Bobby hadn't moved from his kitchen for two days. His tatty old table creaked and groaned under the weight of every book about ancient Rome and its brutal gladiatorial games that he had been able to find over recent days. He was desperate to have some idea of what those boys were going through; but now, in full possession of the hideous facts, he just felt even more helpless and useless than ever.
Slumping back in his chair, he kneaded his tired, burning eyes with the heel of his hand and sunk the last drain of amber liquid in his glass.
He reached for the bottle, standing on the table amidst the scattered books like a lighthouse amidst a sea of bad news, and finding it empty, he let out a roar of exasperation, tossing it across the room. He found a trace of satisfaction in the explosive smash as it shattered against the wall.
He turned and glanced up at the dust-cloaked clock hanging on the wall behind him.
Those boys were nearly two thousand years late; what the goddamn hell was happening to them? Why weren't they back? Were they ever coming back?
There wasn't enough whisky in the world.
Dean sat and leaned wearily against the cold, damp wall in their dank cell, staring miserably into the dark space about him. Beside him, Sam sat silently brooding, unable to meet his brother's eye.
Looking across to the dark, recessed corner of the cell where their cellmate Eric had spent most of his time, Dean picked absently at the fraying linen bandage that had been strapped tightly around his chest to cover the wound in his side and his heavily grazed back, and sighed.
Eric wasn't coming back.
After being scheduled to fight on the second day of the games, Eric had suddenly and unexpectedly found himself being forced out onto the arena late in this afternoon to submit to a hopeless mis-match against one of the camp's hardened veterans for the final bout of this day; his end had been brutal – and mercifully swift.
Throughout Eric's brief ordeal, the exhausted and battered Winchesters were in the physician's hands, unaware of their friend's plight and unable to help him.
Dean closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the wall. Gnawing his lip, he fought back his simmering anger and the bitter tears that pricked at his eyes.
When the litter bearing Eric's bloodied body had been carried back into the complex, Dean had unleashed a storm of such white hot fury on the gladiator responsible, the man's end had been even swifter than Eric's.
The assault had landed both him and Sam back in their cell in shackles.
Sam brooded quietly, staring blankly into the corner; the dark nook where poor Eric had sought sanctuary, hiding like a frightened animal.
The only sign that he had ever existed were his shattered spectacles, useless now to sightless eyes, laying discarded on the floor next to an abandoned sandal.
Married to his books, Eric had left no-one to mourn him, although a late night conversation between him and the brothers had revealed that he had never given up hope of finding a nice woman who could be happily married to the world's biggest geek.
Big geek he may have been, but Sam reflected that without Eric's extensive knowledge of Rome and it's bloodthirsty inhabitants, the brothers would have been utterly bewildered, lost and vulnerable in this brutal and alien world. His admirable learning had kept them informed and prepared, better able to defend themselves. Sam was in no doubt that they owed their lives to Eric.
And they hadn't been there to help him when he needed them.
Eric was, by his own admission, an unremarkable man. He was thoughtful, clever, unassuming, kind-hearted and gentle; he kept himself fit, loved his work and supported good causes. He represented, as far as the brothers were concerned, all that was good about humanity.
His life had been ended by all that was bad about it.
Dean felt no pain; the raw grazes across his back and the wound in his side had become completely irrelevant. He couldn't even think of complaining about any discomfort; he was too tired, too resentful, too brimming with hate-filled anger to care. All he wanted was for them to get out of this godforsaken hellhole before the next broken body he saw being carried solemnly back into the camp was Sam's.
He had to get away from these barbaric dicks; Eric had been worth more than the whole goddamn lot of them put together.
He knew that if he stayed here a moment longer he was going to lose it and end up tearing this goddamn place apart, along with every stinking, murderous sonofabitch in it. He wanted to unleash a rampage of such destructive rage, that Nero's famously fiddle-induced incineration of Rome would seem like a minor act of irresponsibility by comparison.
He knew that Eric's fight had been moved forward to today for a reason; and that reason was to accommodate an extra, very special event. An event that had only been considered after the brothers' performance in the arena.
An event that would send the audience into raptures, an event that would close the second and final day of the games and that would be talked about for years; generations even.
Both brothers knew all too well what that event was going to be.