Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or any of the characters.
Summary: After the events of 6x20, Castiel realizes that he was wrong en he comes up with a suicidal plan to fix things by defeating Raphael on his own. When it leaves him human and with a severe stutter, it's up to Dean to forgive him and teach him how to live and to be happy.
A/N: Eventually Destiel.
What if you knew that this day, this very day, would be the last one on which you had a voice? The last day on which you were able to control your words, have them flow from your mouth and be completely in command of language?
What would you say?
Would you say goodbye to your friends and family? Tell them all the things you normally never had the courage or the eloquence for? Or would you keep your final sayings to yourself, cherishing the feeling of words, mere words, rolling from your tongue?
What would you choose?
Castiel stared at his hands. Dean, it is not broken. That was the last thing he'd said to his friend, but in the hours that had passed, doubt had crept into his mind and set up camp there. Castiel was not unfamiliar with doubt. It had been the first emotion he'd ever consciously experienced. It had led the way to rebellion, to humanity, to exile and to friendship. He owed much to doubt.
Doubt and Dean had always walked hand-in-hand together. Dean had initiated and cultivated doubt within Castiel. Perhaps because he was so connected with it himself. Dean doubted his own strength, his own worthiness and even his salvation from hell. Ironically, the only thing Dean had never doubted, until recently, was Castiel himself.
It was quite possible that that realization was what changed his mind. It happened rather suddenly. After hours of hesitation, switching sides and calling to the heavens for consultation, the truth was oddly clear. It was broken. But he could fix it.
The plan itself was remarkably easy to construe. Castiel was good at strategizing and it pleased him to visit the familiar paths of ideas and consequences, without regarding emotions and all they entailed.
The ritual that could prove to be his saviour and to which his mind now wandered, was ancient. It hadn't been performed since biblical times. He had not given it much thought until this very moment, because his actions these last months had been motivated by selfishness, while this plan required the exact opposite. The power of a sacrifice had always been important in religion. Abraham had been tested by his God when challenged to slaughter his only child upon an altar. God had sent his son down to earth to die for the sins of men. The power of a willing sacrifice was immense and could be harnessed to destroy darkness. It was what Castiel needed.
Calling Raphael down to an empty warehouse would not be difficult. A simple summoning would do the trick. Raphael would not come alone, of course, but Castiel was not intending to overpower him. Instead, he would allow himself to be captured and surrendered onto Raphael's mercy. The ritual, performed prior to the archangel's arrival, would ensure that Castiel's destruction would not be in vain. Raphael would burn with him.
Part of Castiel wanted to return to Dean immediately and tell him that he understood now and that he was going to fix it. He still craved for Dean's approval, for approval of any kind, really, because it had been absent for as long as his Father had been. But Castiel saw that approval or even absolution was not something he deserved now. Dean had always believed in actions rather than words and Castiel would show him.
Faint lines on his chest reminded him of the last time he'd had to cut a sigil in his own flesh. Actually, it was Dean who had cut it then. He'd taken the knife from Castiel, sat him down with his back against a wall and while Castiel had closed his eyes, Dean's motions had been quick and deliberate. It hadn't been painless, but the steadying hand on his shoulder had given him something to focus on.
It was different now.
The ritual he needed to brand himself a sacrifice and vanquish Raphael with the power that it brought forth, was composed in four different languages. All words needed to be present on his skin. That way, the person performing the ritual could demonstrate that his sacrifice was genuine and not motivated by personal gain. No-one else could do it for him.
Slowly, he took off the trench coat and dropped it on the floor. The jacket followed. His hands shook slightly as he clumsily undid the buttons of his dress shirt. He was acutely aware of the cold steel on his chest as he started with the Enochian. The concentration the carving required masked some of the pain and he spoke the words out loud to distract himself, but by the time he finished the first part, he was breathing hard. He drew some comfort from the sound the Enochian syllables made as they rang through the empty space. It was the language of his home, after all. It was the first tongue he had been taught.
Next was Hebrew. More mysterious, less familiar than Enochian. It reminded him of the Bible, of the Word, of long gone times in which everything was so much simpler and so much less confounding. The words received their place on his stomach and the blood dripped downwards, staining his dark slacks.
Ancient Greek was diverse, unique and wonderful. Castiel liked how it was still able to surprise him, even though he knew all its words by heart. He spoke it the way they had in the centuries before Christ, allowing his voice to rise and fall in pitch at every accented syllable. It was somewhere between singing and chanting, unlike any modern language. It graced his left arm.
Wielding the knife with his left hand while adding the final characters to his right arm, was more difficult. The last language was Latin, which seemed only fitting. It was the language of the church, more grave and official than Greek. Its seriousness seemed appropriate to the current situation. It belonged in court rooms, in ceremonies, in epigrams. Perhaps also in last stands.
It hurt to put his clothes back on. The white shirt quickly soaked red, but with his jacket on, the blood was not visible. He shrugged on the trench coat with halted movements. Regretfully, he stuffed his tie in the pocket of his coat, unable to tie it himself like Jimmy Novak had done almost three years ago and also Dean, on multiple occasions.
Summoning Raphael was easy compared to the preparations the ritual required. Waiting for him to appear was the hard part. Castiel thought of his friends, miles away, completely unaware and probably sleeping. He'd grown used to companionship over the last years. Of having a phone in his pocket and people to call.
A silent rustle of air behind him made him spin around. He still found it an odd experience to see Raphael in his female vessel. It was unusual for an angel to change the gender of his or her vessel, but he guessed that there were not many humans capable of containing the power of an archangel and that therefore Raphael's choice of available men had been scarce.
"Raphael." He didn't bother acknowledging the two angels that were standing just behind Raphael. They were clearly his guard and were, what would Dean probably call, 'hammers'.
"You have some nerve, calling me down here." Raphael stepped forward and Castiel had to keep himself from stepping back. "What is keeping me from smiting you right now?"
"I wished to speak with you."
"Do your pet-hunters know you're here? Or your demon-friend, if my information is correct? Really, Castiel, you have surprised me. I always thought you were so … righteous. But I guess everybody has their price, don't they?" Raphael sneered, the lips of his vessel curling in contempt.
The words hit him hard and he averted his eyes for a moment. Then, gathering himself once more, he said: "I'll give you control over Heaven, over the holy host, everything, if you just avert the Apocalypse. Leave Lucifer and Michael where they are and put an end to this."
"Castiel, when I told you everyone had their price, I myself am no exception. But I can tell you that you haven't found it yet. I will not avert the Apocalypse, just because you ask me to." He came up to Castiel, their faces only inches apart. "But you knew that, didn't you? So what are you really here for, brother?"
There was a moment of utter silence, broken eventually by soft words, barely audible to Raphael. "I'm tired."
"Of running." His voice gained a bit of strength. "I'm tired of running. I want it to be over."
"You're giving up?" Raphael's voice gained an edge of incredulity. When Castiel didn't reply, he continued: "This is your last stand?"
A short nod. It wasn't even a lie.
"And you expect mercy from me?" Raphael questioned, a cruel smile playing around his lips.
Castiel finally made eye-contact. "I am not foolish."
"Then what? A swift death?"
"Perhaps." Castiel reached inside his old trench coat and pulled out his angelic sword. The first gleam of silver made Raphael step backward, while the angels behind him drew their own blades. Castiel made no effort to attack, though, and merely dropped the blade onto the ground. It rolled forward, coming to a standstill against Raphael's shoes. Oddly enough, he felt no remorse parting with it.
Raphael kicked the blade away, approached once more and began circling Castiel. "You rebelled against heaven. You betrayed your Father and your brothers. You've thwarted me and disobeyed. You've lowered yourself to working with a demon. What makes you think you deserve my mercy?"
Castiel looked at the floor in shame. He was a poor shadow of an angel, a disappointment to humans and celestials alike.
Raphael's next words were a whisper very close to his ear. "I'm sorry, Castiel, but I'm going to make an example out of you."
When the two other angels suddenly appeared next to him and grabbed his arms, Castiel didn't struggle. He bit his tongue to keep himself from crying out as they unknowingly put their hands on the cuts underneath his clothes. Raphael, meanwhile, had unsheathed his own sword.
Castiel screamed. He screamed with all his might, he screamed until he was hoarse, he screamed without any hope of being heard or rescued. He screamed for the sake of screaming. The pain was unlike anything he'd ever felt. It pierced him, setting all his neurons on fire, drowning his brain in agony. Sam and Dean gritted their teeth when in pain and usually prevented any sound from passing their lips in order to seem tough and unyielding. Castiel had no such inhibitions.
He was dimly aware of being dropped to the ground and lying there, gasping for air. Then the next invasion came and it was worse than the blade in his body. That had been mere physical torture. He now felt Raphael in his mind, his presence like a battering ram, destroying random memories until it found his Grace. Then Raphael's fingers were touching it, grabbing it, pulling it in an effort to rip it out.
Castiel fought. He'd completely forgotten his dedication to being the sacrifice needed to vanquish Raphael. The necessity of giving up his Grace was lost to him and he reacted with primal emotion to protect the core part of himself. But Raphael was so much stronger and Castiel was failing. Inch by inch, he felt his Grace being torn out, leaving him cold and hollow. He held on with all his might. He heard Raphael telling him that he deserved this, that this was his punishment and for the first time in his life, Castiel was crying, yet clinging to that last bit of light.
Then he heard a voice, loud and clear in the darkness. It was neither his own, nor Raphael's. Let go. It'll be alright, Castiel. Just let go. It was surprise rather than conscious action that made his fingers lose their grip on his Grace. With a cry of triumph, Raphael succeeded and Castiel whimpered, too tired to do anything else, as he lost himself.
Raphael laughed, but it lasted only seconds. Castiel didn't open his eyes. Through a haze of pain, he vaguely recalled what was supposed to happen next and it wasn't the last thing he wanted to see in his life. The ritual worked. Castiel had made his sacrifice and it was about to backfire. Raphael enjoyed his victory for a few short moments, before he burned. Every cell of Raphael's vessel combusted and his Grace, too, went up in flames. His screams of agony did not last long and soon, there was nothing left of him but ashes, spread out as wings on the floor. The guards disappeared, the shock of seeing their leader falling being enough to drive them from the building. The warehouse was drowned in silence as Castiel's consciousness faded away. At the same time, miles away, Dean Winchester woke from a dream filled with screaming.
Castiel regained awareness very slowly. One by one, all his senses came back to him and came back heightened. He was conscious of the sound of his own breathing, felt soft sheets with which he was covered and worked up to opening his eyes. What surprised him most – apart from the remarkable fact that he was able to wake up at all – was the complete absence of physical pain. There was nothing to mask the hollowness of his missing grace.
His eyes needed a moment to adjust to the semi-darkness of what seemed to be a cheap motel room. Soon, though, he was able to discern a figure sitting at his bedside. He recognized the man immediately, but it took a while before his muddled brain was capable of producing the name. Sam. Sam Winchester. He tried to sit up.
"Cas!" Sam sprang into action. "Hey, calm down! Calm down. You're safe. We found you. Are you hurt? What happened?"
Sam's hands were on his body, trying to keep him still and suddenly, the memories of the previous nights came crashing back to him in reverse order. Raphael burning. The ritual. Being alone. Dean. He remembered all of it.
He pushed Sam's hands away and tried to speak. Distressed children cried for their mothers, angels for their Father and Castiel intended to call for Dean. But when he tried to form the name, it was as if the air stuck in his throat and he was unable to make a sound. He attempted again and the same thing happened. It felt like choking and Castiel panicked. The effort to speak quickly turned into a struggle to breathe.
"Cas!" Sam said again hurriedly. "Calm down. You're with us. It's okay. Dean!" He turned around and yelled at another figure, sitting several feet behind him with his back towards the bed. "Dean, he's panicking!"
Dean turned reluctantly, but when he saw that Sam wasn't exaggerating and that Castiel was gasping for air, he was at his side in an instant. "Cas, Cas, I'm here." Sam gave him a bit of space and Dean grabbed Castiel's shoulders tightly. "Deep breath. Deep breath, come on. That's it. You're doing fine. No, don't try to speak. Breathe in, come on. Good."
Castiel breathed. It was easy, really. He'd been doing it for years. Then again, the same thing was true for speaking. Dean's hands were still on his shoulders. He noticed he was wearing clothes that weren't his own. A short-sleeved shirt that was slightly too big for him showed that his arms were completely free of the cuts the ritual had required.
"D- D- D-" He was producing sound now and that, in itself, was a relief. His vocal cords were intact. But he still got stuck on the first letter of the name, incapable of finishing it.
"Cas," Dean warned, trying to prevent him from hyperventilating again.
"D-D-D-D-D-D-D-Dea-Dean. Dean." He managed it and drew in a big gulp of air at the end of the word.
"Take it easy, alright?" Dean told him. "Are you hurt?"
Castiel shook his head. He tried to add a verbal 'no', but his throat seemed to block again.
"Are you human?"
Castiel looked away, a pang of regret piercing him somewhere near his heart. He quickly tried to push the pain away. Even if his voice had been working properly, he wasn't sure if he'd have been able to reply to that.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Dean said. His voice was oddly blank and Castiel realized that Dean was still angry at him. "Do you remember what happened? Because I just know that I woke up with you screaming in my head. It took us three days to find the warehouse I saw in my dream, another one for you to wake up after we brought you here. We saw wings on the floor in the place where we found you. I take it they were Raphael's?"
"Did you and Crowley do this?"
Castiel shook his head. Dean's rapid questioning didn't allow him to make an another attempt at speech.
"No Crowley? Why not?"
Castiel shook his head again. He took a deep breath and once more, his voice seemed to block. Eventually, he got a few sounds out. "W-w-w-w-w-w-was … bro-bro-bro-broken."
Dean sighed and a bit of the cold fury seemed to leave him. "Yeah. Yeah, it was. Does it hurt to speak?"
It didn't. He wanted to explain to Dean how his voice didn't do what he wanted, how he was blocked, until he was repeating a syllable over and over to get the word out. But that would take too long.
Dean understood anyway. "It's just hard, right? Don't worry. You probably need to adjust to being human. But I have to know what happened in that warehouse, Cas."
So Castiel told him. It was a slow story, without complete sentences or correct grammar. Mostly words, but Dean knew what he meant. Broken. Ritual. Sacrifice. Raphael. Pain. Human. Fixed it. Castiel's speech didn't seem to get better, just more laboured as he spoke.
Dean clenched his fists and his next words were harsh and angry again. "This was not fixing it, Cas." When Castiel physically recoiled, he elaborated. "We were supposed to do this together! I didn't want you to sacrifice yourself, to give up being angel for this! Jesus, Cas, we'd have found a way! Why didn't you come to me?"
Castiel had no more words and Dean got up from the bed. When he walked away, Castiel helplessly turned to Sam. Sam gave him a sympathetic look. "Try to get some rest, okay? We're not going anywhere."
Castiel sank back in the unfamiliar cushions. He was weary, barely able to keep his eyes open. And right now, there seemed little point in trying anyway.