Author's note: Thanks for everyone who kindly reviewed, despite the problems with the chapters on the site this week! Hope you've enjoyed it.. Here's the final chapter :)
"Do you think we're nearly there yet?" said Dean, for the third time in ten minutes.
Sam counted to twenty in his head and reminded himself why he couldn't leave his brother down there for the rest of eternity.
"Which bit of 'I have no idea' wasn't clear the first two times?" said Sam evenly.
"Well excuse me for living." muttered Dean under his breath.
Sam sighed. They were both tired, battered, had pounding headaches and were still stuck underground with one flashlight between them. They really needed to take a deep breath before they ended up taking it out on each other. The one downside to having such a close relationship was that they knew each other so well they could push each other's buttons with ease. And words spoken between them in anger had a capacity to inflict pain far greater than any monster or demon ever could. It was strange considering how closely they'd grown up together, how closely they lived together now, but they'd only really had a handful of true fights over the years. And Sam could remember vividly every one and regretted every word spoken during them.
Taking a deep breath he stopped, which had Dean walking into the back of him.
"Dude! You wanna give some sort of warning when you're about to do an emergency stop?" said Dean sounding annoyed.
Sam managed to turn round sideways so he was half facing Dean.
"Look, I know we're both fed up being stuck down here, we've both got monster headaches and we really want to see daylight again. How about we not take it out on each other ok?" he said softly.
Dean looked at him surprised and then realised it was true. He had been getting more and more irritated with each passing step and he was coming perilously close to taking it out on Sam. He felt slightly guilty that Sam should have been the one to put a stop to things before they got that far.
"Yeah, you're right." he said, raising an eyebrow when Sam gave him a surprised look.
"What? I have said that before you know!" he said indignantly and Sam snorted.
"Really? I should have made a note." he said dryly.
Dean whacked him lightly on the shoulder. "Wise ass. So are we gonna get out of here or what?" he said and Sam rolled his eyes, turning round and starting to walk down the tunnel again.
Thirty minutes later Dean was firmly convinced they were gonna be stuck down there forever. He was starting to feel a little claustrophobic if he was honest, and his ribs were really throbbing. He was contemplating breaking the habit of a lifetime and asking Sam if they could stop for a moment when suddenly his brother let out a whoop.
"Hey, I think I see light up ahead!" he said.
Dean whacked him on the back of the head. "Don't do that Sam! I nearly had a heart attack!"
Sam turned round to glare at him. "First off, ow! And secondly, don't joke about that ok?" he said seriously.
Dean rolled his eyes. Even after all this time Sam was still overly sensitive about any joke or lighthearted comment that involved anything to do with Dean's heart. He supposed he could understand it. He was equally as sensitive about any jokes about him killing Sam. They really did have far too many subjects in their family that were off limits.
"Fine Samantha, you nearly scared the crap outta me – that better?" he said.
Sam huffed. "Oh yeah, much better image, thanks Dean." he said.
Dean shoved him forward again. "Can we please get on with this? I stay underground much longer I'm gonna be the same colour as a damn ghost."
Sure enough Sam had been right. Five minutes later they were stumbling out of the cave, blinking in the early afternoon sunlight. Dean sighed happily at the sight of his beloved car and quickened his pace, patting her roof before he unlocked the trunk. Dumping the bag inside he grabbed two bottles of water and gave one to Sam.
Leaning back against the car they drank the water greedily, enjoying the simple sensation of fresh air and daylight. Sam finished his water first, dropping the empty bottle back in the trunk. As he moved past Dean he noticed the blood on his shoulder and frowned.
Dean jumped a little when Sam started pulling at his jacket, exposing the shredded t-shirt and bloody claw marks. Dean pulled back, fixing Sam with an irritated look.
"It's just a scratch Sam. Don't start." he said warningly.
Sam shook his head. "We both know you and I have very different ideas of what a scratch is. Let me look at it ok?"
Dean sighed but recognised Sam's determined tone of voice. Knowing it was easier to just give in now and get it over with he let Sam prod and poke at the gash, his face creased with concentration. He winced as Sam probed the deepest cut, jerking his shoulder back.
"Jeez! You wanna work on the bedside manner there Florence?" he said and Sam glared at him.
"It doesn't look too bad. I don't think they'll even need stitches." he said and Dean raised his eyebrow.
"See? I told you it was nothing."
"Uh huh – what about your ribs?" said Sam.
Dean held up his hands to ward off Sam before he could check them out.
"Just bruised – trust me, I know the difference."
Sam didn't look too pleased but let it go, happy for now that Dean had at least let him look at his shoulder.
Suddenly he was aware of Dean's scrutiny as he looked Sam over with a practised eye.
"What about you? Don't think I've forgotten you fell through the floor." he said, in full big brother mode.
Sam held out his arms. "I'm fine, honestly. Just one big bruise that's all."
Dean held his gaze for a moment before nodding, satisfied Sam wasn't hiding anything from him.
"So, I guess we didn't do so bad after all." he said with a cocky grin and Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Are you kidding? We were so lucky on this one, Dean. We shoulda done more research and we shoulda been better prepared. It's not like us." he said softly.
Dean sighed. "Yeah I know – I was thinking the same thing actually." he said, sharing a smile with Sam at the fact their minds were so often on the same wavelength.
"So, what's up with that?" said Sam and Dean was silent for so long Sam wondered if he wasn't going to answer.
Eventually he spoke. "We got distracted. Everything that's happened lately, everything that might happen in the future – we've been so busy thinking about all that we forgot the training." he said softly and Sam smiled sadly.
"Dad would be pretty pissed." he said and Dean snorted. "No argument there."
They both stood there for a moment, thinking about what had been said.
"We gotta start doing things properly again, Dean." said Sam after a while. "We got lucky this time, seriously, and we can't afford to keep taking chances like this."
Sam didn't add that with every close call, with every near miss, he was terrified that Dean was running out of lives. Just how many chances did one person get before it was all over for real? Sam was determined not to find out.
Dean, unaware of Sam's thoughts, nodded. "Alright, from now on it's back to working gigs the way we used to. I'll even let you go back to being research boy." he said with a grin.
"Gee, you're too kind Dean." said Sam dryly.
"Seriously though, no more half assed hunts - deal?" said Dean and Sam nodded.
"Deal." he said firmly.
Dean was about to get in the car when Sam suddenly grabbed his arm. Dean looked at him quizzically and Sam swallowed before he spoke.
"All this other stuff, Dean. The cops, the feds, the whole demon thing. We can't change it you know? And tying ourselves up in knots isn't helping any. I'm not saying I'm not scared about the future, I'm terrified if you want the truth, but all I know is right now we're alive and we're together and we're still fighting. And maybe that's gotta be good enough for now, don't you think?" he said earnestly.
Dean swallowed. Hell, it was more than good enough for him. He could handle anything as long as he and Sam were facing it together. Not wanting to make the moment more emotional than it already was he simply nodded.
"Sounds good to me." he said, his voice sounding rough.
Sam smiled at him and held his hand out. "Now we got that sorted you can give me the keys." he said and Dean frowned.
"Why the hell would I want to do that Sammy?" he said and Sam rolled his eyes at the name, as usual.
"It's Sam, and because you got more banged up than I did. Besides you complained enough driving down here in the first place, I don't think I can handle listening to you bitch all the way back to the main road." he said.
"Hey, you were the one took my car down a crease." said Dean, reigniting the argument they'd started so many hours ago.
"It's a road, and I am not having this conversation with you again Dean - keys!" said Sam firmly.
Dean huffed but gave in. Truth was he was pretty tired and his ribs were aching quite a lot. He threw the keys at Sam, pointing a finger accusingly at him.
"Just watch the damn potholes ok? She's not an off road car, remember."
Sam rolled his eyes and slid into the driver's seat, gunning the engine. Dean got in as well, sinking tiredly into the seat and leaning his head back. Closing his eyes he got comfortable as Sam pulled away and headed back down the track they'd originally come down.
"Don't think because my eyes are closed I'm not still watching what you're doing." said Dean after a moment and Sam shook his head.
"The relationship you have with this car is not healthy Dean – really." he said and Dean opened one eye to glare at him briefly.
"Whatever. Just remember I'm not the one cleaning her when we get to the next motel." he said.
Sam snorted. "Really? Funny, cos neither am I." he said.
"Hell yeah you are – you were the one who brought us down here in the first place." said Dean.
"Fine, next time we'll leave the car on the road and hike down, that sound better to you?"
"Oh yeah, any plan with the word 'hiking' in it sounds great to me." said Dean, each word dripping with sarcasm and Sam smirked.
"Well then. It's just a bit of mud, Dean. You're not implying your car is fragile are you?"
This time both eyes opened to glare at him and Sam chuckled. Listening to Dean mutter under his breath about making him lick the mud off, Sam felt himself relax.
It was true what he'd said earlier – they'd been through so much already and they'd survived it together. As long as they remembered that, they could face whatever the future might bring.
Even if that included giant pot holes.
Yep. It was gonna be a long drive.