Sorry, so sorry. I have fallen into an endless mire with my original work and its taking all my writing juice. Here's a shorty to make up for it. I'm well aware that the clock is ticking. I swore this story would end before the premiere. I don't want to have to resort to Sam waking up from a fever induced hallucination the day after the angels fall in order to wrap it up. Joking... I wouldn't do that.
Where Do We Go From Here? Chapter 13
"What in blazes is he doing here?" growled the sheriff as she glared at Crowley. "You didn't even bother to pay the check before you skipped out on our date."
"Sheriff Mills," Sam stepped forward to shield Crowley from her a bit. "Crowley is working with us. I'm sorry that things have not gone well between you in the past, but…"
"Who is Crowley?" Jody Mills asked glaring at the demon in question.
"Stow it, Moose," Crowley said pushing him aside and facing the pissed off authority figure directly. "I'd rather go ahead and get this out of the way."
"Did you even know that I almost died in the ladies room, Roderick… or whatever your name is?" she demanded. "I had some sort of weird reaction to something I ate or something."
"Jody…," Crowley winced at the snarl that curled her lip. "Sheriff Mills, My name is Crowley. I was once the King of Hell. When last we met I was using you as leverage to get the boys to give me something I wanted. I caused your discomfort. And, if they hadn't capitulated, I'd have killed you. However, you should know that it was a lovely date. The best I'd been on in a couple hundred years."
Jody Mills stood dumbstruck. Part of her wanted to laugh at the crazy things that had fallen out of his mouth. A glance at the Winchester brothers confirmed his story though. Dean simply shrugged and Sam looked sincerely remorseful. She turned back to the… demon standing in front of her desk. Her mind stumbled over that just a little.
"What did I ever do to you?" she whispered.
"You didn't do anything, Jody," Crowley said softly. "You are a beautiful person. I knew they'd do anything to spare your life. And, I was right. Then the joke was on me because they caught me and half cured me. Now I feel the need to apologize to everyone I've ever wronged. I am sorry that I hurt you. For what it's worth, looking back from this perspective, I wish it had just been a date."
Nan edged closer to the desk. Crowley could see her eyeing the sheriff speculatively. "Don't even think about it, cherub! I wouldn't want it if it wasn't real. I saw some chairs out there near the front desk. I think I'll go sit while you discuss the grown up stuff, ok?"
After he was gone, Nan shifted restlessly for a moment or two before following him. Sam watched her go before catching Charlie's eye. The redhead lifted her shoulders as if to say 'What are you gonna do? She's a sucker for a broken heart.'
"Right," Sam turned his attention back to the Sioux Falls Sheriff. "As I said, Crowley is important to what we need to do here. I hope that won't be a problem."
"Just keep him away from me," Sheriff Mills said as she watched the two sitting on the hard plastic chairs outside her office. Nan had a hand on Crowley's arm and was speaking quietly into his ear. The demon's shoulders slumped in defeat.
"And, here I thought we were past the tears and confession stage," Kevin grumbled. "Watch out, Charlie, he's a pathological hugger."
As if to prove the kid's point, Crowley turned and engulfed the pixie-like Nan in a bear hug. Sheriff Mills gazed after him a moment more then she stiffened her spine and turned back to the others standing in her crowded office. She narrowed her eyes as she looked at Charlie, Castiel and Kevin.
"Ok," She said. "I know the Winchesters are humans, albeit monster chasing humans. There's a demon sitting outside my office so one of you must be an angel, right?"
"Not anymore," Castiel answered, "I am Castiel. I was an angel of the lord. My grace was taken from me and now I am human."
"Human," Charlie raised her hand and gave it a little wave, "Always was. My girlfriend is a cherub, also fallen."
"And what are you?" the sheriff turned to Kevin Tran. "Are you an elf?"
"No!" the teenager scowled at the others as Dean snickered and Charlie patted him on the head. "I'm a prophet of the word of God… and, human."
"What you should know about," Sam began. "Is that the night of the meteor shower, those were angel's not meteors. They were all falling from heaven. That's who these people are you called us about."
"So, they are human now," she said. "If so, how does this make it your kind of thing?"
"They aren't human," Castiel frowned. Everyone turned to him in surprise. "They still have their grace. They are just cut off from heaven."
"But, I thought that Nan said she had a soul now," Charlie sounded confused as she glanced out the window at the tiny blond.
"She was mistaken," Castiel stated. "It feels very different to her because she is cut off from the source of her grace – heaven. If this goes on long enough they will all fall and become human. But, she is still very much a cupid. She realized it the first time she saw Crowley." He made a gesture circling his face and then shrugged.
"Because she could see his face?" Sam asked. "His real face."
"Yes, but she said it was almost human," he nodded. "She couldn't see that if she didn't still have her grace. I can't. He looks just like anyone else to me."
"Excuse me," Charlie said before slipping out to speak with the cherub.
"Please sit down," Sheriff Mills waved them into the chairs across from her. Dean and Kevin pulled a couple more chairs from the hallway. "This sounds like a potentially dangerous situation. What do you suggest we do?"
Everyone turned to Sam. Sam cleared his throat. "Well, first I think we need to know what the situation on the ground is in a little more detail. When you called the group was meeting up in a private campground north of Brandon? Are they still there?"
"No," the sheriff shook her head as she moved over to a map on the wall. "They are still in the county and under my jurisdiction otherwise my hands would be tied and I'd be no help to you at all. But, they have moved to Palisades State Park and taken over. The rangers and park employees were allowed to walk out early yesterday and no one has heard a peep from them since. I've got a helicopter ready to take off and get as close as they can. But, a couple of the rangers reported heavy artillery including grenade launchers. So I haven't sent them up just yet. I gotta admit, boys this is too big for my resources. I think it's time to call in the big boys."
"Before you do, sheriff," Dean grinned. "Don't you think it would be good to get a little intelligence first? As soon as the Feds move in they will be buttoned up tight. But, right now we have a feisty little cherub that's been waiting for a chance to do something. I say we send her in to do a little recon."
"You aren't sending Nan in there alone!" Charlie yelped from the doorway. Nan ducked past her and spoke for herself.
"It's the smartest thing," she said. "He's right. I want to go."
"I could…" Castiel began.
"No!" Dean almost shouted.
"But, Dean," Castiel argued. "Even though I have lost my grace I am well known among my brethren. We could go in together."
"That's just it," Nan said slipping an arm around his waist. "They would recognize you. Half of them would want to kill you. As much as I would love to have you at my side, big brother, it isn't safe."
She turned to Charlie. "You can't go with me either. I have to go alone. But, maybe it would help if they were distracted by a circling helicopter. Then I could sneak in and out without a fuss."
"That sounds like a plan to me," Sam nodded. "What do you say, sheriff?"
Sheriff Mills thought it stunk. However, standing by and doing nothing didn't sit well either. If she had good information to share when the FBI, Homeland Security and the National Guard came rolling in she wouldn't feel as ineffectual as a law enforcer. Taking a deep breath she looked around at the motley crew inhabiting her office. "Ok, let's do it first thing in the morning. We need to plan your approach and coordinate with the pilot. I take it at least one of you wants to be in the chopper?"
"I would," said Castiel.
"He's not getting out of my sight," growled Dean.
"Be serious," Sam scoffed. "You can't handle a ride in a helicopter."
"If he goes up in that death trap, then I go with him," his tone brooked no argument.
"I want to be on the ground in case Nan runs into trouble," Sam said. "Charlie and Kevin will set up the field base. We need a place for that and the sheriff and I will oversee this operation from there."
"Is there room for one more in the air?" asked a hesitant voice from over Charlie's shoulder. They all turned to see Chuck standing just outside of the door. Everyone froze for a heartbeat or two.
"Hiya, everyone," he waved with a nervous smile. Kevin glared at him and stomped off to sit next to Crowley in a huff.
"Chuck?" Sam asked. "You want to do some aerial recon?"
"Yeah," Dean frowned. "Why not just wave your hands around and fix all of this? Isn't that why you are here?"
"It's not that simple, guys," he said walking into the room. He stopped in front of Nan and Castiel. "Hi, kids."
Castiel didn't move. He looked stricken by painful emotion but unable to decide what to do with it. Nan didn't suffer such awkward indecision. She threw her arms around her father and shed tears of joy. Chuck held her gently and looked at Castiel over her bright blond head. Cas stared back as if trying to fathom how Chuck could have lied to him years before.
"It wasn't like that, Castiel," Chuck said softly, knowing his thoughts. "I came here to recover. I was ill and declining. For a time I didn't know who I was. And, it wasn't right for me to interfere. What good is free will if it is granted conditionally?"
"Then why are you here now?" Castiel asked in a voice hoarse with anger.
"I came for you and your sister," he smiled sadly. "And, for Crowley. I came because you needed me."
Dean traded a glance with Sam. The younger Winchester mouthed "Crowley?" Dean shrugged and turned back to Chuck just in time to see his angel blow his lid.
"You were needed before now!" Castiel shouted. "Where were you when I was searching for you? Why did you leave? The stupid things we have done in your absence… was it worth it? Your experiment in free will? Have we met your expectations? Were you entertained by our failures?"
"Castiel!" Nan hissed, appalled.
"No, Rac… um, Nan," Chuck patted her shoulder. "He is right to be angry. I have been an absent father."
He turned back to Cas. "But, you are wrong to think that I just sat back and watched. I tried to be here sooner but, I could not. I couldn't be prouder that you all averted the Apocalypse. I used what little juice I had left to make you whole again, Castiel. Then I had to drift in the ether a while to recharge. I am much better now but it's only just enough to take care of two things that only I can do. The rest will be up to all of you."