One week later…
Dean Winchester was miserable, which was a big change from just a couple of days ago. A couple of days ago, Dean felt total and complete bliss. Of course, any guy who had the chance to bring Tara Benchley to bed would be happy too. Yep, Dean figured not many guys could say that at all and even though some tiny part of him enjoyed being nothing more than a peon for the Hollywood snobbery, Tara had been the highlight of his week. Oh, hell, he'd just go on and say it—she'd been the highlight of his life.
Now that their hunt in Hollywood was over, he and Sam decided to stick around and take a few days for themselves—no hunt, no thoughts of the police chasing them, nothing to worry about except for what their next meal was going to be. But after two days, Dean was beginning to climb the walls. He didn't like to stay still for any length of time and really the only reason he even agreed to it was because of Sam.
He knew his brother was still hurting because of Madison. Anyone could have looked in Sam's eyes and seen the pain lying in the depths of his brother's soul. Sam tried to brush it off and pretend he was okay, but Dean knew better. He wondered if his brother forgot he could read him like a book. Sure, it wasn't as easy as it had once been when they were growing up, but Dean liked to believe he was getting better at it. It bothered and frustrated Dean how Sam could just put on a smile and act as if it didn't affect him, mainly because the older man felt he was looking into a mirror. Playing like he was okay was his job. It was pretty hard to fool someone who'd spent their life perfecting the art of hiding pain.
At times it made Dean wonder if that was what Sam saw and felt every time Dean closed him off. How was it that Sam hadn't decked him yet? Dean couldn't stand for Sam to be like this and he was pretty much ready to knock the crap out of the kid. He wanted Sam to have that proper chance to mourn, to deal with his emotions, but he knew it just wouldn't be. Sam wasn't about to take some time for himself—he told Dean they had a job to do; they still needed to defeat the yellow-eyed demon once and for all.
Maybe after that was over Sam could actually take some time for himself. If not, then Dean would surely force him to. Dean didn't like to pressure Sam into anything, but if it meant healing his brother and making sure he stayed together, then dammit, Dean was going to do it.
As for right now, he needed something to do and he needed it pronto.
"Please tell me you got something for us to do," Dean groaned into his pillow. After giving up on the five channels available on the television, he'd opted for a nap which wasn't working out any better for him.
Sam looked up from his laptop and smiled. "You sure are cranky today."
Dean opened one eye to glare at him. "Can you blame me? We've been sitting in this room for two freakin' days and the only action I've seen involved a very big cockroach and you screaming like a girl."
It was Sam's turn to glare. "I did not scream like a girl."
"Dude, I never saw anyone move as fast as you did when you saw it in the bathroom."
"At least I'm not afraid of rats."
Dean turned around on his back so he could give Sam a pointed look. "Rats are big, hairy, and full of rabies."
"And cockroaches are disgusting and full of diseases."
"They can be squished—a rat can't."
Sam sighed. "Dean, why are we having this argument?"
Dean shrugged. "Because I have nothing better to do."
Sam rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to his laptop. "Well, I think I may have found something."
That definitely got Dean's attention. He jumped up from the bed and joined his brother at the small table. "What is it?" he asked, his voice a little too eager. At Sam's look of amusement, he cleared his throat and asked again, his voice more controlled.
Sam chuckled, but turned the computer where Dean could see it. He could see a few pop-up windows on the screen but the main one was on the homepage for the Arkansas Times. A bold headline read: REPORTER KILLED IN HOTEL. Dean took a few seconds to skim the article, then turned to Sam, confused.
"How is this our kind of thing?"
"Did you notice the name of the hotel?"
Dean shrugged. "Yeah, the Eclipse. What's so special about it?"
Sam raised his brows in surprise. "Dude, it's one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. There are tons of reported sighting and stories going around about it. There are about fifty different sites that are devoted to it."
"It's not like another one of those Hell Hound sites, is it?" Dean didn't have the patience to deal with another set of amateur filmmakers like they did in Richardson, Texas. The only thing they'd succeeded in doing was messing with stuff they didn't understand and getting in the brothers' way. Dean was not about to do that again.
"I don't think we have to worry about those two again. The best site I've found deals with the history of the hotel and documented sightings. It looks to be professionally done, like by an organization or something." Sam grabbed the laptop and turned it to face him once again. He hit a couple of keys and brought up another screen. "This isn't the first death to occur there."
"An organization? Like what, TAPS? And this isn't the first death?"
"There have been several deaths to occur over the past twenty years or so. But the police have never come up with a murder weapon or a suspect, so they've left them as unsolved cases."
Dean arched a brow. "That's because they'll never believe a ghost was responsible for the deaths."
"Exactly." Sam sighed. "Look, Dean, it may not be anything, but it can't hurt to check it out, can it?"
Dean let out a long exhale. "I guess not. And if it means we get out of this motel, then I'm all for it."
It didn't take long for the Winchesters to check out of the motel. Sam had to laugh at the way his brother quickly packed a room especially when there was another hunt on the horizon. Sam knew why Dean had agreed to take it easy for the past two days and it had nothing to so with the hunt at Stage 9. As far as hunts went, that one was cake; the brothers barely even had to lift a finger. That's not saying Sam didn't think it wasn't important—they'd managed to save a man's life, even if he was a complete jackass. It just went to show they couldn't pick and choose which victims they saved.
No, Dean agreed to stay because he thought it would help Sam and the younger Winchester wasn't about to argue with the older. If he did that, Dean would only feel unwanted because in his way, Dean was trying to help Sam and Sam understood that. While some people showed they cared by talking with you, Dean showed he cared by doing little things for him—whether it be letting Sam choose where they ate that night, driving the Impala, or staying a few more nights in a motel for nothing more than rest. Dean had been like that since they were kids so Sam knew when not to knock his efforts down.
As Dean pulled onto Interstate 40, which would take them into the heart of Arkansas, Sam pulled out some printouts he'd made before they left the motel. He wanted to familiarize himself with the history of the Eclipse since he knew there was no way Dean was going to stop and look at the research. His brother had always preferred to leave those details to Sam. The only thing Dean wanted to know was where to point his gun and when.
"Tell me what else you know about this place," Dean spoke up after a long silence, startling Sam.
Sam quirked an eyebrow, figuring the main reason Dean wanted to know about the hotel was because he couldn't find a decent classic rock station. "Actually, I found out Dad had it marked in his journal."
"Really?" Dean seemed very interested now.
Putting his papers aside, Sam picked up the leather-bound journal from the floor and flipped it to a page he'd marked. "Dad was worried about the deaths, but he never could find the time to check it out."
"Did Dad say what he thought may be causing the deaths?"
"Yeah, let me find it." Sam browsed through the page and finally came to a passage, written in their father's messy and practically illegible handwriting. "He contributed the deaths to the spirit of a man named Eli Nelson—he was some quack who passed himself off as a doctor. He experimented on patients with some concoction he claimed able to cure cancer."
Dean glanced over at Sam. "Now, is it just me or does he sound like Dr. Ellicot?"
Sam shrugged a shoulder. "I guess you could say that."
"And while we're on that, this isn't going to turn out to be another one of those hunts, is it? You know, where I get shot again?"
Sam sighed—he really wished Dean would forget about the events at the Roosevelt Asylum. It had been almost a year ago now, and it was an accident. "Dean, I was possessed, you know that."
"Who's to say you won't get possessed by this freak?"
"Because none of the victims that have been killed were thought to be possessed. Dad thought it was a vengeful spirit, seeking out to kill anyone who showed up at the Eclipse."
"I'm just saying, Sammy—someone calls you on your cell phone while we're in there and tells you to meet them somewhere, don't do it."
Sam shot Dean a look. "You want us to hold hands when we go in there?"
"Don't put it past me if it means your ass doesn't get possessed. I've had enough of that this year alone to last me a lifetime, thank you very much."
Sam rolled his eyes, knowing very well Dean would do just that, if for no other reason that to piss his younger sibling off.
"So, tell me about this freaky ass doctor," Dean continued to push into the case.
Sam closed up the journal and retrieved his printouts once more. He shuffled through a few of them before he came to the one he was looking for. "So, Eli Nelson was known as quite the businessman in his day. After establishing several successful luxury hotels across Arkansas, he bought the Eclipse in 1931 and it stayed under his ownership until around 1939. He changed the Eclipse from a luxury hotel into a health spa retreat, but he catered only to cancer patients."
"Because he wanted to experiment on them?"
"That and he figured it was a sure-fire way to make more money. At the time, people believed him to be a savior. They really thought he had found the cure to cancer."
"Just goes to show you people are willing to believe anything."
"You know that's not exactly true, Dean. Hell, people have a hard time believing what we're doing is real."
"That's because they're narrow-minded and they don't want to believe."
"Would you if you were in their shoes? The monsters and ghost stories they were told about when they were younger is actually very real?"
Dean remained silent as if he were considering what Sam was saying. Finally, he shrugged a shoulder. "No, I guess not." Then he glanced over at Sam, a cocky smile on his face. "I guess it's a good thing we were raised to believe otherwise, huh?"
"Yeah…maybe," Sam conceded softly.
Then again, Sam wasn't so sure. It was why he went across the country to go to college, after all. He wanted to get away from all the stories he was told as he was growing up. He wanted to be able to just put them in a box and place it high on a shelf for a while, pretend he was normal for once. And it worked—beautifully, actually—until his life came calling back to him in the form of his brother showing up at his apartment in Palo Alto a little over a year ago. It was then Sam knew he couldn't forget about the stories and the creatures that went bump in the night—they'd always be with him no matter where and how far he went.
Once you learned about what existed in the dark, it was hard to ignore the shifting shadows.
The hunters finally arrived in the tiny town of Travers, Arkansas right around midnight. The wonderful thing about small towns was that they always had a few businesses that never seemed to shut down, as if they were welcoming weary travelers no matter what time of the day it was. The other wonderful thing about small towns was they had cheap motels—and cheap motels meant easy access no matter what time of late night or early morning the two of them pulled into town.
Pulling into the parking lot of the Travers Inn, Dean promptly shut the engine and nudged Sam, who'd been sleeping for the past couple of hours, awake. It was a habit Dean had gotten used to over the years—he knew it was hard for Sam to get sleep, especially with the constant aggravation of his so-called "destiny" and worries about the demon's plans coming to fruition. When Sam was finally able to get the sleep he so desperately needed, Dean wasn't going to do anything to spoil that for him.
"Are we here?" Sam asked blearily, wiping away the sleep from his eyes.
"Welcome to the Boonies, Sammy—or what the town locals like to call Travers, Arkansas." Dean got out of the car and heard Sam following suit. "You don't have to come—I'm just gonna see about getting us a room."
"No, I need to stretch my legs. I've been cooped up in that car for too long." The brothers began walking in tandem towards the office.
"Not my fault you're a tall freak of nature," Dean grumbled good-naturedly.
"No, that would be genetics."
Dean pulled open the door to the office, letting Sam enter first. "Dude, no one in our family is seven foot tall."
"I'm not seven foot, Dean."
"Give it another couple of months and you will be. I swear, every time I look at you, you grow another inch." Dean looked around the tiny room, searching for any sign of life. The only noise was coming from a small television resting on the counter, tuned to an infomercial trying to sell the latest stain remover. Spotting a tiny silver bell beside the television, Dean hit it a few times.
Sam smiled. "You're just upset people keep mistaking you for the younger brother since I'm taller than you."
"I'm telling you, it's not normal, Sammy," Dean grunted disgustedly. He rang the bell again. "Where the hell is the clerk?"
As if to answer Dean's question, a mousy young man, who appeared to be around Sam's age, with dark tousled hair and brown eyes that seemed about to pop out of his head, greeted the brothers with a smile. "Can I help you, fellas?" he asked in a heavy Southern accent.
"Yeah, we'd like to get a room for a couple of nights…" Dean glanced at the clerk's nametag. "Robbie."
Robbie's smile got bigger at the use of his name. "I'll surely be glad to help you." He turned down the television and reached under the counter to pull out a ledger. "Will that be one king or two queens?"
Dean narrowed his eyes at the insinuation in the question. Why did everyone assume Sam and he were gay? Did they really give off that vibe every time they walked into a room? He saw Robbie flinch at the way he was looking at him, but before he could say anything to the young man, Sam stepped up to bat.
"Two queens, please," Sam answered, a patient smile gracing his face.
"I—I'm sorry," Robbie stammered. "I never meant to assume…"
Sam waved a hand. "Really, Robbie—it's okay. No harm done." He looked pointedly at Dean. "Right, Dean?"
Dean forced a tight smile. "Right—no harm done."
Robbie let out a relieved sigh and the smile once again lit up his face. He pushed the ledger towards the brothers. "I just need one of you to fill this out and I'll need a credit card."
Sam stepped back to let Dean fill out the paperwork and secure them a room. About ten minutes later, Robbie pushed a key towards Dean. "Okay, you fellas will be in room six. I hope you enjoy your stay and if you need anything at all, just give me a holler."
Sam nodded his thanks and walked out the door as Dean picked up the key and waved it at the young clerk. "Thanks."
Robbie Mallette couldn't keep his eyes off the two men as they walked out of the office towards the black classic sitting in the parking lot. He knew as soon as he saw them they were brothers, but he didn't want them to know he knew. It would freak them out too much and he'd done that with enough people in his life. But it was so obvious a fact, a blind man would have been able to see it. But the young clerk also knew that because it was the way he and his brother acted around each other before James passed away all those years ago.
Robbie could read the mannerisms as if he were reading a book. He immediately picked out the shorter of the two—Dean—was the oldest because of the way he stepped in front of the taller one—Sammy—while they were in the office. It wouldn't be blatantly obvious to a casual observer, but Robbie wasn't some casual observer. He knew it was a protective stance—one his older brother did all the time with him. Robbie could pick up on the shorter man's vibe—he was ready for anything that may jump out and put the younger one in harm's way.
The mousy clerk missed that kind of love and protection he'd once had. Every time he saw it, it made his heart ache because he knew he could never have it anymore. That love and devotion had been taken away from him ten years ago when James was killed in a hunting accident. His brother's death stayed with him everywhere he went and he couldn't find any release from it; maybe he never would.
That wasn't saying Robbie didn't make up for his brother's absence. He'd finally found a way to get what he wanted; it was just too bad that it was illegal. If he couldn't have a brother, then he'd just find one to take James' place. He knew it wouldn't be the same, but at least it would be something. No one would ever truly be like Jake, but at least he could find a decent substitute. He'd done it a couple of years ago and it was going pretty good until Matthew tried to get away, but Robbie took care of that. He couldn't have him running off and ratting him out to the cops. The town already thought he was creepy enough and were just looking for a reason to run him out or string him up, though he was pretty sure they'd vote for the latter.
Robbie reached into his pocket and pulled out his worn leather wallet. Tucked neatly into a little slot were two pictures—one of him and James and the other of Matthew. Maybe it was time to replace Matthew as well. Enough time had passed since his death and he could feel the pangs of loneliness start to assault him once again.
Hearing a door slam, Robbie looked up to see Dean handing Sam a small duffel while he kept the bigger one for himself. He pushed his brother towards their room and it was then Robbie knew it would have to be Dean. Dean could actually fill the void that had been missing in his life for so long. Dean could actually be that big brother he'd always sought ever since James died.
There was just one obstacle standing his way, one that he hadn't needed to worry about with Matthew—a younger brother. Something inside Robbie told him Sam wasn't going to allow the clerk to come between him and his older brother. Sam was going to fight with everything he had, just as Robbie would do if the roles were reversed. Robbie could take care of that, though—it was a minor obstacle.
And as Mama always said—never let any obstacle stand in the way of your goals.