Yeah, this story is pretty much gonna have to go AU now. I started writing it while Season 4 was airing, then lost track of it in canon events and other projects. My original plans, if I had any, are long forgotten. It started out as a light little comedy project to write on the side while I was working on a very heavy and deeply personal Big Bang (The Lights of Home), but the story took a twist somewhere in there down into drama town, so that's where we're going. Hope you like it anyway.
Castiel and the Winchesters stood in a spreading pool of holy water, waiting for the demons to come.
Sam hiked Dean up on his hip and grabbed Castiel's arm. "Wait, is this really what we're going to do? Stand here in a diner and fight? There's no way we can win, man. I'm barely standing and Dean's a little kid. And we didn't even grab any weapons from the Impala because we had to ditch it so fast."
Castiel tore his gaze away from the doors of the diner where the demons were pressed en masse, pounding on the glass. "No. This is not what we're going to do. It's what I'm going to do. You take Dean and go out the back."
Sam's mouth fell open. "What the... You're going to fight them alone? There are dozens of them!"
Castiel raised his chin, his face hardening, and Sam let go of his arm and took an instinctive step back from whatever he saw in Castiel's eyes. "I am angel. It's what I do. I fight demons."
"Yeah, I know you're an angel, but you're not invincible. Dean told me how you talked about your brothers dying in the fight."
The current Dean, twisted up against Sam's shoulder in a ball of quivering fear, whimpered at this. His arms squeezed tight around Sam's neck, cutting off his breath. They both paused to look at him for a moment in regret and pain, but then their eyes turned to each other again.
"I am a warrior," Castiel said, biting the words off hard between his teeth. "I am also a servant of Heaven who just disobeyed explicit orders to save you, both of you. I don't have long for this world. I will go out fulfilling my purpose."
Immense pain poured over Sam's features, surprising Castiel. He hadn't realized he meant so much to this human, the one he once thought of as "the boy with the demon blood," important to Castiel's mission only because he was Dean's brother and greatly treasured by him. But then, things had changed a great deal since that night before Halloween.
Sam didn't want him to die. Castiel swallowed, realizing that he didn't particularly want to, either. It was never something he'd worried about, before. He'd always accepted the possibility of death with open arms, knowing that if it came, it would be while he was serving God, and therefore by definition it would be a good end. Now he'd left his post, defied his commander, and gone on the run with these two human children. All guideposts had vanished and he was left floundering in the dark, uncertain of his path and suddenly, desperately afraid of what lay ahead.
But he would do what he had to do. He would sacrifice himself for these two, for the man he had raised from Hell and the brother that man valued higher than his own soul. The decision had been made without a thought, without a doubt, the second he heard Dean's cry of distress crossing to him through the ether when a demon seized him in the hospital. Now all Castiel could do was try to ensure that his sacrifice would not be in vain.
He reached out and grabbed Sam's shoulder, holding tight and hard, trying to will some of his own strength into the trembling human. "You must go, Sam. Take your brother and run as fast as you can. Keep him safe. I'll hold them off. I'll hold them all off. But you must go."
Dean's voice was still a pained whimper, but he had turned from Sam's shoulder, stretching out to Castiel with both hands, his fingers spreading and squeezing as if to draw the angel to him through the air. Tears tracked down his cheeks, leaving clear trails through the grime he'd accumulated somewhere along the way. His face was young and innocent and utterly heartbroken, and Castiel found it very difficult to look at him and not turn away.
Dean knew what was going on. Even with the mind of a child, he understood that Castiel was leaving him forever. Too many people had already left this boy forever. He couldn't stand to lose another one.
"Dean." Castiel heard the pain in his own voice and was distantly astonished.
The glass of the doors was beginning to crack. Without looking, Castiel held a hand behind himself, reinforcing the flimsy barrier with the light of his will. It wouldn't hold forever, but perhaps it would give him enough time to say good-bye.
"Dean, I'm sorry," Castiel said. "I don't wish to cause you more loss. That was never my intention. Perhaps it is my fault for letting us become too close, for making you care too much, allowing myself to care for you. If I had not come to you with my doubts on that long-ago park bench, forcing myself into your companionship...if I had not placed myself in your keeping when I was injured and weak... Perhaps this decision would not pain you now. I'm so very, very sorry, Dean. But I have do this. I have to keep you safe."
Sam clutched the boy tighter, trying to draw him back, but Dean persisted in stretching for his "uncle," tiny fingers grasping in the air. Castiel looked to Sam, too, including him in his apology. He'd come to care for the younger brother as well, and he'd never meant to hurt him any more than he'd meant to hurt Dean.
"No, Cas!" Dean cried, his high young voice rising to a wail. "No, no!" There was anger there, as well as fear and pain, and Castiel tried to harden his heart against it so that he could do what must be done. It was almost impossible.
"Uncle Cas, you pomissed!" Sam wavered on his feet, jolting Dean back toward him, and Dean had to re-balance himself. One hand darted back to fist in the fabric over Sam's shoulder, holding his body steady in Sam's arms. The other hand continued to reach for Castiel. "You pomissed!" More anger, forcing more tears out to run down his cheeks, hot and stinging.
Castiel blinked, drawing back. He didn't know what the child was talking about. "What...what do you mean?"
"You pomissed me!" If Dean had been standing, he would have stamped his foot in childish rage, in fury at the universe and at Castiel for refusing to play fair. Since he could not, he just gripped Sam's shirt in his hard little fist and gave it an insistent tug. "You said you wouldn't leave me again. You said you would stay until this was over! You pomissed, Uncle Cas! It's not nice to break pomisses!"
Castiel blinked again, staring back at the boy in wordless astonishment. Sam huffed a breathless laugh and hiked Dean up on his shoulder again. "That's true, Cas. You promised him you would stay with us until this is over. You can't give up now."
Castiel transferred his gaze to Sam, still unable to speak. He had been trapped by a little boy, by the words from his own lips. He hadn't thought that he, an angel of the Lord with all the resources of Heaven at his back, would so easily be bested by a guileless child.
"Sam, I don't know what else to do." Castiel spread his hands, helpless, empty. He had not yet drawn his sword, though he'd intended to do so as soon as the Winchesters were out of sight. He hadn't wanted to frighten Dean with that long, sharp blade of bright metal.
"You disobeyed your orders," Sam said. "You rebelled. That means you're no longer bound by Heaven, right? Dean told me that you said you didn't have permission, earlier, to fix all this, to use your full power to help us. You were constrained and limited by what your commanders would allow. Now you've left all that behind. You can do whatever you like, whatever you deem necessary. If Heaven would give you permission to do anything, anything at all, to help us out of this mess, what would you do?"
Castiel considered briefly, looking down at the floor. Then he raised his head, eyes narrowed and lips tight. "Since Dean will not permit me to stay and fight, to sacrifice myself, there is only one other option."
Sam nodded encouragingly. He took a step closer to Castiel, closing the distance between them so that Dean could finally, finally grab the loose fabric of Castiel's overcoat and hold on. The boy rested between them, one fist gripping Sam, the other tethering them both to Castiel. Dean looked between their faces, the tears slowing, stopping, as he sensed the change in the atmosphere. There was hope now, a dawning understanding, a sense of power and purpose beginning to crackle around the angel.
"What option is that?" Sam asked, though the tone of his voice said that he already knew the answer. He was just talking to goad Castiel, to keep nudging him along the path to action, and his voice was sure and steady. He knew that he and Dean had already succeeded. Castiel was on their side now, completely and irrevocably.
Castiel reached up with both hands, only slightly impeded by Dean's hand twisted in his sleeve, and touched the Winchesters on their foreheads with two fingers each. Just as he touched down, the glass shattered and the diner filled with the howls of enraged demons.
The diner vanished, and they were in another place.