It was another beautiful morning. Dean had just finished washing Benny’s truck and the Impala. He had the garage door open and was considering whether he should do a quick tune-up on the car or if he should make her really shine by waxing her.
He heard a familiar motor roar and looked up with a smile on his face to see Meg’s 2011 bright green Challenger drive up the street. She parked in the driveway next to the Impala and he opened her door for her.
“Hey, sweetie!” Meg said, stepping out of the car in her jeans and baby doll T-shirt, giving him a nearly bone crushing hug.
Dean pushed his face into her neck and breathed in her scent, closing his eyes as he nuzzled into her blonde hair. “Missed you,” he said, feeling his eyes burn a little.
“Oh, baby,” Meg said in that concerned and mothering tone she had used whenever he’d been upset growing up.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut tighter, trying to keep himself under control. She’d always been there for him, like a second mother or a doting aunt in the alpha prime house.
“Did they call you?” he asked, barely a whisper.
She sighed. “Sam called me last night to tell me how the ranks worked out, but before you ask, no, he didn’t ask me to come and talk to you. I wanted to see you anyway, and I know you, so I figured you could use a pick-me-up. So I’m picking you up.”
Dean chuckled as he pulled out of the hug. “Does that mean I get to drive?” he asked with what he knew was an adorable look on his face.
She snorted and smacked his arm. “Hell no.”
Dean pouted. “You never let me have any fun,” he complained playfully as he walked around to the passenger side of the car and got in.
Meg started the car, and Dean thoroughly enjoyed the sound of the motor, the powerful vibrations as the Hemi came to life. Dean put his seat belt on. Having been in the passenger seat of Meg’s cars over the years had taught him that, even if she’d never been in an accident, the seat belt gave him some sense of security when she was tearing around town.
Dean was quiet as Meg was driving, not because he was scared of her driving, but because it was nice to just spend some time with her. They always had a comfortable relationship, one that allowed for companionable silence, never getting awkward.
He relaxed, let out a cleansing breath, and he could see her grin. She knew he was letting go of his stress already.
Dean didn’t care how long she was going to drive, didn’t care where they were going, but when he saw the sign for the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, he knew she’d brought him here to talk. He’d expected it, and he wasn’t upset. In fact he was thankful she’d brought him here, had gotten him away from the house to talk freely, even if everyone else at the house would’ve gladly given them their privacy and space.
She parked the car, and after seeing her get out, he followed. She opened the trunk and grabbed the handle on one side of a red cooler. He took the hint and grabbed the other handle. She closed the trunk and they started off on one of the trails.
They didn’t walk very far when they came upon the Arastradero Lake, and Meg stopped, turning and smiling at Dean. They set the cooler down, then they each sat down on the grassland with the cooler between them. They had a beautiful view of the lake.
She opened the cooler and handed Dean a beer, then took one for herself. They finished their first beer in silence, enjoying the surroundings and the good company, then Meg took out two more beers, both of them putting the empties back into the cooler.
Meg sighed. “Talk to me, cutie,” she said.
Dean smiled. No one else had ever gotten away with calling him half the pet names she’d called him over the years. Not even his own mother.
“What’s there to say?” he asked, shrugging.
She turned her head, pinning him with a look that said ‘I can and will kick your ass,’ and he chuckled, shaking his head.
“Fine,” he said, then took another sip of his beer. “I thought I was going to be house alpha or at the very least second. I’ve never doubted it. And as much as I don’t want to say this, it’s hard.”
“Are you putting it that way to save my feelings? Because you can cut that shit out right now,” she said sternly.
Dean snorted. “Okay. I hate it. I really fucking hate it,” he said, feeling his eyes burn. “I feel like I’m there to serve them and nothing else. We haven’t been here long and already I’ve gotten in trouble twice. I’m a thing to them, a toy,” he said bitterly, looking out at the lake and blinking away the burning in his eyes.
“Is that how –,” Meg started.
Dean cut her off. “No!” he barked. “You shouldn’t even have to ask me that. No, I’ve never seen you as the toy for the alpha prime house. I’ve always seen you as a strong alpha who took care of her own shit and who didn’t take shit from anybody else,” he said, his throat feeling tight.
“I never took your shit either,” she said with a grin.
Dean chuckled, and he felt himself relax. She’d always been able to disarm him with just a few words or even a look.
He shook his head. “It wasn’t supposed to be me in that position. I like taking care of other people. I’m an alpha. It’s my job, and I’m good at it.”
“Oh, you’re very good at it,” Meg said with confidence. “Your parents never would’ve suggested you be part of an alpha house had you sucked at it. And the other alpha prime houses would’ve never allowed you to have the position had you been seen as unfit for it.”
Dean sighed. “I want to make the community a better place,” Dean said. “I want to make our pack the best it can be, both inside the house and for all of Palo Alto.”
“Are you failing at that?” she asked.
Dean knew she didn’t believe that one bit and she was just asking him to draw him out, get him talking. “No,” he said.
“Are they ignoring your input? Ignoring your decisions?” she asked.
Dean shook his head. “We haven’t had anything come up yet. We just got here, and one of our first meetings is scheduled for tonight.”
“So you’ve made absolutely no decisions yet?” she asked.
Dean frowned. “Like which drawer to put my underwear in?”
Meg chuckled. “No, you dork,” she said, whacking his arm. “C’mon. No decisions? No input? Nothing at all to show for your new role of being an alpha in your own alpha house?”
Dean was about to say no when he stopped himself. He felt his cheeks flush. “How do you always do that to me?” he asked, shaking his head. “You swear they didn’t tell you anything?”
Meg smiled, then finished her beer. “You and your mom are more alike than most people realize, including you, but that’s another subject. Get back to telling me how you never get to make decisions.”
Dean snorted. “Bitch,” he said affectionately.
Meg huffed. “Sounds to me like you don’t want any more of my beer,” she said, raising an eyebrow and smirking.
“All right, I give,” Dean said, holding up his hands, then finishing his beer.
Meg took out two more beers, but didn’t hand Dean one. “Start talking,” she said, waving the beer under his nose.
Dean sighed. “Yesterday the house got an express mail envelope,” he said, snatching the beer from her fingers. “Nick brought it to me after he signed for the delivery because it was about a local dispute, and he knew it was my decision.”
“Uh-huh, and?” she prodded.
“And,” Dean drawled, “I made the final decision.”
“You know I’m a curious girl. Spill. I wanna know how awesome you are at your job,” Meg insisted.
Dean chuckled, his cheeks flushing with a little embarrassment. “The city wanted to tear down a strip mall that included a mom and pop market that’s been there for thirty years, a bookstore where all the local college kids get their books for a fair price, and a mechanic who’s owned his shop for forty-five years very successfully. Some bigshot wanted to build a superstore.”
“Okay. The little guys versus the big guys. Gotcha,” she said with a nod.
“Yup, and even though the superstore would bring in new construction, it would mean three family-owned business would go under, people would lose their jobs, the neighborhood would be burdened with too much traffic, and the college kids would need more money from their parents for their books,” Dean said.
“And what did my baby boy decide?” Meg asked, obviously already knowing the answer, but wanting to hear it.
Dean chuckled. “I told them no, that the businesses needed to stay, and I also got the strip mall a grant for community enrichment, which means they’ll be able to afford repairs and freshen up the place, make it look nicer.”
“That’s my boy,” Meg said, pride in her tone of voice.
Dean smiled. He’d missed Meg even though he’d only been gone from his parents’ house for a matter of days. She’d always called him on his shit, like she’d said. And when it came to building him up, forcing him to see his accomplishments and the good things he’d done even though things weren’t always perfect, she’d been there. Which is why he knew what was coming next.
“So,” she drawled, “did you run that by anyone? Did any of the other guys make you include them in the decision?”
Dean shook his head. “No, and at dinner Nick asked what my decision had been because he was curious. I told all of them, and everyone congratulated me and said it was a good decision.”
“Because it was, kid!” Meg said, whacking Dean’s arm. “C’mon, this is what you wanted your whole life! You wanted to take care of people, to be put in a position where you could make the community better, make life better for your pack, and you’re there! You did it!” she said, turning to him and flashing a beautiful smile at him.
Dean smiled. “Yeah, I did,” he said, his cheeks a little warm again.
“I knew you’d be awesome,” she said, reaching over, grabbing him by the back of his neck, yanking him close, and planting a loud and wet kiss on his forehead.
Dean laughed, playing with the beer bottle in his hands. The silence stretched for a little while as they enjoyed the cool breeze, the grass bending over just a bit in the wind.
Meg tossed her empty bottle into the cooler, but didn’t take another one out. “Just because you rank lowest in the house, that doesn’t mean you have to take everybody’s shit.”
Dean winced. “I know.”
“Do you?” Meg asked, keeping her eyes on the water. “Because it kinda sounded like you think you’re being treated like a toy. You know me. Have I ever allowed anyone to treat me like a toy?”
Dean snorted. “No. Anyone who dared would get their balls handed to them.”
“You have rights, and you need to stand up for yourself,” Meg said. “The reason most of us are fiercely protective of omegas is because they tend to stand back and let things happen to them, and they can easily get themselves into abusive situations, unlike alphas and betas. It doesn’t make them an omega less of a person, but it does mean it’s our responsibility to watch out for them. You’re not an omega. You’re an alpha. Don’t ever forget that,” she said, her voice strong, stern.
“I know,” he said with a nod.
“You’re in a house with six other alphas,” she continued. “All of you are going to make mistakes, especially at first because it’s all new to you. But there’s a difference between being submissive to the alphas who rank higher than you and letting people walk all over you.”
“I don’t let people walk all over me,” Dean said with a frown.
Meg snorted. “Sam has had you wrapped around his finger since he was a baby,” she said with a smirk.
Dean huffed. “Sam’s different.”
“Because he loves you, he respects you, and he’s never treated you like anything but an alpha,” she said.
Dean nodded. “Yeah.”
“Is everyone else treating you with that same respect?” she asked, her voice gentle.
Dean looked down at his bottle, pushing his finger into the mouth of it and wiggling the bottle around. “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, you do. Because you’re an alpha,” she said.
Dean chuckled, shaking his head. “Okay, then, no.”
“Do something about it,” she said. When Dean opened his mouth, she cut him off. “Don’t ask me what to do. I helped raise you, boy. You know full well what to do about it, you’re just questioning yourself.”
“Maybe,” he admitted softly.
Meg sighed. “It’s always good to think things through. You’d be a terrible alpha if you made quick decisions and never questioned yourself. But be realistic. If Sam was ranked lowest and you saw him being treated the way that one or two of the alphas are treating you, would you let it go?”
Dean felt a flare of anger in his chest. It was that fierce protectiveness that almost all alphas felt. “No,” he growled.
“They may bring skills to the table,” she said, “but there are other alphas out there who have good skills and can fill their place. Other alphas who know how to treat pack members, whether those members be alphas, betas, or omegas.”
“Yeah,” he grumbled.
“The seven of you were chosen because we saw good alphas, good skills, and a group of alphas that seemed to work well together,” she said. “But we had no idea what any one of you would be like once you moved into your own alpha house. I’m sure you’ve heard of alpha houses being closed down within weeks of being established. People are unpredictable, and you never know someone’s true colors until they’re thrown into a situation.”
“It would mean kicking them out, getting someone new,” Dean said, shaking his head.
“Well, not that it would be the end of the world if that happened, but no, it doesn’t automatically mean expulsion,” she said. “People can change when they’re willing to change. It’s when they’re unwilling to change that expulsion happens.”
“I know,” Dean said.
“And if an alpha is behaving improperly,” Meg continued, “do you really want them in a position of authority? Like ruling an alpha house that very well could one day become an alpha prime house?”
“No,” Dean said, holding his bottle out to Meg. “I want another beer,” he said with a grin.
Meg smiled. “You got it,” she said, opening the cooler for him to drop his empty into and pulling a fresh one out, handing it to him.
Dean drained half of his beer, then shoved the bottle between his legs, spreading his arms out behind himself, his hands on the ground to support him as he leaned back.
He felt his stomach clench as he thought about how he wanted to ask her about what was on his mind. “How do you deal with being told what to do, with the discipline,” Dean asked, looking out at the lake so he wouldn’t have to make eye contact while talking about this.
Meg snorted, an obnoxiously loud sound, then chuckled. “You didn’t know me when I was a teenager or in the first few years after your parents’ alpha house was established.”
“Mom has said you were a bit of a rebel, but she hasn’t elaborated on that,” Dean said.
“That’s because she respects me enough to not air my dirty laundry. She wants to give me a chance to tell anybody I feel like telling instead of gossiping behind my back about it,” Meg said.
“It’s that bad?” he asked with a grin directed at her.
Meg huffed. “Worse.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said, shaking his head.
“No, I don’t have to. But I want to,” she said. “When I was a teenager, I got into tons of trouble. My parents didn’t really know what to do with me. Nothing scared me. Nobody scared me. I did things I really wish I wouldn’t have done, but when I became friends with Mary, I saw that I could have a better life.”
“Mom wasn’t the most well-behaved when she was a teenager,” Dean said.
“Yeah, but I was worse,” she said with a huff. “I knew your mom and dad when we were kids even though we weren’t really friends. We went to the same school. I knew what she was like even if I didn’t hang out with her. Your mom and dad were together for a few years when I came back to California, and when I saw what she’d become in the time I was gone, what John had helped make her become, I cried because I’d never seen anything so loving, so beautiful.”
“Mom has always said dad saved her life,” Dean said.
“He did,” Meg said with a nod. “He fell for your mom hard and fast, but she was a wild one. She was born and raised a hunter, but she took risks, too many risks. Some people are a little too self-sacrificing,” she said, throwing a significant look his way. “Before your mom and dad, I’d never been around an alpha couple before. I’d never seen the dynamics up close.”
“It’s different, I’ll give them that,” he said, finishing his beer.
“Very. But what your dad did with her was nothing short of amazing,” she said, sounding impressed. “He didn’t force her to behave. He didn’t even insist upon it. He was persistent in showing her what he felt for her, and I don’t know how the man did it because I was gone for a few years, but by the time I came back, she was someone very well-respected, someone who knew who they were, and she was obviously headed for not only an alpha house, but an alpha prime house.”
Dean chuckled. “It was obvious even then?”
“Totally,” Meg said with a nod. “And I saw it, and I wanted it. I wanted my life to be better, and when I looked at her, I saw hope, I saw that I could do it.”
“Cool,” Dean said.
“Yeah, definitely,” she said, opening the cooler to pull out an ice cube. She popped it into her mouth and crunched on it. “When we formed the alpha house, all of us had high hopes. But it was a huge blow to me that I was lowest in the ranks. I hadn’t expected it, and I fought it. Hard.”
“Mom said you had a bit of a hard time with it, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” he said.
“It was,” she said, then snorted, shaking her head. “I kinda lost it for a while. I behaved pretty horribly. And I nearly got myself kicked out of the house.”
Even though it was in the past, Dean felt a flare of anxiousness. He didn’t want to think about how life would’ve been without Meg. “I didn’t know that,” Dean said. He and Meg had always been close, and he’d never known that had happened.
“They all had to work with me,” Meg said with a sigh. “I fought that. I fought the discipline. I fought everything. I fought the people who loved me. An alpha house is considered tighter than a pack. They’re family. And I treated them like shit,” she said, looking down and shaking her head.
Dean glanced over at her, watching as she wiped at her eyes. She shook herself out of it and took a cleansing breath.
“There was no reason other than love for them to put up with that,” Meg said. “But they did it. They knew it was self-destructive behavior. They all knew me. They knew where I was headed, knew I didn’t really want to go there, but that I was being stubborn. And if it wasn’t for the alphas in my house, I would be dead.”
Dean’s stomach clenched. Not only didn’t he know it was bad, but he never would’ve imagined it was that bad.
“There’s an instinctual reason ranking works out the way it does in packs,” Meg said. “We may not want to admit it to ourselves, but I needed what they gave me, what they continue to give me. It doesn’t make me less of an alpha. You can attest to that. I make decisions, I have skills, people respect me, and my fellow alphas would die and kill for me because they believe in me. But some people are a little too self-destructive. Others are a little too ready to martyr themselves or get themselves killed or sent to prison. Whatever it is, it’s okay that some alphas need a little help.”
Dean’s eyes burned. He didn’t want to hear it. It felt right, he knew it was the truth, but it’s not what he wanted to hear.
“You’re saying I deserve to be the house hole,” Dean growled.
“I’ve told you not to call it that,” Meg said, turning to pin him with a fierce look, a low growl coming from her. “You’ve never once called me a house hole, and anybody who called me that in the past ended up in a world of hurt. So don’t you dare call yourself that.”
Dean’s eyes widened. “Sorry,” he said with a wince.
“You’d better be sorry, kid,” Meg said, settling down. “And I’d better not ever hear the words ‘house cunt’ come out of those pretty lips of yours or I will make you cry by the time I’m done with you, understood?”
Dean smiled. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Meg nodded. “Now tell me what you’re really called,” she said.
Dean sighed and rolled his eyes. “Carus.”
“Which means what?” she prodded.
“Meg, c’mon, I don’t–ow!” he yelped as Meg punched him in the arm. “Fine, it means beloved, precious, and highly valued, you jerk,” he said with a scowl.
“Is anyone in the house calling you the house hole or house cunt? Do I have to kick some asses? Because I will kick some asses. And I’ll enjoy it. You know I will,” she said, giving him another punch in the arm.
“Ow! No,” he said, pouting and rubbing his sore arm. She didn’t usually fall for the pouting, but every once in a while she would. “No one is calling me that.”
She turned toward him, shuffling around in the grass on her ass and putting her arms on the cooler between them. Dean half expected another punch, but instead she put her hand on his left forearm in a comforting gesture.
“We’re not weak,” Meg said, looking Dean in the eye. “You and I may need a little help with our behavior, but that doesn’t make us lesser beings, doesn’t invalidate us as pack members just like we don’t look down on betas or omegas. Everybody needs those around them to keep them in check from time to time. Everybody! You contribute to the alpha house. You were put in that position because we saw something in you. Be the alpha I know you are. The alpha we’re confident is the right one for the job. The one we’re nearly certain will be part of an alpha prime house in the future.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dean said with a small smile.
“Good boy,” she said, getting to her knees and giving him a kiss on the cheek. “And if I hear different, I will personally paddle your ass,” she said as she stood up, grabbing the cooler and heading toward the car.
“Aww, not the paddle!” Dean yelled after her as he stood up. He started off after her. “Hey! You’re keeping that paddle at the alpha prime house, right?” he asked nervously.
Meg laughed as he caught up with her. “I’m sure the Palo Alto Alphas can come up with their own paddle.”
“Um, yeah, and you don’t need to give them any ideas either,” he said, eyes wide and pleading.
Meg laughed again. “Don’t worry, sweet cheeks. That paddle’s all mine in case I ever need to set you straight again.”
Dean shook his head. “You really won’t need to. That last time really made an impression,” he said hopefully.
Meg snorted. “You’re awfully stubborn. I think I’ll hang onto it,” she said.