Dean sighed as he unlocked the door to their motel room. His younger brother hadn't said a word to him since they'd left the Eclipse. Dean figured it had to do with a couple of things. For one, he knew Sam was freaked—hell, anyone in Sam's position would have already completely lost it, so he guessed he should be grateful Sam was still functioning. Dean could only imagine what Robbie's twisted game did to Sam's head and when he thought about it, it made red hot anger course through his body.
The elder Winchester also knew Sam was pissed at him and really, he couldn't blame the kid. Dean was pissed at himself as well. Though Sam was reluctant to admit it, Dean knew the younger man depended on him to keep him safe, to look out for him. Hell, Sam trusted him completely with his life and Dean was afraid he'd let his brother down for good this time. Sam had tried to warn him for days now about Robbie and Dean wouldn't listen, he wouldn't trust what his brother was trying to tell him, to warn him about.
Oh, yeah, Dean…you've definitely got yourself into a pickle this time…
Sighing again, he threw his leather jacket on the bed and sat down on the edge. Rubbing a hand over his face, he couldn't help thinking about what Robbie said before he left. Did Dean do the right thing by leaving Robbie there? Should he have gone against his number one rule and killed the psychotic clerk, even though the loony was human? Could he have forgiven himself for that, convinced himself that he'd done the right thing and that he was protecting Sam when he did it?
Dean knew the answer without really thinking about it. He couldn't have killed Robbie even though every one of his nerves was screaming at him to do just that. Why not? The psycho had already killed once and he was sure as hell going to kill Sam. Though at the time Robbie was screaming at them, the clerk's threats were replaying in Dean's head now. "You can't leave me like this! I'll find you! Don't think for a second that this is over… Sam is never going to be safe, Dean! You think I can't find him again?"
The hunter had seen the look of pure anger in the clerk's eyes, the rage that was threatening to boil over. Was Robbie being truthful in his threats? Would Sam ever be safe from him? Could Dean honestly live with himself if Robbie managed to come after Sam again?
No…it's not going to happen, Winchester! You can keep Sam safe. You've always kept Sam safe…why does that stop now? Why is now any different than before?
It's not, Dean assured himself. But somehow the voice did little to calm his troubled thoughts. All the what-ifs were waging a war inside his head: What if he couldn't keep Sam safe? What if Sam found he could never trust Dean again? What if Robbie actually managed to kill Sam? What if Dean was too late to stop it from happening?
"Are you okay over there?"
Dean jerked as Sam's voice cut through his thoughts. Glancing over at his younger brother, he could see Sam was watching him, concern evident on his face.
Dean flashed Sam a small smile. "Yeah, I was just thinking."
Dean shrugged. "Doesn't really matter."
Sam nodded and went back to rummaging through his duffel bag. Dean wasn't entirely sure what his sibling was looking for, but he'd been at it for five minutes now. Maybe it was just to keep busy. Maybe Sam was scared to actually stop doing something for fear the events of the past few hours would come crashing down on him.
"Are you okay?"
Sam looked up from his bag and gave Dean a stiff nod. "I'm fine, Dean."
The elder Winchester let out a deep sigh. He knew that was going to be Sam's answer even before he asked the question. "How about you try to answer that question again without lying through your ass."
Sam rolled his eyes and threw down the shirt he was clutching. "Dean, you already know the answer to that. You only asked me not even an hour ago, so why even bring it up again?"
"Because I want you to talk to me, Sammy. I don't want you to close me out."
"Oh, like you do to me?"
"How?" Sam asked incredulously.
"It just is."
"What the hell ever." Sam picked up the shirt and stubbornly stuffed it into his bag.
"Look, Sam…I get it, okay? You're pissed at me and I don't blame you. But I will not sit here and watch this eat at you. I've gotta make sure you're okay and that we're okay."
"I'm not okay, Dean!" Sam violently shoved the bag off his bed. "Is that what you wanted to hear? I'm not okay!"
"Then talk to me about it!" Dean yelled, his voice matching Sam's.
Sam stared at Dean before his shoulders slumped in defeat and he sank down onto his bed, putting his head in his hands. Dean wanted to reach out to reassure Sam, but he was afraid it would set him off again. Instead, he sat quietly waiting for Sam to regain his composure.
"I'm afraid, Dean." Sam's voice was barely above a whisper. He looked up at Sam and Dean felt his stomach clench as tears threatened to spill over on Sam's face. Sam let out a sardonic chuckle. "Does that make me sound too much like a girl?"
Dean shook his head. "No, Sammy—it makes you sound human."
Sam looked at his brother in confusion. "You're kidding me. You're not about to rib me for this. I mean, I'm giving you a perfect opportunity here."
Dean got up from his bed and went over to sit next to Sam. "You'll give me plenty of other opportunities to make fun of you, but not right now, Sammy. I mean, I'm surprised you're managing to hold it all together right now."
"I actually thought I was going to die, Dean. I mean, for the first time in my life, after all we do on a daily basis, I thought I was going to die. I thought I'd never get the chance to tell you how much I appreciate everything you've done for me, sacrificed for me. That right there was what scared me the most."
"Sam, what Robbie did to you—it was horrible. There's just no other way to say it. I mean, I can't even begin to pretend I know what that did to you."
"It messed you up too, Dean. You can't sit there and tell me it didn't."
"You're damn right it did. Every time I heard that gun go off, I didn't know if it was going to be the fatal shot or not. I felt like I couldn't breathe and even after I knew you were okay, I don't think I still wanted to believe it, because it meant I was going to have to go through that fear again."
"I'm sorry, Dean."
"Dammit, Sam—don't apologize to me," Dean barked out. When Sam looked at him in surprise, Dean softened his voice. "You have nothing to apologize for, Sammy. If anyone should be apologizing, it's me."
Dean shook his head. "Don't, Sammy. You've already called me out on it. I should have listened to you when you tried to tell me about Robbie. I should have trusted you enough to know you knew what you were talking about. I should have trusted your instincts, and because I didn't, I almost got you killed."
"I didn't mean what I said, Dean. I never should have lashed out at you like that. I was just angry at the whole thing and I attacked the person closest to me."
"No, Sam, you were right." Dean shrugged. "Maybe I did want to believe the best in Robbie. I mean, I never wanted to think there was something off with him and I guess it was because I saw a little of myself in him."
"What do you mean?"
"Robbie was a loner—he was just looking for someone. He was tired of being alone."
"Dean, that's not you."
Dean smiled softly. "Maybe not right now, but it was at one time. When you went to Stanford, I felt alone. For the first time in my life, I was truly alone. I mean, I had Dad and everything, but it wasn't the same without you here with me."
Dean held up a hand. "Don't apologize to me, Sam. I'm not saying any of this to make you feel bad. I'm just telling you how it was for me. When you left, I tried to fill in that void with hunts, any kind of distraction I could get, but it was never enough. I still didn't have my family…I didn't have…you."
Dean paused for a moment, startled by how everything poured out of him like an open wound. He barked out a laugh to lighten the heaviness that settled on the room. "So, see, maybe that's why I refused to believe Robbie was bad news. But you have to believe me, Sammy, I would never intentionally hurt you like that."
"I know you wouldn't, Dean."
"Your trust means everything to me and if I don't have that…"
…then I don't have anything. I would rather end my life right now than go on without your trust.
Sam swallowed hard and for a second, Dean was scared of what his little brother might say. Instead, Sam looked at him with a small smile.
"You haven't lost my trust, Dean. I've still got your back no matter what, but I can't keep going on like this if I don't know that you're constantly in my corner."
Sam nodded. "Good." Then he flashed Dean a genuine smile. "So, what exactly were you going to do with Robbie?"
"Just what I said I would. I'm going to leave his creepy ass there and call the cops tomorrow. I'll let them know about Matthew and hopefully they can contact his family and help them find some peace."
"That sounds good." Standing up, Sam grabbed his duffel from the floor and pulled out a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. "I think I'm going to hit the shower."
Sam started for the bathroom, then stopped before he could open the door. "Dean, I heard Robbie yelling as I was walking out of there. What did he say?"
Dean sighed as he weighed his options—he could tell Sam the truth or he could tell his brother what he wanted to hear. But Dean couldn't do that; he couldn't give Sam the fairy-tale ending and pretend that they would live happily ever after.
"He said you would never be safe. He said he would find you, Sammy, and that we would both pay."
Sam gave a slight nod of his head and Dean didn't miss the chill that went through his sibling's body.
"I'm not going to let that happen, Sam." Dean leveled his gaze at Sam. "I swear to God, I'm not going to let Robbie near you again."
"I know you won't, Dean." Sam walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
Heaving out a deep breath, Dean fell back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. He knew the fear was something that was going to stay with Sam for a long time. Sam wasn't going to just get over this and Dean really didn't know how it would affect Sam if Robbie made good on his threat. The only thing Dean could really do is make sure that it never happened. He wasn't going to let Robbie get his hands on Sam again if it was the very last thing he did. Because Dean knew if he faced the clerk again, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from killing the man. It was as simple as that.
The faint strains of rock music filled the room and Dean dug into his pocket and extracted his cell phone. Glancing at the screen, he saw it was a number he didn't recognize. For a brief instant, he felt a chill go through his body as his thoughts immediately went to Robbie. Had the psycho somehow managed to get free?
"Hello?" Dean's voice was guarded, cautious.
"Who the hell is this?"
"My name is Deacon and I was a friend of your father's. We served together in the Marines years ago. I was sorry to hear about John—he was a good man."
Dean swallowed hard. "Yeah…he was."
"Listen, I normally wouldn't be calling you, but I have a problem."
"What kind of problem?"
"I run the Green County Prison outside of Little Rock. You know where it is?"
"Yeah, I'm in Arkansas right now."
"We've had a few weird deaths around here and I was hoping you could help. Like I said, normally I wouldn't call you, but John kind of owes me. I saved his life back during our tour of duty."
"Why do you think this would be something we could help you with?"
"Because I think it may be a ghost of one of the old prisoners."
"So, you would need us to go undercover."
"I know it's asking a lot since you and your brother are in trouble with the law, but I promise you I will get you out of here as soon as you take care of the spirit. You have my word."
"When do you need us there?"
"As soon as you can would be great."
"Let me talk to my brother and get back to you on it." Dean hung up the phone, but he already knew what his decision would be, even if Sam didn't agree to it. They owed this man a debt for saving their father's life and that was enough for Dean. Besides, with any luck, maybe it would help Sam take his mind off of Robbie if he got involved in another hunt.
That reason was good enough for Dean.
Robbie felt nothing but rage now. He wasn't afraid of being tied up in the Eclipse and left alone. Nope, that didn't bother him at all. The only thing he could focus on was his hate and rage towards the brothers. He was going to make good on his word to Dean, even if it was the last thing he ever did.
He was going to make sure Dean knew what it felt like to lose his brother. He could hide where ever he wanted to, but Robbie was going to find them again. He was going to make sure Dean knew he couldn't keep Sam safe even if it took the rest of Robbie's life to do it. This wasn't about getting Dean as his brother now—no, it was so much more than that.
It was about pain, pure and simple. Robbie wanted Dean to feel the pain he felt after he lost James. He wanted Dean to mourn that pain and live with the guilt that he could have done something to stop Robbie from killing Sam.
Straining against the ropes that held him to the chair, Robbie tried to work some slack in them. They stubbornly refused to budge though and after a few minutes, he gave up, and paused to catch his breath.
Robbie couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face as he remembered the fear in Sam's eyes. It had been so beautiful and so intoxicating especially knowing that he was the one who was causing it. It was almost like a drug to him. Robbie found himself craving more. Sam knew he was about to die and he knew Dean wasn't going to save him.
Only Dean had…
But Robbie wasn't going to focus on that. No, if he focused on that it would only drive him crazy. And hey, everyone already thought he was a few bolts short anyway so why prove it to them? This just gave him a new opportunity to go after the brothers again. Next time, he would be ready for them. Next time, he wouldn't let Dean get the best of him.
It didn't even scare Robbie that the police would pick him up. No, that just gave him even more time to come up with a better plan against the brothers. It would give him the time to work out the kinks and perfect it. Heaving a contented sigh, his blood froze as he heard the sound of the floor creaking outside the door.
Thinking maybe it was Dean coming to finish the job he started, Robbie held his breath as the door slowly opened.
Only it wasn't Dean who entered the room. It was someone else completely different and the long knife the guy was holding told Robbie this wasn't someone he wanted to mess with.
"Who—who are you?"
The man smiled. "Looks to me like I'm your guardian angel. Who did you piss off to get in this position?"
"It's a long story."
The man shrugged as he placed his knife in the sheath hooked to his jeans. "I have time. Try me."
"I pissed off the wrong set of brothers."
The man chuckled as he sat on the edge of the table. "I would say you did."
"Are you going to help me or sit here and laugh at me all night?"
"If you're not going to sound grateful then I'll leave your ass here for the rest of the night." The man pushed off the table and started towards the door. "It doesn't really make a difference to me."
"No, wait!" Robbie called before the man could leave. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? Please, help me get out of here."
The man smiled. "Well, since you said please…" He walked towards Robbie and pulling out his knife once again, he began to cut through the ropes.
Robbie chuckled. "Sam and Dean only think they took care of me…" he muttered as the rope around his wrists snapped apart and the man knelt in front of him to cut the ropes around his ankles.
The man stopped and looked up at Robbie. "What did you just say?"
Robbie looked at the man in confusion. "Sam and Dean…they're the ones who left me here."
"One doesn't know how to shut his mouth and the other one tall and in a serious need of a haircut?"
Robbie nodded. "Why?"
The man said nothing as he finished cutting the ropes around Robbie's ankles. Then, holding out his hand, he helped the younger man stand. "What's your name?"
Robbie moved his legs to try to get circulation back in them. "Robbie."
The man's face broke into a full-blown smile as he held out his hand to Robbie. "The name's Gordon Walker…looks like you just made yourself a friend, Robbie."
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