Author's Note: I know you've heard it before, but thank you to everyone who read this story. The writing process is a reward in itself, but hearing how much other people enjoy my stories is a mega-huge bonus. And again, this story would not have been possible without Amy, and many thanks to Carikube as well.
The Roadhouse could hold a surprising amount of people, considering its size and location. They were mostly hunters or varying degrees of secrecy but occasionally a normal, law-abiding citizen wandered in, had a few beers and an interesting conversation, and then moved on. For the most part, Harvelle's Roadhouse was a peaceful bar.
"Dean, I'm serious- those people need our help! We have to leave, now."
"Dude, they're being haunted by a ghost with a fetish for panties. They can deal with missing underwear for one more night."
Sam stiffened, getting in Dean's personal space. "And what if the M.O. changes tonight, huh? What if tomorrow morning those girls are dead?"
Dean narrowed his eyes, meeting Sam toe-to-toe. "That's not gonna happen. Now why don't you go sit down and update your blog or whatever the hell it is, like a good little brother."
"Fuck you," Sam spat, shoving Dean. "I'm going to Columbia."
As expected, Dean shoved right back. "Go ahead; you're a big boy now. You're old enough for your first hunt." He smiled. "I'm sure you girls will have a blast, painting each other's nails, looking at pictures of Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp-"
"Go to Hell," Sam growled, then turned his back and started for the door.
"Hey Sammy, don't forget the popcorn!" Dean shouted after him.
Sam scowled and pushed open the door. The cool night air enveloped him, raising goose bumps on his arms. He felt lighter in the absence of smoke and loud music, more clear-headed. Sam made his way- slowly- to the Impala, which was parked on the opposite end of the dark gravel lot.
He heard her instantly and was genuinely disappointed in her untactful stealth. Someone should have taught her better, really.
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. Don't you remember what happened last time you left this bar alone? Oh, that's right. You don't, what with the drugs and all."
Sam turned, trying to look off-guard. "Nicole?"
She grinned, sauntering towards him on spiked heels. She held a long-bladed knife in her fist, her bare arm running the length of her side. "In the flesh."
"I thought you were dead. Nice doll, by the way." He watched as she twirled the knife in her fingers, the blade catching the light of the moon and tossing it. "Good touch renting the hotel room in my name, too. Your trail was almost hard to pick up."
"Good, then it was all money well-spent."
She came to a stop only a foot away. "Why?" Sam asked, his attention dived between the conversation and her weapon. "I didn't even know you before the other night." The confusion was genuine.
"No, but I knew you," she said, her pupils fully dilated in the darkness. "I knew all about the great Winchester family. Your daddy was unstoppable. He was the best, or so I heard." Her voice was as sharp as the blade in her hands, and just as hard.
He still didn't get it. "I know about your parents," he baited. "How they died."
Nicole grinned again and she looked lovingly at the knife, running her fingers along the edge of it. "So you've done your homework," she purred. "Very good. Tell me, what else did you find out about me?"
"Dean and I, we can help you find the things that killed your parents," Sam prompted, stalling.
She laughed and flipped her hair over her left shoulder. "Oh, sweetie, don't you worry about the Beast of Bray, I killed it months ago. It was over way too quickly, actually. Kinda disappointing."
Sam took a step backwards, towards the Impala. "A wolf-man, impressive. Sounds like you got your revenge. What do you want with me?"
Nicole followed his movements slowly, still twirling the knife idly, somehow appearing even more threatening. "My father was a hunter, and a brilliant one at that. He ever worked with your daddy a few times, did you know that? They made a good team, so I heard."
Sam kept inching backwards, listening intently.
"So when my parents were killed, I wanted justice for them. That thing came into our house and killed my father while he slept. It was a coward, and I wanted it dead."
"What could you do? You were a little kid," Sam pointed out, his heel hitting the Impala's rear tire. "Why'd you chose my dad?"
"So kids can't feel grief, can't want revenge?" she challenged. Then she took a breath. "Ellen took me in, she was nice to me. Kept me fed, bought me clothes and toys. I found your dad's phone number in her office one night. I called him, asked him for help. Word had already spread by then- funny how fast the hunter grapevine is, isn't it? Anyway, John and some others did come."
Sam leaned against the cold car, his hands splayed out on the rear fender. "Of course he came," he said. "He's- was a good man." His heart twisted a little, dripping grief into his veins.
Nicole's eyes narrowed, her face darkened. "A good man? He spent three days fucking around in the woods," she spat, her fist tightening around the knife handle. "Then they packed up and left. Said they couldn't find anything, it was just an urban legend. He gave up, went home and moved on with his life like my father didn't matter."
"If there was something there to find, my dad would have found it," Sam said, his body humming with tension.
"Bullshit! It was there, I found it as soon as I was released from the hospital. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I wasn't! I killed it! I was the only one who knew the truth."
Nicole's eyes were wide and her fist clenched around the knife. Sam forced himself to stay still, to stall… "What happened during those two days? Why keep me all that time?"
She grinned a triumphant grin, revealing a row of white, shiny, perfect teeth. "Because it was fun." She reached forward, running the very tip of her finger along his jaw from ear to chin. "You're so cute when you're tied to the bed, high as a kite and helpless. Too bad you're going to die."
Sam ducked as she raised the knife and he reached under the Impala, snatching the gun. He barely had time to aim before she was on him, shoving him against the car and slamming his wrist against the corner of the roof. He winced as the gun clattered to the ground, then yelped as the tip of the knife pressed painfully against his crotch.
He watched helplessly as she bent and picked up the gun. "Oops. I think you dropped this." She grinned triumphantly, carnally, and aimed it at his forehead.
The pressure between his legs disappeared and he relaxed, despite his new predicament. "You pull the trigger and everyone on that bar will hear it," he said, confidently.
"I don't care," she growled, her finger tightening.
The sharp click of a gun cocking froze her movements. "Put down the gun and step away from my brother, bitch."
Nicole glanced sidelong at Dean, unmoving. "And if I don't?"
Dean shrugged. "Be sure and send me a postcard from Hell. I hear it's unbearably hot this time of year."
The gun pressed harder into Sam's skull. Nicole watched Dean, the triumphant grin never weakening and Sam realized she wanted Dean to shoot. "You don't want to die like this," he blurted, catching her gaze and holding it. "I told you, we can help you. Put the gun down and we'll sort it all out."
"No," she replied, unfaltering. "You can't help me. No one can."
"We know about what happened to you in that hospital," Sam said. "That's not going to happen again. You can get real help. You can be normal. Don't you want that?" His voice was getting desperate; they were in a stalemate and time was running out.
"I want my parents back," she said.
Sam glanced at Dean. "No one can give that to you," he said. "Believe me, I wish it were possible."
Dean inched forward, his gun still locked her on temple. "Put the gun down, Nicole."
She blinked, tears sparkling in her eyes. Sirens sounded faintly in the distance. "If you're going to shoot me, shoot me. I can't go back to that freak show of a hospital. I barely made it out alive last time."
"You'll go somewhere else, somewhere better," Sam said softly, watching the fine tremors in her hands. It was as if they were looking at the opposite side of her now, a scared girl with serious problems. Even with the gun in his face, Sam could see she was a real person. "You need to sort things out, start your life over on a clean slate."
Dean looked like he wanted to argue, but he kept his mouth shut.
Slowly, Sam raised his hands. "I'm sorry about your parents," he said carefully. "But do you think this is what they wanted for you? Get help, Nicole. Honor their memory. Make them proud." He gently pushed her hands down, stealing the gun from her fingers and placing it against the small of his back.
Her shoulders shook, then, as Dean stepped forward and tightened the handcuffs around her wrists. "Please, just kill me. I don't want to go back there. I'll go crazy," she sobbed.
Dean looked from Sam to Nicole as the sparkle of red and blue lights appeared in the distance. "Sweetheart, you're already there."
Dean stretched out, lining up his shot. "Side pocket," he announced, then pushed the cue against the ball. Smoothly, silently, the eight ball glided across the table and dropped into the cup with a soft thud.
He straightened, smiling at Sam. "I win. But then again, was there ever really any doubt?"
Sam rolled his eyes and took another drink. "If you're so good at this, then why aren't you taking bets? Last I checked, we could use some extra cash." He scratched at his side, his fingers bumping over the large, raised scab. "Or has your reputation finally preceded you?"
Dean swaggered around the table, grabbing his own beer bottle. "Don't worry about cash; I made some calls to our good friends at Visa and Mastercard. And as for my reputation, it's perfectly fine, thank you." He winked at a blonde across the room and she waved coyly.
The laptop dinged and Sam turned to it, clicking on the 'one new message' button. "Check this out," he said, scrolling down. "It's from Ash, about Nicole."
"Yeah?" Dean asked, still smiling at the girl, his back to Sam.
As Sam read, his face fell. "He found an old newspaper article from the time her parents were killed. Police found the murderer, one year later. He had been killing people all over the Midwest, never left any evidence. Turns out a nosey neighbor saw him breaking into a house and reported it. Police got there just in time." Dean was looking at him now, and Sam swallowed. "It was just a guy, a regular human." He rubbed his eyes. "I guess that explains why Dad never found anything."
"So- wait. If there never was a yellow-eyed creature, then what did she kill in the woods?"
Sam shrugged. "Maybe she just imagined that too."
Dean sighed, whistling lowly. "Wow. We have got to get you some crazy-repellent."
He snorted softly, grabbing his bottle but not lifting it from the table. "Yeah. Something."
Dean stared at him. "You okay?" he asked. "You got that sad-puppy guilt-trip look on your face."
Sam looked up. "I thought my life was over," he said. "She purposely drugged me with stuff to make it seem like I had a vision. I lost two whole days of my life, completely at her mercy. I thought I was a murderer." He looked at the laptop, unseeing. "I thought the demon had won."
"The demon's not going to win, Sam," Dean said firmly. "I promise you that. I wish to God I could go back and keep you from walking out of the Roadhouse that night, but what's done is done. You won, man. You kept your head in the game and you won. That bitch is in a padded room for good, thanks to you. She won't be able to hurt anyone again."
"She can't help the fact that she's sick," Sam said. "And what those people did to her was unjustifiable."
"No, but it's her fault you went through all that. I'm not sorry that she's locked up for the rest of her life. You shouldn't be either."
He couldn't just stop feeling like this, on edge and angry and just a little scared. "I still don't understand why she used me," he said, staring into the crowd. "She couldn't have known about my visions. And why fake her own death? Why didn't she just skip right to the attempted murder?"
Dean slammed his beer bottle on the table, effectively halting Sam. "Who the hell knows," he started, pinning Sam with a serious stare. "She's crazy. Maybe she just wanted to hurt someone as much as she was hurting."
Sam stared at Dean in awe as the words sank in, took root and grew strong. "Yeah, maybe."
Dean smiled a little and squeezed Sam's shoulder. "What do you say we call it a night? You look like shit, man. You're scaring away all the chicks."
One corner of his mouth curved into a grin even as Dean's hand fell away. "Since when has my appearance affected your ability to converse with the opposite sex? You're not going soft on me, are you?"
Dean jumped to his feet, grabbing the beer bottle by the neck. "Soft, huh? How bout I give you a black eye and toss you a bag of frozen peas? Bitch."
Dean smirked before storming off, his gait smoothing in direct relation to his proximity to the pretty blonde girl. Sam snorted, shaking his head, and raised the beer bottle to his lips.