Cross To Bear

5 Years-Old: Kindergarten

One Year Later…

Cas sat in his baby brother's room, a box full of all kinds of generic Legos next to him. Sammy was asleep in his crib after spending most of the morning bawling and fussing.

Castiel and Dean were out with their mom, looking at the new building they'd be in for the next few months and longer. Kindergarten, their mom had called it. School – a place where you meet new people, make friends, and learn stuff. Cas couldn't say he was particularly excited to see it, it looked like a regular room. The lady showing them around said that a lot of stuff was still neatly put away, that when they'd be back there would be more stuff to do and play with.

He didn't care that much, as long as he wouldn't do it alone it was alright. His mom was there, showing them things and telling him how much fun he'd have. Dean didn't look convinced either, but at least they'd do it together.

As they'd gotten home Cas watched his dad try to pass little Sammy off to Mary, saying he couldn't get their baby to stop crying for hours now. "Maybe he's sick? Diaper's fine, he's not hungry, and trying to get him to sleep is impossible." John ran his hand through his hair and looked at the other two boys with some mild exhaustion. "How was the tour guys?"

"I don't think I'm gonna like it." Cas shrugged but hurried up to Sam's side, he could feel his skin tingle again. He understood his little brother, to some extent. Cas could feel his presence there without having to touch him, but maybe that was just the crying he was aware of. Dean told him last time it was weird and his dad said he'd seen too many movies, Cas didn't want to think that maybe it was another sense like smelling or tasting. But part of him thought that maybe yeah, it kinda was. And whatever it was it helped him figure Sammy out. "His mouth hurts."

John furrowed his brow and looked into Sam's mouth, "Lookit that, his teeth are finally coming in."

Mary relaxed and went to get some mild pain relief medication their doctor had recommended for Sammy a while back. They treated him with something cold, gave him his pacifier, and tried to get him to sleep. Mary attempted to sing and it worked for a bit but he began fussing like he had been before. John rocked him and gently spun the crib toy hanging above him, hoping the little tune it played would soothe him. It worked for a little, just like before, but soon his face scrunched and went red again as he cried.

Cas nudged Dean and hurried to their room, "Help me."

Dean frowned but followed Cas all the same, "With what?"

Castiel pulled at the large plastic container in their playroom, "I wanna play with these."

"Then play with them, why are you trying to move it? It's too heavy." Dean grumbled as he reluctantly assisted Castiel in moving the thing.

"I want to play with them in Sammy's room." Cas insisted.

"Fine but I'm not stayin' there if he keeps crying."

Their feet slid on the floor every now and then whenever their push-and-pull tactic failed. They were five; teamwork wasn't exactly part of their skillset just yet. All the same, they managed to drag the container of Legos into Sam's bedroom.

That had been an hour ago now; Sam had quieted down after the first few minutes and lay resting. John and Mary had gone to make dinner, far too used to Castiel's calming qualities to question it.

Dean wandered in again, his looked at Sam's crib and quietly sat down with Cas, "What'cha makin'?"

"Dunno yet, I think I'm going to make a big ball." He smiled and looked at Dean, "Wanna help?"

"Sure," Dean started making the second half of Cas' idea and before they knew it they had a hollow shell of a Lego ball. Dean looked it over a bit and grinned mischievously, "Wanna throw it down the stairs and see how many pieces it falls into?"

Castiel's eyes widened a bit and he nodded silently, hell yeah he did.

And that's exactly what they went to do, the two stood at the top of the stairs as they prepared to heave the thing down. It was pretty big, at least as big as Dean's head but it didn't weigh that much. "Ready?" Dean looked at him and Cas nodded.

The ball left Dean's hands and soared past all the stairs, it didn't hit a single one. It was beautiful and for a moment Cas thought maybe it was strong enough to survive the fall. It wasn't, but the result was just as glorious. There was a loud crash and pieces flew in every direction Cas couldn't keep track of them all.

"Wow," he smiled and high-fived his brother, "nice one."

"Boys!" John yelled and the two ducked away quickly. "Get down here! Dean, Cas!"

They looked at one another sheepishly but crawled back to the top of the stairs, "Yeah dad?" Dean tried to smile but John looked pretty mad.

"Clean this up, you might've woken your brother."

Cas pouted but did as he was told before his dad blew a gasket. Dean almost complained but seeing Castiel listen so easily shut him up, if Cas would do it without whining then maybe he could too.

Regardless of their attitudes, though, they couldn't find every piece. John found the last one later that night with his foot.

First day of kindergarten, Dean and Castiel stood at the bus stop with excitement and terror settled in them. Each had a backpack with snacks and other things they didn't care to remember, it'd be their first time away from mom for a whole day. Or maybe it was five hours, but regardless that was a long time for a five year old.

Mary and Sammy were there to see them off as the bus pulled up, a big yellow monster to the two boys.

"Have a good day, sweethearts! I'll be right here when you get home!" She reassured them and Castiel almost didn't go. But he followed his brother regardless, his legs feeling stiff and his heart pounding as they climbed the steps into the vehicle.

"You think it'll be okay?" Dean asked as they quietly walked to an empty seat, a bunch of other strange kids looking at them blankly.

Cas shook his head and squeezed Dean's hand tightly, "I'm scared."

Dean put his arm around Cas and held him close the whole ride as they stopped all over to pick up other kids. Neither knew the route or where exactly they were going, all they knew was that they'd wind up at school. Their mom had taken them there once to see it and introduce them to their teacher, that was like a week ago already. "It'll be okay, Cas. I'm right here." He put on his brave big brother persona; Castiel needed him so he'd be whatever he had to be.

Some adults they'd seen the first day Mary had brought them showed them to their classroom, neither boy recognized any of the other kids. Everything was new and strange. They were shown to where they could hang up their backpacks, a space of hooks right underneath a bunch of shelves they'd been told were called 'cubbies.' The two did as instructed, hanging their bags and turning to face the rest of the room. There were desks with names on them, different sections for what looked like different activities like drawing and crafts, and playing.

Castiel chewed on his fingernails as he peered around the room, the place was full of colour and light, big windows in the corner and a cool stepped sitting area circled around a single chair. "It looks fun." He whispered to Dean, still not letting go of his hand. Dean held tight as he scanned the area and lit up when he spotted where the playthings had been set up.

"Look, toy soldiers!" He exclaimed and pulled Cas along to the to area. There was another brunet sitting with the little green men, his hair a bit too long and always falling into his eyes. Cas wasn't sure they should bug him but Dean didn't have the same mindset.

"Can we play?" Dean asked as he sat down across from the other boy.

Brown eyes glanced up and he wiped the hair away though it fell right back where it had been, "Sure." The stranger replied after a moment of consideration and returned to knocking the soldiers over with a stuffed dragon.

Dean smiled and reached over to take one but the boy smacked his hand aside. "Hey -!"

"Not that one, he's dead."

Dean paused and looked at the ones that had been knocked over by the dragon, "Oh… uh," He grabbed a different one that had been standing, "this one okay?"

"He's fine I guess but I'd take this one." The other boy smiled and gave him a different guy, one he'd had off to the side. "He's the hero."

Dean grinned and traded, "What's his name?"

"Dunno, just been callin' him Private."

"Private it is," Dean glanced up at Cas then motioned for him to sit, "It okay if my brother plays?"

"Sure," the boy nodded as he grabbed a few of the soldiers and tossed them back into the bin he'd gotten them from.

Castiel sat down and looked at the little set up, "So what's your name?" He asked the stranger, figuring it was worth a shot to know.

"Jet, you?"

"I'm Dean, this is Cas." Dean quickly took over again; he liked to be the in-between guy, a buffer between Cas and strange things/people.

"Hey." Jet greeted them as he pushed his hair back again.

"You need a haircut," Cas commented and promptly received a glare from the other boy.

"No I don't, shut up."

Cas pressed his lips together and nodded, "Sorry, it looks like it bugs you."

"S'ok. It's in my eyes so it kinda does," Jet shrugged and continued to set up more soldiers around them.

"So do you not want it cut?" Dean asked next, leaning around to see past the brown strands to Jet's face.

"No… I don't know." The boy curled his lips into his mouth as he shook his head, "It's dumb anyways."

Playing didn't last very long, the teacher asked them all to clean up and head to the sitting area. It took some time, about ten minutes of dawdling but they finally all got to sit down. Dean was happy to have Cas on one side and Jet on the other, being in the middle felt right to him. As their teacher got the last of the kids to the steps Dean leaned over to Cas, "Is she supposed to be Ms. Frizzle? Her hair's too white."

Cas lit up and looked at Dean with a bright smile, "You think so? Is she?"

"I dunno but they look the same." Dean smirked before they were both called out.

"Boys, please don't talk while I'm talking, okay?" She was polite and seemed nice, Cas didn't mind her. They'd gotten a talking to by their parents before starting school; the teachers were in charge when they were away from home. Dean and Castiel both lowered their heads and muttered quick 'I'm sorry's. "Thank you, so I'm going to call out your names and when I do I want you to say 'here' and raise your hand, okay?"

The class either nodded or remained silent, either way it was assumed they got it. So she started calling out names, some of the kids didn't get the idea and she had to explain it again. Cas didn't mind the wait.

The names went in order of last names so they would be last, or at least close to it. Cas started to feel anxious as he listened. What if the teacher had forgotten him in her list? Would he be allowed to stay? If they forgot Dean? They were small worries but Cas was riddled with them as the list went on.

"Jethro Tull?"

"Here," Jet raised his hand like she'd asked before, no hesitation. "But my mom calls me Jet."

"Alright, Jet it is." She smiled at him and scribbled on her paper.

The list had to be close to over, there were barely any children left. In fact he and Dean were the last ones. She was writing on her list, maybe she couldn't find them? What if she said his name wrong if she did find him?

"Castiel Winchester?"

"Here!" He shouted as he stood up, his nerves had gotten the best of him and he had no idea what he was doing. He felt his skin was clammy and he'd been sweating, Dean held back a laugh and tugged at Cas' arm to sit. "Y-you can call me Cas…" he trailed off and dropped back down, his face falling into his hands as it reddened.

"Thank you, Cas. Is there a Dean Winchester?"

"Here," Dean lifted his hand casually like Jet had, holding his laughter in as best he could.

Cas thought he'd learned what it meant to be embarrassed but he didn't really know it, it just seemed like that big thing people said made them feel stupid in front of others. But it disappeared soon after, relief crept up on him and he had to enjoy it for the feeling that it was. The weight of his silly worries lifted and he wanted to remember that sensation, that little freedom was a beautiful thing.

It was that morning that Castiel truly learned to appreciate the little things, that the bad had to happen for him to do so, and that school wasn't going to be as simple as he'd originally thought. Cas assumed learning at that pace was normal, that thinking everything he did at his age was common. He never thought to question it.

The end of the day came and the Winchester boys went to get their bags, students that took the bus had to go and wait in a line until their ride showed up. Dean watched as the boy they'd just met a few hours before walked down the sidewalk, a different direction then they'd be going altogether. "Guess Jet doesn't have to bus."

"Guess not." Cas responded as he watched for the big yellow bus to show up, "Dean what if we get on the wrong one? What if it doesn't come? Maybe it goes a different way home, how will we know when to get off? What if he leaves before we can get to the door thinking maybe we're not there?"

"Calm down," Dean tried to silence his minor panic and pat him on the shoulder, just like he'd seen done in movies. "It'll be fine, freak out if it happens."

Cas didn't quite feel better about it but he shut up all the same. As expected the buses came around, parked in a specific order and the kids got onto the ones that'd be heading to their homes. Dean led him by the hand to a seat near the front, like the smaller kids were supposed to, just so Cas could calm down about not being noticed when they had to get off.

The ride seemed longer on the way home than it had on the way to school but it ended soon enough. Cas stared out the windshield until he saw their yard coming up, just on the edge of the town. Mary stood with baby Sammy in her arms, smiling and waiting for them to arrive.

"It's mom!" He exclaimed in relief, there was that feeling again as his worries slipped away from him.

They hurried off the bus and ran to her, Cas clung to her legs and held on for a few seconds as he let himself feel like he was completely safe again. "How was school, boys?" Mary smiled and knelt down to hug them, gently of course because Sammy was still with her.

"School was fun!" Dean jumped up and down a little, "Cas freaked out a bit but we're okay."

Mary looked at Cas who hadn't moved from squishing himself against her side, "Cas, what happened?"

"Nothing, I just got scared." He admitted and glanced up at her sheepishly.

"That's alright, we all do sometimes." She kissed his forehead and he squirmed into her arms a little better. "What is it?" Mary wasn't about to assume he was just a little scared, Cas didn't normally act that way.

"I don't like it," he mumbled against her.

"School? Cas you'll get used to it."

"They make us stay in a room all day! I don't like it." Cas pulled back to look at her, his face pinched with some distress. "I feel stuck."

Mary bit gently at her lip as she tried to think of something to say to that, "You didn't have fun?"

"Sometimes," he looked away, his gaze drifting over to Dean who squeezed past them to get inside the house, "We got to make some stuff, and colour."

"Why don't you give it a chance?" Mary cupped his cheek and tilted his head toward her, "You never know, you might enjoy it."

Castiel watched her smile and hesitated before he nodded, "Okay," if his mom wanted him to give it a shot then maybe he shouldn't judge it so quickly. Maybe it'd be fun? He should do it like Dean, Dean seemed like he was enjoying himself.

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