Beneath My Feet

Chapter 7

For the second time that night, the three Winchesters heard the crashing impact of metal and concrete shattering the dusty air as the elevator hit rock bottom. This, though, made the first collision seem like a pale indifferent rehearsal: it seared their eardrums with its sound, and powerful vibrations pushed up through their feet. For several seconds afterwards, none of them could hear at all, and they watched numbly as the frayed ends of the cables swung erratically in the empty shaft.

Dean shifted awkwardly where he lay on the floor, half on top of his father in a tangle of arms and legs. He felt more battered, he thought, than he ever had in his short but remarkably eventful life. And so tired… His thoughts were hazy, interspersed with the dull persistent throbbing of his injured arm. His eyelids were heavy, several tons each, and unwilling to maintain the effort of holding up, now that he was safely back under his family's watchful eye. Sleep sounded so good. But the arm was a problem: it's throbbing was insistent, and the sharp, searing quality of the pangs wasn't diminishing, even so long after he had fallen.

Sam was twittering, nearby, clearly worried. Dean knew he had to open his eyes; it wasn't fair to let Sammy worry. He groaned. His eyelids were so heavy…

He managed a sort of reverse blink, opening his eyes for an instant and flicking them closed again. Sam's pale face was swaying strangely above him, as if his little brother was attempting some hypnotic tribal dance. He wondered why Sam would choose a time like this to do something so random. Intrigued, he tried again to open his eyes.

'Sammy…?' he mumbled, blinking rapidly, and trying to sit up. 'Why are you dancing?'

'What?' Sam asked, looking at him wide-eyed, as though afraid his brother had gone insane.

Dean blinked a few more times, and Sam steadied a little. He realised that the floor had been swaying just as much as Sammy had. 'Never mind…' he said.

Sam frowned, but he let it go. John's face appeared next to Sam's, also looking concerned, though his face gave away considerably less than Sam's. 'Arm looks pretty banged up, Dean. Think we'd better take you to ER…'

'No… can't you set it? I'll be fine…'

'Dean are you sure…? You seem pretty out of it, maybe you're concussed…' Sam put in. Dean scowled. Ganging up on me when I'm injured is so not fair play…

Dean struggled valiantly, and eventually managed to sit up, conscious of the critical eyes of his father and brother, assessing his efforts. 'I'm fine,' he repeated, trying to smile. He did feel better; the world had stopped swaying, and his arm was beginning to go numb by this stage. He tried to look alert, surreptitiously hugging his arm against him as he looked up at John.

'So, what was the bad guy?' he asked, in as close to a bright voice as he could manage.

'Reaper,' John replied. Dean blinked in confusion. 'Renegade,' his father clarified. He'd never been a man of many words. Dean nodded slowly. It made some kind of sense, when reconciled with what the ghost had said to him.

'Dad, let's go,' Sam murmured. He sounded agitated: the events of the night had stripped him of his pretensions to adulthood, and his voice unashamedly stated that he was uncomfortable in this place; he wanted to leave it and all its terrors behind.

Dean felt a similar nagging awkwardness, in the back of his mind. Even purged of its ghostly inhabitants, the building felt spooky. It was probably the neglected and impersonal decor.

Dean nodded in agreement, and clumsily scrambled to his feet, aided dubiously by Sam's grip on his upper arm. John followed the boys' slow but reasonably steady progress down six sets of stairs: the elevator, of course, no longer being an option, even if it hadn't been broken beyond repair.

He listened with a strange mixture of emotions to their soft bickering. He felt proud of them, though neither had distinguished themselves particularly well on this hunt. And he felt powerful affection for them, tinged with amusement. He also felt regret, because he knew that they had both suffered in the course of the night. He knew he had asked a lot of them, and he knew too that he would do so again, and again, and they wouldn't complain. His pride was tainted with guilt, because he knew that they could suffer a lot more before it would make him stop hunting. He wasn't sure how that reflected on him, but he didn't like it much at all.

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Stumbling sleepily down the long staircase, the brothers slipped into their natural state of gentle argument.

'Sam, you don't have to hold on to me. I'm fine. Get off me, man. I'm not an invalid.'

'Don't do that again, Dean.'

'Do what? I don't see how any of this was my fault…'

'Just… you scared me.'

'No... a renegade reaper or whatever the hell it was, that scared you. I was just caught in the crossfire.'

'Well, be more careful in future.'

'Right'

A pause.

'Is your arm ok?'

'Yeah.'

'Really?'

'Hurts like hell.'

'Thought so.'

'Don't tell Dad.'

'Why won't you go to the hospital, you freak?'

'Shut up, Sammy.'

Sam sighed, exasperatedly. 'You're impossible.'

'You wouldn't want me any other way.'

'Don't bet on it.'

Another pause.

'Hey Dean? Your French teacher's gonna call Dad. You didn't do your homework again.'

'So not my fault!'

'Yeah, but what are you going to tell her?'

Dean bit his lip. 'At least I learnt the meaning of décès. It's gotta be better than nothing.'

'Enough to make up for six weeks of assignments?'

'At least'

Sam sniggered. Then he stopped, and reflected. After a moment he said, 'You ever thought that we're living two different lives here?'

Dean frowned at his little brother. He knew it wasn't easy for Sam, the reconciliation of school life and hunting. 'Nah,' he replied, catching his brother's eye. 'We're just leading one, but it's more interesting than other people's.'

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Sorry for slow update, hope that was a satisfying ending! Reviews would be nice: I am, as somebody put it, a review junkie! lol

xXx Thanks for reading!