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S is for Sanguine

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It’s always a slippery slope when you’re sweating slick out of every pore. Perspiration drips down Dean’s temples as he tries and fails to get comfortable for the millionth time in the span of three hours. His heat won’t fully hit for another six hours, but the lead up to it is always excruciating. He’d put a plastic cover on his mattress before lying down, always thinking ahead and knowing he’ll soak through the sheets in no time, but also always thinking about his mattress. He remembers the first time his heat took him over - and he definitely remembers saying goodbye to his favorite mattress. The one he has now is memory foam, though, and he’s hard pressed to have to get rid of it for any reason. So he’d gotten in the habit of putting plastic covers over his mattresses before his heat cycles, always thankful and grateful when he’s of sound mind and can crawl into his gloriously comfortable (clean) bed.

Well-- his usually gloriously comfortable bed. Right now the mattress may as well be made of rocks. He continues to squirm, toss, and turn for another forty minutes before he hauls himself up out of bed, padding out towards the living room where his laptop sits on the coffee table. He has the same routine every heat: grocery shop for enough food to last way longer than the anticipated week, have the laundry room prepped and ready to go so he doesn’t have to spend nine years washing linens, and bring the deep freeze up from the basement so he can dump six dozen water bottles inside. He always calls his brother Sam, even though their whole lives Sam has helped keep track of Dean’s cycle, to let him know he’ll be out of commission; and since Dean works as a food blogger, it’s easy to work from home when he needs to, so he doesn’t need to worry about that.

Sitting down on the couch, Dean stares at his closed laptop. At thirty-three years old, Dean has always chosen to work through his heats alone. One time in college he’d gotten it on with an alpha he trusted, but quite honestly, for some strange reason, his buttons hadn’t been pushed. There had been no denying than an alpha knot quenched his omega need like water in a desert oasis, but it had been… missing something. Amongst all the dirty talk, snarling, and growling, something was off. Dean’s biology didn’t… react right. No excessive slick, no burgeoning need to be mated and knotted… The dude hadn’t been looking for commitment either so they parted ways peacefully, and while Dean didn’t necessarily have a bad taste in his mouth from the experience, he hasn’t called on an alpha since that day. He makes do with fake knots and even got one of those machines that mocks mounting an omega, but it’s not… enough.

Earlier that night he’d been browsing through one of those heat service sites. He’s not quite sure why, but for some reason, the prospect of spending this heat alone has been a bit bothersome. He can’t put his finger on it. Sometimes during his cycle when he’s lucid he’ll Skype with his best friend Charlie, stuffed full of fake knot and tucked under ten blankets while they watch a movie together, and he’ll talk to Sam when he’s sane enough, but other than that, he’s cut off from the rest of the world during his heat. Maybe it’s finally getting to him? Being a food blogger is only a social job when he’s actually at the eateries he’s critiquing. And it’s not like he’s a social butterfly, Dean quite enjoys his alone time, but… hm.

Hm.

“Hm.” He hums out loud as he reaches for his laptop, opening it up and booting it on. The web page he’d been browsing earlier blinks onto the screen and he exhales slowly, cheeks puffing out, eyes scanning over the contents. He’s on a page of ‘alphas for hire’, feeling a lot of nothing and a little irritated. The thought of being knotted should spark his omega hindbrain, make him squirm in his seat, but when he looks over the handsome and beautiful options of smiling alphas, he produces no extra slick, and he definitely doesn’t feel his heartbeat pick up.

Chewing his lip, he lifts his eyes to scan over the different tabs at the top of the screen. It’s a business for everybody, really, and out of curiosity he clicks into the ‘omega’ tab. Staring back at him is a list of beautiful male and female omegas ready to help an alpha in rut, and while Dean doesn’t disagree with their choice of profession, he has a hard time understanding why an omega would put themselves in a position like that with a stranger on a frequent basis.

Biology, his brain reminds him.

Something he seems to be lacking.

After a few more minutes of clicking around and browsing, he sees a smaller, nondescript link labeled ‘beta’. Blinking a few times, Dean clicks onto the link and is directed to a page that has six photo profiles on it. The description at the top of the page reads as follows:

Looking for that ‘other’ to satisfy your needs? Our betas are highly trained to take care of both alpha and omega partners to guarantee 100% satisfaction during your cycle. Our betas are live-in for the time of your cycle and will be in charge of keeping house as well as preparing meals, and even performing errands should you need anything done outside of your house. Consider booking a beta if our alpha or omega services don’t fit your needs.

“Holy shit,” Dean breathes.

A beta.

The thought has never crossed his mind. He’s had a few tumbles with other omegas, but honestly the mess is too much to handle, not to mention they almost always expect Dean to be the one to take charge since he’s large for an omega, which is fine and dandy, but not when he’s in heat and wanting to get pinned to whatever surface is available.

Dean’s eyes immediately start going down the list of betas. Three women and three men, all exceptionally good looking with professional smiles and put together outfits. One beta in particular catches Dean’s eyes, the black and white photo making it difficult for Dean to focus on anything else. The man isn’t smiling huge like the other people; there’s a softness in his features but a fierceness in his eyes, and Dean reads his bio under a spell.

Castiel N.
Age: 40
Birthday: Sept 18
Blood type: O+
Designation: Beta
Preference: Males
Rating: 100/100

One hundred out of one hundred. Dean does a brief look around the other betas, even clicks back towards the alphas and omegas, and no one has a perfect score. The highest Dean sees is 96/100 on a beautiful omega woman wearing perhaps a bit too much leather for a professional photo. Clicking back towards the beta page, Dean stares at Castiel’s photo. He’s gorgeous, and older, and Dean feels his body heating up incrementally just looking at the intelligence sparkling in the man’s eyes.

Before he realizes what he’s doing, he’s picking up his phone and dialing the number on the screen.

“Cycle Wonders, how may I help you?” A female voice greets.

Dean gets jolted out of his stupor. Clearing his throat, he pinches the bridge of his nose, and forces himself to talk. “Hey, uh. I’m uh, a first time customer… I’ve been browsing your website and someone caught my eye and I’d like to know if they’re available to come over in the morning?”

There’s quiet clacking on the other line as the woman replies, “Which profile were you interested in, sir?”

“C-Cas… uh-”

“Castiel?” The women supplies.

Dean nods, then licks his lips and says, “Yeah, please.”

“One moment.” The line goes quiet, and Dean drums his fingers on his knee, trying to hold onto his patience. Requesting someone at such last minute is already a gamble, let alone hoping for a specific person on the list, let alone someone who’s 100/100... but he’s gotta hold on to the hope. “Sir?” The woman is back. “How long would you need service?”

“‘Til Sunday, probably,” Dean thinks aloud. It’s 1:48AM on Monday, an ungodly time honestly, but these centers are open twenty-four hours for a reason so he does his best to not feel guilty about calling so late.

“Castiel can be to you by ten a.m.,” she says.

“Great,” Dean deflates a little, relief he didn’t know he needed coursing through him. There’s also a bit of disbelief, too, that Castiel is available. “Great, let me get my card.”

After making the reservation and getting off of the phone, Dean stares at Castiel’s photo for a few moments longer, before closing his laptop and deciding he should try to get some sleep. His heat will be kicking him in the ass soon enough, and he ought to sleep as much as he can before a stranger shows up on his doorstep to… take care of him. Crawling back into bed, Dean wonders what exactly made him break; he’s done fine on his own for so long, he’s been content in being single for the past- well, how long has he been single? Does dating someone casually for three months every four years count? Probably not. Sam and Charlie like to suggest that he might be lonely and that there’s more to life than work, fitness, and food, and Dean wraps all those things together anyway so in reality he’s probably missing out on quite a lot, actually...

Huffing, Dean burrows under the covers and puts his second pillow between his knees, hugging the other to his chest.

He’s fine, he tells himself as he drifts off into a fretful, chilled sleep.

Biology be damned.

--

By the time ten a.m. rolls around, Dean’s miserable. Since it’s the first full day he can resist needing to sit on a knot and uses his fingers and hands instead to bring himself relief, but knowing that someone is going to be there to help is putting him slightly on edge. He’s not sure if he’s regretting it, yet, but he might be having half a second thought about inviting a stranger into his home to help with sex, no matter how good looking he appeared to be. He’s wearing a silk kimono robe, the sash untied and billowing about his legs as he paces in front of the sliding doors that lead to his backyard, the rest of his body bare as he oscillates between hot and cold in the blink of an eye.

When the knock sounds on his door, his shoulders tense up and he tenses his jaw. Maybe he should just tell Castiel to beat it? Thanks for coming, but actually, I think I can handle it on my own?

Turning towards the front of his house, Dean takes a few cautious steps towards the door. There’s no alpha scent permeating through the wood, in fact there’s not really a scent at all, and Dean chews his lower lip thoughtfully. He hasn’t been around many betas, but he knows their scents are muted, especially to people who don’t know them, and Dean’s sensitive nose is thankful for the reprieve in any case.

Scrubbing a hand over his mouth, Dean squares his shoulders and straightens his posture as best as he can, tying the front of his robe closed and ignoring the tiny gush of slick that globs down the inside of his thighs. His skin is flushed, his eyes are wet, and his biology is fighting against his feigned confidence, but he’s not gonna open the door like some sort of damsel in distress.

When he opens the door his knees weaken without his permission, anyway.

“Hello, Dean.”

Castiel is a knockout. Hands down. The black and white photo online did nothing to prepare Dean for how he actually looks in person, in color. His hair is dark, wild and messy, his eyes the most beautiful crystalline hue, and he’s got a five o’clock shadow that Dean wants to nuzzle right up against and get beard burn from. He’s perhaps an inch or two shorter than Dean but his presence is huge. He’s wearing dark jeans and a black button-up with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, revealing muscular, tan forearms, the straps of a duffel bag gripped in one hand, and fuck.

“Fuck.”

Castiel sends him a dry smile. “Perhaps we could get to know each other a little, first.”

Dean barely resists smacking his own forehead as he steps aside and opens the door further. “Fuck, you’re right- uh. Sorry. I. Yeah.”

Amused, Castiel steps into the foyer, glancing around as Dean shuts the door and locks it. He gestures to his bag, “Do you have a specific place you would like me to set up?”

“I have a guest bedroom,” Dean says, turning down the hallway on wobbly knees, bare feet padding on hardwood. His initial dizzying wave of arousal starts to abate slowly, which is odd, but he’s thankful he can think clearly so he can set Castiel up. “That way your stuff doesn’t get saturated in my scent.”

Castiel says nothing as Dean leads him to the guest bedroom. Dean hovers in the doorway and watches as Castiel sets his duffel bag on the bed, unzipping it and leaving it open, but otherwise not pulling anything out of it. Dean’s eyes trail over Castiel’s back, absorbing his broad, strong looking shoulders, his thick waist, and the way the jeans hug his ass and suffocate his muscular thighs. Finding his mouth dry, Dean averts his gaze.

“I’m uh, not really sure… how any of this goes,” Dean admits. “Never used a service before.”

“I imagine,” Castiel says as he turns around, lifting a hand to start unbuttoning the top of his shirt, his blue eyes like fire as they burn into Dean’s, “that this would go like any other encounter you’ve had.”

“I-” Dean’s voice cracks embarrassingly, and he takes a minute step back as Castiel advances towards him. “I never- uh. I usually uh, take care of my heats a… alone.”

Castiel arches a brow, curiosity flickering in his eyes. “Why is that?”

Dean shrugs, taking another step back when Castiel takes a step forward. “Alphas, uh, aren’t really my thing I guess.”

Eyes darkening, Castiel drops his hand from his shirt, which is now halfway undone. “Why not?”

Dean scoffs, “You ever had sex with an alpha? Fuckin’ derogatory, man. I don’t care what instincts are taking over, I can only stand being called ‘omega slut’ once for effect. Not to mention they wanna do all the work and they get so blinded by hormones it’s like they’re just fucking into a wet hole, not a person, and I don’t even get that wet around ‘em anyway-” he cuts himself off, eyes widening in surprise. Well, he’s definitely never said those words out loud.

“I see,” Castiel says. This time when he steps forward, Dean has nowhere to go because his back is against the hall wall opposite of the guest room door. Castiel stops when they’re toe to toe, his eyes boring into Dean’s, opening him wide and exploring all of his insecurities and fears. “You are displeased with the alpha-omega dynamic because you are more than ‘just’ an omega.”

Relaxing slightly, Dean nods. “I know there’s a lotta activism happening in the world about equality an’ stuff, I do my own part, too, but I uh. I dunno, call me a romantic or whatever, but I’d like to have sex with someone ‘cause they wanna fuck me, not ‘cause of what’s between my legs.” Not to mention the fact that his body doesn’t really react properly, but he’s not about to admit that to a stranger.

“This is why you’ve requested a beta,” Castiel surmises. “We are utterly indifferent to gender and sexual orientation.”

“Your profile says you prefer dudes,” Dean points out.

Castiel offers a slightly predatory smile, “We all have preferences, Dean.” That smile softens slightly around the edges. “Betas aren’t as affected by scents and biologies as alphas and omegas. I can see now why you’ve requested me.”

“W-why, um,” Dean licks his lips. He’s still pressed against the wall, the rim of his asshole is twitching, and he’s clutching at the front of his robe to keep it shut like some sort of scandalized housewife. “Why do people usually book you?”

“Beta fetish,” Castiel replies easily.

“That’s a thing?” Dean blurts.

Castiel finally steps out of Dean’s space. Dean relaxes only marginally, but Castiel gives him some breathing room as he turns to head down the hallway back towards the main part of the house. “It is. Not very common, however, and it’s mostly alphas.”

“Is that, um, why you were available on such short notice? This uh… isn’t your day job?” Dean asks, feeling stupid, bewildered, and mystified.

Castiel is in the kitchen by the time Dean catches up, perusing through his cupboards, seemingly taking note of where all of the dishes and other items are kept. “I’m a magazine editor, but I can work wherever I go as long as I have my laptop. It pays wonderfully, but the extra cash from Cycle Wonders funds my yearly trip to France.”

“Oh,” Dean says intelligently. He sits down gingerly in a chair, ignoring the way his slick squishes between the silk of his robe and his skin. He’s thankful and slightly awed at the fact that he hasn’t thrown himself at Castiel, yet. He’s very interested in learning more about the beta, outside of the bedroom. “What magazine?”

Good Eats & Heavenly Treats,” Castiel replies. Dean gawks. The beta opens up Dean’s fridge, then looks over his shoulder at Dean with slightly widened eyes. “Do you feed an army during your heats?”

“I eat a lot,” Dean says, his brain going a million miles a second. “Actually I’m a food blogger. So I uh, normally have a well-stocked kitchen anyway. Good Eats & Heavenly Treats is my favorite fuckin’ magazine, man. I can’t believe this.” He wipes a hand down his face, trying to wipe away the clammy feeling and failing due to the moisture trapped on his palm.

“Seems as though we are a match in more ways than one,” Castiel says wryly, shutting Dean’s fridge. “I’m glad your kitchen is well-stocked. I will be preparing all of your meals and snacks and prefer to work with fresh ingredients.”

“Awesome,” Dean says, a little dreamily. “You really are hundred-outta-hundred.”

Chuckling, Castiel moves towards where Dean is seated. “I try not to boast. But since you’re a food blogger, I suppose I won’t be able to get away with simple dishes.”

“I’ll be so delirious you could feed me dry cereal and I’ll tell you it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” Dean grins, tipping his head back so he can look up at Castiel. The man comes close enough to stand between Dean’s knees, and while he’s been at a distance Dean’s been able to control himself, but now he can smell the beta’s cologne, and something else that has Dean’s pupils dilating slightly.

“I have a pre-selected menu I like to cook when I’m offering my services, but for you, I’ll be open to suggestions,” Castiel says, his voice dropping ever so slightly. His hands lift up, fingers gently and gingerly reaching out to slide along either side of Dean’s jaw, cupping his face and gently tilting his head up so their gazes can meet. His eyes are so, so blue, and soft and warm and Dean thinks he might drown before they get anywhere. “How are you feeling?” Far cry from the nearly predatory look Castiel had been wearing in the bedroom.

Still as effective.

Dean takes stock of himself. His body is flashing between hot and cold, and where Castiel’s fingers touch it’s like a soothing balm. Having the man between his knees, in this proximity, hovering over him should spark some sort of annoyance, but instead it feels comforting instead of domineering. Swallowing, Dean’s lips unstick slowly from one another as he replies, “Manageable, for now.”

Castiel gently sweeps his thumbs under both of Dean’s eyes. “We’ll go at your pace and listen to your body. You don’t seem to need intercourse currently, so what would you like to do until your heat flares?”

For a moment, Dean doesn’t know what to do. In all his experiences with omegas and the one alpha, he’s been used to getting down and dirty as quickly as possible, unable to resist the biological pull and need to get naked and fuck. Having Castiel standing in front of him, nearly scentless save for his laundry detergent and faint cologne, so attractive and fucking hot as hell… Dean is shocked that he’s not ready to jump his bones. He figured he’d be in a frenzy, slick gushing, irises brightening from green to gold, but instead he just feels… relaxed. Still hot and uncomfortable, but… at peace.

“Um. Lunch? I haven’t eaten a real meal since yesterday and to be honest, I really wanna cook with you.”

Castiel’s thumb sweeps tenderly over Dean’s full lip, before he nods. “Very well. What do you have in mind?”

“Been cravin’ potato soup,” Dean admits freely. Knowing that Castiel is also in the food industry means he doesn’t need to be shy or conservative about his food preferences and desires. Around Sam, Charlie, or anyone else, he seems obsessed. And ok, if one peers closely at his slightly soft midsection, he’s probably a little too obsessed with food… but hey. He’s passionate. “Think we got time to do it in a bread bowl.”

“We can do that,” Castiel nods his approval. “How do you feel about dairy substitutes?”

Dean wrinkles his nose.

Castiel pulls away, speaking matter of factly as he moves towards the fridge. “I won’t substitute everything, but less dairy will be easier on your body while you’re getting dehydrated day in and day out.”

Petulantly crossing his arms over his chest, Dean grumbles, “But it tastes good.”

“And I can guarantee I can sub out the majority of the dairy from all your meals in a way that you’ll enjoy,” Castiel says patiently.

Sighing dramatically, Dean stands. There’s a chill from his wet silk robe slapping against the backs of his bare thighs and he winces slightly, before padding over towards the pantry to look for the artisan bread he bought at the bakery yesterday. “Ya can’t take my bread from me, though.”

“Trust me,” Castiel says casually as he sets a pot on the stove, “you will need your calories.”

Another trickle of slick slides down Dean’s thighs and he’s never been more thankful for the fact that betas don’t have as strong of a nose as their omega and alpha counterparts. Castiel seems relatively oblivious to Dean’s biology as they work together in close quarters, the beta easily figuring out how to substitute the majority of the dairy in the recipe with other items Dean has handy. Dean won’t budge on the cheese, which Castiel is fine with, and they peel and chop vegetables in tandem, moving together in the kitchen like they’ve been doing it all their lives. At a few different points Dean feels giddy - the editor for Good Eats & Heavenly Treats is in his fucking kitchen! - but he tamps it down and does his best to keep his cool as they move. When the two bread bowls are in the oven they both sit down at the table with fresh bottles of water, cracking them open and taking deep drinks.

“I rotate frozen bottles into the fridge,” Dean says, gesturing to the deep freeze sitting by the patio doors. “That way they’re at least partially melted by the time I need ‘em.”

“You’re very well prepared,” Castiel compliments. “It’s clear you’re able to handle your heats very efficiently.” His gaze returns to Dean’s, pinning him to his chair. “Why have you really requested service?”

A little bit of water dribbles out of Dean’s mouth, his hand coming up to wipe it away as he flushes and ducks his gaze, guilty. “I uh. Dunno, really. Just… somethin’ about this time, I just- didn’t wanna be alone?” He tips his head back to the ceiling, trying not to let his voice quiver. “Or whatever.”

“Dean,” Castiel says gently. It takes a moment, but Dean finally lowers his eyes to Castiel’s. “There is no shame in reaching out. You don’t need to explain to me why I’m here. I am glad to help.”

On the tip of Dean’s tongue are all the woes about Sam and his mate Eileen casting Dean worried glances whenever he visits. On the tip of his tongue is the way Sam occasionally looks at Dean’s belly, like he somehow knows that Dean, biologically and statistically, should be mated and with pup at his age. On the tip of his tongue are his mother’s worried glances and his father’s tacit, but pointed questions about when he’s going to settle down, and all of a sudden everything just sort of… crumbles. He feels his shoulders draw inward and downward, his hand automatically covering his face as his cheeks flush with impending tears. He clenches his jaw to refrain the sob that tries to claw its way out of his throat and he knows he’s only reacting like this because his hormones are all outta whack, not because he’s actually this emotional normally, and definitely not because Castiel has been so guilelessly kind and understanding it sort of tugs on some heart strings that Dean may or may not have forgotten about.

The scrape of chair legs falls on deaf ears, but Dean knows when Castiel is in his space because strong arms reach around him, firm hands drawing him in towards a solid body. Castiel presses Dean’s face into the space just below his sternum, one of the buttons of his shirt digging into Dean’s cheek, and Dean is unable to help the small hiccup that leaves him. Castiel says nothing, just offers his comfort, his clean, fresh scent being overpowered by Dean’s own loneliness. Dean wonders if he’s feeling so strongly that Castiel’s beta nose can pick it up- but then again, Castiel is just so damn attentive, he probably saw the dam about to burst before Dean even knew it was going to happen.

Biology didn’t guide him towards Dean.

One of Castiel’s hands presses between Dean’s shoulder blades, right on his spine, the other carefully carding his fingers through Dean’s slightly damp hair. The comfort he offers is quiet, complacent, and… strangely familiar. As someone who doesn’t jump to hug his own parents, Dean does his best to not think about how easy it is to sink into Castiel’s embrace and take the comfort that he’s offering. He’s unsure as to how long they stay like that, but after a while Castiel finally pulls away. He tips Dean’s head back, Dean’s eyes stay closed, and thumbs gently swipe along his orbital bones before pulling away. The air shifts and when Dean opens his damp eyes he sees Castiel pulling the bread bowls out of the oven. They get set on a rack while Castiel gathers plates and utensils, setting the table along with two Gatorades and homemade croutons displayed prettily in a bowl. Watching with idle detachment, Dean’s only brought back to his senses when Castiel sets the bread bowl in front of him, the steam wafting the delicious scent of it up into Dean’s stressed out nostrils.

It’s heaven.

And an amazing distraction from the sudden surge of hormones.

Suddenly realizing that he’s ravenous has Dean muttering a quick thanks before he picks up a crouton and dips it into the soup, sopping it up and stuffing it into his mouth. The groan he lets out is pornographic and he knows it, but he really does love food, and Castiel is an editor of a food magazine, so Dean figures it’s alright if manners go out the window so he can appreciate the meal properly. A quick glance at Castiel reveals the smallest of smiles on his pink lips as he eats his own soup, warmth blooming in Dean’s chest.

The severity of his mood swings is a good indicator he’s gonna need to get railed into the mattress soon, but for now he’s going to savor the gift of this food and the beautiful man that provided it for him.

He polishes off his bread bowl, soup and bowl included, and when he sits back he marvels at the fact that he’s not stuffed to the brim like he normally is after a meal like this. Something must show on his face because when Castiel stands and collects their dishes, he says, “Substituting the dairy really makes a difference.”

“S’that why I feel so good?” Dean asks aloud. “Damn. Makes sense. Didn’t even miss it!” He declares, patting his belly happily with his palms.

The dishes clink in the sink while Castiel starts washing them. “Please go rinse off in the shower and then go to your bedroom, Dean. I am going to clean up this mess and then I will be there to take care of you.”

Licking his lips, Dean watches the broad stretch of Castiel’s shoulders as he works at the sink. He contemplates asking Castiel to just fuck him in the kitchen, but then again, they’re both foodies, and Dean knows he likes to keep a clean kitchen. Not only that, Dean still isn’t dying to be fucked. He wonders if he should be concerned about his body’s lack of biological reaction, but then again, he’s never had sex with a beta, so maybe… this is normal? Like Castiel’s biology - or lack of one - is calming down Dean’s instincts.

Glossing over the fact, of course, that Dean’s own biology seems to be curiously screwed up.

“You’re thinking too much,” Castiel says without turning around. “Go on.”

“Yes sir,” Dean says, only halfway sarcastic as he stands from the table. His robe sticks to his thighs as he walks, and he’s grateful to peel it off once he’s in the bathroom. He tosses it into the tall hamper so laundry can be gathered properly later and then steps into the shower, making it all business and no pleasure. Showering while in heat is always a strange sensation; there’s water cascading over him from the shower head but the leakage between his legs is something he can’t just wipe away. He’s clean, but he still feels clammy and yucky when he gets out and dries off. Unashamed and unabashed, Dean walks naked to his bedroom, arms loaded with extra towels of varying sizes. He sets them on the dresser and then gets onto the bed, fidgeting with the blankets and pillows to try and arrange them in a way he likes. He’s not waiting for long - Castiel appears in the doorway, leaning against the jamb and watching Dean with idle amusement.

“Like you’ve never seen an omega nest before,” Dean snaps reflexively, feeling his cheeks heat up.

“I have,” Castiel concedes. “But I must say, Dean, you are unlike any other omega I’ve come across.”

“S’that mean?” Dean is near pouting as he settles amongst his little makeshift nest, folding his arms petulantly over his chest. His moods are swinging again, but he’s unsure if Castiel is prodding at him or making conversation. Perhaps both? It’s hard to get a pin on someone you can’t smell.

“I definitely mean no offense,” Castiel says, still in the doorway as those blue eyes track over Dean’s naked form. “You are a refreshing change from the lineup, is what I mean. Many omegas throw themselves at me immediately, and yet you’ve lasted this long.”

Dean’s lips flap a few times as he tries to think of a reason why he’s held out this long. It’s just been… natural, to not jump Castiel’s bones. This is probably the clearest he’s ever been during the first day of his heat, mentally, emotionally, physically. It’s odd, but it’s also… comforting, so he’s been doing his best to not overthink it. “I dunno, man.” He finds himself saying. “I think you’re really hot, don’t get me wrong, and I definitely want you to fuck me, but it’s not.... That urgent? I guess?”

A thoughtful look passes over Castiel’s face before he uncrosses his arms and moves to stand at the end of the bed. His eyes darken, and this close Dean can see his pulse jumping in his throat. Maybe Castiel isn’t as unaffected as he’s projecting. “Well, I can assure you that I want to fuck you, very much.”

That’s it. Those words combined with that voice has Dean instinctually rolling over, the first correct biological response he’s had since Castiel crossed the threshold. He arches his back, presses his cheek into a pillow, and feels the air conditioner lick cool wave over his exposed, dripping hole. He shudders in response, rocks himself slightly, and in the wake of the cool air feels fever shoot through his body.

“Please, Cas.”

“No.”

Dean can’t stop the whine that keens from the back of his throat. He pushes up onto his elbows and looks at Castiel over his shoulder, confused. Castiel is climbing onto the bed, shirt discarded and pants unbuttoned, a fierce expression on his features as he grabs Dean’s hips and unceremoniously flips him over onto his back. Surprised by Castiel’s strength Dean goes easily, limbs flailing, slick gushing out of him along with a very unflattering noise. Castiel pays it no mind, pressing his big palms to the underside of Dean’s knees, folding the omega in half as he hovers over him, forcing Dean to meet his eyes.

“I will not have you present for me,” Castiel says. “I am here for you, Dean.”

Folded into submission like this sort of speaks against Castiel saying he won’t have Dean present, but something about being face to face has Dean’s heart tripping in his chest and more slick leaking out of him. He tries to sort through Castiel’s words and actions, lust starting to cloud his brain. Astonishingly, he’s able to string together a coherent thought. Usually at this part of sex Dean’s brain has already turned off.

Something about Castiel is keeping Dean clear-headed. What’s going on?

Exhaling hotly, Dean finds himself saying, “Your mouth, Cas, please-”

A smirk crosses over Castiel’s features, the left corner of his lip quirking minutely. It shouldn’t be so hot, that expression on his face, but it really fucking is and Dean groans, dropping his head back and allowing his body to go lax, Castiel’s hands the only thing holding him up. His head turns so his lips can press a soft, reverent kiss to Dean’s ankle, the intimate gesture making Dean flush a weird mixture of arousal and embarrassment. Castiel’s lips continue up his leg, across his calf and to his inner knee, before he pulls away to give his other leg the same treatment. Showered with affection and tenderness, Dean’s gut is still twisted with need and his hole is still leaking, but his head is clear and he takes a few shallow breaths before he reaches to put his fingers under his own knees, pulling his thighs to his chest and spreading himself wider for Castiel.

There’s a moment where Castiel meets his gaze, lips on the top of Dean’s foot, clarity and want clear in his eyes. There’s a moment where Dean almost says ‘please’, but Castiel’s words (“I’m here for you”) echo in Dean’s head and suddenly… he’s not just an omega in heat writhing on a bed waiting to be fucked. He’s Dean, laid back and cherished. He’s not a wet hole or a needy bitch or anything that people normally associate with omegas.

He’s a person.

He’s… an equal.

“Put your fucking mouth on my hole.”

The command cracks through the air like a whip, and Castiel immediately obliges. His lips seal over Dean’s hole and suck, like he’s thirsty for slick, parched for Dean. He sucks, licks, swallows, squeezes Dean’s ass to try and get more to gush out of him. Dean’s head flies back against the pillows and he lets out a long, gratuitous moan, unsure if anyone’s ever eaten him out so enthusiastically and… thorough. Castiel’s tongue is long and pointed but he doesn’t fuck Dean with it; he prods, licks, presses against his prostate, and Dean has the delirious thought that maybe he should hand Castiel a fucking spoon. Any worries he’d had about his biology are completely washed away when he can feel just how much slick he’s suddenly producing, just with the attention of Castiel’s tongue.

The sound of Castiel slurping up his slick is loud in Dean’s ears. His senses all zero in on Castiel eating him out, his fingers moving to tangle into that wild, dark hair, tugging and pulling in encouragement when words fail to leave his lips. He’s utterly shocked when his first orgasm ripples through him from Castiel’s mouth alone, his cock throbbing and spurting rope after rope up onto his stomach, balls tight and hole soaking the towel under his hips.

When Castiel pulls up his face his drenched from cheekbone to clavicle. Some of Dean’s slick has pooled in the divot of Castiel’s collarbone, and usually after the first orgasm Dean is sated, but there’s still a buzz under his skin and in his veins. His legs fall open and to the sides when Castiel lets go of them, Dean reaching up to bring the beta in for a messy, wet kiss. Castiel hums into his mouth and goes pliant, allowing Dean to lick his juices from Castiel’s skin, the heady scent of pleased omega permeating the air and making his slick particularly sweet. Dean presses kiss after kiss to Castiel’s lips but soon Castiel pulls away, carefully extracting the wet towel from beneath Dean’s body so he can go to dispose of it in the laundry basket in the corner of the room.

Nothing in Dean’s body or brain screams for Castiel to come back into bed. There’s no desperate need to have Castiel curl up to him, hold him close - his hindbrain is quiet, calm, and when Castiel returns to bed Dean pulls him close for cuddles because he wants to, not because he needs to.

“This is weird,” Dean says. Heat or not, orgasms leave his lips loose and his brain fuzzy.

“I suppose I should explain more in depth what’s happening,” Castiel says. His arms are around Dean, Dean’s head tucked into the crook of his neck. He smells like Dean, but now that his shirt is gone there’s something else clinging to his skin, too. “You seem to be handling this very well.”

“I don’t get why my instincts aren’t going crazy,” Dean says, voice muffled against Castiel’s pectoral. “It’s like… alphas and other omegas make me go crazy but with you I get all calm. Like my biology doesn’t matter even though I’m in heat.”

“It’s not a largely spoken about occurrence,” Castiel starts, his fingers carding through Dean’s hair, “but some betas are born with a certain biology. They can temper out the instincts of alphas and omegas, sort of… cancel out their basic, animal instincts and desires.”

“What?” Dean is pulling away so he can prop up on an elbow and send Castiel an incredulous look. “Why doesn’t anyone talk about that?”

“We threaten the hierarchy,” Castiel says simply.

Dean searches Castiel’s face, trying to sort through the new information. Castiel’s expression is slightly guarded, and Dean finds himself sitting up completely, leaning against the headboard and running a hand through his hair. “So: what? You just go through life pretending you’re a regular beta?”

“I’ve managed to get this far. No one I know personally knows that I offer my services to Wonder Cycle. Every beta on their list is like me.”

“That’s-” Dean fails to find words for a moment before frustration wins out. “That’s fucking bullshit, man. What the fuck. I know I’m not the only omega in the world that hates being treated like a gender instead of a person, hell, I even know some alphas with complexes. You shouldn’t have to hide who you are, you could help so many people-”

“Dean,” Castiel says calmly. He reaches up to rest his palm over Dean’s hand, which has clenched into a fist against his thigh. “Your passion is appreciated but I assure you, things are best this way.”

“I don’t agree,” Dean says, withdrawing his fist from Castiel’s hand so he can fold his arms across his chest and glare down at Castiel.

Sighing softly, Castiel sits up as well. “You do realize that you are special too, right, Dean?”

That makes Dean pause, his brow furrowing. “What?”

Settling against the padded headboard next to Dean, Castiel reaches for the blankets to draw them up over their laps, covering their modesty. “I’ve never come across an omega like you.”

Dean’s eyes narrow. “What do you mean, ‘like me’?”

“For one, your physique,” Castiel says, sending a pointed look towards Dean’s body. “Omegas aren’t built like you.”

“All the men in my family are stacked,” Dean says, feeling his skin heat up. “This ain’t about me bein’ an omega, this is about me eating lots of food and doing sports.”

“You can’t tell me that you fall under the ‘normal omega’ umbrella,” Castiel says with a bit of amusement in his voice. “Omegas don’t eat excessively and do sports. They cook and provide for their family and participate in more docile hobbies.”

“Well that’s stupid,” Dean argues. “I’m not just an omega.”

“As we’ve established,” Castiel reminds him, not unkindly. “Which is another reason you are special. The hierarchy doesn’t apply to you. You are not soft or docile. You do not enjoy sleeping with alphas, you have an independent career, you own your own home, and do not revolve around finding a mate. That’s all very unique.”

Letting out a breath, Dean stares down at his lap. “I guess I never thought of it like that. I just did what I wanted.”

“In any case, there is no shame in being the way you are, Dean.” Castiel reaches out for his hand again, stroking his thumb over the back of Dean’s palm.

“Still weird that I’m not tryna jump your bones,” Dean grumbles.

“Call me old fashioned, but I rather enjoy getting to know you.”

Dean turns his hand over to play with Castiel’s fingers. “Bet you say that to all the omegas.”

Castiel lets out a breathy chuckle, “You’re the first omega I’ll have topped.”

Unable to stop the surprised laugh that leaves his lips, Dean shifts so he can fix Castiel with an amused look. “Well, ain’t that a can of worms?”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “It’s mostly alphas that recommend my service. I can’t knot omegas, so they usually skip over me in the selection process. Omegas with a beta fetish are mostly interested in topping me. I suppose I’m advertised as a bottom.”

Dean chews his lower lip, his gaze dropping towards Castiel’s blanket-covered lap. The man is still wearing jeans, even though they’re unfastened, and Dean finds himself curious. “What’s uh. Your… uh. Y’know. Is your equipment really that different?”

“Are you always this eloquent?” Castiel asks with amusement, pretty eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Always been told I’m a charmer,” Dean says, flashing a smile, impressed and amazed by how comfortable he feels with Castiel.

“I’m sure,” Castiel says. He moves his hands to the blankets, pushing them down. His jeans are undone, the band of his boxer briefs visible. “One could consider me well-endowed despite not having a knot.”

“Anyone ever tell you you talk funny?” Dean reaches out towards Castiel’s lap, pouting when the beta slaps his hand away.

“Perhaps as often as people tell you to learn some manners.”

Dean rolls his eyes so hard he flops away from Castiel. “I’m in heat. I want dick. Your dick.”

“I’m going to get you some water, and then we can continue.” Castiel gets out of bed, pants slung low on his hips, pronouncing the vee of his hips and the wine glass dimples on the small of his back. He’s tan, fit, thick, and Dean feels like a teenager all over again with how his mouth dries out and his pupils dilate.

“I want a Gatorade!” Dean yells when Castiel is out of sight.

He feels… young again. Vibrant.

He feels like himself.

--

This is the weirdest heat Dean’s ever had. It doesn’t even really feel like a heat; not in the desperate, needy way. He’s still dehydrated, hungry, moody, and horny, but the normally desperate edge that laces every inch of his being is… gone. Castiel takes care of him in every sense of the word, but they still haven’t had, uh, intercourse yet, mostly because Castiel bringing Dean off with his mouth or hands has been, surprisingly, sufficient. Dean never thought he’d see the day where he could get through a heat without being fucked silly, but they’ve made it four days and Dean feels… good. He feels healthy, he feels (mostly) emotionally stable, and he’s genuinely enjoying Castiel’s company.

On the fifth day, though, Dean’s curiosity is stronger than his desperation. Castiel is sitting on the couch with his laptop on his lap, typing away, glasses perched on his nose. He’s so fucking hot, doing something so simplistic and decidedly not sexy. Just his existence is enough to keep Dean interested. He’s yet to get naked in front of Dean, which is frustrating, but Dean knows that Castiel is affected even if he does a damn good job of covering it up. Castiel’s unique scent has meshed with Dean’s; it’s not strong, but Dean can catch hints of ozone and fresh rain, the scent bright and clear and without the heavy notes that usually cling to an alpha or omega’s scent. He likes that it’s not overpowering, he likes that his own scent doesn’t drown it out.

It’s a little dangerous, he thinks, to be getting so attached to Castiel, but… how can he not? Castiel doesn’t treat him like anything other than a person, an equal. When Dean gets bratty Castiel shuts him down, when Dean is hungry he feeds him, when Dean is horny he pleases him. There’s a seven year difference between himself and Castiel, the beta older and seemingly more refined, and Dean finds himself relishing it.

Castiel isn’t taking care of Dean because he’s an omega.

He’s taking care of Dean because at this specific time of year, Dean needs to be taken care of. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anyway, back to present: Dean pulls Castiel’s laptop off of his lap and sets it down on the coffee table before plunking his body directly onto Castiel’s lap instead, reaching to card his fingers through Castiel’s hair. Over the past few days he’s learned to not be shy about seeking out Castiel for physical gratification - mostly because Castiel always welcomes him with open arms, literally, and gives him the sweetest of sated smiles before they even begin.

Castiel’s hands fall on Dean’s waist, thumbs pressing into his hip bones gently. “Hello, Dean.”

Dean swivels his hips. He’s wearing a pair of sweatpants and nothing else, feeling his slick getting his asscheeks tacky as he writhes slowly on Castiel’s lap. “Hey.”

“What do you need?” Castiel asks, ever catering to Dean’s whims.

“You,” Dean says, like he always does. Castiel is wearing sweats and a threadbare shirt, which Dean starts rucking up slowly, exposing his thick torso. Castiel’s abs aren’t cut but they’re strong and solid, and Dean slides his palms eagerly over the tanned flesh. Castiel shifts so Dean can pull the shirt over his head, Dean’s mouth attaching to the slope of Castiel’s neck. “All of you.”

“Are you sure?” Castiel hums, his thumbs trailing up to swipe over Dean’s hardening nipples, a shiver wracking the omega’s frame in response.

“Cas, you’ve done everything but fuck me. If I don’t get fucked before my heat is over, whether or not I’m delirious for it, I’m gonna riot,” Dean says, his voice steady and sure.

But Castiel laughs, the bastard, looking up at Dean with shining, intense eyes. “It’s my job to take care of you, Dean. I wanted to make sure you were ready for it.”

It’s my job.

Those words go over Dean like a bucket of cold water and he locks up on Castiel’s lap, his palms frozen over the curve of his perfect shoulders, green eyes staring, shocked, down into Castiel’s blue ones, which are rapidly turning more confused with every second that Dean stays rigid and quiet.

“Dean?”

“Fuck,” Dean tears himself away from Castiel, standing up and scrubbing a hand over his face. “Fuck.”

“Are you alright?” Castiel asks, his normally calm voice tinged with alarm.

Dean takes a few large steps away from Castiel, ending up at the doorway that leads into the kitchen. He shifts his weight restlessly, presses the heels of his palms to his eyes, and then lets out a shuddery breath. “I’m a fucking idiot.”

“Dean.” Now Castiel’s voice is mildly annoyed. “I can’t help you if you won’t talk.”

“You’re not my boyfriend,” Dean snaps, “you’re just here to do a job.”

That makes Castiel fall quiet. Dean refuses to look at him, keeping his hands over his eyes, breathing shallowly in and out. Emotions are warring within his body - arousal, neediness, embarrassment, anger, frustration. He feels like a hot mess all of a sudden and damn it, why can’t he get a grip on this? Castiel’s designation is supposed to calm him down, not rile him up.

Dean tenses.

He lets out a slow breath.

Castiel is riling him up. Not his designation, not his biology… Castiel as a person is riling Dean up.

It’s so fucking normal, Dean lets out a surprised, deprecating laugh.

“Dean?”

Castiel’s voice is closer. Dean drops his hands from his eyes to see the beta standing a few feet away from him, brows knitted in confusion, head tilted, pink lips parted. He’s shirtless, he’s beautiful, and he’s concerned about why Dean is having a meltdown.

“I apologize if my wording was crass,” Castiel says, fucking unruffled as always, but sincerity shining in his eyes. “I should have been more delicate.”

“No,” Dean says gruffly, “you were right. I hired you through a fucking service, I don’t know why I…” he trails off, unwilling to complete that thought.

Castiel’s muted scent gets closer as Dean stares at the floor. The beta’s toes come into his vision and Dean idly muses that Castiel has nice feet, strong and sturdy with well proportioned toes and no weird Hobbit hair. The sweatpants he’s wearing are ruched at the ankles and God damn it, focus! Dragging his gaze upwards, he’s surprised to see Castiel’s normally calm features pinched at the edges with worry. The lines at the corners of his eyes are deep from years of laughter, the vertical creases in his lips speak of a youth spent very recreationally, and he’s just… gorgeous.

“I’ll draw you a bath,” Castiel finally says, voice soft, like he’s speaking to a damn spooked horse, “and then I’ll cook dinner.”

A shuddery exhale fall from Dean’s lips and he lifts his hands again, scrubbing over his features. “Damn it, stop- stop being so fucking perfect for like two seconds.”

“I’m only-”

“Stop it!” Dean explodes. “Look, I know I’m all jumbled and shit because I’m in heat, even though I keep forgetting because of your biology and shit, and I can’t put a fucking lid on it, man. I’m thirty-three and unmated and my body doesn’t fucking work right, what is wrong with me-”

He’s cut off by Castiel’s mouth covering his own. Dean’s body immediately reacts, melting against the beta, fingers trying to find purchase on his skin before his arms wrap around Castiel’s body. The passion ignited between them steals the breath from Dean’s lungs and Jesus, way to go, have a meltdown in front of a guy that you’ve developed a solid crush on despite the fact you’re paying for his fucking services. But Castiel kisses him like he wants to, like he’s desperate to, like Dean’s the only thing in the world he cares about at this exact moment. And maybe he is, Dean’s traitorous mind supplies, because there’s money in his bank account.

Castiel breaks the kiss, their lips sticking together slightly. He presses his forehead to Dean’s, hands under the omega’s jaw to hold his eye contact, fire blazing deep in those blue depths.

“There is nothing wrong with you, Dean.” Castiel’s voice is thunderous and commanding, a tone Dean has yet to hear. His knees threaten to buckle. “You are kind, funny, and talented. You are giving and warm, you are smart, and there is nothing wrong with you, or your biology.” Dean’s holding his breath when Castiel drags his thumbs gently under Dean’s wet eyes. His voice softens a bit, “You are a person, one of the best I’ve ever met. I apologize if I’ve made it seem as though this is just an arrangement for me. That is how it started out, of course, but over the past few days…” Castiel’s eyes search Dean’s. He doesn’t speak at length like this often, but whenever he does, Dean has learned to listen. “I’ve been holding off on sex because I wanted to show you that I enjoy you. It’s a breach of contract to not fuck you, but I’ve been enjoying your presence so much I suppose I… got caught up.”

Dean’s heart thuds against his ribs. His hands move to lift and grip gently at Castiel’s forearms, fingers unable to meet around the thickness of them as his blurry vision searches Castiel’s face.

“As a beta I’m biologically unable to find a true mate,” Castiel continues, “but as a human, I am quickly discovering that you are it.”

“Fuck,” Dean exhales, the tiniest bit of spittle leaving his lips. He didn’t realize tears had been tracking down his cheeks and with his exhalation he tastes the salt on his lips, notices that he’s sniffling every few breaths. But Castiel doesn’t notice or care, Hell, Dean’s basically queefed in bed with him and he’s barely batted an eye. Does someone so perfect truly exist? Did Dean actually not make the service call and instead fall into a heat coma? Enter some sort of fever dream?

Castiel’s thumbs press under the bolts of his jaw and Dean’s eyes flutter shut. Not a dream. Castiel is very much here, very much real, and Dean’s a fucking idiot. Of course he’s noticed that Castiel dotes on him more than someone being paid to do it, has noticed Castiel looking at him when he thinks Dean is occupied with something else. The reverence with which he kisses him or lays him down with, the depth in his eyes…

“What-” Dean coughs lightly over a hiccup. “Tell me what you mean, Cas, please.”

“When the Cycle Wonders service is up, Dean, I would like to take you on a date.”

Dean nods furiously, tears streaming down his face continuously. God, he’s so dumb, but when Castiel brings him in for a tight, reassuring hug, he knows he’s not dumb because of his omega hindbrain clouding his emotions - he’s dumb because he’s a fucking idiot through and through, and really needs to thank God and every other deity in existence that Castiel sees something worthwhile in him.

“Does that mean you’re gonna fuck me now?” Dean asks, words muffled in Castiel’s neck.

The chuckle that rumbles through Castiel reverberates through both their bodies, his arms giving Dean’s slightly larger frame an affectionate squeeze. “No.”

Dean rolls his eyes and pulls away from the beta, wiping at his face, laughing this time with incredulity rather than deprecation. “Jesus, you’re impossible.”

“I’d rather our first time be outside of your heat,” Castiel explains. He lifts a hand to drag his thumb over Dean’s full lower lip, eyes tracking the movement. “Take that bath. I’ll make dinner, and then I will take care of you.”

“I want burgers,” Dean says as Castiel makes his way to the bathroom, presumably to start drawing Dean’s bath. “And french fries.”

“Yes, dear,” Castiel says dryly as he disappears out of Dean’s sight.

Chewing his lip, Dean stares at the empty space for a moment, listening to the tinkering of Castiel turning on the taps and adding bubbles to the running water. This man came into his house as hired help and managed to be so much more. Dean supposes that, overall, he’s not that surprised; oddities like this are commonplace in his life, and have been since he was a teenager, starting with puberty when he felt something was… different, about himself.

He wipes his hands over his face a few more times, then shakes out his fingers and wrists. Castiel wants to date him. Outside of his heat. Wants to keep treating him like a person… wants Dean to be the closest thing to a mate he’ll ever get. A small smile curves Dean’s lips.

Huh.

Awesome.

--

One year later…

“UNCLE DEAN!!!!”

Little Jack screams as soon as Dean and Castiel enter Sam’s backyard, the scent of barbecue and beer in the air being overpowered by the pure joy coming from all the family members present. Despite being the stars of the show Dean scoops up Jack as soon as he’s within reach, ignoring all of the guests and even his fiance as he swings Jack through the air before squeezing him tightly, laughing at the bright squeals the five year old lets out.

“Heya squirt,” Dean greets, settling Jack on his hip.

“Hi!” Jack squirms a little so he can look at Castiel, who is wearing an amused smile and standing at Dean’s elbow. “Hi Uncle Cas!”

“Hello, Jack,” Castiel says, his voice warm.

“Anyone start eating yet?” Dean asks, bouncing Jack on his hip and earning another delighted squeal.

“Not without you!” Jack declares.

“Always knew my family was smart,” Dean says sagely.

“Uncle Cas!” Jack squirms out of Dean’s arms to clumsily launch himself into Castiel’s, the beta catching him securely and with a fond smile. “I got a volcano for my birthday! Can we put it together?”

“Jack,” Sam’s slightly out of breath when he finally approaches. He claps Dean on the shoulder warmly as he addresses his son, “This party is for Dean and Cas, kiddo.”

Jack pouts. “But Uncle Cas does all the cool science experiments!”

“If we have time after dinner,” Cas says diplomatically, “we can make the volcano. If not, then I’ll come by next weekend and we can put it together.”

“You don’t have to,” Sam says, reaching out for Jack, who stubbornly clings to Castiel’s neck.

Castiel offers the best shrug he can with Jack clinging to him like an octopus. “It’s my pleasure, Sam.”

“Jack, c’mon,” Sam says, tickling the boy’s sides so he shrieks and lets go of Castiel’s neck. Sam hauls him into his arms and does an amazing job at ignoring how wiggly the boy is, even when Jack manages to flip himself completely upside down, squealing as his face pinkens with the blood rush. “Let’s go sit down at a table.”

Dean chuckles as Sam waddles away with his son. Castiel’s arm winds around his waist and draws him in, pressing the softest of kisses to the side of Dean’s head.

“Hey!” Dean’s mother, Mary, approaches them with fanfare, smacking Castiel on the shoulder. “I saw my meatloaf in your magazine!”

Castiel raises his hands in innocence, “It was Dean’s idea.”

Mary narrows her gaze at her son, who shrinks and offers a nervous smile. “I uh, at least changed your secret sauce recipe?”

“I swear,” Mary rolls her eyes, but brings Dean in for a quick hug, and then Castiel. “Your father is about to chew off his own leg, by the way.”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry we’re late,” Dean gruffs.

“I bet you’re not,” Mary replies, eyes twinkling.

Castiel laughs while Dean blushes brightly and splutters, “Ugh, mom!”

Throughout the next hour or so everyone dishes up food and opens beers, the decorations consisting of tiki torches lit around the perimeter of the yard and an EZ-up draped in twinkle lights. It’s definitely not a quiet affair, a combination of Castiel’s and Dean’s family all in the same space, but as people go up to the couple and congratulate them on their engagement, Dean thinks that the night couldn’t be anymore perfect.

In a quiet moment, where Dean is standing next to Charlie and Castiel is currently in discussion with his own brother, Gabriel, Dean finally allows the happiness to sink in.

“Told you so,” Charlie says, taking a sip of her wine.

“Huh?” Dean asks, looking down at her. Sometimes he forgets that his scent can be picked up by literally everyone else in his life.

“You were always so freaked out about how un-omega you were,” Charlie says casually. She’s looking across the yard at Castiel, who looks like he’s about to kill Gabriel. “And look at you now! Mated. Or- as close as you can be.”

“Very inspirational speech, Charles,” Dean grouses, taking a drink of beer.

“I’m just saying,” Charlie finally looks up at Dean, her eyes glimmering with warmth and affection. “You’re a stubborn jerk, but so is he, and I’m glad you two found each other. Neither of you are broken. You just need one another. The hierarchy is a dump.”

Emotion clogs up Dean’s throat so he chases it with the rest of his beer, letting out a little burp when the foam tries to come back up his throat. He coughs, wipes his mouth, and then nods. “I know.” He wraps his arm around Charlie’s shoulders, bringing her into his side. He kisses the top of her head, “Thanks.”

“Gross, feelings,” Charlie whines playfully as she pulls away from Dean’s grip. “Anyway, Cas has a really hot cousin that I haven’t introduced myself to yet. Peace!” She trots off towards the EZ-up, Dean watching her go fondly before he turns his attention back to the crowd.

Castiel is approaching, looking exasperated but happy, and when he’s within reach he loops his arms around Dean and pulls him in so he can bury his face in the crook of Dean’s neck. Even though his beta nose can’t smell Dean like everyone else can, the comfort is still there, and Dean wraps him up securely.

“Gabe crushin’ your nuts?”

“He wants to know when we’re going to have pups,” Castiel replies, voice muffled.

“I’m too old to get knocked up now,” Dean sends Gabriel a glare from across the yard, eyes narrowing when Gabriel sends him a peace sign.

“He knows. He reminded me that adoption exists.”

“Then he should adopt a kid,” Dean says. Gabriel breaks eye contact with him to lope (yes, lope) over towards where Sam and Jack are currently stacking solo cups into a pyramid. “Anyway, it’s an old argument now isn’t it?”

“Very much so,” Castiel pulls away, pressing a soft kiss to Dean’s cheek before standing properly next to him. After a moment he says, “I’m surprised this many people showed up.”

“You kiddin’ me? I’m surprised the fuckin’ mayor ain’t here,” Dean says. “Charlie says we’re pioneers in this small town.”

“Perhaps we are,” Castiel says.

A comfortable quiet stretches between them, and when the sun starts to set and people start to trickle out of the backyard to head home, Dean finds himself catching Castiel’s hand. Castiel quickly finishes up goodbyes with some coworkers from the magazine, and then sends Dean a very curious look. After all night of watching Castiel be so calm, cool, collected… sweet and open and admirable, Dean finds himself needing to be grounded and reminded that this is all real. That their matching rings are actually there, that they’ll be heading off on vacation in a few days, that they’re together despite - or maybe in spite of - their biologies.

“I uh,” Dean threads his fingers through Castiel’s. “Just uh. Love you. And stuff.”

The amused quirk of Castiel’s lips is all Dean needs to see to know that the sentiment is returned, but Castiel leans in and presses a soft kiss to Dean’s lips anyway. “I love you too, Dean.”

Dean never thought he’d be thankful for his screwed up biology, but every day he feels more and more gratitude for his uniqueness, because without it, he wouldn’t be here today.

With Castiel.

“Awesome.”