So, I just found out that I'm going to see Alton Brown in October at the Balboa theatre in San Diego, and I thought to myself, "Self? What better way to celebrate Mr. Brown than posting a chapter about a couple of hot guys buying groceries and planning menus?" Sorry that we're still not getting any smut, but if you're feeling rather smut deficient, then please do check out MayBaby's fic "The Odd Couple" because I think they've posted more than enough for the both of us.

Castiel was floating through the huge aisles of the Super Target in a haze of contentment. It was because of Dean. It's all because of Dean. A month ago, he felt his life was ending, and now he finally felt like it was beginning. He was useful and needed, and Dean made it seem as though…as though he might have true affection in his life at some point. He was too afraid to say the word "love," but he could at least pretend that there might be a day when he could say it.

He was stocking up on dry goods while Gabriel was taking care of paper and plastic products, and he was currently looking dried beans over, trying to decide how many packages of lentils he needed. He already had two packages each of white, black, and red beans for some of Gabriel's famous three bean chili as well as a few packages of whole dried ancho, chipotle and Anaheim chile peppers. He had more boxes of linguine than he felt was healthy for any one person, but more than enough for his plan to cook up a big pot of his favorite creamy marsala pasta, and he couldn't decide if he wanted to do split pea and ham soup, or lentil with ham.

Lentils would have more of a protein pack, he reasoned.

Of course, nothing beat split pea and ham for comfort. Especially if it came with a heaping big square of cornbread on the side.

Of course, he could always make cornbread to go along with the lentil soup. And lentils would have less sugar in them, making them far more nutritious.

He started wondering what Dean would like better and realized that he didn't really know. His mate had eaten everything that he and Gabe had put in front of him, moaning in ecstasy with every mouthful. The entire pack had been doing that, come to think of it. And ever since he and Gabriel had started making a platter of sandwiches and bowls of cold salads for when the Thetas came home from work in the morning, everyone had started treating them like kings. The reason behind it was that Gabriel and Castiel were tired of the mess their pack made in the kitchen in the morning while scrounging for a quick snack before bed, so they just began throwing together picnic meals using every recipe in their father's arsenal from his coriander coleslaw to his rosemary and thyme potato salad.

The other evening, Castiel had made an extra turkey for dinner just in case (as you can imagine, a pack of werewolves can really eat a lot) and when no one ate it, he used the leftovers to make his father's post Thanksgiving curry-turkey-cranberry-salad sandwiches on Russian rye bread for lunch the following day and Ash had actually hugged him, a happy tear running down his cheek as he chewed his sandwich.

And then Castiel blushed right there in the middle of the aisle because he remembered that Dean had thanked him in a very different way later on in their bedroom, using his hands in a way that Castiel had never done, a smile breaking the Alpha's face when Castiel made a mess all over them both. He could still feel Dean's breath hot against his ear when he whispered, "You're so fucking hot."

That meal was definitely going back on the menu. There were already three huge frozen turkeys in the cart along with several loaves of Russian rye. Making a quick decision, Castiel leaned down and grabbed two bags of dried green lentils. They would look and taste a lot like split pea, only healthier, he reasoned.

"Well, look who it is," a voice from up the aisle said. Castiel stiffened. He would recognize that voice anywhere. Looking up, he confirmed that it was the Alpha female from his school who had forced him into his premature heat.

"What do you want?" he snapped, still unaccountably angry at her. "And why aren't you in school?"

"I don't have a sixth period, and I'm picking up some things for my mom. But you wouldn't know that, seeing as how you sort of got your ass thrown out of there."

"No thanks to you!" Castiel flung back. "Get away from me, I have nothing to say to you!"

The girl frowned. "Is that any way to talk to me, Cassie bear?" she pouted, her pretty full lips drawn on a little too large with gloss, long blonde hair flowing over her shoulders and framing her wide blue-green eyes.

That was unfair. He still didn't know her name. "How else should I talk to you?" he asked petulantly.

"Oh, come now, baby." She approached him and put her hand on his shoulder, making his hackles twitch and a low warning growl escape his throat. "After what I did for you?"

"Don't touch me," he snarled, jerking his shoulder out of the way.

The blonde laughed but pulled her hand away, sniffing slightly in Castiel's general direction. "Oooh, somebody's got himself a big Alpha mate. Who is it, Cassie? Meg Masters? I bet she'd eat you alive."

Castiel rolled his eyes. "If you would pick up a paper, then you would know that I was mated to Dean Winchester nearly a week ago. Now if you'll excuse me, I have things to do."

The female clearly did not appreciate being dismissed. "Is that so?" she asked, getting angry. "I am an Alpha, and you're just a little slut Omega, and if I want you to talk to me, then you have to talk to me."

Castiel growled fully at that, his hackles raising at the back of his neck. "I think you've severely overestimated your own worth," Castiel stated as calmly as he could and then turned to walk away.

"Don't you turn your back on me!" the Alpha snarled, gripping his arm and trying to turn him to her. But she hadn't manifested yet, and her strength wasn't that much more than any other female her age.

Castiel turned, baring his teeth, his wolf flashing ever so slightly at her. "I said: don't touch me!"

Her eyes went wide at that and she had the good sense to look frightened.

"What's going on in here, Cas?" Gabriel asked. He was coming up the aisle, his cart laden with toilet paper, toothpaste, bulk shampoo and a ten pack of soap bars.

"You need to put a muzzle on your Omega is what's going on in here," the female Alpha flung at Gabriel.

"Oh, is that so?" Gabriel asked, his eyebrows raising. "And you are?"

"I'm Lilith," she said. "I'm an Alpha and he's disrespecting me!"

Gabriel snorted. "Yeah, newsflash, sweetheart? Even after you manifest, if you don't have a pack under you, then you ain't shit. Come back when you grow up." Gabriel then smiled at his brother, dismissing Lilith completely. "You okay?"

"I do have a pack you worthless insignificant excuse for a Beta!"

Gabriel mock gasped. "Ooh, the little Alpha wanna-be has fangs! Protect me, Castiel, I'm so frightened."

Castiel allowed Gabriel to lead him from the aisle, Lilith fuming behind them, shouting threats and insults.

"Gabe, what if she goes to Dean and tries to make trouble for me?"

Gabriel laughed. "Then I hope the absent gods will grant my request to become a werefly so I can sit on the wall as he hands her her ass on a silver platter." Gabriel led them to the produce aisle and began to bag tomatoes and lettuce. "Come on, Cassie. Dean is so in love with you, he'll probably challenge her just for aggravating you."

"But if he thought I made him look bad for disrespecting an Alpha…"

Gabriel grabbed Castiel's hand and shook his head. "Cas, listen to me. You didn't disrespect her. From what I heard, she was trying to cause you trouble, not the other way around. You defended yourself, and pretty well, might I add. Who was she, anyway?"

Castiel gulped. "She was the female Alpha. At school. The one who…"

Gabriel looked at him in sympathy. "She started all of this."

Castiel nodded.

"Let me ask you something, baby bro: if you could change it all, go back to the way things were before Dean, before all of this, if you could live your life as a Beta, but it meant giving up everything you have right now, would you do it?"

Give Dean up? "I, uh…" Give up Dean? Castiel wasn't sure if he was ready to think about this. "I don't know, Gabe. Let's just finish shopping and get out of here."

"Sure thing, Cas."

Castiel didn't see the knowing smile Gabriel gave him as he ducked his head to pick up a package of cuties. Even if he had seen, he wasn't quite ready to admit that nothing would ever get him to give Dean up, so he pushed it down to the place where he hid everything he'd been attempting to not feel for the past month.

On the way home, they found one of those fruit stands on the side of the road and Castiel asked to stop.

"I want to make a pie."

"That sounds great!" Gabriel said, pulling over.

"Dean loves pie."

"I see."

"I was thinking I could make him a whole day of pies. You know, like quiche for brunch and chicken pot pie for dinner and maybe berry pie for dessert?"

"Uh huh."

Castiel frowned at his brother as he inspected a pint of blackberries. "What?"

Gabriel smiled. "Nothing."

"Nothing with you almost always means something. Bad."

Gabriel shrugged. "In this case it simply means I'm amused by how much my baby brother wants to please his mate by making him his favorite food." Gabriel put his arm around his brother. "Absent gods, you've got it bad."

"Got what bad?" Castiel asked, shaking him off.

Gabriel would only chuckle in response.

Castiel was amazed at Dean's ability to zero in on the fact that something had upset him at the store. Castiel also knew that Dean wasn't above going to Gabriel for information if he chose to be tight-lipped about it, so as he and Gabriel organized their purchases in the kitchen, he informed Dean of Lilith's little interlude with him in the dry goods aisle at Super Target.

Thankfully, Dean was less upset and more amused by Lilith. "I went to school with a female Alpha like that," he mused. "She was all over me like brown on rice and Michael hated her."

"I'm sure it didn't help that Michael had a raging crush on you back then," Gabriel laughed, emptying a bag of flour into a Tupperware container. All of the old flour had beetles in it because someone (the rumor was it was Jo) had decided to bake a cake (for Sam's birthday, or so the story went) and had forgotten to check the seal on the Tupperware, and so all of the flour had to be replaced (but since it was for Sam, it was apparently an excusable offense). Not that it was a huge expense, Castiel just hated wasting food. He was also trying very hard to not think about Michael having a crush on Dean.

"Mikey didn't have a crush on me!" Dean insisted. Castiel was trying very hard to believe him.

"Sure, Deano. Don't you remember when Lucie and I forced you two to marry each other?"

Dean frowned. "Well, yeah, to make the little kids laugh." Castiel tried to not frown at being referred to as a "little kid" even though he had been at the time.

Gabriel rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Riiiight. We were always teasing Mikey about you, and he would get all flustered about it. Don't worry, he got over it before you even graduated, but he had a bit of a crush."

"Huh." Dean looked completely nonplussed by the revelation. "Anyway," he shook his head as if clearing off his thoughts, "there was this female Alpha at our school, Naomi, and she was just convinced that she was the shiz because of the myth that Alpha females breed true even though Mendelian genetics proves that Omegas are the only true recessives, and for every dominant Alpha, you would get an Omega and two Betas."

Gabriel and Castiel both stared at Dean in wonder.

"What?" he asked defensively. "I paid attention in school."

"Yeah, right," Sam scoffed, entering the kitchen and looking over the food with interest. "Ooh, honey mustard pretzels!"

Gabriel slapped his hand before he could open a package, hiding the pretzels away in the cupboard.

"Hey, I'm a growing pup!" Sam protested.

"That's why you need fruits and vegetables over empty carbs," Gabriel admonished, setting a plate of celery and hummus in front of his counterpart. "Besides, don't you want to grow up big and strong?"

Dean snorted. "Like the moose needs to get any bigger."

Sam dipped his celery into his hummus and made appreciative noises while Gabriel and Dean filled him in on Lilith.

"Wonder what she was doing at Target instead of at school?" Sam wondered. "Next time you see her, call the dog catcher."

Ellen then walked into the kitchen. "Hey, boys."

All four said, "Hi, Ellen," at the same time, making her smile.

"Cas, hon, did you pick up any soup while you were out?"

"Yes, I got curried carrot, tomato and red pepper…" he stopped when Ellen held her hand up.

"This is for Rufus. John brought him home from the hospital about an hour ago while you and Gabe were out, and as much as I can't wait to try curried carrot, I'm afraid he'll just throw something like that at me. Got any good old fashioned chicken noodle?"

Gabriel laughed and pulled a battered tin from the pantry. "Here you go, my love."

Ellen took the tin and set to making up the gloopy condensed mess. Castiel was sure that somewhere out there, his father knew that he was permitting someone in his pack to eat that mess and mightily disappointed in his boy over it. He caught Gabriel's eye across the room, and the brothers shared a secret grimace.

"Is he really very grouchy?" Sam asked.

"Oh, you know how old Betas get after they've outlived three Alphas and one hip. Ornery as a porcupine and just as prickly."

Dean grabbed a bowl and a tray from one of the cupboards. "Need any help?"

Ellen patted his face. "You're sweet, but you'd best let us old-timers take this one on."

"Maybe you could spike the soup with sedatives," Dean suggested. "The doctors gave you some for him, right?"

Ellen looked for a moment like she was really and truly considering such a thing. "I'd better not," she finally said with resignation just as John walked into the kitchen.

"Do we have any Johnny Walker?" the Alpha demanded.

Dean cracked open the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle, handing it over to his father, not put off in the least by the older Alpha's gruffness or request for hard liquor at four in the afternoon.

"Absent gods, that man is making me crazy!"

"So you're just going to drink him away?" Ellen asked, eyebrow raised.

John laughed bitterly. "I wish! No, I'm gonna get him drunk, and then maybe he'll shut the hell up for five minutes!"

Ellen shrugged. "Beats overdosing him with sedatives, I guess."

"Don't tempt me."

"Can I do anything to help, Alpha?" Castiel asked quietly. "Maybe I'm neutral enough to him that he wouldn't treat me too badly."

John's expression softened noticeably and he ruffled Castiel's hair affectionately. "Aw, that's kind, Cas. But that big bad wolf would eat you alive and then pick his teeth with your bones. Us in the old guard don't do too well when we get to feeling bad and we do even worse when we have to be reminded of how old we are by the pretty little pups running around the house. Best if all of you boys steer clear of Rufus's room for the next week until he gets mobile again."

Castiel looked over at Dean, thinking about how his mate often referred to himself as "the big bad wolf." Considering how the original Red Riding Hood story had been incredibly erotic, Castiel found that moniker to fit Dean quite well. It really didn't help when Dean flashed a wolfish grin at him, as though he clearly knew what Castiel was thinking.

"Well, if you're going to go back in there, take His Prickliness this soup," Ellen said, and Castiel was struck by the fact that a Theta was ordering her Alpha around.

"Why do I have to?" John practically whined.

"You're the Alpha around here," Ellen replied, setting the bottle of booze on the tray. "I guess I could add a tumbler, just to make it seem like I don't expect him to drink it straight from the bottle," she mumbled half to herself.

Sam grabbed a heavy crystal tumbler and set it on the tray.

"So what's going on in here anyway?" John asked.

"Quit stalling, John," Ellen admonished. "Go give Rufus his lunch before he accuses us of trying to starve him to death."

John rolled his eyes. "And you know he would, too, grumpy old goat."

"Takes one to know one," Dean muttered under his breath, making Sam snort hummus out of his nose.

When he left, Ellen turned to the boys. "Well? What is going on in here?"

"Nothing!" Dean promised. "You're so suspicious."

"Four boys, standing around and putting groceries away, and two of those boys wouldn't be able to tell a chicken from a goose if it bit them in the butt? Yeah, something's up."

"I just got here, they were already in here," Sam said defensively.

"My mate and his brother are in here working. I just wanted to see if I could help," Dean supplied. "Besides, Cas ran into the Alpha who forced him to manifest, and I'm trying to make him feel better."

Ellen raised her eyebrows at Castiel, who had gone back to organizing his pantry. "You okay, Cas hon?"

"I am fine, Ellen. Thank you."

"It was a female Alpha, right?"

Gabriel nodded. "Her name's Lilith apparently. Seems to have an overinflated sense of self importance."

"Well, she is an Alpha," Sam teased.

"I resemble that remark," Dean shot back.

"Lilith?" Ellen asked.

"Yeah, really defines the term bitch," Gabriel said. "No offense."

"Sweetheart, I'm a bitch and proud of it," Ellen said. "Well, I'll leave you boys to it. Better go help John out with Rufus before Rufus literally rips him a new one."

Ellen didn't go back to Rufus's room, though. She went to her own and pulled out her scrapbook. It wasn't the kind with pictures and cutouts of turtles glued lovingly to the pages. She kept records of all of the packs in the county and a few outside of the county. An Alpha called Lilith seemed to spark some memory, and she began reading backwards because she was sure this Lilith was close in age to Sam and Castiel.

She finally found what she was looking for about eight years back. The headline read, "Azazel McLeod, Crime Lord, Killed by Brother."

Azazel had been bad news. He was a drug dealer and he liked addicting children, the younger the better. He used to boast that the children were customers for much longer than adults were. He had deserved to die, and his brother, Gavin, had been exonerated in the death because the jury had determined it was self-defense. Azazel had left behind a pretty extensive drug empire, a wife, and a daughter. And the daughter's name was Lilith.

The wife, Ellen learned re-reading the article, had been an Alpha. It was surmised that she had taken over for Azazel. Ellen wondered if Lilith was the princess in this empire. The brother had been a Beta, and Ellen gathered from the article that Mrs. McLeod had kept him on after the murder.

It really wasn't her business. Crime was the Singer pack's jurisdiction. Still, if Lilith was going to take over for a drug pack, her dealings could trickle down to the Winchesters just because of their private security business. She decided she would bring the information to Gabriel and leave it up to him whether he wanted to concern John and Dean or not. Not that there was anything really to concern them about. Just a bad feeling.

Maybe she wouldn't talk to Gabriel after all. He might think she was being a ninny.

Still, it was his brother that she was needlessly worried about. And since he clearly loved the pup, he would certainly help her see that there was no way this girl and her pack could harm them.

What's this? BAMF Cas and Gabe? Why yes, it is! I love Protective!Dean as much as the next person, but I also love me some FrustratedAndSeething!Cas and That'sMyLittleBrotherYouJerk!Gabe, and I love the idea of Dean being like, "Well, if I can't protect him, at least I can be proud of how well he handles himself."