Cross To Bear

Casualties

Dean stood defensively in awe in front of Sammy, his legs started to feel like Jell-O the more his eyes took in and his brain understood the imagery.

It was like a movie, his mind offered the scenario to try and keep his stomach from violently refusing its contents. He was the camera with a worm's eye view of the protagonist that was about to kick some serious ass. He wasn't a tiny person with no possible way to defend the people he loved from a massive invasion of demons. Just a camera ready to capture the action and raw talent of this make-up covered actor.

It was almost as if Castiel absorbed the light of his environment, the space around him grew darker as he let the demons surround him. 'Do something!' Dean wanted to scream but it was caught his throat, why was Cas just waiting?

He felt a strange static in the air, his hair stood on end and for a second he was certain the moisture in the air was liquid lightning. Time stood still and his heart slowed, everything was suddenly silent – but for only an instant.

Castiel burst with light, it exploded all around them and made Dean cover his eyes. Going form imagining himself as a camera to temporarily blind took very few seconds to occur. The sharp cry of demons pierced his ears as they were each cut short. Dean tried to open his eyes again, blinking incredulously in the fading lighting. Majority of the demons had either vanished or backed the fuck off, retreating temporarily just in case Cas launched another one of those attacks. Dean was pretty sure that a good percentage of them were dead, thankfully.

As the excitement slowly faded Dean noticed something was wrong with Cas. The giant swayed above them, skin still giving off a pale glow as he barely remained upright. "Cas?" Dean called out but his voice didn't reach, Cas didn't respond. His brother's wings slowly drooped down to his sides and for a moment Dean was sure Cas was shrinking.

Wait no he really was. Cas' size diminished gradually at first but soon sped up, the light becoming brighter and separating into two bodies. Instinctively Dean knew which one was Cas even before the glow faded away and ran to meet him. Castiel was collapsing and if Dean hadn't been as fast as he was he wouldn't have been able to catch him. He had Cas in his arms as he fell to his knees to keep his balance; Cas' weight was a little more unexpected for him than he'd like to admit.

"Cas! Hey, can you hear me? Cas?" Dean cupped his hand to Cas' cheek, those blue eyes closed and his mouth hung loosely open giving no response. "Cas, c'mon man, talk to me."

"Is he breathing?" Mary rushed up to his side and checked Cas' forehead for his temperature, her eyes fixed on his chest to check for movement. There wasn't any, but Dean figured that might have something to do with Cas' not being human.

"Mom, I don't think angels breathe…" He remembered Cas being soaking wet back at the school when he was being assaulted by the resident Jesus-freak and his cohorts.

Mary was in the midst of getting Cas ready for CPR when she paused and looked at him, "We really can't take that chance, Dean. Please lie him down." Dean did as he was told and let his mom take over; she'd always kept up with her First Aid license even after knowing about Cas' ability to heal. Never know when one of your kids will need the Heimlich.

Dean looked over at Jet who had actually similarly stepped forward to catch Meg; she was slumped against him and limp in his arms. "She breathing?"

"Yeah," Jet nodded and looked down at her, "I assume so anyway."

Dean blinked rapidly, his brain processing that. "What do you mean you-"

"I'm not unconscious, Dean." Meg groaned, "I'm just resting my eyes…"

"I'm just glad he spat you out," Sam laughed anxiously and she gave him a tired smile.

"His heart isn't beating," Mary cut in with fear in her voice but it was far from taking over, instead she demanded assistance. "John I need you to get over here and breathe into him every 30th compression." She moved next to Cas' chest and John dropped down beside his head.

Dean watched with growing anxiety as they blew air into his brother and pumped his chest repeatedly. It was several seconds passing that made him want to throw up, Cas wasn't breathing and his heart had stopped. That was normal, right? An angel could handle that, right?

But Cas looked human, and Dean was pretty sure that wasn't of his own accord. Did that mean angel-grace was gone too?

To keep himself sane he tried to convince his mind that Cas being an angel meant he didn't need to breathe. The more time slipped by the more he needed to believe it. It was the sole thought in his mind as he watched his parents try to revive for several minutes with no results.

Karen and Bobby looked at one another, she could barely keep herself together so he walked over to the Winchesters and placed a hand on Mary's shoulder then John's, he was quiet with an expression that Dean didn't want to look at. "I think that's enough," he whispered softly but they didn't listen, not for another minute until Mary paused and listened to Cas' chest. She lay still for a few seconds, waiting and then letting reality sink in.

"Oh my god, my baby," she gasped as she choked on her own words and lifted Cas up gently. Dean felt his legs go numb and his mind blanked out completely, only repeating the phrase 'he's an angel, it's okay' over and over again. "Cas, sweetie…" she held the last syllable as her vocal chords constricted and she started sobbing.

Dean couldn't move, his dad pulled both Mary and Cas against him tightly and Sam stumbled over to them but Dean couldn't move. His heart weighed more than the rest of him and his lungs couldn't work. Castiel was fine, that's how angels worked.

The ground shook beneath their feet and the sound of gunfire echoed nearby. The soldiers were closer and they'd run into what was left of the demon horde that came after them.

"Cas?" Sam muttered weakly as he knelt down beside them and reached up to touch his face, "He still feels warm, though… Maybe Dean's right?" He sounded hopeful.

"Dean's either right or Cas spent every last ounce of strength he had just now and what you've got is reality." Meg said bitterly, she'd been put down at one point but Dean wasn't paying attention. He was pretty sure Jet lost the strength in his arms over the last few minutes. Meg was upset too; Dean went to school with her long enough to know when her anger was set up as a defence rather than just her being a dick. "We have bigger problems right now." She added with her gaze transfixed on the distant battle.

It wasn't so distant anymore.

A bomb exploded not too far away and made Dean's ears ring as well as knocked him down. His mind was a mess, it was like in the movies when everything was blurry and he could see like three of everything as it slowly came back into focus. He'd flown a few feet and his head hurt. He saw Jet; the asshole was made of bricks or something because he managed to crawl over to Sam. Sam was face down in the grass, slowly trying to sit up but not being terribly successful. If Jet was gonna make it to Sam first then Dean knew he could focus on the others.

His mom and dad were separated from Sam by several feet and part way in between them was Cas. Castiel was just lying there on his back, head dropped off to the side and unmoving.

Dean pushed himself up; he had to make it to Cas. His legs were noodles and another explosion a few yards away didn't help. It was either the army firing on them or the demons deflecting some of the missiles launched. Either way, he wasn't pleased.

It took more effort to right himself than he thought, seeing Jet crawl through the dirt made more sense now than it had several seconds earlier. Dean made it to Castiel and lifted his brother into his arms, feeling just how limp he was all over again.

But Sam was right; Cas was still warm, even right at that moment.

"Cas?" Dean quietly pleaded, shaking Castiel gently, "Man, you made me a promise, remember?" Tears ran down his face as he steadily whispered.

"Stop firing the rockets!"

"C'mon, you son of a bitch, come on!" Dean gripped Castiel tighter.

"Civilians at our 3 o'clock! Stop firing the goddamn rockets!"

Things were so shaky for him in the following seconds. He felt hands on him, dragging him to his feet. Dean refused to let go of Cas, he held his brother tightly to his chest as he was hauled away. He saw the people, their uniforms, they were marines. His heartbeat and breathing drowned out the rush of shouting soldiers, he saw the mouths of his family moving but he couldn't hear them anymore.

Cas hadn't woken up. Dean felt sick.

The next thing he knew they were pulled back from the front lines and rushed to an armoured truck. Not everyone fit, Dean and his family were in one, the Singers, Jet and Meg were in another. Sam put up a bit of a fuss but Dean wasn't totally paying attention. Castiel was in his lap and propped up against his shoulder, Dean reached up and cradled the back of Cas' head. He didn't want to look at anyone; he knew their eyes were on him. He wished that someone around them had some kind of knowledge about angels, someone who could just say 'no he's fine, give him a minute.'

He is fine; he's going to wake up.

"What are you folks still doing here?" One of the soldiers in the front shouted back at them, it was hard to hear him.

"We were trying to get home," John answered shortly

"Well you're lucky Captain Uziki was there, if he hadn't seen you I don't know what would've happened."

John nodded, "We're grateful for that." He continued to talk to the soldiers and was explaining their situation. Dean stopped listening, he didn't care anymore.

Sam inched closer and reached over to touch Cas' arm, it was so hesitant and scared. Dean understood, if he hadn't held Cas yet he would've felt the same way about touching him. Would his skin feel different? Would he be stiff? Is that still Cas?

Mary put her arm around Dean's shoulders and at least tried to give him a hug, "I love you, boys." She whispered brokenly, trying to keep it together but it was killing her. They were all experiencing nightmares like that one Christmas so many years ago. Dean still remembered seeing his family being thrown like ragdolls, blood everywhere and his own heart in his throat as he ran at his grandfather. The last thing he'd heard was his mom screaming before it went dark and silence fell. And then he saw Cas.

"He's still warm." Sam muttered quietly, Dean almost missed it over the obnoxious volume of the truck. "That's not right, is it? He shouldn't be warm anymore, right?"

"I don't know, sweetheart." Mary gently placed a hand on his head to ruffle his hair but instead it just slipped off without much energy put in.

They were driven away from the immediate danger and to an armored ambulance where medical personnel were waiting. The two vehicles were unloaded and everyone was checked out – except for Cas. Dean didn't let them get near, he knew what they'd say and then they'd take him away. He wasn't going to let them take Cas away.

"Son, you need to let go of-"

"Get the hell away from me!" Dean shouted viciously, his nose scrunched up in a snarl as he clutched Castiel a little tighter. He could tell he'd been bruising the soft skin beneath, but that was okay as long as Cas would wake up to feel it. "You can't touch him, don't you dare get any closer."

"Dean, you need to put him down." Mary was practically pleading, her eyes were watering and her jaw clenched in a way that could only mean trying to hold it all back. He'd never heard her tone so shaken and serious at the same time; she was pleading yes, but also demanding it. Castiel needed to be laid to rest, he couldn't hold onto him forever.

"He's going to wake up," Dean was surprised at the way his own voice sounded, he was angry and distraught but it wavered more than his mother's. He sounded so broken to his own ears. "He promised me something, he promised me."

"Dean," Sam spoke softly, a concerned hushed whisper that urged him to just let go.

"No." Dean snapped at his brother, "No, I won't. I won't put him down."

A hand rested on his shoulder and he looked up at his dad standing behind him, tears in the old man's eyes as he shook his head. "Then don't, but eventually you'll have to."

He clenched his jaw to keep it from trembling, "Thanks dad." Dean looked back down at Cas' still face, nothing moving but everything the way he remembered it.

"He was a beautiful boy," John sighed and walked over to the medics, the ground still shaking in the distance as bombs exploded and weapons were fired.

Dean sat down alone with Castiel in his lap, away from the others and left to his own thoughts and mind. Maybe that wasn't the best idea. He ran his hand through Cas' hair slowly and stared at the ground ahead of him. He couldn't explain the emotion running through him, the anger and sorrow that fought over his consciousness drowned out understanding. It hurt; it hurt more than anything he'd ever experienced. He knew loss was a painful thing, he'd seen it in his mom and his friend first hand but never did he imagine it hurt like this.

How did they make it through that? He wondered it over and over as he sat there. How on earth did they survive it, or move on? The world should've stopped turning, and without Castiel it very well could have. Nothing would function the same way, no one would go back to daily life as it was, the world was over.

And Dean preferred it that way. If someone like Cas had to die then the world that killed him didn't deserve to continue.

But that wasn't right, was it? It wasn't the world that killed Cas, it was circumstances and decisions. Cas chose him over the world and the world burned for it. Dean was the result of that, and here he was wishing he'd gone down instead. Tears fell freely again as he cradled who could have been the love of his life, "It should be me," it was cliché but he understood why everyone in every sad movie ever said it. "I should be the one that died, not you." He dropped his head down against Cas' shoulder and let himself cry. His fingers dug into Cas' shirt and held on tight as he wept.

The longer he cried the less it hurt so he cried harder; he didn't stop himself from loving Cas this time. Castiel deserved every bit of affection shown and Dean would never deny him that after he was gone, he wished he hadn't denied it at all. If he'd gone to Cas sooner, if he'd said 'I love you, please be with me' at the start this wouldn't have happened. Or at least he wanted to tell himself that.

Moments passed and something in his heart was eased, he felt better. It almost made him angry that he could feel better, but that was soothed and ebbed away. Dean relaxed within minutes and just rested his head there, he couldn't do anything anymore. It didn't dawn on him for another few minutes that he only knew one person who could put him at ease like that.

"Cas?" Dean snapped out of it and lifted his head, looking down at Cas' still expression. It hadn't moved, but Cas was there. "Can you hear me?" Dean brushed his hand over his brother's cheek and cradled his head, "Please say something, give me something…"

A soft and almost silent whine escaped Castiel, his eyelids shifted with the movement right beneath them. Cas was figuring out that they weren't open, but soon his lashes began to flutter. "Dean?" He groaned weakly. "Why are you so sad?"

Dean felt like he'd explode, he pulled Cas back against him into another hug, squeezing the life out of him again. "You're alive, oh my god…"


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