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Dean didn't think to wonder how the car had gotten to Maryland until they'd been driving for half an hour. He looked over at Sam and thought about asking, but Sam was staring out the window like there was free porn pasted on the mile markers, and he swallowed the question down. He felt heavy, sick like he'd lost a pie-eating contest and not even gotten to taste the pie.

He checked the gas gauge and hoped that his credit cards had made it through the multiple angelic transports.

As if his discomfort had reached out to Sam, Sam finally twisted in the seat and stared at Dean, hollow-eyed.

"What now?" he asked, except that he didn't sound curious, more like he was reading out entries on a menu at a shithole diner where everything was going to taste like grease anyway.

"Dunno," Dean admitted. His only thought had been to stop Sam, and then once that had been a massive failure he'd just run, as if distance might help them avoid the apocalypse, which sounded fairly stupid when he put it together like that.

Silence again, stretching to minutes until Dean thought maybe it would be easier to never talk again.

"For fuck's sake," the radio said, a woman's voice coming from the speakers, annoyed and crisp. "Turn around."

Dean stomped on the brakes and fought the wheels through the squealing and zigzagging, until they were stopped on the side of the road and the smell of burnt tires was sharp in his throat.

He should have popped the door open and jumped out, but all he could do was stare at Sam, whose eyes were as wide as quarters.

"I've had about enough of this," the radio snapped. "First you get yourself killed, Sam, and then you decide that killing Lilith is your Make-a-Wish, even though you know Lucifer's the real problem—a plan only a hophead could love. How's that demon blood taste now, Sammy?"

"Who are you?" Dean asked, just to shut the thing up; the look on Sam's face was too painful, mainly because Dean remembered putting it there himself.

"And you, Dean-O," the voice continued. "Sell your soul for Sam, go to Hell for him, then—then take a page from the John Winchester playbook and tell Sam you were through with him, which only the aforementioned hophead would have believed, making him think that the most important person in his world considered him a monster. I'm trying to think of worse decisions you boys could have made, but my imagination's not that good. Frankly, I'm shocked you two managed to break your respective seals."
Dean pulled his gun and aimed it at the radio. It should have hurt him to think of the damage he'd be doing to the car, but he needed that mockery stopped, and he'd done worse to his baby before.

"That won't do you any good," she said. "Seeing as how you're sitting in me."

Dean and Sam both jumped. They exchanged looks, then scrambled for the doors, united in the need to get the fuck out. The handle wasn't opening, and the window crank didn't move when he shoved at it.

"Calm down, boys," the car said. "I'm not going to hurt you. Too much competition for that. Turn the engine on and let's get going. Lucifer's waiting."

Sam leaned into Dean, twisting his body up onto the seat so that he could kick out at the side window with both boots. Dean heard the painful thunk of Sam's heels, but the glass held.

"What are you?" Dean asked, his voice not shaking only because he was just about out of emotion.

The car sighed, which was freaky enough to make his skin crawl. Sam's hand, braced on his leg, tightened; it was a reminder that they were together again. "Zachariah wasn't lying when he said you're the one to end this, Dean. Sam stands for the Morning Star, and you stand for the Viceroy of Heaven."

"The archangel Michael," Sam said before Dean could ask. "Armed with a flaming sword." He wriggled until he was upright again, but he didn't let go of Dean's leg and Dean didn't pull away.

The car made a sound like 'hmmph.' "Yeah, does this look like the Dark Ages? And can you imagine Dean Winchester with a sword? He'd look less awkward with a parasol. Do not even start on 'flaming,' either."

"You're saying," Sam took a deep breath, "you're Dean's … mystical weapon against Lucifer?" He laughed, sharp and stretched, and Dean put his hand over Sam's, trying to calm him down.

"I'm saying, turn the engine on, get back on the road, and let's get this apocalypse over with. I'm due for detailing."

Dean checked with Sam. Sam's nostrils were flared and his hair was practically performing an interpretive dance about how freaked-out he was, but his expression made very clear that he didn't have any better ideas.

So Dean turned the key and wheeled them around.

****

The highway had been empty for miles when they saw a dim yellow glow ahead of them. "This ought to be interesting," the car said, speculatively.

"Uh—" Sam began.

"Oh, keep your pants on," she snapped. "No, actually—well, we'll talk about that later." In the near darkness, Dean could still see Sam's mouth round into a perfect surprised 'o.' "We'll probably be fine. Hit the gas, Dean."

Dean complied. The glow got brighter and resolved into a man, surrounded by a golden haze. He was—he was beautiful, noble as a statue, the light rolling over him only making him seem more lovely. He was standing in the middle of the road, waiting for them.

"He's not moving," Sam pointed out, entirely unnecessarily. And yes, Dean was a little bit worried that Lucifer was playing chicken with a two-ton automobile because he knew something they didn't. Then again, that seemed to be the entire point of their lives so far, so no news there. He gritted his teeth and ground his foot into the floorboard.

"Dean," Sam said, low and hurried.

Dean took one hand off the wheel and put his hand on Sam's knee, squeezing gently. "Yeah, Sam," he said back, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Sam's real smile, for the first time in months.

They were less than ten seconds away from Lucifer. His expression was clearly visible now: triumphant, even jubilant. He raised his hands, urging them on.

Dean kept his eyes open as they zoomed towards the pillar of light.

The impact slammed them forward like a pair of dolls. Dean felt sharp pain across his chest and stomach, and then nothing.

****

"Dean!"

"Dean!"

Sam's worried tone woke him faster than the vaguely familiar feminine voice. He felt like he'd been run over by a three-hundred pound guy on a Harley. But he was alive, and Sam was with him, so overall it was a good—

He cracked his eyes open and saw a patch of bright sky through the window. He turned his head, and Sam was there, pale and crappy-looking but whole, blinking as he shoved his seatbelt aside and leaned towards Dean, checking him out.

Overall it was a good day.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Apparently," Sam said, relief warring with laughter, "a Chevy Impala is a really good substitute for a flaming sword."

Dean struggled with his own seatbelt. He felt kind of like a basketball after an NBA game, and he could already tell that he'd be limping for the next couple of days if not weeks, but considering the alternatives it wasn't so bad. "Lucifer's dead?"

"Let's just say he's not gonna be your problem," the car said. "At least, not unless you figure out how to live for another two thousand years."

Dean looked around slowly, searching for some visible sign that his car was a freaking weapon of the Lord. Had she been like that in 1973? Had she been like that when she was made? He rubbed at the back of his neck, remembering exactly how many times she'd been witness to his backseat adventures. And, oh fuck, she talked now—the things she could tell Sam, he might just have to crawl back into his grave.

"Uh, no offense," he began, "but are you—is this permanent?"

Sam's lips twitched, but he looked just as interested in the answer.

"You'd prefer I just sit here, silently judging you?" she asked.

"Yes," Dean said immediately, and Sam snorted.

"Yeah, good luck with that," she said. "So, from now on, I get washed by both of you once a week, and again any time there's mud or roadkill involved. Weather permitting, you do it in the buff—"

"Wait a second," Sam squawked. "Dean," like it was his fault, "the car's a pervert!"

"Oh, sure, Mr. I-prefer-to-date-outside-my-species," she said. "Not like I haven't seen—"

"Okay!" Dean interrupted, before she could detail exactly what she might have seen (and how the fuck did she see, anyway?). "Boxers, not nude, because we're not gettin' arrested for public indecency. And you keep your—uh, your mouth shut when other people are around."

"I want the iPod jack back," she said, a little sullenly. "And no more storing leftovers in the backseat. They stink."

"Done," Dean said, trying not to sound too desperate.

"And I want a name. A cool name. Like Excalibur."

Dean's mouth opened and closed a couple of times. He could feel Sam in the seat next to him, trying not to explode. "Tell you what," he said at last. "Whatever name you pick, it's all good. Sam here will help you with the research if you need it, that's his thing. Sound good?"

Sam frowned. Dean wriggled his eyebrows, meaning 'back my play,' and Sam grimaced but didn't object.

"Fine," the car said. "Actually, now that it's all out in the open, I'm prepared to do you more favors."

"Like what?" Dean asked, a little wary.

"Oh, you know, coming when called, spooking the crap out of the bad guys—Knight Rider stuff."
Dean thought about it for at least half a second. "Awesome."

"What now?" Sam asked, looking straight at Dean.

Dean grinned; it felt unfamiliar on his face, but like maybe he could get used to it again. He started the engine and felt her purr. "Now? We've got a sweet ride and a million miles of highway, Sammy. I say we see what she can do."

END

Cliche prompt: Deus ex machina, natch.

All feedback much appreciated!
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