Cross To Bear

9 Years-Old: Questioning Death

Two days later.

Castiel stood in his best clothes for a man he'd never even seen until that morning. His hair was combed back and his shoes were uncomfortable on his feet but he didn't say a word about it, he wanted to be there.

Jet was with them, his mother on a new trip to the hospital and unable to leave due to 'complications.' The mind could do amazing and terrible things to the body with only the slightest change of thought. Cas didn't want to think about it.

Dean walked at Castiel's side; they were in a line behind their father who held Sam's hand. The two of them walked behind their mother, who held Jet's. Cas didn't need to even try to sense Jet's mind, he was swarmed with the grief of all the people in the room but Jet's was strongest.

Sam was only five years old but he knew to be quiet enough, he only asked a few questions of John who very softly explained.

What's wrong with him, daddy?

It hurt to hear those words, Cas felt Jet's mind quake. It was painful, it was giving him a headache and he wanted to leave. But everything else in him wanted to stay. He had to be there, he could tell his presence was somehow easing the room. That each person he stepped away from grew more anxious, and each he came closer to seemed to calm down. It was like what happened with his brothers when they were infants, or at least that's what he remembered his parents telling him.

Mary and Jet stopped at the casket first, Jet was barely tall enough to see in but she still lifted him anyway. This would be the last time he'd see his dad. Jet's emotions slowed and drifted to a stop, his eyes fixed on a paled face. Cas wanted to move to his side but he stayed in place, quietly waiting and watching his friend's expression. Mary whispered something to him and Jet shook his head, she looked back and John and urged him to pass by.

John picked Sam up as he walked past, pausing only briefly to see Lawrence Tull before he went to their reserved seating. Castiel took a steadying breath as they approached next, peering into the open casket. He saw a man who shouldn't be as pale as he was, a facial structure very similar to Jet's and buzzed to the scalp hair. He was a stranger, but Cas felt his chest ache.

He placed a hand against Jet's side and the other boy looked down at him from Mary's arms. Castiel offered a quiet smile though his eyes watered and rained on his face, he felt a hole in his heart for Jet and wished to fill it. He wanted to be able to say something that would help but maybe there was nothing to say. Death was final and permanent. There was nothing to say other than condolences, but Jet already knew they were sorry.

"We love you, Jet." Cas whispered and continued on. Dean stood looking into the casket for a few moments longer, a look exchanged with Jet before following after Cas. They sat next to John and watched as Mary stayed there, holding Jet up to look inside until everyone had walked by to offer some kind of apology or respect. Some spoke to Jet, he didn't appear to say much.

When Mary started to walk away Jet wrenched from her arms and ran back to the coffin, a sharp cry tore from his throat and buried deep into Cas' aching heart. He looked away, the storm of remorse and sorrow getting to be too much. He couldn't stop the tears from flowing and he couldn't stand to be in his own skin. Why couldn't he help? Why did it have to hurt that much to lose someone? Why did people have to die?

Castiel didn't have the answers. No one did, nothing that made sense to him so he never bothered to ask. Dean covered his mouth as a sob wracked his body too; Cas trembled when Dean's pain reached him.

"Dad! No! NO! You can't go!" Jet screamed and Cas looked up, the other boy had pulled himself up to grab his father's ironed shirt. "Wake up! Please wake up, dad… I still need you." His voice broke and so did Cas. "Daddy no…"

Mary gently took him away from the casket when his arms went slack and brought him to their bench. She didn't bother putting him down on his own and instead held him in her lap, his face against her shoulder as she kept a tight hold. Castiel didn't look up for a long while after that, people went up to speak and he didn't know any of them. They were people from Lawrence's work, by the sound of it. 'He was a good man.' 'Hard worker.' 'Loved his family.' And all the nice things people say about you when you're gone.

Cas didn't care about the stories or the nice things. He didn't care for most of the people walking up to speak. What he wanted was to help Jet, he could feel the same determination in Dean but they were both so helpless. Mary rocked their friend slowly throughout the songs and speeches and Cas wanted to tear out his own beating heart. Jet's was in so much pain that maybe it'd help; maybe using Castiel's heart would ease it, even a little.

Time and energy slipped away from him, he mentally blanked out in the very same sense that Jet did. It was too much at once and Cas needed to get away from it, maybe his similar state of mind would be a comfort to his friend. Maybe Jet would find solace in the fact that Castiel couldn't handle the mental strain either.

People around them spoke to one another, there was food shared in a separate room but Castiel couldn't bring himself to pay attention. John took him by the hand and he forced himself to look up, "What's going on, dad?"

"Your mom thinks it's best if we go home now." John explained softly and led him out, Sam was on his dad's other side and Cas could see Dean walking next to Mary and Jet. He was glad they were leaving; he felt heavy and didn't want to be there anymore.

They climbed into the car, Jet sat between John and Mary in the front while Cas, Dean and Sam took up the backseat. Dean looked out the window for a moment then back to his parents, "Aren't they gonna bury him? Won't we miss that?"

"They postponed it for a few days, we're hoping Jet's mom might be better by then and she can be there." Mary explained gently, her gaze falling onto Jet as the boy didn't speak up or move or indicate he'd heard anything about it.

The rest of the day went by in a blur; Cas sat at Jet's side and said nothing unless he needed to. Dean continued to try and offer a solution, something Jet liked each time and didn't give up despite his best efforts accomplishing very little. Their friend was silent and didn't want to talk to them, he didn't want to do much of anything really. Mary said that was fine, that Jet needed time. Cas still felt awful about it.

They ended up watching a movie; Cas wasn't paying attention to which one. He tried to focus on Jet, that miserable feeling surrounding him and did his best to soothe it. Jet's face was calm and his body relaxed against the couch but there wasn't the same amount of life in him. Castiel didn't think he could fix it in such a short amount of time but he hoped that maybe it'd do something good. There was a wall, Jet was building it mentally and internally to block things out and it scared Cas. He couldn't quite feel his friend as deeply as he had in the previous days, it was pushing him out and it made him worry.

'Don't do this Jet, please don't do this.' He thought desperately as he caressed his friend's guarded wall. It reminded him of seeing Dean's soul for the first time a few weeks before, he'd never imagined anything as beautiful as a person's true being. Jet's was different than Dean's but no less stunning to him. Cas didn't pay a single bit of attention to the movie playing in front of him, all of his energy was spent trying to slow Jet's pace, trying to stop the other boy from shutting down. He'd lost his dad, of course it was going to hurt, Cas knew that. He knew it but he didn't want Jet to ache from it forever, he wanted his friend to heal right but his efforts weren't enough. He needed something more.

Sam walked in during the middle of the film and stopped beside the couch where the three of them sat. He was shy but approached nonetheless and crawled up between Cas and Jet. The older boy shifted over a bit to give Sam room but it wasn't necessary, Sammy climbed into Jet's lap and gave him a hug.

Jet froze at first but melted into it, his head dropped onto Sam's shoulder as his arms wrapped around the smaller boy's torso. "I'm sorry, Jet." Sam whispered in a tiny broken voice that nearly shattered the other three, "I love you."

Cas watched Jet's hands clench around Sam's shirt and his head push a little harder into Sam's shoulder. He could see the turmoil but he sensed something else was happening, something more than what his eyes told him. Sam's hold helped, his small words were a comfort just like all of theirs were, but very different. He was that little something extra Cas was hoping for.

"I love you too," Jet sobbed against Sam's sweater. "I'm so…" he lost his breath as his throat choked up and his next inhale was stuttered, "I'm so mad at him." He exhaled heavily and rubbed his eyes. "He was never here and now he's gone."

Cas smiled quietly, the wall inside Jet crumbled and slipped away like it'd never been there. It was an open wound inside him but free to heal. Cas leaned in and joined the hug; Dean did the same from the other side.

"We're here for you," Dean gave one of the strongest hugs, Castiel was thankful for that.

Only a day or two followed before they stood in the cemetery all dressed up again. This time Nikki could make it, her frail body in a wheelchair with a hospital attendant behind her and enough medical equipment that Cas didn't know where to start asking what did what. Jet stood at his mom's side, his heart still ached but it was open. Castiel found a way to nest there, to keep an eye on things and make sure it stayed clean.

Castiel noticed that the burial was worse than the viewing almost right away. It was heavier, there were more people crying and it was the last time anyone would get a chance to see him. People offered their condolences to Nikki since they hadn't gotten the chance previously, Mary knelt down to hug her gently and Cas realized how close the two families were. He was glad that his mom could be there for her, like they were for Jet.

Nikki was stronger though; she took it better than Jet had. In fact she seemed at peace with it. "I always thought it'd be me down there first," she said with soft voice, watching her son as he stood at the casket's side one more time. "The poor thing, how is he?"

Mary sighed lightly, "He's doing better than you'd expect, but he's in a lot of pain."

"I'm scared to leave him," Nikki laughed painfully, Cas could feel her anxiety and fear. All of it surrounding her son, what would happen to him now, what he'd do with himself and who could take care of them. "I need to get better for him, I can't leave him on his own."

"You'll do what you can but don't hurt yourself more," Mary replied in kind, a gentle reminder for Nikki that she could do almost nothing for him. Castiel closed his eyes at the pulse wave of pain he could sense all around him, Jet's was sharp but unmoving. Nikki's was dull but strong and persistent, two very different feelings and Cas wasn't sure which one was worse.

"Lawrence had good life insurance," Nikki changed the subject a little, Cas figured to try and ease the pain herself. "And we'll be getting compensation from his work place since it happened there. We'll be okay for a little while but I don't know if-"

"Don't worry," John placed a hand on her shoulder, "We'll do what we can for you both."

"I don't need any more help, please help him instead."

Mary shook her head with a careful smile, "We'll help you both." She insisted.

Castiel walked over to Jet who had his hands on the coffin and his head rested against the polished wood. The other boy was whispering to his father, his expression pinched with too much on his mind and Cas didn't want to intrude. He couldn't hear it but he knew what it was just based on Jet's internal state and how his mind circled around key thoughts over and over.

'I'm mad at you.'

'You were never there so I had to be.'

'We needed you.'

'You asshole.'

'Come back.'

'I love you.'

'Thank you.'

Cas waited until Jet's small private moment passed and his friend looked up. He didn't have anything to say, he just smiled kindly and sensed the small amount of good that did in Jet.

They stood in their places as the ceremony went on, final words were given and then they started to lower casket. Castiel stared at the imagery, at a man in a decorated box. A man that once breathed like they did; he had a mind and thoughts and dreams of his own. He had once been Cas' age, not thinking of his future past the last hour of school for a day and what he'd have for supper. A life lived with a wife and a son, people he loved so strongly he'd sacrifice his time and energy to keep them alive just a few days longer. All of that somehow fit in that wooden coffin. An entire world fit in that box and they just had to let that go, bury that existence that it might reach something better.

But how? He couldn't sense anything from that life anymore; it was cold and unmoving so how could it be in a better place? Where could it go and who would take it there? Castiel didn't have the answers for those questions.

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