\*/

The Nurse's office smelled of disinfectant, printer ink and medicines of all kinds. They mixed together to create a nose-scrunching perfume that made Castiel's eyes water. He was sitting beside Dean in the cold seating area, hands clasped together between his thighs as they waited for the blonde receptionist, Kelly, to tell them they could see the nurse. According to the clock above the door it was twelve minutes past eleven. At night.

Dean had insisted on going to the late nurse about Castiel's bite wound before they did anything else, like sleep. He had driven like a mad man through the tree shrouded roads, muttering curse words to himself. Castiel hadn't uttered a sound. Not since Dean had barked at him to get into the Impala.

Castiel peeked up at him now. Took note of the angry set of his mouth, the twitch in his jaw, his tense shoulders. He wasn't sure what to make of it. Marking an omega wasn't a terrible thing. Granted, it couldn't be undone but it was only a problem for the omega who would have trouble finding another mate if the relationship ended. Alphas weren't keen on accepting a marked were because the scar could never be removed. It was like a brand. An alpha's "I was here" stamp. Some alpha's liked to try and mark as many omegas as they could just for the ego trip. The slang term for such alphas was "cowmen" or, in some instances, "rustlers".

"The nurse will see you now," said the young receptionist with a huge yawn tacked on the end.

"Come on," said Dean, taking Castiel by the hand and dragging him into the nurse's office.

Nurse McClellan smiled politely as they entered but it soon disappeared when her eyes landed on the blood still seeping from the bite on Castiel's neck. She sighed. "Take a seat," she said and retrieved a hand full of bandages and antiseptic wipes from the cabinet behind her and dropped them on the table. Then she snapped on a pair of white gloves, rolling towards Castiel on the wheeled chair she was perched upon. "Take your shirt off so I can have a look."

With a quick glance at Dean, Castiel did as she asked. Once it was off he scrunched the t-shirt up in his hands just to have something to do. It was cold and awkward and Castiel just wanted to wrap himself up in Dean's arms.

"All right. . . " McClellan's probing hands on his throat were gentle but Castiel still had the urge to move away from her. "It's a clean, deep, mating mark. . . I take it this was during intercourse?"

No one answered, though, apparently, she didn't expect one. With three or four wipes, she cleaned up the blood gently and applied a thin layer of a horrible smelling cream. Castiel's resulting snort made her smile. "That should take about a week to heal fully. The scar should be completely white after the healing is complete. If it isn't or you have any questions make sure you come back."

"Thank—"

"Can't you get rid of it?" interrupted Dean. "Is there anything you can give him that'll make it heal fast?"

The nurse raised her brow as she wiped away the excess blood from Castiel's chest. "You do know what a mark is, don't you?"

"Obviously!" said Dean. "Do you think I'd be here if I didn't?"

Castiel eyebrows knitted together. He kept his gaze on the floor. Dean was really angry.

"Okay, firstly, you can lower the volume," said the nurse. "Or you can leave. It's your choice. Secondly, this is a problem you created. You bit him and now he's going to have to wear your mark for the rest of his life. Rather than shouting at me, I'd give him an apology because you certainly owe him one."

Dean made an exasperated sound. "Can't you stitch it up?"

"Yes, but it will still scar."

"What about—"

"Mr Winchester," interrupted the nurse. "This. Is. A. Mark. An alpha mark. It cannot be undone, removed, tattooed over, cut out, stitched up or altered so take a good long look at your handy work, because it's there to stay whether you like it or not."

\*/

Dean kicked the door open as they left the office. It bounced onto the stone wall and swung back into place with a heavy thud. A freshly bandaged Castiel followed after him outside, into the night air that washed over him, removing the unpleasant scents of the nurse's office. He was a little confused when Dean started to march towards the forest instead of the dormitories which were in the opposite direction.

"Dean?" called Castiel, panting to match the alpha's long strides. "Where are you going?"

"For a run."

"But. . . it's late."

"I don't care."

"I'll come with you."

"No."

"What if—"

Dean spun around so quickly, Castiel balked. "Go back to your dorm," said the alpha. He was staring, without blinking, into the omega's wide eyes. Clearly, it was an order. Dean had never given Castiel, or anyone else to his knowledge, a direct order. He wasn't the type of person to throw his alpha status around and Castiel wasn't going to allow him to start now.

"No."

The alpha's eyes flashed. "What?"

"I-I said no, Dean. You're angry. You're pushing me away. I can see that. . . I-I don't really know why—"

"You don't know why?! Cas, I've marked you!" said Dean, throwing his hands out.

"I'm aware of that," said Castiel slowly.

"I've marked you. I've got freaking wolf heart!"

"I know."

"I've tied you to me in every possible way!"

"Yes."

"You'll never be able to escape me. I've fucking branded you, Cas! How can you be okay with that?"

The air was still. There was no wind to speak of or sounds to be heard. Behind Dean the line of trees gazed, dark and foreboding, into the emptiness of the night. Castiel could see his breath swirling in faint puffs before his eyes but whether it was because his body temperature had risen or the air had grown cold, he couldn't tell.

"I don't know," he said eventually.

"You don't know?!"

"I don't know," said Castiel, louder this time, his breathing heavier. "I don't know why. I just. . .I just want to be with you. Ever since I first saw you, Dean, I've wanted you. I have to be with you. I. . .have to be with you," he said helplessly. "That's all I know."

He had no idea what Dean wanted him to say or what reason the alpha thought was good enough, Castiel only knew what he felt but even that was hard to put into words. Dean stared at him, the fear infused anger beginning to seep away from his solid frame. His eyes softened notably as he said, "How does that feel?"

"I don't understand. . ."

"How does it feel knowing I can say and do anything to you and you'd still want me?" said Dean. He seemed to cringe internally as he said it. Outwardly, there were no immediate signs of it. There was something in the set of his mouth though and the shape of his eyes that made Castiel think Dean hated himself for saying it.

Castiel, however, thought it was a valid question. Valid and true. He deliberated for a moment. Only one word came to mind. "Vulnerable."

His answer didn't surprise Dean. Despite that, Castiel had the distinct impression he had answered incorrectly, like Dean had been hoping for something else. Denial? Rejection? Anger? Dean was as complex as Castiel was simple. There was no need to look too deeply into Castiel. He was honest, his thoughts and feelings, should someone want to find them, were easily accessible. The waters of his mind were clear and calm. Dean on the other hand was a bank vault. A myriad of tunnels and dead ends. If Castiel's mind was a transparent lake, Dean's was an ocean deep enough to hide the world. He was a combination lock and Castiel had to guess the code. It was both frustrating and fascinating. The only advantage Castiel had was the ability to read Dean's emotions and combine it with the things he said. It would take time to truly understand Dean but it was time he wanted to give.

"Cas. . . The bite. The shitty things I've said. The wolf heart crap. . . If I could take it all back. . ." He rubbed his neck, looking rather small for an alpha, and it endeared Castiel, made him smile. "I guess, what I'm saying is. . ."

"You're sorry," supplied Castiel.

Dean sighed. His hands rose to cup the omega's face. Warm palms against his cool cheeks. "I'll make it up to you."

"You don't owe me anything."

"I do," muttered Dean, pressing his lips to Castiel's forehead.

It was there, while he was wrapped in the warmth of Dean's arms that he felt the flutter of something else. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. There was unease in his stomach.

He was being watched.

Castiel extricated himself from Dean, put a hand on his chest to quiet the alpha's protests and cocked his head, listening.

"What is it?" asked Dean in spite of Castiel's "shh".

"I can't hear anything," said Castiel. He sniffed for scents and only retrieved the norm: Dean, grass, the trees, the fruit hanging from them. . .

"Yeah, it's night. There isn't much going on."

"No," whispered Castiel. He gazed into the trees, black shadows swallowing up most of the land, with the unwelcome feeling that someone was staring right back. "I can't hear any insects." There was always a chorus of insects when night fell. Why hadn't Castiel noticed earlier?

Dean's confusion transformed into suspicion then concern. "Let's go."

They walked back to Castiel's dormitory swiftly. All the while Dean's eyes darted about, his nostrils flaring. What disturbed Castiel more than anything else was the inability to smell whatever it was that was out there. To a werewolf, a creature that relied on its sense of smell, it was unnerving.

Once they reached Castiel's door, Dean gave him a kiss and turned to leave.

"Where are you going?" said Castiel, snatching his arm.

"Uh. . . to bed?" replied Dean.

"But there's something out there."

Dean gave him a look. "Cas, I think I'll be all right walking home alone."

"Can't you stay here?"

"My dorm is like. . . two feet away."

"It's across the other side of the school!"

"Yeah. Two. . . feet."

"Dean, please?"

The alpha chuckled. "Hey, if it makes you feel better." He stepped inside, nudging the door closed with his foot, and hooked his arm around Castiel's waist. "It's not like it's a chore anyway," he said. They were sharing breaths and heat. Dean could support Castiel's whole weight with one arm around his waist, their bodies pressed together from chest to thigh. Castiel's toes were only just touching the floor.

"I can feel your heartbeat," said Dean. He paused while the omega's heart continued to thump against the wall of his ribs. "It's fast. Is that because you're scared about whatever's out there or. . ."

"No."

A flicker of a surprise. "No?" And then a smirk. Dean's hands found Castiel's ass. He squeezed and lifted the omega off the floor as easily as if he were made of nothing. Castiel automatically wrapped his legs around Dean's tapered waist and his arms around his neck. Although he had moved without hesitation it was still all new territory for Castiel and he was nervous because of it; the anticipation made his palms sweat much like it had only a few hours before.

As Dean looked at Castiel, and Castiel looked back, he noticed the smile on Dean's face was different. It had altered from the traditional Winchester smirk to a gentle smile that held affection and, Castiel was probably wrong because he couldn't tell for certain, admiration.

"You're mine, aren't you, baby?" said Dean.

Castiel's chest felt tight as he replied, "Always," and kissed him deep.

\*/