9 Years-Old: A Deeper Feeling
First day back to school was the start of the days Sam joined Dean and Castiel on their bus trips. Sam was confident enough to sit alone in the front, where all younger kids were sectioned. Cas admired his bravery; he knew he couldn't have done that.
"How're you feeling?" Dean nudged him and he shook his head.
"Awful, I don't want to go but I already know the answer to that," he hated the first week back. It shot his freedom down and locked him in a room away from the outside world; forced to take tests and follow rules he didn't think were justified. The school system was outdated and he was sick of being judged based on numbers.
"If you asked I bet you could've stayed home today," Dean offered a smile and Cas shrugged.
"I have to face it sometime, regardless of head injury mysteries."
"Mom still would've let you stay home, just gotta complain about your head a little and voila! Free day." Dean gestured dramatically and got a laugh out of Cas.
"Yeah but still, the sooner I'm used to it the sooner I can get on with my life."
The bus pulled up to a stop at the elementary school, letting the boys out. Their town had two schools down the street from one another, the elementary school harboured kindergarten to grade four students while the high school held grade 5 to 12, after which they graduated. It was lucky that their school didn't let the students go after grade 3 otherwise Sam's first year would be alone without his brothers close by.
Sam waved goodbye to them before running up the front steps with some kids he seemingly made friends with during the bus ride. Castiel hopped off the bus after Dean only to be shoved mid-step. He had no balance while on one foot and, needlessly said, fell to the ground. He caught himself on his hands and knees, feeling the skin scrape as he held himself in place.
"Move it, Cassie."
Cas took a moment to reorient himself but heard the culprit clearly enough, it was Gordon from their class. He heard Dean growl but his brother's first instinct was to check and make sure Cas was alright. Cas had scared everyone with his fall the week before, he wasn't surprised that Dean wouldn't run after their rude classmate.
"Screw off, Gordon!" Dean shouted at Castiel's side. "Cas, you okay?"
"I'm fine," Cas sighed lightly and slowly pushed himself up, getting back to his feet with Dean's assistance. He held back the tears behind his eyes and grit his teeth, "Stupid…" he half whimpered half snarled the word, "You're so stupid, Gordon!" He screamed and wiped the tears that slipped down his cheeks despite his best efforts.
"Hey asshole!" Jet's voice carried and got Cas' and Dean's attention easily. They looked up just in time to see their friend tackle Gordon to the pavement; Cas cringed but didn't protest the violence.
"Get off me, Jet!" Gordon thrashed but wasn't much of a match.
Jet leaned in close to Gordon's face, Cas couldn't hear what the boy was saying but it seemed to frighten his attacker. In fact, moments later Gordon got up and shouted an apology to Cas before taking off entirely. Castiel looked to Dean who was grinning so wide it contagiously spread to Cas' lips as well.
Jet dusted himself off and walked over to them with a wave, "Hey guys, Cas I'm glad to see you're okay."
"Thanks to you and Dean," Castiel smiled almost shyly, "What'd you even say to him?"
"Nothing nice," Jet shrugged and caught Dean's hand in their secret handshake; swiftly shifting over to Castiel's to end the gesture. "What's up, guys? How's Sam?"
Dean looked Cas over again, just to double check he was actually fine, "Sammy went inside already, he's pretty excited to be here."
"I'm sure he'll like it," Cas motioned to the doors, "Should we go in?"
"Yeah, gotta drop off all my school stuff," Jet looked at his backpack that was as abnormally full as everyone else's. The first day of school was the day that everyone brought their supplies in, binders, paper, notebooks, pencil kits, mathematics items like calculators and geometry kits, and of course the things used for arts and crafts like scissors and rulers. Some even went as far to bring their gym clothes along.
The three boys entered together and Cas felt a shudder run down his spine, there goes to his freedom for another year. Sure, there were weekends and long weekends, and the holiday season but that wasn't enough. Cas couldn't wait to be out of there. Just 8 more years after that one and he'd be done, free to live his life and do what he wanted; not that he knew what he wanted to do.
Castiel sat quietly during roll call, he understood it now and wasn't worried when it was his turn. He replied easily and it made everyone moan in disappointment. Cas furrowed his brow and looked at Dean who shrugged.
"Got it right this time, huh?" Jet grinned and nudged him, "Some people were wondering how you'd take this one."
Cas' face flushed and he looked down at his notebook, "It's not that surprising I did it right, is it?"
"No, but it's been fun trying to figure out what you'd say." Jet was teasing and Cas knew it but it still bugged him. People were amused at how tense he got, how nervous and anxious he could be. It wasn't fun for him, so why would they enjoy it? Cas didn't have an answer for that.
Their first classes went by easily enough, Cas' heart raced as he stared out the window, his mind entirely elsewhere. He was glad he went through this state of mind early in the school year but he hated the fact that it happened. He forced himself to like this place, to get by and exist he had to like something he hated. Maybe that was the point though? School was a place to put young people, to test their limits, to force them down and see who can get back up again. It was a twisted utopia for adults, especially those directly involved in the process.
He packed his things come lunchtime and walked to his locker with some exhaustion in his bones already. Cas couldn't explain it properly but there was just something soul sucking about that place. His freedom was gone, his sense of self was in pieces and he just wanted to go home. He hadn't done anything all day and yet he was more tired than when he'd woken up that morning.
"You look miserable, man," Jet nudged his shoulder and Cas nodded.
"That's because I am, I hate this place."
"Same," the other boy sighed and looked down the hall toward the exit, "wish there was a way to just know this stuff and do other things. I'd rather be at home."
Dean nodded as he shoved his binders into his half-locker, right next to Cas'. "How's your mom, by the way?"
Jet shook his head, "She's the same, no worse so that's good."
"And your dad?" Cas raised an eyebrow slightly, he'd never really met Jet's dad. Jet always visited their family, there was the rare occasion where the Winchesters would go to Jet's to make dinner and talk with Nikki but she was always alone.
Cas wasn't sure what he expected to hear, nothing changes that fast and he'd seen Jet recently. Though it occurred to him that he rarely asked those kinds of things, "Are you sad you never see him?"
Jet frowned and shrugged, "I don't know, would you be?"
"Yeah," Dean and Cas said in unison, their gazes falling to the floor just at the thought of it.
Jet looked between the two of them and shook his head, "Well my mom's good enough for me. She says Dad has to work otherwise we wouldn't be able to eat, mom says it's hard on him too."
Cas couldn't imagine how complicated Jet's feelings about it could be, to have to believe it was better your dad wasn't home. John was always around, how would he feel if his dad practically disappeared? He wanted to know how his friend was doing; he wanted to see if Jet was okay. Cas knew he wouldn't ever be if John were gone, he was concerned and scared for their closest friend. Was Jet really okay? Could he be?
Cas reached out for him, not physically but he tried to touch Jet's being. That part of a person he could sense, the part that showed who and how they were. He could feel it, Jet's emotions were swirling and he didn't believe her. He didn't believe it was better to be away from his father and it ate away at him. Cas felt it deeper into the hole that was eaten away. Jet couldn't help his mom any more than he'd already done and it wasn't enough. If he could be stronger his dad would be home, his mom wouldn't be lonely. Cas could feel him, there was so much more to him that he couldn't quite reach. Castiel opened his senses wider to Jet and the pain his friend felt crashed into him like a wave. Jet was cracking under that pressure, to be with his mom, to take care of her when she couldn't move, and to hardly ever speak with a stranger in his family. There was also a beautiful feeling; it surrounded Jet's thoughts of his mother and Cas nearly cried when it washed over him. But next to it was something far darker, something angry. Was that hatred? Castiel tried to touch it, to see it better. It was so miserable and connected to Jet's feelings for his dad. Cas had never seen hatred in a person before. It pushed back and it scared him. He was in too deep; he'd never reached that far into someone. Pulling back wasn't easy, it took longer than a split second and he felt a pull back down.
"Cas?" Dean's hand was on Cas' bicep, a touch he welcomed when his mind snapped back. Had he just been standing there? "You okay? You blacked out."
"I… yeah…" He wiped his eyes as tears rushed down his cheeks. He'd never been that far before, that someone noticed his absence.
"Maybe you should go home," Jet was leaning in as close as Dean was, both boys checking to see if Castiel was all there or not.
"No, no, I'm okay." Cas shook his head and looked up at Jet again. It was so strong, that anger swelling in Jet's mind wasn't so obvious at a distance but Cas knew it was there. How could he push it away? "I'm sorry," Cas swung his arms around Jet's shoulders and buried his face against his friend's neck, "I'm so sorry."
Jet stood frozen for a moment and looked at Dean as he hugged Castiel back, a look that begged the question 'what the fuck?' "It's okay, you've got nothing to be sorry for."
Cas sighed to try and quell the squall inside his own head. He was scared but more than that he was worried, "I'm sorry it's so hard for you. And I'm sorry I've been too selfish to notice." He inhaled shakily and lifted his gaze to look at Jet properly, "I know your dad isn't there often but you can share our family, okay?"
"Cas…" Jet glanced around at the people staring at them in the hall, "I'm okay, you don't have to do this-"
"Yes I do, we love you a lot and I don't want you to get hurt." He couldn't begin to care about the hallway full of students gawking at them; his mind was so caught up in that awful feeling. It reminded him of Caplan, a hideous monster of a man and he never wanted to see Jet turn into that. He didn't think Jet could, but he needed to do something before his friend honestly felt that awful thing on the surface. "Don't be angry please…" he whispered when he dropped his head against Jet's shoulder again.
Jet looked at Dean with confusion, Cas could feel it stronger than the rising concern both Dean and Jet felt for him. "Cas," Dean tried to pull him away but he wouldn't move. "Cas you're scaring me."
That was true too. Castiel nodded and stepped away from Jet, "Sorry, I didn't mean to…"
"You're usually pretty weird on the first day but this is a lot. You sure your head is okay?" Jet didn't know how to react but he was worried all the same.
"Yes, I'm okay." Cas wiped his eyes, "I just sensed something really angry and hurt, I'm sorry."
"Stop apologizing," Jet tried to offer a smile, something friendly and light-hearted. "I'm okay and if you're okay we should get going, people're staring at us."
Cas looked around and winced at the sense he got from it. Castiel is so weird. "Yeah… yeah let's go." He hurried away, wishing he were anywhere but there.
Throughout the next hour or so Dean and Jet tried to check up on him but he insisted he was fine. They didn't have much choice to give him the benefit of the doubt; he was always weird on the first day back. That was normal. So despite his recent hospital visit they let it go. He was glad for that. Maybe acting normal would make him feel less stressed out.
Jet was called to the office during their last break, everyone joked about it; 'What'd you do?' being the common question as if he'd broken the rules. Cas looked down the hall to where they could see the entrance to the office; there were a couple of officers standing there. It was a small town so one of them was Jody, Cas remembered her well.
"Wow, he really got in trouble." Dean laughed softly but Cas wasn't so sure.
"Something feels wrong, Jody is really sad…" His stomach churned as he watched them, one knelt down with a hand on Jet's shoulder and they told him something. Cas couldn't hear it but the shockwave from Jet's reaction reached him all the same. Grief and pain cracked into his psyche like a sledgehammer. Cas cringed and felt his body go numb.
He felt something break in Jet as he watched the boy stand completely still. Something happened. Something awful happened that caused such a mess in his friend.
That was the first time Castiel ever hated being able to sense people. His head ached and his heart beat too fast.
"What's wrong?" Dean looked at him and somehow Castiel knew. He knew that feeling, that weird and horrific feeling of hatred disbanded and mixed in with the rest.
"It's about his dad." Cas winced but managed to speak. "I think… I think he's hurt."
Dean looked down the hall where Jet stood, still with the police. "Jet?" He called and started down the hallway, Castiel right behind him. "Jet! Hey are you okay?"
Jet looked up at them, his face red and tear stained. He shook his head.