Dean is a servant in the temple of Castiel, a god who has been blessing and watching over the mountain and the valleys at its foot for centuries; he’s a benevolent deity who, in return, demands nothing but a humble temple and a handful of worshippers in his name. All of these worshippers are Omegas and tend to come from renowned families who offer their children as a sign of their deference to their god and of that they are affluent enough to let one of their children go instead of setting them to work or marrying them off to any generously paying Alpha.
This is not true for Dean, though; his whole family burnt alongside his home, and he only entered the temple because the priestess was kind enough to take in an Omega so young that he had just presented, instead of condemning him to serve the travelers and farmers in the Red House no one pretends to know of.
But Dean shames the temple and, in turn, the god Castiel. Because even though an Omega, he did not grow up beautiful and becoming of a temple servant, he turned out repugnant: his physique is far too broad, his hands and feet and shoulders laughably rivaling any Alpha’s, his skin is sullied by freckles instead of even in colour and milky pure, his eyes never turned golden, and it is well-known that what is between his legs is too thick and large and obscene for an Omega.
For that, he is being taunted.
Throughout the years, Dean has endured the mockery and the staring and the way the other Omega servants toss soap and clothes at him in the bath, make jokes about his crotch and the whole of his body and tell him thoroughly of his flaws. He has endured because he was lucky to at least still be alive, because he has rather had his skin dyed with blue colour for a week and his vestments cut and every part of his body shamed than work at the Red House. He knows that if he is already being treated like this among temple servants, only the most vile and perverse people would pay money to lay with him. In the temple, he knows that he is fairly safe, at least, but he would not want to know what could happen to an orphan and desperate Omega who sells his hideous body if he left the temple behind.
That is why he is anxious — no, far more than that, he is terrified. The ceremony to mark the end of the year and greet the new one is fast approaching, and with it, he will officially enter his eighteenth year of living. He will be considered an adult and responsible for himself, and of no use for the temple. Because temple servants only stay for longer than they are adults if they fulfill the purpose of any servant of their god Castiel: if they have found a mate. A mate, a patron to donate generous amounts of silver to the temple, to refund the expenses of their servant mate living there, to appease the god and the priestess, to ensure that they may continue their service in Castiel’s name. And indeed, all of the temple servants have a mate to provide for them, and the mates enjoy the prestige that comes from being bound to a sacred worshipper of Castiel. All but one, that is, because no one has ever shown to favour Dean. Which is very little of a surprise, because even outside of the holy grounds, he would be considered undesirable for an Omega, but to have a creature like him dwelling among the beautiful and pure other Omegas that have come to praise Castiel of their own free will makes him into even more of an abomination.
So Dean dreads the new year. Dreads that with the first day of it, the priestess will not be kind enough to waste the temple’s silver and space on him, and — for her own good name and despite her mercy — will banish Dean from the temple grounds. He will own nothing but his robe and his deformed body, and through the cold winter air, he will make his way down the mountain, to the outskirts of the farthest village, to the Red House, and come to serve there. Yes, he trembles and cries when he thinks of it at night, and the other servants mock him with the future everyone knows will be true for him, but he will endure. He will not hang himself from the highest tree he finds, he will not dive into the sacred tide, only to never come up again, he will not let himself be ripped apart from the patrons in the Red House. He has to live, for his family that could not, and it does not matter whether his knees are shaking and his eyes are overflowing.
(Besides, he loves serving their god Castiel. To Dean, no god is as beautiful and caring as he is, no one as giving to his followers. Though the only mortal to have seen him and who is still living these days is the priestess, and thus Dean himself has never laid eyes on him, Dean knows he would instinctively recognize him. Often, when he sneaks alone into the sanctuary to kneel and pray to his god in solitude, the feelings of safety and belonging swell up in his chest, warm him in the way only the soft embrace of his mother or the proud smile of his father could before. It is in these moments that, despite the other temple servants and despite the future awaiting him, he is not afraid. So he burns incense and speaks the words of prayer, and sometimes, when the mockery and the stares were too much to bear that day or when the memories of his family did not leave him since the morning, he shamefully speaks of other things too, not just in praise, but in secret and weakness. Dean knows he should not, that his mortal matters are of no import to a deity such as Castiel. But when his eyes are wet and his lips pressed together with a tremble, he can’t help but confess to the only one he feels is left; the only one who would care and listen. The one — he is sure, he desperately begs — would not even abandon someone like him if he were to wander down to the Red House and service sacredly.)
But it still does not mean that he has made peace with his fate when the ceremony of the last and first day arrives at last. He cannot deny that there is a tremble to his hands when he passes the silver bowl filled with a thick golden liquid to the priestess, or that he feels as cold and lost as if he were already wading down the snowy mountain.
He flinches with the first of the 108 stroke of the bell the priestess tolls, the one that welcomes the new year and bids goodbye to the last. Each stroke makes him wince and shift and fills his heart with dread, because despite his resolution not to break under what the future holds for him, he becomes afraid. His body is untouched, he has no experience to speak of and no one to miss him, so the patrons of the Red House will either find him dissatisfying or a simple toy to do with as they please. They could kill him, and no one would bat an eye, they could tear into him, and his screams would probably be confused with those of lust. And yet, he would still have to be glad if anyone even wanted to touch him at all — because he is hideous and will never find a partner, a mate. The hard hands of drunken Alphas and Betas will be all he will ever know of intimacy and of— of love. This is all life holds for him.
And maybe it is all he deserves.
Dean blinks up through teary eyes when what must be the fifteenth bell punch is being followed by a loud and thunderous growl and a slight tremble of the mountain. Everyone stills immediately, stares in nervosity towards the priestess, who pauses, but only for as long as it takes the mountain to calm. Then, unperturbed, she strikes again.
Dean notices how two of his fellow temple servants glance towards him, their mouths curved upwards into mocking smiles and their fingers doing downwards motions on their cheeks, indicating the tears that Dean only now feels rolling down his face; they must think that he cries in fear of the mountain quaking. Even though Dean thought he had lost the ability for it long ago, he is newly vulnerable now and feels a sharp spike of shame in his chest, making him wish that the mountain would break in two and swallow him whole, finally end his miserable existence.
The mountain roars again.
But this time, it doesn’t quiet down after a few breaths of air and the priestess also doesn’t continue her work, for above the altar and the figure of their god there is suddenly a bright blue light, blinding everyone, and it is accompanied by a terrible sound, one that makes every worshipper shriek in fear and avert their eyes.
The roaring grows high-pitched and even louder, unbearably. Dean clutches his hands over his ears, groaning in pain as he fears that he will soon be able to feel warm blood spilling out behind his hands. But right when the sound reaches its highest pitch yet, when Dean sees the people around him tremble and faint, it stops.
The silence following it is deafening — almost as much as the roaring itself was. Dean hears his own blood rush and his breath punch out of his lungs. He is utterly lost in the functions of his body that he does not notice, within the first moments, that in front of the shaking priestess and not far from himself is a stranger.
With a heaving chest, Dean lets go of his ears and his gaze sweeps over the sanctuary for a moment, where no one else but him and the priestess have been able to recover from the roaring and everyone else is still cowering and panting, and then he hesitatingly glances towards the stranger. Over his white vestments and the blue girdles and the golden ornaments adorning him, up his broad shoulders and a face so beautiful, it’s inhumane, to piercing blue eyes that are looking directly at — at Dean!
Dean takes a sharp breath. But the staring continues, and then those blue eyes soften in a smile that is only to be found around the skin of his eyes, and he steps forward. The priestess has long since thrown herself to the ground, into a position of worship, but he takes no notice of her. Instead, he walks to where his gaze takes him, unerringly towards Dean.
Dean wants to follow the example of his priestess, wants to lower his body and face to the ground, to kiss the feet of this creature, but instead, he only cowers and stills when the first whiff of the man drawing closer invades his nose and his skin. No, not man — Alpha. Because that is what he is, through and through. It’s not just evident in the potent smell of him, but also in the way he carries himself, his whole posture speaking of power worthy of submission and adoration. He’s more than any mortal Alpha, as if he were the origin of any of them, more terrifying than any Alpha Dean has ever come across, and for the first time in his life, Dean craves to prostrate himself and to gain the favour of an Alpha, but— but to what end? It is apparent that not even the lowest of human Alphas would touch or even look at him, so the thought of this beauticious creature considering him as anything less than dirt and an insult is inane. Dean clutches his prayer beads and only dares to hope that should the Alpha grant him his deserved end, he will do so quickly. That he will not make it hurt too much, that he will not laugh at Dean’s pain, that he—
“Dean,” a deep voice cuts in, sharp and admonishing. Dean swallows and fidgets when he the other creature finally reaches him.
The Alpha crouches down in front of him, and there is nothing but benevolence in his gaze. Dean quickly tries to lower his own, but before his eyes are fixed to the ground, a warm and gentle hand cups his chin and slowly tilts it up. With his eyes wide and surely speaking of his fear, he is forced to look the Alpha in the eye.
“Dean,” he says again, and Dean thinks he has never heard a voice as deep and as lovely before. And right as he finishes this thought, the Alpha smiles softly. “Thank you.” For what, Dean does not know. “Fear not. It is not my intention to harm you or to bring you pain in any way. I am here to do the opposite, to finally bring you the bliss you deserve, my beautiful Dean.” As he speaks, his hand slides from Dean’s chin over his cheek, and then he cups it, holds his head in the tender cradle of it. And then — greedy and hungry and foolish as he is — Dean leans into it with a small whimper. But instead of shoving him away and insulting Dean for how he dares such a thing, the Alpha’s smile grows even wider and he strokes over the freckled, ugly skin of Dean’s face with his thumb. For just a moment, Dean feels his eyes flutter.
It has been years since anyone has touched him without harm in mind.
“I have come to take you as my mate.”
Dean’s eyes fling wide open.
"To take you with me, for that you may watch over these lands from your proper seat, the one that is right beside me."
For one terrible moment of hope, Dean believes him. Without thinking much of these words, not past the fact that the Alpha even acknowledges him existence, touches him with gentle hands — he does not even dare to consider any of what the Alpha has just said.
Dean draws in a deep breath, and he hears himself shudder. “C-Castiel,” he says, because he knows that this is what — who — this Alpha is. He does not know the reason for it, but inside his heart, he recognizes the loving aura of whom he prayed to all those years. “I— why am I…? You can, you can see what I am,” he murmurs bitterly, lowering his gaze to show what it is that he is talking about, his whole shameful body; though the skin of his face and what Castiel might have seen from a first glance should already be answer enough.
"Yes," Castiel breathes, and if Dean did not know better, he would have described as in wonder. Which cannot be. He clenches his eyes shut.
"It is in wonder,” Castiel confirms, and Dean feels great shame and terror come over him when that hand strokes over his cheek with a reverence that should be reserved for a king.
"I— w—" Dean stutters, and understands, and then he wants to cry, because this simply cannot be — maybe he is such an insult to his god that his god himself decided to come down, to ridicule him for it. Because it is not possible for someone like Castiel to regard him with anything but disgust.
"No," Castiel says sharply, and he sighs out when Dean winces at that. "Dean," he proceeds, his voice softer than before. "You have trusted me to be the one to cherish you, in spite of what these other mortals have done. You have said so in your prayers, and you knew it to be true in your heart. So how could you believe differently now?" He doesn’t sound angered or accusatory, but as though he genuinely could not see for himself.
Dean huffs out a pained laugh. “Just look at me.”
Castiel’s eyes only wander for a moment, and it almost feels like a caress when his gaze sweeps over the features of Dean’s face and his shoulders and his vestment-clad body. “I do.”
Dean wants to hide; wants to flee. “Then surely you understand.”
"I would not understand how one glance at you could make me wish for anything but to sing hymns myself; of your beauty, of the green of your eyes, of the sweet scent of fertility that clings to you, of your radiant soul."
Dean blushes and wishes to avert his eyes for a different reason than before now, but Castiel is quick to react: he settles his other hand on Dean’s cheek as well, cupping his entire face with his warm and steady hands. It is too close and yet not close enough, and Castiel must have heard his thoughts or must feel the same, because the next moment, his right hand slides down Dean’s skin to settle on his neck — right at the most intimate spot, where a mating bite would be — and leans forward with half-lidded eyes and his face soft and slackened in pleasure. And then he closes his eyes completely and inhales deeply.
Dean whines and feels his blood rushing when his god’s nose softly presses against his glands, and it is then that — for a moment — Dean takes notice of the other worshippers, all staring at him with an equal expression of shock on their faces, their mouths open and some hidden behind hands, and for the first time in his life, Dean can share their feelings.
“I have watched you, beloved, I have listened to you for years,” Castiel breathes warmly against the skin of Dean’s neck, and the Omega shudders. “All your prayers and pleas, your honest and hidden words, and your confessions. I have wanted to meet you, to embrace you in the way you are deserving of, chase away the darkness that my very own followers have brought upon you. But I trusted you to take care of yourself until I could. Until I could worship you.” Castiel’s hand clenches at Dean’s neck, in an imitation of a mating bite, and Dean feels his body respond with warmth and the need to submit and with a flood of feelings of safety and adoration. “I have waited, and at last,” Castiel mouths against Dean’s neck, and Dean is ashamed to admit that he grows aroused beneath his robes. And that is when Castiel presses even closer, cradles Dean’s body against his chest, as if he not only knew of Dean’s arousal, but also wanted it for himself. “You are finally of age, and it is time for me to claim you.”
Dean wants to recoil in shock, wants to shove this deity away from himself and cry out for how he is mocked again, but the hand of Castiel that is not resting against his neck coils itself around his waist and holds him tightly against the unbearable warmth of Castiel’s body. Dean struggles in his hold, whines and pities himself, expecting Castiel to be the one to shove him away any moment now, to ridicule Dean for his reactions and his faith, but he does not. He neither loosens his grip nor does he laugh, and it’s only when Dean ceases his struggling that he speaks again.
"It pains me that you would consider this anything but the truth. That I could not show you how much I adore you before, that any tenderness was taken from you in those years when you needed it the most." There is an underlying growl in his voice, and Dean does not need to see to know from the gasps behind himself that Castiel must be glaring at his other followers.
It’s when Dean blinks up to see the priestess looking at him, in a calmness that rests in itself and with no guilt and no pleasure to speak of, and when she then sinks back down into her position of worship, not just before Castiel, but also before the Omega who is so intimately and possesively held, that the Alphas’s words sink in. That Castiel just declared Dean to be the one he desires to be mated to, that it is not a claim spoken lightly, but one he has been waiting to make for years. This powerful Alpha just condemned the action of his own people and stated that this shunned and humbled Omega was who he considered his own for so long now?
Dean is overcome by doubt and a new light to see. Did the priestess know? Did she undertake anything in light of Castiel’s claim? Or did this not change anything?
"What is your answer?" Castiel speaks softly against the sensitive skin behind Dean’s ears, his question breathed directly against the shell of it.
Dean shifts, or he tries to, in the incessant hold of his Alpha. “What do you mean?” he asks, and is ashamed by how weak his voice sounds.
"Do you accept my claim?" Castiel’s lips wander downwards, to where his hand rests against Dean’s neck, and he presses a small, promising kiss to the intimate spot reserved for the mating bite. "Do you grant me the honour of becoming my mate, my Omega, my complement and equal?"
"I— I don’t understand, why would you—"
"Dean," Castiel sighs, and there is disappointment in there, and cold anger. Though Dean dares to assume by now that this anger is not directed at him. "Because becoming the mate of a god is only befitting for someone as strong and beautiful and pure as you are. I know that you do not see, that you do not recognize it for yourself." He pauses and draws back enough for Dean to catch sight of the honesty in his face, the adoration in his features. "But if you allow me to, I will make you understand. You, and everyone who ever did you wrong. Please, allow me to mate you, to make you mine. Grant me access to your body and your heart and your soul.” Dean feels himself grasp at the garments of Castiel, in an attempt to make sense of what an actual god asks him for. “I vow to you that you will not come to regret to take me as a mate, that I will never bring you any harm, but only pleasure, my beloved Dean.”
For a moment, Dean loses his breath. He forgets his own name, his future and his past days, unlearns the fear and the revulsion for himself, abandons the mockery and the harsh touches and even harsher words, and sinks into sweet oblivion. Goes to where the is nothing but light and warmth and the scent of Castiel, and he lets himself be swept away, washed away, washed clear.
Then, he sees.
He follows his instincts and the calling from afar. And when follows a way that is light and right, he opens his eyes and inhales deeply, and he finds himself in the arms of his mate, his own nose deeply buried in his neck, taking deep and even deeper breaths, because now, he can finally breathe. It is with a tender kiss to his neck and warm hands stroking his hair that he sighs out a willing and liberated "Yes."
And then there is a light and warm, relieved laughter and absolute safety engulfing him, and the feeling of his skin being breached and desired blood being spilled is only secondary to how there is no ground beneath him anymore and no human faces, and in the cradle of his mate’s arms and with his overjoyed kisses to his face and with Castiel’s comforting scent encompassing him, Dean ascends.