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From Grace and Uniform

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Every time Dean Winchester walks into work, he wonders if today will be the day. The day that someone catches a whiff of omega under scent blockers too hastily applied somewhere between rolling out of bed and fleeing out through the front door of his apartment. The day someone finds the box of emergency suppressants he keeps shoved in the back of his filing cabinet. The day someone looks at him and doesn’t see Dean Winchester, beta, FBI agent, but sees omega.

Will today be that day?

As he breezes past his colleagues, distributing coffees and casual greetings until he’s left at his desk, clutching his own paper cup and tossing the cardboard tray into the bin, he figures that no, today is probably not that day.

So he puts his head down and gets to work. His coffee disappears quickly, and he tosses the empty cup into the trash can wedged into the corner by the door of his shoebox-sized office. No longer able to sip at it to occupy his mind, he ends up grinding the end of a pencil between his teeth as he tries to make sense of his most recent case. With nothing to go on and no signs of any new leads or evidence on the irregular and seemingly unconnected murders, it’s little more than an exercise in frustration. Not long into the day, there’s a migraine already forming between his eyes. Dean leans back in his chair and groans, putting his computer on sleep mode and rubbing a hand over his face.

A quick, double-knock on his door is all the warning he gets before Gordon appears, leaning into Dean’s office with a smarmy grin and jabbing a finger toward him. “Adler wants to see you,” his partner barks. “Stat.”

Dean groans, but Gordon is already gone. Which means, no excuses or escaping his fate. Damnit.

Steeling himself, Dean pushes up out of his chair, straightens his coat and tie, and sets off toward his boss’s office. Three minutes and one elevator ride later has him knocking on the worst door in the building. He manages to straighten his tie one last time before a voice calls out for him to enter, and then he’s striding into the bureau’s own, personal hell pit.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Winchester, thanks for coming.” Adler makes a sweeping gesture, then shoves his hands into his pockets and leans against the front side of his desk, just beside the nameplate that reads Assis. Dir. Zachariah Adler. “Take a seat.”

Dean approaches cautiously, hands folded behind his back. “I’d… rather remain standing, if you don’t mind. I would like to get back to work as quickly as possible.”

Adler smiles. Dean ignores the way it makes his skin crawl. “I respect that, Dean. But don’t worry, I don’t plan on taking up much of your time. Just got a couple of quick question for you, kid.” The aging alpha leans forward, his expression somehow becoming even greasier. “Records gave me a call. Care to tell me why you requested the full file and autopsy report of one Sandra Wilson?”

Dean stiffens, shoulders automatically going straight. “No, sir.” Which—wrong answer. He can see it in Adler’s eyes as soon as it’s been said, and immediately backtracks, “I mean to say, it was an avenue that didn’t pan out. Complete dead end. Nothing worth reporting, sir.”

“Oh?” Adler purses his lips. “Interesting. Because from what I was able to glean, this victim of an unsolved murder that you plucked out of thin air, has some… personal ties, if you would.” The alpha’s lips pull back in a faint snarl. “Now tell me why you really pulled that file.”

Dean lets out a breath, his shoulders slumping just slightly. Fucking fuck. “I got a tip. Sandra Wilson seems to have been killed by the same person who was responsible for a string of other unsolved murders in the early 90s—”

“Your mother’s murder being included in that,” Adler interjects, and Dean grits his teeth.

“—and if it was the same person, then that shows that the timeline we currently have for Yellow Eyes is skewed. Wilson was murdered in 2000, later than any other we currently have in our file.”

Adler makes a face, but doesn’t comment on the latter part of Dean’s argument. He asks instead, “Who was your tip from?”

“Ava Wilson. The victim’s daughter.”

The alpha scoffs. “Hardly seems like a reputable source. Too close, if you’d ask me. Of course she’d want her case to be looked at by someone in the big leagues.”

Dean doesn’t fail to clue in on what Adler is actually trying to say with that. It only serves to irritate him more, and his molars begin to grind. “She’s a homicide detective in Manhattan, sir. I would trust her judgement, and consider her to be a reputable source.

A beat passes in silence, then Adler takes a long breath, and lets it back out in an explosive sigh. “Be that as it may,” he says, voice dripping with disdain, “this case is not your concern. In fact, you have been explicitly ordered not to look at this case, considering it’s been declared cold, and your time is far more valuable elsewhere.”

His time is currently being wasted on nonexistent leads, and asking for victim files that never turn up anything useful, if there’s any information available there to be read in the first place. But Dean’s not about to point that out to his boss—especially when Adler just continues to talk over him.

“Keep working on the Ghost case, Winchester. That’s what you’ve been assigned, not these conspiracy theory connections you keep making on an unsolvable case. Try it again, and I’ll bury you so deep in paperwork that you won’t see the sun for a month. Understood?”

Dean swallows back a growl, and forces himself to duck his head in deferment. He hates having to do it, but he knows it’s the only way to avoid pissing the old alpha off even more. “Understood, sir.”

“Dismissed, Winchester. And find me a new lead on the Ghost, stat. Walker already doesn’t like being your second, don’t give me a reason to give him full control.”

Biting his tongue to hold back a scathing retort, Dean simply nods, and retreats from the office.

His colleagues don’t need to be able to scent him as he stalks back to his office; Dean’s anger and frustration is more than evident in his expression and the stiff set of his shoulders. Some people recognize that he’s coming from the direction of Adler’s office and give him sympathetic looks, but mostly he’s left alone to seethe, and thank god for that.

Fucking Adler. It’s like the guy gets off on ordering people around all day and never lifting a single finger to do anything to help out. He’s devoid of compassion and a lazy piece of shit to boot, and Dean has no idea how such a scumbag made it to assistant director.

Dean took this job to make a difference, damn it, not sit around with his thumb up his ass doing nothing. The prospect of another sedentary day makes him want to scream, and he dreads returning to the confines of his office.

When he does, there’s a text message waiting for him on his phone.

Even stewing over Adler as he is, his first reaction to the notification on his phone is excitement, even a touch of relief. Very few people text him during the work day, and he’s been anticipating hearing from Sam for weeks, since the last he heard, his brother was buried in case work for some big, hush-hush corporate job—except, once he actually looks at the banner across his screen, he realizes that it definitely does not read Sammy.

The label of Blocked that’s printed in the place of his brother’s name is more than enough to set an alarm blaring in the back of his mind.

Still, curiosity gets the better of him, and he swipes the message open.

 

Hello, Dean.

 

Dean frowns down at the screen. Blocked number, knows him, being friendly. Not a great start. He taps out a quick response, running his tongue along the edge of his teeth while he assesses the situation.

 

Who is this? How did you get my number?

 

The reply comes nearly immediately.

 

Consider me a friend you haven’t made yet.

How is your case going?

 

Dean narrows his eyes. He isn’t stupid; he’s not going to disclose classified information—especially not to a stranger. He’s even warier than before, now, a frown creasing his brow as he responds.

 

I’m not going to talk about my case with a complete stranger.

I’m not a stranger.

Then who the fuck are you? Tell me or leave me alone. I have work to do.

I told you, Dean. I’m a friend. Or, I will be soon enough.

If you don’t want to tell me about the case, how about a trade? Information for information.

What information could you possibly have? And how the hell could you know all this about me?

I know you only work on it on the side, when you have the time, but tell me, Dean. Have you come any closer to finding your mother’s killer?

 

He physically flinches back from his phone at that. His head comes up immediately to check that no one was walking by the open door of his office when he reacted—thankfully, no one is in sight, so he quickly stands and pushes the door shut to eliminate the possibility, then crowds back in against his desk, shoulders hunched while he furiously types out a reply.

 

You bastard.

What? It’s an honest question. I’m curious as to what sort of progress you’ve made. I know your superiors disapprove of your investigation.

No. I haven’t made any progress recently. I’ve been busy.

With this newer case, yes. How is it?

Fine.

Challenging, though, yes? I would assume so, at any rate. But if anyone can figure it out, it would be you. You’re a very capable omega.

 

He nearly drops his phone, and fear spikes through his scent. He fumbles it with shaking fingers, managing to catch it only just just before it hits the surface of the desk. His hands tremble as he tries to figure out what to say, and eventually he attempts to brush the accusation off.

 

What?

What?

I’m not an omega.

Yes, you are.

I’m not. Your information is wrong.

Dean. Betas don’t have to purchase suppressants and scent-blockers.

 

Caught. Fuck. Dean sucks in a sharp breath.

 

Fuck.

It’s alright, I’ve taken measures to hide your purchase history a bit better. Even if someone else decides to look into it, they shouldn’t be able to see anything is amiss.

You… did that? How? Why?

You want to hide, do you not? It was simple enough for me to do it, should I not have?

Yeah, thank you, but… Why would you do that?

Why wouldn’t I? I could, so I did. I only want to help.

I don’t even know you.

Not yet.

Why do you keep saying that? Who are you?

I know who killed your mother.

 

At this point, Dean wouldn’t have thought that anything his mystery texter could tell him would surprise him. And yet at this newest revelation, he gasps aloud, and truly does drop his phone. It clatters obnoxiously to his desk, but he hardly hears it over the ringing in his ears.

Yellow Eyes.

Dean has always been headstrong, and not even Adler’s threat of a month’s work of paperwork could keep him from this. Not when he’s been trying for a breakthrough for years with no luck. The call from Ava Wilson had been the most he’s found in over a year, and even that just left him feeling like he was pulling out his own hair, more than anything else. So if this person is serious… It could be too good an opportunity to pass up.

He takes a deep breath to steady himself, rubs a hand down his face, then reaches for the phone.

Adler can get fucked.

 

You do?

Yes. Would you like to know?

Yes.

I cannot tell you here, not like this. This isn’t secure enough.

Where?

Maine. If I give you an address, will you be able to get there?

Alone.

Yes. I’m not leaving my weapons behind, though.

I would never ask you to.

Tell me about your case.

 

Dean scrubs a hand over his face and leans back in his chair. This fucking case—he’s a damn good investigator, but this case is slowly driving him insane. The victims are mostly alphas and some betas, but with no other obvious connections. They were each killed simply and with precision: a single stab through the heart with a weapon no one can identify. They’ve found pins stuck into the clothes, sometimes with little scraps of paper attached, but whatever message had been left on the body is always long gone by the time the FBI shows up.

It has Dean stumped—and it doesn’t help that he’s tried time and time again to dig into the backgrounds and history of these people, always coming up with nothing.

 

The guy’s a serial killer. Psycho. There’s no discernible reasoning behind how he chooses his victims.

You haven’t been able to link any of them? What of the victims themselves, have you looked into their pasts?

Not back very far. There’s a whole bunch of red tape I can’t get past.

Why? Where does the red tape come from?

Higher levels.

I don’t know, I just can’t get through.

Hm.

Hm?

It’s interesting. Don’t you think?

 

He snorts. Interesting. That’s one word for it.

 

Yeah. Tell me about it. I’ve worked so fucking hard on this case, and I’m still three steps behind.

Well. Maybe a break will do you some good, then. Your superiors don’t deserve to have a hard worker such as yourself under their employment if they’re only going to waste you.

A break? I’m not taking a break. I have to solve this.

You'd rather stay where you are, swathed in red tape, then pursue a lead on the murderer of Mary Winchester?

Depends how good your lead is.

I have a dossier. I'm sure you'd find it very interesting.

I'll be the judge of that.

Why are you so interested?

I found the man responsible for many murders. He killed innocents, your mother included. Does she not deserve justice? Don't they all?

 

Dean sucks in a breath between his teeth, weighing up the situation. He probably can’t trust this person, but he’s a well trained agent who can handle himself in a crisis. Even if it is a trap, hopefully he’ll be able to escape it, and the prospect of getting a lead on his mother’s murderer is too tempting. His shoulders slump, and he relents.

 

They do. Give me the address. I'll meet you.

I will be here for the next two days. No longer.

 

There’s an address attached to the message. A quick search shows that it’s in Maine, a cabin on an isolated stretch of road.

It's not ideal, but he doesn't really have another choice.  

 

I'll be able to get there in a few hours.

Wonderful. Share that location with no one. I will see you soon.

~

It doesn’t take Dean long to negotiate for a few days off work, his phone almost burning a hole through his pocket as he goes back to speak with his boss. He claims the need for a clear mind and fresh attitude in dealing with the Ghost’s case, and although Adler isn’t thrilled about it, since it means progression on tracking down the Ghost will temporarily be at a standstill (because they both know Walker is incompetent), he ultimately agrees that there will be more progress if Dean can reboot, and get his head on straight. Between that and all of the vacation time he has accrued over the years, it’s almost too easy.

There’s a grin on Dean’s face that hasn’t come so naturally in months as he heads up the highway toward Maine, a packed duffel in the backseat, Zeppelin blasting out of the speakers, and much more of a skip in his step than there’s been in a long time.

Who knew going after anonymous leads and defying his boss would be such a thrill?

Eventually, his GPS has him driving along a single, winding track through what can only be described as no-man’s land. It dulls his high somewhat, reminds him that he should be nervous about what he’s getting himself into. His fingers drum anxiously against the steering wheel, barely to the beat of the song that’s playing as he catches a sight of a lone cabin, perched on the raised hill overlooking the sea.

The only light for miles around comes from his headlights, and the yellow glow emanating from the windows of the cabin itself. It’s decidedly eerie, and Dean has watched too many horror movies—hell, seen too many grisly cases—to blindly trust this situation.

He’s wary as he cuts the engine and steps out of the car, his gaze sweeping the perimeter and hand resting on the gun holstered by his hip as he makes his way up towards the cabin. As he moves, Dean realizes that he can scent himself— really scent himself. In all his haste, he’d forgotten to grab any of his scent blockers, and only noticed when the scent of omega began to replace beta as he crossed the border into Maine. He’d figured it was too late to stop by that point, and it isn’t like the person he’s meeting doesn’t know he’s an omega. He doesn’t need them--not like he needs the weekly suppressants that are still sitting at home, though he doubts he’ll be away long enough to need to buy more.

Still, Dean feels oddly defenseless as he raises a cautious hand to knock on the door. It opens only a few seconds later, and warm light spills onto the porch, along with the aroma of cooking food. Dean’s mouth waters—not only at the food, but at the enticing rain and pine scent of the alpha standing in front of him.

It takes a few moments for Dean’s eyes to adjust to the sudden abundance of light, but when his gaze fixes on the alpha, he swallows. The man looks tousled and welcoming, shirtsleeves rolled up and dark hair a mess—likely from slaving away over a stove. His eyes are so blue and his smile so wide, and when he speaks, his voice is deep and rough and warms Dean to his core.

“Dean. Thank you for coming. Come in, will you?”

The alpha is friendly and accommodating and not at all what Dean expected to find in a desolate cabin on the shoreline of Maine, and it throws him for a loop. His reply is decidedly ineloquent.

“Hi. Smells great.”

He kicks himself mentally—he may be an omega, but he’s highly capable and trained.

The alpha simply gives him an amused smile; it widens as Dean adds, “What do I call you?” as the steps through the door. The man doesn’t seem to take offence at the way Dean scents the air suspiciously or keeps a hand on his gun. He simply waits for Dean to finish his quick assessment before speaking again.

“You may call me Cas. I apologize for the imbalance of not being able to give you my full name, but… I’m sure you can understand.”

Dean’s gaze is resting on the pot on the stove, the source of the fantastic smell, and so he misses the appraising onceover that the alpha gives him before he speaks again in a deep rumble.

“I just finished making dinner, if you wouldn’t mind joining me.”

Dean turns back, watching him now, and while the quick grin he receives is disarming, he remains wary, drawing himself up to his full height as he reaches out to take the alpha’s proffered hand. The alpha’s scent floods Dean’s nose with how close he is, and the omega suddenly feels giddy, his mind reeling. He gives a curt nod, letting his hand fall back to his side and putting some distance between them; he needs to clear his head.

“Pleasure to meet you, Cas,” Dean murmurs, and pushes his hands into his pockets now that he no longer feels that he must have one resting on his gun. “Food would be awesome; I’ve been in the car for a while.” His voice is steely, confident—he’s not going to let the alpha take control of the situation, and needs to make sure that he’s understood. “After dinner, though, we’ll have to talk business. I’m driving home through the night, and I don’t want this taking too long.” He would rather not stay here with a strange alpha for too long—though he doesn’t voice that thought.

Even so, the corners of Cas’s mouth pull down at Dean’s declaration, and his brows crease into a frown. “You’re going home so soon?” he asks, a note of genuine surprise in his voice. Dean isn’t sure why the alpha thought he’d agree to stay so readily—even now, he’s wary and on edge, made even more so by the way his body is so easily responding to the scent of the blue-eyed man.

Oblivious to Dean’s inner emotional turmoil, Cas continues, his head tilted slightly to the side as he regards the omega. “Dean, perhaps I wasn’t clear with this, but… The information I have on your mother’s killer will not hold. Every so often he moves, changes identities. He knows people will likely be after him. The only reason I have him now is because of his daughter, he—” Cas cuts himself off and shakes his head, turning away to serve them and leaving Dean staring, bewildered, at his back.

What had he meant to say? But Dean can’t dwell too much on it, because of the sheer amount of information he’s currently trying to absorb, and has to let it go. Cas continues to speak even with his back turned, serving their dinner with steady hands.

“I know his location for exactly three more days. When that window closes, he will be gone forever.”

Well, if that isn’t encouraging.

Dean rakes a hand through his hair, trying to think on his feet and mentally mapping out his trajectory. He hums as he reaches a quick decision. “In that case, I’ll be driving through the night to chase down the lead,” he counters, even as he takes a seat at the small, roughly hewn table. The dinner smells delicious, so he’s at least staying around for that, but he doesn’t want to stay longer than he has to. Something here makes him feel unsettled. The alpha's scent is everywhere, heightened by the absence of Dean's scent blockers, and something just feels... off.

Cas doesn’t try to argue with him, though, simply nods as he sets out the steaming bowls of what smells like clam chowder. Dean groans softly—after his long drive, a warm meal is just what he needs. “That would be the wiser decision,” the alpha muses, though he still seems distracted as he removes two bottles of beer from the fridge and sets them on the table. He takes a seat opposite Dean.

Dean eyes him, betting from his cagey and absent behaviour that there is something on his mind. His suspicions are confirmed when Cas cracks open his bottle of beer, chews his bottom lip for a moment, then speaks.

“Dean. You don’t have to accept, but… may I accompany you?”

Dean goes still, regarding the alpha with narrowed eyes as he continues on.

“This man, he—he is significant to me, as well. I want to ensure that he is brought to justice.”

The thing is, Dean wouldn’t believe him if he didn’t look so damn earnest and pleading, his blue eyes wide and fixed on Dean’s. He doesn’t know what to think. The alpha seems to know a lot about him and his job, and while evidence says that he’s an alright guy, Dean knows instinctively that he doesn’t have the whole picture. But now he has to decide; does he just go for it, even knowing that there are things he doesn’t know? Should he trust the alpha sitting across from him?

Dean leans back and cracks open his own beer, eyeing the alpha thoughtfully.

“What significance does the man have to you? Why would I take a strange alpha who knows strange things about me and my mother along in a car with me?”

He watches as Cas stirs a spoon through the chowder, then lifts it to his lips, and his own shoulders relax with a tension he hadn’t known he was carrying. The food is okay to eat—Cas isn’t trying to poison him—and he digs in ravenously as the alpha returns his spoon to the bowl and taps it idly against the rim. It seems that he is considering where to start.

“I’ll show you my full files after we eat,” Cas tells Dean, “but in summation. Your mother was killed by a man named Azazel Masters. He went on a murder spree beginning in 1980, killed over thirty women of varying secondary genders; only twelve are accounted for in official databases. His daughter..."

Here, Cas pauses, as if it’s painful to get the words out, and when he speaks again, his voice has lost its professional edge, and wavers just slightly. "His daughter, Meg. He abused her when she was young, then walked out. He will be attending her funeral." Cas’s gaze drops to the table, studying the whorls of wood as he stirs his spoon through the chowder. "She... recently died in childbirth. I knew her. She was a friend."

Dean’s heart gives a sympathetic twinge at the grief in the alpha’s voice and the way Cas stares morosely at the table. He knows how it feels to lose someone you care about. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he murmurs, his own voice softer, gentler, as he addresses the grieving alpha. "I'll bring him in if I have the evidence, or put a bullet in his head if I don't. Either way, he'll be punished for what he did to my mom, and your friend, and all those other women. I'm very sorry to hear that your friend has passed away."

The grief and bone-deep sadness radiating from Cas is no doubt affecting his mind just as much as it’s currently making his stomach churn, but Dean means every word of it. He’ll kill this motherfucker if he has to, for killing his mom. It seems to be the right answer, because Cas looks up, meets his gaze, and smiles, suddenly collected once more. His eyes look a little too bright and shiny in the low light of the cabin, though.

“Thank you, Dean,” the alpha tells him, and he scoops his spoon idly around the edges of his bowl. “You understand my motivation, then. Knowing what I do about that… monster …” Dean bares his teeth in a silent growl of agreement at the descriptor, and Cas flashes him an amused smile. “I felt it was too delicate a situation to handle on my own, as I could mess up too easily. When I stumbled across you in my research, I thought it would only be fair to give you a chance to assist. He hurt you more than he hurt me, after all.”

Dean nods, taking a long pull of his beer—there’s no way there was anything put in it, since he opened it himself, which is reassuring.

“You were right to contact me," he tells Cas. "I'm way more qualified to go chasing down a serial killer. It's obvious you're no simple civilian, being so good with finding information, but dealing with a psycho serial killer would probably be a bit much." People say omegas are weak and timid, but Dean can already feel his blood thrumming at the thought of putting a bullet in the brain of his mother's murderer. Cas may be the intelligence expert, but Dean is the one with experience in the field, and he’s fucking determined to see this man receive his punishment.

Cas smiles at him, giving Dean the impression he said the right thing. They share the same desire to make his mom’s killer pay for what he’s done. "Thank you, Dean. I'm glad that you approve of this, I was... concerned." The alpha’s smile edges close to a smirk, and Dean has to admit that it’s an attractive look on him. "But the big bad omega is going to help me hunt a serial killer, hm? Have to say, I can't wait to see that."

At that, Dean bristles, and Cas must see the coiled tension returning to his muscles, because his expression shifts and he rushes to clarify.

“To be clear, I have no issue with your being an omega. I think it both makes you stronger, and proves how strong you already are, being in the field you are in. It's very admirable. I've hid my status as an alpha before, but that's not nearly the same as hiding long-term. My comment was only because I find the defiance of the stereotypes amusing."

And just like that, Dean is relaxing again, reassured that the alpha isn’t trying to demean his gender or imply that he’s less capable than any of his alpha counterparts. He’s hidden his secondary gender long enough that he hasn't received insults personally, but he's seen enough sexual objectification and stereotyping of omegas for it to make his hackles rise. It would have been a huge disappointment to get that from Cas already.

"Thank you," Dean says, inclining his head at the compliment. "I've worked very hard to get where I am, and unfortunately, pretending to be a beta has been necessary. That's why I need to be careful with this Azazel guy. I want to see him get what he fucking deserves, but I won't let it ruin my career." Cas hums his understanding, and Dean meets his blue eyes across the table, trapped like a fly in amber and unwilling to look away.

“Yes. We will need to be extremely careful, with all of this,” the alpha muses. “If, however, some part of this were to somehow go wrong, and the bureau were to find out about you –”

Dean’s eyes widen, and Cas raises a hand, preempting the omega’s panic.

“– which shouldn’t happen, because I don’t intend for them to follow us, and I’ve sealed your records as much as possible, but if. If it happens and you lose your job, then it will be my fault, and I will do what I can to make it up to you. I'm sure I can help you to get another job, if nothing else. I won't let you be punished for this."

Dean's jaw clenches at the possibility of things going wrong, but he can't allow himself to dwell on it for too long. His father had devoted his life to finding Mary's killer, and now that he's in the ground, it's Dean's cross to bear. Azazel needs to go down, no matter the cost. "Thanks," he tells Cas, and he means it. Cas is doing what he can to protect Dean from the repercussions of this, as well as providing Dean with information. Dean's just the muscle, but he's fine with that.

After he finishes his meal, Dean reaches for his beer and leans back in his chair to assess Castiel. Everything about him more or less checks out, and Dean has to admit that the guy has his omega getting a little antsy. He smells good, and isn't unattractive, with the blue eyes and ruffled hair and muscles beneath his white shirt.

Not that he’s going to show his interest, of course. He can’t. This is serious business, and complicated enough as it is. He doesn’t need to factor in attraction.

While Cas was previously focused on his food, he glances up as Dean leans back, likely feeling the weight of his eyes. The omega once again finds himself caught in the hold of a decidedly curious stare, unable to look away even if he wanted to.

“And what’s that look for?” Cas asks, and damn the tiniest hint of an amused smile Dean can see playing along the edges of the man’s lips. “Have I done something wrong?”

Only if being strangely appealing to Dean’s inner omega is a crime—which, to Dean’s knowledge, it isn’t. He takes a pull of his beer and shakes his head. “Not at all.” He holds Cas’s gaze, unafraid of challenging the alpha’s dominance in such a blatant way. Cas doesn’t even bat an eyelid.

"I'm just curious about you,” Dean decides to answer, after a few seconds. “I get a text out of the blue from a strange alpha who claims to have information on both me and my mother's killer. I'm then invited out to an isolated cabin and made dinner. It's not exactly my normal Friday night.” Dean’s fingers toy with the neck of his beer bottle as he examines Cas, one brow arched. He still doesn’t quite know what to make of the odd alpha.

Castiel chuckles. "Yes, well. I did tell you that I was a friend you just hadn't made yet, did I not? Being cryptic hardly proved that, I know, but I figured preparing you dinner was the least I could do." Dean’s gaze is drawn to the way the alpha’s throat bobs with a swig of his beer, the way his lips linger around the mouth of the bottle, and the grin the alpha flashes him after turns his insides to jelly.

What the hell is wrong with him?

Cas, seemingly oblivious, adds, "Should I have tried to appeal to your normal Friday night instead?"

Dean clears his throat, trying to rein himself in. Cas’s grin was all teeth and flirtation, and after his months-long dry spell, it’s not something he’s prepared to handle with any kind of coherence. Even before his dry spell set in, the beta girls he usually beds don’t do much to sate him—it’s been years since he last fucked an alpha, and the fact that he’s sitting here with one without his blockers isn’t helping him to curb his mind’s compulsions. That smile, the intoxicating scent of pine and rainstorms—it’s almost too much for him to handle.

He forces himself to pull his shit together.

"My usual Friday night is pizza and TV,” he replies, trying to set his mind on a different track and giving Cas a small smile, “sometimes hitting the bar with a few friends. This really isn't much different.”

Cas smiles back at him, looking amused. "Not a bad way to spend a Friday night. Better than my typical plans, at any rate. Which usually include myself, a dark room, and a laptop."

Dean nearly spits his beer, because Cas is obviously alluding to porn, but judging by the mischievous grin on the alpha’s face, that was exactly the reaction he intended to earn. As Dean recovers from his choking, Cas explains easily, "For research, you know. Looking up men like Azazel is time-consuming, and not exactly an activity to be done with friends."

A chuckle forces its way out of Dean’s chest unbidden, and he shakes his head in amusement. “Definitely not a social activity,” he agrees, trying to pull his mind away from Cas’s innuendo and failing spectacularly. Suddenly, he’s too hot, and since his sleeves are already rolled up, he settles for unbuttoning the collar of his shirt a little. “I guess we’re both doing better than our usual Friday night,” he muses, to which Cas gifts him with another of those brilliant grins, raises his beer bottle in a toast, then stands from the table.

In a gesture that seems as easy to the alpha as breathing, Cas drops a hand to Dean’s shoulder as he passes, clearing up the dishes. Though fleeting, his touch is warm and firm through the thin material of Dean’s shirt, and he feels himself leaning into it for just the barest second. Dean would likely freak out about it more, given the chance, if Cas didn’t choose that exact moment to bring them back to the matter at hand.

"Would you like to look at the dossier I've assembled on Azazel? There's no rush, but I don't know what your timing is like, so we can get right down to it, if you'd prefer. Up to you."

It’s the verbal equivalent of tipping a bucket of cold water on Dean’s head.

He hastily gathers his thoughts back from where Cas has scattered them to the wind. “Sure,” he replies, carrying his now empty beer bottle to the sink in an attempt to distract himself from the circumstances of his current situation. He’s about to find out about the man who killed his mom. It’s a sobering thought.

Cas is precise and efficient and has already finished clearing up after their dinner, but Dean’s brooding pensiveness makes him pause in his trajectory, and the alpha glances at Dean as he stands by the sink, gaze searching. After a moment, he speaks. “My laptop will be in the living room, probably on the coffee table. Let me finish up here, and then we can go take a look."

Dean nods absent-mindedly, letting himself be distracted by Cas’s movements for just a moment; grace and power barely contained beneath tanned skin and a white shirt. Since he hasn’t moved, the alpha seems to take it as a sign to continue the conversation as he plunges his arms into the soapy water of the sink.

“So,” he says brightly, conversationally, and Dean blinks. “What made you want to join the FBI? Quite ambitious for any secondary gender, wouldn't you say?"

Dean sighs internally. The big question. Why join the FBI, especially as an omega? It’s somewhat of a loaded subject, but around Cas, Dean finds that the words fall from his lips without need for conscious thought or censorship.

"Partly to catch my mother's killer and partly because I wanted to make a difference in the world," he replies, shifting to lean against the countertop as he folds his arms casually across his chest. "I used to entertain these... grand ideas of being super successful and then revealing to the whole of the FBI that I was actually an omega who could kick all of their asses."

Dean snorts bitterly and shakes his head. "Fear is a strong deterrent, though. I like having a job. And friends."

If they find out who he really is, it’s likely that they will never view him in the same light. Even as a beta, Dean is regarded as somewhat of an anomaly, as having the drive, guts, and strength of an alpha, but being too genetically weak to have a knot to match.

Many of his colleagues’ tiny brains would explode if they ever discovered he’s an omega.

Cas doesn’t look up, but from his vantage point close to the sink, Dean can see a small smile tugging at the man’s lips. It warms him, and he relaxes minutely.

"That's incredible, Dean, to put so much effort into this just because you want to help people. It's very admirable." Cas gives him a warm smile, his eyes crinkling and god, Dean could easily lose himself in that smile. His face heats at the praise, smiling softly even as he waves it off, but Cas isn’t finished.

"I'm sorry you don't feel like you could reveal yourself,” he goes on. “I would love to see the reaction to that. Perhaps you can still do it one day, maybe when you're feeling more confident and have a safety net of some kind. I'm glad to help facilitate justice for your mother, however. Maybe that will do you some good, as well."

The alpha’s voice, his words—they’re so kind, and exactly the sort of kindness he’s not used to experiencing. And it’s too much. Cas is getting into his head now, with his compassion and his wonderful scent. He can’t think straight, he needs some space.

Suddenly feeling the need to move, Dean leaves Cas to finish the last of the tidying up and beelines for the plush couch in the living room. Despite himself, he groans as he sinks into the cushions; of course it just has to be the most comfortable couch he’s ever sat on in his life. A pot clatters in the kitchen as if it’s been dropped, but Dean doesn’t have the energy to look back and see what happened. He’s been driving for quite a while today, after all. He deserves some rest.

The separation from reality also finally gives him the much-needed opportunity to consider Cas’s words. He really, really needs this distance.

“Maybe some day," he muses to himself, still thinking about the possibility of revealing himself. Though, it still seems unlikely. It's a big, bad world out there for omegas, after all. He doesn’t really need to make enemies with the government. He turns his head partway toward the kitchen and says, louder, "But thank you for helping me with Azazel. God knows how much longer that would've taken me if I was all on my own."

The sounds of Cas cleaning up the kitchen area cease, and Dean closes his eyes as he tracks the alpha by his footsteps. He only opens them again when Cas sinks into the cushions beside him, laptop resting comfortably on his thighs.

And what nice thighs they are, too.

Shut up, Winchester.

He only realizes belatedly that Cas is speaking. “–happy to help, in any way,” is what Dean catches, and he forces himself to pay attention to the rest as he spies the document open on the laptop. Suddenly, he doesn’t feel so tired. “Everything you could want should be here,” Cas tells him.

Dean takes the laptop from Cas, sliding it onto his own lap, and begins to read.

The alpha leans slightly closer, gaze flicking between the screen and the omega. Dean ignores him, and resolutely does not take comfort in his proximity.

He thought he was prepared for the contents of the dossier, but as he scrolls through page after page of the dossier, skimming paragraphs detailing many of the different women, he realises that his own investigations barely scratched the surface. He’d found so few victims of this man that he’d been unable to link the murders by motive in any way, but there are so many more than he could have imagined contained within Cas’s dossier.

When he sees Mary Winchester smiling back at him from the laptop screen, two-thirds of the way through the document, Dean wants to throw up.

It hits him like a punch to the gut, and he quickly scrolls past the page. It's not new information to him, anyway. It takes him a while to finish reading the rest of the dossier, and when he finally reaches the last page and can go no further, he leans back into the couch, processing. Dean’s jaw has been clenched tight the entire time, leaving the muscle aching, and his eyes shine with unshed tears in the soft light of the cabin. His scent reeks of anger and distress and deep, bitter sadness.

"Thank you," he eventually rasps, then clears his throat. "This should be enough evidence. Or at least enough reason."

When Dean looks up, he realises that Cas has shuffled even closer to him. Pain and distress are etched into his expression – the drawn brows, wide eyes, lips pressed together as if he wants to say something, do something, but is holding back. In the end, Cas settles for placing a gentle hand on Dean’s shoulder, and the omega doesn’t protest when the laptop is taken from him. He’s too busy blinking back the wetness in his eyes, and he clears his throat again.

The silence stretches out between them—Cas breaks it.

"Dean.” The word sounds punched out of him, heavy with emotion. “I know this is a lot to take in. I'm sorry for having to show you something so terrible, but... it's enough, as you said. More than. We can decide what to do from here. We can... take a break, though, if you need."

Dean shakes his head. God damn it, he shouldn't be so fucking weak. He's an FBI agent, he's seen this before. But knowing his mom is among the list of women kidnapped, beaten, tortured, murdered, knowing that she was just one of countless other mothers, daughters and wives... it makes him sick. He leans into Cas's touch, just a little.

"I think I do need a break," Dean whispers, green eyes dull and tired.

Cas’s fingers knead lightly at his shoulder, and the touch is gentle, grounding. “Take a break, then,” Cas urges. The alpha’s soft gaze pins him in place, and he’s too drained to look away, simply blinking wearily in return.

"Would you like to sleep?” Cas asks. “Watch television, or maybe just... sit? I can be right beside you, if you'd like, or I can go find a way to keep myself busy elsewhere. Whatever will help you most right now."

He… he doesn’t know. Fuck, he just feels fucking empty. The more Dean processes what he read in the dossier, the more he’s weighed down by a bone-deep ache that seems to reach deep inside and settle into his core. “Maybe sleep,” he concedes, his voice a scratchy rasp. If he can sleep, that is.

It will take a long time to forget seeing his mother's hell laid out before him in clean, clinical terms in the dossier.

“Of course, Dean,” Cas agrees, his fingers still kneading at Dean’s shoulder and sliding further towards his neck. Dean gives a soft groan as the alpha’s touch loosens more of his tension, going loose limbed and pliant beneath the hand working at the juncture of neck and shoulder.

"I'm afraid there is only one bedroom,” Cas continues, voice soft, “but you are more than welcome to take it. I can even put new sheets on the bed if you would like, so that my scent is not on them. I’ll sleep on the couch for the night."

In his exhausted, wrung out state, Dean can’t protest to taking the bed—especially after driving all the way from New York in one go. It had been stupid to imagine that he’d be able to leave to find Azazel right after his long drive and reading that awful dossier, so he simply mumbles, “Thanks, Cas.”

And because when Dean’s tired he has close to zero filter, he just has to add, "It would be awesome if you could put new sheets on your bed. Not wearing scent blockers makes my sense of smell more sensitive, and it's been a long time since I fully scented an alpha. It'd probably keep me up half the night if the bed reeked of you." It would probably pervade his dreams, too. He’s not naive enough to think otherwise.

A spike of something curls through Cas’s scent, but it’s gone before he can identify it. Dean brushes it off and leans further into the hand at the nape of his neck There’s pleasure winding its way into his own scent, but he can’t bring himself to feel self-conscious about that right now.

Instead of saying anything about it, Cas just hums. "I assumed that would be the case. I'm sorry if I'm causing you any problems, or irritation. I swear to you, though, I am not a threat. While you are with me, you are nothing but safe." The alpha pauses, seeming to think for a second. "I might be able to offer you painkillers to dull your senses a bit, if you think that might help. I'll go put new sheets on in a moment. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

Dean sighs and drowsily shakes his head, though he musters up a small amount of strength to force his eyes open and look up at Cas from where he’s sunk into the couch. “It’s not too bad, you’re not threatening,” he mumbles, and a soft sigh escapes his parted lips as Cas’s nimble fingers shift to work out another knot. "And if I can't sleep, I'll take some painkillers, but other than that I should–"

At that point, Cas slides his hand off Dean’s shoulder, evidently poised to stand and start preparing the bedroom, but Dean can’t help the low whine that bubbles up from his chest at the loss. He quickly bites down on the sound, eyes going wide in shock. Cas seems to have had the same reaction, because he’s perched on the edge of the couch, blue eyes wide and hand hovering in the air between them like he’s not sure whether he should return it or not.

A blush colors Dean’s cheeks. Fuck fuck fuck.

“I’ll just head out to my car and grab my bag,” Dean ventures, but neither of them move, and Dean’s gaze darts down to Cas’s mouth as the alpha wets his lips.

“Your… bag, yes.” Cas’s gaze doesn’t stray from Dean, and he sounds cautious as he speaks. "Dean, are you alright? I'm sorry for stopping, but. If that was helping you to relax, I would be more than happy to continue, once you are settled. You could lie in the bed, that way you can fall asleep."

The alpha reaches out, closing the distance between them and gently touching his fingertips back to Dean’s shoulder. The omega jumps up and away at the contact, as though he’s been burned.

He has to get a grip on himself. Now. He shakes his head firmly, ignoring the confusion and want which spiral through his scent. "No—no, it's fine," Dean stammers, stepping backwards from the couch. "I'll be okay. Just gonna go grab my bag." With that, he practically flees the cabin, gulping in breaths of fresh sea air as soon as he’s outside.

What the fuck is wrong with him?

Dean leans heavily against the railing of the cabin’s small porch as he draws in fresh air through his nose, trying to clear it of the overwhelming odors of alpha and Cas. He's spent too long using scent blockers, so he can't pick out any intricacies to Cas's scent yet—just alpha. And that in itself seems to be too much for Dean's brain to handle.

He shakes his head, telling himself that his behavior is caused by the fact that he’s more susceptible to alpha scent than usual because of his lack of blockers. It’ll get better as he adjusts, and his senses aren’t quite so heightened.

Once Dean’s settled on that, he heads down the steps to his car. Baby smells like home, and the familiarity calms him enough to compose himself as he grabs his duffel from the backseat, slinging it over his shoulder and closing the door again. He locks her for good measure, and heads back up the steps to the cabin.

This is only until they find Azazel, he reminds himself. He just has to be able to deal with Cas's scent until they’re done with Azazel, and then they can head their separate ways. Permanently.

When he walks back into the cabin, tense and defensive and ready to deny his strange reactions to Cas, Dean finds the alpha in the bedroom doorway with an armful of bedsheets, peering owlishly over the top of the pile at Dean. Before he can say anything, Cas asks, "How much have you packed? If you only have enough clothes for one night but need more, I can wash your current clothes, if it would help."

As if nothing strange had transpired between them moments ago. As if Dean hadn’t bolted from the room at just a touch.

Dean blinks in confusion as Cas carries the sheets to the washing machine, then looks back at him with a warm smile. "Is there anything I should add?” he repeats. “The bedroom is ready, by the way."

Are they really pretending nothing happened?

Thank god.

He returns Cas’s smile, though his own is smaller.

"I might get my clothes washed just in case, if that's okay. I have a couple outfits, though. I can give them to you when I change, but… thanks for changing the sheets, Cas." He sighs and scrubs a hand through his hair. Try as he might, he can’t stop himself from being embarrassed.

"I don't know what's wrong with me. I think not wearing blockers is throwing me off. I'll try and keep it under control." After experiencing the strength of Cas’s scent first hand, he knows how much it affects him. Sleeping in a bed that reeks of alpha, especially this particular alpha, would probably be the exact opposite of relaxing.

Cas simply tuts at him, that fond smile still directed at Dean. "Don't be embarrassed, Dean, you've hardly done anything wrong. You don't have to try to reason away why my scent affects you; you smell quite pleasant as well, and there doesn't have to be anything more to it than that. It's not as though I'm going to reprimand you."

Dean gives a grateful nod, even as he sways slightly on his feet. He tries to stifle a yawn; he needs to sleep, but before he sleeps, he would like to shower. The sooner he showers, the sooner he can get to bed. “Can I use your bathroom?” he asks. “I want to shower.”

The alpha gestures to the next door with one hand as he turns back to shove the last of the sheets into the washing machine.

"Bathroom is here, towels are under the sink. Make yourself at home. Once you're able to give me your clothes, I'll add them to the wash." Cas steps back and out of the way, allowing Dean to pass if he wants to. "I'll be in the living room, if you don't need anything more from me."

At this point, the shower is practically calling Dean’s name like a damn siren. With a small nod of understanding, he edges past Cas and slips into the bathroom. It’s small but tidy, and he drops his bag onto the floor by the sink.

He undresses with sluggish fingers, unknotting his already-loose tie, unbuttoning his shirt, pushing his slacks down off his legs. When he’d dressed this morning, he hadn’t expected his day to end in a strange alpha’s cabin in Maine. And yet.

He grabs a towel out from under the sink and eyes the pile of clothes now sitting beside his duffel. They should really be washed before they leave tomorrow.

They.

Dean frowns.

He hasn’t realised until now that he plans on bringing Cas with him when he leaves tomorrow. Sure, they’d discussed it over dinner, but Dean hadn’t committed to anything, and he certainly hadn’t made any promises. With all the work Cas has done, though, it seems wrong to leave him behind. The alpha could be a great asset. Plus… it’s crazy, and he probably shouldn’t, but Dean trusts him.

Distracted by his thoughts, he wraps a towel around his waist and scoops up his clothes. When he pulls open the bathroom door open and steps out into the main room, Cas is sitting on the couch, as promised. He’s facing away, probably looking at something on his laptop, so Dean covers the few paces to the washing machine and leaves his clothes on the floor beside it. “Hey, Cas?” he calls. “I’m leaving my clothes here. I don’t know how your machine works, so.”

When he straightens back up and turns, Dean finds the alpha staring at him. Cas’s eyes are wide and dark, his gaze roaming greedily over Dean’s bare chest and legs, lips parted ever so slightly until he speaks. "Um." His tongue darts out to wet his lips, and Dean catches a hint of arousal on the air. "Y-yes. Yes, that's... That's fine. I will, um. Wash them. Yes."

Dean finds himself caught in that stare, his throat bobbing as he swallows. His own arousal is pervading the air, and it’s difficult to force his legs to work, to back up towards the bathroom. But he does it. “Thanks, Cas,” he mumbles, then turns on his heel and hurriedly disappears back into the bathroom, slamming the door closed behind him.

Holy shit.

Even just the look in Cas’s eyes… Dean shivers, his omega practically purring at the knowledge that Cas likes his body, couldn’t keep his gaze off him.

There’s a tiny, self-satisfied smile on Dean’s face as he drops the towel and starts the shower, and it lasts even as he steps under the warm spray a few moments later. Maybe he shouldn’t appreciate Cas’s attention at all, but here in the shower, it’s not like it makes a difference, anyway. As long as Cas doesn’t know.

The hot water feels magnificent after a long day of driving, and he gives an appreciative moan as the pounding water hits his tense and knotted muscles. As he reaches for a bottle of Cas's body wash, his thoughts don't turn to either of his cases, or to his mom—he's already been upset enough tonight and doesn't need to linger, would rather distract himself. Gradually, as he scrubs at his skin, his thoughts turn to the alpha himself, becoming less and less restrained the longer he spends in isolation.

Cas is a good guy. So far he's been nothing but kind and accommodating, and the fact remains that Dean feels an insane pull toward him, blockers or no blockers. Cas's gaze on his bare skin, the look in his eyes, it was like a drug, and now Dean's already feeling hooked. He doesn't understand how this has happened—he hasn't been this attracted to an alpha in years.

Maybe it's because Cas knows Dean is an omega, unlike anyone else he knows or has encountered.

But whatever the reason, their time together is purely for business, to take down Azazel—he knows he can look, but can't touch. Touching will only get him into trouble down the line.

With a sigh, Dean rinses and shuts the water off, reaching for his towel to dry himself. The towel is left hanging up (beside the one he assumes belongs to Cas) when he’s done, and he pulls on a pair of boxers and a worn t-shirt.

Only a few minutes after he went in, Dean emerges from the bathroom with damp hair and bare feet, dressed in his pajamas with his bag slung over his shoulder.

This time, when he meets Cas’s (expectant) gaze, the alpha seems much more composed. He gives Dean a calm smile when he looks up from his laptop. "Ah," he says. "Hello, Dean. How was your shower?"

Dean's eyes are drooping now as he blinks at Cas in the brighter light of the living room, and he gives the alpha a sleepy smile. "It was fantastic, actually," he replies, stifling a yawn. "I used some of your soap. I hope that's okay."

Cas shakes his head, a fond look in his eyes and the hint of a chastising tone in his voice as he says,  "Dean, I didn't allow you the use of my shower only to deny you soap. Of course it's okay."

The alpha leans back against the couch and gazes up at Dean, the change in position exposing the column of his throat. Dean blinks tiredly at him, part of his mind absently noting how trusting and relaxed Cas looks and aching to give the same in return.

His body is telling him to sleep, and he wants nothing more than to go and fall into bed, but before that can happen, there are a couple things they need to discuss about tomorrow. Dean pads over to the couch, leaning his hip against the back of it and looking down at Cas.

"Can you make sure I'm not up too late tomorrow?” he asks. “We need to talk about what our plans are for the next few days and if we have a long way to drive, we'll need to get started early."

Cas nods, one hand pressing his laptop closed. "If you're not up on your own, I'll wake you on the early side tomorrow, that's not a problem. I'll make coffee and breakfast, we can talk, then be on the road before we lose too much time. We will be driving to Illinois, so we'll need every minute." He stifles a yawn of his own, then asks Dean warmly, "Is there anything else you need?"

Dean thinks it over for a moment, absorbing Cas’s words, then nods. "That sounds good. And I think I'm pretty set, but I'll let you know if I need anything." He smiles; soft, warm. "Night, Cas. See you in the morning."

He gives the alpha one last long look, and after Cas returns the sentiment, Dean leaves him. He retrieves his duffel from the bathroom and drops it just inside the threshold of the bedroom, then pushes the door most of the way closed behind him. It sits ajar, but he can’t be bothered fixing it; his feet are already carrying him towards the bed, and he’s too tired to fight for that last inch of privacy.

It feels fantastic to crawl beneath the sheets, fresh and crisp and smelling of laundry detergent. Only Cas’s pillow still holds some of the alpha’s scent, and Dean breathes it in as he sinks his head into it.

When he falls asleep, it’s with a churning mind and leaden limbs, and Cas’s scent in his nose.