and taken...I don’t know how far. Several days of travel, I think. I couldn’t see. But the group taking me crossed too far into this pack’s territory. It was a breach of the border, and when some of the sentries and Alpha came to defend, the group taking me offered a trade. Me for safe passage. Alpha accepted, and so I’ve stayed here.”

 

Dean could tell that this wasn’t a story Benny was pleased to hear, knowing that his childhood friend had been traded like goods for services. It was something that they all had to grow accustomed to in the facility, but that didn’t make it easier, after all these years.

 

“They own you?” Benny’s question rumbled through his chest, despite the low volume.

 

For the first time, Dean hesitated. They did, he supposed. Technically, Alpha... Castiel , had traded for him. But it had never felt like that. Since he had been taken in, the idea that he was an asset to them had slowly faded, until some days, most days, it just felt like living.  

 

“I don’t...think it’s like that...here.” Dean kept his eyes down as he answered Benny’s question, his voice quiet but steady. “I think they do...but maybe...they don’t think they do.” It was the best he could offer, but it seemed to quell Benny’s anger for the moment.

 

“How did you end up here?” Dean whispered his own question now. “I thought you went to labor?”

 

Benny let his own eyes fall at the question, lingering somewhere on the bare floor in front of him. His voice dropped even lower, though whether that was to keep it from the guards or his own companion in the chair beside him, Dean was unsure.

 

The rogue in question had been letting his head loll back, staring at the ceiling, unreceptive to any questions thrown in his direction. His fangs remained out though, a defiance the guards were choosing to let lie for the moment.

 

“I did go to labor. For a while. After they carried me out, I went to one of those places on the edge...manual labor for the city. Digging ditches and hauling rocks for new growth. But there’s a lot of unrest there. Lots of alphas together...less supervision than places towards the center. A rogue came in, started a rebellion. Easy enough. We all got a choice, though, go with their pack or…end up on your own.” A wry expression crossed Benny’s face. “There were already guards comin’ from the city, dogs too. Anyone who didn’t go would have been hunted. Put down. So.”

 

Dean could see where the decision had been made.

 

“You’ve been doing this, Benny?” Dean asked, not really wanting to know the answer. “Have you been taking people?” ‘Taking pups’ went unsaid.

 

The alpha stayed still.

 

“No pups,” he said finally. “But…”

 

Dean’s heart broke.

 

“How long?”

 

Benny shrugged a large shoulder. Remorse was heavy in his scent now, where before it had been laced with aggression and anger.

 

“A year maybe. These packs don’t take kindly to traitors.”

 

The heavy silence that fell between them was broken by the sound of movement outside the hut, the guards on the inside coming to a position of attention as the door opened.

 

Dean hadn’t seen Castiel since he had entered the hut.

 

The pack alpha had looked at him with a confusing expression, his scent had spiked wildly with something close enough to pain to leave Dean reeling with questions, and then the omega had gone with Benny into the hut and Alpha had disappeared.

 

He stood in the doorway now, an indecipherable expression on his face as he looked between Dean and his childhood friend.

 

Benny’s reaction was instantaneous, in sync with the rogue in the other chair. The heavy scent of pack alpha had them both sitting straight, straining at their ropes, low rumbling growls emanating from their chests. Dean wondered why Benny seemed especially voracious, protectiveness in his scent that was clearly unexpected to the rest of the wolves as well. The rogue alpha kept glancing at Dean where he sat on the floor, pushing forwards as though to block him from the pack alpha with his body.

 

Castiel’s expression tightened at the realization, before smoothing out.

 

“Dean.”

 

Alpha’s voice held none of the anger Dean had been expecting, though it wasn’t warm like he was used to either.

 

“Yes, Castiel.” Dean let his eyes drift as far up as Alpha’s knees, more than he would have allowed himself before, but still conscious of the fact that for all they knew, he was a traitor now.

 

“Would you go with Charlie to my tent? She will wait with you there for me to return.”

 

It was not a question.

 

Benny’s reaction was sudden and violent, a loud roar ripping out of his throat as he saw Dean moving to comply. The guards reacted immediately, shifting towards the large alpha to hold him down. Dean flinched at the sound, unaccustomed to such a thing from his friend. He had never heard such volume from him before.

 

“Benny…” Dean’s whisper was soft, but it was enough. “I’m ok, Benny. Don’t worry. Don’t get too rough, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

 

The alpha turned to look at Dean in disbelief, before swallowing down what was clearly going to be an argument. His eyes narrowed. In a growl meant for Castiel to hear, he ground out “If he hurts you, cher, I’ll kill him.”

 

All Dean could do was repeat, “I’m ok,” before rising to his feet, and making his way quietly out of the hut. For a strange moment, a strange urge brought his eyes up to meet Castiel’s as he passed. It was only instant, but the emotion Dean could see there was no less confusing than it had been earlier.

 

Charlie was waiting for him outside, just as Alpha had said. She took his hand wordlessly, concern written all over her face.

 

“Dean?” She asked. The omega was glad she, at least, seemed not to see him as any sort of threat, based on the familiar worry in her voice.

 

“I’m ok.” He said again, repeating himself.

 

The door to the hut clicked shut behind him.

Chapter Text

The path back to Castiel’s tent had been laced with wolves, looking at Dean with barely concealed suspicion. But then Jody had been there too, walking over to him in human form and pulling him into a tight hug as though nothing had changed.

 

The looks calmed, after that. Jody’s decision to trust Dean had some sway in this pack.

 

Charlie was reassuring too. When they reached Castiel’s tent, she was quick to tell him that the pack alpha wasn’t angry, he just had some questions. She looked like she wanted to say more, but trailed off at the last minute, and Dean felt himself wondering what he was missing.

 

She picked back up again easily enough, though, correctly anticipating his buzzing concern for the friend who had just made his way back into his life. Dean understood Castiel’s role as pack alpha, knew that some things had to be done to protect his pack from threat. Knew that this time, Benny was part of that threat. Nonetheless, the urge to keep his childhood friend safe in any way he could was strong. No doubt Charlie could see it in the tense set of his face just as well as she could smell it on him.

 

She told him that Castiel was not planning on using extreme tactics yet, but for the moment was telling the rogues what was expected. They would sit overnight, she said. Wait for Castiel to gather more information from his sentries, and talk to other pack members before determining what he needed from them.

 

It felt like forever and no time at all until Castiel was pushing through the tent flaps.

 

Charlie had trailed off into silence as soon as they had smelled him approaching. There was a nervous energy in Castiel’s scent that wasn’t usually present, and Dean could only attribute it to the stressful situation at hand. Knowing that, though, didn’t keep his own nervousness from mounting as the alpha approached.

 

Dean stayed curled in on himself on a chair in the middle of the tent as Castiel made his way slowly towards the two of them.

 

“Dean, would you be comfortable if I asked Charlie to leave us for a while?”

 

It was odd, even now, that Castiel was allowing such a choice to be put in Dean’s hands. The omega nodded. He could hear that unlike the last one, this was a real question. If he said no, he had no doubt that Charlie would remain seated by his side. But he had no wish to press things as they were. He was an omega outsider, and he had just displayed an alliance with a member of the rogue pack that had been testing the waters at the border.

 

Charlie gave Dean’s hand a light squeeze, and slipped silently out of the tent.

 

Silence settled, heavy between the two of them. There was an odd scent filling the place, mournful and hesitant, and it didn’t at all match what Dean was expecting. His own scent, he thought, was appropriately nervous.

 

“I would like to know about the wolf. The rogue.”

 

Dean licked his lips self consciously.

 

“What would you like to know about him, Castiel?” They both knew that the use of Castiel’s name was only a placeholder for the Alpha title it implied, when Dean used it in this way.

 

Castiel sighed deeply, the words coming out like they caused him pain.

 

“Did you lead him here?”

 

“What? No!” Dean jerked upright, startled into looking the alpha in the eyes. This time, though, he did not drop his gaze immediately.

 

“Alpha, I would not lead a rogue here. I don’t know why...he has stayed with the rogues. But I would never lead your pack to harm. I swear. Alpha.”

 

Fear suddenly gripped at Dean, scraping up his throat, and twisting his body down into a more submissive posture. Castiel had only seemed surprised, he told himself. Not angry. But as much as he thought he might be in trouble, suspected, for knowing one of the rogues, he had not realized that members of the pack would think he had led them there on purpose.

 

There was a sick feeling in his gut from the question. He would never wish harm like that on any pack, especially not this one where everyone had been so kind, welcoming him with a gentle grace he had never really known.

 

Castiel shifted forward, coming crouch beside where Dean was still seated. He slowly placed his hand on the omega’s arm, near his hand. His palm was warm, almost hovering, but it grounded Dean enough to know that the alpha believed him, felt no anger.

 

“We grew up together.” Dean whispered, finally.

 

Castiel shifted into a more comfortable position, seated on the floor next to Dean. It was an odd reflection of the way that Dean had been sitting beside Benny’s chair so recently.

 

“You’re from the same pack?”

 

Dean laughed, a sad little thing.

 

“No, in the facility. In the city. He was a little older, so he was there already, when I...arrived. But we were children together. Had cots next to each other. He was the only one I spoke to for years.” He was looking somewhere else, somewhere through the alpha when he looked up. “Years, Castiel. I spoke only to him, only in whispers. We weren’t permitted to speak unless it was in response to a direct question or order.”

 

Castiel’s hand was warm and solid on Dean’s arm.

 

“You helped each other.” It showed some understanding that Castiel could put it in such simple terms.

 

Dean nods. “He was all I had. We hoped we would both present alpha. So we could work together. But he presented alpha, and I waited, but…”

 

There was a shift, suddenly, as Castiel shuffled in place on the floor.

 

“Did you want to mate?”

 

The question took Dean aback, not only because he had never thought of it, but also because of the clear undercurrent of discomfort in Castiel’s voice and scent. It took too long for him to think of the answer, the only answer, before Castiel was continuing.

 

“If you wanted to mate, if you still wanted that, we could figure it out. I can’t just...let him go, for the sake of the pack, but I don’t want you to think that...we would disregard your happiness. We want you to be happy, Dean. I want that for you.”

 

The fervent sincerity made something ache in Dean’s chest.

 

“We were like brothers, there were no thoughts of mating.” Dean paused to consider. “I can leave with him, though. If you would rather. I know I’ve caused trouble here, I’ve been a burden to your pack. And he...his pack. Rogues. I can go with him. I don’t want to trouble you anymore.”

 

There was a flurry of motion, and suddenly, again suddenly, Dean was looking into the alpha’s clear blue eyes, staring at him with an intensity he had never experienced.

 

“Please, Dean, don’t ever think that. You have a place with us. We don’t want you to go. I know you’ve probably felt like some of the members are suspicious, with the rogue situation, but you need to know that if you want to stay here, even if you don’t, I will speak with them and clarify for you. That you had no part in the rogues coming to this place. I would be honored if you would call this your pack.”

 

Dean found himself floundering for a response, and for the first time that night, he had no more words to offer. He could only nod, and hope that his own face and scent let Castiel know how much he wanted that.

 

The two of them were exhausted. Darkness had fallen outside, and Castiel hesitantly offered that Dean could sleep in Castiel’s tent, if he was comfortable with it. Jody was likely out for the night, tending to any injuries, and with tensions in the pack the way they were, it was clear that alpha had some reservations about sending Dean back to the healer’s hut alone.

 

Fortunately, Dean found himself amenable.

 

The two of them shifted, Castiel slipping outside to do so, and giving Dean privacy if he needed it. Castiel’s nest was inviting, featuring an assortment of furs and cushions. It was enough that Dean didn’t let himself feel too much fear about approaching, and taking to the edges.

 

It seemed that wasn’t necessary though, as Castiel urged him to make himself at home, and settled his own large body closer to the flap of the tent, between Dean and anyone who might enter.

 

Despite the nerves of being in Castiel’s tent, the stress of the day and all of the emotions Dean had felt soon caught up to him, and it was to Castiel’s calming sleep warm scent that the omega was able to drift into a dreamless sleep.

 

~~~

 

The questioning happens while Dean is still asleep.

 

The next thing he was aware of was Charlie leaning over him, nosing at his abdomen with her cold snout. He was still in Castiel’s tent, wrapped in layers of furs that smelled strongly of the alpha, and for some reason made Dean feel safer and more at home than he had in years, certainly since he was a pup wrapped in the scent of his family.

 

Castiel wants you to join them.

 

Charlie’s voice in his head was quick to bring him back to full awareness.

 

Dean pushed himself to his feet, following Charlie out of the tent silently. The short trip from there to the hut was far less tense than the night before, without the narrowed eyes and sharp stares from other wolves. This time, it seemed that there were very few pack members out at all.

 

Castiel talked to the pack this morning.

 

Charlie didn’t pause in her step, but she did slow minutely, to give them more time.

 

He made it very clear that you had nothing to do with the rogues coming here. He wasn’t too specific about how you know the wolf, but the pack pretty well figured it out. They’re sympathetic. Lisa looked upset for you.

 

Dean whined low in the back of his throat. Castiel was too kind for his own good.

 

Samandriel was waiting for them outside the hut when they arrived. He dipped his head to Charlie, and scratched low on the wooden door, alerting those inside. It swung open a short moment later, and Dean could see figures inside. Charlie nudged him forward with her nose, again waiting outside while he went in alone.

 

Benny was still tied to the folding chair. He looked haggard and was slightly slumped, a sign that he had been there all night. The rogue next to him was in much the same position as he had been before, face turned upwards, fangs bared. He too, though, looked somewhat more rumpled and worn than the day before.

 

Castiel was standing to the side, close the the door when Dean entered. There were two other pack members there as well, guarding. Everyone was in human form.

 

Dean shifted awkwardly, forcing his joints to pull and pop in order to bring himself upright. A pack member handed him some extra clothing, which he put on gratefully before turning to the rest of the group.

 

Dean’s arrival had sparked some energy into the listless hut, it seemed. Benny was sitting upright, where before he had shown little reaction to the addition of another wolf into the mix. Dean wondered if he hadn’t realized it was him at all. Benny wasn’t even aware that he had learned how to shift again, albeit recently.

 

“Dean.” Benny’s voice was rough, though whether that was from exhaustion or overuse, Dean couldn’t be sure. Benny was glaring at Castiel now, suspicion in every line of his face.

 

“Why did you bring him in here. What do you want with him.”

 

Castiel sighed deeply, a dark expression crossing his own face.

 

“I could ask you the same question.” He murmured, low enough that Dean wasn’t really sure if it was even meant for Benny to hear.

 

Castiel turned fully towards Dean, ignoring Benny’s protests, and leaned in so he could speak quietly and have some illusion of privacy.

 

“Are you feeling alright, Dean?” He asked. The alpha’s hand was just lightly brushing Dean’s elbow, and the omega found a pleasant warmth spreading from that spot. Castiel’s breath against his ear, and the concern in his scent, were making him feel calm and cared for despite the stress of the situation in the rest of the hut.

 

Dean nodded, aware that the others were watching, but comfortable enough to glance up at Castiel’s face where it remained close to his own, gracing the alpha with a small twitch of the lips that could almost be a smile.

 

Castiel savoured the event, looking carefully at the omega’s face before nodding slowly and backing away.

 

“Alright then.” His voice carried to the rest of the shifters.

 

“You’ve given us little information.” Alpha, as he is in this moment, lets the statement linger. “We will give you two choices. You can work with us, as a prisoner, to eliminate the threat of your former pack. Or you will be released into the woods and our sentries will tear your throat out. We will give you the gift of a swift death, and the promise that you will be buried in dignity.”

 

Castiel stepped back slightly, giving them space to consider. It was clear there would be no negotiations. Whatever had happened while Dean was still asleep had led to this ultimatum, he had no doubt.

 

Benny was nearly vibrating in his seat, his arms straining against the ties, his smell throwing off anger and aggression as he wrestled with the decision. He kept looking over at where Dean stood.

 

In stark contrast, the other rogue had hardly moved. His tongue lolled out of his mouth, half shifted along with his fangs, long and disfigured with the effort. The corners of his mouth turned upwards in the imitation of a smile, and Dean felt a shiver go down his spine at the sight. It was unnatural, somehow, for a man to be this much wolf, and a wolf this much man. It was not a balance, but a melding.

 

The rogue started to laugh, the first sound he had made while Dean had been in the hut. He thought maybe at all.

 

“I would not work with you, pack alpha.” The rogue was spitting with each word, his voice deep in the back of his throat, the title of alpha coming out as an insult. One eye rolled forward to look at where Castiel was standing, unphased by the unsettling display.

 

“I hold no loyalty to the rogues, but I would sooner work with them than with you. Don’t take me out to the woods to put me down like a dog. Do it now. Tear my throat out before I take yours.” The eye that had landed on Castiel shifted suddenly over to where Dean was standing unobtrusively in the corner. “And your pack.”

 

His teeth glinted.

 

Castiel nodded once, sharp.

 

“As you wish. Dean, please look away.”

 

One of the guards pulled Dean further away from the chairs, turning him to face the wall and standing so that his view behind him was obstructed.

 

There was a loud growl and a sharp yelp, the sound of wetness and the smell of blood. And then it was quiet.

 

“Benny.”

 

Castiel’s voice was calm, but Dean couldn’t process much beyond the overpowering coppery scent in the air. The guard still wouldn’t let him look back.

 

“I brought Dean here because it seems you hold some affection for each other. I do not know if this holds true for you, after these many years. I begin to doubt the morals of a man when he starts working with rogues. But for Dean, I would give you another chance. Will you work with us to dismantle your former pack, or will he lose you again.”

 

It occured to Dean, somewhere in the haze of smells, that this might be Castiel’s way of letting him say goodbye to Benny, if things were to go wrong. He didn’t like being used as incentive this way, it reminded him too much of being tossed around as a bargaining chip, disposable. But if it meant that Benny would remember there was something to live for, to redeem himself, then it was worth it.

 

“Benny..” Dean’s voice shook, quiet despite the rushing in his ears. But Benny must have heard him because the low growl that had been emanating from his chest suddenly cut off.

 

“Alright.” A long pause. “I will work with you. For Dean.”

Chapter Text

Benny was moved to another tent, finally unbound from the folding chair in the hut. He was warned immediately that he would be under heavy guard at all times, and Castiel and the sentries followed through. Though Benny had his own tent, there were always wolves patrolling outside. Even excursions to the woods to relieve himself were monitored.

 

Dean was allowed to see him though.

 

After Castiel’s talk with the rest of the pack about Dean’s lack of involvement with the rogues, the suspicious looks had tapered off to nothing. If anything, when pack members saw him going to and from Benny’s tent there was more sympathy than anything else.

 

Lisa approached Dean one day, both Ben and Jo scampering behind her.

 

Dean. We haven’t seen you recently, with all this chaos.

 

Lisa smiled, fondness lacing her scent.

 

The pups missed you.

 

It seemed to be true, as Ben and Jo scampered around the omega, yipping excitedly. They had seem reserved at first when Lisa had approached, but they were quick to revert back to their exuberant selves.

 

You haven’t been at shifting practice as much, Dean, it’s less fun.

 

Ben was running somewhere around Dean’s back legs, nipping lightly enough that he could hardly be felt, though his mother chided him with a slight brush of her paws.

 

Jo had stopped running, and stood instead directly in front of the omega, likely so he was better able to see her immense and exaggerated puppy eyes when she looked up at him.

 

Yeah, and Castiel doesn’t come as much either, now that you’re not there. It’s just Donna, and she’s nice but it’s not as exciting.

 

Dean frowned slightly, not expecting this confession.

 

Castiel doesn’t go as much? Perhaps because he has been busy with the….pack business.

 

Unsure of how much the pups were made aware of, Dean thought it better to leave the rest of the sentence largely unsaid. They were far more in touch than he gave them credit for, though.

 

No no, he pretty much stopped coming to the practice wayyyy before the rogues showed up.

 

Ben said with an eye roll, having made his way up to stand next to Jo. The other pup nodded.

 

Yeah he came a couple times when you weren’t there, but he’s not as enthusiastic about it, we can tell. He just says what to do, but he doesn’t smell like he’s having fun.

 

Ben interjected again, before Lisa could step in front of him.

 

Yeah, and he keeps looking over at where you would stand. I think he missed you.

 

Dean was startled by the statement, but even more so by the wave of warmth that washed through him at the idea that Castiel might have missed him. It was endlessly surprising, the many ways in which Dean could be welcomed into the pack, and the way Castiel had slowly but surely helped Dean to feel comfortable there was nearing the top of the list.

 

Lisa pushed the pups gently away with a rueful smile.

 

Don’t worry about them, Dean. I really, originally, just wanted to come over to make sure you were doing ok.

 

Her soft scent was calming, and Dean felt some of the tension leaving his shoulders.

 

I’m...alright.

 

He answered carefully. Lisa nodded, not pushing.

 

You’re pack already, Dean. There doesn’t need to be an official ceremony for that to be true. If you need anything, please know that I, and others, are here for you.

 

She came forward to nuzzle briefly at his head, before turning to herd the pups away with her.

 

Dean stood still for a long moment, puzzled but also inexplicably warmed by the whole encounter. Eventually, though, he made himself move towards his original destination; the tent where Benny was being held.

 

The large alpha had remained largely in human form since his arrival, and was still like that, hunched over a small table in the center of the tent when Dean pushed his way through the flaps.

 

“Dean.” The aggression seemed to melt out of Benny at seeing the omega, and Dean was reminded in flashes of cuddling up in a too small cot together as children, feeling like they were all the other had.

 

Dean sat a short distance away from his old friend now, though he knew he still radiated happiness at seeing him.

 

“How are you today?” Dean asked.

 

The alpha stretched, exaggerated to make the other smile.

 

“Well enough, I suppose. They’ve been feeding me alright, so I guess I can’t complain.”

 

Dean nodded in agreement.

 

“Royally cooped up though. Can hardly take a piss without one o’ them watching.” Benny leaned forward to study Dean’s face.

 

“How are you, cher? You seem…”

 

Happy was the word Benny was looking for, but it made sense that he wouldn’t know what that looked like on Dean, not really.

 

“I’m well, Benny.” Dean tried to reassure, but there was still suspicion on his friend’s face.

 

The alpha scooted forward, close enough that his lowered voice could be heard. The tent served well enough for privacy, but was certainly not sound-proof, and Benny remained well guarded.

 

“You know if something’s not right, cher, you can tell me. I said I’d work with that alpha for your sake, but if he’s not treatin’ you right, you just need give the word, and I’ll get you outta here.”

 

Dean shuffled in his seat on the ground, uncomfortable.

 

“No, Benny, really. They’re good to me. Like I told you before, they think…” Dean could feel the familiar warmth passing through him as he remembered what Lisa had said, and what Castiel had said only nights ago. He looked down to hide the blush covering his face. “They think I’m pack. Castiel said I could be pack here. That they want me to stay.”

 

At his friend’s silence, Dean looked back up. Benny was one of the very few he wasn’t worried about making eye contact with. The expression that met him was unexpected though, something that had Benny’s eyes wide and his mouth slightly open in wonder.

 

“What is it?” Dean asked, embarrassed. Benny shook his head, closing his mouth into a small smile in the process.

 

“Nothin’, cher, just don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this before. It’s new. I’m glad you’ve found a place.”

 

For a moment it was like they were young again, the years spent apart only meaningful because it meant they could find each other again, all the old wounds and aggression in between cast off. Benny looked relaxed in a way he hadn’t once since he was taken into the camp, and Dean thought probably not for a long time before that either.

 

Dean could only nod, and offer his own small smile back. Someday, maybe Benny could find a place here too.

 

~~~

 

It was difficult for the pack to determine the best way to move forward regarding the rogues. Benny's presence offered a new avenue, though not everyone was in agreement on how to utilize it. 

 

Castiel made sure that every strategy meeting, Dean was also in attendance. The omega had protested, once, only for Castiel to tell him that it was only fair that he was also privy to the information, and his insight was just as valuable. The sincere look that accompanied Castiel’s insistence that, you helped keep this pack safe, Dean , was enough for the omega to swallow any further protest and just let the warm feeling carry him along. The smile he got for his acquiescence was worth it.

 

It was hard for some of the other pack members, particularly Cain, to accept that they would be working with one of the rogues. The first few gatherings consisted of a fair amount of angry muttering. Benny was the one who leaned back, eyebrows raised at the way the others were reacting to his presence. Since he had reconnected with Dean and made the deal with Castiel, he felt a certain amount of leeway.

 

When he made the first real contribution to the pack, though, was when the muttering died down, and even Cain could acknowledge that he was useful in his own way.

 

Benny had smelled some of the vials kept squirreled away in Castiel’s tent, that contained dirt, still clinging to some stale scent. The first one he had snorted lightly, just to get the old smell out of his nose.

 

“Nah, that’s none of ours.” He shook his head, passing the vial back off to Castiel in exchange for the second.

 

Once the lid was removed, the man immediately narrowed his eyes in recognition. He didn’t need to say anything more, the rest of the group was already leaning in.

 

“That one I know. Some beta, low down in the ranks. He would have been sent in for something like this, just to cause scent panic.”

 

Dean sat silently in the chair beside Castiel’s empty one. The locations was something Benny had put up surprisingly little fuss about, when he had seen it, and somehow the arrangement had stuck.

 

The pack alpha himself remained standing by Benny’s chair, holding the vials, and wearing a concerned expression. At the news that the scent did belong to one of the rogues, his face darkened.

 

“So we were right to see this as a warning.”

 

Benny raised his eyebrows.

 

“I woulda thought that was clear already, brother.”

 

Disgruntled murmurs broke out from the other pack members in attendance at the way Benny was speaking to the alpha, but Castiel paid it no mind.

 

“Indeed. What of the pack hierarchy then. Who were the other members, what were their roles. What signs should we be aware of that might come next.”

 

Benny nodded.

 

“The rogues set up most like you folks here. The leader changes more often though, just like pack members rotate more often. Wolves die, or get left behind, or kicked out. Loyalty comes from fear and reward, rather than any kind of bond. There’s those that love it though. Love the life. Plenty of wolves, like me, end up there cause it feels like there’s no other option.”

 

Benny paused minutely to glance at Dean, who was listening carefully with his eyes downcast.

 

“But there’s those wolves that seek it out. Like the thrill. The hunt. The leader of mine was more like that. Don’t know how he ended up there, but he sure as hell liked it. He got his two betas to back him up, the enforcers within the pack. Rats,” he sneers.

 

“Then there’s the rest of us. Some get more responsibility than others. I was up a bit, been there longer than some of the newer members, so they were sent out for things like just causing minor disturbances, setting up for the long game. Things like that,” Benny gestured to the vial, sitting on the table now where Castiel had set it down.

 

“What did you do?”

 

Hearing Dean’s voice unprompted in the meeting was surprising, and had the effect of silencing everyone even more than they already were. The wolves all knew, now, the connection Dean had with Benny as children, and so they were respectful of what this question meant.

 

Benny hesitated a long moment, rubbing his thigh in nervous discomfort.

 

“I was an enforcer. Not like the top betas. But when we’d go out, I’d fight. A fighter.”

 

“Was it part of your job to take people?”

 

Dean’s voice held an unfamiliar edge that brought a chill to the tent. He had a tighter hold on his scent than usual as well, though something in it was sending Castiel drifting back over towards his vacated seat next to the omega.

 

Benny flinched.

 

“I didn’t take no one.”

 

“Really?”

 

“I swear, cher. There was...other stuff I did. I’m not proud of. We fought packs like yours, raided them. Took their stores, destroyed their camps. Killed some when they fought. Alphas.”

 

“And the omegas? The betas? The pups?” Dean’s voice choked slightly on the last word. Benny flinched again at the sound, and kept his eyes averted.

 

“Left them.”

 

“You left them there, without food or home or protection?”

 

Benny didn’t answer, didn’t need to.

 

Dean’s scent vacillated wildly for a moment, before blooming into a myriad of grief and betrayal. The omega stood suddenly, making his way quietly out of the room without another word.

 

Castiel looked after him in concern as he went.

 

“I think we will end here for the moment. You’re all dismissed. Cain, would you accompany Benny back to his tent.”

 

Without waiting for the others to begin their own dispersal, Castiel was pushing through the flaps of his own tent, and striding out into the camp.

Chapter Text

Castiel found Dean by the bank of the river. He was sitting with his knees close to his chest, his focused somewhere between the water and the opposite shore.

 

Castiel didn’t know if he had heard him approach, as focused as he was in his own head, so he opted to move forward slowly once he had spotted the omega.

 

“Dean..” The alpha spoke softly.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

Dean nudged his own face down into his knees, moving it in a motion directly crossed between a nod and a shake.

 

“I don’t know.” The sound of his voice was muffled from that position, but Castiel could have told it well enough anyways.

 

The alpha sat gingerly beside him, settling down on the damp ground of the riverbank. He let himself stretch back slightly, his posture open and unthreatening. Glancing between the omega beside him and the other side of the river, he spoke.

 

“It’s an unexpected challenge to have Benny here, isn’t it.” His voice was conversational, but Dean jolted as if he had been struck.

 

His expression carried trepidation when he finally lifted his head towards the other man.

 

“Would you cast him out?”

 

Castiel let himself think for a moment.

 

“I would. Do you want me to?”

 

The question Castiel answered was not precisely what Dean had asked, but it was more telling as well.

 

Dean’s face crumpled slightly, and his knees were pressed more closely to his chest.

 

“You can’t ask me to make that choice,” he said in a shaky voice.

 

It was odd how being there on the river bank made it seem as though the divide between alpha and omega, pack alpha and new pack, was so much less. Dean wasn’t looking Castiel in the eyes, but he was speaking freely. The past months had emboldened him in ways Castiel wasn’t even sure the omega had noticed himself, but lest it risk the progress he had made, the alpha certainly wasn’t planning on mentioning it just yet.

 

“You don’t have to make any choice. I won’t cast him out if you don’t want him to leave. But if it’s too difficult, there are others ways this can be done. You don’t have to see him. Maybe he is not the friend you remember. That’s alright. Time changes people in unexpected ways.”

 

Dean pushed his face back into his knees.

 

“I just wish it was easy, like it used to be.”

 

Castiel nodded in understanding. As much as he disliked the idea of Dean finding happiness with someone else, away from the pack, he hated to see the omega feel isolated from the one friend he had growing up.

 

“Maybe there is some part of him that is as it was before, and needs time to come out. But, Dean.” Castiel leaned forwards, waiting for Dean to look back and meet his eyes before continuing.

 

“No matter what becomes of Benny’s presence here, please know that the pack supports you. And I….I would like you to be happy. Here. With us.” With me, went unsaid.

 

Dean nodded in understanding. He stayed silent, but his scent had lost some of the heaviness of before, and Castiel was relieved to smell some comfort curling in at the edges.

 

~~~

 

The next time Dean saw Benny, it was in the next pack meeting.

 

The way Castiel was seated, closer than usual to the omega, was noticeable enough the Charlie raised her eyebrows at Dean, though she didn’t say anything. Tensions were already relatively high in the small group, scents churning out into the confines of Castiel’s tent that he wasn’t looking forward to have lingering later.

 

Benny looked more withdrawn than he had in previous meetings. It had only been a few days since the last one, but Dean knew that he had likely not had much contact with anyone for the duration. Dean was the only one who had gone to visit him before. But since the last one, it just hadn’t felt the same.

 

Benny kept trying to catch Dean’s eye during the first part, where the sentries reported any new findings to Castiel and the rest of the group. None of it was urgent, low level enough that it could wait until a scheduled meeting rather than being brought to everyone immediately.

 

By the time it was Castiel’s turn to speak, though, Benny had nearly given up, keeping his eyes down towards the table in the center, and hardly reacting to the rest of the group.

 

It pained Dean to see him like this, but he knew that if he approached Benny again right away, it would be insincere, still fraught with the sting of betrayal.

 

It was harder to tune into the meeting, with his friend, or whoever Benny was now, sitting hunched over at the same table. But Castiel’s voice was coming through more clearly than any of the sentry reports.

 

“I can’t say how much I appreciate the work you all have been doing, and your vigilance. I know it hasn’t been easy leaving pack grounds recently. I think the moves towards connecting with other packs similarly affected will pay off, though. Even if it doesn’t help us towards our initial goal, I truly think that having more allegiance with our neighbors in dealing with the rogue packs will be good for all of us.”

 

Castiel’s tone was heartfelt, and it was clear that he had persuaded the others of the value of his plan as well. Sentries had been moving further and further outside of the pack’s determined borders, travelling in small groups. They were going towards other packs that neighbored their own, as well as approaching travelling caravans in order to gather any information about sightings of rogues in the area.

 

Benny’s information was proving useful, as the wolves sent out were able to describe in more detail the sort of dynamics they were looking for. Not just alphas, but betas as well.

 

“I’d like to discuss a tactic for forming closer ties with these packs.” Castiel offered to the group.

 

Charlie was the next to lean forward, her brow furrowed.

 

“I have some concerns about our differences, socially. Some of the packs that live nearest our northern borders have some concerning views towards omegas.”

 

Castiel nodded, sitting back down from where he had stood to address the group.

 

“How so?” He asked.

 

“When Samandriel and I were getting information from one of the caravans, we learned that they had passed by one of the northern packs to trade, and had been offered an omega in exchange for goods. As a form of barter.”

 

Dean sucked in a breath, remembering how similar the situation was to his own only months prior. How lucky it was that Alistair had passed too close to the border of this pack, rather than one just beyond.

 

The rest of the meeting was dedicated to determining how to address the need for allegiances with neighboring packs, while still maintaining the pack’s own set of ideals. It was finally settled on that connections would be made, but the packs to the north would not be sought out beyond that, as others might, for tactical measures. Charlie, with Castiel’s firm support, was also adamant that should any omegas from those packs cross over into pack grounds, they would be welcomed regardless of the tension it might cause.

 

These issues had never been considered before, and it was becoming clear to Castiel and the other pack members that their relative isolation was both a blessing and a curse.

 

After adjourning, Charlie came up to Dean before leaving the tent, slowing moving in to hug him close to her. He hadn’t realized that his own scent had been so clear in its reaction to the discussion, but it was nice that Charlie had noticed.

 

It had been a remarkably long time since Dean had been touched with affection, he realized. Even in this pack, he wasn’t close enough with anyone for it to come naturally, and he had gone so long without, it hardly seemed natural to ask for it anymore.

 

But feeling the warmth of another person, or another wolf, he imagined too, was soothing, and he had to refrain from letting out a small whimper when his friend finally pulled away.

 

“If you need anything in all of this, you know I’m here Dean. I don’t care about what else might be going on...” she trailed off to glance at where Benny and Castiel stood side by side, the former still hunched with his eyes to the ground, the latter standing stiff and tall. “But I’m here for you.”

 

Dean mustered up a small smile, and nodded his thanks before Charlie left.

Chapter Text

Charlie was the first to catch wind of rogue movement, spread in murmurs through a traveling pack. Rather than a trade caravan, this was a pack that didn’t hold any territory of their own, patchworked together or cast out. They included omegas and children, though both of these were kept mostly hidden away when possible. The road was not friendly the the vulnerable.

 

They were hesitant to trust outsiders, but Charlie was non-threatening, and had given enough specific detail to their own pack’s quest that they did not feel she was aiming to attack. The strategy of bringing only a small group of well trained sentries also paid off. Samandriel was hardly intimidating, and Cain, though brusk, did not give off the scent of aggression unless he sensed a threat.

 

The pack told Charlie that they had passed through and area to the southwest, where the scent of fear still lingered thick in the air. They had passed as quickly as possible, but still they had been able to smell where blood had been shed, and where the heavy stench of alpha underlied with beta had overpowered the normal pack balance.

 

Rogues.

 

The word was tossed around, not casually, but like a ticking time bomb that no one wanted to be holding too long.

 

Charlie had been able to see where the small faces of children peeked out into the light from the depths of the carriages, before they were pulled back into the shadows. It was a beta who spoke to her of it, trusting enough that she would hear what he had to say and let them pass in peace.

 

There was something else they mentioned.

 

Charlie reported to Castiel with urgency, the group of them running to get back to the camp with their information.

 

Castiel had shifted when he heard them coming

 

What is that?

 

Charlie’s scent, though more muted as a beta, was giving away her apprehension.

 

They said they had been asked about the rogues already.

 

Castiel’s eyes narrowed, as he took in what she had said.

 

By who?

 

Charlie shivered, her fur standing upright.

 

They just said it was a beta. A large wolf.

 

And this beta was alone? Castiel asked.

 

Charlie just nodded her confirmation of what the travelers had told her.

 

Castiel remained still for a long moment, considering what had been reported back to him. At last he sighed deeply, shaking his fur out lightly. He nodded for Charlie to follow him, as well as Samandriel and Cain who remained in position behind her.

 

We will have to convene for a meeting, before briefing the pack.

 

~~~

 

The first Dean heard of the update was in the meeting, where Castiel stood tall and informed the group of sentries and advisors that not only had rogue movement been identified, but that someone else was also seeking information out.

 

The omega was unsure of what this meant for their own pack, but it seemed that everyone was in a similar situation, confusion wafting through the room as multiple voices jostled for answers.

 

Castiel shut them down, calmly but still firm.

 

“I don’t know any more than you all at this juncture. Charlie has just reported back today. The information is new, and clearly we will need to do some more investigating before we determine whether this is friend or foe, or even just some outsider with curiosities.

 

“That’s damn well unlikely.” Cain muttered from the back, but for once no one disagreed with his pessimism. It was true that the risk of asking about rogue activities for a single wolf would far outweigh the reward, if it really was a matter of simple curiosity.

 

Castiel sighed, sensing that no one would be settled until something more had been determined.

 

“We will use this as a starting point. Charlie, did you hear anything further about the wolf who was asking about the rogues. Even the smallest detail.”

 

Charlie shook her head.

 

“The one who was willing to speak with me just told me about what they had encountered when passing through the area to the southwest. They said they saw no one in the area, only knew that something had happened based on the smells. They were fresh.” She shivered slightly as she recounted what she had heard.

“They weren’t even positive that it was rogues, it was just a suspicion.”

 

Castiel nodded his understanding. The group was finally quiet, listening to Charlie speak.

 

“We have not yet moved in that direction.” Samandriel spoke up hesitantly from somewhere behind Charlie. “So it is possible that there has been more movement there that we have yet to hear of from our sources.”

 

Charlie looked back approvingly, before she confirmed.

 

“Other groups have of course ventured in other directions,” she nodded to a few of the other sentries, “but we have focused our efforts primarily North, as that was where the original scent was left on our borders. Given this new development, I propose we begin to send more groups towards the South and South West. Not only to speak with other packs, but also for scouting purposes.”

 

There were murmurs of agreement from the group.

 

“I agree. However, I think we should increase the numbers. Small groups are good, but I would rather you started combining. Two groups as they are assigned currently, rather than just one. If the rogues are active in that area, you may need backup.”

 

Castiel addressed all the sentries, making sure that each member was aware of the new rules.

 

His eyes finally settled on Benny, where he remained listening attentively.

 

“Benny.”

 

Even the name caused a spike of tension in the room, but Castiel ignored it in favor of speaking to the other alpha.

 

“Do you have any thoughts on what we have heard today? Any signs that this may be the work of your former pack?”

 

Benny paused for a moment before answering.

 

“No clear signs. I know this wasn’t the only pack they looked at. It might have been one to the SouthWest, but I wasn’t one of the members who would have known all those sorts of plans.”

 

He looked over to Dean. The omega had been silent the entire meeting, though it was clear he was absorbing every word. He looked pale, shaken by the news that the rogues might have moved on to strike another pack.

 

“If the scents still fresh enough..hell. Even if it’s old, I can tell you if it’s them.”

 

The show of efforts clearly surprised many who were in attendance, including Dean himself. He shifted in his seat, looking up briefly towards Benny. The alpha was focused on him, but Dean looked down too fast for him to make eye contact.

 

Castiel cleared his throat carefully. Beyond the rogues and the tensions among packs, and the news that there was a new player in all the chaos, there was still a delicate situation with Dean and Benny. Castiel didn’t want to see Dean hurt any more than he already was.

 

“That would be helpful, Benny, yes. Charlie?”

 

The beta nodded firmly.

 

“I will bring back samples.”

 

Castiel thanked her briefly before looking back towards Dean.

 

“Dean?” His voice was softer than with the others, though minutely enough that he hoped no one thought too much of it.

 

The change in the omega was abrupt. He sat forward sharply, eyes looking towards Benny though the still lingered somewhere below the other man’s chin.

 

“Would there still be wolves there?” The room was silent once Dean had spoken.

 

Benny swallowed, loud in the quiet.

 

“Rogues, cher? I don’t know, I wouldn’t..” Even as Benny was trailing off, Dean was cutting in.

 

“No, Benny. Not wolves of yours. The pack. Omegas, children. Would there be wolves left?”

 

Castiel was startled by this question, taken aback that he had not thought of this sooner as well. Benny had said previously that omegas and children would be left to fend for themselves.

 

Dean was still waiting for an answer to his question.

 

“I don’t...know if they would still be in the area. But we woulda left them. They. They woulda left them as far as I know.”

 

There was defeat in the rogue alpha’s tone, but his blunt response was almost a relief.

 

Dean’s gaze swiveled towards Castiel.

 

He didn’t even have to say anything beyond, “Castiel” before the alpha was nodding, his scent reaching towards Dean with reassurance and determination that he could only hope made it through.

 

“Of course, Dean. We will look for them.”

Chapter Text

When the small group of scouts left the pack grounds in the early morning hours, Dean was there to see them off.

 

Castiel also decided to remain behind with the pack. The decision was certainly not influenced by the way Dean’s scent was projecting anxiety and hope all over the place, and solely to do with his own concern that the pack might be vulnerable with the alpha gone.

 

Either way, the two of them stood side by side as Charlie led her own sentry team, as well as backup out into the woods.

 

“If there is anyone there to find, Dean, Charlie will bring them back.” Castiel hoped his words would bring some reassurance, if only for the reminder of Charlie’s reliability.

 

The omega didn’t respond, but he did shift slightly closer to where Castiel was standing.

 

Dean wasn’t sure what he was feeling, but he was worried, and his friend had departed into what may as well be enemy territory for all the guarantees he had that she would return. He was glad, selfishly, that Castiel had not gone as well. There was something sturdy and grounding about the alpha’s presence at his side, and he didn’t want to think of what the moment would have been like without it.

 

“Dean?” The concern in Castiel’s voice finally broke though Dean’s whirling thoughts.

 

“Yes, Castiel. I trust Charlie.” Dean responded quietly.

 

It was easier to speak with Castiel when there was no one around who might see it as disrespectful. Somehow, Castiel himself had become a confidante. Despite Dean’s worries about his place, the fear he had of Castiel himself had melted away, replaced with something warm. It made his toes tingle, and his stomach swoop in a way that was not entirely unpleasant, though unfamiliar.

 

Standing at the edge of pack grounds, together in the dawning light before the other wolves were about, felt right.

 

“I’m glad. That’s right. Charlie is a good scout. A good wolf. A good friend. ”

 

Castiel’s voice was nervous, though not in a bad way. It seemed that the comfort of the morning did not extend to the other man, and Dean found himself laughing. Whether it was his nerves about the scouts, or the oddity of hearing Castiel so off kilter when Dean felt calm, for once, it struck him such that he was laughing out loud in the quiet of the morning.

 

Even when Castiel turned to look at him, an expression of confused joy on his face, Dean didn’t feel as though he needed to stop himself.

 

Castiel’s quiet laugh joined in, until finally they tapered off into more comfortable silence.

 

“You have a wonderful laugh,” Castiel said quietly.

 

“Thank you. I hardly recognize it.”

 

“Well, I hope we both will soon.”

 

When Dean looked over, holding eye contact for the first time with the pack alpha, he saw hope.

 

~~~

 

The wait was excruciating. Once the pack was awake, there was an antsiness that settled over the whole group. Wolves paced back and forth, by the borders as well as within the main pack grounds.

 

Jody made sure her hut was well stocked and prepared, in case there were wolves brought back who needed medical care. The silence worry was present that some of their own might come back in need of care as well, but no one wanted to acknowledge it before there was a need.

 

At long last, in the twilight hours of the day, a howl echoed over the camp.

 

Charlie.

 

There was instant movement.

 

It was a message of return, and news. Castiel was outside his own tent, directing a small team to run and meet them, instructing them to send one wolf back to report if anything was needed in regards to medical care, food, or shelter.

 

The pack was prepared for refugees.



Dean found himself waiting at Castiel’s tent as well. News would come there first, but being by Castiel, waiting for word together, was better than waiting alone.

 

One of the sentries that Castiel had sent out to meet the incoming group came bounding back through the trees, Samandriel on his heels.

 

The latter wolf came to a standstill in front of Castiel, dipping his head in acknowledgement.

 

There is a group approaching shortly, Alpha. We have three omegas and two pups with us.

 

Are there any injuries? Castiel asked.

 

Samandriel shook his head in the negative.

 

Figures started to emerge from the trees, then, a larger group than the one that had departed that same morning. There was a myriad of scents in the air, the milky neutral of unpresented pup, and a mix of sweeter ones from the cluster of omegas. The all stood close together, clearly wary now, as they emerged into the light.

 

The pack stayed a careful distance away.

 

Even though there had been a few members who originally were hesitant about bringing strangers in, it remained that these were the vulnerable members of a pack torn apart, and no one wanted to see them frightened unnecessarily. For all that Castiel’s pack remained in relative isolation from their surroundings, many of them had come over the years seeking their own safety as well.  

 

Castiel moved forward to meet the group, headed by Charlie, and flanked by other sentries, with the omegas and pups towards the middle.

 

Charlie looked tired but pleased, and her scent agreed. Dean was glad for it. His friend had made it back safely, accomplishing what they had set out to do.

 

Castiel’s scent was held proud and relieved as he looked over the group.

 

I would like to hear a full report of your mission, he said, But first, I think our guests should be brought somewhere where they can settle in and receive food and care. Is there anything I should know beforehand?

 

Charlie shook her head. No, Castiel, I think that sounds good. I will take them to Jody and Ellen, and report back to your tent for a briefing.

 

The alpha nodded in agreement, stepping back to let them pass.

 

The omegas cowered slightly as they moved with Charlie’s guidance through the camp, shivering at the strong smell of alpha.

 

The sight reminded Dean of himself, and he was again startled to realize how much things had changed for him. These wolves were fully shifted, including the pups, but still they kept their eyes low, and they reeked of anxiety. It made Dean’s nose tickle, and he wondered if this is what it smelled like when he arrived as well.

 

He was grateful for the pack, Charlie and Castiel especially for being so patient with him.

 

He expected Castiel to go back to his tent now that things were settling, to hear the report from Charlie. But the alpha turned to him instead.

 

Would you like to hear Charlie’s report?

 

Dean was taken aback, his question flying out without thought.

 

Are you sure that would be appropriate?

 

Castiel huffed a laugh from his muzzle, letting his tongue loll out slightly to show his lack of offense.

 

Dean, it was your idea to look for these people in the first place. There are omegas and pups safe now because of you. I think it only right that you would be invited to share in receiving the report.

 

Surprised but undeniably pleased, Dean could only nod, and hope that his scent spoke for itself.

 

Castiel’s tent was quiet and warm, a welcome difference from the usual atmosphere of the meetings which regularly occurred there.

 

Dean felt comfortable waiting, and if the way Castiel seemed to relax, his shoulders untensing after several moments, he also felt the effects of their shared scent of contentment.

 

When Charlie arrived, she only blinked for a moment upon entering before beginning her report.

 

We arrived at the border of their grounds after around an hour of travel. It would have taken less time, but we were making attempts not to let our presence be noticed immediately. The traveling caravan was right, the smell….

 

Charlie shuddered, and Castiel huffed in concern.

 

It’s alright. Just, the smell was very strong. Blood and fear, most of it stale but some of the fear still fresh in the air. That was the first sign we had that the grounds were still occupied in some way. We could smell fresh anxiety and fear, but no signs of fresh aggression.

Past the border, we broke into two groups, with plans to call immediately if there were any signs of danger, or if one of us found the survivors.

 

Dean had unconsciously settled near to Castiel’s side, and though he could see Charlie safe in front of them, and knew that everything had gone at least relatively well, he still found himself leaning closer to the alpha for reassurance. Castiel too, seemed to be seeking some comfort from the omega’s scent, if his subtle shift inward was any indication.

 

I was with Samandriel and Cain, as always. We followed a scent trail towards the remains of the camp, but it went stale before leading to anyone. It was Donna’s group that found them, and howled for us. It was good it was them, to be honest.

 

Charlie sniffled, remembering.

 

They were all huddled together in a cave outside the old pack center. Scared out of their minds. I really think it was only because they could tell Donna was an omega with some authority that they agreed to come out at all calmly. Or they just thought they were outnumbered.

 

They all winced at the idea that the omegas and their pups had only come along for fear of what the sentries might do if they refused.

 

You did very well, Charlie. There were no troubles coming back?

 

Charlie stiffened abruptly.

 

No direct threats. But we did smell fresh Beta as we were retreating. Hardly a few hours old. There’s nothing to indicate specifically that it’s the same, but…

 

It was easy enough to gather Charlie’s meaning. It was odd that there would be the scent of beta so fresh at the sight of a rogue attack, if they were not involved in some way. Particularly with the information from the traveling caravan still hanging over their heads.

 

We gathered samples where the scents were the strongest, without straying too far from the route back, Charlie cut into their worrying.

 

Castiel nodded in approval, his scent broadcasting his appreciation.

 

Excellent. We will have a meeting tomorrow to go over this with everyone, and perhaps Benny will be able to identify something. You’ve done very well Charlie. I’ll check in with Jody and our new guests. You get some rest.

 

The beta smiled gratefully, letting her posture relax as the report was finished, and ducked her head to both of them before loping out of the tent.

 

Castiel turned to Dean after a moment, letting each of them process the information Charlie had brought with her.

 

Would you like to go with me? To see them?

 

Dean’s immediate reaction was that he would, but still he hesitated.

 

Do you think it would be too much for them?

 

Castiel smiled wryly.

 

To be honest with you, I think most anything is likely too much for them right now. But it can only help to have another omega to reassure them that they are safe here. Perhaps you would even be best able to understand where they are coming from. What would you have wanted to hear when you first arrived?

 

Dean ducked his head, again reminded of how things had changed. He would have wanted to know that Alpha was just Castiel, and Castiel was safety and comfort in a way he could never explain, if he could just get past the fear. He was glad he was here now, able to recognize that.

 

I can think of some things.

 

Dean finally responded.

 

Castiel nodded and stood, leading both of them out of the tent.

Chapter Text

The omegas and pups were gathered in Jody’s hut. It carried a bit of Dean’s smell now that he had been staying there for so long. Jody was by the fire, ladling something steaming and savoury into bowls for the group. The omegas were all in human form, seated close together, with the wolf pups in their laps. 

 

When Dean and Castiel arrived, the alpha had Dean enter first. 

 

The group immediately drew closer together, stiff and tense with the new smells.

 

It seemed that they did not react so strongly to Dean’s entry, since it was clear that he had spent much time in the hut. Jody nodded at him slightly as well, making it clear that she had mentioned him to them already. 

 

It was Castiel that had them on edge. Though he entered after Dean, his smell had carried ahead of him, and the pups began to whimper with the onslaught of alpha from outside and fear from their caregivers. 

 

Dean went to greet Jody briefly before turning to the group, while Castiel lingered by the door, unwilling to make any sudden movements and risk frightening them further. 

 

“Hello...I’m Dean.” 

 

Now that he was standing in front of the group, their eyes narrowed in suspicion, Dean felt himself falter. He didn’t really know how to speak to them, to reassure and communicate clearly. 

 

“I...just wanted to greet you. I arrived here suddenly, as you did, and I wanted to tell you that you don’t have to be afraid here. Jody is here to care for you and your injuries. And me as well, I have been learning, I can help you. And answer questions. This is a good pack.” 

 

One by one the omegas turned to lower their heads and bare their necks to Castiel. The eldest, whispered a near silent “Alpha,” in deference. 

 

The man himself seemed uncomfortable. He shifted on his feet, fidgeting lightly with his hands and still not approaching the group. 

 

“Really, there’s no need for that. I am the pack alpha, but I don’t require any...acts of submission. My pack has respect for me, and I for them, it’s not one way I promise you. Please, if you are comfortable, call me Castiel, as everyone else does.” 

 

The omegas and pups were not looking at him directly, so Castiel glanced over to Dean to gauge the situation, and was met with a nod of approval. 

 

Dean tried to remember what he had needed to know in the beginning, that other packs members had not thought even needed to be said aloud. 

 

“Castiel does not take omegas into his tent. Unwillingly. You do not have to serve him, he does not expect it or seek it. And your pups will be safe. He will not kill them or send them away. You are allowed to speak, you will not be punished. This pack...they will listen.” 

 

Dean’s voice was steady and quiet, spreading through the dimly lit hut like the smell of soup. Two out of three of the omegas were looking at him now, their eyes resting on his chin. 

 

“You can look me in the eye. You can look…” Dean took a deep breath, feeling his own residual fear bubbling up, even as he knew for sure, for the first time, that what he was saying was true. “You can look Castiel in the eye. Anyone here. It is safe, because they do not look down on us.” 

 

The youngest omega flicked her eyes up, wide and surprised at Dean’s words. 

 

Her scent carried quickly, particularly to her companions who were likely attuned to even subtle shifts. They all looked up towards Dean, meeting his eyes with their own. It was like finding the people behind the designations, and Dean felt his chest swell with pride that they had accomplished something that took his weeks, if not months to do. 

 

When Jody had finished ladling out the food from over the fire, she coughed pointedly, and Dean and Castiel made their exit from the hut. The omegas and their pups would be settling there for the night, before plans could be made for other housing. It was easier to keep them together for the moment, particularly because no one wanted to separate them and cause undue stress. 

 

Outside the tent, Dean paused, his scent giving away his light confusion. 

 

“Are you alright?” Castiel asked.

 

Dean nodded, glancing across the mostly empty camp center. 

 

“Does Charlie sleep in a tent close by?” 

 

Castiel mirrored the omega’s confusion. 

 

“Are you looking for Charlie?” 

 

Dean ducked his head. 

 

“I just…. wonder if I could stay with her for the night. I have been sleeping in the healing hut, but…” 

 

Words were spilling out of Castiel’s mouth before he could stop them, but he couldn’t bring himself to regret it. 

 

“You could stay with me?” 

 

Dean’s eyes were wide, and so green still despite the darkness. 

 

“With you?” 

 

Castiel nodded. He was sure the other could smell his nervousness. 

 

“Not...for anything. But if you wanted. You are more than welcome to share my tent.”

 

“Oh.” 

 

There was a sweetness in the air that gave away how pleased the omega was, despite his short and quiet response. 

 

“Alright.” 

 

“Alright.” Castiel nodded. He was sure his face was red, and suddenly he envied his own wolf form for the protection fur would provide in this moment. 

 

The walk back to Castiel’s tent was quiet, but calm, as the two men basked in the pleasant scents they were exchanging. It was reassuring to realize that they had both the nerves and excitement in common, and it allowed each of them to relax in the time before reaching the tent. 

 

It was cozy inside, Castiel’s nest still solid and inviting. It felt so different from the last time Dean had stayed, the tensions no less high, but somehow a haven was inside the tent with Castiel where it had not been when Benny had first been brought to the camp. 

 

Rather than Castiel going outside, the simply shifted at the same time, facing away from the other. Castiel moves in wolf form to settle in front of the tent flaps like he had previously, but something in Dean insists that is wrong. Castiel should not sleep on the ground, but in the nest. With Dean. 

 

He nips lightly, barely grazing fur, at the alpha’s side, and nudges him towards the nest. There is enough room for both of them. 

 

Castiel hesitates, but it’s clear that he also feels the draw, and it only takes a few moments for them to settle together in the comfort of the nest, Castiel’s warm side pressed against Dean’s, his tail curved surreptitiously around the omega’s back. 

 

Despite the way his heart was beating, Dean had not fallen asleep so quickly in years. 

 

~~~



The meeting the day following the retrieval of the survivors was nearing chaos. The smell of anxiety was overwhelming in the air, and Dean felt like he might choke. Castiel was faring better, but only because he was able to command silence when he needed to. 

 

Benny was given three small vials of soil, the samples collected by Charlie and the sentries when they had been out on the other pack’s grounds. 

 

The first two hit. He nodded carefully each time, naming the members of his former pack that the smells belonged to, sometimes more than one per vial. The third one, however, had him shaking his head after a delicate sniff. It was the smell of beta that the group had found on their way back. Though the smell of betas was traditionally fainter than the other designations, this one was fresh enough to be clear for Benny to gauge immediately. 

 

“I don’t know that one.” 

 

“You’re sure about that?” Cain cut in with suspicion, causing Benny to roll his eyes lightly. 

 

“Yes, I’m sure. I know well enough which scents weren’t in my pack.” 

 

Several wolves, including Castiel, frowned at the news that this beta wasn’t someone familiar to Benny, as it made identifying their motivations even more troublesome. 

 

“Alright, thank you Benny.” Castiel settled the rising tone of the meeting. 

 

“This makes things more challenging. We don’t know what this Beta is doing, whether they would be considered friend or foe. I think this should become a focus, alongside managing the rogue movements.” 

 

“You don’t think that will leave us too stretched thin? It’s impossible to say if this beta is even working separately from the rogues. That pack lost some members.” Cain’s lips narrowed as he nodded his head towards where Benny sat. “It’s not unreasonable that they’ve picked up some new ones.” 

 

Castiel nodded, understanding the concern. 

 

“I do recognize that we are already working tirelessly on this. But the beta scent has not shown up at the same time as the others. It is fresher than the others. They may not be a threat, but until we know for sure, I would prefer if we kept tabs.” The alpha turned towards the red head in the corner. 

 

“Charlie.” 

 

The beta stood straight, at attention for his next words. 

 

“You’ve done excellent work. I know you and the rest of the sentries are already a bit worn, with all these extra patrols and excursions. I hope if I ask you to track this new scent specifically when you are out, it will not be overwhelming.” 

 

Charlie shook her head, her faint beta scent swelling a bit with pride at the praise from the pack alpha. 

 

“No, Castiel, we can do it on the way. There will be time to divy up patrols and divide and conquer the two tasks, if need be.” 

 

Castiel frowned slightly, his worry for his friend peeking through the pack alpha exterior. 

 

“You will let me know if there is anything I can do to increase support for you all though?” 

 

The beta smiled, her eyes softening. “Of course.”

 

The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to deciding where the new refugees would be housed. They were welcome at the healing hut, Jody said, having joined the group for this part of the discussion. She had glanced at Dean as she said it, clearly worried that he would find himself without shelter or feeling displaced. He gave a small smile to reassure her, his eyes naturally landing on Castiel. 

 

He suspected he would be able to find a place to stay.

Chapter Text

It comes to pass that little tracking was necessary to find the beta, because he found them first.

 

Dean was still curled up with Castiel in what had become their tent. Only a few days had passed since the arrival of the omegas and pups from the other pack, but it already felt like the most natural thing in the world for Dean to be sleeping in the pack alpha’s tent. It was easy to forget what role Castiel played to the others when he was just with Dean, blue eyes kind and welcoming each time the omega was able to meet them. 

 

Their scents had begun to drift together, so that even during the day when they were off fulfilling separate roles around camp, Dean could smell a whiff of the alpha on his skin, just as Castiel would often calm himself by finding that corresponding tendril of Dean on his own. 

 

The other pack members had noticed, but had not yet mentioned it. Only Charlie had given Dean a wide smile, leaning in to scent him slightly more intimately than she had before. His scent let on his embarrassment, but also, he was sure, his contentment at the situation, and Charlie just nodded in approval before moving on to something else. 

 

There were loud calls across the camp, howls from the sentries, before voices and yips burst through the trees to notify the rest of the pack of their presence.

 

Castiel was up in an instant, standing stiffly between Dean and the entry to his tent. The movement seemed to be instinctual, placing himself between the omega and whatever threat resided outside. After a moment, he shook himself into full awareness though, only casting a sheepish glance at Dean where he still lay sleepy and confused in the nest before pushing his way out. 

 

Samandriel and one of the younger sentries stood near the center of camp, panting loudly. Castiel was at their side in a moment, sniffing the air delicately as he attempted to find the source of the chaos. It was obvious that there had been some sort of breach in the border, based on the warning howls, but exactly what sort was still unclear.

 

The morning was still dark, the gray before dawn just breaking at the edge of the horizon, and wolves were slowly emerging, hesitating at the entries of their tents, unsure of whether to gather together in defense or stay where they were. 

 

There is an intruder approaching. 

 

Samandriel was the first to catch his breath and inform the pack alpha. Castiel tensed, ready to move. 

 

It is a large beta. He has been met and waylaid at the Southern-most border, and is being escorted here as we speak. 

 

Samandriel’s words were clipped and stressed, but did not speak of the need for instant reaction. 

 

Castiel frowned. 

 

A large beta?  

 

He clarified. Is he a threat?

 

Samandriel ducked his head, his scent indicating his hesitance. 

 

I do not know, Castiel. He seemed calm when he arrived. He clearly knew when he had passed over the border and was prepared to be met. But he was asking to speak with you specifically.  

 

Castiel’s frown deepened, lines furrowing into the skin of his forehead and snout. 

 

Very well. I will go to the edge of camp to meet him. I do not wish for him to be here in the midst of the pack. 

 

Samandriel nodded in understanding, and yipped for some of the reserve guard to join them at the edge of camp. Castiel would not be greeting this stranger unaccompanied. 

 

From within Castiel’s tent, Dean observed the interaction with a coil of fear at his throat. He could hear the distant yips and howls of the wolves who were escorting this beta towards camp, towards Castiel, and he was frightened of what the interaction might mean. 

This must be the strange beta whose scent had been found around the other camp, and who had been sighted in the area by the travelling caravan. There was no other explanation for such an odd coincidence. 

 

Nothing was certain, but it seemed to easy for this to be a threat. And for the beta to not be tense or ruffled, and to voluntarily come into foreign pack territy indicated to Dean that they must be powerful. Or else, not alone. 

 

Castiel began to make his way towards the trees, and Dean could hardly keep from going after him. 

 

There were shadows in the trees at the edge of camp, moving faster than a stroll, but not as fast as Dean would have expected. Castiel stood silent and still, waiting for them. 

 

Finally the group emerged. 

 

Dean was not able to keep himself from leaving the tent, worried for Castiel’s safety and the intentions of the beta. He crept around several other tents, staying out of sight of the trees, but placing himself so that he could see where the pack alpha stood facing the newcomer. 

 

~~~

 

He was as large as the rumors had claimed. He towered over most of the sentries surrounding him, and even Castiel had to look slightly upwards to reach the beta’s eyes. 

 

Castiel straightened his back and puffed out his chest, and unconscious posturing in the face of an intruder even larger than himself. 

 

The beta did not smell threatening. There was no clear sign of aggression coming off of him, not like there had been with the rogues. Even Benny, after discovering that Dean resided in the camp, had kept his scent of sour aggression and anger for several weeks. Though it had largely faded, Castiel could still smell the flair sometimes when they were in meetings. He hesitated to mention to Dean that there were flairs of melancholy as well, when the other alpha looked at the omega, who still would not make eye contact with him. 

 

The beta had none of that obvious anger. But still, he stood tall and firm, and there was a hardness in his stance that made Castiel think that if the need arose, this beta could fight just fine, without all the posturing of an angry alpha. 

 

Welcome to our pack lands. Castiel addressed the beta, sentries still on alert on every side. 

 

I take it you did not make a misstep and find yourself within our borders by chance. 

 

The beta gave a wry chuckle, his voice escaping roughly in wolf form. 

 

Indeed. It was very much intentional. I do appreciate this..welcome party, that has kindly escorted me. 

 

Castiel nodded slowly. And I as well. 

 

The beta stood in silence for a long moment, letting the exchange fall and dissipate into the slowly lightening morning. 

 

Why are you here, beta? What do you seek from me?

 

There was no movement in the woods, every wolf poised to act on whatever response the other wolf gave. The beta himself had not moved a muscle, and yet his face was as stone when he responded.

 

I am here about the omegas. 

 

~~~

 

Across the way, Dean could see the way the sentries grouped closer around the beta. A faint snarl made its way across the open space, and though it did not appear to be emanating from the stranger, it was not a positive indicator of how things were going. 

 

Castiel had not moved though, and neither had the beta. It was some sort of standstill. 

 

Dean did not realize he was moving forward until noses were being turned upwards, and the beta’s eyes were trained on him where he stood, still a good distance away. He could hear now though, and see clearly how Castiel’s haunches had tightened. The pack alpha could smell that Dean was nearby, and Dean felt a sudden flash of fear that he would be angry. He shouldn’t be here, not this close. He was never invited. 

 

The beta’s eyes were golden brown, and had not moved from where they lay still on Dean’s form in the shadows. His nose twitched subtly, and he huffed. 

 

He is not one from the camp. The beta spoke to Castiel, though his focus was elsewhere. Is he one of yours?

 

He is one of us, yes. The venom in Castiel’s voice was startling to Dean, but it seemed no less impactful on the beta, who immediately turned his attention back to the pack alpha before him. His ear flipped in curiosity. 

 

Interesting, he murmured. 

 

The beta’s stance dropped into something softer, and less intimidating. 

 

Alpha, I apologize. I should introduce myself. My name is Sam. I do not seek violence with you or your pack. 

 

The shift in demeanor was enough to catch everyone off guard, but it had the desired effect. Castiel too, stood back, his position no longer poised to attack. 

 

Sam. I am Castiel, Pack Alpha. If your aim is not violence, but is with the omegas, then please, elaborate. What business do you have with them. 

 

After a long appraising look, and a few surreptitious sniffs of the air, the beta finally nodded. 

 

Alpha, may I speak candidly?  

 

Castiel nodded in affirmation. 

 

I have come to ensure that the omegas are safe. After the rogue attack, I too sought them out, only to discover that they had already been taken away. I followed the scents of the omegas and your own wolves to the edge of your lands. 

 

Sam paused, once again seeming to gauge the reaction in Castiel to his words, before flicking his eyes up once more to where Dean stood, still in the dark. The pack alpha gave nothing away. Dean did not dare move. 

 

I represent a pack that will take them. If you have no need for them, I will take them with me. If you plan to treat them as they have been treated, I will take them with me by force. I do not seek violence with you or your pack, Alpha, but I do give you this warning. We are prepared to fight to ensure that these omegas...and any omegas, are treated with the respect they deserve. 

 

The way the beta’s eyes found Dean again with his last sentence was blatant, and both alpha and omega tensed. There was something familiar about the steady gaze, but Dean was still too far away to determine what it was, and he had no intention of drawing closer until the situation was clearer. 

 

Castiel moved to place himself in the line of sight between his...Dean...and this stranger. 

 

If you speak the truth, we will have no trouble. The pack alpha finally spoke, though his voice was tense. Will you entrust your safety to us by accompanying me further into camp, so that we may discuss this? 

 

It was a sincere question. If Sam declined, Castiel and his sentries would not force him to stay. But they would not allow him further in without accompaniment, and the beta was aware of it. 

 

He dipped his head in acknowledgement. I will. But know that if I do not return, there are those who will search for me. And they will not be so polite. 

 

Castiel bared his teeth so slightly it seemed almost unconscious, though Dean could still catch a flash of white from across the way. 

 

Noted.

 

The alpha turned, meeting Dean’s eyes in the dark. They were not angry, as the omega had worried they might be, but instead full of their own concern. 

 

It was obvious that Castiel wanted to come towards Dean, to scent him and make sure that he was well. It was clear in the way he moved, his legs taking him towards the omega before he forced himself back on a straight path to the center of camp. But it was also clear in his scent, that drifted towards Dean on the air, and made him feel safe, and cared for, though the alpha could not be there physically. 

 

The rest of the group followed Castiel as he moved towards camp, slow and steady. The beta, Sam, remained in the center, and even as Castiel’s scent had left Dean feeling reassured, the way the stranger’s eyes lingered on the place where the omega was standing as they passed left him feeling vaguely unsettled.

Chapter Text

The alpha and the beta stood facing each other near the center of the camp. They remained largely surrounded by wolves, ready to take an action needed if the beta were to prove a threat. But they stood a respectful distance away, so that if the two needed to speak privately, lowering their voices should prove enough. 

 

Dean stood by the entrance to Castiel’s tent, able to see clearly what was happening in the center of camp. If he strained his ears slightly, he would be able to hear as well. 

 

Not much had happened so far. The beta spoke quietly to Castiel, and the wind carried only mild scents of concern and confusion. Nothing to be anxious about yet. 

 

Dean was surprised by his own level of concern. The beta didn’t seem threatening, but there was so much mystery surrounding him that he couldn’t help but be perceived as some sort of danger. Castiel was pack alpha, a strong wolf who knew how to take care of himself and his pack. And yet he was also, suddenly, savagely important to Dean in a way that the omega was completely unprepared for. He hadn’t felt this level of worry for another wolf since he had seen Charlie go out seeking the foreign omegas. But even so, something was different about the alpha being out there. 

 

Dean circled around to the back of the tent to sniff lightly at the nest, where their combined scents still lingered comfortingly. He liked the way they blended together, it smelled of safety and home. 

 

Unable to remain out of sight of his alpha, Dean made his way back to the front of the tent and waited. 

 

~~~

 

The beta’s story was startling. 

 

Castiel had never heard of a pack that went around rescuing omegas, never even heard whispers of it from travelling packs. Sam’s assertion that they were underground, working both within and outside the systems would account for it, but still, it was hard to believe at face value. 

 

His scent had been at several sites of rogue attacks, though fresher than the others. Sam claimed it that it was because he was looking for the omegas, injured or left behind. His scent was steady, no sign of deceit. 

 

Why are you telling me this?

 

Castiel couldn’t help but ask. 

 

Why trust me with this sort of information?

 

Sam huffed in wry amusement. 

 

The fact that you say ‘trust you with it’ rather than anything else makes me feel like I made the right choice. But I have to be honest, Castiel. It is only partially because I trust you. You seem like you honestly care for all members of your pack. I appreciate that. But I am hoping that by giving you this information, we might reach some sort of exchange. I would like to speak to the omegas. 

 

Castiel narrowed his eyes. 

 

The omega survivors of the rogue pack, I assume. 

 

Sam lowered his head, almost in apology, though his eyes held firm. 

 

I would like to speak with some of you pack member omegas as well. 

 

Castiel let out a low growl, which was caught and carried by a number of the wolves surrounding them. It was an ominous sound that carried well to where Dean still stood at the door to the tent. 

 

What are you implying?

 

Sam narrowed his eyes, and his voice got rougher, though it did not reach a growl when he responded. 

 

I think you know exactly what I am seeking, Alpha. Are you afraid of what your pack’s omegas might say? 

 

Castiel’s growl grew slightly in volume. 

 

I should not let you within 100 feet of anyone in my pack. You are a stranger. You come here telling tales of a pack who rescues omegas, but you have no proof. You have come into my pack territory, seeking conference with all omegas? What do I have to say that you won’t attack, attempt to claim them, or lure them away with false promises of an underground paradise. 

 

Sam scoffed, letting disdain leek into his scent. 

 

I have given you no false information. You would smell it on me if I were lying. I offer the omegas you have taken in another option. I can’t force you to let me speak with all the omegas of your pack, but them at least. They are not yours, not officially. They deserve a choice. 

 

Castiel let his growl taper off, though his eyes remained narrowed and his posture stiff. 

 

You may speak with them, he declared, finally, but you will be accompanied and guarded. We will ask them to come out to a neutral location. You will not be shown where they are staying, for their own protection. 

 

Sam rolled his eyes, but nodded in acknowledgement of the terms. 

 

Very well. 

 

Castiel yipped at two of the guards, who ran through the camp towards the healer’s hut, to retrieve the omegas and their pups. 

 

From across the way, Dean had heard the exchange. When he saw the guards moving towards the hut, he felt fear grip him. 

 

He had been spending most of his time with the omega’s in Jody’s hut, since they had arrived. He could not claim that they were close, as the group was still hesitant to look other wolves in the eyes. They spoke little, and their scents still broadcasted how wary they were, and how hesitant to act lest they displease someone in a position of authority. Which, in a foreign pack, was everyone. 

 

But Dean felt a connection with them. He saw his own experience in them, and with every small bit of personality he saw, he felt more attached. Hope was beginning to grow that just as he had found his place, he could help these omegas do the same. 

 

And now there were guards running to drag them out to meet this beta, who might take them away. They would be frightened, and possibly unable to voice their true preferences in such a circle of tense wolves. 

 

Dean hardly hesitated before darting out into the camp, skirting the huts and making his way towards Jody’s.



He managed to make it there before the others, though only by a few seconds. Dean pushed his way into Jody’s hut, trying not to startle the omegas and their pups inside. Only the youngest were asleep, the others still awake, staring into the fire while Jody stirred something in a large pot. 

 

They turned abruptly when Dean entered, flinching back slightly with his sudden movement. Jody looked up in confusion. 

 

“Dean? Is something wrong?” 

 

The omega shifted back into his human form, moving towards the group huddle together by the wall. 

 

The smell of other wolves approaching was clear, and scents of confusion and anxiety among the omegas were ratcheting up. Dean wondered for a moment if he had done the right thing coming here first, since it seemed to only be scaring them, but he had no time to reconsider as one of the sentries brushed quietly into Jody’s hut. 

 

The sentry glanced over to where the omegas were huddled, immediately noticing that Dean was among them. He cast an apologetic look at the group. 

 

Jody stood, her face drawn together in concern. 

 

“What’s going on?” 

 

“There is a...beta representative of another pack who wishes to speak with our refugees, to ensure their safety.” 

 

It sounded rehearsed, and Dean had no doubt that the wolves had imagined how to phrase it even on the short run over. 

 

“I won’t let anything happen to you.” Dean spoke up, his voice quiet but sure in the tense air of the hut. The sentry looked surprised to hear him speak, but Jody just nodded in understanding. The other omegas looked only slightly reassured, but Dean thought still it was better than nothing. At least now they had some feeling of support. 

 

“Castiel won’t let anything happen to you either. I don’t know what the beta wants, but this isn’t a way for Castiel to get rid of you. I promise. If you’re uncomfortable, you can come back, you’ll be safe. No one will make you do something you don’t want to do.” 

 

Dean was making promises on behalf of the pack alpha, but somehow he knew that what he said was true. Castiel would fight for these omegas, just as Dean knew without question that Castiel would fight for him, and anyone else in the pack. 

 

The sentry nodded apologetically, but asked the group to accompany them to the center of camp, where Castiel and the beta were waiting. There were several more sentries waiting outside of Jody’s hut, who all looked similarly apologetic at the way the omegas huddled together, pups held tightly in their arms. 

 

“We’re not here to prevent you from running away,” one of the guards spoke softly, conspiratorially. “We’re here because this beta is from an unknown outside pack, and if anything goes wrong we need to be able to get you away to safety quickly.” 

 

When the group reached the center of camp, Castiel looked unsurprised, if a little put out, that Dean was with the group of omegas. The pack alpha snorted a little bit, as though miffed, but otherwise chose not to comment. He had a tight hold of his scent, but Dean was tuned in well enough that he could sense Castiel’s worry even from across the way. 

 

The beta remained unruffled, though he did look intrigued at the group’s arrival. His posture remained lax and open, and his scent transitioned into something even more mellow than before. 

 

When he shifted from wolf to human, the wolves around him looked surprised. He was putting himself in a vulnerable position, though he was now on more even footing with the omegas, who all remained in human form for the moment. 

 

“Hello.” Sam spoke calmly to the group. 

 

Dean was towards the back, and it was too dark for the beta to see them all clearly, which was something that Castiel seemed glad for. 

 

“My name is Sam. I’m a beta, I’m sure you can tell.” 

 

He waited for a moment. 

 

“How are you all? Are you well?” 

 

There was silence from the group, no one really sure of what he was looking for in response. 

 

“I’m sorry about your pack. I know that must have been traumatic, to be invaded by rogues, and left behind. I know what that’s like.” 

 

There was a sharp scent of surprise in the air at Sam’s confession, and not only from the omegas. 

 

“I am with a pack now that knows a lot about rogue attacks. Many of us have been victims of them. Many of us have lost people to them, and lost our place at the same time. But because we know what this is like, we want to make sure that no one has to be alone and vulnerable afterwards. We offer protection and a home. If you all would like that. You can come with us. Not just me, you can meet more of us if you would like. If the alpha permits.” 

 

The last words were spoken with a challenging look leveled at Castiel, as though Sam was waiting for him to say that he had said enough, that he would be banned for extending such an invitation. 

 

Castiel returned the hard look, but said nothing, nodding lightly to demonstrate that he would not stop such a meeting if the omegas desired it, before shifting into his human form as well.

 

“You are not obligated to accept this.” Castiel’s voice echoed in the darkness of the evening. 

 

“I want you all to know that you have a place here, if you would like it. You do not have to leave.” 

 

Dean nodded in agreement, his scent billowing in affirmation of Castiel’s clear statement. 

 

Sam sniffed suddenly, his body going stiff. 

 

“Who is that?” 

 

His voice had changed, not challenging, but with an unexpected urgency. He sniffed again when there was no answer forthcoming, Castiel’s scent projecting the slightest tendril of fear on Dean’s behalf. 

 

Sam whirled to face the alpha. 

 

“Who is that?” He asked more firmly. 

 

“One of our pack.” Castiel’s eyes were narrowed, his teeth just barely bared. 

 

“One of your pack….” Sam seemed lost in thought, caught between warring emotions. 

 

Dean could see the tension growing between the two wolves. His feet were heavy as he stepped forward out of the shadows, but he knew the scent was his. It seemed a small price to pay, revealing himself to the stranger, to stop the two from potential bloodshed. 

 

Sam whirled at the movement, and Castiel let out a strangled cry of “Dean…” 

 

The blood drained from the beta’s face, and suddenly the omega was haunted by the sight of big brown eyes, blown wide in a face that seemed much too young for the man who had entered the camp. 

 

His voice wavered when he spoke aloud. 

 

“Dean?” 

Chapter Text

Dean felt frozen in place. Castiel’s scent was going wild, the alpha poised to attack at the slightest provocation. It was out of character for the level headed pack alpha, but Dean was sure that his own scent was fluctuating wildly, so somewhere in the back of his fuzzy mind he recognized that Castiel must be responding instinctively to the distress of his omega. 

 

The beta was as still as Dean, staring at him from across the way. Their eyes were locked. Again, somewhere in the back of his mind Dean recognized that it was out of character for him to maintain eye contact with anyone for so long, but for whatever reason he felt unable to look away. There was no threat. He knew it, like he knew how to breathe. This beta would not hurt him, at least not for making eye contact. 

 

“Dean? What is happening?” 

 

Castiel’s panicked voice finally broke through the haze, and Dean let his eyes drop. Sam let out a whine that called to something in Dean’s subconscious, and he responded with his own yip, albeit still in human form. 

 

“I’m ok, Cas.” 

 

The omega was finally able to get the words out, and was gratified to sense that Castiel’s panic calmed slightly at the reassurance. 

 

“Can you tell me what is happening?” 

 

“I….I don’t know.” Dean’s voice, already quiet, cracked on the last word, and he shrunk in on himself. He was suddenly keenly aware that they were surrounded by pack members, as well as the group of omegas. This was the second time he found himself in this position, with some visceral response to a stranger in the camp, and he found the old fear bubbling up. 

 

What if the pack thought he was a traitor, what if they thought he was going to leave, or wanted to leave? 

 

What is Castiel thought he was conspiring with this beta? Leaving with this beta?  

 

The thought drove Dean to move towards the pack alpha, wading through the tension to press against the man’s side. He could feel his wolf relaxing at the contact, and knew that Castiel was feeling the same based on the small sigh against his neck, where the alpha had surreptitiously sniffed. 

 

“I’m ok, Cas. I’m staying here.” 

 

Sam’s wide eyes had followed Dean’s movement across the ground, and his expression tightened and shifted when he saw the way the two wolves came together. 

 

“What are you doing with him?” Sam’s voice was harder than it had been thus far, startling both Castiel and the wolves around him. 

 

The pack alpha’s eyes narrowed. With a gesture of his hand, two of the sentries were guiding the omegas away from the confrontation, but Sam hardly seemed to notice. He was too focused on the omega directly by Castiel’s side. 

 

“What business is that of yours?” 

 

No one anticipated the way Sam’s wolf form burst forth without warning. The beta himself seemed to barely register it was happening before he was standing before them, panting. His fur stood up on edge. 

 

Castiel responded in kind immediately, placing himself in front of Dean’s more vulnerable human body. The omega also shifted, though it took him longer, and he made no move to go back to Castiel’s side. 

 

There was obviously some connection with the beta, some familiarity that went down to Dean’s bones and threw him off kilter. Reuniting with Benny had been nothing like this. This wolf, he did not remember ever seeing in his life, and yet he felt that if anything happened to him like this, he would not be able to bear it. 

 

Castiel.  

 

Dean called softly to his alpha, dragging a part of his attention away from the beta before them. 

 

Castiel, please don’t fight him. I don’t know what this is, but I don’t think he is a threat. He feels….familiar. 

 

Castiel was listening, considering Dean’s words though his focus did not waver from the unpredictable beta.

 

Do you know him? The alpha finally asked. 

 

Dean shook his head, letting out a breath of frustration. 

 

No, I don’t recognize him. But he seems to know me. 

 

Castiel acknowledged Dean’s words. He spoke loudly, letting his voice carry across to where Sam stood, seeming to be unsure of how to proceed. 

 

Do you know this wolf?  

 

Sam bristled at the question. His voice was even louder than Castiel’s when he responded, projected further in frustration. 

 

Of course I do, he’s my brother!

 

There was a wave of surprise across the entire group. Dean’s eyes were wide, staring at Sam’s form across the way. The beta seemed oblivious to this turmoil, his eyes flicking between Castiel and Dean as though he thought that the alpha was preventing his brother from running across the grass and reuniting. 

 

Castiel seemed flummoxed as to how to proceed, letting out a tentative, ...Dean?

 

The omega was overwhelmed. Flashes of memory brought him pack to his pack as a child, so warm, laying in his den with his mother and father and baby Sammy before it was all ripped away. 

 

He tried to stutter out something coherent, knowing that Castiel and the rest of the wolves were holding their breath waiting. 

 

I...I had..I had a brother. I had a brother named Sam. I was so little, he was...much younger. Just a small pup. I haven’t seen him since I was taken, I don’t know...didn’t know if he even...lived. 

 

It was hard for Dean to even force the words out of his mouth. Seeing this beta before him, claiming to be his kin couldn’t erase the years and years of anguish, thinking that everyone he loved most, including his baby brother, might have been killed at the hands of the rogues that took him. 

 

Castiel took a couple of steps back and to the side, so that he could press against Dean’s side like the omega had done only moments earlier. The alpha licked slightly at Dean’s muzzle, wanting to reassure him. 

 

Sam growled. 

 

Dean pressed further into Castiel’s side, making a statement whether he intended to or not, and Sam’s growl cut off at once. 

 

Dean? Sam’s voice was soft again. Do you...not remember?

 

Dean pressed his eyes closed tightly, letting out a small whimper. I don’t know. It was so long ago, and I didn’t have...anything to keep my family alive with me. I remember baby Sammy, and mom and dad. But it’s been so long.

 

Sam’s face softened even further, and his eyes shone with unshed tears. 

 

We had some of your things still. With us. So we kept your scent close, saved it until it was almost completely faded. So I recognized it right away. 

 

Sam took a stilted step forward, as though he was keeping himself from moving any further towards his lost older brother. 

 

Would it be alright if I scented you? And you could scent me?  

 

Castiel tensed beside Dean, but said nothing. He was wary of letting a stranger so close to the omega he considered his mate, but he would not stand in Dean’s way if it meant finding the family he thought he had lost so many years ago. 

 

Dean hesitated, but finally gave a small nod, moving forward on shaky legs. 

 

Castiel brushed his side again with his head, letting Dean know that he was right there if he needed him, and the omega’s scent swelled slightly with gratitude despite the underlying current of nerves. 

 

The two wolves moved towards each other, Dean’s slow pace a result of his caution, and Sam’s apparently out of a desire not to spook the omega before him. 

 

Finally, they met in the middle, Sam baring his neck to allow Dean the first scent.

 

Dean inhaled deeply, and felt himself surrounded by the darkness of his family’s den, mom and dad wrapped around him, and his small nose buried in the fur of baby Sammy. Close and safe, and so, so warm. He felt himself start to shake a little bit, and the sensation of Sam letting his own nose ghost over the scent gland on Dean’s neck was almost lost to the memories. Sam’s own whimper was clear though, and cut through everything else. 

 


Sammy.  

 

Dean could only get his brother’s name out before the two wolves were yipping and rubbing their heads along the other’s flanks. Everything else faded at the knowledge that after all these years of not knowing, Dean had finally found some part of his family. 

 

Dean, I always hoped I’d find you, but it was such a long shot. I can’t believe you’re here. 

 

Sam’s scent was equal parts joy and disbelief, and Dean thought his own scent must betray similar feelings. 

 

You’re a beta, Sammy. I’m so glad. 

 

Something sad bubbled up in Sam’s expression at that declaration, but he pushed it aside for the moment. 

 

And you’re an omega. Oh, no one will believe me when I tell them. I can’t believe I get to bring back news that you’re alive. 

 

Dean stopped, frozen in his tracks. 

 

Everyone? 

 

Sam nodded excitedly, before he too stopped. 

 

Oh, Dean.

 

Dean swallowed loudly, emotion pushing up and making it hard to speak. 

 

Mom… ?

 

Sam nodded, his own emotions choking his words. 

 

Mom and Dad. Bobby. Everyone missed you. They never gave up hope that you were out there, even though it was hard sometimes. We’ve been looking for so long, we started taking in wolves who had no place to go, often omegas who were victims of rogue attacks. We didn’t know how you would present, but it happened that way anyways. Odds...were never in our favor to find you, but we just had to try anyways. My whole life, we’ve been hoping to find you, Dean. 

 

Dean’s heart swelled to bursting, and he felt as though a piece of him that had been missing since he was a child had finally been restored. He didn’t have the words to say how he felt, so he just let himself butt his head against Sam’s side, inhaling the scent of comfort and home he had been missing for so long. 

 

After several long moments of the brothers just breathing each other in, they finally registered that the rest of the group of wolves was still standing around them, though far less tense than they had been before. Dean could see to where Charlie was standing, her eyes wet with tears. 

 

Castiel was still standing off to the side as well. His scent was a mix of happiness and profound sadness that Dean found confusing. Nonetheless, he went to Castiel’s side to nuzzle him as well. 

 

I found my brother, Dean whispered to the alpha, knowing that Castiel understood how much this meant to him. 

 

I’m so happy for you, Dean. 

 

Castiel’s response only seemed to emphasize both of the emotions in his scent, and Dean wrinkled his nose at the unhappiness in the air. There wasn’t time to ask, though, as Castiel spoke up to address Sam. 

 

You are Dean’s brother, and you are welcome amongst our pack. Of course, if we find that you present any threat, this will change, but barring that, any family of Dean is welcome here. You may speak with anyone you choose. 

 

Castiel turned and inhaled deeply at Dean’s neck, licking softly to leave the faintest mark, before walking back towards his tent, leaving Dean staring after him.