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Title: Potato Candy
Chapter Two: Crossed Wires
Dean was up before the sun on the morning the bakery was going to open. He made croissants first, and then about ten different kinds of pastries—turnovers, danishes, and gooey cinnamon rolls that were a pain in the ass to make but that Charlie swore she would marry him for if he didn’t let her have them anyway. At moments like that, Dean couldn’t help but let his eyes flicker to the claiming mark at the base of her neck, and there would be an awkward silence as she picked at the cinnamon roll, lost in her thoughts. Then Dean would make a stupid joke about something, and they would be back to normal.
It was hard on an Alpha to lose their mate the way his dad had. But that was nothing compared to the way it hit the more submissive statuses to lose theirs.
When Charlie came stumbling down the back stairway into the kitchen, lured by the smell of the cinnamon rolls that Dean had just pulled from the oven, he had to smack her hand to stop her from grabbing one and burning herself on the molten icing.
“I’d marry you for one and you think I’m going to hold it against one if it burns me? Please.” The redhead rolled her eyes but didn’t reach for it again, instead going to the massive cooler and pulling out a bottle of orange juice. Thankfully, when Dean’s eyes flitted to the old mark this time, her back was turned. “So I think you may have overdone it.” She was eyeing the multitude of trays that held the cooling pastries, her expression amused.
“I’m just getting started. After this comes the pie.” Dean grinned at her and she rolled her eyes. “And then I was thinking a few smaller things. Fudge…potato candy.”
Charlie wrinkled her nose. “Gross.”
“Hey, which one is the potato candy, Charlie? Cause you say that every time and then you eat it, and I don’t think you actually know which one it is.”
“It’s the one that’s going to have a label now so that I can avoid it.” Charlie smiled sweetly before turning her attention back to the pastries. “So I was thinking about taking some of these and making gift baskets for some of the other businesses. Peace offering, you know?”
Dean laughed. “We’re in Kansas. Not the Middle East.”
“Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be on good terms with some of our more established neighbors.” She was already picking out a few of each pastry and Dean let it go. She was the brains of the operation, after all. Dean was just…well, not the brawn. The heart, maybe. “I figure just the bookstore and the diner, since we share walls and all.”
Dean chuckled. “Better take some to the head shop, too. They’ll probably be good customers.”
Charlie nodded and Dean turned his attention back to the pie crust he was rolling out on the counter. A second later he heard her yelp and laughed, knowing that she had gone ahead and touched the cinnamon rolls despite his warning.
“Oh…I can’t stay mad at you.” Charlie’s mouth was full as she cooed at the pastry.
Benny had a pretty solid morning rush on weekdays. By second semester, a lot of the college kids were thoroughly sick of the cafeteria food at the school, and so he built a steady clientele of young pack, all in a mad rush to get their breakfast and make it to class on time, half of them juggling notes and textbooks as they hurried in and out of the diner.
It took him a few minutes, in the rush and the noise, to spot the small redhead waiting patiently at the counter.
“What can I get you, sweetheart?” he asked. He saw her eyes widen with surprise, saw her nostrils flare as she scented him, and he nearly growled. He didn’t have time for the confusion that meeting him brought to new people. “You gonna order or are you just planning to stand there and gape at me all day?”
“Oh!” She looked embarrassed at his question. Good. “Oh, sorry. No, see, my name’s Charlie Bradbury and I’m from the bakery next door, you know?”
“Uh-huh.” Benny was already moving on to the next customer, but she scooted along the length of the counter and stepped out in front of him as he tried to head for a table, blocking his path. “Look, sweetheart, you may not have noticed, but I’m a little busy right now. Welcome to the block.”
And then he was stepping around her, ignoring her attempts at an explanation as he reached a table that had just sat down and began to take their order. He was going to have to hire someone for the mornings; this was getting completely ridiculous.
When he turned around again, the redhead was gone. On the counter sat a basket filled with pastries and other baked goods. Nestled in amongst a few croissants was a small cardstock rectangle, neatly printed with Courtesy of Everything Nice Bakery.
He shook his head and took the basket into the back, picking up a cinnamon roll and taking a bite as he poured pancake batter onto the grill.
Holy shit. If he had known that girl could make a cinnamon roll like that, he’d’ve asked her to marry him.
“Well, our neighbor is rude.”
Dean looked up in surprise as Charlie came bursting into the kitchen. The rush of early business had ended, and Dean was feeling pretty pleased with himself as he finished the pies and slid them into the oven. They’d be ready and cooled enough in time for lunch, and his breakfast pastries had sold well enough to make room in the case for them. He had been considering making mini-quiche when Charlie had returned in a huff.
“Which one?” Dean asked, turning and leaning against the prep table as he wiped his hands on a kitchen rag, dusting flour into the floor.
Charlie jerked her head towards the left wall. “The diner owner. Benny, I guess.” She rolled her eyes. “Never seen anyone so upset about someone bringing them free food.”
Dean shrugged. “Well, you did waltz over there during the breakfast rush. If he was half as busy as we were, I’m not surprised.”
“You know what’s weird though?” Charlie, as usual, continued without acknowledging any criticism. “He’s an omega.”
Dean gaped at her. “Wait, were you standing there scenting him? Christ, Charlie, that’s rude.”
“Yeah, okay, but it surprised me. You should see this guy.”
“What does that even mean?” The question was asked on a low groan. Day one of business and he was already going to have to go apologize for his awkward business partner.
“Like… He’s big. Taller than you. Really muscular. Just…manly, you know? Not at all omega-like.” Charlie shrugged.
“You do know that pack status is just about anatomy and scent, right?” Dean asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
Charlie shrugged. “Well, yeah, to an extent. That’s why you’re so short. For an Alpha. But like, even Alphas are taller than other statuses. Just like omegas are little and…I don’t know, they always remind me of dolls or kids or whatever, but hey, whatever gets your rocks off.”
Dean wanted to bang his head against the counter. He loved his friend, he really did. Few other people in his life had supported him in the way she had, and he was eternally grateful. But god, could she put her foot in her mouth sometimes.
“Keep an eye on the pies, alright?” Dean took off his apron and set it on the prep counter, glancing over himself once to make sure his clothes were free of flour. “I’m gonna go run some damage control.”
“Dean, I really didn’t do anything that bad! He’s just a really grumpy person!” Charlie called after him as the door to the kitchen swung shut.
The rush in the diner had finally died down, leaving only a handful of people finishing their meals as Benny started on the dishes. He nearly groaned when he heard the bell on the door jingle, announcing the arrival of a new customer. Yeah, he was definitely going to have to hire morning help. He made a mental note to put out the help wanted sign later.
He headed out to the counter, his eyes falling on a blonde man who looked as though he were waiting for him specifically, paying no mind to the menu or the post-rush mess on the counter in front of him. The man looked to be a few years younger than Benny, and he had the sharp eyes and confident posture of an Alpha—although if anyone knew that that didn’t mean squat, it was Benny.
“Can I help you?” His voice was polite despite his irritation at being bothered—again—for anything other than a customer that wanted to order.
“Uh, yeah. My friend was in here earlier…little redheaded beta? Well-intentioned but rude?” The man smiled sheepishly.
Benny nodded. “Oh yeah. No, she was fine. I was just busy, is all. It gets crazy around here in the mornings.” He waited expectantly for the man to say something. “Anyway, thank her for the basket for me. I’ve only tried the cinnamon roll so far, but it was excellent.”
The man laughed. “Thanks. She’ll be psyched to hear it.”
“Quite the baker, that one.”
The man’s smile faltered a little. “Oh. Yeah… People probably get that confused a lot. She’s actually the business manager. I’m the baker.”
“You don’t look like the type.” The words were out of Benny’s mouth before he could stop them. “I mean…”
The man shook his head. “Nah, I get it.” He paused. “You don’t either.”
Benny opened his mouth to bite off a sharp remark, but then he saw the teasing look in the man’s eyes.
“I like it.” The man shrugged. “For what it’s worth. Not much, I’d guess?” He held out his hand. “Dean Winchester.”
Benny leaned forward to shake the outstretched hand, and the scent of Alpha flooded his nostrils. “Benny Lafitte.”
Hours after Dean had left to go back to his bakery, apologizing once more for his business partner’s rudeness, Benny still couldn’t get his mind off of the younger man.
I like it, the Alpha had said.
At first he was strangely giddy at the pronouncement. No Alpha had ever looked at him like that, had ever said anything like that in reference to his ill-matched appearance and status. And as much as he hated to admit it, his instincts were kicking in, reacting in joy at the idea that finally he had caught an Alpha’s interest. Unmated, that bit of approval had been the most that he had ever gotten from an Alpha.
Hours later, he had talked himself down considerably, sure that Dean was just being polite, just felt bad that his friend had been so remiss as to obviously scent him upon their first meeting.
Another couple of hours, and Benny was sure that it had actually been a cruel dig. Because Benny was so obviously not what Alphas wanted that it could really only be a joke.
By the time Adam turned up for his shift—a half hour late—Benny was absolutely livid.
“If I didn’t need you to watch the diner for ten minutes, I’d fire you for real this time,” he snarled at Adam before storming out of the diner and towards the corner bakery.
He burst into the door, ignoring the surprised looks he got from the patrons seated at the small tables around the shop. The redheaded girl from that morning was behind the counter and she jumped and then blushed at the sight of him. He tossed her a sarcastic wave and then, without bothering to ask for permission, pushed through the swinging door into the kitchen.
Dean was standing at a long stainless steel table, his hands pressing down hard onto a blob of what looked like pure white dough, the muscles in his harms straining as they worked. He reached into a large bowl of powdered sugar, sprinkled some over the top of the mound, and then started pressing down again.
“What’s up, Charlie? Is there some sort of—” The Alpha looked up and his sentence abruptly cut off as he spotted Benny. “Oh hey, man. Didn’t expect you. What’s up?”
Benny stormed up to the table, planting his hands on the gleaming surface as he leaned in. “Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but I didn’t get this far in life by giving a shit what some runt of an Alpha thinks about me. Regardless of what you may think, omegas don’t need you to complete their fucking lives. I’ve done just fine without an Alpha. So don’t come into my diner and fuck with me, you brat.”
Dean looked surprised. “Did I… I mean, I don’t think I said anything about any of that.”
“You think you’re the first Alpha to mock me?” Benny sneered. “Think you’re the first to make anyone being interested in me into a huge a joke? You’re not, kid. At least get some original material next time.”
“You think I was joking?” The Alpha’s brow was furrowed, his hands still pressed into the dough. It seemed like he had forgotten about what he was doing, the omega’s outburst taking up all of his focus. “Wait, why do you think I was joking?”
“Oh, quit fucking around, alright?”
“I’m not…” Dean searched for words. “Do people really joke about that? Why?”
“Please. We all know what I look like; what I’m supposed to look like. What your kind looks for.” Benny scoffed. “I may not look like an omega, kid, but I hope I don’t look stupid.”
“You think I was joking…because you don’t look like a stereotypical omega?” The baker shook his head as Benny continued to seethe. “Man, have you seen me? I’m just barely six feet. I bake for a living. I’m standing in front of you, right now, making fucking candy. Not exactly your stereotypical Alpha.”
That made Benny pause. He surveyed Dean with narrow eyes, trying to gauge his sincerity. “So…you weren’t joking?”
Dean shook his head, looking a little bit alarmed at the omega’s behavior.
Benny let out a dry laugh. “Great. Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to be getting back to my diner, then.”
He practically ran from the bakery. It figured; the first Alpha to ever show an interest in him, and he had managed to fuck it up by being too fucking jaded to just take a compliment. There was no way the Alpha was still going to be interested after that.