A/N: I would like to thank you all for your wonderful support. I've been struggling greatly with finishing this story for you all. Even writing this is difficult for some reason. Unfortunately, after this is posted, I will be taking a break from fanfic; posts will be further between, but should still be coming every week or so. It's a career choice as I will be working on several novels. If you're interested, stay posted on my fanfic profile, or find me as Casmoiraitiel on facebook where occasional teasers might be posted. Thanks, again. You all have made writing fanfic so fun. :)
Leslie's words seemed to trigger an influx of Valkyries, befuddling the small team. Ziva's intel had led them to believe than no more than ten of the women warriors were in the building, yet they seemed to pour from every open door in the building, lining the room, weapons drawn and aimed directly at the two angels. Castiel's eyes slowly traveled the growing army, careful to keep his own surprise in check. Silently testing the waters, he found other warding magicks in use that reduced his own abilities, making both him and Zerachiel vulnerable to injury.
"Like I said," Leslie said tauntingly, another smile dancing across her lips, "there are more of us than there are you."
Ziva crept slowly back toward the door, casting a fearful glance back at her boss, her eyes clearly asking the question no one else had dared to voice yet. The look that crossed his face wasn't promising. Seeing the exchange, Dean stepped over Tony's still body, jerking his head back toward the agent, wordlessly ordering her behind him. Gibbs, Sam, and Dean stood shoulder to shoulder, creating a human barrier as Ziva ducked between them, kneeling at her partner's side.
"Give up now, Castiel." Leslie had turned to face him fully, her stance challenging as she now had support all around her.
"Ya know," Dean interjected, his hold on his gun steady, "you talk too much." His finger twitched against the trigger.
She laughed, genuinely amused. "Easy there, cowboy." Her hand came to rest on the dagger at her side. "Kill me and everyone dies."
The older Winchester met Castiel's gaze, for the first time a hint of fear crossing over his face. It was uncertainty. He needed direction. He needed someone else to speak for the team. Castiel had brought them here for a purpose, and now they were down two agents. He fought the urge to look behind him, fought the urge to know if the magic cast at Tony had killed him. Distractions were something they could not afford now, at any cost.
The angel, however, stood stoically, his face expressionless as it normally was. His eyes followed the blonde warrior as she strode across the room to the nearest Valkyrie, her fingertips brushing lightly against the other woman's cheek. She repeated the intimate gesture with the few women who stood close, looking into each of their eyes before turning to stand in their midst, surrounded by her army.
"Oh, God," Dean groaned, rolling his eyes, "it's like freakin' Xena – Warrior Princess all over again. That died in the '90s, lady."
Her icy gaze seemed to cut him through, but she otherwise ignored his statement, her voice raising as she addressed the entire room. "My sisters, the time has come! The final sacrifice to raise our father is upon us."
A cheer erupted in elated rapture, carrying through the room.
"Our lambs are here," she pressed on, her voice triumphant, "fat for the slaughter. Our father shall bathe in their heart blood!" She raised her hand, pointing at Sam and Dean, drawing the attention of everyone gathered to the two brothers. "Attack!"
Time seemed to slow as the room came alive, weapons appearing en masse as the women broke into movement. All thoughts of where these women might have came from honed in on the only possibility as their eyes followed the eruption in activity. None of these women had been recruited. They were all trained. A curse fell from Dean's lips, unnoticed as he redirected the aim of his Colt, bringing down the Valkyrie nearest him.
They scrambled for a better defensive position, Ziva pulling Tony's limp form into the office behind them as the three standing men barricaded themselves at the door, using their position to quickly drop the first wave that came at them. While the Colt dropped the enemy permanently, the others found they had to fire repeatedly into their target in order to drop them, injuring them too badly to continue the fight. Reloading was becoming a problem, and Sam soon abandoned his gun, kicking it into the office behind them as he drew the demon blade, holding it before him in beckoning invitation.
Castiel and Zerachiel found themselves at the center of the conflict, dodging daggers and blades as they danced dangerously close to their skin. The realization that their power had been keyed down in this building hit hard as they focused all of their energy on trying not to get hit while replying in kind with their own attacks. Their exertion was drowned out by the cacophony of noise rebounding from every corner.
Dean struggled to keep up the reloading of the Colt, knowing it was the only sure fire defense they had against these women. He found a blind trust he didn't realize he'd had in the two men at his side, trusting them to hold the waves at bay until he could begin firing again. The gun had never seen this much action before and speed-reloading was near impossible. Gibbs, at least, was able to reload in only seconds, but Sam's blade was already beginning to see it's share of action. The Valkyries were reaching the door.
The only reprieve they found was the lack of thrown weapons in the confined space. The women warriors, fearful of hitting their own, had opted for close range weapons to minimalize misfires.
Forcing herself to ignore the commotion, Ziva checked for Tony's pulse with shaking hands. It was weak, barely fluttering against her fingertips. Choice Hebrew curses dropped from her lips as she shifted, pulling her partner into her lap, carefully supporting his head. The desk provided an extra barrier between them and the men at the door. If the fight moved outside the office, she might be able to sneak her partner out of the building and get him to safety.
"Stay with me, Tony," she murmured, chancing to glance around the edge of the desk, catching brief glances of the battle ensuing just outside the door. Gently, she eased Tony back against the floor, stacking a few file folders under his head to keep it off of the cold tile. She found her feet again, easing to stand back-up at her boss' side.
"How is he?" Gibbs demanded roughly, his hand instinctively going for another clip.
"Alive!" she responded, firing a round into a woman she recognized from the group session.
Her announcement brought noticeable relief to the three men, giving them a second wind. Gibbs discarded his firearm, reaching for his backup and immediately emptying it into the next enemy in line. It, too, found it's way across the floor as his hands closed around the solid wood of the stake Castiel had brought them.
Hands closed around Dean's collar, the resulting jerk sending the bullets in his hand cascading to the floor. He stumbled forward as he was pulled back into the main room, dodging a deftly held sword aimed directly at his neck.
Panic gripped in Sam's chest, making it hard for him to breathe. "Dean!" he called, jumping immediately to his brother's defense, the blade he held singing as it arched through the air to strike.
The floor was slick with blood and footing was uncertain, adding another level of obstacles to what they faced. They slipped at inopportune moments, the first of which granted Dean a nasty slice across his forearm. His cry of rage and pain seemed to renew the fighting spirit of the Valkyrie and a shout of triumph sounded from the woman who had wounded him, battle frenzy blazing brightly in her eyes.
A primal fury sprang to life in Sam's belly, the same anger that had fueled him before Lucifer had taken his body. Like a man possessed, he launched himself toward her, his blade slamming heavily into her chest. An odd sense of satisfaction filled him as he watched the light fade from her eyes, her body falling heavily to the floor.
"Sammy, look out!"
The cry came just in time for him to duck away from the dagger aimed at his back, spinning to thrust the demon blade up into the abdomen of the attacker, drawing it up the length of her torso before kicking her aside.
Dean struggled back to his feet, tackling the next closest to him, pulling a hunting knife from his hip sheathe. This was much messier than he liked and it took multiple fatal wounds to drop the Valkyrie this way, but it was too late. Just as Leslie had said, there were simply too many of them, and they found themselves tiring quickly from the exertion.
Horrified, Abby found she couldn't tear her eyes away from what she was seeing on the portable monitor. Equally disturbed, Ducky found himself gripping the weapon he'd been given, his knuckles white from the death grip.
The moment Tony had fell, Abby had shrieked and Ducky had had to hold her in the cab of the truck. Only when they'd heard Ziva's announcement that he was alive did either of them relax.
"Ducky, they're not gonna make it out of there alive, are they?" she asked, her voice small and her big eyes filled with tears.
Ducky blinked. It was completely out of character for Abby to be so hopeless. When it came to her team, she always took it on blind faith that they would persevere, berating anyone who said otherwise. The words shocked him back into a sense of himself, taking his mind from the horror that unfolded before them.
"My dear Abigail,..." he trailed off, trying to convey everything he needed to as he met her eyes. "Don't give up hope."
Everything hurt. Tony groaned as consciousness slowly returned to his body, bringing pain with it in waves. The sounds of battle seemed muted and distorted, confusing him. It took him a long moment to remember where he was. Startled at the realization, his eyes flew open and he pushed himself upright, immediately regretting the action as a dizzying rush filled his head.
His vision swam, and he squinted, trying to force everything to stay in focus. Blood was the first thing he noticed as he pulled himself from behind the desk. It coated the floor in a thick, sickening glaze, arterial spray painting the walls and parts of the ceiling like a child's finger painting. The sight caused his stomach to clench, bile rising to the back of his throat, filling his mouth with sour. He swallowed down as much as he could, unsteadily finding his footing, drawing his weapon from its holster.
Pull it together, DiNozzo, he coached himself, taking deep breaths in through his nose. His entire body was weak, and holding the gun was proving most difficult, his hand shaking uncontrollably. Your team needs you. He peeked around the door, just managing to pick out the silver hair of his boss glinting in the florescent light.
He started out across the slick floor, his passage going unnoticed by those swarming in on the brothers. He found himself in shock over the bodies that littered the floor, his eyes barely able to affirm that none of his team laid among them.
His shoulder found the wall for support and he raised his gun with both hands, taking aim at the nearest Valkyrie, his shots ringing true though he found it difficult to see. She fell heavily. He found the next, methodically taking out the outer ring of attackers. It seemed that the angels and the small team had been rounded into the center of the foray. It would only be a matter of time before they were disarmed and captured.
Now aware of his presence, Tony soon found himself under fire, unable to dodge the dagger that flew his way, released from a skilled hand. It slammed home through the muscle of his shoulder, scraping against bone as it drove him back against the wall. He cried out feebly, unable to draw forth the energy to respond appropriately to the pain. Gasping for air, he stumbled away, his arm hanging uselessly by his side. He'd never been one for crying, but he couldn't fight back the hot wetness that stung his eyes, a tear escaping to run down his cheek.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs' belllow echoed loudly and he pushed at the mass crushing in on them, fighting to get to his senior field agent. A strength that he'd never felt before flared to life in him as he saw Tony barely deflect another attack, knowing that the man had signed his death warrant. "No!" He barely noticed himself deflect a fatal blow himself, turning the blade back on his assailant. The only thought that filled his mind now was rescue. He had to save Anthony DiNozzo.
"Surrender!" Leslie called out her order. "Surrender and spare your friends."
Dean struggled with the Colt, his hands slick with blood, his grip weak from the wounds he had sustained. Angry slashes covered his forearms where he'd had no other means to defend himself. He'd caught an awkward jab to his hip that had nearly immobilized him, the pain blinding as the jagged knife had burrowed into his bone. Sidelong glances showed that everyone had sustained several heavily bleeding injuries. It wouldn't be long before the fight would be over.
He swung the chamber shut, the familiar click seeming to echo above the din of battle and dying. He drew back the hammer, looking over at his brother. There was no way he'd let either of them be taken alive. An understanding nod from Sam seemed to indicate he was was thinking the same.
He steadied himself, raising the gun, finding his mark and squeezing the trigger. Despite being hidden among her sisters, Dean's aim was true, and the bullet struck Leslie between the eyes, dropping her instantly.
Several things happened in that moment. An immediate difference could be felt in the air as their apparent leader bled out on the floor. Cries of outrage and wails of loss sounded from the Valkyries as they continued their assault, revenge now fueling their drive. The death of Leslie, however, broke the magic stifling the angels' power and Castiel found himself knocking back the inner wall surrounding their cluster.
"Shield your eyes!" he cried out, Zerachiel mirroring his movements as he stretched his arms wide, holy light bursting forth from his body to engulf the room.
Tormented screams rose in tandem, filling the air for a brief moment before dissipating, disappearing as the light faded, leaving them standing alone in a room full of bodies.
Stunned silence greeted the horrific scape before them as Castiel and Zerachiel staggered away, resting against the wall. They had sustained many injuries just as the rest of the group had, and expending the energy to clear the room had drained them. There would be no healing for anyone tonight.
Gibbs was the first to move, dropping the bloody stake to the floor and rushing to his senior field agent, dropping unsteadily to his knees as he fought to keep himself upright. His hands grasped for Tony, pulling the agent against his chest. He ignored the fatigue and the darkness that clouded his vision, the whole of his focus honing in on the very pale, very still man he held in his arms, hugging him tightly to his chest.
"DiNozzo," he managed, his blood-soaked hand searching for the jugular vein, hoping for a pulse. "Dammit, DiNozzo, you are not gonna die on me. You hear me?" His own heart seemed to stop as he waited to feel anything beneath his fingers that signaled life. He released his held breath, almost sobbing in relief as he felt the first faint rhythm, telling him that Tony was still there, with him. This boy was like a son to him and the thought of losing him had nearly driven Gibbs mad. "Get in here, Ducky!" he ordered, praying that the surveillance equipment hadn't been fried.
Ziva dropped to her knees beside her teammates, nursing her right arm, her normally golden skin a sickly pale ashen color and her eyes dull. Dean and Sam were left alone in the center of the room, watching the agents cling to each other. It stirred something in Dean that he hadn't felt in a very long time. They were family.
Sam's quiet voice broke his concentration and his head drifted toward the sound of its own accord. The younger Winchester easily slipped his arm around his brother's waist as Dean's legs gave out. No one had made it through the ordeal unscathed and they weren't out of the woods yet. Carefully, they supported each other across the room, managing to just make it to the agents by the door before collapsing.
Ducky ran through the door, his medical bag clasped tightly in his hands. Abby was right on his heels, pale and shaking, but coherent enough to take orders from the doctor who set her to work on Dean, who, besides Tony, seemed to have taken the most damage. Ducky himself took over the care of Tony, cutting the fabric of his tee shirt away.
The dagger was still lodged in Tony's shoulder, and two deep slashes marred his torso. Any deeper and he would have spilled his guts on the floor.
"Jethro," Ducky managed, shaking his head, "we need the hospital and we need it now."
"You should go." Timothy McGee's angel-deepened voice drew their attention to the severely weakened angel. "There is little time. Those after Castiel will be here soon. That energy is like a beacon."
"I can't move them alone!" Ducky retorted testily, attempting to stem the blood oozing from Tony's midsection.
"I never said you had to." In a moment that showed that McGee still shone through the angel, an understanding sadness filled his eyes and he reached forward, touching Tony and Ziva. "Drive hard and don't look back. This is all I can offer for now."
In a blink, they found themselves situated in their vehicles, Ducky at the wheel of Gibbs truck with a heavily bleeding Ziva wedged between him and Abby. Sam found himself at the wheel of the Impala, Dean leaned heavily against the passenger side door with Gibbs cradling Tony in the backseat. There was no hesitation, no time for shock. The engines fired to life and they pulled away from the curb, Sam following closely behind Ducky as they sped toward their only hope of healing.
Sam found his vision darkening as his adrenaline faded and he tried to force himself to remain alert. He'd lost a lot of blood and felt blackness threatening to consume him. Gibbs, too, was fading in the backseat, his head lolling listlessly about his shoulders, his grip on Tony loosening.
A hospital had never been so welcoming. Bethesda finally appeared in front of them and Ducky drove up to the front door, his eyes widening as he caught sight of the Impala in the rear view. He scrambled out of the car as the Impala slowed, swerved, and buried itself into the bushes, the momentum thankfully slow enough to stop them. Ducky sprang from the truck, ordering Abby to get help as he ran to the car, pulling the door open, reaching across an unconscious Sam to put the car in park and cut the engine as he checked for a pulse.
Gibbs' limp form in the backseat caught his eye, a pale blue tinting his lips. He had started pulling his old friend from the car to begin CPR when the orderlies came rushing out with gurneys, followed closely by nurses. Abby was close behind them, stopping short as she saw Ducky hovering over a very-still Gibbs.
"Stand aside, sir," one of the nurses ordered, pulling at Ducky.
At a loss, the doctor stumbled back, watching numbly as the bodies were removed from the vehicles and loaded onto beds, nurses straddling Tony and Gibbs, beginning chest compressions as the orderlies rushed the gurneys inside, toward the Emergency Room. He jumped, startled, as he felt Abby's hand close over his, shocking him back to the present.
"Ducky," she whispered hoarsely, her burning question evident without having to speak it. Was Gibbs alive?
He met her eyes, his own filling with tears. "I certainly hope so, Abigail." He pulled her close and there, at the entrance of the hospital, they cried, clinging to one another as if their lives depended on it.
"What the hell happened?" the doctor standing over Tony demanded, his eyes flitting over the beeping machine by the bed. His blood pressure was dropping rapidly, and the machine responded by beeping loudly, signaling cardiac arrest. The nurses sprang into action, pulling out the crash cart, readying the defibrillator paddles to shock his heart back into rhythm.
"Don't know," one of the nurses responded, waiting as the first shock coursed through the agent's body with no effect, "but there are five of them. All agents, I think. Clear." She shocked him again. "Increasing to 400."
They worked on Tony for a good two minutes before finally reestablishing a steady rhythm, the doctor having ordered an adrenaline shot administered. The nurses set about ensuring that the agent was stable, hooking him to a ventilator and setting up blood transfusions as the doctor worked on the dagger lodged in his shoulder.
"They all look this bad?" the doctor ventured, his skilled hands making quick work of the blade, handing the dislodged weapon to the nearest nurse.
"Yeah," the same woman answered, "must've been one hell of a fight."
The angels that had followed Castiel's energy found themselves standing in a room full of bodies and nothing more. After a thorough search, they had reluctantly left, convinced that he had evaded them again. Cloaked from their view, both Castiel and Zerachiel had managed to watch the angels from the spot they had chosen to rest against. It had taken the rest of their energy to maintain the illusion until the would-be assassins had left.
Feeling the weakness overpower him, Castiel only managed to shuffle listlessly across the floor. One more fight would be the end of him. Long moments seemed to pass before he stood over Leslie's body, bending down slowly to snap the leather-bound pendant from around her neck. He held the wooden horn in his hand, easing slowly back up to stand straight.
"Is that it?" Zerachiel asked, not having bothered to move any further.
Castiel's eyes traveled over the intricate engraving that decorated the horn, finding the cork-wood stopper at the mouth of the instrument. Slowly, he nodded. "Yes. This is it."
"Yes. The souls. All of them." He found he could not tear his eyes away.
"That's what it's all about, then." It was a statement, not a question. Zerachiel had figured his friend out long before.
"Yes." Castiel's voice held no levity and no reassurance. He faced Zerachiel with cold, calculating eyes, his fist closing around the horn. "It's all about the souls.
A cliffie at the end of a story? Yes! I think so! :) (Please, don't hate me ^.^ I'm adorable, really). This has been a labor of love on my part, finally finding inspiration after two weeks of staring at a blinking cursor with one single word written on the page.
If you enjoyed, then you'll come back for Part 2 – "A Warrior's Way." (It's a working title...might change. Hopefully not).