I must warn you folks... I'm rusty. Also, there are LOTS of spoilers in this thing for the whole of season 10 (up until the aired episodes), particularly episode 18, so if you haven't seen it yet, beware!
The story is mostly beta-ed by the wonderful jackfan2, and I say mostly because the very last part is a surprise for her, so she hasn't read it yet. Thank you so much, my friend! Needless to say, all remaining mistakes are Crowley's fault ;)
Oh... and another thing. There are some really nasty moments in this story pertaining suicide and death. So, again, beware.
Other than that, please, ENJOY!
Book of Life
It is said that God has a strange sense of humor. For the Winchesters, the joke was getting old.
Since the very start of their existence, Sam and Dean had been used and abused as puppets in a game that had begun so long ago that ancient papyrus had to be used to tell its beginning.
Ancient papyrus. Not even regular, just plain old papyrus. They had to be An-ci-ent and in a language that almost no one could even read.
In the quiet of the night, each nursing the third glass of Scotch, with nothing but that yellow, dusty light that came from very old lamps to see each other’s brooding faces, Sam and Dean could only agree. Their lives were fucked up.
Angels had plotted their conception, making sure that not only John and Mary met, but that they would fall in love with each other.
Demons had schemed to make sure that, after being born, Sam and Dean were put in the right path to fulfill their destiny.
And both Angels and Demons had actually joined forces and nearly turned the world upside down to make sure that Michael, Lucifer, Dean and Sam filled their roles.
And they had. Heaven, Hell and every being that existed in between should know that Sam and Dean had met their fate. Perhaps not in the way that had been written in those Ancient papyrus texts, but in their own way, the way wrote their own lives.
And the cost had been too grand to even measure. Blood, death, pain and tears and still fate wasn’t done with them.
This right now? This whole latest mess that the Winchesters had to solve? This was just long overdue interest in a debt that most of Mankind wasn’t even aware to owe.
The Book of the Dammed had only been the beginning. But Dean had been right. That book was not the answer.
Because Dean, being the righteous man who had been born and bred to become an archangel’s vessel, could not be put in the same pot as the rest of mortals. Fate, that perniciously vicious bitch, had made sure of that.
No, Dean had a special book all to himself, and a few other unlucky bastards. The Book of Life, a compilation of names, procedures and spells for righteous humans.
Sam had actually smiled when the Book of the Dammed revealed that little tidbit and he had hoped, for one short second, that this revelation was going to make their task easier.
He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. The solution for Dean’s problem was so straightforward and simple that a child could’ve guessed it.
But like all things that truly matter and are worthy, it would require strength and courage above any ever seen. And courage was something that the Winchesters found themselves currently running short.
Courage, yes. Because being fearless is for those who have nothing to lose and the ‘cure’ that the Book of Life presented for the Mark of Cain was one that could make Sam and Dean lose everything they held dear. So, understandably, both were paralyzed with fear.
The Mark had been born out of sin and shame, as Cain took the life of his own flesh and blood and murdered Abel.
To unmake it, there was only one way out. The one with the Mark would have to give life to his own flesh and blood.
It was as simple as that. To be free of the Mark, Dean would have to lay down his life to save a dying Sam.
“I won’t let you do it,” Sam muttered, as if alcohol would make it sound any different from the last five times he had said those words since they had sat down in that gloomy room. Looking up from the glass clenched in his hands, Sam searched Dean’s face, wondering if his eyes looked as red and teary as his brother’s.
Dean nodded in agreement, taking a slow sip from his glass. “I won’t let you do it either,” he said. It was the exact same answer he had given before. The ice floating in the amber liquid clattered as the older Winchester’s hands shook, but he didn’t look like someone who was going to change his mind anytime soon.
It was a discussion without words taking place between two people who were in absolute agreement with each other and neither wanted the other to change his mind. But they had to, they knew that.
“Cain warned me that this would end the same way it began,” Dean said after a while, not meeting Sam’s eyes. “He... he told me that, eventually, I would lose control over the Mark and kill everyone close to me. Crowley, Cass,...” his voice faltered as he forced himself to look up. “You.”
Sam bit his lip, willing his emotions to stay out of way. “Dean...”
“And we both know that there is no point in me turning the blade on myself,” Dean added in a rush, pretending not to hear the plea in Sam’s voice. “Because that would only turn me into a demon faster and we both know where that road leads...”
“Dean,” Sam whispered, setting his glass aside as he got up to come closer to his brother. “I don’t want you to lose you, and I can’t bear to watch you become a demon again...”
... but we both know that is exactly what will happen if we don’t do something soon.
Dean nodded again, swiping a quick finger under his eyes to wipe away his emotions. “I don’t want to die, and I can’t bear to watch you die again...”
... but the thing that would kill me would be for you to die at my hands and I’m wiling to do anything to stop that from happening.
They were cornered and both knew it even as they had opened that bottle of Scotch and poured the first drink hours ago. There was only one way to go and neither wanted to take the first step in that direction.
Dean emptied his glass in one swallow and got to his feet, side by side with his brother. “So,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion, “how do we tackle this bitch?”
As strange as it sounded, breaking the curse wouldn’t be as simple as Dean pushing Sam out of the way of a speeding train. It would take something a bit more elaborate than that and both brothers’ knew it.
‘Fortunately’ for them, the Book of Life came with elaborate instructions.
“We’re gonna need Cass around to do this,” Dean concluded, reading the words one more time, hoping that he had misinterpreted their meaning the previous ten times.
Sam, sitting by his side, nodded. Even with the, now fully restored, angel’s help, it was going to be a gruesome business. Bloody and painful. “Wanna try and call out to him, for good old times’ sake?” Sam offered, the smile on his lips hardly matching the sadness in his eyes. If what they were about to do went just the slightest bit sideways, ‘good old times’ sake’ would be all that he would have left.
Dean smiled, closing his eyes. There was a time, long ago, when he had felt uncomfortable with the link between himself and the angel who had rescued him from Hell, a time when such connection had felt like an intrusion on his privacy. Now, all that Dean felt as he focused his inner thoughts on the stranger who had become such a good friend, were nostalgia and affection.
The angel arrived carrying the First Blade in his hand and a frown on his face, an expression that only became deeper as he looked at length each Winchester in turn. “I will not take part in this insane plan of yours.”
“Don’t say you don’t like it ‘til you’ve tasted it,” Dean mockingly admonished, the joyful words in his mouth barely masking the vile taste at what they were about to do.
Castiel ignored Dean, something that he’d begun taking full advantage of ever since he learned how. “Sam, how could you have agreed with such an idea? Are you not aware of the consequences of such a course of action?”
Sam nodded, facing the stern look on the angel’s face with one of his own. “Trust me, if we knew of any another way around this, neither of us would be doing it,” he said, allowing Castiel to see how much it pained him to be in such position. “The question is... will you leave us to do it on our own, or will you stand by us?”
Castiel fisted his hands and for one second, Sam and Dean were sure that the angel was going to punch one of them, possibly both.
“What do you need me to do?”
It wasn’t a goodbye party. For one, none of them was anywhere near a partying mood and secondly, saying goodbye meant that they had stopped believing that they could get through this unscathed. So, they weren’t doing that.
It was just pizza and beer with good friends, family. There was music playing in the background, but not one of the three men gathered around the table was really listening to it.
Castiel chewed on his piece of pizza like a man on a mission, his intense blue eyes mesmerized by Sam and Dean’s behavior. The Winchesters were both laughing like little kids because Dean had stolen two of Castiel’s pepperoni slices and had arranged them in the most obscene way around one of his red peppers.
The same men who had risked their lives time and time again for the good of others, the same brothers who were about to do something so horrific and atrocious that Castiel wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy, were laughing like two teenage boys about a phallic shape on food.
It wasn’t the first time that Castiel witnessed such behavior from his friends. Not necessarily the playing-with-food thing, but the acting-like-nothing-was-wrong-in-the-fac
Within his garrison, Castiel had become accustomed to a different type of attitude on the eve of battle. Each angel would retreat to its private quarters to meditate and, for some, to receive revelation on what was about to come.
But they were all immortal beings fighting on ethereal planes and even though the possibility of death still existed, it was to them as foreign as the concept of love or loss.
Sam and Dean’s dismissal of incoming doom, grave danger and the possibility of death wasn’t because of any degree of ignorance on their part. It was, in fact, because they both knew too much about love and loss.
Try as he might to join in their play, however, Castiel found he could not. All he could focus on was that, by the time all of the pizza was gone and the last of the beers had been emptied, Sam and Dean would kill themselves and he, and angel, because he was above all else their friend, had agreed to help them.
They decided to set up shop in the Impala. It wasn’t the most practical of places, but Sam had seen the look of longing in Dean’s eyes when he had casually made the suggestion. It wasn’t casual and it certainly wasn’t just a suggestion. In Sam’s heart, he had always known that the Impala was the place he would want to die.
Dean drove the car outside and parked it on the top of the hill, facing east. “Ready?” he asked without looking at Sam. “You know, if you wanna change your mind, now is the time to do it.”
Sam actually smiled. That was his big brother right there, right to the end making sure that Sam -not Dean, who had the higher risk at stake- was ok. If there were times in his life when such a sentiment had left Sam with an overwhelming desire to punch the lights out of his over-protective, loaf of a brother, right now there was only thing that he wanted to do. “I love you,” he said, reaching over and pulling Dean into a hug. “Even if you are and have always been, a jerk.”
Beneath his arms, Sam could feel Dean tense and start to pull back. He pressed harder until he could feel his brother relax in his hold. How far apart had they become that Dean would fight him in this final hug?
“I love you too,” Dean whispered, his mouth pressed against Sam’ shoulder, finally relaxing into the embrace. “Now lemme go, bitch.”
They were both smiling when they sat straight in their seats and looked outside. Castiel was standing in front of the car, guarding them as he had promised to do.
“Here goes nothing,” Sam said, his voice trembling with emotion. His hands, however, were steady as he took a deep breath and pressed the tip of his blade against one wrist and started slicing up. Sweat pooled around his neck and Sam bit on his lips to stop himself from making a sound. Sitting beside him, Dean was already twisting and contorting from the sight, and Sam hadn’t even started on his other arm.
The faster he bled out, the less they both had to suffer.
As he switched hands and was forced to grasp the knife with his bleeding hand, Sam couldn’t help the whimper that escaped his lips. His heart was thundering in his ears in tempo with his racing heart but even so he could hear Dean punching the Impala’s steering wheel in angry frustration.
“Sammy...” Dean whispered, his eyes swimming in tears. “Please, stop. I can’t do this, I can’t watch this.”
Sam panicked as he watched Dean cover his bloody hands with his own. If Dean chose to stop him now, Sam had no strength left to oppose him and everything would be lost. “It’s the... only... way,” Sam managed to say, to plead. Already his vision was growing dark and his fingers, still stubbornly holding the knife against his skin, felt rubbery and cold. He couldn’t move. “I need... your help... can’t...”
With no stamina left to raise his own head, Sam could only hear Dean gasp and swear, sobs mixing with mumbled words. At last, Sam felt strong, warm fingers covering his cold ones and forcing the blade the rest of the way up. The relief almost made him pass out. “Thank... you...”
Dean could barely see his brother through the curtain of tears. He had been raised by his father believing that a man showed no weakness in front of others, that a true man kept his feelings inside and shed his tears in privacy. He had no quells about sobbing like a small child as he watched his brother bleed to death in the seat beside him. “I’m so sorry, Sammy,” he whispered, over and over. “So sorry, so sorry...”
“Dean.” The voice had come from the angel outside the car but Dean had heard it clear and crispy inside his head. In front of the windshield, Castiel’s face was as gray as stone, his fists balled inside the pockets, physically restraining himself from acting on his feelings. “It’s time.”
Dean sniffed and looked at his brother. Sam’s eyes were closed and his breathing was so shallow that his chest barely rose at all. Picking the First Blade from where it rested on his lap, Dean held Sam’s hand one last time. The call of the Blade became almost silent under the grief of what he’d just put his brother though.
The instructions were simple enough. One brother had to be close to death before the one bearing the Mark could offer his life to save him.
Now, all Dean had to do was set his blood free and the Mark should do the rest and bring Sam back. Castiel was there just in case they had missed some fine print and the deal wasn’t as straightforward as it had sounded.
“Remember, Cass,” Dean said out loud, even though he knew the angel could hear his every thought. “Wait until I’m... gone,” he fumbled, his hand shaking around the ancient blade, “and then bring him back up, no matter what.”
“Dean,” Castiel started, going no further as he watched Dean slowly lose his battle with the pulling of the Blade. I will bring you both back, I promise.
Dean looked at him one last time, the goodbye in his eyes impossible to miss. We both know you can’t.
Before Castiel could say or think anything else, Dean grabbed the Blade with both hands and plunged it into his heart.
Dean’s anguished cry mingled with Castiel’s, both in pain and loss.
The angel felt like a fool. Old as time as he was, and still he’d allowed a mortal to play him like an idiot. Castiel had been under the impression that Dean would merely injure himself enough for his life force to replace Sam’s. He should’ve known that Dean was not one to take any chances and would go all the way in rather than risk Sam dying before himself. A blade through the heart would surely guarantee that, even if Dean was, at the moment, immortal.
“You idiot,” Castiel muttered as he neared the Impala, not really sure if the words were for Dean or himself.
Inside the car, the vision was gruesome. Sam, his head fallen against the window, was as white as chalk except for the splashes of bright red where Dean had touched his face and the pool of blood on his lap.
Beside him, head cradled against the car seat, Dean was sitting straight, the grisly looking bone Blade protruding from his chest like a vile flag. His eyes were blinking, his mouth opened like a fish out of the water.
Castiel opened the door on Dean’s side, his hand set on taking that ungodly thing from his friend’s chest. It was more than what he could take, it was more than what he had promised to do.
A bloody hand shot up and grabbed on to his arm, stopping him. Startled, Castiel looked at Dean. His friend couldn’t speak, couldn’t even form thoughts in his head. There was only one thing the angel could sense and that was pain. Overwhelming pain in every sense of the word.
Dean’s green eyes, however, were as expressive as they had always been and they spoke volumes. Those eyes were begging Castiel to allow this to happen.
No matter how hard he tried, the angel knew that he could not deny his friend’s last wish, no matter how hard that proved to be for himself. In a strange, twisted way, that realization made him feel closer to those two brothers than he ever had before. In that moment, Castiel knew without a shadow of doubt, what it felt like to be a Winchester. So, covering Dean’s bloody hand with his own, Castiel made his promise clear in his eyes. I’ll stand and watch.
Dean smiled and closed his eyes at last. He felt... at peace.
Behind him, Castiel could feel the slow rise of the sun, gently shedding its morning light over the dying Winchesters like the comforting touch of a mother, covering her children in a warm blanket.
Just as Castiel was about to give up that anything would come out of that whole madness, an intense light flooded the inside of the car, obscuring both Winchesters from view.
Castiel held tighter to Dean’s hand, against all sense fearing that the light would steal his friends away.
It was gone as fast as it had begun and had Castiel been human, his eyes would’ve needed a few seconds to be able to see inside the car. As it was, the angel wasted no time accessing the Winchesters.
Sam’s color was back and, to his great relief, Castiel could see the gentle rise and fall of his chest.
Grabbing on to Dean’s lax right arm, Castiel pushed his sleeve up, anxious to see if all that pain and suffering had been for something. For a second the angel thought that all was lost as he gazed at the skin and found the mark still there. Looking deeper, however, Castiel could see that it was now nothing more than a scar on Dean’ skin, the stain on Dean’ soul that used to be attached to it, completely gone.
Dean’ soul was now more clear to the angel than it had ever been, almost detached from its mortal body and suddenly Castiel was very aware of the knife stuck inside Dean’s heart.
Their plan had worked, Sam was out of the woods, but they could still lose Dean. As gently as he could, the angel pulled the blade out, healing his friend’s wound as he went. Heart muscle, lung, ribs, chest muscles, skin, all as careful as if he were caressing a dandelion.
Throwing the cursed blade as far as he could, Castiel watched Dean’s chest, willing it to rise and fall as gently and beautifully as it had been before. As Sam’s was doing now.
Dean, ever the stubborn one, was ignoring the angel.
On his seat, Sam stirred and opened his eyes with a gasp. “Fuck!”
Castiel would’ve smiled at such a ‘Dean’ reaction coming from the usually gentler Sam, but he was currently stressing over the fact that Dean’s heart, despite being fixed and whole, stubbornly refused to do absolutely anything inside Dean’s chest.
“Cass?” Sam whispered, his voice husky and low, his eyes watering as he took in the scene. “Did it work? Is he okay?” he asked even as two of his fingers were pushed against Dean’s neck. Beneath his digits Sam felt nothing. “CASS!!”
“I know, I know,” the angel mumbled, rubbing his hands against the sides of his coat. He was completely at a loss as to what to do. He was an angel, he could heal, he could cure, he could fix a lot of things. Life, however, was not something that he could create or even restore. Not without help from above. “Sam...”
Sam understood the despair in the angel’s voice even as he had opened his mouth. It was a feeling that, at the moment, he shared with all his heart. Franticly searching his mind for a spell, a deal, a bargain, anything that could get Dean back to them, Sam almost banged his head against the windshield when the solution came to him.
“Get him out of the car, now!” Sam beckoned to Castiel, opening his door and running to the other side even as he spoke. Blood that was currently soaking the car seats instead of inside him, rushed out of Sam’s head and he felt the world go dark for a moment. One hand supporting himself on the Impala’s hood, Sam pushed the weakness away. Dean needed him and he needed Dean to be okay. It was a simple as that.
And for that to happen, Sam needed to get to the other side of that car in the next five seconds and start CPR on his brother.
Sam fell to his knees beside Dean on the grass covered floor and started pressing with all of his weight on his brother’s chest. “Push his head back, open his mouth and blow air inside Dean’s mouth when I tell you too,” Sam ordered with more strength than what he currently felt.
Castiel had seen enough TV shows to catch on to what Sam was trying to do. He might’ve needed help from above to give life to someone, but, as he closed his lips around Dean’s, Castiel knew that between him and Sam, they could bring this one life back.
“Auuui!” Dean manly complained as Sam set a breakfast tray on his bed, dramatically grabbing his chest.
Sam gave him a look. “Stop being such a baby, Dean. Cass healed most of the damage,” he reminded his brother.
“Of the blade, yes,” Dean said, keeping his performance of a poor, suffering, wounded man. “Not the bruised ribs from your mammoth paws pressing down on my chest.”
Sam rolled his eyes, unable to keep himself from smiling. For the first couple of days he had felt terribly guilty of the dark bruises on Dean’s chest, an unfortunate consequence of his over-eagerly chest compressions. After a few days of Dean milking that fact as viciously as he could and turning Sam into nothing short of his personal slave, Sam’s guilt was all but gone. “Cass healed that as well,” he reminded his brother. “But if you want me to, I can call him to give you some more mouth-to-mouth.”
Dean visibly shuddered, the action as real as his current illness. “Don’t remind me of that,” he said, the gratitude he felt towards both his saviors coming clear through his voice, despite his words. “Speaking of mr. chapped lips... where is my knight in shinning armor?”
While Sam’s injuries had been taken care of by the removing of the Mark, he could still feel, even now, some soreness in his arms. And even though Castiel had made sure that Dean’s injuries were no longer life threatening, the way Dean behaved, disproportional as it was, couldn’t mask the very real weakness in his movements and soreness in his chest.
So, Sam kept on waiting hand and foot his mostly-faking brother and Castiel...
“He’s upstairs, cleaning the Impala,” Sam supplied, his face turning somber for a second. The inside of the Impala had been a grisly sight by the time they were done with the spell, a sight that Sam would rather never see again.
The look of intense panic that crossed Dean’s face, however, was so genuine and so purely childish that Sam had to laugh. “Don’t worry,” he said, raising a hand to stop his brother from pushing the bed covers away and rushing to the garage to save his ‘baby’. “He said he’d use nothing but his powers. No abrasive products whatsoever.”
Dean leaned back down, reluctantly and slightly pouting. “I swear to you... if I get to my baby and find out that he somehow turned her white... or golden... or some aberration like that...” The shudder that cursed through his body was very much real this time around.
Sam sat on Dean’s bed, shaking his head at the image of a golden Impala. It would be almost as bad as Dean waking up with black eyes again. Even now, Sam needed to peer at his brother’s eyes every once in a while, just to make sure that they were still the right color. “How are you feeling?”
The need to make a joke, to dismiss Sam’s worry and his well being as something inconsequential was something that came naturally to Dean. Now, however, after facing the very real possibility of turning into a demon, of losing himself and killing Sam, Dean felt he lacked the spirit to joke around. “I’m good,” he said, rubbing the raised skin on his right arm, all that he had left from the former presence of the Mark. He looked up at his brother, letting Sam see his eyes, as green as the day he had been born, and smiled. “I’m really good.”