Cross To Bear

8 Years-Old: Grade 3

Three years later

"Mom I don't want to go today," Cas pouted at Mary as she adjusted his backpack and stuffed his lunch bag inside.

"Sorry hun, you're going." She ruffled his hair and pulled him into a hug, leaving a kiss on his cheek as she pulled away.

Dean ran up to her to get his hugs and kisses too, smiling from ear to ear. "Love you, mom!"

"I love you too," she slipped Dean's lunch into his bag as she hugged him and kissed his forehead, "Be good today."

"I'm always good!" Dean protested with the tone she knew he used when he was lying.

"Of course," Mary pat him on the head and looked back at Castiel who was frowning pretty hard. "Cas, it's the first day of grade 3, you'll have fun I promise."

"I don't like the first day." Castiel mumbled and kicked at the floor. "It's all cramped."

"I'll be there, it's okay." Dean smiled at him and took his hand, "C'mon Cas! We're gonna miss the bus." He dragged his brother out the door without giving him a chance to protest; Cas could barely keep up with legs slightly shorter than Dean's.

"Have fun boys!" Mary called after them and watched from the door as they hurried to the end of the driveway.

Cas stumbled to a stop next to Dean and heaved out a weighty breath, "Why are you so excited to go? You hated school when we finished grade 2."

Dean grinned at him and looked down the road excitedly waiting for the bus, "Well we get to see friends, right?"

"You mean Jet? We saw him last week, though."

"But that was last week."

Castiel's upper lip pulled tight in a slight grimace but he didn't say anything. He was jealous of Dean's excitement, Dean wanted to go back, he'd have fun but Cas couldn't bring himself to feel the same. At least that's what he thought it was from. The idea that he was jealous because Dean was so excited to see Jet was stupid, Cas never felt as if he were stupid so that couldn't possibly be it.

The two climbed onto the bus as they did for the last years, it had lost its marvel after the first few weeks of Kindergarten. Cas sighed and leaned his head against the window as he watched the world outside fly past him.

"What's up with you?" Dean furrowed his brow at him, as if sensing his distress. "You loved school last year."

"I don't know," Castiel looked at his brother with pinched eyebrows, "The first few days are always so hard." His gaze drifted back to the outdoors, the sky above him. "I miss being outside when it's early. I miss playing when I want to. I miss being free."

Dean was quiet for a bit, Cas figured he had nothing to say.

"Can I help?"

Castiel turned back to Dean and tilted his head in slight confusion but he didn't address aloud how odd it was for Dean to actually care. Of course Dean cared about him but when it came to something so frivolous? Cas thought Dean would find it silly that he felt that way, but the concern in his brother's eyes gave him another angle. "Yeah, but I don't know how."

"I'll think of something." Dean decided and sat with that look of determination Cas always liked.

The bus arrived and everyone was wandering around their homeroom, talking to classmates they hadn't seen over the summer. Dean held Cas' hand again and walked him through the room to where he'd spotted Jet. The other boy sat on the top of one of the desks, his legs dangling off as he talked to some of the other students. Dean recognized them better now but he wasn't always so great with names. Cas was though, he remembered most things; Charlie, Benny and Garth, he remembered them well.

"Jet!" Dean called and the other kid's gaze snapped up immediately.

Jet grinned, his entire expression lighting up at the sight of them and he hopped off his desk to greet them. "Hey!" he went right up to them and caught Dean's open hand. They went through a quick 'secret handshake' they'd made up over the summer, Jet's hand seamlessly switched to Cas' to do the same. "You guys came just in time, I was saving your seats."

"Thanks," Castiel smiled at him and looked over at the chairs near the one Jet had been at. He'd left a bag and a sweater on them; as everyone knows that's as good as any 'Reserved' sign.

Class started up as most others; role calls and talking about what they did during the summer. Cas found that either most other kids didn't care to say or they really did nothing all summer. Maybe it was weird to say too much? The teacher called a name and another student would give one or two things they did as examples and then they'd stop. Cas fidgeted and chewed on the inside of his cheek. What if maybe it was important to the class to say more? He hadn't ever had that teacher before; he didn't know how this class worked.

The role call continued as Castiel fretted to himself.

"Jethro Tull?"

"It's Jet," the boy replied loudly and Mr. Caplan corrected himself.

"And what did you do this summer, Jet?"

Jet shrugged and chewed lightly on the inside of his cheek, at least Cas could see that he didn't so much enjoy being put on the spot either. "I saw some friends, took care of my mom. I didn't do much."

"Castiel Winchester?"

Cas felt his nerves wracking up like they always did in the first few days of school and he couldn't stop himself from exclaiming the news of his summer adventures. "We went camping this summer! There were lots of other people there and we got to swim in a lake, Dean got sunburned but I was okay. Our little brother Sammy is too small to swim alone so our mom stayed with him in the shallow area while dad played with Dean and I. I got to see a giant turtle but it was a snapper so I couldn't go too close to it." He paused for a second to take a breath and try to calm down but he couldn't, he was nervous. "Mom took us to the park a lot and I tried to tell her to get us a dog but she said no. Dean doesn't like dogs but Sam was on my side so I thought maybe she'd change her mind but she says it's too much responsibility and-"

"Castiel," Mr. Caplan interrupted and he stopped, eyes wide as he stared at the new teacher. "That's enough, thank you."

"Okay," Cas fidgeted some more and looked down again, his eyes drifted over to Dean who offered a smile of condolences.

"Dean Winchester?"

"I did most of the same stuff as Cas, but I didn't get to see the turtle." Dean left it simply at that; Cas was envious of his calm.

Their first day of grade 3 and already Cas wanted to crawl out a window. He hoped he'd adjust like he had the last three years, and if he did he hoped he did it soon.

They started in with some writing practice, they had to answer a sheet of questions and hand it in. Cas let himself be distracted by the task at hand and tried to forget the embarrassment.

When lunchtime rolled around Mr. Caplan called Castiel out to the hall. Cas' body went stiff as he got up and followed his teacher, a quick glance shot Dean's way where his brother was waving him on. How could he be in trouble already? Was talking that much at role call that bad? Maybe he'd done his work wrong?

"Castiel, are you alright?"

Cas nodded quickly, "Yes sir," he bit his lower lip and fidgeted with his hands a bit more, he tended to do that a lot. "Am I in trouble? What'd I do?"

"You haven't done anything, but I need to know something about you. You're different from the others, something special." He knelt down and Cas couldn't find it in himself to run, he could only stand and stare as his teacher grinned at him. His tone was strange and Castiel's skin tingled in a way he didn't like. It was scary, his heart jumped into his throat, he couldn't explain it.

"I'm not different," Castiel tried to correct him but Mr. Caplan chuckled and shook his head.

"You're not like a normal kid," he leaned in close to Cas' face and for a second the boy thought his teacher's eyes had gone completely black. "I've been waiting for something like you to come along."

Cas stepped away but it didn't seem to matter, Mr. Caplan leaned in closer, he had a long reach and Castiel couldn't escape from it. His heart started to pound in his chest and he felt his knees go weak. "Leave me alone, please." He swallowed nervously and closed his eyes when his teacher leaned up toward his ear. Castiel felt something; he could feel something wrong about his teacher. It was dark and heavy and the cause of the awful wrenching in his stomach.

It smelled bad. Mr. Caplan smelled terrible, like an old matchbox. Cas let out a strained squeak as his teacher didn't back off or do anything for far too long.

"Do you wanna play?" The man whispered and it made Cas' skin crawl. "Pretty little angel?"

"Stop!" Castiel shrieked and pulled away. He stumbled but managed to run back into the classroom and right to Dean's side.

"Cas?" Dean looked a bit startled and Cas couldn't find words to explain himself. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

He nodded. Why did he nod? "I don't know." His words tried to correct the wrong action of his body; he wasn't okay. He was scared – he wanted to go home.

Mr. Caplan walked in composed and normal as ever, but he kept an eye on Castiel all the same. Everyone was casually eating their lunches in the classrooms; the school was too small to have a cafeteria big enough for the elementary kids. Cas wished they had one though, he'd be surrounded by a bunch of random kids in a big room and he wouldn't have to be so near his teacher.

"Cas?" Dean touched his shoulder and Castiel flinched, "What happened?"

"I don't like him," Cas whispered and tried to take a deep breath. "I wanna go home," the following words came out more as a gasp and lost all strength.

"It'll be okay," Dean reassured him and pulled him into a hug, "It's just the first day. You'll get used to it, alright?"

Cas clung to his brother and watched Mr. Caplan over Dean's shoulder; his heart didn't stop hammering.

Mary rested on the couch in the late afternoon, two of her boys were still at school and John was out working. Sammy sat at her feet with a sketchbook she'd gotten for him and some crayons, his little hands barely grasping the coloured wax in a way that was usable. He was so small and it kind of made her smile, her runt of the litter, as it was.

As much as she had wanted to practice on her guitar or maybe write some more of that novel she's been working on, she'd noticed the house needed a lot of work. Sometimes she got a little anal-retentive with how her home looked, the lawn needed mowing so she did it. The fence should've been repainted ages ago and since John couldn't do it between work and spending time with the kids she decided that she'd have to. So she did and it had been a big surprise for her. Sam helped her out, they both put on old clothes that didn't matter anymore and she went outside with her youngest. With brushes in hand and buckets of the off-white paint that they'd need the two got to work. Sam spent plenty of time trying to do as mommy did, dunking his brush into the pail haphazardly and splashing the white stuff all over the grass.

Mary didn't mind the mess; Sam was having far too much fun for her to complain about any of it. He stopped more often than she did, sitting down a little ways away to play with a butterfly or just pull grass. She had to say that it was days like that that she cherished most with her kids. The little things she'd remember, like how Sam got more paint on himself than the fence, or how the simplest bug could distract him and send him into a state of wonderment. It reminded her of when Dean and Castiel were infants, how Cas was so enthralled with every living thing and how Dean maliciously loved to squish them.

The painting had to end though, and clean up was harder than the actual work she'd done. Mary had managed to wash Sam until he was almost sparkling clean, most of herself as well. She'd have to wait for John or the boys to get home to take a proper shower but that was fine by her.

And then "Mom! Hey mom!" Dean ran into the living room excitedly, promptly ruining his mother's quiet time. Though it was after 4 so she should've known her kids would be back soon.

"Hey Dean, how was school?" She smiled warmly at him, pulling herself upright to look a little less tired.

"Good," Dean grinned and pointed toward the door, "We brought Jet over!" He beamed and she had to let out a sigh. She'd told him so many times already.

"Dean, sweetie that's great but next time you have to ask, okay?" She smiled again and brushed her hand over her 8 year-old's hair.

"Okay, sorry." Dean looked away sheepishly but lit right back up when he saw Sammy on the floor, colouring away in his little book. "What'cha drawing Sammy?" He asked, dropping down and leaning over. Sam looked at him, embarrassed and a little shy he moved the picture in front of Dean, eager but nervous about the reaction. The picture was a bunch of scribbles that made absolutely no sense and Dean couldn't make them out but he smiled and nodded all the same. "Looks pretty cool to me." He ruffled his little brother's hair similarly to how Mary had done his, smiling at Sam's laughter.

Castiel stood in the entrance with Jet, watching Sam and Dean quietly. It always seemed so odd to him, his relationship with Dean was different than Dean's relationship with Sam. Cas couldn't put his finger on it but there was just something else he didn't understand. It bothered him. Then again a lot of things were bothering him right then.

Mary looked over at them and gave their guest a quick wave, "Hello Jet."

"Hi Mary!" Jet grinned and waved back, at least twice as energetic as she had been. He leaned down to untie the other shoe like he'd been doing when she interrupted, though this time Cas used him as a balance to do the same with his footwear. The other boy made a face at Castiel but the Winchester boy could only smile in return. "I'm not your personal balance post,"

"Sorry," Cas laughed and stopped leaning against his friend to let Jet straighten up again. He felt better at home, he was safe there. People he knew were there, his mom, his brothers, Jet, and in an hour his dad would be too. It was home, it was safe.

"S'ok." Jet shrugged off his jacket and was about to drop it where he stood when he remembered that the Winchester rules were different than his.

"How was school, boys?" Mary asked them as she went to retrieve a hanger for their coats, handing one each to Cas and Jet.

"It was okay," Cas shrugged as he took some care in how he put his coat onto the metal wire, he was doing it again. It wasn't okay, what compelled him to say it was? "Except Mr. Caplan was weird…" He added as another correction.

Mary didn't like the tone of his voice, she looked back at the entrance as Castiel wandered into the kitchen. She followed him, "Weird how?"

Cas spun suddenly and wrapped his arms around her legs, his face buried against her and small hands gripping her pants tightly. He took a shaky breath and sniveled, trying to get ahold of himself. He was safe. He was with his mom, he was safe.

"Cas, what's wrong sweetheart?" Mary carefully knelt down and pulled Castiel into her arms to hug him properly.

"I don't wanna play with him." Cas sobbed and Mary felt her heart nearly stop and jump into her throat at the same time.

"With who?"

"Mr. Caplan." He looked up with tears running down his face. "I'm scared mommy, I don't like him."

She calmly wiped away Cas' tears gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, "What does he play?"

"I don't know, I ran away," he rubbed his eyes and inhaled again, still uneven.

"Did he touch you?"

"No," Cas shook his head; he could feel his nerves eating away at him again. Words didn't come in a particular order; he just ended up talking and saying whatever came to his head. "I mean sort of. He was just really close, he smelled bad and he was creepy. He called me a 'pretty little angel' and whispered in my ears and I don't wanna go back! I don't wanna go anymore!" He wailed hysterically and Mary held him tightly.

"We'll get this sorted out, okay?" She kissed his cheek and rocked him gently back and forth to calm him down.

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