Oh, hey, my Big Bang is posted now. That was one reason this update took so long. Just in case you get bored of waiting, it's available for reading. I know it didn't show up on a lot of people's radars because it's rated M.

Part 12

They stopped for gas at a tiny station two hours out from Des Moines, the white-halo lights visible for miles in the country dark. The store was closed but you could use a credit card to pay at the pump, and Castiel marveled at human ingenuity as he slid Ruby's platinum card through the reader. Sam took the opportunity to grab some clothes from the trunk and change in the backseat, Dean curled up asleep in the front under Castiel's coat.

Sam was still shaky and weak, hands juddering in the air and legs wobbling beneath him. It had only been a human day or so since he'd first collapsed, after all, and he obviously needed more time to recover. Castiel hoped that it wasn't going to be a problem, that Sam would hold on just a little while longer, for Dean's sake. He was pretty sure he would.

Afterward, Sam slid back into the passenger side and lifted Dean's head to rest on his thigh, fingers absently stroking through golden-brown locks as he waited for Castiel to start the engine. Castiel sat there for a moment, looking at them. The circumstances were very strange, but he felt somehow that this was the way the Winchesters were meant to be. Together. Taking care of each other. Their two forms melded together in the dark until they were one figure, breathing in sync, solid and sure. They were concrete, real, there in a way that nothing in the ephemeral bliss of Heaven ever was.

He said none of this, though, unsure if it would be appreciated. "I seem to recall you and Dean insisting, when I was a child, that it was unsafe for me to sit in the front."

Sam gave him a weary frown, head drooping back to rest against the seat. "Yeah. But...I don't want him to be alone right now."

"He's sleeping."

"I think he'll know, somehow. And I just...I don't want...I don't want him in the back. Besides you're driving, so it'll be safe as sitting in Missouri's living room, won't it? You've got all...angely stuff. Keep us safe."

Castiel nodded, staring forward out the windshield so Sam couldn't see the doubt in his eyes. He was pretty sure that these dangers were not exactly what his "angely stuff" was meant to protect against. "I'll keep us safe," he echoed, unable to say anything else.

Sam yawned, nestling his head against the vinyl. "Where're we going, anyway? 'Ve you figured it out yet?"

Castiel pondered. The mention of Missouri Mosley and the remembrance of Dean and Sam telling him to sit in the backseat had made him reach back, searching through the vague memories that remained of his time as a human child. He remembered a place, besides Missouri's living room, where he had felt safe and protected, despite how ill he was, despite the monster at the door panting for his blood.

"I think we should go see Bobby Singer. He might be able to help."

The young man nodded calmly. "Yeah, man. That sounds like a good idea."

Then he faded gently down into sleep, sweetly and simply entrusting both himself and his vulnerable brother to Castiel's protection and guidance.

Castiel accepted this for the enormous gift it was. Then he started the car and drove back into the night.

X

They didn't make it to Bobby's, not that night. The next town over had a roadblock set up on the main road, and Castiel didn't know enough to try to go around. Another human thing, another earth-bound trick, that he simply didn't understand, had never needed to understand.

The officer who leaned down next the Impala's window when Castiel pulled up to a stop was young and fresh-faced, open and trustworthy. "Sir, sorry to inconvenience you. We've had an Amber Alert, looking for a missing little boy. You have any children in the car?" He glanced over at the sleeping Winchesters, obviously aware of the small figure sprawled out on the seat between the two men, head on Sam's thigh and feet flung over Castiel's knee.

Castiel followed his gaze and frowned lightly. He could lie, he could manipulate, he could "tell stories," as Dean put it, but it made him uncomfortable. He wished Dean was awake to back him up. The elder Winchester certainly had a talent for obfuscation.

"These are my nephews, Dean and Sam," he said evenly. "Neither has been kidnapped. We're on the way to visit another relative in South Dakota."

The young fellow reddened faintly. "Sorry to ask it, but could ya just wake up the little guy so I can see his face, compare it to this picture I got? It won't take but a moment, and then he can go back to sleep."

He didn't want to do it. The boy needed his sleep. But the sooner they took care of this, the sooner they could go on their way. "As long as you are brief."

The officer nodded, and Castiel gave him a narrow look. "Very. Brief."

He gulped and nodded again, more slowly. "Yes sir."

Castiel bobbed his head once in acknowledgment, then placed a hand on Dean's ankle and gently shook it. "Dean. Dean. You need to rise for a moment."

The brothers jerked awake as one, starting where they lay, then staring at Castiel with wide eyes, tense and strung with sudden anxiety. They were identical in the dark, small and wary and looking to the angel to explain, to soothe.

"A child has been kidnapped. An Amber Alert." Castiel assumed that they would understand what that meant. "The officer just needs to see that it isn't Dean."

Sam sat up, bringing Dean with him, the little boy's head and upper body still pillowed against his side and tucked under his arm. The younger Winchester stared out the windshield, taking in the police barricade, the slowly revolving red and blue lights. Dean stared at Castiel, silent and trusting, and past him at the man in the window.

A wrinkle appeared in the middle of Sam's forehead, an echoed frown for the one that appeared on his mouth. "This is...kind of an unusual response for an Amber Alert, isn't it? Is this your SOP out here?"

The young officer nodded absently, staring fixedly at a piece of paper in his hand, then at Dean. "Small town, sir. Guess we don't have much else to do."

"It's...four in the morning," Sam went on, still puzzled, now with an edge of suspicion. "You mobilized this much of your force at four in the morning on the off-chance that you might catch the guy at this one roadblock?"

The man ignored him, just turned away and raised a hand to wave at the police waiting by the barrier. "It's him! We found him!"

"What?" Sam sat up straighter, staring at the officer with wide eyes, and clutched Dean to his side.

Tension tore across Castiel's shoulders and he looked, really looked, at the people approaching their car, two men and a woman, gliding casually, light glinting off their badges and the guns they had already drawn.

"They're demons, Sam."

"No shit! Get us out of here!"

The young officer snapped around to stare at them in shock, but Castiel was already throwing the car into reverse and slamming on the accelerator. Too late. They were hemmed in, two more squad cars sliding out of an alley to block the street behind them. Castiel stepped on the brakes, and Sam kept Dean from flying into the dashboard with an arm around his torso. Good-home country folks with warm winter clothes and demon-black eyes were converging on them, at least six of them, darkness swirling in the air deeper than that caused by the lack of light. Castiel saw the lure, the fresh-faced young officer, snap upright as a whirlwind of smoke poured into him, and then he turned toward the Impala, grinning, taken, thirsty for blood.

Castiel wrenched the wheel, spinning the car around, looking for another way out. Nothing presented itself. Dean, if he was himself, would find a way, Castiel was sure. Dean would know what to do. And it wouldn't be ramming his beloved Impala into a cop car, so that was out.

But this Dean was mute, terrified, clinging to his brother with both hands. There was no help coming from that direction. And Sam's breath caught wildly in his throat, pulse trip-hammering in his jaw. Shaky and still weakened by his ordeal, powers pulled empty by the earlier attack. No help there, either.

It was up to Castiel.

"We have to find sanctuary," Castiel said. He lurched the car back again, spinning it in a tire-grinding circle, and the possessed policemen were forced to back away.

"What, like a church?" Sam asked, voice jagged with panic. "I don't see any churches, man. It's just some stupid main-street drag in a podunk little town."

Castiel pulled the Impala up on the sidewalk next to the only building that offered any kind of hope, bouncing the front right wheel over the curb. "No, like a diner."

He reached over the Winchesters to push the passenger door open, almost tearing the handle off in his careless speed. He chivvied them out the door and onto the sidewalk just as the demons began to regroup and come after them again. Sam carried Dean in his arms like a bundle of clothes, limp and unresisting. Three running steps across the concrete walk, and they slammed into the diner's glass double door.

"What now?" Sam gasped, staring down the street at the small phalanx of demons heading toward them. "I doubt we have time for me to pick the lock."

"I have it." A judicial touch of power, a flare of golden-white light almost completely shielded in Castiel's cupped palm, and the door swung inward.

They all but fell inside, the bell above the door chiming in cheerful dissonance. Sam barely held himself from falling, Dean's weight shifting in his arms but still kept steadier than Sam was keeping himself, and Castiel herded them toward the kitchen. It always seemed to happen in the kitchen, he thought briefly, bemused at his own odd thought process in the middle of a battlefield.

They stumbled to a halt in the middle of the kitchen, and Sam looked to Castiel for instructions. "What should I do? Just tell me, whatever I can do."

"Turn on all the water taps. Set it flowing. Block the drains so it runs across the floor." Castiel put action to words, already moving for the nearest sink.

Sam set Dean carefully down in the corner farthest from the door and rushed to obey. They set the water running and let it overflow, a human-made river in a room that smelled of grease and sweat. The scent of human sustenance, where people came to procure what they needed to survive. The bell above the diner's door began to chime again, announcing the arrival of more guests.

Castiel dipped his hands in the water and began to murmur the human words of ritual, too rushed to gather the grace to do it the more simple way. This way was crude, but effective. Exorcizo te, creatura aquƦ, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis...

By the time the demons reached the kitchen door, Castiel and the Winchesters stood in a spreading pool of holy water.

It wasn't going to be enough.

TBC