A/N: And the details of the curse unfold!
Castiel stared up at the elder Winchester, his thoughts calculating. He was awake. So that meant…it had worked? The angel blinked and turned his gaze down to his torso. His chest, abdomen, and arms were marred with wounds made all the more vivid by the black stitching that held his skin together It hurt, but not as badly as he had expected. He had expected torture—excruciating pain beyond compare. This was just…normal.
But then that meant…
He saw the Enochian words that marked his skin, but he didn't read them. He didn't want to. Not yet.
"Uh, Dean," the sound of Sam's voice brought Castiel's gaze back to the brothers, "what happened to your arms?"
Dean looked down at his arms skeptically; stretching and turning them so as to better view the inflamed red markings that now covered his skin. He grimaced and shrugged. "Carpet burn by the looks of it—nasty stuff."
"Dean," Sam growled warningly.
Dean sighed and looked down at Castiel. A sudden shock raced down the angel's spine, and left in its wake an uncomfortable buzzing in his chest that seemed to resonate through Dean's dark hazel eyes. They held each other's gazes for but a moment before they both finally had to look away.
Castiel could feel Sam looking at him expectantly, but the angel simply clasped his hands and remained still.
Dean grunted. "Hey, Sam, do you think you could give me and Cas a moment?"
"Sam, I'll fill you in on the details later, I promise, but…we really need a minute."
Castiel could sense the anger that scourged through Sam's veins. He could feel the way the younger Winchester's shoulders tensed, and how the feeling of betrayal twisted into something ugly that was only visible in the brief flash of darkness that whispered across Sam's eyes. The reaction was a sharp jab in the angel's mind, but he ignored it as he usually did—for Dean's sake.
Without another word Sam turned and left the room, slamming the door behind him so hard that a cloud of dust plumed in his wake. Castiel and Dean both stared after him, deep matching frowns etched on their faces.
Dean was the first to turn back.
"So," he began slowly, "I guess we should get down to it then."
Castiel looked up at him, and briefly wondered why Dean shifted as he did so. "I suppose we should." The angel turned his attention back to the markings on his torso, and felt a sudden chill as they seemed to glare up at him. His brow furrowed as his eyes scanned over the angelic words.
Castiel felt stomach drop.
"What is it?" Dean's voice was lined with dread.
Castiel didn't move. This didn't make sense…unless, "Remove your shirt, Dean."
There was a beat of silence. "Dare I ask…why?"
"Just do it."
Dean flashed him an impish white grin. "Liked the kiss that much did you?"
Castiel barely had time to register his reaction before a wave of hot blood was flooding his cheeks. "Dean," he glowered, trying his best to push the strange emotion down.
After a not so subtle eye roll, Dean's hands moved to the hem of his shirt. He pulled the fabric up, his taught muscles rippling live waves under his skin as he moved. Castiel stared, knowing even before he read the words engraved into Dean's once smooth skin that something was different between them—that this curse had them bound by something greater than the words that marked them. He could feel it. He had always been able to feel Dean deeper than other humans, but never like this. It was as if he could feel every movement that the hunter made as an extension of himself. He could feel the rough heat of Dean's skin tingle as the tips of his fingers brushed his ribs. He could feel the flush of blood that warmed his cheeks and neck. And he could feel his heart skip as their eyes once again met.
And somehow, he knew Dean could feel him too.
Dean threw his shirt to the ground, his eyes narrowed and hard. "What's going on, Cas?"
Castiel's jaw clenched. "The seven vices and virtues."
The angel felt Dean's pulse quicken.
But Castiel wasn't listening anymore. His mind was racing—everything was falling into place all at once.
It was the only way, "He had to have known."
"Who had to have known what?" Dean's trepidation was rapidly turning into anger.
"It's the only reason he would have done it this way."
"Dean," Castiel swallowed thickly, "you must give me back your half of the curse."
"God dammit, Cas, will you just hold your horses for a second and—"
"There's no time!" In his excitement the angel had leaned forward. A sharp pain in his ribs caused him to lose balance and in a sudden jerk, his hips slid off the side of the mattress.
There was the briefest feeling of his stomach fluttering in free fall before a pair of warm hands grabbed him. With a startled yell, Dean fell with him to the ground, angling his shoulder to take the brunt of the blow. They lay still for a tangled moment, Dean's body effectively pinned beneath the angel's. Castiel turned his head to see that Dean's face was a mere inches from his own. The air hung still, waiting for the breath neither of them dared to take. Then, Dean's hand—pressed firmly against Castiel's exposed ribcage—moved. It couldn't have moved more than fraction, but that fraction was enough to ignite Castiel's skin like a fire to dry wood.
They sprung apart in an instant; Castiel's back ramming into the cold metal of the bed frame and sending a shock of pain down his spine. But it was nothing compared to the crushing pain in his chest. His ribs seemed to be caving in on his lungs—his breath came in quick labored pants that seemed in sync with the erratic beating of his heart. Oh yes…the angel had definitely known. And now, it was too late.
"Cas," Dean whispered, his eyes alive with confusion and something else too, "what was that?"
Castiel's tongue went suddenly dry. How he ached to stretch out his wings and fly away from here He could never stand Dean looking at him like that, like he was waiting for him to bear the inevitable darkness—like Castiel was the only thing standing between him and hell. Not the literal hell, but Dean's own hollow of empty darkness that he kept locked away somewhere, deep inside; the place he stored all the pain that still lingered through the horrors he'd seen. It was a look he reserved for Castiel and Castiel alone…and the angel hated it. It was like a rusted nail scratching at an open wound in his heart.
"It was the beginning of our curse. It's started. Whatever hope we had of surviving this has been lost."
Dean blanched. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Castiel looked away, trying to ignore the alien tightness in his throat. "I've killed us both."
"What?" Dean snapped. "I don't know about you, Cas, but I certainly don't feel dead."
The angel saw no point in not telling him. "The surest way to completely destroy an angel's soul is to curse him with the Curse of Seven Vices—these are commonly referred to on Earth as the seven deadly sins. Each sin is in direct opposition of the virtue in an angel's soul, thus as each sin is committed, that part of the soul is destroyed. It destroys us…by making us human." He paused, watching with a strange lack of dispassion as his words made something in Dean quiver. "The Curse of Seven Virtues works the exact same way on humans—their inability to be free of sin drives them mad. Every case I know of has resulted in suicide."
Dean was still breathing heavily, and his eyes were darting haphazardly in thought. "But you…originally had both?"
Castiel nodded, exuding a calmness he didn't feel. "So in other words, had you not taken the burden of half my curse, the spell would have been nullified."
Dean blinked. "So you're telling me that if I hadn't tried to save your ass, everything would've been fine? Gabriel could've just woken you up and—and that would've been the end of it?"
The hunter's face flushed a deep red, and he turned his gaze to stare broodingly out the window. Castiel could feel Dean's turmoil coiling in his stomach like snakes.
"So that means," Dean's voice was a hard edge, "that the guy who did this to you, knew we would try to split it. Hell…he probably even knew it would be me who did it."
The angel frowned. "It is likely."
Dean rounded on him. "So what the hell does that mean, Cas? How could he have known that I would try to save you like that?"
Castiel tried his best not to react to Dean's anger, but those hazel eyes burned him. He couldn't help but shrink back slightly. "I don't know. You and your brother have a history of self-sacrifice, but that is only for each other. I don't know why he assumed a trick like that would work with me."
Castiel didn't miss the flash of pain that whispered across Dean's gaze before he looked away once more. The angel grimaced—he'd probably said something wrong again, though he had no idea what that something was. He honestly didn't know why the angel would've used those curses. Had he simply wanted Castiel dead, there was a plethora of cleaner, and far simpler options—and most of those would've been slower and even more painful. Yet, this angel had taken the risk…to what? To get at Dean? Castiel looked up at the hunter. He sat like cold stone in the middle of the room, the moon reflecting off his tanned skin with an ethereal white glow. The shadows that lined his face were sharp, and his brow was pulled tight by some brooding thought that Castiel would never know. Why had Dean come after him?
Dean sighed heavily. "So…what do we do now?"
"We should tell Bobby and Sam—"
"Not a chance," Dean interrupted tersely.
Castiel stared up at him blankly, the question "Why not?" stuck on the tip of his tongue, belayed only by the seriousness etched into the hunter's features. This point, at least, was not up for debate.
Dean stood up and began to pace, playing with his ring distractedly as his eyes moved in thought. "Alright, so if I'm going to be more vulnerable to sin then I should definitely keep away from guns, knives, women, and all forms of emo music. Man…this is already looking hopeless."
Castiel's lips quirked. "What is emo?"
"Never mind," the hunter waved him off, "listen, there has to be a way to break this thing. You said before that we could do it."
"This is true—all curses can be broken."
Dean stopped, his gaze whipping Castiel with untamed fury. "Well you sure as hell could've fooled me! You just said not two minutes ago that we're going to die!"
"Yes." The angel could feel Dean's anger like a hot fire in his stomach.
"Dammit, Cas!" Dean started for him, his hands balling into fists, but he stopped midstride. The hunter closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. Castiel could see his jaw throbbing as Dean rapidly tensed and relaxed it. Then, suddenly, one of the markings on his stomach began to glow—the soft warm glow of a candle at night.
Dean jumped, his eyes flying open and going big as saucers. "Uh…Cas? Care to explain why I'm turning into a human glow-stick?"
Castiel pushed himself up, his eyes narrowing in thought. "You're using a virtue to combat a vice. You're breaking part of the curse."
"What? Right now?" Dean glanced at Castiel, then back down at his torso, his eyebrows raised. Slowly the glow faded, leaving the scarred skin slightly smoother than before. Dean hummed. "Is it just me or did that seem a bit too easy?"
"It may seem like that now, but the curse will get stronger over time. It will do its best to work against your weaknesses."
"But it—it's possible. We can fight this?"
The angel shrugged. "I'm more worried about our ability to succeed than our ability to try."
"Alright," Dean clapped and rubbed his hands together, his expression brighter than Castiel had seen it all evening, but the angel could feel the undercurrent of disquiet that the hunter's hesitant smile masked. "So, basically, I just need to start acting like you, and you need to start acting like me." Dean raised an eyebrow at him, "Guess we'll have to find you a hooker who isn't so sensitive this time."
"Actually, scratch that, we'll just find you a deaf one."
Dean's smile fell almost immediately. "Let me guess…there's something you forgot to mention?"
Castiel felt a surge of guilt wash over him. "Dean…you and I share this curse, and thus, are bound together in its execution."
Castiel very much thought the words spoke for themselves, but judging by the vacant expression on the elder Winchester's face, they didn't.
Sighing, the angel looked away, trying to push down the shudder that threatened to take him. "Our vices and virtues…can only be broken if we exact them on each other." Castiel closed his eyes as he felt the thought sink into Dean's mind and finally take hold.
"It would perhaps be possible," Castiel continued, if only to keep the dreadful silence at bay, "if not for one particular vice."
He could hear Dean's swallow. "…Lust."
"My lust and your chastity. Those two are the only pair that requires real direct contact. Anger and patience, sloth and fortitude, those can all be accomplished—"
"Alright! Alright…I get the picture."
Castiel opened his eyes to look at Dean once more. He was tangling his fingers in his hair, and his whole body seemed to be shaking in his effort to keep calm.
"There has to be a way to break this thing, Cas. A way other than…" he couldn't bring himself to finish.
Castiel hummed, trying his best to think of a way to support Dean's delusion. "Perhaps…there could be a counter curse."
Dean nodded absently.
"Maybe, if I still had my wings, I could've—" he was cut off by the startling pang of anguish that raced through Dean. The hunter's mouth was pressed firmly together and his eyes were fixed on the floor. Castiel's chest tightened. He pushed himself up slightly and tried his best to ignore his protesting limbs. "Dean?"
Dean started, his gaze flickering over to Castiel but not quite seeing him. Walking across the room in a couple strides, he gingerly helped the angel back onto the bed. "The guy who patched you up said you shouldn't be moving for a while," he muttered, and the angel knew they were both trying to pretend their skin wasn't whispering fire where they touched.
Hazel eyes bored into him, close and dark. Out of Castiel's peripheral, he could see another one of Dean's markings glowing faintly.
It was funny…he didn't remember ever noticing how Dean smelled before, and yet, the scent was so familiar to him.
Dean withdrew his hand, biting his lip. "Well…you should get some rest then."
"Yes," Castiel replied, wanting to shy away from warmth lingering where Dean had touched him, but making himself hold still.
"I'll uh," the hunter took a couple of steps back towards the door, "I'll see you in the morning alright?" He didn't even wait for a response before fleeing out of the room.
Holy shit. Dean fell back against the wall, pressing his face into his hands and desperately trying to ignore the heat that was still racing through him. He didn't know what he had expected when he'd taken half of Castiel's curse, but it certainly wasn't this. This was nuts.
And the way he could feel the angel when he…
Dean shuddered and pushed himself back up. He couldn't deal with this. He felt exhausted and exposed, and right now all he wanted to do was lay down in his bed and dream of nothing. Resolved to belay all thoughts of this curse until morning, Dean made a beeline for his bedroom.
His hopes for how the rest of the evening would transpire, however, were dashed as he found his bedroom door—which he kept closed by habit—open.
Of course, he didn't need two tries to guess who it was.
"Not now, Sam" Dean grumbled as he entered the room. Dutifully ignoring Sam's stiff demeanor, Dean began rummaging through his bag for a clean shirt and some boxers. He pulled out the first pair he found and began changing in silence.
Sam, however, didn't seem to get the point. Dean grimaced—for the brainiac of the family, his younger brother really was rather thick at times.
"Dean, what's going on?"
"Nothing is going on."
"I think I have a right to know."
"It's nothing." Dean repeated with a huff of annoyance.
"Right. So then what happened to those details you promised you were going to fill me in on?" The anger in Sam's voice was palpable.
Dean, who had been studiously avoiding eye contact, chanced a look at his younger brother and broke it almost immediately. He could never look at Sam when he was like this. This wasn't his Sam anymore. This was a warped version of Sam. This was the Sam who was addicted to demon blood. This was the Sam that Lucifer wanted. Dean couldn't deal with this too…not right now.
"Look, Sammy," Dean rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms, "I'll tell you tomorrow, I just…I can't talk about it right now okay? I'm tired as hell, I have a headache like someone's just smacked me over the head with a baseball bat, not to mention—"
"Not to mention you look like you just got into a fight with Bobby's wood-chipper and lost. Ten times over."
Dean looked at him then, too exhausted to fight it anymore.
Sam's jaw was tight as he spoke. "Those markings on your body—this has something to do with Cas waking up, doesn't it."
"I'm not an idiot, Dean. Your body has the same markings on it that his does. They're not normal, are they."
But Sam was already riled. There was no stopping him. "You did something, didn't you! Something stupid like you always do, without even telling me! Dean—"
"I said stop it, Sam!" Dean snapped, feeling an unbidden hot fury swell in his chest. It was just like what he had felt with Cas, only this time, he couldn't push it back down. "Of course if has something to do with Cas, and of course I did something about it! What did you expect me to do, Sammy? Sit idly by and just watch him die?" He felt winded, like his lungs were being squeezed tight. "Well?"
Sam's jaw was clenched tighter than ever. "You should've at least said something to me about it!"
Dean glared up at his younger brother. "I saw an opportunity to do something so I took it! And I'm sorry if your damned feelings got hurt in the process, but angry at me or not, I'm the reason he's awake right now! And that's all you have to know about it."
"You're such a damned hypocrite," Sam returned with a snarl. "You think you have the right to know everything that I'm doing, and yet you get to run off and—"
"I'm not the one who can't be trusted here, Sam!"
Sam's anger flickered in an instance of pain, and Dean saw it…but he couldn't stop. Something had taken hold—something he'd been pressing down so hard for so long that he felt he might burst if it didn't come out.
"You're the one who betrayed me, remember? So don't come crying to me about trust when you're the one who threw it away! You aren't the same anymore, Sam, and we both know it!" The words burned his throat like acid, but Dean's tongue wouldn't quell. "You're distracted, and angry, and to be frank I don't know what the hell to do about it anymore! You don't think there's a reason things are different between us? You don't think there's a reason Lucifer wants you as his meatsuit?"
Something in Sam's eyes broke just then, and with it, Dean felt his heart go cold. He swallowed dryly as the silence seemed to press in. What had just happened? What had he just done?
He searched for words, groping for anything that could mend the wound he'd just ripped open. "Look, Sammy, I didn't mean it…I'm sorry. I'm just—"
"Don't, Dean," Sam stopped him with a raised hand. "Just…don't."
There was another heavy silence. Sam wasn't looking at him anymore, but Dean knew his brother well enough to recognize the line of tension that marked his shoulders for what it was. He'd hurt Sam, that much was clear. How much though, he couldn't say. But there was nothing for it. He was sorry he'd said those things, but that didn't make the words any less true. When he'd told Cas that everything was falling apart…he hadn't been lying.
Sam cleared his throat awkwardly. "I may have made some mistakes before…but at least I've never given up. I never stopped trying." There was a pregnant pause. "I've never wanted to say yes."
There was a moment where Dean's entire body seized—where the dark thing inside him bowed up with a livid snarl. He had deserved the blow, but that didn't make the pain of it any less. Briefly, he wondered how much of his anger stemmed from the curse, but more so…he wondered how much of it didn't.
"Give me until tomorrow, Sam" Dean's voice was as soft and cool as a winter wind. "I'll tell you tomorrow."
Sam stared at him for a long while, searching for something Dean was sure he would never find, before nodding and turning to leave the room. The last moments between them were filled with the sound of creaking hinges and a metal lock settling in the tumbler.
Dean stared at the door, feeling it mock him with its rigid silence. Blowing out a breath of agitation, Dean threw himself back on the bed, trying to calm the frenzy in his mind. Tomorrow. What was he going to tell Sam?
A lie, most likely. What other choice did he have?
He knew it was wrong. He knew Sam could help him with something like this in ways no one else could. He knew…but he couldn't tell him…he couldn't…
My lust and your chastity. Those two are the only pair that requires real direct contact.
Dean felt his cheeks heat despite himself. He turned, burying his face into his pillow. How could he possibly tell Sam about something like that? It was bad enough knowing he would have to endure it himself—knowing that the longer this curse went on, the worse it would get. As if it wasn't already unbearable. Ignore it though he had tried, just being in the same room as the angel had been—Dean grimaced—distracting. And when they had touched…the fire…
Dean buried his face deeper into the quilted down.
Made all the worse because he knew Cas could feel it too. He knew. Dean had always felt a certain underlying connection with Cas—deny it though he had tried. It had always been there, lying just beneath the surface, and he'd come to terms with it. Whether it was because of Hell or something else, he didn't know…he'd never wanted to think about that part But whatever connection he had felt with the angel before paled in comparison to what he felt now. It was like walking from a dimmed room out into the blazing sun. Everything Cas felt during their conversation had slammed against Dean's senses like a wave, so hard and fast Dean hadn't a hope of processing it all. Much less filtering between Cas' feelings and his own.
What was he going to do? Dean gave an exasperated sigh. What in the world was he going to do?
But Cas had said that all curses could be broken. If that was true, then they would figure it out. Somehow.
Dean let his mind wander in the silence of the night. Every part of him felt heavy; every limb weighted by this new plague that was draped over him now. The marks that covered his body made his skin tingle with a soft heat. He could trace each one—run along its twists and turns and somehow know its name. If that wasn't freaky he didn't know what was. Humility, patience, temperance, chastity…all of the things he had to be…all of the things he wasn't now.
Was he fooling himself, thinking he could do this? Maybe…but…
Dean raised his head, his thoughts turning like gears. Maybe if they could find the angel that cursed Cas, and capture him like they had Raphael…maybe they could get the curse removed.
That could just work.
Why couldn't it? If they angel knew the spell to cast this thing, why wouldn't he know the counter spell to it?
In the morning he could ask Cas…there had to be a way. There had to be.
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