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The Art of Kintsugi

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Dean Winchester was not your typical omega. This was obvious to anyone who saw him, as he was taller and broader than most male omegas. In fact, most people naturally assumed he was an alpha, or maybe a beta if they met his giant moose of an alpha brother. But it was more than his size that made him different. Not that Dean minded being different.

His job was unusual for an omega as well. He worked at his Uncle Bobby’s garage, where he specialized in restoring classic cars. Dean’s dating attitude was also unusual. Dean tended to date around. Alphas, betas, omegas, it didn’t matter. If Dean liked their personality and enjoyed looking at them, he would usually ask them out. He wasn’t looking for a mate. He didn’t want to settle down, and all the people who were close to him just accepted that, and didn’t push, unlike the families of most omegas in their society.

Enter Nick Monroe, a federal agent with a love of classic cars. An alpha, as most law enforcement personnel were. He brought his red 1967 Chevy Impala in for restoration, having inherited from a long removed third cousin (or whatever) who didn’t take very good care of it. It was a car Dean was well familiar with restoring using tender loving care, being the proud owner of the same car in black.

Dean and Nick hit it off right away, having a lot in common from classic cars to Led Zepplin. Nick would often show up at the garage to keep Dean company while he worked on those rare occasions that Nick’s own job didn’t take him out of town.  When Dean finally decided to ask Nick on a date, he shouldn’t have been surprised by his reaction.

“I don’t date other alphas,” he’d responded. (Dean always wore blockers to the garage. It was just annoying when people wouldn’t trust him with their cars simply because of his secondary gender.)

Dean just smiled a crooked smile at the other man. “Well, what if I told you that I’m not an alpha?” Dean kind of enjoyed the reaction he got when people found out he was an omega. It amused him.

Nick smiled at him. “Oh you’re not?”

“Nope,” Dean smiled back. “I’m all omega. Can’t help it that they grow us big in my family.”

Luckily, Nick chuckled at his joke, and they went out. It turned out to be Dean’s longest running relationship. Nick was great. He didn’t care that Dean wasn’t the typical “stay at home” omega. He appreciated Dean’s independent streak, and admired that he wanted to continue work, even if he ever got mated. Nick was great, he was Dean’s ideal alpha. Until he wasn’t.

Things went downhill when Nick asked Dean to move in with him, and Dean accepted. He never asked Dean to quit his job. Not once. But when Dean worked late and didn’t have dinner on the table when Nick expected it, that’s when the violence started. He never hit Dean in the face, never where anyone could see. But when he’d be under a car the next day, and he’d wince in clear pain, Bobby noticed. Or when he was bent over the hood and stifled a yelp when Benny would pat him on the shoulder, they noticed.

Of course, if Bobby or Benny asked Dean about it, his response was always the same. “I’m fine. Everything is fine.”

In his stubbornness, Dean thought everything was fine, until it wasn’t. When Dean got pregnant and refused to take time off from the garage, despite Nick insisting he do so, he received his worst beating yet. It was the abuse, not his work at the garage that caused the miscarriage, but Dean didn’t believe that. When he lost the baby Nick threw him out, stating that he was a defective omega who couldn’t even take time off for the health and welfare of their child.

Dean was beaten, broken, and alone. He called the only person he could think of who would never judge him in a situation like this, his brother, Sam. Of course, Sam took him in. But Sam had his own mate and pups to take care of, and it wasn’t long before Dean started to feel like the burden that he believed he was. It got so much worse when Dean looked at Sam’s pups, because all he could think about was his own pup and how it had died before it got the chance to live. He suffered silently for his lost child and drew in on himself. Dean did the only thing he thought should be done with a defective omega. Sam and his family were out for the night. Dean insisted on staying home, he told Sam he needed some alone time, and bless his heart, Sam didn’t question him further. Even though he was alone, without another soul in the modest house, Dean couldn’t quite bring himself to go through with his plan. Instead, he wandered around. Without conscious thought, he found himself in the baby’s room, hands caressing tiny toys and petite clothes. Then he was in front of the crib, lovingly and carefully tucking in the stuffed animal that resided there. Lost as he was in his own head, Dean was unaware of the passage of time until the grandfather clock in the foyer chimed 8 p.m., resounding through the house like a death toll. Dean knew it was now or never, the family would be home soon, it was close to the pups’ bedtime. As much as he hated the idea of being found like this, he felt more that he had no other choice. He climbed into the bathtub, so as to keep clean up as simple as possible. As he grabbed his freshly sharpened razor, he didn’t even hear the keys in the front door. Sam found him moments later, not soon enough to stop him, but hopefully soon enough to save him.

***

“Mr. Winchester, may I speak with you in private?” Dr. Anna Milton, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, led Sam down a dreary hallway into her tiny closet of an office.

Sam was glad Dr. Milton was caring for his brother. He figured Dean would like her, an omega in a position of power. Granted, it was in a hospital where caring for people was a cornerstone of the job, but still, it was unusual to see even in the healthcare field. “If you’re bringing me into your office, the news can’t be good,” Sam said hesitantly.

Dr. Milton took a deep breath. “It’s not great. Dean has lost a lot of blood, and there is a lot of other damage to his body that can’t just be explained away by his suicide attempt.” The doctor didn’t pull any punches.  “He’s in a medically induced coma. I would like to recommend transferring him to the omega recovery unit. They’re best equipped to deal with your brother’s trauma. Unfortunately, I can’t put in the transfer without the consent of his legal alpha. That’s you, Sam.”

“No, no it isn’t. Dean is emancipated. Well, we were in the process of getting him emancipated…” Sam trailed off.

“So, that makes this your decision, Sam.” Dr. Milton was very matter of fact in her demeanor.

“Can you wake Dean up? Just long enough to find out what he wants to do?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Sam sighed. “So, what are the other options? Can’t you just take care of him?” Sam was hesitant to make decisions on Dean’s behalf. He knew his older brother would hate that.

“Unfortunately, I can’t. Since it’s clear that your brother tried to take his own life, I’m required to release him into psychiatric care. Without your permission, the default would be the hospital’s psychiatric ward, where we’d transfer any alpha or beta who attempted suicide.” Anna hesitated a moment before she continued, “With the obvious signs of abuse, it’s highly likely that you would be removed as Dean’s legal alpha, and he’d be sent to an omega care facility.”

“But I didn’t hurt him! I would never hurt my brother!” Sam managed not to use his alpha voice on the unfazed omega, but only barely.

“I’m not saying you did. Whether you did or not won’t matter to the powers that be, even if you didn’t do it, you allowed it to happen…” Anna let her voice trail off and the implications hanging in the air.

Sam sat back in his chair and sighed. He looked at the doctor and asked, “How would you feel if your ‘legal alpha’ made this decision for you?” He used finger quotes, which brought a small smile to the doctor’s face.

“Well, considering my legal alpha is the head of the omega recovery unit, I would trust him whole heartedly with this decision.” Anna said. “My step brother, Dr. Castiel Novak, is the nation’s leader in omega recovery. Your brother would be in very good hands.”

Sam was skeptical. “I find it hard to believe an alpha would be the leading authority in omega care.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to be so judgmental, Sam Winchester.” Anna smiled at him. “Your mate, Madison Wolfe, isn’t she leading the charge in omega rights? She’s an alpha, right?”

“How do you know all that?”

“When an omega comes into my ER with obvious signs of abuse, my first step is to look into their immediate family. I can’t help myself, it’s how I protect my patients.” At least the doctor had the where with all to look mildly ashamed.

“I’m guessing I checked out, if you’re encouraging me to transfer Dean to that recovery unit instead of calling social services to have him put into one of those care facilities?”

She nodded. “Of course. You’ve been an advocate for getting Dean emancipated, and Ms. Wolfe is a very well-known force in omega rights’ circles. So I know you want to do what’s best for your brother. Trust me when I say, the omega recovery unit is what’s best. But if it will make you feel better, I can give you a tour and introduce you to Dr. Novak before you make any decisions.”

“Ok, yeah, let’s do that.”

“Great. Come with me.” Anna gave Sam a small smile. “Of course, just because I chose not to call social services, doesn’t mean my brother won’t also want to check you out before coming to that conclusion on his own.

Unfortunately, that would have to wait. When they arrived at the ward, Dr. Novak was engaged with another patient and didn’t even notice their presence. Anna and Sam stood just inside the door. The dark haired nurse who had been consulting with the doctor made a hasty beeline towards them.

“Anna, you can’t bring him in here!” she said forcefully. “He reeks of alpha distress and worry, and our patients don’t need to be exposed to that!”

“I know, Meg,” Anna tried to remain calm. “I just wanted to show Mr. Winchester the recovery ward. His brother is in a coma in my ER and I’m trying to convince him this is the best place for him.” She then turned to Sam. “This is Meg Masters, one of two nurses on the ward. As you can see, she’s an omega. The other doctor, Donna Hanscum, is also an omega.”

“Yeah, but the head nurse is an alpha,” Meg said, as if it was a challenge.

“Garth is great though. The patients really respond well to him.” Anna added. “Also, everyone who works in this ward is mated, except for Meg. So no worries about unmated alphas around vulnerable omegas.” Anna failed to mention that her brother’s mate had passed away, but that wasn’t exactly her story to tell.

“Ok, fine, just show me where I have to sign. I just want my brother to be ok.” Sam resigned.

A few days later, Dean was securely set up in the omega recovery ward, and still in a coma. Sam had been trying every day since Dean was admitted to get in to see him, but every time he was told by one of the nurses that the doctor wasn’t allowing visitors. Finally, he got in to see Dr. Novak to find out what was going on.

“Mr. Winchester, please have a seat.” Dr. Novak said without preamble, gesturing to the seat on the other side of his desk. Despite Anna assuring him that Sam Winchester passed her little test, Castiel was still wary of the other alpha, as he always was when he was charged with an omega who had suffered such extensive and long term abuse as Dean had.

“Doctor, what’s going on? How’s my brother? Why can’t I see him?” Sam asked all in a rush, worry and deep seeded concern flooding his scent.

“Calm down, Mr. Winchester. It’s not my practice to let distressed alphas into my omega recovery ward. Anyway, that’s not why I called you here.”

“Then why did you call me here?” Sam asked, exasperated.

“Because, your brother requires a medical procedure, and I cannot perform it without the legal alpha’s consent.” Dr. Novak spelled everything out matter-of-factly, as if he had these kinds of conversations every day.

“Oh God, what is it? Is it life threatening?” Sam’s worry only grew stronger.

Castiel rested his elbows on his desk and steepled his fingers in front of him. “Mr. Winchester, I’m afraid your brother suffered extensive damage to his reproductive organs. There’s a great deal of scar tissue, and danger for internal bleeding. I’d like to do a complete hysterectomy, with your permission, of course.”

Sam ran a hand through his shaggy hair and tugged at it. As far as he knew, before, Dean had never really planned on having kids, didn’t seem to be on his list of priorities, more of a “if it happens, it happens” sort of thing. But the memory of how devastated his brother was after his miscarriage was still painfully fresh in his mind. He couldn’t….he wouldn’t make this decision for Dean. Finally, he asked the doctor, “Is it life threatening?”

Castiel raised an eyebrow at the other man. “Not necessarily, why?”

“Because, if it’s not life threatening, maybe we can wait until Dean wakes up, and ask him. I can’t…I won’t make this decision for him. Not if I don’t have to.”

That…wasn’t what Castiel was expecting. Most alphas, even the more enlightened ones, rarely, if ever, suggested waiting for the omega to make that decision. Usually, the alphas would insist that the omega not be altered. Sometimes the more enlightened ones would agree to the procedure out of medical necessity. But letting an omega decide their own course of action? It was practically unheard of.

“Well, so far there doesn’t appear to be internal bleeding, and we can keep an eye on that, try to stop it if it occurs. Dean could recover from his coma in a day or two, so for now, yes, we can wait.”

Sam sighed and visibly relaxed, sinking into the chair. “That’s great, Doc. Thanks.” Then, he added, “When can I see him?”

Castiel inhaled heavily as he considered Sam Winchester. Sam passed his test, but he still couldn’t let the alpha into his ward, not in his current state. “Once you calm down, or wear very heavy blockers. You reek of alpha distress, and that could have an adverse effect on the other patients. It might be good for you to see him, for him to hear a familiar voice. It would be better if he could be exposed to a familiar scent, but right now you wouldn’t be doing him any favors.”

“Right, right, I understand,” Sam said as he sagged further into his seat. He knew he was a mess, but he couldn’t help it. Seeing his big brother so broken and vulnerable was unsettling. All his life, Dean had been the strong one, the one taking care of Sam, and now…well, Sam was not handling it well at all.

“Why don’t you go home, shower, change, and eat something. I get the feeling you haven’t been taking care of yourself at all since this all happened.” Castiel didn’t know how he knew that, but he did.

“Ok.”

“Get yourself together and when you come back, we’ll see about getting you in to see Dean. If needed, we keep blockers for occasions just like this.” Well, that was a lie. Cas would never let an alpha in Sam’s state of distress into his ward. But he did keep his own blockers in his office, and they were medical grade strong. He’d be willing to let Sam use it. Somehow, he felt it was important for Dean to have his brother near.

***

Dean slowly swam to the surface of consciousness. The first thing he noticed was the smell, all antiseptic and clean and neutral. A hospital. Dean started and his entire body flamed with pain at the effort. Hospitals were never good news. This smell meant bad news, reminiscent of beatings and miscarriages and misery. The first time he awoke to this smell was a month after he moved in with Nick. He’d worked late at the garage and Nick made it home first. Dinner wasn’t prepared, laundry hadn’t been done. Nick had been out of town on a case, and Dean wasn’t expecting him home. That was no excuse. A hard shove, and stairs, so many stairs ending at the basement’s hard, concrete floor. Sirens, the ambulance, and then the hospital smell. It was an accident; Nick was apologetic and loving after.

But this smell always was the aftermath of the bad parts and it was all Dean’s fault. It was always Dean’s fault.

Dean came to completely, and didn’t realize he was screaming and crying, with the nurses trying to shush him. One of them said that Sam was on his way. No, Sam couldn’t see him like this. “No, don’t call Sam,” he tried to croak out, but his voice felt like it hadn’t been used in years. Maybe it hadn’t.

He was screaming and thrashing, then there was fire in his veins. Then nothing.

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When Dean awoke again, hours or days or years later, the only thing in his vision was the bluest eyes he had ever seen in his life. He was calmer now. Perhaps it was the drugs, or perhaps it was the soothing, calming scent of confident, secure alpha. He made the only gesture he could, raising his eyebrows in confusion. An alpha in the medical field was required to wear blockers, so why could Dean smell this alpha?

“Dean? I’m Dr. Novak. How are you feeling today?” That voice, it also soothed Dean, all deep and gravelly. It sounded to him the way honey bourbon tasted. He just continued talking, not even giving Dean an opportunity to respond. “You were very adamant that we not call Sam. We didn’t, but he’s here anyway. He’s been by to visit you every day. He’s just outside the ward. We can send him away if you want.”

The doctor stopped talking, and the pause was long enough that he expected Dean to answer. Dumbly, numbly, Dean said, “Sam? Here? For what?”

“Maybe because when he found you half dead in his bathtub, he got worried about you?”

“Tell him to go home, take care of his family.” Dean finally managed a complete sentence.

“You are his family, but if you don’t want to see him, it’s my duty to do what you need.” The doctor got up from where he was seated for his examination and headed towards the front of the ward. “But, just so you know, Sam has been by your side every day this week.”

“All the more reason he should go home.” Dean insisted. It didn’t occur to him to ask how long he’d been there until after the doctor walked away.

A little while later, a dark haired nurse came to tend to him. “Where am I, and how long have I been here?” He asked.

“This is the omega recovery ward, and you’ve been here about a week and half. Your brother agreed to have you transferred here after you landed yourself in the ER.” The nurse answered, mildly gruffly.

“What the hell is an ‘omega recovery ward’?” Dean asked, suddenly very suspicious.

“We are specially trained and equipped to help omegas who have been traumatized. We specialize in healing both physical and psychological trauma.”

“Oh. Well, you can transfer me back. I don’t have trauma.”

The nurse huffed. “Dude, your insides are a mess of scar tissue and poorly healed broken bones.”

“Well, I don’t have psychological trauma.”

She lifted one of his heavily bandaged wrists. “This says otherwise. Just relax and let us do our jobs, ok?” She gently pushed him back into the bed. Dean didn’t even realize he had sat up.

“Geez, your bedside manner could use some work,” Dean grumped.

“Yeah, like you’d respond to soft touches and cooing. I don’t think so.” She smirked at him.

Dean just crossed his arms and scowled at her.

She rolled her deep brown eyes at him. “By the way, the name’s Meg. Just holler if you need anything.” With that, she abruptly left.

***

Castiel sat in his office (which was significantly bigger than Anna’s, even though she ran a much larger department) reading over his files. He couldn’t parse together why Dean didn’t want to see Sam, when Sam was nothing but eager to see him. He also couldn’t quite bring himself to talk to Dean about the much needed hysterectomy. That one he really couldn’t figure out, as he has never had an issue discussing those things with patients before. It would certainly be a difficult thing, and would add to the trauma, but that’s what they were all there for, to help. But just the idea of adding to Dean’s already extensive pain twisted painfully in Castiel’s gut, and he had no idea why. He tried to explain it away logically. Since Dean’s scent was still filled with pain and depression, he couldn’t get a clear read on the omega’s current emotional state, so didn’t want to risk it. But somehow, Cas knew that was a lie.

Cas sighed and applied his blockers. It was time to start his rounds. He needed to talk to Dean today, come hell or high water. The longer he waited for the surgery, the higher the risk of internal bleeding.

He made his way slowly through the ward. Everyone had a tragic backstory. There was Tessa, who watched her father get killed by the alpha that kidnapped her. Her scars were more psychological than physical, so technically she was Donna’s patient, but Cas liked to check in on everyone. Then there was Alfie, who had been brutalized when someone kept him locked in a basement and let a “doctor” do experiments on him. He was still recovering. The stories went on and on. Garth and Meg were the real heroes, Cas always thought. They had their own unique ways of making the patients feel comfortable and secure. Garth with his goofy grin and kind words, his mate, Bess, who always brought fresh baked goods and hot cocoa, made the unit feel warmer than a hospital ward should. Meg, despite her gruff manner, or perhaps because of it, made everyone feel like they weren’t as dire off as they may or may not be. Her manner of “you’re going to get better, or else,” seemed to give the patients strength when they didn’t have any. Donna was the psychiatrist on duty, and she was a literal ray of sunshine. Even Meg smiled when she was around. Cas may be the one in charge, technically, of healing the omegas’ wounds, but Garth, Meg, and Donna were the ones who really got them back on their feet and out into the world. Sometimes Cas would even wonder what contribution he made, he figured any good diagnostician could fill his role, even if they wouldn’t care quite as much or try to understand the patients as much as he did.

He made his way down the ward, and eventually found himself in Dean’s enclave. Of course, the patients didn’t have their own rooms. They were omegas, the money people figured all they needed were curtained enclaves. It never failed to anger Castiel just how the world at large thought of and treated omegas.

When Cas pulled the curtain aside, Dean was just drifting awake, his green eyes fluttering open behind long lashes. “Hello, Dean,” Cas said, unable to help the smile that passed his lips. “How are you feeling today?”

Despite the pain Cas could still smell in Dean’s scent, the other man denied it with every fiber of his being, from the sparkle in his sour apple eyes, to the bright grin that spread his cupid’s bow lips. “I feel great, Doc. I’m sure you can send me home at any time.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” Cas said as he began his exam.

As the exam continued, Dean’s nose started to crinkle and his eyebrows drew together. “Dean, what’s wrong? Am I hurting you?” Cas asked, concerned.

Dean blushed slightly, accentuating his freckles. “Um, no, it’s not that…but, um, Doc, did you forget to put your blockers on before work?”

“Absolutely not. I’m a professional.” Cas replied, offended.

“Then that honey, mint, and rosemary scent is coming from Garth’s wife’s muffins? Oh, wait, those are orange poppy seed,” Dean said, unconvinced.

Cas stopped his exam immediately. “I…I think we’re done here. I’ll check on you later.” He left the alcove in a hurry, hastily pulling the curtain shut. He quickly scanned the rest of the ward, looking for Meg. When he found her, he all but pulled her from Alfie’s bedside.

“Cas, what the hell, man?” Meg asked, highly perturbed.

Not letting go of her arm, he asked gruffly, “What do I smell like?”

Meg scowled at him, but said, sounding bored, “Antiseptic and nothing. Why? What do you think you smell like?”

“Antiseptic and nothing, as I should. But for some reason, Dean Winchester can scent me.”

“No way, dude. As much as you go through blockers, antiseptic and nothing is probably your natural smell by now.” Meg chuckled at him, suddenly finding the whole situation highly amusing.

“Try honey, mint, and rosemary.” Cas said, unamused.

Meg’s eyes grew big. “Whoa, he really smelled that?”

“That’s what he said!”

“He’s got to be messing with you,” Meg concluded.

“But how?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Garth told him. Maybe he thought it would be funny.”

“I thought what would be funny?” Garth inserted himself into the conversation at the mention of his name.

“Did you tell Dean Winchester to mess with me?” Cas asked.

“Nope.” Garth shook his head emphatically. It was hard not to take him at his word.

Castiel just shook his head at his nurses and stormed off.

***

Sometime later, Dean was playing with the handheld video game that Garth had given him. He chose not to dwell on the doctor’s strange behavior, chalking it up to his rush to reapply his blockers or whatever. He looked up briefly when the curtain to his alcove pulled open. He dropped his eyes back to his game when he saw it was just Nurse Meg.

“Geez, is that anyway to greet a lady?” She asked as she plopped down into the chair next to his bed.

“I don’t know. Show me a lady, and we’ll see,” Dean snarked back.

“Funny,” Meg sassed as she snatched the game away from him.

“Hey! I was playing with that!”

“Yeah, well, your brother is here, and you’re going to see him today.” Meg’s tone brooked no room for argument.

But that didn’t mean that Dean wasn’t going to try. “You can’t let him in here if I say not to.”

“That’s true…if we think it’s better for the patient’s recovery. In this case, I’m pretty sure the opposite is true, so you’re going to see your brother because I think that’s what’s best.  I’m the nurse, so what I say, goes.”

“Yeah, right. It’s not like you’re the doctor.” Dean argued lamely.

“Exactly. Who do you think the doctors listen to?” Meg smirked at him.

“The nurses?” Dean asked hesitantly.

“Yep. So, I’m gonna go get Sam, and you’re going to have a nice visit, whether you like it or not.” Meg got up and left without giving Dean a chance to respond.

“Hey! That was my game!” Dean called after her.

Sam popped in a moment later, carefully folding his moose-like frame into the tiny hospital chair. “Hey Dean.” Sam said softly.

“Geez, lighten up, Sammy. You don’t have to treat me like I’m fragile or something.”

“Yeah, I know that, Dean. It’s just weird, you know…”

“Ok, if you’re going to be like this, you can leave right now.”

“Ok, ok. I’m sorry. So…how are you?”

Dean rolled his eyes at his brother. “I’m just peachy, as you can see.” After a beat, Dean relented. “Hey, can’t you just be normal? Just tell me how Madison and the kids are or something.”

“Oh, well, they’re all great. Madison is working hard, as usual. She hosted an omega rights event last week. Big turnout. It was awesome. Oh, and she’s working on expediting your emancipation paperwork. You know, when you moved in with Nick it kinda put that whole process on hold. But now she’s trying to push it through as quickly as she can….”

When Sam trailed off, Dean knew there was something he was trying not to say. “What is it, Sam? Why is this suddenly a huge deal?”

“Well, it might not be,” Sam hedged, “But since there’s mail with your name on it at his address, if he wanted to, Nick could make a case that…well, you know…”

Dean did know. Nick could make a case that he was Dean’s legal alpha. Even though Sam never signed him over (and how fucked up was that, anyway?). Dean didn’t think that would happen though. “Yeah, well, I highly doubt Nick Monroe wants a beat up, useless, omega.”

“First of all, Dean, you’re not useless. Second of all, guys like that…they don’t care about anything except control and possession. Who knows what he might do? We need to be prepared. We need to protect you.”

“I don’t need protecting. I can take care of myself, Sam!”

“Yeah, sure you can Dean. That’s why you’re here.”

“I think it’s time for you to leave.” Dean insisted, closing his eyes like he was sleeping to emphasize his point.

“Wait, Dean, before I go, I need to know if you’re ok having that surgery or not. Unfortunately, I’m still the one who has to sign off on that, like it or not.”

Dean’s eyes shot open. “What are you talking about? What surgery?”

It was Sam’s turn to get wide eyed. “You mean Dr. Novak didn’t talk to you about that?”

“Oh yeah, obviously.  This is the face of a guy in the know. What. Surgery?”

Sam sighed and ran a giant hand through his shaggy hair. “Dr. Novak said that you need to have a hysterectomy. Said there’s a lot of scar tissue and a risk for internal bleeding. I can’t believe he hasn’t talked to you about it. I told him I refused to make that kind of decision for you.”

“Yeah, thanks for that, Sammy. No, really, I mean it. Thanks for not taking my reproductive rights out of my hands.”

“Of course, Dean. I would never take away your autonomy. No matter what our fucked up society dictates. Although I do think I should have a chat with that doctor, since he doesn’t seem to think it’s necessary for you to know what’s going on inside your own body.”

“Damn straight!” Dean agreed. “Get him, Sam.”

Sam nodded, and finally took his leave.

 

“Stupid attractive, nice smelling alphas,” Dean muttered to himself. He’d never forget that’s exactly how he ended up here. Nick was attractive, and the way he smelled, well, Dean would never forget his first whiff of leather, gun oil, and cheap whiskey. Nick smelled like everything that was fun and dangerous in the world. There was nothing soothing in his scent, but it was exciting. This doctor on the other hand, his scent was nothing but soft notes. Honey, mint, and rosemary; it was like something in that tea Madison always made him drink when he was hungover…or something. But of course, in typical alpha fashion, this doctor kept something vital from Dean. “Typical,” he muttered again.

 

After leaving Dean, Sam waited at the door of the ward, waiting for Castiel to finish with his patient. As soon as he emerged from the enclave, Sam got his attention. “Dr. Novak, we need to talk. Now.” Sam was remaining calm, whispering even, in an effort not to disturb the patients, but his tone made it clear that the doctor couldn’t ignore him.

 

“Yes, Mr. Winchester. We can speak in my office,” Cas replied in a measured, calm voice.

 

As soon as they walked into the office, Sam slammed the door and Cas took a seat behind his desk. “Would you care to sit down, Mr. Winchester?” He was doing his best to stay calm. He could only imagine what Dean’s brother would have to say to him. He was sure it had something to do with Dean’s ability to scent him.

 

“No, I think I’d rather stand.” Sam said, and then sat down anyway.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Winchester?”

“Why haven’t you discussed the surgery with my brother? Don’t you think he has a right to know what’s going on in his own body? Or do you think omegas should just shut up and put out?” Sam was still doing his best not to shout at the doctor, but just barely.

Cas was taken aback. “What? No! That’s not how I feel at all!”

“Then why was he shocked when I asked him about it?”

Castiel looked a bit chastised, and maybe a bit bashful. “Because I haven’t told him yet.”

Sam sat there, scowling at him and gesturing his hands as if to say, “That’s exactly my point.” Instead, he said, “Well, why not?”

Cas sighed heavily. “Honestly, I’m not sure myself. It’s not like I haven’t had to have this discussion before. It’s quite devastating, actually. But it needs to be done.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

He nodded. Castiel knew he didn’t answer Sam’s question. He was hedging because then he’d have to admit exactly why he hadn’t brought up the surgery to Dean yet. After several beats of silence, he finally decided to trudge forward. “Because, every time I think about having that conversation with your brother, of giving him bad news of that magnitude, something painful twists inside me, and I don’t understand why! But whatever it is, I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

“Yeah, well, try to be a bit more professional and do your damn job,” Sam replied. “Dr. Milton said you were the best. Prove it.” With that, he strode out of the office, slamming the door behind him.

Cas dropped his head into his hands. He started putting the various pieces of the puzzle together, and when he did, he started to realize that he was well and truly fucked. He also knew what he had to do, professionally, so he put his doctor hat back on and went to see Dean.

When he opened the curtain to Dean’s enclave, before he even had a chance to sit down, his patient smirked at him. “So, ready to tell me about why you have to open me up and take out everything that makes me special?”

Taken aback, but trying not to show it, Castiel sat down in the chair next to Dean’s bed. “You know, Dean, there’s more to who you are than the ability to reproduce.”

Dean chuckled. “I know that, Doc.” He was putting on a brave face, but Castiel could tell he was terrified, and devastated. It was all over his scent, buried beneath the pain that still permeated every molecule.

In that moment, no matter what else, Castiel knew it was his job to comfort the patient and do what was best for him. So, he took a deep, calming breath (totally ignoring the whiff of cherries and vanilla) and just started talking. “Listen, Dean, right now this procedure isn’t medically necessary.” He held up his hand before Dean could reply. “But in the future it could be. There is quite a lot of scar tissue, more than can be explained by the one miscarriage you claim to have had.” He held his hand up again as Dean tried to speak. “You don’t have to tell me anything, just listen. There is also a risk of internal bleeding, and if that happens, we’ll have no choice but to go in. The bottom line is, whatever you decide, with the condition your body is currently in, it is unlikely that you would ever conceive again.”

There it was; the bombshell that Castiel was loath to drop. It really was like a bomb, and Cas knew the minute that it hit. Dean’s entire demeanor changed. There was no more self-assured smirk. That spark that seemed to never dim from his evergreen eyes went out, the cherries turned sour. There was no smart ass response ready to roll off of his tongue.

Dean dropped his eyes to his lap and said, “Do what you gotta do, Doc.” And that was that.

When Sam came by the next day, they signed all the paperwork and scheduled Dean’s surgery.

Towards the end of the day, Meg came barging into Castiel’s office. “You need to transfer Winchester to Donna.”

“Well, hello to you too, Meg.”

“I’m serious, Clarence. You think I don’t know what’s going on here?”

“Would you care to enlighten me then?” Castiel asked with an annoyed huff.

“Well, let’s see,” Meg started as she paced around the office, “First of all, he can scent you despite your industrial strength blockers. It only took you two weeks and a lecture from his brother for you to tell him that his child bearing days are over. You two have a bond…one might even say a profound bond.”

“Meg, what on earth are you trying to say?”

She rolled her eyes at him, hard. “He’s your true mate, dummy.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve already been mated.”

Meg rolled her eyes again. “Yes, and I know it was very meaningful. Amelia was your best friend; you helped her out, got her knocked up while you were in med school, and did right by her. No, before you protest, I know you loved each other deeply and passionately…and platonically. That doesn’t make it any less tragic, what happened to her. But she wasn’t exactly your true mate.”

“True mates don’t exist.”

“Weak ass argument, Clarence.”

“Whatever, Meg. I’m not anyone’s true mate; therefore, I’m not transferring one of my patients.”

“Whatever you say.” With that, Meg flounced out of the office.

Despite his “weak ass argument,” Cas knew Meg was right. He’d been suspecting it ever since Dean accused him of not wearing his blockers. Just as he suspected, he was well and truly fucked.

***

Once again, Dean found himself swimming up into consciousness. This time, it wasn’t the smell of antiseptic and nothing that greeted him, though. It was honey and mint and rosemary. He smiled to himself as he entered the waking world. “Smells good,” he mumbled.

Of course, as soon as that thought registered in what counted as Dean’s conscious mind, he snapped awake. “Guess I survived.”

“Yes, Dean. Everything went as expected. But this is a fairly routine procedure, so it’s not like you climbed out of your own grave,” Cas deadpanned.

“Did you just make a joke, Doc?”

“Well, yes, I attempted to. Was I successful?”

“A bit. But why are you here anyway? I didn’t think doctors hung out with their patients while in recovery.” Dean was genuinely confused.

“I had nothing better to do.” Cas shrugged.

“Um, what about your other patients?”

“I’ve been off for two hours.”

Dean chuckled. “So you’re spending your off time hanging out with a broken, unconscious omega?”

“I don’t get out much,” Cas shrugged. “Anyway, your brother is waiting for you. Would you like to see him?”

“Sure, send the big moose in.”

When the doctor left to get his brother, he didn’t come back. Dean didn’t acknowledge the stab of disappointment he totally didn’t feel when Sam walked in alone. “Heya, Sammy,” Dean said cheerfully.

“Hi Dean. How are you feeling?”

“Well, I don’t know what kind of pain killers they have me on, but I am feeling no pain.”

Sam chuckled. “That’s great, Dean. I guess I should wait until you’re not on drugs to get a real answer?”

“Yeah, good luck with that, Sammy.” Dean chuckled.

The next day, a blonde doctor who Dean had seen around the ward, but had never been to see him, popped into Dean’s alcove.

“Hiya, I’m Doctor Hanscum, but everyone around here just calls me Dr. Donna. I heard you had a big procedure yesterday, and I just wanted to check up on you and see how you’re holding up.”

Dean was….confused. “Where’s Doctor Novak?”

“Oh, no worries, Hot stuff, Castiel is still your primary physician. I’m just here to see what’s going on in your noggin.”

“Ah, so you’re a head shrinker?”

“You bet’cha.”

“You want to see if the poor frail omega is holding up after losing all of what makes him special?”

“Oh, heavens no. I know that your reproductive organs don’t define who you are. After all, it doesn’t define me.”

“Oh yes, a female omega can totally relate to the experience of the ever elusive male omega.” Dean rolled his eyes at her.

“No, silly. But I do know what it’s like to have all that stuff ripped out of you. Not for the same reasons as you, but yeah. Cancer.” Donna shrugged on the last word.

Dean became suddenly contrite. “Oh. I’m so sorry.”

“It is what it is. Unfortunately, we can’t control the circumstances that surround us. If we could, it would be all shortcakes and bubble gum, am I right?”

Dean nodded.

“But what we can control, is how we respond to those circumstances. For instance, with me, my wife and I decided to adopt two great teenage girls since I couldn’t conceive. And we haven’t missed out on anything….So, Hot stuff, how are you doing, really?”

This doctor, this woman, this omega with the sunny personality, who came through her own heartache and used it as a therapy tool? How could Dean not open up to her? So, he started talking. About everything. About how his father kicked him out when he presented, how Sam fought him to become Dean’s legal alpha as soon as he became of age, about the miscarriage when he was seventeen and had to live on the streets before Sam was old enough to help him. Then finally, finally he told her the one thing he would never tell anyone, that one thing he wouldn’t even admit to himself most of the time. “Even though I know having the surgery really doesn’t affect my fertility, Dr. Novak already explained that there was too much damage, it just still feels really final, you know? What if…what if I actually meet my true mate, and they don’t want me because I’m broken?”

“Oh Sweetie, your true mate, your real and true mate? They won’t care. They’ll love you just the way you are.  Trust me, I know. Now, why don’t you get some rest? I’ll be back tomorrow to check up on you, ok?”

Dean couldn’t help but smile at her. “You bet’cha.”

Dean was just starting to doze off when his alcove was suddenly filled with the scent of honey, mint, and rosemary. He woke with a start. “Oh, um, hi Dr. Novak,” Dean stuttered out. He was determined to not let this guy get under his skin. If only he would listen to himself.

“Hello, Dean. How are you doing today?” He picked up Dean’s chart from the end of his bed. “I see Dr. Donna came to see you today.”

“Yeah, she’s really good at her job,” Dean said.

“I know. There’s a reason I brought her on board.” Castiel never failed to marvel at the fantastic team he managed to put together for this ward.  He sat down in the chair next to Dean’s bed. “I just have to take a look at these sutures, make sure they’re holding up.” He looked out past the curtains. “Meg? Can you come in here for a minute?”

Well, that was weird. Dr. Novak had rarely had a nurse in with him during exams.

Meg came sauntering into the alcove and pulled the curtain shut. “Guess it’s time to look at Dean-o’s junk.” She winked at him.

“Wait…what?” Dean asked, and his voice totally didn’t squeak.

“Um, yeah, dummy,” Meg said. “Your surgery was on your lower abdomen, you know, near your junk, genius.”

“Oh, yeah,” Dean said, and he totally didn’t turn beet red.

They proceeded with the exam. Meg pulled down his sheets and lifted his gown. Cas kept his exam professional.

Later that day, Meg stuck her head into Cas’s office. “Come on, Clarence, I’m taking you to lunch.”

“Go away, Meg. I have a lot of work to do.”

“Come on. We’ll just go across the street to that dive you like. You know, the one with the great burgers.”

“Fine.”

While they were waiting for their meals, Meg was playing with the straw in her soda when she looked up at Cas with a smirk. “So, how was it?”

“How was what?” Cas asked, genuinely confused.

Meg giggle-snorted at him. “Oh please. You mean to tell me you didn’t even glance at Mr. Omega McHottie’s junk while it was right there in front of you?”

Castiel leveled Meg with a look, that, if she had been a different person, would have likely knocked her dead. But being that she was who she was, she stared at him right back. Finally, he spoke. “Meg, when have you ever known me to be so unprofessional?”

She gave him her best fake sweet smile. “Never. But then again, there have never been extenuating circumstances like this before.” Meg punctuated her point with a waggle of her eyebrows.

Castiel stood up just as the waitress placed the food on the table. “What you are implying is absolutely unacceptable, and I won’t put up with it.” He threw money on the table before slamming his chair under it and walking away.

“Hey, it was supposed to be my treat. Come back, Cas! I was only kidding!”

***

The next day, while Dean was in his second session with Dr. Donna, Meg was arguing with a man in a fancy suit.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re not on his approved visitors list. You are going to have to leave.” She tried to usher him towards the door when he shoved her harshly out of the way. She hit a cluster of unused IV stands with a clatter.

That was all it took for Garth to come barreling out of a patient’s alcove all the way at the back of the unit, his eyes already glowing alpha red. Normally the jovial, happy-go-lucky cog of the unit, anything threatening his pack was more than enough to set him off. He strode to the front of the ward, helped Meg to her feet, and asked as calmly as he was able, “Are you alright? What happened?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. But that jackoff is insisting on seeing Dean Winchester, and he’s not on the approved visitor’s list.” She snarled at the jackoff.

Garth sized him up, and easily figured the jackoff wouldn’t listen to anyone but another alpha. Plastering on his best fake smile, he walked over to the man and asked, “What is your name, sir? I’ll be happy to double check that list for you.”

“Nick Monroe. Agent Nick Monroe,” he said, flipping his badge open as proof of identification for Garth.

What a douche, Garth thought to himself. What he said was, as he flipped open the chart in his hand (that was someone else’s all together) was, “I’m sorry, Agent Monroe, but I’m afraid you aren’t on Dean Winchester’s approved visitor list.”  It wasn’t as if they needed to consult a list anyway. There was one name on Dean’s list: Sam Winchester.

“No, I’m sorry, but you are obviously wrong,” the man said with a sneer, “because Dean Winchester is my omega.”

“Once again, I’m very sorry, sir,” Garth was working extra hard to maintain his cool. Meg could tell he was about to blow at any moment and throw that dick out on his head. “According to our information, Sam Winchester is Dean Winchester’s legal alpha, and he hasn’t authorized any other visitors. You will have to take this issue up with legal.”

“No, Dean is mine, and you won’t keep me from him,” Nick sneered at the other alpha.

Garth looked at Meg then turned back to Nick. “Oh, I don’t think so.” He picked the guy up by his lapels and bodily carried/shoved him out of the ward. “I told you to take it up with legal! Without proper authorization, you are not allowed on my ward. Good bye!” With that, he shoved the man towards the elevators in a less than gentle fashion.

“Oh, you just bet I will take this up with legal! And I won’t leave out your treatment of me, Nurse…” he stared at Garth’s name badge. “Fitzgerald. This is not the end of this.”

Despite Meg, and especially Garth’s, quick action, they couldn’t completely keep the tension from seeping into the rest of the ward. Meg quickly put herself back together and immediately set to comforting the patients towards the front of the ward. The tension and distress slinked its way to the back of the ward, where Dean and Dr. Donna both felt and smelled it. Donna stuck her head out between the curtains and, seeing Garth walking towards them, flagged him down. She stepped out of Dean’s alcove to talk to the nurse.

“Garth, what’s going on?”

“Oh, some douche nozzle alpha who thinks he owns the universe tried to get in to see someone he’s not allowed to see.” Garth was being deliberately vague, as he didn’t want Dean to overhear and know Nick Monroe was looking for him.

“Oofta. Too bad most alphas aren’t built like you or my Jody or Cas, you know what I mean?”

Garth chuckled. “Yeah, I do, Donna. We are a rare breed.”

Unbeknownst to Garth or Donna, an all too familiar smell filtered into Dean’s space, a smell that clung to Garth after his physical altercation with the other alpha. First, the smell of leather hit him. Dean tried not to think much of it; after all, he had come to know this ward as a safe space. Then, it was the scent of cheap whiskey that tickled his nose. When the gun oil finally reached him, Dean couldn’t control the shudder that wracked him. Or the next one, or the one after that, until he was shaking so hard his cheap aluminum bed was rattling. The IVs pulled out of his skin, his sutures snapped. But Dean didn’t feel any of that physical pain. Instead, he was choking and crying on his past with Nick that continued to haunt him.

The sounds from inside the alcove finally caught Donna and Garth’s attention, and they quickly slid the curtains aside. When she saw how badly Dean was shaking, Donna directed Garth to help her hold him still. Unfortunately, the closer Garth got, the more Dean freaked out. He scooted up the bed until his back was against the wall and his knees were pulled to his chest. “S-stay away from me!” He finally managed to stutter out.

The commotion drew Meg, who physically dragged a very confused Garth out of Dean’s space. “Get Dr. Novak!” She directed towards Donna as she pulled Garth away.

“What the hell, Meg?” Garth asked once they were well on the other side of the ward.

“Dude, you reek like that douchebag. You should probably go take a shower. And burn those scrubs!”

Garth looked down at himself sheepishly. “Of course! Why didn’t I think about that?”

“Because you’re an alpha, and therefore, not nearly as smart as me,” Meg smirked at him.

“Haha.” Garth replied. “But you are correct, madam.” He bowed dramatically and made his way to head to the staff locker rooms.

Once Garth left, Meg had the good sense to smell her own scrubs and make sure she didn’t pick up any douche alpha scent. She peeled off her pink scrub top, and with the help of one of the patients figured out that the rest of her clothing was still safely neutral, Meg decided to work the rest of her shift in just her purple Henley and pink scrub pants.

While Meg was dealing with Garth, Donna managed to summon Cas to Dean’s alcove. As soon as the doctor shut the curtain behind him, his patient immediately calmed. “What happened?”

“I don’t know, he just started seizing,” Donna explained, concerned.

Cas looked at Dean, hoping he’d give an explanation, but Dean was quiet, his eyes clenched shut, not wanting to show the pain and fear he was feeling. It didn’t matter, Cas could easily smell it, layered beneath the scent of cherries and vanilla and cinnamon that he’d been picking up on more the more time he spent with Dean. Cas sighed, resigned that Dean just wouldn’t tell him what happened. He and Donna made quick work of restoring the IVs and repairing the sutures.

“We should probably do an ultra sound to make sure the interior sutures are still holding,” Cas said without preamble once they were done. He poked his head out of the curtain and gestured for Meg to bring in the ultra sound machine. “Interesting look,” he said to her when he noticed half of her uniform missing.

“You know you love it.” Meg said with a wink.

“I really wish someone would tell me what was going on.” Castiel said under his breath as he set to work.

***

Even though Dean would never acknowledge it, as soon as Dr. Novak came into his alcove, and his honey, rosemary, and mint scent washed over him, Dean immediately began to calm down. The longer he was around the doctor, the better he felt; and Dean didn’t even want to contemplate why that was. Of course, much later, long after the doctors and nurses had stopped fussing over him, long after all the other patients had fallen asleep for the night, when Dean was alone, surrounded by nothing but the drab pale blue hospital curtains and his own thoughts, the one thought he refused to let himself have came crashing to the forefront of his mind.  True mates. That incredibly attractive doctor with the amazing smell was Dean’s true mate. As persistent as that thought was, Dean fought it back with all his might. True mates or not, Dr. Novak could do much better than a battered, broken omega with nothing but a GED and six bucks to his name. Dean didn’t even have his “give ‘em hell” attitude, not anymore. There was simply no way that Dr. Castiel Novak, Omega Recovery Specialist, would want anything to do with Dean Winchester, and that was that. Now if only Dean could convince his body and his heart that it was true.

***

Once they finished tending to Dean’s torn sutures and missing IVs, Castiel asked Donna and Meg to his office, though they both knew that he wasn’t really asking. Once the women were seated at the other side of his desk, Cas looked at them and said, “So now will someone please tell me what happened?”

Donna was the first to speak up. “I’m not entirely sure. I was in session with Dean when there was a commotion out in the ward. I asked Garth what was going on, but when he came close to Dean’s space, poor guy just started freaking out.”

Castiel turned a pointed look on Meg. She sighed and finally started talking. “Well, this douchebag in a cheap suit showed up claiming to be Dean’s alpha. When I told him that he wasn’t on Dean’s approved visitors list, he shoved me, which is when Garth stepped in. He had to physically remove the dude from the ward and put him on the elevator.” Meg sighed again. “We should probably tell Dean what happened and call his brother. I have a feeling that asshat is going to be back, and that will be trouble.”

Cas ran a hand over his face, trying very hard to keep his protective instincts at bay. “Ok. Ok. I’ll give Sam Winchester a call. What’s the douchebag’s name?”

“Nick Monroe. Agent Nick Monroe.” Meg mocked the guy’s earlier intonation.

“Ok, fine.” Cas turned to Donna. “You should probably be the one to tell Dean about this. Try to get some information about this guy.” It was then that he noticed the look on Donna’s face. “You already know about this guy, don’t you?”

She nodded. “Oh yeah. He’s a scuz bucket of the worst kind, pardon my language. But that guy is a rat bastard!”

Meg reached across the desk and put a hand on Cas’s arm. “You know, you should probably be there when he finds out about this.”

“Why?” Cas asked, genuinely confused.

“She’s right,” Donna added. “I don’t know if you noticed, but Dean immediately started to calm down when you came in the room.”

“That’s because they’re true mates,” Meg said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Which apparently, it was. “Well, that explains everything,” Donna said.

“What are you even talking about?” Castiel asked.

“I’m a psychiatrist specifically trained in analyzing the omega psyche. I can just get a ‘feel’ for these things.” Donna explained, and it was her turn to wink.

“Ok, I’m officially putting an end to this discussion!” Castiel all but roared. “I will not have you two conspiring against me and one of my patients. If Dean Winchester and I are true mates, which is a big if, since there is no scientific proof that such a thing exists, then he and I will work it out between us. So no meddling! Do you understand?”

“Yes, Dr. Novak,” the women said in unison.

***

Instead of giving Sam the news over the phone, Castiel asked him to stop by his office. Which wasn’t any inconvenience for Sam, who came by every day to see Dean whether he wanted to see him or not. So, there Sam sat, in that uncomfortable chair across the desk from Dr. Novak, wondering what kind of news it could be that the doctor couldn’t give him over the phone. He tried very hard to keep his emotions steady, because if the slightest hint of nervousness seeped into his scent, Sam knew they wouldn’t let him see Dean, no matter what.

It felt like an eternity before Castiel started talking, but when he did, he got right to the point. “Listen, Sam, yesterday there was an incident with a man claiming to be Dean’s alpha. Do you know a Nick Monroe?”

Sam blanched and winced. “Yeah, unfortunately. What happened? Was anyone hurt? How’s Dean?”

Cas put his hands up in a calming gesture. “Right now, everyone is fine. He shoved Meg, but she’s tough. Garth had to physically escort him out of the ward. He didn’t get anywhere near Dean.”

“Does Dean know that he was here?”

“Well, no one has told him yet, but considering that your brother isn’t an idiot, and Garth apparently reeked of the man’s scent after their altercation, I’m sure Dean has a pretty good idea that something happened.”

“Well, it’s probably better if he hears it from me,” Sam said. “I should probably call Madison first, make sure that guy doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.”

Castiel sighed. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Sam. Dr. Donna was going to talk to Dean about it during their therapy session today. You told me yourself that Dean doesn’t like having decisions made for him, how do you think he’ll feel about his kid brother trying to protect him?”

Sam chuckled sardonically. “I guess he wouldn’t like it very much. But you don’t understand, that guy, that agent that has sworn to protect and serve? He’s the reason my brother is in here in the first place. Don’t you think it’s better for him to hear it from someone who knows what he’s been through?”

Castiel raised an eyebrow at Sam. “What makes you think that Dr. Donna doesn’t know what he’s been through? Donna Hanscum is a very talented psychiatrist.”

Sam laughed out loud. “Yeah, like Dean would spill his guts to a shrink. Especially one who calls herself ‘Dr. Donna.’”

“You’d be surprised how much an omega opens up to another one. Especially one who can understand what they’re going through.”

Sam threw his hands in the air in resignation. “Fine. But I’m still calling Madison. And I want to be there when she tells him.”

Cas shook his head. “You can be here in the waiting room, but therapy sessions are private.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

***

“Hey there, Dean-o,” Donna said cheerily as she pulled his curtains aside just enough to slip into his enclave.

“Hiya, Beautiful,” Dean responded in an overly chipper voice.

Donna took a seat in the chair by Dean’s bed and looked him over in contemplation. “Listen, Hon, we need to talk about what happened yesterday.”

“He was here, wasn’t he? Nick?” Dean asked, both dismayed that his voice shook, yet proud that it didn’t shake more.

“Yeppers. He got into an altercation with Garth where he claimed to be your legal alpha.” Donna said, softly and carefully.

“He’s not,” Dean said, sternly, even though his voice was barely a whisper.

Donna nodded. “I know, we all know that…but he was threatening to contact our legal department to gain access to see you, and we don’t know how that’s going to go.”

“Does Sam know what happened?”

Donna looked at her watch and nodded again. “Dr. Novak should be meeting with him right about now to tell him. No doubt his fancy lawyer wife will do everything in her power to keep him away.”

“Yeah, well, I just hope that she can.” Dean said quietly.

“Look, this is a safe space. We’re all here to look out for you, Dean. We’ll make sure he doesn’t bother you.” Donna stated.

“Yeah, well, I’m not the only patient here. You guys have to take care of the rest of them. Maybe it would be best to just release me to Sam’s care. That way everyone else stays safe.”

“But then what about you, Dean? What about your care? You’re not better yet, you know that, right?”

Dean just shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. It’s more important to keep everyone else safe from my demons. I can handle them on my own.”

It was Donna’s turn to shrug. “Maybe you can. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Besides, it’s not up to me to release you. That’s up to Dr. Novak, and I doubt he’s in any hurry to put you in the way of potential harm.”

“Whatever. Just let me know when I can get out of here already, ok?” Dean said. Then, he laid his bed back and closed his eyes, indicating the therapy session was over.

“Whatever you say, Dean. But with this kind of attitude, you’ll only be stuck in my care even longer.” Donna said as she made her way out.

Shortly after Donna left, Dean smelled the familiar scent of his brother as he folded himself into the chair that Donna had previously occupied.

“Hey Sammy.” Dean said, without even bothering to open his eyes.

“Hey Dean.” Sam said in return.

The brothers sat in a slightly awkward silence for several minutes before Dean spoke up again, still not opening his eyes. “So, I guess you heard I had an unwanted visitor.”

“Yeah. I was hoping he wouldn’t bother to show up.” Sam sighed heavily. “Madison has already received a subpoena from his lawyer. Since he has mail with your name and his address on it, he’s making a claim that he’s your legal alpha.”

“That’s just terrific. Why would he even bother? It’s not as if I’m any good to him anymore.”

Sam sighed. “First of all, there is nothing wrong with you except your current bad attitude of despair. Second of all, for guys like Nick, it’s all about possession and control. He’s probably been trying to figure out how to get you back since you left. This just gave him the opportunity.”

Dean used the remote to raise his bed so that he was sitting up. He looked squarely at his brother. “Fuck, Sammy. What am I going to do?”

Sam sighed. “I don’t know, Dean. Madison says that there is precedent on both sides of the equation. Unfortunately, of the few cases where this has been an issue, the only times the omega in question wasn’t released to the custody of the alpha was when they were already mated to someone else.”

“Fucking hell.” Dean stated eloquently.

“I know.” Sam agreed.

***

A few days later, it happened. Agent Nick Monroe acquired an injunction that would allow him to see Dean while the courts decided who his legal alpha would be. Despite the best efforts of everyone in the omega recovery unit, as well as the chief of emergency medicine, nothing could be done to keep Nick away from Dean.

He arrived in the omega recovery ward with all the bluster of a spoiled child who finally got what he wanted. He growled at Meg and sneered at Garth. Of course, neither nurse would be intimidated by the slimy alpha. Garth placed a hand firmly against his chest. “Mr. Winchester is currently being examined by the doctor.” Before Nick could protest, Garth added, “I don’t care what legal mumbo jumbo you worked out, none of it trumps doctor/patient confidentiality, so you can’t go in until the exam is complete.”

“I have a right to see what kind of medical care my omega is being subjected to!” Nick insisted.

Meg chuckled. “Injunction or not, no ruling has been made in your favor, therefore, Dean Winchester is not your omega. So step off!”

Nick Monroe just laughed at them. A laugh laced with disdain. He grabbed Garth’s wrist where his hand was still pressed firmly into Monroe’s chest. He pulled back before hitting the nurse, as he knew that would make his case weaker, but he did pull Garth forcefully away from him and strode directly to Dean’s alcove, where he could pick out the omega’s smell of cherries, vanilla, and cinnamon easily from all of the rest of the sickly sweet omegas in the ward.

As soon as he flipped the curtains open and strode into the alcove, Dean immediately stiffened and started to shake.

Nick plastered a smile on his face and leaned over Dean, completely ignoring the growling alpha doctor sitting in the chair next to the bed. “Dean, Babe, are they treating you ok? I can have you transferred to another hospital, a private hospital, you know.”

Cas stood up from the chair and to his full height. Even though the other alpha had several inches on him, Castiel Novak was a formidable alpha, indeed. He growled at the other man and barked, “Get out of here! I am conducting an exam and will not have it interrupted. Leave. Now.”

Unfortunately for Dean, the two alphas were leaning over him from either side of his bed, and despite his best efforts to control his emotions, he couldn’t stop the fear from flooding his scent.

Of course, this was exactly what Nick wanted. A sly smile stretched across his face, and he puffed himself up in such a way as to make himself appear even larger, more intimidating. It was a technique that had proven useful with many of the perps Nick had taken down over the years, so he just knew it would work against the other alpha.

But Dean’s fear had an effect on Castiel that no one could have predicted, not even the doctor himself. As soon as the scent of omega fear, his omega’s fear, hit his nostrils, Cas’s eyes flared alpha red, and he roared, leaping over Dean’s bed and tackling Nick to the ground.

Cas had his hands wrapped around Nick’s throat and had just squeezed enough air out to leave the man unconscious. Garth and Meg made their way into the small enclave just in time to pull Cas off of Nick. Meg by whispering calming words in his ear, and Garth using his alpha brute strength to pull Cas off.

Cas snarled and gnashed his teeth. “No! Let go of me! He threatened my omega!” They just managed to pull Castiel away before he could embarrass himself further. Both of them knew that Cas would never want to be caught in such a compromising position, letting his instincts override his better judgement.

Donna came in as they left, security guards on her heels. She gestured for the security to cart Nick away while she administered a sedative to Dean, who had started screaming, though he wasn’t even aware that he was screaming.

***

Once things had settled down, Meg found Cas in his office, his chair turned around so his back was to the door as he was staring out the window. Meg had known Castiel long enough to know that was never a good sign. She handled it with her usual grace.

“So, that was quite something you pulled out there.”

Cas grunted in response.

“Oh, come on, dude. You dispatched a threat to one of your patients. You did good.”

Castiel slowly turned his chair around and faced Meg, giving her a hard stare. “I almost killed someone. I am a doctor. I swore to ‘do no harm.’ And I’m pretty sure I called Dean Winchester ‘my omega.’ I could lose my job for either one of those things.” He crossed his arms on his desk and let his head drop onto them.

“Well, that guy was a known menace, so I don’t think anyone will fault you there. And I don’t think Dean heard what you said, so unless he files a complaint, you’re safe there too.” Meg reasoned logically.

“That’s so not the point, Meg.” Cas mumbled into his arms.

“So, what, exactly, is the point, Cas?” Meg asked pointedly, raising an eyebrow at him in a mockery of his favorite expression. Luckily for Meg, Cas chose that moment to look up from his desk and a stare hard at her.

Cas sighed heavily. “I want him, Meg. I want him to be my omega. He probably is my true mate, ok?” He raised his voice louder and louder until Meg managed to shush him. “But that doesn’t make any sense because I barely know him, and he’s a very damaged patient under my care! There is no reason I should want him like this! And we can’t be mates. I definitely haven’t known him long enough to be in love with him!” His voice rose again and he rose from his chair with it, before slumping down in resignation. “If only we’d met under different circumstances….” He dropped his head back onto his arms.

“If you’d met under different circumstances, then what?” Meg prodded him.

Cas looked back up at her. “If I’d met him under different circumstances, then I’d probably ask him out, get to know him, see if we actually liked each other before exploring if we were true mates.”

“So do that.” Meg shrugged as if it was obvious. Cas raised an eyebrow at her in response. “No, I’m serious,” she continued, “I looked at Dean’s chart. Most of his physical wounds are healed. Usually when a patient has healed up this well, you transfer them to Donna’s care anyway. Garth and Donna and I are more than qualified to take care of any minor physical issues that may come up at this point in the healing process. You can completely step back as his doctor and start to get to know him as a person instead of a patient.” She smiled a fake sweet smile at him, the kind she always got when she knew she was right.

Cas just blinked at her for several minutes before saying, slowly, “That…that might actually work.”

“Of course it will, because it was my idea, and I’m an omega, so I’m obviously smarter than you.” She winked at him as she pranced out the door.

Cas dropped his head back into his arms and groaned.

***

When the sedative wore off, Dean blinked his way back to consciousness to find Dr. Donna sitting quietly next to him. He looked over at her, staring for a minute or two before saying without preamble, “Man, I had the weirdest dream.”

“Dean! You’re awake! How ya doin’ buddy?”

“Well, I have one hell of a headache, but other than that, I think I’m ok. Why do you look so worried?”

Donna looked at him a bit puzzled. “That sedative I gave you wasn’t that potent. You can’t have forgotten already.” She suddenly had an “a-ha” moment and snapped her fingers. “Wait, tell me about your weird dream."

Dean chuckled nervously and rubbed his hand on the back of his neck as best he could. “Well, my douche nozzle of an ex showed up and Dr. Novak beat the shit out of him. See, weird.”

It was Donna’s turn to chuckle. “That’s not as weird as you think. That’s kinda what happened. Well, except that Cas choked your ex.”

“Wait…what?” Dean asked. Maybe he was still dreaming.

“Oh yeah, it was bitchin’.” Donna confirmed.

“So, if all of that happened, then what I thought I heard I may have actually heard….” Dean trailed off, not at all willing to let that thought take up residence in his brain for too long. “Hey, our session is over, right? I’m pretty tired and want to take a nap.”

“Oh, ok, yeah. You bet’cha. You just go right on and take a nap, there, Dean. I’ll have Dr. Novak check up on you in a bit.” Donna winked at him as she slipped through the curtain.

Once he was alone, Dean scrubbed his hands over his face. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!” He groaned and flung his head back against the pillow. He had to call Sam. No, he had to get out of here. But for that, he needed Sam. Dammit. He had to call Sam. Maybe he would take that nap first though.

***

When Dean awoke sometime later, it was to the soothing scent of honey, mint, and rosemary. While he was in that sweet spot just between slumber and wakefulness, he had no control over the smile that slid across his lips, or the soft, happy sound that escaped them. In that moment, before true consciousness hit, Dean Winchester was the most content he had been in his entire life.

That was when his eyes snapped open and he leveled an emerald glare at Dr. Novak. “Go. Away.” He said evenly and carefully. He couldn’t let it happen again. He couldn’t let another alpha in like that, get that close. Not ever again.

Castiel sighed, and Dean refused to hear the mild disappointment that may have been hidden within it. When the doctor spoke, it was with nothing but professional logic. “Dean, I’m your doctor and I have to examine you now.” He did, at least, gesture out the curtain for one of the nurses to join him. It was Meg, thank God, because there was no way Dean could handle two alphas in his personal space right now.

“Great, well, when you’re done, can one of you call Sam for me? I’d like to see my brother now.”

Meg chuckled. “He’s actually right outside. He’s been waiting for you to wake up.”

“So why isn’t he here? Dude’s been stuck to my side like chewing gum I couldn’t get rid of, right up until the one time I actually want to see him.” Dean griped.

Meg rolled her eyes. “He was, Dummy. We had to send him out when it was time for your exam. Doctor/patient confidentiality and whatnot.”

“Oh.” Was the eloquent response Dean had for that.

“Alright, we’re all done here,” Castiel said, maintaining his professional demeanor. “We’ll send Sam back, but I’ll be back to see you later.”

“Great, can’t wait,” Dean said, with no shortness of sarcasm.

Sam came bounding in like the overgrown puppy that he was and greeted Dean excitedly. “Nurse Meg said you were dying to see me. It’s about time you appreciate my company.”

“Not hardly. Meg exaggerates. Now sit down, would ya? I’m getting a crick in my neck, which FYI, was the only part of my body that wasn’t sore.”

Chastised, Sam sat down in the tiny hospital chair. “So, what’s up?”

“You gotta get me out of here, Sammy.” Dean turned his best pleading eyes on his brother, even though he knew his was a far cry from Sam’s puppy dog face.

“I would if I could, you know that, Dean. Unfortunately, that’s really up to Dr. Novak.” Sam answered.

Dean sighed. “But that’s just it, Sam. Dr. Novak is the problem.”

“Dude, what are you even talking about? He’s literally the best omega specialist in the country.”

“Oh yeah, because only an alpha can be an expert on omega recovery.” Dean rolled his eyes, hard.

Sam considered his brother for a moment, and realized how seriously he was taking this. If Dean thought that Dr. Novak was a problem, then maybe he was. “Ok, Dean, what’s going on? One call and Madison will have the full force of her law firm suing the pants off of Dr. Novak. You just give me the word. What did he do to you?”

Dean sighed again. “Geez, no, Sam. Nothing like that. I just…I just need to not be around him, like ever, ok?”

“Um, Dean, you’re going to have to give me something to work with here if I’m going to pull you out of the hospital against medical advice.”

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” Dean grumped.

“Say what? Dean, you haven’t said anything, except that you have a problem with Dr. Novak, that you won’t elaborate on.”

“They told you what happened, right? About Nick coming up here?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, Dr. Novak got a little over protective and, well, he attacked Nick.” Dean said in a rush.

“Yeah, I heard. Thought it was pretty awesome myself.” Sam replied.

“Yeah, well, I bet they didn’t tell you that when that happened, the good doctor got a bit…well…possessive. He told Nick that I was his, Sam. That just can’t happen!”

“He did?” Sam was flabbergasted. “That’s unprofessional! That’s immoral! I will have him sued so fast it will make his head spin!” He jumped out of his chair and started pacing the small alcove.

“No, no. Calm down, Sam. That’s not even the worst part.” Dean attempted to calm his brother down.

“What’s worse than that?” Sam asked, calming down just a little. Sort of.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Dean finally said, “I think he’s my true mate!”

Sam stopped dead in his tracks and just stared at his brother. “Say what?”

“Sit down, would ya? Let’s look at the evidence.”

Sam nodded and returned to his seat. “Ok, what evidence?”

It wasn’t like Sam needed to be convinced that true mates were real. As unbelievable as it was for two alphas to be true mates, no one ever doubted that Sam and Madison were meant to be. What he needed to be convinced of was that Dean actually believed in true mates…and why. That was the part that didn’t make sense to Sam, why his brother suddenly believed in the existence of his own true mate.

Dean sighed, better to get on with it. “Sam, what does Dr. Novak smell like to you?”

Sam shrugged. “Antiseptic and nothing. Just like every nurse and doctor here, there, and everywhere.” He sounded mildly exasperated, as if Dean were being purposefully dense.

Dean pursed his lips and nodded. “Yeah, that’s what Dr. Donna and the other patients say too. Do you want to know what I smell, Sam?”

“Antiseptic and nothing?” Sam asked with a smart assed smirk.

“No, Sam. Whenever Dr. Novak is around, I smell honey, rosemary, and mint. It’s as if he’s not wearing blockers at all.”

“That’s crazy, Dean. And even if it is true, that doesn’t mean he’s your true mate. It probably just means your nose is more sensitive than most people.”

Dean huffed and ran a hand over his face. “Sam, I know you’re not a complete idiot, and I know that for some reason, you don’t think I’m stupid either, so stop acting like that. Do you know how many hospitals I’ve been in?”

“Yeah, more than I want to think about.”

“Exactly. And I’ve never been able to smell any of those doctors. And it’s not as if I know what Nurse Garth or Meg or Dr. Donna smell like. No, it’s just Dr. Novak.” Dean took a weighty pause before continuing. “And that’s not all, Sam.”

When Dean failed to elaborate, Sam gestured at him. “Well?”

“Oh God, Sam, are you going to make me say it? Can’t you just accept that there are other things going on to prove my theory?”

Sam nodded with a grin. “Oh yeah, if it makes you this uncomfortable, I’ve got to know.”

“You’re a bitch.”

“Jerk. Just tell me.”

“Ok, fine! So, um, you know how I never feel calm around alphas, except maybe for you and Madison and Bobby?”

“Oh yeah, Dean. You’re the picture of calm, cool, and collected.” Sam rolled his eyes.

“Well, he makes me feel calm.” And dammit, Dean couldn’t keep the soft smile from his lips.

“And that’s a bad thing?” Sam asked, genuinely confused.

Dean sighed heavily. “Of course it is, Sam.” Under his breath, he added, “Getting close to alphas never ends well for me.”

“Well, Dean, if you want to close yourself off and not get close to anyone ever again, I understand and I’ll support you. But I still am not going to sign you out of here until your doctor says that you’re well enough to leave. Finally, this stupid law that gives me power over you comes in handy.” Sam grinned at his highly unamused brother.

“You suck, Sam.”

“Seriously, though, I will talk to Dr. Novak and see how soon I can take you home. Your niece and nephew miss you, you know. You should let them visit.”

“Oh hell no. I’m not going to let them see their mighty Uncle Dean like this. No way, no how.”

“Suit yourself. Anyway, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll talk to him right now.”

“Thanks Sam.”

***

Castiel was already considering giving Dean a clean bill of health, physically, even before Sam Winchester came to inquire about his brother’s health. However, he couldn’t, in good conscious, release Dean into the care of his brother as he had psychological trauma he still had to deal with. The most he could promise Sam was that within the next several days, Dean would be released from his care and Dr. Donna Hanscum would become his primary physician. It would then be up to her to decide when Dean would be ready to be released. It didn’t go as well as one might have hoped. Explaining the intricacies of omega recovery to an alpha, even one as open minded as Sam Winchester, always presented a challenge. At least Sam didn’t insist on pulling Dean out right away, but just barely.

Once he had convinced Sam how important it was for Dean to stay in the omega recovery ward, the real challenge still lay ahead. Now, Castiel had to explain it to Dean, who was, by far, the most stubborn omega to have ever graced his halls. Not only was he more than ready to leave, as Sam had expressed multiple times during their meeting, but Dean also didn’t exactly agree that mental health was just as, if not more, important than physical health. This was going to be a challenge, indeed, and Castiel had to get through this before he could even consider discussing “other” issues with Dean Winchester.

Cas sighed heavily before getting up from his desk. Once again, he contemplated how he was well and truly screwed.

He made his way down to the end of the ward where Dean’s enclave was located. Cas stuck his head in and asked if it was good time. It wasn’t like the omegas had doors or walls or anything to assure privacy, so Cas always tried to his best not to intrude, even if it was exam time.

“Sure, Doc, it’s a good time. Not that I have a choice or can actually go anywhere.” Dean replied in his usual surly manner.

Castiel just smiled at him and took a seat in the only chair. “Hello, Dean.” He always greeted Dean that way. He enjoyed the way Dean’s name felt in his mouth.

“What’s up, Doc?” Dean asked with a rakish grin. Cas smiled back, and he wasn’t completely enchanted with his patient at that moment, not at all.

“Well, Dean, I’m going to examine you, see how everything is healing.” Cas answered, gesturing for Meg to join him.

“So, basically, the same thing we do every night?” Dean grinned again.

Cas squinted at him. “It’s not night time, Dean.”

Meg smacked him in the arm. “It’s a cartoon reference, you dope. Pinky and the Brain? Geez, Clarence, would it kill you to watch TV or a movie or something other than bee documentaries?” She rolled her brown eyes at him.

“I like bees,” was the only response he gave her. Castiel put an end to the chit chat when he began Dean’s exam.

Castiel was professional and efficient in his exam, being extra careful to only touch and look at what was necessary. Once he was finished, he addressed Dean. “Well, it looks like your physical wounds are healing nicely. You no longer need to be under the care of a physician.”

Dean smiled brightly. “That’s great, Doc. So when can I get out of here?”

Cas frowned slightly. He hated delivering bad news to Dean Winchester. “That’s not up to me. I’m releasing you to Dr. Hanscum. She’ll determine when you are ready to leave the recovery ward.”

“Look, Doc, I’m fiiine. I don’t need a head shrinker to tell me otherwise. Just call my brother and send me home.”

“Not according to her last report. But you can talk to her about it during your next session.” Castiel was desperate to get out of there. He knew the longer he stayed, the more likely he was to release Dean all together, and that was not was in his best interest.

“Fine. Whatever. If you’re done, you can leave now.” Dean crossed his arms across his chest and refused to look at either of them. Castiel and Meg took that as their cue and left.

***

It had been three days since Dr. Novak released Dean into the care of Dr. Donna, who refused to tell Dean when he might get out of this hell hole. No matter how many times he told her he was fine, she refused to believe him. He supposed refusing to talk to her anymore probably wasn’t helping his cause, but damn it, he was irked.

Dean was lounging in his bed, thumbing through his favorite book, that Sam had finally remembered to bring him, and generally being bored out of his mind, when he had an unexpected visitor. Dr. Novak popped his head between the curtains and asked to come in. He was always so polite, never invading his space. It annoyed Dean to no end. He beckoned the doctor in anyway. He was just that bored.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel greeted him as he took a seat in the chair next to the bed. He was holding a paper sack in his lap. “I heard you had a fondness for cheeseburgers, and there’s a great burger place across the street. Now that you’re healthier, I thought you’d appreciate something to eat besides hospital food.” The doctor’s words were slightly rushed with nerves.

Dean smirked at him. He supposed the doctor must feel guilty for not letting him out of here. “Yeah, I do enjoy the meat.” He flashed a saucy wink.

Castiel looked down and blushed as he pulled a paper wrapped burger out of the sack. “Well, yes, meat is good…” He passed a burger to Dean without looking up at him.

Dean rewarded him with a sincere smile. “Thanks, Doc. This was pretty decent of you.”

“Castiel. My name is Castiel. But you can call me Cas.” Again, it was said all in a rush, and he still wasn’t looking at Dean.

Dean smiled at him again. “Thanks, Cas.”

“You’re welcome.”

They ate in a somewhat comfortable silence until Dr. Donna arrived for Dean’s therapy session. Once again, Dean refused to say anything to her other than, “So, can I go home yet?”

As usual, Donna sat there and simply chattered at him, telling him all about her wife Jody and their girls Alex and Patience. Every so often, she would mention that if Dean didn’t work towards better mental health, she’d keep him there forever and ever. But that didn’t faze Dean. He figured that eventually he could wear her down.

This became the routine. Cas would bring him lunch, a different dish each day from Cas’s favorite eateries near the hospital, then, Dean would sit in silence during his session with Donna. Finally, after several days of this, Dean couldn’t quell his curiosity any longer. When Cas brought him lunch that day, he wouldn’t take it, instead asking, “Ok, seriously, though, Cas, what is this all about? What do you want from me?”

Castiel looked appalled. “Dean, I don’t want anything from you. I just wanted to do something nice.”

“Bullshit. Alphas don’t do anything just to be nice.”

“Dean, I’m so sorry you feel that way, that that has been your experience. I promise you, we’re not all like that.” Cas said so quietly, if he hadn’t been sitting right next to him, Dean never would have heard him. He left Dean’s lunch on the tray, and silently made his exit.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Dean muttered under his breath. He didn’t touch his food.

It was still sitting there on the tray where Cas left it when Dr. Donna came in for his therapy session. She took a seat, looked at the tray, then looked at Dean. “Well, what’s going on here? It’s not like you to ignore a meal. Got something to talk about?”

“No.”

“Okie dokie. But you got me for the next hour. So, you just sit there and brood, and I’m gonna read this book. If you do want to talk, just let me know.” Donna settled back in the chair, with her feet propped up on Dean’s bed, and opened up a giant hard back book she had brought in with her.

Dean sat there in silence for several minutes, before he blurted without thinking, “What the hell is up with Cas? Um, I mean Dr. Novak? First, he says I’m healed, but he won’t send me home. Instead, he puts you in charge of my care, and now, what, he’s bringing me lunch every day? What the fuck is that even about?”

“Maybe that’s something you should ask him,” Donna pointed out logically.

“I did. He said he was just trying to ‘be nice.’ But what the heck kind of alpha is nice to an omega he hardly knows for no reason?”

Donna considered him for a minute before she said, “Don’t you think you deserve nice things, Dean?”

Dean just chuckled at her.

“And why do you feel that way, Dean?”

Dean shrugged. “I didn’t earn it. I worked for everything that I have. If someone is nice to me for no reason, it’s because they want something.”

“Maybe Cas just likes you.”

“Yeah, right. Why would a successful alpha ‘like’ a useless, broken omega?”

“Maybe because he just does?” Donna asked enthusiastically. She didn’t want to suggest that it was because Dean was attractive, because that would just go right to Dean’s self-worth issues. She had at least learned from him that most people found his looks to be his most valuable asset, and there was so much more to Dean Winchester than that. Too bad she didn’t have a better reason to explain Cas’s sudden interest. It wasn’t her place to tell Dean that he and Cas were true mates.

“Yeah, right. He probably just wants to get in my pants.” Dean crossed his arms and slumped in his bed, and Donna knew that was all the talking she was going to get out of him today.

She had to do something, since it looked like Cas’s sudden interest in Dean was actually detrimental to his recovery. Since she couldn’t talk to Dean, she figured she’d have to talk to Cas. So, the first chance she got, that’s what she did. She marched right into his office, and without preamble, she said, “Listen, Novak, you need to either come clean with Dean Winchester, or leave him alone, because this whole ‘being nice’ thing is really messing with his head!”

“Whoa, Donna, calm down and slow down. What?” Castiel asked as he put aside the chart he was reading.

Donna took a deep breath and leaned on his desk. “Listen, Bucko, you need to tell Dean Winchester what, exactly, is going on, or leave him alone. The guy’s got issues, you know? He can’t handle random niceness for no reason, and it’s actually derailing whatever progress I’ve managed to make with him. So just be a grown up already, huh?”

Castiel sighed. “You’re right. I should just be honest with him. I’ll talk to him tomorrow, I promise.”

“Good boy.” Donna grinned at him before breezing out of his office.

The next day, Castiel showed up in Dean’s alcove about the same time he’d done before, but this time, he didn’t have food.

“What, no food today?” Dean asked. And if he was just a bit disappointed, nobody had to know.

Castiel sat down in the chair and studied Dean. “No, I’m sorry. No food today. We…um…we have to talk.”

“So, talk.” Dean waved his arm in a loose gesture.

Castiel cleared his throat and tugged on his tie. “I’m not quite sure how to say this….”

“Jesus Christ, just say it, ok? It’s not like I can kill you or anything.  Garth would be in here in a second if he smelled any hostility.”

“Fine,” Cas took a deep breath and forged ahead. “Dean, it would appear that we, well, we are most likely true mates.”

Dean started laughing, hard. That…was not what Cas was expecting.

“What’s…what’s so funny? Dean? Stop laughing!”

Finally, finally Dean got himself under control and caught his breath. “Dude, I’m ahead of you there. I’ve already figured that part out. That’s why I need to get out of here, before anyone becomes too attached.”

“But Dean, you’re not healthy enough to leave yet.” Castiel was truly confused.

Dean shrugged. “Like I’ve ever been ‘healthy.’ Just trust me, it’s better if y’all just let me go and we never speak again.”

“But I enjoy talking to you, Dean. I thought you liked it too.” He was getting more confused by the minute.

“Dude, we’ll both be better off if we forgot we ever met. Personally, I have no desire to be involved with an alpha ever again, and as for you, why would you have any interest in a defective omega?”

Castiel went from confused to frustrated. “Well, as I’ve already said, I have no say in whether your stay or go anymore, so as long as Dr. Hanscum is keeping you here, can’t we at least get to know each other, and then decide if we should never see each other again?”

“Do I have a choice?” Dean asked.

“Of course you do, Dean. If you want, I’ll stop visiting with you. You’re no longer my patient, Meg is doing fine monitoring your physical recovery, so there is really no need for me to be here anymore.”

Cas sounded so forlorn that Dean couldn’t help but throw the guy a bone. “Ok, fine, if it means that much to you, I guess you can keep bringing me lunch. The food here isn’t as good anyway.”

Cas flashed Dean a bright, gummy smile. “I’d really like that, Dean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

When Dr. Donna came by that day, Dean had a lot to talk about.

***

Things were starting to go very well for Dean. He and Cas had lunch every day that week, and Dean was enjoying getting to know the alpha. He knew Cas was enjoying it too, as he’d told him as much. Things were going well on the mental health front as well; Dean was making great progress with Dr. Donna. The most surprising thing to him was that he wanted to make progress, he wanted to get better. Mental health had never been one of those things Dean ever thought was that important, but now, he knew better. He wanted to be the kind of man someone would be proud to have as their true mate. Dean was almost afraid to think it, let alone admit it, but he was actually starting to feel…happy.

It was a good thing that Dean was improving, because what happened the next day might have sent the old Dean on a downward spiral that would have been hard to recover from. When Cas brought him lunch that day, he wasn’t wearing his normal button down and tie under his lab coat. This time, it was a standard scrubs top like everyone else wore. (Apparently there had been an incident when a new patient arrived, and Cas had to change his shirt.) As Cas settled in for lunch, he took his lab coat off and laid it over the foot of Dean’s bed, as he’d been doing lately, and that was when Dean saw it, a very light, old scar where his neck met his shoulder.

“What the hell is that?” Dean demanded, pointing at Cas’s neck. “You’re already mated!”

Looking abashed, Cas gingerly touched his neck. “It’s not what you think, Dean. I can explain…”

Dean cut him off. “What are you, one of those alphas who collects a harem of omegas?”

“No, no Dean, it’s not like that. Would you calm down and let me explain?”

Dean gestured at him to speak. “Fine. Explain.”

Cas just started talking, his voice monotone. “Her name was Amelia. We were friends in college, close friends. Her parents had her on suppressants so that she didn’t even know she had a secondary gender. When she ran out of pills, her heat hit her, hard. I had to help her, I couldn’t let her suffer. When she got pregnant, we did what we thought was best and mated. A few years later, she went out to get medicine for our daughter because I was too busy studying to get it, and she was attacked…to make a long story short, it didn’t end well, and she took her own life. That’s when I switched from internal medicine to the very young field of omega recovery. I didn’t want to see anyone else go through what she went through.”

Dean listened intently. He really had no reason to believe the alpha. What alpha, other than the ones he called family, had ever been honest with him? And yet, somehow, he believed this one. He reached over and put a hand on his knee. “That’s terrible, Cas. I’m sorry.”

Cas shrugged as if to make light of it, when it certainly wasn’t. “Our tribulations in life are what make us who we are, right?”

“Yeah, I suppose so.” Dean nodded.

***

It was one step forward, two steps back for Dean, and he should have been used to it by now. Sam came by to give Dean the news they had both been waiting for.

“I don’t know how she did it, that wife of mine, but she did!” Sam said as he burst into the alcove, practically taking all of the curtains down with him.

Dean just stared at him, puzzled.

Sam finally settled into the chair and explained. “Dean Winchester, you are, finally, an independent omega, no longer legally obligated to be under the care of an alpha.”

It took a moment for the news to sink into Dean’s brain, so he just stared blankly at his brother. Once it did, he started laughing. “Sam, that’s great! How did she do it?”

“Dude, I don’t even know! She’s a miracle worker, though. I think she mentioned something about a sympathetic judge. More and more people are getting behind her omega rights campaign, so I think that had something to do with it.”

“Well, I really don’t care how she did it, I’m just glad she did.” Dean said, with a genuine smile.

Of course, because Dean’s life was how it was, his celebration was short lived. There was a commotion out in the ward, and a minute or two later, Nick Monroe came bursting into Dean’s little space. Sam immediately rose from where he was seated and got in the other alpha’s face. Nick didn’t even give Sam a chance to do or say anything, when he started by poking him in the chest.

“This is all your doing isn’t it?” Nick accused.

Sam was not one to be easily cowed. “I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but if it’s making you this angry, I’ll more than gladly take credit for it.”

Nick continued to poke Sam in the chest, moving him back across the tiny alcove until his back was against the wall. “You took my omega from me! Dean is mine!”

Sam, firmly but gently, pushed on Nicks shoulders in an attempt to gain some space. “Dean is a person, not an object for you to own. Now, I suggest you leave my brother alone and never come back.” Sam was baiting him, hoping to get the other man to make a move against him. Sam Winchester could easily over power the other man, but if Nick was the aggressor, then Sam knew that would be the end of it, Nick would go to jail.

“I’m not leaving, not without what belongs to me.”

When Nick made a move towards Dean, Sam blocked him, and that’s when it happened. Everything happened at once, but it was as if it was in slow motion to Dean, who unfortunately was an immobile observer. Nick lunged for Dean, and Sam countered to block him. Unwilling to give up his prize, Nick swung and when his fist connected with Sam’s jaw, security surged in, taking the poor curtains with them. The police weren’t far behind, followed by Garth and Castiel. Nick had Sam on the ground, but before he could give the beating he wanted, he was pulled off of the other man. Between the hospital security team and the police, Nick was ushered out in handcuffs, cursing and flailing and threatening everybody.

There were plenty of witnesses to see Nick’s aggression towards another man, an alpha no less, who was simply trying and failing to protect his omega brother, at least that’s what it looked like to anyone who didn’t know better. It was all Sam needed to press charges and make sure Nick Monroe didn’t see the outside of a prison cell for a very long time. Nick may have gotten away with hurting an omega, but the law was very strict with regards to alpha on alpha violence. Especially when it came to an alpha protecting his pack, which is what it looked like Sam was doing when he was attacked.

***

As it got closer and closer to time for Dean to be released (Dr. Donna said that with the progress he was making, he wouldn’t have to be an in-patient for much longer) Dean decided to have a serious conversation with Castiel.

“Look, Cas, we need to talk.”

“Of course, Dean. What is it?”

Dean took a deep breath and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “Well, as I’ve been working on getting better, talking to Dr. Donna, I’ve realized that despite what our biology may be telling us, I probably never want to get mated. And as you know, it’s not like I can give you pups…”

Cas just smiled a soft smile at him. “Dean, none of that matters to me. I like you, and would like to continue seeing you, once you’re on the outside, I mean, back home. We can take things as fast or as slow as you want, and go only as far as you are comfortable with. This is our relationship, and the only ones who get to define it are us. Not biology, not society, just us.”

“Are you saying we’re in a relationship, Cas?” Dean grinned at him.

Cas smiled shyly and nodded. “That is, if you want to be.”

Dean shrugged nonchalantly. “Sure, why not.”

Later, when he had his session with Dr. Donna, Dean finally got the news he’d been waiting weeks for. “Well, Dean, you’re making excellent progress. I think you can go home in a day or two.”

“Yes! That’s great news! Thanks, Donna.” It took all of Dean’s willpower not to hug her. “Oh, by the way, Dr. Donna?”

“Yes?”

“Can we still hang out once I’m out of here?” Dean asked, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “You know, like friends?”

“Are we friends Dean?” Donna asked with a hint of a smile.

“Aren’t we?”

“Maybe. But I don’t think that’s what you’re really asking.” Donna said with a wink.

“Shut up. You don’t know what’s in my head.” Dean said. To his shrink.

Donna just smiled at him. “Sure, we can hang out Dean. Here, call me, soon.” She handed him one of her appointment cards, and if she had already filled in a date for a week after he was to be released, well, neither of them commented on it.

A couple of days later, when Sam came to pick up Dean, as they were leaving the ward, Castiel flagged them down and asked them into his office. Before he could even ask them to sit, both of them had taken a seat in the chairs in front of the doctor’s desk.

Blushing, Cas said, “Um, I actually just wanted to talk to Dean. Sam, could you give us a minute.”

Suspicious, Sam looked between Cas and his brother. Sensing no discomfort from Dean, he shrugged and made his way out. He did leave the door open behind him, however.

“What’s up, Doc?” Dean asked with a grin, like he knew where this was going.

Cas took a moment to gather his thoughts before speaking, but when he did, it still wasn’t as eloquent as he might have liked. “Well, Dean, I was wondering, if, maybe, after you’re settled in at home, if you might consider going on a date.” When he finally finished speaking, he took a long drink from the water glass on his desk.

“Sure, Cas, I would definitely consider it, if you asked.” Dean grinned at him. “Was that all?”

“Um, yes,” Cas said.

“Alrighty then. Guess I’ll see you around.” Dean said as he rose from his seat. Before he walked out the door, he turned around and winked at Cas. “And it better be soon.”

On that note, Dean joined his brother in the hall, and they went home.