Seventy-Seven Times Seven Times
He dragged his fingers around the circle and cut another line through it, fighting the urge to fall against it, because the sigil would smudge. His knees were about to give out any second; he could feel it. He was choking on the stolen, rotting grace. What's left of it was going to fizzle out soon.
The Enochian symbol for his name shone above his head as at last, Castiel sunk to the floor. He pressed his back against the wall, struggling to breathe with Jimmy's punctured lung. He didn't have enough grace to heal himself properly. It wasn't hurting, at least.
They were almost definitely going to kill him. He knew this. His hand rested on his blade, so that he could kid himself that he might take down one or two before they got him. All it would take was a hand on his forehead and they could probably just burn him out, at this point. He tried not to think about that.
He tried not to think about falling asleep.
"Castiel," a voice whispered, and he snapped back into reality. He inhaled swiftly, fist tightening around the blade and bringing it up to impale whoever is leaning over him. Two hands grabbed his wrist and he stopped fighting. Shaking violently, he lowered the blade.
"Hannah?" he wondered. Was he hallucinating?
"You idiot!" She swiped her hand through the blood above their heads. "What are you doing?! Are you suicidal?"
Cas shook his head. "No, I just –"
Hannah pressed a palm to his forehead, and terror shot through Castiel's heart. This is it, he thought, I'm going to die. I'm never going to find out if Sam can save Dean. I'm never going to see them again.
But when the light faded, he was not in Heaven, or Purgatory, or even the Veil. Hannah was still looking at him. She ran her eyes over his face, checking his reaction. He breathed again, and realised it was suddenly easier. His head was clearer.
"You're welcome, Commander," she said, with a bite of bitterness, as she wiped her bloody hand on the leg of her pants and stood up. As he pulled himself to his feet after her, Cas saw that she had taken his angel blade, and it hung by her side like a part of her as she stood guard in front of him, looking out for any attackers who might have heard his call. He frowned at her silhouette. This was not what she had wanted to be.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"You should be."
"Why are you helping me? I don't deserve it. Not from you."
Hannah turned to face him, her jaw tense but her eyes far softer than Cas had been expecting.
"When Metatron told us about your grace, he said it like you were going to abandon us. And you would have, in a way, the day you ceased to exist. We would have been without direction. We would have been slaughtered. You betrayed me, and I hope you know the pain of that, oh I do, but when I heard your sigil I had to come.
"You're dying. You might not see the day Heaven is restored – and to be honest I'm not sure if I think you deserve to. But here you are, sacrificing yourself like an idiot, to try and get the rest of us back to the home you promised us. I still believe in that vision, Castiel. Don't get me wrong. I am not your friend. I am so angry with you right now I have half a mind to run you through. Perhaps I would have once upon a time – but I met this angel once, who told me that it has to stop. 'Someone has to say no'. If he couldn't be that person, maybe I can."
She looked down at the angel blade in her hand, turning it over almost forlornly. Cas tapped her elbow gently, holding out his hand for the blade.
"Thank you," he said as she handed it over. He smiled at her, and she smiled back. Footsteps crunched on the gravel outside. The two of them ran for the door, and out, and gravel flew under their feet, and the feet of their attackers as a flightless flock of Metatron's angels pursued them across the gravel and the grass, down to the river.
Without hesitation, Hannah dived in. Equally without hesitation, Cas turned on his heels and charged back up the bank.