"This is not happening."
Sam sighed and shifted so he was sitting more comfortably against the wall.
"You're right, Dean, this is not happening. Clearly it's just a figment of your imagination, in which case maybe if you sit down and shut up it might go away."
"Hilarious. You're just trying to get me to stop talking."
"And yet it's not working."
Dean narrowed his gaze at Sam and deliberately nudged his brother's leg with his boot as he walked past. Sam gave an annoyed huff and moved so he was further into the corner.
"Would you just sit down? Unless you want to send us plummeting another fifty feet?"
Dean paled at the word 'plummeting' and Sam felt slightly guilty.
"Seriously, pacing around isn't going to help so please, sit down, ok?" he said, in a nicer tone this time, and Dean reluctantly complied. Dropping to the floor he stretched his legs out so they ran parallel with Sam's and tried to stop thinking about the 'p' word.
"So now what?"
Sam was impressed it had taken all of five seconds.
"Now we wait."
"That's it? That's the best you can come up with – 'we wait'?"
"You have a better idea?"
Dean thought about it and practically growled when he came up with nothing.
"I can't believe we're stuck in here."
"We wouldn't be if we'd taken the stairs, like I suggested." said Sam, mildly.
"Well how was I to know this would be more dangerous? You saw those stairs, Sam, they looked like they were gonna collapse any second."
"Right, whereas obviously the mechanics in an old building like this were clearly going to be in perfect working order."
"You know what? You're not helping."
Sam looked amused as Dean folded his arms and glared at him with a black look. Of course the real thing that was annoying his brother most would be the fact that he was right, it had been Dean's idea to take the elevator and avoid the admittedly shaky staircase. Unfortunately the mechanical workings had chosen to grind to a halt when they were only halfway to the top floor and the carriage had hung there for a brief moment before plummeting at least four floors. They'd been able to do little more than stare at each other, terrified, as they'd clung to the rails only for it to suddenly jerk to a stop. Since then it had appeared to be relatively safe but Sam really wasn't keen on testing the theory, since there were still another six floors they could fall and would be more than enough to do them some serious damage.
"You really think Ed will come looking for us?"
Sam glanced at Dean and shrugged.
"He knew we were coming here to check it out and we did say we'd be back this afternoon to run through what we'd found."
Dean was silent again for a few minutes.
"Course he might not check out the elevators."
"There's an alarm that must be sounding somewhere. And the light will show it's stuck between floors."
"This is so not the way to make a good impression on the guy whose poltergeist we're supposed to be getting rid of."
"Yeah, doesn't exactly make us look capable. Still, it could be worse."
Dean's eyebrows reached his hairline as he turned to stare at Sam.
"How? We're stuck in an elevator, in a haunted building, waiting on a vain hope that the guy who hired us will come looking and might spot that the thing is stuck between floors. Explain to me how this could be worse, Einstein?"
"Well, we could have plummeted all the way to the bottom first time round."
Dean whacked Sam on the arm.
"Quit using the 'p' word, would you? And don't tempt fate either."
Sam rubbed his arm, annoyed, but he did concede the point.
Dean felt his shoulders beginning to lock in place from the tension, listening to every creak and moan of the carriage with a sense of dread. Any minute now he expected to hear the cable snap and that really would be it.
He cursed himself for having the bright idea to use the elevator and not the stairs, despite the fact at the time it had seemed logical. Ed had told them that all the electrics were still in working order and the staircase had looked like it might collapse at any moment, the wood having rotted away under the onslaught of water from the leaking roof over the years. He should have known better of course - things had been going far too well.
For once they hadn't even had to pull out the disguises or fake ID's, the owner of the former hotel turning out to be open minded to things that went bump in the night and not at all phased by them confessing what they were really doing poking about the place. In fact he'd even offered to pay them, actual cash, if they could sort out his problem which had brightened Dean's mood no end. Of course he might not be so keen to pay them now, given that they hadn't even managed a full recon of the place without getting themselves stuck.
Their Dad would be so embarrassed.
Dean startled out of his thoughts and turned his head towards Sam.
"Nothing, just you looked lost in thought. I know it's unfamiliar territory for you, but," Sam tailed off, grinning, and Dean shook his head.
"You're a riot, seriously. How about concentrating on a way to get us out of here? For all we know Ed might get caught up in something or not even look in here, we can't just spend the rest of our lives stuck in this damn thing."
Sam noted the tension in Dean's voice that went beyond the predictable irritation at their current situation and wisely kept quiet. He was well aware that while Dean had no problem with heights he was always wary of anything that involved man made structures, like planes, and that being suspended above certain death in a carriage that had already dropped four floors was not making his brother a happy camper.
"We could try the doors again?" he offered and Dean looked at them, frowning slightly.
"I thought we already agreed they're not budging, not without a crowbar. Which incidentally I must have left in my other jacket."
Ignoring the quip Sam got to his feet and studied the firmly closed doors again.
"You've got your knife on you, right?"
"No, I came to the haunted hotel unarmed."
"Fine, yes, I have my knife. Why?"
"We could use the blade to lever enough of a gap to get our fingers in. Then we could pull from both sides and see if we can get it apart far enough to climb through."
"Or we could snap the blade on my knife and get our fingers chopped off when the doors slam shut again. Cos that would really improve the day."
Sam glared at him.
"Alright, if you don't like my suggestions why the hell did you ask? I don't see you coming up with a plan."
"Oh good. Remind me, how many days does it take before you starve to death?"
This time Sam dodged the anticipated swat in his direction and looked smug as he sat back down again.
Dean noted the retribution for later and looked up at the ceiling, the only other possible option. There was no hatch but he wondered how thick the metal was – if it was only thin there was a chance the wickedly sharp blade on his knife might be able to cut through it.
Then again, as it was them, the ceiling was probably made of steel a foot thick.
"Can I ask you something?"
Dean glanced sideways at the enquiry and looked wary.
"Why do you only ever say that when we're stuck and I've got nowhere to go?" he said, accusingly, and Sam grinned slightly.
"Because it's the only time I can actually get a straight answer out of you. I have to take the opportunity when it comes you know."
"Yeah, or you could just shut up."
Silence stretched out between them and after less than five minutes Dean gave a long suffering sigh and shifted slightly.
"Alright, go on then – I can't cope with you sulking in a confined space. What did you want to ask me?"
"No, it's fine. Forget it."
"Sam, don't make me have to explain to Ed why I'm stuck in here with a corpse when he eventually shows up."
"Well when you put it so nicely." said Sam, dryly. Dean merely raised one eyebrow and gave him a look that said 'get on with it'.
"Ok, I was just wondering – what made you tell Cassie the truth? About what we do."
Dean actually winced, looking away to try and hide it from Sam. Of all the things his brother could have brought up, any of them would have been better than that one.
"It's ok. If you don't want to, I mean. I was just curious."
Dean listened to Sam hastily backtracking and decided he might as well get it over with. Sam's inquisitive nature coupled with a recent desire to find out what he'd missed while he'd been at Stanford meant it was bound to nag him until he brought it up again. At least this way Dean could give him the basics and move on.
"It's alright, I don't mind. Well, I do, but not that much." he said, a slight smile taking the sting out of his words.
Sam looked relieved and waited patiently for Dean to continue.
"I guess I honestly don't know why I told her really. I suppose it was because it felt different. We felt, I don't know, connected. More than I have with other women. She was the first one I actually considered maybe making a go of it with. Course I was kidding myself. I mean, what women is seriously going to jump at the chance to spend their life on the road with someone who hunts demons and ghosts. I was an idiot." he said, the final words spoken softly.
"No you weren't, you loved her. You had every reason to expect her to at least try and understand."
Dean smiled slightly at the defensiveness of Sam's tone.
"It wasn't like that, Sam. Try and see it from Cassie's point of view, ok? First she listens to me say that ghosts and ghouls exist and then that I hunt them for a living. Be reasonable, it's not exactly up there in the top ten ways to impress a potential girlfriend, is it?"
Sam shook his head.
"I'm not saying it's not tough, but she could have tried harder. She must have known how hard it was for you to admit all that and then she just turns round and dumps you."
"It wasn't like that." Dean interrupted and Sam looked at him.
"Then what was it like?"
Dean sighed. This is why he hadn't wanted to go over it with Sam. While he appreciated the fact his brother was so keen to leap to his defence - touched in fact, even though he'd never admit that – he didn't want to paint Cassie as the bad guy. He really did understand why she'd reacted the way she did. He just wasn't sure he could convince Sam.
"Look, she thought I was making up excuses not to stay, ok? She thought it was my way of taking the easy way out instead of staying in town and trying to make a go of things with her."
"Easy way out? Are you kidding me? Who on earth would make up something like that just to get out of a relationship?"
"You gotta admit, Sam, it does sound kinda crazy. It's different for us, we grew up with it. You know how it is for people when they find out this stuff is real, it's a bit of a shock."
"But still, they doesn't mean she should assume you're a liar."
Dean shook his head.
"Sam, come on – I appreciate the defence, dude, but you're being a little harsh don't you think?"
Sam looked uncomfortable.
"Honestly? No. The way I see it you were straight with her and she attacked you for it. Ok, she seems nice enough and I can see why you really liked her, but she handled this badly, Dean. It wasn't fair."
"What is? It's my fault really, I shouldn't have told her. I knew this job doesn't allow for relationships like that. I was just kidding myself, Sam."
"That doesn't make it any better you know."
They sat in silence again for a moment, Dean trying not to get dragged back into memories of his time spent with Cassie and Sam lost in thought. After a while he turned to look at Dean again.
"Did you think about giving it up?" he said, quietly, and Dean rubbed his jaw.
"For a moment, maybe. But I knew I couldn't. What we do is important and besides, I couldn't just leave Dad hunting on his own. We still have to find the yellow eyed demon and I'm not gonna walk away from that, not till it's done. Beyond that, who knows. There's always going to be evil out there."
Sam wasn't quite sure how he could respond to that, knowing that he didn't want to do this job forever. But since he didn't really want to leave Dean to do it alone either it was one conversation that would keep going round in circles, so instead he moved to a different question, the one that had been bothering him since his brother admitted he'd told Cassie the truth.
"I keep wondering." he said and then stopped, pausing long enough that Dean looked at him.
Sam hesitated then continued.
"I keep wondering if that would have happened with Jess. If I'd told her the truth, about us. About me."
So that explained it, thought Dean. He'd wondered where the sudden interest in his one attempt at a proper relationship came from, besides the usual brotherly inquisitiveness. This at least he could answer without even needing to think about it.
"She would have accepted it."
Sam looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because of what you told me about her. Listen, you and Jess were different. You'd been together a while, you lived together. From what you've said you and she were really in love, and that means she would have accepted it. It might have been tough, but you'd have found a way through it."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I know stuff. And because I'm the oldest."
Sam shook his head, looking slightly amused.
"You do know that stopped being a valid argument when I was about eight, right?"
"Nope, it's a valid argument whatever age you are. Cos I'm always gonna be older." said Dean, smugly.
"Keep telling yourself that. I'm being serious though. I keep thinking what if I'd told her? Maybe it would have made a difference."
"To her dying?"
"Come on, Sam – even if she'd known the truth it wouldn't have been any defence against the demon when he showed up. There's nothing you could have done to stop that happening, I've told you a million times."
"I could have been there. I could have not started a relationship with her in the first place. I knew how dangerous our lives were, and the fact is whether you like it or not, he killed her because of me."
"No, he killed her because he's a son of a bitch demon. And as for our lives being dangerous? You'd walked away from that. You were doing the whole Joe College thing, which shouldn't have risked anything more dangerous than getting a paper cut. Jess knowing the truth wouldn't have changed things, I know that for a fact."
"I wish I did. At the very least she would have known who I really was."
Dean shook his head.
"She did. This job, our history – that's not who you are, it's just what you do. What you have done. If you two were as in love as I think you were then she knew you. Doesn't matter if you kept some things secret."
"But she didn't know about you. Not really. And you were such a huge part of my life, then and now. I wish she'd had a chance to get to know you, properly. She should have done."
Dean stared, not quite sure what to say. He hadn't been expecting that, not at all, and it reminded him that there were always hidden layers to his brother, however open he appeared to be. Not entirely comfortable with the direction the conversation was taking he soldiered on nonetheless.
"That's sweet, Sammy, and I appreciate it. I'd like to have known her properly too, for what it's worth. But that doesn't change what I said before - Jess knew who you really were and nothing you could have said or done would have stopped her dying. It's just one of those things that we wish we could change but we can't."
"Well it sucks."
"That's it? Four years at college and the most eloquent response you can come up with is 'it sucks'?"
"Yup, pretty much."
"Fair enough. Guess it covers it."
They lapsed into silence again, Dean standing up to get a closer look at the ceiling since he was starting to get the feeling of being penned in. He narrowed his gaze and tried to gauge the thickness.
"What are you thinking?"
Sam's query made him glance back down at his brother, who was looking at him quizzically.
"I'm thinking that if that ceiling isn't too thick we may be able to cut through it."
"Ok, I'll be able to cut through it and you can help me get up there."
"Uh huh, that's what I thought."
"So, are you gonna sit there all day or are you gonna give me a hand?"
Sam got to his feet and with only some mild cursing Dean managed to get on his shoulders, allowing him to reach the high ceiling. He took out his knife and gave it an experimental stab, pleased when it went straight through.
"I think we might be in luck. Hold me steady would you? I'm gonna try and cut a panel big enough for us to get through."
"Whatever, just hurry up, ok? You might want to consider cutting down on the pies a little by the way."
"Hey! I'll have you know this is all muscle, Sam."
"I don't care, all I do care about is the fact my spine is getting compressed. I'm gonna be a foot shorter if you don't get a move on."
Dean kept the comment that popped into his head to himself and started cutting through the metal. It took fifteen long minutes but finally he'd cut a square big enough for them to fit through. Pulling out the chunk of metal he dropped it to the floor.
"Ok, I'm gonna try and pull myself up." he said.
"Terrific." Sam wheezed, wondering if the black spots in front of his eyes were a bad thing.
Being careful of the sharp edges Dean got as good a grip as he could and hauled himself through, grunting with the effort. Sam staggered but managed to hold on until Dean was all the way up, letting out a sigh of relief when the weight finally lifted. Next time Dean could be the one to do the heavy lifting, Sam vowed.
"What can you see?" he shouted and Dean's head popped back through the hole.
"I see a lift shaft. What the hell did you think I would see?"
Sam rolled his eyes.
"I meant is there a way up to the next level?"
Dean stood up, holding onto the cable of the carriage with one hand and shining his flashlight above him. The lift shaft became visible, it's far corners shadowed, and he ran the beam up the wall. He looked relieved.
"There's a ladder that leads up the rest of the shaft. Looks like we can get to the doors to the next level and maybe open them from there." he shouted back.
"Does the ladder look safe?" Sam called and Dean looked at it appraisingly.
"Yeah, it looks totally solid." he said, deciding one of them at least might as well be in blissful ignorance.
"Alright, help me up then."
Dean lay down by the edge, leaning down as far as he could to grab Sam's hand. With a bit of effort and a lot of pulling and jumping Sam finally managed to get his body through the gap and haul the rest of himself up there. They sat for a second, both breathing heavily.
"And you say I need to give up the pies?" said Dean and Sam glared at him.
"What was it you said about all muscle?"
"Uh huh. Come on then, Bruce Banner, let's get this over with."
Getting to his feet Dean walked carefully to the edge of the carriage and leaned across to grip the ladder. Giving it an experimental tug he decided since it appeared fairly well attached to the wall it was the lesser of two evils. Taking a deep breath, and not looking down, he put one foot on the nearest rung and stepped across.
He held his breath briefly, half expecting the screech of metal coming loose but when that didn't happen he breathed out again.
"Ok, it seems fine. Just let me get partway up and then you try it." he said, glancing back over in time to see Sam nod.
He moved as quickly and as carefully as possible, feeling the ladder shift slightly when Sam stepped onto it. Luckily it held both of them, although Dean still felt himself moving just that little bit quicker.
Having reached the doors to the floor above them he gave an experimental tug and was glad when they seemed to give quite easily.
"Come on – looks like we should be able to get these ones opened."
Sam hurried the last few steps so that he was level with the bottom of the doors while Dean had moved further up. The both dug their fingers in and Sam nodded to show he was ready.
"Ok, on three – one, two, three!"
They both put all they had into shifting the doors and slowly they began to creak open. Dean put one hand on the opposite door to push that as well and saw out of the corner of his eye Sam doing the same. It seemed to take a lifetime but eventually they had a big enough gap they could just about get through.
"You first." said Dean and Sam didn't bother wasting time arguing. It was a tight squeeze but he managed it, just.
Dean climbed back down a few rungs so his feet were level with the floor and was about to step through when he heard a loud groaning noise. He froze, his gaze whipping round to the suspended carriage. There was another groan, this time stretching longer, and it was followed by a cracking noise that echoed in the shaft. Dean's eyes widened as saw the cable snap and the carriage fell away, gathering speed as it did so. There was silence for a few moments then a deafening crash as the carriage hit the bottom, a cloud of smoke and dust rising towards him.
Sam's panicked shout broke him out of his reverie and he quickly squeezed through the door, feeling Sam grab hold of his sleeve before he was even all the way through.
"What the hell was that?" Sam demanded and Dean turned to face him, with a slightly shaky smile.
"Uh, the carriage fell." he said, aiming for nonchalance. From the look on Sam's face he missed it by a mile.
They stood there for a second, both suddenly glad that they hadn't decided to wait for help. Dean replayed the moment the carriage fell in his head and swallowed. That was definitely one mental image he could have done without.
Shaking himself he nudged Sam's shoulder.
"Come on. Let's get this place checked out and get out of here." he said and Sam nodded, just as eager to be someplace else.
One speedily efficient recon later they were back outside, having carefully taken the stairs this time, and breathing in lungfuls of clean air.
"So you wanna tell Ed what we found and then grab the stuff from the motel?" said Sam and Dean nodded.
"Yeah. Shouldn't take us too long when we come back and then we can hit the road. Once we've collected our fee of course."
Sam shook his head, grinning.
"I still can't believe we're actually getting paid for this one."
"Hey, enjoy it while it lasts. Next time I'm sure we'll be back to risking our necks for nothing." said Dean, wryly.
As they got back in the Impala and headed to fill in their 'client' on what they'd be doing later, Dean glanced back at the crumbling hotel. He pushed aside memories of plummeting through the air in the falling carriage and instead focused on their conversation while they were trapped.
"So that little chat we had back there – you ok with it all?"
Sam looked at him and gave a small sigh.
"Honestly? I don't know. I still can't help wishing I'd done things differently. But we'll never know so I guess I just have to let it go."
Dean nodded. It wasn't a perfect answer but he knew it was as good as he was gonna get and he was glad Sam was at least being honest with him.
"What about you?"
He looked across again.
"What about me?"
Sam looked exasperated.
"The whole thing with Cassie. Don't tell me it didn't bother you, what happened or seeing her again."
Dean took one hand off the wheel to rub the back of his neck.
"It brought up a few 'wait ifs', but like I said there's some stuff you can't change so no point dwelling on it."
Sam would have preferred more but he reflected that he'd done well to get Dean to open up as much as he had.
Sometimes having a captive audience really was no bad thing.
Aloud he said, "Fine. But you're sure you're alright?"
Dean flashed him a quick grin.
"I'm always alright, Sam."
Sam shook his head at the predictable answer but let it go. There were times to push and times to leave it alone, and this would seem to be the latter. At least he now knew about Cassie and sometimes, when dealing with his brother, it was definitely a case of forewarned being forearmed. Plus he'd know not to put his foot in it when it came to teasing Dean about his lack of long term relationships, in the future.
"There is one thing I've learnt from all this." he said and Dean looked at him warily.
"I swear if you come out with some shiny, happy, life affirming quote I'm leaving you by the side of the road."
Sam elbowed him.
"Ha ha. Actually what I was gonna say was next time we're on a job in an old house and you have a bright idea? We're taking the stairs."
Dean looked at him for a moment and then chuckled.
Ok, he'd have to give Sam that one.
Next time, they definitely were taking the stairs.
A/N Before anyone starts throwing things at me, I should point out that I was no fan of Cassie either and I thought she did react badly to Dean's honesty, but it made sense to me that Dean would defend her, given that he loved her. It also made sense to me though that Sam would be a bit less impressed given how protective he is and personally, I think he is right...