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White Lies & Winter Blues

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“I’m just sayin’, if it’s global warming, it wouldn’t be this cold—”

“Dammit, climate change!” Dean snipped out the correction, for what felt like the millionth time!  Arguing made the trip go faster as he inched along the tundra-like back roads.  “I can’t tell if you’re trying to piss me off or what.  Because you’re not this friggin ignorant, dumbass.”

Jo snorted loudly, not even attempting to muffle her laughter on the other line.  Well, that answered his question.  “Yeah, yeah.  Sorry, I thought I’d make your drive entertaining.”

Dean groaned around the words, “Trading rage out for stress?  I dunno about your logic...”

“What I don’t know is why you’re even on the road to begin with!  You saw the weather advisories!  It isn’t just schools closing—they called off all businesses, banks, hell, the mail isn’t coming.  And yet, here we are.”  She deadpanned, “With your dumbass out for a scenic jaunt.  You’re unbelievable!”

Dean couldn't argue—it wasn’t only the roads that were a nightmare.  The gusting winds did a banner job kicking up more snow that never ceased falling, creating new mountain-like drifts billowing back over the pavement.  The frost creeping in on the edges of the windows—no matter how high he blasted the heart—they served as another reminder of the temperatures plummeting down to forty-below.

Everything under the glistening, almost-ethereal-like snowfall was frozen solid.  With at least a half-inch of rock-hard, unforgiving ice.  Nothing was pretty about that.

Dean learned that lesson the hard way that morning, attempting to shovel a path in his driveway.  Luckily, when he took his spill and tumbled forward, he fell into another mound of snow.  This winter was a bitch!

When his gaze flashed down to his speedometer, he realized Jo’s banter had revved him up in more ways than one—

—He should’ve paid better attention, not gone on auto-pilot, fuck—

“Gotta go.”  He didn’t wait for a goodbye, he hung up.  Praying Jo didn’t hear the fleck of distress in his voice.

Right before his eyes, a white-out engulfed, well, everything.  The world as he knew it up and vanished!  Dean couldn’t see a damn thing in front of him, he couldn't see beyond his dashboard—

To make shit worse, he was going too fast.

Fuckin’ hell—slamming on the brakes wasn't an option in the heavy snow!  Even if he tried for traction, he didn’t stand a chance against the sheet of ice giving his tires a grand ol' ‘screw you!’  Slowly, praying like hell, Dean pushed against the pedal, and swallowed hard...

He already knew: if cars were stopped in front of him, the glaring red of their brake lights would be smothered by the blinding white, illuminated or not.  He couldn’t see shit! He was the distracted friggin moron, driving like it was another chill, summer day, Dean knew he’d mow them down, the eerie and ominous unknown knotted his stomach.

Teeth grinding together, heart ready to pound through his chest, flying blindly into traffic, his morbid thoughts wandered: what traffic—what cars?  Hell, what road?  What planet was he on—it sure as shit didn’t feel like Earth!

He fucking hated winter!

Moments before a rip-roaring panic attack, Dean regained just enough visibility.  Just enough to suck air into his lungs to, you know, not pass out.

Thank God, Dean could finally breathe!  He was the only car navigating the back roads.  No one was headed towards him for a head-on collision, nor was he set-up to slam into a slow car.

Coasting solo, without so much as a case of tailing gating going down, gave him a sense of relief.

That same relief...it barely lasted a second.

The visibility he'd rejoiced in now rocked him with terror.  With his lights flashing against a yellow warning sign—dead ahead—the too-late-clarity bit him in the ass.

Where the hell had that come from?!

“You have got it be kidding me!”

Oh yeah, that was the sound of fear.  His voice trembled with it.  There was no one else to impress, no reason to silence the frustrated, ugly shouts and curses exploding when he strangled the wheel: he was screwed, and he knew it.

Dean felt like an idiot, but what grated him was that he couldn't fix it.  There was no last-minute steering, no badass driving move he could pull.  Only the impending fear.

He’d epically fucked up: his speed was dangerous.  On a good day.

After the caution sign flew by, Dean barreled closer and closer towards the sharp curve.  The road hugged the landscape so tightly, it bent out of view, Dean felt goddamn helpless, knowing he'd never see the other side of that turn.

Not while the pavement was sealed over in this winter-hellstorm, no, there was no way to stop—not a thing he could do—

All Dean could come up with was letting go of the pedals.  Hoping against hope the snow banks slowed his momentum, while he braced for impact, shielding his eyes—

The sound of shattering glass and crushing, mangled metal was deafening.

-----------------------------

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Hi, I’m reporting an accident on Sutton, right passed—oh God, is he okay?  Is he dead?!  No, we—”

“Ma’am, please, remain calm.  I need you to give me your location, we’ll be sending units to cordon off the area and an ambulance.  Are you two safe?  Is your vehicle’s hazard lights on and moved completely out of traffic?”

“Sutton, after Ada Drive.  We’re fine, he’s so cold!  I-I don’t know if it’s the weather or he died!”

“…”

“What do we do?  Can we help him?  Say something!”

“It’s best not to move them in case of a spinal injuries due to the accident.  Sutton and Ada, that reported area is very, very…remote.  No one should be driving that stretch of road in these conditions.  He’s lucky you found him.  Very lucky.”

“I don’t understand—hey, wait, Cas!  Dammit... Why are you taking the phon—”

“Hello, we put you on speaker.  I’m a nurse and while I comprehend protocol, he’s not only injured; he's hypothermic.  Your discussion of ‘luck’ as a trained dispatcher is both unhelpful and irrelevant.  We need information, instructions of the proper actions in this case.  Do your job: what’s our next step?  How can we save his life?”

“...”

“No matter how ill-suited an employee, you must—

“I was reaching out to get an approximation.  Until they arrive, do your best to keep him warm…I have no idea how long it’ll take for emergency units to reach you.”

-------------------------

Castiel was beyond frustrated with 911.  His frustrations escalated towards the territory of irate by the end and he hung up, but now wasn’t the time to file a complaint.  There were higher stakes before him.

Shoving Charlie’s phone back, with a determined, “I’m taking it from here,” and ripping his coat off happened all at once.

When her jaw dropped open, Charlie could feel the flash-freeze of ice, practically nipping at her tongue.

After all, her mouth was about the only part of her not bundled up in the winter storm.  She demanded, “Are you gonna hop in there and cuddle a corpse, dude?!  I understand the call of duty and all, but—”

“Exactly.  It's my duty, I’m saving him.  I can scent him—he’s injured, but alive.  Today, the real threat is the cold.”  Cas looped the thick fabric of his coat around to shield his arm—punching out the window’s remaining glass, clearing his way in.

The ultimate quandary: which was Cas’ better option?  Collecting and carrying the man out—or going in?

As he deliberated and Charlie watched in shock, Cas words were absent: “We have no idea how long he’s been out here,” trying to get a closer view.  He needed more information, he needed it fast!

With only so much to work with, the alpha took note of what he already knew.

The car was wrapped around a pole and the damage was momentous.

Gauging the distance from the road, it had rolled no less than twice.  There were no airbags in this vintage car, the seatbelt was the only protection the man had against the warping, crippling and inevitable destruction of the vehicle.

While the jaws of life could’ve made an impact getting the driver to safety—Cas was facing problems.

The driver’s side door wouldn’t give, not a goddamn inch!  He circled the rear—slipping and sliding the whole way—to attempt access on the passenger’s.  While the door was a no-go, having crumbled inward even further, Castiel wasn’t giving up.

Grumbling, ‘to hell with it,’ was an afterthought, since his arm rose on instinct, bashing out the glass.

Cas dove into the car, shimmying across the bench seat to take an up-close look at the man’s injuries and see if he could help.

Since the ‘real help’ didn’t have an estimated arrival time.

“Wait!  Did you say what I thought you said?!“  In the background, just barely, Charlie asked in wonderment, “You can actually smell him?”

Not only was her comment delay obvious, but Cas hadn’t thought it odd until she repeated his words aloud.

After all, their noses slowed down in the cold.  Eventually, the sense of smell ceased functioning in sub-zero temperatures, unless the intention was deliberate: a sniff from inches away.  Losing one's acute nose was a survival mechanism, to keep other senses and organs working at peak performance as a priority in life-and-death conditions.

Their brutal surroundings was a cut-out piece of a record-breaking winter, certainly qualifying.

Right now, inside the cab and closer, yes—Castiel could most definitely smell him.  The fact he previously could from the outside too when he shouldn't, didn’t seem alarming—because Cas was too focused—his desire to fix this escalated in urgency.

“Yes, Charlie.  Very strongly, in fact.”  He didn’t hold back, or else she would hound him.

That’s when his tunnel-vision kicked on.

Feeling clammy cold skin and honing in on his wrist, Cas counted the beats—getting a read on the man’s pulse...his finding’s weren’t good.

There was blood.  Enough that it made the alpha’ stomach roll over but he was excellent in emergencies.  Once again, instead of grasping in the dark for an answer: Cas followed his nose.  He tore up a shirt that had drifted to the front seat and hadn’t flown out the window during the crash, using the strips as makeshift bandages.

He easily discovered an unforgiving break, one piercing through both flesh and jeans—for that gruesome sight alone, Cas was glad he’d passed out.

He worked as quickly as he could, wound by wound—discarding any old blood-soaked fabrics, frozen solid from the moment they were grazed by the bitter air.

Which brought Cas to his second task.

“Charlie!”  He shouted out the window, “Give me anything—anything—you’re wearing that’s not utter necessity.  Then, please, return to the car and crank the heat up.”  His order had gotten her attention, she was already doing just that.  While Cas pulled the unconscious man closer towards him (confident his neck wasn’t broken) he added, “When you see their lights, direct them over here.”

“Got it!  Getting naked and then flashing the ambulance!”  Layers were already flying off, landing inside the cab, Cas using a combination of body heat and the mountain of covers to stave off frostbite.  Shivering and down to next to nothing, Charlie waved at him, “Do what you’ve got to!” and ran back towards their vehicle.

“Thank you!” he tried to shout after her, God, he hoped Charlie knew how much he appreciated her and the lengths she went to when his extremes became...well, extreme.

And Cas would do what he had to.

The more he took in the omega’s scent (yes, it took him a while to even scent the man was omega over the other chaos in the car) the more invested he became.  The more vigorously he rubbed up and down his unscathed arms, attempting to encourage his circulation flow.  To restart his body.  Castiel hated how he felt like ice, like another piece of the outdoor landscape.

He hated it.

Yet, something remarkable happened—something he hadn’t been prepared for.

No, the omega didn’t regain consciousness.

However, the need for heat had his body closer, curving towards Cas’ and—

If he hadn’t see it with his own eyes, Cas would have thought his misadventure ended with him succumbing to the cold.  But it was the omega, his nose, actively sniffing the air—drawn in towards Cas like a magnet.  It made him quiver from a place that had nothing to do with the frigidness of their surroundings.

Thinking back to what Charlie said: it was an anomaly.

It was almost unheard of, being able to pick up scents in this weather up close, let alone where Cas had stood when he’d first sniffed out the omega...there was a connection here.  An inexplicable reason why he couldn’t release this man from his arms unless there was a miraculously recovery the moment he let go.

Despite the pair never sharing a word, something existed between them, and the moment Cas saw the flashing lights of police escorting an ambulance in the distance?  While the figure of Charlie waved them down and guided them towards the wreck, a figure in the background: Castiel made an impulsive choice

This situation had already been a clusterfuck, the hypothermia was dire, he highly doubted they’d have reason to be suspicious.

“Sir!  Sir?”  One of the cops was peering in the window to see both of them, his confusion evident.

Before he could say anything, Castiel interrupted with a panicked, “Thank God you’re finally here!  My omega was on his way home, and when he was late—I got worried and went looking for him.  I-I followed my gut, what if I hadn’t?!  He needs help, he needs—!”

“I understand, sir, we’ll take care of your mate!” he swiftly assured him, waving another officer over, who was carrying the proper machinery.

Charlie was flabbergasted.

She was wide-eyed, mouthing over the horrible-screeching sound 'the fuck are you doing? !’ although, she didn’t look particularly intimidating—shivering in her jeans and tank top, having donated to the mass of clothes inside the ruined cab.

Cas locked eyes with his best friend.  He had to make sure, make damn sure, she understood: ’play along,’ and thoughtfully added a, ’please?'

Throwing her arms in the air, once the door was torn off and they were free, Cas saw Charlie had made a perfect circle with her pacing.  Right before her jerky shivers got the best of her and she escaped into the heated car.

Immediately behind the ripped-away door was a strategically placed gurney and neck brace.  The paramedics worked fast and Cas was able to assist, both in knowledge and strength—helping to maneuver him over to the flat surface.  Seeing the extent of his injuries laid out…it made Cas cringe, but he knew firsthand this was another day at the office.

They’d be able to fix him up right away.

The bumps, stops, false-starts and spinning wheels of the gurney physically pained Cas to watch.  Eventually, they were able to load him into the ambulance and waved Cas on, “Come on, we have to go, now!”

Cas flashed a wide mischievous grin to Charlie, a quick cheeky glance none of the emergency personnel could see that said, ’See what I did?’ and he received rolled eyes in response from where she was watching, hanging out the rolled-down window.

“Please, be safe!  And let me know how your mate is!” Charlie called out right as the door slammed shut, and they were taking off.

He could see her as they drove away—she was a flash of agitated ginger, flailing arms, pulling at her hair in frustration.  Castiel supposed it would be difficult to have a friend like him.  Charlie gave it as good as she got it, though.

When Castiel turned back to the pallid figure in front of him, he remembered exactly why he needed to commit to this.  He needed to see this through—part of him refused a cliff-hanger, he needed to be here, be there for this man.

It was a double-edged sword; how critical his condition was.

On one hand, they were so busy tending to him, fighting like hell to get him stable, they didn’t have time to ask his name.  Because Cas had no idea what his mate’s name was.

...let alone his medical history, medication list or allergies, dear God—

On the other hand?  They were fighting like hell to get him stable.

Castiel was on edge, knowing this winter storm had already claimed a dozen lives, he refused to allow it this one.  Not before he even got a chance to know him.

-----------------------

Dean heard the beeping.

He felt the pain, but it was numbed.  Like…it was a blurry truth.  He knew it was there, but the painkillers made it easy to compartmentalize and save the knowledge for later.  His mouth was dry.  There was numbness and tingling through his body, but more than anything—

That scent—

He gasped into the room, sucking in as much of the air as possible, like it would be his last—Dean had no idea where he was, what was happening and—

Very suddenly, the source of that amazing scent was over him.  Grabbing his hand and squeezing.  “Thank God you’re okay.  It was touch and go for a bit.  You were in a car accident, do you…remember?”

Dean heard the word, duh, but he was so damn distracted by the shimmering quality of the guy’s blue eyes.  The hypnotizing effect of their sparkle and the thumb stroking his hand had Dean blurting out, “Alpha—?” in both confusion and a dawning realization.

They had him on some damn good drugs...

“Oh, is he awake?”  Another voice coming somewhere from the hallway called out, and grew closer, their volume rising, “That’s wonderful!  I’m so thrilled you pulled through, you certainly were lucky you had an attentive mate who sought you out in the storm.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t be with us.  Cas has been very helpful today.”

Dean did a double-take, as did the nurse checking his blood pressure.

“Mate?”  He gaped openly at ‘Cas,’ feeling dizzy as fuck.  “Oh my God, I hit my head, I don’t remember!  Goddammit, shit, shit, shit—

He was panicking, squirming, feeling like his damn soul was about to leave his body in horror—to the point where the nurse gave up taking his vitals—they’d spiked through the roof.

Dean grabbed Cas’ hand and hauled him in, close, swearing up and down, “I didn’t mean to!  I’m sorry about whatever put me on the road today.  I-I’m hopin’ against hope this amnesia is only temporary.”  He pulled the alpha in, the one who smelled so sweet, and kissed him on the cheek, “How the fuck could I forget someone like you?”

And he felt himself begin to hyperventilate.

“A-Anxiety attacks,” the alpha stammered out, like Dean’s alarm was contagious and he'd caught it, “And my nose can tell, the pain is returning.”

“It is about that time,” the nurse hummed her confirmation after glancing at the wall’s clock.  “Okay, Dean.  Ready for the good stuff?”

He tightened his hold on Cas hand and swallowed hard.  “No, I-I don’t wanna forget even more, I—”  Dean whipped around (too fast, oww, that friggin hurt!) and focused solely on his mate, “I can’t lose anymore time.  Not with you, gorgeous.”

“He’s such a sweet-talker, isn’t he?” Cas laughed over to the woman, leaning down and kissing the top of his hand.  “It’s okay, darling.  If anything, sleep could help your...memories return.”

Dean, with his eyes growing heavy, thought that sounded like a great idea.

You know what else sounded like a great idea?

Reaching out, cupping Cas’ cheeks and kissing him.

Sure, it was sloppy, uncoordinated and he surprised the hell out of him, but it was warm and…sweet.  Oh, then the drugs kicked back in.

Dean flopped back to the bed, complaining, “I want you to join meee,” then changed his tone with a suggestive shimmy of his shoulders, “Hop in here and keep me warm…”

Well, his alpha looked like he was considering it.  That was a step in the right direction!  Dean continued to be a little shit, while he could, while he was still conscious: “C’mon, you’ve been so helpful.  Make yerself more helpful and crawl in here, mm, you smell amazing—I can show you my appreciation like a good mate, I’ll suck your—”

Dean.  That's the narcotics speaking, let go.  You’re holding on too tight, I’ll be here when you wake.”

An impish grin tugged his cheeks.  “Did I make you blush, Cas?  A big, strong alpha like you is a nervous about a little PDA?”

“What did I say?”

Oh.  He took that ‘alpha’ thing to heart—‘cause that was an order.  Okie-dokie!

“Fine, you’re no fun,” Dean mumbled, barely able to make his lips work as he pushed the words past his teeth.  “Guess who’s withholding blowjobs until further notice?  Me!  G’night!”

Surrounded in that sweet scent was the best way to pass out…

--------------------------

Maybe…Castiel committed to his hoax a bit too wholeheartedly.

As he sat in the corner of the hospital room, still reeling from their first—yes, first—encounter, he couldn’t stop berating himself: he’d fucked up.

More than anything, Cas wanted to see a recovery.  Make damn sure the staff and doctors made Dean their top priority.  Once he was confident, and the nurses had their backs turned, he could slip away.  But then...the unexpected happened.

Surely, Cas had never in a million years planned on fooling Dean himself!

Jesus, the omega never second-guessed the ruse!  He hadn’t so much as batted an eye!

Instead, upon stirring, he’d naturally called Cas ‘alpha’ without a prompt or the nurse’s suggestion and...hell, that did things to him.  For some reason, Dean thought it was more plausible to have lost his memory, the fabric of who he was and the life he led, than to question why a stranger was next to him.

Who this person, posing as the mate he didn’t have, was!

…Okay.  Maybe after a brush with death, it would stand to reason.  Dean’s condition was critical, and Cas had done an excellent job setting them both up from the beginning.  Maybe Dean was subconsciously more familiar with Cas, with his scent, than he’d initially assumed.  Knocked out, or not.

The ride to the hospital was longer than planned.  Ignoring the roads, the trip was unacceptable with the deadly factors piling up, smothering them.  The second fluids were on board, their focused changed: rigging up any type of makeshift heat supply they could use to pump new life into the omega.

And pray it was enough.  Getting his core temperate up, and maintaining the same level, was the only thing keeping Dean stable.  God, Cas had felt physically ill the entire drive: gaining hope once a rosy tinge colored his cheeks, but once oscillating warmth moved—his skin blued and returned to the sickly, pallid shade.

It wasn’t until they flew through the doors of the ER that Castiel had any faith.  He was a half-second away from throwing on his scrubs and saving the man himself!

Through it all, the touch and go, heart-wrenching highs and lows—his rock, his amazing support was Charlie.

She was a genius.

A goddamn genius.

Not only had she gone along with his ploy—how many friends would do that?—but she stayed behind, poorly dressed, to see to it the car was towed.  In doing so, she pored over the wreck and did some digging of her own.

Inside the glove box, underneath seats and wedged between some crammed metal, she found a treasure trove of information.  Everything Cas needed and more.  He wasn’t just armed with an insurance card for the hospital, Charlie and the rest of the car held countless clues as to who Cas’ mate was.

She finally gave Cas his omega’s name.

Along with Dean’s address, his date of birth, everything an alpha should and would know by heart.  The timing was right on cue—as they finally swung out of the ambulance and into the ER.

It was enough for the front desk to pull his medical history.  Even better, when Cas took a quick peek: it looked like Dean was as healthy as an ox, ages since his last visit to a doctor.

Which meant leeway for Cas to work his magic.  There was feasible time to court and mate an alpha—his plan working out, step by step.

Passed out and clueless as to what was happening, Dean’s marital status was casually updated while he was fighting for his life.

Castiel frowned at how easy (too easy) this charade was.  He didn’t know where to direct his emotions, nor whether they were feelings of victory—for flawlessly playing the system—or disgruntled frustration—from the system being flawed.

Maybe it didn’t matter, Cas was headstrong and stubborn: he’d find a loophole anyway.  This turned out to be the easiest way to secure his spot once they wheeled Dean into a room for rest.

Except…now, it wasn’t limited to ‘updated paperwork.’

Cas had an omega who honestly thought they were mated.  Believing the memories were knocked out of his brain when his head smashed the windshield and—

What would do more harm than good?  The last thing the omega needed was more damage and heartache...

Dean seemed so hopeful, so happy.  His scent was beautiful, alive and freely whisking around the room, making Cas smile.  This ‘joyful reunion,’ their...relationship seemed to give Dean a cause to fight for.

To wreck the illusion wouldn’t merely send Dean’s fantasies of a happily ever after crumbling around him, it would destroy any chance Cas had with him.  Because…

In truth: Castiel was drawn in by his scent.  He was utterly captivated by the temptation of knowing the man behind the proverbial mask.

Now that he got a taste?  Of the cheeky, optimistic and absolutely delicious omega that scent was paired with?  He couldn’t leave.

He should.

Dear Lord, cutting out and running was his best option!  No one would know.  He could cover his tracks on the way out, nothing would trace back to him.  With no mutual acquaintances, no history whatsoever, they weren’t linked.

Hell, he and Charlie literally found Dean on the side of the road!  He could end all of this, a clean, even break—right now.  It’s what any normal human would do.  Especially, if they had made these stupid choices, managing to get in over their heads.

Except Cas was taken.  Intrigued.  He wanted to know Dean.  Wanted to be part of his life.

Well, once he figured out how to get over this huge fucking hurdle he’d thrown in his own path.  It’s not like Cas had planned out today's events, he couldn't have predicted this.  Not in a million years.

------------------------------

This time Dean’s waking was less tentative and frightening.  Instead of being paralyzed with fear of the unknown, he was...comfortable.

He knew he was safe.  Thank fuck, Dean knew he hadn’t been left for dead and buried out in the snow, he knew that his mate was here, taking care of him.

Dean kept his eyes closed after he regained consciousness, trying to dig around in his fragmented, useless brain.  He was so frustrated, and it was damn near impossible to keep a lid on it.  Every time he looked back, no where, literally friggin no where could he find the gorgeous man keeping him company at his bedside.

He wondered: if he’d lost time, what other things went missing?  Hell, was it years of his life?  Clumps of information?  Odds-and-ends, dealer’s-choice?  Who knew!  Thank Jesus fuckin’ Christ his alpha was here to stay, to help him cope, to remember, and to take care of him.

If only Dean could remember how the hell he’d gotten so lucky to land this guy in the first place…

As crazy as it was: he shouldn’t worry about the how, there were more important things in play.  

Dean needed to re-focus, since the current situation was high-priority concern.  First time the lights came back on, it was only long enough to be hit with the amnesia bombshell, before he was back off to sleep.

He knew damn well the knock on his head was a whammy.  Dean had taken note of his surroundings, there was more to the story.

This time, he needed to figure out what the hell happened to him.

While steeling his nerves to face the music, Dean admitted to a stupid-happy false-start when he felt the weight of a hand in his.  The soft, welcoming connection of their palms pressed and fingers laced together.  Yeah, he could totally get used to this… Or remember what this felt like.  Or...whatever!

When Dean finally opened his eyes, he followed the source (warming him in more ways than one) and peered to the side.

Cas had collapsed over his haphazardly folded arms, one slung out to reach Dean and the other, a poor attempt to keep him propped atop the hospital bed.  Maybe he was asleep, maybe not, but Dean could tell he was exhausted.

Without any idea how long the ordeal was, Dean couldn’t even venture a guess—was it a power-nap or was it night?  Was it seven years later and Dean was waking from a coma?!  It was time to get some answers.  Hell, maybe this would help both of them.

“Hey sweetheart,” Dean whispered, his voice all kinds of messed up and hoarse, “You up?”

The alpha’s scent burst with excitement, he tilted his chin and smiled.  “Of course, I‘ve been waiting.  How are you?  How do you feel?”

“You tell me.  I’m still in the dark.”  He kept his voice lowered.  “Let’s not catch anyone’s attention yet.  I wanna stay up, spend time with you, before the nurses roofie me back to sleep, yeah?”

“Anything you want.  And as for how you are…”  Cas reached up, moving carefully to not draw attention from anyone who wasn’t Dean, fingertips feeling cool against his forehead, “Concussion, stitches right below your hair line, well—countless stitches over your body,” his touch traced along Dean’s cheek, neck, pausing where the sheet was pulled up.  “Broken ribs.  Sprains and muscle tears throughout your left arm were partly due to some dislocation after a lengthy fight with the seatbelt.  Unfortunately, your right leg had a severe break.”

As Cas went along each of his bullet-point presentation, it was like the pain bubbled and promptly shot directly to the site, his words lighting a stick of dynamite and Dean’s acknowledgement an explosion of “oh, yeah, fuck ” flaring something awful.

He could acutely feel the hefty bulk of the cast, anchoring him down into the bed.  The brace wrapped around his shoulder, his arm—there was a rigidness Dean believed to be a split obstructed by the sheets.  He could feel the tension of the stitches across—no, a better question was: where weren’t they—?!

Even in the face of Dean’s obvious alarm, Cas continued smiling when he said, “We brought you in severely hypothermic.  It was a race against the clock.  You barely avoided frostbite, keeping all your limbs intact.  I feel very, very lucky to have found you.”

Wow, there something centering about Cas.

“Not luck, you’re just a good alpha,” Dean quipped back, dumbass grin on his face, he knew it and he owned it!  ...Although the real-time dawning of what happened sunk in, and now there was a different kind of fear.

“I’m not doing so hot, am I?”  Dean worried his lip, appreciative of Cas’ supportive gesture—of taking Dean’s hand into both of his, cradling it—and he wondered aloud, “What happens now?”

“Now?”  His alpha hummed, appearing to be caught off guard.

Still, Dean waited on him.  Like a good mate would...right ?  That was mate shit, wasn’t it?  Letting your alpha make decisions and whatnot?

Finally, Cas came up with, “Now, we wait for the all-clear from the doctors.  After that…” he hesitated again, which confused Dean.

“After that...you’ll need someone—I’m going to take you back and wait on you, hand and foot, until you recover.”

Was that so hard to say?  The words were perfect, everything he wanted, that eased his mind and more.

Dean beamed, his agreement enthusiastic.  “I love that.  With this pain in the ass leg, it’s gonna be a commitment, you sure you’re ready for this, babe?”

“Absolutely.”  This time, Cas didn’t miss a beat.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Oh, shit,” Dean grumbled, seeing the nurse turn the corner.  Knowing the countdown was on, Dean waved Cas in, luring him closer with a soft, “C’mere…” and tugging Cas into a quick kiss.

But they both lingered…no, it wasn’t the ‘quick’ anything he'd initially planned, at all.  Dean’s lips pressed against his alpha’s—it was friggin mouth-watering—

God, he was stupid as hell!

Dean was hungry, craving, wanting and needing, of a million more!  Preferably, with less clothing!

…and less broken bones.  Shit.

“How are you doing, Mr. Winchester?” the woman asserted, while he and Cas tried to pry themselves away from one another—gazes flicking between one another’s wandering eyes and wet lips—inappropriately aroused from something so small.  “Excuse me, Dean.”

“Uh?  Yeah, sorry.  Thinking.”

Finally, in an abrupt and jarring jolt, they snapped back apart.  Cas returned to his chair and Dean, upright, in his bed.

“I’m going to take your vitals.  You’ve been nice and stable the past two days.”  There was a knowing grin on the nurse’s face, she laughed when she announced, “We believe the amnesia should correct itself, or maybe it already has.  And after the doctor checks you over, with your mate being a nurse, we’ll be able to discuss sending you two lovebirds home soon!”

“Awesome!” Dean keenly agreed, ‘cause it was.  “Hell yes, let’s bust me out!”

His rah-rah-go-team may have stemmed from said inappropriate arousal, but did it matter?

He could only focus on what was in front of him and in the present.  No use crying over what he couldn’t remember when the feedback was all: ‘wait it out’ and the gorgeous alpha of his dreams was gonna, quote, ‘wait on him…’

Sure, Dean was pretty fucked up, but all things considered, he wasn’t about to complain with Cas around to help him get better.  Not for a second.

--------------------------------

While they readied Dean’s discharge paperwork, Cas was hit with two more crisis-level situations.

Both stemmed from this lack...of insight into Dean’s life.  They kept on coming and would have dissuaded any normal person to drop the whole thing, but Cas was stubborn to a fault and thought he could fix everything.  Find a solution to each problem, no matter how far-fetched the idea, or (his new favorite) swap out an answer with a loophole.

Problem one: Dean’s family should really be notified he was in an accident.  That it was serious, but he managed to pull through.  Except, with Cas as Dean’s ‘mate,’ he should be the one calling up the family, right?

In Dean’s mind, that’s probably what happened, too—that Cas had gotten ahold of everyone in their ‘happily ever after,’ to update them on Dean’s condition as it played out.

Not only did Castiel fail, knowing nothing about this family; but they’d blow his cover—

Problem two: he had no idea about Dean’s living situation.

Thank God, before Cas promised Dean the moon, he actually had the means to take care of him—but he couldn’t help but wonder…did Dean have roommates?  Did he have a boyfriend?  Or girlfriend?

Hell, would Cas’ glorified kidnapping end in Dean’s dog starving because he was so conflicted about his plan they never returned home to feed it?!

…wow, all right, one step at a time.

Regardless, Dean needed someone while he recovered.

It only made sense that someone had medical training, right?  Cas easily justified this was a kind of in-home nursing care; except, to make it easier on Cas…it was in his own home.

“Mr. Novak!”

He spun around, praying he didn’t look as anxious as he felt—but his scent must have given him away—

The nurse took a wary step back to stare at him.

“I have the documents that need your signature…”  Her voice was tentative while she flipped around the clipboard to face him.  She was slow to hand him the pen, being sure to capture his attention when she pronounced, “It must have been scary.  Finding your mate like that.  I can promise you; he’s through the woods.  You know that, too, deep down.  This is a time to celebrate.”

Hah, if only that’s where his nerves stemmed from.

Castiel kept up appearances and smiled at her.  “I appreciate it.  I believe I’m still rattled.”

“Who wouldn’t be?  Then adding in your bond, I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like.”

Pausing mid-signature, he raised an eyebrow and glanced at her.  “You’ve noticed our…bond?”

“Please!”  Waving a dismissive hand and rolling her eyes, she laughed out, “Everyone can scent it from the hallway!  It’s pretty amazing—having a connection like that, so young.  Unfortunately, the only time we experience anything close is in the ER.  When an elderly patient arrives from a stroke or heart attack.  We already know who their mate is—they’ve built a union spanning decades—God, it’s difficult to separate them, especially when the outcome is bleak.”

Yes, Cas was in a state of mild shock, but he wasn’t the one telling the story.

“A patient comes in and it’s too late, they can’t be saved.  That’s the job.  But then, afterwards...the way the loss breaks the living?  The scent of tearing away the survivor’s only reason to live, the ache of their heart being crushed—it’s enough to rip out your own, too.  That’s what hurts the most.”  She shook her head, and forced a smile, “Which is why everyone’s been walking by your room.  It’s rare for a win and a happy ending, you know?  Being able to scent victory and love…it’s invaluable to us.  So thank you—for loving your mate and tracking him down in the storm.”

“I…honestly wasn’t expecting any of that.  But you’re welcome.” Castiel’s heart was pounding loud enough he could barely hear much else besides the beat thudding in his ears.  “I had noticed quite a bit of foot traffic, considering the wing of the hospital.”

“Can’t get anything by another nurse, huh?”  She pursed her lips together and retrieved the papers, looking like she had something to ask, yet hesitating.

Cas couldn’t take much more of it.  He was already flustered, so he encouraged, “Is there anything else you were wondering about?”

“Yes.”  She paused once more, eyes flitting between her clipboard and Castiel, before she finally blurted out, “How long have you been together?  I’m…curious.”

“About the bond…” he finished for her, but…what did he say?

He couldn’t even remember the lie he’d written down in the medical files!  If only he could reference those—Cas knew, beginning now, he had to get his story straight on the first try!  Since it was shaping up to be a long-winding story, much longer than he intended—

“I mean, you’d know.  Like, when you two met.”  She beat him to the punch, asking, “There’s no way you were true mates, right?”

“Actually…” Cas’ breath was shaky, and for the first time in a while, he was able to look her in the eyes.  For the first time today, maybe something crazy made sense?  “...I believe we are.”