Cross To Bear

Inside the Shelter

Castiel pinned his back against the wall, the floor felt colder that night than it had in the previous ones. His mind raced and he felt something coursing through him but not nearly strong enough to pinpoint whether or not it'd be helpful. 'Please,' He begged silently to himself as he heard footsteps and the dull sound of metal clanking and dragging along the floor. 'Please let them be okay. Please don't make me do this.'

Tears slipped down his face when the door to the room opened and a familiar figure stood blocking it, a heavy pipe in his hand. "I really don't think hiding in a shack like this could be effective, do you?"

Cas' chest felt heavy and his body trembled, "What have you done?" he whispered in a broken voice.

Shimizu lifted the bloody pipe and smiled unnaturally wide, "What do you think?"

Days earlier…

"This place is too small." Jet grumbled as he tossed his dead phone up and caught it again, repeating the process indefinitely. The teens were all sitting on the floor with their backs against the walls, they'd only been there for a day and already things had dissolved into complete boredom.

Cas couldn't believe it, really. Enough had happened in the last week or so to make any of them wish they'd have school regularly and go to work as normal. But boredom still settled in, they wanted entertainment. In his anger he wanted to suggest going outside and baiting the demons, but that wouldn't help. Crammed into a trailer-sized space was bad enough, they didn't need to start fighting.

And in honesty the shelter wasn't that bad, it would have been just fine for half their group, maybe. But it wasn't that small. There were a few sectioned off areas in the shelter, a bathroom, food storage, and a single bedroom. Castiel was offered the bed to help his recovery but he refused profusely, he didn't need to sleep and it'd be a big waste of a bed. Instead he let the Singers take it; they were the oldest ones present after all.

Cal of course didn't reply to Jet's 'it's too small' comment, but Cas could sense that little irked twinge in the man's demeanour. It felt something like 'you don't need to stay, you little brat.' Castiel looked over at their silent host and gave him a knowing nod, Cal quietly appreciated it.

Mary and Nikki mimicked the teens, sitting in chairs across from them against the opposite wall, while Karen was taking a nap. John stood idly, talking to Bobby about something that no one less than 30 would care much about. Cas had noticed that Dean and their dad hadn't shared many words, at least not in his presence. John was definitely dealing with what he'd seen in the classic way; not thinking about it. Maybe if he ignored it hard enough it'd go away, or change. The thought of that was what possessed Castiel to slowly walk to his dad's side. His energy was high enough to get him there, which in turn made him thankful for his fast healing ability.

"Dad?" He asked quietly and John hummed in reply, his attention turned in Cas' direction. "Can I talk to you?"

"Of course, kiddo." John smiled and helped him to the storage room –since no one else was in there at the time- and closed the door behind them. "What's on your mind?"

"A lot of things," Cas smiled uneasily and carefully leaned against a shelving unit, "I mean what isn't on my mind? The world's gone to hell, actual Hell is awful and I don't know why it exists in the first place, I don't know how I'm even going to get to Heaven when I'm able… a lot of things. But," he trailed off and kicked at the floor. Now how to approach that subject? It'd already been breached a little over a day ago; he had been seen with Dean and he and Dean decided they were going to date so then what else was there to say? The fear of 'what do I do' should basically be gone, shouldn't it? Cas knew it was more about the acceptance, he and Dean both wanted it to be okay, they wanted to be able to see each other without feeling like they'd done something completely wrong.

"But?" John continued for him, standing completely open to him and in closer proximity. Cas smiled to himself, he sensed his dad's concern and knew it was all coming from a good place. He appreciated the small things, John's eagerness to listen to his problems, hoping to help and willing to stand there in awkward silence until his son collected his thoughts. Castiel knew that if it weren't for John's open emotional state he'd never find the words to explain himself, let alone the courage.

"But that's not what I wanna talk about right now. I wanted to talk about Dean," he watched John go from entirely supportive to the same thing with added obvious discomfort. "I know you know what I mean, you haven't said much to either of us and that goes double for the subject matter. What are you thinking?"

John studied Cas' face for a second and inhaled slowly, Cas could just about see the cogs turning in his mind. "I'm thinking… that whatever the two of you do is your choice." Those words couldn't have come across more sincere than John had delivered them, Cas found himself shaken and stunned by his dad's honesty. "I'm surprised, yeah. I mean, your mom has been talking to me about the possibility of you being gay for a while, so I was kind of ready for that more or less." He gave a sort of half shrug, the discomfort of the conversation slipped as John let himself believe what he was saying. He really meant it. "You two will always be brothers in my eyes so it's hard to imagine you doing anything, I mean at all."

"Can you look past that?" Cas leaned into his dad's line of sight as it drifted, his eyes wide and determined to hear the reply. If John could be so honest with him, then why not return it? "It might sound weird to you but it's something I've been fighting with myself over. At least three years now, and as much as I thought it would go away it never did."

His dad looked thoughtful for a second then lifted his hands in surrender, "Are you happy with Dean?" He asked sternly.

"Yes." Castiel didn't hesitate.

John's expression softened and he nodded, "Then I would sooner trust him to take care of you than anyone else." He pat Cas' shoulder and gave it a squeeze, "You know I love you unconditionally, and that means no matter what." He'd never heard more relieving words.

Cas wiped tears from his eyes, "I know," he whispered trying to keep his voice from breaking. "I love you too, dad."

"C'mere," John smiled and pulled Cas into a hug, the little angel pinning his face against his dad's shoulder and hanging on to him.

"Thank you," he muttered over and over until he couldn't speak anymore. He hadn't anticipated the relief he'd feel over that, the fear that built up in him was eased with Dean's acceptance but he'd long known Dean would do that. It was everyone else, friends and family alike that he feared. The thought of what they'd say and do to him, to Dean, if they knew. But with only a few words his dad managed to dismiss it, he couldn't be more thankful and didn't know how to show it.

John hugged him tightly as long as he needed it, Cas didn't step away and neither did his dad. "I'll talk to your mom about it too, though I wouldn't worry too much about her."

Cas nodded instead of saying anything, he needed a minute to let the last few seconds sink in. It felt like a weight was lifted from him, his destiny and whatever else was still there but now he had something. It was something he could look forward to, something more to fight for. He knew he'd do anything to protect the ones he loved but that was different, it wasn't quite the same as having a significant other waiting for you.

That was Dean now, his significant other, a partner, his boyfriend. Cas sobbed again and his dad tightened his hold again.

It was a few minutes before they returned to the others and when they did Cas noticed Dean talking to Mary immediately. His face was red and he was scratching the back of his neck a lot, one of his nervous gestures as he tried to tell her something. Cas knew instantly what he was trying to do, Dean felt inspired by Cas' courage and undoubtedly thought 'if Cas is talking to dad then I have to talk to mom.'

Cas glanced over at Jet, Sam, and Meg who were all slumped against the wall where he'd left them originally. Jet tilted his head and Cas smiled, nodding hopefully toward Dean. Jet raised an eyebrow and looked at Dean then back to Cas again, a quick nod of his head and a small grin on his lips. That was as much confirmation as he needed; Dean was doing exactly what he thought.

"Dad," Castiel grabbed John's sleeve and dragged him toward Dean and Mary, "C'mon, c'mon."

"Geez- I'm coming!" John stumbled a little first but followed. Cas briefly let it register that he might have some of his strength back. But it was a passing thought.

"So uhh… that's kinda what I've been…" Dean was mumbling through his sentence when Castiel approached, pausing and stopping entirely. "Hi, Cas."

"Hello Dean,"

Mary smiled knowingly at them, "I really can't handle how cute the two of you are." She turned to John who held a similar look to her own. "So we're okay with this?"

"I am," John glanced at Dean whose eyes widened in surprise, a familiar look considering John had just seen the same one on Cas' face. "As long as they're happy and responsible with each other, I'll live."

"Sounds good to me," Mary ruffled Dean's hair, "Was that what you were trying to ask about?"

Dean laughed nervously and ran his hand over his head, "No- yes- I mean uh… really? You guys are okay with it?"

She rolled her eyes playfully at him, as if she'd been obvious what she thought of it the whole time. And maybe, in hindsight, she had been. It wasn't as if Mary avoided them outright or frowned at them, she very likely didn't care about the idea of their relationship at all. "I'm just grateful you were both able to talk to us,"

Then John, as if in response to Cas' earlier concerns, gave Dean a hug, "We love you, Dean. Don't ever forget that, okay?"

"Yeah," Dean dropped his head in the same way Cas had against John's shoulder, "I'm sorry, dad."

"Nothing to be sorry for, boy." John squeezed lightly.

Castiel smiled at Mary, sensing her relief on the same level as his own. She was teary eyed when she returned the smile, a single thought that said 'I'm so happy they're talking.' Cas couldn't have thought it better himself.

Time spent in the shelter didn't feel like it was time spent on Earth. Cas felt like he was in some unique world where the outside didn't have any effect. He had his family and they were safe, he had his friends who supported him. It was almost like nothing that had led up to the point continued outside their walls. Shimizu explained that the armed forces had been making plans to fight the demons when he was still with them. It was likely that their area was so quiet because any nearby monsters were probably trying to take down the military units less than 50 miles away. Cas wasn't sure he accepted that reply but he let it comfort him all the same.

Nights were kind of cute if not a bit uncomfortable; Bobby and Karen had the bed so everyone else slept on the floors. Cal had brought some blankets but he didn't have enough for everyone separately. John and Mary shared, Nikki got her own because Jet thought it'd be weird to share with his mom. Instead Jet shared with Sam while Dean made Cas at least lie down next to him. Dean didn't get a blanket; he was using a bed sheet from the mattress the Singers were on. Cas would lay next to him and stared at the ceiling while he fell asleep, Dean was a bit of a cuddle-bug so slipping away wasn't always an option. Meg just seemed to wander about, sometimes she'd slip outside but it wasn't for very long. As for Cal and Shimizu, they'd take turns guarding. No demon really knew their faces so it didn't matter if they were outside.

Meals were difficult. There were rations to pass around and after having the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and supper a few days straight, Cas could tell they were all a little irritated. Apparently, according to Dean, rations tasted like ass. Jet of course commented with the idea that Dean should, by the extension of being into men, enjoy them then. Cas couldn't have laughed harder at the ridiculous fake fist fight that ensued.

"At least they're making the best of it," Shimizu raised a glass of water in cheers.

"So I have a question," Sam looked at the captain curiously, "why does Cal have a shelter like this?"

Shimizu shrugged and took another sip, "Paranoia, mostly. He built it after one of his tours, told me at the time that one day I'd appreciate it. I guess he got the last laugh," he paused and glanced at his muted friend, "sort of." Cal made a sarcastic sneer as he pretended to laugh, then promptly looked away with nothing more to communicate to the bad joke.

"Do you mock his inability to speak often?" Sam furrowed his brow, hesitant to say anything about it.

"Yeah, he's cool with it."

Sam looked at Cal who nodded his confirmation.

"Some people don't mind if their friends are assholes, Sam." Jet spoke up from where he had Dean pinned in a headlock. Cas was covering his mouth to hide his smile meanwhile Meg openly enjoyed his brother's suffering.

"You… giant… dick!" Dean gurgled and smacked at Jet's arm.

"What's that? You like giant dicks?" Jet leaned his head down closer to Dean's, "I kinda figured but you don't have to announce it to everyone-" he jerked backward when Dean aimed for his face instead, just barely missing.

"Did they always fight like that?" Nikki looked at Mary who nodded with a huffed laugh.

"Yeah, pretty much; even when they were little."

Cas turned around to see his mom and Jet's, "I think it used to be a little less enthusiastic though," he smiled and looked back at his two best friends struggle to pin the other down, "having you back really helps."

Nikki's feelings toward the wrestling match lightened as Cas' words sunk in. He sensed she was really starting to appreciate the life in Jet now, though she was just happy to be able to be around him in another setting other than 'hospital.'

Most of them were doing pretty well in the shelter, at least. Bobby and Karen spent time talking to John, Mary, and Nikki which could go on for quite some time. They all had so much to discuss since the Singers and Winchesters hadn't gotten together in a while, and Nikki only recently recovered from long-standing lung injuries. Her spirits were probably the highest out of everyone, Cas understood why and he really enjoyed sitting close to her to try and get some of that positivity for himself. She was so grateful to be walking around free of an oxygen tank or to be even walking at all. She could talk now without having to gasp and wheeze, and she wouldn't have to visit the hospital every few weeks. Nikki was the happiest and Castiel felt a little bit of pride in that; it was thanks to him she could be.

And of course the teens were still bored. Since Cal had his house so close by he could at least bring a deck of cards to play, but the man wasn't a fan of board games so there wouldn't be any Monopoly battles. Castiel watched Dean teach Jet and Sam how to play poker, and then watched Meg kick all their butts. It was fun, and everyone was relaxed enough to enjoy it.

Cal and Shimizu would listen to the radio on occasion and get updates if anything was going on or new, Cas tended to avoid listening to it after the whole 'locking himself away with his dad's phone' thing. He didn't need to know more, people were dying all over and things were getting worse. He hadn't stepped outside since they'd arrived and though that worried him, he was just as happy being in some random town no demon would think to check.

Well, at least until he noticed Meg watching him carefully one evening. The way her eyes were fixed on him he got the feeling something was up. She had been pretty chill about everything until then, her eyes were intense and her mouth pulled tight. "What is it?" He asked casually in the hopes that it wasn't anything serious, he wasn't sure what she was thinking since she rarely ever let him see that.

"I can feel you," she replied quietly, "It's not very obvious but any demons close enough will notice."

Cas' heart sank and took his relaxed state of mind with it. "How long?"

"Since I sensed you or until a demon shows up? Because if it's the latter I have no idea-"

"Since you sensed me, how long has it been?" Cas cut her off, he felt bad for it immediately but he couldn't keep his mind from panicking. If Meg could sense him then any demon could too, things were starting. He'd have to go to Heaven soon, he still didn't know how.

She didn't seem to mind his complete terror, he wasn't sure he was comfortable with that. "Maybe an hour, I didn't know what it was until a few minutes ago, it was pretty weak."

Cas ran his hand through his hair a few times, "Okay… okay, okay I should tell everyone to get ready maybe?"

"Cas you're going to freak everyone out," Meg calmly placed a hand on his shoulder, "I'll pay attention, right now it's a pretty small radius and barely reaches outside the shelter. If something gets weird I'll know before anyone's in danger, okay? Just calm down, I wanted you to know but we don't need to alarm anybody yet."

"We should at least tell them to be prepared," Castiel replied appreciatively, "Thank you, Meg."

"You're welcome, you worrying idiot."

That moment should have stood out to him, he should have stopped and thought to himself 'my energy might come back faster than it's been growing up until now' but he didn't. He told the others that they should be ready just in case something sensed him as it passed by, but because he was trying to keep everyone calm it didn't sound terribly urgent. In fact it sounded like Cas' usual 'I'm concerned for everybody' spiels. Which resulted in no panic, which was good, but it didn't actually prepare anyone either.

That night John, Bobby, Karen, Shimizu and Cal decided to get some fresh air, not everyone ventured out often so they thought it'd be good. After what Cas had said they all felt like the fight with demons was closing in, might as well enjoy some of the night and to see what Meg was up to. She wandered out more frequently and obviously than before, knowing that demons could be lurking nearby. Cas didn't pay it any mind, things were fairly calm and Meg had managed to keep him from freaking out. She'd promised she'd tell him if something was going to happen. He trusted her.

But when Cas felt a sudden power surge, he wasn't ready. It briefly lit up the shelter like a firework going off and in an instant he could sense everyone around him. His mom was calmly sitting where she and John usually slept together; she was reading a book Cal had given her from his house. Dean was asleep, though fitfully. Sam was dreaming of something warm and welcoming, Nikki was frustrated because she couldn't fall asleep, and Jet was definitely having a nightmare.

The ones outside were suddenly horrified, Shimizu and Cal were on edge immediately. John was startled, Bobby and Karen were afraid. Meg, he couldn't sense Meg other than the simple fact that she was nearby. Something was wrong, something else was there too. Cas' mind froze up and he couldn't find the words to speak. Nothing more than, "Run," came out of his mouth.

Dean lifted his head and looked at him, "What?"

"Run," Cas' eyes were wide and fixed on the door. He could feel how tense his dad was, apprehensive and cornered. Gunfire echoed now and everyone inside the shelter jostled and yelled, fear was the only Cas could feel from them, it was overwhelming. Cal was panicked and in a kind of rage only a soldier could find. He could feel Bobby, how terrified he was and overcome entirely by sadness – he couldn't sense Karen anymore.

Tears came to his eyes and he tried to stand, his legs shaking.

Now he couldn't feel Bobby anymore. His dad was scared but pumped with adrenaline. Shimizu was cold. He was there but he was wrong, like something else had gutted him and wore his skin. Castiel shook his head, this wasn't what he wanted.

There were more shots and the others inside the shelter were getting up. They were asking questions, confused and worried and he had no answers. Sam was more confused than scared, Dean was more worried than confused, and Jet was entirely afraid but running off adrenaline. He'd grabbed Sam and stowed him away in the bedroom immediately, yelling at his mom to do the same.

Mary was up and rushing to the door, she immediately grabbed the axe for fire emergencies near the exit and stepped outside; no one would get in to hurt her babies.

Meg stumbled into the shelter bleeding and hitting her knees in front of him, Cas couldn't explain his own lack of action. His senses had returned but his physical strength was still low, his legs only worked well enough to walk around, not run to save his life. He dropped down again, his legs giving out and letting him hit the floor beside her.

Cas found some ability to speak; "Meg-"

"Go," Meg coughed, holding herself together and glaring at him. Gunfire echoed louder outside the shelter, he could hear shouting but couldn't make sense of it. "It's a demon, it found us."

'You said you'd warn me! Where did it come from? What happened to you?' Questions that came to his mind failed to reach his mouth, instead he said; "I can't leave you; I can't leave any of you." Cas shook his head frantically, "Don't the guns work? Can't we kill it?"

"These demons can possess people and they've got your friends," Meg grit her teeth and winced when she lifted her hand away from her abdomen. She was bleeding badly. "You can't trust that captain or Cal, or anyone that walks through that door. Hide. Get out of here!"

Cas was shaking his head, no. He couldn't go far; he couldn't make it out there on his own. "Cas," Jet dragged him away from a panicked mind, he held Cas' gaze steadily. It reminded him of his astonishment with Jet's survivability, the way he handled himself without his dad and a disabled mom. "Get into the storage room and hide; we'll fight 'em off okay?"

Cas' lip quivered as his friend gestured for him to go, "I can't, I-"

"Come on!" Dean grabbed his arm and yanked him to his feet, "We can handle this, just get over there!"

Castiel stumbled along after Dean and into the storage room. "What are you going to do?" He turned to look at his boyfriend anxiously, grabbing onto the doorframe before Dean could shut him inside. "I'm not healed enough to go anywhere and there'll be too many of them for you to fight off! I can't leave you-"

"You aren't leaving us," Dean grabbed Cas' face and held it firmly with both hands, "We're protecting you, remember? That's why we're all here." Dean leaned in and kissed him, it felt desperate and Cas knew it was fearful, in the way you'd imagine someone would kiss if they thought it'd be the last time. It broke Cas' heart and if he'd had the strength to blow the roof off that shelter himself, he would have. But he didn't.

Instead he found himself hiding against a wall behind shelving units of stored food, listening to the other room.

The door opened after a few minutes and Cas knew who it was. He saw a bloody pipe and a body riddled with holes that should have ended a life, but somehow it hadn't.

"What have you done?"

"What do you think?"

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